Okay, so I admit it. I cringe and whine outwardly when the Christmas decorations start to show up in the department stores, but inwardly, my heart gives a little cheer.
Yes! It says, We can start digging out the tree soon. In just six more weeks. Tops. Of course, Mr. Castle prefers to wait until after Thanksgiving.
But maybe if we just bring out the decorations and wait on the tree. A few snow-globes mixed in with the fall foliage, right? We can get away with at least that.... right? I try to stay strong and tell my excited little heart no, we need to wait.
But still, that desire remains, and an eagerness for Christmas carols and glittering lights grows with each falling leaf and cold morning. Can I get an AMEN here?
I know some folks think rushing the season is silly. But is it really rushing it, or extending it? Or, spreading it out?
Ha! I feel like I'm grasping for straws here. LOL!
So here's the thing, I put up my Christmas story early. I tried to be good and wait, but...
I hate to admit that I'm not anywhere near where I'd hoped to be at the end of this first quarter of 2017. Circumstance caused me to take on a temporary part time job that sent me way behind not only on my writing, but taking care of my writing business, as well.
I'm happy to say I've cleared my days and am back to writing full time again. YaY!
So I'm here with an update and to let you know about a few specials that will be going on this month. Keep your eyes peeled for these upcoming sales that start…
My Madison Creek novella- Secretly in Love is free today and tomorrow. (Nov. 29-30)
Sage Dolan glanced at Nikolai Prater and inwardly whined that she’d made the pact in high school with him and her BFF, Moi Tamsyn, that the three of them would be friends forever. Nothing but friends. Yet, when Nikolai returned from the mission trip last year, Sage’s feelings for him exploded and her pact gets harder to keep.
Then on April fool’s day, she receives a letter from a secret admirer. A joke from her twin siblings.
Nikolai’s life changed after the mission trip. One thing he has to face is his feelings for Sage. Pact or no pact, he needs to let her know how he feels. Overhearing Sage and Moi talk about how they wished they received real love letters, Nikolai comes up with the perfect solution. He sends her an anonymous love letter, but instead of love, he reaps the wild, whirlwind of Sage who is already angry about being made a fool of once and won’t stand for being the fool twice.
Who doesn't love to curl up beside a roaring fireplace, with a cup of warm cocoa on the coffee table, as you curl up in a thick, fuzzy blanket with a good book. Well, I have more than just a good book. I have seven fabulous holiday novellas for you. All for only .99¢!!
A Sweet Noel is a collection of romance novellas, all with the theme of Christmas and Candy running through them. And all by a lovely group of Texas authors.
Below is the list of stories and links to where you can find out more about these authors. Except for me. You can find out more about me right here. =)
My newest release, Raining Fools is being featured on several blogs over the next week. Stop by them by clicking the links below. Everyone who leaves a comment is added to a drawing for a $25 Amazon Gift card.
I've been getting some great feedback on my novel. If you've been wondering about this newest release, check out what others have to say about it.
I love being a writer.
I love it for so many reasons besides I get to do something I absolutely love to do. This past summer, I found another reason to love writing. Travel Research!
If you've read my Madison Creek books, you'll know Haley moved from Texas up to the arctic land of Michigan. Not that it's always cold up there. I've actually been up there a handful of times where I actually sweated. But I've also been up there in July and needed a winter coat, too. So there's that.
I love Michigan. My husband came from Yankee land, as I call it. Now, I'm not a true southern girl. I come from Southern California. Hollywood, baby. Or in that area. =)
We tell everyone that we met in the middle: Texas. My family originated from Texas and moved back just before I started high school. (Talk about a culture shock- but I'll have to tell you about that in another post.) My husband came down here on a whim with a group of friends seeking warmer weather and work. He's that kind of guy. (There's a good story there, too, but again, not in this posts.)
Anyway, during our many visits up north to see my husband's family, I've grown fond- kinda -with this state. And they sure have fun harassing me and my southern ways. But, we've introduced them to BBQ, grilled everything, jalapeno peppers, and Pico De Gallo as any good Texan would do for those unfortunates who haven't had the pleasure of tasting such delicacies.
Michigan is simply beautiful. In the summer. I spent one winter up there, came back a frozen pop-jackie suffering from bronchitis and refused to go back again. Texas just doesn't make shoes that can handle all that snow!! SIX FEET of it. No kidding. So, when I was up there this past summer, loving the plush greenery and open farmlands and forest I kept reminding myself of this honest to goodness truth: This was fleeting. Don't get suckered into the pretty scenery. In two months they'll be buried in snow!! You Yankees know I'm telling the truth, right?
Even in the summer, the temps can dip into the low 40s and that's just not right. At all. Which is why I sent Haley up north. Because I always have a blast when I do go up there. And I thought she would, too.
We decided to split this years vacation into a research/Family visit for our niece's graduation. So I was in charge of the first part of our two weeks and I wanted to go visit the lakeside towns running up along the pinky side of the mitten. When I was researching places to put Madison Creek, I found this one little town called Ludington and when I got there, I wasn't disappointed. Wow!
We also stopped in Muskegon, Holland, and a few other places in that area before heading up near the top of the mitten where his family lives.
Ludington captured my heart and was exactly what I pictured Madison Creek someday being. The people there are friendly and the B&B owners often meet together and help each other out which I loved hearing about.
Ever have one of those days when everything you've worked hard for seems to be falling apart? Like you're nothing but a big stinking failure? And everything you touch doesn't turn to gold, but rather mud?
Failure. I think that is based on a FEAR that we aren't good enough. Aren't worth having good things happen to us. We've made bad choices. We've charged ahead in our lives, wrapped up in trying to succeed, into making a living, in simply surviving. And all our spinning and toil results in nothing but a pile of straw.
Heck, let's face it. Life is just hard. And sometimes, it rises up against us like a mighty wave, crashing down on everything we've built, worked hard for, striven to accomplish.
During those times, have you ever questioned if somehow you've done something to deserve this? Maybe the calamity in your life is God's punishment? I have to admit, I've had days when I collapse on my bed in tears wondering what I've done to tick God off. "Did I make You mad, or something? Where did I go wrong?"
The fallacy of such thinking
There's a major problem with that line of thinking. And if you find yourself tripping along that trail, I implore you to stop in your tracks. Freeze right there. Take a deep breath. Gather in your rampant, raging, emotions. And stop listening to the enemy's lies.
Truth is, bad things happen. And being good doesn't shelter you from the storms in this life. It rains on the wheat and the weeds. Being good, or seeking perfection is like trying to catch the wind. I'm sorry, but we were created to be human, we were given free will to make choices. We will, and do, make bad choices.
But God has that covered. No matter what calamity smacks us upside our silly heads, God has a provision in place. Jesus said so himself: Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? (Matthew 6:26)
That last part... Are you not much more valuable than they? God see's value in us. He loves us. And He is good. So as C.S. Lewis says-
Being saved doesn't make us good. It doesn't. And we can't be good in order to be saved.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:9
It's realizing that God in his infinite love, extended grace to his children and in return, when we lovingly give our lives back to him, we are washed clean and have a inner desire to show with our lives how much we value that grace and adoration he bestows on us.
In that little clip above I shared from my book Snow Belle, Haley had her big dreams and was charging full force to make them happen. I've been there. I have. I've made a decision on something I wanted to make happen and I ran full speed after it, only to end up tripping and falling on my face. A wasted year. Wasted money on something I was never meant to do in the first place. I could have bemoaned my bad luck, but deep down I knew what happened. I let go of my Guardian's hand. I picked my own path, never consulting God and asking what He had for me.
As Haley ends up finding out as the series progresses, God had bigger and better Grand Ideas in store for her. How can I write that? Because I've lived that. Once I stopped running, dropped my sword and shield and turned to face my Heavenly Father, my good and loving Father, I realized he had been hanging on to a big package for me; something even better than I could have imagined.
Don't be fooled, my friends. God loves you. He has a path established for each and every one of you. Not because he thinks your good or because you can do fabulous stuff. No. Because He loves you and wants good things for you. Open your eyes and see His goodness. It's all around us. If we'll only open our spirits to His promises.
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
“Lord, when I feel that what I'm doing is insignificant and unimportant, help me to remember that everything I do is significant and important in your eyes, because you love me and you put me here, and no one else can do what I am doing in exactly the way I do it.”
Believe He is good. Stop running, stop striving and fighting. Take a deep breath. Throw down your weapons and turn to see your Heavenly Father. You might be surprised at what you'll see.
Raining Fools Pre-order Sale
Don't forget that Raining Fools is still available for the special introductory price of $1.99 until November 1st. Here's a little bit about the next story in this fun sweet romance series.
Bekka Winters hung up the phone. Ethan, her brother, needed her help filming a music video for his new music production studio. She stared at her already packed bags. Why not? She’d just graduated from college and didn’t exactly have a job to go to. Besides, a music video might look good on her resume when she looked for real work.
Stephen Gaines couldn’t believe Ethan had called him after their last blow up. They’d been music partners once. Stephen had ruined that. It was his expertise to wreck relationships especially those he had with women. Fortunately, Ethan didn’t know about him and Bekka. She was the one woman that had broken through to the deep parts of his heart. If only… how many times had he said that in the past? A fresh start is just what he needed.
Bekka’s mind bubbled with ideas for Ethan’s studio. Not to mention she couldn’t wait to see Ethan and Haley, the woman who’d captured her brother’s heart. But when she pulled into the drive and saw the familiar fancy car that Stephen drove, her heart dropped. There was no way she’d let him back into her life.
The next installment in the Madison Creek B&B series is now available for Pre-order. Get it now at the introductory price of only $1.99. After it's official release on November 1st, the price goes up to $3.99.
In case you don't get my newsletter, you can read the first couple of chapters over at the Madison Creek B&B official site.
I really enjoyed writing Bekka and Stephen's story. It had been brewing ever since I introduced them both in Snow Belle. Bekka has just graduated from college with a degree in filming. Stephen has been mulling over his life choices while in New York playing for a second rate orchestra. Not exactly what he had in mind when he set his life goals.
Both are trying to figure out what to do with their lives when Ethan Winters (Yes, the Handsome Yankee from Snow Belle) calls them to come help him get his grand plan off the ground. He needs to make a top-notch video to show the town's investors that he's serious about recording his music.
When Bekka and Stephen find themselves having to work together again, it turns up a deep well of old feelings neither of them are sure they want to deal with. For Bekka, she's had her heart stomped on enough and isn't interested in laying it out there for the playboy Stephen to stomp on again.
Stephen is tired of his wild child ways and wants to make an honest effort to get his act together once and for all. His best friend Ethan has never seemed happier with Haley, who Stephen dubs "The Blond Tornado."
However, Stephen fears he'll lose Ethan's friendship for good if he finds out how deeply Stephen has fallen for his sister. Just how far can someone be pushed before they've reached their ability to forgive? And cleaning up one's act is easier said than done, when habits run deep.
The themes in this book are dear to my heart. I hope this story not only provides a few laughs and an entertaining story, but also touches your heart in a deeper way. Let me know what you think either by writing me or leaving a review on Amazon.
Thanks so much, all of you.
Blessings and Peace
And remember to be kind to those around you.
When I was a child, one of my favorite toys were the bags of plastic farm or zoo animals. Anyone remember playing with those? My cousin and I, when given the opportunity to pick a cheap toy on grocery shopping day would inevitable pick one of these bags. He usually liked the dinosaurs or army dudes.
Soon as we returned home, the two of us would race out the back door and into the yard where we'd find a shady spot and begin our fall into the imaginary worlds these figurines opened the doors to.
Looking back, I'm amazed at how the hours zoomed by. I'd lose all sense of where I was at, except for the urban sounds of cars passing by our house, or birds chattering in the tree above where we hankered over our little characters. Occasionally a roar or sounds of blasting bombs came from my cousin as he wrecked havoc on his little people.
From me, nothing. I usually worked quietly and methodically as I collected twigs and rocks to build my little animals shelters. Grass was yanked out of the dirt to form little roads or cover a hiding place for a fox family. As I worked, I decided where they fit into the scheme of things. Stories formed for each of them. Nothing I ever wrote down. This was before I started trying to capture the tales that were always swirling around in my head. But by time I finished building my little world, I would have come up with where the black bear had come from and why he was in that particular spot.
And about the time I was done creating that little world, it would be time to go in for supper. My cousin would have usually already grown bored with his army men who'd been blown all over the yard and hung from the lower branches of the tree. I, on the other hand, would collect my little figures, return them to the bag and be okay with it.
Why? Because creating the world was what I really found the most fun.
I'm not so different even today.
I sometimes think that the reason I love not only writing series, as well as reading them, is I love falling into a new world. I still enjoy building worlds, such as the world of Alburnium. (Pictured above) Everyone has a place, and each place has it's own history. It's own story. I might not write it down, but that information is floating around in my subconscious.
Many Rivers was established by a small band of Kingdom people who wanted to provide a place of refuge for those traveling along the White Path. There's a town that over looks a valley of farms and rivers and small ponds. It's a safe place, a place of refreshing, a place of healing if you need Marya's Healer services. I can picture in my mind the grand Meeting Hall with it's white stone walls and sprawling wings where people come to trade goods, hear stories about King Shaydon, or read about the world in the library.
Over the past nine years, since the idea for Illuminated first hit me, I've enjoyed quietly and methodically creating the world of Alburnium. At first, I mapped it out as I followed Alyra along on her first journey. My early maps were penciled in sketches, kind of like the one pictured below of a new world in the making. (More on that in a minute).
I'm sure every writer goes about building their worlds differently. I read that J.R. Tolkien took years to develop his, all the way down to creating a new language. I have nothing on him. But I find it kind of funny, as I look back on my childhood, that this little thing has always been with me. I wonder, when we watch our own kids play, if somehow we might get a glimpse of how they might one day fit into this big wide world. Or maybe, if we are wondering where we fit in, that if we look back, perhaps there might be little clues in the games we played while growing up.
As I said earlier, I'm in the process of creating a new world. Not a fantasy one as in the White Road books. This little world is contemporary and surrounded by real places. I visited them earlier this summer when we took a trip up to Michigan. With each lakeside town we stopped at, another piece of my own little pretend world fell into place.
Below, you can see my early sketching of Madison Creek's layout. Each number represents a business or shop owned by a particular person with a story behind them. Mallory's diner, owned by Mallory Carson, a single girl, a little wild but a hard worker. Flirty, compassionate and tough. Across the street is Beaty's Automotive, owned by the brothers Bob and Bill. Bill is quirky and kind of funny. He's also single as is his more serious, business minded older brother Bob who just had a major break-up with his long time girlfriend.
Stories: People, Places. Communities. Worlds. I think I know why I find it all so intriguing....
,In a novella story I was just working on for a Christmas collection, one of my characters got up and said something that really struck home with me. She said that it takes all of us to build a community and to make it strong.
And I think, deep down, that's why I love the world building so much. Deep down, there's a yearning to belong, to be part of something bigger and greater than myself. And I think this is something, a thread if you will, that tends to run through all my stories. That joining together for the common good, casting aside your differences and personal needs and working together to build something substantial in this world. And in turn, finding where you belong and where you are most effective in this life.
There's so many forces trying to divide us. Don't you think?
I love my church. It's probably one of the greatest basis for my belief that there's safety in numbers. You know? It's not the teaching. Most I've heard before or can get by reading my Bible. No, it's more than that. It's the community of a variety of personalities, and preferences, all banding together to build a sanctuary for people to find shelter, to find provision, to find healing from the big bad world. The more we band together for the common good, for building up the Kingdom of God, here on earth, the stronger we become.
That's why lies behind all those books in the White Road Chronicles, the friends going out and telling others about King Shaydon's plan to defeat the cruel fake King Darnel.
That's why I see building up in my Madison Creek stories... a town on the brink of demise begins to band together and rebuild. And they do it by pulling together and helping each other out.
My heart sings when I think of seeing this play out in reality. I see it in my church. I see it other places, too. But I want to see more. And it starts with kindness. If you want to build a better world, start with simple kindness.
One small act at a time. None of us can save the world. We're not meant to. But we can each do little things to make it a better place.
In my sketch above, there's still a lot of blank area. I intend to fill it in with each story I write in Madison Creek. I love world building. I love the idea that we can take something broken, on the verge of death, and revive it. And we can. We can do that... if we take a notion.
Don't you think?
Before I go, I want to mention one more thing, and that's a sale that's going on this week. If you've not ventured into the world of Alburnium, here's your chance to try out the first two books for only $2. Oh, and if you are a fantasy lover, be sure to check out the Virtual FantasyCon week going on. Lot's of fun stuff going on there.
Blessings and Peace
Be kind to each other.
Jackie Castle is an author, artist and dreamer. She lives in Texas with her husband, two grown children and her dog, Banjo. She looks for the extraordinary in the ordinary in everything she experiences.