Spring Splendors

Spring Splendors

Friday, April 29, 2011

A Special Glimpse at My Debut Novel

Many of you who review books for publishers such as Revell have seen press/news releases for books. Well, my latest assignment in my Print Journalism class was to write a news release, and I chose to put together an imaginary one for my manuscript entitled Forget Me Not. Nope, I'm not published yet, but today you can have a glimpse of what a news release for my book might look like someday! =)


Forget Me Not – An Inspiring Story of Love Surviving Life’s Trials

Debut author brings the mining town of Virginia City to life in this intriguing tale of romance and adventure.

Debut author Amber Stokes shares an unforgettable story in her Christian historical romance novel Forget Me Not. Set during the late 19th century in the American West, Forget Me Not takes the reader from a Kansas farm, to a Rocky Mountain cabin and a mining town where secrets are far more difficult to unearth than the silver from the dwindling Bonanza strike.

Elizabeth Lawson has a happy life with her neighbors-turned-family in Dodge City, Kansas—until she receives a letter from a brother she has never met. She takes a stagecoach West, heading to Nevada to find him. But when tragedy strikes along the way, she is left at the mercy of a rugged land and a young mountain man who has his own troubled past.

David has always enjoyed his solitary lifestyle in the Rocky Mountains. But when he agrees to help Elizabeth get to Virginia City, he realizes that he doesn’t want to be alone anymore. What begins as a journey of obligation grows into a journey of heartbreak, jealousy, temptation, and secrets.

Beautiful imagery and heart-felt emotion make Forget Me Not an exciting and moving read for all those who have ever doubted love’s power to forgive and remember.

“Amber Stokes has a wonderful, fresh voice! And her writing style is very, very good. Her ability to develop instant sympathy for David and Elizabeth, their backstory, and their current circumstances draw the reader right in.” –Laura Frantz, author of Courting Morrow Little

“Amber Stokes pulled me right in, instantly connecting me with the plight of our hero. That’s what you want of course, a character that reaches their hand out of the pages, beckoning you to grab a hold of it and join them on their journey. Then, with each turn of the page, their journey becomes your own.” –Amanda Stanley, early reader

Amber Stokes is an English major at Corban University, who loves to write poetry, short stories, novels, and blog posts. From being valedictorian of her high school graduating class and graduating with an International Baccalaureate Diploma, to earning her black belt in Jujitsu, Amber has worked hard to excel in life. Her favorite activities include reading Christian fiction, writing, and spending time with family and close friends. It is her desire to follow God's will for her life, wherever He leads her.

###


So, does this sound like something you would be interested in reading someday? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

*Sincere thanks to author Laura Frantz and dear friend Amanda Stanley for letting me modify and use their quotes about my work in this imaginary news release! And thank you, Laura, for the idea of posting about it!*

Disclaimer: This is not a real news release. This imaginary news release, while featuring a real manuscript and real endorsements, was put together for the sole purpose of completing an assignment for my Print Journalism class. Also, some elements that are present in the Word document form (ie: contact information) are not included in this post.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Mystery Review: The Ghostway

Here's a description of the book from HarperCollins Publishers:

"Old Joseph Joe sees it all. Two strangers spill blood at the Shiprock Wash-O-Mat. One dies. The other drives off into the dry lands of the Big Reservation, but not before he shows the old Navajo a photo of the man he seeks.

This is all Tribal Policeman Jim Chee needs to set him off on an odyssey that moves from a trapped ghost in an Indian hogan to the seedy underbelly of L.A. to an ancient healing ceremony where death is the cure, and into the dark heart of murder and revenge."

My Review:

After years of having my dad tell me how amazing Tony Hillerman’s books are, I finally know what all the excitement is about! Tony Hillerman weaves an exceptional story in The Ghostway: intriguing, thrilling, and thought-provoking. And once the end is in sight, it’s difficult to put down!

Navajo Tribal Police Officer Jim Chee is introduced as a character forced to make a personal decision that will determine how he identifies himself and how the rest of his life will play out. With his conflicted love life on his mind, Chee is thrust into a case that will lead him on a physically and emotionally intense journey to discover the truth—both of the identification of the murderer, victims, and other people involved in the series of crimes, as well as the identification of himself.

Hillerman’s descriptions of the western setting are powerful, seen from the eyes of a Native American law officer and the eyes of a paranoid killer. Navajo rituals and beliefs are also woven into the story in a powerful way and make for a wonderfully complex and interesting read. And a Navajo perspective on the “outside” world of the typical white man in America (such as how he treats the elders in his world) gives the story a depth that will make readers take a step back and see a familiar culture with new, and perhaps critical, eyes.

The Ghostway is a story that kept my attention and made me eager for more. There are a few swear words and not-so-pretty scenes, but overall this story is pretty “clean” and yet realistic and engaging. The strength of the main characters, the twists and turns of the plot, and the sensitive way in which the story is told make The Ghostway a must-read!

Disclaimer: This book was assigned reading for my Literature of the American West class, and this review was written and turned in to be graded by my professor. It should also be noted that this is not a Christian fiction book, which is the category of books I generally review on this blog. However, I truly did enjoy reading this, and I'm hoping to borrow some more books by this author when I get home, as my dad has pretty much the whole collection!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Easter Fun!

Just thought I would share some pictures from Easter Sunday with ya'll!

When my mom brought me back to school after spring break in March, she gave me my Easter basket hidden in a black garbage bag, and told me to keep it under my bed until Easter. Well, Sunday morning before church I got the bag out from under the bed so I could finally open it!

Here's what it looked like fresh out of the bag! ;)

And here's a picture that my roommate took of me and my lovely basket:

In our family we treat our Easter baskets kind of like we do our stockings at Christmastime--my younger sister and I go out to the living room and "ooh" and "aww" over all the sweet surprises! And then we look around the living room for little chocolate eggs the Easter bunny left behind. ;) Since I wasn't at home with my sister to look for the eggs, mine were in my basket:

After my roomie and I went to church, we headed off to Portland to spend the day with some of her family. The dinner was delicious (ham, turkey, green beans, salad, biscuits, etc.), and the egg hunt was a lot of fun (we did it three-legged race style)! This last picture is of my roommate (on the left) and me (on the right) at one of her uncle's home:

This was the second year I got to spend Easter with my current roommate, even though we weren't roommates last year! She is so sweet, and it was such a blessing to spend the day with her and her family.

I hope all of you had a wonderful Easter, as well! I'd love to hear some of your stories if you'd like to share!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Monday for the Military: Yesterday's Tomorrow

Here's a description of the book from Goodreads:

"She's after the story that might get her the Pulitzer.
He's determined to keep his secrets to himself.

Vietnam, 1967.

Independent, career-driven journalist Kristin Taylor wants two things: to honor her father's memory by becoming an award-winning overseas correspondent and to keep tabs on her only brother, Teddy, who signed up for the war against their mother's wishes. Brilliant photographer Luke Maddox, silent and brooding, exudes mystery. Kristin is convinced he's hiding something.

Willing to risk it all for what they believe in, Kristin and Luke engage in their own tumultuous battle until, in an unexpected twist, they're forced to work together. Ambushed by love, they must decide whether or not to set aside their own private agendas for the hope of tomorrow that has captured their hearts.

A poignant love story set amidst the tumultuous Vietnam War."

My Rating: Summer

My Review:

Haunting. Yesterday's Tomorrow is a gripping story--one that vividly depicts the heroism and heartbreak of the Vietnam War, along with its aftermath in the lives of those who lived through it.

I cried several times while I was reading, and also after I finished the book in the wee hours of the morning. I could hardly put it down once I started it. The characters, the setting, the horror, and the hope are so real that I became thoroughly engrossed in the story. A friend reminded me as I voiced my inner turmoil over the drama that it is only fiction--but in a way it is so much more. The suffering and the sorrow are authentic, and to even think about what the men and women involved in the war went through is hard to take in.

The first 60% of the book is action-packed, full of budding romance, secrets, and pain. The remaining part of the book--"Homecoming"--is not as fast-paced, nor is it quite as engaging to read, but it is necessary. Seeing just a glimpse of what it was like for those who had witnessed the unspeakable torment of the war to return home and try to assimilate into a society that didn't understand is beyond tragic.

Yesterday's Tomorrow is a story that tells the truth as best it can--the confusion, the anguish, and the struggle of the U.S. military men and women, the journalists, and the families affected by the Vietnam War. It's not an easy read, but at the same time it is eye-opening and thought-provoking. It is profoundly moving and not without hope. Having been to the Vietnam War Memorial--a trench-like wall covered with names--I feel that this book captures a similar feeling: bringing the enormity of the hurt home in a personal and powerful way.

*With thanks to author Catherine West for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*

Want to learn more?

Check out Catherine's website and her blog! And don't forget to check out the book trailer for Yesterday's Tomorrow!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

He is Risen!

When I was in Israel several years ago, we visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, on the site where it is suggested Jesus was buried. But we also visited the Garden Tomb, another possible site of His burial. What I loved so much about the Garden Tomb was not just its beautiful simplicity, with the flowers and the tomb with the stone rolled to the side of it, but the door they added to it. Why is that? Because on the door was a sign with the words, "He is risen."

The person who was guiding our group around this site noted that the sign reminds us of a very important truth. It doesn't matter if Jesus was buried at the site of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre or the site of the Garden Tomb--because He is no longer buried! He is risen!

Matthew 28:6 says:

"He is not here: for he is risen, as he said..."

Jesus died and took our sins upon Himself, and the veil was torn. Through God's grace and the faith He gives us, we can be close to God and go home to spend eternity with Him--because He is risen!

May your Easter Sunday be filled with the hope of the victory the Lord has over sin and death!

(The picture is from my time in Israel--not at the Garden Tomb, but still in the same country!)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Winner and Poll!

The winner of Gate to Nowhere is...

Bluerose!

Congratulations! Be on the lookout for my e-mail. =)

If you missed the fun interview between the author, Leanna Sain, and her book's heroine, Emma Franklin, feel free to click HERE and take a look! And be sure to check out my review of Gate to Nowhere, as well!

Also, in case you haven't yet seen the new poll I added to the sidebar, I'm asking for your opinion on what themed week you might be interested to see in the next month (along with Camp Humility!). I'd love to have your input! Thank you!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Revell Blog Tour: Tomorrow's Garden

Here's a description of the book from Revell:

"As a seed awaits the spring sunshine, so one young woman hopes for a brighter tomorrow

Harriet Kirk is certain that becoming the new schoolteacher in Ladreville, Texas, is just what she needs--a chance to put the past behind her and give her younger siblings a brighter tomorrow. What she didn't count on was the presence of handsome former Texas Ranger Lawrence Wood--or the way he affects her fragile heart. But can Harriet and Lawrence ever truly conquer the past in order to find happiness?

Book 3 in the Texas Dreams series, Tomorrow's Garden is a powerful story of overcoming the odds and grabbing hold of happiness."

My Rating: Spring

My Review:

Like a garden this book requires a little patience--but the overall result is lovely. Tomorrow's Garden is rather long and has a gentle pace, but it's an enjoyable read.

It is a pleasure to visit the fictional yet inviting town of Ladreville, Texas. The author's creativity combined with historical details make the setting interesting. And there's just enough suspense scattered throughout the plot to keep the reader engaged, along with the comfortable writing style.

The characters are unique but also familiar. Some of the elements of the story brought to my mind the movie version of Love's Unending Legacy--with the town sheriff finding various reasons to pay a visit to the new school teacher and to get to know her family. Their friendship is very cute! I really like the mayor/sheriff's character, Lawrence. He's strong, caring, and very helpful, but also vulnerable. Not to mention charming and handsome!

While the ending is rather abrupt and a bit awkward in my opinion, it's still sweet. The role of the garden and the theme of patience/hope throughout the book is great, and overall Tomorrow's Garden is a lovely story found between a lovely front and back cover!

*With thanks to Revell Publishing for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.*

“Available April 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.”

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

LitFuse Publicity Blog Tour: Beside Still Waters

Here's a description of the book:

"Marianna Sommer believes she knows where her life is headed. Nineteen years old and Amish, her plan is to get baptized into the church, marry Aaron Zook, and live in the only community she's ever known.

When Marianna's family moves from Indiana to Montana she discovers life and faith will never be the same. As she builds an easy friendship with local guy, Ben Stone, Ben not only draws her heart, he also gets her thinking about what loving God and living in community is all about.

As Marianna struggles to find 'home', she also encounters God in intimate ways."

My Rating: Spring/Summer

My Review:

This is one of those books that surprised me. The prologue seemed abrupt, and the beginning of the book didn't really capture my attention. But eventually I became more involved in the story, and the train ride to Montana--the change in setting and perspective--really drew me into the plot and the heart of the characters.

The second half of the book felt more genuine to me. It raised some important questions and stirred my emotions. The underlying tension of two different worlds was palpable and real.

I appreciated the fact that this book was not a "formulaic" Amish story, and I think the mountain setting really added to its uniqueness. There were interesting details and enough plot twists and action to keep me reading.

I also really appreciated the characters' growth--they weren't "static," but were constantly changing and learning, just like people are in real life. And it could just be me and the day that I finished the book, but near the end I got teary-eyed. Beside Still Waters turned out to be a thought-provoking and ultimately hopeful read, and I'm interested to see what happens in the next book, Along Wooded Paths!

*With thanks to the publisher for providing me a copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion, to be shared during the LitFuse Publicity Blogging tour.*

About the Author:

"Tricia Goyer is the author of twenty-six books including Songbird Under a German Moon, The Swiss Courier, and the mommy memoir, Blue Like Play Dough. She won Historical Novel of the Year in 2005 and 2006 from ACFW, and was honored with the Writer of the Year award from Mt. Hermon Writer's Conference in 2003. Tricia's book Life Interrupted was a finalist for the Gold Medallion in 2005. In addition to her novels, Tricia writes non-fiction books and magazine articles for publications like MomSense and Thriving Family. Tricia is a regular speaker at conventions and conferences, and has been a workshop presenter at the MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) International Conventions. She and her family make their home in Little Rock, Arkansas where they are part of the ministry of FamilyLife. Visit www.triciagoyer.com for more info."

To Buy the Book: click HERE

Blog Tour Schedule: Check out all of the other reviews scheduled by clicking HERE.

Contest:

To celebrate the release of the first book in the Big Sky Amish series Tricia is giving away 10 copies of Beside Still Waters and a pair of super cute antique Amish salt & pepper shakers.

Details at Tricia’s blog, It’s Real Life.

Good luck!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Character & Author Interview with Leanna Sain

Today we’re incorporating a twist to a great suggestion given by Vince (from Philosophy of Romance, regarding author/character reviews) into today’s author interview. Instead of “me” interviewing Leanna Sain, author of Gate to Nowhere, Emma Franklin (the book’s heroine) is going to be asking the questions! (Be sure to read all the way to the end to learn about today's giveaway, as well!)

Welcome, Leanna and Emma!

(Questions are from the perspective of Emma Franklin.)

Emma: Well, I seem to be all over the place nowadays! You’re lucky you caught me at a time when I still have computer access.

Leanna, one thing I’ve especially been curious about is how much of “you”—who you are and what you enjoy—did you write into me?

Leanna: Well, Emma...it's funny you should ask. There's A LOT of me in you. You're prettier, of course, but everything else--from your fear of spiders to the scene with the chicken; from breaking your leg and meeting Sam in the college bookstore on crutches to wanting to learn how to spin wool--this is ME. I sometimes think I was born in the wrong era. I love the 1800's and think I could've managed quite well during that century. I'd love to live "off-grid" and grow all my own food. I do have an organic garden which enables me to can and freeze much of what we eat. I raise dairy goats to provide us with plenty of milk and cheese and we get fresh eggs from our hens. I guess you could say that I lived vicariously through you in my novel and had a blast doing it.

Emma: Wow! I'm glad you could live out your time travel adventures through me. =)

My mind is a bit jumbled from all this time travel… Could you remind me of whether or not I make any more appearances in the second and third books in this series? There’s so much about my “future” that didn’t get revealed in the first book!

Leanna: Of course you're in the second and third book. I couldn't have done them without you. Book two, Return to Nowhere, introduces your daughter, Charlotte. I guess it's more HER story, but you're in there a lot. And the third book, Magnolia Blossoms, takes us into the Civil War and allows us to get to know your son, Thomas. Everything wraps up nicely and all questions are answered by the end of book three.

Emma: Oh, yeah! Now I remember... How could I have forgotten?!

OK, I can tell you right now that my favorite scenes in the story were the ones with me and Gavin. I loved every moment I spent with him! But what were your favorite scenes to write?

Leanna: Oooh...that's a tough one. There are a lot of them. I liked making Mary and Ennis really evil. I hope that doesn't sound bad. But I really liked the scene where Emma finally tells Gavin about the gate and how she got there. I also loved Grace's character and had a lot of fun with her.

Emma: It was way cool to wear 19th century dresses—even though it took me a while to figure out all those corsets and stays and such. Have you ever had the chance to wear dresses like that? How hard was it to write about historical details from 1827?

Leanna: Unfortunately, I've never gotten to wear the whole 19th century regalia, but I love history and love researching. I have a great library and checked out tons of books to help me with the research in order to get the historical part of this story right.

Emma: I didn’t have much of a choice in where the gate led me, but if you had your own time-travel gate what time period would you visit and why?

Leanna: I'd be right there with you in 1827. We could help each other out with spinning wool and knitting socks and I could teach you how to make mozarella cheese. Think Gavin would like pizza?

Emma: Oh, I definitely think he'd like pizza--and I think Grace would to, once she gave it a chance! Sounds like a plan!

Amber here--so fun to host you on the blog, Leanna, as well as your book's heroine! ;) (*Waving to Emma.*) Thank you so much for being willing to try something different! It's been a lot of fun!

Readers, if you'd like a chance to win my gently used, signed copy of Leanna's book Gate to Nowhere, just leave a comment for Leanna or Emma (I'm sure Leanna can speak on Emma's behalf!), along with your e-mail address. This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only.

And if you'd like to learn more about Leanna and Emma, check out Leanna's website or pick up a copy of Gate to Nowhere on Amazon.com! And you can read my review HERE.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sunday by the Sea: Robin Jones Gunn

"And he [Jesus] saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. But the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!"
~ Matthew 8:26-27

Back in February I had the pleasure of meeting author Robin Jones Gunn at the Woman to Woman Conference hosted at my school (Corban University). I began a post series on what I learned at the conference, but I never finished it. However, I simply had to come back to it and at least share a few words of encouragement from Robin, as well as the picture (above) of me and her! It was super exciting getting to meet her, and she's very sweet!

Anyway, the title of the conference was What if God has dreams for your life? Robin talked to us about her own dreams and how God has worked in her life. (Her first talk of the two made me cry!) One verse she mentioned a couple of times was Ephesians 3:20 (The Message)--

"God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us."

God is all powerful! He is in control of all the seas, of all creation, of all period! And yet how often do we put limits on what we think He can do in our lives?

Here are a few inspiring quotes from Robin:
  • "Shame off you!" (Robin noted that she and her sister used to say this to each other instead of "Shame on you" in order to remind each other of God's grace.)
  • "When God fulfills our dreams, it's not how we think it's going to be." (We've heard it said that God works in mysterious ways. Well, I think that's true in that we often don't understand how He's working in our lives until we can look back after the fact, and even then we don't have the complete big picture that He does. Robin noted that God plants the dreams in our hearts, but the way He fulfills them is often quite different from our expectations.)
  • "You are a victim of grace, honey." (With all the trials of life, sometimes we look at ourselves as victims. But I love Robin's reminder that the only thing we are victims of is God's grace, which is far, far beyond what we could ever deserve!)
I loved getting to meet Robin, and as I've not yet read one of her books, I'm looking forward to diving into the one I bought (and had autographed!) at the conference called Under a Maui Moon--hopefully soon!

Have you had the opportunity to meet any authors? Have you read any books by Robin?

I'd love to hear your stories! And as you begin this week, please remember that the God we serve is omnipotent--all-powerful--and He has a dream/purpose for your life!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Fun Facts Friday

Fun Fact: There's only a little over a week left until Easter! I'm going to spend the day with my sweet roomie and some of her family in Portland. Yay!

Fun Fact: Speaking of my roomie, she's engaged as of last Sunday!!! Yay, Adrienne! Here's a super adorable picture I took of her and her betrothed when he proposed by a waterfall. (And yes, those are rose petals on the rock!) They're getting married in August. I'm so excited for them!

Fun Fact: I really appreciate all of you! Thank you to those of you who took the time to answer my poll! I'm glad that, for the most part, my blog is pretty easy to navigate. (If you don't agree with that, though, feel free to leave me some suggestions in the comments section!) If you want to answer another poll question, just check out the sidebar. ;)

Fun Fact: I love reading! (Not sure if you were aware of that or not...) And I'm really looking forward to reading and reviewing a book called Yesterday's Tomorrow by Catherine West soon! Here's a picture of me with the book (which the author kindly agreed to send to me!):










Fun Fact:
I'm also grateful for all of you who shared your opinions with me about some possible future post series! I'm planning on incorporating the series Operation: Let's Get Published!, and I might do some sort of Behind the Scenes feature in regards to publishing/book review programs some time in the future (definitely something to keep in mind!). Also, I'm planning on using something similar to at least one of Vince's ideas (characters interviewing authors) starting with an interview next week with Leanna Sain, author of Gate to Nowhere--thank you, Vince, for the suggestion!

Fun Fact: The month of May means two very exciting things--the beginning of summer vacation and the return of Camp Humility! (For those of you who are new to the blog, Camp Humility is a week-long post series where we all head off to camp! We do games, outdoors activities, and spend our evenings around the campfire. Super fun!)

Fun Fact: I love Bug's Beads! On top of running two awesome blogs (Writing for Christ and Operation Encourage an Author), contributing to The Writers Alley, and writing/reading/etc., my blogging friend Casey has her own jewelry business called Bug's Beads. I've bought several pieces from her for family and friends and one necklace of my very own. She's a pleasure to do business with! Here's a picture of me wearing my lovely necklace:










And although I hesitate to mention a pig right under my picture...in the words of Porky Pig from Looney Tunes: "Th-th-that's all folks!" ;) Happy Friday!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

My Review of Gate to Nowhere

Here's a description of the book from Amazon.com:

"Emma Franklin inherits a farm in the town of MacKinlay, once called 'Nowhere' by the Cherokee. When she steps through a rusty iron gate on her new property, she is transported back 177 years to Nowhere. There she meets and falls in love with the town's eventual namesake, Gavin MacKinlay. She needs to save Gavin from certain death at the hand of his twin brother while solving the mystery of why the townspeople in 2004 hate anything connected to the MacKinlay name. Through her, history is changed, but not without heartache and danger. Although she returns to her life in 2004, she longs to be back with Gavin in 1827."

My Rating: Fall/Spring

My Review:

Who knew that some gates could lead to the past? Emma Franklin discovers a gate on Golden Apple Farm that leads to the town of Nowhere--in 1827. And once the past is altered the rules of the game are different, and time is as easy to change as one step through the "Gate to Nowhere."

Gate to Nowhere is a creative story, with interesting twists and details. Above all it is a sweet yet quite different love story that has some endearing characters, like Gavin with his cute Scottish accent and his kind housekeeper, Grace. But there are also some rather nasty characters out to seek revenge.

I was surprised by the heroine. Sometimes her snarky thoughts and attitudes were funny, but sometimes they were a bit much for me, which kept me from fully sympathizing with her. I enjoyed her interactions with the hero for the most part, but I didn't always like how she treated others.

Also, I felt that the conversion scene was a bit abrupt, and while God was mentioned throughout the story, genuine belief wasn't really woven throughout the story so much as "peppered" here and there.

Overall, though, this was an interesting story with some unique elements that intrigued me (such as the gate and the history "behind" it--literally!). If you enjoy historical romance and are looking for an out-of-the-ordinary love story, you might want to take the Gate to Nowhere!

*With thanks to author Leanna Sain for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*


Coming soon: A fun and unique interview with the author, Leanna Sain, and a giveaway!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Want to Help Me Think Outside the Box?

I want to keep this blog "fresh"--new, exciting, and interesting to my readers. So here's where I need your help: what is it that you would like to see here on "Seasons of Humility" that's "outside the box"?

Now, I'm guessing from what I know of those of you who leave comments that most of my readers love books, writing, and movies. (Feel free to correct me if you don't feel that way!) What would you think of some of the following post series?
  • Behind the Scenes: Spreading the Word--Interviews with the people who put together and run Christian book review programs.
  • Operation: Let's Get Published!--Join me on my journey to publication. Learn about the little steps I'm taking, the advice I'm receiving from my author/blogger friends, and the failures/successes I'm making along the way.
  • Movie Night--Let's open up that movie cabinet and pop in some old favorites. We can get some good girl talk going on why it is we love those endearing chick flicks.
These are just a few possibilities. I would love to hear which of these appeals to you most! Or tell us what else you might like to see here. I'd appreciate some help climbing out of this box! ;)

If you don't generally comment but still like to read my blog, it would be awesome if you could pitch in today just so I could get an idea of what interests you! Thanks so much!

(The picture is of me at the aquarium in Galveston, Texas--I'm not really trapped in a box/cage. No Ambers were harmed in the making of this post.)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

My Review of A Path Less Traveled

Here's a description of the book:

"Trish James is tired of being rescued. When a spooked horse claims her husband's life, she’s determined to blaze a path for herself and her traumatized son without outside help. But will that mean leaving the place etched on her heart?

Andy Tyler has had to struggle for everything, and starting a new law practice in Miller's Creek, Texas is no different. Though prepared for business challenges, he's not prepared for falling in love--especially with yet another woman who will probably abandon him for her career.

Will Andy and Trish be able to see past their limited human understanding to take a path less traveled?
"

My Rating: Spring

My Review:

A beautiful book with a beautiful message, A Path Less Traveled is an enjoyable story! The pieces of the plot come together to form a touching picture of the release that comes with trusting God and seeking His path.

While it's difficult and a bit frustrating at times to read about these characters' inner and outer struggles, overall Trish, Andy, and Little Bo (along with the whole cast of characters from Miller's Creek) won my heart. Their issues with pride, independence, fear, and longing are all too familiar, making it easy for the reader to relate with the hero and heroine. The various settings are also familiar in a comfortable sort of way, but are described engagingly, with lots of sensory details involved.

I really enjoyed my time in Miller's Creek, as well as the opportunity to meet these characters and be reminded along with them of the sovereignty and trustworthiness of God. A Path Less Traveled is a sweet journey, indeed!

*With thanks to author Cathy Bryant for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion. And my apologies to the author, as well, for the delay in completing my review!*

Monday, April 11, 2011

Monday for the Military: WWG

Some of you may recall the last time I hosted KC here on my blog to talk about the Wounded Warrior Getaway. (For those of you who are new or would like to read the interview again, click HERE.) Here's a description of the WWG from the website:

"Our Wounded Warrior Getaway is a three-day time of respite and spiritual refreshment specifically designed for American servicemen and women who've become disabled as a result of war."

Such a blessing!

Today KC is here to share some ways in which you can help our wounded warriors!

"Wounded Warrior Getaway

April 28 - May 1, 2011 · San Antonio, TX

We are excited to share the Good News again.

It's time for the spring WWG through Joni and Friends, in conjunction with BAMC.

So many have asked us, 'What can we do to help?'

Here are some things needed for the upcoming WWG:

GIFT CARDS - any amount, any stores.

For example, at www.target.com you can purchase cards online and they will send them directly to the WWG for you .

I'm sure others do the same.

CHRISTIAN BOOKS (and music) - fiction or non-fiction.

THANK YOU NOTES - write as many families as you can and thank them personally. Address it however you like (American Heroes, Warrior Families, whatever...). Get your Sunday School group together, kids to make drawings, your block, people at work, civic clubs, wherever. Put them all in a big envelope and send them to Kay. We put these notes in each bag for the families when they arrive, so we want to be sure to have enough for several in each bag. :-)

This just takes a little time and very little money. Please do this. The families continue to say how meaningful they are.

PRIZES - cameras, Wii games, larger amounts on gift cards. We use these at the banquet Saturday evening, and throughout the time they are together.

MONETARY DONATION - the cost this year is $500 per person. There is NO COST to any warrior family. I believe there are 35 families signed up, and a waiting list!!! This fee covers all meals, entertainment, transportation if needed and lodging for the families. Those of us who volunteer pay our own way. Your monetary donation of any amount will help. Ask for a tax receipt when sending your donation, if you would like one.

Please send everything to arrive ON OR BEFORE April 21 if at all possible. Must be received by April 25 or your gifts will go into storage for the next WWG.

SEND TO:

Joni & Friends – San Antonio
1370 Pantheon Way, # 165
San Antonio TX 78232
Attn: Kay Merket

For more information about the WWG, click HERE.

[And click HERE to read another interview with KC and to learn more about the WWG.]

Thank you. We look forward to serving our Warrior Families again this year. It is an HONOR. Please join us in support, even if it's some thank you notes from the heart!!!

And most of all, please pray as you are led.

Steve & Karen Frantzen

(Amber here: Thank you so much, KC, for all that you do for the United States military and specifically our wounded warriors! You are an amazing example of loving and humble service.

Readers, if you'd like to learn more about the WWG please don't hesitate to e-mail me at:

stokes[dot]a[at]suddenlink[dot]net

I'd be more than happy to share more from KC or get you in contact with her!)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sunday by the Sea


"Or who shut up the sea with doors, when it brake forth, as if it had issued out of the womb?.... Hast thou entered into the springs of the sea? or hast thou walked in the search of the depth?"
~ Job 38:8, 16

I finished two very sweet books in the past couple of days (A Path Less Traveled by Cathy Bryant and Give the Lady a Ride by Linda Yezak), and I was blessed by a wonderful truth reaffirmed in both of these books: God is trustworthy. Both of these books shared these verses:

"Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths."
~ Proverbs 3:5-6

I confess that I've seen these verses often, and because of that I don't think I always pay as much attention to them as I should when I read them or hear them. But the truth is that it doesn't matter how "familiar" God's word becomes to us--we still have much we need to learn from it.

Thinking more about these verses, I've been reminded of the words: "in all thy ways acknowledge him." Lately the focus for me has been on my writing. I know I need to trust in His guidance and His will for my story that I recently finished writing (the first draft, anyway!) and any possible future stories He may want me to write. Of course, this is a constant struggle, and I need God's help to remain humble--open to help and open to His direction.

But it's not just in my writing that I need to learn to trust God. I need to trust Him with school, with my friends and family, with my hopes, etc.

My dear friend Casey at Writing for Christ had a post series on her blog this past week about purity and trusting God's timing and will for those of us who have yet to meet that "special someone."

Last night as others at my school were out at different social events and I stayed in my dorm room, I felt overwhelmed with confusion and longing. As much as I want to be happy for others, it sometimes hurts to be single. I wonder if I'm undesirable. I wonder if I'll always be single. I wonder why I even let it bother me so much.

But I need to trust God in all my ways. How the Lord can be so merciful and patient with me is amazing! One moment I can feel so at peace about my life, and the next I can be consumed with self-pity.

Yet God doesn't change. The God who showed Job who was in control of all things (including the vast and deep sea) is the same God who is walking beside me each day. He is sovereign and completely trustworthy, and I can always rest in His faithfulness, knowing that He can see far beyond my limited vision.

He is trustworthy.

(Picture is from PDPhoto.org. Also note that my review of A Path Less Traveled will be posted here on Tuesday, and my review of Give the Lady a Ride will be posted on The Borrowed Book on Monday.)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

My Review of Leather and Lace

Here's a description of the book from Goodreads:

"Casey O'Hare forsakes life with an outlaw gang to start anew in 1884. WANTED posters across the country attribute various crimes to her of which she is innocent. The outlaw leader, Davis Jenkins, and her brother Tim ride in her pursuit, while a stranger by the name of Morgan enters her campsite in the snow-covered mountains of Utah. Under gunpoint, he leads her down the icy slopes to safety, but Casey learns Morgan is using her to get to Jenkins-and vows to escape him, too. Will Casey's past catch up with her, or will she find a place to rest in the arms of love?"

My Rating: Fall/Spring

My Review:

The beginning drew me in right away: a female outlaw, running away from one possessive man only to be caught by another vengeful man. The descriptions of the cold, the scenery, the night sky--beautiful! From the start I sensed an intriguing adventure to come.

While an adventure did follow in the rest of the story, it wasn't quite as thrilling or action-packed as I hoped it would be. There are some great lessons and reminders throughout the book that come a little close to preachy but still make this an edifying read. The various paces of the book frustrated me a little--in some cases the timeline of the story sped by, and in others issues seemed too drawn out--but overall it was still a fun and interesting read, as well.

*With thanks to Bluerose for a chance to read this book through a book swap!*

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Contentment Reading Challenge: April

It's April, which means only one more month until summer vacation! And summer vacation = more reading time! ;)

Again, I haven't made too much progress on the challenge so far. Since last month's update I've read one book from the book swap I hosted last month (Leather and Lace by Diann Mills). I'll post my review of Leather and Lace soon!

But, thanks to the book swap and blogging friend, Kait, I now have the 3-in-1 "Yukon Quest" series book by Tracie Peterson! I read this series when I was in elementary school, and I loved it, so I'm eager to re-read it!

Here's the blurb for the first book, Treasures of the North, which I've started re-reading:

"Driven by desperation, Grace Hawkins must forsake the affluent comfort of her upbringing to save herself from an arranged marriage. Disillusioned by her father's insistence, she forges a daring plan to escape the sinister hand of her intended.

Peter Colton sees the Alaskan gold rush as an opportunity to establish his family's fledgling shipping business. An unexpected partnership enables him to pursue those dreams and opens the door to an acquaintance with Grace, who has purchased passage North.

Drawn together by need and circumstance, Grace and Peter form a faltering friendship. But when her deserted fiancé continues to manipulate her loved ones, can she find peace in the wake of his wrath?"

And after my week-long blogoversary celebration last week, I'm eager to re-read some of the books by the authors I hosted again (like Ruby's Slippers by Leanna Ellis). Summer--I am ready when you are! ;)

So what have you been re-reading recently?

(Note: I recently added a feature in the sidebar that will allow you to follow my blog by e-mail. There's a "sign-up" below the normal Follower feature, if you're interested. Hopefully it works!)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Time Flies--Like a Hummingbird

If you've ever seen a hummingbird, you know that those little birds are fast! And they can eat from feeders or flowers without landing, constantly beating their tiny wings. Eventually, of course, they do land, but it's amazing to observe their zippy motions while in flight.

Doesn't time seem to fly like a hummingbird? You keep wondering if it's ever going to land as it continues on seemingly tirelessly. But it is beautiful in its own way, isn't it?

Recently I've been working on my graduation application for next year. Yep, I'm going to be graduating with a B.S. in English in just one year and one month!!! How is that even possible? Time's just like that hummingbird--you see it one moment, lovely and awe-inspiring, and then it's gone in a flash.

And along with working on my graduation application, I've had to plan my schedule for next school year. Now, if you are in college or have yet to go through college, let me encourage you--get your required classes done early on, because it's exciting to have so many elective opportunities saved up for your senior year! I guess I'm lucky, too, because an English major comes with a lot of elective hours. ;)

In the fall I'm planning on taking:
  • Civil War Era (History)
  • History of Modern Africa
  • Pilates/Cardio
  • Shakespeare
  • Theology of Heaven
  • Personality Theory (Psychology)
  • Independent Art Study
Should be interesting! I'm excited for all the time to come: summer vacation, senior year of college, graduation, a career...

But as I talked about in my teaching session for my "Teaching the Bible" class last Friday, we should make sure to take time to remember God's works from the past and let them encourage us to truly live now. Let's see if we can get this hummingbird to "land" for a short while and just be thankful for where we are and what God has done for us. It's something I know I certainly need to work on!

What about you? Is your "hummingbird of time" keeping you flitting from one task to another? What events are you looking forward to in the future? What events can you remember and be inspired by from the past?

Update: They canceled "Theology of Heaven," so now I think I'm taking "Women of Faith" class. Either one sounds good to me!

(Picture from Hummingbirds at Home website.)

Saturday, April 2, 2011

End of Blogoversary: Winners!

Thank you all so much for your participation this past week during my blogoversary extravaganza! I apologize for not responding to every comment, but be assured that your kindness and your time mean a lot to me, and I'm so glad that all of you could help me celebrate!

Here are the winners:
  • $15 Amazon.com Gift Card: Cheryl Barker
  • Courting Morrow Little: LoRee Peery
  • Choice of one of Julie Lessman's books: Lady DragonKeeper
  • S. Dionne Moore's 3 Historical Romances: Molly
  • Choice of one of Leanna Ellis' books: Ann Lee Miller
Congratulations to all of the winners! Be on the lookout for my e-mails. (Except for Molly--you've already got this worked out with Sandra, I think!) If I don't hear from you by next weekend, I'll pick another winner, so please reply soon!

Also, thank you to all of the authors I interviewed this week! It was so much fun to have you all back here, and I really appreciate your generosity!

To conclude this week of reminiscing, I'd like to share a picture of me and my friend with good ol' Paul Bunyan:

This was taken a couple of years ago at the Trees of Mystery, in the redwoods about an hour-ish north of where I live. Fun times for sure! Let's imagine that Paul is waving goodbye to my past year of blogging and waving hello to a brand new year. =)

Blogging has been such a huge blessing me, and I'm so thankful for each and every one of you who reads my blog, comments, and shares your friendship with me. You all are amazing!

May God bless you all!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Blogoversary Day 5: Welcome Back Leanna Ellis!

Welcome to the fifth day of my blogoversary extravaganza! Today we're reminiscing the first author interview I posted on this blog, which was with Leanna Ellis. I had recently read Once in a Blue Moon, so Leanna was a great choice for my first interview--and her fiction is so different and fun! (Also, I highly recommend her other book I've read--Ruby's Slippers--which I loved!)

For those of you who are visiting or are new to the blog (or if you just want a blast from the past!), here is the link to my first author interview:
And now, Leanna Ellis is back!

Amber: It’s such a pleasure to host you here at “Seasons of Humility” again! Can you believe it’s been almost a whole year since you were first interviewed here? How time flies! Could you share with us what you’ve been up to in your writing career since April 2010?

Leanna: Thanks for having me back here, Amber! It was definitely a busy year for me personally and professionally. My two kids have been keeping me very busy with all of their activities. In between going to fencing tournaments for my son and even doing a few ‘en guardes’ myself as well as rehearsals and shows for my singing, dancing, and acting daughter, I had two books out in 2010: Once in a Blue Moon and Facelift.

Amber: What’s on the agenda for this next year? I do believe I’ve seen something about an “Amish/Vampire” series… ;)

Leanna: Well, yes, you are right! Last year I sold an Amish/vampire series idea called Plain Fear to an ABA publisher (secular), and I was busy writing it last year. It is probably my most spiritual book to date, and I am very excited about it. It’s a story of good versus evil. So often we just think of evil as being dark and scary…well, it is that but it’s also alluring and appealing and attractive. If you just saw the dark, ugly, scary side of evil, who would go there? My Amish heroine is lured to the dark side by the man she once loved and she must make a choice that will decide her eternal fate. I just finished revisions and should be starting line edits on it soon. Forsaken is scheduled to come out in August 2011.

Amber: I'm very excited to read Forsaken! It sounds very powerful and intriguing.

Your first interview here was centered on your book
Once in a Blue Moon. Since then, it sounds like you’ve been keeping busy with writing other books! Do you ever go back and re-read the books you’ve already had published? Do you have a favorite?

Leanna: I don’t usually reread my own work once it is published, because then I might see something I want to change. I tend to be a perfectionist. =) Books are like children and they go through many different stages. In their infancy (at the idea stage), I’m in love with them. Then as I begin writing the book, they hit those terrible twos where they don’t behave very well. But as I get into the middle of the story, that elementary age, it’s fun and exciting. Then the teen years hit—it’s when I reach the end of that first draft and I see all the pimples and flaws and gawkiness, but I’m usually the one having a few hormonal breakdowns, doubts and insecurities. But then after revising a lot and a bit more growth, it’s off to the publisher. Eventually, my baby graduates from college (hits the bookstores). Of course, parenting never quite ends, does it? And neither does my relationship with my books. But by this stage, I’m usually knee deep in another book, which is needing my full attention. So do I have a favorite? Well, it’s not the one in the terrible twos at the moment. My favorite is usually the one I’ve just finished, which would be Forsaken. But next year, I hope it’ll be Forbidden.

Amber: That's a great analogy of the publishing process! I guess my manuscript is at the teenager stage. ;)

If we could celebrate this blogoversary in “real life” (as a tangible party and not just a cyber party) and you were asked to help come up with ideas for party games, what would you suggest?


Leanna: One game I love when we have one of our big family reunions is…drum roll…water balloons! Or if you have the facilities, then laser tag is tons of fun! I always say, “There’s nothing like ‘shooting’ a family member to bring peace and harmony.” Those are my favorite party games. I love the chaos and all the laughter that accompanies the wet.

Amber: Hahaha, very cool! Do you have a funny memory you can share with us from a party/celebration that you attended or hosted this past year?

Leanna: Honestly I’m better at making up funny stories, and the last few parties I’ve been to have been very sedate. Maybe I need to do something about that! Still, I’ll tell you about last Thanksgiving. We were at my mom’s house. She lives on a farm, and there’s a lake behind her house. I was busy in the kitchen helping to get the big meal ready when my son bursts into the house, breathless and laughing. His cheeks were red from the cold. Our crazy labradoodle named Hilo had jumped off the pier and started swimming across the lake. At least she could swim because the one time our white lab jumped in the water we had to get the row boat out to save her as she started sinking because she didn’t know how to swim. Now, you also have to know that there is always an alligator living in that lake. We don’t encourage anyone to swim there. So of course, the kids went crazy, worried Hilo would get eaten any moment. But Hilo didn’t pay any attention to their cries for her to come back. She often ignores us that way. She even ignored my husband who is the only one who can make her behave. She just kept swimming. But about half way out in the lake, (and remember it’s COLD because it’s November) she started getting tired. Finally, she turned around and headed back to the pier, but she was slowing down and beginning to struggle to keep her head above water. So, my husband had to get the row boat out and rescued her.

But that wasn’t the end of her adventures that day. First, because she was soaking wet and stinky from the smell of lake water, she was banished to the garage until she dried out. Ordinarily, I would have had to bathe her but it was COLD and I was busy helping with Thanksgiving dinner. Anyway, fast forward a couple of hours and Hilo is dry, dinner is over, and we’re busy cleaning up the kitchen. My mother had already deboned the turkey, but she made the mistake of leaving the dish on the counter. Yep, you guessed it. Hilo helped herself. Now, my mother is the biggest animal lover of all time, but I thought that might be the end of Hilo. The vet was even surprised that she had no ill effects from the turkey as it can be toxic to dogs. But still, Hilo was not satisfied with all the trouble she’d caused. She saw some birds outside my mother’s kitchen window and attacked. She ran right into the glass and broke it. Of course, Hilo was all right. She seems to be indestructible. But I’m not sure she will be invited back for Thanksgiving.

Thanks, Amber, for inviting me back! I appreciate it!

Amber: Oh my goodness--Hilo is a survivor, for sure! ;) And I'm thrilled you could come visit with us again!

The Giveaway

Leanna has generously agreed to give away one of her already-published books to one lucky commenter! (These books include: Elvis Takes a Back Seat; Lookin' Back, Texas; Ruby's Slippers; Once in a Blue Moon; and Facelift. You can check them out on her website!)

Just leave a comment for Leanna along with your e-mail address for a chance to win!

(Be sure to come on back tomorrow to see a list of the winners and help me conclude this blogoversarsy extravaganza!)