Friday, January 28, 2022

Fiction Friday: Around the World in Eighty Days

Fiction Friday: Around the World in Eighty Days

Photo: WikiImages

PBS has been showing an eight-part “adaptation” of Jules Verne’s acclaimed novel Around the World in Eighty Days. I put the word adaptation in quotations because two significant changes were made to the original. The characters of Fix and Passepartout are completely different and seemed to be a nod to political correctness rather than adhering to Verne’s intentions, with Fix being a female journalist and Passepartout being black. 

For those of you unfamiliar with this 1872 French novel, Phileas Fogg, a rich Englishman who lives a solitary life in London. He periodically frequents a gentleman’s club called the Reform Club where he seems to be ridiculed for his habitual modest lifestyle and fastidious manner, so fastidious he fires his valet for bringing him shaving water at a lower temperature than desired. He hires Frenchman Jean Passepartout as replacement. 

One day, Fogg and several of his friends see an article in The Daily Telegraph that states a new railroad
section has opened in India, making it now possible to travel around the world in eighty days. An argument ensues as to the veracity of the claim, and Fogg accepts a bet for 20,000 pounds that he can complete the journey. Experiences in Bombay, Calcutta, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, San Francisco, New York, France, Ireland, and finally Liverpool, and the intervening travel keep readers turning pages. At first, Fogg believes he has lost the wager but a series of events reveal that because he has traveled eastward, his days were shortened by four minutes for each of the 360 degrees of longitude they cross, thus they had seen eighty sunrises and sunsets to London’s seventy-nine, therefore winning the bet. Ironically, he has spent nearly 19,000 pounds of his travel money during the trip. 

Photo: WikiImages
Written during the Franco-Prussian war in which Verne was drafted, he struggled with financial difficulties and grief over the recent death of his father. Fascinated by technology, Vern was intrigued by the possibility of such speedy travel. Interestingly, the closing date of the novel, December 21, 1872, was the same date as the serial publication, leading some readers to believe the journal was actually taking place. Bets were placed, and some railroad companies campaigned for Verne to include them and the book. 

After the book’s publication as a novel, several people attempted to follow Fogg’s circumnavigation. Here are a few of them: 

  • 1889: Nellie Bly did the journey in 72 days and met Verne in Amiens at its completion; 
  • 1903: James Willis Sayre’s journey lasted 54 days 
  • 1908: Harry Bensley attempted the journey on foot, but it took so long, he had to abandon the trip in 1914 at the commencement of WWI. 
  • 1928: A Danish Boy Scout traveled by train and ship, but did not go via India, and his journey lasted 44 days. 
Since 1979, Verne is the second-most translated author, ranking between William Shakespeare and Agatha Christie. Have you read this classic?


Rayne's Redemption:

Will she have to lose her identity to find true love?

Twin sisters Rayne and Jessica Dalton have been swapping places their whole lives, so when Jessica dies on the eve of heading west to become a mail-order bride, Rayne decides to fill her sister's shoes. The challenge will be faking Jessica's faith in God. Can Rayne fool her prospective groom without losing her heart...or her soul?

Flynn Ward fled England to escape his parent's attempts at marrying him off, but now that he's ready to wed, locating a woman in the Wyoming mountains is harder than finding a hackney in a rainstorm. Then the Westward Home & Hearts Agency offers him the perfect match. But when his prospective bride 
arrives, she's nothing like she seemed in her letters. Is he destined to go through life alone?

Can two desperate people overcome their differences to find common ground...and love?

Purchase Link:

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Talkshow Thursday: Laura DeNooyer-Moore

Talkshow Thursday: Laura DeNooyer-Moore

Linda: Welcome to my blog! Congratulations on your debut novel, All That is Hidden. It sounds fantastic. Where did you get your inspiration for the story? 

Laura: Thank you for having me, Linda. My inspiration grew from a visit to Mars Hill, North Carolina when I was in college--many years ago! Our professor took 22 education students to be teacher aids in the mountain schools of Buncombe, Madison, and Yancey counties near the Smokies. Turns out the teacher aids had the most to learn. It was culture shock for us midwesterners. That was our first introduction to the mountain culture of southern Appalachia. 
LM: What sort of research was required for the book? 

Laura: I researched everything long before the days of the internet. Besides that first visit during college, I made another trip there to get the lay of the land. A book of southern Appalachian dialect and idioms came in handy. Multiple Foxfire Books by Eliot Wigginton were invaluable for understanding the people, traditions, and lifestyles of the area: spinning, weaving, cooking, planting, crafts, beliefs, superstitions, and more. 

This all culminated in hiring a literary consultant, Dr. Steve Eberly of Western Carolina University, to read the manuscript for accuracy, assuring that I’d captured the Appalachian spirit. 
I published this novel years ago, and recently relaunched it with a new cover and revised content--a tightened version of the same story. 

LM: You’re a native of Michigan and have lived in Wisconsin. What made you choose Appalachian as a setting for the book? 
Laura: In other words, what’s a Midwestern girl like me doing writing southern fiction, right? Fair question! The short answer: I fell in love with the place. 

The longer answer: During my first visit, as we explored the area, I was struck by the number of people
Photo: Pixabay/
who created meaningful lives by a route much different from those seeking the prosperity of “The American Dream” that I’d grown up with. With little money, few possessions, and no races up the ladder of success, these folks still enjoyed rich lives--a foreign concept to me at the time. 
That set me to wondering and primed the creative juices: “What would happen with a clash between big-city northern values and southern Appalachian culture?” I wrote a prize-winning short story about it when I got home. Over the years, those characters beckoned me back to their hills until I succumbed and wrote their story in novel form. 

LM: You are also a visual artist. How do you find writing different from drawing/painting? The same? 

Laura: Great question! There are definite similarities. The right words create pictures in the reader’s head. Instead of wielding colored pencils or a paintbrush and paint, novelists use words alone. I use this “word picture” analogy with my high school and middle school writing students. I ask: how do you visualize the scene before you? What do you want your reader to see? Which words will serve you best in that purpose? 
However, too many words--like too many brushstrokes or colors all mashed together--can be overkill. A picture on canvas includes details that don’t leave much for the viewer’s imagination. Every pattern, texture, and shape is right there in plain sight. The tricky part of writing is using enough key words and phrases to suggest the scene, action, or character. Each reader’s mind will fill in that word picture differently, yet still carry the essence of what you’re trying to convey. 

Photo: Pixabay/
Rudy and Peter Skitterians
I suppose it’s the difference between writing as a detective or a poet. The detective needs to include every last detail, thinking photographically, whereas the poet picks a few relevant sensory details (or metaphors) to evoke an image and a mood in the reader’s mind—and touch the heart, too. Authors strive to be evocative, like the poet. 

Your question makes me think of a John Gardner quote: “We read just five words of a good novel and we forget we’re reading printed words on a page; we begin to see images.” 

LM: What advice do you have for fledgling writers? 

Laura: Join a writers group that will both stretch you and encourage you. Improvement comes from constant revision, accountability, and teachability. 

Read, read, read! Especially in your genre. Read like a writer, not just a reader. Dissect each novel. What makes it tick? What techniques does the author use? What works? What doesn’t? 

Persevere. Find joy is in the journey, not just the end product. God is the ultimate Storyteller, and He made us in His image. He delights in our creativity. During frustrating days, that should be inspiration enough. 
LM: Here are some quickies: 

Favorite childhood book: the Nancy Drew series (can’t recall a title that stands out) 
Favorite Bible verse: Romans 8 (hard to narrow it down to one verse!) 
Favorite place to vacation: Lake Macatawa in Holland, Michigan (annual family vacation) 

LM: What other projects are on the docket for you this year? 

Photo: WikiImages
Laura: Two things, mainly. Continue to host authors on my new Standout Stories blog (launched in November), and find a home for at least two of my unpublished novels, both more historical fiction. One is Biblical fiction, set in the time of Christ, and the other is a split-time story (1980 and early 1900s) with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz author, L. Frank Baum, as a main character. Not southern fiction this time, but set in a small town in Michigan where Baum’s family spent their summers (near Lake Macatawa). I gravitate toward small towns and bygone eras, wherever they happen to be. 

I have many irons in the fire. With my kids all grown up, I finally have time to fine-time a plethora of rough drafts and seek publication. 

LM: Where can folks find you on the web? 

Laura: My website & Standout Stories blog:
Join my monthly newsletter, and I'll send you a free gift:

About All That is Hidden  

Are secrets worth the price they cost to keep? 

Ten-year-old Tina Hamilton finds out the hard way. She always knew her father had a secret. But all of God’s earth to Tina are the streams for fishing, the fields for romping, a world snugly enclosed by the blue-misted Smokies. Nothing ever changed. Until the summer of 1968. Trouble erupts when northern exploitation threatens her tiny southern Appalachian town. Some folks blame the trouble on progress, some blame the space race and men meddling with the moon’s cycles, and some blame Tina’s father. A past he has hidden catches up to him as his secret settles in like an unwelcome guest. The clash of progressive ideas and small town values escalates the collision of a father’s past and present.

Purchase Link:

Friday, January 21, 2022

Fiction Friday: Vintage Reads - The Professor by Charlotte Bronte

Fiction Friday: Charlotte Bronte’s The Professor 
Photo: WikiImages
Authors are told to write what they know, and British writer Charlotte Brontë did just that. The Professor, which was published by her husband two years after her death was actually Charlotte’s first novel, written well before Jane Eyre. Rejected by the few publishers of the time, the book manuscript was put on the back burner as the author set about crafting her next novel. Parts of the manuscript were later reworked from the prospective of a female teacher and published as Villette. 
Based on her experiences ten years’ prior as teacher and language student in Belgium, The Professor tells the story of William Crimsworth, a teacher in Brussels. Told in first-person narrative form, the novel describes his maturation, career, and relationships. The story begins with a letter sent from William to a friend and discusses his rejection of an uncle’s proposal that he become a clergyman as well as his first meeting with his rich brother. William obtains a job with Edward who treats him poorly. Leaving the position, William accepts a job at a school in Brussels. 
Author photo
His excellent reputation as a “professor” becomes known to a headmistress at a girls school nearby. Sheoffers him a job that he accepts, and slowly falls in love with her. He overhears a conversation with her fiancé about their deceitful treatment of him, and reacts by being cold and distant with her. In a plot line that would make the author of Peyton Place proud, William begins to teach one of the younger instructors and falls in love with her. Jealous of the attention he is paying to the young woman, the headmistress fires her. He searches high and low for her, finally finding her in a graveyard (of all places). Not wanting to cause further dissension at the Williams quits and finds a new position at a college. He and the young teacher marry, open and school together, and have a child – a neatly tied up happily-ever-after. 
Interestingly, Brontë uses the book as an opportunity to put forward her dislike of Catholics and the Flemish, and there are several negative incidents involving both. 
Photo: Pixabay/
Joaquin Aranoa
Because she based the novel on her own experiences, The Professor gives readers a peek into the Charlotte’s life. During her short stint at the school, she fell in love with the headmaster, a married man with children. According to a later biography, she didn’t handle the situation well, and made herself an embarrassment. Additionally, because Charlotte passed away at an early age she didn’t write as many books as she might have if she’d lived longer. Of the book, she said, “The middle and latter portion is as good as I can contains more pith, more substance, more reality, in my judgment, than much of Jane Eyre.” 
Some find the book slow and plodding, lacking the passion and intrigue of Jane Eyre, but I enjoyed reading the story as it immersed me in the “working man’s life” of the mid-1800s. Consider reading this classic.

About Dinah's Dilemma

Will she have to run from the past for the rest of her life? 

Dinah Simpkins has no chance of making a good marriage. Her outlaw brothers and her father’s gambling addiction have ruined the family’s reputation. Then the Westward Home and Hearts Matrimonial Agency provides an opportunity for a fresh start. After Dinah arrives in Nebraska, she discovers her brothers played a part in the death of her prospective groom’s first wife. 

As a former Pinkerton detective Nathan Childs knows when someone is lying. The bride sent by the matrimonial agency may be beautiful, but she’s definitely hiding something, and he has no intention of marrying her until he uncovers the truth. But an easier solution may be to send her packing. Then his young daughter goes missing. He and Dinah must put aside their mutual hurt and mistrust to find her.

Purchase Link:

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Talkshow Thursday: Welcome back, Cathe Swanson!

Talkshow Thursday: Welcome back, Cathe Swanson

Linda: Welcome! I love a good mystery and can’t wait to hear about your book Murder at the Empire which is part of CelebrateLit’s Ever After Mystery series, a set of stories that are loosely based on fairy tales. What was your inspiration for the plot? 
Cathe: My book is based on the fairy tale, The Nightingale, but I have to admit… when Sandy from Celebrate Lit asked me if I would like to participate in the project, I chose a fairy tale to suit my plot idea. I wanted to write a story about a girl who plays the Mighty Wurlitzer organ to accompany silent movies in a magnificent movie palace. 
LM: How do you develop your characters? Are they based on people you know...or yourself? How do you decide on their names? 

Cathe: Some of these characters were inspired by real people I discovered while researching the 1920’s. There were many fascinating people in that era! Gayle’s mother was a suffragette and member of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. She’s a social reformer in every way, happily married to a Presbyterian minister who adores her. 
I wanted to make Gayle a nice, ordinary girl. She lacks the ambition of her mother, but she’s not ready to become a wife and mother like her older sister, either. Lots of things interest her, but she’s not ready to settle down. She likes playing the organ and being a part of the theater, but what Gayle really wants is a motor car of her own. 

And I wanted a flapper! Gayle’s childhood friend, Lilian, is a reflection of some of the young people of
Photo: Pixabay
that era. She has a tragic past, of course, and she’s saved from her wicked ways at the end of the book. 

Gayle is a nod to the Nightingale, of course. Other names were chosen to reflect their ethnic origin and social standing. I usually refer to the Social Security names index to make sure that the names I choose are fitting for the time period. 

LM: What did you edit out of this book? 

Cathe: Lots of information about life in the 1920’s! The research for this time period was fascinating. I wanted to include everything! It was a time of social, technological, and political change. Opportunities for women and people of color expanded. Affordable motorcars transformed the middle-class culture. I wanted to include everything! 

LM: What was the hardest scene in the book to write? 

Cathe: The denouement, for sure. I’ve been reading mysteries my whole life, so I knew what I wanted, but it was important to have every detail right. 
LM: What was your favorite childhood book and why? 

Cathe:. I read everything as a child, and I had different favorites at different ages. I have especially fond memories of the Anne of Green Gables series and various books by Louisa May Alcott. 

LM: What one piece of advice would you give to fledgling writers? 

Photo: Pixabay

Cathe: Just do it. Write it all out without stopping to edit. It’s too easy to stop and start, always fixing things instead of letting the story flow uninterrupted. You need to WRITE! Polishing it up comes later. As a famous author once said, “You can’t edit a blank page.” 

LM: What writing projects are on your plate right now? 

Cathe: I am working on Book 3 in my Serenity Hill series and on a book for another Celebrate Lit collection. I’ve also just started a fun series I’m co-writing with my good friend Chautona Havig. 

Linda: Where can folks connect with you? 


About Murder at the Empire

Gayle Wells is a killer organist, but does a killer have her in his sights? 

They call him the Emperor. John Starek fills his theater with fine artwork and treasures. He’s particularly pleased to have one of the country’s first female organists – and he thinks Gayle Wells is the bee’s knees. 

Despite pressure from her social crusader mother, Gayle isn’t interested in changing the world. She just wants a car of her own – and a career playing the organ at the Empire movie palace would be especially ducky. 

Then the Empire’s treasures start disappearing and employees start dying. Are a few pieces of art really enough motive for the string of murders? Will Gayle be next? 

Murder at the Empire brings The Nightingale into an elegant movie palace in the roaring 20’s – but the real excitement is all off-screen.

Purchase Link:

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Wartime Wednesday: Johnson County War

Wartime Wednesday: Johnson County War 

Photo: Pixabay/Steppinstars
When I think of the Old West, I imagine land as far as the eye can see. On one level that was true, but in another, much of that land was used although not owned, by ranchers. As the American West developed and large portions of the territories were being settled as a result of the Homestead Acts conflicts arose between the immigrants and cattle barons. Interestingly, the land the cattlemen were using to graze their stock was public domain, and as such, it was open for anyone’s use or settlement. Apparently, they felt possession was nine-tenths of the law. 
By 1884, the entire area was monopolized by about twenty ranches whose cattle roamed freely. Roundups were held in the spring, at which time cows and calves were separated by owner and the calves branded. However, rustlers were known to steal the calves and brand them before they could be rounded up. Some of these rustlers were small ranchers who made off with the calves as a way to growth their herd. The rest of the rustlers were common thieves out to make a buck, however, the cattlemen began to blame the homesteaders for any missing animals. 
The summer of 1886 saw no rain and was followed by a winter of severe blizzards. Thousands of cattle died, and many were lost to wolves and rustlers. Additionally, prices plunged, causing a huge loss of profit for the cattlemen, some of whom lost their businesses. In an effort to curb the thefts, the barons increased the number of range detectives and drew up new rules that made it difficult for someone to register a new brand. In 1889, the situation came to a head when two homesteaders, Ella Watson, AKA Cattle Kate, and Jim Averell were accused of cattle rustling and hanged. (The charges later proved false.) 
Photo: Pixabay/stokpic

Small ranchers were furious, but intimidation continued. Three years later, they formed their ownassociation called the Northern Wyoming Farmers and Stock Growers Association and hired about fifty men, some of whom were known to be killers, to eliminate the alleged rustlers. 
In response the cattlemen pulled together their own group of armed men, including Frank Canton, a fugitive who had a career as a deputy US marshal under an assumed name and was said to operate more by assassination than law. The invaders (as they came to be known) stopped at the first homestead, but found only four men at the ranch cabin, the owner Nate Champion and his cowboy Rueben “Nick” Ray who were shot and killed, and two trappers passing through who were captured. The next stop was the TA Ranch where the posse laid siege. The standoff continued through the night. The next day, Jack Flagg, a neighbor and suspected rustler, escaped and headed to Buffalo where he contacted the Wyoming governor. 
Photo: Pixabay/ArtTower
Within a short time, the Sixth Cavalry was dispensed from Fort McKinney. Upon their arrival, the cattlemen surrendered. Shortly after obtaining bail most of the gunfighters skipped town. Time passed, and material witnesses disappeared, dead or running from fear is unknown. By all reports finding impartial jurors proved difficult, and the court dismissed the case. 
Here is an interesting documentary about the incident:


About Dinah's Dilemma

Will she have to run from the past for the rest of her life? 
Dinah Simpkins has no chance of making a good marriage. Her outlaw brothers and her father’s gambling addiction have ruined the family’s reputation. Then the Westward Home and Hearts Matrimonial Agency provides an opportunity for a fresh start. After Dinah arrives in Nebraska, she discovers her brothers played a part in the death of her prospective groom’s first wife. 
As a former Pinkerton detective Nathan Childs knows when someone is lying. The bride sent by the matrimonial agency may be beautiful, but she’s definitely hiding something, and he has no intention of marrying her until he uncovers the truth. But an easier solution may be to send her packing. Then his young daughter goes missing. He and Dinah must put aside their mutual hurt and mistrust to find her.

Purchase link:

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Talkshow Thursday: Welcome Terry Garner

Talkshow Thursday: Welcome Terry Garner

LM: Thanks for joining me today. Congratulations on your recent release Magi Journey - Assyria. You had an extensive career in finance as well as teaching at the college level. In addition, you’ve written two commentaries. What made you decide to try your hand at fiction and this particular subject? 

Terry: I was General Manager of a manufacturing plant in China in 2013. While studying the Word one evening, God put it on my heart to reach a broader audience with the story of hope and redemption by telling the story through the eyes of the Magi. I had never dreamed of writing a book. It was the strangest thing. God gave me the outline for the Magi Journey series. When I sat down to write, everything fell in place. 

LM: What is your favorite aspect of writing? 

Terry: I’m rather a free-form writer. I begin with a rough outline of the book and then develop a firm outline for the next three chapters. I have no outline for the chapter. I start writing and see where God takes it. Some of the chapters in Magi Journey – Assyria were a complete surprise to me. In the middle of the chapter, I would change direction, which impacted the book outline in some cases. I love that freedom. 

LM: What sort of research did you conduct for the book? 

Terry: In historical fiction, that is the best part. I used “On Ancient Warfare” by Richard Gabriel quite a
bit, two books on Israel’s history and battles, a book on the Parthians, and two books on the Babylonians. The Bible was my primary reference source, but I found an invaluable number of articles on the JSTOR site on the web. I highly recommend JSTOR to anyone doing historical research. I used Wikipedia also, but never as a primary source. 

Naturally, there are always discrepancies between secular texts and Scripture. In those cases, I always used Scripture. For example, Scripture reports 185,000 Assyrians were killed by the Angel of the Lord when Sennacherib sent a portion of his army to Jerusalem, and secular texts blame the deaths on a plague borne by mice. For any number of reasons, Scripture wins, the plague theory is unsupportable, but even if it were reasonably plausible, I would still use the account found in Scripture. 

LM: How do you prepare yourself for writing? (e.g. set up in a particular location, turn on music, etc.) 

Terry: I always write in my office – I am surrounded by my research materials. I begin every writing session with Scripture, usually, on the period I am developing that day, and Scripture leads me to prayer. Then I am ready to write. I cannot write with music or television in the background. I begin writing at 4 AM and get in four solid hours before my wife starts her day. She begins with her quiet time, which gives me another two hours of writing. It works for us. 

LM: You’ve accomplished quite a lot. What is one thing you wish you could do? 

Terry: Travel. I was ill for several years and could not go to Israel before writing this book. I regret that, and I still want to make that trip, hopefully in 2022. 

LM: What is your next project? 
Photo: Pixabay/Jim Black
Terry: Magi Journey – Assyria is the first book in a three-book series. I am 20,000 words into Magi Journey – Babylon, and the final book will be Magi Journey – Persia. The three books tell the story of prophecy – of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel, and how that prophecy was fulfilled from 734 BC to 0 AD. It is the story of judgment, hope, and redemption. 

LM: Where can folks find you on the web? 

Terry: My website is

About Magi Journey – Assyria 

About Magi Journey – Assyria
 is a book with two storylines. The first story is the journey of the Magi, who see the Messiah’s star. They begin a trip from Persepolis, Persia, to Bethlehem. In book one of this series, the Magi Family makes it to the ruins of Babylon. This is a story of faith. Matthew 2 tells us the Magi had a single purpose, to worship. These are Gentiles who know the Scriptures. The men and women of the family live their lives based on the Scriptures. During the journey, when they stop at night, the children’s teachers teach the children the history of the family, which dates back to 734 BC. They read from ancient scrolls recorded by their ancestors. The story they read is story 2. 

Two POVs tell story two. One POV is Baildan, a member of the Magi and also an Assyrian warrior. Through his eyes, we experience the Syro/Ephraimite War, the three campaigns of Tiglath-Pilese III from 734-732 BC against the Levant, and finally, the campaign of Sennacherib against Judah in 701 BC. The second POV is Baildan’s brother, Meesha, the ambassador to Judah in 734 BC. Meesha meets Isaiah and begins to read the Scriptures with Isaiah’s disciples. Meesha becomes a believer and begins to copy the Scriptures. He intends to share them with his family when he returns to Nineveh, Assyria. Prophecy and judgment are told through their POV.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Traveling Tuesday: The Orient Express

Traveling Tuesday: The Orient Express 
Photo: WikiImages
For over 125 years, the Orient Express traveled the length of continental Europe into western Asia. Founded in 1883 by the Belgian company Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits (CIWL) at a time when traveling was still dangerous and uncomfortable, the Orient Express was the epitome of luxury. The original endpoints were Paris and Istanbul, and the route has changed many times over the years. CIWL expanded its trains, travel agencies, and hotels all over Europe, Asia, and North Africa, but the Orient Express remains their most famous. 
The first menu served onboard is reported to have been oysters, soup with Italian pasta, turbot with green sauce, chicken a la chasseur, fillet of beef with chateau potatoes, chaud-froid (literally hot-cold, but a sauce) of game animals, lettuce, chocolate pudding, and a buffet of desserts. 
On June 5, 1883, the first “Express d’Orient” left Paris for Vienna, with Vienna being the terminus until
October of that year. The original route began in Paris to Giurgiu in Romania via Munich and Vienna. At Giurgiu, passengers were ferried across the Danube to Ruse, Bulgaria where they boarded another train to Varna, completing their journey to Constantinople (renamed Istanbul around 1930) also by ferry. By 1885 another route began that reached Constantinople via rail. Varna became the eastern terminus in 1889. 
World War I caused the company to suspend Orient Expresses services until 1918 after the conflict ended. In 1919, the opening of the Simplon Tunnel allowed another route to be added that went through Milan, Venice, and Trieste. Interestingly, a clause was included in the Treaty of Saint-Germain that required Austria to allow the train. 
During the 1930s, the Orient Express was at its most popular and had three services running: the Simplon Orient Express, the Arlberg Orient Express, and the original Orient Express. It was at this time that the train acquired its reputation for opulence and richness. Patrons included royalty, nobles, diplomats, business people, as well as more well-to-do members of the middle class. By this time sleeping cars had been added. 
Photo: WikiImages
Service was disrupted again during WWII and did not resume until 1945. The closure of the border between Yugoslavia and the Kingdom of Greece prevented the resumption of the Athens leg of the journey. The border reopened in 1951, but the Bulgarian-Turkish border closed during this period. 
By 1962, the original Orient Express and the Arlberg Orient Express stopped running. The Simplon Orient express ran daily cars from Paris to Belgrade, but only when to Istanbul and Athens twice each week. In 1971, CIWL stopped running carriages itself, instead selling or leasing them to various national railway companies. On May 19, 1977, the last Paris—Istanbul train made its run. 

Happy book birthday, Under Ground 
It’s been six months since Ruth Brown followed clues to England and discovered the identity of her sister’s killer. War continues to rage as Ruth reports on food shortages, the black market, the evacuation of London’s children, and the bravery of the British people. When a bombing raid destroys her home and unearths a twenty-year-old skeleton in the cellar, her reporter’s senses tingle in anticipation of solving another mystery. Unfortunately, the by-the-book detective inspector assigned to the case is not interested in her theories. As Ruth investigates the case on her own, she butts heads with the handsome policeman. Will she get to the bottom of the story before the killer strikes again? 
Purchase Link:

Monday, January 10, 2022

Mystery Monday: Murder on the Orient Express

Mystery Monday: Murder on the Orient Express 
Photo: WikiImages
Published eighty-eight years ago this month, Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express is still one of her most popular books. Additionally, the book regularly appears in lists denoting the top one hundred mysteries of all time. The story was originally titled Murder on the Calais Coach. 
Orient Express was Christie’s twelfth novel and inspiration for the book came from several places, the first of which was the kidnapping and subsequent murder of Charles Lindberg’s son that occurred two years prior to her writing. In 1928, Christie took her first trip on the Orient Express and a few months later, the train was marooned in Turkey during a six-day blizzard. On a later journey the train was halted for twenty-four hours because of flooding, and Christie’s experience also served as inspiration, especially with regard to passengers. 
For those unfamiliar with the book, Murder on the Orient Express features Hercule Poirot, the "world-
famous” sleuth from Belgium. He is approached by American businessman Samuel Ratchett who asks for protection because of threats he’s received. Poirot refuses the case, and that evening the train is stopped because of heavy snowfall. The following morning, he is informed that Ratchett has been murdered. With the train unable to go anywhere (or for anyone to reach them), Poirot is tasked with finding the murderer. Much of the book involved the suspects being interviewed and the detective searching various parts of the train. 
The book was highly successful, with critics lauding it with statements such as the book “keeps her readers enthralled to the end,” and “what more can a mystery addict desire?” One website comments that “Agatha Christie has been hailed as the queen of crime fiction, and Murder on the Orient Express might just be her crown jewel. 
Christie’s story had been adapted to radio (1992-1993), film (1974: starring Albert Finney, and 2017: starring Kenneth Branagh), stage (2017) and television, including a 1955 German and 2015 Japanese version. In 1985, a board game based on the novel was released as well as a 2006 computer game featuring David Suchet’s voice as Poirot. The book has never been out of print. 

Have you read this classic?
Happy book birthday, Under Ground 
It’s been six months since Ruth Brown followed clues to England and discovered the identity of her sister’s killer. War continues to rage as Ruth reports on food shortages, the black market, the evacuation of London’s children, and the bravery of the British people. When a bombing raid destroys her home and unearths a twenty-year-old skeleton in the cellar, her reporter’s senses tingle in anticipation of solving another mystery. Unfortunately, the by-the-book detective inspector assigned to the case is not interested in her theories. As Ruth investigates the case on her own, she butts heads with the handsome policeman. 
Will she get to the bottom of the story before the killer strikes again?

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Friday, January 7, 2022

Fiction Friday: New Releases for January

January 2022 New Releases More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website

General Contemporary:

Grace Across the Miles by Christine Dillon -- How can you belong when you don't know who you are? Gina Reid is surrounded by people getting married or having babies. She's under pressure to settle down but how can she do that when she doesn't even know where she came from? Since the startling revelation that she was adopted, it's felt like there is something missing. But fear has kept her from searching for her biological parents. What if learning the truth is worse than not knowing? Now an overheard comment has propelled her into action. Can Gina find out who she truly is? Or will she discover that some secrets are best left undisturbed? (General Contemporary, independently published)

Contemporary Romance:

Her Faith Restored by Cynthia Herron -- Can two polar opposites meet in the middle to achieve a winning outcome? Sunset Meadows’ activity director Melinda Brewer has her work cut out for her. As a five-year veteran with the cutting-edge retirement community, “Mel” wears many hats. But her job is more than a title. The residents at “The Meadows” are like family—some of whom she’s known her entire life. Ruby—this little niche in the Ozark Mountains—may be a mere dot on the Missouri map, but it’s also Mel’s birthplace, the land of her heritage, reminiscent of old ways while cognizant of new seasons.Leave it to new kid on the block Matt Enders to upset the apple cart. When Enders is hired as the facility’s new social worker, his idea of a well-oiled machine is to eliminate a few rusty cogs—chiefly, some of Mel’s most successful programs. Mr. City Slicker doesn’t care about making waves. He delivers a hurricane! (Contemporary Romance from Mountain Brook Ink)

His Road to Redemption by Lisa Jordan -- Veteran Micah Holland's scars go deeper than anyone knows. An inheritance from his mentor could be a new beginning—if he shares the inherited goat farm with fiercely independent Paige Watson. Now the only way they can keep the farm is to work together. But first Micah must prove he's a changed man to keep his dream and the woman he's falling for. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired/Harlequin).

Love on Ice by Carolyn Miller -- She’s focused on winning gold. He wants to lose the player tag. Can a fake relationship become something real? Aussie short track skater Holly Travers has one goal - make the Vancouver Games, no matter what it takes. She has no time for distractions, even if they come in the handsome form of her Canadian best friend’s twin brother. This hockey player may say he’s not a player, but can she trust him? Brent Karlsson has one goal - make his sister’s best friend realize he’s a changed man and she should give him a chance. When a set-up in Hawaii helps these two opposites realize they have more in common than they thought, what happens when he wants to turn their fake relationship into something real? And how can a relationship work when these two elite athletes never see each other and live on opposite sides of the world? (Contemporary Romance, independently published).

Searching for Home by Jill Weatherholt -- When injured professional bull rider Luke Beckett returns to his hometown to recover, he doesn’t expect his B and B host and physical therapist to be his first and only love, Meg Brennan. He’s also unprepared for Meg’s adorable triplets to steal his heart. Luke’s past has him doubting he’s good enough for Meg and the children, but they might be just what the doctor ordered to help him heal. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired/Harlequin)

Historical Romance:

Harmony on the Horizon by Kathleen Denly -- Her calling to change the world may be his downfall. On the heels of the Great Rebellion, Margaret Foster, an abolitionist northerner, takes a teaching position in 1865 San Diego—a town dominated by Southern sympathizers. At thirty-seven years of age, Margaret has accepted spinsterhood and embraced her role as teacher. So, when Everett Thompson, the handsomest member of the School Board, reveals his interest in her, it’s a dream come true. Until her passionate ideals drive a wedge between them. After two decades of hard work, Everett Thompson is on the verge of having everything he’s dreamed of. Even the beautiful new teacher has agreed to his courtship. Then two investments go south and a blackmailer threatens everything Everett has and dreams of. (Historical Romance from Wild Heart Books)

Her Darling Mr. Day by Grace Hitchcock -- New Orleans' most eligible bachelor insists he's not on the market . . . but he couldn't be more wrong. Jilted in front of all New York, Theodore Day decides to lose himself in his family's luxury riverboat business in New Orleans and compete against his brother to become the next company head. The brother with the most sales by summer's end will win the position. Thanks to Theodore's fame as a suitor in a socialite's outlandish competition to find a husband, he has become very desirable royalty in Southern society and thus has an advantage. It took Flora Wingfield's best work to convince her family to summer in New Orleans, but with Teddy Day a bachelor once again, she's leaving nothing to chance. Desperate to stand out from all the clamoring belles, Flora attempts a bold move that goes completely awry, only to find it's her interior design skills that finally catch his notice. But when Flora's father's matchmaking schemes come in the way of her plans, Teddy will have to decide where his happiness truly lies and what he is willing to sacrifice for it. (Historical Romance from Bethany House)

Love’s Twisting Trail by Betty Woods -- Stampedes, wild animals, and renegade Comanches make a cattle drive dangerous for any man. The risks multiply when Charlotte Grimes goes up the trail disguised as Charlie, a fourteen-year-old boy. She promised her dying father she'd save their ranch after her brother, Tobias, mismanages their money. To keep her vow, she rides the trail with the brother she can't trust. David Shepherd needs one more successful drive to finish buying the ranch he's prayed for. He partners with Tobias to travel safely through Indian Territory. David detests the hateful way. Tobias treats his younger brother, Charlie. But what does he do when he discovers Charlie's secret? What kind of woman would do what she's done? (Historical Romance from Scrivenings Press)

Marrying Mr. Wrong by Melissa Jagears -- Gwendolyn McGill wants to be loved and accepted for who she is, but that’s hard to do in a small town where everyone judges her by the scandal her father caused. Unfortunately, the man she hoped would sweep her away from all the wagging tongues is no longer interested in marrying her. Unable to leave town, she’s determined to prove she’s more than just a pretty face who knows how to bat her eyelashes. For years, Timothy O’Conner has loved Gwen from a distance, knowing someone like her would never be attracted to a lowly ranch hand with a blemished face like him. When Gwen unexpectedly shows up at the ranch, asking him to help her learn how to attract a man of quality, Tim’s feelings become even harder to suppress. When danger pushes them together, they discover there’s more to each other than either of them imagined. Though God is no respecter of persons, is the desire of their hearts strong enough to defy society’s expectations? (Historical Romance, independently published)

Song for the Hunter by Naomi Musch -- Wed to a trading company partner to escape life in Montreal under her harsh father's thumb, Camilla Bonnet finds herself tragically widowed and pregnant in the Upper Country frontier. When her brother fails to return for her from Fort William, she is cast on the mercy of the trading post owner's family. She also draws comfort from Bemidii Marchal, a Métis hunter who soothes away her misgivings as he finds his own refuge on Lake Superior's Madeline Island. Bemidii’s thoughts of courting a maiden are cut short when he raises his knife against a company man at Fort William’s Great Rendezvous. No one will believe he killed to protect his sister—least of all the beautiful Frenchwoman on Madeline Island who stirs his affections—not when she learns that her brother is dead and Bemidii stands accused of his murder. As the sharp blade of truth divides them, will Bemidii survive the justice of powerful men who are a law unto themselves? Or will his life—and Camilla—be lost to him forever? (Historical Romance from Iron Stream Media/Smitten Historical Romance/LPC)


Four Days Famous by Luana Ehrlich -- Mylas Grey doesn’t want to be famous. Not even for a day. As a private investigator, he prefers to fly under the radar. However, when a well-known doctor asks Mylas to investigate his father’s murder, that’s exactly what happens. Suddenly, Mylas is dodging reporters while interviewing suspects and searching for the dead man’s elusive girlfriend. (Mystery/Crime, independently published)


The Sword and the Song by Carla Laureano -- With a storm on the horizon, who will stand against the darkness? Conor and Aine have barely escaped Seare with their lives. Conor knows he must return to find the harp that could end the Red Druid’s reign of terror, but he must first see Aine safely to her family home on the isle of Amanta. When an unnatural storm tears them apart, they find themselves in even more danger than that which they fled. Because magic is not the only thing to fear in Aine's homeland, where the Sofarende invaders harry the coasts and shifting clan alliances make it impossible to know who to trust. Conor and Aine must cling to the whispers of Comdiu’s plans for them and their enduring love for one another, even when the future looks darkest. But with betrayal at every turn, will they give into fear? Or will they learn to depend on Comdiu completely ... before all hope is lost? (Speculative from Enclave Publishing)


Shadow of Fear by Urcelia Teixeira -- What seemed like the end was really the beginning. Enemies collide in the second installment of the toe-curling Christian Suspense Thriller that left readers gasping for more at the end of book one! Blinded by revenge of her own, she hunted down her enemies, hoping to put her past behind her. Only to find that breaking free isn’t as easy as she’d thought it would be. Blood got shed, lives lost, and now, more lives are at stake. Caught in a deadlock between enemies who won’t stop until they serve revenge, Jorja has to make a choice. Die, or make a deal with the devil. Her choice sets in motion one of the biggest assignments she has ever undertaken. One where fear threatens to seize her heart and take her soul. Can she finally break free from death’s clutches, risk it all, one last time? (Thriller Suspense, independently published)

Plus check out these recent additions to Fiction Finder published within the past month:
Growing a Family in Persimmon Hollow by Gerri Bauer, A temporary exile becomes a forever home. (Historical Romance)

Stephen Michaels and his Upside-down Umbrella by Lana Lynne, Stephen and Nikki learn to surrender everything in this Upside-down world to the Lord. (Thriller/Suspense)

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Talkshow Thursday: Meet Tom Donnan

 Talkshow Thursday: Meet Tom Donnan

Tom Donnan on right/Bob Crittenden on left
Linda: Welcome to my blog. It’s a pleasure to have you. After a long career in the elevator business, you had a “widow-maker” heart attack causing you to evaluate your life. What made you decide that writing was the avenue you wanted to take? 

Tom: It is threefold Linda, first looking into the face of my own mortality did change my life. The focus now is on the things that matter, (Family and loving others) and serving God. Second, while I was in the afterlife I heard God speak to me. His voice was deep, masculine, and like thunder. He said to me, “It is only while you are on earth that you can work for Jesus!” I love doing the work. In addition, I have had a life-changing experience with God showing me the fall of America if we did not seek Him and repent. That event is what brought me to begin writing. God gets all the glory here. I am mechanically orientated in my thinking and could not construct a proper sentence. Does God have a sense of humor? 

LM: How do you decide which topic to tackle in your books? 

Tom: I wrote the first three books as instructional. The book Healing the Nation is for people to see how we can receive God’s healing of our nation. I was in my local library for Authors Day when it hit me; people like a good story. The next three books were written based true stories, weaving in the supernatural accounts in their lives. I have written two books on two lady pastors who early in their lives God was very active. 

LM: What sort of research goes into writing your books? 

Tom: My research continues to improve as I progress. In book four, Angels on Assignment, I was part
of the story. Meaning I was there from the beginning and onsite where things took place. Now I do use creative license when writing about supernatural happenings. In book five; One Door Between Us, I did a lot of historical study, online and continued interviews by phone and text with the subject of the story. Then chapter by chapter I did touchup as needed after she and her husband proofread them. Book six, Jessalyn, being a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers group I queried a question to the group, “Should I go to the location of the person I am writing about?” It was an overwhelming response to yes. I spent a week in Bethany, Oklahoma going to places to learn the feel of the community. It was worth it. Invaluable information came with this adventure. (Jessalyn is a free ebook, a free PDF, and can be found on in the book tab.) 
LM: In addition to your writing, you are also a lay minister. How do you juggle your various responsibilities? 

Tom: Yes, I have been a volunteer of Need Him Ministry’s Evangelistic Chat forum since 2004. I can login from home as time avails itself. From February 2020 until August I logged in for up to eight hours a day. I have had nearly ten thousand chats with people around the world since 2004. I also travel with a Pastor that has a healing revival ministry since 2009. I have been speaking in churches since that time and of course numbers interviews of all kinds. I like to help people get connected to the Holy Spirit and experience Him. It has become a way of life. Making myself available to serve the Lord. There is great joy in it. I will say, now that I am retired the time crunch doesn’t happen as much. 
LM: If you could sit down with one author, who would it be and why? 

Tom: I would choose two authors. First, James A Mitchener. He didn’t consider his writings to be a book until he had penned over two hundred thousand words. Then to hear of his adventures while gathering information for each book. From there my second choice would be Laura Hillenbrand. How she brought the characters to life is exceptional. I would like to glean styles from each of them. 

LM: What is one thing you wish you knew how to do? 

Tom: Discover how to bridge the word of mouth barrier. Very often the readers of my books are spiritually impacted by them. My niece, while reading One Door Between Us said; “Uncle Tom, I have had to stop reading the book because the Holy Spirit overwhelms me. I stay in those moments before I return to reading it.” To me, it does not make sense that the sales of books are low when the spiritual impact to people is high. 

LM: Now that you have several books published, what advice can you give to fledgling writers? 

Tom: In most Authors I know, they feel called by God to write. Let me give you a case in point. In January of 2018 I had a dream. The message in the dream was to hire a Publicist. That brought me to Helen Cook of PrimeStar Publicity. When God leads, He provides. From the first words penned to completion I followed Him. From a person who for the most part was grammar illiterate to a published writer, it is all due to Him. My advice is to seek God first in your writing career. He opens doors we cannot. 

LM: What is your next project? 

Tom: It would be the third book in the series of the lady pastors I have been writing about. Right now, I am involved with the Christian Writer Collective where founder Stephanie Reynolds is looking for additional writers to join. It is the beginning of a book series called Jesus Can. Book one is in print and now entering the media stage. The Collective will be at the next CPE Show in February and doing interviews as God opens the doors. A spin-off to doing the books, I am seriously thinking of beginning a Podcast. I have been on Kingdom Crossroads Podcast numerous times. I believe it has been a training ground for me. 
LM: Where can folks find you on the web?


Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Traveling Tuesday: York, Maine

Traveling Tuesday: York, Maine 

After spending a week in Lincoln, New Hampshire we traveled to the southern coast of Maine. Surprisingly, despite being “off-season,” the area was quite busy. We stayed in Ogunquit (beautiful place by the sea in Algonkian) and wandered into York several times during our stay. 

A summer-resort town, York encompasses four villages: York Village, York Harbor, York Beach, and Neddick Harbor. Its history hearkens back to 1624 when it was first settled by British colonists who later renamed the area from the original Agamenticus – the Abenaki term for the York River. The area was claimed by the Massachusetts Bay Colony, but would be contested during numerous skirmishes between the French and English during the French and Indian Wars. Decimated during King William’s War (1688-97), attacks by natives continued through the years until they slowed with the French defeat at the Siege of Louisbourg (1745) and finally stopped after the Treaty of Paris in 1763. 

Within a few years, York had become a major trading center, with dozens of warehouses and storage

facilities being built along the harbor and main thoroughfares of town. Founding father John Hancock was a successful merchant who had property in York (now a museum). Unfortunately the Embargo Act of 1807 devastated trade, with the exception of lobstering that had been a large industry in Maine since the 1840s. The town lost much of its prosperity until after the Civil War. 

Nathaniel Marshall, a well-to-do lawyer is credited with the idea of converting York into a summer resort. He purchased property and constructed a grand hotel in 1871 near the already existing Union Bluff Hotel. Soon other lodging establishments popped up. As the Gilded Age continued, the rich and famous built summer homes rather than stay in hotels. Many of these “shingle houses” still stand. 

Cape Neddick Light (also called Nubble for having been built on a “nub” of land off Long Sands Beach) was built in 1879 for $15,000. Forty-one feet tall, the tower is lined with brick and sheathed in cast iron. Care for the lighthouse came under the U.S. Lighthouse Service until 1939 when the Coast Guard became caretakers. Automated in 1987, the town of York became the permanent guardian of the lighthouse in 1997. 

 York continues to be a summer resort with hotels, motels, B&Bs, and cottages mingled among the mansions, some of which have remained in families since the late 1800s. Three golf courses, four beaches, and Mount Agamenticus are just a few of the places visitors can play. 

Have you been to Maine?


Legacy of Love

Will their love come at a cost? 

Escaping Boston to avoid a marriage of convenience aimed at garnering society’s respect for her family name in the shadow of her father’s war profiteering, Meg Underwood settles in Spruce Hill, Oregon. Despite leaving behind the comforts of wealth, she’s happy. Then the handsome Pinkerton agent, Reuben Jessop, arrives with news that she’s inherited her aunt’s significant estate, and she must return home to claim the bequest. Meg refuses to make the trip. Unwilling to fail at his mission, Reuben gives her until Christmas to prove why she should remain in Spruce Hill and give up the opportunity to become a woman of means. When he seems to want more than friendship, she wonders if her new-found wealth is the basis of his attraction.

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