Fiction Fest: Praise for and a free peek at Dustin Bradshaw’s ‘Counting Candles’

Counting Candles 2x3 WEBHave you reached the age when you start wondering if you’ve had an impact for good on the world? The main character in Dustin Bradshaw’s novel, “Counting Candles,” has, and, thanks to his wife, learns of the impact his seemingly ordinary life has had on others.


“‘Counting Candles’ raises our hope that ordinary folk like you and I can do extraordinary things!”
—Farina McCarthy-Stonex, Marriage and Family Counselor, Brigham Young University-Hawaii

“Dustin Bradshaw’s ‘Counting Candles’ provides a gentle, yet poignant reminder of the amazing power to be found in doing good.”
—Ryan Rapier, author of “The Reluctant Blogger”

“‘Counting Candles’ is a delightful and recommended read.”
—Amie Jane Leavitt, author, “A Daredevil’s Guide to Swimming with Sharks”

Let’s dispense with the praise for now, shall we? Read on for a free peek into “Counting Candles,” which is available in bookstores and from online retailers.


The distracted man finally closed his menu and looked up with a smile. “Hello, Shamanda. How are you today?” The question and the smile felt genuine, especially from a man that seemed so distracted earlier. Most people didn’t look up as they ordered. She didn’t know what to say.  She was tempted to tell him the truth for a second. Then she recalled that he was only a customer and he didn’t really mean it. He was only asking a polite question to evoke a polite answer.

“I’m all right, thank you for asking,”  Shamanda forced herself to answer and smile, both of which felt far from the truth.

“Well in that case, I’ll have the daily special.” Again he smiled then he turned to watch the other man order.

This was the first time Shamanda had seen the other man’s face. They looked about the same age, but this man looked stressed. He too looked up and held out his menu for Shamanda to take. “Make that two.  Thank you, Shamanda.” Shamanda wrote down the order and took the menu. She was sure that he never even looked at it before he ordered, but she had her own problems to worry about.  Shamanda left them to place the order.

Shamanda went back a few times to check on the men. The new, distracted, guy always called her by name and made sure to thank her for even filling their glasses. At this point the Diner was starting to have less and less people. The lunch rush, if you could call it that, was over. The thought was sad to Shamanda. She had hoped Grandma Mertyl was right. That was looking less and less likely.

She just needed to get these two men out of the Diner so she could start her walk home. She could sleep on her bed at least for a few more nights while she had a bed.

Shamanda took over the bill to them. “Thank you for coming. We’ll look forward to seeing you soon.” She picked up a few of their dishes and went back to clean up.

As she passed one of Jami’s tables the older lady in the booth stopped her. “Miss, can I have some tea?”

“Sure you can.” The woman reminded her of Grandma Mertyl. She brought the tea back to the older couple and saw that the men were finally leaving the Diner. She went over to clean up their dishes.

She looked at the bill and saw that the man had left a five dollar tip. That was more than the average tip, but it still only brought her daily total up to twenty one dollars. She was close. But the red ink from the eviction notice that said, “PAID IN FULL” burned in her mind.

She fought tears as she cleared the remaining items on the table. It was all too much. There wasn’t much left, so she also collected the paper goods. She noticed that one of the napkins where the other guy, the stressed one, had sat had writing on it. She set the plate in her hands down and picked up the napkin to read what it said. She was expecting to see some kind of business plan or meeting notes. She was surprised to read the words,  “You make a difference. Hope your day gets better.”

As Shamanda brought it closer to read it, the napkin unfolded and money fell out. Shamanda looked up to see if the men were still in the Diner. They were gone. With shaking hands she picked up the cash. She counted it—there was forty five dollars. That was what she needed plus some. With the twenty one dollars she had made earlier today, she would have money after she paid her rent to eat and put gas in the car.

Shamanda left work with a heart full of gratitude. “Thank you, Grandma for challenging me to have faith. And thank you Lord for not giving up on me.” The tears of joy flowed freely as Shamanda spoke the words. For the first time in several days she felt hope. She then thought of the man and how he was willing to help her and he didn’t even know why or what she needed help with. His money may have been pocket change to him, but to her, his forty-five dollars meant the world.  “Lord, bless the kind man in the suit. You know who he is, bless him for being an angel in my life.” Answers to prayers often arrive in unexpected ways through an unordinary delivery person.