Friday, December 5, 2014

Gifts of Raindrops and Tears

A few years ago, my husband and I were desperately trying to have a baby. I was thirty-four when we married, and by the time we got serious about trying, I was thirty-six. After five miscarriages and six rounds of IVF, we finally admitted defeat in 2012 and threw away all the horrible fertility pills, hypodermic needles, and pamphlets on fertility foods (all a constant part of our life since 2009).

We briefly looked into adoption but decided against it after weighing the costs, stress and anxiety, and the fact that we were basically too old to pursue traditional adoption routes (I was 40 by that time; my husband was 47).

Despair settled in. It was over and we both knew it. For me, it sparked an intense period of anger with God and everyone around me. I could not be in the presence of a pregnant woman (it made me physically ill), and even someone discussing adoption raised my hackles.  I felt like an inferior specimen of humanity, and more importantly—I felt sure that God was withholding from me the one thing that I’d actually been designed to do (bear children). Yes, I believed that lie. I was sure it was some kind of punishment.

My long suffering husband had already come to terms with the losses and accepted that God had given us a final and resounding NO. He really wanted to be there for me emotionally, but he also didn’t want our lives to revolve around the label of infertile couple. He finally suggested that we do something that we could never do if we had kids: travel abroad. So we planned a trip to the United Kingdom, and that summer we traveled around England, Scotland, and Wales. It was the best decision we ever made.

When we returned, I was miraculously healed. I know. It sounds crazy, but it’s completely true. When we returned from the U.K., I was like, “You know what? I really don’t think I want kids anymore.” Part of me felt that this would be a passing emotion, but just the other day we were talking to family members, and I realized that I still felt the same. Nope. No longings there. It was a praise-worthy moment. God simply plucked those feelings from my heart and replaced it with his assurance--"My grace is sufficient."

Later, my husband and I talked about the fact that God really did know what he was doing when he withheld this gift from us. (Imagine that? God knowing what he was doing!) For four and a half years, the desire to have children had become an idol, taking over our lives. We'd been slaves to the doctors and fertility experts and everything they told us to eat, drink, and inject. Our marriage was swaddled in pain and loss, and there was very little relief as we careened through one failed IVF cycle and pregnancy after another. It eclipsed absolutely everything for a few years, including my relationship with God, as I remained in a perpetual state of anger.

The true, supernatural gift arrived with the release from obsession and idolatry of children. Next to  the gift of my husband, I consider this peace the best gift I’ve received in my life so far. I don’t know why we had to endure those tides of unrest, but I feel I’m a more secure person with a better relationship with God as a result. Realizing that the Lord is not an ATM machine or a cosmic Santa has made all the difference in my life and in my marriage.
At the end of the day, I know I will see my miscarried babies again one day on the other side. If I ever looked forward to heaven, how much more so now!

Yes, God answers all our prayers, but he doesn’t always give us what we want; instead, he provides what we need. Most importantly, his most precious gift is in our need for him. He longs for our faces to be turned toward him at all times, no matter if our cheeks are glowing with joy or bathed in tears.
"It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have." 1 Cor. 1-11 (NLT)
 Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Favorite Things Friday

This month I'm participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in the hopes of wrapping up the novel I started this summer. If I didn't have to work full time, I'd probably be able to maintain blogging; alas, there are dogs to feed, house, and vet.  As it is now, this past month has been a stressful swim, trying to keep my head above water as I teach kids, grade papers, and write in the evenings while cooking dinner for my husband, keeping the dust mites from taking over my house, and tricking my dogs (and myself) into thinking that walking around the cul-de-sac a few times an evening is great exercise.

In short, I'm exhausted. But I want to do this NaNo thing. So I'm going to put Favorite Things Friday on the back-burner this month.

I'll be back in December with inspiration, wine, dogs, and books!

Blessings to you all!

Friday, October 31, 2014

The Best Book I Read This Month...

It's that time again--time for The Cephalopod Coffeehouse --where a bunch of us book lovers chat about our favorite reads for the month! For this month, I picked...(surprise!) a scary read!

Rarely do I ever read a book after seeing the movie. I always rush to try and finish a book before the movie version comes out, and then I’m usually disappointed anyway. In this particular case, I’ve seen the movie over and over again during the course of a ten year period, yet I just got around to reading the novel.

I’ve only read one other Stephen King novel (The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon). I really enjoyed it, but it was more of a psychological thriller. I’ve wanted to read The Shining for years, but I was afraid the book would be too gruesome or brutal for me. (I hate reading anything that’s bloody or gory).

I was pleasantly surprised to find more of a psychological ride than a horror tale. There are elements of horror within the story, but overall, I was riveted. I see now why King is considered such a master of the page; he effectively crafts scenes, describes actions and images, and paints the background of characters. This novel, written in 1977, reads differently from a modern horror novel. It’s subtle with less attempt at shock value and far more attention to the storyline.

For those who don’t know the story, Jack Torrance, a recovering alcoholic, takes his wife and son to live at The Overlook—a hotel in the Colorado mountains where inhabitants are snowed in all winter. Torrance assumes this will be the perfect opportunity to write his next novel; instead, once the snow begins to fall and Jack and his family are snowed in, the house comes alive, tormenting Jack and his family with freaky women in the bathtub, strange characters in the ballroom (including an oh-so-polite, but all-too-dead bartender), and an elevator that runs by itself. All the while, Jack’s son, Danny, holds special powers called “shining” in which he can sense and see things that others can’t, and he can communicate telepathically with others who have the same abilities.

The Shining holds up remarkably well, and makes a perfect halloween companion.


Saturday, October 25, 2014

New Author Interview

Sorry I missed posting yesterday! It has been quite a week...

I also realized that October has 5 weeks, so my schedule of posting inspirational, wine-of-the-month, dog-for-adoption, best-book-I-read-this-month weekly schedule was awkwardly interrupted. So for this week, I have a new interview for you.

Fiona McVie graciously interviewed me this week, and here is the link!


Friday, October 17, 2014

Favorite Things Friday: Rya

It's time for favorite things Friday! Since it's the third Friday of the month, that means I feature an adoptable dog!

This is Rya the galga (female Spanish greyhound).  Rya was rescued from Spain where she spent her whole life as a hunting dog and a brood-mama, but now she's retired from all that mess and ready to find her new home!

Rya is eight years old but very spunky! She recently got into a pretty big tussle with one tough kitty, so she needs to be in a cat-free home. Having said that, she is small-dog safe, and she's as sweet as she can be with everyone else in the non-feline world.

Her adoption fee of $650 covers all her shots and vet care (including spay/neuter) and transportation costs. She is available for adoption anywhere in the US or Canada through Sighthound Underground. Send them an email or application if you're interested!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Road to Romance...8 years later...

When I was a kid, I read a lot of romantic rubbish. Okay, I know...that sounds really bad. But I have to admit my reading choices were not what I would choose for my teenaged daughter (if I had one). If you examined these novels for an ounce of truth about love, you simply wouldn't find it. Not an ounce. Not a gram. I mean--I read Danielle Steele (guilty confession: I still love quite a few of her older novels), Jackie Collins (ugh, I think you'll probably get a clear picture with that one), and anything from mass market romance publishers like Harlequin, Silhouette, etc. Adding insult to injury, in the summers when I wasn't in school, I watched one soap opera after another. Literally speaking, I began with Ryan's Hope at 12:30, moved on to All My Children at 1:00, progressed to As the World Turns at 2:00, and finalized the festival of fornication with General Hospital at 3:00 (and for a time I even watched reruns of the 1966 Dark Shadows soap opera at 4:00).

Later, in my twenties, I moved on to Lifetime Movie romances. Those were better, right?

So was it any wonder I ended up dating the worst kind of losers imaginable? Let's face it--my idea of love was fashioned after multiple series in which everyone was rich, doctors had loads of time to hang out and neck with the nurses, and people killed their sisters so they could be with their husbands. No one on these shows seemed to have any problem finding someone to marry, nor did they have any difficulty finding someone with whom to have an affair (all with Christopher Cross songs playing in the background). I mean, really! I was doomed from the start.

After a long string of absolutely ridiculous relationships with men across the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans (I don't know what that was about--for some reason I thought exotic men were romantically superior), I eventually moved from soap-opera-inspired sob stories complete with drama and tears and late-nite trans-pacific phone calls to my mother, to finally listening to what the Good Lord was trying to tell me--since He was practically screaming at me, "Give it up! You're not going to marry an Australian!"

But it took me until I was a 30 year-old--returning from the land of Oz for third time--to listen.

So I admit it. I became a dating-site groupie. I joined Match and eharmony simultaneously, rivalling Blanche DuBois in my desperation. I met some absolute slugs on (and others were quite scary, escape-from-Norman-Bates kind of scary). Most of the men I met on eharmony were nice, but just...I don't know...there was something about moving to Iowa, or South Dakota, or Taiwan that didn't interest me.

Would there ever be a happy ending for me? Would I ever find my Heathcliff? My Hamlet? My Lord George Gordon Byron? (Thankfully, the answer to these questions was no). the age of 34, I finally met my Stephen. We met on eharmony in March of 2006, and after a whirlwind romance, we married in October of that same year.

Today marks our 8th anniversary. I'm so thankful that General Hospital was wrong, and I didn't have to fall off of a yacht, or have amnesia, or kill my boyfriend's wife (only to have her reappear in a shower later on and discover that it was all a dream) in order to find true love.

I'm also really thankful that I didn't marry the sort of man I would have chosen in my late teens or early twenties (good can't even imagine...[see below, where you may find evidence of my confusion]).

This ?

Or this?

God truly knew what He was doing when He put us together. And what I now know is marriage is tough, and so is true love. And yes, sometimes my life does resemble a soap opera (just a little), but I wouldn't trade this guy for all the tortured Byronic souls in the world.

Friday, October 10, 2014

My Favorite Things Friday: Bogle Phantom

It’s the second week of the month, so as promised, this week’s favorite thing will feature a wine I particularly enjoy. This month (because it’s October, of course) I’m going to feature Bogle’s red wine blend, Phantom.

I was introduced to this wine about eight years ago, and although I don’t come across it as often as I used to, I buy it when I see it.
Bogle is a Northern California vineyard that produces and widely distributes all kinds of varietals from light whites to heavy red zinfandels. For a label that mass produces, Bogle’s wines are really quite tasty. For a table wine, I often buy their Old Vine Zinfandel, but I really love this one:


If you appreciate fruit-forward wine with flavors of rich berries and cherries with a little pepper and a lingering finish, this wine may satisfy your palate. Aged 24 months in American oak, this blend of  Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Mourvedre is ruby red in color—beautiful to behold and taste.

Happy Friday everyone!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Favorite Things Friday! Dogs and God: The Unconditional Love Parallel

It’s been almost a year since my beloved dog, Tessa, died. In 2002, I adopted Tessa, a one or two year-old dachshund mix from a small dog rescue in Locust Grove, Virginia. She remained my “bestest little girl” for the next eleven years. Unfortunately, last fall she was diagnosed with lymphoma and passed away about eight weeks later.

Missing her and thinking about her this week made me revisit the idea of how God views animals and why we, as humans, love our animals so, so much. I started philosophizing a little bit, and I realized that dogs’ love for their human companions greatly resembles God’s love for us. Dogs are faithful, loving, and forgiving. So is God. Dogs desperately want to be near us as much as possible. So does God. Relationally, there are some parallels, and it makes me wonder if the Lord put these beautiful animals upon the earth to remind us of His pure and unconditional love for us.
The Bible says, But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness (Galatians 5:22). I look at Chase and Trinity--the two dogs we have now--and I see all of these qualities. They are mostly peaceful, but always joyful. There is nothing like being greeted by Chase and Trinity at the end of a long, hard day. They wait all day (longsuffering) for our return. Once we come through the door, the celebration abounds! Jumping around, squealing with delight, spinning and whirling with such intense excitement at our homecoming as to be overwhelming at times. I imagine that is the sort of welcome we will receive in heaven one day.
“Ask the animals, and they will teach you...In God’s hand is the life of every creature, and the breath of all mankind.” (Job 12:7 and10)
Dogs can teach us about kindness and goodness if we watch them closely. Unless unbalanced or abused, most dogs are happy to meet new people, welcoming them with wagging tails and lolling tongues (even if the person the dog meets doesn’t like them). I once heard a minister say, while pointing to a golden retriever brought to the pulpit, “The best Christian in this room is this golden retriever.” We all laughed, but who could dispute it? No human has the capability of being wholly kind and good. "There is no one righteous, not even one…" (Romans 3:10).

As for how God feels about dogs, and animals in general, His word tells us, Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.b (Matthew 10:29). So we know that God cares for all His creatures. And I believe He sometimes employs them supernaturally. There was a story out not too long ago about a man injured in a house fire. “Go get help!” he told his dog, and she ran long and hard out to the road where a police officer was trying to find the burning house. The officer said later that something told him to follow the dog; he heeded the voice, followed the dog, and she led him straight to her person’s house.  (See video below)
“The Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.” (2 Thessalonians 3:3)
One final parallel: the connection between God’s protection and that which a dog instinctually performs. A woman with whom I used to attend church once told me that she had never been angry with God in her life, because she viewed Him in the same way she viewed the German shepherd she’d had as a child that often protected her from her abusive father. She saw God as standing in her defense just as her dog had. I found that touching, and it secured a comparison in my mind. Sometimes it's hard to really, truly feel or understand God's love here on this fallen earth because so many things compete for our time, attention, and feelings. On the other hand, nothing and no one loves us, wants us, or protects us like God. When this lady told me her story, just for a moment, I caught a glimpse of God's love for me. He loves me unconditionally--like my dog--even more than my dog, and He will fight for me. It gave me chills, because I knew how much my dog loved me. And if my dog loved me that much -- how much more God loved me was really something.

Obviously the comparison I’m making here only goes so far and only represents one component of God, as He is also holy and righteous and just. But if He ever wanted us to catch a glimpse of His unconditional and joyful love for us, He created a wonderful example in a four-legged companion animal whose English name uses the same three letters as His own.

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Best Book I Read in September is...

It's that time of month again! Time to participate in The Cephalopod Coffeehouse! I finally get to choose the best book I read this month as part of a blog hop!


I don't read mysteries. I don't like whodunnits (not since reading Agatha Christie as a kid). Admittedly, and unfortunately, traditional mysteries usually bore me. 😴 I can't stand trying to matriculate and figure out why this happened or who did what. The only mysteries I typically read are true crime mysteries--you know, the sort that actually happened in Illinois or Florida or Washington state.

I'm not a huge reader of The New York Times best sellers either. No particular reason, really. I just don't usually grab them from the bookstore shelf or order them on my kindle. I don't feel the need to read something just because everyone else says its good.

Nevertheless, this book intrigued me. And maybe it was because other friends had and were reading it. But I finally broke down and read Gone Girl.

And it's the best book I read this month. I simply could not put it down. Yes, it's a mystery--but not a traditional one. Amy Dunne's journal entries recall romantic days with Nick, her husband. They wooed, they married, they fell apart--and it's all right there in the pages of her diary. Even to the point where she alludes to being afraid of him...because he just might kill her.

This is an absolute page-turner. I could not wait to find out what happened, and no matter how hard I speculated, all of my guesses were wrong.

The characters are unlikable to be sure, but there is something compelling about the plot. Flynn is a master of compounding complication upon complication without annoying or frustrating readers.

Although slightly irritating (and a bit unbelievable), the unexpected ending was satisfying. Now I'm looking forward to seeing the movie, as it comes out in the theaters next week!

1.The Armchair Squid2.mainewords
3.Berriesandmore4.Linda Kay
5.Cherdo on the Flipside6.V'sReads
7.Aristotle's Mistake8.Life Before the Hereafter
9.Subliminal Coffee.10.My Creatively Random Life
11.WOMEN: WE SHALL OVERCOME12.Stephanie Faris
13.About Myself By Myself14.StrangePegs -- The Marvelous Land of Oz
15.MOCK!16.StrangePegs -- Many Waters
17.StrangePegs -- A Flock of Ill Omens18.Words Incorporated
19.Hub City 
1.The Armchair Squid2.mainewords
3.Berriesandmore4.Linda Kay
5.Cherdo on the Flipside6.V'sReads
7.Aristotle's Mistake8.Life Before the Hereafter
9.Subliminal Coffee.10.My Creatively Random Life
11.WOMEN: WE SHALL OVERCOME12.Stephanie Faris
13.About Myself By Myself14.StrangePegs -- The Marvelous Land of Oz
15.MOCK!16.StrangePegs -- Many Waters
17.StrangePegs -- A Flock of Ill Omens18.Words Incorporated
19.Hub City 
1.The Armchair Squid2.mainewords
3.Berriesandmore4.Linda Kay
5.Cherdo on the Flipside6.V'sReads
7.Aristotle's Mistake8.Life Before the Hereafter
9.Subliminal Coffee.10.My Creatively Random Life
11.WOMEN: WE SHALL OVERCOME12.Stephanie Faris
13.About Myself By Myself14.StrangePegs -- The Marvelous Land of Oz
15.MOCK!16.StrangePegs -- Many Waters
17.StrangePegs -- A Flock of Ill Omens18.Words Incorporated
19.Hub City 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Guest Character Post

I usually post on Wednesdays and Fridays, so I'm a day late drawing your attention to my guest character post on Written Love blog site. Ella Casey speaks on returning to one's hometown and the difficulties of love.


Click HERE to read post.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Favorite Things Friday: Sighthounds! Meet Reyna...

I've decided to dedicate my Friday blogs to my favorite things. The first Friday of the month I will feature something inspirational; the second Friday of the month will feature my wine of the month (I really have a closet longing to write for Wine Enthusiast or Wine Spectator--ha!); the third Friday will feature a sighthound of the month (specifically, one that needs a new home); and the last Friday will feature my favorite book of the month.

So today is Sighthound Friday, but before I reveal my dog of the month, I want to take a minute to talk about her breed and the plight these dogs are currently facing. The galgo is a Spanish greyhound. They look pretty much the same, they act pretty much the same, and have pretty much the same temperament as the American retired racing greyhound. In Spain, the galgos are used for hunting, much like we would use our American hunting dogs (to flush quarry, lead hunters to them, etc.). The difference is that the galgo is not typically considered a companion animal in Spain. They are utilitarian only, and when the hunters (galgueros) are finished for the season, the dogs are discarded, abandoned, or killed (I won't even go into the unspeakable ways many of these dogs are killed, let alone how poorly they're treated in general).

There are now several organizations in Spain attempting to educate hunters and the community at large about these dogs and they fact that they're not just objects to be thrown away (many galgos are actually thrown down wells and left to die). Galgos del Sol and Baas Galgos are working hard to rescue, rehabilitate, and rehome these beautiful dogs. Part of the rehoming process involves several organizations here in the states. These organizations work with the Spanish ones to ship the dogs to foster and adoptive homes here in the U.S. One of the organization is The Sighthound Underground. SHUG boasts volunteers all over the country who foster and transport these dogs when they arrive at various airports (some even fly to and from Spain to accompany the dogs' travels). SHUG also transports sighthounds (Afghans, Salukis, Borzoi, etc.) from places like Qatar and Korea.

Finally, I want to reveal our dog of the month. This is Reyna.

Reyna is a four-year-old galgo who has apparently had a very tough life thus far. More than likely she was badly abused by a male hunter, as she is fearful of men. Now, this is not to say that she will always be this way--she needs to have her trust in men rebuilt, but she might do best with experienced dog owners, a single lady, or a household of women, etc. According to her foster mom, Reyna is quiet, crate-trained, and dog-friendly. She is loving and affectionate to those she knows and approaches familiar folks for pets. Having said that, Reyna has been overlooked at adoption events because it takes her a little while to warm up to new people.

In the right home and with a lot of love and patience, Reyna has the potential to overcome her fear of men. She does need to be in a cat-free home, as she's trained to hunt fast, furry critters, but other dogs are fine.

If you are interested in Reyna, you can submit an application through The Sighthound Underground. Reyna's adoption fee is $300.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Mission Book Signing #1: Accomplished!

This past Saturday I was in Kingsport, Tennessee (my hometown and the setting of Song from the Ashes) for my first book signing. It took place at River Mountain Antiques & Primitives in the middle of the downtown (and right next to the annual Oktoberfest celebration). 
I should preface this by say that I absolutely detest being the center of attention (I think that may be a common personality trait of writers), so the idea of two hours of attention was daunting.

We arrived around 12:15 and set up (my mom came with me to help with the sales, and my step-father and husband came along to offer moral support). No one was in the store at 12:30, but the signing didn’t start until 1 p.m., so we sat and waited patiently. At first I was afraid no one was going to come. It’s a strange feeling to know that people are coming (or not coming) to see you.

Around 1:15, people started to flood in. I couldn’t believe it! People who knew me from elementary school (!), people who’d read the article in the local newspaper, people who were friends of family—they were all coming into the store to meet me. And the really amazing part was that people were buying my book!

 Two hours actually flew by, and I had a wonderful time talking to people and seeing family and friends I hadn’t seen in ages.  

It was a relief when it was all said and done and we could head to the clubhouse for the launch party, where friends and family joined us for drinks and food. (Unfortunately, we had so much fun at the party that we forgot to take pictures!) A million and one thanks to my mom and step-father who put lots of time, energy, and dollars into the party!

 Now on to the next book signing this Saturday at Book Lover’sBazaar at Tackett’s Mill in Lake Ridge, Virginia!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Character Interview

I had never heard of a "character interview" before doing a virtual book tour. Basically, as the name suggests, it involves an interview with a character from a novel. When I first received the request, I was completely blocked with fear (it seemed like such a strange thing to do), but then I got over myself and realized that it was a very creative way to feature the book!

Today's virtual book tour stop is at The Literary Nook: an interview with Landon Kingsley, the main character in Song from the Ashes.


Character Interview at The Literary Nook.

Wednesday I'll discuss the wonderful book signing and party from this past weekend and display some pictures!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Book Signing this Weekend!

So this is it! My first book signing EVER happens this weekend at River Mountain Antiques & Primitives in Kingsport, Tennessee on 120 Broad Street from 1-3 p.m. For those of you who don't yet have your copy, you will be able to purchase Song from the Ashes on the day.

I should also point out that River Mountain Antiques is one of the coolest stores you'll ever visit! They sell unique and beautiful clothing, hand-made jewelry, locally made foodstuffs, vintage and contemporary merchandise, household decor, and ...wait for it...antiques! Anyway, the store is a real gem and it's right in the middle of the downtown, near the train tracks and old train station, in the most charming part of Kingsport (at least I think so).

Here's a link to the store's write-up in a local online magazine called Examiner and a promotional video.

I hope to see some of you there!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

An Interview and a Giveaway!

I think I'm much happier doing virtual interviews than I ever would be if they were in person.

Check out my interview on Emilie Hendryx's site Thinking Thoughts and you can register for a free giveaway of my book!


Thank you for hosting me, Emilie!

Friday, September 5, 2014

A Day at the Scottish Games with Two Greyhounds

Last weekend my husband and I attended the Virginia Scottish Games.

For anyone who isn't familiar with the Scottish Games festivals, these are annual celebrations including events such as terrier races, border collie sheep herding, clan kiosks, authentic food, whiskey tasting, and vendors selling kilts, tartans, tams, etc. In Virginia, the festival is usually held in The Plains, near Middleburg, but the Scottish Games in general can be found all over the country.

I'm of Scottish heritage, so this festival appealed to me on an ancestral level, but also because of its dog-friendly nature. Chase and Trinity happily joined us on our adventure.

So what great activities did with partake in? Next to none. Why? Because when you have greyhounds, you cannot walk more than three feet without someone stopping you with a barage of the following questions?

"Is that a whippet?"

"Can I pet your dog?"

"Is that a Great Dane?"

"What kind of dog is that?"

And invariably, fellow greyhound owners attend these events, and you end up in a forty-five minute discussion about greyhounds, rescues, racing history, geneology, etc.

Here is a list of a what my husband and I did  at the Scottish Games besides stop and talk to people about our dogs:

  • Looked at one wool sweater (but we never made a deicision about buying it because people were stopping to talk to us about our dogs)

  • Watched half of a sheep herding event (Chase and Trinity were too restless to stand still for more than a few minutes)

  • Bought food (but had to stand and eat, and as Trinity jerked at the end of her leash,  the remaining contents in my bowl of haggis flipped over and into my purse)

  • Drank a beer (successfully)

  • Stepped and fell into a hole badly bruising both knees

  • Viewed British imported and antique cars (but only saw a few--waylaid talking to other greyhound owners whose dog was distantly related to our retired racer).

Finally, exhausted after three hours of talking to people and seeing next to nothing, we walked what seemed like three miles back to our car and headed home to collapse.

The dogs had a great time.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Two Book Tour Stops Today!

I have two virtual book tours overlapping at the moment. My tour with Pump Up Your Book starts today at The Examiner.  I'm also visiting Celia Kennedy's blog today with Fiction Addiction tours. You can check out that link HERE and enter the amazon gift card giveaway!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Cephalopod Coffeehouse: The Best Book I('m) Read(ing) in August

It's that time of the month again! Time for the Cephalopod Coffeehouse and my discussion about the best book I read in August.

Unfortunately, this was a bit of a dry month for me reading-wise. Between the book release and all that went along with that, my fantastic trip to California, and the untimely return of my job responsibilities (school is back in session), I didn't get to read as much as I would have liked.

I was going to talk about the book I'm currently reading. It's a scary one called The Silence by Sarah Rayne.

I really the concept of the book, which is a mixture of old letters offering clues as to what happened in this haunted house intermingled with the modern narration of those experiencing the house's terror. This book started out really strong, but it really lagged in the middle, and at the end it took off again. So I'm a bit "on the fence" about it.

Therefore, I've decided to talk about a craft book by James Scott Bell called Write Your Novel from the Middle.

This is a short, to-the-point book, and as a writer you can pick it up, read a little, and immediately come away from the page with usable information.

At first I was a little skeptical about this technique. As a writer, I usually begin with the first chapter and just keep forcing my way through the weeds and the swamps of writer's block and difficult stop/starts until I reach the end. James Scott Bell completely shakes up that technique suggesting that you start directly in the center of the book with the scene that forces the main character to examine their heart, motives, or situation. He provides examples of classic books like Gone with the Wind and To Kill a Mockingbird. If you turn to the exact center of the novels, you find the character in some kind of self examination or situation assessment. For example, in Gone with the Wind, the exact middle is Scarlett's great speech "I'll never go hungry again." She realizes that this war is nothing like she thought it would be, nothing has turned out the way she'd hoped, but she's the sort of person who will rise above, conquer, and survive.

I tried this little experiment myself. I turned to the middle of some classics I know and love--Rebecca, for instance. In the middle of this classic novel, the narrator realizes that Mrs. Danvers has completely sabotaged her costume for the ball, suggesting she wear a custom-made dress from the paintings in the hall. When Maxim de Winter's young wife does this, her husband and the other guests are shocked. She looks exactly like Rebecca. Instead of wowing the guests, the opposite effect occurs, and Mrs. Danvers is pleased as punch. The narrator realizes Danvers hates her and wants her to disappear as she can never replace Rebecca. (Here's the scene in the movie in case you want to view it).

I must confess that I'm not completely finished with the book yet, but I'm trying out the technique, and I have to admit that it's working really well for my current work-in-progress.

So it's not a fiction recommendation this month, but the writers in our midst may find this book useful and surprisingly original as a book of craft.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Heartbreak and the Book Tour Stop #4

Today's blog stop at Chick Lit Chickadees includes my guest post on heartbreak! Happy reading!

Check out link HERE.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Narrow Escape and Blog Stop #3

Just last week, I, my husband, and two friends of ours were toodling around Sonoma County, enjoying wine tastings, beautiful scenery, and fantastic, temperate weather.

We planned our stay right at the end of my summer vacation, so our flight left San Francisco Saturday afternoon. On the way to the airport, one of our friends made a joke about the contingency plan for earthquakes written in the hotel room's notebook.

"It says to get under a table and hold onto the legs," he laughed. "So, I guess I'll be under the table madly flipping through pages trying to figure out what to do during an earthquake."

We all laughed.

This spawned a conversation about the last earthquake in San Francisco when my husband still lived in the Bay area, the damage done, etc. In those moments, the thought actually crossed my mind:  wouldn't that be something if one were to happen while we're talking about it?

But our flight left that afternoon safely and without incident and we arrived home late that night.

Sunday morning the Napa earthquake hit. I couldn't believe it. It was surreal. I was thankful that we had escaped right before it hit. I was even more thankful that no one in the area died in the 6.1 quake.

Our friend who had traveled with us commented that "everyone in that area lives so precariously--never knowing when an earthquake might befall them." My husband, however, assured him that no one in San Francisco or the surrounding areas walked around fearing the next earthquake. They live their lives. And if one hits, they have preparedness plans in place.

It made me think about the fact that we all live somewhat "precariously." Earthquakes aren't the only disasters that befall areas, and we can't spend our days wondering what horrible things could happen and when. For those of us who trust in God, we turn to him, pray for safety, and leave it in his hands. All of us can take all kinds of safety measures (and should at times), but we can't see the future, and we can't really live out our lives if we're constantly fearing what terrible thing might happen next.

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.
Isaiah 26:3 NIV

Song from the Ashes book tour stop number 3 is today at Georgina Troy's blog! You can read the interview HERE.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Second Stop!

The second stop on the blog tour is a great review from Brook Cottage Books!

You can check it out by clicking on this LINK.

Monday, August 25, 2014

The First Blog Tour Begins!

My first blog tour for Song from the Ashes begins today hosted by Brook Cottage Books. The first stop is a fantastic review from Echoes in an Empty room! 

After that, be sure you travel over to Deal Sharing Aunt to enter the raffle for a $25 Amazon gift card giveaway!

I'll keep everyone posted on each day's blog visit (and whether it's a review, giveaway, guest post, or interview).

Thanks for following!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Confessions of a Bear-Phobic

Everyone who knows me knows I love animals. I love all kinds of animals, including the dangerous ones in the wild. From the safety of my television screen or the cover of a National Geographic magazine, they’re beautiful creatures. There are no tigers in our neighborhood, no rhinos running through our backyard, so there’s no reason for me to fear them. The only real "semi-dangerous" wild animal I’ve encountered in our domestic life is probably a coyote—occasionally they enter suburbia—but they’re more of a threat to small animals than to people.

In the past few years, however, I have developed a strange fear of bears. While driving up to Great Meadow, Virginia a few years ago for a camping trip, my husband and I saw a big black bear poking his head out of the trees. That pretty much ended the fun part of the camping trip for me. Our small dog was with us, and along with my own personal safety, I was suddenly terrified for her welfare (even though we were camping with about five other couples who all had small children, and they didn’t seem at all worried). My husband assured me that spotting the bear was a fluke—no other bears would be around. Once we arrived at the camp ground, however, the sign posted on the ranger station read: Mama bear and her three cubs have been seen roaming these campgrounds. Be on alert. Please use bear boxes to lock up all food.


And that just about did it for me. I spent the rest of the day expecting to see a bear lumbering into our campground, and I couldn’t sleep that night for fear of a bear attack. We ended up only staying one night and left early the next day. A camper I am not.
So during our travels this past week in California, I once again experienced my fear of the almighty bear. While hiking in South Lake Tahoe, I asked my husband, “Are there any bears around here?”

“No,” he answered. “In all the years I’ve been coming up here, I’ve never seen a bear.”
The very next thing I saw was this:


Fun over.
But we had friends with us, so I pushed through the fear, hiking along the wooded paths and around the lake. We even rented some bicycles and rode through the woods (I figured at least I’d have a good chance of outrunning bears on a bike).

Just as I was beginning to relax and have a good time, we stopped at a look-out point and began chatting with a couple--there with their yellow lab. Somehow the conversation turned to bears and how Lake Tahoe was filled with them.
“The last six years they’ve been really active around here and in the residential areas,” the wife told us. And then they proceeded to relay a story about their house being repeatedly burglarized by bears that literally ripped the front door off the hinges, entered the house and made themselves at home (including raiding the refrigerator). “And then they just left again,” she assured us. “The bears were gone by the time we got home.”
To me, a bear home-invasion experience is much like people who hear voices in a house telling them to “get out!" A bear ripping the front door off of my home and entering it would have the same effect on me: a For Sale sign in the front yard.

So as we rode back to the camp ground to return our bikes, I felt newly assured that my fear of bears was completely justified.


What fears do you have?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Some Upcoming Dates of Importance

Well, at least I think they're important! My blog tour through Pump Up Your Book is coming up September 2-26! See dates and venues below!

Divider 9PUYB Tour Schedule A
Divider 9
Tuesday, September 2
Interview at Examiner
Wednesday, September 3
Guest Blogging at The Story Behind the Book
Monday, September 8
Interview at The Writer’s Life
Tuesday, September 9
Book Feature at Bound 2 Escape
Wednesday, September 10
Book Review at A Simple Life, Really?
Thursday, September 11
Book Feature at Reading, Writing & Ruckus
Monday, September 15
Character Interview at The Literary Nook
Wednesday, September 17
Book Review at Undercover Book Reviews
Tuesday, September 23
Character guest post at Written Love
Wednesday, September 24
Book Review at Seasons of Opportunities
Thursday, September 25
Book Review at Books, Reviews, ETC
Friday, September 26
Book Review & Guest Blogging at Jersey Girl Book Reviews