I knew that C.S. Lewis and I had more in common than our Christianity when he said, "You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me." Welcome to a celebration of faith, tea, and the written word. I'm always engaged in a book, and whether it's one I'm reading or one of the inspirational romances I write, there's always a cup of tea close by. Join me in a cup as we chat about faith, our favorite books and the exciting places our reading and writing adventures take us.

Monday, December 2, 2019

ACFW New Releases December 2019

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Contemporary Romance:


Stranded for the Holidays by Lisa Carter — Running away led her right where she belonged. A new mom for Christmas? She’s everything they’ve wished for. Runaway bride AnnaBeth Cummings needs shelter for the holidays when a blizzard leaves her stranded, and rancher Jonas Stone’s happy to help. But his son’s been wishing for a mommy for Christmas, and town matchmakers are convinced Annabeth and Jonas are perfect for each other. As the storm clears, city girl AnnaBeth will have to decide: does her heart now belong in the country? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])
The Dating Charade by Melissa Ferguson — After a knockout first date where Cassie Everson and Jett Bentley claim to not want kids, both come home to find three children dropped in their laps. . . each. While struggling to keep their heads above the parental waters, and without wanting to break up their relationship, they decide to do the mature thing: hide the kids from each other while sorting it all out. What could go wrong? (Contemporary Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)
Home for Christmas by Candee Fick — After an embarrassing failure, a prodigal retreats to a secluded cabin in backwoods Missouri where he encounters an intriguing young woman and an old guitar. When the message in the music touches his heart, will he make it home in time for Christmas? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)
Getting Out of the Comfort Zone: Ayanna by Barbara James — While interning as a hospital chaplain, a young military officer falls for an EMT who is an antiwar activist. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Children’s:

Battle In The Valley by Susanne Blumer — The church bell tower transports Chip, Caroline and Billy back thousands of years to an ancient battlefield. There they meet a young shepherd destined to be king and a giant warrior bent on his destruction. Will the children survive the upcoming fight and make it back to Palmetto Island in one piece? (Middle-grade from Sutton Avenue Press)

Historical:


Hope Unchained by Carol Ashby — When a former legionary and a gladiator are hired to escort a young woman on her quest to rescue her brother and sister from slavery, more chains are broken by forgiveness and love than any of them thought possible. (Historical from Cerrillo Press)

Historical Romance:


The Major’s Daughter by Regina Jennings — In a western land run, an adventurous socialite stakes a claim on an orphaned outlaw’s chosen land, so he decides to stake a claim on her heart. (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker])
Sew In Love by Debby Lee, Jacquolyn McMurrayDarlene Panzera, and Kimberley Woodhouse — When four women put needle and thread to fabric, will their sewing lead to love? In Hearts Sewn with Love, during the California gold rush, a beautiful seamstress finds her heart torn between the men who want to marry her and the one fortune hunter who won’t. In Woven Hearts, a shirtwaist factory fire survivor struggles to provide for her family despite the disastrous misguided intentions of the handsome union organizer who tries to help. In A Language of Love, a milliner with thick Irish accent and a renowned baseball player with speech impediment meet at the office of a language teacher. But the issues with their backgrounds that first brought them together will also drive them apart. In Tailored Sweethearts, a parachute seamstress struggles with her faith in desperate circumstances. A fighter pilot teaches her to hope in her darkest hours. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)
The Rebel Bride by Shannon McNear — During the clash between Union and Confederacy, quiet Tennessean Pearl MacFarlane is compelled to nurse both Rebel and Yankee wounded who seek refuge at her family’s farm. She is determined to remain unmoved by the Yankee cause—until she faces the silent struggle of Union soldier Joshua Wheeler, a recent amputee. The MacFarlane family fits no stereotype Joshua believed in; still he is desperate to regain his footing—as a soldier, as a man, as a Christian—in the aftermath of his debilitating injury. He will use his time behind enemy lines to gather useful intelligence for the Union—if the courageous Rebel woman will stay out of the line of danger. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Romantic Suspense:


Silent Night Suspect by Sharee Stover — Suspected of a crime she knows she didn’t commit… All she wants for Christmas is to remember. Blood on her blouse. A gun in her hand. A cartel leader’s dead body in front of her. Widow Asia Stratton can’t remember what happened—just that she’s been framed. The only way to prove her innocence is to work with her ex-sweetheart, Nebraska state trooper Slade Jackson. But can they clear her name before this Christmas turns even deadlier? (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Speculative:

Brand of Light by Ronie Kendig — After a catastrophic explosion, Kersei Dragoumis awakens in a derelict shuttle, alone, injured, and ignorant of the forbidden technology that has swept her into a nightmare. The brand she’s borne since childhood burns mysteriously, but the pain is nothing to that when she learns her family is dead and she is accused of their murders. Across the quadrants, Marco Dusan responds to the call of a holy order-not to join them, but to seek a bounty. Gifted-or cursed-with abilities that mark him a Kynigos, a tracker sworn to bring interplanetary fugitives to justice, Marco discovers this particular bounty has nothing to do with justice and everything to do with prophecy. One that involves the hunter as much as the hunted. (Speculative from Enclave Publishing)

Thriller/Suspense:

Laynie Portland, Renegade Spy by Vikki Kestell — Laynie must fight to earn her place on the task force—even as unfolding events expose a looming danger. Wolfe’s task force has a leak . . . one that threatens them all. (Suspense, Independently Published)

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving!


 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. 
~ 1 Chron. 16:34

Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving, wherever you may be!

Monday, November 18, 2019

The Call No One Wants: Diagnostic Mammogram and Ultrasound

Image result for olive wood cross to hold onto

I was not expecting The Call.

Eleven days after my annual mammogram, Radiology called to inform me I needed to come back for a diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound. Half numb, I made the appointment for three full days away.

Once I got off the phone, I had a panic attack. My first of several, it turned out.

While some insurance providers don't offer mammograms without referrals for their female patients until they're 50 years old, mine thankfully does. All I have to do is call the appointment line, and I can schedule one. Since my mom has had breast cancer twice (she's doing great!), I've made it a point to get annual mammograms and breast exams since I was 40.

I do not enjoy mammograms. Because of my mom's history, they're emotionally stressful. But they're also flat out uncomfortable. I'm small in that department and sometimes that machine pulls me up onto my tippy toes while I'm twisted back like a gymnast so they can get a good shot.

Unlike most women who get two pictures taken of each side, I have three pictures taken; it's been this way for a while now and I know to expect it. When we finish with our six pictures, the tech always tells me I'll get a letter in a week if everything's fine or a call within 3-5 days if the radiologist sees something. The usual spiel.

Until now, I've received the letter--although not usually within the week. Usually, my letter thanks me for using their Radiology department, tells me I'm fine (in that order!), and then says I have dense breast tissue, which gives me a slightly higher chance of getting breast cancer.

I hate it all, to be honest. Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful for mammograms. They save lives. They saved my mom's twice now, as well as the lives three women I know who are fighting or recently fought cancer. (One is younger than I am. And I should note, all are fine!) But the annual stress is difficult.

When The Call came that I needed to come back in for further evaluation, I did not handle it that well. After telling my husband and praying, I called my parents and cried. They, like my husband, were wonderful, telling me no matter what, It Would Be Fine. They were there and would help me, and my kids would be ok, We would all be ok.

They also reminded me of what I would spend the next few days reminding myself:

  • God is with me and will not abandon me, no matter what.
  • I am blessed with a wonderful family, friends, and church who would love and support me. I am also blessed with good insurance.
  • The reason I go in for mammograms each year is so that if there is a problem, it can be found early. If I had a fight on my hands, it would hopefully be against a smaller enemy.
  • The vast majority of call backs for diagnostic mammograms and ultrasounds turn out totally fine. Only around 10% of those who are called back go on to be biopsied. Of those, most are benign--cysts, etc.
Sometimes, those reminders were enough to allow me to concentrate on work or a TV show or book. Other times, not so much.

I'm a writer. My imagination is wild. I was asking a lot of What If questions and creating scenarios. I ran ahead of God into Dangerous Territory. I didn't sleep, couldn't eat, and had a difficult time functioning some moments.

Waiting, as they say, is the hardest part.

At last the day of my appointment arrived. My husband drove me to the Radiology office. Clutching my olive-wood cross from the Holy Land, I checked in at reception and received a wrist band identifying me so I couldn't switch places with a doppelganger or something. The TVs in the waiting area were showing The Price is Right and the contestant made the right choice, avoiding the fate of bringing home hot sauce-flavored mouthwash.

I didn't have to wait long. The female tech who I'd seen a few weeks ago called me back. I asked if my husband could come, and she said she'd find a spot for him while she explained things but he couldn't stay during the exams. Fair enough.

I changed into a gown and put my clothes and purse into a locker. Then the tech called us into a mammography room. My earlier pictures were up on the board. The "problem" was hard to miss, a definite white, round shape in the center of my breast. It was big enough that I wondered how I missed feeling it myself.

It was also big enough to frighten me. I fully expected to need a biopsy.

The tech told us she would take new pictures, close ups focused on the area, and then I would have an ultrasound. After the ultrasound, it would take a few days for the radiologist to inform my doctor of the results.

She excused my husband and then we began. We took three pictures of my left side, with me in various uncomfortable postures, praying all the while. Then she told me to have a seat in the little chair in the corner by the sink and she would go ask the radiologist, if he was available, if the pictures were sufficient or if he wanted more. She asked if I had questions and I shook my head.

I waited for a few minutes, praying, wishing I had my little olive-wood cross, but I'd given it to my husband to hold onto. When she returned, she had my husband with her. She shut the door and said she had good news.

Apparently, there was no sign of anything in the new pictures except dense breast tissue. She said sometimes the way the breast is compressed in a mammogram, dense tissue can look suspicious or create a shadow...and frankly after that I couldn't really process anymore, so I don't remember what she said. All I knew was that she said the round spot was gone in the new images.

She said the radiologist was so confident in his findings that he canceled the ultrasound, something that never happens. Usually they do the ultrasound just to be on the safe side.

I'd get another letter to explain the findings, and the radiologist might want me to come back for another mammogram in six months, but otherwise, I was free to go. 

I cried with relief, but to be honest, even as I write this I'm still in shock. I think it'll take a while for the adrenaline to wear off. I'm praising God, thanking Him, thanking those who prayed for me, and counting my blessings.

In addition, I realized that I couldn't name anyone I knew who has had a call back for a Diagnostic Mammogram and Ultrasound which turned out to be ok. Is this because the matter is private and personal to some, so they don't share? I can understand that, as I didn't put my appointment up on social media, either. Another possibility is that many of my friends haven't yet had a mammogram because of insurance or other issues. Either way, I haven't heard these types of stories.

That's why I decided to share my story.  This was a scary, nerve-wracking experience, but it ended ok. Someone might need to know that. I might need to know it myself, again, after a mammogram and I'm waiting on that letter, hoping not to get The Call.

I may not be in the Sisterhood of Breast Cancer Patients and Survivors, but I do feel like I'm in a new sort of sisterhood, one that's brushed the border. I pray for you, dear Sister, if you are struggling after The Call, to take courage. You aren't alone.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

ACFW New Releases, November 2019

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Contemporary Romance:


Royally Yours by Betsy St. Amant, Ashley Clark, Liz Johnson, and Melissa Tagg — Tinsel, Vermont is known for its no-paparazzi policy and Christmas decorations that are fit for a queen. This holiday season, join four royals on a stroll through town square as they each find their Christmas wishes for a happily-ever-after…tiaras optional. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)
Restoring Christmas by Julie Arduini — A young woman overcome by grief teams up with a special education teacher to bring joy to the community through a Christmas-themed tourist attraction. (Contemporary Romance from Surrendered Scribe Media)
Valerie’s Verdict by Hallee Bridgeman — Broken and battered, Valerie comes home and finds a lifetime of love waiting for her. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)
An Unexpected Family by June Foster — Grant Elliot leaves his father’s veterinarian dynasty and overambitious twin brother to practice in the small town of Homedale, California. When local baker Kate Klein brings her ailing dog into the office, Grants’s intrigued by the lab’s gorgeous owner. He wants to get to know her but can’t reveal his origins. What would she think if she knew his father’s clinics cater only to the wealthy who spoil and pamper their pets instead of practicing genuine medicine? Kate Kline inherits Aunt Ella’s Bake Shop when her aunt passes away and must make a success of the failing business or lose her father’s respect. Now California Plastics, her major account, has moved their plant to Sacramento. She’s faced with the possibility of closure and won’t accept Grant’s offer to bail her out. She doesn’t need a man’s help. (Contemporary Romance from Forget Me Not Romances [Winged Publications])
All is Bright by Chautona HavigToni ShilohCathe Swanson, and Kari Trumbo — Four of your favorite contemporary romance authors join festive forces to bring you the fourth-annual Christmas Lights Collection. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)
By All Appearances by Dawn Kinzer — An attractive special events planner from a wealthy family and a disfigured musician find their lives entangled when he is hired as a caretaker on her family’s estate. (Contemporary Romance from Mountainview Publishing)
Courting the Amish Nanny by Carrie Lighte — Embarrassed by an unrequited crush, Amish maedel Sadie Dienner needs a vacation from her life in Pennsylvania—and from romance. Until Christmas, she’s working in Maine as a nanny to Amish widower Levi Swarey’s twins. But Levi is frustratingly overprotective and they just can’t see eye to eye on anything. And the worst part? Sadie can’t seem to stop herself from losing her heart… (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

General Contemporary/Women’s Fiction:

Meant For Her by Joy Avery Melville — Kidnapped, raped, brutally beaten, and left for dead, Candi Reynolds becomes a prisoner of fear. Faced also with the impact of the unexpected break-up with her fiancĂ©, and an unwanted pregnancy resulting from the attacks, she believes God has forsaken her. Choosing to move back to the Michigan horse farm owned by her older brother, Dr. Cam Reynolds, Candi goes into seclusion. Dr. Patrick (Mack) MacKevon, long-time friend of Cam’s, watches from the sidelines at the farm where his horses are stabled, while Candi struggles to regain a sense of normalcy. His own big-brother tendencies develop into a much deeper emotion over the months he prays for her. Is it possible for Candi to put all of the pain and trauma behind her and renew her former relationship with the Lord? Will she allow her heart to open enough to discover authentic love, while making decisions of victory on her personal journey to joy? (General Contemporary, Independently Published)
When I Close My Eyes by Elizabeth Musser — A bestselling author, her daughter, and the perpetrator of her assassination attempt are brought together in a story about complicated choices, mental illness, forgiveness and grace. Set against the flaming hills of North Carolina and the peaceful shores of the Mediterranean Sea, When I Close My Eyes tells the story of two families, struggling with dysfunction and finding that love is stronger than death. (Contemporary from Bethany House [Baker])
A Beautiful Mess by Brenda S. Anderson — A single mother becomes guardian of her ex-husband’s love child. (Women’s Fiction, Independently Published)

Historical:
Wounded Heart by Colleen Hall — Orphaned Della Hughes chafes at her strict Victorian upbringing and goes west with her uncle’s family in order to find adventure and freedom. (Historical from Anaiah Press)
Misleading Miss Verity by Carolyn Miller — What happens when the hoydenish youngest daughter of the Viscount Aynsley is spirited off to Scotland and meets a kindhearted gardener of the mysterious Laird of Dungally? (Historical from Kregel Publications)
The Silk Merchant of Sychar by Cindy Williams — One woman, five husbands and a weary rabbi at the well who knows ‘everything she ever did.’ From the olive groves of Samaria to the bloodied sand of a Roman stadium to the exquisite silks brought from the East, The Silk Merchant of Sychar weaves color into the biblical account of the woman at the well. (Historical from Rhiza Press)

Historical Romance:

The Highlanders by J’nell Cieselski, Janet S. GrunstJennifer Lamont Leo, and Naomi Musch — Never underestimate the heart of a Highlander in these four romantic novellas set across two centuries from 1715 to 1915. (Historical Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)
Marisol by Elva Cobb Martin — Alone and with child, Marisol Valentin flees Spain after murdering the nobleman who molested her. She is sold as an indentured servant at the Charles Town Harbor, but her ship is captured at sea by privateer Captain Ethan Becket, once a Charles Town minister, who is grieving his deceased wife. Ethan decides Marisol’s elegant manners make her a perfect governess for his young son. But when he sets out on a quest to find his captured sister, said to be in Cartagena, little does he expect his new Spanish governess to stow away on his ship with her six-month-old child. Her offer of help to free his sister, however, is too tempting to pass up. As is her beauty and strength of character—until he learns she is a wanted murderess. Once their paths intertwine on a journey filled with danger, intrigue, and romance, only love and the grace of God can overcome their pasts and ignite a new beginning. (Historical Romance from Wild Heart Books)
In Black and White by MaryAnn Diorio — When graduate student Tori Pendola and Jebuni Kalitsi, a Ghanaian exchange student and heir to his tribe’s chieftaincy, fall deeply in love, they must face not only their own inner demons of rejection and guilt but also the demons of societal hatred bent on destroying their relationship. Will their love survive the cruel and bitter attacks against them? (Historical Romance from TopNotch Press)
Serving Up Love by Regina JenningsTracie PetersonJen Turano, and Karen Witemeyer — On the Menu for These Ladies? Adventure, Independence, and a Big Serving of Romance! A storied part of American history, Harvey Houses offered women a unique chance to gain independence and see amazing parts of this great country. (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker] Publishing)
While the Rain Whispered by Kim Williams — Clara Williams has a good life, but she would walk away from it if she could. She longs for adventure greater than both the confines her rural Texas town and the people she loves have to offer. Clara is certain the stories she writes for children contain more adventure than her reality. She cannot reconcile the internal frustration with her faith. When opportunity presents itself at last, Clara is faced with a choice between the life she’s known and the life she longs to know, and the men who each belong in one but not the other. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

Mystery/Thriller/Suspense:

Pocket Change by Debbie Archer — When Publisher’s Clearing House winner, Mary Clare Casteel, decides to help rejuvenate her dying town, she has no idea she’ll end up solving not one but two mysterious deaths. (Cozy Mystery from Mantle Rock Publishing)
Dead Wrong by Vannetta Chapman — When Agatha Lapp’s brother and sister-in-law are tragically killed in a buggy accident, Agatha relocates to the new Amish community in Hunt Texas, nestled in the Texas Hill Country. She’s there to make a success of her brother’s dream–an Amish B&B. Agatha is friendly, efficient, and capable. She’s also a fifty-five year old widow who has learned to be independent. When she discovers Russell Dixon’s lifeless body in Cabin 3, she runs next door where retired detective Tony Vargas lives. The police determine that her guest died of natural causes, but as Agatha and Tony put together the events of the previous two days they become convinced that the police are Dead Wrong. (Cozy Mystery, Independently Published)
A Cross to Kill by Andrew Huff — John Cross is a small-town pastor, bent on leading his flock to follow God’s calling. He’s not the sort of man one would expect to have a checkered past. But the truth is that the man behind the pulpit preaching to his sheep was once a wolf–an assassin for the CIA. When John decided to follow Christ, he put that work behind him, determined to do penance for all the lives he took. He vowed never to kill again. Now someone wants the peaceful pastor to pay for his sins with his own life. And when a terrorist out for revenge walks into the church, John’s secrets are laid bare. Can he keep his vow–even when the people he loves are in mortal danger? Will his congregation and the brave woman he’s learning to care for be caught in the cross fire? In the end, John’s life may be the only sacrifice he has left to offer. . . (Thriller/Suspense from Kregel Publications)
The Sleuth’s Conundrum by Kimberly Rose Johnson — Danger lurks and suspicions abound when a librarian, her young assistant, and a local reporter try to solve the mysteries of both a dead woman and an abandoned child. (Cozy Mystery from Mountain Brook Ink)
Deadly Harmony by Marissa Shrock — Georgia Rae Winston’s romance has broken up. But that’s the least of her problems. Georgia and Detective Cal Perkins are through. Fine. Maybe it’s an opportunity to give charmer Hamlet Miller a chance. But there’s no time for romance when Georgia hosts her stepsister and her roommate, Quincy, during a college chorale tour—and Quincy steals Georgia’s car and disappears. When her car turns up in a cemetery with a cryptic note lying on the front seat, Georgia decides to take action. As Georgia and her stepsister dig into the mystery, they uncover Quincy’s tumultuous past. A past that points to a frightening present. They dig deeper and discover a web of deception they’re determined to untangle, if they can stay alive long enough to bring the truth to light. (Cozy Mystery, Independently Published)

Romantic Suspense:

One Day Gone by Luana Ehrlich — Mylas Grey, the chief investigator for Senator Davis Allen, enlists the help of a beautiful photographer when he returns to his hometown to investigate the disappearance of Lizzie Allen, the senator’s missing daughter. (Romantic Suspense, Independently Published)
Dangerous Christmas Memories by Sarah Hamaker — Hiding in witness protection is the only option for Priscilla Anderson after witnessing a murder. Then Lucas Langsdale shows up claiming to be her husband right when a hit man finds her. With partial amnesia, she has no memory of her marriage or the killer’s identity. Yet she will have to put her faith in Luc if they both want to live to see another day. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Speculative:

What If? by Roger E. Bruner — Three teens join forces with Holyland’s outgoing president to prevent the inevitable election of a man who’s determined to wipe out the remnant of New America’s few remaining Christians. (Speculative, Independently Published)