Tag: historical fiction

A Glimpse Inside What I’m Writing Now

The cover for the second book in the REFLECTIONS series will be unveiled soon.

A Laboring Hand is the story of Jesus told by Martha of Bethany. And it’s a story that’s had a profound effect on the author writing it.

I’ve always teased my sister about being bossy, but Martha has taken flak from preachers for a couple thousand years about her tendency to be bossy. We’re familiar with this scripture from Luke 10, right?

38 Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.
39 And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.
40 But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.
41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

But what did it look like in Martha’s life?

Here’s a glimpse from A LABORING HAND, chapter four.

I washed my hands and began to chop the handfuls of pungent herbs I would add to the beans. The pestle in my hand smashed the beans with rhythmic efficiency. Mary pressed together more flour, salt and olive oil, intent on baking more bread.

“The stone was hot.” The words had barely left my mouth when Lazarus limped in followed by a boy carrying a jug on his head.

“Leave it in the shade outside,” I waved a hand to the boy. “We’ll draw out into my pitchers half-filled with water. That will make it last.”

Laz nodded to the boy, gesturing to a place further along the house, away from the cooking fire and the chimney. I heard the jingle of coins.

“It’s already watered.”

“What proportion?” My brain estimated the amount of drink a dozen thirsty men would need.

“Fifty percent.” Lazarus slouched against the wall. Weariness etched his features, but I knew he wouldn’t rest. He was more eager for the visitors than any of us.

“We can safely add another twenty percent. Will you see to it?”

“I’ll need to draw more water.” Mary’s hands hesitated over the dough. “They’ll need what I drew for washing.”

“They aren’t zealots.” I returned to my chopping. “They won’t care about washing before they eat. Could you reach me the bowl of olives?” I gestured to the line of pottery on the wall overhead.

Mary shoved Abba’s weaving stool into place and stepped up to grasp the bowl. “I intend to wash their feet.”

I froze. Why would she insist on doing that? It was a servant’s job, and since we didn’t have servants, none of our guests ever expected this service.

“They’ll just get dirty again when he leaves on Sunday.”

“But they’ll be clean for Sabbath.”

Like that really mattered in a small synagogue like ours.

“There isn’t enough water.” That would solve it.

“I’ll draw more.”

“The bread needs baking. And the floor should be swept and the cushions beaten. Plus, we’ll need to get out all the extra rugs.”

Lazarus sighed and pushed away from the wall. “I’ll get started on the cushions.”

I shook my head. With only one arm, it took him much longer to clean them. “I’ll do it. Draw out the wine.”

Laz blinked at me, sharing a look with Mary. It was an apologetic look. He’d tried to aid her plan, but the bossy big sister nixed it. Something gnawed at my heart, but I ignored it. There was work to be done.

Soon enough, the laughter and banter of a crowd of dusty men filled the room. I welcomed them with a small bowl of water and a clean linen cloth. Well, it was clean for the first man or two.

Yeshua reclined at the head of the table on the largest cushion. My parents had often shared it. John bar Zebedee, one of the Boanerges, sat on it with the master while the others filed onto other cushions, some choosing to lean against the wall on the rugs Lazarus had pulled from his room and ours. The dirt floor could hardly be seen once all of them sprawled around the room.

Mary and I circulated with pitchers of wine. Once we finished, I began to distribute the bowls of spiced beans and packets of bread, still warm from their place on the hearth. I turned to ask Mary to assist me, but she’d folded herself cross-legged at Yeshua’s feet, staring up as he started to talk.

I blinked hard. What on earth was she thinking? Was this her rebellion since I hadn’t let her get water for foot washing? She was certainly positioned in a way she could wash his feet if she had the supplies.

I continued to serve. His authoritative voice, usually so soothing, fueled the ire inside me. He could make her help me. I glanced at Laz, but my brother was watching the master and scribbling on a piece of parchment. Mary never once looked my way, even when I nudged her with my ankle as I passed to refill John’s cup.

With a careful eye, I glanced at every cup and bowl. They would need continual watching. Matthew raised his cup in my direction, and I sidled through the sprawled bodies to fill it, nearly tripping on another man’s filthy feet.

They weren’t drawn out of the way, so I turned and topped off his cup. He stared through me, as if I were invisible. I was used to that from working in the Pharisee’s home, but usually Yeshua’s friends were more gracious.

The unrest stirred inside me as I shuffled around, refilling cups and then fetching more bread to replenish the diminishing stacks. Soon, I would need to bake some more.

And that’s when it was too much. I strode toward Yeshua with my pitcher and jabbed my sister with a meaningful kick. She blinked.

As I filled his cup, I said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to serve alone?”

A hush descended in the room. I heard the wine trickle against what was in his cup. Our eyes met.

“Bid her to help me.” Couldn’t he see how much work I was doing? Why should she just be sitting there?

“Martha.” His voice was quieter than it had been, almost gentle.

At the sound of my name from his lips, the turmoil loosened inside me. Why had I waited so long to ask for his assistance? His dark eyes filled with understanding and concern. He would help me because he cared about me.
“Martha, you’re anxious and worried about many things.”

The comfort turned to a prickle of conviction. Worry was sin. My father had told me so.

“But one thing is needful.”

One thing? I wanted to jerk my hand around at the crowd of hungry men who needed food, drink and places to sleep. There were many things that needed to be taken care of. I knew he could see that.

Yeshua sighed. His fingers rested on the handle of the pitcher beside mine. They were square and scuffed. Working man’s hands.

“And Mary hath chosen that good part.” His voice rose slightly, but not with anger or impatience, and his hand dropped to his cup. “And that won’t be taken away from her.”

Everything warred within me as I struggled to comprehend his words. Mary was sitting there while our guests needed things. How was that better than helping me meet their needs?

“A certain man,” his gaze scanned the rest of the room.

I recognized the beginning of a parable. Usually I loved his stories, they always carried so much spiritual significance. I couldn’t listen though because his words stung my heart.

I filled cups, my eyes lowered. Tears burned at the back of my eyelids whenever I blinked, but I widened my eyes, pulling my shawl which had dropped to my shoulders, up to cover most of my face.

Mary sat at his feet doing nothing, but Yeshua said she’d chosen the good part. The words kept echoing all evening.

Even now, as I’m writing all this, they sting me somewhere deep in my soul. Was there something wrong with my desire to make the men comfortable? Did Yeshua not want a meal and refreshment while he was talking?

What do you think? How had you imagined Martha in this moment that gets so much negative attention? Should women be more like Mary?

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Why I’m Not Finished Writing This Yet

It’s that time of month when I’ve scheduled this blog to be a showcase for what I’m working on. Well, what I SHOULD be working on is NOT what I actually am working on.

And I didn’t hear much about last month’s share…from the same manuscript.

Did anyone even read it? Does anyone see these posts?

Is anyone out there?

Here I am posting a blog and wondering HOW on earth to make Martha’s story stretch for another 10, 000 words. Yep. That’s how much UNDER my goal I am on this one?

How do these things happen?

I get too many irons in the fire.

This is what I’ve been doing since I “started” drafting this book:

  • Overhauled LOVE’S EMERGING FAITH
  • Written a ton of blogs
  • Made too many memes
  • Started making weekly LIVE videos
  • Started a proposal writing workshop
  • Purchased ISBNs
  • Started an audiobook making project
  • Released a book
  • Promoted said book
  • Stalked said book’s sales on an hourly basis
  • Fine! “Said book” is MOMMY’S LITTLE MATCHMAKERS
  • Organized the next book in the REFLECTIONS series
  • Edited LOVE’S EMERGING FAITH
  • Started an IngramSpark account so I can distribute the REFLECTIONS series
  • Tried to upload the first book in the series
  • Requested new covers for series (several times)
  • Given up on formatting interior and begged an author friend to do it
  • Made her change it so many times I feel guilty
  • Wrote a scene or two in A LABORING HAND
  • Submitted LOVE’S EMERGING FAITH
  • Built up three regular clients for my Fiverr business
  • Went on an excellent “Laurel and Hardy’s Next Adventure” (see upcoming blog post)
  • Became a Lolly

YES! I’m a #firsttimelolly.

It IS as exciting as they say. And here’s a snapshot of my beautiful little granddaughter.

More about her and my grandmother name and being a first time lolly in an upcoming blog post. (Like I said, I’ve been writing a TON of these)

But now…another excerpt from the still-to-be-completed first draft.

From chapter 7 or 8. Haven’t completely decided on the layout yet. First draft, remember?

Mary followed me into the tiny space that contained fresh straw and bedding we’d been sleeping on—or tossing and turning on at least—since our brother passed into the next life.

In a hushed voice I told her, “The Master is come and calls for you.”

Another twinge tugged where my heart used to be whole.

Yahweh, forgive the little untruth.

He assured me that there was only truth or lies, no sizable ones of either.

Forgive this lie then. I justified it in my mind with, I’m only trying to help her find peace.

I sensed Yahweh wasn’t impressed with my reasoning.

Mary gasped. “Where?”

“I’ll show you.”

She followed me through the crush of comforters. Their voices rose.

“Where are you going?” Imma’s hand caught my arm but I swept it away and rushed toward the door.

Someone said, “She’s going to the grave to weep.”

Let them think what they would.

I took my sister’s hand and led her toward Yeshua’s circle of followers. As we neared, he broke away as before, and I dropped Mary’s hand.

She crumbled to the ground, and I let her.

Yeshua would pick her up.

Behind me, I heard the rustle of fabric and plod of footsteps. Imma had an arm around the shoulders of Avi’s girls and the women who’d been comforting us followed in a clot of black-shrouded humanity.

“Lord,” my sister cried, “if you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.”

My throat ached at the strain of holding in my tears. I said the same words, but the pain that broke my sister’s voice removed all accusation from them. Faith and love met with confusion. Why hadn’t he come when I told him Lazarus was sick?

Yeshua glanced at her and up at me and the crowd of women. Many of them were joined by their husbands now. Our group hadn’t gone through town unseen.

Yeshua bent and touched my sister’s shoulder. Her in-drawn gasp turned into a sob. He guided her to her feet, gently, like a father helping an injured child.

Please let his touch have Heavenly comfort.

By the time she stood, his face was marred by the anguish scarring my heart. His gaze met mine. “Where have you laid him?”

From behind me, one of the men who’d helped us carry Lazarus to his tomb came forward. “Come and see.”

Our procession continued down the dusty road and cut onto a narrower path. It was then, as Mary leaned against my side, sopping the tears from her face with her veil, that I realized Yeshua could have been pointing to the graves during our conversation.

Something buzzed in the abyss where the monster of loss lurked after devouring my heart and half my soul. Something I didn’t recognize because I hadn’t truly allowed myself to feel it since Mother and the others had died.

I stopped several feet from the tomb, a step behind Yeshua. His shoulders shook, and I realized he wept.

I knew he had loved my brother. Some in the crowd muttered that very truth.

Why then hadn’t he come and healed him?

Don’t doubt. Just believe.

Yahweh, help me believe in Your perfect will.

Well, there it is. What it might have been like to be Martha in the moments before everything in her world changed.

What do you think? Do you want to keep reading?

What sort of things do YOU wonder about Martha?

Echoes in the Glass should be on your To Be Read list

Sometimes the books you win from on online Facebook event are worth what you paid for them. Other times, you discover a gem.

For me, the gem was an author, Cheri Lasota. I attended an event introducing a science fiction universe, the Paradisi Chronicles, and won a copy of a historical paranormal fantasy.

I read the book. I didn’t care for the story or the characters all that much, but I adored her writing style. Since it might have been the mythology behind the book’s setting that tainted my enjoyment, I decided to give Lasota another try.

Boy, am I ever glad I did.

The paranormal (historical) romance Echoes in the Glass is the title I selected. (Yes, I’m pretty sure it was on sale for a buck. You know me and deals.)

Summary

While the book begins with Finnegan in a nearly present day situation, there are two story lines running in this book.

The present day story is about two teenagers facing the ugliness of their pasts. It involves the restoration of a lighthouse on the Oregon coast. Of course, there’s a romance. And poor Finnegan, the one he wants is the boss’ daughter.

While none of those story threads are original, the weaving of this story is highly unique and executed with professional finesse.

The historical story is set at the same lighthouse (or vicinity) in 1935. You meet a daughter struggling for independence from a father who treats her like a servant. Add in the fact she has a younger sister to protect, and you’ve got a tense situation.

Morgan Graves comes along and upsets the apple cart further. Rumors about the death of his mother abound. When the secret comes out, so does the nurturing nature of the heroine.

My Review

This book earns five stars from me. The writing was compelling, the characters complex and the story masterfully told.

I’m generally not a fan of stories with a past and present storyline. I tend to gravitate toward one set of characters more than the other. This keeps me from fully immersing in the story because while I’m with the characters I love, I’m dreading the return to the alternate time.

As I read about the characters who mean nothing, I’m wishing I was with the ones I love.

So much for “love the one you’re with.”

Ms. Lasota wrapped me up in all of her characters’ hearts and lives. I was as eager to read about the present as I was the past.

The further I got into the story, the more the historical line hinted about what they would find in the future. Or explained the things they found in the hidden room.

The present day characters rang true. Their problems were harsh, and not common, but still they won my heart. These are 17 and 18-year-olds, and I would recommend this book to older, mature teenagers. Some of the content would be disturbing for those under the age of fourteen, I think.

Sometimes, I find historical writers make their characters too “modern.” That thought never crossed my mind as I read about Carina and Morgan. They fit the times. I could picture my grandmother and grandfather in their youth acting and reacting like these two did.

This story touched my heart. It explores the family dynamics that torture and empower us. Not everyone had a happy ending. But all the story questions were answered.

My Recommendation

In my opinion, this story holds a wide appeal for female readers.

If you like historical romance written in the depression era, you’ll like this book. If you like American settings, this is for you.

Sassy heroines who have a mind of their own? You’ll definitely find that here – times two. Handsome heroes whose gallant nature makes you forget about their face? Yep, he’s in this story – times two.

Perhaps you’re not a huge fan of paranormal stories (like me). The ghost element plays a role in the character development and plot for sure. However, it didn’t make or break the story for me. There was enough tension and conflict from other sources that the ghosts could have been written out, and the story still worked.

If you enjoy a well-written romance with complex characters that will make you smile and bring tears to your eyes, read Echoes in the Glass.

Maybe you’re not a big romance reader. The character evolution and dual timeline, with it’s inherent mystery, will engage you.

An Uncertain Choice: A Review

As you know, I follow many author blogs. One of the ones I’ve followed for several years is written by Jody Hedlund, a Christian historical romance writer. I recently read her first YA book, An Uncertain Choice.

I’m not much of a historical fiction reader. The only other Hedlund book I’ve read is a novella introducing her series about lighthouse keepers.

Why did I pick up this book then? Two reasons: 1) it’s young adult and 2) it’s set in one of my favorite historical periods, the middle ages. Who doesn’t love knights and tournaments?

Yes, you will get your share of both of those in this book. You’ll also get a story that builds your faith while entertaining you. Oh, and it makes you sigh in the end.

My Summary

Lady Rosemarie is nearing her eighteenth birthday when she will enter a convent, pledging her life to God. All this is because of a vow her parents made. (I highly recommend reading the free novella telling this story: The Vow).

The Noblest Knight, a friend of her deceased father, arrives with a solution to her vow – if she wants to get out of it. Can she fall in love with one of the three chivalrous knights he brings, marrying before her birthday? If so, the vow will be annulled.

She agrees to the attempt, much to the chagrin of her most trusted and beloved adviser, the abbot. The men begin wooing her. She enjoys all of their attentions, but finds herself strangely drawn to the one who refuses to compete with his best friends.

Strange accidents occur. One of the young men is injured and another evades an attempt against him, at peril to a bystander. Meanwhile, the local sheriff tries to undermine Rosemarie’s authority with her people.

Will she be strong enough to resist his pressure? Can she fall in love with one of the knights? In the end, someone wants to control her badly enough that no one is safe – not even our lady.

My Review

With a solid suspense plot undergirding the romance, this book earned four out of five stars from me.

Lady Rosemarie evolves from a pliable woman to one who thinks independently. Unfortunately, her open and harsh resistance to torture at the beginning of this book made me wonder why she had been naive for so long. Her strong convictions about torture seemed contradictory to her overall compliance.

Each of the knights is well-drawn. Each has his own strengths and weaknesses. Her attraction to all of them made sense given her sheltered existence. Still, I like my romance heroine to have a more definite attachment to the hero.

This story was predictable. I called the villain from the first scene, and I was slightly discouraged that this individual was chosen. It seemed anti-thesis to the strong Christian themes, as well as conforming to long-held stereotypes.

My Recommendation

I enjoyed this book more because I read The Vow first. I don’t think I would have understood the significance of the vow as well if I hadn’t. So I suggest readers claim the free novella.

This is a clean read with compelling characters and realistic reactions. The plot moves along steadily. I never felt bored or like I wanted to stop reading.

Parents searching for something to entices their daughters with should pick up a copy of Hedlund’s book. It’s a story that encourages a personal relationship with the Lord.

This is Me … Begging

Logo GradientI am amazed and thrilled that nearly 300 people in a world of seven billion subscribe to my blog. And yet, I’m going to beg all of you for a small favor.

Before you delete this email, I promise to make my plead short and sweet.

I would love for you to subscribe to my infrequent update mailing list. At the moment, less than seven percent (7%) of the incredible readers of this blog do.

All you have to do is click here and fill in three short blanks and hit the “submit” button. Easy – peasy.

Why I ask

Being able to contact people interested in reading what I write is essential to building a writing career. The number one way marketing gurus everywhere agree to do this is to have a list of email addresses of people who WANT to read your stuff.

Is that you? If so, I promise not to fill your email inbox with junk. In six months, I have sent exactly THREE newsletters.

Think you might be interested? Sign up here.

What You’re Signing up For

newsletterIf you complete this form, you’re telling me it’s OK with you if I send you information about upcoming book releases. I also might send information about personal appearances (but I don’t have any of these on my immediate horizon).

This isn’t a weekly newsletter. It probably won’t even wing its way to you on a monthly basis.

I will give you a hint, though. This fall, I have two exciting new releases on the schedule. Once I have specific details, people signed up for my newsletter will get all the details.

I’m also offering access to a subscriber-only short story. When you sign up for my newsletter, you’ll get access to the story.

The newsletters will offer special promotional prices and easy links for purchasing from your favorite retailer.

I appreciate you reading to the end of this post.

I love you if you sign up for the newsletter. Click. Complete. Submit.

You make my world a better place.

End of this begging session. Now back to your regularly scheduled blog reading.