Thursday, August 15, 2019

Our Stories BEFORE The Story ~ Linda Jensen & ?Jay? ~ AN UNPRESENTABLE GLORY

Welcome to my garden tour! I don’t believe we’ve met before. I’m Linda Jensen and am so happy you’ve come to enjoy my flowers! I must tell you up front, though, that much of the beauty you see here grew out of my parents’ sweat and dirt. Yes, they were wealthy and could have hired it done, but they were soil-born gardeners. As a child, I took being rich for granted. Didn’t everyone have two Mercedes, an acre of flowers, and give away scads of money?

Money, though, became a Big Deal for me. Measuring my life and wardrobe against my well-funded school friends, I felt deprived. They could buy anything they wanted. I got a weekly allowance. I could spend it any way I wanted, but when it was gone— “Oh, I’m sorry!” My parents’ voices dripped sympathy. “That’s too bad! Next week’s allowance is…what­…four days away?” I learned, by painful experience, to use money wisely. And, right after mastering 2 + 2 equals 4, the follow-up math was figuring a 10% tithe of my allowance—which, they made clear, needed to factor in human need in our church and around the world. My parents dug care into the soil of my heart, and that has served me well.

My dear friend Bonnie was definitely not one of the moneyed crowd, and when her husband died of cancer... Well, I felt we needed to explore some of the fine gardens in Scotland. Never mind that it was a Scottish person who later did me real damage. In this country, though; not there.

Jorge, my Hispanic gardener, was not in need—at least in his mind. To lure him, I dangled my garden as a potential showcase for his talents. He’s…um…difficult, but we get along. If you see him out there, please give him a good word. He may sniff at you, but that’s his way.

I was not prepared, though, for my big test of caring when Jay landed near my delphiniums. I had tended my dad when he was dying, but this stranger—helpless, insisting I call no one—what could I do for him? Jay was not his real name; I knew that. I knew also that in some way, he was an important person. All I could do was dump him in God’s lap. Lord, you put him here. Now help me care in this new, this dangerously unnerving way!

Jay here. No, that’s not my real name, but it’s the only safe one I could think of during that week with Linda. And what a week it was! We had talked about her garden tour, and I desperately wanted to show up as a surprise. I’d seen her display and knew it well, and just being there would have meant so much—to both of us. It could not be, though. It could not be. Life, unfortunately, often X’s out our deepest desires. I did send a gift, a small token….

Growing up, I learned a lot about life—especially playing hockey with other hot-bloods. Rough and tumble stuff. Money—or lack of it—didn’t matter on the ice. What did matter was keeping score—the internal score of hostility. Who do you rough up in retaliation? What attacks do you ignore? I thumped up one devil quite respectably, but he came back hard with a concussion-producing head shot. I never forgave that.

My dad was big into oil fracking, which, in some people’s eyes, made him filthy rich. We lived well. But he had rules and insisted that I keep them all. “Sure, you can play loose,” he’d say. “Everyone does, and most get away with it. But one slip—that’s all it takes—and your life goes down the tubes. Who wants to wear that necklace?” So we went to church, Rotary Club, supported good causes. Exemplary people—as planned.

And it worked. A good name and the power behind it get you places. It took me high and protected me at my most vulnerable point—that week in Linda’s garden—until a person of power who knew nothing of moral restraint played his “hockey” game with a body blow to my heart.

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Our Story Title:  An Unpresentable Glory

Our Story Genre:  Contemporary Literary Fiction

Our Story Released:   July 2018

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The Author of My Story:   Ellie Gustafson     
  • I grew up in Branchville NJ, 900 pop., in a county that had more cows than people.
  • Loved horses and the annual County Farm and Horse Show.
  • Went to Wheaton College IL as a music major.
  • Married, had 3 kids and 8 grandchildren, with 2 great-grands currently being hatched. Husband a pastor, college professor, tree farmer, organist, writer, etc.
  • Music dwindled away, so I tried on the cloak of writing and found it fit nicely.
  • God first touched me through a story, and he has molded and kneaded me all my life. I love Him passionately.

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  Get Connected:

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WHERE can the book be purchased?

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Ellie Gustafson will be happy to gift a winner an autographed copy of:
An Unpresentable Glory

Be sure to leave a comment to enter drawing ~ either PM Joy through Messenger ~ or ~ leave an email address here so you can be contacted if you win!
DRAWING TO BE HELD WEDNESDAY EVENING ~ August 21, 2019.

Thursday, August 08, 2019

Our Story BEFORE The Story ~ Coy Gentry Whittaker & Aimee Kaplan ~ BECOMING BRAVE

Howdy, everyone. My name is Coy Gentry Whittaker.   
I’m a cowhand with the Bar CT outfit. At least, that’s what I am now—thanks to my boss, Chet Tanner. If it weren’t for him, I’m not real sure what I’d have become. I was well on my way to life as a thief and a pickpocket when he came across me when I was twelve.

You see, I didn’t come from the best home. My ma, she was an angry woman, and she took a lot of her anger out on me. She had her reasons, I suppose, but all that anger aimed at my young heart left me scared, lost, and broken. It became real obvious she didn’t want me around much, so I’d disappear all day. When I’d get hungry, I’d steal an apple from the mercantile or a pie from someone’s window. Or I’d pick some fella’s pocket to get the money I needed to buy me something more filling. That’s how Chet Tanner found me. He caught me lifting his wallet. Rather than turning me in to the authorities, he took me home, asked my ma if he could put me to work on his ranch, and…that’s how I came to the Bar CT. It’s been my home now for the last eight years, and Mr. Tanner and his son, Mitch—well, they’re family. I’m grateful for them. Not only have they taught me a lot about hard work and right living, they taught me what it is to be accepted. I’m still learning that lesson some as you’ll see when you read Becoming Brave.

Hello! My name is Aimee Kaplan.
I had a much different upbringing than Coy’s. I came from a close-knit and loving family. It was an idyllic upbringing, really, full of happiness and fun. But all that ended with the War Between the States. Papa felt it was his duty to serve, and he went off to fight. He never came home. Mama tried to carry on as Papa would expect of her, but she died of a broken heart a year or so later.

My brothers—Edouard, Louis, Marc, and Paul—looked after me in the years since their deaths, and we were doing fun until…until that night. The one where Louis and Paul went to town and found some kind of trouble. I didn’t know at the time what it was, but whatever they’d gotten into brought about a heated discussion between my brothers. They were talking about moving further west. I don’t think any decisions were made until a week or so later, when someone came pounding on the door of our house, demanding my brothers return what they’d stolen from him or…he’d take me instead.

That’s how we wound up in Indian Territory. What happened next is too hard to talk about. Please read Becoming Brave in The Cowboys Collection to find out more.

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Our Story Title:   Becoming Brave

A novella included in the Smitten Historical Romance collection The Cowboys, with Jennifer Uhlarik, Cindy Ervin Huff, and Sandra Merville Hart

Our Story Genre:  Historical Romance

My Story Releases:   August 15, 2019

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Jennifer Uhlarik discovered the western genre as a pre-teen when she swiped the only “horse” book she found on her older brother’s bookshelf. A new love was born. Across the next ten years, she devoured Louis L’Amour westerns and fell in love with the genre. In college at the University of Tampa, she began penning her own story of the Old West. Armed with a B.A. in writing, she has finaled and won in numerous writing competitions, and been on the ECPA best-seller list numerous times. In addition to writing, she has held jobs as a private business owner, a schoolteacher, a marketing director, and her favorite—a full-time homemaker. Jennifer is active in American Christian Fiction Writers, Women Writing the West, and is a lifetime member of the Florida Writers Association. She lives near Tampa, Florida, with her husband, college-aged son, and four fur children.

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  Get Connected:

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WHERE can the book be purchased?

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Jennifer would like to gift a winner a signed copy of
Becoming Brave ~ The Cowboys Collection


Be sure to let Joy Avery Melville (joyjournaling@gmail.com) know where to reach you in case you win!
DRAWING TO BE HELD WEDNESDAY EVENING ~ August 14, 2019.

Thursday, August 01, 2019

Our Story BEFORE The Story ~ Eva Knowles & Cal Stephens ~ Loving a Harvey Girl

After Ma died, Pa took to his bed. Sick in his heart, he was. As the oldest, I reckoned I needed to take care of my younger brothers and sisters. “Eva Knowles,” I said to myself, “everyone is depending on you now. You need a job.” So I put my next sister in charge of running the household—two other sisters and two brothers—took what money Ma had kept hidden in her flour pot, and bought a train ticket to the first city it stopped at. Pa told me to go all the way to Austin, but I’ve never been to a big city before and the city where the trained stopped first was big enough.

Still, being on that train, watching the Texas landscape go by, made me realize one thing: I want to travel. And not just here in my home state, but every state. And maybe every country too. Why, I saw a travel magazine on the train that talked of truly wonderful places across the ocean. Castles in England, ruins in Rome, pyramids in Egypt—even places in Palestine where Jesus walked. I want to see it all, but I have to take care of my family first.

When I first stepped on the train, I just knew I’d find a marvelous job in a town this size. Why, they have two hotels here, and two saloons and even a library. But after carrying my bag all over town and getting turned down time after time for even the most menial labor—laundry! Who doesn’t need a laundress?—I decided to seek employment in one of the saloons. I was just about to enter the establishment when the handsomest man I’ve ever seen stepped out. Said his name was Cal Stephens. Best thing that ever happened to me, running into Cal Stephens . . .

First time I saw Miss Eva Knowles, her blond hair was already slippin’ from her bonnet, and she held on to her carpetbag like it were the onliest thing givin’ her life. I’d just come to town from the cattle drive and looked rougher’n a old hound dog, and prob’ly smelled just as bad when she barged right into me. I knew then she was special, but nobody’d look at a cattlebum fresh from the trial.

Lucky me, I got to run into her again soon after my Saturday bath. Silly girl was tryin’ to get a job at the saloon. Long story short, I bought her a meal at the Harvey House Restaurant and told her she oughta get a job with there. Them Harvey Girls get a good deal, you ask me. Room ’n’ board and wages to boot. Great howlin’ coyotes. Can’t pass up a job like that.

Eatin’ with her at a nice restaurant got me to thinkin’ I need a good woman in my life. I ain’t been much for sparkin’. Too busy tryin’ to earn enough money to go see the world. Ma and Pa left me and my two sisters a little money—enough to give us a stake in just ’bout anythin’ we’d want to do. But for me to do it all in style took a bit more. I been scrimpin’ and savin’ my wages from the Rolling Oak Ranch so long, I never thought how good it would be to have a wife at my side.

Miss Eva’s purtier’n any woman I ever seen, and she’s really sweet. But I reckon with her needin’ to take care of her family back home, she ain’t too interested in sparkin’ right now. That’s right fine, though. I can wait . . .

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Our Story Title:   Loving a Harvey Girl

A novella included in the Smitten Historical Romance collection The Cowboys, with Jennifer Uhlarik, Cindy Ervin Huff, and Sandra Merville Hart

Our Story Genre:  Historical Romance

Our Story Releases:   August 15, 2019

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The Author of Our Story:    Linda W. Yezak



Linda W. Yezak lives with her husband and their funky feline, PB, in a forest in deep East Texas, where tall tales abound and exaggeration is an art form. She has a deep and abiding love for her Lord, her family, and salted caramel. And coffee—with a caramel creamer. Author of award-winning books and short stories, she didn't begin writing professionally until she turned fifty. Taking on a new career every half century is a good thing.

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  Get Connected:

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WHERE can the book be purchased?

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Linda Yezak is willing to gift a winner a signed copy of
Loving a Harvey Girl ~ The Cowboys Collection

 They've just been ordered!

Be sure to let Joy Avery Melville (joyjournaling@gmail.com) know where you can be reached, should you win! 
DRAWING TO BE HELD WEDNESDAY EVENING ~ August 7, 2019.