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REVIEW OF A SLOW BURN by Mary DeMuth

FROM THE BACK COVER:

She touched Daisy’s shoulder. So cold. So hard. So unlike Daisy.

Yet so much like herself it made Emory shudder.

Burying her grief, Emory Chance is determined to find her daughter Daisy’s murderer-a man she saw in a flicker of a vision. But when the investigation hits every dead end, her despair escalates. As questions surrounding Daisy’s death continue to mount, Emory’s safety is shattered by the pursuit of a stranger, and she can’t shake the sickening fear that her own choices contributed to Daisy’s disappearance. Will she ever experience the peace her heart longs for?

The second book in the Defiance, Texas Trilogy, this suspenseful novel is about courageous love, the burden of regret, and bonds that never break. It is about the beauty and the pain of telling the truth. Most of all, it is about the power of forgiveness and what remains when shame no longer holds us captive.

INTERVIEW WITH MARY DEMUTH

Hi, Mary! Thank you for taking the time to stop by today.

Thanks for having me. I’m excited to be here.

How did you get involved in writing?
I’ve been writing since college when the bug hit me. I wrote my first short story about a missionary going to Russia (when it was firmly encased behind the iron curtain) and having to do all these clandestine things to share the gospel. I’m embarrassed to write this, but the piece started with these four words: Thump, thump, thump, thump (representing the protagonist’s heartbeat, of course).

I’ve been actively writing since 1992 when my daughter Sophie was born. I created a newsletter that helped moms manage their homes. I bought my first computer from the proceeds. I also designed and edited church newsletters, wrote homeschooling curriculum, and even wrote a script for an ultrasound training video. Soon after, short stories started flying out of me. When we moved from East Texas to Dallas for my husband to go to Dallas Seminary, I decided to get serious. I met my friend Sandra Glahn then, a professor at the seminary and a published writer. She shepherded me through the query-letter-writing process and has been an incredible cheerleader.

In 2002, I wrote my first novel. In 2003, I signed with an agent, then signed two nonfiction books. Since then, I’ve had five books published (those included), Daisy Chain being my sixth book. The first novel I wrote is yet to be published.

How do you find time to write?
I make time to write. I give myself word count goals every day. While my children are at school, I work full time. Lately I’ve been writing and promoting like a crazy woman, pulling 10-12 hour shifts. Even so, it’s a priority for me to have a sit-down dinner with my family every night. It helps that I love to cook.

What do you enjoy most about the writing process?
I love the initial flurry of words on the page where I’m uninhibited. I love fleshing out a story as it comes to me. I see my novels on the movie screen of my mind, which may account for the visual nature of my narratives.

What was the most difficult aspect of the writing process?
I am not in love with rejection. I also don’t cherish rewriting. But it’s a necessary and important evil.

Is the trilogy of Defiance and the stories therein based on a true story? If not, how did you develop this story?
No, not in my own life. I wrote the stories based on hearing friends of mine talk about their Christian homes that appeared great on the outside, only to hide abuse on the inside. This really bothered me. Daisy became the inciting incident to explore three people’s stories relating to authenticity and hiding. In book one, I explore a teenage boy’s perspective to a family in crisis. In book two I examine what would it be like to have deep, deep mommy regrets enough to want to be free from them. In book three, I tell the conclusion of the story through a battered wife’s perspective.

What did it take for you as the author to dig so deeply into the characters’ emotions, especially Emory?
It wasn’t easy. I don’t relate well to Emory on one level. Drugs and addiction freaks me out. But every mom has a bit of Emory in her, a seed of regret, a wish to make over her parenting. So that part wasn’t as hard to explore.

After the 3rd book of the trilogy is completed, what is next on your writing agenda?
I’ll be writing novels set in Southern Louisiana, both relating to finding out the truth of the past. That seems to be a theme for me.

What would you say to someone who wants to become a published author?
Here’s the analogy you need to memorize and internalize: Beginning the publishing journey is like wearing a sweatshirt and toting a sack lunch at the base of Mount Everest, thinking, Hmm, this should be a breeze!

In addition: know you are called. Know you have talent. Know you’re full of tenacity. All three things will help you succeed along the journey.

Another idea is hang out at The Writing Spa and its corresponding blog WannabePublished. I tackle nearly every question a new writer would have. I offer weekly free critiques and I have guest authors cameo there. I evaluate the saleabilty of a book idea. Hop on by at http://www.thewritingspa.com.

Mary, thanks again for stopping by to chat with me. I know that A Slow Burn will be a best seller!

It was great being here, Edwina. Thank you for the opportunity to talk about my life as a writer and my newest book.

MY PERSONAL REVIEW

A Slow Burn grabbed hold of me from the first sentence and took me on a roller coaster ride of emotions and feelings that lasted until the last sentence of the book. I smiled, I cried, I rejoiced. I despised, I loved. I worried and prayed—after which I had to remind myself it’s just a book after all—these people aren’t real. But that is part of the beauty of this book. Mary DeMuth went so deeply into the characters, I felt like I had known them all of my life. I was transported from my hometown to Defiance, Texas; from my mundane, everyday life to the life of Emory Chance, failure as a mother in her own eyes and in the eyes of the townspeople. For those of us who feel as though we failed as mothers, or who perhaps feel our mothers failed us, that part of the book may not be easy to read. For those of us who knows someone fighting a war with drugs and alcohol, or perhaps it’s one of us fighting that battle, as Emory did – that part may not be easy to read. I urge you – don’t stop reading! There is redemption, forgiveness, peace, acceptance and love for Emory and for us.

I am giving away one copy of A Slow Burn. Leave a comment and your email address on this blog and I will draw a name on Friday, October 9.

If your name is not drawn as the winner of the contest, I encourage you to purchase this book and once you’ve read it, loan it to your best friend. Or better yet, buy her a copy for her. A Slow Burn can be ordered from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0310278376

Void where prohibited; open only to U.S. residents, odds of
winning depend on number of entrants.

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Commitment – Part 2

Late last night, I posted my blog for today “Commitment.” I talked about how we should be committed to three things – or actually people:
• God
• Family
• Ourselves

This morning I sat down at my computer to check emails and realized I had not turned the pages for several days on my calendar. I have a “non-dated” calendar. It has the date on each page, but not the day or year, so the calendar can be used over and over for years to come.

Today’s verse is Proverbs 16:3 “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” Do you think God is trying to tell me something here? Obviously! I left something out of Part 1. Yes, it is extremely important to commit to God, Family and Ourselves. If we are not committed to God, frankly, nothing else matters. We must be committed to our families and to taking care of ourselves. However, nowhere in these three, do we find where we commit our plans to God. This is important to God or it wouldn’t be in the Bible.

When I think of committing my plans, I think long-term. Like, I will get my Master’s Degree by 2010. Or I will get these certain promotions on my way up the corporate ladder until I am CEO by 2012. Big, high, lofty plans. Don’t misunderstand me. There is nothing wrong with that. I have read several excellent books on how to accomplish those things. Career goals are very important and everyone who is in the workforce should have them.

But do our plans line up with the plans God has for us? He plainly states in Jeremiah 29:11 that he has plans for us. “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord, “plans for peace and prosperity and not for evil, to give you hope and a future.” (emphasis mine) Almighty God, the Creator of the universe, has specific plans He has made for each one of us. Do our plans line up with His? If not, they should. His plans for us are far better than anything we could think of or ask of Him. So, point number one is we should ask God to tell us what His plans for us are, and what He wants us to do, if anything, to fulfill those plans.

I also think that Proverbs 16:3 is not just for our long-range plans, but for every day. Every morning before we start our day, we should commit the day to God. We should pray that everything we think, say and do during our day would line up with what He says for us. And, whatever we think, say and do would bring Him honor and glory. We need to remember: we don’t know who will cross our path on any given day. Certainly, co-workers and family. But what about the young teenage couple, dressed in Goth, at the convenience store? Or the elderly man sitting alone on the nursing home porch when we run by for just a few minutes to visit our relative? Maybe these and others are people whom God places in our path on any given day so we can share His love, speak His life into their lives. If we don’t commit our day to God, at the very beginning of the day, we may never have the opportunity to bless others. Point number two: never do anything of importance until we commit our day, every day, to God.

Finally, there are times when we are struggling with life. Our spouse missed work because of illness and now we are behind on our bills. The kids have outgrown their shoes and there is no extra money to purchase what they need. The roof leaks, the washing machine is broke. You get my point because all of us have been in similar situations before. What if we have committed our plans to God and we find ourselves in this position? What do we do?

A number of years ago, my pastor preached a sermon that has remained with me all this time. He alluded to similar situations that I mentioned in the previous paragraph and in my mind I added “if your spouse has left.” Because mine had, a few months prior to that night. So what do we do when we find ourselves in those situations? According to my pastor, you keep your eyes focused on Jesus and you take one step at a time. Or you march in place until you can move forward. Right foot…left foot…right foot…left foot. Just like a military cadence. With your eyes unwaveringly focused on God. Point number three: Never take your eyes off of God and never, ever give up.

We have committed to God, to our family and to ourselves. We have committed our plans to God – both long-range and daily. What now?

“Send us out into the world in peace. Grant us strength and courage to love and serve You with gladness and singleness of heart. Through Christ our Lord, AMEN.”

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COMMITMENT

When I decided that I would have a blog, I knew I would need many ideas that I could expand upon. Many blogs have a theme – and the owner is limited as to what they can write. My theme is to write about whatever I feel led by God to write. This gives me freedom to express myself on any topic.

I’m always on the lookout for motivational or humorous sayings. They are everywhere – Reader’s Digest, church signs, posters, etc., and they make great hooks (sentence or phrase that grabs the readers’ attention and makes them want to keep reading) for blogs. Today’s blog is taken from that list of motivational sayings.

“There are only two options regarding commitment.
You’re either in or you’re OUT. There is no such
thing as life in between.”

There are so many things in today’s world that demand our attention, desire our time, and drain our resources. Many of these things are worthwhile causes. There are hundreds of charitable organizations in our individual communities that need our time, talent, and money. There are the things that we want to do or need to do. We want to be involved in our children’s lives, ensuring they are receiving everything they need to become successful people. I could list more, but I’m sure you understand what I’m saying.

What are we committed to? What is important to us? I would like to propose that we should be committed to the following and in this order:
• God
• Family
• Ourselves

GOD: If we are committed to God, committed to following His plan for our lives, everything else will fall into place. Matthew 6:33 “But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you.” We are not to be committed to God, however, so that we can get what we want. We are committed to Him because He loves us extravagantly, lavishly, completely. And we love Him in return, so it should not be a problem, in fact, it should be great joy, to commit our lives and all that it encompasses to God.

FAMILY: God said in Genesis 2:19, “It is not good that man should be alone. I will make him a helper comparable to him.” I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: God did not create us to live as hermits, avoiding all but the most minimal contact with the human race. He created us to live in relationships with the family being the core relationship.

OURSELVES: We should be committed to ourselves. This is not a “me, me, me” or “I, I, I” type of focus. It is a commitment to take care of ourselves physically, emotionally, financially and spiritually. It is a commitment to follow God’s plan for our lives. Jeremiah 29:11: For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” God already has plans for us. Why not follow those plans?

So, what or who are you committed to today?

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Bits and Pieces, Odds and Ends

Did that title reel you right in or what? I have all kinds of things scrambling around in my mind so today’s blog is a conglomeration of all of those things. Now before you say, “Oh brother…” and hop on over to another site, hang with me. Your name just might be mentioned here!

First, I had an awesome day this past Saturday. I was invited by Mae Nunn, author  extraordinaire of 7 fantastic books, (you can pay me later, Mae J) to be her guest at the Georgia Chapter of the Romance Writers of America meeting. What a great group of people! Some published and some not, each one with their own personal dreams and goals, they were more supportive and closer as friends than most families I know. The chapter’s annual conference, Moonlight and Magnolias, is next weekend and another “online friend,” Belinda Peterson, is a finalist for the Maggie award. Good luck, Lindy! Now if the name “Moonlight and Magnolias” doesn’t conjure up pictures of Rhett and Scarlett and makes you long for a tall, cool mint julep, I don’t know what will!

Dianna Monk Kelly rode with Mae and me to the meeting. For those of you who are from this area, I’m sure you have already surmised that she is the “Kelly” in the “Monk and Kelly Morning Show” of the local Christian radio station. You have not heard this husband and wife team on the air recently because the station had to let them go. Not because of poor ratings – this couple rocks on air! Their chemistry is far better than any other couple I’ve heard on the radio. No, they were released due to the unfortunate necessity of cutbacks in staff. Jonathan and Dianna are using this situation to step out in faith and start a new career, trusting God to lead them and provide for them. Her quiet witness and faith left an impression on me that will not be forgotten.

Saturday evening my sweet hubby took me out to dinner for our anniversary. Afterwards, we went to Michael’s, a craft store. I purchased three framed “sayings” that now hang on the wall in front of my desk. One of the pictures is the letter ‘C’ carved from wood and surrounded by a beautiful antique gold and cream colored mat and an antique burnished gold frame. I love this picture because it symbolizes my husband and his family, of which I’m now a part. The second framed saying has a shadow box with a small elegant cross in the box and the words “Life is precious, handle it with prayer” beside the box. Everything I do, think, say and write must be “handled” with prayer. The final picture is almost eye level when I’m sitting at my desk and says “You never stand taller than when you are on your knees.” I read this at least a dozen times when I’m at my desk. It reminds me to humble myself and pray “without ceasing.” It reminds me that I can do nothing – not even write – under my own power, but “with God, all things are possible.”

My mom’s birthday was Tuesday. She turned 81. Her health has not been the greatest in the last few years but yesterday she seemed to feel good and enjoyed her day. I am grateful for that.

These are my bits and pieces, my odds and ends for today.

Love you all!

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Happy Anniversary!

I had been single and on my own for quite a few years, when I shared a desire and prayer request with a close friend. “Randi, I want someone to date. Just to go out to dinner, maybe a movie and to escort me to this wedding we are planning.” At that time, I was a wedding coordinator and Randi was a photographer. We were both in the wedding as well as planning and photographing. I continued, “I’m tired of going to functions alone and I want someone to go to this wedding with me. Randi, I want you to pray and ask God to show you someone you could introduce me to – just date, nothing serious.”

A few days later, Randi called me, “I’ve got just the guy! He is a great person, nice dresser, gives the best bear hugs of anyone I’ve ever known. Are you interested?”

“Well, I guess so. Okay.”

“Good because I’ve already talked with him and he wants to meet you. How does lunch on Friday sound?”

“Geez, you don’t waste any time do you, Randi?”

“Well, let’s face, girl. You’re not getting any younger!”

“Okay, you don’t have to be insulting! I’ll meet him on Friday.”

Friday came and ‘nervous’ did not begin to describe how I felt. Randi had agreed to have lunch with us, which was a good thing or I would have chickened-out. I picked her up at her house and we went together to Longhorn’s. We arrived early, which did nothing to calm my nerves, and decided to it wait in the car for a few minutes before entering the restaurant. We sat there, talking, when suddenly Randi yelled, “Look – there he is!” Randi loves to play practical jokes and I should have realized she was up to something. But I fell for it and looked in the direction she pointed. Crossing in front of the car was the most shriveled-up old man I’ve even seen. He was at least 90 years old and was so thin he was just bones with skin stretched over them. The expression on my face was one of abject horror, I’m sure, and for a brief moment I considered dumping Randi and letting her find her own ride home. It occurred to me that she was trying to speak through her hysterical laughter.

“You should see your face! The look is priceless! I’m kidding, that’s not him.”

Once her words penetrated my horror and my heart moved back into place from where it had dropped to my stomach, I was almost able to see the humor in the situation and laughed weakly.
We decided to move our vigil into the restaurant lobby to wait. Just…waiting. And waiting. He was late. Perhaps he’s backed out, I thought, hopefully. Just as I opened my mouth to say “let’s go – he’s not coming” Randi squeals, “There he is!” She is instantly enveloped in a bear hug that made all the women in the room swoon, me included.

“Edwina, this is Dave Cowgill. Dave, this is Edwina Bond.” I looked up at this gentle giant of a man, with the most gorgeous pair of velvety-brown eyes I’ve ever seen and a smile that would melt a heart of stone. I’m not sure what I said, but it must have been relatively coherent. At least Dave did not look at me like I was a few fries short of a full-meal deal.

We had a delightful lunch and I found Dave to be very intelligent with a great sense of humor. He and Randi had a great visit, catching up on people they knew when they worked together at a local company. We stayed at the restaurant for over two hours, talking and laughing. When we left, I was very interested in getting to know Dave better.

The next day, I called him to thank him for lunch and to tell him I enjoyed our time together. He asked what I was doing for the rest of the day; if I was not busy, would I like to go with him to shop for flooring? I was not busy and had I been, I would have cleared my schedule. We spent all day together, into the evening. By the time he took me home, I knew. This man, who I had known less than 48 hours, was all I had prayed for and more. Just to be on the safe side, I prayed.

I prayed a lot in the days and weeks after that. Dave prayed too. It wasn’t long before we both realized our relationship was more than just “casual dinner dates and movies.” I had found my soul mate. My best friend.

In May of 2004, Dave proposed and I accepted. Dave went through the confirmation class for my church and became a member. We planned our wedding based on the sacredness of the sacrament of holy matrimony. It was a family affair – my sister helped coordinate the wedding and reception and did all of the floral arrangements. My beautiful daughter was my maid of honor. My son was serving our country in Iraq, so my precious grandson escorted me down the aisle and “gave me away.” It was a beautiful ceremony.

Please allow me to back up just a bit so that you will understand how special our relationship was and is today. In December of 2003, I received a Word from the Lord through another close friend, Cindy Epps. It was and remains such a special Word that I want to share it in its entirety. If anyone who is reading this blog today is having marital or relationship difficulties, take heart. Our Lord sees you and knows your situation. He knows your heart’s desire and He has great plans for you:

“Edwina” (says our Lord): “I would give you a word of encouragement
and hope, as you have continued in well-doing without flagging for these
many days.”

“I have heard you,” says your Lord…”I have heard you. I will give you a
husband in this life, and he will be a husband in Me. He will not require you
to give anything up—your ministry will not suffer as a result of the marriage.
Indeed, this will be your guideline in judging whether this man is chosen by
Me for you.

“I know you have resigned yourself to singlehood, and this is the way to be
content in day-to-day life. But know that, in My time, this will change. Know
also that I will cause your married relationship to flourish so that the richness
of many years will be present, though the days of earthly time will be less. It
will be for you as though you have been together for many, many years. This is
your Lord’s promise to you, my Beloved.”

This past Friday, September 18, my darling husband and I celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary. It has been five of the happiest years of my life. We’ve had our trials—just like any marriage. But they have made us stronger and caused us to grow closer together. He tells me I am his best friend and his one true love. I tell him he is my best friend and soul mate.

Happy anniversary my love! I look forward to many, many more!

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Coloring Outside The Lines

Isn’t it wonderful how we can make online friends – and call them dear friends – even though we’ve never met them face to face? That is the case for my guest blogger today. I met Kerin Mesanko through SparkPeople and we hit it off right away. Both of us were aspiring writers at the time and since we met, Kerin has published a devotional book “Broken Beads on My Moccasins” based on major events in her own life. She shares what the Lord taught her through these events and she is honest, transparent, sometimes funny, always gentle and loving. For more information on her book, and to place an order, click on the book cover above! A “must” devotional book for every woman!

“Where you go, I will go.” Ruth 1:16 (NASB)

“Mrs. Shugars, this is Mrs. Anderson from down the street. I’m just calling to let you know that your little girl is down here coloring on my sidewalk. And she’s naked.”

Looking out the kitchen window, Mom could see my clothes heaped in the yard. My brothers were still present, having busied themselves with cars, trucks, and sand piles. So after returning the phone to its clutch and picking my shorts up off the ground, Mom set off, with two other little ones in tow, to retrieve me for the third time that week.

The gate around the property had always remained locked. At age three, I had managed to ascend over it leaving my clothes behind when they hindered my climbing ability. From where I stood within the boundaries of that little green haven, the outside world looked much more inviting. But to a greater degree, it was the excitement of breaking away that held me tenaciously to that act. I did it because I discovered I could.

As we grow older, we tend to draw safe little edges around our lives, forgetting the thrill of escape learned earlier in childhood. Once we determine that coloring within the lines generates a noteworthy picture, we can’t imagine doing it any other way. And although God wants us to be disciplined in how we venture through life, sometimes He creates opportunities for us to climb over the gate and color outside the lines so that a ministerial masterpiece can be produced.

The world is a banquet full of wonderful surprises, and our creative choices are not limited. As God’s people we have more freedom than we realize. Christ has supplied us with an extensive arrangement of tools that can be used to frame our existence. It’s often okay to climb over the fence and beyond existing comfort zones to step vulnerable into the field to expose His grace, love, and truth. Knowing that, if you go too far, He’ll just come and get you.

Lord, assist us in leaving our comfort zones to expand upon Your glory. Amen.

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Cheesy Decision

Isn’t it wonderful how we can make online friends – and call them dear friends – even though we’ve never met them face to face? That is the case for my guest blogger today and Friday. I met Kerin Mesanko through SparkPeople and we hit it off right away. Both of us were aspiring writers at the time and since we met, Kerin has published a devotional book “Broken Beads on My Moccasins” based on major events in her own life. She shares what the Lord taught her through these events and she is honest, transparent, sometimes funny, always gentle and loving. For more information on her book, and to place an order, click on the book cover above! A “must” devotional book for every woman!

Cheesy Decision

Never take your own revenge, beloved. If your enemy is hungry,
feed him. Romans 12:19a, 20a (NASB)
I stood fuming as I prepared my husband’s lunch for his midnight work shift. Married just a few months, we seemed to quarrel over everything, and his word was always final. Never able to have the last say or finish an argument bothered me greatly. But Denny would generally end the debate before things got out of control. Being someone who likes closure, I often felt frustrated.
Opening the refrigerator, I pulled out two slices of pre-wrapped cheese. A devious thought came to mind. Embracing my more mischievous side, I giggled while making the decision to keep the plastic covering on the cheese, positioning the slices neatly between bologna, mustard, and bread. Then putting both sandwiches in Baggies, I placed them in his lunchbox. Vengeance would be mine.
Over thirty years of marriage later, I’d like to think that I’ve learned to handle my thirst for revenge by turning away from childish actions that might anger or harm another. But on occasion I find, whether intentional or not, that I’ve somehow managed to leave the wrappers on the cheese again.
By careless or sometimes well-rehearsed words or actions, I can sabotage a perfectly good meal of another’s day. This meal would be defined as anything that could have helped that individual grow closer to God and/or humanity.
Making a conscious effort to give all things to God and let Him deal with others as He sees fit is still a struggle, as my hunger for mischief is often intense. But as I yield to God’s perfect wisdom, my reputation and future becomes more secure and others learn to trust me.
Years ago, Denny came home from work early the next morning, crawled into bed and slid his arms around me. He admitted that he was so upset with our fighting he couldn’t even eat the lunch I had packed him.

Feeling guilty about what I had done, yet thankful that my actions hadn’t caused us to continue the battle, all I could manage to say was, “That’s okay. You wouldn’t have liked the cheese.”

Lord, help us to practice more mercy and less revenge. Amen.