Strong Women: When Your #Baby is a #Preemie

Mom 001You may already know that my youngest has had some health issues. What you may not know is that before she came along, I was weak. I passed out when the nurse pricked my finger when I went in for my first prenatal appointment. I couldn’t stay in the same room when the vet examined my kitten. The thought of going through childbirth terrified me. I worried about everything – the pain, what life would be like, if I could handle being a mom.

Then, on June 22, 1995, I left my doctor’s office, drove myself to the hospital and 15 minutes later, my kiddo was born by emergency C-section. She had her first heart surgery when she was a day old, her first brain surgery when she was three weeks old, and another when she was three months old. Pretty rough stuff for a 2 lb 7 oz infant. I was in pretty rough shape, too. During my stay at the hospital (part of it in ICU myself), I was poked, prodded, and so much blood was drawn, it really didn’t bother me anymore. Our tiny baby spent three months in the NICU. During that time, I discovered that I was so much stronger than I ever dreamed. Suddenly, the little stuff didn’t matter as much. I shifted into survival mode.

But the moment I realized how strong I was was when my kiddo needed surgery at 2 1/2 years old. Her shunt failed. She needed a new valve and catheter into her brain. The surgery went well and she was released the same day. We took our little girl home with a c-shaped scar on her head, thankful for the good docs at the University of Missouri. A week or so later, I sat in the neurosurgeon’s office with her in my lap as the doctor pulled staples out of her head (you know, what he used looked a lot like what I use to pull big staples out at the office . . . ).

If anyone had told me that I’d be able to do that a few years before, I would’ve shaken my head and declared confidently, “No way!”

She needed another surgery when she was 11, and just last month, she needed another. This most recent one was difficult for different reasons. My kiddo is now living on her own, an adult. Yet, it was just as hard to watch them take her away to the O.R. as it was all the other times. I still waited anxiously to see her after it was over. This time she didn’t want me to stay the night with her, she wanted her boyfriend. Though that hurt my feelings, I left them together at the hospital, glad that I’ve raised a daughter who is strong enough to deal with her health issues.

The obstacles that life throws at you make you stronger. I tried to incorporate that in my book, Denim & Diamonds. I wanted Beth to start off unsure of herself, and wanted her to grow throughout the story – to find strength that she didn’t know she had.

Tell me about your strength. When did you discover you are stronger than you thought?

Strong Women: #divorce

When I was trying to think of a tag line for my blog (and for my writing), I realized that something that most of my writing includes strong women, often dealing with scandal of one sort or another, and, last but not least, second chances. In Denim & Diamonds, Beth finds herself with a cheating fiance and a dead daddy. In a nice twist, her dead daddy leaves her his horse ranch, with a provision that she has to run it to get her inheritance. She takes the challenge, relieved at the chance to escape the chaos of her life and start over fresh.

broken-heartMost of my friends know I was married before, but it isn’t something I talk about a lot, largely because it’s not a part of my life I’m particularly fond of. It was flat out hard. My job was demanding and required a lot of travel (Kay & Ann Marie & Kim can back me up on that!). In hindsight, that may be the only reason the marriage lasted as long as it did. We were young when we got married. I was 20, he was 19. After five years of marriage, I came home from a business trip and a neighbor asked who the cute little green sports car belonged to that had been at the house while I was gone. Don’t get me wrong, there were problems before that. Arguments about money. Frustration about house work. He took a couple of late night calls from his employee, Chris. When I found out that Chris was short for Christine, and she drove a little green sports car, I knew. It cut like a knife. I confronted my husband, asked if the marriage was over, did he want a divorce. His reply? We can’t afford to get a divorce. NOT the answer I was looking for. In an odd way, I was relieved. The decision of whether or not to leave was no longer a difficult one. In spite of having a challenging job that I enjoyed, a home that I loved, and neighbors that were good friends, I picked up and moved. In order to make it on my own, I needed the love and support and security that home provided. I didn’t move home with the parents, but to a nearby town.

It was hard. Flat out HARD. Leaving behind the life I’d built was difficult, but the hardest part was admitting failure. My marriage had failed. The how didn’t matter. The first night in my new apartment (in a bad part of town – it was all I could afford), I curled up in the fetal position and cried myself to sleep. I allowed myself that night to mourn the death of my marriage. Then I made a conscious decision to look forward. I felt like I’d wasted five years of my life, and was ready to get on with life.

Second Wedding (and my stepdaughter!)

Second Wedding (and my stepdaughter!)

I reconnected with friends from high school (hi, Denise!). After working as a professional at a college, I found myself working nights at a telemarketing company selling children’s books and encyclopedias. Quite a fall for me. Finally got a job as a receptionist at a law firm, which led me to the career that I love. Met my now-husband. We just celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary (we all look real happy in that pic in the upper left, right?). My life is sooooo much better than it was. I’m so much happier than I was. And I am stronger than I thought I was at the time.

In my writing, I often draw upon those feelings – the fear of being alone, feeling like a failure, the sadness, the anger, the hurt, the betrayal – to make my characters more real. I’m drafting the second novel in the Diamond series, and it features another strong woman as the main character. I hope she turns out as strong as I think she is. I want my readers to experience the fear, anger, and happiness of my characters. And I hope, in some small way, it helps my readers through their own bad times.

Because, dear readers — just like me, just like Beth, you are stronger than you think.

 

Focus on #womensfiction: Asked For by Colleen L. Donnelly

http://lorilrobinett.com

Asked For

I’m happy to have Colleen Donnelly joining me today. Colleen and I met while both writing madly to win National Novel Writing Month several years ago. She’s now one of my critique partners. Her second book was recently released by The Wild Rose Press, so I asked her to share some info with my readers. Please join me in welcoming Colleen!

Colleen, could you tell us what Asked For is about?

Cletus asked for Lana when she was barely more than a child. He told her grandmother he wanted a wife, not a bride, someone to keep his house the way he wanted it and to give him sons. He got more daughters than sons, and he also got James: “That boy,” the one Cletus claimed wasn’t his. Jim Dillon wanted Lana — he always had. He just hadn’t expected her to be taken away and married to someone else so soon. Glen Morgan recognized the beauty underlying Lana’s worn features, and he stepped in where Cletus hadn’t, offering help to her and her children. Lana grew up under Cletus’ demands, fulfilling what was expected of her — until his accusations that she’d done the unexpected and been unfaithful. Lana no longer looked at what might have been or what could be. She discovered what was most important, and she found it inside of herself.

http://lorilrobinett.com

Colleen J. Donnelly

And what about you? Who is Colleen?

Born and raised in the Midwest, Colleen is at home in that rural atmosphere but enjoys experiencing other cultures also. She works as a laboratory technician by day, but devotes her nights and weekends to literature, both reading and writing. Other hobbies include outdoor activities, treasure hunting in antique malls and flea markets, yard work, and theater.
Would you share an excerpt from Asked For?
She wore her auburn hair longer now because Cletus liked it that way, but it was pulled back out of Magdalena’s and Betsy’s reaches. And no makeup. She’d come plain, the way she always was, plain and tired.
“I probably am a sight.” Lana felt her face flush, but tried to ignore it. She wasn’t here to be told how good she looked. She was here to see Grandma, see herself and her new life against her old one and the person who’d told her how this new one was supposed to be lived.
“You look just fine, actually.” A tall shadow filled the shed’s doorway behind Grandma. “If anything, you’re a sight for sore eyes.”
“Jim…”
Jim Dillon stepped from the shed’s dark interior. He’d changed. She was shocked at what he’d become. He’d grown in three years, muscles where scrawny arms used to be, tanned skin and chiseled features where softness used to be. There was still the boy in his eyes, though, the boy who’d helped her with chores before she left to get married. The boy Grandma had said really wasn’t there to help Lana but was there because he needed the pay. A bucket half full of milk dangled from one of Jim’s hands. Grandma was right again. He was here not because Lana was but because he needed the pay.
Jim didn’t stare at her daughters, or the bulge of her stomach, or the worn dress that covered it. He just looked at her face, his eyes scanning every feature as if relearning, even admiring, who she’d become.
Where can we find Asked For?
The Wild Rose Press e-book (various formats available)
For the Kindle
Also by Colleen L. Donnelly and available from The Wild Rose Press, Inc., and RomCon Readers Crown finalist – “Mine to Tell
Thanks for stopping by, Colleen!

Finding my Zen: The Cause of Suffering

In Buddhism, the Second Noble Truth is the cause of suffering. Take a moment to look over the past year, and consider those times that you suffered. Before you can do anything to improve your situation, you have to identify the root cause.

As I look over 2014, there were some very difficult times. We had to have our yellow lab, Shelby, put down. It was difficult to make that trip, even though I knew she was suffering. Shortly thereafter, we had to make that same trip with our Miniature Schnauzer, Sasha. That nearly broke my heart, even though she was hurting so badly she bit me when I tried to hold her. Later in the year, my father-in-law passed away. Shortly thereafter, I suffered from a (mild, thank goodness) Lupus flare. Finally, we ended the year with my daughter in the hospital for an unexpected surgery – her shunt broke in her neck.

The research I’ve done about this Second Noble Truth talks about the attachment to desire being the root of suffering. Perhaps it is. I was very attached to my dogs (Sasha, in particular). Losing family members (pets included) is a physical attachment, an attachment to the physical form of the individual. I desired to hold them, keep them, have them with me. Health is the same way. Of course we want health. Once we see sickness, illness, etc. for what it is – a temporary situation – we can get past the suffering. When my mouth and throat hurt so bad in December from the ulcers that I was unable to eat or drink, I FELT like I was suffering. Honestly, though, I’ve been doing so much reading and thinking about awareness and mindfulness, I was able to recognize the temporary situation for what it was. It hurt AT THAT MOMENT, but I told myself it would get better. The same thing happened when my daughter had surgery. Of course, I was worried sick about her, but I was also able to recognize that her hospital stay, her pain, and the interruption of life was temporary. We could get through it. We WOULD get through it.

Oddly enough, I think that is what helped us get through her birth (she was born at 28 weeks, and has had many surgeries). My husband and I simply dealt with the things we had to deal with. We lived in the moment, and appreciated each small victory. We didn’t allow ourselves to wallow in misery. In hindsight, I think we saw those very bad times as temporary.

I’m not an expert on Buddhism, by any means, but I do find the philosophy interesting to study, and it has helped me deal with situations that, at times, I wondered if I could survive.

What do you think the Second Noble Truth means? What experiences have you suffered through, and what helps you get through those times?

And if you find yourself suffering through a down time, read a book. It helps distract the mind. Same goes for those you come in contact with who are suffering. Offer them something to distract them, and help them get through the temporary setback. Of course, I recommend Denim & Diamonds, because it’s a sweet, light read. 🙂

#Romance Review: Smolder on a Slow Burn By Lynda J. Cox

From the moment I started reading Smolder on a Slow Burn by Lynda J. Cox, I was drawn into the historical setting and immediately wanted to know more about Allison and A.J. It was obvious from the beginning that each character carried secrets and the fact that they shared a connection surprised me – it was a twist that I hadn’t seen coming. A man named Oakten is responsible for destroying both their lives, and his man Garrison is on their trail. Allison is running for her life, accused of the murder of her sister and nephew, guilty of educating the children of slaves. A.J. still carries the terrors and injustices of war upon his shoulders, with the injuries to his soul nearly as bad as those upon his body. The memories of his years as a prisoner of war come back as nightmares that bleed over into wakefulness.

When the two find themselves on the run after barely becoming acquainted on a westbound train in Nebraska, the physical attraction surprises both of them. A.J. was always faithful to his wife, even after her death. For the first time since he lost her, he finds that he can’t resist the wisp of a woman who is stronger than she appears. Allison, on the other hand, tries her darnedest to maintain propriety as a single woman on the prairie, but circumstances throw her into quite improper closeness to a man who is more of a gentleman than he seemed to be at first blush.

After a terrifying night in a sodden shelter during a hailstorm, he tenders a proposal of marriage and she accepts. Though both are damaged, together, they are whole. Together, they must fight the demons of their past – even when those demons turn out to be flesh and blood men determined to destroy their lives.

If you enjoy historicals, Westerns or romances, I recommend this book. The characters are well-written and layered, and a couple of steamy sex scenes pull you in and make you feel the romance between Alli and AJ.

I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did.

Book Tour: Smolder on a Slow Burn

Smolder on a Slow Burn Tour Banner

 

Virtual Book Tour Dates: 12/9/14 – 1/6/15

Genres: Western Historical Romance

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Blurb:

When your life has been stolen from you and the man responsible wants you dead, where do you run? Who do you trust?

Allison Webster dreams of having an adventure like the characters in the books she loves. But there is no romance in being pursued by a man who wants her dead for educating the children of former slaves. Unlike the heroines she reads about she doesn’t have a trusty companion to rescue her…until she literally runs into A.J. Adams, a former Confederate cavalry officer. Now, she just has to convince A.J. he really is the honorable man and hero depicted in the dime novel she is reading.

When everything you fought for was stripped away, even your honor, what is left to fight for other than revenge?

Branded a “traitor” for more than ten years, scarred by harsh treatment in an inhumane prisoner of war camp, A.J. Adams wants revenge. Allison Webster’s arrival into his life provides the bait to destroy the men who murdered his wife and daughters and kidnapped his little brother. The men pursuing Allison are the very same men he has sworn to kill. Falling in love and admitting he might actually be a hero means surrendering his need for vengeance. Surrender is not part of A.J.’s battle strategy.

See the book trailer on Youtube

 

Excerpt:

A.J. watched her make her way from the boxcar with as much dignity as it appeared she could muster. The memory of that tiny waist in his hands and the slightness of her build had startled him. The barrier of that shapeless dark green sedge skirt vanished the moment his hands closed around her waist, and he could envision long, lithe limbs. He didn’t make it a habit to imagine any woman undressed, but this one knocked every bit of his equilibrium out from under him and he didn’t have the slightest idea why she did.

When she met his eyes, he’d been taken back. Slender, feathered brows lifted and eyes the color of melted chocolate widened—widened enough he was sure she saw all the way into the black abyss that was once his soul. Bright color flooded her cheeks when he told her to have a seat on the hay bale. Her slight Georgia drawl, hidden under layers of what sounded to be years of formal education, knifed into his chest.

He had watched her discreetly tuck several strands of walnut hair back under that ridiculous hat perched on her head. Realizing he had been staring at her, A.J. turned his back, letting the rapidly moving landscape occupy his gaze. She was lovely, he had to admit that. Walnut hair kissed with warm gold, high cheekbones that curved just enough to give her an elfin cast, a pert little nose, and the darkest chocolate eyes he’d ever seen combined into a rather alluring image. It had been a very long time since he had looked at a woman and not compared her to Cathy. He had sworn, as he knelt at Cathy’s grave that there would never be another. Now, a little slip of a thing had gotten in past his carefully constructed battlements and stirred something in him he could have sworn an oath to be long dead and buried beneath a live oak in Kentucky.

She was right, he was no gentleman. Sliding the door shut in her face hadn’t been the most gentlemanly thing he could have done, but he had long ago given up being anything that might even resemble a gentleman. He’d given that up sometime during his tenure in a veritable hell on earth called Camp Infernum. If he’d harbored hopes of regaining anything that came close to gallantry after watching men fight one another like animals for a scrap of moldy bread, all hope died on a warm spring afternoon when he collapsed to his knees at Clayborne at the graves of his wife and daughters and learned his younger brother had been taken by a band of roving deserters. A.J. knew his veneer of civility was just that—a veneer hiding a wounded, dangerous animal.

 

Buy Links:

Amazon

Wild Rose Press

Barnes and Noble

 

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About the Author:

Lynda J. Cox will tell anyone who will listen that she was born at least one hundred and fifty years too late, and most definitely in the wrong part of the country. She holds a master’s degree in English with a concentration in creative writing from Indiana State University after earning her BA from the same university as a non-traditional student. (Think being old enough to be mom to 90% of the students in her freshman cadre.) She’s kept busy with two spoiled rotten house cats, a 30 plus year old Arabian gelding who has been nicknamed “Lazarus” for his ability in the later years of his life to escape death, and quite a few champion collies. When she isn’t writing, she can be found on the road, travelling to the next dog show. She loves to chat about books, the writing life, and the insanity which is called a “dog show” and can be reached through her Facebook page.

 

Connect With The Author:

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Giveaway:

Enter to win an ebook copy of Smolder on a Slow Burn! This giveaway will run 12/9/14 – 1/6/15. Open worldwide! Enter through Rafflecopter.

One Word for 2015: Focus

For the past few years, instead of doing New Year’s Resolutions, I have chosen a theme for the coming year. In the past I’ve chosen “Imperfect” (because I tend to get so caught up in perfection that I don’t do anything), and “Intention” (because I don’t want to live life passively, I want to live with intention).

A major weakness of mine is indecision. I review, plan, research, Pin (ah, yes, you know exactly what I’m talking about!), but I can’t make a decision and DO.

For 2015, I’ve chosen the word “Focus” because I want to allow myself to zero in on what I really want, and then take action. I am starting the year with a clear picture of what I want to accomplish, and who I want to be.

I will be healthier.

I will publish Widow’s Web.

I will make time for my creative outlets.

So, what about you? What do you want to accomplish? If you are looking to read more in 2015, might I suggest you start with Denim & Diamonds, my debut novel? I’d be honored if you’d check it out – the e-book costs less than your daily Starbucks!