Monthly Archives: January 2015

All the posts that I didn’t post this week

Hey guys! How’s it going? Wasn’t I doing so awesome on my blog schedule up until this week?

Yeah, I know.

But, I have a good excuse. I finished the umpteeth first draft of Clouded…at a pace of 5,000+ words a day. I had nothing left in my brain. Plus, I would have probably blogged in the voice of my main character (although that could have been interesting!)

I will be back next week with a recipe and book to share. Today, though, I’ll leave you with this…

Weekend Inspiration

(I need to pick a name for this series and stick to it.)

Have you heard of Highbrow yet?

“It’s your personal knowledge hacking tool. Highbrow expands your mind in just five minutes a day via bite-sized courses delivered to your email inbox every morning. It’s never been so easy to broaden a mind. Use the link below to sign up and learn more. Link to website:

(I don’t get any sort of kickback from this, btw, it’s just awesome.) I’ve done Ted-Ed for Writers and am now going through the Most Famous Works of Art course. They’ve got everything—these are the categories:

Weekend Resource & Book Review

Weekend Resource: The Book Designer

My weekend resource this week may be a little niche, but I feel like its often got information that can be used beyond just the publishing world, like general design information that can be used for all kinds of marketing. But the site really does focus on self and indie publishing, and it’s full of great information for writers at all levels. So, pursue the site, take a look at all the free resources, and start to look at every book cover and interior with a designer’s eye.

Book Review:

3 out of 5 Stars

The people over at TheBookDesigner were kind enough to give me a copy of the new book Joel wrote along with Betty Kelly Sargent, The Self-Publisher’s Ultimate Resource Guide: Every Indie Author’s Essential Directory-To Help You Prepare, Publish, and Promote Professional Looking Books.

This book is exactly what it says it is: a list of everything you should need to get your book polished, published and promoted. It’s broken in three sections: Prepare, Publish and Promote. In the Prepare section you’ll find listings for the people that will help you polish your work, like editors and designers, in addition to resources to make you a better writer, like professional associations and books to read. Publishing covers exactly what you would think it would: printers and distributers. Besides web designers and social media experts, the promotion section also includes contests, resources like blogs that will review your book, and sites that will let you list it.

Overall, I gave this book three of five stars for two reasons:

1) Everything in here can be found online with a Google search and, inevitably, the material in here was outdated the moment it was taken off-line and put in a static format. That said, THIS WILL SAVE YOU A TON OF TIME. You could spend hours or days researching this stuff on your own. Having it all here is awesome. At the beginning they ask for updated information to be submitted, so I’m curious how that will be communicated to people who have purchased the book, or if this will be like the Writer’s Digest Market Books that you need to re-buy every year (or buy a subscription to the website) to have up-to-date information.

2) I wanted there to be a lot more information about each of the categories listed. When I published my first book, I didn’t realize I needed separate content and copy editors. Based on my work with NoiseTrade, I know a lot of self-published authors don’t really understand the different ebook formats, or the difference between a print-on-demand publisher and a vanity press. Again, all this can be found online, but if you’re going to look it up, you might as well be looking up the services too.

I’ve had a really hard time deciding whether I’d recommend people purchase this book or not, and this is what I’ve decided: if you are fairly experienced in self-publishing, this will save you time and is totally worth the eight bucks. You know what you need, and this will give you a nice, quick way to find it. If you’re new to self-publishing, you really need to be spending the time researching all this stuff yourself. It’ll save you A LOT of money in the long run, even if it eats up your nights and weekends. Then come back in two or three years and buy the current version.

**Review copy was provided to me at no cost by the publisher in exchange for an honest review**

Recipe of the week: The Special

This was one of the first recipes I ever made up all by myself. It was based off a pasta with vodka sauce recipe that I found somewhere, and a dish that one of our friends in Nashville made us for dinner once (I’ve never gotten my chicken to taste as good as Emily’s did, though.)

  • 4-4 oz Boneless, skinless chicken breasts 
  • 1/8 tsp Salt
  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 small Onion, minced
  • 1 Garlic Clove, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups fat-free, low-sodium Chicken Broth
  • 2-7 oz jars Sun Dried Tomatoes in olive oil
  • 4 cups Fresh Spinach, chopped or shredded
  • 1T Basil
  • 4 Cups Penne Pasta
  • 1/4 Cup grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/4 Cup crumbled Feta Cheese
  1. Cook pasta according to box directions. Meanwhile…
  2. Cut chicken in 1-inch pieces, sprinkle with salt and pepper
  3. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken, onion and garlic.
  4. Sauté 5-minutes, stirring frequently.
  5. Drain most of the oil from the tomatoes but do not rinse them.
  6. Stir broth and tomatoes into skillet.
  7. Bring to boil for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally
  8. Add 2 cups of spinach, cook 2 minutes or until wilted.
  9. Divide remaining spinach among 4 plates.
  10. Serve pasta over spinach, topped with chicken.
  11. Sprinkle with Parmesan and Feta cheese.

Book of the Week: Help, Thanks, Wow

Book of the Week for January 18 -January 24

Help, Thanks, Wow


Why it’s interesting:

Anne has always been refreshingly honest about her faith, even when that honesty is about the lack-thereof. In this book, she points out the obvious that so many of fail to see: there are only three necessary prayers: “Help”, “Thanks”, “Wow.” And, really, that is what it all comes down to, isn’t it? Written in her amazingly honest and blunt voice (which I LOVE) this is a quick and totally worth-it read.

The blurb:

New York Times-bestselling author Anne Lamott writes about the three simple prayers essential to coming through tough times, difficult days and the hardships of daily life.

Readers of all ages have followed and cherished Anne Lamott’s funny and perceptive writing about her own faith through decades of trial and error. And in her new book, Help, Thanks, Wow, she has coalesced everything she knows about prayer to these fundamentals.

It is these three prayers – asking for assistance from a higher power, appreciating what we have that is good, and feeling awe at the world around us – that can get us through the day and can show us the way forward. In Help, Thanks, Wow, Lamott recounts how she came to these insights, explains what they mean to her and how they have helped, and explores how others have embraced these same ideas.

Insightful and honest as only Anne Lamott can be, Help, Thanks, Wow is the everyday faith book that new Lamott readers will love and longtime Lamott fans will treasure.

If you like this, you might also like:

Bird by Bird


Bird by Bird is one of those books that “all writers should read” but I really think it’s a book that anyone who is alive can get something out of. Because, yes, writers need to be reminded it’s okay to do shitty first drafts, but isn’t a lot of life like that? We know what we want to accomplish, we try and it sucks, but we can tweak it. (It’s not just me, is it?)

Even more about tidying

Project 333 has gotten me pretty addicted to cleaning and simplifying, so when I saw this quarter’s Tranquility Du Jour Book Club pick, I grabbed a copy from the library and devoured it. Sort of. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing has a lot of great information in it. It really does. But oh my is it repetitive. But, it’s well laid out with headers and lots of highlighting, which makes it really easy to skim.

A lot of what she talks about, getting rid of what you don’t need, is what’s fueled my current clean-out. But she takes it a step further and says to only keep items that actually bring you joy. That’s kind of huge. If you’re indifferent, you don’t need it.

The most intriguing section of the book for me was about how to fold your clothes. Yes, I know I’m a nerd. But it’s pretty revolutionary: you fold everything so it stands on the side. You don’t stack anything, so you can always see everything you have. When I was putting our laundry away yesterday, I gave it a try. (Here’s a bunch of videos about how to do it.)



Workout clothes

Workout clothes

Sweater Drawer


Pajama & lounge wear drawer

Pajama & lounge wear drawer

I must admit, it didn’t take that long to get the clothes looking like this, and now that I’ve got this much empty space, it’s kind of tempting to go shopping. (I won’t, I’m just saying…)

I promise not to blog about this much more, but it’s been pretty exciting to see how much easier it is to keep the house clean and find what I need when I need it. I’ve got two more bags of stuff sitting by the back door waiting to be donated, my “random but not junk” drawer in the kitchen is organized for the first time ever. I took two evenings and skimmed through two years worth of magazines, ripped out what I wanted to read (a total of 5 articles) and sent the rest, four grocery bags worth, to the recycling. (We also learned that Mpls/St. Paul Magazine and Minnesota Monthly are basically the same, except MN Monthly mentions Brainerd and Duluth once each issue.)

Meal of the week: Pork Tacos

I take thirty minutes or so each weekend to plan out meals for our family and make a shopping list. We have a few recipes that we keep going back to, so I thought I’d start sharing them with you.

We get a meat CSA each month. In case you’re not familiar with the concept, we prepay a farm directly for a big bag of meat. They deliver it, we don’t get to choose what we get, but it’s all amazing, grass fed, organic, and humanely raised. And the price is phenomenal. One thing that we get a lot of is pork shoulder. I’m not a huge pork fan, so I let these build up in our freezer, not sure what to do with them. Until I found this recipe.

I’ve adapted it a bit and make it in the crockpot for those nights that we don’t get home until it’s really time to be getting the kids ready for bed.


  • Approx 3 lbs of pork shoulder
  • 2 juiced oranges
  • 3 juiced limes
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 2 Tbsp cumin
  • 2 Tbsp coriander
  • 1 Tbsp dried cilantro
  • Tortillas (I’m gluten free, so I have to have corn. But, according to my husband, it’s great with either corn or flour.)
  • Whatever toppings you like on tacos


  1. Put it all in the crockpot, cook until the meat is done (around 6 hours on low.)
  2. Serve on tortillas with your toppings



Guys! The comments on my site have been broken and I don’t know how long it’s been going on! I’m so sorry!

THANK YOU for all of the emails I got about the planners (and the fact that you couldn’t comment on the post, or actually download the planners. Again, so sorry!)

I’m trying to figure out why everything with the site seems to have gone so wacky (my pages are out of order, comments, etc.) so thanks in advance for your patience. Now, on to the good stuff.


So I generally don’t talk about my current, in process writing too much, but I thought I’d go ahead and share a little update, since it’s the beginning of the year:

Stealing the Ruby Slippers and Finding the Ruby Slippers are both available for sale everywhere digitally and in select indie book stores in Minnesota. Both books are getting really good reviews and sales, and I’m super happy with how things are going. If you’re a blogger or reviewer and would like a copy shoot me an email.

I have a completed book, Home, that I’m shopping to both agents and publishers. I am still considering the self-publishing option, but this book is so different from the Ruby Slippers series that I’d really like a larger team behind it. The premise is this: Ashley is an accidental agoraphobic: she worked a super stressful job that basically ran her life for years, and when the job went away, she took full advantage of the ability to stay home for a while, relax, and focus on creating a life she really loved. But now, it’s been four years, and she hasn’t left her house, and her sister, Megan, has a critical kidney disease. Megan needs a transplant, and Ashley is the only option. But, even if she can overcome the crippling panic attacks and get to the hospital, she may not be able to pass the psychological exam to donate.

I’m currently re-writing (for the millionth time) Clouded. The main character’s name has changed, as have most of the details. The big plot points remain: It’s about a girl who moves to Nashville and lands her dream job in the music industry. But things aren’t nearly as dreamy as she thought. After she gets fully integrated into the industry, she’s not sure who she can trust. Or whether she’s even trustworthy herself.

Short Stories: I’ve got three in-process short stories, and ideas for several more. Nothing I really want to share yet though.

What are you reading? What are you writing/creating?

Book of the Week: Dark Places

Book of the Week for January 11 -January 17

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

dark places

Why it’s interesting:

Holy crap. Dark Places is one of those books that you start and you can’t put down, even when it’s creepy and awkward and you don’t think you want to read anymore and you need to go to sleep or participate in life.
*One caveat: there seem to be some editing issues. I can’t tell for sure, and I actually would love to have a discussion about it. There are places where I felt like the wrong tense, or maybe even wrong word, was being used. But, then again, much of the book is told from a marginally sane person’s perspective. So maybe that was the point. Tell me what you think.

The blurb:

Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in “The Satan Sacrifice” of Kinnakee, Kansas.” She survived—and famously testified that her fifteen-year-old brother, Ben, was the killer. Twenty-five years later, the Kill Club—a secret secret society obsessed with notorious crimes—locates Libby and pumps her for details. They hope to discover proof that may free Ben. Libby hopes to turn a profit off her tragic history: She’ll reconnect with the players from that night and report her findings to the club—for a fee. As Libby’s search takes her from shabby Missouri strip clubs to abandoned Oklahoma tourist towns, the unimaginable truth emerges, and Libby finds herself right back where she started—on the run from a killer.

If you like this, you might also like:

gone girl

I mean, I get that it’s almost cliché to recommend Gone Girl at this point, but I did really love it. And the two books are similar enough that I can confidently say if you like one you’ll like the other.

Day Planners

Day Planner

I’m addicted to planners.

Paper, electronic, whatever. I don’t care. I feel like there has to be the perfect solution out there to make me productive, rich and famous. (Okay, maybe not the last two. But they might naturally grow out of productivity, right???)

I’m also all about taking recommendations.

  • Michael Hyatt ran a great big company and has branched out on his own and seems to be doing quite well for himself (he’s was named one of Forbes Magazine’s Top 10 Online Marketing Experts To Follow In 2014.” He used Nozbe. I grabbed the free version, loved it, and pounced on the huge sale they did at Christmas that gave us two accounts for the price of one. I got Chris using it. Then I realized that it didn’t really work for me either. (Luckily, they have a 60 day money back guarantee, and incredible customer service.
  • Erin Condren Life Planners are pretty. I know a lot of people who swear by them.
  • I’m a huge fan of everything Kimberly Wilson does. Back in the day, she was a huge proponent of the Planner Pad. A few years ago, Kimberly started putting out her own Daybook.
  • Etsy has a TON of options. Last year I downloaded this one.
  • The company I used to work for did everything through Microsoft Outlook (and later, SharePoint) tasks.

The thing that all of these had in common was: they’re awesome, but not for me. (And they’re rather expensive.)

(This may be my ego talking, but I don’t think so. Feel free to leave me a comment and tell me I’m wrong.) I think, as a creative professional who has to devote a lot of time each day to just producing work, but not necessarily crossing things off a check list, I have a special set of needs when it comes to organization. Back when Kimberly was promoting the Planner Pad I used the basic structure to make something myself. Last month I spent most of the week before the kids went back to school (when I wasn’t cleaning out closets and drawers and generally purging) creating a new planner system for myself. Half-way through the first month, I’m pretty happy with it. It is based on goal setting and creating monthly and weekly plans before digging down on the daily level.

It’s very specific for me: I know I can’t focus on too many things each week, or each day, so I’ve left limited room to list things. I want to be reminded of my reading and art goals, because they’re the ones I tend to shove off to the side. I don’t usually have a lot of appointments, so a skinny schedule column works.

There are a few things I know I’m going to need to change.

  • In the monthly reading column I need to add a line for the inspirational book.
  • I have forgotten about the Gratitude list, so I need to set a reminder for myself on my calendar.
  • It’s not super pretty. I use colored pens to fill it out to give it some pizzazz. But if I had the time and talent, I would like it to be a little more designed.


Because I love you, if you want I’ll give you the planner pages for free. Just put your email in the cute box below. I know it probably won’t work perfectly for anyone else, but if it helps, that’s great. And if it doesn’t…well…it was free. 🙂

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Do you have a planning system? What do you use to stay organized?