Way back in the early 2000s, I attempted NaNoWriMo a couple times. I didn’t get far. November is sort of a sucky month for teachers to attempt a 50k word draft.

Then in 2012, I decided to try tacking JulNoWriMo. The result was the first three-quarters of the manuscript that, eventually, became my upcoming chick lit romance, BETTER THAN CHOCOLATE (which should be out this September if all goes as scheduled – more about that in the coming weeks). I gave the July version of this writing challenge another go in 2013, which resulted in the first half of a post-Civil War historical romance that, hopefully, will see the light of day now that I’ve pulled it out of First Draft Limbo.

Anyhoo, a few years ago the folks who run NaNoWriMo started holding these Camp NaNoWriMo events in April and July. Given that I have 3 more books planned to follow BETTER THAN CHOCOLATE, I thought it might be a good idea to try drafting the next installment this July.

It’ll be messy, but it’ll be a starting point.

So tomorrow I’m off to Camp!

Today I have a little something fun for the Grammar Nerds and/or English teachers out there. (Yeah, I do happen to be both, so…)

Grammarly recently completed a survey of their Facebook fans to find out what makes one a “typical grammar enthusiast”, and then made a pretty cool infographic with the results.

Anatomy of a Grammar Nerd Infographic

Grammarly offers a great grammar-check service for the grammar nerds out there who maybe aren’t quite so good at editing their own work. It’s like a second set of eyes when you can’t find a real second set of eyes.

It seems like only yesterday we were bringing Babycakes home from the hospital – and now she’s just days away from being 10 months old.

She also still has not reached the “sleeping through the night” milestone.

I’m aware that, for many babies, it is developmentally appropriate to wake 1-3 times a night well into their second year or beyond. But the hubs and I are tired.

Babycakes is tired.

We’re starting to run on fumes.

The hubs and I had sort of agreed that we weren’t going to force sleep training on Babycakes. At least, we weren’t going to make her Cry-It-Out or even do controlled crying, or that thing where you stand there and watch your baby cry and fuss and reach for you while you just keep telling her it’s “time for sleepies” (which is what her pediatrician said to do).

That last option really just seems incredibly mean.

I’m standing right here. I hear and see you desperately trying to get me to pick you up, and I know as soon as I do, you’ll stop crying and settle down. But that creates dependency, you see, and I don’t want to have to move into your college dorm room with you to help you fall asleep when you wake up in the middle of the night.


To be fair, it’s been a long time since Babycakes has nursed into complete oblivion, and it’s a rare thing for her to be totally asleep when either of us lay her down, whether after nursing or rocking/bouncing. How do we know this? Probably 99% of the time when we lay her down – on her back, even though she’s capable of rolling, crawling, sitting up, standing up, etc. and ends up on her tummy a couple times a week anyway – she rolls onto her side and props her feet up on the crib rails. So whatever we’ve been doing seems to be working. She’s getting to sleep without crying herself to sleep, and most of the time we’re just getting her calm enough to allow her to finish falling asleep on her own.

That’s the point, right?

Of course, if we even wanted to try sleep training, there’s no good time. All the “expert” advice says not to do so during the following situations:

  • When traveling or about to travel
  • When baby is sick (horrible cold right at 6 months)
  • When baby is teething (She’s been since 2.5 months and we only have two teeth to show for it. Teething is sort of a constant state of being, so….)
  • During the holidays (yeah, there went Christmas, which included travel)
  • During a move (Did I mention we just moved to Charlotte? We moved to Charlotte.)
  • During a time of transition to new childcare/mom’s return to work (so all of August will be out if I go back to teaching)

See what I mean?

I guess we’ve sort of developed our own sleep training method. Babycakes is (usually) well-rested, and definitely thriving.

One of the things I’ve tried to do for a number of months is get her attached to a lovey.

In fact, she has four.

The Sleep Entourage: Lambie, Purple Pingu, Bear, and Giraffe

The Sleep Entourage:
Lambie, Purple Pingu, Bear, and Giraffe

I was so desperate to get her attached to these loveys that we invested in a second Lambie and a Spare Bear, there are three different colored Pingus, and that pink Giraffe is the younger sister of the yellow Giraffe my mom gave Babycakes for Christmas (it lights up and plays music if you press the tummy).

These four friends, along with her Classic Pooh mobile that was over her crib until she started pulling herself up about a month ago, have been with her pretty much constantly during sleep times since she was four months old.

I know. No stuffed animals in the crib. But before she was mobile enough to do anything dangerous, Lambie and Bear were lashed to the rails, and Pingu and Giraffe are so round, one little bat of her hand would send them flying. She had plenty of opportunities to play with the second set, so by the time she was yanking Lambie and Bear so hard the ties were coming loose, I knew she’d be okay to have them unlashed.

(We also used a blanket securely tucked under the mattress. I know. More rule breaking. Maybe we’ll be better about the rules with Hypothetical Baby #2.)

In my motherly opinion, having the sleep entourage has prevented a lot of unwarranted crying. Why do I know this? Because since we moved her to her own room, we’d often hear her talking to her loveys when she woke in the morning. She also plays happily with them when she wakes from most naps. So it was worth breaking (or at least bending) the rules a little bit.

Of course, the funny thing is that the item she actually attached to, that she fiddles with and gets sleepy when she rubs it on her face?

The frigging cloth diapers I use as burp cloths.

It’s probably because I’ve used them since she was born, so she associates them with nursing and Mommy.

So while we have a small fortune in Sleep Entourage members, both primary and secondary, if I filled her crib with extra burp clothes, she’d probably be just as happy.

Today I’m pleased to host romance author Kristina Knight, who’s here to share some insight into her work as well as some info about a great 10-book boxed set, SHADES OF DESIRE, coming out June 8th!


What drew you to writing romance when you first started out?

I’ve always loved romances. As a kid, I gravitate toward happily-ever afters and then as a teen I found a stash of my grandmother’s Harlequins and devoured them. So it was a natural step to start writing them, too. 

Your tagline is “Contemporary Romance with Sass”. What does this mean to you as an author?

For me, it means a heroine who knows what she wants and, even if what she wants scares her a little bit, is going to go after it. Also, most of my characters (heroes and heroines) are a bit smart-alecky because what’s life without a little snark and sass?

What are your favorite types of heroes and heroines to write about?

The broken ones! The characters who seem to have everything figured out and then…realize they don’t. Those stories are so satisfying as both a reader and a writer. I just love them.

You’ve written for Harlequin, Crimson Romance, and self-published a couple titles. Can you tell us a bit about how those publishing experiences worked for you?

My agent calls me a hybrid and I absolutely love it. My very first book (which became a series) was contracted with Crimson. I learned so much about my crutch words from my editors (thanks, Jennifer and Julie!!). I wrote another series, this time for Harlequin, and learned more about story development from my editor there (thanks, Ann Leslie!). What I like about working with my publishers is the support I get on covers and blurbs, advertising and promotion. Self-publishing is completely different – everything falls to me. Covers, editing, story development, advertising and promotion, and that is envigorating and challenging…for me, hybrid works.

Why did you decide to pursue self-publishing/indie-publishing for two of your titles?

One of my publishers was bought out by another and I didn’t feel the buy-out was in my best interest. So I took back that title. At the same time, I had a book with a publisher that was a bit of a hard sell, and I needed the ability to use pricing strategies and other indie tools to really take advantage of trends. Those two ‘experiments’ have been successful, and I’ll add more self-published titles this year. I’m really excited about it!

Every author has a favorite character. Who’s yours?

Gosh, that is so hard!! I don’t want to make any of my characters mad….let’s just say every one of them has a special spark for me.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced on your journey to publication?

Rejection, rejection and rejection. Seriously. Rejection letters hurt. Revise-and-resubmit requests that are summarily rejected hurt. It’s hard to put your heart into a book and then learn no one wants to buy it. The key is to keep moving forward, keep improving on your craft and keep believing in your stories.

What advice would you give to aspiring and new authors?

Don’t give up. Writing is a hard profession and you’ll be told no way more often than you’ll be told yes, but don’t give up. Believe in yourself, believe in your stories and keep writing!

Is there anything you’d like to share about your next writing project?

I’m on deadline with my third book for Harlequin’s Superromance line and I’m so excited about it! At the same time, I’m getting ready to release a new trilogy of sexy romances set in the rock star world…it’s a fun time, for sure!

Tell us a bit about your upcoming release. What do readers have to look forward to in this great 10-book set?

Shades of Desire is such a fun book bundle! You’ve a little bit of everything from spicy contemporary to paranormal, a little suspense, some comedy and, of course!, happily ever afters in each one.

Shades Of Desire

Ten titillating tales from USA Today, bestselling and award-winning authors. Step into the world of some of the freshest voices in romance. From spicy secrets to sweet second chances. Come find your perfect shade of desire.


J.A. Coffey – Bestselling Author


Divorced certified fraud examiner Jessica Barlow catches liars for a living. Sparks fly when she’s assigned to investigate a dating website owned by a man determined to guarantee she finds love, even if he has to pretend to be a client!

Wendy Ely – USA Today Bestselling Author


Sometimes good men are taught to do evil things and it takes the strength of a sheltered woman to make things right. When Gabi learns of her father, she is asked to leave for her own safety. Fine. She’ll go… but she is taking her secret love with her, even if it’s at gun-point.

Dorothy Callahan – Bestselling Author


Jess never forgot her first kiss, especially since it came from the guy who taught her everything she knows about antiques, her livelihood. But if she wins the priceless inheritance, Jess will risk losing Darius Covington all over again.

Diane Escalera – Bestselling Author


Shay LaCosta screwed up a damn good marriage. Now she’s on a mission to get a little submission, and get her hunky husband back in her bed.

Lena Hart – Bestselling Author


Athena Lewis has a sharp mind and an even sharper attitude. Except when it comes to “Davie,” the only man who’s ever truly made her feel safe. Yet to protect the only family she has left, she must embark on a mission that goes against everything she believes in, and that includes using the last trick she has left. Her body.

Chanta Rand – Bestselling Author and Debut Author of the Year


Thrown together for ninety days by a spiteful judge, womanizing attorney, Cayson Sullivan and street-smart hustler, Destiny Jackson find the only thing they can agree on is their red-hot attraction for each other.

Emma Leigh Reed


Pregnant and running from her abusive boyfriend, Chloe Wilder takes refuge in the sleepy coastal town of Arden. Police chief, Jayden Peterson, thinks the worst crime that could happen in Arden is jaywalking. Could the real danger be the two of them falling for each other?

Cindy Stark – Bestselling Author


Battle-worn soldier, Jerry returns home intending to avoid his ex-fiancée. The shrapnel that wounded him pales in comparison to the gash she left in his heart. Kimber lost everything when she broke off her engagement, and she’ll fight to win him back.

Valerie Twombly – Bestselling Author


Armand has lost everything. His magic and his freedom are taken when an evil curse is placed on the Jinn, but a newcomer to town may be his savior. When evil emerges from the shadows, Makayla learns she must choose between her mortality and Armand’s freedom.

Kristina Knight – Bestselling Author


Dumped by her celebrity boyfriend, unlucky-in-love author Casey Cash needs a break. But, between the male escort trying to get into her bed and the tabloid reporter intent on getting her story, Casey might have been smarter to stay in New York…


You can follow the Shades of Desire authors on social media:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/shadesofdesirebook

Twitter: https://twitter.com/shadesbundle

Handle: @ShadesBundle

Hashtag: #shadesofdesire


Shades of Desire Purchase Links:

Amazon: http://amzn.com/B00VQYVU1M

iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/shades-of-desire/id983263845?mt=11

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/shades-of-desire-2

ARe: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-shadesofdesire-1777727-166.html

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1121700462?ean=2940152217230

Google: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/J_A_Coffey_Shades_Of_Desire?id=parkBwAAQBAJ&hl=en

There’s been so much in the media the past couple years about public education and teaching, it’s easy to understand why many teachers are growing more and more discouraged about the career – or as it’s better known for most of us, the calling – we’ve chosen to pursue.

As many colleges are celebrating their commencement ceremonies through the month of May, sending pre-service teachers out into the world with what we hope is a solid foundation in pedagogy, it seems a good time to offer a bit of advice for those who are about to teach.

It’s a scary world out there. I know. I’ve been in your shoes. Most of us start our education programs with stars in our eyes and an intense fire in our bellies to get out there and change the world by impacting the lives of children, even if it has to happen one at a time. Some of us fizzle out before we even start. Others find a way to stay on top of the latest reforms, methodological trends, and best practices, providing the best instruction we can in an increasingly hostile environment without letting it impact the face we show to our students every day in our classrooms.

I’m not a guru. I’m just a teacher in the trenches. I’ve been “in the system” for ten years, eight at the helm of my own classroom. Now I’m looking to reenter that world after a year of maternity leave, and even for me, a veteran teacher, it’s a little intimidating. The advent of Common Core, which came on the heels of the much-touted Reading First initiative and the drive for data-driven instruction, has left a lot of teachers, including me, on the edge of burnout. And even since last June, so much has changed and so much new stuff has come onto the scene.

The question has risen in my mind, as I’m sure it’s risen in the minds of every new teacher – be they fresh from college or starting over in a second career.

Do I have what it takes?

In my case, it’s a “do I still have what it takes” question, because I’m looking to return after a year off. But for those just starting out, it’s daunting to realize how many challenges you face as a teacher. Not only in terms of what you have to do when you’re standing in front of that room full of bright-eyed (hopefully) pupils, but also when it comes to landing that job you’ll love.

So I have some advice for those who are about to teach.

  1. Stand out. When you walk into that interview, show your stuff. When I first interviewed, I brought props in the form of an object box I’d created as part of my Master’s thesis project. Nowadays, technology allows us to create everything from PowerPoint presentations to interactive portfolios. Find a way to showcase your knowledge, abilities, and talents.
  2. Enter every interview as if it’s for your dream position. Even if it’s not. Sometimes we don’t get the call from the school we’d love to teach at, but sometimes landing a job at a school that wasn’t in the top spot on your list can become your dream position, or eventually lead to it.
  3. Even if you don’t get the job, don’t give up. Many schools, especially desirable schools, get hundreds of applications for a single position. If you interview and don’t get an offer, make sure you thank the administrators and interview team and express your continued interest in any future positions that may come available.
  4. Sometimes it’s worth taking a job you hadn’t planned to take in order to get the job you really want. When I first finished grad school, I was hired as a teaching assistant to work one-on-one with a little boy with autism. Was I over qualified? Oh yeah. Did I learn a lot? Tons. Plus I was able to sub for the special education teacher and inclusion teachers, and when a teaching position did finally open up at my school, I basically slid into it. I mean, I interviewed and had to prove why I was better than the other guy (see item #1). But if I’d turned my nose up at that TA position, I might not even have been considered.
  5. Don’t be afraid to substitute in the school and/or grade levels you want to eventually teach full-time. Many teachers, including me, often end up having favorite subs they always request when they’re going to be out. If you make yourself available to sub, people get to know you. If you end up being a favorite who subs in the same classrooms over and over again, you will start to be known. You could end up landing a long-term sub position. You may rise to the top of people’s minds when permanent positions open up. In a lot of districts, subs are considered “internal”, so when positions are posted internally at first, subs can often get first crack at them. Plus, you really can build up your teaching chops, beef up classroom management skills, and often start contributing to your state’s teacher retirement system.
  6. Stay on top of current trends, programs, initiatives, and legislation. When I was finishing my undergraduate work, No Child Left Behind and Reading First were just starting to gain traction. Because it was in the nascent stage, it wasn’t discussed too much in my college classes. But within a couple years, it was all anyone was talking about. The same has happened recently with Common Core. We might not like it, but it’s here, and you need to know about it, because you will be asked about it in an interview.
  7. Always improve yourself. Take continuing education classes in areas you might wish to have more knowledge of. See if there’s coursework you can take that may lead to a different certification area or an extension to your existing license. Most professional development courses are facilitated, or at least made known to teachers, through school districts, but sometimes you can find a way to attend a conference or in-service if you’re willing to pay your own way.
  8. Know your state’s regulations for certification, both initial and professional, and stay on top of the requirements. The last thing you want to do is let your license lapse because you didn’t keep yourself aware of what you had to do to keep it valid. Most states require a certain number of full-time mentored teaching experience in addition to your Master’s to move from initial to professional certification. Additionally, most states also require a certain number of professional development hours each year/every five years to maintain professional certification. Know what you have to do, and make sure you do it.
  9. Network and use your contacts. It might be the principal you met at the job fair. It might be the cooperating teacher from your pre-service placement. It might be your Great-Aunt Sally’s third cousin who teaches at the school you want to work in. Stay in touch with those people and make sure they know you’re looking. They might at least be able to mention your name when positions come available.
  10. Keep your resume current. Even if you aren’t actively interviewing, constantly make sure your resume is up to date with degree information, work experience, training and professional development you’ve done, and you’re most recent contact information. If you stay on top of it, it won’t be so daunting to update everything when it comes time to submit an application.

Got all that? Ready to start applying, if you haven’t already?

Not sure where to start?

Many districts have online systems, or at least online listings, for applicants. You may also find some success using a career resource site, such as TheLadders, to find job postings in the places you may want to teach.

Now, my biggest piece of advice? It’s so big it’s beyond a numbered list.

Remember why you got into teaching in the first place.

It’s not the money. It’s not even the job. Yeah, you know you’ll have to put in extra hours outside of school, hours that will take away from your family and social life. And yeah, it will be stressful.

But why did you want to teach in the first place?

It’s the kids.

I guarantee you, the kids will make everything worth it.

At some point, you will know you’ve impacted a child’s life for the better. You will become the rock for 20-some-odd students at some point in your life. They will depend on you.

They will love you.

You will love them back.

And that’s what will make you a great teacher.

So to those who are about to teach…. I salute you!


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