Sunday, December 27, 2009

Have You Said Thank You Yet?

Not what we give, but what we share, for the Gift without the Giver is bare.
~James Russell Lowell, author

Very, very tired tonight. Went a-visiting to beat the storm today :). But before it got too late, I wanted to post a short message about Christmas. Father’s homily on Christmas Day was about the gift of Jesus and while I’ve thought about this in passing in previous years, this year it really struck home.

The reason for the season (as so many church billboards remind us this time of year) is Jesus. It’s His birthday we celebrate by giving each other gifts. But what gifts do we give to Jesus? Imagine a birthday party where the guest of honor was neglected or even ignored, while all the guests spent weeks and weeks shopping for gifts for each other. Seems a bit odd, doesn’t it?

Take that one step further and imagine a party where all the guests (except the guest of honor) received a gift from the host, and nobody stopped to say thank you.

Jesus was God’s gift to us, and through Him, the gift of everlasting life. I hope during this Christmas season (because now it truly is the Christmas season, all twelve days of it :)) we all take time out to think about what that means to us, and, at the very least, say thank you.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night :). Stay safe and warm if snow is headed your way, or already there.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Helping the Homeless, Part Two

Stewardship is often defined as everything we do
after we say, “I believe.”
Function: noun
1: the office, duties, and obligations of a steward
2: the conducting, supervising, or managing of something; especially: the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one's care
• We are God’s; ALL of our being belongs to God, our bodies, minds, and spirits
• All of our time, talents, and treasures are from God, for God, and the property of God
• We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.
— Winston Churchill
• No person was ever honored for what he received. Honor has been the reward for what he gave. — Calvin Coolidge

We are just passing through this world and are given and entrusted with Time, Talent, and Treasure to use for God’s glory and our good.

Last week my email box was flooded with emails about blizzards and frigid temperatures and people shoveling their cars out from under mountains of snow, and I couldn’t help but wonder about the homeless who live in their cars or worse in this type of weather. What does it say about us as a society that we spend hours upon hours shopping for gifts half of us don’t need or want, just because the media tells us to, while we let people sleep in cars and cardboard boxes and on city sidewalks?

Call me a Scrooge if you want—I don’t decorate or bake or go to Christmas parties, and this year I probably won’t even send out Christmas cards--but over 90,000 people are homeless in Los Angeles alone. One friend wrote of hundreds of people living in cardboard boxes along riverbanks in Colorado because the shelters are all full, in temperatures that dipped to 26 degrees below last week. These are families with men, women and children. Another mentioned seeing people sleeping in the streets in Philadelphia, a phenomenon that is repeated nightly in cities all across the nation.

Yesterday, I had my post all written, then accidentally deleted it. By then an hour and a half had passed, and I was hungry. So I went to my refrigerator and just stood there, staring at all the food in it and being grateful that I had so many choices when there are so many who have none. Being grateful that I was in a warm and dry home of my own while the wind blew and the rain poured. I can’t even begin to imagine the desolation the homeless must feel.

I then went to Mass, to give thanks for all that I’ve been given, put a check for the church’s food pantry in the collection plate, and although I was not hungry, agreed to go to lunch with a friend simply because I could.

I wanted to do so being aware of the blessing that was, to be able to walk into a restaurant and order whatever I wanted. We sat there for hours, talking and catching up on our lives. We would have closed the place down, had it been a different type of establishment. But for those few hours we were dry and warm and full, unlike so many others in our country, and for that I was grateful.

I want to ask you here to take a moment and think about the blessings you’ve been given, and find a way to share those blessings in this time of hardship for so many. Find out where your local homeless shelters are, make a pot of soup or a casserole or a few dozen extra Christmas cookies and drop them off on your way out shopping or to that Christmas party or concert. Take the money you would spend on a gift that a friend or relative doesn’t want or need, and donate it to your local food pantry. Drop a few dollars into the can outside the store and offer the Salvation Army bellringer a warm hello and a smile. Don’t avoid eye contact and pretend he or she isn’t there. Dig those old Christmas trees and ornaments you don’t use any more out of the attic or basement and donate them to someplace that could use a little Christmas cheer.

Go through your closets and collect your old coats and hats and gloves and blankets and drop them off at the nearest church or distribution center. They’re everywhere, if you just look. Take your children’s old books and toys to a community shelter for the kids there to read and play with. Take some time out of your frenzied Christmas preparations to volunteer at a community shelter and give the regular workers a break from the exhaustion that comes from serving others. Remember the reason for the season.

There are so many ways to help, just using what we already have on hand. And don’t forget to pray. Prayer costs nothing, but goes a long, long way.

Time, talent, and treasure. There is power in numbers. If everyone who can afford to did just a little, think of how much nicer a Christmas it could be for all of us.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Guest Author, Mona Risk

Today's guest is friend and fellow Rose Mona Risk, who is celebrating the release of her latest novel, Prescription for Trust. I met Mona in Florida this past January, and what a delightful woman she is. I plan to go back some day and watch the sunset from her balcony. Until then, however, I'll have to settle for being whisked off to exotic places and spending time with the stubborn and strong-willed characters in her books. She also has a wonderful blog. Welcome, Mona, and here's wishing you many happy sales.
Thank you, Liana, it's a pleasure to be here. I'm Mona Risk, and I write sweet and spicy medical romances in the genre of ER and Grey’s Anatomy—stories that will make you smile, laugh, and cry.

In BABIES IN THE BARGAIN, a pediatric resident ignores her strict schedule to help a playboy doctor deal with a newborn, after a tragic accident transforms her colleague into a dedicated father to his orphaned nephew.

Rx For Trust is the story of two psychiatrists with conflicting theories on how to treat their patients and tame their own emotions. My readers often ask: Are you a doctor? Not exactly, my friends. Let’s say that I am a self-proclaimed medical student trying hard to learn the professional jargon, in order to stage-direct my protagonists as they perform their medical procedures.

Puzzled, my readers frown: So what about research? Where do you find the medical cases, diagnosis, treatment or surgeries? I rely on real doctors. My daughter is a neonatologist and my sister a psychiatrist. Unfortunately they never have enough time to answer my endless questions. But I am persistent.

My daughter explained her resuscitation procedure several times. I consider myself an intelligent person but for the life of me I could not imagine how my daughter would have the courage to introduce an endo-trach-something that looks like a wire into the throat of a two-pound infant. And I didn’t comprehend the half-a-line long words she used while talking at an eighty-mile-an-hour speed.

Running out of time and patience at my continuous questioning, my daughter gave me a CD and a booklet. “Here, Mom, watch this video. Read the booklet, and if you have more questions, let me know.”

When I watched the video, I understood how the resuscitation procedure was done, and I also realized how those delicate hands manipulating the ETT (endtrotracheal tube) were saving babies’ lives. I was in awe and had tears in my eyes. That’s what my daughter was doing for a living---saving babies’ lives. I was able to write the procedure. Later on, she read my manuscript and changed my resuscitation scene into such an unsavory dry report I almost gagged and re-edited it again to make it more palatable.

For my next book, Rx FOR TRUST, I had to transform myself into a credible psychiatrist. I begged my sister for help. She refused to talk about her cases and gave me a lecture about patient confidentiality.

Did I mention I was persistent? My sister came back to me with two big volumes of psychiatric cases. “Here, read.these, and if you have more questions, let me know.”

Yeah, I heard that before, but my jaw dropped. Was she expecting me to read two big books of psychiatry?

Apparently, she was serious. And I read the two books. Honestly, I enjoyed the reading and couldn’t believe there was so many nut cases in the world. I chose the lighter ones, those that could be funny in a romance. Later on my sister reviewed my manuscript and made the medical scenes look “more professional." I immediately changed them back into “more readable."

As you can see, it’s not easy to transform a writer into a doctor, but it’s possible with hard work and perseverance.

Rx For Trust is based on a real case. Successful physician and loving mother, Dr. Olivia Crane is used to treating victims of domestic violence and has no problem listening to the most complicated cases of abuse, but deep down, Olivia fiercely believes youthful mistakes should be kept secret and skeletons are better left in closets.

Olivia doesn’t want to remember the past, doesn’t want to talk about it and carefully hides it from her daughter and from the man she loves. She has buried her ugly past and convinced herself she’s forgotten it.

Because of her inner fears, she refuses to face her past experience and deal with her problem. In fact, she is so terrified about the past catching up to destroy her daughter’s peace of mind, that one little lie leads to another, and another,… until the past catches up with her.

Unfortunately, Dr. Luc George, the French psychiatrist who loves her, detests secrets and has a professional tendency to dig into people's minds.

Rx FOR TRUST, the first book in the Doctor’s Orders series, was released December 4 by The Wild Rose Press. The story’s theme revolves around a famous saying by Walter Scott:
“Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.”

Contest Awards: First Place in Central Ohio Ignite the Flame; Second Place in Heart of Denver, The Molly; Third Place in FTHRW Golden Gateway.


“Fine.” He raised both hands in a conciliatory gesture. “But I am stunned by this situation. Help me understand you. We dated for a year. I loved you. Why did you not trust me?”

Loved. He used the past tense. Even if his love had survived for ten years, she’d killed it with her confession. The sadness underlying his question went straight to her heart. She dropped back into her chair, rubbing her forehead to lessen the tension.

Why did he have to linger over the painful past?

Luc touched her hand and enfolded it in his large one. “Olivia, you are a psychiatrist. You know you can’t bury your past forever. Not when you have a teenage daughter. At some point, you will have to deal with it. Can you please tell me why you hid your daughter from me?”

“Why can’t you understand?” She snatched her hand from his and exhaled, wishing she had a magic formula to erase her bitter past. “When I was a student, I was still hiding her from everybody at med school.” Resting her head against the back of the chair, she closed her eyes. “I told you I was terrified for her safety. Melissa is unfortunately the mirror image of her father. I was afraid that he’d find out he has a daughter and hurt us both.”

“Did he ever threaten you?”

Olivia blinked and struggled to suppress her bitterness. Threaten was putting it mildly. “He told me to ‘get rid of it’ when I said I was pregnant. And he got upset when I protested.”

“How upset?” Luc punched the palm of his left hand with his fist.

Feeling her control slipping under his scrutiny, she turned her head.

“Did he hit you?”

She didn’t answer. But he must have read the humiliating truth in her eyes.

“Mon Dieu. I wish I had known. I would have killed this monster. Is that the reason you turned away from me?”

She bit her lip, loathe to tell him how much she’d cried after he left. “Listen, we dated on and off during that year, but you were going back to France, and I wanted to concentrate on my career. Why would we start a long-distance relationship? Besides, I couldn’t trust anyone. Any man after...” Shaking her head, she averted her gaze. Luc was far too perceptive. “I was too frightened.”

“And you still are. You sacrificed a lot because of your inner fear. Don’t you think you need help, Dr. Crane? You need to learn to trust people again.”

“I’m fine now. When Melissa started high school, I introduced her to my boss and colleagues. I’m very proud of her.” She stood to signify the end of this conversation that had drained her.

Damn it. She didn’t need a shrink. After sampling his kisses last night, she roused to a surprising reality. She wanted him again. She wanted her French lover who lavished her with pleasure and tenderness during steamy nights.

His eyes narrowed, Luc crossed his arms over his chest. “But you still have not told your daughter the truth.” The archetypal psychiatrist, he followed the same line of questions.

Irritation flickered through her, and she struggled not to shout at him. “That’s not your problem.” The minute she’d confided in him, he tried to impose his views. “You see why I couldn’t tell you my secret? I didn’t want anyone interfering and destroying my daughter’s peace of mind.”

Mona Risk writes romantic suspense for Cerridwen Press: TO LOVE A HERO and FRENCH PERIL And medical romance in the genre of ER and Grey's Anatomy for The Wild Rose Press: BABIES IN THE BARGAIN and Rx FOR TRUST. All books are available at

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Colors of Thanksgiving

We praise you, O Lord, for all your works are wonderful.
We praise you, O Lord, forever is your love.

The colors of Thanksgiving. On Thanksgiving I went to church, to give thanks for the many blessings in my life, and was treated to a wonderful program that tied in the colors of our life to the liturgy. Afterward, I asked Sister Mary Rose if she'd written it, and I could have a copy to share here.

To explain, she had someone process down the aisle with an object representing each of the following colors, colors that matched the programs we were handed as we entered the worship space. Those objects were:

A Green Plant
A Yellow Basket
An Orange Pumpkin
Red Apples
A Brown Floral Arrangement
A Blue Votive Candle
White Mums
Purple Grapes

What follows are the words that accompanied these symbolic objects. I hope you'll take the time to reflect on them, and will get as much out of them as I did.
Today’s Liturgy is both a HOLIDAY and a HOLY DAY. For people throughout our land,
today traditionally marks the day on which we, as a nation, pause to give thanks for the bounty of the earth.

Those of us who have gathered in THIS sacred this moment in time...are also gathered to give thanks for the gifts that come to us from the goodness of God.

In the spring, GREEN symbolizes breaking from the shackles of winter. At this time of year, it represents bounty...and hope...and the promise of victory of life over death.

YELLOW conveys energy and warmth...and is the symbol of light and purity. It speaks of youth...and happiness...and harvest...and hospitality.

Symbolic of endurance and strength, ORANGE is the color of fire and flame...and represents the red of passion, tempered by the yellow of wisdom.

Signifying spiritual awakening, RED testifies to the joy of life and love.

BROWN represents the earth and the humility of those who work the land. It reminds us that God is connected to the common things in life...and so are we.

Inspiring us with insight and freedom, BLUE symbolizes honesty and integrity and reliability. We have also come to associate this color with loyalty and enduring commitment.

WHITE calls to mind all that is pure, and innocent...and for this reason, it is often associated with the newness of life.

PURPLE brings to mind valor and bravery. Used by royalty, nobility and the church, PURPLE enhances many celebrations of rich ceremony and deep penitence.

And then, after Mass, these blessings were bestowed.

Upon you, whose program covers are YELLOW and ORANGE: I ask God to bless you with the grace you need to bring light to a darkened part of God’s world, filling it with understanding, and renewing it with an energy that will bring others to Jesus, the true Light.

Upon you, whose program covers are GREEN and BROWN: I ask God to give you the gifts that will nurture life and hope in others. May you stay rooted in the values of the Gospel and be always grateful for the common and the ordinary things of life.

Upon you, whose program covers are RED and BLUE: I ask God to make you strong in your commitment to live in imitation of Christ. May your love extend to those most in need of your compassion and care.

Upon you, whose program covers are WHITE and PURPLE: I ask God to bless you with new life as you face today...and every God’s chosen people. May you rejoice in the blessings God has shown you, and become instruments of goodness and peace.

My cover was blue, and I extend my love and blessings to you, as we progress through Advent and into the busiest and one of the most holiest times of the year, Christmas.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Just for Fun

Here is the Washington Post’s NOT Mensa (see below) Invitational which once again asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition.

Here are the winners:

1. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period of time.

2. Ignoranus: A person who’s both stupid and an asshole.

3. Intaxicaton: Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.

4. Reintarnation: Coming back to life as a hillbilly.

5. Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.

6. Foreploy: Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.

7. Giraffiti: Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.

8. Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn’t get it.

9. Inoculatte: To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.

10. Osteopornosis: A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)

11. Karmageddon: It’s like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it’s like, a serious bummer.

12. Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.

13. Glibido: All talk and no action.

14. Dopeler Effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.

15. Arachnoleptic Fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you’ve accidentally walked through a spider web.

16. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito, that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.

"Mensa Invitational" debunked

A Washington Post humor column titled "The Style Invitational" runs a series of popular contests, some of which since 1998 have featured taking any word; adding, subtracting or changing one letter; and creating a new word as well as its definition. As you would expect, many of the entries are clever and relevant — which is probably why someone who is now lost to the mists of time grabbed an early set of winners, changed the title to include a reference to Mensa, and sent it floating out into the Internet ether.

The revised "article" continues to circulate to this day on various Web sites, blogs and social networking sites, as well as in email. Looking at the results of the Week 278 Style Invitational, you'll see that many of the original responses mirror the list of words on the purported "Mensa Invitational" — including "intaxication," "bozone," "foreploy" and "glibido." Since 2005 or earlier, the "Mensa Invitational" has been suspected to be a hoax but no confirmation has ever been made prior to this. So we're here to debunk this urban legend.

American Mensa, nor any other Mensa entity, has ever been affiliated with the Washington Post's "Style Invitational" column and/or its contests, to the best of our knowledge. It wouldn't surprise us if many of our members have entered the contests — and perhaps even have won — but that would be the limit of the interaction.

Because we appreciate their humor, we encourage the enthusiastic wordsmiths who continue to send American Mensa their new words and definitions to become members of the online Washington Post and participate to the fullest. At the same time, we also heartily encourage them to consider joining American Mensa! We think they'd be at home here.

American Mensa

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Guest Author, LK Hunsaker

Today's Guest is LK Hunsaker, fellow Bookspa member and Classic Romance Revival author. She's doing a whirlwind blog tour this month, so be sure to stop and see what she has to say at each spot! Welcome, LK!

Behind The Scenes: An Army Brat

Hi Liana! It’s great to be here on your blog! Since it’s Veteran’s Day here in the States and since I’ve enjoyed your talks about balance and wellness, I thought I’d incorporate those today.

Let’s start with a quick excerpt from Off The Moon. Here, Ryan is visiting his brother and is followed by a photographer looking for private moments. (slightly edited to maintain PG rating):

Ryan sighed. “I’m really sorry about this.”

“Not your fault.” Will called the dog back and stroked her to help her calm.

“How is it not my fault?”

His brother shrugged as though photographers hanging around his backyard was an everyday occurrence. “It’s your right to do the job you love. Not your fault the country is star crazy.”

“Not like I haven’t tried to feed into it, though. You know how much time and energy goes into feeding it? To grab as much limelight as possible to help sales? Part of me gets angry when they badger me like this, but then, I’ve never minded when it pay the bills.”

“Part of the job. We all have the right to support our careers. And don’t think I’ve always felt that way. I’ve had my share of being ticked off at the invasion into our lives because of it, but it’s not like we’re not used to being affected so much by a career. We grew up that way. More than most can understand.”

Ryan couldn’t argue that. Growing up a military brat and having to move every couple of years to wherever the Army said, like it or not, leaving friends behind, never with extended family around, hearing all of the political ramblers argue whether their parents were heroes or villains without knowing them and with no idea why they chose that life or what it was actually like on the inside … they were both well used to living on the outskirts of regular society instead of within it.

“You escaped it, though, decided to blend in. My choice shouldn’t affect you and your family.” He kept his eyes in the distance, in case the photographer decided to return.

“It’s not ever possible to not affect those around you with your choices. You know that. And you balance it well – your need with ours.

Although he’s known as self-centered and self-serving, Ryan grew up with military parents. He thinks of his life as growing up on the “outskirts of regular society” and it affects his overall outlook. Part of him resents the moving and he blames his lack of attachment on protecting himself. On the other hand, he has a lot of respect for his parents and the way they taught him to follow rules and to do chores and be a real part of maintaining the household.

He spends his days doing what he can to grab attention and to perpetuate the rebellious independent wild child image for his career and even tells himself that’s what he is. However, his roots nag at him. During his rebellion and the crazy stunts, the side of him that’s more down-to-earth and family oriented helps to keep him balanced so he doesn’t go too far over the edge. He also does what he can to keep it from bothering his family, and his family in turn, helps to protect his privacy and gives him shelter from the craziness of his job.

I enjoyed playing with the idea of balancing “selfish pop star” with “serving military family.” Anyone who is or has been military or knows service members and their families well knows that “selfish” is the antithesis of what being military means. Although in recent years there has been a surge of support for the military, for too many years before that, they were severely underappreciated and even dealt with a lot of spite. Some sectors of civilian population still treat them that way. The true story of the school child during the first year of the Iraq war who had to sit in class and listen to his teacher talk about how anyone fighting there was “evil” haunted me. It still does. That’s where the hero or villain bit of this excerpt came about.

Ryan is haunted, also, by taunts he heard from the civilian sector as a child. He has trouble relating to anyone outside his career or outside military life because he’s never been part of anything else. His career both avoids and embraces his “outskirts” raising. Being a pop star keeps him outside regular society and he’s comfortable there. Many sides of Ryan conflict, appear to be opposites, but looking close enough, it’s a parallel to military life: fighting for peace, separating from those you love to protect those you don’t know, vulnerability that creates strength and vice versa. It also balances him so well, he’s able to adapt to whatever situation he’s faced with, no matter how hard it is on him, physically and mentally.

My thoughts and best wishes go out this Veteran’s Day and always to all service members past and present and to their loved ones.

As an aside, if you know a deployed service member who likes to read and has an Ereader of some kind, refer him or her to Operation Ebook Drop: Indie authors donating books to those deployed!

Buy Link for Off the Moon preorders:

Find my website for more info, plus a free download of the beginnings of each of my novels:

Also, be sure to check my blog this month for Off The Moon related interviews.

Off The Moon
LK Hunsaker

"Riveting" Ryan Reynauld is immersed in a world of music, parties, and temporary companionship. Having risen to the top of the pop charts, his biggest concern is objecting to the way his music is produced. That is, until he finds a young woman standing on a window ledge. Against the advice of family and friends, and through media attacks and fan protests, Ryan determines to care for her himself, making a promise that threatens to destroy his career.

Convincing the skittish girl she can learn to trust again comes with a steep price. Sometimes the path to recovery begins by allowing your world to implode.

Elucidate Publishing
November 2009
Print ISBN 978-0-9825299-0-4
Ebook ISBN 978-0-9825299-1-1

Thanks for having me today, Liana!

Next up: Celebrities: Truth vs. Hype, hosted by Nancy O’Berry, Nov. 13

The full tour itinerary is available here.

Don't forget to leave your comments! One person from each blog will be drawn to receive a signed, mailed copy of the short story LK has written as a bit of a prequel to Off The Moon, called Toward The Sky, plus there will be a signed print book drawing for anyone who comments on at least 8 blogs!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Sunday's Inspirational Quote

Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials. ~Lin Yutang

Keeping it simple again. We're still recovering from the swine flu. I was blessed enough to be bypassed, but have this nasty cough and drainage thing going on, so I'm going to leave a lot of things undone today and just drink lots of fluids and rest.

Have a wonderful week.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Women and Insanity, Part Two

Since it’s so close to Halloween, I thought I’d continue my thoughts on Women and Insanity. Over the weekend, I watched the movie, The Changeling, starring Angelina Jolie. I didn’t know what it was about, just that it was Angelina Jolie and she had a missing child. What I discovered was this was a true story, a story about the disappearance of Walter Collins in 1928.

Now, women in 1928 had precious little rights, and especially single mothers like Mrs. Collins, who supported herself and her son by working at the telephone company. Until her son disappeared, she was a quiet, unassuming, hard-working single mom who adored her son and was just trying to make a good life and home for them to the best of her ability in the times she lived in. She got called in to work on a Saturday when she had planned to take her son to the movies, and (although this wasn’t made clear in the movie) instead sent him to the movies alone. He never returned.

Mrs. Collins spent five frantic months looking for her son, and the Los Angeles police department, who a the time was already under fire, was looking even worse. So they concocted this scheme where another young boy would pretend to be her son, and they could announce that the case was closed.

The only problem was that Mrs. Collins knew immediately that the boy was not her son, and protested. Because by closing the case, that meant the police would stop looking for her real son. So she became a mother on a mission, desperate to find her child.

Meanwhile, the police tried to tell her she didn’t know her own son, and why couldn’t she be happy with the one she had. They tried to make her out as a loose woman, having had five months to party and live it up while he was gone, and now that he was back, she wanted to deny her son and shirk her responsibilities toward him. She finally became so outspoken that the chief of police had her committed to an insane asylum until she signed a paper that said the boy was her son and she had been mistaken. She refused.

Call me naïve, but I was shocked that this could happen less than 100 years ago. I mean, my initial post about women and insanity had to do with pioneer women in the 1800s. You’d think things would have improved in a century or so. But apparently not. Over the weekend, I found this, from a college paper on women and mental illness.

It states: "Mental illness during the Victorian era revolved around the empowerment of men. Hysteria fuelled from a fear of intellectual women. Women were denied tasks such as reading or social interaction due to a fear of becoming a hysteric. Women were further forced into the stereotypical passive housewife role. Anorexia was an attempt to fit the male standard of beauty. These women refused food in order to appear "feminine" and become a frail ornament for their husbands to show off. They also furthered the idea of the passive housewife, lacking personality or emotion. Those who took a stand for their beliefs or exercised a sexual emotion were deemed insane as they rejected the feminine ideal. Such women were forced into asylums to keep others in line; they were sacrificed to show that those who spoke up would be punished. Thus, the rest of the women remained silent. And finally, spinsters and lesbians were a major threat to male domination. These women preferred life without sexual interaction with men. They rejected the social norms of woman as passive, emotionless accessories and instead embraced personal choice. They too were deemed insane and subject to male-induced public criticism to try and reform them as well as fuel the idea that this sort of behavior was not acceptable. "

So poor Mrs. Collins never had a chance. Fortunately, however, there were enough people in the community who would stand up for her, and went looking for her (as she was whisked out the back door of the police station and off to the mental institution in the dead of night) and found her and got her released. She then was able to get released all the women in the institution classified as Code 12, which turned out to be a euphemism for someone the police wanted to get rid of.

A book on the subject I would recommend is Women of the Asylum: Voices from Behind the Walls, 1840-1945 (Paperback)

Here’s a snippet of what one reviewer had to say about it:

"This book is an interesting compilation of personal accounts of women who were imprisoned in asylums for various reasons, usually at the request of a relative. It seems throughout most of this time period, all it took to get a person imprisoned in an asylum was a statement from the doctor that the person was insane. Consequently, if a woman angered a man in her family, he could have her imprisoned by pointing out that she was not performing her duties as a woman around the house and for the community, such as at church…often, individual thinking landed a woman in the insane asylum. One of the women questioned the doctrine of her church; thus, was imprisoned for religious problems. This same woman wrote a very articulate account of her treatment and the treatment of other women in the hospital, which made me wonder exactly what it was that they saw wrong with her views on the church. The only conclusion I could draw was that it had to be her individuality that brought her into the asylum.

The most striking thing about this book is to look now onto what these women went through, and consider these were absolutely normal occurrences at the time…While these stories explain the reasons women landed in the asylums, they also told of the treatment of them and the other inmates. These stories are clear, but the authors/editors also explain what types of treatments were used at different times and how these all tied in with how the patients actually responded. While you can see their legal rights starting to improve towards the end of the time studied here, there is a definite slip in the treatment and attitude towards the inmates as these hospitals grew in size…"

The bottom line, I think, is that the times dictate what is crazy and what isn’t, and I have to wonder why it is that no matter where you look, even today, women seem to fall on the wrong side of crazy every time.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Saliva Hormone Testing, Pro or Con?

I had my appointment with the so-called hormonal specialist in town this week. The one I have been waiting for, for months. I went to see her in August, with disappointing results, because it was clear the true focus of her practice was elsewhere (as in botox injections and chemical peels, both of which are truly hazardous to your hormones), and I apparently know more about the subject of hormonal imbalances than she does.

But after calling all around town, it was clear that only she and one other doctor were the only ones in town doing this type of hormonal testing at present, and if I wanted to get it done…

Well, I knew it was a mistake the minute I dropped the samples off at the UPS shipping post. The instructions had been so specific about keeping the saliva samples in the freezer and mailing them off THE NEXT MORNING. You could go with UPS or the postal service, but I knew the US mail didn’t go out before three around here anyway, so I opted for UPS. I walk in with my little test kit, and the woman says, “Fine, just leave it on the counter.”

“When do they pick up?” I ask. “Oh, sometime this afternoon.” In the meanwhile, my little kit sits out in the open on the counter of a store that has its front doors wide open to the fall sunshine. How could the samples not be corrupted?

I ask this of the doctor when I see her, and she looks at me like I’ve grown two heads. “I don’t know,” she says. “It’s not a problem.”

Well, I see it as a problem, because my test results turned out to be totally unexpected and off the charts in some areas, and she can’t explain why. She just kept looking at the results, and circling them, and saying nothing more than, “Well, that’s what it is. As you can see, its…high.” She drew in some upward arrows for effect.

It turns out, that according to the test results, instead of a deficiency in my hormones, I have an excess in some areas. This causes a problem for the doctor, because apparently the procedure is, she tells me I am low in this, this, and that, and then tells me I am in luck, as she has just the supplements I need on hand.

Be very wary of any kind of testing that comes complete with (their own) name brand products as the solution to your problems.

Fortunately, however, she was out of the one thing I was deficient in, Vitamin D. I told her that was okay, I’d manage to get some on my own (from a company I know and trust).

In the meantime, I ask the doctor, “How do you get rid of excess hormones?” She looks at me. “I don’t know.”

Well, I know, because I read it somewhere, but I don’t remember where, because it was just something I read and had no idea I’d be needing.

“I’ll call the lab and see what’s going on with these results,” she says. “Why don’t you make an appointment for next week to come back and find out what they said?”

This time I looked at her. “Why don’t you just call me and tell me what they said?”

Meanwhile, I ask her what could possibly cause my hormone levels to be so high. I know the answer. I want to see if she does. After all, I’m the one paying her to tell me what the problem is. She fumbles badly until I give her a clue, then she takes off with it, all the while, asking, “You know what I mean?”

Yes, Doctor. I know what you mean. I also know that you’re winging it here and it shows.

In the end, she decides I need more testing, and bounds out of the room to figure out what test I need. No way am I doing this saliva test thing again, which several doctors in my research books have found to be unreliable. They recommend blood serum tests instead.

I ask her if there aren’t any blood serum tests I can take to get a better picture of what’s going on. “Why?” she asks. “It won’t do any good.”

This is the exact quote I have read over and over again in my books about women seeking help for hormonal issues, being shut down by their doctors who either have been trained to say or truly believe blood hormone tests aren’t reliable.

But how can the home-collected saliva tests be? It’s impossible. At least when you have samples taken at a lab, be they blood, urine, or saliva, they keep them refrigerated, and transport them in refrigerated containers. God only knows where my samples sat during the five days it took to get to the lab. I sent my samples off the 25th. They weren’t tested until the 29th.

A few weeks ago, I went to what was billed as a seminar on saliva hormone testing, being sponsored by a local pharmacy. A compounding pharmacy, one that can create individual prescriptions for women with hormonal imbalances, once the testing kits show where they are deficient. The room was filled with about forty women, all middle-aged. The presentation was completely on target and informative. The information was correct.

But it was a marketing presentation all the same. Go to your doctor, ask for these kits, get your hormones tested, then come back to us for a consult and we will mix up the perfect prescription for you.

Sounds like a dream come true to women who can’t sleep, can’t lose weight, are either bitchy or want to cry all the time or both at the same time, have hot flashes, headaches, backaches, swelling, cramping, bloating, joint pain and are either losing their hair or growing a moustache, just to name a few symptoms. And don’t forget, we’re all exhausted, and not interested in sex.

But they warn you the testing is imperfect, and it may take a few tests to get your prescription right, and you will need to be tested every three months thereafter to make sure the hormones they are giving you are the right ones for you.

They do not mention the cost, nor that it is not covered by insurance, nor that there are only two doctors in town who subscribe to this method of testing, and one of them is a woman who doesn’t know the first thing about interpreting the results. All she knows is how to hand you a kit and say, “Call me for an appointment to get the results.”

This is the same woman who 7 weeks ago, upon speaking with me for 15 minutes, strongly suggested I go on anti-depressants as the solution to my hormonal problems, which I refused, because countless case studies show that doing so only makes the symptoms worse. Hormonal imbalances are so individual, because each woman’s physical make up and life stressors are so different, that prescribing one pill to take care of them is like asking every woman to wear a one-size-fits-all-tent dress.

This time, after seeing the high levels of my hormones, in particular my serotonin level, which is what the SSRI anti-depressant would supposedly boost, she did a complete 180. As I was leaving, I asked her, just to make sure, “Now, you don’t recommend the anti-depressants any more, correct?” And she looked at me. “Well, you’re the one who said you wanted to go natural, right? You can’t do that if you’re on anti-depressants.”

Professionalism at its finest.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Power of Prayer

More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of. ~Alfred, Lord Tennyson

God's 26 Guards

This is part of an email I received and am passing on to you. I’ve edited it because that’s my nature--I can’t seem to leave any document that crosses my desk alone--but the core message remains true. Lately, I’ve been asked to pray for more sick children than ever before. And each time I did, I’ve secretly wondered if it really does do any good. I think this message answers my question.
Have you ever felt the urge to pray for someone, but put it aside, thinking, 'I'll pray for them later'? Or has anyone ever called you and said, 'I need you to pray for me?' The following story may change the way you think about prayer, and also the way you pray.

A missionary on furlough told this story while visiting his home church in Michigan. 'While serving at a small field hospital in Africa, every two weeks I traveled by bicycle through the jungle to a nearby city for supplies. This was a journey of two days and required camping overnight at the halfway point. On one of these journeys, I arrived in the city where I planned to collect money from a bank, purchase medicine, and supplies, and then begin my two-day journey back to the field hospital.
‘Upon arrival in the city, I observed two men fighting, one of whom had been seriously injured. I treated him for his injuries and at the same time talked to him about the Lord. I then traveled two days, camping overnight, and arrived home without incident....‘Two weeks later I repeated my journey. Upon arriving in the city, I was approached by the young man I had treated. He told me that he had known I carried money and medicines. He said, 'Some friends and I followed you in to the jungle, knowing you would camp overnight. We planned to kill you and take your money and drugs. But just as we were about to move into your camp, we saw that you were surrounded by 26 armed guards.’
‘At this, I laughed and said that I was certainly all alone in that jungle campsite. The young man pressed the point, however, and said, 'No, sir, I was not the only person to see the guards, my friends also saw them, and we all counted them. It was because of those guards that we were afraid and left you alone.'
At this point in the sermon, one of the men in the congregation interrupted the missionary and asked if he could tell him the exact day this happened. The missionary told the congregation the date, and the man who interrupted told him this story:
'On the night of your incident in Africa, it was morning here and I was preparing to go play golf. I was about to putt when I felt the urge to pray for you. In fact, the urging of the Lord was so strong, I called men in this church to meet with me here in the sanctuary to pray for you. Would those men who met with me on that day stand up?'

The men who had met together to pray that day stood up. The missionary counted them carefully. There were 26.
This story is an incredible example of how the Spirit of the Lord moves on behalf of those who love Him. If you ever feel such prodding to pray, go along with it. You don't know what it can mean to that person.
God hears and answers the prayers of the faithful.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Women and Insanity

For the past six months, I've been doing research for a book on women's health, in particular PMDD, or Pre-Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder, a biological/physiological condition that occurs in concert with a woman's menstrual cycle, and has, amid much controversy, been categorized in the DSM-IV as a mental disorder. I'm going to start sharing my findings here on Wellness Wednesdays, in the hopes of helping women who suffer from not only PMDD, but a host of other hormone-related issues (such as thyroid, menopause, PMS, post-partum depression, and countless others) realize that these issues are indeed biological in origin and not mental.

In short, no, you're not going crazy. Your hormones are simply out of whack. Week after week, I'm going to explain the various reasons why you feel the way you do. Why you think you're losing your mind, and why you're not. Better yet, I'm going to tell you what you can do to bring your hormones, and your life, back into balance.

We are blessed in that--while mainstream medicine for the most part continues to dismiss, discount, and ignore women's hormonal health concerns--the good news is it's nowhere near as bad as it used to be, as will be outlined by my guest blogger today, fellow Wild Rose Press author Loretta Rogers.

So thank you, Loretta, for helping me to kick this new direction for my blog off with a historical perspective on what in most cases were no doubt simply hormonal issues, if any imbalance was present at all. As you will see, sometimes all a man needed to commit a woman to the insane asylum was a desire to do so.

Because divorce was a rarity during the pioneer/frontier days, men devised other ways to get rid of unwanted wives and children, and that was by declaring them insane and placing this unwanted loved one in an insane asylum. Actually these early asylums were in reality prisons and not medical centers. These institutions were filthy, dark places where people were treated more like animals than human beings. The asylums usually provided only the basic necessities of life. Food was poor, cleanliness was not stressed and the rooms were often very cold. Diseases were quick to spread throughout the asylum.

Some of the reasons women were institutionalized are unbelievable. In the early 1800’s wives and daughters were often committed for not being obedient enough to their husbands or fathers. You’ve heard the term, “children are to be seen and not heard.” This applied to wives as well. If a woman spoke out and went against the “norm” she could be committed.

With no birth control, it wasn’t unusual for a woman to give birth to another baby while still nursing her last child. And a brood of six to twelve children wasn’t unusual either. With her body no longer firm and supple, her energy level somewhere between zero and double zero, and with the daily routine of cooking, cleaning, plowing, and all the other demands, a woman was run ragged. It’s no wonder she grew old long before her time.

All the husband and/or father had to do was simply write the word “lunacy” on the admission form. Lunacy was an acceptable reason for divorce. The woman’s husband would declare her insane, put her in the asylum and then file for the divorce. A few months later, his marriage records to a younger bride usually showed up.

Other reasons to be “put away”, were depression, alcoholism, just being a little different from the norm, and even going through menopause. Doctors just didn’t know how to deal with mental issues and the result was to put their patients in the asylum. These women were locked up and forgotten by their loved ones. The fathers/husbands often forbid the family members to visit. It was as if the wife or daughter had simply died. Most of these women did stay at the insane asylum until their death.

If a father had no sons, but didn’t want his daughter to inherit his fortune or worldly goods, he could have her declared insane, institutionalized, and leave his money to a favorite nephew or his ranch to a ranch hand he considered as a son. If a man’s wife had died in child birth and he couldn’t find a woman to wed who was willing to become a stepmother to his large brood, or if he couldn’t marry off any of his eligible daughters, he simply declared them as lunatics and placed them in an asylum. Sometimes daughters were committed for unwanted pregnancies. Other children were committed for being disobedient or for illnesses such as Down’s Syndrome or Autism. Being born deaf or mute, retarded or physically disfigured was another reason a child might be committed.

Oftentimes, the husband might tell others that his wife or child had died. If a newspaper office was available, he might even have an obituary printed. Yet the person was very much alive at the asylum. While it was rare for a sane person to be released from an asylum, it did happen. Imagine what it was like for this woman. Having been declared dead, she had no identity.

Some of these asylums were built next to, or part of, the prison system. This was to help cut back costs of care, food and facilities. Rape was prevalent in asylums. Because women had been declared insane, it was deemed they had no powers of reasoning, no feelings or emotions. In other words, they were considered walking zombies. Because of this deranged thinking, (no pun intended) prisoners and even asylum employees used the women for their own pleasures.

If you are into genealogy and have run into a brick wall trying to locate a female relative, the US census has a place on some of their census, example 1850, that had a place to mark if deaf, dumb or insane. The probate section may carry Lunacy Record Books at the county courthouses. Some Wills will declare if someone is insane or having lunacy. If someone seems to have disappeared, they may have been “sent away.”

Therefore, when we refer to the ‘good old’ days, we might remember these women and their lives, and be thankful that they paved the way for us.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Kindness of Strangers

Last weekend my faith sharing group went on retreat together. A woman only one of us knew generously offered her cottage in the country for the six of us to get away from the hustle and bustle of our lives for the weekend and spend some time with God. Cottage was an understatement. It turned out to be a lovely three bedroom house with three bathrooms--including a claw foot tub and accompanying bubble bath—a huge deck, bonfire pit, living room fireplace and hot tub.

You could call it camping with style. The six of us arrived on Friday evening loaded down with foodstuffs and linens and all things needed for a camping trip such as utensils and paper towels and garbage bags and cleaning products, unloaded and sorted ourselves into the three bedrooms, then cranked up the oldies and enjoyed a delicious, hearty meal of home made chili, salad and Italian bread on the deck overlooking a slow, lazy river.

We’d planned to sit around the bonfire afterward, but everyone was tired—hence the need for a retreat—and after some scripture reading and a ceremony where we placed our burdens in God’s hands, we trundled off to bed.

My roommate and I slept in the Princess Room, generally designated as the room for our unknown hostess’s granddaughters, complete with white bunk beds and accompanying Princess Accoutrements. I slept in the top bunk, and let me tell you, I was quickly reminded of the amount of upper body strength needed to haul a (much larger than the last time I did it) peri-menopausal woman’s bottom-heavy body up a ladder and into bed.

But manage it I did, along with a quiet prayer that I wouldn’t be needing to make my usual foray into the bathroom in the middle of the night, for fear that I’d fall right off the ladder.

God answered my prayers. I both slept through the night and slept burden free. Got the best night of sleep I’d had in a while and awoke in the morning to the smell of coffee and a delicious breakfast bake created by our organizer extraordinaire and chef in residence, who doesn’t get much time to cook, and was delighted to bless us with her culinary skills. A beautiful bowl of fresh fruit rounded out the menu.

Just before breakfast our facilitator arrived, a lovely Sister of St. Joseph and spiritual counselor who had insisted on arriving early to share breakfast with us on the deck and get to know us before the program began.

The program, which lasted from 10 to 5, included prayer, scripture readings, Christian music, periods of reflection and quiet conversation about how much God loves each and every one of us. We broke only for lunch, which was a veritable feast of salami, provolone, an array of breads and rolls, more fresh fruit and a veggie tray. Snacks and desserts, which each of us had brought individually as our contribution to the cooking, were available throughout the weekend. Oh, and yes, a bowl full of chocolate occupied center stage on the coffee table throughout :).

After the program portion of the retreat, held in warmth and cozy comfort as we settled into soft leather furniture in the gathering room while the rain poured outside and swelled the lazy river to fast-moving proportions, we concluded by breaking bread once again with a crock pot meal of pork roast, potatoes and carrots, leftover fresh veggies and our wide array of desserts. Sister left with hugs all around, and we sat up late into the night, enjoying our wine, more oldies and quiet conversation in between trips to the out door hot tub in the now misty rain.

Sunday morning we were all moving slow. We had planned to attend Mass together, but our cook/leader had arrived with a nasty cold/sinus infection she had come down with the day before, and we chose to let her sleep in and get the rest she needed. So breakfast was a lazy affair, with people helping themselves to leftovers as they got hungry, and others dipping back into the hot tub in the still misty rain. Some chose to take advantage of the claw foot tub.

Once everyone was fed and bathed/showered, we began our craft project for the retreat, which I was in charge of, so you know what we did. Collages. For the next three hours, as red, orange and gold leaves continued to aimlessly drift into the river and onto the deck outside, we sat on the floor inside and listened to music and cut out pictures from magazines and created collages of items that spoke to us, laughing and sharing and sometimes passing pictures of interest to others back and forth. Afterward, we explained them to each other.

The original theme was items we wanted to bring into our lives, but everyone had a different take on it. Some started one side of the collage with negative images from the past, and moved to positive images for the future. Another focused only on her short term goals, what she wanted to bring into her life in the immediate future. Another used the collage to express the inner woman she was and intended to express more fully. Mine, as it turned out, was full of fall colors and bridges and roads, and trains and cars and references to journeys. Took me completely by surprise, it did. I’m still trying to figure out what it means :). But each of them was beautiful, and we were well pleased with our efforts and how quickly our individual themes emerged and meshed.

After the collages, we ate again, then went to work packing up and cleaning the house so that it sparkled and we left no sign that we had been there. A final round of hugs and we were off to return to our busy lives, renewed, refreshed and well fed, both physically and spiritually.

We’ve decided we want to do this again, and share our journeys along the way. But none of it would have been possible without the generosity of a woman we didn’t even know.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Two New Reviews for Ashton's Secret!!

This week I was blessed to receive two new reviews for Ashton's Secret, both on the same day. I couldn't be more pleased. I knew I was happy with the way it turned out, but the extra validation never hurts :) That makes 5 Smacks, 5 Books, and 5 Wings it's received so far :) Woo hoo!

Ashton’s Secret, Liana Laverentz, Romantic Suspense

Snippet: Ashton’s Secret’ blends romance and mystery with exceptional skill. Meghan, our leading lady, is intent uncovering the truth about her sister Heather’s death, years earlier. Her sister had been an apparent suicide, but when Meghan discovers an old letter, she begins to have doubts about the official findings.

Meghan travels to the little, one-stoplight town and close-knit community of Ashton, where no one wants to talk about her sister. The only person that will pay her any attention at all is none-other than Nick Hawkinson…black sheep of the town, and quite possibly a killer. Their first meeting is tense-–but a certain, subtle humor is apparent, as well. This occasional dash of humor lightens certain situations throughout, the way a brighter accent brings life to a painting. Nick is suspicious of Meghan, and she can hardly be blamed for doubts about him! These doubts are soon strengthened, as she learns some of the townies suspect him of Heather’s actual murder--if anyone wanted to admit it to be a murder, that is.

There is no accounting for the decisions of the heart though and, deadly or not, Meghan feels drawn to this possibly dangerous man. The strength of their feelings, from doubts to love, are easy to sympathize with and understand. Characters throughout this story are wonderful, deep and believable people.

Although Ashton’s Secret has all the earmarks of a typical mystery, the importance of the romance blending with some other, hard to define quality lend it a certain, heartfelt or perhaps heartwarming aura. We, as readers, have hopes and expectations. We feel Meghan’s frustration, and we wait for some resolution. We keep reading, looking for more than one resolution in fact, but throughout this novel are odd touches, where doubt changes to trust, or where fear is apparent even in a some well-meaning act. These give the story an evocative depth that is hard to define, but delightful to experience.I will look for Laverentz’ other books straightaway: this one has made me a fan. Reviewed by Snapdragon. Full review here:

Snippet: These two characters struck sparks from their first meeting. Both were trying to convince themselves that the secrets they were keeping were for the good of the investigation and for the other person…the slow opening of the hero and heroine to each other is delightful and captivating. Each conversation between them adds another layer to their personalities, making them real, living, breathing people with enough emotion to jump off the page at you…I couldn’t put down this story, lost sleep to finish it and I will be reading more of her. Reviewed by Melissa. Full review here.

Thank you, Snapdragon and Melissa!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Guest Author, Sandy Lender

Today's guest is Sandy Lender (gorgeous website, by the way), fellow Polka Dot Banner author and part of the Goddess Fish Blog Tour, who could be my twin lost at birth except for the turtles, the parrots, reading horror, living in Florida, and writing and editing for magazines. Welcome, Sandy!

Who are you?

Sandy Lender: I think this answer varies depending on which personality has come to the keyboard. To be mildly philosophical and as sane as I can possibly sound, I’m a fairly nice chick with an environmentalist bent who writes about characters who have probably driven me “over the edge” without me realizing it. I have four parrots in my home who boss me around, and I anticipate they’ll share my room with me at the asylum because no one else is going to be able to do anything with them. Oh! And I like sharp pointy weapons.
What type of stories do you like to write and why?

Sandy Lender: I love building fantasy stories the best. The characters who visit me typically have elements in their past that belong in a fantasy setting so I have no choice but to work in that genre. Luckily, I love it!

What type of stories do you like to read and why?

Sandy Lender: Ooo. I’ll read just about anything. I love classics such as Jane Eyre (my favorite book of all time), but I enjoy sampling new fantasy and science fiction. Sometimes I’ll pick up a mystery or a romance if I know the author or I’ve been asked to review it. I’m keen on horror (if it’s not just gore for the sake of gore, you know?) and thrillers and suspense. I’ll read young adult fantasy and paranormal stories that have been recommended to me. I’m not into reading memoirs, but I’ve made some exceptions.

When do you write?

Sandy Lender: Anytime, anywhere that I can get the time. I’ll prop a notebook up on the steering wheel and write when I’m in traffic. I keep notebooks next to the bed in case I wake up with an idea that needs to be scribbled down or, you know, written out and fleshed out and worked on until an hour or so later when I’m ready to fall back to sleep. Some weekends I’ll schedule a block of time for just writing like mad; some evenings that happens deep into the night. Typically, I steal bits of time during the week after work and before bed in between all the tasks a person has to do to keep the body alive. It’s good that I can drop into a fantasy world at the drop of a hat.

Where did you get the inspiration for your Choices books?

Sandy Lender: My inspiration for the Choices Meant for Gods and Choices Meant for Kings novels came from the characters themselves at first. Any time the going got tough for them, inspiration came from all around. Just about anything can give me a spark for writing and believe me, I use that. I live near some lovely beaches; I see beautiful sunsets over the Gulf of Mexico. I work with sea turtles, which are majestic yet endangered creatures. I have pet birds that do adorable tricks when you least expect it of them. Just the strangest things happen around me and these things get the creative juices flowing in my brain. So whether I’m noticing something bizarre alongside the road while I’m driving in the Everglades or whether I’ve set up an elaborate medieval setting in my writing den, something’s got me thinking about my writing and my characters and how they’re thinking.
Where do you go to think?
Sandy Lender: Literally? This might sound crazy, but I just go inside my brain. If I’ve got something I’ve got to concentrate on for a fiction story, it helps to put on some writing music—not too loudly—and just look inward. I have to go into the world where the problem is and look at what the characters have as tools for the solution. When I have a real-life problem, I do a bit of the same. I go “inside my brain” and go into this real world we live in where the problem is and look at what I have as tools for the solution.

How did you come up with your title and main characters’ names?

Sandy Lender: The names for the characters have evolved slightly over the years that I was developing the backstories and histories and legends and building the world that Choices Meant for Gods and Choices Meant for Kings take place in. For instance, I used to call Amanda Chariss by the name Sharlee. There’s a notebook in my closet with scenes where her name changes to Charlee. Still wrong. She eventually got me straightened out. Her wizard guardian had to tell me that I was spelling his name incorrectly. For years, I referred to the servant woman Loetha as Leeta. As for the name of the first novel, it comes from the beginning of Chariss’s character arc. She originally didn’t think she could be as important as everyone said she was. She didn’t believe she should have the responsibilities people (and gods) were handing her. She thought the decisions she was being asked to make were choices meant for gods.

How long did you write seriously before your first book was published?

Sandy Lender: This is kinda difficult to answer. I wrote stories for my great grandmother when I was a child, and I was serious about those then. I wrote stories for assignments and contests in school, and I was serious about those at the time. I won a first-place award for writing a sequel to To Kill A Mockingbird in junior high. I took creative writing classes (for grades that counted toward the GPA) in high school and college. After graduating college in 1992, I wrote and edited for magazines, and I (still am) was serious about that because it became my career. ArcheBooks published Choices Meant for Gods in 2007.
Why do you write?

Sandy Lender: It’s like breathing. I have no choice.


Chariss is in danger. Her geasa is hampered by the effects of a friend’s marriage. The dashing Nigel Taiman hides something from her, yet demands she stay at his family’s estate where he and her wizard guardian intend to keep her safe. But the sorcerer Lord Drake and Julette The Betrayer know she’s there, and their monstrous army marches that way.

When prophecies stack up to threaten an arrogant deity, Chariss must choose between the dragon that courts her and the ostracized kings of the Southlands for help. Evil stalks her at every turn and madness creeps over the goddess who guides her. Can an orphan-turned-Protector resist the dark side of her heritage? Or will she sacrifice all to keep her god-charge safe?

A Tense Little Excerpt From Choices Meant for Kings
By Fantasy Author Sandy Lender
You won’t find this excerpt anywhere except Sandy’s current online book tour…

As the soldier stepped toward him, Nigel reached out his arm and caught him by the neck. He slammed the captain against the far wall. He pinned him there with his body, leaning against the man as if he could crush the wind from him with his presence.

He brought his face close to the soldier’s ear and spoke lowly, fiercely, so that no one could have overheard him. The menace and intent behind the words was as surprising to the captain as the words themselves.

“I asked you to accompany [Chariss] on this journey tomorrow because I have faith in your sword, and until this moment I trusted you to keep your distance from her. Now, I find her down here at your side with a look upon your face that suggests more than you realize. So help me, Naegling, the only thing that stays my hand is how displeased she would be if she learned that I sliced you open.”

“The look you see is merely my concern for her honor. Nothing more.”

“I’m not a fool. And I’ll use every last piece of Arcana’s treasury to pay the prophets to justify my reasons for marrying that woman, so you can unconcern yourself with her honor.”

Hrazon stepped off the staircase then and saw Nigel pressed against his guard.

“I still believe you’re one of the best soldiers Arcana’s ever seen,” Nigel continued, “and I want you at her side for this journey, but, so help me, Naegling, she comes back alive and well and not confused in the least about her affections for me, or I will string you up from a tree in the orchard and attach your intestines to your horse’s saddle before I send it—”

Hrazon cleared his throat. “Excuse me. Is there an issue here I should address?”

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Guest Author, Nicole McCaffrey

Today's guest is fellow Rose Nicole McCaffrey, busy wife, mother, and ebullient author of funny, compassionate, heart wrenching and downright sexy historical and contemporary romances. Her zest for life and laughter jumps off the page, both in her interview here and in her books. Her latest release, The Model Man--how can you not admire that cover?--is currently on sale at The Wild Rose Press as part of the Last Rose of Summer promotion. Only a few more days to go, so be sure to check it out and take advantage of the savings on all our Last Rose titles this month, where we prove over and over again that falling in love over forty is just as wonderful as the first time around. Welcome, Nicole!

Who are you?

I wear many hats. Mom. Wife. Suzy Homemaker. Dog walker. Chauffeur. Short-order cook. Basically, I’m just a SAH mom who likes to write—and has sold a book or two. *G*

What type of stories do you like to write and why?

I’m an historical writer first and foremost and those are the stories that really call to me. But whether I’m writing contemporary or historical I really like to explore the sensual with my characters, so my stories tend toward the hot.

What type of stories do you like to read and why?

I love the escape of reading historical—simpler times, simpler struggles. That’s like a vacation to me. I prefer American-set, but I will read regencies now and again. For the most part, I prefer lighter fare—life is depressing enough, I don’t want to read a story that upsets or depresses me or makes me cry--unless I’m crying with joy! Johanna Lindsey and Linda Lael Miller are two of my favorite authors for this reason—they give me the historical escape without hitting me over the head with history, and there’s always laughter. I also have all of Pamela Morsi’s old historicals on my keeper shelf and re-read them now and then for much the same reason.

When do you write?

My youngest just started first grade and is in school a full day now. I’m still getting used to the routine, it’s only been a few weeks, but have really been trying to focus on writing for at least half the day. Occasionally, once homework is done, dinner is cooking and SpongeBob is on, or the Playstation is going, I’ll sneak back to the computer and write a little more.
When do you read? Where?

I read a lot at night before going to sleep. There’s something comforting about the routine of climbing into bed and reading, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Of course, if it turns out to be one of those books I can’t put down, then I catch myself carrying it with me throughout the day and reading every chance I can, LOL.

Where did you get the inspiration for your books?

Wow. Anywhere and everywhere. I have a couple of things going on right now, another western historical, and the inspiration for that came directly from the character, who was a secondary character in my last western historical. I’m also working on a short Civil War-era story and the inspiration for that came from an old, abandoned Greek-Revival style house I drive by on a regular basis. (Sadly it was recently sold, so my fantasy of living in it will have to be put on hold, LOL). And both my contemporary releases began as dreams. My first historical—now gathering dust in a drawer—came from a line in a song. I guess you just never know when or where inspiration will hit!

Where do you go to think?

With two young, busy boys, thinking is not often allowed! Driving alone gives me a lot of thinking time, but it’s rare that I’m alone in the car or driving for any distance, mostly just to school and back. The shower is another place –and one of the few places I’m actually alone! LOL. Other than that, I love to think about my characters and story ideas as I’m waiting to fall asleep, or just waking up in the morning.

How did you come up with your title and main characters’ names?

Sometimes the characters bring their name with them, other times I have an idea of what I’m looking for and go browsing baby name lists, usually by nationality, until I find one that feels right. Quite often, the name itself will bring an image of a character to mind. In my western historical Wild Texas Wind (currently on an editor’s desk somewhere in New York), it began that way. I was working in a local hospital and kept hearing them page a security guard named Raz. I had no idea who he was, but each time I heard that name, the image of a man on a horse dressed all in black with long black hair, jumped into my mind. I couldn’t see his face, just these piercing pale blue eyes. I didn’t know who he was but I knew his name was Raz and that I had to write his story!

If I don’t know the title when I sit down to write the story, it will usually come to me from a line in the story itself. With The Model Man, that was just my working title since the hero is a male model. But my CP’s loved it and as the story unfolded, my hero really began to live up to that, so I kept it.

How long did you write seriously before your first book was published?

Well I started around age six, LOL. But I joined RWA in 1989 and sold to TWRP in 2006. I got really serious about writing after my oldest son was born in 2000. He was a good baby who slept a lot so I took advantage of the extra time I had—I also met my wonderful critique partners around that time and everything sort of clicked into place as if it were meant to be.

Why do you write?

Because I can’t not write. As long as characters keep pulling up a chair and telling me their stories, I’ll keep writing them.

For as long as I can remember, I have heard voices in my head. Fortunately for me, they’re all characters—begging me to tell their stories. My first sale was a holiday novella, published by The Wild Rose Press in November, 2006. The Model Man, my first full length contemporary, was released in March, 2008.

I’ve been married to Peter, my best friend, for eleven years, and am a work-at-home mom with two busy boys ages six and nine. When I’m not working, writing, or buried nose-deep in a research book, chances are I’m baking, gardening, or just kicking back and hanging with my guys. Visit me at

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Little Laughter in Your Day

Still keeping it's entry is regarding typos in church bulletins. I got this as an email years ago. It came around again this week, and I laughed just as hard. Enjoy!

These sentences actually appeared in church bulletins or were announced in church services:

1. Bertha Belch, a missionary from Africa, will be speaking tonight at Calvary Methodist. Come hear Bertha Belch all the way from Africa.
2. Announcement in a church bulletin for a national PRAYER & FASTING Conference: "The cost for attending the Fasting & Prayer Conference includes meals.
3. The sermon this morning: "Jesus Walks on the Water." The sermon tonight: "Searching for Jesus."
4. Our youth basketball team is back in action Wednesday at 8 PM in the recreation hall - Come out and watch us kill Christ the King.
5. Ladies, don't forget the rummage sale. It's a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Don't forget your husbands.
6. The peacemaking meeting scheduled for today has been cancelled due to a conflict.
7. Remember in prayer the many who are sick of our community. Smile at someone who is hard to love. Say "Hell" to someone who doesn't care much about you.
8. Don't let worry kill you off - let the Church help.
9. Miss Charlene Mason sang "I will not pass this way again," giving obvious pleasure to the congregation.
10. For those of you who have children and don't know it, we have a nursery downstairs.
11. Next Thursday there will be try outs for the choir. They need all the help they can get.
12. Barbara remains in the hospital and needs blood donors for more transfusions. She is also having trouble sleeping and requests tapes of Pastor Jack's sermons.
13. The Rector will preach his farewell message after which the choir will sing: " Break Forth Into Joy."
14. Irving Benson and Jessie Carter were married on October 24 in the church. So ends a friendship that began in their school days.
15. A bean supper will be held on Tuesday evening in the church hall. Music will follow.
16. At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be "What Is Hell?" Come early and listen to our choir practice.
17. Eight new choir robes are currently needed due to the addition of several new members and to the deterioration of some older ones.
18. Scouts are saving aluminum cans, bottles and other items to be recycled. Proceeds will be used to cripple children.
19. Please place your donation in the envelope along with the deceased person you want remembered.
20. Attend and you will hear an excellent speaker and heave a healthy lunch.
21. The church will host an evening of fine dining, super entertainment and gracious hostility.
22. Potluck supper Sunday at 5:00 PM - prayer and medication to follow.
23. The ladies of the Church have cast off clothing of every kind. They may be seen in the basement on Friday afternoon.
24. This evening at 7 PM there will be a hymn sing in the park across from the Church. Bring a blanket and come prepared to sin.
25. Ladies Bible Study will be held Thursday morning at 10 AM. All ladies are invited to lunch in the Fellowship Hall after the B.S. is done.
26. The pastor would appreciate it if the ladies of the congregation would lend him their electric girdles for the pancake breakfast next Sunday.
27. Low Self Esteem Support Group will meet Thursday at 7 PM. Please use the back door.
28. The eighth-graders will be presenting Shakespeare's Hamlet in the Church basement Friday at 7 PM. The congregation is invited to attend this tragedy.
29. Weight Watchers will meet at 7 PM at the First Presbyterian Church. Please use large double door at the side entrance.
30. The Associate Minister unveiled the church's new tithing campaign slogan last Sunday: "I Upped My Pledge! - Up Yours!"

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Guest Author, Celia Yeary

Today's guest is Celia Yeary, friend, fellow Wild Rose Press author, and moderator at The Bookspa, where readers and writers alike can find an oasis of calm in a world of words. Speaking of words, Celia has a blog you don't want to miss, full of heartwarming stories about growing up in Texas and other fun things. Celia is here today to celebrate the release of Showdown in Southfork, part of The Wild Rose Press's wildly popular Wayback Texas series, where a cowboy falls in love every 8 seconds. Congratulations and welcome, Celia!

Who are you?
I am…free to be me, a dreamer and thinker, the anchor for my family, a loyal friend, a faithful wife, a lucky woman who has it all. I haven’t always “had it all”—I had to fight for it, wait for it, work hard and live for the day when I could say, “I have it all.” I wish I could assist every helpless creature in the world, but I can’t, I’m not God. So, I try to do my best, don’t always succeed, though, so I tend to my own little corner of the world.

What type of stories do you like to write and why?
Love stories, for sure, but I also like to write stories about women, I suppose labeled “women’s fiction.” Sometimes, I think there’s more humor, more tragedy, more heartfelt caring, and yes, even more real love in women’s relationships. I’m re-editing a ms right now titled Making the Turn that involves a young woman, her daughter, her mother, a man, and a young boy not her own. During the course of the novel, the college-age daughter brings all them out of their shells and ruts, connects them, and she does it with the blithe spirit of youth.
What type of stories do you like to read and why?

The same that I write. Except those I read are much better than mine—that’s why those authors are with the NY publishers and I’m not! I remember The Shell Seekers as the first women’s fiction I read, and the story was very touching—very different emotions from romance novels. Belva Plain’s novels are angst-filled family sagas. I enjoy Beverly Lewis’s Amish/Mennonite series, because again, they’re family based sagas, always with real people finding and losing love and acceptance .Needless to say, my favorite type of romance are series—usually Western—but I love Susan Wiggs’ contemporary series, too.
Where do you go to think?

I move away from the computer, lie down, close my eyes, and daydream. Or I go for a walk down the road, the county road we live on where the houses are a few acres apart. I’ve straightened out many scenes and pages of dialogue in this manner. And sometimes—I go to a movie. Yes, to think. I have nothing else in my head except the movie—and in one corner of my brain, a WIP or a new novel. You see, I don’t have to talk to anyone or respond to a phone.
How long did you write seriously before your first book was published?
I wrote for about three years before The Wild Rose Press accepted All My Hopes and Dreams. I had about eight novels written, all badly, all needing much work, so I looked at all of them, narrowed them to three, and asked my critique partner to look at the first chapters of these three. Which is best, I asked? She chose the two others over All My Hopes and Dreams! Really! But I knew, deep in my heart, that “Hopes” was my best….hope.
Why do you write?
To stay sane, I guess. I’m rarely bored, because I always have something to do. In my earlier years, my marriage, my children, my household, my college years, my teaching years, and a retirement filled with international travel and a lot of golf kept me fully occupied. But all that either slowed or came to a halt, and I found emptiness and boredom begin to creep in. I began to write, when I never had in my entire life, but my brain was full of stories. If someone wanted to torture me, he could just put me someplace where I had nothing to do, and I’d quickly go insane.

Celia Yeary is a life-long Texan, proud of her roots, happy living among live oaks and deer, and grateful for her entire family. She appreciates and nurtures good friendships, and tries to help someone else when the need arises. Her passions are her husband and grandsons and books—in that order. Her successful grown children are a source of pure joy. Celia and her husband have traveled widely, but in the end prefer their home.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Birthday Blessings

After writing my post yesterday, I made up my mind to go to church to give thanks. I learned a long time ago that we don't go to church for "what we get out of it," or to bargain with God in any way about whatever situation may be going on in our lives, but to give thanks for what we have been given. I've been given more than I can possibly list in one blog post, but chief among the gifts I have been given are those of friendship, love and laughter. So off I went to consciously give thanks.

I don't go to church every Sunday, but when I am there, I am there 100%, fully present in the moment. I'm not sitting in the pew writing out checks, or talking to the people beside me, or making mental lists of what needs to be done when I get out of church or, God forbid, answering my email or phone. When I go to church, I am there to sing and pray and listen and give thanks, and that's all that matters to me in that hour. It's very freeing, to have that hour of simply being in the presence of God, and can bring me peace, clarity, determination, euphoria, or tears, depending on how the Holy Spirit chooses to move me. I choose to be God's vessel in that time and moment, open to whatever comes.

So imagine my surprise when my friends, whom I was supposed to go out to dinner with on Friday night, both turned toward me at the same time after Mass, and gave me big, loud birthday smooches on my cheeks, then invited me out to lunch. Half an hour later, we, along with my son, were seated at one of our two usual restaurants, and they were urging me to order my usual meal, pot roast. I do love a good pot roast and can't seem to make one to save myself.

Afterward, we shared a piece of peach pie.

Then we drove out to their house in the country and spent the afternoon just hanging out, going for a walk in the warm summer breeze, talking, laughing, sharing new finds--they are beachcombers--meeting new friends (their neighbors, who invited my son and I to return again with his guitar for a jam session) and reconnecting with one another.
I didn't get home until well after dinner, and when I did, I was still full from lunch. So they fed me, and in more ways than one. They fed my spirit, which had had a rough week, as well as my body.

It was a lovely day, leaving me feeling truly blessed. And it wouldn't have happened had I not gone to church to give thanks for what I already have.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Guest Author, Diane Craver

Today's guest is Diane Craver, fellow Sweeter Romantic Notions author. I met Diane last year at the Lori Foster Readers and Writers Get Together, and she is a delightful woman. So sit back, relax, and enjoy an interview with this busy mother of six!
Who are you?
Hi! Liana, thank you for having me here today. I'm Diane Craver, wife to Tom (just celebrated our 34th anniversary), mother of 6, and the youngest sister with three older sisters, which you'll learn later here why that means anything. :)

What type of stories do you like to write and why?

I write chick-lit mystery, inspirational romance, contemporary romance, and women's fiction.

What type of stories do you like to read and why?

I like to read contemporary romance, romantic comedy, mysteries, romantic suspense, historical romances, inspirational romances, and women's fiction.

When do you write?

I'm an early riser so I write a little before I get our two daughters with special needs up in the morning. After I get them to their programs, I'll do a few loads of laundry and etc., then I get busy again on my writing. On some days I might only have short periods to write, but other days I might have longer chunks of time.

When do you read? Where?

I read at different times but probably mostly in the evening or on weekends. If it's in the summer, I'll take a book with me to read outside after I go swimming. Sometimes I might read a little in bed before going to sleep or curled up in a comfy chair. I do buy quite a few ebooks but I don't like to read them from the computer so print them on the back of my rough drafts. I'd love to buy an electronic reader someday.

Where did you get the inspiration for Whitney in Charge?

I wrote Whitney in Charge because I thought it'd be fun to write a story about sisters. I wanted the focus on Whitney, the youngest sis, since I'm the little sis in my family. I decided to have Shannon and Regan, the older sisters, play matchmakers to help Whitney meet a new man.
How did you come up with your title and main characters’ names?

The title came to me when Whitney expresses to Shannon and Regan how she wants the three to start a new business, but she wants to be in charge of it. She plans on putting the most time and money into their new venture, but all three will have a say about everything. However, when final decisions have to be made, Whitney wants to be the one to make them.
I chose the main characters' names by first checking to see what names were popular in the year the characters were born. There's an online search under social security for the most popular names in each decade. I also looked at baby name books, and tried different names out before I chose Whitney, Shannon, and Regan. When I chose the guy names, I asked my daughters for suggestions. Then I had to make sure the first names sounded right with the last names.

Why do you write?

I can't imagine not writing. I love reading and writing. I'm constantly thinking of future story lines. When something happens in my real life or if I hear something on the news, I think about putting a different outcome or spin on it. I ask myself, would that be a good story? I also love developing my characters into warm and vulnerable people.

As the youngest in the family, growing up on a farm in Findlay, Ohio, Diane often acted out characters from her own stories in the backyard. Before embarking on her writing career, Diane was a school teacher and play director.
Diane enjoys her life with her husband and six children in southwestern Ohio. Her husband of thirty-four years is very supportive, as well as her awesome children. Her novels are published by Desert Breeze Publishing and Samhain Publishing. Learn more about Diane Craver and her books at or read her blog at

Whitney in Charge

Whitney Benson is tired of her older sisters’ attempts to fix her up with every single male they meet. Shannon and Regan cross the line when they arrange for her to go skydiving with the simple excuse that more guys like to float in the air than women. Whitney needs to find something else to keep them busy.

When she suggests that the three of them start a family business, the fun begins in their small town. And she thought being a TV producer in New York had been exciting.

Without going skydiving, Whitney meets two eligible bachelors, Jack and Ben, who constantly battle for her affection. Which one will she choose? Both men make Whitney realize, even a heart shattered by her husband’s death, can once again be made whole.

But did she have to fall off a cliff to learn that?

Shannon and Regan entered the room with determined looks, immediately making her wonder what they were up to. With her being widowed and their mother gone, both felt she needed direction and had told her so more than once.

“Whitney, we need to talk,” Shannon said.

“But first, let’s go into the kitchen.” Regan smiled, carrying Chinese food. “I brought your favorite.”

“And fortune cookies,” Shannon added.

Well, that wasn’t a good sign. When they wanted her to cooperate with their plans, Regan always thought food was necessary in winning an argument against the youngest sister. Two years ago, she’d been a television news producer for a popular morning program, but those two still treated her like the baby sister. Maybe if she’d had children with Rob, things would’ve been different. Probably not. She’d always be their little sis.

What plans did they have for her? She loved Shannon and Regan but at times they overwhelmed her. Whitney followed them into the kitchen, getting plates from the cupboard while Shannon made coffee.

Regan opened up the containers of food. “We think it’s time you get out of the house and do something exciting. Mom would want you to go on with your life. And…” She grinned as she scooped out fried rice. “We thought of something to do for you.”

Whitney shook her head. “That’s not necessary—”

“Yes, it is.” Shannon put a spoonful of sugar in her coffee. “You quit your job and came back to take care of Mom.”

“I didn’t mind. Both of you have families, and I didn’t have any reason to stay in New York.” Please don’t mention Rob.

Shannon carried the cups of coffee to the table. “Regan and I have thought of the perfect thing for you to experience.”

Whitney broke open a fortune cookie and read from the slip of paper, “You will soon fall in love with a handsome stranger.”

Shannon thumped Whitney on the back before joining them at the table. “That fortune fits right in with our plans for you.”

“I think it fits in with any single woman’s hopeful plans,” Whitney said. “But certainly not mine.”

“It’s a sign,” Regan said in an eager voice. “You’ll see.”

“Not a cruise. Remember, I told you I don’t want to go on another cruise.” Several months earlier, they made her go on a three-day trip while both took turns staying with their mother. They had meant well but going by herself and being surrounded by couples hadn’t been much fun. Shannon and Regan were disappointed that Whitney hadn’t fallen in love on the ship. The only available guy she might have been interested in was the recreational director and he was too short.

“We knew you’d say that, and we’ve heard you say how you’ve done it all.” Regan put a lock of auburn hair behind her ear and cleared her throat. “But we thought of something you haven’t done and will be a thrill of a lifetime.”

“And when we tell you what it is, please don’t say no,” Shannon said. “We already paid for it.”

Whitney stared at them. “Okay, you have me curious now. What is it?”

Regan set forks down on the table and mumbled, “Skydiving.”

Whitney gasped, spilling coffee on her hand. Why in the world would they pay for her to go skydiving? Had they lost their minds? “You can’t be serious. Are you trying to kill me?”

“You won’t be jumping by yourself. We talked to the owner about signing you up for a tandem skydive for your first jump. You’ll meet fun people.” Shannon patted Whitney’s hand. “And the female-male ratio is good…”

Regan nodded. “There are more guys than women skydiving. And the men are hot and love any woman who drops from the sky.”

With raised eyebrows, Whitney asked, “How would you two know?”

“We checked it all out before we got it for you,” Shannon said.

Regan grinned. “Shannon, you’re skipping the best part of our visit. We drooled over all the instructors before we signed you up. I did mention I thought you’d be the most comfortable with Nate.”

“Why Nate?” Whitney asked.

Shannon laughed. “Regan couldn’t take her eyes off him. He’s drop-dead gorgeous.”

Whitney swallowed a forkful of rice. If her sisters were correct and there was an overabundance of men, she knew why. Men wanted to act macho, but how many brain cells did they have to think jumping out of a plane made them tough? That wasn’t fair. Just because she wasn’t into skydiving didn’t mean it was stupid. When had she become so critical? She knew when. After Rob’s death, the optimistic, open-minded part of her died with him.

“Maybe you two should go skydiving instead of me.”

Regan shook her head. “No way. We want you to go.”

“But I’m afraid of heights.”

“It’s time for you to overcome your fear of flying.” Shannon took a bite of shrimp. “We want to go to Hawaii sometime. Remember how we promised Mom we would? Just the three of us.”

Whitney shrugged. “That’s different. I can fly to Hawaii without doing skydiving first.”

“I don’t think so.” Regan scooped a heaping spoonful of chow mien onto her plate. “You drove me crazy when we flew to Wisconsin for Aunt Martha’s funeral. You had such terrible anxiety attacks.”

Why did she have to have such stubborn sisters? The last thing she felt like doing was something stupid like skydiving, but she knew they’d never give up on her. They always thought they knew best because they were older and married. Big deal they were a bit older. Shannon just turned thirty-nine, and at thirty-four Regan was only three years older than Whitney.

Shannon nudged Regan, grinning with her eyebrows arched high. “Tell her about Jack.”

Regan shook her head. “Not a good idea.”

“Who’s Jack? Another skydiver?” Whitney asked.

“He’s a paramedic and single. He’s worked with Casey, but Jack’s not a firefighter. He’s not interested in meeting you.” Regan gave Whitney an apologetic shrug. “Sorry. It’s a shame because Jack’s a dead ringer for Matthew McConaughey.”

Shannon raised her eyebrows. “What did Casey tell Jack about Whitney?”

“Not enough obviously,” Regan said. “But I’ll─”

“No.” Whitney put her hand on Regan’s arm. “Don’t say anything. I don’t want to go out with someone who feels pressured.” She grinned. “Although resembling McConaughey might change my mind.”