Far and Away

Hi  friends!

Today's post is going to be short and sweet. Things are crazy/busy, but life is fantastic and I am seeing God's faithfulness in all of it! My job is awesome (although I am really looking forward to only being half an hour away, instead of the hour and a half I'm commuting at the moment) and my classes seem like they're going to be a blast! I don't know what I was thinking, though, when I signed up for two Maymester graduate courses. Why am I in such a darn hurry?

I'm trying to raise funds for my October trip to Kenya, but that's not something I want to rush talking about here today. I want to dedicate an entire post to it and give it my full attention, probably later this week or early next week.With my new job (writing deadlines every day!) and all my school postings due, I need to set aside a specific time to write here so that I don't continue to do what I'm doing now...writing because I know I need to and not because I actually have anything specific to say...forgive me, but know that you're in my thoughts and prayers!

Until next time,

Wendi

Chick-Lit author Chantel Simmons stops by to visit!

Hi friends!


Happy Friday!


I've been going non-stop for the last week (seriously...I drive almost three hours round-trip to work and back every day! Have no fear! It's only temporary until we move into our new place), but I am in LOVE with my new job! More on that later...


For now, let me tell you a little bit about Love Struck author Chantel Simmons, who totally made my day when she agreed to a short Q&A session here on ABC. 


Chantel has two novels under her belt, and she has a long history of working and writing for publications like ELLE Canada, TV Guide, and The Toronto Sun, as well as contributing experience with Reader's Digest, FASHION, HGTV, and the FoodNetwork. To top it all off, Chantel is a wife and a professor in the Book & Magazine publishing program at Centennial College. All of this while still looking fabulous (see photo to the left for proof)! I think I could take a lesson or two from her. 


Having said all of this, it is my pleasure to introduce you to best-selling author, Chantel Simmons:




W: How did you feel when you found out that your first novel was going to be published?

CS: Like I'd won a new wardrobe, a trip around the world, and a castle. I couldn't stop smiling. It was the pivotal momet when the dream I'd always had of being an author was finally coming true. 

W: Do you have any other novels-in-progress that you can tell me about?

CS: My publisher bought my 3rd novel based on a two-page proposal last summer and it was slated to come out this summer. Unfortunately, my publisher in Canada folded, which left a lot of amazing editors, designers, publicists and others without jobs - and my book without a home, but I'm optimistic about the future and working on a few things! 

W: What is your go-to Starbucks order?

CS: Tall non-fat no-water tazo chai. 

W: Describe your writing process; do you write every day?

CS: I really try to! I believe it's like a job, and you wouldn't skip work to get a mani or do laundry, so I try not to skip writing. During the school year I teach magazine writing at a college, so I try to fit writing in between classes or at the end of the day. Then in the summer, it's the my actual job, which makes me so happy, because it's what I've always wanted to do! And I get to sit outside on my patio with a glass of wine while I do it! What could be better than that? 

W: What is one piece of advice that you would pass on to aspiring authors?

CS: Believe. Meg Cabot gave me that advice recently, and it is probably the best piece of advice I've received. One little word that carries so much weight. 

W: Do you have a reality show guilty pleasure?

CS: Just one? I'll tell you my Reality TV Trifecta: Dancing with the Stars (how cute are Chelsea & Mark together? I hope they win!). Pawn Stars, and The Bachelor/Bachelorette. These are not guilty pleasures. They are pure pleasure. I feel absolutely no guilt watching these shows. 

W: What is your favorite book/ who is your favorite author?

CS: My favourite authors: Emily Giffin for adult and Sarah Mlynowski for YA. 

W: What have you learned about publishing that surprises you?

CS: How patient you need to be, that there are no guarantees (so don't take any aspect for granted), and that it's 99% hard work and only 1% luck, which is actually motivating because you really do hold your own future in your hands. 



I'd like to extend BIG "thank you" to Chantel Simmons for visiting A Bundle of Contradictions, as well as thanks to Samantha over at Chick Lit Plus for setting the whole thing up for me. I appreciate it more than I can say! Thanks again ladies!


To learn more about Chantel Simmons and her work, please stop by her website or visit her blog here. Be sure to pick up your own copy of Love Struck and enjoy your weekend!


Until next time, 


Wendi







Love Struck: A Review

Hi friends!

Sometimes, my favorite kind of book is a fun, light-hearted story that I can curl up on the couch and read in one sitting. There's nothing more refreshing than a book you can get caught up in, one that seems to come straight from the curious minds of women everywhere. Chantel Simmons, author of the bestselling Stuck in Downward Dog, has created more classic chick-lit with her second novel, Love Struck.

Love Struck: My 100 Word Summary


Poppy Ross seems to have the perfect husband, the perfect home, and the perfect life...until she overhears that her husband is having an affair with a beautiful young research assistant while out getting a pedicure one day. Before Poppy has a chance to confront her husband, Parker, he gets struck by lightening and loses his memory of the previous few months. What happens next is a series of hilarious, desperate attempts to solve the mystery of her husband's infidelity, and the stunning reality that sometimes the truth is better than you thought.

Love Struck: What I Think


Chantel Simmons knows how to capture a reader's attention and hold it until the last page. Although Poppy's attempts to uncover the details of Parker's affair with Sienna Somers, while simultaneously transforming herself into Sienna's doppelganger in order to reclaim her husband's affections, are outrageous and unbelievable, Simmons made me laugh so hard I was in stitches. She doesn't take herself too seriously, and it helped me to find the joy in Poppy's crazy journey. Love Struck is a novel that knows what it is, and doesn't try to be anything else. And this, friends, is what makes it so much fun to get lost in the pages.

If you've got holiday or vacation plans for Memorial Day (or just plans to sit around in your pajamas and chill!), Love Struck would be the ideal book to lounge around with for an afternoon (or two).

Be sure to stick around for my interview with Chantel Simmons, and stop by her website to pick up your copy of Love Struck today!

Until next time,

Wendi

Music.

Hi friends!

If you know me personally, you know that I love music. Classical. Baroque. Indie Rock. Glam Rock. Acoustic. Blues. Jazz. Lyrically-brilliant rap (think, although his enormous ego pains me to say it, Kanye). Big Band. Top 40. And even (dare I say it?) Country.

Thus far, my writings here have been focused on my desire to be an author, and my pursuits in that area, but once, not so long ago, I wanted to be a singer. I still do...just not professionally. So...I guess that means I am (?)...

I (jokingly) refer to myself as a "Taylor Swift" kind of singer: I have a pretty voice, but have always struggled with vocal control. I'd like to believe I can stay on pitch better than Ms. Swift can (sorry Taylor!) because I've heard her live and, well...she's beautiful, talented, classy, and graceful, but the poor girl is either jumping around too much or still hasn't gotten over her nerves (ultimately, none of this matters because I'm a superfan and love her albums...she can rock the 1920s flapper look like no one else, she loves people, and I'd like to hang out with her for just one day) but I digress...

I would call the timbre (i.e. "color") of my voice light and airy. I've always longed to have the kind of vocal talent that ranges from heavy, sultry chest voice to whistling head voice (Christina Aguilera still holds the top spot for that, in my opinion) but, alas, I was blessed with something a little softer- more limited- like Colbie Callait (who I could listen to all day long). I have a pretty middle voice, and am best suited for alto parts (though I did get bumped up to mezzo-soprano in my last semester of women's choir!). Plus, I perform better with others; as I've mentioned before, solo performances make my throat dry and my stomach flip-flop...not beneficial for someone who has to use pretty much all the muscles in those two areas to perform!

One day, I would love to form a little band and perform in coffee shops and the like. Nothing too formal or pretentious (or threatening, if I'm being honest).

I listen to musicians like Other Lives, Muse, The David Crowder Band, Little Big Town, Bethany Dillon, and Butch Walker & the Black Widows (or Butch Walker & the Let's-Go-Out-Tonites or Marvelous 3...anything attached to Bradley Glenn Walker from Cartersville, GA makes my heart swoon...oh, and he played with Taylor Swift on the Grammys and has a lovely rendition of "You Belong With Me"...another reason why I love her...she loves BW!). When I hear them, I feel a physical longing, somewhere deep in my chest, like a broken heart. I yearn to make love, to cry, to worship, to dance, to laugh, to live along with their melodies...and I yearn to make someone else feel the same way.

Am I alone in this? While my talent is more expansive when it comes to putting together a pretty sentence, I put music and good books up on the same pedestal. A lovely phrase can evoke the same emotion from me that the Alicia Keys/Adam Levine rendition of "Wild Horses" can (if you've never heard it, go do some YouTube-ing...I'll wait). Similarly, Carrie Underwood and Vince Gill's version of "How Great Thour Art" would have brought me to my knees if I wasn't sitting at my work desk when I heard it. I cried and had to go to the bathroom to wipe my eyes. God, that girl can sing...and she reflects her love of Christ in every note.

I'll be singing in a friend's wedding this Saturday, accompanied by her best friend's husband and brother (the best friend and the husband also being dear friends of mine from college...hence, how the bride and I know each other), and it's got me thinking about how I want the day to be perfect for her. Having already experienced my own wedding, I know a little about how even the best plans can wrong, which is natural. And I want to perform the song well, not only for myself and for the bride-to-be, but because the song is about laying everything at the feet of Jesus; it's about His incredible love. Where better to exemplify His love than at a wedding? I hope that the whole day, my performance included, will reflect His heart for us.

Until next time,

Wendi

Out with the old, and in with the new...

So this is it.

My last week at Strayer.

I thought it would feel different, more final. But it doesn't. Not yet.

Until I knew for certain when I would be leaving, I didn't feel like I could (should) share my exciting news with you all! But now it's official that my last day at Strayer University will be on Friday, May 13th...which I actually think is a good omen, not a bad one. It's exactly one week before my three-year anniversary there, and I'm glad that my first post-college job was both a managerial position and one that lasted longer than six months. I've been very blessed, made a handful of incredible friends (Dee, Jasmine, Hannah, Lauren...I love you guys!), and learned what I love (and HATE) about the business of running a for-profit, private university.

(I'm definitively partial to public universities -yes, I attended one...the BEST one- because you are required to work extremely hard to be able to receive that degree, and although I have hundreds of happy memories of insightful and brilliant professors who totally kicked my ass (in the best way), no one held my hand. It's a journey that you take on your own, even while you're surrounded by people you come to love.)

My work at Strayer has changed quite a bit from those first few nerve-wracking days in May 2008. I was 22, a year out of Georgia Southern (and missing it with a dreadful ache), and six months shy of walking down the aisle. Now I'm 25, moving around with my sweet hubby of almost 3 years, trying to become all the things that God has both required of me and blessed me with the desire to pursue. But, in a week, I'll be that frightened college graduate all over again...except this time, I feel slightly more prepared for the job :).

I'm stoked, to say the least, about becoming the Senior Writer for Legacy Group Global. It's not only a writing position; it's working in the ministry. God's timing has been impeccable (isn't it always?), and I'm so thankful for the work He's been doing in my heart this last year. Attending Buckhead Church, growing with our small group (and being held accountable by them), and learning how to seek out the radical love of Christ has taught me what I need to know in order to do this new job well. I don't think, if I would have applied twelve months ago, that I would have been prepared for or equipped to work with this company. I might have had the writing skill, yes, but not the spirit. Not the heart to spread Jesus' message of unconditional love and grace to a world that desperately needs to hear it. I look back and see how the Lord works to teach us what we need to know...through Andy Stanley (who never fails to get dirty and messy and talk to his congregation about the realities of life...God is doing amazing things through that man!), through our new friends and Bible Study partners, through my husband, my parents, my family, my closest friends...through strangers who have taught me when to shut my mouth and when to open it, through a happy tune, the smell of honeysuckles, and the sound of laughter...I've learned that God is really and truly in everything, and how wonderful is it that we can be around Him whenever we want? How wonderful is it that our prayers reach Him as soon as they enter our hearts, and that He knows what we need? In hindsight, I can see that His making me wait for this new job was the best thing...I might have made a mess of it before now. I cannot even express how joy-filled I am at the knowledge of His work in my life this last year! I rejoice at the truth of His faithfulness!

And so the countdown begins...4 days left...

I hope everyone had a wonderful Mother's Day weekend! My sisters and I, with the help of our photographer friend, Marisa, surprised our mom with a photo shoot (thanks M! Your pictures are GORGEOUS!) at the McIntosh Reserve in Whitesburg, Georgia. It was a lovely, sunny day (save Bridezilla and her crew...inside joke...) and we all had a blast together, enjoying the shoot and, later, having dinner and talking. We laughed so much! I love being a part of this family.

Here are a few of my favorites:






Photo credits: Marisa Bishop

Until next time,

Wendi

Voices on the Waves: A Review

Hi friends!

The last three weeks have been incredibly busy, so my readings have been put off a bit longer than I wanted. But today, sippin' on a nice glass of sweet tea, I finished reading Jessica Chambers' Voices on the Waves. It's the perfect story for a lazy afternoon!

I've always been fond of any narrative that uses a seaside home as its setting, particularly those set in the U.K., and I like having access to the minds of different characters when they are each given a voice. It's certainly a difficult thing to accomplish, and I admire authors who can do it well.

Voice on the Waves: My 100 Word Summary


Faye Wakefield is the owner and operator of Trewhella, a beautifully restored vacation farmhouse set high on the cliffs of the Cornwall coast. She loves playing hostess, meeting new people, and learning about their lives, but Faye is harboring a secret of her own...

She decides to hold a competition, a drawing of entries for nine vastly different personalities to come and stay for two weeks at Trewhella: a brooding Irishman, a wealthy, arrogant womanizer, a vivacious and beautiful young flirt, among others. And when their lives converge on Faye's lovely homestead, it makes for an interesting, and sometimes heart-wrenching, series of events.

Voice on the Waves: What I Think


I am a sucker for secrets, let me just say that now. And when those secrets come to life in an old house on the coast of somewhere beautiful, I'm sold. Chambers created a lovely cast of characters, my favorites being the young Leah with her gentle, hesitant spirit, and Karenza, an independent beauty with a flair for being obnoxiously honest.

But I struggled to really become attached to the characters, and the story as a whole, most likely because I felt that the author hurried through the first fifty pages or so of the story. Of course, there is great difficulty in trying to capture the reader's attention while still realistically laying the groundwork for nine vastly different people, who have never met, to spend two weeks together on holiday. I could eventually see how each character connected with the other, whether it was Anjum's need for friendship with Will, or Patrick's heart-wrenching emotional tie to Leah, but I would have liked to become more invested in them in the beginning. I would have liked to have had my curiosity about them as individuals be what urged me to turn the page, rather than my curiosity about how Chambers would relate them to one another so that the story made sense.

In light of these misgivings, I did enjoy Voices, especially after dealing with a hectic past few weeks. I think many readers will like this story because it gives them a chance to see what a little time away from the hustle-and-bustle of life can do for the self. Chambers is obviously a skilled writer, with a penchant for romantic descriptions of nature, and I found myself wishing that I, too, had won a two-week vacation to Cornwall. The sea, the quiet...the biscuits, the tea! I may very well belong in England, my friends...

Until next time,

Wendi









Army Strong

Hi friends!

With so much happening in the world around us, there's no denying that we all need an outlet to express ourselves. This blog has been creative and personal expression for me, and my big sister, Beth, has requested that, just for today, it be the same for her.

She's a young mother of two little girls with a husband who has been serving in Afghanistan for nearly three months, and I know how much they miss him. We all miss him, and pray that he returns safely to his home and family. Today, Beth has joined us here on ABC with a piece that she wrote about her wonderful husband, Jonathan, and the struggles that she and her daughters face on a daily basis without him:

My voice has been quiet…my eyes have stayed clear… my hands have been calm…but now ,in light of recent events, I must say that my voice should be heard… and that my tears must be seen…. and that my hands will be used to set things straight…

This all started on a Monday night in February when my husband, Jonathan, called and said that he was being sent to Afghanistan. We had thought we’d be moving from Georgia to Kansas, but now we would have to wait for a year for all of us to be together in a home. I remember the love Jonathan expressed, saying he would understand if I could not wait. I remember telling him that after all we had gone through, this would be easy. Man, those words were both the best and the hardest things I have ever said.

I knew that we would have a week with him and, in that week, we would have to buy a car (all of this because my bff thought that it would be a great idea to get rear-ended in my car the day after I was told that Jonathan would be leaving- thanks Ada!), that we would end up doing more paperwork than I have ever seen, get all the stuff that Jonathan needed (which meant a trip to Columbus to Ranger Joes), get him packed, spend time with friends and family and- oh!- tell the girls: our young daughters, Mary Grace and Laci. All of this needed to be done on top of the fact that I had just recently started a new job as the general manager of a gym (which I was about to have to take a week off from). I’m the type of woman who freaks out over lost shoes (that are usually already on my feet!), so the prospect of purchasing a car scared me to death. Put it this way: I would rather let Ada pull each and every hair out of my head with tweezers than buy a car with everything that was happening.

As I prepared to go pick up my husband from the airport for us to embark on that hellish week, I had already told a fib to my girls about why I was getting dressed up that early, instead of just taking them to school in my jammies. I also forgot my wallet, and then proceeded to forget what airline he was on, as well.

I walked up to the ticket counter at Hartsfield (the airline I thought he was arriving on) and just burst into tears. All I could think was, “Great! I’ve messed up my makeup and the airport lady thinks I am crazy.”

A kind lady informed me that, yes, my husband was on that airline, and then she took me as close as she could to where he would be…I received tons of phone calls offering love and support and, then, there he was…it was like a scene from the movies as I ran through the crowd to greet him, and, as I jumped into his arms, I heard people clapping (True story! It was amazing).



Afterwards, we surprised the girls at school and there were tears from the kids and teachers. Note to self: never wear makeup with stuff like this going on. During the week, I can’t tell you how many car dealerships we looked at, or what made us get the one that we did, or how freaked out I was the whole time. I can’t tell you how, or why, we decided to tell the girls about Jonathan leaving (on a Tuesday instead of Friday) as we drove around in our Tahoe on the way to the circus. I can’t tell you how I kept my cool as we packed, or how I didn’t fall apart when Jonathan and his brother, Jason, sat on my bed talking about killer Army men stuff. I just managed to take a picture of that moment, and walk away with tears in my eyes, without them ever even knowing I had captured it.






I can’t tell you how I was able to walk away from Jonathan at the airport, how I managed to meet BB (“battle-buddy”) with ease; nor can I explain how an amazing friendship with Lacy (BB’s wife) and family came to be, especially with them living all the way out in Texas.


But I can tell you that I should have seen how God was holding me close much sooner than I did. I can tell you that Jonathan and I held hands and talked and ate at Hooters, and held hands some more. The girls were told that their daddy was leaving (I somehow made it through with no tears!) and, that night, after wanting to go the circus for 10 years and never being able to go, we went together as a family. It truly was the “greatest show on earth”.


Here and now, with the three of us living with my best friend Ada, I can share with you some of the little things, like how Ada turns purple from the tanning bed and sometimes gets sick as a dog, but she’s still able to tell me that the love I share with my husband is “epic” and sent from God (if you knew Ada, you would know she never says things like that, but she loves Jonathan). I can tell you that from February until this moment, I have been used up and heartbroken, but every other week the girls receive gifts from their daddy. I also have to tell them that “No news is good news”. I can tell you that the love of family and friends, and meeting people in the gym, has kept me going, and that our girls are really more amazing and much stronger than I could have ever thought.






What I want to say, after telling you about my family, is this: regardless of your beliefs about war, think about what is going on with each soldier's family for just a moment. Please think about the kids who are affected before you put up your pictures or your statuses on Facebook, and know that, no matter how hard it is in your life, there is a solder somewhere making your life in this country possible. No matter what their family is going through, those soldiers are going through more with sand in their eyes, sleeping outside in holes, carrying 50 pounds on their backs at all times with empty bellies, missing hot showers and clean sheets and their families so much that it physically hurts. They do this for you and for me. They do it because they believe in something. Remind yourself of my little girls, and all the other Army babies out there, and what they do every day…the pain they experience without their daddy to tuck them in at night and kiss their foreheads. Think about how they keep going knowing that he may never come home, and remember that MY ARMY MAN helps keep you safe.


-M.B. <3

2011 Summer Blog Tour Kicks Off With Author Jessica Chambers!

Hi friends!

The 2011 Summer Blog Tour officially begins right now! First up, we have Jessica Chambers, author of Voices on the Waves, who has generously agreed to do a guest post here on A Bundle of Contradictions. Jessica's novel was recently selected as a finalist for the 2011 Rom Con Reader's Crown Award in both the Women's Fiction and the Best First Novel categories. Please offer your congratulations and welcome her to ABC with a BIG round of applause (I don't care that I can't hear it!) and stay tuned because I'll be posting my review of Voice on the Waves this weekend on Sunday, May 8th.

And so, "without further gilding the lily and with no more ado" (anyone know what movie that's from?) ABC proudly presents author Jessica Chambers:

First, Wendi, let me say a huge thank you for inviting me on your blog today to talk about myself and my debut release, a sweet women’s fiction novel called Voices on the Waves. It’s so great to be here!

I think I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Sounds clichéd, I know, but it’s true. I’ve invented stories for as long as I can remember, and wrote my first novel, all 30 pages of it, when I was seven. As a shy person, I love being able to escape into another world, and the sense of power that comes with controlling everything that goes on in that world. I especially love writing contemporary women’s fiction centred around larger than life characters, who I hope will stay with readers long after they close the book.

Of course, as with so many authors, my journey to publication has been a tough one, fraught with rejection letters and endless rewrites. Yet, I somehow managed to hold on to my dream of being a published author, and, perhaps even more amazingly, my sanity! Then, towards the end of 2009, I received the contract from Red Rose and was able to step onto the first rung of the publishing ladder. In September 2010, Voices on the Waves was released as an ebook, and two months later, became available on Amazon Kindle. I can’t tell you how exciting these past few months have been for me, and what a great learning experience, and I’m thrilled to bits with the positive feedback from readers.

The inspiration for Voices On The Waves, and my passion for writing contemporary women’s fiction in general, came from my fascination with people. I love to observe the ways in which they interact, their capacity for both kindness and cruelty, warmth and hostility. What would happen, I asked myself, if you forced a group of strangers together in one place for a set length of time, and then left them to their own devices? Rather like a chilled out version of Big Brother without the cameras, if you will. Well, this is precisely what happens in Voices On The Waves, where nine individuals win a two-week holiday in a beautiful farmhouse retreat in Cornwall, England.

To create as much tension and discord as possible, I made sure to invent characters from all walks of life. Among the guests are Leah Shaw, a working class girl with a big heart and troubled eyes; feisty interior designer Karenza Jackson, whose need for independence masks a difficult childhood; Patrick O’Leary, a gruff Irishman with an affiliation for the whisky bottle, and womanising business tycoon Marcus Armitage, who seems hell bent on seducing every attractive female unfortunate enough to cross his path. Oh, and we mustn’t forget Faye Wakefield, generous owner of the retreat. Though seemingly uncomplicated, she has her own reasons for gathering these people under her roof.

Having assembled a host of such diverse personalities, all I had to do was let my imagination flow and the sparks fly. Voices on the Waves is a novel of self-discovery and of coming to terms with the past. With newfound love, illicit affairs and the sharing of long-buried secrets, I hope it has something for everyone.

Thanks again, Jessica, for taking the time to stop by ABC and share your experiences with us. I hope you have a fabulous summer and enjoy your time on the tour!

Voices on the Waves is now available to purchase on Amazon Kindle, or as an e-book in various formats direct from the publisher. You can access both sites by clicking on the links below:

Amazon

Red Rose Publishing

To find out more information about Jessica and her work, please visit her official website at http://www.jessicachambers.co.uk/.


Until next time,

Wendi