Category Archives: Guest Post

Guest Post–The Road To Our New Normal by DiAne N. Gates

We are the object of attention—until the day after the funeral. That’s when everyone’s life returns to normal. Everyone else’s life, that is.

But not ours.

After our twenty-eight-year-old daughter suddenly died of a hemorrhagic stroke, we were left on the outside looking in. We humans want to fit in and we’re miserable when we don’t. And in the aftermath of grief we didn’t belong. Anywhere. We felt like we’d been stuffed in a sack, shaken up and dumped out. Forever changed.

There’s good news and bad news about grief. The bad news? We will never be the same again. The good news? Although we didn’t know it, we were on the way to our new normal.

But that’s a long trip.

The days and the months, perhaps years, creep by and we would often long for the way things used to be. Sometimes I chose to isolate or hide behind closed doors so others couldn’t see my pain. Or I’d zoom here and there, filling life with any and everything. Pretending I was okay. Trying to not think, because thinking hurt.

Family and friends preferred the hyper-active me. Because they wanted their old friend back. But though I tried, the old me was gone. Forever.

Death brings us face-to-face with a life-changing reality: Life in this world is brief and death is final.

Things of this world fill our lives, our relationships, even our worship. Most of us have lived as though this is all there is. And in this age of want-more, get-more, we have tethered ourselves to the here-and-now.

Until someone we love dies.

Our gears were stripped and we came to a screeching halt. We were backed in a corner and forced to decide whether we really believed what we said we believed all these years. Could we look beyond the immediate to the eternal? And that’s a major cross-road for each one of us traveling this road called grief. It’s the intersection of a street called Earthly Delusions with the rough and still-under-construction detour named New Normal.

After Michelle’s death, I wrapped myself in robes of self-righteousness and parroted, “Oh, I know she’s with God and everything is fine. I’m okay. Really. Why no, I’m not angry. With God? Don’t be silly.”

And for two years I walked that I’m okay—you’re okay road ‘til one evening a family dispute raked the scab of the lie off my hypocritical words and I bled rage. A glass full of iced tea flew from my hand and splattered against the wall and I heard my voice scream, “You could have stopped this, God. But You didn’t.”

Ah. There it was. I told Him I didn’t understand and I didn’t like what He had done. But in the deathly silence that followed I had to confess to God, I was angry. Like He didn’t know.

And you know what? God didn’t send a lightning bolt to strike me dead. He didn’t turn His holy back and walk away. He didn’t condemn me.

Instead He opened His arms of love and I crawled into His lap and sobbed. And He comforted me like a loving father comforts his child after the temper tantrum subsides and the child is remorseful.

Because of His truth and my repentance, those moments produced my first glimpse of hope and joy in two years. How? The light of God’s truth shoos away the darkness, it illuminates and cleanses the place where anger and bitterness have thrived. Then the power of His Spirit moves into the open spaces and begins to teach us the lessons, up to now, we’ve refused to learn.

In the following months I learned those first lessons, and my attitude changed. I was convicted of the self-righteous things I had said and the proud ways I had acted in the past. And as I acknowledged my own needs, compassion for others filled my previously cold, indifferent heart.

God brought people into my life who were also experiencing the ravages of grief. I could sympathize with the emotions their losses perpetrated. And I was able to comfort them, because God had comforted me. I saw God work in all of our lives and my emotions were refreshed.

Through a series of unusual circumstances God brought me to GriefShare. Then He opened the door for me to lead a support group. And my new normal became a work in progress.

Did the pain go away? No. But I learned that joy and pain can co-exist in my heart. 

I believe grief’s pain is the roto-rooter God uses to increase our heart’s capacity for the well-spring of joy. Day by day, I chose to trust God to lead me forward into this river of new life. Day by day joy became the key to my endurance. And it still carries me forward, day by day.

When our happiness is rooted in people and things that perish, grief becomes our identity. But when the tap root of our heart’s joy is anchored in Jesus Christ, He carries us safely through the storms and tragedies of life. And we grow and blossom when and where He sets us down to walk along the shores of our new normal.

“The wilderness and the desert will be glad, and the Arabah will rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it will blossom profusely and rejoice with rejoicing and shout of joy. Encourage the exhausted, and strengthen the feeble. Say to those with anxious heart, Take courage, fear not.  . . . But the redeemed will walk there, and the ransomed of the Lord will return, and come with joyful shouting to Zion, with everlasting joy upon their heads. They will find gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing will flee away” (Isaiah 35:1-4a, 9b-10 NAS).

Where are the roots of your joy planted today?

PRESCRIPTION: Go to www.griefshare.org and click on Find A Group. Fill in your zip code and select a group near you. Make plans to attend and let God work that new normal in your life too.

Roped Cover

BLURB

Thirteen-year-old Crissy Crosby chases a dream to live up to her parents’ rodeo legacy. But the rodeo championship is two months away and problems beyond her ability to solve stack and teeter like a game of Tumbling-Towers. Meanwhile rival Jodie Lea and her father, Ed Fairgate, contrive to swipe the silver buckles from Crissy’s grasp any way they can. Prejudice, anger, and dark secrets simmer in a pot of family feuds destined to boil over in a tragic nightmare at the rodeo. Will Crissy develop courage and faith to overcome the consequences of her temper? Will her dreams of buckles and titles become reality? Or will the character-building adversities of her life quash her dreams forever?

Amazon buy link

EXCERPT

WHAT A TANGLED WEB WE WEAVE

I raced to the bus stop the next morning, threw my books on the ground, and grabbed Chun’s arm. “I’m gonna ride Mama’s horse in the rodeo.” The words tumbled off my tongue.

“Star?” Chun’s voice barely squeaked. He blinked and his eyes exploded into enormous circles.

The school bus rounded the corner. I grabbed my books off the ground and gave him a nod. “Yep.”

Chun followed me up the bus steps, leaned close, and whispered, “You are crazy.”

“Maybe. Maybe not. But I’m still gonna do it.” I headed for the back seat, plopped next to the window, and stared up at Chun.

He squeezed into the seat next to me and studied my face for a moment. “Are you not scared?”

I blinked and gulped. “Goodness, no.” The voice inside me screamed liar.

Chun shook his head. “You are crazy.”

The thud of my heart beat in my ears. “Well, maybe a little nervous.” Nervous didn’t even begin to cover this pounding. Maybe Chun was right. Color me crazy.

DiAne Gates 

Texas writer, DiAne Gates, illustrates, photographs, and writes for children and YA, as well as serious non-fiction for adults.

DiAne works as a freelance artist and has written and photographed for the East Texas Rodeo Association magazine, which gave birth to the western rodeo adventure series, released by Prism Book Group in August of 2015. ROPED–Available at Amazon.com.  The second book in this series, TWISTED, will be released by Prism Book Group, April 7, 2017.

ROPED had the honor of being selected as a finalist for the Grace Awards this year. And just this past week ROPED has also made the finals for the Christian Literary Henry Awards. Winners will be announced December 2, 2016.

Wife, mother, and Mimi, whose passion is to share those hard life lessons God allows. Lessons she hopes will leap from the page into your heart.

WEB CONTACTS

Word Press Blog

Crosswalk Christian Online Magazine

Face Book

Goodreads

 

Guest Post–New Gothic Mystery Series

A group of authors from various countries all over the world are writing stand-alone gothic mystery romance novellas set in their specific country. The stories are in the classic style of the old Victoria Holt and Phyllis A. Whitney novels—a young woman in a remote setting, cut off from family and technology, a spooky house, a reclusive hero, ghostly elements–but set in modern times. (Although, actually, there will be at least one historical gothic in the series).

While the stories are stand-alone, they each share a recurring thread of a Spinel stone, which can play a small or large part in the plot. The series has stories set in Scotland, Greece, United States, France, Ireland, and more. The releases so far have been Ghost in the Rain: A World of Gothic – Scotland House at the Edge: A World of Gothic – Greece, and mine (featured below) releases July 8th.

This project has been so much fun, and I hope it continues for a long time. I love reading the stories, they remind me of my youth when I devoured gothic mysteries. We hope readers will enjoy them too.

Devil's Promenade

BLURB

Amidst a blizzard, paranormal debunker Camille Burditt arrives at Devil’s Promenade in Oklahoma to research a supernatural ‘spook light’ for her latest book. There she encounters a ghostly being, which she dismisses as a figment of her imagination. But as the apparition becomes too persistent to deny, Camille realizes the woman’s ghost is quite real—and that her demise was not accidental.

Declan Rush—the inhospitable, reclusive owner of the inn—is linked to the deceased woman, but he is less than forthcoming. Despite his unfriendliness, Camille is oddly drawn to him, even though she suspects his connection to the spirit might be that of killer to victim.

Pre-order link on Amazon

EXCERPT

I was about to turn back when I heard the murmur of a voice—a male voice. An irrational prickle of fear swept through my stomach, but I dismissed it. There was nothing to fear out here. Why would there be? Well, maybe coyotes, but that had definitely been a human voice.

I stood still and cocked my ear, trying to figure out where the voice came from. It came again. I rounded the carriage house and ended up back where the trail had forked. I took the other path this time. I walked a few steps and realized I no longer heard the voice. Maybe I hadn’t heard anything at all.

A glimpse through the trees made me halt. A man. I moved closer and when I cleared the trees, I recognized Declan, although his back was to me. Three headstones were spaced six feet apart. Declan stood in front of the one on the right. It was a white marble teardrop-shaped stone with roses carved into the side and looked newer than the others.

His sister’s grave? I moved around until I was to his right but slightly behind so he wouldn’t see me. He wore a gray coat with the collar pulled up around his neck. His breath came out in wisps of smoke. He was bare-headed, snow dampening his dark blonde hair, making it look almost black. He was unaware of my presence. His focus was on the grave.

Sympathy pierced my heart, and I blinked back moisture. He looked so forlorn, so alone. I had to tighten my hands into fists inside my coat pockets to keep from reaching out to him. In spite of my good intentions, my efforts wouldn’t be welcome.

After several moments of silence, I began to wonder if I’d really heard his voice. Had he been speaking to his sister? He didn’t seem the type of man to give in to sentiments such as talking to a dead loved one. But what did I know?

I no sooner had the thought than he spoke again. “I’m sorry, Eleanor. I wish we’d gotten along better, but I did love you. I never wanted this to happen. I only wanted to protect you.”

Feeling like a spy and not wanting to continue intruding on his privacy, I stepped back. My foot landed on an icy tree branch lying on the ground, and the sound cracked like a firecracker in the still afternoon.

Declan whirled to look at me.

My heart leapt to my throat.

His expression tightened in anger. “Ms. Burditt? What in God’s name are you doing out here?”

“I—I was just…taking a walk.” I cast a guilty glance over my shoulder, then looked back at him.

He peered in the direction from which I’d come. “You were at the carriage house?” The words were barked like an accusation.

“Y-yes. I just…” I took a deep breath, suddenly feeling the cold even though the wind was still calm. “I just came upon it. I didn’t go in. the doors were locked.” I realized my error as soon as I said the words. Too late to take them back.

“You tried to get in?” He stalked over until he stood directly in front of me, looming like a dark angry cloud. “The carriage house is off limits. Stay away from it, do you understand me?”

I swallowed. “I wasn’t going to hurt anything, I was just curio—“

“I said stay away.” His voice was deadly, his eyes molten steel. “Do you understand?”

I couldn’t speak, so I only nodded. He held my gaze for a few more angry moments, then stormed away.

Author Picture - Alicia Dean

Alicia Dean is a suspense and paranormal author in Edmond, Oklahoma. She wrote her first romance at age 11, and she still has the tattered, pencil-written copy. Other than reading and writing, her passions are Elvis Presley, MLB, NFL, and watching her favorite televisions shows.

*** Sign up for our Novel Notes Newsletter, a multi-author newsletter where we give away a $25 gift card each month: https://www.facebook.com/NovelNotesAuthors

Website: http://aliciadean.com/

Blog: http://aliciadean.com/alicias-blog/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Alicia-Dean-559598754221926/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/Alicia_Dean_

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/aliciamdean/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/468339.Alicia_Dean

Ghost Town Brought to Life

Castle Dome City

On Friday, I had a post on the Sweet American Sweethearts blog where I shared about Castle Dome in Arizona. This is a ghost town that two enterprising people created on land they owned and it is a good depiction of the type of mining towns that sprung up around mineral finds.

For the details on this wonderful place my husband and I found quite by accident, click here.

Visiting Bath by Rachel Brimble

Visiting Bath & A Weekend with Teri Wilson…

I am lucky enough to live just a short thirty minute drive from one of the most famous cities in the world…Bath, England. Taking this into consideration, how could I not write historical romances? My career started by writing contemporary romantic suspense and mainstream contemporary romances, but all too soon the sights of Bath poked and prodded at my muse until I had no choice be to sit up and take notice.

Bath is probably most famous for the Roman, Georgian and Regency eras, but none of these periods were as appealing as my already established love for all things Victorian. If I was going to attempt an historical––which terrified me––I had to choose an era I found fascinating, so the Victorian period won!

What A Woman Desires is the third Victorian book in my series with eKensington/Lyrical Press (although they can be read stand-alone), and I am currently writing the fourth. My books are darker romances because the majority of the characters are lower class, with a sprinkling of the upper classes, so the issues are a lot more intense than balls and dances. Be warned, lol!

Me & Teri - Jane Austen centre

When an online friend, Teri Wilson contacted me to say she was flying in from Texas for a visit to the UK, I couldn’t wait to take her to Bath. This was the first time Teri and I had met so it was such an exciting time! It happened to be the week of the 2013 Jane Austen Festival which was perfect. Teri and I had so much laughter, chat and fun, I truly didn’t want our short forty-eight hours together end. We watched the parade, visited The Guildhall where we watched dancing, tried on hats (and moustaches) and even had our palms read. After a bizarre show in the evening (which I’m still not entirely sure was about eighteen months later), we were exhausted and said good night before finishing the next day with a lecture on the seedier side of Bath during the 19th century…which was, of course, of immense interest to me!

Bath is a place of great history, amazing architecture and fabulous sights – if you haven’t been, add Bath to your bucket list. You won’t be disappointed.

Oh, and my parting tip – do not order a veggie burger from the local cafes…Teri knows why!

Brimble Cover

BLURB:

From country girl to actress of the stage, one woman dares to live her dreams—but is she brave enough to open her heart…?

Monica Danes always wanted more than the village of Biddestone had to offer. After a failed courtship to a man of her parents’ choosing, she fled for the city of Bath and never looked back. Today, Monica is the undisputed queen of the theater—a wealthy, independent woman. But when she is called home in the wake of tragedy, Monica returns—intending to leave again as soon as possible.

Thomas Ashby has been a groom at the Danes estate since he was a boy—and has been enamored with Monica for almost as long. He knows he isn’t a suitable match for his master’s daughter, despite the special bond he and Monica have always shared—and their undeniable attraction. But now that she’s returned, Thomas has one last chance to prove himself worthy—and to show Monica a life, and a love, she won’t want to give up…

BUY LINKS:

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Barnes & Noble

Rachel lives with her husband and two teenage daughters in a small town near Bath in the UK. After having several novels published by small US presses, she secured agent representation in 2011. In 2012, she sold two books to Harlequin Superromance and a further three in 2013. She also writes Victorian romance for Kensington–her debut was released in April 2013, followed by a second in January 2014 and the third is released Jan 2015.

Rachel is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and Romance Writers of America, and was selected to mentor the Superromance finalist of So You Think You Can Write 2014 contest. When she isn’t writing, you’ll find Rachel with her head in a book or walking the beautiful English countryside with her family and beloved black Lab, Max. Her dream place to live is Bourton-on-the-Water in South West England.

She likes nothing more than connecting and chatting with her readers and fellow romance writers. Rachel would love to hear from you!

LINKS:

Website

Blog

Twitter

Facebook

Facebook Street Team – Rachel’s Readers

Guest post–What A Disaster! by Bonnie McCune

· In my first published novel, the heroine faces a major crisis—a malfunctioning hot water heater that floods her apartment and threatens explosion.

· In my second novel (really a novella), the heroine and her family are caught in an extreme winter blizzard with no heat or lights.

· In my third novel, a massive wildfire threatens not only the heroine but also the entire forest.

· Now, in my work-in-progress, the heroine, hero, and coworkers on a corporate retreat must escape a flash flood.

As the writer, I have to ask myself why I’m obsessed with disasters. I didn’t realize I relied heavily on terrible events occurring in my books until the fourth manuscript. That’s when I began wondering if something deeper than simply action for the plot underlay my manuscripts.

Two reasons occur to me. The first was writing itself. A disaster allows me, the writer, to compress action into a short time to keep the story moving. It encourages characters to act their best, or worst, to reveal their personalities. The manner in which they occur–random and uncontrolled crises–provide challenges readers can relate to as well as experiences characters learn from. And like humans, fictional characters learn waaaay more from struggles and failures than they do easy successes.

Still in many novels, characters don’t struggle to meet physical challenges. They may fall in or out of love, seek jobs or get fired, have misunderstandings with families or boyfriends. But they don’t walk a tightrope over death. What does my obsession with disaster reveal about me?

That I’m a fraidy-cat. Anything and everything scares me. Example: in the middle of the night yesterday, I woke when the furnace turned on. A strange new noise accompanied the forced air. I immediately thought the equipment was going to explode.

When I take road trips, I worry not only about the car breaking down but also over the possible appearance of a murderer. (By the way, this scene appears in my third book along with the wildfire.) A rash on my kid’s arm is probably Lyme disease. A recently discovered error on my taxes means the IRS will charge me with fraud.

So I have a whole load of fears. What do I do about them? I write about people who take steps to control their anxiety. I’ve learned that doing something, almost anything, positive enables me to restrain real as well as imaginary fears. Witness the recent terrorist attacks in Paris. Thousands, millions around the globe helped settle their souls by carrying “Je suis Charlie” signs, a positive action in the face of terrible possibilities.

Including disasters in my work also provides an excuse for me to burrow for information on fascinating topics. What other reason could justify spending hours delving into transcripts from people who have battled fires or floods? Or calling up total strangers to ask personal questions?

I don’t carry a list of disasters to wrap into forthcoming books. I’ve never been near a hurricane, a tsunami, or a bank holdup. So I don’t know how long I’ll be including crises like these in my work. But for now, they enable me to grow as a person as well as a writer.

Falling Like A rock

Bonnie McCune’s most recent novel is Falling Like a Rock, Prism Book Group, 2014, in which a mountain town and its rugged mayor captivate a woman in search of a new life and love. Learn more about her and her work at www.BonnieMcCune.com

Bonnie McCune

Bonnie McCune has been writing since age ten, when she submitted a poem to the Saturday Evening Post (it was immediately rejected). This interest facilitated her career in public relations and freelance writing. But her true passion is fiction, and her pieces have won several awards.