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. :)

Saturday, September 2, 2017

So I Talked to an Agent (and what that means)

I talked to an agent!!! While at OCW, Ivy and I decided that we should pitch. Just do it. It'd be good practice, and we would expect nothing. So that's what we did. (Crazy best friend pressure. XP) The question is, how did it go and how did it change my writing life?

I really, really did not want to talk to an agent. I was stuck in Portland with limited internet, no pictures, no handouts. I had nothing that they recommended having in order to pitch to an agent. Not even a manuscript I'd begun. Why? Because I'd decided I was happy working on the Martin Series and didn't want to begin anything else. (HA!)

Then Bill Jensen of Willam K. Jensen Literary Agency said there were a lot of openings for agent appointments, and we should sign up even if all we had were ideas. Well then. That shot down every reason I had for not pitching.

After a little bit of research and are-we-really-doing-this?! nerves, Ivy convinced me to snag the last spot with Jensen. After all, he fit my overall genre the best. And she was right: I'd regret it if I didn't just go for it.

He was several minutes late to the appointment, which at first made me so nervous. I could have dashed out the door before he ever showed up and scratched my name off the list. But I didn't. So when he did show up, it put me at ease, because is there any other proof that someone prestigious is human, than them being late?? Not really.

Having never done this before, I really have no idea how the appointment went. He kept me from rambling and reassured me that he had taken on young authors (Rachel Coker!) before, and he had signed people from just an idea. I didn't say everything I think I should have said, but the ending to the conversation kind of stunned me.

Mr. Jensen asked to see the first three chapters once I was ready, and then he'd let me know.

For all I know, they could say that to everyone. I don't know what I was expecting. But I was not expecting that. 

So that brings me to the obvious change that now must take place in my writing. Since I have an agent expecting three chapters of a manuscript that at the time wasn't even fully plotted ... I can't keep plugging away at Martin Crossroads at the speed of a turtle.

I feel so awful setting the sequel aside and leaving all of my wonderful, expectant readers hanging!! But I have never been so excited about shaking up my writing life. :D So now that little story, Matinee Regulars, that I shared with you in this post, is being brought to life. Although several things in the description I gave you have already changed :P

I had brainstormed a little with my sister a few weeks before the conference, and that's the only reason I was able to pitch the story. Then Ivy and I brainstormed for several hours at her house, and the pieces just started falling into place. Let me tell you, that has not happened since writing Martin Hospitality last year. 
And that made me realize something. Writing Martin Crossroads next was my idea. Not God's. Did it make the most logical sense? Yes. But I have spent months on it and gotten literally nowhere. And now this little Pinterest-board-of-a-story idea flies out of my mouth in front of an agent, and guess what I'm writing?

I haven't enjoyed writing this much in over a year. So it feels so amazing to finally be writing a story that is working with me, not against me. And my only explanation for that is because God is working with me and my story as well.

So it's a little bit of good news and bad news. Despite how things continue to go with Mr. Jensen, I've taken the first step to becoming a hybrid author. The sequel to Martin Hospitality will be delayed. But the story you all demanded several weeks ago is under construction!
Now is that a crazy God thing or what?!