Taliasman and why we all need a little love: Fairy Tale Magic Herd Hop

Welcome to the Fairy Tale Magic Blog Hop! You can win a $100 Amazon gift card as a grand prize, and other bloggers will be offering individual prizes on their own blogs. Click on the image above to get all of the links.


Today, I will visit a hospice center to hold the hand of a woman I met nine short months ago. A woman who spoke three sentences to me before revealing herself as a kindred spirit, soul mate, friend I’d always known and loved before we even met. A woman (I’ll call her Sara) who helped me heal in ways I never knew possible.

The first time I lost a grandmother, no one allowed tears. Later, I would see my mother shed more tears over the family dog than her mother-in-law. “She’s lived a long life” and “What a way to go” were the refrains at her funeral.

The second time, it was after a protracted and complicated year of absence. While living overseas, I found a ridiculously cheap phone plan that allowed nearly unlimited minutes for $3 a month. No matter how many times I tried to convince her, however, she didn’t believe me. “This is too expensive,” she would say, and sometimes she would insist on hanging up after a minute or two. I’d coax her with questions about her favorite news shows (she watched all of them and had strong opinions about the female newscasters’ wardrobe and hairstyles), and sometimes she would forget until twenty or thirty minutes went by. Then she’d exclaim, “I’ll let you go. This costs too much!”

Even living overseas and making a home visit once a year, my aunts told me that I visited my grandmother more often than most of her seventeen grandchildren. I didn’t do it for her; I did it for me. I’d “discovered” my grandmother in college (while writing weekly letters, we formed a bond), and until that point I’d been the not-so-interesting youngest grandchild after a plethora of grandchildren on both sides of the family. For the first few years living overseas, phone options were too expensive for more than an occasional brief call. Once I discovered Skype Out, my world changed. I looked forward to our daily call, and I’d grown up and gotten better at drawing people into conversation. I’d always been unsure of myself as a child/adolescent, and overseas I found people who liked me and liked talking to me. When I brought this new, more confident self to my grandmother (via technology and separated by thousands of miles), I received the unexpected gift of someone who loved me and connected with me on a daily basis.

Then, it all changed. She got sick (pneumonia or a fall, I can’t remember which came first) and was brought to the hospital.

She never went home.

After all while, she was transferred to the local nursing home for recovery/rehab with the hope she might go home (with more frequent home health care visits, and/or one of the family staying with her at least part time). She never got better, and the days turned into weeks and months.

She never accepted that she wouldn’t go home, and she didn’t want a phone put in her room. The nursing home didn’t provide phones, and patients’ families had to bring one. I begged my family to put in a phone anyway so I could talk to her, but they said no. Things with my family were complicated enough that they didn’t place priority on her communication with me, and they would have read (and judged) any letters or cards I mailed to her.

After months of no contact, a nurse friend gave me an idea to call the nurse’s station, explain the situation, and ask them to bring my grandmother to the phone. I did, they did, and I had one last conversation with her. I’m not sure she heard or understood me, but the nurse said she seemed responsive. Perhaps it was a lie, but I am grateful to her for telling it.

Later, when I received the call that the end was near, a plane ticket home cost more money than I could pay. I never got a chance to sit next to her, hold her hand, or share memories with everyone else who loved her.

I didn’t cry when my second grandmother died, either.

When I met “Sara” less than a year ago, I’d volunteered to help with the church quilting circle. I know the basics of sewing, but I couldn’t keep up with women who’d sewed twice as many years as I’ve been alive. I drifted to a table where a petite white-haired woman tugged embroidery thread through pieced quilts to tie knots.

“Can I help?” I asked.

“Sit down!” she smiled.

As we chatted (she and I remember this conversation differently), she asked me, “Where are you from?” She grew up in the neighboring state (which considers itself the better state), and somewhere in our conversation she laughed, “Why would anyone go there?”

“Because I grew up there,” I answered, and at least once a month since then she has told others about our exchange.

“I was so embarrassed,” she says every time she brings it up. “I just thought…well, who does live there?”

Within minutes, we recognized each other as someone special. At the end of the day, she was a friend I’d known my entire life. I went back to the next quilting session specifically to spend time with her, and the next week I debated for ages whether to bring her cookies. I finally (reluctantly) decided against it, even though I wanted to. She was someone special from the first moment, but I didn’t dare assume more to the relationship than was there.

Later, while playing cards (our monthly card game, an event she never missed and therefore an event I never missed, either), I mentioned, “I wanted to bring you some cookies, but I didn’t want to bother you in case you were napping or tired.”

Her eyes lit up, and she looked both surprised and pleased. “I’m diabetic so I wouldn’t have been able to eat them, but I would have loved the visit.”

I wish I could have brought her cookies, but at that time and in that place the verbal interaction affirmed our connection.

The last time I saw Sara (at our monthly card game last week), she laughed, joked, and set the rest of us straight when we took too long to play, didn’t go in order, or confused her by going out of order. As I left, she stood in the entryway waving to me while standing on her own two feet and leaning on the walker her daughter insisted she use.

A friend of mine told me, “It’s not often we get second chance to go back and redo something. Go and say goodbye to Sara, and tell her about your grandmother.”

Today, I will hold the hand of a woman who became a grandmother in all the ways that mattered. I know the tears are for my sake and not hers (she told everyone she had lived a good life and was ready to go when it was her time), and I am grateful to get the chance to say good-bye. To me, that is an affirmation of our love and connection. Saying good-bye is not about death but about life. The saddest good-bye is when there’s no one to say good-bye to.

Taliasman, my upcoming release from Decadent Publishing’s Beyond Fairy Tales series, tells the story of Talia, a young woman who never got past her initial hurt. Unwanted by her parents and devalued for being a girl, she decides to shut out the entire world. When Queen Vina comes to her home and offers a sackful of gold in exchange for Talia, Talia is hell-bent on rejecting every possible sign of affection from the one who bought her.

Taliasman blurb:

Born to a destitute woodworker who wanted a son to carry on the family business, Talia grew up with one phrase on her lips: “If I had been born a boy.” If she had been born a boy, she would have been cherished, supported, and launched into the world with her father’s legacy. As only a worthless girl, she toils all day long to earn her handful of inferior grain.

Far away in the heavenly palace, Queen Vina receives a mysterious coin necklace from Nicodemus, teller of stories. Compelled by the throbbing heartbeat, she scours the earth to come across Talia, enslaved to a family who never wanted her. Rather than admit her motives, Vina purchases the girl with a sack full of gold. Furious, betrayed, and homesick, Talia endeavors to share her misery with the entire palace. Vina, afraid to confess her love, allows herself to become trapped in the role of brutal slave owner.

Talia, bred to expect nothing but misery, faces the first choice of her life. Will she accept love, even if it comes from an unlikely source? Or will she reject the one who offers her everything?


If I had been born a boy, I would have followed in my father’s footsteps and become a tradesman. Because I was a girl, he sold me instead.

“No,” Vina corrects me when I bring up the story, which is not often. She doesn’t like the facts, and I dislike her pretty lies. “Your mother agonized whether to let you go, but she knew you would be better off here. She wanted to give you a better life.”

I would call Vina on her mistruths, but she claims I still reason as a child. All of my protests to the contrary serve to prove her right, at least in her mind. Only when I agree with her does she admit I am a full-grown adult.

“You’re happy with me, aren’t you?” Vina makes me sit next to her at the formal dinners she hosts most nights, and she dresses me in rich silks with real lace. If I tell her no, she sends me to my room as punishment for what she calls my petulance. If I resist, she gives me one of her lessons in obedience. Some are painful, others pleasurable, and all serve to narrow my world and make me focus on her. How could I not, when she owns me?

“No,” Vina corrects me when I call her my owner. “I set you free, and I gave you the life you never could have had otherwise.”

When I turned nineteen, no one wanted to marry me. My mother fussed with my hope chest, if it could be called that, arranging the one cotton handkerchief as if it could attract a suitor.

“Let me stay with you,” I entreated my parents, and I won. I always did. The house needed new walls, and I wielded the power tools. Small of stature and still a child, I could carry them to the electric outlet on the neighbor’s property. As an adult, Father would have faced fines for stealing electricity.

“You’ve turned her into such a tomboy no one will want her,” Mother chided Father, and the truth stung. I could have cared for my parents into their old age, but they wanted me gone.


The artwork image is small, but this original drawing by the multi-talented Minelle Labraun depicts the talisman worn by Vina that calls her to Talia.

I will draw one random commenter to receive an ARC of Taliasman. Thank you for visiting, and may you have a blessed day filled with love.

Guilty Ndulgence Blogiversary

(More content will be added later today. Check back for special Anastasia Vitsky information!)
We’re Celebrating the Ndulgent Bloggers’ 4th BLOGiversary!

4 Years of Reviews. 4 Years of Supporting Authors. 4 Years of Great Books. 4 Huge Bags o’ Swag.




Visit each of these BLOGS -Authors, Reviewers and Bloggers- and have fun!



Never enough: the human flaw of greed and the importance of thankfulness

Call this a Tuesdays with Ana post on Thursday, if you will. Or my need to write.

I was able to visit “Sara” yesterday and today. Her family was more than gracious in allowing me time at her bedside, even letting me speak with her alone. I was touched, embarrassed, and apologetic. Who was I, a random stranger, to intrude on their private vigil of grief? To make it worse, I could not stop crying no matter how hard I bit on my tongue and the inside of my cheek. How ridiculous is that…stoically mourning the imminent loss of your mother while someone you don’t even know sheds tears?

I am grateful and honored to have been entrusted with the time holding Sara’s hand.

And yet.

I am upset I could not have more.

I thought (her daughter offered, asked) I would hold vigil for two and a half hours today while the family took care of obligations and had a gap in their coverage. I was not entitled to it, but I was offered that chance. Then their plans changed, and instead of a vigil I was given twenty minutes (a generous gift, let me make clear)…except the nurses came in and needed me to leave so they could shift her position. I didn’t even get to sit down again at her bedside before my time was up. The nurse took Sara’s hand and placed it in mine (when I rested my hand on top of her bedsheet, hesitant to cause her discomfort and make her cold by moving the sheet). “It’s okay,” she said as she lifted Sara’s arm and moved it next to mine.

“I don’t want to hurt her, or for her to be cold,” I said, stroking the soft skin and tracing the rounded edge of her thumbnail.

“Don’t worry,” the nurse said. “She’s not at all cold.”

“There’s no change,” her daughter had told me before taking my food package and going to the kitchen area to eat the meal I’d brought. “But she can hear.”

I’d spent my scant ten minutes holding a conversation inside my head because I’d said so much yesterday, enough to embarrass me. After the nurse let me back in, I sat down on the chair and held her hand that the nurse gave me.

And then it was over.

Before I got a chance, my time was up and family needed their time with their mother, grandmother, aunt, and mother-in-law.

If her daughter yesterday had accepted the gifts and politely allowed me a quick hand-holding before asking me to leave, I would have gone away glad for a precious moment. Because she gave me more (nearly an hour), I wanted more. And because she offered more today, I’d allowed myself to hope (how can I say “allowed” when hearts never ask permission?) for the two and a half hours…a third visit…

Funny thing, human nature. The more we get, the more we demand. Instead of appreciating the time I’d gotten with Sara today (and the honor of her daughter accepting the meal, eating some, and praising it), I was mad. Upset. Storming (inside) that it wasn’t fair, I didn’t get the two and a half hours, I didn’t even get the half hour, why couldn’t the nurse have waited until I’d had my turn…

And then I walked out to my car, sobbing because it was over. I’d realized yesterday that Sara (the real Sara, the one who teased me last week and waved from the entryway) was already gone. I knew I’d never get that Sara back, but I thought I’d have just a little longer to hold her hand. I barely said a word today, but we talked inside my head. I watched her struggle for breath, and I closed my eyes to feel her presence with me. I wondered how crazy she thought I was to sit and stare at her, and I apologized whenever I needed another tissue. I told her thank you, in so many ways and for so many reasons. Her daughter had told me Sara could still hear, but it felt as if she heard my heart more clearly than my vocal chords. Or at least it felt like I could say things to her more clearly without the unreliable mechanics of producing sound. Her body worked so hard to take in each breath. I’ve been told it’s impossible, but it felt like pain. Pain each time for each effort.

Her daughter had been amazingly kind and generous to me, but it was time. I hadn’t (I think) overstayed my welcome, but I couldn’t presume to anything more.

“I’ll see you soon,” Sara’s daughter said to me as I left, and I recognized the signal from childhood training in social cues. “I won’t see you again except perhaps at the funeral, but in order not to seem rude I will offer the empty promise as a way to let you down easily and offer what I can…as long as you don’t try to take me up on it.”

The generosity is real. But so is the limit.

I sobbed, angry at the unfairness. Knowing I was expecting something that could never happen.

Had things been different for my second grandmother, I would have been the granddaughter when she died. Or at least one of the many granddaughters, but a granddaughter who had a special connection with her whether anyone recognized it or not.

I thanked Sara for letting me feel as if I had a grandmother again, but she wasn’t mine. Her family let me borrow her for a little while, and it was time to return her.

I drove away, not even wanting to take up a parking space in a lot for family coming to see family, and I wished I could have mourned at the bedside of my grandmother in the nursing home.

Then I went to church and polished the brass chalices and paten as if my life depended on it.

Now the problem is that there’s no more brass to polish.

Book reviews: Adventure BIble for Toddlers and Love Letters from God

Two quick book reviews today:

Adventure Bible for Toddlers 

“Toddler” Bible is really a misnomer for a collection of picture Bible stories. The slightly puffy cover and sturdy board book construction are great. It would be nice to have a dedication line (to write a child’s name) on the inside front cover, though. The illustrations and text are solid but not fantastic. The illustrations feel a bit dated (think typical Biblical illustrations from a generation ago), and the text lacks a robust read-aloud quality. Still this book is a solid offering and a nice addition to any toddler’s library.

Love Letters from God

This book, directed at children ages 4-8, takes a lovely approach to telling Bible stories. Each section tells a familiar Bible story, and the life application lesson is introduced as a love letter from God. It’s a sweet concept, and lifting the flap of each letter is a nice way to pique children’s interest. Each letter comes with a top flap decorated to look like a postmarked envelope. The text is fairly dense for a picture book, so this is too long for a single-session read. I enjoyed the concept very much and think I will give the book to a child in my church. It’s not overtly masculine or feminine in theme or color scheme, which is nice.

Crazy (Saturday Spankings and Sunday Snippets)

Thank you so much for your kind thoughts about all the transitions recently. <3

This weekend, I’m showing you a few sentences from one of my three WIPs, Ana Adored. This Castle novel co-authored with Maren Smith tells the story of a preschool teacher named Ana (no relation) who yearns for a spanking. Her girlfriend, Peyton, convinces her to turn away from such foolishness.

You might want to see the previous snippet with Peyton here.

It might be a different experience, a little voice in her head whispered, were the spatula wielded by someone else.

No, Peyton was right. Normal people wanted moonlight and roses, not spankings and aftercare. What would her parents think? They already didn’t know what to do with their daughter who presumably would never provide them with grandchildren. Imagine adding spanking to the mix. Ana shuddered. She’d prefer lectures on saving for retirement and the evils of today’s entitled youth.

Late Thursday thankfulness: the reality behind #WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft

Life has gotten complicated very, very fast.

Long story short: I moved my friend, baby, and cat into my home this week after her husband’s violence escalated. We’re all struggling to take each step forward. She is as safe as we can hope for now, although there are risks involved with her going to work.

This means I am not going to be available most of today and a good part of tomorrow. We’ve gotten what numbers we can for legal aid and other resources, but there’s only so much we can do until we get answers.

I am overwhelmed, not by having her with me but the sheer exhaustion of playing chauffeur, chef, nanny, housekeeper, personal assistant, and resource manager. I’m not feeling terribly thankful, so this is the time I need thankfulness the most. Reasons I am thankful:

  • Friend and baby are out of danger.
  • My wonderful quilting grannies are giving what help they can so friend can start building a support network independent of her husband.
  • Baby is adjusting to new situation. Of course there are issues, but overall he is happy, eating well, and playing.
  • I have a wonderful network of friends who can listen, support, and help me with my own issues as we go through this. It’s bringing up a lot of emotional stuff for me, and we’re taking it one day at a time.
  • I am thankful I was able to leave a relationship in my past that placed me in danger.
  • I am thankful to have a home, car, credit card, bank account, and computer. Hard to get by without the essential paperwork.
  • I am thankful for friends who stayed up late last night to talk me down from a breaking point. I think neither my friend nor I realized just how vast the ramifications would be when I said to her, “Do you want to come home with me?” I want her safe with me instead of in danger, but it’s going to take a lot of grace, strength, and pure stubbornness on both sides to get through this.
  • I am thankful for friends who have been in similar situations who can be resources. One is visiting from out of town next week, and she escaped a horrible situation when we first became friends. She’s made it, and there are quite a few others in my circle of friends who have made it.

Thankful for safety. Will be thankful for sleep when I can get it, too. :)

Love and hugs.

Spank or Treat 2014 With #EvilMistressKate

Originally posted on Joanna Darrell:

spank or treat

So, today was kindof an unusual day – sat at home, chatting to friends on whatsapp (I’m so techno) when I get an email saying that I’ve been made an ambassador for something called “Spank or Treat 2014″…………

Immediately suspecting I was about to get the offer of a lifetime from a long lost relative in Nigeria who only needed a small donation to unlock a sizeable fortune, I was preparing to consign the email to the spam folder when I spotted the senders email address…………  None other than the wooden spoon loving, cookie baking, granny knitting (yes you read that right – I’m not sure either) , closet shoe lover (OMG, I’d say get a room, but she has one, full of shoes)  – Anastasia Vitsky……..

Intrigued, I opened the email with the wonder of a small kid expectant of the surprise that awaited..  It seemed that I had been nominated by…

View original 183 more words


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