Wednesday, December 28, 2011

4 Things Worth Bringing into 2012

I'm a girl who likes her lists, and who likes fresh starts.

I've been doing some thinking about 2011. About things that went well and things that did not go well. I've been thinking about what will come with me, and what I would rather leave behind.

Here are 4 things I will bring into 2012 with me:

1. Forever Reign by Hillsong. My heart beats a little faster every time the worship band at our church launches into it.

2. A lyric from the above mentioned song:

You are God. Of all else I'm letting go.

I am letting go of my grip on my career. Of my need for control. Of my insecurity. Of my fears for my children. Of my need to be perfect.

This will be a daily commitment, because I know every morning I'm going to wake up holding on tight to those things, and that every morning I will have to pry open my hands, release them, and grab hold of Him instead.

3. An action plan for growing closer to God. I love the way that Richard Foster puts it in his book on disciplines where he says that the disciplines themselves (studying, fasting, praying) aren't what make you closer to God, but they put you in the position for Him to draw closer to you.

I've already talked about my plan to read the chronological Bible thought I bought 10 years ago (at least). I'm also going to read Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, which I was apparently the last person in the world to know about.





Well, not really, because my husband hadn't heard of it, and neither had my best friend, Roseanna. But everyone at my Christmas party last week had, and the women who were reading it were tearing up when they talked about it. Plus, with 552 reviews on Amazon, it still has 5-stars. Unbelievable.

4. A new friend, who will become a sister.

This is Molly.



And she's going to marry my brother-in-law (pictured beside her, as you might guess) sometime this next year. I'm an only child, and my husband has just the one brother, so this is a very big deal to me. So big of a deal that I once told Chris I thought I should get veto power over my future sister-in-law. (He agreed, which is a little shocking.)

But I won't need to exercise my authority. She's awesome.

What are you bringing into 2012 with you?


Stephanie Morrill is a twenty-something living in Overland Park, Kansas with her husband and two kids. Her only talents are reading, writing, and drinking coffee, so career options were somewhat limited. Fortunately, she discovered a passion for young adult novels and has been writing them ever since. Stephanie is the author of The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series and is currently working on other young adult projects. She enjoys encouraging and teaching teen writers and does so on her blog www.GoTeenWriters.com. To connect with Stephanie and read samples of her books, check out www.StephanieMorrillBooks.com.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

New Year’s Reading Resolutions by Camy Tang

Camy here! As 2011 draws to a close, how did you do on your reading goals for the year? (Did you have any reading goals? LOL)

I wanted to read more Love Inspired Suspenses but didn’t read as many as I wanted to. I just didn’t have time! I did read a rare historical romance since I happened to get a copy I wouldn’t otherwise have gotten my hands on--my friend Becca Whitham let me borrow Practice to Deceive by Patricia Veryan, which is selling for $40 on Amazon for just a “Good” grade used copy! (I love Becca, by the way!)

I got a chance to read an advance copy of Saving Hope by Margaret Daley, a romantic suspense that’s the first book in the Men of the Texas Rangers series. It was so awesome! I love Margaret’s Love Inspired Suspense novels, but this is her first single title novel and it’s terrific!

I also reread an old book I loved when I was a teenager, Regency Miss by Alix Melbourne. This was actually the very first Regency romance I ever read, and I loved it. As an entree into Regency romances, it was perfect. I read it again to see if it was as good as I remember, and it was. :)

For this coming year, my goal is again to try to read all the Love Inspired Suspense novels each month. I really love them, but I just don’t have time to read them all. I’m also “reading” several books on audiobook, like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which is on my MP3 player for me to listen to when I go running.

{{You can get Mp3 players to listen to audiobooks from Office Depot deals and find other players that are great for audiobooks.}}

What did you read this year? What are you hoping to read next year?

Camy Tang writes romance with a kick of wasabi. Out now is the first book in her new series, Protection for Hire, which is like Stephanie Plum meets The Joy Luck Club. She is a staff worker for her church youth group, and leads one of the worship teams for Sunday service. On her blog, she ponders frivolous things like knitting, running, dogs, and Asiana. Visit her website to sign up for her quarterly newsletter.

Click here to find out how you can join my Street Team—it’s free and there’s lots of chances to win prizes!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas Eve!



Merry Christmas Eve, everyone! It's one of my favorite nights of the year. The very air just feels holy in expectation. I can't wait to celebrate tonight with my family, but I always try to find one quiet moment alone to gaze up at the star studded sky, (even if its cloudy) and just feel Jesus. He's there, you know. And it's almost His birthday :)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Merry Christmas from Ashley


Some of my favorite Christmas cards when I was younger were the ones that included letters about all the adventures different families had gone on throughout the year. I thought I'd do the same for you now. So pretend you've just walked out to your mailbox, opened it up, and this is in a red envelope. And I wrote your name and address with a silver sharpie so it's really pretty. :-)


To our friends and family:

Merry Christmas! We hope this note finds you and your family immeasurably blessed this Christmas season. Since it's been a year since you last heard from us, here's a quick rundown of things that happened this past year in our lives:


  • No, we still do not have any children, thank you for asking.
  • In April we welcomed a new little nephew. He continues to be adorable and cute and fun to hang out with. His parents are quite overjoyed. :-)
  • In May, Henry celebrated his birthday. There was nothing particularly exciting that happened here, just that he got another year older. Yay!
  • Also, my wonderful dear friend Topanga got married in May. I call her husband Darcy, and it fits. They are so good for each other. I love it.
  • In July we celebrated our two year anniversary in Aspen. It definitely doesn't feel like we've been married for two years. Sometimes it feels like it's been forever. In a good way. :-)
  • In July and August, I got my very first stamp in my passport when I went to Guatemala to meet my Compassion child, Brian. I'm pretty sure that was the best thing I've ever done in my life to date. That kid may as well carry my heart around with him in his backpack.
  • In September I went back to camp and hung out with my very favorite camp friends. Then I went to the Baltimore Aquarium and was pleased to find that it is exactly as I remember it when I was six. 
  • In October Henry and I went to a real live pumpkin patch. This is significant because I'd never actually seen pumpkins growing on the vines before. It was pretty cool.
  • Also in October, we acquired a pet guinea pig. Her name is Charlee. She has a mohawk. 
  • In November, we were adventurous and tried our very first turducken for Thanksgiving. We are also rather sure this will become a tradition.
  • That brings us to this month when we will celebrate Christmas, and the wedding of my very dear friend K! 
Well, that about brings you up to speed on our year. Though I didn't have the chance to write all this out by hand, print out the picture, and mail it directly to you, I hope it puts a smile on your face. :-) 

Merry Christmas, friends!

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Different Christmas


This year, I purposely set our Christmas tree up in a different place. I left our Christmas village in the box and created a scene out of choir boys, pine trees, and snow men. Instead of outlining our front window with lights, I set an angel and the three wise men on the sill. I used the same Nativity scene as in past years but changed the arrangement a bit. I bought new stockings, embroidered our names on them for the first time, and hung them somewhere we’ve never hung stockings before. We’ve even altered our Christmas Eve tradition.

I did all this knowing that our Christmas is going to be very different this year. My family has gone through some changes that are making the holidays . . . well . . . hard. Trying to do things as we always have would only make it more obvious that special days like Christmas will never be quite the same again. Instead of allowing difficult change to rob us of our joy, we are using it as an opportunity to weave in some fun change as well—changes that we chose.

The holidays have a way of magnifying our losses, resurrecting the pain and knowledge that, no matter how hard we pray and plan, it won’t be like last year. People are missing. Broken relationships mean sharing loved ones and being more flexible. Some traditions get lost in the rubble; others we need to skip so we won’t add more grief to the day. This is when we must choose whether to wallow in the lost traditions or make new ones and ask God to help us enjoy them just as much.

I’ve found that making up my mind to do Christmas differently has helped in the process of grieving the loss that forced the changes. Are we sad? Yes! Will Christmas morning feel strange? I know it will. But I also know that God has been good to us through these life-altering circumstances, and that Christmas is about His Son, not my traditions. This is our opportunity to focus on His goodness, including the ways that He inspired creativity and allowed us to have fun no matter what.

Are you facing a different kind of Christmas this year? Ask God to help you accept the changes even as you grieve, and show you how to make this season of celebrating Christ’s birth different in a good way.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Calling All Girls!

I know this post is supposed to be about grace but I'm going to have to beg for your grace instead! I have been up for days with a teething baby and a manuscript. Both of them are just as needy!

{I promise to get back to our 30 day challenge -- in the new year -- so let's call it our 60 day challenge. I want to hear how it's going for all of you.}

In the meantime, I just found out that Zondervan is publishing my first book, The Bare Naked Truth About Waiting, in Spring 2013.

SO -- you wanna help with the book?

I have a small group of girls who are answering discussion questions for me -- just to make sure I'm on the right track with the book as I write it.

If you're interested in being a part of this select group, leave a comment with your e-mail address.

Can't wait to hear from you!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Rant About Out of Print Books

Camy here! Forgive me, but this is going to be a full-on rant.

My friend let me borrow her copy of Practice to Deceive by Patricia Veryan, a Georgian romance author who died a few years ago. Practice to Deceive was published in hardcover in 1985 (with a rather nice pencil drawn cover) with one other English version, mass market paperback with a truly horrid cover in 1986.

Practice to Deceive is the first book in the Golden Chronicles, one of the Georgian romantic intrigue series that Patricia Veryan was famous for. The series premise is fascinating--in the months after the Jacobite rebellion in England, there was a six part cypher that pointed to the location of Prince Charlie’s treasure and also the names of his financial supporters. The series is about the six parts, each carried by a different man, escaping the agents of the Crown.

The book was incredibly entertaining, but I also knew, even before I started reading it, that the copy I held was extremely rare. The paperback copy sells for a minimum of $45 on Amazon! It’s because the book is out of print, and the publisher no longer prints copies of it. Therefore, the few copies left out there are for sale for exorbitant prices.

I’m returning my friend’s copy to her (carefully stored in a plastic bag to protect it), and I’d like my own copy of this book but I can’t afford it! I think it’s ridiculous how some of these out of print books are being sold for so much!

Most of the time, readers just want to read the story, they’re not out to collect the books. Readers might want a copy (like I do) to reread occasionally, or to let someone else borrow it. Most typical readers don’t need pristine copies to keep on their climate-controlled collectors’ bookshelves.

(Okay, well, I’ll admit I’d prefer a nice copy but only because I’m a germaphobe, not because I need a pristine copy to collect. But I’ll settle for a used copy just to have the book to reread.)

Why do books go out of print? Why can’t publishers go through the contract processes to reprint them? Why do online book sellers have to charge an arm and a leg?

Why is it so hard for a reader to read a good book???????

Camy Tang writes romance with a kick of wasabi. Out now is the first book in her new series, Protection for Hire, which is like Stephanie Plum meets The Joy Luck Club. She is a staff worker for her church youth group, and leads one of the worship teams for Sunday service. On her blog, she ponders frivolous things like knitting, running, dogs, and Asiana. Visit her website to sign up for her quarterly newsletter.

Click here to find out how you can join my Street Team—it’s free and there’s lots of chances to win prizes!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Rachel Coker - published at 16!

Stephanie here! When I first heard about Rachel Coker - who is 16 and has her debut novel releasing this February from Zondervan - I practically ran to my computer to email her. And I'm so glad I did, because Rachel is not only a gifted writer, she's a sweet, Godly chica. It's been such a blessing to interview her.




Rachel, at what age did you start writing Interrupted? Was it your first novel?

I first got the idea for Interrupted when I was fourteen years old. Most of the book was written in the spring of 2010, when I was fourteen. I was fifteen when I was signed with Zondervan, and did a few revisions after that, but I’d say that over 90% of the book was written before my fifteenth birthday.

Funnily enough, Interrupted is not the first novel I ever wrote! When I was twelve, I wrote a novella (short novel) about an Irish orphan at the turn of the century. It was back when I was first trying to develop my writing style, and really reflects my personality at the time. I was a very dramatic, sensitive child. ;)

Oh, boy. Me too.


How did you know your book was "finished" and ready for the eyes of an agent?

I don't really know if any book is ever really 'finished'. A lot of authors say they knew their book was agent-ready when they looked over it and felt it was finally perfect, or at least close to it. I don't think that's the case at all. I'm always finding things to fix about Interrupted, even in the post-editing phase. I think it was more a matter of: I spent a lot of time writing this book, and I finally think it's good. It's not perfect, but it has a lot of potential and it's something I would be interested in reading. That's when I knew that I was ready to pursue publication.

What were the first steps you took toward getting published?

Well, the first thing I did was pray a lot. I don’t really know what I was praying for—just that God would make things happen if it was His will, I guess. Finally I decided to just go for it. I figured getting published was such a long shot that if it wasn’t His plan for me, there was no way it would ever happen.

Did you look for an agent? How did Interrupted get in the hands of editors?

Yes, I did my best to find an agent, because I knew there was very little chance getting signed with a good publishing company if I didn’t. I actually checked out a big book of Christian agents from the library, and then Googled a list online. I sent cover letters to about fifteen people, and only one or two were even interested.

Bill (my agent) and I just clicked from the beginning, though. Everything he said was just so in agreement with what I believed. We both prayed about it, and felt God leading us to work together. So I was over the moon when I signed him to be my agent. He’s the one who got out there and sold my book to the editors at Zondervan.

Are you in any kind of critique group? Who are the big supporters of your writing in your life?

Actually, no, I’m not in any kind of critique group, but if you know of a good one let me know! I’m very personal about my writing, and I think the only people who have even read Interrupted outside of my editors are my mom and sister. They read everything I write and tell me what they think about it. Our family is full of big readers, so I respect everything they say. I love that they are blunt with me, too. My mom is not shy about telling me when something seems to be too big of a stretch, and my sister can find character flaws in anybody. And of course, my agent and editor are fantastic supporters. Reading their comments always make me smile.

What made the big difference in you going from being an aspiring writer to being a contracted author?

I think timing is really important. Two years ago, I never could have dealt with all the pressure and business of being a signed author like I can now. I also don’t think I was mature enough to write at the same level. I never want to feel like I have to do everything too early in life, even if I’m tempted to sometimes. No, I want time to live and grow as a result of my choices and mistakes. You need time to let your feelings and thoughts mature, before you can make a lot of the big decisions that being a contracted author takes. I feel like sixteen is a good age for me, personally.

Very interesting. What surprised you most about being published?

The amount of support I’ve been getting, definitely. Before Interrupted, I never talked much about my writing or my desire to be a writer. I figured I was too young and everyone would be secretly laughing at me. But ever since I’ve started talking about my journey, I’ve been blown away by the number of teens and other aspiring authors who have told me they were encouraged by my story. I never thought being a writer could mean connecting with so many different people. And my book isn’t even out yet!

I'm eager for it to hit shelves!


What advantages are there to being published at 16? What disadvantages are there?

The biggest advantage is that it creates quite a buzz. Everyone wants to talk about you, and interview you. It makes for a really cool story, and gave me an excuse to take a year off of writing in high school. ;)

The downside is that, at sixteen, you still suffer from a lot of peer pressure. I’m always worrying that my book is being hyped too much, and wonder what my friends will think. Will they all think it’s lame? And I also worry that people will judge my writing based on my age, and not on whether or not I am a good writer. The last thing I want is someone to say, “Oh, it was a good effort from a sixteen-year-old.” I’d rather them just like it, or hate it. You know what I mean?

I do. And I'm so appreciative of you taking the time to share some of your journey with us.


I had such a great time emailing back and forth with Rachel. I've found her to be sweet, professional, full of faith. Oh, and very brave. She didn't seem too freaked out by my exuberance.





About Interrupted: Can love really heal all things? If Sam Carroll hadn't shown up, she might have been able to get to her mother in time. Instead, Allie Everly finds herself at a funeral, mourning the loss of her beloved mother. She is dealt another blow when, a few hours later, she is sent from Tennessee to Maine to become the daughter of Miss Beatrice Lovell, a prim woman with a faith Allie cannot accept. Poetry and letters written to her mother become the only things keeping Allie's heart from hardening completely. But then Sam arrives for the summer, and with him comes many confusing emotions, both toward him and the people around her. As World War II looms, Allie will be forced to decide whether hanging on to the past is worth losing her chance to be loved.



Rachel Coker resides in Virginia with her parents and two sisters. She has a passion for great books, and has been surrounded by them all her life. Her gift for writing became apparent at the age of eleven, at which time her parents signed her up for a year of lessons with a professional writing coach. Rachel also has a deep love for classical music and old black-and-white movies. When she is not writing or playing the piano, Rachel enjoys spending time with her family and friends and serving her Lord and Savior.

Look for her book in stores February 1st. Support teen writers!

Stephanie Morrill is a twenty-something living in Overland Park, Kansas with her husband and two kids. Her only talents are reading, writing, and drinking coffee, so career options were somewhat limited. Fortunately, she discovered a passion for young adult novels and has been writing them ever since. Stephanie is the author of The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series and is currently working on other young adult projects. She enjoys encouraging and teaching teen writers and does so on her blog www.GoTeenWriters.com. To connect with Stephanie and read samples of her books, check out www.StephanieMorrillBooks.com.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Book trailer for my first YA!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qJa7O8je-xM

I'm sooo impressed with this trailer my awesome peeps at Barbour made! Better than I could have hoped! What do y'all think? :)

I can't wait for you to meet Addison January 1st!

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Hallelujah, We've Been Found


Hallelujah, we've been found
A child is born to save us now
Hallelujah, light is come
A Savior who will set us free
A promise for those who believe
-BarlowGirl

When I was eight years old I got mad at my parents and decided to run away from home. Apparently, I didn't think it through very much because the only thing I grabbed in my haste to leave our house was the newspaper. I found that to be a major mistake five minutes later when I'd exhausted the comics and the finance section couldn't keep my attention. But I stayed outside, huddled under a spruce, waiting for someone to come find me. I'd hoped my mom would stop doing the dishes and suddenly find me missing. I imagined that she might panic and then come rushing out of the house, calling my name. She'd call the neighbors and see if I'd gone to their houses, and get in the car to drive around the neighborhood. But none of that happened. (I probably should have chosen a better place to go if I'd wanted that sort of reaction. My spruce happened to be in view of our front room windows.)

I eventually went back inside and pouted because nobody had come to look for me. The truth is, I hadn't really wanted to run away from home. All I wanted was for someone to look for me. I just wanted to be found.

Not much has changed since then. When I'm in the middle of a big crowd of people, I want to be found. When I feel like people misunderstand me, I want to be found. I think part of why I always wanted a boyfriend when I was in high school was because I wanted to be found! At the heart of it all, I want to feel important and valuable to someone. After all, you only look for things when they're highly valuable to you. Nobody's gone looking for  a candy wrapper, but the second you lose your car keys everything else goes out the window. 

The truth is, even when I might feel like just another person in a crowd, I am important enough to warrant the world's biggest search party. And you are, too. 

I love Christmas, mostly because it forces me to remember that I've been found. I am valuable enough that I've been sought after, wooed, and rescued...even though I've run away. And in case you need the reminder as often as I do, you are also valuable enough that you're being sought after, wooed, and rescued too. 

 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent." -Luke 15:4-7


Ashley Mays is the former Editorial Assistant for Brio and Brio & Beyond magazines and currently writes her own fiction for teens. She enjoys rock climbing, people watching in airports, and expanding her shoe collection. Ashley lives with her husband in Colorado. No, they don't ski. Learn more about Ashley on facebook or on her website: http://www.ashley-mays.com/.

Monday, December 05, 2011

A Fresh Perspective on Grandparents


This is a picture of my grandmother, Camilla La Chapell, taken long before I knew her. In fact, I have a feeling that my dad—the oldest child in his family—hadn’t been born yet. When my cousin sent this picture to me the day after Grandma passed away, I couldn’t stop looking at it. I’ve seen old pictures of Grandma before, but this is the first time that I really took time to appreciate her youth and beauty.

My memories star a grandmother in her late 50s on up. But this picture reveals that she was young once too. She had dreams and plans, friends and hobbies. The grandma who seemed to always wear the same dress when I visited her, obviously enjoyed pretty, stylish clothes and getting “dolled up” as she would call it. She had favorite music and went on dates.

When I look at her smile, it’s hard to believe that she had already survived the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression and was living through World War II. As a girl, she’d lost a little sister to an illness that would have been cured easily today with over-the-counter medicine and traveled from Kansas to California with her parents and six siblings, with all of their belonging loaded on a truck. She had lived on foods that trigger a yuck face whenever I hear about them, like sandwiches filled with nothing but lard or onions. She’d gone to high school but also worked to help support her family. Yet, she looks completely content and joyful. By the time this picture was taken, she’d gone to business college, started working as a bookkeeper at a local air force base, and (I think) married my grandpa. More trials and triumphs awaited her, all of which God used to mold her into the woman that I remember for her strength, courage, generosity, love, and unwavering faith.

What goes through your mind when you consider that your grandparents and parents were once young like you? How many of their stories have you heard? What experiences do you think made them who they are today?

Use the holidays as an opportunity to get to know your family’s older generations in a deeper way. If you don’t have grandparents or don’t get to see them, reach out to an older person at your church or in your community. Pay special attention to what they have learned from both the good and the difficult in life. What might you gain from their wisdom and insight?

Thursday, December 01, 2011

the calm between

I have been a bit MIA lately because I've been directing a youth musical - and well, it's been quite draining - mentally and physically. We opened last weekend with four great shows - well, three - because opening night? Well, that's a whole blog post in itself! Tomorrow we go back for four more shows this weekend and since I won't be directing the next musical, I get to

b r e a t h e

again!

But today? Today is my middle daughter's 11th birthday!!!! So today I will bake a cake and wait in earnest hope that fedEx shows up with her gift. (please, please, please!) We'll take her out to dinner and have a quiet celebration. She'll have a sleepover with a few friends next weekend perhaps. She's always been my child who likes smaller, quieter celebrations.

I love seeing the uniqueness God created in each of my girls, and to me - that's what birthdays are all about. Celebrating the arrival of a beloved child of God, completely unique and utterly loved. That's you today too - whether it's your birthday or not.

You are loved by God.
You are wonderfully unique (and that's a good thing!)
You are worth celebrating.

Love,
Sarah


Sarah Anne Sumpolec
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