A Writer’s Thanksgiving by Marilyn Turk

By Marilyn Turk

As we approach Thanksgiving, I’m counting my blessings as a writer. So often we writers tend to look at where we have failed. We focus on the rejections, the wasted time, the unfinished projects, the guilt of abandoning our families to write, the self-doubts about our ability – in other words, the half-empty glass.

But as I contemplated why I’m thankful to be a writer, I discovered many more blessings than negatives. Here are some of the things I’m thankful for. You might like to add some of your own.

  1. I work for myself, that is, I have no earthly boss. Only God (and occasionally my husband) looks over my shoulder.
  2. I get to work at home, which means I can wear what I want to wear and not put on makeup if I’m not leaving the house. My poor husband is the only person who has to look at me like this.
  3. I set my own hours and work at my own pace. I can go to lunch and take breaks whenever I want to.
  4. I can decide what I want to write about – blog, novel, devotion, even genre – romance or suspense.
  5. I get to set my own goals – word count, number of books, proposals to write, etc.
  6. I get to meet other authors and share our creative minds which are sometimes scary to “normal” people.
  7. People buy my books.
  8. People read what I write.
  9. People (most) like what I write.
  10. As a historical writer, research is part of my job, and I love to do research!
  11. Strangers are sometimes impressed to find out I’m a writer and treat me like I’m someone special.
  12. I get invited to speak for various groups.
  13. Sometimes I get emails, letters or gifts from readers who were blessed by something I wrote.
  14. My kids are impressed by my accomplishments. (finally, they notice me.)
  15. I’m still learning. Writing is an ongoing educational process and there are many resources available.
  16. The Internet. Research is so much easier today than it was for writers fifty years ago.
  17. Email. I can keep in touch with readers, other authors, editors, publishers, plus send in manuscripts via email. Did you know they used to be sent in hard copy?
  18. The ability to brainstorm new ideas for stories.
  19. Writing mentors who’ve paved the way for me so I have a path to follow.
  20. People who pray for me and my writing.
  21. Sometimes, I actually get paid for my writing.
  22. A husband that supports my writing (in more ways than one).
  23. Time to write.
  24. Freedom to have my work published.
  25. I’m thankful for every teacher who ever taught me English and writing, yes, even my journalism professors who taught me the importance of deadlines.
  26. The work I have completed so far.
  27. The work I will complete in the future.
  28. The opportunities available to me.
  29. Editors who fix my mistakes.
  30. Critique partners who lovingly offer their advice.

And most of all, I’m thankful to God for affirming my writing dream and giving me the ability to pursue it.

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Thanksgiving Smiles by Judith Miller

With Thanksgiving approaching, I can’t let this opportunity pass without expressing my thanks to those of you who take a few minutes out of your day to read our blogs, as well as the faithful readers who read and promote our books. Your friendship, comments, and prayers are appreciated more than you know, and I wish you all a blessed day of thanks.

Now for some fun facts that I hope will give you a smile as you prepare that huge turkey dinner. (Of course, I had to add a few of my own comments to make it a little more interesting.)

Turkeys have 3,500 feathers at maturity. (I wonder what they do with all those turkey feathers!)

Male turkeys gobble, hens cluck. (I always knew women were much quieter.)

Turkeys have heart attacks. The United States Air Force was doing test runs and breaking the sound barrier. Nearby turkeys dropped dead with heart attacks. (I’m guessing that turkey farmer has now moved locations.)

Turkeys have poor night vision. (This means you can use your night vision goggles and sneak up on your turkey at night!)

It takes 75-80 pounds of feed to raise a 30-pound tom turkey. (That’s a lot of feed—and a lot of something else, too, but we won’t go there.)

A 15-pound turkey usually has about 70 percent white meat and 30 percent dark meat. (If you prefer dark meat, you better get to the table first.)

The heaviest turkey ever raised was 86 pounds, about the size of a large dog. (I’m guessing that was one tough bird.)

The first Thanksgiving celebration lasted three days. (We can’t do that nowadays or we’d miss Black Friday.)

Lobster, rabbit, chicken, fish, squashes, beans, chestnuts, hickory nuts, onions, leeks, dried fruits, maple syrup and honey, radishes, cabbage, carrots, eggs, and goat cheese are thought to have made up the first Thanksgiving feast. (Except for the rabbit, that sounds mighty good to me.)

In 2007, Americans consumed 690 million pounds of turkey—the approximate weight of the population of Singapore. (Now, I’m thinking that’s a LOT of turkey. Maybe it should be Americans purchased 690 million pounds of turkey, but the figure comes from the National Turkey Foundation and who am I to argue with them? They might call me a turkey!)

And, of course, Ben Franklin was in favor of the turkey as our official United States bird. In a letter to his daughter, Franklin referred to the eagle’s “bad moral character” and further stated, “the turkey is a much more respectable bird.” (Now I ask you—does that eagle look like it has bad moral character?)

Minnesota is where you can find the most turkeys. (I thought it was Washington D.C.—but I guess that’s a different kind of turkey, right?)

And last, but not least, the majority of the cranberries in your sauce do not come from Massachusetts, but from Wisconsin. (I’ll need to take a trip to Wisconsin and check out their bogs.)

There you have it—a few fun facts to help you make it through that turkey, pumpkin pie and all the trimmings.

May you find joy as you thank God for your many blessings.

~Judy

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Colorado’s Beautiful San Luis Valley by Louise M. Gouge

CLCR CoverLouise M. Gouge here. With the upcoming closing of Harlequin’s Love Inspired Historical line, I’m feeling a bit nostalgic. My final LIH book, released last month (October 2017), is Cowboy Lawman’s Christmas Reunion. For those not familiar with series romance novels, you may think that’s quite a mouthful for a title, but such titles tell our readers just what to expect from our always happily-ever-after stories.

Another reason for my feeling nostalgic about this particular book is that it’s the sixth and final book in my Four Stones Ranch series set in the beautiful San Luis Valley of Colorado. Although it’s been thirty-eight years since I lived in the Valley, I always wanted to write stories set there. I’m so grateful to my editor, Shana Asaro, for buying my series. Of course with a Colorado setting, these books had to be westerns. No problem. I grew up on John Wayne and Roy Rogers movies, as well as Gunsmoke, Wagon Train, Rawhide, Maverick, and other television westerns. Some of my classmates in high school were real life cowboys and cowgirls.

MV Looking WestSo let me tell you a little bit about the San Luis Valley, a high mountain valley that sprawls across central-southern Colorado between the Sangre de Cristo and San Juan Mountain ranges.

SLV Mount BlancaFirst and most obvious is the spectacular beauty of the landscape. Presided over by queenly Mount Blanca, which reaches a majestic 14,345 feet high, the Valley has an area or 8000 square miles. According to Wikipedia, “Blanca Peak is the fourth highest peak in Colorado, and the eighth highest peak in the contiguous United States.” Travelers across this wide, flat valley never have to feel lost in the SLV as long as Blanca is in sight.

Rio Grande1Another important landmark is the famous Rio Grande Del Norte, or as most of us know it, the Rio Grande, whose headwaters flow from the San Juan Mountains on the western side of the Valley. From there, the water takes an eastern, then southern path, winding down to New Mexico and finally Texas, where it forms a natural border between the United States and Mexico.

Another reason I love the San Luis Valley is its rich history. Before the coming of Europeans in the 1600s, Native Americans used this area for hunting but didn’t make permanent settlements due to the extremely cold weather in the winter. When my family moved to the SLV in 1960, we could still find arrow heads left by those long-ago hunters.

After the arrival of Spanish settlers, Ute tribes settled in the southwest corner of the Valley. For a time, Mexico owned what later became Colorado Territory, but the land became the property of the United States with the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. People of Spanish and Mexican descent were forced from the land granted to them by the Spanish crown, and Americans began to move to the Valley….slowly. Then, after the Civil War, easterners moved to this area, lured by promises of rich farmland and mineral wealth in the form of gold and silver. Any time you have the conflicts inherent in these situations, the history is ripe for plucking as settings for exciting western adventures.

Main StreetMy third reason for wanting to set my stories in the San Luis Valley is my own personal connection to the place. As mentioned before, I used to live there. In June 1960, my family moved to Alamosa, the Valley’s largest town, where I later graduated from high school and attended Adams State College. Later my husband and I settled in nearby Monte Vista where our four children were born. During all of that time, I loved the history that permeated every square foot of the area. Old buildings, leftover sections of railroad tracks, early architecture, legends and lore, the bluest sky you’ll ever see any place in the United States, even the below-zero-degree winter weather, all call out to me to tell their stories.

Although I wasn’t actively writing back while I lived there, my imagination was already creating exciting adventures. Among my twenty-five published novels, fifteen of which are Love Inspired Historicals, my six western novels set in my old, cold, much-loved home state of Colorado rank among my favorites. I hope my readers feel the same way.

If you love Christmas stories, take a look at Cowboy Lawman’s Christmas Reunion. Here’s the story:

Sheriff Justice Gareau can make outlaws quake in their boots…yet coming face-to-face with Evangeline Benoit once again takes away all his composure. She broke their engagement, and his heart, to marry a wealthy older man. Despite his reluctance, Justice can’t avoid the widowed single mother of two when they’re collaborating on a Christmas village for the town’s children.  The loving boy Evangeline once knew has become an unyielding lawman. Forced to flee New Orleans over false allegations, Evie doubts Justice will take her side when the past follows her to Colorado. Especially when he and her troublesome son butt heads. But perhaps the spirit of Christmas will soften his heart and give them a second chance at love.

Above ad copy: Copyright © 2017 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited, Cover art and cover copy text used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises. ® and ™ Limited or its affiliated companies, used under license.

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The Alexa Newsflash Epiphany by Julie Arduini

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I think the one thing on a lot of Christmas lists last year was the Amazon Echo Dot. Priced just under $50, this is a hands-free voice-controlled device that can answer questions, play music, control smart-home devices, make calls, create reminders, play music, read audiobooks, and so much more.

I have one, and I’m impressed enough I think I’ll put it on my list again so there is one upstairs and downstairs. I play music, have it read to me, it plays devotions, the Tonight Show monologue, interactive stories, radio shows, and games. I even synced it to my AnyList app (best grocery app, how did I live without it?) so I can add to my list by talking to Alexa. One of my favorite activities is to ask Alexa to give me a newsflash. I select what news outlets I want to hear from, and she gives a summary of their updates.

I like it because it gives me a look at the headlines without getting too involved. It’s updated often, so I can ask throughout the day.

While listening last week, I realized Alexa and her news are a great asset for my Echo, but it’s not a great way to have successful personal relationships. I’m probably overthinking things as my husband has been traveling since August, so bear with me.

Here’s the epiphany:

  • Alexa lets you choose who you want to receive from. At first glance, this is a great quality. For my news, I love it, because there are media outlets out there I don’t want to hear from. I don’t trust them. However, when it comes to people, there are times I’m tempted to block certain folks because I don’t want to receive. Thing is, they have wisdom I need, and if I don’t give them an opportunity, I miss a chance to grow. I don’t know if that’s hard for you to read, but I confess, that was a big one to consider. I definitely isolate myself when I don’t want to hear from people.

 

  • Alexa gives a summary. Successful relationships, most of all marriage, take consistent communication. Like I said, my husband has been across the country since August. Some trips are closer than others, most were only during the week. However, all of them gave us physical distance. Together we maintain a home, rent out another, are parents, grandparents, have extended family, ministry, and pets. Those things don’t pause because we aren’t together. One week we had a big time zone difference and the way our schedules were, I couldn’t check in “live” with house issues. It made for a long week.

When he returned, we both were intentional in spending time together to catch up. But even when he was away, he was good about asking how things were going or how I was feeling. We talked in depth upon his return. I can’t last on a few texts, cursory lines, akin to a summary like Alexa gives with the news. No one could. It’s important to invest in communication that goes beyond the superficial. For us, we’ve realized the treasure in asking probing questions. Different than nagging questions, we ask what was one thing you accomplished that you were proud of this week, or, was there anything unexpected that really impacted you? It helps us go beyond simple answers and gives us better communication.

I do love my Echo Dot, and Alexa is a fun interaction whether she gives me news or a Star Wars joke. But I’ve learned not to copy her, especially when it comes to news briefings. I want my relationships to go beyond summaries, and to involve the people God wants in my life, not just the people who will say what I want to hear.

What about you? Do you have an Echo device? What’s your favorite Alexa feature? Is there an area where you could improve your communication?

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Thanksgiving and coming home

 

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With Thanksgiving drawing close, it is a time for gathering together and homecomings. A special time of the year when we put aside our busy lives and be with the ones we love, to give thanks for all that God has done for us, share a meal around the table, and catch up on each other’s lives.

Yet with each passing year, some of those who were once gathered at our table are no longer there to share this special time with us. They are missed.

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It’s sad to think about the ones who have gone on before us, but as Christians we know that we will see them all again one day.

As this holiday season rapidly approaches, Thanksgiving marks the start of the Christmas Season. Stores open early on Thanksgiving to give shoppers a head start on Black Friday. It’s easy to let the importance of Thanksgiving become lost in the Christmas rush.

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So this year, as you sat down at the table to share a meal with your loved ones, look around the table. Give thanks for each person seated there, and remember those who have gone one before you.

The Christmas shopping will wait another day. Enjoy these moments with family because we don’t know how many more we will have together.

 

All the best…

Mary Alford

http://www.maryalford.net

Love’s Sweet Homecoming – Coming November 15th.

Blurb:

Donovan Henderson is finally coming home to Sweet Grove, Texas. Yet it is not to the sweet homecoming he’d once envisioned because he is not the same man he was before he left for the war in Afghanistan. After surviving an IED attack that ended his career with the marines, Donovan feels like half a man. Can this wounded warrior find his place in Sweet Grove once more? And will Donovan accept the love that has been standing right before him all along.

Ava Richards lost her husband to the same war that took Donovan’s leg. Even after two years, Ava is still crippled by the loss. Unable to move forward with her life, she is stuck in the past. Yet the more time she spends with her husband’s best friend, Donovan Henderson, the more Ava longs for a second chance at life…and love.

Can Ava convince Donovan that he doesn’t have to leave Sweet Grove to rebuild his life. And is it possible for two wounded souls to help each other learn what true love really means again?

lovessweethomecoming-KW

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Dinosaurs, Amazon Reviews, and This Thrill-Ride Called Life

by Jim Denney

I just did something authors are NOT supposed to do: reading Amazon.com reviews of my book.

Why shouldn’t writers read their reviews? Some say nothing good can come of it. The five-star reviews will swell your head and the one-star reviews will wither your soul.

But I’ve learned to let both good and bad reviews roll off me like water off a mallard’s back. I’m grateful, of course, when someone takes the time to say good things about my books. Good reviews help other readers find my work, and that helps me to make a living in the writing trade.

A negative notice means my book was reviewed by someone who is not my intended reader. It doesn’t mean my book was bad, nor was that reviewer a bad person. It just means that my book and that reader were not a match.

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My son Ryan at around the time he gave me the idea for Battle Before Time. He has a Masters degree today. The object in the foreground is a loaf of banana bread. Ryan and I baked it together as a surprise for his mother, and we were both very proud of that banana bread.

The reviews I read were for Battle Before Time, my time travel adventure novel for readers age eight to twelve. Most reviewers gave the book five stars. One of my favorite comments was this: “I read this series as a kid and they have remained four of the most memorable books from my childhood. Well-written and action-packed, they helped me understand important concepts like, ‘Why does God give us free will?’ I was so wrapped up in the story, I didn’t realize I was learning until later.”

I loved it that my books got kids hooked on reading. One reviewer said, “I was looking for a Christian book series that would capture my 12-year-old’s interest. He wasn’t much of a reader and I needed something. WOW! I picked up this book and he just loved it. I soon bought every one of the Timebenders series.”

Most of the reviews are like that. Only two were not. The fascinating thing about the two one-star reviews was that had completely opposite views of my book. One complained because Battle Before Time is a Christian book: “It was fun until they ended up with the whole good and evil thing. . . . Give me a good novel without trying to rub my face in religion!” Well, you can’t please everyone.

The other negative reviewer claimed the book doesn’t promote Christianity — it promotes evolution! “Evolution contradicts the Bible and a Christian world-view,” this reviewer said, “and it’s dangerous to try to mix the two [evolution and the Bible].” I was completely floored when I read that. There’s not a word in my Timebenders series in support of evolution. Yes, there are dinosaurs, but including dinosaurs in a time travel story hardly constitutes Darwinian propaganda.

I take my responsibility to young Christian readers very seriously. The first readers for these books were my own kids, and I would never write anything that would lead my own children astray.

The idea for Battle Before Time actually came from my son Ryan. One day, when he was five years old, he approached me with a question that warmed my heart: “Daddy, could me and you write a book together?”

“Sure, son” I said. “What kind of book would you like to write?”

“I want to write a book about a time machine and dinosaurs.”

Ryan and I worked on that book a half hour a day for about a week. My son found out how much work is required to write a book, and he soon lost interest. I set our little project aside and forgot about it for a few years. One day, I came across the pages Ryan and I had written together — and I decided to finish it.

I wrote the book, sent it to a publisher, and the publisher said that if I could turn it into a four-book series, we had a deal. I can’t thank my son Ryan enough for giving me that idea when he was a kindergartner. Those books generated more reader mail then any of the other hundred-plus books I’ve written.

A dad in Australia told me that the Timebenders books turned his nine-year-old son into an avid reader and was the only thing that could get him away from his Sony PlayStation. A mom in the midwest told me her son almost had his copy of Battle Before Time confiscated by his teacher — he was so engrossed in the story, he didn’t hear the teacher say that reading time was over. One six-year-old reader emailed me (with his mom’s help) to ask if I had ever built a real time machine.

Kids take their reading very seriously — even when the subject is as far-out as whooshing through time and space in a beat-up old Volkswagen. And I take my young readers very seriously as well. I write the books I wish I could have read when I was young — and the books I would still like to read now.

I want to give my readers a roller-coaster ride through God’s universe and through spiritual reality. I’m honored and grateful every time I hear from a parent or a young reader who is as excited as I am about this amazing thrill ride we call the Christian life.

God bless and inspire you on your journey!

___________________________________

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Note: Battle Before Time, the first book in my newly revised and updated Timebenders series for young readers, has just been released in paperback. Click this link to learn more.J.D.

 

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A Texas Ranger as a Hero

I have written three books in the Lone Star Justice Series for Love Inspired Suspense. The last one, Texas Ranger Showdown, will be out in April 2018 (working on the fourth in the series right now).  I also wrote four book in my Abingdon series called the Men of the Texas Ranger. What a group!

Lone Star Christmas Rescue

Just to be clear, I’m not talking about the baseball team in Dallas called the Texas Rangers. I’m talking about the oldest state organization of law enforcement officers. Sam Austin formed the first version of the Texas Rangers in 1823. The word “rangers” was coined because these men ranged over the land they protected and guarded.

Through the early years the Texas Rangers, one of the main duties of the group was to protect the people against Indians. Then after the Civil War in 1874 the organization was divided into six companies with 75 men and usually a captain. Their duties were partly a soldier and partly a police officer. By the 1900s the organization totally focused on enforcing the law. A Texas Ranger was called in when the case was too risky for the local agency.

Today there are 172 Texas Rangers who served the state in many investigative capacities. They are part of the Texas Department of Public Safety. The Texas Rangers’ headquarters is in Austin. There are six companies: Company “A” headquartered in Houston, Company “B” in Garland, Company “C” in Lubbock, Company “D” in Weslaco, Company “E” in El Paso, and Company “F” in Waco/San Antonio. The companies were adjusted recently.

Texas Ranger and Margaret

The Texas Rangers handle the usual kind of cases like murder, assault, robbery and kidnapping, but they are also tasked with investigating threats against the governor and other state and federal officials. I used some of these crimes for the stories in my series: Lone Star Justice (High-Risk Reunion and Lone Star Christmas Rescue).

My newest release in the Lone Star Justice series is my November book, Lone Star Christmas Rescue available at: Amazon, B&N, iBooks, Kobo and Google Play.

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Lightening Things Up

By Hannah Alexander

Cheryl & Mel

We’ve all had some dark times recently. It seems that on the heels of every catastrophe or tragedy we see on the news, something even worse happens to trump it. Since there has been science that suggests that unhappiness and complaining all the time can actually rewire our brains in a bad way, I’ll have to share an experience we had last week–not because it’s specifically funny, but because it might make a point. If it makes you smile just a little, maybe it will help fix the wiring. I need laughter. I think all of us do.

So…Mel had just completed a 24-hour shift as ER/Hospitalist and got four hours of broken sleep. We had to travel 14 hours in one day, and I was driving so he could sleep. However, he had a phone interview in the middle of the day.  Before we even hit interstate, the “check tires” light came on. In the middle of nowhere, we stopped, and wouldn’t you know it, a guy came out, aired up all our tires, and sent us on our way without a penny being exchanged. I love Nebraskans. There is good in the world in unlikely places–though truth be told, it’s always expected here in Nebraska.

We had just hit Lincoln traffic when Mel got the Very Important Call on his cell. I focused on my driving so as not to disturb him in any way. I even slowed down a little, eavesdropping on every word. This interview could affect our future.

When I found my special exit–a secret way to avoid Lincoln traffic on our way to Missouri–I came to the end of the ramp and saw a road-closed sign. Yep, my shortcut was totally gone. Blocked. Time crunch.

I drove across the road, pulled into a convenience store, quietly closed the door and ran in to ask directions while Mel continued with his interview. I got directions–which involved dirt roads–and got back into the car, drove to a gravel road and followed directions. Mel’s eyes widened but he continued to focus on his call. He’s an impressive man.

I turned and drove down a washboard road for a mile, turned down another washboard road for another mile–on a 14-hour drive to Missouri–wondering if Mel would interrupt his call to ask if I was thinking clearly. Bless his heart, he trusted me completely. Or seemed to.

I discovered I’d turned too soon, drove to the middle of a cornfield and did a u-turn. By this time it was getting ridiculous. I wanted so badly for Mel to be able to focus, and his eyes kept getting wider.

Then I got this nasty urge to giggle. I suppressed it and did a soft snort instead. It was Keystone Cops silly to me by that time because I was nervous and lost and wanting so badly for this interview to be recalled in every detail so Mel could relay it to me when he finished.

The call continued as I continued down another dirt road, turned again, and the washboard got still rougher.  Wow. We’re in the Sandhills, so we don’t have washboard roads where we live, and I couldn’t help worrying if the interviewer could hear the bumping of our tires.

Finally, I was relieved to discover that I’d done it right this time. My shortcut was back. But then when I turned back onto blacktop, the coverage started breaking up. I had to pull to the side of the road so we wouldn’t lose the call–there was no shoulder, only a steep drop. We sat there for the next fifteen minutes with the flashers going so no one on this lonely highway would hit us.

The call ended and we were on our way. And I laughed until I…well, cried.

Have you ever laughed out loud in a crowd that is silent? Like in church during the sermon? I did that once as a child. My sense of humor kicks in at the most inconvenient times. I don’t know why. It’s almost as if my rebel personality has to show itself despite my self-discipline. And yet it’s during the times of seriousness and even pain that we most need to laugh. I’ve had family funerals where my cousins and aunts and uncles laughed harder than I’d ever heard them laugh before while visiting with each other. They needed the relief of laughter. I think we all do.

Next time you’re hurting physically or emotionally, give yourself a break from it for a while. Find something funny to read, or watch something funny on a video or television. Or you know what? You can even force laughter. It has some of the same health benefits as real laughter, because it becomes contagious, like yawning. Find a friend who always makes you laugh, and have lunch together. Do whatever you can to heal some wounds and ease your pain.

We all suffer from pain. We can find some healing in laughter. So ahead. Give yourself a break.

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Consider Others by Tara Randel

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,  not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus. Philippians 2:3-5

In the social climate we live in today, do we see these words in action? You wouldn’t think so by watching the news or the hundreds of television programs we have access to. Yet this was Paul’s admonition to the church. Do we put the interests of others above ourselves in the kingdom of God? I would hope the answer would be yes.

Humility is how Christ lived his life. He served others, loved others and did the work of the Father. None of his works were done to gain attention or move up the ladder. He simply wanted to give life to those who needed him.

Jesus’ life is a wonderful example of how we should live our lives. There are so many words of encouragement we can share, so many times we can take a few minutes to listen to others and make that person’s day. At church Sunday, my pastor made the comment, look for reasons to qualify believers and speak life into them and about them. What would speaking love into someone’s life mean to them? To the Mom who’s spent the morning running around with the children and is now late for work? To the homeless man on the corner holding a sign asking for food? Speaking life into people is more than just words. It’s action. It’s putting others above ourselves.

Many years ago when I first decided to seriously pursue writing, I became involved in a local writing group. I was amazed by the published authors who shared so much of how the business worked and how to better the craft. When my pastor asked in his message, do we desire the success of others in life and ministry, I thought of the talented authors who gave so much of their time and asked nothing in return. It would be so easy to be cut-throat and only out for one’s self in the publishing industry, yet I saw firsthand how generous the authors were and still are.

What about in the church? In our dealings with those who have lost their way? Do we desire to put them first? Celebrate their successes, even if we haven’t quite arrived at the place we dream to be?

Maybe my pastor’s sermon was a reminder to myself. People are hurting in the world and it’s up to us to love them. To value them, even if what we see on the outside doesn’t seem lovable. Jesus found reasons to qualify people and he paid the ultimate price to qualify them. If we are to be Christlike, then we must affirm His love through words and actions.

Words which do not give the light of Christ increase the darkness.-Mother Teresa

November has always been a month associated with thanks. Perhaps it would be fitting this month to remember to value others above ourselves. To walk in humility as Christ did. To have the mindset of Christ. It’s a challenge well worth taking.

Tara Randel is an award-winning, USA Today bestselling author of fifteen novels. Family values, a bit of mystery and, of course, love and romance, are her favorite themes, because she believes love is the greatest gift of all. Look for her next Harlequin Heartwarming romance, HIS ONE AND ONLY BRIDE, available January 2018.  Visit Tara at www.tararandel.com. Like her on Facebook at Tara Randel Books

Available now, Heartwarming Holiday Wishes.

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The Christmas Window

Widow CeCe Walker has her hands full taking care of her nephew and staging the holiday window decorations at Dockery’s Department store. The last thing she’s looking for is romance. Jace Keller is in Christmas Town to check out the window featuring his new sportswear line. Sparks fly when the two are at odds over his display, but with a little holiday magic, can this couple find love for Christmas?

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When Life is Hard, He is Faithful by Elizabeth Goddard

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Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park (my photo) God is Faithful!!!

When I was growing up we watched the Walton’s and the Andy Griffith Show. Little House on the Prairie. Leave it to Beaver. We made fun of the Beaver show because whose mother wore a dress with pearls while she cleaned the house and cooked dinner, anyway?

Those were good wholesome prime time television shows worth watching. Here’s the part where I could get off track and start talking about what our kids are watching on television these days. Don’t EVEN get me started. We’re so far gone now I don’t know how we would ever get back on track if more than half of us wanted to.

But getting back on track—at least for this blog post—the TV shows represented a simpler time, sure. Happier times. They gave me the impression that life is good and will only get better. I can’t blame TV alone—my family was a happy family. I enjoyed the love of a mother and father who loved each other, and the love of grandparents on both sides. Sure everyone had struggles, but in the end, you’d find yourself sitting on the porch and rocking in a chair or a swing and listening to the locusts starting up their rhythmic buzz for the evening.

Peace and joy. Safety and security. Those were a given in life.

I’ve now lived several decades. Okay, well, half a century. There. Satisfied? I don’t know about you, but I haven’t found life to be anything like the Andy Griffith show. Anything like Mayberry. Nothing is simple or easy. At all.

Everyone is rushing around. Everything is so urgent. No one cares about anyone. We all stare at our phones to avoid conversation.

And life is just plain hard. I mean HARD. Paying insurance and taxes and insurance and bills.  Did I mention insurance? (health and car). Working hard to make ends meet and never getting there.

If that’s not enough, one pain after another, one crisis after another just keeps coming.

Did my parents experience this? Did my grandparents? Were they just hiding the fact that life can be harsh and brutal? Was the Andy Griffith show a complete lie?

Who’s with me? Give me an amen.

The stresses of life can be enormous and overwhelming. In order to survive I’ve had to turn my thoughts and focus to Jesus only.

Our days are like grass, Scripture says. We wither and die and are no more.

But here’s the thing. I figure that God wouldn’t have given us Philippians 4:8 if we weren’t going to need it.

In Philippians 4:8, Scripture (KJV) tells us, Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Through all of life’s cruel struggles, there is beauty. There is grace and mercy. There is forgiveness. And yes, peace and joy CAN be found in Him.

Find your place in Him, friend. Focus on Christ alone.

God is good.

For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations. Palm 100:5

You are so good, God!

Worship and soak up His love.

Elizabeth Goddard is the bestselling, award-winning author of more than thirty romance novels and counting. She is a Carol Award winner and a Daphne Du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery and Suspense finalist. She writes adventure romantic suspense stories set in stunning places. Check out her Amazon Autor page: http://amzn.to/2fpOOLx

 

 

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The sweet smell of gardenias…or not

In case you missed the big 25 author scavenger hunt last week, I thought I’d post my funny story from that even here for your enjoyment.

Making gardenia perfume, OR: Sometimes the best laid plans don’t work!

EPSON MFP image   Reading in front of bushIn the picture on the left, little Louise (me) is standing in front of a gardenia bush out of season. (It was square dance season.) On the right, my brother is reading under a gardenia bush in full bloom.

When I was in first grade, we had eighteen gardenia bushes growing outside our family home near Theodore, Alabama. Since then, the fragrance of the blossoms has been a favorite of mine, so much so that I often create heroines whose perfume of choice is gardenia. Eleven years ago, my husband and I moved to a home that had a well-rooted gardenia bush that blossoms prolifically every April and May. What a treat this is to me each year!

In my brand new release, Cowboy Lawman’s Christmas Reunion (October 2017 LIH), my heroine grew up making her own perfume from gardenias that grew outside her home in 1870s and 80s New Orleans. I decided to give it a try myself. I found a recipe online (https://www.leaf.tv/articles/how-to-make-gardenia-perfume) and carefully followed directions. All pictures are my property and subject to copyright laws.

Gathering ingredients and tools. Mashing blossoms. Adding odorless alcohol and spring water.

1 Picking blossoms 3 Assembled Ingredients 5 mashed blossoms 9 Add distilled water

Let sit 48 hours. Strain through cheese cloth. Test the fragrance.

Finished product2

Well, phooey! The finished product didn’t smell pleasant at all, but rather just like musty leaves. I had tried 80 proof alcohol that first time, so after picking more blossoms and repeating the process, I used 100 proof alcohol (the recipe suggests vodka). Neither worked. By then all of my gardenia blossoms were gone for the year. My attempt to make perfume just as a lady of the 1880s might have done just didn’t work out. What secrets did she have that I wasn’t privy to?

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In the meantime, I tried using gardenia scented essential oils mixed with unscented alcohol. Bingo! It worked, giving off a lovely fragrance. This small amount should last me until next spring. In the meantime, I may continue to research this and try again next year when our bush blooms again. After all, I want to make perfume the old-fashioned way. Why? Just for fun!

CLCR CoverHere’s the story of my perfume lady and her beau:

Sheriff Justice Gareau can make outlaws quake in their boots…yet coming face-to-face with Evangeline Benoit once again takes away all his composure. She broke their engagement, and his heart, to marry a wealthy older man. Despite his reluctance, Justice can’t avoid the widowed single mother of two when they’re collaborating on a Christmas village for the town’s children.
The loving boy Evangeline once knew has become an unyielding lawman. Forced to flee New Orleans over false allegations, Evie doubts Justice will take her side when the past follows her to Colorado. Especially when he and her troublesome son butt heads. But perhaps the spirit of Christmas will soften his heart and give them a second chance at love.

Copyright © 2017 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited

Cover art and cover copy text used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises.

® and ™ Limited or its affiliated companies, used under license.

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NaNoWriMo Refresher by Julie Arduini

November 1. It ushers in the Thanksgiving season. It’s possibly a day that starts out with a sugar hangover from October 31.

For writers of all skill levels, it’s the start of NaNoWriMo.

National Novel Writing Month is a challenge for anyone with the itch to write a 50,000 word novel between November 1 and 30. It can be any genre, some even “rebel” and write non fiction.

On the site, there are forums that include people from the same area to meet and write together at a coffee shop or library. Boards where they can whine or brag, depending on how the writing is going. There is also social media space dedicated to the cause with word sprints—giving a prompt to write in a timed deadline. Some will post in a group that they are starting to write in hopes of capturing 1k words in an hour. There are also groups of writers who aren’t participating, but want to encourage the others on.
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A “win” is getting the 50k in before the end of the month. I’ve won once, and I’m telling you, it takes discipline and an isolation in my case that my family begged me not to repeat. The blessing is that win, after several re-writes and changes is the book you know as ENTRUSTED.

These days, I take November to hammer out a rough draft. If I get 10k in, great. 20k? Awesome. I tend to travel during this month, and that makes writing difficult.

This year I’m starting a new contemporary romance series called Surrendering Opinions. It’s about sextuplets who were thrust in the limelight due to their unique birth story, and stay in America’s heart because of tragedy. Now in their 20’s, each sibling wants to find their own identity and perhaps a love like their parents shared. Book 1, ANCHORED, features the oldest of the six, Jordyn.

Jordyn Bell Collins is the oldest of the group and believes she’s in charge of them all, including making sure their father is okay. Jordyn’s bent on being the best in everything she does—at home, with her siblings, and at her job at the local news station. Problem is, things are changing, and she’s losing her grip on everything she thought she held. Can co anchor Spencer Hart let go of his goals to help Jordyn find freedom through surrendering her need to control everything?

I’m excited to get started, and I’m praying I don’t forget my family or that I need interaction with humans. I’m also trying to wrap up Book 1 in the Middle Grade series, Surrendering Stinkin’ Thinkin’, I’m writing with our daughter. It’s almost done, and I’m so proud of it. It’s a great book for tweens and women to find freedom through surrender together. I’ll keep you posted!

How about you? What are your November plans? Anyone participating in NaNoWriMo?

Image:GIPHY

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A Simple Dream

Never Let Your Fear Decide your Future sign with a desert backgr

It always amazes me how God works in our lives to fulfil our dreams. It may not happen the way we plan for it to, but I’ve discovered in my life, that His plan is always the best for me.

Today, I’d like to share with you how God worked in my life to make my dream of becoming a published author a reality. It was the journey of a lifetime, and through each step along the way, I now see God’s guiding hand.

I was about eight years old when I read my first Nancy Drew mystery and knew that I wanted to create stories just like that when I grew up.

Fast forward six more years, I discovered Phyllis Whitney and Victoria Holt and became hooked on the romantic suspense genre.

And so, ready to write my first book, I sat down at my brother’s old typewriter, (yes, I’m dating myself), and began to put the story that was in my head down on paper. At that time, I had no idea that I was about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime.

Sadly that first story was never finished. Life took precedence over my writing career for a very long time. Yet, throughout all those years, I still continued to write whenever I had the chance, keeping my dream of becoming a published author alive when it seemed nothing more than an impossible desire.

In the beginning, I had no idea all the intricate steps involved in creating a suspense story, but I wrote, I read about my craft, and I found a great network of seasoned authors who willingly shared their knowledge.

For a while, I tried writing other genres, before I came back to my first love, inspirational romantic suspense. A very wise author once told me, write what you enjoy reading and then perfect it. In other words, if you don’t read contemporary romance, then don’t try to write about it.

For me, years of struggling to keep the dream alive would come down to five minutes in the spotlight.

spotlight

In 2012, I entered the Speed Dating Contest that editor Emily Rodmell was hosting. I remember reading about the contest on the Harlequin website and going back and forth on whether or not to enter. You see, I’d entered contests before without much luck. In the end, I did enter and was one of the lucky ones who got an appointment to chat with Emily.

On the day of the pitch, I was on vacation in Colorado. At our cabin, internet service is nonexistent. It would have been so easy to say, oh well, better luck next time, but I think God was nudging me not to give up.

And so, my husband and I drove into the small town of Pagosa Springs where I did the entire chat on my laptop in the parking lot outside of the Ace Hardware Store. My fingers were actually shaking so much I was convinced that I’d typed nothing but gibberish.

Emily was kind enough to request a synopsis. I promptly sent the synopsis out to her. Then she requested the first three chapters, followed by the full manuscript. With each request, I tried not to get my hopes up. As I said, I’d been here before.

Yet in December 2012, Emily called to tell me I’d sold my first book to Love Inspired Suspense. To this day, I can’t tell you what she said to me other than that she wanted to buy FORGOTTEN PAST for Love Inspired Suspense. It was a surreal moment. One that still hasn’t fully sunken in. I write for Love Inspired Suspense! It’s a great feeling to have your dream become a reality and even greater to hold your own book in your hands.

Framed For Murder Blurb:

LOST MEMORIES

Faith McKenzie was the only survivor of a brutal home invasion. Viciously attacked and left for dead, Faith can’t remember anything about that night—including the identity of the killer. All she knows is that he’s stalking her from every place she flees and has tracked her to a small Maine island. Her neighbor, private investigator and security specialist JT Wyatt, rescues her twice. Now JT is insisting on the whole story—a story that Faith can’t remember. Desperate to feel safe, Faith puts her trust in the handsome P.I. Yet a killer is dead set on ensuring that Faith’s memory never returns.

forgtenpast

 

Since that first call, I’ve sold five more books to Love Inspired Suspense. So I would tell anyone who has a dream that seems impossible at the moment, don’t give up. Because with God, all things are possible.

framed for murder cover 1

 

Framed For Murder – Available now

Blurb:

FALSELY ACCUSED 

Framed for helping her partner smuggle guns—and then murdering him—CIA agent Liz Ramirez must find the evidence that will prove her innocence…before she’s caught or killed. So when her squad’s leader attempts to bring her in for questioning, she knows her future depends on convincing Aaron Foster to go rogue and help her. On the run from the rest of her team and the gun dealers who are convinced she knows the location of their missing weapons, Liz risks losing the proof that would clear her name. But will eluding her pursuers—and trying not to fall for the handsome commander—prove to be fatal?

All the best…

Mary Alford

www.maryalford.net

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Unnoticed Moss by Nancy J. Farrier

Multnomah_Falls,_Columbia_River_Gorge,_OR_2006_(6506556421)

By inkknife_2000

 

We have seen so much devastation in recent weeks. Hurricanes. Fires. Flooding. Since I live in the West my focus has been on the horrible fires. Lives have been lost, homes destroyed, beautiful forests ruined. A heartbreaking loss for so many.

 

This past week my daughter shared an article with me about Multnomah Falls in Oregon. I love visiting the Fall—as do over two million people who go there every year. This landmark is closed indefinitely. Not because of the beautiful trees that burned. The Falls is closed because of the moss that burned. Moss? There was moss there? I remember seeing moss along the roadside and on trees, but didn’t pay much attention. Why would the moss be such a big deal?

 

According to the article, moss is the glue that holds everything together. The rocks overlooking the Falls, and the roads leading to the landmark, are suddenly missing a key element for stabilization. Vibrations can now make the rocks tumble to the pathways and roads putting people in danger. Big chunks of falling rock could come down at any minute. All because of something we normally don’t pay attention to, but that is a key factor in holding everything together. Moss. (You can read that article here.)

 

This got me thinking about the moss in my life. Those elements that are not usually seen, but give me stability in my everyday life and in my writing life. What is that glue I so desperately need?

 

In my life:

Prayer/Bible study: I know these are two separate areas, but they go hand-in-hand. Without Bible study my prayer life flags. Without prayer, my Bible study is shallow and without the depth I crave. Romans 12:12 tells us to be, “continuing steadfastly in prayer.” I may not be on my knees praying all day in the literal sense, but in the figurative sense I try to maintain this attitude and an open line of communication with God.

 

Family: My family is a constant source of encouragement. Yes, there are times of hardship and discouragement, but the good outweighs the negative. I love my time with them and don’t know what I would do without them.

 

Church: My soul needs the refreshment I find at church. Not just from attending once or twice a week, but from serving too. This glue is not all about me and what I need, but is strengthened when I reach out to others and lift them up in whatever way I can. I love serving God and helping my church family. Hebrews 10:24-25 tells me to consider others and to not forsake the fellowship of others.

 

Work: Ephesians 2:10 tells me God has prepared the work he wants me to do. Being obedient and working hard for Him keeps me focused on what is truly important. Whatever work he calls me to, I find that when I do that job there is satisfaction I never anticipated—even with the jobs I dread or don’t think I can do. God is amazing.

 

In my writing life:

Writing is one of the works God has called me to do and in order to do it right I must make sure the moss or glue is in place. What is this moss? It is very similar to what I need in my everyday life.

 

Prayer: I start my day with prayer and end my day with prayer. I pray before I write and when I write. I pray for God to give me the words I need, and I pray for those who will someday read those words, that their lives might be touched for Him. Bob Hostetler from the Steve Laube Agency wrote and excellent blog about writers and prayer. You can read it here.

 

Bible Study: If I am going to represent God as a writer and in my books, I must study His word and know His truth. With each book, I ask what He wants me to say and what truths He wants to come across in the story. Without the Bible, my writing would be nonsensical and not worth reading.

 

Family: Once again, my family is supportive and encouraging. I am blessed that way. They are a part of my glue.

 

Church: Without the soul food I get each week, I would not be the person I am. Whether I am helping someone else or being helped there is strength involved. The worship, the message, the hugs and greetings. All are combined to keep me glued to God, which is where I need to be.

 

My Writing Community: I love writers. So often, when I am discouraged, one of my friends will write a blog or post a work of encouragement that is just what I need to hear. We share the ups and downs of what can often be a lonely profession.

 

What about you? Have you ever thought about the moss that holds you together? Those little things that often go unnoticed, but are essential to who you are? Think about them. Even though no one else notices, take the time to be thankful for those gifts.

 

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WAITING by Marilyn Turk

I’m not good at waiting. Okay, so maybe I’m impatient.

My husband, on the other hand, can wait forever. Plus he has a lot of patience.

My husband is retired military. Waiting is part of his training. In fact the unspoken rule of the military is “Hurry up and wait.” I asked him how he dealt with that routine. Did it bother him? Did he question it?

His answer was that waiting was part of being ready. If he was required to be dressed out by 5:00 a.m., he was expected to do so, even if after he arrived, he waited an hour to be given the next order. Bother him? No. What good would that do? Question it? Yes, but the answer was that in case of an unexpected delay, there was time built in for preparedness.

Lately, I’ve contemplated how many things require waiting. Despite a society that thrives on instant gratification, there are still times that require waiting.

For example, humans take an average of nine months from conception to a child’s birth. Seeds planted in the ground require time to produce flowers. Fruit and vegetables require time to mature, to be edible.

Writing, too, requires time. When I first entertained the notion of seeing my writing published, I heard stories of how many years it took for most authors to be published. In traditional publishing (not self-publishing), this is still the case. But of course I thought I would be an exception to the rule. I figured as soon as I got something written, it would be published.  Not so.

Why? For one, before I submitted to a publisher, I asked experienced people in the business to look over what I’d written, Naturally, I’d expected accolades, praise that I’d written something so wonderful. But even though I thought I was literate enough to write, I lacked experience and knowledge to make my writing suitable for publication. And how does one gain experience and knowledge? It takes time. And time requires waiting.

So when my writing finally got to the point where it was acceptable for a publisher, I submitted it. And then I waited for a response. Publishers aren’t usually quick to respond because there are many writers submitting to them, as well as many people at the publishing company that weigh in on decisions.

Finally, a publisher accepted my work, then I had to wait for a contract.

After the contract, many other things had to happen before publishing occurred – editing, editing and more editing of my “perfect” work, then production scheduling which included formatting and cover design.

Meanwhile, I waited.

Writers often compare bringing a story or book to its final print is like having a baby. And that is so true. Much as I want to hurry the process, I want the baby to have every opportunity to develop correctly.

And so I wait.

As I write this, outside my window are plants that are three feet tall. Each of those plants has multiple stems, and each of those stems has flowers — beautiful, colorful, unique flowers. Butterflies and hummingbirds enjoy those flowers as they flitter from one to the other. And I’m reminded that the flowers weren’t always there. Once they were tiny seeds I poked into the dirt.

And then I waited.

With flower seeds or book publication, I have no control over the outcome. I do, however, have control over my attitude while I wait, and what I can do in the meantime.

For me, it means turning over my desire for control to God and trust Him with the outcome. There’s a Bible verse I like that relates to this process. “In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.”    Psalm 5:3

 

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