Posted in Between a Rock and a Hard Place, Celebrating Christmas with my Characters, Cozy Mysteries, Freebies and Special Offers, holidays

3 FREE Books to Celebrate Christmas in July

Stay cool and enjoy 3 Free holiday and winter eBooks.

(Free July 17 – 21)

Celebrating Christmas with My Characters

The characters from my Cobble Cove cozy mysteries gather in the Cobble Cove library to celebrate the holidays. Each character receives a gift from the author, and Alicia, the main character, reads some excerpts from the first and second book of the series.

(Free July 18 -22)

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Librarian Alicia McKinney has put the past behind her…

Two years ago, Alicia discovered both a terrible truth and lasting love with John McKinney in the small town of Cobble Cove, New York. Now a busy mother of twin babies and co-author of a mystery series, Alicia couldn’t be happier.

Alicia’s contentment and safety are challenged…

Walking home alone from the library, Alicia senses someone following her, and on more than one occasion, she believes she is being watched. Does she have a stalker? When the local gift shop is burglarized, the troubling event causes unrest among Alicia and the residents of the quiet town.

John and Alicia receive an offer they can’t refuse…

When John’s sister offers to babysit while she and John take a much-needed vacation in New York City, Alicia is reluctant to leave her children because of the disturbances in Cobble Cove. John assures her the town is safe in the hands of Sheriff-elect Ramsay. Although Alicia’s experience with and dislike of the former Long Island detective don’t alleviate her concern, she and John take their trip.

Alicia faces her worst nightmare…

The McKinneys’ vacation is cut short when they learn their babies have been kidnapped and John’s sister shot. Alicia and John’s situation puts them between a rock and a hard place when the main suspect is found dead before the ransom is paid. In order to save their children, the McKinneys race against the clock to solve a mystery more puzzling than those found in their own books. Can they do it before time runs out?

(Free July 17 – 21)

Sneaky’s Christmas Mystery

 

Posted in holidays

Christmas Memories and Happy Holiday Wishes for my Readers

The holidays can be a beautiful time of year where we gather with family and friends over good food and exchange gifts. But it can also be a sad time as we remember those who are no longer with us. This is the second Christmas without my mother and my cat Oliver. While I know that both of them had poor qualities of life toward the end, it didn’t make it any easier to say goodbye. I still think of them, not only during the holidays but whenever something reminds me of them. The memories are sweet but also sad.

I was blessed to have two kittens come into my life after I lost Mom and Oliver. I know my mother, a cat lover, would’ve loved Harry and Hermione. Since I believe in signs, I also think she may have had something to do with my finding them and maybe Oliver did, too. I lost two and gained two. They will never replace Mom or Oliver, but Harry and Hermione have helped my heart heal.

Oliver’s last Christmas, 2017

Here are some photos of Oliver and my mother from years past and also some pictures of Harry and Hermione from their first Christmas with us last year. I wish you all the same joy that takes away some of the sadness of your losses. Remember the good times and cherish those you hold dear today. Every minute with our loved ones is precious and can’t be replaced.

My brothers and I with Mom, Christmas 2013
Me with Mom, Christmas 2017 (her last)

 

 

 

 

Hermione at 5 months old, Christmas 2018
Me and Harry, Christmas 2018

 

Posted in holidays, Mysteries, New Releases, short stories

Two New Holiday Mysteries and a Free eBook to Stuff Your Stocking

The holidays are a busy time. Between shopping, decorating, and socializing, it’s hard to find the time to read. That’s why short holiday stories are so popular. They can put you in the spirit of the season without taking too much time away from your day. I hope you will consider stuffing your stocking (or your Kindle) with one of my new short mysteries.

Sneaky’s Christmas Mystery

mybook.to/sneakyxmas

Another death has occurred in Cobble Cove near the holidays. This time, it’s the owner of the new pet store in town who was felled by a case of cat food that crushed his skull. Was it an accident, or murder? While the townspeople including the sheriff are divided in their opinions, Sneaky and Kittykai, the library and inn cats, sniff out the truth.

Excerpt:

Sneaky endured the humiliation of the Santa Claus costume as Laura read Christmas books to the children. It was worth it because when the stories were over, he was released to the delight of the kids who clamored over him. There were no sticky hands, and no one pulled his tail. They all took turns petting him gently following Laura’s instructions. As he purred and reveled in the words and touches of the kids, he overheard Alicia speaking with Gilly, her best friend, who worked at the library part-time and operated an inn. Gilly had recently married the town’s sheriff and brought home a calico kitten named Kittykai from her honeymoon in Hawaii.

“It’s a shame about what happened at the pet shop, and it was only open a few weeks.”

“I don’t think we should discuss this here, Gilly.”

“But it’s all over the papers. John published it in yesterday’s Courier.” John, who had taken Carol and Johnny up to pet Sneaky, wasn’t aware of what Gilly was saying.

Sneaky needn’t strain his hypersensitive ears to hear the two women’s whispered words. One thing he loved about being a cat was how he could hear conversations and noises that humans couldn’t. He knew all about the murders that had happened in Cobble Cove and even helped Alicia on some of them.

Murder Unwrapped

mybook.to/xmasunwrap

Richard Bright is a man with a plan. He’s an inventor who he wants to kill his wife with one of his inventions. He hopes to put his plan into effect on Christmas, but his invention isn’t quite perfected. Dealing with his wife isn’t an option, nor her two rambunctious kittens, Harry and Hermione. What sweetens the pot is her large inheritance and a pretty young woman who is now working at his shop. Will Richard’s plan to have his special gift ready in time pan out, or will it fizzle with some of his other unfinished projects?

Excerpt:

Ben was smart. He never married. “Richard,” he’d say. “Women are trouble. They want fancy clothes, big houses, and babies. That’s not my scene, and I don’t think it’s yours either.” He worked with Ben for ten years. They never made much money, but they were happy drinking beer in Ben’s basement and watching “Let’s Make a Deal” and other game shows on TV. He and Ben sold their inventions at local fairs and through the Internet. It was a good life until that fateful day Ben had a heart attack. Richard took the remainder of the money his mother left him and all the projects he and Ben had completed and opened a shop on Main Street.

It was through the dusty doors of Creative Inventions that Jane Carter walked two years ago wearing a fur coat and diamond jewelry. She’d seen the displays in the window and was interested in the Jack-in-the-box which was actually a cat-in-the-box, a stuffed toy that meowed when it “popped.” When he demonstrated it for her, she giggled. She told him it was cute and that she had to buy it. Her cat would enjoy watching it. Eager to make a sale, Richard sold it for the asking price which was double what it cost him to make. She didn’t haggle, but when she reached into her purse and he saw all the hundred-dollar bills, he nearly fainted. He wanted to make this lady a regular customer. Even better, he wanted to make her his wife.

Last, but not least, my third Cobble Cove Mystery, Written in Stone, is free for Cyber Monday, December 2, only.

Purchase Link: mybook.to/CC3ebook

Alicia McKinney is confused . . . .

Was the strange email her husband received from the fictional detective in their mystery series a threat? Did the killer mistake the woman shot in the library for Alicia or the victim’s twin sister?

Cat vs. Dog . . .

After Sneaky goes missing from the library, will he turn up before a young girl becomes ill with worry over his disappearance? And will he return in time to outsmart Fido by being first to find the perpetrator’s smoking gun?

Alicia is worried . . .

While waiting for the killer’s next move, Alicia has other concerns. An old flame of John’s is in town and her friend, Gilly, has adopted the role of Miss Marple to aid her sheriff boyfriend in his investigation.

When all clues point to one of her co-workers, Alicia joins Gilly in searching for the answers to the mystery.

Will they survive . . . .

or is their ending written in stone?

Check out this video of the other great holiday stories just released from Solstice Publishing.

Posted in Cozy Mystery, Guest Post, holidays

Guest Post for Handmade Ho Ho Homicide: An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 8 by Lois Winston

A Communist Dog, a Russian Empress Cat, and a Shakespeare-quoting Parrot Walked into a Cozy Mystery

By Lois Winston

I write the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries, a cozy series featuring a cast of rather unique characters, including Lucille Pollack, my sleuth’s communist mother-in-law and leader of the thirteen octogenarian Daughters of the October Revolution. However, along with the humans that populate the series, there are three non-humans, each with their own unique personalities.

Manifesto is the commie’s French bulldog, named for The Communist Manifesto, a political treatise written in 1848 by German philosophers Karl Marx and Fredrich Engels. Given Lucille’s political leanings, you’d expect her to own a Russian Wolfhound, wouldn’t you? Anastasia really doesn’t know why her mother-in-law chose a French bulldog. The two women converse only when absolutely necessary. However, Anastasia suspects size was the main factor. Russian Wolfhounds are quite large, and prior to moving in with Anastasia and her family, Lucille lived in an extremely small apartment.

You know how pets often take on the personalities of their owners? This is definitely the case with Manifesto. As such, Anastasia and her sons have given the dog a few nicknames, alternating between Mephisto and Devil Dog. Recently, though, Manifesto has begun to mellow and prefer the company of Anastasia’s sons to his mistress. Whether this is due to age or objecting to Lucille’s smothering is uncertain, but Anastasia and the boys see it as a welcome change in disposition. Too bad his mistress doesn’t take her cues from her dog.

Manifesto continues to have one nemesis, though. Catherine the Great is an overweight, pampered white Persian owned by Anastasia’s much-married mother Flora Sudberry Periwinkle Ramirez Scoffield Goldberg O’Keefe Tuttnauer.

Flora is the former social secretary of the Daughters of the American Revolution and claims to trace her lineage back to Russian nobility on her mother’s side. When she’s between husbands, she moves in with Anastasia. Due to the size of Anastasia’s home, Flora and Lucille are then forced to share a bedroom. The two women get along as well as their pets—which is to say they fight like cats and dogs.

African grey parrot, Psittacus erithacus erithacus, from the Congo region isolated on red.

The Casa Pollack menagerie is rounded out by Ralph, an African Grey Parrot with a penchant for quoting Shakespeare. Anastasia inherited Ralph from her great-aunt Penelope Periwinkle, a college professor and Shakespearean scholar who brought Ralph to all her lectures. Ralph doesn’t just quote the standard famous lines from the Bard of Avon, though. No “alas poor Yorick” or “friends, Romans, countrymen” for this bird. He has an uncanny knack for squawking situation-appropriate lines from any play or sonnet.

Because he’s potty-trained, Ralph has free rein of the house, much to the annoyance of both Lucille and Flora. Manifesto and Catherine the Great don’t think very highly of him, either, but Ralph could care less. He looks down his beak at any species that can’t converse in English. And much to Anastasia’s amusement, Ralph has developed a “bromance” with her boyfriend, photojournalist (and possible spy) Zachary Barnes.

Can you tell I write humorous cozy mysteries?

Handmade Ho-Ho Homicide

An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 8

Two and a half weeks ago magazine crafts editor Anastasia Pollack arrived home to find Ira Pollack, her half-brother-in-law, had blinged out her home with enough Christmas lights to rival Rockefeller Center. Now he’s crammed her small yard with enormous cavorting inflatable characters. She and photojournalist boyfriend and possible spy Zack Barnes pack up the unwanted lawn decorations to return to Ira. They arrive to find his yard the scene of an over-the-top Christmas extravaganza. His neighbors are not happy with the animatronics, laser light show, and blaring music creating traffic jams on their normally quiet street. One of them expresses his displeasure with his fists before running off.

In the excitement, the deflated lawn ornaments are never returned to Ira. The next morning Anastasia once again heads to his house before work to drop them off. When she arrives, she discovers Ira’s attacker dead in Santa’s sleigh. Ira becomes the prime suspect in the man’s murder and begs Anastasia to help clear his name. But Anastasia has promised her sons she’ll keep her nose out of police business. What’s a reluctant amateur sleuth to do?

Buy Links

Amazon https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07VG2QZXV/

Kobo https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/handmade-ho-ho-homicide

Barnes & Noble https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/handmade-ho-ho-homicide-lois-winston/1132607263?ean=2940163093748

iTunes https://books.apple.com/us/book/handmade-ho-ho-homicide/id1473711082

Bio:

USA Today bestselling and award-winning author Lois Winston writes mystery, romance, romantic suspense, chick lit, women’s fiction, children’s chapter books, and nonfiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. Kirkus Reviews dubbed her critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” In addition, Lois is a former literary agent and an award-winning craft and needlework designer who often draws much of her source material for both her characters and plots from her experiences in the crafts industry.

Website: www.loiswinston.com

Newsletter sign-up: https://app.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/z1z1u5

Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog: www.anastasiapollack.blogspot.com

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/anasleuth

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Anasleuth

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/722763.Lois_Winston

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/lois-winston

Posted in Cats, holidays

Wow Meow! It’s National Cat Day!

Today is the day we celebrate those mysterious, funny, lovable creatures called cats who come into our lives and bring so much joy but also sadness when they go. National Cat Day was created to help the public recognize the need to rescue cats. It also encourages cat lovers to recognize the companionship and unconditional love that pet cats give us. This isn’t the only cat-related “holiday” celebrated in October which is known as Black Cat Appreciation Month. I wrote about other special October cat days on another blog. You can read my post On Pens, Paws, and Claws here and my cat Harry’s post about Black Cat Day here.

Cat lovers are encouraged today to share photos and stories of their cats on social media with #NationalCatDay.

Here are a few photos of my special cats, Harry, Hermione, and Stripey:

Stripey, my 11-year old, male Mackerel Tabby
Harry (black American shorthair) and his sister, Hermione (dilute calico)
Harry and Hermione
Harry and Hermione on their cat tree
me and Harry
Harry in his favorite spot atop our printer
Hermione in her favorite spot, the basket on top of my bedroom closet
Me, Harry, and Hermione
Harry, Hermione, and Stripey
Posted in Cozy Mysteries, holidays

Happy Cozy Mystery Day!

We celebrate International Cozy Mystery day on September 15, the birthday of Agatha Christie. For those who don’t know what a cozy mystery is, it’s the type of writing that Ms. Christie was famous for. It involves murder of the less gory kind and an absence of explicit sex and violence. It usually takes place in a small town. There can be recipes or pets as central themes in the mystery along with an off-scene murder to solve and a cast of quirky characters with interesting professions.

I write a cozy mystery series called. Cobble Cove mysteries, for the name of the fictional town in which they are set. It includes a librarian and a library cat. A reviewer of the first book of the series, A Stone’s Throw, termed the story, “Agatha Christie meets a small town librarian.”


My recent standalone mystery, Sea Scope, was reviewed as “Imagine Agatha Christie Writing a Psychological Thriller.”

People enjoy reading cozy mysteries because they become familiar with the characters and like the settings. Some of my favorite cozies feature cats, as do mine. I’ve enjoyed fellow Cat Writer’s Association members books such as Carole Nelson Douglas‘ Midnight Louis series, Shirley Rousseau’s Joe Grey tales, and, Mollie Hunt’s Crazy Cat Lady series. For food-related mysteries, I like Joanne Fluke’s Hannah Swenson mysteries. Mary Feliz, who provided some of the graphics included in this post, is a fellow Sisters-in-Crime member, and also a cozy mystery author who writes the Maggie McDonald series that features a Golden Retriever. Another SINC member, Marilyn Levinson who writes as Allison Brook writes a cozy that features a librarian and a ghost. Her latest in the Haunted Library series, Buried in the Stacks, was just released. A fellow author from Next Chapter, James J. Cudney IV, writes mysteries taking place on college campuses. The fifth book in his Braxton Campus mysteries, Haunted House Ghost, was also just released.

Do you have a favorite cozy mystery author or series, or haven’t you read a cozy mystery yet? Have you read any of mine? I’d love to hear your comments.

 

Posted in Celebrating Christmas with my Characters, Freebies and Special Offers, holidays

Stuff Your Stockings with Free Mysteries, Romances, and Gift Cards with these Holiday Offers

I hope you’re all having a wonderful holiday season and would like to share some offers with you that I hope will make it a bit brighter.

My holiday story, Celebrating Christmas with my Characters, is free until Monday, December 17. Even if you haven’t read any of my Cobble Cove cozy mysteries, you will enjoy this story that introduces the characters of the first two books and the gifts they give me, their author, as they gather in the library along with Sneaky the Library Cat and Fido, the golden retriever.

mybook.to/XmasCharacters

My current Cobble Cove mystery, Love on the Rocks, is on blog tour with Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours until Wednesday, December 19. This tour includes a giveaway of a free eBook and a $10 Amazon gift card.

Follow the tour and enter the giveaway here.

Last, but not least, I’m giving away 2 copies each of my paranormal romance, Cloudy Rainbow, and my romantic comedy novella, When Jack Trumps Ace, in Marie Lavender’s huge holiday romance giveaway on her I Love Romance blog.

Happy holidays!

Posted in Blog Tour, Celebrating Christmas with my Characters, Freebies and Special Offers, holidays, Love on the Rocks, Written in Stone

FREE HOLIDAY STORY – December 13-17

I’m gifting my readers with a free holiday story featuring the Cobble Cove characters. You can also win an eBook and a $10 Amazon gift card by following my blog tour.Get your free story here: mybook.to/XmasCharacters

The characters from Debbie De Louise’s Cobble Cove cozy mysteries gather in the Cobble Cove library to celebrate the holidays. Each character receives a gift from the author, and Alicia, the main character, reads some excerpts from the first and second books, A Stone’s Throw and Between a Rock and a Hard Place.

Check out the whole series and my other books and stories on my Amazon Author Page 

If you’re a Kindle Unlimited subscriber, all my eBooks are free.

Win a Free eBook of my latest Cobble Cove mystery, Love on the Rocks, and a $10 Amazon gift card by entering the giveaway contest on my blog tour with Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours. Follow the tour here:

Posted in holidays

The First Thanksgiving After Mom

I have a lot to be thankful for — my husband and daughter; my full-time job as a librarian and my second career as an author; my church and community; my health and successful weight loss, and much more. But, like so many people, I feel a bit depressed with the coming holidays. I recall last year when my daughter, husband, and I went out to Thanksgiving dinner with my brothers and their wives and my mother. Mom had been a resident at her nursing home for five years by then and enjoyed being taken out during the holidays. We lost her this summer to a combination of recurring infections and increasing dementia.

For those who are also missing a seat at the table this year, I know how you feel. Not only did my family lose my mother in 2018, but we also lost her cat who we’d taken in when she went into the nursing home. Oliver became a beloved part of our household, and his presence will be very missed, as well.

On the bright side, our family gained three new members this year. No, I didn’t have another child. I’m talking about pets. In addition to Stripey who’s been with us for ten years, we now have two kittens adopted from a cat cafe and shelter, Harry and Hermione. We also have a betta fish, Betta Blue. I’ve shared their stories on this blog: https://wp.me/p6m4z7-1Pe and also on Pens, Paws, and Clawshttps://bit.ly/2DAySD8So life goes on. We celebrate with heavy hearts but hope that we’ll see our loved ones again one day. For now, we make the most of each day appreciating what we have and who’s still at our table. I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving with your loved ones. May they always be in your heart if not by your side.

Posted in holidays

My Best Easter Ever

The St. Stephens Choir signing at Easter services. Photo courtesy of St. Stephens Lutheran Church

I hope you all had a nice Easter, Passover, or whatever holiday you celebrate this time of year.  I hope it was as special for you as it was for me, although I rather doubt that. This Easter was truly magical to me in many senses of the word, and I’d like to tell you why.  Before I do, just a note that this is based on my own experience and feelings and is not an endorsement or criticism of any religion, church, or other place of worship.

A year ago, I had stopped attending church. Because my parents were of mixed faiths, I and my siblings hadn’t been raised in a particular religion, although my family always celebrated the Christian holidays. My mother had grown up in a Catholic household and taught me prayers that I recited each night, and I accompanied her to church the rare times she went. I often found the experience confusing and a bit boring. I attended a Catholic high school but felt out of place among those who had grown up practicing the religion. After college, I experienced a personal challenge that turned me toward the Church and enrolled in RCIA classes, was Baptized, and confirmed as a Catholic at the church where I was married a few years later. My husband, a Methodist who wasn’t much of a churchgoer, had no desire to convert to Catholicism. When I became pregnant with our daughter, we made a decision to join a Methodist church near our home. I found the pastor’s sermons uplifting. He even came to the hospital when the baby was born prematurely and Baptized her six months later. Unfortunately, he moved to another church shortly afterwards, and we found the new pastor didn’t inspire us in the same way and gradually gave up going to services.

When my daughter started Kindergarten, we enrolled her in a Catholic school and decided to raise her as a Catholic. Since she had been Baptized as a Methodist at the church my husband and I had joined, we needed to reaffirm our Baptisms at a service at our new church. My daughter and I went through this simple ceremony. I made an effort after that to attend church with her. Like most children, she wasn’t thrilled about spending her free time at mass especially since she attended some at school. As much as I wanted to, I didn’t find my own experience during these services of much value. I questioned my feelings and what I sought in a religion. I had trouble finding answers. When my daughter decided to enroll in public Middle School, I had to admit I was relieved. It wasn’t just that we would save money on private-school tuition, but it would no longer tie us to that particular church. However, we had hoped she would continue her religious studies and make her confirmation. She chose not to, and how could we argue that she felt Catholicism wasn’t for her when neither of us were very sure of our own religious beliefs?

St. Stephens Lutheran Church

I think I may have drifted along after that like most people who attend church or synagogue or other places of worship mainly during holidays or when the mood strikes them. Yet, a series of events caused me to realize that I was missing something very important. It all started when I was invited by a patron at the library where I work to speak at her church book club about my mystery novel. She invited me into her home where I had a nice evening with several of the book club members. A few months later, I began to walk around the neighborhood and often passed the church of those friendly people who had welcomed me into their house that night. I knew it was a Lutheran Church and not a Catholic or Methodist one, but I wondered about it. That wonder grew. I spoke again to the woman who had initially invited me to the club, and I received an email from their pastor asking if there were any questions she could answer about the church and inviting me to attend a service as a visitor. I was surprised the pastor was a woman, and this further piqued my curiosity about the church. We emailed one another back and forth for some time, and I kept promising to visit “one day.” But it was difficult to make the move. I knew I was under no obligation. I knew it might turn out as it had at the other 3 churches I’d attended. I knew that staying home on Sundays, writing, or finding something else to do with my time on my day off was easier. And then . . . . my cat died. My beloved, sweet Oliver whom I’d only had 5 out of his 17 years. The day after I had to let him go, I needed somewhere to turn. A place to find some peace in my pain. I remembered St. Stephens and found my way there that sad November day. The book club members weren’t at the mass I attended, but several parishioners smiled and welcomed me. I met Pastor Emily for the first time and immediately felt comfortable in her presence. While the congregation was small, I looked around and saw people of different ages and sexes. Several introduced
themselves to me. There was a feeling there. One that made me keep coming back for more. Week after week.

As much as I enjoyed the masses at St. Stephens, I was still unsure when I was invited to attend Voyage meetings. Similar to RCIA, Voyage is a program to introduce new members into the church. The first few meetings were open to anyone who wanted to try them out. They included a hot lunch, salad, and dessert followed by a bible study conducted by Dottie, one of the ladies who I’d met from the book group, and Pastor Emily. While the questions posed during these meetings were challenging, they were an interesting introduction to themes of the Bible and how they relate to our own lives. When the time came for me to decide whether I was ready to make the commitment to continue as a Voyager, I knew in my heart that my answer would be, “yes.”

More pleasant surprises awaited me. I was teamed up with a coach, a church member named Vickie who proved to be a great support to me on my journey. More than that, she became a friend. I was also reintroduced to a childhood classmate and several library patrons who were members of St. Stephens. I learned that this small, tight-knit group was nonetheless open and welcoming to newcomers. It also offered a nice variety of social activities outside of church. I attended an advent wreath-making event with my daughter; a fun Chinese New Year; and a Karaoke night. After suggesting to Pastor Emily about organizing an Author Fair of local authors including myself, she was enthusiastic about the idea and directed me toward the Inreach/Outreach Ministry Director, who I’ve been working with to plan the May 12 event that will take place with 7 other local authors.

That leads me to this past, unforgettable Easter. Although I came down with a stomach bug on Tuesday, I was relieved when I was well enough to attend the first of the three special church services leading up to Easter. On Thursday evening, I participated in Maundy Thursday by washing the hands of another church member. On Good Friday, I conducted my first ever church reading and venerated the cross. Saturday night, however, was the ultimate experience as I and seven other Voyagers became members of St. Stephens. It started outside where we all lit candles and then entered into darkness. There was a slight wind that nearly extinguished my candle, but the flame reignited as soon as I stepped through the door. Ironically, this was like the twists and turns in my own spiritual life. There had been a point where I’d given up on the Church, but the flame had never entirely been doused. The music and prayers that night were memorable, but it was the joining of the community and the opening of their hearts to me and my fellow Voyagers that made everything so special. The spritz of water we all received after we recited our Affirmation of Baptisms was followed by applause, welcomes, and hugs. It was the best Easter ever because I’d found the best Church ever.