A Confessionary Tale, Part 2.


“All art is a confession.”
~Gaston Lachaise

I confess that: I’ve been meaning to write a new blog post for weeks now, but life just kept on getting in the way. The stress of December and January doesn’t seem to want to let up now that it’s February (erm, make that almost March — how did that happen?!), but I’m hoping things will calm down soon so I can get back to writing here on a regular basis.

I confess that: I’m spending most of my free time these days with Jasper. After another stasis episode last weekend – even though everyone was so hopeful that the dental work would fix the issue – I really thought I was going to totally lose it. There doesn’t seem to be an answer for why this keeps happening, and that drives me crazy, because all I want is for my little guy to feel good always. Fingers crossed that was the last time he has to deal with GI stasis, ever.

I confess that: I was all set to start drafting my new book this week, but that it got put on hold for next week instead. Between a snowstorm and several nights of sleeping on the sofa, waking up every couple hours to check on the bun bun, I knew it wasn’t the right time to jump into a new story adventure. I want my head and heart to be fully in it, because I am so excited about this project. I’ve spent the past month planning out Melina and Bradley’s story – figured out last Friday that there’s actually a mystery involved! – and can’t wait to hang out in their world. It’s one of politics and patriotism, and I think it’s going to be so fun to explore.

I confess that: I like the snow, but I am getting supremely tired of the ridiculous cold weather we’ve had this winter. It’s so freezing that it literally hurts. The predicted wind chill this morning was -32. That is just not cool (well, actually, it’s downright frigid, but you know what I mean).

I confess that: I would love nothing more right now than to be at the shore. Even if it’s only for a day, even if all I can do is sit in a room and look outside … I am craving the thought of being seaside. Since that’s not possible, I look at pictures instead and pretend that I can hear the waves as they gently tumble against the coastline.

I confess that: I have been counting down the days until Madam Secretary returns on March 1st. It has quickly become one of my absolute favorite shows, and I’m so glad it was renewed for a second season! That show is actually part of why I decided to go with my politics book next, out of my whole list of choices, because it just makes me so excited to write about that unique atmosphere.

I confess that: I took a chance on buying nail polish at the dollar store (to say money is tight right now would be an understatement, and it was a brand I’d heard of before, so I figured it was worth a try) and really regret it. It stained my nails so badly that I had to put on two coats of another polish to cover it up, and you can still see the other color poking through in spots. Guess I’m going to have teal tinted nails for quite awhile. Lesson learned.

I confess that: I check my email way too many times throughout the day. You’d think that querying would be less anxiety-inducing after all these years, but nope. My heart still skips a beat whenever that inbox updates.

I confess that: I wish there was a switch to shut off my brain sometimes. It is constantly whirling, spinning, tumbling these days, and it’d be so nice to just zone out for a bit. I can’t wait for the weather to get warmer so I can start going for long walks again, because that’s my time to just let it be … to just let myself be.

I confess that: I’m kind of tempted to go to Rita’s Water Ice for their seasonal opening today, even though it’s currently 16 degrees out. Since I don’t want to freeze my insides, I think I’ll stay home and go for some hot cocoa instead.

Your turn! What do you confess?

Since I Last Posted …

“May your new ideas feel like sunrise.”
~Danielle LaPorte

(I imagine that title being sung to the tune of Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone.” Is her song now stuck in your head like it is in mine? You’re welcome.)

I truly didn’t intend to go two and a half weeks without posting, but somehow the days have just been whizzing by. It’s strange, because time also seems to be moving quite slowly. It’s a bizarre juxtaposition that I can’t quite figure out. Today is a snow day, though, a sort of wrinkle in time, and I’m glad for the chance to sit down and catch up. Here’s what I’ve been up to since I last posted:

* Keeping a very, very, very close eye on the bunny boy. Jasper had another stasis episode two weeks ago – thankfully the most mild of the three, and the wonderful director of the bunny rescue happened to be around the corner from my home at the time, so she dropped everything to come help out. I couldn’t possibly be more grateful for her kindness. It happened during the week this time, so I was able to take Jasper to his regular vet, who suggested dental work to trim two of his teeth. They’d gotten a bit long, and since that often contributes to stasis in rabbits, we scheduled the procedure for the following Tuesday. It was such a nerve-wracking day, sitting by the phone and waiting for them to call with an update. Jasper did great, but it took him a couple days to feel like himself again after the anesthesia. I just hated to see him so sad and out of sorts. He didn’t want to do much of anything at first, not even eat, so I ended up staying up with him almost all night and hand-feeding him hay one piece at a time. Exhausting as it was, I’d do anything for my furry little love. He’s since returned to binkying and happy-flopping – his new favorite place to do that is between my feet, which melts my heart! – and I’m praying that this is the end of the stasis problem for a long time to come.

* Starting to plan my new book! This has been interrupted on more than one occasion, mostly due to needing to keep a constant watch on the bun bun, but I’ve been having such a good time with it so far. I mostly have general ideas jotted down as of now, and I also did a full character sketch of my new MC (or possibly one of two new MCs – I’m toying around with the idea of doing another dual POV story) Melina. I’m really excited about her. She’s spunky and confident, determined and passionate about making the world a better place. There are so many hidden layers to her, though, and it’s going to be fun watching them unravel – and, hopefully, finding a way to be tie them together in a new design. I’ve wanted to incorporate political science into a story for a long time now (Melina works as a staff member for a candidate running for election), and I can’t wait to dive into writing this. I have another two weeks or so of planning first, but then it’ll be drafting time again. I’m already so eager to type, type, type!

* Revisiting WATERCOLORS. Another reason I had to put a temporary hold on the new project is that I’ve spent this week back in Eden’s world. I’ve been doing some extra research so I can add a new scene to the book. It’s been awhile since I got to hang out with Eden, and maybe this sounds corny, but in a way it really is like going home. I think that’s one of the things I love most about writing, that it allows me to carve out memories in so many different places. If I ever go to Atlanta again, it’ll remind me of Sofie, Brandon, and their kids. The Jersey shore will bring Charlotte and Nolan to mind, and Nantucket – because somehow, some way, someday, I will get to Nantucket – will make me think of Remi and Eli. Nashville is for Eden and all the people who fill her life with song. Physically, Pennsylvania is home, but how lucky am I to have a piece of my heart in so many wonderful places across the country? Writing has done that for me, and I’m so grateful.

* Learning how to put together a newsletter. I’m taking over the bi-monthly newsletter for Luv-N-Bunns, the rescue I adopted Jasper from, and am so excited about it! I met with the woman who’s been writing it for the last year and a half so she could teach me the program and show me the ropes, and as soon as I’m finished with these new revisions for WATERCOLORS, I’m going to jump in and start working on the first of the two February editions of the newsletter. I’m hoping to add a feature that highlights a bunny who’s been adopted … anyone want to guess which rabbit will be the first in the spotlight? :)

* Enjoying the snow! After the insanity of last winter, this one has been fairly calm in terms of precipitation. We didn’t get much measurable snow at all, in fact, until this past weekend. The huge storm that was supposed to hit us last night ended up switching tracks, so we only got an additional four inches or so, but it was still beautiful to watch. I even went out to take a short walk this morning while the flakes were still falling from the sky and floating around like a real-life snow globe.

How about you guys? What have you been up to lately?

Playing Catch-Up.


“Snow provokes responses that reach right back to childhood.”
~Andy Goldsworthy

So, um … it’s been nearly two weeks since I’ve written anything on here. Whoops. I’m not sure how that happened. For as quickly as time flies all year long, it seems to move along at warp speed during the holiday season. It was just Thanksgiving, and now I’m sitting here and looking out the window at today’s fresh snowfall glistening in the re-emerging sun. It is the prettiest kind of reminder that winter’s on its way and a lovely backdrop as I play some catch-up with y’all.

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After spending most of November planning out my new book, I was finally ready to jump into drafting last week! Not gonna lie, it felt immensely strange at first to be writing about characters other than Remi and Charlotte, but I’m almost 11,000 words into the book as of this morning and am having a blast with it now. My MC Eden is very different from anyone whose story I’ve told before, and I actually really love that. Her world is currently tumbling down around her, but what falls down can also rise up, and I’m excited to watch her rebuild, renew, and refresh her life. It’s going to be a fun journey to take. Beyond Eden, I’m quite giddy about the supporting cast: Eden’s grandmother Lillian (I have always wanted to write a grandma/granddaughter relationship), her soon-to-be best friend Serena, her parents Mariah and Joel, her love interest Wilson … it is an eclectic group in more ways than one, and I can’t wait to explore the dynamics further.

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Speaking of Remi, look what I got for Hanukkah! The keychain’s hard to make out in the picture, but it says “write your own story.” I love, love, love them both and am so happy to have a Nantucket shirt that’s straight off the island. If I can’t visit there yet, this is the next best thing.

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Totally worth braving Sunday’s snow (yep, it snowed Sunday … and today … and evidently again this coming Saturday) to finally see CATCHING FIRE. I was blown away by how wonderful it is. The acting, the sets, the soundtrack, the special effects … it was phenomenal from start to finish. I love that the movies stay so true to the books, and yet, at the same time, they’re easy to follow along with if you haven’t read the story (at least, it seems like they would be … can’t attest to that personally). This is my favorite of the books and now my favorite of the movies so far, too. Huge kudos to the whole cast for being so fabulous, especially Jennifer Lawrence. She is just crazy awesome.

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Also crazy awesome? Nancy Lee Grahn. It is always such a pleasure to visit with her when she holds her East Coast events every other year.

Your turn: tell me what’s been up with you guys lately!

What …


“Everybody’s reaching for something
Every day pulling and tugging
Always wanting a little more …”
~Melinda Doolittle, “Give”

What I’m listening to: Remember when I wrote about Melinda Doolittle’s fabulous and inspiring new song? Well, this past Tuesday she released an equally fabulous and inspiring EP. It’s called YOU’RE THE REASON and is full of wisdom-filled lyrics, beautiful melodies, and Melinda’s powerfully resonating voice. I love it so much and am learning something new from the tracks each time I listen.

What I’m watching: Anyone else a fan of Shark Tank on ABC? I find the premise absolutely fascinating and am always so intrigued by the products people create. There are so many reality shows out there, but this one is unique and – pardon the pun – inventive. And can we talk about Grey’s Anatomy for a minute? HUGE kudos to the amazing Sara Ramirez for last night’s Callie-centric episode. Talk about talented.

What I’m reading: Actually, this should probably be entitled “What I’m immersed in to the neglect of everything else.” Seriously. Allison Winn Scotch’s new novel, THE THEORY OF OPPOSITES, came out on Tuesday, and oh my gosh, you guys, it is excellent. I’m three-quarters of the way through and will write a full review when I’ve finished reading, but for now I’ll just say that it’s already made me laugh out loud, already made me nod my head in agreement, already made me think and reflect and feel.

What I’m writing: I moved on to character sketches for my new book this week and am truly having such a blast getting to know everyone. So far I’ve hung out (that sounds weird, huh, talking about characters like they’re real?) with Eden, her future best friend Serena, and her love interest Wilson. I’m growing more and more excited about them, about their stories, about the journey we’ll all go on together. There’s still some planning to do, but I can’t wait to start drafting in a couple weeks.

What I’m smiling about: A sweet new bundle of baby joy for a friend, a good report from my biennial cardiology appointment (for my heart murmur), a burst of (relative) warmth sandwiched in between the cold weather of late fall, and some wonderfully invigorating chats with some equally wonderful writing friends.

What are you listening to / watching / reading / writing / smiling about this week?

Room for More.


“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.”
~Anais Nin

Being a writer is a wonderful thing. It’s a chance to lose yourself in other worlds, to tell the stories inside your head and heart, to learn about your characters and to learn from your characters. I know I talk about this all the time, but truly, there is nothing like the experience of falling in love with a new story. It’s like taking flight with a butterfly that carries the most pure, fluttery joy on its wings. And how lucky are we to be filled with that joy once, let alone multiple times? I think that’s one of the neatest parts about writing: how there is always another opportunity waiting around the bend, just waiting for us to pick up our pens, to open up our Word documents, and give breath to it. This month marks six years since the day I sat down at the computer and started writing what I honestly thought would be a short story. Now, hundreds of thousands of words later, I think back on that time with such a smile, with such warm fuzzies. If you had told me then that I’d write five full novels over the span of the next several years, I’d probably have laughed until my sides hurt. But I have. I’ve gotten to know five casts of characters, gotten to immerse myself in five book-babies, gotten to discover five novels that have become such an intrinsic part of who I am.

Sometimes it’s hard to believe. Each time I finish a book, I wonder – is there enough room in my heart for another one? Will the walls stretch a little further? Will the crevices widen to accommodate new characters and new journeys? Often I worry that the answer is no. And always I have been proven wrong. When I sat down this past February to begin SANDS OF TIME, I didn’t know what to expect. After all, my previous three novels had been about the same family. Sofie, Brandon, Ellie, Addilyn, and Jordan … they were like my friends. I loved them dearly, and it felt strange at first, so very strange, to be telling someone else’s story. But then a funny thing happened. I wrote Remi’s first chapter, then Charlotte’s. And instantly that concern spiraled away. Instantly these MCs intertwined themselves with me. Instantly this project became more near and dear than words can express. I’ve mentioned before that writing SANDS OF TIME was a unique kind of experience, one so overflowing with happiness and love that it once again has me thinking I won’t be able to replicate it this next time around.

Maybe that’s true. I know many authors say they can’t choose a favorite book, that it would be akin to picking a favorite child. Aren’t there exceptions to that rule, though? I’m not saying every book isn’t special in its own way. They are. When I look back at my own novels, I am inordinately grateful for having experienced every one. Each has been a light in my life. Each has taught me, helped me, molded me, inspired me in different ways. But if you asked me now to name a favorite or two, I could do it. And so, as I leap into planning for my next book, I can’t help wondering: after SOT made me fall in love with writing all over again, what will this project offer? It has some pretty big shoes to fill. Or does it? Perhaps, instead of comparing it to what came before, I should be offering it some shoes of its own. Because every book is unique, and that’s a good thing. It’s a lovely thing.

Will Eden – my new MC – become as special to me as Remi and Charlotte? As Sofie? I don’t know yet. But what I am sure of is this: I am so enjoying getting to know her. She’s told me a lot about her story so far and I’m genuinely excited to learn more. Planning a new novel is always one of my absolute favorite parts of the process. Everything is so shiny, so hopeful, so glistening with the luminance of a thousand fireflies. It’s like being Pandora, about to open the box and watch its contents spring up to greet you. I’ve only been working on this next book for a week, so there’s still a long way to go, but I’m starting to feel that anticipation bubble up. I’m starting to get those flashes of inspiration when I least expect them – because isn’t that how it always goes? – and I’m starting to imagine how the scenes will unfold. In a way, this book is going to play off of SOT. Remi and Charlotte get to have an important role, and I won’t lie, I cannot wait to write about them again. But I’m also looking forward to writing about Eden. I’m looking forward to visiting with a whole other group of people. Something tells me they have new lessons to teach.

There are always more questions than answers when embarking on a book journey, but this I know for sure: no two paths are the same, and they shouldn’t be. And wherever this one leads … well, I will be glad to follow. I will be glad to make room in my heart for more.

Living in the Pages.


“The ocean stirs the heart, inspires the imagination and brings eternal joy to the soul.”
~Wyland

When I first started the planning stage for SANDS OF TIME (Have I mentioned its title on here yet? That was actually the first piece of the puzzle this time!), I knew there needed to be four different settings, two of which were seaside. Because Charlotte’s story takes place in 1957, a time period I had to research extensively, I decided that I should keep it close to home. Of course the area was different in the 50s than it is today, but several of the hallmarks still remain the same, and it seemed like a good choice to bring that sense of familiarity into a storyline which featured so many other unknowns. Atlantic City became home for Charlotte and Nolan, and the writing process became even more exciting for me. I loved getting to build chapters around the Jersey shore. It has been somewhere very special to me for as long as I can remember, and weaving its charm into the book only increased that.

And so, when I spent seven lovely days in New Jersey this past week, I soaked up the significance even more than usual.

There’s Fralinger’s, where Charlotte works (granted, this is the Ocean City store instead of AC, but close enough):

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There’s the Ocean City Music Pier, where Nolan takes her for a surprise birthday celebration:

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Most special of all, there’s Ventnor. It is, truly, my favorite place in all the world. I spent time there every summer until I was fourteen and some of my most lovely memories have been woven there. It’s been over fifteen years now since my grandparents sold their condo, but we still try to go back for an evening or two each summer. Walking on that boardwalk again, seeing the fishing pier, breathing in the salty sea air that I swear is unique in that town, different from every other coastal community … it is home for me. It’s also directly next to Atlantic City, so when Charlotte and Nolan moved, it was the perfect spot for them to go. The entire last chapter of my book is set in Ventnor, and so being back there again last week was even more meaningful. This might sound ridiculous, but in a way, it felt like I was living in the pages of my manuscript.

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My favorite restaurant, and the place where Charlotte, Nolan, Remi, and Eli have dinner:

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Why yes, I am totally that person who writes her book’s acronym in the sand in the exact spot where a scene takes place:

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I couldn’t stop picturing my characters: Charlotte and Nolan strolling the boardwalk, Remi and Eli taking in the sights of the Jersey shore for the first time, Charlotte and Remi sitting on the beach as they write a message of their own, write a story of their own. It took a place I already adore and made it even more magical. Something similar happens to Remi in the book – she moves to Nantucket after reading about it as a child and falling in love with its beauty – and it was such fun to write her experience of watching the words spin to life around her. That’s what this was like for me.

A few more non-book related pictures:

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Supermoon over the ocean = Super awesome.

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What’s your all-time favorite place? And fellow writers, have you ever set a book in that spot?

Cracking the Books … or the Internet.


“Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.”
~Zora Neale

Ever since starting work on my new novel, I’ve become fully and unapologetically immersed in the lives of my characters. In just over a week, their worlds have become mine. Their stories have lit a fresh spark of interest. Their journeys have reminded me of the joy, the adrenaline, and the hope of beginning a shiny new project. Something I always try to do as a writer is push myself with each book – to tackle something I never have before, to stretch the story in different ways – and I think that will be true this time around, too. There will be two main characters instead of one. Two main settings instead of one. Two main time periods instead of one. Two main perspectives instead of one. Will it be a challenge? Probably. Am I excited about that challenge? Unequivocally.

But with this uncharted territory comes the need for a lot of research. It’s the first time I’ll be writing a book that’s partially set in the past, and even though the setting is a place I’m familiar with, there have certainly been significant changes over the decades. So … Google has become my BFF as of late. It’s truly amazing how much information there is online, just waiting to be discovered with the tap of a key and the click of a mouse. I’m hoping to do some interviews, too, to get firsthand accounts, but in the meantime, I’ve been poring over website after website. The “bookmarks” tab on my laptop looks like a library. And do you know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Some of the awesomely interesting topics I’ve learned about over the past week: Olympic swimming, nursing programs at the University of Pennsylvania, lifeguarding in the 1950s, graduate programs in Creative Writing, seaside towns in Virginia, the Nantucket Conservation Fund, bed & breakfast management, undergraduate programs in Architectural Design, drafting procedures during WWII, hurricanes that came ashore in Atlantic City, the 1964 Democratic National Convention, Steel Pier, the history of Lucy the Elephant, Nantucket public schools, and – my personal favorite – how to make saltwater taffy.

There’s still more research to go, but I’m honestly looking forward to it. I’m also eager to work on character sketches – four finished so far, several more to discover – and, of course, to dive into actually drafting this book. I adored writing about Sofie and Company for the past two and a half years, nothing will ever take their place in my heart, but at the same time, it’s positively invigorating to meet this new cast of people who’ll invite me along on their journeys. It’s like the air is buzzing with excitement. I can’t wait to absorb its energy.

Tell me: what’s the coolest topic you’ve ever researched for work or school? And also: doing a taste test for different flavors and brands of saltwater taffy is totally justified, right? You know, to ensure accuracy and all. Anyone want to help me out in this venture?

A Tale of Two Pictures.


“When writing a novel, a writer should create living people; people, not characters. A character is a caricature.”
~Ernest Hemingway

Journal

Guess who officially chose a writing journal and started working on her new novel last Thursday? Guess who is very, very excited about that? The idea for this one has been percolating for over a year now, and it’s been such fun to take it from something abstract to concrete. There’s still a lot of research and planning to be done before I begin writing, but I’m having so much fun with it that I don’t even mind. Don’t get me wrong, I’m just itching to write again after spending all those months editing, but I’ve always been a fan of this part of the process, too. There’s something invigorating about the plotting stage – the pages are still blank, literally and figuratively, just waiting for a world to be born, for characters to be born, for a story to be born. I’ve spent a lot of time these past several days fleshing out my two main characters and am almost giddy about their journeys. This book is going to be quite different from anything I’ve ever worked on, both format-wise and story-wise, and even though it feels strange to be visiting with other characters instead of Sofie and Company, it’s also exciting. I kind of feel like Pandora, but in a good way, about to open a new box and watch infinite possibilities spring up from inside. To Charlotte and Remi: I cannot wait to tell your stories. You are already like living, breathing people to me, and I’m looking forward to seeing where those possibilities take us.

PortChick

I’ve mentioned my love of General Hospital many times, so it should come as no surprise that yesterday’s event with Laura Wright, Lisa LoCicero, Julie Berman, and Kelly Sullivan was a blast. Pretty sure they had the entire place laughing out loud for two hours straight. It was lovely to talk with Laura again, and I’m especially glad for the opportunity to meet Lisa, whose sunny spirit is truly contagious. As always, the awesomeness of the cast made me even prouder to be a GH fan.

Hmm, maybe one of my new characters will love the show, too. They do always say to “write what you know,” right? Off to brainstorm some more now …

Five Things.


“If you want to know where your heart is, look to where your mind goes when it wanders.”
~Anonymous

1. Seeing Les Miserables for the first time is quite an experience. Seeing it from the second row at the Academy of Music, one of the most beautiful buildings in all of Philadelphia, makes the experience even more fabulous. So many kudos to the amazing cast and crew of the touring company. They did a phenomenal job. (Also: “On My Own” has now been running on constant repeat in my head since yesterday afternoon.)

2. Whoever came up with the idea for antibacterial hand sanitizer is a genius. I cannot even begin to count how many times I’ve used it this past week. New favorites from Bath & Body Works: Iced Gingerbread, Vanilla Buttercream, and Paris Amour. Such pretty scents to go along with the germ-fighting.

3. As of last Friday evening, my query letter and synopsis are both finished(!!). I’m working on my agent database for the next couple days, and then it’s time to jump back onto the emotional roller-coaster also known as querying. I’d be lying if I said I’m not nervous – for some reason, the process just feels even more important and electrifying with this novel – but I’m excited, too. It’s been a joy to send the book out to a few readers, and I can’t wait to see what agents think.

4. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are beyond awesome. Can they please host every awards show from now on, even the ones that have nothing to do with television?

5. There is nothing better than a flash of writing inspiration. I haven’t begun any official planning for my next book – wanted to focus on getting the first Mine to Love queries out there first – but even so, ideas have been flying into my head and I’ve been rushing to put them to paper (well … computer). So, so excited to start fleshing out this manuscript even more in the days and weeks ahead.

Your turn: tell me something that’s on your mind today!

Mine to Love.


“Write with your eyes like painters, with your ears like musicians, with your feet like dancers. Write with your tongue on fire.”
~Gloria Anzaldua

It’s pretty safe to say that I love words. After all, I surround myself with them every day. I string them together into sentences, into paragraphs, into scenes, into chapters, into novels. I use them to explore, and to ponder, and to think. I use them to tell stories and weave tales. I’m the kind of person who will sit at her computer forever, trying to find exactly the right word, rather than substituting another one that doesn’t flow as well. I’m the kind of person who strives to paint a picture with prose. So you’d think this post, one about finishing my first draft yesterday, would be easy to write.

But you’d be wrong. Because, truly, I don’t think there are words to describe what it felt like, what it still feels like. I knew this day was coming. I thought I was prepared for it. I had my last five chapters planned very carefully. I had sunny yellow highlights splashed across my journal, reminding me which passages I still had to include in the manuscript. I had a very clear vision of exactly where my characters would end up. And they did end up there. They ended up in places I never could have imagined when I first set out to tell their story nearly two years ago, and in the process they’ve taught me things I never could have imagined. So it’s hard to even wrap my mind around the fact that I won’t be writing about them anymore, let alone articulate those thoughts coherently. Yesterday was bittersweet. It was emotional. It was surreal. It was filled with joy, with love, with sadness, with longing, with pride, with enchantment, with despair … and, most of all, with inspiration. I’m going to borrow my MC’s thoughts to explain:

But words don’t come, not for me or for her. There can be truth in silence, though. There can be beauty in the sentiment that remains unspoken, because life’s most precious treasures go beyond description. They must simply be felt in the soul.

I feel this story in my soul. From the day I first thought of the concept for the first book until the day I wrote the last word of the last book, it has been a work of heart unlike anything I have ever experienced. It has helped me grow, both as a writer and as a person. It has stretched me, pushed me, taught me, healed me, and inspired me. If someone had told me two years ago that my question of “what would happen if a woman found out she was both pregnant and adopted on the same day?” would blossom into three novels and a group of characters who’d become like a second family … well, I’d never have believed it. I’d written manuscripts before, I’d fallen in love with characters, but I couldn’t have understood what this experience would be like until I actually lived it. I’ve talked a lot about how Sofie and her family helped me through such a difficult time. I’ve talked a lot about how proud I am of them, how thrilling it was to watch them spread their wings and fly. And so, instead of using words to describe how it feels to have finished taking this journey with them, I’ll use numbers.

2 years.

3 novels.

1,000(ish) pages.

330,000(ish) words.

1 set of characters who I consider myself so blessed to have as friends.

And now, so many tears at the thought of having to let them go.

I wish I could somehow thank them for all the joy they’ve given me. I wish I could tell them they’ve left a handprint on my heart. I wish I could explain how they’ve enriched my life and helped my spirit soar. Their story has been a honor to tell, this manuscript in particular has been my favorite to write, and no matter what happens next, Sofie and her family will have my everlasting gratitude for changing my world for the better and for good.

I think it really hit home as I started to write the epilogue yesterday morning. I’ve never included one in any of my manuscripts before, but it felt fitting this time. After sharing this journey with my characters for so long, I wanted to show a glimpse into their future. I wanted to show this moment in time that takes place fourteen years after the book ends. I wanted to show how Sofie’s dream-come-true only continues to flourish. But I don’t think I was prepared for how bizarre it would feel to see my book-babies all grown up. I can’t claim to understand what it’s like for parents to watch their children mature, though in ways, I do think I was able to experience it through Sofie and her family. Writing this epilogue was so bittersweet because of it. At first, it felt so final. But then I took to heart something Sofie said:

Even though the beginning seems so long ago sometimes, there’s no end in sight. There are more paths to blaze, more opportunities to find, more memories to make. This journey of ours will continue to unfold.

I may not have the pleasure of writing about these characters anymore, but they will always be a part of me. They’ll always be one of the best parts of me. It occurs to me now that serendipity must have been shining when I had an “aha!” moment about the title of this book. MINE TO LOVE is about Sofie’s devotion to her family, but it also perfectly describes my devotion to these characters and their story. No matter what happens with these manuscripts, no matter if or when an agent connects with them like I have, they have already given me the greatest gift. I know that for a fact. Proof? It’s been less than twenty-four hours since I finished the draft, and I’m already yearning to jump into edits. I’m going to force myself to take a break for the rest of June (well, I’m going to try to, anyway, we’ll see how long that lasts), and then I literally cannot wait to tighten up this novel and finish it for good. The plan has always been to query the first of the three books until I could query it no more – and as of now, that’s still the plan – but we’ll see what happens after this one is polished. More than any other, this is the one that stretched me. It tackles things I never before would have considered writing about, and though it was brutal to put my characters through the grief of losing someone they loved, it was unbelievably strengthening to see them learn to heal and hope again. It was beautiful to see them make choices that define everything they believe in. It was an affirmation of why I write, why I’ll never not write, why this will forever be my passion.

For now, I’m going to give myself a little vacation. I’m going to do all the things I’ve pushed aside while tying together the draft. I’m going to read, I’m going to watch tv, I’m going to try Starbucks’ new Cookie Crumble Frap, I’m going to drive around to every Rita’s nearby until I find one that has Red Velvet water ice, I’m going to spend a couple days at the beach next week, and I’m going to take the time I need to feel all the emotions stirring in my heart. Then I’m going to jump back in and visit my babies again.

And today, tomorrow, always, I will be so very grateful that they’re mine to love.