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My newest book, A Calculated Risk, opens in a very unusual setting – a funeral.  Certainly not the typical scene to hook the readers and make them want to keep turning the page.  But it is at this funeral the male lead’s small and unexpected act of kindness causes the heroine to begin to realize there may be much more to his character than she’d initially thought.

I was in Pensacola, Florida a few days ago to attend my uncle’s funeral.  No, I didn’t meet my prince charming this week.  But I did witness hundreds of people making small and unexpected acts of kindness out of respect for the deceased and those of us mourning our loss.  And our whole family was so appreciative.  From the moment we left the parking lot of the funeral home, through every stop sign and street light as we wove our way through town, and until we pulled into the cemetery overlooking the bay, every single car in traffic stopped.  Even though some streets were several lanes across with a median dividing directional traffic, the other drivers waited until the entire procession had passed.  No one seemed irate that they might be a few minutes late getting to their destination.  No one sped away as soon as the hearse passed by.  It was truly impressive.

So I would like to say thank you.  First to the deputies with the Sherriff’s department, who moved in tandem with such precision as they cleared a path and got us safely to the grave site.  And next I want to thank the citizens and general public of the city of Pensacola.  It was a small thing.  But by pausing patiently in traffic, you showed respect and compassion.

It didn’t go unnoticed.

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fallWell, technically it starts tomorrow.  But it’s close enough.  I love the fall season. It’s a chance to relax and enjoy life at a slower pace before the holiday madness begins.

We’ll finally get a break from the high humidity and heat, even if we do have to sacrifice an hour or two of daylight in the evening.  Football is back in full swing. The fair comes to town. There are lots of movie premieres to look forward to. And my family starts planning the annual Halloween party.

And one of the best ways to relax in the cooler weather is sitting on the patio with a big mug of coffee while reading a good book.

Any recommendations?       coffee book

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UPDATE:  A Calculated Risk had its release day September 16, 2014!!

It is now available for purchase.  Thanks to everyone who supported me during the writing process, and to those who have already gotten their copy.

http://www.amazon.com/Calculated-Risk-Joan-Chandler-ebook/dp/B00NIDCMBQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1411005877&sr=8-1&keywords=calculated+risk+joan+chandler

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-calculated-risk-joan-chandler/1120357308?ean=2940150314450

http://store.secretcravingspublishing.com/index.php?main_page=book_info&cPath=4&products_id=942

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Some exciting news!  I have signed with Secret Cravings Publishing for my next book, A Calculated Risk. I have just finished the second round of edits, so it’s moving along quickly now.  My release date is scheduled for some time in September, if all goes well. I will be sharing more about this in the coming weeks. ACalculatedRisk_Draft

  Dawne’ Dominique has done a beautiful job with my cover.  I love it!!

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It’s almost a new year, and there is much to look forward to in 2014.  But before the stroke of midnight tomorrow, I have been reflecting on the blessings of 2013.

2013

The biggest surprise has to do with my father.  We’ve had him for a full year, and last Christmas we were all expecting him to have only a matter of weeks left.  But the fact he made it to another Christmas isn’t what has surprised us all so much.  It’s the fact that his quality of life is so much better!  My grandfather was a Pentecostal minister.  I grew up hearing stories of real miracles.  I know that doctors are just God’s instruments, and that He ultimately decides the number of our days.  But to see my father off of oxygen, not using a walker any more, and actually planning a short trip to the hunting camp (where he’ll relax in the cabin – not in the woods 🙂  ) is truly amazing.  The disease is still present, but he is enjoying his days, and I am so thankful.

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I’ve got a new hobby this year, and I’m loving it.  “Hobby” isn’t the right word, but it’s as good as any, I suppose.  I’ve discovered the world of horseback riding!  No, I’m not taking lessons.  But my daughter started them at the end of summer and I go out with her every week.  The stables where she takes lessons are so picturesque.  The two story barn is gorgeous.  The acres and acres of pasture are vibrant green, with white fences around them and beautiful pink and red flowers planted everywhere.  The horses are so beautiful and strong.  After a tough week at work, I can’t tell you how cathartic it is to sit under a tree for a few hours and watch the horses and their riders as I take in the fresh air and the sounds of birds chirping, and the clip-clop of hooves.  It renews me every time.

My son continues to excel at his college experience.  He has made friends that I know will be lifelong ones, and he’s really gotten focused on what he has to do over the next three semesters until graduation.  He has a fresh excitement as he is already getting job offers once he earns his degree.  It’s surreal to watch his ease around “big wigs” that he’s crossed paths with, and to see him parlay those encounters into job offers is something I know I’d NEVER have been able to do at that age.  But he’s smart and charming and interesting, and it’s genuine – not put on.  I’m looking forward to finding out what the future holds for him.  I think the sky’s the limit.

Despite a real rocky end to 2012, by the close of 2013 my extended family has made amends and seems as close as ever.  Or almost anyway.  I’ll settle for almost.  I missed the ones who pulled away a year ago, and am grateful they have come to terms with the things that were bothering them and that they’ve been able to move forward and put it in the past.

Work is still stressful, but the last few months have seemed better.  I don’t know if they are actually better or if I’ve just gotten better at letting the little things slide.  But whatever the reason, I’ve had a better time of it on the job lately, and that’s something I am very thankful for!

job

My mom turned 80 this year, and she is still so in love with life.  She is active, has a huge circle of friends, and is the glue that keeps our family together.  We all love her so much, and we rely on her to be our listening post, shoulder to cry on, keeper of all secrets (what happens on Berwyn stays on Berwyn!!), and prayer warrior.  Oh yeah, and to make the dressing on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day (nobody does it better).

I could go on and on.  It’s easy to focus on what’s wrong in life and miss all  the things that are right.  But once you stop to actually think about the good stuff, you can quickly realize you’ve got it way better than most.  At least I do.  I am blessed. And I know it.

 

 

 

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I haven’t written anything new in ages.  Shortly after my last blog post, the school session began again for my daughter as she started middle school, my son went back to college, there were changes at my job, and life in general got crazy.  Oh yeah, I also wrote a new book.

math

So what inspired me to get back into the cyber world?  Was it to promote my book?  Was it to compare stories with other mothers about the trials and tribulations of trying to help a child with math homework when the methods they teach now are nothing like what we ourselves learned (what the heck are alternative algorithms anyway??)?

Nope, I’m inspired to write again because of a football game.  How I’d love to enthrall you with a tale of how our team pulled off a hail Mary in the last minute of the game, to score a win and advance to a championship game.  But no, that wasn’t our team yesterday…that was the opponent’s story.  Our team lost.

I love college football.  LOVE it!  And as much as I love to cheer for my team, I have never understood how some people act like winning is a matter of life or death.  I still don’t get that.  But I’m having a very hard time shaking the sadness at having witnessed our defeat yesterday.

For one thing, my son and his friend (who spent Thanksgiving with us) were watching it with me.  I got to see how much the game meant to them.  They actually KNOW many of those players, so the loss was not only a major letdown for themselves, but they could only try to imagine the disappointment their friends – the players – were feeling.

After the game ended, we headed out to see my ailing father.  It was a somber mood at his house, too.  We sat together and exchanged a few brief comments about the game. But we were all pretty much suffering in stunned silence, so the room got quiet pretty fast.  But then we turned on ESPN and started watching the next matchup.  Another team still had a shot at a national championship and was fighting for it with everything they had.  The outcome no longer matters to me…my team lost the chance to go, so I don’t really care who wins.

birds singing

But this morning I got up early to start working on month-end closing for the company I work for.  And as I sat at my laptop, doing the final billing for the month, I noticed that outside the window birds were chirping.  The sun was rising, and it had all the makings of a beautiful day.  And my father has lived to see another Thanksgiving, which no one would have bet on a year ago.

Losing a ballgame is hard to take.  Losing one that puts you in a position for your team to potentially make history is heartbreaking.  But you know what?  Life goes on.  The world keeps turning.  There are so many things to redirect your focus toward.  And in focusing on those other things we can remind ourselves that games are, after all, just that – games.  There will be another season.

gridiron

And in the meanwhile, remember that miracles happen all around us every day.  Not just on the gridiron.  Don’t fail to recognize the miracles in your life, and to be thankful.

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We’re past the halfway mark in 2013.  Can you believe it?  How is it possible for time to pass as quickly as it does?

When my holiday romance novel, The Christmas Dare, was released in early December ’12, one of the tag lines in the promotional materials was “Romance is never out of season.”  I didn’t want people to think that this was strictly a Christmas read, simply because that word was in the title.  And I have been pleasantly surprised that I see units sold every single month.  I’m glad other people feel the same way I do about holiday romances.  I can read them any time of the year and get completely swept away in the stories.  In fact, I have been indulging in one of my guilty pleasures this past week…watching the Christmas movies on the Hallmark Channel.  I log a lot of hours every December sitting on my couch and tuning into see whatever romance movie they have scheduled every night during that month.

Merry Christmas

 

So when I was watching Love Begins (based on Janette Oke’s book) last weekend, I was thrilled to see advertisements for their upcoming programs as they celebrated Christmas in July.  My only problem was that there were too many great titles to choose from, and I couldn’t possibly watch them all!  Christmas SongThe Christmas CardHitched for the Holidays A Bride for Christmas.  And, of course, all of Debbie Macomber’s wonderful holiday movies.  And that’s just the tip of the iceberg!  The choices have seemed nearly limitless this week.  Thankfully, I can Tivo them and watch them as I have spare time.  But my DVR is down to only 33% available space.  🙂

In thinking about what a delight it is to have the opportunity to watch Christmas movies in the middle of the year, I was reminded of that tagline for my book.  Romance is never out of season.  We don’t want to be treated special only on birthdays or anniversaries or on Valentine’s Day.  We like to know we’re appreciated and loved all year long.  Similarly, the Christmas spirit shouldn’t be confined only to a few weeks at the close of the calendar year.  We should strive to find ways to give to others all during the year.

I thought about my husband and how he cuts the grass at a vacant house my parents own.  The house has been for sale for ages.  The yard is HUGE – way bigger than our own yard.  But my husband mows the grass, weed eats and edges the lawn faithfully without accepting a dime for all the hours of work that he does.  He considers it a gift to them.

My oldest sister often offers to pick up my mother’s prescriptions at the pharmacy every month.  And if she picks them up, she pays for them.  And never asks to be reimbursed.  My other sister will give her manicures and pedicures.  It’s a way they can give back to Mom.

My colleague’s nine-year-old daughter has a friend whose parents are in the midst of one of the worst custody hearings I’ve ever personally known about.  It all comes to a head this coming week in court.  My friend had a trip to Disney World planned to celebrate her daughter’s birthday.  Even though it wasn’t something she initially intended to do, she included this little girl in her trip to give her a positive diversion in the midst of what could be a life-changing event, depending on the outcome of the hearings.  She told me she felt like it was just something she really needed to do, and even though adding a non-relative to the mix totally changes the dynamics (and adds a lot of expense), she feels like she is doing something very important and worthwhile.  It’s a way she can give something special to this child at a time when it is needed most.

We should all look around us and find ways we can bless others.  Whether you call it giving back, doing a good deed, or paying it forward, it doesn’t really matter.  In the end, regardless of what you’ve done for someone else, you’ll probably be the one who finds the experience most rewarding.

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What if you grew up with an older sister who was obsessed with weddings?  Always sketching out gown designs on scraps of paper.  Constantly doodling elaborately decorated wedding cakes on napkins.  How would that shape your ideas about love and romance?  In my soon to be released Bama Bride, Neal Sinclair has had just such a childhood.  By the time she’s grown, she’s ready for her own Cinderella story.  All she needs is the right Prince Charming.

jc-bamabride-full

She sees him by chance when she fills in at the last minute for her sister, whose bakery – Bama Brides Bake Shoppe – is double booked with two weddings at the same time and  one too few available drivers.  Alas, introductions aren’t an option as he’s tied up taking wedding photos with the other groomsmen, and she has to hurry back to the bakery.

As fate would have it, they wind up at the same Tuscaloosa bar later on, and this time she takes charge of her own destiny by asking him to dance.  But their’s isn’t exactly the stuff of fairy tales, and she discovers that he lives in Boston, and only has one night in town before he returns home.

But the chemistry they share isn’t easily extinguished, and they both find that distance doesn’t have to be a deal breaker.  What begins as a more “old fashioned” romance, with long phone calls and frequent texts and emails, grows into something that begins to feel like it might actually stand the test of time if given the chance.

Circumstances contrive to keep them apart, but it might just take a force of nature to finally bring them together for good!

Bama Bride is set for an April 17 release, through Bookstrand Publishing.

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