FREE Sweet Romance and Other Reads

Hey all! Just a quick check-in with you to give you a heads up about some fun reads for the weekend! Two of them are even FREE!

First off, Little Miss Lovesick (FREE until Sunday!):

Little Miss Lovesick

The Blurb:

Sydney Riley hears voices in her head…

Voices that keep her sane and voices that drive her crazy. The one thing they all agree on – forget Dirk the Jerk and move on.

So Sydney lets her friends drag her into the wilds of Northern Michigan where Little Miss Lovesick, the loudest voice in Sydney’s head, runs into – literally – the perfect man. Is hot fishing guide Matt Engel the man to vanquish heartbreak?

With the vacation flirtation behind her, Sydney is ready to start again. Soon after, however, a difficult – and must keep – client demands Sydney work with his new contractor. Yes, one and the same Matt Engel, hotter than ever and right here in town.

But when Matt’s past comes between them, Sydney wonders how to prevent another broken heart. As the rest of her life spirals out of control, she learns that sometimes a plan isn’t enough without friends to share the load.

Maybe together they can even help Little Miss Lovesick find what she’s been fishing for.

Little Miss Lovesick is next on my reading list! And here’s some awesome news–right now, it’s FREE!! You can snag Little Miss Sunshine when you sign up for the occasional and non-spammy Reader List of Kitty Bucholtz. JUST CLICK HERE. Her other books look awesome, too! Check them out HERE.

Next up, my very own Happy Scoops (also FREE today and tomorrow):

Here’s the Blurb:

Chryssa Parker is about to start her senior year of high school and she knows that it’s going to be totes amazing.

As Team Captain of the Cheerleading Squad and President of the Student Body Government, Chryssa is ready to be the smartest and hottest that Intellectual Elite has ever graduated.

However, when a pile of traffic infractions show up in the Parker mailbox, Chryssa’s lawyer parents decide it’s time for Chryssa to learn some responsibility.

Forced to become a sign dancer dressed as a cone at her parent’s ice cream shop, Chryssa doesn’t think she’ll ever survive the job. Obligated to give up so much of her life, Chryssa is completely surprised when she learns what makes her truly Happy.

If you enjoy the parody of romantic comedies like Clueless or Austenland and that sweet quirkiness of Hallmark romance, you’ll enjoy Happy Scoops.

Today and tomorrow, Happy Scoops is free! That’s right–showing you a little reader love with a free book! And if you have a moment to write a quick review (1-2 sentences are fast to write and super helpful), that’d be showing me a little author love. I totally appreciate it!!

Our Sweet Guillotine:

OUR SWEET GUILLOTINE by [Gray, Mary]Here’s the Blurb:

Tempeste has survived much choosing to live on Paris’ streets–scavenging for food, learning survival skills from a deserter whom she paid to attack her in her sleep, and living a life her mother would approve of, one devoid of luxury. But denying oneself of food and proper bedding can stir a madness in the brain. So, when Tempeste witnesses the quick and painless death of the guillotine–the death her mother should have received–she vows to find her mother’s accuser and vivisect his spleen.

Quite by accident, Gabriel, the young executioner responsible for Tempeste’s mother’s botched hanging, falls for Tempeste. So, instead of strolling arm-in-arm with a respectable mademoiselle through the gardens of the Palais de l’Égalité, Gabriel finds himself traipsing after an axe-carrying siren through the catacombs and facing off a hostile sans-culottes army.

With little choice but to fight, Gabriel determines to win the hearts of the sans-culottes, while Tempeste proves she’s quite adept at swinging the blade. When the pair finally make their way to Tempeste’s sworn enemy, though, a secret is revealed which promises to sever far more than they ever hoped to gain.

Just finished Our Sweet Guillotine and it was great! I highly recommend this historical romance. Find it HERE.


Lastly, if you haven’t signed up for my Clean & Quirky Romance Readers’ List, you can grab my novella, Twenty-Five Candles, for FREE when you do!


Here’s the Blurb:

When Anna Lewis was young, she made a wish to be married by her twenty-fifth birthday and just knew that her dream would come true. The problem is, becoming an adult isn’t as easy as she thought it would be.

Between giving up her nursing career and caring for her home-bound mother, Anna feels her dreams are passing her by. It’s only when—on her twenty-fourth birthday—Anna learns that a doctor is moving to town that she begins to hope once more.

However, when Anna finds out who the doctor is, conflict arises and her emotions are torn between her hometown boyfriend and the boy she always loved.

Tell me where to send your book by clicking HERE!

Or you can learn more about the list right HERE

How to be a Minimalist With Kids: Figuring it out Part 2 (Finding YOUR Kind of Minimalism)

If you remember my last post on Minimalism and sacrificing the junk–both physical and emotional–in your life to get what you want, you might remember that I said that I would be spending the next 30 minutes cleaning with my kids. Well, life happened and my son ended up getting a pretty nasty cut instead. He’s fine–just really freaked out by wounds, though his pain tolerance is super high.

Anyway, I went upstairs later that night, looked in my son’s room, then my daughter’s room and I was reminded of a light bulb moment that I had previously had. Everyone needs a different amount of stuff, so everybody’s version of minimalism–should they choose to practice it–will look different.

Feel free to read our ongoing journey, or skip to the tips bullet-pointed below!

Did you know that I happen to not eat meat/fish/chicken? I also happen to try to avoid most dairy products and try my best to eat lots of whole grains, fruits and veggies. If you were to put a name to this, it might be Vegetarian, Plant-Based, Vegan, Herbivore, Crazy or who knows what else! After having lived with a few health issues and completely involving myself in the world of Vegetarians and Vegans, I’ve learned that my body isn’t stereotypical and I just can’t camp 100% with most of those titles.

What it comes down to is that I don’t want somebody’s ideals imposed upon me–I want to eat to choose for myself. To illustrate this point, I’ve got the perfect story for you. I was once given a plate of rice and veggies at a social event. I was very grateful that they had made a plate for me that didn’t include meat and was about to take a bite when the person that gave it to me questioned whether I would eat the rice or not–it had been made with chicken stock.

I thanked said person that seemed to be testing me, told them that I had noticed, but that I would go ahead and eat it anyway–I didn’t want to make a fuss when they had already gone to the trouble for me. What I didn’t say aloud was that, along with not wanting to be rude, I also didn’t want to disrespect the life of the chicken by wasting the food that graced the table due to said chicken. While I wouldn’t eat full-on pieces of meat due to health reasons as well as having gotten an aversion as a child that led to not wanting to eat animals, at the time, I just didn’t feel it would be right to not eat the rice and throw it in the garbage.

The woman then said some of the words that made me begin to realize that I didn’t like sharing with others that I was Vegan. In a snippy tone and loud enough for everyone at the table to hear, she said, “So then, you’re not really a Vegan,” and walked away. Honestly, it was humiliating. And it made me mad. As I’ve thought about it over the years (yes, I need to let it go), I’ve decided to not stand in those camps and I created my own because this is my life and I want to do things my own way.

Why do I tell you this? Well, calling yourself a Minimalist might bring on strong reactions from others and I want you to know that–in my opinion–it’s ok to find your own kind of Minimalism. That’s exactly what my husband and I are doing.

Honestly, this is what I didn’t understand when I rejected Minimalism after clearing out 75% of our stuff five years ago. Making Minimalism work for 1-2 people is very different from 1-2 people plus 1 or more children that are four years old or older. Instead of rejecting it, I wish I would have made it work for me/my family in our own way.

Everyone needs a different amount of stuff to be fulfilled in their lives. My son needs more stuff than my daughter. Not realizing this fully simply caused me to ditch minimalism, which resulted in too many toys for my kids–particularly my daughter–and then not teaching my son to share with others what he didn’t need anymore. So, now they have too much stuff because we bought things for our daughter that she would never play with, while I indulged in allowing my son to accumulate and not let go.

As I talked about in my last post, too much “stuff” gets in the way of actually living. It takes too much time to care for it all, costs too much money to purchase it all, and gets in the way of achieving dreams. On the flip side, not finding your kind of minimalism might make you give up if you find it overwhelming to persuade your teenager, spouse or ten children to donate/sell 75% of their stuff.

Here are some tips on finding your kind of Minimalism:

  • Your kind of minimalism might mean none, one or two of an item–it’s all about what is actually useful to you. A question you might ask yourself–and your family–as you sort through items: Is it more valuable to have this item and all of the care/space that comes with it, or is it more valuable to donate it and have that time/space back? What will bring us more time and value to our lives?
  • Our kids are going to have a different kind of minimalism. Work with them to get their spaces in order, be calm, and remember that they may value certain items differently than you do. Letting them choose to keep one item over another will help them feel empowered, in control of their possessions, and (even if they get rid of something that they regret down the road) will help them to practice decision-making skills.
  • My kids have more hobbies/sets of items than they have time to use. We will be sorting said items into groups, then doing the following: We’ll require them to sell/donate a determined number of sets, then we’ll require them to box up a determined number of sets to go into the garage for a few months in order to swap toys out and make space in their rooms. If the toys in the garage haven’t been asked for or missed, we’ll address whether they should be kept or ditched at that time.
  • Set a 30-minute timer to sort through items to give away! Since the last post, we’ve been doing this and it works very well. As I work in their rooms with my kids, I know the clock is ticking, so we work quickly. Decisions are made more easily because we work fast and don’t have time to think about emotional attachments. Pull out a timer–you won’t regret it!
  • Offer a reward! Although I put this in the last post, I think it’s worth noting once more. I want my kids to know that having less has its benefits! Just don’t give them an object as a reward. It needs to be an activity or something that is used up; i.e. candy, going out for french fries, going to the park, watching a movie, going to a museum, going for a nature walk, etc.. I’ve been offering a reward for each cleaning session that we get rid of stuff. They really want the reward, so they’re more willing to part with stuff!
  • Make a goal and then work on it together! Although I am overwhelmed by their mess and all that needs to be done over time, I’ve been making goals for each of my kids, as well as myself, for each cleaning session. For example, today I worked on books and stuffed animals while they cleaned up crafting projects in their rooms. Once we were done, I didn’t complain about how much was left, I simply told them that they’d done a good job, told them it looked better and let them know that I was glad they were working hard, even though they aren’t really happy about letting go of so much stuff.
  • If you know your kids have way too much stuff, but they’re not too keen on letting stuff go, set a number of items to be donated, or assign a space that a certain collection must fit into. As an example, today when we worked through the stuffed animals, I told my kids that the stuffies had to fit in our toy bench. I would hold up an item and ask if it was ok to donate, if they said yes, it was tossed into the bag quickly so that the little stuffed animal eyes didn’t get to them with their sad, pseudo fur faces. If my kids said no, then I said, ok, but find something else that you will donate instead. It worked quite well and I have a garbage bag of donated stuffies, now. While somebody else might not think that the toy bench full of stuffed animals is very minimalist, for my kids, it is. They actually play with the ones that are left!
  • Accept your goals, efforts, and journey to your kind of minimalism! It’s ok if your kind of minimalism looks different to somebody else–isn’t Minimalism living with less and only what you need in order to live a richer life? If you’re doing that or making your way to it, I’d say you’re right on track. Even if it means that you have a few more items than the Minimalist Next Door.

What does Minimalism have to do with my author blog and author efforts? If you remember in this post, I talked about my goals to be a successful independent author and the sacrifices that I need to make in order to do so. My husband and I have a major goal and getting rid of the excess “stuff” is one of many steps toward said goal. And, as we take certain steps, I’ll be sharing our goal with you. We’re just not quite ready for that yet!

So, I want to be a successful author and am sacrificing in order to do so. What goal is your “stuff” sucking time away from?

If you’d like to support my efforts to become a successful author, please take a look at my books HERE–every purchase or kindle page read makes a difference! Thanks in advance!

Also, if you’ve already read my books, will you please leave a review? I honestly can’t tell you how important that social validation is on Amazon! It makes a huge difference in determining whether a customer will try my book or not. Thank you!

How to be a Minimalist with Kids: Figuring it Out Part 1 (Words into Actions)

If you remember my last post, you’ll recall that I was talking about becoming a successful author. And minimalism. And yes, they were related topics! We definitely need to sacrifice physical and emotional things in order to change and get something that we want. This post will include key parts of our ongoing journey to living intentionally, as well as some tips below!

Some of you may know that about five years ago, my husband and I got rid of 75% of our things and our house was usually super clean. We also had more time and money to do some things that we wanted to do. It was great! However, our children were two and four at the time, and the four year-old was never terribly interested in “things”, but rather, events or activities. Smart girl, that one. I want to be like her when I grow up 🙂

As our son got older, he had many stereotypical boy interests and he soon had trains and building toys and cars and remote control whatevers. It was a slow build-up over a couple of years and it was at this point that I sort of rejected minimalism as something that only worked for singles, couples, and people with very young children–not those with kids that accumulated things due to hobbies. I mean, have you seen those lists of “toys” from the most extreme minimalists? I think the last post that I read on how to be a minimalist with kids included a picture of a–YOUNG–child that had a shoe-box sized box of toys. And that was it.

That would not work for my boy.

It was during this time that I felt that my kids were accumulating belongings and then that stuff would stick around as they got more things and it seemed as if they used all of it, so how could we get rid of it? We also try to live within our budget, so buying toys again after we’ve gotten rid of them isn’t something we’re interested in.

However, there has been a shift. I’ve realized that my kids really have grown out of certain things (whether I like them getting older or not). My daughter has become more invested in books and activities while my son has stopped playing with certain toys as he focuses on others.

The outgrown toys have remained on their shelves, though. We haven’t gotten rid of much of anything in a while and my son’s room now kind of looks like a hoarder’s room. Looking around, I wonder how on earth it happened and how many hours it’s going to take to clean it up and sort it out.

The other problem? While my daughter has willingly and gladly given certain toys away, my boy has become sentimentally attached to his belongings. So, now he has a room full of stuff that makes a giant mess, that he can’t even imagine living without. And it’s more than he can care for on his own.

Yes, you’re right. Maybe I shouldn’t have scoffed at that shoe-box of “toys” that included a string of beads and a wooden sewing needle with yarn.

Going through their rooms with giant giveaway bags is probably a horrible idea, but I’ve come to the point where something must change. So, what have I done? I’ve decided to be the example. I’ve been piling things up that I’m ready to get rid of and sticking them in plain sight so that my children can see my sacrifices for change.

I went through my kitchen and wardrobe first and found the things that had lost value, usefulness, and meaning. I think that these two areas have been pretty easy to start with. First off, if you’re the in-home chef and like me, you get tired of looking at certain things anyway, so getting rid of them isn’t too bad. And certain items of clothing have been classified as traitors because they’ve grown too small, so it’s easy to get rid of a bad relationship with a shirt, as well.

Wherever you start, though, here are some tips that will, hopefully, add to your success.


  • First off, possessions hold memories, both good and bad. KEEP CALM!! It’s ok if it takes a little time, or if you aren’t ready to let go of certain things yet. Do a little at a time and you’ll be able to work through the process much more happily. This applies whether you’re working through your stuff, or others’ possessions.
  • SET A TIMER. I’m going to spend the next thirty minutes working on my kids’ rooms. WITH THEM, of course. It might be frustrating, difficult, or emotional. Isn’t cleaning kiddo rooms always? Setting a timer will help all of us to have a goal and a vision of relief from a possibly stressful situation. Whether you’re working with kids or alone, setting a timer is a great idea!
  • OFFER A REWARD. I told my kiddos that, once we’ve worked through our timer, there will be a reward when they are done. I want them to immediately feel the benefits of having less stuff, so I’m going to offer to take them to the park, the library, have a popsicle, watch a movie together, read a book to them, play a game with them, work in the garden together, or something else. This gets a little tricky, because our rewards are often things. I want them to know that they are missing out on experiences when we aren’t living intentionally and our stuff takes away our time as we have to spend excess time to take care of it. Ultimately, I want my children to value experiences more than things. And, don’t forget! Offer a reward to yourself! A beautiful truffle, cup of tea, manicure, a nap, an extra chapter of a book or going on a walk.
  • PICK AN EASY AREA TO START WITH. I chose the kitchen on purpose! When I had finally found a much-needed set of pots to replace the ones I’ve got, I knew that I didn’t want to have both sets cluttering up my kitchen. So, getting rid of those pots was the first step and replacing them with a new, more functional, WAY SMALLER set felt great. Once those pots had started a pile, I added several items to it, then full-on attacked it the next day. One last attack, and the kitchen will be much less cluttered and full of things that are useful to me. Starting with sentimental items, or things that’ll take a lot of time to sort out will likely be discouraging.
  • GRAB GARBAGE FIRST. If you feel overwhelmed by your stuff, getting rid of things sounds awful to you, or you have a busy schedule, easier is better–you need doable! Grab a garbage can or bag and go through an area, room or your whole house. Toss old receipts that you don’t need, junk mail, that sock with a hole in it, or things that can’t be sold/donated that you don’t want around anymore. Going through it quickly makes this process easy and fast! You’ll notice the difference quickly, which will be motivating, and you will have less to visually overwhelm you so that you can actually see what you need to get rid of.

One thing to note is that, while many things can be purchased again if you free yourself of it too quickly, sometimes that’s just a hassle. Try putting items that you’re uncertain of in a dated box. Items that you pull out to use might be worth keeping and in fitting with YOUR kind of minimalism. For instance, I cook and bake a lot. I’m trying to decide if it’s worth it to keep my two sets of measuring cups and measuring spoons–often having two sets makes the process a lot quicker. However, it’s also more to clean up and store. I’m going to decide what has more value, then keep or get rid of the items.

While being an example isn’t going to make my kids suddenly want to get rid of everything that they don’t use anymore, I have noticed them adding a few things to the pile, which is extremely encouraging. Now that the pile has been started and as we discuss the benefits of having less, we will slowly go through their things together, so that they feel comfortable and confident that their opinions and possessions are respected.

That confidence is important–I feel strongly that kids need to be respected in regard to their belongings. I do not want to create hoarding tendencies in my children simply because I forced them to get rid of stuff that they weren’t ready to let go of yet. This can often make kids hold on to things even tighter because they feel that they could be taken away at any moment.

Going back to my first post: I want to be a successful author. I will be sacrificing a bunch of my “stuff”–emotional and physical–in order to have that dream become a reality. Amidst trying to flip our house in order to live that and other family dreams, I don’t have time to take care of a whole bunch of possessions that have completely lost their meaning and value.

Ultimately, if I feel that way, I know that it’s affecting my kids, husband and our family as a whole. So, I’m beginning by putting my words into action and helping them to see that I’m happier with having less to care for, more time to enjoy life, and feeling great that my old possessions can better the lives of other people.

What about you? Has the spring cleaning/minimalism bug bitten you, yet? What are you doing to add value to your life?

Your support is SO APPRECIATED!! If you enjoyed this article, please consider purchasing one of my books, grabbing a free one to review, sign up for a Readers’ List, or telling a friend/sharing this article with the buttons below.

It’s not easy being an indie author, but I’m determined! Feel free to click the links above to support my goals and I’ll keep the info and books coming!

How to Become a Successful Author – Beginning the Winding Journey

My kids and I went on a walk recently and when I looked back, a profound thought struck. I’d been thinking about my journey as an author and this little pathway that my kids demanded I adhere to, and strictly, was a lot like my travels as a writer. Winding and wavering, but still, mostly a straight line from point A to B.

It seems that most people (including my old self) make a lot of assumptions when you say that you’re going to publish a book. They make assumptions about how long it takes to get published, the actual process of turning your manuscript in to publishers/agents, the amount of money you get, how much marketing and publicity you’ll get once a manuscript is actually contracted by a publisher, and where they will find your book. No, it likely won’t be on a physical bookshelf at any major retailer, let alone all of them.

After a short dabbling with rejections and offers of publication, followed by a whole lot of study of the independent author journey, I decided that I didn’t like the realities of the prospects of getting traditionally published and decided to take the indie author path. And, even though I’m just starting this journey and I can’t predict the future, I’m glad I chose this path.

As I’ve looked back, though, it hasn’t been a straight shot and the road of this path behind me is so similar to many in life. We sometimes believe that our road will be a straight line from point A to point B and, although we know that achieving our goals won’t always be easy, we don’t realize what this path will really be like. As in, we don’t realize that A to B is more like a zig-zag line with about 50 different points.

Also, B isn’t usually what we think it will look like, so it’s really more like A to D–just a little off from that B that we were trying to achieve.

On this journey, I’ve been finding a question placed before me over and over. The question is, “What do you really want?” As I answer that question, I believe that I can have what I want, but like point A to B, I’m find that what I really want is point D…or E.

Once again, answering this question has led me on a different journey than I thought I would face, but I feel that being honest with myself is going to help me to have a life that I want for myself and my family.

The difficult part? Sacrificing those things that aren’t helping me to get where I want to go or that are directly or indirectly blocking my way. Things that take up too much time, things that take up too much energy, and things that take up too much emotion.

A few years ago, my husband and I got rid of 75% of our possessions and it was awesome! I felt free to do what I wanted and we focused on life instead of things. However, things have a way of creeping into life and so I would definitely say that we are no longer practicing minimalism.

I’ve realized that some of these possessions are keeping me from my author goals and as I look around, we’ve traded a certain amount of our life for things again.

Minimalism and becoming an author don’t really sound like they have much in common, but becoming a successful author is my goal and my things are taking up too much time and energy. They’re taking up writing time, editing time and when my house is messy, my creativity is stifled.

It’s interesting to me how, when we have a goal that we are completely determined to succeed in, light shines on the stuff that we have ignored for a long time; stuff that we didn’t realize was getting in the way and sucking away our energy.

So! I’ll be filling you in about our journey to living that more intentional life–one where stuff doesn’t get in the way of goals, happiness and those experiences that are truly important.

To be successful at something always requires some kind of sacrifice. I feel that this idea of asking yourself, “What do I really want?” combined with ridding yourself of long-ignored road blocks can make us successful in any goal. So, for me, becoming an author means getting rid of the material possessions in my house that are killing my creativity and taking up too much time to maintain. It means exercising so that my physical and mental health are on track. It means ruthlessly scheduling creative time. Ultimately, it means sacrificing the garbage in my life, which, when put that way, sounds like it should be easy! Of course, I know it won’t be.

Once again, I’m grateful that my books, writing, and generally being creative have thrown in front of me that question; What do I really want? It makes the winding journey much more meaningful.

What about you? Any goals that you’ve been working on?

10 Healthy Snacks for Authors or Anyone Else!


I’ll admit it–I love food. It’s delicious, there are so many different flavors and textures, it’s essential to survival and it brings people together. Food is also intimate–I can’t tell you how many times I’ve eaten something lovingly prepared just for me, or given something that I took great care to prepare for somebody else.

The problem is, sometimes those foods I love contain a few too many calories, too much sugar, or whatever else that, in excess, isn’t healthy. Another problem is that I sit at the laptop for at least a few hours every day in the early mornings and late evenings as I write out my stories and articles for you to read. While totally fulfilling, I’ve been working on eating less garbage and dictating a lot more so that I am a healthy author.

While I still have to eat, I’ve got a list of snack foods that can help with the munchies without totally killing your health goals.

Before I get started, though, let me just say one thing. Powdered Peanut Butter–have you guys seen this stuff? My amazing friend showed it to me recently and I absolutely ADORE it! I’ve tried a couple of brands, but I’ve got the PBfit brand (no affiliate links in this post) right now. They extract most of the oil out of it, then you can use it powdered or reconstitute it with water or almond milk.

It’s in an idea or two in the list below and you should totally check it out–it’s changed my life! Well, maybe that’s a little dramatic. It’s made my life a little easier as I try to navigate what I deem to be a healthy diet for my family and me.

  1. Rice Cakes and Peanut Butter–the powdered kind

Did your mom/grandma/aunt/friend ever go through a phase of eating lots of rice cakes? Yeah, well, now I know why a few every woman I know has gone through a rice cake stage. They are something to eat when you’re trying to take care of yourself, but also trying to make sure you’re not eating a bunch of garbage that makes you feel like garbage!

You can only eat so many plain rice cakes before they taste like packing peanuts, though.

If you reconstitute the powdered peanut butter with a little almond milk or water, you get that amazing nut taste, but with so few calories! Spread that on a lightly salted rice cake (35 calories for the Quaker brand), and you’ve got yourself a treat of about 60 calories that’s satisfying, but low in calories and, imo, pretty healthy.

  2. Veggies and Hummus

While veggies are delicious on their own, I’m not prone to simply grabbing a carrot and eating it. They have to be cut up prettily, tossed in a yummy salad, or, one of my favorites–dipped in hummus.

You have to be careful, because hummus can be really fattening/high in calories, however, there are lots of recipes–check THIS one out–that taste great and have less fat than store-bought.

  3. Popcorn

Yes, we’ve heard this one a million times, but do you remember how few calories there are in air-popped popcorn? About 35 per popped cup!! Don’t have an air-popper? You can easily pop 1/2 cup un-popped popcorn it in a pot in about 1 TBS of oil, which doesn’t make it that much more, calore-wise, per popped cup.

The thing about popcorn is, you can throw stuff on it! Try putting some in a few taster bowls, do a short spritz of Pam to get your stuff to stick, then try curry, salt and pepper, cinnamon sugar, my beloved powdered peanut butter mixed with cocoa powder, garlic and parm, or whatever! Don’t limit yourself, friends. It can taste good and be a healthy, low-calorie snack.

You might even want to check out some gourmet popcorn sites to get some flavor ideas.

  4. Smoothies

I love chocolate. I would eat it 10:00 a.m. or later. Not before then, though–that’s just crazy…or so I tell myself.

However, with how addictive that stuff that tastes like heaven is, I’ve been trying to avoid it, lately.

Cocoa powder is a different story, though. While it’s not See’s candy, a tub of Haagen-Daz, or decadent homemade brownies, it has powers of taste when it comes to a smoothie.

Taking it for what it is, a brown-spotted banana will make the recipe below taste like a chocolate milk shake, which you can sip on while you sit and hammer out a thousand words.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Banana Smoothie

2 Bananas, frozen and over-ripe to make them sweeter and less banana-flavorish

1-2 Cups unsweetened almond milk  (usually 30 calories per cup, yo!)

1 TBS cocoa powder

1.5 TBS powdered peanut butter (lower those calories/fat while getting the peanut butter taste, people!)

1 TBS smooth or chunky peanut butter (or just add another TBS of the powdered peanut butter)


Put all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Riper bananas lose that banana flavor and mostly just taste sweet. If they’re not frozen, better blend with ice or pour it over ice or it will taste really gross. In my opinion!

  5. Oatmeal Peanut-Butter Bites


Mmm. Sometimes, the savory just won’t cut it. And sometimes you’ve already had 3 of the above chocolate smoothies for the day. What’s left? That’s right! Energy bites, balls, frozen cookie dough, or whatever you want to call them.

The problem with most recipes is, sure, you can eat them, but if you’ve got the munchies, one tiny ball that has 200 calories just isn’t going to cut it! These have a lower in caloric content, no processed sugar and, your daily caloric goals permitting, you can have more than one.

Just to let you know, though, these are some of the ingredients allowed in my limited dietary experiment right now, so if you want something that tastes like cookie-dough, you might want to try something else!

Oatmeal Peanut Butter Bites

3 TBS Old Fashioned Oats

2 TBS Powdered Peanut Butter

1 TBS Cocoa Powder

3 TBS Whole Grain Crispy Rice (THIS is the type I used)

1 TBS Honey (I use raw and local to help with allergies!)

1 TBS + 1 tsp regular peanut butter

Mix those ingredients up, people! You are probably going to think I’m crazy and be tempted to add in some milk or PB to bring it together, but I’ve done this many times and you just have to keep mashing it together with the back of your spoon. It will come together.

Of course, if you want to add more PB or a little milk, no prob! Just be aware that the milk might make your cereal a little soggy.

Form into 7-8 balls, then freeze to make them stick together.

***According to my ingredients and quick calculations, these are about 47 calories per ball if you make 7 out of the dough. I store them in the freezer and have no long how they keep.

  6. Salad

So, you probably read that and thought, gag me. I’m hungry, not looking for rabbit food advice.

However, if you’re watching your calories and want to munch on something, a big salad is one that keeps on going and going, takes up a bunch of stomach space that suppresses your appetite, and–depending on what you put in it–doesn’t have a lot of calories compared to volume.

You can even buy pre-bagged or boxed stuff so that you can just throw on a low-calorie dressing and start eating.

I love adding rinsed beans (garbanzo or black are my favs), a few tortilla chips crunched up, dried or fresh fruit, dried or fresh herbs, rice and I usually save some of my daily nut intake for my salads. Mmm. Actually, I’m eating a salad right now and it’s delicious as well as filling!

7. Pistachios

Ok. I know what you’re thinking! “Those aren’t low calorie and are full of fat!”

I’m not a nutritionist, however, I’m convinced that we are too quick to shun nuts and seeds. Unless you’re allergic, of course, and then shun away!

Think about everything it takes to grow a plant/tree/whateva. It’s all hanging out in that little nut or seed! And we can eat that and have those nutrients. Maybe it’s more about the nutritional value of the whole of what we eat, not just that something has fat or sugar or cat hair in it?

My bag of pistachios says 120 cals per 1/2 cup in-shell pistachios. Not bad at all! Especially for something that takes forever to eat.

8. Dried Fruit

While you can’t just go and eat a ton of dried fruit if you’re counting your calories, they are pretty amazing at satisfying that sweet craving. I’ve been buying dried fruit for years and tuck it in my cupboard, but I found this recipe for Cinnamon Apple Slices that I’ll be trying out!

9. Copycat Frito Bean Dip

I think my husband would go through a can of Frito Bean Dip every other day if they weren’t so expensive. I found this copycat recipe a few years ago–thank goodness!

Also! It’s a true copycat, taste-wise. It isn’t one of those recipes where they say that it tastes even better than the fried whatever recipe that they baked and are trying to trick you into enjoying. Whew! Rant over.

While tortilla chips have a lot of fat and calories, I’ve dipped baked tortilla chips, pita chips, veggies and crackers in this stuff. Man, it’s so good!

10. Baked French Fries

I really love good french fries. If they’re cold, soggy or floppy, there’s no way I’ll eat them, though. Since they’re loaded with fat and will make you retain 10 pounds in water weight with one bite, though, I try to not eat them very often.

Baked fries, though? They’re full of nutrients and skip out on most of the fat and water-retention.

Here’s a recipe that does, pretty much, what I do. Only difference–I toss mine in rosemary, garlic, onion powder and pepper as well as the salt. You can check out this recipe HERE.


So, there you have it! 10 Snacks that won’t totally kill your dietary standards or goals. Good luck and–I have to ask! Do you have any awesome, healthy snacks? Leave the ideas in the comments!

Also, please feel free to pin or share this post–I’d appreciate it!

How to Write a Sweet Romance Novel

I have been watching a lot of romantic comedies, lately. What with Christmas romance movies (hello, Christmas movies on Netflix! #iwishihadthehallmarkchannel) and finishing up my Clean and Quirky Romance novel, Happy Scoops, I’ve had lots of opportunities. By the way, Happy Scoops is now available for purchase in ebook HERE or paperback purchase HERE! Woohoo! You can check out THIS POST to find out more if you’re interested.



Between watching and writing romantic comedies, I’ve learned quite a bit. If you care to read this slightly satirical list, you might actually get some good ideas, or just have a laugh if you’re not in the least interested in writing a sweet romance/romantic comedy novel, but enjoy being entertained by them.

Ready to learn a few of the secret weapons we romance writers use? Then read on!

1. As with any novel, there has to be a problem. However, in romance, and especially Christmas romances, there has to be some sort of deadline that propels a woman forward into finding a man and taking a chance on him. Sometimes the sexes are reversed. Maybe there’s a Christmas Ball she just has to have a date for? Or maybe he needs to find a mother for his children by Christmas? Also, it’s likely that if this doesn’t happen, well, I guess that all of Santa’s elves might die. Or something. You get the picture.

2. The first kiss has to be totally awkward. Like, mistletoe magically appears above them, or the man says; “Oh no! My lips accidentally fell on yours.” I’m going to tell you, if you don’t have this, then you might need to edit your manuscript. If you’re a reader and you haven’t encountered this in your Sweet Romance, then you might need to pick a different book. I had fun following this rule in Happy Scoops. Just sayin’.

3. You need a sappy story line at some point, although this one is optional. It is not optional, however, if you have a super-duper-inexplainably grumpy character that sulks around. When you get the audience to the point of writing him off, there has to be some sappy backstory that makes you suddenly care for said grump that you didn’t give a hoot about at first.

For instance, last night I was watching one such movie and I learned that Angry Main Character was angry because his fiance had died. Why this made him not want to sell his grandmother’s estate? I don’t really know. But I remember the sappy backstory. Do. Not. Forget this.

4. Do you like pets? Then throw one in for good measure. He’s definitely a great character to use to get the lonely souls together. Although, be careful! Some people don’t like pets, so you don’t want this pet to have too much of a main role. Just enough to be the same amount of cute as one of those animal pictures in those forwarded emails you get–not fifty of them.

Warning! Do not kill the pet! Not even if you think it’d be a great way to get the couple together. It’s just not worth it. How can you have a Happily Ever After if the dog is dead? And NO! The pet’s puppy is NOT a good enough substitute. Wait. Is there a movie like that? Yes, there is, though I’ve never seen it and I refuse to watch it. Just like your readers will cease to be your readers if you kill the pet.

5. Have you ever made a wish on a star, or on a snowflake, or maybe even just while gazing into a lake? Well, in your next romance novel, you can pretend that you are the main character and have said character make that wish. And you know what? You then get to make the star, Santa, time-traveling guardian or any other thing (the pet from number four?) make that dream a reality. In your novel, anyway. It’s preferable if this wish is the answer to #1, but, you know. Whatever.

6. Whether they had that awkward kiss in the beginning or not, nobody wants to read a book where the couple doesn’t end up having a little kiss at the end. You’d better do this, or nobody’s going to want to read your sappy, sweet romance. Tough words, but they’re true!

7. One thematic tactic you can take is to make sure that your main character has a name like Holly if you’re doing a Christmas film, or Bell, if your main character is going to end up in a ball. You know, the Bell of the Ball? Or how about Misty if you’re going with the whole, “Oh no! Mistletoe accidentally appeared above our heads and now we have to kiss,” theme.

Personally, I think I’m going to write a Christmas romance based on a girl named Misty, and I’m sure it will be a hit. “Misty and the Mistletoe.” Although, that title is probably already taken, or will be by Christmas 2017. Also, the name doesn’t really have to make sense. Just has to be tight enough that we get where you’re going with your little play on words.

8. Have you ever experienced a romantic relationship that went wrong? I’m pretty sure that most of these Hallmark romances were written by people who really, really, really wanted some relationship that went wrong to have gone right. So, using the power of an author, they write a romance, but disguise it a little. Voila! We have some quirky story that makes you wonder how anyone ever came up with the idea. So, feel free to write a romance based on a failed relationship and fix all of those missteps. Then, you’ll be able to think of that relationship as having ended Happily Ever After. It might make you feel better. Or possibly worse, if you discover what you did wrong in what could have been the relationship of the century. I’m thinking you should use #8 carefully.

Note: No, I was never forced to dress as an ice cream cone and work at my parents’ ice cream shop to pay off traffic tickets where I may or may not have discovered romance–the premise of Happy Scoops. See how I said that most romances are probably written by people with those kinds of relationships? “Most” is the key word, here.

9. There has to be that moment when the reader doesn’t think that things are going to work out. You know that point when the main character finds out that their significant other was lying, but the main character doesn’t know the whole story, so they take off and the relationship is devastated? It doesn’t have to include lying–maybe their ex comes back and professes that they actually do love the main character? Hmmm. Think about about it. You’ll come up with something good that leaves us hanging for a moment in preparation for the beauty of #10.

10. If you are writing a romance novel and you’re thinking, “Hmmm. Maybe I’ll get conceptual, metaphorical, or depressing at the end,” STOP! Nobody wants that. You just read what I wrote in #8. You need to end happily. That means that you end with a kiss, wedding, or in some way that informs the reader–without a doubt–that the couple is TOGETHER. Seriously, if you don’t have an H.E.A. (Happily Ever After), then you’re not writing a romance and your readers might end up throwing your book at you.

So, there you have it! Using these ten tips, you should be able to create an incredible sweet romance novel.

If you read through and enjoyed any of these, you are probably ready and trained to become a romance writer. Or, maybe you just want to read a romance novel?



You can snag my FREE Clean and Quirky Romance Book Bite (like a brownie bite–yummy, sweet and just the right size), Twenty-Five Candles HERE, you can snag Happy Scoops HERE, or please show a little author love by sharing my post on social media.

Happy Scoops is Officially Released!


If you’ve been eagerly awaiting the release date of Happy Scoops, it’s here! It’s available in both PAPERBACK (Click HERE) as well as KINDLE format (Click HERE)

Here’s the Back Blurb for this sweet romantic comedy/parody:

Chryssa Parker is about to start her senior year of high school and she knows that it’s going to be totes amazing.

As Team Captain of the Cheerleading Squad and President of the Student Body Government, Chryssa is ready to be the smartest and hottest that Intellectual Elite has ever graduated.

However, when a pile of traffic infractions show up in the Parker mailbox, Chryssa’s lawyer parents decide it’s time for Chryssa to learn some responsibility.

Forced to become a sign dancer dressed as a cone at her parent’s ice cream shop, Chryssa doesn’t think she’ll ever survive the job. Obligated to give up so much of her life, Chryssa is completely surprised when she learns what makes her truly Happy.

And, if you’d like to grab a freebie taste of my writing, check out my novella, Twenty-Five Candles, by clicking the button below:


Happy Scoops – Upcoming Clean and Quirky Romance Novel – Cover Reveal!

Do you all remember how I participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in 2016? Well, after a lot of hard work, I’m pleased to say that “Happy Scoops,” the first novel of my stand-alone series, Clean and Quirky Romance, will be published just in time for a little Valentine’s Day Reading Indulgence. Woohoo!

Here is the back blurb of this romantic comedy/parody, Happy Scoops:


Chryssa Parker is about to start her senior year of high school and she knows that it’s going to be totes amazing.

As Team Captain of the Cheerleading Squad and President of the Student Body Government, Chryssa is ready to be the smartest and hottest that Intellectual Elite has ever graduated.

However, when a pile of traffic infractions show up in the Parker mailbox, Chryssa’s lawyer parents decide it’s time for Chryssa to learn some responsibility.

Forced to become a sign dancer dressed as a cone at her parent’s ice cream shop, Chryssa doesn’t think she’ll ever survive the job. Obligated to give up so much of her life, Chryssa is completely surprised when she learns what makes her truly Happy.

I’m going to tell you right now–this project was FUN! From taking the basic idea that had been dancing around my mind for three years, finishing it for NaNoWriMo2016, to designing the cover with my husband with real ice cream from our very favorite ice cream shop, Frite and Scoop in Astoria, OR, it’s been a blast. A lot of hard work, but super fun!

By the way, if you are ever in Astoria, head on in to Frite and Scoop–you will not be disappointed! Their handmade ice creams and Belgian fries are seriously incredible.

Intrigued? Well, here is the cover for this fun and spunky romance that I hope will get you excited to read it.

There are about a million things that I love about being an author, but my favorites would be that I get to try out new stories and finish the ones that suit me, and I constantly improve. I’m so proud of Happy Scoops–both process and writing show my growth and I’m excited for others to see that, too.

If you or somebody in your life enjoys a fun romance, you might want to consider snagging it for Valentine’s Day – Official Release Date: January 31st!

While you might find the paperback hanging around on Amazon a little earlier than that, if you’ve absolutely gotta have the novel ASAP and want to make sure it gets right to you, you can pre-order the ebook right now by clicking HERE.

Also, I’ve been working on a novella, “Twenty-Five Candles,” for the Clean and Quirky Romance Series–written just for those who sign up for the Clean and Quirky Romance Readers’ List.

It’s not up and ready to go yet, but check back soon! This FREE Book Bite will be available within a few days.

Just sign up for the Clean and Quirky Romance Readers’ List when it’s available and Twenty-Five Candles will be sent straight to your inbox–my gift to you!

Want to show a little Author Love? Feel free to share this post on your favorite social media network! Thanks in advance.

Filling the Cup

If you’ve been checking my blog posts or hanging out on Facebook with me, you’ll know that I’ve been working on a clean and quirky romantic comedy. I wrote it for NaNoWriMo in the month of November, which was a major accomplishment for me. Over 50,000 words and a completed manuscript in a month is a pretty strenuous task. In case you’re wondering, I ordered the paperback proof and it should be ready to be released withing a few weeks. I love it and am excited to share it with you all!

To add to the chaos of the month, I also published my four completed books in November; Inheritance Aflame and the first three books of Broden and Cookie, the ongoing chapter book series.

While November was awesome author-wise, I was ready to slow down a bit for a few days once December came around. With all of the Christmas festivities and a slight feeling of exhaustion from what I had accomplished in November, I wondered how my body and mind would react to the craziness of my newly-launched venture.

Let me tell you, after about a week, it became apparent that I had needs that demanded fulfillment! I was drained. However, the problem wasn’t that I wanted to stop creating/editing/writing/illustrating–those things generally fill my cup. However, I knew that my current route wasn’t necessarily the correct one. Or at least, I needed a detour.

Well, I didn’t really listen to myself and I kept editing the current project/outlining my next project to happy music (Cyndi Lauper radio on Pandora) and pushing away thoughts of other manuscripts that are on my list for 2017.

The problem was, I’m a rather broody sort. Bands like Iron & Wine and Tycho were my best friends when I was writing Inheritance Aflame. Even though they’re not necessarily bands that make “Happy” music, I feel good when I listen to them.

As a side note that I promise has a purpose, I’m going to tell you that I love music as a tool for provoking a feeling while writing. Finding music that captures the essence of my story really helps me to quickly pick up where I left off and begin typing away during the time I make for my craft. Thus, I listened to Cyndi Lauper radio while writing my romantic comedy.

Having my goal of finishing edits on my new manuscript, I pushed away the desire to retreat to my homeland of quiet solace and deep thoughts by keeping on with Cyndi and not doing what I really wanted–spending time drawing out some sketches for a new trilogy while listening to Tycho.

Do you see where I’m going with this? Even though I love my romantic comedy manuscript, my mind needed something different. Because I was doing something that usually feeds my soul, which allows me to care for my family, but wasn’t actually what I needed, it was draining instead of filling my cup.

After refusing to accept this, my body finally had to force me to stop what I was doing with the editing and do what I actually needed. My brain went on strike and it simply would not edit another word. After staring blankly at the laptop for thirty minutes one night, I finally put it away, pulled out my sketchbook and too-expensive pens, then switched my station on Pandora.

I ended up sketching out things that I’ve been imagining for a long time, as well as some new characters. I’m not sure if she’ll ever appear anywhere other than here, but the above witchy woman was one of the sketches that moved from mind to paper that night.

While I listened to the music that allows me to hit a heightened creative flow, it actually felt very meditative. I didn’t really have any coherent thoughts about my life as my brush-tipped pen moved across the page. I simply created and felt a peaceful fulfillment of my needs.

I slept amazingly well that night and I woke up feeling great the next morning. When I went back to editing, my mind was clear and I was able to move quickly because I was totally rejuvenated.

Ever since my little “A-ha!” moment, I’ve been trying to pay better attention to what I actually need. While I haven’t needed to pull the sketchbook out again, I might end up swapping my next two writing projects in the lineup. And, I’m listening to more “fill-my-cup” music.

What about you? What fills your cup?

Lessons Learned From Winning NaNoWriMo2016!!


I officially won NaNoWriMo2016!

National Novel Writing Month officially begins November 1st and ends November 30th; you win if you write 50,000 words of a novel within that time. My goal was to actually finish the novel in the 50,000 words, not just begin it and I’m very happy that I was able to do so. It ended with roughly 50,900 words. On to editing!!

I have to say, it was very relieving to write this story! It’s been bottled up in my head for about three years now, morphing and changing over time until my characters and story developed enough to write the outline. Of course, it’ll go through another metamorphosis during editing, but the key elements will remain the same and my characters simply are who they are. Characters have a funny way of doing that–turning into people that think and do for themselves, whether you, the author, wants them to or not.

Although it’s a little way off, I’m excited to see this Clean and Quirky Romantic Comedy get through editing. It was a lot of work, a story I totally laughed through while writing and, again, it was gratifying to finally get it onto paper.

While there were some really crazy moments in November when I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to publish all four of my books and write a book in the month of November–on top of homeschooling my children, taking care of my husband and all of the other things that I prioritize above writing–a few different mantras kept me working through the difficult times.

Eat the Elephant One Bite at a Time

Wow. I heard somebody say this recently and it was exactly what I needed! I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned in the last 6 months of this Indie Author life I’m now living, but “one bite at a time”, one word written at a time, one techie thing learned at a time has gotten me through things I didn’t ever think I would be able to do. It totally got me through my word count goals each day for NaNoWriMo.

Envisioning the End

While this isn’t a mantra, it helped me to remember how awesome it would feel to know that I finished NaNoWriMo. When I can imagine how great it’s going to feel to finish something, it is often the number one motivator in pushing me through to the end.

Finishing this book means a lot of things for me, so I was able to include these things as I practiced positive thinking. First off, I can feel the great satisfaction of knowing that I’ve written five books–awesome feeling and a personal goal achieved! Secondly, this is a book I’ve wanted to write (yes! I’m mentioning that again–it shows just how much I wanted to write it!) for a long time, so woohoo for having it done!

Lastly, this is yet another book that I will be editing, then publishing. I have no idea how many people it will reach, who will enjoy its humor and sweetness, or how many people it will make happy because it’s a romance novel that doesn’t have a greased up man on its cover. But! I can imagine those things and this helped me to finish.

Hard Work Beats Talent Every Time

I checked in with #NaNoWriMo2016 on Twitter almost daily. While I was often intimidated by the people who were getting 5,000-9,000 word count days in, it was also inspiring to see their hard work adding up. At the same time, I didn’t discount my own. Remembering that I was publishing four books on top of participating in NaNoWriMo allowed me to appreciate their efforts as well as my own.

In the end, though, I know that everyone who participated in NaNoWriMo got to 1,000, 20,000, 50,000+ word count totals by November 30th because they worked hard. Talent and luck are not a part of actually finishing a goal–sheer will and determination are. A person can have all the “talent” in the world, but unless that person actually gets to work, said person’s talent will simply sit there and become insignificant as those who work hard end up developing greater talents.

I needed this reminder! I’m not talented, but I know that I can work hard. Finishing NaNoWriMo was symbolic–I can finish other goals that I have.

If It’s Not Challenging, It’s Not Fun

While I don’t think I’m a total “I love challenges” junkie, I do love learning, achieving and the empowerment I feel when finishing a goal. It’s something that I will remember for a long time–especially since I hung my awesome print-at-home completion certificate on the door of my secretary-style writing desk. Even though it’s only been a few days, I had a lot of fun juggling so many things in November and every time I look at that little piece of paper, I smile at the chaos of it all!

Accountability Buddies

While I didn’t actually ever ask anybody on Facebook to be my Accountability Buddy, I checked in often and, because the people I’m friends with are amazing, I got support. While I hadn’t been counting on that, it helped so much! I’m not even kidding–it pushed me so much! Every like, heart and comment was a little bit of fuel to keep the fire burning.

The Accountability Buddy system totally works and people are great! I’m always pleasantly surprised at what happens when I reach out for help. So thank you! Thank you for your support.

As a Final Note, I’m happy I joined the throngs of people that participated in NaNoWriMo. The twitter feed was awesome to scroll through–people receiving support, pats on the back for their achievements, seeing all of the different languages–super fun to know how world-wide the event is–and just a generally fun and productive community.

I can’t wait for NaNoWriMo2017!