GRACE AWARDS – Reading Recommendations

Wow! Summer reading has never been this exciting. What fabulous novels and super talented authors.

Check out these Grace Awards Summer Book Bash recommendations: six fabulous novels from super talented authors!

Grace Awards Annual Summer Book Bash Recommendations

 

THE POISON WE DRINK
by Carol McClain
(Desert Breeze Publishing)

Summer is too short to labor over ponderous tomes.  This novel will sweep you up in its drama and keep those pages zipping. You’ll not want to leave the beach until the last page has been read.

The Poison We Drink – Available on Amazon

 

 

HARMFUL INTENT
by Nike N.
Chillemi
(Crime
Fictionista Press)

Kick off your summer reading by diving into this fast paced detective story, the first of the Veronica “Ronnie” Ingels/Dawson Hughes trilogy.

Harmful Intent – Available on Amazon

 

 

 

6 DATES TO DISASTER
by Cynthia T. Toney
(Write Integrity Press)

A summer read for teen girls ages 13 to 15! This story addresses honesty in school and with parents as well as drinking and driving. It shows how decisions can damage relationships and risk a teen’s reputation and future.

6 Dates to Disaster – Available on Amazon

 

 

IMPERFECT BONDS, Book 3 of The Imperfect Series
by Elizabeth Noyes
(Write Integrity Press)

Imperfect Bonds, a 2016 Grace Awards Winner, Book 3 of the Imperfect Series, is the ideal summer escape for book lovers. Whether lounging on the beach or relaxing at home, this edgy, sometimes funny, sometimes sad romantic suspense will sweep you away on an action-packed, page-turning journey.

Imperfect Bonds – Available on Amazon

 

 

REVENGE
by Paula Rose
(Anaiah Press)

Are you looking for a summer escape where danger lurks below the surface? Treat yourself to a suspense-filled vacation, staycation, or beach read where career, a missing person, and romance combine inside a mystery that is this exciting novel.

Revenge – Available on Amazon

 

 

STRONGER THAN MOUNTAINS
by Lynn Dean
(Wordsworth Publishing)

Summer is a great time to travel. Reading can take you on a journey without ever leaving your favorite hammock or recliner. You can even travel through time! This novel (the sequel to MORE PRECIOUS THAN GOLD in the Sangre de Cristo series) will whisk you away to the Wild West during the days of bustles and bad guys.

Stronger Than Mountains – Available on Amazon

IMPERFECT BONDS – A 2016 Grace Awards Winner!

Grace Awards 2016 Winners ~ in Faith Based Fiction

Category: Action-Adventure/Western/Historic Epic Fiction: exploits, quest, expansive 

Grace Awards – All 2016 Category Winners

 

IMPERFECT BONDS by Elizabeth Noyes
(Write Integrity Press)

Judges’ Review:

This novel  struck us as having well-formed, even complicated characters. They could be moody, funny, full of snap and wit, and sometimes just confused, like most people. The set up was immediate, and the sense of danger quickly drew us into the story. There were plenty of twists that kept us entertained and easily turning the pages. Likewise, good rising and falling action kept the plot moving forward, and the romance was smoldering without actually going anywhere beyond a kiss. The book was written from a clean and Christian world view without becoming preachy, and we liked that the main characters were on both spiritual and personal journeys. The theme of fighting human trafficking and the hunt for the bad guys made for an engaging, modern day western read.

Available on Amazon.com

The Ups and Downs of a Writer’s Life

When one emoji just doesn’t cut it!

I wanted to write a Facebook post to share my news, but FB limits you to just one of their “feeling” emojis, I needed a whole mess of smiley/frowny faces to convey  my emotions today, so I made my own:

Why all these contradictory feelings? Because Book 4 of The Imperfect Series – IMPERFECT LIES –  has been sent to the publisher! Because I’m relieved, thrilled, excited, worried, and depressed. Because instead of basking in the present, I’m worrying about what’s next.

Now, begins what I call the Cycle of Endless Emotional Extremes.

Relief is the first emotion an author feels after writing, “The End.”  It floods in and overwhelms. There’s nothing like having a weight lifted from your shoulders … unless it’s the feeling of accomplishment. Satisfaction is a rich pleasure. None of it lasts, though. It’s only a respite. There’s always the dreaded, what’s next? So human.

Mental fatigue is a very real thing. It’s debilitating and draining, every bit as much as physical fatigue. Sometimes authors are their own worst enemies with how we push ourselves. Remember that old saying, “I’m so tired I can’t think straight?” It’s true.

Euphoria waits for your brain to recover, and it’s a glorious feeling.  You ride the wave, let it take you all the way to the crest – happiness, joy, feeling so blessed and grateful. And then you crash.

Worry arrives. Guilt. “Did I miss a typo? Leave something out? Is it good enough? Did I do my best?” And the worst, “What if my readers don’t like it?”

Yikes! Self esteem takes a nose dive. Guilt. Inadequacy. Second guessing. Of them all, I hate  self doubt the most. Only authors and those closest to them understand the impact of this cycle.

The vast majority of books written are not autobiographies, but I’m here to testify that every writer invests a huge chunk of their inner self in the pages they pen. We put ourselves out there; expose our beliefs, hopes, thoughts, fears, likes, dislikes, and vulnerabilities. We bare our souls to perfect strangers. Normal people don’t do that when they walk in the world.

My point is, be gentle with us.  Be kind. Even if you “don’t like my book.” <smiling here>

Imperfect Lies made me delve deeper inside myself than I wanted. It made me think about things that are uncomfortable, about what I *hoped* I would do in a difficult situation vs. what I probably would do. How can anyone know with any degree of certainty what they would or wouldn’t do in a terrible, unforeseen, heretofore unknown situation?

Imperfect Lies made me think about a current school of thought that promotes role-play in response to an active shooter scenario – a practiced “what to do” response in the event an armed terrorist decided to shoot up the theater you’re in. The idea being that if your mind and body already know what to do before the incident, your decision-making process won’t get in the way when an instant response may mean the difference between life, injury, or even death. In other words, decisions take time –  time you may not have.

I can’t help but wonder, if we dwelled more on ALL of life’s ‘what would I do‘ scenarios and made our decisions beforehand, would we make better choices when confronted with those difficult and unexpected situations?

The title of this series is Imperfect for a reason. I wanted to provide an entertaining read with characters who reflect the way real people act and think and talk, who face real situations that challenge preconceived ideas of right and wrong; who look at the truth of who they are. And, of course, I want you to enjoy this journey that has brought me so many laughs and smiles and tears and heartache!

 

Happy reading!

 

 

Imperfect Bonds – Finalist!

I am thrilled, proud, and so very honored to announce that Book 3 of The Imperfect Series – IMPERFECT BONDS – has been named a finalist in the Action-Adventure / Western / Epic Fiction category!

The Grace Awards 2016 is an annual reader-driven literary awards presentation of Christian fiction. This year’s nominations include works from major publishers, small publishers, and independent authors. Winners in each category will be announced on May 31, 2017.

And…the Grace Awards 2016 Finalists are… (click here)

 

 

A blast from the antebellum past!

Mobile’s Azalea Trail is more than just a dress …

… although it was the stunning, otherworldly dress in this article ( Meet The Maids ) that caught my eye … and sent me tumbling into a pool of memories. You see, this was me. A long, long time ago. In the world of 1969. When I was named to the court of Mobile’s Azalea Trail Maids. I’m humbled to this day by the honor bestowed upon me.

The whole concept of the Azalea Trail started way back in 1929 when a local horticulturist devised a plan to revitalize the city through a beatification project. Since the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta was (and still is) one of the largest intact wetland ecosystems in America, Mr. Lackland thought to take azalea bushes, which thrived in Mobile’s climate, and plant them along well-traveled roads throughout the city. The Jaycees (now the Mobile Junior Chamber of Commerce} liked his idea and the rest, as they say, is history. At one time, the city painted a pink stripe along the original 15-mile route, but this feature was later outlawed because of state laws. Today, the famous route (sans the pink ribbon marker) has expanded to 35-miles as it rambles through the city. In the spring when the flowers bloom in abundance, the sight is truly spectacular!

In the early days, debutantes would dress up in their finest, and act as ambassadors for the city. Between the flowers and the ladies, tourism soared and the Azalea Trail Court was introduced in 1935. Today, it is a continuing tradition that not only promotes the City of Mobile, but offers scholarships, a chance for travel, national exposure, and opportunities for fifty high school seniors to develop poise and confidence as they speak to large crowds on behalf of their community.

The colors of the dresses today are much more vivid than the delicate pastels my friends and I wore way back when, but the gowns are every bit as dramatic and still stunningly beautiful. My mother was a professional seamstress who was in great demand for her Mardi Gras costume designs, so I got to watch the magic happen in my own home. I saw my gorgeous pastel blue antebellum dress come to life day by day.

Mama made everything for me — the overdress, the hooped petticoat that gave the dress its bell-shape, a wide-brimmed garden hat, the prissy parasol, lacy gauntlets (fingerless gloves), satiny cummerbund, frilly pantaloons, a sweeping bow/sash, and even a faux fur-lined cape for those bitter winter days. She even dyed a corset (longline bra), several pairs of tights, and a pair of Mary Jane shoes to match the color of my dress!

I can still recall the excitement of donning that gown. It was like becoming a different person’ and going back hundreds of years in time. And the weight! After a few hours, the heaviness became a burden. Imagine, fully dressed, each girl wore 40-50 pounds of material—sixty yards of organza, fifteen yards of taffeta, ten yards of broadcloth, ten yards of fur, and who knows how much lace, ribbons, netting, and bows.
Back in my day, the Azalea Trail Maids performed at the Junior Miss Pageant, and appeared in the halftime show of the Senior Bowl Game. We made tons of PR appearances at Bellingrath Gardens, and rode in multiple parades along the pink-striped streets. We learned the art of a genteel curtsy, how to wave and smile with genuine feeling, but most of all we learned about the civility of a bygone time, one filled with poise and grace and generosity of spirit. And all this against a backdrop of azaleas, rhododendrons, gardenias, magnolias, tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, violets, and Spanish moss.

This is such an amazing, whimsical memory, one that still brings a smile.

Suggested Links:

Vintage photos show the rich history of Mobile’s Azalea Trail

Bellingrath Gardens

Mobile’s Azalea Trail Maids

25 Things To Know About Mobile

 

Seasons

A great deal of prose has been written about the four seasons, but I recently experienced my own epiphany. It came to me while touring the north Georgia mountains by bus, a day trip I took with the Senior Adults of our church on the last day of October. The sole purpose—to revel in the changing colors of the glorious fall foliage. (Oh, and buy apples.)

I’ll admit my expectations weren’t high given the long drought this year and the unseasonably warm temperatures. It’s not Vermont or Maine, after all. Despite my reservations, I set out with every intention of enjoying our time together.

The day dawned with a crispness that encouraged a light jacket, and a brightness that made me squint behind dark sunglasses. A few puffy, white clouds paraded across a sky of Robin’s Egg blue. And then we reached the foothills.

Stunning! Magnificent! Spectacular! Words are not sufficient to describe the beauty set before us, and this only a tiny sample of God’s artistic genius. We traveled along winding roads and hairpin turns, up inclines that made the bus’s engine growl, and slow descents into pastoral valleys where each turn brought new marvels. The colors boggled my imagination. Hunter Green, Fiery Orange, Blazing Red, and all those delicate, in-between shades that beg for exotic names like crimson, ocher, cerise, chartreuse, terra cotta, burnt sienna, primrose, vermillion. And when the sun set them ablaze like a hint of God’s Shekinah glory.

“Ooh” and “Ahh” became the watchwords of the day. At one point, I feared for the safety of my fellow passengers as everyone clambered from side-to-side, eager to snap yet another remarkable picture, all while the bus driver wound his way through the twisty curves.
Somewhere in the middle of all this grandeur, a profound thought took root in my mind. Autumn is the season when life wanes and death draws near … and here we sat celebrating the life and death of a dying thing.

Mankind is also a dying thing, but instead of joy we experience sadness and loss when a loved one leaves this world ahead of us. Grief, you see, is for the living.

Christians mourn the same as everyone, but with one difference: We rejoice over a fellow believer’s homegoing. We celebrate their life because of the promise and hope of our faith. For Christian’s, winter is not the end but a new beginning, a new spring, a new life. Eternity realized.

The Christmas holiday falls at the end of the year, in the dead of winter, but we remember it for God’s gift to us. He sent His only Son as a baby, a boy child who would save a dark world. Jesus is the reason for our hope. He is the promise of Christmas.

Quality is a must if you want to succeed as a writer.

Invest in yourself. You’re worth every penny.

After many, many years working in the corporate administrative world where I slaved over a typewriter and then a computer, I’ve learned the value of producing superior work. Be it a product, a service, a technical document, promotional flyer, presentation, brochure, report, or hard-learned-lesson-1even an email, poor quality can derail your efforts for success. The last thing you want to do is show the world anything less than meticulous.

Think about it. Would you go to the local grocery store and purchase a liter bottle of Coca-Coal? Or a can of Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Suop?

Not me! If I can’t trust the company that produced the product to be meticulous with their labeling, how can I trust they weren’t also careless with what’s inside?

Which leads me to ask why any writer would expect an editor or publisher to overlook obvious flaws in a manuscript submission.  No one knows how many manuscripts are submitted to publishers each year, but research shows that only 1 out of every 1,000 are accepted, and then only 1 in 2,000 of those gets published!

Look at the competition. Amazon.com alone offers upwards of 800,000 ebooks and more than 1.8 million  physical books for order!

For those who choose to bypass the traditional contractual process and follow the self-publishing route, great! Indies have opened the door for pretty much everyone to succeed in the publishing industry. But let me refer  back to the paragraph above about the Chicken Noodle Suop.

Bookstores and online retailers are in the business of selling and making money. Consequently, they’re extremely interested is understanding what drives a reader to purchase a book, and have conducted tons of research on reading habits.  Did you know that readers who start a new book, only one in four will finish that book?

Various reasons are cited for this — They’re boring, not plausible, unrealistic, I can’t relate to the characters, too wordy. not enough action, etc.  But the hard-learned-lesson-2one reason that screamed at me was: “I couldn’t get past all the spelling, punctuation, and formatting errors.”

Yikes! Don’t let this be you!

Join a writing group or go to writing conferences. Attend classes, find a critique partner. Maybe recruit beta readers, utilize online tools, follow blogs that focus on writing tips, or even invest in a good copy editor.

One of the first things you should do as a writer, whether seasoned or a newbie, is clean up your manuscript.

hard-learned-lesson-3Study the standard requirements. Know what is expected from a publisher, an editor, and your reader-audience. Master the fundamentals. Create your own self-editing checklist. Invite others you trust to critique your work.

I’ve provided several several excellent links below that can help you through this process. Use them. Look for others. The number of free online resources is almost overwhelming. Take advantage of them.

Holly Lorincz, Editor, Lorincz Literary Services

Ian Irvine, Bestselling Author

Jane Friedman, Author, Blogger, Publishing/Marketing Guru

A Labor Day Vacay with the Fam at Myrtle Beach!

Just what the doctor ordered!

A long drive over … Tropical Storm Hermine … braving the rain to eat out for lunch at TBONZ … fierce games of Sorry and Triominos while the streets flooded … homemade meatballs and pasta for dinner by the best private chef in the biz! … sunshine, sand, saltwater, sunscreen, and some serious beach time … no-holds’barred mini-golf at Jungle Lagoon, Mount Atlanticus, and Hawaiian Rumble … a happy 40th birthday …. a Thai birthday dinner … more beach time … amazing sunsets … terrific pools …. and then clean up, pack up, and hit the road again.

And a great time was had by all.

Collage

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made – Part 3

We’ve talked about how human beings rank fairly low in the animal kingdom in regards to physical strength and durability, and we’ve looked at how man’s superior intelligence evens the score by giving him an edge in the survival game. But there’s a third factor to consider.

There is an almost undefinable essence that truly sets man apart from the other animals.

Scientists attribute this uniqueness to our DNA. Philosophers call it our soul or spirit. Others identity it as our conscience, while many more call it personality, individuality, persona, or nature. Whatever  label you choose, it comes with an overabundance of quirky eccentricities not found in the other species cohabiting this world.

Personality

Yes, I agree that humans and animals have personalities, but only man can claim the vast complexity of traits that set us apart from them. A recent study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) identified 638 primary Personality Traits. After dividing them into three categories, they classified 37% as positive (ex: amiable, courageous, optimistic, and reliable); 18% neutral (ex: ambitious, determined, self-conscious); and a staggering 48% negative (ex: abrasive, apathetic, discontented, imprudent). (Ref: http://ideonomy.mit.edu/essays/traits.html)

While the list is fairly comprehensive, it is nowhere near complete, especially when you consider the infinite number of possible combinations. And that’s before you take other factors into consideration. Factors like …

Emotions

Plutchiks Emotion WheelRobert Plutchik, professor emeritus at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine with a Ph.D. from Columbia University, set out to classify emotions into primary categories. Working with the Dalai Lama and using scientific approaches to analyze facial muscles used in heightened levels of emotion, he determined there are eight primary states: anger, fear, sadness, disgust, surprise, anticipation, trust, and joy.

Of course, there many, many more feelings than these eight, but based on similar muscle usages, Plutchik concluded that all emotions fall into sub-categories under the primary.

Fact or hypothesis? It’s your decision. But  the question arises – Do animals have emotions? Let’s consider two definitions pertinent to this discussion:

Sentience is the capacity to feel, perceive, or experience subjectively. It encompasses a wide spectrum of both positive and negative physical and emotional experiences. Most scientists today are in agreement that all vertebrate animals, which includes mammals, our winged friends, cold-blooded reptiles, and the creatures of the sea, are sentient beings.

Sapience, on the other hand, is defined as good sense, intelligence, wisdom, or the ability of an entity to act using a mental faculty to apply appropriate judgment (Homo sapiens  – Latin: “wise man”). Sound judgment requires the ability to assess conditions in a complex and dynamic environment, apply a moral code, analyze risk factors, calculate outcomes, and derive a best case conclusion. I believe we can all agree this ability belongs to man alone.

So, to answer the above question,  yes, I believe all animals experience emotion. Consider the threat of danger that triggers fear … which in turn triggers survival behavior (the fight or flight response). This is inherent to all animals, man included.

Emojis

On the other hand, I believe sapience is God’s gift to man alone.

Spiritual Needs

For the duration of a pregnancy, the mother’s body provides everything a baby needs: nutrition, oxygen, temperature control, and waste management. At birth, when the baby is separated from the mother’s body, the newborn must learn quickly how to regulate all of these things for himself, while experiencing a nightmare of new sensations – light, sound, taste, temperature fluctuation, movement restriction, and hunger. It’s a scary place.

Each newborn babe, whether animal or man, comes into this world with an innate craving, a need for connection, acceptance, comfort, and safety.Newborns

Those needs don’t change as time passes. Wolves roam in packs. Red Snapper swim in schools. Geese fly in close formation as they relocate with the seasons. Man searches for a place to belong within families, communities, social groups, schools, workplaces, organizations – and yet he often moves on. Changes jobs. Makes new friends. Searching. Always searching. Always wondering. Always asking questions. Why am I here? What is my purpose? Is this all there is?

Christians often claim there is a “God-sized hole within our hearts that only the one, true God can fill,” which leads us to yet another question; Is this a biblical concept, or just fanciful rhetoric?

My answer is no. And yes.

Back in the 1600s, Blaise Pascal, inventor, mathematician, physicist, theological writer, and apologist, said in defense of Christianity:

“What else does this craving and this helplessness proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object. In other words, by God himself.”

But we can also attribute a story from the Bible where the Apostle Paul was witnessing to the Greeks. Now the Greeks were notorious for all their idols, even a monument to an “unknown god” – kind of like hedging their bet, I guess. In case they missed one.

In Acts 17:22-27, Paul says:

“Then Paul stood before the meeting of the Areopagus and said, “People of Athens, I can see you are very religious in all things. 23 As I was going through your city, I saw the objects you worship. I found an altar that had these words written on it: TO A GOD WHO IS NOT KNOWN. You worship a god that you don’t know, and this is the God I am telling you about!

The God who made the whole world and everything in it is the Lord of the land and the sky. He does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 This God is the One who gives life, breath, and everything else to people. He does not need any help from them; he has everything he needs. 26 God began by making one person, and from him came all the different people who live everywhere in the world. God decided exactly when and where they must live. 27 God wanted them to look for him and perhaps search all around for him and find him, though he is not far from any of us.

All animals follow the primal, never-changing eat-sleep-procreate dictate set out for their lifespans, but only man seeks for more. Call it ego, the soul, a conscience, spirit, chi, or life-force, only man seeks acceptance and a reason for his being.Heart of Clouds

For Christians, the truth lies in that ‘God-sized hole’ in our hearts, the one that Jesus readily fills with love and a peace that passes all understanding.

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made – Part 2

I think we are in agreement that the human body is a unique system of systems. So why then is it encased in such a fragile shell?

In the physical realm, humans rank pretty low on the survival totem pole.  We don’t have the luxury of natural body armor like the armadillo, or a defense system like the porcupine. Neither do we have the ferocity and strength of a grizzly bear, or the speed of an antelope. We can’t smell like a bloodhound, hear like an elephant, see like an eagle, or feel vibrations like a bat.

And yet we don’t just survive, we thrive. How?

Creation - Dominion

Here are 5 reasons (not comprehensive by any stretch of the imagination) that I believe sets mankind apart from the other animals.

  1. clock-70182_640Man is aware of his own mortality. He is conscious of time passing, not like the seasons fade one into another, but of generations gone before and generations to come. We conceptualize. 
  2. Man has an inherent spiritual nature, religious even. The vast majority of people believe and/or pursue some form of spiritual or religious faith. We wonder about what comes after we die. 
  3. Man keeps records. We (sometimes) learn from what has gone before, make plans for the near and distant future, and are always searching for ways to improve or better his life. 
  4. the-thinker-1431333_640Man is a thinker. We reason, question, create, learn, anticipate, apply logic, and discern truth. We also harbor prejudices, vanity, pride, ego, and nurture grievances and seek revenge … unlike other animals. 
  5. Man communicates at a far more superior level than the other animals. We use complex language forms, both verbal and written to connect with other humans. We use this language to satisfy a deeply rooted yearning for community, a need to communicate with others of our kind, to connect.

So, the human body is a (physical) complex machine run by a (mental) sophisticated intelligence. But what about motivation. What drives us? That’s the part I call the “Thou shalt and Thou shalt not” factor.Creatures of logic

Next, we’ll look at what makes man tick.