There is something magical about opening the pages of a book. The way my fingers slide under the cover, the slight crinkle as the spine feels tension for the first time. The scent of ink escaping from the crisp pages. The friction as the grooves of my fingerprint slide down the title page and table of contents. Don't' get me wrong, I LOVE my Kindle. I mean, it's light, slim, fits in my purse and holds hundreds of books within its small frame. What could be a better travel companion? A better way to have instant access to stories and worlds and characters? Yet, still there is romance for me, in a physical book. That's why I am elated to share that my titles, It's Complicated and It's Over, which were previously only available in e-book format, are now available in print, just in time for Christmas. If you haven't read them yet, because you prefer an old fashioned book, here's your chance. If you've already read them, but wanted to gift them to a friend, teacher, sister or roommate, here's an easy way to do it. IT'S COMPLICATED There's a reason Facebook has the Status Update, It's Complicated. Follow four college roommates, Claire, Palmer, Hannah and Kat as they maneuver crushes, confusion, and the crisis when pushy boys go too far. Complicated as it is, these four friends will pull through, guided by the strength of their friendship and the power of God’s love. BOOK ONE IN THE STATUS UPDATES SERIESORDER
IT'S OVER How do you move on when It's Over? When four college roommates lose pieces of their lives, the pain isolates and the tension rises. Emotions are hard to hide and even harder to tackle. How can the girls move forward, when there is so much pain in letting go? Together, Claire, Kat, Palmer and Hannah learn to lean on God and each other, and through it all they learn loss is a part of life. BOOK TWO IN THE STATUS UPDATES SERIESORDER
My Christmas List by Amy Parker
Today is Black Friday. And although several stores actually opened on Thanksgiving this year, after running the Turkey Trot and eating second helpings of stuffing and sweet potatoes, I wasn’t in the mood to hit the mall last night. So, I’m still counting today as the first official shopping day of the Christmas season. With Christmas shopping comes lists. Lists of what to buy family members, friends, teammates and classmates. Don’t forget a list of gifts for teachers and mailmen, coaches and co-workers. Lists of recitals to attend and Christmas specials to catch on TV. Grocery lists too, to make sure all the secret ingredients are purchased for perfect feasts and casual gatherings. My dear friend, Amy Parker (who just happens to be a best-selling author of more than twenty books for kids, teens and adults) was having a conversation with a friend of hers, Frederick, who lives in Rwanda. She asked him what was on his Christmas list. He was completely confused by her question—baffled. In Rwanda people don’t make Christmas lists. They aren’t hoping for new riding boots or the latest iPad. Instead they make a special offering to their church and hand out rice to the poorest of the poor on the streets. No lists. As in none? This conversation changed Amy. It changed the way she wanted Christmas to look like for her family, so she wrote the beautiful, soulful picture book, My Christmas List. It will change the way you see Christmas, as well. What if our lists read…
“A mom for the girl in China,
A daddy would be great, too,
And, Lord, that boy in Zambia, he’s running out of food.”
Now don’t get me wrong, I love shopping for my favorite people, finding things that will make them smile, and watching them unwrap their packages. I also enjoy getting gifts. Who doesn’t? I’d be lying if I said there weren’t a few things I’m hoping for this year under the tree.
But Amy’s book explores ways we can help, people we can pray for, things we can do to make a difference. Do you know someone in need? Ever wonder what Christmas is like at their house?
Christmas is the day to celebrate that “God so loved the world, that He sent His only begotten son, so that whoever believes in Him, shall not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16
Amy Parker, best-selling author of more than twenty books for kids, teens and parents.
For your chance to win your very own copy of My Christmas List visit Amy’s website and submit a story or photo prior to December 10 of how you and your family are making a difference this Christmas.
What kind of birthday party do you think Jesus would have? What do you think would be on His list? And if we’re called to become more and more like Him, well…that makes me rethink my list too.
Today's guest post is by Jennifer Maggio, author of the new book Peace and the Single Mom. Her story blows me away and is a beautiful testament, that no matter where you are, no matter how much you wish you were somewhere else or someone else, there is hope. God has a beautiful plan for you. He's not finished with you yet.
And as a bonus of having Jennifer guest post here, we'll give away a copy of her new book. Just leave a comment on a way God has shown you He's not finished with you yet below for a chance to enter the drawing. And now, here's Jennifer's story.
I would love to tell you I had a “normal” childhood – whatever that is – but I didn’t. I didn’t frolic in the snow, drink hot cocoa, and enjoy snuggles with my parents on the sofa as we watched our favorite television program. Truth is, most of my childhood and teen years were spent in utter chaos. My mother was killed when I was just a baby. Consequently, I was raised by my dad who used alcohol and women to mask the pain of losing my mother so unexpectedly. My dad married a total of six times, not including girlfriends in between the marriages. (Yep, you read that right!) I spent years suffering through sexual and physical abuse at the hands of many. My dad was not one of those abusers. He lived in a cloud for years, devastated by the pain he had endured.
Although I graduated high school valedictorian and class president (and was probably considered an overachiever by most), I became pregnant at only seventeen years old. I was desperate for someone to love me. I was desperate to have this hole in my heart filled. Maybe this new baby would create a bond between his father and me that would give me my “happily ever after.” As you may have guessed, it didn’t. I was a teen mom who had two children by the time I was nineteen. I was severely abused, chasing after a dead-end relationship that would have never worked. I lived in government housing using food stamps and welfare to help make ends meet with my low-paying job. I felt hopeless.
It was in my darkest hour that I found God. I hadn’t attended church in years, but my life was so dark, so lonely…maybe the church could help me. I made a decision to give the church thing a try again. I started attending regularly with my two small children. God slowly began to transform my heart. He healed the old wounds that had left me broken and bitter. He mended a heart that no longer chased after the temporary happiness this world offers. I finally had the strength to leave my old life behind. My Heavenly Father transformed my life, inside and out.
(as I read Jennifer's guest blog here, I can't help but sing Brandon Heath's song, "Wait and See" in my head. In case you are too, here you go ~Laura L. Smith)
Okay, sorry for the interruption. Now back to Jennifer --Today, I spend my days encouraging single moms that they can make it. They can overcome. They can press through and press on. I work with youth to encourage sexual purity. I encourage hurting women with the love that only Jesus brings. I never thought I could be used by God for anything. When I was a kid, I just wanted to be normal. But God has shown me that none of us were called to be normal. We were called to be an extraordinary light for His glory.
Jennifer Maggio is the award-winning author of four books, including her latest release Peace and the Single Mom: 50 Moments of Calm in the Chaos. Her story has been featured in countless media venues. She is the founder of The Life of a Single Mom Ministries, a global nonprofit committed to empowering single mothers. For more information, visit www.thelifeofasinglemom.com.
Don't forget to leave a comment below about how God has given you hope for a chance to win an autographed copy of Peace & The Single Mom.
Forest of Whispers by Jennifer Murgia releases in 2014 from Spencer Hill Press
Today, I am excited to share with you the haunting cover for my friend and fellow Playlist Fiction author, Jennifer Murgia's newest book. Jennifer has a gift for writing page turners full of suspense. She describes herself as "writing dark and moody things", which cracks me up, because she is one of the sweetest, loveliest people you could ever meet. Here's the inside scoop on her upcoming novel.
Raised by an old fortune-teller within the dark veil of the Bavarian Black Forest, Rune has learned two valuable lessons: only take from the forest that which you can use, and never, never look anyone in the eye in the village. For something terrible happened in the forest long ago... and now, the whispers of a long-dead mother with a vengeful secret have come haunting.
Forced to flee all she has ever known, Rune soon learns of a legacy she is bound to--one that is drenched in fear--a birthright that stretches beyond the grave to the trees where Rune is no longer safe.
Young Adult author, Jennifer Murgia
Jennifer Murgia has been writing since she was nine years old. After receiving recognition for her poetry, she went on to use her talents to bring characters to life in fiction novels that are authentic, intriguing, and personal. She currently resides in Pennsylvania with her husband and two children. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.
The much anticipated sequel to the Revised Life of Ellie Sweet by Stephanie Morrill released this week from Playlist Fiction.FOR A CHANCE TO WIN A FREE COPY OF THE LATEST PLAYLIST FICTION TITLE LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW
“I’m carving out my own place in the world, and I get to choose what it looks like and who I’ll bring with me.” Ellie SweetThe only problem is, in the Unlikely Debut of Ellie Sweet, Ellie is trying to decipher what her place in the world truly entails, while untangling her mixed up emotions of which relationships in her life are worth fighting for. Sounds like all of us in a way, doesn’t it? In this sequel to The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet, Ellie finds being a published teen author isn’t all glamour. In fact there’s a lot of stress and backstabbing. Ellie is also still torn between the gorgeous Southern charmer playboy, Palmer, and the dark, handsome, intriguing, guy with a past, Chase. As Ellie decodes her heart, she discovers the path and the person she should choose to be isn’t necessarily good or bad, but what and who is best for her. Morrill identifies with the life of a teenager so well, the reader imagines Morrill herself, is a teen writer taking English class at the local high school. The Unlikely Debut of Ellie Sweet is a spot on story of how we all have insecurities and how answers aren’t always black and white. Readers of Meg Cabot and Sarah Dessen will devour this contemporary tale. Ellie is so genuinely well intentioned yet humanly flawed, I would love to hang out with her or have her as a critique partner. And, I’d definitely want to borrow one of her t-shirts.
The Unlikely Debut of Ellie Sweet picks up right where the prequel left off. For once, Ellie Sweet has it all together. Her hair now curls instead of fuzzes, she’s tamed the former bad-boy, Chase Cervantes (she has, right?), and her debut novel will hit shelves in less than a year. Even her ex-friends are leaving her alone. Well, except for Palmer Davis, but it can’t be helped that he works at her grandmother’s nursing home.
Life should feel perfect. And yet, it’s not that easy. Ellie’s editor loves her, but the rest of the publishing biz? Not so much. And they’re not shy about sharing their distrust over Ellie’s unlikely debut.
Ellie has always been able to escape reality in the pages of her novel, but with the stress of major edits and rocky relationships, her words dry up. In fiction, everything always comes together, but in real life, it seems to Ellie that hard work isn’t always enough, the people you love can’t always be trusted…and the dream-come-true of publishing her book could be the biggest mistake she’s made yet.
Stephanie Morrill lives in Overland Park, Kansas with her husband and two kids. Her only talents are reading, writing, and drinking coffee, so career options were somewhat limited. Fortunately she discovered a passion for young adult novels and has been writing them ever since.
Stephanie is the author of The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series, The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet, and the award-winning Go Teen Writers: How to Turn Your First Draft into a Published Book. She enjoys encouraging and teaching teen writers on her blog,www.GoTeenWriters.com. You can also find her online at www.StephanieMorrill.com Don't forget to leave a comment below for a chance to win an e-copy of The Unlikely Debut of Ellie Sweet. One winner will be chosen randomly from all comments submitted by Friday, November 15.
Devin Berglund guest blogger on today's blog
On today's blog I feature up and coming young author, Devin Berglund. Devin calls herself a writer, dreamer, wanderer and all-time enjoyer of life. She loves crafting stories that change lives. Her short story, Hope For Another Day, releases on Halloween.
One autumn morning, I was walking to my college class. Leaves floated around the blue sky and rustled on the sidewalk. It was the perfect day. Once I got to class, I sat down next to my friend. Class hadn't started yet, but my cell phone vibrated in my pocket. I looked at the name - Dad.
"Are you sitting down." I looked around at my friends in class, then got up and walked into the hallway to sit at a bench. I remember the sunlight shining through the window. It was the perfect day, but not for this kind of conversation.
"Uh... Yeah? I am now. What's wrong?" A pause came from my dad's side. I remember turning through the book of all the faces I knew and loved dearly.
"Grandpa Dennis passed away, this morning."
I don't think I said anything other than breaking into tears. I couldn't stop crying.
That week was one of my toughest in my college career. My family went down to Crystal, North Dakota. I had to finish out the week of classes, before I could join them.
It's been six years, since my Grandpa went to be with the Lord. It was tough and it took a long time to heal for all of our family. And we still haven't completely gotten over the loss.
One of my favorite Bible verses that got me through many tough experiences was Jeremiah 29:11-14
When we go through troubles, God will pick us up again and set us on our feet again.But after that is when the work begins. We have to strive to live good and happy lives filled with HOPE. In my Urban Fantasy short story, Hope For Another Day, I wrote about a character named Silvia. She is a young woman who lost her husband and also a young infant. In my writing, I want to share with the world that there is always something great to hope for. A beautiful sunset in every day.
HOPE FOR ANOTHER DAY by Devin Berglund
After losing her husband to a car accident, Silvia yearns for the normal life she once had and the love she lost. One night, while walking through the forest, her life is turned upside down when she discovers a mysterious secret in the forest.
This is a twist on the fairytales we were told while we were young. It’s a story about fate, loss, and giving life a second chance.
Just as my Grandpa's life was cut so short, we can't take life or the days we are given for granted. We should push onward without worry and fear. We should push onward with hope in our hearts.
Miami University's campus at dawn
1. Chilly morning runs on campus These are my cowboy boots, but I love all my boots.
2. Carving pumpkins
3. Roasting pumpkin seeds
4. Candy Corn
6. Leaf rubbings
7. Apple crisp fresh out of the oven topped with vanilla ice cream
8. My black motorcycle jacket from the leather markets in Florence
9. Spooky scented hand sanitizers from Bath and Body Words (our family calls them hanee sanees) My favorite fall treat from Starbucks, Salted Caramel Mocha - delish!
10. Salted Caramel Mochas
But, you know my favorite part of fall? Rejoicing that God created all of these flavors, smells, activities, fashion statements and the incredible beauty of the changing leaves for us to enjoy.
What are your favorite things about fall?
The Nederlander Theatre in New York City housing the musical RENT
525, 600 minutes, how do you measure, measure a year?
“Seasons of Love” from the musical RENT by Jonathon Larson
I first saw RENT in New York City in 2005. I honestly didn’t know anything more about the plot than it was about artists squatting in an empty New York warehouse, and that it was a modern version of the opera, La Boheme, set in Paris. Hello. You had me at Paris. I wasn’t prepared for it to pierce my heart and affect my soul.
I bought the CD and played it nonstop for months. The following year the movie came out. Watched it. Even learned how to play “Seasons of Love” on the piano.
Scary Spice as Mimi in RENT
I saw RENT again over the weekend. This time instead of at the Nederlander Theatre seating 1200 people on Broadway, I was on Miami University’s campus at a theatre seating less than 100. Instead of Drew Lachey and Scary Spice (Melanie Brown) in the leads, college students performed the roles of Mark, Mimi, Roger, Maureen, Joanne, Tom Collins and Angel.
And these students with their raw talent and intense passion pierced my heart and affected my soul all over again, probably even more so than when I saw it on Broadway. (If you count crying four times during the performance “affecting”.)
For those of you who haven’t seen RENT. Go do so. Now, preferably. But if that’s not an option, know it is the story of one year in the lives of a group of friends. They face poverty, rejection, love, glory, success, denial, death, joy, fear, comfort and loss. But mainly, they learn how to appreciate the moments.
It’s impossible for me to see RENT and not reflect on the past year of my life. This is something I usually reserve for New Year’s or birthdays, but today it is fresh on my mind, tugging at my heart. In my last 525,600 minutes I lost a father in law, visited the beach, had my oldest child start high school, made new friends, reconnected with old friends, joined a Bible study, published a new series with a new publisher, looked at the sun through a giant telescope, rode a tiny rollercoaster. But my favorite parts of my year haven’t been the big events, they’ve been the moments, the snapshots in time where I’ve discovered something new, felt loved, was inspired. When listing highlights of my year I wouldn’t write ‘going to Paris’, but instead I’d say, my husband recorded the bells ringing from the infamous bell tower of Notre Dame on a sunny afternoon on his phone for me, so I could listen to them over and over. I don’t measure my year in the 500 soccer games I’ve attended. I might be exaggerating. A little. But the magnificent save my son made as goalie on a Penalty Kick against his team is a moment of pure joy I’ll cherish as I reflect on the year.
And in each moment, I know God was with me. Is with me. Is with you. As the song “Seasons of Love,” says “in daylights, in sunsets, in midnights and cups of coffee.” He is there. Every hour of every day. Every step of the way. Every conversation. Every breeze, every flavor (I think especially the salty caramel mocha flavors) and handshake and hug.
What are the highlights of your last 525,600 minutes?
The brave and beautiful dream chasers I met from Afghanistan last Friday night.
Last Friday we hosted a dinner for ten Fulbright Scholars from Afghanistan. Not your typical Friday night in our house.
My husband is a professor and was running a workshop for 70 Afghan scholars last week. Part of the weeklong visit was a dinner in an American home. We were blessed to be chosen as one of the host families (my husband running the program certainly helped).
Eight men and two women who all speak English, who all have graduated from college in Afghanistan, who all are in the United States for a two year master’s degree in various areas of expertise at Universities all across the states (ranging from the state of Washington to Washington D.C.), who all have been handpicked by the U.S. Department of State to receive these prestigious scholarships shook hands with me, my four kids and my hubby, thanked us graciously for the simple dinner of pasta and salad and shared their stories.
I specifically wanted to speak to the women. They were physically captivating with their olive coloring, large, dark eyes, and thick black hair. But these women blew me away with their inner beauty. One was a dentist in her homeland. She’s come to the States to get a Master’s in Public Health Policy, so she can return to Afghanistan and create better health care policies for her people. The other left home for the first time in her life to pursue her MBA in Finance in Rochester, New York, with dreams of helping non-profit rescue missions with their finances. One said, “I’ve been dreaming of this day since my first year of high school. I worked so hard for this scholarship.”
Yes she did. In a country where men and women are not treated equally, where education and employment opportunities for women pale in comparison to what men are empowered to do, these women fought the odds and went against what was expected of them achieving what some perceived as unachievable.
I take the fact that my daughter attends high school for granted. And living in a college town, it seems the opportunity to attend college is readily available. Needless to say, I was overwhelmed. These women will live for two years in a foreign land, away from their family and their food and their culture, speaking a second language, relying on buses to get them from small apartments to classes, to chase their dreams—dreams of hope and of change.
Let your firework light up the sky!
That kind of bravery in dream chasing deserves to be noticed. So, whatever dream you’re tossing around in your head today, think to yourself:
· Would I move to a country on the other side of the world to fulfill it?
· Would I leave family and friends and the familiarity of my culture to fight for it?
· Would I work years and years to achieve it?
If it burns that deeply in your heart, chase that dream with full force and enthusiasm. Light up the sky with the sparkling firework of your dream. And look to the example of these women as inspiration.
What's your dream?
I'm amazed how birds build their nests.
Stretching my calves on my front steps the other morning after a run, I noticed a nest that had been built this past spring was still nestled on top of the porch light. Bird nests blow me away. That robins and sparrows can make something so perfectly shaped, nurturing and safe out of sticks and mud, and they don’t even have hands!
I wondered to myself as I felt the strain in the back of my leg, what those birds were doing now. Had they built anything new? Or were they waiting for next spring and a fresh batch of eggs?
I didn’t build anything over the summer.
It's a little scary, but it's time to dive back into my life.
I’m a firm believer that God wants us to continuously grow and better ourselves and build upon our gifts and our talents to glorify Him. We aren’t supposed to be stagnant, to accept things as they are or to tread water. But, this summer I wasn’t treading water. I was flailing my arms and kicking my feet trying to keep my head above the water. It makes it awfully difficult to build when you’re feet don’t touch the ground.
But is necessary. And now it’s over. I’m back at the edge of the pool, ready to dive into fall.
Life was throwing me fastballs, so instead of being proactive I was reactive. But now that season is over. I’m turning the page. It’s time to build again. And, I have to admit, it’s a little scary. It’s a little daunting to dive back into my partially finished manuscript, my dormant friendships, my chaotic life. Oddly, I found security in using the excuse that life was crazy. It made me less accountable. My house was messier. I was less organized. Less productive. And I had a reason.
What tools will you use to build something this fall?
But not really. I mean, God wants us to rest and reflect. He does. But after we’ve plowed through the hiccups and hilltops we face in life, it’s time to build again. Build ladders and bridges to get where we need to go—up past the thing that brought us down, over the rough spots and into new pastures. Birds build nests to protect their eggs. Spiders weave webs to catch their next meal.
God calls each of us to build, as well. Sometimes that’s a grand castle, a masterpiece, a major accomplishment. Sometimes it’s a map to help us find our way, or a footstool to help us reach our goals. But He definitely calls us to build. I hear Him calling me. And I am ready to get out my virtual hammers and nails, saws and sandpaper, to bang out the sorrow, cut up the excuses and create a smooth surface.
What about you? What is God calling you to build this fall?