Long Hiatus, But So Busy!

It feels like it has been forever since I’ve written on the site…oh wait, it’s because it has been forever!

I’ve been busy writing my next novel, and working on some non-writing projects in an effort to close those things out and focus solely on finishing The Hurricane Effect.

Some of you may have noticed all the updates and my new partner, Jordan Parker over at Clayton Family Kitchen. Things are going well over there, with our recent launch of recipe videos. If you love reading recipes as much as books, you need to check out what we’re up to over there!

I’ve also been concentrating on a project with my husband that we are busy trying to finish. It’s been a couple years in the making, but we’re getting to the finish line on some of the bigger aspects of that project and we’re are thrilled. We can’t wait to share this new venture with everyone!

And last, but of course not least, I’ve been working on The Hurricane Effect. I’m at the midway point and I feel like I’m pushing over one of the biggest hurdles. Knowing I have 50% of the novel done is always a welcomed thing!

In the next couple of weeks, I’ll have more to share about The Hurricane Effect and just some interesting stories from my life as of late!

Thanks for hanging in there with me!

Am I Wasting my Life?

The title of this post asks a question that crosses my mind all the time. It’s a common thought that sneaks into my subconscious, clouding any clarity I might have had moments before.

For me, this question arises in reference to my writing career and its relation to my faith. If you haven’t noticed yet, I’m a Christian and my faith isn’t far from most of my thoughts. I have thoughts like, “how are my novels sharing my faith?” or “how are they making a difference in people’s lives in relation to my faith?”

For that reason I find myself in an interesting conundrum when it comes to writing fiction. My stories are not what you would classify as “Christian” genre. I write mysteries and I’m working on a romance. My characters aren’t always Christians, nor do they make decisions based on those values.

In fact, I really never wanted to be classified into the Christian genre. Why you ask?

Because how many non-believer’s peruse the Christian section of a bookstore? 

Don’t get me wrong, Christian books are wonderful tools and great for someone who’s already a believer, but they do nothing for someone who isn’t.

There are wonderful writer’s who speak to the Christian heart and encourage us in our daily journeys that I admire and adore. And this isn’t to say, I can’t write Christian stories or non-fiction. I used to write weekly devotionals for my church in college and loved every minute of it, but I’ve always felt strongly about the fact that I want my fictional stories to reach beyond the Christian genre. I’m not closing the door to the opportunity to write Christian fiction, its just not where I feel I need to be at the moment. In the future that may change.

There has always been this nagging voice in the back of my head that says I’m wasting my life on pointless stories that I want to put to rest once and for all.

I recently ran across an article by Jon Bloom for www.desiringgod.org which asked the question as to whether J. R.R. Tolkien, the author of The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy wasted his life by writing and creating an intricate fictional world called Middle-earth. 

It’s been well documented that Tolkien was a Christian. So why did he spend so much of his time writing about a fantasy world?

Bloom writes, “Tolkien never intended his tales of Middle-earth to be a desertion from reality, but a means of seeing beyond the confined walls of our perceptions to a much larger reality beyond.”

I think this is a wonderfully accurate statement about fictional stories. Fiction can help us better understand and connect to the world around us. Look at  the history of fairy tales and their original intentions. They weren’t stories created for escapism, but as lessons for children in particular. Very rarely does a work of fiction not have some questions within it that make the reader have to think beyond the surface of the story.

Bloom goes on to say, “There is a deep, profound reason why God created us to be story-makers and storytellers, and why, when the Word became flesh (John 1:14), he frequently spoke in stories. The best make-believe stories help us better understand the real world. And in our day, such stories are needed more than ever.”

I’m in no way saying that The Kings of Charleston is on the scale of J.R.R. Tolkien, but I hope that people can see beyond the skin of the story to what’s really going on (because there is something deeper, I assure you).

And please don’t take this post to mean that Mr. Bloom’s article justifies every fictional writing or that his opinions are an infallible truth. His words simply resonated with me and what was already going on in my mind and heart when it comes to my writing.

I hope someone who reads The Kings of Charleston is having an internal conversation with themselves, questioning what’s most important in life and what’s right or wrong. I don’t want them to merely read about Casper, I want them to experience her story and ask themselves what they would do if they were her. I hope my stories point to my Christian faith, but I don’t want to outright give them the answers.

After all, does anyone simply believe that God exists because someone told us He does? No, deep seeded faith has to be felt and experienced.

I hope my stories don’t shout at the reader, but whisper in a way that God does to us everyday.

New Year New Goals

Is it just me or did 2014 fly by? Times moving so fast that I’m thinking about my New Year’s Resolutions on January 2nd…haha (or it could be the procrastinator in me).

I’ve never been big on the whole New Year’s Resolution thing. I might set some arbitrary goals, but rarely did I put pressure on myself to have them completed by year’s end. Half the time I didn’t even remember what they were come December.

Last year though, I actually set a resolution, kept it and remembered it by the end of the year. It was really gratifying to be able to look back over the last year and see what I’ve accomplished.

Needless to say, its made me a little more apt to set new resolutions for this year in my personal life and writing life.

So I thought I would share a couple of writing related goals for the coming year to keep me accountable. Feel free on December 31, 2015 to inquire as to whether or not I actually met my goals! (I’m a classic procrastinator, so we’ll see!)

1. Finish the first and second draft of The Hurricane Effect;

2. Submit the complete package for The Kings of Charleston media deal by January 31st;

3. Get the Clayton Family Kitchen back up and running;

4. Hire an assistant to help me juggle all the marketing, social media, etc.; and

4. If I’m feeling really ambitious, I’ll have The Hurricane Effect ready for submission by the end of the year.


Happy New Year Everyone!

Why We Have a Christmas Party

Ever since my husband and I bought our home three years ago, we have had an annual Christmas party for friends and family. This past weekend was our Christmas party and it was a blast as usual.

So many people ask why we have a Christmas party and why we do it the way we do (it’s not potluck), so I thought I would shed some light on our philosophy.

One, I love party planning.  I love finding cute decorating ideas and interesting recipes to share with everyone…which leads to reason number two

I love to cook. It’s my second passion (just check out my recently neglected Clayton Family Kitchen blog…I promise to get back on track once The Hurricane Effect’s 1st draft is done).

Three, my husband is a very social creature. He loves talking and mingling. I always say he could talk to a wall and convince it to do anything he wanted.

All of those reasons are what started our desire to have a Christmas party, but over the years more important reasons have come to outshine them.

We get asked why we provide all the food, when we could have guests bring food.

This started out because I wanted a reason to cook, but now its because we want to provide a place for friends and family to come enjoy themselves without the pressure of having to bring something. This is our opportunity to serve the people in our lives and show them how much we appreciate them. We also don’t know the private lives of everyone who might attend. This meal could be the highlight of their Christmas season. Too often we take for granted that everyone has a huge family waiting for them on Christmas Day. How easy it is to forget that this is really the saddest season of the year for a lot of people (reminders of lost loved ones, or the absence of family). We hope that our party provides an uplifting experience that can bring some joy back into this time of year.

We get asked about the stress of trying to pull off a party for anywhere from 30-50 people.

I’ll admit its very stressful, especially in the hour leading up to the arrival of guests. Things start just getting thrown into the nearest closet or drawer. My mother-in-law comes the night before and we start cooking. This year my parents were able to help and my husband’s sister joins us the day of the party. We have so much fun, even when we can feel the tension in the room. Memories are made in the crazy moments.

This year, I loved watching my husband and his mother trying to make “Frosty hats” from Oreo’s and marshmallows dipped in chocolate. It was comical to watch them try to dip them in the chocolate and get them out successfully.Partyprep

Then there was that moment when three magnums of champagne burst in my freezer, because I didn’t know you couldn’t put champagne in the there. I opened the freezer to see it covered in champagne snow and my heart just sunk. My husband and his sister took spoons and scooped some of the champagne snow declaring that it was awesome, which brought a smile to my face.

I also remember making my mother shell pistachios, and her asking if I thought people couldn’t shell their nuts. It was for a recipe…that I didn’t even have time to finish…sorry Mom. But now, I’ve got a ton of pistachios all ready to eat! Thanks again! 🙂

Or my Dad washing dishes for hours on end, each of us dumping dishes in front of him and he replying he already washed that one…he’s a professional after this party!

Oh and I can’t forget my husband going crazy with the sprinkles on the cake and blowing them all over the kitchen, including onto a plate of grilled cheeses his sister was making. They both burst out in giggles.

There are countless other moments throughout the day that were made into family memories. I got pure joy out of watching my husband interact with his mother, sister and my parents.

We also get asked how we afford to provide the food, etc.

We aren’t rich, but in lieu of buying each other gifts we buy the food and other things for the party. Over the few short years we’ve been doing this we realize how much more we get out of this party than we ever would some material gifts. We are blessed by this party in so many ways. The joy of our family together, the happy faces of our friends who say they look forward to it every year, the ability to bring people together and the chance to get to know them better. We love the opportunity to serve others in our home. We’ve truly learned that it’s better to give than to receive. Our hearts have never been fuller.

And that, my dear friends, is why we have a Christmas party. Wishing everyone a safe and happy Christmas!


The Tale of Two Sisters

When I started writing The Hurricane Effect, my mind was flooded with the thoughts and memories of my husband and the extraordinary way we met. But the more I’ve delved into this story, the more I’ve realized this story is about so much more.

As I go back through the details, I’m reminded not just a love story between two people, but a story of friendships and other relationships.

I’ve felt a wave of nostalgia going through all the memories of the first moments with my husband. I can still remember the first time I heard his voice and how much I loved his deep Southern accent. Unfortunately, after many years of being in the deep South myself, I can no longer hear it. But the memory is with me forever.

But the deeper I go with this whole story, the more memories of others surface and I’ve reveled in their importance.

I grew up an only child, even though I’m technically not. I have two older half-siblings, but they were quite a bit older than I and so we didn’t have shared childhoods. In all respects, I was raised an only child.

So, many times people tell me that I missed out on a wonderful experience because I didn’t share my childhood with any siblings.

But I beg to differ. I didn’t miss anything.

Not because there wasn’t anything to miss, but because they didn’t realize I had “siblings”. I met my first “sister” at the tender age of seven and then later another “sister” in college.

Going through the past, I’ve seen just how little I missed out on. When I’m writing the hard parts of this story, I’m reminded of how my “sisters” have always been there for me.

In my childhood, I had a friend come into my life when I was seven and she’s still with me today. She’s the protective sister, who nowadays gives the best advice and who I automatically think of in a crisis. She’s the calm in the middle of a storm.

But as kids we were each other’s partners in crime (some secrets are still kept between us). Countless hours were spent playing Nintendo, board games, swimming in the pool or sleepovers. We lived down the street from each other, so we were constantly at one another’s homes. Our lives easily intertwined.

I still remember the heartache I felt when she left for college (she was a couple years ahead of me in school). It was like losing a part of myself. I looked forward to the few weekends I got to spend with her at college and when she was home on breaks.

In college, I gained another sister in the most unlikely of ways. But once she was in my life that was it. I spent countless nights sleeping in her dorm when her roommate was gone (I promise I didn’t slobber on the pillows…haha). There’s lots of memories with her, but one sticks out more than others. She’s probably long forgotten, but I still remember just falling apart one day in front of her. She gave me a hug and just let me cry it out. I’m terrible at showing emotion, but it was nice to know I could share that with her and feel comfortable doing it.

So, no I didn’t miss anything. I didn’t miss the good times that come from having siblings or the terrible moments of fights and arguments. We’ve been there, done that and we’re still going strong, despite the distance. And there’s moments, that I get sad and wish they were here. Those times when a phone call just doesn’t feel like enough. I don’t get to talk to them nearly enough (both parties at fault…life gets so busy!), but the moment I talk to them or see them its as if time has stood still. We pick up right where we left off.

Writing The Hurricane Effect, has gave me a new appreciation for my husband, but also the friends…the sisters… who’ve been with me all these years.

No, they aren’t blood family, but some of the strongest bonds are with those who choose to be in your life.


My three sisters (one gained by marriage) and an unhappy flower girl 🙂



Some Inside Info

As promised, I’m revealing a little inside information as to The Hurricane Effect.

If you haven’t been keeping up with the website, The Hurricane Effect is a semi-autobiographical novel based on how I met my husband. It’s still considered fiction, because I’ve changed certain things and people involved in the story.

But something interesting? I’ve used some real live written exchanges between my husband and I in the book.

I’ll be sharing more facts about The Hurricane Effect as I continue working on this project. To make sure you don’t miss anything, sign up to follow my website by email.

A Precious Unexpected Experience

Yeah, that title is a mouthful, but it was the best way I could describe working on The Hurricane Effect. I was really overwhelmed at first and found all kinds of reasons to procrastinate on starting this project.

I was scared, because it was such a personal project. If you know anything about me, I don’t like talking about myself. I’m a pretty private person and I don’t share many details of my life without being asked a direct question. So this whole book, is out of my comfort zone.

Finally, I started writing and now I can’t stop (which is a good thing). I’ve enjoyed so much rummaging through the past and melding it with Drew’s story. Drew’s like any other character I’ve created, but when asked if she’s like me…the answer is a resounding yes and no. She carries a lot of my history and characteristics, but she still has some things that are distinctly hers.

The more I study the history of how my husband and I met, the more in awe I am if the whole situation. My eyes have been opened anew to some of the details, and I’ve adored going through mementos from that time in my life.

I’ve always been acutely aware of God’s hand in everything, but really studying the whole situation in depth just shows how deeply involved he was in the tapestry of my past. It’s amazing.

This project has taken me to places I never expected. I find myself falling deeper in love with my husband (if that was even possible) and understanding the depths of God’s love even more for every minute detail of my life.

BUT, please don’t interpret this to mean that writing about my past has been like walking through a beautiful rose garden. There’s plenty of thorns to contend with in this story.

And for a private person like myself, I’ve had to fight to find the line of what’s too much personal information and what’s best for the story.

It’s an ongoing battle, but hopefully this will create an unforgettable story that I know I was meant to tell.

Check back tomorrow, as I’ll reveal another interesting tidbit about The Hurricane Effect.

Getting to Know Drew

As I revealed yesterday, Drew is the main character’s name and The Hurricane Effect is her story. But Drew is just her nickname. Her full name is Andrew Elizabeth Stillwell. Where did I come up with that one? You’ll have to stay tuned to find out.

A couple things about Drew:

She’s pretty quiet and reserved. She has no desire to be the center of attention. Instead, she loves to sit on the sidelines and soak up everything that’s going on around her.

Some people mistake her reserved nature for being aloof or uninterested, but its just the opposite. Very few details escape her notice.

It’s very difficult for someone to fool Drew with their intentions. Being “fake” with her just doesn’t work, but she might not let on that she knows exactly what their doing.

Drew can read people like a book and she uses it to her full advantage. And coincidentally (or not) she loves to read books. Any book she can get her hands on.

If you want to keep up to date with the newest info on The Hurricane Effect and The Kings of Charleston series, the best way is to follow this website by email. You can find the sign up in the right hand side bar of the main page.

Every Book Needs an Anthem

Music is very important to my writing process. So much so, that I create a “soundtrack” for each of my books. For example, The Kingdom’s Revolt’s title song or “anthem” is “Breath of Life” by Florence + the Machine. That song was the background for the climatic scene in the end. The first time I heard that song, the ending of the whole series flashed through my mind even before the second book had been written.

And The Hurricane Effect is no different. It has a soundtrack and now it has an anthem. Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space” is perfect for part of Drew’s story (oh, did I just reveal the main character’s name?).

Stop by tomorrow to find out her full name and a few tidbits about Drew.

In the meantime, I’ll let you try to figure out how that song fits in.

Honoring Veteran’s Day

I’ve written frequently about the fact that my husband served in the military. Today, I want to give a simple thank you to all the veterans and current military who’ve served or are serving our country, and particularly those who gave the ultimate sacrifice to protect this nation and our freedoms.

Thank you to my husband, who served in Iraq and to my late maternal grandfather who served in Korea.

There are not enough words to express just how deeply thankful we all are for each and every one of you.