Kathleen Friesen Speaks Up!

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Everyone’s Story welcomes Christian Fiction author Kathleen Friesen. Kathleen joins us for a special editon of Everyone’s Story: she’ll be featured for 2 weeks rather than the customary 1 week due to a “Blog Vacation” I’m taking until July 14th, though I’ll still be monitoring comments and posting them. So, as George Gershwin captured in his song “Summertime,” kick back and enjoy a little easy living with Kathleen as she shares about a season of resurrection, shares an excerpt from her current release, Redemption’s Whisper, and responds to a few questions. Plus, check out Kathleen’s BookGiveaway. We’re looking forward to chatting with you!

 

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BookGiveaway:

Kathleen is offering 1 randomly chosen commenter  an ebook edition of Redemptions Whisper (US only and Canada only). The winner will be announced between 6-7 PM EST on July 14th.

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

 

 

 

Excerpt from Redemption’s Whisper: 

 REDEMPTION’S WHISPER by Kathleen Friesen

 

1

A gust of wind shook the narrow, sloped jet bridge as Hayley Blankenship dragged her carry-on toward the jumbo jet. Fear lodged in her throat, and her footsteps faltered.

People surged past. “Excuse me.”

She swallowed hard and lifted her trembling chin. Not now. She would not give in to fear today. “You are strong,” she whispered. The floor trembled. Hayley stumbled as the moveable passageway adjusted itself. She clutched the handle of her bag, inhaled sharply, and trudged on. Almost there. She stalled at the entrance to the airplane. Her nerves vibrated. The narrow opening seemed to close around her. The air felt too thick to breathe. Her shoulders curled forward, and her head lowered. This was a mistake. She wasn’t ready, not yet. She turned. A long line of passengers stood behind her. Could she push past all those staring faces? Her knees threatened to buckle.

The flight attendant reached out and touched Hayley’s arm, startling her. “Is there a problem, miss?”

Hayley shook her head and stiffened her resolve. She’d made the decision to go to Saskatoon. This might be her last chance. She inhaled through her nose and forced her shoulders back, her head up.

The flight attendant said something as she entered the plane, but it didn’t register.

Hayley had to concentrate. She glanced at the boarding pass in her hand. Seat 20A. The rear of the plane, out of sight of most of the other passengers. A window seat, so she could watch her past disappear. She walked by people already seated, avoiding their eyes, until she came to her assigned spot. Hayley shrugged out of her coat and stuffed it in the overhead compartment. She slid into her allotted place, stored her carry-on under the seat in front of her, and leaned against the window.

Various workers on the ground hurried to load luggage, refuel the plane, and do whatever else was needed to prepare for another flight.

As Hayley watched their purposeful strides, a twinge of envy twisted her lips. Self-pity and self-loathing reared their ugly heads. She closed her eyes in a futile attempt to block the terrible images racing through her mind. Give up. You’re not going to make it. You may as well take the pills—all of them. She shook her head as though that would dislodge the negative thoughts. She sensed someone settle into the aisle seat but didn’t bother looking. She didn’t want to talk to anyone. Casual conversation was pointless. If only she could curl into a ball and block out the world, at least for a while.

***

Trevor Hiebert ran down the empty passageway to the plane’s doorway. As he ran, he muttered a rant against Toronto traffic and cabbies who seemed more interested in conversing on their radios than getting him to Pearson International on time. He couldn’t afford to miss this flight.

If only he’d pre-booked a seat. Now he was stuck with a center spot, and he knew from experience how uncomfortable it would be. Maybe the plane would be nearly empty so he could have a row to himself. He ducked around the smiling flight attendant and groaned. So much for that wish. He dragged his wheeled carry-on down the aisle as he scanned the numbers above the rows. Finally he spotted it: 20B. He glanced at his row mates, a young woman leaning against the cabin wall with her eyes closed and an older woman who looked like a sweet grandmotherly type in the aisle seat.

“Excuse me, ma’am. I’m in 20B.”

The old woman looked beside her at the narrow seat and back up at him. Her attention settled on his broad shoulders, and her mouth compressed into a flat line. “Good luck.”

Trevor shifted his weight and pulled his leather bag closer. “Would you mind trading spots with me? Then I won’t have to climb over you.” And he’d have a little more breathing room.

“I certainly would mind. I want this seat.” She jutted her chin and glared at him. “You young punks are used to getting your way, but you won’t bully me.”

The attendant moved to the front of the cabin, ready to begin her safety speech.

Temper surged, but Trevor clamped a lid on it. The woman wasn’t worth the regret he’d feel later. He shrugged out of his well-worn leather jacket, lifted it and his bag into the overhead compartment, and tried to maneuver over the woman’s legs in the cramped space to his assigned spot. Her leg jolted against the back of his knee, and he lost his balance. He caught himself against the window so he wouldn’t land in the young woman’s lap.

The girl’s eyes snapped open as he turned to apologize. She gave a sharp intake of breath and tried to ease away, but Trevor’s power to move deserted him. Her mesmerizing green eyes widened as shock turned to fear.

“What are you doing?” Her shrill voice broke the spell.

“So sorry,” he mumbled. He pushed off from the window and plunked into his chair. “I tripped.” He looked sideways at the old woman, who smirked as she smoothed her pant legs.

It was going to be a long flight.

He glanced back at the young woman and wondered at his desire to see her face again. But she had turned away and sat huddled against the wall. Her sharp-angled shoulder blades and the back of her spiky auburn hair made an effective barrier. Kind of looked like a hedgehog. Trevor snorted. He was stuck between a prickly old grouch and a hedgehog. For three and a half hours.

***

Hayley pressed against the wall of the aircraft as chills raced through her limbs. Her legs trembled and her heart raced. She’d made it onto the plane. Would she fall apart now? That man had nearly landed on top of her. It happened so fast, she hadn’t had time to react. There was no room to move, anyway. But he’d caught himself—and apologized. She wasn’t hurt, just scared. Her breathing evened out. She’d survived worse. She silently repeated her psychiatrist’s prescribed refrain. I am OK. I am strong. The past is gone. The future is God’s. Over and over, until her body began to relax. Just like in Dr. Freemont’s office.

She’d heard the brief exchange between her seatmates. The man’s voice would have excited her in the past. She would have smiled at him and flirted with him. But that was the old Hayley. She was dead.

When she’d looked up and stared into his rugged face, all her senses had sharpened. He smelled like pine forest mixed with motor oil, a strangely tantalizing combination. His tanned skin indicated time spent outdoors. And his dark-lashed grey eyes, like a stormy Lake Ontario, invited her to sink into them. For one brief moment, she had the strangest sensation she could see her future in those eyes. And that terrified her.

 

 

The Season of Resurrection by Kathleen Friesen

 

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live. (John 11:25)

Oh, how I love spring! As I write this (the last week of February), snow still covers the lawn and flower beds in our yard. No signs of life so far. But they’ll come—soon, I hope.

All four seasons have their charms, but spring is by far my favorite, when flowers, trees and shrubs proclaim the reality of resurrection. And I can’t wait. Every year, as soon as the snow melts, I check my flowerbeds daily, searching for the first green leaves. As daffodil spears and crinkled primrose leaves appear, I know winter is past, and new life has begun. That’s worth celebrating.

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When we lived on the Canadian prairies, the setting for Redemption’s Whisper, the bitterly cold and seemingly interminable winters were difficult for me. Depression threatened and sometimes overwhelmed. So I prayed as I cowered, struggling to breathe. And longed with all my heart for springtime.

When those first hints of pale green softened the stark branches on our willows and poplars, I felt as though I, too, was returning to life. I could breathe again.

That’s what I love the most about springtime—the visible reminder, year after year, that we are designed for resurrection. On those days when I huddled under quilts trying to get warm, I was like a seed buried in the ground, frozen and still, unable to “breathe.” But with the return of warm, sunny days, the seed and I could emerge and live exuberantly.

In Redemption’s Whisper, Hayley feels like that desolate seed. Choices and circumstances have brought her so low, she’s not sure she even wants to live again. But as in a seed, a tiny spark of life remains, eager to burst into bloom. Redemption’s Whisper is her story of resurrection, of Easter, a renewal of life and love.

As you will read in this story, Hayley learns to trust in Jesus Christ’s sacrifice, his death and resurrection, to embrace the joy of His redemption. Her journey from death to life portrays the reality we are offered in Christ Jesus: abundant, eternal life. Now that’s something to celebrate!

Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift! (2 Corinthians 9:15)

 

Fast Takes for Kathleen Friesen:

What’s one slice of life from your Canadian Prairie days you miss?

Being close to our children and grandchildren is what I miss the most. My husband and I travel back to Saskatchewan as often as possible to visit, but it’s not the same as being able to get together on a moment’s notice. I do miss that.

I also miss the fantastic beauty of the northern lights—a frequent occurrence on the prairies, bright sunshine on snow sparkling like diamonds, and the intense joy of the first greens of spring after a long, hard winter. Oh dear, now you’ve made me homesick for the prairies.

You’re an outdoor lover. If no danger threat were possible, what activity would you take up?

Ooh, this is hard. Danger is one thing; physical capability is a larger problem. If neither were an issue, I would love to take up horseback riding. The few times I tried it when younger, the horse ran away with me!

Who chooses who, your theme, plot, or character?

It depends on the story. For my first novel, Melody’s Song, the theme came first, then the characters. Nila’s Hope followed it, and Nila’s character drove the story and plot. For Redemption’s Whisper, Hayley and Trevor’s characters wrapped themselves in the theme.

Writing office or tucked on the sofa?

My favorite place to write in sitting on our comfy couch with my feet up, glancing outside at the gorgeous valley view to rest my eyes and inspire more creativity. But when I need to really buckle down, the basement office is my hideaway.

Always Christian fiction?

Always. Without Christ, there is no hope, no redemption, and no reason for me to write.

When did the writing bug bite?

I’ve scribbled poems and such for as long as I can remember, but until I took an online writing course (Christian Writers Guild), I didn’t believe anyone would want to read what I wrote (except my dear mother, of course). My mentor encouraged me to submit articles and stories, and when I opened a denominational magazine and saw my first published poem, I was hooked.

What’s next, writing wise?

I am working on the first book in what will hopefully be a four-book series. Hearts Unfolding is a story of pursuing dreams, based on Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

Kennedy has to learn to yield her dreams to the One who knows her best and knows what is best for her.

Kathleen’s Ah-hahs To Tweet:

Meet Kathleen Friesen @KFriesenAuthor, writing stories of #faith overcoming trials and heartaches. (Tweet This)

Kathleen Friesen @KFriesenAuthor speaks up on Everyone’s Story: The Season of Resurrection. (Tweet This)

Enter Kathleen Friesen @KFriesenAuthor #BookGiveaway of Redemption’s Whisper. (Tweet This)

Author’s Bio:

Kathleen Friesen writes contemporary stories of faith that overcomes tough trials and deep heartaches. Her desire is for her readers to see themselves in the characters of her stories, and to realize that Jesus Christ is the true hero.

Kathleen spent her childhood in the Pacific Northwest and, after marrying the man of her dreams, survived the first thirty years of married life on the Canadian prairies, where they raised three fantastic children. Now she and her patient husband, Ron, live in the beautiful Okanagan Valley of British Columbia.

Places to connect with Kathleen:

Website

Twitter

Facebook

Goodreads

Kathleen and I look forward to your comments.

~*~*~*~

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Please share with your friends: Have you signed up for my Author Newsletter? I’ve just added an easy sign up on the website’s Home page. I have news on my upcoming novella that newsletter subscribers will receive first, including information on an upcoming BookGiveaway only for them. Of course, I hope to have additional news… always hoping…

 

 

V. Joy Palmer Speaks Up!

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Everyone’s Story welcomes back author V. Joy Palmer, a debut author celebrating her book’s 1-year birthday. Congratulations, Joy! Speaking for myself, although I have an inkling this may be true for many, Joy speaks out this week on whether or not to speak … and whether others see you as weird. Well, I can certainly relate. Do check out Joy’s BookGiveaway, her first chapter, and see exactly what she has to say when she speaks out. We’re both looking forward to hearing from you!

**Please check out a special invitation from me below Joy’s blog feature.

 

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BookGiveaway:

Joy is offering 1 randomly chosen commenter  a choice between either a print or ebook of Love, Lace, and Minor Alterations (US only) or outside of the US, an ebook of the same title. The winner will be announced between 6-7 PM EST on June 30th.

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

 

 

This From Joy:

Hey everyone! Love, Lace, and Minor Alterations celebrated her (yes, her) first book birthday this month!!! Yay! To celebrate, I thought it would be fun to share the first chapter with you guys. And it just so happens to include one of my very favorite scenes – the moment Izze meets Miles! Enjoy!

Love, Lace, and Minor Alterations by V. Joy Palmer 

When a bride finds The Dress, there is joy, laughter, and on some occasions, even spontaneous dancing.

There is none of that right now.

The bride wails like her firstborn son has been promised to Rumpelstiltskin. I stare in horror at the once beautiful dress. Formerly perfect, sparkling with promise, and, well, now it doesn’t.

“What are we going to do?” the bride asks, knocking me back into reality.

Um…I’m not sure there is anything we can do for that dress now. Her undergarments show, courtesy of the torn train, but I’ll attempt to take a more positive route.

“I will have a seamstress look at it and see what she can do, but just in case, why don’t I bring in some other gowns for you to browse through. Just in case,” I add so she doesn’t think all is lost with this gown. Even though all is totally lost with this gown.

“What do you mean, look at other gowns? This is The Dress. Are you crazy? This is the dress!” She screams right into my face, eyes bugging out of their sockets.

“Well, I know that, and you know that, but a bride should always be prepared for whatever happens. She should always have a backup dress. I was going to mention that to you when you came in today for your fitting,” I say this casually while I take a step back. I’m not completely lying. I fitted a bride once who had five backup gowns. When I asked her about it, in one of her fifty fittings, she just called it being well prepared. I called it neurotic, but to each her own. I was going to mention it today for laughs, but you use whatever you’ve got to in a crisis.

“Really?” The bride looks at me in complete desperation. Her hazel eyes are wide and unblinking as she waits for me to fix her world with a single word. I have power.

“Really.” I give her my best reassuring smile. “So why don’t you change out of this dress while I go get some others? Do you want to try some in this same style, or maybe a different one? You would look divine in an empire waist gown.” I keep my voice as sweet as maple syrup.

She takes the bait, and soon an empire waist gown that screams gorgeous drapes from her shoulders. Lace covers the bodice, and a big satin ribbon emphasizes the waist. The lace, covering a chiffon skirt, flows to the floor. It starts off covering her whole waist but gradually narrows at five points around the skirt, very similar to a star shape. When it reaches the hem, there are just five little dots of lace. It’s even more beautiful than the dress her flower girl ruined. A few minutes later, she schedules another fitting and then disappears out the door.

Just another day’s work at Ever After, the bridal boutique in Keene, New Hampshire, where I work.

My name is Isabel Vez. Yes, I love my job. No, the bridal boutique is not named after the movie Ever After. No, I’m not married yet. No, I don’t let the fact that I work with annoyingly perky brides every single day rub salt in my raw single wound. And yes, I still love my job despite all that. Usually.

“That woman would make a model candidate for Bridezillas,” my best friend and Ever After’s one and only seamstress, Kaylee McGrurd, whispers with a giggle.

“No kidding.” I pretend to straighten a couple bridal catalogs long enough to debrief her about the last customer. “I thought her head was going to explode when she saw the dress. Her eyes were twice the normal size.” I try to imitate her expression for Kaylee’s benefit.

“What happened to it?” Kaylee asks.

“The train had been partially ripped off the dress, and clung to one side of the gown by a single, jagged piece of fabric.” Kaylee makes a face, and I hold up my right hand. “Don’t ask me how, but if you get a train that long, it’s going to come with some risks. I imagine it has something to do with the flower girl, who was playing with it, but then hid behind her mother when the bride started to hyperventilate.”

“Good job with that client.” My boss, Lilly Marshall, suddenly appears by my side. It’s spooky how she does that.

I quickly straighten. “Thank you.” My boss does not tolerate slouches at work. She says it brings disgrace to our gowns. Lilly went to an all-girl school from kindergarten to twelfth grade. Etiquette lessons were required each year, or you didn’t move on to the next grade. This especially means that if she catches me slouching, she will give me a five-minute lecture about good posture. I know this speech by heart, in case you were wondering.

“Such a pity her other dress was ruined like that,” Lilly mutters.

“Yes, it is a pity, uh, such,” I say.

Kaylee starts to laugh at my bad grammar, but covers it with a cough when my elbow lands in her ribs. “Yes,” she says, “It’s such, such a pity,” Kaylee says this with a straight face.

My boss stares at us for a few minutes. I really want to howl with laughter. Drat Kaylee and her ability to keep cool under all circumstances! Lilly snaps back to reality and smiles. “Well, back to work, girls. Those gowns won’t find their brides all by themselves.”

Um… okay. Creepy statement.

I look at my friend as our weird boss walks away. “Will you stop doing that?” I whisper. “The woman is not stupid. She’s going to figure out you’re mocking her.”

“If she hasn’t figured it out yet, then I don’t think she’s going to anytime soon,” Kaylee says. “So, The Chow Man after work? I’m craving a good crab Rangoon.”

“That sounds great,” I say. “Do you want to eat there?”

“No. I’ll pick it up on my way home. I just want to crash in front of the TV tonight.”

“Oh, so your usual nightly routine?” I smile at her as she rolls her eyes at me and sticks out her tongue. We may be twenty-five, but we still act like we’re thirteen with each other. You know, as long as no one is looking. Then we act like the mature young women they think we are.

They really have no idea.

“See you at home. I’ve got some errands. I’ll pick up the Chinese food.” Kaylee smirks. “Have fun with the nut cases.”

“They are not nut cases. They are just stressed. Planning a wedding can be very stressful.” I say this in a monotone, as I recite this line to sobbing, spazzing, and emotional brides almost every day. Some of them are total nut jobs, but I can’t tell Kaylee that. I hate losing in any way, shape, or form.

“Whatever. I’ll see you later.”

Kaylee waves as she shoots out the door, her long, red hair flying out behind her like Wonder Woman’s red cape. Kaylee is beautiful. She’s five-foot-ten with long, sleek red hair and bright green eyes. Literally, her eyes are the color of a fresh kiwi. She has a fabulous fashion sense, witty humor, and a love of football, baseball, and various other sporting endeavors.

What? I don’t like sports. I once forgot whether the Red Sox were a baseball or football team. Basically, Kaylee is every man’s dream. She even cooks.

I am the opposite of every man’s dream. I’m short—five-foot-two—with extremely curly, dark hair. I already covered the fact that I don’t know baseball from football, and I do not cook. I can’t even make mashed potatoes right. My roommates call the fire department every time I bring home groceries. You have one little incident with a fiery stove, and nobody trusts you anymore.

I walk around the bridal boutique. The front windows boast mannequins dressed in our newest gowns, but sheer curtains partition them off from the rest of the store. The front section of the store has popular dresses on display. The left and right walls are wall-to-wall mannequins dressed in bridal apparel, as well as a few random mannequins that stand throughout the greeting area. I stop to straighten the hem of one before going to stand behind the front desk, which is framed by a door on each side. One leads to the stockroom. The other leads to the offices.

The bell over the door chimes, and another bride walks inside the store. She takes a seat on one of the three couches arranged like a giant “U.” They face the storefront, but that doesn’t stop this blond chick from turning around to stare at me with the classic, “When is it my turn?” look.

Candace Matthews, the other consultant, comes out of the offices. “Is my two o’clock appointment here yet?” She tucks a strand of black hair behind her left ear.

I gesture to the girl who is still staring at us. How can you miss that?

Candace steps next to me and pretends to busy herself with some paperwork on the desk. “Her name is Precious. Precious Treasure.”

I snort, and immediately start coughing to cover it. “Yeah. You have fun with that.”

“Thanks.” Candace rolls her eyes, and then walks over to the bride to introduce herself.

I get back to work, busying myself with some paperwork for the brides who have ordered gowns and are coming in for fittings, rather than buying off the rack. I don’t have any other appointments scheduled for my shift, and before I know it, it’s time for me to leave.

Once I walk out the front door, I turn left down the strip mall sidewalk. Ever After is right in the middle, with a shoe store and a trendy clothing store on the right. On the left, there is a bookstore and café called Whipped Cream.

I open the door to Whipped Cream, and am greeted by Grant Thurrs—the owner, as well as the man who thought of the corny name to this café.

“Hey Izze!”

I take a step back. Not sure why, but it’s my first response to such an enthusiastic greeting. “Hi, Grant. Been a slow day?”

“I was so bored that I arranged the mugs by color.” He gestures to the shelf to his right.

“And what color dominated?” We have a long-standing argument that he needs to get a variety of different colored mugs, not just blue mugs. He always says that the “mugs” on the customers are different enough for him. I say that’s rude, and blue gets boring after a while. And on it goes.

He sighs. “Izze, do we really have to go there again?”

My lips curl in a smug grin. “Yes.” I bat my eyelashes at him.

He mumbles in a low voice. I balance on my tiptoes to hear him. “Glue,” he says. Yeah, that’s what I heard, too.

“Glue? Do you glue you’re mugs together? Does the health inspector know?”

“What? No. B-L-U-E. Are you deaf from all the shrieking brides?”

“I’m not deaf. You just mumble. Take a speech class,” I say as I settle onto a barstool in front of the counter. “I’ll take an iced mocha with a shot of caramel and an extra shot of espresso. Pretty please.” I add the pretty please for good measure. After all, I did insult his speech abilities.

He rolls his eyes. “No extra mocha shot this time?”

“I thought that was understood.”

“Coming right up.” He turns to get it ready.

I look around the café. It is dead in here. This strip mall is located in the middle of town. This is Keene, New Hampshire. No, it’s not New York City, but it’s not exactly a little stick-in-the-mud town in the middle of a state nobody remembers exists. Normally business is pretty steady.

Grant owns the café along with his sister Miranda, who chooses that moment to enter. Grant and Miranda happen to be my second cousins, so I get a discount on coffee.

“Hey!” she yells.

I blink. These people are not normally so starved for human interaction. “Uh…hi!” I respond, also yelling.

Now she blinks at me.

I decide to change the subject and spare myself from looking like an idiot. “So how are you doing, Miranda?”

“I’m good. It’s been so slow today. It’s making me sleepy. I can’t wait until closing.” She yawns.

Grant comes back with a to-go cup filled with my icy mocha treat. “What are we talking about?”

“Your sister just told me she’s going to club you over the head, lock your body in the shed, and become sole proprietor of this establishment.” I figure potential murder is definitely free of boredom. “Oh, and she’s going to buy more mugs.”

Grant rolls his eyes as he hands me my coffee. I take a sip of the sickly sweet but delicious drink. Grant almost gags as he watches me.

“How can you drink that much sugar and cream on top of chocolate?”

“I have a strong heart.”

“Whatever.”

I grin. “Bye, guys. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Bye,” they both echo.

I take a deep breath at the door. Iced coffee in the middle of winter was not a bright idea. I take another sip. Who cares? I open the door and run the rest of the way to my car.

 

 

I pull into the driveway at my house. Yes, I said house. It’s a four-bedroom house that Kaylee and I rent with two close friends from church, Apryl and Courtney Burns.

Sisters.

Twin sisters.

I’m sure you can imagine the joys that brings our lives.

It’s a small, uh, good house. Really, it’s a rundown shack. The paint is peeling. The shutters are falling off. The stove doesn’t bake properly. The hardwood floors creak. The railing leading upstairs is broken. In fact, we kicked down what was left, rather than keep dealing with it.

On the plus side, there are four small bedrooms. Four small, small bedrooms. Barely big enough for a bed. That may be a slight exaggeration, considering I have a dresser, desk, and chair squeezed into mine. But I love this house. It’s beautiful in a falling-apart-on-an-old-back-road-with-lots-of-sunshine-and-nature kind of way.

I get out of my little blue car. Sweet! I’m the first one here.

As I walk in the front door, I kick my shoes off in the foyer, hang my coat on the rack, and set my Coach purse, a Christmas present from my parents, on the decorative table where we all keep our purses.

I walk the agonizing ten feet to the couch where I immediately collapse without bothering to change out of my skirt and blouse. Bring on the wrinkles, because only a chicken running through my living room screaming, “The sky is falling!” is getting me up and off this couch.

And if that happens I’ll be going to get a psych evaluation.

About half an hour later Apryl and Courtney get home. I can hear them yelling from the car all the way in here, on the couch, with the volume on the TV turned up higher than necessary.

“Are you crazy?” That’s Courtney and her familiar, high-pitched scream.

“Listen. I’m going to say this to you one more time. This is my job. I love to do it. And it’s my head. If I dye the whole thing magenta, that is my right! It’s your job to love me regardless of how I look!” Apryl screams back.

I pause the movie. I might as well listen without any distractions.

“But when you dye my whole head magenta, it’s another story!” Courtney shrieks at a decibel appropriate only for dogs.

“Then don’t bring up my hair color choices.” Apryl huffs. Apryl has had some interesting hair colors. Currently, her hair is jet black, shoulder length, with a ton of layers—at least it was this morning. “And I did your tips. The very ends of your hair. Get over it. You said you wanted something different, and this is different. Besides, it looks great on you.” Apryl sounds like she is trying to speak calmly, like she is trying to reason with her.

Yeah right.

“I’m a law student.” Courtney says. “I’m going to be a lawyer. I can’t have magenta tips! It’s undignified. I was thinking blond highlights or even red. But this is frightening!”

“Listen, undignified works for you. King David was undignified. I think lawyers are too stuffy. Live a little. Add some color to those gray suits.” Apryl says all this in a bored tone. I bet they’ve been going at it for a while.

The door slams open and they walk inside the house. Courtney practically runs through the living room, up the stairs, and presumably into her room, because I hear another door slam. Apryl just stands there and looks at me. Probably because I’m lying on my back, legs flung over the back of the couch, and feet hanging off the edge. Also, I’m in a skirt.

Could be embarrassing if there were any guys here.

She drops her purse on the floor, kicks off her shoes, and belly flops onto the loveseat.

“Did you see her hair?” Apryl asks.

I fiddle with the remote. “She took off running too fast for me to see it. Flash would have been proud.”

“It looks great on her. I’m not dyeing it back. She can go to some other hairstylist and pay for it if she’s going to be like that.” She huffs, sending her bangs flying.

I keep my mouth shut. I don’t really want to deal with it. I just want to watch Letters to Juliet and eat my bag of Oreos.

Yes, I am going to eat the whole bag by myself. It’s been a long day. Don’t judge. I’ll work it off.

Or I’ll skip breakfast tomorrow.

“I love this movie,” Apryl murmurs. “What are you watching next?”

My Fair Wedding. Somebody’s doing a wedding with sky diving or ocean creatures or something like that.” I answer.

“What?” Apryl asks after a moment.

I don’t know what was so hard to understand about that statement. I open my mouth to start over again only slower this time. “I said My Fair Wedding. The episode is about—”

“Not that, dork. I don’t see how you went from sky diving to ocean monsters. They are worlds apart.” Apryl rolls her deep-set, blue eyes.

“Oh,” I say. “I’m not sure where a lot of those ideas for weddings come from, but I’ve seen some weird stuff. I just remember it looked interesting.”

“I see,” Apryl says and then falls quiet again.

Thirty minutes later, a herd of elephants tromps up our porch stairs. Kaylee comes through the door seconds later.

Guess I was wrong about that herd of elephants.

“Hey guys.” Her hands are full of Chinese takeout. “What are we watching? Where’s Courtney?”

Apryl says, “Letters to Juliet,” the same time I say, “In her room.”

“Oh, I love this movie!” She sits down and passes around the takeout containers and chopsticks. “Why?” She casts her eyes upstairs.

But she already knows.

We often go through this scenario with slight variations. First, one of us gets home and flops on the couch with the television blaring. Next, the rest of us start to find our way home. Then, Apryl and Courtney begin to argue about anything from haircuts to whether or not Congress would pass a law stating that socks cannot be worn with sandals. Later, after much “discussion,” Courtney will storm to her room. Finally, Courtney, feeling convicted, will return to apologize, and we will enjoy a lazy evening in front of the TV.

I know my life. Boring for some, but not to me. I have a problem when I don’t know what’s going to happen next. Repetition is good. Change is distressing.

Apryl sets the small container of rice on the floor and rolls over. “She didn’t like the dye job I did for her hair. It’s too wild for her.”

Kaylee just nods in an Oh-I-see way. This is an argument as old as time.

We sit in silence for about fifteen minutes before I hear Courtney come down the stairs. She walks over to the couch, stopping in front of us. Her hair looks great, actually. The magenta looks really good with her wavy, mahogany-colored hair. I pause the movie again and close my eyes.

“I just wanted to say that I’m sorry for freaking out. You’re right. This is different. And that’s exactly what I said I wanted.” Her voice is soft, humble.

Even with my eyes closed I can still see the scene in our little living room. I smile.

“It’s okay, Court. I understand.” I open my eyes as Apryl passes a container of Lo Mein to her as a peace offering.

And all is well.

“Who’s up for My Fair Wedding?” I ask.

I love my life.

###

It’s a beautiful morning. The sun is shining bright, and the sky is blue.

Just like my mood.

I’m sure this has happened to you. You have an amazing dream. Then you wake up. The dream felt so real, probably because you wanted it to be real. And now that it’s over you just want to go back to dreamland. Where life is exactly how you want it.

Not the best way to start the day. I roll over in my bed and stare at the wall. I’m just like any other single woman. Sometimes I just want to be loved. For me. I had a dream that I met Mr. Wonderful, Sweet, Smart, Hot, AND Sensitive. We were engaged and I felt so in love. I felt so full, so happy. How can you do that? Feel in love in a dream, I mean? It all felt so real, but better. I’ve dealt with reality, and let me tell you, living a dream is much better.

There’s a verse in the Bible that talks about lifting your eyes up to the hills and about how your help comes from God. I think I’m going to give it a try. But since there are not a lot of hills in Keene, I roll onto my back and lift my eyes to the ceiling.

What is that nasty looking gunk all over my ceiling?

I am so getting up now. It looks like a giant dust bunny that’s planning to eat me in my sleep.

Thirty minutes later I’m showered and hitting the coffeepot. I’m not dressed in my work clothes yet. Instead, I’m wearing a sweat suit that has seen a better millennium.

I go back to my room for a minute and return with my Bible and a notebook. Devotional time.

I head to the sunroom toward the back of the house. It’s not the warmest part of the house in the middle of winter, but it is the most beautiful room no matter what season. The big bay windows show our whole backyard, and thanks to Kaylee’s green thumb, our backyard is beautiful with its big maple trees, stone benches, and flower beds. This time of year, it is like a winter wonderland. A giant snow glob, if you will.

I sit on a little loveseat that Courtney dismissed because it didn’t match any of the furniture we have. It’s fuchsia. With blue flowers. I don’t know where Apryl bought this, but I can’t help the giggle every time I look at it.

I open my Bible and stare at the words, finding it hard to focus this fine day. My heavy heart definitely isn’t helping matters. I haven’t really been reading in a particular book lately, so I close my eyes and open my Bible, flinging the pages to see where they land. Hey, nothing’s a coincidence.

I land in Luke chapter thirteen. I read. I still don’t feel like anything sticks today. Like nothing applies.

The first part of verse thirty-three catches my eye. It says, “In any case, I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day….”

Apparently God doesn’t want me to wallow in this, but to trust Him to bring the right guy in His time, and in the meantime, to move forward in life and in Him.

Easier said than done.

Okay. I’m going to try it. Maybe it will help that weird, dull ache in my heart that just wants to be loved.

It’s usually easy to ignore this ache. I think about the past, and about the terrible memories there. Then I just bury myself in friends, family, work, and church. But sometimes I’ll watch a bride find The Dress and talk about her perfect fiancé, and that ache will come back with a raging vengeance.

But today is not a day for wallowing. It is a day for… uh, going on.

###

I’ve gone on to the bookstore.

Ah. I love coming to the bookstore. Cause it’s awesome.

I take a deep breath. Inhale. Exhale. I love the smell of books. Of paper. Of coffee. Of coffee and paper. It’s poetically beautiful.

“Hey, Izze. How are you doing today?” Todd is roughly around my age. He has worked here since the beginning of time.

“I’m great! How’s business? No crazy old ladies trying to pick you up again?” I grin as he sighs. Todd’s a cute guy. The older generation adores him. The old ladies will even pinch his cheeks. I went on a couple dates with him a few years ago, but by the second date we knew there was nothing there.

I walk over to my usual section. Today I’m on a mission. I’m looking for something light-hearted, romantic, and fun. And I will not leave without it.

A wall of books towers over me. I wonder if anyone actually uses the ladder they have hooked to the bookshelf wall. Maybe it’s just for looks? Or does everybody just go without the books on the top shelf? Maybe the top shelf is reserved for all the books nobody likes.

Out of the corner of my eye I see a guy looking at me. He is really looking at me. He’s not checking me out, or looking at me like he’s trying to place who I am. He’s just staring. It’s weird. Obviously, his mother never taught him that staring is rude.

Ten minutes later I’ve got it narrowed down to two books. However, that guy is still staring at me. He’s hardly moved from his spot. This is ridiculous! I am getting agitated now.

“Excuse me, can I help you?” I say in a polite voice. Polite but annoyed. At least I use my manners.

He looks at me as if I was the one who was staring. “No,” he says, and then he turns and walks away.

“Grrr. People can be so rude sometimes.” I grumble to myself. I can’t decide which book I want, so I head over to the in-store coffee shop. There I can sit with a hot cup of some delicious coffee while I get better acquainted with these books.

I always feel a little weird taking something to read into the coffee shop in this store. Like what if I don’t like the book, but I spill coffee on it because I’m a klutz? Then I’ll feel obligated to buy it because I ruined the merchandise, and hindered their chances at a sale. If I hadn’t drunk the coffee while reading, it never would have been ruined.

Maybe they shouldn’t let people read anymore while drinking their coffee. Maybe they shouldn’t let people read the books because they’ll be less likely to buy them if they can just come to the store every day to read them. You know that saying about the guy who won’t buy the cow if he’s getting the milk for free? Well, it applies to more than just relationships. I like to think it applies to all aspects of life. Even book buying.

I stop dead in my tracks once I’m in the open coffee shop. There in the middle of the line is Rude Guy. Seriously? I am so not happy right now. He’s not looking this direction so I slip quickly into line.

Yes! I don’t think he saw me. I start doing little fist pumps in a muted victory dance.

“Uh, Miss, can I take your order?” The barista gives me a funny look. That’s okay—I deserved it that time.

“Hi, uh, I’d like a large caramel latte with whip cream on top,” I say, working to keep my voice normal. No need to freak her out any more.

“Whole milk or skim milk?”

“Whole milk with a ton of sugar, please.” I glance up the line.

She scribbles on my future coffee cup. “Anything else today?”

“Just those fake glasses with the bushy eyebrows and oversized nose so I can discreetly lay low,” I say.

The barista doesn’t even crack a smile. She’s like sixteen! She should appreciate my joke. Or at least be polite and smile.

The manner system in America is failing us.

I hand her the money and then move down the line to pick up my drink. I face the glass display case and pretend to be engrossed in studying the desserts, but out of the corner of my eye I watch Rude Guy to see if he’s noticed me. He’s looking at the paperback in his hand as he waits for his coffee.

As the line moves, I stealthily make my way down a little farther.

I feel like a spy.

Rude Guy gets his drink now and turns to leave. This time I don’t do any fist pumps, but I can’t help the sigh that escapes my lips.

I reach the end of the line, pick up my drink, and look for a semi-clean table. The first one I sit at is coated in some slimy, tan-colored substance. I move toward a table by the window and sit. Ah, perfect.

I 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.
 

 

To Speak or not to Speak? By V. Joy Palmer

 

Do people look at you like you’re weird?

That must seem like a random question, but sometimes I feel like I have a “W” tattooed on my forehead. I’ve spent most of my life feeling like the odd one out for one reason or another. Because of my parent’s divorce and my messy background. Because we were the new family in a small town. Because I was the “good, little Christian girl.” Because I got married “so young.” Because I’m a writer so I talk to imaginary people all day. Because I’m a crazy obsessive an avid reader.

Because I’m…different.

Different is good, right? Different is celebrated, right?

Only in a perfect world. And while you can buy chocolate in bulk these days, this is still not a perfect world.

This results in me wondering (in between counting down the days until the anticipated release of the next book I’m desperate to read) if maybe I should just keep quiet. No one understands me anyways. It’s not like I’m depriving the world of anything great. It’s hard not to feel like that after explaining my odd writer/bookish tendencies for the 109,398th time only to be mocked. Or when I read a bad review for my book. Or when I have a bad mommy day. Or when a kid in the youth group abruptly rejects God.

It would be so much easier to stay quiet. My heart would hurt less.

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When those gloomy thoughts strike like a never-ending rain, God faithfully, albeit annoyingly, reminds me of this verse:

“If I say, ‘I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,’ there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.” Jeremiah 20:9

With that verse, He reminds me that I am not the only one who has felt or will feel this way, that I have something to say in a way that only I can say it, and most importantly, that He has given me something to say.

A purpose.

So much meaning packed into 42 words…

And there He goes again, shooting down my ill-conceived ideas about myself.

Jeremiah is such a popular prophet – now! When he was alive and speaking God’s messages to the people, he was pretty much despised. Which is how he ended up in this mental state. He couldn’t go anywhere or say anything without being mocked, scorned, and/or beaten. All for sharing the truth God asked him to share. How desperately he wanted to just be done!

But he could. not. stay silent.

The truth, the message, the purpose swept through his bones like an all-consuming fire in a dry and dusty forest.

Even though it would be so much easier to stay silent, I can’t. The fire within my soul rages, desperate to be free. My voice, my message, my call are important because God Himself deemed them vital. Because He gave them to me to share with those around me. Not sharing, well, that’s physically and spiritually worse than the loss of all chocolate – and that is BAD!

And the same is true for you, my friends. God has given you a message that only you can say in your own unique way.

But to speak or not to speak, well, that’s a burning choice we all have to make. And if you’re like me, you may have to make this choice a lot…

Like every minute of every day.

But I can’t stop His fire. And if I’m honest, I don’t want to stop the fire, regardless of the heartache. So once again, I choose to speak. I choose to be my wonderfully weird self. I choose His fire.

Joy’s Ah-hahs To Tweet:

Celebrate with @VJoyPalmer’s book-birthday! #BookGiveaway (Tweet This)

@VJoyPalmer: Do people look at you as weird? (Tweet This)

Author @VJoyPalmer speaks out: To Speak or not to Speak? (Tweet This)

Author’s Bio:

V. Joy Palmer is an avid blogger and 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 socially awkward pets.

Places to connect with Joy:

Website

Twitter

Facebook

Goodreads

Blog

Instagram

 

Joy and I look forward to your comments.

~*~*~*~

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Have you signed up for my Author Newsletter? I’ve just updated my website and (smartly) added an easy sign up on the website’s main page. I have news on my upcoming novella that newsletter subscribers will receive first, including information on an upcoming BookGiveaway only for them. Of course, I hope to have additional news… always hoping…

 

 

Sharon K. Connell Speaks Up!

Sharon

Everyone’s Story welcomes back Christian fiction author Sharon K. Connell. Sharon was the very last guest I hosted back when this blog was a blogspot blog, before I launched Everyone’s Story on my new website on December 26th, 2015. It’s great to have Sharon back! Sharon speaks up, and candidly so, on looking back as a beginning author and seeing what went right as well as wrong and learning from it all. We’re both looking forward to hearing from you!

**Please check out a special invitation from me below Sharon’s blog feature.

 

His Perfect Love as seen on Amazon-1

 

This just added (on June 17th):

BookGiveaway:

Sharon is offering 1 randomly chosen commenter  1 signed copy of His Perfect Love, US residents only or 1 ebook if outside of US.

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

 

Looking Back at my Beginning by Sharon K. Connell

Thank you, Elaine, for allowing me a second appearance on “Everyone’s Story.” I appreciate you and your promotion of authors.

When I started writing stories, I had no idea what I was doing. I just wrote. One of the people who most encouraged me was an author friend of mine in England, Alan. He was always telling me that my stories were as good as any he had read. Yes, he’s a reader of Christian Romance.

After going through a lot of heartache with some members in my family who were not so supportive of anything I did, Alan’s initial support gave me courage. I proceeded to write three novels, which were self-published in 2014. Through this entire process, I gained confidence in myself. Up until then, I had always thought I could do anything God wanted me to do, but this was a new realm into which I had ventured. Were my writing skills good enough? I did a lot of praying, and got peace about going ahead with my first story, even though I hadn’t had any classes in writing per se.

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Over a year ago, I took classes in writing and came to the realization that there was so much more to telling a story for someone else’s enjoyment than what I had done with my first three novels. While taking the classes, I also visited a local writing group and learned about the American Christian Fiction Writers. After I joined the ACFW I also became a part of the local Houston branch, where this year I have taken on the role of Treasurer.

Thanks to ACFW and their critique group called Scribes, along with so many authors who I now call my friends, I’ve become skilled at a craft I love and which brings enjoyment to others with my finished work.

The genre in which I write is Christian Romance Suspense, with a bit of mystery mixed in. My newest novel is His Perfect Love. Through all my stories, I try to show God’s mercy and grace. All my books are dedicated to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The heroine of my new release, His Perfect Love, is Patricia. She has been unaware of God’s mercy throughout most of her life. Without giving a spoiler, I can’t tell you the specifics of her journey. The question is this: Will she finally see God’s Mercy, and will she avail herself of God’s Grace.

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Currently, I’m rewriting my first book, A Very Present Help. It should be finished sometime this year and resubmitted for publication on Amazon. Then I’ll move on to the second finished book, Paths of Righteousness, and finally There Abideth Hope, the third novel.

His Perfect Love is written in the style of deep point of view, which I believe engages the reader much better than what I’ve written previously. That’s the reason I’m rewriting the first three novels. To me it’s important that I bring the best-written story I can to my readers.

Sharon’s Ah-hahs To Tweet:

Author @SharonKConnell takes a candid look at her #writing beginning. Can you relate? (Tweet This)

@SharonKConnell: What’s a writer supposed to do without support? (Tweet This)

@SharonKConnell speaks up on what’s essential in her writing. (Tweet This)

Author’s Bio:

Sharon K. Connell, by birth a Wisconsin “Cheesehead,” grew up and went to school through college in Illinois. At one point in her life, she felt that God called her to be a missionary and moved to Pensacola, Florida, where she graduated from the Pensacola Bible Institute.

In 2005 Sharon caught the writing bug and never stopped en route to Houston, Texas. She continues to write stories about people who discover that God will only allow those things into one’s life that will help grow and or increase one’s faith. Sharon’s prayer is that God will use her writing to bring honor and glory to Him, to reach others with the Gospel, and to encourage others regardless of what they might be going through.

Places to connect with Sharon:

Website

Twitter

Facebook

Goodreads

Amazon Author Page

Links for Sharon’s Book Trailers:

His Perfect Love

A Very Present Help

Paths of Righteousness

There Abideth Hope

Sharon and I look forward to your comments.

~*~*~*~

authornewsletter_homeicon

 

Have you signed up for my Author Newsletter? I’ve just updated my website and (smartly) added an easy sign up on the website’s main page. I have news on my upcoming novella that newsletter subscribers will receive first, including information on an upcoming BookGiveaway only for them. Of course, I hope to have additional news… always hoping…

 

 

Sandra Ardoin Speaks Out!

Sandra Ardoin_Headshot

Everyone’s Story welcomes to its little but growing community Christian fiction author Sandra Ardoin. I’m thrilled to share–if you don’t know already–that Sandra’s novel, A Reluctant Melody has just won the Grace Award for historical romance. Huge congratulations, Sandra!! Sandra speaks up on graduation to a new life and shares with us an excerpt from her award-winning novel. Speaking of A Reluctant Melody Sandra does offer it as this week’s BookGiveaway so do check it out. We’re both looking forward to hearing from you! 

**Please check out the podcast link below Sandra’s feature where I’m the awesome Denise Walker’s guest and share about how I came to have hope in Christ.

ARM Cover

 

BookGiveaway:

Sandra is offering 1 randomly chosen commenter  1 ebook of  A Reluctant Melody.  The winner will be announced here on Friday, June 16th between 6-7 PM EST.

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

 

 

Excerpt from A Reluctant Melody by Sandra Ardoin:

 Excerpt – A Reluctant Melody by Sandra Ardoin

 

He [Kit Barnes] entered the narrow building that housed Medford’s Ice Cream Parlor, a side shop of Medford’s Mercantile, and pulled out a chair from the table nearest the front window. This was the only kind of saloon he frequented nowadays. When concerns overwhelmed him, sweets helped to alleviate the desire for something stronger. Today was a two-scoop day, and he ordered one each of vanilla and chocolate.

The frozen cream cooled his tongue and coated his throat. As he sat there, the noise and street traffic outside the window vanished, replaced by scenes from his visit to the Stewart home. He’d told Joanna she hadn’t changed, but that wasn’t true. The romantic overtures of a young lady had been replaced by the sober and mature air of a sophisticated widow.

Perry said she preferred to remain at home rather than venture out. Again, it was a trait so unlike the woman he knew in Philadelphia. Back then, she flitted from house to house like an iridescent hummingbird sticking her beak into one flower after another and savoring the societal nectar.

What had Joanna seen in him in those days of hedonism? The ice cream curdled in his stomach. He had never been blind to her interest in him or her flirtations—only deaf to the crying afterward. In those days, he was his father’s son, and he’d spend the rest of his life making up for it. Had the rumors Mrs. Brockhurst mentioned been the catalyst that forced Joanna into the reclusive state Perry claimed? From what Kit gathered, Clayton Stewart died almost three years ago. Joanna no longer wore the dreary colors of mourning. If the rumor of an adulterous relationship was correct, what stopped the two Stewarts from marrying after the older man’s death?

Laughter drew Kit’s attention to a pair of children seated across the room. The girl with her caramel-colored hair reminded him of Annie. Did Joanna ever bring her daughter here? His daughter?

Kit dropped his spoon in the bowl and pushed it away with half his ice cream uneaten and melted into a lumpy, brown pool. He left the building and ambled down the street toward his hotel. If Annie was his child, how could Joanna have dared keep her from him?

 

Graduating to a New Life by Sandra Ardoin

 

It’s been graduation season, both for high schools and colleges. Cue “Pomp and Circumstance” and throw the mortar boards in the air!

For parents, graduation is a time of celebration. All the hard work we and our children put into their education is being paid off in the form of a diploma they can take with them into successful futures.

But it’s also a mixed blessing. Sure, we’re happy for the milestone, but at the same time, we’re sad to think how life will change for them and us in the days and weeks to come. After all, we’ve raised those munchkins for seventeen or more years and are used to them being around (until they learned to drive, that is).

SandraMeme

Now, those teenagers or young adults will soon head off to college or **snicker** full-time employment like the rest of us. Moms and dads must adjust. And if the graduate is the only or last child…well, the nest is rather empty, isn’t it?

As my daughter (an only) prepared to graduate from high school, we visited a number of colleges to find the right fit. She settled on one about two and a half hours away. Of course, that meant leaving home for dorm life. It also meant an empty bedroom in the house. More on that later.

It’s a scary thing to entrust the children you’ve raised and instilled with Biblical values to an educational system and peers you hope will have a positive, rather than negative, influence when you’re not around to keep them on the straight and narrow. It’s just as scary for them. As Christian parents, we also had the assurance of knowing she had a faith to keep her strong. It was (and still is) great to know we can rely on Proverbs 22:6 – “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”

I remember moving said daughter into the dorm and wanting to hang around until the powers-that-be sympathetically patted my back and ordered me to leave. I’ll never forget that last look through the rear window of the vehicle at said daughter. She looked lost until she met two other girls in the same boat. The three of them sailed off into the sunset together. (Actually, they walked into the convocation center, but the analogy works.)

Honestly, we were just getting used to her being gone when she was back for fall break, then Christmas vacation and Spring break. Before we knew it, we were moving her back home for the summer.

We repeated this process for three more years, until it was time for another mortar board toss and she was back home to hunt down that elusive dream job. It took her a while to find it, but she’s one of the fortunate ones who works in her chosen profession—two hours away. Another day of heavy lifting and she was moved into her apartment. We became true empty-nesters. Now what?

Remember that unoccupied bedroom? Within days after her vacancy, it was transformed! New paint. Different furniture. It became mom’s writing cave, and she loves it! There is a microwave for reheating those all-important cups of coffee that turn cold as I labor for the proper words, two windows with views that allow me to feel the world won’t completely pass me by while I’m tied to my desk, and a yoga mat for giving others the impression I’m keeping fit.

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So, if you’re the parent of a small child, enjoy the days! They won’t be small long. But if you’re about to enter the twilight of your child-rearing, take heart. It’s not the end of the world. Make plans for that time. Find something to look forward to and the transition will be easier.

As for the child, train them right in the days you have with them and you’ll rest easier.

Sandra’s Ah-hahs To Tweet:

When @SandraArdoin’s daughter finished high school, who really graduated? (Tweet This)

Meet author @SandraArdoin, #GraceAward winner for #HistoricalRomance. (Tweet This)

Win @SandraArdoin’s #BookGiveaway of A Reluctant Melody. (Tweet This)

Author’s Bio:

Sandra Ardoin writes inspirational historical romance and is the author of The Yuletide Angel and A Reluctant Melody, a 2016 Grace Award Finalist. A wife and mom, she’s also a reader, football fan, NASCAR watcher, garden planter, country music listener, and antique store prowler. Join her email community to receive occasional updates and a free short story

Places to connect with Sandra:

Website

Seriously Write Blog

Twitter

Facebook

Goodreads

Google+

Pinterest

Sandra and I look forward to your comments.

~*~*~*~

I’d be honored if you’d take a few minutes

to listen to the Hope-in-Christ podcast that I’m featured in:

PodcastMeme

 

 

MaryAnn Diorio Speaks Up!

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Everyone’s Story welcomes award-winning Christian fiction author and professor MaryAnn Diorio. I’ve been following her blog, Matters of the Heart, for years and have found much encouragement from it. It’s an honor to have MaryAnn here with us this week. She speaks up on when God has other plans for us and introduces us to her newest release, The Madonna of Pisano, Book 1 of The Italian Chronicle trilogy, which is also a BookGiveway offer to one fortunate viewer the week. We’re both looking forward to hearing from you! 

**Please check out the podcast link below MaryAnn’s feature where I’m the awesome Denise Walker’s guest and share about how I came to have hope in Christ.

 

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BookGiveaway:

Maryann is offering 1 randomly chosen commenter  a choice between 1 print or 1 ebook of  The Madonna of PisanoBook 1 of The Italian Chronicles trilogy. The winner will be announced here on Friday, June 9th between 6-7 PM EST.

** For Giveaways: it’s not necessary to insert your private email information within comments.
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Excerpt from The Madonna of Pisano: 

 Book Excerpt from The Madonna of Pisano, Book 1 in
The Italian Chronicles Trilogy by MaryAnn Diorio Pisano, Sicily, September 1891             She had no other choice.            Maria Landro led her little son by the hand as they hurried down the winding road from Bella Terra toward the village. Distant, dark clouds gathered in the morning sky. Looked like a storm coming. The anxiety that had been churning for days in the pit of her stomach now spread to chill every part of her body. It was all she could do to keep herself from turning back.            Nico tugged on her wrist. “Are we almost there, Mama?”            She squeezed his hand in return, the hem of her skirt rustling against the pebbles as it swished along the cobblestone road. “Almost, darling. Are you all right?”            He looked up at her. He had her father’s eyes. Kind, deep, and probing. They always made him so easy to love.

            “I’m well, Mama.” But his fingers fidgeted in her hand.

            His nervousness only fueled her own. She squeezed his hand more tightly. Please let the village be kind to him. Regardless of what they believed about her.

            A sudden gust of wind caught the edge of her headscarf, pulling it back past her temples. “My, the wind is getting stronger. Let’s hurry before the storm breaks. We don’t want you to arrive at school soaking wet on your very first day, do we?”

            “No, we don’t, Mama. I would look silly.” He laughed, and an arrow pierced her heart.

            If anyone hurt him …

            A hay-filled wagon rumbled past them, its wooden wheels creaking against the pebble-strewn road. The driver turned his face away as he passed.

            She winced, pulling her son closer to herself to hide him.

            “Will the storm carry us away, Mama?” Nico laughed again. “Maybe the wind will pick me up, and I’ll fly like a bird and land on the school windowsill, and my teacher will laugh.”

            She tensed. Nico’s teacher. No, Don Franco would never laugh. If only she could have chosen someone—anyone—else to be his teacher.

            But not in Pisano.

            The tiny village had only one schoolhouse and one teacher.

            As they turned a bend in the road, she caught a glimpse of her family’s large tan stucco house. It sat majestically atop the hill, like a queen on her throne, surrounded by sloping fields of fragrant orange and lemon groves, purple-red vineyards, and golden wheat fields. Nestled among a cluster of tall poplar trees, would the queen soon be forced to give up her throne?

            Was the farm’s failure Maria’s fault as well?

            She looked down at her little boy, all dressed up for his first day of school. She’d made him the pair of navy-blue cotton britches the school uniform required, topped by a white, short-sleeved shirt and navy-blue ascot. His new black leather shoes, though a bit too big, would soon fit his rapidly growing feet.

            As they approached the village, she recoiled at the sight of the medieval church steeple reaching toward the gray morning sky. The church stood in the middle of the village as a sign of God’s central position in the lives of the villagers.

            She hadn’t stepped foot in it for nearly seven years.

            Pinwheeling out from the church, little pastel-colored stucco houses lined dirt roads framed by borders of yellow pansies and russet daylilies. Next to the church stood the rectory, its burnt orange tile roof in much need of repair.

            She averted her eyes.

            A few drops of rain splashed against her kerchief and sprinkled her face. She looked up just as a streak of lightning slashed the eastern sky. Then, with a loud clap, the clouds broke loose, dumping their reservoir of rain. Why hadn’t she brought an umbrella?

            Gripping Nico’s hand, she started running. The rain pummeled her head and her back as she tried to guide her little boy around the puddles.

            “Oh, Mama. My new shoes. They’re covered with mud.”

            So much for showing off her son. After six years of hiding him, she would see her bold, triumphant moment ruined by mud. “Don’t worry. As soon as we get to the school, I’ll wipe them off for you.”

            Just as quickly as it had started, the rain stopped. She took out the handkerchief she’d shoved into her large canvas bag, next to the fresh fruit and nuts she’d brought for Nico’s snack, and wiped her son’s wet face. Wet from the rain, she hoped, and not from tears.

            She couldn’t take tears. Not from him. Not from herself.

            As they entered the village square, shouts of haggling customers caught her ear.

            Young mothers with babies on their hips bargained with shopkeepers over the price of peppers, eggplant, and squash. At the far end of the square, old women dressed in black shuffled out of the Church of the Holy Virgin, fresh from hearing daily Mass.

            Nico pulled at her hand. “Mama, so many people. I never saw so many people.” He seemed like a new puppy let loose from his cage. “Yes, my son. The village is full of many people.”

            Her eyes scanned the bustling square where she’d once spent many happy moments at Luigi’s outdoor café, eating pasta and sipping espresso in the company of family and friends.

            Deftly skirting farmers pulling wobbly carts laden with lemons and oranges, she guided her child through the market crowd. Small groups of old men, their heads covered with flat-topped coppola hats, huddled at little round tables, chewing on long pieces of fennel while playing chess. A young mother, dressed in the black attire of year-long mourning for a deceased loved one, held onto a toddler with one hand while, with the other, she sorted through artichokes, cucumbers, and leeks. The smell of freshly caught tuna, squid, and mussels, fruit of the nearby sea, turned Maria’s empty stomach.

            She led Nico through the square. Her face grew hot as neighbors and one-time friends raised their eyes to her. Old women shook their heads, while younger ones scanned her from head to toe, then turned away with uplifted chins. Men of all ages scraped their eyes over Nico then leered at her.

            The skin prickled on the nape of her neck. “Come, Nico. We must hurry so we won’t be late.”

            “Yes, Mama.”

            Wide-eyed, he drank in the new sights. Poor child. He’d been sequestered on the family farm his whole life. He knew nothing of this world beyond Bella Terra.

            Whispers grew into mumbles and then into shouts, roaring in her ears as she hurried through the gathering crowd.

            “Can it be? Maria Landro? And that must be her bastard child.”

            She stiffened.

            “What are they saying, Mama? What does ‘bastard’ mean?”

            Keeping her eyes straight ahead, she guided her child toward the school just beyond the square.

            “Bastard! Bastard! Bastard!” The word echoed after them.

            “Mama, what does ‘bastard’ mean?”

            Her stomach tied itself into a tight knot. Lowering her head, she quickened her pace. “I’ll explain at another time. Right now we must get to your school, or you will be late.”

 

When God Has Other Plans by MaryAnn Diorio, PhD

I did not start out to be a writer. From the age of 15, when I entered my first French class, my passion was to be a university professor of Romance languages. So, to that end, I pursued my studies in French, Italian, and Spanish all the way up to the PhD in French with a concentration in Comparative Literature. Then, with three graduate degrees in hand, I entered the exciting world of academia to pursue a lifelong career as a foreign language professor.

Or, so I thought.

But God had other plans. At the age of 30, I began sensing a desire to write. This was very strange as I had never considered myself a writer nor ever considered writing as a profession. Oh, for a fleeting moment in my early teens, I thought it might be fun to be a journalist, but that thought fled as quickly as it came.

At first, I brushed aside the desire to write. But it kept growing stronger. Finally, I began to wonder if God were trying to get my attention.

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One day, as I was talking with our Heavenly Father, I said, “Abba, about this desire to write. Is it from You? If so, please let it increase. If it is not from You, please take it away because it is becoming unbearable and quite distracting!”

Surely enough, the desire to write grew stronger. And with its growth came the confirmation that God had, indeed, called me to write for Him. Now, over 40 years later, I can look back and see that God’s plan for my life was far better than my own.

God has called you to a great destiny as well. It may be writing, or it may be something else. Whatever it is, it is your unique purpose to fulfill on the earth. It is your personal, customized dream straight from the heart of the Father. Treasure it! Guard it! Don’t let anyone or anything steal it!

Many obstacles began to come against my dream to write. Rejection slips, self-doubt, time management issues, financial issues, illness. All of these—and more—tried to keep me from fulfilling the destiny for which God had created me. But I would not relent in my pursuit of my God-given dream. I would not allow the obstacles to stand in my way. One by one, I met them head-on and pushed them aside, tunneled through them, clambered around them, climbed over them, or pulverized them. Whatever it took, that’s what I did. And that’s what you need to do, too, if you want to fulfill your great destiny in Christ!

You see, we have an enemy, and his name is Satan. He hates Christ, and he hates those of us who are in Christ and who do our Lord’s bidding. He especially hates Christ’s writers because we writers use our pens as swords in proclaiming the truth of the Gospel. We are a grave threat to the kingdom of darkness because we push back against it with the indestructible weapons of the Kingdom of Light.

But Satan doesn’t hate only writers. He hates anyone in Christ who advances the cause of Christ. And that includes you!

Remember, we are here not for ourselves and our own agenda. We are here for King Jesus and His agenda.

So, whatever the work to which God has called you, do it faithfully. Do it diligently. Do it joyfully. It is a work that only you can do in the way God designed you to do it. As you fulfill your part, you will be glorifying God and advancing His Kingdom in the earth.

I can think of no better reason to follow your dream. Can you?

_________________________________________
Copyright 2017 by MaryAnn Diorio, PhD. All Rights Reserved.

MaryAnn’s Ah-hahs To Tweet:

Meet award-winning #ChristFic author @DrMaryAnnDiorio. #BookGiveaway (Tweet This)

@DrMaryAnnDiorio speaks up on what happens when God has other plans. (Tweet This)

What happened when @DrMaryAnnDiorio thought she was settling down in her dream career? (Tweet This)

Author’s Bio:

Dr. MaryAnn Diorio is a widely published, award-winning author of riveting, compelling fiction that deals with the deepest issues of the human heart. She holds multiple graduate degrees, including the PhD in French with a concentration in Comparative Literature and the MFA in Writing Popular Fiction. She has taught Romance languages and Fiction Writing at major universities. When not writing, MaryAnn enjoys reading, painting, and playing the piano.

MaryAnn and her husband have two amazing daughters, a fantastic son-in-law, and five rambunctious grandchildren.

Places to connect with MaryAnn:

Website

Blog

Twitter

Facebook

Goodreads

Amazon

Blog Talk Radio

LinkedIn

Pinterest

Google+

Instagram

Library Thing

Vimeo

YouTube

MaryAnn and I look forward to your comments.

~*~*~*~

I’d be honored if you’d take a few minutes

to listen to the Hope-in-Christ podcast that I’m featured in:

PodcastMeme

 

Kate Breslin Speaks Up!

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Everyone’s Story welcomes back award winning Christian fiction author Kate Breslin. Although Kate and I have the same literary agent and we’ve been in touch in all things cyber-world, it wasn’t until the 2016 ACFW conference in Nashville that I had the distinct pleasure to meet the sweet and most kind Kate. I’m very excited that she’s back with us this week to share her thoughts, tell us about her newest release High as the Heavens (don’t you just love that title!!!), and offer a BookGiveaway of that very novel.  We’re both looking forward to hearing from you! And, Kate, thank you very much for your warm congratulations on Always With You receiving the 2017 Book of the Year.

**Please check out the podcast link below Kate’s feature where I’m the awesome Denise Walker’s guest and share about how I came to have hope in Christ.

 

High As The Heavens - web size

 

BookGiveaway:

Kate is offering 1 randomly chosen commenter  1 print copy of High as the Heavens, US residents only. The winner will be announced here on Friday, June 2nd between 6-7 PM EST.

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

 

 

Back copy for High As The Heavens:

A British nurse in WWI German-occupied Brussels, Evelyn Marche spends her days at the hospital and her nights working at a café . . . or so it seems. Eve’s most carefully guarded secret is that she also spends her nights carrying out dangerous missions as a spy for a Belgian resistance group.

When a plane crashes as she’s en route to a rendezvous, Eve is the first to reach the downed plane and is shocked to recognize the badly injured pilot as British RFC Captain Simon Forrester. She risks her life to conceal him from the Germans, but as the secrets between them grow and the danger mounts, can they still hope to make it out of Belgium alive?

Reviews:

“What a thrill ride! Breslin’s latest has non-stop action and intrigue set in the fascinating time period of World War I. The characters are detailed and realistic, reflecting emotions that speak to a broad audience in any era. The storyline is intricately plotted and filled with incredible detail that will keep readers engaged and desperate to know what will happen. The romance is tender and the historical events are captivating, making this a book that is not to be missed.” RT Book Reviews TOP PICK!

 

What A Promise Can Offer by Kate Breslin

Elaine, I am delighted to be back as a guest on your blog. I’d also like to extend my congratulations on Always With You winning the 2017 Christian Small Publishers Book of The Year!

In choosing my subject for today, I revisited my 2015 article for Everyone’s Story, on the marvelous ways God works in our lives through the books we read and as authors creating story. I’d like to expand on that thread here with my newest release, High As The Heavens.

Let me begin by saying that with each new novel, my story’s spiritual theme comes to me at different times; in my debut, the theme was pre-established in writing a parallel to the Biblical Book of Esther. My second novel’s theme of misjudging others developed as I wrote the story. With High As The Heavens, I’d written half of my outline before I felt called to write about forgiveness; in particular, about forgiving ourselves. In my newest novel, the story takes place in German-occupied Brussels during the first world war. My heroine, Evelyn Marche, is a nurse by day, a waitress by night, and a secret agent for the Allies. Forced to live among the enemy, she faces constant danger, yet Eve is as clever as she is daring and thwarts the Germans at every turn while working to save her mother’s Belgian people.

Eve is also a woman haunted by the past. The weight of her guilt makes her reckless, and keeps her living in the shadow of death. Her transgressions are like ghosts, stealing her peace of mind and sabotaging her most intimate relationship, with the man she loves. And while on a conscious level she understands God’s mercy, her heart can’t move beyond past self-recriminations to grasp the hope that will open the door to her future.

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As I write my characters, I try to identify with the lessons they learn throughout the story. In Eve’s case, I can certainly relate to her on a smaller scale. Being a busy author with deadlines that can take priority over family, friends, and community, I am often plagued with a nagging sense of guilt and inadequacy, in not being organized enough, or attentive enough, or having enough hours in a day. I think many of us with hectic schedules experience these feelings at one time or another. For some, like Eve, the guilt or sense of hopelessness goes deeper, when those serious “ghosts” from the past rear their ugly heads and make us hurt, or impede the progress we’re trying to make.

So, how to tackle such a problem? I realized in myself that it’s often my own pride at the root of my guilt feelings, as I tend to hold myself to a higher degree of accountability than those around me. It’s like saying God’s mercy doesn’t apply to me, which is certainly an affront to Him. I suspect too, it’s that same pride that wants to cling to my anger just a little longer before I forgive someone else. So humility of heart, at least for me, is a good place to start the healing process.

But what about Eve? How does she cope with what seems like insurmountable baggage? It starts as she begins to look outward, and realizes the presence of God in the Christ-like love and compassion of others. She begins to see that His mercy was always there for her, waiting; she had only to hand over her complete trust, and embrace what He offers her freely.

Yet this isn’t an overnight process for her. It takes prayer, and rebuilding her relationship with God to set Eve onto the path toward healing. She must come to wholly believe that His absolution is complete and final.

Our Lord speaks to us in this passage from Jeremiah 31:34,

“‘…Because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest…For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.’”

Such beautifully consoling words, and for Eve, for all of us—the promise that we can leave the past behind and place our hope in God’s love.

Kate’s Ah-hahs To Tweet:

How do spiritual themes come to award-winning author @Kate_Breslin? #BookGiveaway (Tweet This)

@Kate_Breslin Speaks Up on Everyone’s Story: What a Promise Can Offer (Tweet This)

Win @Kate_Breslin’s newest release: High as the Heavens on Everyone’s Story #BookGiveaway (Tweet This)

Author’s Bio:

Former bookseller-turned-author Kate Breslin enjoys life in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and family. A writer of travel articles and award-winning poetry, Kate received Christian Retailing’s 2015 Best Award for First Time Author and her debut novel, For Such A Time, won the 2015 Carol award for Debut Novel. Kate’s third novel, High As The Heavens releases June 6, 2017. When she’s not writing inspirational fiction, Kate enjoys reading or taking long walks in Washington’s beautiful woodlands. She also likes traveling to new places, both within the U.S. and abroad, having toured Greece, Rome, and much of Western Europe. New destinations make for fresh story ideas.

Places to connect with Kate:

Website

Twitter

Facebook

Pinterest

Instagram

Kate and I look forward to your comments.

~*~*~*~

I’d be honored if you’d take a few minutes

to listen to the Hope-in-Christ podcast that I’m featured in:

 

PodcastMeme

Janell Butler Wojtowicz Speaks Up!

Janell Butler Wojtowicz 2

Everyone’s Story welcomes Christian fiction author Janell Butler Wojtowicz. While Janell is no stranger to writing, she makes her debut in fiction with her release of Embracing Hope. I’m thankful Janell is with us this week and I’m sure you’ll be too. I believe you will be moved when you read her feature on encouragement, as I was. Please check out Janell’s novel excerpt and her BookGiveaway. We’re both looking forward to hearing from you!

 

 

 

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BookGiveaway:

Janell is offering 1 randomly chosen commenter  1 ebook edition of Embracing Hope. The winner will be announced here on Friday, May 26th between 6-7 PM EST.

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

 

 

 Excerpt from Embracing Hope:

 Embracing Hope by Janell Butler Wojtowicz

When Drew got back to his condo after breakfast with Mitch, he took recycling bins from the garage and headed straight for his office. He pulled open the top drawer of the filing cabinet, labeled “Dissertation,” removed all the folders and tossed everything in a bin with a satisfying thump. He turned on the TV for company and for the next several hours sorted through files and books, occasionally reading, mostly shredding. Taking the framed photo from the bookshelf, he wrapped the UConn afghan around it and placed it carefully in his briefcase. Sitting down at the computer, he composed a new email.

 

Dr. Cavanaugh,

Thank you so much for the opportunity to serve as Dean of Students at Riley University. Riley is an outstanding university devoted to its students and committed to serving God. It’s been a privilege to work here.

        

However, it is in the best interests of the university and its students that I resign the position of Dean of Students, effective immediately. I will contact Human Resources upon your acceptance of my resignation to complete the necessary exit procedures.

        

Blessings,

Andrew McKinley

 

Without hesitation, Drew hit “Send.”

 

He looked up a phone number on his contact list. “Ed, this is Drew McKinley. Could you give me a call as soon as you can? I need to put the condo up for sale.”

 

Next he went online and checked flights to Hartford. He frowned at the airfare, but booked a one-way ticket for eleven the next morning. He perused the online career section of the Chronicle of Higher Education and made notes.

 

Going into his bedroom, Drew hauled out a suitcase from the back of the closet and laid it on the unmade bed. He pulled out clothes from the bureau, placed them in the suitcase and stuffed a couple of suits in a garment bag. The bottle of pills on the bed stand caught his eye. He poured out two, then two more, and swallowed all four without water. Closing and moving the suitcase to the floor, he lay on the crumpled linens. He glanced at the clock: 2:38. Closing his eyes, he let the memories—bittersweet as they were—engulf him.

 

He saw his preschool teacher leading him to his little desk as his mother lingered in the doorway.

 

He saw himself as an eight-year-old on his knees next to the bed asking Jesus into his heart.

 

He saw his mother taking a picture of him in his high school cap and gown.

 

He saw Kendra grinning across the table in the student union, a dollop of whipped cream from the latte on her nose.

 

He saw her floating down the aisle on her father’s arm.

 

He saw Tony behind his desk, interviewing him on a sunny, spring day.

 

He saw him and Kendra kissing in the gazebo during orientation.

 

He saw the white casket being put inside the white hearse.

 

He saw Allison at the Christmas party in the sparkly green dress.

 

He saw her with Eliza nestled in her arms.

 

He saw the red car with the bashed-in rear fender in the ramp.

 

The shrill squeal of the phone sliced through his ears, a crack of thunder shook his bed, and Drew bolted upright in the darkened room. The red numbers of the clock glowed 9:12. He leaped out of bed, but when he stood his legs buckled, and he fell over the suitcase onto the floor. The phone screamed at him again. Like a flood, the dream from the bus rushed back: the storm … the ramp … the exit sign … footsteps … Allison!

 

 

 

Encouragement by Janell Butler Wojtowicz

 

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing1 Thess. 5:11

Everyone agrees that no matter our calling—writer, computer programmer, teacher, business mogul—we need a mentor. I’ve had wonderful mentors throughout my life who guided my professional development.

But we need a cheerleader, too; someone on the sidelines waving the pompons of motivation and perseverance that spur us onto success. A decade ago my cheerleader, Dale, emerged when I embarked on the arduous trek to publish what became Embracing Hope.

I met Dale in our college’s communication program in 1979. (Whoops, I just dated myself!) His academic emphasis was graphic design; mine was journalism. We shared classes and struck up a friendship. After graduation, Dale and I went our separate ways out of state, married our spouses and had families. A decade later we ended up working together in the PR department of our alma mater. A new deeper friendship developed and even after we left our jobs at the college, we kept in touch through calls, emails, Homecomings, and occasional workday lunches.

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Dale encouraged people wherever he met, whether me in my writing, co-workers, or people in his church who took part in drama productions that he directed. His gift of encouragement was his spiritual DNA. It came naturally and genuinely.

I began working on Embracing Hope in 2007, and Dale quickly became an ardent cheerleader. He was the first to read my pathetic attempts. He was purposeful in his encouragement, but not pushy. As bad as my early work was, he never said anything negative and never shot down my efforts. Sure, we discussed troublesome issues, but his suggestions were always accompanied by affirmations.

Dale would send me online articles, websites of potential agents and publishers, and inspirational pieces. In addition to our writing (he liked poetry and writing book reviews), we’d discuss pitching the novel, the uproar of traditional publishing in light of what I call the “Amazon Effect”, self-publishing, and marketing.

Over the years, as I labored over the novel and its sequels, Dale kept track of my progress (or lack thereof). He’d ask if I was working on the novel. I’d send him chapters to prove I was. When the novel sat—at one point it was on the shelf for over a year—he insisted that one day I’d be published and he vowed to be my first reviewer. Good, I thought. I’d get at least one 5-Star rating.

In early 2015, he sent me a database of small publishers that included those accepting manuscript submissions. I’d look through the email notifications that came from the database, but there were very few. Hang in there, he said, he’d keep praying.

On June 11, 2015, Dale suffered a sudden and fatal heart attack. He was 55. It hit me hard. I had lost one of my closest friends—the first in my circle. I questioned God’s purposes: Dale was too young, had too much potential, was a dynamic Christian, and had a loving family who needed him, including his only daughter getting married three months later.

Selfishly, I realized I had lost my cheerleader. Who would encourage me now?

Well, Dale did from the heavenly realms! In early 2016, it was as if he whispered, “Janell, it’s time.”

OK, Dale, I’ll try again for you. A few days later a database email came listing three potential small presses. One quickly offered me a contract and I signed knowing Dale would be thrilled. When the publisher closed its doors five months later, I wondered why God had taken me down this seemingly dead end path. Instead, God’s path took a turn via LinkedIn and my book was published by Discern Products in November 2016. Naturally, I dedicated Embracing Hope to Dale, who both on earth and now in heaven, cheered me on.

It was divine timing that I wrote this blog on May 3, Dale’s birthday. Thanks, Buddy. We did it!

We can all be cheerleaders in some way. I’m intent to “pay it forward” and hope to become the encourager that Dale was. How about you?

Janell’s Ah-hahs To Tweet:

Meet #ChristFic debut author Janell Butler Wojtowicz @janellwoj, writer of “people stories.” (Tweet This)

Author Janell Butler Wojtowicz @janellwoj speaks up: Encourage and build each other up! (Tweet This)

Like #ChristFic #Romance? #BookGiveaway of Janell Butler Wojtowicz’s @janellwoj Embracing Hope. (Tweet This)

Author’s Bio:

Janell Butler Wojtowicz, born and raised on an Iowa farm, was one of those kids who loved to write the dreaded “What I did on summer vacation” essay. It’s no surprise that she has spent her entire 30-year career in writing, including newspaper journalism, Christian higher education and nonprofit public relations, and local government public information. Much of her writing has been the “people stories” of trial, tragedy and triumph, which are reflected in her debut novel, Embracing Hope. Janell is a freelance writer/editor, and a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America. She and her husband, Frank, live in New Brighton, Minnesota. She has two step-sons, a step-daughter-in-law and three step-granddaughters.

Places to connect with Janell:

Blog

Twitter

Facebook

Amazon

Janell and I look forward to your comments.

 

Kathy Collard Miller Speaks Up!

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Everyone’s Story welcomes fellow Elk Lake Publishing author Kathy Collard Miller. Kathy writes on Christian living topics, women’s Bible studies, and Bible commentaries. A popular speaker as well, often speaking with her husband, she shares her story of how God interceded in her life to end her being a child abuser.  Do check out Kathy’s BookGiveaway. We’re both looking forward to hearing from you!

 

Whispers of My Heart

 

BookGiveaway:

Kathy is offering 1 randomly chosen commenter  1 copy of the women’s Bible study of Whispers of the Heart. The winner will be announced here on Friday, May 19th between 6-7 PM EST.

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

 

 

 

Book Excerpt of Out of Control, A Memoir by Kathy Collard Miller:

 

 Out of Control:

A Christian Parent’s Victorious Struggle with Child Abuse

A Memoir by Kathy Collard Miller

 

 

Chapter 1

Anger Controlled Me

 

Two-year-old, blonde-headed Darcy splashed in the bathtub amid suds and toys.

“Time to wash your hair,” I announced.

“No, no, Mommy. No wash hair. Please.”

“Oh yes. It’s all sticky. It’ll feel good to get it nice and clean,” I coaxed.

Sandy broke into tears as I rubbed the shampoo into her hair. Suddenly she yelled, “It’s in my eyes. It hurts! It hurts!”

“Oh, it is not.” Annoyance began a slow burn within me. Here she goes again! She does this every single time. I just hate it! “There’re no suds near your eyes. Besides, it’s baby shampoo—it doesn’t sting.”

She screamed louder. Without warning, I was engulfed with exhaustion. The pressures that had been mounting throughout the day overwhelmed me and I felt weak. The room seemed to close in on me. The dampness and heat made my clothes stick to my skin. Pushing limp hair away from my forehead and gritting my teeth, I hissed back, “Sandy, there’s no shampoo in your eyes! Now hold still or you’re in big trouble! Hold still, I said!”

Shrieking, she clawed at her eyes. I turned on the faucet and jerked her to it, pushing her whole head under the running water. Soap flowed down over her face into the tub. She sputtered and coughed, but I didn’t care. She was going to get clean whether she liked it or not.

I hurriedly turned off the water. Grabbing her arm, I yanked her out of the tub. Sandy stood shivering and crying. I screamed at her again and again. “The next time you’ll hold still when I tell you. We’ll do it the way I say and that’s that.”

I felt like an erupting volcano of hate. Anger and frustration boiled inside me like hot lava. At that moment I felt like I wanted to kill her.

Spanking her with my hand found an outlet for my tension and exhaustion. But spanking became uncontrolled beating, until Sandy’s hysterical shrieking brought me back to reason. I carried her into her room and dropped her onto the bed. Slamming the door behind me, I bolted down the hall sobbing.

“Oh, Lord Jesus,” I gasped. “I hurt Darcy again. I keep saying I won’t do it anymore, but I can’t control my anger. What’s wrong with me?”

I knelt beside my bed and cried for a long time. Sandy’s muffled cries reached me, suffocating me in a blanket of guilt.

My thoughts hurled through my mind like hailstones in a storm. I’ve been a Christian for ten years; how can I be so angry? I lead a Bible study and other people think I’m a strong Christian; how can I be acting like this?

I wanted to scream, “Help me! Help me!” but I was ashamed and frightened. What if they take my kids away from me? What if everyone knows I abuse my child?

“I’m not a child abuser!” I whispered. “Or am I? I’m still hurting her,” I cried out. “I’m abusing my own child. Oh, God, no!” The word abusing echoed through my mind like a boulder thudding down a canyon wall—strong and final. There was no hope. I had prayed; I had cried; I had begged for deliverance. If only Larry didn’t have to work at night, he could relieve some of the pressure. But I can’t tell him what’s going on. He’s a cop! He arrests people for what I’m doing. Will he arrest me?

How long can I continue like this without seriously injuring Darcy or baby Mark? Darcy’s frightened face flashed before me, wrenching my heart like a tree being uprooted by the wind. I don’t want to hurt them. I love them. I want to be the best mother in the world. But I’m so far from that.

“Oh, Father,” I whimpered. “Help me! You’ve got to. I can’t help myself.”

I turned my attention to Sandy and couldn’t hear her crying anymore. Walking quietly to her room, I opened the door and peeked in. Her naked body was huddled by the pillow. She saw me and started crying again. Pushing aside my shame, I pulled her pajamas out of her drawer and started to dress her. Her body grew tense at my touch.

“Don’t be afraid, Sandy,” I murmured, trying to push back tears that begged to cascade my cheeks from the back of my eyes. “I’m not mad at you anymore. Mommy was wrong to hurt you. I’m sorry. I wish I could promise you I’m never going to get angry with you again. but I can’t. Oh, how I wish I could.” My tears finally gushed out and then plopped onto the sheets beside her. I gently tucked her into bed and left the room.

As I put on my nightgown, I wondered, God, do you care? Have you deserted me?

Of course not, Kathy, I chided myself. You know better than that. God is always there.

Then where is the help I need? I wanted to shout. But I pushed the doubt out of my mind as I cried myself to sleep.

 

The Journey to My First Book by Kathy Collard Miller

I have no idea when I first sensed a desire to be a writer but in junior high I tried to write a novel called “That Boy Rik.” I most likely finished two chapters, if that. But the pot was still there simmering even though I didn’t know what a writer actually was.

Then in high school, I signed up for the journalism class and met Mr. Johnson, who was in charge of the newspaper and yearbook. He was gruff and “old,” and he had been a newspaper reporter in the “olden” days. He insisted on good writing. I became editor of the newspaper and wrote a weekly column. He critiqued me and I learned about deadlines and tight writing.

In college, I started out choosing an English major and switched to physical therapy. In my junior year, I married Larry and switched from part time to full time to put my new husband through college. Life went along and by the time we had been married seven years, we were parents of a toddler daughter and infant son, my life was falling apart. My Prince Charming Larry’s armor was filled with rusty holes even though he had led me to the Lord when we were dating. My expectations of getting him to the altar so that I could alter him were failing miserably and I was furious. I took out my anger on our daughter to the point I physically abused her. I almost took my life in my hopelessness.

In time, through much healing, God, my true Prince Charming, delivered me from my anger and also healed our marriage.

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One day, Larry saw in the newspaper that a writing course was being offered at the local community center. Although I journaled every day, thoughts of being a writer were something off in the stratosphere, completely unknown and unreachable. When he suggested I attend, I was surprised but agreed.

At the class, I learned about a strange thing called a query letter. I understood its purpose and wondered if God wanted me to share my story of His work in me and our family. I only subscribed to Moody Monthly Magazine and being unaware of other Christian magazines, I sent off a letter to the editor using the format I’d learned for a query letter. That was 1977 and when a return letter arrived, the editor said they had accepted an article talking about the facts of child abuse. Since I suggested telling my story, they were willing to review my article with the contingency of something called “on speculation.”

I wrote the article and for the byline, used “Anonymous.” I didn’t want anyone to know of my sinful and shameful behavior, but I did want to give God glory for His work. I hadn’t told anyone of what had happened. When I opened the letter, which arrived from the editor with an acceptance letter and a check for $100, I was shocked. Did this mean I was a wrier? Maybe so. Wouldn’t Mr. Johnson be surprised and thrilled?

Within a short time I learned of a Christian writers conference at a conference center only a few hours away. I attended and met a woman named Carolyn Philipps. She only lived twenty miles away and began mentoring me. I wrote articles, which were published but I really wanted to write a book. As I returned again and again to the same writers conference, I was frustrated that my idea for telling my story in a book wasn’t of interest. One time I walked the grounds of the conference center crying, begging God to open the door. Within another year, Word Publishing accepted my book and I was on my way. That book, Out of Control: A Christian Parent’s Victorious Struggle with Child Abuse was published in 1984.

Since then, the Lord has continued opening doors for over 50 books and about a thousand articles, blog posts, guest posts, and contributing to other author’s books. I’m absolutely amazed of what God has done. Truly, to Him belongs the glory for a plan I never could have imagined or created.

Kathy’s Ah-hahs To Tweet:

@KathyCMiller Speaks Up on her journey to her first book and unexpected detours. (Tweet This)

@KathyCMiller asks herself: Could she be both a Christian and an abuser? (Tweet This)

Check out author @KathyCMiller’s #BookGiveaway of the Bible study Whispers of My Heart. (Tweet This)

Author’s Bio:

Kathy Collard Miller is a wife, mother of two, grandmother of two, author, speaker, and lay counselor. She and her husband of 46 years are also co-authors of several books and often speak together on marriage. Kathy has spoken in over 30 states and 8 foreign countries.

Places to connect with Kathy:

Website

Twitter

Facebook

YouTube

Kathy and I look forward to your comments.

~*~*~*~

I’ll be appearing on Kathleen Rouser’s Let’s Chat Blog

Monday, May 15th, Click Here

 

Susan Sleeman Speaks Up!

Susan Sleeman

Everyone’s Story welcomes romantic suspense author Susan Sleeman. Having seen Susan’s name around the web when it comes to hit reads, I was delighted to accept her invitation for an interview on her amazing blog, The Suspense Zone (see link below Susan’s feature). Now it’s my turn to host her and I’m exited that she’s with us this week. Susan speaks up on what we believe may be silence at first. And please check out her exciting  Giveaway offer on her about-to-be next release! We’re both looking forward to hearing from you!

 

 

 

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BookGiveaway:

Susan is offering 1 randomly chosen commenter  1 print edition of Fatal Mistake. The winner will be announced here on Friday, May 12th between 6-7 PM EST.

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

 

 

 

When Silence Isn’t Necessarily Silence by Susan Sleeman

 

Silence. A wonderful thing. At times, that is. When you’re trying to concentrate or you’re stressed out and need peace, you’ve likely basked in the quiet like a kitty in a ray of sunshine. But what about the times when you have prayed to God seeking His help with something important and there is no answer? What do you do then? Do you take matters into your own hands? Move forward or do you wait?

I’ve struggled with this issue in my life. I’m a type A person who likes to get things done and crossed off my To Do list. So when something I’m praying about isn’t clear, and the item sits on the list it’s almost as if it’s taunting me to act. At times I’ve caved in and acted only to find out I should have waited. Other times I wait and it still doesn’t turn out the way I think it should and so I wonder if God has actually weighed in.

So what should you do when you think God isn’t listening? My advice is to keep on praying, keep on talking to him, and don’t give up. His silence doesn’t mean he’s inactive. Stay in his word to seek answers. Look beyond what you see to what God sees. When we are in the valley, which is often the case when we are in need, we can’t see from the mountaintop like God can. He can see clearly because He doesn’t live in the valley.

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So trust that He will show you His will. After all, He doesn’t say I have a plan for you, but I won’t tell you what it is and you have to figure it out. No, in Jeremiah, He promises – For I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Trust in this promise.

Because I have struggled with this area in my life, I chose it as the spiritual theme for my White Knight’s series. In these fast-paced romantic suspense books, you can see characters deal with God’s silence and how they come out the other side. In book one, Fatal Mistake, both Cal and Tara think God has been silent in their life. They question where He is in times of trouble. Though they want to call out to Him, their experience says they can’t trust Him to be there. So they go through deep agony that most people experience in times of trouble. And, boy, do they go through trouble as you can see the book’s description.

Each day could be her last…but not if he can help it.

Tara Parrish is the only person ever to survive an attack by the Lone Wolf bomber. Scared and emotionally scarred by her near death, she goes into hiding with only one plan–to stay alive for another day. She knows he’s coming after her, and if he finds her, he will finish what he started.

Agent Cal Riggins has had only one goal for the past six months–to save lives by ending the Lone Wolf’s bombing spree. To succeed, he needs the help of Tara Parrish, the one person who can lead them to the bomber. Cal puts his all into finding Tara, but once he locates her, he realizes if he can find her, the Lone Wolf can, too. He must protect Tara at all costs, and they’ll both need to resist the mutual attraction growing between them to focus on hunting down the bomber, because one wrong move could be fatal.

If you’d like to read more about the book you can download a FREE excerpt on my website.

Susan’s Ah-hahs To Tweet:

Visit with bestselling #suspense author @SusanSleeman who shares what she struggles with. (Tweet This)

@SusanSleeman speaks up: When Silence Isn’t Necessarily Silence. #BookGiveaway (Tweet This)

Like #Inspirational #CleanRead #RomanticSuspense books? @SusanSleeman offers #BookGiveaway of Fatal Mistake. (Tweet This)

Author’s Bio:

Susan Sleeman is a bestselling and award-winning author of more than 25 inspirational/Christian and clean read romantic suspense books. Readers love her romantic suspense series for the well-drawn characters and edge-of-your-seat action. She graduated from the FBI and local police citizen academies, so her research is spot-on and her characters are real. In addition to writing, Susan also hosts thesuspensezone.com. She has lived in nine states but now calls Oregon home. Her husband is a retired church music director, and they have two beautiful daughters, a very special son-in-law, and an adorable grandson.

Places to connect with Susan:

Website

Twitter

Facebook

The Suspense Zone

Pinterest

Instagram

Goodreads

Bookbub

Amazon 

 

Susan and I look forward to your comments.

~*~*~*~

To read my interview by Susan Sleeman on 

The Suspense Zone click HERE

 

 

Diana Brandmeyer Speaks Up!

Dian Brandmeyer small

Everyone’s Story welcomes a long-time friendthe wonderful Diana Brandmeyer. To give you an idea exactly how long is long: the two of us met at an RWA conference at a Faith, Hope and Love chapter meeting and when I had trouble remembering her name she suggested that I think about (the then alive) Princess Diana. Never had trouble with Diana’s name since. It’s been years of sharing, praying, and helping each other and I’m very pleased that Diana is back on my blog. Diana speaks up on the seasons we go through in life. Do check out Diana’s Giveaway! We’re both looking forward to hearing from you!

Plus, click here for Diana’s Free promotion of The Honey Bride only on Friday, April 28th and Saturday, April 29th!!

News: And although I think I might have told the world already about my exciting news (well, at least for me!) check out my update below Diana’s feature.

 

MatchmakerBrides

BookGiveaway:

Diana is offering 1 randomly chosen commenter  1 copy of The Matchmaker Brides Collection, in which her story, The Home Grown Bride, appears. The winner will be announced here on Friday, May 5th between 6-7 PM EST.

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

 

 

Seasons by Diana Brandmeyer

 

Seasons—I’m in one, how about you?

I thought by now I’d have life under control. My control that is, not God’s. See that’s where I made my mistake. It was easy to do after all, God’s pretty busy and He created me as a capable creature to make my own goals, production calendars and even set my own hours.

And that’s what I did.

I should have asked.

I should have listened.

I should have been still.

Are you like me in any way? Busy and over-booked?

I did my thing as a stay-at-home mom and 80% of the time I loved it. I wrote when my sons were in school or while they were at one activity or another. As soon as they were all out of the house, my career plan emerged. I’d write every day, have a clean house and always have a stocked pantry and fridge. I’d be available to family and friends for fun, or anytime they needed me.

And gasp! I’d never miss a workout. Oh my, did you see what I forgot to put on my plan?

God.

Yep, left Him out, well not completely out. I knew/know He is there whenever I call, He’s watching out for me even when I’m blind to His presence. But I ran on ahead without checking in as much as I need to. And I don’t think He liked the distance between us so He let me run, wobble, and crash.

Be Still

I didn’t take care of myself and ended up with adrenal fatigue. You can google it. It left me with is total exhaustion unable to put two words together. Then one grandchild arrived, then another, and their mom needed help. Who doesn’t love babies? Soon I was watching over them and trying to do career building things, like blogs, social media, and book signings.

Why was this a big deal? Doesn’t everyone who has a job do things that are similar or have to do to get ahead? Probably, but I’m not everyone, and neither are you. You are God’s child as I am. If you saw your own children—even furry ones over working themselves you’d tell them to be still, take care of yourself and check in with your mom/dad because they care.

So I’m in a season of checking in with God, and I’m praying I don’t run off on my own again. He is teaching me that I’m not the answer to everyone else’s difficulties. He is teaching me to step away while allowing me to keep watch out for what is truly needed. Do I need to watch children today or is it something I want to do?

If I watch them, will it bring me stress about the work I have left to do or joy?

Do I need to write 10 blog posts this week?

Or can I take a break and post one?

Is a 20-minute stretching time better for me than a hard 45-minute workout?

I’m learning to cut out, pare down and eliminate that which does not bring me joy, health, energy and most important time with God.

I’m learning to be still and see the gifts He gives me every day. I’ve even started writing them down.

How about you? Are you in a season of not listening? What path you like to let God lead you on?

 

Diana’s Ah-hahs To Tweet:

Author @DianaBrandmeyer Speaks Up on Everyone’s Story: What season of life are you in? (Tweet This)

Best selling #Christian author @DianaBrandmeyer: Risks of being busy and over-booked. #BookGiveaway (Tweet This)

Enjoy #ChristianFiction? Check out @DianaBrandmeyer’s #BookGiveaway. (Tweet This)

Author’s Bio:

CBA and ECPA Best Selling, Christian author, Diana Lesire Brandmeyer, writes historical and contemporary romances about women choosing to challenge their fears to become the strong woman God intends. Author of Mind of Her Own, From A Distance, A Time to Dance, We’re Not Blended-We’re Pureed, A Survivor’s Guide to Blended Families and more. Sign up for her newsletter and get a free novella. All in Good Time the story about Sandra Anderson free!

Places to connect with Diana:

Website

Twitter

Facebook

Pinterest

Instagram

Goodreads

Diana and I look forward to your comments.

~*~*~*~

I am very grateful and Praise God to announce:

Book:Isa

Always With You is the Winner

of the 2017 Christian Small Publisher Association Book of the Year in the Fiction category.

Still at great prices: http://amzn.to/21uGtGF