#UpbeatAuthors and The Promise of a Sunrise

Sunrise over New Orleans

Sunrise – and its promise…

Today’s #UpbeatAuthors topic is “a beautiful, uplifting image.” I had trouble settling on one, because the beauty of an image often comes from the meaning one attaches to it. A baby? Flowers? Children playing? Most any scene in nature? But one image I kept coming back to was that of a sunrise. What meaning does that everyday (pun intended), ho-hum event bring as it brightens the eastern horizon?

How often do we think about sunrise?Some of us get annoyed when the sun shines in our eyes and slows the morning commute. In Denver, they used to have a name for it: Sunshine slowdown. For others, the sun takes a distant second to our planning for the day, or if you happen to be a night worker, the sun may be a signal of what you’re missing (especially in winter, when you don’t get to see it often).

Taken for granted? Or a sign of hope?

Sunrise, when you stop to consider it (rather than taking it for granted), is a promise of a new start, a new day, sometimes a second chance. It’s more than symbolic – it’s literal, and loaded with all sorts of energy and potential.

What will today bring? For that matter, are you carrying burdens? (Most of us are. You are not alone.) Can this sunrise, three days after the fall equinox and a month following a remarkable eclipse that raced across the continental U.S., shower its unique magic on us today? Only if we notice. Pay attention this morning, and let the sight of the sun rising over your bit of earth lift your spirits and your heart. Let it bring encouragement and healing and hope.

A beautiful postcard for your day

I took this picture from the southern edge of Lake Pontchartrain, looking toward New Orleans in January a few years ago. Photographs never do justice to the sun and sky, but I think this one’s beautiful and uplifting.

Consider this a postcard, a well-wish for your day. Have a wonderful day – and enjoy the sunrise! 

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Unholy Bonds: A response to one reader’s passing comment…

unholybonds333x5002ndversionA friend made a comment in passing the other day when telling me she had finished Hijacked. “I love Lannis, and I want to read Unholy Bonds, but I don’t want to see her get hurt anymore.”

May I reassure you?

Lannis and Ben earned their happy ending in Hijacked. When I finished writing that book, I wondered what to write next. It was my first novel, and like many authors, I wasn’t at all sure I had another novel in me. About three weeks into the “what do I write next” phase (I was beginning to sweat, because I had no ideas!), the answer blazed its way into my mind.

Lannis had more work to do. So did Ben. Like all couples, they needed to adjust to married life, but had the added complication of her past with which to contend. And they both had unresolved issues, areas where personal growth was critical to their future success, both as individuals and as a couple. I wanted them to have the opportunity to do this important work.

And then there was Robert Davis.

How was I going to address the perpetrator of an all-to-common crime that damages countless women? His choice and resultant action ended up binding the three in invisible chains. Hence the title, Unholy Bonds. That became my focus as I wrote.

Because I have been long fascinated with stories of reconciliation and the movement called Restorative Justice, I wondered if this could be a direction for the book. Again, I had no idea if I could pull it off. Just the structure of such a novel was pushing the envelope of my skills.

The story quickly became more important than my limitations, so I persevered.

Back to my reassurance: Lannis struggles in this book. I won’t lie. No one grows without it. Sometimes it’s hard, and she suffers. But she doesn’t get hurt, and the result is worth it.

You have my  word.

If you’ve hesitated to read Unholy Bonds because you’re worried about Lannis, take heart. Give it a try. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

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Great review of HIJACKED! Check it out –

HijackedA great big THANK YOU to Ginny Lieto, who liked HIJACKED so much she wrote a review of it on her blog! ♥ Check it out, here: Virginia Lieto 

The ebook is available on Amazon, Apple iTunes, Nook, and Kobo. It is also available in print at any of those outlets, and in AUDIO at Audible.

Thanks, Ginny, for your time and enthusiasm for Lannis & Ben’s story!

Posted in Amazon, Appalchian Foothills series, Audible, Audiobooks, Book review, Catholic Writers Guild, Forgiveness, Hijacked, iTunes | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Romancing Christmas, Volume 2 Now Available!

rc2-straight-on

★•**•.★ Release Tour ★•**•.★

Romancing Christmas Volume II
by Dale Mayer, Rachelle Ayala, Sandy Loyd, Marcia James, K.T. Roberts, Leslie Lynch, Kayce Lassiter
Genre: Contemporary Romance – Holiday

From sweet to spicy, friends to lovers, from cowboys to babies and puppies, this holiday anthology from 7 of today’s hottest romance authors has something for everyone. Toss in some unconventional romances and fairy godmothers—and, of course, some hunky military heroes—and you’ve got a Christmas collection that will warm the heart on even the coldest night.

Mason’s Wish by Dale Mayer – Mason loves his life with Tesla, but living together isn’t enough. He wants more. He wants it all. He wants forever.

Christmas Stray by Rachelle Ayala – A couple grieving for their son is snowed in with a stray puppy and a little boy. Is there room in their hearts for a Christmas miracle?

A Low Country Christmas Miracle by Sandy Loyd – Miracles have a way of happening at Christmastime. Like the miracle of finding true love and the miracle of family coming together. But the most wonderful miracle of all is the miracle of forgiveness.

Scrooge & the Secret Santa by Marcia James – Thanks to a kind-hearted physical therapist, a police dog trainer learns open his life to love and the spirit of Christmas.

Strangers in the Night by KT Roberts – On one magical night, two people meet, they fall in love, separate and are convinced their destiny to be together is in the hands of fate.

Christmas Grace by Leslie Lynch – No one wants to celebrate Christmas this year. Then disaster strikes, not once but twice. Three generations; three untenable situations. Three women who come together for each other, and remember what’s most important about Christmas.

A Christmas Bowser by Kayce Lassiter – Harper’s fairy godmother rides a Harley, her new puppy is determined to destroy her dress shop, and Kolton is set on selling the building out from under her.  Could Christmas get any worse?  Absolutely.

This unique set features endearing stories from USA Today and National Bestselling authors. Available for a limited time only!

Add the book to your Goodreads Shelf: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32350075-romancing-christmas-2

Buy the book – Only #99cents :

*Amazon:  http://amzn.to/2dJBxh8 
*Barnes & Noble:  http://bit.ly/2e9GpMU
*iBooks:  http://apple.co/2e9IUPa
*Kobo:  http://bit.ly/2dwiq74

And in case you missed Romancing Christmas, the original, here are some links:

*Amazon: http://amzn.to/2efHUpM

*Barnes & Noble: : http://bit.ly/2dQ2zPZ

*Kobo: http://bit.ly/2fbGOjK

 

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Justice, peace and mercy in the wake of Orlando shooting, Brock Turner

Unholy bonds & restorative justiceThis has been an awful week. When I first thought about writing this post, nudged gently by Erin McCole Cupp, it was to be a response to the shamefully inadequate sentence handed down to Brock Turner, convicted of three felonies after raping an unconscious woman. It was not to be a rant, however; there have been plenty of those on social media. Nor was it to be another “flaming-shaming.” Facebook and the Twitter-verse have that angle covered, too.

Then the terrible shooting at the Pulse, a popular gay bar in Orlando, happened. Social media has exploded again—and already blaming and anger have erupted all over the internet, along with hate messages, some of which seem to assume that there is an “us” and a “them,” and that “us” and “them” are enemies. Mortal enemies.

Sadly, that brings me to the point of this blog. If you’ve read my books, you know the main theme that runs through them is forgiveness. Or in purely secular terms, Restorative Justice. Bear with me here, please.

I have to interject at this point that all of what I say from here on out is deeply personal. It comes from forty years of experience in grappling with the concept of forgiveness in the face of a grievous wrong done to me. I went through all the stages: denial (nothing happened, or if it did, it won’t affect my life); anger (I want him to suffer the way I am!); mourning what I lost; depression; and finally, the dawning realization that all the rage churning around inside was hurting no one except me. Certainly not the person who wronged me.

From my Judeo-Christian, Catholic perspective, forgiveness is required of me. From the Lord’s Prayer: Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. From Matthew 5: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Doesn’t mean it’s easy; it’s not. But it’s vital if I hope to curb the rot of hatred growing in my soul, my heart, my spirit, because once I allow hatred and anger to take root, it will grow.

Back to my journey. I began by praying a rote, wooden, insincere prayer: Please, God, give him what he needs. It took a lot of time—years—but my heart began to soften. Eventually, I began to pray with sincerity. With sincerity, you ask? Yes. Because the God I follow is love. Pours out love to all, to the most unlovable, most undeserving, most marginalized. Because my God expects me to do my best in following that lead. To love. To reconcile.

Restorative Justice takes a similar tack, though not from a religious perspective. You know how you read about a tragedy, or watch an interview of a victim’s family member, and how so often a person’s response is, “I hope he (the perpetrator) burns in hell”? That’s our knee jerk, very human response—but left unchallenged, it becomes a cancer that eats away at our peace.

It’s only when we refuse to subscribe to “us” versus “them,” when we look hard enough to find our commonalities, our shared humanity, that we are able to combat that cancer. I’ve read and heard true stories of people, through the commission of a horrific crime, have become tied to each other.

Unholy bonds. Unbreakable and inescapable—unless and until the cycle of hatred and retribution is broken.

We give lots of lip service to compassion and tolerance. Events like these are where we must meet unspeakable atrocity with mercy. But remember, mercy is not wimpy. Mercy does not simply roll over and say, “Oh, that’s okay. I forgive. And forget. Hey, that was easy!” Nope. Mercy doesn’t make excuses, mercy looks deeper. Mercy looks at the heart. And if the heart is not ready for mercy, not ready for remorse or repentance, then mercy cannot find its home there.

Yet.

Never underestimate the capacity for the human heart to change.

Could I love the man who harmed me? No, not at first. Not for a long time. Years. Not until I finally began to see him through God’s prism, through God’s eyes. Not until I recognized the truth that God wept for me when the wrong was done, and He wept for the perpetrator, too, because in conceiving and executing the wrong, the man was harming himself as much as he harmed me.

In the end, we must all realize that dignity has been lost. The damage to the dignity of the victims is easy for us to see. The damage to the dignity of the perpetrator is much more difficult, and it’s hardest when the event hits close to home both personally and in the context of time. It’s that dignity that must be restored in some way or another, whether through forgiveness, like Jesus on the cross (“Father, forgive them for they know not what they do”), or through Restorative Justice, where healing comes when dignity is restored to all involved. And yes, that works best when there is accountability and contrition on the perpetrator’s part.

But what if the perpetrator is dead? Like the terrible shooting in Orlando? Or unrepentant, as in the case of Brock Turner (following the lead of his father)? Forgiveness isn’t dependent upon the perpetrator’s ability or willingness to admit culpability. Otherwise, the Hatfields and McCoys would be right: there’s no hope for healing and growth; we might as well devote our lives (and deaths) to retribution for wrongs long ago forgotten.

That’s where the great mystery of forgiveness comes in. To steal from AA: Let go and let God. To amend the saying for a secular approach: Let go of grudges; they may be justified, but they only drag us down. Letting go is truly the only path to peace, no matter one’s religious beliefs or lack thereof. (This in no way negates accountability and consequences on the part of the perpetrator.)

Today, we are all raw. It feels too much, too hard to look toward love when we hurt this much. But perhaps in our small attempts to find healing for ourselves and for others, we may find grace and a bit of mercy, and we may find ourselves restored just a tiny bit. Enough to make it through our next breath, then the next hour, on through tonight, and then into tomorrow. And with enough tomorrows and enough grace and enough mercy, we might come to embrace the truth that we are all more alike than different, that we all have the capacity to loose great evil upon the world, and that we all desperately need the restoration that comes from recognizing our shared humanity.

As we leave this horrific day, let me pray for you. If you feel so inclined, pray for me. Together, let us encounter, if not the divine in each other, then at least our shared humanity.

Peace.  

 

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Off to Spalding University’s MFA Low Residency!

logo_spalding

I’m off to my second intensive low-residency at Spalding University’s Master of Fine Arts in Writing program in about an hour.  In many ways it is very different from my past experiences through conferences and seminars through Romance Writers of America®, but in more ways, it is similar.

Writers are writers no matter the genre – and the exciting part of Spalding’s program is the concurrent tracks of fiction, creative nonfiction, young adult and poetry writing along with screenwriting and play writing. Rubbing shoulders with such a varied group of creative minds is exhilarating!

I’m looking forward to meeting last semester’s independent study mentor Pete Duval (from whom I learned much), as well as seeing friends again. Of course, it will be wonderful to meet new folks as well!

I’m going to step out of my comfort zone for the upcoming semester and write creative nonfiction. Growth comes with a touch of discomfort, right? A lifelong learner, this is yet another foray into the unknown – which is a good thing!

Here’s to another new adventure – and if it’s anything like last low residency, an explosion of creativity! How do you nurture your creativity?  Are you a lifelong learner? What new paths have you traveled as a result? Have you had an adventure lately? Share the fun!

Posted in Creative Process, Creativity, gratitude, Romance Writers of America, Spalding MFA, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Podcasts on Allison Gingras’s “A Seeking Heart” radio program

Opal's JubileeI’ve had the wonderful opportunity to speak with Allison Gingras on her radio program, A Seeking Heart, twice – the second time today. She is a gifted speaker, and makes it easy to carry on a conversation when you have no idea who might be listening, or how many people will check out the podcast later. Comfortable with the notion of radio, she also radiates confidence to her guests. At least, she does that for me!

The first time, in December of 2015, was my first experience with radio, and boy was I nervous! Allison assured me numerous times that the show was going well, even when I stumbled over my words at one point. (I’ve never gotten brave enough to listen to that podcast!) But it was a great learning experience, and I’m grateful that she invited me to talk about Christmas Hope and Christmas Grace, my two holiday novellas.

Today we talked about Opal’s Jubilee, book 3 of The Appalachian Foothills series, the most loosely linked of the series at that point. Opal comes from the fictional town of Jubilee in Eastern Kentucky, deep in the Appalachian hollows. But Jubilee also refers to the Jewish custom of the holy year of Jubilee, celebrated in the Old Testament every 50th year, when captives go free and debts are forgiven. This will mean something to Opal by the end of the book; if you are interested in understanding more of her story, the e-book is on sale for 99c for three days, through Sunday, May 15, 2016.

We  also talked about Pope Francis’s Jubilee Year of Mercy, which is a focus of Catholic life worldwide through the end of this year. Opal experiences mercy as she finds her way in a society that would rather condemn than allow her a chance. She finds it in May Boone, the owner of a quilt shop, and in her hard-won freedom now that’s she’s out of prison and on parole. Eventually, she experiences the mercy of forgiveness and redemption, and true freedom, no matter where and how she will spend the rest of her life.

Being an author has plunged me into many endeavors that I never expected. Talk about pushing past one’s comfort zone, expanding one’s horizons. I will give all credit to Allison for introducing me to the medium of radio, and for helping this introvert step into its magical world! 

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Creativity, Writing, and Spring!

Rescue catFebruary last year was packed snow, ice, and 20 below zero for days. I remember, because we rescued a freezing cat. She’s since lost most of her tail and fourteen of her twenty toes – but she’s a sweetheart and, ahem, no longer feral. Which we didn’t know at the time. Took lots of patience, and we’re not to lap cat status yet, but she loves to be petted and adored, and if you’re a cat, what else is there? Here she is, on the Cushion of Queens (otherwise known as our footstool), displaying some of her remaining claws. Yes, they are as wicked as they look, but she knows better than to use them to their potential on inappropriate subjects, such as people and couches.

Early Spring GardenFebruary this year is almost-spring. Still looks dormant out there, but small animals have emerged from their winter sleep and are scurrying about. A few trees have buds. Though the garden is only showcasing evergreens and river rock, some of the branches on shrubs are turning color. This is my writing view, taken from outside my window. It’s peaceful, and in spite of its apparent static nature, is ever changing. Today features a lively breeze, a high overcast, and almost-shirtsleeves temperatures.

What does this have to do with writing and creativity? Lots. I’m inspired by nature right outside my window. I’m grateful for the company of a small cat with missing pieces. I’m (still) excited to be enrolled in Spalding University’s MFA (Master of Fine Arts in Reading and Writing) program. For those of you who are looking for new books from me, it might be a little while; please be patient. I’m learning new skills, and I hope my next offerings will be even more fun for you to read.

Meanwhile, if you like audio books, Christmas Hope, Christmas Grace, and Hijacked are all available through Amazon and Audible. Christmas Grace may show up on your other favorite audio book venues soon, if it’s not already there. If you’ve already purchased any of these through Amazon as ebooks, you may be able to add the audio version for a nominal charge. Check out the possibility if you’re interested. I’m excited to have partnered with the talented Carol Dines in these projects! Click on the titles in the text for links to Audible.com or on the covers to the right for links to Amazon.

Last, I plan to post my thoughts on some of the many books I’m reading for the MFA program. Interesting stuff. So far I’ve read books by authors from Norway, Sweden, Holland and Iceland; I’ve read novels consisting of linked short stories (a concept that intrigues me), more standard novels, and many short stories. I had forgotten how much I love short stories. You may see some of those in the (hopefully near) future.

So while I’ve been silent on my blog, I’ve been busy. Very busy. Very, very busy…  😉 I hope you enjoy the content I’m going to start posting. I love to read; you do, too. I’d love to have a conversation about books as we get rolling on this.

Until next time, have a wonderful rest of February, wherever you are and whatever weather you are experiencing! And for those of you who celebrate the Christian liturgical year, happy Lent! 

 

Posted in Amazon, Appalchian Foothills series, Audible, Audiobooks, Book Launch, Christmas Hope, Creative Process, Creativity, gratitude, holiday, iTunes, Opal's Jubilee, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Merry Christmas!

Nativity at St. Mary'sI’d like to take a moment out of our busy lives during this hectic season and wish everyone a Merry Christmas! Thank you, each and every one, my friends and readers, for your presence in my life. I am grateful, and hope we are mutually enriched by our relationships. Have a blessed holiday season, and I’ll see you next year! 

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Books! Holiday Offerings

I am pleased to present a number of options for experiencing my books this season. Two holiday novellas, Christmas Hope from last year, and Christmas Grace, this year’s offering, are both available from Amazon as ebooks and in print. Through the end of 2015, they are  half price, at 99c, a great bargain for your Kindle or free Kindle app.

Additionally, Christmas Hope is available as an audiobook; Christmas Grace will be available soon. Talented voice actress Carol Dines does a fantastic job of bringing my characters and writing to life! I am blessed to have her on my team!

If you like to try out new authors, check out the two box sets in which my work appears: Romancing Christmas: 10 Love Stories to Spice Up Your Holidays; and Christmas With You: Six Uplifting Romance Novellas to Warm the Heart this Holiday Season. Both are fun additions to your digital library!

I hope you enjoy this holiday season, and if you choose to purchase any of my books, I hope they bring you joy. Merry Christmas! 

 

Posted in Amazon, Appalchian Foothills series, Audible, Audiobooks, Christmas Hope, gratitude, Leslie Lynch, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment