Today is a very exciting day—I’ve been celebrating the release of my newest book, My S.E.D. Label, the last few days and the final day that you can download a FREE copy from Amazon is today. To help me celebrate, I’ve invited some awesome author friends to a "Character Driven" Blog Party. We’ll have book giveaways and you’ll have time to chat with the authors. The party will run all day into early evening with six different posts. So, let’s meet everyone. 

J.F. Jenkins lives in Minneapolis Minnesota with her husband, son, and two cats. She graduated from Bethel University in 2006 with a degree in Media Communication with minors in both writing and film. When she is not busy writing, she spends her free time playing games, reading, and spending time with her family. She will be doing a book giveaway!  J.F. Jenkins Website  J.F. Jenkins Blog: A Dragon's Love  Find J.F. Jenkins on Facebook  Find J.F. Jenkins on Twitter

Patricia Kiyono taught music, elementary classrooms, and middle school before retiring so she could travel and write. She now teaches part time at a nearby university to fund her travels. Her trips inspire her stories. She lives in southwest Michigan with her husband, near her children and grandchildren. Patricia Kiyono's Website  Patricia Kiyono's Blog: Creative Hodgepodge  Find Patricia Kiyono on Facebook  Find Patricia Kiyono on Twitter

Chynna Laird is a freelance writer and multi award-winning author. Her passion is helping children and families living with Sensory Processing Disorder and other special needs. She’s authored a children’s book, two memoirs, a Young Adult novella, a YA paranormal suspense novel and an adult Suspense/Thriller. She will be doing a book giveaway with the option of  signed copies of Not Just Spirited: A Mom’s Sensational Journey With SPD, White Elephants, or Out Of Sync or Blackbird Flies in Kindle.  Chynna Laird's Website Chynna Laird's Blog: See the White Elephants  Chynna Laird's Blog: The Gift
Find Chynna Laird on Facebook  Find Chynna Laird on Twitter

Brea Essex was born in Gilroy, California, called the “Garlic Capital of the World”. She graduated college with a degree in Medical Assisting. She lives near San Jose, CA with her husband, their dog and three cats, and enough books to start a library.
Brea Essex's Website  Brea Essex's Blog  Find Brea Essex on Facebook  Find Brea Essex on Twitter

Joselyn Vaughn lives in the Great Lakes state with her husband, three rambunctious children and two barking Beagles. When not suffering the woes of potty training three toddler/preschoolers, she enjoys reading, running (sometimes it's fleeing the potty training), reconstructing clothing, thrift store shopping and surfing She will be doing a book giveaway: A PDF of Hauntings of the Heart.  Joselyn Vaughn's Website  Joselyn Vaughn's Blog  Find Joselyn Vaughn on Facebook  Find Joselyn Vaughn on Twitter

Ruth J. Hartman is a published author and a licensed dental hygienist. She lives in rural Indiana with her husband of 29 years and their two very spoiled cats. Ruth’s sweet, humorous romances revolve around dentistry, cats, or both. She will be doing an eBook giveaway of "Better Than Catnip." More about her books and writing can be found at Ruth Hartman's Website & Blog  Find Ruth Hartman on Facebook

Author Tara Manderino loves to create stories and situations for the people running around in her head. She first began writing in third grade when she realized she couldn't afford her reading habit. Tara also likes to bake, watch old movies, and do a variety of crafts. She will be doing a book giveaway: Soul Guardian. It can be downloaded from SmashwordsBe sure to enter the coupon code on checkout, making the ebook free. Promotional price: $0.00  Coupon Code: QR72W  Expires: May 28, 2012  Tara Manderino's Website  Tara Manderino's Blog: Living with the Muse Find Tara Manderino on Facebook  Find Tara Manderino on Twitter

A former English teacher, Lynette Sofras left teaching two years ago to focus on her writing.  Her first award-winning contemporary romance was ‘The Apple Tree’ published last December.  ‘Wishful Thinking’, released April 2012 reached No. 1 in the UK Amazon Kindle lists.  ‘In Loving Hate’, a romantic suspense, is due in October. She is happy to offer a Kindle edition of either ‘The Apple Tree’ or ‘Wishful Thinking’ as preferred.  Lynette Sofras' Blog  Find Lynette Sofras on Facebook  Find Lynette Sofras on Twitter

Multi published romance author Sherry Gloag adds a twist to her stories when she takes her readers to the heart of romance. She also enjoys crafting, reading, walking and gardening, and loves to hear from her readers. She will be doing a book giveaway: PDF versions of Valentine Novella The Wrong Target.  Sherry Gloag's Website  Sherry Gloag's Blog: The Heart of Romance  Find Sherry Gloag on Facebook  Find Sherry Gloag on Twitter   

Lindsay Downs: After much trial and a lot of errors I developed my own, I sincerely hope, unique style or voice. Of course, my style now includes writing parts of my books in a POV which threw my editor for a loop until she realized that a collie was the hero of the stories. Lindsey is doing a book giveaway: either a Kindle or Nook version of A Body in the Attic.  
Lindsey Downs' Blog: Murders and Mysteries  Connect on Facebook  

So excited to get this chat going…let’s begin with J.F. Jenkins. If two of your characters (from two different novels) went out for coffee, what would they talk about? Would they become fast friends?

J.F. Jenkins:  It depends on the two characters. Today I'm going to be focusing on the characters of Denver, Orlando, and Darien. All of which are from different books. Denver and Orlando would get along. I don't think either of them would be friends with Darien though. He's too much of a softie for their tastes, as well as too 'good'.

Patricia, what if two of your characters (from two different novels) went out for coffee, what would they talk about? Would they become fast friends?

Patricia Kiyono:  The characters from my three stories are very different, but if two of them were to have anything in common, it would probably be Leigh (from The Legacy) and Francie (from Aegean Intrigue), because they're closer in age. Jess (from The Christmas Phoenix) is in her late thirties and has a teenage son, but Leigh and Francie are both in their mid-twenties, both college graduates, and both interested in other cultures. I guess they'd talk about traveling, comparing the different places they've been or read about, and of course, they'd talk about the men in their lives!

Chynna, what about your characters?

Chynna Laird:  I think if Payton from Blackbird Flies and Freesia from my upcoming YA suspense/paranormal Dark Water they would have a lot to talk about. They have both gone through a lot at very young ages and passionate about moving forward despite the odds they’ve faced. Plus they both have wicked sense of humor. It would be a lot of fun.

Brea, how important is physical appearance of the characters in your books? Do you have a specific reason for creating a character with red hair or greens eyes etc.?

Brea Essex:  With Logan and Andrei from Foreshadow, I wanted to stay away from the typical blonde hero and dark-haired villain. So, my hero has the dark hair, and my antagonist is blonde. Also, Logan's eyes are green because it's Rae's favorite color. 

Joselyn, tell us what would happen to two of your characters? Would they become fast friends?

Joselyn Vaughn:  So far all my books are inter-related, so most of the characters are friends or at least acquaintances. Most likely they would talk about the rest of the characters, but I doubt any of it would be true.

Let’s go to another question. Ruth, if you could change one personality trait or character flaw of one of your characters, what would you change and why?

Ruth J. Hartman:  Roxy is a total klutz. Sometimes that can be embarrassing!

I’ve been known to have my klutzy moments…definitely embarrassing but now recalled with smiles! I think we’re going back to the first question for a moment. Looks like Tara wanted to add something.

Tara Manderino:  I can picture Lucien, the vampire from Soul Guardian, and Tyler, from my inspirational romance, Taking Chances, getting along just fine. In spite of appearing to be different sides of the coin, Lucien and Tyler have a lot in common. Both believe God and goodness hold the answers they seek. Faith plays a major role for both of them, and I could see they could get into a great philosophical discussion.

Philosophical discussions…I’d love to eavesdrop on that conversation. Lynette, did you want to respond?

Lynette Sofras:  If Juliet from The Apple Tree, met Christian from Wishful Thinking, I suspect they wouldn’t understand the first thing about each other!  She’d probably like Greg from my WIP though, as he’s witty, intelligent and so full of confidence, he would probably force her to take stock of her life much sooner than she does.

Sherry, how do you think your characters would fare if you paired them up differently—for example, heroine from your first novel with let’s say, hero in your current release or any other way you’d dream up, shaking the status quo of your novels?

Sherry Gloag:  Wow this is an interesting question. I am going to take the heroine from my first published story, The Brat, published by The Wild Rose Press in Oct. 2010 and pair her up with Prince Henri, the hero in my current novella, His Chosen Bride, published by Astraea Press in Feb. 2012. Oddly enough I think they would have made an interesting paring. Trudi battles against selective amnesia so has no recollection of her daughter’s father, and Prince Henri doesn’t care who he marries and until he meets Monica, was prepared to accept his father’s choice of bride as the future queen of his country.

Lindsay, if you changed the name of one of the characters in your novels, would that impact the storyline or not?

Lindsay Downs:  I don’t think changing a character’s name would impact the story. I tend not to choose names based on the individual. Many times I’ll pick a name out of thin air, unless they are from another country. Only then will I look for names that are familiar to that country.

Some of my characters’ names have important meanings in my books, but not all of them.

J.F. Jenkins, if you could change one personality trait or character flaw of one of your characters, what would you change and why?

J.F. Jenkins:  I honestly don't think I would. Why? Because that flaw is one of the things that makes the character unique. For example, Tai, my female lead in “Legend of the Oceina Dragon” drives me up a wall. But if I did anything to change her, to fix her flaws, she would no longer be Tai and the things that are beautiful about her would no longer exist.

Patricia, how do you think your characters would fare if you paired them up differently?

Patricia Kiyono:  Thinking of the couples in my stories, I can't imagine a different pairing actually working in the long run, but if it was just a matter of attraction, it might be Francie (Aegean Intrigue) and Andy (The Legacy) because of Andy's samurai heritage. Since Francie is an archaeologist, she would be interested in his past, and Andy might be drawn to Francie's intelligence and drive. But in the long run, I'm not sure they would work as a couple. They wouldn't have much in common.

Chynna, if you could change one personality trait or character flaw of one of your characters, what would you change and why?

Chynna Laird:  I don’t think I’d change anything about any of my characters, even the bad guys. If I did it would change who they were, how they interacted with the other characters and essentially change the story a bit too. Nope. I like them all exactly the way they are…flaws and all.

Brea, if you could change one personality trait or character flaw of one of your characters, what would you change and why?

Brea Essex:  I'd make Logan from Foreshadow more sarcastic. I enjoy what sarcasm he does have, but I wish I'd ramped it up.

Joselyn, if you had to pick one secondary character from any of your novels—to fashion a novel around, with him or her as the main character—who would you select and why?

Joselyn Vaughn:  I’ve done this in almost all of my books. Sucker for a Hot Rod focuses on the romance of Judi and Bryce from CEOs Don’t Cry. Minnie in Hauntings of the Heart is featured in Sucker for a Hot Rod and CEOs Don’t Cry. It has been a lot of fun to explore the backgrounds of the other characters, especially Minnie. She had so many things in her history that I never imagined as I wrote CEOs Don’t Cry.

Ruth, what about your characters?

Ruth J. Hartman:  Teresa Lynn. She’s Roxy’s best friend and deserves her own story.

I think David, Sebastian’s brother, from my book, Mr. Shipley’s Governess, deserves his own story as well. Maybe one day, I’ll write it! Tara, which character would you select?

Tara Manderino:  Wow, this is such a tough question – only because the choices are too numerous. J But I’ll keep it to two. Josef, if Bound by Blood, is Alex’s friend. I didn’t expect him to show up as often as he did. Also a vampire, Josef’s take on his existence is very different from Alex’s, but he makes it clear he has always been content no matter what decade or century he was in, even, as Alex observed, Josef didn’t always seem to realize time had moved on.

The second character who really needs his own story is Michael, from The Heir, a Regency.  When I first came up with the story line, Michael was in it, but I had never envisioned such a strong role. He turned out to have a quirky sense of humor and strong sense of doing the right thing. Since he had just been introduced to a very like-minded woman at the end of the novel, I only feel he should have a chance to tell his story.

Lynette, back to the character flaw question…would you change anything about any of your characters?

Lynette Sofras:  A reader made a very interesting point to me about the heroine of The Apple Tree who goes through a good deal of soul-searching about her career as she was not enjoying medicine.  The reader pointed out this was selfish after occupying a place in Med School which could have gone to a more deserving applicant. I must say I hadn’t looked at it in that way and I would now like to unpick this character flaw in more detail so my heroine doesn’t come across as being selfish.

It is interesting to find out what our readers think about our characters. Sherry, would you change any traits or flaws in your characters?

Sherry Gloag:  This is a hard question, but the reality is even tougher. I have a WIP, working title Megan’s Story, where the heroine has been voted too ‘wishy-washy’ which means a major, and I mean major, re-write of the whole story as her present and future actions and reactions to events will have a ‘major’ impact on the story.

Lindsay, how important is physical appearance of the characters in your books? 

Lindsay Downs:  With the character Emily Dahill the only specific physical appearance I wanted was her height-5’1”. I want to show my readers that size doesn’t matter.

Well, we're going to take our first break and be back in two hours; but don't's your time to chat with the authors and leave comments to be entered to win in the book giveaways. Thanks so much to everyone who stopped by today! 

Welcome back to another day at The Mustard Seed. Author Mackenzie Crowne is a guest today and being interviewed. She also has a contest she'd like to tell you about. I hope you can hang around to visit with Mackenzie because all commenters will be entered into a drawing for a chance to win an e-copy of her book, Gift of the Realm

Now for the fun part...let's chat! Why did you become a writer…was it a dream of yours since you were younger or did the desire to write happen later in your life?

Writing has been a compulsion for as long as I can remember. I penned my first short story at the age of ten (and no, I don’t know where it is. I’m not even sure where my cell phone is at the moment.) I went on to write many stories for my own entertainment, and even submitted one or two to publishers-and received my first rejections, but it wasn’t until I was diagnosed with breast cancer that I became serious about my passion. I figured if I was going to make the effort to beat breast cancer, subjecting myself to physical disfigurement and debilitating treatments, I owed it to myself to do what it took to bring my dream of publication to fruition. Happily, I’ve succeeded in both.  

I admire your courage and perseverance. What was the inspiration for your latest work of fiction?

My husband and I were driving in the mountains one night and a vehicle off in the distance must have crested a hill. Suddenly, a beam of headlights shot up into the night sky like a door of light. I know most people would think aliens (it really did look like the stuff of science fiction) but with my writer’s imagination, I thought, how fun would it be for a character to step through that door, and into another time and place? Just don’t ask me how I went from a door of light to fairies and ancient curses. The pathways of my imagination are impossible to explain.
I can relate to finding inspiration in interesting places and circumstances. Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

People I know often ask if I’ll be putting them in one of my stories. My response: I write fiction. My characters all come from my imagination, but then again, imagination lives next door to experience in my head. I’m sure the characteristics of those around me seep into my writing from time to time.

Are you currently working on any new book projects?

I’m always working on something-remember that compulsion thing? My current WIP throws together an infamous NFL playboy and a popular female sports blogger. Another WIP is the product of nanowrimo this past November. The resulting manuscript continues to be a thorn in my side. I’m considering introducing an antagonist who did NANO for the first, and last time. She’ll never be convicted for killing off the entire cast of characters. Not guilty, by reason of insanity.

Who is your favorite contemporary author?  Are you currently reading any contemporary novels?

My favorite author depends on my mood, and I’m always on the lookout for a new name to add to the list, though not necessarily a brand new title. Backlists often hold treasures I’ve yet to discover. Linda Howard rocks, and Susan Elizabeth Phillips always makes me laugh. And there is Nora, of course, to name a few. I’m also a re-reader. When I’m caught up in the editing process, as I am now, I like to end my day with an old favorite. It Had to be You, by SEP, is on my nightstand.

What’s your writing schedule like?  When do you find time to write?

For the most part, I do most of my writing early in the morning when my mind is fresh. I’m an early riser and the world is quiet at 5 am.  With a cup of coffee in hand, I normally settle on my patio, writing until life intrudes and reality sends me packing.

I don't think even coffee could wake me up at 5 in the morning. I'm more of a night owl. How have your friends and family received your career as an author?  Are they supportive?

I have a short attention span. My family and friends just shake their heads as I rush from one new interest to another with dizzying frequency. But they also know the one interest that never fades for me is my writing, and consequently, I have my own personal cheering squad. I couldn’t ask for better support.

Support from family and friends is a wonderful thing. What’s the most challenging aspect of writing for you? ~ POV issues; using too much passive voice and not enough active voice; trouble creating active and engaging dialogue; using too many similar words in starting sentences; or something else?

Can I choose all of the above? I’ve struggled with each at one time or another. The one piece of advice I would share with would-be authors, came to me from many successful authors; Keep on writing, and continue to find ways to improve your craft. There are so many resources available online these days. And thank God for critique partners and editors. 

Can you tell us about your recent release, Gift of the Realm?

Beneath the fairie mound of Dunhaven's Door, two dreamers meet their destiny…

After a decade of trying to outrun her debilitating dreams, Keely returns to Ireland to face the ancient ring of stones and the man haunting them. Within the stones, she embraces her fairie heritage and her mystical gifts. But can she trust the handsome Halfling who shares her dreams and holds her heart?

When Keely reappears in his life, Colin’s fairie blood threatens to gain the upper hand. Compelled to assist the lovely Halfling, he agrees to help her break the three-hundred-year-old curse on their families, but he'll do it on his terms—as a black wolf.

Together, two Halflings can stand against any power, but only love can break the bonds of bitterness. Will Colin’s arrogant plan to outwit the King of the Fairies doom Keely for eternity? Or is their love enough to break the curse?

And coming this fall, That Dating Thing:

The daughter of Wall Street’s most notorious stock swindler, dog trainer, Rylee Pierce, has perfected the art of flying beneath society’s radar.  Prosecutor, Cooper Reed is a threat to her carefully hidden truths, but how is a woman supposed to resist a man capable of handling a psychotic Great Dane, while charming her out of her panties before she has the chance to blink?

Thank you for sharing. I love the cover art! Where can readers find your book online? 

Purchase Link for Gift of the Realm

Mackenzie, can you tell us about yourself? 
I'm a wife, mother, and grandmother. My husband and I were blessed with two rambunctious little boys who we managed to raise into wonderful men without any disfiguring mishaps. Dirt bikes and ESPN are the order around our house, and life at the 'Testosterone Ranch' more closely resembles one of today’s wacky reality shows, than yesterday’s Leave It To Beaver. 

My love of books, specifically the romance genre, has been a lifelong affair, both as a reader and a writer. A bout with breast cancer sharpened my resolve to see my stories shared with others. As of today, I am a four-year survivor, living my dream. 

Mackenzie, thank you so much for sharing with us today and stopping by for an interview. I enjoyed chatting with you and you've been very inspiring to me. Where can readers connect with you online?

Mackenzie's Website
Mackenzie's Blog

Connect with Mackenzie on Facebook
Connect with Mackenzie on Twitter

Can you tell us about the contest during your blog tour?

As part of my blog tour, including my visit here with you, I am running a contest in the form of a virtual scavenger hunt. I’ll be posting a question on my website to coincide with each of my hops, then directing my followers to the blog I’m visiting that day where they will find the next clue in my interview answers. At the end of my tour, the visitor with the most right answers on my website will win a free e-copy of Gift of the Realm and a $25 Amazon gift card.

Readers, hope you take part in Mackenzie's virtual scavenger hunt. Don't forget to also comment on this blog post and you'll also be entered to win an e-copy of her book, Gift of the Realm. Thank you all for stopping by The Mustard Seed. I hope you stay to chat.

Cynthia L. Simmons is a guest at The Mustard Seed today, sharing how she and her family celebrate Easter. I hope you all can hang out to visit with Cynthia today.

My husband and I believe Easter is the most significant holiday we celebrate. In Romans the apostle Paul wrote Jesus “…was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead…” When the Jews pressured Jesus to give them a sign that he was of God, he promised to "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." (John 2:19). The religious leaders of the day thought he referred to the place where they worshipped, but he meant he would rise from the dead. Praise God Jesus kept his promise and we have reason to celebrate.

We searched for a way to commemorate the resurrection in a way that reflected its importance. So in the spring of 1989 we started a new family tradition, celebrating Passover on Easter Sunday. It’s full of imagery from the Old Testament, and it fits because Jesus served the Passover to his disciples right before the crucifixion. My fourth child, Daniel, was six weeks old that first year. My husband announced that we needed a cloth bag. He gave me a careful description of what it should look like. Since I had just delivered, I wasn’t out often. So I took apart a pillow case to make what we needed. He also spent hours preparing. The Jewish people read from a Haggadah during Passover. My husband went through making changes to reflect our hope in the risen Christ.

During Passover, everyone drinks four cups of juice after a blessing. The only bread eaten is unleavened, the Matzo. Just like Jesus was pierced for our transgressions, it contains lines and holes. The bag which holds it, the Matzatash, has three compartments. During the Passover, the leader removes the matzo in the middle section.  It’s called the Afikomen. This is the only Greek word in the ceremony and it means ‘he came.’ Jewish people who don’t accept Messiah have no explanation for this word. The father wraps the Afikomen in cloth and hides it. After the meal, the children search for it. Once it’s found, the leader purchases or redeems it.  When the cup of redemption is drunk, everyone shares the Afikomen amongst themselves. This is the place where Jesus said, “Take eat, this is my, body which is broken for you.” The cup of redemption is the one where Jesus said, “…this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

My husband always comments that we don’t serve lamb for Passover because we don’t need one. God provided the lamb—Jesus. His death paid for our sins. The angel of death passed over us, and we have eternal life because our savior lives. Celebrating Passover blesses us every year with its beautiful symbols. We all love it.

What a wonderful idea to start such a tradition with your family! Cynthia, thank you so much for sharing with us how you and your family celebrate Easter.

Can you tell us about your book, Struggles and Triumphs?

What’s wrong with our world? Shouldn’t a God who claims to be all powerful and flawless prevent suffering? How can we continue to believe when storms rage on in our lives? If you’ve ever had tough questions like these Struggles and Triumphs Study Guide is the book for you. You will be guided toward answers with a unique and enlightening approach. This twelve-week Bible study for ladies comes from stories of real women as told in Struggles and Triumphs: Women in History Who Overcame. As you study, you’ll come to understand God’s perspective on timeless issues that impact your life. The carefully chosen Scriptures combined with interesting historical information will challenge and encourage you.  

Sounds like a book definitely going into my library. Where can readers find it online?

Purchase Link for Struggles and Triumphs Study Guide

Cynthia, thank you so much for guesting today. I enjoyed learning more about you and Easter traditions with your family. 

Don't forget to check out Cynthia's book trailer below and we hope you can stay and chat for a bit. Thanks again for stopping by.

Cynthia L Simmons and her husband, Ray, have five children and reside in Atlanta. She has taught for over twenty years as a homeschool mother and Bible teacher. Active in Christian Authors Guild (CAG), she conducts writing workshops and has served as chaplain, vice president, and president. She also directs Catch the Wave Writing Conference. In December 2009 the membership granted her Life Time Membership for her numerous contributions to writers.  “Cindy” is fond of history and writes both historical fiction and nonfiction. Her writing appeared in CAG publications, NATHHAN NEWS, Chattanooga Regional Historical Magazine, Georgia Right to Life Newsletter, Chattanooga Times Free Press, Catholic Exchange, and Christian Her first book, Struggles and Triumphs, came out in 2008. While promoting her book, she had interviews on radio and TV across the nation and was nominated for 2008 Georgia Author of the year. She conducts monthly podcasts called CAG Spotlight and she does quarterly podcast for Clash of the Titles.  For more information visit: 

Cynthia's Website

Cynthia's Blog

Connect with Cynthia on Facebook

Today I’m excited to announce the release of the 2nd edition of my first novella, My S.E.D. Label, originally published in 1996. It’s now available on Kindle My S.E.D. Label and will be available from tomorrow until May 1st for FREE!

About the book: 

When Greg was in high school, the guidance counselors and social service caseworkers gave him the label of S.E.D. He never understood what they meant. No one even bothered to explain their words to him. All they gave was psycho-babble and stern looks. Who cares, right?He’s just another messed up teenager with no future, except a life of drugs and crime. Didn’t anyone think to dig deeper beneath the crusty layers and help him. Finally, several years later, someone came into his life and made a difference. He was his therapist and he told him that label meant: He was Severely Emotionally Disturbed. Greg immediately disagreed. Yes, he was messed up—but severely, not really. There was more to him than the label. He just wanted everyone to understand

Excerpt from My S.E.D. Label:

Beads of sweat dripped down my forehead and I nearly passed out from the heat. The windows were closed and locked and my leaden feet held me captive in place, watching the closet door. Not sure how long I stood there, suddenly a loud bang rang in my ears, dulling my senses. Worried my worst fear had come true—I had to check on him. Oh God, I whispered, please let him still be alive.

I pushed away cardboard boxes and trampled on a pile of soiled white underwear and socks, trying to get to the other end of the room. Claustrophobia started to suffocate me. I had to open the closet. He was in there. I just knew it. I tripped over a muddy, worn out sneaker and banged my head on the brown dresser. The impact rattled empty beer cans on top—several clinked to the stained carpeted floor. For a moment, I hesitated touching the doorknob, afraid to find him. Slowly I turned the knob and he crumpled in a bloody heap at my feet, next to an ashtray swelling with ashes. His cumbersome body weighed heavily on my small feet, and I shoved him off.

Crimson splotches stained my white socks. I knelt down next to his lifeless form and saw the darkened hole in his temple. He’d done it. Just like he told me he would someday. Uncle Vinny took his life. I pounded his bulging beer belly with tiny fists and screamed until my lungs hurt. “Why did you leave me all alone? You know what mom’s gonna do now. How could you leave? You understood…”

I turned away in silent disgust, while tears streamed down my cheeks. “I hate you, Uncle Vinny!”

So glad to welcome Chynna Laird to The Mustard Seed today. She's here to chat and she's also doing a book giveaway. 

My favorite spring flower is a lily.  My love for them came from a story my mom told me about my grandfather planting three different kinds in his garden.  Tiger Lilies which were his gift of love for my grandmother. The meaning of the flower is ‘flame, I burn for you.’ The second were purple ones he planted after my grandparents adopted my mom. The meaning of those flowers is ‘majesty, wealth, pride, innocence, purity’ (if only my mom had known that…). The third were Lilies of the Valley, my birth flower. They’re small and delicate—that’s how he saw me. He wanted to have beautiful but strong eternal flowers in his garden to represent the women in his life whom he held most dear.

Once he and my grandmother passed away, my mom planted lily bulbs in her small garden as a way to remember them both. I’m not sure if she planted the same ones but they were there, year after year.

Shortly after my mom passed away I really struggled with what I could to in her memory.  You see, my mother and I didn’t exactly have the greatest mother/daughter relationship. Years of untreated mental illness and alcoholism interfered with the kind of mother she had the potential to be. Despite anything, she chose to give me life and I credit her for giving me the creative gifts I’m blessed with. She wasn’t strong enough to turn to her gifts in her darkest times but I make sure I always turn to mine.

So, in memory of my grandparents and my mom, as well as to remind me to keep moving forward to positive things, I have also planted lilies in my garden. Each spring when I see their brightly colored heads poke out from the dirt, it gives me a new sense of hope for good things to come. 

Thank you for sharing your inspirational story. 

So, Chynna, let's chat. What are the top five random facts about yourself?

1. I’m allergic to chocolate.
2. I make my own wine.
3. I’m a strict vegetarian.
4. I started playing piano when I was two.
5. I’m a huge Beatles fan (okay…that’s not a huge secret but still…)

My husband's family makes their own wine, too. Do you have a fond memory of interaction with a reader?

I think the most inspirational reader experience I’ve had, the one that reminded me why I do what I do, is when I read to my oldest daughter’s classroom for ‘Read-In Week’ at her school and one of her friends came up to me later and said, “I love your books.  They make me feel all kinds of stuff and it’s great. I hope I can be a writer like you someday.” How awesome is that? I told her not to be a writer like me but a writer like her.  She’ll ‘get’ that one day. ;)

What was the happiest moment in your childhood?

Curling up in my grandfather’s lap with my brother and listening to him tell us a story. And my grandmother’s bear hugs.

Chynna, please tell us about your book and I understand you have a contest and blog tour. 

My latest book is an adult suspense/thriller called Out Of Sync. Here’s a short cover blurb of the story:

Cheyenne McCarthy has two fears: Our sensory rich world and the man who killed her husband. Cheyenne's gift helps her catch serial killers. But will it save her when the man comes for her and her unborn child? And will the secret he knows about her past be what finally breaks her?

We have a contest going on over at Goodreads where you could win one of two copies of the book. You have until April 30th to enter so hurry on over!

I’m also participating in a book blog tour for my memoir, White Elephants and would like to invite your readers to join me. If you live or know someone living with untreated bipolar disorder or other mental health issues, this is a must-see tour. Here’s the link to the main page with all my blog stops

Thank you! 

Chynna, thanks so much for guesting today. I love your book cover! I enjoyed chatting with you and learning more about you and your books. 

If you'd like to enter for a chance to win a signed print copy of Out of Sync, please comment on this blog post. 

CHYNNA LAIRD – is a freelance writer and multi award-winning author. Her passion is helping children and families living with Sensory Processing Disorder and other special needs. She’s authored a children’s book, two memoirs, a Young Adult novella, a YA paranormal suspense novel and an adult Suspense/Thriller. 

You can connect with Chynna online here:

Chynna's Website 
Chynna's Blog: See the White Elephants
Chynna's Blog: The Gift

Connect with Chynna on Facebook
Connect with Chynna on Twitter

I love those private moments when He cuddles me to His heart and reassures me that I am His, and that I'm special to Him.
~ Delia Latham
Welcome, Delia! It's a pleasure starting off our day off visiting with you. What did you have for breakfast this morning? Do I have to go directly to jail if I confess to rarely eating breakfast?  I've never been a fan of breakfast foods. To make it even worse, I usually get out of bed and feel my way to the refrigerator (instead of the coffee pot) for my wake-me-up Dr. Pepper. Oh, no! I think I just heard the clang of a slamming jail cell... Uh-oh, lol. I'll give you a place to hide when you go on the lam. So after that can of morning law-breaking, you must then head for the closet to get dressed. Would you consider yourself a skirt, jeans, or sweats kinda gal? Sweats when I'm home with no company expected and no errands to run. Jeans otherwise. And, although you didn't ask, bare feet. I'm addicted to socks personally. Preferably fuzzy ones. But besides our feet, we probably look a lot alike in the outfit department. Nice to know I can dress casual if I ever visit your house. Which makes me wonder... If you were having me over for dinner, what would you be serving? Hmmm...good question, since I'm not the cook in my family. My husband does that, and loves it. (Am I blessed? Oh, yes, I am!) Off the top of my head, I'd say you might be dining on his famous chili verde burritos. They're mmm-mmm good! Dessert would be chocolate Heavenly Hash, which is a scrumptious concoction made of chocolate pudding, cool whip, and...I'm not even sure what else is in there, but you're going to love it! And, since it's you, it would all be served on a silver platter - my contribution to the meal. LOL Oh Yum! I think I'll bring the whole fam. They might get bored of our book talk though. Can you tell me, of the books you've had published, which is nearest and dearest to your heart? Come now, darling...surely you wouldn't ask a mother which is her favorite child?  But, for the sake of cooperation, I'll just say that the new baby always gets the most attention. Of my older "children," however, I think Goldeneyes is probably the most "like" me. A vintage romance (set in 1936 and 1959), it is set partially in Weedpatch, the tiny, California farming community where I grew up. How could it not have a little of my own heart and soul written into its pages? That sounds amazing! Can't wait to read it. =) COTT is lucky to have such a talented writer on staff. How long have you been on staff at Clash of the Titles and what do you envision for its future? I don't think it's been quite a year yet. Seems like I started about the beginning of August 2011. As for its future, I see COTT becoming a very important cog in the wheel for helping authors get noticed. It's already becoming known within the writing field, and has enjoyed participation by some widely recognized authors. I can't help believing COTT will become one of the places on which authors look forward to claiming a spot, and the Laurel Award could easily become one of the sought-after crowns (ummm...laurels?) of achievement within the industry. I honestly believe we have the potential for that kind of success, because everyone on staff truly cares about our authors and their success. I'm so proud to play a small part behind the scenes! Sounds like a bright future for COTT and we love you being a part of our family of staff. We love your sweet spirit and the way Jesus shines through you. When do you feel closest to God? When I'm alone with Him...shut in with God, in a "secret place," as the old hymn goes. Just me and the Lover of my soul. I love those private moments when He cuddles me to His heart and reassures me that I am His, and that I'm special to Him. Even though I know He gives that same assurance to many others, it's absolutely true for each of us. He loves us all the most. Ah, that is so beautiful. Love it. Thank you, Delia, that was so wonderfully well-put. You have such a way with words. And on that note, tell us about the last book you had the pleasure of seeing reach reader's hands. That would be Gypsy's Game - Book Three in the Solomon's Gate series...and it reached reader's hands only last Friday, March 16! I'm very excited about Gypsy's story, and can't wait to start hearing what readers think. Here's what it's about:
Gypsy Lovell stands to inherit an enormous amount of money from a father who never gave her anything but a ridiculous name. Even now, he doesn’t make it easy. A stipulation in the man’s will demands that Gypsy be married in order to claim what is hers. Desperate for the monetary windfall that could save her ailing mother’s life, Gypsy visits a Christian dating agency, hoping to find a temporary husband. Someone easy to handle for the required six months, and easy to get rid of when she no longer needs him. Jal Garridan is neither of those things, but he's willing to take on the challenge presented by the beautiful stranger—on his own terms. What Gypsy doesn’t know is that Solomon’s Gate is a dating agency with a Divine connection. What she finds there may save more than her mother’s life. It may save Gypsy’s soul.
I must  admit, there's a certain melancholy that goes along with knowing this book will most likely be the last time I'll swing open the giant portals of Solomon's Gate. But then...only God knows the future...perhaps He hasn't thrown away the key. The first in that series was one of our summer book club selections and it was a great read! I'm looking forward to continuing the series, and I hope our readers will head over to Amazon to check it out too. They won't be disappointed! 
Thank you so much for chatting with us this morning. Go grab another Dr. Pepper and have a wonderfully productive day. And readers, be sure to visit for the latest Clash and giveaway.  Have a blessed day!
Hope you all had a wonderful weekend and welcome back to another day at The Mustard Seed. Aspiring Christian author, Kendra LaLonde, is here to chat with me. Hope you can hang out with us. 

So, Kendra, before we start chatting, can you tell everyone about yourself? 

I am a 27-year-old aspiring Christian writer who has felt the call to write since the age of 16.  But when I was 18, I had a TBI (Trauma Brain Injury).  It’s sort of like an aneurysm or a stroke.  I was “out of it” for over 2.5 years, but when I came to – and after a while in a state of “don’t bother me; leave me alone”, I “woke up” completely, still wanting to write.  In fact, nowadays, I have more time to give my writing because I cannot do many, many things that I could before.  I never have driven a car – not for real.

How do you and your family, celebrate Easter…what does Easter mean to you? 

To me, Easter is a time to celebrate our Lord, and the Salvation He gives us.  If it weren’t for what happened so long ago – we say at Easter – than we wouldn’t have the opportunity to be saved.

I wholeheartedly agree. Did you go on an Easter egg hunt as a child…what was your favorite Easter memory? 

Uhh.  Yes, I have been on an Easter-egg hunt.  I thought it was interesting, but I don’t really remember much about it.  My favorite Easter memory would have to be the year after I was saved.  I finally understood what it meant.

We're in the middle of this one of your favorite seasons?

Well, that would be hard to say, because it’s not.  But I like Spring second only to Autumn because it means that things come back from being “dead” during the Winter months; new life is “born”.

What’s your favorite spring flower and why? 

Oh my.  That’s a hard question to answer!  I love most flowers, but I’d have to say that my “favorites” would be the tulip and the daffodil.  I’m not sure why….because they smell nice?

My favorite flower is the lilac and tulips are second on my list. Do you think Easter (like Christmas) is too commercialized?

Definitely!!  People think too much about money!  It’s so sad to see the seasons of Christmas and Easter destroyed by such hopes for more cash.

Can you share the top five random facts about yourself?

1. I am often mistaken for a teenager, though I am 27 years old
2. I have loved to read since I was 5 or 6 years old; to write since the age of 16
3. I love breakfast food – of almost any kind – at any time in a day
4. I used to hate coffee, but after my TBI, I started drinking it (far too much) and haven’t stopped
5. I have 2 younger brothers, and both of my parents are still living.  The oldest of my 2 brothers lives in New Hampshire

Why do you like being an author?

I enjoy stretching my imagination, and writing is a way for me to keep that imagination “strong”.  The over-activeness of my imagination started when I was still quite young

Who’s your favorite author of classic literature? 

I prefer more contemporary/up-to-date fiction

What’s your favorite novel? 

Can I only pick one?  I have far too many!!

What was the happiest moment in your childhood? 

When I……sorry, I don’t remember my childhood very much.

Can you share with us an excerpt from your current WIP? 


The birthday party had been a total surprise to Darla Marie Cooke. She’d only been gone from the house for about 30 minutes, but people had still been able to come together. Chattering and laughing until she at last pulled the car into the driveway after her errands, they managed to fill the free time before them.

That’s when the talking and visiting people silenced abruptly. Darla's brother, Samuel, had quickly shushed them all from his position of vigil at the large curtained front window in the packed living room.

Upon hearing Sam’s insistent tone urging them all to conceal themselves, they all began scrambling about. Darla had a few grocery bags to retrieve from the trunk, therefore giving them all the necessary time to hide.

When Darla walked into the kitchen – noticing no one was around, and it was eerily silent – she plunked the bags on the counter. Turning, she plodded into the living room. Dropping heavily onto the sofa – and noticing how neat and clean the room appeared – she let out a long and loud sigh.

Darla's exhaustion – causing her to yawn – caught her in the middle of that action when several dozen people popped up from behind the furniture. The yelling and cheering suddenly taking place around the young woman caused her to freeze, eyes wide. Her hand halted a mere inch away from her gaping mouth, making her look as if she was about to put some food into the dark and gaping hole.

But having caught her looking like this did nothing to dissuade them from their actions. The shouts and cheers of congratulations continued, almost deafening Darla.

Her mouth now firmly closed, she looked around at all of the grinning faces surrounding her. The resulting smile quirking at her lips grew larger still as she realized who was there.

Jim and Cindy Willings, her pastor and his wife; Mrs. Marissa Scout, their elderly neighbor; Patrick and Jessica Daley, along with their 3 children – whom Darla often babysat.

And the most remarkable presence of all: Thomas Jackson Hall. Darla's wide eyes became even larger upon catching sight of him. His being there – smiling at her hugely, and calling out a loud and boisterous “Happy Birthday” along with the others present – made her both nervous and excited.

Searching the crowded family room, her eyes fell on her dearest and closest friend. Cindy Patricia Parker stood near the back of the room, nearest the stairwell leading up to their bedrooms and Mr. Cooke’s office. Darla assumed she was situated there for a quicker “escape”, should she need to lie down.

Their eyes meeting, Cindy Patricia, “Cindy” for short, grinned, calling out along with everyone else. Darla observed her best friend’s shining eyes, eventually lowering her gaze to her friend’s swollen stomach.

Not having seen Cindy in several months, the sight of her – here, and large with child – came as something of a surprise to Darla. A sadness at having missed out on so much of her close chum’s pregnancy – drawing to an end, if Darla was any judge of size – caused Darla's lips to droop for a moment.

The merriment and good wishes coming her way quickly drowned out her sadness and feelings of loathing. Since there was no going back and regaining the time she’d lost, she decided to ignore her wandering heart.

Focusing instead on the gathering of folks, Darla pushed the raging thoughts of self-pity from her mind. Her mouth revealing her delight over the swarming people – and camouflaging her displeasure – Darla managed another smile at those assembled.

The calling and exuberance soon died down, so that Darla could finally be heard. Her words – coming out in a squeaky voice – were barely audible.

Clearing her throat, she tried a second time to be heard. It wasn’t much easier to catch what she said. The quiet in the room – almost deafening Darla with the tension – was broken only by a few people clearing their throats uncertainly.

“Um … thank you … everyone.” Her words, she noticed, were barely audible. Unsure what to do next, Darla's eyes darted about, as if searching for a particular face. Her hazel eyes at last landed on both of her grinning parents, her sister, Marissa Jane standing beside them – practically screaming in her excitement. Obviously, all of the surprise company had been as much of a surprise for her as for Darla.

Seeing her special needs sister there with of all the others – being louder and even livelier than anyone else – Darla's expression brightened still more; if that was even possible.

Marissa’s curly locks – usually hanging down her back in a short pony tail of shining waves – was now coiled in a knot on the top of her round head. Absently wondering why her sister was all dressed up – wearing a pretty blue dress that brought out her fair complexion quite well – Darla sent her sister a confused little smile, silently thanking the youngest Cooke.

Marissa – even despising getting all dressed up – for any occasion – had donned a beautiful gown. The azure of the blouse brought out the deep indigo of her eyes. Also, the lovely color – too dark to be a shade of royal blue – gave her a pretty pink color in her cheeks.

Seeing Marissa’s joy-filled expression, Darla's trepidation over the crowd of people being gathered into such a small space vanished. The dread making her tremble at all of the boisterous attention soon evaporated completely away; the immense pleasure replacing it nearly overflowed Darla's heart.

A sense of giddiness replaced the unease that once filled once filling her chest. Darla shrugged out of her light-jacket – meant for warding off the chill of September. Hoping the quiet now settling over the room would vanish – too much stillness made her nervous – Darla strode forward, going deeper into the room.

Ignoring the fear trying to take root in her heart once again, Darla marched right up to her sister. Seeing Darla approaching, Marissa’s bouncing motion increased. The grin stretching across her face was so large that Darla feared her sister’s cute face would break.

“Hap-py Birth-day, Dar-la!” Her sister’s exuberant yell set off a second chorus of yelling voices. This time, however, they wished the young woman a joy-filled birthday. Added to that were the cat-calls and more enthusiastic cheering. Unable to stop her face from reddening – and feeling it happen – Darla kept her coffee-colored eyes trained on her celebrating – and laughing – sister.

Darla – peering out at her front lawn – felt another smile creasing her face. It had been 2 days since the surprise party, and she was still remembering those who had gathered to celebrate.

Not only the pastor and his wife, their dear old neighbor, the Dailee family, and – a flush covered Darla's cheeks at the next thought – Thomas Jackson Hall – but countless others, as well. Darla had never expected to see him there, celebrating and congratulating her along with all the others. The sheer number of people attending was astounding.

Now, staring out the window, Darla could imagine his strong jaw line, and the way his hair fell down and curled into his eyes. She’d wanted very badly to reach out, touching those glossy locks of dark hair.

Only the cheering crowd around them kept Darla from doing just that. Sensing that the time and place were indeed inappropriate, Darla drew in a deep breath, hoping to calm her jangled nerves.  She would need to ignore the butterflies flying around in her stomach for the moment.  The mere prospect caused her to begin perspiring.

At that moment, Marissa had come dancing over, squealing excitedly.  Despite the fact that it looked as if all present knew about Marissa’s mental disability, Darla still felt her gut tighten with … .was it embarrassment?  The humiliation caused her cheeks to redden, the color staying prominently on her face.

That had been two days ago, and Darla still felt the pitying stares being directed at her.  Unable to stand being looked at in that manner, she’d opted for concentrating on the pile of birthday gifts stacked near her.

Boxes of all shapes and sizes had been collected, along with a few gift bags.  All of them were rather colorful, creating a decorative center in the otherwise drab, yet serviceable room.  The brown and dark green were lit up by the oranges, reds, pinks, purples, and blues in the packages.

Excitedly, Darla began tearing at the wrapping paper, not even bothering to read the tags.  It was her mother – Deborah Cooke – who put a stop to her eager actions.  Urging Darla to slow down and read the cards that accompanied the gifts, Deborah Cooke mostly stayed out of the way.

Darla opened gift after gift, her surprise at receiving so many growing with each passing minute.  And when she reached one clumsily-wrapped parcel – it was rather a small one – she paused.  The name on the little white sticker was barely legible, but she could just make out the confusing scrawl.

Darla stopped squinting after she realized what the name read.  Thomas Jackson ‘TJ’ Hill was lettered across the colorless sticker. Her movements after that were slower, almost as if she was uncertain about seeing with what he had presented to her.

As the paper fell away – revealing a small box that looked an awful lot like it contained golf balls – Darla became perplexed.  She’d tried playing golf many years ago, but it held little interest for her.  Her father, Richard Cooke, loved the sport – both playing and watching it on TV – but it held no real appeal for Darla.

So now, in front of all of these people – her family and many friends – she had to hide her displeasure.  And she came very close to revealing her discontentment instead of keeping it hidden and at bay.

She was immensely relieved that she had done so, for upon opening the rectangular cardboard container, she stopped cold.  Normally, golf balls come in pack of three, making some noise as they move back and forth within the confines of the box.  But seeing the newspaper – yesterday’s- all bunched up on the end, she froze.  That was not normal.

With slower movements, she pulled the weekly from the box.  Something rattled inside, causing her fingers to still momentarily.  And then she moved with lightning speed.

She couldn’t believe her eyes when the crystal – or was it only glass – figurine fell into my open palm.  It was very delicate-looking, with an umbrella-type piece sticking out from it near the top.  Curiously, I dropped the stuffing on the floor, barely noticing when my mom stopped to pick it up.  The little statuette interested me far more than the paper.

Fingering the long, snake-like strings of fake jewels trail through my fingers, all else seemed to fade from view.  I could finally clearly make out what had been given to me, and it was too adorable for words.

Kendra, thank you so much for guesting today. I enjoyed chatting with you and getting a chance to read this excerpt from your current WIP. I'm looking forward to hearing more about your book. 

Hope you all can stay and chat with Kendra. If you'd like to connect with her online, please visit: Kendra's Blog

I'm happy to welcome author Cara Cooper to The Mustard Seed today. So grab a cup of tea or coffee and let's chat with Cara. By the way, I'm so jealous that she got to visit Jane Austen's house...yes, I am a big fan of Austen's work. 


This is Persephone, Greek goddess of spring growth. Legend has it that when walking through a flower meadow, the beautiful Persephone was cruelly abducted by Hades and carried off to the underworld as his bride. Her distraught mother Demeter scoured the world in search of her and refused to let the earth fruit until her daughter was returned. Although Zeus, king of the gods allowed Persephone to return to her mother, he ordered that because she had tasted the fruits of the underworld – seven pomegranate seeds – she must spend a portion of the year back in the underworld with her husband. The green shoots of spring mark the elation her mother felt on her coming back to the earth whereas her return each year to the underworld was the Greek’s explanation for the winter with its dying plants and darkness.

Spring is incredibly eagerly awaited in England and the favorite season of many Londoners. After the cold, rain-soaked winter, all the London parks go to town on plantings of jewel-coloured polyanthus, nodding headed daffodils and upstanding tulips which bravely resist the wind and April showers. Only the other day, I wandered past the Ritz Hotel in Piccadilly, to St James’s. That is the park which spreads out like the huge front garden of Buckingham Palace and was where Catherine Middleton and Prince William drove past wellwishers in their open topped carriage after their wedding.

On any Spring day, the world and his wife (and their children) can be found in St James’s Park enjoying the greenery and the lake. A great favourite are the dozens of different varieties of ducks and Canada geese which are so tame you can feed them out of your hand. I have never written a Regency novel, but I plan to. The London parks saw many Regency dandys promenade, waiting for the ladies to stroll up and down in their finery, each trying to outdo the other.

Spring gets us all out and about in England after the post-Christmas hibernation and I recently visited Jane Austen’s house in Chawton, Hampshire and have blogged about it at My Blog: On Writing, Reading & Living in London . The spring garden there is superb – very small but full of forget me nots and herbs, mint, rue and chamomile which Jane, and her sister Cassandra would use in the kitchen. Although they lived in a pleasant little house it was nothing like the huge estates of Pride and Prejudice. For being the daughter of a clergyman she was not chosen to take over the living of a great house in the way that her lucky brother was who was picked by a wealthy relative to be master of a big estate. Jane’s brother however provided for his sisters by allowing them to live in the charming cottage in Chawton village rent free. Spring in an English village is delightful, with newborn lambs in surrounding fields and pure azure bluebells carpeting the beech woodlands. I love America and have been on numerous occasions – San Francisco is vibrant, the Grand Canyon spectacular and New York as exciting as London town. But there is a soft, gentleness to England in the spring, like the welcoming back of a young and vibrant friend who’s been away. It touches all our hearts with new hope that Summer is finally knocking on the door and waiting to be let in.

My Spring this year has been particularly exciting as I have just signed my first contract with Astraea press for my soon to be released book, ‘The Sanctuary’. Set by the sea on an island off the English coast. It involves a legacy, a teenager with a troubled past and an animal sanctuary. I’m so looking forward to seeing the cover work and to chatting with readers. I’ve been published for many years in England and am delighted to now be ‘over the pond’! My website is under construction so it’s a busy Spring for me this year. Thanks so much Joanne for welcoming me to your blog.

Cara, I'm glad you guested today and shared with us about Spring and gave us a glimpse into Ancient Greece and your neck of the woods in London! :)

Hope you all can stay for a bit to chat with Cara and you can connect with her online here:

Cara’s Website

Author, Stephen L. Brayton is a guest at The Mustard Seed today sharing his thoughts on the seasons. 

Spring Into Life

I know many people whose favorite season is fall. They enjoy the cooler temperatures and the leaves changing color. Now, I will admit some of the trees in my town are very interesting to gaze at, with the leaves a bright yellow or deep orange or red. Although I enjoy the turning leaves, it only means something is dying. Somehow, death bringing beauty seems a bit morbid. Also, cooling temperatures in the fall mean winter’s cold ice and snow are looming ahead. Every year I vow to leave the frigid land of Iowa and travel anywhere south.

Summer I enjoy even when the temperatures reach the triple digit mark and for me, summer doesn’t last nearly as long as it should. August arrives, the kids are back at school, people are bellowing for football and I’m crying, “Wait! Hold onto this a little longer, shall we?”

Spring, though. Ah, lovely spring. My favorite season for many reasons beyond leaving behind the cold temperatures.

What’s the line from the Tennyson poem? “In the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.” Or some such malarkey that doesn’t pertain to me because I don’t have a girlfriend. Okay, that’s another story for another time, so let’s move on.

I enjoy the time before the first crops come up and start restricting the view.

I enjoy the time before the pesky insects emerge from hibernation or wherever they’ve been during winter.

The cool mornings promising warm afternoons.

The ever lengthening time when the sun is still above the horizon.

Pretty women wearing clothing that shows off their beauty.

The first firing up of the grill and the initial sizzle of meat.

Various breeds of dogs happily exploring the newness of the land while out for a walk with their owners.

When the brown grass turns green and I wonder how long my landlord will wait this year before mowing the lawn for the first time.

The too short time period when the corner lilac bush blooms dusty purple and offers its subtly intoxicating scent.

The chance to sweat outside during a workout.

The glorious light and sound show of a thunderstorm.

Sitting out on the balcony with a book while counting how many people run the stop sign at the intersection and wondering how many accidents will occur this year.

Bike riding.



Hoping the Cubs don’t blow it again this year.

Hoping the Cardinals do.

Nights off spent at the river with a campfire and an audio book or just enjoying the sounds of the river and the crackling wood.

Exploring the countryside without the risk of the car sliding off into the ditch because of black ice.

This year I think I might volunteer to drive senior citizens around the bike and walking path in a tram.

Listening to children laugh and play in the park.

Another reason I enjoy spring so much is there are so many places to write. All winter long I’m cooped up at work, messing with the thermostat to reach the most comfortable temperature for me. I spend hours in quiet solitude (because I work the graveyard shift) and so I have plenty of time to read and write. When the warmer weather allows me more hours outdoors, I can drive to the park or down to the riverside, take a beverage and either my laptop or a notepad and pen, sit at a picnic table, and ‘spring’ into the writing zone. Fresh air means fresh ideas and a renewed enthusiasm for putting down those ideas on paper…to later edit and fret about and read to a critique group and edit some more…you get the idea.

Spring means winter’s chill is over and looking forward to a few months of warm sunshine.

Now if I can just do something about bringing that Tennyson poem to fruition…

Stephen, thank you for guesting today and sharing your thoughts on Spring, also my favorite season. 

Hope you all can stay for a bit to chat with Stephen. You can connect with Stephen online here:

Stephen's Website
Stephen's Blog
Stephen's Bookbuzz Blog

I'm very pleased to welcome Lila Munro to The Mustard Seed today. 

I would like to start off by saying thank you to Joanne for having me over today. I remember when I first met Joanne, some months ago, as we both started out with a small press in Tennessee and met online through that contact. It seems that was our common mustard seed and while our mustard plants are now growing, we’ve grown in all sorts of directions, yet our paths still cross. Remarkably, it seems they cross each time a new seed falls. J It is my immense joy to be here today and share a bit of my journey and how my mustard plant has rooted but seems to constantly need trimmed and hedged.

It was a few days ago that I read a post left by someone in cyberspace that went something like this, and understand I’m paraphrasing, but you get the gist of it. If you find yourself having to compromise your morals to accommodate those around you, perhaps it’s time to change those around you. While I agree with the meaning of this catch phrase in that I don’t think you should ever compromise to meet someone else’s requirement, I’m not completely clear on the changing the people around you part, because that part of the phrase actually carries a double meaning. Did the author mean get rid of the people around you, or did the author in fact mean lead by example? Or, maybe there’s a third option. Maybe you’re supposed to dig deep in your heart and discern for your own life and situation what exactly it does mean. Whatever you determine, when I saw this phrase I thought of the post I told Joanne I would write for today. I told her several weeks ago that I’d like to post about staying true to one’s heart. Then this fitting phrase just happened to jump up and bite me and the post began to take shape.

Long ago and far away when I first began my writing journey I had a vision, as I imagine all fresh on the journey writers do. That vision entailed writing a certain thing a certain way and never compromising my beliefs, wants, desires, goals, or morals. What I found out is that walking the path of writing can be one of the most corrupt and brutal paths known to man. If you let it. That’s the key really. No one can corrupt your vision unless you allow them to, much in the same way no one can steal your joy, you in fact allow them to take it away.

The path to weaving from the path I found didn’t even start with the writing. It started with, well, social networking. Yes, I would have to say that the seed that was being untrue to myself was planted along the social highway. Don’t get me wrong. Social networking can be a powerful tool, however, it’s all in how you use it that makes the difference. It can in fact be a bandwagon of trouble if you don’t monitor your use of it. The social network is where you are tempted to be herded like the other sheep into this clique or that clique or this group or that. It’s also the place where once in those cliques and groups you notice there’s a lot of backstabbing, gabbing about others, and general nastiness going on. Do you float along with the crowd and “sort of join in with your fingers crossed behind your back?” Or go against the grain and risk losing out on all the cool kid things that are happening? It’s there that you see the worst of people erupting in the form of flirting with people they don’t even know, speaking ill of one another, and I’ve even witnessed online fights and arguments. Not savory. People get intoxicated and post things they probably would never otherwise be caught saying in a million years. They’re negative, negative, negative. And after a while, well, guess what…you become negative and sink into some sort of indescribable funk.

And that’s really just the beginning to be honest.

I just finished a seven part series on my own blog about the seven deadly sins and how they can tear our career down around us a brick at a time. And I didn’t deny my own shortcomings in these posts. To the contrary I owned up to them, admitting the times I’ve been jealous over someone else’s achievements, or been gluttonous wanting more and more and more. It’s so very easy to fall prey to these things in this world, because let’s face it, writers tend to have enormous egos that need fed. It’s in what we feed those egos that we either succeed and float to the top with the crème or fail and find ourselves stuck at the bottom in a muck pit.

Through a series of the things I’ve mentioned above, a few months ago a light bulb went off and I realized that vision I had at the beginning? The one that I’d never compromise my beliefs, wants, desires, goals, or morals for was indeed corrupted. And action was required immediately.

I took a good long look at the things I was doing. Almost 2000 friends on Facebook? And I actually only new about a hundred of those. A handful were people I could call acquaintances and writing contacts—of the sort I wished to keep anyway. What was I doing? What had driven me to accept so many requests from people that had no more interest in me as a writer than the man in the moon? I am now down to less than 300 and most of them are true friends and family and the rest are either fans or people that I actually want to foster a meaningful relationship with. Someone that is a positive influence rather than a negative one. You see, I figured out in this case, the message for me was clear—I needed to actually move away from the people around me as there was no way they were changing and who was I to ask them to anyway? They have their path and know what they are willing to do to make it to the end and I have mine. Living in a negative cesspool is not a viable means of fostering my career. Changes had to occur and I changed things. In this case I hope I led by example. Maybe others will follow.

Once I made up my mind to clean house, so to speak, it was as if the skies opened and I could see the sun for the first time in a while. Other revelations came pecking on my door and I figured out that while I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve written and wouldn’t change a thing (for those of you that don’t know me around here—I write very saucy stories to say the least, but because I present them in the light and context of an actual romance they fall on the romance side of the line), my heart was discontent because I missed my military heroes so much. At some point during the melee, I’d wandered away from what I consider to be my calling. To bring Marines to life on paper and give an insight to what it’s like to live this life every day and somehow still find romance and a happy ever after. Another correction had to be made and is being fertilized as we speak. I have a couple of pieces to finish up then it’s off to the races with several military romances I have in the works.

As a result, I’m a much happier writer today. I’m not discontent and unhappy every morning when I get up and my goals are evolving and growing to accommodate that. At one point I was at a stalemate with no direction really. Now my train is back on its tracks and the things I have planned…and their coming to fruition as a result of staying true to myself and either changing my environment by leaving one for another, or setting an example for others.

Where does your heart lie and what is it telling you? Listen carefully lest you weave away from your path and your mustard plant get out of control…

Lila Munro currently resides on the coast of North Carolina with her husband and their two four-legged kids. She’s a military wife with an empty nest and takes much of her inspiration for her heroes from the marines she’s lived around for the past fifteen years. Coining the term realmantica, she strives to produce quality romance in a realistic setting. Her genre of choice is contemporary romance that spans everything from the sensual to BDSM and ménage. When she’s not writing, she enjoys reading everything she can get her hands on, trips to the museum and aquarium, taking field research trips, and soaking up the sun on the nearby beaches. Her works include The Executive Officer’s Wife, Bound By Trust, Destiny’s Fire, Salvation, Three for Keeps, the Force Recon series, the Slower Lower series, and the Identity series. She’s a member in good standing of RWA and Passionate Ink. Currently she’s working on sequels to several series to be released throughout 2012. And has a brand new line scheduled for winter 2012-13. 

Ms. Munro loves to hear from her readers and can be contacted via her website website: Realmantic Moments  or through Facebook at Connect with Lila on Facebook You can also contact her via email at

Lila, thank you so much for guesting today and sharing your journey. I appreciate your candor and inspirational words. 

Hope you all can stay and chat with Lila. 

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