Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Luther and Katharina by Jody Hedlund - Book Review

Good, clean-read books are sometimes hard to come by. Good, clean-read, historical books are even more difficult to find. But good, clean-read, historical, romance books that teach and keep you turning the pages are nearly impossible to put your hands on. However, I found an author who has done this time and time again. Jody Hedlund’s novels never disappoint.

When I was asked by her publicist if I would read her latest book Luther and Katharina and review it, I was more than happy to do so because I knew I was in for not only a little romance, but a true learning experience about people in history who did so very much for Christianity.

Martin Luther was a man of great courage and sacrifice. He was persecuted for what he believed, but that didn’t stop him from doing what he felt God had called him to do: condemn cloistered life and promote the goodness of marriage. In the sixteenth century, his writings helped to awaken many and brought sweeping reformation to the Catholic church. Many people have heard of this noble man and all that he did to help Christians, but they haven’t heard about the woman he fell in love with and married. Their love was tested in many ways before and even after they were man and wife.

Who was the woman behind this great man? Her name was Katharina von Bora. She was the daughter of a noble knight so burdened with debt that he placed her in a convent. Katharina became a a nun, but upon reading Martin’s writings promoting the goodness of marriage she wanted something more. Katharina and a few of the other nuns in the Abby decided to escape the convent.

As Luther and Katharina’s story begins the reader feels Katharine’s fears as she and her friends flee. When they finally reach safety behind the walls of the Black Cloister where Martin Luther lives, they are awakened to the reality of their plight: excommunication and persecution. However if they found themselves husbands or homes of employ they would be spared. Luther promises to help them. Of course, being a titled woman, Katharina doesn’t realize the difficult situation she and the other women have put Luther in and begins making demands for their needs. This doesn’t set well with him, and so the sparks of their romance are kindled.

Luther and Katharina is a wonderful, suspenseful, romantic journey of learning what bravery was like for people devoted to what they believed. With all the turmoil in our modern times, it’s a story well worth reading.

You can buy this new novel at your local book store.
You can also buy it through Amazon.

I was given a ARC of this book to review, but I reviewed it because I loved the novel.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Star Struck

Here's the cover for my new novel due to hit stores in February 2016. 
Isn't it gorgeous?

Here's what the story is about.

Mercedes Grant is known to the world as Stormy Ryan, action hero. Her movie-star status has led to some unpleasant interactions in the past, and even a few stalkers, but none has ever come close enough to her to seem dangerous—until now. When she receives a death threat on her personal cell phone, she is understandably shaken. Seizing the opportunity to take some time away from the limelight while the police investigate the phone call, Mercedes escapes to her remote cabin near Idaho’s Snake River. She knows it is the perfect place to lie low, but she doesn’t realize how low she’ll actually feel once she arrives. After days of suffering from a cold she just can’t shake, Mercedes visits the town physician, Luke Parker. The handsome doctor, a fan of the stunning celebrity, performs the necessary tests and is devastated at the unexpected diagnosis he must give her. Mercedes is sick—really sick. He knows she can handle crazy fans, but the news he has to give is another story. As Mercedes struggles to come to terms with her new future, she relies on Luke’s support. But neither imagines the disease is the only danger Mercedes is facing—because just out of view, someone is watching her and is determined to make good on their threat.

This novel was pure magic to write. 
The characters seemed to write the story for me. 
All I had to do was sit in my chair and turn on the computer. 

Well, not really, but I certainly enjoyed myself working on it.


Thursday, August 20, 2015

Remembering the Joy of Christmas

I'm thrilled to have a story in the Christmas book my publisher is releasing this year. All the stories are true and inspiring for the holidays.

I know this is very early, but before you know it the holidays will be here.

I actually can't wait. Christmas is my favorite time of the year followed closely by fall. Autumn is so awesome. I mean, what's not to like: cooler weather, pumpkin bagels, trick or treats, and pilgrims.

Not that I haven't enjoyed summer. We just came back from an amazing vacation to the San Juan Islands. I got a ton of research for a new book idea. Can hardly wait to dive into plotting.

But first I need to finish the edits to my next novel, Star Struck, which is due to be released in February 2016 (more info to come) and I'm close to finishing my current WIP. AND for those who have asked many times about the sequel to The Forgotten Warrior I should have an answer any day now. I'm keeping my fingers cross.

It's all good.

I hope all has been well with you and yours this summer.


Thursday, June 11, 2015

Hearts Made Whole by Jody Hedlund - Review

Lighthouses have a mystic about them and when you mix that with a wonderful romance story it's pure bliss. And so it is with Jody Hedlund’s new novel, Hearts Made Whole.

Here is the back-cover blurb:

After her father's death, Caroline Taylor has grown confident running the Windmill Point Lighthouse. But in 1865 Michigan, women aren't supposed to have such roles, so it's only a matter of time before the lighthouse inspector appoints a new keeper--even though Caroline has nowhere else to go and no other job available to her.

 Ryan Chambers is a Civil War veteran still haunted by the horrors of battle. He's secured the position of lighthouse keeper mostly for the isolation--the chance to hide from his past is appealing. He's not expecting the current keeper to be a feisty and beautiful woman who's angry with him for taking her job and for his inability to properly run the light. When his failings endanger others, he and Caroline realize he's in no shape to run the lighthouse, but he's unwilling to let anyone close enough to help. Caroline feels drawn to this wounded soul, but with both of them relying on that single position, can they look past their loss to a future filled with hope . . . and possibly love?

While this blurb is good, it doesn't begin to tell the depth and scope of the story and the characters. Because of her father's death, Caroline takes on the great burden of raising her siblings: Tessa, a sister who is only a few years younger than Caroline; Sarah, the sister who is an invalid; and her trouble-finding twin brothers, Harry and Hugh. Caroline's biggest flaw is she’s always thinking of others before herself. And it's not because she's been forced to. She worries about everyone, even Ryan, a man who drowns his troubles with alcohol and pain medicine. She sees him as a man with a shadowed past and suffering with great sorrow.

Ryan, though damaged by the war, desperately wants to right the wrongs in his past. To do this he needs the lighthouse job or otherwise he'd just leave, so Caroline could keep the post. He also learns that even if he were to leave, his boss would hire someone else because he believes only a man should hold such a job (makes you glad we live in this day and age, doesn't it?).

As always, Jody delivers a gripping fictional story based on real lives and places. If you enjoy tender love scenes served with a hint of mystery you will love this book.

 Jody did an interview where she answered some of the most asked questions about this book and also how she juggles being a full-time writer with being a mom of five busy children. Here are a few of the questions she answered.

How do you manage to balance your life as a full time author and a mom to five busy children?

It’s definitely not easy to manage my busy household of five children and squeeze in time for writing. But fortunately my husband is very helpful and pitches in to help wherever possible. We really work together as a team to support each other in our pursuits and work.

For example, when he’s home he often takes over the household responsibilities, runs kids to activities, and pitches in with homeschooling so that I can have concentrated blocks of time to write.

We’ve also simplified our home life and outside commitments as much as possible. We expect our children to shoulder responsibilities around the home. And last, but certainly not least, I rely upon my mom for lots of help too. She helps homeschool, cook meals, and even runs my kids to activities.

Do you do a lot of research for your novels? Do you do it before, in the middle, or after you write your novel?

Since I write historicals, research is an integral part of my writing process. I usually spend anywhere between 4-6 weeks on initial research, reading biographies, getting a feel for the time period, and digging into the meat that will comprise the plot of my book.

Once I start writing the first draft, I have to stop from time to time to do a little more research, particularly if I switch settings within the story. But usually, if I don’t know something, I’ll highlight it and then do more research during my editing phase.

How did you come up with the idea for Hearts Made Whole?

Historical textbooks are full of stories about men like George Washington, Thomas Edison, Andrew Carnegie, and so many more. And while such men are truly remarkable, all too often their stories overshadow equally courageous and remarkable women. One of my goals as an author is to help bring forgotten women of the past to life.

 In the Beacons of Hope series, I’m focusing on historical women light keepers who have often been kept in the dark by the more prominent stories of their male counterparts.

As I researched for writing a lighthouse series, I came across a fantastic book called, Ladies of the Lights: Michigan Women in the U.S. Lighthouse Service. The book is a tribute to the approximately 50 or so women who served either as primary or assistant keepers in Michigan Lighthouses.

 I based the heroine in Hearts Made Whole on one of those women light keepers. It’s my hope to bring her and the other women keepers out of the historical shadows and into the spotlight.

Knowing that you based Hearts Made Whole on one of the women light keepers, can you tell us which one?

The woman light keeper in Hearts Made Whole is inspired by Caroline Antaya. Caroline lived at the Mamajuda Lighthouse on the Detroit River a short distance away from Windmill Point Lighthouse.

Caroline’s husband served with honor in the Union army during the Civil War, losing several fingers on his hand at Gettysburg. Eventually after returning from the war, her husband was named as keeper of the Mamajuda Lighthouse, but he passed away of tuberculosis.

Part of what really impressed me about Caroline Antaya’s situation was that she had been doing a fantastic job as a light keeper. But the district lighthouse inspector trumped up charges against her saying that she was in ill-health and incompetent. He took away her position simply because she was a woman and gave it to a man instead. Fortunately her community rose to her defense and enlisted the help of a Michigan Senator to help her get her position back and she went on to serve as a light keeper for another three years.

In those days, when women were regularly discriminated against because of gender. Caroline’s story is inspirational and an encouragement to persevere in the face of injustice. I admire Caroline’s will to stand up for herself and to pave the way for women coming after her to use their God-given talents and abilities in roles and jobs that had previously been closed to women.

You also like to base your villains on real Michigan criminals. Who inspired the villain in Hearts Made Whole?

The villain of Hearts Made Whole is Stephen Simmons, a real rogue from the pages of Michigan history. While he lived in the early 1800’s in the decades before the Civil War, I used this villain as the basis for Mr. Simmons in the book. He had a tavern outside of Detroit and was a Goliath-of-a-man. At first he gave the impression of being cultured and educated. But once people got to know him, they realized what a brute he really was.

The community where Simmons lived grew to fear him because when he was under influence of alcohol, he searched out his enemies, picked fights, and inflicted painful beatings. Eventually he killed his wife in a drunken rage.

What do you hope readers take away from Hearts Made Whole?

Readers familiar with my books will know that I’m not afraid to tackle really tough issues. That’s especially true in Hearts Made Whole. Since the hero is coming home as a Civil War veteran, he’s facing some post-traumatic stress as well as debilitating war wounds that leave him addicted to his pain medicine.

At the same time the heroine is struggling to act as both father and mother to her four siblings while holding down a job as light keeper. She has the overwhelming job of trying to take care of everyone and everything while always remaining strong.

Both characters come to a point where they recognize they can’t face all of their overwhelming troubles on their own and cry out to God their desperate need for Him. I hope that readers will take away a desire to turn to God in their most desperate need too and know that He is there waiting to comfort and help them.

Now you can see why I love Jody's books. Not only does she take you on a wonderful adventure, but she fills them with flawed characters who learn to overcome their challenges by leaning on God.

Jody is celebrating the release of Hearts Made Whole with a Facebook party where you can chat with Jody and she is also having a beach giveaway. Talk about awesomeness!

Here’s info on the Giveaway.

And here’s info on the Facebook Party.

Hearts Made Whole was published by Bethany House. I received a copy of this book to review, but I reviewed it because I loved the story.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

3 Things I Do to Help My Writing

Grandson working on his secret to writing.

Many people have asked what my daily writing routine is like. I think they are looking for some secret that will help their writing. I believe that secret is different for every person, but if it will help someone I’ll share three things that I do in general to help my writing: treat writing like a business, take productive criticism, and make time for family and church.

1) Treat writing like a business . . . 
Many would-be writers nod their heads and say, yeah I do that. But do they? Do they get up every morning, shower, put on makeup or for guys shave, and go to work? Okay some of the perks of being a writer is working in your jammies with pillow hair. I hear you. And yes, I have done that especially when I’m up against a deadline. However, I must admit my most productive days are when I show up at my keyboard ready to work. For me, that means showered, dressed, and makeup on. 

Also, you need to put the hours in, you know, clock in so to speak. Working more than just eight hours a day is pretty much the norm when a writer has a deadline, edits, and promotion all at the same time on several different books. It happens. 

So treat your writing like a business, because that’s what it is for a writer. 

 2) Take productive criticism . . .  
 This is very important. Your writing will become much stronger if you learn how to take productive criticism. At first criticism feels like a personal attack, and sometimes, it can turn out that way. Some critics can become mean-spirited and have personal vendettas that have nothing to do with you or your writing, but everything do to with making themselves feel superior. Don’t listen to those people. 

Find a group who has your best interests at heart, and also, who are better writers. The reason I say that is, better writers will make you grow. I’ve been part of a writers/critique group for many years. And yes, most of them are better writers than I am. Still I try my best to learn from them. There have been days when I have come home from group wondering why I wanted to become a writer because I have felt pretty bruised by their critiques. But then I sleep on it, and when I feel ready, I look at their comments again and many times they are right. However, sometimes when I need something crucial to happen in my story that they disagree with, I’ll tell my group, “Help me find a way to make this happen.” And then the ideas start flowing which usually sparks a solution to my dilemma. 

So learn to take productive criticism and use what your story needs. 

3) Make time for family and church . . . 
I’ve always tried to make time for my family and have written with an open door policy, but then life happens, deadlines loom, and pretty soon your family starts to feel left out. I try hard to make my writing schedule coordinate with family events. It can be difficult especially when unexpected health problems crop up just before a deadline, but being able to stop writing to help someone is one of the perks of being a writer. (This is a good reason to work with a story outline and jot down notes as you write so when you have to stop, you can start again without losing too much time.) Being there for those you love is important, as is serving in your church.

I remember when I first published and was feeling a bit overwhelmed. I thought of resigning my church calling because between writing and my family there wasn’t much time left. A wise person advised me to always make time for family and service to others. It hasn’t always been easy, but it’s been well worth it. I’ve learned compassion and understanding through church service and my family, and both have helped my writing immensely. 

So make time for family and church because in the long run you’ll never regret it. 

There you have it, the three things I do to help my writing. They aren’t iron clad and I’m always looking for ways to improve. What do you do to help your writing?


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