Friday, May 31, 2013

Jamie Carie: Trusting God And Diving In

Everyone's Story welcomes author Jamie Carie. I've admired Jamie for years, at awe of how she makes history spring to life off the written page. Now she's breaking into contemporary romance with her novel RUSH TO THE ALTAR. I'm delighted she's my guest this week and I'm sure you will be as well. Jamie shares an excerpt from her new release as well as answers a few questions. She looks forward to hearing from you.

Book Giveaway:
Jamie is offering to one randomly chosen commenter an e-version of her novel RUSH TO THE ALTAR. The winner will be announced here on Friday, June 7th, between 4-6 PM EST. For convenience, please leave your contact information within your comment. Thanks!

                An Excerpt from Jamie's New Release:

RUSH TO THE ALTAR by Jamie Carie


The phone rang with a soft trill, breaking the quiet of the evening.
Maddie lifted her head from the story she was reading to Max as her mother answered it. She paused to overhear who had called, ruffling Max’s hair.
“How are you doing, Sasha? How’s your mom? Umm-hmm…that’s good.” A short pause ensued while Gloria walked into the living room. “Oh, she’s just reading to Max. I’ll get her. Hold on.”
Maddie rose, taking the phone. “Mommy will just be a minute, sweetie.”
Max, at twenty-six months—okay, okay, two years old; it was just hard to let go of the month-counting stage—shook his head and held up the book. “Read it, mommy.”
“I’ll be right back, Max.” Maddie gave her mom a pleading look and walked toward the back door, the clear night air and a moment—alone—with a phone call of her own.
“You’ll never guess what happened.”
“Hi, Sasha.” Sasha never started a call with “Hey, it’s Sasha, what are you doing?” or anything normal like that.
“Of course it’s me. Who else? Anyway, guess what happened!”
Who else, indeed? Maddie hadn’t connected with many of her old friends since moving back home and was thankful Sasha, her best friend from high school, had picked right back up from where they had left off. “You know I hate guessing games. Just tell me.”
“Oh no, this is too good. Three guesses at least.”
Maddie groaned. “You won the lottery.” Deadpan voice.
“You always guess that first. Come on. Be creative.”
Maddie smiled. “You had a blind date last night. Turns out he’s a doctor and wild about you. He proposed.”
Sasha laughed. “Now that’s more like it. But no, try again.”
Maddie laughed. “You won tickets to the Ice Capades!” Mock excitement laced her words, but she couldn’t help her smile.
“Oh my gosh. You’re so close!”
“Really? Tell me.”
“Okay, are you sitting down?”
“Yeah. Of course. Any news this important would have me sitting down.” Maddie plopped down on a wobbly lawn chair, leaned her elbows onto her knees and grinned into the phone. “No more stalling. Out with it.”
“Okay, okay. You know that morning radio show I listen to like a groupie? Well, all of my hard efforts have finally paid off. I won tickets to a Racers game!”
“Basketball?” Maddie couldn’t help the deflated tone after such a buildup.
“What’u mean basketball? It’s the religion of the Midwest!”
“Shhhh. My mother might hear you.” The smile was back in Maddie’s voice.
“You have to go with me! Front row seats and everything.”
“Really? Front row?”
“Well, maybe not front front row. Maybe we won’t be able to feel the flecks of sweat off their brows or anything like that, but close seats, great seats.”
“Oh, Sasha, I don’t know…”
“Now come on, Maddie. You haven’t been out in weeks. You need to have some fun.”
Maddie sighed into the phone. “Yeah, maybe, but a basketball game? I can think of ‘funner’ ways to play my babysitting card.”
“Do you know how many guys I could ask out with these tickets? And I called you. You are my priority.”
Great, just what she needed. Another person’s responsibility. Like moving back in with her parents wasn’t bad enough. “Listen, Sasha, I appreciate it, really, but why don’t you ask Rob? He’s a sports fanatic. He would love it.”
“Out of town again,” Sasha explained in a disgusted tone.
“What is it this time?”
“Something stupid. His mother had a sneezing attack or some such crisis. He doesn’t do anything without her approval. I’m really ready to call it quits, Maddie. I don’t think I can hang on much longer unless there are some real changes.”
“Sounds worse than I thought. I’m sorry, Sasha. Maybe you should start dating again. What about that guy at work? Chad, wasn’t it? Ask him to go. It might be the beginning of something.”
Sasha snorted into the phone. “Didn’t I tell you? He went out with Lana, the five foot nine, 120-pound receptionist with long blond tresses. I don’t have a chance.”
“Well, you never know. Racers tickets might just do the trick.”
“Yeah, well, if he didn’t notice without the tickets then I don’t want him noticing with them. So, you’ll be my date, right?”
A brief pause. “Okay, if my mom can babysit. When is it?”
“Next Saturday. And Maddie, don’t paint your face blue or anything, okay?  I want to get on TV and all, but not that badly.”
Maddie threw her head back and laughed. “It’s the price you pay for dragging me out. You know what a crazy fan I am.”
As their laughter died down the silence grew long and serious.
“How are you doing, Mad, really?”
“You mean, am I thinking about him?”
“Not as much. Not hourly anymore.”
“Oh, girl.”
“It’s just that…Max looks so much like him.”
Another pause.
“Sometimes he’ll look up at me from his breakfast cereal, grinning at something funny on the box, that goofy grin that I know so well…and I…I just stop inside. Everything stops. Oh Sasha, I wish he didn’t look so much like Brandon sometimes, and yet I feel so awful for wishing that. I should be thankful. You know, to have something so real to remember him by, and yet,” her voice lowered to a near whisper, “I wish Max looked like me. Am I so terrible to wish that?” She swallowed back the tears from her throat.
“Of course not,” came her voice of reason. The voice that had saved her countless times from tipping over the edge of grief these past few months. “But someday you’ll be glad. Someday it will all make sense.”
“Really? I don’t see how.”
“I know. I know.”
Another pause.
“Love you, Maddie.”
“Thanks, Sasha. Love you too.”
They hung up.
It was how they ended every call these days.
Sasha and Maddie made their way across the crowded isles to their seats in the huge arena at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, stepping over purses and feet, squeezing between knees and people’s backs as best they could. Laughing, they finally arrived at the only two empty seats around and plopped down.
“Can you believe these seats? I told you they would be great,” Sasha gushed.
“Everything’s so huge. I can’t believe I’ve never been here before.”
“Just wait until the players come out. They will be giants from here.”
“I just wish I liked basketball.” Maddie made a comical face. “I think I would enjoy this more.”
“Shhhh.” Sasha looked around at the people near them. “That’s like saying ‘I wish I liked God’ in church. You gotta pretend, girl.”
Maddie compressed her mouth tight and said through barely opened lips, “Okay, okay, I forgot.”
A loud buzzer rang and the announcer began the evening’s presentations in a booming voice. Maddie saw that all the major networks’ television crews were there, along with the local stations. A DJ sat behind a long table loaded with equipment, queuing up the music. The excitement rose as the Racemates entered the stadium looking even more tanned and beautiful in person, if that was possible. And then everyone came to a fevered pitch as the players arrived, their names in lights with giant photos of them on the flashing screen overhead in the middle of the arena.
A popcorn vendor stepped close and Sasha motioned for two, paid for them and sank back into her chair with a contended sigh. “This is gonna be great.” Her dark brown eyes were glued to the players as the opposing centers made their way to the middle of the court for the first tip-off.
“I knew they would be tall but what was God thinking?” Maddie asked in awe. “He was thinking they would play great ball,” Sasha answered without taking her eyes off number 14. “Can you believe how tall he is?” She said it quietly, so only Maddie could hear over the roar of cheering as the Racers won the tip-off. Maddie poked her in the arm and answered back with a laugh. “Now I get it. You are crushing on one of the players. Who is he?” Maddie looked at number 14 and nodded her head. He was tall, dark and incredibly handsome.
“Jake Hart. And I’m not crushing. I’m just impressed by his…by his…rebounding stats. That’s all.”
Maddie laughed. “Sounds like you’ve been studying.”
“Just a little internet research. I wanted to be educated for the game and got a little…sidetracked.” Sasha grinned and shrugged, a woman who rarely felt the bite of guilt, which was one of the many reasons Maddie loved her so much.
Sasha sighed. “He’s even better looking in person.”
“Well, why don’t you ask him out?” Mock innocent tone.
“Yeah, I’ll just get his phone number after the game.” Sasha had the sarcasm down pat. “He’ll just hand it over the heads of all the interviewers when he notices how beautiful I am.”
“You are beautiful.”
Sasha, Asian-American, with her coffee-creamy skin and the sloe-eyed slant of a courtesan, sighed louder in mock long-suffering. “Only to those who know me.”
“Well, that’s the best kind. Lots of people are only beautiful until you know them.”
“Aww, shut up. You’re going to make me cry right here under all these bright lights.”
Maddie grinned and stayed silent for a while, taking in the game, the squeaking sneakers, the blaring horn that marked their plays, the power of the players’ movements, as if they had figured out some secret weapon against gravity. It didn’t take long to become totally immersed, her heart pounding when they approached the basket, praying it would go into the little round hoop, clapping and cheering with the fans all around her, becoming one of them.
It was surprising. How caught up she became, how immersed and loving the feel of being a part of something so big, so wonderful…so united, as if she had stepped into a perfectly harmonious moment of time.
A loud horn blared, signaling the end of the first quarter. Maddie turned to ask Sasha if she wanted to go and get something to drink when there was a tapping on her shoulder and a squeal with her name attached to it. Turning, she found herself looking into the slightly older face of a high school friend she hadn’t seen in years.
“Maddie! Oh my gosh, I can’t believe it’s you.” She edged around an irritated fan and squeezed into a nearby seat behind them. Grasping Maddie’s hand, she squeezed it tight. “How are you? Are you in town for long? I heard you live in Muncie now.”
She obviously hadn’t heard about Brandon’s accident. “Um, I’m great. In town for a while. It’s so good to see you. What are you up to now?” Please God, let her talk about herself.
Barb raised her eyebrows and nodded her head with her typical exuberance. “I started my own dance academy a couple of years ago, which is doing really well. Kids mostly, but we’ve pulled together an adult team, up on the northeast side of town. It’s been lots of fun.” She laughed, a little self-consciously. “Lots of headaches too, but you know what I mean.”
“That’s so great. You always wanted something like that. I’m really happy for you.”
“Hey.” She paused, looking at Maddie with a considering gleam in her eyes. “This is going to sound strange, I know, but you were always such a great dancer in show choir and a quick study, too. My team, the adult team, is doing a little halftime show. We were supposed to be here,” she motioned around them, “in the main court, but somehow they overbooked and bumped us to the practice court. We’ll be performing for some kids from Coburn Place; it’s an awesome facility for abused women and children. Anyway, it’ll be very low key and since one of my girls couldn’t make it…well, we could really use another dancer to fill the spot.”
Maddie shook her head, eyes wide. “No way. I haven’t danced like that in years. I don’t even know the routine.”
“We’ll have twenty minutes to warm up. I could teach you.”
“Barb, you’re crazy.”
Barb leaned in. “It’s some older moves. Not so different from some of the stuff we used to do in high school. Come on, it’ll be fun. And think of the kids. Their moms are trying so hard to make life normal and great for them.”
Barb didn’t know it. She couldn’t know it. Of course, she didn’t know she had just played the ace card. Maddie knew all about trying to make things feel as normal as possible. Knew about that moment when Max was about to ask about his father again, and how she would jump in with something, anything to distract and distance them both from the truth. There wasn’t any other reason under heaven that could have made her say yes, except that one.
And Barb had said aloud what she hadn’t even voiced.
Maddie hesitated and then nodded. “Yeah, okay, if you really need me.”
Sasha gasped, grabbing her arm. “Are you joking?”
Maddie turned to Sasha. “It’s in a practice court, for the kids. What harm can it do?”
Sasha nodded, understanding lighting her eyes. “I get it. Okay, go break a leg, or not, or whatever it is they say.” Then, grumbling under her breath, “Leaving me here all alone with my popcorn and glimpses of Jake Hart so you can go be on TV. I’m so abused. See if I ask you to a game again.”
Maddie grinned and gave her a peck on the cheek. “Thanks. And I am not going to be on TV, silly. I would die first.” Turning to Barb she said, “Halftime is coming up soon, isn’t it? Can we get into the court now? I will need all the time I can get.”
Barb nodded. “They’ve assigned us a practice room that we should be able to get into. Come on.”
The two wriggled through the crowd to the aisle, dashed up the stairs to the main level and hurried down the long corridor to the designated room. There were already a couple of the dancers inside.
Maddie could only blink in horror at what they were wearing. Like Olivia Newton-John throwbacks from the eighties, each woman sported matching pastel headbands and leggings with coordinating leotards and white tights. Worse, some of them should have known that their leotard-wearing days were long behind them. What had Barb been thinking?
“I’m not wearing that!” It came out of her mouth before she had time to stop and think how it would sound. Quickly, to smooth it over, Maddie added, “Barb, we didn’t think about the costume. I can’t dance. I don’t have anything to wear.”
Barb grasped her arm and pulled her further into the room, making Maddie feel like a fish on a hook. “Oh, we have several extra outfits,” she assured cheerily. “Just go over to that box and dig around in there. You’ll find something.”
This wasn’t happening.
Maddie slowly walked over to the box, crouched down and plowed through spandex and polyester blends. Sure enough, there were extra leotards in her size—medium. She might have been able to fit into a small before Max was born, but after a year of breastfeeding, her chest had never gone back down. Was there a sports bra in here? Oh no. She suddenly remembered she was wearing her black lacy bra, the one she hadn’t worn since Brandon’s death, and didn’t know exactly why she’d put on tonight, except that she had wanted to pretend to need it. It was going to show through the pale pink leotard for sure. God help her, with her D cups bouncing around in black lace showing through pastel pink…she was going to look like an eighties streetwalker in this getup.
It’s only for the kids, she reminded herself. They won’t notice. I’ll be in the back. I’ll make sure to be in the back.
There was a small screen set up for changing and Maddie rushed behind it before too many of the other girls showed up to change. Everything fit, kind of—too much cleavage for comfort. On the bright side, she’d been doing her exercises and her thighs shouldn’t jiggle too badly in the tights, but a headband? Did she really have to wear the silly headband?
She shook her long, wavy hair out of her ponytail and put the headband on the best she could without a mirror and stepped out from behind the screen.
Barb came over and whistled. “Boy, good thing we are in front of young children or we would have to change the rating on this show! You look phenomenal.”
“I very much doubt phenomenal is the word to describe this outfit. What’s with the Olivia Newton-John look?”
“We’re called the ‘Eighties Ladies.’ Gives us a marketing edge, you know. Something to set us apart.”
“I can see that.” Maddie tried not to sound as appalled as she felt.
“Come on, you look great. Now let’s work on the routine before the others get here.”
Barb plugged her phone into the speaker’s dock and turned up the volume. To Maddie’s further despair, I Will Survive started to blare from the tiny speakers. She wanted to ask if that was really an appropriate song considering the audience, but Barb had begun to shake her hips and move to the music and Maddie could only attempt to follow along and learn the steps as quickly as possible.
Slapping her palms to her hips and twisting around for the first time in ten years, she glanced at the ceiling briefly. “You owe me for this one.”
She talked to God a lot these days, and not much of what she said was very nice. 

Questions for Jamie
You describe yourself on your website as a novelist who believes in the power of story to touch hearts and change lives. How do you see your fiction accomplishing this?

I had a pretty traumatic childhood. My parents became a big part of the Charismatic movement that was sweeping the US and Canada in the 70’s and 80’s which had cultish leanings and was very legalistic among many other issues. I struggled with night terrors, partly due to the fact that we often had deliverance services in our basement with the sounds of demons screaming as they came out of people! As you can imagine, that was terrifying to a seven-year-old. There were many other misuses of power and lots of abuse. I developed an anxiety disorder and was barely functioning as a grade school student. Around the forth grade, I discovered books. Stories became a salvation of sorts to me and helped me survive, so you could say I have a lot of experience with the “power” of stories being very real in my life.

It is my greatest desire that my stories provide hope in God’s love for people and His good plans for their lives despite trauma and pain and suffering. I can only pray that the Holy Spirit imbues the words and makes them come alive with His presence so that they become alive to that particular reader’s circumstances and mind-sets. Words are powerful, powerful enough to change someone’s life for the better.

You're known as a historical author setting novels in the eras of the American Revolution, Pioneer, Alaskan Gold Rush, and the British Regency and Swashbuckling Pirate times. Now, with RUSH TO THE ALTAR you've ventured into contemporary. Any common denominator between all these stories with their varying times?

Not really. I love history and love researching different time periods and settings. Starting a new book or series is one of the best parts of being an author because I get to dive deep into a new world. Rush to the Altar had a unique beginning. It started as a fever dream. Have you ever had one of those? They are really vivid and long and you remember the details when you wake up! Well, I was really sick with the flu and literally dreamed the first six chapters. I wrote it all out longhand in a notebook shaking with a high fever and chills, but I didn’t want to forget it because it was the funniest thing I’d ever dreamed. When I got better, I wrote the story in four months – quick for me. It was a lot of fun to write a contemporary! It sat on the shelf for a few years and then, after my series which was three books in eighteen months, I needed to switch gears and do something light and fun. I pulled out Rush to the Altar and laughed all over again as I read it. I ended up rewriting the last third and then published it myself, which is another adventure in itself!

What has your writing taught you about the world we live in?

Interesting question. The writing process itself has taught me to have faith in myself and in God. It’s a bit intimidating, that first, blank page, no matter how many books you’ve finished. But I have to trust the talent God gave me and dive in. It never fails to work. Something magical happens and that feeling, that process, makes it all worth it (cause this is a tough business!!).

The publishing process and having stories out in the marketplace has been an education as well. People have so many different perspectives and desires. I’ve learned not to try and please any one person, just follow God and whatever He has put (wrought – produced through all those trials.) in my heart to write. If I can write a story that I want to read over and over again, if it can continue to speak to me and change me, then I’m thirlled.

What has your writing taught you about yourself?

That I’m stronger than I think I am. When I signed my first three-book deal I was afraid of a lot of unknowns. Deadlines! Finishing a book in eight months when it took me two years to write my first two. Public speaking! I still struggle with some anxiety and dread the public speaking part that comes with my work but I’ve done it. Joyce Meyer (I love her) says that courage is “doing it afraid”. What she didn’t tell me is that sometimes I still fail when I force myself to do something afraid. It’s not always a HEA (happily ever after) and I’m a big fan of those. But I’m learning, and growing, and still trying. I want to be courageous in this business that I’ve ended up being a part of. Failure or success, I’m curious and excited to find out what is on the other side of continuing to be courageous.

Jamie's Ah-hahs To Tweet:

Visit with award-winning author Jamie Carie on Everyone’s Story. (Tweet This)

Bestselling historical author, Jamie Carie, releases contemporary romance. (Tweet This)

Find out why Jamie Carie believes words have power to change lives. (Tweet This)

Jamie Carie: I have to trust the talent God gave me and dive in. (Tweet This)

Author Bio:

Jamie Carie is an award-winning, bestselling historical and contemporary romance novelist. She is the author of Snow Angel, a USA News Book winner for Best Romance, a ForeWord Magazine award winner and a RITA Awards® finalist. Her third novel, Wind Dancer, was a 2010 Indiana State Library Best Books of Indiana finalist. Jamie lives in Indiana with her husband of twenty-five years, three sons, a giant dog named Leo and their newest addition, a Siamese/Snowshoe cat named Luna who runs the house.

You Can Contact Jamie At:
The official Facebook page for The Forgotten Castles series:

Friday, May 24, 2013

Melissa K. Norris: Seeing God's Fingerprints In Every Day Life

Everyone' s Story welcomes author Melissa K. Norris. Melissa is establishing herself as a get-back-to-the-basics woman, but with a twist: this wife and mom advocates that by slowing down to provide healthy foods for the family, one can also see God working in our lives. Please join Melissa as she shares thoughts on this subject. Melissa also is offering a very nice Book Giveaway. She looks forward to seeing your comments.

Book Giveaway:
Melissa is offering to one randomly chosen commenter an e-version of her book PIONEERING TODAY. The winner will be announced here on Friday, May 31st, between 4-6 PM EST. For convenience, please leave your contact information within your comment. Thanks!

         Do You Need to Simplify? by Melissa K. Norris

Driving through towns and cities these days, we see convenience stores on every corner, bakeries, candy shops, coffee shops, and restaurants tucked in between buildings on paved streets. Half of the time we don’t even have to leave our cars to place our order and receive our food.

We’re a society who seems to thrive on getting it our way and getting it faster. But have we lost something by living this way? I believe we have.

Our great-grandparents rarely went out to eat. They didn’t consider grocery shopping purchasing some food in a box where you just add water, oil, and eggs. They either knew the farmer that grew their food, owned the dairy, and raised the chickens, or they did it on their farm.

Were their lives harder? I think we should ask ourselves instead, were their lives more rewarding? Since when did harder become synonymous with bad?

Is it harder to bake your own bread from scratch than purchasing it at the store? It takes a little bit more time, but the flavor, cost savings, and health benefits, far outweigh the time it takes. Of course, if you use my no knead bread in less than 5 minutes a day recipe, it’s probably faster than fighting traffic and running to the store.

There are lessons to be learned from raising our own food, growing a garden, and cooking from scratch. It forces us to slow down and when we slow down, we learn to hear God’s voice. When you tend to your plants, you get to see up close and personal what a complex and amazing thing God created.

A small seed becomes a plant, a blossom becomes a piece of food to eat, and the fruit holds a seed to start the process over again. We don’t appreciate that when we grab it off of a shelf in the grocery store.

In my book, Pioneering Today-Faith and Home the Old Fashioned Way, I explain practical and easy methods to cook from scratch, garden, preserve your own food, and see God’s fingerprint in your everyday busy life. Whether you live in the middle of the asphalt jungle or on the side of a mountain, you can experience the pioneer lifestyle and start your own homesteading journey.

The simple life isn’t lost, it’s waiting for you to come and embrace it.

 Because I believe so strongly in learning to grow your own food, even if you live in an apartment, I’ve written a 40 page eBook called, Heirloom Gardening Guide-Plant to Save Money, that’s FREE on my website for newsletter subscribers. Learn what GMO’s are and the benefits of heirloom seeds.

Questions for Melissa:

Although a good cook, my mother enjoyed the “new” conveniences of boxed instant mashed potatoes (not recommended!) and the new hamburger place, aka McDonald’s (today, no-thanks). Did your childhood make you rebel or wizen you up to healthier foods?

I wouldn’t call it a rebellion, but a slip into taking the easy route. It was so easy to grab a box, open a few cans, and heat something up. But I didn’t feel so great when I ate this way, I gained weight, felt really sluggish, and it wasn’t very frugal. When I became pregnant, I really started educating myself on nutrition and quickly became a cook-it-from-scratch kind of woman. It’s amazing what becoming responsible for someone else’s health will do for your own.

As a mom of young children, is it any easier for you to get your kids to try new foods because they know it’s from the garden or prepared fresh in the kitchen? Any tricks to share?

It’s so much easier to get my kids to try new foods when they grow it and help cook it themselves. One thing I like to stress when cooking and gardening with kids is not to worry about getting it perfect. When my kids were toddlers, I gave them their own patch in the garden. If they pulled up a plant when weeding, it wasn’t a big deal. They could do whatever they wanted in that patch. It turned out better than I would have thought. My daughter had an awesome pea and bean plant and she could pick and play to her heart’s content.

Same thing applies to kids in the kitchen. If something gets spilled (and it will), just have them help clean it up. Remember you’re teaching them healthy life tips and bonding, not being Martha Stewart.

What’s the most impressive or wackiest meal you’ve dared to try using these from-scratch methods?

Hmm, I think our favorite from scratch substitutes would have to be my healthy homemade crunchy granola bars. They’re super easy and taste better than the stores. When I told my husband I wasn’t going to be buying bread any more, he kind of raised his eyebrows, but it’s been a year and a half and he loves the scent of warm bread in the kitchen, not to mention the taste. I use this recipe for the no knead bread (see link above).

What’s next on the pioneering front?

I’m really excited to begin working on a new book, Pioneering Today-Preserving the Harvest. It will include canning tutorials and recipes, freezing, root cellar techniques, and dehydrating. Tentative release date is October 2013. Also, I now have my own radio show, Pioneering Today, and am waiting for the producer to give me the release date for the shows. They’ll be available as podcasts on my website and I-tunes. 

Melissa's Ah-hahs To Tweet:

Meet Melissa K. Norris: Faith and Home the Old Fashioned Way. (Tweet This)

Melissa K. Norris: has society lost value in the craziness of life? (Tweet This)

Melissa K. Norris: raising food, gardening, and cooking from scratch? Who has time? You! (Tweet This)

Melissa K. Norris on Everyone’s Story: God’s fingerprint in everyday busy life. (Tweet This)

Author Bio:
Melissa K. Norris is a Christian novelist, newspaper columnist, and non-fiction writer. Her stories inspire people to draw closer to God and their pioneer roots. She’s a skilled artisan crafter, creating new traditions from old-time customs for her readers. She found her own little house in the big woods, where she lives with her husband and two children in the Cascade Mountains. Her book, Pioneering Today-Faith and Home the Old Fashioned Way, explains practical and easy methods to cook from scratch, garden, preserve your own food, and see God’s fingerprint in your everyday busy life. Read the first chapter here.

You can connect with Melissa at:

Friday, May 17, 2013

Karen Arnpriester: Helping Others Through Storytelling

Everyone's Story welcomes author Karen Arnpriester. When Karen inquired about appearing on this blog I readily said yes to this new author who isn't afraid of writing fiction showing the rough side of life. A mom, foster-mom, and grandmother, Karen is now reaching through her novels to others who are struggling, hoping to provide some encouragement. Please enjoy Karen's excerpt from her first novel, ANESSIA'S QUEST and her generous book giveaways. She's looking forward to hearing from you!

Book Giveaway:
Karen wants to make 6 readers very happy: she is offering 1 paperback book of ANESSIA QUEST to 1 randomly chosen commenter and 1 paperback book of RAIDER'S VENDETTA to another commenter. Plus, an e-book of ANESSIA'S QUEST to 2 more commenters and an e-book of RAIDER'S VENDETTA to yet another 2 commenters. The winners will be announced here on Friday, May 24th between 4-6 EST. For convenience, please leave your email address within the body of your comment and which format of the novel you'd like to have. Thanks!

An Excerpt from ANESSIA'S QUEST:

Anessia’s Quest by Karen Arnpriester

Chapter 1

Leah thought she could bear it no longer. Why didn’t this baby come out?  She had been pushing and writhing for hours, hurting so bad that she wanted to die. Finally, the nurse came in and said she was ready to have the baby. Leah knew that she would have feelings for this kid eventually, but right now, she almost hated it. They wheeled her into the delivery room and after thirty more minutes, the miracle of birth happened. A little, white skinned, red-haired girl with blue eyes arrived. She looked at her and felt numb. She may have connected better if the baby had looked like her; if she had gotten her golden skin, dark, curly hair and hazel eyes. This baby looked like a stray, not her kid.

Leah had endured a difficult life and tried to bury it with alcohol, drugs, and sex. During her drunken months of pregnancy, she thought it would be funny to name her baby girl Champagne, after her favorite beverage. Champagne Marie Crenshaw. Champagne would carry her mother’s last name since Leah didn’t know which John was the proud papa. Leah had considered having another abortion, but this time was different. This baby would change her life. She just knew it. Leah wanted to be loved and wanted someone to love. She’d convinced herself she could be a mom. When Leah was in her seventh month, she had stopped hooking and left Los Angeles. She moved north for a fresh start. Champagne would find out quickly that her mom would fail miserably at being a mother. She would also find out there was someone watching over her, protecting her.

When the hospital determined that Leah was ready for release, she was indignant and annoyed. Three days was not nearly long enough if you asked her. She figured she deserved and could use at least another week of leisure and strong pain meds while the nurses cared for Champagne. Upon leaving the hospital, Leah brought the baby back to the disgusting motel room that she had rented with her assistance checks. She figured they would do okay, since the amount written on those checks would increase with the birth of Champagne. She might have been able to afford a nicer place, but the majority of her money went for her alcohol and drugs. How was she going to take care of a baby all by herself? Looking around the room, Leah realized that she should have prepared a little more for the baby. She pulled out a drawer, dumped it out, and laid Champagne in it. The strong pain meds were wearing off and they had only prescribed glorified aspirin as far as Leah was concerned. Luckily, she had stopped on the way home to pick up a big bottle of cheap wine.

“Well brat, I guess the closest I’ll come to champagne for awhile is changing your dirty diapers.” She laughed to herself, “That was a good one Leah. You haven’t lost your dazzling wit yet.”


Several years crawled by, and somehow, Champagne survived her mother’s indifference. One summer evening, Leah could not take it any longer. The pounding on the door was killing her head. What a hangover she had. When she jerked the door open, she looked into the chest of a police officer. Behind him stood her neighbor, Miss Nosey. She could tell it wasn’t good by the smirk on Miss Nosey’s face.

“We got a call that you have a toddler playing unattended on the landing,” said the officer.

“Well, I don’t see no kid out here, do you?” shot back Leah.

“Not at the moment, but your neighbor called quite concerned. She said that it is not unusual to see your front door wide open and your small daughter playing out here by the stairs. Do you understand how dangerous that is?” 

“Well yes, Officer, I do. I’m not an idiot. I am always just inside the door, watching her every move. The kid has gotta have some fresh air and sunshine right?”

“Ma’am, unless you use better judgment and find a safer place for your daughter to play, we will be back out with child services,” threatened the Officer.

“Okay. I will figure out something.”

The officer filled out his paperwork and handed Leah her copy. “This call will be documented.” He held the paper for a delayed moment, making eye contact with Leah.

“Thank you, Officer,” Leah said sarcastically as she snatched it from his hand.
As the officer moved down the stairs, Leah looked over at her neighbor as she was turning to head back to her room. Leah smiled a big smile at her, flipped her off with both hands, and then slammed the door as loudly as possible.

“Thanks, Pagne, just what I needed.”  She glared at her sweet face and grumbled, “Worthless brat.” Leah had decided when Champagne was a year old that she did not deserve the name Champagne. She hadn’t improved Leah’s life, but had complicated it. Leah called her Pagne, pronounced as “Pain.” The fact that Pagne was showing signs of freckles to go with the red hair from her nameless father didn’t help either. Leah hated freckles with a passion. She plopped down on the ratty couch that folded out to their bed and turned on the TV, filling a tumbler with wine.


Leah’s lust for drinking didn’t allow her to survive on the meager assistance she received, so she’d begun hooking again shortly after Pagne was born. Pagne’s childhood was a whirlwind of her mother’s customers, late nights, and the consequences of being the child of an alcoholic. One thing was consistent, an anchor that Pagne could rely on, her mother’s total disregard for her. As time passed, Pagne had no choice but to be self-sufficient. She kept herself clean, got herself ready for school, and made sure the trash in the room didn’t pile up too high.

When Pagne was eight years old, Adam Williams was her mother’s new flavor of the month … good looking, funny and he actually had a job, a nice change for Leah. Adam always brought a bottle of quality champagne for her and Jack Daniels for him. A few drinks, some laughs and then “Good lovin’,” as her mother would say. Leah considered him a boyfriend, so she didn’t charge him for her company. Pagne learned to keep out of the way when Adam or other men were there. The close quarters of the motel room made it difficult, but Pagne would lock the bathroom door and climb into the tub, pretending she was in a boat heading to a strange new land.
She would also read with a passion. She loved stories about fairies, faraway places, or brave characters who saved the day. She read whatever she could bring home from school. Her mom certainly wouldn’t bother to take her to the library or buy a book. When the tub was too disgusting to get into, Pagne would pile up dirty laundry on the floor and make a nest. The width of the floor space fit her and her nest perfectly. She wished the walls were more sound proof though. The loud laughing and sexual noises from the other room made it hard for her to read, pretend, or sleep. Pagne wasn’t sure what they were doing, but she felt uncomfortable hearing them. Sometimes, the men Leah brought home would hit her. Pagne knew to stay very quiet. She didn’t want them to know she was there. Some mornings, Leah’s face would be swollen and bruised. When Pagne would look at her with concern, Leah would shrug and say, “Comes with the territory.” 

Adam never hit her mom. He would always bring Pagne a toy or some candy when he came over. He was nice enough, but something made her uneasy about him. He didn’t do anything bad, but he always wanted Pagne to sit on his lap. She didn’t like it and she wasn’t sure why. Even her mom didn’t like it. Leah would jerk Pagne off of his lap and plop herself down instead, giving Pagne the evil eye. Leah didn’t realize how grateful Pagne was that she had removed her from the awkward situation.

Even at the age of eight, Pagne was independent. She could get her own breakfast and lunch, toaster pastries or cold cereal. It wasn’t so bad when the milk hadn’t soured, but usually she ate the cereal dry. She got free hot lunches at school when she started first grade. Leah wasn’t hungry until late evening, since she drank her meals during the day. She would throw something together for dinner, but in her drunken stupor, usually burned it. Pagne didn’t eat much. She didn’t talk much either and doctors thought it was because of Leah’s frequent drinking during her pregnancy. But, according to Pagne, she just didn’t have anything much to say.
One hot summer evening, Leah drank herself into another stupor and passed out on the bathroom floor, leaving Pagne alone with Adam. He grinned at her and turned on some cartoons. Their TV only had three channels. Luckily, one was cartoons... most of the time. Pagne loved cartoons. She could watch them all day and pretend she lived in the TV where she could fly like a super hero. Adam sat down in the old recliner and motioned for Pagne to come over to him. When she came close, he reached out and grabbed her by the waist, pulling her onto his lap.

“Your mommy is outta service, so maybe Adam and Pagne can have some fun? You wanna play with me, sweetheart?” Her instincts told her it wasn’t good. Adam’s breath stunk from the liquor. She felt his arms tighten around her. Pagne began to whimper and tried to pull away. Adam was whispering and sputtering spit into her ear.

“Be quiet. I’m not going to hurt you. Trust me, you’ll like it ... well, I will.”  She felt one hand on her leg and the other sliding up her belly, lifting up her t-shirt. Pagne brought her leg up and slammed it down hard, kicking him in the shin with her heel. He grabbed her even tighter, squeezing her painfully. She kicked his shin again and this time he let go. As he grabbed at his leg, Pagne was able to slip off of his lap and head to the front door. Adam jumped out of the chair and lunged at her, screaming with anger and pain. He was behind her and grabbed her arms. It hurt terribly and she began kicking and screaming. Her screams woke Leah who came stumbling into the room, yelling for Adam to shut the brat up. She was confused when she saw Adam and Pagne struggling by the door.

“What is going on?”  She bellowed.

Adam released Pagne and spun around to face Leah. “Nuthin’, kid just went nuts on me, she tried to run away.” It took a few minutes for Leah’s drunken brain to absorb the situation.

“So, my little Pagne didn’t wanna play with you huh?”  Leah showed no reaction as she tried to remain standing. She managed to focus on Pagne’s face and gave her the most hateful glare Pagne had ever seen. Pagne pulled open the front door and ran out, tears filling her eyes and clouding her vision. Through her tears, Pagne thought she saw white wings fluttering around her, then blackness.

When Pagne woke up, she hurt all over. Every part of her was bruised and sore. Her head was pounding with pain. She could hear voices, but she didn’t want to open her eyes. She could hear a sweet lady’s voice speaking to her at times. She was curious about the woman, but decided it was better to pretend that she was somewhere else. Sleep, she just wanted to sleep. It didn’t hurt so bad when she slept. In her dreams, she could fly with wonderful white wings as others flew around her,  laughing, dipping, and gliding.

Pagne woke up to her mother’s voice, speaking close to her ear. “You gotta wake up. What am I going to do with a brain-dead kid?  I can’t deal with this Pagne. Wake up now!” Pagne opened her eyes and looked at her mother. Her face was not haggard and worn from worry, but the familiar face of someone hung over. Leah’s breath reeked of wine. “Well it’s about time. What took you so long... sweetheart?” Sweetheart was thrown in for the benefit of the nurse who had just walked in. “Me and Adam have been worried sick. You scared your mama something awful.” As the nurse finished her duties and left the room, Leah moved in closer and whispered. “Pagne, they think Adam hurt you. We both know that’s a big fat lie, right?  The police are going to talk to you. Mommy can’t lose Adam, baby. You gotta fix this.”
Later that day, several officers and a very nervous, skinny woman named Miss Lament, came into Pagne’s room. The officers tried to be friendly and brought a teddy bear with them. It was very cute and Pagne found it oddly comforting to hug. Miss Lament, who didn’t smile and had very tiny, beady eyes, was trying to ask Pagne what had happened with Adam. Pagne decided she didn’t have anything to say. She knew that Adam was a bad man, but even at her tender age, Pagne intuitively understood that it was her mother’s truth. Leah needed him.

The officers and Miss Lament left frustrated. Her mother had been waiting in the hall and slipped in. “Good girl. Now we just have to convince the judge. We’re going to move in with Adam once this whole mess is cleared up. He’s going to take care of both of us. Won’t that be nice? We’ll be a family real soon!”  Pagne didn’t respond.

 “We hit the jackpot, baby,” cooed Leah.

That evening, the sweet-talking nurse was on duty. She took Pagne’s temperature and adjusted her tubing. While she worked, she talked softly to Pagne, assuring her that she would be fine. As she turned to leave, Pagne grabbed her hand, squeezing it tight. The nurse, who’s nametag said “Mrs. Greenly,” looked into Pagne’s eyes. She saw fear and worry in them. She asked, “What’s wrong, hon? You in pain?”  Pagne took a deep breath and spoke in a whisper for the first time since waking up.

“What happened?” she asked.

“Oh honey, no one has told you what’s going on?  Well, I’m not sure why, but you ran out your front door and then you fell down three flights of cement stairs. You broke your leg and your arm, cracked your head, and have lots of bumps and bruises. You are very lucky that you didn’t hurt yourself even worse. I believe you have a guardian angel, dear. Yep, an angel that cushioned your fall. We all have an angel, you know. Talk to mine sometimes, when I’m sad or scared. You should thank your angel for protecting you. They have a thankless job!”

Pagne asked when she would be going home. “You should be able to go home in a few days,” the nurse answered. Pagne began to weep softly. “Oh sweetheart, that’s not that far away.” The nurse looked into Pagne’s face and realized this was something different. “Don’t you want to go home?”  Pagne just closed her eyes and let go of the sweet nurses hand.

After she left, Pagne whispered quietly, “Thank you.” She did see wings, she was sure of it.


Pagne lay in her bed, a cast on her right arm, a cast on her left leg, bandages here and there, and a dull headache as Leah filled out all the paperwork for her release. Leah looked at the prescriptions for Pagne and was grumbling that nothing was strong enough to do her much good. “The least they could do is give us Valium,” Leah complained. Several nurses entered the room and helped Pagne into a wheelchair. Pagne’s doctor and a police officer walked into the room. “Now, Miss Crenshaw, there are some requirements you must meet to have your daughter home with you,” said the officer. “This Adam Williams is not to be within 300 yards of your daughter or your residence.”

“But he didn’t do anything,” Leah insisted.

“That might be, but until the judge makes his determination, the restraining order is in effect,” the officer responded.

“Yes, of course,” Leah snapped.

Pagne’s doctor stepped toward Leah and began speaking. “Here is the treatment plan for Champagne’s after care. Her therapy is crucial if she is to have a full recovery. I also want to stress that she will need a balanced, healthy diet and a safe, clean environment. Obviously, the stairs will present a safety issue. Have you made arrangements for assistance?”

“Yes, I have taken care of everything,” She lied.

“Mrs. Crenshaw, a child services worker will be checking in,” reminded the officer.

“Yes, I know, another person telling me what to do. Can we leave now?”

“Yes, you may. But remember, your court appearance is at three o’clock today. We will remove Champagne from your care if you fail to appear.”

“Yes, I know, I know,” replied Leah, disrespecting the officer.

The nurses put Pagne into the cab for the ride home while Leah had a cigarette. Once her nicotine fix was satisfied, she climbed into the cab next to Pagne. She shot the nurses a hard glare when their faces revealed their disapproval of her indifference. Pagne sat quietly while Leah went on and on about their new life with Adam. Leah talked about how Adam really cared about them, how happy they would all be together, and how Adam would bring money into the house. Leah finally shut up and drifted into her fantasy of a wonderful future with Adam.
Pagne considered telling her mother what Adam had done, but she was a smart girl. She knew there was no point. Her mother already knew. When they got to the hotel, Leah struggled to get Pagne upstairs, cursing with each step. Once inside the room, Pagne looked around and wasn’t surprised to see that nothing the doctor had listed was done. Pagne hopped over to the couch and sat in silence.

“Wanna toaster pastry, doll? Know how much you love them.” Pagne shook her head and turned on the TV.

A few minutes later, there was a tap on the door. Leah opened it and Adam’s head popped in.

“Hey, my two favorite girls. Just wanted to stop by and bring Pagne a get well gift.”

 It was a tin of mints from the liquor store down the street and a car air freshener in the shape of a rose.

“What did you bring mama?” asked Leah with a little girl voice and a giggle. Adam slipped a big bottle of champagne around the door.

“Can I come in for awhile?” he asked.

“No baby, not till the court says it’s okay. My neighbor next door has big ears and eyes. This should all be resolved this afternoon. You gotta be patient.” Leah laughed as Adam tried to grope her through the opening. “We’ll all be together soon,” assured Leah. Adam looked over at Pagne and winked with a disgusting lick of his lips.

“Okay, but I miss you guys. Good to have you back with us, Pagne.” Pagne turned the TV volume up and ignored him.

“She’ll warm up to ya, baby, just give her some time. I’ll call when I get out of court.” Leah closed the door, giggling. She looked over at Pagne. Pagne could feel Leah’s eyes on her, but she refused to respond.


Pagne was very nervous sitting in the courtroom, waiting to find out what the judges decision would be. Everyone was so serious, except her mother. She whispered insulting comments about everyone. Sticks up their “you know what’s” and other such childish remarks. When it was their turn to appear before the judge, Leah bounced up, flicking her hair. Once she was up at the front, she suddenly seemed to realize that Pagne was still struggling to get out of her seat. She smiled and loudly proclaimed, “It’s okay baby, Mommy is here.” She went back and very graciously helped Pagne into the aisle. Her performance impressed Pagne. Once she made it to the front, Pagne sat at the table facing the judge.

Leah began by explaining that the whole thing had been a misunderstanding. She explained that Pagne had been throwing a temper-tantrum and Adam was trying to keep her from running out of the room. When the judge asked if she was in the room at the time, she admitted that she was not. She was suffering from one of her migraines and was lying on the bathroom floor for relief. “The cool tile is soothing,” she explained.

They called forward Pagne’s doctor and he described the extensive bruising on Pagne’s thighs, chest, and arms. In the photos he presented, handprints were clearly visible. Leah did not have any explanation for the bruises. The judge looked at Pagne and asked if she had anything she wanted to say. Pagne just looked out the window at the beautiful blue sky, wishing she could fly away.

The lawyer representing Pagne’s interests made a good case that the events before her fall were clearly assault and possibly molestation. The judge agreed and ordered the restraining order to stand, pending further investigation. Adam was taken in and interrogated by the police after Pagne was admitted to the hospital. He wasn’t arrested, but he did have a court date. 

Leah went into a rage. “This is ridiculous. You are punishing a good man, my man, for something that was very innocent. This isn’t fair,” she yelled.

“Well, Miss Crenshaw, if you want to have your daughter in your home, you must honor the restraining order. If you disregard the order, Champagne will be placed in the care of the state until this case is resolved,” responded the judge with obvious distain.

“Well, I don’t think me and Adam should have to suffer because of this brat’s behavior. We have a life to start. You guys can deal with her until this mess is cleaned up,” Leah said as she looked at Pagne in disgust. Leah then turned and walked out of the courtroom.

Everyone stood there in shock. No one knew what to say or do. Pagne hobbled over to the window and allowed one tear to roll down her face, just one. Then she looked to the skies and flew far away.

Helping Others Through Writing
By Karen Arnpriester

As a mature woman, the desire to write was ignited in my spirit.  I can’t tell you why now, but I know that it has become a very real part of who I am. My life has been filled with trials and difficulties, just as everyone else’s. I made big mistakes, learned life lessons and survived. I came to realize that my life lessons could be put to pen and encourage others that are traveling the same paths.

My first book Anessia’s Quest was purely fictional. Children in the foster care system have always tugged at my heart. So much so, that I became a foster mom, adopting our two daughters and fostering more. I also struggled with the point of life, what purpose do we serve? Does it matter that I existed? Foster children and questions about life prompted the subject of my book. I only had a beginning and an end for my story. The rest of the book was an emotional journey that I traveled through as I wrote. The characters and events flowed in as the story evolved. When I was finished, I knew that I would reach the hearts of readers and encourage them to consider the ripple they generate with each response and gesture. It also healed a part of me, knowing that each of us is born with divine intent.

My faith in God had been a battle from the age of eighteen to forty. I decided many times to be an atheist but God had connected me to Him in ways I could not ignore. When I began writing Raider’s Vendetta, I did not see the connection to my own life until the story was finished. I realized that I was Raider and Charley, the mature Christian woman in the story. The pain, anger, discovery and resolution were mine. There was a sense of freedom that came with the completion of Raider’s Vendetta. I realized that God had provided me with answers that I could share for some of the difficult questions that kept me separate from Him. There are still answers I seek, but I trust that I will find peace and understanding at the chosen time.

My third book, Leadbottom, is my life. I was not equipped to write this story, not at first, but I know that this is the book I am supposed to write. Anessaia’s Quest was sticking my toes in the water, Raider’s Vendetta was floating without assistance, and Leadbottom is jumping off the high dive. I struggle with how truthful to be. Do I want my children and grandchildren to know all the dark secrets I protected for so long? Most everyone encourages me to be transparent and honest. The more honest I am, the more profound the story of healing will be, but it is my heart on those pages, my shame, and my guilt. Yes, it may inspire, encourage and even educate, but at what price? I tell myself that God knows all my stuff and He forgives me. It doesn’t matter what mortal man thinks, but as I come to events in my story, I think about how I will be seen. Will readers judge or be thankful that someone said it out loud.

So, for now, Leadbottom will be fiction, inspired by a true story. Not even the people closest to me will know exactly what is true and what it contrived. The names will be changed to protect the guilty, including myself. Writing Leadbottom is scary and I ask myself why continue, but I know that this story, my story is my divine intent. I can bring the damage of bullying out into the open so that others might identify the pain and self-loathing in themselves or their loved ones. I am praying that they will seek healing and God’s grace to know their value and cherish who they are. Who knows, when I’m done, it may be non-fiction.

I encourage those of you who have allowed the idea of writing to dance through your imagination to step out onto the floor. You may only entertain yourself, but you could bring hope to others lost in the struggle of life.

Karen's Ah-hahs To Tweet:

Meet Karen Arnpriester, fiction author who captures life struggles. (Tweet This)

Karen Arnpriester’s fiction will encourage others that are traveling difficult paths. (Tweet This)

Karen Arnpriester: atheist but God connected her to Him in ways she couldn’t ignore. (Tweet This)

Karen Anrpriester: foster children, life lessons, and battles with God for story subjects. (Tweet This)

Author Bio:
Karen Slimick Arnpriester is a Christian fiction author (Anessia’s Quest and Raider’s Vendetta) who writes about real life conflict and struggles. Her stories do not sugarcoat the trials that humanity must endure, whether is it abuse, abandonment, addictions or the need to discover the purpose of life. Karen wants to challenge the reader to evaluate their beliefs and where God fits into their lives. The stories are sprinkled with blessings from Heaven in the form of angels, miracles and God’s divine intent. Karen’s next release, Leadbottom, is a story of bullying inspired from a true story. Mrs. Arnpriester resides in Manteca, California and is a wife, mother, grandmother and adoptive mother of her foster daughters. While writing is her passion, she also owns a successful graphic art business, Karen's Koncepts.
You can connect with Karen at:

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