Saturday, October 25, 2014

Welcome Back to Sarah Sundin

Is there a story behind Where Treetops Glisten?

Several years ago, Cara Putman asked Tricia Goyer and me if we’d like to write a WWII Christmas novella collection, and we loved the idea. The plan rested for several months, then at Christmastime, a story idea hit me with such force that I knew I had to write it, whether or not anyone else was on board. A Christmas song on the radio prodded up an image of a child wandering the streets, looking for something she’d lost…and a man determined to help her…and since it’s a romance, the mother is widowed…and the child decides the man is going to be her new daddy…however, the man had bullied the mother when they were young, and she wants nothing to do with him. Can he convince her he’s changed? Most of my story ideas build slowly over time, but this one flew together within an hour. I couldn’t take notes fast enough.

Who is the most fun character you ever created?

Almost every book has someone fun, but Linnie Kessler in Where Treetops Glisten might be the most fun. She’s six years old and too bright for her own good. She never stops moving and never stops talking, which drives her teacher and babysitter crazy. When her father was killed in World War II, her great-grandmother tried to comfort her by saying Linnie would see her daddy in all the places they used to go. Linnie takes this literally, and she often runs away to wander downtown where she hopes to see her daddy in the store windows. This aching hole in the child’s heart made her real and vulnerable to me, but she’s also hysterically funny. And no, I don’t know where she comes up with some of the things she says—I just transcribed the words she spoke.

Do you type or write by hand? Computer? Typewriter? Legal pad?

I wrote my first five novels longhand in pencil on scratch paper (the Wings of Glory series and two unpublished “starter novels”). When I entered the chapters into the computer, it served as my first edit. However, when I wrote Blue Skies Tomorrow, the final Wings of Glory book, I realized what I was entering in the computer was almost exactly what I’d written by hand. My writing had become tighter and cleaner and better planned. Now the longhand phase was wasting time—and for the first time, I was writing under contract with a deadline! When I started the Wings of the Nightingale series, I wrote straight into the computer and haven’t looked back. However, I do much of my pre-writing—brainstorming, notes, character charts, early outlines—by hand. Creativity seems to flow when I put pen to paper.

Do you archive everything you write?

I’m kind of obsessive about this. I print hard copies of each chapter when I finish, because I still have a mortal fear of ALL computers EVERYwhere DYING. But at least I’d have my hard copy! Yes, I come from a long line of chronic worriers. But my hard copy also looks pretty, and I love watching my binder get fatter and fatter. Then I get emotionally attached to my pretty binders, and I hate the idea of just recycling them as if they meant absolutely nothing to me. Yes, I come from a long line of packrats. So my big fat binders are accumulating. Someday soon I must be brutal and purge.

Do you ever write based on your dreams?

I have. My very first novel came from a dream. In fact, that dream turned me from a pharmacist/stay-at-home mom to a writer/pharmacist/stay-at-home mom. That morning in 2000, I woke from a dream so compelling I simply had to write it down. I felt weird and uncomfortable doing so, and I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. That’s one rough draft I’ll never recycle because its sheer awfulness humbles me. However, my love for that story led me to connect with writers’ groups and to attend my first conference. Then I began to learn to write.

Does music help you write?

Yes and no. I listen to big band music in my car when my teenagers aren’t around to mock me. Those songs put me (prepare for a bad pun)…”In the Mood” to write about World War II. The rhythm of the music, the lyrics, and the emotion inspire character and scene ideas. However, when I’m actually writing, music distracts me. I work best in silence, with normal household background noise, or even at the karate studio—but not with music.

How do you find the time to write?

I make the time to write. I don’t believe anyone in the history of the world has ever found time. If there are any minutes floating around waiting to be found, they get instantly gobbled up. We must make time. When my kids were little, I wrote during naptime, then during school hours or during homework time. I’ve written at the ballet studio, on the sidelines waiting for a soccer game, at the DMV office, and once I even sketched out a scene on a napkin in line at Disneyland. Now that my kids are teens and young adults, I’m able to spend forty hours a week in my home office, but even now I have to guard that time jealously.

When is your next book due out and can you tell us about it?

Through Waters Deep (Revell, summer 2015) kicks off the Waves of Freedom series, which follows three American naval officers based in Boston during WWII. In 1941, as America teeters on the brink of World War II, Mary Stirling works at the Boston Navy Yard and renews an old friendship with naval officer Ens. Jim Avery. Jim’s destroyer escorts British convoys across the North Atlantic, but problems on his ship point to a saboteur at the shipyard. As Mary works to find the culprit and Jim battles U-boats, their friendship promises to blossom into something more. But could a deeper friendship rip them apart?

To purchase Sarah's book:

Sarah Sundin is giving away a copy of Where Treetops Glisten. The giveaway is only available to U.S. addresses.

To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment along with your email address. You may enter the book giveaway twice -- once on each spotlight post. (It's not too late to go back and leave a comment on yesterday's post.)

Off to read another great book!
Sandra M. Hart

Friday, October 24, 2014

A Warm Welcome to Terri Gillespie!

We're happy to have you visit today, Terri, and looking forward to reading your answers to our questions! Is there a story behind your book Making Eye Contact with God?
Oh my, yes. This book was the result of encounter I had with a sparrow. I was home alone when I heard a commotion; a sparrow had trapped itself between our storm and regular window. He frantically threw his tiny body against the glass to escape. I unlocked the sash and lifted it a few inches. The sparrow became so agitated I was afraid the little guy would have a heart attack.

What if he flew into the house? I’d have a bigger problem on my hands.

Speaking in soothing tones I attempted to guide him into my hand. He hopped away from me.

Impulsively, I grabbed the sparrow by the tail feathers. With my other hand I formed a cell over him. He reacted more violently than I expected. I could barely hold him. Standing in the middle of the living room holding him with both hands, I wondered how I was going to open the doors to release him. I continued to alternately speak to him and pray.

Then we made eye contact. His shiny bead-like eyes and mine connected. Immediately his struggle ceased. I was able to remove one hand. He sat quietly in my palm as I opened the doors. Seconds later, he was free, and I was left in wonder.

For months afterward every time I saw a sparrow I replayed the event in my head. As much as I hated to admit it, the incident was a graphic picture of my relationship with God.

When I was in trouble, how many times had He reached out to rescue me, but I flew away in fear or confusion? How often was He forced to grab me by the tail feathers to prevent me from getting into more trouble? How many times had He held me in His hand only to have me fight Him, thinking I was trapped?

How much easier it would have been had I turned my eyes toward the Lord—to make eye contact with Him—and allow Him to set me free.

Awesome story! What distracts you from writing the easiest?
Great question! Life distracts me from writing. Unfortunately, I find most of those detours are created by me. I’m at the age where wandering into a room and forgetting why I’m there is commonplace. I can sometimes wander into a sentence and do the same thing.

What kind of books do you enjoy reading? (Book recommendations very welcome!)
I devour mysteries and thrillers. Anything by Brandilyn Collins, Terri Blackstock, and Colleen Coble, I’ll finish in a day or two. Contemporary women’s I take a little longer—love Angela Hunt.

A recent development in the last few years is historical. This new interest began with one of my favorite authors, Cathy Gohlke. She did something I never thought possible which is to get me to read and enjoy historical fiction. Cathy has a way of taking historical events and giving them such life and context that I come away with a challenge to improve my life. Her most recent book, Saving Amelie is one of her best. I just read the first draft of her next book and I have to say, in my opinion, it is my favorite.

Suspense? Nice. What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
How do I choose? My life is a series of quirky. When I was little I always positioned my bed against the wall because I prayed facing the wall. Many nights I cried myself to sleep facing that wall.

The first time I traveled to Jerusalem and prayed at the Kotel—the Wailing Wall—God brought that memory to me.

What is a favorite memory from your childhood? 
My dad had flipped a coin to see whether my brother or I would spend the night with my grandparents.
I won the toss.

Normally grandma would have activities planned for us when we visited, but this being a serendipitous event she had to make do. She put aside her usual chores and took me by the hand. As we made our way toward the expansive front porch, we stopped by grandpa’s glass jar of lemon drops and snatched one for each of us.

We sat on the porch swing rocking back and forth, sucking on those sweet and sour treats, as she told me stories. Stories about her father, Dr. Robert Terry who made house calls in his horse and buggy. Some were spooky, like something you’d share around a campfire.

I don’t remember which story, or stories, she told me that particular day, I just remember she stopped what she was doing, spent time with me, and fed my imagination.

By the way, I have a photo of my great-grandfather the day he upgraded from buggy to an automobile. He’s sitting at the wheel, parked in front of his office. He looked so proud.

Lovely memory. Where is your favorite place to travel/vacation in?
A simple question with a complicated answer. My favorite place to travel is Israel. Actually it’s where I left a sizeable portion of my heart—somewhere in Jerusalem. Hubby and I would love to retire in northern Israel, that’s our dream. I have family and friends who live in Israel. Besides, it’s the place where Yeshua (Jesus) walked and will return one day. Wouldn’t you love being there for that?

My favorite place to vacation is Jamaica—specifically Negril. Beautiful sand, pristine water, and nice folks.

Wonderful thoughts. Has some place you have traveled inspired something in your writing?
As you can imagine, my trips to Israel have greatly impacted my life and subsequently, my writing. One particular incident happened in the Garden of Gethsemane. If you’ve ever been there, you have seen the magnificent ancient olive trees. It’s estimated they are around 2,000 years old, which means they were there when Yeshua (Jesus) prayed before His crucifixion.

Over the years they built a tall fence to protect the trees, but for those of us who love the tactile journey that is Israel it is was very disappointing to not be able to touch the bark, or search the ground for a leaf to treasure.

I remember trying to get my stubby body up high enough to reach a branch and lower to reach a leaf. Both failed attempts. I walked around the whole perimeter searching the sidewalk. Nothing.

I wanted a leaf—something to keep in my Bible to remind me of what my Messiah and Savior did for me. I gazed through the tall branches into the sky and asked my Heavenly Abba if I could have just one. I looked down and there were two leaves.

When friends learned of my discovery I told them to ask the Lord for their treasure. They did, and He did. People were finding leaves everywhere on the sidewalk. Yes, the same sidewalk that had been leaf-free minutes earlier. No one saw them falling to the ground—they were just there.

A sweet little miracle, but it demonstrated to me how much God loves us and cares for us—even in the little things. More than anything, I want a reader to come away with that understanding when they read both my fiction or nonfiction.

Where do you escape for some quiet time to reflect, pray, read, etc?
Through the American Christian Fiction Writers organization I met two writers, Cathy Gohlke and Carrie Turansky who have become very dear friends. We try to get together 2-3 times per year for a writers’ retreat. Over the years we’ve learned when to give each other space and when to encourage each other to share our burdens. It’s been a blessing.

Since I resigned from my position as director of domestic operations and development for the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America, I have more time for introspection and relationship-building with the Lord. My favorite location? The kitchen breakfast bar. I perch on my favorite stool with a cup of coffee and study the word, pray, and just be. I can look out the sliders to the backyard and watch and listen to the birds. Very pastoral, very centering.

I just realized something, our house is next to a 100-year-old stone wall. It seems I’m still praying next to walls.

Share a verse or Scripture passage with us that is special to you. (and why it's special)   
I had the honor and privilege of overseeing the copy edits of the Old Testament for a brand new Bible translation, the Tree of Life Version (TLV). The TLV is a Genesis to Revelation, word-for-word translation from the original Hebrew and Greek by a team of sixty scholars—Messianic Jews and Christians—from around the world. Through that process I’ve developed an even greater love for the Word.

An obscure passage that came alive during that process was Genesis 48:19. Jacob had asked Joseph to bring his sons, Manasseh and Ephraim so that Jacob might bless them. Jacob did so much more—he adopted them as his sons. Any children Joseph would have would be Joseph’s, but these two sons were Jacob’s.

That’s was significant.

Then Jacob did the cross hand blessing—he blessed Ephraim as the first-born, instead of Manasseh, who was the rightful first-born. When Joseph questioned his father, Jacob said:
“But his father refused and said, ‘I know, my son, I know. 
He also will become a people and he also will become great. 
But his younger brother will become greater than he and his seed will be the fullness of the nations.’”

Most profound. As a non-Jew—one of the nations—I find great comfort in knowing that God gave this prophetic insight to Jacob that one day, we who believe in Jesus (Yeshua) the Jewish Messiah for all would be God’s and Jacob’s adopted.

It was a worshipful, gratitude moment when I read that.

When is your next book due out and can you tell us about it?
Right now I’m working on book two of The Hair Mavens series, CUT IT OUT. The mavens—Shira,
Harriet, Beulah, and Katya—are learning what it means to be a team and more importantly a community of believers that step outside themselves. One of the characters—possibly two—will come to faith in this book. And one of the mavens will get married.

I had outlined this book three years ago, but it has taken a different direction in some regards. It’s been interesting, the mavens decided they needed two extra characters—both polar opposites, of course.
I finished the first draft October 12th. Then, on to the revisions. Watch for the release date.
Still waiting to hear back from a publisher who had asked for my children’s series.

Thanks so much, Terri, for joining us. Very interesting interview!

Buy her book here:

About Terri:
Terri Gillespie is a wife, mother, grandmother, author, and speaker. She is head writer for the Restoration of Israel Minute heard on 25 stations in 11 states and Canada, has contributed to several other books, magazines, newspapers and published her first book, Making Eye Contact with God—A Weekly Devotional for Women. Her first novel—The Hair Mavens: She Does Good Hair—won BWB’s Lyra Best Women’s Fiction for 2013.

Connect with Terri here:

TERRI is giving away a copy of MAKING EYE CONTACT with GOD. The giveaway is only available to U.S. addresses. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment along with your email address. You can enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post.

Happy Reading!

Caroline Brown

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Making Eye Contact with God by Terri Gillespie

Book Blurb:

What kind of eyes do you have?
Are they downcast and sad, or are they full of God’s passion?

This weekly devotional, for women only, enables you to really see God in a new and fresh way.

Using real life anecdotes, combined with scripture, author Terri Gillespie reveals God’s heart for women everywhere, as she softly speaks of the ways in which women see God.

Read an Excerpt:

Are You a Porch Swing or a Tractor? 
“For indeed the body is not one part but many … 
If the ear says, ‘I’m not an eye, so I’m not part of the body,’ 
that doesn’t make it stop being part of the body.” 
1 Corinthians 12:14, 16 

The old insecurities rolled in like a dark cloud.

A conversation with my friend about intimacy with the Lord and Secret Places brought back how awkward and clumsy I had always felt in life. In the hallowed Secret Place, surely God must favor someone like my friend—gorgeous, slender, and soft-spoken with a voice that would move angels.

I imagined elegant women like her waiting for the Lord in their bucolic Secret Place, swinging on porch swings with fragrant flowers everywhere. Beautiful praises pour from their lips.

The Lord appears in the distance and opens his arms. The stunning women skip and twirl gracefully into his loving embrace. Together, they walk into the sunset holding hands; butterflies dance about their heads, and birds chirp sweetly. Then, I imagined me in my Secret Place. Vrroom! Vrroom! I wait on a tractor belching smoke and fumes. Off in the distance, I see the Lord. He opens his arms. My foot presses the accelerator. I’m bouncing over mounds of dirt, whistling (because I can’t sing), and pulling a trailer full of yesterday’s and today’s responsibilities to show the Lord how much I do for him. Although he smiles, he’s also coughing and waving away exhaust fumes. I pause, cup a hand to my ear, and listen as God yells his message of love to me above the noise.

The elegant worshippers must have God’s favor, right? My clumsiness must be a barrier to true intimacy with the Lord. That’s what I’ve told myself. I can’t raise my eyes toward him because I’m ashamed that my very nature disrupts the quiet and tranquility of the Secret Place.

Insecurities keep us from making eye contact with the Lover of our soul.

The truth is each of us is capable of pleasing and loving God in ways no one else can. He formed us for that purpose—to praise him. And his Word tells us that he loves all types of praise and worship (Ps. 148).

Do you love the quiet type of praise and adoration in the morning? God does, too.

Or maybe you love to talk out loud to him as you take an evening stroll and enjoy his creation. He loves that, too.

Perhaps you take pleasure in worshipping him in dance, even if you are too afraid to participate in your congregation. Know that he also takes pleasure in this.

The greatest form of intimacy is to look the Lord “in the eye” with the confidence of someone who knows his or her identity in the Messiah. Think about this the next time you feel distracted with thoughts of how you aren’t like someone else.

Now, I know he looks forward to me on my tractor. And I try to remember that my trailer of good deeds and responsibilities isn’t what makes me attractive to the Lord. He simply wants—me.

I still struggle with the insecurities, but I’m not as shy about trying new ways of worshipping and praising the Lord—I even climb off my tractor from time to time.

This week, allow the Lord to introduce you to you. Permit him to reveal those insecurities that keep your eyes downcast. Explore who you are in the Secret Place—with the One who created you.

Okay, LORD, you made me. Help me to be the best tractor—or porch swing—I can be. This week, expose the areas of insecurity keeping me from making eye contact with you. And LORD, I also want to explore the unique ways you created me to praise and worship you. I commit this week to learn how to overcome my insecurities and take joy in who you created me to be—even if it’s a little scary and I discover that I’m even more unique than I thought. In Yeshua’s Name. Amen. 

Let’s take it to the Secret Place: 

Are there insecurities that keep me from freely worshipping the Lord in my Secret Place? 
In the congregation? 
What are they? 

How do insecurities manifest themselves at these times? What do I hear that is contrary to God’s Word? 

What are my unique qualities? How can I praise God through them? 

What did I learn about my insecurities? 
What did I learn about my uniqueness? 
How did God speak to me in my Secret Place? 
Has our relationship improved? 
 In what ways?

Buy her book here:

About Terri:

Terri Gillespie is a wife, mother, grandmother, author, and speaker. She is head writer for the Restoration of Israel Minute heard on 25 stations in 11 states and Canada, has contributed to several other books, magazines, newspapers and published her first book, Making Eye Contact with God—A Weekly Devotional for Women. Her first novel—The Hair Mavens: She Does Good Hair—won BWB’s Lyra Best Women’s Fiction for 2013.

TERRI is giving away a copy of MAKING EYE CONTACT with GOD. The giveaway is only available to U.S. addresses. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment along with your email address. You can enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post.

Happy Reading!
Caroline Brown

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Kentucky Author David Royce

Welcome to the Book Loft, David! Is there a story behind your book, A Ghost’s Story?

After a brief illness, my mother died at age 47, before she really got to know her daughter-in-law or take joy in her grandchildren.  I wanted so desperately to believe in eternal life, to be reassured that someday we would all be together again. A short time later I discovered Dr. Kenneth Moody’s book, Life After Life, the one in which he coined the expression “near-death experience” and I began reading on the topic. Many of these individuals reported meeting deceased loved ones or a bright light providing unconditional love.  They often recognized the light as Christ. About ten years later, I published a study of chaplains and pastors.  Almost three-quarters of them indicated that a parishioner had shared an account of coming close to death or had a clinical death and been resuscitated. Ninety-two percent of the respondents said that the accounts they had heard contained the same features as those reported in Dr. Moody’s book.  Eighty-six percent said that the “experiencers” seemed to be less afraid of dying and the majority of them were more religious than they had been before the experience.  Needless to say, the topic of near-death experiences caught my interest!
What started you on your writing journey?

In high school, I had an amazing English teacher who loved to read and assigned us whole novels to discuss. She recently celebrated her 100th birthday and still remembers where each of her students sat in her classroom.  She reads constantly and recommends books to me even to this day.

What is the quirkiest thing you’ve ever done?

Several years ago I traveled to Romania and worked on an archaeological project excavating the foundation of an old Roman fort close to what used to be the Danube but now is about 30 miles from it.  The fort was deserted approximately 400 AD.

Are there spiritual themes that you like to write about?

I don’t know whether this is a theme or not, but it seems to me that, at least in this country, it is easy to profess being a Christian but tremendously difficult to walk the walk each hour of the day, in every decision we make.  I think I know why this happens, but that still doesn

’t make it any less difficult.  That notion contains many seeds for projects.
Are you currently working on any other writing projects?

I have a contract to write a nonfiction text on emotional abuse.  I wrote one many years ago on that subject but it wasn’t promoted very well and is now out of print. Emotional mistreatment is very damaging and leaves its mark on all of its victims—in ways they don’t always recognize.

When is A Ghost’s Story out and can you tell us about it?

My novel became available as a paperback in late August and the Kindle edition was released on September 2.  Here are some of the issues that it deals with: What would it be like to be a ghost, to be caught between the world you knew and the next world?  What if the ghost story didn’t involve anything eerie, or creepy, and didn’t try to frighten anyone?  What if it described a husband’s love for his family and how he tried to care for them in his absence? Could the story to be inspirational as well?  (Think the Jimmy Stewart movie, It’s a Wonderful Life!) And finally, could the story stimulate discussion, not only about what we know and believe about death, but also about the Great Deceiver?

David Royce is giving away a copy of A Ghost's Story. To be entered in the giveaway, leave a comment along with your email address. You can enter the book giveaway twice—once on each Spotlight post for the author. Please note: The giveaway is for U.S. addresses only.

Monday, October 20, 2014

A Ghost's Story: Caught Between Life and Death by David Royce

While out for a run one morning, Jake Weller suffers a critical heart attack triggering a trip to the morgue and what seems to be a near-death experience. But he’s actually dead. The problem is he doesn’t feel dead. He can still experience the world as before only he can’t be seen or heard.
Coming to terms with this new reality, he meets an enigmatic—and charismatic—spirit guide named Big Jim who lays out the rules of this transitional place and offers to make Jake his assistant. Jake disappoints his guide, who may not be as friendly as he seems, as he learns his wife, Marilyn, has cancer.  He bargains with Big Jim to intervene. Big Jim agrees only if Jake proves his loyalty by passing three increasingly difficult tests. Jake takes the deal but gets more than he bargained for as he heads into a final showdown that will determine his fate forever.


“Take this soup can down to the creek,” my vinegary old grandfather would say, so woozy with drink I’d get dizzy just watching his head sway.  “Sit there… ‘bout an hour.  When the moon peeks a crack over the chicken coop, stand up straight…yell with all your might, ‘Fill my cup, Moon.  Fill it tall.  And none of your lip, you ball of light!’”
When nothing appeared in my empty Campbell’s soup can but the bodies of dead mosquitoes I’d swatted on my skinny six-year old legs and naked chest, I ran through the weeds  to Grandpa, showed him the mostly empty can.  “Nothin’, Grandpa,” I’d say.
“Didn’t stand up straight enough,” he’d say, reaching for his cane but too plastered to find it underneath the porch swing.
“Did too!”
He’d struggle to stand, pulling on the swing’s chains, wanting to show me how.  I’d back away, the alcohol in his breath keeping the mosquitoes from both of us.  He’d sit back hard and jerk the chains and groan the rafters with his weight.
 “Didn’t do it right, Boy, or Moon would have put quarters in the can.  Moon is magical—just gotta trick him the right way.”
“Weren’t no magic, Grandpa,” I said, wanting to believe him, wanting to believe there would be quarters we could use to buy something good to eat. 
“Next time,” he’d say, “we’ll take two cans.  Show you how it’s done.”
But he never walked to the creek with me, never showed me how get my cans filled with coins.  He sent me alone four or five times but whenever I’d ask him to go with me to claim quarters from Mr. Moon, he’d have another good lie primed and ready.
“Not the right can; moon’s not right tonight.”
Sometime he’d dig into his pants’ pocket and give me a nickel to fetch a bottle from the bucket in the creek.  I’d bring it back then run down the gravel lane, across a field, and hop a fence to get to my hiding place next to where three red Maple trees grew as one and where a ground hog had dug a big hole in the ground.   Under a ragged piece of roofing tin I put my coin in an old lard bucket along with a smooth round pebble I’d found and a blue jay’s feather.
I had to take my earnings to a secret place. Grandpa told me I could keep them at his house in the little wooden box used to belong to Grandma.  And I counted them out, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen.  But three days later when I visited again, the box was empty.
“Moon must have been here and took ‘em,” he said, acting as innocent as the cat that killed the blue jay.  “Don’t know what could have happened otherwise.”
But he had a new bottle down in the bucket. 

Page 27:
Crystal drops of dew sparkled in carefully spun spider webs under fence rails, in clusters of dried weeds and in other places where they would not be noticed when the sun climbed higher in the sky and evaporated the evening’s condensation and light frost.   It was a beautiful morning to jog and the nightmare was fast becoming a distant memory. 
         Yeah! All is right with the world!
         I felt as if I could run 100 miles.  Feet, knees, lungs…everything felt good.  Life was good.
         The fences I jogged past revealed something about that particular farm’s prosperity and what the farmers had to protect.  The horse farm owners kept their fences in tip-top shape.  In this part of Kentucky, they were always painted white or black; neatly-framed pastures that rivaled golf course greens.  No undisciplined weeds to be found.  Sometimes there were not one but two rows of these fences, one inside the other, always wooden, to keep the expensive thoroughbreds and their colts from harm as they moved from pasture to pasture.  Less prosperous farmers and individuals who simply lived in the country often let their fences go until they slowly sagged and fell apart with a broken rail here or there where a white-tailed deer might have jumped across and, with a swift kick, broken it in an already weakened spot.
         The bright yellow of a forsythia bush, often one of the first shrubs to bloom in the spring, grew beside a cattle farmer’s porch and I remembered the genus was named after the Scottish botanist, William Forsyth. An old brown Labrador slept peacefully where the morning’s sun had warmed the concrete sidewalk that ran to a gate, across from a mailbox painted with daisies and red roses.
         Unexpectedly, like a sucker punch, a sharp pain almost doubled me over.
         Just a runner’s stitch hit—I’ve had them before.
          I slowed and exhaled deeply to try and relieve it.
The pain spread.  Up my arm.  Into my neck.
         Much worse.  Pinched nerve?
Got hot.  Unzipped my jacket.
Tried to pull it off.  Left arm wouldn’t work.
What the heck?
Tremendous bolt of pain hit my chest.  Radiated down my arm.
Pain…sharp metal… stabbing.  
Have I been shot?
No blood.
Pain…searing pain…Breathe…just breathe.
I’ve been hit a second time! 
Can’t breathe! 
What do I do?
Only a farmhouse in sight.
Can’t make it.
Panic filled me. I choked back the taste of the bile in my throat.  It hurt too much to breathe.  With a forceful pull, my florescent green runner’s jacket came off.  I waved it once in the air.
Can anyone see me?  Help!
As I collapsed to the ground, my head instinctively turned, looking for someone, anyone who could come to my rescue.
Had help been right beside me, I might not have noticed; my blurry consciousness was pierced only by the monster whose footsteps were drumbeats in my ears and getting closer.
Marilyn…got to tell Marilyn…I…
 But no words could escape my lips. And then the suffocating pain shattered my world into a million pieces—like a tray of Pyrex beakers thrown to the floor. 
Then, in a flashback, I saw my drunken grandfather throwing empty whiskey bottles at the cats and heard the bottles breaking as they hit the parched earth in his yard.  The face of my inebriated grandfather flashed before me.  I remembered the gray stubble on his chin—and the lie he often told about death being the end.
Everything went black.

About The Author

A Kentucky native who has also lived a number of years in Ohio, David Royse is a professor in the University of Kentucky’s College of Social Work and has authored numerous professional articles and textbooks. 

The inspirational and thought-provoking A Ghost’s Story: Caught Between Life and Death is his first novel and draws upon his interest in the intersection of religious faith and the supernatural.  It has roots in his previous work on emotional abuse and its effects on adults as well as an early piece on the near-death experienceDavid is married to another faculty member, the father of two sons, and a grandfather to (almost) three boys.

Purchase A Ghost's Story at:


David Royce is giving away a copy of A Ghost's Story. To be entered in the giveaway, leave a comment along with your email address. You can enter the book giveaway twice—once on each Spotlight post for the author. Please note: The giveaway is for U.S. addresses only.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Featuring Raelee May Carpenter's Kings and Shepherds

Back Cover Blurb

After the death of her mother, Princess Ikia of Ha-or rebels against her adoptive father, King Emet. Her crusade against him starts simply but quickly grows dangerous when she agrees to betray him to the Emperor of the neighboring kingdom.

Book Excerpt:

Prologue: The King-
   Hundreds of people – all who had left their shoes at the door, for Shekina was sacred – had crowded into the Hall of the Judge, as was called the palace throne room where the Great King Emet of Ha-or held his court. The people were so crowded inside the long, large room that they were pressed against the clean, white stone walls and seated on the sills of the tall, narrow windows.
   Thousands more stood in the courtyards outside of the palace in Sekel, the capitol city of Ha-or. They were standing on all of the palace steps, loitering in the dusty road around the water fountain, and crouching in the shade offered by the large trees and hedge bushes. Several children had even climbed into the limbs of the pear tree by the court steps.
   Tens of thousands more Hayoris (as the citizens of Ha-or were called) had crowded outside the elegant, wrought-iron palace gates. The gates were open, of course, as everyday, but only a fraction of the interested spectators could fit inside the courtyard. Even though only a fraction of a fraction of its citizens were gathered around the palace, the entire country of Ha-or was alive with gossip about the case their beloved King was hearing in his throne room today.
   King Emet had become a widower five years before. At that time, the King had not wanted to dismiss any of the Queen’s staff and, as a tribute to his wife’s memory, had put much thought into reassigning her maidservants.  One was put in the kitchen, and a second was made nurse to the King’s then four-year-old son Matthew, known as Lord Emet. The third servant, a certain young woman named Rachel, became the chambermaid for the wing of the palace that housed visiting nobles. Rachel had been a trusted minor servant to the Queen and had attended without incident for five years, since she was a young girl. After two years of her new assignment, however, Rachel had run away one night. She had disappeared from the palace without a word but had taken enough valuables belonging to the King and various other nobles to equal nearly ten years of her wages. Rachel and everything she had stolen were given up as a complete loss until three years later when a merchant recognized a unique and distinctive platinum and sapphire ring that had belonged to the Queen. The woman was captured and brought before King Emet.
   Even decades later, when the story was retold to young members of the palace staff by the older ones, the tellers would always remark how changed the once-respected member of the palace staff had appeared as she knelt before the King. The young woman, who had barely been twenty when she disappeared, had aged by fifteen years during her three-year absence. She had completely squandered the wealth she had stolen and had only been foolish enough to attempt sale of the special royal ring out of desperation. When she knelt before the King that day, she was very filthy (she stank), very ill (pale skin and sharp bones), and very pregnant. They would say that it took them a long time to figure out who she was, but that King Emet knew instantly, probably even before they brought her in. It was well-known that the King saw all that happened on the Continent. Rachel, as a Hayori, knew that just the same as the rest of the people.
   Rachel also knew Hayori law. The second volume of The Book of Ha-or described very specific procedures for trial and sentencing when the citizens of Ha-or wronged each other, but the country was, in the end, a monarchy. Where dispute arose, King Emet had the final say; and he had the only say in matters concerning those who had wronged him alone. Rachel had lived in Ha-or all her life and was well aware of the open-ended extent of the King’s power. She huddled on her face before the King and wept while the scribe read a list of items that had been reported missing the morning after Rachel’s disappearance.
   “Look at me,” King Emet told Rachel after the scribe sat down.
   Rachel sat up, her legs still tucked beneath her. She had no shoes to remove out of respect for Shekina, and her feet themselves were caked with dirt. She struggled, flinchingly, to meet his eyes, and she would not dare show disrespect by standing up to the Judge.
   “Did you take these items?” he asked her.
   She did not dare lie. “Yes, Your Majesty.”
   “All of them?”
    “And a hollow, silver ball from Lord Emet’s play chamber.”
The servants had assumed Prince Matthew had lost his ball while playing in the garden, so they had not reported it among the stolen objects.
   King Emet nodded and turned to the scribe. “What was the value of the stolen items?”
   “With the toy?”
   King Emet nodded.
   The scribe figured for a moment. “Eleven hundred fifteen gold coins.”
   The common people in attendance exchanged looks. That was fully ten years wages; less room and board, the debt would take thirty years to settle for a healthy woman with only herself to support. This woman would soon have a child to care for alone and could not expect to pay off the debt in any less than forty-five years, though her appearance suggested she wouldn’t live forty-five days. King Emet’s only choice for anything resembling justice would be to put the woman to death today, and Rachel recognized that fact just as well as any in the room.
   “What do you think I should do?” the King asked the young woman.
   Her head was bowed; her shoulders, slumped. Her head wobbled slightly as she weakly shook it in desperation. “I could never hope to repay you, Your Majesty” she told the King.
   “That fact is clear to me.”
   “Lord, I can promise to pay back whatever I can, but truthfully, my only recourse is to beg for mercy.”
   The King frowned and nodded. He turned to a young page standing beside him. “Go get Hannah; she is in her apartment.” Hannah had been the trusted major servant to the Queen and was now nurse to Lord Emet, a job that was becoming less demanding as Matthew spent more time with his father and his tutors.
   “Yes, Your Majesty,” the page responded before hurrying out.
King Emet turned to his scribe and whispered instructions while the court erupted into a multitude of whispers. Why was King Emet summoning Hannah? Did Hannah know something? Did His Majesty want a witness to Rachel’s crimes? Why would he need a witness when the guilty party had already confessed to all? Did he feel that Hannah’s witness would calm the crowds when he put the woman to death?
   The general consensus among the Hayoris was that the King would be only justified to do what must be done. They would not riot at the woman’s execution, and the King who knew all, already knew that. So why would he call for Hannah?
   After a few moments, the King stood, walked to the edge of the platform that held his throne and raised his right hand. Only of medium stature, he still seemed to tower over the tallest of his subjects, and the crowd in the room fell silent immediately. “There is nothing more for you to see here,” he said. “Please go about your business.” He then nodded to the pair of sentries at the door, who stepped outside to deliver the order to the people in the courtyard and at the gates.
   The curious citizens were disappointed, but the order would not be disobeyed. The Hayoris turned as one and began to file out of the palace, through the gates, and down the road. They would all return to their homes, fields, and shops in the city of Sekel and the towns and villages that surrounded it. When the citizens were gone, King Emet even sent most of his servants about their own business until only one sentry, one page, one minor kitchen staffer, one half-retired nursemaid, and the King himself stood in the throne room with the thief who was once again huddled, weeping, on the floor.

Book One: The Treason
Chapter one –
about twenty-one years later…
          Miriam knew she was acting childish, but she was in the sort of mood where she did not care. She pulled a pillow over her head, but the pounding on the heavy wooden door still broke through her thoughts. “Princess Ikia,” the young page’s voice was nearing desperation. “Please unlock the door, your highness.”
          Miriam sat up, punched the pillow, and looked around for the nearest blunt object, which was a sturdy pewter candlestick on her bedside table. She grabbed the candlestick and hurled it at the door, making solid contact. The pounding stopped, and all was silent until the nervous voice spoke again.
“Lady Emet,” said the page, “your father says you must come down for supper.”
          “Tell King Emet that I am feeling poorly.”
          “Yes, I gave him that message, and he said he knew that you were fine, and I was to bring you down for supper. No pretext.”
          Miriam bit back a scream of frustration and kicked her feet into one of her solid cherry-wood bedposts. She was unable to bite back the shout of pain that followed the private display of will, and after a careful investigation, discovered that she had probably broken the second toe on her left foot.
          The young voice on the other side of the door was wavering, tentative. “Lady Emet?”
          “I’ll thank you to refer to me by my NAME!” she said, indignantly.
          “Certainly, Princess Ikia.”
          “MIRIAM! It’s MIRIAM!”
   “Certainly, Your Highness. Princess Miriam.” His tone was familiar to Miriam, patronizing though slightly confused. Miriam wondered again how she could ever hope any of the servants would understand. Of course, her given name was Ikia, but her request was simple and reasonable if anyone ever cared enough to heed it.
     The citizens of Ha-or, especially the palace servants, ascribed the King with the power of all-knowing, but not even he cared to understand Miriam. Many times Miriam had smirked to hear their stories about the King who saw all, especially “Rachel in the Hall of the Judge,” which she had heard a thousand times. Unlike the commoners, she did not believe that he knew everything.  Even so, sometimes she couldn’t deny that something was different about him. For instance, whenever she was truly ill, he never requested her presence at a meal and always had broth and tonic sent to her room before she even notified her servants of her condition. But when she was feigning an illness, like tonight, he was resolute in demanding her appearance. It gave Miriam an idea of what Rachel was feeling as she knelt on the floor of the throne room twenty-one years before.
     Despite her cynicism, even Miriam, who, with the possible exception of Matthew, knew King Emet as well as any other human being alive, could see why the young woman had been freely honest about her guilt. Miriam understood not only because she had witnessed the phenomena, but because she had been told many times how Rachel had felt during her trial and the moments afterward.
     When everyone else had gone, King Emet had turned to the page and sent him into Sekel to get Owen De Burgh, the best physician in all of Ha-or. He asked Hannah to take Rachel up to the nicest guest suite in the west wing of the palace and get her clean robes from the late Queen’s closet. Then he had turned to the kitchen staffer and told her to fetch hot water for a bath and a meal of broth and tonic.
     The next day, King Emet married Rachel so her child, born two weeks later, would have a name. Emet gave the child, a baby girl, the name Ikia; Rachel had given her the second name Miriam. That was how the story of “Rachel in the Hall of the Judge” became the story of “The Nameless Child of Thief and Harlot Becomes the Lady, Princess Ikia Miriam Emet.”
     Ha-or had had a rich tradition of storytelling before that point, but Rachel had told Miriam many more recent stories, along with the old Hayori myths. She had heard grand stories of how Emet had shown such mercy to her mother. She had heard how the two had even fallen in love. She had heard simpler stories of family picnics with the young Matthew and baby Ikia. She had heard how King Emet had run around to all his servants announcing his daughter’s first steps. But Rachel had never fully recovered from her illness, and her stories stopped when Miriam was five years of age. The nurses, maidservants, pages, sentries, and kitchen staffers took over as raconteurs; but twenty-one-year-old Miriam was quite honestly sick of all the stories.
     Meanwhile, the young page was still trying to beat down her door. “Princess Miriam? Are you well?”
     “Simply wonderful,” her voice dripped sarcasm. She did not tell him about her broken toe.
     “Well, then… I…” She heard him pause as he gathered his courage. “Then I must insist you accompany me to the dining hall at once.”
     Miriam had a bit of tantrum then, stamping her feet on the stone floor beside her bed then choking on the pain that action sent through her damaged foot. This particular page was all of twelve years old and had been serving in Emet’s court for only a few weeks. He would not want a failure to bring her to a meal on his record so early. He wasn’t returning to the dining hall without her. She breathed in deeply and shouted through the door. “I am coming. I have a thing or two to attend to first, though.”
     Miriam limped around her room, pulling a dress on over her shift and tossing a proper supper robe over her shoulders. She ran a comb through her hair a few times and regarded her reflection in the glass. Her clothes and hair looked slightly rumpled, and her face was not made up properly, but she was Lady Emet, so it would pass. She slipped on a pair of flexible and well-padded chamber slippers and went to unbolt the door.
     The pint-sized page offered her his arm, and she placed her hand inside the crook of his elbow and locked her jaw in hopes she might be able to walk almost normally. He began leading her down the three flights of stairs to the dining hall.
     Inside the hall, King Emet, Prince Matthew, and nearly a dozen guests were still standing behind their chairs at the fully spread table. As King Emet was no longer married and she was his only daughter, Miriam was considered the hostess, thus no one could sit to eat until she had. The page led her to the head of the table where King Emet stood. Emet smiled at Miriam, placed his hands on her shoulders, and kissed her cheek while the page bowed low and disappeared into a dark corner of the hall.
     “Good to see you, my daughter,” the King greeted, momentarily capturing her eyes with his own.
     “And you, Father,” Miriam murmured, managing a stiff smile for his benefit. She could return his gaze for only a moment before glancing away. His dark eyes held a paradoxical combination of serenity and intensity, and she could never meet them for long. It frustrated her further that he could remain so calm when he must have known how angry she was after the argument they had earlier. Even when he was very angry, he never lost control of his emotions or his tongue. This often caused Miriam to lose control of herself even more than she would have if arguing with another person.
     Now, he lifted a wineskin from the edge of the table and handed it to her. Miriam took it, realizing it was cold, cold water that had just been drawn from the deep well in the palace’s cold cellar. “For your foot,” he whispered as he pulled out her chair, the hostess’ chair to the left of his own.

     Miriam set the skin on her chair’s footstool and took her seat, propping her broken toe against the numbing cold. Once she was seated the King, the Prince (at the King’s right), and the guests followed suit and all began to eat the meal that had begun to cool during the wait for Lady Emet.


Raelee May Carpenter is an ordinary person, a Christian, and an author of contemporary fiction, inspirational essays, and urban mythology. 

Raelee's work is passionate, descriptive and just a little edgy. Her three lifelong passions are faith, people, and words. 

She's a tone-deaf music fan and "Mumma" to a young-at-heart, rescued Beagle mix. Her favorite thing to write about is Grace. 

Her sophomore release Kings and Shepherds is available in Kindle format from 

You can find her on the web at her website, facebook, and twitter.  

You may purchase the book at:

Raelee May Carpenter is giving away a Kindle copy of Kings and Shepherds. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment along with your email address. You may enter the book giveaway twice—once on each spotlight post. (It's not too late to go back and leave a comment on yesterday's post)

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