Under the Cloud (free Kindle Edition)

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I’m looking forward to today and attending my first-ever virtual writing conference (Inscribe Fall Conference)!

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.

GET IT FREE – September 25 and 26th…

More books arriving this week!

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Under the Cloud has been out just a little over two months. In that time, I’ve distributed a box of paperbacks but another shipment is on its way, scheduled to arrive later this week.

Reader response is gratifying! Here are some comments, gathered from reviews:

“Zamri’s story explores themes that are as relevant now as they were then, for example identity, coming of age, disappointment, doubt, and faith.” – Elma Schemenauer (Amazon.ca review)

“The story was so engaging I really did not want to do anything else until it was finished” – Ed Hird (Amazon.ca review)

Under the Cloud was an absolutely beautiful story.” – Deborah L. Kelly (reader email).

If you’d like a signed copy, I’d be delighted to send one to you
(Book: $20; Postage $5.34 all prices CAD). Email me.

Beyond the Purple Sky – review

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Beyond The Purple Sky by Eunice Cooper-Matchett

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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!

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Project completed!

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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.

If you decide to purchase, I hope you enjoy. Then would you be so kind as to write a review—on Amazon, or your blog, or wherever? That would be hugely appreciated!

Interview & giveaway!


Destiny's Hands - Violet NesdolyIt’s May 1st. Time to announce the winners of the giveaway. They are: Bonnie and Patricia.  Congratulations!

I’ll be getting in touch with both of you for your mail addresses. Hope you enjoy!


I (and my book Destiny’s Hands) are thrilled to be featured today on the blog Interviews and Reviews. Thank you, Laura Davis, for interesting questions and an opportunity to talk about this project.

Though Destiny’s Hands is not a new book (it came out in 2012) it is a timely read as it tells the story of the first Passover. The modern celebration of the Jewish Feast of Passover begins at sundown tonight, April 14th.

To complement Laura’s interview, I’m giving away two paperback copies of Destiny’s Hands.

Interested in winning a book? Simply sign up in the comments below (by April 30th) and I’ll put your name in the draw. I’ll announce the winners here on May 1st.

Digital copies are also available for new-school readers who prefer the weightless version. (Sorry, I can’t give those away.)

The Queen’s Handmaid – review

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The Queen's HandmaidThe Queen’s Handmaid by Tracy L. Higley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lydia, slave of Cleopatra, is not only lovely but also ambitious. Her artistic pottery is in demand and already she has collected a bag of coins against the day she can escape from the palace and start her own business. But the night Herod comes to visit, everything changes. Cleopatra, stymied in her attempt to seduce Herod, takes out her anger on those around her. After doing away with loose-lipped Andromeda, Lydia is in her sites.

Lydia, meanwhile, responds to an urgent call from her elderly Jewish friend Samuel. Determined to hear what he has to tell her, she goes to his home only to find it a shambles and the old man beaten and all but dead. With his last breath he entrusts her with an ancient parchment to deliver to Jerusalem and gives her a unique necklace. “It was your mother’s,” he manages to gasp—and he’s gone.

What’s she to do? Suddenly Herod’s earlier offer to take her with him from Alexandria to become a maid to his betrothed Mariamme seems like a good idea. And so the next day finds her on a boat fleeing murderous Cleopatra while on a secret and dangerous mission of her own.

We follow Lydia for the next few years as she travels from Egypt to Rome, on to Masada and finally Jerusalem in Tracy Higley’s historical fiction The Queen’s Handmaid. Lydia always manages to find work at the highest levels and so we get close-up glimpses of the political life and the power characters during the time period just before Christ.

The characters, real and fictional, are rendered vividly and with confidence. In a note at the end of the book Higley tells us what she was hoping to achieve. She invented Lydia as a fictional “witness” character through whom we would see some of the major political players of the day: Cleopatra, Caesar Augustus, Marc Antony, Herod, his sister Salome and wife Mariamme. As well, Higley’s own travels to Alexandria, Rome, Jerusalem and Masada lend accuracy and detail to descriptions of the setting.

The plot kept me engrossed and pressing on to see what happens next. The intrigue in each palace made for great human interest and the author’s familiarity with the various locations gave me confidence that I was in good hands. Lydia, the orphan, is a sympathetic character in her search for identity and worth. Her romantic interest in Herod’s administrator Simon added another magnet to the plot.

If there was one thing that seemed little unbelievable, it was how Lydia always managed to be working for one of the land’s leading ladies (Cleopatra, Octavia, Mariamme). But that aside, The Queen’s Handmaid is a well-plotted, well-written historical fiction that I’m sure lovers of historical and biblical fiction will enjoy. A Reading Group Guide at the end of the book makes it a fine choice for book clubs as well.

I received an ebook version of The Queen’s Handmaid as a gift from Thomas Nelson for the purpose of writing a review.

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Return to Me (review)

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Return to Me (The Restoration Chronicles #1)Return to Me by Lynn Austin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In Return to Me Lynn Austin returns to writing in the genre–biblical fiction–where I first met her. This story is set in the time of the exile and follows the priest Iddo and his son Zacharias as their family returns to a ravished Jersualem with the intention of rebuilding the temple.

The book is peopled by believable characters who go through the kinds of things you’d expect returning exiles to go through. Iddo’s wife, Dinah, pines for her children and grandchildren that never made the trek back and struggles to be content in her primitive Jerusalem home.

Zachariah’s best friend Yael feels the strong pull of astrology as she seeks to discover whether her sick mother will live. The star charts she gets from the Babylonian seer Parthia become a snare to her as she befriends a Samaritan family.

Main character Zacharias often misses his parents but believes that God has him in Jerusalem for a reason–if only He would make it clear.

It’s a story that takes place over a generation and gives life to an interesting and dramatic era of Israel’s history. However I found it slow-moving in parts, and a tad long. Perhaps this is because the author attempts to stay close to the Bible’s story line where there are years without too much happening.

Lovers of Bible fiction and students of Jewish history will want to add this book to their collections.

I received Return to Me as a gift from the publisher, Bethany House. As usual, my Kindle edition from NetGalley was full of weird spacing and missing ‘ff’s.

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Journey by Angela Hunt (review)

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JourneyJourney by Angela Elwell Hunt

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Suspicion and jealousy cause a rift between Yosef’s sons Efrayim and Menashe when grandfather Yakov speaks a firstborn blessing over second-born Efrayim in Angela Hunt’s biblical fiction Journey. This schism is magnified by their dissimilar personalities. Menashe is serious, brooding, and intense while Efrayim is charismatic, fun-loving, and ambitious.

But sibling rivalry is not the only thing that separates these handsome, twenty-something brothers. When Menashe stays in Goshen with his relatives to mourn Grandfather Yakov’s death, he hears stories of his ancestors, the patriarchs, for the first time—stories his busy vizier father Zaphenath-paneah (Yosef) never told him. With these stories the dream is birthed in him of his people again living in their own land. Efrayim, meanwhile, in love with all things Egyptian, oversees the embalming of Yakov.

A trip to Canaan to bury Yakov, close encounters with Pharaoh and his powerful wife Tiy, Menashe’s obsession with the lovely but sightless slave harpist Jandayi, together with his growing conviction that it is his destiny to lead his countrymen back to Canaan make Journey a spell-binding read.

I especially liked the way Hunt brought Egypt to life in her well-researched setting. Here, for example, is the scene that meets Zaphenath-paneah and his sons as they enter the banquet room of the feast Pharaoh’s holds to honor them:

“In the centre of the vast hall an Egyptian drummer held his instrument at a jaunty angle and thumped out a steady beat. A line of trumpeters blew their instruments; one man lifted his horn toward the painted ceiling in a vain attempt to make his instrument heard about the others. A group of Libyans, recognizable by their ornate feathered headdresses, beat their clappers in a staccato rhythm, while in another corner a band of priestesses played their sacred sister, the delicate thumping sounds echoing through the room. The chamber seemed alive with noise, the sound rising from the musicians and dancers and then spiralling down again from the tall ceiling” – Kindle Location 2322.

For those interested in Bible themes, the story also delves into who God-Shaddai was to the Hebrews at this time through Menashe’s growing understanding of the history and destiny of his people.

Characters are complex and believable. I was especially fascinated by Tiy, Pharaoh’s scheming and powerful first wife.

For anyone wanting a rich, thoughtful, sometimes suspenseful experience of the Israelites in Egypt at the time of Joseph, Journey (Legacies of the Ancient River) is an excellent choice.

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Love at first sight?

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‘Valentine’s Day’ in my novel Destiny’s Hands comes on the day the Israelites celebrate their final defeat of the Egyptians after they cross the Red Sea.

In the story Moses leads in a celebration dance and main character Bezalel joins in. Then he looks on as Miriam leads the women in their part of the dance and catches a glimpse of…. Who is she?

Here is that bit from Destiny’s Hands (Chapter 14):

destiny's hands ebookMoses led them back to his own camp spot. As they approached, his sister Miriam—a tall woman with snowy hair and a tanned, wrinkled face—came out of her tent. Though Bezalel hadn’t seen her for years, he recognized her regal air and remembered how,
as a little boy, he had been in awe of her. As far back as he could remember, she had been known as a prophetess with unusual talents and insights.

She listened to Moses and the crowd for a while, then disappeared into her tent coming back a few minutes later with a timbrel in her hand. In a voice that sounded
much younger than one would expect from such a wrinkled visage, Miriam took up Moses’ song. Moses stopped, smiled broadly at his sister, and motioned to her with his hand as if to say, “It’s your turn!”

“Sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted,” she began, taking up his refrain. She wove
through the crowds as Moses had. This time the women followed her and soon Miriam led a throng of them. They danced through the camp as Moses and the men had, picking up followers as they went.

They made their way past Bezalel and he caught sight of his mother and Zamri in the
crowd of dancers. It was good to see his mother so light-hearted, and Zamri able to express her naturally bubbly nature.

Of course there were others too, no lack of lovely women on which to feast one’s eyes.
Bezalel watched one, and then another, until he saw a delightful creature such as he had never seen before. She was a few women away from Zamri and had thick, wavy hair the color of copper. Her eyes, when they were open, flashed green malachite. Her skin was tanned, her face and lips flushed with exertion. Damp tendrils of hair clung to her face and neck. She was beautiful!

But more than her physical beauty attracted Bezalel. Fascinated, he watched her dance with abandon and not a shred of self-consciousness, as if performing for Yahweh Himself. Her movements were the exact physical expression of lightness and  joy Bezalel had felt after he had removed his charm during the plague of darkness.

He had to find out who she was.


Want to read more? Destiny’s Hands is available from Amazon and other online booksellers (in paperback or e-book). You can also order it  from me (author-signed if you like), details HERE.

Biblical fiction—adaptations

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Do you read biblical fiction, that  is fiction based on the stories in the Bible? Maybe you write it.

The most common way of writing such a story is to fictionalize the Bible characters, perhaps create a few new ones, and tell the story in all its imagined detail but still set in the time and place that the Bible events occurred.

There is another way. It is taking the Bible themes and characters and transplanting them into another time and setting.

A few years ago Pacific Theatre did this with the story of Joseph and his brothers, performing what they called an ‘adaptation.’  Here’s is a description of that play, “Remnants (A Fable),” from the theatre’s website :

“…this refreshingly direct variation of an ancient tale traces a young man’s journey from a Polish shtetl to the work camps of depression-era Canada. Rising to become an advisor to Prime Minister Mackenzie King, Joseph is sent to turn back a boatload of European Jews – only to discover his brothers among the refugees.” Read entire …

Another adaptation I bumped into recently was the story of Esther with mouse characters (read “The Mouse King” on the website of Clubhouse Jr.).

Below is a review of still another adaptation. The Bark of the Bog Owl is Book One of a series about King David from the Old Testament. Author Jonathan Rogers has set this story for middle-grade readers in a fantasy time and place. Though this series is several years old (Book 1 came out in 2004), books like this are really timeless. If you’re looking for a fun series for children 8-12, consider these Wilderking books (Book 2 – The Secret of the Swamp King; Book 3 – The Way of the Wilderking).

My review of Bark of the Bog Owl:

Bark of the Bog Owl - Jonathan RogersTake places like Tambluff Castle, Feechiefen Swamp, Bonifay Plain and Greasy Cave. Now mix them with characters like Aidan Errolson, Dobro, King Darrow, Bayard the Truth Speaker, a contingent of scheming Pyrthens and you have The Bark of the Bog Owl, the first book of Jonathan Rogers’ Wilderking Trilogy.

In this series Rogers retells the story of David from the Old Testament. However, with the exception of the main plot line there is little else predictable about the story. The reworked characters have been transplanted to a medieval fantasyland which has a more-than-passing resemblance to Rogers’ native Georgia — as the jacket notes describe it: “a fantasy-adventure story told in an American accent.”

The book is a lively read. Twelve-year-old Aidan, his new friend Dobro, the Feechiefolk, Aidan’s brothers and the Pyrthens mix it up in play, celebration, arguments, hand-to-hand fights and a genuine battle. The action and adventure are also delivered with generous doses of humor in silly songs, rhymes and Mr. Rogers’ droll way with words.

Themes that come out in this tale are love of God and country, bravery, honor and on Aidan’s part, a thirst for action and adventure.

Though we get to know Aidan best, there are other interesting characters as well — the mysterious Dobro, Aidan’s somewhat jealous and condescending brothers and my favorite, Bayard the Truth Speaker.

It is Bayard’s wisdom, delivered in the mysterious voice of an authentic but weird prophet that had me, adult that I am, reaching for my highlighter. “Live the life that unfolds before you,” he tells Aidan on their first meeting. Later he reassures him, “Do not ask, ‘Am I being a fool?’ Ask, ‘Am I being the right sort of fool?’” It is this sage foundation that anchors the story and gives it a value which extends beyond hours of entertaining reading.

Kids in Grades 3-6 will enjoy this series. If I were the parent though, I wouldn’t give it to them to read. Rather I’d read it aloud to them myself and join in the fun.

Find out more about the author, and the Wilderking Trilogy plus see other books Jonathan Rogers has authored) on Rogers’ website (click on “About the books”)

(This review was first published on Blogcritics in 2006)

Title: The Bark Of The Bog Owl (The Wilderking Trilogy)
Author: Jonathan Rogers
Publisher: B&H Publishers, 2004, Hardcover and Kindle editions, 231 pages.
ISBN-10: 0805431314

Do you read biblical fiction? What do you like about it? Dislike?