Thursday, December 15, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: "This Road We Traveled"



From up the back cover: Tabitha Brown refuses to be left behind in Missouri when her son makes the decision to strike out for Oregon - even if she has to hire her own wagon to join the party.  After all, family ties are stronger than fear. Along with her reluctant daughter and her ever-hopeful granddaughter, the intrepid Tabitha has her misgivings.  The trials they face along the way will severely test her faith, courage, and ability to hope.  With her family’s survival on the line, she must make the ultimate sacrifice, plunging deeper into the wilderness to seek aid.  What she couldn’t know was how this frightening journey would impact how she understood her own life - and the greater part she had to play in history. 

This is the first book I’ve read by Jane Kirkpatrick but it didn’t disappoint.  Given the fact that it is based on a real person makes the history even more poignant. Tabitha Brown was 66 years old when she took her family on the Oregon Trail. She was a widow with three children and trying too make sense of her life.  She had been disabled and lame since she was a child and had grown up knowing both good times and bad.  She was both a woman, a wife and mother, a grandmother, and a storyteller.  She built an orphanage and then developed a school and university.  She financed her own wagon she shared with her brother-in-law, when their small party headed out west on the Oregon Trail.  This book is a wonderful story of who she was, what she became, and the history of the State of Oregon.

***** Stars

Publisher: Revell, a Division of Baker House Publishing Group
ISBN: 9780800722333

I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

TARA Contest Finalist

I got some happy news a week ago!


This is my completed, revised, medieval novel set during the Third Crusade. So happy to have placed as it's the book of my heart!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

SEEING JESUS WHERE WE DON'T EXPECT HIM

I have a confession to make. Yesterday, God put a young woman in my path - and I didn't handle it in the best way - and I can't stop thinking about her.

My husband and I were running errands and stopped at a coffee shop. I went in to use the ladies room, and noticed that in the handicapped stall there was someone sitting on the floor, listing a bit to one side. I went up to the door and noted she was breathing normally and didn't seem to be distressed although her eyes were closed.

She was beautiful. Long dark hair, dressed in a tangerine crop top with fringe and beige shorts. Her fingernails were gel nails, her sandals looked brand new. I decided to give it a moment and see what happened. 

When we both exited the stalls, she put a crack pipe and lighter on the counter beside her purse. I had a micro second to register it and wipe my reaction off my face. I know from my police officer days, drug paraphenalia usually is accompanied with a weapon(s). 

She said, "Don't judge me." I looked at her gorgeous brown eyes, the many scars on her wrists, and the tattoos she'd put on her arms to try and cover them. I said, "I'm not judging you honey, I just peeked in to make sure you're okay."

"My best friend OD'd, okay?" She rummaged around in her purse. "I was the one who found her, but hey, life goes on, right?" I stepped back unconsciously, my eyes on what was coming out of her purse. She held up two identical cheap necklaces from Walmart - enameled pink and blue butterflies. "She gave me these. She loved butterflies, I don't know why..."

I said, "Honour her by not letting someone find you on the floor OD'd. Butterflies are beautiful and so are you." My heart pounded. I knew we had a connection but I didn't know what to do with it. She was coherent. The crack pipe was clean; she hadn't been smoking when I came in. 

She nodded her head as she looked at herself in the mirror. "You have a good day lady..."

I opened the bathroom door and could only say, "You have a good day too, hon..." and I left. 

Later I thought, 'why didn't you offer to buy her lunch? or a coffee? or check to see if anyone outside was with her?' And it haunted me all day and all night. 

We prayed for this unknown girl but I also asked the Lord to forgive me for not recognizing him and doing what ever He'd wanted me to do. Was I Jesus to her? No, she was Jesus to me. And I missed it. My reflex was to think "danger"... my tongue was tied when she needed me to say the right thing. 

How many times a day, a week, a month, does God put someone in our path who needs His touch? His love? Like most people, I was concentrating on my own needs, things to get done, myself. But this girl stopped me in my tracks. Thank you, Lord. For showing me I need to be constantly tuned in to Your Spirit to do what You want me to do. In the moment, in a day, in a week. 

I'll never know her name, but she's on my prayer list from now on.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

BOOK REVIEWS ARE BACK...AND SO AM I

For so long I felt I didn't have any writing news to share but I'm happy to say I've got two book projects in the works, and I recently finaled in the Inspirational Category of the prestigious TARA Contest, put on by the Tampa Bay and Area Romance Writers of America. Now the wait is on to see where I place but most of all, I hope this book will see the light of day! For all of the contest finalists you can follow this link here: TARA Contest Finalists 2016 And congratulations to all my fellow finalists and good luck!

And in other news, monthly book reviews of Inspirational and other great fiction books are back as well. This month, I was pleased to review "WITHOUT WARNING" by Lynette Eason. And here it is:



From the Back Cover:
Intensity. Skill. Tenacity.
The bodyguards of Elite Guardians Agency have it all.

Katie Singleton, a partner with the Elite Guardians Protection Agency, stumbles upon her next assignment quite by accident. Spotting blue lights at a familiar restaurant, she stops to investigate, only to discover that owner Daniel Matthews has become the target of someone who will go to any lengths to put him out of business.

Daniel might be concerned, but he's not convinced that a bodyguard--and a female one at that--is necessary. A new attack and his niece's urgings are enough to make him reconsider. He and Katie must figure out who's behind the intimidation and threats--before a would-be killer strikes again.

I’m a big fan of Lynette Eason and thrilled with her series “Elite Guardians”, about a group of female ex-law enforcement agents who form a private protection/security company. The premise of such a series has already been done in secular fiction and I’m so happy the Christian market can now enjoy a similar series that’s female-centric with strong heroines who also struggle with deep past issues. 

“Without Warning” is the second book in the series. Lynette is skilled at keeping her tension taut and the threads of past characters and new characters within her main story clear and untangled. The couple from the first book, Olivia and Wade, figure lightly in this story but Lynette introduces her next book’s couple, Quinn and Maddy, in an organic way that rings true and adds depth to Katie and Daniel’s story as they race to find the killer/arsonist who’s targeted Daniel and his niece.
I loved Katie Singleton as a heroine. She’s suffering from PTSD due to a workplace event that shattered her family. During the story she must deal with her symptoms, guilt, and trying to reunite with her nuclear family. She’s a tough character while keeping her femininity intact.

Daniel’s ex-Marine with deep anger issues as well as PTSD. His obvious wealth isn’t explained in the book and if he appeared in the first book “Always Watching” and it was talked about there, the author didn’t carry it over. This was my only “question mark” about him. He owns a private plane and lives in a private air park, as well as owning three restaurants. As a reader, I would’ve just liked a brief explanation of his wealth. However, Daniel is highly intelligent and Katie is equally intelligent and a great foil for him. They both struggle together to understand the other’s pain and their romance develops at a natural pace.  

Lynette is particularly strong in bringing out subtle truths about God through her stories and this book is no exception. We can be angry at God but know He still loves for us. It’s human to grieve our losses and the death of loved ones. Lynette deals with both adult and teenage grief here in a Christian way. This book is a strong one to give to teen-aged daughters as it portrays strong Christian women and girls dealing with family estrangements, death, as well as grappling with teenage love.

You don’t have to read the books in order as they stand-alone but again, I’m thrilled to see this series of strong heroines in the Christian market: women who aren’t afraid of facing danger in their work, are intelligent, and care and nurture the people in their lives at the same time.

If you’re looking for great suspense as well as a clean romance, you’ll thoroughly enjoy “Without Warning”.

The next book, “Moving Target”, will be out January 31, 2017. I hope there’s some continuation of Katie and Daniel’s story over-lapping in it, as Lynette did such an excellent job of introducing Maddy and Quinn in this book.
I received a complimentary paperback copy from publisher Revell – a part of the Baker Publishing Group - in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

Thanks for stopping by!




Friday, June 22, 2012

How Does Your Birth Order Affect Your Writing?

What I'm Reading: "The First Born Advantage; Making Your Birth Order Work for You" by Dr. Kevin Leman
ISBN 978-0-8007-1911-1


An excerpt from the beginning of the book:

"Guess the Firstborn - I'll give you a pair of names, and you pick the firstborn in each pair.

  1. Jennifer Aniston or Courtney Cox Arquette
  2. Harrison Ford or Martin Short
  3. Ulysses S. Grant or Robert E. Lee
  4. Ellen DeGeneres or Oprah Winfrey
  5. Bill Cosby or Chevy Chase

If you guessed Aniston, Ford, Grant, Winfrey, and Cosby, you're right. (Ulysses S. Grant not only helped win the Civil War, but he was the only general ever to get his likeness on a fifty-dollar bill."

If you're a firstborn (as I am), you're an achiever. A goal-setter, and a "can-do" personality. A firstborn, according to Dr. Leman, are "...the ones continually striving to better themselves. The ones always looking for more ways for the company to be efficient and make a greater profit. The ones constantly analyzing and searching to make sense of things. They're the movers and shakers, the ones who end up as the top managers and CEO's."   Pg. 61

This would be my husband to a "T" - he's also a firstborn, married to a firstborn, so there's often been fireworks as we've struggled to work out who does what, when, and how. Still, we're coming up on our Silver Anniversary, so things have obviously worked out!

As a writer, what does this mean if you're a firstborn? Well, I recognized all my strengths and weaknesses in this book. Do any of these sound familiar?

  1. You're a natural leader. You were born to start things - for example, I helped get a Youth Crisis Shelter operational and it's still going strong 22 years later - and you love to be in charge.
  2. You're typically well-organized. If you're not, you're likely a "discouraged perfectionist" according to Dr. Leman and I'll talk about that in a minute.
  3. You're reliable - you'll move heaven and earth to get your edits done on time.
  4. You're conscientious.
  5. You're a natural list-maker - think about all those notebooks you've got on the go, how many are lists or partial lists of ideas, characters, research?
  6. You're a creature of habit. Can't put a sentence together till after your third cup of coffee? Need your purple pen and paper to get down the first draft? You're a firstborn!
  7. You're a pursuer of excellence - often to your own detriment. This comes together with being a perfectionist.

Ah, yes, we perfectionists! How I recognized myself here! That nasty Inner Critic who tells you everything you spent the past couple of months writing is utter crap? Re-writing the same novel 4 to 5 times without improving it, just spinning your wheels? Pull up a chair,grab some purple paper, and we can commisserate with each other over that Starbucks coffee!

Being a firstborn, a perfectionist, and a writer may mean paying attention to NOT saying "yes" the second an editor or your agent asks you to take on another project. Take a day or so to think it through. Is it realistic, given your other responsibilities? Can you really make the deadline or will you drive yourself and everyone else crazy trying to do too much?

If you're a "discouraged perfectionist" then you've grown up under a critical parent (one or both) who managed to teach you that nothing you ever did was good enough for them. They may have been jealous of your skills or competitive with you over university or work. Even parents who say they want to give their children everything they didn't have, can fall in to this trap. So, if nothing was ever good enough (in my family, my mother awarded each child with $1 for every A we got on our report cards. There was nothing given for even a B+), then you need to get out of that mind-set and teach yourself what realistic goals mean for you.

It also may mean that you're not the true expert on your writing or the direction your career is going in. You need advice from a range of people who can be pulled in to a support team. Writing friends? A critique group? Your editor or agent, or someone you met at a conference? They may all be able to see the "big picture" better then you can. Learn to give up some control and let others give you advice. You can take it or leave it, but just the act of listening and considering what others tell you can make you grow in a new direction.

Writing isn't just a solitary occupation anymore. Social media, networking, friends in any guise, all take up our time and are important. Why? Because without real relationships with real people, our writing is just for our own entertainment. We need other people to feed our imaginations, bolster our confidence, help us take that next step. We need friends to root for, and who will root for us. We need to treat our readers the right way to keep them coming back for that next book, novella, or article.

If you're a firstborn writer you may have already conquered the NYT Bestsellers List, received a RITA, a McCavity, or other award, or have over 10,000 friends on Twitter. This is all wonderful! You have new goals to set for yourself. Learning how your birth order as a firstborn has helped you in your career is an eye-opener. For the rest of us, keep using your strengths and make all the lists you need to get to where you want to be!




Thursday, June 21, 2012

I'm Really Not AWOL, or trying to be a "Frankenfriend" a la Kristen Lamb's delicious blog....

What I'm reading - The Midwife of Venice by Roberta Rich

If you want to learn about social media and how to build your platform as an author, you need to check out   KRISTEN LAMB'S BLOG. Yesterday, she had a superb post on how NOT to be a "Frankenfriend or Zombie Twitterer". Which is what I've been, unfortunately, but again - I have a good excuse???

May 7th I was invigorated, happier then a clam, and buying dirt. yes, dirt, at the Garden Center of a shall-remain-unnamed-huge-retailer. And what did I manage to do? I ran my cart up the ramp to the Center, deciding in my free-as-a-bird judgement that it would be OK to walk through a puddle on the ramp.

Couldn't have been more wrong. The cart wheels hit a hidden 1.5" rise of pavement and the sudden stop hurled me, literally, over the cart and on to the pavement where I managed to smack my skull not once, but twice, coming to rest on my opposite side and lying in said puddle.

All of which led to an ambulance taking my to hospital, getting checked out and being told I had a concussion, yada, yada, yada. None of which has anything to do with writing, or being a "Frankenfriend" - by which Kristen means someone who blogs once in a blue moon, or only snags your attention when they want to sell their book, etc. Seriously, go back to that link and check it out! I was ashamed of myself for being a Zombie-Twitterer!

In my defense, my doctor told me my concussion was severe enough to warrant NO reading of any kind, NO computer work, NO television (that was hard!), NO driving (I was recently upgraded to driving around locally), NO puzzles, Sudoku, crafting (impossible!), or thinking of ANY kind. Yes, he actually said that - no thinking of any kind. I had to completely rest my brain and let it heal. My husband even took my Blackberry away for a bit, as I couldn't go cold turkey and stop texting friends.

I still have some memory issues but the concussion headache is gone and I'm here to celebrate! Having been in pain since May 7th, it is a great relief to be off the Advil and painkillers, and back on the computer again. 

I've shelved the WIP I was working through because it all looks like bunk to me now - but that may be the concussion talking so I'm going to put it away and reserve judgement for awhile. Meanwhile, I've started researching for another story and am happy to be back in cyber-space and sharing with my friends again!


Monday, March 19, 2012

THE TRUTH ABOUT SLEEP DEPRIVATION

I realize I've been MIA for nearly a month but I do have an excuse - if there are any for not blogging regularly! - I've been diagnosed with severe sleep apnea. And not just severe sleep apnea - the sleep doctor figures I've had it most of my life, probably since childhood, and have been "averaging" about 2 to 3 hours of sleep a night. I don't need to tell you how much that can mess up your life!



Everyone stops breathing in their sleep two, three, maybe five times an hour. Your brain sends your lungs the message to start up again, and voila! You shudder, gasp, or snort, and breathe again, with you none the wiser. To stop breathing five to twenty times an hour is moderate sleep apnea. Anything over thirty times an hour is severe: my average? Seventy to eighty times an hour. That's right - I've only been hitting stage one sleep, never stage two, and only got in 40 minutes of REM in 5.5 hrs. of sleep at the sleep lab.

The results? For the past five years I've been afraid that my memory's been "going", I've had an angina heart attack, I've struggled with putting words together on the page, and I've suffered from nearly constant migraines. I've been waking up with a constant headache even if I don't have a migraine. I've gained weight even though I've tried Weight Watchers twice and followed the program.

People with sleep apnea are at great risk for heart attacks and strokes. I can't emphasize this enough because until I was diagnosed I had no idea that sleep apnea is the second leading cause of heart and stroke problems. Sufferers also have a greater number of car accidents due to lack of focus, inability to concentrate properly, and daytime fatigue.

Here's a spot check for yourself (or someone you love):
  1. can you fall asleep anytime after 11 a.m.?
  2. have you fallen asleep in meetings or church?
  3. do you snore loudly or disrupt your partners sleep with your snoring?
  4. do you wake up gasping or feeling like you're choking in your sleep?
  5. are you groggy and have morning headaches?
  6. do you get up frequently in the night to urinate?
  7. do you suffer from depression and irritability?
It's all caused by Obstructive Sleep Apnea - the most common kind - and it's because your airway is collapsing on itself during the night. Studies say we need one hour of sleep for every two hours we're awake. Which brings us back to our school health class where the teacher told us we need to get 7-8 hours of sleep a night to function at our peak capacity.

"Sleep medicine" has only begun to get front line attention in the past ten years. This explains why literally thousands of people have been diagnosed with depression and likely aren't depressed at all - the symptoms mimic each other. Trouble concentrating? Sleeping endlessly? Tired during the day? Loss of appetite or increase in appetite? Not enjoying your normal activities anymore? With sleep deprivation you'll be driven to consume more carbohydrates to bump up your energy and your brain is literally being oxygen deprived at night as well. My own oxygen saturation rate went down to 75% - the real reason for my constant headaches and migraines.

The only treatment - and there's no cure, this is a treatment - is a CPAP machine, or Constant Positive Air Pressure machine. There're different models but they all do the same thing; they keep your airway to your lungs open by pulling air from your room in through a nose or facial mask, pushing it down your airway, and forcing you to breathe out to get rid of the carbon dioxide. The masks are pretty Draconian-looking, but chances are your partner will rather sleep with you looking like you're on life support then continue suffering with your obnoxious snoring and snorting next to them.

It takes time to get used to breathing with the machine. It takes time for your brain to start responding to dreaming again. It takes patience before you start feeling like a "new you". I'm not quite there yet, but my daily life has improved 200%. My writing's back - I thought I'd lost it forever. My memory is coming out of the fog and I haven't had a daytime nap in a couple of weeks.

If you or someone you love has any of these symptoms I strongly urge you to talk to your doctor and get a sleep study ordered. You'll sleep over in a "lab" which is a fancy word for a couple of bedrooms with a room full of monitoring equipment. You'll be hooked up to painless electrodes on your head, face, chest, and legs. In fact, you'll look like a suicide bomber by the time they finish with you, but the wires are unnoticeable once you're asleep. The room will be dark and you can talk to the technologists at any time through a two-way system if you need help during the night. They'll wake you up at 5:30 a.m. and send you home. Nothing to it!
And if you have moderate to severe sleep apnea you'll be eligible for a CPAP machine that will literally change your life. Your heart muscle will regenerate itself after possibly years of hypoxia. Your brain will come alive again. Your marriage or relationship will improve once your partner doesn't have to put up with your snoring anymore and s/he's sleeping well for a change.

I have a friend who has all the symptoms, realizes she likely has sleep apnea, but is too vain to sleep in the lab and "have people stare at me while I'm sleeping". Seriously? Your health is too precious to worry about trained technologists monitoring a computer. I'm still working on her to get checked out. Don't waste time - talk to your doctor about your symptoms. And then get back to doing all the things you love to do!