Friday, July 29, 2016

What I Learned in July

How is it possibly already the end of July? How? 

Anyway - it's been a C-R-A-Z-Y month, but here are a few things I learned in July.

Dollywood has an amazing guest assistance program. If you travel with a child with any sort of disability, you know how difficult it can be to face long lines, loud crowds, and staring patrons. We spent two days at Dollywood this month and we were very impressed by their attention and care for their guests with disabilities. A quick stop at the ride accessibility office provided us with a card that gave us easy (and fast) access to all the rides, as well as a phone number we could call if we needed anything, or wanted access to Dollywood's new calming room. The Calming Room was fabulous. Thirty minutes of peace, quiet, books, comfy places to sit, and a break from the crowds. It was just what our girl needed to get through the rest of the day. Who am I kidding…it didn't hurt me, either!

Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Cacao Nibs are amazing. They are my new favorite writing snack. They are tiny, it doesn't take much for me to feel like I've had enough (unlike milk chocolate which I can eat in large quanities and still want more), and they have the crunch from the cacao nib that makes them simply delightful. I'm a fan!

Lavender Oil is the BEST thing for burns. I promise I'm not going to turn into an essential oil evangelist, but despite my original skepticism toward them I have been blown away by how well Lavender Oil works on sunburns and kitchen burns (which I have a LOT of experience with). Our youngest managed to get a pretty bad burn after a day at the lake. I slathered him in some coconut oil that I mixed with the lavender. No complaints, no drama, and next morning, no redness. Even my husband was amazed. I keep Lavender in my kitchen for when I splatter myself with grease or attempt to reach into the oven and burn myself on the rack (don't ask). It works every time. 

Chocolate Avocado Smoothie - I can't call this health food because people have checked the calorie/sugar counts and shared them in the comments (just look), but this is way better for me than a milkshake, and it satisfies my sweet tooth. Even better, my kids hate it. :) Probably because of the flax seed, or maybe it's because I don't use as much honey as called for so it's not super sweet. Regardless, I don't have to share! 

Buy the big pot. I have several recipes that are part of our regular meal rotation. I make them often, and I usually double the recipe and freeze whatever is left to save myself some time and trouble later. The problem has been that I haven't had a big enough pot to double the recipe without having to divvy it up into multiple pots or deal with lots of spillovers. I finally broke down and bought a BIG pot. WHY did I wait to do this? It made meal prep so much more enjoyable and cleanup so much easier. Take my advice…by the big pot. 


Friday, July 15, 2016

ACFW Pre-Conference Mix and Mingle

In late August, I’m headed to my very first ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) Conference. I am so excited! 

Laurie Tomlinson is hosting a super fun “mix and mingle” link up on her website for conference attendees to get to know each other prior to the big event. The rules are simple…you answer the questions she has listed and then link your post on her blog. 

So here goes…

Name: Lynn Blackburn (I write as Lynn Huggins Blackburn, but that is a mouthful).

Location: Simpsonville, SC

What you write/tagline/trademark: Romantic Suspense

Place in the book world: My debut novel, Covert Justice, is a Carol finalist in the Short Novel category! I'm represented by the fabulous Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency. 

On a scale of hugger to 10-foot-pole, please rate your personal space: Did you see my maiden name? I’m all for the hugs. :) 

Something VERY serious: How do you take your Starbucks? During the summer, I’ll take it iced. Cream only. I love the Flat White anytime, but at Christmas I’m all about the Chestnut Praline Latte. Decaf. 

The unique talking points that will get you going for hours: Clemson Tigers football, Bullet Journals, Homeschooling, Special Needs parenting, Hamilton, NCIS.

Loved ones at home you’ll be missing: My husband, 13-year-old daughter, almost 8-year-old son, and 5(and a half!)-year-old son. 

Conference goals we can pray for? I’m mostly coming to learn and network, but I will also be pitching a new romantic suspense series. 

Anything we can celebrate with you? My debut novel won the Selah Award (Mystery/Suspense category) at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference and I’m still hyperventilating!

One or two ways we can help you build your platform? You can follow me on Twitter and sign up for my newsletter here!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

My Rules for the Rest of my Summer Vacation

As a kid the main advantage I could see to summer vacation was the virtually unlimited reading time it provided. But by July, I was ready for routines, new textbooks, and bouquets of freshly sharpened pencils.

Fast forward a few years, and I’m still not the biggest fan of summer vacation. I appreciate the break from the routine, while simultaneously craving the return of it. I love the potential of a slower pace to our days, but find myself fighting the tendency to fill them to the brim with activity. I enjoy hanging out at the pool or the lake with friends, but dread the laundry that follows. 

I want my kids to look back on their summers with delight. Lightning bugs. Popsicles. Staying up late. Sleeping in (although one of mine may NEVER sleep past 6:15…sigh). But I also want to reclaim some of the joy of summers for myself. I want to read more. Write more. Play more. Stress less.
How does a 42-year-old wife, mom of three, author, homeschooling kind of mom actually do this?  

Honestly, I have no idea. But I know that it's the middle of July and while I do have a few truly good things to show for the past few weeks, I can see a disturbing trend. One that involves me spending too much time on my phone and not enough time with my nose in a book. Too much time performing tasks and not nearly enough time playing games. 

I do have things I need to accomplish over the next 6 weeks, but I’m thinking there has to be a way to cross off some big to-do list items AND roll into September (it’s really mid-August but I’m in denial) feeling refreshed and ready to tackle a new school year.

I know for myself that a BIG part of my problem is screen time. This is tricky for me, because the whole “writing thing” kind of requires screen time. But you know what it doesn’t require? Facebook. 
I love Facebook, but I’ve come to realize that my social media time has gotten out of hand.

So I’ve decided to run a little experiment and I’m telling you about it in order to keep myself accountable. You may have seen this handy little sheet that has made the rounds on Pinterest and Facebook where the kids in the house have a list of things they have to do every day before they get any screen time. (Yes, I do appreciate the irony here). Anyway, I’ve made a few modifications for myself and my life and I’m going to give it a shot for a few weeks and see if I can tell a difference.

Here are my Rules for the rest of my Summer Vacation (Rules apply when I'm at home. There are NO rules when I'm at the lake or in the mountains!) --  

Before you start surfing Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, or Instagram for non-work related matters you must:

** Spend some time in the Word.
** Make your bed.
** Hydrate—this means WATER not coffee—not that I won’t also have coffee!
** CrossFit (unless it’s an intentional rest day - I can’t hit the box 7 days a week).
** Read for thirty minutes - for fun, not heavy reading.
** Write for thirty minutes.
** Clean a room (ha - like this even needs to be on the list).
** Tackle one “project” for thirty minutes.
** Do one load of laundry (sigh).
** Play with the kids—go to the pool, throw the football, shoot some hoops, read a book, draw with chalk pastels (I’m terrible at it but the kids like it), color.
** Make contact with a friend—write a letter (imagine!), text, call.

If the whole day happens and I never open my Facebook page and don’t find any cool pins on Pinterest? I think I’d be okay with that. 

I’m curious how you handle screen time - not for your kids, but for yourself? If you have any awesome tips or tricks, a funny story or an inspiring one, please share!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

When You Want to be Somewhere Else with your Writing

Not my son, but an accurate representation of his gloominess!
I felt so sorry for him.

My youngest son was surveying the scene on his first morning of day camp—and he was not impressed. Kids were running around playing with hula hoops, bouncy balls, Legos, Crayons, and board games. It was a kids’ paradise in there, but the mutinous expression on his face refused to budge.

He’d been okay an hour earlier. He was excited about this new opportunity, until we dropped his older brother off at a different day camp. One for kids a bit older. One with cheering counselors, multiple inflatables, and a climbing tower.

From the minute we climbed out of the van, my little guy was in full revolt. He dragged his feet, he pouted, he glared at everyone we encountered. He wanted to go home and not go to his camp at all.

As I stood at the back of the room and watched him try to come to terms with his reality, my heart broke. There was so much awesomeness in front of him, but he couldn’t see it because He Wanted to be Somewhere Else.

Maybe you can relate?

Your blog is getting great attention, but you don’t want to be a blogger. You want to be a speaker.
  • An editor is interested in your devotional, but no one will take an interest in your historical.
  • You’ve found success with freelance work, but now you don’t have time for your epic fantasy.
  • Your poetry has won awards, but no one will look at the Bible study you’ve poured your heart into.
  • Or maybe you’ve been published with a small press, but you yearn to be affiliated with one of the big houses.

You Want to be Somewhere Else.