*GIVEAWAY ALERT!* My Favorite Christmassy Things!

********Giveaway of GLORY ROAD advance copy is CLOSED—the WINNER is Erin, who was the very last to comment! Erin, please send your mailing address to Lauren(at)LaurenKDenton.com. Congrats!! And thank you to all those who left comments—boy, some of you have had some wild Christmas experiences! Thank you for sharing such sweet and funny stories. Merry Christmas Eve everyone!

Love,

Lauren

Hi Friends! Welcome to My Christmassy Things, where twelve authors share our favorite Christmas memories and stories and YOU, dear reader, have a chance to win one of several gift cards or the *grand prize* of 12 print books—one from each of us! (And pssssst…at the very end of this post, you’ll find a separate giveaway for an advance copy of my novel GLORY ROAD that releases March 19!!)

Today is my day to share…

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Disaster isn’t exactly synonymous with the word “favorite,” is it? It’s hard to call a disaster your favorite anything (favorite terrible moment, maybe?) but in the spirit of My Favorite Christmasy Things, I’m going to tell you about my most memorable, if not favorite, Christmas disaster.

Decorating my own Christmas tree was something I was always really excited to do once I got married and had my own home. I imagined warm twinkle lights, hot chocolate, Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire coming from the speakers. Maybe some snow drifting down outside. (Ha! We live in Alabama!) My husband and I lovingly hanging ornaments side by side.

And it was that way for a few (childless) years.

Well, not exactly that way. There were twinkle lights, and ornaments, and my husband was usually around somewhere. But mostly it was me hanging ornaments on the tree while watching Christmas Vacation. But still, there was always the moment when the tree and mantel were all decorated, everything sparkling and colorful. I loved seeing the ornaments we’d both accumulated over the years—crafty things we made in preschool, ornaments picked up on vacations over the years, a yellow tennis ball my childhood best friend gave me when I was ten or so, the key that Matt’s parents gave him when he bought his first home after college. Everything hanging on our tree was somehow a part of who we’d been and who were were going forward.

Once we had kids, the decorating of the Christmas tree changed. Our first child, Kate, was born in November, so that first Christmas with her remained pretty much the same as it always had been. She slept in her rocker while we/I decorated. Going forward though, and especially after her sister Sela came, decorating became a game of keep-away. Let the girls have fun and experience the joy of Christmas, but for the love, keep them away from all things breakable and covered in glitter.

Several years ago, when Sela was about two and Kate was five, I attempted to decorate the whole tree while Sela was napping and Kate was having quiet time in her room. Matt helped me wrap the tree in lights then I started in on the decorating. Box after box of childhood ornaments and a host of paper/popsicle stick/cotton ball/candy cane ornaments the girls had made. All of it out of hiding and hanging on our tree. When I was putting on the finishing touches—hanging those last awkward ornaments that didn’t have a hanger, looking for a sturdy branch for the heavy jingle bell—the tree fell over.

That’s right. Fell. Over. On the floor. Needles and sap and ornaments everywhere. I did what most people would do in that situation—I cried. Yelled. My husband came running down the stairs, wondering what in the world had happened. He lifted the tree and got it standing again and I began to assess the damage. Somehow, the painted sand dollar ornament Matt’s grandparents gave him in 1981 survived but his tiny two-year-old handprint in pottery didn’t. I think we still have that little broken hand in a drawer somewhere. I lost several ornaments I’d gotten at an annual ornament-swap party I used to go to, along with a gold star I’d always loved for no particular reason.

Once I picked up the broken pieces and attempted to hide the bent and twisted branches, I realized what had happened. As I’d been hanging ornaments, I only hung them on the three sides facing out into the room, because why put ornaments where no one will see them? It’s easy to think ornaments don’t weigh very much until you hang a tree’s worth of them on basically one half of the tree. Do that and you’ll soon have a big mess on your hands.

It’s been several years since that debacle and we’ve accumulated many more of those paper/popsicle stick/cotton ball/candy cane ornaments, as well as several more I’ve bought for the girls’ collection and a few I’ve picked up just for fun. We have plenty. But I still think about Matt’s little hand print and those fragile snowflakes that lost their arms.

Oh and we now secure the tree to the wall behind it. Pull on it and it won’t come down. No more toppling trees for us.

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Now, back to the MY FAVORITE CHRISTMASY THINGS GIVEAWAY

Be sure to visit each stop so you don’t miss the fabulous daily giveaways!

Dec 13: Ronie Kendig – My Favorite Christmas Movie

Dec 14: Jody Hedlund – My Favorite Christmas Food

Dec 15: Elizabeth Byler Younts – My Favorite Christmas Ornament

Dec 16: Beth K. Vogt – My Favorite Christmas Decoration

Dec 17: Rachel Linden – My Favorite Christmas Service

Dec 18: Courtney Walsh – My Favorite Christmas Memory

Dec 19: Rachel Hauck – My Favorite Christmas Book

Dec 20: Susan Meissner – My Favorite Christmas Vacation

Dec 21: Catherine J. West – My Favorite Christmas Gift

Enter by midnight on 12/21/18 USA Eastern time! Winners will be drawn on 12/22/18 and posted on Catherine West’s site.

Draw open to US addresses ONLY, with apologies to our international readers.

Major Prizes:

1st: All 12 Print Novels
2nd: $50 Amazon gift card and $20 Starbucks Gift Card
3rd: $50 Amazon gift card

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Now, for the GLORY ROAD ADVANCE COPY GIVEAWAY!!



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To be entered to win an ARC of GLORY ROAD, just leave a comment here on the blog and tell me YOUR favorite Christmas (or Hanukkah!) disaster. Or if you’re lucky enough to have not had any kind of holiday disaster, tell me your favorite holiday tradition. This contest ends at midnight EST on 12/23/18. (US residents only.) I’ll post the winner here!

Good luck on both contests!

Love,

Lauren

Return to Regular Programming

There's well over a month left of summer, but for those of us with small kids, specifically in Homewood, Alabama, summer ends this week. Though it's still steamy hot outside, the minute all our kids begin the trek to the little red brick building, the lazy, carefree days of summer are over. (That cacophony you hear is a combination of parental sobbing and celebration.)

I've been both dreading and anticipating this week for a while now. It's been a mostly glorious summer, full of late bedtimes, sleeping in (by the kids), reading, puzzles, lots of beach and pool time, hanging out with friends, and porch time. In the last few weeks, however, things have started to unravel a bit. My oldest daughter's inquiries as to "What are we doing tomorrow? What are we doing after lunch? What's for dinner? What will we do after that?" have begun to wear away at my patience. My youngest daughter spent the first month and a half of summer contentedly traipsing through the backyard in search of bugs and treasures, but it seems our yard's treasure trove has been emptied. And where the two sisters played so beautifully together for the majority of the summer, they're now bickering over things so ridiculous, when I ask them about it a few minutes later, they can't even remember why they're mad, just that they ARE. I think the return to routine and structure will be good for sisterhood, for imagination, for patience, for world peace. 

Another thing--this summer, I *haven't been writing* and it's been such a welcome break. I told everyone (and by everyone, I mainly mean my agent and my editor) that after turning in the GLORY ROAD manuscript back in February, I didn't plan to start writing anything new until the kids go back to school in August. I needed the mental break, time for creative juices to flow again, and I wanted time to read for pleasure. Which I've done. A lot. But now that school is starting (in two days!!), it means I'm staring the blank notebook in the face. (I actually have a new blank notebook. I bought it about a month ago in anticipation of THIS week, when the kids start back and my time turns back to brainstorming and writing. It's purple, and cheap, and this time has 3 subjects instead of just 1. More room to write and scratch out, write and scratch out.)

I admit it, I'm a little scared. I worry, "What if I can't do it again? What if another story just won't come?" I worried about this after THE HIDEAWAY and again after writing HURRICANE SEASON and both times, another story came. But here I am worrying about it again. I do have some ideas. I have several pages in another ratty old notebook where I've jotted down ideas and thoughts about various story possibilities. Yes, one is rising to the surface a little more than the others. But I've purposely held off on doing any serious plotting or outlining until after August 8, because I know once I get going, I'll want to really get going, and I can't do that until I have a chunk of time that's mine all mine. And I haven't had that since May 24th. 

So it is with fear and trembling, and celebration and rejoicing, and yes, plain old sadness that my babies are getting older, that we enter into this important week. We meet our new teachers today, then tomorrow we are having a lemonade stand with some friends, then school starts Wednesday. Wednesday morning, I will take pictures of the girls holding their handmade "First Day of..." signs, hold back my tears as I walk them to their new classrooms and kiss their faces, then go across the street and have a mimosa with other moms who've just done the same thing. Then I'll probably spend that first day wandering around my empty house wondering what to do with myself. 

Maybe Thursday I'll buckle down and start that book. 

 

Back to School (aka the most bittersweet day of the year)

Hi friends! It's been a while. First, a little housekeeping:

It feels pretty self-serving to direct you to my Facebook page, but since you're here to see what's going on in my world, I guess it's not too much of a stretch to think you might be interested to know I post more frequently (but hopefully not enough to be annoying ;) on my author Facebook page. If you haven't stopped by there, feel free--find it here.  You can also find me on Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter, if you're so inclined. 

What's going on with me:

My babies went back to school today!

 

As expected, I feel both relief and sorrow in equal measures. I loooove summer and really enjoyed the freedom of this summer--not having to get up and get going any any certain time, letting the kids stay up late, loose schedules, etc. But there was also the bickering. And the "I'm bored"s. So going back to school is a relief because my kids (especially my 7 year old Kate who LOVES to know the EXACT plan for the day) will have a schedule for their days and I will have time on my own. . . but I really will miss them. And my baby Sela (just turned 5 in July) is in kindergarten now, sniff sniff. I could go on and on about this, but suffice it to say, I'm a little heartbroken. 

However, my time opens up so much now--from 8 until 2:45 I am on my own, which feels like a ridiculously long amount of time, though I fear I could waste a bunch of that time if I'm not careful. I had to be so careful with my four hours a day of preschool last year, and I know i need to be on my guard to not think, "Oh, I have pleeeeenty of time for writing. I can do that later". . . and find myself at 2:45 picking the kids up with nothing to show for it. I want to make the most of my time and do the things I need/want to do, so that when I pick the kids up, I'm not still thinking of all the things I didn't do. I feel like that happened a lot last year and I was always operating with a tiny bit of frustration in the afternoons because my writing/alone time for the day was over and I left things unfinished. Sending *both* my kiddos off to big school makes me more than ever think I don't want to waste time with them feeling frustrated by things I need to do. As everyone says, kids won't notice a dirty floor or unfolded laundry (or an unfinished chapter), but they will notice a totally distracted mama. 

Speaking of writing:

Hurricane Season is mostly wrapped up and edited. Soon, I will receive page proofs--essentially the book all laid out nice and pretty for one more read-through before it goes into production. It's crazy to think I'll be doing this whole shebang again next April! (April 3, 2018! And shameless plug, you can preorder it anywhere you buy books! Here's the link to Amazon.)

After I get over the shock of this quiet house and my brain settles down, I will be hitting book 3 hard! I have a very rough draft of it already written, but it needs a lot of work. I'm excited about it but also slightly terrified. There's this feeling of, "I know I've done this before (twice now) but what if I just can't make it happen again?!" But I trust that I can. 

Events coming up:

I am meeting with various book clubs this fall--some in person, some over Skype--to discuss The Hideaway. I'll also be in Greenville, SC, on August 28 at M. Judson Booksellers. I'm part of their event called Page Pairings, which pairs books with wine--not sure how they do that, but I'm all for it! I know of one author who's going to be there, Joy Callaway, and I'm so excited to finally meet her in person. 

I'll also be in Baton Rouge, LA, October 28 for the Louisiana Book Festival. There are a ton of awesome authors coming, so if you're anywhere near Baton Rouge, come check it out. 

What I'm reading:

First Frost is the sequel to Sarah Addison Allen's first novel, Garden Spells. If you've never read anything in the magical realism genre, this is it. It's not super magical, a la Harry Potter, but it's our normal, everyday world with small touches of magic/mystery thrown in. I love it. And I'm loving this book. It's delicious. 

On my list to read next (ish):

Ann Kidd Taylor is the daughter of Sue Monk Kidd, also known as the author of one of my very favorite books, The Secret Life of Bees, which was the book that made me think, "Maybe I want to try my hand at this fiction writing thing." I admit I checked the book out just because of who her mom is, but the story is really intriguing and I'm hearing good things about it. 

This is another WWII novel, but different in that it's not set in Europe. A woman learns her Jewish father was a sergeant in charge of a platoon of black soldiers in 1940s Alabama. 

 

That's about it from me. I'm going to keep myself busy for the next hour before I run out the door and dash down the street to meet my kiddos at school pick-up. Never have I wanted 3:00 to get here more than today! After today, I probably won't feel as out of sorts (and that fresh new Word document will start calling my name) but today I can't wait to see their faces!

Good luck with school if that's your thing. If not, enjoy the rest of your summer!

Lauren

3 months from today!!

What my life looks like these days (although imagine more cardboard boxes and dust. Lots of dust.)

A few days ago I was cleaning out stacks and drawers of papers (writers have LOTS of random stacks of paper hanging around) and I found my very first draft of The Hideaway! It was like finding an old friend I'd lost touch with. Along with it was the first timeline I drew to figure out Mags's life and random notes I jotted down on a piece of construction paper because I couldn't find real notebook paper. 

I threw a lot of unnecessary papers away (like the foot-tall stack of edits from THE CARTEL (you know who you are...) but I'm not getting rid of these. It's good to keep reminders of all the work that went into The Hideaway. As if I could forget! 

I'm going through all these papers (and closets and kitchen cabinets and under beds) because we are moving. As if digging into revisions on book 2 isn't enough chaos in my life, we decided now would be a good time to move. Just kidding--a little. It is a good time to move--we are outgrowing our sweet little house and want more room to spread out--but I have to work to keep from panicking that I'm spending my time working on the house and not on revisions. I have started revisions though--the break from the story over the holidays was wonderful and I'm kind of excited to be getting back into the story, even though I know I have a lot of hard work ahead of me. Three months until this second book is due to my editor.

And three months until release of The Hideaway! I'm still waiting on the advance copies and can't wait to get them in my hands. If you have preordered the book, it'll land on your doorstep on 4/11. I have no idea what life will be like as the day approaches, but I'm excited to find out. I have heard from other authors, however, that the actual release date is quite anticlimactic. You've worked so hard to reach that day then it comes...and your day looks pretty much like every other day! But I'd imagine it will still feel pretty unbelievable. 

A few links I've stumbled across recently that I enjoyed or that made me laugh:

This woman lived quite a life and had an extraordinary career (including seeing the start of WWII from under a flapping sheet of fabric that delineated the border between Poland and Germany.)

This article features authors talking about how you can write a bestseller and still hardly make any money--or at least, not for a long time. "At times, the entire fiction-writing profession resembles a pyramid scheme swathed in a dewy mist of romantic yearning." 

Chris Stapleton? I'm way behind the times. I just discovered him today on Amazon Music and wow--he's pretty great. I'm not generally a country fan so when I hear about a new male country artist, it tends to go in one ear and out the other because they all seem to be part of the "bro-country" trend (yes, that's apparently a thing, and it perfectly describes the type of country music that really grates on my nerves!) But this guy isn't that at all. He's the real deal, a throw-back to great country-rock artists from decades ago , but also really fresh and new. Here's a video of him performing on SNL. 

 

Lastly, Matt and I have been rewatching The Office and loving it all over again. I leave you with Jim and Dwight. 

Housekeeping, rest, and multi-tasking, oh my.

Yesterday, I cleaned the downstairs of my house for two hours. Not too farfetched a story until you consider we'd just gotten back in town twelve hours before. We were gone for two weeks. How, pray tell, does a house (specifically the floor) get so dirty when no one is home?? This is what I was asking myself as I swept, vacuumed, mopped, and straightened each room. Then I remembered that in the three weeks leading up to our two-week vacation, we had three other trips out of town PLUS me trying to squeeze in as much writing (read: hand-wringing and panicking) on book 2 as I could before the editor's letter came back for The Hideaway. So suffice it to say, not much housework had happened in about a month, save for quick sweeps with the broom and some surface cleaning when necessary. 

Fast forward to yesterday morning when I was doing all this cleaning. Kate and Sela were playing together happily, thank the Lord, and I had unhurried time for the first time in what seemed like forever. We didn't have anywhere we had to be, nothing to pack for, no trip to plan. It finally felt like summer. Even as I write that, it sounds sort of silly--after all, since school let out, we've spent a decent chunk of time at the beach, which is the epitome of summer (for me at least). But trips out of town also can be hard--everyone off regular schedules, kids' bedtimes all screwy, early morning writing time interrupted by early wake-ups, etc. It's always nice to getaway, but sometimes it's nice to come home too. 

I'm glad that after trips galore, we've finally reached that part of summer where we can rest. Or maybe it's just me who's finally resting. I usually have a hard time resting when things are messy. For example, I'll spend 45 minutes of the kids' quiet time straightening up and getting my "nest" all set up, only to find ten minutes later, it's 3:00 and the kids pour out of their rooms ready to rock and roll. To show you my progress, right now, this is what my living room looks like: 

That's the leftovers from a morning campsite, complete with about 45 stuffed animals and dolls and every blanket in the house. And a tent. There's a tea set somewhere in there too. Instead of cleaning it up before I sat down for a few minutes of my own quiet time, I just stepped over it, poured myself a drink (no, not that kind), and put my feet up. I have about 20 minutes before we're up and moving again, but I'm determined to take these minutes for myself. (Remind me of this in the (probably near) future when I'm hurtling through my house trying to make it all neat and organized and wasting precious sit-down time. I need a lot of reminders.)

The first month of summer I felt like I had my hair blowing back all the time by activity. These last 5 weeks (really?!) will hopefully be slower. I'm a multi-tasker at heart (reading while cooking, checking Facebook while watching TV, thinking about plot holes while washing my hair) but I just recently heard a great quote: "There's a temptation to multitask everything but you can't multi-task presence." With a house that gets ten times dirtier in the summer, a book to write (and one I'm quite perplexed by), and another one to edit, I'm going to try to not be such a multitasker--especially when it comes to my kids. This morning, after the camping session on the floor and staying in pjs til 10, we stopped by the library and left with our arms full of books. After quiet time, we have a bag of flower seeds to plant and pink hydrangeas to cut and bring inside. Then maybe popsicles. I think that's a good start.