The cutest cupcake chapter headers ever!

Today I’m working on the last bit of cleanup for Come Here, Cupcake before I send it off to my editor. And while all formatting work will have to wait until it’s done being edited, I couldn’t help but start working on the chapter headers. You guys, these are so adorable, I just want to eat them off the page! :-D Here it is, with a tiny, tiny teaser of Chapter 1:

chapter teaser
I mean, seriously, how cute are those cupcake headers? <3

By the way, I’ve recently started a new business that’s so new, I’m still trying to figure out its permanent name. I’m offering my services for super cheap on things like book formatting, editing, website creation, social media setup, and more. You could be one of my first clients and take advantage of super low pricing! For more information, CLICK HERE.

A story about a girl who let fear keep her from blogging.

Let me tell you a story. It’s about a girl who grew so afraid of what people might think of her, she became paralyzed in that fear.

It starts with a back story.

This girl was born to be a storyteller, stemming from an early love of reading. It began with stories read to her in her mother’s lap, graduated to recognized words on the milk carton, and finally came to fruition when she read the book, Jack and the Beanstalk, to her preschool teacher. At just 4 years old, this girl was a reader! And two years later, upon learning to write, she realized she could create stories, as well. At night when she went to bed, she entertained her sister in their shared bedroom with made-up bedtime stories using a flashlight and shadow puppets. At birthdays and holidays, her gifts of stories were always highly anticipated. And she swore that one day when she was grown, her career would encompass her love of words and storytelling.

Fast forward a dozen or so years, and life continued to happen. But the path this girl was on twisted and turned in directions she hadn’t anticipated. Never being one to make risky moves, she allowed this path to take her from her dreams. It ended up being the riskiest move of all. While her goal had been to remain in her comfort zone, her path, instead, brought her into unfamiliar places and moments of danger and despair. It came time for her to decide – refrain from making a change and lose herself in the process, or make an uncomfortable bold move and try to find the person she lost.

She chose the latter, leaving her to raise two young kids on her own when she left a suffocating, abusive marriage.

It would take a year before this girl was able to drag herself off the couch. It took a few more for her to feel even remotely human. And eventually, with the love and support of her family, she was back out in the world on her own, caring for her kids the best way she could, and surviving life as a single mother, flaws and all.

It was during this time that this girl rediscovered her writing voice. It started with just writing. Then it was telling personal tales to amuse her friends. Eventually it migrated into a blog she called Wine Country Mom. The title was a little tongue-in-cheek, as she was definitely a mom in the heart of the Wine Country, but she was hardly living the Wine County lifestyle. There were some weeks she wasn’t sure the food in her household would last to the end of the week. And if it weren’t for her generous parents’ endless supply of TP, bathroom time would be plenty awkward. But there were many good times in this poor season of life, and countless moments of laughter, as well. This girl wrote about all of that – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Through her writing, she made friends with people who could relate to her triumphs and sorrows.

This new community of readers weren’t the only people who noticed. The local newspaper, where this girl now worked in the ad department, caught wind of this girl’s blog. And because they loved it, they offered this girl an even larger platform to share her stories. Naturally, this girl said yes.

In the following years, this girl continued to share her stories, now with a larger audience. She wrote about life as a single mother, parenting tips she’d learned along the way, her budding romance with a new man (who would one day be her husband), and the transition her life took from single parenthood into blended family. She remained perfectly candid, a virtue that drew her audience in as she admitted imperfections, as well as the beautiful parts of her family despite their many flaws. She remained real, vulnerable, completely raw. There were times she’d hesitate before pushing that publish button, then hold her breath when she inevitably did. It was a terrifying and exhilarating feeling to bare so much of her soul. And much of the feedback she received was from people who were certain they were the only ones who’d ever experienced what she had written about, and found a soul sister in this girl through the truth she’d unveiled.

But not everyone loved this girl’s brave sharing.

Ever hear of trolls? These are little creatures with wrinkled souls who hide under the bridges of blogs as they wait for their next victim. Their main objective is to ensure no one feels too good about themselves. They plant the seed of hate, then entice people to water it through conversation. Their biggest tool is to write things so hateful, it’s almost impossible to ignore. But once you respond to a troll, you lose power. And the troll? They only grow stronger.

When your platform consists of the same people who read the newspaper, the trolls are aplenty (and if you’ve ever read the comments on any article on any newspaper, you know what I mean).

Among the lovely people who offered lovely words to any of this girl’s blog articles, there were also ugly-souled people who attacked her choice to leave her abusive husband and become a single mother, her blossoming romance with a new man while she was supposed to be caring for her kids, and anything else they could find fault with in the words she chose to share about her personal life. This girl remained strong, though all of these words stung. It was like the trolls had discovered all of her inner thoughts and fears, and were now laying them out in the comments of her blogs for the world to digest. Each comment inflicted pain, but she strengthened her armor and kept going. However, when the trolls turned their comments toward this girl’s children, she pulled the plug to her blog. The girl removed her blog from the newspaper and said goodbye to the audience she had built. Then she began blogging in a much more private arena. No one knew her. No one commented. No one said mean things, nice things…anything.

But this was just fine with the girl. It allowed her that perfect break to come back to center and figure out what exactly she wanted to share with the world. With her kids now in their teen years, it was no longer appropriate to write about them on a family blog. It seemed Wine Country Mom had run its course.

Meanwhile, this girl had tackled a new arena of writing – the almighty novel. She set up a website as she put forth her new novel, complete with a brand new blog. But with this blog, the girl found herself in unfamiliar territory. What the heck did she write about? She’d spent so long writing about her life as a mother, that writing about her life as a writer felt foreign and strange. She had no audience, no one who was familiar with her work, no one to talk to at all through this blog. She began writing about her book, but that got old fast. She felt uninteresting. So she began writing about writing itself, specifically in terms of books. But she felt like a fraud because she was still figuring this stuff out, herself.

The blog soon felt like an albatross. She was reading so many tips on keeping an author blog that she started to feel like everything she wrote in her blog was all wrong. Soon, she lost her reason for even wanting to keep a blog at all. It wasn’t about baring pieces of her soul anymore, it was about how to get attention. It all felt fake and contrived. It felt like work. And when January of this year hit, this girl stopped writing in her blog altogether.

Me and my Mr. Wonderful.

Me and my Mr. Wonderful. I think we both had mouthfuls of food when this picture was taken.

This girl, of course, being ME.
So here I am, having ignored this blog because I’m afraid I have nothing to say, or that I’m boring people with the bits and pieces of my life, or that I might give you the wrong idea if I have an opinion on anything, or that I might get too personal, or I might not be personal enough. I’m afraid someone I know will read this blog and wonder who the heck I think I am trying to fool. I’m afraid someone I don’t know will read this and wonder how someone who thinks the way I think or writes the way I write or likes the things I like ever thought she could actually write a book and sell it. I’m afraid I’ll break some cardinal rule of author blogs by oversharing or undersharing or writing against my genre or being too opinionated or wishy-washy or attracting the wrong people or not being witty enough….

Omg. It’s just too much! I’m done with being paralyzed. I’m done with thinking there’s someone I’m supposed to be or something specific I’m supposed to write about. I’m done with thinking I need to be writing to a certain group of people or write a certain way when all I can do is be myself and write the way I write.

The end!

So from this day forward, I declare this a themeless blog. If I want to write about books, I’ll write about books. If I was to write about faith, I will write about faith. If I want to write about life, especially the messy parts, you’re damn straight I’ll be writing about life. If I want to write about love, family, my dog, how much I hate cleaning, what I had for dinner, my favorite TV obsession, an author I’m crushing on (Hi Colleen Hoover!), or anything else, I’m just going to throw it up here on the pages.

You all right with that? Doesn’t matter. ;-)

Let’s just be real, k?

Come Here Cupcake, FINISHED!

I finished my novel.

As in, I FINISHED MY NOVEL!!!!

After 4 and a half months of writing, rewriting, adding words in, taking words out, crying, whining, complaining, throwing in the towel, picking the towel back up, and….writing, I can finally say that Come Here, Cupcake is “finished!”

But what does that mean exactly? Will it be available to be read any time soon?

Short answer, no.

There’s still plenty of work that needs to be done on this novel. While the story part is finished, there’s still a massive amount of editing to be done by me and my editing team to ensure that all details add up and that my grammar doesn’t suck. Plus, the cover still needs to be finalized.

So I can’t give you a date just yet for when you can expect to be able to read this book. I can’t even give you a sneak peek….yet. But I will tell you that we’re close. We’re really, really close. And you guys, I am not exaggerating—this is the best book I have ever written in my life.

So stick around for more updates on the book, and expect me to be a little more available here.

Oh, before I forget. My main character, Morgan Truly, insisted on setting up her own Instagram account. She’s still kind of a newbie to the whole thing, so I pop in from time to time. But you can follow the both of us at @truly_cupcake and at @crissilangwell.

FREE novel! And some updates.

This is the very first book I ever published, and I’m offering it as a free download for a limited time. I hope you take advantage of this offer! bit.ly/SymphonyOfCicadas

A few things to know:

A Symphony of Cicadas is a standalone/sequel called Forever Thirteen. You don’t have to read A Symphony of Cicadas to read Forever Thirteen, but it is helpful. Both take place in the afterlife – the first telling Rachel’s story, the second telling the story of her son, Joey.

The Road to Hope is my newest novel, telling the tale of two women who experience great personal tragedy, finding themselves in unfamiliar territory of loss and hardship. But the real journey is the one they take inside their own hearts.

See all my books here.

I’ve been kind of reclusive here because my next book, Come Here, Cupcake, has been taking up so much of my time. But I’m excited to say that I’m nearing the finish line! I can’t wait to share this book with you, and I can say, without a doubt, that you’re going to love this new upcoming series. I don’t have a publish date for this novel, but I promise I’ll share it here as soon as I find out.

Aaaaaand…… As a huge reader, I’m always looking for new books to read. What are you reading right now?

Sorry for the long pause between now and my last blog entry. I promise I’ll be better!

Editing, scrapping, rewriting the novel.

I’m staring at a blank computer screen right now. Well, not entirely blank. Each word I type is taking up a bit of the white space, filling it with the words that are echoing in my mind and being transposed onto the screen. But the words I want to write, NEED to write, are standing at the bottom of the hill, looking up at the mountain, trying to decide whether to climb or not…

I have a lot of SHOULDS on my plate right now, SHOULDS that I’ve placed there, SHOULDS that stand in my way of WANTS I’m too scared to bring to fruition. I should write a newsletter to my 78 fans. I should do the social media work for my writing club. I should do all the mundane things and get them out of the way so I can do what I WANT to be doing.

Which is revising my novel.

But if I do all the mundane stuff first to get it out of the way, I won’t have time for the WANTS. I know this. But because I’m scared to start the revision process, I am tempted to do all my SHOULDS, thus taking away the time for my WANTS.

Why am I scared?

I just got out of a story meeting with two dear friends I am entrusting as guides in my next novel. Months ago, I gave them the rough draft version of Come Here, Cupcake, believing it was in the most final stage I could get it. To me, it was near perfection. I knew there were a few spots that needed touching up. But for the most part, the story was exactly as I wanted it. So I handed it off to them, setting it free, and told them we would go over it in a few months.

Today was that day. January 1, the start of a brand new year and of new possibilities. This is the year I am dedicated to this new series, starting with the first book. I believe in this series so much, and am excited to make it happen. In our story meeting, however, holes in the storyline were revealed, and new ideas were brainstormed. While the story and the characters, as written, serve as a great starting point, it became painfully obvious that there is a lot more work to be done. A lot. As in, the book is about to be rewritten completely.

Oy.

This, to me, is what is scary. I’m excited about a few new dimensions and layers that will be added to the story. But I’m scared about taking away from parts that are already written, possibly stripping out some of the original magic. I’m also scared that the story will deviate from MY story, and turn into someone else’s story. I’m scared that I’ve put all this work into the book already, and now I’m setting myself up to put even MORE work into it. And I’m scared that I won’t even be able to do the book justice, thus wasting my time completely. Honestly, I go through this every time I get close to finishing my novel. But I am scared that I’ve used up all my creativity, and this is the time it will be revealed that I’m just some HACK who’s already peaked with a few books that only reached a couple dozen people. I’m afraid that I’m a has been who never was, and will just be pouring my soul into a book that will go nowhere.

Okay, I know this is all pretty depressing stuff to read. It’s pretty depressing to write. But here’s where I stand – January 1, at the bottom of the hill, looking up at this gigantic mountain of work I’m setting myself up for, trying to muster up the courage to climb. But knowing that I will. Today. As soon as I hit publish on this blog entry.

So, on to my next blank screen, the one that seems so scary right now, but may seem completely beautiful in another month or two. The one that holds possibilities I’m not even certain of in this very moment. But that’s the beauty of a blank screen. It isn’t filled with SHOULDS. It isn’t even filled with WANTS. It’s just empty, waiting to become whatever it is I want it to become. Kind of like this New Year.

Hm.

I think I’m ready. Here goes nothing.

Living a life of intention, one year at a time

Intention. It’s kind of a loaded word, isn’t it? Used in past tense, it takes on the weight of guilt over things planned that never quite happened. I intended to organize my closet. I intended to wash the dishes. I intended to go to that seminar. Use it in present tense, and there’s a sense of what we wish to do, but already know won’t happen. I intend to run a mile today. I intend to improve my job skills. I intend to not waste all day on my phone. The word “intention” goes along with “good intentions” – as in, “He had good intentions when he made such and such mistake.”

There’s just a lot of baggage that comes with the word “intention.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about intention this week – but not the word that’s weighted down with preconceived notions or missed opportunities. I’ve been thinking about it in terms of what I intend – really intend – for my life. What am I doing now to ensure my intentions come true?

IMGP7118Much of this reflection has to do with the fact that this is my last week of being 36. Today is my last day at that age. Tomorrow starts a brand new year, the first day of a new age when I get to take the first step of who I will be at 37.

The other day, I had my annual freak out about getting older. Usually it’s reserved for the day before my birthday. This year, however, it came a few days early. And as I dealt with it, I did something I usually try to avoid doing – I broadcast my negativity on Facebook.

There’s something I noticed about sharing negativity. No one wants to be around it. I put my misery about getting older out for public consumption, hoping for a few virtual hugs from friends across the board. And I received that in a small dose. But for the most part, people avoided my post like the plague. And a few refused to feed into my pity party, reminding me to put things in perspective and remember all I had to be grateful for. One person even gave me a “good grief,” and mused whether I should even have birthdays at all. I came back to that last comment several times since it was posted, glaring at it for the insinuation at my ridiculousness. Of course I don’t want to celebrate birthdays. Each birthday makes me a whole year older!

There was a time when I was younger when I swore I’d be one of those women who aged gracefully. I knew of this one lady who had the most beautiful long, gray hair, and she wore it proudly. I wanted to be her when I grew up, never dyeing my hair or cutting it short like every other woman once they hit a certain age.

And then I hit my 30s.

Turning 30 wasn’t so bad. I was anxious to leave the immaturity and bad decisions of my 20s and enter a decade when I knew how to live my life and make good choices. I celebrated turning 30, and was excited to be that age. A whole year passed, and 31 stared me in the face. I didn’t think anything of it in those days before I turned 31. To celebrate, I even planned a trip with my best friend and my kids to the Happiest Place On Earth. That’s right, I turned 31 in Disneyland. It was the perfect plan…or so I thought.

The day before 31, we got to Disneyland and immediately made our way around the park to each of the rides. It’s almost like blinders came off my eyes. I suddenly became aware of all the adorable teenage girls that were surrounding us, the ones in edgy fashions, hanging on their boyfriends, all smiles and youthfulness. And me? I was the old crone with a couple of kids tagging along, sporting a pair of mom jeans because that’s what fit me in the moment. For the first time, I felt old.

The next day was my 31st birthday. I remember staring in the mirror, trying to get my hair to set right. Nothing was working. My friend wanted me to hurry. I snapped at her. She kept her cool, gently telling me she’d take the kids to breakfast while I finished getting ready. She left. And I sat in that room and cried.

It was the first year I ever cried about my birthday. And every year since, it has happened without fail. I always swear it won’t happen. I swear I will greet my birthday as a celebration of my life, a celebration of ME. It is my intention to not be bummed out about something as trivial as getting older. And each year, my intention fails.

This was one of those years that I intended not to cry about my birthday. But this year, I also expected the dark cloud to settle in. So when my bad mood struck a few days early, I celebrated THAT – my depression over turning a new number. I reveled in my misery, inviting everyone around me to partake in my pity party. And when even my own husband refused to dance in my dark corner, I plummeted even further into the depths of my despair. I was bound and determined to be pitiful. And darn it, if I didn’t succeed.

That was Thursday. Friday, I snapped out of it and recreated my intention – to NOT be pitiful. I started the day out by taking the dog for a walk in the drizzle, letting the droplets of water wash away the dark cloud. I then stopped at the store to buy a box of treats for my coworkers, and then spoiled myself with a cup of overpriced (but delicious) coffee. I got to work and sent out a mass email to everyone, letting them know that my birthday was on Sunday, and I had treats at my desk to celebrate. All day long, I had coworkers visiting me to wish me happy birthday. It felt good. My intention of choosing happiness was way better than my intention of being miserable.

This new year of my life, I have some true intentions for my life – not the kind that I hope to do, but the kind that I WILL do.

– I will be more intentional with my writing and publishing this year, taking this career path to a whole new level, and helping those writers around me through support and sharing what I know.
– I will be more intentional about getting out of debt so that I can have more freedom with my money and the plans I have for my life.
– I will be more intentional about my health, because I am much happier when I am eating right, getting exercise, and actually fitting into my clothes.
– I will be more intentional with my time, remaining focused on the plans I have for my life and deflecting distractions that serve to keep me from achieving my goals.

This year I also intend to grow out the hair I cut short last year. I miss my long hair! But I stop short at letting it go gray. I can only age gracefully one step at a time.

Goodbye 36. Hello 37.

10 rainy day musings

Happy December friends! I can’t believe we’re in our final month of 2014. What a crazy year it’s been! Here are 10 things I’m thinking of today as the year comes to a close.

1. It’s hard not to feel down when there is so much horrible stuff going on around the world, both close to home and far away. But it’s times like these that remind me of a Mr. Rogers quote: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” Let’s make a stand to be the helpers. Here are some things you can do:
Smile more. Give loved ones your time. Step in when those around you need help. Say ‘I love you’ more. Hug. Use your phone as a talking tool, not just a texting tool. Be generous. Practice empathy. Stay positive.
One of my friends posted this to their Facebook page:


Let’s do more stuff like this. Let’s spread love in these troubled times. Are you with me?

2. My birthday is this Sunday! Want to know a confession? I cry every year on the day before my birthday. How terrible is that? I never thought I’d be the person who would mourn getting older. And I can’t even promise it won’t happen again this year. However, I’m also starting to view each birthday as the start of something brand new. My 36th year held so many wonderful things. What are my intentions for my 37th? This is something I’ll be thinking on for the next week until my new year begins.

3. My most recent book, The Road to Hope, actually hit the Amazon Bestsellers List this week! It got as high as #64 in the Women’s Fiction category, which is really, really hard to do. This was due to everyone taking advantage of the book’s discounted pricing, shooting it up in the rankings, and making it much more visible to other readers who may not have seen it otherwise. I cannot thank you enough!
BTW, The Road to Hope is still less than $1 for a limited time if you haven’t downloaded it yet. Check it out here: bit.ly/road2hopebook

4. It’s raining on and off here in Northern California, a foreign phenomenon in our drought-riddled parts. I don’t think I’ve ever loved the sound and smell of rain more than I do right in this moment. So what do you do on a rainy day? Go on a hike! The Mr. and I took a trek over to Mt. Tam to check out the waterfalls right after the rain broke this weekend. We weren’t disappointed. I took a video of the waterfall and included it on my YouTube page so I could share the magic.

5. This year I vowed to read more books. I made a goal over at Goodreads to read 24 books, figuring that 2 books a month would be a lofty, but worthy, goal. As of this moment, I am currently reading my 29th book, The Hunt for Wolf Eyes, by Sonoma County writer Ty Strange. I read all 29 of these books on top of writing and publishing several books, and discovered a bunch of new authors this year. Who knows, maybe I’ll aim to read 3 books a month next year…
Here are a few of my favorite books I read this year:
Maybe Someday, by Colleen Hover
Going to Solace, by Amanda McTigue
Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman
The Fault In Our Stars, by John Green
Kissing Midnight, by Laura Bradley Rede
I’m always looking for recommendations on new books, so if you have a suggestion, send me a note.

6. Speaking of written books, I conquered my 5th NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) this year! If you don’t remember, that’s when writers strive to write 50,000 words in 30 days. I managed to cross the finish line on day 20, and finished the novel’s rough draft just a few days later.

7. And on that note, this novel I just wrote will be book 2 in my upcoming “Dessert For Dinner” series, coming out in 2015. This series combines magic, desserts, and lighthearted romance with 4 delicious stories. The first novel coming out is called Come Here, Cupcake. The book focuses on Morgan Truly, a girl who discovers she has the power to infuse her baking with her feelings – but not before she affects the whole town. Stay tuned for information on when this book will be released!

8. This holiday season, I am utilizing the talents of some of my artistic friends to give some gorgeous gifts. If you know any crafty people, I encourage you to do the same. Not only will you be giving an original gift that no one else can replicate, but you’ll also be directly supporting local artists! It’s a tough world out there for creatives to make a living off their craft, and there is a lot of competition from bigger companies with deeper pockets. Your support would be more than appreciated.
BTW, if you know of local artisans with gift-worthy creations, let me know! I’d love to spread the word on my Facebook page so that other people can find them too! If visit my page now, you can already find a few indie gifts there.

9. Earlier this year, I published the book, Forever Thirteen, the sequel to A Symphony of Cicadas that was never supposed to be. I just found out that it received an Honorable Mention for Young Adult books in the Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards for 2014! This is like winning 2nd place among thousands of entries! And to think, if my friend hadn’t insisted a sequel was in order, Forever Thirteen wouldn’t exist. Goes to show how much power readers have. :-)

10. I am so grateful for YOU. Here’s the proof. (P.S. Did you notice it’s snowing here? Love that about WordPress!)

Love you guys! And thank you for all your support!