Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Review & Contests House of Dark Shadows: Dreamhouse Kings, Book #1 by Robert Liparulo

It's May 21st, time for the Teen FIRST blog tour!(Join our alliance! Click the button!) Every 21st, we will feature an author and his/her latest Teen fiction book's FIRST chapter!

Robert Liparulo
and his book:

House of Dark Shadows: Dreamhouse Kings, Book #1

Thomas Nelson (May 6, 2008)


Robert Liparulo is an award-winning author of over a thousand published articles and short stories. He is currently a contributing editor for New Man magazine. His work has appeared in Reader's Digest, Travel & Leisure, Modern Bride, Consumers Digest, Chief Executive, and The Arizona Daily Star, among other publications. In addition, he previously worked as a celebrity journalist, interviewing Stephen King, Tom Clancy, Charlton Heston, and others for magazines such as Rocky Road, Preview, and L.A. Weekly. He has sold or optioned three screenplays.

Robert is an avid scuba diver, swimmer, reader, traveler, and a law enforcement and military enthusiast. He lives in Colorado with his wife and four children.

Here are some of his titles:

Comes a Horseman



To purchase House of Dark Shadows you can visit at

I'm just beginning to read this book. I need to put anti-nail biting polish on my fingernails because I'm positive I'll be nervous throughout the entire book. First of all, I can't handle scary stories anymore. So, if this gets scary, I probably won't be able to read all of it. If it's on the line of House by Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti, I KNOW I won't be reading it. If I can't read it, it's a mark of a good scary story! I had to force myself to stop reading last night because it was late. I was already looking around my room and I woke up several times during the night. Yes, because of this book, I'll admit it. Ok, I just finished the book. Yes, finished it! It wasn't at all like House. If I had to make a parallel to any books it'd be The Magic Treehouse on steroids! It wasn't scary like I thought it would be. It was suspenseful and had me gripping the book. Man, this family goes on quite the adventure! It's a quick read because it's hard to put down. It's non stop action. I want to read the next book in the series but since I'll be reviewing it for July, I'm forcing myself to wait! If you have a Tween who likes intense suspense, this would be a great book for them! And BTW, I'm still having trouble sleeping because my imagination gets the best of me! Good work Mr. Liparulo!!
Just to let you know, we have three contests going on now in conjunction with Dreamhouse Kings:The DreamTeam, in which you can win prizes for spreading the word. More info here:
The Dream a Scene Contest. This one's cool: Tell me where the King kids should go in time looking for their mom, and if I select that scenario, I'll write it into a future DHK book, give the winner credit for it and an iPod. More info here:
And the Weekly "Thanks for Reading" Contest. Every Monday, I'll post a trivia question about the stories. Winning entries go into a weekly drawing for gift cards, signed books, and stuff like that. More info here:


“A house of which one knows every room isn't worth living in.”

—Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa


Thirty years ago

The walls of the house absorbed the woman’s screams, until they felt to her as muffled and pointless as yelling underwater. Still, her lungs kept pushing out cries for help. Her attacker carried her over his shoulder. The stench of his sweat filled her nostrils. He paid no heed to her frantic writhing, or the pounding of her fists on his back, or even her fingernails, which dug furrows into his flesh. He simply lumbered, as steadily as a freight train, through the corridors of the big house.

She knew where they were heading, but not where she would end up. In this house, nothing was normal, nothing as it appeared. So while she knew in advance the turns her attacker would take, which hallways and doors he would traverse, their destination was as unknowable as a faraway galaxy. And that meant her taking would be untraceable. She would be unreachable to searchers. To would-be rescuers. To her family— and that realization terrified her more than being grabbed out of her bed. More than the flashes of imagined cruelty she would suffer away from the protection of the people who loved her. More than death.

But then she saw something more terrifying: her children, scrambling to catch up, to help. Their eyes were wide, streaming. They stumbled up the narrow staircase behind her attacker, seeming far below, rising to meet her. The thought of them following her into the chasm of her fate was more than she could stand.

“Go back,” she said, but by this time her throat was raw, her voice weak.

The man reached the landing and turned into another corridor.

Temporarily out of sight, her son yelled, “Mom!” His seven-year-old voice was almost lost in the shrillness of his panic. He appeared on the landing. His socked feet slipped on the hardwood floor and he went down. Behind him, his little sister stopped. She was frightened and confused, too young to do anything more than follow her brother. He clambered up and started to run again.

A hand gripped his shoulder, jarring him back.

The boy’s father had something in his fist: the lamp from his nightstand! He past the boy in the hallway. His bare feet gave him traction.

Thank God, she thought.

He reached her in seconds. With the lamp raised over his head, he grabbed her wrist. He pulled, tried to anchor himself to the floor, to the carpeted runner now covering the wood planks. But the brute under her walked on, tugging him with them. The man yanked on her arm. Pain flared in her shoulder. He might as well have tried pulling her from a car as it sped passed.

She caught a glimpse of the bizarrely shaped light fixtures on the corridor walls—mostly carved faces with glowing eyes. The bulbs flickered in time with her racing heart. She could not remember any of the lights doing that before. It was as though the electrical current running through the wires was responding to a disruption in the way things were supposed to be, a glitch in reality.

“Henry,” she said, pleading, hopeful.

His grip tightened as he stumbled along behind them. He brought the lamp’s heavy base down on her assailant. If the man carrying her flinched, she did not feel it. If he grunted or yelled out, she did not hear it.

What he did was stop. He spun around so quickly, the woman’s husband lost his grip on her. And now facing the other direction, she lost sight of him. Being suddenly denied her husband’s visage felt like getting the wind knocked out of her. She realized he was face to face with the man who’d taken her, and that felt like watching him step off a cliff.

“Nooo!” she screamed, her voice finding some volume. “Henry!”

His hand gripped her ankle, then broke free. The man under her moved in a violent dance, jostling her wildly. He spun again and her head struck the wall.

The lights went out completely . . . . but no, not the lights . . . her consciousness. It came back to her slowly, like the warmth of fire on a blistery day.

She tasted blood. She’d bitten her tongue. She opened her eyes. Henry was crumpled on the floor, receding as she was carried away. The children stood over him, touching him, calling him. Her son’s eyes found hers again. Determination hardened his jaw, pushed away the fear . . . at least a measure of it. He stepped over his father’s legs, coming to her rescue. Henry raised his head, weary, stunned. He reached for the boy, but missed.

Over the huffing breath of the man, the soft patter of her son’s feet reached her ears. How she’d loved that sound, knowing it was bringing him to her. Now she wanted it to carry him away, away from this danger. Her husband called to him in a croaking, strained voice. The boy kept coming.

She spread her arms. Her left hand clutched at open air, but the right one touched a wall. She clawed at it. Her nails snagged the wallpaper. One nail peeled back from her finger and snapped off.

Her assailant turned again, into a room—one of the small antechambers, like a mud room before the real room. He strode straight toward the next threshold.

Her son reached the first door, catching it as it was closing.

“Mom!” Panic etched old-man lines into his young face. His eyes appeared as wide as his mouth. He banged his shoulder on the jamb, trying to hurry in.

“Stay!” she said. She showed him her palms in a “stop” gesture, hoping he would understand, hoping he would obey. She took in his face, as a diver takes in a deep breath before plunging into the depths. He was fully in the antechamber now, reaching for her with both arms, but her captor had already opened the second door and was stepping through. The door was swinging shut behind him.

The light they were stepping into was bright. It swept around her, through the opening, and made pinpoints of the boy’s irises. His blue eyes dazzled. His cheeks glistened with tears. He wore his favorite pajamas—little R2D2s and C3P0s all over them, becoming threadbare and too small for him.

“I—“ she started, meaning to say she loved him, but the brute bounded downward, driving his shoulder into her stomach. Air rushed from her, unformed by vocal chords, tongue, lips. Just air.

“Moooom!” her son screamed. Full of despair. Reaching. Almost to the door.

The door closed, separating her from her family forever.



Saturday, 4:55 P.M.

“Nothing but trees,” the bear said in Xander’s voice. It repeated itself: “Nothing but trees.”

Xander King turned away from the car window and stared into the smiling furry face, with its shiny half-bead eyes and stitched-on nose. He said, “I mean it, Toria. Get that thing out of my face. And turn it off.”

His sister’s hands moved quickly over the teddy bear’s paws, all the while keeping it suspended three inches in front of Xander. The bear said, “I mean it, Toria. Get that—”

At fifteen years old, Xander was too old to be messing around with little-kid toys. He seized the bear, squeezing the paw that silenced it.

“Mom!” Toria yelled. ”Make him give Wuzzy back!” She grabbed for it.

Xander turned away from her, tucking Wuzzy between his body and the car door. Outside his window, nothing but trees—as he had said and Wuzzy had agreed. It reminded him of a movie, as almost everything did. This time, it was The Edge, about a bear intent on eating Anthony Hopkins. An opening shot of the wilderness where it was filmed showed miles and miles of lush forest. Nothing but trees.

A month ago, his dad had announced that he had accepted a position as principal of a school six hundred miles away, and the whole King family had to move from the only home Xander had ever known. It was a place he had never even heard of: Pinedale, almost straight north from their home in Pasadena. Still in California, but barely. Pinedale. The name itself said “hick,” “small,” and “If you don’t die here, you’ll wish you had.” Of course, he had screamed, begged, sulked, and threatened to run away. But in the end here he was, wedged in the back seat with his nine-year-old sister and twelve-year-old brother.

The longer they drove, the thicker the woods grew and the more miserable he became. It was bad enough, leaving his friends, his school—everything!—but to be leaving them for hicksville, in the middle of nowhere, was a stake through his heart.

“Mom!” Toria yelled again, reaching for the bear.

Xander squeezed closer to the door, away from her. He must have put pressure on the bear in the wrong place: It began chanting in Toria’s whiny voice: “Mom! Mom! Mom!”

He frantically squeezed Wuzzy’s paws, but could not make it stop.

“Mom! Mom! Mom!”

The controls in the bear’s arms weren’t working. Frustrated by its continuous one-word poking at his brain—and a little concerned he had broken it and would have to buy her a new one—he looked to his sister for help.

She wasn’t grabbing for it anymore. Just grinning. One of those see-what-happens-when-you-mess-with-me smiles.

“Mom! Mom! Mom!”

Xander was about to show her what happened when you messed with him—the possibilities ranged from a display of his superior vocal volume to ripping Mr. Wuzzy’s arms right off—when the absurdity of it struck him. He cracked up.

“I mean it,” he laughed. “This thing is driving me crazy.” He shook the bear at her. It continued yelling for their mother.

His brother David, who was sitting on the other side of Toria and who had been doing a good job of staying out of the fight, started laughing too. He mimicked the bear, who was mimicking their sister: “Mom! Mom! Mom!”

Mrs. King shifted around in the front passenger seat. She was smiling, but her eyes were curious.

“Xander broke Wuzzy!” Toria whined. “He won’t turn off.” She pulled the bear out of Xander’s hands.

The furry beast stopped talking: “Mo—” Then, blessed silence.

Toria looked from brother to brother and they laugh again.

Xander shrugged. “I guess he just doesn’t like me.”

“He only likes me,” Toria said, hugging it.

“Oh, brother,” David said. He went back to the PSP game that had kept him occupied most of the drive.

Mom raised her eyebrows at Xander and said, “Be nice.”

Xander rolled his eyes. He adjusted his shoulders and wiggled his behind, nudging Toria. “It’s too cramped back here. It may be an SUV, but it isn’t big enough for us anymore.”

“Don’t start that,” his father warned from behind the wheel. He angled the rearview mirror to see his son.

“What?” Xander said, acting innocent.

“I did the same thing with my father,” Dad said. “The car’s too small . . . it uses too much gas . . . it’s too run down . . . ”

Xander smiled. “Well, it is.”

“And if we get a new car, what should we do with this one?”

“Well . . . .” Xander said. “You know. It’d be a safe car for me.” A ten-year-old Toyota 4Runner wasn’t his idea of cool wheels, but it was transportation.

Dad nodded. “Getting you a car is something we can talk about, okay? Let’s see how you do.”

“I have my driver’s permit. You know I’m a good driver.”

“He is,” Toria chimed in.

David added, “And then he can drive us to school.”

“I didn’t mean just the driving,” Dad said. He paused, catching Xander’s eyes in the mirror. “I mean with all of this, the move and everything.”

Xander stared out the window again. He mumbled, “Guess I’ll never get a car, then.”

“Xander?” Dad said. “I didn’t hear that.”


“He said he’ll never get a car,” Toria said.

Silence. David’s thumbs clicked furiously over the PSP buttons. Xander was aware of his mom watching him. If he looked, her eyes would be all sad-like, and she would be frowning in sympathy for him. He thought maybe his dad was looking too, but only for an opportunity to explain himself again. Xander didn’t want to hear it. Nothing his old man said would make this okay, would make ripping him out of his world less awful than it was.

“Dad, is the school’s soccer team good? Did they place?” David asked. Xander knew his brother wasn’t happy about the move either, but jumping right into the sport he was so obsessed about went a long way toward making the change something he could handle. Maybe Xander was like that three years ago, just rolling with the punches. He couldn’t remember. But now he had things in his life David didn’t: friends who truly mattered, ones he thought he’d spend the rest of his life with. Kids didn’t think that way. Friends could come and go and they adjusted. True, Xander had known his current friends for years, but they hadn’t become like blood until the last year or so.

That got him thinking about Danielle. He pulled his mobile phone from his shirt pocket and checked it. No text messages from her. No calls. She hadn’t replied to the last text he’d sent. He keyed in another: “Forget me already? JK.” But he wasn’t Just Kidding. He knew the score: Out of sight, out of mind. She had said all the right things, like We’ll talk on the phone all the time; You come down and see me and I’ll come up to see you, okay? and I’ll wait for you.

Yeah, sure you will, he thought. Even during the past week, he’d sensed a coldness in her, an emotional distancing. When he’d told his best friend, Dean had shrugged. Trying to sound world-wise, he’d said, “Forget her, dude. She’s a hot young babe. She’s gotta move on. You too. Not like you’re married, right?” Dean had never liked Danielle.

Xander tried to convince himself she was just another friend he was forced to leave behind. But there was a different kind of ache in his chest when he thought about her. A heavy weight in his stomach.

Stop it! he told himself. He flipped his phone closed.

On his mental list of the reasons to hate the move to Pinedale, he moved on to the one titled “career.” He had just started making short films with his buddies, and was pretty sure it was something he would eventually do for a living. They weren’t much, just short skits he and his friends acted out. He and Dean wrote the scripts, did the filming, used computer software to edit an hour of video into five-minute films, and laid music over them. They had six already on YouTube—with an average rating of four-and-a-half stars and a boatload of praise. Xander had dreams of getting a short film into the festival circuit, which of course would lead to offers to do music videos and commercials, probably an Oscar and onto feature movies starring Russell Crowe and Jim Carrey. Pasadena was right next to Hollywood, a twenty-minute drive. You couldn’t ask for a better place to live if you were the next Steven Spielberg. What in God’s creation would he find to film in Pinedale? Trees, he thought glumly, watching them fly past his window.

Dad, addressing David’s soccer concern, said, “We’ll talk about it later.”

Mom reached through the seatbacks to shake Xander’s knee. “It’ll work out,” she whispered.

“Wait a minute,” David said, understanding Dad-talk as well as Xander did. “Are you saying they suck—or that they don’t have a soccer team? You told me they did!”

“I said later, Dae.” His nickname came from Toria’s inability as a toddler to say David. She had also called Xander Xan, but it hadn’t stuck.

David slumped down in his seat.

Xander let the full extent of his misery show on his face for his mother.

She gave his knee a shake, sharing his misery. She was good that way. “Give it some time,” she whispered. “You’ll make new friends and find new things to do. Wait and see.”

Monday, May 19, 2008

Where Would Cows Hide by D.C. Stewart Giveaway

**How did you come up with your characters, Charlie and Brad?
A combination of what my brother and I were like as kids, the stories I heard about my husband and his twin when they were kids, and how I imagined my own twin sons acting when they reached eleven years old.

**Do you have experience living or working on a farm? Any funny stories related to that?
Everyone on both sides of my family are farmers, doing a combination of growing wheat and raising cattle. Our house was in town, but we spent most of our time, especially in the summer, on tractors, combines, wheat trucks, in pick-ups, and working cattle. The only funny story I can think of about me is helping my dad, mom, and brother one morning feeding and counting the cows. The cattle all came into the lots except one, and my dad told me to hurry and open the gate to let her in before the other cows could get out. As I pulled the gate open and trotted backward, I tripped over a concrete block used to hold the gate in place, and got hung up in the chain. I was stuck at such a weird angle I couldn't get myself loose and all the cattle were rushing at me to get out. I was kicking and waving all over the place trying to keep them back, but my family thought I was panicking because I was stuck. They still give me grief over that one.

**Brad and Charlie have a quirky younger sister who sometimes drives them crazy. Do you relate?
I have a younger brother who used to drive me nuts all the time, but we were also the best playmates because we are so close in age. I have friends who were the "younger sister" and I remember them getting yelled at by their older siblings all the time.

**Brad and Charlie stay at their grandparents for an annual summer vacation. What's your favorite place to vacation and why?
Honestly, I don't really have a "favorite" place to vacation. We didn't have the opportunity to travel much when I was a kid, so ANY vacation is awesome to me. I love to travel, eat different foods, take in the scenery, watch the people. It's all new and exciting to me.

**As a writing mom, how do you juggle the demands of your kids and your career?
With great difficulty. I have a wonderful and supportive husband who gives me time in the evenings and on weekends to write. Usually if anything suffers between my writing and taking care of the kids, it's our house. I'm more of a relaxed housekeeper (fancy title for slob), and I only move on the housework if there are no clean clothes, we have to order out because there is no room to cook in the kitchen, and if I walk across the floors and they crunch.

Jacob and I really like this book. Yes, as a parent I enjoyed it, too! We read it for his reading minutes. D.C. understands how siblings relate to each other, as well as family dynamics. The twins, Brad and Charlie, along with their sister Zoey have quite the adventure visiting with their grandma and grandpa while their parents are on vacation. There's great suspense, and as a parent I cringe when I see the kids, especially the boys, doing the things we don't always get to see as parents. A couple of times I thought, "If my boys did that..." because it's so realistic! My boys will be visiting with grandma and grandpa this summer for a couple weeks and there is certainly a lot of mischief they could get into just like Brad and Charlie. At least they won't have to help wrangle up cow thieves! I also loved Zoey's storyline. As Jesus said, "Let the children come to me." This is a great Tweener book!

D.C. Stewart grew up in a small town in Oklahoma, and spent most of her childhood getting into trouble with her younger brother on their ranch. She began writing short stories in high school, and won a writing competition at a nearby college at age 17. After graduating, she attended Northwestern Oklahoma State University and earned a degree in History, and also met her husband, Scott. She worked for a church in Maumelle, Arkansas as the Communications Coordinator for five years. After moving back to Oklahoma, she chose to stay home with their four year old twin boys, and six month old baby girl, and to pursue her dream of being a full-time writer. The Stewart’s live in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Where Would Cows Hide? is her first novel.

WAYS TO WIN Author D.C. Stewart is giving you a chance to win a copy of WHERE WOULD COWS HIDE?, and more! Here’s how to enter for a copy of WWCH and to enter the grand prize drawing:

1) leave a comment on this blog post (or on any of the blogs participating in the blog tour);

2) email the contest coordinator at with subject line “WWCH ENTRY”;

3) join D.C. Stewart’s ezine list by either sending a blank email to: or visiting and subscribing through the yahoogroups page.

Book winners and the GRAND PRIZE WINNER will be drawn on or before May 31st, 2008 and will be notified by email. Please make sure you leave a valid email address on applicable blog posts.

Here's a list of the rest of the blog tour for WWCH:

May 20, 2008 : Kathie Nolasco at
May 21, 2008 :
May 22, 2008 : Ashley Rutherford at

To read the first chapter of WWCH you can visit

Thank you so much for the opportunity to share your book D. C.! Blessings on your continuing tour! ~Mimi

Monday, May 12, 2008

Hope for the Journey through Cancer by Yvonne Ortega & Giveaway

I recently met Yvonne through a Yahoo group. Since so many people have been diagnosed with cancer, that I know in my life, in different ways, I believe God brought her to my attention for a reason! I'm hoping her book will reach people where they most need it when they are going through this journey. Yvonne has been there, she knows what people with cancer are feeling and thinking. Who else better to share God's love during this time? My prayer is that she will be an inspiration and be used by the Lord to touch those who find themselves in the same circumstance. If you know someone who is diagnosed with this disease, please consider sharing this book with them. It may bring the lift and love they need. Here is Yvonne's interview:

1.What would you like for our readers to know about you personally?

I’m an extrovert and love to laugh. Since I’m a “winter,” I prefer the deep vibrant colors for my wardrobe. I’m 5’ tall, but remember that diamonds and dynamite come in small packages.

2.Tell us about your family.

I am divorced. I have one son who is grown up and lives on his own. He insists I drink a lot of water daily and abstain from red meat. I do both. My parents inspire me to exercise every day and stay fit. If they can at their age, so can I. My younger brother and I both share a love for music.

3.Have you written other nonfiction books?

I am a contributing author to the book The Embrace of a Father, Bethany House 2006. The title of the chapter I wrote is It’s Part of Life, which tells about how my father’s care of my mother who has Alzheimer’s reminds me of my heavenly Father’s care for us. The more I need God, the more closely He hovers.

4.With all the books on cancer survivors already out there, why did you chose to write this book on cancer?

Cancer shattered my world. I wanted a book full of Scripture, prayer, and hope that would assure patients and their families that God would never leave them or forsake them. I also wanted a book that, with honesty and boldness, would address the emotional roller coaster ride that cancer patients, even Christian ones, endure.

5.Was there anything good that came about through your illness?

Oh, yes. I am a stronger Christian today. I know God loves me and that he is faithful. I no longer doubt his call on my life as a counselor as well as an author and speaker. After going through the trauma of cancer, I counsel with more effectiveness. When clients tell me they are scared, depressed, or angry, I understand because I’ve experienced those same emotions.

6.During your illness and now in recovery, have you ever asked God, “Why” or “Why me?”

I didn’t ask, but I lashed out in anger at God. I knew he called me to be a counselor. So I spent hundreds of hours studying, writing papers, and completing projects and paid thousands of dollars for my master’s degree in counseling. Half-way through my residency, I received my diagnosis of cancer. I thought the timing was outrageous and let God know it.

7.Is there ever a time when you can laugh about cancer?

I asked God to help me keep my sense of humor. The day my hair started to fall out, I went to work with wet hair. My colleagues thought I had a power outage. I told them I was afraid to blow dry my hair because I might blow it all off and arrive looking like a Buddhist monk. I laugh now about how angry I was with God. I thought he had made a mistake. Now I understand he used the cancer for good in my life and the lives of others. I laugh every time I reminisce about George, my radiation therapist. He entertained me with stories about his childhood adventures.

8.What is the most important lesson you learned from your experience in having cancer?

In God’s economy, nothing is wasted, not even cancer. Romans 8:28 (NIV) says: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” I prayed that God would use cancer for good in my life and the lives of others, that it would be to his honor and glory, and for furthering his kingdom here on earth. I never dreamed he would do that through the publication of my book, much less through TV and radio interviews and speaking engagements.

9.Was the Bible real to you during treatment?

The Bible filled me with hope and peace. I clung to God’s precious promises during treatment and wrote verses with special meaning in my 3x5 notebook. Within days, I memorized those passages and repeated them daily. Terrified after my diagnosis, I slept with the Bible literally over my heart. I took my 3x5 notebook with me daily to radiation and reviewed my Bible memory verses on the way to treatment.

10.Why do some cancer survivors say cancer is the best thing that ever happened to them?

We say this because God has used cancer as a refining fire for us. He has used it to make us better people, stronger Christians, and more powerful in our careers and outreach.

11.How do you live differently today as a result of having had cancer?

I’ve learned to listen to my body. When I get tired, I take a nap. When I’m thirsty, I stop and drink water. Short breaks from my work help me relax. A weekend at the beach revives me. I don’t put off my plans and dreams because “next year” may never come. I signed up for a phone package with unlimited long-distance calls. Now I can call my family and friends any time. I appreciate the little things in life—thirty-minute walks to enjoy God’s beautiful world, a ride in my friend’s convertible, and sunrise and sunset at the beach. I also left teaching to become a full-time counselor because I felt God leading me to do so. I’ve never looked back.

12.How did you keep your spirits up while going through the cancer treatments?

I played praise and worship music every day and watched videos and DVDs by Christian comedians. During treatment, I planned the party I would have after completing my residency and obtaining my state license. I selected the music for the dance my friend would choreograph for us to perform. I dreamed about the sheet cake with white icing and hot pink roses with “Yvonne Ortega, LPC” and “To God be the glory” on the cake. I chose the Bible verses for my party invitations. After my diagnosis, I accepted an invitation to present a workshop on writing devotionals at the Maine Christian Writers Fellowship state conference the following August. I listened to tapes and researched the topic to prepare for my workshop and looked forward to the reunion with fellow writers in Maine and snacks of delicious Maine blueberries.

13.Did you ever think about giving up—that the treatments were too hard?

After my second treatment, my blood counts dropped to 500. Normal is between 4,000 and 11,000. My doctor hospitalized me. She said she would release me when my counts rose to 1,000. My counts dropped two days in a row. I called my parents to come see me, but Dad’s heart condition prevented them from doing so. I feared I would die alone in a military hospital more than an hour from my home.

After my final chemotherapy treatment, I thought I would never stop vomiting. I experienced a weariness that made my bones ache. I had to keep reminding myself that it would soon pass and in a few months I would travel to Maine for the writers’ conference.

14.What kinds of emotions did you experience during this time?

I experienced denial. If I didn’t talk about the cancer, maybe it would go away.

I experienced anger at God, the government, the Food & Drug Administration, televangelists who preached health and wealth, and anyone who told me Christians couldn’t be angry with God.

Fear overwhelmed me after my diagnosis and at times during treatment.

Depression forced me to my knees in prayer. When I found out the cancer had traveled to one lymph node and adjacent to another, I became depressed.

15.Are these emotions typical for every cancer patient?

Not every cancer patient will experience all of them. However, these emotions are typical. Also cancer patients don’t experience one feeling, get over it, and then go on to another one. They can go back and forth.

16. What can people do to help friends who are going through cancer treatments?

Listen without judging them. Expect cancer patients to ride an emotional roller coaster. Send cards, post cards, or e-mail greeting cards, especially humorous ones. Phone and visit them. Prepare a meal for them and take it in a disposable container or help with yard work and house work. Buy groceries and run errands for them. Take cancer patients to their chemotherapy and radiation treatments and pray with them and for them.

17.What is the most important thing you think women can do to start improving their heart health today?

I’m not a doctor or a nurse, but I can share with your readers what I do. On a physical level, I walk outside almost daily. As I walk, I review my Bible memory verses. I call the walk my double blessing exercise. I abstain from fried foods, pork, red meat, shell fish, soft drinks, and more often than not from sugar. I don’t drink or smoke. Fresh fruits and vegetables are a part of my meals. I eat whole grain cereals, mostly oat and buy Ezekiel bread from Trader Joe’s or Kroger’s. I have a juicer and make fresh carrot juice with Granny Smith apples. I see a doctor of naturopathy monthly who is also a nutritionist and an herbalist. Vitamins, minerals, and digestive enzymes compliment my meals. I get eight hours of sleep most nights. I watch comedies, read joke books and cartoons, and make sure laughter fills a part of each day. Interestingly enough, these same things help us women in the fight against cancer.

I enjoy the beach. I feel restored after walking at least two or three miles on the beach early in the morning and again late in the afternoon. The sound of the waves refreshes me and stirs up my creativity. I have lots of beach toys and make sand castles and collect shells.

The few times it snows in Virginia, I throw snowballs at the neighbors and make snowmen and angels in the snow. When it rains, I like to put on my knee high boots and splash in the puddles.

We women need to slow down and have fun. We get overwhelmed with household chores, outside jobs, church, and community responsibilities. Our hearts scream for a break.

On a spiritual level for heart health, when I first wake up, I kneel at the side of the bed and thank God for the gift of life and another opportunity to serve Him. Then I have a quiet time as I sip on hot herbal tea. I’ve already mentioned my daily Bible memory verse walk. Praise and worship music plays in my car, soothes my soul, and draws me closer to the Lord. Throughout the day, I pray for my clients and every need that arises in my life and that of family and friends. Before I go to bed, I kneel again at the side of the bed to thank Him for the day’s blessings and to seek His forgiveness for anything I’ve said or done wrong. On the weekends, I play praise and worship music throughout the day as I do household chores. If I’m working on a writing or speaking project, I set a timer on the hour to remind me to take a break to pray and review Bible memory verses. I need to focus on the source of my strength and wisdom to keep a healthy spiritual heart. These spiritual heart health tips serve the cancer patient as well as the heart patient.

I pray that some of these heart health tips will work for your readers.

18.What do you want the reader to take away from the book?

I want the reader to be honest with God. He knows what we’re thinking any way and longs to help us. He won’t be disappointed or fall off His throne if we experience fear, depression, or anger. These are normal emotions, and God won’t love us any less for being human. He made us with tear ducts, and it’s OK to cry.

God has promised never to leave us or forsake us. We can put Him to the test, and He will pass it.

19.Where on the Internet can the readers find you?

My website is at .
If you would like an opportunity to win this book, leave a comment about someone you know (including yourself) who is taking this journey. If you comment on this book for someone else, let us know why you'd like to win it for them. I will choose the winner on May 19th so enter before 8pm Central Time. This is only available for shipping in the US since it's being sent by Yvonne herself!
Blessings, Mimi

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Invisible Moms

Invisible Moms

My kids: Brie, Ryan, Jake and Amber

It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I'm on the phone and ask to be taken to the store. Inside I'm thinking, "Can't you see I'm on the phone?" Obviously not; no one can see if I'm on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all. I'm invisible. The Invisible Mom.

Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more: Can you fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this? Some days I'm not a pair of hands; I'm not even a human being. I'm a clock to ask, "What time is it?" I'm a satellite guide to answer,"What number is the Disney Channel?" I'm a car to order, "Right around 5:30, please." I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes that studied history and the mind that graduated summa cum laude - but now they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again. She's going, she's going, she's gone!

One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England. Janice had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well. It was hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself as I looked down at my out-of-style dress; it was the only thing I could find that was clean. My unwashed hair was pulled up in a hair clip and I was afraid I could actually smell peanut butter in it. I was feeling pretty pathetic, when Janice turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, "I brought you this." It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe. I wasn't exactly sure why she'd given it to me until I read her inscription: "To Carol, with admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees."

In the days ahead I would read - no, devour - the book. And I would discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after which I could pattern my work:

1.) No one can say who built the great cathedrals - we have no record of their names.

2.) These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see finished.

3.) They made great sacrifices and expected no credit.

4.) The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything.

A legendary story in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, "Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof? No one will ever see it." And the workman replied, "Because God sees."

I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place. It was almost as if I heard God whispering to me, "I see you, Carol. I see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does. No act of kindness you've done, no sequin you've sewn on, no cupcake you've baked, is too small for me to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but you can't see right now what it will become."

At times, my invisibility feels like an affliction. But it is not a disease that is erasing my life. It is the cure for the disease of my own self-centeredness. It is the antidote to my strong, stubborn pride. I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder. As one of the people who show up at a job that they will never see finished, to work on something that their name will never be on. The writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime becausethere are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree. When I really think about it, I don't want my daughter to tell the friend she's bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, "My mom gets up at 4 in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand bastes a turkey for three hours and presses all the linens for the table." That would mean I'd built a shrine or a monument to myself. I just want her to want to come home. And then, if there is anything more to say to her friend, "You're gonna love it there."

As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we're doing it right. And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible women.

I'm not sure who wrote this as my friend, and fellow mom sent it to me in an email. There may be typos as well, and I tried going back to fix what I could quickly find since I'm in the middle of who knows how many things. Anyhow, I would give credit where credit were do if I knew who it was. This is for all the Mom's out there who are Invisible. Have a blessed Mother's Day. I love you mom!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Christian Author Shirley Kiger Connolly - Romance Novelist


Flame From Within:

The journey of healing begins early for young Amethyst Rose (Aimee’s) soul. Her discovery of love and faith she thought she'd never find happens when a Yankee-induced fire destroys her family and her home. Because of her loss, ten and eight year old plantation-bred Aimee Lebrun, Vicksburg darling finds herself on the run and with a desire to perhaps, give up her life. Angry towards a God she’s never known and the men in blue, she finds her only choice left is to move in with her elder, controlling sister, who runs a bordello in The French Quarter of New Orleans-a decision guaranteed to destroy her personal respect and tarnish her family name. With her bitter hatred towards all Yankees plunged into high gear, nothing seems to matter anymore. Nothing, that is, until on a riverboat en route to New Orleans, Aimee finds herself intrigued by the presence of not one, but two Union officers and a Frenchman. Each find a way to tug at the heart and perhaps soul of this woman lost. Will she respond to one of them?

Q. Tell us a little about yourself first, Shirley.

A. I was born and raised in Portland, Oregon out by a creek, so I grew up a country girl from the start. I also knew from the beginning, or almost from the beginning that I would want to be a writer someday. My dad was a mystery writer back in 40s and I guess I picked it up from him. That is why for my pen name I kept his name (Kiger) in my writing name as a memorial to him. (He passed away in the 80s.) For hobbies, I love to watch old classical movies, read literature, poetry and historical romance novels. I also enjoy teaching Bible Studies to women and speaking at and going to retreats or preparing them. Something else that inspires me is moving my furniture around… if I am not outside talking to my chickens. My husband and I enjoy traveling also (quite a plethora of things, I know). I’m kind of a lady of many interests.

Q. Does where you come from or where you live now work into any of your writings?

A. It did in my first book, Mimi, which is out of print now. And of course in all my devotionals…very much so! I should say it does in my historicals as well, because if I had not traveled to the east coast and learned so much about West Point (The United States Military Academy) where I used to work and the south where I learned about the Civil War era, I might not have finished the novel I just did! So much history back there… I loved living back there!

Q. Who is your favorite character in the book that is out now and why? Can you tell us?

A. That is so difficult to answer! I got into so many of my characters! I really did! When I worked into their situations I tried to go deep and made charts on them, their pasts, their presents, and their futures, as if they were quite real My favorite Sometimes it was Aimee and sometimes I got terribly upset with her stubbornness. There were times when I really liked her best friend and I wondered if I was giving her too much space. Sometimes it was the captain. Yet then when he got indifferent I got upset with him too and wanted her to be in love with the lieutenant. There were times when I wished…

Well, Mimi, if you haven’t yet read the book, you are just going to have to. I just don’t know who in the end was my absolute favorite!

Q. Do you write in more than one genre? If so what? And how do you make it work for you?

A. Yes, besides historical romance, straight historical fiction. And then I mentioned above I write nonfiction devotionals. I am also going to attempt Regency. I think I would like to push toward Western but that is in the future.

Q. You write for the ABA market, I see, which is a smaller and newer press. Is it harder to reach the Christian audience out there or just as easy, and is there a reason you chose that market?

A. I do. Yes, it is more difficult. Because it is new, it isn’t involved in places like Crossings or Christian Book Distributors which makes my book at the mercy of places like Amazon and Barnes and Noble and Book Stores that are willing to place me on their shelves. That makes it tougher. I don’t get into clubs like CBA books, so I don’t get the promotional opps others do The reason I chose it? Being a newer author, I just reached out, and it happened to be the publisher, who liked my work first.

Q. What irks you the most about your writing experience?

A. That’s easy! Real easy! And I’ve shared it before. It happened to me at the first publisher and now it has happened again. It is when I see my book released and I find mistakes in my book and it is too late to do anything about it. It is humbling and I realize I still have a long way to go!

Q. And finally, what will you do next, Shirley, or do you already have something in the works

A. I am working very hard at cleaning up a project I have right now before sending it out next!
THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR HAVING ME, Mimi. THIS WAS INDEED AN HONOR and a blessing! People can come visit me at my website anytime at or see a recent review of my book at . The readers can also leave a comment there if they would like!

My book will be officially released on the 30th but it is now UP and available at Amazon so people can purchase it.

Here is the link.

Shirley, thank you for allowing me the opportunity to get your name out there and hopefully on many a nightstand! Blessings on your author journey.

Creative Commons License
Woven by Words by Mimi B is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.