This Week: Dayton Book Expo!

I just wanted to remind everyone that the Dayton Book Expo is this Saturday, April 29th!

DBE

Come on Saturday to check out this amazing event for book lovers. There’s going to be almost a hundred authors there signing books. There’s also going to be panel discussions and a Kidz Zone, and local author Sharon Short is this year’s featured author. You can learn more on their website.

I’ll be there signing copies of Somewhere Only We Know and selling my Hope Bracelets. The first 12 people to buy a book will receive a goody bag. And I’ll be giving away bookmarks, stickers, and pens. I’m so excited to participate in this awesome event for my first book signing!

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See you this Saturday from 11am to 4pm at the David H. Pointz Conference Center at Sinclair Community College in Dayton Ohio for the 8th Annual Dayton Book Expo!

5 Writing Tools I Can’t Live Without

Writing is a craft, and you can’t be any good at a craft without the right tools. These are the five tools I can’t live without.

Scrivener
I don’t know why I waited so long to get Scrivener. I had heard so many good things about it, and three months ago I finally bought this amazing software. Seriously, Microsoft Word is nothing compared to this. I love being able to keep all of my writing, research, outlining, and notes in the same place. And I love being able to jump around to work on different parts of what I’m writing, or to switch quickly between writing and outlining. Or even to work on both at the same time.

There was definitely a learning curve to get used to Scrivener. I spent several weeks going through the demo multiple times and reading the handbook. I’m sure there are still many things I need to learn, but for now I’ve got the hang of it. I highly recommend this software to any writer.

Planners
I never get anything done unless I have it written on a To Do List. I tend to be forgetful and have a lot of things running around in my head at once. At the start of each week I have to plan out everything that needs to get done so that I can stay organized and can accomplish what I need to. I have my weekly list of writing tasks, a social media planner, daily writing task lists, and my personal planner. I don’t know what I’d do without all of them.

Colored Pens
I love being as organized as possible, and color coding is a big part of that. I have my set of colored pens that I use for just about everything. Ink Joy pens are my favorite because the colors are bright and they’re easy to write with. Each story I work on has its own color that I use to make edits on paper copies, and I color code in all of my planners as well.

colored pens

Textbooks

I keep most of my writing textbooks on my desk so that they’re right in front of me and I can draw from them for help or inspiration. I have everything from a book on outlining to a book on language creation for science fiction to a baby name book. Some are from college, some I’ve read after college, and others I haven’t gotten to yet. But ever since graduating from college I’ve realized how important it is to continue my writing education, so I try to read from one of these textbooks every day. The craft of writing requires constant learning and fine-tuning in order to do it well.

K-Love

This last one is probably the most important. Writing is my calling, and I want to make sure that God is with me whenever I’m doing what he’s called me to do. So I have Christian radio play in the background all of the time when I’m writing. My favorite station is K-Love. Not only do I get to hear some of my favorite music and artists while I’m working, I get that constant reminder that God is with me and that I’m loved. This music has a way of pushing God’s promises, word, and love into your heart and mind, even if it’s just on in the background. I don’t think I’d be able to do the difficult task of writing every day if I wasn’t constantly listening to these good messages.

Why I Love Engage City Church

I love my church.

My husband and I looked for a really long time to find the right church for us. We had been involved with a church on campus at Wright State, and we really loved spending time with the people of that church, but we knew it wasn’t quite the right fit for us. We also tried going to a local non-denominational one for a while, but when its lead pastor left we did too.

Church-less, we struggled in our young marriage. We both wanted God to be the center of our lives, but we didn’t have the right home to go to to feed that relationship with our Lord.

All of that changed mid-September last year.

Our good friends and then neighbors posted about this brand new church they were going to—Engage City Church. I checked out their website and knew that Jacob and I had to try it out. And our lives haven’t been the same. So I want to brag about my church for a little bit.

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Engage City Church launched on September 18th, 2016 with the lead pastor Doug Wampler and the worship pastor Zach Cogley. What started out as two families coming together with the call to start a church and bring Jesus to the city of Huber Heights, Ohio has turned into an incredible church body. In the seven months of Engage, 148 people have come to Jesus and 74 have been baptized. On April 16th last year they had their first team meeting about the church, and a year later on the week before Easter over 400 people attended the Worship Experience. Engage is changing lives. But it’s not about the numbers. Engage is all about spreading the love of Jesus.

Jacob and I get so much encouragement every time we go to our various small groups—City Men, City Ladies, and our newlywed City Group. We have recently started serving during the Sunday Worship Experiences and we love it. Jacob helps out with the tech crew and I take care of little ones in the nursery.

One of the best parts about Engage City Church is all of the community outreach and serving they do for the city of Huber Heights. Engage has delivered Thanksgiving meals and Christmas presents, had a pink out for breast cancer survivors, given food for students to eat over the weekends, created Blessing Bags to give to those in need, collected winter coats and socks, had a For Our City walk, and so many other things that I can’t think of all of them right now. I’m blown away by all of the good our church has done. I’m so glad I get these chances to love on and serve people.

And next weekend I am so excited for Easter. Engage is putting on Egg the City, a 50,000 egg Easter egg hunt. There’s even going to be prizes for the parents that bring their kids to the hunt, and special prize eggs for kids to find. I am so excited to help out with this event.

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As you can see, Engage City Church is incredible. If you are in the Dayton area, come join us Sundays at Wayne High School at 11am and see just how amazing this church is. And definitely be sure to check out the Egg the City Easter Egg Hunt Saturday, April 15th starting at 10am and Engage’s Easter Worship Experiences Saturday, April 15th at 6pm and Sunday, April 16th at 11am.

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Behind the Scenes of Somewhere Only We Know: Writing a New Story

Before signing my name on copies of Somewhere Only We Know, I first write a phrase that captures one of the main messages of the book: “Write a New Story.”

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Somewhere Only We Know attempts to tackle the very difficult subject of abuse. The book features four girls who experience different kinds of abuse—emotional, physical, and sexual. As a result of the violence in their lives, all of the girls have fallen into varying degrees of silence about what they’ve gone through, with one of the girls even unable to speak altogether.

However, it is through writing and stories that the girls start to find a way to communicate and find hope again. Frankie, the narrator, and Lindsey, the one who doesn’t speak, read many books throughout the course of Somewhere Only We Know, and they learn how to use writing as a way to see other possibilities for their lives.

Writing is how I get through difficult situations in my life, like my experiences with depression. Writing gives me a way to work things out and see new possibilities. Writing is how I find hope.

The one thing I wanted readers to remember when they finished reading the book is that their story isn’t over yet. No matter what you’ve gone through—whether it’s abuse like the girls in my book, or any other difficult situation like depression or an eating disorder—you can change. You can find hope again. You can overcome whatever it is you’ve gone through.

You get to decide how the story ends. You get to write a new story.

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Hope Bracelets

I’ve been working on a way to combine two of my passions—writing and jewelry-making—and I am so excited to announce that I will now be selling Hope Bracelets!

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I’ve been making jewelry since I was twelve years old. I love all of the colorful beads and the peaceful calm I get when I’m making patters and stringing beads. I enjoy any chance I get to work with my hands and let my mind wander into my story worlds.

Ever since Somewhere Only We Know was published I had been trying to think of a way I could help spread the message of hope that the book offers and maybe raise some money for organizations that help victims of abuse. Then I found these really cute charms that say “hope” on them and I decided to make bracelets with them and give a portion of the proceeds to a local domestic violence shelter.

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All of the bracelets are green to tie in with the nature elements of Somewhere Only We Know. Each bracelet is handmade and one-of-a-kind. I’ll be selling them for $10.00 each and donating half of the proceeds to a local shelter.

Get a bracelet. Wear it. Spread hope. And know that part of your purchase is going toward a great cause.

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Favorite Book Feature: The Distance Between Lost and Found by Kathryn Holmes

This year I’ve been featuring one of my favorite books on the last Friday of every month, telling you why it’s one of my favorites. You can find the full list of my favorite books here. March’s featured book is The Distance Between Lost and Found by Kathryn Holmes.

I’m a huge fan of Kathryn Holmes. Her second novel, How It Feels to Fly, solidified her spot on my favorite author list alongside Kiera Cass, Neal Shusterman, and Laurie Halse Anderson. When I first read Holmes’s debut novel, The Distance Between Lost and Found, it blew me away with how good it was.

This book is about a a young girl named Hallelujah who has been silent ever since the night of some incident with the preacher’s son, Luke. We don’t know what exactly this incident was, just that Hallelujah couldn’t get herself to tell anyone what really happened and that Luke has been making fun of her ever since. Hallelujah has lost all of her friends and the respect of her parents.

Six months later, Hallelujah is on a youth group retreat in the Smoky Mountains. Luke is still making fun of her and everyone is still ignoring her, except for new girl Rachel. But Hallelujah can’t let anyone in, and ends up pushing her away too.

But then Hallelujah, Rachel, and Hallelujah’s former friend Jonah get separated form the group and quickly end up lost in the mountains. Faced with many difficult obstacles, the three try to find safety and get back home. While looking for rescue, they question God and each other, and try to find a way to open up about what they’ve gone through.

This book is fast-paced and exciting. It takes place over only a week, but you finish the book feeling like you’ve known Hallelujah, Jonah, and Rachel forever. I love all of the survival elements. Being lost in the mountains is scary and dangerous, and it is really interesting watching these characters find ways to survive.

I love how this book weaves in the themes of silence and violence against women and finding ways to open up. We don’t know exactly what Luke did to Hallelujah at first, but we see how it affects her and we’re right alongside her, cheering her on and hoping she finds a way to open up and tell others what’s happened to her.

My favorite part about this book is how it also weaves in themes of faith and God’s role in their survival. Holmes does exactly what I hope to do in my writing—let God have a role but not make it a Christian fiction novel. With it being a youth group retreat, God naturally has a role in this book, and each day lost on the mountains brings Hallelujah and her friends either closer or farther from God. I will say that I don’t like the end of the book as much as I was hoping. I don’t want to give it away, but I will say that I was expecting Hallelujah to turn out a little differently after their journey.

The Distance Between Lost and Found will always be one of my favorite books. I chose to feature it this month for two reasons. The first is that I’ll be going on vacation to the Smoky Mountains for the first time in about a month. I’m so excited for my first trip to the mountains, though I don’t plan on hiking off on my own like Hallelujah and her friends. The second reason is because when I read this book for the first time two years ago, it made me want to turn my favorite short story I’ve ever written into a novel. I tried back then, but it didn’t work for a lot of reasons. Now I know how to do it right and I’ve returned to that story. I read this book this month to help me prepare for this novel. And it’s going to be an amazing writing journey.

The Distance Between Lost and Found

My One Year Anniversary with GenZ Publishing

One year ago today I got the email.

I was on my break from my customer service job at the mall, sitting in the food court. I checked my email on my phone while I was eating my lunch, and I instantly started shaking and crying.

A few weeks before, I had found a publisher on Twitter called GenZ Publishing. Their name had intrigued me, and so I had checked out their website. They said they were looking for new, innovative writers, particularly young adults writing for young adults. I was a young adult doing just that. I was unpublished and trying to write innovative stories for young adults. I responded to one of their tweets asking “What are you writing?” and told them about the book I was working on. They asked for me to query them even though my book wasn’t finished yet.

genz

I was actually pretty far from finishing the book. I had only been writing it for a month and a half at the time, yet it was flowing out quickly. I was only about a third done with the book, but I still spent the next couple days writing a query and sent it in to GenZ, along with the first pages of my book.

It only took two weeks to hear back from them, and I couldn’t believe they wanted to sign with me without even reading the complete book. I had known that Somewhere Only We Know was the story that was going to get me published. There was something special about it, with the way it just flowed out without me thinking too much about what I was writing. And as soon as I had found GenZ online, I just knew there was something special about them, and I hoped that they’d be the ones to publish me. So when I did hear back from them, I just started crying in the mall’s food court.

I can’t believe it’s been a whole year since that life-changing moment. My life feels so different now. I was able to quit that job at the mall and write full-time. I now have a published book. I get to do what I love to do every day. My dream is still to sign with a literary agent and land a book deal with a big traditional publisher, but GenZ was the first stepping stone along my way, and I’ll forever be so grateful to them.

Genz with me