Published and Unpublished Authors’ Contest

This is off my usual subjects, but there’s a great contest for published and unpublished authors if you’re interested. Here are the details.

****Permission to forward to loops and social media sites granted and greatly appreciated. **** Gear up to submit your polished chapter for a chance of getting in front of our awesome line up of final editor judges. (See below)

100% Electronic contest. Fee: $25.00 (U.S. funds) per entry.

Deadline: Entries must be received via upload at www.tararwa.com by May 1st, 2014. Deadline will not be extended.

Contents: The first 4,500 words of a qualifying manuscript (actual word count). First and subsequent chapters up to the maximum entry word count of 4,500 words. *Word count will be verified. Note: No synopsis required in the preliminary round.

Eligibility requirements: The TARA Contest is open to unpublished and published authors of novel length fiction; however, the entry must be the author ’s original work, unpublished and not contracted as of the time of the contest deadline. No entry can have been previously published in any format (on author’s website visible to the public, self-published, ebook, mass market, etc.) Manuscripts that have previously won the TARA Contest may not be reentered. Past TARA winners are eligible to enter a manuscript that has not previously won the TARA Award. (***Complete eligibility rules can be found at www.tararwa.com.)

Final editors Category Romance — Karen Reid – Harlequin Historical — Kerri Buckley — Carina Press Inspirational — Raela Schoenherr — Bethany House Publishers Paranormal — Leis Pederson — The Berkley Publishing Group Romantic Suspense — Amanda Bergeron — Harper Collins Contemporary Single Title — Sue Grimshaw — Penguin/Random House Women’s Fiction — Katherine Pelz — The Berkley Publishing Group

A complete set of rules can be found at www.tararwa.com E-Mail questions to: TARAContest@tararwa.com or TARAContest@gmail.com

If you are a published or unpublished author, this is a great contest to enter.

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Thank you,

Connie Taxdal

The Secret to a Happy Marriage

Here’s one solution for the secret to a happy marriage.

THE SHOEBOX

The day they were married, the wife cautioned her husband never to open or ask her about the shoe box she had placed on the top shelf of their closet.

For over sixty years or marriage, they shared everything and kept no secrets from one another. The husband never thought about the box until, one day, the little old woman became sick with cancer and the doctor said she was dying.

The wife told her husband it was time he should know what was in the box and asked him to get it from the closet and bring it to her bedside. When he opened the lid, he found two crocheted dolls and a stack of money totaling $95,000. He was dumbfounded and asked her about the contents.

crochet dolls

Click on picture for free patterns.
‘Shelly’ girl doll
‘Bryan’ boy doll

“When we were to be married,” she said, “my grandmother told me the secret of a happy marriage was to never argue. She told me if I ever got angry with you, I should just keep quiet and crochet a doll.”

The husband was so moved he fought back tears. Since there were two precious dolls were in the box, she’d only been angry with him twice in all those years of living and loving.

“Honey, that explains the doll,” he said, bursting with happiness, “but where did all this money come from?”

“Oh, that’s the money I made from selling the dolls.”

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Connie Taxdal

Love is a Flickering Flame.

cats getting marriedLove is a flickering flame.
Marriage is a flickering TV.

It doesn’t take years of marriage to discover that boredom has set in. For many, that indescribable thrill a person initially felt can vanish within even the first year of tying the knot. Life with their mate has become dull or boring with no pizzazz or spark.

In the words of B.B. King’s song—the “thrill is gone.” But, it does not have to be “gone away for good” as the Hawkins and Darnell song lyrics suggest. The thrill can be sustained, and even improved upon, if you recognize the key component is flirtation.

First, get your head in the right frame of mind—where it once was during the courting stage of your relationship. If couples went the extra mile to treat their spouses with the same “I-will-work-to-make-you-mine,” mentality, he or she would keep the ennui from creeping into the relationship.

Be clever and creative in order keep the flirtation wheel turning, which ultimately keeps the flame burning. The following are some suggestions Try one or all of the following tips:

1. Leave a small flirty note. Communicate a fun, romantic or sexy message to your spouse via text, e-mail, voice message or, if you’re “old school,” put a sticky note on the fridge, on his/her side of the bathroom vanity, or the dashboard of the car. The message can be simple and to the point like, “Hey, what are you doing later?”

2. Give the special look. The next time you’re in a crowded room sitting around the dinner table with friends and family, don’t say a word. At the right moment, make eye contact with your spouse and give him/her that special look, that cheeky smile or a mischievous wink. He or she will get your drift.

3. Give the subtle touch. Reach out and touch your spouse in a very gentle way at a time when they least expects it. It can be a soft touch or a flirtatious one. Putting your hand over theirs during a parent-teacher conference, gently stroking the back of your partner’s neck while watching a movie, or slipping off your shoe momentarily under a restaurant booth and running your toes against your spouse’s ankle is a great way to set off a spark.

4. Offer the unexpected comment. Say the most flirtatious and out-of-the-blue thing at the most unlikely time. Instead of “I’m glad I married you” over dinner on your anniversary, try “Will you marry me, again?” while you’re heading down the grocery or hardware store aisle. It is those unexpected comments at the most unusual times and places that can be so pleasantly provocative.

5. Let lose the devil in your voice. Summon up that special tone of voice you used when you were first dating your spouse. For instance, instead of saying, “Where do you want to go on vacation this year?” in a matter-of-fact tone, try to attach another attitude to that same question, the one you used to use—the one that had a little devilish subtext beneath it.

6. Resurrect the pet names. Don’t forget that pet name you once called your spouse. In the early stages of your relationship you no doubt had a special way of addressing your spouse. It may have stuck with you for a time and then you may have forgotten to use it. Bring it back.

7. Deliver the unexpected gesture. Surprise your mate with your romantic actions which might include sending a greeting card for no apparent reason whatsoever, summoning your spouse into the master bath after the kids are fast asleep where you have a waiting candlelight bubble bath for the two of you; or carving you and your spouse’s initials into your favorite backyard tree or a newly poured slab of concrete like my husband did this year.

8. Go ahead, be the flirty stranger. Next time you’re with a crowd of others in an elevator sneak a quick kiss or, better yet, come on to your spouse with a quick one-liner like you’re just meeting them for the first time. You’ll please the onlookers, or even if it’s just the two of you, it is a great way to flirt. Such a “role-playing” moment might portend of what is to follow later.

9. Arrive home with intention. When you come home from work, bolt through the door with force and head right for your spouse. Grab him or her and begin to shower your spouse with hugs and kisses like it’s been weeks since you saw him/her. Seize that moment by saying all the things you used to say when you two first began to date. Talk about turning up the heat!

10. Give ’em your best line. Do a little homework and make a list of fun come-on lines that you can spew at your spouse at the most unexpected moments or when you sense he/she is getting bored with you. If you get stuck, watch some really well done romantic comedies and jot down a few classic lines like, “You had me at hello,” (Jerry McGuire), “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship,” (Casablanca), or “Do you love me because I’m beautiful or am I beautiful because you love me?” (Cinderella). A wonderful homework task is to research some ideal movie lines that resonate with you.

11. Pour on the humor. Use humor in communicating with your spouse whenever you can. There is something both charming and endearing about plying humor on your spouse. Many say that there is something uniquely sexy about the tie-in between romance and humor.

If you’re like many married couples, you may have been out of the flirting game for some time and are not sure your attempts are working. The best way to measure your success is by your spouse’s reactions to your efforts. If he or she blushes or giggles at your attempts, you know you have hit the mark!

Connie Taxdal

True Love

4After nearly 50 years of marriage, a couple was lying in bed one evening when the wife felt her husband begin to massage her in ways he hadn’t done in quite some time.

It almost tickled as his fingers caressed her neck and then her shoulders. His hand moved down her side to the small of her back and over her stomach. He slowly worked his way lower, passing gently over her buttock and down her leg to her calf. Then, he proceeded up her inner thigh, stopping just at the uppermost portion of her leg. He continued in the same manner on her right side.

She had become quite aroused by his caressing when he suddenly rolled over and became silent.

“Honey that was wonderful. Why did you stop?” she asked in a loving voice.

To which he responded: “I found the remote.”

Connie Taxdal

Life’s Decisions

“You can’t do this to me so close to our wedding day.” Rebekah Wellington stared at her fiancé, Mark Thompson. They were on their way to her apartment after spending the afternoon at the Memorial Day picnic sponsored by their church.

“Not just a missionary, you want to be a foreign missionary?” Her voice squeaked. “As in thousands of miles away from friends and family? You know how close knit my family is. Even the extended members of grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins live within an eighty-mile radius of Stillwater.”

“Yes, Becca, and I love every single person in your large clan.” With one hand on the steering wheel, Mark covered her clinched fists lying on her lap with the other and glanced her way. “Except maybe those wascally twins of Wobert and Wachel’s.” He grinned at his Elmer Fudd impersonation and the dimples in his cheeks deepened.

Those same dimples had caught her attention when they both attended the Southern Baptist’s Falls Creek summer camp between their junior and senior year in high school. They started dating and by Christmas of their second year of college, they were engaged.

Usually, she laughed at his antics and jokes and the argument would be finished, but this evening’s disagreement was too important for her to shrug off. She jerked her hands out of his clasp. “We’re getting married in two months! Now, all of a sudden, you spring this―this feeling that The Lord is calling you to be a missionary.”

“It’s not sudden. It started as a nagging thought about a year ago, but I shoved it to the back of―”

“What?” You’ve felt like this for a whole year and you didn’t tell me?” Rebekah put her elbows on her knees and held her head between her hands. “Oh Mark, being a foreign missionary isn’t like being the Youth Minister at our church.” She raised her head and looked at him. “We’re supposed to be partners and yet, you didn’t ask my opinion. I thought we shared the same goals.”

“We do share the same goals. A Christian home, children, following God’s footsteps and His will in our lives. I’ve prayed about this decision. I’ve talked to Pastor Bill. The International Missions Board sent a packet explaining the six-week indoctrination procedures held in Georgia. You know, applications, physical exams and shots, benefit package, salaries, moving expenses, the whole ball of wax.”

“You’ve already contacted them?”

He nodded. “I wanted to have all the information before I talked to you. I brought the packet with me. We can go over it tonight.”

“How can you be so sure this is God’s will?”

“It is. My heart and soul tells me it’s right.”

“What if God is leading me in another direction? You know I start as a special education teacher in the fall.” Hadn’t The Lord opened the door to her dream job? Her throat constricted. Ever since her little brother had been diagnosed with a learning disability, she felt an urge to help him and others who had difficulty processing information.

“And what about my work as a Sunday school teacher? The curriculum I wrote and developed for Special Ed kids is so successful other churches are requesting it.” She squeezed her eyes, but couldn’t control the tears from seeping from the corners and rolling down her cheeks. Mark should realize she had work to be done here, not across the ocean in some third world country.

“Well, to be honest, you’re the delicious icing the Mission Board wants and I’m just the plain vanilla cake.” Mark laughed. “Of course, they’re happy that I’m an ordained minister, but when I mentioned your Special Ed degree, how you’ve helped your brother obtain a high school diploma, and the church programs you’ve instigated, they were thrilled.”

“You did all of this behind my back because you knew how I’d react.” Resentment heated the blood in her veins. “You can shred everything in that packet. I’m not going anywhere. Can’t you be satisfied with doing the Lord’s work in your hometown?”

Mark turned into one of her apartment building’s guest parking spaces and cut the engine. He leaned forward, draping his arms over the steering wheel, his gaze on the celery-green structure with its brightly painted orange doors. “No. I’ve given my life to God, and being a foreign missionary is what He wants me to be.”

Stunned into silence, Rebekah’s heartbeat thundered in her ears. She was afraid to ask him to choose between God and her—frightened of hearing his answer. She sniffed back her tears. “I want to be alone. I need to think.” She got out of the car and ran up the exterior stairs to her second floor apartment.

***

Mark pulled the car to a stop in the driveway of his home and gathered the bag of groceries he’d just purchased. He’d planned on eating dinner with Becca and then talking about starting their lives in a new country, laughing over the promise of new experiences, looking forward to new adventures, but she’d recoiled at the idea of leaving the states.

She didn’t even want to talk about the possibility, much less look at the information he’d received. She was angry. Her spine from tailbone to headbone had turned rigid. Angry enough to break their engagement? But why would the Lord direct him into international ministry if He didn’t instill the same impossible-to-ignore feelings in Becca?

As he approached his front door, muted rings came from inside. He fumbled with his keys. Was she phoning him to call off the wedding? He loved her and didn’t want to live life without her.

Something jabbed him in the back.

“Open the door and go in.”

Mark looked over his shoulder at the gruff voice. Moonlight glinted off a gun. “I’ll give you all the money in my wallet. Just take it and leave. Don’t do anything rash that will ruin your life. No one will know what happened.” He shifted the bag of food as the phone stopped ringing.

The cold barrel of the gun branded the back of his neck. “I said, get in the house.”

The man followed him through the doorway and into the living room. Mark’s nerves twitched. He silently prayed for guidance…for words that would make the man leave without bloodshed after he got what he wanted.

He jumped when his cell phone rang and turned to the man. “It’s probably my girlfriend calling to see if I made it home. She’ll keep calling unless I―”

“Answer it. Make it short and don’t say anything that would make me shoot you.”

Mark touched the screen to talk. “Hi, honey.”

“As much as I like being someone’s honey, it’s Pastor Bill.”

“Yes, I’m home safe and sound.”

“Uh, that’s good. Listen, I wanted to go over a few things with you since you’re giving the sermon Sunday.”

“You know I hate dinners at your parents.” Mark glanced at the man slicing his finger across his throat. “We’ll talk about it tomorrow. I’m beat after walking the shopping malls we went to today.”

“Are you in trouble, Mark?”

“Yeah, love you too,” he said and disconnected the call.

***

God is great. God is good. Let us thank Him for our food.

That’s all Rebekah could muster for a prayer as she stirred the black cherry yogurt around in the little plastic container. If God were good, Mark and she would be eating the homemade lasagna she whipped up yesterday and she wouldn’t be alone now.

If God were great, He’d help Mark understand her objections to a life-changing decision. What if he insisted on living in different parts of the world? Would she stay in Oklahoma and end their relationship?

When the phone rang, her breath quickened. Maybe Mark was calling to say she meant more to him than anything else. That he would drop his stupid idea.

“Hello?”

“Hi, Rebekah, it’s Pastor Bill. Is Mark there? Are you two all right?”

“No, he’s not here and I’m fine, thank you.”

“Are you sure? I called his home number and then his cell and had the strangest conversation with him.”

As the preacher explained, her stomach tightened in to a fist. What would make Mark act so crazy? A skitter of fear ran through her body. “I’m calling the police. Mark said he was at home, right?” She pace the floor. If anything happened to him, her life would be over. She stopped in mid-step and realized no matter where they lived or what they did, she wanted to be by his side.

“Yes. Talk to the police, but you stay put, Rebekah. If there’s some kind of trouble, Mark wouldn’t want you to get hurt.”

She hung up and dialed 911. After giving the operator the information, she grabbed her keys and ran to the car. No way she was going to sit around and wait for news.

When she arrived, Mark’s house was dark but the front door was open. She took a couple of deep breaths and then slid out of the car. Her knees shook as she crept up the walk. She heard a moan, and ignoring the danger, hurried into the house and flipped on the light.

Mark lay on the floor. Blood poured from a gash on his head. She snatched a dishtowel from the kitchen, rushed over to him, and pressed it against the wound.

He winced as she applied pressure. “Some guy held me at gunpoint and robbed me. When I didn’t have enough money to satisfy him, he hit me with the barrel.” He tried to lift his head. “Get out. He might still be in the house.”

“No. The door was open when I got here. He’s gone.”

“I thought he was going to kill me.” Mark gazed into her eyes. “I love you. I don’t want to lose you. God put us together to do his work, but if you whole-heartedly don’t want to go into the mission field, we’ll pray for another option.”

Rebekah smiled. “I don’t care where God sends us as long as we’re together. I love you too.”

 

Connie Taxdal