Book Review with CelebrateLit: Saving Mrs. Roosevelt

Celebrating Saving Mrs. Roosevelt

About the Book

Book: Saving Mrs. Roosevelt

Author: Candice Sue Patterson

Genre: Christian Fiction/Historical/Adventure

Release date: December 2021

Saving Mrs. Roosevelt World War 2 Fiction

Shirley Davenport is as much a patriot as her four brothers. She, too, wants to aid her country in the war efforts, but opportunities for women are limited. When her best friend Joan informs her that the Coast Guard has opened a new branch for single women, they both enlist in the SPARs, ready to help protect the home front.

Training is rigorous, and Shirley is disappointed that she and Joan are sent to separate training camps. At the end of basic training, Captain Webber commends her efforts and commissions her home to Maine under the ruse of a dishonorable discharge to help uncover a plot against the First Lady.

Shirley soon discovers nothing is as it seems. Who can she trust? Why do the people she loves want to harm the First Lady? With the help of Captain Webber, it’s a race against time to save Mrs. Roosevelt and remain alive.Click here to buy your copy (Celebrate Lit Affiliate Link)

My Review

Saving Mrs. Roosevelt is a great book to get yourself lost in. The story carries you along easily, so easily don’t notice it’s 1 in the morning and you should have been asleep hours ago. It had me biting my nails until the very end.

The characters are intriguing, captivating and people I, for one, would be honored to get to know.

Patterson does a great job of dropping breadcrumbs of information related to the mystery of the book, keeping readers guessing throughout as to who might be involved in a plot to harm Mrs. Roosevelt. Just when you think you’ve figured it out, she sends you down another path full of questions that you know you need the answers to

There is romantic tension in the book, but it isn’t overdone or makes you want to roll your eyes and gag at all. It is subtle and sweet.

If you like historical fiction, light and sweet romance, and intrigue, then this is the book for you.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher through Celebrate Lit. I was not required to write a positive review. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

About the Author

Candice Sue Patterson studied at the Institute of Children’s Literature and is an active member of American Christian Fiction Writers. She lives in Indiana with her husband and three sons in a restored farmhouse overtaken by books. When she’s not tending to her chickens, splitting wood, or decorating cakes, she’s working on a new story. Candice writes Modern Vintage Romance—where the past and present collide with faith. Her debut novel How to Charm a Beekeeper’s Heart was a 2012 ACFW First Impressions finalist and made INSPYs Longlist for 2016.

Candice Patterson Author of Saving Mrs Roosevelt

More from Candice …

The idea for Saving Mrs. Roosevelt literally came overnight. I had just finished writing a contemporary romance set in Maine, centered around a harbor town where lobstering is prevalent. My agent called me and told me about the Heroines of WWII series and asked if I’d be interested in writing a WWII novel. If so, I needed to come up with a story and proposal fast because spots were limited and filling quickly. My mind was so consumed with research of the lobster industry that I felt I couldn’t clear my brain fast enough to come up with another story on such short notice. That’s when I started wondering how I could take the knowledge I already had and make it work for a WWII novel. I googled Maine during WWII, came across an article that mentioned the SPARs, and the idea for Saving Mrs. Roosevelt was born.

I don’t want to give too much away, but the Nancy Drew deep inside me figured out a unique way to merge lobstering with espionage.

Though the plot is purely fiction, there are some characters and events that are historically accurate that were fun to include as well. I love Maine, but I’m Hoosier born and raised, and in my SPAR research, I discovered that Dorothy C. Stratton–the woman the Coast Guard asked to direct the SPARs–was the Dean of Women at Purdue University in Indiana. She was a woman of true character, grace, and strength. I knew right away she needed a cameo in my story.

Within twenty-four hours of receiving my agent’s call, I had plotted the entire story and sent a proposal. Weeks went by, and as fall ushered in its beautiful colors, my husband surprised me with a trip to Monhegan Island, Maine. We walked the trails, ate amazing seafood, and took in the gorgeous view. While on the island, my agent called again, this time to let me know that Barbour had contracted Saving Mrs. Roosevelt. What a special moment it was to be standing on the very shoreline where the book is set when I received the good news.

Since the book is set in Maine where the heroine works on a lobster boat with her father, I wanted to share my favorite recipe for Maine blueberry pie.

Maine Blueberry Pie

Ingredients:

2 Pie crusts

1 quart of fresh Maine blueberries

1 ½ tbsp lemon juice

Freshly grated nutmeg

¼ c light brown sugar

¼ c white sugar

¼ c flour

2 tbsp tapioca for thickening (if the berries are juicy)

 Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place the berries into a large bowl, add lemon juice, and toss. Add the remaining ingredients and toss until the berries are well coated with the flour and sugars mixture. Line the pie plate with one crust. Put the berries into the pie plate and top with a solid or lattice-top crust. Bake for 35-40 minutes until the berries are bubbly and the crust is golden brown.

Giveaway

Saving Mrs. Roosevelt Amazon gift certificate giveaway

To celebrate her tour, Candace is giving away the grand prize package of a $25 Amazon gift card and a copy of the book!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.Click here to enter the giveaway

Book Review: Songs in the Storm. A story of love, trust, and triumph over trials

Book: Songs in the Storm

Author: Kathy Geary Anderson

Genre: Christian Historical Fiction

My rating: 5 out of 5



Songs in the Storm is a moving story about a newly married couple struggling with a difficult diagnosis for the husband. The story walks the reader through the ups and downs, triumphs, and trials in an emotional way.

The characters of this book are so well written that I immediately fell in love with them and wanted to be sure their lives turned out okay. Yes, there was some heartbreak for both of the main characters, but they walked through the heartbreak together. This isn’t a book where the book shows the main characters meeting and falling in love. They are already in love when the book begins but their happiness is threatened when a medical tragedy strikes.

The reader is pulled into Anderson’s story through the vivid characters but also through vivid details which capture the atmosphere of the time period.

I’m not someone who reads a ton of historical fiction, but I have read some, and the books in this genre which capture my interest the most are those which immerse me in the time period they are set in. Anderson did this in such a flawless way and none of the information about the time frame or the characters seemed forced or awkward.

Be prepared to feel a range of emotions in this book but don’t let that deter you because underlying beneath it all is a comforting, sweet buzz of hope that only God can bring even in the moments we think he has left us.

I was provided with a  complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Fiction Friday: The Next Chapter. Chapter 11

To catch up with other parts of this novel in progress, click HERE.

Chapter 11

Encounter Church wasn’t only the largest church in the area when it came to congregation size. Its building stretched much further than any other church structure in Spencer Valley and anywhere in a 60-mile radius.

The building housed a full-size gym with a basketball court, a moderately large sanctuary set up stadium-style, a state-of-the-art sound system, and separate rooms that stretched down long, well-lit hallways and served as a spacious nursery, two conference rooms, and six adult Sunday School rooms.

In the lower level, there were rooms for Sunday School from kindergarten to high school, as well as a kitchen stocked and furnished as if it was in a culinary school.
This wasn’t the church Matt had grown up in and it wasn’t the type of church he ever saw himself being a member of up until a couple of years ago.

Now, though, he couldn’t imagine attending anywhere else. The music was outstanding, the pastor’s sermons were electrifying, and the congregation had become like family to Matt, even more so after his dad passed away.

“Matt! Good morning!” Jake Landers stood from the table he’d been sitting at in the Sunday School room and held out a hand.

“Glad to have you with us tonight.”

Matt took the older man’s hand and shook it firmly. “Glad to be here. I finally got a Wednesday night off.”

Jake shook his head as he sat. “I don’t know how you do it, kid. You go 1,000 miles an hour all day every day and still look refreshed.”

Matt laughed as he sat his Bible down and reached for an empty mug by the Keurig machine. “I might look refreshed, but I don’t often feel it.”

He waited for the mug to fill with the hazelnut cream flavored coffee he had chosen and then stirred in a dash of creamer and a packet of sugar. By the time he was done, the room was filling up with more men and they were seating themselves in the comfy chairs set up in a circle around the room.

He had been trying to attend this men’s group for a couple of months now. He needed this pick-me-up, the reminder that he wasn’t alone in his struggles and in sometimes feeling emotionally and spiritually drained.

The session turned out to be exactly what he needed and when it was over, he felt a renewed energy as he walked toward the gym to meet with a group of teenage boys he had agreed to mentor through a bi-monthly youth Bible study.

When it concluded, he challenged the seven boys to a pick-up game of basketball while they waited for their parents. The game reminded him he wasn’t young as he used to be and despite being a police officer, he also wasn’t as in shape as he should be.

“See you next week for a rematch, old man,” Trevor Banks called to him as he left the gym.
Matt grinned and waved back. “Challenge accepted, Stretch. I’ll be ready for you next time.”

He collected his Bible and notebook from the floor against the wall and as he looked up, he saw the head pastor Taylor Jenson strolling toward him, his charismatic smile firmly in place.

“Matt. Good evening.” He spoke in his familiar, smooth Southern accent that hadn’t faded in the least in the ten years since he’d lived in the north. He stuck out his hand and once again Matt was struck with how tall the man was and how the cowboy boots he wore with his crisp blue jeans and polo shirts made him even taller and even a more imposing figure.

“Pastor. How’s it going?”

“Good. The Bible study go well?”

Matt nodded and filled the pastor in on the young men and how each one was doing.

“That’s great, Matt.” Taylor slid his hands in his front pockets and propped his side against the gym wall. “Listen, I need to talk to you about something.”

Matt propped his Bible under his arm, hoping the pastor wasn’t asking him to take on another commitment. His schedule was completely booked.

Taylor looked at the floor and tugged at his earlobe, a move Matt had seen before, usually when Taylor was about to bring up a tough subject he really didn’t want to address. “I had a couple calls today from some members of the congregation. A couple of them were parents, a couple weren’t. They had some concerns about you leading the youth after what they read in the paper this week.”

“What they read in the paper?” Matt wasn’t following. What had been in the paper that might — “Oh. The birth announcement.”

Taylor winced and brought his gaze back up. “Yeah. That.”

Matt’s words about not caring what others thought about the announcement echoed back in his mind. Maybe he hadn’t thought this all the way through.

“They’re just a bit concerned about you leading the youth, being an example to them if you’ve had a child out of wedlock.”

Taylor was rubbing the back of his neck now, then held his hand there. “I didn’t know what to say to them. I didn’t even know you’d had a baby until someone showed me the announcement. I mean, I had seen you with Liz, taking her to some appointments, but I had no idea you were even dating.”

Matt blew out a breath and chewed on the inside of his bottom lip for a few minutes. “We’re not.”

“Oh.”

“No, I mean — it’s just. Liz and I are friends. I’m not her baby’s father. I told the nurse I was to keep Liz from having to connect her baby to the real father. I asked the nurse not to send the announcement to the paper, but I guess there was some kind of mix up.”

Taylor whistled, his hand still on the back of his neck as he tipped his head back. “Oh, man. That’s crazy.” He tipped his head back down and laughed softly. “I had a feeling there was a bigger story here. Sounds like you were trying to do the right thing.” He kicked at the gym floor with the tip of his boot. “It’s put us in a tough spot here at the church, though. I don’t want to reveal your private business but at the same time, I don’t know how to answer the parents without doing that very thing.”

Matt pushed his hands into his jean pockets and shook his head. “I don’t want to put the church in a difficult position. Why don’t I just step down for a bit, until I figure out how to handle this? I told Liz we should just ignore it, go on with our lives, and maybe I should explain it to some people, but I don’t know how to do it without making Liz look bad.”

Taylor sighed. “I really hate to do that to you, Matt. You’re an important part of this church, a leader to these boys.”

“But I’ll also be gone in a couple of weeks. You’ll have to find someone new to step in anyhow. I’ll just step down a little early.”

Taylor nodded. “That’s true. I guess that will save us both from the awkwardness.” He rubbed his hand across his chin. “I really am sorry about this. You’re a good guy, Matt. If there is anything I can do, please let me know. Can I pray for you at least?”
“Of course. Prayer is always welcome.”

Taylor took the time to pray for Matt left and then men shook hands. A few minutes later Matt was behind the steering wheel of his truck, laughing to himself. If he wasn’t leaving for the academy in a couple of weeks that conversation would have caused him more concern. He easily could have been offended that the church members who had a concern hadn’t approached him before they approached the pastor. At the same time, their concern made sense. Who would he be to tell a group of boys that waiting to have sex before marriage would protect their hearts and their bodies if he himself had been sleeping with a woman he wasn’t married to?

It did feel a bit like a betrayal that part of the congregation had made up their mind about him without even asking about the situation, but he wouldn’t have been able to ask someone about something so personal either.

He could just imagine approaching a person whose name had been listed as the father of someone’s baby when no one even knew they were in a relationship. “Hey, so . . .um . . . About this baby thing . . .”

Yeah. It would definitely be an awkward conversation to have.

He turned the radio on and tapped his hand against the steering wheel to a Christian song playing on his favorite radio station.

It was his decision to tell that nurse he was Bella’s father. No, he hadn’t thought it through, but he had to live with it and in the end, it would be worth it, as long as it meant Bella and Liz wouldn’t have any official ties to Gabe Martin.

***

“I can’t believe I did it.”

Ginny turned her head and tilted it to get a better look at her hair. While it had previously fallen across her shoulders when she let it down, it now stopped at ear level. She blew out a slow breath, tilting her head up again. What was Stan going to think about this impulsive move? She truly wasn’t sure.

Liz stood behind her, admiring her own shorter cut. “It looks fantastic, Ginny. Seriously. You’re drop-dead gorgeous. Just wait until Stan sees you. He won’t be able to keep his hands off you.”

Ginny’s chest tightened. Wouldn’t he, though? He was certainly able to keep his hands off her a lot these days. She couldn’t even remember the last time he’d hugged her, let alone held her in his arms.

“Well, I don’t know about that, but your cut certainly came out great. It will be a lot easier to manage for you, which will be great for when you start back next week.”

Liz pulled her lower lip between her teeth, still looking at her hair in the bathroom mirror, pulling the strands against her jawline. “I can’t believe my maternity leave is already over. It was nice of Linda to even give it to me. I don’t think it was easy for her to give me that much time off.”

She ruffled her hair and pouted. “Look, I look like a brunette Taylor Swift that time she chopped her hair. Well, the haircut does at least. Not the rest of me.”

Ginny cocked an eyebrow. “Who?”

Liz snorted. “A pop singer whose music I don’t even like.”

“Oh. Well, I’m old. That’s probably why I’ve never heard of her.”

“Be glad. You’re not missing much other than a lot of sappy songs about broken hearts.”

Ginny touched her finger to her chin. “Oh wait. Is she the one who breaks up with men and then writes songs about her breakups?”

Liz laughed as she picked up a brush and pulled it across her hair. “Yes. That’s her. Maybe I should have written a song after I left Gabe. I might could have made a few bucks.”

She turned and looked at Ginny, at the way Missy had angled her hair so it was short in the back and longer along the sides. Ginny looked ten years younger, if not more. Her entire persona seemed brighter now. Maybe this would help raise the heaviness the woman had around her some days. Maybe her husband would see her and whisk her out the door for a fancy dinner, bringing a bright spot to her day. She certainly deserved it.

“Is Stan going to be home tonight?”

Ginny shook her head. “No. We’re going to a real estate banquet together. He’s up for real estate agent of the year for the region.”

Liz’s eyebrows raised. This was a change from Ginny’s usual answers to questions about Stan. Most of the time he was away on business or not home at all. “That’s awesome. He’s finally taking a night away from work and taking you out to boot. Way to go Stan.”

Soft pink spread along Ginny’s cheekbones as she hooked an earring in. “Yeah, it should be a nice night out. We haven’t been out in —” The pink darkened to crimson. “Well, a while anyhow.”

Liz leaned back against the dresser behind her and gnawed at her thumbnail, pondering the color along Ginny’s cheeks. Was it brought on by anticipation or something else?

“Do you think he’ll win?”

“He has before and he’s been even busier this year so I’d be surprised if he doesn’t.”

Liz didn’t hear the excitement in Ginny’s voice she thought she should. She studied the woman for a moment then let her gaze drift across Ginny’s bedroom to the lightly -colored dresser and the mirror attached to it, the queen-sized bed set up high off the ground, covered in what looked like a handmade quilt of various colors, to the peach-colored walls and pillows that matched the walls. The headboard and armoire against the wall near the bed matched the dresser she was leaning against and a walk-in closet was open on the other side of the room.

“This is a beautiful house, Ginny.”

“You’ve never been in here?” Ginny turned her while adjusting her other earring. “I thought you were here for the engagement party.”

Liz shook her head. “Just the backyard. I was so focused on feeling out of place and left out I barely noticed even that.” She walked toward the walk-in closet. “I would say I’ve matured since then but it’s a work in progress, as you know. Hey.” She reached for a black gown hanging in the closet. “This is lovely. You should wear this tonight.” A white blouse with a silver sheen caught her eye and she reached for it too. “Oh, and you could put this over it. It would set off your eyes.”

She turned to see Ginny blushing again. “You think so? I don’t know. Maddie bought that for me two years ago and I just — well, I never — I didn’t have anywhere to wear it. I thought about wearing it to last year’s banquet but it seemed a little too . . .” Her voice trailed off and she shrugged. “Revealing? Sexy? I don’t know.”

Liz laid the dress and blouse on the bed. “It’s hot is what it is and you will look hot in it. Stan isn’t even going to want to go to the banquet when he sees you in it. He’s going to want to get you right back out of it again.”

The blush had spread to Ginny’s neck and chest now and she laid a hand at the nape of her neck as if to stop it.
“Oh — well, I don’t know about that but I — I mean, I could wear it, I guess.”

Liz walked to the dresser and flipped open the jewelry box. “I bet you have a necklace that would go great with this.” She shut the box abruptly and turned away from it. “Oh, my word. What am I doing? I’m sorry. I shouldn’t be getting into your things like that.”

Ginny laughed and opened the box again. “Actually, I would appreciate your advice and opinion. I haven’t really dressed up in a while. I do have a couple necklaces that might work.”

The women looked through the necklaces for a few moments. Liz pulled her gaze away when her phone dinged. She reached for it and checked the message.

She sighed. “It’s McGee. Asking what to bring for dinner.”

Ginny swung around with a gold necklace in her hand and placed a hand on her hip. “Dinner, eh?”

Liz scowled playfully. “Calm down. It’s like a potluck dinner. Molly, Alex, Ellie, and Jason are all going to be there too. Then we’re going to watch Ellie and Jason’s wedding video.”

She texted a response and tossed the phone onto the bed. “Matt and I are just friends. Like I told you.”

Ginny held the necklace up in front of her while she looked in the mirror. “A friend who is clearly in love with you. I get it.”

Liz scoffed. “He is not in love with me. He’s just a good friend. I mean, don’t get me wrong, he’s a very good friend. He’s been there for me in the worst moments of my life and in the best. He brought me food when I was too big and sick to get around when I was pregnant. He drove me to a few appointments when my car broke down. He, well, obviously delivered Bella. He’s also stopped by plenty of times and held her while I cleaned the apartment or took a nap. He’s just a good guy. You know that. He’s good to everyone.”

Ginny held up another necklace, narrowing her eyes as she studied her reflection in the mirror. “He’s not as good to everyone as he is to you, and I can’t say I’ve ever heard him say he was in love with you, but I do know that he was very upset when you had that fall at your apartment last year.”

Liz’s chest constricted and a lump pushed up into her throat. Her hand trembled as she straightened the dress she’d lain on the bed, averting her eyes from Ginny. “What do you mean?”

“Stan said Matt asked for prayer for you during the men’s Bible study a couple nights after you were taken to the hospital. He didn’t give any details, but said there had been an accident and he’d arrived before the ambulance.”

The room suddenly seemed small and tight as Liz sat on the edge of the bed and took a deep breath. Matt was at her apartment that night? She’d known there was an officer there, but she’d been told it was Tom Landry, Matt’s older partner. If

Matt had been there, why had he never told her?

The idea of him seeing her, barely conscious, at the worst moment of her life. Bile clutched at her throat and she gagged.
Ginny whirled to look at her. “Uh-oh. Are those tacos we stopped for causing an issue?”
She shook her head against Ginny’s concern then changed her mind and nodded. “Actually, yes, they are a little. Will you excuse me?”


She found the bathroom down the hall, doubled over the toilet as she shut the door, and gagged again. She closed her eyes tight, desperate to remember the voices that night. Had Matt’s been one of them? She couldn’t remember. She needed to remember.

Dear God . . . Please no.

So when she’d first lied to him, said she’d accidentally taken too many pills from a prescription for painkillers for her knee, he’d known all along. He’d most likely even known she was pregnant. She wretched into the toilet bowl, grasping the seat as colors played across her vision.

Reaching for a piece of toilet paper, she wiped it across her mouth and shook her head. He’d never said a thing. He hadn’t told her he already knew. That had been almost a year ago. And he’d never said a thing. She couldn’t believe it.
He had now twice seen her at her most vulnerable. If the earth opened up right now and swallowed her whole she wouldn’t have been totally fine with it.

“Really God? How much more do you need to punish and humiliate me for what I did?”

She stood and turned the sink on, cupping a handful of water to wash her mouth out with. She pictured herself in the bathroom floor of her apartment that night, desperately trying to get the pills to come back up again. She hadn’t wanted to die. Not really. She’d simply panicked. She hadn’t wanted the baby to die either. She hadn’t even really accepted there was a baby yet.

In those moments when she shoved those pills in her mouth, she had told herself it was the best way to keep her parents from finding out how she’d been living, from Molly being disappointed in her, from feeling the same day after day. But at the moment she stuck her finger back against her tonsils a different kind of panic had set in. A panic that she might actually die, that she’d never had a chance to say goodbye to Molly or her sister.

There was a baby to think about. The baby hadn’t done anything to deserve a death sentence. She had to stop the pills from taking effect and there was no way they wouldn’t. She’d downed half a bottle of opioid painkillers.

Praying to God, she had begged while vomit trickled down her chin. It obviously wasn’t enough vomit to bring the pills back up because blackness had encroached across her vision quickly. She had chased the darkness away with a deep breath that was more like a gasping scream.

“Jesus! Save me!”

She couldn’t even feel the phone in her hand when she’d hit the 9 and collapsed against the cool linoleum.

A knock on the bathroom door ripped her from the memory and back to the present. She tried to gather herself, remind herself she wasn’t in her old apartment, begging to live. She was at Ginny’s and she needed to get it together already. She splashed her face with water and snatched the hand towel to dry herself off.

“Liz? Honey? You okay in there.”

“Yes, I’m fine. I’ll be right out.”

There she went again, lying. How many times in her life was she going to tell everyone she was fine when she clearly wasn’t?

No matter.

She smoothed her newly cropped hair back, took a deep breath, and forced what she hoped was a natural-looking smile on her face.

Faking happiness had become like breathing to her.

This time would be no different.

Book Review The Rhise of Light by Max Sternberg

Book: The Rhise of Light

Author: Max Sternberg

Genre: Christian Fantasy

Description: This is not your typical Christian Fiction story…

The entirety of living civilization stands on the very brink of death. Undead hordes have rampaged across the world. Determined to do his part, Leon Rhise left his wealthy father’s estate and chose to defend the last living kingdom by joining the military. It had seemed to be a good idea at the time.

After his career in the airship navy came to an abrupt end Leon arrived home, hoping for a warm reception. Instead, he was abruptly tossed out. Disowned, unemployed, and friendless. All hope seems lost. Then Leon discovers a mysterious relic, which opens up the possibility of him becoming a Judge: a hero of legend. One that has not been seen for centuries.

As Leon travels the road less taken his destiny converges with newfound companions, each one surrounded by mystery. Advised by strange beings in dreams and visions, Leon learns that the undead onslaught the world has suffered is part of a much larger problem. A solution can be found by learning about the forgotten being known as Adonai. But the world is ending, and time is running out.

Delve into a world that brings a unique twist and interpretation to faith-based high fantasy. With emotional highs and lows, certain peril, dysfunction, and humor; tough questions are asked, and answers will come to light.

My Review

Let me get this out of the way first: I don’t read fantasy, Christian or not. I just don’t do it. But I’d met the author of this book in an online writing group, and he seemed nice so I thought I should read it to support him. I dragged my feet on it. I did. I cannot lie. I was like a little child. I folded my arms across my chest, slouched down on the couch and pulled my hood down over my face.

I pushed my lower lip out. “I don’t like fantasy books. All those ridiculous names and magic and sword battles with fantastical creatures.”

I huffed out a breath and grabbed my Kindle. “Fine. I’ll try it, but only because Max is a nice guy.”

Now, after reading The Rhise of Light, I can’t say that I will keep reading fantasy, but I can say I will read more fantasy written by Max Sternberg.

The Rhise of Light is not only full of well-written prose and dialogue and good, smart fun. It is also deeply theological, thought-provoking, and spiritually moving.

I fell in love with the main characters, Leon, Miala, Duame, and Kelleren but then there were even more characters to fall in love with as the book went on.

Creative well-developed characters and his descriptions make you feel like you are right there and all the characters are alive and real – whether they are human, elf, dwarf, dog, or an undead zombie.

Sternberg paints a vivid image of the world Leon and his friends live in, so vivid that sometimes it is a bit scary, considering that when people die they immediately become undead zombies who want to kill everyone else, no matter how nice they were in life or how they died. The only way to kill them for good is to dispatch them a second time and often in a grisly way.

Sternberg doesn’t pull any punches in fight scenes, but he also isn’t overly graphic. He weaves humor in the midst of heavy and serious and touching in the midst of heartbreaking.

Perhaps you’re not a fan of fantasy either. Don’t overlook this one because of your preconceived notions. You might just be as surprised and as enchanted as I was with Sternberg’s debut novel.

Tell Me More About . . . Deena Adams, author

Deena Adams writes fiction and shares interviews about other authors on her blog and today she was nice enough to take part in my Tell Me More About feature.

Tell me more about   . . . is a bi-weekly feature which focuses on everyday people from all walks of life and professions. Each post highlights their work and the part they play in our communities.

Tell us a little bit about yourself, anything you think my readers need to know about the woman who is Deena Adams.

Thanks for the opportunity to share on your blog, Lisa! I was born and raised in northwest Georgia and married my high school sweetheart at age eighteen. I followed him around the country during his twenty-year Naval career until we settled in Virginia in 1994. We raised three children and have seven amazing grandkids we spoil as often as possible.

God called my husband to the ministry, and we planted a church in 1999, two years before his Navy retirement. He still pastors that church.

A few of my favorite people/things: Jesus, my family, friends, chocolate, reading, writing, comfy jeans, flip-flops, watermelon, and ribeye steak.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

Growing up, English and Grammar were always my favorite subjects and where I excelled, but I never considered writing professionally until 2018.

In 2016, our best friends and ministry partners left our church and walked away from our friendship. I spiraled into a pit and struggled to find joy. After two years of wallowing in depression, I asked God to give me something to pour myself into. In the summer of 2018, He led me to pursue writing Christian Fiction.

I had no idea how to write a novel, so I scoured the internet for information. Innumerable YouTube videos, blogs, and online courses were my tutors. In November 2018, I participated in Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month), and in three months, I had written “The End” on a very messy, way too long, first draft. I was hooked and have thrown myself into this crazy writing life ever since.

Tell us a little about your already completed/published projects.

Instead of saying I’m unpublished, I like to say I’m pre-published. I’ve completed the first draft of two novels, and I wrote a novelette, which I offer free as a thank you for newsletter subscribers.

My first novel is about a guilt-ridden young widow who becomes a court-appointed special advocate for foster children to pay penance for her past sins. The novelette, Behind the Scenes, is a prequel to the novel and features the novel’s hero, a behavioral psychologist and homeless shelter manager, as a child.

Inspired by personal experience, the second novel is about a ministry couple whose teenage daughter runs away and returns home pregnant.

What are the main themes of your novels or stories?

My stories revolve around the topics of foster care, adoption, alcoholism, abortion, drug abuse, mental illness, rejection, death, etc.

As an avid reader, I’m drawn to real-life, deep issues where the characters face seemingly impossible challenges and overcome through faith and hope in Christ. If the books are based on true stories, even better. I read not only for enjoyment, but for spiritual growth and inspiration. So, that’s what I’m writing.

What advice would you give to other writers who hope to someday write and publish a book?

I’d say go into it with realistic expectations, and make sure it’s what God has called you to do, or you won’t stick with it. I jumped in with both feet and my head in the clouds, having no idea what I was getting into. There’s so much more that goes into publishing a book than writing it. I continually remind myself that God opened this door and led me through it, so I keep plugging along.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Sleep. LOL

Seriously, when I’m not doing laundry, cleaning the house, cooking, or taking care of those “have to” responsibilities, I’m usually in my office doing something writing related.

For fun, I enjoy hanging out with my family and playing board games. My son’s a board game fanatic and is always introducing us to a new game. And of course, I love reading every spare minute I can find, which is usually in bed right before I go to sleep. When the weather’s nice, I like bike riding.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

That I could just sit at my computer and type out an entire story without making an outline ahead of time. By nature, I’m a planner. I despise spur-of-the-moment decisions and always prepare for everything way in advance. When I tried to plot out my second novel, it didn’t work. The characters took me where they wanted to go, and it wasn’t where I had planned.

As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?

When I was in elementary school, I wanted to be a teacher. As I got older, I wanted to be a lawyer but determined that would take too much schooling. I was a super-fast typist, so I considered court-reporting but I couldn’t decide and didn’t want to waste my parents’ money or my time, so I opted not to attend college, went to work at a bank, and then married six months later.  

For fun, what’s your favorite snack when you’re writing?

Trail mix.

Where can people learn more about your work and connect with you?

People can find out more about me and my work on my website. And I love connecting through my newsletter and on social media. If readers are interested in following my writing journey, subscribing to my newsletter is the best way to stay up to date. And subscribers will get a free download of my novelette, Behind the Scenes.

They can aslo find more information at the following sites:

Website

Newsletter Subscription

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

Goodreads

Pinterest

BookBub


As a Jesus girl for more than thirty years, Deena understands how important hope is to daily life. That’s why she’s passionate about inspiring others through writing hope-filled fiction and highlighting other Christian authors on her blog. 

Deena is an active member of ACFW and two Virginia writer groups, board member of ACFW Virginia, founder of the Marathon online writer’s group, 2019 Foundations contest finalist, 2019 First Impressions contest double finalist and winner, and 2021 Genesis contest finalist.

She lives with her husband near the coast in beautiful Virginia. When she’s not writing, reading, or serving in her church, you’ll find her hanging out with family and friends and doting on her seven grandchildren.


Thank you to Deena for taking part in Tell Me More About . . . today. Do you know someone I should feature? Let me know in the comments.

Book Review: Sarah’s Choice by Pegg Thomas

Book: Sarah’s Choice

Author: Peggy Thomas

Genre: Christian Historical Fiction

Release date: August 3, 2021 (preorder here).

Bottom line: Four stars out of five. Heart pounding read. Not for the faint of heart.

My review: If you are a lover of historical fiction in all it’s raw and gritty detail then Sarah’s Choice is a book you want to pick up.
It is well-written with vivid descriptions and heart pounding action.
The story is well-paced throughout but really picks up in Chapter 2 and goes full force from there.
I had a hard time putting it down, chewing my fingernails much of the book, even though I’m not normally a fingernail chewer.
Pegg Thomas is an award winning author and it looks like she has another winner on her hands with this one.

The characters are engaging and clutch at your heart, leaving an impression you’ll certainly feel for days, if not longer, after you finish the book.
I will, however, warn you that this isn’t a book where you will find a message of forgiveness, toward the natives who lived on the land before the settlers came. If you are looking for a well-rounded view of the early history of settlers, you’re not going to find it here. One reason you won’t find it here is because the author, by her own admission, is presenting one viewpoint. That isn’t a bad position, since it is the point of view of the characters, it’s just the full story, which again, Pegg reiterates on her Goodreads page:

Because I’d recently researched Pontiac’s Rebellion for a novella, it was fresh in my mind. It was a harsh, even brutal event in American history, and I knew it would provide the backdrop that Sarah’s story needed. Sarah’s Choice does not present all sides of the conflict, instead, it is seen only through the eyes of Sarah and Cully.

I hope to give the reader a glimpse of what happened in a time and place that was incredibly volatile from the perspective of the people caught up it in unawares. It was not my intent to interject 21st-century norms or ideals into the 18th century. It does no good to look at history through the modern lens. What happened, happened. It’s history to be learned from, warts and all.

There is only one opinion of Native Americans held in the mind of the main character throughout the book, right up until the end. Her feelings were valid considering all she had been through, however, which is what makes the book very authentic (uncomfortably so).

Fiction Friday: Harvesting Hope Chapter 21

If you are a new reader here, I share a chapter from my WIP each Friday, and sometimes Saturday, on my blog. There are typos, grammatical issues and even plot holes at times because this is a first, second, or third draft that hasn’t gone to my editor (eh, husband) yet. If you see a typo, feel free to kindly let me know in the comments. Sometimes the error has already been fixed on my copy, sometimes not.

Catch up with the rest of the story HERE. Don’t feel like reading the book in a series of chapters each Friday? Preorder the book HERE. Do you want to read the first book in the series? Download it HERE. 

Chapter 21



Jason closed his eyes and immediately opened them again. He stared into the darkness of his bedroom until colors swirled in front of him. Sleep was not coming. It had barely come in four days. Every time he closed his eyes, he heard the cries of Anne Weatherly asking for her husband, saw the flames devour their cozy home with John inside.

He draped his bare arm over his eyes, wished sleep would come.

How could he not have known John was inside? How could he not have understood what Ann was trying to tell him?

“John.”

Her voice had been so weak, and Jason had assumed she was calling for John, wanting him to come back from wherever he was to be with her during her time of fear. Instead, she’d been trying to tell Jason her husband was lying on the kitchen floor, unconscious or injured somehow.

Jason clenched his fist tight, gritted his teeth. He punched the surface of the mattress next to him.

He’d wanted to go back into the building, but it was too late. Flames had shot up through the structure, consuming it within seconds.

“You did all you could, Jason.” Cody’s words echoed in his mind, but he didn’t believe them.

He could have done more. He could have found John before the state police fire marshal did, or what was left of him under the ash and charred remains of the house.

God, why did you let this happen? They were good people. They didn’t deserve this.

After another hour without sleep, he tossed the sheets aside and walked downstairs, pouring himself a glass of milk, and turning on the TV.

What a week.

What a soul-sucking, demoralizing, atrocious week.

If he wasn’t hearing the panicked voice in his mind, he was hearing Ellie ask him in hurt voice how he could have told their pastor about their “personal failings.” She hadn’t used those words, but he knew what she meant. He had betrayed their privacy. Her privacy. He certainly didn’t feel good about that.

He guzzled more of the milk and scoffed.

“Personal failings.” He said the words mockingly.

That’s what he apparently had to refer to his desire for Ellie as. He was a failure for wanting to sleep with Ellie. He pressed his hand against his forehead.

He knew that’s not what he was a failure for. He wasn’t a failure for desiring Ellie or for letting his hands slide where they shouldn’t have more than once. He’d asked God to forgive him for anything he shouldn’t have done with Ellie.

What he was a failure for was not telling Ellie about Lauren, for apologizing but then demanding that she forgive him. He’d never really asked her how she really felt about it all. Mainly because he was selfish. Instead of coming along beside her and walking through the pain with her, he’d wanted to avoid having to hear again and again how he had hurt her, so he hadn’t pushed her to tell him how she really felt. Not until they were sitting in front of their pastor. The shame of that conversation weighed heavy on his heart, adding to the shame and guilt already there.

He set the empty glass on the coffee table, closed his eyes, and pressed his fingertips against his temples, massaging them. If only massaging would take the pain away, the pain in his head and his heart.

He’d told Ellie more than once in the last seven and a half months that he wasn’t going to apologize for his mistake for the rest of his life.

 He’d lied.

He would apologize for the rest of his life if it meant he could spend that life taking care of her like he’d wanted to since they were 18.

He flipped channels for another hour, then got dressed and headed to the farm. He might as well start his day. It wasn’t like he was going to get anymore sleep and he had the goat barn to finish before his dad picked up the livestock the next week.

A light from the barn window glowed a soft orange, casting a square pattern of brightness onto the dark grass outside.

Who else was up at this hour? It was too early to start the milking.

Robert met Jason in the barn doorway, wiping his hands on a rag.

“Something wrong?” Jason asked.

Robert shook his head as he turned to walk into the barn. “Not anymore. Marshmallow was having a hard time calving. Big bull. Breach. I got him turned.”

Jason followed him, yawning. Robert stopped at the sink, turned the water on full blast and soaped his arms up to his elbows, red smearing with white and leaving a pink tinged coating. “I was getting ready to wash up when I heard your truck. Stepped out to see who else was up this early.”

Jason rubbed at his dry eyes. “Just your crazy son.”

Robert laughed, drying off his arms and hands. “Crazy? Nah. A man with a propensity to work too hard. Yes.”

Jason laughed and shook his head, reaching for the tractor key by the door. “You have no room to talk, old man, and you know it. You work from sunup, or in most cases before the sun is up, to sundown or longer. You don’t even know the meaning of slowing down.” He tapped his dad’s arm with the back of his hand. “Not even a tractor landing on you was enough to slow you down.”

Robert rolled his shirtsleeves down, buttoning them at the wrist. “If only that was true. I tell you, kid, I’ve never felt as old as I have these last seven months. I’m only just feeling like my old self again.”

It was too early to feed the cows, but he could begin preparing the calf feed. Molly would be there in a couple of hours to feed them.

“I’m seeing that old spark returning, I can tell you that. Why don’t you head in and catch a couple more hours of rest, though? Alex and Molly will be here soon, and we can handle the morning chores.”

Robert dumped the dirty water bucket outside the barn door. “I might just take you up on that. But actually, I’m glad to catch you alone for once.” He leaned his side against the supporting beam next to the entrance of the milking parlor and folded his arms across his chest. “How are you doing, Jason?”

Jason shrugged a shoulder as he turned to look for the scraper. He could scrap the center aisle clean before the cows were led out of their stalls. “Fine.”

“You know that in women speak fine means not fine and I have a feeling it means the same thing in Jason speak.”

“You calling me a woman, Dad?”

A smile tugged at Robert’s mouth. “Very funny. No. I’m calling you a liar.”

“Ouch. I think I’d rather be called a woman.” Jason made a face. “Actually, this conversation is starting to sound very sexist. Sorry about that.”

He moved to the watering trough, dumped it onto the barn floor, and pressed the button to refill it. “This purchase was a good one.” Refilling the trough automatically was a lot more efficient than doing it manually.

“Don’t change the subject, kid. How are you?”

Jason rested his hands on his waist as he waited for the trough to refill, watching the water swirl from the spout and rise. He chewed on the edge of his lip and tried to decide how to answer.

“I’m struggling,” he said finally. “Between Ellie, the fire, trying to build the goat barn, hiring an architect for the new milking parlor, and keep this place running — it’s been hard.” He shrugged a shoulder. “I’ll get through it, though. Eventually.”

Robert crossed one leg over the other, propping the toe of his boot against the floor. “You don’t have to get through it alone, you know. Your family is here for you. Me and your mom. Molly and Alex. Even your aunts and uncles and cousins. More importantly though, God is for you.”

He thought to himself how he wasn’t so sure about at least one of his cousins being there for him. He thought about Brad’s car parked outside Ellie’s apartment the other day. I think he’d rather be there for my ex.

He pressed the button to turn the water off. “For me and not against me. Yeah. I know that verse, but it’s hard to see it right now.”

“There are seasons like that, certainly, but eventually, we see the places where God was still with us, even when we thought he wasn’t.” He tipped his head, trying to catch Jason’s eye. “You aren’t to blame for John’s death. You know that, right?”

Jason looked away from his dad, turning toward the back of the barn, staring at the stalls in silence. Emotion caught in his throat when he tried to speak.

“You’re not,” Robert said. “His death was an accident. There was no way you could have known he was in there.”

Jason nodded, but didn’t turn around. “Okay,” was all he could manage.

“Ann’s doing well. She’s been staying with her sister over in Brockwood. I ran into Mary at the store the other day and she said she might move into Twin Oaks.”

Jason’s chest tightened at the mention of Ann. How much did she blame him for the loss of her husband? How angry was she that he wouldn’t listen to her when she tried to tell him where John was? Twin Oaks was a retirement community featuring a collection of condominiums.

“That will be a big change for her.”

“It will be, but she’ll be with friends who can comfort her, including your grandparents.”

Jason nodded. His maternal grandparents had moved into Twin Oaks seven years ago, leaving their house to Annie. Jason had moved into the house shortly after they moved. Alex had come to live with him a year later.

“Jason.” His dad’s hand on his shoulder was firm. “Don’t hold all of this inside. If you can’t talk to me, talk to Alex or Pastor Joe. Someone. I’ve been there. A few times. You know that and holding it in did nothing but make me angry and bitter. I don’t know the specifics of what happened with you and Ellie, but I know you have a lot of guilt about whatever it is and ­­—”

“I slept with a girl in college after Ellie and I broke up.”

Robert slid his hands in his front pockets and tipped his face toward the barn floor. “I see.”

Jason faced his dad and pulled his hand against the back of his neck. “It was a dark time for me. I was lonely, questioning a lot of things. . .” He shook his head and slid a hand across his face, wishing he hadn’t even started telling his dad about his past. “There was a girl who came on strong, invited me to a couple of parties, I was drunk one night, and I messed up. I regretted it immediately. I never did anything like it again.”

Robert let out a long breath. “And Ellie overheard you talking to Alex about it.”

“Yeah. She overheard us talking about it one afternoon. A few days after she thought I’d proposed to her.”

“She thought you proposed to her?”

Jason laughed softly, rubbing the side of his index finger under his bottom lip, against the stubble there. “Long story, but I was getting ready to tell her about the other thing, she thought I was going to propose, and I didn’t have the heart to tell her I hadn’t been planning on proposing. Not that night anyhow. I needed to talk to her first.”

“Oh. I see. That’s why we didn’t know about the proposal.”

“We were going to tell everyone around the time of the firemen’s banquet but then she found out, your accident happened, and I didn’t know if we were still engaged or not.” Jason scratched at the back of his head. “And obviously, we weren’t and aren’t.”

Robert’s eyebrows dipped, and Jason braced himself for more questions. He didn’t want to answer more questions. This conversation was awkward enough. “So, this situation in college happened once and not while you two were dating?”

Jason shook his head again. “No, but Ellie worries that since I didn’t tell her about this, maybe there are other things I didn’t tell her.”

“Are there?”

“Other than the fact I like Mom’s apple pie better than hers, no.”

Robert laughed. “Your mom’s pie is hard to beat.” He shifted and looped his thumbs in his belt loops. “Kid, you know your mistake doesn’t define you, right? Or your relationship with Ellie. From what I’ve seen of you, all these years since, it already hasn’t defined you. You’re a good man who took a wrong turn. You made a terrible decision. Good works isn’t how you dig yourself out of the shame, though. Only God can do that.”

A smile tugged at the corner of Jason’s mouth. “I know, Dad. I do. I just have to keep reminding myself of everything you and Mom have taught me about God and everything I’ve learned in church. Sometimes it’s hard to apply to real life. But while I’m reminding myself, you should probably listen to your own lessons. The accident and your injury doesn’t define you either.”

Robert shook his head and whistled, sliding his hands in his front pant pockets. “Ouch. It’s been that obvious, huh?”

“That you blame yourself for riding out there that day when the hill was wet from the rain? That you think you should be healing faster? That you feel like you aren’t helping enough because your leg has slowed you down some? That you work and work and work to try to prove you’re still the man mom married? Yeah. It’s pretty obvious.”

Robert winced, pinching his nose between his index finger and thumb as he closed his eyes. “Wow. I didn’t know I was that transparent.”

He stepped away from the beam and turned his back for a few moments, breathing deep. When he turned, he walked to Jason, reached up and placed his hand behind Jason’s head, his eyes glistening.

“Beyond my wildest dreams. That’s what you are. A son comforting his father with the reminder of God’s truth.” He pulled Jason against him and hugged him tight. “I am blessed.”

Jason hugged his dad for a few seconds, then pulled back and let out a deep breath. “Enough of that, old man. You’ll have us both crying like a bunch of women.”

Robert slapped him on the back. “That might not be a bad thing considering what a gift women are to us. We could learn a thing or two from them.”

Jason turned to walk back toward the feed room. “Yes, we could. We definitely could.”

Like how to listen to them and not only in words.

Every time Ellie told him how his decision in college made her feel, he’d apologized, but then he’d also mentally dismissed what she’d said. He’d wanted nothing more than to avoid feeling the guilt and the shame. He’d excused it away time after time by saying it was a mistake, that he’d made a mistake and he knew it.

It was true.

What happened with Lauren was a mistake, but it was also a decision, albeit a drunken one. There was part of him that had never really accepted his own part in that night. He had blamed Lauren, Ellie, and alcohol instead of accepting that it was wrong thinking that had led him down that path. He’d felt God had abandoned him in college right along with Ellie, but he’d been wrong. God had never abandoned him and never would, even if Ellie never wanted anything to do with him again.

***

Ellie looked at her phone, picked it up, stared at it, and laid it back on the counter, face down.

She should call him. She knew she should. She had called Molly and asked about Jason, but hadn’t worked up the courage to call him yet. Not after what she’d seen in the hallway at the hospital.

It wasn’t like it was a full-on make-out session, so why was she worried? Maybe because if he’d fallen into the arms of another woman, she’d understand why.

What would she even say if she called him?

“Hey, there, Jase, I know we just had a screaming match a few days ago and you’re grieving but — how are you?”

No. She couldn’t call.

Maybe a text.

A text was so impersonal. But they were broken up, so how personal should she be?

Still, they’d known each other most of their lives and he’d been her best friend for the past 12 years.

She huffed a breath out, blowing her hair out of her eyes.

She hadn’t even bothered to brush it tonight. Wearing a pair of Judi’s sweatpants and an old sweatshirt from her college, she didn’t feel like herself, but after she’d left the hospital that day she hadn’t been able to focus on anything and had completely forgot to do her laundry.

Her only bright spot had been Timmy Murray. He’d kept her laughing when she wanted to cry.

“Miss Ellie, my brother says if I pick my nose, I’ll hit my brain. Is that true?”

“No, hon’. You will not hit your brain. However, you might make it sore in there so you might want to back off for a while. Maybe you can try blowing your nose.”

“I did once but Billy said the stuff in the tissue was brain.”

“Oh gosh. Well, no, Billy’s just trying to scare you. It’s mucous, not brain.”

Ellie shook her head at the memory of the conversation. She had a feeling his parents must have a lot of moments when they had to stifle their laughs around him. If she ever could have children, she hoped they were as entertaining as Timmy.

She snatched up the phone and typed out a message, erased it, typed it again.

Hey, I heard about the fire. I just wanted to let you know I’m praying for you.

There. She did it. Now he wouldn’t feel like he had to talk to her or even respond to her.

Painless.

She pulled a pot out from under the stove and filled it with water. Time for a pasta night. Something simple, with little fuss and little muss.

Muss. What did that even mean? Why did people say that when the word was mess?

She shook her head and waited for the water to boil, glancing at her phone. No reply.

Muss. Muss. Now it was bothering her. She picked up the phone and conducted an internet search.

“Muss. A game in which players scramble for small objects thrown at the ground.”

Huh? She scanned further down the page.

“Muss. A state of disorder.”

Ah, yes. That sounded exactly like her life right now. Definitely a muss.

A half an hour later she was sitting on the couch, pasta in a bowl, watching an old movie, trying not to look at her phone. Maybe he didn’t care if she cared. Maybe this other woman was filling the void she’d left.

Speaking of not caring, she was trying not to care where Judi was — again. Out at another friend’s house, most likely. Or maybe a new friend. Maybe someone like that man on her social media account.

Had Judi really done all those things with him he’d listed in the caption?

A sick feeling settled in Ellie’s stomach, and she slid the bowl onto the coffee table. The idea of that man treating Judi like she was simply someone to bed for a night and move on from made her heart ache. It also chased away her appetite.

The ding of the phone startled her. She reached for it but laid her hand on it instead of picking it up, afraid to turn it over. What if he was yelling at her again?

Maybe his response would be something along the lines of, “Why are you even bothering to check on me? I know you don’t care.”

He probably thought she didn’t care about him. She certainly hadn’t acted like she did for half a year.

Slowly, she lifted it and swiped it open.

Jason: Hey, sorry for not answering right way. Contractor messed up the foundation on the goat enclosure. Trying to figure out how to fix it. Had dad on the other line. The feed mixer also broke down again. Had to call Walt because he’s the expert there.

She let out a breath, took a sip of water, and typed a response, mentally chiding herself for feeling nervous. This was the man she’d planned to spend the rest of her life with at one point. Why did it feel like they were in high school again, with her wondering if he’d ever ask her out?

Ellie: The fun never stops for us farmers does it?

Jason: Us farmers? Thought you were a city girl now. J/k I know you’ll always be a farm girl at heart.

Ellie: You take the girl off the farm, but you can’t take the love of farming out of the girl.

She paused her movie, stared for a few moments at Ginger Rogers frozen in place, mid-dance step. That’s how she felt, holding this phone, trying to figure out how to communicate with the other half of her heart. The other half who had been so angry at her a few days ago, he’d walked away, leaving her alone and crying.

The man who hadn’t apologized to her, but who had been through something terrible and who she cared about.

Jason: Thanks for checking on me. I’m okay. Cody said you were looking for me.

Ellie: I was. I stopped at the hospital to check on you, but I must have missed you.

Jason: Yeah, it was just a couple of quick stitches. I was out of there pretty fast.

Should she be open with him? Even though there were times he hadn’t been open with her. Yes, she should be. Closing themselves off to each other hadn’t helped in the past and it wouldn’t now.

Ellie: Actually, I need to be honest. I didn’t miss you at the hospital. I saw you there with some woman and I didn’t know if I should interrupt.

She chewed a fingernail and propped her feet on the coffee table, then remembered how she hated scuff marks on the coffee table. She scrubbed at the marks while she waited.

Two minutes passed. Three. Now four.

He wasn’t answering.

She rubbed her hands across her face and took a deep breath, blowing it out as she fell back against the couch, clutching the phone against her chest. She practically dropped the phone when it dinged ten minutes later.

Jason: Sorry dropped my phone in a cow stall. Had to wipe it off. Then had to punch Alex for laughing at me. Anyhow . . . Some woman?

Ellie: Blonde.

Jason: Oh, Brittany.

She read the text out loud. “Oh, Brittany?”

Jason: Hold on. Can I call?

Ellie: Sure.

Oh, Brittany. What did that mean? She stared at his name on the caller ID when the phone rang and took a deep breath. Time to find out who “Oh Brittany” was. She tapped the accept button.

“Hey.” Hearing his voice on the other end made her stomach tighten — in a good way. There was her heart, trying to override her brain again. “I didn’t want any more misunderstandings and we both know how easily that can happen in a text. Brittany works on the ambulance. She’s, well, . . . she’s Brittany. Flirts a lot. She was on a transport when she heard about the fire. She stopped by to check on me and yeah, she’s a little too hands on at times if you know what I mean.

Was he telling the truth? She wanted to believe he was. She laughed before she answered, trying to relieve the tension. “Yeah. I do know what you mean. She’s probably a lot like Judi.”

Jason winced through the phone. “Maybe not that bad. How’s she doing anyhow?”

“Wouldn’t know. I rarely see her.”

“Denny said you don’t even know why she’s here?”

“No. No idea.”

She thought about the photos of Judi and the man. Maybe her extended visit had something to do with him.

A period of silence followed before Jason spoke again.

“El, about Sunday  . . . I’m —”

The banging of the front door against the apartment wall coaxed a muffled scream from Ellie, and she stood, bracing herself for an intruder.

“Eeeeellllllleeeeeee. I’m hooooooooome.”

Ellie pressed her hand to her forehead, fear fading quickly into frustration.

“Ellie, you okay?” Jason’s voice was full of alarm. “Is that Judi?”

“Yeah. Um. I’d better go deal with her. She and I need to talk.” She held her hand over the mouthpiece of the phone. “And I think she’s drunk.”

“Sounds like I better offer up a few prayers for you too.”

“More than a few at this point.”

Her smile disappeared once she slid the end call button. She stared at her sister’s disheveled hair, untucked shirt, and dirt smudged knee-high boots.

“Oh, Ellie, you look upset.” Judi pushed her lower lip out, slamming the door behind her. “Was your Bible study canceled? Was your favorite worship song pulled out of rotation on Family Life?”

Judi must have thought her joke was super funny because she doubled over, hands on her knees, and let out a manical laugh that sent chills up Ellie’s spine.

“Enough is enough, Judi. What is going on with you? What are you even doing back in Spencer? And what is with all this going out every night and drinking?”

In an instant Judi’s laughter disappeared and she glared, her face squished in disgust. She stumbled toward the kitchen. “You’re not my mother, Ellie.”

“No, I’’m not our mother. Our mother would be heartbroken to see you this way.”

Judi opened the carton of orange juice and took a swing. “Our mother wouldn’t care because all she’s ever cared about is you, Ellie.”

Ellie shook her head, confused. “That’s not true, Judi. When did you start believing these lies you’ve been telling yourself? Mom and Dad love you. They’ve been worried about you up in the city but they wanted you to be where you were happy.” Judi scoffed as Ellie stepped toward the kitchen. “Are you?” Ellie asked. “Happy? Because you’ve seemed pretty miserable since you’ve been here.”

Judi attempted another drink of juice, but it poured from the edges, down her chin.

“I’m having fun,” she snarled. “Something you should try sometime.”

Ellie stepped quickly toward the counter and wrenched the carton from Judi’s hands. “Stop it. You’re drunk and making a mess. Go sleep it off.”

“Go sleep it off. Go sleep it off. Blah. Blah. Blah.” Judi mocked her sister, holding her hands up and making them talk like a puppet. “Don’t you ever stop trying to boss people around? Is that what happened with Jason? You bossed him around too much?”

Ellie grabbed her sister under the arm, propelling her around the island and down the hallway. “That’s enough, Judi. It’s none of your business what happened with Jason. You need to go lay down.”

Judi wrenched away, knocking Ellie backward against the wall. “I don’t need to do anything you tell me! Miss Perfect. That’s what you are.” She pointed an accusatory finger in Ellie’s direction. “Perfect daughter, perfect girlfriend, perfect Bible girl, S-s-Sunday school student, w-wh-whatever you call it. Who cares? You know? Who cares about you and you’re-you’re perfect life, Elizabeth Miss Perfect Pants. That’s been my whole life. Always trying to be like my perfect older sister. I never could be because I wasn’t as smart as her, as pretty as her, and the only thing boys ever wanted me for was to sleep with and leave me. That’s all I was ever good for.”

Ellie’s chest tightened, her rate increased. How long had her sister felt this way? That she wasn’t enough? That she was inferior?

“Judi, I’m not perfect. You never had to try to measure up to me. Mom and Dad —”

“Mom and Dad always talked about how good you were. How sweet you were. How quiet and demure you were. D-d-mmuuure. Yes, even stupid Judi knows big words.”

Emotion clutched at Ellie’s throat. The anger she’d been battling for weeks fell away, replaced by sorrow. How had she not realized how much Judi was hurting?

She’d let her own problems overshadow everything else, distract her from seeing that Judi’s biting sarcasm and attempts to start fights with her were because she was feeling rejected, maybe even abandoned.

“Judi, I’m sorry you felt that way. I never knew. Why didn’t you —”

“What? Say something? Yeah, right. You would have said none of it was true and I was listening to lies from the devil. The Devil. You blame everything on him instead of taking some of the blame yourself.” She shook her head, waving her hand back and forth in the air. “No. No. I don’t want to talk about any of this right now.” She pushed past Ellie, almost tripping. “Don’t try to apologize. I’m not going to bother you anymore. I’m going out with Brad.”

“Judi, you’re drunk. You can’t drive. How did you even get here?”

“Brad drove me here. He’s waiting for me outside. He’s sober. Not that it’s any of your business. I came in to change my outfit.”

Judi staggered into the room she was staying in and slammed the door.

Ellie raked her hand through her hair and noticed it was trembling. What if Judi was lying about Brad? She’d seen him that night at the club and she’d driven them home then, too. There was a very good chance either he or Judi were lying about how much he’d already had to drink.

Judi swung the door open and breezed past her wearing a too-tight black mini-skirt and a low cut red tank top. Knee-high boots completed the outfit.

Ellie followed her into the living room. “I’ll drive you and Brad.”

Judi swung around and stuck her tongue out like a toddler. “No.” She spoke like a toddler too, grating on Ellie’s nerves. “We don’t want you. You’re a total downer and a prude.”

Ellie took another deep breath and tried to calm the anger boiling inside her. Judi was lost and hurting. She needed compassion, not scolding. For now, anyhow.

She did her best to speak calmly and confidently, even though she didn’t feel either of those attributes at the moment. “Judi, I’ll be the designated driver, okay?” She snatched her purse off the chair. “Where are you two going? I’m sure it will be fun. I could use a night out too.”

Judi folded her arms across her chest, cocking one leg to the side, her eyes narrowing, “Oh you could, could you? Well, we’re going The Rusty Nail in Brickwood. They’re having a grand reopening. New owners. There will be alcohol. And dancing. And men. All the things you don’t like.”

Ellie tightened her grip on her purse and brushed past Judi to grab her keys off the keyholder by the door. “Come on. I’ll talk to Brad about taking my car. I’m sure he’ll agree when he knows it means he can drink as much as he wants.”

Judi smirked. “Okay, then. Fine. You can be our chauffeur. I don’t have any problem with sitting in the back with Brad.”

Ellie tightened her jaw and forced the edges of her mouth upward as she opened the front door. She tried not to think about what the pair could get up to in the backseat during the 40-minute drive to The Rusty Nail.

Tell Me More About . . . Robin W. Pearson, author

Tell Me More About . . . is a feature which focuses on every day people from a variety of walks of life who impact the world around them in big or small ways.

Robin W. Pearson is one my favorite authors and she’s only written two books. Robin, if you are reading this, I’m not only saying this about you to flatter you. I love the way you weave a story. I’m very serious.

Her debut book, A Long Time Comin’ is award winning (the Christy Award which is one of the top literary awards in Christian fiction) and she released ‘Til I Want No More earlier this year and showed she’s not a one-hit writer. She’s just finished the manuscript for her third book and I am so excited to find out what it is all about I’ve been stalking her social media for when she shares that news. Okay, I’m not really stalking her social media. I am occassionally checking in for when she makes that announcement. Anyhow, let’s get on to telling you, my readers, more about Robin.

Thank you, Robin, for agreeing to take part in this feature.

First, tell us a little bit about your background. Where are you from originally? Tell us about your family, your interests and your hobbies, any jobs you had before you were an author. 

I’m a hugger by birth, though that may have something to do with being born, raised, and educated in North Carolina. After graduating from college, I took my hugs on the road when Hubby and I settled in Massachusetts. There, I started as an admin for Houghton Mifflin Company and worked my way up to an editor before we relocated, grew our family with a few dogs and more than a few little people, and I began freelancing as a writer and editor. A few years ago, Hubby and I returned to our home state, but I’d have to use both hands to count the number of times we’ve moved up, down, ad around the East Coast.  

As a wife, writer, and a homeschooling mama of seven, I don’t have much time for my “interests and hobbies.” In a perfect world, I would read as much as I wanted, do Sudoku puzzles and crosswords, watch crime dramas, eat Chinese and Mexican food (on separate plates, mind you), and stay up late and sleep in.  

You’ve had two fiction books published in the last couple of years. Tell us what inspired you to start writing fiction? If you don’t mind, please also share what inspired your first book A Long Time Comin’ and your second book, ‘Til I Want No More. 

My family inspired me to write—the people I came from and the ones who came from me. I wanted to preserve our traditions and stories and pass them along, and one day this fictional character popped into my mind—Granny B. She took a seat on her front porch with her bushel of butter beans and commenced to telling me her story about her children and her life in Spring Hope. There was nothing I could do but write it all down, and that became my debut, A Long Time Comin’.  

A different season of life and the Biblical story of Jacob and Esau inspired ‘Til I Want No More, my second novel. Like Jacob, my main character Maxine Owens is carrying around a life-sized burden she’s run from for years. But one day, her “Esau” showed up.  

I want to use my work—both my fiction and my devotionals—to show what real faith looks like in real life and in real time.  

What advice would you give to other writers who hope to someday write a full book or simply enjoy writing in general?

Throw away your laptop and find a job as a calculus teacher. Totally less stressful. If that’s not an option then… 

  • pray and seek God for your purpose and stay true to it,  
  • don’t keep track of the rejection letters or mount the commendations on your wall,  
  • take lots of notes, and write down your ideas, no matter how strange, inconsequential, or random, 
  • write regularly, 
  • write your own story, not someone else’s. 


What hobbies do you have outside of writing? If you don’t have time for hobbies, what hobbies do you wish you had?
 

I wish I loved to exercise, but I’m persnickety enough to make myself do what I don’t want to do…sometimes. And as much as I love food, I should be able to grow it. We started a container garden, so we’ll see how that goes. Also, I think as a homeschooling mama, I should be able sew or regularly engage in some type of craft-related, useful activity, but…alas, no. While I am creative and imaginative, these fingers were made for typing, playing the piano and board games, and pressing the buttons on my remote.  



What has been the best part of being an author? 

Doing what I love amidst the people I love where I love to be. It’s a gift from the Lord. And there’s nothing like hearing from a reader that something I wrote impacted or inspired them. So grateful! 

What advice would you offer to the younger version of yourself?
“Don’t let acceptance (or lack of it) make or break you. Believe what God says about you and to you. Remember He made you exactly the way you are, fearfully and wonderfully, despite anything else you see, read, or hear. Now, quit your whining.”

Please let us know about any future projects you may have coming up and where readers can find out more about you, your books, and future projects?

I’ve recently submitted my third manuscript to my publisher, so right now I’m checking my e-mail thirty times an hour for word from my editor and resisting the urge to pepper her with “So, what do you think?” emails. This next book is set for release in Spring 2022. Currently, you can read my first and second books wherever books are sold and on the shelf of your local library. Readers can learn more about who gives me gray hair and what makes me sing at RobinWPearson.com, in my Robin’s Nest newsletter, or find me on social media using @robinwpearson.  

Tell Me More About . . . Elizabeth Maddrey, Inspy Romance Author

Welcome back to an old feature of mine, Tell Me More About . . . I’m so excited to resurrect it this week with super-succesful, Inspy Romance author-extraordinaire Elizabeth Maddrey.

Tell Me More About . . . is a feature which focuses on every day people from a variety of walks of life who impact the world around them in big or small ways.

So, let’s get to it! Welcome, Elizabeth to the blog!


Tell us a little bit about yourself such as background, where you’re from originally and now (general region is totally fine), your family, hobbies, etc.

I grew up in northern New Mexico. We moved to the DC area when I was eleven—just before sixth grade. After college and grad school and a few years with hubby in the Army, we landed back in the DC area, so at this point I feel like I have to call it home. I have a PhD in computer science and my professional life, before I became a mom, was all centered on software engineering in one form or another. That’s probably why my book heroes trend geeky – they’re my peeps and I love them. Hubby and I have been married coming up on 26 years, we have two boys (13 and 9). Hobbies include reading, crochet, and continued attempts to learn to love knitting despite the fact that it stresses me out.

When did the writing bug first bite you?

This is hard to answer! I don’t remember not writing. I’ve always loved to read and it always seemed a natural extension to write. I started getting serious about seeking publication probably eighteen years ago, but it took me another nine(?) before I had something finished that I thought was actually good enough.

What made you pursue becoming an independent author?

Honestly? I spent two years querying agents in search of that dream contract. I got fed up with the “no” that kept coming—or, more often than not, the silence (and I still get frustrated that it’s considered acceptable for agents and publishers to not even bother with a form letter to say no thank you. There are very few other places where that’s considered de rigueur. Although I say that and a lot of the big software companies are that way with resume submission. So you’d think I’d be used to it. Anyway, I did get a contract with a small press and started that way, but the owner encouraged me to go Indie because she knew I had the technical chops to handle it (and you don’t need a ton, but this was back before there were quite so many amazing tools for indies) and that it would be more beneficial for me. So I did.

What advice do you have inspiring authors, indie or otherwise?

Believe in your stories and don’t read your reviews.

What has influenced you in your writing style in your past or present?

I read. A lot. More than 200 books a year across a broad variety of genres. I know there are successful authors out there who say they aren’t readers, but I firmly believe those are the minority. Most authors are also readers.

What author comes to mind when you think of authors who have influenced you over the years?

So many. Anne McCaffrey, who was the mother of so many of my best friends in middle and high school. Elizabeth Moon for the same reasons. L.M. Montgomery. Jane Austen. Madeline L’Engle. Susanna Kearsley. Nora Roberts.

What future projects do you have planned that you would like my readers to know about?

This summer, I have a six-book sorta-billionaire romance series that’s coming out, one book each month through October. And I feel the eye rolls, I do, but I love these stories. I’m so, SO pleased with how they turned out and I hope that readers give them a try and love them as much as I do. The series is called So You Want to be a Billionaire.

How many books have you penned since starting your career?

I have 36 out right now, but if you count all the Billionaires which are written but not released yet, it’s an even 40.

How would you define your writing style? Pantser? Plotter? Share with my readers a little about your writing process, if you don’t mind.

I’m definitely a pantser. Part of what took me so long to finish a book I thought was worthy of trying to have published was that I spent a ton of time doing it the way you’re “supposed to.” I read so many craft books. I made outlines, timelines, character interviews. I cut out magazine photos of people who could be the characters (the Internet was still a baby and I didn’t always want to use the dial up). I found outfits in clothing catalogs. And I hated all of it. I had all this information for the story and by the time I was done doing “what you had to do,” I was over the story. I didn’t want to write any of it. It wasn’t until I gave myself permission to just sit down and let the story come as it did that I was able to write and finish and love the process. So now that’s what I do. I generally have a vague idea of what the story is, but other than that, it’s a blank page and a timer and writing sprints.

Where can readers connect with you online and otherwise?

For non-interactive information, my website: http://www.ElizabethMaddrey.com

For more interaction (which I love!) there’s Facebook: http://www.Facebook.com/ElizabethMaddrey

And Instagram http://www.Instagram.com/ElizabethMaddrey

And if you sign up for my monthly-ish newsletter on my website, there are two free books as thank yous, so I know I always like that as a reader.