Ebook Pre-order: It took a miracle or two

Let’s pretend you have a dream you want to accomplish. Now, imagine you are one step from achieving it when something goes wrong and there’s nothing you can do to change the outcome.

Most of us will experience this at least once in our lifetime.

Writing novels requires hard work and determination. Sometimes this isn’t enough. Sometimes an author’s only option is to pray and wait for a miracle. This was the case with my new novel Dress Shop Miracles.

But first, how Dress Shop Miracles came about:

I was going through old college papers when I came across a Christmas story I had written for a creative writing assignment. I sat down to read The Victorian Lady about a widow who owned a dress shop. Prior to reading it, I had been thinking about writing a Christmas story and this one had the potential for a novel.

I began retyping the story, weaving in new ideas and before I knew it, I had a new plot, theme, and characters. Instead of a middle-aged woman, I created a young lady, Molly who is in love with a dream, and her boyfriend Ted, a former city guy turned small-town farmer. 

I had a great deal of hope for Molly and Ted’s story, and for readers. I planned to release the novel in 2021 for the holidays. Then the unexpected happened. I kept getting knocked down with various ailments. My dream, like my character’s, came to a halt more times than I care to count.

It wasn’t until mid-July of this year that I turned the manuscript over to my editor. Several weeks had passed when I learned she was dealing with a family emergency. I had to find a new editor.

Often, reserving a date with an editor is three months out! I had three weeks to meet my deadline!

Was my Christmas story going to be delayed for another year? I felt all the emotions Molly and Ted experienced in unfortunate hardships.

Disappointment

Doubt

Fear

Friends reached out to me with suggested editors. I researched possibilities and made inquiries. The only thing left to do was pray and wait for a miracle. It came! I hired an editor who was willing to squeeze my manuscript into her busy schedule. I had to hustle but instead of another year’s delay, I had a suitable, extended deadline.

Then I needed more miracles!

There was a 10-day delay in receiving the proofed copy, and two days before announcing the preorder I kept getting an error message with my software program. Again, prayer was my only resource. Faith in this project—small as it was at this point—was all I had to hang on to.

My dream like my characters’ hopes came to a halt more than once. Maybe I should take extra thought to the next book’s plot. I’ve certainly grasped that “To every thing there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1 (KJV)

Will Molly and Ted learn this as well?

How about you? Have you experienced a period of waiting for a dream to bloom? If so, please share in the comments so we can encourage one another.

You can pre-order Dress Shop Miracles on Amazon at a substantial discount for a very short time. So get it now for yourself and others.

To read more blog posts about Dress Shop Miracles subscribe to my blog. You can also follow me on Facebook and Instagram.

Top image: Arek Socha, Pixabay 

The Promise

In December 2021, I wrote a short story called The Promise. Last month, I submitted it to the CCU | online Colorado Christian University Short Story Contest Challenge.

And guess what?

I won!

The prizes included a critique of the submitted work and autographed books by 21-time New York Times Bestselling Author Jerry B. Jenkins, a CCU water bottle, journal, tote bag, and a heavyweight sweatshirt blanket!

Besides these wonderful prizes, I had a delightful experience with CCU staff member, Tera Jewell, Digital Marketing Specialist, College of Adult and Graduate Studies.

Tera was so gracious through the pre-launch process and asked if I wanted my original or critiqued story published on CCU’s blog; if I wanted any additional changes made to the critiques, was the image to accompany my story okay; if I wouldn’t mind a slight publication delay because of website updates? Wow, I was blown away. Writers usually don’t have a say once a story is accepted for publication.

If Tera is an example of CCU’s service priorities, and I was applying for college, this would be my college choice.

In case you’re wondering if I had any additional changes to Jerry’s critiques, the answer is who would change critiques by a bestselling author of over 200 books in multiple genres, some adapted into a movie?!

BOOKISH FUN and GIVEAWAYS

I’ll be at this fun event both days at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. If you miss my time slots, don’t worry, just type my name in the group’s search bar for my posts. Winners will be announced on Monday.

Please Note: This is a private group, so hop on over NOW, ask to join, and then answer a couple of simple questions. I think you’ll like it so much you’ll want to stay long after the party. It’s a fun group. Can’t wait to see you!

The Promise

By Dianne Marie Andre

There once was a bookstore owner whose wife decked his shop identically every Christmas. She placed three pole lanterns just inside the door, and everyone who entered paused to gaze at their extraordinary glow.

Regular customers understood the meaning of the lanterns, but tourists often merely said, “How charming,” or “How quaint.”

The wooden floor creaked, and books towered so high one needed a ladder to read the spines. Sporadic book spires served as end-cap displays. No one dared remove a single volume for fear the rest would tumble like blocks in a game of Jenga.

One day, something drew a young couple to the three lanterns. The man took the woman’s hand and said, “What is it about these lights that make me feel hopeful when I’ve lost all hope?”

“I don’t know,” replied the woman, “but somehow they seem special.”

The bookstore owner introduced himself. “Those represent the gifts of joy and hope. Why have you lost all hope?”

Sadness crossed their faces. “Our baby girl was stillborn,” the woman whispered.

“I’m very sorry. The tallest of the lanterns represent the daughter my wife and I lost in a car accident fifty years ago, just before Christmas. We, too, felt there was no hope, but we trusted Jesus to somehow comfort us. That Christmas, my wife erected the tallest one to honor our precious child, and we began celebrating her life with the hope that we’d be with her again someday.

“Two years later, my wife gave birth to twins. Jesus had doubled our joy! That year, we decided to honor Him for the two little miracles entrusted to us. Each Christmas since, we have displayed all three lanterns.”

“Is your wife here?” the woman asked. “We’d love to meet her.”

“I’m afraid she passed last year. But before she died she told me the tallest lantern belonged to someone special and that when the time came, I would know who to give it to. I promised I would fulfill her wish. I want you to have it as a reminder of the true Light of joy and hope in your lives.”

“Oh, no, we couldn’t possibly take your lantern,” the man said.

“But you’re the first to understand its purpose. Please help me keep my promise to my wife.”

The following Christmas, the couple returned to the bookstore, the woman carrying a beautiful baby adorned in pink.

The bookstore owner’s face lit up. “Welcome back! And who do we have here?”

“This is Kindle Hope. We wanted you to meet her.”

The man’s eyes widened. “What a fitting name for such a radiant face! My wife and I thought we were the only parents who ever named a daughter Kindle, and we never met another child with that name. How did you know?”

Note: Dianne Marie Andre was inspired to write this fictional story after taking the photo of the three lanterns at a local bookstore.

Greet Hope

I haven’t seen the sun for days, until this morning when I woke to hope, a bright glow in the sky.

Sometimes we’re too busy tending other thoughts to see it,

to see hope.

Other times we have to wait for a sign to greet it,

to greet hope.

The first message of Christmas was spoken by an angel,

“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” Luke 2:10 (KJV)

Fear blocks our view. Darkness takes over and we can’t see the messages,

the signs of hope.

But the Son is there, He’s always there, with you.

When fear is lifted—when we focus on Him—the fog clears, and hope is greeted.

How have you greeted HOPE lately? Or did HOPE greet you?

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8 Strategies for Holiday Self-Care

As I stood at the kitchen island tying my apron strings, I caught a glimpse of my husband walking into the great room. There was sadness in his eyes that first holiday after his mother had passed away. That was years ago, but I still remember the visibility of his silent struggle.

It’s no secret that bereavement increases during the holidays. For many, grief and COVID-19 restrictions signify celebrations without loved ones.

So, how do we create a joyous holiday without extended family or those we’ve lost?

Self-care is the best gift we can give to ourselves and our loved ones. It’s a gift that will move us forward to a happy future.

Enter a journey of self-care by reflecting on past holidays and note what gave you joy, made you laugh, or feel contented. Then plan ways to recreate those activities (and perhaps a new one) that will inspire a day worth celebrating.

If you are single:

  1. LOVE yourself with all the things you adore. Pets, cozy blankets, DVDs, music, books, snacks, etc. Make this a day to pamper you.
  2. Forget tradition. Cook what you want without domineering suggestions from others. Or order a holiday dinner from your local deli.
  3. REACH OUT to loved ones with a holiday cheer via phone or Zoom. Plan to end conversations with humor. It will leave you and them uplifted instead of sad and lonely.
  4. Studies show breathing fresh air can improve one’s mood. So, spend some time in a park, on a bike trail or walking path.

If you and your immediate family can’t gather with extended family members:

  1. Give yourself and your family GRACE. Grace to be less rushed, less perfect, less insistent to follow traditions.
  2. Decorate as usual (use the china and candles) or not. Maybe the family would enjoy a dinner party on cozy floor cushions.
  3. EMBRACE unhappy emotions, but don’t stay there longer than it takes to recite a poem, song, or Bible verse.
  4. Gather around the phone or monitor to speak with extended family. For a joyful virtual reunion, keep it light and uplifting.

That first holiday after my mother-in-law had passed away, it was just the two of us. My husband joined me with the meal preparations. Food sampling and laughter filled the kitchen. When everything was ready, we sat at the dining room table with flickering candlelight. A little self-care and comfort food served on china from my mother-in-law lightened his heart and brought joy to the holiday.

Looking through the Lens with God.

Outdoor photography prompts me to notice—truly notice—something other than me. When I look through my camera’s LCD monitor to make an ordinary scene or object picturesque, the moment feels magical.

I often dream of traveling the world with my camera; capturing the uniqueness of God’s character through nature.

Mountains and deep waters display His power and strength.

Fragile snowflakes reveal His mystery and grace.

Fragrant flowers divulge His love for calm and peace.

Nature’s colors, shapes, and sizes express His boundless heart for variety…

…a heart for all things to live in harmony.

But I have learned we don’t have to travel the world or even parts of it to capture God in nature. We see His character, draw near, listen, and learn from Him in our own backyard.

Most of the pictures that I make are taken on or near my rural property. Mornings are a good time to photograph outdoors. The air is crisp. The vegetation is perky, and the light is just right. Somehow, these natural elements open our soul and mind to the positive tempos in our life.

So, I head out the kitchen door loaded down with props. My camera hangs from its strap over my shoulder and bounces against my hip as I stroll to the barn, smiling with anticipation.

The small outdoor space where I create still life sits between one end of the barn and a locust tree. Beneath the tree, thick lantana drapes across low mounts. The ground cover has a pungent scent. But its graceful movements and lavender blooms are pleasing to the eye.

I use an old window to stage windowsill compositions. For the picture below, I snipped the last of three Pentas Falling Star clusters, dangling from the tops of dying stocks.

As I photographed them, I thought of a Facebook friend who commented pink is her favorite color. I don’t believe it’s an accident that others come to mind while we work (or play). God speaks to us no matter what we are doing. But there is something special about hearing His still small voice while we’re surrounded by nature. Perhaps, because His voice fills us with gratitude and prayer on behalf of those we know and love. Maybe it’s because there is peace in knowing He is the creator of the first garden.

Excitement feels my heart as I look through my camera’s monitor. Later, when I sit at my desk and study the images on my computer screen, I wonder if observers will notice the fine, almost invisible veins of a leaf. How will they translate the delicate curl of a pedal? Or the color that graduates from deep velvet to soft pastel.

Each of us interprets a different message, a different story.

Whatever prints hang on your walls, I hope you see an artist working with God.

You don’t take a photograph, you make it.” —Ansel Adams

Master Your Comeback

The weird thing about life returning to normal after it knocked you down is facing a comeback.

It’s been a month since I worked on my manuscript or blogged, and two weeks since I communicated on social media. When I thought about reentering the online world, I felt anxious and unsure. I tried to imagine what that would look like, especially on my Facebook author page. Do I post without an explanation, as if I’ve been gone for a day only? Will anyone notice? Is anyone even curious?

Have you ever felt this way after taking a leave of absence from your job, a book club, sports team, or a church group? It’s easy to lose touch with people. You feel like a stranger. Soon, you’re nervous about jumping back in.

So many thoughts, emotions, and imaginings go into a comeback.

Finding my way through these emotions.

Two trips to the ER, ongoing dizzy spells, more time in bed than out, on antibiotics twice, a limited diet of bland foods, and I couldn’t stop thinking about Job. 

You know, the man in the book of Job with painful sores covering his body, who lost his adult children and his large flock. The man left with a wife who wanted him to curse God and friends who assumed his hardship was the consequences of sin.

All this hardship and criticism would make anyone question his or her behavior. But not Job. He knew he had not sinned against God.

I wasn’t the only one suffering.

While I lay in bed more weeks than I wanted, I prayed for a son grieving the loss of a sweetheart because of colon cancer. An acquaintance and USA Today Bestselling author hospitalized with Covid-19. A colleague unable to type because of a shoulder injury. A friend diagnosed with DVT. And another friend on dialysis.

Plugging into God’s power source on behalf of others wasn’t new to me. However, my prayers were more compassionate, and if I’m honest, they were more frequent. Who knew? Suffering yields deeper empathy for others. Less busyness provides added time to focus on those we love.

What happens when we pray for others?

Job prayed for his accusers. He even forgave them. I’m sure it wasn’t easy. Job (and his wife) suffered more than any person should, yet he knew God was the answer to all his problems. And because he remained faithful, God healed him.

Then He blessed Job with favor.

 “Then came there unto him all his brethren, and all his sisters, and all they that had been of his acquaintance before, and did eat bread with him in his house: and they bemoaned him, and comforted him over all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him: every man also gave him a piece of money, and every one an earring of gold.” —Job 42:11 (KJV)

We may not receive money or gold.

But Job’s comeback reassures us God will provide comfort.

We may not experience harsh judgements like Job.

But his locality toward God encourages us to stand firm.

Our circumstances may not be as tragic as Job’s.

But we can have a victorious comeback in any situation.

What steps will you take or have taken to master a comeback?

Did you know that God doubled what Job had lost? He lived to have seven sons and three daughters, 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 yoke of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys. Job lived 140 years and saw four generations.


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What’s cooking in your kitchen that brings a lesson or two?

The tomato vine grew taller and fuller. Tiny yellow blossoms developed. Then, little green globes dangled securely from lean branches. Seeing such a delightful yield in my garden reminded me of the movie Fried Green Tomatoes, and the first time I had prepared this iconic side dish.

The cookbook I received as a wedding gift didn’t have recipes for fried green tomatoes. The novel and the movie came out long after I had married. But somehow, I heard about this intriguing side dish. So, I fried up a delicious batch for my groom who thought his bride had lost her mind. . .until he tasted them.

Then, one evening, I did something even stranger. I served waffles for dinner. . .most likely because I forgot to thaw out beef or poultry.

The idea of eating breakfast at dinnertime felt improper to his rigid upbringing. His tone and shocked expression spoiled my proud moment. Seeing my wounded face, he did what all husbands (eventually) learn and said, “thank you dear.”

Over time my groom adapted to new traditions and foods…including burnt meals.

When responses aren’t what we expect, it’s okay to feel hurt.

We have a Healer of the heart, body, mind, and soul.

When practices flip-flop, it’s okay to feel unsure.

We have the One who reassures us that change can be good.

When relationships are hard, it’s okay to feel disappointed.

We have the One who doesn’t disappoint, who lifts our spirits with sweet assurance.

In my upcoming novel, Molly and Ted are learning about these truths. Their struggles are much deeper and more complex than a new recipe or altered traditions.

They try to find God’s grace while deception thwarts a dream and a dream prevents a proposal. This isn’t easy for Molly or Ted.

Life isn’t easy for anyone.

We’re too busy with self-focus or stuck via outside influences to move forward.

Although you’ll have to wait for the unfolding of Molly and Ted’s struggles, YOU can ask God right now to heal a hurt, to help you accept change.—

He’ll never fail you.

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Proverbs 3:5-6 (KJV)

The End of a Nine-Week Start, or is it the Launch of a New Beginning?

It has been nine weeks since I started blogging based on writing prompts in the Facebook group, Welcome to My World. Unfortunately, the admin has decided to close the group.

The writers in this group each served—and continue to serve online—a specific purpose to their audience. I’d like to tell you about them.

Shirley Corder shares the writing process and character development of her WIP (work in process.) I find her style engaging. She knows how to keep readers interested with the next bit of information. She’s honest about the struggles she encounters and then shares her journey and solutions. She isn’t shy about asking for her fans’ input regarding some aspects of the story. How fun is that? Readers get to be a part of the process, and so can you.

Deryn van der Tang has opened readers’ eyes to abuse, grief, art, and travel. Her posts are purposeful, informative, and well written, always offering hope through her faith. She takes readers on tour to the many beautiful places in the world where she has traveled and lived. Her attention to detail is incredible. As I read each blog post, I felt as if I was there with her. Swing on over and take a tour with Deryn.

Rob Corder began his journey with the group by teaching from the book of Habakkuk and how it relates to the pandemic…to life’s hardships and the benefits of relying on God to bring us through. He writes of God’s wisdom and the blessings of faith to draw us closer to the Creator. It’s a bible study packed with biblical background that one can apply today and in the future. It’s not too late to join in, read from the beginning of this study or start with the current post.

I’m going to miss the prompts at Welcome to My World.

Yes, it was a lot of work. But it challenged my writing skills, self-discipline, ability to meet a weekly deadline, and loyalty toward my cohorts and you.

It provided commonality among one another. It exercised my creativity muscle and direction for each prompt. Often I started going one way that turned messy before I discovered the message…the purpose of my words.

Writing prompts doesn’t work for everyone. And they won’t work for me all the time.

My season with them will change.

Meanwhile, I’m searching for a new writing prompt group…blogging inspiration for however long God provides something of value that will best serve you.

So, this brings us to the end of Welcome to My World and at the launch of a new beginning, whatever that may be.


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