I do not read every book/author I spotlight or book tour I host!
Readers, Please research and use wisdom before buying

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

#WednesdayWordswithFriends Welcomes Sandra Byrd!

Good Morning Dear Friends,

I pray you're having a BLESSED week so far and that the blessings continue until they chase you down and run you over! Yesterday I shared some Good News/Bad News with my newletter readers. If you haven't subscribed please do so now. Meanwhile, you can check out the news HERE

Enough about me.

Today's guest was introduced to you back in July when we spotlighted her book Heirlooms, so please welcome Sandra Byrd back as she some Unforgetable Do's and Don'ts of a Second Chance Romance.....Take it away, Sandra!

My first novel—written as a young teenager—was about two people who had fallen in love but realized they could never be together. Why not? They were both from the North Pole and, like magnets, would always repel each other. Instead of trying to “connect” again, they went their separate ways to find a “South Pole” romance partner to whom they could attach instead.

But sometimes, in life and books, a second chance romance with an old love is a good thing. Reunited, the couple finds they click in ways they never could before. So what, then, are some of the dos and don’ts to consider before trying once more?

Let’s try again if
o We both have open hearts and are willing to discuss what went wrong before.
o Both of us are willing to forgive and rekindle.
o Both of us have grown in maturity—and maybe faith—from our first time around.
o Respect and the desire to see one another grow and be fulfilled mark our interactions. We’re growing together and growing, together.
o We feel like we’re better together than apart.

We need to stay apart if
o Trust was broken in any way.
o One of us feels owed a second chance.
o The first breakup would be a relationship weapon from now on.
o One of us is trying to control the other.
o The chemistry is gone—we’re just attracted to familiarity, not each other.

GREAT advice Sandra, thank you for sharing!

Sandra Byrd is the author of more than fifty published books, including the historical novels To Die For, Mist of Midnight, and her most recent, Lady of a Thousand Treasures. She has received many awards, nominations, and accolades for her work, including the Historical Novel Society’s Editor’s Choice award, two Christy Award nominations, Library Journal Best Book selections, and inclusion on Booklist’s Top Ten Inspirational Books of the Year list. Sandra lives in Seattle with her husband and with her grown children nearby. Heirlooms along with Sandra's other books can be found at Amazon and other places where great Christian fiction is available.

Find out more by visiting Sandra's Website and following her on Social Media.

Hope you enjoyed today's post friends and that you're looking forward to Saturday Spotlight with Kathy Bailey this weekend!

Until next time take care and God Bless.


Saturday, August 27, 2022

#SaturdaySpotlight is on Carol James @CarolJamesAuth & A Time for Singing!

 Good Morning My Dear Friends and Welcome!

It's been a rainy week here in SW Louisiana and although we'd been in a drought situation for quite a while, we're all feeling quite a bit soggy now and saying, "ENOUGH!" 

Why is it Mother Nature seems to be in a bad mood most of the time and go from one extreme to the next? Take a chill pill already LOL!

Regardless of the weather, it's always a beautiful day when I have the priveledge of spotlighting a fellow author and his/her newest release and today is no exception! Take it away, Carol.....

 Charlee Bennett is running from her past. Once deserted by her musician ex-fiancé, she’s vowed to avoid anything that reminds her of the pain of his betrayal.

Chance Jackson is starting over. Hoping to redeem the mistakes of his earlier life, he hopes to become the music and worship pastor of the largest church in Crescent Bluff.

Charlee tries to convince herself she should not be attracted to Chance. But then she discovers an old letter hidden in the secret drawer of an antique desk. The pain expressed by its author resonates deep within her.

Can the words of long ago soften Charlee's heart and help her to discover that there is a time for singing?    

So, who would it be tonight? 

From her table in the back corner, Charlee Bennett surveyed the inn’s small dining room. The only empty chair sat across from her, a sure sign she’d soon have a dinner companion. 

She smoothed the white linen napkin in her lap and sipped her water. Over the past few years, these monthly weekends at the Wayfarer Inn had become her favorites, times of pampering among the plodding. 

A tall man who definitely wasn’t from Crescent Bluff stepped into the doorway and leaned on the old oak pulpit now serving as the hostess stand. Michael presented his best maître d’ smile and then consulted the reservations list. The new diner nodded. Michael gathered a menu and silverware and turned in her direction. 

Perspiration prickled her face. Oh, no. Not this man. Anyone but him. Please…not a musician. She could spot them a mile away. After following Jake around for a year and then dating him for two more, she knew the look. PR. Painstakingly Relaxed

Last month, she’d shared dinner with a trial judge from Amarillo, and the month before that, a retired humanitarian aid worker from Uganda. Not only had both men been fascinating, they’d also been safe. Both were old enough to be her grandfather. But as Michael led tonight’s guest toward her table, only one word resonated within her. 


Raised as an Air Force brat, the longest Carol James ever lived in one place was a year and a half. Maybe that’s why when she and her husband bought their first home over forty years ago, they stayed put.

Wife, mother, grandmother, and dog-mama, Carol loves writing stories of redemptive romance. When asked the difference between redemptive romance and standard romance, she replied, “A standard romance has two main characters––a hero and a heroine. A redemptive romance adds a third. God.”

Sign up for her quarterly newsletter and receive a free short story: https://www.carol-james.com/staying-in-touch.html 

Connect with Carol: 

Get your copy of A Time for Singing at Amazon, B&N, Kobo, GoodReads, Booktopia, BookBub & Pelican Book Group.

Check out Carol's previous visits HERE.

Good luck and God's blessings with A Time for Singing, Carol, the book definitely sounds like another hit! 

Hope you enjoyed today's spotlight as much as I did, Friends and that you'll check back each week for another edition of Wednesday Words with Friends and Saturday Spotlight.

Until next time, take care & God Bless.

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

#WednesdayWordswithFriends Welcomes Kathleen Neely @NeelyKneely3628 !

Good Morning Friends,

I hope this day finds you BLESSED.

Our guest is not new to our blog but she is here with a new book so please welcome Kathleen Neely back!

When a person is diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, it’s typically not a surprise. Symptoms have alerted them for some time.  I knew there was something causing the shaking of my hands. It had increased to the point where people noticed. I found myself tucking my shaky right hand out of sight or holding it still with my left hand. My primary care doctor suspected Benign Essential Tremor but sent me to a neurologist for an expert opinion. The neurologist matter-of-factly stated, “This is not Essential Tremor. You have Parkinson’s Disease.” I had suspected it and left his office not overly alarmed. Many people have PD. I shifted my care to a Movement Disorder Specialist, began medication, and continued with my life, working as an elementary principal. I joined an exercise group specific for people with PD and began attending info luncheons provided by our local PD support group. It was there that reality hit me in the gut. I saw people with advanced stages of the disease. Some who couldn’t walk without assistance. Some whose speech was garbled, rendering it incomprehensible. Some who tremored; some who swayed; some who drooled; and many with blank faces. I wanted to run from there and put my head back in the sand where I thought of PD as a nuisance instead of a life-changing disease. But that wasn’t possible. Once we learn something, we can never unlearn it. I cried and prayed, but knew that without a miracle from God, PD is progressive and without a cure. 

I know that God is able, but instead of asking for a miracle, I prayed for peace and the ability to face my infirmity with grace. I believe that the Bible speaks to us about dealing with physical ailments. When Lazarus was sick, his sisters knew Jesus could heal him. Yet despite their pleas, he tarried for two days, and Lazarus died. They couldn’t understand why Jesus didn’t help them. But we know he had greater plans. The Bible talks about a ‘thorn’ in Paul’s side. Some scholars believe it refers to a physical ailment. While Paul asked God to remove it, God’s answer was this. “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”  2 Cor. 12:9. I cling to that truth. And sing the words of “Even If.” MercyMe - Even If (Official Lyric Video) - Bing video “Even if You don’t, my hope is You alone.”

God has done remarkable things in the ten years since my diagnosis. I retired from my position and turned my attention to writing—a lifelong desire. Here’s an amazing blessing. My compromised small motor skills prevent me from writing legibly (micrographia), but I can type with great fluency. I see that as God’s provision for me to write. I’ve had six novels published in those ten years, but this latest one is special to me. I wrote a character with Parkinson’s. I’ve wanted to do that for some time. My goal is to offer readers a quality story while bringing awareness of PD. I hope you enjoy Kate’s story. I noted some common symptoms in this message, but Though the Mountains be Shaken will expand your knowledge. PD is the second most prevalent neurodegenerative disease, second only to Alzheimer’s. Everyone knows someone suffering from this disease, so I hope you’ll arm yourself with information, whether through this novel or elsewhere. 

Kate Dunbar puts 100% into everything she does—a career as a literary agent, a mom of preschool twins, and the wife of Ryan Dunbar, a criminal defense attorney. She appears to have the perfect life, until it begins to crumble piece by piece—her marriage, her health, and her job. 

Kate blames emotional stress for her fatigue, stiffness, and tremors. As symptoms begin to increase, Kate finds herself unable to control her body’s erratic movements. At the same time that she and Ryan separate, she receives a diagnosis of Parkinson’s. Determined not to tell her estranged husband of her diagnosis, Kate faces an unknown future and the possibility that she’ll face it as a single mother. 

As glimmers of hope for a restored marriage begin to surface, more upheavals await them. A case that Ryan is defending endangers his family and his career. 

Kate and Ryan both harbor secrets that threaten their marriage. Can they mend their broken family? How will Parkinson’s affect their future? For better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, forsaking all others. Every vow they spoke eight years ago is being tested. Can they survive the storm? 

Kathleen Neely is a retired elementary principal, and enjoys time with family, visiting her two grandsons, traveling, and reading. 

She is the author of The Street Singer, Beauty for Ashes, The Least of These, Arms of Freedom, and In Search of True North. Kathleen won second place in a short story contest through ACFW-VA for her short story “The Missing Piece” and an honorable mention for her story “The Dance”. Both were published in a Christmas anthology. Her novel, The Least of These, was awarded first place in the 2015 Fresh Voices contest through Almost an Author. She has numerous devotions published through Christian Devotions

Kathleen continues to speak to students about writing and publication processes. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. 

Get your copy of Though the Mountains be Shaken and Kathleen's other books by visiting her Amazon Page.

Check out Kathleen's previous visits to our blog HERE.

Wow, Kathleen THANK YOU for sharing your incredible story with us! We certainly wish you the best of luck and God's blessings and His complete healing and restoration through the Blood of Jesus!

Hope you enjoyed Kathleen's post as much as I did friends, and that you'll check back weekly for Wednesday Words with Friends and Saturday Spotlight.

Until next time, take care and God bless.

Saturday, August 20, 2022

#SaturdaySpotlight is on Chris Fabry & Lifemark!

Hello Again Friends,

Please help me welcome author, Chris Fabry back with a peek at his latest book, Lifemark.

For eighteen years, she tried to believe she had made the right decision—for him.

But if she never saw him again, how could she ever be sure?

Melissa had clung to the thin thread of hope given by the adoption agency that someday her newborn son might want to connect with her. When his eighteenth birthday arrived, she called the agency to simply update her contact information, not expecting a response.

Susan and Jimmy Colton had raised their boy with openness about his adoption. After the heartbreaking loss of two infant sons that marked their early years of marriage, they promised themselves they would try not to hold too tightly to David or hold back any information he wanted about his birth. And so they waited on him.

David was hesitant to talk about the questions and curiosities about his birth story that often haunted him. But as he neared adulthood, his need to know the full story of his life became something he couldn’t shake. Until the call came to the Coltons from the adoption agency, and the first tentative bits of communication and connection set in motion a story that would change all their lives forever.

From the team that brought you the movies Courageous and War Room comes Lifemark, the novelization of the new film inspired by a true story of adoption, redemption, and hope.

 In Lifemark, Chris Fabry explores:

Crafting the novelization of the new Kendrick brothers' movie Lifemark; inspired by a true story of adoption, redemption, and hope.

The storyline of a young man, adopted at birth, on a journey to find the birth parents he's never known.

The counter-cultural behaviors of unselfishness and loving well, as demonstrated by his characters in Lifemark.

How the decision to “choose life” presents opportunities for healing and reconciliation.

How adoptive parents must push through great loss and persevere in the adoption process.


He looked at her, then back at the object in his hand. “You think you might be pregnant?”

“I’ve been sick to my stomach every morning for the past week.”

“What does it say?”

“Says you’re going to be a father.”

The air seemed to leave the room for both of them.


“Is that all you can think to say?”

He looked at her again. “I didn’t . . . I mean . . . I don’t know what to say. What do you want me to say?”

She saw him all blurry now, like in one of those hall-­of-­mirrors rooms at the county fair. She wiped her eyes and tried to stay in control, but her chin quivered and she couldn’t stop it, and she hated that. She’d sat in the bathroom for a half hour after the test turned positive while a wave of emotion and fear swept over her. What she hadn’t prepared for in all of that was the unexpected feeling that crept up on her. Something she couldn’t tell Brian.

“What are you going to do?” he said.

Melissa pulled her head back, then looked away. Her face felt hot all of a sudden and she clenched her fists. She’d had fights with Brian, but she’d never felt this way before. “What am I going to do? Is that your question?”

“Yeah, I mean, what do you want me to ask you?”

“How about, what are we going to do? You’re part of this, you know.”

“I know that.” His eyes got soft and he reached out to touch her shoulder, but she moved away. The couch cushions sagged. She grabbed the edge and pulled herself up, leaning against the wall with her arms crossed.

“We’re not ready, Melissa. I don’t have a job. I’m behind on the rent. There’s no food. I’m not going to my mom for help and I know you don’t want to go to your dad.”

He was right about all of that. And there were more reasons they weren’t ready and shouldn’t be having a baby. But Melissa couldn’t shake the feeling she’d had in the bathroom. Mixed in with all the fear and shame and feeling stupid for not being more careful and a hundred other bad thoughts was a single word that rose to the surface like a rainbow trout in her heart.


She was going to be a mother. And there was something about that word, something about the concept, that made her feel alive. That tingle inside surprised her. On one hand, she felt like a million bricks had collapsed on top of her. She couldn’t breathe. And there was nobody she could tell because she knew what they’d think, what they’d say.

At the same ­time—­and it was the strangest thing to feel this ­way—­she sensed there was something good growing inside her. But every time she thought of that, another brick would fall and snap her back to reality.

“What do you think we should do, then?” Brian said.

“I don’t know.”

Adapted from Lifemark by Chris Fabry Copyright © 2022. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries.  All rights reserved.

Chris Fabry is an award-winning author and radio personality who hosts the daily program Chris Fabry Live on Moody Radio. He is also heard on Love Worth Finding, Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman, and other radio programs. In 2020, he was inducted into the Marshall University School of Journalism and Mass Communications Hall of Fame. A native of West Virginia, Chris and his wife, Andrea, now live in Arizona and are the parents of nine children.

Chris's novels, which include Dogwood, June Bug, Almost Heaven, and The Promise of Jesse Woods, have won five Christy Awards, an ECPA Christian Book Award, and two Awards of Merit from Christianity Today. He was inducted into the Christy Award Hall of Fame in 2018. His books include movie novelizations, such as War Room and Overcomer, and novels for children and young adults. He coauthored the Left Behind: The Kids series with Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye, as well as the Red Rock Mysteries and the Wormling series with Jerry B. Jenkins. He encourages those who dream of writing with his website heyyoucanwrite.com. Find out more about his books at chrisfabry.com.

Get your copy of Lifemark at Amazon or ChristianBook(dot)com. Check out the movie and check out Chris's previous visits to our blog HERE.
Wow, wow, wow....what an excerpt! Thanks for sharing Chris, sounds like an amazing book. Wishing you the best of luck and God's blessings with it.

Until next time, friends, be sure to check back weekly for Wednesday Words with Friends and Saturday Spotlight.

Take care and God Bless.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

#WednesdayWordswithFriends Me Catching up with YOU!

Good Morning Friends

Well, looks like we get two spots in a row on the blog to catch up. I spotlighted The Visionary on Saturday because my scheduled guest could not be here. Today I'm SO excited to tell you that I FINALLY finished Kyleigh's Cowboy!

The novella is off to 2 editors for final read-through. The cover is nearly perfected (I'll share it with you soon) and I'm in the process of putting it up for pre-order. I'll keep you apprised on that too!

Meanwhile, here is the blurb and a placeholder cover I created just for kicks....

She’s attempting to start a new life. He’s roamed for more than a decade. Can they let go of the past and grab hold of the future?

Seven years after the death of her husband, Kyleigh Winters turned their old vacation home into a brand new guest ranch. Not willing to join the ranks of lonely women trolling the bars or online in search of a man, Kyleigh is sure if God wishes her to have another husband, He’ll send the perfect someone in His own time. But will she be open to the possibility of new love when He does?

Searching for a place that calls to his soul, Lance Stevens has been a roaming cowboy for ten years since retiring from the Marines. He finds that sanctuary the moment he drives through the Silver Star’s gate and meeting the lovely owner speaks to more than his soul. Will he open to the healing power of love?

Get Pamela Thibodeaux's second chance romance novella today and see how love and faith conquers all.

Hope you enjoyed this peek at what very well may be my last book for a while.

Until next time, take care and God bless.


Saturday, August 13, 2022

#SaturdaySpotlight is on The Visionary

Good Morning,

My scheduled guest was not able to be here today so, since I spoke with my narrator yesterday and went over some of those Cajun names she'll need to know to record The Visionary for audio book, I thought I'd do a spotlight on the novel.

Will the ugly secret haunting the twins keep them from finding true love?

While most visionaries see into the future, Taylor sees the past. but only as it pertains to her work. Hailed by her peers as “a visionary with an instinct for beauty and an eye for the unique” Taylor is undoubtedly a brilliant architect and gifted designer. But she and twin brother Trevor, share more than a successful business. The two share a childhood wrought with lies and deceit and the kind of abuse that’s disturbingly prevalent in today’s society. 

Can the love of God and the awesome healing power of His grace and mercy free the twins from their past and open their hearts to the good plan and the future He has for their lives?

Fans of Redeeming Love will appreciate this contemporary story of the awesome power of God to heal the most wounded of souls.

Excerpt: Pam giggled. “And how are things with you and Alex?” she asked her eyebrow arched with interest.

Taylor chuckled. “He’s very sweet and very good with kids.”

“And sexy?”

Taylor flushed. “Not exactly the tall, dark, and handsome type is he? When you consider he’s not more than five foot eight or nine inches tall and a little generous around the middle.”

“Maybe not,” Pam remarked. “But there’s a lot to be said for short and sexy.”

Taylor smiled at the analogy. Her mind returned to the man in question. He wasn’t really overweight or sloppy, but neither did he sport washboard abs. Probably due to his profession and the fact he preferred rice and gravy to lettuce and tomatoes, she thought with another smile.

“There is something about him,” she ventured. “Those bright hazel eyes that laugh and mock and never miss a thing. Have you noticed they alternate between golden brown or light green?”

Pam shook her head. “Not really. What else have you noticed about him?”

Taylor flushed with a tiny laugh. “Everything. The trim, neat mustache; the curve of lips that smile easily and often; that meticulously groomed, sandy-colored hair makes my fingers itch to run through it. He possesses oodles and oodles of charm and charisma by the case. And his voice, soft and husky and...” She shivered at the thought of the throaty lilt. “He always sounds as though he’s just rolled out of bed.”

Pam laughed. “Yeah, but he always seems so together. Even yesterday, when everyone else dressed in baggy sweats, ragged jeans, and tattered T’s, his casual slacks were well pressed, and his shoes polished to a spit shine.”

Taylor sighed, her lips curved. “I know. I’m not sure exactly what it is about him that’s so attractive, but when I figure it out, I’ll let you know. 

The Visionary can be purchased in Ebook and Print from your favorite online retailer HERE and will be available in Audio late October/early November.

Hope you enjoyed this excerpt and that you'll check back each week for Wednesday Words with Friends and another Saturday Spotlight.

Until next time take care and God bless.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

#WednesdayWordswithFriends Welcomes @CarolynMAuthor Carolyn Miller!

Good Morning Again, Friends!

Today's guest is not new to our blog but always a pleasure to have, so please welcome Carolyn Miller back as she shares her heart with us.

When I first started seeing my books published back in 2017, I was told that whatever I first published would become what I’m ‘known for,’ and I’d need to put the other books I’d written on the back burner. I did this for four years, establishing myself as a Regency author, but then, as the Winter Olympics drew near, and knowing I had a contemporary winter Olympics story ready to go, wondered about venturing into the contemporary fiction market too. After a few knockbacks and a LOT of hard work, I saw that Winter Olympics book, Love on Ice, release as part of a contemporary romance series, just in time for the Winter Olympics earlier this year.

It can be easy to limit ourselves, to think we need to fit inside the box of other people’s expectations, or what our own experience says can be done. I touched on this in my recent historical release, Midnight’s Budding Morrow, where a marriage of convenience elevates a humble woman from a perceived servant role to ‘lady of the manor’, leaving certain people shocked at Sarah’s audacity, before coming to realize just how effective and honorable she was in her new role. 

I think this can prove true as an author, too, when we’re told to write only a ‘certain’ type of book, or write for a certain audience, or in a certain way. I’ve now got over 20 books published, a mix of historical and contemporary, and I’m so glad I didn’t just stick with what some people thought I should. It’s fantastic to see God touching hearts through my hockey books as well as my historicals, that these stories God puts on my heart don’t need to be for me alone but can be shared with a wider audience (all the way to Germany and beyond!).

I like giving characters opportunities to push past the perceived limitations, to surprise others with the way they handle new and daring situations, just like Sarah has to in Midnight’s Budding Morrow. Her husband is another who confounds the critics, with his new faith a far cry from his rakish past. I love a good redemption story, and many readers have testified about how good it was to see realistic, authentic characters they could connect with, that it wasn’t just the easy, ‘check-the-boxes’ kind of story. 

Our world is full of people who deliberately chose to do things differently, to not accept the status quo, or be limited by their past. Imagine if Joan of Arc listened to the naysayers and settled for hemming handkerchiefs. Imagine if Florence Nightingale hadn’t revolutionized nursing. As I get older, I’m learning more and more it’s not about what others do, think or say that I should be comparing myself to. 

So what is it that’s holding you back from the ‘more’?

When we look at a gravestone, there’s only a short dash between our birth and death. That’s way too short an amount of time to spend our life worrying about what others say we should or shouldn’t be doing. As a Christian, I believe the only one we should really be heeding is Jesus. What would Jesus have us do?

Perhaps that’s writing the story of your heart. Perhaps that’s putting your hand up for a different ministry, in – or outside – of church. Perhaps it’s loving your neighbor. Whatever it is, live free from the shackles of other’s opinions, so we can enter the life God offers us, that is ‘exceedingly, abundantly above all that we ask or think’ (Ephesians 3.20). 

I’m so glad I stepped out of what I was told I ‘should’ write. I get messages from readers all the time about how they’re glad I pushed through and wrote other things too. 

So what is it that God might be leading you to do too?

Carolyn Miller lives in the beautiful Southern Highlands of New South Wales, Australia, with her husband and four children. Together with her husband she has pastored a church for ten years, and worked as a public high school English teacher. A longtime lover of romance, especially that of Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer and LM Montgomery, Carolyn loves drawing readers into fictional worlds that show the truth of God’s grace in our lives. Her contemporary romance series includes the Original Six hockey romance series, and the Independence Islands series, and her historical series include the Regency Brides and Regency Wallflowers series.

Buy Midnight’s Budding Morrow on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, Apple

See Carolyn's previous visits HERE.

How true, Carolyn! Thank You SO much for sharing this wisdom with us today. Wishing you the best of luck and God's blessings in your writing career.

Hope Carolyn's post has given you something to think about friends and that you'll come back often for Wednesday Words with Friends and Saturday Spotlight.

Until next time, take care and God bless.

Saturday, August 6, 2022

#SaturdaySpotlight is on Stacey Weeks @WriterSWeeks & The Sycamore Standoff!

Good Morning Friends,

It's a beautiful day here in SW Louisiana. We've been getting rain pretty much every day so things are lush and green. Please pray for our neighbors in TX, they're in desperate need of some. THANKS!

Today's guest has visited several times before, so please welcome Stacey Weeks back with a peek into her brand new novel, The Sycamore Standoff....

She wants independence. He wants her affections. They’ll have to face her past for any chance of a future.

Meg Gilmore escapes an abusive relationship and rebuilds her life, but her victory is short-lived. Change threatens her new refuge, and she underestimates her adversary. But Meg is a fighter. She will do whatever it takes to protect what she loves. Her past catches up with her present and uproots everything she has built, including a fragile and growing friendship with a kind and generous man. The freedom and love Meg has always wanted is hers for the taking, but she’ll have to confront what truly terrifies her to claim it.

Excerpt: Something wasn’t right. Meg Gilmore stopped abruptly on the sidewalk in front of her cedar-sided historical home. As she squinted at the tiny one-bedroom bungalow, the hairs on the back of her neck lifted, and an unseasonal shiver rippled down her spine. Her backpack slipped off her shoulder and landed on the ground with a thud.

The Canadian flag mounted to the right of the front door rippled in the warm, late-afternoon breeze. The vintage mailbox remained closed. Tulips and daffodils waved a happy greeting from their sunny spot in the front garden. Nothing was trampled. Nothing appeared out of place. Everything looked just as she’d left it this morning. 

Yet it all felt wrong. The double-check-your-locks, peek-in-the-closet, and look-behind-the-shower-curtain kind of wrong. Meg’s legs quivered, and she settled a hand over her midsection. She couldn’t explain why. There was no reason for the chill filling her core. 

She instinctively shrank back. She hadn’t felt this kind of inexplicable apprehension since . . .  well, she really didn’t want to think about that. She forced her spine to straighten and picked up her bag. She wasn’t the same person she was back then. She sucked in a deep breath, marched to the front door, jabbed her key into the lock, and twisted. The lock clicked open as she would expect, and she gave the door a trepidatious shove. 

Her breath shot out of her. See. Everything is fine.

Finding a house that she loved in a historical neighborhood in Sycamore Hill had been one more rung on her ladder toward independence. Sure, she didn’t own it. And yes, it was the smallest house on the street. But she’d scraped together the first and last month’s rent to secure the place while studying as a full-time student at Grander University and working part-time at The Muffin Man. And she’d done so all by herself. 

Her keys clinked against the ceramic rim of the shallow, catch-all bowl she kept on the entry table. In less than a minute, she moved through the entire house, tidying a stack of books here and a throw blanket there. She snagged her journal from where she’d left it this morning on the round table in the breakfast nook. Everything was fine. Normal. Just as it should be. Just as it had always been since she arrived in Sycamore Hill. But if that were true, why did an invisible weight press on her chest, making it difficult to take in a full breath?

She hugged her journal. Journaling usually filled her soul with a cathartic calm—the kind of peace missing from her messed-up insides right now. Her counsellor-turned-friend, Kim—trustworthy from the days Meg lived in Sycamore Hill’s local shelter, Life House—would tell her to work it out on paper. But she’d graduated from their program nearly a year ago, and she didn’t want to write. She wanted to talk. 

Lord, You say to pray about everything, so here it is. Something feels off. Her eyelids fell closed, and she inhaled a focused, deep breath. Help me remember that You are with me always.

A sudden vibration in her back pocket made her yelp, and then she laughed. She rubbed her palm over her galloping heart as she tried to force her uncooperative gaze to focus on the text message from Eli. Meet me at Alfred in 10?

She gave it a thumbs up, and the reply went out with a quiet whoosh. She was being ridiculous. This was ridiculous. Meg tossed her knapsack onto her bed as she passed the open bedroom door. The smooth, undisturbed quilt sagged under the weight of her textbooks. The bedroom was the only separate space in the house, if you didn’t count the restroom. Having come full circle, Meg sat down on the small bench near the front door. She had no logical reason for her rising panic.

But it happened like that sometimes. Coming out of nowhere and gut-punching the breath from her lungs.

A burning sensation scorched the back of her throat. She tugged off the ballet flats she’d worn to school and pulled on a pair of socks and sneakers. Outside the paned glass back door, the sun remained high in the sky, having only partly begun its descent into evening. Hours of daylight remained—not that she needed hours. She lived only five minutes from every amenity Sycamore Hill offered its residents. Meg shut and locked the door behind her and headed toward the center of town. With every step that put distance between her and her house, the creepy feeling of being watched receded, and her labored breathing eased. 

By the time Meg rounded the corner onto Main Street, she almost felt normal again. Her boss from The Muffin Man bakery called out a cheery good afternoon as she passed. She smiled. Grabbing breakfast-to-go at the bakery that employed her had become part of Meg’s morning routine, her one treat on a tight budget.

Her steps hitched. All the articles she’d read advised women with a past like hers to avoid predictability in their schedule, but it had been so long since . . . Her chest constricted. Had she made herself too easy to find?

Her phone vibrated again. Running late.

Meg had hardly read the message before someone brushed past her, nearly sending her phone to the sidewalk. Her breath stalled in her throat as she fumbled to maintain a hold on the device.

“Sorry,” mumbled a woman, hurrying past her before turning toward the bank.

Meg sagged and sent Eli another thumbs up. Everything was fine. As she crested the gentle incline of Main Street, the magnificent sycamore she’d nicknamed Alfred came into view. The tips of its full crown waved hello, and the quivering in her belly settled. Its rich and familiar aroma soothed her erratic heartbeat. The shade beneath Alfred’s protective branches was her go-to place for solace. And today, she needed solace.

But then she spotted a chain-link fence imprisoning it. A padlock. A public notice.

As if a fist had reached into her chest and squeezed, her heart wrenched. 

Meg raced toward the tree, hitting the barricade with the power of a gale-force wind. She rattled the locked gate, shaking loose a poster pronouncing: The Future is Yours. Come Home to a New Horizon Property.

She picked it up. Condos? She tore her gaze from the poster to Alfred’s patchwork bark that exposed white, green, and cream-colored inner layers. Alfred mattered more than condos. The massive sycamore fig—the singular remnant of an ancient forest from another era—stood as the sole survivor of his community. He was a fighter. Like her.

Stacey writes faith-filled contemporary romance and romantic suspense with strong female leads and imperfect heroes. She is a multi-award-winning author, conference speaker, and Bible study teacher. She loves to read and will try almost any creative pursuit at least once. Stacey lives in Ontario with her husband of 25 years and three children. When she is not writing, she is probably jogging the trails, homeschooling her kids, or trying out a new recipe. Find out more about Stacey and her work by visiting her website or connecting with her on Facebook: www.facebook.com/writerSWeeks 
Twitter: @writerSWeeks  and Instagram: @writerSWeeks   Sign up to receive here newsletter HERE and get a free short story.

Get your copy of The Sycamore Standoff HERE and check out Stacey's previous visits to our blog HERE.

Wishing you the best of luck and God's blessings with your new book, Stacey! 

Until next time friends, take care and God bless.

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

#WednesdayWordswithFriends Welcomes Amanda Wen @AmandaWenAuthor

Good Morning,

I'm sure I don't have to tell you how good for my soul that short trip to Bandera last week was for me. I even bought a T-Shirt that says Bandera is "Good for the Soul" LOL!

Back in June we got a peek into Amanda Wen's novel, The Songs That Could have Been and today we're being treated to the story behind the story. Take it away Amanda.....

Many readers who enjoyed my debut, Roots of Wood and Stone, fell head over heels in love with Grandma Rosie, the recently-widowed octogenarian who’s still sweet as ever despite her diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. As I watched my contemporary hero, Garrett, and his sister, Lauren, butt heads over how to best care for their grandmother as her disease progressed—and what to do with her century-old farmhouse—I found myself wondering about Rosie’s past. Who was she as a younger woman? What inspired her love for listening to Garrett play piano? How did she come to live in the farmhouse? And what memories did she hold deep in her heart that even Alzheimer’s couldn’t strip away?

So, even without a contract for the first book in the Sedgwick County Chronicles series, I took a leap of faith and started writing the second one, which would come to be known as The Songs That Could Have Been. A confirmed pantser, I had no clue what Rosie’s past story might be, only that I wanted to write it so I could find out! And as I wrote, I discovered her secret:

Ephraim James. 

Witty, well-bred, and a bit of a flirt, Ephraim stole my heart as quickly as he did Rosie’s. He sprang onto the page fully formed, and writing him felt not like creating a character, but getting to know a real person. His likes, his dislikes, his hopes, his dreams, his fears. He quotes Shakespeare. He dreams of being a professional musician. 

He is also black. Rosie is white. And these two exist at a time—the 1950s—when the idea of more than friendship between the two races “just wasn’t done.” 

When I was young and first dipping my toes into the waters of boys and relationships and dating, my dad gave me a gem of advice that proved far more prescient than any of us could’ve guessed at the time: “I don’t care if he’s white or black or purple or if he has two heads, if he loves Jesus and he loves you, then he’s all right by me.” A decade or so later, when I fell madly in love with (and eventually married) a man of Chinese descent, both my family and his welcomed us with open arms. Nearly seventeen years later, our racial and cultural differences have proven not an impediment, but a rich tapestry upon which we raise our three children. 

Unfortunately, as we all likely know, mixed-race couples haven’t always been accepted. In fact, a member of my own family ran into this situation in her high school days; she and a young man of Mexican descent fell in love, but both families objected and the relationship eventually ended. Though the guy married and had a family, my relative never did, and I always wondered what might have happened had their families been more open to the idea. I suppose this was what inspired me to write Rosie and Ephraim’s story. Would love truly be able to overcome objections on the parts of both families and cultures? Would it even be wise for them to pursue a relationship in a time when the odds were significantly stacked against them? 

Writing an interracial relationship was definitely intimidating, and not something I’m inclined to try again anytime soon, but I’m grateful God called me to write Rosie and Ephraim’s story. My husband and I are both grateful to all the couples who came before us, who wrote their love stories when society was against them, and who raised brave biracial children in a world that wasn’t nearly as accepting of them as our world today is. My romance—and my children—might not be here today if it weren’t for them. 

Amanda Wen’s debut novel, Roots of Wood and Stone, released to both reader and critical acclaim. The book was named a 2021 Foreword INDIES Gold Award winner and was a finalist in both the Christy and Carol Awards. In addition to her writing, Amanda is an accomplished professional cellist and pianist who frequently performs with orchestras, chamber groups, and her church’s worship team, as well as serving as a choral accompanist. A lifelong denizen of the flatlands, Amanda currently lives in Kansas with her patient, loving, and hilarious husband, their three adorable Wenlets, and a snuggly Siamese cat. She loves to connect with readers through her newsletter and share book recommendations on BookBub. Get your copy of The Songs That Could Have Been at Amazon, B&N, Christianbook(dot)com and Good Reads! Check out the Saturday Spotlight for Amada's debut novel, Roots of Wood and Stone & get the story behind the story on Here.

Sounds like another amazing novel, Amanda! We certainly wish you the best of luck and God's blessings with it.

See you next time, Friends for Saturday Spotlight and Wednesday Words with Friends!