The Good Years Are So Good

I’m happy to welcome best-selling author Liz Flaherty. Today, Liz shares the two acts of her life and her new release, A Year of Firsts.

Here’s Liz!

My first act was my life’s dream. I had a family I loved, a job I liked a lot, a house, and friends. It was, like everyone else’s dream-come-true, if one likes roller coasters. Fortunately, I do—or did then. Although the years were happy, there were also the days of being overwhelmed, of sitting alone in the bathroom wondering what to do, of having three teenagers in the house. In the middle of it was a year of “can this marriage be saved?” (It could.) I had months of hating the job and wept a gazillion tears over the kids. I couldn’t wait for it all to be over.

Until it was. Act One, Scene Two came with the empty nest. It was okay, much less hectic. Not nearly as much fun, but I had more writing time. I had a book published. Then a few more.

Then I retired, and Act Two happened because Act One ended.

It’s been such a surprise. Writing fulltime doesn’t mean I get more written—it means I waste more time. Marriage in retirement age isn’t easy—it’s hard! Losing friends no matter how you lose them, with death, dementia, and lack of interest taking center stage, is painful.

But those are the bad days. The good ones…no, the good years… are so good they’re hard to describe. The marriage is more fun, as is traveling, having remarkable grandchildren, and laughing with friends and family until your stomach hurts. The good days are most of them.

And then there’s the writing… And that’s where I am now. I’ve never been one to keep count of things, so I’m not sure how many books and novellas (and rejections) there have been, but, like I said before, they’ve been good years.

A Year of Firsts, Book One in the Second Chances series for Magnolia Blossom Publishing, is the story of Syd and Clay, whose own Act Twos are up the air and—for Clay at least—might be doubtful. I had so much joy and not a little angst writing this story. I hope you have that much pleasure in the reading, too.

Blurb

Widow Syd Cavanaugh is beginning a “year of firsts” with the road trip she’d promised her husband she’d take after his death. An unplanned detour lands her in Fallen Soldier, Pennsylvania, where she meets the interesting and intelligent editor of the local paper.

Television journalist Clay McAlister’s life took an unexpected turn when a heart attack forced him to give up his hectic lifestyle. He’s still learning how to live in a small town when meeting a pretty traveler in the local coffee shop suddenly makes it all much more interesting.

While neither of them is interested in a romantic relationship, their serious case of being “in like” seems to push them that way. However, Clay’s heart condition doesn’t harbinger a very secure future, and Syd’s already lost one man she loved to a devastating illness—she isn’t about to lose another. Where can this relationship possibly go?

Excerpt

If I fall in love again, this will be how it happens.

The thought came from nowhere she could identify, although she knew deep in her soul that it had to do with the tall man in shorts and a polo shirt walking up the incline of her yard to meet her. The man whose heart would likely not last as long as her own, whose every wince made her fear he was having a heart attack. His attitude toward exercise and diet was that of the middle-aged man in perfect health he appeared to be, not one who had a zipper-like scar up the center of his chest.

But just the sight of him, with his light brown hair that needed cutting blowing into his eyes even though his graying beard was as always short and neat, made her heart beat harder and faster. She smiled, remembering his explanation of why he had a beard.

At first he’d said it was because he had a weak chin he didn’t want anyone to notice, but then he’d admitted it had been an ongoing struggle between him and a producer of his show. “He was pushy and I was usually compliant. It was a great gig and I knew it. But it got to where he wanted to…create the brand he wanted me to be, I guess. I mostly went along because he was a pretty smart guy who knew his stuff, but when I came back from vacation with a beard and he gave the order to have it gone before I went on the air, it became the proverbial last straw.”

Everyone had last straws sometimes, she thought abstractedly, stopping and waiting for him to join her. “Rehearsal was okay, wasn’t it?” she said, thinking her voice sounded horrifyingly breathy. It went along with the movie scenario. “I didn’t make a complete idiot of myself, did I? Or mess things up for other people? I never want to do that. Where’s Toby?”

Of course, she didn’t. People who were pocket protectors protected not only themselves, but others from themselves.

During all the long months of his illness, Paul had never seen her angry. She’d confined that to times alone. She’d hidden her anger to protect him, yet it had probably created a chasm between them. She should have let him see her last straws sometimes.

“He’s asleep. Braxton is staying the night.” Clay didn’t hesitate as he joined her, just put his arms around her and led her into a dance. “You were great.”

Syd wasn’t a good dancer, by any means. When friends used to tell her to “listen for the beat,” she always said, “what beat?” because she could never hear it. But she’d loved to dance anyway. It was emotion in motion, and sometimes…sometimes after Paul got sick it had been better than running screaming into the woods behind the house, which had been both an alternative and a temptation. Abba and Billy Joel and Journey had often brought some semblance of peace to the crashing cacophony of her anger.

She couldn’t remember the last time she’d danced in a man’s arms—probably at the girls’ weddings, when Paul was already having trouble moving but had been determined to dance not only with Haley and Shiloh but with Syd as well. It had been excruciating, the fear that he would fall and be injured or become so exhausted he couldn’t stay to enjoy the receptions.

The memory was fleeting, and of happy times, and then it was just Clay McAlister. Taller and more muscled than Paul had been, his arms creating a circle of light for just the two of them as they danced across the grass.

When he kissed her in the shade of the willow tree, she wasn’t sure where the stars came from, only that they filled her eyes and, for a long and tender moment, her heart. She’d been so tired when she came outside, but weariness gave way to the magic of the clear night and being in Clay McAlister’s arms. She’d set her glass down somewhere, or he had, leaving her arms free to go around him.

It couldn’t go anywhere, whatever “it,” this meeting of hearts and minds, was. She couldn’t go through it again, the caring for and ultimate losing of a man she loved. She didn’t think Clay wanted to settle into a committed relationship, either, and she didn’t know how to have any other kind.

“Boat ride?” he said quietly, meeting her gaze in the dim lights from the deck.

She nodded. That much, she could do. Saying no never even occurred to her.

Buy Links

Amazon (US) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (UK) | Amazon (AU)

Bio

Retired from the Logansport post office, Liz Flaherty spends non-writing time sewing, quilting, and doing whatever else she wants to. She and her husband Duane live in the old farmhouse in North Central Indiana they moved to in 1977. They’ve talked about moving, but really…40-plus years’ worth of stuff? It’s not happening. It would require removing old baseball trophies from the attic and dusting the pictures of the Magnificent Seven, their grandchildren.

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Go For It!

I’m happy to welcome back Wild Rose Press author Jennifer Wilck. Today, Jennifer shares her reinvention story and new release, Unlock My Heart.

Here’s Jennifer!

Reinvention is an awesome thing, and one I think many women find themselves doing at some point in their lives. I know I’ve done it, and for anyone who is considering reinventing themselves, my advice is GO FOR IT!

When I graduated college, I worked in public relations for several firms in New York City. I loved my job. I loved meeting people, finding out what messages they needed to convey, and figuring out ways to do that. It was exciting. I learned how to pitch story ideas to editors, how to translate complicated technology descriptions into common English that the average person could understand, and to help clients through product releases. I must confess, my favorite part was hiding behind my youth—sitting in a client meeting, quietly listening to what the men thought they wanted, and finally speaking up with an idea and watching their expressions turn from shock to acceptance to admiration. It was a nice ego boost.

Eventually, I realized I liked the writing part the best, and I moved over to the editorial side, where I worked for technology magazines. Again, I loved it. It was a bit of a reinvention, but more like flipping to the other side of the same coin. Now I sought out the companies, read the press releases, interviewed people who could have been former clients. I loved the writing, but there was less creativity involved. I had to stick to the facts, rather than coming up with marketing campaigns. My creative juices were less in demand, but I drew pride in writing for myself rather than for a client and seeing my byline rather than my clients’.

I took time off when I had children, lucky enough to be able to devote my time to them. But something was missing. I needed a creative outlet for everything that was whirring in my brain. And so, I reinvented myself again. I’d always been a romance reader. I read lots of different genres, but romance made me happy. I liked the happily ever after endings and the escapism. One day, when my girls were sleeping, I wrote down a story in my head. That story eventually turned into my first romance, A Heart of Little Faith. From then on, I was hooked. I learned everything I could about my craft—I’m still learning—as well as the business side. I entered contests, queried editors and agents, and eventually landed with my current publisher, The Wild Rose Press. I’m a hybrid author, so I also self-publish (that first romance, along with two more, Whispers in Washington and Better Together in Boston). And I was lucky enough to find an agent who I hope will help me find a home for a manuscript I’ve been working on for a long time.

Reinvention is scary. It’s easy to stay with what you know. But if you listen to your inner voice, you can do it. Talk to others. There are a lot of us out there who have done it. We’re happy to share our successes and failures.

Blurb

Abby Marlow, computer security expert, lands a job at the best IT security firm in the country. Her sole focus is financial independence so she never has to rely on others again, especially a man. But why does her boss make her wires short circuit?

Ted Endicott, CEO and founder of the IT security firm, is hard of hearing. Although an expert in his field, he’s still uncomfortable admitting his difficulty hearing to his clients or employees. So why is he willing to accept Abby’s help?

As Ted and Abby work together, barriers fall away, and soon the lines blur between colleagues and lovers. But a security glitch in a client’s system indicates one of his employees is the hacker, and all signs point to Abby. Can they get past the suspicion and find a future together?

Tagline: Can love break through their firewalls?

Excerpt

“You always run alone?”

She pointed to a nearby jogger. “I’m not alone.”

“But you’re not with anyone.”

Standing this close to him, she wished for things she shouldn’t. “No, I’m not.”

“How far are you going?”

“The end of the trail and back.” Or however long it
took to get him out of her mind.

He put his helmet on. “Come on, I’ll keep you company.”

“It’s not necessary.” Clearing her mind would be impossible with him next to her.

“It’s safer this way.” He looked down the trail. His desire to protect her sent warmth curling up and down her spine. It had been a long time since anyone was concerned about her. All of a sudden, the idea of company appealed to her. Touching his arm— and trying not to squeeze his bicep like you would if you tested the ripeness of a peach—she waited for him to turn. “You’re welcome to join me if you want. If you can keep up.” She winked and raced away, his bark of laughter a brief punch in the silence behind her.

She no longer kept an easy pace, easing into the morning. This time, she sprinted hard. The slight whir of his bike wheels warned her as he reached her a few moments later.

“You’re pretty fast, but I’d suggest you slow down.”

She turned toward him. “Out of pity for you?”

His lips twitched, and his nostrils flared, but he kept his humor reined tight. Instead, he cycled next to her, his head turned slightly toward her. “The only pity I ask for is please don’t make me carry you home when you’re too tired to continue.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it, sir.” She made sure he could read her lips.

He grinned, and the last of her tension disappeared. He accepted her teasing.

“Oh, you’ll pay,” he said.

He rode ahead, and she thought for sure he would leave her in the dust. But he turned around, a gleam in his eye, and returned to her side. When they reached a part of the trail farther on, he pulled ahead a little and skidded in a puddle, splashing her legs.

She gasped and looked at her mud-spattered shins and ignored the twinkle in his eye. “You play dirty—literally.”

Ted stopped while she paused to clean her legs off. Given the opportunity—two could play this game—she took her mud-streaked hands and wiped them on his chest. She drew in a breath and realized her mistake. Sure, she’d repaid him for splattering her with mud, but a sudden awareness of his body overrode her satisfaction. His muscles were hard, and she wondered what the rest of him felt like. Her pulse pounded in her ears, and her gaze shifted to his lips. What would it be like to kiss them?

She jerked and pulled her hand away. No. She jumped at the strangled sound from the mouth she’d considered kissing and raised her glance to his eyes. His surprise mirrored her own.

Mistake, mistake, mistake! An internal voice blared a warning. She’d intended for it to be like when she and Max, her best friend from childhood, challenged each other as kids. In fact, when he teased her, Ted reminded her of Max—something about the glint in his eye and the “need to win” coupled with concern. But she hadn’t counted on the sexual component.

She closed her eyes. She was not like her mother. She wasn’t.

“Abby?”

She stilled. Maybe he couldn’t see her. Right, and maybe unicorns are real.

“Yes?”

“Open your eyes.” She opened them.

“Let’s get breakfast.”

Buy Links

Universal Link | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Apple

Author Bio and Links

Jennifer started telling herself stories as a little girl when she couldn’t fall asleep at night. Pretty soon, her head was filled with these stories and the characters that populated them. Even as an adult, she thinks about the characters and stories at night before she falls asleep or walking the dog. Eventually, she started writing them down. Her favorite stories to write are those with smart, sassy, independent heroines; handsome, strong and slightly vulnerable heroes; and her stories always end with happily ever after.

In the real world, she’s the mother of two amazing daughters and wife of one of the smartest men she knows. She believes humor is the only way to get through the day and does not believe in sharing her chocolate.

Jennifer Wilck is an award-winning contemporary romance author for readers who are passionate about love, laughter, and happily ever after. Known for writing both Jewish and non-Jewish romances, her books feature damaged heroes, sassy and independent heroines, witty banter and hot chemistry. Jennifer’s ability to transport the reader into the scene, create characters the reader will fall in love with, and evoke a roller coaster of emotions, will hook you from the first page. You can find her books at all major online retailers in a variety of formats.

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An Inspiring Multi-Act Life!

I’m happy to welcome Wild Rose Press author Barbara Mountjoy who writes as Alana Lorens. Today, Alana shares her multi-act life and new release, A Rose by Any Other Name

Here’s Alana!

I’d studied English and Journalism in college, because I’d always wanted to write, since I was a kid. My first and second round of job searches hadn’t yielded much, so I didn’t have a job in the field. Life attacked in the form of a husband and two daughters, which put my employment on hold. Motherhood and wifehood was plenty to deal with, especially as my husband was in the service, so we moved a couple of times even in his first hitch.

Given a year into our Homestead, Florida posting, I saw the local paper was hiring a reporter. I snagged that position and for several years, had a blast doing all the stories and columns. I was the religion editor, the schools’ reporter, and put together the special hurricane tabs—on a first name basis with local senators and mayors and even the head of the National Hurricane Center.

One of the small cities I covered was Florida City, the last town right before the Florida Keys. The city attorney and I became close, and he recommended I go to law school. Now, this was never a career path I’d considered before that time—and my husband and I had just divorced, so I was a single mom of two preschoolers. Law school? What a crazy idea.

But it grew on me.

So I started with the entrance exam, the LSAT. I’d take it and see how I did. I did really well.

Well, I’d have to have help going to school. I didn’t have much saved up. But the grants and loans came through.

Then I’d have to have somewhere to live with my girls, and there was only limited housing on campus. But we got it. Right across the highway from the day care center.

Since it all came together, I took the jump. Those three years of school set the stage for a second act career as a family law attorney, which I practiced for 30 fulfilling years before I retired.

And now I’m back to writing full time again. 😊

For those contemplating a change, as so many are at this point in America, I’d hope they’d try to imagine where their potential career might be in five years. With tech and culture changing so quickly, they wouldn’t want to cross train into a field that doesn’t have longevity. But also, don’t stay in a career that doesn’t bring you joy simply for lack of courage. Waiting too late to change jobs might be the saddest choice of all.

Blurb

Up-and-coming mommyblogger and single mom Marisol Herrera Slade returns to her old hometown in western Pennsylvania for her 20th high school reunion in 2005, reluctant and yet compelled to see her high school sweetheart, Russell Asher, who dumped her for the homecoming queen.

Russell’s marriage to the golden girl, however, ended in a nasty divorce, and he has been systematically excluded from his sons’ lives. In his Internet wanderings, he’s found feminist blogger named Jerrika Jones, who glorifies single motherhood, essentially putting a stamp of approval on what’s happened to him. His group of single dad advocates have vowed to take this woman down.

What Russell doesn’t know, when he thinks to rekindle what he had with Marisol, is that Marisol and Jerrika are one and the same. When his group discovers the truth, will their drive for revenge derail any chance the couple have to reunite? Or will they find they have more in common than they ever expected?

Excerpt

Heather Armstrong had books out now, spawned by the popularity of her Dooce blog. The Julie and Julia movie deal started with a simple blog. That Shatner show on TV, “$#*! My Dad Says” came from a Twitter account. If she could get noticed, really noticed, the big time wasn’t so far away in this brave new Internet world.

So. Better to stir the pot, right?

She closed her eyes, summoned up the image of Jerrika at her cheekiest, and started typing. Apparently I stomped on a couple of hearts yesterday when I pointed out the joys of raising my son without having to kowtow to the demands of an irrational non-custodial father. You know what? I’m not sorry, either.

People like FreeDad91 hide in their troll costumes and take pot shots at other people instead of addressing their own issues. Sounds to me like this guy has problems from his past. Either his own father walked out on him, or he walked out on his own kids, and he’s decided the best way to handle his guilt is to dump on the mothers.

Well, honey, this is one mother who’s not going to just sit by and let you. I love my son dearly. He’s been my morning, my evening, and lots of my midnights over the years. Maybe he didn’t have a father by his side during those days and nights. But he never lacked for attention, from men or women. I made sure he had that village he needed, the one it takes to raise a child. Would it have been easier to co-parent? I expect it would have. But that option wasn’t open to me. So take your hatred and turn it back where it really belongs: on yourself.

She added a few more choice stabs, and filed the post for the day.

Book Trailer

Buy Links

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Kobo | Walmart | Wild Rose Press

Author Bio and Links

Alana Lorens has been a published writer for more than forty years, after working as a pizza maker, a floral designer, a journalist and a family law attorney. Currently a resident of Asheville, North Carolina, the aging hippie loves her time in the smoky blue mountains. She writes romance and suspense as Alana Lorens, and sci-fi, fantasy and paranormal mystery as Lyndi Alexander. One of her novellas, THAT GIRL’S THE ONE I LOVE, is set in the city of Asheville during the old Bele Chere festival. She lives with her daughter on the autism spectrum, who is the youngest of her seven children, and she is ruled by three crotchety old cats, and six kittens of various ages.

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Blooming Has No Deadline

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

Here is an inspirational excerpt from You’ve Got This! by best-selling author Margie Warrell:

If you’re in your forties or fifties or sixties or far beyond, refuse to let the number of years you’ve been alive be your excuse for not taking the actions you might wish you’d taken years ago; the actions that would add a whole new dimension to your life today. As Rich Kaarlgard wrote in Late Bloomers, “Blooming has no deadline. Our future story is written in pencil, not carved in stone. It can be changed. There is no fixed chronology to self-determination, no age limit for breakthroughs.”

Julia Child was 49 when she wrote her first cookbook.

Laura Ingalls Wilder didn’t start writing until her forties, and didn’t pen Little House on the Prairie until she was in her sixties.

Vera Wang was 39 before she started designing clothes.

Colonel Harland Sanders was in his sixties when he started Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Diana Nyad was 64 when, after four failed attempts spanning 36 years, she finally achieved her long-held ambition of swimming the infamous channel of shark-ridden waters from Cuba to Florida (without a shark cage).

So whatever your age, whatever your situation, whatever the setbacks you’ve faced or the heartaches you’ve nursed or the stories you’ve told yourself about who you are and what you can do (or what you cannot do), decide right now that you will not settle for a life (career, relationships, etc.) that doesn’t light you up. More so, that you will set your sights on whatever vision—however humble or scarily huge—that does light you up. Research shows that while we lose some abilities as we grow older, the benefits of those we gain far exceed any that are lost. So rather than ask, “What can I accomplish despite my struggles?” ask yourself, “What can I accomplish because of them?”

Source: You’ve Got This! pp. 50-51

Trust Your Gut

I’m happy to welcome Wild Rose Press author Susie Black. Today, Susie shares her creative journey and new release, Death by Sample Size.

Here’s Susie!

I had always envisioned a career as a journalist, but life had other plans. Right after my college graduation, our family had an emergency while my apparel sales rep Dad was at a trade show in Atlanta. When no one from his companies could cover for him so he could attend to the emergency, dad asked me to help. Despite having absolutely no background or interest in his business, this was my dad, so of course, I said yes. After giving me a half-hour crash course in how to sell ladies’ apparel, dad left me alone to muddle through running the trade show. When he returned three days later, he was taken aback at how many orders I’d written. To my utter astonishment, he offered me a job as a sub-rep. Graduate school didn’t appeal to me and the opportunities for women in journalism at the time were few and far between. So, I accepted dad’s offer, and the adventure of a lifetime began.

At the beginning of my apparel industry career as a sales rep in the deep southern states, I was the ONLY woman traveling a territory. I had to prove myself to everyone in the industry every day. Retailers, as well as manufacturers, doubted my ability to do the job or last more than a season. I proved all the doubters wrong and broke every glass ceiling.

Things rarely turn out the way you think they will, but they do happen for a reason. I got into the rag biz because I was destined to write about it. My advice to anyone planning a second act is trust your gut, believe in yourself, never stop saying what if, don’t let anyone crush your dream, and always remember that regret is the worst human emotion as it is the one we can usually do little or nothing about.

Like the protagonist in my Holly Swimsuit Mystery Series, I am a ladies’ swimwear sales exec in the greater Los Angeles area. From the beginning of my career, I have kept a daily journal chronicling the interesting, quirky, and sometimes quite challenging people I have encountered as well as the crazy situations I’ve gotten myself into and out of. My daily journal entries are the foundation of everything I write. As a female who has succeeded in a historically male-dominated industry, it was important to me to write about the apparel business from a woman’s point of view. All of my characters are based on real people, and the central characters are all strong, successful women who have beaten the odds. Holly Schlivnik, the main character in the series, is based on me with some poetic license taken, of course. The stories all take place in the fast-paced ladies’ apparel industry.

Susie is offering a free Swimsuit Fit Guide to interested readers.

Email Susie here.

Blurb

“The last thing swimwear sales exec Holly Schlivnik expected was to discover ruthless buying office big wig Bunny Frank’s corpse trussed up like a Thanksgiving turkey with a bikini stuffed down her throat. When Holly’s colleague is arrested for Bunny’s murder, the wise-cracking, irreverent amateur sleuth jumps into action to find the real killer. Nothing turns out the way Holly thinks it will as she matches wits with a wily killer hellbent on revenge.”

Tagline

“Everyone wanted her dead…but who actually killed her?”

Excerpt

“When the elevator doors opened, I had to stop myself short not to step on her. There was Bunny Frank-the buying office big shot-lying diagonally across the car. Her legs were splayed out and her back was propped against the corner. Her sightless eyes were wide open and her arms reached out in a come-to-me baby pose. She was trussed up with shipping tape like a dressed Thanksgiving turkey ready for the oven with a bikini stuffed in her mouth. A Gotham Swimwear hangtag drooped off her lower lip like a toe tag gone lost. Naturally, I burst out laughing.

Before you label me incredibly weird or stone-cold, let me say genetics aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. If you’re lucky you inherit your Aunt Bertha’s sexy long legs or your father’s ability to add a bazillion dollar order in his head and get the total correct to the last penny. Without even breaking into a sweat, it’s easy to spout at least a million fabulous traits inheritable by the luck of the draw. Did I get those sexy long legs or the ability to add more than two plus two without a calculator? Noooooooooo. Lucky me. I inherited my Nana’s fear of death we overcompensated for with the nervous habit of laughing. A hysterical reaction? Think Bozo the clown eulogizing your favorite aunt.

I craned my neck like a tortoise and checked around. Then I clamped a fist over my mouth. Cripes, how could I possibly explain my guffaws with Bunny lying there? The disappointment was simultaneously mixed with relief when there was no one else in the parking lot. Where was security when you needed them?

I toed the elevator door open and bent over Bunny. I’d seen enough CSI episodes to know not to touch her. She was stiff as a board and I attributed the bluish tinge of her skin to the bikini crammed down her throat. I was no doctor, but I didn’t need an MD after my name to make this diagnosis. Bunny Frank was dead as the proverbial doorknob.

It was no surprise Bunny Frank had finally pushed someone beyond their limits. The only surprise was it had taken so long. The question wasn’t who wanted Bunny Frank dead. The question was who didn’t?”

Buy Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Target | Kobo

Bio

Born in the Big Apple, Susie Black now calls sunny Southern California home. Susie is a successful apparel sales executive. Susie began telling stories as soon as she learned to talk. Now she’s telling all the stories from her garment industry experiences in humorous mysteries.

She reads, writes, and speaks Spanish, albeit with an accent that sounds like Mildred from Michigan went on a Mexican vacation and is trying to fit in with the locals. Since life without pizza and ice cream as her core food groups wouldn’t be worth living, she’s a dedicated walker to keep her girlish figure. A voracious reader, she’s also an avidstamp collector. Susie lives with a highly intelligent man and has one incredibly brainy but smart-aleck adult son who inexplicably blames his sarcasm on an inherited genetic defect.

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Built Myself Up Layer by Layer

I’m happy to welcome multi-published author Pamela Thibodeaux. Today, Pamela shares her inspiring reinvention story and her novel, My Heart Weeps.

Here’s Pamela!

Thank you, so much Joanne for hosting me on your incredible blog! I absolutely love the idea of reinvention. So many times in our lives we have to start over or ask for and take a second (or third, or fourth) chance for a do-over. Reminds me of those movies of people trading places so popular in the 80’s.

I guess you could say my first act, after being born into a great family with three brothers was marrying at the tender age of sixteen (yes, 16!). That union lasted ten years and sadly ended in divorce which brought about my first need for change. Five years later I married a wonderful man who died a short seventeen years afterward, throwing me into my 2nd second act and time of reinvention.

For most of my adult life I was someone’s wife or mother. After my husband’s death in 2009, I began the long and arduous journey from wife to widow to individual.

When I separated from my first husband (with no self esteem intact), I adopted the motto, “What you see is what you get. You like it? Good! You don’t? Hit the road, it’s your loss.” This was out of self preservation, not a sense of self worth or self love. With my second husband, I always felt beautiful and worthy in his eyes, but never in my own.

Years after being thrust into the dating scene—something I never felt comfortable with anyway—I learned the true meaning of self worth and self love. Now, when I say that motto, I know what I bring into a relationship, therefore I mean it on a deeper level.

Today I am happy with myself, my life and my relationships!

If anyone planning to pursue a second act would ask my advice, the first thing I would tell them is to work on their inner self and internal dialogue. After all, you’re going to take you into every aspect of your life so you might as well love and appreciate yourself! I built myself up layer by layer by writing and repeating positive ‘I Am’ affirmations….

I am love and I am loving. I am forgiven and I am forgiveness. I am healthy, whole and complete. I am beautiful. I am peaceful. I am joyful. I am happy and others are happy with me. I am (YOU fill in the blanks).

Read books like, You Can Heal Your Life and Mirror Work by Louise Hay, The Power of I Am by Joel Osteen and other similar titles. Positive affirmations are one of the kindest and most rewarding things you can do for yourself in any situation, but especially when you are in need of, or in the midst of change.

My Heart Weeps is Melena Rhyker’s second act—her journey from grief into new life and parallels my own.

Blurb

After thirty years married to the man of her dreams, Melena Rhyker is devastated by her husband’s death. Relief comes in the form of an artist’s retreat at the Crossed Penn ranch in Utopia, TX. She rediscovers a forgotten dream as her artistic talent flourishes into that of a gallery-worthy artist. Will she have the courage to follow the path she was destined to travel?

Garrett Saunders has been on the run most of his life. Abused and abandoned as a child, he escapes the clutches of a past filled with pain and shame, and hides from his calling as a Native American healer. His years as a CIA agent aid in overcoming his childhood and honing his talent and skill as a fine art photographer.

Follow their journey as two people who come from totally different backgrounds, but share gifts of gigantic proportions, find meaning and purpose in the Texas Hill Country.

Excerpt

At 6 p.m., she pulled into the carport, turned off the engine and laid her head on the steering wheel.

“Well, I’m home again. Made it through another agonizing eight hours or so, now to get through another night.”

Gathering every ounce of courage she could summon, she disembarked from her vehicle, retrieved the mail from the box beside the door, and entered the house. She thumbed through the envelopes and advertisements, then laid them on the table and poured a glass of juice. She reached for the bottle of over-the-counter pain reliever and froze.

It would be so easy to end this pain.

Oh, what an enticing thought. Just take a handful of pills and end it all. Would she wake up in heaven? Would Jesus meet her there? Would Jonathan? What about the kids or Mama—would they understand? Or would she destroy them? Where was the faith she claimed to have? Why was it failing her now?

Buy Links

Amazon US | Amazon CA | Amazon UK | Amazon AU

Author Bio

Award-winning author, Pamela S. Thibodeaux is the Co-Founder and a lifetime member of Bayou Writers Group in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Multi-published in romantic fiction as well as creative non-fiction, her writing has been tagged as, “Inspirational with an Edge!”™ and reviewed as “steamier and grittier than the typical Christian novel without decreasing the message.” Sign up to receive Pam’s newsletter and get a FREE short story!

Where to find Pamela…

Website | Blog | Newsletter | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Amazon Author Page | BookBub | Instagram

Just Keep Showing Up and Shining Out!

Welcome to my Second Acts Series!

Today, we have Candace Colt sharing her multi-act life and Familiar Blessings, Book 1 in the Magic Potter Series.

Here’s Candace!

I’m honored to be a part of Joanne’s Second Act Series. Reading the other Second Act posts has been so inspiring, and I am sure you feel the same way. May I add that when you read another person’s story, and it doesn’t sound exactly like yours, perhaps you will find encouragement that change can be good no matter what the circumstances. Maybe you’ve already made a change (planned or unplanned). Another person’s story might give you the reassurance that you will be “okay.” The most important thing is this: have trust and faith in yourself!

First Act

“In my day,” a woman’s career options were a bit limited. That’s an understatement. Honestly, there few choices. Wife and mother (in tandem), nurse, airline stewardess, secretary, teacher. All worthy paths, yes. But even with a professional degree, many women quit the job after they got married. In my case, I got married, but I did not stop working. In fact, except for a few in-between-job periods, I worked full time until I retired in 2014.

I followed the teacher track and taught K-6 for several years. But then my husband’s job took us to a university town where teaching jobs were non-existent. Why? Because all the male grad students’ wives were teachers supporting their husbands. Does this sound familiar?

So, what’s a girl to do? Reinvention!

By some miracle, I was accepted into a Nuclear Medicine Technology program, with not much clue what that was! After graduation, I was hired, and naturally, I was the queen of the world! Then, a teaching job opened up in the field (college educator) that took me on a glorious seventeen-year journey. But then program funding disappeared, and there went that dream job! Another career change led me into entry-level college administration. Then to a college library director position (hello, I’m not a librarian!), where I had ten great years working with the best people in the world.

Fast Forward to the Second Act!

Retirement provided me the wherewithal to follow my heart to become a writer. Trust me, writing and promotion is full-time work, but I love it. Since I’ve retired, I’ve had nine books published in contemporary paranormal romance. By the way, each one has a wise older woman in the story. Imagine that?

I am nothing if not persistent. I don’t possess great intellectual genius. My changes were out of necessity rather than a master plan. If you ask me for advice, I will keep it simple. Paraphrasing my yoga teacher, no matter who you are or where you are in life,”Just keep showing up and shining out!”

Blurb

Familiar Blessings: The Magic Potter Series Book 1 (Cat’s Paw Cove Romance)

The magic begins when you trust your heart.

Tired of being hounded by the greedy dead, gifted medium Dr. Theodosia Blessing, the wonder-child of historians around the world, yearned for anonymity. After renouncing her magic, she reinvented herself as Theo, the potter. She returned to her hometown of Cat’s Paw Cove, Florida, where she lives with her familiar, a mind-reading tortoiseshell cat named Aloysius.

Former Army Ranger Ethan Cooper was content to live a reclusive life in his cabin in North Carolina. But as Christmas draws near, he agrees to repay a debt to an old man whose wise counsel brought him out of war’s dark shadow. Ethan accepts one last mission: to track down Theo.

Ethan appears unannounced on Theo’s doorstep with an envelope containing the old man’s letter. If what it says is true, the reluctant medium, skeptical Ranger, and wiseacre cat must travel back to 1720 to save a young boy from the gallows.

FAMILIAR BLESSINGS originally appeared in MEOWS & MISTLETOE, a Cat’s Paw Cove Romance Holiday Anthology. It won the 2019 Paranormal Romance Guild’s Reviewers’ Choice Award.

Excerpt

Curious but cautious, Theo hesitated, then carefully opened the parchment envelope and removed the folded paper.

She waved the letter at the stranger. “You drove all the way from North Carolina to give me this?”

“I suggested he could mail it certified, but he said it was too important. The old man’s my loyal friend, so I couldn’t refuse.”

Who was behind this? A stranger shows up with a letter an old man gave him. Sure.

Have I ever lied to you? Read it.

Theo glanced down at her cat, Aloysius. “Hush.” She noticed the man’s confusion. “Didn’t mean you.” He was obviously an Ordinary and hadn’t heard a word the cat said.

Theo cleared an imagined tickle in her throat and unfolded the paper. The ink had smudged in a few places, but the handwriting was legible. Her archivist expertise told her this was written in old English. F was used for S. The sentences were sprinkled with thee and thou.

In her former university position, she had analyzed documents like this before. Why would someone want this one hand-carried all the way to Florida when there were competent researchers in North Carolina?

Aloysius gave her ankle a ‘get-on-with-it’ shove. Read it out loud so the human can hear.

“All right, already.” She took a breath and began reading.

Dearest Theodosia,

I suspect thou hast many concerns about the manner in which this letter came to thee.

Please read it to the end. Trust ’tis written with the intentions of someone who loved and has watched over thee since thee was born.

Theodosia Blessing, thou comest from an old family. Thy God-given gift must continue–.

Theo’s throat tightened, and words bunched inside. Besides her family, only one living being on this earth knew her reason to abandon the magic: the ten-pound cat sitting at her feet.

Buy/Read

Candace’s Cat’s Paw Cove Romance Books are available on Amazon.

Candace’s Nocturne Falls Universe Books are available here:

Kindle | iBooks | Nook | Kobo

About the Author

Candace Colt lives the good life on Florida’s west coast with her husband of 48 years. After careers in education and the medical field, she launched her second life as a writer. Since she retired, she’s published nine paranormal romance books. She chose paranormal because it’s fun to write and because even shape-shifters, elves, psychics and time travelers deserve their happily ever after.

Links

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest | Amazon Author Page | Bookbub | Goodreads

Grab That Dream and Shake the Stuffing Out of It

Welcome to my Second Acts Series!

Today, we have multi-genre author D.V. Stone sharing an inspirational post about her life journey.

Here’s Donna!

Briefly describe your first act.

Daughter, wife, mom, employee, volunteer EMT, we all have a variation of the first act, don’t we? We’re young and have hopes and dreams of who we want to be and where we want to be. The idea that love lasts forever. Children will be exactly who we want them to be. Our job is something we leap out of bed in the morning to get to. Our life will make a difference.

Then the reality hits. We learn love doesn’t last for everyone. Illness strikes. Your child decides to leave and go live with his father. A second job is needed to make ends meet. Anyone living the fantasy in paradise? Of course, to various degrees, not. Different times and challenges often suck the joy and hope out of us.

What triggered the need for change?

Everyone’s triggers are different and can happen in a series of unfortunate events. (Did you just think of Lemony Snicket?) My triggers were a series. Divorce in my early thirties. Re-marriage (this time a keeper). The child mentioned above moved out and broke my heart. A second job is needed to make ends meet. Then business failures. Don’t stop here and think it’s all bad all the time. This is real life, remember? Not the impossible images of the perfect family on TV and in commercials. But it’s the nitty-gritty life that is often messy. Then came not the most significant trigger, but the one that brought me to today. Today where I’m sitting and typing this. I worked at a job for nine years. It was the one I most enjoyed. One where I felt I made a difference most days. One of those days, I showed up for work, then was shown the door. It was a time when the economy tanking had hit hard, and my position was eliminated. Unemployed for the first time in almost thirty years. After a few weeks of feeling sorry for myself, the thought came, “You finally have time. What do you want to be when you grow up?” I grabbed my computer.

Where are you now?

So here I am today. I have five published books—both independent and traditionally published. I run two different author blogs. I’m back at work but not for long. The Third Act retirement is beckoning, and when you read this, it’s only a month away. My DH and I bought a camper, and we’re planning on seeing the country. I have so many books and pieces of books I’m itching to get to. So this show is going on the road.

Do you have advice for anyone planning to pursue a second act?

Fear nearly brought my publishing dreams to a halt. What if nobody likes my writing? What if I make a fool out of myself? What if I’m just bad at it? My advice is more of a question. Who are you going to listen to? The voice that says you can’t? Or are you going to take a leap of faith to grab that dream and shake the stuffing out of it? Tear it up and put it back together in a way that works for you—today. Don’t let old dreams pass by unfulfilled. Take them out of the box you’ve shoved them into. Look at them. Really look. They may be unrealistic. But maybe we can make it a more reasonable achievement. You may never be the princess of your youthful dreams. But you can write about one. Perhaps even in the first person. Have you always dreamed of being a singer? Same thing. Even if you can’t sing worth a dime, you’ll always have music. What were your dreams, and how can they be brought forward to today?

Any affirmations or quotations you wish to share?

I love this quote.

“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” — Maya Angelou

Blurb

Aden House, successful but driven chef and TV personality, refuses to slow down. His life implodes one night, damaging him both physically and emotionally. He’s rescued by a woman he thinks of as his angel.

Shay McDowell has rebuilt her life after her divorce. She juggles volunteer EMT duties and her job, while dreaming of becoming a chef. She finds her way to Rock House Grill and back into the life of the man she helped save.

Can love be the ingredient needed to survive the many obstacles they face?

Excerpt

“Easy, you’re going to be okay.” A soft voice eased through the chaos around him. The owner of the voice grabbed his arms and held them in a firm but gentle grip. “I’m right here with you. You are not alone.” “Can hardly m-move.” His voice slurred. “C-can’t see anything.” “You’ve been in an accident. I’m an EMT with the ambulance squad,” the velvety voice calmly explained. “You can’t see well because we’re under a tarp. Hold still, okay?” “‘K.” A small light flickered at the edge of his vision. It shone into a bag next to him. Penlight. “You’re restrained to a board. It’s to keep your head from moving and causing more injury.” She continued to talk to him. The voice reached down somewhere inside him, calming and peaceful, so he focused on it. A glow from spotlights on the outside lit whatever covered them. The shadow gave the woman the appearance of a halo—like an angel.

Buy Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBook | Google Books | Kobo

Author Bio

Hi, my name is D. V. Stone. I am a multi-genre author of two independently published books. Felice, Shield-Mates of Dar is a fantasy romance. Agent Sam Carter and the Mystery at Branch Lake is a mid-grade paranormal. Recently, Rock House Grill was released by Wild Rose Press. Rainbow Sprinkles, a novella released on July 8th. I also host Welcome to the Campfire and A Peek Through the Window, both weekly blogs. Here’s a little more about me.

Born in Brooklyn, D.V. Stone has moved around a bit and even lived for a time on a dairy farm in Minnesota before moving back east. Throughout her wandering, she always considered herself a Jersey Girl. She met and married the love of her life, Pete—a lifelong Jersey Man, and moved this time to Sussex County. They live with Hali, a mixed breed from the local shelter, and their cat Baby.

D.V.’s career path varied from working with the disabled to become a volunteer EMT, which in turn led to working in hospital emergency rooms and then in a women’s state prison. After a few years, she took a break from medicine and became the owner of Heavenly Brew, a specialty coffee shop in Sparta, NJ, and a small restaurant in Lafayette. Life handed some setbacks, and she ended up back in the medical field, but this time in a veterinary emergency hospital.

“Thank you for taking the time to read about me. Each time you open the pages to one of my books, I hope you’ll be swept away by the story and find encouragement in your own life, never to give up on hope.”

Where to find D.V. Stone…

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest | Bookbub | Goodreads | Newsletter | Amazon Author Page

One-Stop Link

Other Books by D. V. Stone

Rainbow Sprinkles
After the storm come the rainbows.

Felice, Shield-Mates of Dar
One foolish thought. One brutal act. Instead of a peaceful alliance––war.

Agent Sam Carter and the Mystery at Branch Lake
A Mid-grade paranormal

Australia Burns
Anthology – Contributing Author

Trust That Little Voice Within

Welcome to my Second Acts Series!

Today, we have Guelph author Wendy Stross sharing her inspiring reinvention story and first novel, A Love to Behold.

Here’s Wendy!

Act One

When contemplating this blog and what to share, I realize that throughout my life I have had various endeavours, various acts, and consider myself to be very much a student of life. With that said, at the age of nineteen, I became a registered nurse working in a downtown Toronto hospital. I worked on a surgical unit, part of which was directed to the treatment and care of patients with lung cancer. Once, when working a night shift, a couple of nurses and I were talking about what we would do if, at some time, we stopped nursing. “A writer,” I replied without thinking. My answer took me by surprise. I thought, “Now where did that come from?” I could never have imagined that one day I would hold a Ph.D. in History from the University of Toronto, and later still, write and publish a novel, A Love to Behold. So, how did I get from nurse to writer?

Years later when my husband and I had moved to Guelph and my children were in school, I registered as a full-time student at the local university. At the time, I had absolutely no interest in taking history. Truthfully, when in high school, if someone had told me one day I would become an historian, I would have told them they were crazy. History then was about kings, people with money, and those who held political, legal and/or religious power. There were few, if any, women, children – no ordinary individuals such as myself. As such, the subject held little interest for me. But, timing is everything. Two decades later when I returned to university, history as a discipline of study was undergoing significant changes. It was about social and cultural history, directed to including those individuals who had previously been ignored, silenced, excluded from the historical narrative. I thought, “Okay, this interests me.”

This new history demanded a great imagination. One had to examine old sources in new ways, to imagine new possibilities of discovering and learning about those individuals who had been ghosted from the past. In looking at old sources in new ways, historians were coming to new understandings about the past. I found this new direction exciting. I don’t think it was an accident that at the same time I was doing my Ph.D., my interest in spirituality was sparked, first through reading, then being a member of a goddess circle, and attending various spiritual workshops. Again, it was about expanding my worldview, using my imagination.

What triggered the need for change?

After earning my doctorate, for the next few years, I did some contract work and volunteering at the local city museum. Initially, I loved the experience of working in my community, discovering its past through material culture. But over time, I had this feeling that I didn’t belong there anymore. At the same time, both my parents were ill and I felt drained, physically, emotionally, and mentally. And even though I had no idea what I was going to do next, I decided to leave.

Where am I now?

So, why turn to fiction? In nursing, in the study of history and in working at the museum, I came upon a world of stories, past and present, stories we tell ourselves, stories that shape who we are. I became interested in the possibilities of these stories – possibilities not just seen, but the unseen, the undocumented, the unexplored possibilities imagined, but perhaps not written about.

When doing a doctorate in history, it was necessary to write something original, something new yet to be addressed. And so, when turning to fiction, I wanted to write something unique, a different kind of love story. A couple of years earlier I had heard a woman on the radio talk about the love and relationship she had shared with her twin flame. She described their love as deeply respectful and unconditional, one that consistently honoured the other’s choices and situations. I began to wonder what that kind of relationship would look like. How would it manifest in an ordinary life? And what would that look like if one twin flame was still alive, but one was dead and across the veil? A Love to Behold is the product of my wondering, my imagining.

It was only as I was preparing for the virtual book launch of A Love to Behold, that I came to fully appreciate all that I have accomplished. For a long time, I questioned what I was doing in terms of my career. To be a writer was something I never could have imagined for myself. And the fact that I have written and published my first novel is amazing to me.

Do you have any advice for anyone planning to pursue a second act?

The best advice I ever received was from my husband. My first written assignment as a university student was a philosophy paper on Plato’s Republic. Prior to this, the extent of my writing had been the weekly grocery list. The Saturday before the essay was due, I went up to my study. Hours passed, and finally my husband came upstairs and dared to ask me how it was going.

I burst out crying. “I can’t do this! It’s too hard!” In all that time, I had not been able to put a single word down on paper.

Once my husband had recovered from his shock, he said, “Wendy, it doesn’t have to be perfect. Just write down your thoughts, and slowly it will come to you. You can always go back and edit it.”

While he was talking about writing, I think it is true for life in general. Beginning anything new is scary, and it is hard. Looking back on my journey from nurse, to historian, and now novelist, I have come to appreciate how much courage it took to keep going. I remember handing in a draft of my first chapter of my doctoral thesis to my supervisor who then returned it with comments. I asked him if I should edit it. He answered, “No. Keep going. It is only when you reach the end that you will finally know what your book is about.” Wise words, I still hold dear.

Affirmation to Share

Love yourself and be kind to yourself. Trust that little voice within, even if at times, it seems to make no sense. It is leading you somewhere, someplace that you can’t even imagine – yet.

Blurb

This is the story of Anne and Archie. Boy meets Girl. Boy loses Girl. Boy finally gets Girl. Sounds ordinary? Well yes, until you realize Boy meets Girl, and they are together for three months. Boy loses Girl for forty-three years, and does not get Girl until after his death when he returns to tell her she was the love of his life. It is an amazing love story, full of promise, hardship, and the growing awareness of the immense and unconditional love shared by these twin flames.

Excerpt

As she turned the key in the ignition, Anne decided to stop at “the Gathering” – an annual event sponsored by a local store that specialized in spirituality. It was around 10:30 and the church auditorium was humming with activity. Tables of the various vendors, healers, and mediums were scattered throughout the room.

Jennifer, a friend, called to her, “Hey kid, what are you doing here?”

“Probably procrastinating! I’ve never been to this event and was curious.” Jennifer was an energy practitioner who did Reiki and Reflexology, and Anne asked if she had a table here.

Jennifer said no, that this kind of event was not conducive to the healing work she did – too busy and noisy. “Actually, I’m just leaving. My daughter has dance in an hour. See you at Friday yoga?”

Anne nodded, waved bye and started to wander. Everything from aromatherapy, crystals, jewelry, Christmas decorations and baking, as well as various healers offering their services were to be found in this one room. She was thinking she should go when from the corner of her eye, she spotted a woman seated at a table; her sign read “Susan Barker, Psychic Medium – Readings – $60 for 30 minutes.” Anne had had readings from psychics before, some good, some not so good. She was not familiar with this one. Anne circled the room once more, but found herself drawn back to psychic Sue. Ms. Barker looked to be around fifty, heavy-set, and reminded Anne of a beloved great-aunt. She was free at the moment, so Anne paid her money and sat down for a reading.

For the first fifteen minutes or so, the medium was pretty on track. Anne’s grandmother had come through, saying Anne had come by her love of books from her.

“Was there something at the end whereby she couldn’t talk?”

“Yes, she had a stroke that affected her throat. She could neither swallow nor speak at the end.”

The psychic said that her grandmother regretted she was unable to say some of the things she had wanted to say. That she was very proud of Anne and of all she had accomplished while being a wife and mother. Moments later, Sue looked above Anne’s head, her eyes widening in surprise.

“Your soulmate’s here, standing behind you!”

Stunned, Anne leaned forward to ensure she had heard correctly. “I’m sorry. What?” And then, shaking her head, she said, “You must be mistaken. I’ve been married over forty years and to my knowledge, my husband is very much alive.”

Bio

Throughout her life, Wendy has had various endeavours and considers herself to be very much a student of life. As well as being a wife, mother, and grandmother, she has been a registered nurse, has a Ph.D. in History from the University of Toronto, and has earned a Certificate in Museum Studies from the Ontario Museum Association.

The common thread underlying all her pursuits is Wendy’s lifelong passion for all things spiritual and unknown. At one point in her life, Wendy was a member of a goddess circle. The goddess experience, being part of a circle of women, opened Wendy up to the possibilities of magic in the world, to the possibilities within herself.

Over the last few years, she has attended various spiritual workshops which further fueled her interest in subjects such as soul contracts, soul ages, reincarnation, and meditation, prayer, dreams – all means by which one is able to connect with the wisdom of Spirit, God, one’s High Self, spirit guides and angels. And Wendy was astounded to learn that she could converse with and access the wisdom of her soul, her High Self, God, her spirit guides and angels through various means. The understanding that one could communicate with those spirits across the veil, that across the veil relationships were real and are possible served as inspiration for A Love to Behold, her first novel.

So, why turn to fiction? In the study of cultural and social history, in efforts to gain a more inclusive understanding and vision of the past, Wendy came upon a world of stories, past and present, stories we tell ourselves, the stories that shape who we are. And she became interested in the possibilities of these stories – possibilities not just seen, but the unseen, the undocumented, the unexplored possibilities imagined but perhaps not written about.

Wendy has long desired to write a novel, a love story, about the immense and unconditional love shared by twin flames. What would that kind of love and relationship look like? How would it manifest in an ordinary life? And what would that look like if one twin flame was still alive, but one was dead and across the veil? A Love to Behold is the product of Wendy’s wondering – her imagining.

Social Media and Buy Link

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The recording of the virtual book launch of A Love To Behold on March 7th is now on YouTube. Here’s the link.