Friday, January 31, 2014

A Very Warm Welcome to Lisa Hess

I'm tickled pink to introduce Lisa Hess here today! And her book sounds fantastic! 

Is there a story behind your book Casting the First Stone?
There are a couple, so I’m going to tell the one I don’t usually tell.

I go to a large church, and so impatience in the parking lot when it’s time to go home is a common occurrence. One Sunday, as I sat waiting for a break in the traffic and several drivers passed by without even making eye contact, let alone allowing anyone to merge, I wondered aloud at the incongruity of spending more than an hour in church, then forgetting everything in the parking lot.

That started a stream-of-consciousness series of thoughts on the drive home, including speculation as to whether or not going to church made someone a better person, all of which sparked the creation of a character who talks the talk but doesn’t necessarily feel he needs to walk the walk.

By the way, my church has since changed the parking lot patterns -- LOL! -- no connection, though.


What started you on your writing journey? 
Not a what, but a who -- my middle school English teacher, Miss Lee. She also taught me to love words and the importance of choosing just the right word to convey exactly the message you want to send.


What distracts you from writing the easiest?
Noise! And the older I get, the less noise it takes! Running water, clinking dishes...I’m terrible! Any sort of conversation is the worst.

Oddly enough, I’ve learned to work in ambient noise that doesn’t call to me to do things. When I’m having trouble focusing at home, I often go to my local Starbucks to write. The same noises there don’t bother me as much because they blend into the background instead of reminding me of what I need to do around the house. If it gets too loud at Starbucks, I put in my earbuds and listen to music...which, oddly enough, I can’t work with at home. I’m a study in contradictions when it comes to distractibility!


What kind of books do you enjoy reading? (Book recommendations very welcome!)
I enjoy character-driven fiction, particularly when it’s not predictable. When I know what’s going to happen by the end of the first chapter, I have no desire to finish the book. Because of that, there are certain subgenre of women’s fiction that I never read...unless the book was written by a friend.

That said, I will stick with the feeblest plot in the universe if I like the characters. Hook me on a character, and I’m yours.

My favorite books are The Art of Racing in the Rain, which my sister recommended to me for at least two years before I finally read it (silly me!), and To Kill a Mockingbird, which I re-read last year when my daughter read it for English class. Gorgeous prose.


Which character in your new release most interested you while you wrote? Why?
I love all of my characters! I love Marita’s feistiness, and I admire Angel’s unwavering devotion to her family and her faith. The best friends (Bets and Gina) were fun to write, but for different reasons. Bets softened Marita and showed how much she’d grown from the girl who got pregnant at 16 to the responsible mom who still wanted to have fun. Gina’s a counterpoint to Angel, so the contrast was fun to write.
Even the baddies are fun to put on the page. Carmella is such a villain, and while Jim is not someone I’d want to hang out with, I know why he is the way he is...and that made it easier to tolerate him.


What makes you smile and/or laugh out loud?
My daughter. I’m so blessed to have a teenager who is cool and fun, and who shares wacky stuff (like the things she finds on Facebook and youtube) with me. And sometimes, she says things that just make me laugh out loud.


What is your favorite season of the year?  
Fall. I love the beauty and the smells of fall in Pennsylvania. Much as I’d love to live in a more temperate climate, I would miss the trees in the fall if I moved to somewhere like California.


What do you like most about the area where you live and/or grew up?
Though I’ve spent most of my life in Pennsylvania, I grew up in NJ, and will always be a Jersey girl at heart. I attribute my feistiness and determination -- both of which I’m happy to embrace -- to being a Jersey girl.


Are there things you put off doing because you dread them? 
I hate to clean. I love to organize, though, so the best cleaning at my house happens when I have to organize something. Fortunately, my husband picks up the slack, and while I have a pretty high threshold for dust and clutter, I have a low threshold for actual dirt.


Where is your favorite place to travel/vacation in?
The beach. There’s just something about the beach that’s not just a destination, but a way of life. I’m more relaxed there than anywhere else...which is funny, because I fry in the sun (so I hang out under an umbrella in shorts and a tee shirt when I’m actually on the beach) and I don’t swim. There’s just something about the atmosphere -- I get some of my best ideas there.



Are there spiritual themes you like to write about?
I like to write about how real people face challenges to their faith. In Casting the First Stone, Marita rejected not just the church and the people who let her down, but God as well. Angel, on the other hand, is determined to hold on to her faith and let it guide her through a very discouraging period, but is also finding that that’s not as easy as it sounds. When people go through rough patches, they often go to one extreme when it comes to faith -- embrace it, like Angel, or reject it, like Marita. The really interesting part is what comes next -- after that decision.


Where do you escape for some quiet time to reflect, pray, read, etc?
Because I no work outside the home every day, there are lots of days that I have the house to myself when my husband is at work and my daughter is at school. I’m very spoiled by the amount of quiet time I have -- my challenge is making sure I use my time wisely and well.


Share a verse or Scripture passage with us that is special to you. (and why it's special)
“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

When I was making the very difficult decision to dive off the deep end and take an early retirement, I hung onto this verse. Now, when I catch myself worrying about what’s going to happen (or not happen), I go back to it so I can let go and let God. As a friend of mine says, “He hasn’t brought me this far to abandon me now.”


When is your next book due out and can you tell us about it?
No due dates for the next books, but I’m working on several things: a non-fiction book on the topic of organization, revisions on a second novel in the same genre as Casting the First Stone, a possible sequel to Casting the First Stone and a collection of blogs. I’ve been doing a lot of reading on self-publishing and am thinking I might give it a shot with the organization book, though I’m not sure I want to go that route with the rest of the projects. Most are fiction, and significantly longer, and I’m not sure that’s a battle I want to take on. We’ll see.



To buy Lisa's book, go here:

Casting the First Stone:  Amazon






About Lisa:

Lisa is a transplanted Jersey girl who has lived in Pennsylvania most of her adult life. A graduate of Bucknell University, Lisa worked as an elementary school counselor for 27 years before deciding to plan her work life around her family life. Now, she works as a writer, community education instructor and adjunct professor of psychology at York College of Pennsylvania.

Lisa is the author of two books inspired by her interactions with her students, Acting Assertively and Diverse Divorce, along with numerous blogs and articles. Her latest book, Casting the First Stone is her first novel.



Connect with Lisa here:

Website







LISA is giving away a copy of Casting the First Stone. 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.







Happy Reading!


Caroline Brown

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Casting the First Stone by Lisa Lawmaster Hess

Book Blurb:
Marita Mercer has no intention of losing custody of her daughter to Jim and his perfect little wife. So what if Charli’s father is successful, established and respected? Does that trump the fact that he never wanted their daughter in the first place?  But in the battle of Marita the single mother vs. Jim and his perfect little church-going wife, Marita is almost certain she will lose.

Angel Alessio’s life with Jim is missing only one thing – the very thing Marita has already given him. And although Angel loves Charli, that love does nothing to ease her longing for a baby of her own. Both women are determined to keep their families together…but at what cost?



Read an Excerpt:

CHAPTER ONE

Marita Mercer adjusted the icicle-thin strap of her leopard print camisole, and then tugged once, twice, three times. Perfect. Enough cleavage to look casually sexy, but not so much that Jim could brand her a wanton woman unworthy of her own daughter.

“Mom, do you have to wear that?” Twelve-year-old Charli flopped onto Marita’s bed. “Isn’t it bad enough that Dad’s dragging us through this mediation? Are you trying to make it easy for him to win?”

“Of course not. Besides, you’ll barely see it.” Marita slipped a black jacket on over the camisole. “See? A sensible black suit. Sober and appropriate for all proceedings.”

“Didn’t you wear that to work yesterday?”

“As a matter of fact, I did. But yesterday, this suit was a uniform for a court reporter. Today, it’s outward proof that I can be boring and follow the rules.”

Charli sighed. “Maybe we should just take Grandma and Grandpa up on their offer. If I transfer to Holy Redeemer, maybe Dad and Angel will lay off.”

Marita sat down beside her daughter. “Do you really want to go to Christian school?”

“No. But I don’t want to live with Dad and Angel either.”

“Honey, your father and Angel won’t necessarily back off just because I send you to Holy Redeemer. They want full custody. Anyway, your father could easily argue that Holy Redeemer didn’t do much for me.”

Charli laughed. “I still can’t believe you went there for twelve years.”

Eleven, Marita refused to voice aloud, remembering how everyone—the teachers, the principal, her parents—had insisted that she “find a more appropriate educational placement” when they’d found out she was pregnant. Get thee to a nunnery indeed.

“Yeah, I’m hardly the poster child for Christian education. And it’s a good thing, too. Somebody has to let you have some fun.” She stood and selected a pair of thin, gold hoops from the jewelry box on her dresser, then turned back to her daughter. “Why don’t you go ahead downstairs? I’ll be there in a minute.”

“Okay. But hurry. We don’t want to be late.” Charli slid off the bed and bounded out of the bedroom, her brown ponytail bobbing up and down.

Running a hand through her own thick, dark hair, Marita turned back to the mirror mounted above her dresser. Nearly thirteen years had passed since she’d met Jim Alessio at that Chi Phi party. Her hair had been the same color as Charli’s then, with no need for purchased highlights to hide the grey that had begun encroaching even before her thirtieth birthday.

At nineteen, Jim had been older, charming, and just what Marita needed to show her parents that there was more to life than youth group and Sunday services. She’d planned to sneak out, have some fun, rebel a little. She hadn’t planned on Charli.

“Mom!” Charli called. “Are you coming?”

Marita slipped a thin gold bangle on her right wrist and pulled her watch onto her left. “Be right there!”

Jim hadn’t wanted Charli when she was born. There was no way Marita was letting him have her now.

***** 

Angel Alessio pulled her feet out of the stirrups and sat up, her paper gown rustling. “Is everything okay?” she asked.

“Perfectly fine,” Dr. Harrison said, rinsing the speculum and setting it on a paper towel. “I can’t see any reason why you and your husband would have trouble conceiving. How long have you been trying?”

“Six months.” Angel bit her lip as tears welled in her eyes.

“I know this is difficult,” Dr. Harrison said. “But you’re young and healthy, and even though six months feels like a long time, it’s not uncommon for couples to take twice as long as that to conceive, particularly if the woman has been on the Pill.”

“But I’ve never been on the Pill,” Angel said. “I don’t believe in contraception.”

“Then it’s probably just a matter of time.” Dr. Harrison made a note in Angel’s chart. “In the meantime, try to relax. Stress can inhibit conception.”

Great.

“Should I plan on seeing an infertility specialist?”

Dr. Harrison flipped her chart closed. “We don’t have any reason to believe you’re infertile, Mrs. Alessio.”

“Well, I mean, isn’t it difficult to get an appointment? If I call now—”

“It’s too soon. You haven’t been trying long enough to be classified as infertile.” Dr. Harrison smiled.

“This is supposed to be fun, remember?” “That’s what my husband keeps saying. I just never imagined it would be this difficult.”

Dr. Harrison patted Angel’s hand. “I know. But we have every reason to believe that the next time I see you, you’ll be pregnant. Take care.”

As soon as Dr. Harrison shut the door, Angel took a deep breath and slid off the table. She crossed to the dressing area in three long strides, fighting back tears. She was relieved that everything was normal, of course—just as Jim had said it would be—but if that were true, then why wasn’t she pregnant? She knew women who had gotten pregnant on their honeymoons, others who’d conceived second children while still nursing the first, and yet six months of trying had gotten her nothing but disappointment and a sense of utter failure.

And then there was Marita. She and Jim had been together only once, and that was all it had taken for Marita to get what she hadn’t wanted— what Angel now wanted more than anything else in the world.

Angel slipped her flowery pink dress on over her head and tightened the matching belt to the fourth notch, wondering again if she should have worn something more businesslike instead. But Jim had told her to be herself, so she had worn her favorite spring dress, hoping it would bring her good news, or at least some semblance of comfort. So far, it had brought her neither.

At the front desk, Angel made small talk with the receptionist and signed her check with a flourish, making sure to put the little heart over the “i” in Alessio. Sliding her checkbook into the appropriate compartment in her purse, she sailed through the waiting area and out the front doors, burying her disappointment beneath a practiced veneer of sunshine. No need to let everyone in the waiting room know that she was upset.

Once in the car, Angel checked the dashboard clock. Just enough time to make it to the courthouse. It was a good thing she and Jim had taken separate cars. To go with their separate ideas.

Angel shook her head, trying to shake off the unwanted thought. She was Jim’s wife. It was her job to support him. And Charli was Jim’s daughter. It was natural for a father to want to play an active role in his child’s life. His desire to pursue full custody had nothing to do with the fact that she couldn’t seem to get pregnant. Did it?

Angel bit her lip. She had no time for tears. It took thirteen minutes to get to the courthouse, and she had only fifteen. Maybe she should call Jim. She pulled her cell phone out of her bag and tapped the screen.

Jim picked up on the first ring. “Where are you?”

Angel took a quick breath, pushing back the ubiquitous tears. “Just leaving the doctor’s office.”

“Cutting it kind of close, aren’t you?”

Angel checked her rearview mirror and put the car in reverse. “Sorry. Dr. Harrison was running a little behind.”

“Well, let’s just hope the mediator is, too. Park in the garage on Main— no sense wasting time circling the courthouse, looking for a spot.”

Angel pulled out of the parking lot and onto the street. “Okay.” Don’t you even want to know how my appointment went?"

“See you soon.”

Angel took another deep breath, set her cell phone in its holder on the dashboard, and stopped at a red light. The engine hummed quietly but did little to drown out the echo of the thoughts she wanted so desperately to set aside. She turned on the radio. Maybe it was better that Jim hadn’t asked about her appointment with Dr. Harrison. Rehashing it would just intensify the pain. Steeling herself for what was to come, she turned left on Market, praying that the mediator wouldn’t ask her to speak.


To buy Lisa's book, go here:

Casting the First Stone:  Amazon







About Lisa:

Lisa is a transplanted Jersey girl who has lived in Pennsylvania most of her adult life. A graduate of Bucknell University, Lisa worked as an elementary school counselor for 27 years before deciding to plan her work life around her family life. Now, she works as a writer, community education instructor and adjunct professor of psychology at York College of Pennsylvania.


Lisa is the author of two books inspired by her interactions with her students, Acting Assertively and Diverse Divorce, along with numerous blogs and articles. Her latest book, Casting the First Stone is her first novel.



Connect with Lisa here:

Website








LISA is giving away a copy of Casting the First Stone. 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.







Happy Reading!
Caroline Brown

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Searching For This Week's Winners, and Past Winners

Once again, we offer you a warm welcome to the Bookshelf of the Barn Door Book Loft. So stay inside. And stay warm! 

I know you want to know ... WHO WON?
But before we announce our three winners we’d like to offer a special thanks to:
Carole Towriss who offered her  Biblical Fiction  By the Waters of Kadesh.
June Foster who offered her Inspirational Romance  Ryan’s Father.
And to Norma Downing for offering her Historical Romance  A Promise Made. 

And now: We're pleased to announce this week’s winners:
Sharon Miller  has won Carole Towriss’s  Biblical Fiction  By the Waters of Kadesh.
Rose Milligan  has won June Foster’s Inspirational Romance  Ryan’s Father.
And Doreen has won Norma Downing’s Historical Romance  A Promise Made.

Congratulations Winners! Remember, it's your responsibility to contact me  sharonalavy {at} gmail {dot} com) with your address so the author can send you a book. 
Please correct me if I am wrong but,  I don’t believe we have heard from these winners: 
JRS362  who won Patti Tingen’s Non-fiction book  A God for All Seasons.
Michelle Welsh who won Susan Miura’s  YA Suspense  Show Me A Sign.
Emma who won Linda Rondeau’s Romance  A Christmas Prayer.
Leslie Lynch who won Deanna Klingel’s Young Adult  Cracks in the Ice.
Julie Cranford  who won Sharon A Lavy’s Medical Drama  Deadly Secret.

I will double check this as I don’t expect the author to send more than one book, but did not find confirmation by searching my email archives.


Subscribing by email will ensure you don't miss seeing the winners list.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Florida Author Sylvia Bambola

Welcome to the Book Loft, Sylvia! Is there a story behind your book Rebekah’s Treasure?

As a Bible study teacher I’m greatly interested in what happened to Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 A.D. and how it affected the Jews, especially the believers in Jesus who were known as followers of The Way. I believe we are at a place in time when we can learn much from these believers as well as from that particular time frame in history.

Which character in your new release most interested you while you wrote?

Rebekah is by far my favorite and the one I was most interested in because she is a wife and mother having to make decisions for herself and family while living in a very dangerous world, much like our world today. And her decisions and actions reflect her faith walk with the Lord. Whether it’s 70 A.D. or 2014, many of these problems are the same, and the answer to them is still the same: faith in a God who is more than able to see you through. The other thread that is constant throughout the book is that of “treasure.” In this materialistic world it is just as important to understand what our true treasure is as it was in Rebekah’s day, and she understood that.

What started you on your writing journey?

Love of story telling. I used to sit around with my friends and we’d make up stories. I starting writing my first novel in the 8th grade, but never finished. Eight graders don’t generally have much staying power for such a lengthy project. I wanted to write stories that were exciting and captivating. After I came to the Lord I still wanted to write stories that where exciting and captivating but that also reflected Judeo-Christian values and perhaps some answers to life’s questions—answers only found in God’s Word. Jesus was a story teller. In His parables He was able to reveal important spiritual truths in a way that was nonthreatening and easy to receive. That’s what I love most about Christian fiction. It too can reveal spiritual truths in a nonthreatening way.

What distracts you from writing the easiest?

Nothing can take me away from my writing faster than my family. I have two wonderful grown children and two wonderful grandchildren, plus in-laws. I can never resist an invitation to a school function or one of the grandchildren’s sporting event or an invitation to lunch or dinner, because this is how family memories are made.  

What kind of books do you enjoy reading?

Although I absolutely love fiction, most of my reading these days is non-fiction since I’m also a Bible study teacher, and with writing and my family, time constraints force me to be selective and opt for something that can aid in my Bible studies. I’ve recently finished reading Ancient Messianic Festivals by Ken Johnson, Th.D., Secrets of the Well by Shane Warren, and The Throne Zone by Keith Duncan, all wonderful.

 
What do you like most about the area where you live and/or grew up?

I grew up as an “army brat” so I moved nearly every three years and lived in several states, including Hawaii. This accomplished three things. First I was able to see so much of my wonderful America and appreciate its diversity. Secondly, it made me realize that people all over, though they may be diverse in some ways, are basically the same, with the same needs, the same desires, and because of that we can all relate to each other on some level. And lastly, it made me realize that home is truly where the heart is. It doesn’t matter so much where you live but more if you’re with the people you love.

What's your favorite meal with family and friends?

Our family dynamics have changed so much with many moving away and some going home to be with the Lord. But oh, how I remember Sunday dinners at my mother-in-laws. There were always fifteen of us around the dinner table—the immediate family, but if the cousins and aunts and uncles came, too, the tally could go as high as sixty. 

The hours flew by as we ate good Italian food and talked and laughed. Having married into a large Italian family it was tradition to celebrate everything with food. And how the Bambolas could eat! My very first meal at my mother-in-law's house was a prelude to my future. It was then that I discovered that a can of Franco American Spaghetti and a loaf of French bread was NOT Italian food. 

My mother-in-law served pasta, the kind that came out of a box and had to be boiled in water. And sauce . . . the kind that bubbled for hours and contained meatballs made from scratch, and sausages, and stuffed pig skin. Up until then I had never seen such a sight. That day, the large Bambola tribe sat around a big concrete table in the back yard where I shamelessly gorged myself, then pushed away the empty plate and thanked my hostess for the delicious meal. 

My mother-in-law laughed in that sweet way of hers and said, “Dinner? Oh, no. That was first dish. NOW we’ll have dinner.” And out came breaded chicken, a roast beef, salad and several vegetables. The meal lasted for hours as we talked, laughed and joked through it. I can’t think of a nicer way to be introduced to Italian food. 

Are there spiritual themes you like to write about?  

My favorite spiritual theme is redemption. I love to write of the love and mercy of God. I believe all my books reflect this either overtly, as in Refiner’s Fire a story about the persecuted church in Rumania, Tears in a Bottle, a story about abortion, or more subtly as in both Waters of Marah and Return to Appleton.

Could you share a verse or Scripture passage with us that is special to you?   
During the past three years I’ve come to experience first hand 2 Corinthians 12:9. “My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” This scripture is so special to me because it’s the scripture God gave me when my beloved husband of nearly forty-four years lost his battle with cancer and went home to glory. This passage is not merely words. It truly was and is life to me. 
During the blackest times God reminded me again and again that His grace was there for me, that His strength is made perfect in my weakness. And weak as I was, when I stood on it, when I appropriated 2 Corinthians 12:9 in faith, God never failed. NEVER. His grace pulled me through time and time again. 
Yes, there was a natural grieving process that took place, but even in the midst of my sorrow, I felt His joy, His love, and His empowerment. We serve a mighty God who says what He means and means what He says. We just need to believe and stand on His Word.
When is your next book due out and can you tell us about it?


My next book, The Salt Covenants, will be coming out January 2015. It’s about how a young 15th century Jewish girl, who has converted to Christianity, escapes the Spanish Inquisition and ends up in the New World. 

Thanks for sharing with us today!

Connect with Sylvia Bambola at:

Blog 

Sylvia Bambola is giving away a copy of Rebekah's Treasure. 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, January 27, 2014

Rebekah’s Treasure by Sylvia Bambola

Forced to flee war-torn Jerusalem in 70 A.D., Rebekah and her husband, Ethan, each take something of value:  Rebekah, the cup of the Last Supper; Ethan, a copper scroll detailing the whereabouts of a vast Temple treasure. Ahead, separation and danger face them as each tries to survive. But it’s not only external forces that could keep them apart forever but internal ones as they struggle to discover where their true treasure lies.



FIRST PLACE WINNER FOR ADULT FICTION IN THE FLORIDA STATE ASSOCIATION NATIONAL LEAGUE OF AMERICAN PEN WOMEN



Excerpt


Rebekah
Jerusalem 70 A.D.
Chapter 1
“You can’t stay. It’s just too dangerous now.”
            My husband, Ethan, stands firm, like David before Goliath, and I know I’ve lost the battle. Maybe if I had phrased it differently. Maybe if I hadn’t said those words—“we are all going to die”—maybe then he wouldn’t be standing before me now with his hand on the hilt of his dagger as though drawing courage. But too late. My tongue has already betrayed me.
            “Any day now, that jackal will be here with his siege works, for what’s left for him to conquer but Jerusalem?”
            “Vespasian? I thought he was in Alexandria.”
            “Yes, but his son, Titus, continues his push through Judea.”
            This time the words drive me to the bear of a man I have loved for twenty-six springs. My head finds its familiar resting place on his chest. He smells of sweat and Temple incense. His beating heart thunders in my ear. And amid this thunder, I hear shuffling, and know, without seeing, that the footfalls are made by our sons.
            I pull away and glance at the four young men behind Ethan. All are tall and strong and handsome. Any mother would be proud. But when my eyes drift to the blue tassels that trim their tunics, my stomach clenches. I have come to hate that trim. It’s the same trim that hangs from Ethan’s tunic, “to remind him of the commandments,” he says. Does he think I’m simpleminded? Does he think I don’t know that Zealots wear blue fringe?
            When I look at my sons, I see my little boys in those faces, faces I have kissed and scrubbed and tended. But I also see the fire. Ethan says it can’t be helped, this fire which leaps from their eyes, for the blood of the Maccabees runs through their veins.
            Ethan is a priest of Hasmonean lineage.
            He has told me I should understand this fire, being the daughter of a priest myself, for Rome’s authority is in conflict with the Law of God. But I don’t understand. To me it’s madness. Yes, madness. I will call it by name. For what else would compel men to hurl themselves into a fight they cannot win? My voice has cried out against this fire. God is my witness, it has. I’ve told Ethan it’s one thing to revolt against that dog, Antiochus, King of Syria, as the Maccabees did nearly two hundred years ago, and quite another to disrupt Pax Romana.
            Oh, why can’t he see it’s folly to fight the Roman Empire?
            “Come now. Get ready,” Ethan says with discernable tenderness in his voice.
            “No! I won’t go!” a voice wails behind me.
            Without turning, I know it’s Esther. “You’ll do as your father says,” I respond, forcing my voice to sound stern, for my heart is not in my words.
            “I won’t leave my husband. I won’t leave Daniel! He’s already paid the bride price and we have drunk from the same cup. He has only to prepare the bridal chamber. Once it’s finished and we . . . well . . . maybe after that if . . .”
            I glance at Ethan, and though I try not to, I know my eyes plead. Can’t we stay?
            “There is no ‘after’ or ‘if’,” Ethan says, ignoring me, but answering my question too. His strong muscular legs erase the distance between himself and Esther. “You know what Vespasian has done to every Jewish settlement from Galilee to Judea. The man is a beast. Can we expect any better from his son?”
            My daughter does not cower beneath the shadow of his massive frame. “It’s you who claim that God will deliver Rome into your hands. That your army will destroy Vespasian’s legions. What are you saying now, Papa? That Vespasian will win? That God has abandoned you?” Esther comes alongside me, her hair, soft as flax, frames a flushed face.
            Sweet Esther. So headstrong. But she’s right. Ethan cannot have it both ways. All these months of blustering in the face of certain Roman retaliation, and now this? My arm encircles Esther’s shoulder which quivers, I think, with disappointment and anticipation both. But I say nothing. It is for Ethan to say. It is for Ethan to make his case for sending us away.
            Ethan knots his broad forehead. “Nothing has changed. God is still on our side. But it remains to us, to us Zealots, to defend Temple and Torah. To return holiness to unholy Jerusalem. Will you make that task more difficult by staying? Must we worry about you and Mama?”
            “Oh, this is too much,” I blurt. “Are we not living stones, living stones, temples of living stones?”
            Ethan avoids my eyes. This is the argument he knows all too well, the words he has heard me say over and over. They are Paul the Apostle’s words. Words that used to burn in Ethan’s heart before this new strange fire took hold. Are not living stones more important than quarried stones? Are not living stones worth fighting for? Worth protecting? I love the Temple. The Shekinah once dwelled there. Though the Temple still stands on the mount like a giant pearl, it is a pearl without luster. The Presence . . . the Divine Presence is gone. And the Temple is not alive. It’s not made of living stones. It does not breathe. Well . . . yes . . . once, once I did see it breathe. I actually saw it shudder, as if in a sigh. Though no one believes me. But that was long ago, the day they say the great curtain covering the entrance to the Holy of Holies was torn from top to bottom.
            The day Messiah died.
            “Maybe Daniel can come for me early?” Esther says, plaintively. “Maybe he doesn’t need to complete the bridal chamber.” Her face is a swirl of emotions. Like the young, she lives both as if there’s no tomorrow and as if she were never going to die.
            Oh, Esther, Esther! Can’t you see the city is perishing? Can’t you see there’s no time for building bridal chambers? Even so, my heart aches for her. I know what it is to yearn for my bridegroom. Wasn’t I even younger than Esther when Ethan’s father chose me to be Ethan’s bride? And hadn’t I eagerly counted the days after the mohar, the bride price, was paid for Ethan to come and claim me?
            “Ask him, just ask Daniel to come for me today.” Esther’s eyes are large, imploring. “Tell him it’s time to take his lawful bride.”
            But when Ethan shakes his head without even glancing at either of us, and without uttering one kind word of understanding, I feel compelled to intervene. “Ever since Nero cut his own throat, confusion has riddled the Empire. Even Vespasian ordered his army to stand down for a time. Perhaps he’ll do so again since Rome still riots and tears herself apart while searching for her new Caesar. Who has not heard how even their shrine of Jupiter on Capitoline Hill lies in ruins? ‘The Deliverance of Zion!’ How many of our coins have you seen with that inscription? Everyone believes God has stayed the hand of Rome on our behalf. In light of that, what difference can a few more days make? Or perhaps seven days? Enough time for Esther and Daniel to complete their marriage week.”
            Ethan’s eyes narrow. “This is unworthy of you, Rebekah, you who don’t believe Zion will be delivered at all. You who have been telling me that God has forsaken Jerusalem and our Temple. That our sin and corruption have forced Him to lift His hand of protection from us. And now when I wish to send you to safety, you want to remain?”
            I look away. I can’t have it both ways either. “The armies of Simon and John, and even your precious Eleazar have carved up our city like cheese,” I say in a near whisper. “All this in an effort to gain control. And now they fight to take each other’s slices. Every day our streets run red with their blood, as well as the blood of the innocent citizens they kill. Inside Jerusalem or outside? What is the difference? There’s no safety anywhere, except perhaps Masada. If only we had all left with Josiah.”
            “It’s too late to think about what we should have done. Titus’s legions camp only twenty miles away. They’ve finally cut Jerusalem off from the north and utterly destroyed Hebron in the south. Time is running out. While Jerusalem tears herself apart, that jackal is slowly flanking us. You must get out while you can.”
            This is so far from what I want. In spite of a tongue ever quick to speak my mind, I’ve failed to say what is really on my heart. I don’t fear death—and the stories of rape and pillage and slaughter coming from Galilee, Peraea, Idumaea and, now, Judea, makes me understand how horrible it can be. But what I fear is that I may now have to face it alone. All these months I’ve believed that when death came, we would face it together. My husband, my sons, my daughter, and I.
            “But a new Caesar, once chosen, may call off the war. There’s always that chance.” I throw my final argument into the air as if winnowing wheat to see where the wind takes it.
            “A new Caesar has been chosen. Our spy has just brought the news. And, no, Rebekah, he’ll not call it off.”
            “How can you be so sure?”
            “Because Legate Vespasian is the new Caesar.”

***

About the Author

Sylvia Bambola is the awarding winning author of six novels. She was born in Romania but lived her early years in Germany. At age seven she relocated with her adopted military family and saw the Statue of Liberty and America for the first time. But the memory of those years in Germany lingered and was the inspiration behind her second novel, Refiner’s Fire, which won a Silver Angel Award, and was a Christy Finalist. Her first book, A Vessel of Honor (under the pen name Margaret Miller), was published by her own publishing house that she and her husband opened. The book was well received by reviewers, garnering a Small Press Editor’s Choice Award and was seriously considered for production as a television movie.

She currently lives in sunny Florida and has two grown children. She’s been a guest speaker at Women’s Aglow and various church functions, is a Bible study teacher at her church, loves gardening and is learning to play the guitar. You can learn more about her and her books at http://www.sylviabambola.com


She blogs weekly about the Bible and it’s application to our modern day life at http://www.sylviabambola.com/blog

Purchase Rebekah's Treasure at:


Sylvia Bambola is giving away a copy of Rebekah's Treasure. 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, January 26, 2014

The Last Detail by Lisa Lickel

Hope, love, and loss meld two polar opposite personalities. How long can they keep passion for their ministry and each other after the wedding?
Medical missionary and avowed bachelor Merit Campbell is wounded during a skirmish at his Mideast clinic and sent home to recover. Restlessness propels him to explore the happier moments of his childhood in Illinois where he meets Amalia Kennedy, owner of The Last Detail, who enjoys helping people prepare for their final years. Merit ushers in new life; Amalia ushers it out. Love? Obviously. Marriage? Check. Dealing with the family closet? Step back…

Amalia enjoys her predictable life in a quiet little Illinois town—until long-time intended, Hudson, finally proposes in a way that shows her boring and old are coming way too fast. When a mutual friend introduces Merit and Amalia, the spark of attraction makes Merit reconsider his bachelorhood. When he can’t return to the mission, he accepts a call as pastor to Amalia’s church. As the two grow closer they weather constant interruptions from ministry, business, and family, even at their wedding and beyond. When tragedy strikes, they must learn to rely on each other in ways they couldn’t have prepared for.


Book Excerpt



Copyright 2013 © Lisa J Lickel
Seven seconds. Merit counted silently from the time the last missile whined past his ear. Senna’s goon needed seven seconds to reload. Merit ignored the flash on his right and kept his eyes on the child who sat in the dirt about a dozen long steps in front of him, waving her tiny fists.
After the next barrage of fire went silent, Merit took off in a crouching run, grabbed Tangra’s youngest granddaughter, Mardra, and rushed toward the nearest pile of rocks. The punch and stabbing sensation in his left shoulder, followed by a thud, let him know he had almost made it. As he was lifted off his feet, he thrust the child he’d delivered last spring into her father’s outstretched arms. As gravity reclaimed him his left foot plunged between stones. His ankle twisted viciously as strong hands pulled him to relative safety amongst the band of defenders.
The child began to scream when her uncle fired his weapon close to her little ears. Merit felt like doing the same as his ankle thrummed and ground with his every movement. Broken, at least. No competition for the shoulder wound. He took Mardra back into his arms so her father could aim his US-made hunting rifle, meant for small game—not humans—back toward Senna’s position.
Merit hunched over the little girl as a brilliant flame arced overhead. A ground-shaking explosion followed, then smoke and men’s shouts and the acrid scent of the rocket’s accelerant. He hoped he wouldn’t have to run, because he couldn’t. Nothing he could do but pray between the throbs of searing pain and deep anger at Senna.
The baby wiggled, tugging Merit’s heartstrings away from his fury. It wasn’t her fault her grandfather’s rival destroyed Merit’s life work. Both factions were going to miss the little missionary medical clinic Merit ran in the mountains of Nehrangestan, a tiny spot on National Geographic’s map of Asia.
Something tickled. Wha—oh, right—blood from the shoulder wound. He touched the front of his blue shirt then looked at the growing red stain flowing like a waterfall. Tentatively, he reached behind his collarbone and hissed at the gouge. Not serious. He’d probably get a nice scar out of it. Senna’s pound of flesh. Merit shifted the baby and tried to flex his ankle. He bit back a scream and panted while sparkles pulsed in the fringe of his vision. Yeah, broken.

Well, that answered that question. If he got out of here alive, the mission board would make him go home for treatment. Question was, how soon could he get back to rebuild the clinic? 


About Lisa
Lisa Lickel is a Wisconsin historian and writer who lives with her husband in a hundred and sixty-year-old house built by a Great Lakes ship captain. Her novels include the Buried Treasure mystery series (The Last Bequest, The Map Quilt and The Newspaper Code), Meow Mayhem, the award-winning romance, Meander Scar, A Summer in Oakville co-authored with best-selling author Shellie Neumeier, Healing Grace, The Last Detail, a radio play “Gangster’s Ghostcapade” in the Wisconsin Writers Association Press A Wisconsin Harvest Vol. II, and a novella “Three Rings for Alice” in the historical anthology Brave New Century. She has written dozens of feature newspaper stories, short stories, a series of early reader historicals, First Children of Farmington, and magazine articles. She is the editor in chief of Creative Wisconsin magazine and loves to encourage new authors. Lickel, who holds a BS in history from the University of Wisconsin, is also an avid book reviewer and blogger, a freelance editor, a writing mentor, and writing workshop leader. She is married to a high school biology teacher, and they have two sons and daughters-in-law, grandchildren and a grand-kitty. Find more at LisaLickel.com.

To buy Lisa's book:
All Romance ebooks


Lisa Lickel is giving away a copy of The Last Detail. 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

Saturday, January 25, 2014

A Warm Welcome to Lisa Lickel

What’s the last thing you wrote?

Just before New Year’s I put The End on a project I’d been working on with Tamera Kraft about a post World-War-II-era widow who returns to her home in rural Appalachia to start a business. She accidentally stumbles onto a communist sleeper-cell plot to wreak terror on America and doesn’t know who to trust.

What’s your favorite genre of writing?

I like to be able to surprise readers with outside-the-box twists, so although I have written cozy mysteries and by-the-book romances, I prefer to stay out of genre when I write. But we have to call our books something, don’t we? Maybe half a dozen “literary” works get discovered fairly big-time each year. It’s a tough shelf to fill; but I’ll reach for those stories at the bookstore or library to read. Or fantasy. J

Who is the most fun character you ever created?

I admit to having the most fun with Ardyth Edwards from the Buried Treasure series. She’s in her seventies, wears plaid, and helps everyone, whether they need it or not.

Who is the most annoying character you ever created?

I think a lot of readers will agree that Hudson in The Last Detail takes the cake. We all know someone like him – a lot of bluster and bark, but no bite. He tells you your ideas are great while somehow making them his, he invites you out to a fancy party then drops you for work, he proposes while making you think it’s your fault you’ve made him wait. He can take over and comfort a grieving family but he can’t change a band aid. You can’t really hate him, but you do want to tell him to grow up.


What’s the most unusual plot twist you ever wrote?

So far, I think it’s in an unpublished manuscript about a woman who gets caught up in an unethical stem cell treatment for cancer. I had to kill her first.


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

I tend to do some of each while I’m working. I like to sit down with a sheet of blank paper on my lap and do some scribbling when I’m first exploring an idea. Who’s involved in the story? What’s happening? What are the people like, and the setting? How will they accomplish their goals, what roadblocks will they hit? Why do they need to succeed? What will happen if they don’t? I jot bits of conversation, ideas for scenes and research. Then I hit the computer and outline.

Do you ever go back to an old idea long after you abandoned it?

Sure. I plan this year to go back and finish some work I had done a couple of years ago with some other writers on anthology projects that didn’t get used. Since novellas are really hot, I think some of those stories that I started but dropped should be finished. There are also a lot of things I have ideas for, but not the time when I think of them, so I have to put them off.

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


My next book will be the third in the First Children of Farmington series, The Saxon Boy, for which I already won a Jade Ring from the Wisconsin Writers Association. The series is a planned group of six early readers about ethnic families who settled in my community in the mid-1850s. Each child faces a struggle like accepting a new father, similar to today’s issues.


Back Cover

 Hope, love, and loss meld two polar opposite personalities. How long can they keep passion for their ministry and each other after the wedding?
Medical missionary and avowed bachelor Merit Campbell is wounded during a skirmish at his Mideast clinic and sent home to recover. Restlessness propels him to explore the happier moments of his childhood in Illinois where he meets Amalia Kennedy, owner of The Last Detail, who enjoys helping people prepare for their final years. Merit ushers in new life; Amalia ushers it out. Love? Obviously. Marriage? Check. Dealing with the family closet? Step back…
Amalia enjoys her predictable life in a quiet little Illinois town—until long-time intended, Hudson, finally proposes in a way that shows her boring and old are coming way too fast. When a mutual friend introduces Merit and Amalia, the spark of attraction makes Merit reconsider his bachelorhood. When he can’t return to the mission, he accepts a call as pastor to Amalia’s church. As the two grow closer they weather constant interruptions from ministry, business, and family, even at their wedding and beyond. When tragedy strikes, they must learn to rely on each other in ways they couldn’t have prepared for.


To buy Lisa's book:
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Smashwords
All Romance ebooks


About Lisa:
Lisa Lickel is a Wisconsin historian and writer who lives with her husband in a hundred and sixty-year-old house built by a Great Lakes ship captain. Her novels include the Buried Treasure mystery series (The Last Bequest, The Map Quilt and The Newspaper Code), Meow Mayhem, the award-winning romance, Meander Scar, A Summer in Oakville co-authored with best-selling author Shellie Neumeier, Healing Grace, The Last Detail, a radio play “Gangster’s Ghostcapade” in the Wisconsin Writers Association Press A Wisconsin Harvest Vol. II, and a novella “Three Rings for Alice” in the historical anthology Brave New Century. She has written dozens of feature newspaper stories, short stories, a series of early reader historicals, First Children of Farmington, and magazine articles. She is the editor in chief of Creative Wisconsin magazine and loves to encourage new authors. Lickel, who holds a BS in history from the University of Wisconsin, is also an avid book reviewer and blogger, a freelance editor, a writing mentor, and writing workshop leader. She is married to a high school biology teacher, and they have two sons and daughters-in-law, grandchildren and a grand-kitty. Find more at LisaLickel.com.



Lisa Lickel is giving away a copy of The Last Detail. 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





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