Norma Budden Speaks Up!

Author pic 2

Everyone’s Story welcomes contemporary author Norma Budden. I had the pleasure of meeting Norma online a few months back and have become fascinated by where she lives: Arctic Canada! And here I am, relieved to have gotten through a blizzard this past week that covered us with 2.5 feet of snow… I’d love to know more about what it’s like to live where Norma does, and about her novels, and I hope she shares some with us this week! Check out Norma’s amazing BookGiveaway for 10 lucky winners. Yes. That’s 10 winners! Complementing the Giveaway novel is a lovely book trailer she’s sharing with us.  And see why she speaks up on the rewards of being a writer. Norma and I look forward to chatting with you.

If Only 200

 

Norma is offering 10 randomly chosen commenters the Kindle edition of If Only. The winners will be announced here on Friday, March 24th between  5-6 PM EST.

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

 

 

 

The Rewards of Being a Writer by Norma Budden

Writing is a painstaking endeavor, yet I love it – crave it – like the air I breathe each day. Unfortunately, with all of my responsibilities, I cannot write as much as I would like most days. That being said, I am thankful for a healthy growing family, and I enjoy my day job of being an Administration Manager, so all is not lost.

You may ask what it is about writing that I enjoy so much. It is simply this: I enjoy the creativity, the ability to create characters whom others can relate to on one level or another. Writing doesn’t feel like work to me at all, until the revision and publishing stages come into play but, even then, I enjoy it. There are so many facets to this wonderful area of my life that I don’t think I could ever grow bored. I even need to write a list sometimes to keep track of everything I would like, or need, to do.

As a writer, I am introduced to wonderful people, some of whom become my dearest friends. Two such friends are Dee Fleischman of Ohio and Michael Phelps of Miami, Florida. Without these two wonderful people in my life, I’m not sure my days would run as smoothly. Even if we don’t touch base every day and circumstances beyond our control prevent us from touching base for long stretches of time, just knowing they are in my life makes all of the difference. We’ve seen each other through various situations and have been a listening ear as many times as needed. I cannot imagine my life without them.

Speaking of friends, I cannot forget the late Michael T. Ingram of Virginia, and the late Bernice Branford Lewis of Maryland. Michael and I wrote a book titled, Finding Tracey, which was later published under the name, As Angels Watch. He was like an older brother and I loved him as such. I even took my daughters (11 and 6, at the time) to meet Michael and his family, flying from Arctic Canada to Manitoba, then driving to Virginia. We had a wonderful time which I shall never forget.

As for Bernice Branford Lewis, shortly after I met Michael and his family in Virginia, she wrote her way into my life when looking for a poem for her Sunday School class on the subject of a secret place. It wasn’t long afterwards when she began referring to herself as “Mama Lewis” and the title certainly fit. She became close to my heart and I shall forever miss her daily presence in my life. However, I will never forget the lessons she taught me, the love she demonstrated toward everyone and the forgiving spirit she carried with her everywhere. It became my mission in life to be as much like her as I could be.

Last, but not least, I enjoy hearing what others feel about my stories. When a woman can read my book, Coming Unglued: A Mother’s Journey into Hell, then gradually introduce her abusive husband to the story to the point he wants to read it for himself, it makes me feel good. When he begins to read it and realizes how much he has hurt his wife over the years, then apologizes and becomes a doting and loving husband, it sends my heart and soul soaring somewhere in the clouds. It makes writing the book worth every tear shed as I painstakingly wrote many scenes.

This is not the only story which has been shared with me about the effect one of my books has had on a person’s life, but it’s the one which comes to the forefront of my mind because abuse is degrading – downright ugly – and when a person can see the error of their ways and make a complete turn-around, it can’t help but stand out in my mind.

All in all, I’ve had some terrific highs over the past few years. I’ve experienced a few devastating lows, too, but having the low points in life definitely makes the high points seem so much sweeter.

Norma’s Ah-hahs To Tweet:

Contemporary author @NormaBudden Speaks Out on the rewards of being a #writer #BookGiveaway (Tweet This)

Meet @NormaBudden: an author craving the demanding tasks of #writing and living in #ArcticCanada (Tweet This)

Why has #writing been a saving grace for author @NormaBudden? #BookGiveaway (Tweet This)

Author’s Bio:

Norma Budden lives in a land of ice and snow for about six to seven months of the year; she has made her home in Arctic Canada since 1992 and cannot make any guarantee as to when she’ll be leaving the north to pursue adventures in the southern Canadian provinces.

Budden’s world involves being an Administration Manager by day and a mother, grandmother, writer, reader – among other things – during the evenings.

Budden has been interested in writing since she was 12 but was 18 when she wrote her first novel, then set it aside for several years. During the ensuing years, she wrote poetry and song, even recorded two of her own music albums – until the writing bug took over again, doing everything in its power to try to consume every spare moment; it’s a war she wages each and every day.

Since September, 2011, Budden had published several titles, five of which belong to her ongoing saga known as the Freedom in Love Series. The titles are An Affair to Remember, When Love Abides, Soul Confessions, Divided Loyalties and The Promise.

Budden has also written stand-alone titles, namely Coming Unglued: A Mother’s Journey into Hell, If Only, Written on the Stars (14,000 words), As Angels Watch (with Michael T. Ingram) and a couple of short stories.

Ultimately, Budden hopes to spend more time focused on writing and the business of writing. She also plans to begin taking road trips so she can meet some of her fans and introduce her writing to others.

Places to connect with Norma:

Website

Book Review

Twitter

Facebook

LinkedIn

Pinterest

Google+

YouTube

Norma and I look forward to your comments.

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BookAward

I’m honored that my novel Always With You

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

Please consider voting at this link.

Thank you!!

 

 

Carrie Schmidt Speaks Up!

Carrie bio pic

Everyone’s Story welcomes with a huge smile, my special guest, Carrie Schmidt, aka MeezCarrie, aka Carrie from ReadingIsMySuperpower book blog. Carrie is one of the strongest supporters of Christian fiction ever (although through her, I’ve happily met several more). To be fair, a true friend to both author and reader, Carrie is a supporter of anything to do with books, whether it’s writing or reading. I was first introduced to Carrie through another author (interestingly enough, one who doesn’t write for the CBA market) and I queried Carrie to see if she was interested in reviewing my then debut novel, Always With You.  She certainly did read my story–and got it!! Got the characters and plot and message. Then, she also was interested in interviewing me. Oh, how happy and blessed I was! Several months later I had the pleasure of meeting her at the inaugural CFRR (Christian Fiction Readers Retreat in Nashville). It’s now my pleasure to host her this week. Please check out what Carrie speaks up about during her interview. Carrie and I look forward to chatting with you.

 

Questions for Carrie Schmidt, aka MeezCarrie

 

I’ve followed your amazing blog for a while now, but after all this time I still don’t know how you got started blogging. What was your impetus?

Awwww, thank you for thinking it’s amazing! I had been trying my hand at reviewing books on Goodreads for a while, and I noticed that my friends (both online and in person) were asking me for recommendations of books they should read next. So I was toying with the idea of starting a blog, but I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to stick with it. And then I had the opportunity to join Varina Denman’s launch team for her debut novel, Jaded, and while having a blog wasn’t a requirement I wanted the most exposure possible for such a great novel. Which… really… when I started blogging, “most exposure possible” just meant my parents, my husband, and one or two friends LOL.

In meeting people who claim they’re not readers do you A) want to recommend them to a psychotherapist B) want to see a counselor yourself because you can’t stop crying for the lost soul c) desire to introduce him or her to all your fave authors or D) pick up another novel and get lost in a different world for a few hours?

Hahaha! Can I say E) all of the above? But most particularly A because… hello? Something is clearly wrong with them.

As a child, who influenced you the most to treasure a book? Can you share any special memories of being read to or visiting a library or bookstore?

My parents read to me a lot – as soon as I could be developmentally aware of being read to. In fact, my first word was “book”, so they certainly made an impression lol!

Going to the library was always a special treat, and our system had a really great summer reading program that I looked forward to every year as a child. Instead of just number of pages or number of books, you had to read a certain number of books in particular categories. Like, 5 Newbery Award winners, 5 Caldecotts, 5 biographies, 5 plays, etc. So I was exposed to many different genres that way, and fell in love with many books and authors I might not have otherwise.

But as far as ‘treasuring a book’, that distinction really belongs to my paternal grandfather. He loved literature. He quoted literature. He even had one of those bookcases that opened up like a door. He bought me literature that I hadn’t known to ask for, usually in a genre that was outside my comfort zone but one that was important for my well-rounded literary development. If blogging had been a thing in his heyday, he would have enjoyed blogging about books too, I think.

We, more than anyone, need to be writing and promoting literature that exposes the messes of life but extends grace and hope to those stuck in the pit. copy

Please define your view of a great heroine and an extraordinary hero?

I feel like a great heroine is someone who I would want to hang out with as friends, someone I see myself in but also someone who challenges me to grow and stretch as a woman. An extraordinary hero? Oh goodness… how much space do I have to talk about this?? I swoon often over a wide range of heroes – from the flirty to the broody. But the one thing they have in common is “fierce love” which more often than not causes me to see in them a reflection of Jesus.

You review both CBA and ABA market books. Regardless of whether an author writes for the Christian or General market, what are the few subjects, if any, that you will not read?

Oh that’s a tough question. If you’d asked me that before I started reviewing books/blogging, I would have given you a long list haha! But now as my tastes have finetuned themselves a bit and at the same time I’ve taken some chances on books I wouldn’t have picked up before, that list has shrunk considerably.

And even still, I don’t think there’s any subject per se that I won’t read. It depends on how the subject is presented. I won’t read books with prolific or explicit sex scenes or books with extreme profanity. I say on my contact page that I won’t read horror but one snuck by last year and I enjoyed it LOL. (I think it was misclassified, honestly) And I typically stay away from the paranormal. I may make exceptions for angels or even ghosts but please don’t send me your vampire or werewolf book 😉

Where do you see fiction heading as far as telling a good story goes? And how do you feel about this direction? Any concerns?

In Christian fiction, I think we get better at telling a good story with every batch of new releases and new authors! I have been a fan of the genre since I read my first Janette Oke book in middle school, and my goodness there are some fantastic storytellers in this market!! Not only do they tell a good story, but they craft it with such beautiful prose. My list of favorites has increased exponentially in the last few years.

I think we’re going to see an even greater move toward more subtle nudges of faith, less overt evangelism, and I think this is a great thing! There are so many readers who will never enter a Christian bookstore, or a church, and we’ve got to write for them too. Because life is messy and everyone else is certainly writing about the mess. But as Christians, we have a Savior who sat down in the mess with us, loved us in spite of our mess, and extended a nail-scarred hand to help us out of the pit. We, more than anyone, need to be writing and promoting literature that exposes the messes of life but extends grace and hope to those stuck in the pit.

My concern is that readers who like it the way it’s always been done will hunker down and kick their feet and end up being louder than those of us longing for this kind of fiction. My prayer is that enough authors and publishers and editors will be willing to take the risk anyway.

You’re one of three heart-caring “stewards” who began the Christian Fiction Readers Retreat, which I had the pleasure of attending last year in Nashville. You, Annie, and Bonnie did a beyond superb job launching CFRR that this year, overnight, you booked all your authors!! Tell us about CFRR: your goals, hopes, and an insight to the planning and hours you must put into this awesome project.

Elaine, we loved having you at CFRR in Nashville last year, and we are thrilled that you will be back this year in Cincinnati!!

Above all, we want CFRR to honor God. Through Christian fiction, of course, but ultimately in our planning, our worship, and our hearts. The three of us don’t make any money from the event; all income goes directly back into CFRR so that we are conscious to keep this as a ministry in our hearts and minds as we prepare for it.

We started talking about CFRR2017 around the first part of October 2016. (We took a little break to recover from CFRR2016 lol). We finally had most of the key decisions made by January, which was cutting it a little close for our comfort, to be honest LOL. Now, we get to do the fun stuff – like hunt for great swag for the CFRR swag bags!

Fast takes:

An essential on a book cover that always captures your eye: Hot guy … is that too shallow? 😉

A book too long you had to put down: The Valley by Helen Bryan… I actually fell asleep reading it. Woke up with my face in it.

Ever—gasp—hide books from your parents: ummm… Noooooo…. Never.

A superpower you’re still aiming for: Cooking

Third person POV or First person preference: Third, but I have several First person faves too

Cringe or forgive a few editorial errors: In an ARC? Forgive. In a final copy? Cringe.

A dream vacation destination, with or without books: Scotland

3 authors from years ago you’d love to meet: Janette Oke, Dee Henderson, Terri Blackstock (I know they are all three still current, but I’ve been reading them for years!)

Carrie’s Ah-hahs To Tweet:

@MeezCarrie of ReadngIsMySuperpower Speaks Up: Hopes, Concerns, and fun with #fiction. (Tweet This)

Heard the buzz on #CFRR2017? @MeezCarrie shares on Everyone’s Story. (Tweet This)

Meet @MeezCarrie, a champion of #ChristianFiction. (Tweet This)

Author’s Bio:

Carrie Schmidt is an avid reader, book reviewer, story addict, KissingBooks fan, book boyfriend collector, and cool aunt. She loves Jesus and THE Story a whole lot. Carrie lives in Kentucky with her husband Eric and their quirky dog Zuzu and is a co-founder of the Christian Fiction Readers’ Retreat.

Places to connect with Carrie:

Reading Is My Superpower (blog)

Twitter

Facebook

Pinterest

Instagram

Carrie and I look forward to your comments.

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BookAward

I’m honored that my novel Always With You

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

Please consider voting at this link.

Thank you!!

 

Janet S. Grunst Speaks Up!

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Everyone’s Story welcomes Christian historical author Janet S. Grunst. Janet and I share the same fabulous agent, Linda S. Glaz, and we had the pleasure of meeting for the first–but hopefully not last–time in Nashville at the ACFW conference last summer. Must share: Janet’s a sweetheart and I hope you’ll enjoy her time with us this week. Please check out what Janet speaks up about, her lovely BookGiveaway of her debut novel, A Heart Set Free (which is receiving wonderful reviews!), and the blurb for the book. Janet and I look forward to chatting with you.

**I think ALL of my guests are special, but please join us next week when I host a “Surprise” guest that I’m honored and excited about appearing on Everyone’s Story!

A Heart Set Free FINAL (2)

 

Janet is offering 1 randomly chosen commenter the choice for a print or eBook edition of A Heart Set Free, with print only available to US winners. The winner will be announced here on Friday, March 10th between  5-6 PM EST.

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

 

 

 

Back cover blurb for A Heart Set Free:

In 1770, Heather Douglas is desperate to escape a brewing scandal in her native Scotland. Penniless and hoping for a fresh start far away, she signs a seven-year indenture and boards a British merchant vessel headed to Virginia.

Widowed planter Matthew Stewart needs someone to help raise his two young children. The tall blonde standing on the Alexandria quay doesn’t look like much after her harrowing sea voyage, but there’s a refinement about her that her filthy clothing cannot hide. Could God be leading him to take this unknown indentured servant as his wife?

When Matthew purchases Heather’s indenture, marries her, and takes her to his farm, she is faced with new and constant challenges. And Matthew wonders if they can ever bridge their differences and make a life together.

It is in the Virginia countryside that Heather begins her greatest journey, one of self-discovery and of maturing faith. Here, she discovers that her emotional and spiritual scars bind her far more than her indenture . . .

and love will finally set her heart free.

 

A Long Journey by Janet Grunst

I was delighted when Elaine offered to feature my debut novel A Heart Set Free. She has a heart to encourage readers and writers as they pursue their interests. So my story of slogging through the writing and publication process should give anyone hope as they pursue their dreams.

I wasn’t one who had aspirations of writing from an early age. In fact I probably was subconsciously steered away from it. It must have been around 1960, when my older sister brought a beau home from college whose plan was to become a writer. My father said, “that’s nice, but what are you going to do for a living?” Dad was an engineer, and while an avid reader, he didn’t consider “the arts” a profession.

It was only after I had entered a Redbook writing contest in the early 80’s that I thought seriously about writing. I lost the contest but discovered the joy I found in telling a true story of a very embarrassing experienced I’d had years earlier. In the next few years I had regular columns in two local newspapers, which was a terrific learning experience. But it wasn’t the same as telling a story.

JanetMeme

So in the early 80’s I asked the Lord if writing fiction was the call I sensed He was giving me, a different way to share my faith. My husband was supportive, but with two very active preschool sons at home was it the right time? I lifted it up in prayer because I knew it would only come about if it was His will.

The Lord’s confirmation came through loud and strong and over the next year He provided the time for me to study fiction writing and research the era I wanted to write about. I even believe He helped me weave the tale. After completing the story I studied how to market a manuscript to Christian publishers in an era when one didn’t need an agent. I submitted it unsuccessfully for two years.

That, and the sequel I’d begun, was put aside when life necessitated my getting full time employment to raise my sons on my own.

Many years passed, my children were grown, and my circumstances changed, including re-marriage. Was it time to pursue that long dormant dream of writing fiction? I still had a desire to share stories that communicate the truths of the Christian faith that would entertain, as well as bring inspiration, healing, and hope to the reader. But so much had changed in the writing and publishing world in the intervening years. I needed to adapt my manuscript to the current way publishers wanted stories written. Lots of studying and editing ensued. The advent of e-books, the need to have a platform, an online presence via blogging, websites, and social media required a lot of research, studying and developing a multitude of new skills. I also needed an agent who saw promise in the story and wanted to represent me. With the closure of so many bookstores, including Christian bookstores and diminished opportunities in the Christian fiction market meant it was going to be even more challenging for a non-published writer to get that first book out.

I had always held my writing with an open hand. If I did my part and it was the Lord’s will, the story would find its way out into the world. Listening to and learning from others far more experienced than me was essential and so helpful. I found a wonderful agent, Linda Glaz, who patiently taught and encouraged me and continued to try to find a home for my story. And when the time was right, she found a publishing house, Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas that was willing to take a chance on my thirty-one year old story. That process and more editing has also been an education. My millennial, A Heart Set Free, finally made its way out of the proverbial basement and into the world on December 2nd, 2016.

Do you have an avocation that’s itching to be fulfilled? It’s never too late to pursue your dream. Give it to the Lord one day at a time.

Janet’s Ah-hahs To Tweet:

Meet debut #ChristFic historical author @JanetGrunst, author of A Heart Set Free #BookGiveaway (Tweet This)

Author @JanetGrunst Speaks Up: The Long but worthwhile journey to publication. (Tweet This)

#Readers #Writers: Do you think it’s too late to pursue your dream? @JanetGrunst thinks otherwise! (Tweet This)

Author’s Bio:

Janet is a wife, mother of two sons, and grandmother of eight. She lives in the historic triangle of Virginia (Williamsburg, Jamestown, Yorktown) with her husband and West Highland White Terrier. A lifelong student of history, her love of writing fiction grew out of a desire to share stories that can communicate the truths of the Christian faith, as well as entertain, and bring inspiration, healing, and hope to the reader.

Places to connect with Janet:

Website

Blog

Twitter

Facebook

Amazon

Janet and I look forward to your comments.

~*~*~*~*~

BookAward

I’m honored that my novel Always With You

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

Please consider voting at this link.

Thank you!!

 

 

Brandy Heineman Speaks Up!

Photo credit: Copyright Emilie Hendryx of E. A. Creative Photography, 2014

Photo credit: Copyright Emilie Hendryx of E. A. Creative Photography, 2014

Everyone’s Story welcomes for the first time, inspirational author Brandy Heineman. Brandy writes dual timeline stories, something I really enjoy! In fact, it was the cover of her debut novel, Whispers in the Branches (which is on my huge TBR pile) that first attracted me to our publisher, Elk Lake Publishing, Inc. I had the pleasure of meeting Brandy at last year’s Christian Fiction Readers Retreat (where I’ll be attending again this August!!) and I have to tell you–Brandy is not only a delightful woman but is funny, energetic, and always greets you with a warm smile (and I know this from running into her as well at ACFW Nashville last year). Check out Brandy’s BookGiveaway and see what she speaks up about. Brandy and I are looking forward to chatting with you.

 

NewBrandybook

BookGiveaway:

Brandy is offering 1 randomly chosen commenter the choice for a print or eBook edition of Whispers in the Branches, with print only available to US winners. The winner will be announced here on Friday, March 3rd between  5-6 PM EST.

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

 

 

 

Blurb for Whispers in the Branches:

Tending a void in her heart that demands to be filled, Abby Wells uproots her life in Ohio to move into the ancestral home in Georgia. Now that her mom is gone, it’s her best chance to connect with the last of her family, and she can’t deny the pull of the supposedly haunted house. The seductive comfort of believing that ghosts could be real drives her search, but Aunt Ruby’s plans for Abby don’t include revealing secrets kept for seventy years. Oh, there’s dirty laundry she’d like to air—just not her own.

Indulging in the attentions of the house’s handsome caretaker helps numb her pain, but Abby’s ex-boyfriend won’t let go of the past. He hounds her about his new found religion in hopes of reconciling, but why reach for him or the God who couldn’t or wouldn’t spare her mom? In the stillness of the old house, the spirit world feels so close she can almost touch it.

But she doesn’t know yet that there’s more than one way to be haunted.

 

Revised Conference Plans by Brandy Heineman

Nashville-bound! Last year I was nothing but thrilled when the pieces came together for me to attend a national writers’ conference, even though my first couple of conferences were terrifying as they were exhilarating. There were moments when this introvert stood frozen with no idea how to connect with hundreds of writers, but this time felt different. This time, I knew what to expect, and I was more excited than nervous. I got right to planning how to make my time count.

Since I was surprised to be going at all, every detail that clicked into place felt like a gift. Nashville is an easy trip from my home in Atlanta, and I found a roommate and riding buddy without even trying. The outstanding mix of craft, business, and spiritual sessions made it hard (in the best way possible) to complete my registration, and I nailed down specific writing and marketing goals with relative ease. I knew, or thought I knew, what I was headed to Nashville to accomplish. So why did I feel that something was missing?

If you compared my conference agenda to my goals, then maybe you spotted it the same way I did. I needed one more conference goal—a mission-minded one—and I didn’t need to think long on what it should be. In fact, it was obvious.

BrandyMeme

I wasn’t a newcomer anymore. I had lots of Atlanta friends making the trip. This year, I wasn’t going to be that shy girl in the corner, trying to find someone to talk to, and if I wasn’t going to be that person, then I needed to be looking for her. That may seem like a small thing, to just walk up and say hello, but I’ve been alone in a crowded room many times. It didn’t seem small to me. As it turns out, connecting with hundreds of writers is terribly difficult. One-on-one is much more my style.

In practice, however, it’s not actually that easy to tell the difference between the introvert feeling lost in the crowd and the extrovert who is resting her feet. Nonetheless, even that wasn’t as tricky as the moment in the second floor lobby of the hotel when I saw not one but two women sitting off by themselves.

Huge glass windowpanes enclosed the lobby, and benches lined the walls, giving weary travelers and frazzled conferees no shortage of places to sit. The two women both occupied solitary spaces in the middle of the two benches that met in the corner, and I couldn’t talk to them both. I had to decide, to choose one over the other. It may sound over-dramatic, but in the moment it felt like this was my mission, and I didn’t want to mess it up.

Then the woman on the right looked up. We made eye contact. Problem solved!

Our conversation launched a friendship, which goes to show you—who can say what matters in a moment of waffling in the middle of a hotel lobby? Or where unexplored truth waits to be plumbed? Proverbs 16:24 has been on my mind lately—“Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” It’s a lovely verse, a sweet sentiment, but maybe an easy one to gloss right over without much thought. After all, pleasant words are nice, but are they important? Eternally significant, even?

If we take “sweet to the soul” at face value, then it seems so. I’m certainly vulnerable to favoring the things that feel weighty and urgent over friendship, laughter, connection, even knowing these things sweeten our lives and occasionally save them.

I wanted to make my time at the conference count. At this moment, those writing and marketing goals I carried in with me haven’t yet budded, but my mission yielded immediate and lasting fruit in the form of a new friend. Looking back, I love how the Lord used the event to show me that a conversation of pleasant words doesn’t have to seem like an eternal significant thing to be one.

Brandy’s Ah-hahs To Tweet:

Like #ChristFic dual timeline novels? Visit with Brandy Heineman @brandyhei. #BookGiveaway (Tweet This)

Author Brandy Heineman @brandyhei speaks up: Revised Writing Conference Plans (Tweet This)

Author Brandy Heineman @brandyhei: Setting conference goals but achieving better than planned! (Tweet This)

Author’s Bio:

Brandy Heineman writes dual timeline novels from a Christian worldview. Her passion for genealogy occasional inspires hare-brained schemes like a five-county research trip in a rented Mustang, but she usually sticks to sharing vignettes and research tidbits on her blog. Her debut novel, Whispers in the Branches, was a 2014 ACFW Genesis finalist and released the following year from Elk Lake Publishing. She currently serves as the Vice President of the ACFW North Georgia chapter, and she is represented by Jim Hart of Hartline Literary Agency.

Brandy and her husband, Michael, reside in the metro Atlanta area with their two demanding yet hilarious kitties.

Places to connect with Brandy:

Website

Twitter

Facebook

Brandy and I look forward to your comments.

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SeriouslyButton

Please visit with me on the Seriously Write blog

on Wednesday, March 1st (click here)

 

BookAward

 

I’m honored that my novel Always With You

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

Please consider voting at this link.

Thank you!!

 

Ann Mock Speaks Up!

AnnMock

Everyone’s Story welcomes a new guest for this neighborhood, inspirational author Ann Mock. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Ann through Twitter and am so happy she accepted my invitation to be my guest this week. Enjoy Ann’s video and excerpt from her novel The Union of the North and South and be sure to check out her interview, plus her dynamic Giveaway. Ann and I are looking forward to chatting with you.

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

NorthSouth

 

BookGiveaway:

Ann is offering 1 randomly chosen commenter 1 audio book of The Union of the North And SouthThe winner will be announced here on Friday, February 24th between  5-6 PM EST.

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

 

 

 

 

Excerpt from The Union of the North and South

Excerpt form The Union of the North and South by Ann Mock

 

One day Laura told her mother, “I’m going to talk to Pastor Jenkins. I won’t be long.” She mounted a horse and waved at Jenny, who was in the corral training Scamp. Laura rode through a shaded lane toward the chapel. The day was cool and pleasant during her short ride. Along the way she thought about what was troubling her and how the pastor might help her. When she arrived, she knocked on the door of the chapel. Pastor Jenkins stood aside and motioned her inside. She followed him into his small office and sat in a chair opposite him. His jovial smile helped her relax as she quickly came to the point of her visit.

“I know you know so much about me and can appreciate how hard it has been since Gerald’s death. I want to be able to forgive his family for all they’ve done to me, but I find it so hard to do so. For a long time, I’ve been so busy that I haven’t thought about my anger and hurt. Now that I’m back at Oak Grove, I’ve had a lot of time to think, which seems to only make matters worse.”

Pastor Jenkins paused before saying, “To be able to forgive doesn’t come easy to any of us, especially when we’ve been wronged as you have. Let me share one of my favorite biblical passages on forgiveness.” He then read from Colossians 3:13: “‘Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.’”

The pastor advised, “You must change your heart, Laura. When you let go of anger and bitterness, it will free you. Forgiveness takes time. The process is very slow, but the reward will be a freedom that can come only from the Lord.”

A small ray of light came though the window of Pastor Jenkins’s office, as if to show God’s endorsement of the pastor’s wisdom. Laura looked pleased. She knew now what she must do. It would take time and would be hard, but she wanted to be free—free from her anger over all her losses, including those regarding Bradford.

Before Laura reached the corner of the churchyard, Pastor Jenkins called her name. After she walked back to the church, he asked, “If you have some extra time on your hands, would you be interested in helping some of the adults in the community learn to read? The teacher we have is presently sick with pneumonia. Reading opens a whole world to people, and I think this would help keep your mind busy. Helping others is rewarding and often helps the giver as much as the person receiving the help.”

Laura paused. Then her face lit up. “That’s something I can do to help. How many will be coming to the class?”

“Right now we just have a few. Lily is coming from Oak Grove regularly and has made good progress. We’re hoping more will join them.”

Laura thanked Pastor Jenkins as she walked toward her horse. She already felt her burden lighten as she thought about what she needed to accomplish. Each day she would pray that she could learn to forgive. By doing so she would be obeying the wishes of the Lord and, hopefully, would find the true happiness Bradford’s mother had written about in her Bible.

The next evening Laura walked to the church with Lily to meet the adults attending the reading class. Laura found it was great fun to teach such eager students.

When the regular teacher recovered from her pneumonia, Laura became her assistant. Once, when she was leaving to go to the class, Bradford asked her, “Where are you going?”

Laura’s eyes lit up as she explained, “I’m teaching a class of adults how to read. It’s so rewarding. They’re learning quickly. I hope it’s okay that I’m using some of your books from the library. I haven’t seen you, or I would have asked earlier.”

Bradford hadn’t realized she was doing this, since he had been trying to avoid her in order to keep his promise not to bother her anymore. “I’m so glad you found something so fulfilling to do with your time. I have no problem with your using the books. I’m very proud of you!”

Laura was pleased with his praise and smiled brightly at him. It was becoming easier and easier to forgive him after all he had done to help her and her family. Now she just needed to learn to forgive Gerald’s parents, and her prayers would be answered.

 

 

 

Questions for Ann Mock:

Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from and how long have you been writing?

I live in Tallahassee, Florida, with my husband Dave. Twenty-two years ago I visited a Southern mansion in Vicksburg, Mississippi, that had survived the War Between the States because it had been used as a hospital for wounded soldiers. I was fascinated by a Union cannonball that was still lodged in the doorframe over a century later. This inspired me to start my novel, “The Union of the North and the South.” A few years ago I traveled on a Mississippi steamboat, which gave me fresh ideas that allowed me to finish a novel I had started over years ago.

What do you hope readers will take from your latest book?

The Union of the North and the South is a romance and suspense Christian novel set in the South in the 1870’s. This is a story of Laura who overcomes personal tragedy, but is forced to hide a secret that, if revealed, will cause her great heartache. She experiences a number of crises that challenge her faith and encourage her to make her former enemies become allies while she deals with her secret. Can she find the strength to forgive as well as love again?

Besides entertaining the readers, I hope they will come to realize there is power in forgiveness and it can bring much happiness to your life.

AnnMeme

What’s next for you?

My goal was simply to finish the book and produce a product that readers would enjoy.

I haven’t decided if I will do a sequel. Writing a book was more work than I ever dreamed it would be, but I learned so much and thoroughly enjoyed the process. I was so honored to earn the five star rating from Readers’ Favorite book review company and if I am well received you never know…

What do you do when you aren’t writing?

My husband and I enjoy ballroom dancing and go dancing at least four times a week. We also enjoy traveling, particularly cruising, where we get to dance. The river cruises in the United States are a particular favorite. I also love to read with my little dog Happy curled up in my lap.

Ann’s Ah-hahs To Tweet:

#InspirationalRomance author Ann Mock @atmmock Speaks Out: The Power of Forgiveness (Tweet This)

Win Ann Mock @atmmock #Audiobook #Giveaway of #ChristFic The Union of the North and the South (Tweet This)

Like novels set novel set in the South in the 1870’s? Visit with author Ann Mock @atmmock. (Tweet This)

Author’s Bio:

Ann Thigpen Mock grew up in Tallahassee, where she graduated from Leon High School before attending FSU. She is the mother of four and the grandmother of five. The only ones left at home now are Ann’s husband, Dave, and her faithful canine companion, Happy. Ann enjoys ballroom dancing and cruising on oceans and rivers both in Europe and the United States. Some of her favorite trips were on Mississippi steamboats which visited sites that inspired her first novel. She was very pleased when The Union of the North and the South received the Readers’ Favorite five-star seal in 2014. In 2015 The Union of the North and the South earned Honorable Mention in Readers’ Favorite International Book Award Contest in the Romance-Christian category.

Places to connect with Ann:

Twitter

Facebook

Goodreads

Amazon

Ann and I look forward to your comments.

~*~*~*~*~

BookAward

 

I’m honored that my novel Always With You

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

Please consider voting at this link.

Thank you!!

 

Diana Cosby Speaks Up!

 

NewDiana

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

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

 

NewHisWoman

BookGiveaway:

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

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

 

 

 

DianaMeme

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

By Diana Cosby

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

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

Goal: Fund an entire home – $55,000.

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

How it works:

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

Habitat for Humanity of Grayson County

901 N. Grand Avenue

P.O. Box 2725

Sherman, TX 75091

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

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

God bless,

Diana Cosby, International Best-Selling Author

The Oath Trilogy

MacGruder Brother Series

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

 

Questions for Diana Cosby:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 a Cardinal pine tree

What was your impetus for writing Scottish historical novels?

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

NewBlueBird

 

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

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

A few fast ones:

Favorite food indulgence: Chocolate.

Another country on your visit list: Scotland.

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

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

A favorite pastime: Photography.

Favorite music: A tie between country and Celtic.

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

Diana’s Ah-hahs To Tweet:

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

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

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

Author’s Bio:

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

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

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

Places to connect with Diana:

Website

Facebook

Goodreads

Amazon Page

Diana and I look forward to your comments.

~*~*~*~*~

BookAward

 

I’m honored that my novel Always With You

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

Please consider voting at this link.

Thank you!!

 

Laura Hilton Speaks Up!

New Laura Pic

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

 

 

 

 

 

NewAmishWanderer

BookGiveaway:

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

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

 

 

Blurb for The Amish Wanderer:

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

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

Questions for Laura Hilton

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

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

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

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

LauraMeme

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Laura’s Ah-hahs To Tweet:

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

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

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

Author’s Bio:

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

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

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

Places to connect with Laura:

Website

Blog

Twitter

Facebook

Pinterest

Goodreads

Amazon

Laura and I look forward to your comments.

~*~*~*~*~

BookAward

 

I’m honored that my novel Always With You

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

Please consider voting at this link.

Thank you!!

 

Cindy Patterson Speaks Up!

NewCindy2

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

 

 

NewCindyBook

BookGiveaway:

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

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

 

 

 

Excerpt from Chasing Paradise:

 Chasing Paradise by Cindy Patterson

One

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

Until today.

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

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

The reason they had to go.

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

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

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

Trees blurred as Florida grew farther from reach.

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

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

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

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

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

Yeah right, Mom.

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

****

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

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

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

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

Gut.”

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

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

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

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

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

For weeks, work had been slower than usual.

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

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

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

“Jah, of course, I will.”

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

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

****

Rachel opened the novel and read the first few lines.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Something for you to investigate.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I promise I won’t overdo it.”

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

“You can’t take away all my fun.”

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

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

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

It may actually snow.

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

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

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

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

What was she doing wrong?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I would love a juicy Quarter Pounder.”

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

“No, they’re not.”

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

The taste of agony bittered the sweetness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Okay.”

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

 

 

A NEW YEAR, A NEW ATTITUDE by Cindy Patterson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Dynamic Characters; by Nancy Kress

  • Story Trumps Structure; by James Scott Bell

  • Writing for the Soul; by Jerry Jenkins

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you so much for stopping by.

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

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

Cindy’s Ah-hahs To Tweet:

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

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

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

Author’s Bio:

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

Places to connect with Cindy:

Website

Twitter

Facebook

Goodreads

Amazon Author Page

Cindy and I look forward to your comments.

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Valentine Dayg

 

 Still a bargain price on Kindle and print on Amazon

 

 

Toni Shiloh Speaks Up!

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

 

 

 

 

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Blurb of Toni’s novella, A Proxy Wedding:

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

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

Will love become real at A Proxy Wedding?

 

Needed Encouragement by Toni Shiloh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Toni’s Ah-hahs To Tweet:

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

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

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

Author’s Bio:

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

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

Places to connect with Toni:

Website

Facebook

Goodreads

Pinterest

Bookbub

Google+

Toni and I look forward to your comments.

 

Sally Chambers Speaks Up!

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

 

 

 

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BookGiveaway:

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

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

 

 

Excerpt from The Stonekeepers:

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

Chapter One Excerpts

Nantucket, Massachusetts

There has to be an explanation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Northbrick House.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One step at a time. Long, slow breaths.

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

+++

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Yes, You Can by Sally Chambers

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

You do it.

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

Yes. You can.

I’m 44. It’s crazy. I just can’t.

Yes. You can. I am with you.

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

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

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

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

You do it.

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

But, I can’t do it.

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

Oh, but yes you can.

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

I’ll need proof.

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

All right, I will stay.

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

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

Now I need you to do something.

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

I will . . .

“Gideon followed these instructions.”

Watch.

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

Ah, You will help me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, you can!

John Oxenham wrote in Bees in Amber

Not for one single day

Can I discern my way,

But this I surely know—

Who gives the day,

Will show the way.

So I securely go.

Sally’s Ah-hahs To Tweet:

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

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

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

Author’s Bio:

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

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

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

Places to connect with Sally:

Website

Blog

Twitter

Facebook

Goodreads

Pinterest

Amazon

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

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Sally and I look forward to your comments.