Friday, December 28, 2012

Nicole O'Dell: Choosing Not To Soften Edges For A Reason

Everyone's Story welcomes author and multi-talented Nicole O'Dell as its last guest for 2012. Nicole is a very fitting guest to end the year on a blog whose aim is to uplift and encourage readers, writers, and all those in-between. That's because the starting point for the love of story is with a child and that's where Nicole's heart is. A true advocate for children, Nicole will share with us this week her thoughts on edgy fiction vs. the edgy life of teens. Nicole also answers a few interview questions, and check out the awesome book giveaway she offers. 

May your New Year be one of joy and peace.

Book Giveaway:

Nicole is graciously offering one copy of her recent release in the Diamond Estates Series, THE SHADOWED ONYX, to one randomly chosen commenter. The winner will be announced next Friday, on January 4th, between 4-5 EST. For convenience, please insert your email address within the body of the comment. Thank you!

Is It My Goal To Be Edgy? by Nicole O'Dell

My question, whenever this comes up, is who determines the edge? And the edge of what? Maybe if I were writing in a time when aprons were in style and teens still said yes ma’am to their teachers.  Or in a time when parents were allowed to hold other people’s kids accountable for disrespect and bad behavior. And even today, I suppose calling my books edgy is fair when the view is from the center of a church pew on Sunday morning.
Sadly, that’s not where the majority of teenagers, even Christian teens, (and most of their parents) are building their frames of reference. According to their lifestyles and their threshold for shocking, even sinful things, the stories I tell are far from the edge. In fact, they’re smack-dab in the center of reality as most of them (and us) know it.
For example, my recent Diamond Estates series…
Diamond Estates. Three girls are on a journey to find hope and healing. Each coming to Diamond Estates seeking solace… Each with her own unique set of struggles… And each capturing hearts and challenging the faith of teen girls.
In the three books in this series, a troubled teen is plucked out of the mire of poor choices and the consequences that resulted, and dropped into Diamond Estates, a Christian counseling residence for teen girls, where they seek truth and grace. The road to forgiveness–mainly accepting it for themselves–is a difficult one. But the light of Jesus shines the brightest against the backdrop of their despair.
Which is exactly what I want to teach confused, hurt, and angry teens about their own realities
Am I being edgy just for the shock value?
Oh, no. I would hope and pray that is never my motivation. Ever. There is no storyline in any of my books that isn’t there for a reason--never shock value. In fact, I have taken scenes or descriptions out when I didn’t trust my own motives for putting them there. I am human, after all, and I sure don’t want to get in the way of what God’s doing with the work.
So then what is the goal?

Well, in the first Diamond Estates book, The Wishing Pearl, 10/1/11, Olivia dealt with off-screen sexual abuse by her step-father as she struggled to heal from the death of her dad years before. She turned to the wrong crowd, alcohol, and drugs in search of oblivion.
In The Embittered Ruby, 4/1/12, Carmen Castillo faces the divorce of her parents that forces a relocation from upstate New York to a rougher part of New Jersey. She goes from country club tennis lessons to gang fights. Deciding to take matters into her own hands, Carmen becomes a master manipulator.
The Shadowed Onyx, 12/1/12, deals with occult activity and spiritual warfare as Joy Christianson tries to make sense of her best friend’s suicide.
Each of these books takes a hard-hitting look at real-life things teens face. The goal is simply to show them the way through that mire and point them toward the cross of Jesus Christ.
There is no other goal.
But do Christian parents want their teens reading about that stuff?
Well, if their teens are seeing it all lived out in front of them on a daily basis. What they might not see, however, are the consequences of those poor choices or the redemption that can only be found in Jesus. They see the sparkle of sin and the glamour of rebellion, but rarely do they realize what it’s like to hit bottom. . .until they do.
My goal is for readers to choose a different path by reading these stories. Maybe as a result of reading these stories, they’ll decide to start their personal choices at the end of the book and skip all the pain along the way. Or perhaps they’ll find inspiration to reach out to someone who needs to see truth against the backdrop of lies. To that end, I believe in facing the hard issues, talking about them before they actually arise, and making a plan to combat the peer pressure before it hits.
Parents shouldn’t be afraid of the issues; they should be afraid of what happens when they ignore them.
The Diamond Estates series might seem edgy, but it’s on the edge where the miracles happen. 

3 Questions for Nicole:

In my mind's eye, you are synonymous with helping children thrive and for shaping a healthy relationship between parent and child. Where did this passion come from?

Thanks, Elaine. The drive I have to help parents and teens build bridges and then cross them came about because I experienced a big communication breakdown between me and my parents when I was a teen. If we'd been able to heal through that time, I believe that I'd have stayed stronger in my faith and closer to my parents. That's my goal for today's families.

Please share with us about Choose NOW Ministries,  Choose NOW Radio, and Choose HER.

Choose NOW Ministries is an umbrella entity that encompasses all the resources (Choose NOW Radio network, Choose NOW blog network, Choose HER mother/daughter ministry, books, events, and messages) that we offer parents and teens. If you visit www. or, you'll find a network of ministry partners who share a similar passion as mine and bring their own expertise to a certain topic each month. People like Tricia Goyer, Mary DeMuth, Sheila Gregoire, and many others! Be sure to check it out! 

Care to reveal your secret source of energy when it comes to balancing being a wife, a mom of six children, an author, and your dedication to your ministries?

I wish I knew! :) Honestly, I try to simply be a vessel and let God accomplish whatever he wishes to do through me. I can tell when I'm operating under my own will and steam because I come up short--and tired. But when it's all Him, everything comes together.

Author Bio:
Nicole O'Dell, founder of Choose NOW Ministries and host of Choose NOW Radio: Parent Talk and Teen Talk, is a youth culture expert who writes and speaks to preteens, teenagers, and parents on preparing for life's tough choices. The mother of six, including toddler triplets, she’s author of YA fiction, including the popular Scenarios for Girls interactive fiction series and the Diamond Estates Series, and non-fiction for teens including Girl Talk, 2/1/12, based on the popular advice column she writes with her two daughters. Hot Buttons, O’Dell’s non-fiction series for parents, pre-empts peer pressure by tackling tough issues and was recently endorsed by Focus on the Family. Visit for access to her bustling blog network and other resources.

Friday, December 21, 2012

MaryAnn Diorio: A Talented Artist Praising God

Everyone's story welcomes Dr. MaryAnn Diorio as its new guest during this holiday week. I've had the pleasure getting to know MaryAnn in the Northeast Chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers. Now it's exciting to see MaryAnn's release of her novella, A CHRISTMAS HOMECOMING. Yet, MaryAnn isn't new to the writing world, having written hundreds of articles for magazines, as well a columns for newspapers. MaryAnn has also appeared in several radio and television talk shows, is a Certified Life Coach, and as you can see below, is also an artist. Her bottom line: she praises God for all that He has done in her life.

Book Giveaway
MaryAnn is offering one e-version of A CHRISTMAS HOMECOMING to one randomly chosen commenter.
And here's some great news: because this is an e-book, anyone in any country can be a winner. The winner will be announced between 4-5 EST on December 28th. For convenience, please leave your email address within the body of your comment. Thanks.

Here's a blurb on A CHRISTMAS HOMECOMING:          

Seven Christmases have passed since Sonia Pettit last heard from her daughter Jody. Since Jody’s departure, Sonia’s world has been turned upside down. Her husband has died of a broken heart, and her son, bitter over his sister’s destructive actions, has become rebellious. 

Her greatest desire is to have her family together at Christmas, but after what Jody has put them all through, can Sonia truly forgive her daughter? 

Jody Pettit O’Dair ran away to experience a life of adventure and excitement, but since her departure, her world has been turned upside down. She’s been abandoned by the man she met and married, lost her job, and is unable to care for her two children. With nowhere else to turn, this prodigal daughter begins the long journey home and prays she will be welcomed after walking away so long ago. 

Will Jody find forgiveness in the arms of her family as easily as she received it from God? 

Questions for MaryAnn
Your bio on your website is impressive. Congratulations in achieving your goals of writing, counseling, fine arts, and theology. Can you share your secret of your energy source? Only joking! Please share with us your path to publication.

I wrote poetry from the age of fifteen when my first poem was published as the result of winning a national poetry contest. I continued to write poetry and still do so today. At the age of 30, I sensed God’s call to write for Him. My ministry was launched as the result of a poem that I wrote and that was accepted by The Saturday Evening Post. Being the novice that I was, I had no idea that this was a difficult market to tap. I considered my acceptance by that prestigious publication as God’s confirmation of my call to write for Him.

How has your background helped in shaping you as an author? Despite this rich, varied history, did you still have to overcome obstacles before the success of publication?

Oh, my yes, I still have to overcome obstacles. What serious writer doesn’t? As for how my background has shaped me, it has taught me to dream big, to persevere, and to believe. It has taught me that there is a price to pay for success, and that success comes to those who never quit. It has taught me to trust in God and in His timing, purpose, and plan for my life. 

You’re also an artist that works in oils, acrylics, pastels, colored pencil, and pen-and-ink. Would you like to share any of your work?

Sure. Thank you for asking, Elaine. This is an acrylic titled Geometrics. (more will be below)

Copyright by MaryAnn Diorio.  All rights reserved.
Any tips on how to make the most out of one’s past when it comes to creating?

First of all, I don’t believe in the Muse. I believe in the Holy Spirit who gives me ideas and helps me to write them into stories. I believe that every experience we have had plays into who we are which, in turn, plays into our writing. Holy Spirit can take our experiences, especially our difficult ones, and use them to touch lives through the talents God has given us.

A CHRISTMAS HOMECOMING is a novella released by Harbourlight Books, an imprint of the Pelican Book Group. The story has an interesting spin on the prodigal son: the prodigal daughter. Where did this idea come from? Would you like to expand this theme into a full-length novel?

Last spring, I saw a notice from the Pelican Book Group that this publisher was looking for Christmas novellas. I discerned a nudging in my spirit that I should write a story, so I asked God to give me an idea. The idea for A CHRISTMAS HOMECOMING emerged as a result.

B&W Man, in acrylics
Copyright by MaryAnn Diorio
All rights reserved.
What advantages did you find by working with a small publisher?

The Pelican Book Group, and, in particular, Harbourlight Books, has been a wonderful publisher with whom to work. From my book cover designer, Nicola Martinez to my editor Fay Lamb, every person involved in the publication of my book has demonstrated the utmost professionalism, expertise, patience, and kindness. They have treated me as though I were the only author with whom they are dealing, which is definitely not the case.  This kind of personal attention is one of the 
advantages of working with a small publisher. 

Author Bio: 
Dr. MaryAnn Diorio is passionate about writing compelling fiction about the deepest issues of the human heart.  She has won several awards for her fiction, including First Place in Inspirational Fiction in both the 2011 Colorado Romance Writers Heart of the Rockies Contest and the 2011 Space Coast Launching a Star Contest for her novel, The Madonna of Pisano. Dr. MaryAnn, as she is affectionately called, resides in New Jersey with her wonderful husband.  They are the blessed parents of two grown daughters and a fantastic son-in-law. In her spare time, MaryAnn loves to oil paint, read, walk, and play the piano.

You can find MaryAnn on the web:
Twitter: @drmaryanndiorio

Friday, December 14, 2012

Diana Lesire Brandmeyer: Writing With A Distinct Mind Of Her Own

Everyone's Story gives a great big virtual hug and a welcome back to multi-published author of both fiction and non-fiction, Diana Lesire Brandmeyer. Diana has a new e-book release out in January with Tyndale House Publishers. Since it's the holiday season, this segment will be light with lots of fun. Diana shares a blurb of MIND OF HER OWN, which she is offering as a Giveaway! Check out the excerpt she shares below... a great read! Plus, she has conjured up a a list of dream readers. Diana would enjoy hearing from you. Come share your thoughts on what you enjoy reading, or just say a hello ♡

Book Giveaway Offer:
One randomly chosen commenter will receive one e-version of MIND OF HER OWN upon its release in January '13... just around the corner! And here's some great news: because this is an e-book, anyone in any country can be a winner. The winner will be announced between 4-5 EST on December 21st. For convenience, please leave your email address within the body of your comment. Thanks.
Back Cover Copy: Who knew making dinner could change your life? Louisa Copeland certainly didn’t. But when the George Foreman grill fell out of the pantry onto her head, resulting in a bump and a mighty case of amnesia, Louisa’s life takes a turn for the unexpected. Who was this Collin fellow, claiming she was his wife? And whose kids are those? Her name couldn’t be Louisa. Why, she was the renowned romance writer Jazz Sweet, not a Midwestern mom of three. Struggling to put the pieces together of the life she’s told she had, Louisa/Jazz may realize that some memories are better left alone.

For your reading pleasure, here's an excerpt from MIND OF HER OWN:



Copyright © 2013 by Diana Lesire Brandmeyer. All rights reserved.

Chapter One

Rain pelted the ceiling- to-floor windows of the family room.
The grayness of the evening invaded Louisa Copeland’s mind
and home. The oversize chair she snuggled in helped hide
her surroundings. The thick romance in her hand further
darkened her mood as she read how the hero whisked away
the heroine for a surprise dinner on some pier. Were there
relationships like that? She didn’t know of any.

“Give it to him!” Joey, her five- year-old son, joined the
fray as Madison, her twelve- year-old daughter, dangled a
plastic horse over the head of Tim, her youngest son, just
out of his reach.

Jolted from the fantasy world into the real one, where
rainy days turned children into caged animals, Louisa gripped
the book tight and took five deep breaths. “Madison, if you
don’t give it back to Tim now, I will take your phone away
for the rest of the day.”

Madison’s eyes narrowed. “Daddy won’t let you.”

“He isn’t here at the moment. He is working but will be
home for dinner, and you can discuss it with him then. But
for now give it to Tim.”

“Baby.” Madison sneered at Tim. “Take your stupid

Problem solved, Louisa retreated into the book to finish
the chapter. Done, she sighed and laid the book face up
on the side table next to her reading chair. The love-
struck characters standing in front of a houseboat mocked her from
the cover and filled her with jealousy. She longed to be the
woman between those pages. She closed her eyes, pursed her
lips against her hand, and tried to imagine the feel of Collin’s
lips on hers.

She couldn’t. Her hand didn’t smell woodsy like Collin.
Why would it? They hadn’t slept together in over a week. Not
since that hurtful night when he’d accused her of not loving
him enough. And until he apologized, he wouldn’t be back
in her bed. She wasn’t going to give in this time, even if she
did toss and turn all night in that enormous bed because she
missed him. But letting him back in her bed without a true
“I’m sorry” would mean he’d won, and she couldn’t accept
that. He would have to come to her first, and sending her
those two dozen roses didn’t count either. She knew he had
his secretary call the florist, and Louisa didn’t want a quick-
fix apology. No, she wanted a heartfelt, grand gesture of some
kind. She hadn’t quite figured out what it would take for
Collin to make the sting of his words dissolve, but she knew
it would have to come from him, not his office staff.

“Mom? Are you kissing your hand?”

Startled by her son, Louisa felt her face flush. Her thoughts
twirled around themselves as she tried to come up with a reason
for her action. “I was pretending to be a jellyfish. See?”
She put the back of her hand against her lips and wiggled her
fingers like tentacles.

“Why?” His serious face moved closer to hers to inspect
the gesture.

“Because I was reading a book that has the ocean and jellyfish
in it.” She could tell Tim believed her the minute his
hand went to his own face. He walked away with his own
pretend jellyfish flailing its tentacles.

She considered the morality of lying to her child but
dismissed it. Her children didn’t need to know she couldn’t
remember how their father’s kisses felt. She and Collin had
lost the spark, the excitement and joy. Even their communication
had dwindled to no more than a few small phrases—“
Where’s the paper?” and “Have you seen my
phone?” Did his commitment to her exist any longer? Had
he found someone else?

Her head started to pound again from a migraine that had
first made its appearance when a save-
the-date for her family reunion had arrived in the morning mail. She still couldn’t
believe it. A save- the-date? When did my family get so fancy? A
phone call from her mother had followed minutes later. She
demanded that Louisa tell her whether or not she and Collin
would be there. An argument had started about Louisa being
a snob and not wanting to know her own family, not wanting
to spend time with her mother, which then led into why
Louisa and Collin weren’t taking the children to church. The
call ended with the usual rebuttal of “We will when we find
a church we like.”

Her mother always brought out Louisa’s obstinate side.
Louisa knew she had that effect on her own daughter, but she
wasn’t sure how to fix either problem. She rubbed a thumb
knuckle into the center of her forehead the way the neurologist
had shown her to ease the pain. She wouldn’t be scratching
cleaning the van off her list today. Bending over made
the pounding worse.

This morning, Collin had promised he would be home for
dinner— for the first time since he’d announced he wanted to
make partner this year at his firm. He’d informed her that he
would be working extra hours and expected her to take care
of the family. So she did her part and his. Then, less than a
month later, he’d accused her of loving the children more
than she loved him. How could he make that judgment since
he was never home? The roses his secretary sent the next day
didn’t even make it to a vase. She’d trotted out to the curb
and stuffed them in the trash, where he’d see them when he
came home that night. Since then, the two of them had lived
like oil and vinegar unshaken in a jar.

Thunder rolled and lighting sparked in the distance.
Maybe Collin wanted to make amends tonight, and that was
why he was making an effort to be home early. Or maybe he
wanted to tell her something else, something she might not
want to hear. Would she listen? What if he wanted to tell
her she wasn’t the kind of wife a partner at his firm would
need? She did complain about having to attend office functions.
They made her feel small— just a stay- at-home mom.
She couldn’t compete with the woman lawyers, especially
Emmie, the tall, stick- thin beauty who had an office next
to Collin. Louisa could share a recipe or where the best dog
park was located, but nothing brilliant or witty crossed her
lips anymore. She rose from her chair and walked to the glass
door. The waves on the lake had increased in height. Cleo,
their dog, was out there somewhere.

Did Collin love someone else? Like a virus, the image of
Emmie with her cute clothes and bright smile at the Fourth
of July party threaded from Louisa’s mind and invaded her
spirit. She swallowed back the fear that rose from her heart
and lodged in her throat. That just couldn’t happen. Collin
was hers and only hers. He didn’t belong to the firm or anyone
else. She had to find a way to make him understand that
she did love him, that he came first in her life. She wished
she could open up and tell him everything. Maybe then he
would . . . no, he would never love her if he knew her secret.
No, that story could never be told. She would have to find
another way.

The first thing she’d do was prepare a meal so delicious he
wouldn’t want to miss another one. She knew it was foolish
to put such expectations on her cooking but held out that
there might be a fraction of hope, a glimmer of a possibility.

Behind her, Madison shrieked at her brother, lurching
Louisa back to her own reality show. “Give me back the

“It’s my turn!” Joey tried to outshout his sister.

“Yeah, it’s our turn!” four- year-old Tim echoed.

The noise brought fresh, sharp spears of pain to Louisa’s
head. With a sigh, she ignored the opportunity to jump into
the fray and yell herself. In her stocking feet she crossed the
great expanse of the golden oak floor to the kitchen, which
was located to the side of the family room. When they first
moved in, it had seemed like a great floor plan, all open, but
now she regretted having chosen it. It made her always available
to the children, and if one room wasn’t picked up, the
whole house looked like a mess.

The clock in the entryway chimed five times. The hour
had come! If only she could cook like Emeril, she might
have a chance to win back her husband’s love— or at least
his presence at the table. Then again, Collin might break his
promise to her and the kids again and not even come home
for dinner.

She flipped through the cookbook that rested on top of a
cobalt- blue stand, where it usually sat for looks.

“Mom?” Tim ran circles around the kitchen island. “Joey
and me want a snack.”

“Not now.” The page in front of her held a beautiful
prospect for a meal, just not one made by her. Who cooks
dinner like this? She flipped the page. Why had she bought
this book? Surely she didn’t think she would ever have time
to prepare a dish from it or be able to get her children to eat
it. . . . She read the ingredient list. What is jicama?

“Mom, can we have Crunch Squares for dinner?” Tim
interrupted her thoughts, tugging on the bottom of her shirt.

Louisa turned her attention from the cookbook pages.
She placed her hands on her hips in her don’t-
mess-with-me stance and stared down at two small, pleading faces. Her
sons craved anything coated or sprinkled with sugar. “Sorry,
boys, you cannot have cereal for dinner. You need protein
and vegetables so you grow big and strong like your daddy.”
She pried Joey’s fingers from the bright orange and red cardboard

“The commercial says it has all the vitamins and nutrients
we need.” Madison bellowed her opinion from the family

“Don’t believe everything you see on TV, Madison.”
Making dinner night after night for three kids and Collin
had never entered her mind when she said “I do” at the
church thirteen years ago. She closed the book, weary of its
glossy pictures. She couldn’t pull off a gourmet meal tonight,
not with this roaring headache. She’d be better prepared this
weekend. Possibly Collin would eat with them Sunday night
if she gave him enough notice.

“We’re having grilled chicken.” She looked down at
the two waifs standing in front of her. Joey and Tim both
frowned in unison. She blinked at their action and shrugged
it off. Some days she thought those two had to be twins, even
though that was physically impossible since she had given
birth to them twelve months apart. “You two, pick up the
fort you’ve assembled in the other room. I don’t want to see
or step on even one plastic block tonight.”

“It’s not a fort. It’s a space station.” Tim scrunched his face
in disgust. “I told you a hundred times, Mom.”

“It’s a grand space station, but you still need to put it
away.” She watched them leave the room, thinking a sloth
could move faster than those two when it came to cleaning.

Chicken— that’s what she was doing, wasn’t it? What
else should she put on the table? Maybe a salad and mac
and cheese, she thought. Yes, that would be best. It would
cause less tension around the table if everyone had something
they liked.

Cleo whimpered at the back door. Her nails scratching
against the glass felt like tiny needles pushing into Louisa’s
optic nerves. It ratcheted her headache higher on the pain-
management scale. She had never wanted a big dog, but
Collin wouldn’t settle for anything small. Not even medium
size. It had to be a brindled Great Dane, the gentle beast,
to make him happy. It didn’t matter to him that she would
be the one hauling the dog to the vet and puppy day care
for socialization and training classes. She tried to ignore the
pathetic whining coming through the door. Maybe the kids
would let the dog inside.

Peering through the open archway, Louisa checked to see
if anyone was moving. She could hear a satisfying plunk of
plastic hitting plastic— the boys were picking up like she’d
asked. Slow, but at least the rug had begun to appear. She had
been cleaning for most of the day and wanted to enjoy an
orderly space after dinner. Madison lay on the couch with her
head hanging over the end. Her blonde hair almost touched
the floor as it moved in time to a music video.

“Madison, let Cleo in before she chews through the door.”

“But, Mom, this is my favorite song,” Madison whined
from the couch. “Can’t Joey let her in?”

“No. I told you to do it.” Louisa squatted down in front
of the cabinet and grabbed a pot for the macaroni. As it filled
with water, she rubbed her temples with her fingers. Cleo
scratched against the door again.

Louisa felt herself stiffen as she prepared to go into battle
with Madison. She turned to see what her daughter was
doing. Madison had stood but had not moved in the direction
of the door. Instead she watched the television screen
and swayed to the beat of the music.

“Madison, step away from the TV.”

“I’m going. You don’t have to tell me everything twice. I’m
not stupid.” She glared at her mother.

This is what the counselor they were seeing called a standoff.
She and Collin were supposed to be stern in their commands
and follow through with them. Well, she didn’t have
any problem with following through, but Collin did. All
Madison had to do was turn her lower lip down into a pout
and Collin backed off, afraid to upset his little girl. There was
a time when Collin would do anything for me, too, she thought.
Those days disappeared the minute Madison said “Daddy.”

Louisa removed her glasses and rubbed her eyes. The
intensity of the headache rose. “Thank you, Madison, for
promptly doing what I asked.”

Madison clenched her lips tight, straightened her back,
and stomped over to the door and yanked it open. Cleo came
bounding through, her nails clicking over the wooden floor
like fingers on a keyboard. Madison turned, whipping her
long hair around like a weapon, and stared at Louisa as if to
say, “I did it. Don’t ask me to do anything else ever again.”

“Thank you.” Louisa slid her glasses back on and smoothed
her hair behind her ears. She checked to make sure the boys
were still doing as she’d asked. They were making progress.

The clock in the entryway weakly imitated England’s Big
Ben at the half- hour mark. It wouldn’t be long before Collin
came home. Maybe he would relieve her tonight. A hot
bath— no, a long, hot bath, she corrected herself—
sounded wonderful if not dreamlike. Please, God, let him be in a good
mood and willing to play with the kids tonight, she offered in
silent prayer. She loved these kids; she really did. It was just
that today, with all their requests, they had drained her of the
will to live. School had begun less than a month ago. Why
the school board felt the teachers needed to take off already
for a two-day conference escaped her tonight.

Back in the kitchen, Louisa picked up a glass from the
counter, a dribble of milk left in the bottom. A quick rinse
under the faucet, and then she placed it in the dishwasher.
All the small chores were done. The counter no longer held
books, toys, or dirty dishes. Louisa opened the pantry door
and caught a cereal box as it fell. She shook it. Almost empty.
Someone had been snacking in secret, probably Madison.
She reached for the indoor grill on the top shelf. The cord
dripped over the edge and dangled in her way. She wrapped
it around her hand to keep it out of her face. Standing on
tiptoes, she used her fingertips to work the grill out.

Barking, Cleo burst through the kitchen, chased by Joey.

“Stop running in the house!” They wouldn’t; she knew
from past experience. Once Cleo began a game, she wouldn’t
quit until she wanted to. Louisa almost had the grill in her
hands. If she were just a little taller . . . there! She balanced
it on her fingers.

“Look out!” Joey screamed.

Louisa jerked her head around and saw the tiger-
striped 120- pound dog skidding across the floor, straight for her. The
“gentle giant” rammed into her leg. She felt her sock- clad feet
give way and slide out from under her. The grill slipped from
her grasp as she fell to the floor. Her last thought was that
dinner would be late.


Salt water burned her lips as she floated onto a white, sandy
beach. Piccolo notes from seagulls called to her as they landed
in an uneven line onshore. They hunted for forgotten corn
curls and abandoned sandwich crusts, their tiny claws etching
the sand behind them. A flash of white danced into her
view. She glanced at the gauzy skirt grazing her ankles and
wondered when she’d changed clothes. Then she noticed her
hand held a bundle of calla lilies tied with a dark- green
satin ribbon that trailed to her knees.

Next to her, the ocean increased its crescendo. Froth
swirled around her bare feet, and the small white bubbles
tickled her toes. Like a child, she wove up and down the
shore, playing a game of tag with the swash marks on the
sandy shoreline. She slowed her steps as a man ahead of her
grew larger and larger until she finally stood next to him. He
didn’t have a name, but she knew she would marry him this
day. Her lips began to form the words “I do” when a voice
crashed her wedding.

“Come on, baby, wake up.” Warm fingers brushed across
her cheek. Startled, she tried to open her eyelids, but they felt
weighted as if someone had stacked pennies on them. Peeking
through her lashes, she discovered a pair of chocolate-
brown eyes gazing into hers. And not the milk- chocolate
kind but the dark, eat- me-now-and-I’ll-solve-your-problems kind.
She tried to sit, but the onslaught of pain in her head stilled
her like Atlanta traffic in a snow shower. Bright light lit the
room around her, but it wasn’t a room she knew.

“Louisa, baby. You gave me quite a scare. How do you
feel?” His hand trembled as it gently swept across her

“I’m Jazz.” Her words oozed like cold honey past her
thickened tongue. She was desperate for information and a
cool drink of water. “Wrong woman. Where am I?”

His hand dropped to his side, and he stepped back from
her. “Dr. Harrison?” His weight shifted from one foot to
the other.

The man she assumed to be the doctor maneuvered past
Mystery Man. From his pocket, he pulled out a penlight and
shone it into her eyes.

“Evil man. That’s a bit torturous to my brain.” She swatted
at his hand but pulled back before making contact, realizing
his purpose was to help, not hurt her.

“You’re in the ER. You suffered a nasty bump on the head,
Louisa. You have a concussion, which is making your head
hurt.” He clicked off the light and placed it back into the
pocket of his lab coat. “Your scan came back clean. There is
no bleeding in your brain. I’ll have the nurse come in and
unhook the heart monitor in a minute. You can go home
with your husband in a little while.”

“Husband?” The monitor showed a jump in her heart rate.
“Please, I’m not who you think I am.” She wished for them
both to dissolve from her sight and for someone, anyone,
even a disgruntled fan, to appear in their place. Something
like wind seemed to roar in her ears, and she struggled to
catch her breath.

“Just calm down. Take a few breaths.” Dr. Harrison patted
her hand.

The old, reliable remedy— take in oxygen and the world’s
problems will be solved. Somehow that made her feel normal.
She could go home soon, or at least Louisa could. She
closed her eyes, willing the two of them to go away.

“Open your eyes, Louisa,” the doctor ordered.

Still not willing to play their game, she compromised and
opened one. “Light hurts. I’m not Louisa.”

“You’re just a bit confused right now. Your name is Louisa,
Louisa Copeland. The bang on your head gave you quite a
headache, didn’t it?” The doctor patted her arm as if doing
that would change her identity. “This is all to be expected,
just a bit of disorientation. Don’t worry. Once the swelling
goes down, you should remember everything.”

Respect for his position kept her from saying that maybe
he needed to switch places with her. After all, she knew she
was Jazz Sweet.

The doctor turned his back to her. “Collin, I think you
need to take her home. Once she’s home in familiar surroundings,
I believe her memory will return.”

Collin. She considered the name. Irish, she thought. A
romance hero’s name. Maybe she would use it in her next
book. He certainly looked the part— strong chin and thick
brown hair that begged for a path to be wound through it
with willing fingers.

“What if she doesn’t?” Collin asked.

“Take her to your family doctor for a follow- up tomorrow.
Wake her a couple times tonight and ask her questions.
Make her answer with words; full sentences would be even
better.” She heard the familiar rough scratch of pen on paper.
“Give her acetaminophen or ibuprofen tonight.” He tore the
paper from his pad and slapped it into Collin’s hand. “Fill
this for pain if she needs it.”

Home? Whose home? Jazz dropped the characterization of
her newest hero. Home with Collin? She focused on those
three words. That couldn’t be right— she loved adventure, but
going home with a man she didn’t know went beyond what she
would do for book material. She didn’t go anywhere without a
folder full of notes, and she hadn’t spent any time researching
living with this man. Panic ran like ice water down her neck.

She struggled to prop herself up on an elbow and demand
an explanation. The end of the bed wavered like a desert
mirage, causing her to wonder if the head injury had affected
her sight. She squinted, trying to sharpen her vision, but it
didn’t help much.

She needed to tell the doctor— maybe then he wouldn’t
send her with this man. Jazz started to call out, but the white
of the doctor’s coat blurred out of her sight before she could
recall his name.

Collin bent over her. She noticed that for a man who’d
been working all day, he still smelled nice. “Well, honey, you
heard him. Let’s get you back home.”

“Water. Please.” She pointed to a sweating water bottle
that beckoned just out of her reach. Collin put it in her hand
but held on to it. For a moment she thought he planned to
help her bring it to her lips like an invalid. Good thing he
didn’t or he’d be wearing it, she wanted to say, but thirst won
over talking.

The liquid slid down her parched throat. Feeling better,
she returned the bottle to him and then hit him with the big
question. “Tell me who Louisa is and why you think I’m her!”


Collin sank down in the chair next to Louisa’s bed. She
looked paler than his daughter’s collectible porcelain dolls.
“You don’t remember us?”

“Remember you? No. I’ve never met you. Wait, you
weren’t at Jen’s party, were you?” Hope touched the edge of
her voice.

“Who’s Jen?” He rubbed his earlobe while he went
through a quick list of Louisa’s friends.

“My agent. Jen is my agent.”

“Agent? For what?” He knew they hadn’t been communicating
well, but when did she decide to sell their house? No,
she’d said her agent, not ours.

“I write inspirational romance novels.” She crumpled the
edge of the bedsheet between her fingers.

“Romance?” Collin felt like he had fallen into another
dimension. Louisa had never written a word, much less a
book or books. She had said novels, as in more than one.
Hadn’t she? He assessed the situation. It had to be a grasp for
attention. He had been working hard, and yes, he probably
deserved this. He’d play along for a little bit. “Who do you
think you are?”

“Jazz Sweet. I live at . . . on an island or the coast. Florida,
I think.” She rubbed her forehead with the tips of her fingers.

“Louisa, you win, okay? I’m sorry— I really am— about
what I said.” He squeezed his hand into a fist and then
released it, a futile attempt at ridding himself of the tension
in his body. “Let’s not play games here. It’s late, and it would
be nice to go home, wouldn’t it?”

“Games? What games are we playing?” She cocked her
head at him, her eyebrow raised in question.

The look she gave him wasn’t one he recognized. She truly
looked lost and confused. His gut clenched. She really didn’t
know who she was. “Never mind, it’s not important. Once
you get home, I’m sure you’ll be back to normal.”

“Go find your wife. Maybe she’s in the next room.” She
waved her hand at him as if to dismiss him. The diamonds
on her finger caught the overhead light and winked at him.

Collin grasped her hand out of the air. He felt a tug at his
heart as she struggled to pull away from him. “Wait. Look at
your hand. See, you have a wedding ring; it belonged to my
great- grandmother.” He traced it with his finger. “Honey,
you’re not a writer. And you live with us in Hazel, Illinois.”

She brought her hand close to her face and inspected
the ring as if she had never seen it before. She jerked her
face toward his, and comprehension of the plural word rode
across her face. “Us? How many people make an us?”

“You, me, and . . .”

She tapped her lower lip with two fingers as she concentrated
on the information he was giving her.

“The kids.” He leaned back in the chair, confident she
would remember the children.

Louisa splayed her hand against her chest. “Kids? What
kids?” she squealed as if he’d said she lived with a rowdy
bunch of sailors. “I think I had better call Kristen now.”

Collin grew even more confused, starting to doubt he was
looking at his own wife. Louisa loved those kids. How could
she not remember them?

“Who’s Kristen?” he managed to ask while massaging the
back of his neck with his hand.

“She is my assistant. She’s organized and knows all my
plans. I can’t keep any deadline without her.” She peered
around him. “Is there a phone in here?”

Collin looked at the ceiling and counted the white tiles
over the bed. He took a deep breath, then let it out. “I’ll call
Kristen if you give me her number.”

“I– I don’t know it,” Louisa stuttered. Her blue eyes filled
with tears, and she whipped her face away from him. The
tension in his shoulders eased. This was a behavior he recognized.
Louisa never let him see her cry.

“Then for now, why don’t you come home with me?” He
used the persuasive voice he typically saved for jurors.

“But . . .”

He placed his fingers on her lips to silence her. “I know
you’re my wife, even if you can’t remember. So I’m thinking,
why not come home with me and see if your memory returns?”

“You really think I’m your wife?” She glanced at the door
expectantly as if waiting for someone to come and tell him

“I know it. And I can prove it when we get home. I’ll
show you our wedding pictures.” Louisa had organized their
photos in matching albums. It wouldn’t take any effort to
find the right year.

“Did we get married on the beach?” Uncertainty shone on
her face, but her voice held confidence that he would say yes.

Collin took another punch to his gut. She didn’t remember
the expensive wedding— her very own fairy- tale day, she’d
called it. He shook his head. “No, Louisa. We were married
in your parents’ church.”

“Again, not me.” Louisa swung her legs to the edge of the
bed. She grabbed her head with both hands. “Ouch. What
happened to me, anyway?”

“The indoor grill fell on your head.”

She snorted. “Right, like I own one of those.”

“You do. While you were getting it off the shelf, Cleo
knocked you down.”

“Is Cleo your daughter?”

Collin rubbed his chin with his hand and held back a
groan of frustration. “Cleo is our dog, a Great Dane, our
gentle beast.”

“Collin?” Her voice softened, and he leaned in closer to
hear. “How many kids are there?”

“Just the three,” he said.

“Three? Just three? Do you— we—have a nanny?” She
rubbed the side of her face with the palm of her hand.

Collin laughed at the absurdity of the question, then
sobered, realizing she didn’t know the answer to her own
question. This could not be good. He summoned his patience
before speaking. “Louisa, you didn’t want a nanny for them,

“No. I don’t remember. I’m Jazz— have you forgotten?
And I’ve decided. I will not be going anywhere with you.
Who knows? You might be a serial killer or a stalker.” She
crossed her arms and held them against her chest.

“I’m not either of those things. Look, honey, I’m tired.
I’ve worked over twenty- five hours this week and it’s only
Tuesday. I shouldn’t even have come home when I did, but I
promised you that I would make it for dinner.”

“Please don’t call me ‘honey,’ ‘cutie,’ or any of those couple
names. We’re not a couple, and besides, they sound silly.”

He didn’t know what to say. Louisa liked his terms of
endearment. Didn’t she? The differences between the wife he
had left at home this morning and this seemingly new one
dumbfounded him.

“Why did you get married and have a family if you weren’t
going to participate? What kind of important career do you
have? Do you save peoples’ lives? Are you a surgeon?” She
glared at him, waiting for an answer.

Her rapid- fire questioning made him feel like he was
standing on the courthouse steps facing a battalion of reporters.
It didn’t matter that the question was one he’d been asking
himself lately— right now, being home wasn’t feasible.
Not with several trial cases and the promise of a partnership
dangling in front of him. He didn’t have time for anything.
If Louisa wanted to be Jazz, he didn’t care as long as she kept
their family life intact. “I’m a lawyer. That means I have a
lot to do tonight. So get dressed and we’ll go home. I’m sure
you’ll remember everything when we get there.”

“I’m not going with you.” Louisa slid her legs back onto
the bed and pulled the sheet up under her chin like a child
refusing to go to school. “I’ll get dressed as soon as you leave,
and then I’m going to—to—”

“To what? Where are you going to go?” He waited to hear
her plan, watching her eyebrows bob up and down while she
thought. “Well?”

“I’ll go to a hotel. So there, problem solved. You don’t
have to worry about me anymore. You’re free to go.” Again,
she waved her hand toward the door, dismissing him as she
lay back against the pillow. “If you don’t mind, would you
hand me my purse before you leave?”

“It’s at home.” He looked down at her. Her blonde hair
feathered across the pillow and caught the light from overhead,
softening the silky strands. He reached out to touch
it as he often did, but her icy look kept him at a distance.
“That’s what you want? To be here alone in a hospital, in this
town, and not knowing anyone?”

She nodded and pointed to the door.

“Then I’ll go.” Collin paused at the doorway and turned
to give her a chance to change her mind. She didn’t say anything,
just lay there looking like a lost child, eyes wide and
fighting tears. “Nice meeting you, Jazz Sweet.” He knew he
needed to convince her to come home with him. He couldn’t
leave her here until her memory returned. There had to be a
way, but for now, he’d let her think she’d won this battle. He
left the room and didn’t look back. 

I suggested to Diana to ponder for this blog segment who may be reading a MIND OF HER OWN. And her's what she's imagined:

How fun! You want me to describe my fantasy fans who will be reading my ebook Mind of Her Own?
Let me think for a moment….okay after several diet Dr Pepper’s I’m ready.
1.     Keli, the ER nurse in St. Louis, breaks don’t happen often but when they do she reads Mind of Her Own on her phone.  She finds Jazz’s predicament interesting from a medical standpoint, plus it’s funny and she could use a giggle at work.
2.     Brad, the landscaper. He reads print books, but he’s finding it harder to see at night, and he’s bought something to read ebooks. He downloaded Mind of Her Own because the cover intrigued him, what could possibly be wrong with that woman? She’s gorgeous—her life should be perfect.
3.     Mei, in China reads Mind of Her Own under the covers at night. She’s a Christian, her parents are not, she’s hungry for any kind of word of Jesus.
4.      Yvetta, a young mom, understands exactly why Louisa might want to disappear from her life for a while. She’s leaning against the dryer at the Wash and Fold Laundromat reading on her phone. It’s the only time she gets any ‘me’ time because her husband doesn’t want to do the laundry so he watches the kids on Tuesday nights.
5.     Jean, is 83 and feels like she can keep up with technology thanks to her Grandson who bought her an e-reader already filled with books. She tells all her friends to get one. They are amazing, every book weighs the same even no matter how thick it is in print.  She also tells them about this poor woman in Mind of Her Own being knocked out while making dinner. What a hoot!
Thanks for having me on your blog today, Elaine. I’ve enjoyed imagining my readers and sharing them with your readers. 

Author's Bio:

Christian author, Diana Lesire Brandmeyer, writes historical and contemporary romances. Author of A Bride's Dilemma in Friendship, Tennessee and We’re Not Blended-We’re Pureed, A Survivor’s Guide to Blended Families. Once widowed and now remarried she writes with humor and experience on the difficulty of joining two families be it fictional or real life.

Connect with Diana:
Diana's Blog
Twitter @dianabrandmeyer

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