Book Spotlight – An Informal Arrangement by Heather Gray

Please welcome Heather Gray back to The West Corner with her latest release, An Informal Arrangement!

An Informal Arrangement cover artBook Description

Holden Jenkins receives a diagnosis that alters the course of his life. His slow recovery is pockmarked with discouragement and puts his future in question. Will he ever again walk without pain? Or be well enough to return home?

A heart-rending day in the ICU leaves nurse Maddie Smith hurting in more ways than she can identify. In need of a change — and drawn to a man she barely knows — she goes on sabbatical and takes up the fight to get Holden back on his feet.

As he searches for his identity in the midst of this new life, Holden struggles with a deep hurt. Why would God allow this? Meanwhile Maddie, shaped by her own emotional scars, battles against an unseen God she’s not sure she can believe in. Will these two be able to find peace — and a future together — or will the difficulties they face push them apart?

Excerpt

“You mentioned something about a toad…” Her remark hung between them like a two-day old helium balloon.

The worry wrinkles on his forehead faded away, melting into his hairline and drawing her eyes to light chestnut hair that couldn’t seem to make up its mind whether it wanted to stand at attention or lie down and take a nap.

“Umm, I guess I remember. Huh. I wonder where that dream came from.” If his nonchalance was anything to go by, he had to dream about toads on a regular basis.

“And you mentioned the toilet.” Maddie took a deep breath and went about her morning routine. Shift had just started, and she still needed to do her patient assessment.

She put the blood pressure cuff on Mr. Jenkins as he told her about his dream. “There was an albino horned toad that got out of its terrarium. It was in the toilet for some reason, but because the commode was white, nobody could see it. Which doesn’t make sense. Albino animals aren’t pure white, but what can I say? A hand reached for the lever to flush, and I panicked. That’s when you woke me.”

After she charted his blood pressure and listened to his heart and lungs, she asked, “What exactly is a horned toad? I’m picturing something froggish.”

Mr. Jenkins laughed, disturbing Maddie’s attempt to count his pulse. He reined himself in, and she began counting again. “Frogs and toads are different, you know, and a horned toad isn’t even a toad. Not really, anyway. It’s a lizard.”

Her eyes darted around the room again. Maddie worked with people — and not animals — for a reason. “So toads and frogs are different, but a horned toad isn’t a toad.”

“That’s right. The people who discovered and named it must have been confused.”

Maddie held up an index finger. “Hold on a second.” Then she marched over to the small attached bathroom. An empty toilet had never been so beautiful. She stepped back into the room. “Whew. All clear.”

When her patient chuckled, she knew she’d hit the mark.

“Are you sure you’re not the one who’s confused? A toad that’s not a toad?” She quirked her eyebrow as laughter sparkled in Mr. Jenkins’ eyes.

“I’m never going to live this down, am I?”

~~

An Informal Arrangement is available from Amazon.

~~

About the Author

photo of author Heather GrayHeather Gray loves coffee, God, and her family – not necessarily in that order! She enjoys people who embrace God even when life is hard and who aren’t afraid to laugh out loud. Like her, the characters she writes are flawed…but loved anyway.

Connect with Heather Online

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/heathergraywriting

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/laughdreamwrite

Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/laughdreamwrite

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/laughdreamwrite

Website: http://www.heathergraywriting.com

Book Spotlight – I Thirst

Pelican Book Group has created a brand new devotional just in time for Lent: I Thirst: A 40-Day Journey Through Psalms.

I Thirst: A 40-Day Journey Through Psalms cover artBook Description

The authors and staff at Pelican Book Group come together to offer this free devotional for Lent. Travel through favourite psalms and discover Christ in a special way during each day of Lent.

Contributors include:
Brenda Baker, Candice Sue Patterson, Christine Lindsay, Claire Sanders, Clare Revell, Delia Latham, Dianne J Wilson, EA West, Heidi Glick, Jamie West, Jan Elder, Janalyn Voigt, Karen Cogan, Kathleen Friesen, Kristen Joy Wilks, Lisa McCaskill, LoRee Peery, Marianne Evans, Marilyn Leach, Mary Manners, MaryAnn Diorio, Megan Lee, Merry Stahel, Natasha Deen, Nicola Martinez, Niki Turner, Pamela Thibodeaux, Robin Bayne, Sandy Nadeau, Susan Lyttek, Terri Weldon, Valerie Goree, Wendy Davy, and Zoe McCarthy

This ebook is free to download from Pelican Book Group. If you live in the US, you can order a copy in print for the cost of shipping.

Monday Matters – Tolerance and Respect

Monday Matters graphic

Every election year, Americans are subjected to negativity, lies, and manipulation. Half-truths and boasting are a common part of speeches and political ads. The sad part isn’t that this stuff happens; it’s part of human nature, after all. The truly sad part is that the candidates vying for our votes are the ones doing it. Their supporters and those currently in office often exhibit the same undesirable behaviors. With all of this going on for months at a time, is it any wonder voter turn out on election day is usually quite low?

Perhaps if honesty and respect were valued above controversy and sound bites, more people would vote. Maybe more people would have faith in the government and the work it does. Maybe instead of having a broken political system, we would have one that is effective.

Yet the problems within the political system are only one symptom of a larger problem. Society as a whole seems to be bent on tearing itself apart in the United States. The push for equality and civil rights has taken a bizarre turn that has led to more division and hate. The issue of gun violence is a great example of this.

Each time there is a mass shooting, regardless of the underlying cause of the incident (a gang fight, racism, etc.), there is a call for more gun control. Each time there is a push for more gun control, gun sales go up and a certain segment of society vocally proclaims the government is trying to take away everyone’s guns. The other side pushes back with claims of needing more gun control to put a stop to gun violence. And the feud continues, driving a wedge into American society and doing nothing but creating more anger and division.

So many of the issues that people are concerned about, including institutional racism and gay marriage, have caused a similar divide. My question is simple. What if instead of trying to control everyone around us, we focused on controlling ourselves? Learn to give respect, including to ourselves. Focus on ways we can get along with others rather than shouting louder than the other guy.

What if we all pushed for true tolerance rather than the twisted version most people appear to want?

Here’s the thing. Tolerance does not mean agreeing. It doesn’t mean supporting a particular cause or holding a certain idea. It means you put up with the things you don’t agree with and show respect to the people who support them. Essentially, tolerance means you follow the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

How many people want to be yelled at, disparaged, or dragged through the proverbial mud? I certainly don’t. I would much rather be treated with kindness, have my ideas respected (not necessarily agreed with), and be spoken to peacefully.

A few cliches come to mind when I consider the intolerance disguised as tolerance.

If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.

What goes around, comes around.

Kill them with kindness.

I propose we all take action starting today to make America a better place to live. You don’t need to organize a protest or attend a rally. All you have to do is show others the same respect you want to receive. Instead of using hateful language, try speaking thoughtfully. Show others kindness, even if you don’t agree with them. If we all live out the idea of treating others as we want to be treated, many of the issues dividing American society will become a thing of the past.

Gun control and mental health are not the real issues

In the last two weeks, three colleges in the United States have been the victims of shootings. Mass shootings, school shootings, are happening far too frequently, and the response of politicians, the media, and the general public is always the same. Everyone expresses outrage and sorrow over the shooting (as they should). The media goes into great detail about the shooting and the shooter. Security precautions are discussed. Politicians and one segment of the population starts pushing for gun control. Another segment of the population is afraid the government will take away their constitutional right to own firearms. Gun sales go up. People starting talking about the need to improve mental health care and reporting of those with mental illness. Then all the talk dies down, gun sales go back to normal, and nothing changes.

The predictability is disturbing, as is the complete avoidance of the real issue. These shootings are not a gun control problem. They are not a mental health problem. They are a societal problem. Tightening regulations on the sale of guns or banning them all together won’t solve the issue. Increasing access to mental health care and improving diagnostic techniques, while an excellent and much needed step forward, won’t solve the issue.

The real issue is that somehow people in this country have come to believe that violence is an acceptable response to anger. All the regulations and laws in the world won’t solve that. It’s something that must be solved at the community level, at the family and individual level.

RevengeEnemy

Mass shootings make headlines because of their horrific nature, but all the focus on the big shootings distracts people from the reality of violence that occurs each and every day across this nation. Somewhere in the United States on any given day, someone is a victim of gun violence. Even more people are victims of other kinds of violence, whether through domestic violence, bullying, or a fight. People solve their fights with fists, knives, and violent words, not just guns. Violence is a pervasive problem, affecting every person in this country at some point in their lives.

The majority of the people perpetrating violence through words or actions are probably not mentally ill. In fact, the mentally ill are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators. Improving access to mental health care is an excellent goal, but it needs to be pursued for the right reasons. Do it to help those suffering in silence. To help those who want help but can’t find it due to a lack of availability or affordability in their area. Don’t do it in an effort to stop mass shootings. That puts the focus on identifying those who might commit a heinous crime at some point in the future rather than focusing on helping those with mental illness live successful, productive lives.

Tightening gun control might help slow the tide of gun violence, but it would only treat one symptom of a much larger illness. Many school shooters have been victims of bullying. Several weren’t old enough to legally buy guns, so gun control wouldn’t have made a difference in those situations. Preventing the bullying they suffered likely could have prevented the shootings as well. Tighter gun control wouldn’t have any effect at all on the people who choose to use a knife or build a bomb with common household items.

What we as a nation need to focus on is not knee-jerk reactions to tragic events, but combatting the pervasive anger and violence throughout our society. Many say parents need to teach their children to respect laws and not fight or bully others, but what if those parents haven’t been taught those same things? Would you expect a person who has never learned French to teach someone to speak it?

TimeForChange

Instead of shifting blame from one place to another, we need to accept that we are all responsible for changing the culture of violence. We need to model healthy ways to deal with anger and disagreements, not just in person, but online as well. Diplomacy seems to be getting lost in the “us vs. them” world we live in. We can change that. Instead of looking to Washington to solve the problem of violence in this country, we need to look to ourselves and our families. If each of us works to change our own behaviors and model healthy ways to deal with anger and frustration to those around us, our communities would change. The violence and anger that are everywhere we turn would fade. The shootings, abuse, and bullying would become less frequent.

Society is what we make it. Instead of continuing to follow the predictable patterns of the past that do nothing to stop the violence, let’s work together to make this nation a friendlier, safer place to live. If you want to change the status quo, start making changes in your own homes and neighborhoods. All those small changes will work together to change the world.

Book Spotlight – Not Every Girl by Jane McGarry

Please welcome my fellow Clean Reads author Jane McGarry! She’s here today with her new book, Not Every Girl.

Not Every Girl cover artBlurb

Olivia Davenport’s plan is destined to fail.

She is going through with it anyway, of course. After all, it is the chance of a lifetime. The unreasonable rules of others should not stand in her way.

In her small kingdom of Stewartsland, Olivia trains with the squires and harbors a secret dream. She longs to become a knight under the command of the Master-of–Arms, who just happens to be her father. He has indulged her passion so far, but they both know a simple fact – girls may not attain knighthood. Dismayed by the constant discouragement of her ambitions, she makes an impetuous decision to disguise herself as a boy in order to sneak on a mission. The consequences are not at all what she anticipated.

When her deception is revealed, she is sent home in disgrace; however, an unexpected turn of events puts her at the center of a dangerous plot against the King. The ensuing adventure finds her grappling with mercenaries and outlaws, yet these pale in comparison to her newly awakened emotions. She finds not only her life at risk, but also her heart, when the aloof Prince Liam begins to affect her in ways she never thought possible. In the end, it is her courage and unique spirit which must guide her through the challenges she encounters both physical and emotional.

Excerpt

“I came to offer the young lady one of my guards as an escort home.”

What?

That is not part of my plan! And besides, my father could not seriously consider sending me off into the woods with a strange man, royal guard or not. It takes every ounce of my restraint to not jump up and protest.

“That is gracious of you, Your Majesty,” my father answers. “However, I am concerned about the propriety of that arrangement. Not,” he adds hastily, “that I would expect anything less than the highest scruples from one of your men.”

Good. So Father has a grasp on the situation. Sending me back with any strange man and no female chaperone is entirely inappropriate. And there are no other women on the trip. Too bad Puck isn’t here; my father would trust him with me. Now, they will all have to work out the only viable option—that I continue on the trip. I merely sit quietly and wait for them to come to this inevitable conclusion.

“Well, I certainly understand your feelings. Especially since the young lady in question is your daughter,” King William agrees. “I am sure if I had a daughter of my own, I would feel much the same way.”

They discuss me as if I am not sitting right here, as if I have no capacity for thought—or hearing. I am actually quite capable of taking care of myself and could get home without help from any man, thank you anyway. Not that I will suggest this as an option, of course.

Time drags into a prolonged silence. Birds chatter in the trees, the river bubbles happily by, the men are all packed and ready to go. They stand in a huddled mass waiting for instructions from their superiors. Come on guys, surely one of you can figure out the answer. My father must be aware of the only solution, so why isn’t he saying anything? Perhaps he is waiting for the King to suggest it, so it appears he thought of the idea and can take credit for it.

“If I may make a suggestion, Sir Jack…” Prince Liam begins.

I am so happy someone is finally going to state the obvious, I don’t even care that it is coming from his egotistical mouth. But then, he decides to become the next person to throw a wrench in my plans.

“Why don’t I accompany the young lady home along with one of the guards. I give my word that everything will be handled with the utmost discretion.”

~~

Not Every Girl is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online retailers.

~~

About the Author

photo of author Jane McGarryReading was always a big part of Jane’s life. Over the years, creating stories developed out of this love. Finally, she decided to try her hand at writing a novel and that was when Not Every Girl was conceived.

She lives in New Jersey in a house full of boys, including one over-indulged cat. When she is not running around with her family or writing, she can be found curled up with a good book and said cat. It is her belief that a good book, a loyal pet and anything made of chocolate can brighten just about any day.

You can visit her online at: www.janemcgarrybooks.com.

Connect with Jane Online

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New Release – Holding Back by Helen Pollard

Please welcome my fellow Clean Reads author Helen Pollard! She’s here today to celebrate the release of her latest novel, Holding Back.

Holding Back cover artBlurb

The last thing they’re looking for is love …

Laura Matheson is a natural at avoiding romance, so when she is drawn to mystery guest Daniel Stone while helping out at her friends’ hotel in Portugal, she assumes all she needs is a little extra willpower.

Daniel is at the hotel on business. The demands of work and a manipulative ex-girlfriend mean he doesn’t have the time or energy for romance, but Laura is a distraction he finds hard to ignore.

As they negotiate a minefield of misunderstandings and mutual attraction, will they both continue to hold back? Or will they finally allow love into their lives?

Excerpt

“Excuse me. You’ve picked up the wrong bag.”

Deep and decisive, the voice startled Laura from behind as she loaded her luggage onto her hard-won airport trolley.

“No, I don’t think so.” She swung round to confront the voice’s owner. Unnerved to find him towering over her, she took a step back, stumbling over her trolley in the process.

With lightning speed, he reached out to catch her arm, his grip strong as he helped her regain her balance. When she was upright again, she took in piercing blue eyes, thick dark brown hair, a hint of stubble on a tanned face—and felt an immediate jolt of attraction.

Laura ignored it. “I can manage, thank you,” she snapped, thinking she wouldn’t have tripped if he hadn’t surprised her like that.

He released his hold and raised an eyebrow. “As I said, you have my bag.”

Pushing away long strands of chestnut-brown hair that had dared escape their ponytail, Laura returned his gaze.

“No, this is definitely mine.” She was hot, harassed, and late. The last thing she needed was a futile argument over her own luggage!

“Would you mind if I check?”

“Help yourself.” Unable to disguise her impatience, Laura waved at it, adding, “But I am in a hurry.” She winced at the hostile tone in her voice, but she really didn’t have time for this. Tapping her foot in irritation, she waited to be proved right as he crouched over her trolley.

“Would you care to look?” he asked.

Laura’s foot stopped tapping. Recognising undisguised triumph on his face, she read the label over his shoulder with trepidation, but there it was in black and white—Daniel Stone, London Gatwick to Porto. The heat that rose in her cheeks seemed to burn right through her skin.

“But it’s the same as mine!” she blustered, watching with embarrassment as he hoisted the heavy bag from the trolley with ease.

“It’s hardly a unique design,” he commented, shrugging broad shoulders. “If you weren’t in such a tearing hurry, you might have spotted your own on the carousel.”

Laura spun around to see her bag riding forlornly around with the few that were left. Mortified, she opened her mouth to apologise.

But he spoke first. “Personally, I would advocate that old saying ‘More haste, less speed.'” His tone softened a little as he added, “I’m sorry, but you’re not the only hot, tired person whose flight was delayed, you know.” And off he strolled through the terminal, his bag flung over his shoulder, without a backward glance.

~~

Holding Back is available from Amazon, Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, and other online retailers.

~~

About the Author

photo of author Helen PollardHelen Pollard writes contemporary romance with old-fashioned heart. She believes there will always be a place for romantic fiction, no matter how fast-paced and cynical the world becomes. Readers still want that feel-good factor – to escape from their own world for a while and see how a budding romance can blossom and overcome adversity to develop into love … and we all need a little love, right?

A Yorkshire lass, Helen is married, with two teenagers and a psychotic cat. When she’s not working or writing, it goes without saying that she loves to read. She also enjoys a good coffee in a quiet bookshop, and appreciates the company of family and close friends.

Connect with Helen Online

Website & Blog: http://helenpollardwrites.wordpress.com  

Facebook: http://facebook.com/pages/Helen-Pollard/372986142839624

Twitter: http://twitter.com/helenpollard147

Tsu:  http://tsu.co/HelenPollard

Goodreads:  http://goodreads.com/author/show/8647878.Helen_Pollard

Amazon: http://amazon.com/author/helenpollard

New Release – Healing Rain by Katy Newton Naas

Please welcome my fellow Clean Reads author Katy Newton Naas! She’s here to celebrate the release of her new YA novel, Healing Rain.

Healing Rain cover artBlurb

Some people just naturally seem to have it all. Until five months ago, sixteen-year-old Rain Sawyer was one of those people. She had the perfect life, with a loving, wealthy family and a strong Christian faith, complete with popularity, sports, clubs, and good grades.

When one tragic incident shatters everything Rain thought she knew, she finds herself five hours away, starting over in a small town very different from her glamorous big-city life.

Armed with a different outlook on life – one that no longer includes her faith – she struggles to create a new identity for herself.  Determined to keep her dark past as secret, she navigates through a new school year, a new town, and new relationships while trying to figure out who she wants to be.

Excerpt

Prologue

The smell of blood – sickeningly thick, fresh blood – filled my nostrils before I ever opened the door. I didn’t recognize that smell at first; I had never encountered that much blood in one place before. But I knew that the smell was off, somehow. The room usually smelled just like my dad – a mixture of pine trees and cologne, a combination of aromas that I had never quite understood but they belonged to him. I knocked, but no one answered. Cautiously, I pushed open the door. “Dad?” I whispered as I entered.

That’s when I saw his legs. His signature khaki pants and brown loafers stuck out from behind his desk. He was on the ground and didn’t move when I said his name, didn’t even twitch as I opened the door and walked inside. “Dad!” I called again, louder this time.

Oh no, he’s had a heart attack, I thought. I rushed over to the desk to see his face. But what I saw stopped me in my tracks like a deer in headlights.

I was frozen. My brain screamed at my body to move, to get away from the sight, but my feet were glued to the floor. My arms and legs suddenly felt like sandbags, and I collapsed.

This is not my dad. There was no face, no way to identify him for sure. But it was him. I knew the shape of his body, the clothes he wore. But the pool of blood under his neck took my breath away.

Who did this? Who did this to my father? I heard violent, blood-curdling screams, which I quickly realized were coming from me. I pleaded for help, still unable to get up off the ground, but it was useless. No one else was home.

Or was someone else in the house? My heart stopped beating as I considered this. Someone had broken in, had murdered my father in cold blood. Maybe I was next. Maybe my whole family was next. At that point, I almost wished for it. Death would be a welcome release from the idea of losing my dad, the man I admired most in the world. My funny, loving, attentive, adoring father. My best friend. And now he was gone.

And that’s when I saw it. The gun. The murder weapon that was used to kill my father was still lying on the scene. I stared at it, too shocked to cry or get scared or have any of the other normal reactions I should have had.

My mind was racing but remained blank. I had to get up, had to call for help. Move, I commanded my feet. Get up and go call 911. Tell them there’s been a murder, get the police to catch whoever did this and make them pay.

And that’s when my brain began to truly process the scene. The gun – the murder weapon – was in my dad’s own hand. Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. And then the tears came, slowly at first before gushing out of my eyes until I couldn’t see straight anymore. I curled my legs up to my chest and hugged them, putting my head down on my knees as my shoulders shook uncontrollably. Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.

I forced myself to look back at my dad one last time, just to make sure my mind wasn’t playing tricks on me. He couldn’t have done this. He couldn’t have.

I looked up toward the sky and asked one simple question: Why?

~~

Healing Rain is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, and other online retailers.

~~

About the Author

photo of author Katy Newton NaasKaty Newton Naas currently teaches middle school reading and high school English in southern Illinois, as well as children’s church. She graduated from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale with a bachelor’s degree in English Education and a master’s degree in Reading and Language Studies. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family, including her husband, her young son, Aven, and her four-legged sons, Shakespeare and Poe.

From a young age, Katy was always an avid reader and writer with a big imagination. Though she continues to grow older, her true literature love is and has always been young adult fiction. She loves creating both realistic and futuristic stories about teenagers, and feels so fortunate to get to work with them every day as a teacher.

Connect with Katy Online

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/katynewtonnaasauthor
Twitter: http://twitter.com/KatyNewtonNaas
Instagram: https://instagram.com/katynewtonnaas/
Blog: https://katynewtonnaas.wordpress.com/