Smoky Mountain Series Continues

Just a little update to say Book # 6 of the Smoky Mountain Novel Series will be out around the first of May. GRACE FOR ATTICUS  has been one of my most challenging books in a long time, but I’ve been in love with it from the first paragraph. I thought I’d give you a little sneak preview just to stir up a tad of interest. See the excerpt below:

GRACE FOR ATTICUS

Copyright © 2021 Sandra Pavloff Conner

Excerpt: Chapter One

The glass front door of Tsalagi Craft and Trade Center flew open, the bell at the top of the door jangling so hard it sounded like an alarm. Grace Walela Ross looked up from the accounting work she was doing at the desk in the back left corner of the store.

Her black hair, cut in short tousled layers accented her black eyes and her bronze Cherokee skin. She rose to her full height of five feet, seven inches, and although she was quite delightful to look at as she stood behind her desk, the man stomping his way toward her had such fire in his eyes, it was unlikely he had taken time to notice.

“I understand you’re the one responsible for this trash,” he said, slamming a copy of The Sword newspaper down on top of the desk.

“I’m the editor of the paper, if that’s what you mean,” Grace replied, standing straight and looking him in the eye. He was a good half a foot taller than she was, and all powerful, barely restrained muscle. She felt only slightly intimidated, but had no intention of letting fear have a place.

“Do you have a problem with something in the this week’s issue, Mr. – ?”

“ A problem? No, I don’t have a problem. I have a legitimate complaint against your libelous excuse for journalism. You’re the one who has the problem, Ms. – ” He stopped and glanced at the masthead of the paper to double-check her name. “Ms. Grace Walela Ross! Because unless you print an immediate retraction – and on the front page – you’re going to court and pay through the nose.”

“And just what exactly are you referring to as libelous, Mr. Whoever-You-Are?”

“St. John.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Atticus St. John. Doctor St. John to you.”

“Oh, I see.”

“I don’t think you do see, Ms. Ross. I don’t think you even try to see the whole picture. You’re so focused on your own personal rant that you don’t care how distorted you make your articles.”

Some kind of righteous anger mixed with personal hurt rose up in Grace. She rounded the desk and advanced toward him until she stood mere inches away. “I never distort my articles! How dare you come stomping in here and speak such lies!”

“Me speaking lies! You have the gall to accuse me after you’ve written and printed this hideous excuse for journalism?! You should be tarred and feathered!”

Grace’s head almost buzzed with the anger she felt. She prided herself in all the effort she put into being sure of all her facts, even down to the exact spelling of every single name she used. And she was always hard on herself to make sure she’d used proper restraint before assigning responsibility and fault to anyone in her articles. Such an attack as this on her character as a credible journalist was more than she could bear, and before she could even think about what she was going to do, she spit in his face. Instantly, the shock of what she had done hit her so forcefully that she gasped, and her hand flew to cover her mouth. Her eyes, wide with the horror of her actions, locked onto his.

But her shock was nothing compared to his. Followed by a new level of anger. “Why you little savage!” he said, grasping her by the shoulders and, without thinking, pushing her backwards against the desk, and pinning her there with his own body. Grace put up her hands against his chest in an instinctive defense, but he was much more powerful than she. Her eyes focused on his shoulders now, and her self-defense training came to mind, but for some reason, she felt a kind of dazed lack of energy to inflict any kind of retaliation.

He wasn’t sure what he’d intended when he’d grabbed her, but was responding to some primal need in him to exact revenge for such humiliation and put her in her place somehow. He fought within himself over whether to spit in her face as well or kiss her forcefully enough to prove his mastery over her.

He had decided on the ruthless kiss when, suddenly, her eyes met his again and held him with a look that said she knew he was in control, but she wouldn’t even consider backing down. There was something so pure in her eyes – an assurance of being in the right – something that pulled on him to side with her unflinching commitment to what she believed – that his own thoughts came crashing to a full stop.

In response, he gradually leaned forward almost touching her lips in what would have been an entirely different kind of kiss, but he caught himself just in time. He pulled back slowly and heard himself say in a tone of disbelief, “Grace? … You’re name is Grace? And if I’m not mistaken, your middle name is the Cherokee word for Hummingbird, is it not?”

Grace was silent with surprise at the sudden change in him, and she just nodded. He laughed softly then. “What a mistake your poor parents made. You most definitely are not a hummingbird. In fact I’d say you’re more like a she-bear – defending her domain – a spitting bear in fact,” he added, taking his right hand from her shoulder and wiping his cheek where her spittle had landed. He quickly grasped her shoulder again, but couldn’t hold back more laughter.

The laughter was genuine, but he was having a hard time understanding everything else he was feeling. Something powerful had passed between them in those moments – something so elemental he couldn’t put a name to it, but it pulled on him and caused him to want to stay close to her. A ridiculous feeling since she represented everything he had to fight against in order to carry out his own work – work that he believed in and had labored hard to be able to accomplish.

He finally released her and stepped back, glancing toward the floor and running his hand through his hair in a frustrated manner. But he looked right at her again and spoke in a disgruntled tone. “Never mind. I don’t really have time to bother with you.”

He turned away from her and started for the door, but just before he pushed the door open, he turned and almost spat out the words, “Just be careful, my little Spitting-Bear. The next victim of your irresponsible journalism may not be as willing to forego exacting his vengeance.” And with those words he walked through the door and almost stomped down the street.

Grace still leaned against the desk, almost as if she needed its support. Her adrenaline was rushing, and she knew she’d been frightened a little by the encounter, but there was something else involved that she couldn’t identify. She realized with a quickening of her breath that she actually wished he had followed through on his actions and kissed her. She shook her head in disbelief now and finally pushed herself away from the desk, making her way around it, where she sat down in the chair again. She closed her eyes and relived the whole experience.

In the heat of the moment, she hadn’t been conscious of noting his appearance, but now, in her memory’s eye, she saw again the strength that showed in the muscles of his arms and chest even beneath the fabric of his long-sleeved dress shirt. His hair was sandy brown and had been tousled by the breeze. She saw again the firm jaw, and the olive green eyes – eyes that kindled with his barely restrained temper as they bored into hers. She felt a stirring inside as she remembered those eyes – and the way his body felt barely touching hers. Suddenly, she shook herself lightly, trying to escape those memories and clear her head.

Everything about the man was the antithesis of her beliefs and agenda for her own life. How could she have wanted to kiss him – to stay in a place where she was touching him and looking steadily into his eyes? She leaned back in the chair and just sat, waiting for her thoughts to clear and for her day to get back to normal somehow.

She heard the bell again, but at a normal volume this time, and when she glanced toward the door she saw her brother Blaze heading her way. “Hey, Sis, I read your article this morning.”

Grace looked up at him as he stood now in front of the desk, but she seemed to be having trouble focusing.

“Is something wrong, Hon.” he asked, concern in his eyes now.

Grace really looked at him then, finally focusing, and shook her head again slightly, as if still trying to clear it. “No, not really. I guess I’m just a little dazed after having a confrontation with Dr. St. John.”

“St. John? As in the man you wrote about in the front page article?”

Grace nodded her head and, to Blaze’s relief, her impish grin kicked in, and he felt reassured that she was her old self.

“What happened?”

Grace told him how Dr. St. John had stormed into the store and accused her of being irresponsible in her journalism and of telling lies, and how he’d threatened to sue if she didn’t print a retraction of her accusations.”

“I guess you set him straight, didn’t you?”

“Well … about that.” Grace said and started to squirm a little in her chair.

Blaze was intrigued by that move, because his little sister was generally straight-forward and outspoken with everyone, so he just stood there and looked at her intently until she glanced away and then, finally, looked back at him.

“Hummingbird, why do I feel that there’s something you should tell me, but you don’t want to? What really did happen?”

“Everything happened just like I said, except that … well … I guess he just made me so angry and so hurt … you know everything he said was totally unfair and just wrong … and … well … I … before I realized what I was doing, I spit in his face.”

“What!”

Grace leaned forward on the desk putting her face into her hands and groaning. She felt ashamed and so guilty. Not only was she ashamed about what she had done to the doctor, but she was just as much ashamed to have her brother know that she had acted in such an un-Christlike manner to anyone. Tears sprang to her eyes, and she lifted her head just enough to reach for a tissue from the box on the corner of the desk.

“Oh, Honey, don’t cry. I can’t imagine your doing anything like that unless you were seriously pressed beyond endurance,” Blaze said and sat down in the chair in front of the desk.

He sat quietly for a few moments while his sister blotted her eyes and blew her nose. He thought back to last fall when she had decided to move back to Cherokee to be closer to their family and to help him with his craft center and store because the Lord was using him so much in a traveling ministry now that he didn’t have the time to devote to actually running the business alone.

She had worked for several years for a publishing company, but had long had a dream to begin her own newspaper with the aim of focusing on much needed moral and social change in both the local community and the nation. After deciding to move back home and work with her brother, she’d felt it was the right time and place to launch the paper, and she had been working hard at making it a real success for the past six months.

He smiled now as he watched her getting control of her emotions and blotting her eyes once more before looking up at him.

“You want to tell me the rest of it?” he asked, grinning at her. “What did he do when you spit on him?” Grace thought back through all of his reactions – and her own unexpected response to his grasping her and almost kissing her. She wasn’t ready to share that part with her brother just yet, but she could at least tell him about the doctor’s words.

She grinned now too as she answered. “He called me a savage.”

Blaze’s eyebrows rose at that. “Wow, that’s a little cowboy-and-Indianish, isn’t it?”

Grace laughed out loud at that. “But that’s not all. He also said that he knew my middle name was the Cherokee word for hummingbird but that my poor parents had made a serious mistake because I was more like a she-bear – in fact a spitting bear. And just as he walked out the door, he addressed me by that name again.”

“And he’s going to sue?”

“Well … that’s the really odd part,” she said. “He acted like he sort of got better control of his own anger and said he didn’t have time to fool with me. Then his parting words to me were that I should be careful because the next victim of my irresponsible journalism might not be so willing to forego exacting his vengeance.”

“Whew!” Blaze said, leaning back in his chair. “You’ve had quite a day, haven’t you?”

Grace nodded and leaned back in her chair as well. “But I don’t think he’s actually planning on a lawsuit now. And, of course, even if he did sue, he can’t possibly win because, as you know, I make absolutely sure of all my facts – right down to correctly spelled words – and he doesn’t have a leg to stand on.”

“Still, I’d hate for you to have to be dragged through court over all of it.”

“Yeah,” she said, nodding her head again. “Me too. But, you know, Blaze – well, we both knew from the beginning – some of the situations I’m addressing in The Sword are going to be pretty volatile from time to time.”

Blaze nodded. “It’s true. And, as you say, you didn’t go into the work blind. I think, though, that this whole abortion issue is something the devil and his forces fight more intensely than anything else right now. It’s going to take the true sword of the Lord and a lot more prayer to make any headway against it.”

“And concerning my articles … it’s not as if I’m trying to shut down every abortion clinic in the country. Of course, you know I don’t believe they should be legal at all, but my recent articles are mainly fighting against adding another abortion clinic to this area when we already have enough of them. It’s a valid argument. But it’s true that I am hitting hard on the whole fact that abortion is immoral period, wherever people have it performed.”

“Did he say specifically what he considered libelous?”

She shook her head and picked up the paper, scanning her front page article again. “No … but I’m pretty sure he was going to focus on the fact that I called him ‘another professional exterminator.’”

“Is there any chance at all that he can make his charges stick?”

“ I don’t see how. I was very careful in my choice of words. I would have liked to use the term murderer, but the technical definition of murderer is ‘someone who illegally kills another person. And right now, in most states almost all abortions are considered legal. There are still a few states holding out on late-term abortions, but the scale is sliding downhill fast. And the states where he has his other two clinics are one hundred percent pro-abortion at any time during pregnancy, so that term would have left me open to question. But the term exterminator specifically means ‘someone who kills whole groups of people or animals. What he does fits the term exactly.”

She leaned back in her chair again and sighed. “I think when he gets rid of all his anger, he’ll be sensible enough to know that even if he forced me to retract the article, or even won a lawsuit, it would just prolong the attention people are giving the story, and if I made it clear that I was forced to retract, he would still end up looking like the bad guy to our readers.”

“I think you’re right. And I’ll let Joy know about your little … uh … adventure today,” he said grinning again, “and we’ll both be praying for the Lord to cover you in this. But, listen, I came in to do some work on the leather moccasins I started yesterday, but I wanted to ask you if you’d like to take a couple days off and get away from the store. You know Joy and I will be gone four days next week for that seminar in Dallas, but I’m here for the rest of this week, and you’ve been working non-stop for months now. I don’t want you worn out with this, especially since you’re still doing some editing for Milton Publishing.”

“Well, if you wouldn’t feel abandoned, I just might think about taking a couple days. I’d actually like to take Mom shopping in Nashville one day, and if we stayed over and went out to dinner, that would be fun for her and me both. I can also make a quick run by the publishing house and check in with the main office.”

“Hey, that sounds like a great idea.”

“Do you think Joy might want to go with us?”

“Well … I guess she might … but … I rather hope she doesn’t,” he said, grinning.

“You really are still newlyweds, aren’t you?” Grace teased him. “You don’t want her out of your sight if you can manage it.”

“Oh, it isn’t that bad, but I do really like having her around all the time. And after all, we have been married only five months.”

He heaved a sigh and added, “But I don’t want to be selfish, and it’s only fair that she have some time with you girls if she’d like to. I’m sure I can survive forty-eight hours,” he said grinning again.

“I know you can, but I just can’t keep from teasing you. I think I will ask her if she’d like to go with us. We haven’t all three had a chance to do anything like that together.”

“I know, and, honestly, I’d be happy for her to get that time with you and Mom if she’d like to go. Call her and let her know what you’re planning.”


The Wait Is Over

 

Yes, it’s official. Book # 5 of the Smoky Mountain Series of inspirational novels is on the market. THIS FIRE IN MY HEART, which continues the story of many of the original characters from the earlier books while introducing us to new ones as well, is finally ready for readers.

Many of my readers who have followed my website for a few years know that when I lost my best friend (who had also been my best book editor) a little over three years ago, the grief and the loss were such that I was not able to return to any of the novels I had been working on, or to start any new works. I was able to write poetry during those years, which provided a healing process for me, but after writing and publishing 11 novels, I was suddenly at a complete standstill when it came to fiction writing. It was a terribly unhappy time for me, not only because of my personal loss, but because of the creative loss as well.

Many of you prayed for me, and the Lord did a wonderful work, particularly during the past year.  Earlier this year, I was able to pick up the second novella in another series that had been about half done when my friend and editor died. And I was able to finish that short work and get it into the marketplace. But taking up the task of writing a completely new novel again — and one that fit into the series which has been the most popular of my works — was still quite daunting.

But during the past few months, I’ve experienced a fresh flow of creativity, and I am thrilled with the results. Not only did I write book 5 and get it into publication, but book 6 began to push its way into my psyche so strongly that it almost interrupted my completing book 5 just because I had to keep stopping to write down notes for book 6 that I didn’t want to forget. It’s a very happy problem for an author to have.  🙂

Anyway, folks, that’s a long way of saying that I’m celebrating. So I’ve launched both the E-Book and the Paperback versions of THIS FIRE IN MY HEART  at special sale prices through the end of the month.

E-Book — $0.99

Paperback — $6.99

I’ll include a brief description of the story below, and if you’re interested in your own copy, you can find the book HERE.


What’s it about????

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.

With disappointment in her voice, 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. Her pull on him was so strong that 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, He quickly bent and picked up her bag and handed it to her, smiling.

“Opposite directions today,” he said, “but not always, I think. I will see you again, Joy.”

How do you know when you’ve met the right person to spend the rest of your life with? For a Christian believer, the Lord has guidelines. Even so, Joy McDaniels struggles with her heart and mind in conflict. But determined to focus on God’s Word and His way of doing things, she finally allows her heart to take the lead.


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.


The Author Adventures – # 1

There’s a quote floating around out there among writers and readers that says, “Every book you’ve ever read is just a different combination of 26 letters.” I don’t know where it came from originally. I’ve searched the Internet for a reference, but found none. However, I know that quote is true. And this past week, I’ve found myself thinking about that truth more than usual.

As many of my readers know, I’ve recently taken a dive back into my “Smoky Mountain Novel Series” to get book number 5 completed. It’s been a few years since I finished the first 4 books, and I actually had to go back and read a bit of some of them to make sure I still knew the characters well enough to continue the series. I found that I do, indeed, still know them and love them. And after a couple unsuccessful attempts at birthing book 5, I have finally managed to get it into the birth canal far enough that delivery is imminent.

But as I sat this morning pondering on this quote, I thought back over all the books that I have written. Now, I’m not even thinking about books by others that I’ve read — the multiplied thousands of them — and I wasn’t even considering them as I meditated on this thought. But considering just the books that I have written, I stand totally amazed at the vast differences in the subject matters, the characters, the environments, and the stories themselves that have all been created by using only these same 26 little letters.

I guess I’m unusually focused on language and it’s amazing power in the lives of human beings at this particular time because in book 5 of the series, I’m telling the story of a full-blooded Cherokee man who is very personally involved in a movement to restore the original Cherokee language to his people. While many of the elderly Cherokee still speak their native language, most of their children and certainly almost all of their grandchildren barely know and understand that language.

A major reason for that lack, of course, is the result of the U.S. government forcing thousands of American Indian children to leave their homes and families and attend boarding schools for years at which they were totally stripped of everything about their culture and their heritage. They were forced to use only the English language for all communication and were severely punished if they even spoke to each other in their native tongues. Naturally, that kind of treatment could easily and quickly eradicate an entire nation’s communication skills.

As I’ve been pondering these terrible events in history and working them into the story where they need to go for the sake of developing my main character, I’ve been thinking anew about how powerful language really is. And how powerful words are. As a devout Christian and one who tries to write mostly for the sake of sharing Gospel truths through my work, I’m very well acquainted with the importance the Lord puts on words. In fact He comes right out and tells us in Proverbs 18:21 that “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.”

So our words have great power to effect others. And as a writer, I try to always be aware of that fact. I know that words have driven men to hateful, heinous acts against each other, and words have brought an end to wars and brought comfort and courage to thousands in times of need. I try to be aware that all my words carry some degree of power to affect others and even the atmosphere around me — for good or for bad. I believe that the words I write are just as powerful as the words I speak aloud, so it’s my aim as an author to be the most responsible purveyor of words that I can possibly be. It’s a challenge, but it’s also a great adventure — taking 26 little letters and crafting them responsibly into brand new life-sized people and their stories.


If readers would like to check out “The Smoky Mountain Series” novels for themselves, they can find them, along with many of my other books, at this site.


‘Stories That Leave You Thinking’ — on sale

GIRAFFE COVER W. SHADOW

My short story anthology Stories That Leave You Thinking is on sale during the whole month of June.

A collection of diverse and slightly unconventional short short stories

Have you ever come to the words “The End” when reading and just couldn’t seem to turn off your own imagination? Did your mind keep working on the plot and planning out possible ways in which the story could continue? Did you enjoy the process? Then you’ve come to the right book. The stories included here, on a wide variety of subjects and themes, offer the reader the opportunity to keep thinking past “The End.” Each story comes to a stop, to be sure, but most of them will tempt the reader to let his own imagination get involved and do some thinking about what would happen next – if the story continued. A refreshing approach to short story telling.

Paperback only — $5.00
Find it here:



 

The Amazing Story of the Real St. Patrick

ST. PATRICK BOOK AMAZON FRONT COVER BRIGHTER

I’ve shared this story several times in article format over the past 9 years, but never put it all together in a book that was available on a world-wide market. But now it’s available through Amazon in paperback and digital.

The little-known, but true story of one of the most amazing soul-winners in the history of the Kingdom of God. St. Patrick of Ireland’s life of ministry is replete with astounding miracles and spiritual experiences that match those reported in the chapters of God’s Word.

And Patrick is credited with bringing at least 70,000 people to a saving faith in Jesus Christ — without the use of any transportation except his feet and his horse, and without the help of electricity or modern technology on any level. The story related in this booklet is taken from Patrick’s own writings and sidesteps vague legends to give the reader powerful truth that will encourage and inspire the faith of everyone who wants to serve God.

Short and easy to read. Get a copy today and an extra for someone whose faith you want to inspire.

PAPERBACK:  $4.00

DIGITAL:  $0.99



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Simon Stone Book # 1 – On Sale This Week

INNOCENT FRONT COVER = AMAZON

Novellas are back in style. After decades with almost no “short novels” on the bookshelves, we’ve come back to the place where we want stories that require shorter time spans, but that still offer the true-to-life actions and emotions that satisfy. Novellas are, once again, taking their place as the genre of choice for busy readers. On target, quick-read stories that still bring long-lasting satisfaction after we’ve turned the last page:

My contribution to this genre is a series based on one of my favorite characters: Detective Simon Stone. Book # 1 in that series — INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY — is a suspenseful romance that will keep you guessing right up until the last couple pages. And it’s on a whopping sale this whole week:

E-BOOK:  $0.99

PAPERBACK: $3.99

(Prices good through midnight 2/29/20, CST)

Deanna Forbes is a suspect in a murder investigation, but that fact doesn’t interfere with her desires. And, as a woman, she finds herself attracted to Detective Simon Stone, who conducts the two interviews with her before she is taken off the ‘official’ suspect list. She surprises Stone, and herself, when she invites him to have dinner with her so she can get to know him better.

Simon is a detective with a heart, and, so far, that heart has never been broken. So falling in love with a woman he still suspects of murder doesn’t seem like a smart thing to do. But sometimes the heart has a mind of its own. He may be the sharpest detective on the force, but love is not a subject covered in the standard law enforcement manuals.

Read it fast; enjoy it long. And look for book # 2 — The Deadliest Venom — to be available in April.

Click here to get your copy.



 

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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What Does Christmas Mean to the Christ from Whom It’s Named?

WHAT DOES CHRISTMAS REALLY MEAN TO JESUS???
Everyone has different opinions and different feelings concerning the meaning of Christmas. What were Jesus’ feelings about coming from the throne into a tiny body that was laid in a manger at Bethlehem? That’s the focus of my most recent upload to Radical About Jesus YouTube channel: “Let’s Not Get Stuck At The Manger”

Make listening to and sharing this message part of your Advent Celebration this year.




 

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‘Stories That Leave You Thinking …’

GIRAFFE COVER W. SHADOW

Well, I’ved dithered, and dallied, and delayed for a year. I had all kinds of excuses and reasons — some good, some not so good. But all that’s behind me now, and I FINALLY have the enlarged second edition of my short short story anthology ready for public consumption. 🙂

Yep, it’s out there: STORIES THAT LEAVE YOU THINKING … (A Collection of Diverse and Slightly Unconventional Short Short Stories)

Some of you helped me choose which stories needed to be included. Many of you have read several of them over the past few years, and your response played a part in decideding which stories to include and which to leave for another project. The book contains 20 stories in all. Three of them are also featured in my Christmas anthology, but the other 17 have not been published previously in book form.

Even though the book is actually a totally new entity and will replace the old, smaller version completely, I still wanted to use the same cover. My great friend, professional photographer Bob Mielke, generously gave me permission to use his amazing work. This cover photo inspired one of the first stories to go into the book, and, as far as I was concerned, it just HAD to be the front cover. Thank again, Bob. You’re one of the “good guys.”

Here’s the blurb to tell you a little more about what you can expect if you pick up a copy of STORIES THAT LEAVE YOU THINKING … .  And I hope you do — one for you and one for a friend. It’s currently available in paperback only.

“Have you ever come to the words “The End” when reading and just couldn’t seem to turn off your own imagination? Did your mind keep working on the plot and planning out possible ways in which the story could continue? Did you enjoy the process? Then you’ve come to the right book. The stories included here, on a wide variety of subjects and themes, offer the reader the opportunity to keep thinking past “The End.” Each story comes to a stop, to be sure, but most of them will tempt the reader to let his own imagination get involved and do some thinking about what would happen next – if the story continued. A refreshing approach to short story telling.”

Purchase your own copy for $6.00  from Amazon.




 

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