Moving Platforms!

Good morning everyone (or afternoon across the sea!) As you know, I recently developed a Patreon page. There, you can join tiers for exclusive content and other great stuff. But I wanted to focus my efforts on one platform rather than jumping around on Patreon, Facebook, and Instagram, so I will be using Patreon as my distribution hub. Everything will be there!

Don’t worry. You won’t need to join a tier to get the free content. It’s basically the same stuff I would post on Facebook, but consolidated in one easy to find place. Now, if you DO join a tier, you will get extras, bonuses, exclusive sales and freebies, and insider access. The tiers are clearly marked and described, but if you are only interested in following my page, you can do that by scrolling all the way to the bottom. Click that “follow” button and (if you would be so kind) maybe share my page on you social media to help me out!

Beginning February 8, 2021, I will move my blog to Patreon. I will send out a reminder link that it has moved each time I write a post in February, but if you want to keep following my blog for free after that, just jump on and follow me on Patreon.

If you have questions, please feel free to comment, make suggestion, or email me at mjpadgett@mjpadettbooks.com.

Here’s a peek at what you will find on Patreon:

  1. Extended behind-the scenes peeks into my current works in progress (this is not the same as the tier-subscribed book access where the subscriber gets the entire chapter)
  2. Downloadable book club materials, bookmarks, and other fun things
  3. Advanced access to sales on my private sales site
  4. Everything you would normally see on Facebook and Instagram

Artist Spotlight!

Without an amazing team of talented artists in my corner, I would never get anything done. From illustrations to audiobook production, my team rocks. One of my favorite audiobook producers is Amada Soha, who lent her voice to my fictional memoir about a family made band, 100 Grand! She has also narrated The Hate Project and The Text Message, which should be available in the next one to two months! I adore the way Amanda brings life to my characters with an easy, laid-back style that just… fits.

Without further ado… here is my short and sweet interview with Amanda!

What is your all-time favorite book?

My favourite book is definitely “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens. It was a book I just could not put down, and I think I went through it in a couple days! I would definitely recommend it!

What is your favorite genre to read? To record?

My favourite genre to read is literary fiction or novels based on real life. My favourite genre to record is probably children’s books because it is super fun getting to create different character voices! Beyond children’s books, I love to record books that I feel personally connected to whether through the storyline or main characters. 

How did you get into recording audiobooks?

Funny enough, I saw a Tik Tok video about it! I used to record voices for cartoons until I was 18 years old, so when I saw that video, I thought “It’s time to dust off the old mic – I can totally do this!”

What do you love most about recording?

What I love most about recording is definitely how close you get to the stories and characters. Bringing emotion to the written word makes me feel a very strong connection to the stories and characters  I’m bringing to life.

What are your favorite activities outside of reading and recording?

I am a very active person, so when I am not reading and recording, I am probably doing something active like working out, walking, or (weather permitting) hiking!

There you have it! If you want to hear Amanda bring life to my characters in 100 Grand, you can find it at Amazon and Audible!

Why are you an independent author?

I get that question a lot. I also get this one—When are you going to do traditional publishing? The short answer? Never.

That said, this blog post is geared more toward those writers who want to publish but haven’t quite decided how to get into the process. I’ll be fair right away—I am hugely biased toward independent publishing for many reasons but let me try to give each option a fair shake (I probably won’t).

First, the obvious route most authors consider is traditional publishing—or what I call, the black hole where all your hard work goes to die.

Once you’ve worked yourself half to death to write your book, edit it, polish it (rinse and repeat…), it’s time to get busy writing those query letters. Yep. You don’t just submit your manuscript to Penguin and get a book deal. You send a query along with thousands of other authors hoping to get noticed. Sometimes you get a bite (AKA manuscript request), but most often, you get crickets.

Here’s what’s great about traditional publishing if you are one of the lucky ducks. You get to say you’ve been published by (insert publishing house here). And… that’s about it. The common misconception is that getting signed by a publishing house means you will see your book on every big-name bookstore across the world. The reality is less glamorous.

Publishing companies are for-profit and money talks. Money is loud, and they already have an established list of authors who rake in the big bucks. Are there some breakthrough authors? Of course, but the average author signed to a publishing house must market their own book, accept they will get no say in cover design, never see their book on store shelves, and—very often—never even see their book go to print.

Let’s look at this another way. Publishers need to make a certain amount of money to do business, and they need a promised source of income to ensure they stay afloat—bring in the smaller authors who do all the grunt work to sell their own books yet share the profit with the publisher just for the privilege of stamping that famous logo on their book. All those revenues make it easier for the publisher to spend significant funds on marketing their star authors. As bad as this sounds, it’s true:  publishing houses don’t need you to succeed. They only need you to make them enough money to make their established stars shine brighter.

That’s right. It sucks, but it’s business. The fact is, no one will care as much about your book as you do (okay, maybe your family, friends, and some readers will, too… but you see my point.)

If your book doesn’t meet sales expectations, you can kiss it goodbye. It’ll get backlisted and never see the light of day again. To top it off, you’ve also lost the right to publish it elsewhere. Had a whole series planned? Well… not anymore.

I’m not anti-traditional publishing. I’m just… realistic. But I also don’t like being told what to do, what to write, how to write it, and when to write, which is a lot of what traditional publishing is about.

Now, moving on to small press traditional publishing. Some authors find this option more pleasing than the cutthroat antics necessary to impress big-name publishers. Small presses have a much lower overhead, which doesn’t mean they don’t publish more prominent authors. Some do, but for the most part, small presses are more invested in their authors because they don’t have multi-million-dollar authors whose advertising budget costs more per month than my entire home mortgage.

Often, authors have more say in how their book is published, the look and feel of the final product, and can still find their work in bookstores. The downside? Depending on the publisher and your contract, you still might run into some of the same issues you would with traditional publishing. If your book doesn’t sell well, you might not be retained for future work. However, I have seen some authors manage to score sweet deals that allowed them to keep publishing rights if dropped by the publisher, but those are hard to come by.

Small press is a leap of faith in both directions—for you and the publisher—but it can be a rewarding venture if both parties are willing to put in the work.

And now, my favorite option—independent publishing (AKA self-publishing). We’ve all heard it before, and it’s been proven wrong more times than I can count… Independent authors are not real authors. I just want to say one thing to all the haters out there—thbbbttt!

First and foremost, there are plenty—PLENTY—of indie authors who make high six-figure incomes per year. Incidentally, that’s more than most traditionally published authors make. Remember, book sales are only a fraction of what makes up author income. Most big-name authors are also speaking at conventions, selling merchandise, offering classes, and more to earn income.

Independent publishing is growing exponentially for many reasons, not the least of which is author control. I get to write what I want, when I want, how I want, and run my own business like the boss woman I am. I answer to no one but myself (and the mini-me that lives here and thinks she runs the place).

With indie publishing, my failures are my own. My success is my own. And I am not held back by the expectations of a publishing house whose rules for what is “in” frequently change. I can publish with Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Google… the list goes on and on. I have a following of readers who are invested in my success, a family of other indie authors who see my success as a good thing, not as competition, and I don’t need anyone’s permission to do… anything.

There’s a mindset among the writing community that independent authors are hacks or that we just couldn’t make it into traditional publishing. Maybe that’s true for some authors, but it is by and large a load of poo. Even some big-name authors have dabbled in independent publishing because they know their days are numbered, and as soon as they stop raking in big money, their publisher will drop them like a bad habit.

I love the freedom of being my own boss, an entrepreneur, a content creator, a creator of worlds, a free-thinking and free-writing author. Is it hard work? You bet, but if writing is your passion, then the hard work should be worth it, right?

Is it expensive? Not if you do it right! Of course, there are costs associated with independent publishing, but don’t let anyone fool you into thinking those same costs don’t exist in traditional publishing. They absolutely do! You still market, pay for designers, editors, and everything else, but you pay it after sales which is why your royalty share is usually pennies on the dollar. Again, that’s a hard pass for me when I can promote other artists with amazing cover designs and so on for much less (and often with better designs!)

I know, I know… I’m raving about the indie position, but in fairness, I did warn you. The reality is this—you are your own best advocate, and no one will work harder for your career as an author than you. For me, it was a no-brainer to choose the independent author route. I don’t regret it for a second.

I get to meet tons of amazing people (readers, authors, illustrators, producers, and more) and make lifelong friendships and partnerships. I get to do interviews, podcasts, book signings, and more just like other authors—only I get to do it my way (which usually involves food), and I get to make real, meaningful connections with my readers.

So now, whenever someone asks me why I chose independent publishing, I just say—why wouldn’t I?

Cutest Pet Contest!

I love animals almost as much as I love my kid, which is saying something. Right now, we only have a hamster named Spiker (courtesy of my six-year-old’s kick butt naming skills,) but my kiddo is working us hard to get her a cat. We’re thinking about it, but in the meantime I want to see your pets!

In my book The Postcard, one of the characters adopts a three-legged dog named Joy. In The Letter, the main character is a horse trainer. Every so often I’ll slip a pet into the story, but not a lot. For the life of me, I can’ figure out why. I simply must remedy that as soon as possible.

But enough about that. Let’s get this party started. Here are the rules:

  1. Sumbit a picture either by email to mjpadgett@mjpadgetbooks.com OR by tagging me on Instagram. If your pet has a special story, tell me!
  2. It must be YOUR pet, not a random image from the internet, please.
  3. Unfortunately, due to shipping rates in the US right now, I can only offer a signed paperback copy to US residents. HOWEVER, if you are outside of the US and want to participate, I can email you a link for two digital book downloads if you win!
  4. Please submit pictures to me no later than February 1.

My daughter will pick the pet she thinks is the cutest, and I will announce the winner via a blog post!

Now… send me all the cuteness!!!

First Prize: Signed paperback copy of The Postcard (US only) OR digital downloads of The Postcard and The Letter (International) AND a full spread about your pet in my blog post!

Second Prize: The Postcard digital book download

Flash Fiction!

Once a month, my goal is to offer one flash fiction piece to my blog followers. Admittedly, I’m not so great at it, but it is a skill I’d like to work on. This is an edited piece I put out on my newsletter back in the summer, but I thought it might be fun to release it here, too!

I pulled my cardigan tighter around my shoulders as I wandered like a vagabond down the shore, headed nowhere and everywhere at the same time. The waves teased me, tickling my feet every few seconds, washing the sand away with each swipe. Oh, if they could only wipe away the memories as easily… but then, if my memory disappeared, so would he.

The sun settled, taking another piece of my heart with it as one more day without him ended. It was suffocating, really, to think of the last time I’d walked the shore at sunset. Life had been a game back then, our hearts fresh and clean without all the bruising and scars brought by time and experience.

I closed my eyes and let my mind drift back… one year… two years… three… all the way back to graduation.

***

The party, that was where it all began. I carried a case of water toward the refreshment table, but between the sand and my inability to coordinate my feet with the rest of my body, I was a ticking time bomb just waiting to faceplant, possibly humiliating myself in the process. And trip I did…

“Whoa, it’s okay. I’ve got you,” he said. Casey Reardon, also known as that mysterious guy no one could quite pin down but was nice to stare at in class when the teacher droned on like an automaton.

I righted myself while he gripped my elbow with one hand and his own bags of who knew what in the other. “Thanks. That would have been the total devastation of what remains of my popularity.”

Casey chuckled and released my elbow before hoisting the case of water onto his shoulder. “Eh, high school is over, and college is a new beginning, so I think you’d have survived.”

“Maybe, but thanks to you, I won’t spend my summer tending to wounded pride and a lacerated face.” My face flushed as his blue eyes bored into mine. Were they always that pretty?

He smiled and dropped the case on the table, then dumped the bags he’d brought—an array of snack foods to satisfy any craving, including an entire box of chocolate that I eyed like a starved monkey tossed into a pit of bananas.

“Want one?” he asked, scooting the box closer. “If memory serves, they are your favorite, right?”

“How did you—never mind. Yes, they are my favorite,” I said and ripped into the box.

Casey leaned against the table, his devil-may-care attitude on display as usual. The salt air toyed with his hair, cementing a few strands to his forehead as his eyes absorbed his surroundings. The party had only just begun, a little before sunset as usual. I opened the candy, stuck it in my mouth, and then pulled a hair tie from my pocket to tie back my unruly waves. Too much beach time and not enough time with a good conditioner made it a little sticky and difficult to manage.

“So,” he said as he pushed off the table, “where are you headed after the summer break?”

“Me?” I asked, still a tad confused as to why we were even speaking. It was, after all, the first time he’d said more to me than please pass the papers. The guy sat behind me in three classes all senior year, but those four words were all he’d ever said, and usually to the back of my head.

“No, the other girl standing here conversing with me,” he said. A grin spread across his face, dipped into a set of dimples I did not know he had, and forced a sparkle into those ridiculously pretty eyes.

Once more, blush took my face and crept through my cheeks. Thankful it was getting dark, I stuttered a bit then said, “I’m not going to college or anything.”

“What? Rylee Baker is not going to college? How is that possible?”

“Because Rylee Baker would rather leap off a cliff than subject herself to four more years of stuffing her face in textbooks.”

Casey’s eyes widened, and his back straightened. I settled in for the lecture, the one everyone seemed to think was necessary, and prepared my customary explanation. He studied me for a moment, his gaze flittering over my face as if he were committing each freckle, each curve, each detail to memory. He pushed off the table and glanced around. More people arrived by the carload, dropping food and drinks off before joining the crowd near the DJ.

“Wanna get out of here?”

“What?” I asked. “We just got here.”

“Yeah, but… I mean, do you really want to hang out with all the same people, or do you want to do something fun and spontaneous?” Casey’s smile spread wider.

A chill crept over me, forcing goosebumps to cover my legs and arms. Casey shirked his jacket and handed it to me, but the chill was not from the cooling ocean air. The scent of barbecue permeated my senses, and the party jumped into action. The DJ pumped up the music, eliminating any chance Casey and I had of carrying on our conversation, which I discovered I was far too deep in to back out. Only a few innocuous sentences, but there was a certain charge between us, something I thought he felt too.

“Rylee?”

“Uh… sure. What did you have in mind?”

He offered his hand and said, “Walk with me? Tell me about the mystery that is Rylee Baker.”

“Are you teasing me?” I asked and took his hand.

He raised his eyebrows and dropped his mouth open. “Me? Tease someone? I’d never.”

I ignored his feigned offense and walked alongside him with no destination in mind. His jacket clung to my shoulders, a warm embrace as we neared the water, but the smell… I couldn’t quite catalog the mix of scents that pleased my senses with each breath. First, it smelled of woodsmoke and pine, cinnamon and apples, and then a hint of mint-like toothpaste. Still more hit me with each inhale—all the scents of Casey Reardon.

“So, what are you doing if college is off the table?” he asked, his hand still firmly grasping mine.

“I’m hopping a plane to Alaska first. My sister is a marine biologist, and she works for this amazing nonprofit that documents the migrations of…” There I went again, rambling on about my sister’s work. It drove my parents bonkers, mostly because they couldn’t understand how I could be so excited about something yet have no desire to follow in her footsteps and become a biologist.

“What? Migrations of what?”

“It’s not important,” I said. “What about you?”

“What about me?”

I nudged his shoulder. He lost his balance and toppled, but I did not escape the consequences of my playful actions. Casey gasped my arm as he fell, dragging me along. The water was warmer than I’d expected, but still a shock when it rumbled over me in angry waves. Casey laughed and slung sand at me when I managed to wiggle free, initiating a sand fight. One thing led to another, and before long, we were both covered with scratchy, wet sand. I was sure there was sand in places it most certainly should not be but hanging out with Casey was too fun to care.

He shook his hair out like a wet dog. “That was fun. I did not expect to have at this party,” he said.

“I wasn’t expecting to get messy at this party.” I wrung my hair out, but it was a futile action given the state of my attire.

“Life is messy, Rylee. I prefer to make it messier, to play by my own rules like you.” The strands of hair that had been cemented to his hair now dripped with saltwater. He licked his lips and made a disgusted face. “Salty.”

I chuckled. “You think?”

He tossed another handful of wet sand at me, but it was a halfhearted throw at best and landed at my feet. I started wandering again with no destination in mind, only that I escape the sounds of the party before my best friend found me and dragged me away from Casey.

“I don’t really play by my own rules either,” I added. “I just… bend the rules. I do what I have to do, then I tease things a little until they bend in my favor.”

“So devious. Tell me more about your plans.”

“What about yours?”

“Nah uh, no distracting me. I really want to know.”

I felt his fingers brush against the sensitive skin on the back of my arm, reminding me I’d lost his jacket in our fight. It was slung over his shoulder, dripping water as we walked. The feel of his rough fingers against the smooth skin was enough to make me wonder why I’d never paid more attention to him, talked more to him, maybe even—

“Hey, you still here?” he asked, dipping his head to look into my eyes.

“Oh, yeah. Sorry. Sometimes I let my thoughts wander a little too far, and they get away from me. Uh, anyway, I guess I’ll just join my sister for a while, then maybe do some backpacking.”

“Backpacking? Like in the forest?”

I paused my walking to observe him. I can’t say why I thought that was the best way to figure him out, but it did give me his attention—all of it, smack in the center of my face. His stare was determined, insistent, and nearly made me change my mind about everything I’d wanted to do so I could stay in our little town just to watch him watching me. I shook my head because those were ridiculous thoughts.

“No, Casey. Backpacking like through Europe or something, maybe… I don’t know, I kind of like the idea of visiting Iceland and that area, maybe more.”

“You mean, you’ll just hop on a plane and go explore? Alone?”

I shrugged and kicked at the sand, accustomed to his reaction since it was the same one everyone gave me. “Yeah. Why not?”

“That’s… interesting.” He said nothing more but encouraged me to keep walking. We were well away from the party now, just the two of us. I’d left my phone in my car, so there were no calls or texts to interrupt, no social media posts to be made, nothing at all to interrupt our conversation.

“Why interesting?” I asked.

“It’s just really brave, I think. My family isn’t all that happy about what I decided to do either.”

“Oh? Are you finally going to tell me?” I teased.

He shuffled along, building up little piles of sand before kicking them away with each step. “I joined the Army. My mother was plenty mad about it, and my father said it was a waste of time.” The way his tone changed, how his entire body tensed beside me when he spoke, it was familiar. I’d done it a million times a day as I fervently defended my decision to explore the world before committing myself to a life of work.

“I’d hardly say it’s a waste of time. It’s honorable,” I said. “When do you leave for training?”

“Tomorrow morning. So, thanks for making this a nice evening, Rylee. Really, I had a rough day today, and this time with you had been… It’s just been nice, that’s all.”

I smiled and glanced out over the horizon.

“I mean, it has been nice, hasn’t it?”

“Mmm,” I hummed, entranced by the last rays of orange and peach tones that filtered through the clouds where the sun had gone to bed.

“Rylee?”

I turned back to him, but I shouldn’t have. Suddenly, the joy that had filled his entire aura had shifted to something else, something darker, something… lost.

“Casey? What’s wrong?”

“I um… I lied to you just now, but I don’t want to do that. It really has been a great time, and I don’t want to ruin it with a lie,” he admitted.

“You lied about joining the Army?”

He shook his head and lowered his gaze to stare at his feet. “No, that part is true. I lied about my parents. I’m… I guess I’m just so used to making up lies to get through life that it sort of slipped out without thinking about it. But I don’t want to lie to you.”

“Okay, then what is the truth?” I asked, a pit growing tighter and tighter in my chest as I waited with bated breath.

“I’ve been in foster care since I was seven. I’m aging out at eighteen, so that’s why I joined. I needed somewhere to go, a job and all that, and it was the easiest option.”

For once in my life, I was speechless. I’d had no idea, known nothing about his home life for all the years I’d spent in school with him, and my own insecurities about my future crashed around me. They seemed… simple compared to his reality.

“Casey, I had no idea. I’m so sorry. If I had—”

“No, no,” he said, grasping my arm that flailed around as I spoke. “There’s nothing for you to be sorry about, Rylee. I just wanted to tell you the truth, to tell someone the truth for once. And I wanted to ask you…”

He released my arm and ran his fingers through his messy hair. I stepped forward, closing the distance between us so whatever he wanted to say really was just between the two of us. There was no one else around, not that I could see, but his truth seemed like a fragile trinket meant to be handled with the tenderest care.

“What is it, Casey?” I asked, my voice a whisper on the breeze.

“I wondered… I mean, I know we don’t really know each other that well, but maybe… Could we write? Email? Whatever they let us do, I’m not really sure. Maybe I can call you sometime? I mean, I don’t know where they will send me after training, but I think I really want to get to know you better.”

His words tugged at a place in my heart I didn’t know existed, someplace filled with empathy and care and… maybe something more. “Yeah, I’d like that. I wish you weren’t leaving tomorrow,” I said, then blushed at the way my honesty exposed me.

“Can I kiss you, Rylee?”

“What?” I asked as my head snapped up to meet his gaze.

“S-sorry, that was stupid. You wouldn’t want to kiss a guy you just—”

I grasped his shirt and pulled him toward me, only then realizing he was easily a foot taller than me. I kissed him—not one of those cheesy movie beach kisses and not one of those frantic kisses in romantic comedies, but something sweet and tender and filled with emotions neither of us could comprehend or define. I felt his arms wrap around me, protecting me from the harsh wind that cut across my skin like knives. I should have dressed more warmly.

I felt him smile against my lips and pulled away.

***

I sat in the sand, reclined on my elbows, and thought about that kiss. If I had known then how much pain and sadness would come from that kiss… I would have done it anyway. Casey left for training the next morning, somehow taking a piece of my heart with him. I went to Alaska to spend the summer with my sister, and all that time, we wrote and talked as we promised we would. Then he deployed, and the time between letters and calls grew longer and longer until, eventually, they stopped.

It was my fault. I stopped responding first. It was just too hard, too much, and each letter he sent me was like stepping into his world. He saw things no one should see, especially not someone who’d hardly left high school. I couldn’t find the words to comfort him, to tell him that I was there for him though we’d never really been together. Finally, he gave me an out. He let me walk away without hard feelings, and so I did.

I did because it was what my parents said I should do, what my sister encouraged, what my friends wanted. I did it because I was afraid. I was afraid I’d lose all of my heart to him, and if he didn’t come home, then I, too, would die.

But as I sat in the wet sand thinking of what love might have been, thinking of what I’d lost and might never find in another human being for as long as I lived, a shiver shot down my spine. I grasped my cardigan, but no amount of clothing would stave the chill.

Four years had passed since that last letter, six years since that party… six years since I fell in love and didn’t know it until it was gone. And now, that part of me I was sure would die if something happened to Casey was dead anyway. Sure, I loved my work and lived a full life, but something was always missing. Something gnawed at me every day, begging me to glance over my shoulder and go back in time.

I sighed and tucked my feet closer to me, hugging my legs against my chest. My chin settled on my knees as I watched the last of the colors fade into the darkness. I was the fool who let him get away, and for that—”

“Rylee?”

My spine stiffened as I whirled around at the sound of my name. Not just the sound of my name, but my name spoken by… him.

Casey.”

“I… came home for you, Rylee. I’m… I’m home. Permanently.” He offered his hand to me, then asked, “Will you walk with me?”

I’m not okay… But I will be…

Here we are, barely a week into the new year, and I’m not okay. Don’t get me wrong, my writing is finally flowing again, homeschooling is great, we’re doing really well in most regards… but my heart aches for my country. How did we get here? The truth is, it’s not the fault of one person—not even close. This sort of hatred takes time to cultivate, to really seep into the bones of a nation and its people. It seems 2020 was just the kind of year we needed to see that all bubble to the surface.

For a long time now, I have avoided or politely declined to comment on my political beliefs because, frankly, that’s not why people follow me on my public pages. I strive to write books that offer hope and love and soul-soothing kindness to my readers. And while I completely understand wanting to distance yourself from following people whose beliefs drastically depart from your own, I also think it is important to hear those beliefs because they come from the minds of living, breathing, God-created individuals.

I’m sticking with my gut here and not discussing politics with anyone who doesn’t want to hear it, but I also can’t stomach watching what is happening in my country anymore without saying something. If 2020 taught me anything, it’s that people are prone to dramatics, often self-centered, and thoughtless (I add myself to this list most days), but I have also seen acts of pure, undiluted, real love. The year also taught me that there really is a swamp—and it runs deep in BOTH of the main political parties here in America. We’ve seen some genuinely astounding actions from both Democrats and Republicans at every level of government, and I, for one, am so sick of it.

I believe in my heart that most people are charitable, loving, and—though prone to sin—also carry a deep desire for repentance. I have, like many others, seen the absolute worst in my country this past year. No matter your stance on the virus, our government, and the multitude of other things we have chosen to allow to divide us, I want you to know that I care about you. I might disagree with you (I might even shake my head at you or roll my eyes,) but I still love you and respect your right to live and breathe and take up space in this same world.

We have let politicians, celebrities, CEOs, tech-moguls, and so many others tell us how we should feel, what we should think, how we should act, what is acceptable and what is not—enough. We’ve all been given a brain, and I, for one, desperately want to use it free of the influence of people whose self-interest is always at the front of theirs. This has been proven by the hypocrisy perpetrated before our very eyes. Their pedestals are far too high, in my opinion.

Not all, but most don’t care about you. They care about their image… but the grocery store clerk, the random person in the same aisle as you at the store, the bank teller, the driver beside you at a red light, and so many others… they care a lot less about their image and more about getting through the day just like you. I try to remember that. Yeah… I fail a lot (like yelling at the driver who totally cut me off in the Dunkin’ Donuts line.) But one of my goals this year is to recognize my own self-righteous behaviors and address them more often, let the little things go, and to remind myself daily that I am meant to serve something higher.

My prayer for America is this—that we can take a step back, remember that so many people look to America as a beacon of hope, life, love, and liberty, then begin to repair the bridges broken by the far-left and far-right, the corrupted masses whose only goal is to create chaos for self-gain. They broke the bridges, but we—the living, breathing lifeblood of this country—can fix them. We don’t need the government for that. We don’t need celebrities to tell us how to do that. It’ll take work. A lot of work and MASSIVE amounts of compromise (that’s still a thing, I’m told.) I mean, I’ve been called some nasty things for my beliefs, and that’s hard to forget… but I’m willing to if it means we can change this mess into something better.

I am the daughter of a God who suffers no fools, and I would be a fool if I didn’t admit I know this won’t happen overnight. It might never happen, but my family members didn’t fight and/or die for America for me to turn my back on it. I won’t. When I think about it, I’ve seen more love than destruction this year, and I know THAT’S the real America, not the one the media blasts 24-7 for the rest of the world to see. I know the real America is people coming together to create a better country for all. I’ve seen it in my community, and I know it can happen anywhere. When you support people, give them the love and grace, and respect they deserve, they tend to do the right thing. Those who don’t, well, God bless them, and I pray they learn to serve others as they serve themselves.

This message got a little preachy, so I’ll close here. I know why you follow me, and I pray that I can keep offering you the little sliver of peace or the moment of distraction you need to boost your spirits and your hearts so you can keep fighting the good fight. For my followers who are not Americans (or Christians), I thank you for your support all the same. I respect you and want you to know that I am always here to lend an ear—truly. I try to respond to every email within the day (forgive me, some end up in the spam folder, and take a minute). It doesn’t have to be about my books or even about writing—if you need an ear, I’m here. You have all been so good to me, and I pray I sufficiently return your grace.

At the end of the day, I am here to serve you by the grace of God, the only Leader who holds my heart.

All my love,

MJ

“Depart from evil and do good; seek peace, and purse it.” Psalm 34:14

Book Review: Road Trip with a Nerd

It was the book I didn’t know I needed to read. It’s short and sweet, but it filled my heart with that warm and fuzzy feeling I needed. It even sparked my interest in my own YA Romance series again.

Road Trip with a Nerd by Stephanie Street. It’s exactly what it promises to be… it’s a road trip… with a nerd… only he’s not so nerdy and she’s in for a big surprise. I adored the characters even if they were a little clueless sometimes (FYI, I actually adore clueless characters because… why wouldn’t you love them?)

After writing epic fantasy and diving into some deep worldbuilding, I needed a break. This book gave me that. So, if you’re stressed and just want a little sweetness (seriously, even the drama is sweet in its own way) then this is the book for you… and it’s only $0.99 on Amazon!

Here’s the blurb from Amazon…

Mallory
Fifteen hundred miles from home my whole world fell apart. I’d been betrayed and all I wanted was to go home and confront two people who were supposed to love me. The only problem? I was stuck with no way back for over two weeks. That was just too long to wait.

And then he walked in.

Grant
What was she doing there? Why hadn’t she gone home with everyone else? And most importantly, why was she crying? Mallory Knight, the girl of my every fantasy.

And she needed my help.

By the time it was all over, I knew I’d be the one begging to be saved.

Grant wasn’t at all what Mallory expected. Thirty-six hours in the passenger’s seat of his rusty old truck and she knew she’d never be the same again.

Road Trip with a Nerd is a 33,000-word novella by Stephanie Street. You’ll love this heartwarming, swoon-worthy tale of two people who unexpectedly find exactly what they didn’t know they were looking for.

New Release! The Heart of the Darkness!

Some of you might have seen this a few days ago… because I accidentally scheduled the post for January 2020, instead of 2021. Figures. Isn’t that just the kind of thing 2020 would make me do? Sigh… but in case you missed it, here it is again… officially this time… released TODAY!

It has finally arrived!

The last installment of The Immortal Grimm Brothers’ Guide to Sociopathic Princesses released on January 1, and I can’t seem to wrap my mind around that! I’ve been writing the series for two and a half years, but at the same time it feels like it flew by.

I made a lot of friends on that first book (my amazing alpha team!) and I’m very excited to announce the spin-off series that follows the second generation of kiddos in the Black Forest. Don’t worry, this isn’t just a continuation of the original series. Nope, these folks will have their own troubles tracking down bad guys and kicking monster butt!

Stay tuned for the announcement for the first book in Tales from the Immortal Black Forest coming soon! Until then, dive into the seventh and final book in the original series! Did I mention it has an ORIGINAL            fairy tale? Yep, that one is all mine—no remakes here!

Check out the blurb!

Everything has led to this moment, the final showdown between good and evil in the Black Forest. After Annabell’s shocking revelation, the forest’s royal families aren’t sure what to believe anymore, let alone what their future might hold. Forced to train and plan for the worst, they still hope for the best—that their beloved Annabell has not forsaken them all.

Cole, the mysterious man who tricked them all, has many more surprises up his sleeve as he works toward his goal of absorbing the power of the Seven Sworn. But who is he, and where did he come from? More importantly, what is he? The answer is the key to saving the Black Forest from all darkness, but at what cost?

Must the Seven Sworn die to save all they love… or will Annabell come through at the last second? Are the families strong enough to fight what comes next… or will the power of an ancient love ruin them all?

With more twists and turns than any other volume in the series, The Heart of the Darkness is sure to leave you wanting more.

You can find The Heart of the Darkness at your favorite online retailers!

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08L6YRPT5

Others: https://books2read.com/u/mKzaLP

As always, thanks for reading and following me!