Sometimes I (gasp!) read reviews

reviewsSo many authors will tell you not to do it. Some even have friends who read reviews for them and only pass along the ones that are really stellar.

Because even if there are only a handful of bad reviews, they tend to dent your confidence. Some will even batter your confidence and make you wonder if you really ARE a fraud.

Even so, I read reviews. I LIKE hearing what people thought of my books. Once in a while I even learn something I can do better. One reviewer pointed out my tendency to use the word, “somehow,” which seriously weakens whatever it is I’m trying to say. I totally need to thank her!

So, last week, I popped in on Goodreads and saw that The Sound of Rain had some new reviews. Mostly good (phew). But one . . . oh my. Sometimes, a reader will just get whatever it is I was trying to do in a way that clarifies it even for me. A reviewer named Kav did that last week.

I try to be careful about “tooting my own horn” here on my blog, but this review brought tears to my eyes. So here you go. A review from someone who totally made my day and reminded me why I keep writing.

Sometimes the people who needed the most help didn’t look like they needed any help at all.” (p 290)

Sarah Loudin Thomas has a lyrical style that is sheer poetry. I find myself reading out loud from time to time just to hear the impact of her words. The Sound of Rain is an exquisite escape into another time and place. And I have a secret fascination for all things Appalachia. Stoic people, hardworking and proud. They blend faith and culture into a fascinating seize-the-moment kind of living that really speaks to me.

But Judd leaves that life in a bid to escape heartbreaking reminders of all that he has lost. He flees the darkness of the coal mines for the promise of light in work above ground in South Carolina. What he doesn’t realize is that he carries that darkness within him. (Exactly! -SLT)

By contrast, Larkin’s light shines brightly. Enthusiastically. Misdirected at times but she has a gift for brightening the lives of the people around her. It’s a dangerous gift in the hands of someone who doesn’t recognize its power — and Larkin doesn’t in the beginning of the story. She’s spoiled and idealistic which Judd finds both frustrating and fascinating. But he’s drawn to that inner glow and Larkin is equally intrigued by a real-life mountain man.

In some ways, Judd and Larkin’s stories seem independent of each other as their goals lead them in different directions. That doesn’t mean they don’t share a lot of ‘page time’, because they do and when that happens there’s an undeniable connection that speaks of hope in their future. Of course, there’s a lot to work through before Thomas brings us to that end. Larkin needs to grow up some, and Judd need to open up more. There’s a lovely spiritual undercoating that binds their stories together even when they are miles apart.

Sarah Loudin Thomas delivers another stunning portrayal of life and love and the faith that connects it all.

Thank you, Kav, for being an incredible encourager.

What’s Your Gift?

Tapestry editsI’m fairly good at writing.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been in love with words since Dad first fell asleep while reading me a book and I had to figure out how to finish the story on my own.

But really, even before then, I remember being drawn to words. I wanted to write them, to touch them, to read them. I wanted to OWN words.

I used to keep all the junk mail my parents would have normally thrown away. Documents with all those lovely words marching across the paper appealed to something deep inside me. I kept them in stacks and sifted through them–finding a kind of comfort that soothed me.

Now, as an adult, I suspect God planted a love of words in my spirit. It’s my gift. Which means I’m NOT good at writing. It simply means God created me with a love for language woven into my very being. It’s not something to be proud of. It simply IS.

I see similar gifts in others. My husband speaks the language of music–a foreign tongue to me. Friends speak other languages–hospitality, parenting, management, organization, teaching . . . The list goes on.

Sometimes I think we worry too much about what our gifts AREN’T. We look around and see people who are better at something than we are. And we tend to downplay our own gifts because, well, they come more easily. And that makes them seem like not such a big deal.

Today I’m challenging you to identify your gift and own it. Not because it makes you better, smarter, or more amazing. But because God gave YOU that gift for a reason. So own it. Appreciate it. And then go use it.

Appalachian Thursday – The Heirloom

On October 2 of this year, my latest work will release–as part of a collection title The Heirloom (available for pre-order). As a follow-up to The Sound of Rain, I’ve written Hank’s story. You remember Hank–he was George Heyward’s right-hand man until Judd came along. And now he’s wondering where his future lies.

Earlier this week, we got to release the cover!

This collection has been SUCH fun. I was at a writing conference in 2016 when I sat down next to Karen Witemeyer and she looked at me and said, “You’re books are set in the 1950s, right?”


Karen, Kristi Ann Hunter, and Becky Wade (all favorite authors of mine!!) were hatching an idea to write a multi-generational series of novellas that would trace the women of one family from Regency England to modern day America. Their only gap was the 1950s.

Oh, I was IN!

And so, after lots of e-mails and a pretty hilarious Skype meeting, we set to work. The thread tying the stories together is a brooch that’s supposed to bring true love when it’s gifted from mother to daughter. Fun!

Plus, I get to insert Appalachia into a series that includes Regency, western, and contemporary stories. Talk about variety! And my character is such fun–a mountain girl who’s much better at shooting than socializing.

Here’s the brief summary for A Shot at Love: Fleeta Brady’s rough-and-tumble childhood means she prefers hunting to more feminine activities. She never expected her family’s brooch might be how southerner Hank Chapin turns her attention from competition to romance.

Fleeta also puts in an appearance in Becky Wade’s contemporary story (the last in the bunch). So excited for this series of interconnected stories to be released this fall.


Social Media and REAL Community

KermitI am generally on the side of believing that social media is NOT conducive to developing REAL relationships. What we see of our “friends” on-line tends to be superficial and sometimes even downright misleading.

However. Every once in a while it turns into something compelling and wonderful

Saturday evening I checked Facebook and stumbled across a comment from a writer-friend in Canada. She was writing at a pub and noticed a large group of friends nearby . . . including an attractive guy (she’s single).

“i am trying to ascertain if the woman beside him is with him —or just part of the group. and this is me on sleuth duty. keep you posted.”

And that was the beginning of a four hour+ festival of her friends (many of them writers) being glued to a single Facebook post that ultimately had more than 600 comments. We waited breathlessly for her to report on observed interactions offering advice with varying degrees of helpfulness and posting a ridiculous number of gifs. My favorite being one of Kermit the Frog biting his nails.

Then . . . a loooooong silence.

Yet not silence because writers began doing what they do best–making stuff up. Entire romances spun out. Wedding invitations were mailed. One mom had to step away to deal with a poopy diaper. (Okay, that was pretty real.)

And then, about three hours in, our friend returned to report that she’d joined the group and learned that the cute guy in question was married. However, there was a plot twist. An unmarried guy in the group did ask to exchange numbers!

I think I heard the roar of applause across the United States, Canada, and apparently New Zealand.

She finally wrapped the evening up with this: “and some nights are so unique that you end up sitting with strangers and laughing and plotting cowboy romances for harlequin (yes) and cheering olympic skiing . . . and just feeling a community in a huge metropolis.”

The funny thing is . . . while my friend was experiencing actual, first-person community, she had also created a space where hilarious virtual community swept up 30 or 40 people in an incredible evening of love and laughter.

I’m still a HUGE fan of actual, in-person interaction. However, it seems that genuine, REAL, social media interaction is possible. The trick is for someone to start out by being so honest, open, and real that it attracts the same . . .

My Vision Statement — Update



My headshot from 2012–less gray hair in this one!

In 2012 I wrote my vision statement–a statement of my goals as an author. I think it’s important to not only create such a document, but to revisit it regularly to see how I’m doing and what needs to change. So with 2018 well underway, I thought I’d check in . . .


  • Share my faith and love of Christ with the world through my novels. Ensure each novel has a clear, Christian message that can be easily grasped and incorporated into daily living for my readers. I feel pretty good about this goal. I’ve gotten quite a few comments about my books having a clear Christian message without beating anyone over the head–that sounds about right to me.
  • Build a strong relationship with my agent that is mutually supportive. Check! Fortunately, I’m blessed with an agent who puts relationship-building high on her to-do list. And we pray for each other!
  • Sign with a major publishing house and publish the “Appalachian Blessings” series including at least three books.. Done! I need to revamp this goal now that I have four books and two novellas under my belt. 
  • Use my writing as a platform to reach broader audiences with the message of Christ through speaking, blogging, book signings, book clubs, etc. Stay humble and accessible. This stays the same. I’ve continued to do signings, interact with book clubs, and keep up my blogging. As for staying humble and accessible–that’s NOT hard. This business has given me far more opportunities to check my ego than I’d like!
  • Be a good steward of any money I make. Prayerfully use the money to support the ministries God has given me. While I’m not exactly pulling down the big bucks, I am grateful that writing supplements our income and that I can use to support several ministries in a small way
  • Invest in myself and other writers through workshops. Attend and lead classes. Always strive to make my writing better and to encourage other writers to share their faith through creative writing. I continue to coordinate the writing contest at a local conference and have taught several classes now (which I REALLY enjoy!). I continue to attend conferences not only to network, but to LEARN. There’s still so much I don’t know . . .
  • Continue to build a supportive writing “family” made up of other writers, friends and fans who will help cheer me on while I do the same for them. That would be YOU along with so many writers I’ve gotten to know along the way. Thanks for joining me on this journey!
  • My goal for 2015 was to work on growing my writing to the place where I can work my “day job” part time and focus more on writing and all that comes with it. -This is still a work in progress. My day job with a children’s ministry continues to grow and be incredibly rewarding. Even so, getting to a place where I can split my time more evenly is something I hope will be possible one day.
  • My new goal for 2018 is to raise the stakes in my writing. I want to be willing to take risks and push my stories into places and subjects that might feel uncomfortable to me at first. I’m looking to break through barriers in my own heart and mind to give God free reign to speak through my writing.

There are few things more satisfying to me than having a plan and making progress. I’m a list-checker-offer. Can’t wait to see where I’ll be in another few years. I’m not sure what’s going to happen, but I do know God’s plans are bigger–and better–than mine.

How about you–do you set goals (I’m NOT talking resolutions here!).

Best Year Ever? Plan On It!

book-img2I gave up making new year’s resolutions a long time ago.

This year, though, I felt like I needed to not so much resolve to do better, but take steps to get a grip on all the STUFF going on in my life. Work, writing, church, family . . . there’s just so much to do, to think about, and to plan. Some days it all just gets away from me.

So I signed up to be an influencer for Michael Hyatt’s new book, Your Best Year Ever. The idea is to stop sacrificing your dreams and ambitions on the altar of daily demands. You know how it goes . . . you mean to write that novel, start that speaking ministry, spend more time in scripture, commit more deeply to your spouse or your kids . . . But first you have to answer all these e-mails, do the grocery shopping, plan that trip to see the in-laws, and get the car inspected before you get a ticket.

And the dreams just never happen.

While I’ve already achieved my dream of being a published author, I’d like to take my writing further. Teach some workshops, have more time for promotions, actually write more. I’d like to find more time for the relationship-building side of fundraising at work in my day job. I’d like to dig deeper into faith with my husband–maybe a study we could do together.

So I’m digging in. Setting goals. Tracking them.

And Michael Hyatt is helping me identify hurdles, overcome roadblocks, develop positive habits, and get unstuck! Will it work? I hope so. I think so.

What gets scheduled gets done. I’ll keep you posted as I aim to make 2018 my best year ever.

How about you? What dreams have you deferred?

Appalachian Thursday – Snow Day!

Snow DayWe had a snow day yesterday–a couple of inches of the white stuff, hardly anyone venturing out, bacon for breakfast, and a good book to read (not to mention one to write!). Ahhhhh.

When I was a kid, of course, snow days were a bit more exciting. And in West Virginia in the 1970s, they seemed more dramatic, too. I remember missing almost the entire month of February one winter. It was so cold that a skim of ice would form on the top of the pail of milk in the time it took Dad to walk from the barn to the house.

Poor Mom. Stuck inside with three kids day after day. And it was too cold to play outside. At least Dad had livestock to tend.

I remember the power going out during a snowstorm once. Dad stoked the fireplace and we got to sleep in the living room floor in sleeping bags. Mom made us wear knit hats since those were the days when we still believed you lost most of your heat through the top of your head.

There was tomato soup with grilled cheese. Card games and board games. Sledding and the building of snowmen. We played in the hayloft, which was a smidge warmer than outside. Mittens were soaked through. Chapstick was applied. And woe to the child who realized she had to pee while wearing a snowsuit too far from the house.

We also fed the cattle. The winter my older brother had appendicitis, I got to ride on the trailer, cutting the twine on bales of hay, and pushing it off for the cows. Bart, our Black Angus bull, would steal bites of hay from the trailer. He was a sweetheart, though, and I’d scratch him behind the ears anyway.

It got dark early those days and in my memory the house was the coziest place in the world. A nation unto itself. A place where the snow and cold could never reach.

Now, snow days frustrate me–make me wish I could get out and work on my to-do list. Maybe I need to go back in time and embrace what I can’t change. Make a snow angel. Throw snowballs for Thistle. Snuggle under a blanket inside and, instead of being frustrated, give thanks for the reprieve of snow days.