Monday, December 3, 2018

Love Blooms at Christmas by Martha Rogers ends December 10th



Family Christmas Traditions



Most families have traditions handed down through the years at Christmas time. Ours is no different although some have dwindled because of our growing family and being scattered over the country.

One we still hold to doing is attending our church’s Christmas Eve Candlelight service. From the time our youngest son was two years old and the services begun at our church, we haven’t missed going. Sometimes it’s with the whole family, sometimes it’s only my husband and I who attend because the others are all across the country or have responsibilities at their own churches. This year we will attend with our middle son and his family and have Christmas together the next day.

My step-mother began a tradition when the first great-grandchildren came along. She made stockings for each grandchild and great-grandchild with their names on them. The stockings were then filled with trinkets and candy. We loved the surprises she put into each one. She passed away in 1996, and the stockings were passed on to me as the oldest. I still have them and still use them today for our family with new ones added for my great-grandchildren. My sister took the ones for her family and now does the same for them.

Because middle son was born on December 10, we began buying and decorating our tree on his birthday. We did that until he went off to college and wasn’t home until after his birthday. Now I begin decorating it the week after Thanksgiving. Here is a picture of our tree last year.



Every year since 1971, I have been a part of our church’s Christmas production that has been copied all over the country. Our choir and volunteers from our membership present a program consisting of two acts with the first act being a secular Christmas program with songs and characters of the season. The second act is the Christmas story beginning with prophecies from the Old Testament and ending with the resurrection of Jesus and ascension. This year because of health issues, I will not be able to participate. It was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made, but listened to my body and to the Lord.

One other tradition I have with my friends. Every year for the past twenty years I give a Christmas luncheon for twenty or so friends. We’ve been exchanging ornaments in a fun-filled drawing of numbers and choosing our gifts then “stealing” one if someone has one we like better. Because most of us are now in our seventies and eighties, we decided last year we didn’t need more ornaments and collected toys for a toy drive instead. Here are a few pictures from the past. Here is a picture of one of the tables I set for the luncheon. 



My Christmas release, Love Blooms at Christmas year includes a pageant put on by the children of the orphanage in the town. I used it as a way to bring my hero and heroine closer together as they worked with the children. The hero is a Bible professor at the Bible college in town, and he makes sure the whole presentation is Biblically correct including having the Magi come when Jesus is closer to two years old. It’s a part of a larger collection titled Small Town Christmas: Historical.




GIVEAWAY: 
I am giving away a copy of the novella either as a paperback or an e-book to a commenter to be selected by Debbie. Answer the question, make a comment and please leave your email address to be entered in the drawing. The link for the book is: https://amzn.to/2Q2mRNo



QUESTION: Does your family have Christmas traditions? If so, share one with us.



Martha Rogers is a multi-published author and writes a weekly devotional for ACFW. Martha and her husband Rex live in Houston, Texas where they are active members of First Baptist Church. They are the parents of three sons and grandparents to eleven grandchildren and great-grandparents to four, soon to be five. Martha is a retired teacher with twenty-eight years teaching Home Economics and English at the secondary level and eight years at the college level supervising student teachers and teaching freshman English. She is the Director of the Texas Christian Writers Conference held in Houston in August each year, a member of ACFW, ACFW WOTS chapter in Houston, and a member of the writers’ group, Inspirational Writers Alive.
Find Martha at:  www.marthawrogers.com
Twitter:  @martharogers2                                
Facebook: Martha Rogers Author




Monday, November 26, 2018

The Plum Blooms in Winter by Linda Thompson ends December 3rd

Please welcome Linda Thompson to my blog this week! Linda has recently joined us on the Heros, Heroines, and History blog (HHHistory) and so I've recently been privileged to get to know her. I'm so glad she has joined us here this week! Linda has written a WWII story fiction but based on a true story. Read on down to hear her interesting story as well as how to enter in the giveaway.


If I’d Known Then…

I suppose every published author has their journey. Their tale of inspiration, toil and rejection. My publishing saga started the day my husband, Michael, thrust a military history book he’d been reading at me. “You need to read this story,” he said, a ring of awed excitement in his voice.

The book was The First Heroes by Craig Nelson. It’s an account of the Doolittle Raid of April 18, 1942, the very first Allied bombing raid over Japan. And Michael was right—the story he flagged for me grabbed me.

After the raid, eight downed airmen were captured by the Japanese. They endured forty months of every hardship Japan threw at their prisoners in that war. Starvation, systematic torture, solitary confinement, neglect and abuse. Only four of the eight made it home.



This wartime poster shows Doolittle Raider Lieutenant Robert Hite, captive in Tokyo. April, 1942.

But somewhere in the middle of that span, the four who remained received some reading material, including the gem of all gems, a Bible. The opportunity to read the Bible in their dank individual cells impacted them all. For one man, in particular, that gift of a Bible transformed his prison experience. The love of God through Christ consumed him, to the point where he yearned for his Japanese captors to understand it too. He developed a certainty that the Lord was calling him to return to Japan as a missionary—a living object lesson of God’s forgiveness through Christ.

After the war, he returned to Japan, ultimately spending decades ministering there. My novel focuses on how the Lord used this transformed heart to transform another life. Specifically, a young woman who intended to assassinate him for the role he played in the death of a man she loved. (True story.  )

My husband fingered his copy of The First Heroes and pinned me with intent brown eyes. “Someone should write a book about this.” I prayed about it for some time and put out my fleeces, and ultimately concluded that, yes, I was that someone. “Here am I Lord. Send me.” (Is 6:8)

As a marketing professional, I was a prolific writer. But fiction is a very different beast and honestly, I had no idea what I was getting into. I figured a couple of years and I’d knock this thing out. Ha! More than six years later, I signed my publishing deal with Mountain Brook Ink. Six years of steady effort, of critique groups and classes and conferences and paid editors—and the learning process isn’t cheap, by the way!—and, of course, those infamous rejections. 

That’s the part of the journey I want to talk about today. I definitely had what I’ve come to think of as my “Mount Moriah moments.” If the manuscript was my “child of promise,” if I picked it up because the Lord had called me to it, was I ready to surrender it on His command as well?

If you’re a Christian writer, you’re probably familiar with Allen Arnold and his book, The Story of With. It’s an extended allegory of a creative who seeks self-actualization and worldly success, but without a deep partnership with her Heavenly Father. She ultimately learns that the endpoint is not the point. The real point is the journey—with God.

My most discouraging “Mount Moriah moment” came a couple of years ago, when my first agent dropped me. I didn’t even know that was a thing! And you had to be kidding, right? This person had seemed committed to my success. Had been generous enough to coach and mentor me through several revisions. Only a few months earlier my manuscript had garnered a significant industry award, which I know would not have happened without that agent’s guidance.

Me in 2016, the evening I was blessed to win the ACFW Genesis contest at a big glam awards ceremony. Pinch me!


I couldn’t fathom going through the process again—the query piles, the hopeful meetings at conferences, the emailing of book proposals and samples, the waiting, waiting… waiting. And, to add insult to injury, that email came just days before Christmas.

Lord, what are you telling me?

He was telling me what He tells us all. At the end of the day, it’s not about any earthly outcome. It’s about our relationship with Him. About relying on Him through the journey.

“Count it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials. For the testing of your faith produces endurance.” (James 1:2-3) Hardships come to prove—and in many cases, improve—the quality of our faith. And that’s the outcome that actually matters.

Naturally, I meditated on scriptures on waiting. “Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength” (Is 40:31), right? I noticed for the first time that the word for “wait” in this passage has a sense of being intertwined.

From the Complete Word Study Bible:

קָוָה qāwāh: A verb meaning to wait for, to look for, to hope for. The root meaning is that of twisting or winding a strand of cord or rope….

I should be so intertwined with my Lord that my will disappears into His! Didn’t Jesus also say something like this—something about abiding? “As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” (John 15:4)

Today, my saga appears to have ended in what the world would call success. A respected agent (Wordserve Literary) and a quality publisher. My novel based on the Doolittle Raid to be released as of December 1. And it’s a beautiful “book baby,” if I do say so myself! Thank you, Mountain Brook Ink!

But the real end game isn’t a pretty book. Or even solid sales. It’s impact on hearts and lives. I can hammer out words and my publisher can bind them into a book, but only the Lord can produce that spiritual harvest. I’m waiting and praying to see what He will do!

And if He should call me to put my WIP in a drawer and my writing career on the altar again? Well, I think I’m ready for that too.





Have you ever had a mission you felt came from the Lord? How did it work out?

What’s your favorite WWII story, book or movie?



GIVEAWAY

Answer one or more of the above questions and be entered into the drawing for The Plum Blooms in Winter, Paperback or ebook.



ABOUT LINDA:

Linda Thompson stepped back from a corporate career that spanned continents to write what she loves–stories of unstoppable faith. Her debut novel, The Plum Blooms in Winter, is an A.C.F.W. Genesis award winner. Linda writes from the sun-drenched Arizona desert, where she lives with her husband, a third-generation airline pilot who doubles as her Chief Military Research Officer, two mostly-grown-up kids, and a small platoon of housecats. When Linda isn't writing, you'll find her rollerblading–yes, that does make her a throwback–taking in a majestic desert moonrise, or dreaming of an upcoming trip. She and her husband recently returned from a tour of Israel and Jordan and a visit to Wales. Next up: Seattle and Charlotte.

Linda loves to connect with readers! Linda’s website: http://lthompsonbooks.com

Follow Linda on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads or Instagram (@lthompsonbooks).




A taut, crisp debut achievement that colorfully evokes the Pacific theater of WWII. Start this one forewarned: it's a stay-up-all-night read."

-Jerry B. Jenkins--21-time New York Times bestselling author (Left Behind, et al)

A Prostitute Seeks Her Revenge--In 1942, Miyako Matsuura cradled her little brother as he died on the sidewalk, a victim of the first U.S. bombing raid on Japan. By 1948, the war has reduced her to a street-hardened prostitute consumed by her shame.

A WWII Hero Finds His True Mission--Dave Delham makes military aviation history piloting a B-25 in the audacious Doolittle Raid. Forced to bail out over occupied China, he and his crew are captured by the Japanese and survive a harrowing P.O.W. ordeal. In 1948, he returns to Japan as a Christian missionary, determined to showcase Christ's forgiveness.

Convinced that Delham was responsible for the bomb that snuffed out her brother's life, Miyako resolves to restore her honor by avenging him--even if it costs her own life. But the huntress soon becomes hunted in Osaka's treacherous underworld. Miyako must outmaneuver a ruthless brothel owner, outwit gangs with competing plans to profit by her, and overcome betrayal by family and friends--only to confront a decision that will change everything.



Monday, November 19, 2018

Snow Angel by Davalynn Spencer ends 11/26

Be sure to read on down to see how to enter to win Snow Angel. 

Many little things from my life make it into my historical novels and novellas, including something as simple as the smell of wood smoke on a chilly fall morning.

When I step outside to take my Queensland heeler, Blue, for a walk, that sweet woodsy smell greets me from my own chimney. Though I have electric heat, it’s only a backup, and I warm my home with a woodstove. There is something cozy and companionable about building a fire each cold morning, pulling my rocker close, and watching through the stove’s glass door as bright flames embrace the logs.




Some mornings, dawn arrives with spectacular beauty, washing the horizon in blazing red and gold. A sunrise like that usually signals a storm, so after walking Blue up the hill, around the bend, and back, we return home where I split firewood. Fall temperatures in Colorado can fluctuate overnight as much as 30 to 40 degrees, so preparation is key.



My recently released Christmas novella, Snow Angel, is peppered with such details – the scent of wood smoke, a rocker by the fire, the chock of an ax splitting wood, and a companionable dog. The story is set in the 1880s along Colorado’s Front Range, and yet these same details fill my life now in the twenty-first century. I count these simple elements as the Lord’s timeless blessings, and they warm my heart as much as my home.


Do you have a special tradition or everyday task that warms your heart in a simple way? Or is there something you do to prepare for colder weather and seasonal change – maybe reading Christmas stories – that prepares your heart as well as your mind? I’d love to hear what those traditions are in the comments below. Thanks for reading! 

GIVEAWAY: Answer the above question for a chance to win an e-copy of Snow Angel. Don't forget to leave your email so we can contact you should you win!

As a child, she lost something precious at Christmas. Twenty years later, she's about to lose her heart.
Lena Carver works as her physician brother’s medical assistant, housekeeper, and cook despite her disfigurement from a childhood accident. Each year, the Christmas holidays come with contradictions—cherished memories of a mysterious encounter and painful recollections of a great loss. She lives with the belief that she is beyond love’s reach, until a dark-eyed cowboy arrives broken, bruised, and bent on changing her mind. 
Wil Bergman wakes in a stranger’s house with a busted leg, a bullet-creased scalp, and no horse. Trail-weary, robbed, and penniless, his dreams and plans for a future are suddenly unattainable. Forced to recuperate in the home of a country doctor, he finds himself at the mercy of a surgeon whose sister’s healing touch has power to stitch up his lonely heart and open his eyes to the impossible.
ABOUT DAVALYNN
Davalynn Spencer is the award-winning author of ten inspirational Western romance titles, both contemporary and historical. She is a former journalist, the wife and mother of professional rodeo bullfighters, and chief wrangler of Blue the Cowdog and mouse detectors Annie and Oakley. Contact her via her website at https://www.davalynnspencer.com .
Links:
Snow Angel buy link: https://amzn.to/2pPaLbE
Quarterly Author Update and free ebook: http://eepurl.com/xa81D






Monday, November 12, 2018

Make Haste Slowly by Amy Rognlie ends 11/19


Please welcome Amy Rognlie to my blog this week. Amy is giving away a pdf copy of Make Haste Slowly. Be sure to leave your email and a comment to enter. 

Setting in Real Life

Fiction writers know the importance of setting. If the same storyline with the same characters was set in Victorian England, it would somehow be a totally different story than one set in the 1900’s in wilds of Alaska, wouldn’t it?

Anyway, as a writer, I got to thinking about the importance of setting in my own life story. I have author friends who can write anywhere at any time. I have difficulty with that, probably since I am such a homebody at heart. Writing in the same room at the same desk day after day helps me stay focused. I enjoy the physical setting of my office; my sense of “settledness” when I’m there. I’m blessed to have a dedicated space for writing and thought you might enjoy a little peek inside.

Otherwise known as "the office," the place where I create characters, plots and titles draws me in with open arms. Sunshine streams through the divided-pane windows, as the salmon-pink geranium, crowded next to the aloe plant, soaks up more than its share of the hot light, barely shaded by the lacy curtains. The African violets lift their velvety leaves in the morning, then shrink back into the shadows in heat of the afternoon, while I type words and paragraphs, and more words and paragraphs and sometimes a whole book.

The books crammed onto my shelves reflect the various interests of a lifetime...theology, World War II history, knitting, prayer, gardening, writing, teaching, and a row of colorful journals, chronicling my inner life. Some of the journals are wire-bound, making it easy for me to flip through the bygone years of my life. Three other journals are cheap and flower-covered, from the bargain bin at the craft store. But it's the words that are important. The smell of the ink and the decades-old pages...the blurred spots where tears have dropped onto the pages, the litany of prayers prayed, and answers received. I run my hand along the shelf, and dust sticks to my fingers. Life has been too busy lately. 

I close the door against the sounds of my life...the dog's nails clicking on the hardwood floor, the baseball game droning along on the TV with no one watching it...the whoosh and whirr of the air conditioning. I am in my own world of quiet, alone with my thoughts, yet spurred on by my goals. 


Amy Rognlie writes inspirational fiction, including mysteries and historical novels. When not writing, she is teaching middle school language arts or leading a Bible study at the local jail. Amy lives in Central Texas with her husband, dogs (including a pug, of course), and a plethora of plants, yarn, and books.













Where There's a Will BCC: A mysterious postcard,
a decades-old mystery, and a cranky realtor have suddenly thrown Callie Erickson’s plans into a tailspin. Callie, Todd and friends have their hearts set on building Hope House, a home for sex-trafficking victims. But before they can make much headway, Callie is confronted with the mysterious death of someone much closer to her than she’d like.



Was it murder? Callie isn’t so sure, but with Todd’s help, she’s doing her best to find out, even as she is drawn deeper into their relationship. Can she trust herself to love him? In the meantime, Aunt Dot and Harry are dealing with intrigue of their own. Will Harry’s missing relatives ever be found? As Callie delves deeper, she learns startling answers to these questions and to the questions of her own heart.


Monday, November 5, 2018

Stagecoach to Liberty by Janalyn Voigt

A Little-Known Story from the Wild West

Have you ever relocated, only to have it not work out to your advantage? Most of us move to improve our circumstances, but sometimes we run into problems. When the new home is in a foreign country, add in the element of the unknown, and troubles take on a certain intensity. I learned this when I moved to the Australian Outback with my husband for a stint at a remote military station. Going to town on the bus turned into a traumatic experience when I couldn’t remember my address on the return trip. I’m sure I left my handprint embedded on the steering wheel after driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road. And I’ll never forget the tall ostrich-like bird that chased me. How was I to know he was the neighborhood’s pet emu with nothing on his mind but the possibility of a handout?
Traveling to a foreign country drains a person of energy, and navigating one threatens your self-confidence. On top those challenges, what if the people who brought you there betrayed you? That was the case for some of the girls who entertained in Wild West dancehalls. 
While researching Montana Gold, a western historical romance series, I stumbled across a reference to the young women who traveled to America from Hesse, a part of Germany. During impoverished times, the ’hurdy-gurdy girls’ played and danced to draw crowds of customers to buy their homemade brooms. These women came to the notice of unscrupulous people who promised them a better life in America and money to send home to their families. The women arrived in America with little recourse but to rely on those who had brought them.
The fate of the hurdy-gurdy girls largely depended on the treatment they received. Some lived well, but others fell into poverty. Often sick, the less-fortunate among them lived a hard life far from their homeland. Not all became prostitutes, but some did.
What I learned changed my image of dancehall girls in the Wild West. I’d accepted the stereotypical image of them as willing prostitutes. The reality was far more complicated. Not all hailed from Germany. Most were American women drawn from farms or mills by handbills promising easier work in the West. Widows or single women of good background also wound up in dancehalls.  
Stagecoach to Liberty gives a different view of the hurdy-gurdy girls of the American West. Elsa, the heroine of Stagecoach to Liberty, wants to remove herself from a burden on her widowed mother and to help support her younger siblings. Heartsick and far from home, she doesn’t trust the man and woman who lured her and others from their village. Bound by the contract she signed and obligated by the cost of her fare, Elsa feels trapped. When she meets a handsome stranger with an Irish accent on the stagecoach, however, her hope to escape revives.
The perspective I’d gained from overseas travel gave me a window into the trials of the hurdy-gurdy girls. Their story was largely untold but I felt an important one.
About Stagecoach to Liberty
Can a desperate young woman trust the handsome Irish stranger who wants to free her from her captors?
Elsa Meier, a talented young Hessian girl who plays the hurdy-gurdy and dances, signs a contract to entertain miners in the Wild West. Elsa travels to America in the company of Miles and Alicia Peabody, the brother and sister who persuaded her mother to allow her to go. Elsa hopes for freedom and the chance to send money home to help her family. Instead she comes to the attention of a wealthy and unscrupulous man. On a stagecoach traveling into Montana Territory, Elsa conveys her peril to a handsome stranger with an Irish accent. 
Con Walsh, on a quest to find out the truth about himself, stumbles into a dangerous situation involving a frightened young woman in need of rescue. Despite his own pressing troubles, he finds that her safety matters to him more than his own.
Set in Montana during its gold rush -- a time troubled by outlaws, corruption and vigilante violence, Stagecoach to Liberty explores faith, love, and courage in the wild west. This story can stand alone or continue the saga that began with Hills of Nevermore and Cheyenne Sunrise.
About Janalyn Voigt
Janalyn Voigt’s father instilled a love of literature in her at an early age by reading chapters from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Robinson Crusoe and other classics as bedtime stories. When she grew older and her father stopped reading stories at night, she continued putting herself to sleep with tales she ‘wrote’ in her head. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Janalyn became a voracious reader, something she credits with teaching her to write. She trained as a classical vocalist, which explains why her writing is often described as musical.
When she's not immersed in one of her story worlds, Janalyn can usually be found weeding the garden, spending time with her family, or reading.
Find out more about Janalyn Voigt: janalynvoigt.com

Monday, October 29, 2018

10 Tips to Transform the Shy Writer to Savvy Salesperson PLUS Giveaway ends November 5th

Please welcome Denise Weimer back to my blog. Denise is giving away a copy of Redeeming Grace. Be sure to read on down to see how to enter.

I’m convinced that writing and promoting books require opposite parts of the brain.
Who’s with me?

When I was a teenager holed up in my room with a notepad, I never thought about the fact that in order to sell the books I wrote, I’d have to become a public speaker and a sales lady … two things that would have made me run screaming into the sunset at that point of life. 


Even as an adult, there are days I don’t feel I can do it. I love people. I keep an active social calendar. But that’s not the same as speaking in front of strangers or asking festival passers-by if they enjoy historical fiction. Putting yourself out there can feel like stretching your introverted innards past the breaking point, especially when you inherit a tough audience or you’re suffering from a bit of burnout.
Some authors may struggle with this less than others. Well, maybe non-fiction writers whose platform proceeded their publication. J


These 10 tips can help any shy writer transform to savvy salesperson.
1.       Remember it’s not about you; it’s about your story. If you believe in your story, your enthusiasm will prove contagious.
2.       Remember it’s not about you; it’s about your audience. If you’re speaking to a group, go prepared with the demographics and zero in on what might interest them. For some groups, I stress the challenges of the publishing process. For others, I talk almost exclusively about Georgia history.
3.       When scanning shoppers for potential readers, your audience might have a certain “look.” By that I mean style of dress, median age, or gender. These indicators can be helpful, but don’t be fooled. “Don’t judge a book by its cover” applies to people most of all!
4.       Ask folks questions about themselves and their interests, and chances are good you’ll hit on a topic that will link to what you are selling. If not, they probably know a friend or family member who would love to receive your book as a gift.
5.       When giving a presentation on your writing or platform, even before a small or unintimidating group, a Powerpoint can keep things moving. We’re a visual culture accustomed to sensory input. Pictures and items you pass around also create responsiveness.
6.       When selling from a book table, an attractive display that incorporates multi-sensory elements will bring customers to you. If you have someone with you, take turns roaming the store or festival handing out literature and manning the table. When at the table, stand as much as possible, often at the end to appear accessible. As tempting as your phone or printed material might be, don’t. And of course, smile. At everyone whose eye you can catch.
7.       If you can find a way to package a snippet of your manuscript with a nice “wow” factor, your blurb-attuned audience will notice. What about a video book trailer playing on your laptop? A card with a photo and a bit of dialogue, along with your book specs?
8.       My husband, a financial salesperson, is always thinking of ways to price package my books. Signs with “two for” deals or discounts to target audiences catch attention. Likewise, run sales for holidays or simply remind people Mother’s Day is coming.
9.       Be prepared to share a little bit about yourself. While you don’t want to squander professionalism and most readers aren’t there to hear your life story, people want to get a sense of who you are. That positive memory will stay with them as they read your book and may even prompt them to send you an encouraging e-mail, recommend you to a friend, or post a positive review. Some of the best exchanges occur during book club visits. I leave with a treasure trove of new facts, knowledge of what people found uplifting in my series, and a deeper sense of what amazing people my readers are!
10.   You will of course occasionally have the very rude customer. As much as you may try to prepare yourself for this, he or she always seems to take you by surprise. Best to assume the problem is something in the other person’s private life and has nothing to do with you or what you have written. As much as possible, offer a word of encouragement. The conversation may turn around instantly, but if it doesn’t, release that transaction as soon as the patron leaves. The next person who walks up could be your biggest fan!


QUESTIONS: Writers, what strategies help you overcome marketing anxiety? And readers, what do you seek from an author at his or her event?
Represented by Hartline Literary Agency, Denise Weimer holds a journalism degree with a minor in history from Asbury University. She’s an editor for the historical imprints of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas and the author of The Georgia Gold Series, The Restoration Trilogy, and a number of novellas, including Across Three Autumns of Barbour’s Colonial Backcountry Brides Collection. A wife and mother of two daughters, she always pauses for coffee, chocolate, and old houses! Connect with Denise here:
GIVEAWAY: Denise is giving away a Kindle copy of her first novella, Redeeming Grace. To enter answer one of the questions above under 'Questions'. Don't forget to leave your email so we can contact you if you win!
Searching for something she cannot define and breaking under the stress as a rising star at The Metropolitan Opera, Grace Galveston travels to Tallulah Falls, Georgia, for a reprieve. In the summer of 1886, Tallulah Gorge, with its multiple waterfalls, spectacular mountain scenery, and lavish resort hotels, was already known as “The Niagara of the South.” Even amid the crowds and excitement surrounding the attempt of an aerialist to cross the chasm on a high wire, Grace hopes to find peace. Unexpectedly, though, the trip sheds light on the secret pain in her heart. Can the blessing of friendship and the possibility of love with a local minister guide her toward healing? Or will their differences and the call of her life back in New York mean even greater heartbreak?



Monday, October 22, 2018

The Perfect Bride and Shattered Memories ends 10/29

I'm excited to give a copy of one of books away this week! Leave a comment telling me what your favorite time period is, favorite scenario, or favorite type of hero and heroine to be entered to win. And enjoy the excerpts!

 Excerpt:
Cumberland, England, 1399
Avice Touchet plopped a hunk of dark rye bread on the table before her father who sat on a stool before she darted out the door to get the pitcher of cool water she’d just drawn from the stream. She’d risen early to bring him fresh water, and had set the pitcher on the wooden box outside the cottage. She thrust her little finger in the jug and was disappointed that it was not as cool as when she pulled it from the brook nearly an hour ago. The sun rays speared through the trees letting her know she needed to hurry. Pitcher in hand, she returned, snatching up his tankard from the end of the table as she passed.

With his cup now full, she kissed his cheek and dashed for the door. 

“Where you be off to so early and in such a hurry, my dear?” Her father turned his upper body from his perch on the stool to look her way since his neck would not turn so well anymore.

“I am off to the keep to see if Mother needs my help.” Her heart skittered as she answered. Her words were true but her mother was not what, or rather who, drew her to the castle.

“I had hoped to get your help today.” His words stopped her at the door.

Her shoulders fell and she turned around. He’d not given her a choice. Oh, it sounded like she could decide for herself but the truth was he was telling her she could not leave. “What is it you wish me to do, Father?”

“A fox got one of our chickens early this morning. He dropped it when I chased after him with a stick.” He turned back to his bread, ripping off a piece with his teeth before continuing. “’Twas a moment I thought the animal would challenge me for the meal, but he turned away as me and me stick grew closer to his dinner.”

“Yes, Father. I will see to that straight away.” If she hurried she still could make it to the keep and watch Philip and the others practice.

“And when you finish that, go down to the Huguette’s. He has some ale for you to bring me.”

“What do I pay him with?” She steeled herself. She hated to go and ask for charity or to borrow. The family struggled to put food on the table more than her family. They were not fortunate enough to have someone working in the manor.

“He owes me it. Just bring it back.”

With a sigh of resignation, Avice walked back to the door, not in as much of a hurry. Once outside, she glanced around, looking for the dead animal. Seeing the large pot of water over the flame but not the bird, she peeked her head back in the cottage. “Where is the hen? I do no’ see it.” A small part of her hoped the fox had come back and taken its prey, but she pushed the selfish thought away, knowing it would mean a hearty meal for the family.

“’Tis in the trunk. I did no’ want the vermin to come back and steal that which is mine.”

Avice flipped the top of the wooden trunk up and pulled out the yellowish bird by its feet—a little relieved that it was the old hen that would peck at her feet and not the younger one she liked. She scooped up a stick that lay beside the near-boiling water and plunged the chicken in head first while still holding its feet. She pressed the stick against its body to keep it under the hot water as she slowly recited the twenty-third Psalm. When she’d finished she counted to ten for good measure and pulled the sopping chicken out of the water.

Rolling a log with her foot, she pushed it over to the trunk that had held the bird, tipped the log on end and sat on it. If she worked quickly she could have the job done and be on her way to the Huguette’s for the ale. The feathers slipped from the bird’s skin and she tossed them into the chest so they’d not blow away when they dried. If she worked swiftly the skin would remain loose and all would come out easily. Her hands made quick work of the feathers. Throwing the last few in the box, she glanced in to see how big the pile had grown. Her father wanted a pillow—an indulgence. There had been enough—for one—but she wanted her mother to have one, too. With these feathers there would just be enough for two. They may be small but they would be soft on the head.

The sound of footfalls on the ground drew her attention away from the trunk. She dropped the lid as the middle brother of three, all older than she, strolled up. “Good day to you brother.” He had been named after her father, Chester, and the family called him Chet.

“And to you, Avice. Is father inside?” He inquired.

“Aye, that he is.” She smiled at her brother, the most handsome of all three with his straight nose, square jaw, and honey-brown eyes.

When he’d gone in the house and closed the door behind him, she peeked back in the wooden box to get one more look at the feathers. ʼTwould make the grandest gifts she’d ever given her parents. She patted the top as she pushed off the stool. Later, when they’d dried, she’d put the feathers with the others she’d hidden away. Right now she wanted to finish the tasks given to her and be off to Rosen Craig before the day wore on.

As she turned to leave, her father’s worried voice pierced through the wooden door. “Are you sure?”

She waited where she stood, knowing she should not eavesdrop. But the concern she’d heard held her in place.

“Aye, ʼtis sure I am. What troubles you, Father?” Chet asked.

Her father had lowered his voice and she strained to hear but only caught “revolt and recognize him.” She frowned, wishing she could hear more. The exchange went on, both men dropping their voice to not much more than a whisper. Her belly knotted.

She crept over to the door and pressed her ear against the crack. She leaned in trying to hear better. Her brother spoke, “…only passes through.” She still could not hear most of their words so pressed in more and the door, that had not closed tightly, snapped shut. Hurrying back over to her stool, she pressed her hands into her back and gave a moan for good measure as her brother pushed open the door.



Excerpt:


“Why can’t you have him arrested and demand our money back?” Olivia Macqueen frowned at her brother. It seemed a simple enough solution. She shuddered at the thought of once being engaged to the detestable man they now discussed.

Simon gave her a placating smile but his eyes didn’t dance as they would if the smile were true. “It’d be bad for business.”

Olivia shifted on the floral tapestry chair across from where Papa sat holding Mama’s hand. “Why? He deserves that and worse.”

Papa cleared his throat. “We could lose all confidence with our policyholders if they learned that one of our employees had embezzled funds.”

Simon sneered. “You mean if they found out they weren’t even real policyholders. This could ruin our family name and our business. I wish I’d never talked you into hiring Lloyd. Then he’d never have swindled us—” He stole a quick glance at Olivia, his eyes pleading forgiveness. “I’m sorry.”

Olivia’s throat went dry. Of late, it had been easy to forget what Lloyd Pratt had done to her. With the attention her brother’s old friend, Drew, had been lavishing on her, Lloyd had faded to an unpleasant memory. “Nothing to forgive. He means nothing to me now. Besides, his unfaithfulness was actually a blessing in disguise. I’d hate to have married such a scoundrel. And I wouldn’t have gotten to know Drew.” However, breaking the engagement with Lloyd had angered him so much that he had taken his fury out on her, requiring her to seek medical attention.

“Drew?” Simon wiggled his brows, mischief playing behind his mock surprise. “When did you start calling Dr. Warwick by his Christian name?”

Heat rushed to Olivia’s cheeks. Simon could be such a pest with his teasing. He knew very well she’d been calling Drew by his Christian name for some time. It was only around her father she’d avoided using it. Father had always felt the need to coddle her and Mother, more so after Lloyd had hurt her. No need for him to worry that she might have her heart broke again. “Do I really need to answer that, Simon?”

Simon chuckled, his eyes dancing. “I do believe my little sis is blushing. I think she’s smitten with my dear friend.”

Olivia pretended to glare at Simon. “I believe we have a more pressing matter at hand—seeing Mr. Lloyd Pratt gets his comeuppance.”

Papa stood and paced the parlor floor, his hands clasped behind his back. He turned, creases appearing between his brows. The gray sprinkled throughout his dark brown hair softened his features and gave him a distinguished appearance. “Simon’s right. We’ve got to handle this with utmost care. If word got out it could ruin us. And we don’t know how many people he wrote fake policies for or what other ways he may have embezzled.” He stopped and looked at his son. “How could we have missed this for a year?”

Simon brushed his fingers down his mustache. “It’s my fault. I should have gone over the books with a fine-toothed comb. Any man who can’t be trusted in one area can’t be trusted in others as well.”

“I suppose it would have been difficult to find missing policies or false claims without knowing what you were looking for.” Papa sighed and resumed his pacing,

“I should have suspected. After the cyclone of ’85 there were questions. Remember we had several people claiming to have policies that we could never find? I should have investigated then rather than letting Lloyd handle it.”

“He said it was just an error in the books and he’d taken care of it. We’d heard no more complaints. There was no reason to doubt his honesty at that point. What is done is done.” Papa returned to his seat next to Mama. “Tomorrow, first thing, we need to find out which clients are without policies and get them posted.”

Simon leaned forward, resting his arms on his thighs, hands dangling between his knees. “Do you know how much money that could take?”

“I don’t care if it takes our last penny. I’ll not have our good name in tatters.” Papa shot the words back like the kick of a rifle.

Mama, who never involved herself with Papa’s business affairs, picked up the fan suspended from her wrist and waved it in front of her face. Her dark blonde hair pulled back in a chignon set off her high cheekbones and her flawless skin. Olivia had been told often enough that Mama looked less like her mother and more like an older sister. Her beautiful face was now pinched with worry.

Olivia dragged her gaze away from her distraught mother and let it fall on her father. “I don’t understand why we have to suffer for what that dreadful man did. Why can’t we go to the authorities and ask them to keep the information private? Surely they would understand our dilemma.”

Papa gave her a patronizing smile, and she knew if she’d been within arm’s reach, he’d have patted her hand. “One thing I’ve learned in life, Olivia, is that if you tell someone your secret, it is no longer a secret.”

“But Mr. Pratt should have to pay for this. It’s not right that he walk away with no consequences and a large portion of our money.”

Still leaning forward, Simon fisted his hands. “Oh, he’ll pay all right and there will be consequences. I’ll see to that. Did he think he’d never get caught? He’s lucky that none of the people he stole policy money from have come to file a claim.”

Papa stood and took Mama’s hand, helping her up from the settee. “Enough of this for tonight. We’re upsetting your mother.” He gazed down into his wife’s eyes with so much love that Olivia’s heart hiccupped. Drew’s face came into view. She imagined the two of them sharing that kind of intimate love. The thought of spending her life with the man she loved warmed her.

When her parents had left the room, Olivia leaned in toward her brother and whispered. “So, what are you going to do about this?”

Simon stretched and yawned. “Tomorrow I’m going to try to make sure every client has an active policy.”

“You know very well that isn’t what I mean.”

He winked. “I plan to find the proof we need if it’s the last thing I do.”

♥♥♥

Dr. Andrew Warwick left the hospital after checking on a patient and sauntered down Mazyck Street, unable to get his mind off Olivia, his best friend’s sister. When they were young boys, he and Simon saw Olivia as a nuisance—someone they could annoy when bored. Then they grew up and Drew’s medical studies occupied all his time. Simon took on responsibilities of his own, and they rarely spent time together.

But when Olivia showed up in his office last year seeking medical attention, he could hardly believe this was the little sprite he’d delighted in tormenting as a boy. She’d grown into a beautiful woman.

Drew gave in to his impulse, passed Meeting Street and turned down Church Street, heading toward the Macqueen house. It had taken him almost the whole year to gain her trust, and he knew why. After looking at her injuries, her story of taking a bad spill hadn’t rang true. He’d recognized the telltale signs of abuse even if she’d denied it.

Thinking about the late hour, he quickened his pace. He would continue past the house if the windows were dark. But if lights did shine, he’d visit under the pretense of seeing Simon as it was a bit late to visit a young lady. Having a good friend with a beautiful sister one loved was indeed an advantage.

The Macqueen’s home came into view. Lights blazed from the windows, casting yellow beams onto the lawn. Taking the steps two at a time, Drew couldn’t help but smile—the perfect way to end his night. He tapped lightly, and a few moments later the door opened. To his disappointment, Simon stood before him, a cocky grin on his face.

“Drew, how nice of you to come see me.” Simon leaned his shoulder against the frame.

“After a long day at work, I thought your charming personality would brighten my evening.” Drew grinned back and strained his neck to see beyond the slim body blocking his view.

“Looking for something?” Simon’s eyes glittered with mischief.

The sound of swishing fabric emerged. “Simon Macqueen, have you no manners? Invite our guest in.” His lovely Olivia looked as ferocious as an angry nurse when taking on an unruly patient.

“He’s my guest. I may not want him in the house.” Simon winked at him.

She pushed past her brother, giving him a playful slap on his arm, and smiled past him. “I’m sorry, Drew. My brother has the manners of a boar.”

Drew sidled past his best friend. “Shall we put him out with the rest of the herd?”

The tinkle of her laughter floated on the air like sweet music.

“Just you try. I can still take you down.” Simon’s words followed the couple. “And let’s not forget you two need a chaperone.”

Drew snorted. “I’m certain you were the one yelling ‘uncle’ the last time we had this discussion.”

Olivia intercepted. “Really, now. You’d think you two were still schoolboys, the way you carry on.” She took a seat by the window and arranged her dress.

Simon elbowed Drew. “You heard my sister— behave yourself.”

Drew took a seat across from her where he could easily take in Olivia’s beauty and put an end to the bantering.

Simon was always full of himself. That was part of the fun of being around him when they were young. But right now, Simon’s sister captured all of his attention.

Olivia rubbed her arm above her wrist. He couldn’t help but wonder if it still pained her. Her hand slid down to her bracelet dangling on her wrist, and she fingered it. Why was she nervous tonight? His gut twisted. Would she say yes to his proposal? He’d planned a very special Friday evening when he’d ask for her hand in marriage.

He gave her a soothing smile. “I’m pleased you’re still up. Seeing you has brightened my long day.”

She lifted her head and locked eyes with Drew, the corners of her mouth lifting. “As you have mine.” Her gaze shifted toward Simon, then back to Drew.

“I thought I was the one who had bright—”

Drew shot Simon a warning glare that stopped his good-natured friend midsentence. He wished he could be alone with Olivia, but that was not appropriate. Someone had to be a chaperone, but Simon was like a boisterous puppy.

“I’m looking forward to our special day Friday.” That was an understatement. He’d been counting down the days eagerly. She didn’t appear nervous now. His fear of her saying no was getting the best of him.

“As am I, Drew.” Her lashes fluttered.

His heart stuttered. He loved to hear his name on her lips. He’d never tire of it. Spending the rest of his life with Olivia couldn’t happen soon enough. She had to say yes when he asked her.

“Am I invited?” Simon teased.

“No.” Olivia glared at her brother.

Sweet mercy, she was beautiful. Light brown tendrils escaped the hair pulled up into one of the latest fashions. Beautiful brows arched over almond-shaped blue-gray eyes—eyes that breached his heart and soul. He caught himself right before he let out a sigh.

Simon cleared his throat. “Are you going to just sit there gawking at my sister?”

Olivia’s cheeks turned crimson, but she quickly turned to Drew. “Did you hear about the earthquakes that were felt in Summerville?”

Drew jumped in before Simon could remark. “I read an interview in the News and Courier. A Summerville resident was said to have heard a rumbling sound northeast of town, which was followed by an explosion that sounded like a cannon. But many are skeptical.”

Animation lit her face. “Some are saying a boiler probably blew at one of the numerous phosphate works, or someone was blowing up trees with dynamite.”

“I suppose it’s entirely possible that a tremor was felt. Time will tell.” He leaned forward. “What do you think?” He already surmised what her answer would be.

“I think too many people felt it for it to be some sort of an explosion. Some say that even Charleston felt the tremors. That’s too far for it to be anything other than an earthquake.”

Simon grinned. “Well, it caused a buzz that will keep Charleston talking for a few days anyway. Maybe we’ll get some more clients out of it.”

Olivia gave her brother a look that Drew couldn’t quite decipher. Simon only shrugged.

♥♥♥

The next evening after Drew’s visit, Olivia sat in the parlor with her parents. She drew the needle up through the handkerchief she embroidered thinking about the camaraderie that her brother and Drew had shared the night before. “Simon sure flew out of here. You’d think he was late to see his lady love.”

Mama peeked up from her needlework. “If the boy ever finds one. I’m ready for grandchildren.”

“You can’t rush love. I learned that.” A shiver slivered down Olivia’s spine at the thought of Lloyd. She’d questioned if she would ever fall in love again after what Lloyd had done to her. He’d definitely hurt her in more ways than she could count. The welcome thought of Drew quickly replaced the unpleasant memory. She smiled inwardly. She wouldn’t mind giving her mother the first grandchild.

When she and Drew first started courting, doubt had harried her. As a little girl, dread would fill her when she saw him with her brother. The two of them together were as mean as cross-eyed snakes. Like the time they’d tied her shoes together while she napped in a chair, then stole her doll, woke her up and ran. When she jumped up to go after them, she fell flat on her face. The two laughed and disappeared with her doll. It took her the whole day to find where they’d hidden it.

Boys and tomfoolery must go hand in hand. Her brother now was a perfect gentleman, albeit a character—he’d never intentionally harm anyone. Surely Drew was the same. The two boys’ pranks were just that, childish pranks. She hated the way doubt tried to nudge its way into her thoughts. She needed to keep reminding herself that Drew was a doctor and had taken an oath to help people. He was nothing like Lloyd even if she’d known Lloyd for years and never thought him capable of the things that he did.

“Your brother rushed out of here to finish up some late night business,” Papa replied to her question.

“Did you get the policies written and posted?” Olivia inquired.

“We hope we were able to track them all down. Simon’s gone to check on a few loose ends.”

“Ouch!” Mama pricked her finger.

“Are you all right, dear?” Papa’s tender voice inquired.

Mama nodded and dabbed her finger on a handkerchief.

Papa pulled out his pocket watch. “It’s nine fifty.”

Olivia folded the white handkerchief she’d been working on and placed it in the basket beside the settee. She stretched her arms as she stood. “I think I’ll head to bed and curl up with Pride and Prejudice.” She waved her hand in front of her face to give herself some temporary relief from the heat. The sultry day hadn’t been relieved by an evening breeze. The curtains hung limp as an unusual stillness filled the air.

She reached the archway and turned to say goodnight. A long low rumble drifted in through the window as if a heavily-laden horse-drawn wagon approached on the street. But within seconds, the low rumble turned into a terrifying roar. The floor rolled beneath her feet. She grasped the archway wall. The whole house swayed as if dancing to the horrendous thunder. The chimney buckled and bricks spit forward like a child tossing blocks to the floor. A scream caught in her throat. Papa threw himself over Mama, his eyes locked with Olivia’s. Pain splintered through her head as her knees buckled beneath her.