HeadTalker Campaign

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Since tomorrow we celebrate Thanksgiving in the United States, I thought today I would share a little about how the national holiday came into being.

In the midst of the Civil War, on On October 3, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation declaring the last Thursday of November as Thanksgiving Day, thus making it a national holiday.

The proclamation:

“It has pleased Almighty God to prolong our national life another year, defending us with His guardian care against unfriendly designs from abroad and vouchsafing to us in His mercy many and signal victories over the enemy, who is of our own household. It has also pleased our Heavenly Father to favor as well our citizens in their homes as our soldiers in their camps and our sailors on the rivers and seas with unusual health. He has largely augmented our free population by emancipation and by immigration, while He has opened to us new sources of wealth and has crowned the labor of our workingmen in every department of industry with abundant rewards. Moreover, He has been pleased to animate and inspire our minds and hearts with fortitude, courage, and resolution sufficient for the great trial of civil war into which we have been brought by our adherence as a nation to the cause of freedom and humanity, and to afford to us reasonable hopes of an ultimate and happy deliverance from all our dangers and afflictions:
Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, do hereby appoint and set apart the last Thursday in November next as a day which I desire to be observed by all my fellow-citizens, wherever they may then be, as a day of thanksgiving and praise to Almighty God, the beneficent Creator and Ruler of the Universe. And I do further recommend to my fellow-citizens aforesaid that on that occasion they do reverently humble themselves in the dust and from thence offer up penitent and fervent prayers and supplications to the Great Disposer of Events for a return of the inestimable blessings of peace, union, and harmony throughout the land which it has pleased Him to assign as a dwelling place for ourselves and for our posterity throughout all generations.
In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the city of Washington, this 20th day of October, A.D. 1864, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-ninth.”

During one of the bleakest period in our history, President Lincoln declared Thanksgiving Day a national holiday. Perhaps tomorrow as we are reflecting on all we have to be thankful for, we will remember men such President Lincoln, who stood for what was right.



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Blood & Lies

Blood & Lies Cover Art



Blood & Lies

While JD Miller is chaperoning a group of teens on a mission trip to Kherson, Ukraine, one of the boys vanishes from the group without a trace.
Leandra Davis hasn’t seen her father in over twenty years when he shows up and asks her to fly to Ukraine to join the search for a brother she’s never met. Anger at her absentee father compels her to walk out and ignore his pleas, but anguish at the thought of her brother all alone in a foreign country, at the mercy of kidnappers, convinces her to abandon her life in Odessa, Texas and join the search.

When she and her best friend fly to Ukraine to search for the kidnapped teen, she meets the passionate paramedic, JD Miller. Together, they search for the missing young man and begin to uncover deadly secrets Leandra’s father wants to keep hidden.


A large, calloused hand clamped over her mouth and something sharp dug into to her side. “Meddlesome big sister,” a gruff, male voice rasped in her ear. The stench of cigarettes on his breath made her want to wretch, and her heart rate soared. What did this guy want? She jerked her head to the side, but the man’s huge hand only clamped down tight enough to leave bruises, so she clawed at it. With her mouth covered, she couldn’t get enough air. He was going to smother her–if he didn’t stab her to death first.

“You’ll stop struggling if you know what’s good for you. Time to learn a lesson.” A searing pain sliced through her side and middle, and she clutched at her abdomen–wet and sticky. “Tell Daddy if my boss doesn’t get his property back, we’ll send both of his children to him piece by piece.”

The man removed his hand, and she turned, but he was already gone. She groaned in pain and held her belly. He’d sliced her skin from the left side all the way across to the outer right flank and blood soaked her clothes.


Barnes & Noble

Desert Breeze Publishing


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Blood & Lies: Foods of Ukraine

 Blood & Lies: Foods of Ukraine

My next novel, Blood & Lies,  is set in Ukraine. It’s due out in December of this year. In the book, several Ukrainian dishes the characters share several Ukrainian meals. I thought I would share some of our favorites and some of my preconceived misconceptions.

The first time we visited Ukraine, I expected to find bland, tasteless foods. Was I ever wrong. Ukrainian food is among some of the best I’ve ever eaten.

My family loves flavorful, unique foods and these Ukrainian dishes certainly fulfill that desire.

Borscht, one of the Ukraine staples, is a beet soup. When I first heard of it, I thought it sounded horrible. Then I tasted it. This savory soup is a delight. In the winter, it’s one of my go-to recipes now.


https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode by Liz West: https://www.flickr.com/photos/calliope/5033415296

Here is a link to the recipe: http://ukrainianguide.com/authentic-ukrainian-borsch/ I tend to modify it by using canned beef stock, shredding the beets and, using olive oil instead of lard or goose fat. The Borscht we had in Kherson, Ukraine had meat in it, so I usually add stew meat.

Golubtsi – Ukrainian cabbage rolls stuffed with rice and beef are one of my family’s favorites.


https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/legalcode by Adam Baker: http://ow.ly/A29MH

Here’s the recipe for Golubtsi (sometimes spelled holubtsi): http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/member/views/BONNIES-UKRAINIAN-CABBAGE-ROLLS-50035542http://www.learnpysanky.com/recipes/holubtsi.html

I don’t modify this recipe much, except the ones we had in Ukraine had a beef broth over them instead of the tomato, so I make that small change to this recipe. My stepson loves these and often asks for them.

We also love Varenyky. From the sour cream dough to the stuffing, everything about them causes the mouth to water just thinking about taking that first bite.

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode By Gary Stevens: http://ow.ly/A25ps

By Gary Stevens: http://ow.ly/A25ps

Here’s the recipe for the dough: http://www.allthingsukrainian.com/Recipe/Varenyky/VarenykyDough.html

It’s not diet friendly for sure! Once I have mixed the dough, I stuff it with rice and ground meat (because that’s what we had in Ukraine) however, the imagination is the only limit. These tasty little pouches can be stuffed with potatoes, sweet filling, anything you can think of.

Once they are stuffed, I boil them, then lay them out on a cookie sheet, cover them and freeze them for a while. When I’m ready to serve them, I pan fry them until they are brown on each side and warm throughout.

These are only very special occasion foods, and I told the family I refuse to make them unless we have an assembly line because they take so much time and effort.




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Forgotten Children of Ukraine

Forgotten Children of Ukraine

Street Child



There are many street kids in Ukraine. Many of them are orphans of living parents — they prefer the streets to the abuse and neglect at home.

Young children spend many hours wandering the streets and even sleeping in the sewer tunnels.

Sewer TunnelSewer Tunnels Sewer Tunnels

These tunnels have large hot water pipes running through them to supply hot water to apartment buildings, homes, and businesses. The hot water running through the pipes keeps the tunnel warmer so the children spend many nights sleeping on cardboard pallets on top of the pipes.

Due to the damp, dirty conditions, the children are susceptible to communicable diseases like TB.

Ukraine 2007 084 Street Children

In the summertime, the children spend time at the Dnieper River swimming and playing. Some of them beg enough money to take a bus to Crimea. Since it’s a beautiful vacation spot, they are able to get enough money from visitors to buy food.

There are many of these forgotten children throughout Ukraine. Some are orphans, some orphans of living parents. Abuse and neglect cause the children to leave home.

They learn to fade into the background and many people, even those living in Ukraine, don’t realize how pervasive this problem is.

Street Children

Doxa Kids Street Children’s Ministry(www.doxakids.org) based in Odessa, Texas works with a Kherson, Ukraine resident, Galina Kuleshova, to reach the street children and ensure they have food and clothing.

Galina’s heart broke for the street children when she noticed a young man lying on the steps in cold winter. She started to touch him and another child told her he’d already died.

Because of this encounter, Galina has dedicated her life to helping these children. More information about the work Galina does for these children can be found here: http://streetchildrenkherson.wordpress.com/how-it-started/ Or on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/StreetchildrenkhersonUkraine

After visiting Kherson with Doxa Kids, our lives were forever changed.

Shortly after we returned, I wrote an article in JPG Magazine about the forgotten children. It has some of the children’s personal stories. The figures quoted in the article were given to us by the people who work with the children.


Please check out the links and keep these children in your prayers.




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A Look At Ukraine

A Look at Ukraine

We love this beautiful country, and before the current tensions between Ukraine and Russia, we visited twice. The first time was with International Cooperating Ministries, and the second trip was with Doxa Kids Street Children’s Ministry.

Street Children

This photo was taken in Kherson, Ukraine. It includes members of the Doxa Kids team, Ukrainian nationals who work with the street children, and street children.











Our time in Ukraine was very special. We made lasting friendships with those who give their lives to help these forgotten children.

Please be in prayer for our friends the children in Kherson. Recently, military equipment has been moving into this city. Our friends are asking for prayer for peace in Ukraine. I would like to add, please pray for protection of the vulnerable street children.

In a future post, I will give more information on these kiddos and the difficulties they face.

Ukraine Cattle Drive

While in Kherson, we saw many unique things…like a small cattle drive down a city street. This gave us all a good laugh. Being from west Texas, most of us of us on the trip are accustomed to seeing cattle, but they are usually behind a fence as we drive down the highway. None of us had ever seen a city street cattle drive. Once the cattle were out of the street, we continued on.




Kvas Truck

We spent much of our time walking around the city. Kvas stands were located in many places and our hosts insisted we sample this odd beverage. It had a yeasty taste, much like uncooked bread. While we didn’t care much for it, our hosts explained that it is believed to be very healthy in Ukraine.



We stayed in a place our hosts called a sanitorium. It had small rooms with a sitting area and it overlooked the Dniper River.


Girls at Elevator

The elevators in the building were very narrow. This is a photo of two of the teens who went with us.






View From our Window

This photo was another view from the room.










Ukraine 2007 010

hese are some of the apartment buildings in Kherson. Many of these are communal buildings left over from the days of the USSR. Families will have a room to themselves, but will share a bathroom and a kitchen with other residents.

Ukraine 2007 086

Some of the street children hanging out in the industrial area of the Dniper River.


Dniper River

The Dniper River – Beach Area






















































On our way from Kherson to Kiev, we stopped at this Armenian restaurant. It looked like a storybook town.








In Kiev we had the opportunity to see some brides and grooms.


Kiev has many beautiful churches. They are very ornate inside and out. They asked that no photos be taken inside the church buildings.

Ukraine 07 326

We had lunch at colorful Ukrainian restaurant in Kiev.







































Ukraine is a beautiful country filled with incredible architecture, history, and culture.

We love the country, and have made lifelong friends there. God has burdened our hearts for the forgotten children in this country and that is why we work with Doxa Kids.

Our love for the country and people led me to set my next novel in this incredible country. Blood & Lies, the third book in the Desert Winds Series, will be released from Desert Breeze Publishing later this year. Much of the story is set in Ukraine.


Out for Blood




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World Book Blog Tour

Carol G HeilmanThank you to Carol Heilman for inviting me to the World Book Blog Tour! Carol is the author of Agnes Hopper’s Bridge to Retirement a charming story about a feisty seventy-year-old widow who becomes the voice the residents in her retirement home.

The World Book Blog Tour asks the following questions:

What am I working: I’m currently in the editing phase of Book 3 in the Desert Winds Series: Blood & Lies. Desert Breeze Publishing will release this novel in December.

Book 4 in the Desert Winds Series: Lies & Alibis is about half completed and will be released sometime next year.

I’m also working on a new series set in the beautiful Big Bend National Park in Texas. The new series doesn’t have a name or a release date yet.

How does my work differ from others of its genre? This one is a little hard to write. My main characters have a Christian world view, but they’re usually damaged. They’ve done something in their past that embarrasses them. I like to think of my suspense novels as culturally relevant. I hope to show them as humans who mess up. Then I take my messy humans and dump them in the midst of a terror-filled roller coaster ride of events.

Why do I write what I do? I love suspense novels. If an author can keep make my heart pound and feel the fear the character feels, they’ve done a great job. I want to entertain people in the same way.

How does my writing process work? I tend to have a particular character in mind, then I will think of a situation where that character would be overwhelmed. Then I start plotting out my story. I do a fairly extensive plot before I start writing, but there are usually some pretty major changes to the plot before I’m finished with the story.

Next stop on the World Book Blog Tour: Elise Phillips

She will have her interview posted on Monday, July 21st. Stop by her blog and learn more about this up and coming writer! You won’t be disappointed.

Elise Phillips


Elise Phillips is a Christian fiction writer who also dabbles in creative non fiction writing. She is currently at work on her first novel as well as a Master’s Degree in English and Creative Writing. Elise calls Amarillo Texas home, where she resides with an odd collection of animals including a trouble making goat named George. Currently working as a graphic designer, Elise holds a Bachelor’s degree in Agribusiness from West Texas A&M University. She is thankful to have been raised in the world of agriculture and horses and was a member of WTAMU’s top ranked Equestrian Team. She is also a proud advocate for the Arthritis Foundation and was featured in their 2011 Annual Report. Elise is excited for the new adventures that writing is bringing into her life and can’t wait to see what will come next.




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Love, Honor, & Hope



8 Authors. 8 Labors of Love. One Fantastic Cause.
Publication Date: June 24, 2014 
Genre: Romance Anthology

Find out more at:

The Authors and their Stories

Jennifer Theriot, Out of the Box Awakening
Swept from her perfect paper-doll life in Houston, Olivia finds herself in Chicago, alone, betrayed, and far from home. Ash is the man who has everything—everything except healing from the losses of a lifetime. What happens when the married woman and the sexy handsome widower are thrown together by fate?

Aubree Lane, Early One Morning

Stuck in San Diego, dealing with unreasonable clients and babysitting Marissa’s kids, a jealous Annie Harper catches the red-eye out of LAX wanting to intercept Terence and foil her best friend’s plans. This envious act uncovers a scandalous affair, and in that one pivotal moment, none of their lives would ever be the same.
Jennifer Yarbrough, Lost and Found 
A tragic accident changes Olivia Porter’s life in ways no woman should experience. With the help of a friend she tries to pick up the pieces and suddenly Cash Kingston appears giving her one more chance at happiness…will she take the chance or keep hiding from pain?
Diane Rinella, Scary Modsters 
While under the influence of insomnia-impaired judgment, Rosalyn summons Rock ‘n Roll deity Peter Lane back from the dead. Not only does he spin her hormones into a frenzy, Peter is also the precarious puzzle piece that brings sense into her world. When Niles learns that he can overcome his life-long challenge by helping Peter avenge his death, how far will he go to secure Rosalyn’s heart?
Kelly Cozzone,  Tropical Dreams 
Tropical Dreams is a tale of love, murder and conspiracy. Can Tiana Alexander overcome her past to learn to love again? Can David Murphy let go of the demons who haunt him. Can they face the future together or will life finally take its toll and their lives?
Linda Lee Williams, Sisters of the Night
Can there be a happily ever after for Emaline Hoffbrau, Juliana Slater and Gretchen Eberhardt, three modern-day vampire women?
Cherime MacFarlane, Heart of the Hunter
Leda is a teacher just out of school, who has not had time for love. Jay takes her by surprise, a soft spoken slightly broken man who lives with only his dog, for company. Leda sees something in Jay she needs to pursue. She should stay away from Jay. But can she? Who is the hunter and who is the hunted?
Sammie J, Piece of Heaven

Aaron Calnan has seen enough of the horrors of war. Now, Aaron finds himself immersed in a world where humans work within the realms of the paranormal, where Werewolves and Vampires become friends and Fae like to kick your ass. One encounter changes everything and Aaron finds his life turned upside down. Will he finally find his own piece of heaven?

Find this amazing anthology on Amazon and Barnes&Noble!

*All proceeds will benefit The United States War Veteran’s PTSD Foundation*






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Along The Watchtower – Review

Along the WatchtowerAlong the Watchtower – Review



A Tragic Warrior Lost in Two Worlds…

The war in Iraq ended for Lieutenant Freddie Williams when an IED explosion left his mind and body shattered. Once he was a skilled gamer and expert in virtual warfare.  Now he’s a broken warrior, emerging from a medically induced coma to discover he’s inhabiting two separate realities.  The first is his waking world of pain, family trials, and remorse–and slow rehabilitation through the tender care of Becky, his physical therapist. The second is a dark fantasy realm of quests, demons, and magic that Freddie enters when he sleeps.
In his dreams he is Frederick, Prince of Stormwind, who must make sense of his horrific visions in order to save his embattled kingdom from the monstrous Horde.  His only solace awaits him in the royal gardens, where the gentle words of the beautiful gardener, Rebecca, calm the storms in his soul. While in the conscious world, the severely wounded vet faces a strangely similar and equally perilous mission–a journey along a dark road haunted by demons of guilt and memory–and letting patient, loving Becky into his damaged and shuttered heart may be his only way back from Hell.


Let me first say, fantasy is not my usual genre. My usual genres are suspense and mysteries. However, I did enjoy Along the Watchtower. It’s quite different from other fantasy novels I’ve read.

While serving in Iraq, an IED explodes and leaves Lt. Freddie Williams injured. The story starts off fast-paced with a great deal of tension as we see, from Freddie’s point of view, the explosion and the immediate aftermath. As Freddie slips into unconsciousness, we fall into an alternate reality where he is a prince and must save the kingdom.

As the story progresses, the two worlds intertwine and Freddie begins to find answers to the real world in his fantasy.

The story unfolded and I really liked Freddie and Becky. As a former nurse who dealt with quite a few veterans over the years, Freddie is realistically portrayed, and Becky’s empathy her patients was spot-on.

I enjoyed the story, but much of it revolved around the game World of Warcraft which I’ve never played or even seen. The references to the game were quite frequent and did throw me out of the story a little, but it could be my age. After all, Freddie is a young man, and I think it’s a popular game for the younger crowd.

There were quite a few references to “the goddess” which I didn’t really understand. It may be something from the game, but as someone who usually reviews Christian fiction, this was a little jolting. Of course, the author did not categorize his novel as Christian fiction, so this is not something I would count against the story.

I noticed several areas that had typos or other mistakes, but all in all, I enjoyed the story. There is some foul language in the book, so readers who are offended by that, may want to avoid it. However, it doesn’t contain the sexual innuendo and blatant sexual escapades that fill so many books nowadays.

If you enjoy a more serious novel with a  bent towards fantasy, you will enjoy Along the Watchtower.


A Tragic Warrior Lost in Two Worlds…

Author: David Litwack
Publication Date: June 13, 2013
Genre: ContemporaryFantasy (13+)

The war in Iraq ended for Lieutenant Freddie Williams when an IED explosion left his mind and body shattered. Once he was a skilled gamer and expert in virtual warfare. Now he’s a broken warrior, emerging from a medically induced coma to discover he’s inhabiting two separate realities. The first is his waking world of pain, family trials, and remorse—and slow rehabilitation through the tender care of Becky, his physical therapist. The second is a dark fantasy realm of quests, demons, and magic that Freddie enters when he sleeps.
In his dreams he is Frederick, Prince of Stormwind, who must make sense of his horrific visions in order to save his embattled kingdom from the monstrous Horde. His only solace awaits him in the royal gardens, where the gentle words of the beautiful gardener, Rebecca, calm the storms in his soul. While in the conscious world, the severely wounded vet faces a strangely similar and equally perilous mission—a journey along a dark road haunted by demons of guilt and memory—and letting patient, loving Becky into his damaged and shuttered heartmay be his only way back from Hell.

Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Book Depository  |  iBooks  |  Kobo


The urge to write first struck when working on a newsletter at a youth encampment in the woods of northern Maine. It may have been the night when lightning flashed at sunset followed by northern lights rippling after dark. Or maybe it was the newsletter’s editor, a girl with eyes the color of the ocean. But he was inspired to write about the blurry line between reality and the fantastic.

Using two fingers and lots of white-out, he religiously typed five pages a day throughout college and well into his twenties. Then life intervened. He paused to raise two sons and pursue a career, in the process becoming a well-known entrepreneur in the software industry, founding several successful companies. When he found time again to daydream, the urge to write returned. His novels include: There Comes a ProphetAlong the Watchtower, and the newly released The Daughter of the Sea and the Sky.
David and his wife split their time between Cape Cod, Florida and anywhere else that catches their fancy. He no longer limits himself to five pages a day and is thankful every keystroke for the invention of the word processor.
Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads  |  Newsletter



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Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park

After living in west Texas all of my life, I recently visited Big Bend for the first time. The park is enormous, beautiful, and rugged. And deadly.

However, most of those who die in the park come unprepared for the desert. While Big Bend has an abundance of wildlife and plant life, it is a desert. In the summer temperatures soar and water isn’t easily found.

Big Bend

My husband and I visited Big Bend National Park in February. The temperature reached into the mid-eighties. The next day, the highs were in forties, and as we left our hotel, we saw snow flurries. These drastic changes and incredibly hot temperatures in late spring through early fall catch many visitors unaware.

Big Bend

The plants were just starting to bloom when we were there. I snapped a shot of these Bluebonnets growing on the side of the road.


As we left the park, I got a couple of shots of deer. I had to snap quickly or I would’ve missed them.

DeerYou have to look closely to see him, but I snapped it from the side of the road as he took off.

While we were in the park, I bought Death in Big Bend by Laurence Parent. It has seventeen case studies of people who’ve perished or been rescued in Big Bend.

While reading this true book, the idea for a novel came to mind. I’m currently plotting a series of books set in this great park. I hope it intrigues you as much a Big Bend intrigues me.


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