In gratitude for all the writers and writing mentors (from Inscribe and other writing groups) that have helped and encouraged me through the years, I’ve arranged a free download of my latest novel, Under the Cloud – Kindle edition.
In Blood Ties, Book 2 of Tracy Krauss’s Three Strand Cord series, we again get involved in the lives of Stella, Tempest, and Cherise.
College-educated Stella returns to her ranch home in Texas to find both ranch-hand brothers in love with her.
Dirk, Cherise’s brother, falls for Tempest but when she doesn’t reciprocate, this rich sometime-playboy decides to volunteer at a Mexican orphanage (maybe this new leaf will convince Tempest that he really has changed).
Cherise, meanwhile, gets involved in a relationship with one of Stella’s friends but, unable to face hurting him due to her track-record of short-term serial romances, decides to join Dirk at the orphanage. There, confronted by the superficiality of their lifestyles the siblings, Dirk and Cherise, are challenged to look for deeper meaning and purpose.
A mean-spirited computer hacker in Texas and suspected drug activity out of the orphanage add danger and suspense to this contemporary romance.
Though some of the shenanigans of Cherise and others would put this book (and the series) into the edgy category, the message of God’s love and ability to change hearts, desires, and actions comes across loud and clear. That dual focus makes the series relatable to contemporary young people, Christian and non-Christian.
I received a copy of Blood Ties as a gift from the author for the purpose of writing a review.
The friendship bracelets that Stella, Cherise, and Tempest braid for each other in elementary school come to symbolize the ties that bind them long past their school days. However, when they meet again as young adults, their varied interests, experiences, social status, and temperaments have set them on vastly different paths. This makes for lots of conflict as their loyalties to each other compete with good sense, ethics, and even self-preservation.
Cherise, the rich bad girl of the trio, traps her girlfriends and others in a net of trouble when she decides to do whatever it takes to follow her latest boyfriend to Italy. Meanwhile Tempest, the professing Christian of the three, struggles with her part in Cherise’s deception, which involves living a lie of her own.
Krauss’s romantic suspense is well-written, has interesting characters, lots of action, many surprises, and Christian spiritual elements throughout.
I received a copy of Three Strand Cord from the author for the purpose of writing a review.
The year is 1914. All is idyllic on the Hildebrandt’s Succoth estate in Crimea—but for the death of mother. This has left the well-to-do Hildebrandt family (father Heinrich, children Katarina , Maria , Peter, Nicholas, and Anna) wifeless, motherless, and without a teacher. Enter Johann Suderman, a young teacher from the Mennonite Molotschna Colony, whom Heinrich soon employs to tutor the youngest children.
The beginning of World War I together with growing tensions between the land-wealthy Mennonites and their poor Russian neighbours heightens suspense and brings a sense of foreboding. Through Johann’s Russian friend Paul Tekanin we see Bolshevism and the revolutionary movement take root. The Hildebrandt’s and Johann’s connections of family and friends in the Molotschna Colony make us privy to premonitions of change coming there as well.
A blossoming romance, that ripens like the sweet fruit of the Succoth orchard, ramps up emotional interest. Watching characters flesh out gradations of spiritual faith, from rote religion to a deeply personal relationship with God, challenges us to examine where we are in the practice of the faith we claim to have.
Calm Before the Storm is beautifully written. Characters are believable and sympathetic (even the not-so-favourite ones). Dick does a great job of placing us in the setting with masterful broad-brush descriptions of the landscape to fine-painted details of cottage and barn. I could all but taste the familiar foods—the zwieback, rollkuchen, borscht, and cracklings of my youth—which load the tables of these forefathers and foremothers.
Calm Before the Storm is a wonderful read for any lover of historical fiction and a must-read for the student of Mennonite history. I can’t wait for the release of Book 2, Eye of the Storm, hopefully later this year.
In dramatic scenes fueled by an informed imagination, Cooper-Matchett takes us into a little-known time in Israel’s history. The Jews are in exile in Babylon. Zerubbabel—a brilliant Jewish lad and companion of Nebuchadnezzar’s successor Belshazzar and sister Belshalti-Nanner, is being groomed for service to Babylonian royalty.
However, Zerubbabel also feels the tug of his Jewish heritage. We follow him as he matures to adulthood and is challenged with the ultimate assignment—to lead his people back to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. The cost is great and the pursuit of his divine destiny—predicted by prophets Daniel, Zechariah, and Haggai—tests him to the core even as it highlights God’s intricate plan for His people.
Matchett’s writing is tight, her story-telling taut and filled with Middle Eastern sights, sounds, smells, and machismo. Beyond the Purple Sky is a good read!
I’m excited to announce that my second novel, Under the Cloud, a continuation of the story begun in Destiny’s Hands, is now available from Amazon in paperback and ebook editions!
Here’s the cover (designed by Glynis and Amanda Belec of Angel Hope Publishing):
And the description, from the back of the book:
“Fifteen-year-old Zamri lives in the shadow of her brilliant brother Bezalel. While he crafts the gold and bronze articles for Tabernacle worship, all she can look forward to is a life of women’s work—work she finds uninteresting and confusing. But no one can keep her from dreaming. She imagines becoming a leader among women like her hero Miriam. That all changes when the dashing Pallu wins her heart.
“Trek through the years of exodus with Zamri as, within the strictures of Israel’s patriarchal society, she grows into mature womanhood. Discover with her how dreams need never die, indeed can come true in the most unlikely ways.“
Yes, the seven and one half-year project has finally been completed! My first entry in the notebook where I kept the journal of this book is dated January 7, 2013. Interestingly, it’s almost exactly eight years since I launched Destiny’s Hands (I received the boxes of books of that title on July 4, 2012).
Receiving boxes of product will probably not be the case with Under the Cloud, as I have been unable to place an order for author copies with Amazon. They are not shipping author copies to Canada during the Covid-19 pandemic *sigh.*
However, they do send out purchased paperback copies to Canada, and of course the Kindle edition is available as an instant download.
During this time of social isolation due to Covid-19, various art challenges are popping up around the internet. One I have signed onto is Matt Tommey’s #quarantinedcreatives challenge. Starting on April 14th, those who signed up got an email with a daily prompt and challenge.
Yesterday’s challenge was interesting and stretching: “Make a process video.” That would be a video showing one’s art process (often shot as time lapse and then sped up).
I’m allergic to cameras and don’t have a camera mount to make such a video in any case. Instead of a video, I took still photos of the steps of my project, then combined them with instructions. Below is my project: “Sketch a Bird in your Journal.” I hope it makes sense!
What strange days we’re living in! Here on Canada’s west coast signs of spring are poking out and blooming all over. The coming of spring usually buoys my spirits immensely and this year is no different—and yet it is. For the black Covid-19 cloud looms on the horizon and we’re all living in obeisance by “social distancing” and, if returning from abroad, living in actual isolation. Closeted in our houses, condos, or apartments, we go out only for necessities and short walks, avoiding each other like the plague (which, we fear, anyone can be carrying, unbeknownst to them). It all feels so bizarre and unreal.
It’s gratifying to see how the online world has stepped up to fill work and recreation gaps. Lately I’ve heard more than once that this is a great time to spend unexpectedly free hours learning something new. My interest in art has familiarized me with that sphere. There, artists are offering all manner of online courses and tutorials, many free.
Another option, if you’d like to try your hand at art, specifically learning to paint with watercolor, is books. One I worked through last year was Jenna Rainey’s Everyday Watercolor – Learn to Paint Watercolor in 30 Days.
This is an excellent book for a beginning painter. Rainey starts with the basics in sections called “Techniques” and “Form, Perspective and Light.” Her explanations of theory are followed, at every step, by projects. These range from making color swatches to completing complex scenes. I worked through the whole book and along the way learned about wet on wet and wet on dry painting, value and tone, light to dark layering, light source, shadow, and much much more.
Bookstores in your area are probably closed but no problem. You can purchase this book online, in fact, have it on your device in minutes as an e-book. I bought it that way and viewed the book’s projects on my iPad as I worked on them.
I have worked from home for years, but under the label of “social distancing,” it feels different. Every day health officials give updates in news conferences, which I like to watch firsthand (it beats getting the piecemeal summaries from journalists later). And every day the tone of our Federal and Provincial Health Officers grows graver and more urgent. How quickly new terms like “window of opportunity,” “flattening the curve,” “social distancing,” and “self-isolation” have become absorbed into daily life and experience.
Fortunately, my husband and I are well, though we are in the most at-risk age group. We have no grave existing conditions or chronic illnesses. We get our annual flu shots and this winter I haven’t even had a cold. So, I’m not that concerned about my own health or ability to weather a Covid-19 infection. But I am concerned about the health of others, particularly senior friends with fragile health.
As a result, my preference is to try and follow (in spirit and letter) the social distancing guidelines proposed by the powers that be—that is, stay home. We go for our daily walk, shop for supplies when needed, but other than that, we stay put at home. We’ve even cancelled a coffee date at the home of friends out of an abundance of caution for the wife, who works in a seniors care facility. Are we being extreme? We don’t feel we are.
One thing I do every day now, is remind myself more than ever Who is ultimately in charge—of this world and of my life. I do this through prayer and reading the Bible daily, saturating myself in accounts of God’s power and marinating in psalms like Psalm 91.
I also spend some time each day doing a little art. I find that the cares of life fall away as I get absorbed in drawing and painting. I’ve amassed a body of work doing daily art for over a year now and have been wondering, is there anything I could do with these sketches and paintings?
Recently I have become aware of a print-on-demand site (Redbubble.com) where artists can set up their own shops. I joined, and have uploaded art there. The company applies my art to a variety of products I choose. People can then order these things. Redbubble ships the products (with my designs on them) and I make a small percentage on each sale without having to manufacture the item, take the order, collect the payment, and send it out. Pretty sweet deal, I’d say!
I realize that right about now you probably feel about as much like shopping as I do—i.e. not at all. But if you become bored with all the news conferences and Netflix, need a break from doing puzzles and playing games, you might enjoy doing a little browsing on Redbubble, against the day when shopping again appeals. Just in case you’re interested, my shop is HERE. Some of the stuff you’ll find there …
And lots more!
Whatever you do during your time of social distancing, take care and be thoughtful, kind, and safe.