Crucible: a situation of severe trial, or in which different elements interact, leading to the creation of something new (Merriam-Webster.com). What’s your crucible? Are you there?
My kids and I dove into a Bible story the other day, where God rescued his people from Pharaoh’s impending doom. He’d rescued them from slavery in Egypt, and Pharaoh allowed them to leave captivity. The people left, headed home, facing days and nights in the hot desert, following a pillar of fire toward the unknown. They ended up on the sands of the Red Sea, a body of water flowing for miles in both directions. And then Pharaoh and his 600 men and their raging chariots raced to recapture them. The Israelites freaked out then, as I think most of us would. They projected their fear, they cried, they whined. And God replied, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground” (Exodus 14:15-16). Essentially, God told Moses to tell the Israelites they couldn’t go over it. They couldn’t go under it. They couldn’t go around it. They had to go through it. And to stop whining.
Just like the classic picture book of “We’re Going On A Bear Hunt,” the adventurers had to face a challenge bigger than they understood.
You, oh incredible wayfarer, will face challenges bigger than yourself and bigger than you understand. It’s the plight of mankind. It’s your job. Don’t ask, “Why isn’t this easier?” Ask instead, “How can this make me better?”
The good thing about these challenges is that they make us into our best selves. Challenges aren’t just part of the story; they’re the story.
1) Challenges show us God’s bigness.
On this tiny planet, as this one tiny soul, I often don’t see the big picture. I’m one puzzle piece, you’re one puzzle piece, and sometimes we lose sight of the whole puzzle and all it entails. But God’s there, with this big love for us. In the fire, beside the wide sea, and under the grinding weight of the mortar’s pestle, God stands right there in the middle of the crucible beside you, with the strength, grace, and power to go on. He’s an endless source of strength, and he offers it to his people. In these challenges, we get a mere glimpse of how he can fuel us.
2) Challenges teach us gratitude.
“My struggles are my own unique manifestations designed specifically to give me the opportunities to love and accept myself fully” (Jill Coleman). Seeing a challenge, obstacle, or hardship as an opportunity to raise a hand in gratitude teaches stability. Accepting challenge as a chance to love is part of why we’re here. The apostle Paul mentored his friend Timothy with these words, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Being grateful in adversity proves faith. How much faith do you have? How grateful are you for the rain? How grateful are you for the wall you just hit? Are you grateful for who you are so that you can be in this place and time to face this challenge? Are you ready?
Practicing intentional gratitude exhibits a willingness to level up.
3) Challenges make us stronger.
“In the days of the sailing vessels, this is the way they chose a tree to make a mast: They did not go to some sheltered place where the trees were protected from the elements. They went up into the mountains where the soil was thin and rocky. They found a tree that had been buffeted by the storms and beaten by the winter winds. That tree, that hardened tree, they cut down for the mast of their ship. So suffering hardens and strengthens us” (Robert Shannon).
In being a wife and mom, I’ve found strength to be a power. Maybe that sounds silly, but I feel like there’s still a big train of thought out there than women should be soft and weak. And I’ve never been able to be that. I love lifting heavy weights and pushing limits, because when I lift those heavy weights, life feels simple and free (and super sweaty hot). I love the feeling of picking up my twenty-pound weights and not struggling to do so. I love being able to do interval sprints and not pass out dead on the ground. I love that with a consistent daily grind over the years, I’ve built up my strength in a tangible way that I can see for myself and nobody can take it away from me or deny it. I love that now the effort has proved itself. In the beginning of trying heavier weights in my work outs, I couldn’t hardly finish a twenty-minute workout, the fifteen-pounders made me just about fall flat on my face (maybe they did one time), and the idea of ‘sprints’ was absolutely laughable.
But now. Now I know that trying harder challenges means I win. If one of my kids ever needs to be carried? I can carry her. If I need to help someone carry something? I can help. If someone else cries out, frustrated, saying “I can’t do it,” well then I CAN say, “Yes, you can.” Because strength manifests itself. People are drawn to it. People want to overcome. People want to be the mast of the ship, carrying their people home. Or, at least I do. I bet you do, too. And I’m excited about tomorrow’s opportunity to try again.
Are you grateful for the workout?
4) Challenges teach us courage.
Being that mast on that ship? Where will it take you? Oh my friend, it carries you into the vast unknown. With each challenge you face, with each fear you mow down, you build up a portfolio of proven records. It all builds up.
Never once did the authors of the Bible instruct or show the necessity of fear and letting it win. No, in fact, the Bible displays the opposite. “For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). God made you powerful. God made you loving. God installed within you a sound mind. He dwells within you, and you are worthy to take on this challenge. Maybe you just needed to hear that. Very often, the things you fear are the paths you need to take in order to be your best self.
5) Challenges offer us a life greater.
“You’ve got to try this new show!” “You’ve got to get this soap!” “You’ve got to visit Venice; it’s beautiful!” In this context, a friend will probably be recommending something to you because that friend cares, with enthusiasm.
You’ve got to take on this challenge, because on the other side awaits a life greater. You’ve got to do these hard things, so that you see the beauty in the madness. Don’t miss this opportunity for greatness. Don’t miss these steps, small or scary as they seem. “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
What’s your best life? Being in God’s will. What’s God’s will? For you to intentionally live a life grateful for the challenges he presents to you. No better path exists than the intentionally joyful path. You’ve got no reason to be sad or to complain or to give up. When you hit a wall, look up. Look around. Celebrate what IS, because it’s a glorious adventure.
There is only the journey toward God’s heart. And this journey is a life greater.
“There is a Brotherhood of Man,
A Benevolent Brotherhood of Man,
A noble tie that binds
All human hearts and minds
Into one Brotherhood of Man.
Your lifelong membership is free.
Keep a-givin' each brother all you can.
Oh aren't you proud to be
In that fraternity,
The great big Brotherhood of Man?”
(~How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying)
I'm from the old-world school of thinking where I don't mind if humans refer to themselves as 'man' or 'mankind.' In fact, I'm a brother. Yes, I'm a girl. But I pledged a fraternity in college, Alpha Psi Omega, a fantastic theater fraternity where I had the pleasure of facing trials by fire with my fellow thespians. I have a bunch of brothers. I have a bunch of sisters. And I'm grateful for each one. I'm grateful for this great brotherhood of man, this great village of people who encourage, step up, and fill in.
This summer has been epic for my family and I, in many ways. I began this "Epic Summer" journey with intentional ideas. I did some of them and I still have several on my agenda before the days dwindle back to autumn.
I decided against posting the weekly updates on the project, due to my windy schedule and other promotions I had going on, but I wanted to offer Epic Summer in its entirety for anyone who might be interested!
Here you can download the PDF of the risks, realities, and encouraging thoughts I wanted to offer for each themed "week." By downloading that PDF you receive twelve weeks of fun and encouragement! For free! Just cause I like ya. There's still plenty of time for you to use this to make the rest of your days epic. I hope you will.
Enjoy the finale of Epic Summer. May your days be sunny, your nights breezy, and your hours crammed with hope. May you risk the doldrums and stormy seas, and face the glorious reality of life as it is. And may you find it all quite the epic adventure.
Like a fun Young Adult sci fi? What about free things? Well my fellow Clean Reads author BW Morris is celebrating with a bang this month! Check it out!
What if society was controlled by a drink, but there was another drink that might allow one to change the way things were? This is the question faced by Tyler Ward and his five friends in the new book Six Pack: Emergence.
Tyler is set to graduate from secondary school when he learns the truth about the nation of Novusordo and how the government controls the population through a drink. He and his five friends visit a professor’s house, consume another drink and gain strange powers. Now they find themselves part of a movement against the government and must learn to control their powers and how they might change society. But can they trust the movement… or even each other?
Six Pack: Emergence, a young adult, science fiction, dystopian novel is written by B.W. Morris, a longtime writer for small-town newspapers, though it took him a while to embrace his inner comic book geek and put his overactive imagination to work through novel writing. The novel, published by Clean Reads, is Morris’ debut work, the first in a planned trilogy.
To celebrate the month of his birthday, Morris is giving away a free ebook of his debut novel. You must enter the giveaway at Amazon by Aug. 16 and may do so by following this link: https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/1f12261980c92216#ts-afo
Morris may be reached via email at email@example.com or to learn more about his work, visit his blog at relaxingwithsixpack.blogspot.com.
Friends, so check out that giveaway, enter for your chance to win, and enjoy a new author on the scene. Feel free to share with your friends ~ sharing is caring! Happy reading!
Clark Treasure assumes the drink he stole off the captain is absinthe… until the chemicals in the liquid give him the ability to awaken the dead.
A great invention for creating perfect soldiers, yes, but Clark wants to live as a miner, not a slave to the army—or the deceased. On the run, Clark turns to his estranged, mining tycoon father for help. The Treasures welcome Clark with open arms, so he jumps at the chance to help them protect their ranch against Senator Horan, a man who hates anyone more powerful than he.
Amethyst Treasure loathes the idea of spending the summer away from her bustling city life to rot on her father’s ranch, but when a handsome young man shows up claiming to be her secret half-brother, her curiosity is piqued. He’s clever, street smart, and has no qualms jumping into the brawl between the Treasures and Horans. Caught in the middle, Horan kidnaps Amethyst, and all she gets is this lousy bullet through her heart.
When Clark brings her back to life, however, the real action starts, and Amethyst joins him in his fight against the Horan clan—whatever the cost. Defeating the Horans may seem easy at first, but going up against men with the same fighting vengeance as Clark, and a Senator with power he’s obtained by brainwashing the masses?
Well, Amethyst’s boring summer at home has turned into an adventure on the run, chock full of intrigue, danger, love, and a mysterious boy named Clark.
Purchase your copy of Treasure Darkly here: https://www.amazon.com/Treasure-Darkly-Chronicles-Book-ebook/dp/B00TOV9A6Q/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1500404647&sr=8-1&keywords=treasure+darkly
Jordan Elizabeth writes down her nightmares in order to live her dreams. When she’s not creating art or searching for lost history in the woods, she’s updating her blog. Jordan roams Central New York, but she loves to travel.
Check out these sweet treats from Clean Reads! Add these new releases for your summer reading list! Your dessert options today (the 'spice' rating) are as follows:
Cherry Pie -- sweet and juicy, especially toward the end
Hot Tamales -- a little bit of sweet, with a kicking, fiery passion
Creme Brulee -- hot and spicy, while sweet and fulfilling
To connect with these authors and see more about their books, check out Clean Reads on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Click each book cover to download your copy now!
Sweet Surrender by Wendy May Andrews
Yummy Rating: Cherry Pie
When Lady Julianna ended her engagement to Lord Ackerley, Viscount Beaumont, during her first Season, she left London vowing never to return.
Seven years later she returns as chaperone to her niece and unfortunately Lord Ackerley is also in Town for the Season. Moving around the small circle of the ton stirs up feelings she has kept hidden. Embarrassed and ashamed that she made a mistake in ending their previous relationship, she tries to avoid further contact. Ackerley, stunned by her second rejection, pursues her to discover the truth.
Is it ever too late for a second chance at love?
Grab this sweet treat at: http://amzn.to/2mXUT7q
A Husband for Danna by Christina Lorenzen
Yummy Rating: Creme Brulee
Off and running! In her frenzied quest to escape from a groom her father has chosen for her, Danna Rashba ‘borrows’ a limousine parked on Main Street. The last thing on her mind is finding a groom from another wedding in the backseat. What are the chances that the bride and groom from two different weddings running from the altar on the same day? The last thing Danna wants is a hostage as she tries to escape from her nuptials.
The last thing Eric Harmon wants is to be saddled with yet another spoiled, needy woman. He’s furious about this wrench in his plans, he accuses Danna of stealing. He wants to send her home in a cab as soon as they get to the nearest town, but Danna refuses. Much to Eric’s frustration, one thing after another seems to keep them tied together.
Soon the generosity of a local shopkeeper and several people in town have them mistaken for newlyweds. Danna and Eric find themselves stepping into the role as husband and wife leading them to realize they just may be each other’s ‘match’. But will Danna be able to stand up to her rigid, old fashioned father and choose her own husband?
Grab this sweet treat at: http://amzn.to/2h6CP9g
Beginnings of the Heart by J.J. Nite
Yummy Rating: Hot Tamales
When sixteen year-old Morgan finds herself unexpectedly pregnant, she’s not sure what her life will be like. With her boyfriend Cole, they try to navigate this new road that fate has set them on. Neither knows what to expect or how life will change.
Their family’s reactions to the news of their pregnancy are polar opposites. Cole’s parents are supportive while Morgan’s are much less making an already difficult situation even more so.
When tragedy strikes this new, small family, can everyone pull together or will it forever drive a wedge between them all?
Grab this sweet treat at: http://amzn.to/2uGHf9S
Aumelan~Blessed of the Gods by Charlene Wilson
Yummy Rating: Cherry Pie
Slave. Master. Forbidden love.
Chad Aumelan turns his back on tradition to win the heart of his slave and break free of the law that forbids them to be together. He leaves his home in the World Beneath the Rock to search the World of the Sun for a way to live without an energy host.
He finds a priceless ally in Salana Goffin, a royal daughter of the Sun Nation. Together they search for answers. But Fate has another plan.
Blessed of the Gods is the first book in the award-winning Aumelan series. If you like stories of friendship, betrayal, love, and devotion, then you’ll love Charlene A. Wilson’s romantic fantasy.
Grab this sweet treat at: http://bit.ly/BOG-k
Bleeding Hearts by Dana Provo
Yummy Rating; Cherry Pie
Orphaned at an early age, now twenty-four-year-old Camryn Lucks is ready to commit to find that special someone, and so accepts a date from a charming, gallant, handsome stranger. The last thing she imagines after accepting that first date with Carson would actually be the beginning of her worst nightmare.
Red roses, a reminder of her parents' killer, soon become an emblem of horror for Cami as one by one, those closest to her fall victim to a serial killer. Cami becomes an obsession for Carson, the man she had finally allowed herself to love. Not only is he vying for her heart, but also her life.
Finding herself in a whirlwind of torments shadowed by the blood-colored bloom, Cami finds solace in Isaac, a neighboring police officer. She’s desperate to escape the haunting memories, but she must revisit them in order to catch her would-be killer. Living life in constant fear has driven Cami to second-guess every choice she makes. Will the police catch the illusive murderer, or will Cami be forced to face him once again?
Grab this sweet treat at: http://amzn.to/2h73mmu
Fit to Love by Jessica Rachel Kreger
Yummy Rating: Hot Tamales
For any woman who has ever battled with their weight, debut author Jessica Rachel Kreger tells a heartwarming tale of a woman whose struggle for fitness leads her into the studio of an irresistible trainer who needs her more than she knows…
After her mother’s tragic death from diabetes, mousy Daisy Day embarks on her own life-saving mission to lose a hundred and fifty pounds. Handsome personal trainer and Army veteran, Eric Anderson, seems like the answer to her prayers, but he’s way out of her league…not to mention taken by a picture-perfect model almost half her age.
When Daisy lends her marketing acumen to launch Eric’s personal training business and helps him overcome his grief from losing his brother in Afghanistan, he realizes he has more in common with her than his own girlfriend. Yet when the hours of training pay off, and Daisy is transformed into a head-turning beauty, he’s not the only man to notice.
Daisy Day is fit to love and she’s already fallen for Eric… but with his now ex-girlfriend chasing after him, and another man in Daisy’s arms, is it too late for him to catch her?
Grab this sweet treat at: http://amzn.to/2w40JEN
Finding Hope by Lucie Ulrich
Yummy Rating: Creme Brulee
Nearly sixteen years after relinquishing the rights to his unborn child, Noah Cooper is stunned to discover his daughter, Hope, wants to meet him. With the love and support of his family, Noah sets off from Elk Flats, Montana to Albany, New York, having no idea what changes are in store for him.
Cancer survivor and widow, Beth Peterson, is more than a little nervous to meet her daughter’s birth father. Their initial meeting goes well, but things decline in a hurry when Noah invites Hope to spend time at the ranch without speaking to Beth about it first.
Determined to meet her new family, a battle of wills ensues between Hope and her mother. While Hope longs for a connection, Beth fears losing her daughter to virtual strangers—strangers who live two thousand miles away.
Struggles and misunderstandings abound between Noah and Beth, despite their growing attraction for one another. Noah is ready to commit, while Beth can’t let go of the memory of her husband and the imperfections cancer has forced her to live with.
Will hope, patience, and prayer be enough to pull this family together?
A standalone read, “Finding Hope” is the continuing story of the Cooper brothers, first introduced in “The Rose Ring.”
Grab this sweet treat at: http://amzn.to/2v2ZwR1
Dating the It Guy by Krysten Lindsay Hager
Yummy Rating: Cherry Pie
Emme is a sophomore in high school who starts dating Brendon Agretti, the popular senior who happens to be a senator's son and well-known for his good looks. Emme feels out of her comfort zone in Brendon's world and it doesn't help that his picture perfect ex, Lauren, seems determined to get back into his life, along with every other girl who wants to be the future Mrs. Agretti. Emme is already conflicted due to the fact her last boyfriend cheated on her and her whole world is off kilter with her family issues. Life suddenly seems easier keeping Brendon away and relying on her crystals and horoscopes to guide her. Emme soon starts to realize she needs to focus less on the stars and more on her senses. Can Emme get over her insecurities and make her relationship work? Life sure is complicated when you're dating the it guy.
Grab this sweet treat at: http://amzn.to/2rAWOgX
A Chaotic Courtship by Bethany Swafford
Yummy Rating: Hot Tamales
Twenty year old Diana Forester, a country bred young woman fears that her inexperience and uncertainties has driven Mr. John Richfield away. On arriving back home from London, she learns that he is already there, ready to continue their acquaintance. If Diana thought that it was difficult in London, courting takes on a whole new aspect when Diana's younger siblings become involved. She finds herself dealing with her own feelings, her sister, her younger brother, jealous members of a house party, a jilted suitor, and a highwayman as she falls in love with the charming Mr. Richfield.
Grab this sweet treat at: http://amzn.to/2vbGHvz
Kistishi Island by Jordan Elizabeth
Yummy Rating: Hot Tamales
Serena Cole can kick serious butt thanks to young women only she can see. School bullies aren’t a problem, but Serena’s mental health might be. To shield Serena from a dark secret, her family tries to convince her that her friends are imaginary.
Fleeing her distrustful aunt, Serena joins her mother on an archeological dig at Kistishi Island. There, Serena discovers an ancient scroll and realizes her invisible friends are goddesses native to the island, and they are in danger of enslavement for their abilities. Only Serena can save her friends if she can discover the past her family has hidden her entire life – the reason why only she can see the goddesses.
Grab this sweet treat at: http://amzn.to/2v2PVJS
Black Raven, White Dove by Elle Marlow
Yummy Rating: Hot Tamales
Known as the Ice pirate, Stefan Ice captains the Raven, a wicked ship filled with treasures and haunting secrets. The one thing missing from Raven’s coffers is revenge. The only thing missing from Stefan’s life is love. Bianca is the jewel in her father's crown. When she is captured and bound on the Raven, she becomes an unwilling pawn in an unknown feud between the dark pirate and her father. With every rock of the ship, Stefan steals her heart and unravels their tangled and tragic past. Bianca will need to rely on her faith and her heart to find God's purpose for her life. Is it with the legendary pirate?
Grab this sweet treat at: http://amzn.to/2v1RIz5
Season of Hope by Sara Jane Jacobs
Yummy Rating: Cherry Pie
When Amanda Jarvis prays that a special friend will move into the vacant house near her isolated mountain home, she isn't upset when God sends a boy instead of a girl. Tyler turns out to be the best friend anyone could ever hope to have by their side. But as the years pass, this perfect friendship will meet obstacles that Tyler and Amanda could have never imagined. Unrevealed love, different career paths, and a controlling aunt could change everything between them. Will they both find out the truth before Tyler's deployment as a Navy SEAL?
Grab this sweet treat at: http://a.co/2pjc133
Alone by SM Ford
Yummy Rating: Hot Tamales
Ready for adventure in the snowy Colorado mountains, Cecelia Gage is thrilled to be employed as the live-in housekeeper for her favorite bestselling author. The twenty-five-year-old doesn’t count on Mark Andrews being so prickly, nor becoming part of the small town gossip centering on the celebrity. Neither does she expect to become involved in Andrews family drama and a relationship with Simon Lindley, Mark’s oh so good-looking best friend. And certainly, Cecelia has no idea she’ll be mixed up in a murder investigation because of this job.
Will Cecelia’s faith in God get her through all the trouble that lies ahead?
Grab this sweet treat at: http://amzn.to/2v2dtyO
To Dance One More Day by Rachel Jones
Yummy Rating: Cherry Pie
Alone in the world, Jillian Russell suffers the loss of her dance career, so she opens the North Carolina Ballet Company. Intent on making it the go-to company for serious performers, she shuts down her personal life while she struggles to build her company into the success she envisions.
New board member Alan Armstrong is eager to help solve the company’s loss of federal funding. He also wants to help Jillian build new relationships to chase the loneliness from her life.
When Alan discovers Jillian has been misdiagnosed, he tells her she must decide between their love and her performance career in ballet.
Grab this sweet treat at: http://amzn.to/2eRWNUu
Royally Entitled by Melody Delgado
Yummy Rating: Creme Brulee
When her family’s cider business is ruined and other local businesses are vandalized, Anika Pembrie wonders if the recent bout of unrest is merely a result of rivalry between local merchants and noblemen or if something more sinister is at the root of the recent crimes. Along her journey Anika befriends Prince Valdemar, future king of Brevalia but their relationship hits many twists and turns along the way. Lady Winifred Paxel Flemming pursues the prince relentlessly. His grandmother, Queen Marguerite, expects him to wed whoever she thinks is suitable, even if it means marrying a foreign princess he’s never met. Anika’s mother, Lady Sarah, wants Anika to help ease the family’s financial burdens by marrying Erland Riccats, National Chairman of the Merchants’ Guild. Lady Sarah also harbors secrets regarding Prince Valdemar’s mother, Princess Karin, who met an untimely death years before. In the end, will both Anika and Prince Valdemar be forced into loveless marriages, or will they be able to outwit their enemies?
Grab this sweet treat at: http://amzn.to/2vN9Vhz
One for Kami by Charlene Wilson
Yummy Rating: Cherry Pie
Kami crosses dimensions to find true love, but her heart’s desire never left home.
Kami is faced with a heartbreaking truth; she finds the love of her life is an elite and bound by law to wed three wives to do his part to eliminate the poverty-stricken condition of their world. How can she stand to share him? Why can’t he be poor the way she thought he was when she fell in love with him?
Grab this sweet treat at: http://bit.ly/14Kami-k
Incomplete by Kadee Carder
Yummy Rating: Creme Brulee
Power within her. War without.
In this second book of the INSURRECTION trilogy, Saylor must clench the missing pieces of her fate. While harnessing her ability to communicate with deadly weapons of mass destruction, attending the annual gala, and fighting her growing feelings for the hunky Australian soldier, Saylor’s instincts become increasingly distressed. Tempted by greed and independence, she must determine what she stands for and on whose side she belongs.
Grab this sweet treat at: http://amzn.to/2uCvXoQ
You like to flip through the crisp pages of a fabulous story, right? Well now you can dive deep into the oceans of Saylor's war with your very own signed copy of Incomplete!
You can get a copy from Amazon by clicking HERE, or you can order a signed copy directly from me by clicking HERE for $17.99.
Buy one for everyone you know! Big smiley faces!
I have an order of books coming to me, so as soon as they hit my doorstep I'll get your signed copy in the mail. When ordering from my site you will receive an email stating an order confirmation, and then a second email when I've shipped your book. If you'd like a special message in the book or to ship it as a gift, please note in the comments when you purchase.
Thank you SO MUCH for supporting this exciting endeavor and enjoying Saylor's story. You readers mean the world to me!
I received some pretty harsh reviews of my books the other day. And by harsh, I mean crushing. These people did NOT like my books. Being a perfectionist, and one who has spent years investing in these stories, my heart flung itself outside of my chest and into a hole in the backyard and I came thiiiiiis close to hanging up my apron. The typewriter was in the garbage.
But as they say, the truth will set you free.
I went seeking. My inner voice said all those nasty deviled egg phrases about how I lacked any talent and I should give up and everything is pointless and what the heck have I been doing if I can’t get people to like me or my books…..or… me.
Byron Katie came up with some questions to use in situations where The Things don’t seem to be going your way and your thoughts are running away. 1) Is this thought true? 2) How do I feel when I have this thought? 3) Who would I be without this thought?
Still after working through these questions, I felt doubtful. What if the critics were right? What if my books were unbelievable, boring, “dragging on and on,” and confusing? Ah! The answers came in various forms, and one big answer came from the show Arrow. Because a lot of great answers come from superhero shows (They do!): WHY are you doing what you’re doing?
A lot of problems can be solved with that question.
I’ve sorted through why I write for years and haven’t always known my answer. I write because I can’t stop. It makes me so much more than happy. And my books are not really, "me." They aren't all I have to give. A person does not have children in order to receive praise. So then the same applies to books.
Friends, I came to these conclusions about critics and books. I think they’ll apply to you, regardless of your goals or projects:
1) If you ask for criticism, you’ll receive it.
As I started out with my publishing process, I was told to get reviews, get reviews, get reviews. Send it out, pay for reviews, enter contests; the more people who read it, the more people will see it. If it doesn’t say ‘best-seller’ or ‘award-winning’ then no one will read it. This is in part true. However, any person who reads any string of words can criticize them and how they are put together. There is no perfect book.
As a writer, as a creator, you are not perfect. And try as you might, your best work will not be good enough. The truth hurts, but that is what it is. You’re not perfect, your work is not perfect, and someone better climbs the rope ahead of you.
This does not mean you don’t do your best. If you read my books, you’re reading my best shot. I give my readers my 2000% best. I spend hours plotting, replotting, editing, sharpening, revising, and revisiting. What you see is my 100. Maybe they're not perfect, but my books got heart.
Look at the challenge as a chance for gratitude. What can you learn? Who can you be now? Once the rafters have fallen, what can you build? Use the fear, the criticism, and the hate to see how you can be better.
The trick is to know that criticism will come. Expect it. Take the facts and use them to make you stronger. Expect people to ignore you and walk away. Expect the worst, and prepare for the storm. Be someone who can get hit and stand up straighter. Getting hit hurts. You’ve got to lift heavy and scrape away the blood. Be someone who can get rejected and still has self-respect, self-love, and fortitude. Be the hero who takes the hits others cannot.
2) There will always be someone out there who won’t like you.
a. If you want a template romance, you’ll hate my books.
b. If you want light-hearted, easy fiction, you’ll hate my books.
c. If you want predictable plotlines and characters, you’ll hate my books.
d. If you love adventures, you’ll enjoy my books.
e. If you like twisty plots, relish unpredictable storylines, and totally dig characters who have to go through hard decisions and rough landings, you’ll love my books.
f. If you are willing to grow with my writing and my characters, you’ll love my books.
g. If you want characters who inspire you to be better, if you want characters who make some poor choices, if you want characters who are not perfect, you’ll love my books.
h. If you like a good moment of BEING, a moment where you feel and taste and see and hear and experience the essence of LIFE, and can accept that in the middle of any scene or location, then you’ll love my books.
3) It’s my freaking story!
My circus, my monkeys. If I decided to kill a character, I had a good reason. I won’t write the same story as you, and that’s the magic of stories. My characters needed me to tell it this way. I did right by them.
a. If you don’t like it, are confused by it, or wanted it to go a different way, let’s talk about it. But you didn’t write this story. I did. Did I make you think? Fabulous. That's the win.
b. I want to hear your opinion. And hopefully you’ll hear mine. This is the fun part of stories.
c. If my stories inspire you to write it a different way or to add to it, then I did my job.
4) The critics may not be your audience.
Find your tribe. Find your village. Your village will love you regardless.
The people who stick with you, those are the hearts and minds who really count. Because they see the truth of what you have to offer, and they love it. So appreciate it, love it, thrive in it. Tell them thank you. Name (hero) characters after them.
5) Your Why Is Your Why.
a. I am not writing for the critics or the naysayers.
b. I do not write for applause or for people to talk about my abilities, good or bad.
c. I do not write books because I want to be a bestseller and make a million dollars. (Although I like eating and wearing clothing.)
d. I write because I love playing with words. I use a lot of them. It’s my passion.
e. I write because I love stories. I love characters and their abilities to be more and to inspire us.
f. I write to make you think.
g. I write because I feel most alive when I can put my creative thoughts on paper. Something about the process of creating a situation in my head, the challenge of putting it down on paper, the ordering of words makes me feel like I’m solving a riddle only I can unlock.
h. I write because I’ve learned some hard lessons and I think others can benefit from them. Jesus used stories to help teach. So he’s my example.
The “why” can change over time, and the why can be hard to pinpoint. But it’s vital to your survival in this task you’ve got to do. Find it and keep it ahead of you. The why keeps you on track when the critics wave their torches.
6) Readers’ opinions show where they are as people.
Sometimes they aren’t ready for a certain book. Sometimes it’s just not their style. Sometimes it wasn’t what they thought they would be reading, and perspective changes everything. Don’t rely on someone else’s opinion.
7) Good and bad are subjective in terms of writing and storytelling.
There are levels to it, but ultimately, one critic will disagree with another. If multiple readers have similar issues, then take that and use it as a lesson in how to write better or improve. But you can’t get better if you just give up.
8) Awards Are Stupid. Art Is Not.
Amy Poehler attended numerous award ceremonies for her roles in “Parks and Recreation,” one of my favorite TV shows that I have been watching and re-watching lately. Her character Leslie Knope is one of the most inspirational to me. TO ME. To tiny ol’ me. Do I matter? YES. Does an award matter? NO. It’s a symbol of someone’s opinion. Stupid! Leonardo DiCaprio had my heart and always will for his roles in various movies. He’s forevermore my Romeo. When did he finally win an award? Once he was in some really gray, dramatic survival-bear-eats-him-or-something movie. Ugh. Stephanie Meyer and her ridiculous Twilight story. “I wrote down this dream I had and then it was a blockbuster and then yay it’s a whole franchise of movies. I wasn’t even trying all that hard.” Just crazy. Good for you, Mrs. Meyer. But I LOVED reading those books the first time around. She captured the feeling of a first love. There’s something huge to that gift. Fast and Furious movies, superhero movies, the Step Up dancing movies, those are movies I can watch any time and they inspire me. They don’t win awards, the writing and acting isn’t always top-notch, but WHO CARES. I prefer the movie I like, and I usually don’t prefer an Oscar winner. Those Oscar winners are depressing and you know you don’t like watching that either when you’ve had a stupid day. Art is for entertainment. If it entertains, then it is doing its job.
9) Critics Can Be Bought.
Anyone can pay for a review. Anyone can pay to buy copies of their books and become a best-seller (well, the rich people can. Now accepting sponsors.). Anyone can pay for this or that or bribe or buy.
Who. Freaking. Cares. About. The. Numbers.
Numbers can be bought or bribed. Again, the numbers go back to who has the resources or the scandal or the ability to straight-up lie.
10) Who Really Counts?
Does each reader count? Yes. Does one review and one opinion count more than another? Not really. If a person likes a book, then yay! My biggest excitement about books is talking about them with people. If my books get your attention enough so that you want to tell someone about it or ask me a question, then that is the most validation I want. I really just want to share these stories with friends so we can sit over coffee and chat about them. Why did she do that? Why didn’t she do this other thing? What if that other guy was better for her? What if this other thing happened instead of that other thing? THAT is why I write. For the up-late-at-nighters. For the lonely. For those needing a win. For the seekers. For the desperate. For the lost. For the coffee dates. For the questions. For the readers’ investment. For the thrill of the story. For the happy endings. For the entertainment.
You are valid. Your opinion is valid. If we differ, okay, but let’s appreciate that about each other. I’ll always offer you an extra serving of grace if you need one. Even if you don’t return the favor, okay. This whole ‘life’ thing we’re doing requires a sword and a shield. I got those. Hopefully we can share them today. Don’t listen to the critics. Don’t listen to the whispers of despair. You do you, and you rockin’ it.
In working with Clean Reads, I've gotten to virtually meet some cool people who write great books. One author, Sara Turnquist, has written some historical romances which I wanted to share about because I enjoyed reading them so much. So these books are Kadee Carder Ink verified, in that you can trust that you'll enjoy them. Five stars! After reading these stories, I had to reach out to Ms. Turnquist and ask her some questions. She graciously answered my questions and I wanted to share them with you. She’s put a lot of thought into writing these books and I adored hearing her take on the backstory.
For your reading pleasure, here's two quick book reviews and a fun question/answer sesh with Sara Turnquist!
Now let’s chat about "Hope In Cripple Creek." I ABSOLUTELY adored this book! Imagine if you combined “When Calls The Heart,” by Debbie Macomber, “Anne of Green Gables,” and a Kate Alcott historical, and you've got this delightful story of a girl following her heart, even when it forges into the wild unknown. About halfway through I just started grinning and almost couldn't stop, except a few times when my eyes widened in shock. I couldn't put this one down. Romance, heartache, a headstrong heroine, and some twisty characters who don't know how to keep their hands to themselves, the bunch of them make up the fascinating little town of Cripple Creek, Colorado. The challenges that Katherine faces really spoke to my heart, and I think a lot of women will appreciate the struggle and how she manages it. It's a quick read with great pacing, lovely characters, a fun setting, and I wanted it to be longer. Grab this one RIGHT NOW. You will love it.
“A Convenient Risk” offers a tale of love lost, tricky relationships, and redeemed hope. Amanda is one hot mess. She cries a lot, she doubts her worth and parenting abilities, and she finds herself making out a TON with a super hot rancher whom she can’t seem to read. Ms. Turnquist provides a sweet story with swoon-worthy kisses, entirely relatable characters, and some brilliant (and, fun fact, historically based) plot twists. Through a winding road of risky business deals, unnerving country living, and lovely sunsets, “A Convenient Risk” provides readers a memorable story of second chances worth their weight in gold.
Directly from Sara Turnquist:
1) Have you been to the places where you set the stories? Or, What made you place the books in these locations?
Other than through Google Maps/Google Earth, I have not visited these places. I did a great amount of research on them.
For "Hope in Cripple Creek", I was looking for a city in Colorado for the last great gold rush to that area. I asked my husband, who lived in Colorado for a short stint, to give me the name of a small town in Colorado to set my story in. He offered up "Cripple Creek". When I started researching this town, I found this whole history of this great miner's strike that gave me my secondary story line. Love when that kind of thing happens.
For "A Convenient Risk", I knew that I needed to anchor this story brewing in my mind somehow in time. I wanted it to be in the late 1800s in the west...and that sparked my interest in a renowned outlaw. Billy the Kid's timeline worked out with my story's timeline. For that reason, I placed the story in Arizona as Billy the Kid was in Arizona in the late 1800s. But I chose a small town, Wharton City, for the story to be set in to fit in with some of the events pertaining to Billy the Kid's timeline and my own story's needs.
2) What kind of research did you do for these books? How long did it take to write them?
This is a time period I am somewhat familiar with due to books I have read and TV shows/movies I have seen. However, I that is not really primary research. So, while I rely on that for a general feeling/tone of that era, I researched when I needed details. Research for novels, as you probably know, has to be reliable. Especially since anyone can post anything on the internet. Wikipedia is a great place to start, but I would not consider it a reliable source. The bibliography on Wikipedia are great resources though.
3) Where did you get the ideas for your main characters?
"Hope in Cripple Creek"...I'm not really sure where these characters came from. I'm sure they are pieces of personalities of characters I have read and seen in other characters, but I cannot point to one place and say, this is it.
"A Convenient Risk" - this is a different story. A friend of mine loves to visit cemeteries for the interesting history there...just go with me here. We found a set of tombstones that appeared to be where a woman had married a man much older than her, he died, and then she married a man closer to her own age. It intrigued me. It was a marriage from the early 1900s. I wondered if that first marriage had been arranged by her parents or a marriage of convenience for monetary reasons. But then I began to think about second marriages and the way we tend to remember people who have passed on sometimes differently than they really were...in a glassed over sort of way. We tend to remember the good times and gloss over the bad times. Is it difficult for a second husband to compete with the memory of a first husband when the wife tends to gloss over or forget the bad times altogether?
4) What's your next project in the works?
I rarely have only one project going on. I have a book coming later this year, called "The Lady and The Hussites", that is a sequel to my debut novel "The Lady Bornekova". I just this past week turned in my last round of edits (proofing edits). This story continues to follow my characters into the Hussite Wars (the religious civil wars in the Czech lands in the late 1400s). I am also working on my backlog. "Trail of Fears" (about the Cherokee Trail of Tears) and "Among the Pages" (about the Women's Suffrage Movement) are getting covers this summer and edited for release early next year. I am also starting to plot my first Biblical Fiction (or Historical Fiction set in the Biblical Era).
So reader friends, if you’d like to grab these lovely romances, I highly recommend them. Seriously, go get Hope In Cripple Creek. If you have a heart for adoption or caring for the weak, you’ll adore it. If you need a refreshing romance that's hot but not too spicy, grab A Convenient Risk. And check out Ms. Turnquist on her blog: http://saraturnquist.com/ She’d love to connect with you!
The other day I had the pleasure of virtually meeting a new Clean Reads author. After exploring her website for a bit, I knew I needed to introduce my readers to her! You can see all about Dana on her website http://danaromanin.com/ (and I recommend you do!). Plus, her new release ABBY'S LETTERS is now available from all online retailers. Here's an excerpt for your reading entertainment:
Clark exhaled. “Anything for you, Janie.”
Oh. He had to pull out the nickname. It crushed her. Asking Clark to lie for her—she had never asked so much of him. It went against everything he believed in. She didn’t believe in all that Christian stuff, but he did. Keeping this secret would mean disrespecting his mother. It meant he would have to go against his beliefs.
Disrespect his God.
But his God wasn’t there for her, and He certainly wasn’t going to save Abby from foster care.
Jane would, though.
She entwined her fingers with his. He was so different than the little boy who’d played hide-and-seek with her on warm summer nights, back when her world was filled with her father’s laughter and her mother’s smiles. Now his muscle twitched in his strong jawline. What happened to the freckle-faced boy she had played G.I. Joe and Transformers with? He even had stubble.
“You’re the only one allowed to call me that.”
“And you’re the only one allowed to call me Janie.”
“This is too much. You can’t do this alone.” His thumb caressed her hand.
“I’m not. I have you.”
For years, Jane’s mom told her horror stories about her time spent in foster care. Now she’s determined to keep her little sister from suffering the same fate.
Seventeen-year-old Jane Sanders has had to take care of her alcoholic mother and little sister, Abby, since her dad died seven years ago. And now Mom had to go and die too. Authorities determine it was a homeless transient who died in the fire of the old manufacturing plant, but Jane knows the truth.
There is no way she’s going to let Abby go into foster care which leaves her with one option—fake her mom’s life. As far as Abby knows, their mom is in rehab. And Jane wants to keep it that way. She’d be eighteen in a few months then she could become legal guardian to her sister. With the help of her best friend, Clark, it should be easy, right?
Juggling nosy neighbors, a concerned school counselor, and an oblivious new boyfriend turns out to be harder than Jane thought. But the real problem begins when Abby starts writing letters to Mom. Through Abby’s letters, Jane sees a different side to their mom—a side she could have loved. And loving Mom is something she didn’t plan on. Because loving somebody makes it harder to ignore their death.
Purchse your copy of ABBY'S LETTERS for $3.99:
Barnes & Noble
Reviews of ABBY'S LETTERS:
“Heart-wrenching, beautiful, and complex, Abby’s Letters is an exquisitely written treatise on mother-daughter relationships, forgiveness, and love. Romanin skillfully tells this fragile family’s story with tenderness and grace, highlighting the interplay of a young woman’s painful past, uncertain future, and unflinching sisterly devotion. Each moment in this novel is a treasure shaped by masterful prose and lyrical storytelling. Do not miss this book. This is a story that should be read by anyone who is a mother or who loves one.”
--Megan Whitson Lee, author of Suburban Dangers and the award-winning novel, Captives.
“Dana Romanin’s debut novel is a poignant tale of love and lives lost, and one girl’s attempt to keep what’s left of her family together, despite all the odds. A wonderful and thought-provoking read.”
--Diana Sharples, young adult author of Running Lean.
Dana Romanin has dreamed of being a writer since she was a little girl pretending to be Anne Shirley (from Anne of Green Gables). She used to write under a forsythia bush, but now she writes in a messy office that she shares with her sewing obsessed daughter.
Dana’s short story, The Silence of Sand, was chosen for adaptation into a short film performed by the Blue Man Group. Dana has also published short fiction for teens in Encounter—The Magazine and had a short story published in a Family Fiction anthology, The Story 2014. Her first novel, Abby’s Letters, releases in June 2017.
She lives in a small town near the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia with her wonderful husband, three beautiful kids, and a lot of persnickety pets.
You can find her blog and awkward videos on her website www.DanaRomanin.com. She can also be found on Twitter (@DanaRomanin) and her Facebook fan page (DanaRomaninAuthor).
I had the extreme honor of being interviewed about writing by Pandora's Box Gazette! We got to talk about research (Google maps, anyone?), my favorite-slash-weirdest thing I've had to research, and what it's like to get into the wide world of writing. There's a giveaway, and some fun information. This was one of my favorite interviews so far. Check it out and see those fun questions!
And feel free to share with other readers or writers who are looking for inspiration.
Thanks for reading!
Risk: Buy kites from the dollar store and take the kids to the park for a lunch and a kite flying session. Take water.
Reality: What’s a character trait where you soar? What’s a talent of yours that you’d like to see improve? Spend thirty minutes doing that thing which makes your soul soar. What is a talent or passion your child(ren) have? Let them spend thirty minutes doing that thing.
2 Timothy 1:12 – “But I have no regrets. I couldn’t be more sure of my ground — the One I’ve trusted in can take care of what he’s trusted me to do right to the end.”
God has entrusted your dreams and talents to you. Only you can fill them and use them fully. Enjoy what is yours and give it away freely.
Risk: Catch a lightning bug in a jar! (or any bug if you can’t find a lightning bug) Use chalk and draw on the patio. Draw a lifesize Tic Tac Toe board and use toys as the pieces to play.
Reality: There’s some guy in your life who’s the daddy to your littles. What’s your favorite thing about him? What’s your least favorite thing about him? Say a prayer for that thing specifically. Ask God to help you have patience with those good and bad things. If you would like, write a note or text or even tell him in person that thing you appreciate most about him. If you’re struggling with that relationship, write down the heart of the trouble of that frustration, and find a Bible verse that will encourage you to face it with hope, grace, and peace.
Encouragement For The Day:
God entrusted Nehemiah with the task of rebuilding a crazy huge wall. Nehemiah was just this ordinary guy, with two eyes and a brain, and a passion for his heritage. The task presented itself to him, and Nehemiah said, well, uh, okay. Sometimes, that’s how heroes deal with things. Actually, that is precisely what heroes do to deal with things. Situations present themselves and that unsuspecting hero must decide how to react. Choose to react like the hero. Say a prayer for strength, and then do those hard but awesome things. Nehemiah prayed, “For now, my God, strengthen me” (Nehemiah 6:9B). He knew the power that God would equip him with, especially in those hard moments of starting this monumental project of building a wall around a city. By hand. In the sun. Without electricity. Or coffee.
For now, my God, strengthen me.
And they rocked that wall-building.
You will have many challenges today. For both our sakes I hope we don’t have to build walls, and by all means let’s try to build relationships that transcend walls, amiright? Capture the hearts of those around you and spread peace. Share joy. Share light. Share love. Instill hope in your life and those around you.
Peace, joy, light, hope, these can be some of the most challenging tasks to complete. If you’re a human like me, then every day brings up a new round in the boxing ring. But we’ve got instructions to overcome those. David wrote in Psalm 34, “Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and try to maintain it.” The Message version says, “Embrace peace—don’t let it get away!”
If you have a challenging person in your life, or actually if you have any people in your life, then you’ll find peace barging out the door more often that you’d like. Don’t let peace get away. The best way to get peace back into your house is to pray that God will help you see the good in each heart around. This is a hard task; but God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, love, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). You can create peace in your home. This doesn’t always mean there will be a home-cooked pie on the counter, crisp clean sheets on the bed, and nary a speck of dust on the shelves. (Does that ever happen? Can I come over if this is your house?) But peace dwells in the homes where people seek God’s heart and his hope first. Peace reigns where hearts produce hope and offer first a helping hand instead of a hardened fist.
Start building peace by cleaning out those dark spaces. Unload those boxes of regret and hurt, empty them out in prayer to your Creator, and he will help repaint the walls. First God. Then answers. Write down one of these verses we’ve discussed today and place it by a mirror. Make those first reactions ones of patience. Be the superhero your plotline needs. And you’ll have the strength to build the walls layered with hope and packed with heart.
Welcome to Epic Summer! Today marks week one. Pick your Risk or Reality for the week, and then finish up with the encouraging thought for the day. I hope you'll post pics on social media, and be sure to use the hashtag #epicsummer17 on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter! Enjoy!
Risk: Make cookies together and decorate them. Be sure to have an abundance of sprinkles.
Reality: What’s your favorite thing about being a girl? What’s your least favorite thing? What can you do specifically as a woman and mom to inspire another female to appreciate who she is? Do that thing.
Encouraging Thought For The Day:
“Discover beauty in everyone.” Romans 12:17b
We’ve all got some kind of beauty just waiting to shine. Find your starlight and shimmer, darlings. Find it in yourself and allow it to shine in others as well. You are perfectly allowed to be brilliant. I hope you will.
And in some fantastic way you can help others discover their light as well. Someone needs your sparkle today. Who is it? Sit and think for a moment about how you can make a moment special for someone. Write a note, send a text, offer a hug, or drop off coffee with a person who needs some beauty (or caffeine!).
The ideal woman, to me, is one who can uplift those around her with grace. She looks different in every body on this planet, but she’s there. How can you build the lives of those around you? “When you talk, do not say harmful things. But say what people need – words that will help others become stronger” (Ephesians 4:29). Be willing to wait instead of whipping out instruction, criticism, or snapping in frustration. Say the good words, speak the life, and offer what people need. They need love and grace. Offer it to yourself first, and then allow it to spread around.
And then go have a cookie. You deserve it.
Summer is a time for steamy sunsets, golden days, warm breezes, and straight-up crazy living spaces. We’re talking kids, water messes, dirt, chalk-hands, missing sandals, and haphazard schedules. I don’t know about you, but while the teachers are celebrating, I’m inwardly shuddering. And outwardly. I love my children. I love them. I LOVE them.
Also, summer is a time for parents to unwind and for children to hunker down in front of the television. Last summer we survived, but this summer, I want us to thrive. At our last MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) meeting, our leader asked the question, “What inspires you?” Friends, what inspires you?
I’ve been between projects and classes, so I’ve been in the creative doldrums. But as I thought over the question, an idea began to blossom. Let’s have an inspired summer. Let’s have intentional days, thoughtful evenings, and breezy memories.
So I’ve planned out Epic Summer 2017. Friends, mamas, let us journey into these glistening days with smiles on our faces and a plan of attack. Once a week, every Tuesday, from June 6 until August 22nd, I’ll be posting a weekly challenge or activity on my blog and social media outlets. Some are simple, some will involve a bit of planning, and all will bring laughter, smiles, giggles, and picture-worthy moments. Share the posts, comment, supply your own pics, and make sure to use the hashtag #epicsummer17. Each week will give you a Risk to do or a Reality upon which to meditate. You can do the Risk/Reality that day or some time that week. Each week will have a theme and an encouraging note to go along with it. The more of us, the merrier, in my opinion. I hope you will join me in taking charge over your summer. Make amazing happen to your family. Make fabulous memories. Create magic with your treasures, however old they may be. Our children will have the memories that we provide for them. What do you want them to remember from 2017?
What do you want to remember?
Let’s make it an Epic Summer.
Subscribe at http://www.kadeecarder.com/subscribe.html to get #EpicSummer17 challenges directly to your inbox! I hope you'll connect with me on Facebook or Instagram too.
Beneath the façade of covert laboratories and military exploits, Saylor’s story twists further in this thrilling final installment of the Insurrection trilogy, available NOW! It's time for you to download this fantastic adventure, readers. Go Team Messy bun, and roll out. Click HERE to see all the purchase links. (Only $4.99 on Kindle, Nook, iTunes and more!)
Concealed identities. Puzzling truths. Cryptic alliances. Amid hasty exits and curious arrivals, Saylor pursues the answers haunting her conscience.
Dealing with the consequences of her decisions, will Saylor find herself invincible, or drawn even closer to Breame’s conniving promises? And with humanity’s existence at stake, will Saylor advance toward the brimming war, or succumb to the battle bubbling in her blood? Saylor must decide.
Humanity will always be worth fighting for.
Read an excerpt HERE!
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