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Valentine's Day & Giveaway

Happy February, my dear friends!


I've been trying to decide what to share on the blog this week, and with Valentine's Day approaching, I thought I would share a special memory from a Valentine's Day past involving my sweet husband, Barkley.



Also, I want to spread some love by giving away a super-sweet contemporary romance, All's Fair in Love and Cupcakes by Betsy St. Amant. Read to the end to enter the giveaway!

 

My husband and I began dating in 2007 when we were students at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. As one would expect a new couple to do, we shared many stories with each other about where we grew up. I frequently told him about one of my favorite places in Colorado, the Red Rocks Amphitheatre.


Red Rocks Amphitheatre overlooking Denver
Red Rocks Amphitheatre overlooking Denver

In my teen years, before the start of the school day, my friends and I would bring our Starbucks coffee to the amphitheatre and sit on the enormous stone and wood steps, watching the sun come up over the Denver skyline. It is an idyllic spot, especially when the venue is empty. By day, people visit to hike the steps, run, practice yoga, and so much more. By night, the amphitheatre fills to the brim for concerts and events.


Here's a little history about the amphitheater from Red Rocks' website:

On May 9, 1936, Denver Mayor Benjamin Franklin Stapleton and Parks and Improvements Manager George Cranmer received approval from U.S. Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes to use the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) to build the Red Rocks Amphitheatre –George Cranmer insisted that Denver officially use the English spelling.
Created by the Civilian Conservation Corps Reforestation Relief Act on March 31, 1933, the CCC aimed to save both unemployed young man and endangered lands during the Great Depression by putting the men to work conserving forests and grasslands. The CCC was a pet program of President Roosevelt, who had initiated a prototype program as governor of New York.

If you know me, you know I love history and nature, so you can see why I appreciated this place so much, even in my youth. So, when Barkley, my then-boyfriend, and I made plans to visit my home state in 2009, he--unbeknownst to me--started planning a proposal at Red Rocks, the place so near to my heart.


We had discussed the possibility of marriage many times prior to that trip. In all those discussions, he assured me that he would never propose on a cliche holiday like Christmas or Valentine's Day, and yet he kept repeating cryptic things like, "I know where I'm going to propose; I just don't know when. That's up to you." What man doesn't know when he's going to propose? That seemed like a key element to a proper proposal. How could it be up to me? I humored him and let it go, expecting a proposal at any given moment... except on Valentine's Day.


I planned our week-long itinerary in Colorado and filled it with activities that would acquaint my boyfriend with the place I grew up. We visited my favorite childhood parks, schools, and restaurants, as well as the Denver Zoo, Casa Bonita, The Tattered Cover, and Evergreen Lake for ice skating (did I mention my Floridian hubby saw snow for the first time on this trip). And, of course, I planned a sunrise visit to Red Rocks.


On Valentine's Day.


Can you see where this is going?


After several days of expecting a proposal at any moment, I then felt assured he would absolutely not propose on Valentine's Day. We rose early, braved the freezing temperatures, and made our way to the idyllic spot at the top of the amphitheatre. Fresh snowflakes started to fall, and I attempted to get some pretty pictures of the landscape using my very old camera. (Kids, this was back when you actually had to have a camera, not an iPhone.) All my photos turned out dark and blurry. And the sun? Barely visible through the immense cloud cover.

Early Morning - February 14th, 2009

Barkley tried to get my attention while I was busy taking photos. He cleared his throat, and his voice dropped low. "There is no one I'd rather be here with than you."

"You mean the maintenance man and me?" I replied as I nodded over his shoulder to the lone worker clearing the snow from the walkways. Apparently, my response flustered Barkley, the poor man, but he rallied and recovered and then sunk down on one knee. I cannot remember what he said after that. I don't believe I even said the word 'yes.' I just bobbed my head and made an "mm-hmm" sound as he pulled me into an embrace.

Teary-eyed, happy, and in shock

Needless to say, the proposal was a complete surprise. I snapped a few more blurry photos of the moments just after his proposal, and we stayed there long enough for our fingers to go numb, but the sun never really broke through the clouds. Later, he would tell me that it was my fault he proposed on a cliche day since I had made the schedule.


I'd never been one to glamorize the holiday of love before, and truth be told, I'm still impartial about it, but I do love February 14th because it's the day my true love asked me to marry him.


In the summer of 2021, we made a return trip and showed our kids where Dad proposed to Mom. We skipped the sunrise and came at midday. And my phone took much better pictures.

 

Now, for my first-ever book giveaway! Yay! I loved this book. All's Fair in Love and Cupcakes is a super-sweet and fun contemporary romance. I felt like I was watching a behind-the-scenes special about the real-life romance happening during a televised cupcake contest. I met the author, Betsy St. Amant, during last year's ACFW Conference, and she is as sweet as her books. Upon meeting her, I quickly devoured everything she's ever written, and this book, in particular, is the perfect Valentine's Day read!

I am going to give away at least one book every month (maybe more some months, wink wink) to subscribers of my newsletter. If you are already subscribed, you are already entered to win! If you're not subscribed, then all you have to do is click the link here to join my mailing list. By subscribing, you will receive updates on my journey to publication, stories about my personal life, and book recommendations, and you'll automatically be entered to win every giveaway. I'll announce the winner of Betsy's book on Valentine's Day!

Before you go... Why am I asking you to join my newsletter? I have a big reason. As an aspiring author, when I submit a proposal to an agent or editor, I must include marketing statistics which consist of how many followers I have on Instagram and Facebook (FB author page coming soon - heads up!), how many visitors read my blogs, and how many subscribers are on my newsletter mailing list.


Not only do I need to show these numbers, but I need to prove that they are consistently growing. This tells an editor that there is a readership for my novels and that they can safely take a chance on a debut author. So, by joining my mailing list, you are actively supporting my journey to publication.


On that note, some exciting news (that I am not sure if I ever shared) is that my work-in-progress won the ACFW VA Crown Award and the ACFW First Impressions award last fall. (Those contests consist of the first 5-15 pages of your story.) After my name was announced as the winner, one of the judges from those contests--an agent--tracked me down (giddy-squeal) and told me she loved my story. It was so incredibly difficult to tell her that I hadn't finished writing it yet. And so I am scribbling away and burning both ends of the candle in an attempt to get my manuscript and proposal complete, so I can send it to her. I'm setting a goal to have the first draft finished by April. The story is coming together, and I'm very excited to share it with you!


Thank you for your support and friendship. Wishing you a very Happy Valentine's Day!





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