Not long ago, I used this image to explain what all is going on in my life and career this year. Now I’m using it as a sticky-page image to let everyone know I won’t be blogging for a while. But be patient. I’ll be back!
Did you miss me last week? Seems I no sooner announced that I’m going to keep up with this blog that I turned around and missed three entire posts–a week’s worth. There is reason for that: overload.
Let’s skip all the overwhelming news and the internal battle I’m fighting to keep myself on even keel. Let’s skip the discussion about the Covid virus and the frustration of having to walk all the way back to the car because I forgot my face shield–or even the fact that I have to wear a shield instead of a mask (a story for another time). Let’s jump straight in to the two main reasons I can’t seem to keep my feet under me: my mom, and my inability to say no. This time at least, these are two separate issues.
Starting with the second first, my ongoing struggle with my inability to say no–a.k.a “What was I thinking?!”
It’s the beginning of the year, right? So at the beginning of the year, I have lots of reports coming in from the organization I volunteer for, American Christian Fiction Writers. I’m the Zone Coordinator, a position I enjoy most of the time, and a lot of things come my way before being presented to the national board of directors or filed away for future use. Year-end financial reports. New officers lists. New membership rosters. New members list. Purged members lists. For every email I answer and complete, five more are awaiting me. Whenever I clear the inbox one morning, it’s doubly stacked the next.
So why would I say yes to editing not one but two manuscripts during this time? I must be insane. In my defense, I accepted the manuscript from a new-to-me author presented by a managing editor I trust before I realized I’d be getting the manuscript of one of my favorite authors from another managing editor I trust. I couldn’t possibly turn down the second, so I have no other alternative but to do both. Also, in my defense, these are paying jobs while the ACFW position is voluntary. But on the flipside, and giving myself a good butt-kicking, having these jobs means I don’t have time to write. Not and still be a good wife/daughter/gramma. Somethin’s gotta give, and for now, it’s my writing, which includes blog posts. Sigh.
Lest you think I’m complaining, I’m not. Not really. I love being busy. This is more explaining than complaining. Explaining where I was last week while you, my readers, were expecting a blog post full of wit and wisdom from one of your favorite redheads.
And I’m still not complaining when I introduce the second reason I’ve been a bit overwhelmed: it appears Mom’s cancer is back. And I’m not complaining at all about taking care of her.
Four months ago, we got the wonderful news that the radiation worked on the troublesome spot everyone was worried about. The other spots hadn’t changed in almost a year, so the doctor seemed to doubt they were actually cancer. Not long after that, Mom had a miraculous healing from shortness of breath and her inability to walk from the bedroom to the den without huffing and puffing like she’d just finished a 10K run.
Then, two months ago–two months from the time she got her wonderful news–we got the report that her lungs are riddled with “nodules.” The doctor said he hesitated to call it cancer, but he couldn’t imagine what else it would be. Since he was the radiation oncologist, he had to recommend her to a medical oncologist to take over her treatment. The nodules are too many and too spread out in her lungs for concentrated beams of radiation. The treatment would damage her lungs far worse.
So, we returned to the doctor who treated Mom decades before. This is her third kind of cancer, and we’re not sure yet whether it really is lung cancer. According to the medical oncologist, this could be lung cancer or it could be that the breast cancer she had back in the early 2000s has returned or even the kidney cancer that showed up closer to 2010. Before, because of the location of the cancer in her lung, the doctors couldn’t do a biopsy of the mass that was ultimately obliterated with radiation because Mom–with her severe degenerative arthritis–couldn’t hold the required position long enough. So we had no clue at that time what kind of cancer she had.
But before Mom can undergo a biopsy this time, the doc wanted her to have a PET scan and a CT scan of her brain to see if the cancer has spread beyond the lungs. Considering it took only two months to go from “all clear” to “uh-oh,” anything’s possible. She had the scans last Friday. We find out the results sometime this week. If the cancer has spread, the method of treatment is basically to keep her comfortable. If it hasn’t, then she’ll have the biopsy and we can find out what method of treatment would be effective then. With one of the cancer types, the new immunotherapy might be effective. One of the other types can be treated with a pill. But the last type can be treated only with chemo, and she’s not capable of going through that–bringing us back to keeping her comfortable as she prepares to go home.
Mom amazes me. She seems to stay upbeat. She’s still interested in life and all the goings-on. She manages to get up every day, fix her own meals (although she’s limited to microwaving frozen dinners or leftovers from what I cook for her), dress herself, and despite limited mobility, just do for herself in general (sometimes with the help of an aid). She has adjusted to all her ailments and insists that as long as she is able, even to the extent she’s limited to now, she intends to continue doing for herself. What an amazing example she is.
But you can see why this blog has dropped considerably on my list of must-dos. The idea of keeping up with it–the New Year’s resolution of keeping up with it–is just as insane as any other resolution I come up with, but this one didn’t last as long. Second week of January, and I already failed.
I didn’t get anywhere near my reading goal last year, despite including audio books in hopes of doing just that. Who knew living close to family could be so demanding? Well, okay, everyone knew but me, but there ya go. It’s demanding–and fun and rewarding and outright wonderful. But it wreaks havoc on my time.
However, I did read some goodies. I read a variety of books last year, but my favorites all land in the categories of Contemporary Romance, Young Adult, and Devotion-Inspirational.
Of the five devo/inspy books I read, I have three favorites and can’t choose a winner from among them. They were all wonderful for different reasons.
Jesus in Meby Anne Graham Lotz challenged me. Dared me to allow God to examine me closer and to heal what He finds. And, through her example, I learned how to let the Lord guide me through my Bible study. I’ve been rewarded with deeper, more satisfying studies ever since.
Keep a Quiet Heart was my first experience with Elizabeth Elliot, but it won’t be my last. Her no-nonsense approach to Christian living is edifying and comforting. Why do bad things happen to good people? Because this isn’t heaven. Don’t know what to do next? Do what is in front of you. Not getting your way? Give in to Him and do it His way. He’s God. You’re not–a comforting thought in itself.
This one took me totally by surprise. I wasn’t familiar with Lori Stanley Roeleveld, but I’ve met Jim Rubart and Jerry Jenkins and trust their recommendations, soRunning from a Crazy Man climbed high on my TBR list in a hurry. Especially since the subtitle is “and other adventures traveling with Jesus.” Oh. My. Goodness! I laughed. I cried. I had epiphanies and head-smack moments. I was convicted and shamed and edified and pat on the back–all from a book with chapter titles of “Waiting for the Holy Abracadabra,” “Mom, Why are My Knees Foaming?” “My Precious! Why All of You Annoy Me!” and, one of my personal favorites, “Elephant Repellant.” (Seriously–just read the TOC to be convinced you need to read this one!)
My favorite young adult novel was both tons of fun and deeply impactful. Fifteen-year-old established actor, Jeralyn Rose, tries to keep her faith while working on set and on location. She battles all the typical teenage challenges and then some–and all in the public eye of teen magazines. But teen drama plus fame don’t equal anywhere near what her friend and new actor Mickey Keele faces. Only when he’s working is he safe from the dangers found in his own home. Pure Hollywood. An excellent read by Lesley Ann McDaniel.
My absolute favorite romance of the year was Practically Married,the debut novel written by Karin Beery–an exceptional freelance editor and no stranger to the publishing world. She wrote a refreshingly new plot and kept it twisting the entire time. Boy meets Girl–and tells her that her fiance, whom she’d never met in person, was killed. Fiance, through letters interpreted as his legal intent for the disbursement of his property, left his family home and farm to the woman he never told anyone else about, including his cousin and best friend–the “Boy” meeting the “Girl” who thinks she’s coming to town for her wedding. Twisty, I tell ya! Twisty! This one is juicy fun!
We finally made it: 2020 is now in the past. Of course, changing the calendar page didn’t make all the problems of 2020 go away, but who knows? 2021 might eventually be the reprieve we’ve been waiting for. The year things start going our way. The glorious time when the “new normal” can go back to the plain old normal, and we can see smiles and offer hugs again. That is my biggest hope and dream for 2021–to be able to see friends’ unmasked faces and offer more than a fist-bump.
My other hopes are more mundane.
First is the simple hope of actually keeping up with this blog. Don’t know whether you noticed, but I haven’t been all that great about keeping a regular schedule. 2019 brought cancer and heart problems to my family and 2020 had us moving from one town to another during a pandemic, so I admit to being a bit distracted. Not to mention the fact that WordPress changed its format, which is infuriating. I’m used to the old way. I knew every keystroke, every command, and typing a post was as natural as breathing. Now, I have to think about what I’m doing and figure out how to do it. This is not intuitive. Yes, they have a tutorial–aren’t we all proud of them for that?–but when all I want to do is to get my post written and scheduled so I can move on to the next thing on my ever-growing list of vital to-dos, I don’t want to waste time going through a tutorial so I can figure out how to do something I once could do without the slightest bit of effort.
You notice I have an image on this post, right? It took me all of 10 minutes to figure out how to upload it, edit it, resize it, center it, and check it to see if it’s okay. I assume it is. And it really was amazingly easy once I figured it out, but ten minutes is too long to waste on working out something that I could do without thinking using the old format.
My next hopes are all business related. As an editor, I’m in good shape. I’m booked well into the spring. Marketing bit the dust in 2020–at least all my in-person events and sales. I would love to get back on my circuit and shake hands with my fans again, but if not that, I’d at least like to do better in cyberspace this year than last. As a writer, the best I can manage is keeping my fingers crossed that I’ll have time or at least be able to make time to write. My last publication was Loving a Harvey Girl, a novella in the 2019 collection The Cowboys. The last thing I wrote, Upstaged by Love, was a novella for a collection that didn’t pan out. So my hope for my writing career in 2021 is to turn that novella into a novel and then into a series.
Will any of these daydreams come true? I don’t know. I never know, actually. Neither do the rest of us, I suppose. But this year is different. This year, we’re revisiting 2019. Mom’s cancer, once thought gone for good, has apparently come back. MSB’s heart is still offering sensations that are odd enough and worrisome enough that he has to get it checked again. Sometimes his pulse hovers around 40, and he gets weak and dizzy. So with him and Mom and my own curiosities–a whole other story, believe me–I have no clue what’s going to happen as far as business goes. I might be spending another year visiting doctors and putting out fires.
This blog may again become another hodge-podge of writing, reading, and personal posts. But since I started it, back when it was 777 Peppermint Place instead of Linda W. Yezak, it has defied classification. It is what it is. I just hope I don’t neglect it as badly as I did last year.
So there ya go. Here’s a clink of the coffee mug to the first Monday of 2021. May this New Year’s infant grow into a happy, healthy adult that isn’t quite so stingy with its joy as 2020 was.
For the Love of Joy by Janet W. Ferguson — When she’s suddenly injured with not a soul to help her or her son, Joy is forced to rely on the man who has the most reasons to hate her. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)
An Unlikely Proposal by Toni Shiloh — For these two best friends, marriage could be their greatest test yet. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])
All Through the Night by Tara Johnson — When Joshua and Cadence unearth the workings of a secret society so vile, the course of their lives, and the war, could be altered forever. If they fight an enemy they cannot see, will the One who sees all show them the way in the darkest night? (Historical Romance from Tyndale House)
Books Afloat by Delores Topliff — Blaming herself for her childhood role in the Oklahoma farm truck accident that cost her grandfather’s life, Anne Mettles is determined to make her life count. Will she go it alone? Or will she team with the unlikely but (mostly) lovable characters? One is a saboteur, one an unlikely hero, and one, she discovers, is the man of her dreams. (Historical from Mantle Rock Publishing)
Night Bird Calling by Cathy Gohlke — With war brewing for the nation and for her newfound community, Lilliana must overcome a hard truth voiced by her young friend Celia: Wishing comes easy. Change don’t. (Historical from Tyndale House)
One for the Road by Mary Ellis — Staying at an estranged relative’s B&B, Jill’s plan to uncover what makes the state’s bourbon tours so popular goes awry when she discovers a body at one of the distilleries and quickly becomes a suspect in a brutal murder. Can she navigate high-stakes bourbon rivalries, centuries-old family feuds and ill-fated romance to catch a killer? (Cozy Mystery from Severn House)
Texas Witness Threat by Cate Nolan — What do you do when you know you witnessed a crime and no one believes you, but the killers are still coming for you? (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])
Every Good Plan by Urcelia Teixeira — Good fortune was always his best friend. Until it became his enemy! Adam Cross is back in another gripping Christian Suspense that will have you strapped to your favorite reading chair until you turn the very last page! (Thriller/Suspense, Independently published)
Heart of the Crown by Hannah Currie — The last place Lady Wenderley Davis ever expected to find herself after swearing off princes forever was living in a palace with two of them. Even if it is only temporary. And she did agree to it. Kind of. Against her better judgement. (Young Adult from WhiteFire Publishing)
Plus check out these recent additions to Fiction Finder published within the past month:
Penelope Pumpernickel: Precocious Problem-Solver by MaryAnn Diorio – In this first of the delightful Penelope Pumpernickel Series of chapters books for six-to-ten-year-old children, Penelope Pympernickel learns that no matter how big a problem you face, there is always a way to solve it with God’s help. (Children’s)
The Inn at Cranberry Cove by June Foster – Can two people allow the majestic northwest and fragrant coastal air heal their wounded hearts? Will they discover the secret of The Inn at Cranberry Cove? (Contemporary Romance)
The Rancher’s Family Secret by Myra Johnson – Despite their family feud, Spencer Navarro is determined to help his neighbor, Lindsey McClement, when she comes home to save her family ranch. And Lindsey returns the favor by allowing him to house his foster rescue horses in her empty barn stalls. But when the generations-long strife threatens their forbidden friendship, Spencer must choose between a new love and his family. (Contemporary Romance)
William’s Cry, An Enid Gilchrist Mystery by Sylvia Anne Nash – When genealogist Enid Gilchrist is asked to unravel the family mystery surrounding a seventy-year-old baby blanket, she is intrigued. She expects the project to be a short one that will in no wise interfere with her long-awaited marriage to Chief of Police Patrick Mulhaney. When her short project unravels more threads than expected, both project and wedding plans run amuck as someone makes every effort to stop her investigation. (Cozy Mystery)
A Holiday Heart by Denise Weimer – When Ashlyn arrives at White Falls Lodge armed with cosmetic bags and designer shoes, little is she prepared to be stranded by a snow storm, irritated by the handsome resort owner who seems determined to peel away her facade, and redirected by a God Ashlyn wants to forget, through Mamie Lou’s real gift … the secret story of her grandmother’s past. (Contemporary Romance)
A Prayer Quilt Christmas by Nancy J. Farrier — Meg’s ex-husband took her boys away for the holidays, and she’s lost her heart to celebrate, but Wade is determined to make this Christmas special for her. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)
His Holiday Prayer by Tina Radcliffe — After receiving an unexpected job offer in Texas, widower Tucker Rainbolt decides he and his twins need a fresh start. But moving on means leaving his best friend, Jena Harper, and their vet clinic behind. For the first time, Tucker sees Jena as more than a buddy. What if leaving isn’t the answer? Maybe what he’s been missing has been right beside him the whole time… (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])
Christmas on Ocracoke by Christina Sinisi — Reeling from the upheaval of a failed marriage, Annie Hanahan is desperate for a new start—and when she inherits a cottage on Ocracoke Island, she may finally get it. Without a second thought, she packs up and leaves everything behind: her first name, her job, and her ex-husband. But when she arrives in the Outer Banks, she finds the island—and her promised refuge—ravaged by Hurricane Dorian. As a contractor who has given so much of his time to helping Ocracoke recover, it surprises no one when Trey Kingsley offers to help the beautiful newcomer, but something is holding her back. Life keeps throwing them together, though, or perhaps God’s hand is giving them a nudge. Will a little bit of divine intervention be enough for a Merry Christmas on Ocracoke? (Contemporary Romance, Anaiah Press)
A Holiday Heart by Denise Weimer — Atlanta film makeup artist Ashlyn Jennings is willed a mysterious box containing a key from her grandmother’s estate. Mamie Lou, the former Hollywood B-lister who inspired Ashlyn’s path in life, always demonstrated a flair for the dramatic. But did Mamie Lou really expect her to put everything on hold to clean out a mountain cabin no one even knew about? And right at Christmas? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)
Season of Hope by Brenda S. Anderson — Life is good for Ronnie Coborn. She’s newly married to a man who loves her and dotes on her daughter. A man handpicked by Ronnie’s father, a popular pastor at a megachurch who’s been married to her mother for forty years. Yes, life is good. Until a shocking revelation exposes the fact that everything in her idyllic life—her marriage, family, and faith—is based on a lie. (Contemporary, Independently Published)
Hope’s Reward by Carol Ashby — When a gladiator slave becomes a Christian and runs away from his life of killing to join other believers, his rescue of a Roman woman makes him her escort on a dangerous journey that opens unexpected futures for both of them. (Historical from Cerrillo Press)
The Mulberry Leaf Whispers by Linda Thompson — A WWII Japanese naval officer. The teenage daughter of a legendary Christian samurai. Three centuries separate them, but a crucial question binds their destinies together. Which lives have value? (Historical from Mountain Brook Ink)
For the Love of Emma by Starr Ayers — A rose-covered grave, seventy-nine letters, and a scribbled note unearth buried emotions and the timeless beauty of first love. Inspired by actual letters found in her mother’s trunk, Starr pens a poignant love story set in the throes of the Great Depression and portrays a young couple’s quest to keep their love alive, regardless of events that threaten to tear them apart. (Historical Romance from Mountain Brook Ink)
Depending on You by Melissa Jagears — Can the joy and hope of Christmas restore their love before it’s too late? Leah Whitsett’s life was ideal until the disastrous day she nearly died because of her husband’s deceit. When he returns home weeks before Christmas, she knows the best gift she can give him is forgiveness, but how can she relinquish her hard-won independence knowing he plans to turn their family’s life upside down again? Bryant has always known his wife was a gift he’d never deserved, but how can he provide for her in a town that no longer wants anything to do with him? He longs to atone for the misery he’s put his loved ones through, but when he brings a family member home for the holidays, he and Leah may end up even further apart. With emotions high and their marriage at stake, will the season bring the hope they need…or are their rifts too large to mend? (Historical Romance, Independently Published)
Legacy of Love by Linda Shenton Matchett — Escaping Boston to avoid a marriage of convenience aimed at garnering society’s respect for her family name in the shadow of her father’s war profiteering, Meg Underwood settles in Spruce Hill, Oregon. Despite leaving behind the comforts of wealth, she’s happy. Then the handsome Pinkerton agent, Reuben Jessop, arrives with news that she’s inherited her aunt’s significant estate, and she must return home to claim the bequest. Meg refuses to make the trip. Unwilling to fail at his mission, Reuben gives her until Christmas to prove why she should remain in Spruce Hill and give up the opportunity to become a woman of means. When he seems to want more than friendship, she wonders if her new-found wealth is the basis of his attraction. (Historical Romance from Shortwave Press)
Deadly Amish Reunion by Dana R. Lynn — Jennie Beiler’s husband was supposed to be dead, so she’s shocked when he rescues her from an attacker. Although Luke has no memories of his Englisch wife, it’s up to him to protect her from someone who won’t stop until she’s dead. Can the peaceful Amish community he returned to after losing his memory shelter them and their son this Christmas when danger strikes again? (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])
Christmas Protection Detail by Terri Reed — When a call from a friend in trouble leads Nick Delaney and Deputy Kaitlyn Lanz to a car crash that killed a single mother, they become the baby’s protectors. Now figuring out why someone is after the child is the only way to save her. But they must find answers soon…or this baby’s first Christmas might just be Nick’s and Kaitlyn’s last. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])
Dawn of Vengeance by Ronie Kendig — Haunted by a prophecy that promises pain and war, bounty hunter Marco Dusan forges alliances to protect the primitive world against Symmachia’s devastating influence. But one truth becomes painfully clear: the biggest threat to their world may be much, much closer to home. (Speculative Fiction from Kregel Publications)
Plus check out these recent additions to Fiction Finder published within the past month:
Ask Lolita by Roger E. Bruner – Not only does the Town Curmudgeon’s pet hen Lolita learn to use the computer and get her own newspaper column, she helps the lifelong bachelor survive the challenges of old age and find true love in the process. (Contemporary Fantasy)
The Mistletoe Contract by Jennifer Chastain – He needs a wife to inherit the family business, she needs money for her mother’s medical treatment, but is their convenient marriage a blessing or a disaster waiting to happen? (Contemporary Romance)
Giving Grace by Jennifer Pierce – Nothing is more embarrassing than Grace Dixon’s dog peeing on the new mailman. Except maybe when she thinks she’s hit the handsome man with her SUV. When he’s assigned to cover an injured co-worker’s route, Evan McDonald assumes it will be like any other mail route he’s done. But then he meets Grace Dixon, and he’s thrust into total Christmas chaos. (Contemporary Romance)
The Snowbound Bride by Davalynn Spencer – On the run from a heartless uncle, Arabella Taube hides in Nate Horne’s farm wagon just as a harsh winter storm sweeps into Colorado. Despite Ara’s mysterious background, Nate’s mother thinks she is the answer to a prayer and the hope for his future. (Historical Romance)
Whitlow is a master weaver, blending past and present and multi-dimensional relationships into a gripping story. Attorney Parker House (whose name always made me think of dinner rolls) has a grandfather with a questionable gift and a WWII history that affects both of them in modern day, and a position with a law firm that connects him with a skittish young woman and her imperious father. How will the sins of the past affect those in the present? Great question.
Five stars for this one!
And don’t forget–The Cowboys is Free on Kindle this week only!