Friday, November 5, 2010

The Master's Wall by Sandi Rog--Emergency Update


The Master's Wall officially debuted this first week of November. For a proud new author who has waited for so long to show off her baby to the world, this should be a very exciting and happy time. Normally it is. All things being equal, it would be, except when something else happens out of the blue that is so huge and catastrophic that it takes breath away.

On November 2, the day when Sandi was supposed to celebrate her new release, she found out that there is a tumor in her brain. Her biopsy today revealed that the form of cancer is very aggressive. She needs the writing community's support.

Having gotten to know Sandi this past year on various writing loops, I have learned how tenacious and resilient she is. She's a fighter. She's battled MS during this past year, and probably years prior to that. She's overcome setbacks and disappointments like any writer. And she's earned the respect and admiration of all who know her for her generosity of spirit and go-out-of-her-way kindness, not to mention professionalism. In short, she's the kind of friend everyone loves to have, writer, or not.

She sounded very upbeat on her last Facebook post and on the email loops. She is confident that the Lord is with her and will fight for her. She has even been gracious enough to thank all those praying for her, and they are an army of prayer warriors, to be sure. But this leaves her no time to spread the word about her wonderful ancient Rome historical novel.

Here's where you can help. Either order it for your own reading pleasure, for a Christmas present for someone else, or help spread the word about this great book and its wonderful author. Here are a couple of links where it can be found: www.deward.com
http://www.amazon.com/Masters-Wall-Sandi-Rog/dp/1936341026/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1288994723&sr=8-1
You could also write a note on Facebook to encourage Sandi and tell her you are praying. Let's help Sandi fight this thing so she can get back to her keyboard and share her gift with the world for many books to come.

Thanks, everyone!

And a big hug to you, Sandi. We love you! Get well soon.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Christmas Mail-Order Brides


Just in time for the Holiday season, Barbour's collection of Christmas novellas made an enchanting romantic escape. Three mail-order brides head west to seek new lives and hope for love as they meet their matches through Mrs. Mayberry's Matrimonial Society for Christians of Moral Character. As a delightful conclusion, the fourth novella involves Mrs. Mayberry herself.

Carrie Turansky tugged on my heartstrings with Annika Bergstrom's story, a Swedish immigrant who must leave her newly married sister to seek a place and a husband of her own. When the man whom she believed to send for her rejects her, she faces the fear of abandonment, until an unexpected love blossoms right where God planted her. Tender, real and touching, this story kicks off the four-part novella collection with a gentle hero that stole my heart.

Next, Vickie McDonough brings an action-packed tale of a young emancipated orphan escaping the odious clutches of her new employer. Jolie Addams is bound for Nevada to set up house with a shop-owner, but when a gunman holds up the stage on which she rides and shoots her traveling companion, her plans take a detour. Can she find love in a hostile land where her very reputation is on the line? The chemistry between the hero and heroine in this novella had me up past midnight to find a great happily ever after.

Therese Stenzel writes a story of suspense and secrets between a woman scorned by her former fiance and a widower seeking a new start for himself and his daughters. Elisabeth Lariby is thrust into a contract of marriage with Zane Michaels, a gentle, philanthropic soul who longs to win her reticent heart. Their unsettled past seeks to drive a wedge between them, and they each must lay it to rest before accepting God's future for them.

Finally, I had the pleasure of reading my first Susan Page Davis story, and from the first lines, Mrs. Amelia Mayberry won me over. It takes a writer of refinement and grace to depict a character with those attributes, and Amelia was all of that and full of warm genuineness, too. Facing retirement from her matchmaking business, Amelia has one last loose string to tie--her late husband's best friend Lennox Bailey. She had failed in her prior attempt to find Lennox a suitable wife, but with God's help, she is determined to succeed this time. Will the matchmaker find the love she has sown out to so many other happy couples?

These engaging stories are sure to brighten many Christmas seasons with hope, love and a happily ever after.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Head in the Clouds by Karen Witemeyer


Head in the Clouds by Karen Witemeyer is one of those stories that hearkens to fans of westerns and regencies alike. When gritty little heroine Adelaide Proctor, the daughter of a rancher, meets Gideon Westcott, son of an English Lord, the sparks fly.

Gideon needs a governess for his adopted daughter, and Addie needs a job after her hopes for love and marriage fizzle. When she starts seeing stars in her eyes at Gideon's smile, she must get her head out of fantasies of her own personal Mr. Rochester, especially when her young charge is threatened by a ruthless inheritance seeker.

Fast-paced and yet beautifully written, I found this second novel of Karen Witemeyer every bit as good as the first, with rich primary and secondary characters, visceral emotions, and a tangible setting. Highly recommended.

Karen Witemeyer is a very promising new author, definitely one to watch for. She has written this and the delicious historical romance A Tailor-Made Bride. She creates wonderful plots and realistic, human characters who steal your heart. You'll want to keep a watch for her books in the future.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Interview with Sandi Rog/Giveaway


I am thrilled to welcome Sandi Rog today. Sandi is the debut author of The Master’s Wall, a historical romance to be released November 1st. It is now available to pre-order from DeWard publishers www.deward.com .

Sandi writes a fabulous blog called Dare to Dream, and I just love the motto: WHEN THE WORLD SAYS YOU CAN'T, FAITH SAYS YOU CAN! http://sandirog.blogspot.com/
She also is the founder and chief contributor to the blog, The Book Doctor, where she provides tips to learn the writing craft. http://thebookdoctorbd.blogspot.com/

A blurb about The Master’s Wall
He fights for his freedom. She fights for her life. Together, they fight for each other.
After watching Roman soldiers drag his parents away to their death, David, a young Hebrew, is sold and enslaved to serve at a villa outside of Rome. As David trains to become a skilled fighter, he works hard to please his master and hopes to earn his freedom. However, an opportunity to escape tempts him with its whispering call. Freedom beckons, but invisible chains hold him captive to the master’s granddaughter, an innocent girl with a fiery spirit. David vows to protect Alethea from his master, the murderous patriarch, and contrives a daring plan—sacrifice his own life to save hers.

Ahhh, that sounds heavenly. Sandi, welcome! I am beyond excited about your debut book. Tell me why Ancient Rome beckoned you to write this story, and how the characters were birthed in your heart.

Thank you, Kathy! I’m so thrilled to be here!
One of the reasons I chose Ancient Rome is because I wanted to bring the Biblical time period to life, to bring it closer to home. I lived in Europe for thirteen years, and one thing I learned about my American heritage is that we’re a lot like the Romans. For example, we’re sticklers on showering every day (Europeans believe showering everyday isn’t necessary). Likewise, the Romans were sticklers on bathing daily, and called all those outside of Rome who didn’t bath daily, barbarians. That for me is one of the more humorous comparisons. There are many others, but I won’t get into them here. My hope is if I can show that this time period really isn’t that much different from our own, then what we read in the Bible really isn’t so “ancient” that it can’t apply to us today. In those days, Romans had plumbing, they invented roads (many of which are still used to this day all over Europe), they had mile-markers, baths, swimming pools, curling irons (of course, not plugged in), amphitheaters, etc. Their neighbors, the Greeks, invented the Olympics, something we all look forward to once every four years. I can go on and on.

I came up with the characters by wondering what in the world it would have been like to live in that time if your parents were taken away from you because of their faith. How would that affect a child? Would it make him stronger in his faith? Or weaker because he was away from their influence? As I studied Jewish history (because my main character is Hebrew), I learned that sons were made to memorize scriptures. And so I thought, David, even at age ten, would have had the Word deeply engrained in him. He wouldn’t know everything, but he’d have a solid foundation. So, I tried to build on that with him. I also had the question: what if a Christian (because of persecution) was forced to be a gladiator? What if this Christian had the ability to defend himself? Wouldn’t it be a natural instinct to defend oneself against death? But what would happen if he was threatened with his life to then kill the person who tried to kill him? I deal with some of that (and a whole bunch of other things) in my next book.

I love talking to debut authors, because their excitement is so palpable it’s contagious. But your writing journey hasn’t always been ticker tape and toasts. What was the lowest time in your journey to publication, and how did you press on? What advice do you have for writers who feel like their day will never come?

Boy, that lowest time was so low I thought it was certain I would never be published. It’s a long complicated story, so I won’t get into it, but when I was faced with that time, I dreamed of my grandchildren coming across my stories and getting them published for me. Knowing that my children would have my stories and would be able to pass them down to their family was what I decided would have to be enough for me. I figured, I’d just self-publish a few copies for them and that’d be the end of it. It also broke my heart because I’d written this book (these books) for God, and I wanted Him to USE them for His glory. How could He do that if they were collecting dust in a drawer somewhere? God and I had a lot of talks about that. Or maybe I should say, He heard a lot from me during that time. LOL

As for advice for writers who feel that day may never come, really no one knows what the future holds. I can only tell you how I dealt with it. I actually liked the thought of my grandkids being so touched by my stories that they inspired them to remain faithful to God. I also imagined them falling so in love with my stories that they’d end up finding a publisher for me. But I told God that I wanted to reap the benefits of my labor, while here on earth. I mean, from heaven I’d likely be too busy and having fun up there to care. I also had to decide to accept God’s will for my writing. Yes, I was devastated thinking it would never happen (in my lifetime, lol), but I also had given these stories to God. I told them they were His books for Him to do with as He pleases. So, if for some reason, He didn’t want them published in my lifetime, so be it. I would have to find joy in that. It wasn’t easy, but like I said, I decided to put my hope in future generations of my lineage. If you’d like to read about some of my struggles with this, you can go to my blog. This post in particular talks about it: http://sandirog.blogspot.com/2010/01/oh-god-wont-you-ride-your-bike.html. This will give you a hint of just how great that devastation was later. When you set your sights on greatness, the fall to the ground is a lot higher and harder.
Anyway, you just have to find something positive to focus on during that time, and trust in what God has in store. In the great scheme of things, He knows what’s best. Also, never give up. Half the work is writing the book. The other half is trying to sell the thing.

What do you wish for this book to accomplish, in terms of your readers, your career, and your genre?

I want it to encourage people to read their Bibles. To question what I’ve written and hold it next to the scriptures. I want them to move closer to God and realize just how passionate He is about them, just how passionately He loves each and every one of us.
As for my career, I think every writer dreams of becoming the next bestseller. Yes. I dream big. Even when being published through a small press. Why not? Since God can part the Red Sea, He can do amazing things with what I write for Him. And why can’t my book be born in a stable? LOL Okay, all that said, it’s all up to God. He knows what I want. The question is, what does He want?
As for my genre, I don’t really have a wish for that. What I mean is, I just want my story to inspire others to write the best stories they can, no matter what the genre.

God tends to speak to me through my own writing. Has this happened to you, and if so, what have you learned from this book?

I’ve learned to pray over everything, every line, every paragraph and every page. And this is no exaggeration . I want my work to be pleasing to God, so I ask Him constantly if there’s something in my work that He doesn’t approve of, to show me so I can fix it. I also ask Him to show me how to fix things, and He does! I’m not saying He speaks to me in this low, heavenly whisper. He usually sends a friend or a critique partner, or a sermon or a song, or a scripture, or whatever, my way to show me the answer. I just have to keep my eyes and ears open because I never know where it’s going to come from. That’s when I also pray and ask Him to help me not to miss it! I tend to get a little distracted and lost in daydreams—which are really my stories, but yah.

Do you have other books in the works?

Yes! Right now, I’m nearing the end of Book Two titled, Yahshua’s Bridge. If you’re wondering what in the world “Yahshua” means, it’s Christ’s name. I just love the thought of having His original Hebrew name on the cover of my book. Lord willing, after that will come “Father’s Rock.”
Thank you so much for having me, Kathy. You’re a fabulous writer, and I’m honored to be here.

Sandi, it is always a blessing spending time with you. You have one if the sweetest spirits I’ve encountered in my cyber travels, meeting Christian fiction authors. I wish you the utmost success with The Master’s Wall.

For a chance to win Sandi's book, The Master's Wall, all blog guests in the U.S. can leave a comment with your email addy. Follow my blog for an extra chance to win. Thank you for visiting today! Winner will be chosen at random Friday at 10 AM Eastern.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Interview with Cheri Hardaway


Hi, Cheri. I am so pleased to announce the release of your debut book, Worth Every Tear. You and I “met” online through a Christian writer’s network, and instantly I was drawn to your humble spirit and your gentle sincerity. Your wisdom and compassion have blessed me over the two years since we have corresponded. I understand Worth Every Tear is a memoir of your family’s journey to healing and deliverance.

Q First, what needed healing and what was the deliverance from?


My husband Wayne and I have four children, two sons and two daughters. Both of our sons chose to go the route of the prodigal.
The oldest walked out of our lives at the age of 18, when confronted over his drug use and general rebellion to our authority – behaviors that surfaced without warning during his senior year of high school. There were so many times my husband and I looked at one another and said, “Who is this kid?” It was like he went to bed the night before his 18th birthday, our son, and woke up the next day a totally different person … someone we’d never met before.
His brother, on the other hand, had been a handful for several years. Not wanting a repeat of what happened with Son No. 1, Wayne and I ignored the obvious problem signs until we could no longer play ostrich. Finally, when he was 19, a series of events brought us to the point of no return – we had to deliver him an ultimatum: “Get help or get out.” He too was abusing drugs, on his way to addiction, if not already there. He chose to go to Teen Challenge, a faith-based drug rehabilitation program.
My mom and both of her parents were alcoholics, so the fact that our family needed healing and deliverance from issues of substance abuse and addiction is readily obvious. But that was merely the tip of the iceberg. God went so much deeper than that. In essence, He delivered us – Wayne and me – from ourselves. We were plagued with feelings of shame, inferiority, and failure – not only as parents, but as people. We were full of bitterness and disillusionment – towards both ourselves and others. We’d walked with God for two decades, but we didn’t truly know Him. God used the circumstances of our prodigal sons to meet us right where we were and teach us about His unconditional love and acceptance. He delivered us from the lies we had believed, that we had to perform to earn His love. And then He filled us with a passion to see other hurting people set free from those same lies – the lies that had imprisoned us and kept us from the abundant life He intends for each of His kids.

Q You are brave to bare your family secrets. Why are you willing to expose what some might consider skeletons in the closet?

Actually, bravery is overrated and misunderstood. It isn’t walking around feeling invincible or fearless. It’s pushing past fear to do what you must; it’s “doing it ‘afraid,’” so to speak. If I am going to be honest with you, I’m terrified.
That said, why then have I chosen to write a book that exposes the skeletons in my family’s closets? Better yet, why has my family given their consent to this project?
God impressed on my heart back in 1995 that He had something for me to write. I sensed it would be in the form of a testimony, but I had no idea I had not yet lived all of what He would ask me to share. Life went on and He called Wayne and me to the task of home education, which was an all-encompassing thirteen-year undertaking. Thoughts of writing were pushed to the back burner of life. When we reached the crisis point with our second son in 2006, I knew that the time to write was drawing closer.
So, basically, I wrote Worth Every Tear in obedience to a call from God, to be used for whatever purposes He has for it. The rest of the reason can be summed up in 2 Corinthians 1:3-5, which says: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.” God comforted Wayne and me through some trying times, and we want to share that same comfort with others.

Q How has your family’s struggle affected your relationship with God and with the body of Christ?

Wayne and I experienced some disillusionment with the body of Christ, as we encountered, in the midst of our struggles, almost what you might call a bi-polar response from people. Some came alongside, shoulder to shoulder with us in the trenches. They were there for us even when things weren’t pretty; they provided a safe place for us to try and process what was happening as our lives turned inside out. These precious folks exhibited the kind of response we expected from brothers and sisters in Christ. There were others who prayed for us, but who seemed afraid that our troubles might rub off on them. They kept their distance, and we felt a sting of judgment. To be honest, the judgment might have come from within ourselves, because we already felt such shame and failure … but whether these brothers and sisters in Christ meant to judge or not, their attitudes definitely reinforced our negative self-images.
God used the pain of that experience to plant the seed for a ministry in our hearts; it birthed what Wayne and I call Glass House Ministries. We’re not sure of all that God has in store for Glass House, but at present it functions as a prayer ministry and a place where hurting folks can find encouragement. We all have struggles in life, even Christians, and it is our desire to provide a safe place to be real for people who need support.
Our family’s struggles served to test and prove true my relationship with God. When Wayne and I first got saved, I was determined to prove to God that He hadn’t made a mistake in choosing me. I vowed to live the rest of my life better than I had the first 25 years … Wayne and I would raise our kids to know the Lord, and they wouldn’t fall into the traps that we had fallen into. I spent the ensuing years doing just that. When our oldest rebelled and walked out, I was shocked. What happened? God, we followed the rules and we did things the way we were supposed to … why didn’t You keep this from happening? I had a lot of bitterness to overcome at that point. God and I worked through all that, and I went on my merry way, figuring we’d passed the test.
Then our second son got in trouble. My world turned upside down. I couldn’t understand why it had happened again. And in the middle of the trials with our sons, my mom passed away from cancer. I battled with confusion, anger, bitterness, and unforgiveness … but I never let go of my faith. The whole thing culminated in surrender … mine. When I finally threw my hands up and said, “God, I can’t do this anymore,” He was ready and waiting, finally able to minister His touch on my life. Please don’t misunderstand … there were victories along the way, but before He could really move, I had to let go of my self-sufficiency and embrace Him with a childlike dependence.
Though I’ve heard it my whole Christian walk, I finally understand what it means to be unconditionally loved and accepted by God. I don’t have to perform to gain His approval; I already have it. I always did, I just didn’t realize it. This whole process has brought me closer to God than I’ve ever been before, and though it may sound odd, I can honestly say that I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. I’m a stubborn woman, and it took a lot for me to “let go and let God,” to borrow a well-known phrase. But it was truly “worth every tear,” to be where I am with the Lord today and to see my family where they are.

Q What do you hope your readers will take away from your family’s triumphs and tears?

When I first started to write the book, I thought it was just to be about our sons. But some months into the writing, God gave me the outline for the whole book, chapter titles and all, and He let me know that it was to cover my entire testimony, not just the story of our prodigals. He basically impressed on me that we are all prodigals in His eyes.
There’s something for everyone in this book. Maybe you have great kids, but sexual intimacy in your marriage is a struggle. Maybe as a woman, you cringe when you hear the ‘S’ word – submission! Do you ever find it hard to forgive someone who has hurt you? Have you watched a loved one die of cancer? How about the challenge of a blended family? There’s a smattering of all that and more within the pages of Worth Every Tear. In each of these scenarios, God has come alongside me and walked with me through the desert, making a way in the wilderness, shining His light into the darkness of my pain.
He’s shown me the path to peace and then supplied me with the strength to make the journey, all the while causing me to fall more and more deeply in love with Him, giving me pause to consider anew His never-ending mercy, grace, and hope – all there for anyone who will ask for it. That’s what I want my readers to take from our story: peace in the midst of pain; mercy in exchange for judgment; grace to replace shame; healing from the memories of yesterday; and hope … hope for today, hope for each new tomorrow … hope for eternity. God is for us. He is not against us.

Q If there is one thing you could tell young Cheri Hardaway when she was caught up in the midst of all the heartache and pain, knowing what you know now, what would that be?

“Cheri, you are not alone in your struggles. God sees it all. You belong to the Lord, and you have nothing to prove. You don’t have to pay for your sin; Jesus already did, with the shedding of His blood. That’s how much God loves you; He loves you just because you are. Stop trying to fix everything. Stop trying to earn God’s favor. You already have it.”


Q Do you have a website or a blog you’d like to share, and what are the links where our readers might purchase your book ?


Yes, the Glass House Ministries blog can be found at: http://blog.cherihardaway.com/
my personal website can be found at: http://www.cherihardaway.com/
To purchase Worth Every Tear ~ Forever and for Always, you can visit this post on our blog: http://blog.cherihardaway.com/2010/09/worth-every-tear-is-here.html which outlines all the different purchasing options available.

Thank you so much for being here, Cheri, and I wish you every blessing as you share your testimony through your book, Worth Every Tear.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Healer's Apprentice by Melanie Dickerson


Have you ever dreamed in color? Have you ever fantasized about forbidden love? This fairy-tale retelling was a bold and beautiful story with a spectrum of characters, places and plot twists which gave me a great escape inside its pages.

Colorful characters make up the cast. Lord Hamlin is the quintessential noble and handsome hero, and Rose is the sweet, unassuming heroine with a steel backbone. Secondary characters like Hildy, who I'd want as my best friend, and Frau Gerusha, a wise and caring mentor, added depth to the foreground plot of romance. The dark villain Moncore sent chills down my spine and kept me in suspense. And the contrast between the chivalrous Lord Hamlin and his cavalier brother Lord Rupert added dimension to the plot.

Set in medieval Germany with wonderful period detail of clothing, food, architecture, and dance, the book transported me the way a good dream does--making me feel like I'd been there and shared the experiences. I could feel the cold stone of the castle, smell the rich pine scent of the woods, hear the hoof beats of the knights' chargers on the road. Medieval feasts and festivals, music, and townspeople hawking wares in the Marktplatz all delivered me to an authentic story world.

But above all, I was drawn by the yearning between two hearts embroiled in forbidden love. Rose is the daughter of a lowly woodcutter, but has gained the favor of Frau Gerusha, the town healer. Serving as her apprentice, Rose must tend Lord Hamlin's hunting injuries one afternoon. Despite their mutual love at first sight, both are too honorable to pursue their longing for the other, knowing that Lord Hamlin is betrothed to Lady Salomea, a mystery figure kept in hiding from the evil conjurer Moncore. Rose feels she could never hope to be worthy of royalty with her low-born status. What happens made me believe in the impossible--that Fairy Tales can come true.

Filled with the grandeur of knights and ladies and epic romance, this heart-warming story will charm both young and old.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Surrender the Heart by MaryLu Tyndall


MaryLu Tyndall has added another great nautical historical romance to her impressive fleet. Surrender the Heart, set amidst the backdrop of the War of 1812, had me savoring the adventure, tension and romance between a high-born lady of Baltimore's aristocracy whose fortunes have run out, and a working class man of ambition who initially sees her as a means to an end.

Marianne Denton wishes only to care for her sickly mother and little sister. She needs her inheritance money which her marriage to Noah Brenin will unlock. She braves the prospect of a loveless marriage, accepting her fate as an ordinary, plain woman unworthy of love. But she is not without her pride. When Noah acts the cad and leaves their engagement party abruptly to embark on his father's merchantman, she chases after him to give him a piece of her mind.

Captain Noah Brenin carries his fate in his cargo hold. He believes that financial success will liberate him from a family scar. But he has sailed with precious cargo he hasn't bargained for: Marianne has accidentally stowed away.

With war brewing between Britain and the United States, peril awaits them at sea. The hand of God awaits, too, poised to turn their fortunes again and shape the course of history, if the cast of eclectic and endearing characters will trust His divine leading.

Fast-paced, suspenseful, and resonating with the patriotic virtues of courage, selflessness, and passion for freedom, this book is an authentic portrait of a little-understood but vital part of our history.
As rich as the history and research, the romance is not to be undersold. Love born of mutual admiration and genuine character makes this story transcendent.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

New York City's Titanic, the General Slocum


Tompkins Square Park, Manhattan, New York City monument to the General Slocum disaster.
The inscription on the side reads: "IN MEMORY OF THOSE WHO LOST THEIR LIVES IN THE DISASTER TO THE STEAMER GENERAL SLOCUM JVNE XV MCMIV"
The inscription on the front reads: "THEY WERE EARTH'S PUREST CHILDREN, YOUNG AND OLD"
photo taken by Erik Edson on November 20, 2007
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Reverend Keith Boyer, who grew up in New York City, shares a little-known story about his native town.
A Nearly Forgotten New York Story.
This story was originally posted on Gail Pollotta’s blog: http://www.gailpallotta.blogspot.com/

In the 1950’s I lived on East 6th Street in New York City. While normally taking a bus to school, I occasionally walked following a route that took me through Tompkins Square Park. The park was home to a simple and what appeared to be long-neglected fountain. It was just something to walk by.

It wasn’t until 2004 that I learned the fountain had been built as a memorial to the 1,021 New Yorkers who lost their lives on June 15, 1904 in a fire on the excursion ship General Slocum. On that bright sunny day, over 1300 people, mostly women and children who had emigrated from Germany, crowded aboard the ship at the East River’s 3rd street pier in anticipation of a day of fun at the Locust Grove picnic grounds on Long Island. The excursion had become an annual congregational event of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church. Over 1500 tickets had been sold. The church, now long closed, was located on 6th street, my street.

The General Slocum was an attractive steam powered side-wheeler. In 1891 it was recognized as one of the finest recreational passenger vessels serving the New York area and was in great demand, but by 1904 it was past its prime. It was equipped with six lifeboats, but due to many coats of paint they were virtually glued to their davits. Over 2000 life jackets were available throughout the ship, but they were filled with cork that had over time turned to powder. When wet they became weights instead of providing buoyancy. The fire hoses on the ship had never been used and their fabric had begun to rot. The ship itself had kept its handsome appearance thanks to multiple coats of highly flammable paint. Nevertheless, the General Slocum passed a safety inspection in the spring of 1904. Following the fire, an investigation revealed that it was common for the inspectors to accept gifts in exchange for a good report.

The fire broke out in a small storage room containing jars of lamp oil, a container of oily rags and bales of straw. Within minutes the wooden ship was ablaze from head to stern. The rotting fire hoses burst under pressure. Those who put on life jackets and jumped overboard quickly sank and drowned. In desperation the captain attempted to ground his ship on an island in the East River. By the time he did so, it was too late. Fewer than 300 survived. Later that day husbands returned home from work to learn that they had lost their entire families. The tragedy marked the beginning of a major population shift in Manhattan’s lower east side as grieving husbands and fathers moved away, making room for a new influx of immigrants, most notably Jewish people from Eastern Europe.
As I see it, the General Slocum disaster has never received the attention such a tragedy deserves. While the sinking of the Titanic in 1912 has become legendary, the loss of life in the East River was quickly forgotten. Not until 9-11 had New Yorkers experienced an event involving comparable loss of life. The likely reason for the neglect of this tragedy was that the majority of those who died were working class immigrants who were not yet considered “Americans” or New Yorkers. While an investigation documented the failure of the Knickerbocker Steamship Company to provide and maintain the mandatory safety standards in place in 1904 the families of the victims received no compensation for their loss. The ship’s captain was held responsible, convicted and imprisoned for three years. In 1934, the film Manhattan Melodrama with Clark Gable, Myrna Loy, William Powel and Mickey Rooney began with a scene of the burning General Slocum but only to set the context for the remainder of the film. It seems to me the story itself is worthy of a screenplay and producer.
♣ ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣
Thank you, Reverend Keith, Gail, for allowing me to share your writing on this fascinating bit of New York history.
I recall my mother’s stories of her grandmother, born Catherine Ann Meeghan, who recounted this event to my mother as a child. Catherine Meeghan lived near little Germany, or Kleindeutschland on Manhattan’s lower East side at the turn of the century with her husband William Lee and family. Though Irish Catholic and somewhat separated by language and culture barriers, my great-grandmother befriended many of the families who would later suffer in the tragedy. In the aftermath, she was called upon by a distraught gentleman who asked her to identify a body at the morgue —presumably his wife— because he couldn’t bring himself to do it. Hers was the sad task of affirming that his beloved wife had perished among the others.
She related that most of the remaining families moved, presumably to be near Lutheran Cemetery, their loved ones’ final resting place. She told of the place the fire occurred—Hell’s gate—a turbulent and unpredictable stretch of water where the East and Hudson Rivers meet in swirls of incoming and outgoing tide. On June 18th, 154 funerals took place, and on that day, there were no Lutherans or Catholics, only neighbors held together by shared grief and a common faith in the Resurrection.

For further reading:
http://www.nytimes.com/2002/10/19/nyregion/catherine-connelly-109-escaped-slocum-fire.html
http://www.forgotten-ny.com/YOU%27D%20NEVER%20BELIEVE/brothers/brothers.html
http://www.themorningnews.org/archives/new_york_new_york/remember_the_general_slocum.php

Gail Pollotta’s Bio: A 2004, regional Writer of the Year for the American Christian Writers Association, Gail is the author of the newly released inspirational suspense romance, LOVE TURNS THE TIDE. It's available from Awe-Struck E-Books. www.awe-struck.net Read more about Gail and her upcoming events at http://www.gailpallotta.com

Reverend Keith's Bio: Keith Boyer is a retired Presbyterian minister living in Barrie, Ontario, Canada.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Prodigal Patriot by Darlene Franklin


I just finished this book in one sitting. Not because the story lacked depth, or even due to the fact that this is a short book. I have read novellas that dragged. . . No, this was a quick read because the characters invited me into their world of Revolutionary War Vermont, and drew me with their hardships, ingenuity, and pluck. The writing disappeared and allowed a vivid story world to emerge. I was invested.

Sally Reid lives next door to Josiah Tuttle, the handsome, attentive son of a Tory. Sally's brother and Father are Patriots and serve with Ethan Allen's Green Mountain Boys. Tragedy strikes both families, and their worlds will never be the same. How can new love survive grief, violence and suspicion?

This is a story about faith, endurance and prevailing love. Hero and heroine discover the depth of their grit and find that affection between friends, neighbors and sweethearts can indeed overcome insurmountable obstacles in this beautiful portrait of our country's historical and spiritual roots.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

In the Manor of the Ghost by Tina Pinson


Few books have had this effect on me: I finished in three days, and most of the time, I was reading past midnight to find out what would happen next. The story questions were beyond compelling; they were insistent. Who is the ghost? What are the mysteries lurking in the secret passageways of the manor, and why so much grief and guilt in the eyes of those who live In the Manor of the Ghost?

When Devlin Clayborne arranges to have Kaitlyn Dupree marry him, he has no intention of personal interaction with his beautiful, loving bride. Instead, he writes a business arrangement wherein she serves as "mother" to his child, and in turn, she becomes lady of the manor. Her reputation for kindness and her love for his son precedes her, and when she comes to stay, he does not account for the way her compassion and tenderness affect him. But will it be enough to dispell the shroud of gloom from the home, or from his soul?

Kaitlyn comes to the Manor with reluctance. The master of Clayborne Manor gives her the creeps. She has heard the ugly rumors about him, and she wants no part of him until her brother-in-law talks her into accepting the contract. She loves his son, but she also feels responsible for the womens shelter from which he threatens to withhold funding if she does not agree to wed. But she has something that Clayborne needs more than all of his wealth and land and titles. God's grace. Will it prove enough to go around?

Clever writing, a twisting plot, and many slowly unraveling mysteries await in this gothic-feeling romance. Secrets, rumors, and a sparking romance pulled me onward to see if a happily ever after ending would win out as two stubborn souls with painful pasts find solace in one anothers' arms. For a debut novel, Ms. Pinson has proven herself with a riveting tale and characters that will keep you guessing.

In teh

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Seasons in the Mist by Deborah Kinnard


OH, MY! This was hands-down the best book I've read in a while. Deborah Kinnard has made me an instant fan of Medieval romance. The element of time travel would not have been my first choice of story material, to be honest. And the cover didn't quite catch my attention. For me, this was a book that sneaked up on me and seized my heart almost against my willful skepticism and doubt. And it accomplished this through the following ways.

First of all, Kinnard's masterful writing skill. She has a very distinct, enjoyable voice. She created a story world so tangible and inviting that I totally suspended my initial disbelief. In fact, she managed to get this non-sci-fi/fantasy reader to feel cascading chills in the description of her time-travel portal. And to make this writer fall in love with language all over again. And to infect me so deeply that I found myself thinking in her quaint middle English patterns of speech.

The second reason this book resonated with me is Kinnard's historical detail. Images, sights, sounds, names, customs and places became so real to me I feel a loss now that my journey to Fourteenth Century England is over. I experienced castles, the King's court, fabrics, feasts, and falcons so real that I could smell, feel and taste them. Music, hearth-baked bread, lover's kisses, the majesty of lords and ladies. . . I didn't want the living history to end.

Third and last, what made this such a fantastic read was the love story which defied space and time. I felt Bethany Lindstrom's conflict as she placed her future in God's hands, letting His sovereign will choose whether she pursue an intellectual understanding of history in the present age, or live history with all of her heart, her soul and her mind, and to offer her deepest affection to the man who had stolen her heart, only to risk her promise to marry if God should send her back to her original life. I agonized to the last pages to see what would become of her and Lord Veryan. I didn't just fall in love with the characters, I felt I had become part of their tapestry.

I really can't say enough about the book. Except to say I cannot wait for Kinnard's next. If this novel indicates her consistent skill to weave a fine tale of sweeping romance full of historical inspiration, I am her biggest fan. Bravo!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Finding Jeena by Miralee Ferrell


This was a painful read. Not because it wasn't well-written. And not because it wasn't believable. The story of a successful, bright career woman losing everything was all-too realistic. No matter how well-insulated a person thinks she is from disaster, life is a great equalizer when God reduces the proud and exalts the humble.
Jeena Gregory hides the pain of her past abuse in materialism. But when her carefully constructed ivory tower crumbles beneath her, she finds herself in the very places she despises and the ones she feels contempt for become her salvation.
The pain of Jeena's journey is bittersweet. As hard as it is to watch, her journey bears lessons that restore deeper and more meaningful things to her than her repo'd beamer and her defaulted condo. Things like mercy, forgiveness, peace. And even a semblance of the family she lost.
Her end is better than her beginning, because her life is established on a foundation that won't crumble.
This is a timely read, and it will challenge you to examine your own priorities and prejudices.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Tailor-Made Bride by Karen Witemeyer


I simply could not believe this was a debut novel for author Karen Witemeyer. I would have assumed from the smooth-as-dressmaker's-silk prose and the finely crafted characters with their compelling conflict shooting sparks between them, that this was a novel from somewhere in the middle of an illustrious career.

Jericho "JT" Tucker couldn't be more gruff or imposing when Hannah Richards comes to town holding the lease to the shop he wanted. And to make matters worse, she has designs on opening a fine dressmaker's shop--the last thing on earth he believes the town needs. She's sure to fill the simple gals with ideas and create discontent with her highfalutin styles and fancy fabrics.

He hasn't counted on her generosity and sincere kind-heartedness, or her work ethic. Or the way her beauty weaves around his heart and drags him like a roped calf, making him go out of his way with gifts and acts of kindnesses for her.

The first third of this had me laughing out loud--and I can't say many (or any) books have ever done that to me. The middle made me fall in love with Hannah and Jericho, hoping they could get past their stubborn independence to embrace their growing attraction to each other. And the last third had me biting my nails in suspense, when an unexpected element threatens to end their dreams of a happily ever after.

This book has it all--lovable, memorable characters, beautiful writing, a message that affirms the virtue of visual aesthetics, and a romance that I felt from my tingling fingertips to my swelling heart.

Bravo, Ms. Witemeyer. I hope for many more to come from you.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Other Daughter by Miralee Ferrell


The Other Daughter by Miralee Ferrell opens with a premise that kept me hooked to the satisfying end. A woman discovers her husband has another daughter when the girl shows up on her doorstep with a suitcase--on the woman's birthday. Surprise!

David Carson has already had marital issues with his wife Susanne. She does not share his faith, and it has driven a wedge in their emotional intimacy. David has become a workaholic, and has missed celebrating her birthday the year prior, so he has some 'splaining to do. Added to this lovechild bombshell, he has agreed for Grandfather to visit them. Another surprise for Susanne.

This family's struggles to come to terms with the husband's youthful indiscretion and to reach out to a child who needs them is drafted in authenticity and compassion. I lingered over this book, feeling what Susanne, David and Brianna--the other daughter--felt, and allowed their journeys to soak in like a gentle rain.

This book will make you yearn for justice, and it will restore your faith in marriage and family.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

I've just received the Versatile Blogger Award



Julia M. Reffner awarded History Repeats Itself with the honor of Versatile Blogger Award on her blog, Dark Glass Ponderings. Julia is a wonderful writer and sister in the faith. Check her out at http://www.darkglassponderings.blogspot.com/

Thanks, Julia! You get the Sunshine Award!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Local Iroquois names and their meanings.


In upstate New York, many of the local rivers, lakes and even roads derive their names from native words. I live in Chemung county, which is in the Southern Tier of New York. The Chemung River flows through Elmira, the county seat, and legend has it that a woolly mammoth tusk was unearthed in a dry part of the river stream bed, hence the name Chemung which means "place of the horn".

To the north of Chemung County, the Finger Lakes stretch out across central New York in long, thin, finger-like spans, the closest of which is Seneca Lake. The Iroquois word Seneca means "great hill people". Cayuga is the Finger Lake closest to Ithaca, and its name means "at the landing". Keuka is one of the smallest Finger Lakes, and the Iroquois translation is "canoe landing".

Our area is abundant in lakes and waterways, many of which retain their native names. Onondaga means "on the mountain". Waneta translates "hemlock" and Lamoka is a small lake whose meaning is "set off by water". Oneida is yet another lake name meaning "on the standing rock".

Streams and rivers were a major trade and transportation venue for the Iroquois with their pine bark canoes, so it stands to reason each bears a native name. Conhocton is a river whose name means "log in the water". And then there is Catherine Creek, to this day a major trout source to which fishermen flock. Catherine was a queen from the Montour Clan.

Indian names abound in New York to this day. Susquehanna River runs near the border of New York and Pennsylvania. Its exact meaning is unknown, but it is said to derive from two words, "Susque", meaning "long reach", and "hanna", meaning "river" or "stream" in Algonquin. The place where the Chemung River meets the Susquehanna was a great trading ground among the Iroquois tribes, where artifacts can be found to this day.

Finally, Singsing is an Iroquois word meaning "stone on stone". Aside from the infamous downstate prison bearing that name, there is a lovely road in Horseheads/Big Flats by that name with beautiful horse farms and some of the earliest farmsteads in Chemung County.

The sheer number of Iroquois names for the landmarks and waterways in upstate New York bears testimony to the first inhabitants of this beautiful land full of lakes, streams and rivers.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Interview with Tina E. Pinson


I am excited to introduce Tina E. Pinson to you all. Tina and I have exchanged critiques for over a year, and her mentorship has helped me climb to the next level in fiction craft elements such as deep point of view, sensory detail, and adding conflict as well as smoothing out some of my writing passages. She has an incredibly inventive mind with the type of descriptions and scenarios that grip you and carry you along with them in a powerful way. Her sense of humor and sparkling personality make her a joy to know.

Tina has a couple of books contracted with Desert Breeze, the first of which releases in June. In the Manor of the Ghost will be available as an e-book for download to your Kindle or Sony e-reader. It has a haunting and atmospheric cover image, hinting of the captivating story inside.
Tina has graciously agreed to come and answer a few questions about her books and her writing journey.

Welcome, Tina. Thank you so much for stopping in to greet our readers here at History Repeats Itself. Your books span genres from historical to contemporary to futuristic, with elements of romance, intrigue and even mystery. What your readers can expect in common to all of your books is a riveting storyline with fast-paced plotting and flesh-and-blood characters that pull you in and transport you to their worlds.

In the Manor of the Ghost is a historical, set after the American Civil War in the 1870's Minnesota. Touched by Mercy is also a historical set around the same time frame in Nebraska, and comes out in December 2010.

What is the first thing you remember that you did when you heard the news that Desert Breeze offered you a contract? Did your husband have to pick you up off the floor, or did you shriek with glee, or otherwise impair your editor’s auditory nerves?

The first thing I did, hmm… I stared at the email that said that Desert Breeze wanted to publish my books and I cried. Then I jumped around a bit, and cried some more on Hubby's shoulder.

I was vaguely familiar with Desert Breeze Publishers before you shared your wonderful news with me. Since then, I have heard the name just about everywhere I read online. They have some great authors in their stable with an exciting line-up of releases. Can you tell us a bit about Desert Breeze?

I pulled this from the Desert Breeze site. I figured they could explain it far better than me. Desert Breeze Publishing, Inc. was conceived, developed and launched to provide a place for readers and authors to go where they can find non-erotica/non-erotic romance novels without having to search through the plethora of erotica currently offered.

You have been writing for several years, with many books and stories to your credit. I had the pleasure of reading the beginning chapters of your 2010 Rattler Contest finalist, Counting Tessa, and also the first half of Touched by Mercy. Both stories feature heroines full of strength and resilience, both of whom show a slightly stubborn streak and a big heart. I have a feeling that your fictional ladies reflect facets of their creator’s nature. Tell us about your personal journey and the things you’ve overcome to get to this moment as a published author. How did your faith help you arrive at your desired haven?

I started writing in elementary school. I actually wrote my first novel then. It was novel alright. I continued to write, working on short stories, poetry, songs and some longer stories. When my children were born, I cut back and didn't try to push as hard getting the stories done. I wondered if that was the right decision and decided with my husband in the Navy and gone a lot and three boys, I couldn't wrap my head around a story and give it the due attention it needed. Once the boys were in school, I picked it up with a bit more fervency. I sat down and wrote a 900 page novel in a few months time. Which promptly got lost in the computer when it fried on me. Thank heaven I made a hard copy and was able to plug it all in again.
My heroines carry a lot of my strength and resilience or perhaps the qualities I wished I had more of. There were many times I wanted to quit writing altogether, but couldn't because it's like breathing to me. I know I have a gift and I need to use it. Whether I see print or not.
After several rejections, and impatience, I decided to take matters in hand (got a bit ahead of myself ) and self- published a couple books. I learned quite a bit and out of it, found my way to ACFW, through the help Vickie McDonough. She reviewed my book and liked the story but knew I needed help with layout and editing on my stories. So I guess self- publishing wasn't a complete lost.
Anyway, long story short. I kept working, won some contests, kept getting rejections then finally got signed on with Desert Breeze.


What are the themes you most often write about? What message do you hope your readers will take away from reading your stories?

My themes usually deal with forgiveness and grace and overcoming insurmountable odds. And telling about a God who is bigger than any troubles, scars or sin my characters may have. He's a God of second chances and a God that carries us sometimes, and other's allows us to walk through valleys while guiding us. To help us grow. Having been a benefactor of that grace on many occasions, I want people to know and understand the love God has for them. I try not to be too preachy, I hope. I want to show how you get from Point A to Point B with God. It's a process and my characters get to go through it. A process that has been cathartic for me.

Has your family been supportive of your writing? Was your publishing contract an “ah-ha!” moment to them, or is it a victory for them as much as for you?

My family has been pretty supportive. My husband, Danny, encourages me and listens to my rants, ya know… I'll never make it… My stories are dumb… I wonder if I'll sell one book. He assures me that my books are wonderful. So much so he spent the money to self-publish. He wants me to see my potential, my God given gift and wants me to use it. He said he'd be my chauffeur when the time came and I was published. I'm just glad I get to lean on him and use his shoulder.
My children have big plans for my earnings, when and if I get some. Not really. They just tease me that since they were there at the beginning, and lived through cold meals and the repetition of stories told over and over, they should get a percentage.


Have you had mentors along the journey? Who are your favorite authors/books/movies? Does music or other artistic expression inspire your writing?

Back before I took a break from writing, I attended my first writer's conference with Susan Lenzkes, author of, When the Writing on the Wall is in Brown Crayon. She encouraged me to study the writing craft and use my gift. She always encouraged me to do it in my time, using my voice, invaluable information, especially when everyone has an idea about how your book should go. You need to know who you are as a writer. A writer needs to be true to who they are and their voice. I mentioned Vickie McDonough already, her help and encouragement was the thing I needed at the time to get on the right track again. Then there's our esteemed interviewer Kathleen, who has been a great source of encouragement and a great critique partner who I appreciate immensely.
As for music, certain songs will get in my head and make me think. But I usually dream about a book, or a scene that gives me inspiration for a story. I don't know that I have any favorite authors/books/or movies. I like Doris Day movies. But I'm pretty open to most genres in movies. Music and books as long as the story, tune catches me.


Can you tell us about In the Manor of the Ghost and what led you to write it? Would you characterize it as a romance, a love story, or a ghost story, or all of the above?

I would say In the Manor of the Ghost is all the above. It has romance, a love story and a ghost. But it's important to know that some of the houses we reside in aren't always made of lumber or stones. They are fashioned from our fears and are as thick around us as a wall might be. And some of the Ghosts we face are those fears, real or perceived they haunt us.
While the main scene for In the Manor of the Ghost does take place in a manor, the story was written with the spiritual aspect in mind as well. Because the greatest love stories come out of two people growing together through some of those things mentioned above, and growing together in the Lord. As for why I wanted to write it. I think where I was at in life pulled it out of me. Though like Kaitlin, I wondered how I fit, and had lost a loved one, (my father had passed away not long before), I actually identified more with Devlin in some aspects of the story. He's on journey to find himself.


Ditto for Touched by Mercy. Please give us a look at the dauntless Samantha and her quest to find her orphaned niece Angelina. I particularly liked the affectionate role that the nuns had in helping Samantha and the orphans. Do your characters have living counterparts who inspired you?

Touched By Mercy does have some characters, like the nuns who are taken of the real person in history. I think it gives a true picture of the time and what the nuns were trying to accomplish with the Orphan Trains. It also tells the story of one woman's journey to grace perhaps. Samantha comes from a background of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. Having been molested as a child, I identify with Samantha even more than Kaitlin from In the Manor of the Ghost. The story was pretty much my rite of passage. Coming to a point where I believed God could find me lovely. Yes, I made it a bit harder on Samantha than myself, but only to show the beauty of God's grace on us, his arms around the brokenhearted. Samantha hadn't done anything wrong, as far as the molestation went, but she spent years believing she had. I went through long years of wondering like Samantha.
I think many of us have areas where life catches us, uses us and beyond no fault of our own, leaves us feeling dirty and unlovable. It literally spits us out. That's the nature of abuse. I wanted people to see that God knows exactly what happened. He hurts to see that his creation could be so cruel, and he loves us and wants to heal the scars. If we'll allow him to, he has gentle hands, strong arms and loving heart.
This link directs you to my website and will allow you to learn a bit more about me. By following the links Bits and Pieces and Touched By Mercy you can take a look at other books I'm working on.

http://www.tinapinson.com/blank.html

How can our readers purchase a copy or learn more about you and your books?

You can find my book and by using the following link.
http://stores.desertbreezepublishing.com/-strse-92/In-the-Manor-of/Detail.bok
My Blogsite— http://tinapinson.blogspot.com

Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity to share my books and myself.In honor of the release of In the Manor of the Ghost, I am running a contest for the entire month of June 2010. Giving away some pretty awesome gifts, if I must say so myself. Check out my blog for the particulars.
http://tinapinson.blogspot.com/

Thank you, Tina! I am excited to celebrate the debut of your wonderful books with you. May your characters be household names, and may the message God has laid on your heart to write find many hearts ready to connect with. Blessings, both to you and to your books.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Love finds You in Golden, New Mexico by Lena Nelson Dooley


I've really enjoyed every Summerside romance I've read so far, and this one is no exception. The "Love Finds You in. . ." series has given me a glimpse of places to which I may never travel, with lovely descriptions of the land and architecture and history of the towns featured.

Golden, New Mexico is a desert mining town, set in 1890 after the initial gold rush. Jeremiah Dennison is a former mine owner turned rancher who looks after an elderly friend and mentor, Philip Smith. Philip's health is failing, and he seeks a caregiver to ease his last days, so he asks Jeremiah to take out an add for a mail order bride for him. But there is more to his motivation than wanting a bride for himself.

Madeline Mercer is a privileged young lady from a wealthy Boston family. When her father died, the Mercer estate is left up in the air when one of his business associates makes a claim to his business and Madeline's hand. Meanwhile, Madeline's charitable heart leads her to help an impoverished young lady about to give birth in a freezing shanty. The girl dies but not before she makes Madeline promise to raise the child. When Mr. Mercer's colleague presses his suit and threatens the baby, Madeline must flee Boston. Enter Philip's mail-order-bride ad.

When Madeline reaches Golden, will it be a golden opportunity for a fresh start, or will she have toughened ore to pick through before she finds the vein? I enjoyed Madeline's determination and pluck as she endeavors to raise a child, navigate a new town, minister to Philip, and hold her finances together, all the while deciphering her confusing feelings for Jeremiah.

I loved the tender portrait of elderly friendship and faith, and the unique personality the author gave to the infant. Characterization is a well-honed skill of Lena Nelson Dooley, and her three-dimensional people really add a depth to the book.
Love Finds You in Golden, New Mexico is one of those romances that was so much more than a romance--it is a story of the love of a land, love that surpasses generations, and the forgiveness that makes a love relationship between God and man possible. A beautiful read.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Wildflower Hearts by Vickie McDonough


Vickie McDonough is quickly becoming my favorite writer. With her skilled way of building her story world in the Dakotas amidst the rugged and untamed beauty of the badlands like a Rich Mullins CD, she did it--she placed me there and made me never want to leave. From there, she crafted characters who grew on me, from independent and proud Mariah, the dime store novelist who steals master artist Adam MacFarland's heart, to Anna MacFarland and her US Marshall Beau, and finally, my favorite of the three short novels' heroes, Quinn MacFarland and his young bride Sarah.

Each story stands alone, but all three together build until the last and eldest MacFarland sibling falls hard to romance. McDonough's lively and suspenseful plotting and pacing make each of these stories un-put-downable, but at the same time, I wanted to savor every nuance and relish every word. I have read many books that compelled me with a clever plot or engrossing characters to skim to the end, but in Wildflower Hearts, the writing itself was so lovely, I had to pour over every line.

In Wild at Heart, Adam MacFarland must overcome a secret he has kept since his father's untimely death, a secret that keeps him from peace with God and his calling as an artist, and accepting the love of others. When he invites a novelist from back east to spend time out on the family ranch for research, he never suspects a woman. Not to mention, a woman like Mariah Lansing. Refined and accomplished, she surprises him with her pluck and willingness to adapt to ranch life. But is the attraction he feels for her enough to over come a burden of guilt and regret that seems destined to keep him single the rest of his life?

Outlaw Heart features Anna MacFarland, Adam's twin, who has been chided to learn the arts of housekeeping and to give up her tomboyish ways by her practical older brother Quinn and her mother. She yearns for freedom and adventure, which takes her to Bismarck in search of work outside the home. She finds excitement of a different sort, in the aftermath of a bank robbery. Confused for an accomplice by the town Marshall, she is followed by the handsome Brett Wickham, who seeks to avenge his brother's death in the robbery before he retires his badge. Can Anna prove her innocence with her sweet carefree ways and steal his heart before his overwrought sense of justice ruins the potential for romance?

Quinn MacFarland's romance, Straight for the Heart, proves the old adage "the bigger they are the harder they fall." Quinn has been the solid rock after the father's death, the go-to guy that saved the family ranch. Now that his mother has passed and his siblings have married and moved away, he is alone with a well-intentioned but meddling grandmother who plots to marry him off. Enter nineteen-year-old Sarah Oakley, an orphan left to care for her two younger siblings after their parents' tragic death. She had sought refuge with an uncle who turned out to be a dangerous outlaw, and as she attempts to escape with his gold and their lives, her path crosses with Quinn. Can the aloof but tender heart inside him yield to Sarah's innocence and devotion?

After reading two of McDonough's previous books, and loving them, I am on the fast track to fan-hood. This short novel collection not only did not disappoint, but each was a surprising delight.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Anonymous Bride by Vickie McDonough


Vickie McDonough has released the first installment in her Texas Boardinghouse Brides series in this light-hearted romance that kept my eyes fixed and my heart racing until the very last page. Lookout, Texas gets its handsome homegrown Marshall Luke Davis back, but doesn't offer enough pretty single women of marrying age to suit Luke's cousin's ambitions for him. Garrett and Mark Corbett want to see Luke happily married to his former sweetheart Rachel, but the couples' past keeps getting in the way.

Luke feels he can never forgive her for marrying his ex-best friend, wealthy James Hamilton, but after he'd fled his hometown and joined the cavalry for eleven years God leads him back to Lookout. Rachel has become a widow in this time, and manages the Hamilton estate as a boarding house, while badly managing the upbringing of her young daughter Jacqueline. As town Marshall, Luke cannot escape Rachel's presence as his cook, laundress and maid, though he can't drop his guard enough to let her into his heart again.

When his cousins can't convince him to court Rachel, they help him along by ordering him a mail order bride. Or two. Or more.

Between the amusing and endearing antics of young Jacqueline, the ornery Corbett cousins and a whole Texas town of interesting characters, Luke and Rachel have no peace, especially when one of the potential brides brings a twist of intrigue and danger to thicken the plot.

A satisfying tale of forgiveness, trust, and second chances, The Anonymous Bride will entertain, inspire and warm the most stoic heart.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Victorian Bridal wear

Chemung County Historical Society featured a display on victorian clothing recently which ended on March 31. Though the display is now closed, I am pleased to share a few pictures of the bridal clothing here in my virtual gallery for you to enjoy.

This trio of wedding couture shows a gentleman's tuxedo and tails, bowler hat, a lovely wedding gown in a color other that white. White was not made vogue for brides until after Queen Victoria wore hers in the 1840's. Also pictured is a bodice of another wedding ensemble. The bodice is seen in greater detail here.



Below we see pictured: Marriage certificates, 1864 and 1884
Wedding album 1901
Wedding invitations 1872 and 1893




On October 6, 1880, Susy Clark married Elmer Dean at Elmira’s Grace Episcopal Church
Satin wedding gown, 1880
Wedding handkerchief 1880
Photograph 1880
Wreath and slippers 1880

White satin wedding gown in two views, 1880.

This exhibit of original Victorian clothing was an absolute delight to see in person, and I hope to capture the romance and fine taste of the period in my photos. With much thanks to those at the historical society for their hard work and research, I am pleased to post these. For more information about the Chemung County Historical Society, go to their website at:
http://www.chemungvalleymuseum.org/

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A cuppa with Tammy Doherty


(K)Tammy Doherty, you and I share much in common. We both love gardening, animals and writing. We both had the fortune to marry wonderful men of Irish decent, and I suspect you have the Emerald Isle in your blood, as well. We both belong to ACFW Northeast, and we both are stunningly brilliant. Okay, that would be just you. But I welcome you to put your feet up and sip some tea with me.

(T) You are too kind, Kathy  I do love gardening, animals and writing. And my wonderful hubby is Irish. I, on the other hand, am mostly Scottish and French. But we’re both 100% American That said, could I sip coffee while we chat?

(K) Ha! Yes, I have this delicious Folger’s chocolate silk coffee—to die for! Pour a cup and settle in, then tell me. How long have you been writing and what milestones mark your writing journey?

(T) As a teen, I made up stories with my best friend. Some of them I wrote down. All of them wouldn’t even make it as bad fan fiction I didn’t get serious until 2001, when we bought our first computer. It took me almost a full year to write my first novel. I journeyed alone with that one, although I did share the manuscript with a few friends.
After publishing the first book, Celtic Cross, I joined Romance Writers of America (RWA). I learned a lot through that organization, but still journeyed mostly alone while writing the next two books. I did enter a few contests and eventually paid attention to judges’ comments. Then I joined ACFW in the fall of 2007. It has definitely been the best thing to happen to my writing career. That’s where I found my wonderful critique partners.
My three historical novels have not won any contests – being self-published limits the contests I can enter. But they have received great reviews. My current work-in-progress, a contemporary romantic suspense, has placed (3rd and 5th) in a couple contests.

(K) Awesome, Tammy. So, are you one of those wonderfully organized folks I’ll have to secretly hate who have a daily word count goal, or do you write as inspired?

(T) I dream of being organized, one day I don’t have a daily word count goal, though I have tried to set monthly goals. Working full-time, managing our home business, and raising two kids, means goals have to be flexible. That said, when inspiration hits I find time to squeeze in writing – including bringing a notebook to library reading hour.

(K) I like you more and more as I see how brilliant you really are! How do you find the inspiration to create? Music, movies, books, nature, Bible . . . Name your muses.

(T) Music is my muse. I write best listening to instrumental, but I have one character who likes classic rock and creating scenes for him works best listening to “his music.” LOL
I have a CD of Irish hymns that I enjoy as well as the Braveheart and Gladiator soundtracks.
I’m also a visual writer. I created pages kind of like a scrapbook, with pictures of actors/actresses that best represent how I imagine my character looks. I find photos of the location or setting, pics of houses and even floor plans. They all help me visualize as I write.

(K) With a name like Kathleen Maher, I couldn’t help but notice that the titles in your three-book series have an Irish theme. Give us their titles here, and tell us a wee bit about all three.

(T) I may be Scottish by heritage, but I love everything Irish. The title inspiration for my first book came from a Celtic cross necklace given to me by my husband. The novel Celtic Cross is a story about trust: Cristeen Latham learned long ago to trust no one, not even God. Matt Donovan’s faith has gotten him through the death of his parents. Can he help Cristeen see the need to trust the Lord before it’s too late?
Claddaugh is a book about forgiveness. Headstrong Leigh Latham has always done what she wants without considering consequences. When her ill-fated marriage falls apart, she returns to Colorado – and the man who once loved her. Marshal Rory Johnston thought he was over Leigh, until she comes back. Each must learn to forgive and accept forgiveness. Leigh is hiding from something. Can Rory protect her and his heart at the same time?
In Celtic Knot, Secret Service agent Kyle Lachapelle is undercover working on the Big L-O ranch, looking for a counterfeiter. Abby Finnigan will never love again after the death of her husband. Then she meets Kyle – handsome, easy to talk with, a true gentleman. When she finds out his true identity, can she ever trust him again? Abby's journey through love, grief, suspicion and danger twists and turns like a chain of never ending Celtic knots. Throw in assault, murder, kidnapping and a shoot-out and Celtic Knot is a western that lives up to its name!

(K) As you write historical romance, do you relate more to the heroine or the hero, or both? Why?

(T) In Celtic Cross, Cristeen’s difficulty with trust came from me. She isn’t me, but at the time of writing the novel I also had trouble trusting. Except I knew the need to rely on the Lord. So for that book, I related more to the heroine. Leigh Latham was difficult for me to write because I could not relate to her. When I began Celtic Knot, I “knew” Kyle better than Abby, but as the book went on I began to relate to them equally well.
I confess, though, that growing up I always wanted to be a cowboy. Tomboy was an understatement describing me! I have a tendency to relate better to the hero in my stories. Learning to a create strong, likable heroine who isn’t at all like me was a tough journey but well worth the effort.

(K) Who are your favorite characters you’ve created and do you borrow from your life and experiences to create them? Have you learned from them?

(T) As I said above, Cristeen stemmed from my life. She was my first heroine and has a special place in my heart. It’s difficult to say any one is a favorite, though. Possibly, Kyle is my favorite hero. I have a soft spot for Simon, another character in Celtic Knot, because his personality is full of twists and contradictions and he was fun to create.
I learned a great deal from Cristeen. Researching the Bible to help with her spiritual journey helped me focus my faith. And I learned to trust a little more-because even if a risk didn’t pay off the Lord would be there to comfort me. I also figured out how to do historical research and found some great websites. The most enjoyable thing I learned was some Gaelic phrases. It sparked a desire to learn the language. And I will – someday!

(K) Would you discuss the spiritual themes of the series?

(T) I work carefully to craft novels that are not preachy, yet the spiritual themes are key to the overall story. Cristeen Latham must learn to trust the Lord, not herself, in order to survive the climatic events of Celtic Cross. Leigh Latham harbors resentment and anger that keeps her from accepting God’s forgiveness and finding peace.
With Abby, in Celtic Knot, I had to work on showing how someone could accept a loving God who also lets bad things happen. I was able to do this by using the fact that Abby is a mother. Being a parent, I think, gives you a different perspective on God.

(K) Give us a snapshot of Celtic Knot. What is it about, and how can we find it?

(T) After the death of her husband, Abby Finnigan has returned to Prophecy, Colorado, a town ruled by the Bigelow family. Her family. Her father refuses to acknowledge her existence. Her playboy older brother, Clayton, acknowledges her but only because he enjoys tormenting her. Eugene, her younger brother, hasn’t spoken to Abby since she returned. Her only friends are the owner of the saloon where she works as a maid and his “upstairs girl.” Sheriff Boone Warren professes his love for Abby. She distrusts him, afraid that his feelings aren’t pure. Plus, he’s little more than Clayton’s puppet.
Pastor Stanton and his family offer Abby friendship, which she finally accepts when Clayton evicts her. The pastor is also friends with Kyle Lachapelle, a newcomer to town. Kyle is working at the Bigelow family ranch. He’s kind, considerate and seems to be a real gentleman. But can Abby trust him? Can she risk heartbreak?
Secret Service agent Kyle Lachapelle is attracted to Abby from the moment they meet. Yet he’ll be moving on as soon as this undercover case is wrapped up. It wouldn’t be fair to toy with Abby’s affections. When he learns her connection to his chief suspects, can he afford to be interested in her?
Things get complicated after that! A dead body, an assault, a jail break, murder, and kidnapping. And while all of this is going on, Abby has to figure out exactly how she feels about God. Can she open her heart to His love? And will that be enough to conquer the fear separating Abby and Kyle?
All of my books are available at online booksellers like Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

(K) As you’ve researched your time period, what are two social customs or ways of life that you wish were still true today, and what are two things you’re glad are not true anymore?

(T) This is a hard one to answer  I think what I wish for the most is less urbanization of our country. Researching the area of Colorado where the books are set, I found photos of gorgeous open land, free of houses and highways. Even as close as 30 years ago my region of Massachusetts was rural farmland. Now we are suburban.
The other thing is more a social custom. In the era of my books, the late 1800’s, public display of sexuality was frowned upon. Only a woman of ill-repute went about scantily clad. And it was considered normal for men and women to wait for marriage before having sex. Yes, promiscuity occurred. But it wasn’t right out there in the public. People didn’t brag about it. I hope that doesn’t sound prudish!

(K)Not at all. I’m with you!

(T) Romance should be about love, not sex. I wish we could be more like that these days. A great kiss, with just a hint of suggestion, then leave the rest to imagination.
The thing I’m grateful isn’t the same anymore is medicine! All three of my novels couldn’t happen in the latter half of the 20th century simply because of modern medicine. Anesthesia wasn’t around back then. Imagine surgery without it!
I’m also happy to be living now when women are treated as equals to men. Most of the time. In Celtic Knot, Abby struggles because her father never wanted a girl child. He refused to acknowledge her as his, treated her with less regard than he did the servants. Now that she’s back, her brother Clayton uses threats and the power of the family bank to ensure no one will give her employment. He tries to force her into marriage with Sheriff Warren, where he thinks he’ll control her. I know even now many women have similar struggles, but in the 1880’s women had little to no legal recourse. Shelters for battered women were rare. I’m glad we’ve made strides in this area.

(K) I’m with you on those things. Thank God for modern plumbing, too!
So, tell me. Should we look for more in this series, or do you have other projects simmering? Do other times and settings in history tug at your fingers and heart to write them?


(T) This series is complete. Friends have suggested I spin off from secondary characters and maybe one day I will. Currently I’m working on contemporary romantic suspense. I do have an idea filed away for “someday” – to write about my hometown region during the early part of the 20th century. This area was once a vacation hotspot. Our town was a favorite of legendary George M. Cohan! Think of the stories…well, someday 

(K) Oh, yesss! You must write that, Tammy.
What do you hope your readers will take away from your books? What have you taken away from them?


(T) Writing these three books brought me closer to the Lord and strengthened my faith. I hope that Christians who read them will take away the same experience. Beyond that, I feel strongly that all three are good books for someone who isn’t a believer or maybe is on the fence about believing in God. I hope the messages of trusting the Lord to take care of your every need (faith), accepting His forgiveness and forgiving others (hope), and the meaning of true love (His love) will stick with those readers and start them on the path to becoming Christians.

(K) Tammy, thank you for being with us here and sharing your love of writing and history. Always a pleasure to share a bit of tea (or coffee) and the gift of gab with a fellow Celt!

(T) Thanks again, Kathleen, for inviting me to share. The Irish in me simply loves words 

(K) If you wish to know more about Tammy or her writing, visit her website at http://tammydoherty.com/
(K) Or follow her blog at http://faith-fiction-friends.blogspot.com/