Friday, April 30, 2010

No Other

I'm excited to do something a little different this weekend. I had the distinct pleasure of previewing Shawna K. William's debut novel, No Other. This was my review:

No Other is indeed a story like no other. Shawna K. Williams has succeeded in telling a heart-warming, and often heart-wrenching, story of love, compassion, acceptance and redemption. This well-written story dates back to 1947 when World War II was still fresh in everyone’s mind the lines between social classes and ethnic groups were clearly drawn. A modern day Romeo and Juliet in many ways, No Other beautifully illustrates the promise we have that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

--Jen Stephens, author of The Heart’s Journey Home

Guess what. I invited her to be a quest on my blog today! Without further ado, I'd like to introduce to you, Shawna K. Williams. (Applause! Applause!)


Welcome, Shawna! Tell me, when did you first discover that you were a writer?

I was struck with the desire to write about eight years ago after a really bizarre dream, unlike any I'd ever had. Prior to that, this wasn't something I'd ever considered doing.

The dream was a complete story, in scenes, of a man and woman's life. First as they fell in love, then as young parents, then they faced the challenges of career and family, and last was from the perspective of an old woman, who watched her children from afar because she was a stranger to them. Weird, huh?

I couldn't stop thinking about it. For about six months I pondered on it, trying to fill in gaps about how they met, why did they choose certain career paths, why did she end up estranged from her family? It eventually grew so complex in my mind that I couldn't keep track and had to start writing. When I first began I didn't want to tell anyone, including my husband, because I thought they'd think I was crazy. As the story progressed though I eventually shared it with my husband, who was supportive from the start, then a few close friends.

By the time I was done, the book was around 167,000 words. And it was awful! I just didn't know it at the time. Over the next six years I revised, put away, pulled out and revised again, put away. Finally, a little over two years ago I felt like God was telling me it was time to get serious. That's when I started studying the craft of writing through books and critique groups. I also started submitting short stories, and was blessed to have several accepted for publication right away. That gave me the encouragement to rewrite the first part of my awful novel into a separate book, which comes out in May, and the sequel will release in November.


What an awesome story! We'll hear about No Other in a minute, but first, tell us about other books/short stories/articles/poems have you written, whether published or not?

I've had three short stories published. The first was called, My Father's Oldsmobile (which is also the name of my blog), the second was, What Happened Next (which was actually published twice), and the title of my third published short was, Anticipation. I've written a several articles and short stories for blogs and newsletters too.

As far as books, No Other is my debut novel. In All Things is its sequel. It's nearing completion and will be released in November. I also have another book I'm working on which is an expansion of a novella length story. It was accepted based on that, with the publisher knowing I wished to make it longer. It's a Christmas themed story called, Orphaned Hearts, and it will come out in December.

I'm also currently working on a novella length story with the working title, The Summer of '51. This will be available as a free download. It involves the characters from No Other and In All Things, and covers a transitional time between the two novels. This period is referred to in In All Things, and while it isn't necessary to read the novella to understand the book, I thought readers might enjoy an in depth account.



Do you have an all time favorite book? Which genre do you prefer to read and why?

My favorite all time books, are the three from the Mark of the Lion series; Voice on the Wind, Echo in the Darkness, and Sure as the Dawn. The series works so well together that I can't break them apart. I love Redeeming Love too! Bet you know who my favorite author is now, huh?

As far as reading, I actually don't have a favorite genre I think. I've been able to get into suspense as easily as romance. I love scifi, and plan to try my hand at writing it one day. I enjoy a good fantasy tale too. The only genres I don't read are horror and erotica.

As far as writing, I think almost everything I write will have a degree of romance in it because finding the love of your life is kind of a big deal. Having said that, I want my stories to be about life. Romance is a part of life, but so are a lot of other things.

I'm a bit of a history buff, and super nostalgic, so I do gravitate toward historicals set in the first half of the 20th century. Being a fan of science fiction, I do want to write one. I have a story brewing, but it's still very foggy.

How do you keep your sanity in this ridiculously crazy world?

Who said I was sane? Lol! Love to say I'm joking, but...

Honestly, this is a real struggle and I haven't figured out that balance. My family is most important, and we have teens and an active 12 year old that are always on the go. Sometimes I can't do everything they want and I feel guilty for that. My house is never as clean as I'd like. I worry about the kids' schooling (we homeschool). I'm so entrenched in writing two books at the moment (deadlines looming) that I forget to check on my friends who are going through rough times. I feel like my dog doesn't get enough attention. I forget to appreciate the beauty of where we live, and I wonder when I'm going to get around to all of those other projects that have nothing to do with writing. I'm definitely not the person to ask advice from on this question. I just do the best I can, and usually end the day thinking, "Tomorrow I'll try to do better."

Thank you for being so candid. I feel the same way much of the time, and I think many other women do, too!

So, what is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?

Raising my kids. Hands down! God gave me such wonderful kids, and they've been such a joy. They're really great, and I'm so very proud of them. All three! I know I've made a lot of mistakes, and am far from being the perfect mother, but God seems to have worked it out okay.

As for me, personally, I can't really say. I'm very excited about this book -- and my future ones -- but I feel more blessed than proud.


What was your greatest roadblock in writing this book and others, and how did you overcome it?

One word. Clarity!

I have the story before I have the spiritual theme. And while I know there is a theme, I'm not exactly sure what it is. It's like life in that way. What will God teach me through my experiences? Same thing with my characters.

My first drafts are always just the story about what happens to my characters – with maybe just a vague idea of the spiritual message -- and they're never complete. I only write two thirds – three fourths of the book. The reason is the last third or fourth is where all the intricacies are woven together, and until I know the spiritual theme in full clarity I can't do that. I liken it to building a house. A builder never closes up the walls until an inspector signs off on the plumbing and wiring and such. Once I know the story's plumbing and wiring are just right, I can start closing up the walls, float, tape and texture, and trimming with a nice coat of paint.

Now, finding that message is like untangling and stringing miles and wire, and assembling a network of pipes. And to get there sometimes I have to ramble. I have so many files full of gobbly gook where I've hashed out my character's motivations. Why they feel what they feel, and how it led them to certain actions. I just blather on and on, like a therapy session, until I start to see what my character needs spiritually, because if he/she is like me, there is always something. The part where they learn, and God provides seems to work in naturally after that.


What advice would you give to an author just starting out?

Hmm...first off, be true to yourself. Write what's in your heart. Second; study, study, study, Third; don't be too scared to go for it. Fourth; be prepared to get your feeling hurt, and know that it does get easier. Fifth; find others who share your goal. They'll pick you up on those down days. And the most important is to pray about it – the downs, the ups, when you struggle with a story, for balance, all of it -- pray, pray, pray! You can do it!


Yes, six very good tips - all of them so important to success, but I especially relate to being true to yourself. Many writers starting out tend to want to write what's in, what's selling, but it may very well NOT be the story the Lord wanted them to tell. Thank you for sharing that!


Now, here's No Other. Isn't it pretty??? Shawna, tell us about the featured book - back cover blurb plus what this story means to you.

In the aftermath of WWII all Jakob Wilheimer wants is to get over his pain, get on with life, and if at all possible, forgive those who've wronged his family -- including himself. But it's hard to do when there are constant reminders. One of them being his former schoolmate, now teacher, Meri Parker -- Miss Port Delamar Pearl, Mayor's daughter, Belle of the town -- Meri Parker. After enduring the stigma and isolation associated with the internment camp, the awkwardness of going back to school should've been a cake walk. But Jakob didn't expect to find himself inexplicably drawn to Meri. Or to discover that the pain and loneliness of her life surpassed his own. She needed to be rescued from the domineering people seeking to control her life. And more than anything, he needed to be the one to save her.

I wrote No Other because I wanted to tell an inspirational story about getting up after you fall. About how Christians don't just struggle, sometimes we blow it, but God doesn't abandon us. Even when our efforts to right things fail, He's still in control. Him, and No Other.


Can you give us the first page of the book?

Stop shaking.

Crouched next to his small oak desk, Jakob clenched its side to steady himself, and took in a deep breath. Then he reached into the narrow space between the desk and the wall, and pulled the envelope from its hiding place and fell back onto his bed. The paper was folded into a square the size of a matchbook. Jakob studied it as he turned it in his fingers, but didn't open it. Instead, he held out his
still-trembling hand, holding the paper in his palm.
What was wrong with him? Now, after everything, he had the jitters? Good heavens, he was supposed to be the strong one, the provider. Thank goodness his brother, Joe, had come back and assumed those duties. Jakob could drop the fa├žade before he managed to ruin what was left of his family.

Letting out a sigh, Jakob unfolded the envelope -- little by little -- revealing the bold words stamped onto its surface. The knot in his stomach tightened with the unbending of paper, forcing the last remnants of breath from his lungs.

He knew every bleed of the scarlet ink, every wrinkle made from angry, crushing hands, but the letters still served their purpose.

Within him hatred stirred. It paced and tested, like a caged animal sensing opportunity. Soon it would try to m
aul its way loose -- unless he stopped agitating it with this thing he held in his hands.

CENSORED ENEMY ALIEN MAIL.

A snarl pull
ed at the corner of his mouth. Why not stamp traitor? Or to be more specific: Nazi. With a last name like Wilheimer, the internment camp address, and the giant label 'enemy alien' -- what other assumption could be made?

It's what everyone thought. And if there were a few who weren't convinced, plenty of town folk would attest.

The FBI don't
snatch people from their home without good cause. No siree, I tell ya. A person gotta be downright dangerous to drag'm away like that, leaving all those little Hitler lovin' Krauts behind. Serves'm right, being booted from their house. Otta chase'm all out town while we're at it.

Jakob's lungs burned with the need of air, and heat flamed in his cheeks. His nostrils flared, expanding his chest, only for his lungs to seize again. The envelope was doing its job.
But wasn't that why he kept it?

As a reminder? One he could use -- when needed -- to justify, fuel his rage. Hadn't the emotion been his faith
ful companion for the past five years? Motivating him. Pushing him to work harder, endure more. Didn't he need it for the sake of his family who depended on him? He owed them.

It was your fault.

Ah, the little voice. Why couldn't it just leave him with his anger? That's all he wanted.

Because it's the truth.


Wow! Awesome! How can readers find you on the Internet?

Readers can find me at my website,http://shawnakwilliams.com/;
my blog,
http://shawnawilliams-oldsmobile.blogspot.com/ (There's a funny story about why the word 'oldsmobile' is in the title.)
Here's my Facebook fan page. I post a lot on it.
http://www.facebook.com/reqs.php#!/pages/Shawna-K-Williams/236629884245?ref=ts
And I'm on twitter,
http://twitter.com/shawnakwilliams

Time for a bonus question: Tell us one fact about you that your readers would find interesting, and maybe even surprising.

Oh boy...I'm so dull. One interesting fact, huh?

We're often asked why we moved to Mena, AR. It's a beautiful little town, nestled at the base of the Quachita Mountains – looks like it belongs on a postcard. But, it's one of those places that I think you have to move to from another area to fully appreciate. The economy isn't great. There's not a ton to do in terms of "exciting" stuff. I'm not a huge shopper and I like quiet moments along a hiking trail, so it's perfect to me. When people ask us why we moved here -- with that bewildered look on their face -- the truth I tell them, is that we pretty much did it on a whim. It was something my husband and I had talked about in the sense of, "Wouldn't it be great if..." but financially it didn't make a lot of sense, so it was always just one of those 'what if' sort of things. However, after losing two friends – my age – to cancer in a relatively short amount of time, we decided that there are some things you just have to close your eyes and jump into. We didn't want to be those people who looked back and said, "Wish I had done that when..." So, here we are, living on a ranch with cattle, horses, goats, and rabbits. We had pigs and chickens for awhile too. It totally suits us. My kids are happy with lots of friends. I'm still a girly girl, but I've picked up a few ranching skills along the way. For example, in an emergency, I can deliver a foal. My friends in Texas still can't imagine that.

I understand you're holding a contest. Tell us about that.

Here are details of a contest I'm running throughout the month of May:

On the last day of the month I'm doing a drawing for three prizes. The first includes:
Grand prize
Book, Poster, Notebook, Sterling silver-gold overlay Locket, Goat's milk Soap & lotion, Postcards, $10 Amazon Gift certificate, Pearl bracelet and earrings.

2nd Place
Book, Poster, Notebook, Postcards, Pearl bracelet and earrings, Honey Soap. $5 Amazon Gift certificate

3rd Place
Book, Notebook, Postcards, Pearl bracelet and earrings, $5 Amazon Gift Certificate

This contest runs the whole month, and you can enter multiple times. For everyone who leaves a comment today on Jen's blog, there's one entry (please include your email with the comment. I promise these will all be destroyed after the contest). If you follow me on twitter, my blog or my Facebook fanpage, that's an entry for each. Throughout the month, check my blog for a question (
http://shawnawilliams-oldsmobile.blogspot.com/) or the latest blog I'm touring on (like Jen's today) and email me the answer (Shawnawilliams(at)allegiance.tv) and you either get one to three entries, depending on how hard it is to find the answer to the question. Leave a comment on any blog on the day I'm touring, (like Jen's today) and that's an entry. If you want to know where, check my blog. If, at some point in the month, you decide to purchase my book email me (honor system) and I'll enter your name five times. And last, if you post this contest on your blog, let me know and I'll enter your name three more times.

The question for one extra entry today is, "What is Jakob burning in the first chapter of the book?" You can read the first chapter on my blog, click the coverart and it will take you there. A sample can be downloaded for free on Kindle and you can also read the first 4 chapters on Freado.
http://www.freado.com/book/6928/no-other-by-shawna-k-williams

Wow! That sounds great! So get searching for those answers, and make sure you leave a way to notify you should you be the winner of one of Shawna's cool prizes!!!

Shawna, I always close my blog entries with prayer concerns and/or updates. Is there anything you might need us to pray for?

Yeah, I'd love prayers that God will pull me through these next two books, and pour HImself through me. And, the balance thing, while trying to write these other two books. It's wonderful stuff He's blessed me with, but I just stink at finding a balance.

You got it!

PRAYER REQUESTS: Please pray for Shawna today as her debut novel releases. It's such an exciting time for her. Pray that she can soak it in and enjoy every moment of the accomplishment her hard work has produced. Pray in the weeks to come that she will experience clarity and balance in all of the areas of her life, and when she starts to feel herself get off kilter, pray that she will run to the sturdy arms of our Lord. Pray that she will have clarity to know exactly what the Lord wants her to write, the themes He wants her to stress, the story He wants her to tell.

Please pray for my friend Sandy Bradley, who recently lost her brother, Bill. Bill had a rare genetic disease and was not expected to live to his teens. He turned 50 in February. He was much like a toddler, and he loved to play and laugh. He had been wheelchair-ridden for probably 20 years. He only spoke a few words. Over the last few years, he had several bouts of pneumonia and contined to have declining health. Eventually, he became resistant to antibiotics, and the doctors said there was nothing else they could do for him, so he was put in hospice care, and recently went Home. Pray that Sandy and her family will be comforted by the fact that they had so many more years than expected to spend with Bill. Pray that the Lord will hold them close to Him during this time of grief.

Please pray for the family of Carter Cummings, a three-year-old little boy who past away earlier this week of a type of cancer. Please visit his Caringbridge site http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/cartercummings to find out more about this sweet little angel and in the meantime pray for strength for this family in their time of great weakness. Pray for a peace that passes all understanding. Pray for heavenly comfort to surround them like a warm, soft blanket. Pray that they will draw closer to each other and to the Lord as they walk through this valley.

Sadly and strangely enough, please pray for the family of Dylan Pospisil, another little boy with a type of brain cancer. This was his latest Caringbridge update: "I'm updating for Ryan (Daddy) and Felicia (Mama) while they spend time with their sweet son. Dylan has stopped responding to light and touch. The tumors the MRI showed are inoperable and are causing considerable pressure on the rest of Dylan's brain. They sent him down for another CT this morning to check on the changes they've seen in the last 24 hours. The results show his condition is worsening. They're now sending Dylan for an EEG to check for brain activity. They suspect he may already be brain dead. Praise God, the doctors have said Dylan is not in pain right now. Please pray for their family as Kailyn (Sibling) (so sorry if I spelled that wrong) struggles to understand what's going on, and the Pospisils have many difficult decisions ahead of them. They are spending every minute with Dylan that they have. Please begin to pray for peace for them if you haven't already." Unfortunately, I found out from my friend this afternoon that little Dylan went Home sometime today. I'm including his site because I like to have a mental picture of those I pray for. http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/dylanpospisil

Just pray, friends, however you feel led for both Carter's and Dylan's family. I just can't even imagine the heavy grief they must be feeling. Thank goodness we have the hope of Jesus Christ, and the promise of eternal life. I just can't imagine.

I will give updates of those already on the list next week as well as make a pretty exciting announcement! I want to thank Shawna for the privilege of spending this time getting to know her. Now, go find the answer to her question and enter to win!

Until next time . . .

Sunday, April 18, 2010

What Am I Thinking?!?!

So last weekend I took a deep breath . . . and registered to walk/run (but mostly walk) a half marathon in Nashville on September 25th. And then came the question: What am I thinking?!?!

This is what I'm thinking: I have 1 body in this life and I wasn't taking very good care of it. It was too EASY to grab fast food on the way from here to there with the kids. It was too CONVENIENT to sit on my butt and wait to be inspired to write more in The Heart's Lullaby. I have finally had it with feeling dumpy. So, after talking with Chris, I decided I need a BIG goal with a date attached to work for. Chris said to me, "If you're going to do this, you have to look at your writing and your training as one otherwise writing will always trump walking." Amazingly, the two really are connected. Some of my writer friends have said that it has something to do with getting an increase of oxygen to the brain. Whatever the reason, in just one week of eating right and exercising regularly, I not only feel so great, I'm more inspired than I have been since I started The Heart's Lullaby.

With the help of the Holy Spirit, I figured out every twist and turn of The Heart's Lullaby (But mark my word, there'll be more that surprise even me. There always is.) I thought you might like a small, unedited snippet of what is to come. So . . . here's the first page:

The clock on the wall ticked off the seconds. Still the three minute wait seemed unending. Elizabeth Truman sat on the edge of the bathtub, pressed her hands together and slipped them in between her knees.

"This could be it. The wait may finally be over and in just three minutes our lives could change forever."

She glanced down at her flat belly, imagining how she’d give Elijah the good news, smiling at the thought of how happy he’d be. Just the other day when they were strolling through the mall together, a ball and glove caught his eye from the window of the toy store and he made a comment about playing catch with his son someday. He was ready to be a daddy.

And there was nothing she wanted more than to be a mother. Over the past several months the deep longing had intensified, preoccupying her thoughts during the day and her dreams at night. Her arms ached to hold their baby—a perfect combination of her and Elijah. Her soul yearned to nurture their child, to watch him or her grow day by day. She already loved this little miracle that she was sure the Lord would bless them with.

The second hand finally returned to twelve for the third time. Her heart thudded inside her chest. A hard knot formed in her stomach and she pressed her hand against it in a feeble attempt to ease the discomfort. She stood and slowly moved to the sink where the results were waiting on the end of a little plastic stick. Hand trembling, she reached for it and examined it closely.

One line.

I want to encourage you today to reach for your dreams whatever they are and no matter how unattainable they seem. Believe it or not, the saying the words "What am I thinking?!?!" can be a good thing. A very good thing! :o)

PRAYER REQUESTS: Please pray for the family of Cindy Conatser who was recently killed in a motorcycle accident. She had 3 children and 1 grandson. Pray mightily that her family will feel the love of Jesus all around them. Pray that they will feel His arms around them, comforting them in their time of grief. Pray that they will find rest and solace in Him. During this time of questions and confusion, when they want to ask, "Why?" pray that they will find their answer in Proverbs 3:5 "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding."

Also pray for the family of Tommy Williams who died at age 46 from a massive stroke. Again, pray for comfort and peace. Pray that his family will feel Jesus in their time of need like never before. Pray for these families not just in the days ahead but in the weeks and months ahead as those of you who've lost a loved one know, the pain and sorrow may weaken, but it never really goes away.

I'm also asking you to pray for the families of 8-year-old Devynne Seale and 10-year-old Sierra Littrell-Ellenberger, siblings who recently died in a house fire. Pray especially for their mother as I could not even begin to imagine the pain she must be feeling at the loss of two of her children. Pray that these children didn't die in vain, that their community will take the extra precautions to make their homes safe. Pray that our Lord will draw this family and the community close to Him during this terrible, terrible time of loss.

I also want you to remember my writer friend, Krista Phillips, who is expecting her FOURTH baby girl in August, I believe, and has to go in for special PRECAUTIONARY tests on the baby's heart this week. Krista seems as calm and positive as can be, which is much better than I would be doing, but please send her some prayers that will bring her peace and that of course Baby Girl Phillips will be just perfect! :o)

Please also pray for my sister, Karen Pantaleo, as she has recently found out she is pregnant with their first baby (YAY!) but has hurt her knee badly and has to have surgery (BOO!). Please pray that the doctors will know exactly what to do to help her knew without harming the tiny little life (my niece or nephew) growing inside her.

UPDATES: I'm so sorry to report that Sarah Dotson has gone to her home in heaven after battling cancer. Please pray for her husband and little girl and they grieve this loss.

If you or someone you know is in need of prayer, please send me a message and I will be happy to include them on our list. I truly believe there IS power in prayer!

In the next couple months, I will be interviewd by several different bloggers. I'll give you a list of dates and web addresses in the next post. Until then, keep reaching for your dreams!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Who Am I?

Happy Easter, my dear friends! I wanted to come up with something super inspiring and insightful to post today (especially since it's been TWO MONTHS! :o/ ), but nothing was coming to me. That's disheartening to me because writing is my tool to inspire. Bottom line is lately there's been too much stuff and too little me. I'm not complaining (well, not really anyway) because I love, love, LOVE all of my "stuff". But you know what the middle of Gumby looks like when you pull on his arms and legs at the same time? There's not much of him left, is there???

So we were on the way to the children's Good Friday service this past Friday. After a week of cheerleading practice, fiddle lessons, children's choir practice, and soccer practice in addition to the everyday duties of a wife, mama, teacher, and now a writer, yes, I was a little thin. No, my attitude wasn't where it should've been, but I'm being an open book for you (and me) right now. I had a new praise and worship CD cranked up (lately my sanity saver!) and I want you to know that a song came on that spoke right to my bad attitude and my ugly heart. It was called Who Am I by Casting Crowns and these are the lyrics I heard:

Who am I? That the Lord of all the earth,
Would care to know my name,
Would care to feel my hurt.
Who am I? That the bright and morning star,
Would choose to light the way,
For my ever wandering heart.

(Bridge)Not because of who I am,
But because of what you've done.
Not because of what I've done,
But because of who you are.

(Chorus)I am a flower quickly fading,
Here today and gone tomorrow,
A wave tossed in the ocean,
A vapor in the wind.
Still you hear me when I'm calling,
Lord, you catch me when I'm falling,
And you've told me who I am.
I am yours.
I am yours.

Who am I? That the eyes that see my sin
Would look on me with love
And watch me rise again.
Who am I? That the voice that calmed the sea,
Would call out through the rain,
And calm the storm in me.
(Repeat Bridge and Chorus)

This song reminded me that I am a wife, a mama, a teacher, and a writer, but there are two more things that I am. One of them, my dear friend, Patty Burris, who I'm privileged to teach with, opened my eyes to. Ladies and Gentlemen, I am Barabbas. No, I've never murdered or robbed or raped, but I was sentenced to die for my sins. Imagine what it must have been like for that man that DESERVED TO DIE to suddenly be told, "You're free." That is me and because of Jesus I am free. It also reminded me that I AM HIS!!! Folks, there is nothing else in this whole world that I'd rather be.

Update on The Heart's Journey Home: Well, it's been out for 2 months now. I've had a lot of events which has been super exciting, and I've gotten quite a bit of positive feedback which has been rewarding. At the beginning of March, I had the distinct honor of sitting in with St. John's Book Club in Donelson, Tennessee. (See picture to the left.) It was so much fun! They are a very special group of ladies.

Then, just a week later I went to Ohio where I had several events scheduled. One of which was a signing at a Borders store in Sandusky. I had a great turn out. These next three pictures are of some very special people who came out to see me. First is Brenda Olien and her sweet son, Jon. She won the What a Difference You've Made in My Life contest and nominated her husband, Dan Olien, who became a minor character in the book. She is truly an inspiring woman and little Jon is just as cute as can be!

Next, I got to meet Cassie Ground's family. Her aunt won the contest and nominated her, who then also became a minor character in this book. From left to right in the picture are: Mindy Nutter, Cassie's strong, beautiful, and faithful mother (also very inspiring); Gunny, Cassie's sweet grandmother; Tammy Ruthsatz, Cassie's wonderful aunt who nominated her; me; Carlie Ground, Cassie's beautiful sister; and Terry Harvey, Cassie's other wonderful aunt. What a distinct honor it was to meet this special family!

And last, but certainly not least, I had my very best friend from high school, Patty Smith, who we've been praying for for a while now, and her beautiful family with me at two of my events and at a birthday party! We had a lot of fun making some wonderful memories! I love her!

The Heart's Lullaby is in the works . . . S-L-O-W-L-Y. Fortunately for all of my readers, my "due date" with this one has been moved up fro fall of 2011 to MARCH of 2011! My deadline is still the same, so that's good. I just need the words to keep coming. Prayers for continuous inspiration would be appreciated! My wonderful, talented friend Terri and I are going to shoot the cover for this one (hopefully) in about a month! AND, there is a POSSIBILITY that my extremely talented husband will write a lullaby/love song for this title that will be available as a free download, but we're still working out details on that. Still, it's all super exciting and I'm just thrilled to pieces to share God's message of Good News yet again!

PRAYER CONCERNS: Please pray for the family of Josh Cable who went home to be with the Lord a few weeks ago after a very brief and sudden battle with cancer. I'm just at a loss on this one. Healthy one minute and gone a month or so later. God in Heaven, I don't understand why!!! But I know that You do and some things aren't for us to understand on this earth. Dear God, I pray right now that oyu comfort Josh's wife, Sherry, as only You can. Bring to her mind sweet memories and caring friends and family to help her cope during times of unimaginable grief. Be with his little children, Holy Father, and be the Father that they are missing now. Fill that void with Your love and mercy. We thank You, sweet Jesus, that because of what we celebrate today all who believe in You will NEVER die! We thank You for Your promises.

I also need you to pray for Sarah Dotson, who is facing her own battle with cancer. I ask You, dear God, to heal her body and restore her to good health accordign to Your perfect will and in Your perfect timing. I ask that You give her a peace that passes all understanding and strength to make it through each day, moment by moment. I pray that You comfort her husband, Dave, as it is never easy to see the ones we love so much suffer through so much. I pray that You help their little girl, Bella, to understand during this confusing time. I pray right now for Sarah's doctors and I thank You that You are our Great Physician. There is NOTHING bigger than You. There is NOTHING that You don't know, and I pray that You help the doctors to know exactly what to do to help her.

If I've forgotten any prayer concerns in the two months since I've been on here, please forgive me! If you send me a note via email, I'll be happy to put them up right away!

UPDATES: Unfortunately Dezarae Dittmar, who bravely battled cancer for 2 years has gone home to be with the Lord. Please pray for her family and friends in the days, weeks, and months ahead.

On a positive note, Erica Foster, who was diagnosed and underwent treatments for MDS, is doing great, got remarried, and is expecting a baby! Praise the Lord for new beginnings!

Also, Kitrick Schrader, who was in a very serious snowmobile accident, is out of the hospital and doing great! He is truly a walking talking miracle! Praise God!

Until next time, my friends, always remember who you are. YOU ARE HIS!