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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New release – Torn by Ashley Stambaugh

Please welcome my fellow Astraea Press author Ashley Stambaugh! She’s here today with her brand new novel, Torn.

Torn cover artBlurb

Three months have passed and Melina thought she was safe. Safe from the effects of the angel powers and safe from the Noxin demons. But she thought too soon.

Just as she’s starting to enjoy her new powers and her new relationship with Lee, the slight pain she still experiences after using the powers starts to grow worse. As the pain becomes more and more unbearable, she finds herself lashing out at innocent people with unexplained anger and hatred. Then to make matters worse, she sees a Noxin demon again.

No one, not even the elders, seems to know what’s happening to Melina, or how a Noxin demon found her. And when she’s introduced to Dean, another unique human like herself, she learns that his pain is completely gone, which only makes her situation even more confusing.

Grasping for any type of answer, Melina throws out one possible explanation after another. But as her angry feelings intensify, and her angel powers grow weaker, she begins to think there might be something malevolent inside her that’s trying to take over. It’s not long before her internal struggle spirals out of control, and her body is turned into a battlefield that’s torn between good and evil.

Melina fears that if no solution is found, then she might lose all the people she loves, especially Lee. But what scares her even more is that she might lose herself to evil.

Excerpt

Melina released his hands and nodded again as she turned to gaze out the front windshield. “I’ll talk to him as soon as I…ʺ Her voice trailed off as she continued to stare out the window.

“Is it the pain again?ʺ Lee asked.

“No,” Melina replied, her face turning paler by the second.

He glanced out the window and then back at her, a look of concern in his eyes. ʺWhat’s wrong then? What do you see?”

“A demon.” She continued to stare out the window, her body frozen stiff with fear.

Lee’s brow furrowed. “Why are you so scared? I know you can see angels all the time now, but I thought you could see all sorts of different demons now, too. ”

Melina’s eyes remained fixed out the window. The demon’s black, billowy figure wasn’t exclusive to his particular group, but the fiery red eyes were unmistakable.

“This isn’t just some random demon. It’s a Noxin demon.”

Lee’s expression turned serious. “Those are the ones I saw on the video footage from my apartment, right? The ones you said were really dangerous?ʺ

She gave him a stiff nod, but kept her gaze locked on the demon. Out of the corner of her eye she saw him looking out the window to see if he could spot the demon himself.

“Where is he?ʺ Lee asked.

“He’s behind the antique store across the street, lurking back in the alley.ʺ

Lee leaned forward in his seat and squinted his eyes as he looked in that direction. ʺI don’t see it.”

Melina’s breath suddenly caught in her throat. “It’s gone. It’s gone!ʺ She sat up in her seat, her eyes frantically searching the area outside. A few seconds later she turned to look at Lee, her bright green eyes wide with fear. “This is serious. We need to go.ʺ

~~

Torn is available from Amazon, Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Smashwords, and other online retailers.

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About the Author

author photo of Ashley StambaughAshley Stambaugh grew up in a small town in Illinois where she and her two siblings created some of the best memories playing on their family’s farm. She stayed in the southern region of the state to attend college where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree and also met her husband.

Now, she and her husband live in central Illinois and spend their time creating new memories with their two rambunctious boys and their comical black Pug. She also enjoys reading, taking long walks, and finding great bargains. When her sons are a little bit older, she has a great desire to travel with her family. Oh, and she also has a slight obsession with chocolate.

When she’s not busy chasing after her two young children or losing herself in a good book, you can find her curled up on her couch with her laptop, writing.

Connect with Ashley online

Website: www.ashleystambaugh.blogspot.com

Facebook author page: www.facebook.com/ashleystambaughauthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ashleystambaugh

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8054295.Ashley_Stambaugh

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New Release – Devon’s Choice by Catherine Bennett

Please welcome my fellow Astraea Press author Catherine Bennett! She’s here today to celebrate the release of her newest romance, Devon’s Choice.

Devon's Choice cover artBlurb

Faith, love and a cup of coffee, can change everything.

Life holds no surprises for Devon Murphy. Her life consists of keeping tabs on her aging Irish father, working part time at a coffee shop, and building her online graphics design business. Devon’s only tricky situation is a shallow relationship with the pampered and affluent Michael Turner, who sees her as just another woman to conquer.

Following his father’s death, Brandon’s only goal is to expand the family business and live life on his own terms. That is, until he walks into the coffee shop one snowy evening and meets the enchanting, red-haired barista behind the counter. But can Devon and Brandon’s attraction for each other be strong enough to help erase their deepest disappointments and renew their faith in God?

Short Excerpt

Devon complimented everything he’d cooked and commented on his expertise with the barbecue. Brandon nodded, chewed and considered the way the edges of her mouth crinkled at the corners when she smiled and how she’d look up and away before answering a question. This woman across from him was the same one that he’d known for the past several weeks, but now he felt like the Grinch whose heart grew two sizes in one night.

Book Trailer

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Devon’s Choice is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and other online retailers.

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About the Author

photo of author Catherin BennettI grew up in Ohio where I currently live with my husband and our two rescue Labradors. Some of my favorite things include reading, shopping, pepperoni pizza, Hershey bars and hanging out with my two grown sons. I also love dogs; so going to the dog park is cheap entertainment for my husband and I!

Growing up an only child, I had many imaginary friends. I believe this – and a love of books – fueled my desire to write. It was many years later that my dream of becoming a published author came true.

I’m grateful to God for always keeping a story in my heart and hope you are blessed and entertained by my books.

Connect with Catherine online

Website

Facebook

Twitter

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New release – Sapphire Blue by Karen King

Please welcome my fellow Astraea Press author Karen King! She’s here today with her brand-new YA novel, Sapphire Blue.

Blurb

Sapphire Blue cover artCan love survive death?

“No one has ever walked out of Red. Once the Soul Catchers get you they don’t let you go.” Denny’s words scare me but I have no choice. If Will is in Red that’s where I have to go.

I’ve never really thought what it was like when you died. I’m only 16, too young to worry about that. At least I thought I was. I’ve heard about Heaven and Hell, of course, but it doesn’t look like I’m in either of them. All I know is that Will is here too and I need to find him. I can’t face spending eternity without him.

Excerpt

My mind is a mess. I can’t leave Will. I’ve got to help him. But how can I? I don’t know this world. If I don’t go with Grandpa and my family, I’ll be on my own. The Soul Catchers might get me too.

Soul Catchers. The very name makes me shudder. Have they got Will? What are they doing to him?

Will and I promised to love each other forever. How can I go without knowing he’s safe? I can’t leave him. But if I stay, how can I help him? My head is such a mish-mash of thoughts and fears I’m hardly aware of Grandpa leading me over to the silver bus, of climbing up the steps to board it.

It’s crowded so we have to go right at the back to find a seat. Grandpa gently pushes me into the seat by the window. I look out and see the guy still waiting on the steps. He’s not giving up on his sister. How can I give up on Will so easily?

That guy belongs here. He knows his way around, I remind myself. I’m new. I need to stay with Grandpa. Besides, the zone guides will find Will.

What if they don’t? I might never see him again.

The realization smacks me like a punch to the stomach, momentarily winding me.

I can’t go. Going with Grandpa might mean leaving Will forever and I can’t do that.

I can get another bus and meet up with Grandpa later, when I find Will. He could be on his way here, right now. I think of him walking in alone and confused like I was, of running to greet him, hugging him, letting him know that even though we’re here we still have each other. I have to wait for him.

I get up from my seat, almost jumping over Grandpa in my haste to get off.

“I’m waiting for Will,” I shout as I race down the aisle toward the closing door.

I can hear Grandpa and Aunt May calling me to come back but I ignore them. The doors are closing. With a final burst I reach them, slip through the narrowing gap and leap out, landing sprawled out on the ground. I hear the doors slide shut behind me and a loud whoosh. Scrambling to my knees I swivel around just in time to see the silver bus rise up and soar off into the sky, swiftly disappearing behind the clouds. Okay, so that’s why it’s called a sky-bus. Now what the hell do I do?

“Impressive.”

The guy’s standing in front of me, arms crossed, looking cool as chilled lemonade on a burning hot day.

~~

Sapphire Blue is available from Amazon.com, Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and other online retailers.

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About the Author

Photo of author Karen KingKaren King has had over one hundred children’s books published. She’s written for many children’s magazines too including Sindy, Barbie, Winnie the Pooh and Thomas the Tank Engine. She writes for all ages and in all genres; story books, picture books, plays, joke books and non-fiction. Sapphire Blue is her second YA novel. She also writes romance novels under the name of Kay Harborne.

Connect with Karen online

Website

Author Facebook page

Goodreads

Twitter

Amazon Author page

Pinterest

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7 Ways a Dog Can Drive You Nuts

As a dog owner, I can tell you that there are days the little furry beasts will drive you up the wall. Since I have two of the lovely monsters, Paisley (three years) and Cody (six months), rarely a day goes by that at least one of them isn’t doing something that gets on my nerves. So, here’s a list of seven of my dogs’ favorite annoying activities.

photo of two mixed breed dogs

Cody (5 months) left, Paisley (3 years) right. They look so innocent, don’t they? Copyright © 2014 E.A. West. All Rights Reserved.

1. Eating a favorite toy.

Dog toys come and go, but we go through a lot of toys in my house. Between a heavy chewer who is only now (at three years old) showing signs of being less destructive and a heavy-chewing six-month-old puppy, I’ve had to throw out half a dozen toys in the last two weeks to keep them from eating the small bits they started chewing off.

2. Hacking up an eaten toy at 2 a.m.

I didn’t get one toy away from Cody soon enough and was awakened one night by this horrid gagging sound on the floor. As soon as I turned on the light, I found him standing in front of a wad of toy that he had eaten earlier in the day (without my knowledge). In addition to being grossed out, I was so relieved that he had coughed up the wad of toy bits. Things like that often lead to emergency surgery due to intestinal blockage. Needless to say, I’ve been even more vigilant than usual since that incident. If you have a dog who destroys toys like mine do, I highly recommend tossing out toys as soon as they start ripping pieces off. It’s worth spending a few dollars to buy a replacement toy than to risk a big vet bill to save the dog’s life.

3. Bringing you “presents.”

As any dog owner can tell you, there are times when your precious pooch will bring you something disgusting and think you’ll love it. Dead animal parts, something from a garbage can, unidentifiable grossness… I’ve received it all. The cutest was when my puppy learned how to hunt a couple of months ago. He deposited a dead meadow vole on my front porch and was so proud of himself. I felt super special that he gave it to me intact instead of in pieces, but still. Ick.

4. Putting on “perfume.”

This is one of the nastiest things Paisley likes to do. She’ll go outside to play, and then she drops to the ground and rolls for joy. When she finishes, she loves to run up to me with a huge doggy grin and an expression that says, “Check out my new perfume, Mom! Don’t I smell great?”

Uh, no, dear dog, you actually smell pretty disgusting. She has rolled in everything from rabbit poo to mud to something unidentifiable that left me saying to her, “Oh, that’s nasty! You’re getting a bath NOW.” While I can appreciate different tastes in scents, some odors should never go near the human nose.

5. Finding their own snacks.

Dogs are eating machines. Kibble, wet food, treats… These are all perfectly acceptable to the humans in the dogs’ lives. Dogs, on the other hand, enjoy going on foraging missions affectionately known as counter surfing. I’ve heard of dogs stealing everything from sandwiches and pies to raw ground beef and entire loaves of bread.

Then there are dogs like mine. In addition to the aforementioned toys, they enjoy the occasional salad (grass), fiber-rich food (cardboard and other paper products), and other lovely, inedible items. Cody in particular has unusual culinary tastes. Just today I have taken away such delicacies as a dryer sheet and several fuzzy pipe cleaners left over from a craft project.

6. Acting as an alarm clock.

I haven’t slept past seven in the morning since adopting Paisley as a five-week-old puppy. Lately, morning has arrived around six thirty or earlier. While most people may not see this as a terrible thing — after all, most of you get up then for work, school, etc. — you have to keep in mind I have always been a night owl. That means I could easily be up writing until one or two in the morning (or later). The dogs don’t care what time I go to sleep. Six thirty comes, and they’re on the bed with wagging tails, licking tongues, and lots of bouncing to be sure I’m awake. Weekends and holidays are meaningless to my canine friends. Routine is all that matters, and sleeping in is a thing of the past.

7. Creatively applying the term “chew toy.”

Sticks, tennis balls, chew ropes, and Nylabones are all great, but my pups know how to find other toys and do so with great regularity. They raid the recycling bin, wastebaskets, the occasional laundry basket, the human toy box, and more. Cardboard, plastic, fabric… It’s all fair game in the minds of my chewing fiends. The Cody and Paisley when she was a puppy have also discovered an amazing chew toy that’s available all over the house — floors.

I know what you’re thinking. Dogs don’t REALLY eat floors… right? I used to think the same way, until I adopted Paisley. Cody is an even more determined floor-chewer. Here’s a little taste of what my sweet, loving, teething boy can do to a floor.

 

photo of chewed floor tiles

Copyright © 2014 E.A. West

Now that you’ve had a little glimpse of life with my two mutts, please help me feel like I’m not alone. What do your canine companions do that drive you nuts?

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Blog Tour – Mountain of Love and Danger by Gail Pallotta

Mountain of Love - Banner

 

BOOK INFORMATION

TITLE – Mountain of Love and Danger
SERIES – Fairwilde Fairy Tale Reflections
AUTHOR – Gail Pallotta
GENRE – Mystery and Romance
PUBLICATION DATE – 10/14/2014
LENGTH (Pages/# Words) – 32, 440
PUBLISHER – Mountain Laurel Publishing / Create Space
COVER ARTIST – Vanessa Riley

 

Jackcover two best

 

BOOK SYNOPSIS

Jack Greenthumb finds romance in Fairwilde Kingdom—a different day—a different girl. Then a cruel mystery begins. Dad’s beaten, the family farm destroyed and Jack’s true love, Gwendolyn Bante, kidnapped. Jack’s undercover operation reveals Gwenie’s a captive atop a mountain accessible only by helicopter. Reaching her is a dangerous expedition even for a champion rock climber like Jack. However, a Greenthumb Acres employee plants a miraculous seed from Heaven for the rescue. Suspense mounts as Jack scales the perilous cliff to face a brute and a treacherous descent in this retelling of the fairy tale, Jack and the Beanstalk.

BUY & TBR LINKS

AMAZON KINDLEAMAZON PAPERBACKBARNES & NOBLES NOOK
SMASHWORDSGOODREADS

 

EXCERPT

Lonely darkness fell around Jack as he slipped into his harness and put on his climbing shoes. He crept in and out of the moon’s shadows to the base of the alp and took hold of the strong plant, the itchy touch of it not a problem, the strength of it boosting his confidence. Fueled by the fire burning in his heart to find Gwenie, he stepped on the first node and glanced back. Just one quick look. He didn’t know why. Maybe something in his psyche wanted to see the ground from whence he’d come one last time in case he never set foot on it again.

He climbed up the next nodule and the next as fast as his feet and arms would take him. A sense of leaving the everyday world overwhelmed him as it always did when he climbed, but this time it wasn’t freeing. An eerie sensation sent shivers through his bones with every foot he scaled. The breaking of twigs, crunching of leaves, and howling noises below grew fainter and fainter as he ascended higher and higher.

“Whooo-whoo.” Halfway up he met an owl that turned its head in a circle as it sat on the highest limb of a towering oak. He pulled upward while pushing with his lower body as he passed boulders and scraggly bushes lit by the stars and moon. He searched with his right hand for the next node, found it, moved up and placed his foot on the spot where it had been. The jagged surface on this mountain could rip open a person in an instant, but it was Jack’s fear for Gwenie that gripped him. The yearning to hold her safe in his arms seeped deeper into his pores each time he forged upward.

His body ached as he pulled with nerves wound as tight as a corkscrew for wanting to hurry to the top. Soon his leg muscles cramped. A gray piece of granite jutting out like the seat of a chair with a slab for a back tempted him. How could he rest after what he’d done to Gwenie? He had to keep moving, but what if his arms and legs gave out, and he never reached her? His head throbbed with decision making.

Just for a second he let go of the living pole. His foot slipped, and he slid down the precipice, debris rolling, crashing beneath him until the belay caught the rope and stopped his fall. His head swam as he thrust the spring-loaded camming device into a crack and anchored the cable. He swung to his right and sank to the rocky seat. The stones settled below him and silence filled the darkness where he sat tucked out of the light from Heaven.

Two days ago he was a slap-happy player in love with Gwenie since childhood, but content to drink life’s single pleasures a while longer. Now the need to take hold of a more profound passion that seemed as fragile as one of Dad’s orchids burned in his soul. The breeze whipping around him blew away images of fast rides through Fairwilde with a blond or a brunette laughing beside him. He needed Gwenie. Please Lord, let her be alright waiting for me.

He stretched out his legs then rubbed his palms together. Upward.

He swung out, grabbed hold of the beanstalk, pulled up with his hand and pushed with his foot as a blast of strong wind swayed the sturdy stem. The stars grew dim then disappeared as clouds rolled over them. Raindrops hit his head while lightning flashed, lighting up the sky—nothing but dark space as far as he could see. Then the flash.

He pulled up with his hand and pushed with his right foot—pulled up with his hand and pushed with his right foot again and again through the black void cut by occasional lightning. The tiny glow from the lamp on his helmet did little good in this storm. Another burst of air whipped around him, and the plant quivered. He touched a flat spot. The one Fernando told him to look for? He moved his fingers around it.

Yes. Relief as strong as the gust that bent the trees swept over him. The top. He wanted to shout I’m here Gwenie! into the stormy night over and over, but instead he leaned forward trying to see a way into the cabin.

CHARACTER BIOS

Jack Greenthumb’s a great guy. He’s young and comes from a well-to-do family, so he’s been having fun riding girls around in his new car. However, when his dad’s attacked and his true love kidnapped, one quickly sees he’s courageous, determined and devoted to his family and girlfriend. Fortunately, he’s also a champion rock and mountain climber.

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AUTHOR BIO

Award-winning author Gail Pallotta’s a wife, Mom, swimmer and bargain shopper who loves God, beach sunsets and getting together with friends and family. A former regional writer of the year for American Christian Writers Association, she won Clash of the Titles in 2010. Her teen book, Stopped Cold, finished fourth in the 16th Annual Preditors and Editors readers’ poll and was a finalist for the 2013 Grace Awards. She’s published short stories in “Splickety” magazine and Sweet Freedom with a Slice of Peach Cobbler. Some of her published articles appear in anthologies while two are in museums. Visit her web site at http://www.gailpallotta.com

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Long December…

In case you couldn’t tell from the title of this post, I occasionally get songs stuck in my head. While thinking about the fact that today is December 1 and the month ahead promises to be busy with writing, holiday preparations, and various other busyness, the Counting Crows song “A Long December” popped into my head and hasn’t left yet. If you’re unfamiliar with the song, or you just enjoy it, here’s the music video for it.

Boy, that song brings back some memories. Feel free to share your memories in the comments, if you’re so inclined. If not… Well, read on for some fun book recommendations (aka Shameless Self-Promotion *wink*).

I’ve been remiss in keeping you all up to date on my book news. Please don’t hate me! *ducks rotten tomatoes* In all fairness and honesty, I spend much more time on Facebook and share all my book news, updates, and general randomness on my author page. If you haven’t already liked it, hop on over and check it out! Actually, considering Facebook only allows my posts to reach a small percentage of followers, you might want to hop over and check out what’s been happening lately even if you liked the page a while ago. Remember, the more you interact with Facebook pages (liking posts, sharing, commenting), the more likely you are to see posts from those pages in your news feed.

Now, for the book news that prompted the previous paragraph. Running from Christmas, my newest inspirational romance, released from Astraea Press in time for the holiday season. I hope you’ll give it a read and leave an honest review on your favorite retail site, Goodreads, your blog, or wherever. Hearing what readers think of my writing is a great encouragement to keep writing and improve my craft! Plus, glowing reviews are always a great source for the warm fuzzy feeling that can brighten even the coldest, dreariest winter day.

**Shameless Self-promotion Alert**

You know what else brightens a cold, dreary winter day? A heart-warming holiday romance. I happen to have three such books in my writing credits (hint, hint). Just to keep things orderly, here they are in chronological order, starting with the most recent release. The first chapters of these books and many more are available on my website.

Running from Christmas

Running from Christmas cover artArmy veteran Alessandra Castillo just wants to be left alone. Life has been tough since her deployment in Afghanistan, and the holiday season makes it even more difficult. Unemployed and homeless, she’s currently living with her brother, who refuses to let her avoid all things social.

Enter Brad Kovac, youth pastor and good friend of Alessandra’s brother. He’s tall, gorgeous, and outgoing, three things guaranteed to catch Alessandra’s interest. At least they would have caught her interest before she survived an assault by a fellow soldier. Now all she wants to do is run from him and avoid anything resembling a relationship.

Will God provide a miracle in time for Christmas, or will Alessandra lose her chance for romance?

~~

Running from Christmas is available from Amazon US, Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, and other online retailers.

~~

Trust of the Heart (Veteran Hearts, Book 2)

Trust of the Heart cover artJosh Teague has dark memories from his time in Iraq. While he longs to share the burden of those memories with someone, he is afraid they will scare his girlfriend. Unwilling to risk losing her, he keeps the memories to himself and tries to keep a cheerful attitude despite the holiday season threatening to bring his mood down.

Leann Robak has her own set of memories causing trouble. Abandoned by her father when she was ten, she is devastated when her mother announces she’s taking a month-long trip to Europe over Christmas. Although Josh’s invitation to spend Christmas with him at his parents’ house holds exciting prospects, Leann can tell he’s hiding something from her. That knowledge leaves her wondering how well she truly knows him and whether he even wants to be in a relationship with her.

Can Josh and Leann learn to trust each other fully, or will their insecurities drive them apart?

~~

Trust of the Heart is available from Amazon US, Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, and other online retailers.

~~

Breath of Christmas

Breath of Christmas cover artWhen Esther Beauchamp agrees to drive a snowmobile during the Santa Snow Challenge, she expects a weekend of transporting snowboarders with no complications. What she gets, however, is the task of transporting a single snowboarder and babysitting his service dog while he’s on the slope.

Robbie Kendrick is instantly attracted to the pretty staffer volunteered to help him out during the competition. While she’s clueless about asthma, he appreciates her efforts to understand how it affects him and his snowboarding. Best of all, she treats him like a man who isn’t disabled and gets along great with his medical alert dog.

Then Robbie’s ability to compete is called into question due to his health. Is it in God’s plan for him to give up the career he loves, or will his competitive spirit cause him to lose his chance at a future with Esther?

~~

Breath of Christmas is available from Amazon US, Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, and other online retailers.

~~

Happy reading!

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Interview with Author Tara Mayoros

Please welcome my fellow Astraea Press author Tara Mayoros! She’s here today with an interview to help celebrate the release of Broken Smiles.

Welcome, Tara! What inspired your book?

My book was inspired first by lyrics to a song I wrote. It came to me in a dream. My entire book and characters evolved from those song lyrics. Then of course, the time I spent in China was fuel for my story.

How do you spend your free time?

I spend my free time actively trying to get outdoors. I love to ski and hike and just be in the mountains. If I am home and can’t escape to nature, then I go for a run or walk outside.

What is the thing you struggle with the most while writing? And how do you defeat it?

The thing I struggle most with writing, is avoiding purple prose. This is when the writing is so flowery that it brings excessive attention to itself. Personally I love Tolkien and his extreme details. People don’t care for that much anymore. I have been told to tone down on my description many times. I cut 30,000 words from Broken Smiles! I defeat it my coming back to my work in progress after a long break and look at it with critical eyes. Good editors also help.

When did you first realize you were an author?

I first realized I was an author when this book was pretty much done and I would take it to critique groups and enter it in competitions. When it started getting good reviews and input, then I realized that maybe, just maybe I had something.

What kind of music do you listen to while you write?

Music is HUGE when I write. I have to listen to music. It is my muse. I don’t care if it has words or not. I like listening to epic soundtracks when I am in a fight scene. I’ll put a soundtrack up on my web-site soon of musicians and songs that inspire me.

What is your favorite part of writing?

My favorite part of writing is the escapism. It transports me into a different world and hours pass, days pass, before I surface. I also love the community of like minded individuals

What is the most important thing in your life and why?

My husband and children are the most important things in my life. Sometimes I have to make a conscious effort to stop writing and spend time with them. I have done much better at this as the demands of writing are so huge right now. I try to stick to a schedule and when they are home from work and school, I turn off the computer to spend time with them.

What author or literary character would you like to go to lunch with?

I would love to go to lunch with Edgar Allen Poe. It would be thrilling because I would fear for my life, along with give me food for fodder.

The fictional character I’d love to go to lunch with would be of course any of the heroines in Juliet Marillers fantasy novels. They are all so different but show courage and strength.

Which of your personality traits did you write into you characters?

I didn’t intentionally write my personality traits into any of my characters. Through my character Rafe, I was able to live my humanitarian dream, which will hopefully come to pass someday.

What is your favorite color?

Turquoise! I even have a turquoise blue guitar like the one in the novel Broken Smiles that I bought in China for maybe $5.00

What is your favorite animal?

A horse! It is my spirit animal. I love taking personality tests and anytime I do a spirit animal test, it is always a horse. In my work in progress YA fantasy trilogy, Vagabond, I have a main character that is a horse.

Top hobby you do when not writing?

I paint. I refurbish furniture. I ski. I work in a garden center and play with pretty flowers.

Do you collect anything?

Yes, I have an addiction for maps, atlas’, and globes. I have a huge collection of globes. It is my way of seeing the world without going anywhere. I inherited my wanderlust from my Grandmother.

~~

Check out Tara’s book, Broken Smiles.

Broken Smiles cover artOne fateful night while performing at the Grammys, the pressure from the music industry becomes too much for Laidan. She is quickly carried off the stage, leaving the world audience stunned and amazed by her emotional performance. Accompanying her are a trusted bodyguard and a close childhood friend. Together they make for the jungles of China where she meets Doctor Rafe Watkins, a humanitarian who has reasons of his own for why he has chosen to live deep within the bamboo forests. The handsome doctor is building an orphanage and runs a clinic that fixes children’s broken smiles or cleft palets. Watching him perform his many acts of kind service, Laidan’s “broken smile” is also healing and she begins to fall deeply in love with him. She has finally found a place where she belongs. One problem – because of Rafe’s intentional seclusion from society for the past seven years, he does not know Laidan’s true identity. What will he do when he finds out? Can love conquer all, or is Laidan’s rock star fame too big for his quiet life?

Broken Smiles is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and other online retailers.

About the Author

photo of author Tara MayorosAs a child, Tara Mayoros moved to Asia with her family where her love of different cultures and travel began. In college she satisfied her wanderlust by moving to China, filling her head with countless stories, and occasionally writing them down.

Years, marriage, children and many adventures later, she picked up her dusty pen and paper (or laptop) and realized that writing took her to different worlds and gave her the experiences that she yearned for. As an author, artist, baker, music teacher, gardener, and nature lover – she sees the beauty in the process, and the miracle, of creation. The Rocky Mountains are her home and they call to her whenever she finds herself in need of inspiration.

Connect with Tara online

Author Facebook page –  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Author-Tara-Mayoros/510125515787576?ref=hl

Website – taramayoros.com

Twitter – https://twitter.com/TaraMayoros

Pinterest – http://www.pinterest.com/taramayoros/

Instagram – http://instagram.com/taramayoros

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