Love’s a Stage: a novel about making marriage last

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Today marks the release of one of two novels coming out this fall as part of my partnership with Rene Gutteridge and now Redbud press. Both are based on my screenplays. This first one is called Love’s a Stage. After I got married, I started to notice a lot of marriages around us crumbling. I wanted to explore themes of what it means to keep vows and how to make marriage last. My quirky, yet good-hearted lead character may go through great lengths (sometimes comically) to save a marriage while also learning along the way what it takes to make a marriage work and to find lasting true love.

Hope you enjoy the read and to one day bring you the feature film version:

Love’s a Stage (Hometown Romance) (KINDLE)

SYNOPSIS for Love’s a Stage:

Grad student and future marriage counselor Aly Brewster had a perfect childhood with perfect parents. Now she’s heading into her own perfect life: Finish her Master’s. Build a successful practice. Husband at twenty-six. But when her parents blindside her with the news they’re getting divorced, her perfect world shatters.

Actor Nick Armstrong has been in love with Aly since they met during freshman year. He’s happy to accept his assigned place in her Friend Zone because it lets him be close to her. But it’s been over five years—time to move on. Then the usually-unflappable Aly comes to him begging for help to save her parents’ marriage. Nick has the perfect plan: fake an engagement to each other to inspire her parents to fight to save their marriage. And who knows? It might trigger Aly’s feelings for him. But when Aly takes the ruse to the next level—planning a wedding in her parents’ backyard and hiring additional actors to play his family—enough is enough!

As the lines between acting and reality grow decidedly blurred, these two improvised fiancés must decide: are they going to finish the play…or exit stage right. Alone.

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Later this fall, our other novella will be out. We participated in a book of novellas called The Boy Next Door, where all the authors wrote different love stories about falling for the boy next door. The one Rene Gutteridge and I wrote is called O Little Town of Bethany.

We’ll let ya know when it’s out.

Both projects have scripts available for production.

Here’s a sneak peek at the cover:

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Celebrating Marriage, Making Memories

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Every year, we celebrate our anniversary by taking a trip away instead of giving each other gifts. Given that we are both “quality timers” in the love language department–with gifts as a low priority–this has worked well for us. We’d rather save our resources toward focused time away with each other.

My husband edited together a video / slideshow of this year’s trip to share the beauty of California. Since we’ll be leaving the state of California soon and Highway 1 is our favorite place to visit on earth thus far, we decided to extend this particular anniversary trip to see more of it before we go.

My encouragement to those who are married is to take is take the time to celebrate milestones, like anniversaries. Take the time to build precious memories together. Never forget to have fun together or remember if you have kids that you are spouses first, parents second. One of the topics we speak about to married couples is making sure you have good memories to look back on so that if you ever hit a rough patch in your marriage, you have good memories to draw on to remind you of how it can get better. It’s kind of like with God, when we go through a dry patch where we wonder where He is, and it “seems” like He’s absent. When we have memories with God to draw back on when He was faithful to us, they can carry our faith through until we sense His presence again–if we let it.

Have you ever seen the picture within a picture idea on Pinterest, where they suggest you take a photo of yourself on each anniversary holding last year’s anniversary photo? By 50 years you’ll have yourself in the image 50x. All four of our photos so far have been from Highway 1. It’ll be an adventure to see what those pictures will be in the future as we leave here. It’s never too late to start one of these. Now, go make some great memories with your spouse.

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Celebrating Your Anniversary

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It’s only appropriate I post this marriage tip for Wisdom Wednesday about celebrating anniversaries on my parents’ anniversary.

So HAPPY 47th ANNIVERSARY, Mom & Dad.

Now this may seem obvious… marriage advice that says “celebrate your anniversary.” Doesn’t everyone? We are the types that like to celebrate everything. Perhaps it’s because we waited so long for marriage, we like to enjoy the “little things.” No one would be surprised to see “Happy 17th Month Anniversary, babe!” So feel free to celebrate each other, anywhere anytime.

To follow are ideas we’ve collected and done, to commemorate the occasions, like the big anniversaries.  Enjoy our anniversary ideas in pictures. Some of them you can do together. Others are photos you should take on the occasion (inspired by Pinterest).

Picture Ideas: 

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Action Ideas:

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Make a Gift idea:

LoveCards

For more ideas check out my Pinterest Board:

Celebrate Anniversary Ideas on Pinterest

Be Your Spouse’s Best Friend

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“Remember to continue to be BEST FRIENDS.” (DM)

“He or she should be your best friend, and you should have interests in common.”

* * *

Chris is, without a doubt, my best friend. I still have wonderful female “best friends” from various areas of my life (from high school, grad school, childhood etc.) But my ultimate best friend is now my spouse. I agree with the advice we were given above, that having common interests is so important. The cliche “opposites attract” is overrated. Having things we enjoy doing together has been one of the most fun parts of our marriage. If our interests were divergent, we’d have less reasons to spend together.

I also see a deeper meaning in the advice to “be” your spouse’s best friend. Being a friend to someone is often selfless and doing things for their sake instead of your own. This is definitely necessary in marriage.

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Do You Battle Fear?

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I did. Very much so. And for twenty years. I have to admit sharing this particular story was probably one of the most vulnerable choices I’ve ever made. But my drive to help others who are trapped by fear, anxiety, and panic, and unable to live the life they desire drove me to share my story. I never would have gotten married to Chris in 2011, had I not gone through this healing journey to get over my fears.

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I want to share the opening of Finally Fearless with you, excerpted from Chapter One:

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I thought I was getting married.

I also thought I was finally putting my panic disorder and anxiety issues behind me. I can’t seem to climb out of this deep, dark pit. Yet, I feel God is prompting, calling to me:

“Write about it. Tell your story.”

I wrestle with Him, asking, “Why? Why should I share my story when I feel so unhealed myself?”

Maybe in telling it, I will find healing. There’s only one way to find out.

It’s late 2003 as I embark on this journey to pull together the pieces I already started, and to write anew. To make this story whole.

Only I don’t have an ending.

Until I get married, I will not be able to test whether or not I’m truly healed of my anxiety disorder. I promise; that will make sense soon enough.

But everything just fell apart.

I’ve never felt more alone in my life. This natural life. Physical, tangible life. But I’ve also never felt God’s presence this closely. His voice clearer.

Maybe this is the season. Maybe my healing is finally within grasp. Maybe in sharing my story so openly, others with similar problems and challenges can also find healing. Maybe that will make the past twenty plus years of pain worth it.

I don’t want anyone else to suffer the way I have.

***

Cheryl’s Journal, a short story (2003)

When she found herself at the crossroads, she didn’t know which road to take. To go left meant running from her feelings, her fears and pain. But the path was so dim, faint, colorless the entire way. There was no light at its end.

To go right meant jumping straight into a long stretch of darkness. Mile after mile. There would be fear and trembling with every step. But at the end of the road to the right lived colors, hues, the light.

She asked herself, “Which road should I take?”

She chose the left. It may have been dim, but at least it wasn’t terrifying. 

For years, she dragged her feet down that road. With each step, she saw nothing of the life she craved. She felt no fear, yet she also felt no joy. Her life was changeless. Predictable. As she looked ahead, the future held more of the same—nothing of the life she hoped to reach. The path led her down the dead end road.

She knew she had to turn back and go right, down that road of darkened, unmapped territory.

She traveled back, mile after mile, before she returned to that fork in the road. Then, she chose the right path. It was dark, daunting, lined with fears to face. But if she refused to walk through these shadows, she’d never find the light. That’s the hope she held so tightly.

***

A Small, Small World

Have panic attacks destroyed any of your dreams? Has fear and the experience of anxiety shrunk your world down to a few safe places? Have your fears caused you to modify where you can go, what you’re willing to do, whom you’re willing to be with? If so, there’s good news: you don’t have to stay that way. You can seek healing. There is a way to restore your world back to its normal size with the breadth that includes all the treasures life has to offer. If you’ve been stuck on the dim road where anxiety gives you limitations and few safe places, it’s time to choose a different path. Now is the time to choose the path that leads toward the light. For me, that light came through God, Jesus, and the healing balm of the Holy Spirit.

Through this book, I will share my story. I’ll share how I let anxiety rule my life, choosing the dim road that held no hope. I’ll share how I finally chose to face my fears and walk toward the light no matter how frightening the path was. I was able to change from the road on the left to that road on the right because God held my hand every step of the way, even when I didn’t feel it. I hungered badly enough for the kind of peace that only God could provide to walk through storms, refining fire, and every dark place to reach it.

I hope you’ll open your heart’s door and journey with me. Perhaps together we can change the way you face your anxieties. Wouldn’t you love to be on the path towards freedom from the debilitating effects of fear?

An estimated forty million Americans suffer from some form of an anxiety disorder. It’s the most common mental condition, yet only one-third receive treatment or help.

Keeping our disorder a secret is destroying our spirits, trapping us in a jail cell barred with panic, fear, and anxiety. It’s time to break the silence and reach out for the help that’s available. That can only begin when we first admit we have a problem: to ourselves, to other people, to our healing God.

I am not a psychologist or medical doctor. Most of the time I struggled with an anxiety disorder, I had no idea what was wrong with me and felt alone.

Have you ever felt like you are the only one in the world who has this challenge? Have you kept it a secret because you feel like no one will understand? I hid my problem because I didn’t know there were forty million others who had it, too! And for at least ten of the twenty years I had an anxiety disorder, I didn’t even know what it was called. That is why I decided to write this book. I want you, my readers, to know you are not alone anymore.

Throughout this book, I will share words I believe God has spoken directly to me during prayer or through dreams. God spoke to me in ways that were able to heal my heart and heal me of my anxiety disorder, freeing me from living with panic attacks and irrational fears. If you don’t know how to already, I encourage you to learn how you can hear God’s voice so you can welcome Him to heal you divinely. If you read any of the books I talk about, put Dialogue with God by Mark and Patti Virkler on the top of that stack. (Please note: Dialogue With God now has an updated version since I penned this book, called 4 Keys to Hearing God’s Voice. I also recommend The Holy Spirit: Amazing Power for Everyday People by Susan Rohrer).

Hearing what God has to say heals us because God is the Wonderful Counselor. When we learn how to hear and discern His voice, He can speak healing and encouragement to our hearts. He can offer comfort and advice. But if we are not listening, we will not hear. And for many of us, it’s simply because we don’t know how or we’ve never been taught.

I firmly believe I would have recovered a lot sooner if I had known how to hear God’s voice earlier. I know His counsel helps with emotional struggles because I’ve used this to help with other emotional problems, like depression. I never would have crawled out of that dark hole without God’s intervention and words spoken to me. But God wants to talk to all of us, not just me! Don’t think of this as some special gift I have. God loves all of His children and wants nothing more than to be in communication with us.

I don’t know if panic ever goes away. The only test is living and seeing if you ever have an attack again. Since none of us know the future, it’s hard to tell if panic is ever gone from our lives. I can testify that what used to take over my life is now in the background, a distant memory.

However, if panic or anxiety are at the forefront of your life, there are so many different things you can do to walk actively toward the healing God can give you. That walk will be explored throughout this book.

Let’s journey together on the path toward healing, toward a life that is fulfilling and free from overwhelming fear. Notice I didn’t say anxiety-free, for that would be tough for anyone who breathes.

***

If you or someone you know battles this problem, I hope my story can help you. To order copies of Finally Fearless, visit the links below that go to Amazon, where the Ebook version of the regular book and the paperbacks of both books are available.

Finally Fearless: Journey from Panic to Peace (Paperback)

Finally Fearless Workbook: Journey from Panic to Peace (Accompanying Workbook)

Finally Fearless: Journey from Panic to Peace (Kindle Version)

Finally Fearless Workbook Ebook:

http://www.lulu.com/content/e-book/finally-fearless-workbook-journey-from-panic-to-peace/13694632

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Now available as a two book set:

Finally the Bride & Finally Fearless (Two Book Set): Overcoming Obstacles to Finding True Love (Kindle)

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Watch the Finally Fearless Video:

Funny Marriage Advice

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How about enjoying some humor today? Naturally, when you solicit marriage advice, you get quite a variety of ideas from novices and veterans alike. Today’s Wisdom Wednesday will focus on some of the funny tidbits we received from others. Hope you enjoy a good laugh:

“Don’t read, or let your husband read, Proverbs 31:10-31.” (CS)

“Fight naked.” (NS and DB and AC, yes three people gave us that one.)

“Don’t eat that one year old cake!”  (CA) (We didn’t! I think it’s still in his sister’s freezer.)

“For the bride: lingerie is your next best friend.” (A)

“Have lots of s*x” – (We got a lot of these notes on note cards)

“Don’t always be right, even though you are.” (VB)

“He’ll put up with our girlie food for a while then declare his need for MEAT.” (SH)

“Earplugs, sleep masks, and tiny reading lights are bliss savers.” (SM)

“The secret is two words: ‘Yes, Ma’am.'” (MP)

“Don’t wear fanny packs.” (LR)

Funny Marriage Advice

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Hope for Singles Waiting to Find Love

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Are you frustrated with being single? Have you been wondering where God is in the midst of your life and its seemingly missing “love story?” So was I. For almost 39 years of my life. I tried to pen what that love life should look like (with my purple pen, in my journals. Ten, twenty. Okay, maybe more like thirty journals worth?) But seriously what I penned was no where near my reality.

So I turned my pen over to another outlet. One in which I vent my frustrations, my questions, prayers, and cries out to God. I turned it into a book, Finally the Bride: Finding Hope While Waiting.  Now, it’s available in audio form.

One of my  most popular blogs has been:

16 Ways to Pray for Your Future Husband

So I know there are a lot of people out there waiting, searching, wondering what God is up to in this area of life. That blog is excerpted from a chapter of this book. The list is available in the link above.

FinallytheBrideAudio

I was very blessed to find such a delightful voiceover talent, to capture the heart of “me” and all my angst. Her name is Shawna M. Washabaugh. She can be just as snarky as me when moaning to God about “why is this taking so long?” She did a wonderful job, not only voicing the book but producing it as well.

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Shawna M. Washabaugh

(Narrator / Producer)

It’s a great alternative to the print book for those who would rather listen to audiobooks or for book clubs who want to go through the book together. You can listen to chapters during your meeting and then discuss them.

You can listen to a sample on any of the sites where it’s on sale at these following links:

Finally the Bride on Audible.com

Finally the Bride on Amazon (Under Format: Choose Audible Audio Edition):

Also available on Itunes. Search: Finally the Bride in Audiobooks or search by Cheryl McKay

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I pray that my story encourages you in your waiting, and that you will know you are not alone in what you feel. I also recently started a Pinterest board, hoping to collect various quotes, articles and such that could be of encouragement to singles:

Hope for Singles on Pinterest

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If you prefer to read print or kindle versions, visit these links:

Finally the Bride: Finding Hope While Waiting (Paperback):

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Finally the Bride: Finding Hope While Waiting (Kindle) :