Dear Reader, Do you ever need a brain break?

Hi dear readers! Since I’ve been posting so many blogs about book spine colors, I thought I’d just go way off the beaten path and chase a squirrel today and share with you a couple of colorful home improvement projects I manically and maniacally threw myself into last weekend after submitting copy edits for Lead Me Home to my editor.

Copy editing, while truly my favorite part of the writing process, is also the most mentally exhausting. So when I hit the “send” key, I tend to collapse–at least in the writing and reading sense.

Painting and decorating and upcycling  have always been BIG stress releases for my mind and even my body, which had been too-long hunched over my laptop. And I think the fact that I can start and finish a painting or decorating project in a few hours or a couple of days helps restore my confidence in being able to accomplish something. You see, the middle of editing a novel manuscript can make a writer feel like they will never, ever be done.




So without further delay, I’ll accomplish this blog post and show you my before and afters and reveals and cheats and hacks!

First up, the inside of our front door. I’d seen this trend all over Pinterest and it looks so “WOW” I decided to try it. And WOW it is, IMHO:


Thanks, Pinterest!

The second project was redecorating and repurposing the room in our house that is supposed to be a dining room. But come on, who really eats in their dining room? Maybe if we had guests more often, but no one wants to visit us because of our three big slobbery dogs. And besides that, the room became an oversized, 10×12 junk drawer. Catch-all. Disaster.



Evidently I’ve loved the colors red, green and gold so much it paid off, because I truly only bought paint and the fabric for the curtains. (Don’t you just love those great big happy checks? I’ve been eyeing that fabric for years!) the settee was a cast-off, the barn paintings were from a friend, and I had the little flowered chairs for over 15 years. There are two walls that will have BIG white bookshelves for our BIG stacks of books and that we’re still waiting to get, but I’m so happy we have a brand new-to-us, usable room.

The third project is the red bench in the pictures above. The room needed a footstool, but I couldn’t find any I liked. So I had a white wooden bench, a fabric remnant, and bought some foam from Hobby Lobby (Lord have mercy, people, don’t let me go into that store alone anymore!!!):

I put the labels of the foam and batting on here in case anyone wanted to know:

IMG_8369THIS product is brilliant. The person who invented it needs a Pulitzer or Nobel or Grammy or all three, because instead of having to pound in every. single. nail. you just pound in every 6th!   
Oh, and please note that a heavy duty staple gun is essential for this project and life in general.

So, that’s it, dear readers!

Put a link in the comments about your favorite project, and why!


Dear Reader is a series I post on every week. If you’re a reader and have an idea or question you’d like me to write about, relating to books or writing or editing, etc., jot me a note and I’d be much obliged to take a stab at your request. Also, if you’d like to read all the Dear Reader posts, click here. If you like insider information into my books or writing life, be sure to sign up for my author newsletter by clicking here.

So, you wrote a book. When ya quittin’ your day job?

The short answer:

I’m not.

The long answer:

I don’t blame people for wondering if I’m going to quit my day job.

I do blame the expatriates of the 1920s or perhaps Hollywood’s portrayal of writers for giving the general public the persistent idea that if you write a book, you’ll become not only rich, but filthy rich. And I do blame the news for making 6-7 figure book deals front page news…not because that sort of deal isn’t newsworthy, but because it’s not the norm.

Even if ginormous advances were the norm, unless you keep writing, the money will run out.

Because the money always runs out.

The creativity, however, does not.

At least, it doesn’t have to.

Last week a writer friend of mine posted this quote from Elizabeth Gilbert, the famous author of Eat, Pray, Love. I think it’s one of the most important quotes about writing, especially in the midst of the current state of publishing, that I’ve read in a long, long time. She says this (via GalleyCat):


“Of course this is the dream of dreams — to make a living by your art — but it is a rare thing, when that works out. Or sometimes it might work out for a few years, and then you run out of money. If financial success becomes the standard by which to determine if you are successful or not, you are likely setting yourself up to feel disappointed in yourself and your work. It’s not fair to your craft, to put this kind of pressure on it. Get a job on the side to pay the bills, and learn how to live an inexpensive, frugal life.”


Get a job, she says.

Learn how to live inexpensive, frugal, she says.

Because unless you’re Elizabeth Gilbert or John Green or Nicholas Sparks or Danielle Steele or Stephen King or a handful of others, chances are pretty good you’re gonna need a side job–if not a full-time job–if you’re a writer.

More important, though, is what she says about how putting financial pressure on your craft, your gifting, is not fair.

I dare say, it’s irresponsible.

Because a gift–and I do believe the ability to write, to paint, to craft in any way is just that, a gift–is something you give away.

Now, don’t get me wrong.

I do not believe in the current trend of free or near-free music and books, and frankly, shame on people for expecting free or near-free books and music. I fully support the actions of artists like Taylor Swift who can afford to pull their art from venues which perpetuate woefully discounted music at the expense of the artists who work damn hard to create it.

I do believe that it is the joyous plight of the artist to create in obscurity, to tear one’s heart out unnoticed, to work their fingers and pencils and brushes to the nubs so that the gift of the art remains something wholly from the soul, and not something done under the duress of expectation or obligation or, God forbid, need. 

Art is often born out of the desperation of the heart, but when done desperately, ceases being art.

When I was in college endlessly flip-flopping between majors because I couldn’t decide between the field of medicine and creative writing, my dad, the son of a calloused-handed factory worker, said with all the love he could muster, “Amy. You might want to consider choosing a profession which will allow you to eat more than just beans.”

So I became a registered nurse.

And don’t you know, I absolutely love being a nurse? I’ve been a surgery nurse, an administrative nurse, a pediatric nurse, an educator nurse, and most currently a med/surg nurse. Some of my greatest laughter and deepest sadness and gripping fears have occurred inside the walls of the hospitals in which I work. As a nurse, every day I meet people, see things, experience tragedy, and gain insight in ways I never, ever would otherwise.

So you see,

…my work fuels my writing, and my writing fuels my work.


I’m not quitting my day job.

Even if Angelina Jolie comes along and wants to cast Matthew McConaughey as Solly in my first novel as I imagined him in it, I wouldn’t want to quit being a nurse. (Hey Ang, if you read this, call me? ‘Kay? Maybe?)

Is it hard to write novels and work?


I, like most authors I know, give up a lot to be a writer. I care for and love on my family and my home, I work, pay the bills, write in carpool lines and sidelines, edit on lunch breaks and Saturday nights. There’s not much left of me after that. I regret that I hardly ever do lunch dates with girlfriends and parties with neighbors and volunteer at the schools.

Some people by now must think I’m either quite rude or a hermit or both.

But when I lamented to a friend about not having time to do Christmas cards this year, do you know what she said?

She said, “Amy. You words are a card to us every day.”

Writing–being an artist of any kind–is a sacrifice.

And sacrifices are worth working for.

Don’t you think?

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Celebrating summer: enter to win How Sweet the Sound and more this week! #bookgiveaway

It’s almost July 4th, and you know what that means?

Celebrating! Good times! Good friends!

Do you remember hot summers spent with your best friend, bare toes in the cool grass, homemade ice cream melting before you can get it in your mouth, and sparklers twirling in the hot night breeze?

Did you ever make friendship bracelets in the summertime?

To celebrate this week, I’m giving away a signed copy of How Sweet the Sound, along with three skeins of embroidery thread so you can make a friendship bracelet with your bestie, just like Anni did for her friends in How Sweet the Sound.

Also, don’t forget to download a FREE copy of Grace Notes: A Reading Guide for Teens. Along with thoughful questions and facts, you’ll find instructions for a friendship bracelet in there, too. (Click here to get to the download page.)

To enter, leave a comment below, along with your three favorite colors. If your name is picked (through a random, online name-picker), I’ll send you the book and skeins of thread in your three favorite colors.

This contest will run all week, so share this post with your friends, and I’ll announce the winner on July 4!

Good luck!