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White Knight (Book Review)

white knightWhite Knight by Staci Stallings was free on kindle and I downloaded it and enjoyed reading this heart wrenching romance.

Eve Knox struggles beneath the weight of grief even two years after her beloved husband Dustin, a firefighter, dies as a result of a fighting a fire. She buries herself in her work and suffers the matchmaking of well-meaning friends.

A.J. Knight was a wanna-be drummer who couldn’t make it and returned home to work as an E.M.T. He was the paramedic who as a novice was first on the scene to care for Dustin as he was recovered fatally burned from a fire. That day, along with many others, haunts his soul and overshadows the lives he has saved.

When A.J. and Eve meet, laughter erupts and wounded hearts begin to heal and hope, except that A.J. has never told Eve about his perceived failure and culpability in her husband’s death. He assigns blame for the grief and sorrow she has suffered.

Can two wounded people overcome the heartache of the past and reach for a future of love and laughter? This story is a heartfelt journey of two such people and how memories of pain can overshadow the wonder and joy of love. This is a well-written book. The first chapter was difficult in trying to sort through all the characters involved but it soon becomes clear and easier to follow. Staci draws characters whose pain is experienced by the reader and a pain that is hard to set aside even when the book reaches it’s happily-ever-after and the final page turns.

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Homophones: An Author’s Nemesis

I have always enjoyed Veggie Tales but this silly song by Larry the Cucumber is especially poignant to an author. To be clear, having problems with homophones does not make me racist against phonics. Not at all.

Because weather, I mean whether you like it or not, the English language is filled with words that sound the same but have different meanings. When reading or editing a book it can be hard to see these words for what they are, clever masquerades trying to trick you into saying something you didn’t intend and which, if read correctly, would be utterly ridiculous. As an author or an editor one has to have a special radar out for these words as they are commonly misused.

So be aware and watch out for these nasty posers out to doom your writing. And if all else fails. . .

peanuts grammar nazi

Breathing on Her Own (Book Review)

breathing on her ownI am in the fortunate position, many times, to get asked to read and review a book by another author. While the manuscript I review is free to me, I try to be honest in the review. Breathing on Her Own by Rebecca Waters is one such book. It is not a romance but a contemporary women’s fiction. As well as a complex journey that a family takes on in healing and faith.

What if, after your adult daughter’s accident, the most hopeful words someone could say to you was “At least she is breathing on her own?” This is the reality that Molly Tipton and her husband are faced with after they learn their oldest (married) daughter was involved in a car accident and barely alive. The other occupant of the car as dead.

A sharp curve, dark night and alcohol were involved.

Throw in a difficult recovery and other losses as well as the possibility of a lawsuit for vehicular homoside and Molly soon realizes that her daughter is not the only one who is injured. Molly’s faith, or lack of it, is scraped raw by the events surrounding her daughter and she comes to realize how much she has to grow and learn and recover herself from a paralytic faithlessness.

As they struggle with the physical aspects of healing the family, and especially Molly, are challenged with their spiritual healing as well. Can God provide and make good the mistakes of the past?

This is a well written story that takes you into the pain of a family struggling through a crisis not only of physical pain, but financial and spiritual as well and discovering God’s restorative hand doesn’t always give us what we want, but exactly what we need. The book is available on preorder and is due out on the 25th of March.

Power of Attorney (1 of 4) Short Story Romance

My friend Sarah rushed into the break room with a note. “You need to return this call right away, Allyssa. There is some kind of emergency.”

I took the paper and dialed my cell. “Hello? This is Allyssa Reid, someone called for me?”

“Yes, I am calling to inform you that Cal Forte was in an accident and you are his designated power of attorney. We need you to come to the hospital right away.”

“When did this happen?”

“Two days ago. It took a while before we were able to locate you.”

I gave a hasty explanation to my boss, clocked out and rushed over.

Two weeks ago I had been resolute. I would not see Calvin again. I loved him. I just couldn’t bring myself to commit. I know. Isn’t that usually the man’s issue?

Cal hadn’t accepted his conge but had persevered with grace. There had been a surprise every day. Something little, sweet and thoughtful. Two days ago it had been my favorite Frappuccino. Before that there had been sweet notes, or a single flower, or my favorite candy. Every day something reminded me of how well he knew me and had paid attention.

It had stopped abruptly two days ago. Now I knew why. My mind raced through all kinds of scenarios of why my help was needed and it always kept coming back to the same question. Why me? Why would Cal make me his POA?

I arrived and Cal’s attorney, Mr. Coomes, sat me down in a small room and handed me an envelope. “This came with the POA papers. You should read it before we talk about the decisions that have to be made.” He left. I glanced at the envelope and tapped it on the table. The trembling in my body led me to rip it open, earning myself a paper cut in the process. I sucked on my finger as I unfolded the handwritten letter.

Dear Ally,

If you are reading this, that means something has happened to me. I knew from the first date that you were the only one I could entrust my life and finances to. You were never impressed with any of the flash of my family. Please don’t let them make the decisions and keep any news about what happened from the press and my family for as long as you are able. My secretary and bodyguards will assist you as will Drew. Just make the next best choice for me with regards to any treatment. And please be there. I love you and my heart will know your voice. You may be the best medicine that the world could offer.

If I haven’t made you my wife yet, I’m sorry to have thrust this on you. Please get me well so I can rectify that.

My heart is forever yours, Cal

I glanced at the documents in the folder in front of me. He signed them one day after our first date. Who did that kind of thing?

A crazy man.

I met with the doctor and then was allowed to see Cal. Any barriers that I had erected around my heart tumbled down the minute I saw his bruised and battered face. He was still handsome to me. A nurse handed me a bag of his belongings. Shoes, clothes, wallet and . . . a small stuffed kitten. It was a pretty blue with a pink tail and ears. They told me he had been struck by a car half a block from where I work.

He had been coming to deliver a gift for me.

“I am the most selfish of creatures,” I whispered as I read the brief little note with the animal. I hugged it tight. I had always wanted a cat but was allergic to them. He had remembered. Even if he couldn’t have me, he had wooed me by giving me things I liked and wanted.

And now? Now he might die.

A few days later, the doctors backed off on the medications to bring him out of a drug-induced coma to assess the extent of the damage to his brain. What if he didn’t want me anymore? He didn’t need me. He was wealthy enough to hire people to help him through whatever was ahead. I had been the one to walk away. Why would he trust me to do this?

We had dated eight intense months. He started talking about marriage and I got scared. He was wealthy, a sought after bachelor and media darling. I didn’t fit in to his world. His family despised and ridiculed me. All under a veneer of politeness, yet their words had cut deep. I struggled paycheck to paycheck, but I had my degree and I managed. Barely.

And for some reason, Cal trusted me with his health and riches.

I stayed at the hospital with him for two weeks, rarely leaving his side.

My boss tried to be understanding, but someone had to do my job. I was on a leave of absence now after using up all my vacation. That meant there would be no more paycheck. I didn’t have much savings. I had packed my meager belongings into my small coupe and tendered my notice on my apartment. A friend stored my furniture in their garage for the time being. I became homeless but hoped it would be temporary. I would have my security deposit back soon and that would tide me over for a short time. I wasn’t home anyway. I almost lived at the hospital in a room adjoined to the private suite Cal was in.

If I had known sitting in a hospital could help me lose weight I might have tried it sooner.

 return for part 2 tomorrow

Do You Make Jesus Look Stupid?

IMG_20131214_090959_409I’m stepping out on a limb here because something has bothered me a lot lately with social media.

Christians are making statements and polarizing themselves over things that are inconsequential. Oh, I know, you believe your views are important and I respect that, but please, hear me out here.

Does your firm stance and insulting words about whether someone is Republican or Democrat show the winsomeness of Christ?

Or whether you believe in Creation or Evolution?

Or, whether everyone should say “Merry Christmas?”

I’m not saying that these things are unimportant. What I want to propose though is that the militant stand that many take might be doing more to alienate those from the truth of the gospel and the holiness of this time of year than attract them to it.

Insulting someone to try to win them to your point of view is the equivalent of throwing manure on them rather than the sweet aroma of baking Christmas cookies. It doesn’t work.

Our opponents are fellow image bearers of Christ, whether we agree with their political, cultural or theological positions on things.

I have my perspective and stand on issues too, and some I feel strongly about. However, the reason I initially went to pursue a degree in Christian counseling was because I saw too often that the words and behaviors of many Christians were a stumbling block to unbelievers.

Granted, we are all in the process of sanctification–and I am at times as guilty as anyone of being obnoxious about things I believe strongly in. However, I believe as Christians we need to have an extra filter on our conversations on-line. The filter of the question: “Will this bring honor to Christ and make Him desirable for others to pursue?”

Yes, I know Christianity is objectionable to many. But consider this. Is it because of the truths of the Bible itself,or could it be due to the way those who claim to be Christians behave and respond to the world around them?

I’m not going to tell you what to believe about how you educate your child, whether or not you should vaccinate or if you should be for or against Obamacare. I respect the fact that there are people on both sides of the aisle of these issues. And that’s okay. (No. Really. It is.). God can be honored and glorified in many of the diverse opinions we hold depending on the manner in which we hold them.

Does that make sense? I believe God can be glorified in the family that chooses public school as well as  those who homeschool (or private). God leads and guides us all in different ways because He desires to shine His light in all the dark corners of the world. When we can love others in spite of their views on abortion (gasp!) or how they vote, we elevate their dignity as humans created in the image of God above our own agendas. Do we have to negate what we believe in to do that? NO! But we can love and listen and even disagree without disrespecting those who hold opposing views. We can stand for truth, certainly, but let us do it with grace.

Ultimately our goal is to win the world to Jesus, but if  the world sees us as fighting about minor issues as to what color of skin Jesus or Santa had or get militant about boycotting stores that say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” then how does that draw them closer to the very Savior we proclaim to worship and adore? When we do things like this we are slamming the door of the inn in their face and tell them they can’t belong with us because of some corporate policy dictated to them by a handful of people removed from the day to day interaction at a cash register.

Go ahead and say Merry Christmas in response to a benign greeting. Sometimes those employees are obeying orders but can respond to your comment with their own Merry Christmas when you open the door instead of being hostile. And the sweetness of Christ will prevail instead of more animosity.

This goes beyond Christmas – but the war seems to be more heated than ever at this season. Christianity is not supposed to intentionally alienate people from the truths of the Gospel. The gospel can do that on it’s own but those who believe in Him should not. We hold our faith as a precious and beautiful gift of grace that is meant to be shared, not horded.

Emdashes, Ellipsis and Commas, oh my!

While words can be a bug-a-boo with writing, so can punctuation.

It isn’t as easy as we were taught in grade school, is it? A statement ends in a period. An exclamation ends in an exclamation point! And doesn’t a question end with a question mark?  My first novel’s rough draft was a minefield of exclamation points. I don’t think you could read through one page without tripping over one. It’s the way I talk. I’m just one big walking exclamation point (or so I’m told).  Sometimes, when it comes to writing, less is more. So if you, like me, have a fondness for that punctuation mark: STOP IT!

Sounds too simple to be true.

Then there the controversy about commas. Some people like more, some like less. “Let’s eat Grandma,” is different from “Let’s eat, Grandma.” In the first you are using economy and becoming a cannibal. In the second you are inviting someone to dinner.

As I’ve done more editing I’ve found that many people have a fondness for the emdash—just like I do. For some, perhaps a bit too much.  I think they are great but like an exclamation point and fine wine, best used in moderation. They stop the dialogue and sometimes you want that pause, but you don’t want your reader tripping over them too often.

The lovely ellipsis . . . I see it over used or not spaced correctly and I know that when it comes to formatting this can be an issue. Maybe I’m wrong but I would rather just see the space dot space dot space dot space. If it becomes a formatting issue that can be changed later to publishing house standards.

What punctuation marks do you struggle with or perhaps have a tendency to overuse?

Attracted to Fire (Book Review)

attracted to fireI’ll admit it. I’m a sucker for a free book but when it’s a book by DiAnn Mills that totally ups the appeal. Attracted to Fire is a romantic suspense in her compelling style that makes it hard to set the book, the characters or the story aside until you have turned the final page (or swiped it if you have an e-reader).

No FBI in this book, but Secret Service agents with FBI wanna-be tendencies. Special Agent Meghan Connor’s is one assignment away from her coveted dream of one day protecting the President of the United States. The President hand-pics her for his security detail for his rebellious daughter who struggles with addictions and demons no one can fathom.  Not the worst job in the world unless you are working under the leadership of Special Agent in Charge Ash Zinders who has a belief that women do not belong in the Secret Service and who is also gunning for the roll of protecting the President when this assignment has been completed. Ash is known as a perfectionist and detail oriented. Nothing escapes his notice, even an attractive and highly competent female agent he longs to loathe but grows to respect.

A normal protective duty doesn’t include the kinds of threats and security breaches that they encounter on a secluded ranch in Texas. Assuming the threat is drug related they are slow to realize that the threat is far more powerful than they anticipated. And far more deadly. Soon Ash comes to realize the only safe person to process with is Meghan as they try to uncover the clues as to why the President’s daughter is in so much danger. The danger draws them together as forces threaten to rip them apart.

Faith is central to this story as well. I love how the characters who believe struggle to trust God in their circumstances and can still spur each other on in the midst of such evil swirling around them.

DiAnn Mills is a master of suspense and keeps you guessing who the enemy is and even up to the end wondering just how these two agents, not knowing who to trust, will over come the enemy, protect their charge and the President.  I loved this story. It was riveting. I can’t wait to read more by this fabulous author!

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I did have a complaint on my reviews. I do put links to the books on Amazon. However, if you find the book cheaper elsewhere, then by all means by it there. I won’t accept responsibility for your purchasing choices and shopping around is always a good thing although authors deserve compensation for writing such fabulous books and we should never begrudge them that.