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All the shiny things

SHINY

Blogging is like exercise. It’s too easy to get in the habit of not doing it.

I love to blog. I’ve blogged since the 90s and have had at least a dozen blogs over the years. My problem is finding a focus. 

I tend to lead life that way, too. There are so many shiny things that distract me: theology, writing, music, history, conspiracy theories, politics, entertaining, disabilities, advocating for children (my CASA work), my church ministry–and I haven’t even begun to brush the surface of my family, job and college responsibilities.

Barking dogs

Because I’m attracted to so many things, I’m easily distracted. Sadly, I remind myself of that verse in Daniel 12:4:” Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.” Sure, I run to and fro doing regular human stuff, but I also go here and there indulging my insatiable appetite for knowledge. How far I run! Via google I can browse the National Palace Museum in Taipei and then fly over to Venice and purse the Ca’Rezzonico. If I want I can squeeze another couple of hours at the British Museum before sauntering over to study the Mona Lisa at the Louvre. 

many shall run to and fro, and knowledge

So, dear reader, I’m learning I have a need to get focused.

Right now I’m in the throes of college math exams — working on my degree for Special Education — another shiny thing that is important to me. Just as important as writing.

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And, to be honest, there’s also a family crisis in our lives right now that is emotionally draining.

But as I sit here in the library waiting for my granddaughters to get out of one of their summer fun classes, I’m filled with gratitude for a patient, loving God. I know He’s waiting for me to quit running around like a toddler and settle in and pay attention. (I’ve always said you can’t teach a moving target. Is that what I am, Lord?)

-Be still and know that I am

I may not have been here writing very much these past few weeks, but one thing I’ve managed to keep up with is prayer and bible reading. I’m thankful for that. I don’t think I could survive the buffeting without time in His Word. I’m so thankful for the hunger God has given me for Him . And I wonder — is that what He’s calling me to focus on more?

My heart is so full. I have so much to share with you. But where do I start? How do I begin? And just what is it you want to know?

Your Questioning Servant,

Karla

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What’s on Your Writing Desk?

What's on your writing desk- (1)

In the coming weeks, I’ll feature an author’s writing desk/den/cave/lair on my blog. I’m super excited about this! I love peeking into writer’s spaces to see where they tune into their inspiration.

Some spaces are more glamorous than others. And I think it’s fun to see how other people do it.

Where in the world do you write-

As for me, I have a room called an “office,” but right now it’s a storage closet. <sigh> So I’m hoping to be inspired to dig it out again as I feature other authors on my blog.

If you follow me on Pinterest, you may have already realized how obsessed I am with home office spaces. 

My ultimate dream is to have my own “she-shed” as a writing space. I keep trying to talk Mr. Himself into it, but he’s dragging his feet because he likes having me around. It’s nice to be wanted. Still, I like the idea of hiding. Until that day when he can part with me, I write pretty much like this:

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As you can see, I have a full range of office staff to help me. Fur and skin people are constantly at my service to advise me and help with editing. <cough, cough>

They work long hours, well into the evening, too. (Click the images twice and once again to enlarge and see full photo.)

If you have an office space, writing lair, or desk you’d like to share with my readers, download the guidelines below and contribute! I’ll feature one office space per week. You don’t have to be a writer or published author to share! I can’t wait to see where you go for inspiration.

What’s On Your Desk Blog Guidelines

This image is owned by Karla Akins and cannot be used without permissionTweet this: What’s on your writing desk?

 

You know you’re a writer when you know where all the outlets are at the hospital cafeteria…

And at the mall, and the bookstore, and the library, and anywhere else your path may lead.

Parkview-Hospital

Where I’m writing today

Because I work several jobs, I take my laptop with me everywhere I go. Sometimes, it’s a waste of energy because I may never find a bit of time to write. But most times, if I’m diligent, I can locate an outlet (because my battery needs replacing and it’s expensive) and pound out a few hundred words. I have to do this because I don’t have the luxury of hours of writing time.

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There are only two outlets in this huge cafeteria, and I’m using one of them.

You’ll know you’re a writer when you’re obsessed with telling your story and you have an irritable itch to get it down on paper regardless of your schedule.

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Brain food

Today I’m writing from the hospital cafeteria after a pastoral visit. The hospital is an hour away and I am taking advantage of some time away from home distractions to pen a few hundred words.

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My hospital office in the cafeteria

I know where outlets are on almost every floor of this mammoth building. If they kick me out of the cafeteria, I know where I can go (should I stay that long) to find another writing nook.

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Lots and lots of nooks, but not a lot of outlets!

I’m not alone in writing this way. Agatha Christie started out writing on her breaks when she worked as a nurse — on a typewriter of all things. If she can do it, so can I.

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There’s a waterfall in the corner that has great seating–but no outlets

Are you a writer? Are you as obsessed as I am with getting the words down? Weigh in!

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 Tweet this: You know you’re a writer if you can find the juice!

I’m baaaaack!

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This is what a dead hard drive looks like. Which is pretty similar to what a live one looks like. But trust me. This one is dead. Gone. Kaput.

My hard drive crashed and burned the last week in December and I’ve been without my computer until today. Talk about withdrawal! Those of you who blog and write, know what I mean.

Thankfully, I backed up all my works in progress via Carbonite. Now I wait a few more days while it works to restore all my files.

We interrupt this message for an unscheduled announcement:

Note: I wrote the above last week–when I thought I was back in business with my computer. Turns out that now my computer cord is fried. I ordered one, not realizing it was coming from China. It should be here, oh, in February.

So, here I sit, daring not to move so that my computer stays plugged in. If I manage to sit extremely still, if the cat doesn’t jump on me, if I don’t scratch my nose–it stays plugged to power. (Something inside the port isn’t working right and I’m sincerely hoping it’s the cord not something inside the computer.)

Carry on….

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I’ve had crashes before without Carbonite and lost all my files, so the sacrifice of waiting a few days to retrieve my files is worth it. I have lost complete manuscripts of several books before, both on Mac and PC. If you’re a writer, beware: it’s not a matter of IF your hard drive will fail, but WHEN. Nothing lasts forever. BACK UP YOUR WORK! Or at the very least, work in the cloud.

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Right now I’m facing the headache of trying to find all my codes to restore software. I can’t find any of my office software serial numbers. I’ve moved my office several times since getting my software and I can’t find that itty bitty piece of paper. <insert heavy sigh and banging head on wall> I’ll probably end up buying the software again. In the meantime, I can’t edit any documents!

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R.I.P. Hard drive. You were dearly loved.

I’ve learned a lot about myself and writing during this forced hiatus and am looking forward to sharing them all with you. Now to get my mind organized again! Just getting back on the computer shows me how overwhelmed I feel mentally, which I didn’t realize was happening.

Computer jail.

Computer jail.

For now, when I’m not typing this post and trying to catch up on emails (ugh), my computer sits in jail aka in an upside down laundry basket so the kittens won’t hack my Facebook page. They’re sneaky like that.

Have you ever had a major crash? How did you handle it? Let me know in the comments below!

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Tweet this: Always back up–or at least work in the cloud!

Easy-peasy fudge!

The Most Delicious Recipe Blog Hop!

This is a recipe blog hop! Go here to get the button and join us each week: The Most Delicious Recipe Blog Hop.

Then add your recipe post to mine with the linky codes at the end of this post.

Whether you’re a paleo, vegetarian, southern cook, or baker, you’re welcome to join me and post a weekly recipe!

fudge

As you may or may not know, I’d much rather be in my writing cave than working in the kitchen, but there’s something about the holidays that brings out my hidden inner chef. So many people are making goodies that the enthusiasm for culinary delights is contagious.

I love fudge. My grandmother was an excellent candy maker and her fudge was perfect and delicious. I always thought there was a secret formula, and there probably is, to making the best fudge. But when I found this easy recipe, I couldn’t wait to try and it share it! Even I can make fudge now–and without a candy thermometer!

Karla’s Easy Peasy Fudge

 Ingredients:

  • 3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used milk chocolate in my recipe today)
  • 1 (14 oz.) can of sweetened condensed milk
  • Dash salt
  • 1/2 to 1 cups chopped nuts (I was out of nuts today)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

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Instructions:

The recipe I used today said to line a pan with foil, but I think you could probably use parchment paper, as well.

Also, did you know I am 53 years old and I just bought my first electric can opener in 2014? How did I live for so long without this wonderful device!

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Here are the rest of the instructions:

  • Combine chocolate chips, sweetened condensed milk and salt in a 1-quart bowl.

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  • Cook on high (100% power) in microwave for 1 1/2 minutes.

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  • Stir in vanilla and nuts

 

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  • Cook on high (100% power) in microwave for another 1 1/2 minutes (for a total of three minutes) and stir.

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  • Pour into pan and chill in refrigerator

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As you can see in the picture below, it sets up nicely and cuts easily into little squares.

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NOM! I’m so proud of myself for making fudge just like grandma used to make! Okay, maybe not exactly like she made, but I guarantee you that Grandma would have loved having a microwave!

fudge12I think this would be a great recipe to put in jars for fudge to heat up for ice cream, too.

I’m going to add pecans to my next batch.

What’s your favorite Christmas candy?

twitter-bird-in-a-santa-hatTweet this: Fudge recipe so easy even a cave girl can do it!

 

 

 

 


Rejected best-sellers

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Today I’m the blogger over at Hoosier Ink, so please visit and leave me a shout out!

To go along with that post, If You Never Try You’ll Never Know, I thought I’d highlight a few best-sellers that started out as rejects. Hopefully this will encourage you to keep writing no matter the rejection.

carrie

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anne

aaseagull

annef

aatwi

animalfarm

aaaseuss

aaaaachicken

aaawrinkle

DaVinciCode

aaaflies

Of course, there are many others I could list, but I’m busy writing the next best-seller. (Hey, you gotta have dreams!)

What’s a favorite book of yours that started out as a reject?

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Don’t hate me because I’m doing NaNoWriMo

Participant-2014-Web-Banner

I owe my current writing career to NaNoWriMo. I latched onto this November madness like it was a precious diamond in 2003 and I have yet to let go. I am quoted in the founder’s book, No Plot No Problem. As I’ve said before, I blame Chris Baty for the madness I experience now as a struggling writer.

no-plot-no-problem-baty-chris-9780811845052Way back then, I even had to borrow a lap top from Chris to participate. That’s when I learned I really could power through 50K words and not die. And once I did, I had the bug. There was no way I could live the rest of my life and not write stories. Up to that point, I thought I could only write non-fiction. I had no idea what an art fiction was.

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I’m a tough customer. Fiction has to be deep and I have to learn something from it in order to read it. I have many more nonfiction books in my library than I do fiction. I’m an insatiable life-long student. My kids say they can’t remember a time I wasn’t going to school and learning something new.

nanowrimoA lot of novelists think that NaNoWriMo is for beginners, but I’m here to tell you that writing 50K words in 30 days is nothing to sneeze at. And to think I did it the first time without a thought as to an outline or destination. I’m impressed with the person I was back then. I just sat down and wrote by the seat of my pants. I think the thing that separates me from a lot of people is that I’m not afraid to try and fail.

_You never fail until you stop trying._ (2)

This year I’m taking some college students with me on this crazy journey. We’re getting together tonight for a pep talk and will get together each week between now and 50K words. I’m excited because I love mentoring young writers.

Once Upon a Time (2)

Why don’t you do NaNoWriMo? And if you are doing it, what drives you to participate? Let me know in the comments below!

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The 10 scariest things about writing

“Writing a book is a horrible, (3)

Okay, so I don’t believe I’m driven by demons to write. Hopefully it’s the Holy Spirit Who inspires me. But I must write just as ducks must swim. I’m compelled to torture myself with the literary arts. And while I love this gift, and the places it takes me, there are days when I agree with Dorothy Parker who said, “I hate writing, I love having written.”

“I hate writing, I love having-2 (2)

Here are 10 things I find the most frightening about writing:

  • Fear of being inept and amateurish. What if my writing is really bad? What if I can’t play with the big kids in this writing thing? What if I’m too shallow? Too glib or cliche? Fact is, I probably am, but I’m the only writer who can write like me, and that’s something I have to offer that no one else does.

Fearasdfdasfaf

  • Fear of not being smart enough. This relates to the first fear. I think great writers are geniuses. Seriously. I envy successful writers because they are extremely clever and smart. Will I ever be as smart and knowledgeable? Do I even have the aptitude? The answer is that there are a lot of writers much, much smarter than I am or ever will be. And maybe, just maybe, there are writers I’m smarter than. But if I’m called to write, then there’s a reason. There must be someone who needs to hear what I have to say. And if I can influence or encourage even one life–isn’t that reason enough to obey the call?

Fear-of-the-Dark-and-insomnia

  • Fear of making mistakes. Last I checked, Jesus Christ was the only perfect human Who walked the earth. And I certainly don’t have the qualifications to be the Messiah, so this fear is absolutely unreasonable. Then again, I never claimed to be reasonable.

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  • Fear of being unoriginal. This fear is based in a lie. God’s Word tells me that “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun” Ecclesiastes 1:9. Basically there are only seven major plots: 1) Overcoming the Monster, 2) Rags to Riches, 3) The Quest, 4) Voyage and Return, 5) Comedy, 6) Tragedy, 7) Rebirth. There are no original ideas, just variations.

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  • Fear of not selling the story.  What if my idea is so stupid and the writing so bad that even my agent won’t look at it? Yes, this poltergeist taunts me on my dark days when the words won’t flow.

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  • Fear of not creating the story that’s in my head. That’s when I freeze and don’t know how to put the words on the page and procrastinate by playing online marbles. The only way to work through this fear is to vomit up on the page. Words, not actual body fluids. That might ruin the laptop.

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  • Fear of rejection. I hate rejection. I have issues with rejection as an abandoned child and the thought of being rejected is horrifying. But to go through life thinking everything I do will be liked by everyone is unrealistic. The fact is, I will be rejected. I must learn to accept it and learn to take it like a big girl. To fight this fear I often have more than one project I’m working on so I can put my focus on something other than the rejection.

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  • Fear I’m too old and irrelevant. I didn’t get started early enough in writing seriously–or so I tell myself when this writing gig isn’t going smoothly. But then I remember that Laura Ingalls Wilder published her first book at age 65, and Frank McCourt (Ashley’s Ashes) when he was 66. And I’m a decade and some years younger than they, so maybe there’s hope.

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  • Fear I’ll give up.  Ironic isn’t it? I’m afraid of quitting because I won’t have the strength to keep writing through all the rejections and failures. Sometimes I wonder about Harper Lee–why didn’t she write another book? Was she too afraid? Like me? And will I be too afraid to keep putting myself out there? What if I quit right before the moment when everything works and a masterpiece is created? The thought makes me shudder.

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  • Fear of failure on all fronts. Fear of failure is at the root of all the other fears, isn’t it? To think I’ll never fail is a lie. Lies and fears are bedfellows. I will fail. I will not always succeed. If you’re going to write, you’ve got to be at peace with that.

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It takes prayer, tenacity and courage to be a writer. I can only face this art I love with prayer and the grace of God. His gift of tenacity keeps me writing on the hard days. And courage keeps me submitting work after countless rejections.

KarlaAkins.com (2)I’m not the best writer. I may never win a Pulitzer or Newberry or Christie. But if I obey and use my gift to the glory of God, that’s all He asks of me. If I quit striving to shine the brightest in the history of the world, and just shine my brightest, the fear and stress will be much more manageable and I won’t be tempted to believe the lies that fear spouts.

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One day I hope to be able to rest 100% in the grace He provides without all this wrestling. But that’s the nature of living on this earth. Until heaven, I’ll keep praying to keep up the good fight and remember that His Love conquers fear and His Strength will see me through.

One. Word. At. A. Time.

KarlaAkinsFEAR

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5 ways I get it all done

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People often say to me, “I don’t know how you get it all done!” And truthfully, I don’t really. Having it all and doing it all is a myth. But what I do accomplish is because I have priorities and a constant plan. As a pastor’s wife in full-time ministry with my husband, a full-time college student, CASA volunteer,Prison Fellowship volunteer, and substitute teacher, my writing time is limited and precious. If I don’t make time for it, it simply doesn’t happen. If you want to write, then you must make time to write, because life won’t make time for you.

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Here are my 5 main time-management tips:

1. My daily 7.  I keep and follow a list of  7 main tasks a day (this is not the same is priorities). I keep this list in my planner and on the whiteboard in my office so everyone can see them:

1. Bible

2. Pray

3. Write/work on Work in Progress (WIP)

4. Study — either for college courses or classes I teach

5. Blog

6. Emails

7. Social Media/Platform building

sevenReading my bible and praying are two things I really depend on. I just feel less anxious and more focused if I start my day this way. When I don’t, I’m all scattered the rest of the day.

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I may glance at my emails to see if there’s anything pressing, but I don’t answer most of them until after I spend time working on whatever project is yelling the loudest.

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I picture putting the 7 daily tasks I want to accomplish an imaginary task jar first. If I don’t, put them in first, the jar gets full of all the other little stuff and the big rocks won’t fit:

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Keeping these seven tasks as the biggest “rocks” of my day allows me to fill in the empty spaces with other things that are necessary but not as time-investing, such as household chores, phone calls, etc. Everything else are pebbles, sand or water that I pour into the jar over the seven big rocks. Granted, life isn’t perfect and there are days I have to stray from the plan, but by having these Daily 7 as my ideal daily goals helps me stay focused and get more done.

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Click to enlarge

2. I sometimes write during 2nd/3rd shift hours. If I get the chance and my schedule allows for it, I stay up until 4 AM and write. I usually try to do this two days in a row if I can. Admittedly, this only happens a few times a month but it helps a lot. Writing 2nd/3rd shift keeps me from being interrupted with phone calls and family matters. It gives me a longer stretch of time to focus. I mainly do this if I’m on a deadline or on a roll with an idea.

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3. Get enough rest. Seems a bit ironic to write that after saying I stay up all night writing, but I don’t skimp on my sleep. Because I have fibromyalgia, I have to get as much rest as I can or I simply can’t function. So if I do work third shift, I make sure I sleep before I start the shift and catch up on sleep after my night writing binge is over.

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4. Eat well (and exercise). Okay, I admit I eat better than I exercise. But since I read about C. S. Lewis’s habit of going for a daily walk, I’m determined to be more consistent about it. Walking organizes the brain, too.

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5.  Never waste waiting. Smart phones are heaven-sent for people like me. I can answer emails on the run while I’m waiting to pick up the kids or for my turn to check out. Anytime I wait, I’m doing something. I read, answer phone calls, read emails or tweet. If there are errands to run and there’s someone available that can drive for me, I let them drive so I can read or work on my writing. If it sounds like I’m obsessed with writing that’s because I am.

aaaaworkandwaitNothing worthwhile pursuing is easy and sacrifices have to be made. I don’t have a lot of “fun” time, but I have enough. I don’t watch a lot of TV unless I’m listening to it while I’m working. I very rarely sit and do nothing. In fact, I can’t think of the last time I did that. My hands are always busy.

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And I’m not alone. Any successful writer will tell you they sacrifice a lot to pursue the dream. It’s only worth it if it’s what you’re called to do. And if you’re called to it, then you’ll make time for it. The time fairies aren’t going to show up to stop the hour hand from moving. If you want it bad enough, you’ll find a way to get ‘er done.

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How do you get it all done? What’s your secret? Share in the comments below!

Beautiful voice, 5-star book–you gotta read this one!

Im-so-excited

I’m extremely excited today because one of my favorite author’s debut novel, Like There’s No Tomorrow, comes out today! I discovered this beautiful writing voice some years ago and I’m thrilled it’s finally hitting bookstore shelves!

Camille Eide writes heart-tugging tales of love, faith, and family. She lives in Oregon with her husband and is a mom, grammy, church office manager, bass guitarist, and a fan of muscle cars, tender romance, and Peanut M&Ms.

Camille

Award-winning author, Camille Eide

I have always loved this story. Eide’s soothing voice is like a soft cashmere sweater. You’ll want to wrap yourself up in this story and get lost in it.

LTNT Kindle Cover

Like There’s No Tomorrow is about a Scottish widower named Ian MacLean. He lives with a mischievous grannie, bitter regrets, and an ache for something he’ll never have again. To ease the burden of caring for his ornery grandmother, he decides to bring his grannie’s sister home from America. But he soon learns he’ll have to convince her sister’s lovely neice, Emily, to let her go.

Emily Chapman devotes herself to foster youth and her beloved Aunt Grace. Caring for others quiets a secret fear she holds close to her heart. When Ian walks into her life, asking to whisk Grace off to Scotland, everything Emily needs to protect—including her heart—is at risk.

Like There’s No Tomorrow is an amusing yet tender love story about two kind, single caretakers, two quirky, old Scottish sisters,  and too many agendas. It’s a tale of family, fiery furnaces, falling in love, faith, and the gift of each new day.

I give this book a glowing 5/5 stars.

5-out-of-5-starsTweet This:  Did you like “You’ve Got Mail?” You’ll love #LikeTheresNoTomorrow!  @CamilleEide   ow.ly/BKbm9  #books