Amy Willoughby-Burle: Women's Fiction/ Sweet Romance

If we’re looking for “lovely,” we have to look no further than the face of Jesus. If we are seeking to think on the things that are noble and pure, things that are admirable and praiseworthy, we need only to think on Jesus.

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23: 34

What fantastic grace and mercy is this? Doesn’t this just tell us all we need to know about the heart of Jesus? If His love for us was that deep in that moment, think of how strong that love is for us every moment of every day.

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of Earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.”

If your eyes are turned to His glory and grace, your heart will be filled with gratitude and your eyes will see the lovely all around you. The hurts and heartaches will grow dim and the ability to see all that is worthy and good will strengthen as you are guided by His love.

Every day is the passion of Christ and every day is Easter morning.

May you see all that is lovely, seeing through the eyes of Jesus and through His love for us.

There’s a passage that I pray in my morning prayer that reads, ” In unexpected events, do not let me forget that all things are sent by You.”

For the longest time, I have to admit, I read that only as all unexpected BAD things. Which was ok. It was a needed reminder that the difficult events of life (big or small) are part of God’s plan. It’s a comfort to read and pray that. It DOES remind me that God is with me in all things and that He is in control of all things.

But something occurred to me the other day. What about those little (and big) unexpected GOOD things. Those things are sent my Him to, let me not forget.

That unexpected warm afternoon. The pink flowers suddenly blooming outside my window. Strawberries that are sweeter than they look. A pleasant conversation with a friend or family member. Sudden laughter at an unexpected joke. Those rays of sunshine after so many rainy days. And the list of good, unexpected moments goes on and on.

Why was this such a light bulb moment for me? Don’t we always associate the good things with God? Maybe. But maybe we overlook those good things. It’s easy to cry to Him in confusion and fear when the bad things happens. “Why did you do this?” But do we stop and thank him for the good things? When those good things are big, I think we do.

But it was a revelation for me to be struck with the understand that all those small and lovely moments that lift the spirits on a tough day and bring a smile when a frown is easier are sent by Him as well. They are little rays of light, His light. Little lovely reminders that good is everywhere and that it is sent by Him. That particular truth is in that passage of prayer just as much as the way I was originally reading it. Both things, good and bad, all things, are sent by Him.

On this search for Lovely, what an amazing revelation. All the precious and beautiful little moments that happen every day are God’s way of saying, “I’m here. I love you.”

May you see those little lovely things and know that God is with you.

If you’ve been reading my posts recently you’ll know that I’m on a search for all things lovely. In my newsletter I mentioned a few simple things to do to seek out and notice “lovely” everyday. One was to simply write down 5 lovely things that you noticed each day. Five might sound like a small number, but if you’re in a brown season (read that literally or figuratively), finding 5 lovely things might seem like an enormous task. I thought I’d take my own advice and see if I could find 5 “things” that were lovely, and I thought I’d look right in my own backyard–literally.

  1. My chickens. Wait, what? Chickens are lovely? Sure thing. Lovely is a feeling as much as it is a look. I enjoy feeding the chickens, collecting eggs, hanging out with my sons who almost always can be found near the chicken coop because they love the chickens as well. The chickens symbolize simplicity, calm, easiness to me. When I’m outside taking care of them, I enjoy the sound of other birds and the feel of the sun on my skin. I enjoy the laughter of my kids as they help care for the chickens as well. Lovely, indeed.

2. My children. Speaking of their laughter and time spent… lovely is a indeed a feeling. I don’t have to think to hard to realize that lovely is all over their faces.

3. First flowers of approaching spring. Even though most things in this picture are brown–this one little yellow flower speaks of the explosion of color yet to come. It’s hopeful in it’s excitement to go ahead and bloom even when nothing else is. Even in the “brown” there is brightness. Lovely is found when you choose to focus on the light.

4. Buds outside my window. As I’m writing this, I can see these bright pink buds preparing to pop open. This plant (whatever it is) is always green. It’s wild and huge and determined. It’s its own search for lovely–never relenting.

5. Simple little succulents. I’m a sucker for these little plants. Maybe it’s the smallness. Maybe it’s the cute little pots. They just make me smile. And isn’t that what lovely is? No real explanation, just something that makes you smile. In this picture my eyes also find a mug given to me by a student. (Lovely) I also see a magic wand my kids and I made for a game we love to play. The blue, the sparkly stars, and the memories of being silly make me smile as well. (Lovely) One spot of lovely leads you to see another, and another, and so on.

All of these are small moments with bigger meanings and simple unassuming objects captured in simple snapshots. Nothing fancy. Simple. What lovely have you found today? Look for it and you’ll see it. All my love to you as you search.

On my search for Lovely, I remembered a television show that always gives me a sense of beauty and calm–not to mention new recipes for delicious and easy food.

Back to Basics with Ina Garten

It’s been many years since I had cable at home and pleasures like watching the Food Network 24/7 are religated to seeing it here and there when visiting my mom or inlaws or the random reuruns that Netflix has aquired. Until it occured to me that I could buy seasons of my favorite cooking show on Prime Video. Done. (Only a couple of seasons, but well worth it.)

Why did this show fit my search for Lovely? It’s all about the feeling I get when watching it. It’s not a high pressure cooking competition (although I like those), or a hectic race to get the dish on the plate (that’s too much like life). Ina’s show is slow, peaceful, and tranquil. Beautiful. Here’s my list of lovely things I enjoy about this show in addition to the food.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com
  1. Beautiful gardens: Ina is always stepping outside to pick fresh herbs for a dish. Her gardens and ones that she visits on the show are like little corners of Heaven. Everything is lush and tidy at the same time.
  2. Clean and organized kitchen: The kitchen she uses on the show is all whites, and light brown cutting boards, green herbs in pots. Just so peaceful to look at.
  3. Trips to local markets and farm stands: This is one of my favorite things about the show. She goes to the local farm stands, specialty bread and cheese shops, etc. I love traveling along with her, vicariously visiting all these quaint stops.
  4. Flower arrangements: She loves to set the table with gorgeous flowers. Flowers are a must on my list of things that are lovely.
  5. Friends: She loves to cook for friends and have lovely little parties. I miss gatherings so much. Strange for an introvert like me to say.
  6. Good grammar: Of course. I joke, but I have to admit, I love that Ina says “me” when it should be “me,” and most people think it should be “I.”

So what’s the take-away if you don’t love this show or never plan to watch it? It’s the lovely. Visit a garden if you’re able. Plan and plant one when it’s time. Buy yourself some flowers. Cook with fresh herbs. Visit a small specialty shop–they probably really need your business. Call a friend.

Enjoy the slow, peaceful moments. Relax and look for the lovely.

No offense men, but this post just happens to be written for the girls who miss their girls.

I don’t know about you, ladies, but I’m feeling a little like Jack from The Shining over here (and yes, I know he’s a guy–mixed metaphor of sorts.) I miss my friends. I miss meeting for lunch, hanging out at each other’s houses, going out for dinner and drinks. Sure, I’ve seen several of my friends here and there, but not in the same ways we’re used to, or with the usual freedoms to enjoy those times.

I know this too shall pass, and I try not to complain. Yes, I know I’m blessed–even without all the memes to remind me. But knowing that I’m blessed to have a house to clean, food to mess up dishes that need to be washed, kids to be noisy and needy (yes, there are memes to remind us of that as well) doesn’t mean that I don’t want a moment away from those blessed responsibilities. It doesn’t mean that I don’t want a minute to just be me.

Not mom, wife, teacher, social media coordinator, domestic less-than-goddess, cook, taxi driver, etc. Just me. That girl named Amy.

Girl time lets us just be girls. Just us. Talking, laughing, being. It’s a release and recharge at the same time. Needing friends (and OK, guys, yes, we all need friends, it’s about you too) doesn’t mean that our families don’t “complete us,” or that we would give up our kids and spouses (cue guilt) for all the peace and quiet and girls nights out in all the world. Of course we wouldn’t.

Do I have solutions? A list of 10 tips to make the best of virtual friendship time? No. This post is simply one of support. To say that I hear you. I feel you. I know how much that time with the girls at the coffee shop, over dinner, at a party, in the living room means to you. I know that the loss of it leaves you a little stir crazy. This post is just to remind you that it’s ok to be worn out, a little lonely, a little quicker to snap (or even a lot).

You don’t have to be happy every time you wash the dishes or cook a meal. You don’t have to love the sound of your kids fighting because one day they’ll be grown and you’ll miss it. (yep, there’s a meme for that, too. We know we’ll miss our kids. But if they could stop screaming right now, that would be awesome.)

You don’t have to feel guilty if your domestic goddess crown is tarnished or your motherhood cape is wrinkled. Mute the guilt music, it doesn’t make anyone who has lost anyone get them back and it doesn’t keep bad things from happening. (Yes, I know this goes through your mind. Mine too.) It just makes you feel bad for being a regular human being. Just a girl wanting to sit down for a minute and rest and maybe call a friend to meet for lunch.

In the meantime, hang tough, girl. And when this is over, meet me at buffet–I’m going back for seconds, thirds, and then I’m getting desert. Coffee after? Let’s do it. I can’t wait to see your smile and hear all the stories you’ve got to tell. I’ve got a funny one, too and I can’t wait to get to share it with you.

For us girls (ok, and you too, fellas. I know, I know, you’ve got funny stories to tell, too.)

Just regular Amy

One of the things that people ask me the most often is how do I manage to get any writing around my busy life. True, my life is busy, but so is everyone’s. I raise 4 kids (2 are teenagers albeit, but that’s its own happy difficulty), home school them, teach at an enrichment program outside the home, help with my husband’s business and books, cook, clean, thinking about doing the laundry, and on and on…. Sound familiar? Or at least the work load?

Where’s the time to write?

Everyone I know is trying to “balance things.” Here’s the thing, I don’t think it’s possible. At least not in the way we think of balance.

One of the things that causes people to “fail” at balancing the many areas of their life is that they think once in balance, always in balance and when that doesn’t happen, it feels like a fail. 

But things are always shifting. And really, it wouldn’t be balancing if they weren’t. It would be static. Instead, it’s like riding a wave, you shift one way and the next as the water changes beneath you because it’s going to change beneath you. And really, that’s what keeps it interesting.

My best advice for riding the wave

  1. Be realistic. Take good and honest stock of your life at this moment. What are the areas in which your time and presence is needed the most, what’s next, and so on. 

Set realistic expectations and goals. You may have heard that you should set aside an hour each day or make sure you write 1000 words a day. Those are good, if that’s realistic for you. If you know good and well that you can’t do that, for whatever life reason, then don’t set that as your goal. There is no timeline or process that is one size fits all. 

  1. Be satisfied. Perhaps you really wish you had more time to write, but per #1, you don’t. That’s life. Be ok with that. A new season will come around.

Maybe you have young children and you want to and need to spend most of your time with them. Great. They need you. Spend the time. Maybe you have to work 40 hours or more a week, you just have to. That’s life. You gotta pay the bills. Don’t lament the time you don’t have. Be grateful for the moments that this place in life allows you to follow your dreams. 

  1. Be flexible. As soon as you figure it all out, things will change. Change with them. 

Sometimes it will be a change that gives you more time to write, and sometimes less. Re-evaluate often so that you don’t become overwhelmed with shifting waters that are getting rougher than you’ve admitted to. 

  1. Be serious. Now that you have your “writing time,” guard it. 

If you’re going to write from 12-3pm on Wednesdays because it’s your day off and someone is watching the kids for you, then write on Wednesdays from 12-3. Don’t go to the grocery store or agree to meet a friend for a quick lunch. Write when it’s time to write. Even if you don’t have a book out or even a deadline to get something in, take yourself seriously as a writer. 

  1. Be attuned. “Balancing” work, home, and any given passion is tough. You deserve to take time for yourself. Your dreams and goals are important, but no one part is greater than the sum. 

Don’t wait for some magical time when all the areas of your life align and you have all the time you want to write, you’ve become wealthy and have no financial needs to attend to, and that family has taken care of themselves and no one needs you. That time isn’t coming. Life shifts and changes and if you’re waiting for perfect, if you’re waiting for “time” you’ll never get  it done, whatever it is. Know that your goals are important, but that your family is more important. Your talents are given to you for a purpose, but you also have responsibilities to attend to.  That’s where you find balance, not in even distribution of time, but in equal appreciation for all pieces of your life.

Happy surfing!

Is it just me, or do you love to get a peek at where a writer does her work. I LOVE to get an insider’s look at a writer’s desk and home life. Writer’s are my rock stars.

Today on A Writer’s Desk, meet Amy Hueston! She’s a writer and a singer!

(speaking of rock stars.)

She’s another of my agency sisters that I’m proud to introduce to you. (Both of us are represented by the amazing Julie Gwinn of The Seymour Agency.)

Amy’s novel, Paws for Concern, just released yesterday! If you love mysteries and dogs and dog bakeries, this book is for you! It’s the first in her new  Canine Confections Mystery series.

So do you want to see into the world of  an author at work? (I love this part.)

Amy says “My writing space varies, but my dogs are never far. So here is a picture of my laptop and my dogs.”


I love that. “Anywhere” is her desk! Being able to pick up and go and take your furry friends with you, certainly would make writing anywhere enjoyable.

“On occasion,” Amy says. “I’ll get an idea while singing and might jot something down on my music stand, but the heavy lifting of writing comes at my laptop.”

“I write mysteries for Woman’s World Magazine sometimes and the first book in my cozy mystery series A Canine’s Confections Mystery is called PAWS FOR CONCERN.”

 

Find Amy Hueston online and stay in touch!

And, don’t forget this writer is a singer too. You can listen to Amy’s music here. 

Thank you for sharing, Amy. And thank YOU for reading!

The Art of Waiting…  …  …

There’s something to be said for self-publishing… less waiting!

If you’re going the traditional route and you’re either querying editors or your agent is sending proposals,  you know what comes next…. waiting.

And then more waiting.

Especially now that things are moving at a slower pace, what are you supposed to do while you wait? Here’s a few things you should be doing while you wait for “the call.”

1. Work on your website.

Hopefully, some editor somewhere is intrigued by your proposal and they’ve decided to look you up. Have something for them to see.  Take a look at the websites of some other authors in your genre.  Immulate the things you admire. Get some ideas for pages and links. Make sure you have photos! Be professional–which doesn’t mean you have to spend a ton of money. If you have it, great, invest in yourself. If you don’t, there are tons of free and inexpensive website and design  programs. I use WordPress and Canva. I love them.  There are free versions as well as paid. 

 2. Build your social media presence.

This one is two-fold. Some editors will want you to be active on social media in regards to yourself as a writer even before you have a book out. Think Field of Dreams. “If you build it, they will come.” So, it’s important to do as much as you can now, even when it seems like you don’t have anything to promote. Remember, you’re promoting yourself, not just that one book.  Talk about your writing journey, give snippets from your book, share things that matter to you. (If you blog, these things can be shared on your website, too).

This folds into the next reason for being present online. Your readers will want a genuine connections with you. So be there and be real. It’s not all about your book. Actually, you should post more often about other things and let the readers get a chance to know you as a person. It’s that connection to the real you that will make them want to buy your book. The most important thing is to be genuine and engaged. Decide on a few platforms (I’m mostly on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest) that you really like and that you’re actually going to spend time on and focus on those. Example: I know people LOVE Twitter, but I just don’t connect with it and although I have an account. I’m not on it much. I do have my blog set to link new posts to it, but I don’t really spend much time there. That’s ok. I can’t be everywhere AND be genuine and engaged. There just isn’t enough time. 

Lastly on this subject, decide what things you’re going to post about on these platforms. A rule of thumb is to choose three subjects that truly interest you and that you love to talk about. Three things that are NOT your book. I talk a lot about coffee, my son and his dinosaurs, and food. Not that I’m limited to that, but having a “thing” that people associate with you is good. I get tons of tags about dinosaurs and I love it! I am truly happy when someone sees a dinosaur and thinks of me. People want to know you, and you will love the interaction of genuine connections

 3. Attend readings/ be part of the community

Writing can be a very solitary thing if you let it. Don’t. Get out there and see what’s happening. Wait, you say…I can’t get out there. Yes you can. One silver lining to the times we find ourselves in is that so many bookstores are offering online readings. Check your local indie bookstore’s website and see what they’re offering. Then check other bookstores in your state or across the country. Zoom and live streaming are bringing tons of readings to your living room.

Read articles on writing, publishing, etc. Be aware of what’s going on in your chosen field. This is the business end of things after all. Be in the writing business. Check out places like Writer’s Digest. Publisher’s Marketplace, Poet’s and Writers, etc.

4. Take a course or workshop

When you’re able to, do this physically, but for now, look for online workshops and writing courses. It could be something that’s in real time via Zoom or other collaborative meeting platform, perhaps offered by local writers guild or university or if could be recorded masterclasses that you work through on your own. Google what you’re interested in and see what’s available.

  5. Lastly… keep writing

While you’re waiting for this book to sell, stay in the habit and practice of writing. Draw up some outlines for possible new books. Write an essay. Write a poem. Writing something. Because when you do get that call that you have an offer on your book,  your agent or editor will want to know, “So what else do you have….”

Waiting is part of the business. This is a slow moving industry until suddenly things are happening and you’re caught up in the wonderful whirlwind of your first book coming out. 

The wait was worth it.