This Thanksgiving, I’m grateful for so much. This year has brought some unique challenges, and the support of many friends, tangible and virtual. At my three-month appointment yesterday, my surgeon shared x-rays that show good progress in my hip replacement recovery. Whew!
We have friends and family touched personally by the Covid virus, others battling cancer or enduring delicate surgery. My circumstances seem minor in comparison, yet it’s wonderful to hear good news!
In one of the Mayo Clinic waiting areas, this graphic from 2010 shows the number of joint replacements performed up to that time, ten full years ago. Imagine what the numbers would be now, and the progress that’s been made.
It’s such a gift to be able to access this sort of hard-earned expertise, and so good to know that the worries I experienced concerning healing were baseless. Well, they DID have a base in fear. Most of us know how anxiety can weasel its way into our lives again and again.
This stands true with my fictional characters, too. They’re regular folks, normal humans, and often believe lies about themselves and the world around them. Their faith may be hindered by deep-rooted, irrational fears … that’s the whole idea: they grow and change, overcome and gradually experience victory.
How thankful I am to be able to write! Especially during these months of hunkering down to avoid infection, my characters have kept me company.
Researching the incredible wartime challenges they had to face puts things in perspective, and being able to use my gifts–to contribute understanding of that era to this old world–means a lot. Writing warms my soul and brightens my life like Christmas lights on a shadowy night.
As winter approaches and northern Iowa days become gray and gloomy, it’s good to focus on gratitude. In this pause before entering the season of Advent, lights take on new meaning. It’s been a rough year for so many, but today, may thanksgiving fill our hearts.
Mary Vee joins us this week, bringing her new novel, a great gift for mystery lovers. Mary writes “never give up” stories, and is offering a paperback giveaway to one commenter. Sounds great to me!
Thank you, Gail for inviting me to be a guest. I’m so excited to meet your readers!
Where Can We find Amazing Characters?
The best answer to this question is: characters can be found all around us. Not in movies or books, those characters already had their journey. Our character is among the people we see wherever we go.
For example, I took a river cruise on the Rhine. The prices had dropped, drawing regular folk like me into a world I wouldn’t typically see. The first night, a woman of class, dressed for evening dinner, sat at the round table next to mine. She asked the waiter for tea. Moments later, a person at her table spilled a beverage. Liquid flowed across the table soaking everything in its path. The stylish woman scooted back and waved her fingers in front of her face. The waitstaff dashed to clean the table, replacing items and lavishing apologies to the noble woman. Her wide eyes proclaimed such aghast over the situation, but she spoke not a word.
With the table finally ready, she slowly drew her cup to her lips then stopped. Above the rim and straight in her view was the remaining damp circle on the linen tablecloth. She slowly returned her teacup to the saucer. The next pause lasted only a moment before she reached to the place setting next to her, removed a sparkling white napkin from under the silverware, unfurled it, and draped it over the imposing damp area. Her satisfied shoulders rested in place. All was well with the earth once again. She picked up her teacup and drank.
This woman formed the bones of my next character. I have no idea her true name, but she has become an amusing, lovely woman of style and wealth who has a journey like any other character. One that reveals she too is loved.
So, Sylvia’s Secret, a Christmas story was born. Fifteen days before Christmas, the staff at Sylvia Duvet’s mansion discover she is missing. Her daughter arrives at Detective Carhill’s office in a panic, concerned the gossipers and media will create their own story, embarrassing the family name. After all, a wealthy widow only disappears if…she simply can’t bear to think of those possibilities. Sylvia Secretis on sale for only $0.99. The link is below.
Considering the difficult times we’ve all experienced in 2020, remember the wealthy in your prayers too. They suffer in a different way, but their hearts are hurt as much as ours. Money does not solve all problems. Only God does. We all need supportive, trustworthy friends. Jesus longs to be our friend, our tower of strength, our provider, our anchor…
May you be blessed with the peace that passes all understanding.
Here is a question for you: Name your favorite character and the book they live inside. Also, tell something fun/unusual/interesting about this character.
Answer in the comment section to be eligible to win a copy of Sylvia’s Secret. Sorry, US addresses only. If the winner prefers, an eBook will be sent.
Welcome to Nancy Arant Williams, who lives in the beautiful Ozarks of Missouri. She’s highlighting her latest novel, and offering a free trade paperback of her trilogy called Bear Me on Angels’ Wings to one commenter. I’m particularly intrigued by how her writing career began later in life:
1999 should’ve been a good year for me, because my husband retired and we were moving to the beautiful Missouri Ozarks, where we were having a home built. But for me, it was a traumatic time, because it meant leaving Nebraska, the only home I’d ever known, as well as my network of friends, relatives and neighbors, our church, and our children and grandchildren.
I don’t acclimate easily to change, and was struggling, so my doctor put me on an antidepressant to ease the transition. We moved March 1, during a gray and icy spell in Missouri, into our unfinished home to complete it, and it was cold, muddy and not the least bit appealing.
Once the house was finished, I had nothing to do with my time, so I asked the Lord what on earth I was supposed to do in such a foreign environment. And because I had never written a thing in my life I was stunned to hear him say, “Sit down, because I want you to learn to write for me.”
I argued for a while until I realized how therapeutic this would be. He even gave me dreams, with scenes and dialogue running through them, showing me the story in movie format. It flowed easily and filled my emotional bucket, until I was no longer depressed and had no further need for the antidepressant. Ultimately he showed me that this new niche was the perfect place to write, quiet, wooded, and on a small three-acre private lake, picturesque in every season.
Writing was satisfying and fun because the characters were animated and zany; it wasn’t long before they seemed like real live people I’d love to know. Once the first book was done, it was clear there would be several more in a series. By the time I’d completed the series, Missouri felt like the home that I never wanted to leave.
Only God knew that my tough new start would open doors of destiny I could never have imagined, making readers laugh and cry. But best of all, they could see the love of God through fiction. Writing still fills my emotional bucket like nothing else, and best of all, there is no compulsory retirement date in my future.
Peachtree contrasts with other books in that the characters are middle-aged, and the book is more slice-of-life than any single genre, containing humor, conspiracy, murder, romance, etc., which makes it stand alone.
Excerpt from Peachtree Street:
Makkie Yeats is a fifty-three-year-old retired RN, whose life has been turned upside down. She’s still struggling to adjust to the idea of once again living with her dominant, social-climbing older sister Zoe after their mother tricked them into moving in together. In fact, things have been in such an uproar that she’s stunned to realize she hasn’t seen or heard from her dear friend, Ferdy Wallace, the wife of their family doctor, for months. After several failed attempts to phone, she’s desperate for answers, so she drives to Ferdy’s house and presses the bell.
No answer. I rang again, and waited another minute, before circling to the back of the house, where sliding glass doors led into Ferdy’s room. The curtains were pulled and the slider was locked, leaving me feeling more frantic than ever.
At the front door again, I tried the knob. It wasn’t locked, so I walked in. I called, “Hello, is anyone here?” At the door of her room, I knocked, heard a faint sound, and let myself in. All I could do was stare in shock. Ferdy, a small mound under the covers, was nearly unrecognizable; she had aged at least twenty years since my last visit several months earlier. Her normally porcelain skin was gray and sunken and her frame skeletal. Her striking white hair was sparse and dull, and her eyes were glazed.
I took her hand. “Ferdy, It’s Makkie. Can you hear me?”
She turned her head slightly, trying to focus. “Makkie,” she whispered, then closed her eyes as if exhausted.
“Ferdy, what’s going on? Where’s Silvey?” Silvey was their live-in housekeeper.
Just then Silvey stomped into the room. “What are you doing here?” she demanded.
“I came to check on Ferdy. What’s happened, Silvey? Why does she look so bad?”
Her green eyes flashed angrily. “I don’t know exactly, but Doc’s taking care of her. Now you need to leave.”
“I’m not leaving until I talk to her alone. So get out, close the door, and don’t let it hit you in the fanny on your way out.”
She left, but I knew she’d be calling Doc, and my heart skipped a beat as I realized the trouble I’d be in when he arrived.
“Ferdy, I need you to tell me what’s wrong. Can you do that?”
She looked at me, trying to focus, and I could see she was drugged to the point of sedation. I took her hand in mine. “Ferdy, is Doc doing this to you?” She nodded with effort.
“I’m calling an ambulance.”
Before thinking, I picked up her extension and heard Doc and Silvey talking. I heard him rage, “Well, get rid of her before she finds out!”
I carefully hung up, dug my flip phone from my pocket and dialed 911. When I felt reassured that help was on the way, I lifted the fragile woman into her wheelchair and pushed the hair out of her eyes.
“I’m taking you outside to wait for the ambulance.” I pushed her down the hall at a fast clip and was pulling the front door open when Silvey rushed me.
“What do you think you’re doing?” she screeched. “You can’t take her out of her home. I won’t let you.”
“Just try to stop me.”
“Don’t think I won’t You cant take her. You can’t!”
I pushed Ferdy through the front door, heading for the curb. Silvey had followed us a few steps out the front door, only to turn back toward the house. Now I could hear her gaining on us. She whirled around in front of me and said, “Get out of here, Makkie, before I call the sheriff.”
I frowned. “Go ahead and call him. I’d like him to investigate exactly what’s going on here.”
She stopped in her tracks, eyes aflame. “What do you mean, ‘what’s going on here?’”
“You know exactly what I mean.” She backed off a little, and I had nearly decided to haul Ferdy in my car when I heard sirens. Turning toward the sound, I saw a blur of movement and was hit from behind with something heavy. I could feel my legs buckling, and my consciousness fading, a flash of pain at the back of my head. My next lucid thought occurred when I woke in the back of the ambulance . . .
Certain urges kick in with this change of seasons, right? We make more soups and start baking certain items, or at least thinking about it.
Some extremely industrious, organized folks have their gifts wrapped and ready (not naming names, Carolyn!) I’m often one who resists putting up the tree too early, but not this year. Last week I started checking our lights.
Do the events of 2020 have anything to do with my behavior? Absolutely!
I rarely share recipes, but here’s one for the yummy cinnamon honey pretzel mix shown above–quick, easy, delectable.
Mix one 11 oz pkg of pretzels in shape you prefer, 3 cups corn Chex, your choice of nuts, raisons, craisins, etc. (I used cashews and walnuts.) Melt 1 cup butter with 1/2 cup honey, pour over dry mix and stir.
*** The photo above is minus corn Chex, didn’t have any in the house, but my make-do inheritance from the Greatest Generation kicked in, and husband likes it anyway.
Bake at 350 degrees for 5 mins, remove and stir. Repeat and cool a minute or so. Toss with mixture of sea salt and cinnamon. Cool thoroughly.
Makes enough for…depends how many other snacks you offer!
On this topic of the holidays and food, here’s a review of one of my latest books:
If you’d like to engage in a bit of time travel,“World War II Holiday Scrapbook” is a nifty way to do it.
Whether you’re a history buff, or crave a bit of nostalgia for holidays celebrated with homemade gifts and packages sent lovingly to foreign shores, this book is for you.
The focus is on the home front. Everything from Christmas treats in the time of rationing to how Christmas was celebrated in the White House.
It’s a lovely read with pictures of much cherished gifts from that time as well as heartwarming stories.
Dana Mentink’s novel FETCHING SWEETNESS features a lovable canine, and sounds refreshing in this time of worry and frustration. I’m glad to welcome her to DARE TO BLOOM. She’s giving away a signed paperback copy (or e-book for international) to a commenter.
Hi, there! I’m Dana Mentink. I’m here to spread around a little sweetness!
In Fetching Sweetness, a novel I wrote for Harvest House, Rhett Hastings is a desperately unhappy corporate mogul, a worldly success. Stephanie Pink is hanging onto an identity that no longer fits God’s vision for her life. Two people who have made a muddle of things are struggling to discover their true identities. Can you relate? I sure can. In this ever changing world jobs, families, past times are being uprooted, changed up or distanced at a moments notice and it’s so easy to feel shaken to the core!
But then… there’s Sweetness, the picture of contentment!
He’s just a big goofy dog with bad manners and no pedigree who changes everything. Dogs do that, sometimes. Did you ever wonder why people just adore dogs? Sure they’re man’s best friend, but why it is so precious to enjoy the company of a dog, even a big elephantine and poorly trained critter like Sweetness? Here’s my theory:
-Dogs do not care a fig about what you’ve done in the world. Homeless, helpless, failed and floundering? That tail will still wag when you show up. Dogs are not confused by worldly identities.
-Dogs forgive. Forgot the dog treat yesterday? Used a harsh tone towards Sparky? Didn’t make time to walk your pet? Dogs forgive. Today is a new day, a clean slate and another chance to be the kind of person God made you to be.
-Dogs see your potential. So you’re not in perfect shape? So you didn’t finish school? Get that job? Hang onto that relationship? You have not accomplished the dreams you had for your life? The dog sees the great qualities you still possess even if you have lost sight of them. You were made to love. You were made to comfort others. You were made to make your way through this earth, and share burdens, joys and the Good News (in person or socially distanced…whatever way it works.)
It’s so incredible, isn’t it, to know that no matter how we disappoint, fall down, succeed or don’t succeed, there is nothing that will separate us from the love of the God who made us? Now if that isn’t a sweet piece of news, I don’t know what is!
Dana Mentink is a two time American Christian Fiction Writers Carol Award winner, a Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Award and a Holt Medallion winner. She is a national bestselling author of over forty titles in the suspense and lighthearted romance genres. She is pleased to write for Harlequin’s Love Inspired Suspense, Harlequin Heartwarming and Sourcebooks. She enjoys teaching writing classes at conferences, and loves to be home with Papa Bear, teen bear cubs affectionately nicknamed Yogi and Boo Boo, Junie, the nutty terrier, and a chubby box turtle. You can connect with Dana via her website at danamentink.com, on Facebook, YouTube (Author Dana Mentink) and Instagram (dana_mentink.)
Welcome to author Carol Nemeth with her Faith in the Parks series, where you’ll find suspense and romance. Carol tells us about her writing, and is giving away an e-book copy of Yorkshire Lass to one commenter.
His Perfect Timing
As an author who began writing as a teen, I was confident I would get published early too. After all, my love of writing was as heartfelt and important as any other author’s. Right? No doubt true, my love of writing certainly didn’t guarantee publication. Far from it. Not until our second child’s birth did I finish a novel and attempt publication.
That journey was fraught with disappointment, rejection and self-reflection. My first novel, Yorkshire Lass, was rejected time and again, leaving me to wonder if writing was God’s will for my life. Or had I pushed my plans ahead of His?
I prayed, If it’s not Your will for me to continue writing and pursue publication, then, Lord, please take away this love and desire to write. It never went away as I continued praying and submitting my manuscript. More rejections followed. One publisher gave me hope as they made manuscript suggestions with the idea they might take it. They didn’t.
Disappointment again filled me. I kept praying, but God was silent. Even in His silence, my desire to write and to publish my novel showed me He hadn’t said no. He was telling me to wait. Like most of God’s children, I struggled with waiting for His perfect timing.
Our daughter was born in 1990, and I began Yorkshire Lasssoon after that. It was finally published March of 2016, nearly twenty-six years after it was finished. I may never know all the reasons my Abba Father led me on that disappointment-fraught journey to publication, but He taught me some things.
His timing is always perfect, and I must trust His timing. The details of my life are better left in His hands to work out the proper time for them to happen. Psalm 27:14 says “Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.”
I discovered God has our best interests at heart. Jeremiah 29:11 says “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” He didn’t withhold publication from me because He was angry or being mean. Whatever His reasons, He chose 2016 to publish my first novel. Since then we’ve published eight more books. He’s blessed me in ways I never expected.
American Jessica Montgomery arrives in WW I England to be greeted with the horrible news that local vagrants and homeless folk are being found murdered. With a killer skulking through the North Yorkshire Dales, she and Grandmother Morag McDonald fear for the safety of the orphans living at Hope Orphanage. With the help of local Dr. Garth Samuels, they do all they can to protect them. Is it a deranged individual who is the harbinger of death or could it be something far more sinister? As they search for answers to end the horror, Jess learns who she can and cannot trust, but it may be too late when she finds her own life in danger.
A native North Carolinian, I always loved reading since childhood and making up stories since junior high school. I worked in the National Park Service and served in the US Army where I was stationed in Italy. There I met the love of my Life, Mark Nemeth, also an Army veteran. After we married, we lived in various locations including North Yorkshire, England. We now live in West Virginia, where in our spare time, Mark and I enjoy camping and sightseeing. We’re active in our church and enjoy our two grown children, son-in-law and three grandchildren. I’m a member of ACFW and have written and published nine books.
People like me get excited about books for writing, so I’m thrilled to welcome Zoe McCarthy this week. For years, I followed her helpful blog posts that explained grammar and usage in a hands-on manner, and now has compiled them into a text that I’ve enjoyed perusing. And she is giving away a
My review: This volume literally (pardon the pun) bursts with necessary information for both fiction and non-fiction writers. Through the years I’ve consulted various grammar handbooks, and also used several in instructing college writing classes. I can heartily recommend this one. Concise and filled with down-to-earth examples, it offers treasure to serious writers.
I congratulate the commenter who wins her giveaway of a signed copy. To qualify, just leave a note for her in the comment section. And here is Zoe:
“You need to turn your blog posts into a book on writing,” an editor told me. Then a few weeks later, literary agent Diana Flegal said the same thing. She later wrote, “Since the market for fiction writers is tougher than ever, I bugged Zoe, and her agent, for a Zoe McCarthy writing book.” So, I took these professionals’ advice and created Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days.
On the eve of Halloween, I’ll share scary challenges that confronted me and snippet assurances I received in endorsements.
Overwhelming material.I’d researched and written over 150 posts on writing topics I’d used in writing my seven inspirational romances and teaching writing workshops. I didn’t want to dump posts into a book. How could I organize so many posts into a coherent guide for writers? Scary. I wish you could’ve seen the posts’ print-outs stacked into meaningful piles covering my office floor and furniture. Editor coordinator for Pelican Book Group, Jamie West, wrote, “A concise, detailed, step-by-step resource for all writers.”
Daunting dream. How could I structure the book to help writers get their manuscripts in shape and guide first-time writers in writing their stories? I wanted to free writers from experiencing rejections like I’d received on my journey. Freelance editor Denise Loock wrote, “If you follow her advice and implement her strategies, a publisher will be much more likely to issue you a contract.”
Perfection. Since Tailor teaches writing, I wanted it to be perfect. Recently I spotted a typo in one of my examples.Ugh. I wrote, “I didn’t steal this heroine.” I meant a drug, not a woman. Multi-published author Tanya Hanson said, “As an English teacher, I can attest that her tips on good grammar and her hints for excellent sentence and paragraph structure are spot on. But as an author, I also appreciate her ever-present advice that excellent skills are not enough: you must tell a good story, too.”
Confidence. No scary ghost can attack me on one aspect. I believe in Tailor. Multi-award-winning author and president of Word Weavers, Eva Marie Everson, penned, “Zoe McCarthy’s book is a fresh and innovative refocusing of your novel or novella. Through a few simple—and fun—steps, Zoe helps writers take their … manuscripts to a spit-polish finish.”
Aspiration.I hope Tailor will lessen fear of writing. Bestselling cozy mystery author and Twitteriffic owner, Elizabeth Spann Craig, wrote, “Zoe M. McCarthy’s step-by-step reference guide leads you through the process, helping you fight feeling over-whelmed.” I smiled.
Today we welcome Jeff S. Bray and his Hallmark-type novel. Having a male romance author here is unique, so I asked Jeff to share a little about his journey. Enjoy, and please see below for qualifying for his GIVEAWAY of a free signed copy of Little Reminders.
Little Reminders, as with most of my writing, began with a dream. However, the final product came out quite differently than the dream. Yet, two components remained the same, the characters and the premise of the novel that developed. I don’t want to give too much away, but the ‘reminders’ weigh heavily within the dream and the novel’s entirety.
I really wanted to have fun with this one, since my first novel The Five Barred Gate was much more serious. It was about our freedoms as Christians being taken away from us and takes place in a dystopian world where being offensive to another person is illegal. I know that doesn’t seem so far-fetched. I wrote TFBG in 2016 and watched the world decline after it was released. Talk about seeing my writing unfold before my eyes.
So, with Little Reminders of Who I Am, I wanted to do a 180 through writing a love story, a true Hallmark-Saturday-in-your-pajamas book. And I do believe this novel delivers in spades.
My love for food comes from eight years of working in restaurants, which becomes evident in Little Reminders. By default, this makes me the cook in our family, where I am also a stay-at-home-parent of four boys and one girl. My wife goes to work, while I stay at home and run our household. Well, that is a half-truth. As a freelance writer, my job allows me the freedom of being at home.
When I am not fulfilling a client’s demand, I am promoting Little Reminders, penning my next novel, or writing a blog for my website, Moments for the Heart. I enjoy what I do and have had a passion for writing since I was in high school. I would love for you to visit my website, follow me on my FB page, JeffSBrayAuthor, and check out Little Reminders of Who I Am. In fact, I am going to make this interesting. If you complete the following two steps, I will enter your name into a drawing for a free signed copy of Little Reminders of Who I Am.
Susan Count brings one of her middle-grade novels to us today. What a fascinating story of her writing method and how the idea for the FIREFLY WARRIORS came to her–and she’s offering a GIVEAWAY, too. Commenter’s choice of a $10 Amazon gift card or a signed paperback of this book.
This story is overflowing with information for young scientists, and the author integrates ways modern laws can be used to protect endangered species. What a great Christmas gift for a grandchild!
Now Susan shares her writing story with us:
Oh what fun it is to be a middle-grade author!
Selah’s Sweet Dream was my first book. I was 62. I had NO idea about craft, so I didn’t write it with middle grade in mind—it just turned out to be the voice of the story. Then a friend read and loved it, so I wrote to Dandi Mackall—you know her as a well-respected Christian children’s author. Bless her heart—she answered me. At her prompting, I joined SCBWI and worked with a critique group for two years on the novel. At the end, I was in love with the process and couldn’t stop writing. I still have that problem today.
I prefer to fabricate stories in a quiet zone. Out my window, my mind wanders across the forest and keeps me in a grateful state of being. I write at a fabulous antique desk that has secret compartments filled with horse story ideas.
My schedule changes with the seasons of life. The sunniest of times is when I can equally balance the best things in my life—riding my horse and writing my stories. When the weather is bad, I write more. If it’s glorious, then I ride more.
I’m not a fast writer because I re-read and then listen for the next line. Editing is my super-power but plotting is the greatest fun. I write the story beats on sticky notes and plaster them on a glass sliding door. I especially love to plot with my grandchildren. They are full of fun ideas. I have to keep asking them “and then what could go wrong” because they will stick a happy ending into every scene. How delightful to be a child. I feel strongly this age should have their hearts and minds sheltered from the world’s evils. If it were up to me, I’d keep them innocent for as long as possible.
My new release, The Firefly Warriors Club,is a major departure from the horse books I normally write. The story came about after the bushes in the forest surrounding our home came to life with thousands of twinkling lights. We’d never seen such a spectacular show and have not seen one like it since. Then I learned that many children have not only never seen the miraculous firefly, but have never heard of them. God filled our world with delights and clues to His existence. It’s our job to draw young readers near to the light.