I’m Monica. Wait, what?

I’m a huge fan of the show Friends. It’s a show that never gets old to me. I’ve seen every episode multiple times and yet if I’m flipping through the channels and come across it, I almost always stop and watch. Sometimes I even find myself wishing I could be in the show. I mean, who doesn’t want 5 friends who will have your back no matter what? Plus they have so much fun together. But if I’m being entirely honest, I do like some of the friends more than others.

Like, for instance, Monica is probably my least favorite of the friends. All you Monica fans out there, please hold back on throwing tomatoes until you hear me out. For some reason, Monica has always kind of gotten on my nerves. And the other day I finally figured out why.

It’s because I’m Monica.

Okay, okay, not totally. First, we look nothing alike. Second, I’m not a clean freak like her. But we do have one huge thing in common. We are both people pleasers to a fault.

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I’ve struggled with this desire to please people my entire life. I hate when people don’t like me. And because of this, I’ve sometimes felt like a chameleon – changing to fit my environment. Often, I’ve been afraid to speak my mind, have my own opinion.

I think it started because I was raised in a divorced family. At an early age, I learned that talking bad about the other parent earned me brownie points, not scolding. As I got older I would even feel guilty for thinking good thoughts about one parent while at the other parents’ house. I learned to keep these thoughts to myself and only share the negative ones.

This behavior followed me into other areas of my life. I would stretch and bend, even break, to fit in. And somewhere along the way I lost myself.

It wasn’t until I reached adulthood that I finally started to discover who I was. It was when I had a revelation of how Christ saw me. I saw that he had designed me and created in a unique and special way. And I realized that I had total freedom in Him to be who I was. Not who I thought others needed me to be.

The person He used to teach me this was my husband.

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From the beginning of our relationship, Andrew seemed to like me for me. And slowly, my true self begin to emerge more and more. I would carefully share my opinions. The ones I never would’ve dared to utter to anyone else. And he didn’t judge me for it. Pretty soon, I found a freedom I’d never experienced before. I had finally found someone I could be myself  with – faults, craziness and all.

And it was okay.

Eventually that began to bleed into other areas of my life. The more I learned it was okay to be myself, the more I continued to do it. I started to discover who I really was and I liked her, even when other people didn’t. It’s been a journey for me. One that has oftentimes been painful. And I still find myself reverting back to my people pleaser ways at times. There are certain people in my life that can bring it out easier than others. And in new social situations I find it harder to reign it in as well. But I’m growing and maturing. And isn’t that all any of us can do?

However, this issue of pleasing people is one I think about a lot while writing. In so many romances I read, girls are finding their self-worth in relationships and dating. I know I said that Andrew helped me find myself, but let me make one thing very clear. I didn’t find my self-worth in the fact that he wanted to be with me. He just allowed me to be who I was and thrive on my own. I don’t need him to “complete me.” He enhances my life – but he isn’t my life. I choose to be with him – I don’t have to be with him. Do you see the difference?

In my books, I hope this is portrayed. I want the couples to compliment one another. To help each other grow and change. But I never want the relationships to be needy or desperate, co-dependent. That’s not true love.

In all of us there is a desire to be liked, to be accepted. But I truly believe that in order for people to like and accept you, you have to learn to like and accept yourself. I know that’s easier said than done. Trust me.

But I believe in you.

You are special. You are unique. You have something amazing to offer this world.

And you don’t have to prove it to anyone. You have a creator who already knows it, and He loves you unconditionally.

When fiction is dangerous

When I first started writing teen romances my kids were much younger. My son was just entering middle school and my daughter was in elementary school. They still played outside, got dirty and skinned their knees. They weren’t interested in the opposite sex, they hadn’t gone through puberty, hadn’t developed at all. It was easy to separate them from my characters.

Now my daughter is thirteen, and so gorgeous it scares me. But scarier than that is the fact that my son is almost sixteen. That’s the same age as some of my characters. And my characters are dating, kissing, and falling in love. I don’t want to picture my son doing any of those things. And I definitely don’t want to picture a boy doing those things with my daughter (although I don’t feel as strongly about this as my husband does, trust me). I’m not saying that I’m naive enough to think that my kids aren’t or won’t do these things. I just don’t want to encourage it.

As my kids get older it’s harder to separate them from my characters. I’ve always taken my responsibility as an author seriously. But I take it even more seriously now. When I write a scene I think: Do I want my kids to read this? Or: Do I want my kids doing this? Don’t get me wrong. My books aren’t filled with perfect characters who do nothing wrong. That would be boring. But I do always think about the message my books are sending.

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Since I write teen romances, I also read teen romances. Lately I’ve read numerous books with an alarming trend. In the past two weeks I’ve read three books about good girls who fall in love with gang members. Now, I love the bad boy/good girl type of romance as much as the next person. Who doesn’t love reading about the tortured boy who needs saving and the girl who saves him? And these books were great. I read them swiftly, some even in as little as a day. They were filled with swoony romance and heart thumping action. But I’m an adult. A married woman. A woman who isn’t looking to fall in love. I’ve already done that. I’m just looking for a great story to get sucked into. I know these books aren’t real. They’re written by an author like me. They’re made up. I get that.

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But I can’t help but worry about the impressionable teenage girl reading these books who is looking to fall in love. Because, let me tell you, falling in love with the bad boy who deals drugs isn’t going to end well for anyone in real life. It may play out well in a novel, but in real life it’s going to destroy you.

In all three of these books the characters snuck around behind their parents’ back and even went against their better judgment and the advice of close friends. And in two of the books the characters had sex. To make matters worse, the sex happened before the guy even admitted he cared for the girl. In both books the girl practically threw herself at the guy in an effort to make him like her.

And it’s fiction. I understand that.

However, what kind of message are these books sending? In all of these books the boys were redeemable. They had big hearts underneath that tough exterior. And by the end of the book they had given up their criminal ways. It was beautiful, and made me feel all tingly inside. But I’m not innocent enough to think it would ever happen like this in real life. In my experience if a guy is a jerk, he doesn’t suddenly become the sweetest guy ever in the span of 300 pages. That’s the beauty of fiction.

But is it also the danger of it?

I’m certainly not trying to deter you from reading these books. I’m just trying to get you to think. I’m only making a point: Girls, you are precious. You were made in the image of God. You deserve kindness and respect. Fall for a boy who treats you well from the very beginning. Don’t hold out hope that you can change him, because chances are you can’t. Life is not a romance novel.

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But you can find love. You just have to find the right guy.

And I know you will find him. Hand picked by a God who knows you inside and out.

When it’s time for a change

I know some people hate change. They’ll hold on to the way things are whether it’s working or not. I’m not like that. In fact, it’s safe to say that I like change. I embrace it even. Sometimes it’s in small ways like a change in my hairstyle or makeup. Other times it’s larger changes like when I quit my job to write full-time.

A change that I’ve known I needed to make for awhile pertains to my writing. About a year ago I met two characters -Jade and Kyler – and I fell completely in love. You’ve probably heard me say it before, but writing BREAK FREE has been my favorite experience writing a book ever. This book haunted my dreams, pulsed through my veins, swam in my mind, consumed my thoughts. I lived, ate and breathed this book throughout the entire writing process. I never had that experience prior to writing BREAK FREE and I haven’t had it since. This book is still my favorite. The problem is that it’s different than my others. It’s darker, it’s more suspenseful, the writing style is more lyrical. And so it hasn’t sold great. I think part of the problem has been the cover. While I loved the original cover, it looked more like a contemporary romance, whereas I wanted the cover to look more like a romantic suspense. So I finally decided to have BREAK FREE and BREAK THROUGH redone.

Now that I’ve seen the new covers I know I made the right choice. Matt from the Cover Lure did an amazing job. The covers are perfect!

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The new covers are currently available in kindle only but the paperbacks should be ready by next week.

BREAK FREE

BREAK THROUGH

We’ve been lonely too long

When I write a book, I immerse myself into the character’s minds. In order to write them authentically I have to become them. I have to understand them on a deep and intimate level. During the course of writing a book, I get to know everything about my characters. Sometimes after an intense writing session, it can be hard to get back to reality. The characters stay with me, speaking in my head, residing in my heart, pumping through my veins. Their emotions, their fears, their experiences become my own and it can be difficult to shake it off. To remember where they end and I begin.

This has been challenging when I’ve written my darker stuff – like Break Free, Break Through and Cuts Run Deep. Aspen in Break Through was probably the hardest. Since I had to write her experiences in captivity, I often had nightmares and fear I couldn’t explain. Jackson in Cuts Run Deep was equally difficult for me. Trying to delve into the depth of his despair was heartbreaking. I found myself crying for no reason, feeling depressed even though I knew I wasn’t. I was just taking on his feelings and emotions. It is a daily struggle for me to navigate through what is real and what is fiction.

But many times my characters deal with things I am dealing with in real life. Often they struggle with my struggles, they process the things I’m trying to process myself. Currently I’m writing FOR THE SAVE, which is the last book in my Playing for Keeps series. This book is about Sawyer and Addison, and if you’ve read FOR THE RUSH, then you’re familiar with these characters. Both Sawyer and Addison are very tragic characters. They’ve endured something traumatic and are struggling to deal with it. Because of that they are extremely lonely.

And that’s an emotion I can relate to. Loneliness is a human condition. We’ve all experienced it at some point in our lives. Some more than others. Loneliness can be a physical thing – we’re lonely because we are alone. But sometimes it’s mental – we are lonely even though we are surrounded by people.

I have experienced both. And I’m currently in a season of extreme loneliness. Not surprising since I spend a lot of time alone. Every day I sit in front of a computer screen, sifting through the lives and minds of fictional people. Basically I’m a grown up with imaginary friends. Now, I’m not saying I don’t have real friends, but for the better part of my day I’m alone.

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But it goes deeper than that. Lately, I even feel alone when I’m with others. I think there’s something innate in all of us. This desire to be understood and to understand. When we find someone who understands us on a deep level, a connection happens that makes us feel whole. Makes us feel less alone. That’s something that I haven’t come across very often in the last few years.

Don’t get me wrong. It happens. But not as often as I’d like.

Part of that is my fault. Because of my crazy, active imagination, and the playground that is my mind, I do retreat into myself a lot. It’s something I have to fight against. And I have been lately. I’ve been making some changes in my life to get myself out of my house, and out of my head a little more.

But all of this has helped me write Sawyer and Addison authentically. They are two lonely people, but they understand each other.

There is a song by the Civil Wars that is perfect for them. Part of it goes like this:

 

Let me in the walls, you’ve built around
And we can light a match and burn them down
And let me hold your hand and dance ’round and ’round the flames
In front of us
Dust to dust

You’re like a mirror, reflecting me
Takes one to know one, so take it from me
You’ve been lonely
You’ve been lonely, too long
We’ve been lonely
We’ve been lonely, too long

 

The connection between Sawyer and Addison is healing. I’m excited about their journey. And I’m excited about mine. They are teaching me and guiding me. We are learning together.

And if you’re feeling lonely, know that you’re not alone in this journey. I know how you feel. I understand.

The many faces of release day!

After twenty-plus book releases, I’ve realized that they never really get easier….or different. Today I feel the exact same way I did when I released my first book three years ago. I’m a ball of energy, filled with excitement, trepidation, doubt, worry, elation. It’s the weirdest range of emotions. But mostly I feel grateful. Grateful to those who have shared and bought my book or have helped in any way to make this release possible. Even after all this time it’s still surreal to me that anyone reads my books. And the fact that I’ve already hit #1 in sports romances in one night is just icing on the cake! For so long, becoming a published author was a dream that I never thought would come true. And now that it has I feel blessed every moment of everyday. So thank you for making this release, and all my other ones, so fabulous!
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Despite my trepidation, FOR THE RUSH is available now for purchase in kindle.

This is a book I’ve been dying to write for awhile. There is a girl in my son’s marching band who is funny, outgoing and pretty. I love her bubbly personality and her confidence. And ever since I met her, I’ve wanted to write about a girl like that. In my other books where the “nerdy” girl gets the “popular” boy, the girl is shy and quiet, insecure. I wanted to do something different with this one. Mostly because I don’t think we are always what people perceive us to be. In high school I was never the popular girl, but the truth is that I did like myself. I liked the way I looked, liked my personality. Just because other people didn’t think I was something special, didn’t mean I wasn’t. In high school kids can be cruel. And oftentimes they don’t think about the effect their cruelty really has on other people.


This book started out as a straight romance, but like all of my books, it took on a life of its own at some point. And I’m happy with where it went. I hope you are too.

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Click here to purchase your copy today!

Drowning….

When the year started I had all these grandiose plans for 2015. I was going to keep up with my blog by posting weekly. All the while keeping up with my release schedule, marketing and promotion and working on my secret project on the side. It’s three months in and I realize that I’ve already failed at all of the above. You would think I would know better than to plan for my life by now.

I’ve always been a planner. Back in Junior High I used to make lists for myself during the summer months that detailed out my entire day from eating my breakfast to showering to watching my favorite television shows. I would then check off every item as I completed it throughout the day. There has always been something so satisfying about checking things off a list, about completing tasks and reaching goals. And throughout my life, I’ve been good at these things.

But not the last few years. Sure on the surface it seems that I still am. And if you go by my release schedule and the fact that I release a book almost every other month like clock work it would certainly appear so. But inside I feel like I’m always one step behind. Like I’m clawing my way back to where I want to be. Like I’m drowning in a sea of overdue manuscripts and failed expectations.

And I know the culprit is my health.

I shared a health update a few months ago and it was all positive and cheery and hopeful. The truth about having a chronic illness is that there are days, weeks, and sometimes even months that seem hopeful. But then there are days, weeks and sometimes months where hope is hard to find. I’m in one such period right now. I had a flare up of pain and stomach issues about a month ago and this flare up doesn’t seem to want to let up. Oh sure, it’s given me the occasional day here and there. In fact, I had almost a whole week that seemed promising, but then the flare up returned with a vengeance. And I’m struggling. Struggling to keep up, struggling to manage my family, struggling to be the wife and mom I want to be, struggling to be happy, struggling to make my goals, struggling to finish my latest story. Which is beyond frustrating because I love Holden and Chloe. I love writing about them. Both of them are awesome characters and they are speaking so loudly. If I was healthy I could finish this book in a matter of days. I could sit at this computer and let the words pour out of me, flowing without any effort at all. It’s seriously that kind of story. One I adore. But sitting and typing all day is difficult for me right now. So I have to take it minute by minute. And that’s hard.

I share this because I always want to be transparent with you. But mostly because I felt like maybe some of you needed to hear this. Maybe you’re in a season that is tough. Maybe you feel like no one understands. I do. Really, I do. I know how hard it is to live with pain and uncertainty. To live with anxiety and doubt. I know what it feels like when no one can offer definitive answers or a cure.

But I also know that there is hope. There is grace. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. And that is the truth I cling to when I feel dark and sad and hopeless, like today.

There is a song I’ve been in love with lately and some of the lyrics go like this:

Comforter You are to me
Shelter from the cold
Constant how You carry me
Never letting go
You are with me

Your voice holds me together
When I feel like I’m falling apart
I place my world in Your hands
You come and steady my heart

I feel you in the stillness
I know that You are good
I feel you in the stillness
I know that You are good

(Nearness – Jenn Johnson from the We Will Not Be Shaken album by Bethel Music)

I cling to the truth in this song. And in the moments when I feel Him near, I know that He is good. I know that there is hope. I know that I will be all right.

And I know you will be too.