Friday’s Feature

Today I’m welcoming Sara Foust to my blog. Read a free excerpt of her latest release Callum’s Compass.

Chapter 1

A persistent knock at the front door dragged Kat awake. She rubbed her eyes and slipped a sweatshirt over her pajama top. Hadn’t she just fallen asleep? The past week was a blur. Visiting her neighbor Clayton at the hospital every day was taking its toll on her physically and emotionally.

She stumbled to the door and peeked through the curtain-covered glass. Clayton’s daughter stood with her back to the window, arms crossed over her chest.

Kat pulled the door open. “Nicole.”

“Can I come in?”

“Of course. How’s Clayton?”

Nicole slumped onto the couch and buried her face in her hands. “Dad’s dead. I can’t believe it.” Tears leaked around the fingers hiding her eyes. Kat’s golden retriever, Scout, put his head in her lap and licked her elbow, but Nicole didn’t seem to notice. “What am I going to do?”

Kat sat and rubbed her friend’s back, fighting her own tears. “I’m so sorry. Everything’s going to be okay, though.” Did she really believe that herself? A fist held her heart, squeezing until she couldn’t breathe. Clayton was such a good friend. He never judged Kat or asked too many questions about the burdens she carried. She could be herself with him, and she would miss that.

“No it’s not.” Nicole sniffled and jumped up, bashing Scout’s chin with her knee.

Scout’s teeth clanked together. He let out a whine and ran through the kitchen door.

What could she say? Kat stood and placed a trembling hand on Nicole’s quaking shoulder.

“It’s all falling apart.” Nicole flung her arms wide and her hand smacked against Kat’s head.

Kat backed up five paces. Maybe she should hide in the kitchen too. “Nicole, please calm down.”

Nicole spun to face her with a crazed look in her eyes. A look Kat had never seen before. Kat’s throat constricted painfully. Her friend’s intense grief seemed to fill the space between them. Something prickled the back of Kat’s conscience. Nicole’s red and puffy eyes, her shaking hands, her unsteady walk—Clayton’s death had surely dealt her a terrible blow.

The loud bang of garbage cans crashing to the concrete erupted outside.

Kat whipped toward the open window. “What was that?”

Nicole’s eyes widened. “Nothing. It was nothing.” Nicole backed toward the front door.

“Nicole, wait.”

“I’ve got to go.” She opened the door but paused and turned again. “Listen, I know you meant a lot to Dad. Thank you for looking out for him all this time and being a good neighbor.”

The sudden flip-flop in Nicole’s tone left Kat unbalanced. Clayton’s whiskered chin-dimple flashed across Kat’s thoughts. “Of course. Your dad meant a lot to me too. I can’t believe he’s really gone.”

“Me either.” Nicole’s eyes shone under pools of new tears. “The doctor said this second heart attack was just too much strain. He was surprised Dad held on as many days after as he did.”

Kat didn’t know how to respond. The image of Clayton’s lifeless body, tubes and wires sticking out all over, gagged her. How long could Kat be strong for Nicole? A hollow feeling gnawed at her abdomen. She needed to close the door and process the loss. Alone.

“Oh. I almost forgot. I found a package for you. It was hidden in the cupboard. I guess Dad knew I would look for coffee and find it. He always teased me about my coffee obsession.” Nicole chuckled and wiped tears from her cheeks.

A package? For her? “Your dad was a bit obsessed with coffee himself.” The choking feeling rose higher into her throat.

“Yes, he was. Anyway, here you go.” Nicole retrieved a brown shoebox from Kat’s front porch swing and handed it to her. “I was going to leave it here if you weren’t home.”

A garbage can whirred down Clayton’s driveway and knocked into the brick mailbox post. Nicole spun on her heels and raced to grab it.

What just happened? Nicole was acting so strange.

Closing the door, Kat leaned against it and sighed. She opened heavy eyelids and stared at the box in her hand. A tear plopped onto the lid, forming a darker circle as it spread.

Should she open the box now? What if Clayton left her a reminder of how much she would miss him? Grief threatened to pour over the hastily constructed dam within her breast.

Maybe she should pray. That didn’t come naturally to her anymore, though. Not since she was little. It seemed God had stopped listening to her pleas when He let her brother Callum die. She’d spent her life nearly suffocating under the guilt of his death and the fears that night instilled. No. Prayers wouldn’t help. God wouldn’t hear her.

Clayton was dead. And she would either have to deal with her feelings or bury them alongside the ones already walled off deep inside.

Bury them. Definitely bury them.

Who was she kidding? She couldn’t just leave the box unopened. She could never ignore surprises. She lifted the corner of the lid, but her phone rang and interrupted her investigation. She ran to grab it off the desk and looked at the screen—Heather from work.

“The grant finally came through. We have our new assignment,” Heather said.

“Oh, good.” Kat and her team of fellow biologists waited weeks for word to trickle down with approval to begin their new research project. “When do we start?”

“Bright and early Monday morning, one week from now. Actually, I should say late and dusky, shouldn’t I?”

Kat massaged her brother’s compass in her pocket. “Yeah, I suppose so.”

Fortunate to receive day-only projects for the last three years, Kat did not relish the idea of studying nocturnal lizards. Ever since the accident, nighttime had a way of eliciting a flight or fight reaction she had absolutely no control over. She always chose flight, of course. But, she loved her job, didn’t she? She couldn’t refuse and risk losing it. Risk disappointing her dad again.

“Anyway, I will email you details ASAP. I think you are assigned to Anderson and Morgan counties.”

The box called to her from the couch.

“Logan, Mike, and I are splitting up the other eastern counties,” Heather continued. “It’s a lot of ground to cover, but hopefully we’ll soon be able to paint a picture of Spring Salamander life in East Tennessee, and whether environmental toxins are harming the cute little guys.”

“Okay, thanks.” She would worry about Monday tomorrow. Right now she needed to know what the box contained before curiosity killed her.


 

Callum’s Compass–Available on Amazon now! “Romance, mystery, adventure, and suspense are brilliantly intertwined in this deeply moving story.”–Deep River Books Writer’s Contest Runner-Up 2017


Sara is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Tennessee Mountain Writers. You can find Sara online here:

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Just for Writers

Writing Like Everyone Else

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By nature, writers study other writers. We yearn to figure out the key to success. We fret over what makes us “good”. What can we do to get better? What book should we read? What software should we use? What publisher should we send to? Should we self-publish? Do we need an agent? I’ll stop right here before I cause myself some unwanted anxiety.

 

I’ll just do what they’re doing. Yeah, that’ll work.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read comments from writers about the best writing software and how everyone should try it because they love it and it works for them. The same can be said for how-to books on writing. I’m not talking about craft of writing books. Those are a necessity. We all need to learn the mechanics of writing and writing well. I’m talking about method books. Write from the middle, snowflake, etc. etc. Don’t get me wrong—they do work—for some people. Just not for me. I find that I inevitably go back to “my” method. Which obviously no one else wants to know about because I’m not a bestselling author by any means. Then there’s that popular writing software that seems to be making everyone a great writer except for me because I can’t understand the encrypted thing. It’s obviously written in a way that only real writers can understand because I’ve spent countless hours watching video, poured tons of money into the books for Dummies (which I have no shame in admitting I am one of) and googled and YouTubed every comment and link ever put out there so that I could be like everyone else. And…it didn’t work. At all. I ended up with a corrupted file, an empty box of Kleenex, and had to dig my way out of Hershey Kisses wrappers so that I could go back to work at my real job and earn a paycheck. Because I also had to accept that the last royalty check wasn’t even going to buy me a cup of White Chocolate Mocha at Starbucks. No, not even a tall one.

Acceptance

After all the research on how to be a great writer, how to use the best software ever invented, how to market my book, promote with social media…inevitably, I’m still me. Still writing by the seat of my pants. Still using “another” writing program because I can’t figure out what everyone else is using. Still working a day job and still trying to carve out a few minutes a day to write something. Anything. Some days I feel proud just to write my grocery list in an order that makes sense after I get to the store. At the end of the day, I am who I am and my strengths and weaknesses belong only to me. This writing thing will either make or break me. Since I’ve been doing it for a very long time, I’m pretty sure it won’t break me but it hasn’t made much of me, either.  I truly want to be better. Wanting to be better is a great thing. Fretting over it isn’t. There’s also nothing wrong with wanting to be successful, but comparing yourself to others is not going to get you very far. Sitting angry, broken and jealous under a pile of chocolate wrappers is not how I want to go out. So how does a writer stay motivated? How do we stop comparing ourselves to others? How do we accept the talents God has given us and find peace and comfort in it?

Leaning on God, letting go of the world

Christian writers have it so much better. We have God. My favorite verse hanging in my office is Philippians 4:13. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.

I don’t have to be jealous that other writers are being amazingly successful with their choice of writing software. Let’s be real. That software didn’t write their book for them. Those how-to books helped them but it didn’t put them in front of the computer day after day and make them build a successful career. We can’t compare ourselves to others so often that we begin to feel inadequate in our own talents. We shouldn’t constantly seek what other writers have as if it’s the secret to our own success. I find that in times when I feel I am inadequate as a writer it helps when I do things to build up others. Promote an author’s new release, help a new writer with something I’ve found that once helped me, offer to review an author’s book, or simply write reviews for books I’ve read and enjoyed. When I build up others, I’m also building up myself. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

Write for Him

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When we let go of our own failures, inadequacies and insecurities and write for Him, our writing will flow. Find joy in your talents and do everything in your power to keep from comparing yourself to others. Learn from them, but respect that we’re all on our on path and that God knows better than we do where our paths will lead us. It doesn’t mean I can’t still try to learn that ominous software everyone else seems to love or buy the latest and greatest how-to book hoping to find some secret way to write a novel faster. Learning to improve on our talents is what God wants us to do. Comparing ourselves to others…not so much. The simple truth of the matter is that we’re not all meant to be a bestselling author—but you won’t know unless you try. Don’t listen to that negative voice inside you that tells you not to write because you’ll never succeed or be as good as everyone else. Go write! Write with joy. Write with conviction and a purpose. Write for Him and you can’t go wrong.

Matthew 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven

Thursday’s Throwback with Hope Dougherty

Irish Encounter

After almost three years of living under a fog of grief, Ellen Shepherd is ready for the next chapter in her ife, perhaps an adventure during a visit to Galway. Her idea of excitement consists of exploring Ireland for yarn to feature in her shop back home, but the adventure awaiting her includes an edgy stranger who disrupts her tea time, challenges her belief system, and stirs up feelings she thought she’d buried with her husband.

After years of ignoring God, nursing anger, and stifling his grief, Payne Anderson isn’t ready for the feelings a chance encounter with an enchanting stranger evokes. Though avoiding women and small talk has been his pattern, something about Ellen makes him want to seek her–and God again.

Can Ellen accept a new life different than the one she planned? Can Payne release his guilt and accept the peace he’s longed for? Can they surrender their past pain and embrace healing together or will fear and doubt ruin this second chance at happiness?

Excerpt from Irish Encounter

Payne and Ellen lingered over their food. He explained he was working in Africa and admitted he’d just arrived in Ireland when they met. “I’d been traveling for about two days with hardly any sleep, but it’s better to stay awake a while before crashing. I adjust to a new time zone faster…with less jet lag, too.”

“So those were safari clothes you wore yesterday, and you tried to stay awake by picking a fight with a stranger in a café.” She smiled at him as though she’d just given the correct answer in a board game.

He shook his head. “Huh uh. I stayed awake by talking with a beautiful woman.” He leaned his forearms against the table.

She blinked twice. Was he flirting with her? She wasn’t sure. A warm tingle rose from the bottom of her stomach, grabbing the breath from her lungs and stealing her smile. She searched for something to say. “Ah. Now I find out you’re a flatterer, too.”

“Wrong. I don’t flatter. I say what I mean. Always.”

Where to buy

www.amazon.com


About the author

Hope Toler Dougherty holds a Master’s degree in English and taught at East Carolina University and York Technical College. Her publications include two novels, Irish Encounter and Mars…With Venus Rising, as well as nonfiction articles. A member of ACFW, RWA, and SinC, she writes for SeriousWriter.com. She and her husband live in North Carolina and enjoy visits with their two daughters and twin sons. Visit her at hopetolerdougherty.com.