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One of the best books I’ve read in a while, When Mountains Sing will live in my mind and heart for a long time.

Mikayla Gordon has always known who she is: an outdoorsy woman who prefers hiking and fishing to anything girlie. Although these interests have not helped her to fit in, she has maintained a strong determination to follow her dreams.

Then a long-hidden truth reveals that she has no idea who she is, that everything she believed about herself and her family is false. She is on the verge of losing it all, but instead of giving up, she sets out to find answers.

Running away from the present, looking for truth from the past, Mikayla ends up at an outdoor camp in the Rocky Mountains, and for once in her life, she fits in. When she listens carefully, she can hear the mountains sing.

On the journey to find her identity, Mikayla discovers many things about herself and others, besides facts that bring more pain. Can this mosaic of revelations work together to bring her closure and peace? She can’t remain hidden in this haven forever, especially with her twin sister’s wedding coming up. And what will she do with her strong attraction to Dawson Dunne?

What I liked most about this story is the theme that “Blood isn’t the only thing that makes a family.” (Location 857) “…family means working together toward a common goal, depending on each other, sharing daily life.” (Location 1416) Can this be true for Mikayla and her family? And what of the faith in God she sees all around her at the outdoor camp?

I found the characters strong and individual, each clearly delineated and purposed through theme and plot. The intensity of this story is eased somewhat by the presence of Lula, a small but mighty Chihuahua/Papillon puppy who joins Mikayla on her journey and brings joy into the chaos.

The tale moves along quickly, and it’s almost impossible to put down. The writing is tight and strong, pulling all the necessary elements together a weaving them into a memorable tapestry. This is the first book I’ve read by Stacy Monson, but I will be looking for more. Also, check out the Mosaic Collection of authors for more compelling Christian fiction.

Author Stacy Monson

P.S. When you’ve read this book, listen to the song, You Say, by Lauren Daigle. It fits the theme so beautifully, as noted by the book’s author.

Stacy Monson is the award-winning author of The Chain of Lakes series, including Shattered Image, Dance of Grace, and The Color of Truth. Her stories reveal an extraordinary God at work in ordinary life. Residing in the Twin Cities, she is the wife of a juggling, unicycling physical education teacher, and a proud mom, and doting grandma.

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We hear a lot these days about having a bucket list, ever since the movie with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson came out in 2007. Many people have long lists of things they want to see, do and experience before they die.

I was thinking about that the other day as I sat on my sofa, basking in the leaf-filtered sunlight pouring in through my patio doors. I think I’ve had a subconscious bucket list before it was a thing.

As a young girl, one of my dreams (I suppose a “dream” can pass as a bucket list item) was to marry a man who loved me.

Check. Almost 44 years later we’re still enjoying married life!

Having lived in basic bungalow style homes throughout my childhood, I always wanted to live in an old two-storey home.

Check. The one we’re living in now is the second of two.

One of the books I read as a child featured a house where every bedroom included an ensuite. Wow!

Nope. As Mark Twain said, “You can’t have everything. Where would you put it?”

As a child, I would lie in bed and dream of having a tree that leaned over the house and peeked into the second-floor window.

Check. A large birch tree leans protectively over my patio. (My dream did not include all the detritus this beloved tree sprinkles on the table and chairs much of the year.)

And wouldn’t it be lovely to have vines growing up the side of the house?

Check. Hops current cling to the rail fence, and Virginia Creepers grace part of the east wall of our house, and have totally taken over the south side of the garden shed.

These are a few examples of retro-bucketing.

You could also call it acknowledging God’s blessings.

Without my asking Him, God has graced my life with many beautiful and lovely things and people. I’m so thankful for these blessings and how they have enriched my life. I don’t have anything against a bucket list, a lineup of things still to be experienced, but in the anticipation of these oft-lofty goals, I don’t want to lose sight of all the things God has already gifted me.

If you were to make a retro-bucket list, what are some of the things that would be on it?

 

 

 

 

Today, I’m excited to introduce you to Linore Rose Burkard. I read some of her work, then signed up to do an ARC review of her latest novel, Forever, Lately. I thought, why not make a deal? I write a review for Linore, and she does an interview for me. Thanks, Linore, for taking time to answer a few questions about your writing/writing life.

JAN: Hi Linore. How long have you been writing and how did you come to it?

LINORE: I started writing at age nine after reading My Side of the Mountain. The story, inwhich a young boy is able to live by himself in peace on a mountainside, coupled with the ways he learned to survive, thrilled me. I immediately wrote a copycat novel with myself as the protagonist. Unfortunately, I didn’t recognize this as an inkling that I was meant to write; even in college, since I worked full time and wasn’t certain I could ace a creative writing class, I never took one. I majored in English Literature, but didn’t take creative writing out of fear. Only God would turn that girl around to make her a fiction writer!

JAN: What’s your preferred genre?

LINORE: Though I am a multi-genre author, I think my favorite is Regency romance. My contemporary novels seem to center on more serious themes, so there’s no fun like Regency fun. Ever since I stumbled upon Georgette Heyer and Marion Chesney in my twenties, I’ve loved that time period and the sometime madcap humor it supports.

JAN: Ahh. I certainly see humor in Forever, Lately. Tell us, why do you write?

LINORE: I think all (Christian) writers suffer from a mixture of motives along the lines of, ‘I write because I’m called to write, because God has gifted me for it.’ AND, ‘I write because I can’t help it. I can’t stop.’ While there are times in life when we can get more writing done and times when we’re too busy with family, or ministry, or just plain life, a writer will always return to the blank page. I could no more give up writing entirely than give up breathing, and to some degree, I think that’s universal for creatives, whatever their given sphere. (On a less noble vein, I also write because it’s fun. When a work isn’t making me pull my hair out, I’m loving it.)

JAN: How and where do you write?

LINORE: I can write just about anywhere. I wrote my first book mostly in one room, a basement bedroom in our house on Long Island. But I also scribbled scenes while my toddler son crawled across my lap upstairs, or in the car while Mike drove us somewhere we had to go. Since then, I have written each book in different places as my office space has changed with the needs of the family. When my oldest daughter left for college, her room became my office. When she came back, I moved upstairs. Later, I had a room at one end of the house, but then my husband started working from home and he needed it. I’ve worked on books from the sofa, from a temporary desk, on writing retreats, and in someone else’s house in order to escape home distractions. I’ve camped out in a coffee shop for hours and done writing. For me, it isn’t the space that matters most, but simply focusing on the work. I strongly prefer quieter places, but if there’s one advantage of growing up in a family with eight children, it’s that you learn to zone out noise!

JAN: Wow, that’s focus! Are you a plotter or a pantser?

LINORE: I wish with all my heart that I could say I’m a plotter. I do start every book with a good idea of where it’s going and how it must end. Aside from that, I’m a dyed-in-the-wool pantser. I may have a vague idea of what the villain or major obstacles will be, but nothing too concrete. I admire plotters. I think their method is superior in terms of efficiency. But I find that the more I write even without detailed outlining, I waste less time writing unnecessary scenes. I think I’ve grown an inner sense of what’s needed and what isn’t. And it’s not something that can easily be taught. Once, during a stressful week of college, the Lord graciously gave me an outline. I mean that, word for word. It was for a paper that was coming due. And I got enormous praise from my professor for the resulting paper, the easiest one I ever wrote. (He called it “Brilliant” and other wonderful things. He was actually excited by it.) Besides learning how much God cared for me and how he knows everything, that experience taught me that GOD IS AN OUTLINER! Unfortunately, I still can’t write good outlines and stick to them.

JAN: We do what works for us. Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

LINORE: I see many, many first drafts of newer writers who don’t realize that what they’ve got is only a first draft. I wish all writers understood that nearly all books go through edits, and the newer the writer, the more editing is likely needed. Too often, with the ease of self-publishing today, a writer is excited to “finish” a story and they rush to publish it. If you are a newer writer, my advice is to find three people who do NOT love you, and have them read your work and give you feedback. And hire an editor with experience. The retired school teacher, though she taught English, is not equivalent to an experienced book editor. Your book took a lot of work. Now give it the professional touch it deserves with good editing and manuscript preparation.

JAN: Great advice. Thanks so much for spending time with us today, and all the best on your future writing.

Website: http://www.LinoreBurkard.com

Bio: Linore Rose Burkard is a serious watcher of period films. She wrote a trilogy of regency romances“for the Jane Austen Soul,” which opened the genre for the CBA. Now a multi-genre author, including a YA/Suspense Pulse Effex Series written as L.R. Burkard, Linore is also the founder of Lilliput Press, where  “little dreams become books.”  Raised in NYC, she graduated magna cum laudefrom City University. Now living in Ohio, she juggles family life with homeschooling, editing, novel writing, and publishing. She is Vice President of the Dayton Christian Scribes, and a Regional Director of CAN, Christian Authors Network.

“Heartwarming Regency Romance”
“Gripping Suspense”
Let’s Connect!

Linore’s latest time-travel romance, Forever, Latelyis available NOW  on  Amazon.

August 2019 New Releases

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Contemporary Romance:

The Butterfly Recluse by Therese Heckenkamp — Lila finds solace in her sheltered world by raising butterflies and surrounding herself with their gentle beauty. They’re all she needs—until a motorcycle-riding stranger roars up her driveway, invading her safe haven, throwing her life off-kilter, and forcing her to question everything. What exactly is he after, and what is he not telling her? In one intense night of desperation and revelation, Lila must confront her darkest fears—and hopefully discover that with faith and courage, shattered dreams can be restored, damaged hearts can love again, and broken wings can heal . . . maybe even fly. (Contemporary Romance from Ivory Tower Press)

A Glitter of Gold by Liz Johnson — Anne Norris moved to Savannah, Georgia, for a fresh start. Now her pirate-tour business is flagging and paying the rent requires more than wishful thinking. When she discovers evidence of a shipwreck off the coast of Tybee Island, she knows it could be just the boon she needs to stay afloat. She takes her findings to local museum director Carter Hale for confirmation, but things do not go as planned. Carter is fascinated with the wreck, the discovery of which could open the door to his dream job at a prestigious museum. But convincing Anne to help him fill in the missing pieces of the puzzle is no easy task. And working with Carter means that Anne will have to do the one thing she swore she’d never do again: trust a man. (Contemporary Romance from Revell-A Division of Baker Publishing Group)

Hometown Healing by Jennifer Slattery — She’s home again, but not for long… Unless this cowboy recaptures her heart Returning home with a baby in tow, Paige Cordell’s determined her stay is only temporary. But to earn enough money to leave, she needs a job—and her only option is working at her first love’s dinner theater. With attraction once again unfurling between her and Jed Gilbertson, can the man who once broke her heart convince her to stay for good? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

General Contemporary/Women’s Fiction:

Grace in Deep Waters by Christine Dillon — William Macdonald is at the pinnacle of his career. Pastor of a growing megachurch and host of a successful national radio programme. Clever and respected, he’s a man with everything, including a secret. His wife has left him and he can’t risk anyone finding out. Blanche Macdonald is struggling. Her once rock-solid marriage is showing cracks. She promised to love her husband for better or for worse, but does loving always mean staying? Blanche desires to put God first. Not William. Not her daughter. Not herself. When is a marriage over? When do you stand and fight? (Women’s Fiction, Independently Published)

When Mountains Sing by Stacy Monson — Mikayla Gordon loves nothing more than sleeping under the stars, reeling in the “big one,” and long hikes in the wilderness. A medical crisis reveals a 30-year-old secret that turns everything she’s known and believed upside down, unraveling her dreams and her identity. In search of answers, she follows a trail from Minnesota to Colorado and discovers more unwelcome secrets even as she falls in love with the majestic beauty of the Rocky Mountains, and a wilderness camp leader who shares the greatest secret of all. Knowing her life can never go back to what it was, she must make decisions that will impact far more than just her future. (Contemporary from His Image Publications)

All In by L. K. Simonds — Cami Taylor: a blackjack dealer, a bestselling author, and a fraud. Cami’s boyfriend, Joel, loves her in spite of her flaws. He wants to marry her, buy a house on Long Island, and raise a family–a life that’s a million miles from Cami’s idea of happiness. Her therapist suggests compromise and trust, but Cami bolts like a deer. She breaks off the relationship and launches on a new quest for happiness, not knowing that a nasty surprise waits around the corner. What follows is a fight to the death. Who will be the one left standing? (Contemporary from Morgan James Fiction)

Historical:

Finding Lady Enderly by Joanna Davidson Politano — A rag girl accepts an invitation to become the lady she’s always dreamed of being, but some dreams turn out to be nightmares. (Historical from Revel – A Division of Baker Publishing Group)

Historical Romance:

Lady and the Lawman by Crystal L. Barnes, Vickie McDonough, Annette OHare, and Kathleen Y’Barbo — Four historic stories of lawmen and the ladies who love them. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

The Farmer’s Daughter by Mary Davis, Kelly Eileen Hake, Tracie J. Peterson, Jill Stengl, and Susan May Warren — Enjoy five historical novels by some of Christian fiction’s bestselling authors. Meet daughters of prairie farms from Montana south to Kansas who find love in the midst of turbulent life changes. Marty’s nieces are kidnapped. Rosalind’s town is overrun by a railroad company. Amy’s jealousy comes between her and her twin. Beulah’s answer is needed to a marriage proposal. Lilly’s choice puts her at odd with her neighbors. Into each of their lives rides a man who may only make their situations worse. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

The Cowboys by Sandra Merville Hart, Cindy Ervin Huff, Jennifer Uhlarik, and Linda W. Yezak — Taming the West–one heart at a time. Healing Heart: A physically scarred cowboy finds solace with a ranch girl who is hiding from her past. Becoming Brave: A cattle drover wants to get his boss’s heard safely through Indian Territory…as soon he figures out why a bloodstained woman is holding a gun on him. Trails End: Waiting for his boss’s cattle to sell, a cowboy takes a kitchen job at a restaurant where the beautiful and prickly owner adds spice to his workday. Loving a Harvey Girl: To improve the local preacher’s opinion of career women, a Harvey Girl makes it her mission to redeem a wayward cowboy, but finds herself longing for a husband, hearth, and home. (Historical Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

Lost in the Storm by Tamera Lynn Kraft — Lavena, a journalist during the Civil War, wants to become a war correspondent. She finally gets her chance, but there’s a catch. She has to get an interview from a war hero who has refused to tell his story to every other journalist, and she has to accomplish this impossible task in a month or she’ll lose her job. Captain Cage, the war hero, has a secret that will destroy his military career and reputation. Now, a new journalist wants him to reveal what he’s been hiding. He’d prefer to ignore her, but from the moment she came into camp, he can’t get her out of his mind. Leading up to the turbulent Battles for the city of Chattanooga, will Lavena and Cage find the courage to love and forgive, or will they be swept away by their past mistakes that don’t want to stay buried? (Historical Romance from Mt Zion Ridge Press)

Love’s Allegiance by Linda Shenton Matchett — Inspired by the biblical love story of Rebekkah and Isaac, Love’s Allegiance explores the struggles and sacrifices of those whose beliefs were at odds with a world at war. (Historical Romance from Shortwave Press)

The Brightest Hope by Naomi Musch — Five years after the Great War, Holly Allen is a well-adjusted war widow with a knack for running the family press. She’s over the days of waiting for a white knight to ride in and sweep her away from her cares. Besides, if Hugh Phelps is a knight, he’s certainly a black one—with his prison record, personal demons, and the ghosts of war that haunt him. When Holly hires Hugh, despite her reservations, it isn’t long before she sees the man he could really be, and as Hugh finds his niche at Allen’s Printing, he finds his lady boss equally appealing. Despite the attraction, however, Holly won’t let herself fall for a faithless man, and Hugh isn’t on gracious terms with God. Then, just when new beginnings seem possible, old heartaches from the war come calling. Now it might only be in letting go of everything dear that they both discover what real love is. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

Annabelle’s Joy by Betty Thomason Owens — She’s waited too long. When Tom proposed last year, Annabelle wasn’t ready to open her heart to another man. Pain still held a thin crust around it. Time has healed her heart, but with a new woman in town, one who clearly has her sights set on Tom, does it matter if Annabelle’s heart is ready to love again? Folks in town are keeping a close eye on their pharmacist, hoping to be the first to hear the good news. He’s been courting the widow Cross for nigh on two years now. Annabelle Cross better wake up and put her dancing shoes on. Mr. Tom is prime real estate. (Historical Romance from Write Integrity Press)

Mystery/Cozy Mystery:

Hidden Secrets by Janet Sketchley — When an online vendetta against the Green Dory Inn escalates to physical threats, a cryptic message about a tunnel points to the property’s original owner, a notorious Prohibition-era sea captain rumoured to have left hidden wealth. (Mystery, Independently Published)

Murder at Rendsburg Resort by C. L. Wells — Trapped in a remote resort with a killer on the loose, the body count piling up, and no one else to save them, mystery writer Jill Pemberton must help find the killer before they claim their next victim. (Cozy Mystery, Independently Published)

Romantic Suspense:

Two Steps Forward by Luana Ehrlich — When CIA operative Titus Ray has an unexpected encounter with a Jihadi terrorist while he and Nikki are on their honeymoon in Morocco, he assumes it’s a coincidence, but when they travel to Israel for the second half of their honeymoon and encounter him again, he takes action, which takes him to Baghdad to prevent the assassination of a high-profile government official. (Romantic Suspense, Independently Published)

Edge of Truth by Kimberly Rose Johnson — The DEA sends two of its best agents, Kara Nelson and Jeff Clark, to Central Oregon, to shut down a major drug ring. Kara and Jeff usually work alone, but Operation Trail Ride throws them undercover together in a way neither of them expected. A notorious Miami drug lord wants Kara dead. Can these agents pull off the greatest acting job of their lives—and manage the sparks flying between them? Or will they die trying? (Romantic Suspense, Independently Published)

Speculative:

Redemption by Jacques R. Pye — Sterling Newman and Armena Sandal face death as they struggle to help the Alesandrans and the Kirilleans combat a force seeking the destruction of both worlds. (Speculative, Independently Published)

Young Adult:

Shards of Light by Susan Miura — Sometimes the pieces of a shattered dream can transform into something extraordinary. (Young Adult from Vinspire Publishing)

(NOTE: Possibly some early-story spoilers.)

I found Home Front to be a riveting novel about hopes, failures and new beginnings. A wife and mother is deployed to Iran, where her helicopter is shot down. While she’s away, her husband realizes what she means to him, but when she returns home broken in many ways, they must learn to cope or lose everything they’ve lived for.

This novel reaches into lives torn by war, separation and marital conflict. It also focuses on the reality of PTSD and how it affects the victim, the family, and others around them.

I am neither American nor military-minded, but I believe this novel is important for the reasons stated, and readable because of the skill of the author in presenting real characters who are far from perfect, who disappoint themselves and others, who don’t have the resources to fight their problems on their own.

Home Front is a novel of struggle and hope, an excellent read/listen.

It’s raspberry picking time again at my place on the Canadian prairies. The bushes are full this year, thanks to June rains after a very dry spring.

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If you’ve ever picked raspberries, have you noticed that after a rain they are harder to pull off the stem? Some innate force makes them tighten up so the rain doesn’t wash them off.

As I was picking and thinking about this, verses from John 15 popped into my mind: “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine…I am the vine; you are the branches… apart from me you can do nothing” John 15:4-5.

Those of us who follow Christ are to remain dependent on the Vine, holding on tightly. When storms come, we are to tighten our grip even more.

Such a simple analogy but so important in our lives. We need the nourishment provided by the Vine, that is, Christ, and so we hold fast to Him.

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I’m thankful for this example from nature of how to live in the strength of God. May you also remain in the Vine as you go through your peaceful times as well as your storms.

Recently, some friends, bison ranchers, shared an interesting story they’d heard about these animals.

These massive beasts that used to freely roam the plains of North America, sustaining the indigenous peoples, are now being raised on ranches, but they are not tame.

John Stanley painting
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According to our friends, bison, or buffalo, as we used to call them, have never really been domesticated. They can be contained in strong, tall fences, can be shipped for sale—if they want to be loaded—but they are not compliant, nor can they be trusted. Owners cannot help with calving, and treating an animal is tricky.

The story they shared with us involved a female bison who needed to be treated for some ailment. A veterinarian had been called, and had shot a tranquilizer dart into the animal. She eventually fell to her knees but did not go down. The vet prepared to use another dart, because a bison that is not completely down is definitely not out.

Before the vet could fire his second shot, two more cows came alongside the tranquilized animal, one on each side, and drew close to her, effectively shielding her from the veterinarian. As a team, they pushed her to her feet and guided her forward. As she moved, the sedative wore off and became useless.

I was captivated by this picture of support.

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How often do we feel alone? How often do I see someone else who is suffering alone? Our responsibility, as children of God, is to come alongside and lift each other up. Guide the suffering one forward. Encourage by our presence.

Let’s keep this picture in our mind’s eye and try to remember to lift up those who are in need.

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