Saturday, October 21, 2017

Doubt the Stars by Maddyson Wilson // Book Review

I think most of you regulars know by now that as much as I'd love to have the time to beta read and review ARCs and friend's books ... I just don't have the time! Now imagine me signing up to read an ARC on an impulse for two reasons: 1) a paperback ARC and 2) an amazing blurb.

I'm telling you guys, blurbs are important! Without such an excellently written blurb, I most certainly would not have agreed to review this ARC (Advanced Reader's Copy). My impulse paid off, though! It made for great reading material on my first train ride. I have no regrets. ^.^

How far would you go to save the damned?

Celeste Adair lives in a world painted gray. She's spent the last five years of her life stuck in a mental institution because she told the truth: there was an angel on the roof of her foster home. Since then, she's been slapped with labels she didn't deserve and words she didn't ask for. 

Luke Enoch lives in a world painted a fire red. He and his sister, Clover, have been living on the streets of Brooklyn for the last five years, running from the police because Luke has been accused of lighting the house fire that killed their parents. Luke has sacrificed everything to keep Clover safe and will do whatever it takes to make sure she doesn't suffer the same fate he has.

After waking up from what they thought to be their final breaths, Celeste and Luke find themselves trapped in the year 1392 with a single mission: protect Romeo and Juliet, the star-crossed lovers. With the centuries-old war brewing, the only shot they have at keeping Romeo and Juliet alive is keeping them separate. But, when fate (and a trigger-happy prince) steps in, there aren’t many things Celeste and Luke can do to stop all of Verona from falling into war. With the line between good and bad erased, Celeste and Luke will have to risk everything to keep the star-crossed lovers safe--even if it means losing each other.

You cannot blame me for falling for that blurb, amiright?! I mean ... come on.
Maddyson Wilson is a sixteen year old author and actress who has won multiple awards for her writing, including the 2014 and 2017 NC Young Playwright's Festival, and the 2009 Celebration of Poets. Most recently, her original play, "Glory Days" was showcased in the Hickory Playground. Maddyson resides in North Carolina with her parents and three dogs. When she's not writing, she can be found on stage at her local theatre or aimlessly surfing the internet.
You know how this works by now. I ramble and then sum it up on a scale of ten. :) (Or if you're in a total cheapskate mood, here's my shorter review on Goodreads.)

As I've said, it's the premise that initially hooked me. Like why did I not think of that?! As a huge fan of Shakespeare, I really enjoyed that entire element to the story. All the timey-wimey and angelic elements were not only very neat, but surprisingly easy to follow. Gotta love that ;) It was well executed, so I'm happy. :)

I really loved all the character interactions. I mean, let's face it. Most of these characters were just gold. Celeste is so dismal and snarky, and Luke tries to be better than that, but he's broken, too. Romeo and Juliet were a little crazy sometimes, but dude I forgot how young they were ... o.o And sticking all the angelic, crazies, and Shakespeareans in a Verona time loop was just a good call, okay?

The villain was spot on. Creepy prince who's a horrible person ... but also makes good points ... and wants help from a protagonist? Hmm ... And then there's Ramona. Another horrible person with a soft spot. No "true" villains--just messed up people who've decided to act like it instead of push through like the MCs.

Honestly, all the brokenness is part of what made me like the story. Was there more language and violence than I typically enjoy? Yes. But it was done effectively and not excessively for the most part. (I still recommend something like 16+ because of this, though.)

And in the midst of all the brokenness, I could see the allegory to Christ. This was the true beauty of the book. Beyond the great premise, nice execution, and downright epicness of Shakespeare-meets-Peretti-meets-asylum ... there was God. No, He wasn't a character. But every now and then a line would slap me, and I could see the truth behind it. The Jesus story behind it. It's done in the least blatant way possible, but I found it completed the story.

All in all, I really had no idea where this book was going the entire time, but I also kept from getting too lost. The ending was glorious in that it tossed something unexpected at me and took a huge turn. Then, ya know ... ended. -_-

Boiling all of that down, my result is 7/10 shrooms. I'm taking one off for more nasty language than I wanted, one for the occasional choppiness and minorly confusing elements of the story, and one because honestly, I wanted more Romeo and Juliet. They were side characters in their own story--the blurb told me as much. But they weren't as deep as anyone else ... and I wanted more. 

So here's to hoping Book 2 will give me some answers, clarification, character development, and light. :)
I know, I can hear you saying what else could there possibly be?! But hey, this is important.

You can befriend the wonderful Maddyson in all of these places:

And, if you'd like to give the book a read (if witty, broken, fantasy, retelling-ish tragedies on a time loop are your thing) then it is available for pre-order HERE.
What are your thoughts on that premise? How much of a turn-off is language in a book for you?

((Oh, and speaking of pre-order ... watch for a paperback Andora's Folly! Soon, I promise.))

Friday, October 20, 2017

War of Loyalties Cover Reveal

A Friday post! Because my Fridays have freed up and that makes me happy :) And because the cover reveal  is today only.

First up, I have an absolutely GORGEOUS cover for you. No, it's not one of mine, so I'm completely unprejudiced in saying that!!

This cover is for Schuyler McConkey's War of Loyalties which is being published this fall!! You guys, I am SO excited for this book! Like ... more than I get excited about famous people's books.

I first learned about it through Schuyler's blog and immediately liked the concept. There are so many unique characters. And it's historical fiction, which is obviously the best ever. (Do not fight me on this one.) But I'm getting ahead of myself! First the cover, then the blurb.

April, 1917. A ring of German spies threatens the coastal town of Folkestone, England. Newly-recruited agent Ben Dorroll must uncover which British citizens are traitors to their country. When his first attempt at espionage falls prey to a trap laid by German sympathizers, the security of the British Secret Service is threatened. Feeling lost in a strange country and aching for a steady place to call home, he wants to resign and go back to his American medical work. But when he learns that his family identity holds the key to capturing the spy ring, Ben has no choice but to unite with the mysterious Jaeryn Graham so that the truth can be discovered. 

In the aftermath of the Irish Rebellion, Jaeryn Graham's British colleagues look warily on his Irish background. Always up for a challenge, he thinks his a new mission in the Secret Service should be an opportunity to prove his prowess. But after an encounter with death and alienating two agents, he finds the road to victory isn't as easy as he thought. Unless he can win the loyalties of his newest assistant, Ben Dorroll, his secret ambitions and his perfect success record will be destroyed.

That should excite you, no matter what you enjoy reading! ;) I'm so glad that Schuyler is going to be able to publish her novel this year, the centennial of WWI, during which the book is set. More specifically: November 30th!

Until then:

Check out more about War of Loyalties at My Lady Bibliophile
Are you as excited about this book as I am? What makes a good cover in your eyes?

Saturday, October 14, 2017

10 Ways to Get Your Characters to Love You // Guest Post by Claire Banschbach

Today I have Claire Banschbach on the blog to talk about how to treat your characters properly! And I love what it boils down to. Pay attention, as her points describe the most notorious favorite parts of every story!

As writers and authors, we all like to joke about how our characters hate us. And sometimes it might not even be a joke. I mean, there’s a reason that “writer’s block” can be explained as imaginary friends not talking to you.

So, in order to keep the words flowing and characters talking, I’ve compiled an easy list of ways to get them to like you right off the bat and even at word count 120,000. (I write fantasy okay? :P)

  1. Don’t kill them off – You might think this is a given, but resist that frequent occasional urge to pare down the cast. 
  2. Make sure there are lots of furry animals for them to cuddle in times of stress – puppies especially. 
  3. Have the antagonist offer them warm cookies right before s/he threatens to destroy the world – not only would that be a crazy plot twist, but everyone would have a chance to sit down and relax for half a second before making the mad dash to stop villainous plans. 
  4. On that note, basically just make sure there’s lots of cake/cookies/ice cream available in general – the more food, the better. Make a stop for tacos occasionally. 
  5. Make sure they have regularly scheduled naptime – always important. You might as well power nap while they are. 
  6. For heaven’s sake, DON’T TELL THEM what’s going to happen before the end. Lock that information away and throw away the key. But don’t forget which way you threw it – make them think it’s going to be a happy ending. But maybe they’ll just hate you at the end. You know what, scratch this rule. 
  7. Maybe only break one or two fingers or ribs – in one chapter. I kid. Sort of. Go easy for a few chapters. Let them have a chance to recover for a hot second. 
  8. When sending characters off on a long journey, give them some sort of aerial transport. It’ll make things much easier – nobody likes walking everywhere. Especially all the way across the known world to throw a piece of jewelry in a volcano… ;) 
  9. Skip the love triangle – all complaining and moaning about this specific trope aside, it just makes it easier for the hero/heroine to concentrate on saving the world. And decreases the angst factor by like ten million. 
  10. Give them a day off – saving the world is a lot of work. Let them hang out with their buddies, have a beer/tea/whatever beverage of choice, have a snowball fight, feed a friendly dragon…whatever. ☺ 

Claire M. Banschbach is a native West Texan. She discovered a deep and abiding love for fantasy and science fiction at a young age, prompting her to begin exploring worlds armed only with an overactive imagination and a pen while obtaining degrees in Kinesiology from Texas A&M and Physical Therapy from Texas Tech University.

She talks to fictional characters more than she should while struggling to find time for all their stories. She currently resides in Arlington, TX where she works as a Pediatric Physical Therapist.

You can connect with her on Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Blog | Instagram

So there you have it. All joking aside, what are some things you tend to do that make your characters not like you so much? Do you think any of the above might help smooth things out? :P Anything I missed? Let’s talk in the comments!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

How I Write A Blog Post

A long while back I wrote a blog post on how I write a chapter. In fact, it was my ninth post, and inspired by Katie Grace's post on how she writes a blog post. While I'm sure my process for chapters has changed as I've selected new projects, I have now found a consistent method for writing a blog post. Even though it's not a proven successful formula, it's a formula nonetheless. ;)

You've probably noticed the pattern in how I post. My way is not the only way to do it; everyone finds their own pattern. But I do encourage you to find a blog post pattern if you haven't already! Mine goes like this:
  1. Title
  2. Introductory Paragraph
  3. Post Header Image
  4. Opening Paragraph
  5. Point One Header Image
    • 1-3 Expounding Paragraphs
  6. Point Two Header Image
    • 1-3 Expounding Paragraphs
  7. Point Three Header Image
    • 1-3 Expounding Paragraphs
  8. (Repeat until all points are covered)
  9. Closing Paragraph
  10. Ending Tildes
  11. Concluding Statement and Question
Of course, that's only how it goes when I'm writing a topical post. And sometimes I don't have points that vary enough to bother outlining with headers. This post, for example. I could have put FORMULA above the outline there, EXCEPTIONS above this paragraph, etc. But it seemed a little pointless ;) Posts like reviews and blog tours are going to look quite different.

My schedule for posting is every Saturday, with occasional posts on Tuesdays if I have extra content. Sometimes I agree to do posts for other people that require a specific date that could be any day of the week, but that's fine. Aiming for consistency is my goal. And I'm pretty sure I haven't missed a single Saturday since I began in February of 2016! Because I'm sure you want to know, I've done posts in as little as twenty minutes and taken as long as 6 hours. I'd say my average is about 1.5 hours for each blog post.

As for my process of actually drafting a post, it usually looks something like this:

  • make a couple bullet points as an outline/guide
  • write the post, using bold and italics as I go
  • save the post as a draft to finish later (sometimes)
  • create images on Canva by duplicating
  • reread the post, adding links to people's names
  • use Blogger's preview feature
  • (hopefully) fix any weird formatting issues that came up 
  • schedule post (if necessary)
  • add labels
  • customize permalink
  • share the post on social media

And that's basically it! 
Fairly straightforward, right? (If you're not familiar with blogging, don't let this post scare you; it's not as complicated as it sounds.) How do you write your blog posts?

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

I'm An Award-Winning Author!

It costs money to enter book awards, so I've only entered a few. Is it bad to say I don't even really remember which ones? Entering Readers' Favorite in April was definitely a spur-of-the-moment decision. But, oh my goodness!!! It was SO worth it ^.^

I decided it was worth the $100 entry fee when Martin Hospitality received a 5-star review from Readers' Favorite that I didn't know was complimentary for entering. Needless to say that review made me very happy! You can read it here. And I thought no more about it.

Then on October 1, an e-mail announcing the winners of the 2017 Readers' Favorite Awards hit my inbox about the same time crazy-excited Hangouts messages appeared from Ivy Rose. She sent me this screenshot:

Martin Hospitality won Honorable Mention in the Christian Fiction category!! Yes, there are 140+ categories and therefore a lot of winners. But that made it really hard for me to choose a category! And this is a worldwide competition. One of the most popular there is. So I am beyond thrilled that I made the cut!!

Here's another picture of the announcement ... it's so surreal. You can view all the official winners here.

My primary reward is that I now have two shiny badges that I can share and even put on my gorgeous firstborn book if I feel like it :)

Another perk is that I'm invited to mail them 3 of my books for them to display and potentially sell at their booth at the ginormous Miami Book Fair International ... the largest book fair in the nation. So that's super exciting and I'm mailing them today! I'll take all the exposure I can get. Which means I want to figure out how much press release is complimentary and how much is part of their services for a small fee. At a minimum, my Google rankings should go up!

So I want to thank you all for your tremendous support and excitement. Between Martin Hospitality winning this award, and the drafting of Matinee Regulars going unbelievably well, I feel like my writing career has taken a huge leap lately! And you guys are one of my greatest resources. Please know that I do not take you for granted ;)
Honestly, I don't even know what else to say except ... celebrate with me?! Besides all the loving words you guys will put in the comments (because you're awesome like that), if you feel led to share about this on your social media accounts, please tag me @abitheauthor so I can enjoy them and share them with my followers!!! You guys are the best. It's literally enough that you're just here for me to share this news with because otherwise, I would've exploded! ^.^

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Consistency as the Key to Success

When trying to decide what to blog about this weekend, I realized that a lot of things in my life over the last few weeks relied on consistency. And I also came to realize just how horrible I am at being consistent. (I mean, look at the time stamp on this post.) It's pathetic, really. But it remains the key to success in almost every area of life.

I've always heard that consistency is important. I guess I didn't realize until just this Thursday that I've heard that in a lot of different places ... and dismissed it, I guess? D: Not good. I think my real problem is consistency is a discipline. And I'm not very good at self-discipline, I freely admit. Some areas it's good to be consistent in are:
Apparently, you'll be more successful as an author if you write every day (I wouldn't know ;P ). People say it's not the number of words but the discipline of getting some down daily that helps you progress. I could argue with that for an eternity. Lately, my pattern has been writing and writing a lot whenever I have an evening free to do so. And it's worked really well. But the few nights I haven't felt like it and decided I should try anyway ... yeah, I 've gotten words written that I wouldn't have otherwise. So it's good to push yourself, even if you don't do so consistently ;P
Social media is another area where I've heard over and over again that consistency is the key. You don't have to have really long posts, or always use images and links. Just decide how often you're going to post on each platform and stick to it. Easier said than done, right? But I've definitely seen the truth of this one play out. People can't forget about you as easily if you never disappear. And it often takes some exposure before people will follow or interact. So every post counts whether your statistics show that or not.
The same thing applies to blogging. No one appreciates a blogger who appears sporadically, especially if their absence goes unannounced and each random reappearance begins with an apology. Don't do that! You don't have to post often. Once a week is plenty, and maybe you can't manage that often. Fine. Set up guest posts, take a hiatus. All of that is perfectly acceptable. But don't blog every few months and expect people to be okay with that. If you want to be taken seriously, you have to show up regularly to engage the people who follow you.
While I wouldn't say reading requires consistency, I am a much happier person when I do read consistently. Of course, it's gotten really sporadic of late for me. But since it's such a great wind-down for me, I should aim to read a little every day. Then I might read two or three times a week, which would be an improvement! And I'd be able to tackle my TBR list much faster without having to stay up to ungodly hours of the night.
As the newest realization for me ... Jesus time. It does require consistency. Consistently reading the Bible, choosing to do the right thing, putting temptations behind you, praying for wisdom. You can't cultivate a relationship if you don't keep in touch with Jesus. And the best way to do all of those things is by reading the Bible consistently. And by consistently ... I actually mean every day. *sigh* I'm the first to admit that I'm not very good at this. So you're not alone. But don't aim for something like 5 chapters; maybe it's just a verse. But the more the Word of God is in your heart and on your mind, the easier it is to arm yourself with it for each new day. I know this through personal experience, and am trying to get better about starting my day with this. Because otherwise it gets shoved to the bottom of my to-do list.

As Priscilla Shirer pointed out in my Bible Study this week, the urgent things often overtake the important things, when it's only the important things that hold any weight in the light of eternity.

I could add a whole lot more things that I need to be more consistent with: exercising, taking vitamins (I am actually improving here!), doing laundry, cleaning my room, eating breakfast, doing finances ... it goes on ;) This is where I find some scheduling or to-do lists to be helpful. It's hard to be consistent with 100 different things every day! Practice makes perfect. Or as my choir director reminds us, perfect practice makes perfect.
I know I could use better consistency in basically any area you can think of. Do you struggle with consistency? (Please tell me I'm not alone!) What benefits have you found from being consistent?

Saturday, September 23, 2017

An Unexpected Appointment with His Plan // Guest Post by Sarah Addison-Fox

I'm so pleased to have a guest post by Sarah Addison-Fox today! Doesn't she have the best name? We've connected recently through Twitter, and today she has an amazing personal story to share with you :)

When your doctor’s office rings to ask you to come in, you know it’s not going to be
good news. At the worst possible time, one month after starting to home school our
daughter, a son with increasing special needs, I was told I had Multiple Sclerosis. My
life started to crumble down around me. What did this mean for our future? Would I
end up crippled, unable to walk as I’d heard so many stories about?

Not even forty, with two children who depended on me, and a diagnosis that spelled
the worst, I tried to understand, but I couldn’t. It seemed so unfair. For a fewmonths
I pretended everything was ok, tried to eat right, exercise, do all the things I was told
would help. Sure, I was a little tired, but I felt pretty good all things considered. I
plodded along, trying not to think too much about the future, tried to stay positive and
took it one day at a time.

Everything changed when, after a particularly stressful day, I lost feeling in my right
hand. I went outside, tried not to panic, prayed, and put off going to my doctor. When
the loss of sensation spread to my arm and half my right side, I gave in and phoned
my doctor. I delayed taking the horribly powerful steroids I was prescribed, terrified
of the side effects, only giving in when l I lost the ability to control my arm. I tried to
make light of it, but I was scared. Truly, deeply terrified. All the things I’d never done,
the dreams I had, the future of our children, was wavering before me.

As I recovered, almost unable to function due to the drugs then withdrawal, I saw a
Michael Junior documentary that changed everything. He talked about people
knowing their ‘what’, but not their ‘why’, I broke down. I’d always wanted to write, but
I didn’t know why. Here was the reason, the purpose in the pain, I was so desperate
to find.

I started praying, repeatedly asking the Lord, how I could serve Him, how could He
use me to help others. I read a lot, escaping into fantasy worlds, to keep from
overthinking and worrying. I read my Bible, cover to cover and prayed for strength
and for faith.

One of my favourite books, Tahn, written by the late L.A. Kelly, says in her note to
readers, (I’m paraphrasing from memory here, so forgive me) she was led to write a
story, and that there was an urgency pressing on her. When I heard she and her son
had been killed in a car crash, it hit me hard.

What if God was calling me and I wasn’t listening? What if I missed this opportunity
because I was afraid? This began to resonate within me and like a seed planted, it
grew until I couldn’t shake the need to write, but I still didn’t know what. I kept
praying for the Lord to use me, I was now both willing and ready. I sat down one day,
opened my laptop and started writing. It was just an opening scene, but it sparked

After twelve years, I started feeling the pull to write again. This time I would be
obedient and trust that there was a purpose in my writing. I made a commitment, not
just to write each day, but a commitment to finish the first draft within the year.

I didn’t miss one day, no matter how much fatigue I suffered, how bad my eyes were.
I committed 100% because I was now writing for the Lord. And that mattered more
than anything. Yes, there were times I wanted to quit, but knowing my why, kept me
focused. This was important, somewhere, somehow the Lord would bring this novel
to fruition.

I had no idea of what I was doing, had no support from other writers, and no idea if
what I was writing was any good. But I hung on and trusted Jesus to bring the right
people into my life. I kept telling myself, if He wants this book out there, He’ll provide
the means.

Boy, oh boy, did He! In every single way conceivable, Jesus brought wonderful
people into my life. From the incredible alpha reader, who became an editor and
proof reader to the lovely girl who designed and built my website, and made my
covers. Jansina at Rivershore Books shared my passion for fighting human
trafficking and was so generous and understanding. Even the photos I use, and
immediately knew I had to have, are from a Christian photographer. Jesus was there
every step of the journey. When I couldn’t see a way, He found it. When I had a
need, He met it.

God is faithful. That dream you have, the dream you pushed to one side, or hid it for
fear of ridicule, He placed it there inside you, and He is just waiting for the perfect
time to use you.

Every day I wake up I’m grateful for the ability to write for His purpose. It drives me,
gives my writing meaning it never had before. It’s no longer about me, it’s about what
can I do for others. How can I speak light into the dark? How can I serve? Not just
other Christians, but how do I reach unbelievers? How can I find common ground?
What do I have that I can share?

We can make a choice in the face of uncertainty. We can choose to trust. Jesus will
never, ever fail us when we place our trust in Him.

Life isn’t easy, nor is it pain-free, but it is more beautiful and enriching when we live
our God given dreams. I gave up on ever being published, but God didn’t. He put
that dream inside me, and when I was in the place I needed to be, He rushed in to
fulfil it.

I want to encourage you, and I want you to hear God’s promise for your life. He has
plans for you, He knew you before you were born, He knows you intimately, and He
will never, ever give up even when you do. He’s right there waiting with everything
you need to accomplish your mission.

My strength comes from Jesus and the desire to see His will and His plan complete.
Nothing I accomplish is done under my own steam. His purpose for my life infuses
me with energy and nourishes me in a way I’ve never experienced before. And you
know what else? I am having so much fun writing! I truly believe He wants me to
enjoy this gift He’s given me, to cherish it, but most of all, I believe He wants me to

I encourage you to seek that dream, pursue it and grab hold of it with both hands.
Listen to that still, small voice calling you. Give yourself wholeheartedly to Him and
He will provide everything you needed and so much more than you imagined.
If I can write five books in nine months, imagine what He can do for you?
Just trust, listen and act in obedience. He’ll take care of the rest.
Sarah Addison-Fox is a New Zealand-born home-schooling mother of two who loves
action-packed, clean, fantasy with strong heroines. She has an astonishing amount
of nail polish, has all her creative writing credentials shoved in a drawer somewhere,
and has a husband who, after 27 years, can still make her blush.   When she’s not
working on her Christian YA fantasy series, Allegiance, she can be found fangirling
on Goodreads or sending GIFs on Twitter. 

Connect with her on:
Twitter: @Saddisonfox
Goodreads: Sarah Addison-Fox
Doesn't Sarah have an amazing story? I hope you all feel encouraged in your writing. Because God can do the impossible to fulfill your dreams if they're His dreams for you :)

Monday, September 18, 2017

This Undeserved Life by Natalie Brenner

Today I'm bringing you a new non-fiction book that looks fantastic if I'm honest. It's on grief and God. Before you say that doesn't apply to you, I urge you to think twice. If it doesn't apply now, it will someday, because we're promised hardship (John 16:33).

The first thing I have for you today is an excerpt from Natalie Brenner's book This Undeserved Life. Natalie has quite the story and you get just a glimpse of her heart in this passage.

   “I hope you’re not mad at God.” Helen’s words were expectant, thoughtful even, as we sat on the giant rock staring out over the ocean. Her eyebrows were raised, her posture stiff, a question on her face, imploring if I was indeed mad at Him or not.
   In my stillness, I thought to myself about taking caution to respond. I sat in a slouched position with my hands firmly planted beside my legs so I could stare steadily at the ocean. Steady but relaxed, I gave a half shrug and said, “I don’t think I’m mad at Him, so to speak, but I do think if I were He could handle it. You know? I think He can handle my anger. He seems pretty big.”
   She didn’t respond immediately. Our pastor’s wife was a dear friend in whom, for years, I had confided. A mentor and friend, we had grown close until my miscarriage because I had begun distancing myself. I found myself breaking away from many people since our miscarriage, even if they were gentle and kind; I immediately threw up protective walls around my heart at the sound of any invalidating statements such as this one. Grieving doesn’t have much room for you-should statements like this.
   She wasn’t the only human I loved and respected who said things like this, who tried to “lead me to the cross” or point me in the right direction or remind me how I should feel or think. Many people in our life responded to us with an array of cliché statements:
   “He doesn’t give you more than you can handle.” (I reject this—He allows more than we can handle; we are then driven to Him for comfort and grace).
   “It was God’s plan.” (Loss is never His plan).
   “Clearly there was something wrong with your baby, maybe it wasn’t healthy, and God wanted to prevent you from that.” (What?)
   “It wasn’t God’s time for you to be pregnant.”
   “He is in control.” (But what about free will and brokenness due to our choices in the Garden?)
   “Find joy in your trials.” (This often takes time).
   “At least you can get pregnant.” (This doesn’t help).
   “He gives and takes away life.”
   “Don’t be mad at God. Don’t blame God.”
   “It could be worse: think about Job,” said to me the day after I miscarried.
   The oxymoron of “he gives and takes away life” and “don’t blame God” are ridiculous to me. I get it, though. I had thrown those statements around in other peoples’ times of trial and suffering. I didn’t know how to respond to pain and assumed those words would help. Or did I? Was it for them or for me that I used those clichés in people’s true times of suffering? Was it to make me feel better like I had somehow spiritually pointed them towards God in their grief? I have learned to stop myself from saying much. I try to ask myself what the point is in whatever response I have loaded to release: is it to see their pain and validate or is it to show them I know where they should be emotionally? I don’t think we can ever really tell people where they should be.
   We sat on a rough, rocky ledge together with our legs and feet dangling high above the sand. Our eyes focused on the ocean’s vastness. I pondered these things and wondered why Christians felt the need to make such statements. I pondered why, even I felt the need to attempt salve with stinging salt to raw wounds of the heart. Why was there so much shame in just allowing ourselves to feel whatever demanded to be felt? To breathe in the reality of pain, grief, and sorrow? We give people the requisite day or two (or however long we feel is appropriate) to feel the sting of loss and then expect everyone to be “fine” and move on as though nothing was lost. Why is there so much judgement when we choose honesty through grief and grief takes time? Why are we shocked when someone is still sad about a loss years later?
   I decided again, there on that ledge, to continue to be honest. I would continue to find Him in the honesty even if it appeared ugly and “ungodly.” It was on that rock, staring out over the sand and the sea, I realized to the depths of me how different everyone is. People grieve, process, and heal differently. Which also means loving one person looks different than loving the next: we aren’t all the same. Our Christian (and quite possibly our culture’s) textbook liked to lay out a “10 Ways To Respond To Someone Who's Grieving” manual—but I was discovering maybe everyone is different. Maybe there isn’t a manual or a specific way to love people in grief: maybe the only way we can communally love people is by giving them permission to just be.
   I may not find permission from society to grieve and acknowledge our loss, but I am finding it in Him. I am finding a freedom in Him I had never experienced. The freedom of gut-wrenching, pain-filled, ugly honesty.
Today is the official release date for This Undeserved Life. The price will go up by $6 on September, 22, so purchase this one for your bookshelves now! :) You can find it on Amazon and Goodreads.

Haven't made up your mind yet? You can find out more about This Undeserved Life here.

Natalie Brenner is wife to Loren and mom to two under two, living in Portland, Oregon. She is the author of This Undeserved Life. She likes her wine red, ice cream served by the pint, and conversations vulnerable. Natalie believes in the impossible and hopes to create safe spaces for every fractured soul. She's addicted to honesty. You can love Jesus or not, go to church or not: she'd love to have coffee with you. Natalie is a bookworm, a speaker, and a wanna-be runner. Connect with her at and join her popular email list.
What Christian living books have you read that tackled hard issues well or furthered your walk with Jesus?

Saturday, September 16, 2017

How to Guest Post Like a Pro

I've been trying to work on a blogging schedule lately, and part of that has been looking for people willing to guest post. So I thought I'd work up a post on how to guest post!

First, a quick definition of what guest posting is: guest posting is when a person agrees to write a single article for another person's blog or website.
 Let me begin by saying there really is no definitive guide to guest posting. That's why people who agree to guest post for each other always ask questions: What do you want me to post on? When do you want me to post? How long do you want it to be? Guest posting is useless if the person you're posting for isn't pleased, so be sure to ask them what they're looking for.
Of course, you can figure out some of what they want for yourself by visiting the blog or website they want people to post on. When I'm looking for people to guest post for me, I always say that anything writing or book-related works. Why? Because that's what my blog is about. Anyone who visits could probably figure that out, as well as see what I've already posted on. You don't want to have a repeat post!
The question is, how do you write under the broad topic of the blog and still stand out from the blogger's frequent posts. This is a one-time opportunity! Simple: blog about a topic that the blogger can't. For example, Jonathan Trout guest-posted for me once and I suggested he write something about being a guy blogger ... I can never blog on that. He did an excellent job with the post because it's the most popular post this blog's ever had ... go figure xD
When you're guest posting, it's not usually the time for a medical update or a new announcement.  There are exceptions, but for the most part, things like that should be relegated to your own blog where you have readers that are already invested in you. :) So an article that matches the blog content with a strong title and clearly marked points is the better way to go.
At the same time, you don't want to be stiff. One of the main reasons people enjoy reading blog posts is for the person behind the content as much as the content itself. So you should be natural. Use your normal blogging voice. As I said before, pick something that you can write from experience (preferably an experience the person you're blogging for doesn't have). That's always going to be a bit personal.
One of the main incentives for guest posting is that you as the guest poster get exposure to a new audience! So consider including a photo of yourself or maybe even a bio. Ask the friend you're blogging for to introduce you in their way. And definitely include a link back to your blog! That's how readers from the blog or website you're guest posting on will find (and hopefully follow) you :)
While no one gets a true break this way, I've seen that each group of blog followers is more likely to look at both blogs if the bloggers have simply switched for the day. The audience gets a fresh voice on the blog they follow, but they have to visit this new person's blog in order to read a post from the person they're used to reading. It's a good strategy and a win-win.
  1. The primary blogger gets a week off // take a break without having to skip a post
  2. Readers get a new writer // it shakes it up a bit and readers are usually welcoming
  3. The guest poster gets new exposure // it's a direct way to reach an already dedicated audience
Have you ever guest posted before? Do you have any questions about guest posting?

I AM LOOKING FOR GUEST POSTS! So if you're interested, shoot me an e-mail: abiclaire98 at gmail dot com :)

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Why Authors Love Reviews More Than Chocolate

Have you ever noticed how many authors ask you to leave a review of their book? Have you seen authors say that reviews are the best thing you can do for them? I'm one of those authors and I agree. I might even love reviews more than chocolate.

Handing out virtual chocolate seems to be a thing today. It's a nice gesture, at no expense from the giver. But my research for this post has shown that authors have been known to love reviews even more than chocolate. Why?
Reviews provide insight and happiness. We all know chocolate can provide happiness, but insight?? Never had that happen. Because reviews, whether positive or negative, help a writer get to know their audience better and see what people think. Feedback is a good thing! And the warm fuzzies that come after reading a good review are pretty awesome! :)
Reviews can actually sell books. Do not question me on this: it's scientific fact. xP Lots of the big marketing places like BookBub will not agree to advertise your book at all unless you have a lot of reviews. Not just any reviews, but Amazon reviews. That number matters to them because it tells them how well you're doing on your own. Everyone knows people don't really write reviews unless prodded. So seeing a decent number (say 200) on a self-published book tells them a whole lot more than 1,000 Twitter followers ever could. Authors actually need reviews. :D
Reviews are rarer than chocolate. Yep, we authors admit it. We're selfish. Chocolate has become so commonplace that we want something rarer: reviews from our readers. Now honestly, that doesn't really make us gluttonous monsters, does it?

I think reviews are rarer than chocolate because:

// They require an investment. Time is in short supply today. Not shorter supply than reviews, but still. It's easy to shoot down this argument as laziness, because if you spent several hours (or more) reading the book, then you can take another ten minutes to leave a review.

// It's like schoolwork. Wait, I have to split a 300-page novel into likes and dislikes and then rate it using a dubious 5-star system? I know, it's hard. But if you can spend 14 years of your life in school, and then willingly subject yourself to spend another 4 years in school ... this assignment will not be the death of you. ;)

// Technology is difficult. I know. Amazon requires you spend ~$100 before you can write a review. It's a pain. Honestly, what I do is use my parents' account. So of all the Amazon reviews I've left people, not one says it's from Abigayle Claire. But I left a review! So I don't think the author will mind the change in identity. ;)

// Readers fear authors. I'm not kidding on this one!! Sometimes we read a book and our opinion is not positive. If we know the author, we really don't want our name associated with a 2-star review. (I'm telling you there are huge benefits to using your parents' account.) Even if we don't know the author ... do we really want to do that to them? The answer is YES.
In closing, negative reviews should still be written. While I expect all of you to be tactful, the author should understand that not everyone is going to connect with their book. That's actually impossible.

Martin Hospitality has received a one-star review on Goodreads now. I can't even tell you how grateful I am that it wasn't just a rating, it was a review. The reader told me exactly why she didn't like the book! And if I felt the way she did, I would have made it a 2 or 3-star review (way to make me feel better!).

The interesting thing is, that review had a ton of comments. 100x the interaction any of my positive reviews have garnered, and mostly from people I don't know. While several said they wouldn't read the book now, twice that many (guesstimating) said they were definitely going to read it to see if they agreed with the negativity.

As my dad said, negative press is still press.
Are you in the habit of writing reviews when you read a book? ((Amazon reviews carry the most weight, so I highly encourage you to do that for your author friends!)) If you read but have not reviewed either of my books, you can review Martin Hospitality HERE and Andora's Folly HERE. ^.^

What do you love reviews more than?

SIDE NOTE: Thanks to those of you who volunteered to be my reading accountability partner! So many good options!! I have selected Lisa // Inkwell to fill that role, but I'd love to keep up with the rest of you on Goodreads. :)