Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Happy Canada Day!

We would like to wish everyone a very happy "Canada Day"!

What is "Canada Day"?

On July 1, 1867 Canada became a new federation with its own constitution by signing the Constitution Act - formerly known as the British North America Act. Canada Day is a national statutory holiday celebrated in all provinces and territories and it is a day off for most businesses.

Congratulations and Enjoy!!!!!!!!!!!

George Taylor shares his impressions of the "Hear Now Festival"!

We’ve just returned from a week away attending the Hear Now Festival in Kansas City, MO.

HEAR Now is the audio equivalent of a film festival for contemporary audio story-telling in all its forms: live and scripted solo performances, multi-voiced performance, classic radio drama, experimental narrative, and much more. In this podcast, I share my impressions on the festival and share some samples from the participants in this festival. (No, these samples don’t come from this festival, but from other sources.)

To listen in to the blogtalk radio show either live on July 2nd@ 8.30AMEST or on the archives anytime 24/7 just click and go with this link:http://www.blogtalkradio.com/gelatisscoop/2015/07/02/george-taylor-shares-his-impressions-of-the-hear-now-festival

A Journey Through the Twilight Zone Towards Compassion - Patti J. Smith


I’ve always been known for putting a humorous spin on things, even if it’s something serious….today is one of those days.
Back around 2007 I noticed a small lump right below my Adam's apple. It wasn’t that big, but I decided to have it checked out. My doctor told me it was a fatty tumor (guess when the thighs get full, the fat moves up?). Anyway, she didn’t appear concerned and said removing it would be considered cosmetic and not covered under insurance (yeah like I would voluntarily have my neck cut into).

The lump wasn’t big enough to warrant hiding it with turtlenecks, which would definitely violate the dress code for San Diego in the summer. I accepted my fate and moved on. As time passed, my new friend grew (like my thighs) which prompted another doctor’s visit. This time she decided an ultrasound was in order and lo and behold, I had two tumors on my thyroid. One was almost the size ping-pong ball.
She referred me to an endocrinologist for a needle biopsy, which was about as pleasant as a root canal, but he couldn’t get a definitive reading due to the amount of fluid build-up. Great, I thought, I’m carrying a water balloon around my neck. He suggested a thyroidectomy.
The surgery wasn’t that bad, in fact, I was only in the hospital for two nights. I healed quickly, started on thyroid medication and returned to my normal routine sans the pudgy accessory. I did still have a little lump which was the dreaded fatty tumor (darn thighs), but because the tumors were removed, it was no longer as pronounced.

About three weeks later, my surgeon called and asked me to come in. Must be a follow-up, I thought. So much for thinking … he advised me the pathologist wasn’t quite sure what to make of my tumors and sent them to Italy for evaluation. Italy? Why wasn’t I invited to travel with them? They were part of my body. Anyway, that pathology lab determined one of my tumors was malignant. My heart raced, eyes filled with tears and I braced myself for the “You have so many months” statement. The surgeon patted me on the leg and said, “Don’t worry, they got it all, but to be safe we’ll do a radioactive iodine treatment.” He explained that the thyroid absorbs iodine in your system so if there is any remaining thyroid tissue floating around, it will be fooled into absorbing radiation (bwahaha). For two weeks I couldn’t have iodized salt, seafood, dairy products, eggs, bakery products, chocolate (ouch) or anything that had red dye #3 (including shampoo and conditioner).
When the two weeks were up, I was admitted to the hospital for the treatment. When they took me to my room, I felt like I was entering the Twilight Zone. Everything in the room was covered in plastic….the bed (except for the pillow and covers), phone, television, remote control, toilet, sink – anything I could possibly touch was covered. The radiation safety officer entered with a metal tube holding the radioactive iodine pill. I had to open the cover and drop it in my mouth….and then he said to “just relax” and I’d be released the next day. Relax? I just swallowed something that could very well make me glow in the dark, I was in a room that probably increased the profits of Saran Wrap, and couldn’t have visitors. Heck, when my meals were delivered I heard the nurses arguing outside over who was going to crack open the door and slide the tray in. I wasn’t allowed to have any personal items in the room such as a laptop or cd player, as they would become contaminated. I spent the night watching television, reading (the book had to be paperback as it had to be left behind and burned), and talking to friends on the phone.
The next morning the safety officer returned (finally, a visitor!) and brought in a Geiger counter to see if I was safe enough to be released from isolation. Woo Hoo! I was free! My husband would be able to pick me up.
Now, you would think that was the end of it but noooooo … I was still in glow in the dark status, just not as severe. I was told to stay at least 3 feet away from everyone (including pets) except for short periods totaling less than 1 hour each day, for the first 5 days – staying at least 6 feet away most of the time. Also, I had to stay the same distance from small children or pregnant women for 8 days and not kiss anyone. I’m not done…. I had to sleep in a separate room, or at least 6 feet away from any other person, use separate bath linen and launder them and underclothing separately for one week and wash eating utensils separately for one week as well. Although I didn’t have to buy an overabundance of Saran Wrap, I was relegated to the guest bedroom with a little gate (so my dogs wouldn’t sleep with me) … jailed in my own home. My husband, bless his heart, did his best to keep me company (across the hall).
After the first five days of exile, I scrubbed down both the spare bathroom and guestroom. I washed everything I wore and slept on, hugged my husband and cuddled my dogs – counting the days until I could roam freely through the world without avoiding children and pregnant women.
On a more serious note, I got a clean bill of health, praise God and am still cancer-free today. The experience was definitely surreal but a good one. It heightened my compassion for those less fortunate, longing for companionship, a loving touch or to just be acknowledged with a smile - the elderly, the sick, the homeless...the list goes on. The smallest gesture can make a big difference in someone’s life.

Where can you connect with Patti?
Follow her blog: http://www.gridirongrannyfootballfanatic.blogspot.com/
Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/author/show/7306825.Patti_J_Smith
Twitter: https://twitter.com/gridirongranny5
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PattiJSmithAuthorPage
Pinterest: http://wwwpinterest.com/gridirongranny


ANSWERING THE CALL - Flora Reigada

ANSWERING THE CALL
I could see the door-to-door salesman from my window. He was large, his face was red with rage and he kept pounding on my door after I didn't respond. I was ready to call the police when he finally stormed away.

How could this salesman possibly think an angry outburst would cause me to buy whatever he was selling?

Compare him to Jesus, who gently knocks at the door of each heart. As we read in Revelation 3:20, "Look at me. I stand at the door. I knock. If you hear me call and open the door, I’ll come right in and sit down to supper with you." (The Message Bible)

This is the invitation to all who believe and all who do not.

If we ignore Him, Jesus will not go away in a rage, as did the salesman at my door. He will be grieved because He loves us so. But God is infinitely patient and His knock will come again.

If you feel a tug at your heart, perhaps Jesus is knocking. Could it be He wants to enter your life to become your Savior?

You might pray, "Come in Lord Jesus. Forgive me. Save me."

Maybe Jesus wants to sup with you, so you may feast on His words, love, comfort and guidance. And just one taste will not suffice. Perhaps you have sampled these delights and you know we will always hunger for more.
This bread from Heaven comes in many ways I explore in my devotional, "Where Your Heart Meets God's."
It comes in the Bible and my late mother-in-law, Andreina Reigada, always had hers open.
It comes in the beauty of the natural world.

God also amazes us with the supernatural, such as the reassurance that came in the clouds while I was rushing to the hospital during a health crisis. The majesty that my husband captured on camera, proclaimed a message of hope: No matter how out of control life may seem, God remains forever in control and on His throne.
Until I saw this for myself, I never thought God would go to such lengths to get my attention. I pictured Him angry, like that salesman at my door.

But as I open the door to God in my daily life, He opens His heart and the heavens. In ways unique to each individual, He will do likewise for those who respond to His call.


Flora Reigada is a journalist and novelist. She and husband, Dan, have been a reporter/photographer team for several newspapers including the Florida Today and currently, Senior Life of Brevard County, Florida. Flora has also written for Guideposts magazine, Decision magazine, the Upper Room daily devotional and more. She and Dan are proud parents and grandparents. The couple has traveled throughout the beautiful British Isles and visited Spain, where they stayed in a castle overlooking the ocean.

Stop by Flora's Amazon Author Page:http://www.amazon.com/Flora-Reigada/e/B00IQK4C5A/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1


Diane Huff Pitts wants to know:What’s in your hands?

Caught! I could feel the teacher’s eyes scrutinizing my paper even though she sat behind her desk and not behind my shoulder. The breeze and smell of spring through open windows had beckoned. My hands responded by writing poetry. But now my stomach knotted in fear of my teacher's displeasure. One set of eyes locked with mine in understanding. Pheaton drew racing cars and a thousand other things, and sometimes the teachers stopped his hands from creating, too.
Years have passed since that day in first grade, and our hands still work—mine to heal or write, his to design.
Pheaton Guinn and I grew up in Selma, Alabama. We went to the same schools, same church, same grocery store. Pheaton continued to dream about fast cars and space ships. His hands continued to work. One day his design talents were recognized in the NASCAR world. That’s the epitome of car racing, for those who don’t know. Pheaton can tell you about it.

“Being a dad is the best job I ever had, but the second best was with Dale Earnhardt, the NASCAR legend. I spent a few years with Dale as the NASCAR program manager for his sponsor, Wrangler Jeans. I tell people I was duct-taped to his elbow during that time. I was lucky enough to witness first hand one of the best professional drivers to strap into a race car but was even luckier to spend a lot of one-on-one time with a quality human being. He was just a good old country boy who could flat drive the wheels off a race car.”

So doodling race cars and space ships morphed into a design career and now Pheaton Guinn Creative Services carries on the tradition.

What are those hands doing now in the design world? This is how Pheaton describes it.
“My specialty is logo and corporate identity. Some of this is probably the son of a sign painter coming out, but as a graphics guy, I love the art that comes from letter forms, using size and color and shadowing for emphasis and emotion. I’m drawn to verses in the Bible that aren’t necessarily in the "Top 10.” I like the ones showing interactions, which we may never see or hear again that carry weight for everyday guys like me. Maybe I can bring that verse to someone that needs it.”

Pheaton shares these graphics freely. Here is one:

“I felt compelled to give my own graphic treatment to the Bible verses that mean the most to me. An anonymous dad needed help for his son from Jesus. This is probably my favorite verse—it sums up my faith.”

Our lives are given early inklings of what we will be, whether story writers or graphic designers. That spring day, my first grade teacher encouraged me to pay attention during math but read my poetry to the class. Pheaton found some teachers along the way to recognize the gifts of his hands.

What’s in your hands?

Launch out today. Leave a comment, and tell us about it.

Meet Trace & Lynette the two main characters from "Athena Creek"

Those who survived the wild west were both tough and courageous.

When we hear stories of families who crossed the Oregon Trail, we can't help but feel a sense of awe at their dedication. The Great Migration was an amazing period in American history filled with stories of people who were patient, dedicated, and sometimes just plain mean. I knew when I started writing this series that would need to develop characters who could 'make it' in that world.

Get to know the two main characters from the first Lawmen of Clayton County story, Athena Creek.

Trace Ingram:

Physical features – Tall and thin, shoulder-length blonde hair, mustache, stern expression, always wears black. Picture a young Sam Elliot, complete with that deep voice that gives you the chills when he speaks!

Personality – Grounded and logical, with a deep sense of justice.

Backstory – As a boy, came across the Oregon Trail by covered wagon with his family. Parents have now passed away, one sister (Caroline) with a husband and children. Had a couple deputy jobs here and there. Desires a place to belong and someone to believe in him.

Creative process – I envisioned Trace as the stereotypical cowboy you’d see in a John Wayne movie, Marty Robins song, or Louis L’Amour story. As Gram would say, “Mmmmm, Mmmmm, Mmmmm!”

Lynette Ellis:

Physical features – Light brown hair usually in a long braid down her back, broad shoulders atypical of a woman, strong and sturdy frame.

Personality – Tough and feisty, often acts before thinking, independent and stubborn.

Backstory – Three siblings – all thieves and scoundrels, drunk father and enabling mother. Desires a chance to make a better life than her family members.

Creative process – Lynette, the beginning of the entire series, was envisioned one day as I listened to a Carrie Underwood song. I’ll give you one guess – Before He Cheats. As I listened to the words, I wondered what a woman from the old west would do if she found her man cheating. Thus, the story was born, and two more followed, creating The Lawmen of Clayton County. I had a lot of fun writing scenes where she is impulsive!

Jen Cudmore is a historical romance author who grew up in the Columbia River Gorge. She currently lives in Alaska with her husband, two children, two boxers, and two cats. She contributes to blogs at Moms of Faith and Alaska Christian Women's Ministry. Visit her website at jencudmore.com, where she posts about fiction, family and faith. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Coming Soon: Audiobook of Murray Pura's "Silver City"! Listen to the audio sample RIGHT NOW!

Grayden St. Cyr expected difficult assignments when he left the US Marshals Service to go free lance. He expected to be sent after the fugitives no other agency wanted to touch. What he didn't expect was to be sent after the man who had saved his life. And he didn't expect that high ups not only wanted the fugitive dead - they wanted Grayden St. Cyr dead too.


Would you like to listen to the audio sample of Murray Pura's "Silver City - Volume 1 - This Is Where The Cowboy Rides Away"?

Just use the "Contact Form" on the right sidebar and we will send you the link to listen to it and over 20 more audiobooks!

We hope to hear from you soon!

Geroge Taylor discusses Tony Hilling's "The Voice of Aedistamen" on blogtalk radio!

This week’s podcast is adapted from author Tony Hilling’s blog post about his novel, The Voice of Aedistamen. Since I have produced the audiobook for the first volume of this series, “The Child’s Arrival”, I thought the blog would help shed some light on a book which takes place in this fictional world of Aedistamen. Tony’s post points us to a sample from the book, an original song he composed and performs, and a spiritual idea for all to consider.

Would you like to listen in on the broadcast? Here is the link ,just click and go:http://ow.ly/ONwLP

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

New cozy mystery series comin' atcha ya,"Shadeport"!

Welcome to Shadeport, population 1962.

Sheriff Dan, and the Deputy’s Dan keep law and order in the small, sleepy hamlet: an oasis of peace, tranquility, and Mustafa’s Diner.

Join Patti J. Smith and Giovanni Gelati as they introduce you to the cast of characters that inhabit this quirky small town.
What foul evil doing is afoot?

Find out in this humor filled, small town cozy mystery.

Patti J. Smith is a best-selling author of devotionals, light romance and suspense. She was born into a military family in Wimpole Park, England and traveled extensively during her childhood.
She lives in Vista, CA with her husband and has three beautiful granddaughters. She is a prolific blogger and reader, and proudly admit to being a diehard Seattle Seahawks fan and Fantasy Football fanatic. Her travel adventures include Spain, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Fiji, South Korea and almost all states - including Hawaii and Alaska.
Follow her blog: http://www.gridirongrannyfootballfanatic.blogspot.com/
Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/author/show/7306825.Patti_J_Smith
Twitter: https://twitter.com/gridirongranny5
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PattiJSmithAuthorPage
Pinterest: http://wwwpinterest.com/gridirongranny


LOOK OUT! The end is Near...for "The San Francisco Wedding Planner Series"

Look OUT!
The end is near for “The San Francisco Wedding Planner Series”
The last story, “Truth and Trust”, will be released during the Helping Hands Press “Thirsty Thursday” Party on 8/23.
Important questions will be answered:
-Will Raul be able to handle the office move without having a meltdown?
-Will Heather make a choice between the past and present to make her future?
-Will Sky have a wedding cake to make or just some organic cookies for her kids?
-Will Mario go berserk just because, well, because he is Mario?
-And what will become of Indigo, is the image clear or still blurry?
-will Gloria come back the same, worse or new and improved?


Friday, June 19, 2015

Mark Venturini : Blazing Saddles Redux

The other night I actually found a TV station airing Blazing Saddles, Mel Brooks’ hilarious 1974 spoof of Hollywood Westerns, in all its full whacky splendor. It had been years since I’d last seen the movie, so obviously I had to plop myself down in front of the TV and relive some teenage memories. I can’t believe the movie has been out for over 40 years! Ouch!

A few minutes and a few chuckles into the movie, something hit me (and it wasn’t Mongo’s right hook). I realized that Blazing Saddles could never be made today in our hypersensitive, political-correctness-gone-amok world. The movie is completely and shamelessly politically incorrect. It is a daring, irreverent satire that doesn’t tiptoe around provocative issues. Rather it smacks you right in the face with issues of bigotry and racism that still haunt us today. It forces each of us to confront our own preconceptions and biases, only it does so in such an over-the-top hysterical way. Who can ever forget the arrival of newly appointed Sheriff Bart into Rock Ridge or Gene Wilder’s Waco Kid or Mango’s iconic horse punch or Lili von Shtupp singing I’m Tired? Through it all, there was Mel Brooks using outrageous characters and scenes to make us laugh while exposing our own thinly veiled prejudices.

All this was lost to me as a sixteen year-old watching the movie at the old Casino Theater in Vandergrift PA. At the time I was more interested in emulating the infamous campfire & beans scene with my friends. Now, so many decades later, watching the movie with the eyes of a writer, I applaud Mr. Brooks for his daring. As fiction writers we want to entertain, but we also want to enlighten without being preachy. We want to confront issues that are important to us like hate or intolerance, pollution, corporate greed (what have you) without being too heavy-handed. We want to touch and we want to teach.
Blazing Saddles is a social commentary and pure madcap genius rolled into one.

The movie was nominated for three Academy Awards, and is ranked No. 6 on the American Film Institute's 100 Years...100 Laughs list. In 2006, it was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the Library of Congress and was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.

Not bad for a movie that today no one would dare make. Well done, Mr. Brooks.


Hi, I'm Mark Venturini, author of fantastical story for both children and adults. Will you join me as we journey through the Place between Places, that magical place between here and there? Perhaps you've seen a few of my shorter stories or flash fiction pieces over the years. I live in Southwestern PA, where I am happiest taking long walks with my wife, Kathy, and our dog, Bella. I love kayaking and backpacking through the back-country with close friends . . . and of course reading fantasy.

Check out my blog, Journey Through the Place Between Places, where I chat about anything that strikes my fancy: http://markventurinijourney.blogspot.com/

And my Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/MarkVenturiniAuthor?fref=ts

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Tell Me a Story: Using Stories to Convey Your Message-Sue Badeau

The phone rang in the middle of the night. Recognizing my son’s number, I quickly sat up in bed and answered. “Mom, I need your recipe for those ‘little chickens’ you make for Valentine’s Day.” He said as soon as he heard my voice. “Little chickens?” My sleepy brain was confused, “This is the emergency you woke me up for?”

This story never fails to get a laugh when I share it with an audience. But as I continue with the story, it drives home the point that you are never too old to need a mom in your life, whether you want a recipe or face a life-or-death emergency. This story conveys the lifelong importance of adoption much better than any other facts or data possibly can do.

You’ve probably been in these shoes. You have an important message. You’ve distilled it to the 3-5 most important points. You want your readers to reflect upon it, remember it and be transformed by it. Telling stories that connect heart, mind and spirit is one of the most effective ways to do this.

Consider Biblical truths that have stuck with you over the years. If you’re like me, many are drawn from the parables of Jesus. The gospels record more than three dozen parables spoken by Jesus! In both the old and new Testaments God used story upon story to demonstrate his love, messages and expectations for us.

Here are my top three tips for using stories to convey deeper messages:

Be Specific: Bible stories are both local and universal, time-specific and timeless. God’s stories involve everyday people doing everyday things. Each story-teller from Genesis through the New Testament told stories that fit into the historic, geographic, political and cultural context of the immediate listeners. Your stories will resonate with your readers when you set them in a “time and place” context that is specific, concrete and relatable to day-to-day life.

Be Purposeful: Knowing your purpose for sharing a particular story will help you determine the length, structure and details to include. If your goal is to teach an important point that you want your readers to remember and reflect upon later when facing challenging real-life situations, your story should offer a memorable visual picture while also evoking strong emotions that touch the heart.

If the purpose for your story is to motivate your readers to take action, your story has to demonstrate the impact of the desired actions. When I write about the impact of trauma on children, one of my goals is to motivate readers to do something different when they see behaviors that might possibly be triggered by trauma. I use stories that show – not tell- both the “before” and “after” effects on a child. I want the reader to walk away with the thought, “I could do that too.”

Have fun: Your reader will enjoy your stories a whole lot more if you enjoy them first. Be playful, have fun, smile as your write. The more that you actually like your characters and their activities, the more your readers will relate to them and look forward to reading the next sentence, paragraph and page.


Try to keep with Sue,drop by here Website:http://suebadeau.webs.com/

Accuracy,Perspective,Atheists,and Christians-Joseph Max Lewis

"This is outrageous and demonstrates the danger of permitting religion in the public square," Liebowitz said. "History teaches us, or should have by now, that wars caused by religion, and especially Christianity, have killed more people than all other causes, combined."

"I'm afraid that's not accurate. Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot each killed millions and they were all confirmed atheists. Remember the Great Peoples Cultural Revolution? Over twenty million died before it was over. The killing fields in Cambodia claimed the lives of unknown millions, but some estimates suggest twenty five percent of the country's population died at the hands of the Camere Rouge. Joseph Stalin starved ten to twelve million Russian peasant farmers to death and killed another two million building the great Canal outside of Moscow. All three of these monsters were confirmed atheists . . . Probably five thousand people were killed during the Inquisition. In America, thirteen were put on trial during the Salem witch trials. Horrible and indefensible, no doubt. But millions of human beings were slaughtered by Stalin, Pol Pot and Mao. I'm afraid we Christians are amateurs compared to you atheists."

- from the novel "Separation of Church and State."

Joseph Max Lewis josephmaxlewis.com author of The Diaries of Pontius Pilate, Separation of Church and State and Baghdad Burning.

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Joseph-Max-Lewis/390366621022306
http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B008ZHHUBW

Joseph Max Lewis served as a member of an Operational Detachment in the U.S. Army's Seventh Special Forces Group, the storied Green Berets. During his service Lewis received antiterrorist training and his detachment was tasked to "Special Projects." Afterward, he served as an instructor at the Special Forces Qualification Course. Lewis attended the Pennsylvania State University, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, the University of Tel Aviv in Israel, and the University of Pittsburgh, receiving degrees in International Politics and Law while being certified in Middle East Studies.
After living and studying abroad, first in the Middle East and then Southeast Asia, Lewis returned home to practice law. He’s a columnist in the New Bethlehem Leader-Vindicator and author of The Diaries of Pontius Pilate, Separation of Church and State and Baghdad Burning. He currently lives, writes, and practices law in and around Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Tony Hilling-THE HOLINESS OF GOD

In the book that I recently have published, “The Voice of Aedistamen”, there is a character in the story called, “the Ghaedish-Mor”. This name may sound a little weird and wacky to our generation. In fact, you may say that I take a kind of perverted, Celtic delight in producing guttural words that no one else can pronounce (at least those who are half ways familiar with the tongue of Shakespeare). The name derives from the combination of a Semitic word, “kadosh” meaning holy, and a Gaelic word, “Mor”, meaning, great or large. The appellation then describes the God of the enslaved people as the Holy One, or the Holy-Great One. Clearly, there is biblical reference here to the God that Isaiah calls, “the Holy One of Israel”.

Lately, I have felt drawn to the book of the Bible that we call, “Leviticus”. It’s a book that describes in great detail the regulations for the worship of the Holy One of Israel, and for that reason can seem very dry to our culture that tends to be long on freedoms but short on accountability. However, if we look a little deeper into the foundations of this book we see God reminding His people that He is a Holy God and that their lives must reflect that Holiness. In chapter 19:2 of the book, God says: “You shall be holy, for I, the Lord Your God, am Holy.” Later, in the fifth book of Moses, Deuteronomy 32:51 & 52, Moses is reprimanded by God and is refused entry into the Promised Land, “…This is because …you broke faith with Me in the presence of the Israelites …because you did not uphold my Holiness among the Israelites. Therefore, you will see the land only from a distance; you will not enter the land I am giving to the people of Israel.” This may seem very harsh to us today, after all that Moses went through to bring the Chosen People out of Egypt and to the very shores of the Jordan. You might think that God was unfair in treating him so. But this event described in Numbers 20: 9-11, clearly shows Moses questioning God rather than trusting in Him; undermining God’s holiness rather than upholding it. There is a lesson here for all of us believers and especially those who are in leadership over Christian communities: we must, by our lives, hold up before the world the Holiness of God. This is quintessentially expressed in the Cross and Resurrection of God’s Only Son, Jesus Christ. Nothing else will avail; “no power of hell nor scheme of man.” Only the Holiness of God can save us.

I have sensed in my own life a call to hold up God’s Holiness today. Therefore, this is a major theme in “The Voice of Aedistamen”, where the God of the enslaved people, the Ma’apone, begin to turn back to Him as they seek freedom. I have also written some songs that reflect this motif. One of them is entitled, “That Towering Cross”, a meditation on a play by the same title by an influential young writer, Andrew Kooman. I believe this a call for all Christians today, to hold up once more the Holiness of God in our communities, using whatever gifts God has given us to do this. Will you join me in this quest? There will be cost to this; it will almost definitely put us “in harm’s way”. But we will have the peace of knowing that our confession of Christ has been empowered in action; that the faith expressed in our words has been visible in a changed life.

Tony Hilling is a retired pastor living in Western Canada. You can connect with him at:

https://twitter.com/TonyHilling
https://www.facebook.com/tony.hilling
https://plus.google.com/u/0/
https://ca.linkedin.com/pub/tony-hilling/44/22/3a3



Old B-Western Movies Have Influenced My Life-Big Jim Williams


To pick a movie, book, or painting that impacted me the most in my long life is not easy. However, something does come to mind that has had a strong influence on my life.

When I was a Depression-era kid growing up in Ojai, California, there was no greater joy than scraping together (finding or begging) 12 cents to attend the Ojai Theatre and watch a great B-Western movie. Five cents more and I could buy enough penny candy from the Ojai Sweet Shop to get my sticky hands and smiling face through the newsreel, cartoon, previews, B-Western, and the main feature.

It was really the Western I wanted to see. Why?

Because I loved the action and never had trouble separating the good guys from the bad, and always knew that justice and goodwill would triumph by the end of the movie. The outlaws might win for a time, from robbing banks, rustling cattle, or holding the wealthy ranch owner’s lovely daughter for ransom, but by the end of the third reel the cowboys with the white hats would win, capture the outlaws, return the cattle, and save the beautiful young damsel from a terrible fate.

Those movies were like morality plays.

I still believe that justice will prevail and “we’ll head ‘em off at the pass.” However, at my age and with my life experiences I know justice may stumble and fall before it gets up and staggers across the finish line. Good that eventually comes out of evil seems now to take much longer than I remember as a kid.

Movies and morals have changed, or haven’t you noticed? And it doesn’t make me happy. In today’s movies, the good guy, or gal, doesn’t always win. Sometimes it’s the bad guys, from horse thieves to gangsters and crooked politicians.

Those old B-Westerns still influence my life at age 82, because I continue to believe that eventually good people will win. Those black-and-white action westerns, from Hopalong Cassidy and John Wayne to Roy Rogers and Gene Autry, influenced me to the point that I’m now a published author of western yarns and books. And, because I write them, I can twist the story to make sure the good guys always win.

And something else that was good about those old times and movies: the popcorn, candy bars, and soft drinks cost only 5 cents.
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NOTE: This Blog was also Big Jim's winning entry in a Fall 2015 Essay Contest just sponsored by The Center for Successful Aging in Santa Barbara, CA.

Don't get in a RUT,change things up a bit-James J. Griffin

Writers and readers both need to take the time to stretch their imaginations and change
their habits, or they risk getting in a rut.


I've written Westerns, and Westerns exclusively, for years now.

However, I've recently done a Christian themed Western THE FAITH AND THE LAW, and have branched out
into Young Adult Westerns, with my LONE STAR RANGER series. I've even done a short
Western romance, HEART OF HER RANGER. And I've just finished my first contemporary
murder mystery, THE MAD MAN OF THE MOUNTAINS. However, Westerns are still my
first love, and what I'll continue to write. But trying different genres helps stretch my
imagination, and will bring some fresh viewpoints to my writing. So, writers and
readers, step back, take a break from your usual genre, and see where you end
up.

You might just be very pleasantly surprised.


James J. Griffin, while a native New Englander, has been a student of the frontier West from a very young age. He has travelled extensively throughout the western United States, and has visited many of the famous Western frontier towns, such as Tombstone, Pecos, Deadwood, Cheyenne, and numerous others.

Jim became particularly interested in the Texas Rangers from the television series Tales of the Texas Rangers. Jim's deep interest in the Texas Rangers led him to amass an extensive collection of Texas Ranger artifacts, which is now in the permanent collections of the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum in Waco. (Jim told his story and it was published in Issue 21 of the Texas Ranger Dispatch (page 35) The Dispatch is the official publication of the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame & Museum)
Jim and Yankee Jim & Yankee

Jim has also been an avid horseman all of his life. He bought his first horse, a pinto, while he was a junior in college, and has owned several American Paint Horses, including his current mount, Yankee. He is a member of the Connecticut Horse Council Volunteer Horse Patrol, an organization which assists the state park rangers with patrolling the state parks and forests.

At the urging of James Reasoner, author of Texas Wind and The Civil War Battle Series, plus many other novels, Jim decided to write a series of Texas Ranger novels. The first book, Trouble Rides the Texas Pacific, was published in 2005. With the success of that book, Jim was encouraged to continue his writing.

Jim's books are traditional Westerns in the best sense of the term, with strong heroes who have good moral values. Highly reminiscient of the pulp westerns of yesterday, the heroes and villians are clearly separated with few shades of gray. No anti-heroes to be found here.

While Jim's books are fiction, he strives to keep them as accurate as possible within the realm of fiction. To that end, besides his own travels and research, he relies on his good friend Texas Ranger Sergeant Jim Huggins of Company F in Waco for forensics and Ranger technical information, and good friends Karl Rehn and Penny Riggs of KR Training in Austin, Texas for their expertise on weapons and ammunition of the frontier West.

Jim is a graduate of Southern Connecticut State University. When not travelling out West, he currently divides his time between Branford, Connecticut and Keene, New Hampshire.

Jim is available for presentations and book signings.

Drop by Jim's Website:http://www.jamesjgriffin.net/index.html

An Overview of Who I am and my WORK- Larry Peterson

Since this is my first time posting on the HHP Blog I thought I would simply give you an overview of who I am and my work. I have one published novel, The Priest and The Peaches, a fictionalized account of the early years of me and my siblings. We had lost our folks and it was an interesting ‘ride” trying to keep the family together. The sequel , The Demons of Abadon, should be out sometime in the fall and that delves into the paranormal. I also have another book, “Horizon Homeless” which is in its final draft. This deals with a family who, through no fault of their own, find themselves on the road to “homelessness”. Lastly is my children’s book, Slippery Willie’s Stupid, Ugly Shoes”, which deals with the differences among kids. I also have written over 500 blogs doing commentary on such topics as The Holocaust and Catholic/Christian persecution.


As far as my writing is concerned I just go at it. Writing a novel can be torturous. I have an idea and, for me, it is like I am back on the streets of NYC as a kid dodging in and out of traffic and never knowing what to expect but somehow miraculously surviving and making it back home. I don’t plot or synopsize or outline until “after the fact” because I don’t really know where I am going. But, bottom line, it is always a fun ride and I always seem to reach my destination albeit unexpected. I am what is known as a “pantster” (unorthodox) in my approach to writing fiction. I would definitely flunk a college course in “Intro to Novel Writing; 101”.

There is one facet of who I am that I do take very seriously and that is my faith. I am a “cradle Catholic”. As a Christian man I am appalled at how the narrative seems to have shifted where Christians are now being dubbed “intolerant, racist and homophobic” because we do not believe in certain secular ideas. The last I heard this is still the USA and you can believe what you want. The point is, I have found myself trying to post every day, at minimum, a quote from the Bible or a respected religious icon (Pope Francis, Billy Graham, Mother Teresa etc.) on Twitter and Facebook just to defend the faith I love. I also write commentary on some of these “hot button” topics. I’m just a little pebble on a very big beach but at least I can try to get into some folk’s sandals now and then.

Finally, as all of you have had, I too have had a share of “bumps in the road”, mostly cancer(s). My Mom died 55 years ago from leukemia. Back then you did not last long. She lasted four months. My first wife died of melanoma 12 years ago. My sister had lung cancer but is OK after having a lung removed. My second wife, (we are married eight years) came down with Lymphoma in 2011 and now she has Alzheimer’s Disease. I am her primary caregiver and every day is an adventure. Last but not least—I am a Prostate cancer survivor (had a radical prostatectomy eight years ago) and I also have lived with MS for 30 years. Bottom line –I am doing GREAT!!! Praise the Lord. Next week I will be 71. For me, it is my new 51.
Glad to be here.
http://www.slipperywillie.blogspot.com


Dog Mountain: A Place to Remember Our Loyal Companions - Linda Massucci

Stephen Huneck was a writer, artist and self-taught sculpture. He and his wife, Gwendolyn, purchased 150 acres in St. Johnsbury, Vermont in 1995. Five years later, after surviving a near-death experience, Stephen had a vision to build a dog chapel. 'A place where people can go and celebrate the spiritual bond they have with their dogs.' Dog Mountain- which included a chapel, hiking trails, ponds for swimming, and the Stephen Huneck Gallery, officially opened on Memorial Day weekend in 2000.

Stephen Huneck believed in the healing powers of dogs, nature, art and love. He wrote ten books inspired by his black lab, Sally. Upon opening the dog chapel, he asked people to write special notes and share photos of their beloved dogs. The walls are covered with these notes and photos; and new ones are added daily. Unfortunately, Stephen's battle with depression took his life on January 7, 2010. His wife, Gwendolyn, passed away in June 2013. The dedication of volunteers and donations helps continue Stephen's vision of a place where dogs roam free and people share the special bond between humans and their forever loyal companions.


My dog, Maggie, passed away on June 24, 2014 at the young age of five years old. I visited Dog Mountain a few weeks after she passed, and placed her photo on the wall in the chapel. The thousands of cards and photos expressing the grief and unconditional love people have for their pets was overwhelming. Watching unleashed dogs roam the trails and jump in the ponds filled my heart with joy. Dog Mountain is a glimpse of what all our pets must see as they cross the Rainbow Bridge. How fortunate we are to Stephen Huneck for given us the opportunity to experience it on earth.

Linda enjoys writing about her travels across America, blogging about her beloved dog Maggie who passed away to young, dabbles in landscape photography, cherishes every opportunity to walk on the beach at sunrise & sunset, and values spending time with family & friends. She enjoys a non-competitive game of golf & hopes to play at Pebble Beach someday.
You can follow her blog at www.lindamassucci.wordpress.com, or her other social media sites: www.facebook.com/lmmassucci twitter handle: @LindaMassucci or at pinterest.com/lindamassucci

Linda Massucci captures the heart of family values in ‘Legacy of Grandpa’s Grapevine’. The flashbacks throughout the story will find the reader laughing and reflecting about their own family memories and adventures as a child. The bond between the main characters, Elizabeth and Grandpa Frank, will have readers wanting to be a part of their special relationship.

What the Music Festival Taught Me About Writing-Janice L. Dick

I spent the past week sitting at our local music festival listening to four of my granddaughters participate. Even though I’ve attended many such festivals and participated in a few, I now realize that some of the lessons learned can also apply to writing:

1. Practice makes perfect, or nearly so.
The adjudicator suggested that students need regular practice. No surprise there. In her words, “You only need to practice on the days you eat.”
Sigh. If I “only” wrote on the days I ate, I’d get a lot more writing done. Although we all must create a schedule that suits us, the truth is, the more we write, the better we become.

2. A steady and consistent rhythm comes from the heartbeat of the soul.
Some of the participants in the music festival played all the right notes, but theirs was a “learned” performance. Others made a mistake or two, but the music had a steady rhythm, because it came from the soul.
Some writers have an innate gift for story and composition, while others of us must struggle to create a solid piece of writing. Either way, the story communicates best when it comes from the heart.

3. Our attitude colors our performance.
One of my granddaughters has an especially dramatic bent. Her mother warned her that even if the performance didn’t go as well as she hoped, she was not allowed to bang her head against the piano, Muppet style.
I chuckled at that, but how often do we belittle ourselves and our writing when we feel we’ve come up short? We need to have an attitude of professionalism and acceptance of failures as well as successes. Call it literary poise.

4. Life must be consistent on and off stage.
One of the performers suffered a memory lapse during her piano piece (she was not the only one, but her reaction was unique). Instead of simply asking for her music book, she ran her hands through her hair, jumped up from the bench, jogged over to pick up her music, jogged back and plunked down on the bench with a huge sigh to try again. The adjudicator suggested that performance did not only include the actual playing time, but the total spotlight time.
As writers who are Christian, we are “on display,” not only when people read our work, but also when we go to the grocery store, or the bank, or a sports event. Consistency and integrity are key.

5. You are you, unique in style and voice.
Several times during the music festival, two children played the same piece, but it didn’t ever sound the same. Each person (or teacher) interpreted the music in a unique manner. Neither was right or wrong, just individual.
Writing is an individualistic vocation if anything is. We interpret our world and report on it or show it through our characters. However we choose to do this, we must be true to ourselves.

Blessings as you keep living and writing consistently.

Janice Dick began writing intentionally in 1989. Her historical trilogy was released in 2002, 2003 and 2004, the first two books winning First Place in the Canadian Christian Writing Awards, and the third being shortlisted for the same. Besides writing historical fiction, she has also crafted devotionals, inspirational pieces and book reviews, and put in many hours of editing, mentoring, and speaking (workshops, presentations, readings). Her first contemporary fiction manuscript awaits either publication or extensive revision, and a new historical fiction series was just released (October 2013).

Janice was born and raised in southern Alberta, Canada into an ethnic Mennonite farm family. She was blessed with a loving and stable childhood, and lots of relatives who told stories of Russia, emigration and early life in Canada. After graduating from high school, Janice attended Bible college in Saskatchewan, where she met her future husband. They moved to a farm in central Saskatchewan after their marriage and raised three children there. They are now grandparents to ten amazing kids.

Drop by Janice's Amazon Author Page:http://www.amazon.com/Janice-L.-Dick/e/B001KIAKLK/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1434573273&sr=8-1

Time Traveling:The Importance of Setting-Part I - Melanie M. Jeschke

Setting encompasses both time and place. Where and when a story is set obviously has a major impact on the shape of the plot and development of the characters. Although conflict and themes are universal, they play out in vastly different ways in different times. For example, in Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary, the contemporary Darcy pursues his love in a manner necessarily unique from Jane Austen’s 19th century Mr. Darcy: cell phones replace letters; fast cars, stately steeds; and passionate kisses, formal bows.

Time periods help tell the tale. Customs, dress, slang, architecture, and even fads create the ambiance surrounding the characters and aid in plot development. I set the first books of my Oxford Chronicles series (Inklings, Intentions, and Expectations) in early 1960’s Oxford, a time when rock groups like Jerry and the Pacemakers and The Beatles are coming to the fore and hints of cultural shifts like civil rights, “free love” and the women’s movement are on the horizon. By opening Inklings on the day of C.S. Lewis’s funeral (November 26, 1963), I could ground my story in a very specific time-frame. In Inklings and Intentions, I also used the actual Oxford University eight week academic calendar for 1964-1965 to plot out what my characters would be doing day by day so that the action flows logically.

I set the sequel Expectations in the following academic year of 1965-1966. Since J.R.R. Tolkien and his wife Edith are actual characters in this book, I was delighted to learn that they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in March of 1966 so that I could include that event in my story. Yvette, a bi-racial character refers to the Civil Rights movement and quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I have dream” speech. Some of the novel takes place in Paris, and because I lived there myself for a semester in 1969, I could search my memory and old journal to accurately describe the city in that era.

Evasions, the prequel of the series, is set during the early days of WWII and the Battle of Britan. As a history buff, historical fiction is my favorite genre. I love experiencing true events through fictional characters. I was able to interview several people who had lived through the events of the war in Britain and read numerous eye-witness accounts, which aided me in giving personal and vivid details to my characters’ experiences. I learned what was happening day by day and could incorporate those historic events of bombings, air-raids, dog-fights, lives lost, and so on into my plot. The fact that most communication between servicemen and their loved ones took place through letters enabled me to employ the “epistolary” technique to reveal the conditions and daily experiences of wartime Britain as my characters exchange letters, using their own unique voices.

Without question the “when” of a story has a tremendous impact on the story itself. In writing and reading historical fiction, we can become literary time travelers.


www.melaniejeschke.com; http://www.facebook.com/pages/Melanie-Jeschke/40516263050
@jeschke_m; http://melaniejeschke.blogspot.com/ https://www.pinterest.com/inklingsauthor/

Melanie Morey Jeschke (pronounced “Jĕsʹ-key”) is the author of The Oxford Chronicles series, including Inklings, Intentions, Expectations, and Evasions, as well as Jillian Dare, the Oxford chapter of Rick Steves’ England guidebook, and numerous travel articles. An honors graduate of the University of Virginia with a MA in English Literature from George Mason University, she is currently an adjunct professor of English and lectures in a variety of educational, professional, and community settings. Melanie Jeschke has studied at Oxford University and has traveled extensively in the UK where she sets her stories. A mother of nine and former home-educator, she resides in Northern Virginia with her family and husband Bill Jeschke, senior pastor of The King’s Chapel in Clifton, VA.

Who is Rozene Gentry Carson? Peggy Blann Phifer

Who is Rozene Gentry Carson?
By Peggy Blann Phifer

When I signed the contract for the first Sweetland Series—Summer in Sweetland—I already had a rough idea for my story. Being newly widowed myself, I intended to write a character, also recently widowed, who feels cast adrift with nothing much to look forward to except merely existing. Pretty much the way I was feeling.

That’s when Rozene was ‘born’ though for the life of me I can’t honestly explain what made me make her a Native American. She just popped into my head. So I used my well-worn Character-Naming Sourcebook (Writer’s Digest) and searched for an appropriate name. Then I started building her background.

Turns out she was an orphan from birth, didn’t know who her parents were, only that she had been raised and cared-for by her grandmother. Out came that Sourcebook and I discovered a great name, Chenoa. Alas, the names Rozene and Chenoa are not listed under any specific Indian Nation or tribe, so I decided to make them Cherokee. Since Sweetland had no specific location, being more like Anytown, USA, I figured I would be okay. That story was All Things Work Together.

After reading Anne Baxter Campbell’s first story—Mended by Mother’s Day—I was going to have Rozene join the Widow’s group at Arlene Smith’s home, hoping she could find some focus in her life beyond the Gentry Family Restaurant.

Then, I read Sue Badeau’s story—Never Too Old—and I fell in love with her Youth Acres Group Home characters, Shira, Melanie, and Veronica…and Misty, with Sue’s gleeful permission, I began weaving these four girls into the story, and I made Misty Keys a Cherokee, which created an exclusive bond between her and Rozene.

When Diane Pitts’ story—The Summer’s Dance—and I met her characters residing at The Brekenridge at Mt. Laurel…and assisted living facility—I had all the characters I needed to determine the path the whole story would take.
The object of Summer in Sweetland was to write our stories with a goal of something special that would happen at the Labor Day Picnic at City Park.

I carried Rozene and the four girls through ‘Tis the Season in Sweetland, (Silver Bells and Candlelight) and Sonrise in Sweetland, (Perfect for the Job),and am continuing each of their stories in my own series, Sweetwater River, along with Mike Carson, pastor at the Assembly of God church in Sweetland, and introducing new characters. The first title in this series is Ripples.

What will come into play in this series, not specifically mentioned in any of the earlier stories, is the fact that Rozene had inherited several-hundred acres on both sides of the Sweetwater River and how this will impact everyone in coming stories. Coming next, Undercurrents.

Social Media Links
FB: www.facebook.com/pegphifer
TWITTER: www.twitter.com/pegphifer @pegphifer
PINTEREST: www.pinterest.com/pegphifer
LINKEDIN: www.linkedin/in/peggyblannphifer

Peggy Blann Phifer retired from an executive assistant position after twenty-one years in the Electrical Wholesale industry. She came to writing later in life when a prayer she wrote appeared in a two-volume Guideposts Book compilation, 'Prayers for Every Need,' in 2000. She self-published her debut novel, 'To See the Sun,' which released in January 2012. Her writing has appeared in three anthologies in 2014 with Helping Hands Press, and a fourth in 2015. Peg is now writing a series of her own with Helping Hands Press titled ‘Sweetwater River.’

Widowed in October 2012, Peg now makes her home in northern Wisconsin in a home she bought together with her daughter and son-in-law. The three of them share the house with one dog, and one grand-dog. She converted a third of the house into a cozy 'apartment' where she spends most of her time writing.


Print Journalism taught me HOW to look for STORIES - Kevin Stabinsky


Although a graduate of Penn State University (2002) with a bachelor of arts in English, emphasis in nonfiction writing, I credit most of my growth as a writer to my nearly 6 years in the Army. During my enlistment, I held the military occupation specialty (MOS) 46Q, print journalist.

While college taught me writing basics, my time as a print journalist taught me something even more valuable: how to look for stories.

While the perception of military life tends to be one of excitement, it isn’t always the case. Even initially exciting events such as a new type of training can get boring when they are integrated into the normal routine. Additionally, because most of a military journalist’s stories appear in military publications (base newspapers, Army produced magazines, etc.), the audience isn’t necessarily interested in reading about training or other things they probably experience firsthand themselves.

Despite all these difficulties, my job was to produce weekly content to tell the Army story. So I was forced to look for new story angles and human interest stories. I had to look deeper than the surface. I was forced to look for small details that are often overlooked and expand upon them, to look for human interest angles that would make others want to read what I wrote.
I credit this attention to detail and deeper digging to the completion of my first novel. I think all of us have stories to tell; however, we may not necessarily have the skills to pick out the ones worth telling, losing them in the sea of everyday life. Army life taught me this skill.

Because my first novel deals with Army life to an extent, I hope I do a good service to “the service” for all it has taught me about being an effective storyteller. Likewise, I hope to continue to use and develop this skill as I continue to grow as a writer.

To follow me on this journey, follow me at:
My Blog: http://kstabinsky.blogspot.com/
Facebook: www.facebook.com/kevin.stabinsky.3
Twitter: https://twitter.com/kevinstabinsky

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Read Chapter 1 of Melanie M. Jeschke's soon to be released novel "Evasions" RIGHT NOW!


July 1967
Carlisle House, Yorkshire
Reverend MacKenzie, I would like to ask you for your daughter Natalie’s hand in marriage.”
Lord Stuart Devereux anxiously watched his prospective father-in-law for his reaction to this proposal. The two men sat in the sumptuous library of Carlisle House, home of Stuart’s sister, Lady Clementine Fitzwilliam. The French doors of the library were flung open to the gentle summer breeze and the distant chuckles of the fountains playing in the gardens beyond the terrace. Stuart had seized this moment of after-dinner privacy—while the rest of the MacKenzie family settled in their guest rooms throughout the manor house—to initiate the request that had been burning in his heart for months.
In celebration of the Reverend Eric MacKenzie’s fiftieth birthday, he and his wife Annie, their seven children, daughter-in-law, and new grandson were taking a holiday trip to Scotland. Stuart’s sister had graciously offered her hospitality to the MacKenzie clan as they made their journey north from Oxford, and Stuart had conceived a plan to propose to Natalie MacKenzie on the spectacular grounds of the Yorkshire estate.
But first he needed her father’s approval.
In the long silence that followed, Eric MacKenzie puffed on his pipe and regarded Stuart thoughtfully but not unkindly. He observed a tall, lanky man in his mid-twenties with green eyes, short brown hair, and a pronounced widow’s peak framing his heart-shaped face. Stuart’s handsome features and charming manners had the unavoidable bearings of the aristocracy as befitted the eldest son of the Earl of Essex. But Eric recalled that his first introduction to the young aristocrat had been to a boorishly behaved rival to his oldest son, David. Although only a few years older than Stuart, David, in his position as an Oxford don, had demonstrated the maturity to overlook the rivalry and act as a mentor, urging Stuart to seek help in overcoming his alcohol abuse. As a result of this intervention, Stuart had found a renewed faith, new friends and family among the MacKenzies, and new love in David’s sister Natalie.
Stuart finally blurted out, “I know I’m not worthy of her—no one could hope to be—but I do love Natalie so very deeply. I am a different man than when you first met me—by the grace of God, that is—and I’ve been sober now for a year and a half. If you consent, I promise I will take excellent care of her. I have a sizable income from my mother’s estate and, of course, when my father passes on I will inherit Clifton Manor and my father’s title. Natalie would become a countess—the Lady Devereux—well, she’d be a viscountess anyway until then, not that titles matter at all to you—”
“Stuart,” Eric interrupted gently, “I’m not unmindful of the great honor you are bestowing on our family by your request.”
“My point wasn’t to make a fuss about the title. I only mention that to assure you that I can provide well for her.”
“I have no doubt of that.”
“Well then, sir, can you see your way to giving us your blessing?” Stuart asked eagerly.
“Have you spoken to Natalie?”
“I haven’t popped the question, if that’s what you mean. I wanted to have your approval first.”
“I appreciate that, Stuart.” Eric smiled. “Most considerate of you, especially in this modern era. But I wondered if you know Natalie’s mind and heart on the matter.”
“We’ve talked about the possibility of marriage in a general way. I believe she loves me, but to be honest, I don’t know whether or not she will agree to marry me…at least not yet.”
“Then why not wait until you are certain?”
“I am certain about this, sir, but I’m afraid she is not. In any case, I wanted to know what you thought about it before I pursued it further.”
“Why now?”
“Well, since Natalie just took her degree from Oxford and is looking for employment, you know she’s contemplating going to London or going back to Paris to work at the British embassy. I’ve been out of Oxford for over a year now and working hard to make Clifton Manor financially solvent. I’ve made great progress by opening it to public tours in the summer months, and I hope to turn a profit this year. In any case, I’ve been pursuing Natalie by this long-distance courtship, and I would much prefer to be married or at least live closer to her. If she follows a job to Paris, it would make the separation even more unbearable for me.”
“I see.” Eric set his pipe in an ashtray. “Have you spoken to your father?”
“No. I thought it appropriate to speak to you first.”
“But do you think he would agree to this? Doesn’t he have plans for you? Surely he could not be pleased that you would choose someone who is neither of your class nor your wealth.”
Stuart sighed. “I saw long ago what my father’s marrying for money did to my mother. I’m independently wealthy now and don’t need to marry for money. He knows that when my mother died, I resolved to marry for love. I don’t believe he would stand in my way.”
“But he could make things difficult for you and Natalie.”
“He could,” Stuart acknowledged, “but I don’t think he would.”
“Let’s just say for the sake of argument that your father decides to disinherit you if you don’t marry someone of his choosing—what then? If it came to that, could you lay down your title out of love for Natalie?”
Stuart regarded Eric steadily. “I could. I believe I could lay down anything for her, even my life. Certainly my old life. I’ve done that already. I hope, by God’s grace, I could even lay down my desire to marry her if that would be best for her and would most please God. But I do desire most earnestly to marry her and have prayed and prayed for God’s will to be done.”
Eric nodded. “I have prayed that too and have asked Him to show you both clearly what His will is. I know you won’t be happy unless you walk in His ways. Nevertheless, although times are changing, I know from sad experience that it can be difficult—for both of you—to marry across class lines.”
Stuart looked at him with puzzlement. “Your own sad experience, sir?”
“Aye. When I was a lad in Scotland, I had the misfortune—or perhaps it would be more apt to say, the bitter joy—of loving a laird’s daughter. That, of course, was before the war and before I met Annie.”
“Would you tell me about it, sir?”
Eric hesitated while he considered this. “I suppose there would be no harm. Perhaps something in my story could be of help to you. But I don’t know. After all these years, it’s still difficult for me to sort through so much sadness.”
“I beg your pardon if I was presumptuous or asked amiss.”
“No, no—” A knock at the door interrupted Eric’s reply.
“Enter,” Stuart called out.
David MacKenzie, Eric’s eldest son and Stuart’s friend and mentor, opened the door. He held a chubby infant with black curls and bright blue eyes, very much like his father’s and grandfather’s. “Excuse me, gentlemen,” David said as he handed the baby to Eric, “but this little lad would like a goodnight kiss from his granddad before going to bed.”
David’s wife, Kate, along with his little sister Hannah, followed closely behind. The men rose in greeting. Six-year-old Hannah skipped up to Stuart and dropped down in a neat curtsey. “Good evening, Lord Devereux.”
“Good evening, my lady,” Stuart bowed slightly, enjoying their oft-played game of chivalrous courtesy. “Hello, Kate,” he said, turning to her and noticing once again how much she resembled Natalie with her petite figure and dark beauty. Since the birth of her son five months earlier, Kate had also acquired a healthy maternal glow which only enhanced her natural loveliness. “Has Clemmie made sure you’re sufficiently settled?” Stuart asked. “Is everything to your satisfaction?”
“Everything is wonderful, thank you, and your sister has been most welcoming.” Kate smiled warmly. She took her baby, Jeffrey, from Eric’s arms, and while he resumed his seat she sat on a nearby sofa. “We feel like quite the privileged guests here,” she said. “This house is amazing! I can’t wait to explore it and the grounds tomorrow.”
Stuart laughed softly. “You always have appreciated the beauty and history of these old houses. Perhaps I should hire you for the summer as a docent at Clifton Manor and let David spend the days reading in our library.”
“Sounds like a good plan to me, old boy,” David said, grinning. “A summer of studying on a country estate near Cambridge has a definite appeal. We just might take you up on it, but first we have to see my dad up to Scotland for his birthday.”
Hannah, Eric’s youngest daughter, stood at his knee for her goodnight kiss. Slipping her arms around her father’s neck, she laid her head on his shoulder. Hannah had grown taller and slimmer since Stuart and Kate had first met her, but her blond ringlets, large blue eyes, and charming manners still exuded an angelic aura. “Goodnight, Daddy,” she whispered, kissing him softly on the cheek.
“Goodnight, my darling,” Eric rejoined. “Butterfly?” he asked, and then he brushed her cheek with his eyelashes.
Hannah giggled. “Nose-à-nose?” She rubbed the tip of his nose with her own.
Eric smiled. “You, my sweet girl, keep me young.” He hugged her tightly. “I love you so much! Now may the Lord bless you and keep you and angels watch over you. See you in the morning!”
“Okeydokey!” Hannah sang happily and proceeded to grace each of them, including Lord Stuart Devereux, with a kiss and hug.
“Ah, here you all are!” said Natalie as she and her mother, Annie, joined the company in the library. “We’ve been looking for Hannah, but I can see she’s being a good girl and giving everyone their goodnight kisses. Don’t forget me, Hannah. Let me have a nose-à-nose.”
Hannah sweetly complied.
“Now off to bed with you,” Natalie said, kissing her little sister again for good measure and then nestling next to Stuart on a divan. She looked up at him and smiled when he placed his hand over hers, squeezing it gently.
“Come on, Hannah,” Annie urged her youngest child. “It’s time for bed, pumpkin. I’ll take you up. This is a big house and we don’t want you getting lost.”
“Okay, Mummy. Goodnight, everyone!”
“Goodnight, Hannah!” the group chorused.
“Since we’re all cozily gathered in here,” Stuart interjected, “I’ll ring for some coffee and biscuits. Mrs. MacKenzie, please join us when you come back down. Reverend MacKenzie, would you be willing to share that story? I’d like to hear it. Unless, of course, you’d rather not. Or we can postpone to another time if your family has heard it before.”
“I always love a good story,” David said as he lowered himself onto the sofa where Kate sat cuddling Jeffrey. “Which story is it?”
“Before you all came in,” Eric explained, “Stuart and I were talking about relationships. I mentioned to him a little about my past before I met your mother, and he was interested in hearing more. I’ve shared bits and pieces with you all but never the whole saga.”
Annie regarded her husband carefully. After their long years of marriage, she could read in his face and words much that was unspoken. “Perhaps this would be a good time to tell the children some of your experiences, honey. If you’d like to, that is. I’ll put the baby down so Kate and David can stay to listen.”
The serious tone of their parents’ exchange did not go unnoticed by the family. They recognized that their father would not merely be recounting a frivolous tale of his youth, but something much more profound. When coffee had been served and Hannah and Baby Jeffrey had been put to bed, the rest of the MacKenzies and Stuart Devereux gathered in the library to hear what Eric had to share.

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