RONE Awards Nominee – Bogota Blessings

I am so thrilled to announce that Bogota Blessings (Passport to Romance) has been nominated for the RONE Awards, Inspirational category! The RONE Awards are an annual award presented to great books in a variety of categories. The first round in the selection process is based on the star rating books received from InD’Tale Magazine (the award sponsor). The second round lets the public vote for their favorite nominee in each category. The third round involves judges evaluating each of the finalists from round two and selecting the winners.

The voting for Week Two categories (including Inspirational) is open until April 26, 2015. There are some amazing books by wonderful authors in each of the categories, so I have some tough competition. If you would like to cast your vote, here’s the link: http://indtale.com/2015-rone-awards-week-two

In order to vote, you do have to sign in to your account. If you don’t already have an account, you can easily create one. They won’t spam your inbox, and you just might find some new books to read in the free monthly magazine they send out.

Now, who wants a peek at Bogota Blessings? Check out the blurb and an excerpt, and then go cast your vote for your favorite titles. Yes, I’m hoping you choose mine. LOL

Bogota Blessings cover artBlurb

When Kayla Shaw travels to Bogotá to help renovate a house for a mission to street children, nothing can prepare her for the ever-present mission employee Mateo Luis. He looks like he could be one of the rebels who have caused so much fear throughout Colombia. Then she begins to see him with her heart instead of only her eyes.

Mateo Luis Gómez Días has dedicated his life to the mission, and he’s determined to help as many street children as he can. Unfortunately, he can’t keep his thoughts off the beautiful American helping renovate the new children’s home. Although he would love to have a relationship with Kayla, his past and the bad neighborhood God has called him to serve in prevent him from pursuing her.

Has God truly led Kayla and Mateo to each other, or does He have something else in mind for their lives?

Excerpt

Kayla’s gaze drifted to the door as an older woman hurried in with a piece of cardboard in her hand. The woman looked over and held up the sign with a questioning look—Shaw Restoration.

Relief washed over Kayla as she returned the woman’s smile and nodded. “Our ride’s here.”

She led the way over to the woman. “Hi, I’m Kayla Shaw, and this is Angie Martin and Paul Reed. We’re the group from Shaw Restoration.”

“I am Maria Santiago Uribe de Ramírez, wife of Pastor Carlos Ramírez Ochoa. Please forgive me for being late,” the woman said in heavily accented English. “The bus did not want to start, and Mateo Luis had to fix it before we could come.”

“I understand,” Kayla assured her.

“My husband sends his apologies for not being here, but he was called away by an emergency.” Maria lifted a hand toward the exit. “Come. Mateo is waiting to take us to the mission.”

As soon as Kayla saw the rusty, ancient bus with the mission name scrawled in faded blue paint across the side, she completely understood why Maria had been late. The vehicle looked as if it would take a miracle to get it to run, and Kayla made a mental note to contact the missions committee of the church she attended with her father. Perhaps they could raise enough to fix up the bus or possibly buy a newer one. The mission needed reliable transportation, and their current bus appeared to be far from it.

A swarthy-skinned man stepped out of the open door of the vehicle, and Kayla’s heart leapt into her throat. His dark, brooding eyes scanned the group, his stance wary as he took them in. A scar down the left side of his face made him look even more menacing than the heavy, dark stubble shadowing his face.

Maria stepped up beside him with a warm smile. “This is Mateo Luis. He works for the mission, so you will likely see him often. Mateo, this is Kayla, Angie, and Paul.”

Kayla struggled to find her voice, certain it was her responsibility as team leader to respond. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

He nodded, his gaze drifting over her. “If you will move to the back of the bus, we can load your luggage.”

As they followed him, Kayla noticed a slight limp in his walk. She felt a small twinge of guilt for judging him by his appearance alone. Since he worked for the mission, he was probably a very nice guy, even if he did look as scary as the rebels she’d seen in news reports. Perhaps his limp had been caused by the violence that had gripped Colombia for several decades. That could explain his wariness and the scar on his face as well.

Still, a little wariness of her own until she knew him better wouldn’t be amiss.

~~

Want to read more? Download a copy of Bogota Blessings from Pelican Book Group, Amazon, Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, or iTunes.

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New Release – Andrea and the 5-Day Challenge by Cindy K. Green

Please welcome my fellow Pelican Book Group author Cindy K. Green! She’s here today with her new young adult novel, Andrea and the 5-Day Challenge.

Andrea and the 5-Day Challenge cover artBlurb

Dear Lord,
I need Your help and sooner would be better than later. Wouldn’t you know it, just as soon as I decide to attempt the 5-Day Bible Study Challenge, my parents start heaping on loads of pressure to get me into Julliard. My friend Amy isn’t any better, urging me to ask Luke Ryan to homecoming. As if the cute, transfer jock would actually go out with me. I mean, we’re kinda friends, and I’ve enjoyed our Geometry study sessions, but in case Amy hasn’t noticed, I’m the invisible one at Aubrey Christian Academy, and I like it that way. On top of that, I have a feeling Luke’s concealing something behind those chocolate-brown eyes of his. I know I can be self-centered and a bit melodramatic, but I really do want to seek Your will for my life. Then maybe I’ll even figure out which direction points up.

Sincerely, Andrea Jamison
High School Junior
Change-o-phobic & complete neurotic

Excerpt

Before she had a chance to answer, I heard my name called out. I pivoted, but I was totally unprepared to see Luke coming right up beside me. My face grew warm again. Oh, please, if only my skin wouldn’t turn all blotchy like it usually did when I blushed. “Uh, hi Luke.” I couldn’t say any more. If I opened my mouth, it would come out in gibberish, I was sure. Lord God in Heaven, if You’re listening, and I know You always are, please, please, don’t let him have overheard what we were talking about. When was that spaceship getting here, anyway? I’d settle for an invisibility cloak, too, just as long as I could disappear.

“Hi.” Luke smiled.

Why now did his smile make my heart do cartwheels? I’d seen him smile dozens of times, maybe even a hundred, and my heart had never done that before. OK, that’s not completely true. There have been a couple occasions when my pulse tripped upwards, but I just needed some more vitamins or something.

“I was wondering if we could go over that new proof from yesterday. I’m not sure I have it yet.”

Geometry? He wanted to talk about Geometry.

My heart fell. I don’t know why I thought it would be anything else. I mentally slapped myself in the head. Of course. He just wanted to talk about Geometry. The quiz today.

“Well, I gotta go,” announced Amy with a conspiratorial smile as she adjusted her glasses and walked off.

I turned to Luke. “You know, Geometry isn’t my strong subject.”

“I know.” He knew? His answer surprised me.

I stood staring at him for a second. His brown eyes looked a little sparkly as he grinned at me. I must have been seeing things. Yeah, I definitely needed some extra vitamin A.

“If I had to guess, I’d say history is your best subject.” Luke still smiled, in fact, I think it grew.

How did he know my favorite subject? “Uh, yeah, it is. How…”

He raised his expansive shoulders slightly. “I can tell by the way you speak up in class.”

Class. Oh, yes, because we also had U. S. History together. I wanted to run away, but I couldn’t. I wasn’t that much of a coward. I could stand here and look into his eyes…no, I couldn’t. They were somehow more fascinating than ever. I lifted my view to the doorway. “You know, I need to get to my locker and pick up my books for next period.”

“OK, me, too.”

So, I’m walking with Luke Ryan. He is suddenly very interesting to me and seems to know more about me than I do about him. Something is definitely wrong with this picture. Had I somehow walked through Alice’s looking glass without noticing, because this was unquestionably a wonderland.

~~

Andrea and the 5-Day Challenge is available from Pelican Book Group, Amazon, ChristianBook.com, and other online retailers.

Read more excerpts on Cindy’s blog: http://cindykgreen.blogspot.com/

~~

About the Author

Cindy K. Green has worked as a middle school history & English teacher, a frozen yogurt server and a golf magazine employee. Today she’s a multi-published, award-winning author, a mother, a wife, and a homeschooler too. This native Californian now resides in North Carolina with her husband, two boys, and two cats named Chloe & Kassey. Visit her website www.cindykgreen.com & her blog cindykgreen.blogspot.com. She’s on Facebook (Cindy K. Green) and Twitter (@cindykgreen) too. Connect with her on Pinterest and Google+ as well.

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Acceptance vs. Tolerance – Why we need both

Acceptance vs. Tolerance

Last week I wrote about why tolerance is a more realistic expectation than acceptance for American society. This week I want to discuss why acceptance is an essential part of any civilized nation, including the United States.

Wait. What?

I know, it sounds like I’m starting to contradict myself, but stick with me. I promise both viewpoints (pro-tolerance and pro-acceptance) are completely compatible and possible for every individual to hold.

Acceptance is essential to civilization.To refresh your memory, tolerance is about respecting beliefs, opinions, and lifestyles you disagree with. Acceptance is about approving and viewing favorably those different from you. Note the differences in the definitions. Tolerance has to do with beliefs, opinion, and lifestyles. Acceptance has to do with the people holding those opinions and beliefs and living those lifestyles.

While I completely agree that some beliefs, opinions, and lifestyles are incompatible and unacceptable to different people, I fully believe that every person should be accepted and respected even if you don’t agree with the way they live or think. The vast differences between people are part of the reason America is sometimes referred to as the great melting pot. We’re all in this together, and whether we agree with the guy down the road or not, we need to accept him as a valid, important human being.

In the debate between tolerance and acceptance, the arguments over whose religion is right and which lifestyle is best, people often miss the point. That point? It doesn’t matter. We’re all individuals with our own way of doing things. We’re going to find like-minded people, but not everyone is going to agree with us and that’s fine. That’s why tolerance is essential to the survival of American society. Yet without acceptance of each individual as a person, society is still at risk of failure and chaos.

Let me give you an example of why acceptance of people as valid and important beings is essential.

April is Autism Awareness MonthApril is Autism Awareness Month. While most people know autism exists, far fewer truly accept autistic people as being as valid and important as non-autistics. This is true of many disabilities, especially the invisible ones. That lack of acceptance and the general theme of seeing autism as the person being broken or needing to change in order to be acceptable hurts. I say this as an autistic adult. We need to be viewed with the same respect and acceptance as our neurotypical (non-autistic) counterparts if we’re ever going to thrive.

Yes, autism poses great challenges. No, it’s not easy, either for the autistic or the people around them. But we are people. We are not broken. We are different, and most of us don’t mind being different… until people start telling us there’s something wrong with us or refusing to give us a chance.

Acceptance can change that. It doesn’t take much to accept someone who is different from you. All you have to do is quit thinking, “Hey, that guy’s different” and start thinking, “Hey, that guy’s a person just like me.”

The National Down Syndrome Conference has a campaign I love and wish we would see for more disabilities, religions, and ethnicities. It shows how people with Down Syndrome are “More Alike Than Different” when compared to people without the disorder. That’s how everyone needs to view the people around them. Instead of focusing on the differences, focus on the similarities.

That’s where acceptance begins. When you can look past whatever makes the person different from you or the beliefs you may not agree with and respect the person as a person, that’s when acceptance happens. That’s when the contention and hate stop and the real discussions and debates on the things you tolerate but can’t accept happen.

What do you think? Is important for everyone to accept everyone else, or is tolerating the existence of those you don’t agree with or understand enough? Or do you think something else entirely?

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New Release – Nila’s Hope by Kathleen Friesen

Please welcome my fellow Pelican Book Group author Kathleen Friesen! She’s here today to celebrate the release of her new novel, Nila’s Hope.

Nila's Hope cover artBlurb

Just when her career as a carpenter and a relationship with handsome co-worker Will Jamison are within reach, Nila Black’s abusive ex-boyfriend is released from prison. He’s out of jail, out for revenge, and making promises she knows he’ll keep. Nila will do whatever it takes to save her friends from the evil that will come their way if she doesn’t put distance between them-even if it means abandoning her new-found faith. It will take a miracle and an angelic messenger to show Nila that God is her greatest protector. He has never left her side, and He wants only the best for her and for the man she loves.

Excerpt

Too soon dinner was finished and Jason introduced her toast to the bride. Nila pushed herself upright onto shaking legs and tried not to wobble or spill the juice in her fluted glass.

She clung to the podium for support and smoothed out the torn paper. She tried to read her notes, but her handwriting seemed to have morphed into another language. Her hands shook the podium, so she folded them together on top of the useless paper. The silence in the room felt heavy. Nila glanced up. So many people.

She opened her mouth, but no words came. Then she spotted Faith sitting at a table near the back. Faith smiled, patted her heart, and put one thumb up.

Speak from your heart. Easier said than done. Nila breathed a silent prayer. “Jesus, help me do this, for Melody’s sake.”

She glanced over at the head table, hearing only the pounding of her heart. Will nodded and mouthed, “You can do it.”

Nila took a deep breath and cleared her throat.

“As most of you know, Melody’s daughter Faith was supposed to be her matron of honor, but she caught a bad cold last week. When Melody and Faith asked me to take her place, I was honored–and terrified. I’ve never done anything like this before.”

She glanced at the nearest tables. No one snickered. Everyone seemed to be listening, most with smiles on their faces. She looked down at her paper.

“Melody is a very special lady. The first time we met was when she came to visit me in the hospital. Even though Melody didn’t know me and had to fight through her own fear, she came to tell me that God loves me. She didn’t just visit me once and then leave me alone, either. She kept telling me over and over how much I was worth to God and to her. No one had ever talked to me like that. She showed me what real love is.”

She glanced up. Every gaze was locked on her. Her hands shook again. She quickly looked at Melody, and her warm smile gave her the courage to continue.

“God used Melody to save me–not only my soul, but my life. If it weren’t for Melody…” Her vision blurred. Nila blinked several times and dabbed at the tears that spilled onto her cheeks. She took a deep breath and released it slowly.

“When Melody and Daniel realized they were meant to be together, I was thrilled for her. I’ve enjoyed watching their love grow and bloom as beautifully as the flowers Melody nurtures in her garden. She deserves a life full of love and happiness, and I trust that today is the beginning of many years of joy with Daniel.”

She paused, looked out at the crowd, and with a steady hand raised her glass.

“Would you please stand and join me in toasting the bride? To Melody!”

A movement caught her eye. A door at the back of the hall opened without a sound. A head appeared. Glittering eyes stared at her. Hatred sliced across the room and raked her with an icy touch. The figure raised a finger to his lips and shook his head. The message was all too familiar.

Nila froze. Black spots filled her vision, and the room disappeared.

When she came to, she was back in her seat at the table, and Melody’s hand patted

her face.

“Nila, honey, are you okay?”

She shuddered and looked toward the door. No one was there.

~~

Nila’s Hope is available from Pelican Book Group, Amazon, Amazon Canada, Barnes & Noble, and other online retailers.

~~

About the Author

author photo of Kathleen FriesenOnce upon a time, there was a shy girl who loved to read. She found friends, adventure, and reasons to trust God in the pages of her favorite books. When she grew up, she carried a dream in her heart that someday she would join those authors long admired in the adventure of writing stories. Today Kathleen Friesen is writing and loving it. Her stories invite readers to risk faith, dare to love, and trust God with the consequences.

After thirty years on the Canadian prairies, Kathleen and her husband Ron now live in the beautiful Okanagan Valley of British Columbia, Canada. They enjoy travelling, long walks in nature, and time spent with family and friends. And wherever they go, Kathleen’s on the prowl for ideas for her next book.

Connect with Kathleen Online

Website: www.kathleenfriesen.weebly.com

Blog: www.kathleenefriesen.wordpress.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/kathleenefriesen

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Tolerance vs. Acceptance – Is there a difference?

Tolerance vs. Acceptance

The United States gives its citizens wonderful freedoms protected by the Constitution. Some of those freedoms include the right to hold whatever religious and political beliefs you wish, as well as the right to speak freely about them. Yet despite these legal rights, many in America seem to think that only their beliefs should be allowed.

acceptance definitionThis is where tolerance comes in to play. In order for our nation to function, tolerance is essential. Everyone has the right to believe whatever they want, but they also have the right to disagree with the beliefs of others. However, tolerance prevents them from attacking those who have differing beliefs.

And here’s where the ideal of tolerance frequently gets misunderstood. Tolerance simply means you tolerate the beliefs of those you don’t agree with. You don’t attack someone. You don’t use hate speech against them. Basically, you let them do their thing while you happily go do your thing. Unfortunately, many people seem to think tolerance actually means acceptance.

While tolerance allows you to disagree with others’ beliefs, acceptance doesn’t. If you accept another’s beliefs, you are essentially agreeing with them and saying those beliefs are right. This doesn’t work in a nation with as many different religions, political opinions, and lifestyles as the United States. Many times, those beliefs and lifestyles contradict each other or have irreconcilable differences. In order to accept each of those beliefs and lifestyles, one would have to ignore those contradictions and differences.

When you think “tolerance” means “acceptance” that’s where the problems begin. In order to accept some beliefs, others must become unacceptable. At that point, if you speak about tolerance and believe in practicing it, you have become a hypocrite. After all, if you accept some beliefs and disparage others, that doesn’t follow the “acceptance” definition for tolerance.

tolerance definitionBut, if you practice true tolerance, you don’t have to become a hypocrite. You can still have strongly held beliefs that don’t coincide with the beliefs of others. You are welcome to disagree with others. If you are tolerant, you are willing to accept that others have different beliefs and opinions, and that they have just as much right to hold those beliefs as you have to hold yours.

The United States is made up of myriad cultures, religions, and political beliefs. True acceptance of all those different groups is an impossible dream simply because of irreconcilable differences. Tolerance, however, is a realistic possibility and the ideal our nation with all of its freedoms was founded upon.

In order for American society to function well, each individual within it must accept what they can and tolerate what they can’t. Anything else in a tolerant nation is unacceptable.

What do you think? Should we strive for tolerance, acceptance, or something else altogether?

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New Release – Best Friends… Forever? by Krysten Lindsay Hager

Please welcome my fellow Clean Reads (formerly Astraea Press) author Krysten Lindsay Hager! She’s here today with her new novel, Best Friends… Forever? (Landry’s True Colors Series Book 2).

Best Friends... Forever? cover artBlurb

Landry Albright hopes the new year will start off in an amazing way—instead she has to deal with more frenemy issues, boy drama, and having most of her best friends make the cheerleading squad without her. Suddenly, it seems like all anyone can talk about is starting high school next year—something she finds terrifying.

Landry gets her first boyfriend, but then gets dumped just as things come to a head with her friends. She feels lost and left out, but finds good advice about dealing with frenemies from what she considers an unlikely source. Landry faces having to speak up for what’s right, tell the truth (even when it hurts), and how to get past the fear of failure as she gets another shot at competing in the American Ingénue modeling competition.

Excerpt

I got ready for bed and then stopped to check my social media page one more time and that’s when I saw it — another picture of Peyton, India, and Devon hanging out. They were sitting on the couch with their heads scrunched close together and laughing. It was a cute picture, but then I saw the caption: So glad we could all be together for the holidays. Love these guys soooo much! Best friends forever. #Alltogether #Threemusketeers #BestFriendsForever #ThreeBestFriends #ThreesCompany.

My heart sank. It was India’s caption and anyone who read it would think what a close‑knit group of friends and not realize anyone was missing from that photo. Sure, I was in another state, so naturally I couldn’t be there for it, but the way India wrote that made me feel so left out. I mean, what did she mean by the “ʺThree’s Company”ʺ hashtag? And sometimes people tagged friends who weren’t there in pictures and added, “ʺWish you were here,”ʺ but there was no mention of a fourth member of the group.

“Ready for bed, hon?” Mom asked coming into my room.

“Yeah, just signing off.”

“Okay, sleep well.”

I got into bed and hoped I was reading into things, but the knot in my stomach wouldn’t go away.

~~

Best Friends… Forever? is available from Amazon, Amazon international, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes, and other online retailers.

~~

About the Author

photo of author Krysten Lindsay HagerKrysten Lindsay Hager is the author of the Landry’s True Colors Series, a clean reads young adult series. Krysten writes about friendship, self-esteem, fitting in, middle school and high school, frenemies, modeling, crushes, values, and self-image in both True Colors and Best Friends…Forever?

Krysten is an Amazon international bestselling author and book addict who has never met a bookstore she didn’t like. She’s worked as a journalist and writes middle grade, YA, humor essays, and adult fiction. She is originally from Michigan and has lived in Portugal, South Dakota, and currently resides in Southern Ohio where you can find her reading and writing when she’s not catching up on her favorite shows. She received her master’s degree from the University of Michigan-Flint.

Connect with Krysten Online

Website: http://www.krystenlindsay.com/

Instagram: http://instagram.com/krystenlindsay

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KrystenLindsayHagerAuthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/KrystenLindsay

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New Release – The Duke Conspiracy by Wendy May Andrews

Please welcome my fellow Clean Reads (formerly Astraea Press) author Wendy May Andrews! She’s here today to celebrate the release of her debut Regency romance, The Duke Conspiracy.

The Duke Conspiracy cover artBlurb

Miss Rosamund Smythe, the only daughter of a baron diplomat, is finding the Season to be a dead bore. After her stint at spying while in Vienna with her father, she wants a higher purpose in life than “just” being a wife.

His Grace, Alexander Milton, the Duke of Wrentham, wants a quiet life with a “proper” lady as his wife after the tumultuous childhood he had. His parents had fought viciously, lied often, and Alex secretly wonders if he was even his father’s son.

Rose and Alex grew up on neighboring estates and have been best friends since she was four years old but a family feud has torn their friendship apart.

At a Society event Rose overhears a plot to entrap Alex into a marriage of convenience. Her loyalty to their old friendship as well as her knowledge of the conspirator, Sir Jason Broderick, causes Rose to overcome her aversion to Wrentham in order to warn him of his danger. Alex’s complicated childhood has caused him to despise all forms of deception so Rose avoids telling him how she knows so much about Sir Broderick.

When Rose is abducted by Sir Broderick to prevent her interference, Alex must deal with his own conflicted feelings to help her rescue herself. Can they claim their happily ever after despite the turmoil?

Excerpt

Alex gazed at his old friend in admiration. If anyone had ever told him he would be standing in Burlington House surrounded by Elgin’s Marbles debating with Miss Rosamund Smythe about who might be conspiring to entrap him into marriage, he would never have believed such a claim. But here they were. And she looked mighty fetching as she gazed up at him expectantly. He had to make an effort to remember what she had said. Oh yes, something about ideas to investigate. He wondered absently what she could possibly know about investigations and clues and all that. But she was right. They needed to have a direction. The only trouble was he was drawing a blank about any possible ideas.

All he could do was shrug helplessly. “I am so sorry, Rose, but I have absolutely no idea where to start. To the best of my knowledge I have never had any dealings with Broderick. I developed an instant dislike of the man upon first making his acquaintance, but I cannot even tell you why, as we have barely conversed.”

The duke was clearly flabbergasted over this development and was even slightly ashamed to not have a ready solution. Rose must have realized this. She hastened to reassure him. “Never mind about that. We both agreed earlier that the best place for us to start is with Lady Anne. That will have to be my job, as you will just be walking straight into their plot if you try to do anything about it. Now, I really must be going, so we must hurry and establish another appointment to meet up to discuss any of our findings. In the meantime, you should speak to your solicitors or man of affairs or whatever you might have along those lines and see if they are aware of any issues Broderick might have with you. Those gentlemen might know more on the subject than you.”

“How did you get so smart about such things?”

Alex was intrigued by the blush that spread over her face at this unanswerable question. The only thing she could offer was “My father is a diplomat,” with as much dignity as possible.

Alex allowed the moment to pass and was rewarded by the look of relief on her face. He hurried to make an appointment as they saw her maid approaching. “Would it be remarked upon if you come here again tomorrow or the next day?”

“Probably not,” Rose answered. “My mother never rises before noon and is really only concerned with how I spend my evenings. But you had best give me at least one day to try to make the acquaintance of Lady Anne, so let us say the day after tomorrow. That gives me a day and a half to gather as much information as possible. I shall start with my friend Lady Elizabeth. She is a font of knowledge about the ton, as well as being friendly with Lady Anne.” While she was speaking she fumbled with her drawing supplies, finally tucking them under her arm. “Wish me luck,” she concluded as she once more faced the duke.

The duke watched a myriad of emotions chase themselves across his companion’s face. He was unable to identify most of them, but he thought she looked rather wistful as she offered him a brief curtsy before she hurried away without another word.

Alex stood in the same spot for several moments, watching her retreating figure, wondering if she would look back before exiting the building. He was unprepared for the profound disappointment that swept over him as she strode away with purpose, never once glancing back in his direction. Slowly bringing his focus back to the statue she had been sketching, the duke allowed the entire interlude to play itself out in his mind. Giving his head a shake to rid himself of the melancholy that had befallen him, he followed in her footsteps and strode from the hall.

~~

The Duke Conspiracy is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online retailers.

~~

About the Author

photo of author Wendy May AndrewsWendy May Andrews has been reading whatever she could get her hands on since the age of five. She has been writing for almost as long but hasn’t been sharing those stories with anyone but her mother until recently. Wendy lives in Toronto with her own real-life hero. When not writing or reading, they love to travel wherever the mood takes them.

Connect with Wendy Online

Website http://www.wendymayandrews.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/WendyMayAndrews

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What do you think of when you hear “mental illness”?

Last week I visited my fellow Astraea Press author Krysten Lindsay Hager’s blog and talked about the stigma associated with mental illness. That stigma has had a personal impact on me (read more about it in this post), but it’s also made me think a lot.

What do most people think of when they hear the words mental illness?

Stand up to stigma. Let's talk about mental health.I think of my father and several other people I love. I think of the guy I used to see on the street who always wore a bathrobe and talked to himself. I think of psych wards, medication, and counseling. I think of psychiatric service dogs, case managers, and disability. I think of those who battle through the mental illness in order to live as normal a life as possible.

I also think of the people who suffer in silence. Those who are afraid to seek help or think they are beyond help. Those who pretend everything is fine when they are clearly suffering. Those who think they’re fine and don’t need help when they exhibit many signs of being miserable and chronically depressed.

The things in the previous paragraph always make me want to cry. A lot of those things have to do with the stigma of mental illness, but some of it is the mental illness itself. I have known several mentally ill people who thought they were fine, didn’t need help, etc. So they stopped taking their medication, stopped getting regular therapy, and in the result was that they stopped being stable. Each of them suffered horribly because they thought there was nothing wrong with them, even though they had been diagnosed with one mental illness or another and were being treated for it. Once they returned to their prescribed treatment, they improved and could live a fairly normal life again.

As you can see, so many things come to mind when I think of mental illness, but that’s because I’ve been around it my entire life. When there’s mental illness in your family, you learn a LOT.

Did you know…

…anxiety disorders are the most common type of mental illness in the United States?

…depression is one of the most common and well-known mental illnesses?

…you’re more likely to be diagnosed with certain mental illnesses if a family member has been diagnosed with it?

…quite a few mentally ill people end up in jail or prison because of a lack of treatment?

…schizophrenia has its own stigma that makes it a diagnosis professionals are reluctant to give?

Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. Neither is talking about it. It's time to talk.An estimated 43.7 million adults in the United States have some form of mental illness¹. That comes out at 18.6% of the adult population, yet mental illness still remains largely in the shadows. Compare that to autism, which an estimated 2% of the American children have², yet autism is regularly mentioned in mainstream media. Studies, organizations, and support groups abound for autism, as do blogs, magazines, and websites filled with information. Meanwhile 18.6% of the adult population is misunderstood, feels ignored, and suffers under a stigma that paradoxically lingers in an era when acceptance and awareness are major buzzwords.

So, in the name of awareness and acceptance, let’s talk. What comes to mind when you see or hear the words “mental illness”? Has your life ever been touched by mental illness?

Please share your thoughts in the comments section. If you want to contact me privately, you can do so here.

Note: All viewpoints are welcome, but keep your comments respectful and free of foul language. This is a family-friendly blog, and I’d like to keep it a safe place for open and honest discussion. Thanks!

References:

1. National Institute of Mental Health. (n.d). Any mental illness (AMI) among adults. Retrieved February 21, 2015, from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/any-mental-illness-ami-among-adults.shtml

2. Blumberg, S. J., Bramlett, M. D., Kogan, M. D., Schieve, L. A., Jones, J. R., and Lu, M. C. (2013, March 20). Changes in prevalence of parent-reported autism spectrum disorder in school-aged U.S. children: 2007 to 2011-2012. National Health Statistics Reports (65). Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. Retrieved February 21, 2015, from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr065.pdf

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Cover Reveal – Pressure by E.A. West

It’s so exciting to finally share the cover of my newest sweet romance with you! Pressure is scheduled to release February 17 from Astraea Press. Check out this lovely cover created by Cora Graphics!

Pressure cover art

Blurb

Ravi Singh is a homeless veteran haunted by memories of his time in the Marine Corps. Thanks to his attempts to get a group of teenaged gang members to leave the life of crime they’ve chosen, he got shot. Now the wound is infected, and he’s too sick to move. When the teens bring his favorite nurse practitioner to him, he’s torn between anger that they kidnapped her and gratitude that they cared enough to get him help.

As Emma Johnston works to treat Ravi, searches for a way to escape, and attempts to figure out just what his relationship to the gang is, she meets the young orphan boy dubbed Twitch. The child brings out the best in Ravi and helps Emma see a side of the gang members she never expected. The more she learns about Ravi’s unconventional life, the better she understands him and the more she wishes he would quit stubbornly refusing to seek psychiatric treatment. Falling for him was never part of the plan, but neither was getting kidnapped.

Can their budding relationship survive such challenging circumstances, or will it end in devastation?

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Pressure will be available February 17, 2015 everywhere ebooks are sold.

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Fifty Shades of Grey – Romance or Abuse?

Ever since the first book was published, I have been hearing about Fifty Shades of Grey. Women went nuts over it, the media talked about it repeatedly, the Internet was abuzz with it. Yet one thing I have never understood is why it became so popular and has stayed popular.

Admittedly, I haven’t read it. I refuse to pick up or download a copy of it. I won’t be watching the movie based on it, either. Why? Well, for one thing the whole idea behind it gives me the willies. An unbelievably naïve and insecure young woman falls for a seriously disturbed and controlling man, and he tries (for much of the book, from what I understand) to coerce her into signing a contract that grants him permission to do as he jolly well pleases to/with her and essentially revokes all her human rights and freedom. All kinds of red flags started waving as soon as I learned about the contract. A situation like that invites all kinds of mistreatment and abuse, which is not okay under any circumstances.

Then there is the origin of the story, which is creepy (to me) in its own right. In case you haven’t already heard, Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele aren’t original characters. Fifty Shades of Grey started out life as a Twilight fanfiction. Christian and Anastasia are essentially Edward and Bella in an X-rated and disturbing story.

Even though I will not read the book, I have seen several excerpts from it. They ranged from poorly written to abusive to just plain stomach churning. Now, it’s true that BDSM isn’t my cup of tea, but this book isn’t BDSM. It is abuse, pure and simple. Authors of BDSM romances and those within the BDSM community say the same thing.

“…a lot of what happens in the main relationship of Fifty Shades of Grey is domestic abuse, both physical and emotional…” Sophie Morgan, submissive and author of The Diary of a Submissive (Source: The Guardian)

“I hate—hate—this book because it conflates BDSM with abuse.” Katherine O’Clare (Source: Crushable)

“The novel completely ignores elements of safe play that those familiar with the BDSM community would immediately recognise. RACK stands for Risk Aware Consensual Kink. SSC stands for Safe, Sane and Consensual. (Note the repeated word in both anagrams). This topic is completely ignored or glossed over in James’ novels and, considering the reaction they have amassed, this is a concern.” Anonymous poster (Source: http://hidingfromsomeone.tumblr.com)

Some will read this post and say I’m crazy. Others may think I’m some kind of religious fanatic (I am a Christian, after all). But the ones I want to address are the ones who will look at what I’ve said so far and say, “You just don’t get it.”

Those people are absolutely right. I don’t get it.

I don’t get why anyone would write one book, let alone an entire trilogy, about a ridiculously naïve young woman who signs a contract agreeing to let a super-controlling rich guy abuse her in any way he wants.

I don’t get how anyone could look at the content of those same books and think it’s romantic to be belittled, manipulated, and degraded by your partner, not to mention the physical/sexual abuse that occurs in the story.

I don’t get why women from high school age on up would rave about how wonderful the book is when it glorifies abuse.

I don’t get why Hollywood would take poorly written, abuse-promoting literature (and I use that word loosely) and turn it into a movie.

I also don’t get why they would give a movie based on erotica a rating as low as R.

Since Fifty Shades of Grey was released, I have read numerous articles and blog posts trying to find some explanation of why something portraying such dangerous and negative behavior is so popular. Everything I have read has shared the opinions I’ve already stated. Many were much more strongly worded than what I have written, and most were written by people who have read the book.

Despite sincerely trying to find out how this atrocity could be considered romance, I haven’t found one example. I started out thinking that surely I was just coming across the writings of like-minded people, those who don’t enjoy those types of books for one reason or another. Now, however, after seeing so many articles showing why the book is bad and no articles showing why it’s a romance, I have to wonder if anyone can give an example of what makes a book about an abusive relationship romantic.

When the Fifty Shades of Grey movie comes out on Valentine’s Day, I hope you will think twice before spending your hard-earned money on something that has nothing to do with romance. Use the money to go on a romantic date with your significant other. Put in it your kid’s college fund. Better yet, donate it to a shelter or organization that helps victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

Don’t support the glorification of abuse. Support the effort to end it.

 

Speak out on social media using the hashtags #FiftyShadesIsAbuse and #50dollarsnot50shades.

Donate to your local domestic violence shelter. If you need help finding a shelter, try DomesticShelters.org. You can also contact your local police department or social services.

Discuss warning signs of abuse with your loved ones and friends. Here are three lists to help you know what to look for:

“21 Warnings Signs of an Emotionally Abusive Relationship”

“Red Flags for Abusive Relationships”

“Early warning signs and the beginnings of an abusive relationship”

If you suspect someone you know is a victim of abuse, there are ways you can help. “Is Someone You Know Being Abused?” contains an excellent list of what you can do.

What do you think? Is Fifty Shades of Grey abuse, or is it romance?

Please share links to any articles or blog posts that explain (preferably with excerpts) how Fifty Shades of Grey is romantic and not abusive. I would love to be able to look at it from both sides.

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