Day One


day-oneThere’s a song that’s been running through my head for the last week and as I sit down to type up the story of our first day in our new home, I can’t help but think of this song once again.

It’s day one of the rest of my life
It’s day one of the best of my life
I’m marching on to the beat of a brand new drum
Yeah, here I come
The future has begun
Day one

– Day One by Matthew West

Our first morning in France, we arrived at the chateau just as the family was gathering for a tour. My parents and sister were there along with a friend and our realtor. we were greeted warmly by the French family of siblings who were selling the house. They were very excited to see us again and to meet our children, going so far as to kiss each of them on the cheek with the customary greeting of the French. They encouraged our children to pick out their new rooms, and followed them around chattering excitedly in French although we didn’t understand them. The home had been a family retreat for over thirty years and they had many memories here with their parents, their children, and grandchildren. I knew it had been a hard decision to let it go, but seeing our children’s excitement seemed to make it a little easier for them to let it go.

We had been in the home before, but this time we looked with new eyes, opening cupboards, cabinets, and drawers to take stock of what we might need before we settle in. Did I mention the house is furnished? It is filled with antiques on all three floors and we are so grateful to be able to move right in on day one. In the end, we decided we could probably make it through the night with what we had and just start making a list of items we’ll need as we go along.

After a tour and lots of stilted conversation with the French family that none of us fully understood, we loaded into the cars and drove into the town where we knew there to be a restaurant for lunch. It was closed! (For those of you who were following our last adventure on FB, you know how I took this personally!) Our realtor swore he saw a restaurant on the way into town, so we all climbed back into our cars and drove back the way we’d come. We climbed out and paraded across the street to the little local pub where the chef met us coming out. They were out of food! No joke. They had twice the locals for lunch since the only other restaurant was closed and they literally ran out. I offered to share the picnic I’d kept in the car for just such an emergency (see? I’m learning.) But the realtor insisted we try one more place. So, off we all went again, down the road and into a new village I’d never even seen before. We stepped into the restaurant just as the waitress was cleaning up the last of the tables. Luckily, our realtor pleaded our case and convinced him to set us a table. They agreed to feed us whatever was leftover from lunch if we would accept it. We agreed, and settled in at the table set for ten in the corner.

That was about the time when the man’s wife came in from the kitchen. She took one look at all of us and turned to him with raised eyebrows, demanding to know what was going on. He told her to prepare lunch for ten. “DIX?!” she yelled. He nodded with a smile and walked out. She stormed back into the kitchen grumbling to herself while the women in the room tried not to laugh out loud. You don’t have to speak French to understand the thoughts in that poor woman’s head. She was nearly finished with her work for the day, probably had the kitchen half cleaned up, and her husband agreed to something he wouldn’t even have to work for. We sympathized, making us doubly grateful when they began to bring out the food. Since it was the leftovers, they served us family style with big bowls of food in the center of the table that we passed around and shared. There was a potroast in thick brown gravy, slices of roasted beef well-done served au jus, a bright green salad with a sweet mustard dressing, stacks of bread, and two bowls of thick cut fries. Then, out came the cook. She smiled at all of us filling our plates and asked a question none of us understood. We all turned to the realtor and he explained she hoped we liked tripe because it was coming out next and they had plenty of it. Tripe. It looked like a bowl of beef stew with carrots and potatoes floating beside some odd colored bits of beef. The beef itself was from the inner part of cow and its rubbery texture was made worse by its strong flavor. It turns out we do NOT like tripe. I can see why they had so much leftover.

After lunch, we all met in the notaire’s office for the signing. It was a very long meeting that included all parties on both sides who were available, the notaire, the realtor, and a translator. It was very crowded, and very boring. But then, the realtor said it was time for the keys. The man sitting next to me turned to me with an enormous grin and pulled a set of keys from his pocket, placing it in my hands. We were now the proud owners of a chateau in France.

After handshakes, goodbyes, kisses, and hugs, we all headed back to the chateau. It was now dark (we were in the office for three hours!) and the chateau was a little cold, but we raced around trying not to cry as we stared around us in awe. It’s ours. It’s really ours. I can’t believe it.

We decided to go to dinner to celebrate, so we headed toward the only restaurant we were sure would be open. (Although, I’m beginning to wonder if you can ever really be certain of such a thing.) Climbing the hill into the oldest part of Chaumont, we were happy to see it was open despite the fact there were only a few people inside. The temperature was dropping now below freezing, so we hustled into the warmth. The waitress greeted us with a smile and asked if we wanted the formule menu. That’s like a fixed price four course dinner where you take what they give you. We reluctantly agreed, feeling lucky after such a successful day. When the main entrée arrived, we were stunned. It was a beautiful pastry filled with layers of ham and cheese with béchamel sauce drizzled across the center onto a pile of potatoes. It was beautiful and delicious and absolutely the best celebratory dinner, a perfect ending to our life-changing day.

Tomorrow I’ll share how we began to tackle the massive To Do list that comes with buying a chateau in France. ‘A demain.

Moving to France Giveaway

img_4171 The hardest part of packing was sorting through my office and trying to decide what to keep, what to take with me, and what to let go. In the end, I packed up a huge pile of fabulous gifts and sent them out to my street team, The Sutherlin Circle. They have worked so hard this year sharing my books on social media, posting graphics and ads they created to share when my books went on sale, and generally cheering me on whenever I needed a rally cry. It was fun choosing what treasures to send them.

Then, I packed one last box of story notes and journals to take to France, and sent the rest with my inlaws to their home out in the country where my desk will wait for me to return. I can’t imagine all the wonderful stories I’ll dream up in the French countryside, but I’m sure they are waiting for me to discover them on long walks in the wood or quiet afternoons in the chateau.

Wishing you could join the adventure? I really wish I could take you with me, but I just don’t think you’ll fit in my suitcase. Instead, how about a pack of treasures to make you feel like you’re the one traveling to France this weekend? It includes a signed copy of One Paris Summer by the fabulous Denise Grover Swank, a travel diffuser and lavender oil from Young Living essential oils, a French themed journal, a copy of my book, A Familiar Darkness, a handmade bag, and lavender bath fizzes to help you envision yourself in a relaxing French bath while you read.

I’ll be choosing the winner from my author newsletter list, so sign up HERE to enter. Already subscribed? Well, you’re already entered then, you lucky duck! Be a good friend, and share this giveaway with your book-loving friends online. Maybe they’ll loan you the books if they win. 🙂

Sign Up to Win!

The Countdown

countdown35 days. That’s the tally running in my head. 35 days until we load our family and everything we own onto a plane and move to France.

35 DAYS.

This has been a whirlwind from the start, but now I find myself facing the end of the storm and I’m left a little breathless.

It all started in February. February 8th, to be exact. My mother was driving home from a funeral when she had a vision. A house, a French chateau with 12 bedrooms purchased for less than $200,000 and dedicated as a refuge for missionaries. It was a beautiful idea that left her in tears. She called me that day crying, and the next, and the next. But each day she became more convinced that this was more than just an idea. It was a true vision. It was going to happen.

And it is. It is happening. In 35 days we will fly to France and close on that house. My family will live there as we prepare it for our very first guests. By this time next year, life in France will be falling into the category of “my new normal.” To say I’m excited is an understatement, but I think I’ll be a lot more excited once we get through this next month and arrive in France. Between here and there feels like a minefield of emotions.

As I pull out my planner, I have to face the reality that I only have four weekends left to visit friends and family. A little more than four weeks to pack up the house and sift out what is going with us and what is being left behind. I’m planning quick trips to hug family members we don’t see enough as it is, and knowing some we may not see again for a very long time…or ever. I’m not a complete newb at this. When we moved to Maine from Arkansas, friends joked that we were moving to another country. I remember being annoyed with their teasing, thinking it wasn’t that far, we could visit whenever we wanted. But, in those three and a half years we seldom saw extended family. We missed funerals, weddings, and births in those years away, teaching me a valuable lesson that has me staring at my calendar in tears. What will I miss this time around? What if I can’t get to everyone before we go? Have I already said some of my last goodbyes? Have I loved them all well enough? Have I told them how much I adore them? Did I say it often enough?

Packing lists and the monstrous To Do list I have sketched in the margins of my planner can never compare to the Goodbye List. It’s heartbreaking. But…it’s life. The truth is, we are all saying last goodbyes and we just don’t know it. Whether I live in France, or just down the street, I can’t possibly know when a goodbye is forever or just for now. So, we have to love a little deeper, hold each other a little closer, and say “I love you,” just a little more often. It’s the only way to live without regrets. While I try to fit everyone we love into our countdown, take my advice: Don’t wait to tell the people you love how much they mean to you. You never know when your time is up.

Have you ever had to say goodbye without knowing if it was the last time? How did you handle it? If you’ve got advice, I’m all ears!


Trick or Treat

halloween-parisHappy Halloween! I have to admit Halloween snuck up on me this year. 2016 has been packed with travel and BIG changes in my personal life. But after a whirlwind of activity and life-altering decisions, I’m excited to finally spill the (jelly)beans…


That’s right. It’s crazy, I know, but it’s true. In one month we’ll be moving into our new home, a 12 bedroom chateau in the middle of the French countryside. It’s an adventure that we never planned on, and I can hardly wait to see what happens next. I keep thinking I’ll wake up to find it’s all a joke, it can’t possibly be happening to me…but this is definitely real. It’s happening, folks!

So, while everyone around me is planning their Halloween costume or stocking up on treats for their neighborhood party, I’m planning final errands and packing lists. I can’t wait to get started and I’ve decided to bring you along with me on this wild ride. So, grab some chocolate and meet me here each week for the latest news. It’ll be an adventure to remember.

Quest for the King

the-story-starts-with-youDo you ever feel like the world is against you? A lone warrior facing unending obstacles in your quest for righteousness and honor? Sometimes it’s true that life is stranger than fiction. And sometimes fiction just seems to reflect the subtle truths of life.

For those of us who love to read fantasy, we can often find ourselves longing to live within the pages of our favorite tale. The wardrobe to Narnia beckons us, the path to Rivendell whispers, and the search for Hogwarts lives on in our child-like hearts. We long to run away with the characters on an adventure of our own to a place where life is more than the mundane, and our purpose is clear.

But we do have an adventure calling to us and the quest we’ve been given comes from the King himself, The Great Lord of all the Land. He leans down to whisper His urgent message in our mortal ears. Who will listen and take up the charge? Who will accept the quest of the King? Will it be you?

Quest for the King is a 60-day devotional written as a fantasy tale. As a devotional, it is the story of each of us, sent on a quest by the King of kings. As a medieval fantasy tale, the story takes us on a journey to find the King’s child. For both, the path is filled with obstacles and enemies. Each day is another step in the journey to find the child, complete with bible verses, reflective questions, and lines for journaling your thoughts.

The story starts with you.

You are summoned to the throne room. The Lord of the Land has a quest just for you. It is a path fraught with danger, but you must choose it of your own free will. You won’t be alone, though. There will be many on your path:

  • The Saint
  • The Prisoner
  • The Guide
  • The Promiser
  • The Liar, and others

Some will be helpers sent by the King. Some will be enemies sent by the beast who will use every weapon in his arsenal to stop you from finding the child. He will even try to steal your soul. Will you find the child before the beast finds you?

Why don’t you open the scroll and take a peek at the summons to start you on your quest?


Day One: The Summons

You’re a peasant and your life is a mess. The house is a pigsty–and while the pigs make messes on the floor, you are to blame for the filth on the counters. You don’t have time to wipe them or even to scrub the cauldron. The master of the guild has you working late, and your efforts to learn are unappreciated. He leaves you to menial tasks like delivering messages and sweeping as if you are naught but a slave. It’s discouraging.

You daydream about being a knight in the King’s service. That will never happen, though, because the King only chooses the able and the daring, and you are neither. You can’t battle dragons. You have no sword, no shield, and no training. You have no garments appropriate to even stand before the King, let alone to fight for Him. What would the King want with a peasant like you? You wonder what it would be like to have a mission, to be a warrior who had the King’s eye. You have dreamt about a meaningful life and have cried out in frustration for the lack of it.

As you attempt to tidy, there is a knock at your door. Who would be calling before the rooster crows? You run your fingers through your unkempt hair and pull your wool cloak from the wall, in hopes of looking like you are heading out. If the interloper believes you are leaving, you may escape his judgmental glare into the pit you call a home. You push open the door.

It is a well-dressed man, in fine white linen trimmed in gold cord, and he takes up the entire door frame. There is no chance to sneak past him. He smiles, makes eye contact, and asks for you by name and title. When you mumble in agreement that you are whom he is seeking, he bows until his head passes the plane of his waist. Then he presents you with a scroll made of beautiful parchment, wrapped in a rich burgundy ribbon, and stamped with the seal of the King.

“So glad you are ready to go,” he says. “The King is waiting.” You stare at the scroll for a moment and then look back to the courier, but he is gone as a wisp into the fog. You start to question whether he was real at all or just a figment, but realize you are still holding the King’s sealed words in your hands. Trembling, your fingers break the wax and untie the ribbon. The scroll is a summons to appear before the King. You are to leave everything behind and come at once.


“…he turned to me and heard my cry.  He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.”

Psalm 40: 1b-2


As you go about your week, put your cries down own paper. Leave them here on the pages of day one. Know that your Heavenly King hears your cries and will lift you out of the slimy pit.


Although this project has two contributors, we came into it with one purpose. It has one author page, because we have one love for Christ that we want to share with you!

AJ is a debut author with the publication of Quest for the King. She has a Master’s Degree in International Affairs from The George Washington University and has been writing and editing as an analyst for almost 20 years. She is currently a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and is active in both her church and her sons’ Boy Scout troop.

AJ reads non-fiction books on a range of topics to include devotionals and health-related books. She also enjoys the whimsy of young adult fantasy, the depth of myth and lore, and the excitement of magic. She loves the epic struggle between good and evil.

AJ lives in Maryland with her two sons, three dogs and two cats.

AJ’s website is


Heather has published eight novels including the LIGHT OF LOIAN series, which spent five months at the top of Amazon’s free Christian Fantasy charts, and SOUL TIES, a supernatural young adult series.  Her first novel, A Light in the Darkness, was featured at the Arkansas Literary Festival.

She is the former president of Fiction Writers of Central Arkansas and a current member of the American Christian Fiction Writers. She is an active speaker at conferences and enjoys teaching others about writing tradecraft. Her fantasy novels, for middle grades, teens, and young adults, are exciting adventures filled with quests and new discoveries.

Heather enjoys writing in many genres. She is currently working on a paranormal suspense series and also released a contemporary romance, Loose Ends. From children’s lit to non-fiction, there are few genres she wouldn’t love to explore.

Heather lives in Arkansas with her three teenage children and loving, supportive husband.

Quest for the King is available at your favorite online retailers. Check it out!

Distant Shadows

distant-shadows-ebookArcher and Hannah have followed her dreams to the Big Apple and here they will find more than they ever imagined. Distant Shadows is a fast-paced urban fantasy filled with carnival troupes, demon hunters, angels, and battles with dragons in the streets of New York. Readers are calling it a thrilling page-turner that will keep you thinking about it for days.

Ready to start the adventure? Grab the first book, A Familiar Darkness, for FREE. The third book, Distant Shadows, will be available everywhere ebooks are sold on Sept. 12th. Pre-order it now and save.

New Release: Call of Brindelier

Today’s hot new release is from fantasy author, Missy Sheldrake. Welcome, Missy! Tell us all about your incredible series, The Keepers of the Wellsprings.

I’m excited to announce that the third book in the Keepers of the Wellsprings series, Call of Brindelier, is now available on Amazon! If you haven’t read the previous books yet, read on for a super-quick crash course.

When I started writing this series, I really wanted to tell a story that was rich with fantasy, but not overly dark or mired with war and violence. I wanted to show the light side of fantasy: the cheerful, magical, uplifting side which I always drink up whenever it emerges in a story, and which always seems to be so fleeting in fantasy tales. I wanted to tell a story that would capture the hearts of young and old alike. Don’t get me wrong, my books aren’t void of conflict and evil. They tell of uncomfortable moments. There is violence and wickedness, but it’s those moments in my stories which are the fleeting ones. In the pages of my books, you will find fairies, Mages, Paladins, Elves, Dreamwalkers, Princes and Princesses, and even dragons. You’ll travel through a world rich with magic and wonder.

In Call of Kythshire, you’ll learn all about Cerion, a seaside kingdom which has celebrated peace for over a century. You’ll meet His Majesty’s Elite, a guild that is the right hand adventuring team of King Tirnon Plethore, and you’ll join Azi Hammerfel, a young squire who has grown up within the guild’s halls, through disappointments and triumphs. By her side is Rian, her childhood friend, an Apprentice of the Mage Academy. You’ll meet Flit, a fairy from Kythshire, who is as tricky as any fairy you might imagine, but has a depth of character and a sense of purpose uncommon for a typical fairy. You’ll see her world unfold, and feel the evil threat of Sorcery that looms, waiting to destroy it. You’ll learn a little about the Wellsprings, but not too much, for their existence and workings are a well-protected secret. (Click here to read an excerpt from Call of Kythshire.)

In Call of Sunteri, you’ll meet the strong-willed slave boy, Tib, who makes his first appearance as he escapes from the grips of Sorcery in the desert continent of Sunteri. He has help crossing the vast oceans to reach Cerion, but he doesn’t realize it at first. A mysterious being speaks to his mind, controlling his thoughts and making suggestions to ensure his own survival. In the meantime, Azi has been given the task of escorting the Prince of Cerion and his wife-with-child to the lakeside Kordelya Castle as the prince faces suspicion and ridicule after the events of Call of Kythshire. But a darker force emerges from the Dreaming, whose wicked intent is to use any means necessary to escape its prison and claim the magic of the Wellsprings for his own. In this book, you’ll see the devastating effects of the overuse of magic, and what it does to the Wellsprings and the creatures who thrive around them. (Click here to read an excerpt from Call of Sunteri.)

In Call of Brindelier, a dark force looms, more powerful and destructive than any threat Azi and her guild have yet faced. You’ll follow Celli, a scrappy street fighter, as she is enticed into the grips of a powerful Sorcerer. You’ll watch Tib come into his own as he sneaks through the streets of Cerion, uncovering the darkness while also working on a mysterious project. You’ll follow Azi on a quest set by Princess Margary to find proof of Brindelier, a city in the clouds which is the key to all of the Wellsprings in the Known Lands. But Margy is not the only one interested in Brindelier. A dark force has been gathering, poised to claim it for their own. Control over the Wellsprings hangs in the balance. (Click here to read an excerpt from Call of Brindelier.)

This series is appropriate for all ages, but I recommend 13 and up due to some violent themes. There is no sex, swearing, or excessively graphic violence in the Keepers of the Wellsprings. Throughout the series, you’ll encounter daring sword fights, violent magical moments, and a few quick deaths.

Call of Brindelier, the third book in the Keepers of the Wellsprings series, is now available on Amazon.  This weekend, I’m offering book one of the series, Call of Kythshire, for free, and book two, Call of Sunteri, for just 99 cents. Click here to download your ebooks while they’re on sale!


New Release: Dragon’s Revenge

Dragon's Revenge Cover

In search of his place in the world, Kyn visits his new friend, Ben’hyamene. Together, they meet an ailing dragon rider from the marshes of a land called the Carr. The rider recounts a people beset by anger, depression, and despair. After befriending and healing the rider, the group travels to the rider’s home. There they discover a breed of wild dragons, called drakes, which have been at war with humans for four hundred years.

One sleepless night, Ben’hyamene uses his new abilities to communicate with the lead drake. This sets Kyn and Ben’hyamene on a path that could bring peace to a conflict that’s nearly destroyed a whole people. Can revenge be set aside and enemies be called friends?

Find out in the exciting third book of the Dragon Courage series, Dragon’s Revenge by Kandi J Wyatt.

Kandi Avatar style smallKandi is a wife, mom of five, teacher, artist and author.  In her free time, she enjoys writing fantasy, writing Christmas programs, drawing using graphite and colored pencils. Portraits are her specialty. She also enjoys photography. Thank you to her photographer husband who has let her join his journey in photography as well. She is both his model and apprentice. (She still think he does a better job than her.) On occasion she’s his assistant when working with clients and when he needs a “light stand with feet”.



New Release: A Familiar Darkness

Happy Release Day! I’ve been waiting ages to share this one with you! Grab it this week for the special release day price of 99cents on Kindle, Kobo, Nook, or iBooks.

A Familiar Darkness EBOOK

A Familiar Darkness
Soul Ties book 1

Archer is a magician with a few more tricks up his sleeve than even the savviest street performer could imagine. Devilishly handsome and full of dark secrets, his devil-may-care attitude came at a price and unfortunately for him, the devil may care after all.
When he meets Hannah, a runaway whose art is more than it seems, he’s determined to keep her and her drama at arm’s length. But their souls are tied together with bonds that won’t be ignored and it’s going to take all his skill to keep her safe from the horde that follows her every move.

Find Your Freaks

tribeWe all have things that make us a little…strange. Most of us keep our weirdness a secret. Some are just desperate to fit in with everyone else, convinced if we just try hard enough we can look normal. But deep down we know that we are just hurting ourselves in the end because there is something so fabulous about being your true self. What’s even better? Finding that special group of crazies that are freaks just like you. That’s when true freedom takes over, that’s where the magic is.

I am what you might call a late bloomer. It took me years to embrace my weird, to admit it even to myself. I was a closet writer (sometimes literally writing in a closet!) and my beliefs about the world make it hard to always fit in. I am a Christian, but I believe the Bible is true in the most literal sense which makes even my fellow Christians uncomfortable. (Honestly, it makes me uncomfortable, too! Have you read this book? Some of it sounds crazy!) I love fantasy and paranormal fiction, movies, and tv shows. I play World of Warcraft, homeschool my kids, use essential oils, have vivid dreams, find inspiration in trees, and write fantasy books for teenagers. Oh yeah, and I have a secret affection for dubstep. My life is weird and not in any way normal. The truth is, there aren’t a lot of groups where I “fit in” because there aren’t that many people who are weird like me. But that’s okay. I have found a few here and there who let me be weird, who even seem to like me for it, and that’s all I need. Sure, I’d like to be the queen of nerds in my own little corner leading a group of like-minded freaks who can all have a secret clubhouse with a club motto and a secret handshake, but until then, I’ll be content with a few friends who cheer me on and challenge me to be the best me there ever was. And in return, I vow to cheer on the freaks I meet along the way.

Tomorrow I get to introduce you to my brand new series chock full of freaks you are going to love (and maybe a few you’ll love to hate.) But today, I am celebrating the freaks in real life, the brave beautiful people who aren’t afraid to stand up and be themselves. Let’s cheer on the fabulous freaks around us. Maybe your voice will be the one that gives them strength to be who they were always meant to be. So, who are you cheering for today?