COVER REVEAL: Unseasonable

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Coming in December 2019 from Pelican Book Group!

Unseasonable: A Novel of Sisterhood, Storms, Sunblock, and the Occasional Christmas Celebration

Ann Cooper does not panic. From her demanding job training horses to her family role of keeping tabs on her high-maintenance sister, Ann remains cool, calm, and collected at all times. This holiday season, however, Ann’s fortitude will be tested like never before. Not only is she pondering a potential shift in an important relationship, but she’s also facing the prospect of riding out an unseasonable hurricane with the doubtful help of her sister Rachel. This December, Ann’s patience and faith will both be stretched. Will the risks involved in taking a leap of faith outweigh the possible rewards?

For more information, see here.

To be among the first to know when the book goes up for pre-order, see here!

Publication Announcement

New Book

You asked. I listened.

Coming in December 2019 from Pelican Book Group:

Unseasonable: A Novel of Sisterhood, Storms, Sunblock, and the Occasional Christmas Celebration

Ann Cooper does not panic. From her demanding job training horses to her family role of keeping tabs on her high-maintenance sister, Ann remains cool, calm, and collected at all times. This holiday season, however, Ann’s fortitude will be tested like never before. Not only is she pondering a potential shift in an important relationship, but she’s also facing the prospect of riding out an unseasonable hurricane with the doubtful help of her sister Rachel. This December, Ann’s patience and faith will both be stretched. Will the risks involved in taking a leap of faith outweigh the possible rewards?

Fans of the Collapsible trilogy can look forward to meeting plenty of old friends in these pages, as well as some fresh faces; but since this is a straight-up spin-off, new readers will have no trouble quickly orienting themselves in Ann’s world. (Ann’s world is extremely oriented.)

This book was an absolute treat to write, and I can’t wait to get it in front of your beady little eyes.

More info when I have it!

(Tip: Subscribers always know first.)


You’ve all been very patient as my blogging frequency dropped during the first half of 2019. Now that you know why I trust you’ll forgive me.

Because NEW BOOK!

I look forward to posting some reflections from my recent trip to Montgomery and a short series before the summer is over.

Happy Friday, everybody! Until we meet again, may your A/C be cool, your coffee hot, and your hearts warm.

 

Worst Parade Ever: Surviving My First (and Only) Marathon

On Sunday, March 3, 2019, I ran my first (and only) full marathon.

Having a handful of small races, a few half marathons, and even a Ragnar Trail Relay under my belt and faithfully following a training program did not fully prepare me for the physical and emotional roller coaster ahead of me.

Rather than subjecting you to all the arm-flailing details, I’ll share a quick summary of the run itself, a few vignettes from the course, and some concluding thoughts.

Running Details

The race route was actually gorgeous. We started in Downtown Stuart along the scenic waterfront, ran out to Sewell’s Point, up to the Jensen Beach Causeway, across the Indian River Lagoon to Hutchison Island, down A1A to Stuart Beach, over the Ernest Lyons Bridge down to the southern tip of Sewell’s Point, back the Evans Crary Bridge to Steele Point, passing back through Stuart on East Ocean to the Finish Line.

At the Start: My sister Bethany and good friend Jodee ensured that I arrived on time at the start, fully awake, hydrated, and stretched out. They even stayed to cheer me through the first few miles!

Miles 1-9: I hung with a pace group set to finish in 5 hours and 45 minutes. Unfortunately, once the sun rose fully, the course heated up quickly. With the temps hitting 87F and the heat index somewhat higher, I decided to drop into high/low intervals.

Miles 10-17: I ran high/low intervals. The 5:45 pace group left me behind, and the 6-hour pace group and most of the other turtle runners passed me as well. I was still feeling good, though, and moving at an acceptable clip.

Mile 17: Physical and mental breakdown on the Ernest Lyons Bridge (more on that below).

Miles 17-22: Shambling runs, uneven intervals, lots of shuffling and some fast walks with my hands on my hips. Heat and misery.

Miles 22-24: Mostly walking with a few little bursts of hopeful jogging.

Miles 25-26.2: Jogging again, because walking across the finish line was unacceptable.

Finish line: Joy and relief! Friends and family! Cold limeade! Ringing the PR Bell!

Vignettes from the Course

High points included lining up at the back of the pack with the rest of the slow-moving party crowd, coming upon a trio of older ladies mid-morning in lawn chairs offering runners scoops of ice to shove down their tops, and arriving at the finish line to discover friends and family holding out hope after the crowds had left and the crew had started shutting things down. (“If they took down the PR bell, we were going to riot!”)

Low points included soaring temperatures, my body pulling a bathroom emergency fakeout in Mile 16, and crying at the top of the Ernest Lyons Bridge in Mile 17.

I believe those two events are related.

The Bridge

By the time I hit Mile 16, I was running out on Hutchison Island, alone without a pace group.

I’d already rounded that bend near the Elliot Museum and was headed toward the double bridges to the mainland. I was running high/low intervals in a hot, airless section with no shade when my body informed me that we needed to find a Porta Potty, pronto!

Feeling pressure to deal with the situation and worried that further running might force the issue, I fell into a fast walk. While the stomach cramping faded within a few minutes, I’d lost my rhythm and drive right before I hit the Ernest Lyons Bridge.

I started up the bridge at a walk, continuing to lose steam as I ascended. The sun pressed down, the air thickened in my lungs, and the impossibility of finishing the race overwhelmed me just as my body gave out. My hands and feet began tingling. Black splotches danced across my line of sight. I swayed on my feet.

In short, I’d hit the wall.

I remember shuffling one foot in front of the other and actually grabbing the railing running between me and the sheer drop to the Intracoastal Waterway, hauling myself hand over hand toward the Olympic heights of the summit.

Just before the apex of the bridge, I stumbled upon a bench. Don’t do it, I told myself, even as I fell onto it.

I rolled onto my back, sticking my hands and feet in the air like a little bug. Tears leaked from the corners of my eyes, trailing toward my salt-matted hairline.

The moment had arrived. This was do or die, and I was fairly certain my body was making the decision for me.

Why postpone the inevitable? If I was going to quit, I should quit now and get it over with. No use shuffling any more miles. I should just surrender.

I dropped my hands and feet, leaving them to dangle over the sides of the bench. I opened my eyes, staring into the impossible blue of the sky. The black spots were gone.

On the bridge beside me, cars and trucks whizzed by. Even if I was going to quit, I couldn’t quit at the top of the bridge. It was too dangerous for anyone to park, for one thing; for another, I’d either have to roll over the cement barricade or be hauled over it. That sounded harder than walking down the bridge itself. Much better to walk down and call someone at the bottom.

After all, if I was quitting, I had plenty of time.

Fortunately, I could feel my hands and feet again. I rolled off the bench, stumbled to a standing position, inched over the tallest point of the bridge, and started down the other side.

A blessedly cool breeze lifted before me, and suddenly I felt fresh life. While I couldn’t run yet, hope rose. Maybe I wouldn’t have to quit after all.

A local man out for a walk up the bridge (it was an open course) passed me going the opposite direction. His gaze flicked to my runner’s bib (on which was my number and my first name), and he said, “Ruth! Your friend’s waiting for you!”

I didn’t have the energy to ask him what he meant, let alone puzzle it out for myself. A minute later, another passerby said something similar. “Ruth! You’re almost there! I saw your sign!” I broke into a shuffle.

There, at the bottom of the bridge, was my friend Alissa, holding a huge sign with my name on it, dancing like a crazy person. When she saw me coming, she ran straight to me, bearing iced coffee.

“You’ve hit the wall,” she told me. “So that’s over with.” I don’t remember what else she said, but I remember that only after talking to her did I feel that I might actually finish the race.

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The Song

The week before the marathon, I’d somewhat jokingly selected Psalm 118:17 as the theme verse for my race: “I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord.”

That verse not only proved true but also was an actual comfort as I found myself shuffling through the dreadful miles between my breakdown and the end.

At one point, I was trapped in a sunny stretch along Sewell’s Point feeling like I might die at any moment.

Suddenly, drifting from the open windows of a residential home, I heard the strains of the worship song “O Praise the Name (Anástasis),” a song our church family has been focusing on in this season approaching Resurrection Sunday.

Themes of pain, death, and inevitable resurrection overwhelmed me. I would not die. I would live and recount the deeds of the Lord.

I didn’t have the energy to sing or the spare moisture to cry, but I raised a hand and mentally sang along.

Then on the third at break of dawn,
The Son of Heaven rose again.
O trampled death where is your sting?
The angels roar for Christ the King!

O praise the name of the Lord our God
O praise His name forever more
For endless days we will sing Your praise
Oh Lord, oh Lord our God.

Even now, I’m unable to put into words what it meant to me, hearing that song in that moment.

The Finish

Losing steam partway through the race meant that I was one of the final finishers. While I wasn’t the very last runner on the course, I was among the final dozen or so to trickle in. The police were literally taking down barricades and reopening intersections as I shambled through them.

Still, my family and friends (and random passers-by) cheered me across the line as if I were one of the top finishers.

And you know what? I’m not embarrassed by that.

I spent six months pushing myself to train, struggled through physical, emotional, and mental battles, and in the end, I finished.

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Concluding Thoughts

Running a marathon was an audacious goal for someone like me. Considering my age, temperament, and physical capabilities, it was truly an awesome challenge.

While I feel absolutely no drive to try a full marathon again, I have zero regrets about signing up, enduring the training, and suffering through the experience (although during the race itself, I couldn’t help but think the whole thing had been a huge mistake).

All I can tell you is this: if I can run a marathon, anyone can do anything.

Make a goal, set practical steps, and work toward fulfilling it.

Though you’re worried you might fail, share your journey with friends, family, and loved ones because you will definitely fail without them.

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Counting All Joy: Thanksgiving, Lament, & 7 Sticky Theological Questions to Ask as We Gather to Give Thanks

I first wrote this list of questions in October of 2016. At that time, the list was titled “7 Sticky Theological Questions to Ask Ourselves in the Wake of Hurricane Matthew (or Any Tragedy).” It was a Sunday morning then, and Hurricane Matthew had just torn through the Caribbean as a Category 5 storm, headed straight for my town. At the last minute, he’d wobbled slightly into the Atlantic, sparing us a direct hit.

Our church family had made their way through streets strewn with debris and downed power lines, praising the Lord that we were able to meet and worship together in our intact church building. At the same time, we were grieving losses of our sisters and brothers in Christ along the storm’s route who had suffered great loss and praying for those in the still-moving storm’s path. Thanksgiving and lament, praise and supplication, all bundled together.

I’ve been revisiting these questions in recent weeks, especially as we’ve moved toward the Thanksgiving holiday. First, for those currently enduring trials, this season can spark complicated emotions. Second, given the link between suffering and spiritual refinement, sometimes I’m not sure what I should actually be thankful for.

While I’m truly glad to be enjoying a measure of health and happiness with my friends and family this week, I’m aware that even when all is not as I would wish it to be, God is worthy of worship regardless.


7 Sticky Theological Questions to Ask as We Gather to Give Thanks

  1. Given the relationship between suffering and Christlikeness, is being spared suffering necessarily a good thing? (1 Peter 2:21-25)
  2. Why would the Father ever spare me suffering–especially since he did not spare his own Son? (Romans 8:31-32)
  3. Do I secretly believe that the people who weren’t spared deserve to suffer in a way that I do not? (Psalm 103:10)
  4. Have I devoted prayer and/or resources for the relief of my sisters and brothers who are currently suffering? (Galatians 6:10)
  5. If I really believe that death will usher me immediately into the presence of Yahweh, why am I so relieved to find myself still here? (Philippians 1:20-26)
  6. Am I praising God’s name because I have escaped suffering or because he is worthy of praise regardless? (Psalm 96)
  7. Would I still be praising his name if I had lost everything? (Job 1:21Job 2:9-10)

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)


In Other News

I can’t believe it’s already November–and nearly the end of the month, at that!
Besides keeping the plates spinning at my day job and enjoying a bit of travel, I’ve mostly been absorbed this month with NaNoWriMo. I’m over 22,000 words into the first draft of my next novel, a stand-alone dramedy I’ve had in the works since before Bookmageddon. The drafting pace is a bit frantic, but I’m having a great time developing totally new characters. I’m hoping to have it in front of your beady eyes somewhere in 2020!(Pending publisher acceptance, of course. It’s fine. Totally fine. I’m not even worried about it! *cue screaming*)

Speaking of books, this week two of my 2017 releases will be enjoying Black Friday sales on Amazon. Well, Black Friday-ish Sales. Prices are scheduled to drop over the long weekend; but as ever, the ways of Amazon are unpredictable. Keep your eyes peeled for discounts on the Kindle versions of The Proper Care and Feeding of Singles and Murder on Birchardville Hill, both of which are slated to drop to $.99.

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For all of those celebrating Thanksgiving this week, I wish you a truly wonderful time of rest, reflection, and refreshment. May your turkey be succulent, your family dinners drama-free, and your coffee always within reach.

For Those Who Can Only Handle Being Moderately Creeped Out (2018 Update)

I’ve never been one to enjoy being scared on purpose. I don’t watch horror movies, relish psychological thrillers, or visit haunted houses.

Occasionally, however, on a long fall evening, I will curl up with a book that matches the season; or while out on a late-evening walk, I will listen to something that will creep me out–but only a little.

If you like to cover similar emotional territory, you’ve come to the right place.

I’ve been keeping a list for people like us.

Here’s the update.

Books

Bird Box, by Josh Malerman

The author had me right where he wanted me, held captive with nothing but my fear of the unknown propelling me forward. I think I read it in a day, finishing during dinner just before it got dark.

Wildfell, by London Clarke

Creepy Gothic suspense with a modern twist. Romance, travel feels, and things that go bump in the night. Yes, please.

11/22/63, by Stephen King

This isn’t the only Stephen King book I’ve read (his book On Writing is excellent) but it was the first, largely because I was told it “wasn’t too scary.” And it really wasn’t. Just super intense and psychologically twisty. Because…Stephen King.

The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova

This is not only a vampire book for people who aren’t into vampire books, but it’s also a creepy book for people who can’t handle creepy books. If that sounds like you, go for it.

Podcasts

Lore, hosted by Aaron Mahnke

I actually gave this one up recently because it started scaring me too badly when I was out running in the early morning or late evening. If I only listened to podcasts from the safety of my home, though, I’d probably still be hooked.

Dr. Death, reported by Laura Beil

Fair warning: this is real life. You may find yourself avoiding medical care after listening to this one.

Happy Face, produced by HowStuffWorks with Melissa Moore

In 1995, Melissa Moore learned that her father was the Happy Face Killer. In this podcast, she reviews her childhood and adolescence, analyzing her life through the lens of this knowledge, understanding her past in a new way. It’s early days still (I’ve only listened up through Episode 3) but can already attest that it’s gripping.

Individual Podcast Episodes

From Stuff You Missed in History: “The Hagley Woods Murder” 

Truth is always creepier than fiction. I mean…who did put Bella in the witch elm?

From This American Life: “House on Loon Lake” 

Enjoy shivering your way through this account of one man’s lifelong obsession with an abandoned house. I first listened while road-tripping home in the middle of the night during a thunderstorm. Perfectly creepy conditions.

From Criminal: “A Bump in the Night” 

What would you do if you realized someone was living in the crawl space above your bedroom…and that he might be in the house right now…? As a single woman who lives mostly alone, I found this true story almost too much to handle.

From Fictional: “Give Him a Hand” 

A creeptastic modern retelling of the classic short story “The Monkey’s Paw.” I first listened one blustery night as I walked through my neighborhood at dusk. Palm branches flailed against low clouds and raindrops dribbled down the back of my neck as I shivered my way through this. I was never happier to get back to the house.


Are you the type who can only handle being moderately creeped out? If so, and you give any of these recommendations a try, do let me know how everything works out. I want all the shivery details.

Also, let me know what my lists are missing! I look forward to hearing your suggestions in the comments below. Remember, only medium creepy suggestions.


Happy October! While the majority of North Americans are enjoying sweaters, scarves, and pumpkin spice coffees, we here in Florida are still just sweating it out, dealing with soaring temperatures and tropical storms.

Whatever the weather, the days are getting shorter, both in terms of daylight and the number of squares left on the calendar in 2018.

So.

Two important notes:

  1. This week my debut novel Collapsible is enjoying a publisher’s discount on all major e-book distribution channels, including Amazon Kindle, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, Google Play, and Kobo. From now until October 17, 2018, the e-book is just $.99–spread the word and snap it up!
  2. Very soon, I’ll be sending out my fall update. It will include news about my writing life, publication updates, planned appearances, and some personal stuff. Be sure you’re signed up so that you don’t miss out.

Happy Monday, everyone! May all your sweaters be cozy, your apple-picking delightful, and your favorite seasonal blend brewed to perfection.

Backstage Pass

In celebration of Collapsible‘s One-Year Bookiversary, I’m here to offer you access to a unique, never-before-published scene which was originally cut from the final draft of the novel.

It’s almost pure comedy, yet because the scene appeared early in the story, my editors thought it best to move the narrative along quickly rather than engage in indulgent silliness so soon. (My words, not theirs.)

They were right, of course, but that didn’t keep me from dying a bit inside when I had to say goodbye to the scene.

When you read it yourself, you’ll understand why.

The Scene

In the scene, which was originally slated to be Chapter 2, the girls race from the gym to the hospital. Ann decides to piggyback Rachel into the emergency room, and things go decidedly wrong. Because of course.

The Deal

Once Collapsible has reached 50+ reviews on Amazon, I’ll be releasing the scene right here on the blog.

Why It Matters

Reviews help consumers make purchasing decisions, of course, but they also move books up in Amazon’s rankings. When that happens, Collapsible will be more likely to be recommended by the algorithm when people purchase similar products. Then everyone wins.

How to Help

If you’ve read Collapsible and haven’t already posted an online review, drop by Amazon’s product page and post a short response. One or two sentences with a handful of stars is really all it takes.

Of course, if you haven’t even read the book yet, you also know what to do.

Let’s get cracking!

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Bookmageddon: Confessions of a Survivor

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Recently while I was having a leisurely lunch with friends, one of them said, “You know, you’re a lot more relaxed now that your books are out.”

No kidding. A year ago this time, I was a wreck.

I blame Bookmageddon.

Bookmageddon Explained

After having written four books in four years and submitting proposals nonstop without many publication nibbles, I finally signed two traditional publishing contracts: one for a trilogy of frothy novels, and the other for a non-fiction book.

I wrote another little novella in celebration, quickly received a contract on that one as well, and then discovered that all five books were slated to release within six months of each other.

I called it BOOKMAGEDDON.

Bookmageddon Experienced

One year ago this time, I was actively preparing for the release of my first novel (Collapsible) while proofing galleys of two other books (The Proper Care and Feeding of Singles and Murder on Birchardville Hill) and doing rounds of edits on the other two (Flexible and Unbreakable).

As a new author, I’d never done a book launch in my life, and I was trying to get five books finalized simultaneously while holding down a day job and maintaining a semblance of a personal life. Add to that the disruption of a major hurricane (Irma) and you have a fair idea of what went down.

Bookmageddon Evaluated

I’ll never complain about the miracle of suddenly receiving publication contracts on five books after years of absolute rejection. But you won’t necessarily hear me recommending Bookmageddon-style releases, either.

During the height of my Bookmageddon workload, I was rising in the wee hours of the morning to fit in work before my day job and then investing a few more hours of work after work. Meanwhile, emotionally, it was all I could do to keep myself together.

The external pressure of deadlines was compounded by the internal stress of finalizing the latter books in a series without knowing how the first would be received. The stress of comparing the style of my fifth book to my first and knowing there was a noticeable skills gap; then lying awake at night convinced that no one would actually notice the gap because no one outside my immediate family was likely to buy or read my books anyway.

All was vanity and vexation of spirit.

Good times.

Beyond Bookmageddon

Once all the behind-the-scenes work and emotional hand-flapping was done and I could sit back and let the books roll out, Bookmageddon wasn’t so bad. The release days themselves were anticlimactic.

When asked if I’d ever do anything like Bookmageddon again, I have to laugh. I can’t imagine that I’ll ever have five unpublished manuscripts stacked up again; but if I do, and if Bookmageddon 2 is the only way to get them in front of your beady eyes, I’d consider it.


For those who have asked, I am working on a new book.

The first draft is done, the manuscript is now in the re-writing phase, and I’m working on finding it the perfect publishing home. Though it wasn’t a good fit for the publishers who took a chance on my Bookmageddon titles, I’m optimistic that we will have publication news early in 2019. (Sign up here to be among the first to know.)

In other news, since Collapsible will celebrate its one-year Bookiversary on September 29, next week’s blog post will be packed with bonus content. So we all have that to look forward to!

Happy Monday, y’all! May your spirits rise like the steam from your coffee.