Friday, December 29, 2017

Best of 2017

via Pixabay
This year has been a feast of reason. This post, however haltingly, is an attempt to look back on it all.

I read more books than I expected to (full list coming next week). And it's interesting to look back and remember the circumstances surrounding some of them. No More Faking Fine was begun on a night of distressed soul earlier in the year. August found me flipping through the gripping pages of Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry while being driven past miles of Canadian fields. The famous trial in To Kill a Mockingbird was read in the family van during a day with morning and afternoon church services. The Blue Castle was read on my bed on a leisurely Saturday.

One of the themes winding through this year was just how much enjoyment I found in modern authors. I love classics so much, but historical fiction like Johnnie Alexander's WW2 drama Where Treasure Hides, Stephanie Morrill's 1920s mystery Lost Girl of Astor Street, and Joanne Bischof's 1800s circus tale The Lady and the Lionheart, provided a wealth of intrigue, character personalities I adored, and quality storytelling that provided much joy as I read them.

And another really cool theme for this year? The Reformation 500! While I haven't featured those books on my list below, Erwin Lutzer's Rescuing the Gospel and J.H. Alexander's Ladies of the Reformation helped me mark the occasion. I'm also almost through Michelle DeRusha's Katharina and Martin Luther--learning about Martin and Katie's marriage was truly a delight this year.

Those things have been mind-enriching and soul feeding. But there was one more cool thing--and that was to add a book of my very own to the literary world. War of Loyalties was a dream come true, and I'm so grateful to have this story and all of my fictional friends inside it available in paperback and Kindle. It's amazing to skim through it all, and hear the reactions of people reading it.

Below, as per tradition, I've done a round-up of favorite book reviews and articles from this year. There are thoughts on adulthood (The Blue Castle), thoughts on truth and homosexuality (A Room with a View), thoughts about Tolkien, about dealing with differing convictions among friends, and a couple of articles about love and The Young Victoria. There are also light-hearted posts about book deals and Schuylock and Hobbits. And there is a journey of thankfulness for the path the Lord blessed with War of Loyalties.

I hope you enjoy browsing through them. And don't forget to keep scrolling for the top books of the year!

Top Book Reviews
No More Faking Fine, by Esther Fleece
The Blue Castle, by L.M. Montgomery
Adorned, by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth
Death Be Not Proud, by Suzannah Rowntree
A Room With a View, by E.M. Forster
The Maggie Bright, by Tracy Groot
Where Treasure Hides, by Johnnie Alexander
The Lost Girl of Astor Street, by Stephanie Morrill
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred D. Taylor
Carry On, Mr. Bowditch, by Jean Lee Latham
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

Top Articles
Of Frodo Baggins, Temptation, and Community 
How Writing Offers Healing 
How to Buy a Whole Book Series in One Afternoon 
Dr. Who, Beauty and the Beast, and How to Talk to Friends About it All 
Meet Schuylock
A Very Important Update About War of Loyalties 
The End of the Kickstarter Chapter in War of Loyalties 
How to Deal With Shame in Receiving Feedback
Happy Birthday to the Hobbits! 
The Young Victoria: What Young Love Should Look Like
On Queen Victoria and Eligible Young Men
Why Protestants Need to Understand Catholics 
The War of Loyalties Tour {my heart is filled with Thankfulness} 

Nonfiction of the Year

book cover via goodreads

Present Over Perfect

While I haven't reviewed this yet on the blog (thoughts coming January 2018), I picked this book for my favorite because of the amount of impact it ministered to my mind. Present Over Perfect hits me smack in the middle of a workaholic perfectionistic place and draws me back to a mindset of grace, love for the small gifts of life, and what my key priorities are. I've read it almost twice this year (hoping to finish it before January 1st) and while I'll add the caveat that I have some major theological and lifestyle differences with portions of it, the core of its heart is something I very much agree with.

Fiction of the Year

book cover via goodreads
The Lost Girl of Astor street was absolutely everything I had hoped it would be. I read it twice on ebook and found it in print copy earlier this month. The mystery is suspenseful, the characters are so endearing, and I absolutely loved Mariano and Piper's dynamic together. Containing the yummiest sounding pizza in print, it provided so much enjoyment that it's easy to remember this book as a favorite of 2017. I'll definitely be returning again and again.

Author of the Year

Tracy Groot

I actually started The Maggie Bright in 2016, but in 2017 I got my own review copy and read it.Tracy Groot's book charmed me instantly. It's variety of character personalities, testimony to the power of prayer (even through the perspective of unbelieving characters), the hilarious Shrew, and the beaches of Dunkirk all combined to give me a reading experience that captured the core of my fiction-loving heart. Her book is historical fiction just the way I like it, and I enjoyed not only reading it on my own but also reading it a second time this year out loud with my mom and sister. I'm officially sold on anything else she writes.

What were your favorite books from 2017? Do you have any special memories of reading books in certain places this year?

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The 2017 Music Playlist

photo credit
For the last couple of years, I've posted a list of favorite songs I've discovered throughout the year on social media. This year, I looked at my list and realized all the thoughts I wanted to share were too long to put on a regular Facebook post--so I thought I'd bring it over here to chat about it in a little more detail.

Sharing favorite music sometimes feels like a vulnerable thing. But I like being honest about who I really am, even when it feels vulnerable. So this playlist is a journey of grief and hope, of tears and creativity, of deeply Schuyler. Most of these songs I get off Spotify, which is a great source for free music, but sometimes where they're on Youtube official channels I'll link to them.

Victoria Soundtrack // "Lord M"--Writing romance is hard for me. I mean, sometimes I can write it, but so far I've really struggled to write it in historical stories. I'm trying my dead level best, though--earlier this year I worked on writing a London murder mystery which required a romance plot. Whenever I flipped on "Lord M", the emotion of this short piece of music took the scene to the next level. So much so, sometimes I put it on repeat while I was writing. Whatever it takes to keep the mood. :)

Also, 2017 was so much better with Lord Melbourne in it. I don't crush on movie characters, but I do love his character.

The Afters // Live On Forever // Life is Beautiful (albums)--While I don't listen to heavy rock music, I do understand the extra energy music can provide when your mind is tired. When I discovered The Afters, I harnessed some of the adrenaline in their music as I was coming down to the final stretch of War of Loyalties. I'd heard one of their songs on October Baby. Their songs encompass what it means to celebrate and joyfully tackle the challenges of life--wonder, adrenaline, and a reminder of our joyful relationship with a powerful God make their music something I love cycling through my brain--like a fresh fountain of water.

Old Church Choir // Zach Williams--After watching the video that went viral with the little girl singing this song, we looked up the original and have been hooked ever since. It's an energetic, joyful song of celebration.

A Whole New World // Evynne Hollens--I never found a song for Terry and Pearlie from War of Loyalties, believe it or not, until I flipped on A Whole New World and realized that this described their relationship to a T. While the ideology isn't perfect, the warm fuzzies it gives me are addicting.

At the Beginning // Evynne and Peter Hollens--This is a song of love and beauty, sung by a husband and wife--it's joyful and romantic, and a piece of inspiration I've culled for a story with female butlers and Syrian refugees.

Nichole Nordeman //Every Mile Mattered (album)--Listening to Nichole Nordeman's CD was an experiment. I heard a couple of her songs and thought I'd like to try the whole CD to find out what it was like. After a sweet gift from a friend for my birthday, I slid the CD into the van player and mulled over the songs. My first instinct was that it was too contemporary. But as I gave the songs a second try, I found the lyrics deeply resonated. They explain what it's like to constantly fight a war with your mind and quest for perfection. They're almost a journal style, talking about the journey life is, and how God's grace surrounds it. "Listen To Your Life" encapsulates what it feels like to live in a busy, over-thinking brain. "Lean" captures how God doesn't need my performance--a theme that also crops up in my local Bible study's journey through Romans 8. Dear Me, the song that first got me hooked on Nordeman's music, is another piece I culled for inspiration for the female butler story, and got the Syrian refugee plot incorporated. I find myself reaching for her CD again and again as I'm driving places.

Danny Gokey // Tell Your Heart to Beat Again--2016 was a year of some familiar things dying and changing. The trauma from it was deep. Danny Gokey's song of fresh hope and a fresh start helped me find some peace with the new normal.

Tenth Avenue North //I Have This Hope // No One Can Steal Our Joy--Along the lines of Danny Gokey, these two songs from Tenth Avenue North provided an outlet for uncertainty and struggle. I love Tenth Avenue North's ability to provide songs of lament through the tough seasons of life.

Celtic Thunder Inspirational // May the Road Rise to Meet You // From the Ground Up--Celtic Thunder released their newest album just after my birthday (perfect timing) and since I'm a Thunderhead, and the songs looked fantastic, of course I got it. The themes of love and family in "From the Ground Up" never cease to give a warm feeling that family is good, and the gentle words of God's blessing in "May the Road Rise to Meet You" are a benediction I love to listen to again and again.

King and Country // Shoulders--I think it was YouTube who brought me across this gem. It showed up in the list of suggested videos, and I finally clicked on it. Again, I loved the theme of hope--of gentle shepherding and strength, which are things I'm always thirsty for.

What a Beautiful Name // Hillsong--Every summer there's a little tabernacle near a lake with padded wooden benches where we go to hear preachers. It's a Sunday of morning and evening services, a picnic lunch, and reading on a pretty incredible beach. Every year we walk in and sit on the same bench (unless someone beat us to it), and this year they sang this song there. I love the third verse--it's triumphant and victorious in a way that makes my heart sing.

The Streets of New York // Celtic Thunder, Ryan Kelly--There's one swear word in the first verse which is quick to mute (you can find the lyrics online to find out where). The rest of it is the perfect Irish song that always makes me think of Jaeryn Graham from War of Loyalties (even though the song itself has nothing to do with his life.)

Try // Mandy Harvey--I don't know much about Mandy Harvey's music, and I hadn't heard of her at all until an America's Got Talent video popped up on Facebook. I was hooked by the young woman who had gone deaf but still pursued her love of music. The golden buzzer moments make me tear up--(the costumes are pretty immodest, thus not good to make a steady diet of) The song itself, though, which you can find on Spotify, is a heartfelt song of struggle and determination.

The Sound of the Saints // Audio Adrenaline
It's another song of joy--it's easy for me to gravitate to the heavier songs, but listening to the joyful ones lift the spirits and keeps things in tune. It's overwhelmingly joyful, and easy to sing along to.

These are some of my favorites from 2017--I'd love to hear some of yours! Any favorite artists, albums, or songs that have kept you company this year?

Friday, December 15, 2017

Winter TBR

via Pixabay
Hey friends!!

If you hadn't noticed, the blog's been taken over a wee bit by some book release festivities.

hard not to notice, actually 

But fear not. My Lady Bibliophile hasn't turned into My Precious War of Loyalties. ;) I'm back today with a TBR stack for the winter, and I'd love to hear what books you're looking forward to diving into over Christmas break and heading into the New Year!

A Hobbit, A Wardrobe, and a Great War, by Joseph Laconte
This will probably be a 2018 read, sometime between January and March. It contains a theme I very much want to develop in War of Honor (the sequel to War of Loyalties) and I'm hoping it will be an easy jumpstart into research. Which is not my cup of tea, but I am determined to do a more organized and better job of it.

Hannah Coulter, by Wendell Barry
A friend lent me this book, which according to Goodreads and their description, is a story about a woman recalling her life since her husband came home from the Civil War. Barry is a new author to me, and it will be a new corner of literature to explore that I'm very much looking forward to.

Katharina and Martin Luther, by Michelle DeRusha
This is on my list of books I'd like to finish by the end of the year. I got it as a birthday gift from a dear friend, and I'm hoping to fit it in as one last celebration of the Reformation 500.

High as the Heavens, by Kate Breslin
This is a WW1 novel I'm very much looking forward to reading. It has threads of spying, nursing, and a very nice bit of drama. I love seeing WW1 stories I can get my hands on because of WoL.

Courting Morrow Little, by Laura Frantz
I've already looked at this book and am super impressed with what I've seen so far. Another friend recommended Laura Frantz to me last week, and when I found her book for $1, I couldn't pass up the chance to try her out. This book has Indians, Kentucky, and a really sweet love story.

My Heart Belongs in Niagara Falls, New York by Amanda Barratt
I can't wait for this one! This is my friend's first novel, (she's written other novellas with Barbour), and I'm so, so excited for her. I love what she's told me about it so far, and I can't wait to dive in!

A Song Unheard, by Roseanna White
A Name Unknown had creative, lovable characters and a really unique WW1 scenario that I absolutely loved reading. A Song Unheard continues the series, and I hope to request a review copy very soon!

Finding the Love of Jesus from Genesis to Revelation, by Elyse Fitzpatrick
I just saw this yesterday. I love the pretty pink detailing on the cover, and the premise of tracing God's love through the Scriptures (Amazon.) I thought it also connected specifically to women, which is what originally drew me to it, but I didn't see that in the Amazon description.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

War of Loyalties Giveaway Winners!!!

Friends, we have winners for the War of Loyalties giveaway, and I am thrilled to announce them below!!

Winner of the Grand Prize:

-Print Book
-Jaeryn Graham poster
-War of Loyalties mug

Jordan J 

Winner of the 2nd Prize:

-War of Loyalties ebook
-authentic 1917 postcard

Winner of the 3rd Prize

-War of Loyalties ebook

Lena T 

Congratulations, everyone!! I've contacted the winners by email and will be shipping out your prizes next week. And a huge thank-you to those of you who entered and spread the word! To run a contest with my first published book has been absolutely thrilling!

Friday, December 8, 2017

War of Loyalties Blog Tour Round-up

Today War of Loyalties had its first book signing, and we had a wonderful time. The people hosting it were so sweet, and I got to talk about writing, meet so many neat people, and sell copies of War of Loyalties! It's a wonderful way to close out the official blog party--with an in-person event. :)

But wait! We have 8 hours left to enter to win the prize pack!

Here's the grand prize pack:

First Prize Winner:
-Paperback copy of War of Loyalties
-“Jaeryn’s Vow” 8x10 poster
-Custom War of Loyalties mug

Second Prize Winner:
-Ebook of War of Loyalties
-Real vintage Folkestone postcard (this is a postcard that has actually been posted in 1917.)

Third Prize Winner: (open to international winners)
-Ebook of War of Loyalties

US residents only for 1st and 2nd prizes. Accounts created solely for giveaways not eligible.

Just click this link to enter the giveaway: 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And if you haven't had a chance yet, don't forget to visit these incredible blogs who hosted me for the War of Loyalties blog tour!

Blog Tour Posts: 

November 30:

My Lady Bibliophile: Announcement Post 
Lydia Carns: Book Spotlight

December 1

Defending the Legacy: Book Spotlight
The Ink Lizard: Book Spotlight

December 2

Lydia Carns: Author Interview
My Lady Bibliophile: My Heart is Filled With Thankfulness 

December 4
Fullness of Joy--Author Interview 
Kaleigh's Book Reviews--Guest Post: The Heart of Story-crafting in War of Loyalties 

December 5
Sophia White--Guest Post: "Why I Love Historical Fiction" 
My Lady Bibliophile--Interview with Joy, Part 2 

December 6

Hanna-Col Writes: Interview with Terry O'Sean 

December 7

Curious Wren: Interview with Jaeryn Graham

December 8

The Herosinger: Author Interview 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

A Chat with Joy, Part 2 {+ giveaway}

My lovely friend from Fullness of Joy hosted me over on her blog yesterday for an interview. I love this interview so much because it's not only a get-to-know the book interview, but a get-to-know the author interview as well. Joy thought up some incredible questions, and I'm so privileged to be able to hold part two of the interview on my own blog today!

19. Who is your favourite sidekick (secondary character) in a book/movie/show of your favourite genres? (You are welcome to choose more than one ;).

I adore sidekicks. They’re some of my favorite parts of a book or movie. Current favorite sidekicks include Higgins from North and South movie (his friendship with John Thornton is the best), Lord M from Victoria (yes, partly because I imagine him as Jaeryn) and Samwise Gamgee from Lord of the Rings. I also love the Captain in Cinderella. J

20. As you wrote War of Loyalties, were there aspects of the story that took you by surprise?

Well, Jaeryn kind of took me by surprise. He started out as someone entirely different. There was no mystery or thirst for power in the first draft—I mean, he was always a bit controlling, but not nearly the same as he was in the latest draft. He was a wonderful surprise, though.

21. How have you grown as a writer through attending writer’s conferences and taking writing courses/using how-to creative writing resources? What have been some of your observations of this creative field over the past few years?

I’ve grown incredibly. Writer’s conferences gave me the opportunity to be around people who spoke the same “writing language”, so to speak. It’s always encouraging to be around people who practice the same craft, and having the opportunity to meet authors and agents face to face was invaluable for getting to know the publishing world. It taught me a lot about how to create a proposal, which is a really detailed document, and I think that was a good test for me. Detailed documents aren’t my first love, and I needed that experience for the small business skills I’m using now.  

22. On a festive note, hands down, what’s your all time favourite holiday food and sweet treat?

This is SO hard. Especially because I can’t think of anything traditional…one of my favorite savory things to see every holiday is my great aunt’s cheese ball, which is a mix of cheeses and spices that you can use as a cracker spread. And for sweet, I love the eggnog shakes at McDonald’s! J

23. How do you think the main characters of War of Loyalties would react if he or she were introduced to you?

I think they’d look at me with kind of squinty, confused, slightly-troubled eyes and say “I had no idea you were the reason all of this is happening in my life.” XD

24. In one of your blog-posts, I believe you once pitched your novel for lovers of Dickens, the ITV Victoria series and those who love the olden style of storytelling! Can you share why the combination of those things are so special and stand out as reasons for why readers may want pick up War of Loyalties?

Yes! Well, first of all, War of Loyalties is so big, I try to pair it with Dickens because it’s one of those winding stories that’s designed to be enjoyed over a long amount of time. Also, while love is part of the story, there are lots of other little plots and dramas going on like Dickens. And thirdly, content-wise I know if people like Dickens they’ll approve of War of Loyalties because, sans language (which Dickens includes) War of Loyalties is directed to about the same age level. I also thought if people liked Dickens and Victoria, they would love historical fiction, too!  

25. I know editing & pitching your work has been a long process for you over the past few years. Can you share what this journey has been like & what role your beta-readers, street team, family and close friends played in bringing this work to life?

Yes! I had attended a couple of writer’s conferences by the time I finished the second draft of War of Loyalties (our local writers’ conferences are phenomenal, so I’m lucky!). However, I realized it needed some work, so I put it through one more draft before starting to pitch it to traditional editors. Even though the traditional publishing route didn’t work out for this book (it probably still could have, had I not wanted it published in time for the centennial of the story), I was honoured to talk to so many agents and editors, and I have a high respect for them in the industry.

26. Please tell us a little bit about the journey that brought you to publishing War of Loyalties, particularly your launching the Kickstarter campaign and how that was like!

Yes! I really, really wanted War of Loyalties to be published in 2017, 100 years after the story took place, and I knew to do that, it would have to be self-publishing due to the timeframe we were working with. I always knew pretty much which editor and which cover designer I wanted to use for my book. But for the budget I was working with, I could only think of two options: earn the money on my own, or look at crowdfunding. We'd supported a couple of Kickstarter projects before, so we were familiar with it and decided to give it a try. And God gave so graciously, and people gave so graciously. It really was incredible.

27. Is there a particular song or film that makes you cry every time you watch/listen to it? What is your type of comfort story?

I have many comfort stories, and that’s why I love collecting DVDs. Once I love a story, I want it near me. Two that come to mind are Amazing Grace and The Young Victoria. I used to tear up when I watched them, and the stories of perseverance and love inspire me so deeply on a heart level with my own drive to pursue passions and yearning for close friendship.

28. What have been some of the benefits you’ve experienced with self-publishing so far, and what have been its special pains?

I love this story so much that self-publishing has truly been a joy in being able to be involved in every part of the process. From the cover design to the editing, even to formatting it into a paperback, it really has been a joy. I get to help it all the way through until it launches (with tons of other people whose help has been phenomenal). The pains have been navigating formatting and font licensing. J

29. Can you share with us about the amazing cover-design of your novel, and how it came into being (designer, process, choices, etc.)? It’s stunning, and perfectly captures your novel’s essence to a T, honestly!

I would love to! The folks at Damonza did an incredible job. I picked Damonza because they do K.M. Weiland’s novels, and I thought they were so beautiful and professional. Initially Damonza sent me several covers to choose from, and while all of them were stunning, it was easy to narrow down this one. It captured the spirit of the novel so well, and I loved it best. That night was so special, opening the email, and showing it to my family. After I told them which cover and sent them a couple of small tweaks I wanted, they emailed back the changes, and the process repeated a couple of times until I was happy with the tiniest details. There weren’t any major changes, though. The folks at Damonza were so gracious, professional, and had a fast turnaround! I definitely want to work with them again.

30.  Which character in literature do you think is most like you, or maybe you identify with the most? If someone made a movie of your life, what actress would you cast to play you, and what would be the soundtrack of your life-story?

Oh, wow, this is a great question. For actress, someone once said Emily Blunt (I’ve only seen her in The Young Victoria) and I’ve always liked that choice. I think she could pull off the side of my personality that is always thinking, sometimes insecure, and loves close friends. I don’t know who I would pick to do the soundtrack, but Patrick Doyle would be cool, and I love Alexandre Desplat’s The Light Between Oceans soundtrack.

31. Have you done anything while writing for the sake of this novel that has pushed you out of your comfort zone or taken you personally to unexpected (though not necessarily unpleasant!) places you’d never have gone through/done otherwise?

Yes. Truly, the biggest thing I’ve done outside my comfort zone was returning to my mistakes to fix them after people looked at various drafts of War of Loyalties. It can feel incredibly crippling sometimes to return to a document with feedback about mistakes, even though they were so kindly given and so necessary. It’s a personal piece of you, and you have to figure out how to keep on going when that personal work isn’t just yours anymore. But I had to face the discomfort, which sometimes felt like it was freezing up my ability to move forward and edit the next thing. Each time I have faced the discomfort, my emotional strength has grown, God’s grace has been sufficient, and the book has turned out so much better. I’m grateful for that.

32. What’s your favourite thing about the online writing community (on twitter, instagram and through blogs) that you’ve been part of & what impact have they had on War of Loyalties and on you personally?

I love how people are so encouraging to one another. My circles are small, but people are always giving encouraging words and virtual snacks and cheering each other on. Writing community is so, so important for me because I hate writing alone without being able to talk about my project, so the fellowship is really appreciated! While I already had major drafting done on War of Loyalties before I talked about it online, the Twitter/blogger community received the characters with open arms as I posted blog posts, and their encouraging comments always gave me joy!

33. Now that War of Loyalties is published, what have you been working on lately? Can you tell us a bit more about your current writing projects? (Also a few snippets from your work would be a treat!)

Yes! I’d love to! I’m currently returning to my initial old love and trying to write a Sherlock Holmes novella of my own. That’s going to take some drafting before it’s satisfactory, though (I’m having a traditional Watson POV, and a POV from the main female character). I’m also looking next year at working on the second draft of War of Honor, and I’m outlining a modern-day book with Dickensian vibes, OCD, and female butlers.

Here’s a snippet from the Sherlock Holmes novella, which I’ve currently entitled Schuylock (see what I did there….)

“You were always an odd little woman, Victoria.” Wine splashed against the edge of a crystal glass, and she pressed her lips to it, letting the liquid barely touch. It was strange to think of the last of the London Hathaways holding a glass of wine as if it was a normal thing. The black and white chess pieces stood in battle array. Glancing at the board, she let a small, wolfish smile cross her face. Then she picked up the pawn piece on polished wooden board. “I believe it is checkmate, darling.” Then a flash, a crash, a fall, and checkmate turned into the last one she would ever have to give.

34. And finally, if there was one thing you wished to say to other young writers going through this journey, what would it be?

It’s a beautiful journey. It’s going to take a lot of time, but time as an apprentice to writing is time well spent. Settle into the journey, befriend people who are a step ahead of you, and take the time to find the heartbeat of your story. You will doubt yourself, there will be times when you think you can’t take this story any further, but if the heartbeat is there, then keep on going. Keep on going. Don’t give up. Let us cheer for you.

First Prize Winner:
-Paperback copy of War of Loyalties
-“Jaeryn’s Vow” 8x10 poster
-Custom War of Loyalties mug

Second Prize Winner:
-Ebook of War of Loyalties
-Real vintage Folkestone postcard (this is a postcard that has actually been posted in 1917.)

Third Prize Winner: (open to international winners)
-Ebook of War of Loyalties

US residents only for 1st and 2nd prizes. Accounts created solely for giveaways not eligible.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, December 2, 2017

The War of Loyalties Tour {my heart is filled with thankfulness, part 1} + giveaway

I wanted to take a moment on the War of Loyalties release tour and record the graces that God has provided throughout this project. There are many. So many, I will probably forget some of them.

It's a quiet Saturday afternoon. And I can take time to stop and think.

schuyler, you are always thinking, good gracious 

Last year, in the last week of 2016, I saw a deal on an editing package from an editor I wanted to work with. It was a package I could afford, and it looked really good. But I had to make a decision in a few hours, and I hadn't done any research or asked for a sample edit.

I let the deal pass. I felt sick about it, but at the same time, I felt like it was wrong to book something that big so suddenly. I needed time to think and pray about it.

I always knew pretty much which editor and which cover designer I wanted to use for my book. But I also knew that on the budget I was working with, it wouldn't be possible. I could only think of two options: earn the money on my own, or look at crowdfunding.

Last summer I worked too hard for too long and ended up with some severe depression afterward. I knew that earning the money for the book coupled with getting the book itself ready could be a pretty toxic combination for overwork this year. So I started looking at crowdfunding. We'd supported a couple of Kickstarter projects before, so we were familiar with it. But we'd never done one in our own family. In fact, we've never really done fundraising of any kind. And it was a little nervewracking to consider.

I booked the editor for the part one of War of Loyalties, which I was able to pay for myself. Then I called a new friend who had done a Kickstarter and she generously gave me some advice on mine. I explained the project, ran my plan by her, and she was so encouraging and supportive that I felt empowered to give it a try.

So I collected reward ideas. Budgeted. Wrote up descriptions and shot a video on a rickety tripod. That day I felt more infuriated with the tripod than upbeat for the camera. It still makes me chuckle.

By that point, the launch was already delayed beyond what I had hoped--the start date wasn't until later in May. It would run for 30 days, and that gave me a tight turnaround time, especially because I wanted to book the editor before his schedule filled up. Also, Kickstarter is all or nothing. If you reach funding, you get it all. If you don't reach funding, you walk away without a penny.

It's a step of faith.

After intense pressure and a few tears (learning the ins and outs of sales tax) I was ready to go. But the day I wanted to launch, I did a few more calculations and realized the money I hoped to raise wasn't going to be enough for the entire project.

I think I ended up adding an extra thousand dollars.

This was later than I had planned, and more than I had planned. On a super small scale, it makes me think of Elijah building the altar before the Lord and then pouring water on it because a dry altar wasn't challenging enough (1 Kings 18).

But it was the only thing I could think of. And even if it failed, I had learned so much stuff that I knew the time was well spent.

Then we pushed Launch.

Kickstarter isn't for everyone. It hasn't worked for everyone. There was no magic trick or special ability or best practice that made it work for me. There were slow days when nothing came in. There were days when hundreds of dollars came in. There were dark days of feeling like a fraud, and days when I felt confident. But God kept reminding me to pray.

The end result was the sheer grace and generosity of God working through the hearts and incredible gifts of people who were willing to give. They gave and gave and gave. I remember one night when I was feeling like a fraud, I told my dad that I just wanted the book to be worth what they were giving. He told me, "They're giving because they love you."

When it comes down to it, this book was built on love ever since it began. It was love that made my parents educate me and teach me to read and fill up my soul with good books so that I could pour out words of my own.It was love that wrote the first draft of the book. It was love that made people pray for me through each re-write. It was love that made friends spend a summer helping me through the second draft of the book. It was love that made friends take WoL-themed pictures all around England when I could not come with them. And it was love that brought that Kickstarter all the way to 100% on June 22, 2017. And over all of it was the love of God, who gave so richly of his fullness to make this dream come true.

I'm so thankful for that.

That sale I passed up on? I got to work with the very same editor just the way I had wanted, and God provided every penny.

Next week I'll have more reflections on the journey. In the meantime, be sure to hop over to Lydia Carns' blog for behind the scenes questions about what inspired the WW1 setting and the characters in the book! And stay tuned for even more blog tour fun coming next week!

First Prize Winner:
-Paperback copy of War of Loyalties
-“Jaeryn’s Vow” 8x10 poster
-Custom War of Loyalties mug

Second Prize Winner:
-Ebook of War of Loyalties
-Real vintage Folkestone postcard (this is a postcard that has actually been posted in 1917.)

Third Prize Winner: (open to international winners)
-Ebook of War of Loyalties

US residents only for 1st and 2nd prizes. Accounts created solely for giveaways not eligible.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Announcing the War of Loyalties Giveaway Week

War of Loyalties is LIVE on the Amazon store. After six months of editing, praying, designing, and a concerted effort from friends, it's now

Book Description: 
April, 1917. A ring of German spies threatens the coastal town of Folkestone, England. Newly-recruited agent Ben Dorroll must uncover which British citizens are traitors to their country. When his first attempt at espionage falls prey to a trap laid by German sympathizers, the security of the British Secret Service is threatened. Feeling lost in a strange country and aching for a steady place to call home, he wants to resign and go back to his American medical work. But when he learns that his family identity holds the key to capturing the spy ring, Ben has no choice but to unite with the mysterious Jaeryn Graham so that the truth can be discovered. 

In the aftermath of the Irish Rebellion, Jaeryn Graham's British colleagues look warily on his Irish background. Always up for a challenge, he thinks his new mission in the Secret Service should be an opportunity to prove his prowess. But after encountering death and alienating two agents, he finds the road to victory isn't as easy as he thought. Unless he can win the loyalties of his newest assistant, Ben Dorroll, his secret ambitions and his perfect success record will be destroyed.

You can meet a precious charrie who will do anything for integrity. You can meet an Irish power king. A 16-year-old violin prodigy, and a jolly Irish rebel with a kind servant's heart, a young woman who is strong in the face of abandonment, and a blonde-haired sister with a love for home.

My heart is brimful with joy. We're snatching moments today to marvel and wonder in our home as we celebrate with family and friends, but very soon we're going to kick off the online party too. Tomorrow I'm over talking with Lydia Carns, so stayed turned at her blog here

But today, I wanted to tell you about a special giveaway that I'm kicking off from November 30-December 8th--with your chance to win a copy of War of Loyalties for yourself.

First Prize Winner:
-Paperback copy of War of Loyalties
-“Jaeryn’s Vow” 8x10 poster
-Custom War of Loyalties mug

Second Prize Winner:
-Ebook of War of Loyalties
-Real vintage Folkestone postcard (this is a postcard that has actually been posted in 1917.)

Third Prize Winner: (open to international winners)
-Ebook of War of Loyalties

US residents only for 1st and 2nd prizes. Accounts created solely for giveaways not eligible.

Just click this link to enter the giveaway: a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

War of Loyalties {how to support the book release + upcoming posts}

If you've been wondering how to support War of Loyalties this week, you're in the exact right spot. Here's a handy, easy how-to guide to things that every author loves to see for their book releases!
  • Add the book on Goodreads! This shows it to your friends and gets more people interested. 
  • Purchase the book for Christmas gifts for family and friends. :) 
  • Post pictures of you with the book on social media, or email them to me! 
  • Read and comment on the upcoming blog tour posts. 
  • Share the blog posts with others via social media or email! 
  • Review War of Loyalties on Goodreads or Amazon. 
  • Sign up for the McConkey Press newsletter. (check out the top of this page, on the right.)
  • Share the Amazon purchase links with friends who love books, historical fiction, and BBC dramas! (Coming tomorrow!)
  • Enter the giveaway! (Links coming tomorrow!) 

Be sure to join My Lady Bibliophile throughout this week, as I post links to interviews and guest posts on all kinds of wonderful blogs! I'm so grateful to the team of people who are joining up to spread the word about War of Loyalties, and can't wait to share it all with you! This post will have a master list of all the guest posts and where they're at, so be sure to check back in frequently!


Blog Tour Posts: 

November 30:

My Lady Bibliophile: Announcement Post 
Lydia Carns: Book Spotlight

December 1

Defending the Legacy: Book Spotlight
The Ink Lizard: Book Spotlight

December 2

Lydia Carns: Author Interview
My Lady Bibliophile: My Heart is Filled With Thankfulness 

Monday, November 27, 2017

War of Loyalties {meet Pearlie Dorroll}

all photos taken via Pixabay
This post is a little late...we finished up getting the book baby ready, and had to spend some days recovering...and now we get to spend the next ten days celebrating with you all. :) 

Just over a hundred years ago, in a little town in Virginia, there lived a girl who was used to being forgotten.

Sometimes she didn't mind. On good days, her brother came home after school and talked to her while he worked on homework. At the end of the night, he would pick her up where she fell asleep on his bed and take her to her own bed.

Other days, when he worked after school, she would make supper in the kitchen and wait for him to come back to her.

But ten years later, when her brother left for college, the girl came to realize that she no longer had people to remember her. So she loved the only thing she had left.

And that was home.

Home is all very well to love until home, too, is taken from you. Sent to a strange country with the hope of seeing the father she's never met and the chance to reacquaint with her busy brother, Pearlie finds herself thrust into a place where she is faced with disappointment and danger.

Loneliness she has been used to. Loss of hope is a heavy burden to bear.

Until a red-haired fellow with a Celtic cross tattoo walks into her life.

And everything changes.


Pearlie's favorite things: 

muslin curtains blowing in the wind // a beam of sunshine turning a glass jar of honey golden // a baby's laugh // tea with a friend // scrubbing floors all polished and clean // feeling the strong hug of someone she loves // penmanship all elegant and fine // someone to hold her when she cries // cherries tucked into a flaky pie crust //  first love //  evening lamplight shining on golden curls // an Irish rebel's grin 


He traced a hand down her arm. “What can I do? I want you to be happy here, but I have to keep you safe. Tell me what you want.”
Her breath drew slower as she calmed down, and her little white-gloved fingers twisted in and out of one another. “I want…I want a place that feels like home. A place where I can sweep the floors and put the washing on the line and polish the windows, and love it every day. When you were gone I didn’t have anyone to love, but I could always love home.” Her breath caught and choked. “I want to be loved. I want to see my father.”
Ben thought of Alisa, just come, alone, and desperately in need of help. Perhaps there was a way to fulfill two claims of duty after all. He took Pearl’s hand this time instead of her elbow, and she didn’t feel as tense under his touch. “Maybe I can give that to you after all. I was going to tell you, only you ran away before I came home for supper. Charlotte and I went to see Alisa Dorroll today. She has about a month until her baby comes, and she doesn’t have friends here. We mustn’t tell her who we are. It wouldn’t be safe for her. But if you came as a friend, then you would have an old house full of memory to care for, and I know she couldn’t help but love you. It would be your own place, to make a life for yourself for however long we’re here. Would you like that?”
She thought for a long moment as they took up their walk again towards the line of cabs. Then she nodded. “I would like to try it.”
“Grand.” He squeezed her fingers. “I’ll have to teach you how to actually use a Webley, just to be on the safe side. And mind, you’re not to breathe a word about our relation to her.”
“I can keep secrets.” She glanced up at him sideways.
Ben smiled wryly. “You’ve proven that. Let’s go home for supper.” 


Meet Pearlie Dorroll for yourself on November 30th, 2017. 

Join us tomorrow for a brief post on how YOU can help support the War of Loyalties book release--and don't forget that Thursday kicks off the War of Loyalties book release and blog tour!!! 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

War of Loyalties {invisible friends}

For the past several years, I like to call the War of Loyalties characters "my invisible friends". When you come to know me, sooner or later it's inevitable that you'll be introduced to them as well. I've hung out with them so long, we're kind of a package deal.

I taught a class on characterization recently, and one of the things I told the kids was that they should think of their character as a real person. Ben and Jaeryn and Charlotte are about as real as fiction gets. They're the invisible coworkers, showing up, shifting, changing, as my maturity or life experience shifts and change. They've never quit. We have rough days sometimes where the writer's block shows up and everyone's lazy, but overall, we have the biggest fun on the planet.

It's not surprising that they've gradually showed up more and more on the blog, and for the next couple of weeks I want you to be able to meet the process of War of Loyalties for yourself. I want to introduce you to a blonde-haired young woman with a tenacious dream of humble obscurity.  I want to tell you about some of the dreams that have come true with this story. I want to tell you how the Lord has answered prayer.

Living life with these characters stands out as the most golden experience of my post-highschool path.

The moment when one of your introverts finally decides to open up to a character interview on a Saturday morning.

That year you make a random run for apple pie and sporks to celebrate a character's birthday.

That year you finally find a song that encompasses two characters falling in love.

That moment when you watch a performance of Handel's Messiah, imagining a character sitting down there as concertmaster.

That year when your character changes from a philanthropic American medical student to an Irish doctor with crooked fingers.

The beautiful thing about a first book is that it's an unmatchable experience. You can take time to work it out. You can get to know the characters in an intimate, lengthy way that you might never have time for in later books. Seven years has been a long time, but I saw a meme on Facebook the other day that said after seven years a friend becomes family, and that really honestly feels like the truth.

I love all the things about the characters that would never fit into the book. My blackmailer with the streak of nobility in his soul. The way Jaeryn has a favorite sweater he reaches for that makes him think of memories and childhood. The way Ben runs his fingers through his wife's hair. The way Terry rolls up his sleeves when he's out in cold weather instead of putting a jacket on.

Some of them dream of freedom, and some of them dream of stability. Some of them dream of home, or marriage or living out a life of loyal service. Some of them dream of money or position or the supremacy of Britain. They've lived together so long they can rub each other wrong in big and little ways, and come together when it matters.

This is a celebration. After seven years, they deserve a celebration. We've lived so much life together, and we're almost at the end of the road.

For book one, that is.

We still have a lot of life left to live together--and I couldn't think of anyone I'd rather live it with.

Come back Saturday to meet on of the characters for yourself. I can't wait to introduce you, and you can meet all of them in official book form on November 30, 2017!

Friday, November 10, 2017

{how it feels to be near the finish line} + pray for War of Loyalties?

via Pixabay
In every story, there is an inciting incident, a middle part, and a climax. In the publishing of every story, it seems that there are all those things too. This spring, making the prayerful decision to start a Kickstarter campaign was the inciting incident. The weeks of editing have been the middle. And now, we are gearing up for the climax.

If you see me right now, I'm probably in part brain fog. Slowly, the brain is gearing up into laser-focused concentration for the final stretch.

I honestly don't remember the last time I picked up the clothes in my room. I have cried once this week wondering how everything is going to work out. I have no idea what I'm forgetting, but if you ask my family, they'd probably be able to tell you.

chores, schuyler, chores 

But it's a wonderful, happy time. This morning I just ordered my first proof copy of War of Loyalties, and I expect to get it sometime next week. God has given above and beyond anything I could have imagined for strength and inspiration for this book's edits. I'm so grateful for the people who have given ideas on how to make it better, along with their time, encouragement, and loads of love. We're so close.

For the next couple of weeks, we're going to kick off the partying with some War of Loyalties themed posts on the blog which I think you'll really enjoy. We have character spotlights, heart ponderings, and little tidbits on the publishing process. There will be even more partying to come after that--you are all cordially invited to enter the Folkestone world!

While we gear up, would you consider partnering with this process through your prayers? I would be so grateful. Here's what's most on my heart right now:

-Good health for the final stretch.
-Keen eyes for anything that needs to be fixed.
-A heart fixed on the Lord throughout the process, and that he would be glorified.
-The ability to make wise decisions in a tight timeframe.
-Fast turn-around times on Createspace with high-quality printing for the book deliveries.

Thank-you friends. Love to you all! I will see you on Tuesday with some War of Loyalties thoughts you won't want to miss.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Cinderella 2015 {positive role models and parent relationships}

via Pixabay

My first interaction with 2015 Cinderella was watching the trailer on Facebook some months before it released.

My first impression: Not getting into a Disney Princess movie after all these years. Kit's eyes are way too blue.

But then, I can't remember if it was my sister who watched the trailer, which inveigled me into seeing it a second time. And this time, instead of hating on Kit's blue eyes, I heard Cinderella's mother speaking with a sweet, breathless earnestness: "Have courage and be kind. Where there is kindness, there is goodness, and where there is goodness, there is magic."

Those two lines tugged at my heartstrings.

On the night of my twenty-first birthday, we watched Cinderella. We haven't stopped watching it since. And there was so much for my heart to love about this movie adaptation.

Cinderella is about as pure as it gets. There's a wonder, an emphasis on good moral character, and an overall theme of endurance in affliction that uplift while they entertain. As Cinderella faces life without her beloved father and with the cruelty of her step-family, her actions emphasize again and again that kindness is a choice, not a feeling. We see her feel hurt, even anger sometimes. Cinderella knows when to confront her stepmother with troubled eyes and ask, "Why are you so cruel?" But she also knows when to smile and serve with a gentle voice, holding on to the courage and kindness that her dying mother encouraged her to cling to. Pursuing love and unity as a follower of Christ take incredible courage. And while Cinderella isn't out there to teach Scripture, you can see the practical application of what the fruit of the Spirit should look like in the life of a Christian.

The other part I really loved about this movie was how well Kit and Ella get along with their parents. There is a celebration of life with strong family relationships: From a child, Ella is used to love and bedtime stories from her mother. Even when her father wants to marry again, the bond between Ella and her father isn't shaken. She fully supports him moving forward, and they love and understand each other on a heart-level.

Kit, even when he wants to marry the girl in the forest instead of a rich princess, still maintains the maturity of a man and a prince. He and his father disagree, but they don't fall overboard into anger, and when Kit gives his final refusal, he begins it with, "I love and respect you."

Kit and Ella may have a fairytale romance with fairytale colors. But they were shaped by their closeness with their parents so well that when the time came for both of them to step out and be adults, they had the maturity and grace to do so. And in that, I think they can be wonderful role-models.

There are a few sentences that spill into Disney morals and don't enhance the overall theme picture. Following your heart, believing in everything, and being taken care of by fairy godmothers aren't exactly the stuff that solid faith is made of. But they're very brief blips on a beautiful script and beautiful cinematography.

Those are the serious thoughts. But one should not always be serious when watching Disney films. Here's a rapid series of what I loved:

  • Gus-Gus is the cutest mouse on the planet. We have a serious Gus-Gus fandom around here. 
  • Ask us about the torn butterfly sometime in Cinderella's treasure box. 
  • I just love the lizard footmen with their green hues. 
  • The captain js the. best. sidekick. in the history of ever. 
  • And if you ever want to know, we can point out just where to find the animals on the day of Cinderella's wedding.

Oops. I just told you the ending.

schuyler how could you i didn't know 

Parent Guide:
Sexual: Low-necked dresses. Cinderella and Kit share a kiss.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

5 Ways to Celebrate the Reformation {+ mini-review of a Reformation biography}

1. Make a German meal. 
It doesn't have to be anything fancy. Pick up some good sausage, make mashed potatoes or German potato salad, or, if you're in the mood for fancy, how about a Chocolate Bavarian Torte? It's my sis's night to make supper, and I've begged her to make something semi-German inspired by the Reformation.

bless you, dearest sis beyond the worth of all jewels 

2. Watch a movie about Luther. 
You could check out the 2003 Luther which I reviewed Friday on the blog. Or you could check out the 1950s black and white Luther, which is also a really good look at his life. Either one is just under two hours.

3. Do a Bible Study 
You could take the five Solas and look up verses from Scripture that explain how our salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, based on Scripture alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone. is my favorite place to dig into Bible study. Another good website is

4. Read Luther's 95 Theses 
It's kind of funny, but after hearing about Luther's 95 Theses for years, I'd never actually read them. Our pastor asked us to read them for a Bible Study hour, so I printed them off. It's surprising how Catholic Luther still was as he wrote them.

5. Start Reading a Reformation Book 
I just finished Erwin Lutzer's Reformation book entitled Rescuing the Gospel.

i made it you guys, i made it.

It's a spectacular read. I expected an overview of things I knew, but I realized how much I didn't know. God used the Reformation to unify the German language, as Luther translated the Bible into words that common Germans would use and understand. I learned where the term Protestant came from, and also learned a lot about Luther's writings, how the Reformation spread through other countries, and an evaluation of the movement to unify Catholics and Protestants today. Erwin Lutzer's book is a smooth, easy read, and a great pick for either personal reading or a family read-aloud. If you only read one book about the Reformation this year, Lutzer's book would be a fantastic one to invest in.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Why Protestants Need to Understand Catholics + Luther {move review}

via Pixabay

The Reformation is just around the corner, you guys. The 500th. And I've got a book I want to finish up by the official anniversary.

*hyperventilating* read all the things

In our Bible Study Hour after church, our pastor is teaching on the Reformation to mark the 500th anniversary. It's thoughtful, and I connect with the historical focus, as well as one of his main thrusts: we cannot criticise Catholicism fairly until we seek to understand their viewpoint and then evaluate it from a Biblical perspective. Cold-hearted academic evaluation is not the way to disagree with someone. You must understand the why behind what they believe, and then you must line it up with Scripture. In Luther's time, part of the church was corrupt, and many Catholics saw that and longed for a pure church. Some of the things we would disagree with, while extra-biblical, stem from a deep desire on Catholics' part to pursue holiness. While sympathy with that desire doesn't cause us to embrace extra-Biblical doctrine, we should sympathize with the heart for holiness while applying God's standard of Scripture.

Our pastor went on to say that in Catholicism, there's a range of people. On the one hand, there can be some good Catholics and good Protestants. On the other hand, there can be some bad Catholics and bad Protestants. It all boils down to something he talked about recently: the difference between error and heresy. Heresy, he said, is something that teaches a false Gospel other than salvation through faith alone and Christ's righteousness alone. Error may be a non-salvific biblical issue (baptism, the end times) which has a correct answer, but which genuine believers differ on. Many people who are sincere Christians have things they believe that are error, whether Catholic or Protestant. It is the heretical beliefs, no matter your denomination, that will send you to hell.

Our pastor is clear-cut and biblical. He's not advocating tolerance of sin or error, even on points like baptism and end times. But I appreciate that as he approaches history, he acknowledges how complex it (and the people inside it) are.

He asked us to watch the 2003 Luther movie, and we're going to discuss it together. So last Sunday night, our family watched it together, and I thought I'd report the findings on the blog. Luther offers a great overview of the high points of the reformer's fight against the church, as well as giving modern cinematography and colorization to the portrayal of Luther's life. Here's what I loved most:

  • Luther's fights with the devil were moving struggles against darkness. Luther struggled with depression to a severe extent throughout his life, and while I wished the film had included it a little more after the later revolts, I appreciated the two instances they did show. His agony of resistance was convincingly portrayed. 
  • When I looked up the Parent Guide on IMDB and saw instances of hanging, I was a little concerned, and when a boy's parents first find him dead as a suicide victim, it is a sad and uncomfortable scene. But what happens after, as the boy is refused burial in the church grounds and Luther revolts in grief and anger against the refusal, showed a moving compassion that I thought was well worth including. Not only did it show how the rules of the church at the time didn't always minister to people's real needs, but it also showed an outcast woman watching Luther's compassionate burial of the boy, and you can see the wheels turning in her head as she takes in this act of mercy.
  • One of the most moving characters in the movie was the outcast mother with the little, crippled girl. The mother probably had the child out of wedlock, but her character shows such a sweet and simple love for her daughter as she buys the indulgence from Tetzel. Luther's anger over how she's taken advantage of and kindness towards her brings warmth to the film. She has an endearing, simple-hearted hunger for truth as she listens to Luther.

This movie is a great way to introduce people to this lionhearted spiritual soldier.

Parent Guide
Sex: Luther sees prostitutes soliciting in Rome (non-graphic).
Language: While there are a couple of instances of swearing I would mute, two of the scenes are actually moving struggles where Luther is cursing the devil in frantic spiritual warfare with fear, only calming down when he turns his attention instead to Christ.
Violence: A boy commits suicide by hanging (semi-graphic) and the church refuses to bury him. Tetzel holds his hand over a torch and shows his burned hand to the crowd. Close-up shot of a man in the fire being burned to death (brief). Far-away shot of men hanging from ropes. Shots of bloody bodies in the streets and the church.
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