2014 Golden Heart® Finalist

Wednesday morning my husband burst into our bedroom. “You’ve got a phone call.”

“Who is it?” I was groggy. I’d been up till three AM writing on my next novel.

“She said something about your book and a golden heart.”

I’m dreaming…or so I thought until he picked up my hand and slapped the phone into my palm. I transferred the damn thing to my other hand and rubbed my smarting palm on the edge of the bed. “Hello?”

“Congratulations. You’re a finalist in the Golden Heart contest,” said the woman on the other end of the line.

She continued, but I couldn’t comprehend her words over the buzzing in my ears. My body shook. I pounded my chest to make my lungs suck in air before I passed out. I must have responded appropriately, because she congratulated me again and hung up. I ran from the room screaming and crying.

My husband hugged me and endured my strange behavior for a few minutes. “This is unbelievable. I so proud of you, honey.”

I nodded. Totally unbelievable.

Oh. My. God.

What if they made a mistake? Called the wrong person? I rushed to my computer and signed on to the Romance Writers of America’s website.

This is what I read. I’ve highlighted the most important part.

Romance Writers of America (RWA), the trade association for aspiring romance fiction authors, announces the finalists for the Golden Heart® Awards. The Golden Heart recognizes excellence in unpublished romance manuscripts with finalists in seven categories chosen from more than 1,200 manuscript entries each year.

Finalists in the category of Romantic Suspense

“Chasing Damn” by Denny S. Brycegoldenheart

“Dangerous Dreams” by Abbie Roads

“Fatal Fragrances” by Connie Taxdal

“In a Sea of Change” by Deborah Wilding

“Secrets That Kill” by Sarah Andre

“See Her No More” by Sharon Wray

Did you hear me scream again?

Thank you for visiting my website and congratulations to the other five 2014 Golden Heart finalists!

Please click on the “Follow” button on the sidebar to be notified of updates.

Connie Taxdal

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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

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

Stop Life’s Merry-go-round

merry-to-roundI read this post and loved it! I don’t often share the work of others on the blog but this post was definitely “share-worthy”.

As Maria Robinson once said, “Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” Nothing could be closer to the truth. But before you can begin this process of transformation you have to stop doing the things that have been holding you back. Is there one of these that you do often? Are there several? Let’s let the good things catch up.

Stop spending time with the wrong people.
Life is too short to spend time with people who suck the happiness out of you. Remember, it’s not the people who stand by your side when you’re at your best, but the ones who stand beside you when you’re at your worst that are your true friends.
Stop exclusively looking to others for happiness.
If you’re not happy with who you are on the inside, you won’t be happy in a long-term relationship with anyone else either. You have to create stability in your own life first before you can share it with someone else.
Stop getting involved in relationships for the wrong reasons.
Relationships must be chosen wisely. It’s better to be alone than to be in bad company. There’s no need to rush. If something is meant to be, it will happen – in the right time, with the right person, and for the best reason. Fall in love when you’re ready, not when you’re lonely.
Stop rejecting new relationships just because old ones didn’t work.
In life you’ll realize there is a purpose for everyone you meet. Some will test you, some will use you, and some will teach you. But most importantly, some will bring out the best in you.
Stop trying to compete against everyone else.
Don’t worry about what others are doing better than you. Concentrate on beating your own records every day. Success is a battle between YOU and YOURSELF only.
Stop being jealous of others.
Jealousy is the art of counting someone else’s blessings instead of your own. Ask yourself this: “What’s something I have that everyone wants?”
Stop letting others bring you down to their level.
Refuse to lower your standards to accommodate those who refuse to raise theirs.
Stop wasting time explaining yourself to others.
Your friends don’t need it and your enemies won’t believe it anyway. Just do what you know in your heart is right.
Stop trying to be everything to everyone.
Doing so is impossible, and trying will only burn you out. But making one person smile CAN change their world. So narrow your focus.
Stop holding grudges.
Don’t live your life with hate in your heart. You’ll end up hurting yourself more than the people you hate. Forgiveness is not saying, “What you did to me is okay.” It is saying, “I’m not going to let what you did to me ruin my happiness.” Forgiveness is the answer… let go, find peace, liberate yourself! And remember, forgiveness is not just for other people, it’s for you too. If you must, forgive yourself, move on and try to do better next time.

Connie Taxdal

How do you stop the merry-go-round in your life?

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Originally posted on September 3, 2013 by lesleycarter – Bucket List Publications  – Written by marcandangel

Strengthen Your Marriage

Since I write Romantic Suspense novels, I called ten couples I know and asked them a few simple questions about their marriages. The people’s ages were from twenty-four to eighty-three. Some were newlyweds, some have been married to one another for over fifty years, and two couples have had more than one spouse.

One of the survey questions was how do they keep their marriage strong. Here are a few of the answers I received.

  • “Not a day goes by that we don’t kiss good morning and good night.”
  • “Laughter. We laugh at each other’s funny comments or together at a wacky movie. Laughter binds our souls.”
  •  “We hold hands, hug, and kiss in public. You don’t have to be over-the-top with a public show of affection, but it’s nice to not hide your love.” penguins in love
  • “When one of us is taking a shower, the other will sneak in and then we lather each other with soap.”
  • “Sometimes our connection is no more than a look in the eye, but that look can create a spark that burns hot.”
  • “Whether we need to ask for forgiveness or give thanks, saying it out loud holds a lot of power.”
  • “It’s nice to know your spouse is thinking of you when they call or text to ask how your day is going.”
  • “We have cuddle time. That’s when I cuddle up in the crook of Gary’s shoulder. We talk or quietly hold one another. It’s very soothing and comforting.”
  • “You’re not joined at the hip. Pursue your own hobbies and interests.”
  • “We pray together. When you’re praying for each other, not yourself, you’re speaking from the heart.”

Connie Taxdal

What are some ways you strengthen your marriage? Please leave a comment below.

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