Book # 5 Has Crossed the Finish Line!

Just a teeny-tiny update for those of you who have been following my progress and cheering me on toward the completion of book # 5 in my Smoky Mountain Novel Series: Book # 5 — This Fire In My Heart — has crossed the finish line! We’re currently ironing out a few last details about publication, and it should be available to purchase in about a week.

It’s a love story that will probably bring a sentimental tear to your eye now and then, but will warm your heart all the way to your toes by the end.

I’ll be in touch with links for purchasing as soon as I have them.


The Author Adventures # 3

Most of my friends know that I have a great love for lighthouses, and several years ago, two of my best friends, Roy and Donna Manasco, came across a small print of a painting by Steven Sundram, “Sureal Moments,” which focused on a lighthouse standing as sentry over a vast expanse of beach during a storm, and a beautiful solid white horse approaching the lighthouse. They bought the print for me and presented it to me as a gift on a Sunday morning at church. I was delighted with the scene immediately, and after arriving home with it, I sat and looked at it for some time before setting it aside to concentrate on my work. I was in the middle of writing two novels at the time, and they needed all my attention. So I had intended to work on one of them most of the rest of the day.

However, I placed Steve Sundram’s picture against the music rack of my keyboard, and sat down on the sofa across from it to eat some lunch. As I ate, I kept looking at the picture, and it literally drew me into it until my imagination began to build to the point that I felt I knew the place personally. Words began flowing through me, as if I were describing it in detail for someone else. I felt that I knew the people who lived there, who walked that beach and shared their lives on it. (Although they are not visible in the painting, they are there.) I even felt as if I knew the horse. I knew his name was Moondancer.

But I also recognized what was happening inside me: I was on the verge of birthing a brand new novel based on that picture. Now, at that time, I had already written six inspirational novels, three of which had been published and were currently on the market. However, every novel I had written previously had been born out of a specific story in my own mind — based on a particular character, problem, or theme. I had never written a novel that focused on a setting of any kind, and even my five-book series The Smoky Mountain Series, keeps the focus on the setting at a minimum.

So starting a book based solely on a physical setting was completely out of character for me. Furthermore, I scolded myself for even thinking about starting a new novel when the current books were still not finished. Immediately, I jumped up, walked over to the picture, turned it around backwards so that I could not see it anymore, and tried to finish my lunch.

But by the time I had finished eating, the descriptive passages flowing through my mind had grown into paragraphs. I fought off the temptation to sit down to the computer and pull up a blank page. I told myself that I absolutely had to finish the other work, one part of which was facing a specific deadline. But those words kept pressing through me. I managed to leave the room and do something else for several minutes, but before I knew it, I was back in the living room, turning the picture back around and looking at it again. I put it down and picked it up multiple times.

Eventually I began to get a handle on the main character — a man who had suffered serious emotional trauma and needed healing. A man who had made his way to this ocean, this beach, this place – in order to find peace and quiet, time and solitude, a touch of eternity — so that he could heal. At that point I didn’t know what he had suffered or what he was running from. Nor did I have any insight into what form and process his healing would take. I just knew that the story would be his story; he would be living there temporarily, and that the other people who lived there were going to have a significant part to play in his healing.

I fought the temptation and the draw of that painting until 3:00 in the afternoon, at which time, I sat down at my computer, pulled up a blank page, and began writing the novel Racing Toward the Light. Of course, it didn’t have the title at that point. But I wrote everything I saw and felt in that painting, and I didn’t stop writing until I had the lighthouse inhabited and the main character named Noah Bennet. I still didn’t know what his terrible past was or what would happen to him in the story, but I was determined to find out. And I can say, without any reservation, that I virtually lived in that painting for the entire three months it took to write the story.

Over the next two weeks, I realized two things: this story would take the bold step of dealing with the subject of the supernatural, which had been experiencing a resurgence in literature and movies at the time. Several conversations that I had with other people concerning the surge of interest in supernatural subjects, especially witchcraft and its effects, led me to realize that I had the rest of the story in that subject matter.

I’ve learned that when an author lets a story begin to tell itself on paper, he finds that it has within itself much more than he ever thought about when he wrote the first word. This story, conceived out of a picture of an unnamed place, built itself into a masterpiece that takes an intimate look into the world of the supernatural while, at the same time, allowing readers to follow the earthly characters as their lives relate to and are impacted by the supernatural realm. The story of spiritual warfare in both realms is sure to inspire and encourage faith in the readers.   

Racing Toward The Light also gradually eased its way into a powerful love story. That’s the second thing I realized: that in every book, whether the author planned it or not, there is a love story just waiting to be told.

But now, to the second leg of this author adventure: When the book was finished, I wanted, with all my heart to be able to use Steven Sundram’s painting for the cover. I contacted him to find out what terms he could offer for the use of his work, and I must say that he offered me a very generous proposal. That fact, in itself, was a blessing. Nevertheless, I did not feel that I could afford to accept. I knew that even if I got my hands on that amount of money, I would feel obligated to apply it to a number of other necessities. In fact, even before I contacted Steve Sundram, I had worked diligently to try to create a “second-best” cover, using a friend’s picture of another lighthouse. It was not very satisfying, of course, but I knew it would serve the purpose if necessary.

However, unknown to me, a very dear friend, who had read and been intrigued by Racing Toward The Light — and who had done a thorough job of editing it for me — had been meditating on the fact that this painting had been so powerful that it had ignited the spark that became this bold and brave story. He felt in his heart that it was wrong for the book to use a “second-best” cover. His words were, “It would be an injustice for this book to have any cover other than the painting that inspired it in the first place — the painting you lived in all the time you wrote the story.”

He insisted that I stay in touch with Steve Sundram and not refuse his offer. I couldn’t figure out why he was so adamant that I continue to plan on using the picture that inspired the book, and I felt a little uneasy about continuing to communicate with the artist, knowing I did not actually have the money in my hands.

Then one day, about two weeks after I had begun to confer with Steve Sundram concerning the use of his painting, this friend, who insists on remaining anonymous, simply handed me the money necessary to purchase the rights to use the painting. Now this individual does not consider himself a Christian, but he was so touched by this Christian-themed novel that he wanted to be a part of sharing it with others.

Because most of the novels I write focus on truths from God’s Word as they apply to our every-day lives, I do believe that the Lord inspires most of what I write.  And He has had to work out some problems along the way with the writing, publishing, and marketing of several of those novels. But Racing Toward The Light seems to me to be the recipient of an extra amount of the Lord’s intervention. I consider the original gift of a painting that captured my heart so completely — and the outright gift of all the finances necessary to purchase rights to the painting for the cover — to be proof that the Lord has taken a hand in bringing this book to the reading world. The book was first published in paperback in 2009, and it has been available on Amazon in paperback and digital for the past four years.

Writing Racing Toward The Light was truly one of my greatest adventures as an author, and, personally, I believe it offers an adventure and a great blessing for everyone who reads it.

I’m offering the E-Book version of Racing Toward The Light at a special discount price of $0.99 for the rest of the month of October. The price is good from now until midnight October 31, 2020 (U. S. Central Standard Time). If you don’t own a Kindle, Amazon offers a free Kindle app for any device when you order the book.

You can find your copy HERE and start your own adventure with Racing Toward The Light.


The Author Adventures – #2

People often ask me where I get ideas for my novels, and they also like to know the “behind-the-scenes” details of the actual writing. So periodically I share some of those details — especially the ones that I found personally enjoyable or that helped me grow as a writer. The writing of Quenton’s Honor taught me much about dedication and commitment to a project — the kind of commitment that refuses to throw in the towel because tracking down those miniscule details takes multiple phone conversations, some with foreign speaking individuals, and hours poring over dusty facts and figures and then double-checking to see if any of them have changed since I started the research. But it also taught me that even the drudgery work has its own rewards in the positive results of self-discipline.

Quenton’s Honor was actually my third novel, but it was the first of all my novels to be published, with the first printing coming out  in 2008. It was marketed by its original publisher for several years, but now it is currently available on Amazon as well. The basic story had been hanging around in my mind and my heart for months before it took enough shape to send me to the keyboard to write the first words. Once I was started, however, there was no stopping. I had to do a considerable amount of research where Pakistan was concerned, and I had to keep reminding myself that I was dealing with a huge time difference between St. Louis Missouri, and Karachi, Pakistan. That time difference didn’t cause me nearly as much trouble, though, as the loss of 12 whole days when I decided — after finishing the novel — to substitute Chapter 3 for Chapter 1.

As often happens in writing a work this long, once it’s done, the author can look back and see new possibilities for the beginning chapter — scenes that will better help grab the reader and get him involved with the story immediately. I realized that Quenton’s Honor would be a better story if I took Chapter 3 and gave it to the readers first. It was a beautiful trade, and I was very happy with it, except for the fact that I had lost 12 days of action. Not to be thwarted, however, I managed to squeeze in a little flashback to grab those 12 days. Of course, I’ll admit it took me 3 days to figure out how to make it all work. But in the end, all was well.

Another editing change came when I turned it over to a friend who reads all my novels critically. I like to have him read my works before anyone else, if possible, because he is very particular about the quality of books he reads and is eager and quick to speak up if a book is lacking in any area. When he read Quenton’s Honor, he loved the book overall and was genuinely touched by several parts, but he was not at all happy with one scene where Quenton’s life is about to be snuffed out by his terrorist guards, and the men sent to rescue him have not arrived. My friend insisted the scene needed more energy and physical action.

Now, this friend is a very shy, introverted, quiet-spoken person, and definitely not the physical confrontation type. However, when I asked him for his ideas about changes to that particular scene, he got up from his desk and began to act out all the parts of the physical confrontation for the scene. I sat and watched him with my mouth open. Here was an entirely different person from the one I’d known several years. He was so energized as he acted out all the parts that he made a believer out of me, and I went home and re-wrote that scene exactly the way he had acted it out. Of course, I acknowledged him gratefully in the front of the book.

Making those changes before publication seems to have been the right decision. The feedback from the book has been very positive — more positive, I think, than it would have been if I hadn’t gone beyond just writing a good story. The fact that I grabbled with the troublesome places until I got them “right” has made all the difference in my opinion.  Any of the rest of you who read the book are welcome to let me know what you think as well. To say that writing Quenton’s Honor was an adventure is a bit of an understatement. I think the extent that I grew as an author during its creation makes it more of a major life event for me. I love that I was able to write the story and share it, and I love that I learned so much that helped me hone my craft more effectively for the sake of all the books that came afterwards.


If any of you readers would like to check out Quenton’s Honor for yourselves, you can find it here.


My Latest Watercolor Project

My latest watercolor project.
DREAMCATCHER W- CROSS
In book # 5 of my “Smoky Mountain Novel Series” — which is currently in the writing process — the main character, a Cherokee artisan, is inspired by the Lord to create these Christian-themed dream catchers as a way of helping spread the Gospel truth that Jesus and His Holy Spirit are the only true protection in our lives and the only trustworthy power for man to believe in.

At Long Last — Book 5 Is In the Works

HEMLOCK PHOTO WITH GENERAL SERIES TITLE

Several years ago, the first four books in my Smoky Mountain Novel Series went on the market. I had always intended to write at least one more book in the series — and did get two chapters of it done — but life just sort of got in the way — if you know what I mean. And part of that life was other books that were pressing from within to get out. During these intervening years, I have written 8 other novels and loads of short stories and poetry. But book number 5 of the series just wouldn’t materialize — at least not all the way.

I love the family of wonderful characters in the series, and many readers have felt the same. In fact, I just had one reader tell me this past week — as she was reading the whole series — one complete book a day — that the people in the stories felt like family. I was delighted to hear it, and her telling me that just nudged me that one more little bit to get back to the keyboard and finish book 5 this time.

So, that’s my assignment for this week. And I thought in light of that fact, I’d re-post a super short piece I did a few years ago that gave an excerpt from Book # 5’s story. I wrote this super condensed piece in response to a flash fiction challenge, but it’s from the first chapter of This Fire In My Heart — which is now well on its way to seeing daylight as Book # 5 in The Smoky Mountain Series of inspirational novels:
______________________

He was Cherokee, she Scottish-American. But the moment they met in the airport coffee shop, they were connected. Waiting out the fog, they talked like old friends. When her plane was called, he carried her bag to her boarding gate.

A question in her eyes, she said, “Wow, Chicago and Dallas – talk about two people going in opposite directions.”

Light flared in his eyes as he realized she didn’t want their connection to end any more than he did. He reached out, thinking to touch her cheek, but caught himself just in time. Such an intimate touch with someone he hardly knew wasn’t like him, but the pull of her was so strong — so elemental. He quickly bent and picked up her bag and handed it to her, smiling.

“Opposite directions today,” he said, “but not always, I think.”

A spark in her eyes leaped to his, just as the boarding line began moving, and he promised: “I will see you again, Joy.”

________________________________________________
Excerpt: This Fire in My Heart


‘QUENTON’S HONOR’ – Now Available on Amazon

QUENTON FRONT COVER -- NICE AND SHARP FROM CD FOR KINDLE - croppedWhat happens when twenty-first century technology comes face to face with the most powerful force the human race has ever known? Find out in this story of intrigue, romance, courage, and faith:  QUENTON’S HONOR.

A man’s love for his country; a man’s love for a woman.

Securing a nation; capturing a heart.

It’s a story of patriotism.  It’s a love story.  It’s a story of one man’s journey to God.

American industrial magnate Quenton Sutherland’s efforts at humanitarian aid carry him on a fact-finding tour into the Middle-Eastern hotbed of war-torn Pakistan. While there, he uncovers a terrorist plot involving three cells already poised for attack back in the U.S. Before he can foil their plan, he is taken hostage to prevent his exposing their plot.

In the days that follow, Quenton comes face-to-face with his need for the God he abandoned decades before — while he, along with investigative journalist Honor Fairfield, and the Department of Homeland Security, begin an ever-twisting adventure and discover life-changing connections that none of them could have foreseen.

I wrote this book years ago, and it was first published in 2004. But this is the first time its been offered in paperback through Amazon. I still love the story. Even though I’m the author, the story still makes me cry in all the right places, makes my heart beat faster with each embrace of the lovers, and thrills my soul when the characters encounter a God whose love is focused on blessing them every step of the way on this journey.

The story has been called a cross between ‘You’ve Got Mail’ and ‘Song of Solomon.’ I don’t know about that, but I do know amazing things — even spiritual things — can happen through the wonders of computer technology and in the world of cyberspace. You’ll just have to see for yourself.

Get your copy in paperback or digital here.
The E-book is on sale for $1.99 through June.

You can read a short sample at this link, but bear in mind that Amazon’s samples on the product page are sometimes a little screwed up. Hopefully, you’ll at least get enough of the text to make a decision on whether the story’s for you or not.



Encouraging Love Story — On Sale for Valentine’s Month

JONAH'S SONG AMAZON COVER - FRONTDon’t forget about the big sale on JONAH’S SONG.

This 4th book in The Smoky Mountain Series is a beautiful, memorable love story. Although it’s book # 4 in the series, it also stands alone as a complete and inspiring story. In fact, all the novels in this series are equally capable of standing alone without the other stories.

Special prices through Valentine’s Day!

E-Book —- $1.99

Paperback — $7.99

To read some excerpts from the story, you can visit this post.

Find the book in both formats on Amazon.



 

It’s February – and Time for a Great Love Story

VALENTINE SPECIAL:  February 1 — February 14 

E-Book: $1.99

Paperback: $7.99


JONAH'S SONG AMAZON COVER - FRONT

What do the Biblical story of Ruth and the 21st-century novel, Jonah’s Song, have in common? Well you’ll have to read both stories to find out. Of course most people know the basic story of Ruth, so that leaves just one story left to read.

I’ll give you a hint: Ruth’s story has an important lesson that Jonah McDaniels and Valentina Rosswell (the novel’s hero and heroine) need to study and take to heart if their own love story has a chance at a happy ending.

Actually, even the Lord has His hands full trying to work things out for these two lovers. That’s why He had to take advantage of Ruth and Boaz along the way. If we stretched our imagination just a little, we might even say that by making sure the story of Ruth was included in the Bible, the Lord sort of “planned ahead” for when He’d need it as a teaching tool.

If you’re a true romantic – and enjoy the tingle of a touch – and a tear now and then – and catching your breath at the passion of a kiss – and using God’s Word to work out life’s problems – this story is definitely for you.

Although Jonah’s Song is the 4th book in the Smoky Mountain Series, it — like all the books in that series — can stand alone as a complete story.  Although many of the characters progress from story to story, readers will not be confused or disappointed in any way by reading one book before the other.

This book makes a great Valentine’s Day gift for your sweetie.

I’ll include some brief excerpts below, and here’s the link to find JONAH’S SONG and place your order – for yourself – or for the one you love.


EXCERPT: JONAH’S SONG, pp. 1-4

Valentina’s aquamarine eyes popped wide open. She sat bolt upright, her heart beating erratically, as she looked around her at her bedroom, realization dawning on her. She let out a gusty sigh. “Oh! … I knew it was too good to be true!” She sighed once more. She’d been dreaming — again — about Professor Jonah McDaniels — again!

She fell back against her pillows once more, running her hands through her long, loosely curled hair. As she felt it flow between her fingers, she recalled the scene from her dream where Jonah had buried his hand in her hair. She closed her eyes, wanting to relive the whole dream and hold onto it as long as possible.

Jonah had been standing a couple feet away from her, his conductor’s baton in his hand, his eyes burning with his feelings. Finally, he laid down the baton closed the gap between them and took her, somewhat roughly, into his arms.

Valentina swallowed, trying to get back the breath his sudden embrace had stolen. Her heart beat wildly as his eyes moved to her lips. Without conscious thought, she glanced down to his mouth, his full, sculptured lips – one of the first two things she had noticed about him the day she’d met him – the other being his deep violet eyes . . .

The exhilarating scent of his cologne sent her senses whirling, and the warmth of his breath as he brought his face close to hers was so sweet she couldn’t resist closing her eyes. Her lips were parted slightly, her breath almost suspended, and as his mouth reached hers, his lips were bold and strong as they molded hers to his own. Everything in her melted as she gave herself up to this kiss she’d wanted for so long, but had never dared hope for.

He deepened the kiss, and she clung to him. When he finally pulled back for a moment, she uttered his name, once, breathlessly. “Jonah.”

“Hey, Vallie!” That shout came from Katey, one of the two girls Valentina shared the apartment with, and it was coupled with a pounding on Valentina’s bedroom door. So much for wallowing in her dream. “You’d better get a move on if you don’t want to be late for rehearsal. You know what Dr. McDaniels will say if you walk in late.”

“Oh, no!” Vallie had forgotten about the string ensemble’s rehearsal this morning. Just the thing she didn’t need: facing Dr. McDaniels right after that dream. . . .

She stood in front of her mirror in her pajamas. It was time for the lecture again. She looked at her reflection sternly, and pointed her finger at the mirror. “This is just your junior year, Valentina Rosswell. You still have three months left of this year and your whole senior year to go. And next year is going to be full of performances, a good many of them with Dr. Jonah McDaniels conducting. Do you want to end up making a total fool of yourself? … Now, you go out there and act like the musician that you are! You treat this Dr. McDaniels like any other stuffy, old college professor.”

Suddenly she was picturing him dressed in a baggy sweater, the lower part of his face covered with a beard, his hair gray and in total disarray. She shook her head and sighed loudly. Even like that he looked good enough to melt her bones.


EXCERPT: JONAH’S SONG, pp. 213-215

She let out a long sigh, looking toward the windows herself.  “It’s a gorgeous evening out, isn’t it?”

He glanced back to the windows now, noticing that night was making rapid advances, twice as many stars showing up now as when he had been standing there looking out.  “Yes, one of the loveliest we’ve had.”  He turned back to face Vallie.  The light in the room was dim, but he could see Vallie’s face quite well since they were standing so close.  Her eyes were luminous, and he couldn’t resist the magnetism in them.

He stepped closer and spoke in barely more than a whisper.  “But not even such an evening can compare with your loveliness, Valentina.”  As he spoke, he slowly lifted his hand and touched the tips of his fingers to her cheek, gently gliding them along her skin.  He felt her tremble slightly at his touch.  “You’re so very beautiful, you know.”

She shook her head, a barely perceptible move, as if to say that she hadn’t known.

“Oh … yes,” he replied, still in that quiet voice.  “Indeed you are … and not just beautiful to look at … but equally as beautiful to know.”  Not actually conscious of what he was doing, he moved his forefinger gently to her mouth and began to trace the outline of her sensuous lips, his own beautifully sculptured mouth opening slightly as if in anticipation of what he wanted to do next.

Valentina held her breath.  She could hardly believe what she was experiencing and wondered fleetingly if she were dreaming again, because she knew that Jonah McDaniels wanted to kiss her — was moving toward her even now to do so.  His face was only inches away from hers now, and she could feel the sweet warmth of his breath against her skin.  Oh, this was exactly the way she’d dreamed it again and again.  Oh, please, don’t let me wake up yet, she thought, as her eyelids drifted closed of their own volition.

Suddenly, she felt space between them and without opening her eyes, knew that he had drawn away and even taken a step back.  She did open her eyes then, looking at him with the confusion she felt showing plainly on her face.  But she hurried to camouflage it, embarrassed enough that he obviously knew she had expected to be kissed, and he, evidently, had changed his mind.  This was no dream, but it had ended just as unhappily as all of those dreams had.  She dipped her head slightly, focusing on the floor for a moment to try to collect her thoughts.  All she knew at this moment was that she wanted to get away from him as quickly as possible.

“Well,” she said, needing to clear her throat to go on.  “I guess I’d better be getting back.” She looked right at him for just a moment and somehow mustered up a small smile.  “I hope you get all your problems worked out.”

He shoved both of his hands in his pants pockets and glanced down at the floor momentarily.  Then he looked back at her with a rather grim smile that she could barely see in the gathering darkness of the room.  “I’m afraid that isn’t too likely, Valentina.  Not every problem has a solution, you know.  … Some of them just have to be endured with as much grace as possible.”

“I … I’m sorry, Jonah.  … I wish … I wish I could help somehow.”

He laughed out loud then, but it was a bitter laugh, and he choked it off quickly and looked into her eyes. When he spoke, it was so quietly she had to strain to hear the words clearly.  “Go home, Valentina.”


EXCERPT: JONAH’S SONG, pp. 237-239

Cameron paused, looking at his brother, who walked back to his chair, but only leaned on the back of it.  “I think Vallie loves you, and personally, I think your love is exactly what she needs … and wants.”

“Then why don’t I feel that way about it too?”

“Because you’re letting your head rule instead of your heart.  You know, God uses our hearts to lead us into His will much more often that He does our heads, Jonah.”

Jonah stood there with his elbows resting on the back of the chair, looking at his hands clasped in front of him.  “It’s interesting you should say that.  A few nights ago, when I was really wrestling with all this, I picked up my Bible and just opened to wherever, and the first passage I read was from Proverbs three.  The fifth verse says, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding.”

“That’s it, Jonah.  You’ve been leaning heavily on your own reasoning about this thing and not on your heart at all from what I can see.  You’ve served God faithfully all of your life.  Surely you can trust that He has a strong enough hold on you by now to lead you where He wants you. And to keep you from taking wrong turns. If something – the same something – keeps showing up strongly and consistently in your heart, and it’s something that doesn’t go against God’s Word, then it’s most likely the Lord Who planted it in your heart in the first place.” . . .

. . .   Jonah took his seat in the chair again as Cameron continued: “What you have to offer may be the very things that Valentina needs most in a husband.  You need to at least give the Lord … and Valentina … the opportunity to put in their two cents worth, rather than just deciding everything in your own finite mind.”

Jonah grinned at his brother’s bluntness, but then he sighed and leaned his head back against the chair, closing his eyes.  After several minutes, he spoke softly.  “I composed a song to her, did I tell you?”

“No.  When was this?”

“A couple of weeks ago.  I was so close to drowning in all that I was feeling for her … and wanting from her…  that I just picked up the violin and began to play it out.  After I’d played it several times, I decided I needed to get it written down so I wouldn’t lose it.”  He laughed lightly.  “As if I could lose it. … It‘s as much a part of me as my breath.”

Cameron looked at his brother, whose eyes were still closed.  His heart swelled with pride in this older brother who was able to create such beauty with his gifts.  How like Jonah to release the love he felt in the creation of a beautiful piece of music that millions of people could one day share and enjoy.

“Have you played it for her?” he asked now.

Jonah opened his eyes and looked at Cameron.  “No, I haven’t.  … And I don’t think I ever intended to.”

“Then you’re an idiot.”

Jonah’s eyes widened.  His brother had never spoken to him that way before, and he wasn’t sure what to make of it.  “You sound pretty convinced.”

“I am.  …


EXCERPT: JONAH’S SONG, pp.275-279

On the night of October 20th, which was supposed to have been her wedding night,  Vallie couldn’t get to sleep, so she finally got up and went into her parents’ living room and sat down on the sofa, curling up into the corner, trying to think of some way to get her mind off Jonah and how she ached for him.  She huddled there, hurting, but trying not to cry anymore.  But all her efforts were in vain, because the tears slipped out anyway, and as the pain insisted on pulsing through her, the sobs started again.  She had tried to be as quiet as possible, but her father had heard her go downstairs, and then he heard her sobbing again, and decided it was time his little girl’s daddy did something to change things … somehow.

He slipped out of bed and put on his robe as quietly as possible so as not to wake his wife.  He knew she was hurting almost as much as Valentina herself — just because mothers who really loved their daughters did that — and he slipped downstairs.  He turned on one of the table lamps before he sat down beside Valentina and put his arm around her, calling her by his pet name for her.

“Hey, now, Valentine, it’s time you listened to your daddy and listened good,” he said, handing her a handful of tissues and giving her a little shake with the arm he had around her.

Vallie took the tissues and began to blow her nose and wipe her eyes, even though a river of tears still streamed down her face.  “I … I’m sorry I woke you, Daddy.  Did I wake Mom too?”

He shook his head.  “No, she’s still asleep.  And you don’t have anything to be sorry about, Valentine.  You’re hurting … hurting badly … and that’s what family’s for … to help ease the hurt.  Or if we can’t ease it … then we can at least be there to hurt with you until the Lord eases it.”

Vallie gave him a watery smile at those words and leaned her head on his shoulder for a minute.  “Oh, Daddy, I don’t think there is any way to ease this hurt.  It just goes so deep … and it seems so final.”

He pulled back a little so that she raised her head and looked at him.  “Now you listen to me, little girl, there’s nothing final about any of this,” he said sternly, pointing his finger at her.  “This whole thing isn’t over by any means, and I don’t want you giving up and believing it is.”

“What do you mean,” she asked, still wiping every other minute at her nose and eyes.

“I mean just what I say.  So your man went back to Chicago saying he wasn’t going to let you be tied to him when he’d just be a burden to you.  Does that mean everything’s over?”  He shook his head, and continued. “You’ve got to understand that a man just feels like he has to do that … he has to protect the woman he loves from suffering if at all possible, and that’s what Jonah thinks he’s doing.  Plus the fact that his stubborn male ego can’t stand to think that he might have to be really dependent on you for something he feels he has to do for himself. All of that’s just part of a man’s make-up, Valentine.

“But, little girl, that’s just the first phase of what Jonah’s going through. He’s going to come to a time when that ego isn’t going to be as strong … or as stubborn. It’s not going to be enough to pull him through the loneliness and the terrible need he’ll be feeling without you.  Now, if he’d never allowed himself to open up to the truth that he loves you and wants a future with you, he might have been able to go on for the rest of his life at least halfway satisfied with his life without you in it. But not anymore. Now that he’s admitted to himself that he loves you and needs you to make his life complete, there’s no going back.”

“Do you really believe that?”

“Oh, I don’t just believe it, Valentine. I know it. I’m a man myself, you know,” he said, grinning at her now.

Vallie grinned back.

“Now … here’s the thing, Valentine.  When your man finally comes to the place that pride and ego aren’t enough to keep him going forward in this decision he’s made, the only thing left will be his feeling that he still has to protect you.  And that’s where you have a chance to turn this thing around.  When that time comes, he’ll be vulnerable enough that you’ll have a chance to convince him that instead of protecting you, he’s only hurting you, and that you’d rather be with him in his handicap than to be without him the rest of your life … that is,” he said, pausing to look right into her eyes … “if that is the way you feel about it.”

“That’s exactly the way I feel about it. I couldn’t have put my feelings into better words myself.”

“Well, then, I’d say you’ve got your work cut out for you.”

“Exactly what are you trying to say, Daddy?”

“Well … I don’t think it’s for me to tell you exactly what you ought to do, but I’ll tell you this.  Yesterday, in my quiet time with the Lord, I opened my Bible up to the book of Ruth and began to read.  I hadn’t read that book in a long time, and I was surprised how much I enjoyed it.  And as I read through those chapters, I couldn’t help thinking about you from time to time … I guess because it’s kind of a love story, you know, and Boaz is considerably older than Ruth, and so on.  But … anyway … I noticed one thing in particular that stood out to me more than it ever had before.” . . .


All excerpts from Jonah’s Song. Copyright © 2005 by Sandra Pavloff Conner

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You’ll Never Look at Halloween the Same Way Again


DIGITAL VERSION ON SALE THROUGH THE END OF OCTOBER:  $1.99

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RACING FINAL AMAZON COVER - front

RACING TOWARD THE LIGHT

What’s it about?
When a small coastal town is invaded by witchcraft that threatens the lives of the school children and the future of the entire community, the citizens must learn to fight back with a Higher Power. Follow the story as God’s human vessels take their authority in the name of Jesus while the angelic hosts route the demonic forces on the spiritual plane in response to believers enforcing the Word of God. Read it, and you’ll never look at Halloween the same way again.
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Click the link at the top to find out more about the story and purchase your copy.
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Free E-Book — today through September 9

SET FREE - AMAZON FRONT COVER

Do you prefer reading books digitally? Well, then this offer is for you. SET FREE TO LOVE, which is Book # 1 in The Smoky Mountain Series, is available for the next four days absolutely free in digital format.

The book normally sells for $3.99, but since Amazon and I are focusing on The Smoky Mountain Series promotions this month, we’re offering the first book free — for the next 4 days only.

Also, if you don’t own a Kindle device, you can download a free Kindle app for any device that you use. You’ll find the download on the same page where you order the book.

If you enjoy inspirational fiction, I hope you’ll check out Private Detective Maddison Holt’s story in SET FREE TO LOVE. Click on the title to link to the product page for a description and to make your purchase.


 

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Inspirational Romance Goes To School

When there’s no textbook on love, romance can be a little tricky. But God, who’s the original Author of romance, has all the answers in His own book. And Professor Ephraim Kent is about to get an education with a higher degree than he’s ever earned before.
Purchase your own copy in paperback or digital:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/1980587361

 

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Why I Wrote ‘The Smoky Mountain Novel Series’

 


My love affair with the Smoky Mountains began when I was still a very young child. Except for a two-year stint in Fort Wayne, IN, my years between infancy and first grade were spent in Southern Illinois. And all of our family travels took us into the northeastern sections of the country. But when I was six, my family traveled south for the first time. On our way to South Carolina, we passed through Tennessee, and I came face to face with the homeland of my Cherokee ancestors: the Appalachian Mountains – and specifically the area known by that time as The Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

I remember two specific things about those mountains. In one sense they were a little frightening to a six-year old. Highways were not what they are now, and the less developed highways ran in among those mountains with a little more drama than they do today. The inclines were exceptionally steep in places, with warning signs everywhere about making sure autos were in lowest gear and with stories rampant about “runaway” semis going down those inclines. I remember coming around curves more than once where the road looked as though it would literally lead straight into the mountain. It was a little overwhelming in one way, but it was also tremendously exciting as well. The second thing that struck me was that within these mountains and their foothill regions dwelt people of a different culture and attitude toward life. It wasn’t just the Cherokee people who exhibited that difference. It was virtually all the people who called that place home.

That particular trip touched, not just me, but also my parents. They fell in love with Tennessee and decided that they wanted to live there. When an opportunity came to do so – through a job opening in Nashville, TN – my parents jumped at it. Nashville wasn’t in the mountains, of course, but it was a lot closer. I can honestly say that I have never lived any place that was so special to me as Nashville, Tennessee. I fell in love again – with the city of Nashville and the whole state of Tennessee.

In the years following, my family and I made many trips into the Smoky Mountains. We saw the Park and the surrounding towns change considerably during that time, but the area never lost its unique culture. And having a strong Cherokee heritage in my own life, the older I got the more I wanted to know and be known by the people who had given me my great grandmother. My immediate family and I eventually moved back to Illinois, but we have never stopped visiting the Smoky Mountains.

I’ve wondered sometimes if there’s something in my own blood that calls me home to the Smokies. I don’t recall ever visiting any other place –  or even living in any other place – that kept pulling me to come back to it the way the Smokies do — or where I felt so much as if I were “home” each time I visited. Over more recent decades, I’ve tried to maneuver some things in my live and work out a way to have my work and my everyday life in the midst of that area of the country. But the Lord has kept opening doors to the ministry He wants me to do in other areas instead. So those other areas remain my world of everyday life. And, alas, I am still relegated to making visits to my mountains.

But those visits, over the years, have gleaned me an entire family of wonderful characters who do get to live and love and work and play right in the midst of the Smokies. So I’ll have to settle for that. When writing the books in The Smoky Mountain Series, I’ve lived there with them and enjoyed being “home” for all those months. There’s one more book to come, so I’ll continue that enjoyment as I write Book 5: This Fire In My Heart.  I’m grateful that, through these books, I can truly live in two worlds at the same time.

My heart’s telling me that it’s time I worked things out in my schedule to make another trip to that place that’s the next best thing to Heaven. In fact, on my most recent trip to the Smokies, I picked up a little magnet for my refrigerator door that says, “Heaven’s a little closer in the mountains.”  Ahhh, YES, INDEED, IT IS!


If you’d like to read the series, you’ll find the first 4 books in paperback and digital HERE.

 

 


 

Audio Short Stories — My Newest Project

Do you enjoy just sitting back and listening to stories? Then you’ll enjoy my newest project: Audio Short Stories. You’ll find the first story on YouTube now. I’ll make it really easy for you and insert it right here, but if you like it, hop over to the YouTube site so you can click the “thumbs up” symbol and subscribe to my channel so you’ll know when I post the next story in the project.

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From the Christmas Story Archives

Been going through my Christmas story archives and pulled this one out for today.


 

THE SIDEWALK

SIDEWALK BROWN STONE“Well, what’a ya know,” Ben whispered, grinning, seeing his breath form vapors on the Christmas air. “Who would have thought it would be the brick sidewalk?”

He sighed. In one unexpected instant – as his feet had tread the bricks of this dear old sidewalk that had run the length of Main Street all his life – it had happened. He knew for sure the place he’d returned to was still ‘home.’

Just yesterday he’d been dreading coming back – as he had been for a week – from the time the doctors had told him he was almost well enough to make the trip. He knew for sure how much he had changed, and he couldn’t shake the deep, gut-wrenching fear that the whole world had changed as well – including the little town nestled at the foot of the mountains in Montana. He’d grown up here, played high school basketball, and dated the girl from three houses down the street until she’d decided to elope with the captain of the basketball team.

He had to chuckle to himself when he remembered how devastated he’d felt back then. It had been his first serious relationship with a girl, but in hindsight, he realized that he hadn’t really been in love – just fascinated with the boy-girl relationship.

Sometimes when he’d been hunkered down in the trenches, waiting the next command to move out into the threat of enemy fire, he’d started thinking about Allyson, and even though she belonged to someone else now, the memories comforted him. He knew even during those hours that it had nothing to do with Ally or their time together, but it was all about ‘home.’ When he thought of Ally, it took him away from the cold, wet, ugly war he was fighting.

Sometimes he’d remember his mother and could smell again the warm vanilla scent that so often clung to her from her constant baking. He’d conjure up the image of Granddad, sitting with his feet propped in front of the living room fireplace, sweet-scented smoke curling from his pipe. He’d hear again his father’s voice as he read the latest news stories from the paper as the family sat soaking up the security of their home and their quiet life together.

Then, sometimes, when he and his unit were on the move and trekking through secure territory, on their way to the next battlefront, he had remembered walking down that old brick sidewalk – past Old Man Chesterfield’s hardware store, Woolworth’s Five & Dime, the candy and tobacco shop, where he’d bought Ally that huge box of chocolates for the Valentine’s Day they’d celebrated together. There was Mrs. Gallagher’s Boutique next, and then Pansy’s Pancake House. Some days, when his senses were crystal clear, he could nearly taste those light, fluffy concoctions smothered in her special Cherry Cordial Syrup.

When he let his memory take him wherever it willed, he usually ended up thinking about Christmas, and he’d see again the decorations strung the entire length of Main Street, with lights in the windows of every storefront, snowmen standing sentry at almost every corner, and wreaths and holly hanging everywhere. He could almost feel the frost in the air and the festive atmosphere that surrounded shoppers and merchants alike from Thanksgiving to Christmas. And oh those chestnuts! The scent of roasted chestnuts hung over the main business district for two whole weeks before Christmas Day. And often he thought that sweet aroma was his favorite memory of all. Sometimes he swore he could smell those roasted chestnuts even though he was thousands of miles away on foreign soil with no hope of even a warm dinner for that night.

He’d been wishing he could have some of those chestnuts just minutes before the ambush occurred, but then bullets and grenades had killed all thoughts and images of anything but the hell breaking loose in every direction. Those same bullets and grenades had killed twenty of the men in his unit as well. When he’d taken the first hit in his leg and fallen, his best buddy had turned back to help him up. But the bullet that had caught his rescuer in the head had snuffed out his life in seconds, and Ben had taken a second bullet in the chest, blacking out at that point.

Five days later, when he’d regained consciousness in the hospital, he’d found himself hooked to all kinds of tubes and machines. The doctor had been compassionate and kind, assuring him that he was going to make it, but that it would be a month or so before he was fit to leave the hospital. When he’d asked about his unit, the news had been brutal, and he’d found himself so frozen by the grief that he hadn’t even been able to cry.

The day he’d been released and given his extended leave for home, his doctor had been wreathed in smiles. “We’re going to get you back to your family in time for Christmas, Son,” he’d said. And as much as the news brought a spurt of joy to Ben’s heart, it also brought a stab of fear.

He’s made a short journey first to the home of the man who’d been his best friend in combat, the man who’d lost his life trying to save Ben. He’d learned that Rick’s body had been shipped home for burial in the family plot. Ben knew he had to visit that grave and spend some time with Rick’s family before he could get started on the longer journey to his own family. And it was with that family, sitting in Rick’s home, remembering his buddy, that he’d finally been able to let the tears come. With his head on Rick’s mother’s shoulder, and her arms holding him tightly – the way she would never be able to hold her own son – Ben had finally cried out the pain and bitterness and loss.

Eighteen hours later, on the day before Christmas Eve, he boarded the bus that would take him to Montana. He had purposely refrained from letting his family know what bus he was taking. He had to walk out this journey one step at a time – in his own way and in his own timing. He had to find out what kind of world awaited him at the end of this journey, and he had to have the security of facing it on his own terms.

His physical wounds were almost healed, but the wound’s in his soul would be with him forever. And that’s what made him afraid. As long as he didn’t go home, he could always try to tell himself that it was still a place of peace and safety and love and laughter – and that life was still good there. But all the time he sat on the bus, heading to that little town in Montana, he battled with the fear. The questions kept circling through his mind: when he walked down the streets of his old hometown – when he stepped into his mother’s kitchen – when he visited the high school campus – when he sat in the park watching the breeze blow across the lake – when he met with friends in a restaurant –would he find what he’d left behind – or would it all be gone – forced out of existence by the same powers that had changed him forever?

Finally, at the end of the seven hour trip, he stepped off the bus, retrieved his suitcase and stood for a few moments just looking across Main Street at the row of well-remembered businesses – those stores and shops that had filled his dreams and imaginations hours at a time in the rare instances between battles.

Everything glowed with Christmas. It looked the way he would have expected it to look back before he’d had to wade through hatred, filth, and slaughter in another land. But could he relate to this place any longer? Could he ever belong here again? Would it welcome him – would he welcome what he found here now? He slowly walked across Maine and stepped onto the sidewalk that would take him from the north end of town to the south, where his parents lived.

He walked – slowly – hesitantly at first. His eyes caressed the old, worn bricks that stretched out ahead of him the whole two-mile distance of the business district, and he began to realize that each step he took was a familiar experience – the same experience he’d enjoyed for years, day in and day out – those warm brown bricks woven together by expert hands generations ago – just slightly uneven but plenty smooth enough for easy walking.

And every step reassured him. He began to breathe easier now, and as he took a good, deep breath, his nostrils twitched a little. Chestnuts, roasting, in a cart just up the street about two more blocks. He walked with more purpose then, his eyes still caressing the worn, welcoming bricks beneath his feet, stretching out before him invitingly.

Finally, he chuckled out loud. Yep … it was okay. … It was really okay. … He was okay.  And this good old brick friend convinced him — more with every step he took — that home was still everything he needed it to be.

THE END