Monday, December 3, 2018

BIG ANNOUNCEMENT: Diamonds Conference 2019

Hi everyone!

I'm super excited to be part of the announcement team and speaking team for a really exciting event coming up. My sweet friend and author of the book He's Making Diamonds: A Teens Thoughts on Faith through Chronic Illness, Sara Willoughby, is hosting an online conference for chronically ill Christians! It's completely free to attend, and can be live-streamed from your home, bed, or wherever you're most comfortable. The theme is Living Hope, based on 1 Peter 1, and we're going to hear some incredible encouragement from speakers like Vaneetha Rendall Risner, Kristen Wetherell, and Joni Earackson Tada. 

Here's some more of the details:

Where: The conference will be held live online. So you can watch from wherever you can find wifi ...even if health issues force you to be stuck in bed.

When: It will run from Friday, January 25th, through Saturday, January 26th.

What it costs: Diamonds 2019 is completely free. The speakers know that many facing long-term sickness struggle with medical bills and other financial burdens, and they don’t want this to be one of them. Your heart and soul need care just as much as your body does, but sadly it’s often neglected. They want to help you care for those parts.

Who is presenting: They have an awesome line up of speakers if I do say so myself. People like Vaneetha Rendall Risner, Kristen Wetherell, Sarah Walton, Esther Smith, Isabella Morganthall, Emily Ryan, Sara Willoughby, and others! (Not to mention that Joni Eareckson Tada will be popping in to say hi.)

Who this is for: Anybody and everybody is welcome to come. Yes, Diamonds 2019 is targeted to Christians facing long-term sickness, and that will help guide the topic and themes. However, that doesn’t mean no one else can be encouraged by it. Caregivers, family, and friends will also enjoy it. And even if you don’t have any connection with illness at all, here’s the thing: the same truths we need in illness, are the ones we need in any trial. Packaged differently, but at the core it’s the same. So if you or someone you know is going through a difficult time, please come. Diamonds 2019’s purpose is to help equip you to fight, even when the battle is long and hard.

Why we are doing this: So many chronically ill Christians feel so alone. You struggle with questions you don’t think you should have. You battle fear and discouragement. These speakers have been there. They want to offer you life-giving hope. They want to refresh you for a weekend — providing truths you can hold on to when the going gets tough — so that you can fight that the child of God that you are. With confidence and hope.

How do you register: Does this sound like something you or someone you know would be blessed by? Well, here’s the good news: registration officially opens today! You can be the first to claim your spot. And remember, it’s completely free. Just follow this link.

I cannot wait to see everyone there! If you're struggling through chronic illness, please consider streaming this conference. It will be such an encouragement and a breath of life.


Monday, October 1, 2018

Rejection Doesn't Mean What You Think it Means: 5 Not-So-Terrifying Reasons an Agent Might Reject You

The Twitter writing community has always been the place to go for support and encouragement when you’re feeling down about your stories. This week, Twitter’s #ShareYourRejections hashtag hasn’t disappointed. Bestselling and first-time authors are coming together to share the truth behind their rejections. Some hilarious, some sad, and some unbelievable—Twitter is proving the path to publishing isn’t all sunshine and roses, even for some of the biggest names in writing.

There’s another encouraging side to the rejection story. Most of the time, rejections don’t mean what you think they mean (i.e., we probably don’t hate your work). Here are 5 not-so-terrifying reasons an agent might say “no” to a manuscript:

1) We’re not the Right Agent for You

Everything about your book is fantastic, but we’re not the right person to sell it for you. It could be outside our genre, our field of expertise, or maybe we’re already representing a book just like it. As agents, we have a responsibility to our authors—and to you—to make sure the books we take on are the right books for us. Your goal in pursuing an agent isn’t just to find an agent, it’s to find the right agent for you. Finding the right agent will be the best thing for you and your book. 

2) The Manuscript is Too Long

The writing might be stellar, but we cannot pitch a book with such an enthusiastic word count. Your book is 70,000 words over our suggested count, and that’s just not something we can commit to. Chisel down your manuscript to something more manageable, and then we can talk. 

3) You Don’t Have Enough Platform

We’re head-over-heels for your book, but you haven’t built enough platform yet. It’s getting harder and harder to pursue publishing for authors who haven’t built a social media presence, or speaking platform. Keep working to market yourself and your brand. Every effort you put into selling yourself tells us—and future publishers—that you’re willing to put the same effort into selling your book. 

4) We’ve Seen a Lot of Sci-Fi This Week

It’s not that we don’t like your book—it’s just that we’ve seen a lot of books in your genre this week. We might send a rejection simply because we’re tired of reading the same ideas. Actively seek to create a fresh and exciting story that will stand out from the crowd, and make us stop and stare. 

5) You Self-Published

You’ve self-published your first book and—ouch—your sales numbers aren’t very high. This doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer, it could simply mean you haven’t found your marketing niche yet. A lot rides on sales numbers, though, and self-publishing gives us a first look at how well you perform selling your books. If you self-publish, make sure you sell as many copies as you can. That way, we (and your future publisher) can feel confident in your ability to turn books around. 

Rejection doesn’t mean defeat. Sometimes it’s just not the right time for your manuscript. Don’t give up—we’re all on the same team. Keep dreaming, keep writing, and keep querying!

Let's chat! What's one thing that encourages you to keep submitting, despite rejection?

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Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Guest Post and Giveaway: Welcome, Tessa Emily Hall!

How can Christians Cope With Heartache?

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could live without pain and suffering? No scrapes on our hearts resulted from the painful words of others. No gaping hole of loss when we lose a loved one.

Unfortunately, we won’t reach that kind of paradise until we enter eternity with Jesus. (See Rev. 21:4.) Being a Christian doesn’t mean we’re numb to heartache on this earth, but it does mean we have a healer. The Great Physician can mend our broken hearts. His love is powerful enough to provide peace in the midst of the storms and joy in the midst of heartache. Not only that, but He hurts with us. We’re not alone in our suffering. We have a Father who hears our cries and sits with us in the pain.

In fact, Christ voluntarily bore the entire world's heartache on His shoulders the day He died. Why? So that we can come to Him in our times of need. So that, when we are wounded by this world, we can receive His healing ointment of love.

We can’t walk through this imperfect earth and expect to live a perfect, pain-free life. There will be times when we’re knocked down. Bruised. Beaten. This is simply the result of living amongst sin and darkness.

But the good news? The good news is that Christ, the One who has already defeated sin and death, can help us cope with the pain. He equips us with supernatural strength to bear the storms of this life.

So where should we turn when we experience heartache as a Christian? The answer is simple:

Let’s allow the pain to draw us closer into our Father’s embrace. When we’re wounded by the world, let’s limp into our Savior’s arms. He will carry us and help to bear the weight of our pain. In the safety of His presence, we are shielded from harm. In the safety of His presence, Christ will renew our hearts until they start beating again. The power of the Holy Spirit will restore us until we find strength to walk again.

Our Father meets us in our pain. We don't have to suffer alone.

But the choice is ours. He wants us to make the decision to turn to Him. He wants to allow this heartache to draw us into His embrace--that way, we can realize that His love is more powerful. His love is strong enough to heal every bruise and scrape that the world has inflicted upon our hearts.

And even though it’s impossible to avoid pain, it is possible to receive healing.

Besides, Christ went to the grave to save our hearts; don’t you know He can be trusted to restore them to wholeness once again?

The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help.

He rescues them from all their troubles.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted;

he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.

The righteous person faces many troubles,

but the Lord comes to the rescue each time.

For the Lord protects the bones of the righteous;

not one of them is broken!

Psalm 34:17-20 (NLT)

What do you think? How can Christians cope with heartache? Feel free to share your thoughts on this topic in the comments. Or you can post your answer to this question on Instagram for a chance to enter a giveaway! (Click here for more info.)

About Coffee Shop Devos:

There's something special about spending time at a coffee shop with a friend--engaging in a meaningful conversation, then leaving refueled and ready to tackle the rest of the day. What if your quiet times with God energized you the same way?

Coffee Shop Devos offers a warm atmosphere that will inspire you to discover your God-given purpose and live to your greatest potential. Choose your devo flavor in the Menu of Contents based on your current need. Then lean into deeper intimacy with Christ through reflection and prayer. Along the way, you'll pick up tips and recipes for making your own coffee-shop beverage--regular or decaf--to enjoy while you read. And don't forget to share your journey with your friends! #CoffeeShopDevos

Each of the 180 challenging and motivational devotions will leave you feeling refreshed and reinvigorated--almost as though you've shared a steaming pot of brew at a coffee shop with your Creator.

Tessa Emily Hall is an award-winning author who writes inspirational yet authentic books to show teens they’re not alone. Her first teen devotional, COFFEE SHOP DEVOS, will release with Bethany House September 2018. Tessa's passion for shedding light on clean entertainment and media for teens led her to a career as an Associate Agent for Cyle Young at Hartline Literary Agency, YA Acquisitions Editor for Illuminate YA (LPC Imprint), and Founder/Editor of PURSUE Magazine. She's guilty of making way too many lattes and never finishing her to-read list. When her fingers aren’t flying 116 WPM across the keyboard, she can be found speaking to teens, decorating art journals, and acting in Christian films. Her favorite way to procrastinate is by connecting with readers on her blog, mailing list, social media (@tessaemilyhall), and website:


Click here to preorder COFFEE SHOP DEVOS


Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Guest Post and Giveaway: Welcome K.A. Emmons!

People often ask me what my favorite thing about writing is - actually, I think most writers get this question a good deal, and there’s a lot of different responses.

There are many things to love about writing (not that I’m biased or anything). “The writing process” as we all know consists of lots of tea (or in my case, coffee), hours spent indoors by a window listening to soundtracks in the heavenly light, and finally publishing whatever it is you’re working on and watching your lovely book climb to the top of the New York Times best sellers list.

What? I can have ideals, can’t I?

But really, there’s so much to the “process”... the dreaming, the lying awake at night with this story bubbling over inside you, just bursting to get out into the world. The hours of writing, and editing, and proofreading. The many technical aspects of publishing.

There’s so much to it. And yet, when I’m asked what I love about writing books and stories - what my favorite thing about it is, none of these practical things spring to mind.

I’ve often described writing as “chasing euphoria” and I think that would have to be my favorite part. The feelings and emotions and *joy* that come with writing a good book and telling a good story. There’s something so powerful in words - something like dynamite. Something that reaches out and touches our lives and the lives of those who read it.

I love to say “words are more than words” because it’s true. Words can take us anywhere and everywhere. They can introduce us to new ideas - new worlds, in which we are the kings and the queens of a promised land. Words transport us. Words teach us. Words change us.

Words in fact, are infinite. And so as an author, the empowered feeling I get - the sheer joy I get when I sit down in the morning with a cup of coffee to write is immeasurable. And that’s my favorite part of writing.

And I think there’s such a lesson to be learned from the joy writing can bring both the writer and the reader, and that is the fact that our words are important. They are vitally important. Whether you are a writer of fiction, or a blogger, or even someone who posts on social media - what we write, what we put out into the world has the ability to make an impact on someone’s life for the better.

Words are more than words. Use them wisely.

When she’s not hermiting away in her colorfully-painted home office writing her next science fiction, passionate story-teller and adventurer Kate Emmons is probably on the road for a surf or hiking trip, listening to vinyls, or going for a power run. Emmons’ debut novel The Blood Race is the first book in her YA science fiction/fantasy thriller series. Get connected with Kate on your favorite social platform, and be sure to check out her website!

Twitter - Instagram - Facebook - Goodreads

Thanks for visiting the blog, Kate, and congratulations on your release of World's Beneath! You can win a copy of Kate's first book in The Blood Race Series below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

What's your favorite thing about writing? How have authors like Kate inspired you and your books?


Thursday, July 12, 2018

Cinder Taught Me About the Holy Spirit

I almost stopped reading Cinder two chapters in.

Sci-fi has never been my favorite genre. I’m that stereotypical girl who reads Anne of Green Gables, watches dramas about love and gardening, and likes any story with little plot and lots of happiness and flowers. I get stressed out by stories easily, and I like to feel good when I finish one.

The day after I finished reading Cinder (the book I almost stopped reading), I remember thinking about how spiritually refreshed I felt after reading that story... but why?

Cinder is a sci-fi retelling of Cinderella—it’s about a girl who’s half robot-cyborg and works as an impoverished mechanic and slave to her evil stepmother. There’s action, outspread plague, death, and cool sci-fi things like ports, space ships, and alien moon people who have mind manipulating powers. I enjoyed the story a lot and I’ve been devouring the next books in the series.

Through Cinder, author Marissa Meyer has touched me in a deep way and I am so thankful the Lord brought this book into my life. Cinder showed me some incredible things about the Holy Spirit and God’s heart, and I’m excited to share those things with you.

*Spoilers ahead! Proceed with caution*

God Turns us From Orphans to Heirs 

I think cyborgs are cool, but the Earthen Union sure doesn’t. Viewed as only partially human, Linh Cinder is treated like an outcast. Her cyborg parts were installed to keep her alive after a tragic childhood accident. Although the metal and wires keep her thinking and breathing, she isn’t accepted by society and is mistreated by many.

Cinder is an orphan who knows little about her origin, or her future. As if cyborg isn’t enough, she eventually finds out she’s also one of those alien mind manipulating people (Lunars), which makes her even more of an outcast, and a fugitive.

Like Cinder, we begin as outcast, orphans, and fugitives before God. But when we receive Christ, He makes us heirs to His Kingdom and His throne.

Well, there’s an heir in Cinder’s story too—it turns out under all that dirt, metal pieces, and mechanic oil, Cinder is actually a princess. They call her “The Lunar Heir,” a legend, and the only power strong enough to overthrow crazy Lunar Queen Levana. 

"For once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; You had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy."  - 1 Peter 2:10

"The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. And if we are children, then we are heirs: heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ." - Romans 8:17

The Holy Spirit Allows us to See Truth Hidden Under The Devil’s Lies

There are a couple of really caring doctors in Cinder’s life. After she mauled and almost killed by Queen Levana as a child, Cinder underwent an eight year reconstruction surgery, where her body was pieced back together and fitted with some of (what she doesn’t know) is world’s best technology. She has a lie detector, a device installed into her spine that keeps her from using her “Lunar gift,” and special technology that keeps her brain from being mind-manipulated. Her intensive surgery saved her life and equipped her for a future fighting against a powerful and evil queen.

Cinder’s identity has even been kept from herself—she doesn’t know she’s the Lunar Heir. However, when she finally encounters Queen Levana (who casually still wants to kill her), Cinder is able to use her cyborg parts to defend herself. Her lie detector goes off, her programming keeps her from being manipulated by Levana’s bioelectric waves, and Cinder’s mind is able to recreate a picture of what Levana truly looks like—without her glamor.

She’s able to determine the truth.

Even though Cinder doesn’t know yet, she’s been lovingly protected and highly equipped with technology that helps her fight her greatest enemy. Likewise, the Holy Spirit is lovingly given to us by God to equip us to fight our own greatest enemy, and to discover the truth that sets us free. We may not know we’re royalty, and we may not know how or who to fight—but when our spirits are in danger, and when we’re led to believe lies, the Holy Spirit gives us the tools and equipment necessary to win our battles and to find the truth of Christ. 

But when He, the Spirit of Truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak and He will disclose to you what is to come." - John 16: 13

Have you read Cinder? How has God used fictional stories to speak truth in your life? Let's chat! 

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Thursday, June 14, 2018

How to Be A Confident Writer (and Why It's Important)

Over the past weeks, I've received more opinions about my book than I probably ever have. Reaching Home is out on submission again, and the process is more intimidating than I remember.
Meanwhile, I've been spending most of my evenings reviewing submissions myself. I've sent and received rejection letters, and I've communicated with so many authors about their stories and dreams for their books.

I'm a big believer in having confidence in my work, but I've noticed recently how rare this is for authors. Did you know confidence actually helps you sell your story to an agent or publisher? It does!

Not only is it beneficial to you in the traditional publishing world, but confidence is just as important for your own writing health, too. It helps you become more productive with the story you're creating, and it helps you make the right decisions for your plot and characters.

But how can you gain confidence in your project? Here are some of my strategies...

Work Hard Enough to Be Confident.

Give your project the time, love, and attention that it needs, and don't submit your book to prying eyes until it's ready. Get yourself used to editing, and edit multiple drafts on your own. Spend time and energy learning exactly what you want from your plot and characters, and write accordingly. It's no secret that books take years to write, so give yourself grace and let it take time. Work hard and work smart. Write and edit something you'll be proud of.

Filter Opinions.

Once you are ready to show your project around, pick only a few select people to read and review. Too many opinions will overwhelm you and cause you to focus on parts of your story that probably don't matter yet. Everyone is different, so each reader will want something different from your book. That's a beautiful thing, but it isn't beneficial for the beginning stages of a manuscript. You need to create an environment of focus for your project where you can take the time to understand what you wrote and why. Focusing in on your theme and understanding your novel will help you gain confidence and will be better for your project in the long run.

Filter Suggestions.

I like comparing things to scripture, and one of the verses I often think of is Ephesians 4:14: "so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine..." Similarly, I don't want to be "tossed" by every wind of writing suggestions, either. It's important to choose carefully which suggestions to fabricate into your story, and which to leave out. Don't just take someone's suggestion for granted, think each one through carefully before you apply it to your manuscript.

Recognize that just because someone might be a professional or a friend doesn't mean they know what's right for your book. I've had prestigious writers and agents give me very bad advice for my story. I've had others give me great advice. Always be humble and an eager learner, but remember that some people aren't going to understand your story like you do. And that's okay. Be confident enough in your book to know what's good for it... and what might not be.

Have a Best Friend who Understand You and Your Book.

I'm blessed with a lot of creative best friends. But even if your best friend isn't creative, they know you better than anyone else. Keep them updated with your book's progress, and run all your new ideas by them. A lot of times when I do this, I realize my best friends know me even better than I know myself. They recognize whether new ideas are "me" or not, and they'll tell me straight whether or not they can see me writing them. They bring me back to my center, too, always reminding me why I write, and what my goals are. The end is what matters, so have best friends who help you remember your end goals. Having someone close to you reaffirming new ideas and suggestions will make you more confident, and make you a better writer.

Don't Take Rejection Too Hard.

Seriously, don't. An agent or publisher probably isn't rejecting for the reason you think. It's pretty likely your book just isn't what they're looking for right now, or your story doesn't fit with the ones the publisher likes to put out. Sometimes rejections are even good things because they show you that your book wasn't meant for that house. It's really okay. It's much better to find a great publishing house who loves your book and understands stories like yours.

Don't Be Cocky.

Lastly, don't be cocky. I know I'm talking a lot about confidence, and filtering opinions, but don't take it to the next level and be cocky about your story. Confidence and cockiness are two separate things. Always be thinking, but always be open to new ideas. There's forever more to learn in the writing field, and there will always be people who can teach you. Listen to them.

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What are some ways you gain 
confidence as a writer?


Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Blog Tour: Taylor's List of Books that Won't Make You Squirm

I introduced you guys to Taylor in a guest post last Christmas. She's an incredible YA author, a wonderful friend, And... she just released her first book, Porch Swing Girl


I love my rural town of Roseburg, Oregon. Surrounded by rolling hills and acres of uninhabited forests, it’s a wonderful, whimsical place to live. But, between the city’s recently-shut-down-library and small, stuffy used bookstore, there aren’t a lot of places for me to quench my literary thirst. 

That’s why I am nothing short of thrilled when I get to visit a Barnes & Noble. Yes—a real bookstore. With new books.


A while ago, I had the opportunity to go to one of these magical bookstores while on a trip to the city. What did I find?


Books with gorgeous covers, scintillating blurbs, all written by authors with an impressive collection of accolades. One look at the YA section nearly sent me into a frenzied happy dance—the kind where my eyes turn into little hearts and I start dancing from bookshelf to bookshelf like the kooky book nerd that I am.

Then I stopped.

Picked up one of the books.

Gave it a closer look—a harder look.

What I saw made me want to cover my eyes and wash out my brain. (And cry. Always cry.)

These books—these wonderful works of YA fiction, dressed so smartly with hardback covers and glossy book sleeves—were filled with garbage. Sure, the prose was great, the plot was intriguing—but the dialogue? It left my eyes feeling dirty. And the supposedly sweet romantic trysts were slightly more…graphic.

I walked out of that store fuming—and without a single book to add to my TBR.

Maybe you’ve experienced something similar.

Maybe you’ve cracked open a much-anticipated new book, only to groan in dismay after the first few pages. Maybe you’ve gotten discouraged when you run out of clean, uplifting YA books and must resort to (gasp!) re-reading. Maybe…

Maybe you’re sick of it.

And that’s why I’m here today. I want to encourage you—show you that there are still pure and lovely books out there for you. They might be harder to find than other, less appropriate, books, but they are out there. And it is my greatest pleasure to introduce you to some of my favorites.


Without further ado…

I present to you…


Taylor’s List of Books-That-Won’t-Make-You-Squirm-Or-Wash-Your-Brain-Out-With-Soap 

The Katie Parker novels—these light, sweet, and touching books are written from a Christian worldview, yet they don’t hesitate to tackle tough issues. But even when characters are struggling, the author keeps things rolling with wacky side characters (like Katie’s nutty foster-grandma) and quirky descriptive prose.

This Quiet Sky—aah, this book makes my heart sing, ache, soar, and weep—and all in under two hundred pages!! It consistently ranks as one of my all-time favorite books and, even though it’s short, the story is well-rounded and beautifully heartbreaking. Words cannot express how terribly wonderful this book is, so I have to trust that you will buy it and see for yourself.

First Date (and the other two books in the trilogy)—if you dream of going behind-the-scenes of a reality TV show (or maybe competing on one yourself) then these books are for you! They’re filled with suspense, gossip, and glamour, but they’re also—you guessed it!—squeaky clean. The characters all feel like close friends and the plot is filled with all the excitement of a real TV show. Bonus? No commercials!

The Tethered World Trilogy—just a heads-up: I am NOT a fantasy buff…but the mysterious Tethered World drew me in like no other magical realm has ever done before. The premise was so intriguing, the plot so well-crafted, that I couldn’t help but fall in love with this trilogy. So take it from me (an anti-fantasy girl) that this series is not one to miss!

The Mother-Daughter Book Club Series—these books are so cute, sweet, innocent, and…dare I say perfect?!?! I highly recommend that they move to the top of EVERYONE’S TBR list. Immediately. Even though the series starts when the characters are in middle school, the books follow their lives all through high school, until the summer before college. With a cast of lovable characters and multiple points of view, these books will appeal to anyone (and EVERYONE!!) 

Porch Swing Girl—okay, yes, this is my book, but it (hopefully) checks off all of the boxes. It’s clean, inspirational, and (hopefully) enjoyable. It released just a few weeks ago, and, since it’s my official “book baby,” I had to mention it. Can’t all parents brag on their kids? 

So? Were any of your favorite books on this list? Did I miss any other amazing (clean!) books? Let me know!!

Homeschooled since kindergarten, Taylor Bennett is the seventeen-year-old author of Porch Swing Girl, which will be released by Mountain Brook Ink on May 1st. When she’s not reading or writing, Taylor can be found playing her violin or taking walks in the beautiful Oregon countryside. She loves to connect with readers via her author website, as well as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram (her favorite!), Pinterest, and Goodreads.

[Stephanie here!] Speaking of clean YA reads, Taylor just released her own! 

What if friendship cost you everything?

Stranded in Hawaii after the death of her mother, sixteen-year-old Olive Galloway is desperate to escape. She has to get back to Boston before her dad loses all common sense and sells the family house. But plane tickets cost money—something Olive gravely lacks.

With the help of Brander, the fussy youth group worship leader, and Jazz, a mysterious girl with a passion for all things Hawaiian, Olive lands a summer job at the Shave Ice Shack and launches a scheme to buy a plane ticket home before the end of the summer.

But when Jazz reveals a painful secret, Olive’s plans are challenged. Jazz needs money. A lot of it. Olive and Brander are determined to help their friend but, when their fundraising efforts are thwarted, Olive is caught in the middle. To help Jazz means giving up her ticket home. And time is running out.

Thanks for visiting the blog, Taylor! Congrats on your book release!