The Warrior Maiden Book Review

 

Hello Sweet Readers!

What a month March has turned out to be. Blizzards. Rain. Massive flooding. So many of us have been forced indoors. Hence, my reading has been off the charts! I’d love to share the latest books that have graced my coffee table and yes, sported coffee stains.

But first, a little picture of the aftermath of the latest blizzard. Rising rivers pushed chunks of ice against the roads, toppled bridges, and even took out a dam. Now that’s power. Please keep the Midwest in your prayers as constituents take on the task of cleanup and rebuilding.

 

 

 

The Warrior Maiden by Melanie Dickerson

I’ve enjoyed the latest offering by Melanie Dickerson. The Warrior Maiden is a Mulan retelling with a surprising twist. I understand reviewers have questioned Mulan, an Asian female lead, finding romance with a German duke’s son. This is understandable as YA fantasy continues to push for greater diversity. However, I didn’t find it detracting from the story. Dickerson has created a believable world within Medieval Europe and to cast the romantic lead as anyone other than a knight, wouldn’t fit with the rest of the series.

The romance was sweet. Mulan is one of the “stronger” characters in the fairytale series, yet she still maintains femininity and vulnerability as a woman struggling to find her place. She wrestles with her faith and her growing attraction to Wolfgang. I always appreciate the faith element within Dickerson’s books. Mulan’s insecurities and protective nature will appeal to younger readers.

It’s a solid 4/5 stars for me. I have bought every single book this author puts out and I have no intentions of stopping with this series. Already my kids are eyeing the collection. They are a little young for it yet, but soon. Very soon!

You can purchase this beauty here. Isn’t it gorgeous? Thomas Nelson puts out some of the prettiest covers!

Back cover blurb:

She knows women are expected to marry, cook, and have children, not go to war. Can she manage to stay alive, save her mother, and keep the handsome son of a duke from discovering her secret?

When Mulan takes her father’s place in battle against the besieging Teutonic Knights, she realizes she has been preparing for this journey her whole life—and that her life, and her mother’s, depends on her success. As the adopted daughter of poor parents, Mulan has little power in the world. If she can’t prove herself on the battlefield, she could face death—or, perhaps worse, marriage to the village butcher.

Disguised as a young man, Mulan meets the German duke’s son, Wolfgang, who is determined to save his people even if it means fighting against his own brother. Wolfgang is exasperated by the new soldier who seems to be one step away from disaster at all times—or showing him up in embarrassing ways.

From rivals to reluctant friends, Mulan and Wolfgang begin to share secrets. But war is an uncertain time and dreams can die as quickly as they are born. When Mulan receives word of danger back home, she must make the ultimate choice. Can she be the son her bitter father never had? Or will she become the strong young woman she was created to be?

This fresh reimagining of the classic tale takes us to fifteenth-century Lithuania where both love and war challenge the strongest of hearts.

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The Number of Love by Roseanna M. White

In future posts, I’ll be sharing a little more about another fabulous read involving strong women and a dash of danger. When I heard that Roseanna M. White’s latest novel involves women who love math and a spy or two, I said, “Sign me up!” As a former audiologist, I’m always drawn to female characters who excel in math or science.

Stay tuned for future giveaways and some fun info on The Number of Love. In the meantime, you can find it here!

Back cover Blurb: Three years into the Great War, England’s greatest asset is their intelligence network–field agents risking their lives to gather information, and codebreakers able to crack every German telegram. Margot De Wilde thrives in the environment of the secretive Room 40, where she spends her days deciphering intercepted messages. But when her world is turned upside down by an unexpected loss, for the first time in her life numbers aren’t enough.

Drake Elton returns wounded from the field, followed by an enemy who just won’t give up. He’s smitten quickly by the intelligent Margot, but how can he convince a girl who lives entirely in her mind that sometimes life’s answers lie in the heart?

Amid biological warfare, encrypted letters, and a German spy who wants to destroy not just them but others they love, Margot and Drake will have to work together to save themselves from the very secrets that brought them together.

Doesn’t this book sound absolutely fabulous?

As always, I love to hear what you are reading and if you have any great book recommendations in the comments below.

Happy reading!

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When Writing is like Pottery

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Have you ever watched a potter at work? It’s a beautiful sight and can be a little daunting. Potters lovingly guide a misshapen lump of clay into something worthy for display on a table. We marvel at the shapes, the baked in glazes and wonder how the artist could create something so exquisite.

The pottery process, however, can be similar to writing a novel. I’ve watched artists guide a clay piece on the wheel only to ruthlessly smash it down and start over again. Each time they seemingly destroy their art, it begins anew, like a phoenix arising out ashes. The clay is softer and more pliable. It becomes that vase we pin on Pinterest and sigh over in some little art boutique.

Especially skilled potters have the determination and skill to start over and over, creating from the same piece of clay until it takes the desired form. As I tackle the editing phase of my novels, I find the image of a potter immensely encouraging. I like to leave things alone thank-you-very-much and close my eyes tight against the sight of lumps and lopsided lines.

Yet, I need editing with my writing. All writers do.

I never send my first draft out except to my husband. The times I have shared the earliest drafts with beta readers, I’ve regretted it. Honestly, it’s no different sending out a lopsided cup and asking for feedback. Chances are, even with rewrites, there are still plenty of ripples to work out with editors and beta readers.

Do I have a team of beta readers? Absolutely. Hiring an established editor is even better.

How many rewrites do I attempt? Each book is different. I have rewritten some countless times over years, each scene reworked and honed until I can finally rest with the end product. Other times, a deadline looms and I need a surgical knife to cut away what isn’t working. I need radical action and I can’t get sentimental about what I’ve written.

Yet, I also must find balance in writing and the wisdom to know when to let a project rest. No art will ever achieve perfection.

An old friend shared with me a similar art story that happened during his college years. The teacher observed the student so obsessed over the painting he snatched the canvas out of the student’s hands and tossed it out the open window of the studio.

As writers, we can strive for excellence as opposed to perfection. We can untangle our emotions regarding our art and allow the process of revising to flow unhindered until we find the desired shape.

Going a step further here, I think it’s no mistake that Jesus is described as the master potter, reworking us until we become something altogether new. We find ourselves shaped by life’s circumstances, feeling sometimes crushed in the process and yet the outcome can still be lovely.

If we humble ourselves and come under His direction, always keeping an attitude of “your will, not mine”, we experience something better. Something new. I wish I could promise God’s workings in life to be simple. Dealing with sin is never easy or pain-free. But it is necessary to find a place of freedom and growth.

How precious to think God lovingly tends to each of us if we allow it.

 

Isaiah 64:8 (NIV)

Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. 

 

Jeremiah 18: 1-6 (NIV)

This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2“Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.”  3So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel.  4But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. Then the word of the Lord came to me. 6He said, “Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel.  

 

Photo by Natallia Rak from Pexels

Can I Tell God What to Do?

A family member sent me a thoughtful question following a newsletter she received from a famous preacher. In the short devotional, the televangelist noted as a child of the king; he has a double portion of speaking power. No more troubled relationships. No more sickness and disease…or financial strain. If he claimed it with his speech, it was his for the taking.

As I read the questions sent my way, my gut clenched. How to answer? How should we interpret the sovereignty of God in a broken world? These challenges are not for the faint of heart and yet they must be asked and resolved in every believer’s life. Though a tempting notion, we don’t get to control God. We are not the puppet masters who tell him, hey—today I’m going to be rich and my relationships mend like magic and if I’m slandered, you are going to make it go “poof”. Ready, God? On the count of one…two…three.

As the creation, we struggle to understand the ways of our Creator. He allows things we can’t untangle. How would we minister to ISIS slave girls who are abused repeatedly because they are Christian? How do we explain suffering versus prosperity to the starving, disease riddled Christians imprisoned in North Korea? On a more personal note, what should I say to the pastor who lost his daughter to cancer? What words can I offer the sleep-deprived mother who is worn to a thread and finds her emotions crashing with the power of a Tsunami wave?

So, I offer this instead. In the Psalms, David cries out to the Lord, yet he is nevertheless determined to believe in God’s goodness and power even in the midst of his angst (Psalm 62). I consider Paul’s words that he can do all things through Christ… how to abound and how to be abased. Paul’s resolve to be content no matter his life’s circumstance both encourages and challenges me (Philippians 4:12-13).

I talk about the comfort waiting on the other side of life. A new heaven and earth will be made one day and we will know no more sorrow and pain. Hope is waiting, my friends. Real tangible hope. Not the shallow stuff of empty promises. It’s the hope that has kept countless Christians worldwide for hundreds of years secure in their faith no matter what they endured.

Now that I’ve said all of this, I want to make it clear the other flip side is sinful. It has a name. Worry. Have you been there? I have. Not trusting God can heal me when I’m instructed to ask the elders to lay hands on the sick and anoint with oil. Not admitting God is merciful and will forgive me. Not believing God can carry me out of temptation or help me move beyond my own sinful choices and consequences. Remaining unconvinced God can’t or won’t provide for my physical needs when he says he will. Not expecting God can mend damaged relationships or soften hardened hearts.

Both positions elevate me in the end. One, I’m a god and I tell God what to do. Or, I’m still a god and believe in my own sufficiency while wallowing in a wasteland of anxiety.

Neither extreme can sustain a faith for long.

We are confident that God will work all things out to the benefit of those who love him (Romans 8:28). Will he calm the storm in the boat as he did with Peter? Yes. Jesus just might do that for you…but for his glory. Or, will he allow you to sit in dark imprisonment at Patmos as John did? Even if the unthinkable occurs, God promises to be right there. It was at a barren island John received a revelation full of future hope and glory.

When we recognize nothing can separate us from the love of Christ; no height, depth, power or current circumstance,  we are set free. We remember we have a heavenly father with whom we can petition those tough needs. We recall the Holy Spirit groans for us with each whispered prayer. He intercedes when things are painful and there are no words to express our despair (Romans 8:26).

And that my friend, is perhaps the greatest test of faith and obedience. We trust in the sovereignty of God, in the goodness of God and in his mercy. He will always prove faithful—even in the midst of a wave tossed sea.

 

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:12-13

Rest in God alone, my soul, for my hope comes from him. he alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I will not be shaken. my salvation and glory depend on God, my strong rock. Psalm 62:5-7

 

 

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Photo by Zachary DeBottis on Pexels.com

2019 Coffee Table Reads: YA Fantasy and Historical Romance

Hello sweet readers,

It’s 2019 and a marvelous host of books are out there waiting to be discovered. So let me get right to it and share the latest reads to grace my coffee table and bear coffee stains.

 

 

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Mark of the Raven 

Oh. My. Goodness. I adored this first of a two book series. Lady Selene has the ability to enter dreams at will. As the lady of a fallen house, she is trained to discover secrets and assassinate if need be. But when her task involves entering the mind of a young nobleman, Damien, Selene finds that she can’t carry out the tasks, even if it means endangering her nation and her very life.

Morgan L. Busse writes such a clean, fast-paced fantasy! I could hardly tear myself away from the pages. The Christian elements are subtle and yet so very clear. The romance . . . the romance is just lovely. It’s delicate and takes a reasonable amount of time to simmer. Snap this beauty up. It’s under a dollar on Amazon. Mark of the Raven is one of my absolute favorite young adult reads. I can hardly wait for the sequel. You can purchase here

A Bound Heart

My third read and likely to be one of my favorites of 2019, includes the latest offering by Laura Frantz. Her newest release, A Bound Heart, is tender and heartbreaking all at once. Laura Frantz writes some of the most beautiful love stories out there. When Lark is accused of terrible crimes and sent to the New World as an indentured servant, she needs to carve out a new life far from the comfort of her Scottish island. When the one man she could never have, Laird Magnus MacDougall, is sent on the same journey, she discovers all hope is not lost and love may still have a second chance. Swoon-worthy romance. Marvelous Christian themes. I couldn’t give this book a higher recommendation. You’ll find links to purchase here. Oh, did I mention this book is my book club pick of the month? I can’t wait to see what my fellow readers think of this beauty of a book.

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2019: The Year of Intense Writing

It’s 2019 and a fresh start to the year! New books. New writing projects. A list of New Year resolutions. One of my goals is to complete three novels this year; two young adult fantasies and an ancient Rome historical novel. That’s 220,000 words and I’m on a roll. The historical novel is in edit phase and the young adult novels are in first draft phase. In other words, I’m living on caffeine and chocolate with very little sleep. I’ll be sharing more on these projects in the near future!

Also, Five Poisoned Apples is free on kindle unlimited! You can get it here.  The outpouring of love from readers has been amazing! Stay tuned to hear about some fun parties and giveaways coming up soon.

How about you? What books are on your TBR pile?

 

 

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Not your Grandmother’s Snow White Tale

 

Hello, sweet readers,

I have some fun news to share! Raven’s Heir and The Five Poisoned Apple collection are available for preorder on Amazon!

I can’t wait to introduce you to Damien and Kara. Snow White happens to be one of my favorite fairy-tale retellings. In Raven’s Heir, a young princess flees her evil stepmother and finds refuge with a band of rebels and spies, including one man she thought she would never see again. It’s a story of hope, even when traveling through the darkest of valleys.

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As much as I adore Disney and classic fairytales, Snow White is not an easy fairy-tale to work with. After all, who can forget the glorified Disney movie where the sweet girl lies in a glass coffin for everyone to see? Or Snow White’s frantic escape as hideous trees snag at her dress? Or Snow White singing while cleaning after seven dirty men? Yeah, that’s not going to happen at my house. Or how about the wicked middle-age queen plotting murder, simply because she cannot accept a wrinkle or two? In the historical and Disney versions, does Snow White ever really achieve agency and take charge despite the wild, dangerous world around her? Or is she saved simply by the kiss of a stranger?

The tale has plenty of darkness and the macabre as seen in the Grimm brothers’ 1812 version. A huntsman is charged with removing a young girl’s heart and an evil queen gets her comeuppance when she is forced (by the prince, no less) to dance in red-hot iron shoes at Snow White’s wedding. Ouch! Not for those of a faint constitution. Just how exactly does one balance the darkness with light in such a story?

Depending on your opinion, there’s plenty to love . . . or hate about this fairytale. For me, the idea of friends looking out for each other, the stranger who extends help with nothing to gain, and the determination to hold onto hope no matter how dark the situation, make the tale of Snow White worth keeping. Beauty and power are not the end goals. Friendship, loyalty, and courage are.

The Five Poisoned Apples authors of Rooglewood Press have worked to create five unique tellings that are quite simply  — not your grandmother’s Snow White. This is a young adult collection for ages 13 and up. There are a few chills and a dash of romance, but it’s suitable for most ages. Fans of Melanie Dickerson or Anne Elisabeth Stengl will find a series to enjoy!

And without further ado, I present Five Poisoned Apples!  A TALE SO DARK AND LOVELY.

Falling Snow: The strange dark circus is the only life she’s ever known—but is Snow a performer or a prisoner?  Skye Hoffert (You can check out her blog here).

Raven’s Heir: Taking her in could risk the lives of his rebel band—but how can Damien leave the young woman at the huntsman’s mercy?

The Fairest One: Her people look for the prophesied Fairest One—but can Livna find the courage to step out of the shadows and save her nation? Cortney Manning (You can check out her blog here).

Red as Blood: He’s been hired to assassinate the princess, no questions asked—but how can Zaig take the life of one so young, so innocent? Maddie Morrow (You can check out her blog here).

Snowbird and the Red Slippers: She longs to be worthy of the scholarship that changed her life—but can Jeong Hayan survive the bitter rivalry of a prestigious New York dance school? Rachael Wallen. (You can check out her blog here). And Tumblr here.

Experience the haunting beauty of Snow White in five thrilling retellings.

 

 

How about you? Do share about some of your favorite fairytales in the comments below. And don’t forget, Rooglewood Press is holding a Facebook Release party on December 1st from 7 to 10 pm, EST. Prizes and book giveaways galore. We would love to see you there!

NaNoWriMo 2018 and Five Poisoned Apples

 

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NaNoWriMo 2018

It’s that time of year. It’s when thousands of people sweat bullets and wonder if they will ever make it out alive. Nope, it’s not a Thanksgiving Macy’s clearance sale. Welcome to the wild month of NaNoWriMo. I swore I wouldn’t attempt the writing marathon again after an exhausting year. What sane person commits to a full-length novel in the span of thirty days when Christmas shopping looms and pumpkin pies need to be baked?

Well, this girl :). And it went swimmingly well. I got up at three in the morning with the dog and the family fast asleep. My Keurig chugged merrily along, pumping hazelnut coffee cup after cup. It seemed success would come bright and early. I had a lovely 20,000 words within the first week! And then reality hit, and this mama burned out.

I do believe the key to a successful writing run is to outline before the month of November. This is not the time to employ “panster” methods. Second, go slow and steady. After all, the hare doesn’t win the race. It’s the slow plodding tortoise who manages to take one step at a time.

Finally, forget the word count. Have fun and enjoy the process and your writing buddies. Connect with a group of writers who are likely experiencing all the joy and frustration you are. All to say, “I wrote a novel!” And that is a big deal. Currently, my project is at 40,000 words with one week to spare and plenty of time to bake those cookies.

So what am I writing this month? I can’t say too much, but for those curious . . .  my WIP is a young adult fantasy where the female lead battles chronic illness but has a backbone of steel. She matches wits against a wicked young king and resolves to see justice return to her beloved country.

Those of you who follow this blog know I adore young adult fantasy. The females are usually the stronger variety in this genre. Lately, I’ve been thinking about how strength comes in many facets that go far beyond a woman wielding a sword or leading a rebellion. My mother was a breast cancer survivor and I always marveled at her strength of spirit when facing chemotherapy or radiation or surgery. I also greatly admire characters who find their strength in God, particularly when life becomes hard. Zecharia 4:6 is such a special verse for me and my mother.

 So he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the LORD of Hosts.

And I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for more of these characters in ya literature.

Parties and Giveaways!

And in other news . . . drum roll, please! Rooglewood Press is hosting a special release facebook party on December 1st, Saturday from 7 to 10pm EST. With giveaways! Oh yes, there will be copies of Five Poisoned Apples to win and plenty of other goodies (such as the black feather ink set down below) for those who attend! I don’t know about you, but I love parties. And I love free stuff. Consider yourself cordially invited. We would love to see you there.

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Five Poisoned Apples Release Party

 

 

 

On My Coffee Table: Five YA Current Reads with Coffee Stains​

Books Galore!

There is something marvelous about fall. Spice pumpkin coffee with cream, glittering frost covering the ground, and books! Lots of books! This is my reading season and I love it. Give me a cozy blanket, a fireplace (ok, a fake one for the TV), and a stack of novels as high as my coffee table, and I’m content. Over the next few months, I’d love to share with you some of my current reads obtaining coffee rings. I like to think those rings are badges of honor.

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What’s new on my coffee table this month? A Touch of Gold by Annie Sullivan, Common by Laura Lucking, Melanie Dickerson’s Magnolia Summer, Mary Weber’s The Evaporation of Sofi Snow, and Eloise Jarvis McGraw’s classic, Mara, Daughter of the Nile. It’s quite the assortment of YA including; fairytale myths, southern Zorro dramas, and a futuristic gamer/mystery. Meanwhile, I’ve been dipping into Fawkes by Nadine Brandes. In addition to YA lit, I adore a good historical and have found another favorite author. Connilyn Cossette’s Cities of Refuge series has drama, romance, plenty of adventure, and a message of faith that always resonates with me.

I know. I’m terrible. I rarely stick with one novel and like to pick at them as if at a smorgasbord. So far, one of my most anticipated reads has been A Touch of Gold (Blink publishers). I was not disappointed. That cover is gorgeous! It has creepy pirates and a golden girl attempting to save her father, the infamous King Midas. I especially enjoyed the idea of overcoming addiction (the gold). This is not a faith-based YA read, but it is clean. I read it in a day.

Mary Weber’s The Evaporation of Sofi Snow (Thomas Nelson publishers) left me a little hesitant over some aspects. I loved the futuristic gaming aspect and the rugged leads, particularly Sofi, who has been abandoned by her CEO mother. When Sofi’s brother is kidnapped after an attempted assassination (he’s a famous gamer not unlike The Hunger Games), she resolves to save him. The love between a young brother and sister was deeply touching and I appreciated Mary delving into tough topics such as human trafficking. It’s a topic that needs to be discussed.

A little caution for those more sensitive — I wasn’t keen on the language peppered throughout the novel. The swearing was too much for me and distracted from a compelling story. This is a clean read but surprisingly low on faith. I do believe the book would have benefited from it. I’ll be reading the sequel to see if the characters evolve. Regardless, this is a series readers will find a great deal to discuss and chew on. Mary is such a strong writer and it’s difficult to put her books down.

Melanie Dickerson’s Magnolia Summer (GraceFaith Press) is a sweet Southern with undertones of Zorro. It’s a gutsy novel and her first self-published book after a successful fairytale retelling run. It deals with tough topics such as racism in the old South. I enjoyed the character of Truett, who attempts to find justice as a vigilante within a sleepy old town hiding terrible secrets. Celia, on the other hand, is a prickly character and it’s difficult to relate to her. That said, Melanie Dickerson is one of those authors who rarely disappoints and my bookshelves are loaded with her books. This is a clean romance with a strong faith message of trust, honesty, and doing the right thing. I’ll certainly be purchasing the next books in this Southern series. Plus . . . that cover!

I’ll keep you posted on the status of the other novels in my stack. It’s going to be a stellar month of reading!

What am I looking for in YA?

What am I looking for in my reading lists? Diversity. A diversity of characters, gender, beliefs, personality, and yes, culture. I want authentic people even if the situations are a bit over the top.  Give me romance, but keep it clean. Keep it healthy and real.

More importantly, give me a character who wrestles with the big questions. As a Christian YA reader and writer, I’m ready for characters to dive into the deeper issues and come up gasping for air. If we claim that faith is important to us — the most important thing — then let’s see it resonate with our leads and watch them grow in believable ways.

 

Editing Raven’s Heir

As for edits on Raven’s Heir (Rooglewood Press), I received the author galley a few days ago and have been scouring for the little details that make such a difference in the final book. Thankfully, I discovered Star Buck’s Cold Brew to get me through those edits! And (me whispering), I read the other novellas in the Five Poisoned Apples collection. Oh. My. Goodness. I can’t wait for you all to read them! Plenty of romance and thrills galore.

I couldn’t resist including a little picture of the Raven’s Heir galley. Isn’t it pretty? It’s coming this December! Just in time for the winter snow. Here’s a little snippet in case you were curious. I’m excited for you to meet Kara and Damien in this Snow White retelling. You can sneak a better look on my Pinterest Raven’s Heir board.

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Raven’s Heir is a historical fantasy with romance and a few chills. A young queen flees for her life with a band of rebels including one man she thought she would never see again. Throw in a wicked regent and a huntsman who can track anyone or anything . . . and well, you’ll just have to check it out for yourself!

That’s all for my reading updates. Join with me every month for more coffee table talk on books, characters, and writing. I’d love to know what you are reading this fall! Share your favorite books in the comments below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sweet Surprises

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This has been the week of marvelous surprises. First of all, I received my title page for my upcoming novella, Raven’s Heir. Artist HSJ Williams created this and it fits the adventure and danger of the novella perfectly. You can see more of her work at http://hsjwilliams.wordpress.com.

And the second surprise? A lovely mug from my publisher, Rooglewood Press, celebrating the finish of edits. Isn’t it pretty? My kids figured roses were better than coffee in it. Hmmm. I don’t know. Coffee is pretty spectacular in any mug.

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And finally, I received a fantastic brown package meaning only one thing. Book mail! My book club decided on Jodi Hedlund’s A Worthy Rebel for the month of September. We’ve been diving into young adult fantasy and romance, particularly of the sweeter, cleaner, inspirational reads. This book is swoon-worthy and exciting! I couldn’t be happier with this month’s pick. It’s available on Amazon for purchase.

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