Winter Homecoming, Inspired by Real Life Heroine

Do you enjoy stories which are inspired by real people?

Winter Homecoming

Winter Homecoming was inspired by a real life twentieth century heroine in my hometown. She was called the “Angel in Snowshoes.” To read about Dr. Kate Newcomb, drop by my previous blog post. http://www.writerspace.com/the-angel-in-snowshoes/

Here’s more about my story~

Catching a freight train out of Chicago is no way to spend Christmas Day.

The Depression has cost Will Gustafson his classy wife, executive job and high society life. Now he’s heading home to the northwoods to face deserved “I told you so’s.” On the freight train a homeless little boy attaches himself to Will like a lost puppy. On the day ”after Christmas in her Model T, Cass Newton picks up Will and the boy and takes them home. Is she crazy? But a new widow, she needs a handyman to help her weather the winter in her isolated cabin. She’s concealed her “delicate” condition from everyone but can’t deceive Will.  He fights his growing attraction to this good but stubborn woman—so unlike the wife who divorced him. The three become an unlikely “family.” Yet what will happen when the snow melts and their secrets are revealed?

Right now I am living in the wintry northwoods. I’m just glad I have a good furnace. I love to sit by the fire but glad I don’t have to feed it 24/7 like my characters, Will and Cass. Hope you’re all keeping warm this bizarre winter!–Lyn

Cick here to buy Winter Homecoming in print of ebook or Read on Kindle Unlimited: http://amzn.to/2ymJu2r

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Better Late Than Never–Happy New Year!!

Since I write historical fiction, I thought I’d share a little history about New Year’s Eve. I’m writing this because I happened to be cleaning my dining room on New Year’s Eve Day—not for any big party, but just because it was dusty and needed to be cleaned. On the wall is a framed collage of old postcards, calling cards and decorative figures that had been in a very old scrapbook belonging to a relative. One of the postcards is a New Year’s greeting and the postmark on the back is from 1897. Back in those days, people sent written greetings, but times have changed and now we send an email or take to Facebook to wish friends Happy New Year.

We still sing Auld Lang Syne on New Year’s Eve. The words roughly translate to ‘days gone by.’ The poet Robert Burns is credited with adapting and partially rewriting it in the late 18th century. The song became a holiday classic when Guy Lombardo and the Royal Canadians played it during a radio broadcast in 1929, although it had been sung for many years before that date.

And supposedly folks have been making New Year’s resolutions for about 4,000 years. I wonder if they were at all like me. Back when I made a resolution, I couldn’t even remember what it was by the following New Year’s Eve. Hope none of you fall into the same category as me.

That huge ball in Times Square was first dropped back in 1904 when the New York Times newspaper relocated to what was then known as Longacre Square and convinced the city to rename the neighborhood in its honor. At the end of the year, the owner of the Times threw a huge party with elaborate fireworks. When the city banned fireworks in 1907, an electrician devised a wood and iron ball that weighed 700 pounds and was illuminated with 100 light bulbs. The ball was dropped from a flagpole at midnight and has been dropping ever since—but no longer lit with light bulbs and no longer dropped from a flagpole.

There are also traditional foods for New Year’s celebrations. In Spain people quickly down twelve grapes to symbolize their hopes for the months ahead. In other places legumes are eaten because they are thought to resemble coins and bring financial success. Pork is eaten because pigs are said to root forward and represent progress. In other places ring-shaped cakes and pastries are devoured signifying that the year has come full circle.

Though we may send our greetings by email or cook our traditional foods on an electric stove rather than over an open fire, many New Year’s traditions remain the same. At midnight we say farewell to the old year and welcome the new.

So even though we’re several weeks into the New Year, I want to wish you the peace and joy of our Lord. May you be filled with His abundant love throughout the remainder of the year.

~Judy

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How I Was Adopted by Three Cats by Margaret Daley

How I Was Adopted by Three Cats

by Margaret Daley

All my life I had dogs as pets. Although I liked cats, I never thought I would have a cat–let alone 3 but that is what I have now. Our dog died of old age and left my husband and me without a pet. I wasn’t eager to go out and get another pet right away. That didn’t make any difference. The first cat–Ringo– was around nine months old when he came around our house. I couldn’t resist him. He was funny, pure white with one blue eye and one green eye (called odd eyes). He has never met a stranger. He is my greeter.

Okay we ended up with our first cat because I couldn’t see letting him roam around and fend for himself. That was going to be it. Then my son asked me to take a stray cat he’d found because he had a pit bull dog and couldn’t risk the kitten with the dog. We ended up with a second cat–Peppers or as I call her Peppy. She looks like salt and pepper–more pepper. She is the smallest of my cats–only weighing 6 or 7 pounds whereas Ringo weighs up to 18 pounds. She is my cat. If she had her way, she would sit on my lap all day and watch me try to write–very distracting. But I have to admit Peppy is a bit neurotic.

Now our third cat I had absolutely said we could not take in because we already had two cats that were picky about other animals. I didn’t see how it would work. But my husband made the mistake of making eye contact with a dirty, messy two month kitten who was whining at the back door of his business. He couldn’t turn her away. Charlie has become the one who makes us laugh the most. She gets into everything and knows where everything belongs in the house. This cat growls like a dog when someone comes to the front door and will hide from anyone who comes to visit.

So here I am with three cats who adopted a lady who was never going to have cats. Have you been adopted by an animal?

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You’re Beautiful by Julie Arduini

You're BeautifulbyJulie Arduini_edited

We’ve all heard the saying about taking lemons and making lemonade. I had no idea last year when both our kids were struggling with “life’s curveballs” that from some of those experiences would be a new release.

Our daughter is in junior high now, and those are tough years even if everything goes right. Unfortunately, not everything was right and it made a difficult school year brutal. She’s overcome a lot of health issues, delays, and hard stuff with her trademark smile. Last year, that grin disappeared.

It was heartbreaking.

We talked a lot, prayed more, and cried together. One of the things she talked about was she wished there was a way she could help girls so they would never have hurt feelings. We kept the chat going and she started a storyline. I’ve told many that Hannah has helped me plot my contemporary romances as much as any adult has. When I saw a plot forming, I threw out an idea.

“Do you want to write a book? Because this is good. If you keep plotting and help me with the characters, I’ll work to get it published.”

Not only did she plot what is now You’re Beautiful, she plotted a series. You’re Amazing and You’re Brilliant will be the next releases in the Surrendering Stinkin’ Thinkin’ series. She created a group of friends that go to a new mentoring group at their church comprised of women from a recent college graduate to a pastor’s wife. Each book has one girl and one of the mentors with an issue where they have believed a lie about themselves. The chapters rotate between the two so that girls can relate to the friend, and women can relate to the mentor. We found in those that were our first readers, they loved both age groups, no matter what the reader’s age was.

Here’s You’re Beautiful:

Hayley Atkinson withdraws from her friends and new opportunities with the new mentoring group, Linked, after she is told a lie that she believes is true about herself. Sabrina Wayson is a mentor in Linked who feels she can’t help encourage girls because she’s struggling as much as they are. Can they surrender the lies and find freedom?

Even the cover design is Hannah’s vision. I gave her a mock-up with stock photos containing people and she felt animated pictures would be better. She truly did her work with this.

I’m thankful to say this year is much improved, but we’re committed to writing the rest of the series. When I’m not writing, I’m often mentoring to girls of all ages, and the lies we believe can limit us from so much. Our hearts are to encourage girls from around Hannah’s age to even 100 years old to find freedom through surrender in Christ.

To learn more about You’re Beautiful, it’s on Amazon.

To receive updates on the series, subscribe to my monthly-or-so newsletter. By subscribing, you also receive a free eBook of Entrusted.

 

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Human Trafficking: What You Need to Know and Why You Need to Know It by Vicki Hinze

By Presidential Proclamation, our monthly observance is on Human-Trafficking and Human-Rights Abuse. I want to share a bit about human-trafficking because there’s so much on it in the news right now—and likely will be in the near future.

How bad is it?

  • At $32 Billion a year, the human-trafficking industry has passed up the illegal sale of arms, and it’s growing.
  • Trafficking occurs in all 50 states.
  • An estimated 4.5 million trafficked persons endure sexual exploitation.

There’s more to know. It’s uncomfortable, but keep reading…

In 2010, my husband and I went to south Texas. When we were returning home, we left very early to miss heavy traffic in Houston. If you’re familiar with that route, you know traffic governs what time many get on the road. Anyway, it was predawn. We stopped at a convenience store for gas, and I noticed a sign on the store’s front window. It was directing people who were victims of human trafficking to call this number. Or if anyone was spotted who appeared to be a victim of trafficking, you could report it to this same number.

That sign sent chills up and down my spine. That was the first mention of human-trafficking in the United States I’d seen. Until that moment in time, in my mind, trafficking was something that happened far way in distant lands. Later that morning, we stopped again, and again I saw a sign about trafficking on the store’s front window. That chill stayed with me the rest of the trip.

I decided to look into the situation and see what in the world was going on. To be honest, I had hoped to put my mind at ease. But that isn’t what happened.

I learned that trafficking happened here. A lot. That some saw it as a more profitable trade than selling drugs. Drugs, they could sell once. But people could be sold over and over and over. I read about cases where ordinary women doing ordinary things were abuducted and vanished. Lost to trafficking. Things like pumping gas, walking to their cars in shopping mall parking garages or lots, and broken down with a flat tire on the side of the highway. Everyday situations we all easily see ourselves in and could be in on any given day.

So rather than setting my mind at ease, I became more disturbed. So much so that I set aside the book I was working on and started a new one that addressed human-trafficking. If I, a news hound, had been unaware of all this, I felt certain others were unaware of it, too. We needed to change that. Deadly Ties was born.

A year later, the book was released and I began hearing from readers the same shock I had experienced on discovering trafficking was happening in the United States. That there were routes where these imprisoned victims were forced to walk through the Canadian wilderness, driven along the I-10 corrider in trucks and vehicles, being moved from place to place. Some are sold for the expected purpose, but others are sold to “entertain” by fighting to the death against other imprisoned victims. Under constant death threats and intense observations, some are forced to work at outside jobs and to turn over all they earn to their captors.

In the news lately, we’re hearing more and more about children being taken (or sold) and abused, even murdered and offered as sacrifices by cults. We’re hearing stories of organs being trafficked, and all manner of evil things.

I hope that this news doesn’t shock you. That you too have seen the news articles and are aware of the atrocities being committed. Bluntly put, we are failing to protect our children, and we honestly need to do a better job for them. For all victims.

If you are shocked, I hope your reaction will be to look into trafficking. The numbers are staggering. I read an article a few days ago about about 10,000 children being missing, so be emotionally prepared for what you discover.

Here’s a little more information to help prepare you for what you’ll find. (Many thanks to Ark of Hope for Children Organization for sharing!)

  • In 2012 the (UNODC) United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reports the percentage of child victims had risen in a 3-year span from 20 per cent to 27 percent.
  • Of every three child victims, two are girls and one is a boy.
  • Gender and age profile of victims detected globally: 59% Women – 14% Men – 17% Girls and 10% were Boys.
  • 600,000 to 800,000 women, children and men are bought and sold across international borders every year and exploited for forced labor or commercial sex (U.S. Government)
  • When internal trafficking victims are added to the estimates, the number of victims annually is in the range of 2 to 4 million.
  • 50% of those victims are estimated to be children.
  • It is estimated that 76 percent of transactions for sex with underage girls start on the Internet.
  • 2 million children are subjected to prostitution in the global commercial sex trade (UNICEF),
  • There are 20.9 Million victims of Trafficking World wide as of 2012.
  • 1.5 Million victims in the United States.

So what is the impact?

“Human trafficking has surpassed the illegal sale of arms and in the next few years, will surpass the sale of illegal drugs. Drugs are used once and they are gone. Victims of child trafficking can be used and abused over and over. Again, as a $32 billion-a-year industry, human trafficking is on the rise and it happens in all 50 states (U.S. Government). While

“4.5 Million of trafficked persons are sexually exploited, be aware that up to 300,000 Americans under 18 are lured into the commercial sex trade every year. From 14,500 – 17,500 of those victims are trafficked annually into the United States.”

 

There is hope. President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have invested in stopping trafficking. In the past year, there have been over 6,000 arrests. There is so much more to be done, and to aid in the effort, the President started a new program called HERO Child-Rescue Corps Program.

In this new HERO Child-Rescue Corps Program veterans with specialized skills will be working on child rescue.  

 

This from the HERO website:

The Human Exploitation Rescue Operative (HERO) Child-Rescue Corps is a program developed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) in conjunction with the National Association to Protect Children.

The HERO Child-Rescue Corps Program is designed for wounded, injured and ill Special Operations Forces to receive training in high-tech computer forensics and law enforcement skills, to assist federal agents in the fight against online child sexual exploitation. Upon successful completion of the program HERO interns will have the knowledge, skills and experience to apply for careers with federal, state and local police agencies, and other organizations, in the field of computer forensics.

Learn more on ICE HEROS (from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement @ https://www.ice.gov/hero):

 

What can we do?

Too often, we think we’re just one person. What can we do? The answer is more than we think. When we set our collective minds to it, we can move mountains. We all know that. Just as individuals we know that once you become aware of a problem such as this, thoughts of it never leave you.

The process of awareness has been a long and difficult one. The idea of trafficking is so repugnant to us, so morally reprehensible, that we shun it. We have difficulty wrapping our minds, much less our hearts, around it. I know this. I too experienced it. But shunning does nothing to help the victims or to stop the abuse much less to solve the problem.

Which is why I am so grateful to our president for bringing trafficking to the foreground and declaring January an Awareness month. There are organizations dedicated to rescuing these children and they have enjoyed some success. We need to support them. There are people tirelessly working the issue. We’re grateful for them. Yet the problem is huge, and more people are needed to join in the fight.

While no one can do everything, everyone can do something. Things like these:

We can insist that the legal penalties for engaging in trafficking are so severe that those who would engage don’t.

We can, as a civilized society, refuse to accept that this problem is just something that occurs in modern society. If we object strongly enough, it won’t.

We can pray. For the victims, for those rescued who must heal and recover, for the rescuers, and, yes, for those engaging in the illicit activity, that their hearts and minds might be turned and they’ll stop.

And we can be aware enough that if we see something that doesn’t sit right, we report it.

As I said, when we make up our minds and choose to act, we can move mountains. And I hope we will. The victims—women, men and children (boys, girls and infants)—are counting on us…

 

Please, read and share this article with as many as you can to increase awareness.

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Welcome Guest Author Patricia Bradley

patricia bradly

We are so happy to have Patricia Bradley with us today.

Thank you so much for inviting me on your blog!

I’m often asked why I became a writer and did I always want to write? I was a reader first, then when I turned 35 I had trouble sleeping. I would go to bed and toss and turn. One night as I stared at the ceiling, a man appeared (in my mind) and he stood at a window with belching smoke stacks in the background. He turned and looked at me and said, “This wasn’t the way my life was supposed to turn out.” He went on to tell me a lot about his life and that’s when I wondered if I could write his story. I bought a Writers Digest magazine and started learning the craft of writing. I started out with short stories and my very first one was published by Woman’s World. I thought I had it made and would soon have a book released. Thirty-two years later, I did.

I started writing Christian fiction when I couldn’t find any romantic suspense in the general market that didn’t embarrass me or make me cringe. Then after I read Kristin Heitzman’s Free Fall, and saw how well she blended in God’s word, I wanted to do the same.

I’ve learned so much along the way and am still learning. Just this month I’m taking two courses online—Passive Voice and What do your Characters Fear. There’s always so much to learn.

justice buried

 

Several of my books are on sale in January and February, 2018. My first book, Shadows of the Past is free as an e-book, and the second book in my Memphis Cold Case Novels—Justice Buried is only $1.99 as an e-book. You can find the buy links here.

blurb

In an effort to get her security consulting business off the ground, Kelsey Allen has been spending a lot of time up in the air, rappelling down buildings and climbing through windows to show business owners their vulnerabilities to thieves. When she is hired to pose as a conservator at the Pink Palace Museum in order to test their security weaknesses after some artifacts go missing, she’s ecstatic. But when her investigative focus turns from theft to murder, Kelsey knows she’s out of her league–and possibly in the cross hairs. When blast-from-the-past Detective Brad Hollister is called in to investigate, Kelsey may find that he’s the biggest security threat yet . . . to her heart.

Justice Betrayed

 

Right now I’m working on the third book in the Memphis Cold Case Novels—Justice Betrayed. It’s my Elvis book—I mean you can’t have a Memphis book without Elvis! In it, Elvis impersonators are being murdered. You can preorder it!

Blurb

It’s Elvis Week in Memphis, and homicide Detective Rachel Sloan isn’t sure her day could get any stranger when aging Elvis impersonator Vic Vegas asks to see her. But when he produces a photo of her murdered mother with four Elvis impersonators–one of whom had also been murdered soon after the photo was taken–she’s forced to reevaluate. Is there some connection between the two unsolved cases? And could the recent break-in at Vic’s home be tied to his obsession with finding his friend’s killer? When yet another person in the photo is murdered, Rachel suddenly has her hands full investigating three cases. Lieutenant Boone Callahan offers his help, but their checkered romantic past threatens to get in the way. Can they solve the cases before the murderer makes Rachel victim number four?

Bio

I love connecting with readers on my blog every Tuesday where I have a Mystery Question for them to solve: http://www.patriciabradleyauthor.com/blog

Twitter: @ptbradley1

FaceBook: www.facebook.com/patriciabradleyauthor

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/ptbradley/

Follow me on BookBub for the latest releases and specials:

https://www.bookbub.com/authors/patricia-Bradley

 

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The Path Taken

By Marilyn Turk

Two roads diverged in a wood and I –

I took the one less traveled by

And it has made all the difference. – Robert Frost

 

Are you tired of hearing about New Year’s goals or words for 2018?

Seems like the topic has been prolific for the past week or so. Some people knew what their goals or words were by the end of 2017, while others, like me, eased into the new year carefully, with the remnants of the previous year still hanging on.

Before I was ready to go forward, I had to look backwards. I needed to look at what I did last year and what I didn’t do. As the idiom goes, “Hindsight is 20/20,” which means it’s easier to see more clearly the events of the past, what went right or what went wrong, than it is when you’re in the middle of a situation.

But sometimes we have to look back even farther than one year to see where we’ve been and how we arrived at where we are. When we do that, we realize we’ve been on a journey of some type based on the decisions we made.

It is encouraging for me to know that I have made forward progress, regardless of the setbacks I had. As a writer, those setbacks can come in the form of rejection, low sales or bad reviews. But much as it hurts when those negative things happen, we can’t stay there. We have to get up and get going, whether it means starting over or altering our course. For a writer, that could mean sending a manuscript to someone else or revising a manuscript or working on a totally new one.

So the first thing I needed to recognize as I moved into this new year is what path I’m on. Would I be writing novels or novellas, plays, Bible studies, blogs or nonfiction books? Once I determined that, I could break down the goals into units and break down the units into time periods.

What I’ve learned is that God chose this path for me, and I’m trusting Him to lead me along the way, shedding enough light as I take each step to get me to the next place. He knows what plans He has for me (Jeremiah 29:11), and I don’t. The past has shown where his hand led me as I achieved some goals I planned and others I had never conceived before. Sure, doubts plagued me from time to time and tried to thwart my progress, but I know where those doubts came from, and they weren’t from God. My focus can’t be on my own ability. God will use me despite my ability if I’m just willing to follow his lead.

To follow, I must leave the past behind. As Paul said in Philippians 3:13-14, “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

So, do you know what path you’re on or do you need to take a different one?

 

 

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Scottish, anyone?

Family at Games DinnerTwo weeks ago, I invited you to take a journey with me to learn about Herman Melville and his epic novel, Moby Dick. We’ll have to postpone the next step in that journey because I’d forgotten I wanted to tell you about an exciting event my family participates in each January: The Central Florida Scottish Highland Games. Those Games take place this coming weekend! Three generations of Gouges/Reeses/Santiagos have been working the games for over a dozen years. Here’s part of our family picture at the Games kickoff dinner.

Brochure 2018No doubt you remember that those Scots were a rowdy bunch and often fought amongst themselves, as well as fighting the English. But the annual Games are a wonderful way to celebrate all the best of Scottish culture without any of the crazy stuff that makes up every people group. As for the food, oh, mercy, bring your appetite! They have authentic Scottish fare. And yes, I love haggis, a unique Scottish culinary delight, which I suspect American Scots have adapted to our more tender (squeamish?) appetites.

 

Here are some of the events you can observe and/or take part in: Caber tossing, Sheep dogs herding sheep, Highland dancing competition, stone-carrying competition, ax-throwing competition, archery contest, children’s activities and competitions, and Quiddich.

You can also thrill to twenty or so magnificent drum and bagpipe bands. Nothing stirs the Scottish soul quite like a bagpipe. Imagine a hundred of them piping their tunes across the moors.

Visit the Scottish clan tents and learn amazing historical information about each clan. At the Scottish Heritage Tent, you can find your own Scottish roots through our databases.

Spend a little or a lot of money with the vendors who carry Celtic and Renaissance clothes and memorabilia.

David and Louise at GamesHere’s a picture of my husband and me wearing the plaid and celebrating our Scottish heritage. On the right is a picture of my dear hubby in his U. S. Army tartan kilt and a chest full of his medals from service in Vietnam.David in Army Kilt

So how did we get started with our involvement in these annual Games? Some years ago, my younger son became interested in his Scottish heritage, having married a lovely lassie whose father is actually from Scotland. (Her father has that charming accent and even plays bagpipes!) Along with her daughter, they became involved with the Central Florida Scottish Highland Games, eventually pulling my husband and me into the fun. Now my daughter and grandchildren have joined the fun.

Timothy and HeidiTimothy and Heidi Gouge at the Central Florida Scottish Highland Games kickoff dinner.

I don’t have a great deal of information to go on to learn more about my Scottish heritage except that my paternal grandmother’s maiden name was MacCaskill. Like many Scottish surnames, this spelling is just one of many, but most of them seem to refer to a “sept” of the Clan MacLeod of Lewis. (There’s also a MacLeod of Harris.) Historically in Scotland, a sept was a smaller clan (family) that attached itself to a greater clan for protection and shared resources.

MacLeod CrestBeing a smaller sept didn’t mean the MacCaskills were considered inferior. One William MacCaskill led the entire MacLeod clan against a fleet at Clanranald at Eynot. No doubt he was chosen to lead because the MacCaskills were skilled seamen and sailors. In the mid-nineteenth century, a certain Angus MacAskill (note different spelling, but same family) grew to be 7 feet 9 inches tall. Naturally, he was called The Giant. At right is the MacLeod of Lewis crest.

Dunvagan_01Below right is a picture of the Clan MacLeod family seat at Dunvegan Castle (for over 800 years), the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Great Britain. Rather romantic looking, don’t you think? Visit http://www.dunvegancastle.com/the-estate/clan-macleod/ Official site of Clan MacLeod of Lewis. Released under the GNU Free Documentation License.

Dunvegan Castle by Neil AitkenheadThe photo below is by Neil Aitkenhead, with the attribution-share alike. I’m hoping this means it’s okay to post it. Sure would hate to be sued for a simple, non-commercial blog!

 

 

 

Around the United States, numerous Scottish heritage societies host Highland Games similar to ours. For a day of family fun, great food, and exciting entertainment, check out these events. You’ll be glad you did.

Brochure 2

 

 

Do you have a Scottish connection? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

 

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2018 – What will it bring?

blank slate2018

With just 9 days in to 2018, I still can’t believe it’s another brand new year.

This is a time when we reflect back over the passing year and look forward to what 2018 will bring.

For me, 2017 was a year filled with mostly good things and some not so good, but through it all I can say I was truly blessed.

What will 2018 bring? Only God knows. We have a brand new clean slate and anything can happen.

Happy New Year!

This January, I have a brand new romantic comedy out entitled, Heart Of Texas. It’s about one woman’s struggle to leave behind a traumatic event in her life and try to find a better future.

HeartOfTexas_w12370_300

Laney Winters gets the biggest shock of her life when she learns she’s pregnant…on the same day she finds her husband in bed with his secretary. With her blissful life exposed as fraud, and her husband wanting nothing to do with raising a child, Laney faces divorce and her greatest fear–moving back home to live with her two eccentric old-maid aunts.Hiding the demise of her marriage and helping to manage the family diner should be uneventful, but a new man in town has the gossips speculating. Laney’s two aunts create an exciting mystery around the stranger, and Laney is sucked into an entertaining game of “Save Jake Montgomery from Aunt Thelma.” When her aunts’ latest victim turns out to be the town’s new family doctor, Laney must entrust him with her secrets, and along the way, discover that when your life flips upside down it’s God’s way of giving you a different perspective…and a fresh start.

Heart of Texas – Available now at Amazon

All the best…

Mary Alford

 

 

 

 

 

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January Release by Tara Randel

Happy January! I’m excited to announce my newest Harlequin Heartwarming release, His One and Only Bride, the sixth book in the Business of Weddings series. Having a book come out is very exciting, especially when the book holds a special place in your heart. You spend so much time in the world you’ve created that the characters become very real. Part of the family, really. This book pushed me as a writer. I fleshed out an idea that had been in the back of my mind for a long time and with the help of my awesome editor, it came to life. I couldn’t be happier.

There’s something very special about second chances and forgiveness. Where would we be without them? And the timing of this release is perfect—a new year, a story about new beginnings. I hope Mitch and Zoe’s story touches you.

Here’s sneak peak.

I don't know what to say.How about welcome home.

Mitch expected his wife’s surprise. After all, to her, he’d risen from the dead.

His hand gripped the cane that had become his lifeline. He wanted to heave it over the railing, but that meant lifting an arm that still needed rehab to function properly. Instead of cataloguing his injuries, he focused on his shell-shocked wife.

“I don’t understand. We were told…I thought you were…”

“Dead?”

She reached out to place her palms on the deck railing.

“The report was mistaken.”

“But…How…Why?”

“I was injured in a truck accident while leaving a refugee camp.”

She visibly pulled herself together. Took a step toward him, faltered and stopped. “Pretty soon I’m going to have a ton of questions, but right now…I don’t know what to say.”

“How about ‘welcome home’?”

He watched her struggle with this major surprise. “When did you get here?”

“About fifteen minutes ago.”

“How?” Her gaze took in his appearance and he knew what she saw. A guy who’d lost weight, whose complexion had turned pasty after weeks in the hospital. Not the image of the healthy husband who’d walked out of her life nearly two years ago.

“Wyatt. I called him to tell him I was heading home. He picked me up at the airport.”

A flush of red crept up her neck. “You didn’t think to call your wife?”

“I did, but considering how we ended our last conversation, I thought it would be better if I talked to you in person.”

She ran a hand through her shoulder-length black hair. What had happened to the long straight strands that had reached to her mid-back? In the hospital, he’d dreamed of running his fingers through it. Had dreamed of her easy smile, which was nowhere to be found right now. Had he expected her to jump into his arms when she saw him again despite the circumstances? Expect that old feelings would rush over her again? Disappointment swamped him. She looked like the same Zoe, yet there was something different about her. He couldn’t put his finger on it.

“I’m sorry, you didn’t want to call me? Despite everything, didn’t you think I’d have wanted to know you were at least okay?”

**

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Tara Randel is an award winning, USA Today bestselling author of fifteen novels. Family values, a hint of mystery, and of course, love and romance, are her favorite themes because she believes love is the greatest gift of all. Visit her website at www.tararandel .com and subscribe to Tara’s Newsletter to receive a link to download a free digital book. Like Tara at http://www.facebook.com/TaraRandelBooks.

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Being Deliberate about that One Thing by Elizabeth Goddard

 

Are you one of those people who starts out the new year with resolutions or goals or even one word you believe God has for you?

 

I confess that I belong to all of those groups.

 

Let me tell you why.

 

I LOVE new beginnings! That’s my perspective on the new year. It’s a fresh start. Maybe you’re in the middle of something big and the new year doesn’t feel like anything but the passing of time much too quickly, but you CAN make it a fresh start.

 

For most of us, those resolutions go to the side of the road within a week or two as we make our journey through life. Well, we tried. It was a start, a dream. But not something we could hold onto or make a reality.

 

Something I’ve learned through experience is that if I write it down, it has a better chance of happening. I’m a huge fan of keeping a to do list. Every single book idea I’ve written on my to do list has eventually come into this world as a book baby—ahem—a published novel on sale at stores. That’s true for most everything else on my to do list. (Only book ideas become book babies, I’m talking about everything else.)

 

So that’s one suggestion, my tip, for you on how to make a few things become reality.

 

As for the “word for the year”—what I believe God is speaking to me—it’s not something I usually pray about or think about too hard. It’s something I just know. After all, that word is probably something He’s been speaking to me for quite a while so I already know what it is, as should you.

 

For me,  this coming year (and for the last few months actually) that word is simply “be.” Or if you prefer a phrase–Just Be. Imagine my delight when I came across this post from Ann Voskamp about “Plan Be”. http://annvoskamp.com/2017/12/how-having-a-little-charlie-brown-christmas-gets-you-into-the-best-christmas-spirit-of-all-about-fears-heartbreak-hard-families-at-christmas/

 

In the post, she said,

 

Let go of Plan A — Go with “Plan Be.”

 

Love it!

 

I’m always so busy making sure things on my to do list get done, and my mind is flitting around in a thousand directions and lingering on future possibilities, that I’ve forgotten how to live in the moment. To just “be.”

 

41ejvuwdmal-_sx337_bo1204203200_So I ordered her wonderful book: The Broken Way: A Daring Path into the Abundant Life, and I continue to read snippets every day and let those snippets soak in and give me ideas about how I can be the gift. In other words, there is action involved in “just being.”

 

Most importantly, she nails it in this post: http://annvoskamp.com/2018/01/why-you-need-a-plan-be-for-your-bible-reading-this-year/ 

When she says . . .

I find this very helpful advice for reading the Bible: As you read, do your best to be there.

I couldn’t agree more! This chaotic world fights for our attention, holds our minds captive as we try to do even the simplest of things like read the Bible.

 

I want to go deeper with Him this year, deeper than ever before, but in order to do that I need to be deliberate about many things and not let life—the “cares of this world” as Jesus put it—drag me away from what should be the most important thing—my relationship with Him.

 

So in being deliberate about that one thing–I need to be present in this moment, and let His presence soak in, so I can BE Christ, BE the gift for others . . .

 

I pray that you, too, can be deliberate about that one thing–And you know what it is.

********

P.S. My latest release, Thread of Revenge, releases in February!

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9781335490162 copyMarine biologist Sadie Strand is back in her coastal hometown to prove her best friend was murdered—but searching for evidence almost costs Sadie her life. Abducted, drugged and left for dead on a sinking boat, she’s barely rescued in time by Coast Guard Investigative Service special agent Gage Sessions, an old friend. Assigned to protect Sadie and connect three complicated cases, Gage risks his life time and again to make sure the woman he once loved survives. But although the handsome, guarded agent vows to protect her, someone will keep killing to ensure the truth never rises to the surface.

Pre-Order your copy today!

 

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I Need a Tracker by Julie Arduini

I Need a Tracker by Julie Arduini_edited

Happy New Year!

Toward the end of 2017, my Fitbit died. Not just the battery, but a flat-out death. I enjoyed having it because I was part of a weekly challenge and it really motivated me to move, especially since my writing schedule was heavy.

 

It was too close to Christmas to consider buying a new one, and I figured I would be okay. I’d had the “zip” in my sock for so long that I assumed my mind would still feel it lodged against my ankle bone and I could move along as if it were really there. Sure, I wasn’t in a challenge and I wasn’t logging any stats, but I’d be okay, right?

The first week I was. I kept up with exercising and logged in manually with an old pedometer I found.

The second week I realized the pedometer was not tracking my steps. I tried to figure it out on my own. I kept up with the exercises, but I was frustrated.

The third week was busy, Christmas activities were in full swing. I decided instead of exercise, all my walking was good enough. After all, I couldn’t keep track of any of it. Since it was a crazy week, my eating took a hit.

Like an avalanche, that was how my wellness looked for the rest of the year. I wasn’t exercising. I wasn’t in any challenges. I quit logging into apps that were health related. I chose high carb/sugar foods when I was tired, stressed, and bored.

By New Year’s Eve, I was looking forward to getting back on track.

I realized Christmas week I needed my tracker. For me, it’s a Fitbit, but I needed a gadget to record my steps, sync with my apps, invite me to challenges, and visually show me how I was doing. It didn’t take long without the visualization and motivation for me to backslide, and I have a 3 lb gain to show for it.

Thankfully, Christmas money was a gift and I ordered a new device that comes today. I’ve already implemented new eating strategies to help me feel better and see improved numbers on the scale. My husband found a good deal on a treadmill and as a family we decided to gift that to each other. I’m truly excited about making better choices.

That season without a Fitbit showed me that I need accountability. Community. I’ve been reading No More Faking Fine by Esther Fleece and she shared how her wounds from the past led her to make choices that kept her in the “basement.” It wasn’t just literal, it was a choice she made toward isolation. Doing so kept her alone, and without accountability and community.

That’s an issue God’s nudging me on as well. I convince myself I don’t need help because I’ve got it under control. That asking for help is bothering others who are far busier than I am, and that they don’t care as much as I’d like to think they do. That’s basement thinking, and it’s a lonely place.

My goal this year is to reach out more and ask for help. To have accountability. To live as Esther put it, in the “living room” instead of the “basement.” It makes sense for fitness, and I think it’s wisdom in general. I don’t have life under control, and I bet when I share a struggle with someone I trust, they will have my back.

And my Fitbit will be in my sock.

Is accountability hard for you? Do you choose to dwell in the basement or living room when it comes to community and growth?

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Just Do It by Hannah Alexander

My Class Reunion

You know how resolutions go. I know how they go for me. I can say I’m going to do something, but those words don’t carry me very far. Families talk about having reunions, but no one gets around to hosting the things. I was blessed to have a small high school class with some people who went the extra mile and planned the reunions. We had so much fun we started getting together at odd times during the year, or odd years. Now that it’s become a habit, that makes things easier.

I look out at the bird feeders in the snow and promise to fill them for the birds while the cats are stuck inside and can’t get to them. It didn’t get done. Instead, I just toss birdseed out behind the house where I can watch from the kitchen. I’ve been doing that since the great freeze hit, and I can see a lot of happy little birds outside my window. It has become a habit, so it gets done.

I don’t make resolutions for the next year. I don’t pick a word to focus on–though I love the idea of it and wish I had the will to follow through like so many of my friends are doing. Instead, I decide I’m going to do something and I force myself to do it without making any statements. If I say it, then I probably won’t follow through with it. That’s just me.

I’ve been putting off the rewrite of a book for months–wait, make that over a year. The distractions of a new life in a new place have overwhelmed me this past year, and I gave up to the distractions. So instead of making a resolution, I sat down and hit the rewrites Sunday, then Monday, and am finishing today. It’s the most soothing, healing part of my life right now.

So it really doesn’t matter what kind of resolution you’ve made for the new year. What matters is the doing. So get to it, do it, and move forward.

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Words to Change Lives

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By Nancy J. Farrier

 

So, here we are. 2018. The first day of a brand-new year. A clean slate in front of us. What will we do with this year?

 

Many people choose to make New Year’s resolution. When I’ve tried that I break them faster than I make them. Before the first month ends, I’ve given up and forgotten what my resolutions were. Then I heard about a different idea—something my friends do.

 

The idea is to choose a word at the beginning of the new year. A word to focus on throughout the year. Something to change an attitude or way of thinking, to focus more on Godlike characteristics than on self. I’ve tried this before. Usually, by the end of January, just like with resolutions, I am struggling to remember what word I even chose, let alone how that should apply to my life.

 

The past couple of months, I’ve felt a nudge to try a word of the year again. Not only that, but my word for the year has already been chosen for me. You see, I’ve had a problem with my attitude towards upcoming change and towards others. I realize the importance of getting rid of the negativity in my life and attitude.

 

My word for this year is Thanksgiving. I think I should print a banner and put it on the wall so I see “Thanksgiving” every day when I get up. I believe God wants to work with me to change the attitude of my heart by this one word.

 

A quick search of scripture showed more than 70 verses using the word thanks. I could take one verse a week to memorize and help me learn this important concept. If I do that—if I make the word “Thanksgiving” a crucial part of my life for the whole year, I have no doubt my life will change. I look forward to seeing what has happened on this very day one year from now.

 

So we, Your people and sheep of Your pasture, will give You thanks forever; we will show forth Your praise to all generations.” Ps. 79:13 NKJV

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Do you dream of being a writer?

by Jim Denney

Mark Twain retreated to a shed at Quarry Farm in New York, where he wrote The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

Renaissance philosopher Michel de Montaigne used to write his books in a high tower of his château in France.

The creator of Harry Potter, J. K. Rowling, isolates herself from society when she writes, completely avoiding social media. When an assistant created a Twitter account in her name in 2009, she posted a single tweet during the first year and a half: “This is the real me, but you won’t be hearing from me often, I am afraid, as pen and paper are my priority at the moment.”

If you dream of being a writer, you probably envision a quiet, distraction-free environment. You may even picture a future time when you can wall yourself off from the world to pen your magnum opus.

JDDWriting

I do most of my writing with my mouth, speaking into a microphone with voice dictation software. I can talk faster than I type, and this technology enables me to write as fast as I think.

But here’s the reality for most writers, including me: Few of us can afford the luxury of physically isolating ourselves while we write. Most writers have families, jobs, and responsibilities, and we have to write where we can, when we can, often under conditions that are far from ideal.

E. B. White, author of Charlotte’s Web, described his writing environment this way:

“My house has a living room that is at the core of everything that goes on: it is a passageway to the cellar, to the kitchen, to the closet where the phone lives. There’s a lot of traffic. But it’s a bright, cheerful room, and I often use it as a room to write in, despite the carnival that is going on all around me. A girl pushing a carpet sweeper under my typewriter table has never annoyed me particularly, nor has it taken my mind off my work, unless the girl was unusually pretty or unusually clumsy. My wife has never been protective of me, as, I am told, the wives of some writers are. In consequence, the members of my household never pay the slightest attention to my being a writing man — they make all the noise and fuss they want to. If I get sick of it, I have places I can go. A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.”

A writer doesn’t need an “ideal” writing environment. A writer just needs the will and the drive to write. Stephen King produced his first few novels in a tiny laundry room, little more than a closet, in a rented mobile home. And speculative fiction writer Harlan Ellison wrote some of his most famous short stories in bookstore windows, as crowds looked over his shoulder — how’s that for a distraction?

Ray Bradbury wrote his earliest stories surrounded by noise and conversation. He reflected, “I wrote in bedrooms and living rooms when I was growing up with my parents and my brother in a small house in Los Angeles. I worked on my typewriter in the living room, with the radio and my mother and dad and brother all talking at the same time.”

Science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov kept his typewriter behind the counter of his father’s candy store in Brooklyn, and he pounded out his early stories between interruptions by customers. “I doubt if I ever had fifteen straight minutes of peace. . . . [I] learned to withstand incredible noise and interruption. . . . I was undistractible.” 

Our goal as writers should not be to shut ourselves off from humanity, but to simply become undistractible. This means that when we write, we write. We don’t do anything else. We don’t think about anything else. We don’t take phone calls. We don’t answer the doorbell. We don’t check our email or social media. We don’t play games on our computer or phone. We write, period.

I have written books in the front seat of my car, while waiting to pick up my kids at elementary school. I have written in the mountains and at the seashore, sitting cross-legged on the floor at LAX, and aboard a jetliner at 40,000 feet. I can write anywhere. And so can you. It just takes desire — and practice. If you learn the art of being undistractible, of going deep within yourself and shutting out the world as you write, you can write anytime, anyplace.

“If you are a writer,” said Joyce Carol Oates, “you locate yourself behind a wall of silence and no matter what you are doing, driving a car or doing housework . . . you can still be writing, because you have that space.”  And Nathan Englander said, “Turn off your cell phone. . . . Unplug. No texting, no email, no Facebook, no Instagram. Whatever it is you’re doing, it needs to stop while you write.”

How can you settle into a focused, undistracted mental space when you are surrounded by distractions? Here are a few suggestions: Promise yourself a reward — a favorite food or beverage, a call to a friend, some entertainment or relaxation time — after you reach your quota of words or pages.

Remind yourself: “My writing is all-important to me. Momentary distractions are of no importance. I will focus on what truly matters.”

It may help to have a ritual to get you focused and prepared to enter a state of focus and concentration. Some writers find that an exercise ritual — running, walking, or swimming — prepares their minds. Some relax and breathe deeply.

My ritual of preparation for writing is prayer. I ask God to empower me, to make me sensitive to his leading, to help me listen for his voice and his creative inspiration. Then I plunge into the work.

I’ve always found the writing process to be the supreme solution to distractions. When writing, you’re in an altered state of mind. You’re mentally sealed off from your present life, with its problems, cares, and concerns, and you are in a state of focus.

So quiet your thoughts, ask for divine inspiration, devote yourself to absolute focus on the work at hand.

Then get down to business and write.

___________________________________

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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.

And if you’d like to learn more about how to write faster, more freely, and more brilliantly than you ever thought possible, read my book Writing In Overdrive, available in paperback and ebook editions at Amazon.com. —J.D.

 

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