Growing Connections

I first met Ralene Burke via the ACFW regional page on Facebook, but I think I’d seen her before. According to her article below, we were both in Denver at the 2009 ACFW conference. I can’t imagine being in the same room with Ralene and not noticing her. Her bright personality is hard to miss. After relocating to the Louisville area, she set a date for a meeting and several writers gathered. We’ve been meeting once a month, ever since that day, picking up more members as we go. Her fresh ideas keep us coming back for more. So of course, I had to ask Ralene to share her take on Connections for this month’s theme on my blog. I hope you enjoy the post!

Ralene: When your parents tell you that you can be anything when you grow up, that leaves a whole wide world of choices for the young mind. As a young woman, fresh out of high school, I was ready to tackle the world. Or so I thought. 

For several years, I stumbled about, trying to find my place. I floated from job to job. Sure, I excelled at whatever I put my mind to, but I wasn’t happy. Satisfaction eluded me. I wasn’t doing what I was supposed to be doing.

While I was working at a bank, I had a chance encounter that included my high school bus driver and my teller supervisor. The result was this brilliant (yeah, not so much) idea for a novel. So, in my free time, I started writing. Over the next few months, I continued to work on the story in bits and pieces. I was even brave enough to let a fellow bank employee read it. 

In February 2006, my husband returned home from deployment, and we moved to Texas. I went from working full time and going out with friends to being a stranger in a strange land: a stay-at-home mom with a newborn with no local friends. Aaaah!

But, the new freedom gave me more time to write. I really didn’t know much about writing or publishing, and I wanted to learn. So I joined Writing.Com (free basic account, which I later upgraded) and found a forum for YA novelists. This group became my source of growth and encouragement. I’m friends with many of them still today.

A year or so later, I joined American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and immediately got involved! I took the free courses and participated in the loops. When I was eligible, I even became one of the Zone Directors. In 2009, I went to my very first writing conference: ACFW in Denver, CO. I thought it would be awkward, not knowing anyone, but it turns out I knew more than I thought. Of course, my critique partner was there, but so were several members from my zone, whom I had communicated with and gotten to know online. 

It was about this time that I started getting into Facebook and blogging. Here was an opportunity to connect with even more writers. Even more homeschoolers. More people to encourage and support, and in whom to find the same. 

Today, as a writer and homeschooler, I find that my life can get rather hermit-esque. All too often, the day-to-day stress (and joys) of working from home while educating my kids can get to me. It’s nice to have found fellow writers who understand my journey. It’s a joy to know that I can reach out to other homeschoolers when I am ready to tear my hair out. And those rare few who write and homeschool? Well, they completely get me.

I’ve finally found my place. It took a few years, a few wrong turns, and a multitude of prayers, but I’ve made it. And God provided me with the support He knew I would need. 

About the Author:Whether Ralene Burke is wielding a writer’s pen, an editor’s sword, or a social media wand, she always has her head in a dreamer’s world. And she wants to make it SHINE! In her own writing, she spins fast-paced tales of fantasy worlds, angels and demons, and the broader calling of every human being. A place where the light pierces the darkness . . . You can find out more about her writing and editing services on her website:

Where Does the Time Go?

The Artist’s Garden at Vétheuil – Claude Monet

I’ve officially missed two posts because … I forgot. I didn’t set anything up ahead of time and–whoosh!–the days passed in a flurry. Still nothing set to post.

Have you ever had weeks like that? So here I am two weeks later and it’s almost July!

I’m excited about July, because the theme is: 

Small Publishers 

I’m interviewing three or four small publishers to find out who they are, how they got started, and why they do what they do.

So I think you may want to “pop” back over in July to see who stops in. You can join my blog or “like” my Facebook page to receive updates. Have a wonderful weekend!

Inspired by a Dream

Jael of Rogan inspired me to believe in the impossible dream.

Some inner part of me became an inner part of my character.  

Do I crave adventure?

Do I love to explore new roads, see where their twists and turns take me?

Yes, on both counts. But the likeness doesn’t end there. Though I tried to write Jael’s character as different from my own as possible–she’s petite with platinum hair and blue eyes–only her outer structure differed in the end.

Oh, but she is quite a bit braver than I. That part was big-time fiction. But my hopes and dreams spilled over into her and surfaced on occasion. Maybe that’s why I love her character and can’t seem to forget her…

  • So here’s the scoop: In just a few days, I will release the updated version of The Lady of the Haven, followed closely by the updated version of A Gathering of Eagles. They will both be available as ebooks, on all the usual networks, in their brand new clothes with reformatted interiors. They are beautiful! 
  • What do you think? I am in discussions right now about the print version. I am leaning toward combining the two books into one volume. I would like to hear your opinion of that. You can comment here or drop me a note on Facebook

And along with the launch, I will have some really nice gifts you can win by entering a contest here on my website. So, exciting things are in the works! I hope you’ll stop back by in a few days. “Like” my Facebook page to stay up-to-date. I won’t overwhelm you with advertising.

Thanks for stopping by!

Samson, the Bluetick Coonhound

If you’re on Facebook, you already know how popular pets are. I know I get a hundred cute pet pictures posted on my status every day. Knowing how important these four-legged friends are, I’ve included a pet in my present story-in-progress. There’s only one problem.

He tries to take over every scene he’s in. Samson is a Bluetick coonhound. As you can see from the photo, he has a very expressive face. Blueticks are very intelligent and energetic. And they sport a beautiful coat.

Samson spends his days chasing rabbits. His home in 1950’s West Tennessee affords plenty of opportunities to chase not only rabbits, but other wildlife as well. And lately, he’s taken to cozying up to a sweet young lady. She loves dogs, so she doesn’t mind.

Now just in case you’re attentive enough to notice that the hound in this picture is either missing something, or is not really a male dog, you’re right. I borrowed this pic from Wikipedia. It’s actually a female Bluetick coonhound named Juno. But for now, let’s just pretend this is an actual picture of my character’s dog. And he is most definitely male.

Here’s a short excerpt:

At that moment, Samson ran past Connie. He bolted into the front seat, planting himself firmly in the middle.
The dog’s big brown eyes greeted her as she settled into the seat next to him. He seemed placid enough. Smelly, but gentle. She remembered her first view of him at Thelma’s. He’d waited quietly in the truck while his master talked to Annabelle and the kidney bean barked and danced around. “Good dog,” she whispered.
He thumped his tail.
Alton climbed in and shut the door. “Hope you don’t mind dogs.”
She shook her head. 
“He’s fairly obedient.” He shifted into gear and backed the truck around.

 And he is, fairly obedient. Except when there’s a scent of rabbit in the air. I’m a big fan of dogs in general and especially hounds. So I’m looking forward to finishing this particular story, just to see what happens with Samson, the Bluetick coonhound.

For more information on Bluetick hounds you can start here:

Thanks for reading!

Jim’s Story

This week’s post is a little bit different. Linda Hillenbrand, a very dear friend of mine,  has been nominated for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Man and Woman of the Year Campaign. She has given me permission to reprint this letter.

Linda with her husband Jim at U of L game
To My Friends and Family,

I hope you don’t mind me writing you about a cause VERY close to my heart.
My dear husband Jim has had a rare form of Leukemia for several years and has undergone maintenance treatment to keep that at bay. In early 2010, he had what an allergist, neurologist and Internist thought was simply allergies or a lazy eye. Luckily, we had a scheduled 6 month check up with his wonderful oncologist, Dr. Mike Kommor, who took one look at his eye when he walked in the room and noticed something was very wrong. After an MRI, PET scan, CT scan and a very painful surgical biopsy of the eye, he was diagnosed with a form of MALT Lymphoma of the orbital tissue.
The next two years became a battle for life with a variety of treatments, second opinions at the request of our doctor with a Neurooncologist at Vanderbilt Ingram Cancer Center and a multitude of different treatments. Through it all, he was noted for his amazing smile. Finally in December of 2012 he was considered in a sort of remission. It is something he will always battle but the prognosis is good.
Jim was privileged to have great insurance and to respond positively to the series of chemo treatments that are only available today thanks to the research funding of The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. It was amazing to learn that LLS is the #2 source of funding, next to the government, for blood cancer research. Many of the drugs funded by LLS are being used today as a treatment for breast, lung, and other cancers.
Because of this, I am honored to be nominated as one of 14 candidates in Louisville for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Man and Woman of the Year Campaign. Our team is being called “Blood, Sweat and CHEERS” Our national campaign kicks off on March 28th (my precious Mom’s birthday) and runs through June 7th. We also honor our dear friend Meghan Steinberg who we have come to know and love during her journey, as well as Janice Goodman and Ray Pfeiffer’s wonderful grandson. All fighters and survivors!!
Now comes the question…………………how can you help?? In many ways!!! We will be hosting several events during this time, putting collection jars in local businesses, partnering with restaurants for charity nights, and collecting auction items. You can donate your time, send an email, buy tickets to the gala, send a donation, or just tell a friend that is going through cancer about the Leukemia and Lymphoma society!!

Join our team “Blood Sweat and Cheers”

Mar 29, 2013
by Linda Hillenbrand
We are excited to begin our fight for a cure with “Blood, Sweat and Cheers” 

Originally posted to Reprinted by permission from the author. For more information on the Man and Woman of the Year Campaign, please visit their website. If you are on facebook, you can help by liking Linda’s Facebook group, Blood, Sweat & Cheers

Here’s an excerpt from her facebook page.

A very important point…Donations are wonderful and appreciated, but I know not everyone is in a position to help or has a cause of their own. You can help just by emailing anyone you know who has had Leukemia or Lymphoma or any other cancer that has been touched by the research of LLS and giving them the link or an invite to the group. Ideas, thoughts, stories, replies are as important as well!!!