Diana Cosby Speaks Up!

 

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Everyone’s Story welcomes back a most giving, gracious, and sweet friend, author Diana Cosby. Diana writes for the ABA general market and pens international bestselling Scottish medieval romantic suspense novels. I’ve had the honor of knowing Diana for several years now and love sharing her with my viewers. What’s admirable about Diana is that she seldom talks about herself (though I did get her to respond to an interview–do check it out!) but passionately advocates Habit for Humanity, as she shares with us this week. Diana also enjoys photography–below are 2 of her photos of birds. Leave a comment for a random drawing of her BookGiveaway. Diana and I are looking forward to chatting with you.

**Also, I’m pleased and honored to share some personal news with you. See below Diana’s blog feature**

 

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BookGiveaway:

Diana is offering 1 randomly chosen commenter 1 signed copy of His Woman, a Scottish historical novelThe winner will be announced here on Friday, February 17th between  5-6 PM EST.

** For Giveaways: it’s not necessary to insert your private email information within comments.

 

 

 

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Romance Reader’s Build A Habitat For Humanity House of Love

By Diana Cosby

Romance readers are AMAZING! And, SO is Habitat For Humanity, a charity that I love supporting and volunteering for. So, I thought, why not pair the two and help a deserving family receive a home? And, the Diana Cosby’s Romance Reader’s Build A Habitat For Humanity House of Love fundraiser was born.

I contacted the Habitat For Humanity office in Grayson County, Texas, where I’ve had the honor of helping with several builds and spoke with Laurie Mealy, Executive Director. She embraced the project, and was thrilled at the thought of pairing romance readers, who love stories where heroes and heroines overcome challenges to make their dreams come true, with making the dream of home ownership for a deserving family a reality.

Goal: Fund an entire home – $55,000.

I kicked off the challenge by donating $200. As I write this, we’ve raised $9,160. Romance readers are amazing, and I have complete faith that as the stories they love, they will join together to raise the amount necessary to give a deserving family a home.

How it works:

As readers send donations to Habitat for Humanity of Grayson County for the ‘Diana Cosby’s Readers Build A House of Love,’ the total contributions are updated below the house graphic on the upper right side of the homepage. Donations can be sent via PayPal by ‘clicking’ on the house, which takes you to the donation page, or by mailing a check or money order to:

Habitat for Humanity of Grayson County

901 N. Grand Avenue

P.O. Box 2725

Sherman, TX 75091

**Please note on your donation: ‘For the Romance Readers Build A HFH House of Love.’

My sincere thanks to Elaine for inviting me to visit Everyone’s Story, and another thank you to everyone for helping make an incredible difference in a deserving family’s life. For when they walk into a Habitat For Humanity house, it’s more thank mortar and wood, but a place where they can call home.

God bless,

Diana Cosby, International Best-Selling Author

The Oath Trilogy

MacGruder Brother Series

Forbidden Series: Forbidden Legacy-#1/Forbidden Knight – June 6th, 2017

 

Questions for Diana Cosby:

Diana, my #1 description of you is “a caring soul.” What during your childhood or early adulthood prompted your reaching out to others?

I grew up with very simple means, which includes living in a home without running water during my youth. I understand the importance of what having a home makes in a family’s life, which is my motivation for volunteering for Habitat For Humanity, along with the reason that I help others when I can.

While you were in the navy you traveled to many countries. Please share some of your favorite places and why.

~I’ve been blessed to see and live in so many places in the world. Some of my favorite memories are:

-Alaska: I went to high school in Alaska and experienced earthquakes, watched the salmon run, worked at a riding stable, and loved watching the eagles.

-Maine: I had a blast snowshoeing, fishing, hiking and loved the great variety of seafood.

-Hawaii: I loved hiking, scuba diving, and hiking over the Kilauea volcano before it erupted.

-Guam: Loved scuba diving during the day, but with the crystal clear visibility, diving with a full moon illuminating the ocean, with bioluminescent animals glittering all around you, is a life experience.

-Morocco: I re-enlisted for my final tour in the Navy on the back of a camel in Tangier.

-Midway Island: While not on duty, I enjoyed my time as a DJ.

-Korea: My friend and I had an amazing time shopping; we enjoyed the magnificent architecture, and meeting so many fascinating people.

-Philippines: An amazing experience seeing the jungles, the wonderful food, super nice people, and riding in the jeepneys.

1 a Cardinal pine tree

What was your impetus for writing Scottish historical novels?

I owe my interest in the medieval times due to my living in Europe along with my love or being a huge medieval romance reader throughout my life. I started writing once I retired from the Navy, but once I saw Braveheart, I began moved my stories to the timeframe of Scotland’s fight for independence.

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Do you have any plans or daydreams of writing contemporary novels or other genre stories?

I’d actually finished the rough draft of a contemporary romantic suspense, plus had almost finished an Inspirational Romance when I sold my first historical romance. I love writing in the medieval timeframe, so for now that’s where I’ll remain.

A few fast ones:

Favorite food indulgence: Chocolate.

Another country on your visit list: Scotland.

The top book on your TBR pile: Julie Garwood, “Sweet Talk.”

If you had tons of free time you’d learn this language: Gaelic.

A favorite pastime: Photography.

Favorite music: A tie between country and Celtic.

Three people from a time ago you’d love to chat with: Bishop Wishart, Robert Bruce, and Jacques de Molay, who was the Grand Master of the Knights Templar in 1307.

Diana’s Ah-hahs To Tweet:

Scottish Romance author Diana Cosby Speaks Up: Habitat for Humanity and #RomanceReaders build homes. (Tweet This)

Like to read Scottish Medieval Romantic Suspense? Visit with author Diana Cosby. #BookGiveaway (Tweet This)

Everyone’s Story: Interview with Scottish Romance author Diana Cosby #BookGiveaway (Tweet This)

Author’s Bio:

A retired Navy Chief, Diana Cosby is an international bestselling author of Scottish medieval romantic suspense. Books in her award-winning MacGruder Brothers series have been translated in five languages. Diana has spoken at the Library of Congress, Lady Jane’s Salon in NYC, and appeared in Woman’s Day, on USA Today’s romance blog, “Happy Ever After,” MSN.com, Atlantic County Women Magazine, and Texoma Living Magazine.

After her career in the Navy, Diana dove into her passion – writing romance novels. With 34 moves behind her, she was anxious to create characters who reflected the amazing cultures and people she’s met throughout the world. After the release of the bestselling MacGruder Brothers series, The Oath Trilogy, and Forbidden Legacy, book #1 of The Forbidden Series, she is now working on book #2, Forbidden Knight which will be released in June 2017.

Diana looks forward to the years of writing ahead and meeting the amazing people who will share this journey.

Places to connect with Diana:

Website

Facebook

Goodreads

Amazon Page

Diana and I look forward to your comments.

~*~*~*~*~

BookAward

 

I’m honored that my novel Always With You

is up for the Christian Small Publisher Book of the Year Award.

Please consider voting at this link.

Thank you!!

 

Laura Hilton Speaks Up!

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Everyone’s Story welcomes back a favorite author to many including me, and great friend, Laura Hilton. Laura has guested on this blog several times and this week has graced me with an amazing and fun interview, which I hope you enjoy. Please check out Laura’s awesome BookGiveaway with lots of choices! We’re looking forward to chatting with you.

 

 

 

 

 

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BookGiveaway:

Laura is offering 1 randomly chosen commenter 1 copy of The Amish Wanderer or any other 1 of Laura’s novels, the winner’s choice between Kindle or print (though print is only to a US winner)The winner will be announced here on Friday, February 10th between  5-6 PM EST.

** For Giveaways: it’s not necessary to insert your private email information within comments.

 

 

Blurb for The Amish Wanderer:

Bethany Weiss has been fascinated by Silas Beiler since he spent a couple of years in Jamesport, Missouri, before he and his family moved to another Amish community. They hadn’t kept in touch, but she hasn’t forgotten the friendly young man who brought her lemonade and took her home once from a Singing years ago. When she finds a man sleeping in her family’s barn, like Jesus sleeping in the hay, she is stunned to recognize Silas. He’s left the Amish and is backpacking across the country. She talks him into staying, at least until after Christmas.

Silas’ family has never been happy living in one area for long, and their vagabond ways are wearing on him. He’s lived in Amish communities all over the nation, moving whenever his daed became disgruntled with the leaders, and he’s looking for some sense of stability. His intentions are to make it back to Pennsylvania and stay with his Englisch onkle and his family—and pursue an education. Will Bethany be the one to bring Silas in from the cold? Or will he continue on his way to his extended family and become Englisch?

Questions for Laura Hilton

You’ve established yourself as an author of Amish Christian based fiction. Where did your love of this genre originate?

My maternal family has Amish roots, so I came by it naturally. Like most readers I started reading it when I discovered Beverly Lewis’s books – though I did read some prior to hers that were young adult books, but I don’t remember who the author was.

What are the features in your novels that readers share with you that keeps them coming back to read more?

They are different than a lot of Amish novels out there as I try to write them grittier. Amish are real people, just like you and I, who struggle with the same temptations. They also like the Christian message and the sexual tension in my books.

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Out of all the novels you’ve written, is there 1 that stands out the most in which you can relate to either premise wise or character wise?

A lot of my female characters have shyness and insecurity issues which is something that I can relate to. I am a very quiet person who feels uncomfortable in the spotlight, so as a child, some of the stronger females (bullies) picked on me because I was afraid to make a wave. It took a long time before I grew up enough to know I have value and no one has a right to tell me different (either in word or deed.)

Part of your online credits highlights that you’re a professional book reviewer for the Christian market. What kind of writing skill tips have you picked up through the years in reviewing other authors’ novels?

I have learned what works and what doesn’t and why. It also taught me skill levels by observing, like point of view, deep point of view, conflict, etc.

Do you have a trying-to-get-published story of yesteryear to share?

I think a lot of my trying-to-get-published woes are mostly related to being a new novelist who was still learning the rules and I submitted my babies long before they were ready. I really appreciate the editors who saw something promising in me and took the time to write three pages of why my story wasn’t ready. They were hard to read at the time, but I was able to learn from them.

As a now multi-published author are you finding the crafting of a novel is coming easier or harder?

It depends on the story. Some of them are really lighthearted and fun to write and the characters cooperate, and it just flows. And others are awful! The writing is so painful it takes a lot out of me, leaving me exhausted.

How are you managing the time spent between writing and promotion?

I market in the morning mostly, or whenever I have time, sometimes it’s early afternoon. I also have a street team who helps some.

What do you enjoy doing in your “free” time? Do you have any?

I really don’t have any. I love to read, so I read, but that is part of learning to write and book reviewing, so… I have five kids and a husband and I love spending time with them. I’m trying to be with one son as much as possible right now because he is fixing to leave the nest, going into the Coast Guard and it tears me up just thinking of it. I’m so proud of him, but I will so miss him.

If you didn’t have to think twice about succeeding, which genre would you like to explore in writing?

I don’t know that thinking twice about succeeding is an issue. I love contemporary and I love Amish and writing what I do is the best of both worlds. My two favorite genres rolled into one.

Laura’s Ah-hahs To Tweet:

#AmishFiction Author @Laura_V_Hilton Speaks Up: Interview on Everyone’s Story #BookGiveaway (Tweet This)

How did the love of #AmishFiction genre originate for @Laura_V_Hilton? (Tweet This)

Check out @Laura_V_Hilton’s #BookGiveaway of any 1 of her novels! (Tweet This)

Author’s Bio:

Laura V. Hilton is an award-winning, sought-after author with almost twenty Amish, contemporary, and historical romances. When she’s not writing, she reviews books for her blogs, and writes devotionals or blog posts for Seriously Write and Putting on the New.

Laura and her pastor-husband have five children and a hyper dog named Skye and currently live in Arkansas. One son is in the U.S. Coast Guard. Laura is a pastor’s wife, and homeschools her two youngest children.

When she’s not writing, Laura enjoys reading, and visiting lighthouses and waterfalls. Her favorite season is winter, her favorite holiday is Christmas.

Places to connect with Laura:

Website

Blog

Twitter

Facebook

Pinterest

Goodreads

Amazon

Laura and I look forward to your comments.

~*~*~*~*~

BookAward

 

I’m honored that my novel Always With You

is up for the Christian Small Publisher Book of the Year Award.

Please consider voting at this link.

Thank you!!

 

Cindy Patterson Speaks Up!

NewCindy2

Everyone’s Story welcomes a new guest this week, Christian fiction author Cindy Patterson. Although I haven’t met Cindy face-to-face, yet, having gotten to know her these past years through social media I can tell we’d have no problem chatting over a cup of Joe at a cafe, sharing about books and our love of God. Please settle back in your cozy chair and read what’s on Cindy’s mind as she speaks up, shares an excerpt from her newest release, and offers her BookGiveaway. We’re looking forward to chatting with you.

 

 

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BookGiveaway:

Cindy is offering 1 randomly chosen commenter 1 copy of the Chasing Paradise, the winner’s choice between the ebook edition or print (though print is only to a US winner)The winner will be announced here on Friday, February 3rd between  5-6 PM EST.

** For Giveaways: it’s not necessary to insert your private email information within comments.

 

 

 

Excerpt from Chasing Paradise:

 Chasing Paradise by Cindy Patterson

One

Rachel Adams shoved the last suitcase into the trunk knowing things would never be the same. Palm leaves rustled against the wind as if waving goodbye. The familiar sound had never been important.

Until today.

There would be no palm trees where they were headed. Paradise, Pennsylvania, over a thousand miles away. Right in the middle of Amish Country. Population 1,269. She disguised her anger with a wounded laugh. Something she had mastered in the last year.

Briny air swept through the window and across her face. She’d expected today to be hard, but the heavy feeling in her chest was suffocating. How could they be going through with this? There would be nothing there for them.

The reason they had to go.

After traveling hundreds of miles, Rachel pulled her tangled hair into a messy knot and turned to her mom. “I can’t believe someone else is moving into our house—into my room.”

“I know it’s hard. Your dad …” Her mom paused, her voice no less forlorn and tight than it had been for months. “We shared thousands of memories in that house.

Rachel bit back words desperate for escape. She wanted to stay in Florida with her friends—her daddy.

Trees blurred as Florida grew farther from reach.

Mom placed a hand on Rachel’s leg. “We’ll go back soon for a visit.”

When she glanced at Mom’s tear-streaked face, remorse crept over her like thousands of piercing needles. Mom had no choice. Beverly Adams could no longer survive in Pensacola, Florida. Not without him.

It didn’t matter that Rachel had cried for weeks. Somehow, someway, she had to accept it. “It feels cooler already.”

Rachel expected a simple upturn of Mom’s lips, but instead, full-blown laughter burst through the tense silence. “It does. Things will be different. Better.” She patted Rachel’s leg. “Oh, I completely forgot. I found a novel you might enjoy reading. It’s in my bag behind you.”

Rachel reached for the book in the tote. The black buggy on the cover stared mockingly at her. The title, Shunned.

Yeah right, Mom.

Rachel ran her fingers over the title, silent fears choking her. What if the girls at the new school shunned her? What if she spent her entire senior year miserable and alone? What if being this far away from her daddy made her forget him?

****

Paul Fischer milked Molly while his uncle removed a layer of sodden hay from the stall.

They worked in amiable silence until Uncle Abram propped an arm against his rake. “This is a favorite time of year for planting, but also the busiest, ain’t so?”

Paul removed the vacuum from the cow. “I suppose you’re right.”

“We could use your help more around here.” His uncle tugged on his tangled beard. “How’s the business coming along?”

Gut.”

Paul couldn’t be completely honest. His uncle didn’t care for his choice of work or the fact that he worked long hours among the Englischers.

“Eighteen years old and still not planning for the future. It’s a waste of time dibble dabbling with this wood building nonsense. You might as well farm here with me and Troy.” Uncle Abram heaved a frustrated breath and trudged from the barn.

There was nothing Paul could say. His uncle had never cared for his choices.

Paul finished milking Molly, filled the stalls with fresh hay, then walked to the front porch. He sat on the swing and gave it a hard shove to set it in motion.

Deep down he knew what could happen if things didn’t change—losing his construction business.

For weeks, work had been slower than usual.

His youngest cousin wandered out the front door and took a seat on the swing next to him, her lips puckered in a frown. “Did Daed get on you about farming again?”

He didn’t feel like talking about it, but it wouldn’t hurt to have her pray. The words to one of his favorite Bible verses filled his mind. Where two or more are gathered together in my name, there I am also.

“Ach, it isn’t his fault. Things have been slow in the business, and I’m worried. You could pray about it too, ain’t so?”

“Jah, of course, I will.”

His cousin weaved her arm beneath his. “Everything will work out fine. God is good, jah? Come on, let’s eat. Mamm made fried chicken.” Mary had always been more like a sister than a cousin, and an even better friend. With a playful smile, she jumped off the swing, throwing him in a lurch. She was right, of course. Everything would work out.

Paul lifted his heart to God right there on the swing under the cloudless blue sky. He would trust God whether He decided to close his business or not.

****

Rachel opened the novel and read the first few lines.

When Mom pulled off the interstate, Rachel glanced at the clock on the dashboard. Two hours had passed, and she was already on chapter ten. Mom pulled into a restaurant parking lot, and Rachel’s stomach rumbled in anticipation. Grabbing her bookmark, she placed it between the pages and climbed from the car.

Rachel slid into a booth across from her mom and ordered lunch, her mind still on the story. The diversion had replaced some of her hopelessness and kept her thoughts occupied.

Rachel dipped a fry in her ketchup. “Do the Amish really live as though the world’s not changing all around them?”

“It’s been a while since I’ve visited, but from what I remember they’re just as the author describes.” Mom buttered a biscuit. “I wish we would’ve visited more before …”

A heavy silence hung between them as they finished their meal, each lost in her own thoughts.

After four more hours of driving the next morning, the sign came into view. Welcome to Paradise.

“Where do they come up with these names?” Nothing about this move would ever feel like paradise. Acres of farmland, acres of nothing.

“There’s also Reading and Intercourse in the area.”

A weak smile settled on Rachel’s lips. And I thought Bird in Hand was weird.

Fields of corn spread in every direction covered the vast landscape. Large houses with no shutters stood solitary in squares of white picket fences. Miles separated the homes. Sheep and cattle grazed, and horse-drawn buggies trotted along the narrow lane. A man with a thin, straggly beard drove one of them. He smiled and lifted his hand as they passed.

Rachel returned the gesture moments too late. “He waved. Did you see him?”

Her mom nodded, keeping her eyes trained on the road.

Did outsiders grow frustrated with the plain people? She couldn’t imagine a horse-drawn buggy making it in Florida. They slowed as they approached another. Two children sat in the back, their legs swinging, their bonnet strings flapping in the wind. Rachel waved, and the girls raised their hands before dropping them quickly.

Only moments later, Mom drove the car down a long path leading to a large farmhouse. Mom stopped, stretched out her arms, her hands in a tight grip on the steering wheel. “Here we are.”

Deep green grass covered part of the front yard, but the bushes were scrawny. They would be first to go. Evergreens dotting the land gave the house plenty of privacy. The house and two barns needed a coat of paint. A fixer upper. Exactly what Mom needed.

They climbed from the car, and Mom moved in the space next to her. “What do you think?”

“It has possibilities. It’ll be a good project for you.” Rachel glanced toward the woods.

“Something for you to investigate.”

Rachel leaned against the car. “Yeah, after I get the blood flowing through my legs again.”

Mom took Rachel’s hand and pulled her forward. “Let’s check out the inside. It’ll take some getting used to, but I can just feel it … we’re going to be happy here.”

The older home was something she’d never find in their neighborhood in Pensacola. A huge swing sat on the concrete porch. It would be the perfect spot for reading. Negative feelings stabbed through the barrier, fighting to escape. There’s probably nothing else to do here.

Mom unlocked the door, and they roamed the first few rooms. “I know it’s completely different, but it’ll be fun bringing this beautiful home back to life.”

Rachel ran her palm across the fireplace mantel, dark brown paint chipping around the corners. With a quick sweep across her shorts, she wiped the dirt from her fingers, but the grimy feeling of emptiness remained. “I’m going upstairs.”

“All right.” Mom’s voice carried from the hallway. “I’ll meet you up there in a few minutes.

Once on the second floor, Rachel entered a larger bathroom than she’d been expecting to find. The wallpaper’s orange and yellow pattern brightened the room but clashed with the green tub and toilet. Rachel cringed, picturing Mom’s reaction.

She wandered into the first bedroom on the right, an oversized room with a small closet. Her furniture was positioned exactly as it had been at home, thanks to the relocation crew. But this was nothing like her house. She sat on the bed, her gaze drifting across the dusty wood floor. How would she ever get used to this? Fighting back tears, she ran downstairs and out the front door. As soon as she grabbed her water bottle from the car, a buggy rolled by, the horse’s hooves clicking against the pavement. The sinking feeling bottomed. This was really happening.

Rachel walked around to the backyard and stepped into the barn through its open double doors. The same doors that weren’t open when they arrived. The scent of stale hay and old manure seeped from the closed space. An aged wooden rail wrapped around the interior. “Mom?”

“Rachel, you have to see this.” Mom leaned over the loft’s rail. “This can be your space to do schoolwork, read, or to just get away from me.” Mom laughed.

Rachel climbed the ladder. “This is kind of cool.”

“I have some ideas to make it perfect for you, honey.”

Mom seemed happier already, but a barn loft wasn’t exactly Rachel’s idea of a great addition to the house.

“When we go into town tomorrow, I’ll see if I can find a handyman to help me with some renovations.”

Rachel snatched her water bottle open and drew it to her lips, giving herself a moment to minimize the sting. “Already? We just got here. Besides, you decided to keep things simple, remember?” Rachel climbed down the ladder one step at a time, her gaze lingering on the upper mucky window until it was no longer in view. Everything needed a good cleaning. They didn’t need a handyman. They needed Daddy.

“I promise I won’t overdo it.”

Rachel frowned. “It’s impossible for you to under do anything.”

“You can’t take away all my fun.”

“Sure, Mom, whatever you say. This place will definitely stand out when you’re done.” Maybe it would be easier to sell.

They stepped back inside the house, and Rachel ran upstairs to unpack, but there was no need to pull everything out yet. Her room needed to be painted first, and she would make sure she did that herself.

She pushed a box of winter clothes into the corner of the closet. There were only a few garments in there anyway. There hadn’t been much need for winter clothes in Florida. Plopping onto her unmade bed the movers had put together, she thought of something else.

It may actually snow.

Later that evening, Rachel helped her mom wipe down the kitchen appliances and scrub the floors, then she settled on the couch with Shunned. She read until her eyes grew heavy and the words on the page blurred together. “It’s getting late. I’m going to bed.”

“Good night, baby.” Her mom yawned. “I’m turning in too. We have a big day tomorrow.”

Rachel climbed the stairs, the wood floor cool against her bare feet. She settled into bed and snuggled under her lightweight comforter. This would be the first Saturday she wouldn’t be able to visit his grave. Daddy, please forgive me. I didn’t want to leave you. Mom just couldn’t handle it anymore. I miss you so much.

She grabbed her leather Bible from the night stand and clutched it to her chest, desperate for consolation. The gold lettering of her name had started to fade. She flipped to a random page and landed on Romans 15:13. May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. She searched the passage for a sense of connection, a feeling of hope, peace. There was nothing. After reading through the verse several times, she gave up.

What was she doing wrong?

Tears filled her eyes, and she draped the pillow across her chest to stifle the harsh cries seizing her until her energy waned.

Rachel shifted her face from the damp pillowcase and wiped away her tears. Her daddy would be so ashamed. Mama needed her support now more than ever. And Rachel had done nothing but fill her head and heart with negative thoughts from the time she found out they were moving. The least she could do was give the place a fair chance. After all, it would only be for one year. Her senior year wasn’t all that important anyway.

She kept her Bible tucked close. Though it didn’t satisfy her yearning to be back home in Florida, its nearness brought a much needed comfort. She meditated on that verse throughout the night and as the first light of dawn seeped into her room, her attitude softened.

Rachel dropped two pieces of bread in the toaster, and her mom handed her a bottle of unopened jelly.

“I guess we should’ve stopped for a few groceries yesterday.”

“This is fine. We’ll get a good lunch.” Rachel ripped the seal off the top. “There has to be a McDonald’s in this vast land of nothing.”

“You’re kidding, right? I was looking forward to something else. Anything else.”

“I would love a juicy Quarter Pounder.”

“Yeah, well you can eat all the hamburgers you want. Those days are over for me.”

“No, they’re not.”

Dad’s voice was as clear as if he were standing there. Beverly, are you ever going to start aging? Rachel’s memories spun from one to another and wrapped her in pain-filled comfort as she swallowed the buttered toast with strawberry spread.

The taste of agony bittered the sweetness.

Rachel studied the houses of their neighbors as her mom drove into town. Fields of corn, soybeans, and wheat adorned miles and miles of property. The wilted gold swayed with the breeze like rows of thin, tired soldiers.

In one field, a horse-drawn gadget was being led by an Amish man. He turned just as they drew closer, revealing a full beard. Young girls played in the front yard of another home, their dresses spinning as they chased each other. An older lady crouched low over a vegetable garden.

Samantha would gasp in horror at the thought of digging in dirt. It made the prospect of starting a garden tempting, knowing how shocked her best friend would be.

If there was any hope of contentment, it was up to her to make that happen. Finding a job had to be top priority. She paused as they stepped onto the sidewalk in town. “I’m going to look around, do you mind?”

Mom gave a lopsided grin. “I guess it’s safe enough.”

“It’s Amish Country. What could possibly happen to me here?”

“Plenty.” Mom searched the nearby stores. “Stay in this area. Let’s meet here at noon, and we’ll get lunch.”

“Okay.”

As Rachel darted across the street, one thing became very clear. Regardless of the name, this would never be paradise.

 

 

A NEW YEAR, A NEW ATTITUDE by Cindy Patterson

I’m so honored and excited to be here with Elaine today. As I’ve been thinking about what I wanted to post about, my mind has taken me in all different directions. That could be because 2017 is full of things to get excited about.

One of the most exciting things for me this year is my second novel, Chasing Paradise, is releasing today. It has been a crazy few months preparing, but has been worth every single minute.

I’m a few weeks behind for the all the New Year’s Resolutions and goals, but I’ve never been all that great at sticking to something throughout the year anyway. I do have some goals I intend to keep this year.

But I do believe we can improve in anything we do and we’re always learning and growing. And I’m definitely one that loves figuring things out for myself. I will make that crafty thing instead of going to the store to buy it.

And of course one of my favorite ways of learning is reading.

One of my goals this year, is to get that third book that’s been written for several years, edited and published within one year.

NewCindyMeme

We writers definitely need to read books on improving our writing. But do you read other writers’ fiction while working on a project?

Some would say no, but I find it helps stimulate me in different settings, pacing, plotting, and encourages me to evaluate my work with a sharper eye. Experiencing different writers’ techniques also makes me question am I doing the best I can do. And if I’m in a writer’s block, reading a few chapters of a book I’m currently reading helps tremendously.

Of course, it’s easy to get caught up in another’s work and put yours on the back burner. It is for me anyway. I’m going to strive this year to keep a good pace with reading, writing, and editing.

And speaking of those non-fiction books on craft, plotting, editing, etc… I picked up a new list today from some fellow writer friends.

Here are three I intend to purchase and make time to read this year … I have to pace myself in this new year 😉

  • Dynamic Characters; by Nancy Kress

  • Story Trumps Structure; by James Scott Bell

  • Writing for the Soul; by Jerry Jenkins

Now, if you don’t mind, I’m going to jump to a whole other topic … A new attitude.

This is a new year and a time when this country needs a new attitude. Including me. Of course making time for reading God’s Holy Word, is the most important thing we can do for our attitude.

Since I recommended some writing craft books, I have to tell you about another type of book that is one of my favorites. It’s actually a Bible Study called Jesus, The One and Only; by Beth Moore.

Y’all, I fell in love with Jesus through this study.

Today, this year, I want to do more than just to love my Savior. I want others to know him too. I want to pray without ceasing, for those around me … for their situations, for the Holy Spirit to be poured out on those hurting. For everyone I come in contact with to feel God’s presence so deeply they won’t be able to deny his presence. For those around me to see Jesus in me. By focusing on others, my complaints with grow dimmer and dimmer each day. That is my prayer for my attitude this year.

What will you do in this new year to gain a better attitude?

Thank you so much for stopping by.

My two novels, Chasing Paradise (that’s releasing today) and Broken Butterfly (The sequel to Chasing Paradise). Yes, I published them out of order, but they also stand alone. You’ll just see some of the same characters. 🙂 They are both Inspirational Romance edged with a little suspense.

Thank you, Elaine, for inviting me to join you today and may God bless all of you in your journeys, whatever they may be, this year.

Cindy’s Ah-hahs To Tweet:

#ChristFic author Cindy Patterson @cpattersonbks speaks up: A New Year, A New Attidude. (Tweet This)

Win Cindy Patterson @cpattersonbks’s #BookGiveaway of new release, Chasing Paradise. (Tweet This)

Cindy Patterson @cpattersonbks shares ways of getting your #writing off the back burner. #BookGiveaway (Tweet This)

Author’s Bio:

Cindy Patterson believes in life changing fiction and happily ever afters that start with Jesus. Her passions include Jesus, her husband, and her family. She’s an ordinary girl wanting to do extraordinary things for Christ. In her stories, she loves to give glimpses of how God can use brokenness and make them whole. Her favorite pastimes are watching her son play baseball and watching her daughter dance. She reads a lot, drinks too much coffee, and wishes she had more time to write. She loves to connect with her readers.

Places to connect with Cindy:

Website

Twitter

Facebook

Goodreads

Amazon Author Page

Cindy and I look forward to your comments.

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Valentine Dayg

 

 Still a bargain price on Kindle and print on Amazon

 

 

Toni Shiloh Speaks Up!

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Everyone’s Story welcomes this week’s guest, Christian fiction author Toni Shiloh. I’ve gotten to know Toni through Facebook and have had the pleasure of seeing her novels release. I’m quite excited for her!! Toni’s next release is her novella in the A Spring of Weddings collection. Look for it this March. Catch Toni’s blurb below and her uplifting words on encouragement. We’re looking forward to chatting with you.

 

 

 

 

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Blurb of Toni’s novella, A Proxy Wedding:

Carly James values loyalty and friendship above all. So when her best friend calls asking her to be a proxy bride, she says, ‘yes.’ How hard can it be to say ‘I do’ so that her best friend can be with the one she loves? Only, Carly never counted on the feelings that began to swirl around with the proxy groom.

Damien Nichols likes life lined up from A to Z, but when his best friend calls in a favor, disorder begins to reign. Instead of taking a quick flight to the proxy wedding, he has to take a road trip with the proxy bride. Carly’s free-spirit attitude bumps heads with his meticulous approach to life. As Damien discovers the woman underneath the carefree façade, his emotions become involved.

Will love become real at A Proxy Wedding?

 

Needed Encouragement by Toni Shiloh

This holiday season has been a rough one for me. Sure we’re a couple of weeks into the new year. We gleefully said goodbye to 2016 in hopes that 2017 would bring us a better life. Except my life didn’t get the memo. It’s stuck battling the illness that captured our household in December. Instead of opening our presents with cheer, we had to do it nursing fevers, and tissue dangling from our hands.

Now, my youngest son has been battling fevers. “It’s a fever,” some might say. “What’s the big deal?” Well, my youngest son has sickle cell disease. Plus, he’s missing a spleen thanks to the disease that enlarged and caused more harm to his body than good. So when he gets a fever, it earns him a trick to his specialty doctor, the hematologist. They do blood cultures, give him IV antibiotics, and any other workups that are deemed necessary. My six-year-old boy HATES needles. But after six years of dealing with this disease, I’m prepared.

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I pack a bag with all the items I’ve deemed necessary over the years: a stuff animal for comfort, eReader with games to occupy him, snacks—because we’re guaranteed to be in the clinic (or ER if after hours) for a while. It’s a dance he and I know very well.

And despite these setbacks, I’m still expected to write. Still expected to blog. Still expected to do household chores. Time doesn’t stop. Nothing does. So many times, I’ve wanted to give up in the middle of a story. What’s the point when sickness pervades, my own health gives me trouble, and my household needs more help than Lysol can give?

Then God sends me a reprieve in the form of friends, family, and readers. I took a mental break and interacted with readers on Facebook. The result: a reader bought both of my books because she thought I was a fun person.

Y’all, I needed that. In the midst of my son’s fever, my own aches, and a laptop screen waiting for words, this reader touched my heart and fueled me. I was able to write over 2,000 words that day because of her. Whatever obstacle you’re going through, God knows. He knows and He’ll send encouragement when you need it most.

If you haven’t received it yet, then know I’m praying for you. Be blessed and encouraged.

Toni’s Ah-hahs To Tweet:

#ChristFic author Toni Shiloh shares how to write when a family member is ill. (Tweet This)

Author Toni Shiloh Speaks Up on Everyone’s Story: Needed Encouragement (Tweet This)

Toni Shiloh: #Writing through tough times (Tweet This)

Author’s Bio:

Toni Shiloh is a wife, mom, and Christian fiction writer. Once she understood the powerful saving grace thanks to the love of Christ, she was moved to honor her Savior. She writes to bring Him glory and to learn more about His goodness.

She spends her days hanging out with her husband and their two boys. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and the local Virginia Chapter.

Places to connect with Toni:

Website

Facebook

Goodreads

Pinterest

Bookbub

Google+

Toni and I look forward to your comments.

 

Sally Chambers Speaks Up!

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Everyone’s Story warmly welcomes this week’s guest, Sally Chambers. Sally and I are fellow Elk Lake Publishing Inc. authors, but I had the pleasure of reading Sally’s The Stonekeepers before signing with Elk Lake. What a great story! It’s been fun getting to know Sally since that point. A caring and sweet woman, I hope you’ll pull up a fave chair this week and take a couple of minutes to sample Sally’s excerpt, read her uplifting words, and try for her Giveaway. We’re looking forward to chatting with you.

 

 

 

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BookGiveaway:

Sally is offering 2 randomly chosen commenters each 1 copy of the The Stonekeepers. 1 winner will receive 1 print copy; 1 winner a Kindle edition. The winners will be announced here on Friday, January20th between  5-6 PM EST.

** For Giveaways: it’s not necessary to insert your private email information within comments.

 

 

Excerpt from The Stonekeepers:

An excerpt from first chapter of Sally Chambers’ YA suspense novel, The Stonekeepers

Chapter One Excerpts

Nantucket, Massachusetts

There has to be an explanation.

Outside Lexi Christensen’s bedroom window, the world shook. The fast-moving storm hurled shards of silver lightning, and thunder bruised the heavens above rain-swept Nantucket Island. She leaned over her empty cedar chest, and again smoothed her hand across the base. Surely she’d only imagined the solid base had moved as she’d dusted the bottom.

There. A small indentation shifted beneath her fingers. She pressed the end of the wide slice of polished wood and drew in a quick breath. As if hinged, the slender board rose straight up, revealing a compartment.

Someone had carved out a section just big enough for a business sized—

The overhead light flickered. Another explosion of thunder rocked the house as lightning illuminated an envelope tinged yellow with age. She bent closer. Emblazoned in sweeping black script, her name, Alexia E. Christensen, traced across the face of the envelope.

Why would an envelope bearing her name be in her cedar chest? How long had it been there? She’d never completely emptied the box, but with her first year of college looming, she’d decided to clean it out. Remnants of her life had been layered like tree rings in the chest. Plaster-of-Paris handprints from kindergarten, old books and diaries, rumpled report cards, loose photos, awards, and more lay around her in short, not-so-neat stacks.

Then she’d lifted the old paper liner from the bottom of the chest. And found this.

The handwriting on the envelope wasn’t familiar, and the possibilities that twisted through her mind didn’t offer a single credible explanation.

The storm quieted, moving eastward over the island. Twin fires of curiosity and anticipation burned through her fingers as she picked up the envelope. The thin wood cover fell into place with a soft swish.

A clatter of pans sounded from the kitchen. Mom, fixing lunch. Good. For a while at least, Mom wouldn’t barge in with more orders or an interrogation. Right now, Lexi wanted privacy.

She stretched to ease the tension in her neck, then sat back with her knees drawn up under her chin. Her hands trembled with excitement—or was it apprehension—and for a second, she hesitated.

Do it, for heaven’s sake. It’s just an old envelope.

The glue easily gave way as she slid her finger beneath the flap. She pulled out a fragile sheet of thin, crackly paper, and unfolded it. Several lines of text were written in the same handwriting as her name outside the envelope. Most of it was faded, barely legible, ink almost obliterated by brown stains. But the words of the first line stopped her, made her suck in a breath.

Northbrick House.

Northbrick. A vivid image of the aging mansion filled her mind. Massive, elegant with tall pillars and mottled cinnamon brick—and abandoned. Every time she passed the place, she felt drawn to it like a metal filing to a magnet. She had no idea why.

Three weeks ago, her half-eaten breakfast had been forgotten when she’d listened to the one-minute TV news blurb highlighting that “Northbrick House was scheduled for demolition.”

If the place hadn’t wormed its way into her heart, she’d have walked away from the whole thing. But as one of the oldest estates in Nantucket, Northbrick deserved to live, and she made up her mind to make certain it did. She located contacts, but was frustrated with replies that sent her chasing up a chain of responsibility with no answers on how to help halt or even delay Northbrick’s destruction. The historical association, always right on top of saving the old houses of Nantucket, seemed to be trying their best, but nothing had changed.

With the demolition date less than a month away, she had enough time to help save the mansion from the town’s wrecking ball. She’d planned to go inside Northbrick House, take photos, make notes on points of why save the place, and compile it along with her research. Presenting it all to the Nantucket Historical Association’s open meeting on Friday of next week was on her calendar.

And her plan to go inside Northbrick was already in motion—for tomorrow.

She shook her head and stared at the cedar chest then at the opaque sheet of paper she held. “How could I be finding this now?” She whispered the words into the ether, her throat raspy and dry as beach sand. Only her best friends, Jenni and Ridge, knew she wanted to help save Northbrick.

Was it a coincidence? A warning? Did she even believe in coincidence?

As far as she knew, no connection existed between her and the mansion. Was there something inside the old house that might link her to the estate?

Goose bumps rippled down her arms. She looked at the paper. If she read the remaining lines, would it make sense or get weirder?

The paper quivered in her hand, her eyes skipping down past several single, widely-spaced, hard-to-read lines, pulled to the bottom as a wave of unreality engulfed her. Two sketches of a familiar shape—a six-pointed star—like the one she’d worn beside her cross every day for as long as she could remember. She closed her eyes against the barrage of thoughts, questions, in awe at what she held.

Her hand moved to the slender gold chain against her throat. She pressed her fingers against the tiny metal replica of the Star of David, held it out, and turned it over. The two entwined triangles were engraved on the bottom of the left and right angles with two letter A’s. Just like in the sketches . . .

And for a fleeting moment, she was a little girl again, sitting on a whitewashed bench in a garden, cradling a small box in one hand, and in her other, something golden shining in the sunlight. “A is for Alexia, and A is for apple,” Mom had chanted, smiling and pointing at little Lexi. “You are the apple of God’s eye.”

Dear God, hold me together. Help me to make sense of this.

One step at a time. Long, slow breaths.

The stairs outside Lexi’s open bedroom door creaked and footsteps tapped down the hall. Muted thunder rumbled in the distance. She refolded the paper, stuck it back in the envelope, returned it to its hiding place, and covered the base with the old liner.

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An unsettling flurry of excitement and anticipation flew through her. She’d soon be driving her car onto the ferry for the trip to the mainland, a moment she’d dreamed of since she’d made her decision to attend MIT.

Convertible top down, sunglasses perched on her nose, Lexi got behind the wheel of the Mini, reveling in the sun and solitude, island breezes playing through her hair—and worries playing through her mind. College prep, edgy parents, Ridge, a crazy letter connecting her to the house she wanted to save . . . She doubted a drive through the rain dampened back streets of Nantucket would ease the mountain of stress she seemed to be climbing.

As Lexi pulled into her best friend’s driveway, Jenni’s brother sent her a high-five from the front porch. She waved at him over the top of the windshield. “Is she home?”

“Nope. She just called and said she’s still at the mall. Something about a monster sale on jeans. Probably won’t be back for another hour.”

Lexi grinned. “So she snuck off to shop without me, huh?”

“Yeah, and she might strangle me for telling you.”

“Don’t worry. My lips are locked.” She shook her head and chuckled. If Jen bought more clothes, even two dorm closets might not be enough. She’d have to invoke “stand your ground” law or the place could end up becoming a war zone.

Lexi backed out of the driveway. Maybe she’d talk with Jenni tonight. She should make the trip to Northbrick alone first anyway. Just being there, scoping it out before the real thing tomorrow, felt right. Jenni’s brain practically left the planet whenever Lexi talked about saving the old place, but Ridge seemed more than interested.

Two blocks south of the estate, she turned right, maneuvering her chili-red Mini onto a narrow dirt side road heavy with trees, weeds, and brush, and parked. Better than leaving the conspicuous little convertible sitting in front of the estate attracting attention. She locked the car and backtracked to Northbrick Avenue. She kept up a brisk pace, anxious to reach the gate.

A few feet ahead of her, as if it had no beginning or end, the tall iron fence emerged from a dense tangle of brambles and trees. It continued on the slight grassy rise that edged the sidewalk along Northbrick Avenue for close to the length of two football fields before disappearing into the woods on the north side of the estate. Set in the middle of the sturdy iron fence, two tall gray granite sentinels held the entrance gate.

Soft currents of late June air held the sweet-sour scent of pine, wild honeysuckle, jasmine, and weeds as she neared the mansion. The low hum of bees blended with the soft music of birdsong. Every sensation nudged her with whispers—and twinges of familiarity.

Lexi reached the fence and followed it to the twin pillars. How many times had she stopped and walked her bike past these imposing seven foot giants? Countless.

Northbrick House faced west, and unlike most of the stately old mansions on the island, sat back nearly a hundred feet from the street. She stepped from the sidewalk and climbed the four stone-and-mortar steps to stare at the gate. Heavy, rusted, no lock, and open just inches, it sagged onto the stones beneath it. She pushed hard against it, and might as well have tried to push an elephant. The gate didn’t budge. It didn’t matter. Ridge would open it tomorrow.

Beyond the gate lay unkempt grounds, a chaos of trees, tall weeds, wild trailing vines, and thick brambles. Strange how dirt and dead weeds appeared scattered along what she could see of a wide, flat stone walk, as if someone had recently tried to clear the path. With no other way in except through this gate, she’d soon follow those stones to go into the house.

She set her cellphone to video, holding it between the bars, panning it across the house and grounds, then took still shots of the rusted black gate. Enough for now. There’d be more time and sunlight for photos tomorrow afternoon.

Lexi stuffed the phone in her jeans pocket and paused for a last look. A tingly shiver scattered down her arms as her fingers curled around the cold metal bars, still damp from the earlier rain.

Through the door. The first words of the letter. Dare she follow the instruction?

The second line, beneath the floor. A cellar maybe. There’d be a lot to do when they went inside.

The sun rode low on the horizon, lengthening late-afternoon shadows. Wind moved dark strands of hair around her face. She shoved them away as a round, dark-gray, rat-sized lump skittered across the stone path behind the fence and disappeared into the weeds. Just stay away from me, varmint.

She needed to go home and tie up loose ends in her room. She hadn’t exactly gone “just to Jenni’s,” but she’d be home in minutes. Time to leave.

She gazed at the abandoned mansion’s ominous façade, the front door calling to her. Why did this place have such a strong pull on her? The paper involved her. How? Useless questions! There was only one way to find out. Should she? Lexi glanced around. No one in sight.

The iron bars iced in her hands. She tightened her grip and pushed. No movement. Instead, the ground beneath her feet thundered for long terrifying seconds . . .

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Yes, You Can by Sally Chambers

“I can’t, Lord—there are plenty of others who can.”

You do it.

But, I can’t make a major change like this.

Yes. You can.

I’m 44. It’s crazy. I just can’t.

Yes. You can. I am with you.

In my office, elbows on my desk, chin cradled in my hands, mired in doubt, my faith fades like the flood of red rays from the setting sun pouring through the window. In front of me, an agent contract from a large insurance company . . . and a pen.

Gideon’s doubt in Judges 6, reminds me of times I’ve doubted—myself, God, others. My doubts are far less important than Gideon’s, but they sure follow a similar pattern.

Gideon’s story (from The Living Bible, rewritten a bit) goes like this:

For seven years, the people of Israel were cruelly treated by their enemies. It reached a point when the Israelites “took to the mountains, living in caves and dens”—they hid and began to “cry out to the Lord for help.” Gideon was there with other fearful Israelites when the Lord spoke to him.

You do it.

The Lord, who knew Gideon’s heart as He does ours, turned to Gideon, “I will make you strong! Go and save Israel from the Midianites! I am sending you!”

But, I can’t do it.

And in came Gideon’s doubts, questions, and argument, “Sir, how can I save Israel? My family is the poorest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least thought of in the entire family!” I can’t!

Oh, but yes you can.

The Lord said to Gideon, “But I, Jehovah, will be with you!

I’ll need proof.

Gideon, still doubting, said to the Lord, “If it is really true . . . then I’ll need you to do some miracle to prove it . . . so please stay here until I get a present for you.”

All right, I will stay.

The Lord, gracious and merciful, reassured him. “I’ll stay here until you return.”

Gideon went home, prepared meat, bread, and broth, returned, and presented them to the Lord.

Now I need you to do something.

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The Lord instructed Gideon “Place the meat and bread on that rock and pour the broth over them.”

I will . . .

“Gideon followed these instructions.”

Watch.

The Lord touched the meat and bread and fire consumed them.

Ah, You will help me.

His faith strengthened, the Lord with him, step-by-step, Gideon “. . . did as the Lord commanded.”

Our Lord is as gracious and patient with us as He was with Gideon when we doubt or cast a fleece before him or want to run the other way. Whether we’re writers or mothers or teachers or realtors or engineers or any of myriad other things we do, we want assurance we’re in God’s will and have his help.

I sounded like Gideon when after fifteen years of working in the insurance industry for others, I felt the nudge to do it myself. And again, after a strong nudge to write and submit devotions, articles, Sunday school take-home papers, and drama. And again, when I felt the strong assurance that I should write novels—suspense novels—like The Stonekeepers, released in May of 2015, and a second novel that’s already interested my agent and publisher.

Have you experienced moments of doubt when something you’ve worked hard to achieve becomes an exciting, scary reality?

Never say never. Pray. Listen. Believe. Do the work. You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. (Philippians 4:13 NKJV.)

Just as with Gideon, God is always with us, never leaves or forsakes us. Simply love Him with all your heart and soul and mind and strength, ask Him, thank Him, include Him in all you do.

Two favorite mini-prayers you might enjoy too: Jesus, please come and be with me. Awaken me to your presence. Jesus please come and sit with me. Guide me into your truth.

Yes, you can!

John Oxenham wrote in Bees in Amber

Not for one single day

Can I discern my way,

But this I surely know—

Who gives the day,

Will show the way.

So I securely go.

Sally’s Ah-hahs To Tweet:

Author @sallychambers2 Speaks Up! on Everyone’s Story: Yes, You Can (especially when God says so). (Tweet This)

How did @sallychambers2 react when she felt a nudge to write a novel? (Tweet This)

Win @sallychambers2’s #BookGiveaway of The Stonekeepers. #ChristFic (Tweet This)

Author’s Bio:

Sally Chambers and her husband, Jerry, live in sunny, sub-tropical Florida, happy to have their two married children living within driving distance. Their grandchildren and great grandchildren visit from the UK and Colorado! Since retiring from her career in insurance, she’s focused on her love of writing.

An author of Christian fiction, Sally enjoys writing for young women, creating suspenseful, faith-filled stories with a dash of romance. She was a finalist in the American Christian Fiction Writer’s inaugural First Impressions Contest and has won awards for her poetry and short stories.

Sally loves walking on the beach or anywhere there’s a trail, enjoys reading to children, writing, reviewing and editing for writer friends, has fun taking photos with her iPhone, and reading, especially mystery, suspense, adventure.

Places to connect with Sally:

Website

Blog

Twitter

Facebook

Goodreads

Pinterest

Amazon

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 I want to thank you–readers, friends, family, and fellow authors–who have helped me to get where I am today (rejoicing each milestone as they come). Please stop by this Sunday, January 15th, for fun, sharing, and Giveaways!! Hope to see you   Party Page

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Sally and I look forward to your comments.

 

Connie Mann Speaks Up!

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Everyone’s Story welcomes this week’s guest, Connie Mann, romantic suspense author plus boat captain (!!). I’ve been watching Connie’s writing career grow and grow and I’m pleased to have her here with us this week. Please check out Connie’s encouraging feature on starting and finishing, her BookGiveaway and the blurb for Tangled Lies. We’re looking forward to chatting with you.

 

 

 

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BookGiveaway:

Connie is offering 1 randomly chosen commenter a choice between either a print or ebook edition of Tangled Lies, US only, or if outside US 1 ebook. The winner will be announced here on Friday, January13th between  5-6 PM EST.

** For Giveaways: it’s not necessary to insert your private email information within comments.

 

 

Blurb of Tangled Lies:

Some family secrets are best left buried at sea.  

Orphaned as a child in Russia, boat captain Sasha Petrov has spent most of her life adrift, anchored only by her loving foster family. So when they beg her to return to the family marina in Safe Harbor, Florida, for Mama’s sixtieth birthday, Sasha complies, hoping to put the past behind her. But Mama has other plans: she wants her three foster daughters to find Tony, the biological son who disappeared twenty years earlier.

Sasha agrees to try, but that’s easier said than done when bad boy Jesse Claybourne shows up, reigniting an old attraction. Back in Safe Harbor on a quest of his own, Jesse gets tangled up in Sasha’s search, and soon the two are close to uncovering an old town secret that some will stop at nothing to protect.

When Jesse is violently beaten and Sasha’s dog is poisoned, they realize the past is hiding something more sinister than they ever imagined. Can they uncover the truth without destroying Sasha’s family and breaking each other’s hearts, or are they sailing against the wind?

Are You a Starter or a Finisher? By Connie Mann

Are you a starter? Or a finisher?

It’s an intriguing question, right? Especially at the beginning of a new year.

I first heard Jonathan Milligan of Blogging Your Passion talk about it during a webinar, and the question stopped me in my tracks. Actually, it did more than that. It settled in and echoed inside me in a big, uncomfortable, gee-I-might-have-to-change-the-way-I-think way.

The truth is that I am most definitely a starter, as those who know me well will tell you. I love to try new things, see new places, eat new food, meet new people, start new projects…and don’t even get me started on the excitement of a new story idea.

…but that’s where I get into trouble. When I get a great idea, I dive in with both feet and then scramble for a plan in midair. Or worse, I wing it without one and then halfway through the home improvement or writing or (fill in the blank) project I hit a small snag—or a really big unmovable roadblock—and everything stops.

In a best case scenario, I can eventually salvage the project. In a worst case, I give up in frustration.

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Before long, of course, some shiny new possibility catches my eye and the crazy cycle starts all over again. If I’m not careful, my life (and my story file) ends up littered with half-finished projects. Or with things that seemed like a really good idea at the time, but fizzled out before I hit the finish line.

A friend of mine has the opposite problem. She is definitely a finisher. She has no undone projects in her world. At. All. But when she’s trying to START something? That’s where she struggles. She feels she has to get all the variables covered and have every single possibility accounted for—to the point that it paralyzes her and she can’t seem to get moving.

We’ve learned to laugh at how different we are. But more importantly, we’ve learned to use our strengths to help the other one push through their weaknesses.

She helps me hold back, just a bit, until I have at least a rough plan in place before I dive in. I help her put her detailed plan aside—just for a while—and encourage her to take the plunge and simply get moving. That mutual encouragement has helped us both see the projects we’re most passionate about through—from start to finish.

I love this quote from Arthur Ashe:

“Start where you are.

Use what you have.

Do what you can.”

Whatever you’re working on this year, and whether you’re a starter or a finisher, let me encourage you to make a plan (even a sketchy, barely-there one), take a deep breath, and START. Then just keep swimming and swimming and swimming…you’ll get to the FINISH eventually.

So, what about you? Are you a starter or a finisher? How do you stay on course and keep moving forward? Let me know in the comments and one lucky commenter will win a copy of my latest novel, TANGLED LIES.

 

Connie’s Ah-hahs To Tweet:

Author @CaptConnieMann Speaks Up: Are You a Starter of Finisher? #BookGiveaway (Tweet This)

See how author @CaptConnieMann’s friend checks & balances her with her #writing. (Tweet This)

Win #BookGiveaway of @CaptConnieMann’s Tangled Lies. #Suspense (Tweet This)

Author’s Bio:

Connie Mann is a licensed boat captain and the author of romantic suspense novels Tangled Lies, Angel Falls and Trapped. Hidden Secrets, her next novel set in Safe Harbor, Florida, will be out in May 2017 from Waterfall Press. When she’s not dreaming up plotlines, you’ll find “Captain Connie” on Central Florida’s waterways, introducing boats full of schoolchildren to their first alligator. She’s also passionate about helping women and children in developing countries break the poverty cycle. She and her hubby love traveling and spending time on the water with their grown children and extended family. (Hubby says they are good at fishing, but lousy at catching.)

Places to connect with Connie:

Website

Twitter

Facebook

Instagram

Pinterest

Amazon

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Have time for a story that mirrors scary real life but offers remedy of hope?

Check it out on Amazon

 

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Connie and I look forward to your comments.

Debora M. Coty Speaks Up

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Everyone’s Story welcomes this week’s guest, Debora M. Coty, speaker and author of inspirational non-fiction books. I “bumped” into Debora on Twitter and knew right away I’d love for her to guest on my blog. A BTW: one thing I absolutely love is how Debora signs her emails as well as works it into her writing (as you’ll see)… she says Papa God. Don’t you love it!! Please welcome the New Year and Debora. We’re looking forward to chatting with you.

 

 

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Debora’s Invitation For You:

“I will be giving away several copies of my new Too Blessed to be Stressed: Inspiration for Every Day in a drawing of everyone who subscribes to my Too Blessed to be Stressed blog (found at my website, www.DeboraCoty.com) during the month of January. I would like to include Everyone’s Story’s readers by warm invitation.”

 

 

 

Dangling Dreams by Debora M. Coty

My daughter Cricket had a dream. Ever since she was a little girl “milking” her baby dolls (her term for feeding them), all she’d ever wanted was to be a mommy.

Cricket held tightly onto that dream after marrying her high school sweetheart, all the way through college, and even through years of infertility tests, treatments and surgeries. Papa God finally blessed Cricket and her husband Josh with a beautiful little boy, Blaine, and they were happy, so very happy. That was miracle #1.

Years passed and Cricket began to yearn for another baby to hold in her arms.

More tests, expensive treatments, and another painful surgery. But no baby. Four different fertility specialists told her all possibilities had been exhausted and there would be no biological baby in their future.

Heartbreak. Disappointment. Countless tears.

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After much prayer for guidance, Cricket and Josh decided to enter the foster-to-adopt program. They filled out countless forms, submitted reams of paperwork, and went through numerous home inspections. They were told not to get their hopes up; most fostered children don’t end up being eligible for adoption. The process could take years before they ended up with a forever child of their own.

All the while, Cricket never stopped praying for the miracle of another precious baby, even as she pushed through mountains of red tape.

Then the day arrived for the last scheduled home inspection before all requirements for fostering a child were completed. But that inspection was never to be. Cricket had to cancel the appointment because she was so sick.

She was so sick because … she was pregnant. Miracle #2.

Cricket got sicker and sicker. She was diagnosed with Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG), a severe form of 24/7 morning sickness which usually subsides during the second trimester. But Cricket’s didn’t. By her sixth month, she was hospitalized with IV’s. Her baby bump was barely visible and she was too weak to walk more than a few yards.

After 39 “collapsed” veins due to dehydration, a PICC line and pump were inserted to supply liquid nourishment directly into her abdomen. It seemed to be working at first, but two weeks later, Cricket was rushed to ICU with fever and convulsions due to a dangerous virulent infection. To save her life, doctors were forced to give her medications they don’t usually give pregnant women. No one knew what effect they might have on the baby.

Things look very bleak indeed. Our family gathered around Cricket’s hospital bed and prayed for the fulfillment of the miracle of this precious baby struggling for his own life in utero while his mother fought for hers.

But wait … Papa God was up to something.

At this same time, seemingly out of the blue, a pregnant, unwed 20-year-old approached Josh at work and asked if he and Cricket would consider taking her baby. She, too, was six months along and felt that she could not keep this product of a one night stand. She had been praying about what to do and felt that God was directing her to Josh and Cricket, who could provide a loving, Christian upbringing for the baby.

Another baby? Josh was hesitant to bring the issue up to Cricket for obvious reasons – she was practically on death’s door. But it turned out to be just the impetus she needed to propel her through the next three months: the beautiful, glowing, blessed light at the end of the tunnel.

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The birth mother invited Cricket to attend the baby’s birth and cut the umbilical cord. No amount of illness could keep Cricket from being the first to cuddle that sweet little baby girl in her arms.

Two weeks later, she gave birth to a healthy baby boy. Twins from different mothers. Miracle #3.

Is there an unfilled dream dangling in your life, dear BFF (Blessed Friend Forever)? Have you gone to the Fulfiller of Dreams about it? Because you know, if Papa God has placed a dream in your heart, nourished and kept it there, there’s no such thing as impossible.

For if God wills it, He fulfills it … against all odds.

Debora’s Ah-hahs To Tweet:

#Inspirational speaker and author @deboracoty Speaks Up: Dangling Dreams. (Tweet This)

@deboracoty shares how to win #BookGiveaway of Too Blessed to be Stressed devotional. (Tweet This)

Author @deboracoty asks: Are you too blessed to be stressed? (Tweet This)

Author’s Bio:

Debora Coty is a popular speaker and award-winning author of numerous inspirational books, including the bestselling Too Blessed to be Stressed series. Her newest release is a 365-day devotional, Too Blessed to be Stressed: Inspiration for Every Day. Visit with Debora (and enjoy lots of fun freebies) at www.DeboraCoty.com

Places to connect with Debora:

Twitter

Facebook

Goodreads

Amazon

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Debora and I are looking forward to hearing from you!

 

John F. Harrison Speaks Up

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Everyone’s Story welcomes this week’s guest, debut author John F. Harrison. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know John a bit through our Facebook connection since we both belong to the NE ACFW chapter. I also had the honor of endorsing John’s novel Fighting Back.  Here’s a snippet of what I wrote: “What I liked most about Fighting Back is the unashamed showing by Mr. Harrison that although one can try to right one’s life, it’s where and what God has to show you that matters. In Eddie’s case, faith, forgiveness, and love are rediscovered against the backdrop of the hideous crime of human trafficking, leading the reader to conclude what in life is worth fighting for.” So, this being Christmas week, please take in all that John shares with us, including his excerpt, message, a Q&A, and his BookGiveaway. We’re looking forward to chatting with you.

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BookGiveaway:

John is offering 1 randomly chosen commenter 1 print edition of Fighting Back. The winner will be announced here on Friday, December 30th between  5-6 PM EST.

** For Giveaways: it’s not necessary to insert your private email information within comments.

Excerpt from Fighting Back:

 

Fighting Back by John F. Harrison

 

Part One: Transitions

Chapter 1: Eight Seconds

 

On the spur of the moment, Eddie Caruthers decided to help a damsel in distress, and thus began his long slide into darkness. Of course, that was not apparent from where he stood. Clarity about the genesis of one’s own misery comes mainly in the cold light of hindsight, too late to be of use.

The damsel was a doe-eyed young woman with a melodious voice, a sweet smile, and an astonishingly corpulent build. Rosalyn Pitts and three other women had exited the big stone church that occupied half a block on Union Avenue in downtown Framingham, Massachusetts. Hobbling with the help of a cane in each hand, Rosalyn jaywalked in the spill of the streetlights, talking cheerily and breathlessly over her shoulder to her three friends, who lingered on the sidewalk behind her as they finished their goodbyes.

Her distress arrived in a black suv, as the driver started spewing invective at her from his open window. She was in his way, forcing him to stop and wait while she made her laborious crossing. He loudly bemoaned the size, color, and unsatisfactory forward speed of the lady’s posterior, adding, “Does Old MacDonald know he’s missing a cow? E-I-E-I-oh my God!” Rosalyn hung her head and tried to move faster.

Eddie saw and heard all this from the courtyard of Solid Rock Church, where landscaping spotlights highlighted shrubs and ornamental trees just beginning to shed their red and yellow autumn garb. Eddie was strolling under those trees in rapt conversation with his—friend, girlfriend, wife to be? He was still trying to work all that out. But whatever the lithe and lovely Shawna Bell was to him, he enjoyed her company immensely and found that her nearness made the whole wearisome world fade away.

He and Shawna had been last to leave the building after choir practice, hanging back for the few seconds it took him to set the alarm and lock the door. Eddie wasn’t in the choir, but Shawna was, and he considered that reason enough to volunteer to handle building security and lockup on Thursday nights. He’d been doing that for six weeks, just for the pleasure of accompanying Shawna to her car—as slowly as possible—and listening to her small talk.

He didn’t appreciate having this moment spoiled by the sudden stream of insults and profanities he was now hearing. He looked over and noted the make and model of the vehicle, an occupational habit that was now a reflex. Then he focused his attention on the driver who was intruding on his happiness. It was especially aggravating that the target of this onslaught was poor Rosalyn Pitts. Roz, who was unfailingly pleasant despite suffering perpetual discomfort from the strain on her joints; Roz, who never showed embarrassment at having to sit on a bench in the rear of Solid Rock’s sanctuary, a bench placed there because she was too big to fit on the cushioned chairs used by the rest of the congregation; Roz, who doubtless had a too-short life expectancy and would probably never, ever be asked out on a date. If anybody deserved a break, it was Roz.

Eddie found himself yelling, “Hey, loudmouth, if you had any class, you’d shut up and leave the woman alone!” He fully expected an answering salvo of bluff and obscenities. People always acted tough from inside a car. Being wrapped in a four-thousand-pound steel and glass cocoon had a way of making people lose whatever inhibitions they might normally have had. Well, if listening to some thug curse at him would spare Roz further humiliation, so be it.

But the driver didn’t say another word. Instead, he slammed his vehicle into reverse and whipped it into a curbside parking space. Eddie was briefly impressed with the maneuver. Not many people could fling a Range Rover around so precisely while driving backwards, and fewer still would try it while sporting those oversized two-piece chrome wheels. What kind of nutcase would risk curbing rims that pricey? That fleeting question evaporated when the driver got out, slammed the door, and strode toward the courtyard.

Eddie’s pulse quickened. His senses honed in on the approaching man. Still, his next words were to Shawna: “Stand clear.” He glanced in her direction and made a shooing gesture with his right hand.

“Eddie!” Shawna’s normally silky voice nearly squeaked, and when she spoke his name a second time she drew it out to great length. “Eddiiieeee! Don’t get into it with him! Let’s just go!”

But Eddie had already turned his attention back to the lout who had been Roz’s problem and was about to become his. This man was compact, some three inches shorter than Eddie’s six-foot height. “Loudmouth” had an olive complexion and dark hair slicked back. He looked to be in his late thirties, a good ten years older than Eddie. Powerfully built, his broad shoulders and muscular physique marked him a dangerous opponent. The angry stare and clenched jaw suggested he wasn’t coming over to chat. He approached with, head up, chest out, fingers curled but not quite clenched into fists.

Eddie figured him for a sucker puncher. The man would probably try to get up in his face, and then attempt a knockout by throwing a sneaky roundhouse punch from out of nowhere. It was an old trick, demonstrated in a thousand YouTube videos. Not a chance he gets that close, Eddie thought. He could see that his own reach was greater, and the guy was leading with his chin. Then, on the edge of his awareness, he saw and heard the passenger door of the stranger’s Rover open and shut as a second man, much larger than the first, exited the vehicle and started toward the courtyard. Two of them. Not good.

Eddie’s heart was hammering under the influence of an adrenaline surge. But this wasn’t the remembered terror of all his childhood confrontations—it was just his body on autopilot, prepping itself for fight or flight. He took two calming deep breaths, as he had been trained, and positioned himself for what was coming next.

Taking two steps backwards, he raised both hands slightly above his head, palms out. Most watchers would see the universal gesture of surrender, a posture that says, “I’m not a threat.” Only a careful observer might notice that Eddie’s hands were not held up in the classic surrender pose; instead, they were well in front of his face, ready to be instantly deployed to block, grab, or punch.

“I don’t want any trouble, man.” Eddie spoke loudly enough to be heard by both the advancing attacker and any bystanders who might later be asked who started it. He knew he needed to win not only the physical fight but also any legal proceedings that might ensue from it. It was never too early to lay the groundwork for that court fight.

“Well, trouble is what you got.” The smaller man kept up a running commentary, declaring what part of Eddie’s anatomy was about to be kicked.

They were about seven feet apart. Eddie took another step backward, and as soon as the ball of his foot hit the ground, he reversed direction and charged. Strike while they’re talking. That was the rule, because an opponent’s reaction times were slower when he was busy spouting off.

The two men closed in an instant. Eddie landed the first blows—it was not far from his already upraised hands to the aggressor’s face. He missed with a straight left, but landed a right and a left in rapid succession as the other man raised his arms to block before trying to twist out of the way. None of Eddie’s punches were hard enough to do serious damage, but that was not the point of the initial flurry. The point was to get the man off his plan of attack. A foe who is defending himself from you is not hitting you.

Eddie was somehow more acutely aware of the sounds of the fight than he was of the tactile sensations. He heard the impact of his fists on flesh and the stranger grunting under the rain of blows. Shawna stifled a scream somewhere to his right. The attacker recovered from his surprise, dropped into a crouch, and spread his hands. He hunched his shoulders and ducked his head to protect his face. Lunging forward, he wrapped powerful arms around Eddie and set himself to throw him to the ground. Eddie raked his thumbs across the shorter man’s eyes, making him jerk his head back and loosen his grip. This gave Eddie room to insert his right arm under his opponent’s armpit. By twining his arm under, behind, and back over the shoulder, he trapped the man’s arm and put painful pressure on the rotator cuff, forcing his foe to bend down and twist awkwardly to the side.

The attacker’s face was now at belly level. Eddie palmed the man’s face with his left hand and rushed forward, pushing his overbalanced assailant, who had to scramble backward to stay on his feet. Eddie needed only three running steps. The back of the man’s head met the rough granite stonework of the church with a sickening thud. Eddie might easily have followed up with a knee to the face as the logical finishing move, but he was not inclined to overkill. His trapped arm now released, the man sank to the ground, where he feebly thrashed and twitched. His eyes were open, but did not appear to see anything. From first punch to lights out had taken around eight seconds.

Eddie spun, looking for the Rover’s passenger. He was standing about fifteen feet away, and not advancing. The large man looked much older than the one on the ground. His hair was mostly gray. He was paunchy, wider at the waist than at the shoulders, and inexplicably wearing sunglasses at night. He shook his head, and almost smiled. When he spoke, his voice was raspy. “I got no beef with you. I just wanna collect my hot-headed friend here and be on my way.”

Eddie nodded, edging over to where Shawna and Roz’s three friends were standing in a little clump. He knew better than to turn his back to the second man, but his caution proved unnecessary. The older man went straight to his fallen friend. He held him still and spoke quietly to him for a minute or two. Then he hauled him to his feet, and half dragged, half carried him back to the Rover. There was definitely some muscle under all that flab. He laid his dazed companion across the back seat before getting in the front and driving off.

Only then did any of the women in the courtyard speak, and they all began talking at once. The voice Eddie focused on was Shawna’s. “You could have killed that man!” She still sounded squeaky. She turned to gaze wide-eyed at the spot where the man’s head had hit the wall with such an awful sound. “What were you thinking?”

Eddie considered the question. He was a little stung that she offered no congratulations for having successfully defended himself against a dangerous attacker, no words of concern for his own well-being, no thanks for having stuck up for Roz. “I was thinking …” He too turned and looked toward where his attacker’s cranium had met the stone wall. His lip curled. “I was thinking … welcome to Solid Rock.”

 

 

The Ziklag Conundrum By John F. Harrison

I realize The Ziklag Conundrum sounds like it might be the title of a Robert Ludlum thriller. But it’s just my way of describing one of life’s mysteries. You know those times when it seems like things can’t get any worse — and then they do? How do you survive those times with your joy intact?

You’ve probably read how David fled persecution by King Saul, finding sanctuary in a city of the Philistines. The Philistine king gave the city of Ziklag to David and his 600 followers. After living there for sixteen months, David found himself in the awkward position of being required to join his traditional enemy in an attack on King Saul and the armies of Israel. But the Philistines got cold feet about having 600 Israelite warriors in their midst, and sent David and his men back “home” to Ziklag. When the exhausted warriors arrived after a three-day march, they found the city burned and their wives and children gone. The Amalekites had raided, and taken the women and children captive.

David and his men wept until they could weep no more. It must have seemed that life couldn’t get any worse. And then it did. And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God. (1 Samuel 30:6, KJV)

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And that’s the Ziklag Conundrum. The Bible doesn’t say how David encouraged himself. But it would be a great thing to know! Often when we feel down, we turn to others for encouragement. Sometimes it works. Sometimes the people around us are apathetic. Or maybe, like David’s men, they’re set on doing us in. Whatever the reason, when you find yourself without an encourager, you need to be able to encourage yourself.

I’ve found a few things that work for me:

  1. I stand a little taller. A slumped and defeated posture accentuates feelings of despair. “Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees;” (Hebrews 12:12)

  2. I refuse to suffer in silence. When I fill my ears with uplifting music, my mood soon improves. Whether it’s Bach, Fred Hammond, or the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, music keeps me emotionally afloat until I rediscover the song in my own heart.

  3. I clear out the clutter. The goal is to devote more mental shelf space to God’s promises than I do to my problems.

  4. I seek perspective. God is bigger than my troubles. Therefore, “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.” (Psalm 56:3)

Fighting Back is the story of a young man who finds his life disintegrating all of a sudden. He ends up running from more than one “Saul.” And because he does not always know how to encourage himself, his road from ruin to recovery is not as direct as it might have been. [Interestingly enough, the word Ziklag means “winding.”] Along the way, he learns a great thing about God that I’ve learned for myself: Not only can God rescue us from our mess; He can birth something wonderful from it!

Questions for John Harrison:

John, you’ve worn many professional hats and have juggled a lot through the years. How does the hat of a published author feel?

I could get used to this! I published my first book in 2009, a nonfiction title about personal finance and biblical money management. Back then I had no idea I had a novel in me. But the creativity required for fiction writing feels like even more of an achievement in some ways. It’s addictive, and a sequel is already in the works.

What childhood influences have shaped your author’s voice?

I’m probably not consciously aware of most of them. But I recognize a few. The first is the fact that I was very introverted as a child, spending a lot of time alone with my thoughts. So my fiction writing delves deeply into the inner life of the main character. It was natural for me to want to spend time in his head. Second, I fell in love with music and songwriting at an early age, so I have an awareness of the sound and rhythm of words. I don’t think I’m poetic, or even deliberately lyrical, but the words have to sound good when read out loud. And music plays an important part in this story. Finally, my parents instilled a hunger for knowledge in me. I loved learning about almost anything at all. This is probably responsible for the “how stuff works” component that crops up in my writing.

I had the pleasure and honor of reading and endorsing Fighting Back. The story’s premise, plot, and characters impressed me, but I must add that either you’ve done considerable research on the topics of fighting and deluxe cars (among heavy-duty themes) or you’ve had first-hand experience. Any confessions?

First, thank you very much! I’m thrilled that you enjoyed the book, and I really appreciate your endorsement. I admit to being a research nut. I obsess over getting the details right. One of example of this is when a character in the story needed her car fixed. I watched videos on how to do the repair on that particular make and model of car. And I spent months hanging out on automotive forums as part of my homework. I’m a bit of a car guy in real life, so I didn’t mind. But I did that with everything: drive times between locations, menu items at restaurants, police procedures. Because I had to research a number of those “heavy-duty themes” you mentioned, I made sure to infuse the story with enough fun and good humor to be an emotional counterweight to the heavy stuff. As for any first-hand experience I may have had with fighting … that would be telling!

Did you originally set out to self-publish Fighting Back?

Yes. By self-publishing, I got to make all the design decisions such as what the cover and interior look like. I’m also the only member of the marketing department with a say. Another factor is the novel’s frank treatment of potentially controversial topics. I didn’t want a publisher pressuring me to tone down the messaging for the sake of playing it safe. So self-publishing has always felt like the best path for me.

Since this is Christmas, do you have any Christmas wishes or tidings you’d like to share with viewers?

I wish you and all the readers the simple joy of the holy day, and none of the stresses of the holidays. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

John’s Ah-hahs To Tweet:

John F. Harrison @authorJHarrison Speaks Up: Surviving the The Ziklag Conundrum with joy intact. (Tweet This)

Without an encourager? See what #motivation @authorJHarrison advices. #BookGiveaway (Tweet This)

Check out @authorJHarrison’s #BookGiveaway of Fighting Back about a young man in a big mess. (Tweet This)

Author’s Bio:

John F. Harrison has been a minister, a musician, a business owner, and an author. He’s still happily involved in three out of those four vocations, and greatly misses his music. John’s greatest ambition is to get up eight times after falling down seven. He chronicles the tribulations and triumphs of deeply flawed people, because he knows no other kind. John and his wife live in the Boston area.

Places to connect with John:

Blog

Twitter

Facebook

Amazon

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On SALE only through the holidays on Amazon.

 

 

 

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John and I look forward to your comments.

Connie Almony Speaks Up

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Everyone’s Story welcomes back this week’s guest and super friend, author Connie Almony. Like gripping Christian edgy fiction with romance? Then you’ll love Connie’s novels. Snuggle back into your favorite reading chair with a mug of cocoa and check out Connie’s message and her lovely BookGiveaway! We’re looking forward to chatting with you.

 

 

 

 

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BookGiveaway:

Connie is offering 1 randomly chosen commenter 2 ebooks: Flee From Evil and a customized, signed mobi ebook copy of At the Edge of a Dark Forest, made out to whoever you would like. The winner will be announced here on Friday, December 23rd between  5-6 PM EST.

** For Giveaways: it’s not necessary to insert your private email information within comments.

Blurb of Flee from Evil:

A pastor with a past uses his underworld connections to try and save the child of the woman he wronged many years ago.

“Flee from Evil” is not just a romance. Not just suspense. It is a gripping story that touches every emotion while dealing with issues pertinent to today’s Christian …

Pastor Vince Steegle thought his destructive beginnings were ancient history, but the ramifications of his prior choices just walked in the door of his church. Is Romans 8:28 really true? Can God make all things good? Or is Vince’s past just too ugly?

After the death of her much-beloved husband, Cassandra Whitaker is grasping to maintain security for her children. One, a teen teetering on the cusp of womanhood. The other, a young boy struggling with autism. But there are those who seek to destroy them. Can Cassandra keep her family safe, or must she flee from evil?

Why does Sophie feel impending doom? Maybe it has something to do with the dream she’d just had. It wouldn’t bug her if it hadn’t been similar to the one she’d had before her dad died. Or could it be the secret she suspects her mother holds tight? The one that might undo her. If only Sophie could protect her little brother from all the turmoil.

At least she has Sky, the guy whose attentions will take her mind off her troubles.

Or does he bring trouble of his own?

 

A Peanut for Christmas? By Connie Almony

We were going to be pregnant together, my oldest sister and I. I was due September 4th and she September 6th. This was particularly exciting given I’d had a miscarriage the month before and she had two before considering fertility treatments. For my sister and her husband there was another aspect of importance. My brother-in-law, who had been adopted at birth, would finally have one blood relative—something he thought he really needed.

Imagine the blow when my sister miscarried—again. She and her husband now needed to decide what to do next, and I felt the guilt of carrying my child to term “without her.” The fantasy I’d had of calling her every day to share our experiences—our sonogram visits, the first kicks felt—fell away like sand through my fingers. I also knew the birth of my child around her uncompleted due date would be, for her, a poignant moment of grief.

Then God lay on her heart to adopt. Because of her husband’s desire for a blood relative, this idea had previously been pushed aside. But God had other plans for him.

My sister researched some organizations and settled on the idea of an open adoption. She and her husband attended an information session to learn more. They sat through stories from adoptive parents about their experiences. They listened to speakers recount the same fears and insecurities my sister and her husband had about adoption. They also had a chance to experience the unfathomable love these parents had for their children.

This touched my brother-in-law most deeply. You see, he’d grown up in a family where one sister had been adopted, like him, and the other had not. You could imagine the lingering questions he might have had about his parents’ love. But now, he heard the depths of emotion these people had for the children “not of their blood,” allowing for a better understanding of his parents’ love for him.

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God is amazing, isn’t He?!

They decided to adopt then and there. And God continued to show Himself as only He can. Within months, they were chosen by a birth mother whose first name also happened to be the same as what they’d planned to name their child. She also loved animals—which further endeared her to my sister—and her due date was the same as one of my sister’s miscarried pregnancies. Their only concern came with the knowledge that this young woman had epilepsy, which required her to be on heavy medication. However, she chose to reduce the amount she normally took in order to lower any potential impact it might have on the baby she would not raise.

That September my son was born. My sister and her husband came to “meet” him and held him, not with the knowledge of what they would NOT have, but with an expectancy of what was to come. I mean it. I have the pictures. You can see it in their eyes! It was exciting for us all.

Then the birth mother went into very premature labor. My sister and her husband, whose goal it had been to be there for the birth, flew out to Texas just in case. Doctors were able to delay the birth, which was good because the baby’s lungs were not yet completely formed, but there was no guarantee for how long. So my sister stayed.

You may not think it a big deal my sister stayed in Texas for a month by herself, but considering she’d suffered from agoraphobia (a fear of public places) not too long before, it was. Somehow, God was working in the details and strengthening her every step of the way. My sister is now a very effective mental health therapist herself.

My beautiful niece, who I like to call “cousin peanut” (cuz she was shaped like one back then), was born on Christmas Eve. A joyous holiday for my sister and her husband, but one the birth mother will not remember well, because she had spent most of that day either having a grand-mal seizure, recovering from the effects of it, or being run through neurological tests to assure her wellbeing. All this because she had chosen to reduce her medication so much. She had put her health at risk so this little “peanut” would have a better chance.

No one can say my niece is not loved! She was loved first by the woman who risked much (in the age of easy access to abortion) and gave her up so she could have a better life. She was loved by the parents who’d raise her every day. And she is loved by her extended family (us) who couldn’t wait to meet her.

My sister and her husband later considered trying to grow their family some more, but they chose not to. Why? Because they couldn’t fathom loving another child, biological or not, as much as they did the “peanut” God gave them that Christmas.

To this day, I’ve always been amazed at the wondrous things God brings from challenges and tragedies, and love to share these types of stories with my readers.

Connie’s Ah-hahs To Tweet:

#RomanticSuspense author @ConnieAlmony Speaks Up on unexpected blessings. #BookGiveaway (Tweet This)

@ConnieAlmony: The wondrous things God brings from challenges and tragedies. (Tweet This)

Win @ConnieAlmony’s #BookGiveaway of 2 #inspirational #RomanticSuspense novels. (Tweet This)

Author’s Bio:

Connie Almony is trained as a mental health therapist and likes to mix a little fun with the serious stuff of life. She was a 2012 semi-finalist in the Genesis Contest for Women’s Fiction and was awarded an Honorable Mention in the Winter 2012 WOW Flash Fiction Contest. She is the author of One Among Men and An Insignificant Life, from the Maryland State University series, and At the Edge of a Dark Forest, a modern-day re-telling of Beauty and the Beast about a war-vet, amputee struggling with PTSD.

You can find Connie on the web at ConnieAlmony.com, where you can sign up for her newsletter and receive free scenes between books in her series, as well as meet her on the following social media outlets:

Twitter

Facebook

Pinterest

 

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On SALE only through the holidays on Amazon.

 

 

 

 

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Connie and I look forward to your comments.

 

V. Joy Palmer Speaks Up

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Everyone’s Story welcomes guest author V. Joy Palmer this week. Joy is making her fictional debut with Love, Lace, and Minor Alterations, a novel described by others as a blend of faith, humor, and romance. On Facebook she describes herself as loving God, coffee, & chocolate and as a happy wife and mom. Lucky me: I’ve gotten to know Joy a bit from being in the Northeast chapter of ACFW and Lucky You, you’ll get to know Joy this week! Please check out Joy’s novel excerpt, the passage she’s chosen to share, and her awesome  BookGiveaway! We’re looking forward to chatting with you.

 

 

 

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BookGiveaway:

Joy is offering 1 randomly chosen commenter a choice between either 1 print copy or 1 ebook version of Love, Lace, and Minor Alterations, US or Canada only. The winner will be announced here on Friday, December 16th between  5-6 PM EST.

** For Giveaways: it’s not necessary to insert your private email information within comments.

 

 

Excerpt from Love, Lace, and Minor Alterations… with a word first from Joy:

Hey guys! This is a snippet from one of my favorite scenes in Love, Lace, and Minor Alterations. I had so much fun writing this scene! This is when Izze and Miles meet for the first time. At a bookstore. Because who doesn’t want to meet the love of their life at the bookstore?

Izze is just trying to buy some books, but this rude guy (AKA Miles) keeps staring at her. She’s reading in the coffee shop in the bookstore, and Miles reappears. Izze wants you to know that she seriously considered throwing her coffee at him. 😉

 

Love, Lace, and Minor Alterations V. Joy PalmerI take a sip of my drink and open the first book.

Suddenly, a shadow falls over me.

I look up, and who do I see?

That’s right. Rude Guy.

“You’re sitting in my spot.”

“I beg your pardon.” My mouth hangs open.

“It’s perfectly fine. I’d just like my seat back.”

“Uh, no, I think you misunderstood me.”

He raises his eyebrows at me, and I notice his striking blue eyes for the first time. “You’re not going to move?”

“Yes. I mean no. I mean yes.”

His eyebrows creep higher at my stuttering.

I take a breath. “I mean you misunderstood when I said, ‘I beg your pardon.’ I meant it like, ‘I don’t understand what you’re talking about.’ So, no, I am not giving you the seat back because you were not sitting here. To answer your last question.”

His eyebrows have taken a flying leap to the moon by the time I finish. Which makes his rather gorgeous eyes that much more obvious. Oh, I really hate that I notice this.

“Okay.” He sets his coffee down and takes the seat across the table from me.

Bad. Bad. Very bad.

This isn’t going to end well. I can feel it in my bones.

“What are you doing?” I snarl. Politeness gone. Out comes Snot Face.

“I’m sitting.”

“I can see that, but why? This is my table. Go get your own.” My sneer would make any middle-school kid proud.

“Well, I say it’s my table, but you clearly think it’s your table. So you’re not going to budge. Correct?” He holds my gaze and nods when I don’t answer. “That’s what I thought.” He sips his coffee, sets it down, and folds his hands all lawyer-style as he waits for me to refute his logic.

Oh, I’ll refute it all right.

“I don’t know you. And I’m not sharing a table with someone I don’t know.” Ha! Take that.

“I’m James Miles Clayton, but my friends call me Miles. And this is my spot.” His smug grin reveals an even row of teeth. “And your name is?”

“None of your beeswax.” Great, now I’m reverting back to myself at age five.

“That was a good, mature comeback.” He smirks. “You don’t have to tell me your name, but it would sure go a long way in getting to know you.” His expression is somewhat charming. And insanely aggravating.

“You could be a stalker.”

“I assure you I’m not.”

“I’m sure that’s what all stalkers say. Especially when the restraining order is placed.”

“I sit at this table every time I come to this bookstore.”

“I bet the other tables would like to make your acquaintance. Share the joy.”

“I’m a one-table-for-life kind of man,” he shoots back.

“Look, you weren’t sitting here when I sat down. It looked like James had left the building.” I purposely don’t call him Miles because I am not his friend. This man is crazy.

His eyes sparkle. Uh-oh. “Now, why did you think I had left?”

“Um, because I didn’t see you.”

“If you didn’t see me, I would think you would have said something like you didn’t see me. You said it looked like I had left. Meaning you saw me. Possibly even watched me.”

“Uh…” Sigh. I cannot tell a lie. “Uh, I wasn’t watching for you. I saw you and ducked.”

“Why is that?” He leans forward.

“Because you were staring at me earlier. And that bugs me.”

He doesn’t deny staring at me. He just doesn’t address it.

“Did your mother ever teach you that staring is rude?” I ask.

“My mother raised me to be quite the gentleman.”

I snort. Like a lady. “On the contrary. Gentlemen don’t stare.”

James the Rude Guy shrugs. “Think what you’d like, but let’s get back to you. You were watching me after you ducked. To see if it was safe to sit or run.”

I refuse to comment. Hey, if he can do it, I can too.

He chuckles. “Looks like between the two of us, you’re the stalker.”

“I am not!”

Heads turn our way and someone shushes me. Great.

“I am not,” I say again, this time just above a whisper.

“That’s what they all say.”

“Argh!” My head drops to the table. “Can I please just have my table?” Might as well try polite desperation.

“Nope.”

I raise my head. “Why? Why sit here and bug me? Why not get another table?”

He looks me square in the eyes, and it almost takes my breath away. “Because I like this spot. And the company intrigues me.” He stands up. “But I’m afraid I have to go pay for this book. I hate reading a book in a coffee shop that I haven’t purchased yet. Until next time.” He winks and walks away.

This time I make sure he walks out the door.

 

Dreaming Away by V. Joy Palmer

Most days start the same. Wake up. Feed my little human. Drink warm, chocolaty goodness. I didn’t see the self-loathing freak until it was too late.

I started freaking out about my writing, my sales, my time and all the other different aspects that hold hands and skip with my writing journey. Some real. Some imagined. All making me feel like I’m so much of a failure, I should just toss my laptop in now.

But my heart once again directed me to Joseph. From a young age, this story of God’s dreamer who encountered so much heartache along the way to triumph mesmerized me. Through the ups and downs of my life, my heart has always looked to Joseph’s story for comfort, sympathy, or strength.

And when I was reading through Genesis a few weeks ago, these verses smacked me in the face with all the tact of a jackhammer to my soul:

“They saw him from afar, and before he came near to them they conspired against him to kill him. They said to one another, ‘Here comes this dreamer. Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits. Then we will say that a fierce animal has devoured him, and we will see what will become of his dreams.’” Genesis 37:18-20 (ESV)

You might be wondering what on earth is wrong with me. What sane person would spend weeks thinking about these slightly morbid verses?

This girl. (Don’t let my slightly crazed smile scare you. I swear it’s due to sleep deprivation.)

For weeks I’d pull these verses out of my heart’s pocket. I’d turn them over and over before tucking them safely away.

Waiting.

Thinking.

Asking.

Hearing the same line.

They wanted to kill the dreamer.

They wanted to kill the dreamer.

They wanted to kill the dreamer.

That resonated so deeply with me. Why? Why would that touch my heart, tear it apart, and make me weep?

Because I’m a dreamer.

joymeme

I’ll be totally honest with you guys. When something threatens to kill my dreams and passions, or when I believe it has, I don’t necessarily take it well… Like I may have been devastated to the point of crying in bed and binge eating chocolate. There have even been times when I have let the fear of “What if I fail?” keep me from trying.

But I also know the Great Author. He gave me this dream. He gave me this passion. He inspires my stories.

I am probably the least qualified person to share this with you because clearly this binge-eating girl freaks out from time to time. But I know what this journey is like. I have wallowed in depression. I have accepted rejection and trusted God. I have felt that exhilarating joy of success. I have a degree in stressology from Author University. And yes, there are things that threaten to kill my dream. The dream(s) that God has given me. The passion that connects my heart to God’s heart. And thus… a piece of me…

So my Father reminds me of Joseph. Joseph has these bizarre dreams. He was hated by his family. He was sold as a slave. He was falsely accused and thrown into prison. How easy would it have been for him to just dismiss all those dreams that God had given him? And yeah, I know Joseph literally had some dreams, and we are pursuing our passions, but the same principles apply. In fact, some people would have considered Joseph even crazier than we are, and most of us talk to imaginary people.

Point is that while you and I pursue our writing dream and all our other dreams, hardships, rejections, failures, and difficult seasons will come. I probably will may even end up binge eating chocolate again (If for no other reason than I’m a chocolate addict. Did I not mention that?). But I refuse to let anything prevent me from chasing this passion, this link of creativity that I share with God Himself.

Here comes the dreamer.

Joy’s Ah-hahs To Tweet:

@VJoyPalmer Speaks Up: The connection between #chocolate and #dreaming. #BookGiveaway (Tweet This)

Like #faith #humor #romance in fiction? Visit with author @VJoyPalmer (Tweet This)

Author @VJoyPalmer: How to go beyond “if I fail?” (Tweet This)

Author’s Bio:

Joy Palmer is an avid blogger and is co-founder of Snack Time Devotions. She is a youth leader at her church, and loves acting crazy and drinking coffee with the teens. When Joy isn’t urging the elves that live in her computer to write, she’s hanging out with her husband, their adorable baby girl, and their two socially awkward cats. Love, Lace, and Minor Alterations is her debut novel.

Places to connect with Joy:

Website

Author blog

Snack Time Devotions blog

Twitter

Facebook

Goodreads

Instagram

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Please visit me on Susan Sleeman’s Suspense Zone Blog

Monday, December 12th

 

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Just recently I’ve recieved an amazing review on Amazon for Always With You that has totally blessed my heart… I hope you will check it out 💗

On SALE only through the holidays on Amazon.

 

 

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Joy and I look forward to your comments.