I appreciate the chance to be a guest over at Lisa M. Gott's blog today. It's a great site; I highly recommend swinging by to check it out!
The Struggling Artist: Broken Bits and Everyday Life
The worst part of being stuck on the couch with a bum ankle has been being away from my animals. I've missed them so very much! Other than the day spent doctoring Twix, I've ventured out to see them only twice since I was hurt. The first time, they steered clear of me because of my crutches. The second, one of the dogs accidentally went mom-bowling. The sun and crisp fall air were beckoning me today, so I decided to give it another go. Thankfully, it went much better. Oh, how I missed my babies.
I've been promising my readers for a long time that I would get around to writing a book for Vance. At long last, it's time for his story to be told...
...only Vance deserved more than one story. Before he gets his novel, I'll be releasing a series of short stories to bridge the gap between Devil in Disguise and the next novel - and to piece together the years before and during Throwaway and Suddenly a Spy.
I've thoroughly enjoyed writing Vance's story. As each piece of it has unfolded, it's become clear to me why this particular character has so completely captured my imagination and that of my readers. I'm beyond thrilled to release the first of three short stories coming before Christmas. So, without further ado...
About the story:
Vance Davis is a haunted man. The ghosts of his past are never far away and rarely silent; no matter where he goes or what he does, he can still feel the icy grip of their condemnation. But hope is never truly lost.
As Vance reunites with his dear friend and co-worker, Jessie, he find himself once again pulled into the world of human trafficking, caught in a battle between his heart and his mind, with more than just himself at stake. As the memory of his lost love, Harmony, continues to torment him, he is consumed by a new mission: to rescue a foster child who’s gone missing. But doing so will require the help of some old friends he might not be ready to face.
Adventure and emotion collide in this story about overcoming the past to forge a better future.
Now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble!
I intended to write a post yesterday with a bit more about EJ Hanagan and Lucy H Delaney. As is the theme for the week, note the word intended. But that's okay, because these ladies do a much better job of introducing themselves than I ever could. If you missed it, here's EJ's post for my Leave Your Mark series. I saved Lucy's for this week, the week her debut novel is launching. I count myself lucky to have a front row seat to Lucy's efforts to make the world a better place. I hope you enjoy getting to know her as much as I have. ~Heather
Several years ago, when my husband and I started this journey, we became foster parents. One of our children, our eldest daughter, was adopted from the foster system. The system is grueling and proved too much for our family so we opted to relinquish our license after a painful ordeal. I pray that the children we served will remember us with fondness but we couldn't continue. We let our license go but I couldn't ignore the plight of high-risk kids like those in foster care. I was drawn to them so I looked into other ways to help and happened upon information about CASA.
In Waiting on Justin, I highlight CASA because I truly believe that they are making a positive difference in the lives of some of the most high-risk children in America. The CASA program is a national organization made up largely of volunteers from all walks of life. CASAs, or Court Appointed Special Advocates, are trained to work with children in foster care. After a person has taken CASA training they are sworn in by a commissioner or judge and become an officer of the court. It is the duty of a CASA to report to the judge or commissioner what is in the best interests of the children they serve. Sometimes CASAs are confused with Social Workers but there is a significant difference between the two. A Social Worker is assigned by the state (and reassigned just as frequently), they come and go in the life of a child and while they do look after what is best for foster children they are also tracking parents, foster homes and reporting to the state. A CASA is assigned to one child for their entire time in the foster system. Sometimes the CASA is the only consistent figure in a foster child's life.
I have been a CASA for our local Chelan-Douglas CASA program for the last three years now. The time commitment is the biggest challenge for me, others struggle most with writing reports, gathering information, or relating to people within the case. Most cases require about ten hours of volunteer time a month. It is difficult for me to juggle the time commitment of my case with my family's needs, a full-time job, a budding career as an author and other obligations but I feel strongly that I can and am making a difference by being a consistent figure in the life of a child. If everyone would take time for one child, or one cause they believe in, we really can make the world a better place. I've got my starfish, what's yours?
If you're interested in more information on the CASA program please call:
1-800-628-3233 or visit them online at
If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected call! You can remain anonymous and could save a child a lifetime of pain.
1-800-4-A-CHILD or visit them online at:
How am I making the world a better place?
There's an essay by Loren Eiseley called The Star Thrower and within it an excerpt that's been made famous. My favorite adaptation is simply called The Starfish Story, and it has had a profound impact on my life. It goes like this:
“Once upon a time, there was a cynical man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.
One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up and question the dancer. As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean. The writer came closer still and called out "Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?" The young man paused, looked up, and replied "Throwing starfish into the ocean." "I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?" asked the writer. To this, the young man replied, "The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don't throw them in, they'll die." Upon hearing this, the cynical man commented, "But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can't possibly make a difference!" At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, "It made a difference for that one.”
From the moment I read it, I was changed because I was the cynical writer.
Even within the tiny limits of my life there was too much hurt and pain to change. To think of the suffering of the whole, wide, world broke my heart but how could I, a simple, white, American woman possibly make a difference for all of those suffering and hurting? I could see no way. I was a Christian and had a deep, longing desire to share God's love but the pain was too big, the injustice to great, the suffering too immense for me to possibly make a difference. No matter what I believe, I am only one person. What could I possibly do to make the world a better place?
Then I found this story, and remembered the Star Thrower from my own life. He was my Grandpa Al. My Grandpa was a simple man but he was the greatest man I ever knew and he dedicated his life to God and the starfish he found. He didn't change the world, but he changed hundreds and hundreds of lives, one person at a time. He stopped to pick them up and give them a toss into the living water. He made a difference for them.
I realized that though I couldn't change the world, I could be like him, I could be a Star Thrower, I can make a difference... and that is what I hope to do with the stories I write and the volunteer work I do. In the current series of romance stories I'm working on, I'll bring attention to notable organizations that are making a difference, one life at a time. And, personally, I have chosen to make a difference by helping to keep kids safe. I grew up in some less than ideal situations. It could have been much worse, true, but I carry scars from my childhood which will never completely heal, this side of heaven. Because of this I have decided to focus my volunteer work on children. I can help keep kids safe.
It shouldn't surprise me that this isn't going to be the post I intended to write and that it's not happening on the day I intended, either. I guess it surprises me about as much as hearing "It's a boy" on that third ultrasound. I kinda knew going in I wasn't going to get my little girl and it was probably for the best. But I digress.
I think I've mentioned before that over the summer, I started helping a few other Booktrope authors with their books. The position is called book manager because it's a mix of marketing and project management. It's a hard relationship to explain - for it to really work, both the author and the book manager have to be fully invested in the book and the whole crazy process. I say this to explain that I try to be really careful about who I agree to work with. I keep my author numbers small because everything about them and their book has to click with me and my bookish world or it just won't work - we'll both just wind up frustrated and that's not fair to either of us.
All of that to say that two out of three authors I work with had really big weeks this week for their books. Knowing this, I intended to spend my week pretty well dedicated to them and their books. Note the word intended.
Monday was derailed when my niece and oldest son were in a car accident (not their fault). Thankfully, everyone's okay and all I lost was a day. (Oy, though. That phone call. And that moment when you see the car, knowing your child was in it. Just oy.)
So I tried to regroup yesterday, to zero in on helping these two amazing women and their equally amazing books. Note the word tried.
An unplanned trip into town waylaid things a bit. The problem with being on crutches and relying on the boys to feed animals is they sometimes forget to mention you're running low on a particular feed in advance. With nasty weather settling in, I decided to make a run for feed and straw, figuring I'd check in periodically while gone and roll up my sleeves for realsies when I got home. Only when we got home, as we were distributing the newly purchased straw to animal houses and feeding everyone for the evening, Dylan noticed his doe was acting off. She wasn't eating, hanging back to herself instead of vying for the best spot at the dinner table with the others. When a goat doesn't eat, there is something wrong. Really wrong.
I took one look at her and realized she was in labor. Only problem: she's not due until January 14. So, instead of the very bookish evening I'd planned, I spent it taking turns with my husband and oldest son, sitting in the freezing cold with Twix, darling of the farm. Dylan bought this goat with his birthday money last year so he could start his own herd. We raised her from two weeks old. When she was little, she would race the boys back and forth across the yard. She loves to run. She's graceful and sweet and we all absolutely adore her. And now she was in pain, losing her baby and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I was scared to death I wouldn't be able to save her, that the long labor would be too much.
Thankfully, we have some very dear friends just down the road who are experts in all things goat. They navigated us through this new aspect of goat ownership, and we were finally able to help Twix pass the baby she'd lost. Physically, Twix is doing well. But she's walking around her pen crying, looking for her baby. It breaks my heart. I want to gather her in my arms and rock her and tell her it'll be okay. All I can do is scratch her neck and tell her I know how she feels. I feel so helpless. (Don't even get me started on my poor son - sore from a car wreck, doing his level best to take care of his goat, and losing a whole year's worth of investment, not that the money even crossed his mind.)
What does this have to do with books? Nothing really. Except that every time I checked in online last night, I was either told not to worry about them, to be with Twix, or they were asking me how she was. These two women were having huge nights, nights that really mattered to them and their books, and they were worried about my son's goat.
It's the kind of thing that makes me realize how lucky, how truly blessed, I am to work with the people I do. I'd introduce you to them now, but I don't want it to get lost in all my ramblings about me. Instead, I'll post links to their books today and tomorrow I'll give them their proper due.
If you have time, you should check them out. Not only are they talented writers, they're amazing people - the kind worth knowing, the kind who'll brighten your day, the kind who make this world a better place.
Visit EJ Hanagan online or download Saving Jason - free on kindle through 11/13
Visit Lucy H Delaney online or download Waiting on Justin - only $0.99 as of right now, but it won't be for long!
They say you only get one chance to make a first impression. While I'm sure "they" are right, some things are too important to not even try.
Devil in Disguise was a book I'd been really excited to write for a lot of reasons - it was a chance to not only revisit many of my favorite characters, but to shine a spotlight on the fight against human trafficking and one of my favorite organizations, Project Liberty. But then life and inexperience got in the way of my best laid plans.
Right as the publication process kicked into high gear, my family's move to the country got fast-tracked. I was so busy keeping my head above water that I let a lot of things slip through the cracks. I was also newer to this writing gig, so I made a few decisions I would have made differently if I'd known then what I know now.
I realize nothing's perfect, and with every book, there will always be something I could have done better. Usually I chalk it up to live and learn and apply my takeaways from each book to the next. But I couldn't let it go with Devil; it never stopped bothering me, those little things I'd have done differently.
Here are just a few things to watch for in the upcoming months...
So... my niece has her own apartment not far from us. My oldest son likes hanging out over there and recently went to a Halloween party at her place. Before he left, I felt compelled to give the typical mom lecture - basically along the lines of "don't make me regret trusting you, use your head, etc." Not that I expected him to get into any trouble. They're good kids. But I felt like I'd be remiss as a mom if I didn't address some of the stuff that could pop up at a party.
As expected, the party was a pretty laid back thing. What I didn't expect was my son to come home giggling over a goofy Shia LaBeouf video that defies explanation. He then proceeded to show it to his brothers, so now all three of my kids are going around the house singing snippets from the goofy song. And, oddly enough, a surefire way to make any of them bust out laughing is to look at them and say, "Shia surprise."
It would make sense if you saw the video. Maybe. It's an odd video. I warn you - if you watch it, you'll never get your 3 1/2 minutes back.
Rolling hills that had been vibrant green just weeks ago were now muted in tone, as if they were taking a deep breath before bursting into the song of fall.