Year in Writing Review

I really can’t believe 2022 is coming to a close. Maybe it’s because so much has happened! My family was blessed to take two big vacations, and I hit a milestone birthday (40). It was a year full of fun and adventure. Also some stress, my youngest had an appendectomy in February which added most of the gray hair I’m now coloring (haha).

I’m so so grateful for the wonderful editors, publishers, writing friends, and my inimitable agent Dawn Dowdle for keeping me moving forward. My cowboy trilogy found a home and so did my standalone mistaken identity book. I had the most fun at Chicago Spring Fling and met some amazing people. AND! With Kara Leigh Miller at Anaiah Press, my entire four-book Home to Harmony series released in an 11-month span.

Since 2018, I’ve kept track of my monthly word counts so I can see how much I’m writing a year. I wrote a little less this year–175,000 words–but I am so excited about the new projects included in those counts.

My word of the year for 2023 is: FOCUS.

My goal is to finish writing the series I’m sending to my agent in January and start work on a few ideas I have for inspirational, romantic suspense! I’d love to manifest more contracts and more books coming out. I’ll let you know all about it!!

Thank you readers for finding my stories and coming back with each new book. I am so grateful for your support.

Her Homegrown Christmas Wish Sneak Peek

Hannah Beacon hated working on holidays but knew better than to say a single, negative word. While the day after Thanksgiving technically didn’t count as a nationally recognized celebration, she cherished Black Friday. Since her daughter’s birth, she had dedicated months to planning her route with minute-by-minute precision. Several times, her foresight had earned her the rare praise of her best friend, and partner-in-shopping, Sam Holt. And when Sam Holt declared herself impressed, she meant it. For years, Hannah had avoided the family business, Perfect Rise Bakery, on the all-important Friday by waking early and standing in line for deals.

      With a sigh, she rolled her neck. Being part of a family business meant carrying her weight. And she should be glad for the work. Following the economic downturn, her parents had considered closing. At the time, she was off on her LA adventure. She had assured Mom and Dad that she was fine with the decision. When, months later, her circumstances had changed, and she had needed a job, she was glad an unexpected business had rescued the town’s economy. Or she wouldn’t have an hourly schedule to complain about.

      A timer beeped.

      She shook off the doldrums, grabbing a rag and pulling a tray of sprinkle cookies from the oven. The air hung heavy with the scents of melting butter, caramelizing sugar, and sweet hope. She couldn’t be in a sour mood in the midst of mouthwatering smells, nor would she harbor even the slightest twinge of a grudge about coming in to finalize the big holiday order for Under Covers’ special collaboration launch party. Both Noah Kidwell, owner of the fashion brand, and her parents had saved her.

     She loaded the next tray of cookies into the oven and twisted the dial, setting the timer. She enjoyed the satisfying jingle of the old school devices. Her brother, Mike, argued in favor of updates and modernization. He wanted to streamline and automate everything he could. After she had burned a batch of brownies, activating the overhead sprinklers, because of her confusion on setting the internet-enabled oven, she stuck to the tried and true. Coming home had been about that sentiment, too. She was nothing if not maddeningly consistent.

      Ding dong.

      She jumped, pressing a hand to her collarbone, and catching her breath. The bakery was supposed to be closed to customers. Had Mike forgotten to flip the sign the night before? Smoothing her apron, she tightened her ponytail, plastering on her movie-star smile. She’d greet the customer with a kind word and get back to business. Passing through the swinging door separating the kitchen from the front of house, she snatched a peppermint stick from the jar on the counter. A little extra sugar never hurt a sour conversation.

      She crossed the black and white hexagonal tiles in the original building, not sparing a glance for “or the darkened interior of the café expansion to her left. Another of her brother’s ideas. She couldn’t argue with his acumen. He expanded the business at a risky time and doubled the profits in the first year, a rare feat. Taking over for their parents, Mike had a clear vision and constant drive. He’d need both. Hannah loved the bakery, but her focus would always be her daughter.

      Twisting the deadbolt, she unlocked the accessible entrance next to the revolving door. “I’m sorry, we’re cl—”

      “Closed?” Jake Grant arched a brow and smiled. “Hi, Hannah. Sorry to drop by unannounced. I had it on good authority you’d be here today.”

      She gulped. As the town’s sole lawyer, he knew everything about everyone.

      “Sorry.” He scrubbed a hand over his face. “That sounded creepy. Amy told me you’d be working on the order for tonight.”

      “Oh, sure. Come inside. It’s too cold to linger outdoors.” Hannah held the door open wide, standing to the side.

      The lawyer, currently dating her other best friend, Amy Parker, entered the building. Dressed in an overcoat and suit, he was as formal as ever. Was today special?

      After six months, Hannah waited for an official statement about the pair’s future any day. Since hitting thirty, she was no longer surprised when an engagement was announced within a year of striking up a romance. As a young bride whose wedded bliss floundered in less than a decade, she hardly had any right to look askance at anyone else’s relationship choices. Still, she wanted the best outcome for her loved ones. If she served as a living example of mistakes to avoid, her pain held a purpose.

      Jake adjusted the leather messenger bag strap on his shoulder. “I didn’t think stars opened the door by themselves.”

      She glanced at him sidelong and let the door swing shut. “One commercial is hardly a breakout role.”

      Over the summer, she had joined in the unofficial test run of the Under Covers launch at megastore Fulham’s. While she and her daughter had enjoyed the Christmas in July spectacle, she hadn’t noticed cameras. “Within a few weeks, she’d been approached with a release form and signed off on the use of her image in the thirty-second spot.

      In the past month, the commercial had aired, and she hardly had a day without someone mentioning it. Six years ago, shortly after learning she was pregnant, she’d given up on her Hollywood dream. Maybe the limelight wasn’t done with her yet. She dusted her palms on her apron. “How may I help you? Did Amy call in an order?”

      “No, no, nothing like that.” He held up his hands, facing out his palms. “I’m sure you’re swamped with the party order.”

      She pressed together her lips together, holding back the question threatening to roll off her treacherous tongue.

      He twisted his neck, scanning past her. “Is Mike here?”

      Oh. Her stomach twisted. She’d rather add to her workload with a last-minute request for a dozen cupcakes than deal with legal business. “On his way.” She smiled and crossed her arms.

The candy stick poked her arm through the thick sweater. She extended it. “Peppermint? Or maybe I can get you a coffee? Mike should be here soon, if you don’t mind waiting.”

      “Actually, I can drop off the paperwork, and you could pass it on. I don’t need to stay and get in your way.”

      “Sure, whatever you want to do.” She tucked the candy into her back jeans pocket.

      He opened the bag and slid out a folder, handing over the plain, manilla file.

      She accepted the nondescript package. She didn’t need to open it to examine the contents. Inside, she’d find the paperwork mapping out the next steps for the Beacon family. She wasn’t in the mood to look through the preliminary details. Without Mike, she never would have taken the first step to securing the future. She gripped the folder in both hands. “I’m sure everything is in order. If he has questions, Mike will call.”

      “I’m sure of it.” Jake chuckled.

      She lifted the corner of her mouth. “He is very thorough.”

      “No explanations needed.” Jake held up his hands. “Changing the ownership of the business and the family home and establishing living trusts for both your parents aren’t unusual requests. But the time sensitive nature makes every choice imperative. I appreciate another set of eyes on my work.” He cleared his throat. “I am glad for a moment alone. I wanted to bring up something… personal.”

      “Of course.” She softened her tone. “I’m always available to help. Did you have an idea? Or a plan?”

      He wrinkled his brow.

      “I know what shape she likes and her size. I can also set up whatever you need. If you wanted to use the bakery, you are more than welcome. We could place the box inside a cake. Or—better yet—you could use a gingerbread house if you’re planning for a Christmas Eve or Christmas Day surprise.”

      He stared at her blankly.

      Wasn’t she included in his proposal scheme? When Amy had returned to town and started dating her longtime crush, she had turned to Hannah for advice and support. Hannah encouraged the couple. She’d never seen a more well-matched pair. The five years age difference would have been a scandal as teens. Since hitting the third decade milestone, the discrepancy wasn’t even a blip on the radar.

      She couldn’t believe she overstepped. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to insert myself in your engagement plans.”

      “Engagement? No, I’m not ready to…” He slipped a finger under his collar. In his supposed off-hours, he remained the consummate legal professional. “We’ll talk about Amy later. I’m here to discuss you and your situation.”

      Squinting, she tipped her head to the side. What was her situation? She considered her part of the family arrangement a fair shake. A 30 percent stake wasn’t the equal split Dad wanted. Considering her brother’s unwavering dedication and countless hours, she readily accepted his proposed terms. Besides, she’d own the house. Had Dad disagreed enough to approach the lawyer? “I don’t follow.”

      Jake blew out a sigh. “Mind if I speak frankly?”

      “By all means.” She dropped her arms to her sides. She didn’t want the Sunday school teacher misinterpreting any of her physical cues.      

“Are you ready to file for divorce?”

Can love blossom during the Season of Hope? #anaiahpress #countdowntochristmas #holidayromance

If the Christmas season is the Season of Hope, can a love blossom between a prickly city girl and the naive young pastor who took over their struggling neighborhood’s underfunded mission?

Independent, but lonely, Claudia runs her stepfather’s bodega and cares for her beloved half-sisters. she believes that’s more than enough responsibility for her without the attentions of Pastor Nick, whom she considers to be an out-of-touch country boy.

But that snowy December, a series of violent crimes brings Nick and Claudia together to defend her family and home. Perhaps they will experience a Christmas love that changes both their lives.

Available on Amazon

Welcome, Laura!

Tell us how your characters celebrate the holidays– Nick and Claudia celebrate Christmas together with his spunky grandmother and her younger half-sisters. After he preaches the Christmas Eve service, they all gather for a late supper of Mexican dishes and cookies baked by the mission’s housekeeper and guardian angel Maria. On Christmas morning, they carol for shut-in members of Nick’s congregation and deliver cookies, too.

Does you hero have a favorite Christmas carol or movie? Does your heroine? After all they’ve been through, Nick loves hearing anything that Claudia sings at the mission’s Christmas Eve service. They share a fondness for the movie It’s a Wonderful Life because of its theme of community members supporting each other, just as people do in their neighborhood of Philadelphia. 

What is the theme of this book? Thematically, I was interested in writing not only a love story between Nick and Claudia, but also  how community supports the couple toward love. Community is both a secular and a Christian concern, and I wanted to write about love in the context of community.  

If it’s part of a series, how does this book fit into the series? I don’t anticipate it becoming a series, but Claudia does have two younger sisters, and I’m dying to know what they get up to in a few years, so….

Why do you write this genre?  I wrote holiday-romance-with-mystery because it is a genre which brings innocent pleasure to readers, a Christmas cookie of a genre. In the case of Season of Hope, I think of the novella as a little respite in the mad rush of holiday preparations that center so many woman’s lives.  

What inspired this story? I volunteered cooking dinners at a Salvation Army family shelter in an urban neighborhood. I also taught high school students from that area. As I got to know the neighborhood, I knew I wanted to give it the same special Christmas romance that a pristine New England village gets. I imagined Nick trying to hang the wreath on the window grate by the mission’s door, and Claudia watching skeptically from her store window Once I saw the two of them and their world, the rest was just details. 

Do you write any other genres? I am a medieval lit nerd, so there’s no surprise in my writing high fantasy, which is the gateway to writing all sorts of speculative fiction. Right now I am working on a huge historical piece with fantasy elements.

Any tips to share with fellow authors/aspiring authors? Join a critique group. Keep attending and critiquing others’ work, even when you don’t have the heart to keep writing yourself. When I falter, my group brings me back to writing, and their honest criticism makes me a better author.

What is your favorite Christmas tradition and/or memory? Another aspect of that medieval lit nerd is that I love really old carols and old Christian poetry, even the weird stuff like Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. My newest tradition has been fasting from social media throughout Advent and Lent. I started three years ago and find that social media fasts keep my focus on Jesus a little clearer.

Finally! Real Christmas tree? Or fake? Like most financially-strapped missions, Nick and Claudia have a terrible fake tree that lives in the mission attic most of the year. It keeps company with a zillion old hymnals and some brass altarware that definitely should be polished. They hope that maybe next year, someone will donate a real tree.

Want to learn more about Laura?

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