Friday, January 31, 2014

Patricia Bradley: An Interview With An Amazing Debut Author

Please welcome back to Everyone's Story a dear friend, blog viewer, past guest, and now… ta-da… published author in book length fiction, Patricia Bradley. I have looked forward to making this announcement and am so excited for Patricia! Patricia graciously has answered several interview questions and is offering her debut novel, SHADOWS OF THE PAST, Book 1 of the Logan Point Series. I know this is only the beginning of exciting things for Patricia and it's my honor to host her this week. Both of us are looking forward to seeing your comments and sharing the excitement!

**Also, I'm presently a guest on Patricia's blog if you'd like to visit: 

Book Giveaway:
Patricia is offering one print copy of her novel SHADOWS OF THE PAST to one randomly chosen commenter. The winner will be announced here on Friday, February 7th, between 5-6 PM EST. For convenience, please leave your contact information within your comment. Thanks!

Questions for Patricia Bradley

You head your website with a passage from Psalm 37—Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. How does this fit into your daily life? Your writing life?

I’ve found that to delight myself in the Lord I have to have quiet time with Him early in the morning. I usually start off with the passage I’m reading in my Chronological Bible, then I spend time in my Jesus Calling Journal. I’ve been making daily entries in the journal since October 2009 and it’s really neat to have a record of what went on that day for the past four years. On the few days that something happens and I don’t get to spend time with Him, my day goes from bad to worse. I need that grounding and reminder that He is faithful. 

As for faith in my writing life, I couldn’t string ten words together without God’s input. I pray before I write and all the time I’m writing. When I’m stumped or can’t get the right words, I ask for God to help me. And He does. Not just once, but every time.

During your previous appearance on Everyone’s Story you’ve spoken about the unexpected years it took you to become a published author. Had you come close to surrendering your dream during this time? What was the turn around point that changed everything?

I don’t know that I ever seriously entertained the thought of giving up. It was as though I couldn’t not write, even when I received a rejection almost by return mail. God did take me away from writing fiction for a few years to co-write an abstinence curriculum and workbook and work in the abstinence program.

The turnaround point came after I won the 2008 Unpublished Maggie in their Inspirational Category, an RWA contest sponsored by the Georgia Romance Writers of America. It was Shadows of the Past and I just knew it would be published right away. Not. The next year at that same conference I asked a friend what I needed to do. I knew my writing lacked something, I just didn’t know what. She directed me to Susan May Warren. Susan was just starting My Book Therapy and teaching writing at the MBT Chat online. Her critique of Shadows, then the MBT classes and retreats helped me to hone my craft.

What didn’t you expect to discover on your journey to publication?

I never expected it would take so long. I mean, I’ve been writing for 33 years. Especially since the first short story I wrote was picked up by Woman’s World way back in 1981.

What kind of life lessons—if any—has writing and publishing taught you?

To enjoy the journey. And patience. Don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the tagline on my emails is: I asked God to teach me patience, and He gave me a book to write.
Inspiration for Patricia: Norris Geyser Basin at Yellowstone
©Cheryl Meints

If you could look back at your pre-published self what kind of advice, as a published author, would you offer?

Learn the craft. Get into a good critique group and/or a community of writers. There are so many classes and so many good writing books out there, like Susan May Warren’s From the Inside Out and James Scott Bell’s Plot and Structure. I wrote for 17 years with only a few books and Writer’s Digest magazine, and I kept making the same mistakes. I didn’t have a critique group until 1997—where I lived made it difficult to get together with other writers, and I didn’t have the Internet. Then in 2009, I joined ACFW and got connected with a 4 great crit partners, met Susan May Warren and My Book Therapy, and my writing life change.

Was any one particular person during your childhood years instrumental in building up your strength to continue despite obstacles?

My parents always told me I could do anything I set my mind to do. That I was the only person who could hold me back.

Why suspense stories? Did you intend to create a series from the start?

I’ve always liked to read suspense, but for some reason when I first started writing, I tried to write a story for Woman’s World’s Complete Romance line. That’s when I discovered I couldn’t get them together. And I kept putting my characters in danger, so I realized I could do the suspense part and turned to their mini-mysteries. Since then I’ve learned how to get them together.

As for the series, when I submitted to Revell, it was for three books set in Logan Point. Now each book I write creates more characters and more stories.

What faith issues have your characters faced in your stories? Did you set out with these issues in mind when you started the series or did it evolve on a more natural basis?

I knew Taylor, the heroine of Shadows of the Past, would have trust problems, not just with people, but with God. Her father had walked away when she was a child and she felt God never answered her prayers for him to return. Nick, the hero, had a strong faith, but he feared losing someone as he had when his wife was killed in a mugging-gone-wrong. So he held people too close sometime. His journey was learning to trust God with everything.

And for fun: if a magical fairy came along and granted you one wish to either do something or go somewhere (other than becoming an overnight NYTBSL author or resolving world peace with the snap of fingers), what would it be?

I would travel. Go to Hawaii, Ireland, Scotland, Iceland, everywhere. And I would love to have that snap of the finger thingy to get there.

If by chance you do not win Patricia’s Giveaway novel on Everyone's Story, here’s another chance to win it: Revell is doing a giveaway on Goodreads from January 18-February 18: Goodreads 

You can see Patricia Bradley's first guest appearance on Everyone's Story here.

Patricia's Ah-hahs To Tweet:
Visit with romantic suspense author Patricia Bradley on Everyone’s Story #BookGiveaway. (Tweet This)

Patricia Bradley: An author who took 33 years to publish debut novel but who sold a 3-book series! (Tweet This)

Win Patricia Bradley’s SHADOWS OF THE PAST #BookGiveaway on Everyone’s Story. #ChristianFiction (Tweet This)

Author's Bio:
Patricia Bradley lives in North Mississippi and is a former abstinence educator and co-author of RISE To Your Dreams, an abstinence curriculum and workbook. But her heart is tuned to murder and suspense. Patricia’s mini-mysteries have been published in Woman’s World, and her debut novel, Shadows of the Past, is releasing February 1, 2014. When she’s not writing or speaking, she likes to make jewelry or throw mud on a wheel and create odd and unique pottery.

Places to connect with Patricia:

Friday, January 24, 2014

Mary Connealy: When Characters Teach Us Humbling Lessons

Everyone's Story warmly welcomes author Mary Connealy. A friend invited me to attend a lecture/book-signing at a library given by Mary Connealy. Although I wanted to attend this event, let alone a rare occasion when a big name Christian author makes an appearance in my corner of the world, I couldn't attend. So, the blogger I am, what did I do but invited Mary to appear on Everyone's Story. And she accepted! Mary's signature line is romantic comedy with cowboys, appealing to all readers since it has a little of something for everyone. Please join us this week as she shares her take on forgiveness--both a theme and a life decision that we all face, and often on a daily basis. Check out the nice Giveaway offer from Mary of A MATCH MADE IN TEXAS and its blurb. Mary and I look forward to hearing from you.

Book Giveaway:
Mary is offering one print copy of her novel A MATCH MADE IN TEXAS, a collection of novellas by four wonderful authors including Mary, to one randomly chosen commenter. The winner will be announced here on Friday, January 31st, between 5-6 PM EST. For convenience, please leave your contact information within your comment. Thanks!

There's a secret matchmaker at work in frontier Texas. In the small town of Dry Gulch, Texas, a good-hearted busybody just can't keep herself from surreptitiously trying to match up women in dire straits with men of good character she hopes can help them. How is she to know she's also giving each couple a little nudge toward love?

Mary’s book in this collection--Meeting Her Match:
When the tables are turned and a tenderhearted meddler becomes the beneficiary of a matchmaking scheme, her world is turned upside down. As her entire life changes, will she finally be able to tell the banker's son how much she cares for him?

Fired Up To Forgive by Mary Connealy

I thought I’d talk about my September release Fired Up, because I think it has a particularly powerful faith message. In Fired Up, all of my characters struggle with forgiveness. Particularly one teenaged boy, but as the story progresses the adults realize that, though they are worried about him, they are struggling with unforgiveness, too.

The moment comes in a talk with the villain of the story and I have to be careful what I say here to not write too many spoilers but my hero Dare is talking to about forgiveness (will Paul, the teenager, is listening in, as well as his mother Glynna, the heroine). Dare tells someone (wow, I can’t say much without giving a lot away) that Jesus asked God to forgive the men who were crucifying Him. And this ‘someone’ says something like ‘God couldn’t have loved his son very much or He could never forgive such a thing.

Dare reference Matthew 27 right after Jesus died. This is paraphrased and shortened. Dare says, “A curtain in the church was ripped in two. There was an earthquake, and rocks split. Graves opened; and dead men arose and appeared unto many.

Then Dare says, “I reckon God was mighty upset to do all that, but He forgave them anyway.

As Dare is explaining just how upset God was about Jesus’ death he realizes that he (Dare) hasn’t forgiven evil done to him. Later, when Paul asks about it, Paul says, “How can you forgive someone who would spit on you if you said, ‘I forgive you?’ How can you forgive someone for hitting you who will hit you again the next time they’re mad and blame you for it every time?”

Writing this helped me explore the anger Paul and Glynna and Dare, as well as so many of us, carry around inside us. Paul’s anger was hurting only him because the man he hated so much was dead. But that anger was spilling over on everyone he was near, hurting them and hurting Paul. The forgiveness God calls us to in a situation like this isn’t for those we forgive, it’s for us.

So I’ve been remembering that when I think I’ve got a lot to forgive, just how enraged God was over Jesus’ death and how heartbroken, and how forgiving. How can we do less?

Mary's Ah-hahs To Tweet:
Like to read romantic comedy with cowboys? Visit with Mary Connealy on Everyone’s Story. #BookGiveaway (Tweet This)

How do your characters deal with forgiveness? See what award-winning author Mary Connealy says. (Tweet This)

#BookGiveaway of A MATCH MADE IN TEXAS by Mary Connealy. (Tweet This)

Author's Bio:

Mary Connealy writes romantic comedy with cowboys. She is a Carol Award winner, and a Rita, Christy and Inspirational Reader's Choice finalist. She is the author of Swept Away and Fired up, Book #1 & #2 in the Trouble in Texas series, book #3 Stuck Together is coming June 2014. Mary is also in the anthologies A Bride for All Seasons and the newly released A Match Made in Texas. She is also the author of the bestselling Kincaid Bride series, Lassoed in Texas Trilogy, Montana Marriages Trilogy and Sophie's Daughters Trilogy. Mary is married to a Nebraska rancher and has four grown daughters and two spectacular grandchildren, and one on the way.

Find Mary on the Web:

Friday, January 17, 2014

Lorna Faith: What To Do With Life Changing Moments

Everyone's Story is pleased, excited, and most honored to host debut author Lorna Faith. As you will see when you read her encouraging words, Lorna's sincerity and zest for making the most of what life hands her shows in not only her writing but with the way she warmly responds and offers her support. Check out the Book Giveaway she's offering of ANSERING ANNAVETA, with a look at an excerpt from the novel. Both Lorna and I are looking forward to hearing from you.

Book Giveaway:
Lorna is offering one print copy of her novel ANSWERING ANNAVETA to the first randomly chosen commenter and an e-version of the same novel to the second chosen commenter. The winner will be announced here on Friday, January 24th, between 5-6 PM EST. For convenience, please leave your contact information within your comment. Thanks!

Here's a peek at Lorna's ANSWERING ANNAVETA:


“I DIDN”T LIKE HOW YOU treated that nice young man when he was introduced to us, daughter. The matchmaker went out of her way to help us, and you didn’t even give Misha a smile. Shame on you.” Papa’s eyes were hard, narrowing to mere slits as he stared at her. “I know he will be coming to our village tomorrow for the Posidelki work bee and social afterward. I want you to do whatever you need to do to show that you are happy to see him. This is one way you can finally make up for the disgrace you brought on our family at the Shremetev estate. Do you understand?”
     Annaveta answered, “I don’t like him, Papa. He’s so arrogant and only talks about himself. Pavla says she heard that he drinks all the time and gets into fights when he does.” Annaveta looked at her mama for her support, knowing she longed for her daughter to marry a good man, but she remained silent.
     Her papa continued. “Well, Pavla isn’t always right. I’ve heard from the matchmaker that his family is rich. That’s all I need to know. He’s living the Russian proverb: ‘Get a wife from afar; buy a cow near.’ So, you will do as I say, or you’ll wish you had. Do you hear me?” Papa shook his finger in front of her nose.
     “Yes, Papa.” Annaveta knew she would have to obey or she would get a beating. She wanted to have a way out, but any hope for her future seemed very bleak.
      The door slammed as he left their small hut, heightening the tension in the room. Annaveta jumped back, her body’s response instinctive. Her hands moved her wet rag with more vigor over the almost spotless stove, each movement emphasizing her anger. Papa’s unreasonable demands spun around in her head. Maybe the anger she was feeling at being forced to marry would begin to wear away like the skin on the end of her fingers. She looked over at Mama, who was busy cooking the fish that Nicolai had caught for this evening’s meal. She sighed, a mixture of frustration and resignation in the sound.
     Her future would be very bleak indeed if she had to spend it with Misha. Nicolai had asked his friends about him, and they all said he got drunk regularly and thought he was the best at everything. His friends said there were some of the youth in his village who’d claimed he dallied with plenty of girls, and that there was one girl he got in trouble.
     Nicolai’s description of Misha didn’t surprise her. One thing she knew was that she didn’t want anything to do with an unprincipled man like that. For now she would have to go along with the plan, but she was desperate to figure out a way out of this mess.


ANNAVETA AWOKE TO THE SOUND of her tummy’s growl as the aroma of Mama’s rye bread baking filled their small hut. Sitting up, she groaned and rubbed an imprint on her back caused by the long night spent on the knotted sleeping bench. She remembered that today, the last day in April, was a special day for her. It was her sixteenth birthday. She knew she should be excited, but for some reason uneasiness filled her senses. Maybe it was the bad dream she’d had of her family all dying suddenly. Involuntarily she shuddered as images of their burning hut flooded her mind. I really should tell Mama about my dream, but she would probably just say that it was just a silly dream, nothing to worry about. She looked over at Mama, who stopped what she was doing and came to Annaveta. She was being silly; of course, there was nothing to worry about. Everyone was fine.
     “Happy birthday, little one.” Mama put her hands on the sides of Annaveta’s face and kissed both her cheeks. “You are so grown-up. Today is a special day, your first Posidelki. You will remember this day when you are older as the day you faced your future with strength.” Mama smiled at her and kissed her forehead. “I have something for you. It was my mama’s before me, but now it’s yours. Someday you can pass it on to your daughter.”
     Annaveta stared in surprise at the ring with a small ruby in the middle, encircled by delicately designed gold. She put it on her finger, and tears came to her eyes.
     “Thank you, Mama. I will treasure it always.” She hugged her mama knowing what a sacrifice it must have been to save it for her.
     “Oh, daughter. You are such a good girl. I just want you to be happy.” Mama kissed both her cheeks, then stepped back and wiped her own wet cheeks.
     Annaveta watched as Mama hurried back to cooking breakfast. Looking at the ring, for the first time she felt a real connection with her mama and grandmere. She knew they were strong women who had made it through so much hardship. She was grateful for her mama’s reassuring words and the gift, but she didn’t feel any strength; instead, uncertainty and fear formed knots in her stomach. This was not the future she wanted, but this was what she had been given. There was nothing to be done to change it. She told herself she would go along with what Papa and Mama wanted so there would be enough food on the table for her family. She knew if she married into a rich family she could at least help them out. In her heart she knew she had to sacrifice the freedom and love she so desperately wanted so her mama and brothers could have a better life.
     She looked up and saw little Yuri’s mouth quiver as each of his loud snores pierced the stillness of the morning. He lay on his tummy, his little arms dangling down from the sleeping loft by the large white stove. Nicolai was sleeping on the bench beneath him. She was so thankful that at least these two brothers had survived out of the ten babies that had started in Mama’s womb. Annaveta was sure that the many beatings from Papa had killed the others.
     She seethed thinking of her mama’s suffering. How she hated her papa. Yes, she determined in her heart to do everything she could to help take care of her mama and brothers.
     Her hands trembled as she picked up her folded clothes. The sound of wood being chopped echoed through the small hut. She knew she had better get moving - Papa would be coming inside soon. With quick movements she changed into her patched black skirt and gray blouse, the only work clothes she owned. She folded her nightdress and set it neatly on top of the folded blankets on the bench. Hearing the clunk of the spoon against the pot, she looked over at Mama. She had her brown-and-gray-streaked hair pulled back into a tight bun and a kerchief around her head. Annaveta watched as she used her sleeve to get rid of the perspiration on her forehead, while stirring with her other hand. Annaveta wiped a stray tear from the corner of one eye.
     This is what my life will be like soon. I’ll be stirring kasha, bearing children, and being bound to a man who will control my every move. Just like Mama. But there can be no more tears. I will just have to accept it. With an angry flick, she removed the last tear from her cheek, determined to somehow survive this.
     Annaveta’s hurried steps made swooshing noises in the wet grass as she made her way to the makeshift outhouse behind the house. The brisk wind poured through wide-open wooden slats like a cold waterfall. She peered outside at the sky and saw the sun trying to pierce its way through dark fuming clouds that seemed ready to lash out at the unsuspecting earth beneath it. She understood their show of displeasure.
     Mama had the boys up and dressed by the time she got back and was putting the kasha on the table. Nicolai and Yuri sat still, rubbing their eyes as Mama filled their bowls with the steaming porridge.
     Annaveta wished for honey to put in their plain fare, but had learned early in life to keep her thoughts to herself or be prepared for a quick strike across her cheek from the back of Papa’s hand.
     “Annaveta is to help at the Posidelki today.”
     Annaveta watched her mama’s lips form an uncertain smile as she sat down and looked up at her husband.
     “Good.” He glared at Annaveta. “You think on what I told you. I expect a contract of marriage for you soon. This family needs some good luck for once,” her papa said, firmly shaking his finger at her.
     “Yes, Papa,” She forced the words from her mouth. The thought of courting and marrying any of the men she knew sent a ripple of fear through her body. She had seen firsthand the bruises of most of the women in the village and late at night had heard their screams. She wanted to escape that life to something better.
     The image of Alex’s gentle eyes flashed through her mind. Her heart tapped the staccato beat of the round dance as she remembered being held in his arms. She longed to feel his touch and hear his voice once again. Anticipation caused her stomach to flutter as she remembered she would see Alex and his sister on Sunday. Catching her breath, she stopped herself to take in all the sensations that flooded her whenever she thought of him. She covered her mouth to hide the sound that slipped out, and her eyes widened as she realized her attraction to Alex.
     But upon looking over at her papa, she realized nothing had changed. An aching pain began in her chest, and she closed her eyes. Because of her papa’s demands she would have to show interest in someone else. Alex came from the wrong kind of people, and her papa would never approve.


AS PAVLA HOED THE LAST row of newly planted potatoes in the vegetable garden, Annaveta grabbed her heavy pail of water and poured it into the trenches. Widow Polaski would have a good-sized garden this year, with lots of vegetables. Covering the small holes with the soft black soil, the girls finished in short order. They stretched, rubbing their aching backs as they took stock of their hard work. A tired sigh escaped as Annaveta thought of the wood that still needed to be hauled before they started supper.
   “Pavla, I’ll help with the outside work for Widow Polaski. Since all us girls are renting her house to use this coming year, I’ll haul the wood. You could join the other girls in the house and help get the food ready for tonight.” Annaveta wanted to avoid being in the same room with the other village girls for as long as possible.
   “All right, I can manage that. I can’t wait for the social tonight. I think the kissing games will be the most fun, don’t you think?” Pavla said as her lips puckered with the sound.
   “That’s the part I dread. I like it that our work benefits others, but it bothers me that we girls are expected to encourage boys we hardly know to show affection. I don’t understand or want any part of it.” Annaveta frowned with disgust.
     “You’re beautiful. You’ll be chosen quickly,” Pavla said, trying to encourage her.
     “You know as well as I that parents and matchmakers in our village persuade men to choose girls with physical strength to bear many children and to do heavy labor. We aren’t encouraged to seek love but to help our families. You’re stronger than I am, Pavla; you’ll be chosen first.” Annaveta’s frown turned into a smile as she thought about it. “You know, this is probably a good thing. Maybe I’ll be rejected for lack of strength.”
     “Well, don’t be too happy just yet,” Pavla whispered, covering her mouth with her hand as she looked behind Annaveta. “Here comes Misha wearing a big grin on his face. It looks like he likes you in spite of your beauty and lack of strength.”
     Annaveta stamped her foot letting her friend know that she wasn’t impressed. Pavla laughed and went inside the hut. Annaveta thought about walking away, but he’d already spotted her. He must have come from his village to join the group of young men here in Noltava for the Posidelki social. Like most of the young men, he arrived just in time to eat the food and join in the dance. She should’t be surprised that he came, though. Since he had already won over most of the young men in this village by giving out his vodka at the round dance, his friends were probably eager to have him come and bribe them with drink once again.
     The girls were expected to do all the work and provide the food, while the young men showed up later on with the entertainment. There wasn’t much she could do to change it, but she longed to go somewhere where she would be free from all the limits that is seemed fate had placed on her. Annaveta didn’t want to go back to the widow’s hut, knowing that he would be there with his friends. She didn’t have a choice, however, knowing her papa expected her to be there and would be disgraced by the other villagers if she didn’t show up with a young man by her side.
     “Hello there, my lovely flower. I see you know how to work. That’s good. Once we’re married, there will be a lot of it to keep you busy.” Misha strolled over to her, his steps swaying and words slurring as he took another drink of the bottle he held in his tight grip.
     “Misha, I’m busy.” Annaveta carried her armload of heavy wood to the back of the hut to put it in the wooden box. After dumping it in, she closed the lid, crinkling her nose at the strong stench of alcohol that surrounded him like a fog. Just like Papa.
     “Misha, go back to your friends.” Annaveta moved to go past him.
     “No. You won’t get away this time. Stay here. With me.” Misha grabbed her arms, pulling her closer to him. She stiffened at his harsh touch.
     “Go away, Misha. Stop it.” Annaveta’s angry tone grew louder as she tried to jerk away from him.
     “From what I hear you don’t usually tell men to go away. You would rather encourage their advances. So, I just want to test the goods for myself.” He pulled her closer, harshly pressing his lips to hers. She twisted out of his arms.
     “You’d better not be spreading those lies about me. I’ll have you brought before the village elders,” Annaveta threatened as she wiped off the imprint of his lips. She scrunched her nose in distaste at the foul smell of vodka that lingered on his breath.
     “Well, soon it won’t matter because you’ll be mine.” Misha’s smile vanished, and his words turned cold. “Don’t even think about changing your mind either. Because if you don’t marry me, I will come after you. And if you ever marry someone else, I will kill him.”
     Misha’s words sent an icy chill down her spine, and even in his semi-drunk state, she knew he meant it. Fear wrapped strangling tentacles around her, and for a moment she could’t breathe. She forced herself to remain calm and inhale slowly, unwilling to let the fear of what he might do intimidate her. She was determined to stand her ground against Misha. He had ruined other girls’ reputations, and she didn’t want to be stained in the same way. She had heard of a girl a few years ago in her village who had been branded falsely as a loose woman. Her family’s gate around their izba had been tarred black so everyone would think she was unchaste. It wasn’t until the girl confronted her accuser at the village assembly that those in authority asked the village midwife to examine her. When she had the humiliating physical examination to prove her virginity, the single young men asked the young woman for her forgiveness. They had to pay a fine, and the village officials hung a sign and made a white mark beside the tar on the parents’ gate announcing to the village that the girl had been proven innocent. Annaveta didn’t want to go through such embarrassment.
     “No more, Misha. I need to go help the other girls prepare the food for tonight.” Annaveta turned her head to the side as he tried to kiss her again. She pushed at his chest to distance herself from his embrace.
     “I’ll let you go for now, but only because I know I’ll see you inside for the kissing games later on.” Misha laughed and sauntered off, making a crooked path as he guzzled the half-empty bottle of vodka.
     Annaveta silently crossed her arms and shook her head. She thought about what the evening might bring. Pavla had told her she was excited about tonight because at the Posidelki they would be allowed to be more intimate than at the Khorvody or any other social. She knew Pavla was interested in Sergei and wanted more time with him. But there wasn’t any man here that Annaveta even liked.
     She sighed. If only Alex were here. He would save her from Misha and the wagging tongues. But the hard feelings between the Russian peasants and German colonists made that impossible. Oh, if only there was some way to disappear tonight.


LOOKING AROUND THE CROWDED ROOM, what little courage Annaveta had sank down to her toes. She glanced at the matchmaker, who sat in the middle of a long line of older village women. They all watched closely what the young people were up to and frowned upon anyone who wasn’t paired off. Annaveta knew this was only one of many such socials to come specially devised to bring couples together for marriage.
     “Gather around, young ones.” Widow Polaski waved her hands for them to come closer. There were ten men and nine young ladies, but one young man was the accordion player, so it looked like everyone had a partner.
     “We will start with the first song. Remember to choose your partner wisely. As the saying goes: ‘Choose a cow by its horn, a maiden by her kin.”’ The old ladies laughed and nodded as they heard the familiar Russian proverb. “So, men, choose your young ladies. We will have three songs and then some games.” Widow Polaski nodded for the young man to start the music.
     Annaveta stood back, hoping to disappear. Pavla was soon escorted to the dance floor by Sergei. They moved together in a slow-moving waltz. Soon most of the other girls were dancing with their partners, enjoying each other. Annaveta stood against the corner wall watching.
     The words of the song reinforced what she already knew. Men were to choose a bride for her strength and diligence, not for her beauty. To choose a bride of spotless reputation. Well, the last requirement, according to village gossip, put her at a disadvantage. Mama had said to choose a man for a husband who was sober and hardworking. Well then, she should run far away from Misha.
     Annaveta watched her friend dance and started to sway to the soothing sounds of the music. She was enjoying herself, when abruptly her hand was pulled and she fell against a hard body.
     “Come, my beauty, let’s dance.” Misha wrapped his arms around her waist.
     “Not so close, Misha. I can hardly breathe.” Annaveta tried to pull his hands away, but she was no match for his strength. She looked over his shoulder at the sly stares of the older women watching. They smiled at her and nodded, talking between themselves, their tongues wagging as fast as the stitches they knitted. Her anger increased as she thought of their smiles while Misha was pawing at her. It didn’t look like there would be any protection from that corner.
     “This social is for young people to get closer. A lot closer,” Misha whispered in her ear as his hand from her waist to her bottom.
     She turned her head so he wouldn’t talk in her ear and moved his hand back to her waist. That was a mistake, for as he looked down at her he covered her lips with his own. She moved her head to the side, only to have him trail kisses down her neck. She looked at the other couples , and saw most of them doing the same thing. She didn’t want to join the crowd.
     Sighing with relief, she pulled herself away when the long song finally ended.
     “I need to go to the kitchen.” Annaveta firmly loosened his octopus-like arms from her waist.
     “Don’t take too long. I’ll be waiting for you,” Misha said as he walked toward the drink table.
     Annaveta tried her best to keep herself busy in the kitchen, making more sandwiches and putting more goodies on plates. She was enjoying having time to herself, when she heard someone behind her.
     “Let me help you carry those.” Misha took the two plates. “Widow Polaski has decided it’s time for the games. The first one is spin the bottle.”
     Annaveta’s cheeks turned red as she noticed that most of the girls were sitting on their man’s lap. She knew how this game was played. The bottle was quickly turned, and when it stopped, the girl whom the bottle was facing was the one the fellow got to kiss.
     Misha pulled her onto his lap, and Annaveta’s face and neck flushed red with embarrassment. She quickly scrambled up before he could grab her and sat down on the floor. She watched as the bottle whirled around and stopped before Pavla. A shy man from their village tripped over his feet in his eagerness to give her a quick kiss on the cheek.
     Annaveta smiled at her friend’s red face. The bottle was spun next by Misha. It stopped and pointed to her. She cringed inside.
     “Let me kish those lovely lipsh,” Misha said, his words slurred. He tried to get to her lips but teetered with drunkenness and slobbered over her cheek instead. Annaveta was grateful when Sergei pulled him back into his chair.
     Annaveta sighed with relief when that game finished. They played a few more games and the music had begun for the next round of dancing, when there was a loud knock on the door.
     Widow Polaski opened the door to let a harried Mr. Baranova inside her small hut. A blast of cold wind pushed him from behind, sending chills up Annaveta’s arms.
     Pavla’s papa, with shoulders bowed and face ashen, stood facing Annaveta.
     “Widow Polaski, I’ve come to get Miss Travotsky.” He ran shaky fingers through his hair as he looked first at the widow and then at Annaveta.
     “There’s been a fire. I’m so sorry to tell you that your family’s izba has burned to the ground. I’ve already searched along with some of the village men. There was nothing left. No survivors. We were too late.” His trembling fingers wiped the corner of one eye. He lowered his head and stared at the hat in his hand.
     Annaveta gasped and shook her head, unable to take it in.
     She stepped closer to the solemn-faced man. Silence filled the room, and then she heard the shuffling of many feet as all the others in the room encircled her. Heavy dread filled her, and her legs went weak. She was sure she must have heard wrong. “I’m sorry, I don’t think I heard you right. What did you say about my mama, papa and brothers?”
     Mr. Baranova repeated his words. The blood drained from her face. Her arms and legs grew weak and started shaking violently. Widow Polaski moved beside her and held her hand.
     Annaveta looked around and saw all the men and ladies from the Posidelki social staring at her. Two of the older widows each passed a handkerchief to her, as they wiped away their own tears. She sought out Pavla and grabbed her arm and held on tightly when her friend came and stood by her.
     Annaveta tried to digest the news. She looked up at Mr. Baranova, hoping that it had all been a horrible mistake. But the grave expression on his face revealed the truth of his words.
     “My two brothers, Mama and Papa - all dead? How could this have happened? It can’t be true, it just can’t.” Her eyes bulged as she stared at Mr. Baranova, hoping he would take back his words of doom.
     Sadly, it is all true. I’m so sorry.” Mr. Baranova looked down, twisting his cloth hat in his hands, and shook his head.
     A gasp escaped her and she stumbled against Pavla, who had her arm around her. “I can’t believe it. They’re all gone. What will I do now?” Annaveta’s dazed look went around the room silently questioning all the solemn faces that stared back at her. She looked down and rubbed the ring on her finger. “Everyone who loved me is gone. I’ll never see or hug my mama or my brothers every again.” Putting her hands over her face she sobbed as the reality of what just happened flooded her mind.
     The weight of her loss crushed her will to go on. Her legs buckled from under her before everything went black.

Your Future Success is in Your Own Heart by Lorna Faith

I gasped in horror and stared at the flames that shot upward. Seconds before I had removed the lid off the pot where I had been cooking french fries. However, there was one problem. I didn’t realize that I wasn’t supposed to have a lid on a pot of boiling oil.

I backed away from the stove, still in shock, watching as the kitchen cupboards ignited and the flames shot in both directions. All of them were soon buried under the fiery blaze. I panicked, not really thinking thrust my arm through the flames to turn off the stove. Screaming in pain I pulled my arm out and backed up, bumping into the soft form of my son.

“Hot!” Our seventeen month old son sat on the floor behind me. He had been playing with his Tonka truck, until he saw the flames. His eyes grew ever wider as he pointed at the flames that had now spread to the wall.

I picked Qualan up and hugged him close, reassuring him, even though I was still in shock. I didn’t know what else to do, so I hurried over to the wall phone that was about six feet away from the spreading fire. I dialed the number I knew best.

“I can’t believe I did this! I can’t believe I did this! I didn’t know this would happen!” My voice screeched over the phone line to my husband and then abruptly I hung up the phone. I was still in shock. My dear hubby told me later, he was driving home at the time and put the pedal to the metal when he heard the incoherent hysteria in my voice. He knew I had been making homemade fries and thought the oil had accidentally poured over our son.

I hurried to call 911, realizing belatedly that the fire truck needed to come now. By this time Qualan was crying and the crisis I was living in at that moment was starting to sink in. As soon as I hung up the phone, someone pounded loudly on the door.

I went to the door, opening it to my neighbor. “I saw the flames leaping through the wall... Oh my goodness!” Her eyes grew round and she stopped speaking just staring at the flaming red behind us. “You’ve got to get out of here now!” She tugged on my hand to follow her.

I nodded, grabbed my purse, hurrying as fast as my 7 month pregnant body would let me. I held onto my son for dear life, strips of ceiling singeing my hair as we ran.

My husband screeched his van to a halt and spied us standing on the street. We were dazed. He ran toward us to see if we were okay, checking Qualan over for scars or burns. 

View of the Rocky Mountains from Lorna's
“He’s okay. We’re both fine. It’s the house. I’ve burned down our house.” I started sobbing, feeling waves of guilt wash over me.

“Oh, is that all.” A big sigh of relief escaped him. “I’m so glad you’re both okay.” We stood there hugging each other, crying tears of gratefulness that our family was okay.

Everyone has a story that they’ll never forget. This is one of mine.

As writers and storytellers it’s often those real life experiences that you’ve lived through that is the impetus to new worlds and compelling characters you create.

To find the deepest issues that cause change in our characters, we need to dive deep into the muddy pool of our own raw life changing moments.

That’s what I did when I wrote the story of the heroine in my first novel Answering Annaveta. When I told Annaveta’s story of abuse by her father, being haunted by fear and rejection and living through the tragedy of a fire, I wrote from the depths of me. I lived through it once already.

I want to inspire you and challenge you, to write with abandon. Don’t let fear hold you back from digging up the messiness of all you’ve lived through. If you’re going through a crisis right now, remember and journal all those tangled emotions.

While groping your way through those murky waters, that’s where healing comes. For your readers and for yourself.

It’s your raw story that will captivate and inspire. Your future success lies within your own heart.

Lorna's Ah-hahs To Tweet:
What’s your raw story? Author Lorna Faith shows how to use life crises to fuel a novel. (Tweet This)

Everyone has a story: See how a house fire changed author Lorna Faith’s life. (Tweet This)

#BookGiveaway of Answering Annaveta by Lorna Faith. (Tweet This)

Author's Bio:
Lorna Faith loves all things romantic, historical and filled with adventure. A graduate of the University of Lethbridge with a degree in Music, Lorna teaches students by day and scribbles away on her next novel by night. Her latest adventure is working on Book #2 in the Russia to Canada Trilogy as well as interviewing people about how they work through obstacles to live a better story in her Raw Story Life Podcast. She and her husband have four teenagers and live in southern Alberta with a scenic view of the Rocky Mountains. Answering Annaveta is her first novel.

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