When Silence Sings – Preorder

mountainsI don’t often flat out promote my books on this blog. I always have some links and refer to my stories with some regularity, but I’m rarely so blunt as to remind you that, well, you can buy my books.

Yesterday was the start of the six-month countdown to the release of my next story–When Silence Sings. So, I’m taking this opportunity to point out that you could place a pre-order if you were so inclined. Barnes & Noble, Christianbook.com, Amazon, your local independent bookseller–they can all guarantee you a book come November 5.

Here’s the cover copy:

Colman Harpe works for the C&O in the Appalachian rail town of Thurmond, West Virginia, but he’d rather be a preacher and lead his own congregation. When a member of the rival McLean clan guns down his cousin and the clan matriarch, Serepta McLean, taunts the Harpes by coming to a tent revival in their territory, Colman chooses peace over seeking revenge with the rest of his family.

Colman, known for an unnaturally keen sense of hearing, is shocked when he hears God tell him to preach to the McLeans. A failed attempt to run away leaves Colman sick and suffering in the last place he wanted to be–McLean territory. Nursed by herbalist Ivy Gordon–a woman whose unusual appearance has made her an outcast–he’s hindered in his calling by Serepta’s iron grip on the region and his uncle’s desire to break that grip. But appearances can be deceiving, and he soon learns that the face of evil doesn’t look like he expected.

So there you have it. Your commercial for this quarter. I’ll not do it again until closer to the release date 😉

My Annual Suffering Inoculation

The summer after I turned 30 I was stung by a couple of yellow jackets. And ended up in the emergency room with full-blown anaphylaxis. After seven years of allergy shots my doctor decreed that my resistance was, “as good as it gets.”

Turns out they don’t give you a card that says, “CURED.”

So, “good” or not, I still get a little nervous when I’m stung. As I was last Wednesday.

It was just one, grumpy spring wasp. But still.

Several co-workers hovered, watching to make sure I wasn’t reacting (much appreciated!). I took my Benadryl, grabbed an ice pack for the sting, and waited the requisite 30 minutes–the likeliest window for a reaction.

That is a LONG 30 minutes. And I joked about how I try to see getting stung as God’s way of keeping my allergy shots up-to-date. Because during those seven years of shots? I was getting shot-up with venom every six weeks. And apparently my schedule now is to get stung every 12-18 months.

Which made me think about how we learn to stand strong in the face of suffering. It’s usually by suffering. 

I’ll confess that my goal in life is most often to be comfortable. Happy is good, joyful is better, but I’ll take comfortable any day. And when I’ve been stung by a wasp I am NOT comfortable. My first reaction is to reassure myself that I’ll be fine (as I swallow a Benadryl). My second reaction is to wonder if I’m having trouble swallowing (this has NEVER happened, not even the first time). My third reaction is to look at my watch and see how much longer until it’s been 30 minutes.

And then I get a little bit angry. WHY do I have to deal with this? WHY did God make stinging insects in the first place? WHY didn’t I do x or y or z and avoid all this silliness? WHY hasn’t 30 minutes passed yet?!?

Well, what if there really is a perfectly good answer to why? Because God is giving me just a little dose of suffering. A smidge of enduring. A taste of patience. Because I need to build up my resistance to the trials of this world.

This notion doesn’t make me GLAD to get stung. But it does remind me that God doesn’t let anything go to waste. Not even wasp and hornet stings.

 

How to Celebrate the Lenten Season

Easter gardenOkay, so not many folks think of Lent, which starts this Wednesday, as a celebration. This is, after all, a serious time when we’re meant to reflect, repent, and ponder Christ’s sacrifice for us.

But I love Lent and, for me, it’s a somber celebration. I relish the notion of having a time set aside to actively anticipate and prepare for the best worst thing that ever happened. It’s the ultimate looking forward to.

So, how to celebrate Lent?

First, I like to consider whether to give up/sacrifice something or add something. I’ve given up specific foods (French fries!), credit cards, shopping, checking reviews of my books, and one year I even gave up fear. That one was tough! I think I’ve only added something once–it was the fruits of the Spirit. Now that was a good year!

If you’re giving something up, it should be a challenge. If it’s not hard, what’s the point? One year I gave up candy. Where I work there’s a candy dish in every office. It was tough not even snagging a mint! On the flip side, this probably isn’t the time to stop smoking if you’ve been a pack-a-day smoker for years. I’ve toyed with giving up sugar, but recognize that would be setting myself up for failure.

If you’re adding something, make sure it’s something you can stick to as well. Pray as you drive to work each morning. Read one of the Psalms before bed each night. A friend told me she’s setting aside an item to donate to charity each day of Lent (and not just stuff she doesn’t want!).

Next, each time you crave the thing you gave up, or participate in the thing you added, let that moment turn your focus toward God. Consider the ways you’ve turned away from Him and refocus your heart and mind. It’s not about beating yourself up, but gently redirecting your attention towards grace.

Next, if you slip up, don’t quit. If you just can’t resist that slice of cake or forget to say that prayer–don’t let it ruin Lent for you. Use it as yet another opportunity to turn your heart toward God again. And again. And again. Lent is 40 days for a reason. God knows how slow, obstinate, and hard-headed we are. (Or is that just me??)

Finally, when Easter arrives (the BEST celebration ever!!), consider indulging in the thing you sacrificed. If you gave up chocolate, get a Lindt bunny. If you haven’t looked at Facebook in six weeks, check in to see what your friends are up to. Of course, it might be that you gave up something you now realize you can do without. I still don’t have a credit card. If you did gave up cigarettes, maybe it’s time to say goodbye to them forever. If so, celebrate that.

And if you added something? Consider the fruit you’ve harvested. Has your prayer life improved? Do you know scripture better? Have you made a difference in someone else’s life? If so, celebrate that.

How about you? Have you given up or added something for Lent? Do you plan to this year? Let’s cheer one another on!

Mustard Seed Faith – At Last!

mustard seedFor a long time now I’ve assumed, based on Matthew 17:20, that my faith is pretty pitiful. Not even a mustard seed’s worth. That scripture suggests that if my faith were as much as even a BB-sized seed, I could move mountains or cast mulberry bushes into the sea. And I can’t. Goodness knows I’ve tried.

It’s long been a discouragement.

And then I heard Susie Larson talking about planting apple seeds. She talked about how one seed produces a tree with, say, 100 apples. And each of those apples has multiple seeds with the capacity to produce another 100 apples. And so on and so on until you have millions of apples.

And just like that the light bulb lit! I had been focused on the SIZE of the mustard seed and had overlooked the fact that it’s a SEED. What do you do with seeds? You plant them.

In other scripture Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to a mustard seed. It’s something tiny that grows into a tree as much as 20-feet tall and almost that wide.

So, in order to move mountains, it’s not about summoning up a tiny seed’s worth of faith. It’s a question of where I plant what faith I have. Jesus didn’t say the mountain and the mulberry tree would move TODAY.

I do have a seed’s worth of faith. Lots of seed’s worth of faith. And I can plant them wherever I go. At work, in the community, among friends and family. And some of those seeds will take root and eventually produce fruit. And then their seeds will do the same. And so on until mountains have shifted and entire forests have been cast into the sea.

Like so much of what I learn on this journey, it’s not about me. My role is small and often goes unnoticed. But taken as part of God’s glorious, intricate whole—it’s integral. Planting seeds matters.

Come sow with me. Nothing is impossible.

He replied, Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” – Matthew 17:20

Appalachian Thursday – Cover Reveal

Earlier this week I sent out an e-mail with the cover of my next novel. It’s a sweet sort of torture to see the cover and then not be able to share it until the book is available for pre-order. But as of Tuesday this week, readers can add When Silence Sings to their shopping carts. Yippee!

And I can show the cover, which I pretty much ADORE!

silence sings final

Evocative is the word that sprang to mind when I first saw it. I know I’m biased, but I think it’s pretty terrific!

Here’s the back cover copy:

Colman Harpe works for the C&O in the Appalachian rail town of Thurmond, West Virginia, but he’d rather be a preacher and lead his own congregation. When a member of the rival McLean clan guns down his cousin and the clan matriarch, Serepta McLean, taunts the Harpes by coming to a tent revival in their territory, Colman chooses peace over seeking revenge with the rest of his family.

Colman, known for an unnaturally keen sense of hearing, is shocked when he hears God tell him to preach to the McLeans. A failed attempt to run away leaves Colman sick and suffering in the last place he wanted to be–McLean territory. Nursed by herbalist Ivy Gordon–a woman whose unusual appearance has made her an outcast–he’s hindered in his calling by Serepta’s iron grip on the region and his uncle’s desire to break that grip. But appearances can be deceiving, and he soon learns that the face of evil doesn’t look like he expected.

Coming soon to a bookstore near you! (And by soon, I mean November 5, which isn’t that soon at all, but it’ll get here!)

When Silence Sings Cover Reveal 2.12.19

teaser wssMy next novel, When Silence Sings, releases November 5. I know, I know, that’s SO FAR away. It’s like my birthday, Christmas morning, and vacation all rolled into one big, long WAIT.

Of course, I also know my grandmother was right when she told me that time picks up speed as you get older. And my mother was right when she told me not to wish my life away. So, I don’t really mind the wait.

Plus, there will be fun mile markers along this last leg of the journey to publication. The book will go up for pre-order. I’ll get the final pages for one last edit. The cover will begin appearing in catalogs. And there might even be some early reviews!

Ah yes, the cover. I’ve seen it. And it’s taken all of my discipline not to show it to everyone I know along with several strangers. Not only is it lovely, but it’s the milestone that tells me this is really happening!

And on February 12, I get to show it off! I’ll release it to my newsletter subscribers first and then will share it here on my blog. If you want to get the newsletter, sign up HERE.

I’m still working on edits for the novel, tightening up some loose threads, weaving in a new character (a rough and tumble police chief), and getting rid of about 58 uses of the word “just” that aren’t needed.

I’ll try not to bore you with details, but I may mention the book now and again. I’m pretty excited about it!

 

Appalachian Thursday – An Empty Larder

Snow DayIt’s January.

In case you hadn’t realized.

At the grocery store these days, I can buy strawberries and asparagus. This (along with an occasional warmish day) adds to my delusion that spring is just around the corner. The sun stays up just a little longer, rises just a little earlier. And yet . . . we still have February to get through. I’m just dreaming of sunshine and wildflowers.

My great-grandmother had no such luxury. The turn of the year was the lean time back in the early 1900s when she was growing up and raising her family. It was when last season’s put up food began to thin out. It would have been a long time since last fall’s hog killing, the shelves in the cellar would have more empty jars, and even the wild game would be getting thin (in quantity and quality).

Lean times.

Running to the store for fresh produce wasn’t an option. Chickens don’t lay as much in the winter and the cow’s milk has less cream. Christmas is past and Easter is months away.

This would have been the time when mountain folk began to dream of poke, creases, dandelion, dock, and other spring greens.

So in honor of these lean days, here are two recipes. The first is a “lean times” recipe using corn cobs to make jelly. The second, well, you judge what sort of recipe it is. These are both from my “Old Timey Recipes” cookbook.

CORNCOB JELLY

Boil 12 bright red corncobs in three pints of water for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and strain. Add enough water to make four cups liquid. Add on package fruit pectin and bring to a full boil. Add four cups sugar and boil two or three minutes until jelly stage. 

Allegedly, this tastes like apple jelly and the red corncobs give it a rosy hue. I suppose you could use any color corncobs if you weren’t particular about the shade of your jelly.

PORK CAKE

1 lb. mild sausage
1 pint black coffee
1 box raisins
1 cup walnuts
1 box dark brown sugar
1 T soda
1 tsp cinnamon, allspice, cloves, nutmeg
Enough flour to thicken

Put sausage in pan to simmer until grease seeps out. Drain and add all other ingredients. Bake 1.5 hours at 250 degrees.

Is it a dessert? A breakfast food? And is that a teaspoon EACH of those spices? I don’t know. That would have been expensive. And I haven’t had the courage to actually TRY this recipe. If you do, let me know.