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The Many Hats of an Author

The Many Hats of an Author

by Mindy Obenhaus

When you think of your favorite author, what do you envision them doing? Probably sitting at a computer, writing, right? That’s exactly what I thought before I received my first contract. Then I got my first dose of reality in the form of edits. There was so much red on the page I wondered why they’d even bought the book. Now here I am, nine years later, fully aware that there are many more aspects to being an author than just writing. So, I thought I’d pull back the curtain so you can see some of the many hats authors wear. Some you may be very familiar with, while others may seem intimidating. But each has a purpose. Please note that I'm only talking about traditionally published authors. Indie published authors don many more hats. 

The Writer Hat – If you’ve been writing for any length of time, you’re familiar with this hat. It’s the one we often have a love/hate relationship with. We love the writing process when the words flow. But when those words get stuck, we’re ready to toss that hat across the room. Or avoid it all together. This is our working hat. The one an author wears most often, though it can be quickly replaced by…

The Editor Hat – The story is finally out of your head and on the page. Now it’s time to fix it. Some writers edit as they go, while others finish the manuscript then go back and make changes. This is a matter of personal preference, whatever works best for you. I tend to edit as I go, but I still have to go back and change some things. Are my verbs strong enough? Did I describe a setting in a way readers will be able to visualize? And why did I use this one word so many times? Yes, published authors have editors that help make their stories shine, but you still want to present them with the best product possible.

The Marketing Hat – This hat covers a broad range of things. Everything from social media and blogs to newsletters to giveaways and publicity campaigns. You’ve got a book coming out. Now you have to let the whole world know. Some publishers have publicists that will help you with this, but many don’t. Whatever avenues you decide to explore, your goal is the same—to connect with readers. When they feel a connection with you, they’re more apt to buy your book. If you’re not an outgoing person or aren’t adept on social media, this can be a challenge. That’s where companies like JustRead Publicity Tours come in handy. Carrie, Beth and the rest of their crew are great at helping us get our books into the hands of others who might not have picked them up otherwise.

The Mail Clerk Hat – While some publishers will mail out books for you, this isn’t the case with all of them. This means you need to have mailing supplies—padded mailing envelopes, tape, labels—on hand. Some people have scales to weigh the packages and print their postage at home, while others (raising my hand) schlep to the post office with their packages.

The Mentor Hat – Very few, if any, published authors got there by themselves. There were people every step of the way that helped them via critiques, workshops, contest judges, etc. Now it’s time to give back by helping others the way you were helped.

The Teacher Hat – This is different from the mentor hat and one not everyone is comfortable wearing. But if God has called you to share your knowledge, your forte, with others, then you might consider speaking or blogging about the craft. Local and national writer groups are always looking for speakers.

As you can see, being an author entails much more than just writing. Sometimes another hat is a necessity, other times it’s a procrastination tool. But they’re all part and parcel of the job.

Which hat is/would be your least favorite? Is there another hat you’d add to the list? Leave a comment for a chance to win a $20 Amazon gift card.

The Many Hats of an Author

Award-winning author Mindy Obenhaus is passionate about touching readers with Biblical truths in an entertaining, and sometimes adventurous, manner. She lives on a ranch in Texas with her husband, two sassy pups, countless cattle, deer and the occasional coyote, mountain lion or snake. When she's not writing, she enjoys spending time with her grandchildren, cooking and watching copious amounts of the Hallmark Channel. Learn more at www.MindyObenhaus.com

One Thing That Works For Me with guest Emilie Haney: Being Genuine in Social Media

 

One Thing That Works For Me with guest Emilie Haney: Being Genuine in Social Media

Good Monday morning, Seekerville! I (Carrie) am here to introduce today's guest for this month's 'One Thing That Works For Me' series. Please join me in welcoming author, photographer, and graphic designer, Emilie Haney, as she shares about being genuine on social media!

When I talk to authors, one of the things we usually end up discussing is social media. Often this focuses on Instagram. Whether that’s due to my presence on the app as a content creator, or just the fact that I love books and photography and IG combines both of those loves, it’s always a fun topic. When asked my “secret” to growing and maintaining my following, I’ve come to realize my answer hovers around the same things: being consistent, being creative, being genuine. 

I’ve decided to further boil this down to my heart for social media: being genuine. 

Before we go any further I want to make sure you know this is not a ‘get followers quick’ scheme. It’s not a magic bullet, a recipe for growth, or a way to beat the algorithm. It’s my personal approach to social media that I have found to generate real community.

When I started my Instagram account I didn’t think “how can I get a bunch of followers.” I did it because it was fun and I wanted to connect with other book nerds. As my writing became a constant, I realized I needed an “audience” if I wanted to go into publishing someday. Rather than gather a group of people around the idea of “my book,” I drew them with common interest: books, reading, bookish things, and writing. This not only gained me an audience, but it also helped me connect with that audience. My focus then (as it is now) was one thing: to be myself.

Now, I don’t think you need to share everything to be an honest content creator, but I did come up with two aspects that I think require you to be genuine.

Being genuine in your post content: 

When I say you can be honest without sharing everything I’m talking about finding a balance with your audience. I think it’s important to ask yourself what you are comfortable being vulnerable about on your social media platforms. Your honesty in this will help you connect to others, but that doesn’t mean that you share everything in your personal life online.

I like to ask these questions when thinking about what to post:

What is the purpose for wanting to share this personal thing?

Could this help someone else?

Do I have solutions or helpful tips to share?

If I can see why I want to share something personal, I’m more willing to post it. My goal is not to garner sympathy or draw attention to myself; instead it’s to either help with useful tips or open up a window into my life that can let others know they are not alone.

Being genuine in your presentation:

I don’t believe that you have to post unfiltered photos or messy photos to ‘prove’ that you are human, but I do think it can help to share struggles behind a curated facade. This goes along with the point above, but if you want your social feed to be curated and color-coordinated, great! Do it! I don’t think you have to ‘ruin your aesthetic’ just to appear honest. But I do think it helps to have moments of honesty – perhaps in your caption or in your stories. These moments help your readers (or potential readers) to see you as a person and can often make them more willing to support you and buy your books.

Again, the goal is not to get something from your audience, but it is often the result. 

To condense this—my honest approach to social media is built on the fact that my brand is me. It means posting captions that detail my struggles in addition to my triumphs. I don’t try to sugar coat some of the more difficult aspects of publishing, but instead pair those hard truths with encouragement. I also show my face (not often, but sometimes) via my Instagram stories—no matter my ‘state,’ camera ready or lazy day—in an effort to make a personal connection with those who follow me.

For those of you who may struggle with some of this: keep going. I know that it’s hard to put yourself out there. No matter how many followers I have or how much I may ‘influence’ others, it’s not easy to admit I struggle with feeling accepted or that I often experience fear over putting my writing, artwork, or photography out there. But every time I’ve been honest with my followers about my struggles, I’ve had an overwhelming positive response from them. 

The truth is that we’re all human—writer or reader or whatever—and social media connects us in a way that makes it possible to appear very different than we are. Breaking down those barriers with your genuine interests, appearance, struggles, successes, and quirks can be one of the best ways to ‘market yourself’ in a world filled with feeds. 

~*~*~*~*~

One Thing That Works For Me with guest Emilie Haney: Being Genuine in Social Media
Emilie (Hendryx) Haney is a self-employed freelance writer, photographer, and graphic designer living in Northern California with her husband. She’s a member of ACFW, writes adult romantic suspense and young adult fiction, and spends more time on Instagram than she probably should. With a degree in music and youth ministry, she has heart for youth and a love of genuine social media connections. She has built a thriving community around her Instagram platform and brand CreateExploreRead, with a focus on bookish merchandise sold on Etsy and Society6.

Connect with Emilie on her website and Instagram


What questions do you have for Emilie about being genuine on social media?
What are some things that have worked for you in building community among your readers?

Top 5 Must-Haves for An Author Website (from a reader's point of view)

 

Top 5 Must-Haves for An Author Website (from a reader's point of view)

Happy Friday, Seeker villagers! As an avid reader, reviewer, book blogger, and book marketer, I spend a lot of time on author websites. Like... a lot. Ninety-nine percent of the blog posts I publish on Reading Is My SuperPower require me to visit an author's website. And I would say at least fifty percent of what I do for JustRead Tours also finds me there too. 

Picture this all-too-common scenario with me: I am doing a review for your debut novel, so I don't know a lot about you as an author yet. I search for your name (plus the keyword 'author') on the interwebs, click the link it regurgitates at me, the website loads .... and .... I sigh with disappointment. I can find almost no helpful information that I need to finish building my blog post. In fact, it doesn't even look like you want readers to connect with you at all.

What does this mean for you? Well... if it's me on the other end of that click, it means that I'm going to scrounge up what I can find elsewhere because I'm stubborn. But an interested reader who looked up your website may get frustrated and go away, no longer invested in you or your books. 

So what are some basic, easy-peasy-to-do must-haves that every author should include on their website to tell readers & media everything they need to know?

1. Author Bio

Ideally, you should offer a short bio and a medium-length bio. Both bio options should be in third person (I cannot stress that enough!!!) Our very own Mindy Obenhaus has two perfect bios to choose from on her website. My recommendation would be one paragraph max for the short bio & no more than three paragraphs for the longer one. 

Oh - and please keep your bio updated! If I go to an author's website and their bio says something like "Her latest book releases in March 2017", but I am posting about her actual latest book that released in October 2021, I am going to be hesitant to use the bio on her website.

2. High Resolution Head Shot

You can have a variety of head shots to choose from or just the one - that's not as important as the fact that the photos you include should be high resolution and professional-looking. Note: I'm not saying you absolutely must invest in a professional head shot (though I do recommend it) but at least make sure it's high quality and cropped well. I also strongly suggest that you be looking at the camera and smiling. Look friendly and open and "buy my book & you'll have fun". But the most important thing is that it's high resolution and doesn't look like my six-year-old nephew took it and/or cropped it.

Why does this matter on a website and not just a book jacket or media interview? Well, because graphics matter to most book bloggers / marketers. See the two examples below. This a graphic template I use often on RimSP - I have lost count of how many times I've had to hunt down a higher resolution or more professional looking head shot because the one on the author's website looks more like the 'please, no' sample than the 'yes, please' one. 

Top 5 Must-Haves for An Author Website (from a reader's point of view)

Top 5 Must-Haves for An Author Website (from a reader's point of view)

I know I'm spending a lot of time on this point but can you see the difference a professional looking photo can make? It sets a first impression for readers that can reflect negatively (whether true or not) on the assumed quality of your writing. So if you're going to spend some time and money on one thing, let it be this!

3. Updated Book Information 

This is similar to the 'keep it updated' note I mentioned in the section on your author bio. Your latest release should be easily discoverable on your website with a high resolution front cover (don't only include the whole cover spread - book bloggers don't use those) and a variety of purchase links. It's also not a bad idea to link to your publisher's page for your book. In other words, make it a piece of cake for people to find your book. (And now I want cake. And to read a book.) The fabulous Becky Wade is a great example of putting this 'must-have' into practice. Her latest release is super simple to find, and she also has a book list in a separate tab, organized by series. You can click on each book cover for the blurb, ways to purchase, fun behind the scenes info, quote graphics and more. Super fun for readers & super helpful for book bloggers / marketers.

PS - Need to know how to tell whether an image file is high resolution or not? There are some very technical descriptions that go over my head but as a general rule of thumb, if it's under 1MB in file size then it's probably not high resolution enough.

4. Social Media Links 

Let readers know how to connect with you!!! If we love your books, we are definitely going to want to follow you on social media and learn more about you & your life & what you're reading too. And if we find that we have things in common, well then we're all the more invested in you as a person and as an author. Personal investment from readers makes you an 'auto buy author' for them ... which translates into consistent sales. If they're coming to your website, they want to know more about you. Don't miss those opportunities! Our dear Mary Connealy has the icons readily visible no matter where you click through on her website AND listed out in her media kit too. Super helpful!!

5. Mailing List Sign-Up

While we're talking about connecting with your readers, you really need to have a way for readers to sign up for new book alerts and other email newsletters you might send throughout the year. This should be - you can probably guess what I'm going to say - easy to find on your website, whether it's a separate tab or a pop-up or a prominent place on your landing page and/or media kit.

Which brings me to the part of this post where it all comes together. If you've clicked on any of the authors' websites I linked to above, you may have noticed that they all have one thing in common - their media kit pages. A media kit on your website is a godsend for bloggers / media / marketers because all the info they are looking for is all on one page - can I get an amen?! But again... keep it updated. It's useless to us if it's 5 books old. (By the way, the 2021 Christy Award finalist Erica Vetsch did a terrific post on media kits a while back.)

Optional Fun Things To Also Include

I polled some bookish friends (aka Beth & Rachel) for some other ideas of things that aren't must-haves but do also appeal to readers. These are optional, but they really are a lot of fun to have!

The possibilities of what you can do are endless... have fun with it & your readers will too! But don't get overwhelmed. As long as you have the top 5 must-haves I covered in this post, your website will be an incredibly useful tool to establish connections with the people who will read & promote your books.

~*~*~*~

Top 5 Must-Haves for An Author Website (from a reader's point of view)


Carrie Schmidt is an avid reader, book reviewer, story addict, KissingBooks fan, book boyfriend collector, and cool aunt. She also loves Jesus and THE Story a whole lot. Co-founder of the Christian Fiction Readers' Retreat and JustRead Publicity Tours, LLC, Carrie lives in Georgia with her husband Eric.

She can be found lurking at various blogs and websites (because she can't stop talking about books) but her main home is the blog she started in 2015 - ReadingIsMySuperPower.org.

 

What about you?
Authors, what questions do you have about your author website?
Readers, what makes you want to hang out on an author's website?

Comment below for a chance to win this super fun reading journal from Ink and Willow!
(US only)

Top 5 Must-Haves for An Author Website (from a reader's point of view)

The Author-Editor Relationship

The Author-Editor Relationship

by Mindy Obenhaus

When I received my first contract with Love Inspired Books in 2013, I was so tickled to be able to use the phrase “my editor.” It meant I’d finally achieved my goal of becoming a published author.

While I’ve been with Love Inspired for eight years now, I’ve changed editors several times. I’m currently with my fourth editor, plus I’ve worked with two additional editors when my regular editor was on vacation or had some other extenuating circumstance. With each change, there was that momentary twinge of “What if she doesn’t like my writing? What if she doesn’t like me?”

Of course, my worries, while understandable, were all for naught. Yes, every editor has their own way of approaching things. Each has a different personality. One may not care for a particular turn of phrase I'm prone to using, while another never mentions it. Yet in each case, the transition turned out to be a positive experience. I’ve learned from each editor and that has grown me as a writer. How? By adhering to some basic principles. 

Be professional – Your editor is your partner. He/she has entered into a contract with you, like someone you might hire to remodel your bathroom. You are to provide the expected work to their satisfaction at the time you both agreed to, and, along the way, they will provide input in the form of revisions/edits. Yes, their requests might have you groaning or wondering why they bought your book in the first place. Still, you shove those feelings aside and get to back to work. 

Don’t argue with your editor. If you have a valid point you’d like to discuss with them, do it in a respectful manner. And don’t ever share your displeasure on social media. This should go without saying, I know, but there’s always one.
The Author-Editor Relationship
Be open – Discuss your career goals with your editor. This is particularly true if you change editors or are nearing the end of your current contract. Be sure to bring a new editor up to date on your career thus-far. Let them know how many books you’ve done with that publisher. Tell them your plans for the future. Are you already working on a proposal for a new series with them or are you looking to go in a different direction? You never want to burn any bridges. However, if you plan to stay with that publisher, your editor will be your advocate in growing your career.

Don’t make demands. Editors don’t want or need difficult people when there are many talented authors waiting in the wings.

Be flexible – This is a must no matter where you are in your writing career because things are always changing. If you find yourself having to work with a different editor, embrace the change. If your editor feels as though the second half of the book would be better done a different way, schedule a time to talk with him/her to discuss those changes, then go into the meeting with an open mind. And never forget that editors are people, too. They make mistakes and overlook things which can occasionally result in a tight deadline for you. Whenever possible, do your best to meet that deadline. Of course, the flipside of that coin is that sometimes life throws us a curveball and we find you’re not going to be able to meet a long-established deadline. If that happens, contact your editor right away and let them know the circumstances so they can work with you.

Don’t dig in your heels or set unrealistic goals/deadlines.

The author-editor relationship should be one of mutual respect and your attitude helps set the tone. By being professional, open and flexible, you’re opening the door to the possibility of a wonderful career.

Now it's your turn. What elements do you think are important to a successful author-editor relationship?

In other news, A Brother’s Promise, book two in my Bliss, Texas series, is now available! 
Leave a comment for a chance to win a signed copy (U.S. mailing addresses only, please). Also, I’m in the midst of a blog tour with JustReads Tours and there’s a nice prize package involved. Click here for details.

The Author-Editor Relationship

A BROTHER'S PROMISE

He didn’t realize he wanted a family… Until he suddenly became a single dad. 

After his sister’s death, rancher Mick Ashford’s determined to ensure his orphaned niece, Sadie, feels at home. And accepting guidance from Christa Slocum is his first step. But just as Christa and Sadie begin to settle into Mick’s heart, Sadie’s paternal grandparents sue for custody. Now Mick must fight to keep them together…or risk losing the makeshift family he’s come to love.

Get your copy HERE!


The Author-Editor Relationship

Award-winning author Mindy Obenhaus is passionate about touching readers with Biblical truths in an entertaining, and sometimes adventurous, manner. She lives on a ranch in Texas with her husband, two sassy pups, countless cattle, deer and the occasional coyote, mountain lion or snake. When she's not writing, she enjoys spending time with her grandchildren, cooking and watching copious amounts of the Hallmark Channel. Learn more at www.MindyObenhaus.com  

5 Bookish Love Languages

5 Bookish Love Languages

Happy Valentine’s Day, Seekervillagers! In honor of this lovey-dovey holiday, let’s discuss ways we can spread the book love and effectively convey our affections to all our bookish loved ones!

Affirm Bookishness

5 Bookish Love Languages
Use words of affirmation to convey your acceptance of and appreciation for the bookish aspect of your loved ones life.

“Your Bookstagram feed is a work of art!” – for all your favorite book-obsessed Instagram friends

“I love the way you’ve reorganized your bookshelves (again)!” – this one works in person or for shelfies!

“You are so beautiful when you’re reading!” – for your significant other (or things could get awkward and I’m an introvert, I know awkward)

“Your book touched my heart!” – for your favorite authors (they are hard on themselves and need the encouragement)

“This book is fabulous!” – for random bookish people reading your review on Goodreads, BookBub, or any retail site

“Your book blog rocks my socks off!” – for your favorite book bloggers (they work hard too, y’all)

“I love the variety of books you’re carrying lately!” – for your favorite bookseller

“Your new featured books display is lovely!” – for your local librarian

Enable Bookishness

5 Bookish Love Languages
Free up your loved one’s schedule by performing acts of service so they can get their bookish on!

Any and all household chores are excellent candidates for freeing up a little time for story.

Taxes, bill paying, errand-running, grocery shopping… all things that you can do for a loved one who would #ratherbereading because #somanybookssolittletime or #ratherbewriting because #thevoicesarecalling

Bring your favorite bookworm a warm cuppa or yummy snack while they are reading or writing (without dragging them out of the storyworld, just set it down and back away) if the book is especially good, include something more substantial like a meal

Protect their reading time from interruptions (children, phone calls, needy pets, endless cellphone notifications… it’s a lot, just do your best and your reader or writer will appreciate the effort)

Bookish Gifts

5 Bookish Love Languages
Gift special bookish somethings to enhance your loved one’s reader life or writer life and they will be reminded of your love each time they use it.

Book sleeves, bookshelves, bookmarks, bookish apparel, bookish décor, fingerless gloves, office supplies, bookish candles, mugs, blankets, ereaders (and accessories like covers or screen protectors, chargers, etc.), gift cards for guilt-free ebook splurging or book hauling!

Bookish Time

5 Bookish Love LanguagesSpend quality time with your loved one while engaging in bookish activities (or just be present for the downtime).

Go to the bookstore or library or cozy coffee shop!

Travel to a favorite book setting (bonus points for excellent audiobooks during the drive).

Tag along for a reader/writer event (bonus points for carrying the book haul with a smile).

Ask your favorite bookworm to tell you all about their favorite books... then settle in because that conversation is going to take a while.

Embrace Bookish

5 Bookish Love Languages
Enhance your loved one’s bookish experience with physical touch (keep it PG, y’all!)

Whether paperback or hardcover, the weight and feel of a print book in the hands of a book lover is surpassed only by the weight and feel of a stack of books in the hands of a book lover.

Create a cozy reading environment with a comfy seat and blanket.

Cuddle up with your main squeeze and a good book!

Bonus Book Love

That’s right, I’m talking about loving your books… for a hardcore book lover, loving books is therapeutic!

Show your books a little love by dusting, reorganizing (even splurge for new shelves), rereading, apologizing for bent covers/dog eared pages/dropping into dirt or water, reclaiming from forgetful friends (or former friends depending on the condition of said book), taking your books on vacation or sending them with a friend (books deserve to get out every now and then too), telling everyone who will listen and maybe a few who won’t just how much you love your books!


5 Bookish Love Languages
This post was loads of fun to put together for y'all and in the interest of giving credit where credit is due, I must give a shoutout to the REAL deal, The Five Love Languages, just in case you haven’t heard of this fabulous series of books and its resource-filled website, it’s truly a game-changer!

Sincere thanks to my book sisters for brainstorming this post with me and providing feedback on the four different versions of graphics I created for it. That is love, my friends!


How do you spread the bookish love or how have your loved ones shown affection to your bookish side? Drop all your tips and date ideas in the comments!


Five Things I Learned from Writing a Book in Six Weeks by guest Carla Laureano

Five Things I Learned from Writing a Book in Six Weeks by Carla Laureano for Seekerville

If there’s one thing that I pride myself on, it’s being organized. Which is why I’m embarrassed to admit that I came up short on time during the writing of The Solid Grounds Coffee Company. Typically, I start writing immediately after I get my contract, and I complete a rough draft of my book in eight to sixteen weeks. That gives me time to let it rest so I can return with fresh eyes when I do the first round of edits.

But in the case of Solid Grounds, an avalanche of events rearranged my schedule. I was working on the rerelease of my MacDonald Family books at the same time, which required some minor revisions and manuscript reviews. I released a stand-alone novella. Then my editor went out on maternity leave shortly after I turned in my book, pushing the edits out further, immediately followed by a month of marketing for the release of Brunch at Bittersweet Café.

Before I knew it, I was staring down the beginning of March, with a personal completion deadline of May. Not a big deal since I didn’t have to turn it in until October, except for the fact that when I started publishing, I promised my kids I wouldn’t work more than necessary during their summer breaks. In order to keep that promise, I needed to be finished by the time they got out of school the last week of May, then jump right into edits when they returned at the beginning of August.
Are you dizzy yet? I certainly was.

I sat down at my computer and attempted to write. But health problems crept in. Kid struggles. Family issues. Before I knew it, I was only 20,000 words into my book with only five weeks left on the clock.

I’d like to say that I calmly sat down and prayed for strength and guidance. But I didn’t. I panicked. I worried to friends. I started wondering if I was going to be able to write the book. Finally, after a few days of unprofitable whining, I made a schedule and forced myself to stick to it. And I discovered five pretty amazing things in the process.

1. I’m capable of far more than I think I am.


If you had told me that I would bang out the bulk of a 115,000-word book in five weeks, I would have replied that you were crazy. I write fast, but I rarely log more than 3,000 words a day. When you consider that I got a slow start for the first two weeks, I actually wrote the bulk of the book in three weeks: 5,000 words a day, 25,000 words a week. I wouldn’t rely on my ability to do that again, but it’s encouraging to know that I could if I had to.

Five Things I Learned from Writing a Book in Six Weeks by guest Carla Laureano
It reminded me that so often we think we can’t just because we haven’t. In truth, we are capable of far more than we know; we simply haven’t tried.

2. Resolve is far more important than inspiration.


By the time I got through that first 25,000-word week, inspiration was in somewhat short supply. Yes, I was enjoying what I was writing, but half the time, I didn’t know if it was making any sense. I would check my outline to see which chapters I needed to write each day, and then I wrote them. I didn’t look forward. I didn’t look back. It helped that I parked myself at Starbucks each morning and didn’t allow myself to leave until I finished my word count for the day. After several hours of sitting in a hard, slightly uncomfortable chair, I would do anything to get out of there . . . even finish my chapter. It certainly wasn’t inspiration driving the story at that point. It was resolve (and maybe a little bit of desperation).

The prize doesn’t go to the person who is the most inspired; it goes to the person with the resolve and the diligence to get something done to the best of their ability.

3. Writing is like a sport: put in the practice so you can reap the performance.


You would think that the words that I wrote quickly under pressure were pretty terrible, but this was among the cleanest first drafts that I’ve ever turned out. I partly attribute that to the fact that I didn’t have time to tinker as I went or second-guess myself. And because I wrote it in such a short period of time, I was able to hold the full story and the character arcs in my head as I wrote. But most importantly, I’ve written almost a million words for publication. If you count all the rewrites and the numerous unpublished manuscripts that came before, I’m in the range of 2.5 million words of fiction written.

That’s when I realized that I’d been unconsciously training for this writing marathon like an athlete, with dedicated practice over the course of the last twenty-three years. I’ve spent so much focused time on the elements of plot, style, and pacing that I’ve internalized them. Or, to use a terrible sports metaphor, thousands of practice free throws allowed me to nail the half-court shot at the buzzer.

This clearly illustrated to me that time spent writing is never wasted, whether the books are published or not. You’re strengthening your writing muscles and your endurance for when you need them. Every time you employ a technique of fiction writing, it becomes your own, and over time, you can pull it out whenever you need it.

4. I can’t do this alone.


It sounds like I wrote this book through sheer determination, but the truth is, I would not have completed it but for a single faithful friend. Each morning before I started writing, I would check in with my BFF, Lori, and she would pray for me. Had it not been for her faithfulness in praying for my strength and productivity, I know I never could have pulled it off. I could feel her prayers as I worked, and I’ll always be grateful that she stepped in when I needed it so desperately.

Five Things I Learned from Writing a Book in Six Weeks by guest Carla Laureano5. When God provides an opportunity, He also provides the means.


There are always moments along the writing journey when we question our path or our purpose. I’ve always wanted to write for a living, and yet I’ve struggled and resisted the process every step of the way, mostly because it’s so much harder than I expected it would be. (If I would just learn to rest in God’s provision, things would go so much more smoothly, but that’s a topic for another blog post.) My friend may have prayed for me, but it was God who showed up when I needed Him. Above all else, The Solid Grounds Coffee Company is a story of redemption, of what happens after the Prodigal Son returns, so I can only believe that someone out there, somewhere, needs to read it . . . and God wasn’t going to let that be thwarted by a stressed-out, behind-schedule writer. I wish every book involved the same level of co-creation with God, but even if it never happens again in quite the same way, I’m grateful to have experienced it once.

About the Book & Author

The Solid Grounds Coffee Company by Carla Laureano

Five Things I Learned from Writing a Book in Six Weeks by guest Carla Laureano
Analyn Sanchez can handle the long hours and arrogant clients that come with her job as a crisis management associate at Denver’s largest publicity firm. The high-powered job, expensive condo, and designer wardrobe are all part of her plan to prove to her family that her life choices haven’t been in vain. But when she’s asked to cover up a client’s misdeeds with serious moral and legal ramifications, she can no longer sacrifice her conscience for her career . . . and the cost is no less than her job.

Ever since a devastating climbing accident in South America eight months ago, and a bad decision that dried up his sponsorships, professional rock climber Bryan Shaw has found himself at similar loose ends. When the opportunity to buy a coffee farm in Colombia arises, he jumps on it—only to discover his wandering ways have left him utterly unprepared to run a business.

When Bryan returns home and offers Ana a role in his company as a solution to both their problems, she’s desperate enough to consider working with the far-too-flippant and far-too-handsome climber, even though he’s the polar opposite of her type A nature. As they delve deeper into the business, however, she begins to suspect there’s much more to Bryan than she’s given him credit for . . . and that sometimes the best plans are the ones you never see coming.



Five Things I Learned from Writing a Book in Six Weeks by guest Carla Laureano
Carla Laureano is the two-time RITA Award–winning author of Five Days in Skye, London Tides, and the Saturday Night Supper Club series. She is also the author of the Celtic fantasy series The Song of Seare (as C. E. Laureano). A graduate of Pepperdine University, she worked as a sales and marketing executive for nearly a decade before leaving corporate life behind to write fiction full-time. She currently lives in Denver with her husband and two sons.


Now it’s your turn: Have you ever had an experience where you had to rely on God to complete an impossible task? How did it turn out? Tell me in the comments below, and you’ll be entered to win a paperback copy of The Solid Grounds Coffee Company.

Tips for a Successful Blog Tour: What Authors Need to Know


Happy January, dear Seekerville-ians! 

Carrie here.

I wear many hats in the book world. I'm a blogger, book reviewer, author interviewer, influencer, and speaker. I've reviewed for professional magazines, and I've had the privilege of co-founding the first major author-reader event specifically for Christian fiction. But lately most of my time has been spent as the co-owner of JustRead Publicity Tours (the irony of that is that I rarely have time anymore to 'just read'). 

At JustRead (and several other tour companies that I also blog for, including Singing Librarian Book Tours, Prism Book Tours, and Celebrate Lit), we help promote Christian and 'clean read' books through a coordinated network of blogs and social media hosts. We do the footwork and the managing of each tour so that you, the author, can focus less on marketing and more on writing new, yummy books for us to read. 

But while we do most of the heavy lifting, there are some things that authors can do to aid in achieving a successful blog tour from start to finish. 

Let's start by clearing up some common misconceptions: 

** "Blog tours & social media tours should result in more sales." 

Tips for a Successful Blog Tour: What Authors Need to KnowWhile that would certainly be ideal, there are multiple factors that affect and influence book sales. A successful blog or social media tour should result in more attention directed specifically toward your book.

The idea behind these tours is to get your book in front of people over and over and over again, so when they see it online or in a store they'll feel a connection to it and be more likely to buy it. But it won't happen overnight. It's a cumulative process, which I'll address more in a minute. 

** "Blog tours are outdated. Podcasts are where it's at." 

I would almost agree with that statement if it were for anything other than books. But books are for readers, and readers... well... read. Which means, while we might embrace a few podcasts that are relevant to our interests, we won't quit reading blogs or social media. Because reading is at the core of what we do. Therefore, a blog tour or social media tour continues to meet readers where they're at and reach potentially new audiences for your books.

So, what can authors do to help their blog or social tour to be successful? 

I'm so glad you asked :-) 

Plan ahead. 


Most tour companies that I work with - including JustRead Tours - are booked solid at least 4 months out. Chances are, if you wait until January to plan a tour for your book that will release in February (or heaven forbid, in January), you will be out of luck. At least when it comes to the established, reputable tour companies. Ideally, if you have a book releasing anytime this year and you want to book a blog or social media tour, you need to do so now. There's not really any such thing as planning too early when it comes to publicity and marketing, but there is definitely such a thing as planning too late. 

Don't put all your eggs in one basket. 


Ideally, you'll want to do a blog tour and a social media tour of some sort to keep the book popping up everywhere and staying on people's minds. BUT covers are key here. Some covers just don't work well on social media. It might be a great cover but there are some elements that seem to get less engagement on social media. So ask your tour coordinators for their recommendations and respect their expertise. 

You can also do what I call 'stacking' - where you book tours with more than one company. With the companies I mentioned above, we all have an overlap in hosts but we also have hosts that only work with our company (or one of the other tour groups). PLEASE NOTE: If you decide to stack tours, it's best to schedule different tour types with each company (for instance, a blog tour with one group and a social tour with another group, etc.). It's also best to stagger the dates when stacking tours - so each tour is separate from the other. This avoids confusing hosts who blog for more than one company, and it allows for maximum participation and a more focused campaign. It also takes host availability into consideration - even the 'overlap hosts' will have certain dates that work better than others (so maybe they can't participate in one company's tour but their schedule allows them to participate in the other) or maybe they can participate in both tours, especially if the tours are different types (i.e. one is a blog tour & the other is a social tour).


Have all your ducks in a row.


Tips for a Successful Blog Tour: What Authors Need to KnowI cannot emphasize enough how important this is: Make sure your book is up on Goodreads. If your book isn't on Goodreads, you are missing a vital free-to-you marketing tool. To take this one step further, make sure your book is on Goodreads at least three weeks before your tour starts. There must be a place for us to send readers who are interested in the book we're promoting. Retail site links are, of course, also vitally important but the timing on those sometimes doesn't match up with a promotional tour (with cover reveals, for instance).

Also, a media kit is hugely helpful for authors to send bloggers in general and especially for tour company hosts who are putting together your tour. It should have your website, social media links, headshot(s) and at least two versions of your bio - a short bio and a regular bio. Related to this, please make sure your bio and website are updated. It's also highly advisable to have an author Facebook page, separate from your personal timeline. 

 

Share and support.


Share the tour posts! Or at least the giveaway info with a link to the tour company's landing page for your book's tour. An engaged author leads to a more engaged tour all around.

 

Just Read. 


Thoroughly read the invoice and all materials that the tour company sends you. Important details and deadlines are often included in the invoice, terms/conditions, and 'next step' emails. If you have questions, don't be afraid to ask! That's what we're here for. But please do make sure you're aware of the terms you're agreeing to and the materials (and deadlines) that have been requested.

Blog tours and social media tours can be overwhelming, but these guidelines should ease some of the stress - for both you and the tour company - and help your promotional campaign be as smooth and productive as possible. 

(You can hear some more tips - and a bit more details on the ones I've mentioned here - on the Writer's Chat episode I recorded in December. Watch it HERE.)  

~*~*~*~*~*~ 

Tips for a Successful Blog Tour: What Authors Need to KnowCarrie Schmidt is an avid reader, book reviewer, story addict, KissingBooks fan, book boyfriend collector, and cool aunt. She also loves Jesus and THE Story a whole lot. Co-founder of the Christian Fiction Readers' Retreat and JustRead Publicity Tours, Carrie lives in Kentucky with her husband Eric. 

She can be found lurking at various blogs and websites (because she can't stop talking about books) but her main home is the blog she started in 2015 - ReadingIsMySuperPower.org.
 ~*~*~*~*~*~

I am giving away a FREE 1-Day Blog Blitz (a $65 value) with JustRead Tours to someone who leaves a comment on today's post!!  

(must be scheduled by Dec 31, 2020)

http://justreadtours.com

 What scares you the most about booking a blog tour or social media tour?
What questions do you have about the process? 

leave a comment below & be entered to win!


What a Mentor Can Do For You (Plus an Inside Look at Sunrise Publishing) Guest Post by Lindsay Harrel

What a Mentor Can Do For You (Plus an Inside Look at Sunrise Publishing) Guest Post by Lindsay Harrel
What a Mentor Can Do For You (Plus an Inside Look at Sunrise Publishing) Guest Post by Lindsay Harrel
No matter what career path you’re following, one thing rings true of them all: having a mentor can make all the difference in where you end up.

Whether we’re authors or not (hello to all you non-writing readers out there!), everyone needs support to pursue a passion and career fraught with challenges—and writing is definitely THAT.

One of those challenges is loneliness. We authors spend a lot of time with our rears in the seat talking to characters who talk back—but only in our heads. And while craft books are helpful and online courses can be great, nothing quite takes the place of real-life people who will walk the sometimes-perilous writing road with us.

Sometimes those people are walking alongside you—your critique partners, for example. Other times, you need fellow authors who are willing to take you by the hand and lead you.

Merriam-Webster defines mentor as “a trusted counselor or guide,” so I can’t think of anyone better to help us navigate a path that we haven’t walked before.

I’ve been super blessed to have a handful of mentors who have helped me get to where I am in my publishing journey, and who continue to guide me even after I’ve achieved publication—because though it may sometimes feel like it, being published is not the be-all-end-all. A mentor can help you navigate the way no matter where you are in your journey.

The Benefits of Mentorship


In my opinion, the main benefits of having a mentor in my life have been:


  • The opportunity to see things in a different light: I can get so focused on my own knowledge and way of thinking that I forget other perspectives exist. A trusted mentor can expose me to thinking that’s more advanced and just plain different.
  • Guidance in strengthening my weaknesses: Most of the time, it’s hard to see ourselves—and our writing—objectively. A mentor can help us to find areas of weakness in our craft and suggest edits or ways to improve.
  • Help navigating my career path: Not only have my mentors been pivotal in making me a better writer, but they’ve given advice that has helped to shape the decisions I make. 


What to Look for in a Mentor


Now that we all agree having a mentor can be monumental in our writing careers, what makes a good mentor? For me, there are three main things I have sought in a mentor:

  • A heart for others
  • A passion for what she or he does
  • Up-to-date knowledge on the latest trends and news in the industry


How to Find a Mentor


So how in the world do you go about getting connected with a mentor in the first place? There are a ton of writing groups on Facebook and other social media platforms that are great for connecting with other authors. Also, I’ve met a lot of authors simply by emailing or reaching out after I enjoyed one of their books. (Though I wouldn’t suggest reaching out in order to get something back, but more to invite someone into a friendship!)

 If you’re a member of a writing organization like American Christian Fiction Writers or something similar, there are plenty of resources at your disposal. For example, ACFW has several loops where you can connect with other members across and in certain genres, etc.
What a Mentor Can Do For You (Plus an Inside Look at Sunrise Publishing) Guest Post by Lindsay Harrel
Lindsay Harrel and Susan May Warren

Another such resource is writing conferences, where you can meet authors at all stages of the game—from complete newbies to multi-published winners of writing award after writing award. Take the opportunity to get to know authors who are ahead of you in their writing journey. If you click with anyone, open a dialogue and see if that author might be open to mentorship.

The way I found one of my mentors was originally to pay for her knowledge—in other words, I took a class she was offering. There are so many good courses out there, but Susan May Warren’s My Book Therapy was where I really cut my teeth as an author and learned exactly what I needed to know about how to write a novel.

One of the coolest benefits of having a mentor? For me, Susie has become much more than a mentor. She’s now a friend—and a partner too! Earlier this year, we started Sunrise Publishing, a publishing venture that combines mentorship and partnership between established authors and newer authors.

Sunrise Publishing: Taking Mentorship to the Next Level


Specifically, Sunrise is designed to help launch new or rebooting authors into the readership of an existing author, build the existing fictional world of the lead author, and offer readers a remedy to the story hole they are seeking to fill.

Here’s how it works: Every year Sunrise will choose a lead author in one particular genre. (Susie will be the lead author in year one, so we can work out the kinks!) Once we decide on the kind of stories the lead author is looking for, we put out a request for submissions. (Our first deadline is November 10! You can check out our submission process here.)

What a Mentor Can Do For You (Plus an Inside Look at Sunrise Publishing) Guest Post by Lindsay HarrelOnce the lead author picks the draft authors, they will start working on stories. Over the course of the year, the lead author will mentor the draft authors (with the help of Sunrise) to create six novels.

These novels will be traditionally published (print, ebook, and audio) over the course of the following year on all platforms.

Our main criteria is voice. We are not looking for someone with a platform, but instead, draft authors who are interested in learning, understand the basics of writing, and are willing to work hard. Most of all, we are looking for serious authors who want to launch their careers. (If you’re one such author, see our Writer’s Guidelines for more information.)

I know that whoever gets to work with Susie next year will be so incredibly blessed! Not only will they get a chance to work with someone who exudes all the ideal characteristics of a mentor I mentioned above, but partnering with Sunrise will help them discover their place in the market—and, hopefully, it will remind them they’re not alone in this writing thing after all.

Question for You: Do you have a mentor? If so, how did you connect with him or her? If not, what do you look for in a mentor? And do you have any questions about Sunrise Publishing? I’d love to answer anything you may be curious about! 


Giveaway: Lindsay is offering one of Susan May Warren’s Deep Haven novels (reader’s choice) to a U.S. resident. Choices can be seen here: https://sunrisepublishing.com/upcoming-series/.


Lindsay Harrel is a CBA best-selling novelist and lifelong book nerd who lives in Arizona with her young family and two golden retrievers in serious need of training. With more than 13 years of editing and writing experience, Lindsay now juggles stay-at-home mommyhood with writing novels for HarperCollins Christian Publishing and working as Editorial Director at Sunrise Publishing. She has a passion for not only helping authors improve their stories and find their voice, but also getting messages of hope out into the world. Connect with her at www.LindsayHarrel.com.

Hiding in Plain Sight: What My Characters Taught Me with guest Tara Johnson

“Man has gone out to explore other worlds and other civilizations without having explored his own labyrinth of dark passages and secret chambers, and without finding what lies behind doorways that he himself has sealed.”
―Stanisław Lem


Hiding in Plain Sight: What My Characters Taught Me with guest Tara Johnson


“Tara, do you know what you are?”

My friend sipped her coffee and leveled me with a kind but far too direct stare. The kind of stare that is only earned through truth and years of hard-won trust.

“What?”

“You’re a rodeo clown.”

I blinked, unable to formulate a reply in the sting of her assessment. I didn’t relish being compared to a clown. All I could see were the floppy shoes and bright-red nose. I contemplated dumping the coffee in her lap when she smiled.

“I don’t mean like Bozo the clown. I mean you stand in front of the crowd doing tricks, telling jokes, making everyone laugh. You see to their happiness while plastering yourself in makeup to give the illusion of a whimsical clown. But sometimes you hide behind that painted smile.”

Hiding in Plain Sight: What My Characters Taught Me with guest Tara JohnsonShe was all too correct. It’s easier than some might think to hide in plain sight.

I grew up as a preacher’s kid. I saw the good, the bad, and the ugly in churches. Somewhere along the way, I fell for the lie that approval and love are the same thing, but I was wrong. They are polar opposites.

Approval is a stamp that says, “You meet my expectations.” It drips of condescension and conditions. Love says, “You’re a mess, but I’m crazy about you anyway.” For too long, I lived as a people pleaser, looking for unconditional love in conditionally-minded people. I failed. Over and over again.

Thankfully I grew older and wiser. God brought amazing people—teachers, doctors, and friends—who helped unearth the wounds I kept locked away in the shadowed places of my heart. For a while I thought I had it all figured out . . . until I started writing. That’s when my characters began to teach me things I’m often afraid to confront.

Hiding in Plain Sight: What My Characters Taught Me with guest Tara JohnsonIn my debut novel, Engraved on the Heart, my heroine Keziah battles epilepsy while working as a conductor in the Underground Railroad. She struggles against the expectations of her staunch Confederate family, hiding her frailties from society’s critical eyes and pleasing the brother she adores while still trying to remain true to her own convictions. As Keziah’s story unfolded, I realized I fell for the same lie she had . . . that broken means worthless.

In my latest novel, Where Dandelions Bloom, Cassie Kendrick escapes her abusive father by enlisting as a male soldier in the Union Army. Cassie hides in plain sight yet fools herself into thinking she is finally liberated from the torment that has shadowed her life. In her quest for freedom, she comes to realize the only thing keeping her captive is her refusal to forgive her father.

While penning these two novels, I came to understand two things. First, I discovered Cassie and Keziah are reflections of my own secrets, the wounds I’ve tried to mask behind grease paint and wide smiles. Second, I realized why I write. Writing to win over the masses or for my own personal ego is a broken cistern of despair, nor do I write to escape. Instead, I start each book with a question I don’t know the answer to and ask God to reveal the answer as the story unfolds. To reveal himself.

Hiding in Plain Sight: What My Characters Taught Me with guest Tara Johnson
In other words, I write to know God.

Many writers think their main goal should be voyaging off un-pubbed island. A noble goal, as long we don’t forget why we write. Published or unpublished, they both have their place and can teach us beautiful things at our particular point along the journey. Be careful not to base your identity in being a published author or as a writer at all. The more you build your identity on something other than Christ, the greater the pain if that identity crumbles.

“The seeker embarks on a journey to find what he wants and discovers, along the way, what he needs.”
―Wally Lamb

Know why you write. The motivation makes a difference.

And if, like me, you discover you’ve been hiding behind face paint and false identities, that’s okay. Write about that too.

Why do you write? 
What unexpected discoveries have you learned about yourself or about God as you’ve delved into the world of story? 
Do you believe courage is a requirement for being a writer?



Join the conversation in the comments! Thanks to Tara Johnson and Tyndale, one commenter (US only) will win a copy of Where Dandelions Bloom OR Engraved on the Heart!

Hiding in Plain Sight: What My Characters Taught Me with guest Tara Johnson
Cassie Kendrick is on the run. Her abusive father arranged her marriage to a despicable man, but she's discovered an escape. Disguised as a man, Cassie enlists in the Union army, taking the name Thomas Turner.  On the battlefields of the Civil War, keeping her identity a secret is only the beginning of her problems, especially after she meets Gabriel Avery, a handsome young photographer.

Anxious to make his mark on the world and to erase the darkness and guilt lurking from his past, Gabriel works with renowned photographer Matthew Brady to capture images from the front lines of the war. As Gabriel forges friendships with many of the men he encounters, he wonders what the courageous, unpredictable Thomas Turner is hiding.

Battling betrayal, their own personal demons, and a country torn apart by war, can Cassie and Gabriel learn to forgive themselves and trust their futures to the God who births hope and healing in the darkest places? 

Where Dandelions Bloom... Available now! 


Hiding in Plain Sight: What My Characters Taught Me with guest Tara Johnson
Tara Johnson is an author, speaker, and passionate lover of stories. She loves to travel to churches, ladies’ retreats, and prisons to share how God led her into freedom after spending years living shackled as a people-pleasing preacher’s kid.

From the time she was young and watched Gone with the Wind with her mother for the first time, the Civil War has intrigued her. That fascination grew into all aspects of American history and the brave people and stories who make up its vibrant past.

She says, “History is crammed full of larger-than-life characters. Doc Holliday, Annie Oakley, Helen Keller, Daniel Boone, George Washington, Amelia Earhart, and Frederick Douglass are just a few examples of flawed, wounded humans who battled their demons with determination and left an indelible mark on the pages of history. I suppose that’s why people are so fascinating. No matter the era, we all battle the same wounds. Abandonment, abusive fathers, overprotective mothers, loss, grief, rejection, addiction, crippling anxiety, loneliness, or the yearning for unconditional love, to name a few. We all battle the same junk and have to decide whether to fight or cave. Run or stand. Cry or smile. That’s what great characters do. They are a reflection of our struggles, our own wounds. Our own need. And, when written well, they remind us whom we need to turn to for healing.”

Tara has written articles for Plain Truth magazine and has been a featured guest on Voice of Truth Radio and Enduring Word Radio. Tara is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. She and her husband, Todd, live in Arkansas, and the Lord has blessed them with five children: Bethany, Callie, and Nate, as well as Taylor Lynn and Morgan Lane, who are with Jesus.

Visit her website at www.TaraJohnsonStories.com and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Cooking with Love, Not Lard: Lessons from Lulu with guest T.I. Lowe


Cooking with Love not Lard: Lessons from Lulu with guest T.I. Lowe on Seekerville

The South is steeped in traditions as rich as chocolate gravy over hot buttermilk biscuits, and we take our traditions just as seriously as our biscuits. An endearing custom of my small town is that we love on you with food. Are you sick? Soup is on the way. Did someone pass away in your family? Make room in your freezer, because an assortment of casseroles will be lining your countertops and any other surface we can find. Having a baby? Yep, more food is on the way.

Cooking with Love, Not Lard: Lessons from Lulu with guest T.I. Lowe
In my home, I have a giant sign over the pantry door that says GROCERY. I point to it when guests arrive and then to the fridge, while delivering a sweet yet firm warning that I’ll be offended if they do not make themselves at home. Seriously, a visit doesn’t seem successful if guests leave without eating or drinking something. And do not dare turn a Southerner down when they offer you some food to take home with you!

Do you even want me to get started about Southern holiday traditions? It’s all centered around the oven, I tell ya. Baked goods galore. We celebrate with food. We mourn with food. We love with food.


Although I think this tradition is charming, it’s given me pause at times. Especially when I sat down to write Lulu’s Café. The “loving on you with food” had to be there, but I decided to explore the possibility of presenting it in a healthier way. I’m sure this is making some of you gasp. Believe me, it wasn’t an easy concept, considering I’ve been raised in the Butter Belt. I’m known for my baked goods and give them out generously as my way of loving on folks.

While coming up with ways for Lulu to use healthier ingredients in her Southern dishes, I also pondered the entire idea of how people show their love to others—food being only one way in an infinite array of possibilities. Although we may all have a different perspective on this, there is one thing we all have in common that we can use to help show our love. We have a limited amount of this and do not know exactly when the supply of it will run out, but I’ve come to view it as one of the greatest gifts we have.

Time. We all have the gift of time.


Cooking with Love, Not Lard: Lessons from Lulu with guest T.I. Lowe
The twenty-layer chocolate cake I make on a very rare occasion for my family comes to mind. It’s a giant, super-decadent treat. No way can we eat all of it in one day. There will most likely be leftover cake to enjoy the next day, too. This is not the case with our time. Once a day is gone, it’s gone. There are no leftover hours or minutes or even seconds you can carry over for another slice of time.

I often wonder if I’ve loved my family with enough of my time. What will they remember me by when my time limit is up? Did I stop and listen enough? Did we laugh enough? Did I pay enough attention when they had tears in their eyes? Did they know they could depend on me for more than delicious servings of cake?

Lulu made a good point in the book—At the moment, the girl didn’t need to listen. She needed to be heard. If you’ve ever sat down with me over a cup of coffee, then you know I can talk your ear off. However, I also understand what Lulu meant. Listening is a gift. My children have things they need to say, and they need to be heard. Remembering this, I stopped while typing just now to go hang out with them for a little while, giving them the chance to speak. Honestly, I don’t always get this gift of love right. The busyness of life can get in the way, but it’s up to us to be mindful of not allowing it to take over.


Don’t get me wrong, I’m still loving on my family and others with food. It’s a part of my Southern makeup, after all. But when I deliver a casserole or cake to someone, I try to give them a serving of my time to listen as well. Suppertime in the Lowe house is always done together at least five days a week. My crowd is so spoiled—in a good way—that they wrinkle their noses at the idea of take-out most nights, but I don’t mind . . . mostly. I love cooking up nourishing meals, knowing they will enjoy them and it will be much healthier for their bodies. That, in itself, is a gift I love giving.

How about you? What gifts of love do you enjoy sharing with others? Any traditions other than food? And if it’s food, any unique dishes?



Celebrating release day for Lulu's Café!

Cooking with Love, Not Lard: Lessons from Lulu with guest T.I. Lowe
When a damaged young woman is given a chance to reclaim her life in a small South Carolina town, she must reckon with the dark secrets she left behind in order to accept the love she deserves.

On the run from a violent past, Leah Allen arrived in tiny Rivertown, South Carolina, battered and broken, but ready to reinvent herself. By a stroke of fate, Leah is drawn to the Southern hospitality of a small café, looking for a warm meal but finding so much more. Lulu, the owner, offers her a job, a place to stay and a new lease on life. Through Lulu's tenacious warmth and generosity, Leah quickly finds herself embraced by the quaint community as she tries to put herself back together. Given she's accustomed to cruelty, the kindness is overwhelming.

Soon Leah meets Crowley Mason, the most eligible bachelor in town. A lawyer and friend of Lulu's, Crowley is wary of Leah's sudden, mysterious arrival. Despite his reserve, something sparks between them that can't be denied. But after all she's been through, can Leah allow herself to truly love and be loved, especially when her first urge is to run?

Exploring the resiliency of both the heart and the spirit, Lulu's Café gorgeously illustrates how old scars can finally heal no matter how deep they seem.



Cooking with Love, Not Lard: Lessons from Lulu with guest T.I. Lowe
Bestselling author T.I. Lowe sees herself as an ordinary country girl who loves to tell extraordinary stories. She knows she's just getting started and has many more stories to tell. A wife and mother and active in her church community, she resides in coastal South Carolina with her family.

For a complete list of Lowe's published books, biography, upcoming events, and other information, visit tilowe.com and be sure to check out her blog, COFFEE CUP, while you're there!

The Many Hats of an AuthorOne Thing That Works For Me with guest Emilie Haney: Being Genuine in Social MediaTop 5 Must-Haves for An Author Website (from a reader's point of view)The Author-Editor Relationship5 Bookish Love LanguagesFive Things I Learned from Writing a Book in Six Weeks by guest Carla LaureanoTips for a Successful Blog Tour: What Authors Need to KnowWhat a Mentor Can Do For You (Plus an Inside Look at Sunrise Publishing) Guest Post by Lindsay HarrelHiding in Plain Sight: What My Characters Taught Me with guest Tara JohnsonCooking with Love, Not Lard: Lessons from Lulu with guest T.I. Lowe

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