Obsessed with Yes

Obsessed with Yes

“Want to join my cover reveal team?”

Ahhhh, she seems like an amazing human, and I want to support her, and I’ll see the cover before anyone else.

“Yes!”

“Do you do beta-reading?”

I love helping out newer authors, and it’s so rewarding to encourage and critique at such a critical stage.

“Yes!”

“I’m having a [sale, party, social media team, Instagram challenge, blog tag, etc.] and I thought of you, would you like to join?”

Aw, they thought of me. I absolutely love getting to interact with so many other bookish people… This could help grow my audience too.

“Yes! Thanks for the invite!”

*notices they need help with something*

“I am available, and yes, I am going to help you.”

I’m obsessed with saying “yes” to things. Mostly because I love my indie authors and my bookish humans, and I want to support everyone in every way possible.👏👏 Also, a tiny bit because I miscalculate my schedule and am a mess at boundaries and feel guilty saying “no”.

I’ve been reallocating my energy lately. Taking a good long look at what I actually *want* and can do with the time I have. Leaving space to pour into people, in big ways and small, but also taking time to read, to write, to work, to be human Kate.

I’m learning to give an honest answer immediately or eat humble-pie and apologize when I can’t follow through on something I previously agreed to.

It’s been nice. 🧡

(P.S. — Don’t ever feel guilty for asking me to do something/something I’ve done for you in the past. I love working with you, and it’s on me to honestly evaluate what I can do.)

Guest Post // To Boldly Go by J. Grace Pennington

Guest Post // To Boldly Go by J. Grace Pennington

(This post literally gave me chills as I read it. 😭💙 I hope it’s an encouragement to your heart.)

I didn’t always love science-fiction. Despite the fact that it’s one of my dad’s favorite things in the entire world, I wasn’t even really aware of what it was until I saw Star Wars in my teens. As an obsessive person, it was very easy from there for me to become, well, obsessed. I had lightsaber fights with my brother in the backyard. I daydreamed about trips on the Millennium Falcon. I debated the legitimacy of JarJar Binks as a character with my friends (those who weren’t scared off by my incessant need to discuss these things, that is).

A few years later, my dad introduced us to Star Trek, and from there – I was hooked. As far as I was concerned, science-fiction was the greatest type of storytelling out there, and I began work on my own series, Firmament, shortly afterward.

It wasn’t the first story (or the first series, for that matter) that I had written. I had been putting stories to paper and/or word processor since I was five years old. Throughout my childhood, I consumed stories the way most kids consume candy – gobbling them every possible chance and then begging for more. The hearing and telling of tales has long been part and parcel of my life. Narration, poetry, and prose are threads without which I don’t know what the fabric of existence would even look like.

Did I mention I’m an obsessive person? I mean that with a capital O. As in OCD. As in severe obsessive-compulsive disorder, which was and still is linked with other mental and emotional struggles. I don’t recall a time that I didn’t experience dark depression, persistent intrusive thoughts, and often crippling anxiety.

Does that seem like a non-sequitur? We were just talking about stories, particularly of the scientifically speculative type. One minute it’s starships, and the next we’re off on mental health. Confusing, right?

Maybe. Or maybe not.

I don’t think I realized until I was much older the connection story can often have with depression and my other assorted issues of the mind and heart. Escapism is part of it, sure – when the world seems hopeless, taking off to a galaxy far, far away can seem tempting indeed. But there’s something deeper to it than the simple hiding of self from problem.

It’s very hard to see in the dark. And sometimes when we’re very close to a situation or to a person or a circumstance, we can get too turned around to find where exactly the light lies. That’s when it can be beneficial to step away for just a little while – to move over the threshold from our own place on our own Earth to another frontier – to a story wherein things are so wildly different that it gives us a whole new perspective, but where the people and problems and darkness are not so very different from our own.

That, as it turns out, is specifically what I love most about science fiction. It’s not the cool technology, the weirdness, the thrilling heroics, though those can all be fun. It’s the way that in its pages or on its screens we can see our own lives reflected but inverted. We see our struggles, our problems, our messes magnified and twisted into something we barely recognize – but still, we see them. We see them just clearly enough to take courage and hope back into life when we finish the story. We see ourselves, the same, but different, like an old friend with a new haircut and a new sense of style. We see something so familiar, and yet maybe something that we’ve never seen before.

In short, in these stories wherein the improbable is made possible, we see a glimpse of truth. And ultimately, when truth shines through in a story, it illuminates some part of our lives, of our minds, of our hearts in a way that is specific to our own journeys. Through the veneer of the speculation and the fiction, we can catch a lightened glimpse of a more real reality. A reality that, despite the darkness that may come, is always there.

A reality of hope. A reality that helps my often tangled and struggling mind to boldly go where it needs to go to find the truth behind the stories, the fact behind the fiction, and the knowledge that there is something more we cannot always see.


J. Grace Pennington has been telling stories since she could talk and writing them down since age five. Now she lives in the great state of Texas, where she writes as much as adult life permits. When she’s not writing, she enjoys reading good books, having adventures with her husband and daughters, and looking up at the stars.

(Giveaway ends midnight PST! Enter now!)

Boxes // A Short Story

Boxes // A Short Story

The boxes were small and square with colors varying from red to green to a very light shade of pink. Her favorite was gold, and the latch was broken from opening and shutting it so often.

She kept the boxes in the bottom drawer of her dresser, and on days where the tears were too many for her heart, when a lonely ache settled in her from head to toe, she opened the drawer and chose one from the dozen.

There were other boxes too. Ones she tried not to keep, but they wouldn’t seem to go away. Here and there, they were tucked around her room. One held down a stack of paper, three propped up the corner of her sagging ottoman, and others cluttered up the windowsill like faded plant stands.

She tried throwing them out, but there always seemed to be more, so she did her best to keep them busy and useful so she was never tempted to open them. They were as much a part of her life as the treasured boxes, but if she could ignore them, she would.

The last time she’d given in had not gone well. She had opened every single box in one evening and the contents tore into her soul. It took several of her most treasured gifts to make her feel better.

As the years passed, the little drawer gained a few more boxes. One was silver, a gift from a boy who made her feel very special once. Another was pink and white striped from her best friend, and three others followed that matched it.

When she changed houses, she moved all the good boxes with her and left the others behind, jumbled in a pile of dust and ready to move on. One of the boxes from a friend stayed behind with them, the good gift turned sour from a bad friendship end.

She decided in her new room, her new life, there was going to be a change. The precious boxes were going to be on display, where she could see them every day and be reminded of their contents without risking wearing them out with opening and closing. She needed their constant encouragement to be brave, to know she was loved, and to get somewhere in life.

She set them up in a perfect row across the back of her desk, then laid back on her dorm bed and ran through their contents with her eyes.

The gold one was from Grandmumma on her fifth birthday. “Well, aren’t you just the sweetest little thing today?” Grandmumma’s accent would warm her heart every time she let the words out to visit them. 

The green ones, a card on Christmas, a compliment from a stranger, and the deep red one was a congratulatory speech on winning an essay contest. The sky blue ones, from Mom and Dad, near in shade to a few she had left at home, ranged from “I love you” to “I’m so proud of you” to “I see you and I hear you”. She had kept every one.

The striped boxes, down one from their original number, were twinged with the bittersweet knowledge that maybe her friend didn’t mean them anymore, but she kept them anyway. The same with the one from the boy.

Her new life began, and it was busier and fuller than anything she had ever imagined before. She barely needed to open the boxes those first few weeks, but the number of dingy gray, accusing red, and gloomy black boxes cluttering her floor and windowsill began to grow almost without her noticing it.

She tripped over one on a particularly exhausting day and slammed her knee on the end of her bed. Tears that had been wanting to burst out all day took their opportunity, and she sank down onto the floor. For the first time since she had moved, she saw just how many boxes there were and something told her to open them. Open them all.

“Imposter.” “You’re going to fail this test.” “Ew, that outfit does not match at all.” “Some people are just too sensitive.” “Sorry, I just don’t think we’re right for each other.” “If you’re ever going to accomplish anything, you have to just grow up.” “You’re not a very good friend.”

The boxes with her voice hurt the most, but she had to hear them. She searched through the room, finding the ones hidden in her closet corners, two under a pile of clothes on the chair, one inside the left shoe of a pair she’d bought for a date that was canceled.

The boxes piled up around her, and she buried her face in her hands, letting the tears flow. The last time this had happened, she’d wiped her eyes, cuddled up on her bed, and opened the drawer full of delicious reminders that she was very loved.

It had been enough. 

But as she looked up at the little army of boxes lining the back of her desk, she knew it wouldn’t work this time. There simply weren’t enough good words to combat the bad ones. She decided to do the only thing she knew how. 

Spreading out an old blue blanket, she piled the boxes, some half open and half empty, into the middle and tied the corners tight around them. Then she shoved it into the back of her closet. Tomorrow she would take them to the campus dumpster and have another fresh start. Tonight at least she couldn’t see them. 

Sleep washed away her tears, and she began her day with only the bruise on her leg to remind her anything had happened. Months passed without her thinking of the lumpy bundle and kicking new boxes without a second thought under the bed.

She met a new friend who was also a boy. His “I love you” was the most beautiful box of them all. She slipped it under her pillow and stared at it in the starlight every night before she drifted to sleep. 

Time passed and her house changed again, this time to one she shared with the sweet boy she married. The beautiful boxes were stacked on a shelf, and the others were added to the blue bundle and tucked into the corner of the garage.

The collection of precious boxes began to grow faster than ever before. It seemed like every day she added at least one, maybe two to the precious little hoard. The boy seemed to shower her with all the boxes her heart had ever craved, and she was learning to give them to herself. She had even rediscovered a book full of them straight from the heart of God.

One day the boy gave her her first dingy box, and she added two more herself. She disappeared into their room to hide them away, but he followed to apologize and saw them for the first time. 

His words were so humble, so tender, and filled with such love that she dropped the boxes to catch his words in a new one she knew she could revisit whenever she needed.

“What are you doing?”

“I’m keeping your words.” It was strange that he had asked but even stranger that she’d assumed it was something everyone did until this moment. 

“Why?”

“I need them. For when I don’t have enough. For when I need to be reminded of how loved I am. And the others are just an accident.”

He shook his head and pulled her into a hug. “You don’t have to hoard these anymore. There will always be more.”

The tears filled her eyes, and she dropped the box on the floor with the others to lean into his hug. 

In the days that followed, she learned to catch less and less. Letting them bounce freely around the room and her heart, trusting there would be more. She even opened the boxes on the desk, freeing the tattered memories and kissing Grandmumma goodbye. 

The dark ones couldn’t matter anymore either. If she never caught them, they flitted away, no longer supporting her life or weighing her down. 

Now she was free.


I hope this story spoke to your heart in some way, and I pray you learn to speak good words to yourself and trust them from those who love you most. 💙

For the Love of Beta-Reading

For the Love of Beta-Reading

The pages come, a document ready for an email full of notes or inline suggestions and comments.

A precious story only you, the author, and maybe a handful of other people have seen.

Maybe the title isn’t even final. The story itself isn’t. There are still “darlings to kill”, wordings to revise, continuity issues to track down and fix.

They’ve entrusted you with their book, a beautiful, incomplete mess of soul and imagination.

You’ve been asked–or you’ve volunteered–to look at the story with fresh eyes. Eyes of a reader, reviewer, writer, editor, fan, friend. They’ve done what they can to make this story their best, and now they need you.

To share what you don’t understand.

To point out details that got lost in the swirl of draft after draft.

To suggest ways they haven’t thought outside of the wording box.

To see their story and remind them what is beautiful, true, exciting, and original about it.

To see them, the author and what they’re trying to accomplish.

And the beta-reading love infuses new life into the story itself and into the author who needs just a little reminder they should keep writing. ❤

Read on, wonderful one.

(All images from Pexels)

Guest Post // 10 Tips for Writing a Series

Guest Post // 10 Tips for Writing a Series

Remember that really good advice Sarah Holman gave us in her interview? I asked her to share her tips for writing a series, and here they are! I’ll definitely be taking some notes…

Who doesn’t love a series where you get to see the characters you love over and over again? I know that when I adore a character, I always wish the author would write about that character forever.

As a writer, creating a series is a huge undertaking. Here are ten of my best tips for those brave authors who embark on this rewarding and daunting journey. 

1. Make a plan for your series. This doesn’t have to be a detailed plan with every plot point of every book. Just sketch out the overall plot and character arcs along with an idea of what part of those will end up in each book. This will help keep you on track throughout the writing process.


2. Be willing for the plan to change. While making a plan is important, you might find that your plans have to be adjusted as your series grows. After all, as you delve deeper into the plot and characters, you might discover new twists and turns. Just update wherever the document that holds your plan so you have a reference to what’s going on. This will help you see how the series itself might have to change to fit the new developments. 

3. Create a cast of compelling characters. For any story to work, your reader has to like the main characters, even if it’s just a little bit. So, give your reader compelling characters they can feel connected to. While each character will be unique, here are some basic “molds” for compelling characters.

  • Someone caught between two worlds and doesn’t fit into either.
  • The leader/protector who’s separated from people because of their responsibility.
  • The full of life and adventurer who has little to nothing to ground them.
  • The caring person who’s passionate about their vocation/situation in life, and it makes them a bit of a hothead at times.
  • The feeler who often withdraws because their emotions can be overwhelming.
  • The genius who can sometimes be misunderstood, but often holds the solution to the problem if people will listen.
  • The faithful one who’s there for everyone, and quietly does their job/is a support without many people realizing what is going on in their lives/hearts.
  • The lovable grump who often has a hard past/hard life that makes them prickly, but they have many redeeming qualities for those who choose to look.

This is not an exhaustive list, but some starter ideas to get your creative juices moving. 


4. Let your characters grow and change. There is a verse in the Bible that says man makes his plans, but God’s purposes prevail. Well, in writing an author makes his plans, but sometimes characters have a different purpose. This happened to me while writing the Kate series. Kate changed a lot from what I thought she would be at given points in the series. I think that how she changed was good, even though it wasn’t in my plan. Be willing to let your characters grow and change beyond the original plan.


5. Have long-term issues that aren’t solved in book one. You want to keep your readers needing the next book. In the Kate’s Case Files series, one of the ways I did this is have Kate have a past that’s murky. It leaves the readers wanting the next book to see if I finally tell them what it’s all about. Also, I have personal growth and change in her and other characters that isn’t fixed at the end of the book. Readers what to know if those two characters ever get together, if this character learned their lesson, and why that other character is acting the way they are.

Readers what to know if those two characters ever get together, if this character learned their lesson, and why that other character is acting the way they are.

~ Sarah Holman

6. Have plot points in every book that ARE resolved. You don’t want your reader to finish each book in a series without feeling some things are resolved. They need closure with each story in some aspect. It might be the case the character is investigating, a personal issue that’s brought up, or finally revealing information. Cliffhangers can be fine, but should be used sparingly.


7. Plan running jokes, phrases, and settings that pull things together. Especially in a book that runs more than three books, you want to give your readers things that pull them right back into the action. You need to have characters with unique phrases, recurring settings to help keep their bearings, and even inside jokes that they can chuckle over. This will help pull your reader into back into the story, even if they set aside the series for a while.


8. Give new tidbits every book. Your reader needs to feel progress is made in the overall story plot. For instance, in Kate’s Case Files, I make a big deal in book 1 about Kate’s murky past. I don’t just keep reminding my reader she hasn’t shared about it yet; they get tidbits about what it might be and clues that she’s getting closer to sharing. We also learn more about the characters in every book so our understanding of them grows with each story.

9. Keep a document of facts that you can reference. It’s easy to think that you’ll remember a character’s eye color, last name, or how many siblings they have. However, sometimes those details get forgotten. Make a document or grab a notebook and note down details as you go. Character worksheets can also help with this. If it’s an ongoing detail, write it down.


10. Have fun! Make sure this is something that you will enjoy. Writing a series can be quite an effort, so you want characters, settings, and plots that interest you and you can have fun with for months and maybe even years to come.


(All mockups provided by Sarah Holman)

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Ordinary Author Time

Ordinary Author Time

You know that week between Christmas and New Year?

The one where time is meaningless, snacks don’t count, and you ponder the meaning of life, existence, and where to put your new stuff?

I’ve been having that week for the last few days.

Ever since I sent out pre-order packages, I’ve had to realize–this project is complete. The high point of a book release is over, and now we’re back to square one of the next one.

To be honest, while I adore my new story, I’m struggling to put. words. on. paper.

It’s mostly time management and perfectionistic paralysis (😬👀), but it’s also having to shift my brain…

These “ordinary” moments of wracking my brains for the best adjectives, acting out character emotions, keeping up with emails and housework (and failing), and enjoying media created by someone else are my life right now.

And they’re beautiful. ❤️

A happy Kate with her be-stickered laptop
Dear Body

Dear Body

I’ve been thinking a little bit lately about how hard we are on ourselves. These are two contrasting letters I wrote to my body, and I hope you can find grace to share with yours too. ❤️

TW: anxiety, depression, allergies


Dear body,

What is wrong with you?

You’re sad when you don’t need to be. You’re sleepy and lazy when we should be doing things and excited and creative and anxious when it’s time to sleep.

You give me a stomach ache and flushed cheeks and tense muscles when we make a joke that doesn’t land, or speak too loudly, or are running late.

You’re allergic to toothpaste of all things, and you decide it’s time to swell and sleep if we even so much as smell cut grass.

What is wrong with you? Can we please be normal?

Can we go outside and feel the spring breeze, can we look at our days with joy and sleep at night with peace?

Frustrated,

Kate


Dear body,

You’ve been through so much.

You’ve been holding me together when life is too overwhelming, offering sleep whenever I need rest, offering creativity when my thoughts need a distraction.

You’ve gone so long without me knowing that we were stressed, without me training my brain and my breathing to calm us down. You’ve reached for what you could to signal me, and I’m sad you’ve needed to be louder.

You’ve finally told me enough is enough, and we got you your own toothpaste. I’m so excited for how much better you already feel, and I promise we’ll work on the grass problem.

We’re going to figure this out. I’m going to listen and do, and we’re going to get help from someone who knows more about these things.

You’re doing the best you can.

Love,

Kate

He Remembers You

He Remembers You

I want you to look at this picture for a moment.

This is me hyping myself up at three in the afternoon to take an acceptably happy picture for my book launch that was already several hours late.

I had to work at it.

I’d been sick that morning. Like I have been a good bit lately. My symptoms have intensified to the point where I can’t ignore them any more.

Now, using the word “sick” helps me acknowledge how real and how life-affecting it is, but the technical terms are anxiety and depression.

I’ve always struggled with some level of anxiety, but the depression (and my willingness to label it) is new.

I’m just now learning to push aside guilt and shame and to share. To tap into my support system (I’m blessed with a really good one!), to fight for health, to hold on to hope, and to savor the good days. Even to let myself stay in bed on days when that’s all I can do.

Last month, in one of the moments where I found myself healthy enough to open my Bible, and engage in emotional vulnerability without it knocking me down completely, I found Jesus in a whole new way I’d never seen Him before.

Jesus is more emotional than we give Him credit for (love His humanity)–joyful, weeping, angry, disgusted. All acceptable, appropriate, healthy emotions, nothing like I’ve been feeling on and off for the last few months.

Right?

Jesus knelt in that garden and the emotion He described was “exceedingly sorrowful even unto death”. An emotion so strong it felt like it was going to kill Him.

He knew the plan, His place in it, His Father’s will, and His desire to follow. He knew how to handle His emotions, how to ask for support, how to pray His heart out.

And yet the exceedingly strong negative emotion still came. He felt it.

He remembers, and He remembers you. On days where we’re too weak to reach out to Him, let’s be comforted by this. ❤️


I considered turning off the comments on this post because reactions to this can be exhausting and embarrassing, but I decided to keep them open because if you need to share I want you to be able to.

Tell me how you’re doing, and how Jesus has found you. I’d love to hear! 💙

Blanket // A Short Story

Blanket // A Short Story

He was yelling again the day she found the blanket.

It was soft wool and bright blue, hidden underneath the bed she’d crawled under.

It fit just perfectly around her shoulders, and she wrapped it tight until it was as snug as a mother’s hug.

She put it on again the next time he yelled. Then when his eyes said he was about to. When his lips tightened along with his hands. When he closed his mouth and stepped out the door, the blanket trailed behind her all the way to the dining table.

She might need it when he came back.

She wore it more and more often the taller she grew. The blanket no longer trailed behind her, but she slept in it every night and the blue dulled to gray. 

One day she discovered if she wore it up over her head, he couldn’t see her and decide to be angry with her.

She pulled it tighter over her face until only her eyes peered out, watching for the next sign of his anger.

She began tripping, walking into things, and she no longer fit under the bed. It was hard work keeping herself wrapped up and trying to see where she went. 

When she went into the world, others saw her blanket, and as much as she tried they saw her. Some pointed and laughed, but most others just looked away or smiled sadly.

She asked someone why and they answered that adults didn’t wear blankets any more.

She took it off in a moment alone, where she knew she was safe from looks and anger. Her arms tingled from the cold air and it felt strange having her whole face in view, but her heart began to tremble. It felt as if everyone could see it and anyone could take it. 

So she found a way to put a small piece of the blanket around just her heart.

Others spoke to her and looked her in the eyes. Safety grew up around her in real hugs, and gentle faces, and as he grew quieter and older himself.

She began to cry, to share her fears, to experience things she’d missed when the blanket blocked her world. She told him what he’d done, and he gave a slow, sad nod.

The tears began to wash away the gray shreds of blanket, but a few pieces remained, holding her heart tight, hurting it as it tried to grow wings.

She tried to pull it off as easily as she’d put it on, but the threads had grown with her, seeming to become a part of her heart. They had held her together, and she wondered what she would be when they were gone.

The first string fell off on a bright summer day when she knew she was loved. Another snapped into pieces when he said he was sorry. The others followed slowly throughout the years, until she sometimes forgot there were any strings at all. 

She woke up one morning with her heart scarred but free, and she wept. This time with joy. 


Hurts can be healed, hearts can be freed. ❤️ I hope this story spoke to yours.

(Lovely graphic by Plethora Creative. All similarities in the story to people living or dead is purely coincidental.)

Being Kind to Myself

Being Kind to Myself

I’ve been a little hard on myself lately, and the other night when I thought through it, I realized there are a lot of reasons I should be being kind to myself.

1. I got over Covid just weeks ago, and insomnia, exhaustion, and oxygen issues are still recent.

2. I just went through a SUITCASE full of huge life changes in the space of week. 😉

3. I’ve never made this many adult decisions at once before, and never in this close collaboration as I do with my husband.

4. Moving in is hard work! 💪💪

5. I struggle with anxiety, low confidence, and minor health problems on a daily basis.

6. Cross out all of the above. I am a human, made in the image of God, worthy of love and honor and kindness because He says I am. I don’t need any more reason than that. ❤️

Make your own list and cross it out.

I hope today you are being kind to yourself, and if you find it hard to do so, please reach out to someone who sees you.

You are very loved. ❤️