Good-Bye Summer

In my neck of the woods, summer is gone. Oh the heat still toys with us, trying to play mind-games on our already fried brains. Fried from heat. Fried from to-do lists, schedules, etc…

This is my last week with my kids before the new school year begins. I’m always nervous for them. Nervous they’ll get picked on, nervous they’ll have rotten teachers with no compassion, nervous they’ll be nervous. Generally, I’m not a worrier.  But this time of year, I am. 

I know God has it all under control. I know He’s promised to take care of them. I trust Him to do it, but those pre-school jitters still get me looking like a drunk marionette. Right now, you’re picturing me as a trashed Pinocchio-ette. Admit it.

This summer has flown by. I mean really. I can’t figure out where summer went. So this week I’m taking a blogging break and I’ll probably be online less, although my iPhone makes it hard. School supplies are bought. Clothes and shoes are purchased and my house is mostly clean. So I’m taking this last week to hang out with my kids and yeah, do some writing when they get sick of me. Depending on how much sarcasm I drop will determine how long it takes before they beg me to go away! 


I’ll be back, you can all sigh in relief now, on Monday, August 6th and we’ll all get to hang out at Cuppa Josie’s in Shelby Lake with Lisa Jordan. Expect a recipe, a super cool ending to the day, and lots of coffee, tea, and pastries! Holla!

Would you rather take math classes the rest of your life with a teacher you like, or creative writing with a teacher you detest? Why?
*photocredit: freedigitalphotos

A Whole Day Cleaning Out the…

Yeah, the pantry. School is starting in two weeks! Two. Two weeks and my house is simply not ready for grumpy heads rising before 6:30 a.m., heading to school to beat the tardy bell at 7:20.

It’s not ready for starving mouths that need after-school snacks and all that goes along with five days of kid-torture.

My pantry was ridiculous.

So maybe I didn’t spend a whole day on it, but I swear I did spend an hour and it’s possible more than one bag of trash went out, I will not admit to any more than one. 

I reorganized my spice rack, moved a few things to different cabinets, shopped for school supplies and got them ready to go in boxes, and basically cleaned house. No, not basically, I did clean house.

I was quiet online yesterday and I got zipola writing done. I will say while dinner was in the oven, I took a break with a cup of tea and Lisa Jordan’s newest book, Lakeside Family. A fifteen minute break. Yeah, it turned into an hour and I admit to laughing out loud and even sobbing tearing up. You can pre-order it! Click on Lisa’s name.

Now that my laundry is done, school supplies purchased, and I can open my pantry without stale chips and moldy bread falling out (I might or might not be exaggerating) I can get back to writing. Oh and I got inspired by Amanda Dykes uber-cool organized desk, so I cleaned mine off and did a little organizing myself! You can read about it at Melissa Tagg’s Tag(g)lines, where she guest posted, HERE!

Do you do a full scrub on your house before school starts up? And even better, if you could be one item in a pantry, what would you be and why?

His Banner Over Me Is…

The title reminds me
of the song I sang as a child in Sunday school. I loved the motions to the
song, the verses. I had no clue what it all meant, other than it was  fun and it was about God. What else did you
need on Sunday morning, right?
As I’ve become an
adult, I know Jehovah-Nissi,
When Moses went to
war with the hardcore Amalekites, by lifting his arms overhead (sometimes his
friends had to lift them for him) he realized something new about God. He built
an altar after they gained the victory and he called it The-LORD-is-My-Banner
because the LORD has sworn; the LORD will have war with Amalek from generation
to generation.” Ex. 17:8-15
But what is a banner
all about?
In war times,
someone  carried the flag into battle.
The soldiers could see it and be reminded who and what they were fighting for.
It gave them a focal point. Hope. Encouragement.
This morning I got
up with a pinch-and-thump in my heart.
Yesterday wasn’t
exactly a great day for me. I let some disappointing news dictate my evening.
Yes, I had family night. We played Apples to Apples and yes, I laughed and
played along. Then we watched a movie and yes, I stared at the TV, but I’m
certain I heard nothing. Saw even less. Less than nothing. It’s possible.
This morning, as I
laid out my Bible and switched on my computer, not feeling much like digging
into the Bible. A little put-out with God. A little frustrated. He reminded me
who He is.
I closed my eyes and
saw the billowy white robe majestically blowing on the wind of the Holy
Spirit’s moving on my behalf. I saw the pole the robe was attached to. Old,
splintered wood.
The crimson insignia
flashed vividly against the hem of the flowing robe.
“Keep marching,
Jess. It’s not over yet. Not while I’m still over you.”
brought me to His banqueting table, His banner over me is love.”
I cracked open my
banquet and chewed and savored, rich and delightful, calorie and fat free.
This is what He fed
“I waited
patiently for the LORD; And He inclined to me, And heard my cry. He also
brought me up out of the horrible pit, out of the clay, and set my feet upon a
rock, and established my steps. He has put a new song in my mouth–Praise to
our God; Many will see it and fear, and will trust in the LORD. Psalm 40:1-3
*photo credit: freedigitalphotos 
What has God fed you with during disappointing times? Share a verse! 
Come by our
facebook women’s
community and let’s chat!

And the Winner Is…


I have chosen the
name for my contest! My new WIP (work in progress) has a Saint Bernard that
belongs to a detective.  I didn’t give
much information about the hero of the story other than his occupation, on
He’s had a
relationship turn sour, he sees a lot of negativity in the world with his job.
Unable to avoid the cliché, this story is about how the grass isn’t greener on
the other side. It’s full of irony and deceit. It is a romantic suspense,
whatdaya expect?!
How I chose the name
was pretty simple. I read it, then I closed my eyes and tried to see if I could
pull off a humorous scene using the name. This dog will be the way my
hero/heroine meet.
All the names were
great! So I’m going to give you my top five names and then the winning name!
5. Mr. Darcy
If my detective had a poetic side, the irony would be awesome. And I laughed several times thinking about it.
4. Bootsie
Big white feet look
like boots and I could come up with some dialogue but not enough humor.
3. Lipstick
Seriously, look at
that mutt’s mouth! I could see this dog as a puppy eating the detective’s ex’s favorite
tube of lipstick and the name, well…sticking.
2. Komere
Sounds like Come
in an exaggerated southern accent and had my novel been set in the south,
I’d have probably went with that! Cracks me up!
1. Edith
“You named your dog, Edith?”
“Yeah, it
reminds me of my grandma.”
“Gentle and
“No, rotund and
hairy.” LOL I could see my character so saying that! He’s a bit of a
But I chose the following name because not only is it ironic and ridiculous, but I can actually weave
some truth about life into the dialogue and the name.
the winner of the $10.00 Amazon/Starbucks card (winner’s choice) goes to…..drum roll……
Redding for the name:
Congratulations, Jeff! 
Here’s a tiny
snippet of dialogue I concocted on the fly after hearing the name.
dusting herself off, she took a good look at his dog. “Your boy dog’s name is Kitten?” The puzzled look on
her face made him grin again.
“I got her
at the beginning of an ironic stage in my life.”
crossed her arms. “Did you ever think you’d come out of it and be stuck with a
horrible name for a dog?”
“I’ll let
you know when I’m out.” He’d brought Kitt home the same day Miranda said she
wasn’t going to marry him. That God had another plan for her. It didn’t include
He’d been
sure God had told him it had.
“You know
that’s mean really. Labeling someone as something they’re not is destructive.”
She glared at him and gave him a take-that look.
Thanks to everyone
who participated! I read every single one and I tell ya, it was hard to choose.
I valued all of your input.
What’s the silliest pet name you’ve ever heard?

Surf N Turf with Lindsay Harrel!


*Note: Scroll down to the youtube so you can listen while you read! Get an island adventure all the way around!

Pillow fights with lots of giggling, goofy dance-offs,
roller-skating backwards, and late night talks. That’s what Lindsay Harrel is.
Fun, energetic, sweet, deep and full of Jesus. I love me some Linds.

Since the age of six, when she wrote the riveting tale “How
to Eat Mud Pie,” Lindsay Harrel has passionately engaged the written word as a
reader, writer, and editor. She holds a B.A. in Journalism and Mass
Communication and an M.A. in English. In her current day job as a curriculum
editor for a local university, Lindsay helps others improve their work and
hones her skills for her night job—writing inspirational contemporary fiction. Lindsay
lives in Phoenix, Arizona, with her husband of five years and a golden
retriever puppy in serious need of training.
Did I mention wicked smart, too? Yeah. I know. Today we want
you to kick back, toss your flip-flops in the bag (mine are hot pink to match
my swim suit and since it’s cyberworld, uh…size 4 thank you very much!) Close
your eyes, well don’t really…um…you’re reading, and listen as Jimmy Buffet and
possibly Kermit take us to the islands.
Today, Linds and I are hanging at the beach. Which one you
ask? Doesn’t matter. It’s a beach. With water. And drinks with umbrellas
(loaded or unloaded whatever you prefer).
What kind of sunscreen are you wearing and what proof? I’m wearing my sparking
Hawaiian Tropics. I feel like such a Cullen! 15 proof which is a little higher than
the proof in my Mohito! LOL
Banana Boat ‘cause the name just rocks—even though I think of coconuts, not
bananas, when I think of the beach. And do they make a 150-proof? ‘Cause, girl,
I’m pale and I burn. Just a fact of life, unfortunately.
heard once you get to 30 proof, it’s all the same just more expensive. Don’t
take my word though, as you might look very much like Sebastian when all is
said and done. So, I know we’re chatting and all, but what genre is that book
you’re reading?
Christian romantic fiction, of course. I love all genres, but I sort of find
the beach setting a romantic one. So I gotta have fiction to match!
JP: Yes
I agree although I’m reading an intense romantic suspense, but I can’t figure
out who killed Laura Palmer. *giggle* You missed that didn’t you? You’re so
young! (Who else missed that?) Hold up, my bathing suit needs adjusted. Oh, the
sand! How many bathing suits did you try on before you found one you deemed
decent to go out in public in?
LH: Well,
since I can tell on the hanger that about 99% are either for tiny teens or
grandmas…not many (since there aren’t many to choose from!).
so had that issue with my daughter. Either too little girlish or too
Kardashian. Sigh. Cough. I’m parched. Let’s order something to drink! What are
you having?
LH: Ice water (with the awesome munchable ice like they have
at Sonic) with a Coke Zero chaser. Ha. I’m funny, huh?
Seriously? We’re on a beach with a full Tiki bar and you’re having water. With
ice. That crunches. You know what else crunches? Celery stalks. In Bloody
Marys. LOL I’m kidding, I mean celery does crunch but about BMs. Okay, now that
could go lots of places. BM as in Blood Mary, people.  Nevermind. I’m having a watermelon slush.
Man, I love the beach. The sand in my… toes, the crashing of waves. Sun on my
face. What do you love most about the beach?
photo credit: freedigitalphotos
LH: Like
you, the sound of the waves. There is nothing more relaxing to me than the
sound of running—or crashing—water. Sigh! Like I said above…romantic, no?
JP: Indeed
it is, Linds. Hey your shoulders look a little medium rare. I’m thinking you
need to load up again. Dude, we need some tunes. What’s playing on your iPod?
LH: You’re
going to run away screaming when I say this, but I love all the Glee
soundtracks. Especially the ones where they perform show tunes. Don’t hate!
Hate?! I LOVE the Glee soundtracks, have most of them! Crank up Defying
Gravity! But not really. It’s kinda’s messing with Jimmy. Here’s a little island treat for all of us! 

JP: Now that’s island fun and it makes me hungry. Lunch should be seafood. I’m having deep fried
crab claws, crab legs, and fried shrimp. What’s a little grease when you’re
wearing a cyber 4? What’s on your menu?
LH: Um,
yeah…the cool thing about surf and turf is YOU can have the surf and I’LL have
the turf. (Cough, seafood is of the devil). For me, chicken all the way, baby,
especially if it’s seasoned with some sort of Cajun or jerked spices. Yummy in
my tummy.
JP: And
yet again, you disappoint me. Sigh. SIGH. SIIIIGH! Oh well, more for me! Let’s
go in the water! Kayaking! Yes. Hope JAWS doesn’t get us. Ba dump…what do you
hope to see out here—minus JAWS? I’d love to see a school of dolphins. Do they
actually travel in schools? Herds? Packs? Crowds? Clicks?
LH: Yay,
kayaking is fun! I did that once in Hawaii with my hubby. And yes, wouldn’t it
be sweet to see dolphins? I might even be willing to brave my fear of the open
water and swim with them…as long as we were positive JAWS wouldn’t attack and
bite my leg off. I’d also love to see more sea turtles. We just saw one when we
snorkeled in St. Kitts (in a very secure and safe cove…no sharks!).
From the movie: JAWS

JP:  Sounds like a plan. Don’t worry, we’ll be
safe. Isn’t that what everyone says before it isn’t safe? What would you do if
the undertow kept pulling us out? Or if you were stuck on a beach island for
three months? What would you miss most? What would you miss least?

LH: I’d
miss my daily dose of Internet and social media/email, since I’m pretty much
addicted. What would I miss least? Haha, work.

JP: Yep, this is the life and it’s all in cyberville so join
us! You can hang with Linds on land too! At her blog, facebook, and twitter @LindsayHarrel.

playing on your iPod and are you Surf n Turf, or just Surf or Turf? Cheers! Don’t
forget your sunblock!

*Monday, I’ll choose the winner for my contest on facebook and share why I chose it here on the blog! Today is the last day to cast your vote and name the Saint Bernard in my newest book. Winner gets a $10 Amazon/Starbucks card (your choice) “Like” my page and leave as many comments as you like! 

Piece by Piece

In my newest story, the hero loves puzzles. It’s why he became a detective. He’s patient. Observant. And doesn’t seem to get in much of a hurry…for anything (including the heroine). As I was thinking about him, watching him sit at his table spreading out all the pieces, propping the puzzle box in front of him to help guide his actions, grazing his fingers along all the pieces, examining each one with care, I thought how opposite we are.

Me and Christian (Not Gray).

I’ve never been one to sit still long enough to put a puzzle together. I’ve tried. Small puzzles are easy. I’ve helped my kids with them. But the 1000 piece puzzles, uh, not so much. I get frustrated. I think it should be easier. 

And you know what I end up doing? 

Forcing pieces that really aren’t meant to be together, together. 

Wrecking the whole thing.

Because each piece has a fit. And when one piece gets jammed somewhere it shouldn’t, the rest of the puzzle suffers.

My husband is similiar to my book hero. Loves puzzles. Good at them. Patient with them. We bought one once, a lion in Africa. I bowed out early, also his barbs at my pitiful lack of puzzle playing encouraged me to quit sooner. Even if they were in flirty fun gests.

When it was all done, after a week of working. A gorgeous, powerful lion graced our kitchen table. Thank Heaven we ate off TV trays, right?

It was such a beautiful sight to see.

Does your life ever feel like a big 1000 piece puzzle? Jumbled. Messy. Out of order. Are you ready to give up? Put pieces where they don’t belong? 

I think God is very much like my hero in the book, as He is observant, patient and careful about fitting the right pieces in the right place. He gives us a picture of what He wants our lives to look like and then guides each one of us. Each step of our day, events in our lives…are one piece of the puzzle. 

When we’re obeying and trusting, the pieces fit. They lock one into another and yes, it takes time, patience and observance to fit them in place. 

If we get in a hurry, make a mistake, try to fit things where they don’t belong, we slow it down. As if it weren’t already slow.

But after a time, a long time we’ll see ourselves and our lives in His image on the puzzle box! A beautiful sight to behold!

“But we all, with
unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being
transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of
the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 3:18

Do you like puzzles? Why or why not?

*I’m still holding the name-that-dog contest on my facebook page! If you’d like to participate, “Like” my page and give me a unique name for a Saint Bernard for the new story I’m writing. No limit to the names! Winner gets a $10 Amazon/Starbucks card (your choice). If I pick a name many have shared, I’ll pick the first one who said it. Share with others! Tweet! Facebook! Thanks! Contest ends Friday at midnight.

*photo credit: freedigitalphotos
On Facebook!
Come by and let’s chat! 

I Need A Name!

I’m having a contest over on my facebook page! My current novel has a few pets. One is a Saint Bernard. I need a name that is unique, something you normally wouldn’t name a Saint Bernard!

Here’s the rules:
“Like” my facebook page and leave as many names as you want! The more the merrier! I will choose a name and whoever’s name I choose gets a $10 Amazon or Starbucks card (your choice!)

Names must be on the 
facebook page ONLY! 

If contestants enter the same name and I choose that name, I will award the first person who entered it. 

And if you’re not stingy, feel free to share this on facebook or give it a little tweet! And also, when the book comes out you’ll have bragging rights. “Hey, I picked that name. Got the card.”

Happy Monday, Everyone! Do you have a pet? What kind and what’s its name?

Faith Readers Review: Gone to Ground

I let it slip by. I guess I’ve been busy. Whatever. Point is, I haven’t posted our book club’s review of Gone to Ground by Brandilyn Collins. Brandilyn writes Seatbelt Suspense and she’s one of my favorite authors in Christian writing.

Vacations, night school and various other obligations kept many of our ladies from attending, but they did read the book. We kicked off conversation with brownies–an assortment. Turtle, chocolate chip, white icing and brownie bites. It was only fitting since Cherrie May, one of the southern characters ate them with the victim before the police found her dead! Dun, dun, dun!

We chose this book and by us, I mean the ladies. I choose the genre and give about 5 selections, then I sit back and watch them duke it out on which one to read. Kidding. They don’t duke it out…much. And when the picks all seem good to the ladies, they just download the others on their Kindles anyway!

Here’s a few things that were said: NO SPOILER ALERTS!!!

“I liked that she set it in Mississippi. I think she portrayed a small southern town well.” (Uh, we live in MS near Memphis)

“I thought using three women in first person was a little confusing at first.”

“I did too, but then once I figured out who was who, it didn’t bother me anymore.”

“I thought the twists were great and I had no idea who the killer was!”

“Me either!”

“I did.” (that was me btw)

“I thought the way she unfolded everything was well done. I hate books that at the end, the killer tells how he did everything. Who would do that? I mean a sprinkle of something maybe, but to basically tell the whole thing, uh, that’s the author not able to write a good story.” (Take notes, writers. Readers want organic story, not the villain telling it all at the end.)

“I didn’t care for the written dialect. I could figure out how she talked after the author described her. That just irritated me.”

“I loved her descriptions and I was into the story from page one.”

 “I let my mom read it and she devoured it in a night.” 

“I’d like to read more of her books.” 

Rating: 1-5 stars. 4!

Here’s a peek at Gone to Ground:

Brandilyn Collins website
Amaryllis, Mississippi is a scrappy little town of strong backbone and southern hospitality. A brick-paved Main Street, a park, and a legendary ghost in the local cemetery are all part of its heritage. Everybody knows everybody in Amaryllis, and gossip wafts on the breeze. Its people are friendly, its families tight. On the surface Amaryllis seems much like the flower for which it’s named–bright and fragrant. But the Amaryllis flower is poison. 

In the past three
years five unsolved murders have occurred within the town. All the victims were
women, and all were killed in similar fashion in their own homes. And just two
nights ago—a sixth murder.
Clearly a killer
lives among the good citizens of Amaryllis. And now three terrified women are
sure they know who he is—someone they love. None is aware of the others’
suspicions. And each must make the heartrending choice to bring the killer
down. But each woman suspects a different man. 

Our next genre was Medical Thrillers and the ladies chose, Code Triage by Candace Calvert. (I’ve finished it already!)

I talked about my crazy dog the other day at Lisa Jordan’s blog. Due to what happened, we had her groomed. I asked the people to cut her like a Schnauzer. OMG. I came home and my husband said, “Hey, what’s with the old Japanese Kung fu do?” 


Yeah…this is what they did to my dog! But I didn’t take her back and demand they fix her because after what she did to me, she has the grandpa beard coming. Punishment.

After LOL!!!!
Everybody Wang Chung
tonight! Oh wait,
they can’t because…
Everybody was Kung
Fu Fighting!

Go read the story…you’ll understand! 

Do you read suspense? Why or why not? Also, what do you think of my dog? LOL! 

Grateful Heart

Everyone gets their study, CD, Bible,
steno pad, and a pen. All set!

I wouldn’t say I’m ungrateful. I could say, I don’t think about being grateful. I’m a take-it-for-granted kind of person at times. I suppose we all are. 

Lately, I’ve been acutely aware of how blessed I am. I wrote a blog post titled FORWARD several weeks ago. You can read it and see all the cool pictures HERE! I talked about letting hurts go. How I had to let some of mine go and when I did, God opened up an amazing opportunity for me at my church.

The last few months, while still working on my novels and getting them off to critique partners, I’ve been writing a study for new and growing believers. If you’ve been around the last couple of months, here or on fb, you know this. (Plug: Please stop by and “like” my facebook page. You can click “like” on the sidebar right here on my site!)

The week before I went on vacation, my BFF “Jane”, and I printed the studies, coversheets, bound them  and then burned and labeled CDs. Yep, I made a mixed tape (giggle) for my class. One or two worship songs that go along with the chapters of study I wrote. 

As Jane handed me the books and I bound them, we listened to the CD. And in the middle of it God, with a powerful force, stopped me in my tracks. 


And this is what I heard inside me.

“This will be the first Bible study most of these people have ever done. And they’re your words. My words. Our words.”

The weight of that overwhelmed me like a tidal wave. At that moment it was like the song says, “If grace is an ocean we’re all sinking…”

I looked at “Jane” and she stopped gathering books and stared at me. I couldn’t even speak what I’d heard, the raw emotion had gathered in my throat and squeezed. But somehow she knew. And she cried with me. For me. Because of me.

I seriously doubt any of those people coming to this study will ever know the magnitude of gratefulness I feel or the love I have for them. I so desperately want to see them succeed to live a consistent Christian life. I want them to find the treasure of God’s Word to see it vividly come alive in their hearts, in their minds, and in their lives (same in fiction). I know it’s what “Jane” wants as well. 

I doubt they will realize how blessed I am and will be to see them work through the pages of the study. 

I don’t deserve it. I’m grateful for the opportunity to be used. 

And you know what? 

I can honestly say, that while I’ve been writing fiction–I haven’t been discontent. I haven’t whined and wondered, “When Lord? How much longer will I have to wait to see our message, our stories in print?” (Because as an inspirational writer, I feel like God nudges me in the right direction and gives me ideas and words to say so they’re mine and His–Ours.)

Tonight Jane and I will start our first class. We might have five, we might have 25. I’m not sure. We might have 1. Doesn’t matter. 

What matters is growing and maturing in God. Learning and living His Word. Knowing Him intimately. Using what He’s given you to bless others. And whoever shows up in that class tonight has made their first step forward. 

“I’m not saying that I have this all
together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for
Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong:
By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on
the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and
I’m not turning back.” Philippians 3:12-14 MSG

What have you been doing to bless others in your church, to move forward? What has someone done to bless you? 
Join me over at Living By Grace on Facebook and encourage other women. Come be a blessing! (You can find and “Like” Living By Grace to sidebar of the site!)

Research, Chocolate, and Cake!

I’ve been at my mom’s all week, playing with my great niece…she’s a doll I tell ya, a doll! And today, I’m in St. Louis with my sister! 

Yep, it’s a research trip for a new book I’ve been plotting. I grew up a little over an hour away, so I’m familiar, but I haven’t looked at it from a writer’s view and I haven’t been to some of the places my characters will be! 

If you love chocolate desserts and drinks you
MUST CLICK HERE to see where I’ll be!

I’ll be visiting Lafayette Square and Bailey’s Chocolate Bar (which may or may not be research) as well as a few other places my characters will hang out, live, or work!

Saturday is Crimson’s first birthday party! Seems like just yesterday she was born. I blogged about it HERE.

Holding Crimson after she was born!
Crimson a year later! She’s a mess! 🙂

I’m getting her fake food for her new toddler kitchen and a gift card to KFC, since she loves potatoes and gravy from there! Yeah, I’m that aunt! 

Sunday, I’ll be heading home. So with all the crazy busy stuff going on, I’ll be taking a blogging break on Monday, but will be back on Wednesday!

I talked about romance and dog poop over at Lisa Jordan’s blog yesterday. I’d love for you to come by! Lisa’s new website is gorgeous like her!

If someone gave you a chunk of change and told you to visit somewhere fun this summer, where would you go?