SPOTLIGHT & INTERVIEW: Author Jennifer Froelich

Good day, everyone! Friday author spotlight today is on fellow Clean Reads author Jennifer Froelich. She has recently released Stealing Liberty and has agreed to stop by and answer a few questions and share some info about her book (and an excerpt!). She has received high praise for her work and I, for one, am very intrigued by what I am reading about this book.

So, without futher ado, let’s welcome Jennifer Froelich. Jennifer, I like to start off with the beginnings of the novel: that nugget, that spark that starts the whole process. What was the inspiration for Stealing Liberty?

Thanks for hosting me today, Sara. I came up with a concept for this dystopic world years and years ago, but the story of the kids and the heist came together more gradually. I love history and when I read or watch something historical, I always wonder what it would be like to live through it. With Stealing Liberty, I basically grabbed a lot of historical truths and sewed them together like a patchwork quilt and set it in the future. Religious persecution? It’s happened? Kids locked up for their parents’ beliefs? That’s happened too. People stealing something as an act of patriotic pride? Yep, that’s happened too. I’m really happy with the way it all came together – history, but set in the future to create a completely original story.

Sounds really intriguing…historically inspired dystopic future. Interesting. I bet your reading list is equally fascinating…gotta keep feeding that muse 🙂 What are you currently reading?

I’m very slowly slogging through an M.M. Kaye biography called The Sun in the Morning, and I’m also rereading 1984 by George Orwell. I also just finished Ready Player One.

I also feed my inspiration with music while I work. What kind of music, if any, do you listen to when you write?

I listen to a very eclectic mix of music when I write. Everything from Josh Groban, Simon & Garfunkel, the Beatles, U2 and the Police to more contemporary bands my kids love, like Twenty One Pilots, Foster the People, Kaleo and Gorillaz.

I love several of those, but I need totally instrumental myself. One of the questions I frequently get asked is about the speed of my writing. It gets faster over time. But I know everyone is different. It’s about the art, the craft, everyone’s individual process…how long does it take you to write a book?

A long time! I don’t think I can put a time on it. My first one took a decade, the next was more like half that. Then my latest took a couple of years. This is one of those things I wish I was better at, but I’m trying to accept the beauty in this limitation of mine. My fiction is very character-driven, and my characters are like friends I’m making. You don’t rush some conversations with friends. You’re just there with them, listening to the day to day for a long time before they’ll share the more intimate details of their lives, their history, their upbringing. My characters are like that. But when they finally tell me something big, I think: Wow! Okay, that’s what I was waiting to know about you. It takes time. I hope my readers are patient. I hope wait will be worth it.

I agree…I have found that character development is key. And you’re right, you can’t rush that. Before I let you go, I always have to ask: Do you have any current projects you’re working on? Care to share?

I’m about a third of the way through writing Weeping Justice, which is a sequel to Stealing Liberty. I’m still in the nervous is-this-going-to-be-any-good? stage, but feeling more pressure than usual. My readers are ready to find out what happens next, so I better be able to deliver.

Thank you so much for sharing with us today. I look forward to hearing more from you in the future! But for now, we’ll dig into Stealing Liberty!

Stealing Liberty

My new novel, Stealing Liberty, is a dystopian story for young adults set about 100 years in the future. It’s about a group of misfit teenagers who meet at a detention school for kids whose parents are deemed enemies of the state. When the teenagers find a secret cache of books under the school, they learn that everything they’ve been taught about American history is wrong. Then, they find out the government is planning on secretly selling the Liberty Bell to pay off debt – so the teenagers make plans to STEAL it, to take back a bit of the freedom that’s been taken from them.

Enjoy an Excerpt

My escort pushes me. “Pick up the pace, kid.”

I stumble on a sharp rock and cut my toe. It hurts more than it should and I pull up to face him, fists curled at my side. I’ve grown about a foot since my sixteenth birthday, which means I can stare him down, eye to eye. He just smirks.

How about I smash your nose?

For a minute the urge is so powerful, my pulse pounds against my throat and red spots blur my vision.

Don’t do anything stupid, Reed. Pick your battles.

The voice in my head is my dad’s, so I listen.

We climb aboard a rusty hybrid bus parked in front of the bombed-out terminal. “Welcome,” says the autopilot. It’s one of the retro models, formed like a human, with LED eyes and every-thing. When magnetic tracks were first installed, citizens didn’t trust computers to maneuver vehicles safely along roadways. At least that’s what my grandmother told me. Humanoid pilots were designed to make them feel safer.

Pretty soon, people had more important things to worry about.

My escort takes a seat behind the pilot, but I keep going. Only one other passenger is on the bus — a girl with long blond hair who sits in the fifth row, pressed against the window. Bruises swell on her left cheekbone and along her jaw. Her lip is crusted with blood and her right eyelid is swollen shut. Nausea washes over me, along with fresh anger.

“Sit!” our escort barks.

The girl flinches. I take a seat across from her and shift toward the window. The door squeaks closed and the bus lurches forward.

We travel on an old freeway so desolate, we don’t encounter a single other transport. I wish I was calm enough to sleep — so numb to the government’s strong-arm tactics, they no longer get to me. Instead I stare past the landscape and try not to shake. Try not to relive my nightmare or think about how it felt to wake up with a gun to my head. I imagine a different outcome. Fighting back — or breaking out of the state home before they showed up.

If only.

Buy Links

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Kobo

iTunes

More about the Author

Jennifer Froelich published her debut novel, Dream of Me, in late 2011, which reviewers praised as “well-orchestrated with outstanding imagery.” Her second novel, A Place Between Breaths, published in 2014, was called “a roller-coaster ride with enough twists and turns to keep everyone interested” and won an Honorable Mention in Writer’s Digest’s 23rd Annual Self Published Book competition. A graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University, Jennifer worked for many years as a freelance editor and writer before publishing her own work. She lives in beautiful Idaho with her husband, two kids, and a rescue cat named Katniss.

Connect with Jennifer and her books

Twitter: @jenfroelich

Instagram @jennifer.froelich

Facebook: @jenfroelich

Tumblr: jenfroelich.tumblr.com

Website: www.jenniferfroelich.com

INTERVIEW & GIVEAWAY: Author Shannon L. Brown

Welcome to today’s blog. I have another guest on today. Author Shannon L. Brown is joining us today to talk about her An Alaska Dream Romance Series. I met Shannon through our local ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) chapter. I strongly encourage writers/authors to join local writing groups that will provide support, encouragement, ideas, and instruction on craft. Our ACFW chapter will even meet as a critique group from time to time.

Shannon is not only here to talk about her series, she is also offering a copy (paperback (only in U.S.) or ebook) of the first book in this series (Falling for Alaska)! Please read below for details. I will stop rambling now, and let you meet Shannon:

Good day, Shannon. Welcome to my blog! I am always interested in where other authors come up with their inspiration…that kernel, that initial idea…what was your inspiration for Falling for Alaska?

I had discovered HGTV’s series Flea Market Flip and recorded a bunch. As I was binge watching them, I began to think about a character who remade old furniture. Jemma’s story soon came to life.

I love HGTV! It’s one of those “safe channels” with my young kids that is NOT Disney Junior 🙂 They have a lot of neat shows. As you know, everyone’s journey into writing is different. What about you? When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

After changing majors several times, I got a degree in Journalism/Public Communications. That’s where I found my happy place. I wrote my first novel a few years later, but set aside fiction to write articles. After becoming an award-winning journalist, I switched back to fiction so I can play with imaginary worlds and characters. But sometimes they seem real.

I know that’s the truth! We spend so much time developing those characters, making them three dimensional, that they become so real to us. Character development is one of my favorite things about writing. But there are things I don’t enjoy as much…such as writing proposals. What part of the writing process do you dread?

The first edit. I write a rough first draft, so polishing it the first time is a big task. But I enjoy editing on the whole because I like making something basic sing.

Editing can be a necessary evil, as you well know. It seems to come in seasons for me. I’m either writing, writing, writing…or editing, editing, editing. No happy medium. I am always eager to get tidbits of knowledge from other authors. Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer?

Never assume that your first draft is a finished product. (see my earlier comment) Never stop learning. Try new ways to work until your find what works best for you. Then keep learning.

I echo that sentiment. I am sold on conferences hook, line, and sinker. And I try to alternate reading: fiction book, non-fiction (usually craft) book, fiction, non-fiction, etc… I just finished Gloria Kempton’s “Write Great Fiction-Dialogue”. And am about to start Melanie Dickerson’s Regency Series. How about you? What are you currently reading?

I’m reading a sweet Harlequin Romance by Marion Lennox called Christmas at the Castle. It’s a 2013 book that I got at a used bookstore. I’m enjoying it and may have to search for more of her books.

I love discovering new authors to enjoy! I am catching up on my new favs though. One of them is very prolific and I’m only about halfway through her collection.

One thing about my writing atmosphere…I have to have music. Instrumental music. Something that won’t distract me. What kind of music, if any, do you listen to when you write?

When I’m home, I like it quiet. The odd thing is that I can write elsewhere such as in a Starbucks and music is okay.

The Starbucks I go to plays the strangest music, while the one on the other side of town plays really nice, easy to write to music. I don’t quite understand that. I have tried writing at various times of day, too. I used to be a night owl, but find that late evenings don’t really work for me as well as mid-morning and early evening. Do you have a favorite time of day to write? What about a favorite place?

Morning is usually my best time to write. I’m learning to dictate my writing with my current book, so my favorite place to write is a nearby park.

Neat! I used to dictate scenes when I drove a lot. I never quite got used to it. One of my works in progress is about the Cherokee Trail of Tears. I actually walked a portion of the trail and dictated while doing so. It was such a moving experience.

This next question is just for sheer curiosity’s sake: how long does it take you to write a book?

It took two months for me to write a book in the past, but I’m working to speed that up.

Wow! That is fast!

This question is for my readers: Tell us something about your newest release that is NOT in the blurb.

Crazy About Alaska, the final book in the Alaska Dream Romance series, is my latest release. It’s Holly and Adam’s story and I love Holly’s character. She’s a mother and real estate agent who’s willing to do whatever needs to be done. Readers will notice her can-do attitude on the first page.

And, finally, do you have any current projects you’re working on? Care to share?

I’m writing the third book in the Crime-Solving Cousins Mysteries for ages 8-12. Sophie and Jessica get into danger again in The Chocolate Spy which should be out before Christmas.

Thank you so much, Shannon, for being “here” today and for the giveaway! Stay tuned, readers, for more details about Falling for Alaska and the giveaway!

Falling for Alaska

 

Jemma inherits a house and moves to small-town Palmer, Alaska. As she begins her business of flipping furniture, her gorgeous but unpleasant neighbor gets in her way. Sure, she’s making some noise. A little sawing. A bit of drilling. Her dream’s at stake. And she’s not sure about living in Alaska.

Nathaniel loves Alaska and moved here for peace and quiet. That’s been shattered. He’s terrible with relationships. But when a stray puppy enters his life, his heart begins to heal. Could Jemma and Nathaniel have a happily ever after?

Falling for Alaska is the first book in the sweet and clean Alaska Dream Romance series. If you like wild destinations, real struggles, fun stories—and a dash of Jane Austen’s Mr. Darcy, then you’ll love Shannon L. Brown’s heartwarming series.

Buy Falling for Alaska and begin your journey today!

Book 1: Falling for Alaska
Book 2: Loving Alaska
Book 2.5: Merrying in Alaska – A Christmas Novella
Book 3: Crazy About Alaska

Each book has a happily ever after ending and stands alone, but it’s most enjoyable to read them in order. This ebook also contains a preview of Loving Alaska. The author was born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska, so she really gets Alaska and you’ll see the difference in what she writes.

Enjoy an Excerpt

“Bench or bookshelf? Which do you want to be?” Jemma Harris walked around the beat-up old dresser sitting in the garage next to the house her great-aunt had recently left her in Palmer, Alaska. She removed the drawers and stepped back. Nodding once, she said, “Bench.” Jigsaw in hand, Jemma began the transformation.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Mr. Gorgeous from across the street open his front door. He wore his usual neatly pressed chinos and dress shirt, his dark, wavy hair adding the only element slightly out of control. Refocusing on the blade in her hand, Jemma cut off the dresser’s top, then started a curve on the right side.

Something poked her shoulder. When she reached out to brush it away, her hand met with warm skin. Jumping backward, Jemma stood with the jigsaw in front of her like a weapon.

“What are you doing?” Mr. Gorgeous shouted over the sound of the saw.

Gorgeous but none too bright. She pushed the off switch and removed her protective glasses. “I’m sawing wood.”

“No.” He sighed with obvious frustration. “What are you doing making so much noise?”

“Um, creating a bench?” She pointed at the half-altered dresser. Seeing it in her mind in a fresh yellow with white trim and a matching padded seat, she knew it would be beautiful.

“A parent will happily buy it for their daughter’s room—at least I hope so.”

Her neighbor’s mouth dropped open. “This is a business? The noise I’ve put up with for weeks isn’t temporary?”

“Yes. No. Yes, I’m planning to open a store.”

“So you won’t continue making noise here and being a general nuisance?”

Now he had her hackles up. “A nuisance?”

His hand swept over the area. “Noise. Grime. Chaos.”

Focus on patience. He was her neighbor, so they needed to get along. Forcing a calm note to her voice, she said, “I’m Jemma Harris. It may appear chaotic to you, Mr. . . . ?”

“Nathaniel Montgomery.”

“But I can assure you everything is under control.”

With a little too much eagerness, he asked, “Will you be gone soon?”

As soon as I can make this pay, she thought, wondering how someone so attractive on the outside could be the opposite on the inside.

Buy Links for Falling for Alaska

Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/2qOapQL

Nook: http://bit.ly/2s1BIf5

Ibooks: http://apple.co/2rjli0j

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2qOintn

More about Shannon

Shannon L. Brown has been a real estate agent, an administrative assistant, in retail, and more. When she began writing, she knew she’d found her happy place. After becoming an award-winning journalist, she moved over to fiction so she can make everything up.

She has two series. The sweet and clean, contemporary Alaska Dream Romance series revolves around three sisters. The Crime-Solving Cousins Mysteries are for the 8- 12-year-olds in your life. They will enjoy these fun page-turners best described as modern Nancy Drew–type books.

Connect with Shannon and her books

Website: www.ShannonLBrown.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/shannonlbrownauthor/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/shannonlbrown1/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/shannonlbr

Goodreads: http://bit.ly/2tFvEJB

The Giveaway!

Author Shannon L. Brown is giving one copy of Falling for Alaska (paperback (only in the U.S.) or ebook – winner’s choice), the first book in her An Alaska Dream Romance Series. To be entered in this giveaway, please post a comment below or answer this question:

What inspires you?

***UPDATE: ENTRIES FOR THE GIVEAWAY WILL BE TAKEN THROUGH THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 2017 AT 11:59 PM CST***

AGENTED: My Journey

When I started my writing journey, I really, really, really wanted an agent. It just seemed to me that it was the right route to go. I mean, wasn’t that what every author did?

Nope.

There are authors who get published and have good careers without agents. Still, my question remained – was this the exception or the norm?

Don’t know.

Well, I (my husband really) started querying my first manuscript to publishers and agents. And I had a publisher interested. So, here we go, without an agent.

I had a wonderful experience with Clean Reads (the publishing company I went with). And I continue to.

Now that I am going to be published, I joined a local writers group and found out the benefit of writers conferences. Well, I’ve got to do that!

First conference, I pitched to an agent. He was very interested in work in progress. So I sent him what he requested. He sent back that my writing was “too tight”. How does that happen? To this day, no one can explain that one to me. The best I have gotten is that my writing tends to be “concise”, but not in a bad way.

Second conference, the agent I pitched to, was likewise intrigued, requested manuscripts and whatnot, but never got back to me. Curious. But it happens.

I continue to pitch, to very interested agents. Every single one requesting more materials from me, some I’d get feedback from, some I would not.

At this point, I am starting to wonder “do I even need an agent?” I have, by now, published 7 books – some with Clean Reads, some self-published. I am enjoying what I am doing, not exactly rolling in the big bucks, but I am writing and people are reading my books.

Fast forward to this past summer. I met with an agent at a conference I was facilitating at. I sat with him, not to pitch, but to ask this question: what can an agent do for me at this point in my career?

We talked for a while, he talked about career planning and marketing – working smarter, not harder. He did mention that I was doing a lot of things well, just probably not in the right order, that an agent could help me with these things. Then he said that he would like to work with me. (Color me surprised…I hadn’t even pitched, just shown him copies of my published works.) He gave me his card, told me to send him my sales numbers and platform numbers and said we would talk the next month.

After some back and forth with the numbers, and a formal proposal, I was offered a contract!

The moral of the story?

Don’t stop believin’

If you dream of being an author and you have one path in mind, you might should be more flexible. There may only be one Oz, but there are many ways to get there. The yellow brick road is just the most popular.

For certain, you need to have a website, and e-mail list, social media…

You need to go to conferences…

…when you even have the thought to write a book.

Happy Writing!

 

GUEST AUTHOR: Krysten Lindsay Hager

How Working in News Prepared Me for Author Life

By Krysten Lindsay Hager

Before I ever got a book published, I worked as a journalist. I began doing internships at TV stations before I started working at newspapers where I would cover everything from news, politics, sports, entertainment and other features. I also did book reviews and wrote a column as well as getting published in magazines. Even though I wasn’t writing fiction, all of this prepared me for being a writer.

First, working in any kind of news whether it’s TV or print/online, you deal with deadlines. You learn how much time you need to get a story done, how to research fast to become a mini expert, and how to work under pressure. Often times you are racing the clock to get something done and you might not have the luxury of getting another pair of eyes on the script or piece, so you need to learn how to edit your own work and be extra vigilant about it. Very often we think our work says exactly what we intended to put down, but often we write fast and make mistakes. So dealing with deadlines helps you to learn those editing skills and perfect them. Deadlines are also great to help you get the work done. In creative writing we often don’t have a “hard deadline,” so there are times we wait and keep trying to make something one-hundred percent perfect and the work never gets submitted. So approaching your creative writing with a set deadline helps make sure that you will get the project completed.

One of the most important things journalism did for me was provide feedback from the public. I got a lot of comments and heard back from readers when I had a column. Even at the TV station, we often got phone calls about what we wore, so there was always someone commenting on something. I remember one anchor getting complaints about her nail polish color!

Hearing comments from strangers really prepares you for dealing with readers, critics, and book reviewers. I’ve seen so many authors just meltdown over a negative review. I have an author friend who had only dealt with some lukewarm comments at a critique group at the very worst, so when an online book reviewer questioned her ability to write her genre, it devastated her. I saw how it crushed her spirit and now I always tell people who want to write books about the importance of getting work out before the book to prepare yourself. It can be shocking to get public criticism from a stranger for the first time on a project that feels like your baby.

Journalism also helped me come out of my shell more. I had to cold call (and email) people for stories, which really takes you out of your comfort zone. Having to ask questions at press conferences and even ask uncomfortable questions (like after a big game loss) or deal with confrontational people, gives you skills that come in handy when you need to set up interviews and other things in the book world. You learn how to be professional under pressure and it helps in so many instances.

You don’t have to get a job at a newspaper, magazine, or TV station to learn all these things. Instead, you can write an Op-Ed piece for a newspaper, submit an article to a magazine (print or online) or write for a public blog to get your feet wet and get used to having your work out there. Even blogging more on your own blog can help if you have a big reach that brings in an audience outside your own circle.

Dating the It Guy

Emme is a sophomore in high school who starts dating, Brendon Agretti, the popular senior who happens to be a senator’s son and well-known for his good looks. Emme feels out of her comfort zone in Brendon’s world and it doesn’t help that his picture perfect ex, Lauren seems determined to get back into his life along with every other girl who wants to be the future Mrs. Agretti. Emme is already conflicted due to the fact her last boyfriend cheated on her and her whole world is off kilter with her family issues. Life suddenly seems easier keeping Brendon away and relying on her crystals and horoscopes to guide her. Emme soon starts to realize she needs to focus less on the stars and more on her senses. Can Emme get over her insecurities and make her relationship work? Life sure is complicated when you’re dating the it guy.

Book Trailer

Enjoy an Excerpt

“By the way, did you hear Lauren got into Senator Agretti’s old school?”

“Seriously? I wonder if she applied there because Brendon did,” I said.

Margaux snorted. “Duh, of course. Seriously, she might as well just pee on him to mark her territory.”

“Margaux, shut up,” Kylie said.

“Whatever. Anyway, the important thing is if Brendon knew she was applying there,” Margaux said. “Em, do you think he knew?”

I hoped Lauren was just trying to follow Brendon, but what if they had planned this whole thing while they were dating? What if he convinced her to apply there so they could go to college together, wear matching American flag sweaters with big scarves while drinking hot chocolate, and jump into leaf piles just like a preppy clothing catalog. At least now I didn’t have to worry about them reciting poetry to one another in South Bend, but still, what if they had made plans to go to school together?

“Don’t worry about it,” Kylie said. “She was probably trying to follow him—like she always does. She’s so pathetic.”

Kylie was trying to make me feel better, but Lauren was far from pathetic. After all, she was pretty much the “Most Likely to Succeed” poster girl. While she was out overachieving and saving the world without messing up her perfect, bouncy hair, I was trying to get through each day. I tried to push away the image of Lauren and Brendon holding hands and drinking hot chocolate under a stadium blanket.

Buy Links

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XBFRX47

Amazon paperback: http://a.co/hBydoYm

Barnes and Noble: http://bit.ly/2m5y9OC

​Barnes and Noble: http://bit.ly/2n8vULZ

itunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/dating-the-it-guy/id1208876011?mt=11

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/dating-the-it-guy

Smashwords: www.smashwords.com/books/search?query=Dating+the+It+Guy

More about the Krysten

Besides mining her teen years and humiliating moments for her novels, Krysten is also a book addict who has never met a bookstore she didn’t like. Krysten writes about friendship, self-esteem, fitting in, frenemies, crushes, fame, first loves, and values. She is the author of True Colors, Best Friends…Forever?, Next Door to a Star, Landry in Like, and Competing with the Star (The Star Series: Book 2). Her debut novel, True Colors, won the Readers Favorite award for best preteen book and the Dayton Book Expo Best Sellers award. Krysten’s work has been featured in USA Today, The Flint Journal, the Grand Haven Tribune, the Beavercreek Current, the Grand Blanc View, the Bellbrook Times and on Living Dayton.

Connect with Krysten and her books

Website: http://www.krystenlindsay.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/krystenlindsay/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KrystenLindsayHagerAuthor

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/krystenlindsay/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/KrystenLindsay

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UClIQCsRcKc97-25oXvabZ8A

SPOTLIGHT: Author Jane McGarry’s “Unexpected Rewards”

Today, I have the privilege of spotlighting Jane McGarry’s “Unexpected Rewards”. This is a sequel to “Not Every Girl”. And right now, both books are available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble for only $0.99 on ebook!!! So, take a look and see what you think, but I for one have already downloaded them without delay. But, for your convenience, I have put together a spotlight to give you a taste of what you’ll experience in “Unexpected Rewards”.

Unexpected Rewards

 

Olivia Davenport is looking forward to her future. After all, Prince Liam has professed his love and King William has promised her a reward for her role on a recent mission. She fully expects to continue her knightly training while enjoying a blossoming romance with her Prince. The King, however, has other ideas, appointing her as a lady-in-waiting to Queen Helen.

Thrust into unfamiliar territory and left to fend against the malicious women of court, Olivia feels awkward and confused. With the help of her new friend, Kat, and her sister, Anne, she tries to find her footing among the courtiers, their protocol, and the added complication of Jocelyn Crawford, a lady who has her eyes set on becoming Liam’s bride.

When, a disturbing prophecy puts the safety of the King in question, fear spreads through kingdom. Intrigue abounds at the palace with an enigmatic witch and a strict Friar at the center of the controversy. Olivia must use her training and instincts to unravel what is truly going on in order to protect the King. Through it all, she questions if she will ever be able to fit into Liam’s life and if, in the end, their love can prevail.

Enjoy an Excerpt

“Excuse me, Sir Davenport, Lady Davenport,” says a voice, and suddenly Liam stands beside us. “But I would very much like to have a dance with your daughter.”

“Of course, Your Highness,” Mother replies in awe, dipping into a curtsey.

My acknowledgement is a much stiffer bow of the head. The moments with my family had briefly smothered my worry, but now it hurtles back full force. He takes my hand and I follow him onto the floor, silently praying my knees don’t give out from the terror that rises in me like the tide. One hand fits on the small of my back, the other grasps mine. His palms are uncharacteristically sweaty.

Something is definitely wrong.

I look into his beautiful, blue eyes. They swim with misery. Now that I am going to find out the reason, I am not sure I want to anymore.

He clears his throat. “I didn’t want to have to tell you in public, but I can’t let the night pass and deceive you.”

Not good.

At my silence, he continues, “Somehow Jocelyn has influenced my father. He wants me to court her, to give her a fair chance, because he considers her a more suitable match.”

There she sits now, right next to King William, her usual smug expression in place. Our monarch absently surveys the room. The monarch I saved—who praised me for it—stabs me in the back without a second thought. I should have left him to die in that escape tunnel.

“And what do you think of that?” I ask pointedly.

“Naturally, I protested…abundantly, but…” He stops, won’t meet my eyes.

But? But cannot be good. But can only be disastrous.

I stop moving and we stand looking at each other like mannequins while couples rotate around us.

“But what?” I whisper, the cacophony of music and chatter turning into an otherworldly buzz while my senses brace for the impact of his answer.

“But…my father told me if I did not give Jocelyn a fair chance, he would not only send you from the palace, but ship you down to Prescott and arrange a marriage for you there. I don’t know what to do, Olivia. I don’t know how to fix this.”

A barrage of thoughts leap to mind, none of them in any way accepting of this information. Send me away? Ship me to Prescott? As if I were livestock? And arrange a marriage? So many protests, I hardly know where to begin.

The music ends and couples saunter off the floor. Liam and I stand alone in the center.

Eyes will be upon us soon if we remain here like statues.

With every ounce of composure I can muster, I curtsey and hear my voice say, “Thank you for the dance, Your Highness. I hope you enjoy the rest of your evening.”

Then, I walk away.

Buy Links

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Not Every Girl – Buy Links (for your convenience)

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

About the Author

Reading was always a big part of Jane’s life. Over the years, creating stories developed out of this love. Finally, she decided to try her hand at writing a novel and that was when Not Every Girl was conceived.

She lives in New Jersey in a house full of boys, including one over-indulged cat. When she is not running around with her family or writing, she can be found curled up with said cat and a good book.

You can visit her online at: www.janemcgarrybooks.com .

Connect with Jane and her books

Websitehttp://www.janemcgarrybooks.com/

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/pages/Jane-McGarry-Author/712005068914626

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/JMcGarryauthor

Instagramhttps://instagram.com/janemcgarryauthor/

Pinteresthttps://www.pinterest.com/janem0378/

SPOTLIGHT: Author Emily A. Steward’s “Thomas Templeton and the Whispers of Branson Manor”

Welcome to my blog. Fridays are returning to author spotlights, interviews, and guest posts. There will be various genres featured, but they will all be clean reads. This Friday, I have a middle grade novel featured from author Emily A. Steward. Let’s check it out.

Thomas Templeton and the Whispers of Branson Manor

A sinister force awaits…

Thomas has only vague memories of the night his parents vanished, and the memories haunt his dreams: an old mansion, a game of hide and seek, and panicked screaming.

After their aunt threatens to split them up, Thomas and his two sisters journey to the abandoned family mansion looking for clues to their parent’s disappearance. Soon after they arrive, terrifying messages and apparitions make it clear that someone or something doesn’t want them there.

When another person close to Thomas disappears, the children must work quickly to stop the sinister force before they become the next victims of Branson Manor.

Enjoy an Excerpt

Evie stood in the doorway of the room just ahead. She seemed frozen to the spot. “I think it’s in here,” she said in a loud, breathy whisper.

I looked past her into the room. It was empty except for a full-length iron mirror in the right corner. The knocking came from the opposite side of the room. As I stepped inside, I signaled for my sisters to wait and crept closer. The sound was definitely getting louder and was way too consistent to be an animal. It sounded like a pattern. Just as I reached the wall, the knocking stopped.

“Thomas . . . ” Sarah’s voice came out thin. “Let’s go back to the living room.”

I ran my finger along the edge of the peeling wallpaper. Some faint markings were beneath it. “Just a second,” I murmured, pulling the paper back. There was definitely something written under here. The letter t?

A loud thud sent me sprawling. It sounded like something was trying to get out. I scrambled to my feet and backed up to where the girls were waiting. The knocking resumed, louder and faster now.

“Thomas,” she said in a low voice. “I think it’s . . . I think it’s Morse code.” Sarah and I had spent a whole summer learning Morse code. We wanted a way to communicate without our aunt understanding. Turning my head, I listened hard. The knocks came in short quiet raps and louder distinct pounding. This might represent the dots and dashes. I tried to concentrate. The first one sounded like an h . . . no, an r. Rats, it was too fast for me and I couldn’t make it out. Sarah had always been better at it. She squinted in concentration as she counted under her breath.

“It’s just one word over and over.” As she spoke her face went pale.

“What is it?” I asked, afraid to know the answer.

“Run.”

Buy Links

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

About the Author

Emily Steward spent the better part of her childhood dressed as a ninja and trying to convince others to call her ‘Ace.’ When she wasn’t saving the world from evil samurai, she could usually be found in the branches of a tree reading a good book. She now lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, three daughters, and dog Bentley. Though she seldom dresses as a ninja now, her adventurous spirit remains as does her love of tree climbing and reading good books.

Connect with Emily and her books

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Emily_Steward14

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/emsteward14/

Website/Blog: https://estewardblog.wordpress.com

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/emilyasteward

 

A LITTLE OFF TOPIC: Eating Plans…do they work?

Hey, all! As some of you may already know, I am on a journey to better health. Now, there have been bumps on that road, but I, like many of you I am guessing, have tried out some eating plans out there with mixed success. I am at the stage in my life where I am looking for a plan that will revolutionize the way I eat from here on out, not just give me a “diet” per say that will last until I lose weight and then send me off on my own to get right back into the same food struggles I had before. Is anyone out there feeling me?

So, I have been on some of these really good and well regarded eating plans with mixed success and wanted to talk through them, some of the pros and cons, ups and downs. I am in no way endorsing or meaning to criticize any of these plans. All of the ones I am speaking on today are GOOD plans. They are sound and well-researched. I am simply sharing my experience.

21 Day Fix

This is a fabulous plan. The plan involves containers color-coded for each type of food group (protein, fruit, veggies, etc). You calculate (very easy, the book has the formula) how many of each container you get per day and what types of (for example, proteins) go in that container. It can train you what kinds of foods are good for you to eat as well as teaches you portion control. And what actual portion sizes should look like. Never before did I realize how many vegetables I should be eating! What a learning curve! I did well on this plan. I lost weight and, more importantly, I lost inches while on this plan.

There is a set of exercise DVDs with the program and they are different each of the 7 day week. Which I love…not the same video over and over again. But I will admit, I wasn’t totally consistent after that first week. I tried, I really did. But it was difficult to motivate myself and I was on restrictions from my doctor about exercising (I had some medical issues at the time). I was a part of a Facebook Group that did a great job of keeping each other accountable and encouraging each other, but still, something wasn’t quite right.

When I did exercise (the workouts are great for all levels – there is a “modifier” to help those who aren’t as hard core as others), I felt bad for 2-3 days after. Not sore, just bad…there’s no other way to describe it. No one else in my group had this experience, my doctor became curious about this issue. Was I working out too hard? I insisted this wasn’t possible…I wasn’t huffing and puffing, I was not sore afterward, I wasn’t even sure I worked hard enough to raise my heart rate (as I was under strict orders to stick with the modifier).

Still, something wasn’t right and, in the end, I struggled to stick with the plan. But I admit that was all me, not the plan’s fault. As I said, I did lose weight and inches…even with the exercising deficiencies.

Trim Healthy Mama

I’ll be honest, I thought this was the plan that I would make it on. It is all about food freedom. The plan is based on the research that your body burns most effectively when you eat either fat or (healthy) carb at a sitting, but not both at the same time. So, you anchor your meal with a protein, eat either a fat or carb, and fill out your meal with veggies, etc. It sounds a lot harder than it is in practice. Trust me. Once I got going, I really enjoyed it. The cookbooks are full of easy, yummy recipes…including chocolate cake! And you eat plenty.

Then the THM sisters (who do all that wonderful research) came out with a “Work-in” video series. 5-15 minute workout sessions. Who can’t get on board with that? Well, my doctor had determined that I my body was overstressed and under-recovered (which he believed was the bulk of my exercise-then-feel-bad-for-2-3-days-problem). So, I got the exercise program, but was unable to use it. The most exercise I am permitted by my doctor is restorative/relaxing yoga.

When I first started on THM, I lost about 10lbs…my husband lost like 40. Bitterness, party of one? Yeah. But overtime, I felt less motivated, life stuff happened, and I lost my focus on the plan. I’m still really fatigued all day, no matter how much sleep I get and I’m having a myriad of problems…abdominal pain that no one can track down or eliminate and other random ailments. Then, as I’m coming around, learning to cope with these pains, things are falling back into a routine, and I’m ready to get back on plan, my doctor does a thorough blood panel on me. And decides I need something radical.

The Elimination Diet

So, my doctor sees in my blood work that I’ve got sensitivities in my body to certain food groups. And a raised white cell count. Which, I had been running a slight fever (unexplainable) for a couple of months. Now, we are starting to find the answer. He believes now that I have what is termed “leaky gut”…where certain things are seeping into and inflaming my small intestine. So, we need to eliminate the culprits and start from square one. He also notes that I am having an allergic reaction to something I’m eating. Likely one of these foods. So, we need to eliminate all of these things, and then slowly reintroduce them and find out what it is.

So, I’m on the strictest plan I’ve ever been on. And following it the most faithfully. Because now my health is on the line. Before, it was all about “becoming healthier” or “I’d like to lose a few pounds”. Now, it’s different. I am working to eliminate this pain I’m in. I’m working to improve some of these numbers he showed me in my bloodwork that we had never looked at before.

So, I am (have have been for a week now), and will be for a total of 30 days, dairy free, gluten free, sugar (and sweetener) free, grain free, carb free, (and I know you’re thinking “taste free”, right?). I have a regiment of how many servings of protein, veggies, fruits, nuts, fats, and dairy alternatives I am supposed to eat each day and I am supposed to eat all of those servings (one of my problems on all of these plans has been eating enough). And I have lists of what is “allowed” in each of these categories.

I’m not gonna lie, it was intimidating. I did not look forward to it. And I needed every ounce of encouragement I could get. But I’m going to say that it has not been as difficult as I thought. Sure, I have my moments when I crave a caramel latte or ice cream or cheese. But those moments are fleeting.

But in 7 days, I have lost 10lbs. My abdominal pain is gone. Gone. A couple of my other problems have vanished completely as well. And I have more energy that ever and don’t struggle with fatigue.

Now, as I say that, I would not recommend a diet like this for more than 30 days. Nor do I intend to be on this plan more than is absolutely necessary. But I am enjoying the benefits and am eager to see what my plan transitions to next. Perhaps my doctor will transition me to THM or 21 Day Fix. I feel I am in a much better mindset now to follow one of those plans.

Rewarding Yourself

I believe in non-food rewards. The healing and weight loss is a reward, yes. But the non-food rewards help me get through those tough craving moments. I have several non-food rewards I can choose from at the end of every day in which I don’t cheat. And every week without a cheat, I have a larger non-food reward. Then I have a grand prize planned for making the 30 days with no cheats.

And that, my friends, is what I know…

BOOK REVIEW: Hannah Conway’s “Up in Smoke”

Hey! I’m here to share my thoughts on Hannah Conway’s “Up in Smoke”. I have spent more time this summer reading than I thought I would. Strange, as I have had less free time than I thought I would. Where is this reading time coming from? Oh well. Before I get to the review, let me first remind you about the book…

Up in Smoke

Life heats up for Leanna Wilson when an accident claims her parent’s lives. Her dreams of a high profile law career are reduced to rubble when she returns home to assume custody of her sister, Brie. Without the financial means to take legal custody of her sister—or a binding will to place her safely in her arms—Leanna’s future becomes more uncertain than ever. Already prepared for a blazing custody battle, with less than capable relatives, Leanna’s world is set ablaze when her ex-fiancé complicates matters in an attempt to destroy her future and her faith.

US Army, SSG Garrison Burke has spent the last few years alone—balancing flag and fatherhood since the tragic death of his wife. Facing deployment, Garrison is desperate to find a safe caretaker for his son, Ezra—preferably anywhere but the abusive home he grew up in. So, when Leanna Wilson walks unexpectedly back into his life, he’s not sure if she’s a blessing or a curse. More importantly, Garrison cannot seem to forget how he betrayed Leanna many years ago. Yet, as Leanna and Garrison begin to run out of time, they start to see that the solution to their problems might lie within each other, but will they forget the past and allow their broken hearts to mend? As sparks begin to fly and their love is rekindled, a marriage of convenience will either make their wildest dreams come true or cause their best-laid plans to go up in smoke.

My Thoughts

Hannah R. Conway hits this third book out of the park. It is a home run. There are so many good things to say about this book.

Leanna’s story is relatable and heart-wrenching. We feel with her, we struggle with her…and, in the end, we believe in her growth as a character. Garrison, too, pulls at the reader’s heart as we follow his arc, through the worst of his story and the best of it.

As far as the story itself, the pacing was good. The twists and turns were well-placed and kept me hooked. I just kept turning pages and never once wanted to put the book down!

All in all, Conway has brought a story that nearly anyone can relate to and the reader can close at the end with a warm heart and a contented sigh. Well done.

The Verdict – 5 STARS!!!

SPOTLIGHT: Hannah R. Conway’s “Up in Smoke”

Hello, all! I have some very exciting news for you. Some of you may be aware that there are a few authors that I absolutely adore. Of those authors, there are a few that I have connected with through conferences and whatnot. Of those, there are a few that I would call “friend”. Well, I happen to have the privilege of calling Mrs. Hannah R. Conway a close friend and mentor. She has taught me so much about writing, the ups and downs of this career, and continues to pour her knowledge into me.

All that said, I would like to bring to you a spotlight on her upcoming new release, Up in Smoke, coming next Tuesday (August 8th)! So, without further ado, let’s get to it…

UP IN SMOKE

 

Where there’s smoke…dreams may be going up in flames… or rising from the ashes.

Life heats up for Leanna (Lee) Wilson when an accident claims her parents’ lives. Her dreams of a high profile law career burn to ashes when she returns home to assume custody of her sister, Brie. Yet, without the financial means, and a binding will that places Brie in the hands of unwanted relatives, Leanna is left preparing for a blazing battle, especially when her ex-fiancé sets out make her life more difficult.  Leanna must learn to have faith–something she hasn’t had in  years.

US Army, SSG Garrison Burke has faced flames balancing flag and fatherhood alone since the tragic death of his wife. With an upcoming deployment, he is desperate to find a safe place for his son, Ezra; anywhere but the abusive home he grew up in, but with Leanna, the woman he betrayed so long ago? He must mend their broken relationship, but first he must heal the wounds of his past.

A marriage of convenience only worsened their problems, and threatens to ruin their lives. But there’s always hope. Can Leanna learn to embrace a new dream before incinerating Garrison’s, or will the sparks that fly between them send both their dreams up in smoke?

More about Hannah R. Conway

Hannah is an Army wife of more than a decade, mother of two, writer and speaker. Her novels are a deployment experience of their own, threaded with faith, and filled with twists and turns that are sure to thrill, and encourage. Though she is a Kentucky native, Hannah and her family now live in Tennessee. She holds a BA in History from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.She is the author of The Wounded Warrior’s Wife and Wedding a Warrior from Olivia Kimbrell Press. Hannah is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and My Book Therapy (MBT).

Interact with Hannah and her books at

https://hannahrconway.com/

 

Join me on TUESDAY for my honest review of the book – I promise, I won’t pull any punches!

 

A LITTLE OFF TOPIC: I love my kids AND I’m excited for school to start

Yes, contrary to (apparently) popular believe, I can love my kids, love spending time with them, and be excited for school to start. No? You don’t think so? Well, maybe it’s my perspective on the return to school.

School is NOT…

I do not see returning to school as an opportunity to “get rid” of my kids for a few hours a day. Or to “dump them” somewhere. Not by any means. I think this is too harsh a criticism on moms that put their kids in school or look forward to the return of the school year. Are there some parents that look at it this way? I’m sure there are. Not anyone that I would look up to or model my life/attitude after. These folks have missed the boat completely.

School IS…

I welcome the return to school because I embrace routine. For myself as well as for my kiddos. As you may already know I have a child who is ADHD, one who is autistic and ADHD, and one who is lovingly nicknamed “Destructo” (and he earns it). I enjoy their sweet antics and never-ending energy. The middle of the day laughs, playtimes, and cuddles are priceless. But they all need the kind of routine (and actually thrive in it) that school offers. Try as I might, I cannot stick to a routine at home during the summer. So, a more laid back home environment and more structured school scene works for them.

School also offers them other things I cannot provide – a mix of personalities. Don’t get me wrong, we do many many playdates. But these are mostly other children that they get along with (for the most part). The lessons they learn from being in a class with children they have to LEARN to get along with are valuable and necessary. Who gets to choose their coworkers? Ever had one you had to get along with but didn’t quite mesh with? It’s a learned skill.

I also want my kids to be little lights in this world. To be salt. Does salt have more affect on it’s environment in the salt shaker (with the rest of the salt) or sprinkled elsewhere (preserving food, flavoring food, etc)? Salt is meant to leave the salt shaker and change the world around it.

In closing…

I am thrilled and a little nervous about sending my kiddos back to school. I know they will have tons of fun, some challenges to overcome (which will also be a learning experience), and lots of questions to ask about what they see and hear (things I cannot shield them from forever, but I would rather them still be under my roof where I can help them find truth rather than be floating out there on their own). So, while I am prayerfully and cautiously sending them into their respective schools, you might catch a little bit of this at my house: