Friday, June 23, 2017

The End of the Kickstarter Chapter in War of Loyalties



I sent this note to backers last night, and wanted to include it on the blog today for all of you. This is The End of this chapter in the War of Loyalties journey. We wrote it together.

I am sitting here looking for words.

One month ago, I calculated one more time and realized I needed to budget more on my Kickstarter than I had originally planned.

One month ago, I took a deep breath and hit launch.

And last night, on the last day of the campaign, at 9:20pm, I got an email notification that said



You made it! 


We made it.

There is absolutely no way we could have planned what this journey looked like so far. It's been one of grace, of so much generosity, of overflowing love from so many kind-hearted friends.

You prayed. You shared. You gave $5,000 dollars to make this indie dream a reality.

So much goes into the making of a dollar--good days and hard days, and wish-you-could-stay-in-bed-days. The fact that you chose to channel your dollars towards this project was a huge gift. And I want most of all to be a wise steward in the days ahead.

We're rejoicing today. We'll have more words, more plans, more things to share, and so much more to rejoice over.

But for today, I just want to say--

That God breaks down barriers.

That he provides in ways that look impossible.

That is joyful night is the super-sweetest thing.

That I wish I could give you all a hug.

This is my celebration, and your celebration, and our celebration.

Thank-you is such a tiny, inadequate word. But you made my heart sing tonight--and I thank God for each one of you.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Meet Jaeryn, Terry, and Charlotte...

Welcome, welcome, folks, to the War of Loyalties character interview! We’ve PASSED 4K on Kickstarter, and we went over the 75% mark yesterday!! Yippee!! We have less than 1K to go, which is a HUGE milestone! I am so grateful for the Lord's provision, for his tender mercy and peace throughout this process. I truly feel like he is leading and providing. I'm so thankful for willing hands and hearts who have prayed, spread the word, and given--without you, none of this would be possible, and I am so grateful for all the support.

Charlotte, Jaeryn, and Terry received the highest votes yesterday for a character interview. I thought this might be a bit awkward at first, but then I realize the three of them actually do have a scene together in the story, and since Jaeryn and Terry are good friends, and Charlotte can hold her own with anyone, I think they’ll get along quite well.

This interview will be conversation style, so I’ll delay no longer. Sit back and enjoy!

1.       What’s your profession? Do you like it? How long have you had it?
Terry: Ladies first, Mrs. Doc.
Charlotte: I’m a nurse—that is, until I married, and now I volunteer at the Folkestone Maternity Homes. I like the work. I’ve never wanted to do anything different—though I did like being a nurse in America better than coming to Folkestone where the future is so uncertain.
Jaeryn: Doctor for two years. Agent for seven years. I wouldn’t trade either profession for a sultan’s fortune. This is what I want to excel at.
Terry: I’m kind of a professional world wanderer, if that’s a thing.
Jaeryn: If it makes you money, it’s a thing.

2.       What’s your role in this story?
Jaeryn: Holding the world together.
Charlotte: My world spins just the same without you in it, sir.
Jaeryn: Some people prefer to think that, but I think they’d be hard-pressed if I wasn’t around.
Charlotte: Anyway. I’m moral support, and assistant at the clinic where Ben and Jaeryn work together.
Terry: So in other words, Jaeryn holds the world together, and you help him hold his clinic together.
Charlotte *beaming smile*: Exactly.
Jaeryn: I’m a doctor for part of Folkestone, an agent for the British Secret Service, and responsible for managing all the agents in Folkestone. So far, none of them have taken too kindly to managing, but we’ll make it.
Terry: Well, I don’t mind you managing me, doc.
Charlotte: What’s your role in this story, Terry?
Terry: Well—you know—being a friend mostly, and holding people’s heads together, and getting into trouble sometimes.
Charlotte: But, I mean, more specifically.
Jaeryn *hastily*: I think we should go on to the next question.

3.       Are you married? Happily, or unhappily? If you’re single, do you want to be?
Charlotte: I am happily married, and I like that so much. I could have stayed behind in America, but I’d rather be together with my husband than alone at home where it’s safer.
Jaeryn: I am happily single. It gives me more mental space to focus on my work.
Terry: I am unhappily single. But that’s going to change one of these days. I mean, how can anyone be happily single?
Jaeryn: You were happily single for a long time until the right girl showed up.

4.       What are you most afraid of?
Jaeryn: I am most afraid of—I am most afraid of losing people under my supervision in the work. It happens more often than I like, from people changing sides, and agents being killed in the line of duty. I try to keep the good ones safe and together.
Terry: I don’t know if that’s what you’re most afraid of, doc.
Jaeryn: Yes. Yes, it is. Charlotte?
Charlotte: I don’t think it’s the sort of thing a married woman confides in two men who aren’t her husband. Especially since I haven’t even told my husband about it.
Jaeryn: Fair enough. We won’t pry. Terry, the question for you is, what should you be afraid of that you aren’t?
Terry: The only thing you have to fear is fear itself, doc. And I don’t fear that, so I guess there’s not much to worry about.
Jaeryn: I’m not sure about the line of reasoning there.

5.       What’s your ideal vacation, after this story is over?
Charlotte: Home. To see my parents, and give them a hug, and tell them the truth about what we’ve been up to. Only, I don’t think I’ll be able to tell them the whole truth since it’s involved with secret intelligence, which is sad.
Jaeryn: *secret smile*
Terry: I’d go home, too, to see my mum. She hasn’t seen me in a while. I care about her a lot, I just keep tumbling into things that take a while to get out of, you know? And handwritten letters take such a long to write.
Jaeryn: You should get your girl to write them for you.

Terry: Now that’s a grand idea.


Thank you SO much for helping us get to this point, everyone! I am so grateful for you all! We're having a Facebook Live video at 10:30am EST on Friday, no matter what happens with the Kickstarter, to celebrate and debrief about what happens next. Feel free to bring any questions you might have so I can answer them! Also, the video should be archived so you can view it afterward, (as long as all the technology works out). It will all be happening at my author page: https://www.facebook.com/authorschuylermcconkey/?ref=settings and I look forward to seeing you there!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The War of Loyalties Interview Poll

We just hit $3,500 on the War of Loyalties Kickstarter (70%, my math skillz need help today). And in celebration, we're unrolling the character poll for the War of Loyalties character interview!

So here's what you do: choose 3 characters from the poll below (it lets you choose three characters at once) and click the "vote" button. The poll is open until midnight tonight! (Please vote only once.)

To get to know the characters you'll be voting for, check out the War of Loyalties character post here.

(Having trouble? Copy and past this link into your browser: http://ladybibliophile.blogspot.com/2017/05/meet-characters-in-war-of-loyalties.html)

Feel free to comment below with any questions you want to ask the characters! (You can also email me, Tweet, or Facebook your questions!)





Summer TBR + War of Loyalties Guest Post

via Pixabay
War of Loyalties Update + Guest Post

Looking for more news about War of Loyalties? Check out a post at Defending the Legacy covering some of the historical details and sources I used in the book--including enlistment law and the bomb drop in Folkestone.

Historical Details in War of Loyalties: Life on the Home Front in WW1 


The final days are ticking away on the War of Loyalties Kickstarter! On Thursday, June 22nd, at 11:59 pm, the last chance to donate--and our last chance to raise $5,000--will be gone. Kickstarter is all or nothing--meaning if we don't hit $5K, we're back to $0. Backers have poured so much incredible support into this project, and I am praying and trusting that the Lord will provide the rest. God will not let us lack the resources we need to accomplish the work he calls us to do in HIS way and timing.

You can check out the project on Kickstarter here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/968825317/bring-war-of-loyalties-to-print-historical-fiction?ref=user_menu

As soon as we hit 75%, (Just $90 to that milestone!) I'll put up a poll so you can vote for the characters you want to hear from. Then I'll start writing up a character interview with them! You can ask the top-voted characters any question you want, too! Just shoot me a comment (below), Tweet, or Facebook message, or email me at ladybibliophileblog[AT]gmail[DOT]com with questions you want the characters to answer! :) This is going to be fun!

Will you pray with me over the next few days for wisdom, confidence, and faithful stewardship of the opportunities the Lord has given me? I would appreciate that so much!



Summer TBR Stack 

Heading into the summer season, I've got some neat books lined up to tackle--I'm really excited about all of these.

Rescuing the Gospel: the Story and Significance of the Reformation, by Erwin Lutzer
This book covers some of the history of the Reformation. I didn't get around to my other Reformation read this spring, so I definitely want to cover Erwin Lutzer's book this summer, especially because I'll be doing some discussion lessons about the Reformation in the fall. This is an incredible time to cement why we believe what we believe and remember the people who helped us reclaim the authority of the Scriptures.

(Want more information about the Reformation? Check out my brother's incredible studies here.)

Boundaries, by Henry Cloud and John Townsend
I started this book, got so frustrated with myself because it was basically a mirror of my life, (totally not the book's fault) and then put it down again. But, after calming down and being so encouraged by K.M. Weiland's thoughts on it, I'm picking it back up again and heartily enjoying myself. It's an excellent read.

Gone Away Lake, Elizabeth Enright
This is another childhood classic I want to revisit. It was our family tradition to read this book every couple of years. While it has some independent kids for the first half of the book, the issues get straightened out eventually, and it brings back so many memories.

The Magician's Nephew, C.S. Lewis
I'll be teaching writing lessons that pull inspiration from The Magician's Nephew (thanks to this fantastic IEW curriculum) and I'm so excited to be revisiting The Magician's Nephew and reading it for myself this year. It's been too long.

Story Trumps Structure, by Steven James
This was on the Spring List, but it didn't get done. I can count it towards a summer reading program I'm in, so I'm going to tackle it again.

A Cup of Dust, Susie Finkbeiner
I've already skimmed through this book, and it looks absolutely incredible. Susie Finkbeiner is an author from the great state of Michigan, and reading a book by a Michigan author also counts towards the reading program I'm in.

High as the Heavens, Kate Breslin  and A Name Unknown, Roseanna White
Both of these are review books for the summer, which I'm super excited about, because they both have WW1 settings!

What are you hoping to read this summer?

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Lost Art of Biblical Meditation

As soon as I saw the title, I knew I wanted to review this book. Biblical meditation is a subject that isn't really talked about, and it leaves most people scratching their heads.

The topic of taking thoughts captive--and having healthy minds is a vital one in a world rife with anxiety. I first heard of sound thinking in the study True Woman 201, where Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth and Mary Kassian talked about having a sophron (or self-controlled) mind (which Nancy Wolgemuth also addressed in her fantastic book Adorned).

Reclaiming the Lost Art of Biblical Meditation is another piece of the puzzle in pursueing sound thinking. Why we should meditate is something a lot of us may have never thought of, and this book is here to address that topic.

Book Description [official] 

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight. — Psalm 19:14

Do you long to deepen your intimacy with the Lord? To find a sense of soul-steadying peace? To develop emotional strength? Then you will need to pause long enough to be still and know He is God. Trusted Pastor Robert Morgan leads us through a journey into biblical meditation, which, he says, is thinking Scripture—not just reading Scripture or studying Scripture or even thinking about Scripture—but thinking Scripture, contemplating, visualizing, and personifying the precious truths God has given us.

The practice is as easy and portable as your brain, as available as your imagination, as near as your Bible, and the benefits are immediate. As you ponder, picture, and personalize God’s Word, you begin looking at life through His lens, viewing the world from His perspective. And as your thoughts become happier and holier and brighter, so do you.

My Thoughts 
One part of this book I really liked was in chapter 1. Robert Morgan says that our minds without Christ are dark places, and when we become saved, Christ redeems them, bringing light in. But, as he goes on to say, even Christians still struggle with shadows, and that's where meditation comes in. In another good analogy, Morgan likened meditating on God's Word to fresh water circulating through our mind. Thinking about God's Word, how to walk it out in life, and staying our hearts in anxious times on his character and promises, all help us to keep thinking in a way that is spiritually healthy. Instead of being overrun by anxiety, we are anchored to truth, something that, as I think a lot and can be melancholic, is a really good reminder. 

At the end of the book, there are 10 days of meditation guides about certain passages of Scripture. I think this is an invaluable section, as it gives you something tangible to get started with before you branch out on your own. 

I appreciated Morgan's last chapter about memorization as well. Memorization, I think, can really help with meditation, because while you're lying in bed, or driving to work, you've got that Scripture right there in your mind, and you can pull it out and think about it. If you're ever in a situation without a Bible in hand, you still have with you--memorization sometimes was the only Bible persecuted or imprisoned Christians can have, and it's always good to store it up in our hearts so we are never at a loss for fellowship with God. 

This book is written from a conservative biblical perspective, which really helps in tackling issues like meditation, which can often stray into the weird. If you've never thought about biblical meditation, this book gives a great introduction to the topic, though there are some aspects that I would love to continue to research on more in-depth. I also appreciated it, because reading a book about the Lord encouraged me to think about him more--stories are fun, but sometimes I need a recalibration. I had read the first part of the book and then let it sit for a few weeks before I finished it, but finishing the last three chapters over the weekend, as well as working on this review, helped me lift my mind to things above. 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher as part of the BookLooks blogger program. All opinions expressed are my own. 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The First Scene of War of Loyalties [a Kickstarter milestone celebration]

Guys! We made the next milestone goal!!! 50% on Kickstarter with 8 days left to go. How awesome--that made me so happy this afternoon! 

In celebration, I am proud to present to you the first scene of War of Loyalties, and the first sighting of the enigmatic Irish doctor, Jaeryn Graham.... 



Chapter One
A Question of Duty

London, England – March 1917
Doctor Jaeryn Graham stepped out of his cab in front of a shop specializing in window glass exports. Devoid of aesthetic interest, but solid in its way. Inside, a radio droned out the latest war news, and propaganda posters plastered the walls with bloodthirsty red slogans. Samples of various types of glass and frames lined the walls displayed in well ordered cabinets. A young man in waistcoat and shirtsleeves sat behind a reception desk, keeping up the fiction of a clerk ready to show his wares. Only a select few knew the shop had a different purpose.
On his way through to the back hall, Jaeryn tipped a wink at the clerk. “How's business?”
The youth nodded in response. “Oh, just fine, doctor. Mr. Ryson's waiting to see you. He thinks you're late.”
“Let him, then. It's not easy to get from Folkestone to London with the trains delayed as they are in these times.”
The doctor's jaw had a steely look about it as he entered Samuel Ryson's office. Closing the door behind him, the familiar breath of fear ghosted through him.
“Ah, Graham. I've been expecting you.” His gray-haired supervisor motioned him to a seat. “I expect you are sufficiently recovered from your last escapade, hmm?”
“Completely.” Jaeryn flexed his fingers at the mention of what he had just accomplished. They were straight and unblemished, except for two—and those two, crooked as they were, caused a proud lifting of his chin as if he would gladly have them over the other eight, whole ones.
Ryson grunted his approval. “You never take much time to get back on your feet. Did you establish contact with the agents in Folkestone?”
“I did. Our disgust was mutual.”
“None of that. I’m sure they’ll come around in time. Were you able to purchase the medical practices?”
“Both of them, just as you wanted.”
“Excellent. With two medical routes, you should have sufficient access to the people you'll need to know. Besides, it would look strange if you only had one, with your colleagues rushing off to the front. As it is, you might get some persecution, being a fit man and not enlisting.”
Jaeryn made no effort to disguise his indifference. “There's not much anyone can do about it. No English bureaucrat can force an Irishman to enlist. It's the law.”
“You do your countrymen no favors with such remarks.” Ryson's pale blue eyes glared in frosty displeasure. He threw a quick glance at the door making sure it was locked, then pulled a map out of a desk drawer and pointed to the lower portion of it. “Your practices are in Folkestone. Have you been able to establish a connection with Mr. Emmerson yet?”
“The MP? He was one of my first patients. He’s dying. His heart won't hold out until summer.”
“I heard. At the beginning of the war, he was a consultant for our War Cabinet. In January of this year, we audited his correspondence and found a letter asking if he had distributed code identities to certain unidentified contacts in Folkestone. Such a measure had neither been initiated by nor was it cleared by our office.”
Jaeryn looked up from the map. “So, you are assuming it could be a private venture?”
“We fear so. Its location makes it a perfect observatory town for us, with troop stations and overseas shipping so nearby. Also, it would be a prime location from which to betray British interests. With a major offensive planned in Flanders only six months away, we can’t afford to have anyone leaking our plans to the Germans ahead of time.”
“So, you want me to watch for signs of counter-intelligence?” Jaeryn pulled out a notebook and wrote down several details that he wished to take extra care to remember. Ryson hesitated when the Irishman put pen to paper, but he relaxed again as he saw that it was not in English, but in Irish Gaelic.
“Precisely. Find those code identities and determine who they belong to. We think he may be growing a cell of agents for his own purposes. You will be in charge of discovering if that is the case.”
Jaeryn nodded his assent, “Anything more before I go?”
“Yes. We’re writing to America for an assistant for you.”
Jaeryn tucked his notebook away with an outward show of nonchalance. “Oh? Do I need help? This job hasn’t taxed my abilities thus far. If I need help with anything, it would be with managing the medical practices. And why America?”
Ryson shook his head. “I'm afraid it's necessary. The young man's father has connections in London and wants a career for his son in British Intelligence. He assured us it would be worth our while. His son has a talent for languages, and could possibly give us a new foreign agent in time. Here's a picture.”
Jaeryn took the photo and inspected it. The new agent appeared younger than he was if appearances were a good judge. The blue eyes and wavy brown hair could not produce a sharper contrast to his own dark hair and slim form. He looked pliable enough due to the slightly uncertain gaze in the eyes, and if that was the case, he might be a convenient assistant to have around. “If he's helpful to me, I have no objection. What's his name?”
“Doctor Benjamin Dorroll. He'll be going by Dailey here.”
A doctor. Even better. With two practices, they could split the work load. That would give them both more time to poke around in their patients' private affairs.
Ryson took back the picture and locked it in the file cabinet behind his desk. “His father specifically requested that we place Dailey with you.”
Only a flicker of Jaeryn's eyelashes showed his surprise. “Did he, now? Why me?”
“Mr. Dorroll’s reasons were not divulged to me by our superiors. He was told to write to his and offer the position. The service can’t afford to lose a link to a person that could be a worthwhile asset.”
“Curious.”
“It is.” Ryson lowered his voice, and Jaeryn leaned forward. “We're tracking his correspondence. Nothing so far. Whatever his reason for wanting his son to work with you, he won't say what it is. But he seems to have enough influence with the War Office that they acquiesced, I find the whole thing quite strange.”
“Why?”
“I only knew of one son; an army captain, Edmond Dorroll. He's done well for himself in the war. But this other son I had never heard of until his father requested the position for him. I cannot find any evidence that Benjamin Dorroll has been in England for some time. And besides, I find it strange that Matthew Dorroll would not want the position for the older son, instead of the younger.”
“Curious.” The word lilted, long and drawn-out, and Jaeryn smiled again to himself. “Do you think Matthew Dorroll has some unknown interest in Folkestone?” he asked.
Ryson's angular face remained impassive. “Perhaps. Try to find out what his interest was in our specifically placing his son with you. We can't be too cautious. If Benjamin Dorroll accepts, you’ll see him in May.”
“Excellent, I’ll be on the lookout for him.” Jaeryn took the file folder and stepped to the rear door and unlocked it.
“Graham”—with the door unlocked, Ryson sank his voice to a mere whisper. “Much depends on this. You have not failed us yet. Don’t let this be the first time.”
A golden glimmer sparkled in Jaeryn's eyes, and the flash of his white teeth appeared again. “I do not fear error. I play to win.”
And with that, he left by the back entrance and walked a few blocks to execute one of his own private commissions. He wanted to add a personal bodyguard to his operation as well as this new man; a bodyguard that he would choose himself. Just this morning, a death threat had been slipped through his mail slot. He suspected he was not entirely welcome in Folkestone. But if he told Ryson about it, Ryson would want to know why, and that would never do.
Once at the post office, Jaeryn scrawled out his message and handed it over to the plain-featured, red-headed girl running the telegraph. She wrinkled her nose as she tried to decipher his black smudge, then gave up and asked him to read it to her.
“Sorry, bad handwriting,” Jaeryn apologized. “It says: Need help. Bit of a risk, but I'll make it worth your while. Meet me in Dover. J.
With his message sent, Jaeryn assessed the street for anyone who might be watching him. Satisfied it was all clear, he set off at a brisk pace toward Paddington Station. The dense London smog dimmed the streetlights to a dusty glow, and he was glad. It reduced his visibility to anyone attempting to observe his movements.
A member of parliament starting up a possible spy ring in Folkestone. Well, that was a step up from his other assignments. Jaeryn rubbed his hands together gleefully. With six years of dedicated work to his credit, it was about time he got more trust.
After this last mission, he deserved preferential treatment. An Irishman didn't go through hell for nothing, especially for an Englishman. 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

8 Days Left On Kickstarter + Unlock the First Scene of War of Loyalties!


These last couple of days have been amazing on the War of Loyalties Kickstarter--in the last two days, we've jumped from 25% to 40%. I'm floored. And so, so grateful. Thank-you to all of you who have shared, prayed, and contributed so sacrificially and generously.

There are 9 days to go for the Kickstarter campaign (maybe 8 if you're reading this Wednesday morning!) If you didn't know, Kickstarter is all or nothing, meaning if we don't reach $5,000 by the end of the 8 days, we don't come away with anything. The countdown is on! It's not too late to join this publishing journey!

If you would love to tag along in the process, there are still three ways to support:

1. Keep praying. 
God has been so good to encourage my heart and give me fresh confidence and direction in this project. I'm trusting him to guide all along the way and make the process clear. I appreciate your prayers for wisdom, full funding on the Kickstarter, and an obedient heart to whatever way he leads.

2. Keep giving 

Seriously, every dollar helps us reach goal. You can check out the Kickstarter campaign here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/968825317/bring-war-of-loyalties-to-print-historical-fiction?ref=creator_nav

As soon as we hit 50%, I'm going to upload the first scene of War of Loyalties here to the blog. It has Jaeryn Graham in it, who is an enigmatic Irish spy--I think you'll like being introduced to him. ;) (Check out more about him here. He has quite the fandom.)

3. Keep sharing. 

If you feel comfortable, you can share by several ways (Twitter. Facebook. Email. Phone call.)

If you're not sure what to say, here are some messages you're welcome to copy and paste onto your social media:

Email Message:

Hi Friends!

2017 marks 100 years since American entered WW1, and a friend of mine is publishing a book to celebrate. War of Loyalties is a historical fiction novel about two doctors who are drafted into British secret intelligence. They have to navigate family secrets, personal obstacles, and Irish rebellion as they try to uncover a ring of German spies.

Schuyler is trying to raise $5,000 to help with printing costs, and she has until June 22 to raise the full support. Kickstarter is all or nothing, which means if it isn't raised by then, she doesn't receive any funds from the campaign.

I would highly encourage you to check out her Kickstarter campaign and help her with this project. A $35 pledge will get you both an ebook and a paperback copy. You can find more about the book and the project here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/968825317/bring-war-of-loyalties-to-print-historical-fiction?ref=user_menu

Signed,

[your name]

Twitter Message:

Interested in historical #fiction? Join the #WarofLoyalties campaign on @Kickstarter and receive some cool rewards! https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/968825317/bring-war-of-loyalties-to-print-historical-fiction?ref=user_menu

Thank-you so much for reading this. You all make my heart sing. *group hug* 

Friday, June 9, 2017

The Lost Girl of Astor Street [+ War of Loyalties Interview!]

War of Loyalties Update 
The countdown is on! War of Loyalties has 2 weeks left to raise the necessary funds to reach the Kickstarter goal, so we'll be hitting it hard in the next two weeks with prayers and spreading the word about the project. For $35 dollars, you can reserve your own ebook+print copy of War of Loyalties--and my undying gratitude! Check out the Kickstarter campaign here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/968825317/bring-war-of-loyalties-to-print-historical-fiction?ref=profile_created

Also, check out an interview I did with Liz Koetsier about War of Loyalties--find out who was the easiest character to write, the difficulties of writing introverts, and more over at the Ink Lizard!)

And now on to our normal scheduled post. [Which is not connected in any way with War of Loyalties or the Kickstarter campaign.]



Today, we're going to continue on the historical fiction roll with The Lost Girl of Astor Street! And to be honest, I can't think of a more perfect book for someone to take on their vacation this summer. I love Stephanie's community over at Go Teen Writers, and having been intrigued by this book ever since I heard about it, I took advantage of a recent $1.99 deal on Amazon to check out her newest 1920s mystery.

The Book 
[book cover above and description below from Stephanie Morrill's website.]

Lydia has vanished.

Lydia, who’s never broken any rules, except falling in love with the wrong boy. Lydia, who’s been Piper’s best friend since they were children. Lydia, who never even said good-bye.

Convinced the police are looking in all the wrong places, eighteen-year-old Piper Sail begins her own investigation in an attempt to solve the mystery of Lydia’s disappearance. With the reluctant help of a handsome young detective, Piper goes searching for answers in the dark underbelly of 1924 Chicago, determined to find Lydia at any cost.

When Piper discovers those answers might stem from the corruption strangling the city—and quite possibly lead back to the doors of her affluent neighborhood—she must decide how deep she’s willing to dig, how much she should reveal, and if she’s willing to risk her life of privilege for the sake of the truth.

From the glitzy homes of the elite to the mob-run streets of 1920s Chicago, Stephanie Morrill’s jazz-age mystery shows just how far a girl will go to save her friend.

My Thoughts 
This book has fingerprints of feeling, excitement, and love all over it. It's one of those books that I think Stephanie must have loved while she wrote it, and I loved reading it just as much. Exploring things like 1920s girls' schools, privilege, friendship, and fear, the setting of a rich neighborhood in the 1920s comes off really well through the eyes of a 17 or 18 year-old young woman. All the characters felt important, with a fun variety of lives and personalities intersecting, and the scenes and details were really tight and fed into the main conflict of the story.

Content-wise, *mild spoiler warning* this book deals with kidnapping and makes references to girls being trafficked (which is referenced but not shown) and marital affairs. There is one scene where Piper has to go into an unpleasant part of town and flirt, and is concerned about male attention. *end of mild spoiler warning* However, I didn't think any content was overwhelming to the story.

One of the themes was extremely subtle and so excellent. Piper thinks of her father's girlfriend like the Evil-Stepmother-To-Be, and Joyce, a mother-figure in Piper's life, encourages her to expand her viewpoint. I also appreciated the realistic portrayal of grief that Piper endured. As someone who has tasted grief, though not in the same way as Piper, I can say that it does feel like the book portrays. Stephanie included it in a way that didn't feel depressing, while really honoring what Piper experienced.

This is something I don't do often, but it was an honest reaction, so I'll include it here. I'm not a huge fan of literary crushes, literary boyfriends, etc. I don't think it's a wise set-up for emotional purity, so I don't let myself go down that road too often. But I just want to say, I adored Mariano as a boyfriend. He's right up there on my list with Albert (The Young Victoria) Arthur Clennam (Little Dorrit) and Lord Melbourne (Victoria). He's willing to go out of his way to care about Piper's emotional and physical protection, and he's willing to listen and spend time with her. While all her family (father, brother, and Joyce) love her and want to protect her, Mariano adds the dynamic of romantic love. He's kind, he listens and communicates with her, and even when she makes mistakes or obsesses over an idea, he's patient, knowing that she needs to give her ideas a try in the middle of processing her friend's disappearance. In other words, I love characters that feel gentle and safe, and Mariano is one of those.

I really enjoyed this story so much. I read it in two days, and I might take it to the beach again this summer because I loved it, and it's the perfect vacation read. There have been so many positive reviews around here lately, and that honestly makes me super happy, because it means the TBR stack has been a thing of beauty and a joy forever. I hope you'll enjoy The Lost Girl of Astor Street too!

Who's your favorite type of YA love interest? Have you read The Lost Girl of Astor Street?

Check out Stephanie Morrill's website here and purchase The Lost Girl of Astor Street here. (No affiliate links! Just because I love it.)

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

What Treasure Hides, by Johnnie Alexander

We just hit 20% on Kickstarter and unveiled the first character poster! Check it out here! 

Reading two historical fiction novels in a row that really knocked it out of the park felt like I was being spoiled. After a crazy month of May, I picked up Where Treasure Hides. It sucked me in immediately, and if you're looking for the next summer adventure, this book is one you'll really enjoy.

(And I mean, when it comes down to it, how could I not love a story that has my name in it?)

The Book
Reluctant to marry because of the tragic von Schuyler fate, Alison Schuyler determines that her chance meeting with Ian Devlin must be her last. Besides, she has other problems. Hitler's advance across Europe is putting priceless historical paintings in danger of falling into Nazi hands. They must be hidden and kept safe.

But Ian is persistent, Hitler continues to advance, and Alison has to confront two of her deepest-held beliefs: will she reject love in response to previous family tragedy? And how much is she willing to sacrifice to preserve art? Is it worth her life and the lives of others? This gripping WW2 story brings historical fiction to the next level.

My Thoughts 
Where Treasure Hides deals with the art treasures of WW2, and a fictional family of artists who lived in Holland. With character participating in secret intelligence, and Alison put in conflict with Hitler's assistant Goering, there was a lot of satisfying historical flavor. I liked the relationship with Alison and her father and grandfather. Their tensions, love for, and relationships with one another shy away from cookie cutter rebellion and power-mongering and presents each of them as a sympathetic character with a lot of love for each other.

This is a war story, so definitely be forewarned. There are dark and sad sections of crime committed throughout as a sobering response to desperation. Content includes violence, the death of the innocent, and one brief mention of attempted rape, which was inferred and would be missed by some readers. While those things were really hard, this book felt like unique and honest storytelling, and as a reader, I really respected the authenticity of its pages.

I wasn't sure what was going to happen with the insta love at the beginning, and that wasn't my favorite section, but the romance between Alison and Ian that followed was well-crafted, and I understood the insta love was a necessary set-up. The author even pulled off a love triangle super well.

Towards the latter quarter of the book, I felt less connected to Alison's emotions, but there was a lot of story to cover. This book would give a lot of deep questions for a book club to discuss together. What is a biblical response to fear--fear of death, of war, of evil men in power, and of the frailty of humanity? And how can we overcome the fear of pain, like Alison, when facing future decisions? (The last of which resonates with me right now.)

Johnnie Alexander mentioned a possible book 2 on Goodreads, which I for one would heartily second and eagerly anticipate. I'm looking forward to its release, whenever that happy day arrives. Where Treasure Hides would be a book you might want to add to the summer if you're looking for a historical fiction with lots to think about.

PS. Love historical fiction and war stories? Looking for Dickens-style storytelling with Irish spies and family conflict? Check out the War of Loyalties Kickstarter campaign to help bring this book to print in 2017! (Not endorsed or connected to today's book review.) 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Meet the Characters in War of Loyalties


Haven't heard of War of Loyalties yet? Click here! 

We just hit 10% on Kickstarter yesterday, and I am so excited at the encouragement and blessing you all have been pouring into this project. I can't wait until War of Loyalties hits online "shelves" later this year. I'm trying to raise funds to make that happen, and there are some cool rewards for helping with this project. Would you consider chipping in $35 today for a chance to reserve a paperback and ebook copy of War of Loyalties this fall? It's going to be exciting, chock-full of fun characters, and I hope, well worth the price of the novel. 

War of Loyalties is a spy novel, but it's not the traditional slim, fast-paced thriller. It's my chunky, big Dickensian novel, full of character interaction and a look at how agents working together affected each other's lives on big and small levels. The story gradually looks at how spying gets tricky when love and family and colleagues are involved, and how friendship and family can stand the strain of spying and warfare (or not, depending on the case). Dickens has always been my favorite author, and this book tries to imitate the mastery of his storytelling. 

Today, I wanted to give you brief introductions to each of the characters. 

[FYI, the words "spy" and "agent" mean pretty much the same thing in this post: someone who's working undercover for Britain or Germany to collect secret information.]

/Ben Dorroll/ 
A man of few words and much duty, who resigns his position at a medical practice in order to become a new spy recruit. Loves it best when he's helping patients in Jaeryn Graham's clinic. Reluctant spy in a world where his family's fractured life is threatened with exposure. Finds ways to fulfill his longing for home and family in spite of living in the country that ripped away his childhood hopes.

/Jaeryn Graham/
An Irishman of much passion and a generous heart. An experienced doctor and civilian spy, who seems to have a knack for making enemies of his colleagues. Has a fondness for tea. Mentor of an unwilling new spy recruit. Suspected of being involved in the 1916 Irish rebellion. 

/Terry O'Sean/ 
A man of many smiles and much happiness. Has a secret job, and in spite of his chattiness, manages not to tell anyone about it. Known for being involved in the 1916 Irish Rebellion. Has a penchant for dropping in unexpectedly at a friend's house and making himself at home. Loves Acushla.

/Pearlie Dorroll/
 A twenty-year-old young woman uprooted from America and sent with her brother Ben to England because she is Not Wanted. Has never met her father. Finds holding babies and making cherry tarts to be of some consolation, especially when in company with her best friend, Alisa. Has no objection to being called Acushla. 

/Alisa/
18-year-old tiny woman. Expecting her first son when the Dorrolls arrive in England. Has a husband in France who suffers from gas burns and shell shock. Has much love and friendship to give, as a well as a cozy parlor to shelter the Dorrolls from spies and prying Irishmen. 

/Charlotte Dorroll/  
Married to Ben Dorroll for the last two years. Has an admirable combination of wisdom, kindness, and nursing skills. Wishes her husband would realize he isn't the only one to give up dreams in order to become a spy in England. Related her strange British cousins, the King family. 

/Colonel King/ 
A man of much useful experience, suspected of knowing something about the German activity in Folkestone. The finest host of Folkestone, and the long-time rival of a dying member of Parliament. The Dorroll's landlord. Doesn't like to be given parenting advice by young doctors. Possibly trying to kill his son.

/Starlin King/ 
A boy of much intelligence and little common sense. Cherishes the hope of getting his own motorcar and running away to enlist. Considers his Stradivarius the only good thing in his life. His father, Colonel King, has plans for him to go to Cambridge and enter the political realm. 

/Fenton/
A free agent able to acquire much Useful Knowledge in the spy world--for a price. Is willing to be hired for his ability to collect private and personal information. Has a fondness for fancy dress, French cuffs, and a foamy pint at the Brewery Tap (a real location!) 

/Samuel Ryson/ 
A British official in MI-5, known for strictness and an iron hand of justice. Prizes years of loyalty and hard work among his agents. Isn't fond of the idea of hiring an untried agent, but Ben's father is influential, so he agrees for friendship's sake. Lives in London. 

/Alan Evesham/ 
Head official in MI-6. Knows the value of a deserved word of praise bestowed at the right moment. Keeping a keen eye on the Irish rebellion and any rebels who might be working for it undercover. 

/Ann Meikle/ 
The Scottish postmistress of Folkestone, with a maddening ability to hide information and a skilled hand for forgery. Seems to have a running feud with Jaeryn Graham. 

There you have it! A brief introduction of the key players who are involved in this drama of an Irish spy ring. Which of these characters would you like to know more about in future blog posts? 

When we reach 20% on Kickstarter, we're going to unroll a sneak-peek at the first character poster. For $50, $100, and $200 levels, you'll get one or all of these special, character-themed quote posters. Can you help us spread the word on email, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, or any of your social media outlets so others can hear about this Kickstarter? I would be so grateful for your help! 

Friday, May 26, 2017

4 Fallen Heroes In Literature [For Memorial Day]

via Pixabay
Memorial Day is just around the corner, and I thought it would be suitable to post about the topic at hand on the blog. Memorial Day is an opportunity to remember the fallen heroes who have paid the price for our country's freedoms. I want to commemorate four fictional soldiers on the blog today, and extend my sympathies to all of you who are remembering fallen men and women who have stood in defense of their country.

(To help cut down on spoilers, I've put the title of the book first, so if you haven't read it, you're welcome to skip ahead.)

1.  The Inklings
While they aren't fictional, the real friendship of Tolkien and several of his friends, and sacrifice of some of their lives among the horrors of World War One, must have profoundly impacted him. Imagine losing your creative support group and some of your close friends to the horror of war.

2. At Home in Mitford
Captain Willard James Porter served in France and died there. With his death died the possibility of love for beautiful Miss Sadie. She told Father Tim about their tempestuous romance after the grace of years had greyed both their heads. If Jan Karon had written the story of Sadie and Willard at the time it took place, I know I would have been heart-broken reading it.

3. Return of the King
Theoden, King of the Rohan, died in valiant battle on the Fields of Pelennor. His life was one of courage, of deep grief, of gallant warfare, heading into the likely possibility of horrible defeat. It was him leading his men into battle that helped stem the tide of evil pouring into the city of Gondor.

4. Rilla of Ingleside
Walter Shirley, who wrote a letter just before going over the top, was one of the casualties of the tragedy of World War One. A gallant representation of the heroes of Canada and one of Anne's precious children. While it's been years since I've read this book, I think this year needs to be one of revisiting it.

They sacrificed the love of women, of family, of friendship, so that others might live in peace to love wives, siblings, and friends. And fiction is only a mirror of something that is all too real. Many people today are remembering losses of fathers, husbands, wives, sisters, and friends.

Which literary fallen soldiers do you want to remember in literature? Who from real life are you remembering this Memorial Day? I've love to hear about it.

PS. A couple of the heroes in this list died in World War One. 2017 is another year in the centennial of the war. I'm trying to publish War of Loyalties to mark one hundred years since my characters tried to overturn a ring of German spies in England. There are 26 days to raise the funds to publish this project. Would you consider sharing the project on social media and contributing to it here?  (20% unlocks a sneak peak at the first character quote poster!)

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Help War of Loyalties on Kickstarter (and get some cool pledge rewards)


On a Tuesday morning, May 22, 1917, Benjamin Dorroll stepped off the train and into a world of espionage.

His life would never be the same.

If you haven't heard yet, War of Loyalties is coming to you this year (Lord willing) and I hope it gives you a chance to experience this story on the 100th anniversary of the year of its taking place. If you've been yearning for a return of classic novels inspired by Charles Dickens and Sherlock Holmes, I think you'll love War of Loyalties.

Today, I want to ask you if you'll partner with me to make this happen. Indie authors rely on their fanbase to help them bring a book to the public. Traditional publishing pays for the editing and cover expenses themselves. But indie authors pay for it out of pocket, and while I've covered some of the costs, I still need some help to get all the way to the goal.

But help can benefit both the author and the supporter. Would you like to reserve a copy of War of Loyalties? Have some fun quote posters and jewelry? The War of Loyalties Kickstarter page is an endeavor to raise $5,000 towards the publication costs, as well as fund the making of cool things that brings War of Loyalties from just a book into a fun novel experience.

This book has had so much love poured into it by willing hands and hearts. Would you be willing to spread love into this project in one of the following ways? Seriously, everything helps, and I am thankful for your help in this regards:

1. Pray for the project. 
Pray that the Lord's will would be done--for strength to edit, for deadlines to fall in place, and for God to be glorified with the timing and quality of this production.

2. Give to the project. 
Every dollar helps, big or small. Together, we can bring this book into publication (and I am so grateful to all of you for considering a financial contribution to this project).

3. Share this project on social media. 
Twitter. Facebook. Put the Kickstarter link into an email, and send it to family or friends who love indie authors, Charles Dickens, classic literature, or BBC drama style stories.

If you can help in any of these ways, then War of Loyalties will stand on your shoulders. And I would be so grateful for your love and support.

And be sure to stay tuned for the adventure ahead. Throughout the summer, there will be all kinds of ways to get to know the characters, and there's lots more in store in this publishing journey.

Ready for this Kickstarter adventure? Then click here.

Friday, May 19, 2017

My Favorite Historical Fiction Book of 2017 (+a sneak peek of the War of Loyalties Kickstarter)

I finished my favorite historical fiction book this year. Tracy Groot is a new-to-me author that I simply can't wait to read more of. And her WW2 fiction, The Maggie Bright, is what first introduced me to her. Find out more in today's book review...

and stay tuned for War of Loyalties news at the end 

Book Synopsis (official) 
England, 1940. Clare Childs knew life would change when she unexpectedly inherited the Maggie Bright—a noble fifty-two-foot yacht. In fact, she’s counting on it. But the boat harbors secrets. When a stranger arrives, searching for documents hidden onboard, Clare is pulled into a Scotland Yard investigation that could shed light on Hitler’s darkest schemes and prompt America to action.  Across the Channel, Hitler’s Blitzkrieg has the entire British army in retreat with little hope for rescue at the shallow beaches of Dunkirk. With time running out, Churchill recruits civilian watercraft to help. Hitler is attacking from land, air, and sea, and any boat that goes might not return. Yet Clare knows Maggie Bright must answer the call—piloted by an American who has refused to join the war effort until now and a detective with a very personal motive for exposing the truth.  The fate of the war hinges on this rescue. While two men join the desperate fight, a nation prays for a miracle.

My Thoughts 
I love this book so much. Tracy Groot writes from a deep well of creativity, thoughtfulness, and historical accuracy. Her book is chock full of history--from the perspective of the soldiers fleeing their way to Dunkirk, to the life of people at home in Britian during the war. I love the British culture that brims over into all her chapters (pablum and tea, and stiff-upper-lip), and the characters full of rich personality. Murray struggles with Asberger's and has to constantly make his mind think in a logical sequence instead of wandering--but in the midst of his pain, he finds joy as he gives the world the cartoons of Rocket Kid and Salamander. Mrs. Shrewsbury, retired schoolteacher, finds fresh strength to serve and give to her nation, while wielding teakettles against a Burglar Vicar. William Percy is eaten up with his anger at Hitler exterminating disabled children, and finds Claire's ability to put his feelings into words heart-stirring. Tracy's writing is full of deep creativity, richness, and subtlety.

Perhaps the other theme that stood out so deeply in this book was the theme of the shatterer coming against Britain--and the power of prayer to hold it back. Claire and Percy--neither of them religious, but both full of kindness--encounter the prospect of the majority of the British Army trapped under German gunfire. They join the nation in a call to prayer--and realize that perhaps there is a God, and prayer is the greatest weapon to stand against this huge shattering destruction looming over their land (Nahum 2:1).

The other point of view--Jamie, a soldier who is assigned to get a wounded captain to Dunkirk is also full of richness. The character of the captain--a man who is wounded, has lost his men, and can only speak with lines of Milton's Paradise Lost--is also righ with emotion. As Jamie learns to get past the incessant Milton, he and his comrades find strength and inspiration from the lines that seem so random, but might not actually be random after all.  Fyi, his chapters contain some crude language (this book has a fair amount of it, but it's British swearing, and some readers might not consider it language).

This is historical fiction at its best--rich, packed with history, original, full of lovable characters slowly finding the power of prayer to stand against a huge enemy. It was a theme that resonated with me. While this book contains language, and there were a couple of plot lines that I would have preferred wrapped up tighter, this is a hands-down favorite, and I look forward to reading it with my mom and sister in the near future. This is truly a story you won't want to miss. I can't wait to read more of Tracy Groot's books in future. They make me happy to the core of my historical-fiction loving soul.

Check out more here: 
Tyndale Media Center page for The Maggie Bright
The Maggie Bright on Goodreads
Tracy Groot on Goodreads 

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale. All opinions expressed are my own.

(And now for a random WoL update, which has no connection/endorsement from this book.)

Upcoming WoL News
If you haven't heard of it yet, Tuesday I announced that War of Loyalties is in the process of being published this year. I've been working on paperwork and getting together details for independent publishing so that it can come to print in 2017. God has been so gracious in working out the details thus far, and I'm trusting him to work out the rest--including, what I am very excited to announce, is an upcoming Kickstarter campaign. In traditional publishing, the publisher pays for the editor and cover design. In independent publishing, the author pays for it out of pocket. I've already covered some of the costs, but I'm praying the Lord will help provide the rest through this campaign and the help of people who love history, Dickensian fiction, and indie authors. I would be so honored if you would check out the Kickstarter launching very soon. It will have exciting rewards (including copies of the book) for everyone who generously teams up with me to make this effort happen.

It takes a village to write a book, and I am so grateful to all of you who have expressed excitement for this project. Thank-you so much! Find out three ways you can help make this project happen on Tuesday, on the blog. And if you have any questions about War of Loyalties, the story, or the process, I would love to hear from you! Reach me on Twitter, Facebook, or ladybibliophileblog[at]gmail[dot]com!




Tuesday, May 16, 2017

A Very Important Update About War of Loyalties [and more details about when it's releasing]


April, 1917. A ring of German spies threatens the security of one of England’s coastal towns. Newly-recruited agent Ben Dorroll must discover who they are or risk disappointing his father. He never wanted to be an agent, but success means his first-ever chance at winning the respect of the father he’s never met. When he learns that his family identity holds a clue to capturing the spy ring, he has to choose between his family loyalties and the security of the nation he hates. Truth is what he is paid to uncover. But truth may be more painful than he ever imagined. 

the first draft, a long, long time ago
Once upon a time, there was a high school girl who wrote and wrote and wrote.

It was just her, and loose-leaf lined paper, a pen, and a bunch of characters who never quite let go.

In fact, if you talk to her today, they still haven't let go. Know her for long, and you'll start hearing things like War of Loyalties, WoL, Ben, Jaeryn, and Terry. It's kind of the fine print of friendship. Along with her, there comes an invisible crowd of these characters, because they're so loved and twined up in her heart, that she never stops talking about them for long. In fact, they've kind of become family.

It was a golden dream in highschool--just her writing about a down-on-his-luck doctor who was called to something he never wanted to do in a little town in England where spies lived. A story of betrayal (this girl loves drama) and friendship (this girl loves friendship) and tough choices (boy, does this girl love giving her characters tough choices).

Then that girl, by the grace of God, wrote the end on that stack of loose-leaf lined paper. She celebrated and posted a selfie on social media. (Who wouldn't?) A few weeks later, she started in on draft two. And the hard work just continued on. She learned how to actually write a book. She sent WoL to friends (so many best friends, who gave themselves so much to this project, reading and praying through this whole crazy adventure.) She and Ben and Jaeryn and Terry packed up and went to writer's conferences (made possible by generous, giving hands) and they kept on learning, and learning, and learning. Meeting people. Talking. Asking questions. Making mistakes. All under the grace of God. And they kept on dreaming to release this book sometime during the World War One centennial (2014-2018).

Writing a book is a bit like a fire, a flood, a famine, a romance, a hard day's work, a sleepless night all on endless repeat. You do not merely write a book. You are an instrument of carrying it, like Madeleine L'Engle says in Walking on Water, (pg. 8, 2016 Convergent edition), and you submit yourself to the process of giving it flesh and bone and being often at great cost.

The girl is still learning--about taxes and business and sole proprietorships, and all the things that self-publishing brings with it. But she wouldn't trade it for the world, because somehow, she still loves those characters just as much as she did at the beginning, and she would do pretty much anything for them.

Like a romance, that spark amidst the hard work is still there.

And here's what this girl really wants to say: the news that I've been holding in my hands these last few weeks now. By the grace of God, War of Loyalties could come to you this year.


I'll be self-publishing this novel, and my goal is to get it out sometime in November/December. That's a lot of hard work, but things are already moving forward. McConkey Press is a real-live name now. The first half of the novel is with an editor. And I'm doing my best to line up the details one step at a time (the Lord is still showing me so much grace in teaching me things I need to know.)

But like all along this journey, there are some mountains I can't climb alone. This book stands on the prayers, the advice, the love and helping hands of many dear people. And to be honest--I need just as many prayers and helping hands in the months ahead. If you would like to join me in this adventure, stay tuned to the blog. I'll have more details releasing very soon on how you can pray and support this project (including the first opportunity to reserve your own copy of War of Loyalties on Kickstarter). I hope that very, very soon, you can love these characters as much as I do--and know their whole story.

Meet War of Loyalties 
Intrigued? Want to know more? Read snippets of War of Loyalties here:

October 2014
November 2014
December 2014
January 2015
February 2015 
March 2015 
April 2015

Meet the Characters 
Benjamin Dorroll (main character)
Jaeryn Graham (more Jaeryn here)
Charlotte Dorroll 
Terry O'Sean (more Terry here)

Friday, May 12, 2017

a tribute to the brave // 4 literary mothers who never got page time

via Pixabay
Believe it or not, I didn't know what to post on the blog on Friday, until Liz Koetsier, of Ink Lizard fame, posted about literary mothers and jogged my memory. (Don't worry, I knew mother's day was coming. I just forgot to connect it to the blog.) Once I read that, and after reading another article about brave mamas by Ann Voskamp yesterday (credit to her article for inspiring this blog title) I thought it would be fun to post about something new. Literary mothers who never got page time.

Mothers aren't always around in fiction. In 2015 I did a Best of Literary Mothers post, but some books don't have mothers because their mamas died too soon. Some of the reasons for that might be because authors need to cut down the cast of characters to as few people as possible. Another reason might be that their characters need to have as many obstacles as possible before reaching their goal. For whatever reason, there are some good mamas who we never get to see in action.

Here are four that I think are a wonderful tribute to mamas everywhere.

Bertha Shirley never got to meet the irrepressible Anne. But her love for her baby, captured in letters to her husband, give no doubt that she gave Anne a secure babyhood until she passed away, and blessed her with a heritage of love, however tiny. Documenting your love for your baby (or child, or teenager) may be one of the best gifts you ever give them.

(huge spoiler for Freckles by Gene Stratton Porter next)

Mrs. O'More loved her baby so much that not only did she make the beautiful baby clothes with the tiny stitches, but she laid down her life for the chance to save her son from the fire. While he was born in poverty, and his coming put a strain on his parents, they loved and valued him nonetheless.

(end of huge spoiler)

Pollyanna Whittier's mother, who left her family to marry the minister she loved, lived a short life, but I think one she could look back on without regrets. Enduring the heartbreak of losing many babies, she named her only living baby after her two sisters, in spite of the estrangement from her family, and ended up giving her sister Polly the gift that reconciled and healed her heart.

Lady Elliot was described as an "excellent woman" in Persuasion, who helped make her husband comfortable and gave him a good reputation in the neighborhood. She found good friends, and Lady Russell thought Anne was the daughter most like her--which is a tribute in itself to the kind of self-effacing, kind woman Lady Elliot must have been. She looked well after the ways of her household, and her presence was sorely missed when she passed away.

Three out of the four women never did anything splended or dramatic. They just lived. They kept budgets, nurtured babies, endured the grief of losing children, blessed their husbands, and died all too soon. But in this tiny record of their everyday faithfulness, the small, everyday actions of love left a legacy to be remembered.

And I think it is the everyday love, the everyday brave, that deserves most to be remembered.

A special thanks this mother's day to my own mama, who read me so many books, and still swaps so many titles with me. I feel like we have our own unofficial book club, and it is a gift beyond compare.  

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Wind in the Willows [springtime reads]

It's still spring. Our magnolia tree shed its pink blossoms a couple of weeks ago. Green is everywhere, and once in a while, I can actually leave the house without a jacket--not too often yet, though.

Now is the perfect season for a story of outdoor adventures among the animal folk, just when we're itching to be out of doors ourselves.

(you never itch to be out of doors, schuyler, what are you talking about.)

And so, I am pleased to present to you one of my favorite childhood reads: Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows.

The Book 
When the River Rat and the Mole strike up a brand-new friendship, they little know the adventures that are about to come their way. From snowy nights in the Wild Wood to idyllic picnics along the riverbank, from going on ill-advised caravan rides with Toad to composing poetry for the ducks, there's always plenty to keep them busy. But life isn't always idyllic. When Toad takes up with the new-fangled motor cars, the animals of the riverbank stand to lose a good friend forever. Can they convince him of the error of his ways before it's too late?

My Thoughts 
For a long time, I didn't read this story because I wanted the exact right edition. I first read it in company with Ernest Shepherd's charming illustrations, and until I could find my own copy with those illustrations, I couldn't bear to read it without them. (For some reason I was always too lazy to get it from the library, but that's a less romantic reason.) Shepherd also illustrated the Winnie the Pooh books, and his delicate, whimsical drawings of animals bring this story to life in a whole new way. It's well worth the trouble and expense to get yourself a copy of WitW with Shepherd's illustrations--he met Kenneth Grahame, and wandered in the fields after meeting him, and his stories bring these animals to life in the most heart-wrenchingly beautiful way.

It's a story of homebodies. The characters would almost be hobbits, if they were in Tolkien's world. They are the hobbits of the animal kind. My favorite parts of the book were never Toad's adventures with the motor car (I disapprove of Toad and his ethics). I always loved Mole, abandoning his spring cleaning and going off into a world of river rides and unexpected friendships. His life with the river Rat, simplistic, dreamy, full of good food and ritual--living life in complete obedience and joy in the seasons, just the way God's animals should live. There's a bad word here and there, and maybe a couple of crude comments, but all in all it's pretty good.

It is a book of yearning, of beauty and nature, of seasons and comradeship, that seems to me most fitting to be read in the springtime. If you are looking for nostalgia and writing of molten gold, then treat yourself to The Wind in the Willows.

Friday, May 5, 2017

currently // May

via Pixabay

Watching // Well, we just finished a giant Lord of the Rings marathon to watch The Two Towers and Return of the King. It was my sister's first time seeing them. I enjoyed it so much...cried at the ending...loved the most epic parts...loved seeing it with her.

I also watched October Baby this week. For some reason, I have always found deep emotional inspiration from that movie, and after a huge week of projects and output, I needed to do some input. October Baby, with its emotion, the songs they use for the music score, and the relational moments, gives me exactly the creative inspiration I need.

Writing // More editing in War of Honor! Someone (we will not name the author) didn't pay attention to chronology in most of the middle section of the story, (ahem, Schuyler, ahem) which is making the second draft interesting. It's slowly becoming more logical. I'm writing new scenes to fix it, which I'm super excited about. I haven't touched Schuylock since Camp NaNo ended, and I really want to work on my country story. All in good time. War of Honor is my first priority right now.

Listening // During the month of April, I listened to a special Schuylock playlist I made on Spotify. It consisted of A Sky Full of Stars by the Piano Guys, the entire Victoria soundtrack, (by Martin Phipps, Ruth Barrett, and others) and several other random songs. I don't move on to new music very fast. I keep the same playlists for years.

Making // Well, I haven't made them yet, but I'm hoping to make these chocolate chip cookie dough truffles for at least one potluck I'm attending this week.

Reading // The Viking Quest series. They're good, relaxing novels with Irish themes, Viking drama, and the perfect books to re-visit this time of year.

Studying // How to drive a 1914 car. One of my characters is currently learning to drive, so I'm studying all the pedals and levers for him so I can have another character properly instruct him. It's so fun. So cute. Just heart squeeze.

What are you reading? Listening to? Watching? I want to know! 
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