Archive for May, 2009


Uncommon Valor

   Posted by: Lynne    in eBooks/Print Books

Ebook Details
Title: Uncommon Valor
Author: William Todd
Format: Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) Also
available in HTML and Microsoft Lit
Number of Pages: 34
Summary: During the fall of Fallujah in the Iraq war, two long-time friends Corporals Kyle and Davis find themselves trapped in an abandoned home and surrounded by insurgents after their assault vehicle is hit by an IED. With Davis severely injured, Kyle strikes out on his own to find help for his injured friend and fellow Marine. Davis, a Marine by choice, feels guilt for Kyle, whose sole purpose for joining was to protect Davis. A shocking event when they were eleven years old precipitated Kyle’s obsessive protection of his friend. In the end, he illustrates just how deep friendship goes by showing . . . Uncommon Valor.
Price: $2.49
Author Bio: William Todd has been writing online for almost ten years. He was the third most popular author on the website before it shut down. He has an 8 year old son Kiaran, who is a budding author himself, and a 6 year old daughter Alina, who has Down’s Syndrome. He and his wife Joan have been married for 10 years, and make Erie, PA their home. When not writing, he is a full time histologist and a part time pathologist assistant at a local hospital. His hobbies are writing, running, reading, and watching old movies.


With a story by William Todd, I guessed something supernatural would happen in Uncommon Valor, but what I didn’t anticipate was getting teary-eyed at the ending instead of spooked. I’d read Todd’s anthology of macabre short stories Bumps in the Night, so I had a feel for the kind of tale he likes to spin. I rightly predicted Corporal Kyle and Corporal Davis would experience something otherworldly when they end up wounded and trapped in an abandoned house in Fallujah during the Iraq war. However, instead of the story ending with the revelational twist as I expected, it continued on with a rather introspective analysis by the characters as to what it all meant. I was actually touched by the ending.

Todd’s stories tend to have a period tone to them (think Victorian England), but in Uncommon Valor he does a great job keeping a consistant modern-day voice to the action and dialog. Though I predicted the main plotline and guessed the “twist,” the story kept my attention, especially when it veered into unexpected territory. I look forward to reading his other works.

Click here to order
Read an exerpt here
More by William Todd

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Susan Boyle’s Gift

   Posted by: Lynne    in Guest Posts

By Donna VanLiere

I am one of the nearly forty-nine million You Tube viewers who have watched Susan Boyle, the unemployed cat owner from Scotland, blow away the audience of Britain’s Got Talent

Before she takes the stage we learn that Boyle is 47, never married, never kissed, spends her days with Pebbles the cat, and by eye-balling her: frizzy graying hair, eyebrows like caterpillars, ill-fitting dress, gray pantyhose and open-toed cream colored shoes, we assume she’s not a beauty pageant winner. The audience and judges size her up, too. When she says her age judge Simon Cowell responds with an exaggerated eyeball roll and fellow judge Piers Morgan, a former tabloid newspaper editor, furrows his brow (clearly this ancient dame is wasting his time). Amanda Holden, the third judge, is a beautiful English actress with a body and face that no matter how good your self-image is — if you stand next to her in line at the coffee shop — you instantly feel bloated and troll-like. Cutaway shots to the audience show young people snickering and looking at Boyle as if she forgot her mop backstage. 

“Okay,” Cowell says. “What’s the dream?” This is what it all boils to, really. The dream. The hope. 

“I’m trying to be a professional singer,” Boyle says. (Insert shot of young girl reacting as if saying, “Yeah, right. And I want to be Amanda Holden.”) 

When she says she’d like to be as successful as English musical theater legend Elaine Page, the cynicism in the room is as thick as Boyle’s eyebrows. If Boyle detects any of the sarcasm, unbelief, or disdain she never lets on. She announces her song choice from Les Miserables and Morgan laughs. 

Boyle signals for the song to begin and holds onto her mic like a child at her first school program. Then . . . she opens her mouth and when she does the audience erupts in cheers and applause. Simon Cowell’s eyes widen, Amanda Holden’s mouth drops open and Piers Morgan, who just seconds ago laughed at her, now smiles and applauds. Again, if Boyle is aware of the cheers, ovations and wild applause she doesn’t let on. In moments, the lovely Holden is on her feet aiming her applause directly at Boyle. Two women are facing each other: one is the epitome of success, loveliness and grace and the other has been accustomed to taking a backseat to the likes of Holden . . . but not now. The beauty is honoring the wallflower. 

As the final notes fade, the entire audience along with Morgan and Holden are on their feet (Cowell remains seated in case you’re wondering); Boyle blows a kiss to the crowd and begins to trudge off stage. The judges urge her back and the two hosts in the wings direct her to stay put. She has no idea what she has just accomplished or the effect she’s had on this once judgmental audience. The judges assess what they’ve just heard. “Amazing. I’m reeling,” Morgan says. 

But there is no greater compliment than that from Holden. “I just want to say that it was a complete privilege listening to that,” she says. Boyle wasn’t what she appeared to be; she was more. 

In Finding Grace (St. Martin’s Press) I relate the story of sitting in math class with my friend Peggy. Our seats were located in front of four of the princesses of the school. They were so beautiful, charming and trendy wearing their Izod alligator polo shirts and crisp khaki pants. Peggy and I wore Toughskin corduroys (Their slogan was, “The toughest of Sears tough jeans . . . lab tests prove it!”), sported either a bad perm or an uneven haircut and never made anybody’s cool list. Susan Boyle would have been our friend. 

Our math teacher was a man with a red face. It wasn’t sunburn or even a healthy glow; it was just red . . . all the time. Mr. Teacher Man seemed to be on the backside of his teaching career. Not because he was old but because he seemed to hate the job, or maybe he just disliked Peg and me. I don’t know. As Peggy and I went to the chalkboard one day I knocked the eraser to the floor. We both bent for it and clunked our heads together. The class laughed but Mr. Teacher Man did not. We were wasting his time. 

In the days following a school assembly was called. A special speaker was coming to entertain the student body. Peg and I threw our books in our lockers and made our way to the gymnasium. There were prime seats down front. We crossed the gym and climbed up two bleachers for our perfect spot when we heard him. “Those aren’t available.” We turned to see Mr. Teacher Man whose eyes were scanning the gym floor. I didn’t think he wasn’t talking to us and moved toward the seats again. “Those seats are taken, girls.” 

By that time every good bleacher was filled and we trekked up to the top row. I sat down and was positioning myself behind Ralphie the teenage giant boy when I noticed the four princesses sit in “our” seats down below. It turns out that Mr. Teacher Man was right. The best seats were unavailable . . . to us. Those seats were special and for special girls. We could make do somewhere else. 

Strange how people color the way we feel about ourselves. Somewhere along the way sociologists termed that as the looking glass self: we begin to perceive ourselves as those around us see us. You’re a good student but not as good as your sister. You’re a great athlete but not nearly as strong as your brother. You’re thin but just not thin enough for the job. You’re too fat for the job. You’re a good mom but have you seen her remarkable home and kids? You’re too old and frumpy to sing. Countless books, magazine articles, and television shows are dedicated to helping us be better in every way so we can finally reach those coveted best seats. 

But to love and accept someone despite their flaws and failures is a gift of grace in a cynical and hypercritical world where our own panel of judges smirk and snicker and whisper catty comments. Grace says, “Okay, what’s the dream?” without passing judgment or rolling the eyes. It sees beyond the frizzy hair and frumpy dress to the heart of the singer, or mother, or twice-divorced waitress. Grace stands up and says, “It is a privilege to know you.” Grace realizes there’s more than what meets the eye and is the most life-altering gift we can give to one another. 

I have a feeling that Susan Boyle knows that.

©2009 Donna VanLiere, author of Finding Grace: A True Story About Losing Your Way in Life . . . And Finding It Again

Author Bio

Donna Vanliere, author of Finding Grace: A True Story About Losing Your Way in Life . . . And Finding It Again, is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Christmas Hope series and Angels of Morgan Hill. She lives in Franklin, Tennessee with her husband and three children. 

For more information please visit

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When the Wheels Come Off

   Posted by: Lynne    in Guest Posts

I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s when parents still told their kids to go outside and play. My friends and I would spend all day in the yard and when we got hot and sweaty enough we’d run to the back patio, open the water spigot on the side of the house and get down on our hands and knees so we could get low enough to turn our mouths up for a drink of water that splashed all over our faces and down our necks. In the evenings I remember seeing my parents shaking their heads as they watched the oil crises in the 1970’s unfold on the nightly news. Gas prices skyrocketed to 73 cents a gallon! “Turn it off,” my mother would say to my dad. “Good grief! The wheel’s are coming off but they make it sound like the world’s ending.”

Like me, as a child you probably hoped for a life that would exceed your dreams but as those dreams collapsed along the way you’ve simply wished for a soft wing of hope but instead have gotten life in a culture of ungrace. That’s not a word but it should be. If you don’t know what ungrace is just listen to most people who didn’t vote for any sitting president, watch how fast Hollywood turns on a star who no longer sells at the box office or turn on the news anytime during the day. Ungrace pulsates in our workplaces, communities, and in the media and tells us that regardless of what has happened we must do better, look better, and make ourselves better. But to love and accept someone regardless of their flaws and failures is a breath of hope in a world that turns more upside down than right side up. That is the gift of grace. It’s being dirty and smelly and turning your face up under the spigot. Sometimes the wheels need to come off and you need to get pretty low before you appreciate grace.

The wheels are coming off for my friend Lisa. She’s the owner of a beautiful clothing store for women. She’s put her heart and soul into the store but then the economy tanked and people ran scared (even those who still had jobs and owned their homes). Trouble is, she did everything right: paid her mortgage, creditors and bills on time so she doesn’t qualify for help. The wheels are coming off for my friend Jacob. When he took his vows he never envisioned this animosity, anger or separation. The wheels are coming off for my friend Gerri. She finished chemotherapy and is beginning nine weeks of radiation for breast cancer. It wasn’t her dream but she’s added it to her daily schedule: go to work, get groceries, go to hospital for radiation, do laundry, make dinner.

When we plan our lives no one ever says, “When I grow up I want to get a divorce, maybe two!” Or, “When I grow up I want to lose my house, my business and my life savings!” Broken dreams are never part of anyone’s plan. We tie our plans up with ribbons and bows and aim for the mountain top but end up in the valley. In Finding Grace (St. Martin’s Press, March 2009) I relate a story of walking with my second grade class to the library when a sixth grader spit on me. He didn’t intend to spit on me but I was fortunate enough to be the one to pass at that exact moment. My teacher Mrs. Brewer cleaned me up but when I looked down at my maroon polyester blend turtleneck I could see the white tissue particles clinging to where the snot had been. “He blindsided you,” Mrs. Brewer said. “That’s how it goes sometimes.”

At some point, life blindsides us with something far greater than a giant loogie. The diagnosis, abuse, foreclosure, broken marriage, death, or financial collapse brings us to our knees and though we try to clean ourselves up the best we know how we’re still left with the stain of it all. “That’s how it goes sometimes.” True. But isn’t there more? The beauty of grace says yes. There’s more love after the infidelity, more joy after the diagnosis and more life after the financial ruin. Chris Gardner, the bestselling author of The Pursuit of Happyness was once asked how he and his son were able to overcome the shame of homelessness. Gardner said, “We were homeless, not hopeless!” Chris knew he was living on the streets but he was still living. That’s grace. Grace is always present and always near but it’s easy to miss — things aren’t always as they appear. I just returned from Winnipeg where The Christmas Hope is being filmed in a house. In previous months the homeowner fell off a ladder and broke several ribs. During x-rays it was discovered that he had cancer. That break-up, closed door to a job, or fall from a ladder may not be as devastating as you think but an act of grace that will save your life and help you discover higher dreams.

In a country of excess we suffer from a deficit of grace. In the last few months I’ve watched two stories on the news of men losing their jobs then killing their entire families and themselves. In another story a man lost his job after twenty years. “It’s heart wrenching,” he said. “But I still have my family and we’re all together.” That’s the hope of grace speaking and it beats the alternative any day. Last week my friend Lisa liquidated merchandise and said, “It kills me to close this store but I know God still has a plan for me.” That’s grace at the end of a shattered dream. My friend Miriam’s husband was devastated over their loss of money in the stock market. “How much do we have left?” she asked. Embracing and recognizing what is left is grace at the end of an economically depressed rope. There is life-altering power in that.

I once attended several Alcoholics Anonymous meetings for research. A man said, “I was a drunk for fifteen years. I lost my wife and son because she couldn’t take it anymore. One day I woke up and said, ‘What the hell am I doing? I need to live.'” For fifteen years the noise of his life drown out the voice that said he was worthy, needed and loved but then came the day that he finally heard it. That wake-up call to life is a gift from God. With what strength that man had left he turned his face up toward that spigot of grace and let it splash all over him.

Finding grace in a culture of ungrace seems an impossible task but it is present, it is real and it is an indomitable gift that has the power to change your life. It does come with one condition, though — like any gift you have to reach out and take it.

©2009 Donna VanLiere, author of Finding Grace: A True Story About Losing Your Way in Life . . . And Finding It Again

Author Bio
Donna Vanliere, author of Finding Grace, is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Christmas Hope series and Angels of Morgan Hill. She lives in Franklin, Tennessee with her husband and three children.
For more information please visit

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Finding Grace

   Posted by: Lynne    in eBooks/Print Books, Nonfiction


Book Details
Title: Finding Grace: A true story about losing your way in life…and finding it again
Author: Donna VanLiere
Format: Hardcover Print
Number of Pages: 224
Summary: Finding Grace is the powerful, often humorous, and deeply moving story of one woman’s journey of broken dreams. It is the story of how a painful legacy of the past is confronted and met with peace. This book is for anyone who has struggled to understand why our desires—even the simplest ones—are sometimes denied or who has questioned where God is when we need him most. This story is about one woman’s unlikely road to motherhood. Finally, it’s a book about the “undeserved gift which is life itself.” It’s the story of “Finding Grace.”
Price: $21.95
Author Bio: Donna VanLiere is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Christmas Hope series and Angels of Morgan Hill. She lives in Franklin, Tennessee with her husband and three children. 

Finding Grace: A True Story About Losing Your Way In Life…And Finding It Again


I recently saw an episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” in which a young boy is left an orphan after his mother is killed by a stray land mine from a long forgotten war on a seemingly uninhabited planet. It’s a senseless, shocking death that the Starship crew didn’t see coming. Then, an energy life form remaining on the planet attempts to make amends to the orphaned boy by creating a comfortingly familiar, but illusionary, “home” for him, a home that includes a recreation of his mother. The Starship crew is presented with the difficult task of convincing the alien (and the boy) that this illusionary world is ultimately not preferable to the cold, hard reality of life–and death.

I was reminded of that episode as I sat down to write this review of Finding Grace. After all, who among us hasn’t wished for God to put our life back to how it was; back before the pain, the loss, the confusion? Who hasn’t felt anger that He didn’t spare us from the hurt in the first place? And yet we instinctively know that reality, with all it’s hardships, is better for us in the long run than the most comforting fantasy world.

But we constantly ignore this. Over and over again we believe that if we only plan more carefully next time, if only we pick the right road, if only we read all the important signs, we’ll end up exactly where we wanted, feeling refreshed and ahead of schedule. Certainly life would be simpler if it was a straight, smooth road, with detailed maps and clear visibility. But it isn’t. It’s filled with sharp curves, rocky cliffs, roadblocks, detours, and lots and lots of fog. Our perfect life plans get sideswiped by other blinded and lost travelers. Death. Betrayal. Heartache. Illness. Shattered dreams. We break down and think we can no longer go on. And that probably there really aren’t any destinations worth getting to anyway.

Finding Grace is the true story of Donna VanLiere’s journey of being hit early on by one of those hidden land mines of life, and how she stumbled around in the fog trying to find her way back on the path she lost. It’s about how over the years she began to notice the light which illuminated a different path through the fog, and that this path, though not the one she had envisioned, was in fact better than the one she was trying to find.

“Perhaps you’ll recognize part of your own life,” VanLiere writes about her book, and I did. I found myself seeing a lot of my own life’s struggles echoing her frustrations and disappointments, and the same glimpses of God’s grace touching me as it did her. VanLiere describes God’s grace as a undeserved gift that we’re often unaware of having received. In Finding Grace she shows us the times she received God’s grace without recognizing it as such until years later. By doing so, it helped me to realize times when I, too, received this gift.

One of the most difficult Christian concepts to put into practice is letting go of self-made plans and allowing God to take control. At times we even believe that our goals are better than God’s will for us; that if we let Him “take the wheel” we’ll end up miserable and unhappy and doing something we absolutely hate. I’ve fallen into that trap myself. Whenever someone tells me to put my life into God’s hands and follow His path for me, I think to myself, “If I go down God’s path, I’ll end up a missionary in Botswana.” Now, you have to understand that I live in the same small town I grew up in. I’ve never really wanted to leave. My husband and I bought a house half a block from my parents. I’ve known most of my neighbors my entire life; some of my ancestors knew their ancestors. So the worst imaginable thing for me would be to end up in some far-flung country surrounded by strangers speaking a bizarre language–who I’m supposed to teach about God!

But why do I think God’s will for my life involves such a drastic change? Why do I think His goals for me can only be worse than the happy dreams I have for myself? In Finding Grace VanLiere shows us that God’s special plans for us include peace and hope, not misery and drudgery. He wants us to thrive and be joyful, and have a life of love, inspiration, and grace. This doesn’t mean he’ll create a familiar, illusionary world of empty bliss around us. And it doesn’t mean we won’t have pain and sorrow. VanLiere suggests God sometimes lets us get derailed off our path so we can finally see the one He’s laid out for us. God has a higher purpose for us than we can even envision for ourselves. It’s our journey to discover that purpose by choosing to follow His path, not ours. And that the crashes and injuries and wrong choices we suffer along the way doesn’t change His destination for us.

Finding Grace is a well written, poignant, yet humorous look back on a life spent searching for answers to all the wrong questions and discovering God’s grace in the process. It’s an entertaining, thought-provoking book that will make you examine the path your own life is on. At least it certainly did that for me. I absolutely loved Finding Grace and am recommending it to all my family and friends. When I finished it, I immediately wanted to read it again. I’d never read anything by Donna VanLiere, but now I want to read everything she’s written. I can’t give any higher praise than this.

For more information about Donna VanLiere and her books, visit
To order Finding Graceclick here.
For more books by Donna VanLiere, visit her online store.

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