I love autumn, and I don’t mean to rush it away, so bear with me as I jump into winter for a moment. I’m only doing so out of sheer delight. My first novella is releasing November 21, and I just can’t wait for another second to tell y’all about it. So without more fluffy intro that you probably don’t care about ;)…
Come back with me to Rock Creek (the setting of Reclaimed) and meet Kale, Sydney, Joe, and Craig.
Someone has noticed me. A secret admirer? A man with a good heart, who sees how much I actually need help, even though I never admit it? Maybe this is the beginning of a beautiful story—a romance full of hope and second chances and love.
A secret Santa gift left on Kale Brennan’s front porch opens up a fresh view of her ordinary life, and perhaps of God. Maybe she does matter. Maybe God sees her—as does a new-to-town music teacher who has her seven-year-old daughter gushing and her own knees buckling with his killer smile. But as Kale embraces new possibilities, a staple in her life—a man who is kind and steady, not to mention necessary for her injured daughter’s recovery—also snatches her attention in an unexpected way. Will the one pursuing her with his secret gift and kind gestures be the one her heart longs for in the end?
I had so much fun writing this little story (although, I confess, and my writing/critique partners will testify, somewhere in the middle of it I decided it was the dumbest thing I’d ever written. I was wrong. This book really grabbed my heart in an unexpected, joyful way). Going back to Rock Creek, meeting some new friends in that lovely little town, and catching a glimpse of Suzanna Rustin was as refreshing as a brisk day blanketed with new snow. My prayer as I wrote was, “God, show me joy again. Whisper new life…”
And He absolutely did. He is so good.
Ordinary Snowflakes is available for pre-order on Amazon. And…I’m thrilled to announce that it will be available on audio by the release date. If you’re part of my email list, please hold off until my November newsletter. You’ll just have to trust me for a good reason. 😉
So, it’s been a while. I know. Sorry. But I found a great reason to do another Wednesday giveaway. Her name is Tammy Gray, and she’s one of my writing heroes. I absolutely love her stories, and my favorite contemporary transformational fiction book came from her imagination. (It’s called Mercy’s Fight, and it’s sooooo good. Maybe you picked up that vibe already? 🙂 )
Yesterday Tammy celebrated her latest release, My Hope Next Door. I’m itching to dig into it! Here’s the scoop:
Can love grow in the shadow of a broken past?Former bad girl Katie Stone can feel the weight of her reputation settle over her as she drives home for the first time in years. Feeling deeply guilty about her past mistakes, Katie wants to do the right thing for once. But the small town where she grew up is not nearly as forgiving as she’d hoped. Despite it all, she’s determined to help her parents cope with her mother’s recent illness, and Katie finds a surprise ally in the man next door.Asher Powell never minded being the son of a small-town pastor until a recent breakup leaves him wounded by lifelong members of his church. He remembers his new neighbor as a mean-spirited high school troublemaker, but he senses that her newfound faith and desire for forgiveness are sincere.Through an unexpected friendship, two people from different worlds find peace, hope, and a second chance they never dreamed was possible.
My Hope Next Door is a story of second chances. It’s about letting go of past regrets, mistakes and the image we all carry. It’s about looking beyond stereotypes to the person God has created us to be. And it’s a beautiful love story between two very different people who share a similar pain. As an author, I always want my books to leave the readers changed in some way, or at least see the world through a different lens. I truly think this book will do both.
My favorite kind of read. 🙂 So, let’s talk shop… Writing can be an outlet, but also it can sometimes demand more than you think you have. Can you give us an example of both for you, and how do you handle this calling when it seems beyond you?
I am blessed to be surrounded by an amazing group of authors who are more than just critique partners, but also friends, encouragers and truth speakers. When I’m down and feeling inadequate, they pick me up and remind me why we do what we do. When I’m frustrated, they let me vent and redirect me to where I need to be. I think the worst thing an author can do to herself is to write in a vacuum. This job is already a little isolating, so it is imperative to have that trusted group of individuals around you.
There’s not a soul on the planet who doesn’t need both those encouragers and truth speakers. I’m so glad God has provided such a group for you! What is God teaching you right now?
I think the greatest lesson I learned this year is to not be distracted by all the less important aspects of my writing career. My calling is to write a book that glorifies Him, and to do it to the best of my ability. When those two things happen, then I feel truly satisfied in this journey.
Truly it is so easy to become entangled with distractions, isn’t it? I know you’re a mommy-writer, and your husband has a rather demanding job (pastor, right?). Talk to us about how that works, how you fit being an author into your life.
I see being an author as a calling, but also a business. So, I treat it like I would any job. My work hours are 8 am – 3pm M – F, and I try to keep my writing, social media, etc between those hours. There are times, of course, that timeline slips during deadlines and editing, but in general I really do try and keep it contained. By doing that, I’m able to spend my other time being a wife and a mother, and enjoy those hours without the stress filtering through.
So organized. I’m taking notes. 🙂
Do you have a verse that you carry in your heart as you live and work out the many jobs God has called you to?
Oh, there are many, and I try to write each book with a verse in mind. For My Hope Next Door, it was 1 Corinthians 13:4-5. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”
Such a beautiful, challenging passage. I can’t wait to see it fleshed out in the book!
Thank you, Tammy, so much for taking the time to chat with me. I’m crazy honored, and although I’m not much of the fan-girl type, I promise I’m grinning ear-to-ear right now!
For today’s giveaway, I’ll be sending a reader a Kindle copy of Tammy’s new release, My Hope Next Door. Leave me a comment either here or on my FB page, and I’ll announce the winner on Friday. Be sure to check out Tammy’s other books (*clears throat* Mercy’s Fight especially)!
Tammy L. Gray lives in the Dallas area with her family, and they love all things Texas, even the erratic weather patterns. She writes modern Christian romance with true-to-life characters and culturally-relevant plot lines. She believes hope and healing can be found through high quality fiction that inspires and provokes change.
The dark places in life have taught her this much—some things simply cannot be forgiven.
Cheryl Thompson learned over a decade ago to guard her shattered heart with a veil of cold indifference. Life since that day has been an endless cycle of detachment and loneliness, followed by superficial relationships. Break up, rinse, and repeat. Until something in her snaps. This life…she can’t do it anymore. She returns to her childhood home in the Colorado Rockies to help her Nana, only to discover a man capable of thawing her iced-over emotions—a man she knows she doesn’t deserve, so she pushes him away. But he keeps coming back.
Brock Kelly lived high as King of the Slopes in the world of snowboard cross racing. Medals. Money. Fame. But after a visit to an orphanage in Mexico, he gave up his adrenaline-packed lifestyle to follow a calling from God he didn’t know he had—helping kids who’d been damaged emotionally. When his best friend’s baby sister returns to town, he recognizes the hollow look in her eyes and sees the pain beneath her icy armor. It seems God has issued new call on his life. One he is not prepared for.
Falling in love with a woman who keeps secrets is dangerous all on its own. But when Cheryl finally tells Brock what she’s never told anyone else…no wonder she is the way she is. It would take a miracle to heal that wound, and a love bigger than Brock had ever imagined to walk with her through the process.
I didn’t see this one coming. Honest.
As I was going through the final editing stages for Blue Columbine, I got to the scene where Cheryl leaves Andrew in his downtown loft—livid, frozen, and completely unlikable. Something whispered to me, “She has a story.” Probably that “something” was Someone.
Great, I thought. Series sell, so let’s do it. What’s Cheryl the Ice Princess’s story?
I fiddled with some ideas, sketched out some plot possibilities.
Nothing stuck. That was okay. I was in the middle of completing The Carpenter’s Daughter, so it could keep.
A few months down the road, my hubby and I somehow managed to snag a night on our own, and we decided to watch a movie. I’d purchased October Baby over a year before, but honestly, I knew the story, and on the rare nights that we could choose our movies, that hadn’t made it to the top of the list. But my hubby doesn’t do reruns that well, and it was one of the only movies we had in the house that we hadn’t seen. And so we began…
There is a scene where we see the birth mother. Most remember her as cold, stiff, and indifferent. That wasn’t what grabbed me. Truly, of that whole movie, what I remember most vividly was the ten-second sequence of seeing that woman shatter.
Her, the Whisper said. That’s Cheryl, and you need to tell her story.
Truth? God couldn’t have laid this story on a more unqualified woman. So I argued. I don’t know anything about this. I don’t want to do this. I will completely mess this up.
But Cheryl…she wouldn’t leave my mind.
There was nothing easy about this story. I found myself shredded through the process of research—something I usually love to do. Sitting down to write her story came with a sense of heaviness and a strong dose of fear. Still, her story would not let me surrender.
I am so thankful. I loved when Brock said that his life was shifting. My paradigm has shifted too. I don’t write so that I can preach. I write so that I may be changed.
I am definitely not the same. (We) cannot escape the demands of deep compassion. Truth. And it has opened my eyes.
Sometimes, as we saw with both Brock and Cheryl, you have to be willing to look at the brokenness and to allow another’s pain to break your heart before you can truly learn compassion.
Thanks to Cheryl, my heart has been shattered. I am better for it. Because of that, I am so thankful for the things that I hadn’t seen coming.
Fiction… that imaginary place of escape.
True. Sometimes. Not always.
I live an ordinary life. We juggle the norm…joys, fears, tears, and the expected struggle to figure out this living thing so that we may do it well. If you were a fly on my wall, and you managed to escape my nylon swatter, you’d probably wonder why I write what I write.
Sometimes, I do too.
I just past the 1/3 mark on the rough draft of my current project. Usually that’s where it gets hard. Sadly, I get bored. I go looking in my imagination for new people to meet, a new story to explore. You know those people who struggle to finish a project? I’m one of them. So, I have my peeps around me to push me forward.
This time, it’s a little different. I’m not bored. I’m scared.
As a teenager, I’d write to escape. I’d create my own little world where I was in control, people behaved the way I thought they should behave, and the storylines would work out to my advantage. In short, it was all about me. When I took up writing again about a decade back, it was pretty much the same. I wrote what was comfortable and happy and made me look…good.
Then I met Andrew Harris in what would become Blue Columbine. Seriously, not the kind of hero I’d set out to invent. In the early stages of rewrites, I’d get comments from people looking at my work saying, “I do not like this character. At all. You need to make him likable.” It would make me tear up. Because I knew exactly what they meant.
I discovered something through writing a story that was beyond myself… God can use anything to break through our stubbornness. For me, the learning was a lesson in compassion. Meeting Andrew, writing his story often made me frustrated, with both him and his co-star Jamie. Why couldn’t they get it together? Why couldn’t they just do the right thing? Why did he have to be such a jerk? Why did she have to be such a noodle? Why did it take him nearly losing his life to see what he was doing? Why couldn’t Jamie forgive him when he’d changed and move on?
Life is just more complicated than black and white. If it wasn’t, God wouldn’t have commanded us to practice justice AND mercy.
Interestingly, God not only began peeling my layers of cold arrogance, he began to show me the places of compromise in my own life. I guess I’m not as black and white as I first thought.
So, this new project…
It’s a struggle because the issues are honestly beyond me. I wonder, am I presumptuous to take this on? How can I possibly relate? Is this really something God wants me to pursue?
And when He whispers yes, I tremble. Because the thing is, He teaches me through the process, and often it becomes painful. I see the agony I had previously overlooked. I see hearts that I once had thought calloused, but now know are actually so shattered they almost cannot move. And then He shows me my own ugly places—places I’ve pushed away and that have become hardened. He shows me how I have failed to love. Where I do not offer compassion. And where I ignore my own failings.
I don’t like that. I don’t really want to go there.
Perhaps there’s a reason Jesus often taught in parables. We relate to story, it gets inside of us and begins to untie the knots we’ve worked hard to secure. Story becomes vivid; it echoes in our imaginations, teaching when theory failed to penetrate.
It becomes inescapable.
And maybe a place of learning. Of repenting. Of turning. Of forgiveness.
Maybe in it, I can become a little more like the great storyteller Himself.
I do not want to escape that.
It’s all coming together. Two more weeks, and a handful of days, and Sarah Sharpe will launch from my imagination into the world. Can you tell that I’m excited? Good. Because I am. 🙂
So while I do a happy dance in my kitchen, which I can’t show you, and you probably really don’t want to see, I’ll hand you the cover of my newest novel….
This cover was fun, and I had a lot of help. My sister, Joanna Jerome (almost Conn…she changes her last name the day after TCD goes live. How fun is that?) was my cover model, and she did an amazing job. Just for funsies, I’ll post some of the photos that didn’t make the final cut, and you’ll be able to see my lovely sis taking on Sarah’s plight. To make things even more special, my sister-in-law Lorie, who happens to be extraordinary with a camera, shot these amazing pictures and helped me choose the best one for the cover. Such a team!
I also had help from two amazingly talented ladies whose kindness exceeds their incredible talent; Lynette Bonner and Roseanna White allowed me to pick their brains and helped with the technical stuff I’m simply incapable of doing.
Thank you, ladies. What would I do without you?
This was nearly perfect. Joanna and Lorie captured Sarah’s longing for identity. However, we decided the background, as lovely as it is, didn’t make her pop.
Better back ground. Pose…well, maybe. But Sarah’s hair is shorter, and darker. The wispy strands over her face are beyond my skills to change.
Ohh…I like. The longing in her expression is perfect. The hair I could mess with. Bummer, though, I don’t like the way the dress is laying at her shoulder…
This went on for hours. But in the end, I’m thrilled with the cover for Sarah’s story, and I can’t wait to show you what’s inside. To celebrate the fact that I’m actually ahead of schedule (Whoa. Mark it down, scribe.) the preorder is live and you can lock in your Kindle copy for $0.99. The link is below.
The Carpenter’s Daughter on Amazon.
Like I said, I’m so excited! Sarah’s story is pretty special to me, and I can’t wait to hear what you think. Thank you so much for allowing me to gush!
Launch time is coming. I’m so thrilled. This project has been an amazing journey.
Know what I love? Learning. Truly, I do. I miss school. When my kids were younger, I signed up for correspondence courses, because I just needed to use my brain, to stretch my knowledge. To know that my life skills went beyond the laundry room. (Those skills aren’t very good, to be honest, so, yes, please! Let me be useful past the clean clothes journey!) I love research. I love trying things. I love discovering.
What does this have to do with anything?
Here’s what I love most about writing: I learn. These imaginary friends who live in my head, open their wounded souls to me, they teach me things that I couldn’t know otherwise. Because I see the world through their eyes (no, it’s really not through mine. I don’t know how that works, but it’s true), I see life differently.
I begin to love differently.
These imaginary friends bring me real-life lessons, and they change me. For the better. I pray, as I share stories, that this is true for readers as well.
So, tell me. What have you read that taught your heart something new? I’d love to hear what has changed your perspective!