July 23, 2016

Heroic(Heroine-ic?) Paralells

 With the work of God knocking some self-doubt out of my thick skull and inspiring me afresh lately--along with Kara Swanson's friendship/encouragement/fangirling over Connor Doyle...see Jared Padalecki to the left...I am writing again.
Okay, full disclosure? Editing.
I had hardly touched the thing since I completed it in November 2014. Remember the fifth of November?
Oh sure the beginning had been changed and polished the most, but as it was the oldest-written portion of my Civil War epic (that will hopefully come in shorter than it's current 110K word count...) it still needs a lot of work.

But, as God has a habit of doing in my life through hardly any effort of my own, He has both opened doors and dropped new friends into my lap who are giving it a thorough read-through/critique. Because fresh eyes are always always always needed for your book. *slaps younger naive stubbornly arrogant Meghan upside the head for not realizing this sooner*
Character Emma Green from PBS'
Mercy Street
^^ That up there, though? This is where the rubber hits the road of writing, and editing. Deepening my heroine Margaret's POV/voice. Making her not quite so unlikable, more relatable and really revealing her heart.

Not unlike her author, Margaret Bryant is a lovable control freak, cares deeply for her family--something that only grows as time goes on and the need for survival rises--and...she has her own set in stone plans that only a war can disturb.
And, just like this last year is testimony enough to how God laughs when we tell Him our plans or assume anything...
Her heart that will shift, grow, be broken a few times over--but open up over the course of Amongst the Roses.
So help me God.
Just as my heart has been through my own wringer since I first began writing this novel four (?!) years ago.

Tomorrow will be one year since my first surgery. On my 22nd birthday. I have had to fight depression, guilt, infection, impatience (definitely still a work in progress on that one) and make some really, really excruciating life decisions all the while with my feet up totally dependent on those around me for so many things I took for granted. And discovering how much I loved my independence.
It is when that independence was stripped away however, refined by fire, that I saw God more. And grew. Just as my heroine will be far from the same girl she was in the beginning of the novel--I am not the same person I was this time last year.
And God is good. All the time. He has provided and protected me mightily--another facet of His love I hope to really shed a light on in my heroine's adventures in 1860's Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.
What was the last thing you read (or wrote) where a character's inner journey and heart-growth in the story mirrored something in your own life you'd been going through? Did it make it more memorable for you, perhaps even making the book a favorite?
It's one of the beauties of fiction.
There is escapism to be enjoyed in all stories, whether historical or contemporary to enjoy and be swept away into. But the chief reason I love Christian fiction and write my own stories in the genre?
There is always, always hope.

July 21, 2016

So Rare a Gift by Amber Lynn Perry | My Review

This gifted author is new to me, though this is her third novel. Per many mutual friends' recommendations and glowing reviews, I knew I had to get my hands on her books and lo and behold (happy birthday to me) this third book in her Daughters of His Kingdom series released earlier this month. And oh my word, ya'll. Just...wow.

Amber has gifted the world with a Revolutionary War era epic in So Rare a Gift. Dangers from both Anna Rone and Henry Donaldson's pasts--and their present--haunt and threaten to destroy the tenuous existence and trust they've managed to forge by fire as slowly but surely they begin to reveal their true selves. With a deftness not often attempted in the genre much less set during the Revolutionary War, Amber weaves such a riveting plot and mystery filled to the brim with intricacies, light suspense and colored with the burgeoning romance of Anna and Henry. Their romance--a beautiful picture of what many couples learn within marriage, but what these characters were forced swiftly to learn right after their first meeting and subsequent marriage. Give and take. Trust. And working side by side, equally together. I so appreciated that particular detail Amber included in the romance of her third novel--the equality and subtly complementary nature of Anna and Henry in each other's eyes. It's a difficult thing to balance in fiction, those two qualities in a romance, much less in real life--but SO well done. The ending, oh the ending. So fitting--and suspenseful--I hated to leave Anna and Henry but it was such a satisfying ending.
You will be kept up late turning page after page wondering what will happen, what truths will come to light and if Anna and Henry will make it through. With an artistic, gently-lyrical prose and strong faith woven through out, this novel is one that leaves a lasting impression.

Escape is Anna Rone’s only option. Never again will she be trapped in a loveless marriage. A new life in America means safety—and discovering the truth behind her beloved brother’s death. But when she is nearly captured and forced to return to England, her vow to never marry for anything but love is forgotten when she must marry for protection. Perhaps the handsome man she accepts is as caring as he seems. If he is not, her future in America is darker than ever before.
Captain Henry Donaldson aided the colonists too many times. And now, the British army intends to make him pay with his life. Without his friends in Sandwich, he would be a dead man. He’s already changed his name, and when the kind, courageous woman he rescued offers to become his bride, he accepts despite the risks. His past taught him that women are not to be trusted and that love can cut deeper than the sword. Only time will reveal if this choice will bring the greatest pain he’s ever known.

Who was also the gorgeous cover model for her entire trilogy!!! Author goals, right there.

Amber Lynn Perry is a historical romance novelist, focusing on her favorite time in American history, the Revolutionary era. She received a Bachelor's degree from Portland State University and currently lives in Washington state with her husband and two daughters. She loves to hear from readers and you can contact her through her website, www.amberlynnperry.com or through her Facebook page, www.facebook.com/amberperrywrites.

July 20, 2016

On the Upcoming Occasion of my 23rd Birthday...{2 Giveaways!}

The fiction / writer / blogger communities have been an unexplainable, irreplaceable and increasing blessing to me this last year, and so to spread the love and celebrate this upcoming new year for me (23 on Sunday!) I am giving away one Kindle edition and one paperback copy of God's Will and there is a sale of $3 off the normal price of the paperback--meaning it's only $9.99!
Two families.
One Great Depression.
One God enough for all of them.
But will two particularly stubborn hearts learn to work together or let tragedy and loss rip apart what tenuous existence they managed to create?
Find out in God's Will 

Kindle giveaway: http://amzn.to/2as8ryP

Paperback giveaway: http://amzn.to/2aajmOi

July 18, 2016

Hold onto Hope

But for book reviews, it's been a while since I've carved out a few minutes here or there to just write. Life has a funny way of slowing you down when you want to speed up. Case in point, the month of June (plus the last two weeks in May.) Two weeks vacation in Southport, NC with my grandparents and family were amazing, and just what I needed. And also lots of inspiration for a future novel! Then we got home and real life hit hard. Pre-op bloodwork, CT scan, appointments, only being able to take Tylenol 2wks prior to surgery date (my least favorite thing about these surgery ordeals). And that was just me. My siblings finished their homeschool year beautifully and very shortly before a five day short-term missions trip to Louisville KY with our church. And then, just hours after they got home, my grandfather passed away after less than two full months of a swift decline. It still feels like he's on vacation and just hasn't come back yet. I share a birthday with him, and this coming Sunday will be bittersweet.
You see, this coming Sunday marks the one year anniversary of my first surgery. The one that didn't take. A week from today I will be seeing my doctor and cleared for 50% weight bearing on what used to be my worst hip, what used to be a whole inch shorter than my right.
On the one year anniversary of the surgery I had the day after being admitted thru the ER for an infection, Mum will celebrate her 51st birthday and I should be cleared for 100%.
It's been a year.
It's been quite an interesting month of healing, of editing until my eyes crossed, of new opportunities orchestrated solely by God furthering my career.
And a lot of renewal. 
A lot of trying to make sense of God's promises. Of last December when the rug was yanked out from under me and life and the future as I had known it just went POOF!
Some days it's hard to take a deep breath, shut my eyes and exhale on a, "But God." December through most of January was probably the darkest time for me--and I'm going to be honest: I am still processing. Despite all the good amidst a decent bit of hard recently, this processing has affected my writing.
And that is life. And there is grace in it. God's grace cannot be more sufficient than it is--and it is always there.
For those of you who are in a transition season--whether it be a happy one or a tough one...
For those of you coming out of a dark time, yearning to write, to create, to just regain some semblance of normalcy...
For those of you trying to keep your head above water trying to figure out all your many hats along with that of writer/author...
Hold on.
God's got all of it. Even if you don't necessarily see it and feel like everything is unraveling--it's true. Hard as it is, preach truth to yourself. Hold onto hope. And just do the next thing. You will write again. I promise. Trust me--I know.

July 14, 2016

Close to You by Kara Isaac: My Review, or, An Unapologetic Torent of Fangirling

Oh my giddy aunt. Holy chalupas.
I have just closed this book. For the last time. I don't know how to cope.
This novel, ya'll. This. novel.
I laughed, I cried, it moved me, Bob.
This is not just any rom-com novel. Chock full of heart, hope and humor, Kara Isaac's debut blew me away from start to finish. The premise--a romance set amidst the vivid backdrop of New Zealand Tolkien-world sites--gets my vote for Most Unique Setting of the Year. Pair that with two leads both broken, jaded and just trying to pull themselves up by their bootstraps after hefty betrayals and loss--it was quite an adventure not unlike the one Frodo takes with the One Ring.
Having been an admittedly lightweight Tolkien fan by extension of my brother, youngest sister and mother, props to Ms. Isaac for bringing us into Tolkien world with adept trivia for seasoned Tolkien fans, and enough background info on both the books and movies that non-Tolkienites can easily follow and not be lost in a world of Elvish. Speaking of Elvish, I'd be remiss in not tossing up a 10 points to Gryffindor sign for Ms. Isaac's bevy of hilariously colorful secondary characters in this story. Oh, my word. While there was a fair number of them, there was no difficulty in remembering them (other than the octogenarian twins--but then again the main characters had trouble telling them apart!) nor did they detract, only enhance, the journies of Jackson Gregory and Allie Shire.
At odds from the beginning, the two leads reminded me a lot of Lizzie and Darcy of classic Austen fame--but they were so much richer. Yes, I said it. Multi-faceted, while I as the reader rode to Gondor and back with them (sorry--couldn't help it.), they continually surprised me as Isaac wove old hurts, familial histories, and endearing quirks through out the entire story. Leaving this reader both satisfied and sad that I got to know them thoroughly--but still not enough time could be spent with such characters and I am hoping and praying there will be a sequel.
What made the swoon-worthy, tear-inducing ending so incredibly poignant and powerful was the journey it took for Jackson and Allie to get there. I facepalmed on their behalf multiple times--their stubbornness though--and held my breath waiting and waiting for A Kiss--a certain (clean) but steamy pizza scene was my favorite. Classic would-they or won't-they romance peppered with such a deep, abiding grace as they uncurled their stubborn fists, let go and let God. A privilege to read and learn from in every page.
For fans of Tolkien, Austen and for those wanderlusting souls who're itching to maybe see New Zealand--Close to You is for you.

About the Book:

A disgraced scholar running from her past and an entrepreneur chasing his future find themselves thrown together—and fall in love—on a Tolkien tour of New Zealand.
Allison Shire (yes, like where the Hobbits live) is a disgraced academic who is done with love. Her belief in “happily ever after” ended the day she discovered her husband was still married to a wife she knew nothing about. She finally finds a use for her English degree by guiding tours through the famous sites featured in the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies. By living life on the road and traveling New Zealand as a luxury tour guide, Allison manages to outrun the pain of her past she can’t face.

Jackson Gregory was on the cusp of making it big. Then suddenly his girlfriend left him—for his biggest business competitor—and took his most guarded commercial secrets with her. To make matters worse, the Iowa farm that has been in his family for generations is facing foreclosure. Determined to save his parents from financial ruin, he’ll do whatever it takes to convince his wealthy great-uncle to invest in his next scheme, which means accompanying him to the bottom of the world to spend three weeks pretending to be a die-hard Lord of the Rings fan, even though he knows nothing about the stories. The one thing that stands between him and his goal is a know-it-all tour guide who can’t stand him and pegged him as a fake the moment he walked off the plane.

When Allison leads the group through the famous sites of the Tolkien movies, she and Jackson start to see each other differently, and as they keep getting thrown together on the tour, they find themselves drawn to each other. Neither expected to fall in love again, but can they find a way beyond their regrets to take a chance on the one thing they’re not looking for?

About the Author:
Kara Isaac is an award-winning writer who lives in Wellington, New Zealand, where her career highlights include working in tourism as Private Secretary for the Prime Minister.
She’s a pastor’s wife, mum (or mom) of two preschoolers, public servant, and book lover from before she could talk. She’s living the dream of writing books that (hopefully!) make people laugh, cheer for the characters, and sigh when they turn that final page.

She loves great books almost as much as she loves her husband and two Hobbit-sized children.
Website | Facebook | Twitter 

Her next book, Can't Stop Falling, releases this fall and I am SO freaking pumped its not even funny.

About Can't Help Falling
A funny, heartfelt romance about how an antique shop, a wardrobe, and a mysterious tea cup bring two C.S. Lewis fans together in a snowy and picturesque Oxford, England.

Emelia Mason has spent her career finding the dirt on the rich and famous. But deep down past this fearless tabloid-reporter fa├žade, there’s a nerdy Narnia-obsessed girl who still can’t resist climbing into wardrobes to check for the magical land on the other side. When a story she writes produces tragic results, she flees to Oxford, England—home to C.S. Lewis—to try and make amends for the damage she has caused.

Peter Carlisle was on his way to become one of Great Britain’s best rowers—until he injured his shoulder and lost his chance at glory. He’s determined to fight his way back to the top even if it means risking permanent disability to do so. It’s the only way he can find his way past failing the one person who never stopped believing in his Olympic dream.

When Peter and Emelia cross paths on her first night in Oxford, the attraction is instant and they find common ground in their shared love of Narnia. But can the lessons from a fantasyland be enough to hold them together when secrets of the real world threaten to tear them apart? Cobblestone streets, an aristocratic estate, and an antique shop with curious a wardrobe bring the world of Narnia to life in Kara Isaac’s inspiring and romantic story about second chances.

July 6, 2016

The Ringmaster's Wife by Kristy Cambron | My Review

I think I have maybe gone to the circus once in my life. But now thanks to the genius of Kristy Cambron I not only got to visit it again but see it at its true heyday at the picturesque turn of the century. The Ringmaster's Wife is a fictionalized tale of John Ringling's wife Mable. One that, from both the Author's Notes as well as where my insatiable curiousty took me through the web, enormously honored the great woman behind the owner of one of the greatest shows on this earth. Which yes I know is a phrase coined for the Barnum & Bailey Circus, but it still fits.
Historical fiction woven so artfully as this offering from Cambron not only takes the reader behind the scenes of a swiftly changing time in America's history and the origin years of this great circus--but it also honors the memory of a very special woman. Alongside Mable's part-fictional, part-very real story is the entirely fictional Rosamund Easling--a British titled lady who aches to escape the confines of societal expectations and ride her exceptional Arabian horse Ingenue bareback, as a trick rider. And in walks American Colin Keary--the Ringlings' talent manager who was only in the market for a beautiful Arabian and did not bargain on signing two talents on his one trip across the Atlantic, but as fate would have it, he did. To the delight of audiences, disconcertment of one hoity toity Bella Rossi--and Colin's own increased intrigue and care in spite of himself--the soon-dubbed English Rose makes a lasting impression. Both in the story and to me, the reader. I so enjoyed getting to know both Mable Ringling and Rosamund Easling within this touching, sparkling story. The scenes where both these characters had a scene together were my favorite. The ending was surprising to me and for the genre as Cambron painted a few strands of the bittersweet into somewhat of an open ending but it was thoroughly, wonderfully fitting and so well done.
Cambron is a new favorite author of mine, and now I am aching to get to her Hidden Masterpiece series set in WWII. Her background in art shines through every word in such a manner that I've never read before. Unparalleled artistry and masterful storytelling of the golden years of the circus make The Ringmaster's Wife one of my top reads of 2016, not soon forgotten.
**Disclaimer: I received this book for free in exchange for my honest opinion from the publisher via Litfuse Publicity Groupand was in no way compensated for my review and all opinions within are my own. ** 

About the Book:

What is revealed when you draw back the curtain of the Greatest Show on Earth?

Rosamund Easling is no stranger to opulence. As the daughter of an earl, she’s grown up with every comfort money can buy. But when hard times befall the family’s Yorkshire estate in the aftermath of the Great War, Rosamund’s father sells her beloved horse, setting the stage for a series of events that would extend beyond even her wildest dreams.
Though expected to marry for a title instead of love, Rosamund feels called to a different life – one of adventure outside the confines of a ladies’ parlor. She abandons all she’s known and follows in pursuit as her horse is shipped to the new owner – an American entertainer by the name of John Ringling. Once introduced to the Ringling Brothers’ circus and knowing she has much to learn, Rosamund agrees to a bareback riding apprenticeship in the shadow of the Ringlings’ winter home—Ca’D’Zan. It is at that mansion, in what would become the last days of the enigmatic Mable Ringling’s life, that Rosamund finds a deeper sense of purpose in the life she’s been given, and the awakening of faith in her heart.

With a supporting cast of characters as mysterious and dazzling as the Ringlings’ big-top world, Rosamund’s journey takes her from the tradition of the English countryside to the last days of America’s Roaring ‘20s—a journey that forever changes what one life might have been.

About the Author: Who I just adore. Having never read her before this novel, I had connected with her via mutual friends/books on social media and she reached out to me as I was celebrating my novel's 2nd birthday with such encouragement, kindness and advice. I will never forget her kindness and hope one day perhaps at ACFW (the dream conference) to meet and grab a latte with this awesome author.

Kristy Cambron fancies life as a vintage-inspired storyteller. Her debut novel, THE BUTTERFLY AND THE VIOLIN, was named to Library Journal Reviews and RT Reviewers' Choice Awards Best of 2014 lists, and received a 2015 INSPY Awards nomination for best debut novel. Her second novel, A SPARROW IN TEREZIN, was named to Library Journal Reviews Best of 2015 list, and received a nomination for RT Reviewers' Choice Awards Best Inspirational Book of 2015. Kristy's third historical novel, THE RINGMASTER'S WIFE, will release from HarperCollins Christian Publishing in June, 2016.

Kristy is a Speaker and Art/Design Manager at TheGROVEstory.com, and holds a degree in Art History from Indiana University. She lives in Indiana with her husband and three sons, where she can probably be bribed with a coconut mocha latte and a good read.
Website | Facebook | Twitter

July 4, 2016

The Importance of Remembering History

I write historical fiction. And thus far the two eras I've set novels in have been the Great Depression and the Civil War. The latter of which is nearest and dearest to my heart and forever will be. The four years the United States was at war within itself were heartrending times, but it made our nation stronger. The legacy of the men and women who both survived and gave up their last measure of devotion in defense of the Union and Confederate causes will live on forever. But only if people keep writing about it. Yes there are history textbooks that give a short glimpse into four of the most crucial years in America's relatively short history. Yes not everyone will be into history. But we must know history well enough both to learn from it, and to honor a cornerstone in the building of this nation. The United States is an imperfect nation and some might say going to hell in a hand basket nowadays. What's funny is that similar sentiments echo through out so much of history, just applied to the "hot button" issues of the times. This is a very different, fast moving world than when the War Between the States' three most crucial days were being fought 153 years ago this weekend.
Let us never forget the sacrifice of so many, both from the North and South, that made this land into what it is today. And so, on this holiday weekend where we remember mainly the signing of the Declaration of Independence with fireworks, red white and blue everything, barbecues and family traditions--let us remember the soldiers, the families, the desecrated town and farmland of Gettysburg that was cleansed by rain as the armies retreated on July 4th, 1863. Leaving behind land and lives that would rise and thrive again.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced...
~ Abraham Lincoln, Nov. 19 1863

July 2, 2016

On This Day 153 Years Ago

In honor of this weekend being the 153rd anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, I give you a scene from my Civil War novel, Amongst the Roses. We find Irish brothers Connor and Adam Doyle, privates in the 6th PA Reserves/35th PA Infantry regiment at the foot of Little Round Top with Devil's Den just to their left, a wheatfield just stretched in front of them alongside some scrappy woods just ahead of them. Their regiment arrived midday on July 2nd after a twenty-eight hour march, and this scene takes place that same day, right around the areas pictured in the photos from last year's trip to Gettysburg. 

“We’re close.” Connor and Adam spoke at the same time, but grim realization fell as sure as the gunfire they would meet in short order. Peach trees, limbs heavy with fruit were on their right, and Connor craned his neck to try and see what lay beyond the curve in the road masked in smoky dust only gun and cannon fire could make.
“Oh, God.” Connor caught his footing before he tripped and fell. It can’t be. They once climbed on those far-off boulders on lazy Sunday afternoons in their childhood. No one from town invited them to dinner or to picnic in the summer months, so they often took short treks down the pike and turned south a half hour from the Gettysburg town square to a terrific climbing hill for he and Adam, while Da, Ma and the girls picnicked on a blanket at the foot of the hill. Connor swallowed hard and looked away, but was met with the sure stench of death.
The smell of rotting flesh—animal and human—were surely what hell must smell like.
The whole lot of them were practically at a standstill, and Connor couldn’t stand to keep still, so he stepped around Adam and poked his head around the mass of idle blue-clad bodies. A fork in the road. And it appeared General Crawford was arguing with someone. Are they serious right now?! Connor rocked back and forth on his heels, impatient, until Adam’s hand stilled him. “We’ll be moving along in a moment. Stop worrying.”
“I’m not worrying. Itching to shoot some Rebs is all.” Connor spat onto the ground in front of him but Adam rolled his eyes and pursed his lips. He didn’t buy it, but Connor wouldn’t let on that Adam was right.
His younger brother knew him far too well.
“To the left! At the double quick!”
Now they moved as if demons were chasing them out of hell. Connor attached himself to Adam’s side when the order came down the lines to move into columns of two to pass through the narrow lane off the road. Adrenaline thrummed, and in his ears rang his only duty. Watch out for Adam. Watch out for Adam.

Connor caught Adam praying under his breath as they narrowly dodged two ambulances and were forced to step through a field of wounded and dying. How long has there been fighting here? One man lay on the ground near Connor’s feet, one eye missing, while the other stared sightlessly up to the sky. Flies buzzed around him and Connor looked away, but almost tripped over a leg. Attached to nothing.
A slap rang out across his cheek and Connor was jolted back to reality with Adam’s insistent voice. “Stay with me. Come on, brother.” He was still right next to him, but he sounded as if he were calling from yards away.
“Hey, come on!”
Adam was scared out of his mind, and it was that one glance to his younger brother’s face that spurred Connor on. The urge to flee was replaced with one to fight. To dodge a fate that could too easily befall either of them with one single enemy bullet.