Thursday, June 13, 2024

Talkshow Thursday: Leagh Matthews!

Star Fort, South Carolina’s Last British Stronghold
by Diana Leagh Matthews

A few months ago, I walked around Star Fort in Ninety Six, South Carolina.

Ninety Six, a small town of about two thousand people, is about ninety minutes from both Greenville and the state capital, Columbia.

The most notable landmark is Star Fort or as it’s known today, the Ninety Six National Historic Site. The name derives from the shape of the stronghold.

Star Fort is an earthen fort built in the shape of an eight-point star. While not a popular design, Loyalist
engineer Lt. Henry Haldane decided the shape would be better for the site than a traditional square fort. According to the National Park Service "the star shape allowed musket and cannon fire in all directions."

Back during the Revolutionary War, Ninety Six only had about a hundred people. In the early days of the war, it became a Loyalist stronghold. The British fortified the area, in 1780, deciding the location made it a strategic locale toward the larger cities.

In May 1781, Major General Nathanael Greene of the Continental Army, led a thousand troops in a siege against 550 Loyalists. The siege centered on the star fort and lasted for over twenty-eight days. While outnumbering the troops almost two-to-one the patriots were defeated.

The attack began at noon on June 18, 1781. Fifty Patriot soldiers were ordered forward to prepare the way for the main army. They used their axes to cut through the extended fort walls.

The assault only lasted forty-five minutes before General Greene called it off. Thirty of the fifty soldiers ordered to make way for the mass army, never made it back to Patriot lines, having been killed.

Star Fort became the last British stronghold in South Carolina.

The old fort was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1973.

As I walked part of the mile and a half trail, I tried to picture the area as it had once been so long ago.

*All photos courtesy of Diana Leagh Matthews


Diana Leagh Matthews shares God’s love through her story from rebel to redeemed. Her day job is as a volunteer coordinator, but at night she writes and hunts genealogy. She gives programs as a speaker, teacher, and presents historical monologues. Leagh (pronounced Lee) is the author of Carol of the Rooms. Her novel Forever Changed is set near Star Fort and will be released in early 2025. She also writes the history behind hymns at

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Traveling Tuesday: Castle Howard

Traveling Tuesday: Castle Howard

Credit: Pixabay

I’m nearly finished with my Christmas story that will be included in The Strength of My Heart charity anthology later this year, and I had lots of fun researching the setting. “A Lesson in Love,” is set in the Yorkshire area of northern England, located about four-and-a-half hours from London and about an hour east of Leeds. The area is an intriguing mix of geography with coastline to the east and moors to the north. Its history stretches back well before the Roman conquest of Britain in 43 AD with tribal inhabitants known as the Brigantes and the Parisi. Additional heritage includes the Vikings as well as Norman castles, medieval abbeys, Tudor houses, and the 13th-Century cathedral York Minster.

Fast forward to World War II when the British government requisitioned country houses across the
United Kingdom for the war effort. Saying no wasn’t an option, and some members of the peerage offered their house for a particular use before the government could take it. These immense country manors were repurposed for military command centers, barracks, hospitals, storage for art collections, listening and monitoring centers, MI5 headquarters, evacuated schools, secret project facilities, and one location, Badminton House was used as a refuge for Queen Mary who, according to John Martin Robinson’s Requisitioned: The British Country House in the Second World War, “arrived with a vast retinue unannounced one day and stayed for the duration of the war.”

While searching for the “perfect” place, I reviewed photographs of dozens of stately homes that dot the English, Scottish, and Welsh countryside. I decided to remain in England and wanted something in the far reaches of the country, an area vastly different from the city of London where both of the main characters are from. I fell in love with Castle Howard, a sprawling Baroque home that is not a “fortified structure” as a true castle is, but rather a home built on the site of a former castle. Further research revealed a fascinating history and memorable family members from a “strong-willed character with Liberal and progressive views who disinherited her eldest son whom she disliked” to “a mad uncle who never lived in the house.” When I discovered that Castle Howard housed Queen Margaret’s School from Scarborough during World War II, I knew I had my setting.

Castle Howard has been the residence of the Carlisle branch of the Howard family for over 300 years. Construction began in 1699 and was completed in 1811 with the Long Gallery. Surrounded by more than 13,000 acres (the equivalent of twenty square miles!), the home is still a private residence. If you have seen either the 1981 television version or the 2008 cinematic version of “Brideshead Revisited,” you’ve seen this magnificent home. Castle Howard was also seen in the sixth episode of the first season of “Bridgerton.” To get a view of the entire property visit:


A Doctor in the House

They’re supposed to be allies, but mutual distrust puts this pair on opposite sides.

Emma O’Sullivan is one of the first female doctors to enlist after President Franklin Roosevelt signs the order allowing women in the Army and Navy medical corps. Within weeks, Emma is assigned to England to set up a convalescent hospital, and she leaves behind everything that is familiar. When the handsome widower of the requisitioned property claims she’s incompetent and tries to get her transferred, she must prove to her superiors she’s more than capable. But she’s soon drawn to the good-looking, grieving owner. Will she have to choose between her job and her heart?

Archibald “Archie” Heron is the last survivor of the Heron dynasty, his two older brothers having been lost at Dunkirk and Trondheim and his parents in the Blitz. After his wife is killed in a bombing raid while visiting Brighton, he begins to feel like a modern-day Job. To add insult to injury, the British government requisitions his country estate, Heron Hall, for the U.S. Army to use as a hospital. The last straw is when the hospital administrator turns out to be a fiery, ginger-haired American woman. She’s got to go. Or does she?

Friday, June 7, 2024

Fiction Friday: New Releases for June!

June 2024 New Releases
More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website

Petra: An Unbroken Legacy by Lisa L. Dorsey -- Embark on a journey through time and faith. Witness as the survival of a family's faith intertwines with pivotal moments in history to build a spiritual legacy anchored in God's steadfast Love, timeless Word, and infinite Wisdom. (Biblical Adventure from hope*books)

The Triplets’ Summer Adventure by Laurel M. Blount -- Back home for the summer, adventure-seeking Nick Marshall thinks his park ranger gig will be easy—until the children’s camp he’s overseeing is left without a cook. Desperate to fill the position, he offers his high school nemesis, Cara Andrews, the job. As the two work together, Nick can’t help but fall for the single mom and her triplet sons. But convincing her to take a chance on him might be Nick’s toughest challenge yet… (Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Mary’s Calico Hope by Anne Blackburne -- Mary finds courage to face her fears about pursuing further treatment for serious injuries sustained as a child, and she and Reuben find a way to be together, with God's help. (Contemporary Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Love’s True Home by Lori DeJong -- Born and raised on the foreign mission field, all Allyson Kincaid wants is home and hearth on American soil. Too bad the first guy who’s made her pulse skip dreams of a life spent in foreign missions. Although she supports him in his calling, knows his choice means she’ll be laying more broken dreams, and a newly shattered heart, at the feet of Jesus. When Zane Carpenter relocates to Arlington, Texas, his seventh move in thirteen years, his only thought is to meet his obligation with Becker Ministries in a few months then take a foreign mission assignment. But working so closely with Ally in student ministry has him feeling things he’s never experienced. He’s ready for a future with her, until he accepts an opportunity to work on foreign soil and Ally stays behind. He knows God put him at the mission for a reason, although his heart still longs for the girl back home. (Contemporary Romance from Scrivenings Press)

When the Ocean Roars by Charlsie Estess -- Weeks before the Ultimate Fighting World Championship, Keane “The Golden Lion” Temple lands in Japan for the battle of his professional life, primed to take the win. But when his path collides with an intriguing woman, he gives in to impulse and asks her to spend his day off from training with him. Ami Ono cannot pass on the invitation but also hides her full identity. As their extraordinary day bleeds into night, both realize one day won’t be enough. Then the excursion ends in disaster when Keane discovers who Ami is. They part ways, but compelling circumstances and an undeniable attraction draw them back together. As the forbidden romance threatens to take down his principles, he struggles to honor his beliefs. Will The Golden Lion surrender his heart? Will Ami defy the domineering men in her life and accept it? Do they stand a chance against nature? (Contemporary Romance from Iron Stream Media)

A Midsummer Romance by Alyssa Schwarz -- The meddling mothers of Wild Rose Ridge will do anything to match up friends Caleb Weaver and Jessica Daniels. Real life begins to mirror Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream a little too much when they are strategically cast as the main couple in the town’s summer play. Will the course of true love end in tragedy? With a touch of summer magic, anything can happen. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published [ACFW QIP])

Cole and Laila Are Just Friends by Bethany Turner -- Cole and Laila have been inseparable since they could crawl. And they've never thought about each other that way. Except for when they have. Rarely. Once in a while, sure. But seriously . . . hardly ever. If When Harry Met Sally had a quippy literary love child with Gilmore Girls' Luke and Lorelai, you'd get Cole and Laila. Just . . . don't tell them that. (Contemporary Romance from Thomas Nelson Fiction [Harper Collins])


Toward the Dawn by Mary Connealy -- Two people marry for convenience then strike out to find happiness...and find danger instead. Together, they must confront the perils from their pasts to forge a future with hope and the promise of love. (Western from Bethany House [Baker Publishing Group])

Historical Romance:

Rocky Mountain Journey by Misty M Beller -- To fulfill a dying wish, Faith Collins masquerades as a man to find the woman who once saved her father's life. On her journey through the Rockies, she teams up with a man in search of his brother, and together they must navigate the treacherous terrain while keeping Faith's identity a secret and their growing affection at bay. (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker] Publishing)

When Plans Go Awry by Denise M Colby Olivia Carmichael escapes her past to be the next schoolmarm in a small ranching community in California. Her plan? Live a quiet spinster life, alone, never to depend on anyone ever again. Luke Taylor selected a mail-order bride, a necessity to help raise his two younger sisters, and the only way he knew to protect his heart. His plans don’t include being responsible for the beautiful new schoolmarm, who threatens his resolve between his need to stay away and his need to be near to make sure she stays safe. Along the way, neither feel much in control of their circumstances. Olivia’s carefully laid-out plans are challenged at every turn. Luke’s mail-order bride is not what he expected. Will Luke and Olivia learn to trust God’s plan for their lives? (Historical Romance from Scrivenings Press)

Dreams on the Horizon by Penny Zeller -- Mae Shepherdson’s dream of a school for the deaf has finally come to fruition. All is going well until she receives devastating news: the railroad wants to build a spur through the property where the Horizon School for the Deaf is located. Landon Bennick is accustomed to obeying his father’s orders and has assisted with the building of many railroad spurs, and the newest in Horizon should be no exception. However, things grow complicated when he falls in love with Mae, a soft-spoken teacher at the Horizon School for the Deaf—the same school blocking the railroad’s progress. When nefarious characters bent on seeing the railroad project succeed begin to threaten innocent lives, will Landon intervene and save the woman who has claimed his heart? (Historical Romance from Maplebrook Publishing)

Romantic Suspense:

Hidden in the Night by Elizabeth Goddard -- At the behest of her ailing mother, former FBI special agent Ivy Elliott arrives in Alaska to secure an unpublished Jack London manuscript kept secreted away for decades. But when she arrives, she learns the manuscript is gone--taken by the granddaughter of the woman who possessed it. Ivy sets off in pursuit, not just to save the manuscript but to save the vulnerable girl, who was previously trafficked and has no idea what she's getting herself into. Joining forces with Alaska State Trooper Nolan Long, Ivy must battle a blizzard, sabotage, and the worst of an Alaskan winter as the search goes on. But every answer they find only raises more questions--and the danger to their lives and to the missing girl may only be the tip of the iceberg. (Romantic Suspense from Revell)

Suspicious Homicide by Elizabeth Goddard -- When Finnley Wilbanks is run off a mountainside road, it confirms her worst fears—her father was murdered. With her life hanging in the balance, she turns to bodyguard and investigator Caine Honor for protection. As they work together to solve the mystery behind her father’s death, danger stalks their every move. And keeping Finnley alive long enough to find answers might be Caine’s hardest mission yet. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Celebrity Pastor by Creston Mapes -- Pastor Neil Gentry embarked on his ministry with genuine intentions, unwavering passion, and undeniable charisma. As his influence grew, so did his fame. Vine & Branches Church became one of the fastest growing in the world. Soon, Pastor Gentry and his wife Becky resembled royalty, enjoying fame and power—and basking in the adoration of their devoted followers. Beneath the glitz and glamor, however, whispers of misconduct began to surface. As the allure of popularity and power consume the Gentrys, they find themselves plummeting into the abyss of moral compromise. With the weight of their actions threatening to shatter everything they’ve built, one dire question remains: can anything or anyone break the spell before the unthinkable happens? (Suspense from Rooftop Press)

Colorado Mountain Kidnapping by Cate Nolan -- A cryptic phone call sends Isabelle Weaver running from armed intruders—with her daughter and best friend’s baby under her care. Nowhere is safe and no one can be trusted…except former army ranger Adam Dalton. Together, they must uncover a kidnapper’s motives while protecting the children. But as danger tracks them through the mountains, can they outwit a criminal mastermind before they all lose their lives? (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Children’s Picture Books:

Would You Rather: Bible Water Adventures by Jerah Alvarado -- Would you rather cruise on Noah's Ark with stinky animals? Or would you rather be in a huge storm with Jesus asleep in your boat? Choose from fourteen different Bible water adventures the one you would rather experience! (Children’s Picture Books from Mt Zion Ridge Press)

Plus check out these recent additions to Fiction Finder published within the past month:

The Filbert Ridge Miracle by Tamelia Aday -- It was October 7, 1967. The festival in Filbert Ridge, Oregon came early. Town history and the lives of its citizens changed forever. That was the day little Stephen McMillan disappeared. (Literary Contemporary)

The Elder by Roger E Bruner -- How can an elderly man regain his sense of worth once his one big success fades and God doesn’t seem to have other plans for him? (Contemporary General)

Bright Lights by Lisa Phillips, Rebecca Reed, Gina Conroy and Andrea Christenson -- Four Christian Fiction Romance novels from Christian fiction’s hottest contemporary romance authors. (Contemporary Romance)

Visible by Darlene M. Corbett -- Rachel Karem, a 55-year-old widowed therapist, runs a group for five "stuck" professionals, and along the way, she explores obstacles interfering in life's journey, ventures out to a Tango Dance Studio, and encounters an older, attractive gentleman. (Contemporary Romance)

Flat Deception by Paige Edwards -- Falsely accused of equine doping, Lady Sophie Henderson must prove her innocence. In a world where people are willing to do anything to win, it’s impossible to know who to trust. (Romantic Suspense)

Justice Delayed by Sarah Hamaker -- After serving her time, a convicted murderer tries to clear her name with the help of a washed-up investigative reporter. (Romantic Suspense)

Billionaire Sheriff on the Move by Bonita Y. McCoy -- Bernadette has known Wade for years. Shoot, he even saved her life, once. So, when Wade moves back to town and wants more than just a simple friendship, Bernadette must face a new decision and an old fear. Can she overcome her past and open her heart to a new kind of love? (Contemporary Romance)

Disappearance in Pinecraft by Lenora Worth -- Her sister has disappeared...and now her life is on the line. (Amish Romance)

Thursday, June 6, 2024

Talkshow Thursday: Meet Sarah Hanks!

Talkshow Thursday: Meet Sarah Hanks!

My grandpa first saw my grandma in 1959 walking outside of Velvet Freeze, a popular ice cream joint in St. Louis. He says, "She had a scarf under her nose and cigarettes rolled up in her shirt, wearing her Levis. I saw her and said, 'Wow! What a woman.'" She'd just gotten thrown out of Beaumont High School for a knife fight. Her siren's call drew my grandpa in. He was smitten.

Their first date was on the Admiral, a popular river cruise boat featuring live music and dancing. It did not go as planned. Still, he knew she was the woman for him.

They had two weddings: a secret one, and a church one. It's an excellent, hilarious story. You can read all about it in New Creations, my new split-time novel releasing on August 16th (my grandpa’s birthday). Reality needed little to no tinkering here.

Other stories included: that time "Floyd" cut a man's ear off, home improvement endeavors that rival
National Lampoons, a blackberry snafu that left a grocery store in alarm, and that time he got his finger stuck in a wiper blade and had to have dinner brought to him at the car. I'm telling you, my grandpa is a legend. You're going to love him!

New Creations isn’t a memoir. While many of the stories from the historical storyline are based in truth, the more contemporary storyline is nearly entirely fabricated. The 1990s storyline is based on my memories of growing up singing and dancing for older ladies in the back of my grandparent’s shop as they waited under dryers, but there’s a lot of creative leeway. I switched up names (My grandpa’s name is Douglas Floyd. In New Creations the protagonist is Floyd Douglas. Clever, huh?) and condensed the storyline, but tried to stay true to the heart of my Papa’s character.

This is a book that will make you laugh. It will make you cry. It will make you want to hug your loved ones tight. For those who love family stories, nostalgic vibes, and character-driven novels, you might just fall in love with this one.

If you enjoyed Amanda Cox's The Secret Keepers of Old Depot Grocery, Susie Finkbeiner's The All-American, or Katie Powner's The Wind Blows in Sleeping Grass, you might just love New Creations. (All photos courtesy of Sarah Hanks)

Here’s the blurb:

Floyd Douglas is a blundering barber who faces retirement wondering if the past sixty years of his life have been a waste. When he's presented with the opportunity to go on a mission trip, it seems like the answer to his prayers and a way to finally make his life count for something. Now with a series of obstacles standing in the way of his newfound dream, he must decide whether to push through or find contentment in being the faithful family man he's always been.

Emira has always looked up to her grandpa, especially since her parents’ marriage fractured and left her foundations shaken. Now, she scrambles to assure the man who taught her how to love what a deeply meaningful life he’s lived.

New Creations releases on August 16th. You can preorder the Kindle book now.

Sarah Hanks is an award-winning author of Christian fiction in both the contemporary and historical genres. After spending over a decade mostly writing and teaching Sunday school curricula for churches in her community, she jumped into writing fiction full-time with her split-time novel Mercy Will Follow Me. She and her husband have nine children, a couple of whom seem to have inherited their mother’s love for playing with words and crafting stories. Though Sarah dreams of a cabin by the beach, the family lives jammed together in beautiful chaos near St. Louis, Missouri. She buys earplugs in bulk.

You can follow her on Facebook or Instagram @authorsarahhanks or connect with her at her website

Thursday, May 30, 2024

Talkshow Thursday: Welcome BD Lawrence!

Talkshow Thursday: Welcome BD Lawrence!

Please welcome BD Lawrence and listen in as he talks about his fantastic One-Armed Detective series!

What was your inspiration for the story?

I think part of it stemmed from being a youth worker in a church youth ministry for eleven years. I’d heard about sex trafficking and had heard how the average age was decreasing. I had also written a short story some years back about a one-armed detective (inspired by a friend of mine who had one leg) where I used the Hollywood portrayal of a prostitute. I liked the character so came up with a book idea for the one-armed detective. In this I wanted to show what sex trafficking really is. I was also inspired to use those books to both spread awareness of sex trafficking and raise money for an organization that fights this scourge. I donate half of my earnings to a local organization that fights sex trafficking.

Tell us about your road to publication.

I started writing back in the mid-nineties. During that time, I wrote five novels. Two of which I was able to get published electronically. This was before Kindle and before the popularity of eBooks. Sales were abysmal. I also wrote a lot of short stories and had about twenty-five of them published in print and online magazines. I took a hiatus from writing for about ten years due to my full-time job. I had started An Angel and a One-Armed Man, then titled Save the Girls. When work settled down, I felt called to pick that story up again and finish it, thus starting my One-Armed Detective series.

Have you ever considered writing under a pseudonym? Why or why not?

I wanted to write under my real name, not B.D. Lawrence. However, I discovered that Brian Lawrence dotcom was taken by a wedding planner. Therefore, I needed to come up with something else. Several authors I read use letters, so I thought that might be a good approach. Hence, B.D. Lawrence. And was available.

Did you set out to write a series? Why did you decide to write a series?

Once I had the first book done, I knew I wanted to write a series called The One-Armed Detective
series. Since getting back into writing, I’ve been trying to learn the business of publishing and marketing and most of the experts say a series is the way to go. We’ll see. I enjoy the characters and the situations, so plan to continue this series.

If you were to write a spin-off book about one of your secondary characters, which one would you choose and why?

I’ve thought a lot about this. I think there are two secondary characters that are fascinating and have an interesting back story. One is Chester Henderson, the right-hand man to Calvin Rockport. The other is Sara Hanley, a former trafficked woman who has stayed with Rockport helping other trafficked victims. Chester lost his daughter to sex-trafficking. He’s a Christian, but he’s African American, which gives me some pause. I think I could pull off a story about Sara, however, it would be difficult to write about her background and keep the novel clean. She was a manipulative foster child lost in the system that did some bad things before getting caught up in trafficking.

Why do you write in your particular genre?

I’ve always been a fan of superhero stories. My favorite superheroes are the ones who don’t have special powers, like Batman and the Punisher. The themes of justice, vengeance, and redemption appeal to me. Finally, I love putting ordinary people into situations that cause them to become heroes. These three things pointed me to crime fiction. Finally, I’ve always liked the private detective stories, especially the noir fiction detectives. I like to play around with the sub-genre and put my own twist on it.

What is your process for writing? (do you outline, have a special place or time of day you write, etc.) What is your favorite part of the process?

For my first novel, I wrote a wonderful ten-chapter outline. When the book ended up being around thirty chapters, I stopped doing full outlines before writing the book. I use a technique I call “scene ahead”, where I write out the next five to ten scenes, write the scenes, then repeat. This gives me the flexibility to make changes, add characters, etc. I develop characters as I go. I’ll write notes about the major characters, but many come to me as I’m writing. I may be an oddity in that my favorite part of the process is rewriting. I enjoy first draft writing, but I always look forward to going back to the story and revising it. I think part of that is due to the length of time it takes me to write a novel due to limited writing time. And part of it is how I write first drafts. They tend to be the action and the dialog. My second draft is where I layer in more detail.

What is your advice to fledgling writers?

I have two pieces of advice. The first may seem trite, but it’s so true. Write. Just write. There are many people who say they want to be a writer, but they never write anything. If you want to be a writer, then write. It doesn’t matter what it is. Could be journal entries, could be articles, short stories, just random thoughts. But to be a writer, you have to write. The second piece of advice is find a critique group. Don’t rely on friends or relatives to give you feedback. You need real feedback from other writers. I started in online writing groups and through those learned so much. I’ve done a few live writing groups as well, but more as short-term workshops. Either one will help you improve.

What is your next project?

I’m working on two things right now. I have a collection of novellas and short stories set in the fictional small town of Marble Hill, Iowa. What’s unique is that all the stories are fictionalized accounts of true crimes. I’m working on a new novella. Once I finish that, I will put them all together into a collection. I’m hoping to release this in the summer. The second project is a new series with a new private detective named Jake Sledge. This is my ode to the old-time private eyes, with some twists and variations on the common tropes. It’s also set in a fictional town called River City, Missouri. And yes, there’s always trouble in River City. Jake is a big man, ex-NFL player. He wears a fedora. His partner is even bigger. But unlike most PI novels, Bobo, his partner, is the gentle one and Jake is the one that tends to skirt the moral boundaries. The first novel is called Chilled to the Bone: A Jake Sledge Mystery. I’m aiming for this fall to complete.

One-Armed Detective series blurb:

Lefty Bruder is a former St. Louis County Police detective who loses his right arm in the line of duty. He has always had a soft spot for girls trapped in sex trafficking. His former lieutenant arranges a private investigation license for him after his accident and convinces Lefty he has a calling to help rescue trafficked girls. A Vigilante and the Two-Armed Man is the story of how Detective George Bruder becomes Lefty Bruder. This novella also includes a short story titled The Finger-Snatcher and a One-Armed Man. This is Lefty’s first case as a one-armed private investigator. His friend, Holly Day is murdered, and he is determined to find out who killed her and why.

An Angel and a One-Armed Man tells the story of Lefty’s rescue of a runaway teenager named Angel from Iowa. In this story, Lefty meets Eileen Seager, who becomes a partner and good friend of his.

Angel has a friend who is sent to Phoenix. In The Coyote and a One-Armed Man, Lefty goes to Phoenix to rescue an autistic girl sold into sex-trafficking as well as to Mexico to rescue a twelve-year old girl stolen by a highly placed cartel member.

Author B.D. Lawrence brings the cruel world of sex-trafficking to light with his One-Armed Detective series. He is currently working on book four where Lefty and Eileen help a family who lives in Navajo Nation try to find their daughter who Lefty suspects has been sold into sex-trafficking.

Media links:

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Traveling Tuesday: The Shetland Islands

Traveling Tuesday: The Shetland Islands

Pixabay/Aline Dassel
I became enamored by the Shetland Islands since stumbling on the BBC television show Shetland based on Ann Cleeves’ mysteries. One of the episodes referenced the Shetland Bus and I was even more intrigued. For those of you not familiar with the name, the Shetland Bus is the name of a special operations group that ferried refugees out of and weaponry into German-occupied Norway from 1941 through the German surrender on May 8, 1945 using Norwegian fishermen and fishing boats. My upcoming release Shetland Sunset is inspired by these men. Take a virtual visit with me to this beautiful and fascinating area.

Shetland is an archipelago (island chain) in Scotland that lies between Orkney, the Faroe Islands, and Norway, and separates the North Sea from the Atlantic Ocean. Interestingly, the islands are closer to Norway than they are to mainland Scotland. The largest island is known as Mainland and is approximately 373 square miles in size. It is one of the sixteen inhabited islands of Shetland.

The climate is referred to as oceanic temperate maritime which means short summers and long cool
Pixabay/Doris Pecka
winters with average daytime temperatures of low forties (Fahrenheit) and mid-fifties respectively. The year-round climate is moderate because of the surrounding seas. According to one source, the frost-free period may be as little as three months. Wind and clouds are common on most days as is rain, falling on more than 250 days each year. Snowfall does occur, but it typically disappears after a day. Fog is very common during the summer.

The coastline is rugged, and there are an estimated 275 sea stacks, a geological landform consisting of a steep and often vertical column or columns of rock in the sea near a coast formed by wave erosion. The highest spot on the islands is Ronas Hill which rises to 1,480 feet above sea level. A Neolithic chambered cairn (burial monument) is located near the summit where much of Shetland can be seen on a sunny day. As an interesting aside, Shetland has very few trees (although there is an organization working to change that.)

History of the islands goes back to 2500 BC, and Picts are considered to have been the original inhabitants. The Vikings conquered the islands during an era of expansion and from the 10th through 15th centuries were part of the Kingdom of Norway (which included Denmark after 1388). As part of the dowry from Princess Margaret of Denmark, the islands were given to James III of Scotland when they married. He officially annexed the islands in 1472. To this day, the islands are a mixture of Norse and Scottish cultures.


The Mechanic & The MD

All’s fair in love and war. Or so they say.

High school and college were a nightmare for Doris Strealer and being an adult isn’t much better. Men won’t date a woman of her height, and they don’t understand her desire to repair car engines rather than work as a nurse or a teacher. When her father’s garage closes, and no one will hire a female mechanic, she joins the Red Cross Motor Corps, finally feeling at home. Until she comes face to face with her past in the form of Ronald McCann, the most popular boy in school.

On the brink of a successful career as a surgeon, Ron's plans crumble when he’s drafted and assigned to an evacuation hospital in England, the last place he expects to run into a former schoolmate. The gangly tomboy who was four years behind him in high school has transformed into a statuesque beauty, but a broken engagement in college leaves him with no desire to risk his heart ever again.

Will the hazards of war make or break a romance between this unlikely couple?

Purchase Link:

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Talkshow Thursday: A Guest Post by Sherry Shindelar!

In Search of a Happier Ending
By Sherry Shindelar

The beginning of my new release, Texas Forsaken, is inspired by the life of a real person. More than twenty years ago, I read the story of Cynthia Anne Parker, the most famous captive in the Old West. I was heartbroken for her, not because of her capture by the Comanche but because of her forced removal years later from the people she’d adopted as her own. Her story haunted my heart for more than two decades. I knew I had to do something about it.

I developed a character inspired by Cynthia, started at the moment of crisis, and wrote a different trajectory. I couldn’t give Cynthia a happy resolution, but I could give my character Eyes-Like-Sky a muted happy-ever-after. Eyes-Like-Sky has a second chance at life and love.

Cynthia was taken captive by Comanche at age nine during an attack on her family’s fort in the Texas frontier in 1836. Her father and several other extended family members were killed, and her brother John, her cousin Rachel, and a couple other family members were captured along with her.

Her Aunt Elizabeth was rescued a few months after the attack. Her cousin Rachel, who had been badly
Public Domain
abused by the tribe, was returned a couple of years later and died within a year of her return. Cynthia’s brother acclimated to the Comanche way of life and lived with the tribe for years before eventually leaving the tribe to farm in Mexico. But Cynthia became Comanche and became an integral part of the tribe for over twenty-four years.

She married a powerful war chief, Peta Nocona, and they had three children, one of whom was Quanah Parker, one of the greatest Comanche chiefs of all time. On several occasions over the years, Indian agents and traders attempted to ransom her, but she refused to go, and the tribe refused to trade her.

In December 1860, Texas Rangers raided her village and captured her and her baby girl, Prairie Flower (Topsanah), killing everyone else in the village. (There has been much historical controversy about whether her husband was in the village at the time. Some believe he died fighting to protect her. My Comanche sources say he died a couple of years later from a war wound.) Eventually, one of Cynthia’s relatives claimed her and took her to live with his family, but she refused to accept this new life that was being forced upon her. Several times, she tried to escape to the Comancheria, desperate to find her husband and her sons. Her uncle reluctantly agreed to help her look for her people, but they’d have to wait until the Civil War ended. Prairie Flower died, news reached Cynthia that her son Pecos had passed away, as well, and the Civil War dragged on. Cynthia lost hope of ever being reunited with the two remaining members of her beloved family, Nocona and Quanah. Overcome by despair, she sank into a deep depression and died of a broken heart.

Cynthia Ann’s story, the story of a woman torn between cultures, has perplexed, intrigued, and haunted me since I read it. My heart aches for her loss, and questions flood my mind. Some stories are like that. They stay with you, and this one was all the more indelible because it was true and filled with unknowns.

Thus, the inspiration for the story of Eyes-Like-Sky and my story Texas Forsaken. Eyes-Like-Sky’s path is not a happy-ever-after with no thorns along the way. Texas Forsaken is a story of grief and guilt, forgiveness and redemption, and healing.

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