A Full and Grateful Heart

Thank You!

Release week for Rebirth surpassed my expectations, my hopes, and my dreams.

So many bought the book, reviewed it, shared, and practically screamed about it from rooftops. I felt the love! I never imagined that it would blow up like it did. To say that I am grateful is an understatement. My heart is overflowing.

Though a bit overwhelming at times, it was one of the greatest weeks of my life. To have so many show their support for me and my story was something I hadn’t even dared hope for. The bloggers on the tour, the readers, my family, my friends, my fellow authors, and most of all my publisher. Everyone stepped up and got behind me. I’m so thankful for all of you. There’s no way I could’ve gotten through the week without you!

20160527_171830(Me signing my first autograph!)

Friday night, we had a launch party at Boondocks. We had an amazing turn out. Again, I got my mind blown. Friends, family, and perfect strangers showed up and showed out, making the night a fantastic success. I’m still flying high! Thank you to all who were able to make it out and see us. It means so much.

(Me and my publisher on the left, my handsome hubby and I on the right.)

(My first two autographs, who happen to be great friends!)

Again, thank you to everyone who had a hand in making Rebirth’s first week out in the world an amazing one! 

This is only the beginning of the adventure and I absolutely cannot wait to see where it takes me.

Love & Hugs, y’all!

Hearts on the Page #5 ~ It’s Not Over

This week, it’s Ryland’s turn again.

A quick recap:

Liz hates the fact that she can see the angels and demons in our realm no one else can. When the demons stopped simply observing and started attacking, Liz took off in the middle of the night. She didn’t say goodbye, and only left a note saying she was sorry.

Determined to protect Ryland and everyone else she loves, she’s run far and fast, trying to put as much distance between them as she can. Ryland won’t accept what she’s done until he hears it from her, so he’s set out to find her. Liz knows him well and has moved again, assuming he’s on her trail.

 

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Lizzy,

You’re good. I’ll give you that.

It’s been two months now since you left and I’m no closer to having you back in my arms. No closer to having answers. I’ve come so close to you so many times, but every time you blow town before I can get a hold on you, barely leaving a trace that you’ve been there. Either you know somehow or you’re guessing that I’m on your trail, or you’re just trying to stay ahead of anyone who might be looking for you. Knowing you, I’m gonna say it’s a little of both.

Well, I guess it’s a good thing I can work from anywhere, because I have a feeling this could go on for a while longer than it already has. Least I won’t be hurting for money. But that’s actually not at the top of the list of my worries about now.

These places I’m finding out you’re staying, working. Liz, what are you thinking? It’s like you’re deliberately putting yourself in danger, tempting fate. You say you wish you didn’t see the things you do, then you put yourself right in the middle of some of the worst situations you could possibly be in! I mean, do you have a death wish? Are you trying to throw me into some kind of breakdown? Or are you making a point that you can do whatever you want? I don’t get it. This isn’t like you. And it’s killing me. I know you’re hurting and I know you’re scared, but, baby, this isn’t the way. It’s about as far from the right way as you can get.

Just know that I’m not giving up. You can try as hard as you want to scare me away, try to make me think you’re a hopeless cause. It’s not going to work. I will never give up on you. I can’t. I love you too much to not at least try to talk some sense into you. I have to try to help you get back on the right path. Try to get you back home. Even though I’m starting to wonder if you ever intend on coming back. Still, that doesn’t matter. I will find you. I have to hear what you’re thinking, what you’re feeling, from your mouth. I won’t rest until I do.

We’re not over, baby. Not by a long shot. I’m going to prove how much I love you. Prove that you can trust me. That we can get through anything together, because I know in my heart that we can.

Always,

Ryland

 

 

 

 

Hearts on the Page #4 ~ Run Baby Run

Run Baby Run

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Ryland,

Sometimes, you can have a freaking awesome idea. Something that you think will solve all your problems, make life so much easier. This whole me leaving thing? Yeah, not my brightest decision. I admit it. Things have NOT gotten better. If anything, they’re worse. I’m staying in this nasty motel, because even though I make good tips at the restaurant I work at, it’s not enough to get a place of my own. Maybe I shoulda thought of that before I left with hardly any money.

 

Being low on cash is the least of my worries right now, though. In the past couple weeks, I’ve been jumped four times by demons. So I started practicing some more fighting moves like the ones you taught me, pulling videos up online since I can’t afford to go to a class. It’s weird, I’m even stronger than I was when I mentioned it in my last letter. I’ve been holding my own. No major injuries. But I don’t know why or how. None of this makes any sense. Why can’t they just leave me alone like they did before? What changed that caused them to come after me all the sudden? The only good thing is that they’re not coming after you. So if I have to live in this crap hole and fight every day to keep you safe, I will. It’s worth it. If I could just find a way to get rid of this, whatever it is, I would do it in a heartbeat. Then we would all be safer, right? I can’t believe God would do this to me. Why? What could possibly be the purpose in this? I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve this.

 

Anyway, I miss home. I miss my parents. Even more than that, I miss you. I know I need to let you go and get over it. I just can’t. I miss you so much, Ry. I would never tell anyone else, but I cry myself to sleep most nights. I know, that totally doesn’t sound like me. But I can’t help it. I’m so alone here. I’d give anything right now to have you holding me. That’s something I can’t ever have again. Not if things keep up like they are. I’m so afraid they’ll never leave me alone. That I’ll never be able to come home.

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Would it matter, though? Do you even miss me? I had to laugh as I wrote that because, knowing you, you won’t believe I left on my own until you see for yourself. Now I’m not laughing. You’re looking for me, aren’t you? Or am I wrong? There’s a good chance you hate me about now, especially since I disconnected my cell. I just couldn’t take seeing your messages or hearing you on the voicemail. You have to be royally ticked that I never answered, then I cut you off completely.

But honestly I know better than that. You won’t give up until you hear the words from me, will you? Until you hear me say we’re done. I really hope that’s not the case. Now I’m wondering if I should move again. If anyone could find me, it’s you. What with all that computer crap you do. Oh man. If I see you I’ll break and I can’t let that happen. I want to stop you, tell you not to come, but then I’d have to talk to you. I can’t do that. Not yet.

I know you’ll never see this letter but I’m glad I wrote it. It helped me work all this out in my head. I have to move. Something in my gut tells me you’re looking for me. I won’t let you find me. Hopefully, you’ll give up and realize that I’m no good for you.

I hope someday you’ll see I did all this because I love you so much.

Liz

Hearts on the Page #3 ~ Oath

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Oath

Lizzy,

Okay, I’ve had a lot of time to think over the past couple weeks and I’ve come to a few conclusions. First off, I think I’ll keep up with this writing thing. It actually did help to get this crap out of my system a little bit. Who knows? Maybe someday you’ll actually read it. I can only hope.

 

Anyway, I’ve realized something pretty important that I should’ve known right away, I was just too ticked off to see it. The last time I wrote you, I said I doubted your love. I knew as soon as I wrote it that it wasn’t true. I know you love me. I’ve felt it, I’ve seen it. Realizing that and knowing you like I do, I’m pretty sure I know at least part of the reason you left. You think you’re protecting me from something. Saving me. Well here’s the thing, baby girl: I don’t need protecting. If you think you’ve got problems I can’t handle, or you think dealing with whatever’s got you running may end up with me getting hurt in some way, you’re wrong. I’m a big boy and I can take a lot more than you apparently think I can. Not to mention, you should know that I would stand by you through anything. I want to be the one that protects you, the one you rely on. The one you trust. You don’t have to do this alone, whatever this is. And I’m not going to let you fight it all by yourself.

 

I know you’d probably blow a gasket over me telling you I won’t let you do something. But you know I don’t order you around or try to control you. Like that’d even be possible anyway. You’re probably the most stubborn person I’ve ever met. In this case, you’ll just have to get over it. Let me tell you why.

 

This relationship is a partnership. Or it was. Obviously, we’re having a bit of an issue with that about now. Since you’re not here to be in on the discussion, I’m making a command decision. I’m done wallowing and worrying and wondering. I refuse to just sit here and do nothing. That’s not me. Never has been and never will be. I see what I want, or something I need to accomplish, then I make a plan and go after it. That’s who I am. So why should this situation be any different? You are the most important person in the world to me. I want you. I need you.

 

I’m coming after you.

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You know me, Lizzy. You should’ve known I wouldn’t just let you leave and not do anything about it. Not gonna happen. I deserve answers. You owe me at least that much courtesy. Just like I owe you the proof of my loyalty and love; the proof that I won’t give up on us without a fight. You’re too important. We’re too important, and we’ve been through too much to throw it away so easily. You’re mine and I’m yours. I love you more than my own life. I can’t stand the thought of you being out there alone, knowing what’s following you and what you could be facing. What kind of man would I be if I didn’t at least try to protect you, try to bring you home where you’re safe? Not much of one.

 

So get ready, baby girl. Whatever it takes, I will find you.

Ryland

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hearts on the Page #2 ~ My Heart is Broken

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Hearts on the Page

A few days ago I released the first post in the Hearts on the Page series; letters between the hero and heroine of The Reluctant Warrior Chronicles. Letters they never sent. On these pages, Liz and Ryland pour their hearts out to each other without restraint. Their secret missives are raw, honest, and painful, but also sprinkled with joy and, at least on Ryland’s part, a whole lot of hope.

 

This week, it’s time to take a look at Liz’s first letter. Can she justify leaving Ryland without a word? Will her plan to outrun her pain work, or just pull her farther into the misery pit? Read on to find out.

My Heart is Broken

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Ryland,

I’m sitting here at some hole-in-the-wall joint in a town I don’t even know the name of, writing a letter I know I’m never gonna send. How’s that for pointless? Maybe it’ll make me feel better though. Doubtful. Life royally sucks about now. Yeah, maybe it’s partly my fault, but not all. I for sure didn’t give myself this freaking curse! But I am going to get rid of it. No matter what I have to do.

It’s like seven in the evening, and by now you know I’m gone. You probably flipped out and gathered a posse or something to look for me. I know you, and you wouldn’t believe it until you had to. Until there was solid proof. Which I’m sure you have by now. I know you like plans and order and this threw a big wrench into that. I really am sorry for that. I hate knowing something I’ve done has hurt you. That’s the last thing I ever wanted. But if I’d stayed, you’d end up being hurt worse, torn apart, and I won’t be the one to do that. I love you too much to stay when I know all I’m gonna bring you is chaos and pain.

You should’ve never made plans with me, for us, in the first place. I’m so screwed up, Ry. This curse is messing with my head, and it’s messing everything up. I know you were all cool when I told you my secret, but you don’t know what it all really means. What it would mean for us. I can never have a normal life. We won’t be able to just live and get married and have babies and live like everyone else. I’ll always have to watch my back and yours too because you won’t even be able to see what’s coming. And I have a feeling something real bad is coming. Need proof? Three weeks ago, one of those nasty freak demons that follows me all the time actually attacked. First time any of them ever did more than stare and snarl. I got some good shots in after I got my crap together and figured out what was happening. And it was weird, it was like I was stronger and faster than I should be. I kept thinking there was no way I should be able to take on a big demon like that and live. Still, it was rough. I know I told you I fell when I was out hiking and I hated lying to you, I never had before, but I had no choice. I know how you are. If you found out, you’d never leave my side, and you’d just end up getting hurt because there’s nothing you can do about any of this. I can’t let that happen. I can’t let you tie yourself to a freak that’ll end up being the reason you end up in a world of pain or even dead.

I love you so freaking much, but I had to do this. It’s my turn to protect you, to watch out for you. I had to put you, my parents, my friends, all ya’lls safety before what I want or what I thought I could have. What I want doesn’t even matter. You have to get over it and move on. It kills me to say this, but find somebody else, Ry. Somebody who can give you what you want, what you need, and not put you in the middle of some stinking war with Hell. I know you’ll find her. You’re the finest man to ever set foot on the dang planet. I should know. But I can’t be around that. I don’t want to see it. I can’t be around you. Period. The only way to keep you safe is for me to stay away. I can’t keep pretending everything will somehow be okay when I know it won’t be.

Don’t think it’s not gonna be hard on me. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life. If feels like somebody ripped my heart out through my throat and stomped on it. I never knew anything could hurt this freakin’ bad. What we had was─it was crazy. We were like wildfire, but it worked. Everything was always so intense, but it was perfect. It was just us. Not having that insane, burn you up but at the same time able to cool you down, like we’re one person connection is gonna kill me. It was like we knew what each other were thinking and feeling. Now it just feels empty in my head, my chest, and the farther away from you I get, the worse it gets. I need to stop writing, I’m not even making sense anymore and it’s stupid to even do this because you’ll never see it. But it kinda does make me feel better.

You’ll probably never forgive me. I can live with that as long as you’re okay. As long as you’re safe and have a chance at happiness. I gotta go. I need to put more miles between us so I don’t say to Hell with it and turn around. It was so tempting to ask you to go with me. But, I knew you wouldn’t, and it woulda defeated the point of me leaving in the first place. Ok, I’m leaving now. Maybe I’ll write more, who knows. I love you, Ryland.

In my heart I’ll always be yours,

Liz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bring Me To Life

UPDATE: Since I wrote this post Monday, I’ve had some incredible responses. One in particular was from a dear friend who suggested an idea that was spot on and exactly what this blog is about. He proposed a challenge to fellow bloggers: Write a post that puts your guts on the page, more than ever before. Show part of your hidden self. Rip the mask off. Let those who are struggling know that someone is or has been where they are, and there is a way out. We’re all in this together. Fellow soldiers. In order to lean on each other, to help each other, and carry one another through the battles of life, we have to be honest. We have to put ourselves out there. No holding back. No hiding. Just our true, authentic selves, sharing our failures as well as our victories.

So my friend Josh Hardt and myself challenge our fellow writers and anyone else who would like to be a part of this: Pour your guts onto the page. Show your true self, failures and all, and let those still wallowing in the darkness know there is hope. Tag your posts with #GutsOnThePage. As you read the posts, encourage those who have had the fortitude to lay themselves bare. Together, let’s show the world that the Light is more powerful than the darkness, and let those still chained in the shadows know they are not alone.

Do you have what it takes to lay your #GutsOnThePage?

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Today, I truly lay my guts on the page. Why? Because it is who I am. It is my story. Because I know there is someone out there that needs to hear it.

Because it’s time.

I’m writing a series called ‘The Reluctant Warrior Chronicles’. Rebirth is the first book, completed and awaiting publishing. Reconciliation is the second, currently in progress.

The part that many do not know, is that TRWC is based on my life experiences. The things Liz stumbles over? So have I. Those gut-wrenching events that happen to her? Many I’ve experienced as well. The shadows in her past that creep up on her? I’ve hidden from them, too.

I never wanted to write this. I fought with God over this for years. Funny, huh? Like I actually thought I’d win. Then again, I didn’t lose, either. How is that possible without ending in stalemate?

Let me show you.

I am a preacher’s daughter and I embraced the stereotype in every way, unfortunately. If there was a book of clichés, my picture would be front and center. I spent most of my young life on the platform, leading worship and working with the youth group. Outside, I was the picture of a Godly teen, called to ministry early and jumping in with both feet, ready to follow wherever I was lead & do whatever was asked of me.

Inside, that perfect façade was crumbling. I hid the parts of me I couldn’t afford for people to see. I walked in shadows at the edge of the light. I felt if I did the work and helped others, that was enough. By focusing everyone’s attention on what I did, I wouldn’t have to look at those pieces of myself, the shattered and distorted mirror that showed a broken girl in need of saving. A broken girl who had strayed from the Savior she so often sang about.

I even went to a Christian college, majoring in music ministry, still inwardly hoping no one would ever find out what and who I really was. It was there, hundreds of miles from home, that my mask was ripped off and the truth exposed. And I did it myself. I threw it all away, tired of hiding. Instead of letting those who loved me help, and turning to the Savior waiting with open arms, I ran.

I ran far and fast, putting as much distance as I possibly could between me and God, my family, and anyone who reached out. I smacked their hands away. I punched them in the face, landing blow after blow until they were forced to leave me be. I rejected everything I knew was true. I didn’t just step off the cliff. I spread my arms wide and leapt with wild abandon into the unknown, into the darkness.

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I embraced that darkness. I wallowed in it until my soul was coated, black as tar and struggling for breath. Then I reached for anything that might possibly take the pain away and give me back my air. Any means of having some sort of control over the nightmare that ruled my life.

Except for the one thing that could save me.

As I flailed and thrashed, I ended up in situations where my control was stolen. I was at the mercy of the demons that clawed at my body and soul. And they tortured me with everything they had. They tortured me with the power I’d given them. Once I let that power be ripped away from me, there was no way I could get it back on my own. I was weak, vulnerable, screaming for help from the gutter and yet rejecting it when it came. Every time the Light would drive back the shadow, I crawled away from it, chasing the dark. Every time that Hand reached into the abyss, I shoved it away instead of grasping hold for all I was worth.

As strange as it sounds, the fight was all I had. I began to believe it was the only control I could exert over my world. So I fought back against the demons, not realizing that I was still under their control. Feeding them with my rage, egging them on with my defiance. When I thought I was showing strength, I was proving my weakness. When I thought I’d landed the perfect sucker punch, I’d get caught from behind by a vicious ambush.

Eventually, I dragged myself from the bottom of the pit. Or at least, I thought I had. I cleaned myself up, got back in touch with my family, and started picking up the pieces and fashioning a new life from the carnage. Looking back, I know there were so many times I should’ve been counted out. I should have been dead. And while He didn’t save me from everything because I couldn’t be saved from the consequences of my actions, there was so much more that He’d protected me from.

It seemed that now, I was on the right road. And I was, in part. But there was still a huge chasm between me and the One who had saved me at my lowest, even though I refused to acknowledge the signs and pleas. I was still on the battlefield. At least, my heart, mind, and soul were.

I was right back where the fall started. I had rebuilt the façade and secured my mask.

This time, He shattered it.

I couldn’t tell you what the catalyst was. All I know is four words kept ringing in my ears:

Let Me have it.

I knew what it meant. But my pain, my shame, my fight? They were MINE. I had to keep them close. They were my atonement, my punishment for everything I’d done. How could I let that go? I deserved it. I didn’t deserve to be saved after what I’d done, who I’d been. I deserved whatever horror was dished out. I deserved to still be chained to that musty wall in the dungeon of shame, regret, and heartache.

Let Me have it.

That’s when it hit me. So simple. Something I’d been taught my entire life.

He’d already taken it. Already bore the wounds. Already suffered the humiliation. All for me.

I let Him gently remove my mask, dismantle my walls one stone at a time, and reveal the me He intended. Reveal who I was meant to be. I let Him pull me into His arms. I was free. Chains rattled to the floor, Light filled the room and my heart, and sweet, fresh air filled my lungs. Now the battles I fought were for a higher purpose, a greater goal. A mission. A call to find those that were crawling through the mud like I had once been and lead them out. No matter how much they fought me. He never gave up on me, and I will never give up on them.

It was time to do what I was meant to do. What I was called to do. It was time to come back to life.

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So when you read The Reluctant Warrior Chronicles, you’re seeing the demons I fought, the failures I claim, and the past I ran from. Most importantly, you are seeing how my Hero saved me. How He kept pursuing me even when I rejected Him. How He finally made me see that His love was all I needed. That He would protect me no matter the cost. That whatever I faced, we would face together.

You will see how He loves each of us this way. No holds barred. No secrets or lies.

No more hiding.

And that is the greatest love and adventure story ever.

Timing is Everything

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It’s Fight Friday!

Here at Guts on the Page, you’ll be seeing a lot of things battle related, whether the warfare discussed is spiritual, physical, or emotional. Friday is the day specially set aside to open a dialogue on these subjects, and to arm you with tools to fight whatever enemy comes your way.

Today, I’m starting with an announcement!

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REBIRTH, my current manuscript and the beginning of the Reluctant Warrior Chronicles (tentative title), has won the OCW Cascade award for unpublished speculative fiction! I must admit, I was taken by surprise. While I believe in my work, I was up against some stiff competition. People who have been in this industry longer than I, with amazing stories to tell. But God saw fit to bless me with this accolade, and I am grateful. In thinking about this award and everything that comes along with it, the topic of timing came to mind.

~Battle Strategy

When faced with the possibility of a fight, on any field, planning and timing are key to a successful campaign. Even in a surprise hand to hand battle, if your timing is off, you provide your opponent with the opportunity they need to land that kick or punch, or take you down. This is true for large battles and the overall war as well. If you strike at the perfect time, with the most solid plan, you have the best chance of clenching the victory.

In my life, my best laid plans have blown up in my face. I thought I was prepared, knew what I had to do, and was confident it was the correct course of action. Unfortunately, I  left myself wide open for the enemy to swoop in and take advantage of my weaknesses. I’d forgotten a key factor.

Timing. Not just my timing, but God’s.

I thought it was time. I thought I had drawn the perfect map, planned the perfect strategy. I thought I knew exactly where I was to engage and thought I had all the equipment to do just that. I thought I knew what my mark was, and how to hit it.

I was dead wrong.

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God had another plan. I had jumped the gun.

~Refocusing the Attack

A hidden goal, one I had mostly given up on, was revealed. And it couldn’t have come at a better time. The dream I thought I wanted most, the battle strategy I’d created, had just been obliterated. I crawled away and wallowed in defeat, too broken by the crushing blow to see that there was something greater for me just over that hill I didn’t want to claim.

But God knew what I was capable of. He knew the strength in me, the strength He would fortify. An old, buried passion burst into my camp. An inferno ignited, searing me from the inside out.

That old passion made its presence know.

So, I embraced it again. I wrote, I fought, I cried, I fought. I nearly let fear consume me.

Then came my first skirmish. My first pitch and proposal. I was rejected. Defeated. Though it was done in a loving manner that left the door open for a fantastic acquaintance, my weapons fell to the ground and I hit my knees.

All I could hear from Heaven was “It’s not time.”

I dove back in to my work; polishing, honing, learning. The flames of passion licked higher. I would not be defeated. I would wait and work, listening for His word to go.

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Suddenly it was time.

I started meeting people, building relationships, perfecting my manuscript, and arming myself with everything available. I gained mentors in the craft that are second to none. Doors began to open that I never imagined. Still, I waited.

Then, the above announcement came.

Immediately, I received messages from others telling me that it was beginning. It was time. Even as I sit here, it hasn’t sunk in. People liked my work. That thing I had toiled over and questioned was accepted.

This doesn’t mean I will get a contract. This doesn’t mean that I will win anything else. What it does mean, is He has started something. He is putting things in motion and getting me into the exact location I need to be for the next strike, the next campaign. I will wait on Him. It won’t be easy. There will be disappointment. Yet, if I listen to His voice, and give each and every battle to Him, victory will be had, in one way or another.

I just have to stop, listen for His command, and then go.

Are you in a holding pattern? Are you surveying the land, staking out the enemy, and waiting for the command to move? Waiting for Him to say “it’s time”?

 Share with us. Let’s support one another, and prepare our army for the good fight.

And of course, I have a fight song for us!