Tag Archives: romance

Sea of Destiny – Part 37 by Dellani Oakes

sea of destiny coverThe healing complete, Father Michael has to recover his strength. Although it seriously tests his faith, Kyle has to admit that Emily looks better. He can only hope and pray that she truly is healed.

“I’m not the one you should thank. Your Heavenly Father is responsible for this, not me. I’m just the conduit.”

Kyle dropped to his knees, praying quietly, giving thanks to God for Emily’s healing. He knew she was well, he could feel it. Underneath his joy, something lurked. There was the matter of payment that the priest had mentioned.

“You told me at the mission there was something I must do for you.” Kyle rose, his eyes wary.

“Yes. Gentlemen, I beg your indulge once more. I need to speak to Kyle alone.”

“Certainly, Father.” Pablo bowed respectfully, leaving immediately.

Sighing heavily, Dr. West followed him. Once the door was closed, Fr. Michael focused on the door for a moment before turning back to examine Kyle’s face.

“Before I begin, you have to promise not to lose your temper or raise your voice.”

“Why would I do that?”

“Because what I have to say is going to make you very angry.”

“If you’ve done something to hurt Emily….”

“No. No, son, nothing like that. If I had the strength to move right now, I’d take you outside, but I don’t. You have to promise.”

“Is it something I can talk to you about tomorrow?”

“No. This is the last you’ll see me.”

“For Emily’s sake, I promise.”

Nodding, the priest accepted the statement. Taking a sip of his wine, he tried to get his troubled thoughts aligned before he began.

“I have a story to tell you. It began, oh, about thirty-four years ago when I was a young man. I met a beautiful woman. She had hair like spun gold and the bluest eyes I’d ever seen. I fell into those eyes, drowning in her beauty. Then I did something very bad. I took that woman to my bed before we were married and she got pregnant. Both of us were Catholic. Determined to do the right thing, I married her. She gave me a son and we named him after me. I loved that child more than I had ever loved his mother. I was fond of her, but my son was the light of my life.

“A few years later, we had another son. By this time, the marriage was in trouble. We were so young when we married, barely eighteen, that we were completely different people by then. My wife and I had a horrible argument. We were furious with one another. I stayed out most of the night drinking with my friends. When I got home, she threw me out. I took a few possessions with me and left. I never went back, never explained, never apologized to my wife or my eldest son. He was seven at the time.”

Kyle’s lip trembled, tears fell from his eyes. His breath came in shuddering gasps as he heard the story. He said nothing, keeping a lid on his tumultuous emotions as he’d promised. He waited for the priest to finish, denying what he knew in his heart was the truth.

“I had our marriage annulled. There were grounds since we were coerced into marriage by her pregnancy. A short time later, I entered the seminary and became a priest. When this mission opportunity came available, I asked for it. I wanted to put as much distance between myself and my old life as I could.” He stopped, laughing weakly. “And then you walked in my study and my old life came back to haunt me with a vengeance.”

“Why didn’t you ever call? You never explained to Chris and me. Not that he’d have understood, he was three. You left me to pick up the pieces of our lives after you ran away. She didn’t even have a job!” He wanted to yell and throw things, but he’d promised not to get angry. “I always wondered what I would say to you if I ever saw you again. I had all these pretty speeches planned about how sorry I was that I drove you away. I blamed myself….”

“It was never about you or your brother. Your mother was a beautiful, selfish and demanding woman. Nothing I did was ever enough. Then I got the call to become a priest, something I had put off, thinking it wasn’t for me. It became too powerful to put aside anymore. God was calling me to do this work for Him. When I quit fighting, everything worked out.”

“Except for us.”

“I don’t deny that, son.”

“I’m not your son. You gave up that right when you annulled your marriage to my mother, declaring me a bastard.”

“I’m asking your forgiveness, Kyle. I need to hear you say it.”

“You can keep on needing it, Father Michael, because I’m never saying it. I thank you for what you did for Emily. That was the miracle she wanted. For that, I’m grateful. But I can’t find it in my heart to forgive you. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go before I really lose my temper and break my promise.”

© Dellani Oakes

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Romanian Romance? by Sherrie Hansen

My husband and I are going to Bucharest for Mark’s son’s wedding in a few weeks. Every time I mention our plans in conversation, people ask me if my next novel is going to be set in Romania. I have to admit that seeing Dracula’s castle and roaming around remote areas of Transylvania has captured my imagination. While researching our destinations, I learned of a forest that is reputed to be the most haunted place on earth. Deep in the woods, there is even a place where no vegetation grows, and where hundreds of people have gone missing. Some consider it to be a portal to another time. Even thinking about going there makes me feel nervous and unsettled. Sometimes I’d like to escape from certain realities of my day to day life, or at least, take a lengthy sabbatical. But what if I never found my way back home? I would miss my family and the people I love. But who knows what adventures or people I’d meet up with if such a thing were to happen… 

 Rainbow - Becky

I wonder if L. Frank Baum took a trip to some exotic locale before he wrote The Wizard of Oz? Were the Emerald City, the Yellow Brick Road, the scary forest, the Munchkins and the Wicked Witch’s castle pure figments of his imagination, or did a glimpse of this or that, or a travel documentary, or stories told by his grandmother prompt his wild literary adventures?

 

What inspires you? In my Wildflowers of Scotland novels, it was a copper, rabbit- shaped downspout on St. Conan’s Kirk on Loch Awe (Wild Rose), the legend of a Spanish galleon, fully loaded with gold, still believed to be at the bottom of Tobermory Bay (Blue Belle), and the melancholy melody of a bagpiper in front of Eilean Donan Castle (Shy Violet) that gave my muse voice.

 Shy Violet

When I was a child, it was the Betsy Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace, and her tales of close friendships, the Crowd’s adventures, grand social events with dance cards and flowing lawn dresses, and extravagant hats with blue ribbons, that revved up my imagination and made me want to be a writer (check), live in a Victorian house (check), and wear all kinds of wonderful hats (check).   

 

When we visited Florida a few years back, a historic hotel, The Pink Palace, on St. Pete’s Beach, and a trip to the alligator-infested waters of the Everglades, made my mind start whirling.

Romania  Cerna 

So – will my next novel be set in Romania? There’s a spa with healing waters near the Carpathian Mountains – the Cerna Spa in Baile Herculane – that’s calling out to me. It’s in the opposite direction of the other places we want to see, yet I’m scheming in my mind to find a way to go there. Something about it… maybe it’s a story waiting to be born.     

 

Sherrie Hansen’s Bio:
Twenty-three years ago, Sherrie rescued a dilapidated Victorian house in northern Iowa from the bulldozer’s grips and turned it into a bed and breakfast and tea house, the Blue Belle Inn.  Sherrie has also lived in Colorado Springs, CO, Augsburg, Germany, Wheaton, IL, and Bar Harbor, Maine. She grew up on a farm in southern Minnesota. After 12 years of writing romance novels, Sherrie met and married her real-life hero, Mark Decker, a pastor. They now live in 2 different houses, 85 miles apart, and Sherrie writes on the run whenever she has a spare minute. Sherrie enjoys playing the piano, photography, traveling, and going on weekly adventures with her nieces and nephew. “Shy Violet” is Sherrie’s eighth book to be published by Second Wind Publishing.

Links:

http://www.facebook.com/SherrieHansenAuthor
http://sherriehansen.wordpress.com/
http://www.BlueBelleInn.com or http://www.BlueBelleBooks.com
https://twitter.com/SherrieHansen
http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2870454.Sherrie_Hansen

https://www.pinterest.com/sherriebluebell/

Books Titles: Wildflowers of Scotland novels – Thistle Down (a prequel novella), Wild Rose, Blue Belle, Shy Violet. Night and Day, Love Notes, and the Maple Valley Trilogy – Stormy Weather, Water Lily, and Merry Go Round.  

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Sea of Destiny – Part 36 by Dellani Oakes

sea of destiny coverAs promised, Father Michael comes to the hotel, along with his assistant. Pablo. He takes her confession, then begins the healing process.

Fr. Michael anointed Emily with blessed oil and chrism on her head, hands and feet. He prayed first in English, then Latin. Taking her head between his hands, he began to pray in a language Kyle didn’t recognize. His hands moved to her shoulders and down her body. Emily trembled beneath his touch, her breath coming in short, sharp gasps.

Kyle and Thaddeus moved toward her, but Pablo stopped them, indicating silently that she was all right. None of them said a word as Fr. Michael continued to pray. Emily grew flushed and began to sweat as the intensity of his prayers increased. Suddenly, she collapsed, falling back in her chair, limp and unconscious.

Fr. Michael stumbled, losing his balance. Pablo caught him expertly, laying him gently on the floor. Dr. West moved to take his pulse or check on Emily, but Pablo stopped him even more adamantly. He took them from the room, motioning that they must not speak yet.

Once they were in the study with the door closed, Dr. West showed his anger. “I have to insist that you allow me back in that room!”

“No, I cannot. And please to not yell. It is part of the healing process. They are connected right now, by spirit. If you touch them, break the connection, the healing will not take place. Your anger is bad, Doctor. If you cannot keep it under control, you must leave.”

“I’m not leaving.”

“Then I must insist that you remain calm. If Emily is to get well, you must.”

“If I don’t say anything and don’t touch them, may I go back in?” Kyle asked humbly. “I—I want to be with her.”

“Yes, of course. But you must promise, say nothing, and do not touch.”

“I promise. On my honor, I won’t interfere in any way.”

“You go in then. You stay,” he told Dr. West firmly.

Nodding, Thaddeus poured himself another drink. Scotch this time. Kyle went back in the other room. He sat on the love seat between Emily’s chair and Father Michael’s prostrate form.

Emily was still sweating, her face flushed. Father Michael was pale, his features drawn much like Emily’s had been. Dark circles had formed around his eyes. His body shook with tiny tremors. It was his hands that upset Kyle the most. They were darkly mottled, misshapen, swollen and a hideous shade of red. The sight nearly turned Kyle’s stomach and it was all he could do not to vomit.

He concentrated instead on Emily. Her color was returning to normal, her breath less shallow and ragged. Her cheeks and lips blushed with health, not fever. Her skin no longer had the waxiness he’d seen there the last few days. One last shuddering breath, she began to breathe normally, and he knew she was asleep.

Father Michael gasped, groaning. His body shook more violently terrifying Kyle. He left the room quietly, running into the study. Motioning to Pablo, he asked him to check on the priest with gestures. Pablo pulled him into the study, closing the door behind him.

“He will be fine in a few minutes. Depending upon now sick the person is, depends on how long he’s unconscious.”

“What’s wrong with his hands?”

“He must process what he takes from them. Not all healers do this, but it is Father Michael’s way. He will be weak when he finishes. May I order him some food?”

“Certainly,” Dr. West replied. “Whatever he requires.”

“Bread and wine. Some meat—grilled fish is best. I shall call now. He will be coming out of it when the food arrives.” He called room service, placing his order.

The food arrived moments after Fr. Michael regained consciousness. Dr. West met the waiter at the door, signing for the meal. Emily was still asleep. Kyle stood beside her, gazing at her helplessly.

“You may touch her now,” Pablo said as he helped the priest onto the couch. “Do not try to wake her, she will come around on her own.”

Kyle nodded his thanks, drawing a chair next to her. He sat vigil, waiting for what seemed like forever for her to wake, but began to think she wouldn’t anytime soon.

“She will sleep several hours,” Fr. Michael said. His voice was dry, rough. “She needs to stay here tonight and can go back to the ship at midday tomorrow.”

“Is she healed now?” Kyle asked anxiously.

Father Michael smiled at Kyle, his blue eyes glittering. “Yes, she’s healed. Your faith and hers will keep her that way. Never doubt, especially not right now.”

“She looks magnificent, so much better. I have no doubt she’s well. Thank you, Father.”

© Dellani Oakes

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Sea of Destiny – Part 35 by Dellani Oakes

sea of destiny coverOn behalf of Emily, Kyle goes to speak to the faith healer priest. After talking for several minutes, the priest seems willing to visit Emily at the hotel where he will do his best to heal her.

“Is she a believer?”

“Yes, Father.”

“Are you?”

“I’m trying. Faith has been a little shaky the last year. I want to believe, I need to believe. I need—something more. I’m not explaining very well.”

“On the contrary, you’re explaining extremely well. For me it was the calling to Holy Orders. I was married myself, had a couple kids. One day, I woke up and knew it wasn’t for me. It wasn’t what I was meant to do. I left and never went back. Cowardly of me, I know. I owed her an explanation, but I didn’t have the strength. By the time I did, it was really too late.”

“So, you’ll do this?”

“Yes, Mr. Scott. I’ll do this. Have Ms. Geraci at the hotel near the docks, the one her family owns, and I’ll be there at five o’clock. My evening service is at eight, but we’ll be done well before then.”

“Thank you, Father!” He shook the older man’s hands with both of his. “Thank you. Can I give you something for your time?”

“There’s one thing I need from you, son.”

“Anything.”

“Don’t be too quick to promise. I’ll tell you after I’m done.”

“Okay.”

Kyle thought it was a little strange, but he wasn’t going to argue. Grinning, wanting to dance and sing, he gathered up his family and took them sightseeing. Vera called the ship and gave Thad West the good news. He promised to have Emily at the hotel before four.

Riding an adrenaline high, Kyle couldn’t remember anything he saw in Cozumel. He was itching to get back to the ship to see Emily, but wasn’t about to break his promise to his children.

At 4:30, the company rep dropped Kyle at the hotel while Carmelita took the children back to the ship. He waited impatiently for the priest to arrive. When he did, Kyle took him up to her penthouse suite. The living room overlooked the ocean. He could see the ship in the harbor.

Emily was sitting in a recliner gazing out across the water. She had her prayer book and rosary with her. Soft music played quietly in the background. Kyle recognized it as Handel’s Messiah. He pulled a chair up next to her, taking her hand.

“You did this for me?”

“With Thad’s help, yes.”

“Why? You hardly know me.”

He kissed her tenderly, taking her fingers to his lips. “Isn’t it obvious?” His eyes held hers a long time.

There was a soft tap at the door. Thad West answered, greeting the men quietly. Kyle rose, smiling as he made the introductions.

“Forgive me for not getting up,” Emily said softly. “Thaddeus insisted that I remain in my chair.”

“Not a problem,” Father Michael said with a grin. “Pablo, I need the lady’s hands and feet uncovered. Mr. Scott, if you’d assist?”

“Sure.” He and the man he’d met at the mission helped Emily remove her shoes.

“There is a short service, a few scriptures read. Are you Catholic?” he asked Emily.

“Yes. Born and raised in the Church.”

“Excellent. Then I need not explain about the importance of the Host?”

“No. Father, may I have a moment for Confession?”

“Certainly, my dear. I anticipated the need. Pablo.” His assistant brought his purple stole, placing it around his shoulders. “Gentlemen, if you will.” He invited them to leave in no uncertain terms.

The three of them stepped into the study, closing the door behind them. Thaddeus offered them each a drink. None of them took alcohol, opting for Coca-Cola instead. Kyle was on edge. Something about Father Michael was familiar. He couldn’t place it, but there was a distinct vibe when the other man was around. Part of that, he knew, was power. This priest was decidedly a conduit for God’s healing. He had met a few people in his life who had spiritual gifts, and this man was stronger than any of them. Kyle knew that Father Michael could help Emily. But there was something else, an underlying, nebulous tingle he couldn’t identify.

They came back in after Emily’s confession and gathered around as Fr. Michael assigned each of them a scripture to read. The service itself was short, followed by Communion. Dr. West wasn’t Catholic, but Kyle and Emily were. Fr. Michael blessed the Host, placing it on their tongues. Afterwards, he began the Anointing of the Sick. It was a special sacrament that Kyle had never seen performed before.

© Dellani Oakes

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Authentic Man by John E. Stack

A few years ago a friend of mine confided in us that his wife had become very ill. She was getting really bad headaches that would last a day or so. After each episode, part of her memory would be gone. After many tests the doctors explained that it was very aggressive and that there was really nothing they could do. Eventually, she would stop remembering, her body would stop functioning and she would die.

This, as you could imagine, devastated their entire family. They had two children in college and one in high school. The kids came home more often and dad cut back on his work hours. In this and with the help of some of the ladies in the church, he was able to take care of his wife and kids and still maintain an income. It took a lot of coordination but he made it work.

As the past couple of years went by, she steadily became worse. He became more dedicated. Her walk soon became a shuffle and he was always beside her to steady her. Soon had to use a walker and he was always there insuring she would be okay. She was the mother of his children and not only were they married, they had a profound commitment to one another. He was doing as God commanded – loving his wife as Christ loved the church.

They moved to Florida a year or so ago so she could be near family. The kids did as their mom wanted and carried on with their lives, finishing college and getting adult jobs. They knew that in doing so, it would make mom and dad proud. Anytime one would ask how things were going all we would hear was that “things are okay.”

My friend and his family came back through town this last week heading toward their son’s graduation and visited our Sunday service. He looked a little older and a little more worn, but was still smiling. His wife has progressed to a wheel chair and is no longer able to walk on her own. He quickly approached me and gave me a big hug. He never said how rough things were, only inquired on how we were doing. He quickly pulled away wanting to get back to his wife.

After arriving back home in Florida he wrote our Sunday school class a note. He said that the doctors had told him that her time was short. He said that they would never return for a visit, but one day he hoped that he would he would be able to.

He did make one request and it was a request made through love. It was probably one of the most selfless requests ever made. He asked for us to pray that God would take her quickly and painlessly. He knew that heaven would be the only place she could ever be whole again.

He is an authentic man. A real man who is doing God’s will. Where many men would throw up their hands and scream for a divorce, or have an affair, or just pack up and leave, he has stood fast and continued to love his wife.

I didn’t mention any names – I didn’t need to. He is not looking for praise. He is just doing what real men do – keep loving no matter the circumstances. Love you, man.

***John E. Stack is the author of Cody’s Almost Trip to the Zoo, Cody’s Rescue Adventure at the Zoo, and Olivia’s Sweet Adventure.

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Sea of Destiny – Part 34 by Dellani Oakes

sea of destiny coverDr. West finally seems to realize that Kyle is a good man who is not out to hurt Emily. He more or less gives a blessing with an implied threat, but he accepts the relationship. Carmelita tells Kyle that she’s going out for the evening with Dr. West and he tells her to have a good time and make good choices.

“Baby, all Carmelita’s choices are good ones.”

“Except marrying—old what’s his name.”

“Well, even that was a good one as far as it went.”

“Which was how far?”

“The bedroom…. See you in the morning, sugar.”

* * *

The next afternoon, after a brief visit to Emily in the infirmary, Kyle and his family headed down the gangplank. The company rep , an attractive young woman named Vera, was waiting with an SUV and took them to the mission church outside town. It was an old building, but well maintained. The grounds were beautifully landscaped with native flora. The church was small, cramped, but obviously well loved. A man puttered around in the vegetable garden between the church proper and the rectory.

Vera greeted him in Spanish. Smiling, he nodded, waving for them to follow. Carmelita and Kyle walked side by side, the children following, holding hands. The woman from the company stayed with the car.

“Father Michael is expecting you,” the man said in good, but heavily accented English.

“Thank you. We really appreciate him seeing us.”

“Come in. Sit down. Something to drink? I have many bottled beverages, nice and cold.”

They each took a soft drink and waited in the priest’s office. No one felt much like talking. The children were too overwhelmed by the ancient surroundings. Kyle was deep in thought and Carmelita knew better than to tease him at a time like this.

The door opened and the priest walked in. Kyle rose to greet him, stunned to see that the man was white. He was tall, lean muscled and freckled. His close cropped hair was sun bleached to a light reddish blond.

Stumbling slightly, Kyle stepped forward to introduce himself and his family. “Thank you for seeing us on such short notice, Father.”

“Not a problem,” the older white man said with a smile. “A priest’s life is full of short notice. The major drawback to my profession is that I’m constantly on call. So, how can I help you? The woman I spoke to last night was somewhat vague.”

“Carmelita, why don’t you take the kids out to the courtyard?”

“Sure. Come on, babies, let’s leave Dad here for a few.”

They followed her out quietly. Left alone, Kyle moved awkwardly in his chair.

“Father Michael, word of the work you’re doing has come to a friend of mine. Her name is Emily Geraci and she’s got cancer.”

The priest steepled his hands, nodding. “I see. She requires healing and prayer, is that it?”

“Yes, sir. The problem is, she’s very weak and her physician is hesitant about bringing her all this way.”

“Is she in Cozumel?”

“Yes, Father, on board a cruise ship.”

“I see. It’s not so far, drive her over for the service.”

“We were hoping you’d agree to come meet her instead.”

“Son, I can’t go on that ship….”

“We could meet you in a hotel in town. It would satisfy the doctor’s conditions and Emily could get the healing and prayer that she needs.”

“I’m familiar with the name Geraci. Her father owns that ship, the entire cruise line. With her money, she can get the best possible medical care. Why is she here?”

“Conventional means have been exhausted. She was in remission, but they just found another tumor last week. She really needs your help, Father.”

“Why are you acting as intermediary? You aren’t married to her.”

“I lost my wife to cancer several months ago. If I had known about you, could have brought her here, maybe she would still be alive. Carmelita believes it was Margo’s time to go.”

“And you don’t?”

“I don’t know. But I don’t think it’s Emily’s time.”

“How can you know that when you’re unsure about your wife?”

Kyle stood, pacing. “Because I’m falling in love with this woman, and she is with me—and my kids love her already. I couldn’t get this help for Margo, but I’m asking for you to help Emily.”

© Dellani Oakes

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Sea of Destiny – Part 33 by Dellani Oakes

sea of destiny coverDr. West isn’t convinced that Kyle is legitimately interested in Emily. He fears that Kyle is just after her money, much like her ex-husband was.

“Mr. Scott, you’ve convinced me and I don’t convince easily. Maybe you are the right one to go. I’ll set it up.”

“Can you reach someone at this hour?”

“Watch me.” He grinned. “I’ll call your cabin when it’s done. And do me a favor, will you ask Carmelita to meet me for drinks?”

“Ask her yourself when you call. She’ll think I’m being a smart ass.”

Conceding the point with a nod, the doctor picked up the phone. Kyle waved and left. A different nurse was on duty than the one he had danced with. She stopped him as he headed toward the door.

“You’re Ms. Geraci’s friend, aren’t you? The dancer?”

Kyle chuckled, shoving his hands in his pockets. “Well, I dance, but I’m not a dancer by profession.”

“You made quite an impression on Becky this morning.”

“Oh, yeah?” He chuckled. “See what being light on your feet can do for a guy?”

“I wish my boyfriend could dance. Do you give lessons?”

“I live in Orlando. Might be a bit of a trek for one of us.”

“Oh, no. I live in Winter Park. I’m just here as a favor to Dr. West. Do you give lessons?”

“I hadn’t thought about it.”

“Maybe you should. Emily said you taught her to dance and it would be so much fun if Matt could take me dancing. He’d rather watch sports.” She wrinkled her nose.

“I’ll think about it.”

“Thanks!” She kissed his cheek. “Here’s my number. Call when you get home and let me know.” She handed him a piece of paper with her number and the caption ‘dance lessons for two’. “So you know I’m not just hitting on you.” She blushed.

“I’ll let you know, but don’t get your hopes up.”

Back at the cabin, he poured himself a JD and Coke, sipping it while he waited. True to his word, Dr. West called a few minutes later.

“It’s set. The priest was incredibly easy to reach. He’ll see you tomorrow afternoon at 2:00. One of our reps will be waiting for you to take you there.”

“That’s about the time the sightseeing tour leaves, isn’t it?”

“Yes, but I don’t see how you can manage both.”

“No, the point is I don’t want Emily to think I’m sneaking around behind her back. I’ll get off the ship with everyone else. My family will understand, at least I hope they will.”

“Take them with you. The rep can give you a private tour when you’re done. And having your family with you will give credence to your request.”

“Thank you, Dr. West.”

“Mr. Scott, I want Emily well as much as you do. If this helps her….”

“Yeah.” Kyle’s eyes suddenly filled with tears. He wanted to get off the phone before he started bawling like a baby. “Did you talk to Carmelita?”

“My next call. Goodnight, Mr. Scott.”

“Call me Kyle.”

“And I am Thad.”

They hung up. Kyle had the momentary qualm wondering if he was doing the right thing. Closing his eyes, Emily’s pain ravaged face floated past and he knew he had to do whatever it took to bring back the flush of health he saw in her picture.

Carmelita tapped on the suite door before opening it a crack.

“You decent?”

“As much as I ever get. I’m dressed.”

She poked her head around the door. “I’m going out for a bit. With Thaddeus.”

“Go have fun, Lita.”

“Shall I leave the suite door open so you’ll hear Mindy?”

“Yes. Let Cindy know you’re leaving.”

“She’s asleep already.”

“No she’s not, she’s faking. Probably reading some torrid romance novel with a flashlight.”

“I’ll tell her or leave her a note. I’m not sure when I’ll be back.”

“Enjoy yourself. How often do you get to have drinks with a handsome doctor? Have fun, but make good choices.”

© Dellani Oakes

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Interview with Valerie Campbell, hero of “Valerie’s Vow” by Ashley M. Carmichael

Who are you?

My name is Valerie Hope Campbell. I am a high school English teacher and part time Sunday School teacher at my church where I also serve on the Education committee.

Are you the hero of your own story?

I never considered myself a hero of anything. I was forced to become the protagonist when I lost my best friend, Beth. However, Beth Sizemore will always be the hero of my story. If it wasn’t for her I wouldn’t have made the vow, and there wouldn’t be a story at all. I never would have met Cooper, that’s for sure. I probably wouldn’t have met up with Evan again, and if I had, I certainly wouldn’t have had the guts to pursue anything.

What is your problem in the story?

I guess the real question here is what isn’t a problem in my story? Somehow I had to figure out how to keep my vow while maintaining my sanity, and my job. And yet, with the luck I have, problem after problem after problem…And without Beth, I just don’t know what to do. Fortunately, there is Cooper. And Evan. And Dakota. But I guess all that is a problem in itself. So really, I guess the problem is: What do I want to live for and how do I live for it?

Do you have a goal?

I have a lot of goals and dreams. I want to travel and see the world. I did a little of this when I was younger, but not as much as I want. I want to see China, India, Japan, Australia, Egypt, and—the Holy land. Sometimes I wonder about God and His role in our lives and I wonder if seeing the world would help solidify and answer these constant questions that plague me.

What are you afraid of?

I am afraid of failure. Of being alone. Of everything falling apart. My world shattered when I lost Beth, and I didn’t know if I could ever rebuild it. These fears are intensified some days. Other days the lesson. It’s a constant roller coaster of emotion.

Do you have any hobbies?

I’ve been restoring old furniture lately and that has been eye opening, and fun. It is a new skill I never thought I’d acquire, but has been very enlightening.

What is your favorite scent? Why?

My favorite scent is honeysuckle. It reminds me of home.

What is your favorite color? Why?

My favorite color is blue. It is calming and nurturing, it envelops you.

What is your favorite food? Why?

I love spaghetti—well anything Italian. Spaghetti is easy to make and is filling. And, well, brings back some pretty great memories!

What is your favorite music? Why?

I love a good salsa mix. It has a great mix, and now that I kind of know how to dance to it. Well, kind of I guess is a bit generous. Hopefully, he and I will have a chance to do a little more dancing in the future, but that’s a bit more than I want to divulge in a simple question like this.

Name five items in your purse, briefcase, or pockets.

A movie stub from The American Sniper, a lip gloss “blushing bride”, a few loose Euros, Pacific Cool Breeze hand sanitizer, and Stress-fix body lotion

What are the last three books you read?

The Professor and the Madman, The Atonement Child, and No Longer a Slumdog,

If you were stranded on a desert island, who would you rather be stranded with, a man or a woman?

A man. Many women tend to be catty and competitive with each other. Men will help take care of you…usually. Plus, well, now there’s only one person I want to be stranded with and if you’ve read my story, you certainly know who and why!

Where can we learn more about Valerie’s Vow?

From Second Wind Publishing: http://www.secondwindpublishing.com/#!product/prd15/2506087281/valerie’s-vow and Amazon

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Interview with Ashley M. Carmichael, Author of “Valerie’s Vow”

91B1ylE3rmL._SL1500_What is your book about?

My debut novel is Valerie’s Vow. It is a story of loss, love, and loyalty but more than anything it is a story of friendship. Though it’s been six months since she has lost her best friend to cancer, Valerie spends the majority of the novel dealing with her emotions over this traumatic loss. She meets and reacquaints herself with men from her past and present as a way to figure out where her future lies. As a romance writer, I enjoy having my main character find love, but as an inspirational writer the lessons that she learns, particularly about life, love and friendship are what I truly value.

What inspired you to write this particular story?

In November of 2013 a dear friend of mine passed away. She had spent several years battling a very aggressive form of breast cancer. She was in inspiration to everyone who knew her as a teacher, mentor, and most importantly as a friend. While Sarah and I are not as close as the characters in the book, she was still the inspiration for the story and I did my best to honor her legacy while writing.

How much of yourself is hidden in the characters in the book?

There is a lot of me in this book, but don’t be mistaken—I am not Valerie. I did use some of my experiences to help me write (like how I met my best friend, the fact that I’m a teacher, some of my Sunday School Lessons and students). What is entertaining is talking to the people who know me after having read the book. One of the girls in my Sunday School class read the book and came to me and said, “Can I guess who is who?” referring to the kids in the class vs. our class. We laughed, because while the kids were not one and the same, she was pretty spot on with her guesses about who I’d based who on. So the next question she, and everyone asks, is who are the guys?

Like almost all characters, they are based on men who either have been in my life or are in my life in some capacity or another, but to what extent and who they are…well, I think that’s better left a mystery.

Who is your most unusual/most likeable character?

I love Cooper, and as far as I can tell, most people who read the book love him too. He’s a likeable character because of all that he does for Valerie, but also because he’s somewhat mysterious. And who doesn’t like that?

Is there a message in your writing you want readers to grasp?

The message can be summed up in a quote from the novel: “Go, do, see. Don’t spend your life in the shadows of someone else, the past or even the future. Just go live. But make sure you do it for God, because in the end He’s the only one worth living for. You are beautiful, you are special, and your life is worth living.”

What has changed for you personally since you wrote your first book?

Since I first wrote this book I have joined Winston Salem Writers, attended many writing programs and classes, joined a critique group and even joined a group via meetup.com to focus on The Artist’s Way. By increasing my networking, I have become a better writer and overall a better person. I love this new community I have become a part of and, to be frank, it has made me more confident as a writer.

What’s your writing schedule like? Do you strive for a certain amount of words each day?

When I’m in my writing peaks I strive to write about 2000 words per day. To keep myself motivated, I will often keep a spreadsheet to track the number of words I am writing. However, I came to realize that writing was only a part of the ultimate process and it wasn’t and shouldn’t be my sole focus. I also needed to turn some of my energy into editing. I now strive for at least 250 words minimum per day and a least a little time editing or re-writing as well. I try to do some writing in the morning, as this is when I am at my peak intellectually. As a morning person I know this is crucial to my success. Working full time as a teacher, this is not always possible, so as long as I continue to make sure I do some writing every day I feel as though I am on track.

What are you working on right now?

I am currently editing 3 novels. They are written, beginning to end, but need a lot of cosmetic work. Hopefully they will be ready for publication in the next few months. I’m also in the process of finishing a YA book, I’m not sure it’s my genre, but it’s been an interesting adventure writing and I look forward to discussing it as a part of the critique process. I’m also starting the research process for a historical based on the set of letters my grandmother gave me. They are from my great-grandmother’s ex-fiancé. There’s definitely a story in there and I look forward to this adventure too.

How many stories do you currently have swirling around in your head?

I have characters who are constantly talking to me and swirling around in my head. Sometimes I dream them. Right now, I think I could count about 7 stories, each with individual characters. At times, I seem like I’m being anti-social…but really I’m creating new societies. I’m glad I have such supportive friends and family, otherwise they may have had me committed a long time ago.

What writer influenced you the most?

I would have to say the C.S. Lewis is one of the most influential writers. I got lost in a wardrobe when I was a kid and I’m never really sure I ever came out. I could probably quote him all day long, but when I’m writing I think about one in particular: “Once you were a child. Once you knew what inquiry was for. There was a time when you asked questions because you wanted answers and were glad when you had found them. Become that child again; even now.” Because that is what writing is to me—returning to my inner child who is searching for answers in a story that I can both connect to and relive over and over and that is what makes me glad.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned about writing?

Power through to the end. Writing to the end of a story is always the hardest, but once you’ve come to the end, it’s like you can suddenly breathe. It’s a kind of validation. I’d spent the greatest part of my writing life prior to this novel writing, editing and rewriting the first few chapters so I could never get past or even to the climax sometimes. It wasn’t that I didn’t know what I wanted to write, it was just that I couldn’t get past the unperfected parts to get to the end. Once I stopped trying to perfect it along the way and just powered through to the end it was as if I’d opened a floodgate and suddenly I was able to move forward with more direction and focus than ever before.

If you could have lunch with one person, real or fictitious, who would it be?

I’d want to have lunch with Jo March. She is a brilliant, strong writer (yes, I know she’s fictitious, but she’s based on Louisa May Alcott, so maybe that’s who I really want to have lunch with) who faced derision and rejection and not only overcame it but rose above and conquered those who told her she couldn’t succeed. She turned down a life of comfort (Laurie) for adventure, or at least for a life that would teach her more. And then she opened a non-traditional school for boys and she mothered and taught them about life, love and living. She would be an amazing person to know.

Where can we learn more about Valerie’s Vow?

From Second Wind Publishing: http://www.secondwindpublishing.com/#!product/prd15/2506087281/valerie’s-vow and Amazon

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Without All the Love by Ginger King

My series The Lost and Found while not necessarily romance in genre, does contain some romance because the stories are all about loving in difficult situations.  Loving parents, running from a love we know is good for us.  Loving our friends who know us just about as well as we know ourselves.  Each book has a set of circumstances in the plot that are dramatic and thrilling (hopefully) on their own without romance or love.  So I ask myself why do even the best thrillers have some aspect of love and or romance? Is is because it is present even if what is experienced is the exact opposite of love?

Sometimes it is in the form of deep respect, an appreciation for an elder or mentor as in Jeffery Deaver’s The Bone Collector between Lincoln and Amelia.  Perhaps it is friendship and the lifelong bond it sometimes creates such as in the film The Sandlot as shown in the ending scene between Benny and Smalls.  Also there is familial love.  The kind that creates a good kind of crazy that only exists in the family dynamic.  Then there is heart wrenching family love found in books like Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper.  So very many stories would be less without all the love.  Even the Love Story is about so much more than the romantic love between Ollie and Jenny but in that story their love is the reason for nearly everything that happens apart from the fatherly love of Phil.  In other books, the love is a result, a complication, a game changer to the plot.  Sometimes it is a large part, and sometimes small, but it is there none the less.

In the first book of the Lost and Found series, Diamond Road the action and plot move along because of what happens to one of the main characters.  Her set of circumstances are neither romantic or driven by romance.  They are driven by her need to survive, to come out of those circumstances whole and happy.  In the second novel of the series (coming later this year) Hope in Carolina there is way more romance than in any of the other books.  It’s strategic.  These new main characters needed to have a bond that they are not willing to lose despite the odds stacked against them.  As their story completes itself in the third book of the series the plot is predominantly a drama and criminal thriller with lots of action inside and outside of a hospital and a courtroom.  But what gravity would all of that have on these two characters without all the love?

If you stop and ask yourself these same questions about your own life, you realize that if we write about humans, the kind we know, the kind we are then you must admit that every story is a love story to some degree.  Here is a short excerpt from Hope in Carolina that is romantic in nature.  It’s about how some of the details of the world around us slip away when we are in the embrace of that certain person who holds our heart in such a way as to make us believe we are one with them.

Hope asked, “I mean have you ever kissed someone and you can’t even remember what you did with your hands? I never knew what my hands were doing, where they were.  All I know was how he made me feel.  One hundred percent his, and I was so totally in the moment with his lips on mine or his teeth gently nibbling at my neck or jawline.  For the brief seconds we weren’t’ joined we were nose to nose with a slight giggle coming from one or the other of us like we knew something, held some prizze no one else could ever possibly understand.  I still don’t recall where my hands were most of the time.  It was like they melted away and his lips were all I knew.”

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