Hiccups….just one of those days…

Ever have one of those days when everything seems to go wrong. Today’s been like that. It’s now after 9 pm, but since I’m supposed to blog 31 days in a row, there’s no way I’m turning in without dropping a line. It’s not on the topic of writing, but I’m blogging. 🙂

When I got up this morning, I had to make two chicken pot pies and two blueberry pies. I tackled the meat pies first with a new recipe. Instead of regular crust, it calls for carrot dumplings. Little did I know how time-consuming it would be.   

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While they were in the oven, I had a quick bite to eat, and looked at the clock. I had a dental appointment at 3:15. Would I have time to tackle and bake the two blueberry pies before leaving? Maybe… I ran downstairs to retrieve two bags of berries from the freezer. There was only one left. Rats! That would only make one pie. I supposed I could make one then and the other one tonight? That would work.

I hurried upstairs and checked on the chicken pot pies. A little whiff of smoke hit me as opened the oven door. The juices from one of the pies had boiled over and dripped on  the bottom of the oven. The timer said 9 minutes left. Oh please don’t let the fire alarm go off. At three minutes, I could really smell it…

Good thing I hadn’t prepped the blueberry pie yet, because I had to let the oven cool down before I could clean up the mess. By the time I cleaned it up, it was time to deliver the first pot pie, and explain why the blueberry pie wasn’t ready. I promised to have to them tonight. They didn’t mind, but I did. I’d promised and wanted it done now!

On the way home after my appointment, I hurried to do the usual “Friday” errands… bank, gas, a few groceries at the new vegetable store in town, and finally back home to taste that pot pie. Oh yum… quite nice.

Okay…time to tackle those two blueberry pies. I tossed everything together in a jiffy, put them in the oven, and cleaned up the supper dishes. Then, I finally sat down, for a few minutes before I delivered one of those. I didn’t mind. My neighbours are so good to me, I promised them a blueberry pie. Thank God they live handy! Like… across the street! 🙂

I feel like I rushed all day. Yet, despite the hiccups, as I call those inconveniences, it was a great day. A productive day. So what if I didn’t get to sit down much until 9 pm, I choose to look at the positive. A good supper. Nice dessert. A blog post that’s not at all what I intended, but hey I have over 500 words. I’m happy with that. Now, I’m going to send this post through and sign off.  Good night, all.

P.S. As soon as I took the first bite from that chicken pot pie, I realized it was well worth the time and effort that went into that new recipe.

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Is Technology a Writing Distraction?

If it’s not the kids fighting over a toy, the dog scratching at the door to come in, or the TV playing too loud in the next room, for some people, the biggest distraction is technology. We must be disciplined enough to put away ALL gadgets when we write.

As I searched for a topic for today’s post, the notifications on my cell phone went off several times to let me know I had a text and several social media messages. My laptop dinged when new email came in. All those distractions happened in the span of a few minutes (or was it seconds?) while I surfed the web. I didn’t think of it as a big deal, but right now, it has me thinking.

Where’s your cell phone while you work on your stories? Next to the keyboard? The volume’s off so it’s not going to interrupt you, right? Wrong! You see the notification telling you something of great importance. Is it so important you can’t check it later?

Here are FIVE major distractions that, in my opinion, we need to turn off when working on a novel, whether writing, revising, editing, proofreading, etc.

  1. Email program. The reason I don’t want it on is simply because of the noise it makes when messages come in. Even if the volume’s off (call it automatic or impulsive), I toggle between windows, ‘just to check,’ I might say. Am I going to read the message and feel the need to reply immediately? Probably.
  2. Social Media. Regardless which ones you use, they do affect our work in more ways than one. You check one message, and as you reply quickly, another one comes through in. You have to answer… Oh and don’t forget those pop-up ads, which I find totally obnoxious.
  3. Cell phone. To me personally, that’s one of the worst. I actually turn the volume as well as the vibe off, and place the phone upside down so I won’t be distracted by the flashing notifications. Other times, I set it on my charging dock which is on the cabinet behind me. No distractions.
  4. Home phone. While many people got rid of their landline when they acquired a cell phone, I kept mine (not sure why, all I get are telemarketers/scams!). To avoid distractions when I work, especially with all the scams out there, it’s easier for me to turn the phone off.
  5. Music/TV. While many CAN work with music, or the TV in the background, I need total silence. I find it much easier to work in the stillness of the room. I turned a spare room into an office. The sign on the door says Employees Only (I couldn’t find Do Not Enter). My family knows when the door’s shut, it means keep out. (I understand not everyone has the luxury of having a spare room). 

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I’m sure there are tons of other things that interfere with your writing. What are some of them? How do you keep distractions at bay while working on your stories?

Greatest influencers in my writing

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I’d make a lousy police investigator. When I watch a suspense on TV with my husband, he always figures out who did what before I do. Here’s what bugs me the most. We’re sitting there, both lost in the story. I’m on the edge of my seat, and ready to dig my fingernails into his arm as the momentum builds. Out of the blue, and as matter-of-fact as can be, hubby says “Bang!” The word’s barely out of his mouth, the bad guy gets shot. How in the world did my husband know that was going to happen when neither of those guys had a gun?  Someway, somehow, he’d figured out someone else was going to show up and shoot the bad guy. It used to drive me batty to the point that I didn’t want to watch those movies with him anymore. He’s good at predicting what happens next–I’m not. That’s the reason I sometimes call him my muse and often go to him for help when I write.

I’ve always loved suspense movies. Let me ask you, though, is there anything better than a good whodunit novel? I like that no one can tell me what’s going to happen before it does.

Back in the late 1980s, I came across one of Mary Higgins Clark’s early novels. I wasn’t an avid reader back then, and had never heard of her. The back blurb of the book sounded  quite suspenseful so I bought it. It had me hooked from the start and kept me reading until the end. The moment I closed the paperback, I had to get another one of hers. And then, another. Next thing I knew, I was buying her books left, right, and centre. Clark’s stories held me spellbound. I loved her writing style, how she hooked her readers and kept them turning the pages, and personally, the fact that I couldn’t figure out whodunit until the end. Her books inspired me to read more. Oh the many nights I stayed up until the wee hours. 

Fast forward to 2009. I picked up a book by T. Davis Bunn, but didn’t notice it was part of a series. I must admit, he too hooked me from the start with his Marcus Glenwood 3-book series and once I was done, I had to read the other two. Bunn’s writing is much different from Clark’s but still a suspense/thriller style I absolutely love reading. I have acquired more of his books and he’s actually one of the few authors whose books I still collect. Reading Bunn’s books, more specifically his Marcus Glenwood series, inspired me to write again. It was something I’d done for many years but had never taken seriously. I decided it was time I did. 

Since then, I’ve read tons of books by great novelists. Some have left a footprint on my heart. If you were to ask me who has been the most influential writer when I decided to pen my first novel, there’d be no hesitation. I’d have to name both Mary Higgins Clark, and T. Davis Bunn. Hands down!

Who were your influencers?  

Only YOU can make it happen

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I love routine. Without it, nothing goes according to plan. When I ran a home daycare, I had five young children in my care. People asked how I did it. Routine. As long as we stuck to it, it worked. The kids were happy. So was I.

The same goes for writing. Only when I stick to a routine do things go smoothly. I’m fortunate to work from home. Most days, I write at leisure, unlike many who can only do so in their spare time because they don’t have the same privilege. Here’s what my day looks like.

My Monday to Friday three-hour ‘shift’ begins at 2:15 pm. I get up at 5:30 am, make breakfast for hubby, and see him off to work at 6:15. Then I enjoy quiet time with God. My favourite part of the day. Things aren’t the same without it. I sit in my recliner with a mango-orange smoothie, my Bible, and my prayer journal.  

Between 7:30 and 8:00 am, I check and reply to email before I start writing around 9:00. I take short breaks to stretch every so often and eat a light lunch around 12. I return to the computer until 2:00 pm. I take care of a little one until 5:00 or so. After supper and dishes, I’m back in here to continue where I left off. Between 9:00 and 10:00 pm, it’s downtime. I do a crossword puzzle, or read before turning in.  

Some of you may think I have it easy because I work from home. I didn’t always have that privilege. As badly as I wanted to write, I had to find the time. How did I do it? With great difficulty, but I.DID.IT. The question was: How badly did I want to write?

For years, I worked in a call centre. It’s there I penned my first novel. Yes, with pen and paper because I wasn’t allowed to use my tablet. I wrote between calls. When the ideas were flying, I took notes during my two 15-min breaks and often on my 30-min lunch, so I could expand on them when I had more time. My day didn’t end there, though. At night, I transcribed everything into a Word document. Double the work. Guess what…after 30 days, I had over 50,000 words. That’s right. Why did I put myself through that? Because I WANTED to write. 

If you are serious about writing, you will make time. You may need to get up an hour or so before everyone else. Do you ride the bus to and from work? You can make good use of it. Some, like I did, might choose to use their breaks. At the end of the day, for half or even a full hour, why not take advantage of the kids being in bed and hubby watching TV, to put the finishing touches on that scene you started earlier? If you really want this, ask yourself the same thing I did: How badly do you want to write? 

Remember this: Only YOU can make it happen. Leave a comment below. 

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Inspiration…oh where art thou?

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Tired of looking at a blank screen? Your fingers are on the keyboard but refuse to move? Aggravating, isn’t it? I’ve been there. In fact, I think it’s fair to say ALL writers, at some time or another, have been there and done that. 

The first thing I like to do in the morning is ask God to inspire my heart, soul, and mind with His words. That, however, doesnt make me immune to writers block.

We all write differently. Some writers plot their novel ahead of time. They outline scenes and chapters before they begin the task of putting words on paper–or computer. Pantsers, like me, write by the seat of their pants.  

I begin with a one-liner in my head, fifteen to twenty words that tell me what the story’s about. I don’t know how I’m going to go from my opening line to The End, but as long as the words keep flowing, I watch it take shape while my fingers do their fancy dance on the keyboard. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Not always. 

What happens when the inspiration you asked for just isn’t there? Is God saying Take a break? It’ll come. 

I like to ask six basic questions. Who did what? How did they do it? When, where, and why? As I answer each one, I watch the scene unfold in my mind’s eyes. It may take a while, but I eventually get there.

Here’s the one-liner for my first novel, Stella’s Plea (don’t worry, no spoiler): Story of a deaf three-year-old child who disappears, and her mother’s struggle to find her. Before I began, I knew the end. Whether or not she’d be found. Dead or alive.

There were times words flowed so well, I couldn’t type fast enough. Other times, my mind was as blank as the screen in front of me. Even asking all the above questions didn’t help. What could I do? 

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I had two options. I could sit there and wait for something to pop in my mind. That could take a while. OR, I could walk away. Even though I wanted to write but couldn’t come up with anything. Oftentimes, it worked.

Now, that’s what I do. Not for long, mind you. I do a few stretches and walk around. I might go to the kitchen to refill my glass of water, or maybe walk down to the ‘man cave’ to see what hubby’s watching on TV. Why not start supper listening to the music in the background?

No matter what, though, before I sit at the computer, I love to start with prayer. That’s where my inspiration comes from. He might enlighten me through something I see when I walk past the window. What I hear on the radio, or see on TV? That inspiration might be what I need to go back and pick up where I left off. Until He says something, I stay away.

How do you stop writer’s block? Where do you get your inspiration? Leave a comment below.

The Worth of an Editor

Are you an aspiring author? Do you ever wonder what an editor does? My last post talked about the importance of attending writers’ conferences. This week, I focus on the Worth of an Editor. They are a valuable, integral part of our writing. If you’re self-publishing, this post is for you. Here’s my best advice:

Hire an Editor.

I can’t stress this enough. Don’t publish without a second set of eyes to go over your manuscript. Sure, your friends and family can read it. They’ll tell you how great it is because they don’t want to offend you. They may spot a few typos here and there. (We all miss some).

As an aspiring author, what you need to understand is that editors are much more than people who correct typos and grammatical errors. They prepare your manuscript and make it ready for publication. They take out what doesn’t belong, while beautifying, tightening, and deepening your story. They make sure each scene is in the correct order, and that your story flows well, your characters are real, and your description is vivid, all the while keeping your meaning, and your voice. That’s right, they’ve got your back. Once they’re done, you have a professional product ready to market. One you can be proud to call yours.

I recently read a sweet story I enjoyed very much. I couldn’t wait to read the last chapter to see how it ended. I could tell, however, it was the writer’s first. It clearly hadn’t been professionally edited. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not bashing this writer who’s a real good friend, or the work I read. I’m using this to make a point.

When you read your work over and over after writing your first draft, and then your second, and for some, a third, you know what’s it’s supposed to say. Your brain knows what words are coming, so you fail to see the mistakes and typos in it.

Imagine the following scenario. I’m attending my first ever Christian Writers Conference. The first editor I ever pitched to takes a look the first couple of paragraphs of my first ever novel and says:

“Don’t publish this….you’ll ruin your name…you’ll never be able to sell anything else.”

Ouch!!! That hurt. I’m not sure what kept me from crying.

As I looked back a little later, though, that editor was so right. It was poorly written and needed a LOT of work. Today, I have the utmost respect for that person.

I’ve always said:

Writing is hard. Editing is harder. Marketing is the hardest.

If you’re serious about writing, and want to become a published author, don’t let the ‘blood, sweat, and tears’ you’ve poured into your writing see the light of day until a professional editor has taken a good look at it and given you feedback. Work with an editor and let him or her turn your story into a beautiful masterpiece.

Believe me, that editor will become your best friend. Mine has. Thanks, Joy.

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My wonderful editor, Joy Avery Melville

New Year’s Resolution?

2018 is upon us. Time for New Year’s Resolutions. Some of us writers have set our manuscripts aside after a productive month when we pushed our way through NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). On November 1, thousands all over the world take on the challenge to pen 50k words. When the clock strikes 12 on November 30, it’s time to stop. We set it aside for a week or even a month before picking it up to take a good look at what we wrote. I’ll be the first to admit, whatever filled the pages I’ve written is not fit to publish! It needs polishing. Big time! Thus the topic of my post.

The first item on my to-do list is to eliminate what many refer to as weasel words. They make their way into our manuscript where it’s not necessary. Words like that, just, and. Easily done. It’s how we talk. To make sure my manuscript is squeaky clean, I do an intensive search. Have a work in progress? Try along with me. The results might surprise you. Search (CTRL+F) for the word THAT. How often did it pop up in your document? In many cases, you can remove it without losing the meaning of your sentence.

I acquired the following list from fellow writers and conference teachers. Have you used any of them?

  • Then                            few                                          a little, a bit, a lot
  • Gaze                            anything                                 really / very
  • Quite                           anyone                                    obviously
  • So                                everything                              ironically
  • Therefore                  everyone                                 strangely
  • Enough                      sometimes                               nearly / almost
  • Many                          only / just                                 any ‘ly’ words
  • bit her lip                  some                                         even
  • anyway                     rather                                        kind of / sort of / like
  • Seemed                     felt                                             imagine
  • Wondered                hoped                                        heard
  • Thought                    considered                                tasted
  • Knew                         realized                                     saw
  • Looked                      would / could / should            had
  • up / down / back

– At my first ever Christian writers’ conference, an awesome workshop teacher, Eva Marie Everson, had said in some instances we don’t need to use up / down. For example: She sat. She set the book on the table. (Thanks! I never forgot that).

– Began / started (Joy, my editor, said “if he began, he’s doing the action.” Say it. He hummed his favourite tune, vs. he started to hum).

Passive voice, should be limited to one or two per page:
– the verb to be
– had (used for flashbacks, but sparingly in normal writing)

You can strengthen your writing different ways. Getting rid of weasel words is a good place to start. Do you know any more? Will you please share them? See you next time. Until then…

Blessings. Happy writing.

Thanks to all who contributed to this post. Lee, Jamie, Deborah, Mary, Kassy, Heidi. (hope I didn’t miss anyone).

“Don’t ruin your name.”

With today’s technology, we writers have so much electronic help at our disposal. We put fingers to keyboards instead of pen to paper (for the most part). We have programs that spell-check everything and sometimes will even ask, ‘Did you mean this?’  when we use certain homonyms. Thre’s the Internet with online dictionaries, thesauruses, and a slew of other reference books and so much more.

My favourite gadget is Kindle. When I go anywhere to write, I can take all the reference books I need on one device. My favourite app? MS Word, which is available on most devices nowadays. I save my documents to OneDrive (another awesome tool) and access them from anywhere with my iPhone. Anywhere I go, you can see me jotting down ideas in another great app called A Novel Idea, or working on my WIP.

Okay so we’ve established that technology has evolved a lot over the years, and it has taken our writing to a whole new level. In many ways, I must say it’s a good thing.

There is however one thing—or rather one person—technology will never be able to replace. Your editor. No gadget can do that kind of work as efficiently. I can’t stress enough the importance of having a real live person to go over your manuscript and work not only for you but also with you. Why?

After you’ve read something often enough, you’ve memorize it. When editing, you know what’s coming and no longer see the typos/grammatical errors. Your brain reads what it’s supposed to say but fails to see what’s really there. That’s why it’s so important to pass it to someone else, to get another set of eyes.

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Actual page from my last novel (c)

When I attended my very first Christian Writers Conference, I was still working on my first novel. I went there to learn and hadn’t planned on meeting with any editors or agents. After some prompting from my new writer-friends, I arrived at my first ever meeting totally unprepared. The editor read only half of the first page and stopped. For me, a newbie, the words that followed were brutal. ‘Don’t publish that book. You’re gonna ruin your name.’ Ouch! How that hurt! I knew my book wasn’t ready, but I didn’t think it was that bad. The next day, after I’d given it some thought and re-read that page, I returned to say thanks. Yes, it was that bad. It needed work. A lot of it.

Please understand, I’m not trying to deter or scare anyone who’s planning editor/agent meetings at their next conference. On the contrary, I want to stress the importance of acquiring an editor. If you walk in prepared, you’re bound to have a good meeting and might even land a contract.

My biggest piece of advice to any writers out there: do not attempt to replace your editor with any kind of technology. Yes, some editors may be expensive, I get that, but they’re worth every penny and then some.

Regardless what kind of gadgets you get, or how much money you invest, no amount of technology, programs, apps, or reference books will ever be able to replace your editor. You won’t get all the perks he/she has to offer in any of the above mentioned tools. Ever!

So now, are you done writing that novel? You think it’s ready? Acquire an editor and let him/her be the judge of that. Don’t ruin your good name

Becoming a writer doesn’t happen overnight.

Recently, an old friend reminded me how as a teen, I always said I’d be a writer someday. He was happy to see I’d realized my dream. I’ll admit, I changed my career goals several times back then, but I never lost the desire to write.

Along the way, I learned many great lessons too numerous to list. Here are those I deem MOST important. 

PERSEVERANCE: Writing is a long, hard journey, but perseverance and dedication can get you where you want to be. I often thought of throwing the towel in, but that would have been too easy. Instead, I pressed on.

WRITE: Logical, right? Some find other things to do. Cleaning house/raising kids is time consuming, yes. Whether you work outside the home (like me), or you’re a stay-at-home Mom, set and stick to a writing schedule. I can’t stress this enough. Hey… if you write just one page a day, that’s a 365-page novel at the end of the year. Two pages? You’ll get one in 6 months.

LOCATION: I realize not everyone has a spare room where they can seclude themselves, but hopefully there’s an area in your home where you can write without interruptions. I rarely ever use my office. I do most of my writing from either my recliner or my bed. Yes, I sit with a back pillow, and my laptop on a four-legged breakfast tray. As long as the door is shut, everybody knows that room is off limit. Coffee shops are great too. 

EDITOR: This one should be number ONE in the list of priorities. When I wrote Stella’s Plea as part of the NaNoWriMo challenge, I knew it wasn’t fit to publish but I loved that story and wanted to do something with it, so I hired an editor to work with me. I couldn’t put it out there until a professional had looked at it. Don’t skip this step.

PROOFREADERS: They’re vital people in your journey though you may not realize it until you’ve completed your book. By the time you type The End, you now know the story inside and out. So does your editor. When you read a sentence, paragraph, or page, you no longer see the typos because your brain knows what it’s supposed to say. Yes, editors can miss things. They’re humans too. I asked four people to read my story. Yes FOUR. The MOST particular of them found several mistakes the other three had missed. THAT’s how vital they are.

CONFERENCES: They are a MUST for every writer. Why? It’s where:

  • you’ll learn the tools of the trade by amazing authors who’ve been there/done that;
  • you’ll walk away with awesome new knowledge;
  • you’ll develop wonderful friendships with other writers
  • you may even exchange business cards with agents/editors who may be interested in your story.

    Give these a try and let me know what happened.

    Blessings always, and good luck in your writing endeavours.

 

Tips for Maximizing Your Writing Time – Jennifer Slattery

Hello and welcome back. I’m so pleased to have as a guest today, Jennifer Slattery. If you’re anything like me, you’ll want to read what she has to say. Jennifer is sharing great tips to help you maximize your writing time. Jennifer writes soul-stirring fiction for New Hope Publishers, a publishing house passionate about bringing God’s healing grace and truth to the hopeless. She also writes for Crosswalk.com, Internet Café Devotions, and the group blog, Faith-filled Friends. When not writing, Jennifer loves going on mall dates with her teenage daughter and coffee dates with her handsome railroader husband. And now, without further ado, I’ll let her do the talking!

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Jennifer: Today I’d like to share a few ways to avoid time-sapping pitfalls while maximizing every moment for optimum productivity. In A Woman After God’s Heart by Elizabeth George, she talks about foregoing the good to find the better and foregoing the better to find the best. In writing, this means evaluating each moment in order to determine the best use of your time.

Organize your day around your creativity. For example, I need silence when I write. It took me a while to realize this, and initially, I went through my day following my to-do list without really evaluating each moment. As a result, I’d start with household chores and sometimes leave writing until the evening when my husband and daughter were home. Now I’m proactive about my schedule, making the most of my creative times.

Stay focused! This is a biggie and takes a bit of self-control. Especially if you have an iPhone that beeps every time you get a message or text. You might need to shut off your phone and disconnect your internet until your creative writing time is done. Here’s why…to write effectively, you need to immerse yourself in your work. Every time you pop out of story or book world to check an email, send a text, or pop in on Facebook, you’re breaking the flow. If you’re teetering between reality and story, you’re largely remaining on the surface of your creativity.

Watch out for the email monster. Between Gmail, Yahoo, and Facebook messaging, I’m always buried in emails. If I’m not careful, checking and responding to emails can take up a large chunk of my time. Now, I deal with emails at one set time. (I will periodically check my iPhone for important messages.) Knowing I only have so much time encourages me to skim and delete the unimportant ones.

Utilize every moment. I don’t watch television or movies because they don’t stir my creativity. (You may not be able to say the same.) Novels and books, however, show me strong writing and awaken my muse. Because of this, I read to relax. This means even when I’m relaxing, I’m learning. I also have projects and tasks that I can pick up whenever a spare minute arises. Let’s say I have five minutes between dinner and church each Wednesday. Five minutes a week over the course of a month equals just over a half hour.

I refuse to give in to writer’s block. When I hit a wall, I hit my knees. I believe God has called me to write and has a purpose in everything I write, therefore, I trust Him to give me the ability to follow through. (You can read more of my thoughts about this here in a post entitled, How Big is Your God.) And He’s been faithful. Every time. In fact, I start each day with prayer, laying out my responsibilities and asking God to help me fulfill them. If I hit a major block, I assume He’s asking me to spend more time with Him, so I do. The result has always been exponential.

What about you? Any time-saving tips to share?

~ Jennifer

Thank you so much Jennifer for such awesome tips. I look forward to putting them all into practice. For anyone out there who’d like to contact Jennifer, here’s how:

Visit with Jennifer online at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud. 

Her debut novel, Beyond I Do, is currently on sale at Amazon for under $4 (print and kindle version)! You can get that here: http://www.amazon.com/Beyond-I-Do-Jennifer-Slattery-ebook/dp/B00MMRRCZU/

When Dawn Breaks:

As the hurricane forces Jacqueline to evacuate, her need for purpose and restitution propel her north to her estranged and embittered daughter and into the arms of a handsome new friend. However, he’s dealing with a potential conspiracy at work, one that could cost him everything, and Jacqueline isn’t sure if he will be the one she can lean on during the difficult days ahead. Then there are the three orphans to consider, especially Gavin. Must she relinquish her chance at having love again in order to be restored?

Read a free, 36-page excerpt here: http://issuu.com/newhopedigital/docs/slattery_sampler/1

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You can buy a copy here:

On Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/When-Dawn-Breaks-A-Novel/dp/1596694238/

On Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/when-dawn-breaks-a-novel-jennifer-slattery/1120694122?ean=9781596694231

On CBD: http://www.christianbook.com/when-dawn-breaks-a-novel/jennifer-slattery/9781596694231/pd/694231