Friday Featured Artist: Elaine Cantrell

Today, I’m happy to sptolight Elaine Cantrell’s The Enchanted.

Genre: Fantasy/romance

Rating: PG — a few cuss words and a shooting.


BLURB: Forced by his father into a marriage he didn’t want, Prince Alan soon finds that his bride isn’t the sweet, submissive creature he expected.  Morgane has the heart of a dragon and beauty beyond compare, but she isn’t thrilled about the marriage either.  When black treachery threatens the kingdom, Morgane and Alan embark on a perilous journey that has an excellent chance of ending in failure and death for them and all of their people.

Excerpt: Morgane rolled over and faced him. He felt surprised to see anger on her face. “Why do you torment me, Prince Alan?”

Alan pushed back from her. “I? I torment you?”

“Yes! You torment me night and day. Your face is never far from my thoughts. In the morning my eyes fall upon you, and my heart sings to have another day in your presence. We were not supposed to have a common life at all! I tried very hard to run away, and you angered your father so much he put you through a year of torment to bend you to his will.” A little smile came to rest on her face. “But you did not bend, did you? Nor did you break. You remained the same man you always were. I know this in my heart.”

With a suddenness that took his breath away, laughter and light fled from her face. Bleak resignation and hopelessness turned her eyes into two wells of horror. “If I were as beautiful now as I once was, then you would find it difficult to turn away from me.” Her lip quivered. “I know that no man wants a scarred woman, but I had hoped…”

“What had you hoped?”

“That you could love me.”

Her voice had dropped so low it was hard to hear. Alan seized her and pulled her against him. “And I do. I do not see your scar. I see you with your lovely face and fine, spirited soul, and unless you love me, I cannot go on.”


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  elainespicture

Elaine Cantrell was born and raised in South Carolina.  She has a Master’s Degree in Personnel Services from Clemson University and is a member of Alpha Delta Kappa, an international honorary sorority for women educators.  She is also a member of Romance Writers of America and EPIC authors.  She is married to her college sweetheart and has two sons and three grandchildren.  Besides writing she enjoys, quilting, gardening, and collecting vintage Christmas ornaments.  You can contact Elaine at her web site at

You can find The Enchanted here:


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Friday Featured Artist: Amanda Denette Chitwood

HinkleNewborn (29 of 31)Meet wife, mother and photographer Amanda Denette Chitwood, owner of Amanda Denette Photography:

I’ve always been a shutterbug, and had a camera with me all the time as a kid and teenager. It wasn’t until I was pregnant with my first daughter that I really decided to learn how to use a camera. I switched over to manual and read any info I could find on taking better photos. I poured myself into learning and taught myself how to take the best photos I could possibly take. I shoot with a canon 5d mkii and usually use the canon 24-70L. I also enjoy using my tilt shift lens on occasion.

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I’m inspired by the everyday things. I take photos of seemingly mundane items or moments, but try to capture them beautifully. I love photographing families and during my session, taking a step back and watching them interact. I get shots of giggles, tickles, and tears. I want my sessions to not only be posed and portrait perfect, but also real and heartwarming. When I photograph a newborn, I make sure to shoot those little features that are so fleeting: the nose bumps, the fuzzy shoulders, the sweet baby rolls. I want to not only capture the regular, but tElaineStevenEngagementWeb (57 of 68)bhe things that you may not realize you’ll miss.

I’m always striving to learn new techniques and push the envelope both in my client work, and in my personal work. I want to take my work to the next level in both technical and artistic aspects. I want people to look at my work and think “Wow, that is amazing. How did she do that?” SneaksRedBalloon (2 of 13) copy

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To learn more about Amanda, or see more of her work, click on the links below.


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Friday Featured Artist: Heather Gray

Today’s spotlight: Jakal by best-selling author, Heather Gray .

GENRE:  Inspirational Regency Romance w/ some Suspense

Rating: PG 13 – Kissing and some acts of violence

JackalBlurb:  Hiding in the shadows just got harder.

When tragedy strikes, Juliana and her family must flee their home. Can they persuade a virtual stranger to help them? Juliana isn’t so sure, especially after their chaperone threatens to cane him. Even as Juliana struggles to trust him, she finds herself drawn to this mysterious man. Surely all she wants from him is refuge…

Rupert is a man whose life depends on his ability to remain unnoticed. What, then, is he supposed to do with this family he’s inherited?  His life is overrun with an ancient chaperone who would terrify a lesser man, two spirited girls, and the secretive Juliana – someone he comes to think of as his own precious jewel.

With this new responsibility thrust upon him, Rupert will have to make sacrifices – but will God ask him to sacrifice everything?

EXCERPT:  1810

A duke had been cut down in the prime of his life. According to the War Department, The Hunter was to blame.

Jackal had been put onto The Hunter’s scent and told to ferret him out at all cost. It was his job, his duty to the crown, and he treated it with the seriousness it demanded. Evil could not be allowed to go unpunished, and people who took pleasure in destroying the lives of others would not walk away with impunity, not on his watch.

Jackal met with his contacts in the Austrian government and found no gratification in revealing they had a traitor in their midst. It had been a necessary move, and now the problem would be dealt with. The Austrians would put The Hunter down, and England’s hands would remain clean of the mess, exactly as the minister wanted.

Grim foreboding furrowed his brow as he left the meeting with the Austrians. His lack of evidence mocked him. He’d done as ordered, and they’d believed him, but had it been his choice, he’d have gathered more proof first.

Jackal climbed into his carriage and slapped his hand against the roof, signaling the driver with his readiness to depart. A lengthy ride awaited him. He would leave the carriage and his current identity behind in Munich once he arrived there. New papers and fresh horses were waiting for him. The same would happen again when he crossed over into Stuttgart, and then again in Brussels. His task was clear: remain alive long enough to claim each of the new identities and return safely to his homeland.

Sitting back on the roughly cushioned seat, he accepted what he’d begun to suspect. This would be his last assignment for the crown. He was getting too old for the job. The time to retire was upon him. The younger bucks were willing – if not entirely ready – to take their place among the ranks of the unseen, unknown, and unnamed heroes of war. Jackal shook his head. Not too long ago, he’d been one of those young bucks. Ready for retirement at age thirty-two? The thought would be laughable in any other career. In his line of work, though, only those who retired young lived to be old and grey.

Lost in melancholy, Jackal barely noted the change from the raucous noise of a bustling merchant district to the quiet pastoral sounds that would accompany him on most of this journey. Europe was a large land with rich cities interspersed with vast emptiness dotted with small hamlets. Traveling by carriage would take weeks, but as long as he could report back that he’d done as ordered, it would be worth the time.

He settled into his seat. They were still days from their first sanctioned stop. As always, the best defense was to keep moving.


A change in the carriage’s soothing methodical movement woke Jackal from his doze and alerted him that something was amiss. Awareness coursed through his veins, pushing away the remnant of sleep. A quick glance at the curtained window told him it was late morning. They’d ridden through the night to put as much distance as possible between them and Vienna – the current hub of Austrian government.

The carriage was moving with a wildness he’d felt only one other time in his life. Dread snaked through his middle as he accepted the truth. There was no longer a driver in control of his conveyance. Jackal crouched low on the floor for balance as he prepared to throw open the door and jump. Perhaps he should have sought retirement one assignment sooner.

Before his hand could touch the door, a jarring force threw Jackal against the seat to his left, shooting pain up his arm. They’d been boarded, then, and his driver – an agent he’d worked with for years – had likely not been alive to sound the alarm. Emotion would come later. For now, Jackal needed to focus on one thing: Survival.

The carriage gained speed under the skillful hand of whoever now sat in the driver’s seat. I should have jumped when I had the chance. Jackal shook his head as he calculated the odds of survival.

Palming his gun, he pounded on the roof of the carriage, commanding the driver to stop. Surprise flared to life as his conveyance did indeed come to a standstill. Rather than slow to a gentle stop, the carriage halted its forward momentum in a skidding bone-shaking fashion. It was the kind of stop that guaranteed no beast would be able to walk away from it afterward.

Jackal jumped before the dust could settle. His best chance would be to go on the offence and catch the driver off-guard. Though he’d assumed the driver had a partner, nothing could have prepared him for the vicious attack awaiting him on the other side of the door.

Jackal no sooner touched the ground than he was trampled under the anxious feet of a high-stepping horse. He’d not even had a chance to gain his footing. As he lay on the ground, Jackal both heard and felt the breaking of bone in his left leg. A couple of his ribs surrendered to the heavy hooves as well. Rolling onto his side, he took aim at the perpetrator. The sun blinded him, and he could distinguish no features on the man whose gun dared him to move. In the split second it took for him to reassure himself he was not aiming at an innocent bystander – for they were indeed in one of the numerous modest hamlets that dotted the continent’s countryside – the rider pulled the trigger, and pain seared through Jackal’s already throbbing leg. It felt as if the lead had burrowed its way into his very bone.

He pulled the trigger of his flintlock pistol, and the man on the horse recoiled. Even as Jackal reached for the gun concealed at the ankle of his wounded leg, he knew it was futile. The rider had a second gun in-hand before his own fingers even brushed against the grip of his hidden weapon. Pain tore through his shoulder, immobilizing his shooting arm. Another ball of lead ripped into his middle. He felt his blood seeping out onto the street.

Accepting his fate, he asked only one thing. “At whose hand am I to die this day?”

Laughter vile enough to sour port met his question. “Today the Jackal shall meet his end at the hands of The Hunter.”

The Hunter? The Austrians were supposed to have him by now.

“Your plan failed, and I am free. Prepare to die.”

Blackness closing in around him, Jackal released the last thought held captive in his mind.

Why God?

Cold claimed his body as he slipped into darkness. He neither heard nor felt the next shot.


Amazon US    Amazon UK    Barnes & Noble    Kobo    Smashwords    iTunes


Heather Gray is the author of the Ladies of Larkspur inspirational western romance series, including Mail Order man, Just Dessert, and Redemption.  She also writes the Regency Refuge series with titles His Saving Grace, Jackal, and the soon-to-be-released Queen.  But that’s not all!  Interested in contemporary Christian romance?  Take a look at Ten Million Reasons and Nowhere for Christmas.

Heather loves coffee, God, her family, and laughter – not necessarily in that order!  She writes approachable and flawed characters who, through the highs and lows of life, find a way to love God, embrace each day, and laugh out loud right along with her.  And, yeah, her books almost always have someone who’s a coffee addict.  Some things just can’t be helped.

Heather can be contacted at:

My Website –

My Blog –

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New Blog Feature

imagesQ7X850SYBeginning July 4th, I will be adding something new to this blog. I’m calling it  Featured Artist Friday, and I’m very excited about it. Each Friday, I will feature not only authors, but a variety of artists, including but not limited to: photographers, jewelry makers, dancers, painters, graphic artists and more.

I do hold the right to refuse anything I deem inappropriate for this blog, but if you’re interested in being spotlighted, I’d love to hear from you. Please note that all of July and half or August are already spoken for.

Stay tuned, and I hope you enjoy.

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Adventures in Retirement: The new car

Our latest venture took us to the quaint town of Maggie Valley, North Carolina. We rented a little cabin and spent long hours driving through the mountains and checking out the wildlife and gorgeous scenery.

Got our first glimpse of a black bear. I was a bit concerned, but seeing as the cub was in a tree close to 100 feet in the air, I figured mama wouldn’t bother my husband or I as we snapped our cameras like we’d never seen a bear before. Oh, wait, this was the first time! It was rather exhilarating to say the least, but not quite as exhilarating as driving up a corkscrew mountain on a road with my guardrails. Thankfully, we survived and were rewarded by the amazing site of a herd of elk coming into the valley to feed. God’s creation never ceases to amaze me.

After a stop in Houston to be with one of sisters as she underwent surgery, we headed home. So, what great pearls of wisdom did we come away with after our time away? The knowledge that our car was too small to be taking any future road trips.

P1010263 (620x465)I blame myself. When we set out to purchase a vehicle for our retirement trips, I got caught up in the cute factor of the adorable, frosted glass (yes, that’s the name of the color the manufacturer gave it) Ford Escape. We test drove it, and I asked my husband repeatedly if it was large enough for him. At 6’3”, he needs more space than I do. He said yes, but I think it was only because he saw how much I liked the car.

Well, eight months and several road trips later, we came to the conclusion that we needed something bigger. Last week, we took the baby back to the dealer and traded it in for a toddler, a silver Ford Edge. We went from a 2013 to a 2011, which I hated doing, got a vehicle with leather seats—I prefer cloth, and don’t even get me going on the color. I like color, and for me, silver isn’t one. But the look on my husband’s face when he drove it, and the way he sat taller in a more “manly” vehicle was all it took for me to say yes. It may not be the car of my dreams, but I have to admit that every time I’m behind the wheel or sitting in the passenger seat, it feels right. photo (2)

The only thing left to do now, is plan our next road trip!

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Adventures in retirement: The bicycle ride

There’s an expression out there that goes like this, “It’s like learning to ride a bike, once you learn you never forget.” I took that quote to heart when after twenty years of not riding I decided I needed a bicycle. It would be good exercise and I’d get to enjoy the great outdoors.

With new found determination to do this together, my husband and I went on the hunt for a couple of beach cruisers. We didn’t want fancy gears and such. We live in Florida. It’s flat! 10003197_10202713622355454_938887894_n

Three days after bringing home our purchases, we pulled out the old bike rack with plans to take our inaugural ride. First off, my husband bought a bike with 32” wheels, making it hard to mount both his and mine on the rack. So, after a bit of a struggle, we managed to get mine in the back of our small SUV, and off we went.

I quickly discovered that what the above quote doesn’t say is that thought you might remember, it doesn’t mean your agility level is at the same place it was when you were a kid. Used to be when I felt I was losing control, I could swing my leg around, push the bike aside and end up on two feet. Now, with barely my toes being able to reach the ground when sitting on the seat, and a lot less dexterity in my movements, I was feeling a bit nervous.

Determined to make good on my promise to exercise more I forged on, following my husband for nearly two miles. Yes, my legs felt a bit like jelly by the time I was through, but I wanted to go again. After a quick break, we decided go halfway, so once again I followed my husband through the parking lot of this lovely park as we found a back way to the trail. This is where I made my mistake. Instead of walking the bike down the slight grassy and sandy incline, I played the brave girl and rode.

One trip to the emergency room, and two broken ribs later, I struggle to move and breathe. My goal is not to give up riding, but to use the brains God gave me and make wiser decisions next time—whenever that time may be.

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Adventures in retirement: The $400+ day drive

Today’s beautiful weather prompted me to push for an afternoon drive. Though I had plenty of writing/editing and such to keep me busy, I couldn’t bring myself to remain indoors. I wanted to walk, enjoy some water and breathe in some fresh air. After a bit of discussion, we opted for St. Marys, Georgia, roughly 45 minutes from our house.

untitledRick, seldom without a camera, chose his Canon S100 a compact single lens that takes excellent pictures. This wasn’t about pictures as much as simply being outside. We climbed into the car and backed out of the driveway. Before we were fully in the street, I looked through the windshield, having felt a small bump, and pointed to a small black case sitting close to the grass. My heart sank. We pulled back in and I prayed we’d run over a rock or something else—anything else. We hadn’t.

After a quick examination, Rick quickly discovered that the $400 camera was toast. Instead of getting upset, he simply went into the house, grabbed a different camera, and we took off. The drive was lovely and the walk perfect. As opposed to St. Augustine (one of our options), St. Marys was devoid of tourists and traffic. The perfect afternoon.untitled

We stopped for lunch halfway home and got in just in time to feed the dog—who knows exactly when it’s four o’clock. By the time I finished dishing out the dog’s food, I went in search of my husband, knowing exactly where I’d find him: on the computer, ordering a new camera.

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Adventures in retirement: Always be prepared—the final leg

Our three day adventure came to an end at 3:30 this afternoon. We left Orlando and drove to historical Sanford, situated next to Lake Monroe. We’ll, likely go back in May for the St. John’s River Festival of the Arts.

Though light rain pelted our windshield most of the way home, we enjoyed taking the back roads, driving through such cities as DeBary, DeLand, Crescent City and Palatka.

Fog seemed to be a running theme in our mini-trip. While visiting Sarasota, the fog was so thick we could barely see the water. After finally making it to Naples, my husband told me he wanted to get up early the next morning so we could get some sunrise pictures. He woke me from a sound sleep at 6:36 a.m. I hadn’t slept well (shoulder pain issues), but climbed out of bed, showered and dressed. Halfway through applying my makeup, my husband tells me to take my time because it’s foggy outside. Say what? He couldn’t have looked before waking me from a blissful dream?

This morning, I showered before looking out the window. When I did…you got it. FOG. Rain fell shortly afterward, improving visibility while giving us time to slowly get ourselves moving—not a bad thing when you’re retired.

I got to thinking about our short trip as we drove home. In the twenty-two years we’ve lived here, we’ve traveled down both coasts, up the middle of the state, and through the panhandle. I can proudly say we have traversed the majority of the state of Florida.  Bring on the rest of the country! 62276407321096218

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Adventures in retirement: Always be prepared! Part 2

Well, it turns out we did not look for a hotel before leaving Naples, because we had no idea where we would end up. So much for being prepared!

canstock11467865In truth, all worked out well. We did drive a bit further south to The Everglades, but knew we wouldn’t be staying the night there, so no small town worries. We took my sister’s advice and signed up for an air boat ride. Now, I am not in the least bit a boat person. I can get sea sick just thinking about boats. Putting that aside, I was quite excited about the prospect of weaving through the mangrove trees and catching a few glimpses of the wild life.

My husband, ever the photographer, snapped dozens of shots of the few birds we saw and the thousands of mangrove roots. We zipped over grasses and sand and did the obligatory 360 spin in open waters. And as crazy as it sounds, I found myself wanting more open waters and long, fast sprints. Maybe next time.

Opting to stop in Orlando for the night (definitely no hotel issues there), we drove up the center of the state instead of taking the coast road I had originally thought we might. It was a nice change of pace, and I now know where all the Florida oranges come from. Another discovery was how many lakes Florida has. Sheesh! You’d think we just moved here instead of having lived in the state for twenty-two years. lol! untitled

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Adventures in retirement: Always be prepared!

My husband and I took off on a last minute road trip—nothing major, just two or three days. Instead of going to our favorite laid-back place, Cedar Key, we opted to head to south Florida instead.

Back in the days when we were young and stupid (perhaps I should say young and adventurous), we never made hotel reservations. We simply took off and took our chances. Case in point, when we went on our honeymoon, we flew standby (because we both worked for an airline) to Italy, took a train into the city, because we wanted to stay close to the Colosseum. Thinking nothing of the fact it was midnight,  my husband found us hotel, and not a bad one at that. images

As we aged, we became a bit less adventurous and chose to book our rooms in advance—except for this trip. We weren’t sure where we would end up on our first night, so my husband suggested we do things the old way. BIG mistake! Apparently we hit on the tourist season and either there were no rooms, or the cost was far more than we cared to spend. After several calls, we found a place and grabbed. We could see the hotel from our car and took what we thought was the turnoff leading to the place. Another BIG mistake.

The turnoff took us not to the hotel, but to a section of the Interstate known as Alligator Alley, which is a toll road. We explained our situation to the woman manning the booth, paid our $3.00 and asked if we could turn around. She told us we could when we reached the first exit—20 miles down the road. Needless to say, this did not make us happy, but to make matters worse, we only had 70 miles worth of gas in our tank.

We did contemplate using one of those U-turns designated for “official” cars only, but figured we’d end up being flagged by a policeman and fined. When we finally managed to find our way to the hotel, we were down to our last gallon of gas. At that point we were so worn out, we checked in and decided we’d gas up in the morning. To add insult to injury, our no smoking room practically knocked me on my butt with the cigarette smell the moment we stepped inside. Thankfully I brought some air freshener with us. Since there were no more rooms we were pretty well stuck.

We’re planning on visiting The Everglades tomorrow, and I’m praying my husband will find us a hotel before we leave. I’m not sure I can take another day like today.

Stay tuned for our continuing adventure.

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