Help me choose my birthday gift to you


I want to make one of my books free for my birthday next month. Help me decide which one by filling out my single question survey. Click the image above to go to my google form.

**Edited: The survey is now closed. Thank you to all who participated. The majority vote was for Once upon a Rose which will be free on June 21st and a couple days around it.

The Riven Kingdoms

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This fun series is what I’ve been bingeing over the last week. The story has plenty of fun twists that kept me guessing. I loved reading it and I think you might too. You can buy it on Amazon or read it for free in Kindle Unlimited by following this link.

Here’s the official description for book 1:

From the author of The Silver & Orchids Series comes a breathtaking tale of two kingdoms torn apart by magic and the star-crossed lovers who set upon a perilous journey to reunite them before they fall into ruin. 

Enter the world of The Riven Kingdoms.

After the sudden death of her brother, Princess Amalia is charged with what feels like an impossible task—she must choose the next king. Youthful thoughts of love are pushed aside as she accepts her fate, setting upon a quest throughout the kingdom to find a man worthy of her father’s throne. 

Little does Amalia know, someone has already set his sights on her. 

Rhys is a man of secrets, and his mission is simple: befriend the princess of Renove. Coax her to trust him, convince her to follow him. 

Betray her when it’s time. 

All goes according to plan until Rhys meets the princess. Amalia is a disaster. Never has he met someone so drawn to trouble. Never has he met someone so irritatingly likable. 

He’s not allowed to fall for her. 

She could never entrust him with a crown. 

But, unbeknownst to them, their unlikely partnership might be the key to saving their entire world from a darkness that’s slowly creeping from the wounded earth that separates one kingdom from the next. 

Homemade Yogurt

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One of the non-writing-related things I do regularly is make yogurt. I wasn’t 100% sold on homemade yogurt when I started a couple of years ago, but now, I don’t know how I ever lived without it.

Although the overall time takes about a day, the hands-on time isn’t too bad. Back when I started, I bought a Bulgarian yogurt starter from Cultures for Health. There are other options and they have resources to help you choose, but the most important thing if you want to continue to make yogurt without spending a fortune is to make sure the culture you buy is an heirloom culture so you can continuously reculture it.

Their cultures come with directions, so I’ll only abbreviate them here. Since it’s important to keep unwanted microbes out, I wash my hands frequently during the process. I heat 2 quarts of milk to 165 degrees Fahrenheit, stirring occasionally. In between stirring. Then I let it cool to 110 degrees, stirring a bit more frequently. If I don’t stir often enough, a film develops over the top. This can be removed without hurting anything, but it’s annoying and it makes the cooling time take longer. Between heating and cooling, this usually takes roughly 1 hour, but it varies a bit.

After the milk has cooled, I pour it into my Instant Pot for culturing. An Instant Pot isn’t necessary, but I find it convenient. And technically, you can heat the milk in the Instant Pot too, but I prefer to use a separate pot instead. I don’t remember the exact range for the culture time, but I think it was 5-12 hours. I set my Instant Pot for 6 hours, using the glass lid and I can forget about it until the time is up.

Shorter culture times will result in a milder flavor and longer ones will give you a stronger flavor. With 2 picky kids, we’re better off with the mild flavor. After it’s finished culturing, I remove 5 tablespoons of the yogurt and store it in a small container for the next batch. If I remember correctly, the instructions said 2-3 tablespoons per quart.

At this point, the yogurt is finished unless you prefer a thicker yogurt like I do. I’ve always liked the greek style yogurt, so at this stage, I strain the yogurt in the fridge for a few hours or overnight. It took me a while to figure out what I liked using for straining it and this process has worked best for me. I think the wire bowl is called a sieve, but I’m not certain. The top layer is industrial-sized coffee filters. I bought this over a year ago and I haven’t used even half of the package yet.

Straining leaves about 1 quart of a thick yogurt and 1 quart of whey.

The culture needs to be fed, making new yogurt, about weekly. But we usually run out before the week is up. If you are interested, but haven’t tried yet, I’d recommend you do so.

Harry Potter

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I wanted to post something today, but since I’m still in the middle of reading a book series, I figured I’d post something I’ve read before. I’m sure most people have at least heard of Harry Potter, even if they haven’t read it. At this point, I’m not even sure how many times I’ve read this series.

Although the books are best read in order, a reader can at least understand what is happening if they start somewhere else. The first book I read was actually the second book in the series and it was something I was reluctant to read at the time. I remember my little brother asking me to read it to him and I rolled my eyes and made a big fuss about how lame I thought the title sounded. But I read it anyways and I got hooked on the series. I quickly ended up buying the only other two books available at the time and I anxiously waited for the rest to come out.

Anyway, I found this set for sale on Amazon and it’s cheaper than buying each book individually. I was also surprised to find Harry Potter available in Kindle Unlimited. If you’re interested in buying the entire series, I would suggest going to this link. But if you’re interested in reading it in KU, I would go to the series page here.

If you want to get a free trial of Kindle Unlimited, follow this link.

February/Early March Roundup

Here are the posts about books I’ve read recently that I would recommend.

Tales from the Kingdoms of Fable

The Kingdom Chronicles

Enchanting the Elven Mage

This next post contains book promotions you may want to check out for March.

March Book promotions

And these two are ones that aren’t exactly book related, but some of you may be interested in checking out.

Personal update

Homemade chapstick

I’ve made some updates to my author resource page for anyone that wants to check it out.

I’ve also started a page for my Works in Progress that I will try to keep current.

January/Early February Roundup

The purpose of this post is to share all of my most recent posts in one place. So here is what I’ve recently posted.

Since I’m guessing this is what most of you will be most interested in, here are the links to my posts about books I’ve read

Unseen Beauty

K.M. Shea’s Urban Fantasy series

Enchanting the Elven Mage

Here’s the post with all of this month’s book promos.

Here are a couple of non-book related posts, pertaining to other areas of my life.

A sneak peak into my life

My homemade chapstick

At the beginning of last month, I reviewed the results of a poll and talked about what I intend for social media and this website moving forward. You can find that post here.

Other than that, I’ve made some changes to my resource page for authors. It’s still far from complete, but I’m working on it. You can find that page here.

My Homemade Chapstick

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I mentioned a while back that one of the things I do while not writing is make homemade stuff and that I recently made some chapstick. So this post is about that.

This is only the second time I’ve made this particular item. The first time, I used an eyedropper to fill the chapstick tubes and it took forever. This time, I bought myself a new tool to help that holds all of the tubes and I found the process to be much faster and easier.

The recipe is pretty simple, if you want to give it a try. It’s equal parts beeswax, cocoa or shea butter (I used cocoa), and coconut oil. Other than that, the only ingredient is essential oil of your choice. I prefer peppermint oil.

I wasn’t sure how much I would need and I was feeling too lazy to try to calculate it, so I just made a guess when I was working on this.

I used equal parts beeswax, coconut oil, cocoa butter (1.6 oz each), and I added 10 drops of peppermint oil. You can probably tell from the pictures that it only filled just shy of half of the tubes this time around. So next time I intend to double the recipe. I figure that the amount left on the top would be enough to fill the other half of a tube. The peppermint was a bit less than I’d like, so I’ll be trying it with 40 drops next time.

If you’re interested in trying it out, all you do is measure and melt. I prefer a double boiler because it makes it easier on me if I get distracted for a bit, but it’s not one hundred percent necessary. Once the oils are all melted, you add in the essential oil, then pour it into the tubes. The one I bought came with a scraper that helps push the excess in. It did start cooling on the plastic faster than I anticipated. The first time I made chapstick, it was summer, so cooling was fairly slow, but I was also trying to hold a conversation with my son at the time, so that probably had something to do with it too.

This is a picture of the filled tubes, minus the two my kids took immediately. One of them was only half filled. It only took me a few minutes, and my whole family will be set for a few months.

What do you think? Have you every tried anything like this?

If you want to try this out and need supplies, here are all the links to what I bought.

Tube holder

Chapstick Tubes

Cocoa butter


I don’t have a link for coconut oil since I bought this at the grocery store.

For the essential oil, I source mine from Eden’s Garden, but the only major thing here is to make sure you are getting pure essential oil and not a fragrance oil.

A sneak peek into my life

I wanted to try something different. I think that the main reason I’ve been largely inactive on my website is that I don’t always know what to say. Part of me shudders to even consider writing this, as I’m wondering if it’s TMI. Writing is a large part of my life, but sometimes other parts of life prevent me from making any significant progress in writing.

A lot of the other things that consume my time are pretty mundane and not worth sharing as anything more than a small mention (like chores, driving locally, and waiting). But some of my other activities might be of interest to more than just me. So, I’m considering adding in some updates on those things.

I’d like to say that I have a “typical” day, but unfortunately, that isn’t the case. Most days, I try to get writing in before everything else so that I definitely can write. But I’m not a morning person and early mornings are my only guaranteed time. By evening, I’m too tired to write coherently.

On Mondays through Thursdays, my daughter goes to public school. We are down to only a single vehicle in the house at the moment, so I end up dropping my husband and brother off most of these mornings and pick everyone up later. My son is homeschooled, but around half of his work can be done independently. I help him when he needs me and I work on everything else I can around this.

More time than I’d like goes to household chores, inventory, and grocery shopping. Another chunk of time goes to trying to keep up with email and my social media accounts, though I get behind on those more often than not. I also try to keep up with deals to share on book recommendations, mostly for my newsletter, but sometimes here and on social media.

I’m the main person who cooks in my household, so a lot of time is spent in the kitchen. I like to be health conscious, so despite sometimes feeling lazy and getting takeout or easy to make processed foods, I typically cook everything from scratch. Currently, I care for 2 cultures. One is a sourdough starter I use to make all my bread. And the other is a yogurt starter. Aside from food, I make soap, lotion bars, and chapstick for my household.

That makes up most of my non-writing related time. The rest falls into more of a self-care category, something I probably should spend more time with.

For self-care, I will spend time on one of my numerous hobbies. Though mostly, I read. Believe it or not, I will usually count my homemade projects as self-care because I find it fun and relaxing most of the time.

After school on weekdays, I pick up my daughter. Usually, I have to wait at least an hour before anyone else is off work. I try to plan dinner around when I’m expecting to pick up my husband and brother. Most of my time after school is out is spent between dinner, making sure the kids take care of their tasks, and cleaning up. After the the kids go to bed, I spend an hour or two either reading or watching a show with my husband before I turn in for the night.

Weekends are the least predictable. Fridays tend to be the hardest day for me to get anything done. With both kids home and nobody else here to typically help me, most of the time it seems like my whole day is consumed with putting out fires between the kids. Saturday and Sunday, I usually at least have my husband home. These days have the largest variance on what is happening that day. The weekend is the most likely time for us to do something fun as a family, though the options are currently very limited. We sometimes go to Phoenix or Flagstaff for shopping. Or sometimes we go to Winslow to visit family.

When we don’t have plans for the weekend, sometimes I can get more writing done than the rest of the week combined. But other times, my husband needs the time for his ventures, so I don’t really accomplish anything.

The other day, I made chapstick and I thought to take pictures, so my next non-book related post will be about that.

I hope this wasn’t more personal than you’d like, but I want to have more interaction with my readers, so I’m trying this out as a way to hopefully connect. I’d love to hear if you have anything to say about any of this. Is there anything specific I mentioned that you’d like to hear more about?