Sunday, September 30, 2012

Leaving a Legacy

Have you ever thought about the legacy you're leaving for your children and your grandchildren? What about the legacy that will be passed on to generations even further down the road?

Sometimes I think about the decedents I'll never meet. The ones who may be born a hundred years from now. Who will they be? Will they be people of faith? Will they have integrity? Will they be courageous? Will they seek God's face and His heart?

My greatest prayer is that all of these questions will be answered with a resounding yes. I've been praying for my decedents for years - and I will continue until the day I'm taken home to Heaven, because I believe that the fight for people yet to be born is already being waged today.

It's being waged in my home, in the way I'm raising my children, in the way I treat my husband, in the way I pursue the dreams that God has placed in my heart.

Each word I speak, each action I perform, each attitude I choose to exhibit are all seeds being planted into the hearts and minds of my children - and someday those seeds will mature in their lives and they will be like beautiful plants, deeply rooted in the soil of their hearts. Those plants will produce more seeds that will be planted into their children's minds and hearts and the cycle will continue.

The amazing thing about this principle is that it applies to good and bad seeds alike. If I want a lasting legacy of faith, integrity and courage to be handed down to future generations, then I must plant those seeds today - by living it out in front of my family. If I'm not purposeful in planting good seeds, then the seeds of weeds will be planted in my children's hearts and minds and that will be the legacy that is passed on.

I want future generations in my family to look back through our family tree and see that the legacy of faith was being planted for them a hundred or more years before they were even born.

What about you? Have you thought about the legacy you'll leave behind? What seeds are you planting today, that will be harvested by future generations?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Friday Fun: Minnesota Style, My Hometown

Summer is now behind us and Autumn is displaying glorious colors, but I haven't had my camera out to take photos, yet! I promise I'll do that this week and next Friday I'll have even more proof that Minnesota is one of the most beautiful states in the Union. :)

Two weeks ago, my hubby and I brought our kiddos out for Dairy Queen and then we drove around town through the rain. It was such a fun time - and it reminded me of some of my favorite memories from when I was a kid in the backseat of my parents' mini-van. When I was little I ordered a chocolate cone dipped in crunch, but when I was a little older I always had a M&M Blizzard. Now I get a cookie dough Blizzard with brownie chunks! Mmmm... Our Dairy Queen closes for the winter, so we're getting in all the treats we can handle before the snow flies. :)

Here are a couple of my photos from that outing.

What about you? What kind of treat do you get when you go to the Dairy Queen?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

American Christian Fiction Writers Conference

My Pitch & Promotion Buddies
Last week I had the incredible opportunity to attend my first writers conference - and it's the biggest one in the nation. The American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) Conference was held in Dallas, Texas with almost seven hundred people in attendance.

Some of the reasons to go to a writers conference are to connect with other writers, attend workshops/seminars and to pitch your book idea to agents and editors in person - a privilege you don't get anywhere else. If you don't attend a conference, it can take months for an agent to get around to looking at your book proposal and it's almost impossible to get your idea in front of an editor without an agent.

At a conference you are given two fifteen minute appointments with agents and editors of your choice (but you don't always get your first choice). It's your job to communicate your book idea and get the agent/editor excited about it in fifteen minutes - a daunting task, to say the least. 

When I arrived at the conference on Wednesday I signed up to attend the Pitch & Promotion Seminar presented by Susan May Warren with My Book Therapy - and I'm so happy I did. Susie spent four hours teaching us how to present our book idea to agents and editors during our conference experience and then her skilled team members help us practice that pitch until we felt confident to present it.

Susan May Warren and Jim Rubart Teaching
During the Pitch & Promotion Seminar I had the awesome privilege to work with Beth Vogt - one of my favorite authors and friends. Beth helped me craft my "hook" line - the line you start with to grab your audience's attention. Here's what we came up with for my hook:

"Can the ultimate act of love be to break someones heart?"

What do you think? I had quite a few raised eyebrows when I asked that question - and it's the question that my book explores.

Two of my friends offered me pitch sessions with editors from some really amazing publishing houses. I was nervous going into my pitching sessions, but both of them proved to be awesome experiences.

I have much to share over the coming weeks about my time at ACFW, the people I met, the lessons I learned, the doors that were opened, but, for now, I'll leave you with the greatest truth I've gleaned:

God is in the business of blessing - and He's good at it.

What about you? What blessings are you counting today? What do you think about my hook line? :)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

I'm Home from ACFW Conference

It's late and I'm beyond exhausted, but I'm home and I had the time of my life at the 2012 ACFW Conference. I plan on sharing much more on my Wednesday blog post, but I know many of you are anxious to hear how everything went.

All I can say is: I'm speechless...

God opened some amazing doors for me this past week and I met many, many online friends in person who are even more awesome than I had hoped. God has blessed me with an incredible support group and I will continue to thank Him for that gift every. single. day.

My hubby picked me up from the Minneapolis Airport and we had a two hour drive home - I talked THE ENTIRE TIME!

It really was a priceless experience.

I'll be back on Wednesday and give more details! I have much to share.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

ACFW Conference

When you read this, I'll be at my first writers conference, soaking up the sights and sounds of my dream. I know there will be many emotions played out in my heart as I step into that conference center, but above it all will be abiding faith - which isn't an emotion, but a state of living.

When I return I'll have many things to share, but for now, I'll do my best to take as many pictures and notes as I can.

This is my continual prayer:
Lord, "My times are in your hands." Psalm 31:15

I'll see you next week!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Unending Devotion ~ A Book Review

This is the second book I've read by Jody Hedlund and I've enjoyed both of them immensely.

When I picked up Unending Devotion, I knew it was about a young woman, Lily, seeking the whereabouts of her sister, who had run off to the lumber camps to find employment as a prostitute. When Lily arrives in Harrison, Michigan, in the heart of the lumber camps, she meets Connell, the boss of a large lumber operation. Connell is concerned with his profits and pleasing his father, so he has turned a blind eye to the realities of the sinful state of Harrison, thinking there is nothing he can do to change it.

What I didn't know was how much this book deals with white slavery and the sex trade in the lumber camps of the 1880's - I hadn't been aware of the very serious problem it had been, but I thought Jody did an amazing job bringing this subject to light. It isn't an easy subject to discuss, but she was able to do it with grace and sensitivity - and she wove it into a beautiful love story, with strong characters, that kept me turning the pages.

Unending Devotion is an excellent read, worth your time.

What about you? Have you read any books by Jody Hedlund? Have you read Unending Devotion?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

With Every Letter - A Book Review

I love reading historical novels, and I've read quite a few, but never have I read one quite like With Every Letter, by Sarah Sundin. Everything about this story is unique and well written.

The book is set during WWII and the hero, Tom, is an engineer who is stationed overseas. He has a name everyone in the United States recognizes and links to his father's criminal activities, and because of it, he's never had a true friend.

The heroine, Mellie, is a flight nurse and was raised in the Philippines with her single father, a botanist. Because of her unusual upbringing she's uncomfortable with the social norms of females and has never had a true friend, either.

Both the hero and heroine are encouraged to participate in a letter exchange program, and because of the anonymity involved, they are able to open up with one another and share who they really are on the inside, for the first time. This leads to an anonymous romance. While the letters are going back and forth, both characters are dealing with very different circumstances in their own lives, but Sarah Sundin is able to weave both stories, and their growing love for one another, into a well crafted tale that comes together beautifully at the end.

Not only is this a great premise for a book, but Sarah's attention to historical detail,1940's culture (including some great movies of that time) and the intrigues of war, made this a hard book to put down.

My only criticism, if I have any, is that the beginning of the book is bogged down with numerous characters (because of the nature of the war) and it was hard to keep everyone straight at first, but eventually I was able to pick out the key players and had no trouble with it for the remainder of the book.

This is Sarah's fourth published novel, but the first one I've read, and I can say that if her other novels are written as well as this one, I will be a lifelong fan.

Available September 2012  at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

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What about you? Have you read a book by Sarah Sundin? Do you enjoy WWII era stories?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Strength in Numbers

I have some pretty amazing friends, and it's not just because they like me, :) it's because they go out of their way to show me how much they care - and that makes all the difference when it comes to friends.

It's not uncommon for one of us to send out an email to the others and start asking if there is a day coming up where we can get together. Years ago we stopped gathering during the day when the sum of our children was greater than fifteen; instead we meet later in the evening after the kids are tucked into bed.

Now there are nineteen children between the five of us, so it can get pretty complicated to coordinate gatherings. We try to plan them weeks in advance and it usually takes that long to iron out the date.

Tuesday morning one of those emails came around, but this one had a deadline attached: they wanted to gather before I leave for the ACFW Conference next Wednesday. After a handful of emails and a couple of texts, we realized the best day would be the following evening - I'm still amazed we pulled it off.

My friend Beka offered a campfire in her backyard, complete with gourmet s'mores - what are those you may wonder? A regular s'more, but more sinful, with an assortment of other options like Nutella, peanut butter, jelly or strawberry marshmallows, to name a few.

When I got there the other four were already snuggled around the blazing fire and we were able to share two and a half hours of uninterrupted conversation. I rambled on about the conference and my writing and they shared with me where they are at in reading my story. We laughed, we cried, we encouraged and we prayed together, but the coolest moment came when they gave me a gift.

I love gifts, but when it comes from a group of women who are just as busy as me with children, volunteering, work and a plethora of other commitments, I really appreciate it. What they handed me brought tears to my eyes - and later, when I was home and shared it with my husband, brought on a full-out, good cry.

They gave me a picture frame with these words: "...Everything is possible for him who believes." Mark 9:23, and inside the frame there is a photo of a waterfall with a woman in a green ball gown (these are two images in my book) and on the picture is the title of my novel, Forgiveness Falls, with my name. On the bottom they wrote: We Believe in You!!! They also handed me a manila envelope that says: "To: Gabrielle Meyer, From: Your Adoring Public :) for the plane, hotel, etc." and I've been given strict instructions not to open it until I'm alone and need some encouragement.

Writing a novel can be a lonely pursuit at times, but knowing I have the support of my friends and family fills me up to overflowing. I couldn't ask for better people in my life, both in my hometown and online. Every person who reads this blog, asks me about my writing or encourages me with their thoughts, comments and prayers, strengthens me to keep pursuing my dream. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

And thank you to Beka, Lindsay, Sarah and Jessica for an amazing gift - the gift of your friendship. You made this upcoming trip so much more special. Thank you also to my mom and my mother-in-law for volunteering to provide childcare, my sister-in-laws, Angie and Sarah, for reading my novel and giving me feedback and my sister in Colorado who Skyped with me to pick out my clothing for the conference. She sent some fun jewelry through the mail that I may or may not return to her. :) When I count my blessings, you gals are at the top!

What about you? Who fills you to overflowing?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Conception of a Dream

Next week I'll be attending my first writer's conference and I can't even describe my excitement. For years I've dreamed of being at a conference, surrounded by like-minded people, learning as much as I can about the industry and meeting other writers.

I've had a story in my head for over ten years and numerous times I tried to sit down and write it, but I was always side tracked by life. In February 2012 I was finally ready to get that story written. I jumped into the writing world feet first - and the more blogs I read, the more how-to books I studied, the more writers I met, the more I wanted to keep pursuing my dream. I was in the middle of a Writing 101 crash course and I loved it!

I heard about ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) organization and the large annual writer's conference they hold in September. You have no idea how much I wanted to attend that conference, but I was so new at this I wasn't sure if I was ready, or if my husband was ready to invest that kind of money into my dream. So I mentioned it to him (actually more than once:), but I never pushed. If it was the right thing to do, it would come about naturally.

Six weeks ago I mentioned it one more time - in passing - and he said: "What would it take to go?" So I crunched the numbers, lined up child care possibilities and found a potential roommate. I also had to call my cousin, whose wedding is that weekend, and tell him I had this great opportunity. His encouragement to go was the final piece of the puzzle.

When I hung up the phone I stood in my kitchen and let out a little cry of delight! In that moment I was filled with the same emotion I felt each time I discovered I was pregnant. This sense that something was being conceived - that soon it would be birthed and would change my life. It was an incredible moment and I'll never forget it.

What that "thing" will look like is up to God. I don't know when or where or how, but I know that in His perfect timing everything will line up and He'll use it for His purpose and His glory. I'm so amazed and humbled that He'd call me to walk this journey with Him. I know that He'll give me everything I need, when I need it and one day I will hold my published book in my hands, much like I held each of my children for the first time.

I'm going to this conference with very few expectations. I'm not pitching my book formally, but I know I'll have many opportunities to talk about it. I don't intend to come away with a contract, but I hope to come away with more friendships, a better understanding of the publishing industry and a deeper sense of my calling.

What about you? Are you going to the conference? Have you ever had a moment when you felt God was conceiving a dream in your heart? Has that dream been born?
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I'm a featured writer today on Becky Doughty's blog!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A Wedding & A Winner!

Katie & Mike Meyer ~ and my beautiful girls!
I just returned from a three day wedding! My husband's brother was married over the weekend and we traveled to the Twin Cities on Thursday evening for the rehearsal and groom's dinner (my husband was best man and our daughters were the flower girl and ring bearess). The ceremony was on Friday evening in their backyard with thirty-five close family and friends, with a dinner following, and the large reception was on Saturday afternoon/evening with a hundred and fifty guests, also in their backyard. It was a lovely wedding (I took over four hundred pictures!), but I'm happy to have the family back home and I look forward to sleeping in our own beds again (three nights in a hotel is enough for this mama).

By the way, I started reading a new book over the weekend (between wedding events) and I'm almost finished. It's called With Every Letter, by Sarah Sundin. It's excellent! I'll be sharing my review of it in the coming weeks - but, wow - love it!
I thought it would be fun to share a few of the pictures from the wedding (scroll down to see the winner of last week's book giveaway!):
The ring bearess and the flower girl

My hubby and the girls
Our twin boys
Mike, Dave and Matthew (my husband
in the middle and his brothers)
My girls and I

My father-in-law and my husband
dancing with the girls

My hubby and our daughter (who
became the dancing queen this weekend!)

The bride and groom's first dance
 (with partners!)
~ ~ ~ ~
I have a winner from the interview with Laura Frantz on Wednesday's blog post and it's:

Teri Metts!

If you'd like to read the interview, you can find it here.

To read my review of Laura's newest release, Love's Reckoning, go here.

What about you? What did you do over the weekend? Reading a good book? Any big plans in the near future?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Laura Frantz & Book Giveaway

It is my great pleasure to welcome author Laura Frantz to my blog today. Please join our conversation in the comments below. Laura is giving away a copy of her newest release, Love’s Reckoning, to one very lucky winner!
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I first met Laura in the pages of her novel, The Colonel’s Lady, and I became a big fan. At the time I read Laura’s book, I was beginning to feel I was ready to start pursuing my dream to write again, after we had our twins. Her book so enthralled me, I did something I’ve never done before, I went to an author’s website – and I stumbled across her blog.

I’ll never forget the moment I read the end of the third entry in Laura’s blog (shortly after she signed her first book contract), her words resonated in my writer’s heart and I was overcome with tears; I knew it was a divinely appointed time: “I am still stunned as I write this and I encourage anyone who might stumble upon this post to take heart and ...don't give up! If He planted the dream in your heart He won't leave you hanging. We have a Father who never fails.” That message was almost four years old, but it was lying there waiting for me to find it. I knew the time had come to start my own writing journey and her words were the encouragement I needed.

Imagine my stunned delight when Laura accepted my friend request on Facebook (the first author I’d ever requested!) and shortly thereafter committed to praying for my writing journey. She extended the hand of friendship and became one of my earliest blog followers. Her encouraging spirit, and belief in my writing, has propelled me much farther and much faster than I had ever dreamed possible. I thank God for introducing me to Laura Frantz. She’s quite a lady!
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Laura, welcome to my blog home! I’m so happy you’ve stopped by to chat and share a little about your newest release, Love’s Reckoning.

I’m so excited to be here, Gabrielle. Your site is one of my favorites, being fellow bibliophiles and history lovers and more!

Thank you! We do share many of the same interests and I know that’s why I love your books – and your blog – so much. In my introduction, I shared how I started my writing journey, could you tell us how you got started, and who has encouraged you along the way?

My Mom says she found me at my dad’s desk at age 7 writing a story about ships. Writing was just something that always felt like coming home to me – always a bit of magic involved, something otherworldly. When I found out I could step into a story like the ones I checked out at the library, I never wanted to leave that world behind. I still feel that same way as an adult.  I wrote historical fiction throughout high school and college, taking a 5 year break when my kids were small and then resuming again. I’m most comfortable when I’m writing just for the sheer joy of it.

My biggest encourager would be my brother, Chris, a pastor and teacher in Spain. He dared me to try to publish something. I thought nothing would ever come of it so guess he had the last laugh! I went through the Writer’s Edge and was picked up by Revell in about 6 months. I’m still pinching myselfJ.

I’m so happy your brother encouraged you to seek publication and that you picked up writing after taking a break raising your small children. As you know, I’m a wife and a mother of four young children; figuring out how to keep it all balanced with my writing dream is a challenge, but I know it can be done well. What wisdom have you gained, about keeping your life balanced, can a new writer benefit from?

I believe nothing is as important as family or our relationship with God. As writers we have to be very careful to not let writing become an idol and take precedence. Even after publishing, it’s important to stay centered on Christ and the fact that He gave us the gift of writing for His glory, not our own. I always urge writer moms to pray about their schedules and ask the Lord to give them pockets of time in which to write. He will! And like you said, it can be done well if you lean on the Lord and He gives you balance, not burnout.

I’ve had to do just that, seek out those pockets of time to work on my book. Since February, I feel like I’ve been on a crash course in Writing 101! I’ve spent many hours learning as much as I can about writing and the publishing industry, but sometimes I wonder what I should focus my attention on. What do you think is the most important thing you’ve done for your writing career?

It may sound too simplistic but the best advice is to simply WRITE. Devote the bulk of your time to your story and characters and what the Lord wants to do through your story. I came to publishing 5 years ago without anything – no agent, no writing conference, no contests, no online presence, etc.  I just tried to write the best story I was capable of and the door swung open in God’s time. There’s tremendous pressure today to be socially savvy regarding Twitter and Facebook and Blogger and other sites. But that can be a trap if we’re not careful and it can steal away valuable writing time. Another tip is to be a discerning reader. I learn more about stellar writing from reading authors who write better than I do than from any craft book, though craft books have their place.

I couldn't agree more and you've become one of my favorite authors to study, Laura. I had the privilege of reading your newest novel, Love’s Reckoning, and I’m anxious to share my review for it! It’s like a beautiful painting, with the perfect colors, shading and texture. It’s the first in a four series saga about the Ballantyne Family. Can you tell us a little about this book and the ones to come?

I’m truly itching to read your review, thank you! Set in Pennsylvania, The Ballantyne Legacy showcases one man’s choices in love and work, in friends and enemies, which sets the stage for generations to come. Love’s Reckoning is the first of four books beginning in the late 1700’s and following the Ballantyne family through the end of the Civil War. It’s sort of a mail order groom story with a handsome young Scotsman and two sisters. Watch out for some historical fireworksJ!

I can’t believe I have to wait another year to learn what happens with the next generation of Ballantyne’s! I hope my review did your lovely book justice.

Sometimes I think we imagine things to be far different than they actually are, especially when it comes to the writer’s life. So far, what has been the biggest surprise for you?

You’re so right – life pre and post publishing is quite different! The biggest surprise has been the amount of marketing and publicity involved. I’m not one of those writers who sell their books or self-promotes without pain. I’d much rather talk about you and what you’re doing or writing. But self-promo has to be done. Authors no longer live in isolation and having an online presence is here to stay. I’d encourage you and other bloggers to hone their writing skills and build an audience by doing just what you’re doing, having a writing ministry on your own site and connecting with others who share your passion. Once you’re published, you’ve made a jump start and that’s a beautiful thing!

Thank you for the encouragement, Laura. Just tonight I told my husband I’m getting the blogging blues, that I’m feeling a little rundown with my schedule and struggling to find topics to discuss, but he told me: “Keep doing what you’re doing, because people are loving it and you’re ministering to a lot of your readers.” He always knows what to say at the right moment and so do you. J

Laura, as always, I’ve enjoyed chatting with you! Thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer my questions. I will continue to pray that God uses the work of your hands and heart to further His kingdom.

That’s a beautiful benediction, Gabrielle. I pray the same, too, for you.

What about you? Do you have a question for Laura? What wisdom have you gained about keeping your life balanced?
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Laura has generously agreed to give away a copy of her newest release, Love’s Reckoning, to one lucky commenter!

For extra chances to win, you can:
1. Become a blog follower 
2. Like my Facebook Author Page
3. Share this post on Facebook (@Gabrielle Meyer)
4. Share on Twitter (@MeyerGabrielle).

The drawing will close on Friday, September 7th at 11:59 p.m.

To read my review of Love's Reckoning, go here.

Love's Reckoning ~ A Book Review

How can you sum up the beauty of a well written novel? How can you describe the wonder of a story that begs you to turn the page and invites you to climb into the setting and watch, not read, the tale that unfolds before your eyes? It's almost impossible and I couldn't do it any justice if I tried. What I can do is share my heart about this book and the creator behind it.

Laura Frantz is an author who is gifted with a distinctive voice. Her prose is stunning and creates a storyworld that is rich in colors, smells, textures and sounds. Her words are almost effortless to read, which means she has taken great pains to bring them to life.

As I read her newest novel, Love's Reckoning, I didn't even notice the passage of time. I was transported to the year 1784, to a rural town in Pennsylvania, on the tail of the Revolutionary War, where a domineering father, and a cruel sister, contrive to harness the future happiness of young Eden Lee and the strapping Scotsman, Silas Ballantyne.

Even amidst deception, manipulation and great loss, Laura is able to spin a tale that is rich in warmth and love. As the seasons changed from winter, to spring, to summer and fall, I felt temperatures rise and fall and watched the rolling Pennsylvania landscape change. Laura's setting is one of the things I always look forward to in her books and she delivered beautifully once again.

Silas Ballantyne is a strong hero, with enough wounding to make him vulnerable. His love for playing the fiddle, sharing Holy Scripture with Eden and dreaming about a prosperous future, in the wilds of Pennsylvania, left me cheering for him, chapter after chapter. Eden was also a strong heroine, but not in the way of the modern woman. Eden's strength was in her quiet and gentle spirit. Her heart was to serve and she did it with gladness that defied her circumstance. I also rooted for Eden. I wanted her to break free from the bonds of her home life and experience freedom and joy, far away from those who would selfishly steal it from her.

I loved how Laura wove Eden's growing faith, and Silas' steadfast beliefs, into the fabric of her story, bringing the tale to a deeper place within my own heart. As the story unfolded, their spirits were knit together through their shared love of Scripture and their secret meetings on the stairwell. During those scenes, I often felt like an observer from the corner of the dark passage, watching their love grow and their faith deepen, even when people and things conspired against them.

The characters in Love's Reckoning are varied and unique, from the lilt of Silas' Scottish accent, to the dialect of Eden's Quaker Friend, Margaret, and all the Pennsylvanians, both kind and evil, in between, there is no shortage of personalities and flesh and blood people. They jump off the page and demand to be noticed.

Even though I have closed the cover on Laura's book, and the final sentence has been read, her characters live on in my heart and mind, along with the story of faith, and the promise of hope, in the sweeping saga of the Ballantyne Legacy.

Available September 2012  at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Have you read Love's Reckoning, or any of Laura's other books?

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Please join me on Wednesday when I host Laura Frantz for a fun interview and book giveaway!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Labor Day Break

Happy Labor Day! I'm taking a little blogging break to enjoy this final day of summer vacation.

Please join me on Wednesday, September 5th when I welcome one of my all-time favorite authors, Laura Frantz! We'll be talking about the writing life & her newest release, Love's Reckoning, with a giveaway!