A Just Man by Helen Daniel

I received a free copy of A Just Man by Helen Daniel in eBook form to write an honest review for BookLook Blogger.

A Just Man follows several generations of the Matthews family through farming, shipbuilding, the Civil War and other circumstances.  I enjoyed the characters, though I think they could have been a bit more developed, as stories with well developed characters who face sad issues never fail to make me cry, and the sad issues in this story tugged at my heart but brought no tears.

I liked the story and the characters.  I found the book very simply written and easy to read. The story was sweet and enjoyable, although I found it a bit unrealistic.

A Just Man is also very clearly written in third person with a narrator.  The story is mostly told by the narrator rather than shown by the characters’ thoughts, dialogues, and actions.  After reading for a while, however, this became less noticeable to me, as I enjoyed the story.

It was mentioned either on the back cover or in a Preface that Helen Daniel had written stories to illustrate Sunday School lessons, and that is exactly what the chapters of this story reminded me of.  They are sweet stories of generations of one family and their struggles, as well as their faith.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking for something about faith in God that is easy to understand.  I would recommend this to parents who want a good, faith building, encouraging  story to read and discuss with their elementary age children.  I would also recommend this story to anyone who enjoys a good, family friendly, easy-to-read book.

Unlikely Saviour

Hello Everyone,

Here is a Christmas short story I wrote.  I hope you will enjoy it, and I wish you all a very Merry Christmas!

Unlikely Saviour

by Kelly F. Barr

It was 1858 when Thomas and Catherin O’Connell and their four children made the long, challenging journey from Kentucky to Missouri. They had arrived in the United States from Ireland just seven years before. Thomas hoped to get some good land in Missouri to start a farm.

As soon as they arrived in Missouri, he followed the other men to the land office and stood in line waiting and silently praying that he would get some good land. When he finally stood in front of the land officer, he said, “Could I please purchase a few acres near the river?”

That land costs $2.50 per acre. How many acres would you like?”

Thomas lowered his head and swallowed hard. “What do you have that’s cheaper?”

The land officer folded his arms across his chest. “We have land on the interior of the Ozarks for 12 1/2 cents an acre. That’s the cheapest you’ll get.”

I’ll take four acres of land on the interior, please.” He paid for the land and received a deed with a map of where to find his land. He left the land office, shoulders drooping.

How did you do, Thomas?”

Oh, Catherin, darlin’, we got four acres, but I heard some of the men talking as I was coming out of the office, and it’s going to be very hard work. The good land was more than we could afford. The land we got is on the interior of the Ozarks and is rough land.”

Well, we’ve never had anything easy and we’re used to hard work. At least Henry, Charles, and Frank are big and strong enough to be of help.”

He kissed Catherin on the cheek. “You’re always the encourager. Let’s go see our land.”

By the time they arrived at their land, little Rose was asleep in the wagon. Thomas and the three boys built a makeshift lean-to and a fire. While Catherin set to preparing their supper over the fire, Thomas carried Rose and laid her in the lean-to where Catherin could be nearby. Then he and the boys marked off where they would begin to build the house.

By the time they had finished supper, it was dark and they all bedded down for the night.

Thomas was up with the sun and he roused the boys. They began to build the house while Catherin prepared breakfast. Two year old Rose helped Catherine with simple things throughout the days while Thomas and the boys worked on the house, but mostly, she played in the sunshine and watched the squirrels and birds.

After two weeks the little house was finally finished, and Catherin was happy to live in a permanent structure. She even enjoyed unpacking her dishes and pots and pans to set up her kitchen, and Rose had fun trying to sweep the floor.

Catherin’s eyes filled with tears as she watched Thomas and the boys, so physically tired from spending two weeks building the house, tread out to begin cultivating the field. She thanked the Lord that they would be sleeping in real beds tonight. She hoped they would feel much more rested tomorrow morning.

The soil was very gritty and it required arduous work to get crops to grow. As they farmed the land over the next three years, they found that Indian corn and wheat seemed to grow best in the difficult soil. At the end of the third year, the farm finally started showing a small profit.

* * * * *

Last year Catherin gave birth to another little girl. Little Margaret had just turned a year old last week. Rose, at the age of five, helped Catherin with the housework and caring for little Margaret.

Today, Frank, the youngest of the boys at ten years of age, was as excited as Rose. The family headed into the woods to choose a pine tree to bring home to decorate for Christmas, which was just a week away. The chores were all finished and they had to find a tree quickly because it would be getting dark in about an hour.

As the family walked through the woods inspecting every pine tree they saw, Rose found a pine tree she really liked. She wandered nearer to get a closer look. It was tall and slender. She watched a couple of little birds flitting around the top of the tree. When the little birds flew away, she turned around to look for her family, but they weren’t there. She ran back to where she had last been with them, but they had moved on.

Da, Mam!” Rose called for her parents.

Henry, Charles!” She tried calling for her older brothers.

No one called back. She stood still listening.

Da, Mam, where are you?”

She knew not to wander because her family might come back to look for her when they realized she was missing, but the sun had already started sinking in the sky and it was getting dark in the woods. She tried not to be scared, but she couldn’t help it. She sat down at the base of an oak tree and cried.

The darkness grew and it began to get cold. She pulled her ragged little coat tighter around her and put the collar up around her neck.

Please, God, help my family find me soon.”

As the hours passed, she began to hear the scary night sounds of the woods: the hoot of an owl, the distant howl of a wolf.

Please, God, don’t let a hungry wolf or bear come this way tonight.”

She fought to keep her eyes open, but sleep soon overtook her.

While she slept, a large animal came and lay down beside her, lending its body warmth to keep her warm. She snuggled closer to the animal and slept on.

When she awoke, it was still really dark all around her. She realized there was an animal lying against her. She reached out and touched it with her hand. It rubbed its head against her.

Where did you come from, Kitty?”

The animal stood up, and Rose got up and grabbed a handful of the animal’s thick fur. “Please don’t leave me, Kitty. I don’t like being alone in these dark woods.”

The animal rubbed against her and began to walk. She clung to its thick fur and walked with it. “Can you lead me home?”

The animal walked slowly enough for Rose to keep up.

After a while, Rose said, “I’m getting tired, Kitty. Can we rest soon?”

The animal continued to walk.

After a few more minutes, Rose saw a cabin with a light in the window. It wasn’t her house. The animal nudged her toward the cabin.

You want me to go to the cabin door and knock?”

The animal nudged her with its nose.

Rose said, “Wait here for me, okay?”

She hesitantly walked up onto the little porch and gently knocked on the door. After a few minutes, she knocked a little harder and the door opened. A plump, white haired woman looked down at her.

My goodness, child, where did you come from?”

I got lost from my family in the woods last night when we were looking for a Christmas tree.”

You mean to tell me, you’ve been out in the woods on this cold night wearing that threadbare coat? Well, you just come right in here and warm yourself by the fire. I’ll have breakfast on the table in just a few minutes, and Shane will be in from the barn soon.” She ushered Rose to a chair by the fire as she talked. Then, as she moved toward the kitchen, the back door opened and in came the biggest man Rose had ever seen.

Shane, we’ve got ourselves a guest for breakfast. She’s sittin’ by the fire.”

Rose’s eyes grew wide and she shrank back into the chair as Shane approached.

Aw, now there’s nothin’ to be afraid of. I may be big, but I wouldn’t hurt you, child. What’s your name?”

Rose O’Connell.”

Lands sake, you the little ‘un belongs to Thomas O’Connell lives just outside the woods on the interior of these Ozarks?”

Rose nodded her head.

Shane reached over and gently patted her hand. “Don’t you worry none. I’ll get you home after breakfast. How did you find our place?”

The big kitty brought me here.”

Big kitty? What big kitty?”

I don’t know, but it kept me warm last night and brought me here this morning.”

Shane rubbed his chin and walked over to his wife in the kitchen.

He spoke quietly and Rose strained to hear what he said.

Nora, did she tell you a big kitty brought her here?”

No, dear, but I didn’t ask how she got here. I do know that she’s been out in the woods alone all night. Seems she wandered away from her family when they were looking for a Christmas tree.”

Well, do you think she’s right in the head?”

Course she is. She’s just a young’un with a vivid imagination who just came through what was probably the scariest night of her life.”

Nora put the food on the table, walked over and led Rose to the table for breakfast.

Rose didn’t know what she had said wrong, but she could tell that talking about the big kitty bothered the man, Shane, so she didn’t mention it again.

After breakfast, Shane said, “Well, little Rose, I’ll go get the wagon ready and take you back home.”

Rose smiled at him.

After he had gone out the door, she asked Nora, “Will you come along to take me home too?”

Nora smiled at the pretty little girl with curly red hair and a sprinkling of freckles. “Course I will. It’s just a short ride.”

When Nora and Rose went out to get in the wagon, Rose looked around for the big kitty. She didn’t see him until the wagon began to move. Then she spotted it just behind the tree line. He was following the wagon.

When the wagon pulled up in front of her house, she saw the big kitty hide behind some bushes and brambles near the tree line on the edge of their property. She climbed down from the wagon and whispered, “Thank you, Kitty.”

Before Shane, Nora and Rose reached the front door, Rose’s Mam came running from the house.

Oh, Rose. We were so worried. Where were you?”

I’m sorry, Mam. I was watching some little birds at the top of the Christmas tree, and when I turned around, you and Da and Henry, Charles, Frank, and Margaret were gone.”

Rose!” Da and the boys exclaimed when they saw her, and little Margaret toddled over to her.

Shane, how did you find my daughter?” Thomas asked.

She showed up at our cabin early this morning. She said a big kitty had kept her warm in the woods during the night and led her to our place in the morning.”

A big kitty?”

Aye, that’s what I thought too. We don’t have large wild cats around here, except for the rare mountain lion, but that cat would be a danger to such a young’un.”

I’m sure she’s mistaken. Probably imagined it because of being scared in the woods alone at night.”

That’s what my Nora said too.”

Thomas and Catherin invited Shane and Nora in for coffee, but they politely declined. So Thomas and Catherin thanked them for bringing Rose home safely, and Shane and Nora climbed back into their wagon.

* * * * *

The O’Connell family went inside and Thomas pulled Rose upon his lap.

Now, my little Rose, won’t you tell me about this big kitty you said helped you?”

Yes, Da. He was big and his head was really hairy. The rest of his body wasn’t so hairy. I couldn’t grab the hair anywhere on his body, except around his head. He kept me warm by lying against me as I slept. He was gentle and tall. I had to lift my arm to hold onto the hair around his head, and he led me to Mr. Shane and Nora’s house. Then he nudged me with his nose to show me that he wanted me to go to their door.”

Now, Rose, you know the difference between the truth and a lie, right?”

Oh, yes, Da, and I promise, I am telling the truth.”

Da set Rose down on the floor, scratched his head, shook it, and went out the back door. In just a moment he was back looking a bit dazed.

Thomas, what is it now?” Catherine asked.

I just saw it.”

Saw what?”

I saw that big kitty of little Rose’s. At least I saw its back end with its long sleek tail with the tuft of hair on the end as it walked deeper into the woods. But, we don’t have those kinds of cats around here.”

What kind of cat was it, Thomas?”

A lion.”

Oh, Thomas, you must be mistaken.”

I know what I saw Catherin.”

Well, come over to the fire and let’s place the crib on the mantle now that our little Rose is home again.”

Thomas took Catherin’s hand and they joined the children near the fire. Henry had the crib setting on the table waiting. Each of the children placed pieces of the crib on the mantle: the boys placed the shepherds and wise men, little Margaret placed the sheep and oxen, Mam and Da placed Mary and Joseph and then Mam handed the baby Jesus to Rose.

Rose held the figure gently in her hand and looked at the babe for a long time. Then she kissed him and said, “Thank you, Jesus.”

What are you thanking the baby Jesus for?” Frank wanted to know.

For bringing me home safely.”

I thought you said it was a big kitty.”

It was, but Jesus was inside the big kitty. That’s why the kitty didn’t hurt me.”

Catherin smiled, tears glistening in her eyes and began to sing “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”. The rest of the family joined her as Rose placed the baby Jesus in the crib upon the mantle.

A Heart’s Danger by Colleen Coble

A Heart’s Danger, Book three in the “Journey of the Heart” series by Colleen Coble finds Sarah wanting to move on with her life at Fort Laramie.  Christmas is coming and relations with the Sioux have turned colder.

Will Rand really go through with the wedding to his fiancee, or will he declare his love for Sarah once and for all?

I received this book for Free from BookLook Bloggers to write a review.

In A Heart’s Danger, Sarah learns how difficult life with the Sioux can be, as well as how painful it is to watch what happens to the Sioux while more white men and women move into their territory.  Another soldier also begins to express interest in Sarah, and she wonders if she could ever learn to love him.

Sarah finds herself in danger several times throughout this story, sometimes because Ben Croftner is a sore loser and a cruel, evil man, and sometimes because she takes risks she shouldn’t take.

A Heart’s Danger is filled with danger, excitement and suspense.  It is well written and is, in my opinion, the best book in the series so far.  As the first two in the series ended with a definite cliff hanger, A Heart’s Danger seems to have resolved enough issues to have a good, solid ending.  However, it is not the end.  There are three more books coming, and though the first two ended with cliff hangers, this one has me more curious and intrigued, wondering what Ms. Coble could possibly do in the next book.  I can’t wait to find out.

I would highly recommend this book to women who love a good romance story filled with danger, excitement and suspense.  If you like a book you can’t put down, this book is for you.  I read this book in one sitting.  I just couldn’t stop reading until I knew how it ended.

One-Day Super Saturday Writers’ Conference

A writers’ conference is a great place to learn more about writing techniques and marketing and publishing opportunities and possibilities.  It is also a great place to meet other writers and make connections and form bonds, which is a wonderful thing since writing is a lonely business.  You can make lifelong friends who can help and encourage you and you can do the same for them as you walk your writing journey.  I attended this event last year, and cannot wait to attend this Saturday.  If you are anywhere near Lancaster County, I invite you to come and see what this one-day conference has to offer, and if you like, I can meet you face-to-face if you let me know you are coming so we can connect.

LANCASTER CHRISTIAN WRITERS HOSTS ONE-DAY CONFERENCE ON APRIL 11, 2015, AT LANCASTER BIBLE COLLEGE

For a bargain of excellence and price, no writer, whether beginning or advanced, within driving radius will want to miss Lancaster Christian Writers’ Super Saturday 2015!! to be held April 11th, 2015, from 8:30am.-4:30pm at Lancaster Bible College, 901 Eden Road, Lancaster, PA 17601.

This one-day writers conference offers a full slate of workshops taught by top industry professionals in both fiction and non-fiction fields. An early registration price of $50 is due by Wednesday, April 8, and includes soup/sandwich buffet lunch (think Panini!) and LCW membership. Registrations after April 9 and walk-ins day of the conference are $60.

A fiction track will be taught by award-winning novelists Dina Sleiman and Kelly Long along with children’s author Brenda Hendricks. Non-fiction faculty include TV/radio speaker, marketing expert, award-winning author of 19 books Karen Whiting, professional memoir and ghostwriter Shawn Smucker, journalist/social media experts Lisa Bartelt and Alison McLennan.

Keynoting the opening session will be linguist, missionary, and author Grace Fabian. Workshops cover such topics as: 

Market Yourself Now! Learn Tools to Develop Press Kit, Bio, Website, and Other PR Products.

Writing Blockbuster Scenes: How To Keep Readers Flipping Pages and Asking For More.

 Transformed Manuscripts: Repackaging Your Ideas (Sold or Rejected) to Expand Marketability.

 The Unfortunate Truth in Fiction: Addressing Hard Issues Without Pulling Down Your Story.

 A Story To Tell: Surefire Do’s and Don’ts to Write a Gripping True Life Story or Memoir.

 Myers-Briggs for Your Protagonist: Applying Personality Types to Create Characters with Distinctive Qualities, Motivations, and Voices.

 Let’s Ride the Seesaw: Recruiting Your Inner Child to Communicate with Young Readers.

 100% Guaranteed (Oh, Yeah?) Secret to Blogging Success Beyond Your Wildest Dreams!

A conference bookstore will offer a wide variety of writer resources and faculty titles. Conference attendees can get personal consultations with faculty on a first-come, first-serve basis. Lancaster Christian Writers welcomes writers of all churches and denominations, all levels and genres. Monthly meetings offer opportunities for manuscript critique, networking with other writers, workshops and guest authors.

Love Unexpected by Jody Hedlund

I recently read Jody Hedlund’s ebook Out of the Storm.  It is a novella and I enjoyed it very much.  Included at the end of that ebook novella were the first five chapters of Love Unexpected by Jody Hedlund.  I read those first five chapters and couldn’t wait to get my hands on the book so that I could read the rest of the story.

My friend Lisa, Living Echoes, read the book and did a review on it, and last Saturday, she asked me if I would like to read it because I had commented on her review that I had never read a book by Jody Hedlund (I had read the ebook novella since making that comment).  I was so happy, when she handed me the book.  I couldn’t wait to dig into it.  I began reading it that evening and finished it this afternoon.

Love Unexpected by Jody Hedlund is about a young woman who is traveling on a boat with her brother.  Pirates attack the boat and Emma, the young woman, and her brother, Ryan, are rescued by the Presque Isle lighthouse keeper.  Presque is a remote place in Michigan.  There are only two other woman on Presque Isle when Emma and Ryan arrive, an older woman and her daughter-in-law.

Ryan is taken in by a family because he can work for the man, but Emma is not really welcome to stay with them.  An unlikely solution presents itself when the lighthouse keeper arrives in town.  His wife has just passed away and he is having difficulty caring for his two-year-old child and the lighthouse.  A traveling preacher suggests that Emma marry the lighthouse keeper as a solution to both of their problems.  She hastily agrees and finds herself unprepared for parenting an exuberant toddler and managing a household.

The story is suspenseful and romantic.  I fell in love with Emma and Patrick, the lighthouse keeper, quickly and longed for them both to find happiness with each other.  Jody Hedlund created such rich characters in Emma and Patrick that I couldn’t help but love them and route for them throughout a well-written plot; a plot that constantly created problems and emotional upset in their lives.

The story was spiritually inspiring, as Patrick lived a life of faith and had already learned some difficult lessons in his life.  I was challenged by something that Patrick shares with Emma on page 94. (You’ll have to read the book to find out what those words are.)

This is the first book in a new series by Jody Hedlund; a series called “Beacons of Hope” and I look forward to reading each one as it becomes available.  I highly recommend this book to adult women who enjoy well-written historical fiction stories that include good, clean romance.

I wrote this book review on my own.  I did not write it for a publisher and I did not receive a free copy of the book.  I simply borrowed the book from a friend, but I enjoyed it so much and loved the characters so much that I wanted to write a review and encourage others to read it.

Those of you interested in writing may also want to check out Jody Hedlund’s blog:  Jody Hedlund.  She does a great job encouraging writers.  I’ve been reading her blog for months.

Having Fun Experimenting

I am still working on the story that I am still outlining.  I am also working on some nonfiction short pieces to submit to some magazines.  I have also simply been “pantsing” a story just to be consistently writing something.

For a while I struggled in trying to decide on what genre I would write.  Then a wonderful writer advised me to write what my passion is and to feel free to try several genres.  It has also been suggested to me that I could write more than one genre, as many other writers do.

So, what I have found is that every story I write seems to have some romance in it.  I have decided that is my passion; clean romance, of course.  I have also found that there is a need for good fiction for boys ages 10 – 12, as well as for Young adults.  Therefore, the story I am outlining is geared for young adult girls.  The story I am simply “pantsing” is for adult women, although I’m not sure what will become of it.

However, this week I was helping my ten-year-old son with a story he was assigned to write for the Writers’ club that he and seventeen-year-old brother participate in.  They were assigned to write an Historical Fiction story, and I have to say that helping him with an Historical Fiction story began some wheels to turning in my brain, and I now have ideas for three Historical Fiction stories — one for adult women; one for girls ages, 10 – 12; and one for boys, ages 10 – 12!  I’m so excited, but I really need to get writing!  With all of these ideas, I’ll be writing for a couple of years without having to worry about finding some ideas.

I never would have thought that I would enjoy writing Historical Fiction.  I never liked history when I was in school, though I enjoy it much more now that I am homeschooling my own children.  I never thought I’d want to do a lot of research before writing something either, but all that research entails is reading (which I love to do) and taking some notes for what I want to write.  I’m looking forward to trying this new genre.

How about you?  What genre do you have a passion for?  Do you write more than one genre or for more than one age group?  Leave a comment and let me know about it.