The first question you get when you tell someone that you are a writer is, “What do you write?” There are a lot of interesting reactions when your response is Christian romance. There’s “Oh. I don’t like romance. Have you thought about writing a mystery?” Men will usually get really flustered. “I would never read that!” I want to respond, “Yeah, it’s okay. You’re not really my target demographic anyway.” But the one that astounds me – especially when it was uttered by other Christians – is, “Christian romance? What is that? Isn’t that an oxymoron?”
Wait! What? Have we bought into the world’s definition of ‘romance’ so wholly that we cannot see that Christian and romance not only go hand in hand, but should be the very epitome of what romantic love looks like? In fact, Christians should be the ideal of what love looks like in every relationship, because we should be reflecting God’s love to our family, our friends, our co-workers, and yes, even our enemies.
The reason why Christian and romance seems so incompatible is that we have started to believe that romance is about lust, passion, and sex, not love. Oh, it might eventually deepen to love, but if it doesn’t start off hot and steamy, is it really romance? We have it backwards though. A great love story begins with the relationship and grows in passion (and yes, passion is Biblical – look at Song of Solomon).
God is love. He created us in His image, and we can show His love to others, but we mess it up all the time because of our sinfulness. Once we belong to Him though, we should be growing more and more like Him every day, and that includes in the ways we show love. So, what does God’s love look like? We can’t emulate something that we don’t understand.
In my book, Sweetheart Suite I had fun answering this question. Amy Juliette has never really experienced love, not even in her family. ‘Happily ever after’ to her is a joke. When she stays at Carol Holliday’s inn, Holliday Hotel, she is dismayed to find herself in the honeymoon suite. On the wall is this passage of Scripture: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 ESV) Love must be a myth, she decides, because she certainly had never experienced anything like that.
For Amy, believing in love didn’t begin with romance. It began with relationship. She saw Carol’s way of treating her guests and her family. She saw Tristan, a man she was working with, take care of his grandmother with love. She experienced her half-sister pulling her close even though Amy kept pushing away. In all of these people, she was seeing God’s love for her.
It wasn’t until she had accepted God’s love and sacrifice for her that she could understand the depth of love. “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39 ESV) The world can’t comprehend a love like that because it doesn’t know the One who is love, the One who demonstrated that love by dying in our place while we were His enemies.
I encourage you to read 1 John 4:7-12. It clearly points out that if we do not show love, we may not belong to God after all. Christians have experienced a deep, abiding love because of His sacrifice for us. We need to demonstrate that same love to the world around us.
Christian romance shouldn’t be seen as an oxymoron. Instead, it ought to be viewed as the example of the best kind of love! More importantly, books should only be a reflection of what non-believers experience in real life from believers. They should be able to see God’s love expressed through us in such a way that when we tell them about Jesus, it makes sense.
I know that I don’t always reflect God’s love as clearly as I should. Sometimes it’s from selfishness, sometimes from ignorance or being oblivious, but I want to love like Him.
As a teacher, I ask God for a supernatural love for those students who can drive me crazy, and He always answers a request like that. I’ve found that those ‘difficult’ kids respond when they know they are loved. There are many others that I could love better, and I pray that God will show me how to best love others as I grow and mature in my life.
How can you show love better? Is it in your family or at work? Is there a particularly ‘un-loveable’ person that you need God’s help to love? Read 1 Corinthians 13 again to remind yourself of what love looks like. Which attribute is the most difficult for you? God will help you to love just as He loved you.
“Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”
In January, I had revised my debut novel which I wrote for years ago. I had a big promotion coming up for February and needed to update my e-book files. It’s amazing how much I’ve grown as an author and how my writer’s voice has changed.
Reading the manuscript over again, I became a touch discouraged because some of my dialogue didn’t flow as naturally as I write now. Since the revisions are complete, I’m pleased with the original message of the story.
For a moment, I was contemplating finishing my Single Again series and starting a completely new one, to write more mainstream romance.
The reason being, is this series is Christian fiction with grit. It’s not fluffy romance. I like to get the reader in with the romance or the humor side of things, but usually there is a hard-core message that does challenge Christian thinking in today’s church circles.
I don’t want to just write Christian fiction for the market to suit the the expected storyline in romance, which often isn’t realistic for relationships in this decade.
Although my first book deals with divorce, infertility and grief, there’s a lot of hope and light-hearted humor and romance to get the reader through. The Bible speaks about how the more we are forgiven, the more we love. When a person has found mercy and forgiveness, they are more thankful and love God back in return.
I believe it’s okay to write the truth and show how God‘s grace can work through someone’s life, by turning a wreck into something worth diving into. Like a sunken ship can become a haven for new life. Colorful corals form for fish to explore and feed.
More Than a Second Chance has hit the number one best seller in Christian dating and relationships several times. And In February, through the help of Bookbub, my readers have expanded beyond my wildest dreams.
All three stories from the Single Again series are based on true life stories. Last week, I got to catch up with the person, who is alias “Cassie.”
My story was written four years ago, which shares her encouraging, but tragic story. I gave her a happy ending. Last month the story came true.
I got to see her wedding video and I discovered she met her Christian, handsome prince. God will restore all that was lost. She is planning to have a baby as she lost hers at birth, several years ago. I pray that my book is like a prophecy for her life and these things come to pass.
I’m excited to continue to write real life stories, not just ones which are safe and do not rock anyone’s boat. We need to get real in the churches by meeting and answering real life questions or situations.
This month, I would like to offer my debut revised version as a prize. More Than a Second Chance eBook can be yours if you win this month’s draw. All the best!
The Most Romantic Gift I Ever Received
Ah, February. The doldrums of winter. Everything is cold and gray and slushy. The excitement of Christmas has passed, and the promise of summer is nothing more than a hazy dot on the horizon.
And then: Valentine’s Day.
A day to celebrate love! And romance! And—yes—chocolate!
Prior to meeting my husband, I didn’t pay much attention to Valentine’s Day. And after being married for almost fifteen years, I don’t pay much attention to it now, either.
Does that mean I take my relationship for granted? Maybe. For me, though, it’s more about feeling secure in the love my husband and I share.
Do I like getting flowers every so often? Sure. Would I think my husband didn’t love me if I didn’t get a Valentine’s bouquet? Nope.
Over the years, we’ve proved to one another the depth of our commitment in so many ways that a token gift on any given holiday is just that—a token. A small symbol.
But it wasn’t always that way.
In the early days of our relationship, we didn’t have the foundation of Christ-like love and service that we do now. We hadn’t nursed each other through hospitalizations, surgeries and life-altering medical diagnoses. We hadn’t attended funerals together. We hadn’t switched off sitting in a hospital room with our youngest son for ten days straight when he was battling 105-degree fevers.
In the early days of our relationship, we had attraction, but we also had uncertainty. Does this person care about me enough to invest time, energy and emotion into this relationship? Does this person care about me enough to listen to me, to find out what makes me tick and to honor that? Does this person care about me enough to accept all my flaws and imperfections, and to love me—all of me—unconditionally for the rest of my life?
Obviously, you can’t answer these questions in a day, or with one grand gesture. But over time, as you see the other person in action, the answers start to emerge.
My husband and I had been dating for about five months when our first Valentine’s Day as a couple rolled around. At the time, I was following a very strict diet for which I had to weigh all the food I ate on a kitchen scale. As a result, unless we were going out to eat at a restaurant, I did all the cooking.
That first Valentine’s Day, though, my now-husband invited me over to his apartment for a home-cooked meal. Although he pretty much survived on takeout and rarely cooked anything other than oatmeal for himself, he’d gone to the grocery store and collected all the ingredients he needed to cook me a nice, diet-friendly dinner.
He’d also, being the good scientist he was, brought home a scale from the lab on which he could weigh out the various components of my meal.
(And wasn’t I surprised to learn that a lab scale is way more sensitive than a kitchen scale! It took forever to weigh out that dinner because the scale was so precise!)
That meal, which he’d cooked by himself and weighed for me on his trusty MIT lab scale, was the most romantic gift he ever gave me, because it showed me that he knew me, he accepted me and he was willing to go out of his way to honor the things that were important to me.
Those are the moments I love writing about in my romance novels. After all the uncertainty, after all the ups and downs the hero and heroine go through together, I love capturing those small moments that have a special significance for just the two of them.
“Do it for the glory of God”
Writing creatively has not been a passion of mine since I was a little girl, but it has been something I’ve done for years. It was an outlet for love, anger, and sadness during my middle school and high school. Poetry, short stories, songs—I dabbled in it all.
Recently, I came across my poetry pages from Mrs.West’s English 2 class. Construction paper and composition books full of little things I’d written. I even found the poems my long time friend and I did together. We loved to write, “roses are red, violets are blue” verses in science class (our science teacher didn’t think it was funny). They’re not the greatest, but they were fun to write while the two of us went through things with our boyfriends. It also built our friendship and helped us mature as young women. She even told me she’d accepted Christ as her personal Lord and Saviour in a poem.
Fast forward twenty years or more, and I’m driving along a country road when I pass by an old barn, standing alone in the middle of a field. In a blink, images of a story begin to form like a movie and burn themselves into my mind. When I told a friend about it, she told me to write it. I could feel in my spirit that was the right thing to do, but my flaws in writing well held me back. During one of my quiet times with the Lord, Bible verses like 1 Corinthians 10:34 and others that used the word write, began to show up in my “Verse of the day” app. I took that as a big hint—write the story.
I didn’t understand the full impact my words would have on readers when I began this journey, and often times the stories are not presented in its best form. But God (I love those two words together) managed to still use those words to minister to others. Many have left notes to say how a book impacted how they look at their marriage or how the power of forgiveness can have on any relationship. Each time I read those notes, I see exactly why God had me start writing books and that He’d been preparing me for years.
As my ninth book comes to completion, I sit and marvel at the wonders God has performed through the words on the pages. The stories are not always feel-good ones—they tackle difficult issues and shine a light on the dark places of society and our hearts. Easy reading or not, I can see God’s hand in each one.
Christians look for their ministry and think it will be a big deal. It isn’t always a church or a crusade that God will use. It is willing hearts that can use their talents and crafts to minister to a broken world. Yours might be something simple like baking cakes, serving a meal, delivering groceries, or offering a kind word to someone in the store aisle. Mine is writing faith into fiction because, let’s be real here, fact is not that far from fiction.
Whatever God directs us to do, we must “Do it for the glory of God” or all our work will fall in the sand and be washed out to sea. Our time on Earth is short, so let’s make every minute count while we can.
A Peek Behind the Publishing Scenes
Final edits on book three in my Red Carpet Romance Series have been approved and turned in! This is cause for celebration!
To commemorate this momentous occasion, I thought I would give you a peek behind the scenes of the book publishing process. It sometimes feels like something shrouded in mystery. A writer writes, a publisher publishes, a reader reads. But there are steps and hurdles and mountains to climb between the first word being written and the last word being read.
And so, my reader friends, let me give you the low-down on publishing (a least in my experience).
I started writing…ooops…I almost gave away the title…can’t do that yet. Let’s just call it Book 3 for now. I started writing Book 3 in November 2019. After revising it, sending it to my critique partner (who is, in fact, the BEST!), and revising it some more, I sent it to my publisher in October 2020. From there it went through three rounds of edits.
What happens in the editing process? Well, my editor, who is amazing, reads the manuscript and in the first round of edits she points out big picture problems. Those big picture problems are story-size issues. Why did I do this? Why is this character not in this scene? Why did this happen? For Book 3 there was only one itsy-bitsy story issue I need to resolve, which was a big relief. Once I fixed that scene (it’s all the way at the end) the book moved on to the second round of edits.
In the second round, she fixed a bunch of comma goof-ups. I am terrible at commas. Do I put one here? Should there be a comma here? I tend to add commas all over the place. My poor editor has to go through and delete 75% of them. This is also where we had lots of discussions about word choices and style decisions. For instance, she pointed out that it is technically correct to abbreviate Los Angeles as L.A. However, as a Los Angeles native, I countered that no one from Los Angeles includes the periods when we write LA. It’s just LA. So, in the books, I use LA. Similarly, there was a discussion about why I said “the 5 freeway” and not just the freeway. Well, because there are a million freeways in LA and you have to be specific when giving directions. Fifteen miles on the wrong freeway and you’re totally lost! And yes, we Californians always put “the” in front of the freeway number There’s an entire history as to why we do that, but trust me, it’s a thing.
And then on to round three. This is the final polish stuff. More commas being fixed, a few more word choice changes. For instance, apparently, the theme of this book is the word shattered. I used it way, way too often. So round 3 involved finding a bunch of synonyms for shattered. Also, Book 3 had to pass the publisher’s in-house language standards. I work with a Christian publisher and there are some words you just don’t use…not swear words…but there are some Christian slang words that are not acceptable with this publisher, so I had to change one boo-boo word.
And then, just like that, four months later, the manuscript is off to the Creative department for cover design, layout, and formatting. Which means we are one step close to publication! Book 3 was my COVID challenge. Trying to find the energy and creativity to finish this book was a chore at times, but I am so happy that you will all get to read Kate’s story! Stay tuned, or stop by my social media sites, for the title reveal and release date information. In the meantime, if you haven’t read Mission Hollywood and Made in Hollywood, this is your chance to get caught up on all the Red Carpet Romance!
I did something terrible.
There’s a reason many authors refuse to reread their old work.
It’s called growth.
When we grow as writers, our old work can be painful to us, because now we see all the little things. All the “was” and “he stared longingly” that are not technically wrong but are not our best writing.
I decided I wanted to rewrite an old series that I’d shoved under the desk after it received a few rejections from agents and publishers. They knew I needed to grow. My writing muscles were brand new and easily torn. Those rejections stung. But I needed them.
I had to learn to push through what I knew, what I thought I knew, and accept that writing is a never-ending classroom.
I made it through two chapters of reading, editing, ingesting copious amounts of coffee (oh, wait…I do that anyway) and shaking my head to clear the shame, before I decided to scrap the whole thing except the bare bones and start over. Ninety thousand words. Gone. Poof. Obliviated. Never to be seen again (unless you sneak into the darkness known as my computer’s hard drive because deleting an entire story is agonizing!).
I’m sixteen thousand words into the rewrite, and the story is giving me goosebumps. Not the bad kind, thank goodness! If those agents and publishers had not told me no way back when, this story would not be where it is today.
Rejection is tough.
Nigel can tell you that first hand. What? You don’t know who Nigel is? Let me tell you.
Nigel is the hero of Stealing the First Mate. He’s been in love with his best friend Darcy since they were young. The problem is, Darcy considers Nigel a friend, and he’s been relegated to the friend zone for years. Talk about major rejection.
Does he give up?
Well, we wouldn’t have a story if he did that, now would we?