Friday, September 22, 2017

Lillian Duncan's new novel and her struggle with brain tumors

PUZZLE HOUSE by Lillian Duncan:

Life isn’t a box of candy—it’s a puzzle!

Rachel Summers is all about Rachel Summers…until the day she crashes headlong into a semi-truck. As her life hangs in the balance, she has a visitor who asks a very simple question.

Does she want to be healed or to be a healer?

She makes her choice, but the journey doesn’t go quite the way she expected.

And so Rachel now runs Puzzle House. Every guest is different and yet the same. They all come to the Puzzle House for one reason and one reason only—to be healed, usually from a life-threatening illness. Sometimes they receive their miracle, and sometimes they discover there’s more than one kind of healing.

Nia is a fifteen-year-old African-American girl who is dying. The doctors have told her there is nothing else to be done. No more treatments. No more hope. No more life. And she’s angry about that. Very angry. Against her wishes, Nia’s aunt brings her to The Puzzle House.

Together, Nia and Rachel will take a journey that will change both their lives.

GIVEAWAY INFO: To celebrate the release of Puzzle House, I’m having a very special giveaway on my blog, Tiaras & Tennis Shoes at Leave a comment on one of my Puzzle House posts and you’re entered to win. Thanks!


Tell us a little about yourself.

My husband and I live in a small town in Ohio. I mean small—we only have 1 traffic light. I grew up in the area, but moved to the big city of Cleveland for many years. Like Dorothy, I love being home again.

Where did you grow up and attend school?

I grew up in rural Ohio, near Wooster. It’s a farming community. Most of my books have a similar setting. Sometimes I actually use the names of local communities, other times I use a fictional name

I received my Bachelor’s Degree from Akron University and my Master’s Degree from Kent State. Then I moved away to the big city of Cleveland to work for many years until I retired from Cleveland Schools in 2007.

What is your favorite genre to read? To write?

Mostly I read and write Christian mystery and suspense with a little horror thrown in. PUZZLE HOUSE is a complete departure from what I usually write. I would simply classify it as Christian Fiction, like the book WAR ROOM.

Tell us about PUZZLE HOUSE.

I call it the book I never wanted to write!

Really? Can you explain that?

Early on in the story, the main character (Rachel Summers) discovers she has brain tumors due to a genetic condition called Neurofibromatosis Type 2 (NF 2).


That’s exactly what I said when I was diagnosed with NF 2 and bilateral brain tumors in 2012. Don’t gasp! The tumors are almost always non-cancerous but as I like to say that hasn’t stopped them from wreaking havoc on my health and my life.

And that is why I say Puzzle House is the book I never wanted to write. I would never have written it if I hadn’t developed the brain tumors. But I do have NF 2 and the brain tumors and Puzzle House is one of the good things that’s come from it.

What inspired you to write this novel in particular?

Like Rachel, I have Neurofibromatosis Type 2. I wanted to show that even when you have a serious chronic illness, God can use you to help others.

What is Neurofibromatosis Type 2 (NF2)?

It’s a rare genetic disease that allows tumors to grow anywhere there are nerves, but most people with NF2 develop brain tumors, which I did. The tumors affect both your hearing and your balance which can affect your health in significant ways. It’s been a difficult journey but God is good. There’s a lot I can’t do these days because of the brain tumors, but I can still write!

Tell me a bit about your main characters.

Rachel Summers was all about Rachel Summers until the day she crashed into a semi-truck. While in a coma she has a very special visitor that asks a very special question. Do you want to be healed or to be a healer? Her answer changes the course of her life as well as many others.

What’s the setting for PUZZLE HOUSE?

It starts out in the icy cold city of Cleveland Ohio but moves on to the warmth of Georgia.

Do you have personal experience with any of the events in your story, and if so, could you share about that?

Like Rachel I have neurofibromatosis Type 2 which is a genetic condition that causes bilateral brain tumors. They are usually benign meaning non-cancerous but believe me when I say they aren’t benign meaning harmless!

I was diagnosed a little over 5 years ago. In that time I’ve had two Gamma Knife surgeries, 3 rounds of chemotherapy, and months and months of being on steroids. I’m completely deaf in one ear and partially in the other. I also have severe balance issues that make it hard for me to walk or do lots of daily activities that other people take for granted.

It’s been quite a journey but even as my health declines my faith in God grows stronger and stronger. And that has been a blessing.

What’s your day job? Tell us a little about it.

I retired as a speech therapist from a large city school district in Ohio, then spent several more years working part-time in smaller, rural districts near where I live. Between the two jobs, I don’t think there is any type of child I haven’t worked with at least once.

How did your education or previous career impact your journey to publication and where you are now?

My day job was as a school speech pathologist, better known as a speech therapist. So for more than 30 years I listened…and listened…and listened some more. I think it helped me in a lot of areas but certainly with writing dialogue of my characters.

What do you want readers to take away from PUZZLE HOUSE?

That God can and does still do miracles but the miracle we want isn’t always the miracle we need and God knows the difference.

What is your writing process?

I never know what is going to happen in my story on any given writing day. It’s as if my mind is a movie screen and I watch that day’s events and then I write it.

When I start a new story I usually have a clear picture of the main character in mind and what obstacle he/she will face, but anything goes after that. If I’m writing and start to feel bored—then I kill someone or blow something up. And that way it’s a surprise to me and to my readers.

Do you have a favorite or “life” verse? Why is that one important to you?

Romans 8: 28:   And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose.

After I was diagnosed with the brain tumors, the treatments and the side effects wreaked havoc on my health as well as the tumors themselves! When I was at my lowest points, I kept repeating this verse over and over. It kept me trusting God and it kept me in peace and joy in spite of how bad I felt at the time.

Looking back I can now see how God used many of the past events in my life to prepare me for this struggle of a lifetime and for that I’m very grateful.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a sequel to PUZZLE HOUSE. It’s called The David Years and without giving too much of the plot of Puzzle House away, it follows one of the characters you meet in PUZZLE HOUSE.

Are there any other authors in your family? 

Actually there is! My nephew, Chad H. Young, is a missionary for CRU, formerly Campus Crusades For Christ. A few years ago, he decided to give writing a try, nonfiction. I’m so proud of him—he has two books out and is about to have a third published, Authenticity: Real Faith in a Phony World and Wrestling with Faith, Love, and Gators: Overcoming Barriers to Fully Loving God.
How did you get started writing? How old were you? What made you want to start?

I started writing when I was 40—a late starter. (This is a pretty good story.) I was feeling the way a lot of 40 year-olds feel. Unsettled, not sure if I wanted to keep teaching. I was watching a TV show, probably Oprah. Her guest recommending writing your own obituary and putting in outlandish things that you’ve never done.

So I did. As I reread the obituary, it said that I was a multi-published author. What? I’d never written any fiction even though I was an avid reader. The most I’d ever written was some poetry years before.

When I read those words, a spark ignited inside me.

And I started writing!

It took me a year to finish my first novel and it was horrible. I made every mistake that writing “experts” say are no-no! As bad as it was, I knew I wanted to keep writing and I did!

If you could offer a word of encouragement to an aspiring author, what would you say?

DON’T GIVE UP! It took me 15 years to get a traditional contract, and now I have almost 20 books published! If I can do it, so can you. But not if you give up your dream!

How can readers find you on the Internet?

My website is and I have a devotional blog at My blog is TIARAS & TENNIS SHOES at  I’m also on Twitter as @LillianDuncan and on Facebook at


By Lillian Duncan
Puzzle House is the book I never wanted to write.

What??? Let me explain. Rachel Summers, the main character in my new book, Puzzle House, has brain tumors due to Neurofibromatosis Type 2.


That’s what I said when my doctor told me I had brain tumors and something called Neurofibromatosis Type 2 (NF2 for short) in 2012. It didn’t seem like such a big deal at the time. After all, I felt fine, but I was wrong—really wrong!

So what exactly is NF2? It’s a rare genetic condition that allows tumors to grow anywhere on the nervous system, but especially in the brain (almost always on the auditory nerve and vestibular nerve) and the spine.

The Rare Disease Act of 2002 defines a rare disease as one that affects fewer than 200,000 people in the United States or about 1 in 1,500 people. So exactly how rare is NF2? About 1 in 25,000 to 40,000 people (depending on what source you use) have it so as you can see it’s extremely rare which is why you probably haven’t heard of it either.

The tumors are almost always benign, but there’s two meanings for benign. One being non-cancerous and the other being harmless. The good news is that my tumors are not cancerous, the bad news is they are definitely not harmless.

So how has NF2 affected me? Without going into all the gory details, since being diagnosed I’ve had two Gamma Knife Surgeries, three rounds of chemo, and countless months of being on steroids. Because of the tumors and/or the treatments, I have chronic fatigue, balance issues that affect my mobility, complete deafness in one ear and partial deafness in the other, neuropathy and severe pain in my arms and legs that also affect my mobility as well as a multitude of “less severe” symptoms.

After reading all that you might think Puzzle House is a really depressing story, right? I certainly hope not. My first goal when writing a story is always to entertain and that’s true with this one as well. In fact, the subtitle of the story is a novel of healing and hope.

I’m not going to give away the plot but I’ll give you a little hint. While unconscious after an auto-truck mishap, Rachel has a very special visitor who asks, “Do you want to be healed or to be a healer?” She makes her choice and that’s when her adventure begins.

Let’s get back to the healing and hope part of the novel. Nia is a 14 year-old girl who has lost hope and wants nothing to do with Rachel or Puzzle House. But they’re stuck with each other for the week so Rachel shares her story with Nia as they work her puzzle together.

It’s true that Puzzle House is a book I never wanted to write, but it’s also true that God uses all things for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28) and I believe that’s what He’s done by inspiring me to write Puzzle House.

Why did I choose a puzzle theme? Because in many ways life is like a puzzle—not a box of candy! There’s lot of pieces that have to be put together before you can see the whole picture. Many times we don’t understand why we need a particular piece of our puzzle but God does.

That’s where faith comes in. It’s not easy to keep trusting when we’re suffering, whether it be from a physical condition like brain tumors or some other difficulty. But if we trust God with all the puzzle pieces of our life, He will use them to create a thing of beauty.


Are You Sure?

Hebrews 11: 8

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.

In my upcoming book, PUZZLE HOUSE, Rachel is asked, “Do you want to be healed or to be a healer?” She wants to please God so her answer is to be a healer. Of course when she answers she doesn’t know she has a serious medical condition that is about to turn her world upside down.

Most of us will be asked that same question during our life if we’re deeply committed to following God’s Will. The question won’t be exactly the same since God has different plans for all of us.

My question was do you want to be a writer? I’d already been dabbling in fiction writing when God asked me that question. Not literally of course, but in my spirit. My answer was a resounding yes, but… like Rachel, I should have taken a few more moments to think about it. To ask myself “are you sure?”

Don’t get me wrong, I love writing and even more I love writing Christian fiction. My stories demonstrate God’s goodness is many different ways depending on the story. But it hasn’t been an easy journey.

It took fifteen years to get my first traditional contract. That’s a lot of rejections. Would I have kept writing if I’d known it would take that long? I’m not sure but I’m so glad I didn’t quit.

Let me give you a short glimpse into a writer’s life. It takes a lot of time to bring a story to life. First you have to write it then you have to rewrite it and then you have to rewrite it again and again and... Then it’s time for editing, revisions, and polishing before submitting it to my publisher. Then it’s time to go into marketing mode. Actually you have to be in marketing mode all the time. And at the same time I’m in the process of writing and rewriting new stories to get them ready for submission.

It’s a never-ending process, but I truly love it so it’s OK. And then there’s my reward, right? If you’re thinking a financial reward, stop! Yes, some writers make big bucks—but so far I’m not one of them.

But my reward is even better than money. My reward is knowing I’m doing what God wants me to do. My reward is the joy of creating stories that demonstrate God’s love to my readers as I entertain them (and myself.)

So when God comes knocking at your heart and asking you your question, it may sound like an impossible task and you may ask yourself—are you sure? No, you can’t know what will happen, whether you’ll be successful or not, whether it will be an easy or a difficult journey, whether you’ll quit or persevere.

But like Abraham, you have to start the journey if you want to get to your destination. The destination God created for you. The destination that might bring you a few tears or more than a few along the way, but that will also bring you peace and joy and a satisfaction that can’t be described.

That sounds good, right?

Are you sure?

Lillian Duncan…Stories of faith mingled… with murder & mayhem.

Lillian is a multi-published author who lives in the middle of Ohio Amish country with her husband and a menagerie of pets. She was a speech pathologist for more than 34 years but retired in 2012 after being diagnosed with brain tumors as a result of Neurofibromatosis Type 2.  As an educator, speech pathologist, and a writer, she believes in the power of words to transform lives, especially God’s Word.

Lillian writes the types of books she loves to read—fast-paced suspense with a touch of romance that demonstrates God’s love for all of us. To learn more about Lillian, you may visit her at or She also has a devotional blog at

Monday, September 18, 2017




The old cook stove hadn’t had a fire in it for a while because of the hot weather, but that day wood was laid inside and set ablaze.

My big sister, Joan, seven years older than I, decided to give me a bath. I probably was a toddler. Thinking the stove was cool, she set the dishpan, which was my bathtub, on the stove. Then she plopped my bare body beside it.

Where was Mama?

I don’t know for sure, but I can guess. She probably was in my family’s huge garden, planting, watering, harvesting, hoeing, or something. making sure the ten of us had food to eat.

I was born in 1937 on the tail of The Great Depression.  Daddy and my oldest brother, Virgil, worked 12 hours a day shoveling coal from railroad cars onto trucks. Their pay? Each of them earned one dollar for the entire day.

The family had hard times before. Refugees from Kansas droughts, dust storms, and locust devastations, after moving to Colorado the cupboards were bare but their land and irrigation water promised food for the future. They could fill canning jars and then the cellar.

 I don’t think they contacted a doctor when burns covered my bottom. Except for once when I had croup and the doctor came to the house, as far as I know I didn’t go to a doctor until after I was married.

 I learned at a young age my parents had no money. When I was in the third grade the teacher told every student there was a fee for books and things that our parents had to pay.  I didn’t give the note about it to my parents, and didn’t tell them about the fee.

The teacher reminded us frequently in class that if we hadn’t paid, we better get it in. I ignored it. I thought I had invaded our family which already had seven children and I didn’t want to cause trouble or cost my parents anything. One big joke in our house was how angry my oldest sister became when Mama had another baby. My sis, Marjorie, wouldn’t look me for a week because she was so mad. So I felt guilty. They had enough children when I barged in.

Marjorie became, however, one of the most loving people in our family, but I’ll tell about that later.

My teacher gave me a D-grade in citizenship because I didn’t bring the money. Mama, a redhead like me, believed in education and was astounded by my low grade. She trotted the half mile to the school and demanded to see the teacher.

Mama admitted there was no money, but Daddy now had a better job. Although he was blind in one eye, he drove a truck for Grand Oil Company delivering oil to farmers. Yet, to pay the fee they had to take a little bank, a tiny Pennzoil can with a slit in the top, and save pennies and few nickels until they could pay the school.

While they were still in Kansas the depression hit hard and Dad thought up many things to provide for his family. One year there was no firewood, but near their house was a huge tree stump. He decided to dynamite it and made the dynamite out of sugar and salt peter. When he was pounding the substance into a crevice in the stump, it exploded, driving a sliver about six inches long through his eyeball.

He waited until morning and that time he had to go to a doctor. When the doctor removed the sliver, Daddy was blind in that eye.

But Dad kept going. During the drought he dammed up the creek and figured out how to irrigate his garden. That year the cellar was full and by bartering food from the garden, Virgil was able to go to high school. The food paid for his board.

The high school was too far away to walk and Virgil no longer had a horse. When the locusts came, probably the previous year, my grandfather put poison around his corn trying to save it.  Virgil’s treasured Shetland pony got into the poison and died. The locusts were so bad they even ate all the onions in Dad’s garden out of the ground, and anything else available, including brooms, clothing and leaves off the trees.

The family didn’t know then how important it was for Virgil to receive his high school diploma. Years later Virgil earned his doctorate in education and sociology and not only became a college professor but became the force behind Evangel University’s great accreditation.

Although I was too young to remember, I’m sure I had third-degree burns from Joan setting me on the stove. I remember nothing about it. Mama, as most people did in that day, probably used home remedies. But I believe the biggest thing was prayer.

Before our family arrived in Fruita, Colo., from Kansas, a little church heard a big family was moving to town and began to pray for us.

Shortly, a new friend Marjorie met at the Fruita high school invited her to church. Determination to go filled Marge, but Mama pitched a fit. The church was Pentecostal. A Holy Roller church!

Mama, a Methodist, was raised by Christian parents, but from what older siblings told me the hardships and trials of life left her faith pretty beat up.

“Let her go,” Daddy said, “I hear they teach children to obey their parents there.”

 Young men working with the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a public work relief program that was part of the New Deal, swarmed all over our valley, and some of them had their eyes on my older sisters. Daddy didn’t like it.

So Marjorie went to church, accepted Jesus as her Savior and suddenly changed. The family later told me she was filled with joy and love. Rebellion and selfishness disappeared.

Virgil, Everette, Clara and all those who were old enough to understand the gospel, including my parents, were born again by God’s power. They were discipled in the Word and knew how to pray. I’m sure when Mama discovered what happened to me, she asked the church to pray. Perhaps the pastor came and anointed me with oil.

 They might have given a doctor a couple of chickens to look at the burns. I should have asked Mama and the older children while they were still alive.

It’s strange how people often experience or know of a miracle and forget it. I’ve thought of the scars few times in my life. Two scars about the size of an egg have been on my back side as long as I remember. As I grew, the skin stretched and the scars went up to my lower back.

After I got married, my husband asked what caused the scars. Occasionally doctors asked, “What happened there?” Otherwise I never thought of the miraculous recovery that the scars represented.

I should have said, “A miracle.” Only in recent years have I thanked God for life that could have ended because of the burns.

In the same way, I now realize how close I came to being blind. When I was an infant, my 2-year-old brother emptied a salt shaker into my eyes. I thank God for eyesight.

Mama and my older brothers and sisters might not have been able to watch me all the time, but I’m thankful my Heavenly Father saw me and heard when my family prayed.

The Lord told Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,” (Jeremiah 1:5 NKJ ). David wrote, “You have covered me in my mother’s womb… My frame wasn’t hidden from you, when I was made in secret… your eyes saw my substance” (Psalm 139: 13-17 NKJ).

Psalm 33 tells us “The Lord looks from heaven; he sees all the sons of men. From the place of his habitation he looks on all the inhabitants of the earth” (Psalm 33:13-14 NKJ).

I learned “Jesus Loves Me” at a young age. I memorized John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

I’m so glad God not only exists, but He loves me and hears and answers prayer.

Copyright  2017 Ada Brownell

This book is fictional suspense based on things I heard about my maternal grandmother's life.


By Ada Brownell

Jennifer Louise Parks escapes from an abusive uncle who is a judge. Will she avoid the bounty hunters? Can she forgive the person who turns her in?

Reviewer: The adventures and mishaps that JL Parks gets into will have you laughing out loud, biting your nails and perhaps even wishing you had a gun with which to help.

The most common remarks among readers of The Lady Fugitive “I couldn’t put it down;” “I love the characters;” “Sorry when it was over.” “I was hooked from the opening page.”

Available in paper and for Kindle

The Lady Fugitive 2015 Laurel Award runner-up.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Amazing quiirky creatures God made

By Catherine Castle

Have you ever noticed that God has a sense of humor? If you haven’t then all you need to do to see it is look around at nature. Consider these quirky creatures:

Spiny Something
Colorful Crab
Lion Fish

All photos © by Catherine Castle

Only someone with a sense of humor could create such funny looking creatures.

But God’s humor doesn’t just show in his creations. You can find examples of his humor in the Bible, too. Consider the donkey who spoke to Balaam after being struck three times because he would not move toward the angel of God that Balaam could not see. (Numbers 22:28) God chose a pretty unusual vehicle to use to address Balaam. Why didn’t he just make that angel visible to Balaam? Perhaps because it would have been a whole lot less interesting, and funny, if you ask any third-grader.

Or how about where Jonah ended up when he didn’t do what God asked. (Jonah 1:17) I mean putting a grown man in the belly of a whale, then giving the giant mammal indigestion so he’d spit Jonah out. You have to admit that’s got some humor in it. And when a petulant Jonah went to sulk after the Nineveh-ites repented, God made a giant plant bloom tall enough to shade Jonah from the sun. Then He sent a worm to kill the plant so it withered and died. (Jonah 4: 6) I can just see that plant blooming in time-lapse cartoon animation as Jonah sighs with relief when the shade hits him, then groans in despair as the plant withers around him. Yes, there was a lesson in both of those acts, but they both make pretty humorous stories.

And then there is the story of the Philistines capturing the Ark of the Covenant and placing it in their temple beside their god Dagon. (1 Samuel 5:1-5).) Not once, but twice, God laid Dagon on the floor, prostrate before the Ark of the Covenant.  The Philistines probably didn’t think it was too funny seeing their god on the floor in front of the Israelite’s Ark of the Covenant, but I bet the Israelites did when they heard the story. And the humor gets even better because the Philistines gave the Ark to other cities, that ended up with plagues being visited upon them. Once word got around about what had happened, the Philistines couldn’t pawn the Ark off on anyone. They ended up having to take it back to the Israelites with an offering of golden images of the plagues the Lord brought upon the various towns.  Another lesson, but one in which those watching from the outside see humor.

Proverbs 17:22 says,” A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”

I don’t know about you, but I’d always prefer a good laugh and a joyful spirit over dried bones. That’s the thing about humor, no matter what your circumstances in life, if you can find something to laugh about, you’re always better off.

Maybe that’s why humorous stories appeal to me. I hope romantic comedies appeal to you as well and that you’ll enjoy my sweet, romantic comedy, with a touch of drama, A Groom for Mama. In spite of the trying circumstances surrounding Mama, Allison, and Jack, they, too, find humor in the situations they find themselves in and discover the joyful heart that overcomes a crushed spirit. Here’s a peek at the story.

A Groom for Mama

By Catherine Castle

Beverly Walters is dying, and before she goes she has one wish—to find a groom for her daughter. To get the deed done, Mama enlists the dating service of Jack Somerset, Allison’s former boyfriend.

The last thing corporate-climbing Allison wants is a husband. Furious with Mama’s meddling, and a bit more interested in Jack than she wants to admit, Allison agrees to the scheme as long as Mama promises to search for a cure for her terminal illness.

A cross-country trip from Nevada to Ohio ensues, with a string of disastrous dates along the way, as the trio hunts for treatment and A Groom For Mama.


When Allison returned, Mama had all the prospective husband papers spread out across the kitchen bar, poring over them as if her life depended on making a decision.

As she slid out the bar stool, Allison scooped the papers into a pile with her free hand. “Don’t bother, Mama. We don’t have time to make a date before your appointment at the clinic in Cleveland. I’ve got one of the best cancer doctors there lined up to examine your case. We’ll be there for a couple of weeks, at least.”

Mama sifted through the papers and scooted a profile toward Allison. “Then let’s make a date with this man. He’s got a restaurant in the Cleveland area. You’ve got to eat, so you might as well make the best of it.”

“Will Matteson. Restauranteer.”

Restauranteer?” Mama echoed. “Is that a word?”

Pointing to the word on the paper, Allison grimaced. “He must think it is.” Then she crumpled the paper and tossed it into the trash can. “The word is restaurateur. I can’t stand people who make up words. Besides, we won’t have time for dates. There are going to be a battery of tests on you, and I want to be there the whole time.”

“Then choose someone else,” Mama said as she grabbed another paper, “because I’m not going anywhere until you do.”

Allison eyed her mother, who straightened her back ramrod stiff and returned the glare. Allison knew the pose and there was no getting around it. Sighing, she retrieved the profile from the trash. “Okay, okay. I’ll call Jack and tell him to set up a date with this guy while we’re in Cleveland. But you’re coming with me when I meet him.”

Mama blinked. “What will he think of you dragging your mother with you on your first date? It’s inappropriate.”

“Meeting a stranger for dinner, in another state, all alone, is inappropriate. You come, or I don’t go.”

Grinning, Mama handed her the telephone. “Deal.”

Want to read more? Check out A Groom for Mama at Amazon.

About The Author:

Multi-award-winning author Catherine Castle has been writing all her life.
Before beginning her career as a romance writer she worked part-time as a freelance writer. She has over 600 articles and photographs to her credit, under her real name, in the Christian and secular market. Besides writing, Catherine loves traveling with her husband, singing, and attending theatre. In the winter she loves to quilt and has a lot of UFOs (unfinished objects) in her sewing case. In the summer her favorite place to be is in her garden. She’s passionate about gardening and even won a “Best Hillside Garden” award from the local gardening club.

Her debut inspiration romantic suspense, The Nun and the Narc, from Soul Mate Publishing was an ACFW Genesis Finalist, a 2014 EPIC finalist, and the winner of the 2014 Beverly Hills Book Award and the 2014 RONE Award. Her most recent release, A Groom for Mama, is a sweet romantic comedy from Soul Mate Publishing.  Both books are available on Amazon.

Social Media Links:

Catherine’s Amazon author page:

Twitter:    @AuthorCCastle

SMP authors blog site:

Friday, September 8, 2017



By Ada Nicholson Brownell

It was 4 a.m. Sunday. Gary Hilgers staggered into the house and got into bed. He knew a brief moment of loneliness when he remembered: Dona had taken the children and left last week.

This is it. I’ve had all I can take,” she had said. “Don’t come crawling with a lot of promises this time, because I’m not coming back. You’ll never change.”

Gary turned over and tried to make himself comfortable in the bed that hadn’t been straightened since Dona left. “Oh, well,” he muttered stubbornly. “I don’t care. Dona wanted to run my life—always nagging.”

He put Dona out of his thoughts and began thinking of how he could win back the money he had lost last night. Tomorrow would surely be his lucky day!

Latte Sunday morning Gary dragged himself out of bed, still exhausted but anxious to get going. He had kept the same schedule for three years: going to work’ getting off work; drinking and gambling until the morning hours; coming home to face Dona and his broken promises.

Dona had left him several other times, but he had always talked her into coming back. This time she seemed to mean it. “There’s no hope for you, Gary,” she had said. “You’re an alcoholic, even if you’re only 22.”

It was true. He couldn’t shake his thirst for liquor. At times he had delirium tremens. He was afraid of being along. Yet he enjoyed the excitement of gambling and liquor helped her forget his family waited at home.

Later that Sunday morning he was playing poker when suddenly he turned his cards face down on the table and quickly laid his cigar on the ash tray. Sharp pains stabbed through his chest. A long drink from the bottle didn’t help. Something stirred inside him. What if you should die right now?

When his friends asked what was wrong, he tried to laugh, but the pain stayed. The thought kept pulsating through his brain: If you die right now, you will go to hell.

Gary had been reared in a Christian home but hadn’t thought of God or church for five years. Now he had an irresistible urge to go to church!

From childhood he had an unusual desire for excitement. By the time he was 10 he had figured way to avoid going to church, and he involved his eight-year-old brother John in his schemes.

When Gary was 11, his mother had a stroke and cerebral hemorrhage. The third day she seemed to rally. She talked to the children, then prayed aloud that each of them would meet her in heaven. Within an hour she went into a coma, and late that evening she died.

Gary’s grief gradually turned into bitterness. After all, the rest of the boys his age had mothers; but Gary had to do his own ironing and cook for John and himself. A married sister took the baby brother, Rex.

By the time he was 12, Gary will try anything that offered a thrill. He took his father’s car and drove it recklessly. He began smoking regularly at 14. Once he and three friends ran away to California where they got into trouble with the law and were placed on probation.

Although under the legal driving age, he got a job transporting cars for an automobile auction company. He stayed out of school a week at time to do this.

Gary met Dona in high school. The first year they were married he changed jobs 10 times. Finally at 19 he began selling cars and decided this was his vocation.

He worked hard and made as much as $300 a week. Then he began gambling. Sometimes he lost more than a week’s income in one night. He began drinking to drown his money problems and became an alcoholic.

God was forgotten. Gary was extremely bitter. It seemed everything he did only complicated his life more. His conscience became so scarred he didn’t care how much he hurt Dona. He didn’t have time to give his children love and affection, and most of the time he didn’t care.

But God remembered his mother’s petition, submitted more than 10 years before.

That Sunday at the poker table, Gary couldn’t escape the thought: If you die right now, you will go to hell.

Abruptly he left his friends. Although had had been drinking, suddenly he was cold sober. He started looking for his wife and found her. “I’ve got to go to church,” he said frantically.

Dona laughed. She figured it was a scheme to get her back, but she went with him anyway.

Gary didn’t know where a church was. He contacted his father who directed him to South Denver (Colorado) Assembly of God where H. J. Jackson is pastor.

It was 8:30 p.m. when Gary and Dona arrived. The service was half over, but that didn’t matter. Conviction stripped Gary of pride. Guilt was so heavy that he felt it was crush him. He cried unashamedly during the sermon.

Then the guest preacher. R. Fulford, gave an invitation to those who wished to be saved.

Gary raised his hand and urged Dona to raise hers. She refused. When the minister invited sinners to pray, Gary literally ran to the altar. The minute he knelt he raised his hands and asked God to forgive his sins. The pain disappeared. He fell prostrate as the power of God struck him. Immediately he was filled with the Holy Spirit and began to praise God in other tongues (Acts 2:4). When he rose from his knees two hours later, Dona was gone. She didn’t understand Pentecostal worship and was frightened.

Dona waited for Gary at home. “I’ll go to my church, and you go to yours,” she said. “I’m going to start back to church and I’ll even teach a Sunday school class.”

Gary threw away his cigarettes, and Dona noticed he didn’t use one curse word that whole evening. Formerly Dona had often cringed at his foul language. Now he treated her and the children with a new tenderness.

But Dona was not yet convinced. “It’s all part of a scheme to get me back,” she kept telling herself. “It won’t last.”

Three days later, she began to accept that something actually happened to her husband. When he said he would be home for dinner, he was there. No more broken promises! No more smoking and drinking. And no more gambling! He only looked up his old friends long enough to tell them what had happened in his life. He took time to play with the children. And he and Dona talked for several hours.

After watching him for a week and a half, Dona was convinced. Evidently there was something to this idea of becoming a new creature in Christ, after all. So now it was her turn. She refused her husband’s invitations to accept the Lord, but one evening when he was working Dona went to church with her aunt and gave her heart to God. Two weeks later she was filled with the Holy Spirit.

Soon others in Gary’s family were stirred. His sister and her husband were saved, and they are no engaged in Teen Challenge Ministry in Southern California. Then John’s wife came to Christ. A few months later, both John and the younger brother Rex knelt at the altar for salvation.

The Hilgers are active members of First Assembly of God in Lakewood, Colorado. Dona is youth president and Gary is Sunday school superintendent. He also is sales manager for an automobile agency in Denver. With five children, theirs is a happy home.

“I hadn’t really lived until I got saved,” Gary says. “Life began for me that day in 1959 when God gave me a new birth.


Monday, September 4, 2017


By Ada Brownell

After the recent solar eclipse many Christians were fired up.

“How can anyone deny God is there when he sees how exact God created the universe?

That the moon exactly fit over the sun even when they are different sizes and so many miles apart caught many people’s attention. They also were awed remembering how the whole universe revolves in sync under the guidance of somebody—who must be God.

But some people want proof God is there.

1.     The first reason you can’t prove God is there is because millions of people have decided to believe something else—even when it’s more preposterous that Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

 Despite looking into their own eyes every day in the mirror, they believe sight and everything else about the human body and the whole universe just happened. Faith is a decision, and they decided to believe in those who say God isn’t there.

They forget that the first law of thermodynamics says matter can’t be created or destroyed. Or that the second law says essentially that everything eventually falls apart—just the opposite of evolution. Every time you see an old house or barn falling in you have an example of this second law.

The story goes that God and the devil were having a discussion.

“I can make anything you can,” Satan said.

“All right,” God said. “Make a man.”

Satan bent over and started scraping up dirt. God tapped him on the shoulder.

“Use your own dirt.”

2.     Another reason you can’t prove God exists is because too many people refuse to believe in the supernatural. Even though humankind can’t explain the origins of life, which the Bible says came from the breath of God, they won’t believe.

 Even when they witness or hear of a miracle, such as the lame walking, the blind seeing, deaf ears hearing, and the sick healed, they deny the miracle because they’ve put their faith in something or someone else.

They believe in scientists because God gave some people ability to do amazing things. Their works might be called miracles, but they aren’t true miracles such as my friends saw after their pastor went to the State Home where their daughter with hydrocephalus (water on the brain) had been admitted shortly after birth. X-rays showed Becky had almost no brain. After prayer the home’s doctor called the couple.

“Come and get your baby. There is nothing wrong with her.”

The next X-rays showed a normal brain. Becky graduated from high school, has some college, and is marrie— still normal more than 40 years later.

3.     The biggest reason humans will never prove God exists is because faith is necessary for salvation. We read in Hebrews 11:3 “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.”

The chapter goes on the say in verse six, “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him”

Over and over we’re told in the Bible, even in the Old Testament, that people had to have faith to connect with God. John 3:16 tells us our only way to heaven is through believing: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

Those were the words of Jesus when he talked to Nicodemus after the man asked about getting into the kingdom of God.

The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 10:9-10, “If you confess with your mouth ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart (the heart of who you are) you believe and are justified (just as if you’d never sinned), and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved (from sin and death). (Words in parenthesis mine).

CONCLUSION: Of course when you believe and confess, and experience God’s power, joy and peace in your life, you KNOW God exists.

©Copyright Ada Brownell 2017