Tag Archives: young adult

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.

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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?

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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.

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Guest Release Promotion–Gold Nuggets by Lynn Lovegreen

 

 

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In the shadow of Denali, she has a home, and he finds adventure. Charlotte Cooper wants to stay near her parents’ home in Alaska. But her dreams of being a writer call her away to college or work, and she has to choose her own path in life.

Henry Reeves is a wealthy New Yorker seeking a summer adventure when he travels to Kantishna near the proposed Mt. McKinley National Park. He discovers two passions, one for Charlotte, and the other for keeping Alaska wildlife from being wiped out like the buffalo.

Charlotte and Henry find an attraction they can’t deny, but can they build a new life together between the wilderness and high society?

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EXCERPT

Good health practically oozed out of his pores. It was easy to imagine him winning a footrace or wrestling a champion. The short hair under his broad-brimmed campaign hat seemed to accentuate his high cheekbones and strong jaw. And his hazel eyes dashed this way and that, taking in the scene. He was as pretty as a magpie, and just as annoying when he opened his mouth.

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Lynn Lovegreen grew up in Alaska, and still lives there. She taught English for 20 years before retiring to make more time for writing. Her young adult historical romances are set in the Alaska Gold Rush, a great time for drama, romance, and independent characters. Her novels Golden Days and Gold Nuggets are available through Prism Book Group or your favorite book vendor.

 

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Guest Interview—Emily Paige Skeen

Tell us a bit about you and your background.

Even though I’ve always loved writing, I didn’t know if I’d ever be able to make a living at it. So, I chose Public Relations as my career goal. But actually, I changed my major several times throughout college. Looking back, I think it was because I knew deep down that writing was my passion, I just didn’t really know where to start and I needed a degree that I could “do something” with.

After college, I worked as the PR and Marketing Manager for a small business, but it never fully satisfied me. I didn’t feel appreciated for the work I did, and the stress level was high. I left that job in search of an organization that would nurture, challenge, and appreciate me – all at the same time. Well, I found exactly that. I landed a job that wasn’t what I went to school for, but that gave me experience in a lot of different things, including writing. My bosses were amazing and we were all truly a family. I moved up the leadership ladder quickly and really loved going to work.

Still, something was missing. I had a three-year-old daughter at home when I discovered that my husband and I were expecting another baby. My heart was telling me to stay home with the children, but our financial situation was telling me it wasn’t possible. But I had to find a way. So, I started completing writing gigs on a content mill platform. It didn’t pay much, but it was the start of my freelance writing career.

You may be wondering what all of this has to do with my fiction work. Fiction writing is what I consider my calling, but it’s an incredibly difficult field to break into – and even more difficult to succeed in, as the competition is overwhelming. I had self-published Magnolia Lake while still working full-time, but never got offered a traditional publishing deal until I took a leap of faith and quit my job (isn’t that such a God thing?). And then I stumbled upon Prism Book Group, and the rest is history.

What are your hobbies away from the computer?

To be honest, my life tends to revolve around the computer lately. Between freelance writing, working on my newest story, and promoting Magnolia Lake, I get a LOT of screen time.

But when I do tear myself away, I love to play outside with the kids. My youngest got a trampoline from Santa Claus last year, and I get a kick out of jumping on it with her. It may just be fun for her, but it’s quite the workout for Mama! I’ve taught her the games my friends and I used to play on my trampoline as a child, and she loves it.

Other than that, I enjoy bargain shopping (I thrive on finding good deals!), date nights with my husband, movie and dinner dates with my best girlfriends, and reading – I’d read all day long if I could, preferably on a beach somewhere.

Is your writing style planned or freestyle?

I’d say it’s a mixture of both. I start with a general idea, sort of a feeling. It’s hard to explain, but I get this sense of what would make a good story – almost like a vision. It could be just one scene playing out in my head or a theme for an entire story, and I go from there.

I do like to plan out each character, though. Once I have a story idea, I literally write a description of at least the main characters – everything from personality to clothing style to job, even their flaws. I’ll let you in on a little secret, though. I actually didn’t do this right away with Magnolia Lake. But one day I read an article by an author about the importance of detailing your characters before you start writing. So even though I was halfway through Magnolia Lake, I went back and jotted down a few things about each of my important characters. And it has made a huge difference. It helped a lot during the editing stage. I would read something I had previously written and think, “Okay, Landon would never say that this way. Maybe he’d say it this way instead.”

But other than a general idea of how the story will go and the details about each character, I don’t do a lot of planning. Part of the joy of writing is seeing where each book takes me as it develops. Sometimes I end up with a completely different ending than I’d envisioned, or a new character makes its way onto the page.

I’ll say this, though. I tend to sporadically imagine very specific scenes. I guess you could say inspiration strikes at the most random moments. Whether it’s from a conversation I’m having with someone or something I just observe around me, I’ll get this entire scene playing out in my head. I’ve learned to carry a journal in my purse, because if I don’t write it down immediately, it’s gone.

 

What was your biggest surprise in the editing/revision process?

Honestly, I was shocked at the sheer amount of editing involved – how many times my editor and I sent the manuscript back and forth! If you know me, you know that I pride myself on grammar and strive toward perfectionism in my writing. So it befuddled me that each time I read the manuscript, I found a new grammatical error or a sentence that didn’t flow well.

Before I self-published Magnolia Lake back in 2013, I personally edited it at least three times, and I had one of my sisters edit it too. I thought there was no way any problems would be found. Little did I know! And not just small issues, but also a rather big time-frame problem. That’s why I’d love for people who purchased the original, self-published version to check out the new one. It’s so much better!

Do you write in a genre other than the one of this release?

Magnolia Lake is Young Adult Fiction, but my current work-in-progress is what I guess you’d call Contemporary Christian Fiction. While I enjoy writing for the YA audience, I’m focusing on a more mature audience for my next few projects. The main characters’ ages are mid to late twenties. The writing is still clean and appropriate enough for a teen to read, but will resonate more with adults who are possibly recently married, have graduated college and are starting their career journeys, or are new parents. I plan on doing more YA work in the future, though.

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Popular and beautiful, Cora Stephens has it all – including the perfect football-star boyfriend – until one fateful afternoon. Facing heartache and betrayal, Cora turns to long-time friend, Landon, for comfort. While his love for her grows, she does everything in her power to avoid getting hurt again – including flinging herself into the arms of another boy.

Then, just as Cora’s shattered world starts putting itself back together, life throws something her way that’s more horrific than she ever could have imagined. Through the emotional and physical pain, she begins to lose hope and abandon her faith. Will this once light-hearted, happy prom queen find her way back home?

PRE-ORDER LINKS

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GIVEAWAY

The name of a person who comments will be selected to win an ebook of Magnolia Lake.

EXCERPT

As I backtracked through the parked vehicles, I heard footsteps again. Pausing, I looked around. Nobody was there. In fact, the entire parking lot seemed to lack a normal level of activity. There were plenty of cars, but there was not a single person walking around.

I shook my head to clear it, and started walking again—a little faster this time. Suddenly, I heard the sound again. Before I could turn around, something jabbed my back and a hand was over my mouth. I gasped and my whole body shook with fear. The smoothie I held slipped through my hand, splattering all over my shoes and jeans.

Suddenly, hot air blew in my ear at the same time I heard a deep voice say, “Don’t make a sound or I’ll push this knife through your back all the way into your heart.” The gloved hand tightened over my mouth. “Now walk,” the voice ordered.

My legs didn’t move. I was completely frozen with terror. My mind raced as I contemplated what to do next. I knew Kayla couldn’t see me. She was facing the opposite direction and there were too many cars between us. If I screamed I’d get stabbed, but it might give me a chance to wriggle free of this man’s hold. I vaguely recalled a special on TV that said most attackers would back off if you screamed, no matter what they said. I tried to open my mouth, but the assailant’s hold strengthened so that I couldn’t even part my lips. My heart rate accelerated and I couldn’t breathe. I was having a panic attack.

“I said move!” The stranger pushed me so hard I almost lost my balance, but then my legs finally seemed to work. I walked as he directed. We went straight for a minute, then he turned me to the right. After what felt like a thousand years, we were standing in front of a white, windowless work van. It was parked between a big jacked-up truck and a huge SUV. Nobody could see what was going on, if there was even anyone in the parking lot.

The side door opened and I stared into the face of another stranger. At least, I assumed he was a stranger. He wore a ski mask to hide his identity.

The first man shoved me into the van. There were no seats aside from the two in the front, so I fell backward and hit my head on something metal. I cringed and lay frozen for a minute. Then I saw what might be my only chance.

The first man stood in front of me, laughing. The second man leaned against the opposite side of the van, sitting cross-legged and messing with a cell phone.

I took a deep breath and kicked with all my strength, barely missing my attacker’s groin. He doubled over and I scrambled to my hands and knees. My heart raced as I struggled to get out of the van. Just as I had one foot out, the second man grabbed my other foot, dragging me back.

Since I’d been half standing, the force of his pull caused me to thud against the van floor again, this time on my stomach. Then he grabbed my waist and flung me against the van wall next to him.

Tears sprung to my eyes as the first attacker, also wearing a ski mask, climbed into the van and slammed the door. I could only see his eyes, and they were staring at me with nothing but pure evil. Then I saw him lift something round—a paperweight maybe? I couldn’t tell exactly what the object was, but I tried to back away as I realized what he intended to do with it. I closed my eyes, praying the blow would be quick.

Emily Skeen

Born and raised in a small Georgia town, Emily Paige Skeen takes from her own life experiences to create real, relatable characters for her novels. She loves to intertwine small-town charm with deep emotion and intrigue, creating stories that inspire readers.

When she’s not writing or chasing after her two youngsters – both under the age of five – you can find Emily reading, soaking up the sun whenever possible, or shopping. She, her husband, and their kids make their home in a tiny little town an hour south of Atlanta, on a five-acre plot of land right off a bumpy red-dirt road. Emily loves to sit and listen as the ever-present crickets and frogs perform their harmonious concerts in the still, quiet evening hours.

Writing has always been Emily’s passion, ever since she crafted her first sloppily hand-written story plastered over spiral notebook paper at the emotionally-charged age of thirteen. Now, she strives to encourage and inspire girls and young women with her writing. She believes that with a little bit of faith and a whole lot of love, anything’s possible.

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