Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Getting Rid of Inbox Clutter


Well, my desk doesn't look like this, but if I printed off every email I receive and stacked it on my writing surface, it sure would. Between emails from companies I've purchased from, to blogs I've subscribed to, and to messages from various Facebook groups, I receive over 200 emails a day. That doesn't even count the emails from friends or business contacts I must respond to.

I've been feeling a bit overwhelmed the past few weeks. It's left me less than productive, and I know I need to make changes. One of those changes was spending time yesterday and today unsubscribing from mailing lists. Whether it be the online retailer I purchased one item from a year ago or from a blog I haven't visited in six months, out they went. I also spent time reviewing my incoming RSS Feeds. If I have months' worth of unread posts, why am I having the feed delivered to my Inbox anyway? I also cut down the number of Facebook groups where I am a member.

Taking just a few simple steps will help keep your Inbox less cluttered and find you spending less time checking and deleting email.

Product Review: Cat’s Pride® Fresh & Light™ Cat Litter


We have three large litter boxes for our four cats. I'm the one stuck with litter box cleaning duty, so anything I can do to make my job easier is a plus. I had planned on picking up our usual brand of litter two weeks ago, but when I saw Cat’s Pride® Fresh & Light™ and its purple balloon stating "Up to 25% lighter," I figured I would give it a try.

The first thing I noticed is how much lighter the container was when I lifted it off the self in the grocery store and into my shopping cart. I'm a small person and I've injured my back a couple of times in the past, severe enough where I've required physical therapy. I try to limit what I pick up. The lighter weight also makes it easier to pour out of the container into the litter box. This clumping litter has a long-lasting scented formula that makes it ideal for a house like mine where there is more than one furry beast running around. The low-dust formula is definitely better for my allergies--fewer clouds of cat litter dust floating in the air as I clean up means less sneezing.

Though I hadn't planned on switching brands when I walked into the grocery store that day, Cat's Pride Fresh & Light is now what I prefer to use. It's available in 15 or 21 pound containers.

You also have to check out one of their hilarious commericals. I almost fell out of my chair I laughed so hard.

WSJ Wednesdays - Release of Teacher Ratings


The front page of the Saturday/Sunday, February 25 -26, 2012 edition of The Wall Street Journal had an article about the publishing of teacher evaluations in New York City. Titled, "Teacher Ratings Aired in New York," this article by Stephanie Banchero discussed how if school districts across the United States followed suit, this could add pressure on school administrators to "improve or to remove their weakest teachers."

Initially, one might think, so what. Not only do our tax dollars pay teachers' salaries, but they are responsible--along with parents/guardians--for preparing children for the future.  If your performance is less than adequate in a private sector non-union job, you risk getting fired. Why should a weak teacher be able to hide behind her union and keep her job?

According to the article, Michelle Rhee, Executive Director of StudentsFirst (a nonprofit group whose goal is to overhaul teacher evaluation and pay systems), says parents should have access to teacher ratings, claiming if we want parents involved in their kids' education they need all the information. The article states teachers unions across the nation have been opposed to the release of this data. If what Banchero's article says is true, one can understand the concern. The scores are said to have wide margins of error because "they are based on limited numbers of students and school years." In New York, the data cover grades 4 through 8 in reading and math, leaving 80% of teachers not covered by the analysis. Banchero's article also states that one of the obstacles to evaluating all teachers is only 30% of teachers in America's classrooms work in grades or subjects covered by state standardized tests. These tests are key in generating the data being made public.

This certainly sounds like a sticky wicket.

I have one child who graduated from the public school sytem and two that are currently in it. Overall, I've been impressed with the level of dedication displayed by the teachers and administrators here. It appears this data would isolate the underachievers who deserve to be removed. But do parents truly want this information? Is providing this information really going to make parents get more involved in their child's education? I'm not so sure of the answers on those questions.

What do you think? Should this data be released? Will it encourage more parents to get involved? What other solutions might there be to this issue?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tuesdays at the Castle Giveaway Winner!


Congratulations go out to Carl S. the winner of a hardcover edition of Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George. I've already emailed the winner. He has 72 hours to respond before I select another winner.

Thanks to all who participated in this contest. Visit our Current Giveaways page to see what contests are running right now. We'll announce a new contest this Friday.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Tunes Tuesday - REO Speedwagon


I still pop my REO Speedwagon Greatest Hits CD in from time to time. As far as greatest hits CDs go, it's the one I can say I don't skip any tracks when I listen to it. They're a fun band, singing songs about relationships and life.

In this live version of "Take It On The Run," I immediately picked up on how they were dressed. The lead singer--though with a t-shirt on--is wearing a suit jacket. Big hair aside, all the musicians look like average guys who you would feel safe hanging out with. It's a far cry from how many musicians dress these days in the "if you got it flaunt it" generation.

I was trying to explain to the Lil Diva (10) why the school district has put a dress code in place that doesn't allow tops with spaghetti straps or shorts or skirts that are higher than their fingertips, but she thinks it ludicrious. Even though she isn't a girl to wear those types of things, she's still bugged someone is telling her what is appropriate to put on her body.

But I digress, REO Speedwagon remains one of my favorite bands. Are you familiar with their music? Do you have a favorite REO song?

Night of the Cossack by Tom Blubaugh Giveaway at Linda Weaver Clarke's Blog


Blog: Linda Weaver Clarke’s A Family Friendly Blog


Title of book: Night of the Cossack (PDF)

Author of book: Tom Blubaugh

Genre: YA Historical Fiction

Open to: International

Giveaway Dates: February 27 – March 5, 2012

Giveaway Link: http://lindaweaverclarke.blogspot.com/2012/02/interview-with-author-thomas-blubaugh.html

You've Got Mail Mondays


I guess the mailman felt he needed to make up for last week, because I got a slew of stuff.

Two catalogs from Land's End arrived--women's and men's. They are currently running a Family & Friends Event that includes 25% off on regularly-priced items and free shipping. But hurry, it ends tomorrow.

Macy's sent me a 16-page catalog for women. It included a VIP Pass for an extra 20% off regular, sale and clearance apparel for her, him and kids, fine and fashion jewelry and select home items. The VIP sale runs from March 7th - 11th so I might see if I can find some pants I desperately need. I love their clothes, but I don't shop there often because I can't afford to. If it's not on sale, I don't buy it.



The hubby and I actually went there this weekend to exchange an overcoat I had bought him for Valentine's Day. Macy's has marked down their winter items, plus we had a coupon for an additional 25% off, so we ended up paying $120 for a Calvin Klein Coleman overcoat (pictured above) that was originally priced $350. Cha-ching!

I hid the Justice® catalog when it arrived on Tuesday. This is another store with products I love at prices I don't feel comfortable paying all the time. What I love most about Justice is that their clothes are fashionable, but modest. I think the Lil Diva (10) will love the multi-color gem sandals below.



Oriental Trading® sent their Fun and Faith catalog last week too. We use them at church for craft and Vacation Bible School supplies.

When I received my gardening packet a few weeks ago, I requested a catalog from Fancy Leaf Caladiums. I was a bit surprised when a folding brochure arrived. I was expecting something larger. We have partial shade to shade on one side of the house and I want to add a bit more color on that side. These caladiums look like they might do the trick. I had tried Bleeding Hearts once, but they expanded too quickly. I'm thinking the Fannie Munson or Rosalie would be a nice addition to the garden.

Has anyone grown these? Do you have any tips?

For books, I received Project Jackalope by Emily Ecton and Tua and the Elephant by R.P. Harris. These came to me unsolicited from Chronicle Books. I don't usually read books that come to me without a formal request placed, but I like Chronicle Books, so I might give them a whirl. Also in the mail came Summer of Secrets by Charlotte Hubbard, which I am reading for her VBT.

On the local front, The Wilbraham-Hampden Times that comes on Thursdays, had an article about the new Head of School at Somers Academy in Somersville, CT. Cynthia Flynn used to run the preschool our daughters' attended. I was heartbroken when it closed (though my girls were in grammar school at the time). I am so thrilled for Miss Cindy. She's a dedicated educator and I'm sure she'll do a fabulous job there. We're considering private school for the Lil Princess (8) because she is farther advanced than her classmates and is finding school a bit boring. Her current school has offered her enrichment opportunities, but I think private schooling is the way to ensure she remains challenged.

That's it for now. I already had a neat book arrive today that I am eager to share with you next week.

Romance Novel Month: Sage & Sweetgrass by LoRee Peery


Diagnosed with a chronic, debilitating illness, Lanae Petersen vows to pursue life to its fullest. When she discovers mysterious love letters hidden within an antique desk, she begins a quest to discover who the young lovers were. Little does she realize that in trying to bring closure to their lives, hers will be turned upside-down.


After the death of his wife, cowboy Sage Diamond wants to be left alone on his acreage in peace and anonymity. When Lanae approaches him with letters to a family member, she not only threatens to expose his family secrets, but also stirs something inside him that he neither expects, nor welcomes. Sage fights his attraction, determined not to fall for a woman whose health is so fragile. Can Sage trust God's guiding hand, or will his fear of losing another love crush his chance for a future with Lanae?

Excerpt!

I am alive...
Somewhere out there, is someone waiting to share my life?


“Somewhere out there,” Lanae Petersen sang. “That’s the snippet I wrote when I journaled this morning.” Her sing-song statement elicited a wide grin from her sister, Geneva Carson.

“I’m thankful you found that journal writing such a help while you were sick,” Geneva commented.

The little catch phrases or quotes Lanae had latched onto after she found out hepatitis C was the cause of her sickness, were the only things that got her through some days.

And reading the Bible, of course.

Lanae glanced at the art-glass design of the sun catcher hanging in the window, a gift from Rainn Harris, Geneva’s fiancé. She compared the pattern with the appliqué cross Geneva was now anchoring onto the background fabric of her current wall quilt.

“I suspect your latest project isn’t meant as a shop item but as a gift for Rainn.”

“You got it.” Geneva lifted her brows to see above the rim of her glasses. “I can’t get over how different you are from a couple months ago. Look at you now, pouring over those singles ads.”

“I’m alive. Praise God.” Lanae slapped the newspaper against her lap and waved her open arms toward the ceiling.

Geneva shook her head, an indulgent smile spreading across her face.

“But for God’s grace, I could still be caught up in that nightmare illness. I used to wonder if I would ever feel alive or die too sick to enjoy the life I have,” Lanae said. She dropped her arms and picked up the paper. Running her finger down a bolded column, she read out loud, “‘Men Seeking.’ I feel all crocheted out and full of the energy I didn’t have while I was sick. We may have opened Frivolities, but a lot of it I don’t remember. I feel like I slept through it.”

Geneva shared a look that took them back to girlhood.

Thank you, Lord, for the comfort I’ve found in words. And thank You for my sister. Lanae turned back to her newspaper reading. “This guy wants nice legs. I have those...Mmmm, here’s a cowboy.”

“Do any say if they’re Christian?” Geneva asked around the needle between her lips as she measured a length of thread.

“Not yet. Here’s an SWM, Single White Male, looking for smarts. Ohhkaaay. I might give this one an answer. He’s a ranch owner.” Mourning what could have been, Lanae rubbed a spot of newspaper dust off the soft dark leather of her recliner. A life lived out on her own ranch. “Then again, been there, done that, with my rancher.” But he died before the culmination of their life together. Lanae contemplated the word “dream,” sighed over the memory of her deceased husband, and formed a sad smile. The Lord’s timing had no explanation.

Their shop, Frivolities, was the widowed sisters’ joint business venture. When she’d seen the ad in their hometown paper listing a downtown building for sale in Platteville, she jumped at the chance to move back to where she’d been born. Geneva called Lanae in response to the same ad. Certainly seemed like God’s prompting.

“Remember, it was an ad that helped bring Frivolities into existence,” Lanae emphasized. “Look, this one says he’ll treat you like a lady. Oh boy. A Western lover—books and movies.”

“Gotta be a touch of country there.”

Lanae loved wide open spaces. She had tried to keep her husband Keith’s dream ranch alive after his death. It had slammed into her one day, the sad realization that she no longer had the resources to stick with the ranch. How she missed the expanse. “‘I’m your dream come true if you love nature and horses.’ This sounds good.” Lanae glanced at her sister. “He says he likes gospel music.”

Geneva laid the colorful fabric in her lap and gave Lanae a look as sharp as the needle she used to accent the appliquéd edges. “You aren’t really going to jump on this bandwagon by answering one of those ads, are you?”

“Thinking about it. It’s better than taking a chance on one of those dot-com sites, to my way of thinking.” Lanae continued to skim the column. “Oh joy. This guy wants a woman to believe in him...and finally, it says he believes in Jesus. Can’t buy it, though. He also lists his astrological sign.”

“There you go. Satan believes in Jesus, too.”

Lanae sighed. Jesus held her future the same as He’d been with her all her life.

“And speaking of ads...” she brushed her fingers to the side.

“Find someone interesting?”

“Across the page here is a little something that would fit in the shop. Listen to this. ‘Oak dressing table. Needs refinishing. Solid. Original glass pulls on fancy drawers. Make offer.’” She raised a brow and met her sister’s glance. “Looks like a Lincoln phone number.”

“Want to check it out in the morning? Beth will be working in the shop for Moselle. If you have a cheesecake ready tonight, you’d be free to drive down to Lincoln in the morning.”

“Think I’ll give them a call later,” Lanae said as she once again buried her nose in the paper.

Besides the gifts, antiques, and frivolities the shop sold, they had an espresso machine and Lanae’s baked goods. Customers came in and experienced…no, savored, their offerings. It was a God-thing, how the idea for the crazy items—Moselle’s handcrafts, Geneva’s quilts and specialty coffees, and Lanae’s crochet and cheesecakes—had come to them at the same time when they’d each seen the building advertised. With the long state of Nebraska between them, each sister had recognized the opportunity to use her skills for profit.

She considered the Frivolities women. At the moment, her niece Moselle—the third party in the Frivolities venture—was on her honeymoon, or she’d be working on a craft designed from old items right along with them. Mondays, when the shop was closed, weren’t always for leisure. It was their practice to meet as part of their business plan and to work on their contributions to keep Frivolities stocked with goodies.

“They must bold these ads with large print so oldies like me can read ‘em.”

“Yeah, right. You think we’re old in our fifties? Aren’t you the one who told me we’re only as old as we think we are?”

The sisters shared a look that covered a myriad of unspoken thoughts.

“You could find yourself a man. After all, I found my Rainn. That way your guy could do the reading when your eyes go.” Geneva’s teasing held a dreamy quality.

“If my eyes go, I’ll blame it on all that crocheting I did instead of sleeping when I was sick.” Lanae flipped the page to see how many more columns the ads covered. None. The singles were confined to one page.

She studied her sister. Geneva looked so pretty in love. She could almost pass for her daughter, Moselle.

“I agree. You got yourself one in a million with your Rainn, my dear Geneva. Like the Elvis quote I read the other day that says we’re meant to do something worth remembering. You’ve sure done that with that sweet man of yours.” Lanae drummed her fingers on the paper in her lap. “I believe I am ready to seek my own man, to do my own something-worth-remembering.”

“Wait a minute, here.” Geneva set her elbow against her hip bone, needle pointed in the air, and gave Lanae a get-real look. “You were married to a Vietnam vet. You held onto the ranch over twenty years after Keith died. I’d call that doing something worth remembering.”

“Guess you’re right. Not to mention creating Frivolities with you. Now that I’m feeling alive again, it might be nice to seriously search for a man of my own. To warm my winter nights, you know...someone to share it all with.”

“Have to admit, those strong arms of Rainn’s help me feel tucked in safe and warm every night.”

“That sounds interesting. You mean he moved in when I moved out of your house?” Lanae snorted.

“Not funny. Rainn and I say good night even if it’s by phone. And if he’s at the scene of a fire, I have Mia to attend to. So I’m not alone.”

“That girl. Remember how she spelled out her name and pronounced it ‘M-E-ah,’ so we’d all get it right?” They shared reminiscent smiles.

Mia’s mother, Rainn’s sister, was a single mom who died of drug-related, mysterious circumstances in Fort Worth, Texas. Rainn’s parents wanted no part of caring for a child with special needs; so Rainn became custodial caregiver of his six-year-old niece, a special child with autism.

Lanae shook her head and shot another smile at Geneva. She was still trying to wrap her mind around the vast changes in their family over the last few months.

First, her niece, Moselle, had reunited with her high school love, Eric, and married him seventy-two hours ago, the day after Thanksgiving.

Second, Geneva had blossomed every day because of the attention Rainn Harris, Eric’s firefighter buddy, paid her. He’d rescued her from a tree, where she’d climbed after a stray cat. The family still made jokes about it, how she’d fallen into his arms when he rescued her.

Third, Lanae had overcome hep C. “You and I got used to sleeping single in a double bed, Sis. Now I’m going to try with all my might to see if that’s really God’s plan for the rest of my life.”

“You may very well have a point. He spared you from a terminal illness.” The smile accompanying Geneva’s words brought the blessing home. “But don’t get too carried away with your own plan instead of waiting on the Lord.”

Lanae shot up a silent prayer of thankfulness for her healthy liver and went back to reading the ads out loud. “Here’s one. ‘Integrity and full of heart.’ Meaning, no heart disease, I’ll wager.” She emitted a throaty, scoffing sound. “Oooh, this one sounds like me. ‘Country boy at heart, but caught in town.’”

“If that doesn’t sound like you, I’ll eat my needle,” Geneva mumbled around that sharp object.

“Don’t laugh, or you just might,” Lanae said. Then she laughed loud enough for both of them.

This particular Monday morning’s working session and business meeting had fizzled. Wedding and holiday still filled the atmosphere, so Geneva and Lanae had made short business of their shop-talk duties. They now attended to the creative side of their joint venture, working on individual quilted fabric and crochet items.

Well, Lanae had attempted to work. She’d eventually set aside her crochet hook and picked up the newspaper.

The women closest to Lanae, sister and niece, faced the future with their respective firefighters. The men had their softer sides. Eric sold insurance and built birdhouses for fun. Rainn was a stained glass artist and would soon start teaching at community college.

Dare Lanae follow through with her planned man hunt?

Lord willing.

She had been content with her life. She hadn’t faced the loneliness, or missed having a man around, until she witnessed what love did for the two women she loved.

She missed the poignancy of love, how much brighter and happier life could be when shared with the right person. But she was a different person now, living in a different time and place. Maybe God had a new plan for her. But if this was it, she would be happy as long as she followed God’s will.

Lanae glanced out the sliding glass door and followed the trail of a dancing cottonwood leaf as it drifted to the ground. “But you know, sis, I really do miss it at times. The ranch. Those open miles where the sun causes a gal to crinkle and wrinkle. The meadowlarks and bugs and wind in my hair.”

“What hair?”

“Very funny.”

The memory of hair loss sobered Lanae. Her Hep C meds hadn’t caused her to lose hers like some cancer treatments did, but her hair sure had thinned. She’d decided to keep her hair short.

Joy and peace now flushed her soul.

She ran her fingertips over the leather chair that offered comfort every time the deep cushions welcomed her. Family and friends had taken up a collection for the recliner, and a grand gift it was. She’d been so overwhelmed with their outpouring of love.

But was the love of God, family, and friends enough for fulfilling relationships? Or was she meant to find a special someone to spend the rest of her days with?

Lanae’s gaze traced the blocks in the quilt Geneva had made, which now graced the wall. Arranged in varied blocks of crosses, surrounding one huge cross in front of a blazing gold light, the teal and mauve colors never failed to warm her heart. The thick quilt had warded off the chill on her legs, originally serving the purpose of lap blanket.

Should she be looking for someone? Or should she leave it to God to bring that special someone to her?

Or, should she, like the biblical Paul, be content with what she had?

Lanae played with the strap of the denim bag Moselle had designed. The tote was created from a pair of old jeans. Lanae tucked away her balls of yarn and current crochet project into the bag.

“I would imagine Moselle and Eric are having a great time about now.” Geneva spoke on a wistful sigh as though wishing she was on her own honeymoon.

The sisters exchanged understanding smiles. Lanae’s turned into laughter then higher pitched giggles as Geneva’s color rose to a deep blush.

Lanae set her tote on a nearby shelf and straightened her journal and daily devotional on the cabinet top. She folded the newspaper in her lap and took in her immediate surroundings.

Eric, her new nephew by marriage, had built the cabinet next to her recliner. Handcrafted in golden oak, the cabinet itself consisted of two shelves and a routed edged top.

The stained-glass sun catcher caught her eye again and she said a prayer of thankfulness for Rainn, her soon-to-be brother-in-law. Sections of amber and pink glass in the shape of a rose formed the backdrop for the amber cross.

Humbled anew at their gifts of love, she realized yet again how blessed she was to have so many loved ones in her life.

Yet, no special man filled the role of lover.

Lanae slapped her knee with the folded paper and smoothed out the dents. “Onward and upward.”

She opened the pages and renewed her perusal of the ads. “‘Are you the one for me? Can we be friends first?’”

“A young guy wants an older woman?” Geneva quipped.

“In your dreams,” they chorused, caught the other’s eye, and giggled.

“Your dream came true,” Lanae sassed.

“Lucky me.”

“No such thing as luck,” they joined voices again; same slight nuance in tone, same inflection, same identical timing.

The sisters shared familial comfort and continued with their individual tasks.

Reviews!

5 stars –

"I absolutely loved this one. It kept me riveted to my kindle from the get go. The third in the Frivolities series, LoRee Peery has woven an amazing tale of love the second time around. Lanae is determined to live life to the full and has thrown herself into the shop she owns with her sister and niece, yet she yearns for the love they’ve found, the kind she used to know with her husband before his death. Answer an ad in the paper and buying a vanity unit from cowboy Sage offers her that. Or does it?

Sage is still mourning his wife, several years after her death. Living in the past to protect his family from the sordid truth, he doesn’t want Lanae’s interference in raking over the coals of the skeletons in the closet.

Woven into this is the love story of the letters. Lives torn apart by a series of actions beyond anyone’s control.

With it’s amazing characters, setting so real I could see it unfold in my head like a movie, this one has definitely gone back into my TBR pile. A heart-warming story of love, loss and hope you don’t want to miss."

PURCHASE AT PELICAN BOOK GROUP!

LoRee Peery writes Christian romance, where characters learn through spiritual struggles how to come to terms with the Lord’s will. She is a country girl who attempts to see God’s presence every day. That glimpse often comes as a gift from nature. LoRee is most relaxed in the outdoors.

Visit LoRee online at:


https://www.facebook.com/LoReePeery

http://www.pelicanbookgroup.com/ec/ 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Lenten Promise Leads to Award-Winning Devotional, Why God Matters

M E D I A R E L E A S E

CONTACT: Karina Fabian

E-mail: karina@fabianspace.com

For Immediate Release

Lenten Promise Leads to Award-Winning Devotional, Why God Matters

Layton, UT; Pueblo, CO— In 1996, Karina Fabian, mother of toddlers, made a Lenten vow that launched her career as a writer. Years later, it led her to share that joy of writing with her father, as they collaborated on an award-winning devotional, Why God Matters: How to Recognize Him in Daily Life. This year, she hopes to share the joy of Lent through her book and the Why God Matters website.
Deacon Steve Lumbert and his daughter Karina Fabian share their stories of how God led them from casual belief to deep devotion, and offer tips and exercises to help you see God's hand--and take it. Why God Matters: How to Recognize Him in Daily Life is published by Tribute Books and won the Christian Small Publisher Award for best book on Christian Living. It has over 40 reviews from readers of many Christian faiths who recommend it not only as a book to read, but to go through slowly, doing the exercises to strengthen their relationship with God and to be more aware of His presence in her life.

This year, Fabian and Tribute Books are opening the Why God Matters website to faith stories by others, especially Lenten faith stories. “I believe that Lent, and Lenten vows, can change lives,” Fabian said. “I’d like to share that hope with others, and the best way is through sharing our stories.”

Fabian credits her 1996 vow with giving her life its direction. She had always enjoyed writing, but it wasn’t until the Lent after leaving a career in the Air Force that she took it up professionally. “I was home with the kids, and getting a little stir crazy as Lent was approaching. I try to not only give up something for Lent, but to take up something to better serve God as well. So that year, I decided to give up reading fiction and take up writing.”

By Easter, Fabian had a job with the Wyoming diocese newspaper, and freelanced for several parenting and local magazines. She also wrote some slice-of-life stories, but seldom sent them out, and eventually moved more into writing fiction. However, in 2009, when Tribute Books was seeking someone to write a short devotional of personal stories, tips and quotes, she felt God calling.

“I was a little intimidated by the project though. I felt something of this magnitude needed someone with a theological grounding, too. Then I realized, my father is a deacon—and he is full of terrific stories.”
Deacon Steve Lumbert, who came to faith while Fabian was in college, had never written a book, but was excited to collaborate with his daughter. Working on this book brought a new level to their relationship.
“God continues to bless me through that Lenten vow,” Fabian said. “Not only will I cherish having worked with my father, but the book itself has touched so many lives. People have written to us that it’s helped them understand their faith better , brought them closer to God, or touched them when they really needed it. I hope this Lent, through the website, we can do this some more.”

Fabian is also willing to speak to book clubs and parishes through telephone or Skype.

* * *

Photos, interviews, and more information available on request or by visiting www.whygodmatters.com  or www.fabianspace.com.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Movie Review Month Coming in March!



I hope you've been enjoying Romance Novel Month. In the month of March we'll be reviewing movies and TV shows we've seen. First up will be Love Begins. Here is the blurb from the DVD case:

After their father's passing, Ellen Barlow (Julie Mond) and her sister Cassiestruggle to maintain the family farm in Anderson's Corner. When Clark Davis (Wes Brown) finds trouble in town on his way to California, Ellen agrees to hire him at the farm to work off his debts. Before long, Clark and Ellen unexpectedly develop feelings for each other. Ultimately, a turn of events inspires the pair to begin a legacy of love and faith together in this stirring family drama.

Inspired by the best-selling series from Janette Oake, this is how the Love Comes Softly series began.

Have you seen any of these movies? Have you read the books? What did you think? Have you seen Love Begins?

Free for All Friday - Giveaway Roundup


Since we started a new giveaway earlier in the week, I won't be having a new one for Free for All Friday. I encourage you to check out our giveaway page.

My kids and their dad are out at the new movie, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island. I decided to start the final season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It's weird to see Xander and Buffy acting like the adults. I forgot how much I enjoyed the series when it was on. It had it's moments when it wasn't so great, but I loved the Spike and Buffy angle.

Are there any movies coming out you're looking forward to? Any shows you recently rediscovered?

Eliminate Foam from Your Spa or Hot Tub


The last thing one wants to find in her spa or hot tub--especially when she’s entertaining--is foam build-up. Perspiration, dead skin cells, deodorant, skin lotions, and the residue and dirt from bathing suits, can all build up and cause unsightly foam that will eventually leave the water cloudy.

While it’s important to make sure you’re as clean as possible before stepping into your spa or hot tub, there are also products that can eliminate foam build-up quickly and easily. Just three ounces of Spa Choice® Foam Free added to the foamy area will get rid of that unsightly foam.

We have a fountain on our deck that had the same issue. I didn’t use the fountain last year because of the build-up. Since it can also work for fountains, I’m going to try Spa Choice Foam Free and enjoy the sound of rushing water while reading or grilling this summer. The thought of using it again makes me want to spruce up my deck décor and add containers of flowers to make it a special place.

Spa Choice Foam Free is sold in pint or quart bottles from PoolGear Plus®, the fastest-growing catalog and internet company in the US.

This post sponsored by PoolGear Plus.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Book Spotlight: Forget Me Not by Karen Cogan

School secretary, Miranda Wilkins is thrilled when a handsome gym coach walks into her life. Paul is everything she wants in a man except for one problem. A tragedy in his past has caused him to lose trust in a loving God.

As she attempts to persuade Paul that God was not uncaring when his brother died, she faces problems of her own. Her mother is becoming gradually incapacitated mentally and physically by a mysterious illness and her father and sister are suffering from the strain.

Nonetheless, her relationship with Paul blossoms into love and they plan to spend their lives together. Unfortunately, her mother’s diagnosis throws those plans into chaos.

Excerpt!

CHAPTER ONE


Miranda stuffed the last memo into a teacher’s drawer. Then, with a glance to make sure she was alone, she slammed it closed, venting her irritation. In a few minutes the bell would ring. Streams of children would pour in the doors. And she would be forced to put her problem aside and deal with their needs as they clustered at the counter.

She moved to her desk to make sure the morning announcements were in order and noticed two pages had come unstapled. A two-second task turned into a session of exasperation as the stapler jammed.

“Don’t cross me today,” she threatened, prying the staple with her fingernail. She whacked the stapler across her desk after her first approach succeeded only in breaking her nail. She examined the unsuccessful result until a male voice broke the silence.

“I hate those things when they don’t work.”

She spun around. She had been too involved in her efforts to see him walk in. She surveyed the tall, Swede who stood at the counter, impressed by the good natured face and most intense blue eyes she had ever seen. She felt her cheeks flush at the knowledge that her fit of temper had been observed.
He smiled and a small cleft appeared in his chin. In the split second before she found her voice, she noticed how his sturdy build made him look like the outdoors type.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t see you standing there. May I help you?" she asked.

He nodded. “I’m Paul Green. I’m here to see Mrs. Walters. I believe she’s expecting me. “

Miranda buzzed the principal.

“Yes?”

“Mr. Green is here to see you.”

“Send him in,” came the cheerful reply.

Miranda nodded toward the oak door that led to the principal’s office. “She can see you now.”

She caught a scent of his aftershave as she showed him inside. As she closed the door behind him, her curiosity flamed. She was ashamed to find herself lingering near the door, hoping to make out words from the murmur of voices.

Reluctantly, she forced herself back to her task of unjamming the balky stapler, all the while wondering what had brought Mr. Green into the office this morning. He was probably a parent. The thought of him belonging to another woman made her feel oddly disturbed. For the few seconds their eyes had met, she had wanted to keep looking forever, to take in every detail of his well-structured face. Though she didn't pride herself on a memory for faces, she remembered Paul Green's deep blue eyes, his short-cropped blond-hair, the cleft in his chin, and his slightly mischievous grin. Why were the good ones always off-limits to her?

Hearing him chuckle, she wondered if he were discussing his child with Mrs. Walters and if the child had those same blue eyes. What would it be like to have his child with Mrs. Walters and if the child had those same blue eyes. A child who reminded you of a handsome husband. She gave the stapler a disgusted bang on her desk, wondering if she’d ever find out. While she contemplated these thoughts, the door opened and Paul walked out with the principal. Though she was determined to ignore his charm, Miranda felt her pulse quicken.

Reviews!

"Really enjoyed this novel. One of the best written "Christian Romance" novels I have read recently, with well-developed, interesting characters. It was not at all preachy. The Christian element flowed seamlessly into the story. I am sure other readers will enjoy "Forget Me Not" too!"

--Sandy, Amazon reviewer

"I found this book to be absolutely wonderful. Not only was it quite immersing, it was spectacularly told with excellent points. Well thought-out characters, coherent plot line - plus, everyone loves a bit of romance!

Make sure to read it!"

--Cathy P., Amazon reviewer

PURCHASE AT AMAZON!


A native of Houston, TX, Karen spent her early years enjoying life along the Gulf Coast. After high school, she attended Texas A&M as well as the University of Houston where she obtained a B.S. in early childhood education. She has written numerous articles and stories, books for children and novels for adults. She particularly enjoys writing contemporary and historical romance.

She now lives in the Southwest with her family and assorted pets. Please visit her website at www.karencogan.com  and view her books on http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=karen+cogan.

Romance Novel Month: Forget Me Not by Karen Cogan


School secretary, Miranda Wilkins is thrilled when a handsome gym coach walks into her life. Paul is everything she wants in a man except for one problem. A tragedy in his past has caused him to lose trust in a loving God.

As she attempts to persuade Paul that God was not uncaring when his brother died, she faces problems of her own. Her mother is becoming gradually incapacitated mentally and physically by a mysterious illness and her father and sister are suffering from the strain.

Nonetheless, her relationship with Paul blossoms into love and they plan to spend their lives together. Unfortunately, her mother’s diagnosis throws those plans into chaos.

Excerpt!

CHAPTER ONE


Miranda stuffed the last memo into a teacher’s drawer. Then, with a glance to make sure she was alone, she slammed it closed, venting her irritation. In a few minutes the bell would ring. Streams of children would pour in the doors. And she would be forced to put her problem aside and deal with their needs as they clustered at the counter.

She moved to her desk to make sure the morning announcements were in order and noticed two pages had come unstapled. A two-second task turned into a session of exasperation as the stapler jammed.

“Don’t cross me today,” she threatened, prying the staple with her fingernail. She whacked the stapler across her desk after her first approach succeeded only in breaking her nail. She examined the unsuccessful result until a male voice broke the silence.

“I hate those things when they don’t work.”

She spun around. She had been too involved in her efforts to see him walk in. She surveyed the tall, Swede who stood at the counter, impressed by the good natured face and most intense blue eyes she had ever seen. She felt her cheeks flush at the knowledge that her fit of temper had been observed.
He smiled and a small cleft appeared in his chin. In the split second before she found her voice, she noticed how his sturdy build made him look like the outdoors type.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t see you standing there. May I help you?" she asked.

He nodded. “I’m Paul Green. I’m here to see Mrs. Walters. I believe she’s expecting me. “

Miranda buzzed the principal.

“Yes?”

“Mr. Green is here to see you.”

“Send him in,” came the cheerful reply.

Miranda nodded toward the oak door that led to the principal’s office. “She can see you now.”

She caught a scent of his aftershave as she showed him inside. As she closed the door behind him, her curiosity flamed. She was ashamed to find herself lingering near the door, hoping to make out words from the murmur of voices.

Reluctantly, she forced herself back to her task of unjamming the balky stapler, all the while wondering what had brought Mr. Green into the office this morning. He was probably a parent. The thought of him belonging to another woman made her feel oddly disturbed. For the few seconds their eyes had met, she had wanted to keep looking forever, to take in every detail of his well-structured face. Though she didn't pride herself on a memory for faces, she remembered Paul Green's deep blue eyes, his short-cropped blond-hair, the cleft in his chin, and his slightly mischievous grin. Why were the good ones always off-limits to her?

Hearing him chuckle, she wondered if he were discussing his child with Mrs. Walters and if the child had those same blue eyes. What would it be like to have his child with Mrs. Walters and if the child had those same blue eyes. A child who reminded you of a handsome husband. She gave the stapler a disgusted bang on her desk, wondering if she’d ever find out. While she contemplated these thoughts, the door opened and Paul walked out with the principal. Though she was determined to ignore his charm, Miranda felt her pulse quicken.

Reviews!

"Really enjoyed this novel. One of the best written "Christian Romance" novels I have read recently, with well-developed, interesting characters. It was not at all preachy. The Christian element flowed seamlessly into the story. I am sure other readers will enjoy "Forget Me Not" too!"

--Sandy, Amazon reviewer

"I found this book to be absolutely wonderful. Not only was it quite immersing, it was spectacularly told with excellent points. Well thought-out characters, coherent plot line - plus, everyone loves a bit of romance!

Make sure to read it!"

--Cathy P., Amazon reviewer

PURCHASE AT AMAZON!


A native of Houston, TX, Karen spent her early years enjoying life along the Gulf Coast. After high school, she attended Texas A&M as well as the University of Houston where she obtained a B.S. in early childhood education. She has written numerous articles and stories, books for children and novels for adults. She particularly enjoys writing contemporary and historical romance.

She now lives in the Southwest with her family and assorted pets. Please visit her website at www.karencogan.com  and view her books on http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=karen+cogan.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Romance Novel Month: Forged in Fire by Trish McCallan



Beth Brown doesn’t believe in premonitions until she dreams a sexy stranger is gunned down during the brutal hijacking of a commercial airliner. When events in her dream start coming true, she heads to the flight’s departure gate. To her shock, she recognizes the man she’d watched die the night before.

Lieutenant Commander Zane Winters comes from a bloodline of elite warriors with psychic abilities. When Zane and two of his platoon buddies arrive at Sea-Tac Airport, he has a vision of his teammates’ corpses. Then she arrives—a leggy blonde who sets off a different kind of alarm.

As Beth teams up with Zane, they discover the hijacking is the first step in a secret cartel’s deadly global agenda and that key personnel within the FBI are compromised. To survive the forces mobilizing against them, Beth will need to open herself to a psychic connection with the sexy SEAL who claims to be her soul mate.


Reviews!

"Forged in fire is a exquisite work of the written word! From the first sentence of the brief prologue the reader is pulled in and taken on an amazing journey. Filled with intrigue and suspense, Forged in Fire blends the amazing ability of real life Navy SEAL's with a bit of unexpected paranormal flair. . . .There is gun fighting action, unbelievable danger, amazing romance and a cliff hanging ending! An amazing book you will not want to put down! You know I'll be waiting for the next installment in McCallan's The Forged Series."

--Annette Nishimoto/ Gothic Mom's Book Reviews

"I loved this book! McCallan's writing is fast-pace and exciting..."

--Niina/ For The Love of Reading

"I loved every minute I spent reading this book!"

--Meghan O'Connor, Amazon Review

PURCHASE AT AMAZON!

Trish McCallan has been writing for as long as she can remember.

In grade school she wrote children’s stories, illustrated them with crayons and bound the sheets together with pencil-punched holes and red yarn. She used to sell these masterpieces at her lemonade stand for a nickel a book. Surprisingly, people actually bought them. Like, all of them. Every night she’d write a new batch for her basket.

As she got older her interest shifted to boys and horses. The focus of her literary masterpieces followed this shift. Her first full length novel was written in seventh grade and featured a girl, a horse and a boy. At the end of the book the teenage heroine rode off into the sunset . . . with the horse.

These days she sticks to romantic suspense with hot alpha heroes and roller-coaster plots. Since she is a fan of all things bizarre, paranormal elements always find a way into her fiction. Her current release, Forged in Fire, was the result of a Black Dagger Brotherhood reading binge, a cold, a bottle of NyQuil and a vivid dream.

You can find Trish at www.trishmccallan.com.

Taking Time for Mom Thursdays


This week's post really should be called Taking Time for Mom and Dad Thursday. It's school vacation week here and I've been running around with the girls almost non-stop since Saturday. My in-laws graciously agreed to let the girls sleep over tonight, so I figured I would do something special for Dad and me.

Right after they left, I picked up the main areas of the house: kitchen, living room, and family room. Then I planned a special dinner. This was a spur of the moment idea, so I had to work with what I had on hand. Luckily, I had bought a box of Mini Beef Pot Roast from Schwan's last week. We only eat beef once a month and I haven't been to the butcher in a while, so this was a nice substitute for tenderloin steak.

I set the kitchen table for two--which never happens. I usually dish it up right from the stove. With a side salad, bread, and mashed potatoes, we had a nice meal. I bought myself some extra time by calling the hubby at work and asking him to pick up wine on the way home. That allowed me to hop in the shower, put on a fancy dress and heels, and surprise the heck out of him when he walked in.

We had a nice leisurely dinner followed by coffee (him) and tea (me). Then we sat on the couch by the fireplace and watched the Bruins game (they won).

Have you ever cooked up a special meal for your spouse or significant other? What do you enjoy most about him/her?

WSJ Wednesdays - Refinancing



This week's edition of WSJ Wednesday is inspired by an article found in the February 4 - 5, 2012 Weekend Investor section. Jessica Silver-Greenberg's article, "Refinancing: Time to Act?" discusses historically low interest rates and how some experts believe its a mistake for homeowners to wait too long to take advantage of them and refinance. Included with the article, is a table of "Average rates on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage" from 2010 - 2012.

Rates were 3.87% for the week ending February 2, 2012. The current national average according to ERate for a 30-year fixed conforming mortgage is 4.018%. This seems to hold up what some economists say that with a slightly improving economy rates will tick upward.

Refinancing isn't right in every situation. Homeowners have to weigh factors like closing costs and the outstanding balance on their current mortgage. My husband spent months going back and forth with potential lenders looking for the right rate and terms before we refinanced last month. In the end, though we are now back to a 30-year loan, we are saving hundreds of dollars a month and lost no equity.

Have you considered refinancing? Have you opted to rent a single family home instead of buying one? What is it like in your area? Is the economy improving?

Product Review: My Memories Suite Digital Scrapbooking Software

The Lil Diva (10) and the Lil Princess (8) are at a scrapbooking workshop right now. Thanks to a friend, they discovered scrapbooking two years ago and never miss a chance to feed their habit.

Scrapbooking isn't a new thing. In my hope chest I have a scrapbook I put together when I was a pre-teen. The girls get a kick out of browsing through my various report cards, awards, and photos. I don't have the time these days to sit down and cut, tape, etc. So, when Liz from My Memories asked me to try out the My Memories Suite™ digital scrapbooking software, I hopped at the chance.





Now, you have to keep in mind that I am technology dummy when I tell you this digital scrapbooking software is easy to use. I'm not big on tutorials or using online help--which this has. I prefer to learn as I go. So, I went to MyMemories.com and downloaded the My Memories Suite Version 3. Installation ran smoothly and soon I was browsing around. I decided to create some basic scrapbook pages so I could get a feel for what I was doing. All I had to do was click and add photos from my PC. Then I added the journal entry next to the photos. Even with a few embellishments, the whole process took under two minutes. I was thrilled to see it has spell check.

The right side of the dashboard contains your control panel. Here you can change the color of your background, select paper, and view your purchased backgrounds. There is a healthy variety of selections, so the only thing that will limit your digital scrapbooking experience is your imagination. The choices don't stop there. You can select your album shape and even create a customized size for your album. Fonts in a variety of styles and sizes allow you to customize titles and journal entries, and a WordArt Designer allows you to create your own look and style. There are tons of embellishments you can add to the pages. Buttons, ribbons, Ric-Rac, flowers, flourishes and more add special touches to your digital scrapbook pages.




The My Memories Suite scrapbook software allows you to add music, narration, video and audio. Imagine sharing this scrapbook with a relative far away. You can print your album at home or export the pages into high-quality JPEG files, transparency-capable PNG image files, or a portable PDF file with a couple of clicks. Professional printing options also allow you to change your album into a calendar. For those technology lovers, multimedia options include being able to burn your album onto CD-R or DVD-R discs. My Memories Suite users can download the free Media Export Tools package and then create a movie or DVD-video of their album, or create an iPod ready file.




The left side of the dashboard has a Resource Gallery that includes featured designs. With one click, you are able to visit the My Memories website and purchase additional options, so the creativity never ends.

Here's something original I created. I choose everything from the size, to the background, to the photo placement, to the text, to the embellishments. It's nothing glorious, but as I get more familiar with the software I'm sure I'll be expanding my horizons and feel free to try more adventurous things.




I've enjoyed "playing around" with this digital scrapbooking software. For under $40, I was able to create special memories I can now easily share with family and friends. I'm hooked, and I think you will be too.

Free for All Friday is coming a bit early this week, because My Memories is offering one of our loyal readers a chance to win a free download of the My Memories Suite digital scrapbooking software. Please fill out the Rafflecopter form for your chance to win. Good luck!



a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Book Spotlight: Lost in Lone Creek by Mary Manners

Carson Merrill loves only one thing more than Lone Creek Ranch—high school sweetheart Jessica Tate. He has plans to marry her, until one fateful night a devastating accident nearly kills her brother, James, and claims the use of his legs. Jessica flees to Nashville, blaming Carson for her brother’s paralysis. She avoids him—and James—for more than a year.


Jessica returns to Lone Creek as one of the top producing land developers in the area, and she has one goal—to banish Carson forever from her memory while taking what he still loves—Lone Creek Ranch. But God has other plans—to draw the two together in a development project that will satisfy both their desires, and help them to reclaim the love they once shared.

Excerpt!

The low rumble of a black SUV drew Carson Merrill’s attention from the paddock and the horses waiting to be fed. He lifted his gaze to the horizon where a tempest of dust swirled against an expanse of cloudless blue sky. A gleam of metal caught the sunlight, and Carson’s gaze narrowed. He dropped the hay bale from his shoulder and shielded his eyes, hoping the glint wasn’t what he thought it was.


He swallowed an oath and brushed soiled palms against the thighs of his faded jeans before adjusting the brim of his hat. The words he muttered carried on the warm spring breeze.

“What’s she doing here?”

The oversized SUV with polished chrome wheels screamed wealth and privilege as it turned off the main road and wound down the long gravel drive toward the entrance to Lone Creek Ranch.

Carson’s gut clenched when the truck eased to a stop and the driver’s door swung open. Music spilled from the cab to mar the morning calm. Navy spike-heeled pumps peeked first, followed by long, shapely legs clad in a snug pencil skirt. Blonde hair bobbed in a sassy blunt cut as Jessica Tate unfolded herself from the driver’s seat.

She found her footing and turned with a flourish to face Carson. Her smile exposed straight, white teeth that Carson knew had once been encased by an arsenal of metal braces. He’d gotten his upper lip pinched in them—more than once.

Jessica propped designer sunglasses on her head to gaze at him with eyes the blue-gray color of a restless ocean wave. “My, but it’s a positively gorgeous morning. Wouldn’t you agree, Carson?”

“Depends.” He cleared the bile from his throat, tapped the toe of one scuffed boot, and turned to work the hay loose from its bindings as the horses inched in for a better look at Jessica. He couldn’t blame them. She was more than…appealing. “What brings you here after so much time…after more than a year?”

She frowned, her lips pursing into the perfect little pout, and smoothed a speck of lint from her linen blazer. “Well, that’s certainly not the greeting I’d hoped for.”

“Sorry to disappoint.” Carson loped toward the paddock fence, putting a healthy distance between them. The subtle scent of her perfume danced on the breeze. The hint of vanilla was familiar, but the rest of her…the hair, the clothes, was different…more polished. Her nails were manicured, her fingers adorned with gold—all except her ring finger. Mirrored sunglasses held perfectly highlighted hair in place, tucked back behind ears dripping with diamond studs. Carson frowned, remembering long, sun-bronzed tresses that once tumbled over her shoulders to kiss her waist; faded jeans that hugged endless, toned legs in all the right places. “But I’m sure you’re used to it.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Jessica asked as he swung a leg over the paddock fence.

Carson paused, resting on a fence post. “Didn’t you share that sentiment a while back, when you pelted me with a grooming brush in the barn? If I remember correctly, after nearly blinding me with a shot to the eye, you made it very clear that I’m an expert at disappointing.” He rubbed his face, reliving the sting.

“Carson—”

“What do you want, Jessica?” He swung his other leg over the fence and hopped down, then laughed as she gaped at the boundary between them. “Why have you come back here—to Lone Creek?”

She struggled to keep her balance in the ridiculous pumps as she marched to the paddock gate, threw open the latch, and slipped through to follow him. She smoothed fingers through her hair and tugged the skirt back into place.

“You’d better close that.” Carson nodded toward the open gate, pulling his gaze from her legs. “Troublemaker will run if you give him the chance.”

“Troublemaker?” Jessica took a huge step back when the stallion nudged and snorted.

Carson laughed as her blue eyes widened and she gave a little yelp. “Relax. He won’t hurt you.”

“I know. He just startled me.” She frowned, but turned to latch the gate. Then she stroked Troublemaker’s flank and smiled when he whinnied for more. “You always were bossy, Carson.”

“Well, isn’t that the pot calling the kettle black?” Carson removed his hat, swiped his forearm across his brow. The sun warmed things up to a slow swelter, yet Jessica stood by the gate, stroking his prize horse, cool and unruffled in the form-fitting suit.

Troublemaker…the traitor.

Carson cleared his throat and drew his gaze away from the curve of her waist, the creamy skin that peaked from the jacket’s collar. “I asked you a question, Jess. What do you want?”

“I want Lone Creek Ranch, Carson.” She struggled to keep up with him as the heels of her pumps snagged pasture grass. “I want the land it sits on.”

“What?” He choked, sputtered, and swung around so fast he nearly collided with her. Vanilla mingled with spring hay and dank cow manure. “Why?”

“I’m in the business of land development now, Carson, and this area is untapped.” She swept a hand across the horizon framing an endless emerald pasture back-dropped by smoke-hazed mountains. In the distance, water danced beneath sunlight as it raced along a generous creek. “Lone Creek Ranch is prime land.”

“No.” He held up a hand to stave off any further discussion. “Forget it. My answer is no.”

“Oh, for goodness sakes, Carson.” She rushed after him, her fingertips grazing his shoulder. Her touch scalded, and he shrugged off the sensation and quickened his pace, his long strides attacking the ground. “You can’t manage it alone. You need—”

“Don’t tell me what I need, Jess.” His voice was a low, dangerous growl as he entered the cool shade of the barn. “Lone Creek Ranch belongs to me now…and my brothers.” It had for nearly a year, since his mom passed on. Dad had been gone much longer.

Jessica waved her hand with a flourish as she struggled to keep up with him. “Funny, but I don’t see your brothers here. How long has it been, Carson, since they’ve been home to help carry the load?”

“You’re one to talk.” Carson’s eyes burned as he stared her down. “You left me, and you left James when he needed you most. Neither of us has seen you around here for over a year. Where did you run to, Jess?”

“This isn’t about my brother.” Her chin came up, and she tossed her hair back as her gaze challenged. “Besides, you’d know where I’ve been if you bothered to call.”

“You said you didn’t want me to. Was that just a line, Jess? Was I supposed to read your mind and know you really meant something else?”

“Of course not.” She sighed and tugged the collar of her jacket. “Look, Carson, I’m not here to rehash the past. I want Lone Creek Ranch. I’m prepared to make you a very generous offer.”

“I’m not interested in your offer, or anything else from you.” Carson’s blood boiled. He wondered if she could see smoke pouring from his ears. He clenched his fists at his sides. “Get off my land.”

“Carson, wait!” Her voice raised a notch as she crossed her arms. “Be reasonable, please.”

“I like that, listening to you beg.” He speared her with his gaze. “But this conversation’s over, Jessica. You’d better slip back into your shiny SUV and drive your self-centered, snooty little attitude back to town.”

“Me…self-centered—and—and—snooty?”

“You heard me.” Carson pointed toward the road. “Leave, before I say something I’m sure to regret.”

She readjusted the sunglasses propped on her head and waited a heartbeat, two, before taking a step forward and jabbing a finger into his chest. “Haven’t you already done that, Carson?”

“Have I? Are you sure about that, Jess?” He turned his back to her and stomped past freshly-mucked stalls, fists clenched again. He wove his way to the cramped office in the back left corner of the barn and slammed through the door. A gelding palomino, Lucky Lou, lifted his head and whinnied in protest from the stall across the aisle. And Sunshine, due to foal any day, paced restlessly in the largest stall, her belly round and swollen.

Carson kicked the door shut. A moment passed, when all he heard was the rush of blood through his ears and Lucky Lou’s nervous grunts. Then sharp heels tapped against concrete, and he drew a deep breath as Jessica strode toward the door. He bit back an onslaught of ugly words when she gave the splintered wood a light rap.

“I’ll go, Carson,” she called, her voice muffled through the wood. “But I’ll be back.”

He counted to ten, his hands fisted so hard his knuckles whitened. Then he blew out a heated breath, slumped into the battered leather desk chair, and tossed his hat onto the scuffed metal file cabinet, doing his best to ignore Jessica. An ivory square of paper fluttered as she slipped a business card beneath the door. He recognized her flourish of handwriting in the number she’d scrawled across the back.

It had a lot of zeroes—more than he’d seen in a long time.

“Here’s my offer.” Her voice carried a smooth molasses drawl. “Call me when you cool off and come to your senses.”

“Don’t hold your breath.” Carson covered the card with the toe of his boot and ground it into the soiled tile. “The earth will freeze over before I let you get your hands on Lone Creek Ranch.”

PURCHASE AT PELICAN GROUP!

Mary lives in the beautiful foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee with her husband, Tim, and their teen-aged daughter, Danni. Also with Mary are Lucky and Gus - the two cherished cats rescued from local animal shelters.

Mary is a member of the Romance Writers of America and Smoky Mountain Romance Writers.

During the school year, she teaches middle-schoolers English and algebra. When she has free time, she loves to garden, take long walks with her husband, and read romance novels in a hammock beneath century-old shade trees.

You'll find her website at www.marymannersromance.com.

Mary will present the workshop, Beyond the Bodice...Lacing Together Faith and Romance at the 2012 Romantic Times Booklovers and also has author pages at the following locations. Do come by and spend some time with her there!
THE WORDSMITH JOURNAL

THE BOOK AND TRAILER SHOWCASE

Tessa's Teacakes, White Rose Publishing

Lone Creek Ranch Series, debuting 1/6/2012

Buried Treasures, 2011 CAPA Award Nominee

Tender Mercies, finalist, 2011 Inspirational Readers Choice Award

Romance Novel Month: Lost in Lone Creek by Mary Manners



Carson Merrill loves only one thing more than Lone Creek Ranch—high school sweetheart Jessica Tate. He has plans to marry her, until one fateful night a devastating accident nearly kills her brother, James, and claims the use of his legs. Jessica flees to Nashville, blaming Carson for her brother’s paralysis. She avoids him—and James—for more than a year.


Jessica returns to Lone Creek as one of the top producing land developers in the area, and she has one goal—to banish Carson forever from her memory while taking what he still loves—Lone Creek Ranch. But God has other plans—to draw the two together in a development project that will satisfy both their desires, and help them to reclaim the love they once shared.

Excerpt!

The low rumble of a black SUV drew Carson Merrill’s attention from the paddock and the horses waiting to be fed. He lifted his gaze to the horizon where a tempest of dust swirled against an expanse of cloudless blue sky. A gleam of metal caught the sunlight, and Carson’s gaze narrowed. He dropped the hay bale from his shoulder and shielded his eyes, hoping the glint wasn’t what he thought it was.


He swallowed an oath and brushed soiled palms against the thighs of his faded jeans before adjusting the brim of his hat. The words he muttered carried on the warm spring breeze.

“What’s she doing here?”

The oversized SUV with polished chrome wheels screamed wealth and privilege as it turned off the main road and wound down the long gravel drive toward the entrance to Lone Creek Ranch.

Carson’s gut clenched when the truck eased to a stop and the driver’s door swung open. Music spilled from the cab to mar the morning calm. Navy spike-heeled pumps peeked first, followed by long, shapely legs clad in a snug pencil skirt. Blonde hair bobbed in a sassy blunt cut as Jessica Tate unfolded herself from the driver’s seat.

She found her footing and turned with a flourish to face Carson. Her smile exposed straight, white teeth that Carson knew had once been encased by an arsenal of metal braces. He’d gotten his upper lip pinched in them—more than once.

Jessica propped designer sunglasses on her head to gaze at him with eyes the blue-gray color of a restless ocean wave. “My, but it’s a positively gorgeous morning. Wouldn’t you agree, Carson?”

“Depends.” He cleared the bile from his throat, tapped the toe of one scuffed boot, and turned to work the hay loose from its bindings as the horses inched in for a better look at Jessica. He couldn’t blame them. She was more than…appealing. “What brings you here after so much time…after more than a year?”

She frowned, her lips pursing into the perfect little pout, and smoothed a speck of lint from her linen blazer. “Well, that’s certainly not the greeting I’d hoped for.”

“Sorry to disappoint.” Carson loped toward the paddock fence, putting a healthy distance between them. The subtle scent of her perfume danced on the breeze. The hint of vanilla was familiar, but the rest of her…the hair, the clothes, was different…more polished. Her nails were manicured, her fingers adorned with gold—all except her ring finger. Mirrored sunglasses held perfectly highlighted hair in place, tucked back behind ears dripping with diamond studs. Carson frowned, remembering long, sun-bronzed tresses that once tumbled over her shoulders to kiss her waist; faded jeans that hugged endless, toned legs in all the right places. “But I’m sure you’re used to it.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Jessica asked as he swung a leg over the paddock fence.

Carson paused, resting on a fence post. “Didn’t you share that sentiment a while back, when you pelted me with a grooming brush in the barn? If I remember correctly, after nearly blinding me with a shot to the eye, you made it very clear that I’m an expert at disappointing.” He rubbed his face, reliving the sting.

“Carson—”

“What do you want, Jessica?” He swung his other leg over the fence and hopped down, then laughed as she gaped at the boundary between them. “Why have you come back here—to Lone Creek?”

She struggled to keep her balance in the ridiculous pumps as she marched to the paddock gate, threw open the latch, and slipped through to follow him. She smoothed fingers through her hair and tugged the skirt back into place.

“You’d better close that.” Carson nodded toward the open gate, pulling his gaze from her legs. “Troublemaker will run if you give him the chance.”

“Troublemaker?” Jessica took a huge step back when the stallion nudged and snorted.

Carson laughed as her blue eyes widened and she gave a little yelp. “Relax. He won’t hurt you.”

“I know. He just startled me.” She frowned, but turned to latch the gate. Then she stroked Troublemaker’s flank and smiled when he whinnied for more. “You always were bossy, Carson.”

“Well, isn’t that the pot calling the kettle black?” Carson removed his hat, swiped his forearm across his brow. The sun warmed things up to a slow swelter, yet Jessica stood by the gate, stroking his prize horse, cool and unruffled in the form-fitting suit.

Troublemaker…the traitor.

Carson cleared his throat and drew his gaze away from the curve of her waist, the creamy skin that peaked from the jacket’s collar. “I asked you a question, Jess. What do you want?”

“I want Lone Creek Ranch, Carson.” She struggled to keep up with him as the heels of her pumps snagged pasture grass. “I want the land it sits on.”

“What?” He choked, sputtered, and swung around so fast he nearly collided with her. Vanilla mingled with spring hay and dank cow manure. “Why?”

“I’m in the business of land development now, Carson, and this area is untapped.” She swept a hand across the horizon framing an endless emerald pasture back-dropped by smoke-hazed mountains. In the distance, water danced beneath sunlight as it raced along a generous creek. “Lone Creek Ranch is prime land.”

“No.” He held up a hand to stave off any further discussion. “Forget it. My answer is no.”

“Oh, for goodness sakes, Carson.” She rushed after him, her fingertips grazing his shoulder. Her touch scalded, and he shrugged off the sensation and quickened his pace, his long strides attacking the ground. “You can’t manage it alone. You need—”

“Don’t tell me what I need, Jess.” His voice was a low, dangerous growl as he entered the cool shade of the barn. “Lone Creek Ranch belongs to me now…and my brothers.” It had for nearly a year, since his mom passed on. Dad had been gone much longer.

Jessica waved her hand with a flourish as she struggled to keep up with him. “Funny, but I don’t see your brothers here. How long has it been, Carson, since they’ve been home to help carry the load?”

“You’re one to talk.” Carson’s eyes burned as he stared her down. “You left me, and you left James when he needed you most. Neither of us has seen you around here for over a year. Where did you run to, Jess?”

“This isn’t about my brother.” Her chin came up, and she tossed her hair back as her gaze challenged. “Besides, you’d know where I’ve been if you bothered to call.”

“You said you didn’t want me to. Was that just a line, Jess? Was I supposed to read your mind and know you really meant something else?”

“Of course not.” She sighed and tugged the collar of her jacket. “Look, Carson, I’m not here to rehash the past. I want Lone Creek Ranch. I’m prepared to make you a very generous offer.”

“I’m not interested in your offer, or anything else from you.” Carson’s blood boiled. He wondered if she could see smoke pouring from his ears. He clenched his fists at his sides. “Get off my land.”

“Carson, wait!” Her voice raised a notch as she crossed her arms. “Be reasonable, please.”

“I like that, listening to you beg.” He speared her with his gaze. “But this conversation’s over, Jessica. You’d better slip back into your shiny SUV and drive your self-centered, snooty little attitude back to town.”

“Me…self-centered—and—and—snooty?”

“You heard me.” Carson pointed toward the road. “Leave, before I say something I’m sure to regret.”

She readjusted the sunglasses propped on her head and waited a heartbeat, two, before taking a step forward and jabbing a finger into his chest. “Haven’t you already done that, Carson?”

“Have I? Are you sure about that, Jess?” He turned his back to her and stomped past freshly-mucked stalls, fists clenched again. He wove his way to the cramped office in the back left corner of the barn and slammed through the door. A gelding palomino, Lucky Lou, lifted his head and whinnied in protest from the stall across the aisle. And Sunshine, due to foal any day, paced restlessly in the largest stall, her belly round and swollen.

Carson kicked the door shut. A moment passed, when all he heard was the rush of blood through his ears and Lucky Lou’s nervous grunts. Then sharp heels tapped against concrete, and he drew a deep breath as Jessica strode toward the door. He bit back an onslaught of ugly words when she gave the splintered wood a light rap.

“I’ll go, Carson,” she called, her voice muffled through the wood. “But I’ll be back.”

He counted to ten, his hands fisted so hard his knuckles whitened. Then he blew out a heated breath, slumped into the battered leather desk chair, and tossed his hat onto the scuffed metal file cabinet, doing his best to ignore Jessica. An ivory square of paper fluttered as she slipped a business card beneath the door. He recognized her flourish of handwriting in the number she’d scrawled across the back.

It had a lot of zeroes—more than he’d seen in a long time.

“Here’s my offer.” Her voice carried a smooth molasses drawl. “Call me when you cool off and come to your senses.”

“Don’t hold your breath.” Carson covered the card with the toe of his boot and ground it into the soiled tile. “The earth will freeze over before I let you get your hands on Lone Creek Ranch.”

PURCHASE AT PELICAN GROUP!

Mary lives in the beautiful foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee with her husband, Tim, and their teen-aged daughter, Danni. Also with Mary are Lucky and Gus - the two cherished cats rescued from local animal shelters.

Mary is a member of the Romance Writers of America and Smoky Mountain Romance Writers.

During the school year, she teaches middle-schoolers English and algebra. When she has free time, she loves to garden, take long walks with her husband, and read romance novels in a hammock beneath century-old shade trees.

You'll find her website at www.marymannersromance.com.

Mary will present the workshop, Beyond the Bodice...Lacing Together Faith and Romance at the 2012 Romantic Times Booklovers and also has author pages at the following locations. Do come by and spend some time with her there!
THE WORDSMITH JOURNAL

THE BOOK AND TRAILER SHOWCASE

Tessa's Teacakes, White Rose Publishing

Lone Creek Ranch Series, debuting 1/6/2012

Buried Treasures, 2011 CAPA Award Nominee

Tender Mercies, finalist, 2011 Inspirational Readers Choice Award