Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Be Utterly Amazed

My calendar's picture for August is a close-up of a blue dragonfly - a gorgeous shot of the colors of nature and the intricacies and details of God's creation. The picture includes a verse that reads:

"Look... and be utterly amazed." (Habakkuk 1:5)

What God does is amazing. His peace, His provision, His power - I am indeed utterly amazed.

Today I start classes as a senior in college. Just yesterday morning I was scared and nervous (and I'm not even a freshman!) of all that I had to get done and sad for the wonderful summer I was leaving behind. But as I write this, I feel so much better. Seeing some of my caring teachers again; realizing that I had plenty of time to buy textbooks, check-in and what-not; meeting up with old friends and meeting new ones - what was I worried about?

I know the days ahead won't always be easy. But I am so blessed, most of all in the knowing that God never leaves me and watches over my "going out" and my "coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore" (Psalm 121:8).

When my mom was here in Oregon with me for a couple of days before saying "good-bye," we went to Silver Falls State Park. If this place sounds familiar to you, it might be because I posted about it for a "Sunday by the Sea" post last year! In that post I talked about perspectives.

Perspective is so important, and something I still have so much to learn about. But looking back on some of the pictures I took of the falls this time, I am reminded again of how beautiful perspective can be:

To look ahead to the hope we have...

To look into the blessings we have been given...

To look above to the sovereignty of God...

To look back on the grace and love shown to us.

We are so blessed, are we not? So feel free to "look... and be utterly amazed."

(Want some help looking ahead to the hope we have? MaryLu Tyndall posted about hope this past Monday HERE!)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Monday for the Military: Springtime of the Spirit

Here's a description of the book from the author's website:

"By the fall of 1918, the Great War has ended and the world is at peace, but there is little to celebrate in Germany. After four years of fighting for his homeland, Christophe Brecht returns to find there is little left of what he once called home. So when family friends ask him to travel to Munich to bring back their runaway daughter, Christophe agrees. When he finally locates Annaliese Duray, he discovers she is far different from the girl he once knew. Headstrong, idealistic, and beautiful, she is on the front lines of the city’s political scene, fighting to give women and working-class citizens a voice in Germany’s new government. As the political upheaval ignites in Munich, so does the attraction between Annaliese and Christophe. With an army from Berlin threatening to squash everything Annaliese has worked for, both she and Christophe are forced to choose between love and loyalty."

My Rating: Spring

My Review:

Thought-provoking and intriguing, Springtime of the Spirit is a book about political unrest, a country torn apart by war, and two people trying to find their place amid all the uncertainty. Christophe and Annaliese's story is told in an almost straight-forward manner, and yet it remains engaging and interesting - simple to understand, and yet complex to ponder.

Christophe has seen harsh realities during WWI, and he has learned what he truly values and what he should cling to. Annaliese has seen harsh realities on the home-front, but misunderstandings lead her to search for ideals and a relationship that might be unattainable. Their journey is one of danger and gentle romance - a sure-fire recipe for a good book!

I really enjoyed this installment of "The Great War" series, and Lang has demonstrated a skill for research and writing that should please readers looking for a satisfying historical romance story.

Note: Maureen Lang is going to be our "Monday for the Military" guest in a couple of weeks, so be sure to come and visit with her! If you're a U.S. resident, you'll have a chance to win a copy of any one of the three books in "The Great War" series, including this book!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

New Season = New Design and New Schedule!

Today I'm heading back to school for the fall semester of my senior year at college. (Classes start on Wednesday!) In the meantime, there's lots of "new" going on around here!

New Design

As many of you have already noticed, I've changed the blog design to fit the upcoming season. I was browsing the Scrappin' Blogs website, and I came across this template in their Autumn/Fall Layouts. It's called "Festival of Fall Template 1." I fell in love after I tried it out, so I didn't have to browse long! And how fitting to celebrate a new seasons with a "Festival of Fall!"

Some of you may recognize the main picture from our hiking trip during Camp Humility 2011. This was a picture my mom took at Prairie Creek State Park in California. I believe it was either part of or near to the short Revelation Trail.

What I love about the template combined with the picture is the contrast. In the Seasons of Humility (click HERE to read the poem that inspired my blog title), fall is a time of letting go. It's the beginning of a new cycle of humility, as it's a time when we realize that we have to humbly let go of having to have our own way and timing, and trust that God's plans are best and right. The template shows the autumn leaves, beautiful and yet still sad in their dying state. But the main picture shows the redwoods - constant, firm, and lasting - just like God's love and Presence.

New Schedule

Along with the new blog design, I have a new schedule for the fall, one that will hopefully keep me posting regularly, but also not too stressful to maintain (since I'll be back at college). Here's the plan:
  • Mondays for the Military - I'd like to keep this feature going for now. My hope is that it encourages those who are in the military or are part of a military family, and that it inspires all of us to live a sacrificial and loving life. I have some book reviews, author interviews, and giveaways scheduled for the rest of September. Hopefully there will be more to come!
  • Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and/or Thursdays - These days will mostly include book reviews and college news, but be prepared for anything in-between, as well!
  • Moved by a Movie (Fridays) - I love contemplating movies and finding something meaningful and inspiring to take away from my time watching them. Sometimes these posts will be like a movie review (discussing the whole movie) and sometimes I'll just take one aspect of the movie and expound on that. Mostly, though, these posts will be more devotional than review. I hope these posts will encourage you and help you to critically think about the movies you love and what they have to share. (My semi-recent posts, It Will Be All Right (Emma) and The Polar Express: A Journey of Faith are a couple of examples of what this feature will be like to some degree.)
Don't worry! I also have a couple of events up my sleeve...
  • October: "Heartsong Presents" Tribute - A week of reviews, interviews, discussions, and giveaways pertaining to the "Heartsong Presents" books. This line will be discontinued soon, so this is our chance to celebrate the great books in this series and thank the authors!
  • December: "Love Finds You" Blog Party - This is another celebration of a special line of books from Summerside Press. More themed author interviews, giveaways, and fun awaits - just in time for Christmas merriment!
Final Thoughts

Of course, these plans are subject to change off and on, but I hope you like the overall schedule! I like to think of the weekly schedule as the season of M&Ms - "Mondays for the Military" and "Moved by a Movie" posts, that is! ;) I think I'm going to include my "Moved by a Movie" posts on my Movie Reviews page, but I'll denote them by adding an "MM" after the link.

Please feel free to share your thoughts and suggestions!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Winners and My Review of Blue Skies Tomorrow

First of all, let me say a huge "thank you" to the wonderful authors who let me host them here for the "End of Summer Bash"!! And thank you to all of my readers (and new friends) who stopped by to chat with the authors and enter the drawings!!

Without further ado, here are the winners:
  • Melissa won her choice of one of Julie Lessman's books!
  • Michelle Chapman won a copy of Blue Skies Tomorrow!
  • Wendy won a copy of The Colonel's Lady!
  • Renee Ann won a copy of Out of Control!
  • Renee C. won a copy of Plain Fear: Forsaken!
  • Anonymous (chellb) won a copy of Surrender the Dawn!
Congratulations to all of the winners! Be looking for my e-mail, and please respond by Wednesday (August 31st) or another winner will be announced. And thank you again to all the authors for these great giveaways!

And now I have the pleasure of sharing my thoughts on Blue Skies Tomorrow by Sarah Sundin (our guest this past Monday) as part of the Revell Blog Tour!

Here's a description of the book from Revell:

"In a time of peril, can they find the courage to confront their fears and embrace a love that lasts?

When her husband becomes a casualty of the war in the Pacific, Helen Carlisle throws herself into volunteering for the war effort to conceal her feelings. But keeping up appearances as the grieving widow of a hometown hero is taking its toll. Soon something is going to give.

Lt. Raymond Novak prefers the pulpit to the cockpit. His stateside job training B-17 pilots allows him the luxury of a personal life--and a convenient excuse to ignore his deepest fear. When the beautiful Helen catches his eye and captures his heart, he is determined to win her hand.

But when Ray and Helen are called upon to step out in faith and put their reputations and their lives on the line, can they meet the challenges that face them? And can their young love survive until blue skies return?

Filled with drama, daring, and all the romance of the WWII era, Blue Skies Tomorrow is the captivating final book in the popular Wings of Glory series."

My Rating: Summer

My Review:

With A Memory Between Us (the second book in the "Wings of Glory" series) Sarah Sundin caught my attention as a talented author who can take broken characters and compose a beautiful, heart-breaking, fascinating story. Blue Skies Tomorrow continues this legacy with great writing, great characters, and great research.

With danger at every turn - either to someone's heart or life - this book captured my interest and kept it happily ensnared until the very end. Helen and Ray grow so much throughout the novel, and it's both difficult and wonderful to join them in their journey. There is a lot of suffering, but because of that suffering there is a call to be courageous and claim life.

I love Sundin's imagery throughout this story, including her theme of dragon-slaying. This is such a well-written book with a sweet romance and a strong message of hope and bravery in all hardships through the Lord. For engaging WWII fiction, look no farther than Blue Skies Tomorrow!

*With thanks to Revell Publishing for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*

“Available August 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.”

Friday, August 26, 2011

End of Summer Bash: Welcome MaryLu Tyndall!

MaryLu Tyndall is such a kind person who writes enthralling and romantic historical fiction! I'm blessed to be a part of her "Motley Crew" - a group that helps spread the word about her great books!

Her latest series, "Surrender to Destiny," is a winner, and you can read my reviews of each of these three books by clicking the following links:

Surrender the Heart, Surrender the Night, and Surrender the Dawn

Amber: Thank you so much for joining us today! Could you share with us one of your favorite memories from this past summer?

MaryLu: Whale watching off the California coast!!! It was my hubby’s anniversary gift to me. We spent two nights in a cute hotel by the beach, ate lots of good food, walked along the shore, and went out on a 4 hour whale watching cruise! We were so far from the coast, you couldn’t see a speck of land. We spotted two different types of whales, but my favorite part was the dolphins! A large group of them bow-rode our ship. They circled our bow and kept speed with us, leaping in the air. It was quite a thing to see!

Amber: That sounds like a memorable experience!

If you could choose one of the characters from your latest novel to join you for an “end-of-summer” party, who would you want to celebrate with in person and where would you go?

MaryLu: Good question. =) If I wasn’t married, I’d choose my hero, Luke Heaton, a ruggedly handsome reformed rogue. And I’d take him to a deserted island in the Caribbean where we could frolic in the waves and eat coconuts and cook fish over a fire. Um-hum, but, since I am happily married, I’d choose my heroine, Cassandra. She’s a spunky, independent red head who always speaks her mind. She would be the kind of friend who’s a lot of fun to be around and someone you could trust with your deepest secrets. We would go to an island spa for facials and mud baths and massages and lots of nighttime entertainment! Do you sense I love tropical islands?

Amber: Love your ideas! ;)

Please tell us more about your latest release. If you could share a scene from the book to whet our appetites, that would be fabulous!

MaryLu: Surrender the Dawn is a story of failure and fear, family and hope, love, faith, adventure, and patriotism. Set during the War of 1812, it takes place in Baltimore, a city Britain was intent on capturing. The heroine, Cassandra, desperate to find a way to support her family is forced to hire the town rogue as a privateer. Luke Heaton longs to rid himself of his past and prove to Cassandra and the entire town that he is not a failure, but he ends up being blackmailed by the British into selling supplies to them. Cassandra and Luke fall in love, yet Cassandra grows suspicious of Luke’s activities. When the entire British fleet heads toward Baltimore and begins to bombard Fort McHenry, Cassandra and Luke get caught up in the fighting as lives, liberty, and the future of a nation are at stake.

This scene takes place at the beginning of the book. Cassandra has just been to a town meeting where she was denied investing in a privateer simply because of her gender. On the way home, she is assaulted by three ruffians intending to rob her. Luke comes to the rescue and saves her. Afterward he walks her home:

~ Excerpt from Surrender the Dawn ~

“Allow me to escort you home.” Closing the distance between them once again, he proffered his elbow. His massive chest spanned her vision even as his body heat cloaked her in warmth. Her breath quickened.

“There is no need.” Turning, she waved him off. “I’m sure there are no more ruffians afoot.” Except you, perhaps.

Mr. Heaton fell in step beside her. “Nevertheless, I would never forgive myself should any harm come to you, especially carrying such a fortune.”

Shock halted her. “What did you say?”

One dark brow rose. “They wouldn’t accept your money, would they?”
Cassandra flattened her lips.

Mr. Heaton scratched the stubble on his chin. “I was aware of the proceedings at the coffee shop tonight, miss. I would have been there myself looking for investors if I’d thought anyone in town would take a chance on me as captain.” Sorrow weighed his voice.

Cassandra took in this news and allowed it to stir excitement within her. If only for a moment. But no. Even if he would take her money, Mr. Heaton was not a man to be trusted. She clutched her reticule closer and started on her way.

Clearing his throat, he walked beside her. “You have nothing to fear from me, Miss Channing. I am no thief. A gambler, perhaps, even a libertine, but no thief.” He stumbled, but quickly leveled his steps.

Cassandra shook her head. How on earth had he managed to wield his sword so skillfully in his condition? She stopped and faced him. “You are drunk, sir.”

“Ah, yes.” He gave her a rakish grin. “How could I forget? Apparently, I’m also a sot.”

Cassandra searched for a glimpse of his eyes in the darkness, but the shadows denied her. How could he joke about such a disgusting habit?

“Wondering how I managed to fend off three men?”

“Two.” She lifted her chin. “I took care of one of them.”

He chuckled and reached up as if to touch the loose strands of her hair.

She began walking again. “Please leave me be, Mr. Heaton. I thank you for your assistance. Good night.”

“You should see my swordplay when I’m sober, miss,” he shouted after her.

“I’d rather not see you at all, Mr. Heaton.”

She heard his footsteps behind her. Turning right onto Howard Street, she quickened her pace. Without the street lights—kept in darkness due to the war—she could barely make out the gravel road. The crunch of her shoes on the pebbles echoed against the brick warehouses on her right. One glance over her shoulder told her that Mr. Heaton still followed her, though he remained at a distance. If his reputation weren’t so besmirched, she might find his actions quite chivalrous. Instead, suspicion rankled her mind.

Down Eutaw Street, Cassandra halted before her small yard—the shadow of a two-story brick house loomed behind a garden of red roses and goldenrods. She swung about to say good night and nearly bumped into Mr. Heaton.

“Oh, forgive me, Miss Channing.” Yet he didn’t step back as propriety demanded. Turning, she headed up the stone path to the door.

“If you’re seeking a ship to invest in, Miss Channing, mine is quite available.” His boot steps followed her.

She faced him. “I am seeking a reputable ship, Mr. Heaton. With a reputable captain.” She feigned a smile. The lantern light perched outside her door reflected a devilish gleam in his eyes—blue eyes. She could see them now, mere inches from her own face. Her heart took up a traitorous thump. “Preferably a sober one.”

“I’ve been at sea my whole life. Sober or not, I’ll make a good captain and bring you a fortune in prizes. Ask your friend, Noah.”

“I have,” she said, lifting a brow. “He warned me to stay away from you.”

Mr. Heaton chuckled and tugged on his right earlobe. “He did, did he?” His eyes scoured over her as if assessing her for some nefarious purpose. “Good advice, I’d say.” A sad smile tugged on his lips. “Well then, I bid you good night, Miss Channing.” He bowed slightly and turned to leave.

Slipping inside her door, Cassandra closed and bolted it, then she leaned back against the sturdy wood. No matter if his was the last privateer in the city, she would never align herself with Mr. Luke Heaton.

~ End of Excerpt ~

Book Trailer:

Amber: What do you look forward to most about the coming autumn season?

MaryLu: Roaring fires in the fireplace, hot cocoa, fall leaves, pecan pie, and family.

Amber: Sounds great! Thank you for helping us celebrate the end of summer again, MaryLu!

Readers, MaryLu has generously agreed to give away a copy of Surrender the Dawn to one lucky winner! So leave a comment with your e-mail address to get your name in the drawing!

*This drawing is open to residents of the U.S. and Canada only.*

All winners this week will be announced tomorrow (Saturday, August 27th), so enter today!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

End of Summer Bash: Welcome Leanna Ellis!

Leanna Ellis is talented at writing unique and engaging stories, and her latest book, Plain Fear: Forsaken, is no exception! I had the pleasure of reviewing this book a couple of months ago. If you missed my review, you can read it HERE.

And now, let's welcome Leanna Ellis!

Amber: Thank you so much for joining us today! Could you share with us one of your favorite memories from this past summer?

Leanna: Hi, Amber! Thanks so much for having me here today! Boy has it been a busy summer! I’m glad an end is in sight even though it’s been a lot of fun.

My son was busy during the first half with fencing, having two-a-days all June, as he was getting ready for Nationals. My daughter was in a camp with Dallas Summer Musicals, performing parts of Newsies, and playing the part of Jack.

At the end of June, it was time for me to head to New York for RWA (Romance Writers of America) where I was speaking with my friends Shelley Shepard Gray and Heather Webber. I took my daughter this year so she could get a taste of Broadway. What fun we had seeing Sutton Foster in Anything Goes, and then we had a great time at Mary Poppins! It was a short trip but packed with fun! I had one day at home then I flew to Reno with my son for USFA’s Summer Nationals. He did really well and came in 15th in his event. Then we hit a little snag with our return flight and ended up having to stay a couple of extra days.

Meanwhile, my daughter had started a summer camp where she was playing Jennyanydots in CATS. So as soon as we returned from Reno I jumped back into my role as Taxi driver. Wish I could charge the prices of a driver in NY! It was one busy summer but I’m glad it’s starting to cool off. These triple digit days in Texas are tough. I’m ready to settle in for the final editing of my manuscript so I can get it off to my publisher.

Amber: Wow! Sounds like a crazy (but fun!) summer!

If you could choose one of the characters from your latest novel to join you for an “end-of-summer” party, who would you want to celebrate with in person and where would you go?

Leanna: It would probably not be Akiva. LOL! Although I do find him very interesting. I would probably choose Levi and Roc. Levi would probably choose a family gathering with food involved. And if you haven’t had a taste of Amish cooking, then you are missing out! Roc on the other hand might choose something very adventurous, like chasing vampires or a bonfire.

Amber: Hahaha, yes - maybe not Akiva... ;)

Please tell us about your latest release. If you could share a scene from the book to whet our appetites, that would be fabulous!

Leanna: Plain Fear: Forsaken just came out August 1st. It’s my Amish/vampire story. I am incredibly excited about its release. Hannah Schmidt, a young Amish woman mourning the mysterious death of her beloved Jacob, must decide between two brothers, between good and evil. When she learns her first love is now the vampire Akiva, she must forsake him and cling to a new love, a lasting love, one that will save her soul.

There is a scene on my book page on my website. You can download it HERE.

Book Trailer:

Amber: What do you look forward to most about the coming autumn season?

Leanna: Cooler weather! Really, it’s incredibly hot here and I’m starting to melt. Or have a meltdown. I need fall’s cool breezes. Besides autumn is my favorite time of the year. The leaves start changing, the temperature cools, and there are so many fun activities—football (my husband says!), my birthday, Halloween, Thanksgiving, shopping and decorating for Christmas, and of course all of my kids’ activities like fencing tournaments and shows.

Amber: I love autumn, too! So glad you could visit with us today, Leanna!

Readers, Leanna has generously agreed to give away a copy of Plain Fear: Forsaken to one lucky winner! So if you'd like a chance to win, just leave a comment with your e-mail address. All winners this week will be announced on Saturday, August 27th.

*This drawing is open to U.S. residents only.*

Tomorrow's guest is MaryLu Tyndall, so be sure to stop by!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

End of Summer Bash: Welcome Mary Connealy!

Mary Connealy is a super sweet, super fun person, and it's my pleasure to host her today! If you enjoy Western romance with LOL humor, then you'll want to read on to learn more about Mary and her latest release, Out of Control:

Amber: Thank you so much for joining us today! Could you share with us one of your favorite memories from this past summer?

Mary: Wow, Amber, tough summer. Flooding. Sickness in the family. My dearly loved Mother in law died. Trying to think of the best of it. I’ve gotten a lot of quality time with my grandchildren, who are spectacular, btw. That’s always fun. Honestly we live very close to the Missouri River, not right ON it, so we’re not personally affected, but close enough that many friends are. That’s all any one talks about.

I suppose the coolest thing is going to NYC for the Romance Writer’s of America Conference. It was terrifying and exciting…kinda like the cave in Out of Control. I went because I was nominated for a Rita Award. I lost, but I had a wonderful time.

Amber: I'm sorry you had such a hard summer, Mary. I hope this next season brings more happy times your way!

If you could choose one of the characters from your latest novel to join you for an “end-of-summer” party, who would you want to celebrate with in person and where would you go?

Mary: I’d LOVE to go explore that cavern in Out of Control with Julia. I based the cavern on Carlsbad Cavern and that is still the most fascinating experience (well, close…) in my life. It captured my imagination the way very few things ever have and even long before. And Julia is so in love with that cavern that I'd love to see it with such an enthusiastic guide!

Amber: Sounds like a great time to me!

Please tell us more about your latest release. If you could share a scene from the book to whet our appetites, that would be fabulous!

Mary: "Julia Gilliland has always been interested in the natural world around her. She particularly enjoys her outings to the cavern near her father’s homestead, where she explores for fossils and formations and plans to write a book about her discoveries. The cave seems plenty safe—until the day a mysterious intruder steals the rope she uses to climb her way out.

Rafe Kincaid has spent years keeping his family’s cattle ranch going, all without help from his two younger brothers, who fled the ranch—and Rafe’s controlling ways—as soon as they were able. He’s haunted by one terrible day at the cave on a far-flung corner of the Kincaid property, a day that changed his life forever. Ready to put the past behind him, he plans to visit the cave one final time. He sure doesn’t expect to find a young woman trapped in one of the tunnels—or to be forced to kiss her!

Rafe is more intrigued by Julia than any woman he’s ever known. But how can he overlook her fascination with the cave he despises? And when his developing relationship with Julia threatens his chance at reconciliation with his brothers, will he have to choose between the family bonds that could restore his trust, or the love that could heal his heart?"

Here’s a scene from the book:

~ Excerpt from Out of Control ~

It occurred to him that the right thing to do was slap her. That'd clear her thinking. Give her a bit of fight, too. He just couldn’t do it. “You’ve got to get ahold of yourself." Pulling her close, he added, "My name is Rafe. Can you say that?”

“Let me out.”

“No!” He gripped her shoulders. “You say my name or we’re not going. You need to calm down. We’re going to be fine, but not if you shake so hard you fall off this ladder. I’m Rafe.” He shook her hard. “Say it. Prove to me you’ve got the guts to hang on and climb out of this pit.”

"R—Rafe." A long slow breath lifted her shoulders. “Rafe. I’m sorry…Rafe. I’m so scared. It's so dark. I couldn't get out. My—my Rafe. I couldn’t find my Rafe—uh—rope. Rope. I need to get out and I—I—”

“Stop.” Slapping her just wouldn’t do.

So he kissed her.

She froze in his arms. He braced himself to be on the receiving end of a slap. He almost hoped her head cleared enough to be insulted.

Suddenly, her terror flipped over into something—else. She flung her arms around his neck and nearly lifted herself off her feet in an effort to hold him closer.

Rafe wrapped his arms around her waist and deepened the kiss.

The darkness receded, the whole world was bright and warm. Being far from the outside world just seemed like a blessed chance to be alone with a beautiful woman.

That though cleared his head. "Uh…you're not fifty or sixty years old are you?"

"What?" She sounded dazed. Which was sort of like calm.

"I'm just thinking I haven't really…um…seen you yet. I mean you seem…young. You feel really young." And beautiful. She felt very young and beautiful. "But if we get out of here and you're…uh…old…and—” ugly, "—sixty years old or something…well…it's going to be awkward."

Her arms were gone from his neck. He should have kept his mouth shut and continued with the kissing. But the notion of getting her up to the moonlight and finding out she was a sixty year old woman, maybe with a moustache and a face like the downhill side of a climbing mountain goat…not someone he'd choose to kiss…in the light…well, that was in his head now, and he couldn’t get it out. Yep, awkward, sure enough. And yet, she’d felt very young and beautiful.


"Get your hands off of me."

He loosened his grip but didn’t let go all the way because she had a ways to fall if he did, about twenty feet straight down. Then he’d have to climb back down there and start this all over again.
She slapped him.

Which stung, and not just his cheek. After all he'd considered doing the same thing to her—for medicinal reasons. Life and death really. But he'd refrained. She should have given him the same benefit of the doubt.

"I think I'm ready to climb now." She sounded much calmer. Deadly calm.

Rafe remembered a long time ago, it seemed like an hour—how long had he been kissing her anyway—when getting out of here was his main concern. Now he wasn't in such a big hurry. But he didn't want to get slapped again either.

"Great. You’ve calmed down. Let's go." As if getting himself slapped had been his plan all along.

~ End of Excerpt ~

Book Trailer:

Amber: Love it!! (And isn't that book trailer wonderful? I love the music and everything about it!)

So, what do you look forward to most about the coming autumn season?

Mary: No contest, the ACFW Conference in St. Louis in September. It’s the most fun I have all year.

Amber: Oh, I've heard such great things about it! Perhaps someday I'll get to meet ya'll there... =) Thanks for chatting with us today, Mary!

Readers, after reading that hilarious excerpt, would you like a chance to win a signed copy of Out of Control? Thanks to Mary's generosity, if you leave a comment with your e-mail address, you'll be entered in the drawing! All winners this week will be announced on Saturday, August 27th.

*This drawing is open to U.S. residents only.*

Don't forget to come back tomorrow to visit with author Leanna Ellis and learn more about her Amish/vampire book!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

End of Summer Bash: Welcome Laura Frantz!

Laura Frantz brings inspiration and smiles wherever she goes, and it is my great pleasure to host her here today! Her work is hauntingly beautiful, and if you love historical romance, you do not want to pass up a chance to read one of her books!! So read on to learn more about Laura and her latest release, The Colonel's Lady:

Amber: Thank you so much for joining us today! Could you share with us one of your favorite memories from this past summer?

Laura: In July I went on a tour of historic Philadelphia and Pittsburgh and had the best time ever! So many of the places I write about in my books came alive for me as I spent time there. The Lord truly delighted me at every turn. =) My favorite haunts were Valley Forge, Betsy Ross’s house, City Tavern, and having dinner aboard a historic sailing ship. The weather was gloriously hot and sunny and I didn’t want the tour to end! Pennsylvania is such a beautiful, historically rich state. I’d love to live there! And I enjoyed all that glorious sun and heat. =)

Amber: Sounds wonderful!

If you could choose one of the characters from your latest novel to join you for an “end-of-summer” party, who would you want to celebrate with in person and where would you go?

Laura: Probably my Colonel McLinn as he’s a bit of a rascal and knows how to have a good time. Plus he’s a fine dancer and looks quite dashing in his Continental Army uniform. ;) I think we’d go to City Tavern in Philadelphia which John Adams said had the finest ballroom in the colonies. I do love to dance – and the minuet with Colonel McLinn would be the best!

Amber: Mmmm... I don't blame you a bit! Mind if I cut in for a dance after your minuet? ;)

Now, please tell us about your latest release. If you could share a scene from the book to whet our appetites, that would be fabulous!

Laura: My latest release, The Colonel’s Lady, is just out as of August 1, and here is a favorite scene…

~ Excerpt from The Colonel's Lady ~

Gesturing toward the hearth, Roxanna said a bit breathlessly, “Please…come in.”

He hesitated – was he reluctant – before crossing the tiny space in three strides and taking a chair facing the fire. She sand down on a stool, watching the orange and yellow tongues of flame leap and curl around the charred burls of oak Micajah had left her eave.

A brooding silence settled between them. He finally broke it by saying, “You’re much too lovely – and well dressed – to be sitting along by the fire, Miss Rowan.”

The compliment, coupled with his gentle rebuke, made fresh tears well in her eyes. Blinking them back, she said, “It seems silly to attend a dance when one can’t dance.”

He gave her a sidelong look. “Because you’re in mourning?”

“Because I’m” – she took a breath – “a bit lame.”

His eyes swiveled back to her and stayed put till she looked at him again. “If you can walk, Miss Rowan, you can dance.”

A flicker of panic warmed her insides as she realized where he was headed. Bella’s wary words came rushing back. Maybe the colonel will try to make you his mistress. She said quickly, “Perhaps another time.”

“Why not here? Now? With no one watching?”

The faint but unmistakable strains of a slow country dance seemed to back up his startling invitation. He stood and moved his chair out of the way. Firelight spilled into the empty space, gilding the floorboards a rich gold. She had little choice but to stand up and obey the…order.

She dared look up at him, the lace of her bodice rising and falling in a breathless rhythm a mere three inches from the gilt buttons of his Continental coat. He was entirely too close…

~ End of Excerpt ~

Book Trailer:

Amber: Readers, don't you want to read more??

Laura, what do you look forward to most about the coming autumn season?

Laura: Hmmm, those beautiful autumn leaves, cider, caramel apples, walks in the woods, and planning Thanksgiving. Fall also marks the end of major deadlines and a time when I can begin writing my next book. I also have a passion for sitting by the fire and reading a good historical or biography. =)

Thanks so much, Amber, for being the hostess with the mostest! =)

Amber: Aww, you're welcome to visit here anytime! Hope you enjoy the coming season!

Readers, Laura has generously agreed to give away a copy of The Colonel's Lady to one lucky winner, so leave a comment with your e-mail address for a chance to win! All winners this week will be announced on Saturday, August 27th.

*This drawing is open to residents of the U.S. and Canada only.*

Be sure to come back tomorrow to visit with author Mary Connealy!

(Note: You may have noticed that fall has come early to "Seasons of Humility." Since this is my last week at home before I head back to college on Sunday, I wanted to get a head start on the next season. =) We're still celebrating the end of summer during this bash, but come Sunday be on the lookout for the announcement of a semi-new schedule in a post addressing the new season and the new blog design!)

Monday, August 22, 2011

End of Summer Bash: Welcome Sarah Sundin!

Sarah Sundin is no stranger here, as I had the pleasure of hosting her back in March for a Monday for the Military feature. Sarah is such a great person, and a great author, as well! It's wonderful to have her back with us to celebrate the end of one season and the beginning of another!

Amber: Thank you so much for joining us today!

Could you share with us one of your favorite memories from this past summer?

Sarah: How appropriate—I’m doing this interview on the plane home from two weeks in southern France and Italy! In addition to seeing the usual tourist sites, I got to research my next World War II series. And my children consented! I got sand in my shoes from the landing beaches at Salerno, strolled through Greek ruins at Paestum where an evacuation hospital was based, watched my kids frolic in the surf at Anzio, and got surprisingly close to the Istres airfield near Marseilles—which is an active French military base. I took lots of notes, pictures, and video.

Amber: Gotta love when you can combine work and play in such a grand way! ;)

If you could choose one of the characters from your latest novel to join you for an “end-of-summer” party, who would you want to celebrate with in person and where would you go?

Sarah: Just one? I’d really like to have a back yard barbecue with the three Novak brothers and the women they love. They’re a lot of fun when they’re all together, and I’d just serve up food and listen to them interact. And they deserve a relaxing evening after what I put them through!

Amber: Sounds like a good time! (And yes, I'm sure some relaxation is in order!)

Please tell us more about your latest release. If you could share a scene from the book to whet our appetites, that would be fabulous!

Sarah: Blue Skies Tomorrow is the third book in the Wings of Glory series, which follows the three Novak brothers, B-17 bomber pilots with the US Eighth Air Force stationed in England during World War II. Each book stands alone.

"Lt. Raymond Novak prefers the pulpit to the cockpit, but at least his stateside job training B-17 pilots allows him the luxury of a personal life. As he courts Helen Carlisle, a young war widow and mother who conceals her pain under a frenzy of volunteer work, the sparks of their romance set a fire that flings them both into peril. After Ray leaves to fly a combat mission at the peak of the air war over Europe, Helen takes a job in a dangerous munitions yard and confronts an even graver menace in her own home. Will they find the courage to face their challenges? And can their young love survive until blue skies return?"

As for a scene, how about the first page…?

~ Excerpt from Blue Skies Tomorrow ~

Helen Carlisle strolled up G Street, careful to keep a pained expression. Some days the performance of grief was easier than others, but it was always necessary for her son’s sake.
She shifted two-year-old Jay-Jay higher on her hip and inhaled the Delta breeze, flowing fresh from the San Francisco Bay into the Sacramento River Delta, rain-scrubbed and scented by new grass on the hills.

With a bump of her hip, Helen opened the door of Della’s Dress Shop and set her notebooks on the table by the door.

From a picture frame on the table, Jim Carlisle smiled up at her—long, lean, and handsome in his Navy blues. The hometown hero. Was he wearing that uniform when a Japanese torpedo slammed into his destroyer off Guadalcanal?

She pressed her fingers to her lips and then to the cold glass over Jim’s cold face. But a scan of the shop revealed no sign of her in-laws. Footsteps came from the back room and the curtain swished open, so Helen repeated the performance, laid another kiss on the portrait, and lifted it for her son. “Give Daddy a kiss.”

Jay-Jay mashed his palm over his mouth, making a crunching sound, and passed the kiss to the father he couldn’t remember.

A crunching sound? Jay-Jay’s cheeks stretched rounder than usual. “Sweetie, what do you have in your mouth?”

He shook his blond curls, his mouth clamped shut.

“Let Mama see.” Helen dropped to her knees, pinned the boy on her lap, and pried open his mouth. He howled and flapped his arms at her.

“Please, sweetie?” Nausea billowed through her. Chunks of slimy gray shell lay in her son’s mouth. She’d set him down for a minute, only a minute while she hung the thermometer poster in the window of the Red Cross Branch Office to monitor the War Fund Campaign.

~ End of Excerpt ~

Amber: I recently started the book, and I can't wait to find out more!! (Readers, be looking for my review later this week!)

What do you look forward to most about the coming autumn season?

Sarah: Autumn’s my favorite season. I love the stores full of school supplies. I love the crisp weather and the colors—we get a bit of that in northern California! I love college football and rooting for my Alma Mater. (Go Bruins!) And I love sending my children away to school and dancing in the silent house. The only thing I don’t like so much is sending my oldest son away to college. But hey, he’s going to UCLA, so that makes it a bit easier. (Go Bruins!)

Amber: Autumn sure is a great season! Thank you for reminding us that we have a lot to look forward to in the coming months. (Although I understand what you mean about the sadness of college farewells...) So glad you could visit with us today!

Readers, Sarah has generously set aside a book for one of you! So if you would like a chance to win a copy of Blue Skies Tomorrow, just leave a comment with your e-mail address. All winners this week will be announced on Saturday, August 27th.

*This drawing is open to residents of the U.S. and Canada only.*

Tomorrow's guest is Laura Frantz, so I hope you'll join us again tomorrow for another great interview and giveaway!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

End of Summer Bash: Welcome Julie Lessman!

Today we're kick-starting a week-long celebration of the change of seasons - saying "farewell" to summer and "welcome" to autumn! I had a wonderful summer with my family and some of my dear friends (and all of you here in the blogosphere!), and I hope you all made some great memories, as well. Soon the next season will be upon us, and even though it will bring new responsibilities and schedules for some, each new day and each new season has gifts all its own - so let's celebrate!!

Our first guest this week is none other than Julie Lessman! (Take a look at the sidebar to see this week's full schedule. And remember that you can get 2 extra entries in one of this week's drawings by taking the event's blog button - details HERE!)

Julie Lessman is an award-winning author whose tagline of 'Passion With a Purpose' underscores her intense passion for both God and romance. Winner of the 2009 ACFW Debut Author of the Year and Holt Medallion Awards of Merit for Best First Book and Long Inspirational, Julie is also the recipient of 13 Romance Writers of America awards and was voted by readers as 'Borders Best of 2009 So Far: Your Favorite Fiction.' She resides in Missouri with her husband, daughter, son and daughter-in-law and is the author of 'The Daughters of Boston' series, which includes A Passion Most Pure, A Passion Redeemed, and A Passion Denied. Her 'Winds of Change' series has recently released with A Hope Undaunted, which ranked #5 on Booklist’s Top 10 Inspirational Fiction for 2010. You can contact Julie through her website at

Welcome, Julie!

Amber: Thank you so much for joining us today! Could you share with us one of your favorite memories from this past summer?

Julie: Uh-oh, this is going to sound reallllly bad, I know, and almost workaholic, but my favorite memories from this summer are sitting with my feet up and laptop in my lap on our lower deck facing the woods. I like to joke that I am a recluse who has the misfortune of having an outgoing personality, but it’s the absolute truth, because I LOVE just staying home to write outside from May through September and even into October as long as I am bundled up.

Our wooded backyard is very private and it’s not a dark, dreary forest, either, but a lush, sprawling woods dappled with sunlight where a family of Cooper hawks squeal and soar, baby squirrels frisk, tiny fawns literally spring and wild turkeys roam. Honestly, it is SO beautiful down there that I literally stop what I’m doing periodically to just praise and thank God, and actually, it’s where I do my Bible study and prayer time as well. My hubby installed a ceiling fan overhead (for Mother’s Day) and I have my cinnamon hazelnut coffee, lip gloss, phone, and mirror (to capture those facial expression when I write) on a table close by. And the best part? My husband comes down to take breaks with me several times a day, and my daughter comes down for long chats, so I actually almost see more of them down there than I do inside!!

Amber: Oh, Julie, that sounds fabulous to me!! Can I come write with you?? ;)

If you could choose one of the characters from your latest novel to join you for an “end-of-summer” party, who would you want to celebrate with in person and where would you go?

Julie: Oh, Amber, how cruel, to limit me to just one! Because if I could I would LOVE to sit in on one of Marcy’s sewing fests on the back porch with all of the O’Connor women, sipping lemonade. BUT … since you are limiting me to only one character, you may not believe this, but it would be Charity Dennehy. Oh. My. Goodness! That woman is SUCH a hoot that she makes me laugh in almost every scene she’s in, even the serious ones. She’s quirky and fun and OH, so point-blank honest—like me—so I think we would have a blast, maybe shopping (one of Charity’s favorite things to do, even though it’s not mine) or going to see a romantic movie at the theater.

Amber: Now that would be one crazy-fun time, for sure!

Please tell us about your latest release. If you could share a scene from the book to whet our appetites, that would be fabulous!

Julie: Sure, Amber—A Heart Revealed is book 2 in “The Winds of Change” series, and it’s the forbidden love story of the oldest O’Connor brother, Sean O’Connor, a confirmed bachelor, and his sister’s best friend, Emma Malloy, a battered married woman. Here’s my own personal blurb:

The ring on her hand belongs to one man …

But her heart belongs to another.

As a battered woman, Emma Malloy fled Dublin for Boston ten years ago, seeking shelter for a heart badly bruised by both her husband and guilt. But when she falls in love with Sean O’Connor, a confirmed bachelor who wrestles with demons of his own, fear and shame almost destroy her … until she is finally set free by a heart revealed.

Here is a scene later in the book where Sean is taking Emma home and tells her he’s leaving Dennehy’s (where they work together) because he’s in love with her.

~ Excerpt from A Heart Revealed ~

He smiled, offering a sideways glimpse shadowed with mischief. “It’s simple, really—I don’t like to play sports … or games … where my opponents have an unfair advantage.”

“You see a wife as an opponent?”

His grin broadened in the glow of the streetlamp as he eased to a stop. He shifted into park, turned off the ignition and turned to face her. “I see women as the opponent.”

“And what’s the unfair advantage, pray tell?”

Leaning his head back against the window, he draped an arm over the steering wheel and studied her through hooded eyes, his veiled look unable to hide a glimmer of tease. “Why, moods, tears and manipulation, Mrs. Malloy, all powerfully compounded by the deadly pull of sexual attraction.”

An onslaught of blood assaulted her cheeks, and she looked away. “Oh,” she whispered, palm taut on the handle of the door. She swallowed hard and gripped it tightly, ready to flee.


Her fingers stilled on the latch when he touched her arm. The sound of her name had parted from his tongue as a mere whisper, yet the depth of its passion buoyed her heart with a joy she had no right to feel. Her pulse pounded in her ears as she stared at the strong hand now caressing her own and her eyes drifted closed, unwilling to face the man to whom it belonged.

“Look at me,” he said quietly, and her breathing shallowed as she slowly raised her eyes to his. The intensity of his gaze caused her stomach to quiver.

“You are like no woman I have ever met, and if God would allow it, I would get down on my knees right now and commit to cherish and love you all the days of my life.”


“No, please—hear me out. I need to say these things, at least once. Before I go.”

Her breath hitched in her throat. “Before you go?”

He distanced himself, and she felt the loss of his touch. Settling back again, he picked up the baseball mitt to finger the binding, absently staring at the glove as he toyed with its laces.

“I’ve given a lot of prayer and thought to us, Emma, and I think the best course of action would be for me to leave.”

“Leave?” she whispered, the very word cleaving to her tongue.

His eyelids lifted halfway, revealing his sorrow. “Dennehy’s—for good.”

Her heart stuttered in her chest, stealing her air.

He gently took her hand in his, and she was too stunned to resist, staring at his thumb as it feathered her fingers. “I thought we could continue on as friends, but every time I look at you, touch you, see your smile, hear your laugh …” His large hand swallowed hers in a tender hold, squeezing gently before letting go with a deep draw of air. “… I only crave you more. To hold you, to love you … to make you my wife.”

Paralysis claimed her tongue as tears stung her eyes.

With a heavy exhale, he rested his head on the back of the seat, eyes staring aimlessly out the window. “I thought I was strong enough—to be your friend and only your friend, but my thoughts tell me otherwise.” His voice lowered to a bare whisper. “I actually believed that if I laid aside my physical desire, that we would be free from sin. But I can no longer deny that deep in the recesses of my mind, I wrestle with wanting you so badly, that I fear adultery in my heart.” He looked at her then, his eyes naked with regret. “I don’t want to leave you, Emma, but I love you too much to stay.”

Her eyelids fluttered closed, the loss of him almost unbearable. And yet, she’d known all along that this had been their destiny. This was the path she had chosen. The vow she had made, to God … and to Rory. A reedy sigh left her lips as she looked up, fingers quivering while she brushed a stray tear from her cheek. “Where will you go?”

His chest expanded and released. “I don’t know … I don’t really need the money right now, so maybe I’ll just donate my time to the church till I find something I like. I was offered a job a while back … maybe I’ll look into that.”

Her pulse quickened. “Your old store at Kelly’s?” she asked, grateful he could return to a job he loved and the woman who loved him.

“No, I don’t think so.”

She blinked, ridges lining her brow. “But Rose said—”

He glanced up, his gaze suddenly sharp. “Rose and I are over, Emma.”

Shock congealed in her throat. “Over?” she whispered. She felt her ribs constrict. “But why would you do that?” she asked, her voice cracking with strain. “She can offer you everything. Everything you should have—your own store, a woman who loves you, a family …”

His voice gentled. “I’m not in love with her.”

“But you can learn!” She shouted, hysteria rising in her tone as tears welled in her eyes.

With a tender gaze, he slowly gathered her into his arms against her will, gentle strength locking her to his chest where his heart beat steady and sure. She closed her eyes at the touch of his hand stroking her hair, and she had no power over the sobs that rose in her throat.

“No, Emma, I can’t … because I won’t.

“But you’re attracted to her, you told me so …” Her voice broke on a heave.

He kissed her hair, head resting against hers. “Yes, she stirs my body, but not my soul. When I kiss her, touch her … it’s your lips I’m kissing … your body I touch. That’s not fair to Rose, Emma, and it’s not fair to me.”

“But you’re a man who deserves to love and be loved …”

“And so I will be,” he whispered, grief threading his tone. “Because you and I will always love each other from afar.”

She sagged against him then, fingers clutched white on his coat. “No …. you’re a man with needs, desires …” Her frail moan slowly ebbed away.

Like her dreams for him.

His chuckle held little mirth. “The way I see it, Emma, if Father Mac can do it, I can.”

“But you deserve better,” she whispered, her heart raw.

He pulled away to cup her face in his hands, and in his eyes she saw all the pain and regret she felt in her own. A sad smile shadowed his lips. “No,” he said quietly, caressing her cheek with gentle fingers. “Because if I deserved better, I would have you.” Pressing a lingering kiss to her forehead, he gave her arms a quick buff. “Come on, you need to go in.” He opened his door and got out, ducking his head to flash his trademark smile. “The good news is, Mrs. Malloy … you get your store room back.” He shut his door and rounded the car, offering his hand after opening her side. He braced her shoulder on the walk to the door.

“When will you leave?” she asked, leaning on him more than she should.

“As soon as Mitch can hire someone to replace me.”

“No one can replace you,” she whispered.

He turned her to face him on the portico, the pale lamplight from brass sconces revealing his sorrow. A hint of the twinkle she loved returned to his eyes. “I know that, Emma, and you know that, but let’s not let Mitch in on it, okay? You know how he loves control.”

She attempted a smile that failed miserably.

His fingers traced the curve of her jaw before he opened the door. “G’night, Emma. See you on Monday.”

“Good night, Sean,” she whispered, heart buckling at the sight of the man she loved walking away. Tears blurred her vision as his broad back slowly faded into the night, and with a broken cry, she flew down the brick walkway with her heart in her throat. “Sean!

He turned at the street, and within mere seconds she launched into his arms, body heaving with the need to let him know just how much she loved him. With tears streaming her face, she kissed him with all the tenderness, all the passion, all the love that was his alone, and for one breathless moment in time, they belonged to each other. “I love you, Sean, and if I never reap another blessing from the hand of God, I will consider my life a joy because of you.”

He clutched her so tightly, they stood as a solitary figure, two hearts beating as one. He gently smoothed the tears from her face. “I will love you forever, Emma,” he whispered. “Through all the family gatherings where we chat and see each other in passing, I want you to always know—my heart belongs to you.” He pressed a final kiss to her brow. “Get some rest. Next week looks to be a back breaker.” Squeezing her arm, he rounded the car and opened the door, giving her wink as he slipped inside. She watched him churn the ignition and shift before pulling away from the curb.

“A back breaker,” she whispered, her words lost in the rumble of the Model T as it disappeared down the road. “And a heart breaker too.” Clutching her coat, she made her way to the door as her weary sigh collided with the frigid air to become vapor, forever fading away.

Just like our friendship.

~ End of Excerpt ~

Amber: Wow, Julie! This begs one of the questions from the movie Ever After: "How can you live each day with all that passion?" (Or something like that...) Seriously!

So, what do you look forward to most about the coming autumn season?

Julie: Grin … sitting out on my deck bundled up with the smell of wood smoke in the crisp, cool air and drinking in the beauty of scarlets, golds and russets in the woods beyond. Definitely one of my favorite seasons.

Thank you, Amber, for allowing me to be a part of your “End of Summer Bash.” I LOVE to hear from reader friends, so they can feel free to contact me through my Web site at, either by sending an e-mail via my site or by signing up for my newsletter. My newsletter is chock-full of fun info on my books and there’s always a contest featuring signed book giveaways including one right now to have a character named after you or a loved one in my next book. Also, I have a cool feature on my website called “Journal Jots," which is a very laid-back, Friday journal to my reader friends that would give your readers an idea as to my relaxed style of writing. Then finally, I can be found daily at The Seekers blog, a group blog devoted to encouraging and helping aspiring writers on the road to publication.

Amber: It's my pleasure to host you here again, Julie! Thank you!!

Readers, ya'll know how generous Julie is! She has offered to give away a copy of any of her books, including A Heart Revealed, to one lucky winner - winner's choice! So please leave a comment along with your e-mail address for a chance to win! All winners will be announced on Saturday, August 27th.

*This drawing is open internationally.*

Tomorrow's guest is author Sarah Sundin, so come back soon to show her some love!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Community Love: Winners and a Blog Award!

We had four wonderful entries in this week's community contest - all so diverse and unique! Celebrity judge Laura Frantz had this to say about them:

"I am a terrible judge as I just LOVE them all!!"

Want to know what she means? Well, with the entrants' permission, I get to share them here with you so you can feel all the community love yourselves! So before I announce any winners, here are the four entries in no particular order:

Photograph Entry:

Submitted by Ariel from The Librarian's Bookshelf

Essay Entry:

Nerves coil in my belly and I take a shuddering breath. Is this really happening?
My knees turn to jelly and my hands quake in shuddering spasms. I slowly dial the numbers, for-certain sure this truly cannot be happening to me. I’m dreaming. It’s a mistake. She called the wrong number.
But she did say my name.
Good news.
It’s about my writing.
And it’s Susan May Warren on the other end of my answering machine.
“Hello, Warren Residence.”
“Susie?” My voice doesn’t sound like my own. It’s detached, distant and no amount of gulping is bring it back under control.
“This is she.”
“Hiii…This is Casey.”
“Casey! I’ve got good news for you! You’ve finaled in the My Book Therapy Frasier contest!”
Something within me breaks and the back of my eyes burn and threaten to leak. “Are you sure?” This can’t be true.
But it is. It is.
It. Is.
I hang up the phone a breath-taking five minutes later, I have to run out the door for my sister’s piano lesson is less than twenty minutes, but I instantly dial the number for my mom’s work.
I’m breathless as if I’ve run a marathon, grasping for air as though my throat doesn’t know how to work.
“Mama!” I squeal the news as best I can into her ear and I have to repeat myself several times over before it sinks into both of us.
I call my dad and the story repeats itself. All the time, the news is pounding in my head. I fire an email to a dear writing friend and run for the door with my sister in toe, determined to make her piano lesson. This is crazy! Is all my barely-functioning brain can compute.
Minutes later I swing into my mom’s work, still floating high on the euphoria that is sweeping my system like a cheap drug. I haven’t made it five steps into my mom’s work and “congratulations!” roll from the classrooms, reception desk and my mom’s office.
The news is spreading faster than a wild fire in a dry desert. I gulp, I smile wider than a mouth should be allowed and say “thank you!” at each opportunity.
I know these people. They’ve known me since I was in diapers and now they are celebrating in my success. Could it be anymore perfect?
I arrive home to a phone message from my dear writing friend and a squeal only one writer can give another when one of their own finds success. The grin is ever present, but I am humbled by the overflowing support.
I share the news on Facebook and friends spread the word on The Writer’s Alley, my group blog, Twitter. Can I wear out the words “Thank you”?
I determine it’s impossible.
Congratulations pour in, but it isn’t the praise that sweeps me away, it’s this amazing community of writers, friends and family. Many of them don’t know me that well yet, they’ve met me through one of my social networks, but they give of their love and support unconditionally. The kindness of people I’ve never met in person to sendme cards and warm congratulations
The kindness of strangers…but they aren’t strangers anymore. We are brothers and sisters in Christ, friends and family of the One True God, supporters even while one might be low, we are ready to lift the other up.
Community is often over-rated and under-appreciated. Not for me. Never again will I take for granted the friends I have made, the gift I have been given in a support that will not easily fade, wear away or rip asunder.
It’s family. It’s community. It’s all God.

Submitted by Casey from Writing for Christ

Poem Entry:

"Shared Tears"

Postponing the tear jerking task
As futile as trying to
Hold imminent tears at bay
Why doesn’t this pain retreat?
Time doesn’t heal, memories don’t soothe
I’ve left a thousand tears in this room
The sight of the silky films
Hugging shimmery satiny layers
Brings that familiar sharp sting--
Stoic eyes, straining not to weep.
We huddle around,
Dark granite contrasting light layers
Deft fingers brush over smooth, moist surface
Separating silk from satin.
A lone tear breaks free
A swift slushy staccato begs
My nose to join this tearful symphony
Twin rivulets trickle down my cheeks
I swish away tears
With the sleeve of my blouse
Will this stinging pain ever leave?
Years haven’t healed it.
The others sniffle somberly
Swishing away their own tears
A somewhat soothing salve
I step away to compose myself,
Prompting a fresh waterfall
Finally, the dreaded, mundane task
Everybody loves to loathe
Finds us swiping at the last tears.
Unspoken consent leaves
Silky remnants discarded,
While satiny layers are tucked away
For future use, future tears
With dry albeit red rimmed eyes
We quietly saunter away…
Blessed refreshing relief!
Till next time someone leaves us
A pail of onions to peel.

Submitted by Linda Maendel from Hutt-Write Voice

Photograph/Poem Entry:

Two Becoming One ...
embraced, enfolded, and upheld

by arms and hearts

that Love with
The Love

initiated by
Father, Son and Holy Spirit
in community,
One with Another ...

Submitted by Sharon from Faith Hope Cherrytea

~ ~ ~

See how difficult it was for the judges to make a decision???

My mom and author Laura Frantz picked different entries for different reasons, and the third judge didn't get a chance to look over the entries (she had a wedding to attend, so she's forgiven!). ;) I almost thought I would have to do a random drawing in order to come to a decision! But thankfully my mom suggested my sister fill in as the third celebrity judge, and with her help we have a winner:

The essay written by Casey!

Congratulations, Casey! And to all those other entrants, your entries were all wonderful, and the decision was a difficult one. We appreciate your great reminders of the blessings of community. Thank you!!

And special thanks to our fabulous judges: author Laura Frantz, my mom, and my sister!!! ;) You all are awesome, and I'm so grateful for your help!

Oh, and there was one other giveaway for the interested entrants - the drawing for a copy of Mine is the Night by Liz Curtis Higgs. And the winner of this book is...

Faith Hope Cherrytea!

I hope ya'll have enjoyed this week of community! And I can't think of a better note to end it on than posting about a blog award given in love and passed on in love, as well!

I was given the Liebster Blog Award by three lovely bloggers: Cathy at Thoughts on Books, Casey at Writing for Christ, and Michelle at Sweet Treats & Inspiration. Thank you so much for the encouragement and support, my friends!

Be sure to check out their blogs if you haven't already! These ladies are so sweet!

Here are the rules for this particular award:

The Liebster is awarded to bloggers with less than 200 followers. It is an opportunity to shine the light on great blogs and their authors in an effort to build readership.

1. Thank the person who gave you the award and link back to them.

2. Give the Liebster Blog Award to five bloggers and let them know in a comment on their blog.

3. Copy and paste the award on your blog.

4. Have faith your followers will spread the love to other bloggers.

5. Have blogging fun!

Well, isn't this the perfect award for our community week? So let's share the love with five awesome bloggers!

~ Ruth at Booktalk & More: If you're looking for some fantastic reviews (especially for movies and T.V. programs like PBS Masterpiece), look no farther than Ruth's fantastic blog! Ruth is so awesome and thoughtful!

~ Julia at Dark Glass Ponderings: A sweet and caring person, Julia is a great friend and a great blogger! She's planning on focusing more on devotional-type posts in the future, to which I say bravo!

~ Casey at Operation Encourage an Author: I don't know if it's cheating to pass this award back to Casey through one of her other blogs, but I'm going to anyway! ;) This blog is so important, as it's a way for us readers to show our appreciation to authors. Be sure to check it out if you haven't yet!

~ Kav at Best Reads (2010-2011): Kav is super generous, writes great reviews, and is all around a wonderful person! I've so appreciated her friendship! And her blog offers AMAZING opportunities to learn about great books and maybe win some!!

~ Anne at Tales of Goldstone Wood: I have Anne's debut novel on my TBR stack, but despite the fact that I have yet to read it (and I can't wait to do so!!), I'm impressed by her blog and her sweet, humble attitude that shines through her posts. Many of her posts focus on her books, but that just makes me more excited to read them!

There you have it! You can show these great bloggers some love and extend our wonderful blogging community!

*Don't forget that tomorrow is the first day of the End of Summer Bash! And who's our first guest? None other than author Julie Lessman!!!*