Thursday, January 12, 2017

Homeschooling Mom and Author Mom Lea Doue...

The first homeschooling-parent-author I want to introduce you to this year is Lea Doue. Let's get to know her a little better...

1    How long have you been homeschooling?

I’ve been homeschooling since my youngest son (I have two) started Kindergarten, and he’s in Grade 6 now. So seven years.

2       How long have you been writing?

I’ve been telling stories (to myself, mostly) since I was a child. In university, I majored in English with a minor in journalism, because minoring in creative writing didn’t seem practical. I did NOT want to be a teacher. Now I’m teaching my own kids and writing creatively. I’ve been working on my current series for almost three years.

3       What gave you the writing bug?

I have no idea. I’ve always loved to read, and later write, but I rarely showed anyone my stories. Approaching  a “significant” birthday milestone a few years ago spurred me to finally get serious and put something out there. I was no longer (quite as) scared of what people might think.

4       Do you remember the first story you wrote?

The first I remember as a “proper” story was about a girl who discovered pink-and-red animals who lived under a rainbow. A ladybug and a jaguar, in particular.

5       What type of books do you write?

I’m writing a fairytale-inspired fantasy series . The first book is loosely based on The Twelve Dancing Princesses, and the plan is for all of the sisters to get their own story.

6       How do you find time to write?

My boys occupy themselves in the afternoons for a couple of hours, and I also write after they’re in bed and some on weekends.

7       Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

I love the whole process of writing and editing. Blurbs and marketing are not my favorites, though. Oh, and titles. Titles are ha-a-a-ard.

8      Do your kids help with your creative process or give you ideas?

Both my boys have amazing imaginations. I’d love for them to write down their own stories someday.

     What is the single most significant thing you can tell us about your writing career?

That probably changes from week to week. I think finding people who enjoy my stories as much as I do is amazing. I’m no longer writing in a bubble

      Can you tell us about a character in your current work in progress?

I’m currently working on book three in The Firethorn Chronicles series. This will be Melantha’s story. She’s the fourth princess, the oldest of a set of twins, and she’s been longing all her life to strike out on her own and cross the boundary lines she sees on all the maps in the palace. She wears boots underneath her dresses, likes to practice sword fighting (but stinks at it), and is an expert dagger thrower.


Click cover to go to Amazon
The crown is her strength. The crown is her weakness.

Princess Lily, the eldest of twelve sisters and heir to a mighty kingdom, desperately seeks a break from her mother's matchmaking. Tradition forbids marriage with the man Lily loves, so she would rather rule alone than marry someone who only wants the crown.

Fleeing an overzealous suitor, Lily stumbles into a secret underground kingdom where she and her sisters encounter a mysterious sorcerer-prince and become entangled in a curse that threatens the safety of her family and her people. Lily can free them, but the price for freedom may be more than she's willing to pay.

The Firethorn Crown, a re-imagining of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, is the first novel in The Firethorn Chronicles, a series inspired by fairy tales and other classic stories. Follow the sisters on their adventures in a land where sorcery is feared, women can rule, and dragons fly.


Chapter One

            Ballgowns and mazes don't mix.
            Lily tiptoed down the center of the gravel path, pinching overgrown branches out of her way, listening for footsteps, broken twigs, whispering leaves; anything to warn of pursuit. She winced at every rock and root under her silk slippers. Her boots would have been noisier, but more practical. Too bad she hadn't had time to change.
            The junction ahead led to the exit. It wasn't the shortest path, but it had the most escape routes. Bunching layers of peach taffeta in her hands, she stepped over a large root and edged past an alcove cut into the firethorn hedge, home to a life-sized weeping lady draped in blackberry brambles heavy with fruit.
            At the midway point in the passageway, a glint caught her eye from among the leaves ahead. She crept a few more yards and saw the source, nestled deep among the branches: a mirror.
            The gilt-framed intruder would have looked at home on top of her dressing table. Frowning, she glanced at the sky. Afternoon sun scrabbled through the overgrown canopy, falling at the wrong angle to hit the object. She stepped closer. Untrimmed branches surrounded the mirror, as if it had rested there for some time, but her reflection stared back, unmarred by dust or grime. She tucked a strand of shadow-dark hair behind her ear, and then gasped, holding her breath.
            Leaning in close enough to feel the prickle of leaves on her cheek, she exhaled through pursed lips and stared over her reflection's shoulder. The mirror was strange enough, but the image reflected behind her chilled her inside. A passageway, dark as midnight, stretched into the shadows, a misty circle of light shining from its depths.
            She spun around, her heart pounding, to find the unkempt firethorn wall staring back at her. She looked in the mirror again. There. A dark path led to a part of the maze she had never seen. She turned again, but still saw no opening in the hedge. There was no explanation and no time for guesses. Neylan might know something, spending as much time as she did in the gardens. Right now, Lily needed to get out.
            Before she'd taken a half-dozen steps, a scream, short and high-pitched, burst through the calm. Coral, or maybe Gwen. She stilled, trying to pinpoint the location. Sounds carried strangely among the leaves, but it had come from the direction of the exit. A flurry of honeysucklers erupted from that corner, confirming her guess. The walnut-sized dragons swooped low and disappeared deeper into the maze, their dark-green hides blending with the foliage. Her sisters knew the passageways as well as she did, and one of them had almost escaped. Eben knew the passageways, too. And today, he was the one to elude.
            He had the advantage. What chance did twelve princesses in rustling ballgowns have against a dragon-soldier-turned-royal-guard?
            She nudged a large rock out of her way and inched towards the junction. The wind was on Eben's side, still and listening. Junia and Ivy had kept away from the murky interior, stationing themselves at the entrance and exit, but two less skirts didn't make for much less noise.
            As the eldest, Lily should have set a better example and stayed with them, but she couldn't say no to the littles on their birthday. Eben liked to point out that Ruby and Wren were hardly little anymore—next year their age would be equal to the number of princesses in the family—but he hadn't said no, either. He could have spent his day off fishing or reading.
            She gripped her skirts tighter. She had little hope of reaching the exit before he found her, but she could at least keep her gown clean. Mother hadn't finished their portrait, yet.
            A blue blur sped by the opening ahead.
            Her sister Azure.
            Lily dropped her skirts and backtracked quickly. Azure moved fast by definition, so that didn't mean anything, but she was going the wrong way. Eben was close. Lily jumped over the root and ran, her gown sighing against branches, a quivering beacon. Hopefully, Eben wouldn't notice.
            She'd almost reached the junction when she heard a voice up ahead. She stopped, her skirts swirling around her legs. A man's voice muttered curses against the spiderwebs and shadows.
            Drat! The girls had let Lord Runson into the maze. And he was close. Not the-other-side-of-the-hedge close, but around-the-corner close. She had nowhere to go. The nearest alcove held the Weeping Lady. Not even Melantha could have squeezed behind it, especially in a ballgown. Okay. Turn around and run? Or pretend she was out for a stroll, and meet him head on?
            Runson cursed again, something about velvet and thorns.
            Right. Run.
            If Runson didn't speed up, she would make it to the junction she'd first been aiming for with seconds to spare. She'd rather let Eben catch her and lose the game. Except, in her haste, she misjudged the height of the root in the path and landed flat on her elbows, the rest of her body grinding dirt into the peach gown. Mother would have to paint it clean.
At least her hair stayed up. Resting her forehead on her palms, she took a deep breath and exhaled forcefully. No point in being quiet now. Her toe throbbed, and her elbows burned. She had hoped to avoid Runson for at least one day during the Dragon Festival. That was one reason she'd played the twins' game. No one came into the Weaver's Maze. Even the gardeners avoided it as much as possible. She should have been safe here.
            She hoped Eben was nearby.
            Recently-polished boots appeared, dusty toes pointed at her ear. Runson could move quietly when he wanted.
            She pushed up and sat back on her heels. “Lord Runson.” She spoke louder than usual, hoping the girls or Eben would hear. She couldn't suppress a shiver at the thought of being alone with Runson for longer than it took to exchange greetings.
            Before she regained her feet, he took her hands and pulled her up into his chest with a thump. Goosebumps raced up her arms. She tried to back away, but only managed a less-uncomfortable nearness by straightening her elbows.
            “Lily,” he said. “You've hurt yourself.” Runson had perfected the light, friendly tone years ago, when learning to deal with courtiers, merchants, and guild leaders. But she knew better. His narrowed eyes gave him away. He was put out after struggling through the maze. Why was he here?
            “It's just a little dirt.” Her elbows throbbed. They might be bleeding, but he couldn't see them, so she said nothing. She wiggled her fingers, indicating he could let them go now, but he ignored the unspoken request. Subtlety never had worked with him.
            “Running away?” His dark eyes wouldn't let her go, either. Her gaze moved up to the mass of blond waves atop his head, his pale eyebrows, his smiling mouth with the full bottom lip. How long had it been since she'd noticed his lips? He really was much too close. His lips curved more, but the smile didn't reach his eyes.
            “Just trying to find my sisters. They're all in here. In the maze.” Her thoughts stuttered at his nearness. He'd never dared touch her beyond offering his arm, placing a kiss on her fingertips, or a light hand on her waist at a ball.
            All these years, she'd thought his eyes black, but they were deeply blue.
            “You've hurt your hands.”
            “Just dirt.” How articulate. Hazel would roll her eyes. No, Hazel would want to roll her eyes. Where were the girls? Muffled voices and the hiss and scritch of skirts against leaves told her at least a couple of them still struggled through the hedges. Someone should have been here by now.
            She tugged against Runson's grip. He reached into his pocket, allowing one of her hands to slip free.
            “We can't let the heir to the throne go home dirty.” He brushed debris from her palms with a handkerchief, keeping one wrist or the other tightly caged in his fingers. She shivered, both from the relief of being free from his gaze and from the tickle of the silk against her skin. He pocketed the handkerchief, curved an arm around her waist, and pulled her close, laying their joined hands over his heart. Unsure what to do with her free hand, she rested her fist at her collarbone.
            “How long have we known each other, Lily?” His grasp was warm. Confident.
            He knew the answer, and she feared the ultimate question he had in mind. His family was powerful. Rich. Confident.
            “All our lives, Lord Runson.” She emphasized his title, disliking the familiarity he'd adopted lately, without her permission. Her neck ached from the uncomfortable angle needed to keep eye contact with him, but she refused to turn away. The heavy braids on top of her head pulled at their pins. “I really should find my sisters. They'll be worried.”
            “Isn't the whole point of the game to run away? Cat and Mouse?” He'd never needed to practice the petulant tone. “You've been toying with me all year, Lily, and I've finally gotten you alone for a few minutes. I'll have my say. You can't run from me forever.” His grip tightened, and she took a step back. He moved with her, as if in a dance. What was taking Eben and the girls so long?
            “I've watched you for years,” Runson said. “I've wanted you for years.” His gaze roamed over her face, down as far as it could, given how close he held her, and back up again.
            Her face warmed. Ridiculous ballgown.
            “I'm tired of waiting. Your twenty-first birthday has come and gone, and it's past time for you to follow tradition and name your future husband.” His little-boy-wants-a-new-pony voice was in full force. “You know we'll be a good match. You're just too proud to admit it. Stop waiting for a prince to come sweep you away, and see what's right in front of you.” He raised her fingers to his lips.
            She squeezed her eyes shut and turned her head away from his arrogance. He had no doubts about the outcome of this pursuit. None that he would admit to. She waited for the brush of his lips, sure that he would let her go after his speech and little show of affection. If not, her thick skirts would hinder her from aiming her knee with purpose, but she fully intended to kick his shins and run. She wasn't prepared for the wet tickle on the backs of her fingers. She gasped and opened her eyes wide to see Runson licking her. And smirking.
            “Stop that!” She wrinkled her nose and smacked her palm onto his cheek, pushing his face away, but she still couldn't free her trapped hand. She needed to wash both hands soon. There was too much Runson on them.
            He chuckled and said, “Answer me, Lily.”
            “You haven't asked a question.” She squirmed, pushing against his chest. For such a lanky fellow, he was surprisingly strong. She hadn't ruled out the shin kick, yet.
            “You know what I want.” Still grinning, he shook his head as if she was missing something obvious. “Your father gave me his blessing. Does that mean nothing to you?”
            She pulled her fist back to her collarbone, suddenly cold. She hadn't trusted him for years. His expression was earnest, but he had to be wrong. Father would never give his blessing for a union with Runson or his family. He'd never liked their tendency to play dirty. She covered her mouth with her hand and breathed in and out, a few short breaths. Either way, she had no intention of attaching herself to this . . . this . . . spoiled boy.
            Enough with diplomacy and being polite.
            She took a deep breath and screamed in his face, long and loud. “Snake!”
            The honeysucklers startled again, rising in a cloud and making a tight circle before settling.           Runson released her and backed up a step. Finally. She had hoped for more space than that and backed up a few steps herself, aware that the offensive root lay behind her somewhere. She could hear one of the girls thrashing through the maze now, calling her name.
            “I'm here!” she said. “By the Weeping Lady!” She crossed her arms, worried that he might grab them again.
            Runson's mouth now matched his eyes. “No one else will ever want you, Lily. Not you. I'm the only one who sees past the crown, past the title.”
            Not that old story again. She'd believed him, once upon a time, but she'd outgrown his lies. Mostly.
            Eben and Melantha ran around the corner behind him. Melantha's hair swung past her waist in a copper braid. She'd drawn one of her daggers—as useless against a real snake as it would be against Runson. She'd never get away with an “accidental” stabbing.
            Runson huffed and turned in their direction, forcing a smile.
            “Princess Melantha.” He greeted Lily's third sister with a slight dip of his chin and a tense jaw. He didn't acknowledge Eben.
            Melantha barely glanced at Runson. She walked right up to Lily, shaking her head and raising her eyebrows in question, lips pressed into a thin line. She wanted to know what her sister and Runson were doing in the maze together, but she would have to wait for the answer.
            “Are you okay, Li—Your Highness?” Eben's face was composed, his voice even, but she saw the tension in his mouth. His wide lips were nowhere near as shapely as Runson's, and she'd never been happier to see them.
            He placed himself between her and Runson and took in her appearance, pausing at her dusty skirts and bloody elbows.
            She dropped her arms to her sides and took a deep breath, lowering her shoulders. “I'm fine.” Her voice cracked, and she cleared her throat. Her gaze flitted to Runson. “And Lord Runson is leaving.”
            “There's dirt on your dress, and your elbows are bleeding.” Melantha had stowed her dagger wherever it was she kept it in a ballgown.
            “I said I'm fine.”
            Eben balled his fists and scowled. “Did he lay a hand on you? I can have him arrested.”   
            Eben was making threats? “We should get back.”    
            “As the princess said, I'm leaving.” Runson bowed low to Lily, ignoring Melantha. “Enjoy your . . . game.” He bumped into Eben's shoulder as he passed and strode down the path, stepping easily over the root. He didn't notice the mirror, and probably wouldn't have thought it odd if he had.
            Eben stepped aside for the girls, his gaze fixed on Runson until he disappeared around the corner that should have taken Lily safely to the exit. “He's going the wrong way.”
            “Let him.”
            “I can't believe you let Lord Runny find you.” Melantha set a fast pace towards the entrance, unbraiding her hair as she bounded ahead.
            Lily fell behind, watching for more roots.
            “Eben found everyone except me and Azure,” Melantha called over her shoulder. “I think she made it out. And Coral found a mirror. Never seen it before.”
            The mirror. Lily stumbled, and Eben reached out to steady her, letting go of her arm as soon as she regained her balance. “Thanks,” she mumbled, wondering if Coral had seen the misty pathway in the mirror.
            “She spooked when you yelled 'snake'.” Melantha walked backwards, shaking her hair out and grinning. “I'll have to remember that one. Meet you at the start!” She turned and disappeared around the corner.
            Lily sighed. Melantha already had at least a dozen names for Lord Runny. Runson. She had to be careful not to slip and call him one of them in public. She slowed, and Eben kept pace. “Did you let the twins win?”
             “No. They quit.” He moved a branch aside for her. “They're demanding a new game once the 'interference' is gone.”
            That wasn't likely to happen. Mother wanted to finish their portrait today.
            They reached a room in the maze, a place where the passageway opened to form a large, four-way junction. The gardeners had lingered here, trimming the firethorn hedge back, until the space almost resembled the square it should be, even pruning the crimson roses that cascaded down the dried-up fountain at the center. She settled on a cracked marble bench and shook pebbles out of her slippers.
            “This was a bad idea.” Eben stalked around, studying the area, on duty even when he wasn't. “He's been trying to get you alone for days. I shouldn't have let you come in here.”
            “Let me.” She squinted up at him. All the sunlight that had been missing in the narrow passageways poured into the clearing. She'd thought Eben understood her need to get away from the palace. “You're not on duty right now, and you couldn't stop me, anyway.”
            He clenched his jaw, but didn't respond.
            Of course. She was the crown princess, and he was a royal guard, and she'd just slapped him with it. And possibly implied that she'd wanted to have a private run-in with Runson. Sighing, she stood and entered the passageway nearest the bench.
            Why was everyone trying to tell her what to do lately? Even Father. She thought he was the exception, but after what Runson said, she wasn't so sure. Since her birthday almost three months ago, she suspected the entire kingdom of laying wagers on when she would announce her betrothed. Her future husband and co-heir to the crown. The man she would share the rest of her life with. The romantics were rooting for the third and final ball of the Dragon Festival, less than a week away. No wonder Runson followed her into the maze, despite his fear of spiders.
            She glanced over her shoulder at Eben, who followed three steps behind. She would have liked to walk side-by-side with him.
            She spotted movement behind him. He took in her expression and spun, hand on his dagger.         Melantha's jade dress blended so well with the leaves and shadows that she seemed to be all freckled arms and face and copper hair weaving down the passageway, somehow managing to evade most of the grasping branches.
            “I'm lost.”
            Lily's eyebrows shot up. Eben's drew down.
            “I'm not kidding.” Melantha paced in the narrow passageway, elbows cupped in her hands, staring at the ground as if trying to read the map she had drawn long ago.
            A map Lily hadn't needed in years.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Merry Christmas to All: Christmas at Martha's House

Today's Christmas excerpt is from

Christmas At Martha's House

Christmas at Martha's House 
click on the above
link to go directly to Amazon
Call me Martha. Better yet, don't call me at all until at least the middle of January. I just can't handle another thing right now. I thought I had the preparations for Christmas under control until the meeting that Sunday after church.

5 Sundays before Christmas:

Claire, the Sunday school secretary, says we're doing a play this year and apologizes for not getting together before now. It seems the Superintendent put her in charge and gave her a copy of the play he had chosen. It took her three weeks to convince him that it just wasn't right for us, and to come up with another script. I'm surprised she convinced him at all. But now we'll have to work extra hard to get it ready, if we think we can, if we aren't too wrapped up in our own little interests, if we really have enough faith that the Lord will enable us. And my kids think their generation invented peer pressure!

Our friend Ron says he'll build scenery. I never knew he could do that. Bonnie will play the piano, as usual. The boys would rather stay home and watch football. I inform my teenage son, “If the rest of the family can get involved, Tom, you're going to do the same. It's not going to hurt you one bit.”
My husband and the girls are asked to sing. How nice. Oh, great! They'll all need decent clothes. Maybe the older ones can wear their outfits from the school chorus, and Karen's red velvet from last year should fit Cindy if I can hem it up and locate the belt.

At the first rehearsal I offer to be in charge of costumes, partly because I love to sew and partly so everyone will understand that I am NOT singing. Suddenly the rest of the cast all seem more interested in the whole project. I have to dress Mary, Joseph, three Wise Men, three Shepherds, and an Angel. Who? Some angel! Maybe she can get by with a choir robe and some tinsel in her hair. One down, eight to go.

Mary, played by Claire's favorite niece, comes up to me and says how she would like her outfit to look. I really appreciate her enthusiasm and willingness to help. She wants a simple blue gown and white veil. Mary always wears something like that. I wonder what would happen if some year she showed up in brown and orange?


 If I'm going to do this, Lord, I'm going to give it my best effort. You deserve nothing less. Maybe it's not important to anyone else, but it's for You. I glance through a book on historical costumes, and begin envisioning the three Wise Men. We don't know how many there really were, of course, but I'm glad we decided to stick with tradition on this point. I couldn't handle any more unruly teenage boys. Everyone is calling them the Three Wise Guys.

I refuse to throw bathrobes on those boys and call them costumes. One will be a Mede. He can wear the long white gown I made out of old drapes for Trick or Treat. With the addition of a colorful yoke and sword sash borrowed from a Civil War uniform, and a cardboard crown, he'll be fine.

The next will be an Indian or African looking person. He'll have a red and green floral tunic and matching turban. I'll ignore the cracks about Aunt Jemima. Maybe we can borrow Mr. Halsey's oriental kimono for the third. It is a bathrobe, but at least it's not chenille.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Merry Christmas to All: Victory Song

Today's Christmas excerpt is from

Victory Song

Click on the cover to go 
directly to Amazon
A sound behind him made Andy turn abruptly to see that at least one other member of his regiment was seeking out a place of retreat from camp life.
“I came up here to get away from the Christmas music,” Isaac’s familiar voice greeted him. “What’s your excuse?”
“Didn’t know I needed one,” Andy replied with a smile.
Isaac let the conversation lapse, stepped up next to Andy and peered over the logs toward the glowing horizon. After a moment he said, “We have a holiday, too. It begins tonight. It’s a festival of light. A celebration of God’s goodness and providence. Some holiday, huh?”
Andy was cautious as he ventured, “Isaac, what’s wrong?”
Those dark eyes snapped at him. “It’s me. I’m wrong. What I’m doing is wrong.”
“How’s that? You’re just following orders, like the rest of us.”
“But I’m not like the rest of you!” Isaac emphasized. “You haven’t heard the stories.”
“What stories?” Andy asked, confused.
“The old people tell stories…about what it was like years ago in Europe. About the persecution. Horrible…horrible stories about the hatred they lived with. The burning and killing. They left everything, risked everything to come here. They believed in this country it couldn’t happen again. They worked so hard! They built a new life here. A decent life. Not for themselves, for the future generations. They were so proud, Andy. Thankful that we could have a part in serving this country. And it’s come to this! The burning and the killing and the hate! All over again! And God forgive me, I’m on the wrong side! There’s no pride in this, no honor. Burning houses. Destroying crops and businesses. For what? Because they’re in our way? Because some drunk crazy general somewhere decided it might shorten the war? Well, I shortened it for a few of them! Do you know what I did? I shot a man today who must have been close to seventy. He probably had a business. Children. Grandchildren. He probably worked hard every day of his life. He probably never harmed another human being before this insane war! And all that came to an end today with a shot from my gun. A perfect stranger came all the way down here from Syracuse to kill that old man!”
Andy’s eyes narrowed, and his mouth drew into a tight frown. Though moved by the words, he remained unsympathetic. “That’s nothing,” he said. “I shot one that couldn’t have been more than fourteen.”
Isaac shook his head. His eyes retreated from Andy’s gaze, for they were not quite dry. “How can you stand it? How do you live with it?”
“I don’t know. Mostly I’ve been too tired to think about it.”
“But you’ll have to think about it sooner or later,” Isaac warned him. “Maybe a long time from now. When we’re home with our families and holidays come around again. What about then?”
Andy was suddenly defensive and resentful. “I don’t know! I’m not proud of this! But I try not to over-do it. And every once in a while I go out of my way to do something decent. It keeps me from going crazy.”
Isaac found the courage to look into his face again as he replied, “That’s what you think!”
Andy might have become angry, had that remark come from someone else, but he felt his mouth stretch into a smirk. Soon he was laughing out loud and so was Isaac.
Andy could not recall how long it had been since he had laughed in this manner. It did not matter whether the remark was humorous or not; it was an excuse to release some of the tightness his body had been containing. He laughed until he shook and felt weak. His stomach ached and tears came to his eyes. He clapped Isaac on the shoulder and continued laughing, nearly crying, until some of the frustration was spent.
“So…you think I’m losing my mind?” Andy challenged with mock indignation.
Isaac was grimly serious again. “I suspect we all are. And it’s really got me scared. What if we never get it back? I used to worry that I’d never get home again, that Anna and I would never be together again and I’d never see the baby. Now I believe I will survive. I will go home. But what if it’s not the same? I’m not the same; I never can be. Maybe she’s not, either. What if we never get back…what we had?”
Suddenly Andy became short tempered. “Why do you ask me all your hard questions? You’re as bad as Timmy! Am I supposed to know everything about everything? I don’t! You’re talking to a person who never had anything to lose, so how am I going to know what’s going to be the same and what’s going to be different? I can’t help you because I can’t even help myself?”
Isaac was silent, cautious. There was hurt in his eyes. Andy backed away from him, as if to get away from the poorly chosen words and the situation that had caused them. He was unsuccessful at both. He knew he should have apologized, but could not. He sensed there were things Isaac wanted to say, but another time would be better. He turned and walked away along the protective wall of logs.
His hand ran for several yards along the rough, sticky pine bark atop the breastworks. It helped him keep his place in the fading light. He stood long enough to lose track of time, his elbows resting on the log, his eyes gazing toward the light in the sky above the Confederate camp. He was not really thinking of anything in particular, just enjoying the quiet. A cool, clammy breeze puffed at his face, and on it in the stillness came the sound of enemy soldiers singing around their campfires.
“Oh, tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy…”
The sound left as quickly as it had come, but he had discerned enough to recognize the familiar Christmas carol. Andy had never cared much for Christmas carols; he had always associated them with snow and candles in windows, with visiting relatives and hot cider. He did not care much for hot cider, or snow, or his relatives. The old familiar song had never signified more than that, but tonight the trite, sentimental words touched something almost forgotten inside him. He began recalling what it felt like to be at peace, to take tomorrow for granted. The dull simplicity of his pre-war existence seemed, in retrospect, almost appealing.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Merry Christmas to All: Belonging

Today's Christmas excerpt is from:


Click on the cover to go
directly to Amazon
Thanksgiving came and went without a thought to Shelly. Since she and her father were the only family the other had there were no huge dinners. The day after Thanksgiving was when they began celebrating. They never went out in the crowds for Black Friday shopping. They always went to the woods for Christmas tree hunting.

      Should she continue the tradition?

      Since Christmas was so near, the house was all fresh and clean with new paint, and Shelly needed a distraction, she decided to get out all the decorations and put up the tree. She had debated whether or not to decorate. It seemed like a lot of work for one person. It also didn’t exactly seem like an appropriate time to be celebrating. There would be no gifts to buy and no gifts to be placed under the tree. However, Shelly needed something constructive to do.

      She lugged the totes down from the attic. It took her a while, but she finally got the house decorated. Opening the totes that held all the decorations, she carefully put everything in its spot. It was sort of silly how every year each item had a specific place to be. One year when she was in high school she had tried putting things in different places, but it didn’t feel right. Her dad had said the house looked nice so she hadn’t thought he cared.     The next day Shelly put all the decorations in their rightful locations. When her father got home from work that day he had looked around with a smile and said, “Now it feels like Christmas.”

      Obviously, he had felt the weirdness of it all too, which made Shelly feel better.

      When she was done she smiled at the thought of the upcoming holiday. Then she started crying as she realized it would be the first Christmas without her dad. Christmas had always been her favorite holiday and this was really the first sparkle of cheer she’d felt since getting the phone call about her dad. She wanted to keep that cheer as long as possible. It was time to get the tree. Swiping at the tears that threatened to come, she grabbed her coat and a saw, pulled on her boots, and found a pair of her father’s work gloves. Shelly grimaced, recalling the time she hadn’t used gloves to drag a tree back to the house with her dad. The weather had been unseasonably warm, too warm Shelly thought, to wear gloves. While the warm weather quickly went away, it took much longer for the sap on Shelly’s hands to completely disappear, no matter what kind of harsh soap she used.  

      After putting on the gloves, she picked up the saw. It was a little rusty, but it looked and felt sharp enough that Shelly imagined it would still work.

      Shelly trudged through the woods for a while. It seemed to be harder than she remembered. Perhaps that was because of all the overgrowth.

      It didn’t take her too long to find a tree she thought would look nice in the house.

      “This one doesn’t look too big,” she said to herself.

      Of course, those were her famous last words this time of year. She always grossly underestimated the amount of room they had in the house. Trees always looked much smaller outside than they did inside. One year her dad had to cut off about four feet to get the tree to stand up in the house. That tree had been so full, Shelly couldn’t count the number of times one of them almost knocked it over when walking by it. As soon as Christmas passed that year, the tree left the house.

      Shelly crouched down underneath the branches to get as close to the ground as she could. Positioning the saw she got ready to cut the tree down. She was surprised at how long it took her to get a cut started. Her dad always made it look so easy. Maybe the saw was a little too rusty after all.
      Finally, after what seemed like sawing for an hour, the tree fell over. Now all she had to do was drag it back to the house, which was also not an easy task.

      The branches kept catching on vines that had grown wildly throughout the woods. About half way back to the house Shelly was completely frustrated and exhausted. That, coupled with the fact that her emotions were pretty raw already because of the memories, she sat down right where she was and cried.

      She cried for the loss of her dad. She cried for the pain that was now in her arm from all the sawing. She cried that her Christmas tree was stuck in a patch of wild grape vines. She cried for the fact that she would never buy her father another Christmas present.

      After she had been spent emotionally as well as physically, she took a deep breath.

      “I can do this,” she said out loud. “I have to do this. I’m alone and there’s no one to help me. I don’t mind being alone. I don’t need anybody else.”

      After untangling the vines from the branches of her tree Shelly was on her way back to the house with the Christmas tree in tow.

      Finally, after a couple hours of lugging and tugging, Shelly had the tree in the stand and in its spot, although she thought it looked a little crooked she felt too tired to mess with it anymore. The placement of the tree was the one part of her Christmas decorating that was different. Instead of the tree being in the front room, it was now in the new room off the back of the house. It looked perfect here. If only her father could see. 

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Merry Christmas to All: Come Eat at My Table

This Christmas season I am going to be sharing Christmas excerpts from my books. I hope you enjoy them!

Come Eat at My Table

Click on the cover to go
directly to Amazon.
“Only two more days till Christmas!” Hope danced around the kitchen chanting while getting underfoot. She was good at getting underfoot, but she was not always a whole lot of help.

“Yes, we know!” Hope’s twin sister Faith said, while frosting some of the cookies she had baked earlier in the day with their mom.

Hope picked up the cookie as soon as Faith put it aside to let the frosting set.

“You didn’t burn these did you?”

“I haven’t burned anything in a long time!” Faith said.

“Yeah, it’s been at least a week!” Hope said sarcastically, taking a bite out of the cookie.

“We’d get more done if you helped a little more besides eating everything,” the girls’ mom, Karin, said to Hope without looking up from what she was doing.

“I’m taste-testing,” Hope said with her mouth full. “And taking pictures.” She held up her other hand, which contained a camera. It was an older camera that used film, but she found taking pictures enjoyable and she was good at it. She used her talent and became the photo editor of their school newspaper. She would often get right up in people’s faces to get a close-up shot. Karin and Faith hated that, which made Hope do it all the more.

Hope and Faith were identical twins who would turn sixteen the next July. While they looked alike, they made every effort to look different. They had the same honey colored hair and green eyes as their mom. The three of them looked so much alike that their father often called them his triplets.
Karin wore her hair long, down to her waist. Faith had hair that came down past her shoulder blades, but more often than not, she had it up in a ponytail to keep it out of her way. Hope kept her hair only to her shoulders and she would straighten hers since she didn’t particularly like the waves that her mom and sister kept.

As far as their personalities were concerned, the twins could not have been more different. Faith was the no fuss twin. Hope was the one who was more concerned about her appearance. She always took the time to do her hair and put on trendy clothes and make-up before she took out the garbage.
Faith liked to cook alongside of her mother. Although she used to burn a lot of meals, after the last couple years of practice she had become a much better cook. Faith liked to play sports and hated shopping. Hope liked shopping and hated sports. Hope was more popular at school and had a lot of friends. Faith was well-liked, but she was much quieter than Hope and was loyal to her small group of close friends. Hope was much more talkative and more interested in the latest everything.

Hope talked incessantly, while Faith was a listener. Faith saw and heard things that Hope had no idea were there. Hope’s personality was more like her dad’s and Faith’s was more like Karin’s.

Faith was baking and frosting cookies while Karin was preparing Christmas dinner. When she pulled the ham from the oven she said as much to herself as to the girls. “I don’t know why I’m getting all this food ready now.” She had pretty much cooked everything so that on Christmas Day it would just have to be reheated.

“Well, now we can enjoy more time together as a family this year,” Faith said. “We always get up early, open presents, spend a few hours cooking, an hour eating, and the rest of the day sitting around doing nothing.”

“Yeah,” Hope agreed. “We can sleep in. We aren’t little kids anymore who are so anxious to open presents that we can’t wait until daylight.”

“We can sleep in as long as Dad doesn’t wake us up,” Faith laughed.

It was true, their dad, Rob, was always the first one up on Christmas Day. He often got up and unsatisfied to be alone and to wait patiently, he would go and wake up the entire household. It didn’t matter that it was only four o’clock in the morning, it was Christmas and it was time to open all the presents that waited under the tree. If only he would leave everyone alone they could sleep in a little longer and still have plenty of time to enjoy the day and eat all the delicious food they were preparing.

Just then the front door opened.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

25 Days of Christmas Family Devotional: Making Christmas More Meaningful

I think one of my favorite Christmases was one where I spent a lot of time doing something for someone else. The ladies of our church got together and made Christmas special for a deserving family, complete with a delivery of approximately one ton of presents on Christmas Eve. Okay…I may be exaggerating about the weight of the presents, but only a little. The surprise on the faces of each family member was so worth all the time and effort we put into it.

In my opinion, that is what Christmas is all about.
A couple of years ago a friend and I decided we wanted to write an advent devotional book to help families come together and get more involved during the Christmas season and throughout the year.  This year, we FINALLY finished it. There are 25 days' worth of devotions, short stories, activities for families to participate in, and songs to listen to or sing along with.

So, if you are looking for something special to do together as a family, especially families with young children, this is the book for you. You can follow this link to purchase it from Amazon. Right now it's only ¢.99. I pray it will bless you this Christmas season.

If you're looking for something fun to read this season, you can check out CHRISTMAS AT MARTHA'S HOUSE. It is also only ¢.99  

Share with your friends to help them get in the Christmas mood and maybe learn something about Christ they never new before.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Happy Mother's Day in Heaven, Mom!

The song My Story by Big Daddy weave says, "To tell you my story is to tell of Him." And that is so true in my life. I never used to think I had much of a testimony until I had to write it down. My testimony is one that shows how much God loves us and how involved He is in even the littlest details of our lives. Little did I know that skipping eighth grade had something to do with my mom's death. Sounds funny, but it's true.

I can't spend Mother's Day with my mom, but I can honor her by sharing my testimony with you as she was so involved in it. I hope it honors God as well.

It all began when I was five years old. It was Monday, the day after Easter, and my mind must have been full of questions. My brother and dad had gone to church for Awana for the evening. My 5-month old baby sister was asleep in her cradle, and my mom made us cups of hot cocoa (must have been one of those cold Easters in New York!). We sat together on the couch, in the peace and quiet, while I asked her one question after another. That was the night I gave my life to Jesus. My life has never been the same. Although I didn't see it at the time, God's hand was at work in my life.
Fast forward to seventh grade. I worked hard at school that year and ended up skipping eighth grade.

That was part of God's plan.

The next year was when I met the one, the man with whom I would share the rest of my life. We made all sorts of plans while I finished school and went off to college. We set our wedding date to a day before I would finish college, but I didn't care. We were in love and wanted to get married. I knew I could always go back and finish the few classes I needed later on.

That was part of God's plan.

We planned to wait a year or two before having children, but three weeks into our married life, I was sicker than I'd ever been in my life. I was pregnant.

That was part of God's plan.

Nine months and two days after we said, "I do," we became parents. Our daughter was three weeks early, but was a healthy 7 pounds 10 ounces.

That was part of God's plan.

Shortly after my daughter was born, my mother found out she had breast cancer. It had already spread to her liver and there wasn't much hope. Our church bought my daughter and me plane tickets so we could fly home to spend some time with her. They thought it might cheer up her to see her granddaughter. While we were there, my year old daughter took her first steps, right in front of her grandmother.

That was part of God's plan.

My mother passed away just a couple of weeks later. She had looked forward to grandchildren and spending time with them. God knew that. He also knew that my mom was faithful to Him. He blessed her in that she lived long enough to see her first grandchild taking her first steps. God was taking care so that things would fall into place long before they were even a blip on our radars.

If I had not skipped eighth grade, I would have graduated a year later, got married a year later, had a child a year later, which would have been a year too late to bless my mom. God's ways are so much higher than our ways. We may not always be able to see His hand at work, but after all this was said and done, He opened my eyes to see. Now I try to share my story whenever I can, because my story tells of Him.