• Flower Shop Talk

    I’ve always loved flowers. When I was a child, my mom and grandma jokingly called me their “flower child” because I always kept them supplied with a fresh bouquet of flowers for their dining room tables.

    As a teen, flowers sort of represented an elusive dream that was never mine. On Valentine’s Day, it seemed like every other girl in the school would receive flowers from someone, but there was never a delivery for me. Keep in mind, I was painfully shy and never actually voiced the desire to have flowers. But, if you have to say you want them, that steals away part of the magic of receiving them, doesn’t it?

    Maybe that background and love for flowers is what has made a few flower deliveries extra special to me.

    When I was in college, I competed in scholarship pageants. In one pageant, I completely screwed up the talent portion. Think about your worst public humiliation nightmare, and that’s pretty much what happened. When I was on stage in front of everyone, I lost where I was in my violin piece. It was an epic failure, and I never did manage to find my place in the music. If I hadn’t screwed up so badly, I would have won the competition.

    Fast forward six months to another competition. This time, however, it was a larger competition with many more contestants. I nailed the talent portion, and at the end of the night, they gave me flowers. I won. Not only did I win, but I won a great deal more scholarship money than if I had won that other pageant. That year, the pageant I won was rated one of the top local pageants in the country in terms of scholarship money, and also came with many more perks and help than I would have had otherwise.

    On that night, and in my memory, that gorgeous bouquet of red roses meant so much more than the fact that I had won a pageant. It meant that, even if I failed, I could get back up and succeed. It meant that even when things turn nightmarish and I completely embarrass myself, God can still have a plan that is even better than I can imagine. Even now, when I screw something up or am facing something difficult, I can remember those flowers and hope for another bouquet just beyond my sight.

    Now, just so you don’t feel bad for me about not receiving Valentine’s Day flowers in high school, I have another story to tell. For the Valentine’s Day following my senior year of college, I, once again, did not receive flowers, not even from my boyfriend, Brian. Not wanting to be cliche, Brian waited until the following day to give me roses, along with an engagement ring and a beautiful proposal.

    And I said yes. Again, the flowers were more than mere flowers. They were a promise that I’d found a Prince Charming who would supply me with flowers when I needed them and when I didn’t. When there was a reason, and when there wasn’t. Through ups and downs he would love me, and I’d never have to ask.

    Fast forward over ten years and three children later. I received flowers on April 12. Why do I so specifically remember that date? Because that was my due date of when my fourth baby was supposed to have been born. I unexpectedly miscarried at 12 weeks, and there are no words to describe how difficult that was both physically and emotionally.

    Busy life went on. I had three children to care for, and we ended up selling our house and moving in the time between. Then on April 12, we were moving into our new house, and a bouquet of flowers was delivered from my parents and siblings. The card simply said that they were remembering me on this day. I honestly still can’t think about it without tearing up. Those flowers gave me permission to grieve. They let me know that I wasn’t alone and that other people cared and remembered both me and my baby.

    Three vastly different experiences, but all with the same result. I received flowers that touched my heart and made a difference to me.

    When thinking about an idea for a book, I often start with an emotion that I want to capture. The “Out of the Blue Bouquet” was at least partially inspired by my experiences and a desire to capture a bit of that magic that happens when you receive flowers. There are many different reasons one might get flowers, and many more ways those flowers could impact a life. For me, flowers have both thrilled and comforted me, representing accomplishment, validating grief, and symbolizing the love of my Prince Charming.

    The five stories in the “Out of the Blue Bouquet” hopefully capture some of those emotions associated with flowers. My book is the last in the set and ties everything together by telling the story of how all of the characters in the other books got their accidental flower deliveries.

    Wanting to stay true to the flower magic of my original idea, I thought it would be fun to open a “virtual flower shop” to go along with the book. The shop contains images that can be downloaded and sent to others, as if they were real flowers. Some of the flower messages are funny, and others are serious or romantic. Everyone likes to know someone is thinking of them, and maybe sending someone virtual flowers will give them a hint of the thrill of real ones!

    So visit the “Out of the Blue Bouquet” Flower Shop and pick a few flowers to brighten someone’s day. And then, if you haven’t yet, read the “Out of the Blue Bouquet” collection!

    So what about you? When have flowers been special to you in your life? Have you ever had any “out of the blue bouquets?”


    Flower shop

    “Out of The Blue Bouquet” on Amazon

    Please note: This post may contain Amazon affiliate links.

  • Out of the Blue Bouquet

    So the story starts months ago with a multi-author collection I put together for Valentine’s Day. As that collection was ending, another author I had “met” through that set (Chautona Havig) mentioned that it would be fun to do another set of new books. And that got me thinking.  I really don’t do well if someone says something along the lines, “Do you have an idea for _____?” If I don’t, them my mind won’t let me rest until it has come up with something.

    So I went to my best thinking spot. Sometimes I refer to it as my “office.” It’s where I get all of my best ideas and where I go to figure out the toughest scenes.  It’s a magical place and it has never once failed me.

    Aright, it’s the shower.

    So I was in the shower when I got the idea for a multi-author collection where each of the stories was independent but connected in some way. Specifically, the last book in the set (mine) would tie everything together while also spinning its own fabulous story. By the time I stepped out of the shower, I had the idea, the plot, the title, and my hands weren’t even (very) wrinkled.

    Now, I get lots of ideas for books, many of which I forget before I even manage to write them down. For this one, I kept thinking about it for several weeks before I mentioned it to anyone. I was honestly nervous about it because I knew it was big. I would have to be in charge of the set, which included a lot of legwork, financial responsibilities, coordination, and recruiting other authors. The other scary aspect was that the set would largely depend on my writing ability. With my book being the last in the set–the one that ties everything together–I knew I would have to write around the stories of multiple different authors. Needless to say, that would be a challenge.

    From that very first night when I got the idea I prayed about it, telling God that if He wanted this to happen, He was going to need to make it happen. It was too big for me. So I let it marinate a few weeks, but it kept nagging me. I finally mentioned the idea to Chautona when we were chatting one night. And she loved it. Chautona’s excitement is contagious, and I quickly started recruiting other authors to join us. Recruiting an author to write something new and specific is not an easy task. As a general rule, we are a pretty independent lot. I also very much appreciated that they needed to have a large degree of faith in me and the idea. In the end, we had a total of five fantastic authors who were willing and able to go “all-in.”

    I won’t pretend that it’s been entirely easy. We’ve had some bumps along the way. The actual writing and working together was never an issue, and I really enjoyed molding my story to fit theirs. The final product is something amazing–one that I’m extremely proud of. I truly feel that from the idea, to the formatting and cover, to the specific authors and their stories–God did made all the pieces come together to make something even more than I imagined that first night I had a big idea.

    Out of the Blue Bouquet is a collection of five new books by five best-selling Christian authors. Though each story is complete and independent, you have to read the entire set to find out how they are connected. I look forward to hearing what you think of it. My heart seriously takes off every time I think of people reading a product that once only existed in my imagination.

    Finally, I have a few other pieces of good news for you:

    ***  Out of the Blue Bouquet is available for pre-order at all retailers for 99 cents. This is only for a limited time. So if you are one of those who gets her ebooks from somewhere other than Amazon, get it quick. The book will be officially released November 7th. However, it will not be available forever. It is meant to be a limited-time collection. Eventually, it will be unpublished and the individual books will only be able to be purchased as single titles at full price. So again, get it quick!

    The individual retailer links are below.


    Barnes & Nobles




    *** You may notice that the official title of this set includes “Collection 1.” Yes, that does mean what you think it means. I’ve had quite a few more showers since that first where I got the original idea. I am currently working on more  upcoming Crossroads Collections. If you read Out of the Blue Bouquet and love it, make sure you are signed up with my newsletter. I will let subscribers know when another collection is released. Also, please leave a review and help spread the word by telling your friends. Reviews help tremendously, and I still believe that word of mouth is the best compliment and most effective marketing tool!

    • Please note, some links on this page may be affiliate links, which means if you purchase using the link, I may get a small commission at no additional cost to you.


  • A Few of My Favorite Things (Part 3)

    And here we are, at the end of my list of favorite things (for now). If you’re just tuning in, you can get caught up on the other posts in this series by clicking on these links for Part 1 and Part 2.

    This is a list of my not-so-ordinary favorite things. These are things that are unique, maybe a little strange and ridiculous, but when I encounter them, they give me a surge of joy for an almost unexplainable reason. Here are four more making the favorite things cut!


    * Thunderstorms *

    Now I only enjoy these from the inside. Definitely not from someplace like the middle of a river, in a float tube, when there is nowhere to get out. (Yes, that’s happened.) However, thunderstorms always remind me how big and powerful God is, and how small I am in comparison. The knowledge that little me is safe from the lightning and thunder fills me with a curious comfort and happiness.


    * Fresh Peaches *

    I love a lot of different kinds of fruit. Strawberries are some of my favorites, but nothing quite compares to a fresh peach. In August, we usually end up getting several boxes of peaches from a local orchard. I don’t can them or freeze them, or make jam (though I probably should). I eat them. Sweet, melt-in-your-mouth goodness that makes you think that happiness really does taste like peaches.


    * Mispronunciations*

    I have already mentioned that nearly everything to do with my children should technically be on my favorite things list. But this one is rather unique and specific, so I thought I’d go ahead and list it.

    I love it when my kids mispronounce something.

    With my older kids, it is usually because they have read something and just didn’t know how to pronounce what they knew how to read. With my 4-yea-old, it’s just because he’s learning, and cute, and his speech is still developing. His tongue just can’t quite get around on some words.

    When my oldest was little, I was “Monny,” and I loved it. My 2nd son had some great ones a well. He liked battalion (Italian) dressing on his salad, and he talked about lasterday (yesterday), which is how I acquired my pen name for my childrens’ books (J. Lasterday).

    A few weeks ago, we were making hamburgers and hot dogs for dinner. We made a hot dog for my 4-year-old, and he decided he didn’t want one. My husband asked me why I had made a hotdog for him, and I said I didn’t think he’d eat a hamburger. Then, said 4-year-old looked up at me with his big blue eyes and asked if he could have a ham-bo-burger. I then turned to my husband and said, “If I knew he was going to pronounce it like that, I would have told you to make him about ten of them!”

    I never correct my little ones on their pronunciation, though I will (reluctantly) tell the correct pronunciation to save my older kids the potential embarrassment. But for the younger ones, those cute little things are so very fleeting. Very soon, we won’t have hambobugers in our house, and I won’t even know when they’ll go away. So I will take as many hamboburgers as I can get him to eat and capture that thrill of hearing him, hoping it will last a little longer for when we have to eat plain old hamburgers.


    * Flowers *

    I love them. I love them outside. I love them when my husband surprises me with a bouquet. I love them when my 7-year-old picks dandelions and whatever he can find and puts them in a little vase I keep for him above my kitchen sink. I’ve loved them since I was a child and kept my mom and grandma supplied with roses, tulips, lilies, and lilacs, carefully picked and arranged for their dining tables, and I’ll probably still love them when I’m too old to remember why I love them so.


    This last one brings me to one of the projects I am working on. It is a book that has something to do with flowers. (Don’t you love how specific I am?) For some of the advertising and promotions I have planned, I need fun stories, jokes, or quotes that have to do with flowers. If you have any of these, let me know! I can hopefully share more about my “flower project” soon!

    What about you? Can you relate to my favorite things, or do you just think I’m really weird for liking things like crinkled potato chips and thunderstorms? Are there any strange things that you adore?

  • A Few of My Favorite Things (Part 2)

    In case you are just tuning in, I’m comprising a list of my not-so-ordinary favorite things. These are things that are unique, maybe a little strange and ridiculous, but when I encounter them, they give me a surge of joy for an almost unexplainable reason.

    If you want to read my first Favorite Things post, click HERE.

    And here are the few favorite things that made the cut today!


    * A cold glass of water *

    I fill up a glass of water from my refrigerator filter, drink it down, and think. “Wow, water is like the best thing ever.” Nearly every time.

    * Clean Sheets. *

    Never do I change the sheets on my bed and not think, “I love clean sheets!” I wiggle my legs across the smooth coolness and can’t help but smile. Everything may be wrong in the world, but for just a moment, clean sheets are enough!


    * Rainbows *

    I’ve had a special affinity for rainbows since I was a child. Maybe it’s because, like twilight, rainbows are fleeting, so if I get to see one, I always have a sense of being blessed to do so. Rainbows are also a fascination to me. They change based on your perspective. It is impossible to to catch a rainbow because from whatever position you are, you are looking through the rain at an angle, and your rainbow will look different from someone else’s, even a mile away. I’ve had the experience of driving along to have rainbows change position based on my perspective. If you are fortunate enough to see a rainbow, in some ways, God meant that rainbow for you. Because for that brief moment you are one of the very few people witnessing a sight that can never be repeated in the exact same way. And that is why I love rainbows.


    * Scrunchees *

    I do realize the ‘80s are over. And for the most part, that is a good thing. But I love my scrunchees. These are the soft elastic hair band that doesn’t hurt your scalp. They look horribly dated, and you cringe to think that sometimes, you actually go into public with your hair curled into a mom bun with one of these. (Notice I said “you.” Because that is absolutely not the sort of thing “I” would do! 😉 )But I still love them. I have long hair that my 1 year old likes to pull and that drives me crazy when I’m sleeping at night, so hello helpful scrunchee that won’t give me a headache! One of my prized possessions is a really ugly one that I have kept from my childhood. But shhhh don’t tell my sisters that I snagged it, or they’ll be totally jealous! I hope I never loose it. While it is still possible to find a few scrunches here and there nowadays, I might have to invent a time machine and go back to about 1988 in order to find a replacement for my special one.

    *Note on above picture: Three scrunchees? Seriously, that’s a little much, even for me!


    So that’s the list today! Check back in tomorrow for the final few weird things that make my favorites list. If you have any out -of-the-ordinary favorite things, let me know. Yours can’t be more random that mine, or can they?

    Until tomorrow, may you enjoy your favorite things and may your day be blessed with rainbows!

  • A Few of My Favorite Things


    There are certain things in life that I love. I’m not talking about the big things or the typical things. I love my children. I love their faces, the way their dimples pop out when they smile, and the sound of their laughter. I love going on a special date night with my husband. So, yes, those are some of my favorite things, but what I’m really referring to is the quirky little things that, even on a really bad day, give me a little squirt of joy just because.

    So I already know they are unique. For sure they would fit in very well with Julie Andrews’ list of favorite things in “The Sound of Music.” Maybe they are a little weird. But here is a list of a few of my favorite things:


    * Trees that overhang the streets *

    I especially like if the leaves meet overhead as if in an embrace. I get a little thrill when my car drives through the shady tunnel. It’s so pretty and something about it makes me feel as if the world of storybooks and fantasy may just be at the end of the street.

    * Crinkled potato chips *

    I have no idea if anyone else in the world (besides my sister) has this affinity, but I only like to eat the crinkled potato chips. I know that technically they taste no different, but I will sit with a bag and pick out the crinkled ones. If I find a super big, super ugly crinkled mess of a potato chip? That makes me extra happy.

    *** Please note: The chips in the above picture are not potato chips. They are tortilla chips. I searched my lone bag of barbecue potato chips to find that there were none that were crinkled. I’d already eaten them all. So I put that bag down and searched the tortilla chips, which I also like. I took a picture of some lovely crinkled ones, which tasted delicious.


    * Twilight *

    There is a moment before the sun dips past the horizon. It isn’t really sunset because sunset can last a lot longer than this moment. But when the sun reaches this point, the world is filled with a unique, filtered light. Often here, it’s a pinkish glow that bathes the foothills. This moment doesn’t happen every night. Maybe that’s why I love it so. When I was a teenager, I would take off on my bike around sunset, hoping to catch that moment where the world seems wrapped in a brief stillness, and we hold our breath to savor the beauty of a extra0ordinary moment that fades into ordinary before you can be sure it was there.

    * Christmas stories *

    A couple years ago, when I was on bed-rest when expecting my daughter, I went through every Christmas romance movie Netflix had. I guess I never realized how much I love them. Sure, some of them were so very cheesy that they make you cringe, but I still watched and enjoyed them. Maybe it’s the magic of romance combined with the magical time of year. Add a great message, and I love it extra.


    This one is really what got me started on this blog series. One of my books, “The Christmas Card,” is part of a Christmas in July sale. Every Christmas Romance book on this list is currently 99 cents, but won’t be for long. Snag a few for now and a few for later. And if you haven’t read “The Christmas Card,” now is your chance. I’m hoping the sequel will be out before Christmas. Maybe you’ll read it, love it, and be able to add it to your own favorite things list!

    To check out the sale, click on the image directly above or check out the link HERE.


    When I thought of this post, I didn’t know that I was about to have some very difficult things happen that would leave me with feelings of grief, confusion, and frustration. But even on my worst days, I can encounter one of my favorite little things and know that while life can be difficult, God can give us enough of the simple joys to know that He is still there even when we can’t see other evidence of His presence. Some days I may be upset, but I can still be thankful and happy for a nicely crinkled potato chip.

    I originally thought this post would be a relatively short one, but then I found it to be way too long, so why not do a few days of my favorite things? You can also let me know a few of your unique favorite things, and maybe I’ll include them in a post as well!

    Check back tomorrow for what is next on my favorite things list. Also, please share some of the unique things you love! You can comment below, send me an email, or message me on Facebook!

    Are your favorite things as strange as mine???




  • And The Fish Died


    When my oldest son, Caleb, was 3, he won a goldfish at a local fair in our town. This wasn’t one of the “quality” aquatic creatures, but a simple feeder goldfish.

    Now, the life of a feeder goldfish usually has one of two paths. One, he is bought and fulfils the destiny his name suggests and becomes food for another animal. Or two, he is given to a child. In most cases, it really is a draw as to which destiny gives the fish the longest life span.

    Caleb was oh-so-proud when he won his goldfish in the goldfish races and didn’t seem to notice that every other child also got to keep their free racing fish, whether they won or loss. He won a goldfish to take home, and that’s all that mattered. When we got to the car, Caleb asked me how we were going to cook him. Yes, he wanted to eat his little goldfish. This boy was a fisherman, still is, and to him getting a fish apparently meant a meal, not a pet.

    After I explained the difference, he warmed up to the idea of a pet, so we brought the fish home and stuck him in a bowl. I was not a novice at the fish-keeping business. I know the drill. You get a fish for free. You are prepared to be a good pet owner, so you buy all the equipment. Two days later, said fish dies and you are left with a bunch of boring equipment.

    So I waited to buy any equipment. I think the first day, Caleb named him Nemo, but to my knowledge, he has never been referred to as Nemo again. We have always just referred to him as “the fish.” Surprisingly, several days later, the fish was still alive, and I went ahead and coughed up the money for a small aquarium. I wasn’t going to buy a huge one when I was sure the little thing was just waiting for me to spend money on it.

    So I got the little aquarium set up. And I waited. But the fish still didn’t die.

    He didn’t die when Caleb was 4 years old either. Or 5. Or 6.

    No dead fish at age 7.

    8 was a good year too.

    Caleb is 9 now.

    And the fish died.

    For six years I have cleaned his little tank. Bought his food and tank filters. Made sure he was cared for whenever we had to leave for a few days.

    I was the one to feed him. I tried to have the kids help, but the entire jar of food would end up in the aquarium every time, so instead, it became my job. The fish grew big, and didn’t really fit in his little aquarium any more. His long beautiful tail filled the tank nicely as he’d sashay around.  But I never bought a larger aquarium because I just knew he was going to go belly up any day. He then made the move from our old house to the new house, and I managed not to spill him out as he sat beside me on the car ride over. And he still lived, his box aquarium parked on our counter.

    For six years, I waited for the fish to die.

    But then, I didn’t want him to.

    I have bad guilt. I may have forgotten to feed him a couple of times. My head knows the fish didn’t starve to death. After all, he’d been sick for a few days and stopped eating. In terms of being a feeder fish, he lived an exceptionally long time. But I still have the guilt. Poor little fish with no name!

    Then I got to wondering why the death of our little nameless fish was bothering me so much. The reality is that I’ve been in a pretty bad mood about it and definitely channeling attitudes from Eeyore and Grumpy the dwarf.

    I guess I feel sentimental because we had him for so long. I never really wanted a fish, and I don’t want another. Our little fish tank will not be getting a new occupant. Like I said, I’ve been waiting for him to die for six years. But I’m still sad to see him go.

    But my bad mood is more than that.

    It’s the exhaustion from caring for a baby and three other young children.

    It’s the stress of trying to remember everything for everyone.

    It’s the worry that I’m not doing enough.

    And the fish died.

    It’s the fact that I have a million things on my to-do list and no time.

    That I rarely get to mark anything off the to-do list.

    It’s looking around my house and seeing the mess of three tornados and no hope of fixing it.

    It’s the hundred things I’d like to put on my husband’s to do list if he actually had time to do any of them.

    And the fish died.

    It’s the books I have floating in my head, pestering me to be written and no time to do it.

    It’s the best sellers that have come to visit my brain and left before I could capture them on paper.

    It’s everything that others say need to be done in order to be successful.

    It’s the driving need to push myself and do what I love and feel called to do.

    It’s the worry that it will all disappear before I can write the next book or put the time into my career I need.

    And the fish died.

    It’s the frustration of a ministry my husband and I have felt called to do yet have been in the waiting mode for several years.

    It’s the confusion of not understanding what God is up to.

    It’s the fear that somehow we will or have screwed things up.

    It’s the constant worry that I’m not good enough.

    And the fish died.

    Headaches. Kids fighting. Concern for my extended family.

    Caleb is playing tackle football, and I am TERRIFIED!

    Am I good mom? Am I a good Christian?

    What am I missing? What am I making for dinner?

    Did the 3 year-old get his teeth brushed this morning? What about yesterday? A week ago? What smells so bad? Oh, it’s me.

    What am I forgetting?

    And the fish died.

    In short, it’s life.

    As I thought of all of these real reasons behind my attitude, I felt my agitation increase. And then, before the worry could completely consume me, two beautiful thoughts popped into my head.

    1. The minutes of a day is like chocolate. There is never enough. I shouldn’t be wasting so much chocolate (I mean minutes) worrying about things that I really can’t change.

    Instead, I should turn them all over to the only One who really can change them.

    1. I should take all those worries plaguing me and count them out to God like counting dollar bills into his hand. And then… I shouldn’t accept any refunds.

    Giving my worries to God is difficult because I like to take them back. It’s something I need God’s help on. And while God is still working on me, I’m going to try to focus more on the little things. Life. Enjoying the moments that include free fish with no names and being thankful that the rest of us made it through another day relatively intact.

    Eventually, I won’t feel so sad that the fish died. Life will go on. I’ll figure out what to make for dinner (McDonalds?), and today’s worries will be paid off by the One who owns them. And I will be thankful that for six years, we had a fish that lived.


  • What Went Wrong on a Date with Mr. Right

    What Went Wrong on a Date with Mr. Right


    I recently asked on my Facebook page if anyone had a great bad date story.

    Many events that happen in my books are versions of stories that I have experienced or heard about. For example, in my book The Random Acts of Cupid, the entire premise is based on something that happened to me in high school and the idea of what if it had ended differently.

    So if I ask a question, it’s only fair that I answer it as well.

    Although I never really dated much, I do have some great stories—my favorite being my first date with Brian, the man who would be my husband.

    I’ll spare you all the background of how we met (for now), and just tell you about our first official date. We decided to go fishing, since it was something we both love. The deal was that we would see who could catch the most fish. The loser would then have to pay for us to go see a movie afterward.

    We went to a local pond in the middle of the day, so the fishing wasn’t great. In fact, it was pretty lousy. However, I’m proud to say that I caught significantly more fish than he did.

    He caught zero. As in none. As in he never had a fish on his hook.

    I caught… one.

    Sure, it wasn’t huge.

    Ok, it was rather small.

    Maybe three inches.

    If I stretched it out on a ruler, and it held its breath.

    Seriously, I have no idea how the fish actually fit the hook in its mouth to be caught.

    But it counted, which meant that I WON!

    We drove to the movie theater, which was about an hour away, and talked the entire time. We parked and went into the theater to buy our movie tickets. The movie we wanted to see was The Mask of Zorro (So, I know this is dating me in a completely different way, but our first date was circa 18 years ago!).

    When we got to the line for tickets, Brian realized that he’d forgotten his wallet in the car. So back we went. At this point it was amusing, and I was certain his memory lapse was because he was enamored with me to the point of distraction!

    Midway through the parking lot, Brian realized that he couldn’t remember where he’d parked! Now, it was really funny.

    Eventually, he located his car and his wallet, and we headed back into the theater. Unfortunately, the show didn’t stop for Brian’s lost wallet. And car.

    By the time we got there, we were too late to see the movie. Now, it was absolutely hilarious. The next showing wasn’t for over an hour. With nothing else to do, we sat on a bench and waited. We talked the entire time, and it ended up being one of our fondest memories.

    We eventually did see the movie and had a great time. But looking back, I wouldn’t have wanted the date to go any other way. Sure, technically speaking, it had some big “fail” moments, but life is full of bumps. Our first date let us know that we could enjoy each other even if things go wrong.

    It just so happens that first date ended up being rather typical for us. Our dating experiences also included his car running out of gas in central California and us having to hitchhike to the nearest gas station.

    There was also the time Brian accidentally went swimming with his car keys in his pocket. They apparently parted ways at at the bottom of the reservoir, and we had to walk out of the canyon to get cell phone reception to call for help. Before he could locate another set of keys and pick the car up… it was towed. Needless to say, we were a little late and considerably poorer when embarking on our road trip to see his parents the next day.

    We didn’t have perfect dates. In fact, they were hilariously bad in terms of the number of things that went wrong. But I wasn’t looking for perfect. Life isn’t perfect, but if you can have someone beside you who is able to laugh at life’s imperfections, then life at least gets more fun.

    So when Brian asked me to marry him four years later, there was no question that I would say “yes.” Why? Someday I’ll write about how he proposed. (That one was as close to perfect as you can get.)

    Besides the fact that I loved him, I was also wise enough to realize that Mr. Right is the one you still like to be with, even when everything goes wrong.

    P.S. I’m always looking for hilariously bad date stories. What are yours? One day, I intend to write a sequel to The Random Acts of Cupid. A matchmaker series is going to need a considerable amount of wrong to find Mr. Right!

  • How to Screw Up a Really Great Art Project


    How to Screw Up a Really Great Art Project

    (In 5 Easy Steps)

    Task: Make an art project about a book with your 6-year-old son for the library summer reading program.


    1. Have a fabulous idea.

    Well, he says he wants to do it on a Curious George book. You can work with that.

    Hmm… maybe something artsy from your childhood. Something fun that you remember doing with your mom.

    That’s it! A decoupage project! You can make a model of a hot air balloon like in Curious George and the Hot Air Balloon!

    curious george

    After all, you did a really cool one as a kid. Which means you’re pretty much an expert. And you can save time. You already know how to do it. It isn’t like you’ll need to waste time googling it. After all, it was only, what? 30 years ago. Piece of cake.

    1. Do the project completely wrong.

    Note to self: decoupage is not the same things as paper mache.

    As a child, you used decoupage to make a basket for your grandma for Christmas. As an adult, you once used paper mache to make a piñata (note the “once.” Never. Again.)

    Somehow these two techniques need to become tangled in your brain so that you remember the difference only after you have a mess of napkins and flour water. Yes, for those of you who don’t know decoupage (using a mixture of glue and water) makes things nice and shiny, while paper mache (using a mixture of flour and water) makes things, well, yucky.

    Big difference.

    1. Don’t get enough supplies.

    You really don’t need to buy more supplies. Save money. Just use what you have on hand. You know those birthday napkins that you never used from two years ago? Use those.

    No, it doesn’t matter that no store even carries that same design any more.

    Don’t worry about it. You’ll have enough.

    And if, on the off-chance you don’t, you can send your wonderful husband to the store at 7:00 in the morning before he goes to work, to find some that, well, don’t match and are still unusable anyway.

    1. Try to fix the mess when you remember how to actually do decoupage.

    Go over everything with the decoupage glue wash, so that now you have a shiny mess. Forget those nifty napkins your husband bought and just cover the holes with standard white napkins instead. After all, then you can decorate the white part with marker afterward.

    No, it won’t look like toilet paper. Promise.

    No, it won’t look like dirty toilet paper when the color underneath comes through. Double promise.

    1. Label the Monster.

    Maybe if you name the monster, it won’t be so scary.

    Everything is dried. All the pieces are attached. It doesn’t look great, but it sort of looks like a hot air balloon, and after the hours you and your son have already put into the thing, you’re calling it.

    Last step is to label it with the title of the book.

    You have to do this part. As fantastically smart as your 6-year-old is, you can not trust him to do this right. It needs to be legible. It needs to be spelled correctly.

    Here we go. Permanent black marker in hand. Positioned over the (sort of) white toilet paper at the top of the hot air balloon. Curious George and the Hot Air Balloon. Curious George…



    Why doesn’t that look right? What’s wrong with it?

    Of course you spell Curious, C-H-U—cue hysterical laughter.

    Then hurriedly draw a hot air balloon over your mistake and get the 6-year-old to come “fix” the rest of it. If anybody asks, he can honestly say that, yes, that part the looks like it was drawn by a 6-year-old was in fact his very own work. Because you’re an awesome mom like that. You let the kids do their own work. Even if it looks bad. Pride of ownership. Make your own mistakes. Clichés all packed and ready. Turn that monster in!



    And there you have it, the full free tutorial on how to screw up a really great art project. In our next installment, I will be writing about how to screw up licking an envelope. Challenging, I know, but this super-mommy has done it, and will show you how to do it too.


  • Tru Stories 2.0

    I am very fortunate that I get to live out my dream of being an author. I write books and people actually read them. And what’s even better is that they like them!

    But there are some things that I am not good at. I am a very busy mom of four young children. My oldest is 9, and my youngest is 3 months. I am a full-time mommy, with no babysitter, so naturally, some things just have to go. I’m pretty bad about keeping my website up, and not great at doing the social media thing or advertising. When I do have time, I’d rather be writing than trying to figure out creative ways to get more people on social media to buy my books. And honestly, I really don’t feel I’m interesting enough that people would care about a Facebook post chronically the number of times I changed a diaper today!

    As I mentioned before, what I like to do is write. I really can write about absolutely anything and be happy doing it. (Cue post about watching paint dry). So then it occurred to me that maybe I could write about my life in a way that people might enjoy reading it. What if I did the things I normally did, but then wrote about it in a fun way?

    For instance, I tend to be rather obsessive. This serves me well when writing books because I research things ad nauseam and am quite perfectionistic. But I also obsessively research non-writing things as well. Do you know the best way to get marker out of a hardwood floor? Or the best present for a 9 year-old boy? Or the best and safest shampoo for your kids? Or how to navigate Disneyland with a 2 month old baby in tow? I know all of those things. Plus, I’m fantastic at screwing up daily life and surviving to laugh about it.

    And you know what else? Along the way, I write some pretty awesome books!

    So my new goal for my blog is to write. Not just about my books or writing. Honestly, trying to keep myself to those subjects is very limiting and rather boring. My life is so much more than that. Instead, I’m going to write about whatever suits my fancy. But do it in a unique way with some different, rather entertaining angles.

    So I’ll share some stories, write about things I’ve learned or find interesting, and probably share some products that make a crazy life easier. Some of my product links may be affiliate links, which simply means, if I share about a product and someone buys it, then Amazon pays me a small commission. That just seems smart and we both win. You get something you like and I get some money that I will most likely spend back at Amazon to find more things you’ll like. Because honestly, Amazon is kind of my best friend. (Remind me to tell you about the Fed Ex guy who delivers my many Amazon packages. I keep him employed.)

    Chances are, if you visit often, you’ll probably learn something, be inspired, shed some tears, find some great books to read, and get plenty of giggles. If you happen to enjoy any of my posts, please share the link and / or leave a comment and let me know! I appreciate knowing these things don’t go into a great black hole in cyberspace.

    Ready? Here we go.

    Hope you enjoy a few Tru stories!

  • Huge Book Sale!

    The authors of Echo Ridge decided to organize a multi-author sale during release week and invite our favorite authors to join us. All the books featured on this sale are only $.99 and they are all amazing!
    Don’t forget to enter the rafflecopter giveaway for $200 in Christmas Cash.
    Happy book shopping!

    Christmas Kisses: An Echo Ridge Anthology
    Christmas Kisses is a collection from five bestselling and award-winning authors. Set in the snowy town of Echo Ridge in upstate New York, these inspirational romances are sure to delight while you sip cocoa by the fire and listen to Christmas carols.
    Amazon * iTunes * Barnes & Noble * Smashwords * Kobo * Goodreads


    Brownies & Betrayal by Heather Justesen
    Pastry chef Tess Crawford thought moving from Chicago to quiet Silver Springs, Arizona would simplify her life. That was before she found the body of a woman with whom she had traded heated words the previous night, left her fingerprints on
    the murder weapon, and came under attack for trying to clear her name. When her cheating ex-fiance shows up, intent on convincing her to come back to work for him, Tess—armed with an extra batch of éclairs—decides to take control and solve the mystery herself, with the help of friends and frenemies alike.
    But will that be enough to save her when she gets too close and the killer decides it’s safer to get her out of the way?

    Simplify & Savor the Season by Connie E. Sokol

    Ready to enjoy the holidays again? Use this two-part holiday organizer to help you savor the celebrations. In the first half of the book, brainstorm the Big Four; then, detail the To Dos including menu, gift-planning, etc. with success tips on how to eliminate the unnecessary and focus on the essential. Wrap up with “5 Holiday Juicers” to make life joyful. Keep your notes handy in the companion Simplify & Savor Take-along Planner.

    With the second half of the book. curl up with a cup of cocoa and read “Savory Suggestions and Stories,” a collection of laugh-out-loud anecdotal stories including “Let Go of the Cookie Cutter Christmas” and “Thankful for Turkey Warbling”. Make this holiday season one you remember and enjoy!


    Diamond Rings are Deadly Things by Rachelle J. Christensen

    Adrielle Pyper knows how to plan a wedding, and she’s especially good at pleasing bridezillas. But when her biggest client and best friend is murdered just three days before the wedding, Adri’s world falls apart. She moves to the resort town of Sun Valley, Idaho, and starts from scratch. Thanks to Adri’s impeccable taste and unique style, she lands two celebrity clients, and her business seems headed for success—until someone vandalizes the specialty wedding dresses she imported from overseas. Adri must race to uncover the secret hidden within the yards of satin and lace before she becomes the next victim.

    With a delightful blend of mystery, toe-curling kisses, humor, and spine-tingling thrills, Diamond Rings are Deadly Things will keep you turning pages long into the night.

    A Baker’s Dozen by Lucy McConnell

    Tempt your sweet tooth with 13 delicious, easy, and beautiful dessert recipes. Each recipe has been time-tested and found irresistible. You’ll horde the Lemon Brownies but you might be willing to share the Rock and Roll Cake—with a good friend.

    Recipes include: Chocolate Chunk Peanut Butter Cookies, Pumpkin Bunt Cake, S’mores Cheesecake, No-Fail Lemon Bars

    Impress your coworkers, family, friends, and even the guys at the car repair shop with these recipes. They’re sure to become favorites in your recipe box, lunch box, and ice box.

    The Colony by Cami Checketts

    To protect her sons from the mistakes of her past, Brinlee Trapper escapes to a secluded mountain home. But there are dangers lurking in the mountains she has never encountered. The little family is saved from injury by Jed, a mysterious hunter. Brinlee is drawn to him, but she worries about his involvement with a peaceful commune hidden deep in the mountains behind her property.

    Lance, Brinlee’s attentive neighbor, has his own troubled history. Between his obvious attraction to Brinlee and his developing love for her children, Brinlee finds it more than difficult to guard her heart against this tender intrusion.

    While Jed offers a life of excitement and freedom, Lance holds the key to the family Brinlee always wanted. When it comes time to choose, she learns that both men have secrets that could shatter her fledgling trust in men and the wrong decision could leave more than her heart exposed to danger.

    Torn Canvas by Donna K. Weaver

    Modern-day pirates took more than Jori Virtanen’s friends; they stole his face. Not only does the twenty-four-year-old former model have to confront months of reconstructive surgery, he discovers his previous life was as superficial as his looks. Up-and-coming talk show host Olivia Howard wants an interview. She, like the rest of the press, expects a hero, but Jori knows the truth. His beauty masks a beast.

    In seclusion and evading the press, Jori struggles to make a new life as an artist. But he can’t hide from himself; more than his face is damaged. How can Jori possibly make amends for all that he’s broken? When Olivia finally tracks him down, he must decide if he can trust her. Could this unlikely woman be a key to freeing his heart and healing the beast?

    The audiobook is only $1.99 with the purchase of the ebook.

    Son of War Daughter of Chaos by Janette Rallison

    Aislynn is accustomed to watching for the enemy. Her parents instructed her from the time she was young to look for people with the signs: greater than normal strength, eyes that can glow green, and the ability to jump long distances. Over the years, Aislynn has come to view her parents’ fears as quirks-things that get in the way of having a normal high school life. When Aislynn’s mother dies under suspicious conditions, her father doubles his restrictions. But all his precautions can’t stop the boy with glowing green eyes from finding Aislynn. She realizes too late she’s been drafted into an ancient Egyptian war, whether she’s prepared or not.

    Vocal Crush by Lisa Swinton

    Can you ever out run a broken heart?

    Lexi Court spent seven years traveling the world, living the nomadic Broadway life, in an attempt to outrun the broken heart Nick Rivers gave her. Now, there’s nowhere left to go.

    When she accepted a position as a high school drama teacher in Las Vegas, Lexi hoped to get over Nick, find a nice guy, and settle down. But what should be a quiet summer gets turned upside down when Lexi’s best friend, Taffy, drafts her to be an emergency replacement coach on a televised vocal competition.

    Feeling out of her league among the other three celebrity coaches, Lexi fights for the most promising contestants to be on her team. One note from a single voice shatters her summer. Nick unexpectedly auditions and joins Lexi’s team. With her vocal crush on him raging as strong as ever, she has nowhere to run from Nick’s dreamy looks or siren voice.

    Lexi has no doubt that Nick can win the competition. The question is does he want to win her heart as well or will he damage it beyond repair?

    Think television reality show The Voice meets Jane Austen’s Persuasion.

    Paris Cravings New Image

    Picture Perfect by U.S.A. Today Bestseller Heather B. Moore

    Gemma has never done anything out of the ordinary, until her boyfriend Randy starts to ignore her. But even cutting and dyeing her hair doesn’t get his attention. She decides to join her old high school friends for spring vacation, only to be faced with Drew, her best friend who suddenly seems interested in her as more than a friend. Gemma must determine if her heart is on the rebound or if it’s finally met its true match.

    Endless Modern Cinderella by Jaclyn Weist

    Sydney lives her nightmares every night. While other teenagers are dreaming of boys or traveling to exotic places, she must run a staircase with no beginning or no end, or a terrible debt will never be paid.

    Just before her seventeenth birthday, the dreams change. She is no longer alone.

    But her nightmares don’t end when she wakes up. Her stepmother and stepsisters threaten to ruin everything she holds dear. She must protect the secret that both she and her father have magic or they will use it to their advantage.

    As Sydney learns to control her magic, what seemed impossible before—escaping her stepmother and those ever-present stairs—is now at her fingertips. When she learns the ultimate plan of her evil captor, Sydney must stop her at all costs, or she will forever be trapped inside her nightmares.

    Cookie Girl Christmas by Christene Houston

    Molly Hayes has one more job before Christmas and then she can put her plans for a storefront bakery of her own in motion. What she doesn’t bargain for is the handsome young Scrooge who insults her cookies and makes her blood boil. Toss in a heaping helping of snowstorm and a pinch of romantic old Inn and you’ve got yourself the perfect recipe for a not-so-silent-night.

    And Something Blue by Paige Timothy

    Bridal consultant Laurie Fletcher spends all her time helping others prepare for the most special day of their lives. Logan Reese is easily the most irritating man on the planet, and for some reason, he’s made annoying Laurie his mission in life. Will true love ever come Laurie’s way, or is she doomed to watch others get their happily ever after while she sits on the sidelines?

    Six Days of Christmas by Kaylee  Baldwin

    When Natalie goes home with her best friend for Christmas, she expects plenty of quiet time to work on a winning ad so she can turn her dream internship into her dream job. Instead, she gets time-consuming Christmas festivities, a house full of children who seem to be multiplying, and Jimmy, her best friend’s brother—someone who makes her question everything she’s always thought she wanted.

    Ring Around the Rosie by Julie Coulter Bellon

    As the ex-wife of a law enforcement officer, Sarah Reed has known loneliness and loss. In order to cope, she makes a life for herself that’s full of routine while building a wall of ice around her heart. Everything about her is as predictable as she can make it until a tiny detour for her ex-husband, Ron, changes her life forever. Caught in a bomb crisis, Sarah is taken hostage by a man who wants Ron and everyone around him to suffer—and his idea of suffering is more terrible than Sarah had ever dreamed.

    Captain Ron Reed has seen the worst of humanity in his job with the Hostage Negotiation Team, but he never expected his past to come back with a vengeance—literally. Aaron Starks, a criminal explosives expert, has stolen next-gen bomb technology. He uses it to force Ron to bargain for the lives of his team and his ex-wife, Sarah, the woman he still loves. But the situation escalates when Ron discovers that Starks has an even bigger objective in mind—using the bomb to show how vulnerable America and her people truly are.

    Ron is willing to risk everything to save his country and those he loves, but when negotiations break down, will his sacrifice be too little too late?


    Yesterday by Amanda Tru

    Her yesterday was five years ago. What will her tomorrow bring?

    When Hannah Kraeger saves a family injured in a car accident, she has no idea she has changed events in the past. Waking the next morning, Hannah discovers her yesterday was really five years ago.

    Each trip Hannah takes through time changes the timeline and her own life. With help from Dr. Seth McAllister, Hannah must unravel the mystery of why she time travels and who she actually is before the strange ability costs her future, the man she loves, and even her life.

    YESTERDAY is a thrilling Christian Romantic Suspense filled with unexpected twists, mystery, and romance.

    My One and Only by Shannon Guymon

    Meredith Jensen has seen her share of ups and downs. She’s found love twice already and lost it in spectacularly traumatic ways. Now? She just wants a peaceful life, free from love and drama. Meredith’s plans for the future center around planning other people’s weddings and her new online dating website. Just because she works to help other people find love doesn’t mean she wants any part of it though. Unfortunately for Meredith’s plans, Asher Murphy is determined to get her to give love another chance. But then again, so is Pule Matafeo. Meredith has never denied that she’s stubborn and feisty so it might take the combined forces of all their friends in Fircrest to get her heart back on track in time for Valentine’s Day.

    Stealing Adda by Tamara Leigh

    WRITER’S BLOCK, NIBBLED NAILS, PLAGIARISM, OH MY! AND DID I MENTION ROMANCE? Life for Adda Sinclaire, New York Times best-selling author and historical romance writer extraordinaire, reads more like a country song than a breathless, bodice-bursting affair. For starters, she has no romance in her own life. That might have something to do with the fact that her husband—correction, ex-husband—ran off with Stick Woman, whom everyone knew would never be more than a mid-list author anyway. To add insult to injury (and another verse to the country song), her ex not only took their dog but gave it to Stick Woman. If that isn’t enough, Adda has come down with a horrible case of writer’s block, finds herself gifted with a Bible that is determined to speak to her, and is the unwitting target of a romance cover model’s misdirected advances. Just when she catches her breath—and quite possibly the eye of a certain fabulously good-looking man (ahem…her new editor)—her arch-nemesis gives the pot one final stir.

    Spy by Night by Jordan McCollum

    After watching her parents’ marriage crash and burn, CIA operative Talia Reynolds doesn’t believe in “happily ever afters.” Besides, her job entails eighty-hour weeks, juggling a dozen covers and disguises, and tracking down a dangerous Russian spy ring. She hardly has time for romantic entanglements, even if she could let her guard down enough to get close to anyone.But all the rules she lives by could be broken when she meets aerospace engineer Danny Fluker.

    Danny moved to Canada for a great job — and a chance to start over after a bad breakup. Dating definitely isn’t in his plans . . . until beautiful and enigmatic Talia throws a perfect storm right in his flight path. When he catches a glimpse of the real woman behind her façade, he has to get to know her better.

    Talia has to find a Russian spymaster before he figures out she’s not who she claims, and failing to keep her two lives separate in the process could mean the death of more than just her budding relationship. Danny has to decide if a future with Talia — and facing the past — is worth the risk of getting hurt again. If they can break through the barriers keeping them apart (and avoid a major international catastrophe), they just might have a chance at being happy together.

    Saving Grace by Michele Paige Holmes

    From #2 Amazon Bestselling Historical Romance Author and Whitney Award Winner, Michele Paige Holmes, comes SAVING GRACE, a regency romance from the Hearthfire Romance series:

    After the death of her grandfather, the Duke of Salisbury, Grace Thatcher wants nothing more than to live quietly in the country with her younger siblings. Her father’s debts thwart those plans, and to protect her sister, Helen, Grace must marry a man of her father’s choosing.

    As each suitor proves less than desirable, Grace comes up with clever schemes, causing each to reject her. While staying at the mysterious Sutherland Hall, a middle-of-the-night mishap sends Grace into the arms of a stranger, Nicholas Sutherland—and provides inspiration for her grandest plan yet—one that will leave her reputation in tatters yet free both her and Helen from all possibility of marriage.

    Too late Grace regrets her rash actions when her father’s last choice, Mr. Samuel Preston, proves to be a gentleman and a friend. But Samuel is the sworn enemy of Nicholas Sutherland, the man responsible for her “ruin.” Now instead of being free, Grace is caught between two men—each with his own agenda.

    Other Hearthfire Romances: LOVING HELEN & MARRYING CHRISTOPHER

    An Unexpected Proposal by Annette Lyon
    While working at a wood camp in the Logan canyon during the winter of 1880, Caroline Simpson is forced to thwart the aggressive advances of Mr. Butch Larson, and in the process discovers that her long-time friend James has genuine affection for her. But as stubborn as Caroline is, she minimizes the emotions James has awakened in her, and it takes almost losing him to admit her true feelings.

     An Unexpected Proposal was introduced in the first volume of the bestselling and award-winning Timeless Romance Anthology series, Winter Collection:

    Amazon #1 Bestselling *New Release* in Clean Romance, Top 10 in Regency Romance, Top 5 in Victorian Romance

    Amazon Smashwords *iTunes *Kobo

    Paris Cravings by Amazon #1 Best Selling Author for Clean Romance, Kimberley Montpetit
    Can life really turn on a dime, a missed bus—or a stuck pastry shop door?
    Chloe Dillard’s life has always been complicated. Her mother is a neurotic romance novelist and her boyfriend, Mathew, has been pressuring her to go “all the way”.
    But after The Worst Night of Her Life, Chloe escapes on her Senior Class trip to the swoon-worthy city of Paris which takes her mind off her troubles—temporarily. On the final leg of her dream trip, Chloe squeezes in one final run for a last-minute box of decadent pastries. Add a broken shop door, subtract a broken four-inch heel from her cute strappy sandals, and Chloe ends up one stuck girl on the bakery shop floor with a sprained ankle.
    Rescued by the shop owner’s dreamy son with chocolate-syrup eyes, the beautiful city of Paris suddenly becomes Chloe’s personal secret adventure. And even though Jean-Paul, the oh-so-kind La Patisserie shop boy is the gentlemanly guy Chloe has always dreamed of, even he has a girlfriend.
    The police are tracking her down as a run-away, Mom’s having a nervous breakdown over her daughter’s “disappearance”, and Chloe’s just trying to have a Happily-Ever-After even as her dreams with Matt are swirling down the drain.
    What’s a girl to do in the most romantic city in the world?
    Easy Pastry Recipe in the back of the book!

    a Rafflecopter giveaway!