Military Fiction Giveaway

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Military fiction can be hit or miss and I hesitate to read or recommend stories about something so close to my heart. As a military wife I tread lightly when it comes to endorsing fiction that depicts the reality of my life and the lives of my extended military family spread out across all military branches.

This is where author, Ronie Kendig, raises the bar. Her Quiet Professionals Series takes readers on a fictional adventure with Special Forces Raptor team. The authenticity of setting and the rigors of battle-worn soldiers color every page of the story giving readers a “boots on the ground” experience they won’t likely forget. It’s military fiction at its best.

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And I’m so excited to giveaway a signed copy of Falcon. The third and last installment wraps up Raptor team’s mission in Afghanistan and promises to keep you turning pages to find out how it all ends. There are lots of chances for you to enter:  Like my Facebook Fan Page,  Follow me on Twitter, or sign up for my blog, and then leave a comment with your email. On May 31 a winner will be announced!

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American Heroes Don’t Always Wear A Uniform

In Washington D.C. it’s impossible not to be reminded of the heroics shown by the men and women who wear a uniform. But sometimes heroes don’t wear a uniform…and sometimes they’re under five feet tall. I’m talking about the military child.

photo 3photo 4I don’t have to look far to see some of my biggest heroes. My own children have moved more times than they can remember; have left friends and made new friends; have cried when their daddy deployed; laughed when their daddy returned; prayed when there was no word. They have passports  stamped in languages they don’t understand and don’t know how to answer when someone asks, “Where’s home?” Most of their friends don’t understand the life and it’s hard sometimes for them to fit in but they stand tall next to their uniformed hero and to me they’re the most resilient, courageous, and honorable heroes I know.

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First Deployment 3 days after our son was born.

894604I found a book called 100 Days and 99 Nights by Alan Madison. This cute story is about Esmerelda Swishback McCarther, the daughter of an Army soldier who deploys to war. Esme details what 100 days and 99 nights is like without her daddy. The book made me laugh, cry, and reminded me what the littlest heroes go through. It reminded me of every deployment our family faced throughout the years.

Homecoming after third deployment.

Homecoming after third deployment.

I’m so proud of my little heroes and of all the military children I know.

The Military Child

The official flower of the military child is the dandelion. Why? The plant puts down roots almost

anywhere, and it’s almost impossible to destroy. It’s an unpretentious plant, yet good looking.

It’s a survivor in a broad range of climates. Military children bloom everywhere the winds carry

them. They are hardy and upright. Their roots are strong, cultivated deeply in the culture of the

military, planted swiftly and surely. They’re ready to fly in the breezes that take them to new

adventures, new lands, and new friends.

Experts say that military children are well-rounded, culturally aware, tolerant, and extremely

resilient. Military children have learned from an early age that home is where their hearts are,

that a good friend can be found in every corner of the world and in every color, and that

education doesn’t only come from school. They live history. They learn that to survive means to

adapt, that the door that closes one chapter of their life opens up to a new and exciting

adventure full of new friends and new experiences.

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Me and my heroes!

So excited to announce the winner of Ronie Kendig’s A Breed Apart Trilogy! Congratulations Ann McPherson Badder!! You’ll be receiving an email shortly. Thanks to everyone who entered and be sure to check out next week’s giveaway of Ronie’s latest release in her Quiet Professionals series, Falcon. 

A Breed Apart

22571323Last week I shared the incredible stories of two Military Mamas making a difference in the world wherever the military sends them and I was led to honor a different kind of hero. The canine hero.  Author, Ronie Kendig, introduces readers to them through her trilogy, A Breed Apart

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The A Breed Apart Trilogy follows the story of three canine heroes. Trinity: Military War DogTalon: Combat Tracking TeamBeowulf: Explosives Detection Dog. This suspense trilogy will have you turning the pages to find out what happens next but if you don’t believe me then ask Emilie Hendryx. A fellow author who will tell you it was this series that locked Ronie Kendig into her “Must Read” list. Here’s what she has to say:

images-1“I have found a new author-crush! Ronie Kendig has completely rocked my world with her novel, Talon: Combat Tracking Team from her A Breed Apart series. Honestly, there aren’t enough good things I could say about this novel. Exhilarating action from page one. Characters that you can relate to. A plot you couldn’t hope to anticipate. And a loveable dog–what more could you ask for?”-Emilie HendryxBeowulf

 

 

With such a spectacular review how can I not offer you a chance to read these incredible stories? Check out my  a Rafflecopter giveaway and earn entries for your chance to win a SIGNED COPY of A Breed Apart trilogy. I promise you won’t want to miss out on the adventure these four-legged warriors take you on.

RonieKendigHeadshot-200x300Ronie Kendig is an award-winning, bestselling author who grew up an Army brat. After twenty-plus years of marriage, she and her hunky hero husband have a full life with four children and a Maltese Menace in Northern Virginia. Author and speaker, Ronie loves engaging readers through her Rapid-Fire Fiction novels. 

If you’re a fan of Ronie’s check back soon because I’ll be giving away a signed copy of her latest release Falcon. If you love our military you will LOVE her Rapid-Fire Fiction!!

Military Mamas Making A Difference

It’s not hard to understand how difficult life in the military can be. Long deployments away from the ones you love; starting from scratch with every new move; avoiding the questions blockheaded civilians ask to distance ourselves from the reality of the answers. All of it is hard. It takes a special breed of women to take on the military life whether they don the uniform or support the man who does-they are one-in-a-million.

And so I want to honor two of these Military Mamas today on my blog. These women have shown that no matter where the Army (in this case) sends them, they thrive and make a difference in the world around them.

Elizabeth Smith 

Liz Smith has run more than 100 races, competed in close to 75 half marathons in the last 7 or 8 years but nothing compares to the joy she gets crossing the finish line as one of Ainsley's Angels.

Liz Smith has run more than 100 races, competed in close to 75 half marathons in the last 7 or 8 years but nothing compares to the joy she gets crossing the finish line as one of Ainsley’s Angels.

Joining the Army, Liz, knew running was required but she dreaded it. As a child she preferred swimming or martial arts…really, anything but running. However, in the Army, a soldier must always be combat ready and that meant running. A new assignment landed her with a new boss who LOVED running. Like five miles a day five times a week kind of love. She couldn’t and wouldn’t let her new boss down. Hooah!! It didn’t take Liz long to embrace the challenge and discover that running relieved her stress. Twenty years later she has developed into an elite athlete with an elite purpose.

While deployed in Afghanistan Liz became the unofficial ambassador for the Rock-n-Roll Half Marathon series. With only a starter group of four they quickly grew to over 250 participants competing in each race across four bases in country. Racking up more than 1200 miles in 12 months, she completed 17 half marathons and 50 virtual runs of varying distances but her goal was never in the mileage-it was in encouraging a new runner cross the finish line.

unnamed-2Returning from Afghanistan Liz’s purpose for running shifted. In 2014, she offered her legs to one of Ainsley’s Angels. An organization started by an Active Duty Marine whose daughter has Infantile Neuroaxanol Dystrophy (INAD). The organization’s mission is inclusion by offering individuals with disabilities the freedom to take part in endurance events. “Angels” offer their legs to serve as the rider/athlete’s legs and Liz got her chance to be an angel in September 2014. She pushed Chandler “Bean” for seven miles during the Washington Ragnar Relay-a 200 mile team run from Maryland to Washington D.C. Honored by the experience of watching “Bean’s” joy she now serves as a national ambassador for the organization.

Liz’s love for running and people has inspired her daughter, Katie, to follow in mom’s footsteps. She, too, has become an ambassador for Ainsley’s Angels and has already served as an angel twice in March. Katie is now training for her first half marathon where she can push a chair with an athlete and a message about inclusion. Liz is incredibly proud of her daughter’s selflessness but I think it goes without saying, “like mother-like daughter.”

 

Natalie Voss

Natalie has been supporting her soldier hero since 1995, along with their children Wyatt and Cammie.

Natalie has been supporting her soldier hero since 1995, along with their children Wyatt and Cammie.

Military movement is hard on every member in the family, including the furry family members. If you visit an animal shelter near any military installation it won’t be hard to find a family pet abandoned because of a move or deployment. This is where Natalie shines!

After adopting their dogs Dottie and Hatcher through the Humane Society near Ft. Hood in 1998, it didn’t take long for Natalie and her entire family to fall in love with precious “fur babies” discarded into the streets.

A military assignment to Indiana started their journey into fostering when they became a part of Houndsong, a beagle and coonhound resuce out of Hammond, IN. Their first rescue, Sully, was a Bluetick beagle. Fostering him for two months and finding him a forever home turned the Voss family into canine heroes!

It's a family affair to rescue.

It’s a family affair to rescue.

Since then, Natalie and her family have rescued around 120 dogs giving them a second chance at life. Many of the families who adopt her rescued “fur babies” keep in touch with Natalie sharing pictures through Facebook about how their new furry family member is thriving and adding joy to their lives.

Of course, Natalie has had a couple of foster “fails”, meaning a few of her rescues have melted her heart and the heart of her stalwart soldier leading to several new Voss family members. Gunnar, Primrose, Periwinkle, and Sandy joined the family through the years and have become poster pups spreading the word about how important it is to save a dog and adopt.

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Natalie’s family has embraced her love of rescue and participate in several rescue events in their area to raise awareness and money for animal rescue. They are currently working with Rescued Pets Movement rescuing animals from Houston area shelters and then fostering them until healthy enough to travel to their new forever families.

“The ways in which people treat animals will be reflected in how people relate to one another.”-William Greider.

Natalie’s treatment with these abandoned souls is reflective of her loving, generous, and selfless personality. There aren’t many times when you can look and see an angel on earth but I know each of those big puppy dog eyes that look up at her from a cage know what I know-she is an angel.

 

It has been my great honor and pleasure to honor these Military Mamas for the work they do as well as supporting and protecting our military. It is my hope that you will check out the links to the organizations they are involved with and be inspired to support making the world a better place. As part of this special honor I will be sending a small token of my gratitude for the difference they are making along with a donation to each of their organizations.

Don’t miss next week’s post when I introduce you to MWDs. Don’t know what an MWD is? Well, it’s another military hero…of the canine variety. Author, Ronie Kendig, will introduce you to her series A Breed Apart, a trilogy of stories about these awesome four-legged war heros along with your chance to win a signed copy!

Keep up the good work Mamas!! Hooah!

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Warm Lentil Soup with Homemade Pita Bread

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I’m so excited to add something new to my blog. I love to cook. Well, that’s not true. While I do love cooking I find there are days when I love it less-like when I’m busy, tired, overworked, and out of ideas for something new. But I love taking raw ingredients and creating something amazing!! And let me tell you, cooking gives instant results. They may not always be great results but within a couple of hours or less there is a result. Unlike writing, which seems to take days, weeks, months, and even years before any results can be seen much less amazing results.

Because I’m a busy momma I love finding recipes that are simple. Even better I love finding recipes that are simple and delicious. And better than that, recipes that are simple, delicious, and look amazing-like Gordon-Ramsay-put-me-on-Master-Chef amazing! Ok, I might be tooting my horn a bit but they do look pretty darn good and that’ll make you look pretty darn amazing!

When my family moved to Cairo, Egypt, I hate to admit this but I was very nervous about trying new foods. But at the urging of my dear friend we went to lunch and I ordered what I thought was the safest bet, lentil soup. Warm pita bread, a squeeze of lime juice and I was hooked. So when my sister shared this recipe with me I hoped it would take me back to that small cafe on Road 9 in Maadi.

IMG_9620Lentil Soup*

3 tbsp olive oil, plus more for drizzling          1 lg. onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced                                       1 tbsp. tomato paste

1 tsp. ground cumin                                            1/4 tsp. Kosher salt

1/4 tsp. ground black pepper                            pinch of ground chili powder or cayenne, more to taste

1 qt. chicken or vegetable broth                       1 cup of red lentils

1 lg. carrot, peeled and diced                             lime wedges and chopped cilantro to taste (optional)

Directions:

1. In large pot heat 3 tbsp. of oil over high heat until hot and shimmering. Add onion and garlic, saute until golden, about 4 minutes.

2. Stir in tomato paste, cumin salt, pepper, chili powder or cayenne, and saute for 2 minutes longer.

3. Add broth, 2 cups of water, lentils and carrot. Bring to a simmer. Then partially cover pot and turn heat to medium-low. Simmer until lentils are soft, about 30 minutes.

4. Using an immersion blender or regular blender, puree half of the soup and then add back to pot. Soup should be somewhat chunky. (I used an immersion blender directly in the pot and found the soup to be the perfect consistency-small chunks of carrots still remained).

5. Reheat soup if necessary. Serve soup drizzled with good olive oil, a squeeze of lime juice, and cilantro.

This recipe made just enough for my husband, teenage son, and I to have a full bowl serving. In the future I would double and probably triple it so I’ll have enough to enjoy all week-long. Yes! It’s that good!!

IMG_9615If you’re like me then you can’t eat soup without some warm bread. I       found an amazingly simple pita bread recipe that will make you look like the superstar you are!

Pita Bread Recipe* courtesy of Chef John and Allrecipes.com

 

So are you ready to be a rock star in the kitchen? Try this recipe and tell me what you think? Better yet, post a picture and show me your AMAZING results!!

Screen shot 2015-02-12 at 12.14.06 PM*Disclaimer: I do not claim any recipes as my own and when possible will give links and/or acknowledgment to creator or recipe site.

 

Carmen Santiago Needs A Dress

Needing a break from the 3,000 plus words I’m writing every day for NaNoWriMo I decided to do something fun. This in no way is me procrastinating from today’s wordcount…

My character, Carmen Santiago, is attending the ambassador’s gala and needs a dress. Help her choose by voting for your favorite. Here are her options:

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BGT8GNR_mz

RE15-LOOK-10

Go to my Facebook page to cast your vote. Winning dress will be announced on November 15th.

Thanks for voting!!

A Generation Self-Destructing Part 2

10408851_10152857369831204_55059121126255114_nSo do you have ten friends? Did you pick which two will kill themselves this year? Is that too harsh? Sadly, it’s reality and one I hope we can change. Last week I shared the devastating statistics of suicide. Today I’m going to discuss what I believe is an epidemic threatening the lives of our children and our future. Bullying.

When I was in second grade I had a friend, a best friend, who I thought the world of. She was pretty, popular, and had lots of friends and I wanted to be just like her. So when she included me in her circle of friends I was elated. I was the scrawny girl with wavy brown hair and thick glasses. I was not the first choice in the friend department. This was a huge deal.

However, my friend, my best friend, wasn’t nice. She was cold and calculated in her words and was unkind to me but because I was desperate for friendship, I took it. But I couldn’t take it for long. Without fail after the lunch bell rang I would make my way to the nurse’s office with a stomach ache. It was real. My stomach hurt and the nurse would call my mom or grandma to come and get me because it hurt bad enough I couldn’t return to class…and face my best friend.

Looking back it’s clear I was bullied. Back then bullying happened but not to the extent it does now. Back then I was able to go home and hide in safety from the taunts and teasing. That is not the case for kids these days. Nowadays there is nowhere our children can go to get away from the bullies. With the age of technology we have given bullies the lifeline to continue their harassment until the lifeline is ended…permanently.

According to NOBullying.com “Bullied victims are 7 to 9% more likely to consider suicide according to a study by Yale University.” “According to a study by ABC News over 30,000 children stay home every day due to the fear of being bullied.” “According to the Center for Disease Control, cyber bullying suicide rates accounts for 4,400 deaths in teens and younger children each and every year. The suicide rate due to bullying is the third highest cause of death in young people throughout the country.”

Our children, mine, yours, this generation is facing an epidemic of self-destruction. We need not worry about our children dying in war-they’re killing themselves. Did you hear me? They are killing themselves. Unlike my experience, kids cannot escape the torment coming from the “mean kids” when they leave school. Comments like:

“You’re ugly.”

“Nobody likes you.”

“You should go drink bleach and die.”*

Follow them through text messages, the Internet, and social media sites and the result is devastating. Sticks and stones may break bones but words…they’re capable of killing.

As adults we should be afraid of a generation of “mean kids” saying whatever they want without understanding the effect of their words. As parents we should consider these statistics a call to arms. If you don’t think your child has experienced being bullied you might want to think again. “83 percent of all girls claim to have some sort of harassment growing up, while 79 percent of boys experience the same harassment.” Those numbers show it is very likely your child may have been a victim at some point. Even more disturbing is the fact that those rates are climbing, which ensures your child WILL be bullied at some point.

These children are our future. They are the next generation of CEO’s, inventors, government leaders and they are killing themselves. We need to protect our greatest asset-the lives of our children-our future depends on it.

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Resources:

Count Me In: Parent’s Guide to Prevent Bullying

How Parents Can Help Avoid Bullies

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide please clink this link and talk to someone who can help.

A Generation Self-Destructing: Part 1

96c0613b380e92217549e508ec4f3fb7I’ll be upfront. I’m on a soapbox. I can’t help it. Yesterday I received an email from the principal of my children’s school informing me that a young lady committed suicide on Wednesday night. Since moving to Northern Virginia this is the fifth student from the two schools my children attend. The fifth. In less than two years.

I believe we are witnessing a generation self-destructing. According to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, the CDC states, “Suicide was the tenth leading cause of death for all ages in 2010. There were 38, 364 suicides in 2010 in the United States—an average of 105 each day.” 105 deaths a day. Do you know 105 people? Do you know 525 people? Look at your social media numbers. Now imagine those friends killing themselves. All of them. Morbid, I know but it’s time we acknowledge the morbidity of what is happening in front of our eyes.

I don’t know if you have been affected by suicide but my guess, with the statistics I just cited is, yes, you probably have been. It’s a horrible experience. And it’s one facing our children daily. “Among 15-24 year olds, suicide accounts for 20% of all deaths annually.” Numbers and statistics can seem impersonal, sterile, so let me bring it closer to home. Does your child have 10 friends? Pick which 2 will kill themselves this year. Does that make you cringe? It should. It should make you angry. It makes me angry. It also makes me very, very sad.

I want to do something. I cannot just sit here and watch our future self implode. I can’t pretend to know every reason why someone makes this terminal decision but I can tell you that I am familiar with many of the reasons. I have lost friends to suicide. Our family has grieved over the devastation of suicide. Our family has experienced the uncertainty of watching a loved one who is desperate, hopeless, and seeking relief to look at suicide as an answer.

Suicide is not the answer. It will never be the answer. It is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. But the bigger problem is what are we going to do about it. How are we going to stop it? Can it be stopped? As I look into the faces of children my answer is, “I hope so,” because one more person lost to suicide is one too many.

I will finish my soapbox tirade with a quote from the father of my daughter’s classmate who took his life last year. “There was something going on his mind, but he didn’t give me a chance to do anything.” The reasons for suicide are vast and often hard to understand but this our chance to do something about it. We have a chance to do something about it. We have a chance to speak life into the lives of those around us. Are you willing?

*If you or someone you know is thinking or talking about suicide please don’t wait until it’s too late. Call 1-800-273-8255 and talk to someone who can help you. Life is worth the fight.National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Redemption: Needing a Hero

I recently finished my first novel and sent it out into the world of editors and agents. As I wait for the feared rejection letter or hope for the call of acceptance I have finally found time to catch up on all the shows I keep seeing my friends post about on social media.

The two new shows that have my attention are Blacklist and Scandal-both of which I’m watching on Netflix.

Both shows have some similarities: The setting is in Washington D.C. (for the most part); the main plot revolves around someone who “fixes” things (Olivia Pope for Scandal and Raymond Reddington for Blacklist); the secondary cast of characters are about as flawed as one can imagine (seriously); and finally, there’s a never-ending list of criminals, thugs, politicians in dire need of their sinful behavior to be “fixed”.

But there is one big, HUGE, difference that I’m seeing between the two shows and that’s redemption. As a writer it’s important that I create characters with real struggles but it’s just as important to show redemption. Now, before you ask me what bubble my head is stuck in or what rock I live under, believe me when I say that I know the world is not all bubble gum and rainbows. Believe me, I know. However, there is a belief I hold strong to and that is: No one is beyond redemption. No one. Not even the villain. Don’t believe me? Let me give you some examples.

Hannibal Lecter chose to help F.B.I Agent Clarice Starling find Buffalo Bill.

Gru puts the moon back and decides being a father to three orphans is better than being a despicable villain.

Raymond Reddington emerges from thin air to help capture high-profile criminals while getting close to his daughter (okay, I’m guessing on the daughter part but don’t tell me if I’m wrong. Remember I’m still watching the first season!)

Those are only a few examples but they prove my point. Their character can be redeemed. However, they also have a choice and that’s what makes good fiction, whether it’s in a book, on television, or in a movie. The villain, or any character, has a choice. They can choose the path of redemption or they can stay their course and pay the price. My point is that the choice of redemption is available.

Now back to the difference between Scandal and Blacklist. As I mentioned in my example, Raymond Reddington struggles with the choices of redemption and secretly we’re (or at least I am) rooting for him to become the good guy we believe he can be. But in Scandal…well, let’s just say I have yet to see any redemptive behavior in any of the characters. Not even Olivia Pope. You could argue that her “fixing” does have some redemptive qualities but when you see who she’s “fixing” there’s nothing really redeeming about it. She’s hiding, diverting attention, lying, and she has a village of “gladiators in suits” helping her. Because of this my intent to continue watching this show is quickly diminishing. Who wants to watch humanity self-destruct?

HeroI want a hero. I want someone who is flawed and struggling to rise above it and make the choice to do what’s right. To choose the path of redemption, even if there are setbacks. I need to see the possibility that someone can change and become a better person. I need to know the world is not full of scandalous people but that from among the sinful a few, or even one, will be the hope necessary to bring back faith in humanity.

What do you think? Is redemption of character something you look for in books, television shows, or movies? Can you think of any examples in which redemption of character was absent in something you read or watched recently? 

Moms, Soldiers, Writers…and Green Chile

Good Morning! Today on When Readers Write I shared a short story on how I found my people in the middle of Virginia and in the midst of a writers conference. I also shared with you my love for one of God’s best creation-green chile. Here’s one of my favorite recipes that I used on those crazy MOPs mornings as I struggled to get three kids dressed and ready so this momma could have a few moments with God and conversation with people over the age of five. 

New Mexico Green Chile

New Mexico Green Chile

Green Chile Egg and Cheese Squares

8 oz. Monterey Jack Cheese (you can substitute your favorite cheese)

8 oz. Sharp Cheddar Cheese (see note above about cheese)

16-18 oz. Green Chile-chopped (you can used mild, medium, or hot, or a mixture)*

12 eggs

Preheat oven to 350*. In 9×13 dish layer 8oz. of cheese, green chiles, and then another layer of 8oz. of cheese. Use chile juice** to beat eggs and then pour eggs over cheese and chile. Bake for 45 minutes or until center is firm to touch (because this is an egg dish the center may not firm completely until dish cools). Cut into squares and serve.

*Green chile may be purchased from local grocery stores in the ethnic frozen food section. **When chile is thawed use the juice to beat with eggs.

Is there a familiar recipe that reminds you of home? 

Natalie WaltersNatalie Walters is a freelance writer and blogger who resides wherever the Army sends her. She has written for many online publications and has been published in P31 Woman magazine. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and the Christian Writers Guild. Her travels across the world give her stories the rich details that help immerse her readers in the adventure of high stakes, personal struggle, and page-turning suspense.