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Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Guest Post: Rocks, Robes, and Pillow Cases

Today I am honored to have as my guest Pamela S. Thibodeaux. She has a touching Valentine Day's romance story for us all. 
Rocks, Robes, and Pillow Cases
As a romance writer, I’m always thinking of ways to make my heroine or hero swoon. Sweet words and sentimental gestures seem to come easily and naturally in novels. But what about in real life? Is there such a thing as genuine romance, a dedicated soul mate, or a true romantic partner?
Yes, there is!
My husband was a very sentimental man with a kind, romantic soul you’d never expect of a law enforcement officer. We always did little things to keep the passion alive in our marriage. Notes in the lunch box or on the coffee pot, glass of wine and hot bath after work, dancing in the kitchen or on the porch – or better yet, alone on the houseboat. Unexpected gifts, tiny stuffed animals saturated with his favorite cologne or my perfume to carry in our vehicle, teasing remarks, and sensual innuendos were the norm around our house. I still have many of the cards and notes he gave and a several pages in a photo album are filled with the Love Is cartoons he cut out of the newspaper on a regular basis. But the one event that stands out in my heart is the day he gave me a rock.
No, not a diamond – a rock!
One warm, balmy evening early in our courtship we parked under an overpass and took a walk along the railroad tracks. Holding hands and sharing dreams. Taking me by the hand, my lover encouraged me to sit beside him on the ground. 
“My love is like this rock,” he said, picking up a stone and placing it in my hand. “It’s strong and solid, it’ll never change, it’ll last forever, and there’s not another one like it in the world.”
That’s a moment I’ll never forget. I mean, seriously – what man or woman thinks like that? I know I’d never thought of love like that before and I’m a romance novelist! 
But think about it…like snowflakes, no two rocks are alike. However, linked together snowflakes and rocks, like hearts, can create something strong and solid and secure.
Only One other has expressed His love in such enduring terms: strong, solid, unchanging, everlasting. He is known by many names, one being the Rock of Ages.
My husband passed away in August, 2009. I had no idea how to go on when all I wanted was to curl up with him in my arms, to see his smiling face and hear his beloved voice. To feel his heart beat against mine.
But I couldn’t.
All I had was an empty bed, a vacant pillow, memories of amazing love, and two rocks sitting on a shelf.
In the process of making funeral arrangements and discussing what to do next, I decided I wanted to have his picture put on the case covering his king-sized pillow. My son-in-law wondered if the desire was normal. My son worried that this would bring me anything but comfort and make things worse not better.
I had no way to assuage their fears or assure them I’d be fine. All I knew was I needed to hold onto his presence in the bed where we lived and laughed and loved for so many years and clinging to those rocks or his robe just wasn’t cutting it. 

A friend bought me a package of iron on transfers and I set to work immediately. Anticipation beat a tattoo in my heart as I placed the sheet in the printer and set up the photo per the specifications. The concerns of my loved ones kept cadence with the iron as I transferred the picture onto the cloth. The first attempt wasn’t all that great. Placed too high on the pillowcase, the edges didn’t seal well and after only a few washes the image deteriorated. The second time around, I paid a little more attention to the details and was rewarded with a beautiful, glossy depiction. 
Everyone has their own way of dealing with grief and things they cling to … a cherished photo, a sprinkle of cologne or perfume on his or her favorite shirt, dancing alone to your special song. I did all those things. I slept wrapped in his robe, robbed his dresser of pajama pants and T-shirts and his closet for long sleeves and coats – after all, the closest thing to being in his arms is having his flannel shirt or hunting jacket warm me when I’m chilled.
At nearly ten years, sometimes I feel as though I’m still muddling through the transition from wife to widow to individual. I’ve done away with his things including the pillow and case which I gifted to our granddaughter. The robe went to our grandson who will never know his Paw Paw except by the stories we tell. I buried our wedding bands at his gravesite, but the rocks we exchanged will never be given away. They have a special place in the shadow-box created to house important mementos of his (and our) life and serve as a constant reminder that true love does exist and real romance beats what you’ll find in novels any day.




* * * * * * *

Look closely at the cover….
Recently I visited Animal Kingdom @ Walt Disney World in FL with my family and one of the most breathtaking sights is the Tree of Life / garden. Within the trunk of this huge tree are carvings of every kind of animal. You can view it from any angle and take a dozen different pictures and each time, see something more and/or different.
What does this have to do with a book cover? You ask.
Read on…..
I’ve always admired the covers Pelican Book Group creates for their titles and when I first received the cover for Love in Season, I thought – how sweet, but a closer look revealed a whole lot more than a couple on a bench in front of a lovely tree. 
If you took a passing glance, look again….
What do you see?
Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter are all depicted within the leaves and branches of this tree!
It takes an amazing eye for detail to pick something like this for a book cover.  Thanks to Nicola Martinez for creating such a beautiful work of art for for my collection of romantic short stories centered around the four seasons and four love-oriented holidays!
*see photos of the Tree of Life/Garden Here: https://www.wdwinfo.com/Photos/AK-treeoflife/pages/DSC00093.htm

Fun Fact: For quite some time I wanted to put together a collection of short stories that centered around the 4 seasons and 4 holidays that focus on love and family (Valentine's Day, Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas). Since I already had several stories at PBG, I mentioned this idea to my editor, the amazing Nicola Martinez, and she loved it. I submitted two previously unpublished stories to round out the collection, along with those Pelican Book Group had already published, and viola! Love in Season was born.
Blurb: Anytime is the perfect time for love. 
In this anthology, author Pamela S Thibodeaux brings together eight of her most beloved romance stories—one for each season plus four holidays that revolve around love and family. 
Includes two brand new stories!
TinyURL (kindle): http://bit.ly/LoveinSeason

TWEET: Anytime is the perfect time for love. Author @psthib brings together 8 #romance stories — 1 for each season + 4 holidays that revolve around love and family. Includes two brand new stories! #christfic #mustread http://bit.ly/LoveinSeason

Story Blurbs:
(Winter) Winter Madness: Sienna has survived what most succomb to - the death of a spouse and child and has maintained her faith despite her troubles. William has never met anyone who actually lived out what they say they believe. Is it true love between the faithful optimist and broody pessimist or simply winter madness?

(Valentine’s Day) Choices: Best-selling novelist and songwriter, Camie Rogers has penned numerous accounts of the secret love she holds in her heart. Country-Music Superstar Kip Allen has changed from the shy, humble boy, to the epitome of “star.” Can the two rediscover each other after one night of his Home is where the Heart is Tour?

(Spring) Cathy’s Angel: Single mom Cathy Johnson is tired of running her life alone…what she needs is a well-trained angel to help out. Jared Savoy gave up the dream of having a family when he discovered he is sterile. Can a confirmed bachelor and the mother of four find love amid normal daily chaos?

(Easter) Lilies for Sandi *NEW!* Sandi and Brett did everything backwards. They got pregnant before the wedding and had a baby instead of a honeymoon. Since, Brett has resented the fact that his dreams of a football career have been cut short and wonders how long it’ll take God to forgive him for his mistakes. Sandi has played second fiddle to Brett’s dreams and desires to the point of not knowing herself any longer and fears her marriage will never be a true one because of their failures. Can two hearts broken by unfulfilled dreams find healing, wholeness and restoration? 
(Summer) The Big Catch *NEW!*Karla and, the love of her life, Jeff, have uncovered some uncommon ground: The Great Outdoors. For the life of her, she does not understand his love of fishing and how he can spend so much time doing so. Will she come to love the sport as much as he or will his passion for a rod and reel tangle up their relationship?
(Fall) A Hero for Jessica: Anthony Paul Seville is known as the ‘most eligible bachelor’ in New Orleans, possibly even the entire state of Louisiana, but finds himself alone—completely and explicitly alone. Jessica Aucoin is a writer on her way to fame and fortune, but is haunted by a man from her past. Will the “champion” lawyer and the author of romantic suspense find love written in their future?  
(Thanksgiving) Review of Love (Newly Edited/Revised/Lengthened!): Jason Stockwell has been commissioned to interview Kylie Erickson and to review her books. Only problem is, she won’t give the time of day much less an interview to someone whose type of writing she deems not worthy of respect. Can they suspend their judgmental attitudes and find true love?
(Christmas) In His Sight: Grade school teacher Carson Alexander has a gift—a gift that has driven a wedge between him and his family. Worse, it’s put him at odds with God. Feeling alone and misunderstood, Carson views God’s gift of prophecy as the worst kind of curse…that is until he meets Lorelei Conner, landscape artist extraordinaire, and perhaps the one person who may need Carson and his gift more than anyone ever has.  
Lorelei Connor is a mother on the run. Her abusive ex-husband has followed her all over the country trying to steal their daughter. Distrusting of men and needing to keep on the move, she’s surprised by her desire to remain close to Carson Alexander. Through her fear and hesitation, she must learn to rely on God to guide her—not an easy task when He’s prompting her to trust a man.
 Can their relationship withstand the tragedy lurking on the horizon?

Author Bio: Award-winning author, Pamela S. Thibodeaux is the Co-Founder and a lifetime member of Bayou Writers Group in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Multi-published in romantic fiction as well as creative non-fiction, her writing has been tagged as, “Inspirational with an Edge!”™ and reviewed as “steamier and grittier than the typical Christian novel without decreasing the message.”

Links:
Website address: http://www.pamelathibodeaux.com   
Amazon Author Page: http://amzn.to/1jUVcdU

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Guest Post: Kimberly M. Miller and Her Latest Release FORGIVING TESS

Way back in October 2017, I read Picking Daisy, a debut novel by Kimberly M. Miller. I loved it and wrote a review, which you can read on Goodreads. It was a charming tale, full of heart and compassion. 
As it turns out, Kimberly M. Miller has written another romance and I am honored to have her as a guest on my blog today. She is a writing and film professor by day, author by night. She enjoys watching movies, making jewelry, and creating fun stories for her readers. Currently, Kimberly has two published novels, Picking Daisy and Forgiving Tess, but she looks forward to bringing more romance your way soon!
She's offered us all a treat today--an excerpt from Forgiving Tess. The book already has many wonderful reviews. So sit back, relax, and enjoy.


Excerpt from Forgiving Tess


The doors squeaked open and Tess Carson stepped outside where a wave of heat hit hard, making her want to dive back into the air-conditioned safety of the bus. She wondered whether her skin was melting as sweat trickled down her arm and dripped onto the pavement with a sizzle.
Tess was annoyed at everything and yet trying desperately not to be. The trouble was that her life, the humidity, the stiff-backed bus seats, and especially Uncle Stu—who’d dragged her along on this mission trip—seemed bent on reminding her of all that continued to war against her. It was the first time she’d been away from Maple Ridge in nearly two years. She wasn’t sure she was ready. Not that she was given a choice. Uncle Stu made sure she was coming along, otherwise, he promised he wouldn’t bail her out again.
And she believed him.
“Come on, let’s get settled.” Uncle Stu walked by, his backpack shouldered on one side of his body. He wasn’t a tall man, but his presence made up for it. He was kind, firm, and lately the only person remaining who was willing to give his niece another chance.
Tess drew a deep breath, certain her hair was rapidly turning to thick and unruly frizz in the humidity. As if she cared what anyone thought of her appearance anymore.
“I still don’t get why you hate me,” Tess muttered as she tugged her backpack higher on her shoulder. While she didn’t care that she’d left a majority of her minimal wardrobe at home, it did bother her that this pit stop after graduation from nursing school meant she was forced to wait even longer to begin applying for work that would take her away from trouble and into the rest of her life.
It was a move she needed desperately.
“That’s not how you change, mouthy,” Uncle Stu said, using his nickname for her—one, he insisted, she deserved.
Humph. Tess never cared much for Uncle Stu’s wisdom, no matter how right he always was.
“I can change without frying to death.”
Stu glanced at the group of people from his church who volunteered to go from Pennsylvania to the small town near Cocoa Beach to help build a youth center for their sister church there. Tess slowly followed him toward the bunkhouse.
“You aren’t going to fry to death,” he muttered. “And I’d stop complaining. Nearly everyone else took time from work-some of them vacation time that they could be spending laying on a beach instead of working near one.”
Tess searched her uncle’s deep brown eyes and nodded. Everyone else danced around the subject instead of getting to it, but not Stu. He told Tess the truth and refused to hold back even when it was hard.
Maybe that was why she trusted him.
“You’re right. I’m working on it. Scouts honor.”
Stu nodded and reached out to give her a big hug. “Love you, kid. Come on.” He started walking toward the large building in front of them. They’d arrived at a church complex that was a neighbor to the church in Cocoa Beach where they were going to be helping rebuild a youth center that was badly damaged by a tropical storm. A neighboring church offered to allow the use of its activities building to feed the workers, who would sleep in bunkhouses around back. Since it was only a short walk to where they’d be working, it was a great set up.
Tess followed her uncle until she realized she’d left a bag in the cargo hold of the bus. “I’ll catch up,” she said. “I forgot the extra Bibles.”
Stu nodded and kept going as Tess turned and ran back to the bus where several members of the team were divvying up their luggage. She hung back, waiting for a chance to grab her bag. She wasn’t likely to make friends with many of the people on the trip, which was better anyway. Tess had burned a lot of bridges in the last few years, and making amends was difficult. Besides, if she didn’t make friends, there would be no problem keeping them.
“Need a hand?” a deep voice asked behind her. Tess turned and found herself facing a broad chest. She raised her eyes and was stunned to find the familiar blue eyes of her childhood friend Joshua Thorne, a man she hadn’t seen in over twelve years.
What was he doing here?
Tess was certain her heart stopped beating and her knees went weak. She drew a breath in an effort to find strength.
Inwardly she groaned. Those sweet dimples were even sweeter now.
Josh lived next door to Tess and her family for seven years of their childhood, and he’d been best friends with Tess’s brother, Brody. The boys played on softball and basketball teams together—and of course a little football too, while Tess, who was five years younger, trailed after them trying to keep up. But the friendship was so much more. They’d hung out together. And if there’s anything to be said about kids, the real learning and bonding takes place in those moments when you’re doing nothing. That’s when you’re doing everything.
In a flash, Tess remembered that his birthday was August tenth, he loved her grandmother’s blueberry muffins, and he hated when Tess taunted him about his terrible pitching record from his sophomore year. All in all, not bad for not having dreamt of him in so long.
And he’d once entered her dreams every single night.
Tess’s mouth opened but she was unable to form any words. Instead she stared up at him stupidly, thinking that he’d gotten even more handsome since he left—when he was eighteen and heading to college and she was mourning the loss of the boy she was certain would one day be her husband. He’d been a cocky boy, followed by a gaggle of giggling girls who were certain he was in love with them all. It made Tess so jealous that she’d gotten into more trouble than she wanted to remember ruining his dates as only smitten teenaged girl could.
Tess worked to say something, cursing herself that the words still refused to emerge. Surely Uncle Stu knewabout this. Why hadn’t he warned her?
“Um, hi…” she said weakly.
“I’m guessing Stu didn’t tell you this is my church?” Josh asked with a smile. Tess shook her head. Why did it appear as if he’d walked straight off a movie set? She swallowed hard, now wishing her hair didn’t looklike she’d taken a bath with her toaster.
“He… didn’t mention it,” she said softly. Josh nodded as Tess turned to grab her bag, glad for the distraction. Her childish love for him was the stuff embarrassment was made of— complete with foolish homemade gifts and ridiculous gestures. Surely he remembered it all as well as she did. Her stomach tied itself in knots as image after image of her pranks played in her mind. It was pointless to hope he’d forgotten.
Reluctantly, Tess turned back to find he was still smiling. “You lookgreat,” he said, eyes twinkling.
So, he was a liar. At least he wasn’t completely perfect. There was some solace in that.
Tess shook her head. Had he grown after he left for college? Staring up at him was giving her a painful neck cramp. 
“Your dimples lookgreat too,” she said, cursing herself when Josh laughed. She blew a stray piece of hair from her eyes and continued, hoping he would quickly be distracted by something. Maybe a flash hurricane would make something fall on her. “What…? I mean, you go to church here?”
“Kind of. I’m the youth pastor.”
Tess’s stomach sank. Another score for him, another strike for her. “Youth pastor? Wow. Congratulations, that’s… impressive,” she said awkwardly. “Um… yeah. So, I better go. I’m sure I’ll catch you later.”

Find it at Prism Book Group, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other book distributors.




Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Guest Author: Carol James and THE WAITING


My guest today is Carol James, a Pelican Book Group author. She writes inspirational fiction and lives in a small town outside of Atlanta, Georgia with her husband, Jim, and a perky Jack Russell "Terrorist," Zoe.

Having always loved intriguing stories with happy endings, she was moved to begin writing to encourage others as she'd been encouraged by the works of other authors of inspirational fiction.

Carol enjoys spending time with her husband, children, and grandchildren, traveling with friends, and serving in the production department at her church. And, most days in the late hours of the night or the wee hours of the morning, she can be found bringing her newest novel to life. You can find her on the Internet at the links below:




Now for a real treat! You can read an excerpt from Carol's newest book, THE WAITING! Enjoy. 😊

As a gust of wind blew rain into the small cave, Katherine shivered again, and Sam turned his back to the doorway in the rock to shelter her from the cold. He held her close, and while habit told her to pull away, she refused to obey as the old Katherine would have done. Instead, she placed her head back on his shoulder, and he began slowly swaying back and forth as if they were dancing. Stepping out of the boat meant taking risks she’d never taken before. And yet something about him felt safe.

“Hey.” Barely audible above the splatting of the rain against the river rocks, his whisper warmed her hair.

In response, she turned her face up toward his. They were eyelashes apart.

“Whatcha thinking?”

How close you are.“Nothing.”

“Nothing?” His eyes probed hers until he had to be able to read her thoughts. “I’m pretty sure that’s impossible.

How close you are. And how much I like it. “Nothing…really."

“Sorry, but I’m not buying.” He gently rested his forehead against hers. “Let me see if I can pick up some telepathic communications here. Look into my eyes.”

She was floating in the ocean, the sunlight sparkling on the gentle, cerulean waves. Kiss me. “Sam, I—”

“Quiet, please. I need total silence to ensure accurate results.” As she continued to stare into the
blue pools, tiny lines crinkled at the outer edges, and he drew his head away. “I got it.”

“You have, have you?‛ For some ridiculous reason her voice quivered.

“Yes. You have a question you want to ask me.”

“Oh, I do? And what would that be?”

“You’re wondering why I haven’t tried to kiss you.”

Her face was on fire as she moved away. There’s no way he could have possibly known her thoughts.

“And you think it might be because I’m not attracted to you.” He entwined his fingers with hers
and then raised their clasped hands to draw her back to him. “But you’re wrong.”

The rain had slowed to a gentle sprinkle as the storm marched on downstream. In minutes, the two of them would exit the cave, and these moments of forced intimacy would be gone as quickly as they had come. She needed to take advantage of the little time they had left. “Why haven’t you then? Every other man I’ve ever dated would have at least tried by now.”

“I’m not every other man.”

He was right about that.

The WaitingPurchase links: 
Pelican Book Group: https://pbgrp.link/WaitingCJ




Thursday, January 24, 2019

Writing Is Fun

That's me (with longer, darker hair) in 2002 with my first published book, Sea Of Hope, and the award I received for it. I believed that winning that award would send my book sales soaring.

That didn't happen. First of all, the company that published the book was small and focused mainly on ebooks. They were wonderful people and I enjoyed working for them, but back in 2002 few people knew about ebooks. The concept was completely foreign to the majority of readers. The second problem was promoting the book. I contacted newspapers and did get a few interviews, but social media wasn't then what it is today. Paying for advertising wasn't feasible since I wasn't making much of a profit. In fact, I made very little money at all.

Seventeen years later, I'm still writing. I have seventeen books available for sale (click HERE to see a list). Book #18 is in the process of being published and I'm close to finishing book #19. I'm still not making much money, despite the fact everyone knows what ebooks are now. Most of my sales come from readers buying books for their Kindles.

I love writing. Editing is tough at times, but I even enjoy that part of the process.

Promoting is a chore. Writing is a delight.

I'm always surprised when people ask me, "Are you still writing?"

I smile, say yes, and hand them a postcard or bookmark of my latest book.

How could I stop writing? It's too much fun.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Hope


I took the photo above one evening as I stood in the marsh. The sun was going down--early as it does in the wintertime--and soon the light would be swallowed by the long hours of gloom.

I am often hit with the fact that life has its bleak moments and dark seasons, but I trust that hope is always on the horizon. Hope is an antidote against the uncertainty of our world. Many times it takes courage to continue onward--along with a heaping dose of faith because sad and bad things happen to all of us. I had breast cancer, but I'm still here. However, many dear family members and friends are no longer on the journey with me. Still, I have hope because I believe in the promises of Christ.

Always look for the light in the darkness.


Thursday, January 10, 2019

Winter Reads

Every summer there's a lot of attention given to Beach Reads--books deemed perfect for reading while baking under the sun in a beach chair. What about Winter Reads--books that are enjoyed while sipping hot chocolate, bundled up in an afghan in the overstuffed chair by the fireplace?

I've written two books where the action occurs during the cold of winter. The Company You Keep begins in January with plenty of snow.


The snow had crusted two days ago when sleet had
covered everything with an icy glaze. With slippers on her
feet, she broke through the hard coating and sank into the
soft snow beneath.

The sharp sting of the frozen crystals on her skin did not
stop her from scrambling after the disappearing spirit. She
caught a glimpse of the lantern’s glow waiting by the
gnarled maple at the edge of the woods. Fear prickled
along her neck, but an odd compulsion propelled her
forward.

The light dipped, swayed, and moved on into the woods
until the gleam became feeble and indistinct. By the time
Jennifer leaned against the twisted trunk of the old maple,
the light had disappeared altogether, and she did not have
the strength to go further. Her own battery lantern
flickered and went dark.

Her lungs hurt as she panted in the cutting air. The
wind had swept the snow away from the base of the tree
and she sat on one of the tree’s bulging roots while a wave
of desolation washed over her. Surprisingly, as suddenly
as it began, the bitter chill in her soul ended. The opening
to the portal must have closed.

She shivered violently. In the stillness, clouds of vapor
from her breath trailed high in the air. She found she
couldn’t stop shaking. She knew she should keep moving,
but wracked by the dreadful trembling, she remained
huddled at the foot of the ancient tree.


Are you cold yet? You probably will be if you read the book. The snow hangs around through most of the book.

However, if you'd like to be not only cold but wet, here's a scene from Sea Of Hope, which starts off with a nor'easter.



She glared out over the crashing waves with her lips pressed tightly together and realized how numb and heavy her heart felt, as though it had been weighted down with lead sinkers. Alone with her grief for the first time since her father's death, she relished the blast of the gale. It pumped some of its power into her thin frame and woke her from a weeklong nightmare.

"How could you do this to me, Dad?" she cried out over the howl of the storm. "You made a promise to me." But the tempest tore her words away and the only answer to her question was the shrill scream of the wind and a shower of salty spray that stung her eyes.

Sheets of rain pelted her and the pier shuddered as the waves slammed into it, but Doria stood her ground. With a Nor'easter battering the New Jersey coastline, conditions on the pier were hazardous, however what she intended to do would only take a moment.

Then there's my Young Adult Historical/Paranormal, Outside Blessings. Set along the New Jersey coastline in January of 1896.  


Neema faced the howling wind as waves lashed against the rock jetty, sending icy spray high into the air. Because the surfmen from the lifesaving station had found her sister’s ice-covered body wedged between the huge granite boulders, she had decided to search for clues there.  
Over the past two weeks, she had painstakingly hunted in all the crevices in the massive stones, bit by bit, day by day. She refused to give up. If she did not find anything in the jetty to bolster her case, she would sift through every grain of sand around it.
Taking great care, she walked along the slippery, ice-covered rocks. The tide had gone out so there was less chance she would be drenched with a cascade of salt water. If she returned soaked to the skin, Mrs. Kelleher, the housekeeper at the Courts’ cottage, would have a conniption. Worse, Mr. Court might fire her—despite her skill with a needle. 
As soon as she came to the point where she had stopped the day before, she knelt down. She had placed a sturdy piece of driftwood into a crevice to mark the spot. She pulled out the wood and slid her thinly gloved hand into the space. Searching all around the huge gray stone, she found nothing of importance other than bits of shells, splinters of wood, and seaweed. She crept to the next stone and repeated the process.
From out in the water, she heard a sharp bark.
“Go away, Seamus!” she called back. Seamus annoyed her. He had wanted to mate with her the past two seasons, but she refused him—as had all the Selkie females. He was obnoxious to every one of them. Since he failed to attract a mate, he had been banished to the bachelors’ island. She avoided him much as she would a shark.
He barked again in a more strident manner. This time he sounded much closer.
She pulled her hand out of the crevice and glared at him. His nearness unsettled her. He sat on a low, flat rock not ten feet from her, bobbing his head up and down. She turned away, refusing to communicate with him. His unwelcome distraction hampered her progress.
She glanced toward the east where the sun rose above the horizon. Soon the whole household would be up and she would be missed. Clamping her teeth together, she plunged her hand into another frigid crevice. She had only a quarter of an hour at best and she must not waste it even though her fingers were numb with the cold and she shivered uncontrollably.
Seamus continued barking, but she kept at her task. As she finished sliding her fingers around one boulder, she went on to the next. This would have to be the last one for today, and she would be forced to run all the way back to the cottage to make it in time.
The bell in the church tower tolled the hour. She wanted to cry, for she must leave and she had gained nothing toward finding an answer for Lila’s death. Gathering up her courage, she set her chin defiantly. She would not be defeated. She stood, turned, and cautiously stepped along the boulders to make her way back to the beach.
In the golden beams of the morning, she caught the glint of something inside a crevice only three feet from Seamus. Had he seen it, too? Is that why he had been so insistent? Or was it a trick?She grabbed her sturdy piece of driftwood, intending to shove him away if he came close to her. Keeping one eye on Seamus, she bent down. He barked, growled, and lowered his head.
“If you bite me, I will clobber you with this stick,” she threatened. Then in one swift movement, she scooped up the bright bauble.
Her heart thundered as she opened her hand and stared at it. It was Lila’s silver heart locket— the one Gustave had given to her on her birthday. Lila’s initials were engraved on the surface, so there could be no doubt.
She trembled as emotion swamped her like a giant wave. With knees too weak to hold her, she sank upon the hard, cold granite. Her chest tightened as she realized she sat in perhaps the very spot where her sister had met her doom.
She tried to open the tiny clasp with her frozen fingers, but she could not. A small sob escaped her lips.
Seamus inched closer, but she was too distraught to care.
“What are you doing there? Can’t you see the sign? Don’t climb on the rocks.” A deep voice shouted at her. “Seals bite! Get away so I can get rid of that creature!”
Neema’s heart quailed when she saw the man holding a pistol not twenty feet from her. Beside him stood a giant, hairy dog, the lifesaving station’s St. Bernard.
Panic gripped her. “Don’t shoot!”
“Move away from the seal.” The man aimed the gun at Seamus. “Those beasts can crush shells with their teeth.”
“Put that gun away!” she shouted.
Seamus wriggled away and slid into the water.
The man and the dog clambered up onto the rock wall.
“Are you crazy?” he shouted at her.
“What if you missed him and shot me?” Neema fired back.
“You should have listened to me.” The insignia on his uniform marked him as one of the surfmen of the lifesaving station.
“That seal didn’t hurt me.” She gave him her fiercest glare and managed to get to her feetthough her knees still quaked. The surfman’s rugged face would have been pleasing but for the livid scar across his cheek which went all the way to his chin. She stared at it and wondered if it went further down along his neck, but she could not tell for a thick scarf lay wrapped around his throat.
“Seals attack without warning.”
“Only when they feel threatened,” she retorted. Her hands clenched into tight fists.


Keep your ereader charged just in case the power goes out. Bundle up, stay warm, sip hot drinks, and download a good book. There's no better way to enjoy winter!

Thursday, January 03, 2019

Judge Not

Photo by Leroy_Skalstad

The photograph above reminded me of one of my uncles, a veteran of World War II. After the war, he became an alcoholic. My mother, his sister, claimed he never drank alcohol until after the war. I don't know what my uncle saw during his time in the service, but I do believe that he could have used some psychiatric help. He didn't get it and continued to drink to excess. Eventually, his wife divorced him. 

He spent time on the street, but he knew where to go when things got bad. He'd come out to New Jersey and stay with my parents for a while and dry out. He was a pleasant man when sober and quite adept at fixing things. He helped my parents with several DIY projects around the house, but after a while he'd leave and nobody would hear from him until he decided he needed help again. 

Toward the end of his life, he stayed with my grandmother most of the time. He passed away very soon after she died. 

I know how difficult it is for veterans to get help. I know my uncle went to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, but obviously that didn't solve his problem. He had a sad life consumed for the most part by his addiction. Nevertheless, my parents always welcomed him. He wasn't completely without aid.

But there are people who have no place to go when things go bad.  If you saw the man above on the street what would you think of him? Would you think he was a lazy bum, a drunkard, or someone using street drugs? Would you believe he doesn't deserve any help because his situation is his own fault? What if he was a veteran? Or a man who lost his home in the last hurricane? Or the victim of a fire? 

Would that change your opinion of him? Would you be willing to give him aid then?

What if he was Mexican? Or Muslim? 

Most of us are quick to judge others, making assumptions based solely on their appearance. But everyone is a child of God. He knows their hearts and loves them. God is aware of their circumstances and their brokenness. 

The Bible labels drunkenness as a sin but it is prudent to count alcoholism as disease. Getting rid of an addiction is difficult and it cannot be done without assistance.

My parents never gave up on my uncle. They did not condemn him, but there wasn't a drop of alcohol in my parents' home when my uncle was there. And he knew it. However, he had a warm place to sleep and healthy food to eat. He knew someone cared. They offered him hope and a chance at wellness--at least for a little while. 💗