Sunday, January 15, 2017

Daughter of Ishmael: Promised Land, Broken Heart by Diane Stringham Tolley

I'm so pleased to be reviewing Daughter of Ishmael: Promised Land, Broken Heart by Diane Stringham Tolley today. As you might guess, I love to read and share scriptural fiction. I also thought this might be a book readers of my Stripling Warrior series would be interested in trying out as Daughter of Ishmael is similarly based on events from the Book of Mormon.

First, I really tried to enjoy this book as a reader and not dissect it like a writer or editor would do. Fortunately, this book was beautifully written, and the tendency to want to change things or write them a different way just wasn't there for me. Many passages had a lyrical quality to them, making Daughter of Ishmael just a pleasure to read.

Tolley takes her time setting the stage for Ishmael and his family to follow Lehi out of Jerusalem. She intertwines the families so that it seems quite natural for Ishmael to take his young daughters into the wilderness after Lehi and his boys, and through a series of events and choices, the main character, Hannah, winds up married to Lemuel. Though I felt like Lemuel was just the leftover pickins, Lehi and Ishmael claim to have chosen her specifically for him in the hopes that with her strong spirit and testimony she might encourage him toward righteousness.

I really liked Tolley's portrayal of Lemuel because he could be led toward righteousness. But he could also be swayed toward wickedness, and I think this is what makes him the most interesting character in the story and the most like us. Hannah is dealt a complex set of circumstances but doesn't seem to have the capacity to navigate them effectively--like, she's not sneaky enough. And yet, if she could compromise with Lemuel, she wouldn't be a worthy heroine. She is constantly torn between being a good wife (trying to understand what a good wife even means for a girl in her circumstances) and being a good follower of God.

Daughter of Ishmael really pulled on my emotions and made me ponder the story of Lehi's exodus from Jerusalem, ultimately leaving me to reflect on my own testimony and faith. I was thinking about it long after I turned the last page. I highly recommend Daughter of Ishmael to readers of historical LDS fiction who enjoy conflicts that center around faith.

You can find a copy of Daughter of Ishmael online or at your local LDS Bookstore.

Trained in journalism and raised by a family of storytellers, Diane Stringam Tolley has spent her life writing. From her first published work, The Scary House, penned in Mrs. Hainsworth's grade six class, to her tenth novel due to be released by Cedar Fort early in 2017, Tolley has dipped into every genre from sci-fi/fantasy to spiritual. Her Christmas book, Carving Angels, has been featured on the "best of" holiday lists for Edmonton Public Libraries since its first release in 2011. And her follow-up novel, Kris Kringle's Magic (2012) is currently a standard for discussions on prejudice and bullying throughout the Black-Gold region. Drawing on her upbringing on one of the last of the great old ranches of Southern Alberta, Tolley's stories are filled with unforgettable characters, warm, family connections, and the strength of faith and love.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Cover Reveal! In Enemy Arms by Misty Moncur

I'm so excited to share my newest cover art with you!

I had this beautiful model in mind while I was writing the book about Ava and Darius, but it wasn't until much later that I got brave enough to ask her to model for the cover. She so graciously agreed, and I'm thankful to her and all the lovely girls and women who lent their talents to help make these books available to readers.

The Stripling Warrior Novels have been a really special project to work on, and it only takes reading one or two to see why. Look for this seventh release Dec. 29, 2015.

Watching Sarai leave the village in tears was hard enough for Darius, but now everyone thinks it’s his fault. Stung by embarrassment and tired of disapproving village women and their wary daughters, Dare joins a group of spies loyal to the Chief Judges. But his new work takes him to dark places he wishes he’d never seen, and lately, he’s not so sure he isn’t turning into the person he’s been pretending to be.

When Ava followed her brother out of their tiny Lamanite village, she didn’t know he wasn’t planning to return. Stranded in the northern lands, she can’t go home, and she won’t make a life for herself among the enemies she hates. Lost in the strange culture and foreign words, Ava’s looking at a lonely future—when she isn’t stealing glances at Darius, the only Nephite man who isn’t uglier than a mangy dog.

But Dare disappears a lot. He has secrets, dark ones she can see in his eyes. His family wants to know where he goes.

And they want Ava to find out.

Monday, February 16, 2015

App Manager

It has been many long days since I have written a blog post, as I think blogs are going the way of the dinosaur. I mean, who has time to read them? ( I certainly don't. We're all too busy playing Candy Crush Saga and computer solitaire, and that's okay. I'm not here to judge. And you have to admit, there is something beautiful about playing Candy Crush Saga. Not that I would necessarily know what it is since I've never played it, but I DO have a pretty serious addiction to playing Sudoku on my phone, and I'm scared to think about what will happen after I play the last game on level 5. I can't be held responsible for any of my actions after that. Probably I'll just start over again at level 1, but I'm getting off topic.

A few days ago, I noticed that Kam's tablet was running slow, so I went into the App Manager and started removing apps she didn't need (all of them?  heh heh). And as I was doing this, I was thinking about all the stuff in my own life I wished I could remove, all the extra stuff that is slowing me down. I could list a bunch of stuff, but it would be completely different from your list, and I guess that's the point: we all have a unique list of stuff we have to remove from our lives so the important stuff can run properly.

For the past few years, one of the apps that would absolutely stay in my life is my writing, specifically the Stripling Warrior series I've been working on. But for the past few months, it's been one of those apps I've got my finger hovering over, just about three seconds from tapping remove. There are so many other things in my head that need the storage space and processor speed. Not the least of which is my Sudoku habit, which is really just the manifestation of how I deal with my stress levels. Am I saying I'm completely stressed out? Yeah, I guess that's what I'm saying, but it's not really the point, because who isn't?

So. I bit off this huge bite of project for Book 6 in the Stripling Warrior series, which will essentially make the work for publishing one book into the work for publishing three books. Why did I think this was a good idea? Okay, I know why. I wanted to. That's right, I write for fun. Because I like it. Because it fulfills me. Because through writing I can connect with other human beings in a way I can't in real life. Real life is a scary place for me, and I'm not sure that after my thirty some odd years, the scary is ever going to go away. And that's okay. There's something beautiful about being scared and going on anyway. It's called courage, and it's what I love so much about the story of the stripling warriors in the Book of Mormon and what I love so much about the characters and storylines I have created around it.

So. Book 6, Brothers In Arms, is coming to you in three installments over the next few months. The original story switches narrators every other chapter. I've pulled each narrator's story out and written her her own story, but as you can imagine, it left some pretty big plot holes in both stories, plot holes I have to fill in. Which is what I wanted to do. But which is also the app that is about three seconds away from being removed. Consequently, I don't feel like this first release is my best work. I'm still not in love with Lamech, not even a little bit, and for me, that's what makes the experience of reading a romance, I don't know, worth it. You get to fall a little in love every time you read one, and I'm probably more addicted to falling in love than I am to playing Sudoku.

So. Here's the cover. Click it. Like it. Thanks for taking time to stop by my blog tonight. XOXO

 All Sarai wants to do is be there when her brothers rescue Gideon from the Lamanite prison. She thought talking Zeke into letting her go would be the hardest part, but no one expects the dangerous lie they will have to tell to keep her safe.

Lamech is used to protecting himself in enemy lands, but protecting his captain's pretty sister from a suspicious Lamanite spy is a complication he has no training for.

Brothers In Arms: A Stripling Warrior Novel, is now two stand-alone eBooks. In Part 1: Like the Tendrils of a Vine, Sarai embarks on a journey to save her friend. As she and Lamech travel deeper into the ancient land of their fathers, a land where the right path is not always clear, she will find that Gideon was not the only man she was sent to save.

Look for Salome's story in March 2015.

Salome watched Lamanite warriors capture her son, tie him to a chain of prisoners, and herd him south toward the Land of Nephi. She tracked them for days, but lost them in the jumble of prints at the Sidon River. Lost and alone in the wilderness, nearly out of food, and feeling hopeless, she wonders if she should continue on or go home in shame to tell her kinsmen what happened.

Bringing his brother's wife on a journey to rescue his brother was probably not Jashon's best idea. They could move so much faster without Keturah, and her beauty is more than a little distracting. But then Ket spots a woman hiding in the trees near the Sidon. She has information about Gid, so Jashon promises to save her son. While they wait for just the right moment to rescue the prirsoners, Jashon discovers that his brother is not the only man that needs to be saved.


Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Captain's Guard (Daughter of Helaman #5)

How do I let these release dates get away from me? The Captain's Guard has been out for a week now and has been doing great. You have all given it a fantastic welcome to the literary world and for that I thank you.

After I finished writing Keturah's story in In All Places, I really wanted to write Zeke a happy ending. I wanted to write a girl who was perfect for him, because he deserved it and I owed it to him. Instead, I wrote this tiny part between Kenai and Isabel that sparked the idea for a whole novel about them, Arrow to His Heart, which I ended up loving and is one of my favorites, but it had to be written first. So after THAT, I had to do right by Zeke. I laughed my head off in the first chapter when Eliza did everything and anything just to get Zeke to LOOK at her. She was so lonely and had such a huge crush on him. She was delightful, more mature than my other characters, and I loved writing about her.

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to pull together a photo shoot for the cover art for the rest of the series. I generally leave my character descriptions somewhat vague so that the reader can imagine them as they like, but I really had something specific in mind for Eliza. I put out a simple notice on Facebook to see if anyone would be interested in modeling. I wasn't sure what kind of response I would get, but I ended up with a fantastic group of beautiful girls, and each new girl I talked to fit a different character. It was totally MTB (meant to be). But as I was saying, my perfect Eliza graciously agreed to model, came out to meet a stranger, and did an amazing job. She may not have known it, but we watched her "become" Eliza right before our eyes. I can't even describe seeing a character I made up come to life, so I won't even try. The feeling is just beyond description. And of course, having the talented Aya Photography on board with the project didn't hurt either.

So, if you haven't had the chance to read The Captain's Guard, here's a little more information about it. If you'd like to give it a try, you can read the first few chapters Here.

“That’s so sad,” I said to Zeke. “To be so in love with a married woman.”
Zeke didn’t say anything.
“I’d say it was pathetic, but I feel so bad for him. Look, he can’t even watch them together.”
I turned to look at Zeke, and all of a sudden, I knew. I knew who she was. I was watching her kiss her husband. I knew her name, and I knew why no one had wanted to tell me what it was.

She had never been loved before. He thought he would never love again.

Zeke never imagined he wouldn’t marry the pretty girl from his village. It was as good as done—until she fell in love with someone else during the war. Captain Helaman’s estate in the city is the perfect refuge, far from pitying eyes and nosy village women. But though time has healed his battle wounds, it hasn’t bound up his broken heart. 

Abandoned and alone in the world, Eliza asked Uncle Helaman to take her in. She has everything she could want at her new home on the grand estate—everything but the attention of Helaman’s handsome guard. When Helaman sends her on a journey with the brooding Ezekiel, she’s determined to find out what makes him so sad, but in her search for the girl who broke Zeke’s heart, Eliza has to find a way to guard her own.

The Captain's Guard (eBook) is available on Amazon, Barnes and, Google Play, and other online retailers at its introductory price of $2.99. Paperback will be available soon.