Many of you, especially those in the Midwest, have probably seen the stories and footage of the wildfires ravaging Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and parts of Colorado. The devastation is heartbreaking and it's not over yet. I've always been a country girl at heart, though I grew up more city. To see the images of burned rangeland, injured cattle, and pictures of brave men and women who have lost their lives brings tears to my eyes. My heart just aches for the families displaced by the fires, for those mourning lost livelihoods and animals, and especially for those mourning the deaths of loved ones.
As soon as the fires started Monday, I wanted to do something to help. I lifted my voice in prayer with thousands of others. I cried tears of joy when I saw the truckload of supplies our SWH Mustangs donated to the community of Ashland, KS.
Normally my holiday sale is when I donate to charities, but these people need help now. So, instead of waiting until Christmas, we'll have our "holiday" sale right now. All profits made from my book sales in the months of March and April will be donated to the Kansas Livestock Association. Below, you will find links to help out ranchers in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas if you wish to make a direct donation. I have not yet found anything for Colorado relief, so if you know of something, please link it in the comments!
As part of this sale, I am releasing a brand new book: Into the Rainbow. This was a rather spur of the moment project that started to take shape in mid-February (nothing like a looming deadline to get you writing!). I've had part of the concept in mind for a while, but it lacked characters and most importantly, plot. Once those fell into place, the rest was pretty easy. Here's what it's about:
Dierdre Kay and her sisters, Treasa and Darcie, are taking their first spring break trip without their parents. Other than Kansas City's constant rain, everything has been going well. They've visited museums, gone shopping, and even pretended to be triplets on St. Patrick's Day as a celebration of Dierdre's and Treasa's nineteenth birthday. Life couldn't be better, until Dierdre crashes their car while trying to avoid the strange man who suddenly appeared in the road.
Discovering themselves in a world they never knew existed, the Kay sisters must somehow find their way back home with a mysterious leprechaun named Kildare as their guide. The road will not be an easy one as there are forces in the Emerald Glade determined to make sure the girls never leave.
They say there's a pot of gold at the end of every rainbow. But what happens when you go inside it?
Into the Rainbow is a romantic fantasy scheduled to release on March 17.
So, to recap, all profits from eBook and paperback purchases will be donated to the Kansas Livestock Association to help aid those suffering in the wake of the wildfires. If you want to help more directly, the buttons below will take you to the Kansas Livestock Association, Oklahoma Cattlemen's Foundation, and the Texas Farm Bureau's Pandhandle Wildfire Relief program. There are also areas taking hay donations and these websites can help you find where to donate practical items as well.
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Jessica-L.-Elliott/e/B005HSDKNY/
Smashwords Author Page: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/JessicaLElliott
I made it! Haha. I've got a chapter done for you on time. Or at least close. From here on out we'll be on the two week schedule. So next week there won't be a chapter (make sure you visit anyway for something fun!) but there will be one the week after that. As usual, be sure to comment below with what you think should happen next. And if you have any quilting experience, help me figure out what a Rocking Country Star quilt would look like. I'll be working on that design for a while, but would love help from anyone with more experience than I've got.
Following the Harvest Party, Blizzard decided she’d had enough excitement for a while. Scarlett and I agreed not to tell Blizzard about my breakdown. It would only worry her. Monday after Blizzard left for school, I got busy in the kitchen making calzones. Amelia had a soft spot for Italian food and it was something we could eat without getting too messy. After slicing some of the last vegetables from my garden and making a jug of lemonade, I started loading the work truck. Franky saw me and came over. “Hey, Mrs. Jannsen, where you headed?”
“Amelia hinted rather strongly that I’ve been away from town too long,” I replied.
He laughed. “Doesn’t that mean you haven’t been there in a whole day?”
“Now, Franky, give her some credit. Two days.” We laughed and I asked, “Any news yet?”
Franky shook his head. “Still waiting.”
“Well, you’re in charge until I get back. Dr. Jones will be here around eleven to check the mares. Make sure she takes a good look at Skipperdeen. She’s been a bit listless the last day or so.”
“You think she’ll be able to carry both foals?”
I frowned. “I don’t know, Franky. Unfortunately with when Scarlett’s wedding was and all the things going on at the time, I forgot to have that early exam done. Since Quarters don’t twin often and Skipperdeen’s never twinned, I didn’t worry too much. We can only hope things go well, but be prepared when they don’t.”
He nodded. “Anything else you need done today?”
“Just the normal things. And double check that everything is cleaned up from the party.”
“Sounds good, Mrs. Jannsen. Have fun in town.”
I smiled and waved as I drove away. The drive was fairly short, even though Amelia’s shop is on the farther end of town. As I drove past shops and homes, I waved at the people walking the sidewalks. Pine Springs is a nice community. I stopped in front of Quarters of My Heart and gathered up the food before walking inside. Amelia looked up from her long arm quilting machine. “Hi there, Tabitha. What have you brought with you today?”
“Calzones and fresh veggies with ranch dip.”
“Mmm-mm, you’re spoiling me today.”
“Consider it an apology. I have been away for a while.”
“Well, I can’t say I blame you too much,” Amelia admitted as she led me to a back table. “You’ve had your hands full. How many mares do you have with foal right now?”
“Twenty. We’re going to have a busy spring, that’s for sure.”
“I bet. And how’s Skipperdeen?”
I sighed, “I don’t know, Amelia. It would have been so much easier had we found out about the twins early enough to do something about it. At this point, it’s just a waiting game. Maybe things will turn out all right, maybe they won’t.”
Amelia nodded. “That is the hardest part of ranch life, I think. I guess that’s why after I grew up I decided to open a business instead of ranching like my parents had. I just can’t stand the heartbreak when things go wrong.”
“It’s certainly not easy.”
“But enough sadness for one afternoon. Has Blizzard heard back from that recording studio yet?”
“No and it’s driving her up the walls. The DJ from Scarlett’s reception got her in touch with them, but they’ve been slow to respond to her. We’ll see what happens. It may end up just being an empty lead.”
“Oh, that would be a shame. She’s so talented.”
“She is. But maybe right now it’s for the best,” I replied. “For now she focus on her schoolwork and educating herself. Then she can be a hit singer.”
We were quiet for a while as we ate our lunch together. While we cleaned up from our meals, Amelia said, “You sure know how to cook. Maybe you ought to consider opening a diner in town when Scarlett takes over Starwood.”
I laughed. “I don’t see Scarlett taking over for me. More likely Blizzard will be the ranch-girl. Scarlett wants to open some kind of little diner or shop, but she hasn’t decided where yet.”
“How long does she have in school?”
“About two years to get her bachelors, why?”
“Did you know Mindy Pinkleton is going to be retiring soon? She’s run that little donut shop for years. I’ve heard her talking about looking for someone to buy it from her. It’s getting hard for her to keep up with the demand. Everyone knows that Mindy’s is the place for breakfast and Tammy’s is supper. The two kind of split the lunch orders. Anyway, I’m just sayin’ that if Scarlett wants a place to start up her little shop, there will probably be something available.”
“Do you think Mindy will wait two years? Scarlett’s not going to want to leave Cheyenne until she finishes school.”
Amelia shrugged. “Don’t know. Couldn’t hurt to ask though, could it?”
“No, wouldn’t hurt at all. Now, how about you show me that new fabric line?”
She led me to her new arrivals shelf and showed me the new prints. Hearts and horses and music. “This has Blizzard written all over it,” I said with a smile, running my hands over the fabrics.
“That’s what I thought when I saw it. And look over here,” she added. “This is a booklet with different quilt patterns and options made with the line in mind. I’m seriously thinking of doing a class with this one.” She flipped to a page in the booklet and handed it to me.
“Rocking Country Star.” I smiled. “When do you plan on starting the class?”
“Well, I was hoping to do it after the new year and with you helping me teach it. I bet the two of us together could get this put together before Christmas and then be able to teach the class after that. You know I always like to have an example to show off.”
I laughed. “I should have known you’d rope me into that. I think that’s a great idea. Why don’t I start coming down on Tuesdays and Thursdays to work on the quilt with you?”
I looked around for a while and picked out several fabrics to start on different projects. I took a long look at some of the baby options.
“It’s been a long while since you made a baby quilt, Tabitha,” Amelia said. “Anything I should know about?”
“Oh, no, just looking. After all, eventually I’m sure Scarlett will want a family. And Sarah’s little one is about to get a toddler bed. She should probably get a new quilt to go along with that, don’t you think?”
“Honey, I think everyone needs a new quilt, no matter what the reason,” Amelia laughed. “Have you seen the fairy set over here?”
“No, I don’t think so,” I said, glad to have gotten Amelia’s mind away from my daughter. I may have had my suspicions, but I wasn’t about to share them with my gossipy friend. Amelia wasn’t a mean gossip, and I don’t think she really meant to do it. She just liked to talk and sometimes told things she maybe should have kept to herself.
When I left her shop I had a bag full of fabrics and plans set up to start the new quilt with her. I set my purchases on the passenger seat of the truck before walking around to the driver’s door. I heard voices across the street and glanced over. Sam Henley was caught in an argument with a tall, dark-haired woman I didn’t recognize. She couldn’t have been anyone from town. I knew just about everyone and her clothes were far too trendy to have been from our ranching community.
I knew whatever was going on wasn’t any of my business, so I got in my truck and drove away. But I couldn’t help wondering who that woman was.
Tuesday night I sat at my favorite booth with Teddy and Scarlett at Tammy’s Diner listening to Blizzard sing. Josiah was sitting with Skipperdeen. Dr. Jones was concerned and had recommended having someone with her fairly constantly until there was some change If she seemed to get worse, we were to call her right away. Franky had warned me of the likelihood that Skipperdeen would lose the pregnancy. “Dr. Jones isn’t very hopeful,” he’d said when I returned from Amelia’s.
I sighed and cleared my thoughts as Teddy said, “She’s got such talent, Tabitha. You must be so proud of her.”
Blizzard introduced her next song and I listened as she described the inspiration for it. “Most of you know my sister and her husband. This is the song I wrote for them.” She had just started to sing Real Fairy Tales when my cell phone buzzed in my pocket. I pulled it out and glanced at it. “Oh no,” I muttered.
“Who is it?” Scarlett whispered.
I answered the call. “Hello, Mom.”
“Tabitha dear, I just thought I’d let you know that I’m at the airport right now. I’ll be at Starwood in a few hours.”
“I’m hailing a taxi even as we speak. See you soon, love!”
“No, Mom, don’t hang up!” But it was too late. I growled in frustration.
“What’s the matter?” Scarlett asked.
“Your grandmother just decided to drop in unannounced. Again.”
Scarlett laughed. “That’s normal for Grandma.”
“Yes, but right now is about the worst possible time she could come. Skipperdeen is…” I trailed off. We hadn’t told Scarlett how bad things were for her hors.Skipperdeen had been Scarlett’s 4-H project in high school and there was a good chance she was about to lose her foals. If an infection set in, we could lose her too.
“Mama, none of you are fooling me,” Scarlett replied, her tone quiet. “Carrying twins is hard on a person, let alone a horse.”
“Scarlett, how did you find out? We all agreed not to tell you.”
“Did you really think you could keep it a secret? Dr. Jones called me,” Scarlett admitted. “It’s a small town. She remembers who Skipperdeen really belongs to. She’s been giving me updates ever since she discovered the twins.”
I couldn’t remember ever feeling so ashamed of myself. Here was my adult daughter and I’d been treating her like a fragile child. It wasn’t fair of me. Scarlett had grown up on the ranch. She’d seen more than one mare go through this sort of thing. She’d seen stillborn foals. I’d acted as though Scarlett couldn’t handle the reality of ranching when perhaps the person who really struggled was me. “You must hate me.”
Scarlett shook her head. “Mama, I could never hate you. I know why you made the decision you did. And I appreciate it. Lord knows this semester has been rough enough without the added stress. But, I wish you had told me yourself instead of making me find out from Dr. Jones. I’ve asked for the next few days off so I can help sit with Skipperdeen. We’ll see her through this, whatever this may turn out to be.”
Blizzard finished her song amid cheering and hollering. She came down to our table and smiled. “Ready to head home?” she asked.
“Better be. Grandma’s coming.”
“Grandma as in Grandma Jannsen, right?” she asked hopefully.
“You know Grandma Jannsen never comes unannounced,” Scarlett laughed. “She always has her itinerary planned three months in advance! As I recall, she’ll be coming for Christmas this year.”
“Guess that means we’re going to be cleaning house when we get home instead of relaxing, huh?” Blizzard said, her shoulders drooping.
I hesitated. Normally I would have said yes. My mother liked things to be tidy and organized, despite her whirlwind personality. But at the same time, I knew the girls and I needed to be able to take care of our horses, especially Skipperdeen. “Forget the cleaning,” I replied after a moment. “Let’s just enjoy some time together and take care of the horses. My mother can deal with the ranch looking like a ranch instead of a palace.” The girls stared at me wide-eyed. “What? If you really want to clean...”
“No, we’re good,” they said at once.
“Well, let’s go home and be waiting for Grandma’s taxi.”
What is Grandma's plan for this visit?
A. She's planning on moving to Starwood because she doesn't like living alone.
B. Grandma is going to help Blizzard get straight A's because, "we all know she struggles so."
C. She wants to spend Halloween somewhere where there won't be any trick-or-treaters.
D. Grandma just knew she was needed at Starwood and is going to help wherever she can.
Readers, I know I've been promising forever, but today it's finally here! The second chapter to The Sheriff and Mrs. Jannsen! So sorry to be so slow. If it's been so long you don't remember the first chapter, you can read it here. Don't forget to comment below with where you think the story should go next! The next chapter will come out next Friday (January 6) and then we'll go back to a two-week schedule for chapters.
Blizzard never was one to sit still. As the months followed Scarlett’s wedding, I could see my younger daughter becoming restless. After her sighing about how lonely and boring Starwood was without Scarlett, I suggested she find some sort of project to occupy her time. Josiah jumped on the bandwagon during one of his weekends working at the ranch and said, “Blizz, I bet you’d have a lot of fun putting together a harvest party.”
“A harvest party?” she repeated, her teal eyes intrigued and suspicious at the same time.
“Yeah. They’re real popular this time of year. We’ve got a great corn crop this year. Maybe you could arrange a corn husking and a corn maze, your barn is the perfect size for a harvest ball. And I for one know that Scarlett would never be able to resist that.”
“How do you know?”
“I’ve got rope.”
Blizzard giggled and I said, “Wait a minute, Josiah, you are absolutely not tying my daughter up.”
He laughed, his brown eyes twinkling. “Don’t worry, Mom, I don’t think I’ll have to.”
“This will be so much fun. What do you think, Mom?”
I hesitated. As fun as that sounded, it also sounded like an awful lot of work and even more people at the ranch. “Well, if you can keep up with your schoolwork and 4-H responsibilities, I suppose it would be all right.”
You’d have thought I’d just given her the keys to a brand-new truck with how her face glowed. “Thanks, Mom! This is going to be the absolute best harvest party ever!”
Blizzard spent the next few weeks in a flurry of activity. She enlisted Scarlett’s help making invitations and Josiah was put to work with some of the other hands setting up the corn maze. When she wasn’t working on the party, she was talking about it. Somehow she did keep up with her chores, though I suspect a certain brother-in-law might have been responsible for some of that. And she managed not to neglect our three puppies too badly. Mclintock didn’t mind her being busy as he’s definitely my boy. But Rooster and Cogburn did not appreciate her new-found project. The Scotties would follow after her, whining and yipping for her attention. To her credit, she would always stop to play with them for a bit. As invitations went out, I wondered what the response would be. I’ve never really been one for entertaining. I guess I stay too busy with work to bother much with it. But Blizzard is my social butterfly. She loves to be the center of attention, probably good since she has dreams of being a country singer.
The day before her harvest party, Franky came in with a smile on his tanned face and his hat clutched in his hands. “Hey Blizz, how’re things goin’?”
“Great! I’ve heard from almost everyone at the high school. They’re all coming! I can’t wait!”
“Is there something you needed Franky?” I asked.
“Yes, ma’am. I wondered if I could get off a little early tonight.”
“Any special reason?”
“Well, Brother Cairn called and my appointment with President Schafer has been moved up an hour. I’d rather not smell like horse at my final interview.”
“Wimp,” Blizzard teased.
“Hey, this is the last one before my mission papers get sent in. Better to make a good impression.”
I laughed. “That’s fine, Franky. Why don’t you take off at three tonight?”
“I don’t need that much time,” he mumbled.
“But it won’t hurt anything either. Go on. We’ve got enough people here to help out with everything. You deserve a break.”
“You’re going to tell us first when you get your call, right?” Blizzard asked.
“Nope. Teddy’s got first dibs.”
Blizzard tried to pout and failed.
“But you’ll definitely hear second,” he added.
She gave a dramatic sigh. “I suppose that’ll be good enough.”
“Better be, cowgirl,” Franky replied, tweaking one of her curls. He laughed as her cheeks flushed and said, “I better get busy if I’m going to get all my chores done before quittin’ time. Thanks, Mrs. Jannsen.” He tipped his head and walked out the door.
Blizzard watched him go before turning her attention back to the scarecrows she was stuffing. I could have teased her about it, but I didn’t. Instead I said, “I’m going to be in the office for a while. If anyone stops by or calls, you know the drill.”
“Yep. I say, ‘Thank goodness you’re here! My mom’s been kidnapped and I’m trying to raise a million dollars for ransom. Would you like to make a donation?’”
She laughed. “Just teasing you, Mom. I’ll make up a much better story.”
Isn’t it funny how the more irritated you get with your teenage children, the more amused they become? Blizzard just laughed some more. “Come on, Mom, it’s not like this is the first time I’ve been in charge of the house. Go get your work done already.”
I gave her a last stern look, which she laughed at. Don’t blame her really, I was having a hard time keeping the grin off my face. It’s practically impossible to stay mad at her. Almost as hard as saying no. Paul never could. I walked into the office. There wasn’t really much work to be done, but it was a kind of sanctuary for me. I could sit there quietly with Mclintock at my heels and just think. After sitting at the desk, Mclintock wrapped himself around my feet. He was big, even for a German Shepherd and I knew he probably wasn’t done growing yet. But boy had that pup wrapped himself around my heart. Despite Paul always insisting that dogs stayed out in the barn or the yard, I just couldn’t send him outside. Every now and again I would hear Paul’s voice in the back of my mind. “You’re spoilin’ that pup, Tabby. Put him outside where all proper dogs belong.”
“Let me spoil him,” I murmured and rubbed behind Mclintock’s ears before turning on my computer. I went over the budgets and bank statements to make sure everything matched. It had been a good year for us. Blizzard had seen a record number of travelers come through for our summer trail rides. Thinking about the rides reminded me of the upcoming event. I knew Blizzard was planning a midnight trail ride. I frowned. I normally don’t mind her setting up trail rides on her own. In fact it’s part of her job. But midnight rides can be dangerous. She promised to set up extra precautions and, like all our rides, the riders would sign a liability release form. That may sound silly, but believe me all it takes is one lawsuit to shut you down.
When I’d caught up on my actual work I stood and stretched. I walked to the window and looked outside. My office overlooks the road. I could see our wooden ranch sign. Starwood Acres was spelled out in scrolled letters. Josiah had painted it last summer and it looked as pretty as it did the day Paul set it up. Bright red and snowy white roses bloomed all over the bushes in front of the sign in a final display of summer. Green fields stretched on the other side of the road and the mountains stood tall in the distance. Wispy white clouds floated across a blue sky. I took a deep breath and released it with a sigh. Mclintock came and rubbed my leg. “We’ve sure been blessed, haven’t we boy?”
Blizzard’s harvest party came on a breezy fall day. The winds whistled through the corn stalks and half the ranch was busy with last minute preparations. Scarlett showed up bright and early with Josiah to help out. He kissed her cheek before going to assist the others taking the stock horses out to the far pastures. She watched after him a moment before looking at Blizzard with a grin. “All right, Blizz, put me to work.”
And boy did she! Blizzard had us moving tables, setting out tablecloths and place settings, and arranging centerpieces until she declared the barn perfect. Not long after friends and neighbors began trickling in. My good friend, Amelia, was one of the first to arrive. “Oh my, Tabitha, you look so beautiful today! Anything I should know about?”
“I didn’t do much more than normal, Amelia. Just my favorite blouse and jeans.”
“Well, you’re going to be the belle of the ball tonight, that’s for sure.”
I laughed. “I think I’m a bit old to be playing that game, Amelia.”
“You and me both, darling. Oh, I almost forgot to tell you. I’ve got a new line of fabrics in. As soon as I saw them I just knew you had to have them. It’s been such a busy day though that I left them at the shop.”
“Left them on accident or on purpose to give me an excuse to drive out there?” I teased.
Amelia gasped. “Why Tabitha Jannsen, I’m scandalized that you would think so. I would certainly never resort to such trickery to get my best friend into my shop.” Her blue eyes twinkled. “Although, if the opportunity arose to remind my dear friend of all the wonders my shop holds for her, well, I might not be able to resist.”
We laughed together and I said, “How about I drop by Monday with lunch?”
“Oh, Tabitha, you don’t have to bring me lunch.”
“Isn’t that what friends who have been away too long do?”
“I suppose so.” She paused when she saw someone behind me. “I think I’ll go see if Blizzard needs my help with anything. Chat later, dear!”
Before I could argue or even say goodbye, Amelia was off. I turned to see Sam standing behind me with my dear friend Teddy Meddleton. I smiled warmly. “Teddy!” I wrapped him in a gentle hug. His health was declining and it broke my heart to see him looking so thin and worn.
“Tabitha my dear, you’re as lovely as ever.”
“And you are still as biased as ever,” I retorted with a smile. “How are you today?”
“Well, the nurse let me out the door, so I must not be in too bad of shape,” he replied with a wink. With a more serious expression, Teddy said, “I’ll be fine. Scarlett and Josiah hardly leave me alone. How they can possibly keep up with their schoolwork and jobs is beyond me.”
“They’re still at that age they don’t need sleep to function, right?”
“Must be. They’re sure happy together aren’t they.”
I glanced over where they were in the midst of an argument about Heaven knew what. “When they’re not fighting.”
He chuckled. “That’s going to be the tale of that marriage. Anyhow, I just wanted to say hi. I think I’ll go sit for a while.”
I hugged him again. “I’m so glad you’re here, Teddy.”
“Me too. Now quit making your man jealous.”
A blush stole across my cheeks. Was it really that obvious? Teddy wandered to a table. Josiah and Scarlett soon saw him and joined him, setting their spat aside.I turned back to Sam. “Thanks for bringing him over. I know Josiah had wanted to.”
“He asked me to since things were busier here than he anticipated. It was no problem,” Sam replied. He looked around. “This is quite a party you’ve set up.”
“Blizzard is the brain behind it all. Creativity just seems to flow in her veins.”
“That’s a good thing. Listen, I know we’d had plans to go see that movie Tuesday, but I’ve had a conflict come up.”
I couldn’t hide my disappointment, though I tried. “Oh? I’m sorry to hear that. It’ll be okay though. Blizzard was wanting me to come to the diner with her that night anyway. She’s got some new songs she’s going to debut.”
“Yeah. Could I reschedule for Thursday?”
“I’ll be busy Thursday, but maybe Saturday?”
“I think I can swing Saturday.” He was quiet a moment as he scanned the room. “Anything you need me to do tonight?”
“You’re off-duty, Sheriff. Tonight your only job is to have fun.”
I heard Blizzard’s voice come over a loud speaker. She announced the activities and soon we were too busy having fun to talk much. Blizzard really had thought of everything. There was a corn maze, bobbing for apples, a cake walk, a Western style photo booth, dinner and a dance. There was a steady influx of people coming in and out and I knew with Blizzard’s five dollar entry fee, we were probably making a good amount of extra money. Some of the activities also had small fees on them. After sunset, those who wanted to participate in the midnight trail ride gathered by the front table. Paperwork was set out to be signed, Scarlett collected fees, Franky handed helmets to each rider, and Josiah took them to a horse.
Blizzard soon mounted Chalk Art and called out, “Let’s go! Stay on the path and keep behind the rider in front of you.”
I tamped down the nerves building in my stomach. I hadn’t gone on a nighttime ride since before Paul died. He’d gotten sick just after we’d had a late ride together as a date night. It didn’t matter how much the doctor claimed his illness wasn’t related to our late night, I couldn’t fight the guilt. I fell in line behind Scarlett and Zander. My horse was a surprisingly tall Quarab. (For those of you who aren’t horsey, that’s a horse bred from a quarter horse and an Arabian.) Anyway, he had all the grace of an Arabian with the strength and agility of a quarter. As the ride got started I could hear the whispered awe as people saw the ranch under moonlight. It was beautiful. A crisp breeze flowed over us, a constant reminder that summer was nearly past. The moon shone golden yellow down on us, just as it had all those years ago. The wind whispering through the pines teased me with memories of Paul’s voice. Before I realized it, tears were flowing down my cheeks. Scarlett heard me sniffling and turned. She slowed Zander until we were side-by-side. “Mama, are you okay?”
I tried to respond, but my throat was too tight.
Scarlett moved forward to Josiah and said something to him before coming back and taking the reins from me. “Come on, Sheik. Let’s get Mama home.” Zander and Sheik fell into rhythm easily, passing other riders who Scarlett called encouragement to.
As we passed the end of the line where Franky was helping the stragglers, he frowned. “You gals okay?”
“Yeah, I just had a headache and Mama’s going to help me feel better.”
His frown deepened and it was obvious he didn’t believe Scarlett for a second. “All right. I’ve got a cell if you ladies need anything.”
We reached the barn and dismounted. Scarlett took Sheik and Zander inside to their stalls and called to one of the wranglers to get them washed down and fed. Then she returned to my side. I was shivering uncontrollably and sobbing. She wrapped her arms around me and steered me to the house. Without speaking, she wrapped a blanket around my shoulders and set me down on the sofa in front of the fireplace. After starting a fire, she disappeared into the kitchen, returning later with a steaming mug in her hand. “Good thing I started this before we went out,” she said. She handed the mug to me and sat next to me. “Do you want to talk about it?”
I shook my head. No, I didn’t want to talk about it. I didn’t want to tell her how badly I still hurt after all these years. I didn’t want to admit how hard it was to see her with Josiah, happy and carefree like I used to be. I didn’t want to put a voice to the worry and sorrow. I couldn’t.
She nodded as though just by looking at me, she’d known my thoughts. Her arms wrapped around me. “Mama, it’s okay to still hurt. I know it’s different, but I miss him too.” Then she sat just holding me. It was as though we’d switched places. She was the caring mother comforting her grieving child.
Once I found my voice again, I said, “You’ll be a great mom someday.”
Scarlett smiled, the one that said she had a secret she wasn’t ready to share yet. “Maybe someday.”
Blizzard's next performance is going to be interrupted. What's going to happen?
1) Josiah is going to call about Sscarlett.
2) Scarlett is going to call about Josiah.
3) Teddy's nurse is going to call unable to reach Scarlett or Josiah.
4) Tabitha's mom is going to call from the airport.
So this is something I've seen several of my authorly friends do and I'm totally jumping on the bandwagon. I'm sharing with you my favorite ten books that I've read from this year. The hard part is I've read so many awesome books this year by amazing authors. So I gave myself one rule, I could only share one book per author. Because some of these authors had several books I read this year and each of them was fabulous! So, without further ado, here's my list!
10. Snowfall on Haven Point by RaeAnne Thayne
One of the things I love about attending Facebook parties is the chance to meet new authors and read new books. Snowfall on Haven Point is a heartwarming romance with characters who just wrap around your heartstrings. There are a few swears in it, so if you're one who absolutely does not want that in a book, I wouldn't recommend this one for you, but otherwise it's a clean story. There are two adorable children, an angsty teenager and of course the couple who are trying so hard not to fall in love and failing so very miserably at it. This one also has a mystery to go along and as you try to figure out who the bad guy is and what they're after, you will find yourself rooting for Andie and Marshall as they try to keep each other safe. It's a great book with a happy ending for just about everyone in the story.
9. Tiger's Paw by Kimberly A. Rogers
I'll be the first to admit that Christian fantasy tends to make me a little leary. I guess when I'm reading a fantasy (or really any book), I want an escape and I don't particularly like being bashed in the head with religion. It's not that adding faith to your writing is bad, but there are ways to do it well and ways that are overbearing. Kimberly however does it perfectly. I never felt like I was being bombarded with religion. It was simply a part of the story and fit naturally within the context of the world she was writing. I'm also not generally a fan of werewolf-esque stories. But again, Kimberly surprised me. The way her characters tranformed made sense and there was certainly no bloodlust as is all too common in these kind of stories. The characters were believable and the story captivated my interest. I will admit to missing some chores because I was reading. If you're one who likes modern fantasy, Tiger's Paw and the rest of the Therian Way novels will be right up your alley.
8. Kibble Talk by Cynthia Port
If you are a dog lover like me, this is one book you can't live without! I met Cynthia in person this past March and fell in love with the idea of learning how to talk to your dog by....well, I won't spoil it. At any rate, this is a laugh-out-loud funny book about a Great Dane who just wants to be a lapdog. It reminded me of The Ugly Dachsund which was one of my favorite movies growing up. This book is geared to younger readers and made a perfect read-aloud for my littles who are very much like their mother: dog lovers to the core! Depending on your child's reading level, they could probably start reading this on their own at third or fourth grade. The chapters are fairly short which makes it perfect as a read-aloud for either bedtime or the classroom. In any case, Kibble Talk is a great, funny read for the whole family. Just make sure you put your kibble up before reading.
7. Summer Kisses by Melinda Curtis
Summertime seems like the perfect time to fall in love. Another heartwarming romance, this one just melted my heart. Which I guess isn't hard to do since I'm a hopeless romantic anyway, but still. The characters are relatable and more than once you'll want to smack Rebecca, Flynn or both of them upside the head. The side characters add vibrancy and life to story, making for a great read. My favorite character is little Truman who shows all the innocence and mischief of a proper seven-year-old and definitely keeps all the adults in the story on their toes. One of those fun books that makes you laugh and cry, Summer Kisses is a good choice for anyone who enjoys a good romance that's clean and well-written.
6. A Reluctant Assassin by J C Morrows
As an author of fairy tale retellings, I love to read other people's versions. This spin on the Cinderella story is perhaps one of the most inventive I've ever read. This story is both futuristic and steampunk. It begs the question, "What would happen if Cinderella was sent to kill the prince?" I warn you now, if you start reading you will have a hard time putting it down and you will probably be begging for the next book. I was glad I had received both this and the second book because I needed to know what happened next. Now I'm eagerly waiting to read the next in the series. This is also Christian in theme, but never feels forced. Great for those who love a twist on the old fairies tales and for people who like a page-turning adventure!
P.S. This one is currently free to download on Kindle.
5. None But You by Franky A. Brown
Jane Austen fans, take note! I absolutely fell in love with None But You as well as Franky's other Austen-inspired books. The fact that Anna and Erick play Scrabble with each, rather competitively I might add, just adds to the fun. Anna is a piano teacher too busy taking care of everyone else to make sure she's taking care of her heart. This book has plenty of laugh out loud moments as well as more serious moments. Clean with vivacious characters and heartwarming characters, this book is a great read for the hopeless romantic.
4. Nyssa Glass and the House of Mirrors by H. L. Burke
I've read several of Burke's books this year and it was hard to narrow it down to one favorite. But if I were forced to pick, Nyssa Glass is the winner. This first book, Nyssa Glass and the House of Mirrors, is great. Nyssa has to solve a mystery all while trying to determine how to prove her own innocence in a crime committed at the beginning of the book. A definite steampunk tale with delightful characters and a hilarious computer, Nyssa is the snarky kind of girl many of us try to keep inside our heads. The story is captivating and the series has recently been finished, so while you're picking this one up, grab the others too! Geared to young adult, but good for older readers too.
3. Headed For the Win by Rachael Eliker
If you know me at all, you know by now that I absolutely love horses. I am also fascinated by dressage and really all equine events. Rachael brings all those together in this charming story perfect for the young adult (and older) horse lover. Nadia is a girl who dreams of the Olympics, and really just doing anything with horses. She agrees to work in a barn in exchange for riding lessons. Between a stroke of good luck and her own talent, Nadia finds herself the owner of a beautiful mare named Headed For the Win, Winny for short. As they struggle to become a team, Nadia soon learns that you should always be careful what you wish for. You never know when it might come true in the most unexpected of ways.
2. The Firethorn Crown by Lea Doué
This is probably the best fairy tale retelling I've read. Ever. A spin on "The Twelve Dancing Princesses", Lea builds a world with lovable characters and fabulous descriptions. Each princess has a distinct personality which makes it easy to tell which one is which, despite there being a large cast. It is through their combined talents, tenacity and love that these girls are able to find their way to a happy ending. Perfect for young adult, but easy enough to read for middle grade readers, The Firethorn Crown is a delightful fairy tale that will enchant you from the very first page!
1. Garden of Her Heart by Shanna Hatfield
Shanna is another author I read several new books for this year and had to really think about which one I would classify as my "favorite". I love everything I've read by her and it was a tough choice. But Garden of Her Heart finally won out. I just absolutely loved the characters and it is such a beautiful story. I can only imagine how much research went into this book. Little Petey will steal your heart and the whole time I was struck by how calm Miko was in the face of such adversity. And of course, Rock is absolutely charming. If you love a good romance and enjoy historical settings, this World War II novel is the one for you!
So that's my top ten. There were so many other books by so many other talented authors I read this year. And most of them were stories I absolutely loved. These ones stood out as my favorites. What were your favorite books this year?
These are my children. They pretty much make my world go 'round. They're lively, mischievous, energetic, spunky, loving, funny and just like in the picture, they sometimes make time go in a blur. The oldest has no allergies. He's as healthy and normal as can be, other than being short for his age and underweight. I blame the Elliott side. All that energy makes it hard to keep any weight on to grow with! The other two both have food allergies. It's not fun, but it's something we have to work with and we do day to day. We learn together about alternatives and substitutes. We try out new things together. Each day is a new adventure and we work to make each adventure not only fun, but safe.
I debated about whether or not I wanted to write this blog post. It's an issue that for some is sensitive, perhaps even embarrassing. Many have very strong opinions about it one way or the other. For the most part, I wanted to just leave the whole thing alone. But I think something needs to be said, and it may as well be me.
Friday on my personal Facebook page, I posted that I was writing to the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) about the lack of options for children with food allergies within the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) program. I asked for luck which most people offered. A comment was made, which I have not seen because it was deleted before I had a chance to read it, which caused some contention in the comment section. I can only guess based on other comments made that it was negative toward government assistance programs. Honestly, I don't care too much what was said. The person who made the comment is still very much my friend and I am not going to allow whatever comment was made (which I haven't even seen) affect that friendship.
However, I do think the topic needs to be addressed. Originally I had meant this post just to be an update for those who want to know what happens with my email to the USDA. Instead, this will be the start of my journey and give my perspective on government assistance programs. This is not meant to be a debate. This is not meant to give or take offense at anyone having a differing opinion. Being an adult means realizing that not everyone will agree with you and that's okay. Being an adult also means standing up for the things you believe in and in a friendly, polite way, expressing those things.
Generally speaking, I am conservative. Not in every matter, but for the most part that's where I fit in politically. I value hard work and my independence. I strive to be self-sufficient as much as possible and to give back when and where I can. I have strong moral values and unwaivering faith in my God. (This is not to say that those who are more liberal do not value these things, it's just making note that typically these are considered conservative traits.)
Now government assistance programs is an area I tend to be a little more liberal-leaning. I believe we do need to offer help to those in need. However, I would also be the first person to say that our current programs are in much need of rehaul. Welfare programs such as food stamps often create dependence on their programs and discourage fiscal responsibility. But not all of the programs do and there is a lot of good that can come from these programs.
One such program is WIC. For those unfamiliar with it, let me give you a little glimpse. WIC does not replace a family's food budget the way food stamps does. Rather, it supplements the existing budget with checks that can be used only for specific products. Fresh fruits and vegetables, milk, whole grain bread and cereal, etc. However, the other major difference is in presentation. Not only do you have your initial qualification appointment, but you then have appointments to pick up quarterly checks. Every six months (sometimes quarterly dependent on the needs of your child(ren)) you attend a full appointment to discuss healthy eating habits. The WIC officer will share recipes, tips for healthy snacking, etc. Because my children are small, I also had an appointment with a licensed dietician to go over specific needs my children have. The program is as much about educating people as it is about helping them get the food they need. For working parents and single parents, this education can be just as beneficial as the extra stretch to their food budget.
My husband is a teacher. I am a stay-at-home-mom and self-published, relatively unknown author. Our budget is tight and with two children with food allergies, the assistance WIC provides helps us make ends meet. I have the time (and patience) to research substitutions and alternatives to the standard staples my children can't have. But many parents, especially those who are single, don't have that luxury. It has not been an easy process for me even with having the time to do it. Many family favorites I grew up with have been abandoned as I have been unable to find substitutes that will work in the recipes. But for each recipe I lose, I've slowly been able to find new recipes and new favorites. Some of them have been from suggestions at my WIC appointments. Even though I already had a very good grasp on healthy choices and cooking, WIC has helped me learn what I can do for my children.
The reason I wrote to the USDA is because the checks are very, very specific on what you can and cannot get. Honestly, that's a feature I like about WIC. I can't just get whatever looks good. I have to get what is listed on the check. The problem is the fact that for children with food allergies there are few, if any, substitutes. My daughter who is allergic to dairy can have soy milk. It's worked out well for her. Unfortunately, my youngest son is allergic to both dairy and soy. There are no alternatives for him, despite having my doctor fill out the form for him to be switched to almond milk. It took a few phone calls to discover that even at the state level that could not be changed. It was a USDA regulation because almond milk is not nutritionally similar enough to dairy milk. I understand that and believe me, I'm realizing more and more with working around my children's allergies that it takes a lot of creativity to get all the nutrients a child with food allergies needs. This is where I think the WIC program could benefit from some changes.
Studies are showing a rise in food allergies and, no matter what the reason for that is, it means there are going to be more children who need alternatives. I very highly doubt that my son is the only one who has both allergies. In fact I know he isn't because my WIC officer, when I expressed my frustration at her not being able to change the milk for me, confided (without naming anyone) that there were other parents running into the same problem. Dairy milk is expensive enough for most people at often $3 a gallon. But the next time you're at the store, take a look at the dairy alternatives. Depending on brand and whether or not it has an "organic" label, a gallon can be anywhere from $7 to $10, sometimes more. Believe me, it adds up quickly and can really hurt a family's food budget. Not only are the alternatives expensive, but often because the alternatives do lack nutrients found in regular dairy, families have to be creative in making sure those nutrients make their way into other aspects of the child's diet. It takes a lot of time and research to find good solutions and I'm still learning. I would love to see the WIC program have more education available for families dealing with food allergies. I want to be able to get the foods my son can have.
So that's what I've written to the USDA about. Right now I'm still waiting for a response and will post an update when I do receive one. Thank you to all of you who have offered support. I know this is a topic that for many elicit strong feelings. If you feel inclined to leave a comment, whether or not you agree with me, please keep them polite. There's no reason to be antagonistic. And again, thank you for your support and love. I surely appreciate it.
Many of you probably know from my own Facebook feed that I love Shanna's work. I've had her on my blog before and now she's here again with a new release, Garden of Her Heart, guaranteed to tug your heartstrings and tickle your funny bone. This is different from anything else I've read by Shanna. In fact, it took away the much vied-for position of "favorite" from The Christmas Crusade which I fell in love with from the first page. Set in World War II during the Japanese internment, Garden of Her Heart shows once again the power of love is stronger than the power of hate.
One of the things I love about Shanna's writing is her attention to detail and historical accuracy. It can be easy when writing about the unpleasant aspects of our history to vilify our predecessors. But Shanna doesn't do that. She doesn't sugarcoat history either, which is the other side of the pendulum. Instead she writes things the way they were but without the sense of passing judgment. She took a very difficult time in our nation's history and handled it with grace. Not an easy task, but one she managed to perfection.
Now that I've told you how wonderful it is, how about I let Shanna share with you what it's all about?
Can forbidden love blossom amid the constraints of war?
The moment the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, life shifted for Miko Nishimura. Desperate to reach the Portland Assembly Center for Japanese-Americans, she’s kicked off the bus miles from town. Every tick of the clock pushes her closer to becoming a fugitive in the land of her birth. Exhausted, she stumbles to her grandparents’ abandoned farm only to find a dying soldier sprawled across the step. Unable to leave him, she forsakes all else to keep him alive.
After crashing his plane in the Battle of the Atlantic, the doctors condemn Captain Rock Laroux to die. Determined to meet his maker beneath a blue sky at his family home, he sneaks out of the hospital. Weary and half out of his mind, he makes it as far as a produce stand he remembers from his youth. Rather than surrender to death, Rock fights a battle of the heart as he falls in love with the beautiful Japanese woman who saves his life.
A poignant, sweet romance, Garden of Her Heart proves love can bloom in unlikely places even under the most challenging circumstances.
Don't miss out on this beautiful happy ever after. Get your copy today!
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1125098241
“Please, Miko? Would you at least consider marrying me?”
She shook her head and tried to pull away from him, but he drew her closer, wrapping his arms around her and holding her. His breath tantalized her ear as he bent his head near hers. “Please?”
“I can’t, Rock. I don’t want to be the cause of you missing out on the love of a lifetime.” She turned her head to the side and pressed it against his neck. Unintentionally, she heightened the yearning that already pulsed between them. Forcibly, he relaxed his hold on her.
“Miko,” he whispered. “Look at me, sweetheart.”
Unhurried, she tipped her head back, drawn into the bright warmth of his eyes.
“Miko, if I didn’t want to marry you, I wouldn’t offer. I rather like the idea of spending my future with you. We have more going for us than many couples who wed. There is no doubt in my mind at all about your ability to be a good wife. Me, on the other hand…” His cocky grin brought an amused light to her eyes. “It might be challenging to be married to someone like me.”
A smile curved her mouth upward and Rock tamped down the desire to kiss her again, even with the pastor watching their every move.
Sounds good, doesn't it? To celebrate this new release, Shanna is having a Facebook party with great prizes including, I'm told, a prize pack from Bésame Cosmetics (if you like Agent Carter, you may recognize this as the brand Haylee Atwell wears on the show). And she has graciously invited me to be one of the guest authors during the festivities! Today from 4 - 7 EST, we will be celebrating this fabulous new novel. We'll hope to see you there!
USA Today Bestselling Author Shanna Hatfield writes character-driven romances with relatable heroes and heroines. Her historical westerns have been described as “reminiscent of the era captured by Bonanza and The Virginian” while her contemporary works have been called “laugh-out-loud funny, and a little heart-pumping sexy without being explicit in any way.”
Convinced everyone deserves a happy ending, this hopeless romantic is out to make it happen, one story at a time. When she isn’t writing or indulging in chocolate (dark and decadent, please), Shanna hangs out with her husband, lovingly known as Captain Cavedweller.
Find Shanna’s books at:
Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Shanna-Hatfield/e/B0056HPPM0/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1391485546&sr=8-1
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/shanna-hatfield
Shanna loves to hear from readers. Follow her online at:
You Tube: https://www.youtube.com/user/ShannaHatfield?feature=watch
One of the things I love most about being an indie author is the opportunity I have to connect with other authors. The fantasy group I'm part of has many fabulous authors and one of them is revealing her cover. Kandi contacted us to see who had time on their blog and I was all, "Me, me, me! I'd love to!" And you know what I did? I forgot clean about getting it posted yesterday. Doh! Thanks for being gracious and forgiving, Kandi! So today, readers, I'm happy to share with you the cover reveal for Kandi's upcoming novel, Dragon's Posterity. Read on to learn more and enter the giveaway at the bottom of the post!
Looks pretty awesome, doesn't it? A little about Kandi:
Even as a young girl, Kandi J Wyatt, had a knack for words. She loved to read them, even if it was on a shampoo bottle! By high school Kandi had learned to put words together on paper to create stories for those she loved. Nowadays, she writes for her kids, whether that's her own five or the hundreds of students she's been lucky to teach. When Kandi's not spinning words to create stories, she's using them to teach students about Spanish, life, and leadership.
And now for the giveaway I promised you. Entry is simple. Just follow the directions on the Rafflecopter below. Prizes include what you see pictured here. Let me tell you, that dragon pendant is looking awfully pretty! If you want to know more about Kandi and her books, just visit her social media links:
This is James. Yep, he's kooky and lots of fun and my "little" brother. Can you call someone taller than you little? Anyway, you might be wondering why I've invited him to the blog today. Other than he's just a fun, awesome guy, James needs your help. No, not that kind of help. James is hoping to get to Iceland in summer of 2017 for an amazing study abroad opportunity. And like most college kids, funds are limited. So he's my Holiday 2016 project. Half of all profits made this year will be donated to him to help cover the costs of tuition and travel. So, let's get to know him a little bit!
Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is James Schofield, born and raised in Derby, Kansas. Lived abroad in Iceland for two years while serving as a church missionary. Currently attending Brigham Young University for a degree in Studio Arts with a licensure to teach as well. Avid outdoorsman and Scouter.
Where do you draw inspiration for your art?
The great outdoors! Everything in nature is somehow inspirational, the complexity found within the simplest of things is so inspiring and I love working with the fine details of flowers and leaves.
How long have you been an artist?
Since I could pick up a pen! Although I tried to stick to academics for a couple of years, that did not work for me and I quickly went back to art.
Who is your favorite artist (past or present)?
Andy Warhol. Easily. I love the way he flattens images and I love the messages behind his art.
What is your favorite medium?
I’m kind of in between mediums right now. I have a deep love for the traditional oil paint, but recently I have been exploring the world of fabric art and textiles. Not sure which will win in the end, but that is where I am at currently.
What advice do you have for aspiring artists?
Do it! Don’t let others let you down or tell you that you can’t do it! The world needs more artists!!
Of all the places to study abroad, why Iceland?
Multiple reasons. 1. I lived in Iceland for two years and have absolutely fallen in love with the country. 2. It is a landscape artist’s dream! The complexities of Iceland are astounding and cannot be compared to anything else. 3. I am very interested in how we can work better within our environments and Iceland is one of the best countries in terms of working with their environment.
Where can people go to view your art?
It's release day for Fellowship of Fantasy's first ever anthology: Fantastic Creatures! Twenty authors, including yours truly, got together to write short stories about various fantastic creatures from dragons, to mermaids, to goblins. It's a delightful collection with stories for every type of fantasy reader. Are you excited to learn more? Keep reading!
To celebrate our release, some of us have gotten together for a fun scavenger hunt with delightful prizes. The grand prize winner will receive a Kindle Fire along with eBooks from each of the participating authors. The instructions are simple: Visit each blog to learn about a different story and author in the anthology (nope, you won't find mine here), look for a number in the blog and remember that number when you go to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway. Links to each of the blogs will follow, so stop by each one! Easy peasy, right?
So, now I have the great honor of introducing Lea Doué to my blog.
Guest Author - Lea Doué
Hello! My name is Lea Doué, and I'm the author of The Firethorn Chronicles, a fantasy series drawn from The Twelve Dancing Princesses and other classic fairy tales. I live with my husband and two boys in Nova Scotia, and I'm so excited to have my story included in the Fellowship of Fantasy Fantastic Creatures anthology.
My story is titled Snapdragon, and it was inspired by The Frog Prince by the Brothers Grimm. It's set in the world of The Firethorn Chronicles, where dragons are as common as any other wildlife and come in all shapes and sizes. Some are fierce, some are friendly, and some are just plain annoying. (You can read more about some of the varieties in the Dragon Dictionary on my website.)
Snapdragon is set hundreds of years before the first book in the series. It gives a peek into the life of the man who later became the soldier-king and started the Dragon Wars, which cleansed the lands of ravaging razor-tail dragons and destructive sorcerers. And here's a little Easter egg for you: In The Midsummer Captives (Firethorn Chronicles 2), one of the characters can be seen reading a book titled The Soldier-King and the Lady of Thorns, which is essentially the story of Snapdragon under a different name.
The Firethorn Crown (Firethorn Chronicles 1) is currently available on Amazon. (An aside from Jessica, if you enjoyed my fairy tale retellings I promise you that you will LOVE Lea's book! It is fabulous!)
The Midsummer Captives (Firethorn Chronicles 2) will release later this month/early December. You can read the first chapter on my website.
Red Orchid: A Firethorn Chronicles Novelette (a prologue to book three, due out in 2017) is available to download for free when you sign up for my newsletter.
And Snapdragon is available in Fantastic Creatures: A Fellowship of Fantasy Anthology. Be sure to check it out, along with all the other fantastic stories!
Just for fun, Lea is hosting a little giveaway! Be sure to enter to win an eBook copy of The Midsummer Captives.
Fantastic Creatures: A Fellowship of Fantasy Anthology
Thanks for joining us, Lea! Now to tell you a little about our anthology and where to get it. The anthology is free to download from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and others. You can also add it to your To-Read list on Goodreads. Curious yet? Here's the blurb to tempt you more:
Here be dragons ... and selkies and griffins and maybe even a mermaid or two.
Twenty fantasy authors band together to bring you a collection of thrilling tales and magical monsters. Do you like to slay dragons? Or befriend them? Do you prefer to meet cephalopods as gigantic kraken or adorable tree octopuses?
Each story focuses around a fantastic creature from folklore or mythology, and they range from light and playful tales for the whole family to darker stories that may make you wish to leave the lights on. These stories carry the Fellowship of Fantasy seal of approval. While our monsters may be horrifying, you won't stumble into graphic sex and constant swearing.
Perfect for the fantasy lover who can't get enough of mythical beasts.
My dear, dear readers. It's been over a month since you heard from me on my blog. I've been spotty on Facebook and mostly absent on Twitter (which I guess isn't all that different from normal). I could give you a lot of excuses. I could tell you I've been too busy to keep up with The Sheriff and Mrs. Jannsen. I could tell you that I've been preoccupied with events and releases. But those would just be excuses and would only be partially true.
The truth is harder to admit to because it's something I don't face often. Depression. Certainly not to the point of being clinical or needing to seek professional help. But it has been there just the same. I forced myself to finish (and truly did enjoy) writing Holly and Mr. Ivy. Partially, the writing gave me an escape and since I knew exactly where I wanted the story to go, I didn't have to think to much about it. Just let the characters carry the story. The other part was having spent a good chunk of change on a gorgeous cover, the practical side of me insisted that I needed to do something with it. I put on a brave face when talking to people. I tried to get into NaNoWriMo which is one of my favorite parts of the year. But my heart just wasn't in it. I knew it, but I tried anyway.
Oh, I've gotten a few things done. Holly and Mr. Ivy released and I set up tweets and Facebook posts about it. I participated in an author open house which did great things for boosting me out of my funk. I've had tables at two local craft shows which has increased awareness of this small town author and gave me a chance to get out a little. I've painted all the horses in my inventory and they're all lovely. Christmas has definitely been on my mind, which might show just a little. I've been helping prepare for the Fellowship of Fantasy Anthology release as well.
But with the few things I did get done, there were lots of things not getting done. Mostly writing. I started Let Him Call You Sweetheart, a sequel to Holly and Mr. Ivy. I also started a project called Toil and Trouble which may end up a short story, might be a novella and may turn into a full-fledged novel, not sure yet. But I only started them. I haven't worked on them in weeks. The Sheriff and Mrs. Jannsen has been abandoned all together which is certainly not fair to you readers who so enjoyed Scarlett and Blizzard and were looking forward to helping with the next story. And we won't go into how far behind I am on my children's Christmas story.
So the question I had to answer was, "What are you going to do about it?" I've done some thinking and I think I've got the best solution for this time.
I'm giving up on NaNoWriMo, sort of. I plan on getting myself into a writing routine and setting goals that are doable and meaningful for where I am right now. With three littles at home vying for attention and homeschooling the oldest, 50K in a month just isn't practical. Especially when that month is filled with birthdays, releases, Thanksgiving, and other obligations. I definitely don't need the extra guilt and pressure of watching my word bar flounder.
Jumpstart The Sheriff and Mrs. Jannsen
I need to get back in this because I know it's something you've all enjoyed. I've linked the first chapter above. In the next couple days, I'll get the second chapter finished and posted on the blog. Then it will become part of my writing routine. Every two weeks I will write and post the next chapter, using your suggestions to keep the story flowing.
Illustrate and Write
I've changed directions on my Christmas story at least three times since September. Not good for getting things finished. So what I've settled on is a story with coloring pages instead of full-color illustrations. My children love to color and they like more challenging pages than most children's coloring books provide. I'm sticking with the Fairy Christmas theme, so there will be lots of fantasy creatures to color in, but there will also be a fun, rhyming story to go along with the coloring pages.
Release Parties and Blog Hop
Fellowship of Fantasy is releasing our very first anthology, Fantastic Creatures, on November 17th. It is available for preorder right now for $0.99, but will be free on release day. (We learned you can't set up a free book for preorder.) You can learn about it at our website and we would love to have you join us for the release party between 2:30 and 6 (CST) on the 17th. I will be putting a lot of time and energy into that for this week and the days following the release. There will also be a blog hop featuring several of the authors and stories to be found in the anthology. I will have Lea Doué on my blog as well as a list of blogs to go to for more information. The other cool thing about this blog hop: it's a scavenger hunt. Each blog post will have a clue which you can use to enter into a giveaway of a Kindle Fire and 12 new eBooks! It's going to be a lot of fun, so make sure you stop by here on the 17th.
It's November and that means it's time for me to start my annual holiday sale. Last year I donated proceeds to the Community Enhancement Foundation of Plains to bring a grocery store to our small Kansas town. This year, I'm helping my little brother (if you can call someone four inches taller than you little) get to Iceland for a study abroad opportunity. I'll be sharing an interview with him soon, but you'll notice that everything on my website it currently at reduced price and you should be watching regularly for special deals. If you prefer to do your shopping on Amazon or have giftcards to Barnes and Noble or other retailers, don't worry. I'm including sales from all of my current outlets.
Readers, I love you and I appreciate so much your patience, encouragement and love. It means a lot to me. The healing process can be slow, especially when it's your heart trying to heal. But you look for the sunshine, you thank God for the little miracles that keep you going, and you take one day at a time. Now it's time for me to rise up and shake off the melancholy. It's time to get back into the things I love doing. And it's time to show you wonderful readers all the wonderful things I've got in store for you.
Big hugs readers, and I'll chat with you again soon. I promise.
Jessica L. Elliott
Author, artist, mom and super-genius