Tag Archive | Lisa Lickel

Confessions of a Newbie Editor

A year ago I took a step of faith and became part of the Prism Book Group team, taking on the role of Acquisitions Editor. This article is not an attempt to brag, but more of a confession of sorts. prism logo

Lessons: I had never been an editor before, so there was a learning curve. Here is some of what I learned:

  • I discovered how much fear held me back until I had to push against deadlines to make sure my authors had books ready for publication.
  • I relished how good it feels to give an author that contract – and to celebrate with them when their dreams are in print for the world to read. 
  • I’ve developed a way of giving rejections that takes some of the sting out and helps writers grow. I may not contract them but I do still care. This was the scariest part of taking the job. I still don’t like to do it but at least I don’t crush dreams (or try not to).
  • I delight in encouraging authors at conferences.  

People. All the highlights this past year have shown up in the form of relationships:  

Lisa Lickel is the person who passed along the job opportunity with Prism. At first I couldn’t believe it. You think I could do what? But I asked friends, took a test (and passed) and prayed about it. Then I took the plunge and have not regretted it. She became the first author (in a group of four) that I signed. She protested, “I didn’t tell you to get the job so you would publish me!” I’m glad I did, as Brave New Century was a huge revelation. I worked with four different authors and stories all at once. Do you know how intimidating it was to edit an editor’s work as well as when she is a dear friend? She must not have minded Prism at all as she just came out with another novel, The Last Detail, in January. Because it wasn’t a strict romance, fellow editor Marcy Dyer did the honors of working on that book.

Anita Klumpers entrusted her debut novel to me and worked her butt off with such cheerfulness. Anything I threw at her she took and was grateful. Her attitude was such a bolster to me and a bit frightening. Sure. She had never been through this process before. But neither had I. Her novel was released on January 22nd. Just coming up the the title, Winter Watch, with her was an adventure in and of itself. I loved every minute.

Daisy Jerico also entrusted me with her fun novella and delivered the best pitch I ever heard to date. She talked like she loved her characters and she was telling the story of something that happened to a close friend. The Love Thief ebook has done well and if you want sassy and suspenseful romance – that book is pure delight. I must not have done too bad with her as she signed with me again. Sparks Fly is due out in July. Oh, and we’ve had coffee together and both emerged victorious during 2013’s NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).

Paula Mowery was part of an anthology I had contracted and became interested in doing my job. Well, not my job, but the same position. There’s plenty of great fiction to go around! I have now worked with her on not one – but two books! Brave New Century released in November of 2013 and Love and Legacy released March 19, 2014.

Jacqueline Hopper is another Acquisitions Editor at Prism Book Group and an author in her own right. She has been a great support and willing to answer all kinds of questions to the newbie on the block. She helps with scheduling reviews and making teasers and trailers for our books. (Check out her novella The Gingerbread House!)

I also had the honor of working a repeat Prism author, Penelope Marzec on her book Patriot’s Heart which released in February.

Finally, I have to mention Joan Alley, the owner, and Editor-in-Chief of Prism Book Group. She was willing to take a chance on me and I am grateful she did as I have learned so much in the process about writing, about speaking, and about myself.

I’ll be honest. I did this as a way to earn a little income while waiting for my own books to come to print.

I gained something far more valuable in the process, and I am grateful.

Hibernation

Me (l), Anita Klumpers, (rt)

Me (l), Anita Klumpers, (rt)

I met with some lovely writerly friends last week and we chatted about all kinds of things. We were especially celebrating the release of Anita Klumper’s debut novel, Winter Watch and Lisa Lickel’s new book, The Last Detail. Both are fabulous reads and I’ve reviewed them here.

This is not a critique group. This is a sanity group. A networking group. A group of writers who love Christ and want to serve him with our gifts. We encourage, tease as well as share ideas and lessons learned.

Writing can be a lonely career. We sit at a computer, or with a pencil/pen and paper and let all our thoughts, dreams and plots come ooooozing out onto the page.

Sometimes it’s ugly. Sometimes it’s brilliant. It’s always solitary.

Even for pure extroverts, interaction with other human being is essential. I’m an “ambivert,” which means I’m in the middle of the extrovert/introvert scale. As much as I love people,I love the quiet alone time too. Even I need to be intentional about leaving my house to actually do more than shop for groceries and pick up my kids from school.

I have to socialize sometimes.

But writers are an unusual people. Only other writers can really understand the emotional ins and outs of doing this thing which seems so simple. If we do it really well we might even get paid.

And when we release our babies into the world we wait for people to tell us whether they love it or not. Sometimes the trolls try to negate the hard work we’ve done.

It’s winter as I write. It’s been record-breakingly cold. I struggle with depression and winter does not make that easier to cope with. So, knowing myself the way I do I make it a point to attend these writer lunches.

I don’t think it matters what you do. You can’t grow and thrive in isolation. We all need others. As a stay-at-home mom of tiny tots, that was MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers), and for awhile it was a class I taught. Moms of young kids need to get out and be with other moms. Writers need to connect with other writers.

We share our struggles with others in similar situations to know we are not alone. We are not unique in the challenges we face. I follow many writers on-line who struggle with the gamut of health issues, family challenges, financial trials. Life seems to conspire against us to accomplish our goals.

When God calls us to write (or parent), and we seek to do it for His glory, then we should expect oppostion. Our enemy is not the trolls who write the nasty one star review without reading the book. Our enemy is a spiritual one who doesn’t want the messages of love and hope that we write about in our stories or poems or artwork. Beauty is born often of pain.

So if you are an author–do you meet regularly, face to face, with real people? How often?

If you are a reader, please pray for your favorite author or any friend you know who creates trying to bring honor to God with their gifts. While it may not seem important in the larger scheme of the world, it’s possible that one book, drawing or poem, might be the one that God uses to draw a soul into a relationship with Him. Our enemy will do anything to stop that. We covet your prayers. And if you read our books, write a review and let others know so they can enjoy them too.

You may never know the lives you touch when you step out instead of hibernating.

Stay warm!

Brave New Century (Book Review)

Brave new century final coverBrave New Century is a lovely quartet of four novellas. Four women in search of their identity in the new century, 1900. The time is filled challenges, triumphs and responsibilities. Four stories. Four lives. Four loves. (Click here for a link to the print version of the book)

In the first story, Three Rings for Alice, Lisa Lickel highlights Alice Smith’s struggles to be a modern woman. Orphaned, she has to make her own way in the world and in a time when women are just coming into the workforce, it is fraught with uncertainty. Vowing to never marry, time and a secret love changes her mind with a decision to marry for no less than love. Even if the one she loves is only known as a voice on the telephone.

Paula Mowery’s tale, Forgiven, brings us Jessie Lee Capelle who wonders if she will ever have a loving family. When she meets laborer Henry Smith her dreams look like they will come true. When a surprising twist of history is revealed, can their love withstand the truth. Can they forgive?

In The Pocket Watch, Kathleen Rouser weaves a tale of Isabel Jones, an orphan in Detroit Michigan who’s only real desire is to know who her parents were. An accident brings her into the world of Dr. Daniel Harper and a pocket watch brings them together even as a special ring, left by Isobel’s mother, threatens to reveal terrible truths. Can love withstand these obstacles?

Teena Stewart tells the final story, Flames of Hope.  Lily McMinn’s Irish family operates a thriving mercantile n San Francisco. She enjoys visits by Gideon Light, a police officer. When a  violent earthquake destroys much of the city, countless people die. The crippled fire department is helpless to fight multiple fires raging out of control. Can Lily and her family survive the tragedy with the help of Gideon?

Love, romance, history. Four different stories but with these uniting themes. Step back in time and enjoy the journey these four women make. You’ll be glad you did.

Healing Grace (Book Review)

Lisa LIckelI’ve read and reviewed several books by my friend, author Lisa Lickel, so when she asked about a re-do of a previous book, I jumped at the chance. Once I started reading Healing Grace though I quickly realized that this book was different from the rest. It’s not a mystery. It’s not necessarily a romance. What it is, is spellbinding as it drew me in and I couldn’t be satisfied until I got to the last page (which means yes, I read it all in one day).

Grace Runyon has faced overwhelming losses and burdened with guilt over the last of them, the death of her husband to cancer, she runs away from her Tennessee town to a tiny place in Michigan. Grace has known from a young age that she had a spiritual gift of healing, but it had not saved her husband. While no one else blames her for his death, she cannot forgive herself and struggles with God, the giver of the gift, who had withheld it’s power.

Impulsively buying a little cottage home, she ends up neighbors to the Marshalls and faced again with the need to heal as Ted is suffering from an unnamed illness that is debilitating and will eventually kill. She falls in love with Ted through his son Eddy, a little boy who captures her heart but also stirs the grief of the little boy she had lost herself due to a car accident.

Healing-Grace200x300[1]Grace decides to re-enter the work world as a physician’s assistant and at times finds her gift of healing being exercised in secret at the clinic to help her patients. This comes at a cost however. Some healings cause her deep emotional and physical pain that mirrors her patient’s agony, although recovery is quick. Soon many in the town question whether she is a witch, although her gift has never brought harm. Coupled with her perceived failure in her past, self-doubts arise and Grace faces a crisis that tears apart her soul.

I don’t want to be a spoiler for the story. It is a worthy read and one I hope to read again. Lisa’s dives into a minefield of emotions as well as the theological minefield of spiritual gifts since some schools of thought believe certain gifts like healing are not for this age. I disagree. I was impressed by her balanced view of spiritual gifts. Gifts are from God. They are used for the church (body of believers) and they are not used at our will, but His.

Gifts sometimes come with a cost as we serve and pour ourselves out as an act of worship. Grace illustrates that powerfully.  The final scene of the book is riveting. You can disagree if you want about the dispensation of gifts but let’s be clear, nothing Lisa writes indicates a “psychic” or “satanic” power at work. Is it real? It’s fiction,  but I wouldn’t put it past God to work in the way she describes.  For this I applaud her because she masterfully illustrated biblical truths: like love requiring sacrifice and the challenge believers all have to set aside self and pride, and even the desire for the love and affirmation of others, in order to be used.

I’ve enjoyed all of Lisa Lickel’s novels that I have had the privilege to read. Healing Grace, however, is by far the best of them all.

Meow Mayhem (Book Review)

meow mayhem coverI just finished Lisa Lickel’s cozy mystery/romance Meow Mayhem, this morning and still basking in the glow of the sweetness of it. The small town of Apple Grove is dying and it’s mayor, Donald Conklin recruits fellow Egyptian Mau owners, Amanda McTeague Preston and Truesdale Thomson to move their businesses to the town, with incentives, to help stimulate growth.

Egyptian Mau’s are a specific breed of cat, with spots instead of stripes. Valuable and pedigreed.

True liked the idea of moving because he wanted to get to know Amanda. Amanda moved so she could start life afresh after being jilted by her fiancé.

But life, and romance, never runs smooth. When the mayor is found dead, and possibly murdered the town spreads rumors and fights against the new businesses. Amanda and True wonder if this is where they are meant to be, but they believed the mayor’s vision for the town and want to honor him. So they stay and try to uncover the mystery.

This book is unusual as it is written entirely in the first person from only Amanda’s point of view. I’ll admit that this is not my favorite type of POV to read and because of that, not the story, it took awhile for me to really get immersed in the mystery. Partly because Amanda keeps sticking her nose impulsively into trouble and I got frustrated with that!

The mystery is well crafted though and with all the clues and problems that occur in the town there was no certainty of how things would resolve – or if they even would. Would Donald’s murderer be uncovered? What’s up with the chocolate (I even suspected that they might be poisoned and part of an evil plot to undo Amanda)?

mau catAnd those cats. I’m not a cat person and even went to look online to get a better feel for what this breed looked like. I loved the way Lisa Lickel gave each of the three cats in the story distinct personalities and how she beautifully highlighted the unique relationship a pet owner has with the pet they have come to love like family.

I’m allergic to cats and didn’t sneeze once during this book. It was an enjoyable read and “cozy,” although towards the end I did start dreaming and wondering what was next when I would go to bed! Always the sign of a good book when it keeps you thinking about it even when you are sleeping.

Thanks Lisa for this light, cozy mystery and for not making it too easy to solve. You tied it up nicely and even had room for a little bit of surprise at the end. Well done!

Versatile Blogger Award Winner

A Thank You

I want to thank CD Meyers for nominating me for the Versatile Blogger award. His website is: http://countrylifediscipleship.wordpress.com/   It was very sweet and I’m glad you found my blog and enjoy it!

Fifteen other Blogs

Now, as part of this lovely award, I have the assignment to pass on to you fifteen other blogs that I personally visit and enjoy as I nominate them for this award as well. Nominating for this award is all that has to be done to win it – so not only are they nominated – they win! So, drumroll please, my personal pics for Versatile Blogger Award are:

  • http://www.thebarndoor.net/   “Seeing the world through Midwestern eyes.” (sometimes you’ll find a story from me here as well).
  • http://notafraidtotellmystory.wordpress.com/  Athena Dean shares her journey out of a cult where she lost everything to fall into the freedom and grace of Jesus.
  • http://goinswriter.com/about-me/  I like Jeff’s authenticity as he writes about writing and  challenges to a living faith.
  • http://wakeupmyfaith.wordpress.com/about/  Kevin Adams is living life on the edge of faith. Wanna be challenged to get out of the boat? Follow him.
  • http://elisabethcorcoran.blogspot.com/   Elisabeth is spinning gold from the pain of a broken heart.
  • http://www.chipmacgregor.com/    He’s not my agent, but he writes great stuff about writing and life. He has shown a boldness to speak truth when attacked by a cult regarding a publishing takeover (see Athena Dean’s blog listed above).
  • http://www.leslievernick.com/  “Enriching relationships that matter most,” Leslie writes from the perspective of a biblical psychotherapist and she does it well.
  • http://christianregency.com/blog/   This is a blog for those who love inspirational Regency fiction, one of the genres in which I write (and love to read). Many posts are on tidbits about the time period but recently they had a celebration where the various authors who participate wrote one story together. It was fun to read.
  • http://www.vondaskelton.com/   This lady is a hoot but don’t let her humor fool you – she is dedicated to empowering and encouraging others and she does it with the most beautiful smile.
  • http://thewriteconversation.blogspot.com/   Edie Melson is a sweetheart who writes about writing and has become a social media guru. Lots of good info on her blog.
  • http://southernwritersmagazine.blogspot.com/   You don’t have to be Southern to appreciate the wealth of wisdom compiled in these pages.
  • http://michaelhyatt.com/   “Intentional Leadership”  I’ve enjoyed this blog for a long time now – lots of wisdom for leaders as well as writers. I don’t know why I bought his book “Platform” when everything in the book is here on the blog if you only look for it. Oh, he knows the industry too having been CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers for many years.
  • http://www.marydemuth.com/  “Live Uncaged” I love Mary’s heart and her willingness to be vulnerable and gut-wrenchingly honest about life, abuse, healing, faith and writing.
  • http://livingourfaithoutloud.blogspot.com/  This is by a dear friend and writing mentor Lisa Lickel.
  • http://lillygracebrown.wordpress.com/  She writes to those struggling in difficult marriages. If you know of anyone who is there – connect them with Lilly Grace.

Seven Things

As part of the award I’m to share seven things about myself. So here goes…

  1. My favorite color is red-raspberry, or magenta, or fushia or whatever you want to call a bright bold pinkish/purple.
  2. I used to do ComedySportz in Milwaukee. I took workshops there and worked for them as a second job for awhile. It was a great place to be wild and crazy but boy did we work hard. Fond memories of my time there. I speak fluent jibberish.
  3. I love people who are willing to admit to the truth of a chronic mental illness or any weakness and struggle they have. Maybe because that’s the population I worked with. Maybe because I have major depressive disorder. Maybe because we’re all just a little bit crazy.
  4. My moniker “silygoos” came when I was getting personalized plates for my van. It was one of three choices (actually number 2) but what I ended up with (SILY GOS). To save money in our budget I no longer have those plates on my car. I tried to argue it was biblical to have them but my husband didn’t buy it. “Vanity of vanity, all is vanity.” (Ecclesiastes). *sigh*
  5. I’m an early to bed girl. Sleep has always been something I value and make time for. So if you call me after 8:30, I may not respond.  I get up early as well as it’s the only quiet time I can often get in my day. I have a friend who nicknamed me “Snoozin.”
  6. I’m the original runaway bride. Two cancelled weddings (one on the morning of) before the actual one really happened. Long story, maybe it’ll show up in one of my novels someday.
  7. IMG_0074After years of being told I was allergic to dogs – I finally own my own dog. Spatzle is a maltese mix and a sassafras (that’s what I call him along with “poochi-poo”). He’s my dog even though I share him with the rest of the  family. He was a rescue and has been a huge blessing in my life. No is ever as happy to see me as he is so he’s good for my ego. Oh, and I’m not allergic to him at all.

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop – following Lisa Lickel

I’m following in the blogsteps of the fabulous Lisa Lickel, http://livingourfaithoutloud.blogspot.com/2012/12/the-next-big-thing-blog-hop-following.html   who posted about Meow Mayhem last week.

Today, I’d like to share a bit about my latest work in progress:

What is the working title of your book?

Lord Harrow’s Heart

 Where did the idea come from for the book?
This book is the fourth in my Rose Hill Series. The first is “The Virtuous Viscount” followed by “Lord Phillip’s Folly” and “Lord Michael’s Mischief.” I was trying to keep with the double sounding consonants in the title while trying to convey a bit of what the book is about. Theo (Lord Harrow) is really looking for love, hence the heart.

What genre does your book fall under?

Historical/Regency Romance

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Can you picture him in a cravat?

Can you picture him in a cravat?

I try to look for pictures on-line of people (actors/models etc) that are kind of the image I have of my character. This one was hard because Theodore was kind of the anti-hero. He’s more of a cuddly teddy-bear type. Not the haughty London aristocrat, but a gentle man, strong but soft. He’s not as athletic as the other protagonists from my previous novels. Marcus (Virtuous Viscount) was very controlled and fit. Phillip was a bit anal-retentive but trim. Michael was scrappy, kind of like a street fighter, lean and muscular but on the shorter end of things. Theo is gentle which seems so much more passive in his personality. I finally hit on Emilio Estevez. Not sure if he could handle the British accent though.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Lord Theodore Harrow wants to find love, without the drama, but in Valeria he gets more than he bargained for: adventure.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

My series is as of yet unpublished. My first novel is at a publishing house to be considered and my prayer is that a publishing house who believes in the Regency genre would contract for the whole series.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I wrote the initial draft (85,000 words) in thirty days during November’s NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).  I’ll be doing some light edits and handing it off to my beta readers while ignoring if for a month or more before tearing it apart and polishing it. I can write a full-length novel without NaNo – but it’s fun to do it this way. I have written the previous three in this series that way. I have also written two contemporary romances without NaNo. (check out www.nanowrimo.org for more information on that kind of writing adventure).

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I wish I could say that I write as well as Georgette Heyer, Julia Klassen or Lawanna Blackwell – but to be honest, my Regencies are filled with a bit more mystery and adventure than most would be. They tend to have a faster pace. This is no Jane Austen. My men struggle more with temptation too. Theo really likes kissing. I keep things clean but there is a bit of “heat” there.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?
I started writing four years ago and the series kind of spun out of that first book. I started writing because of a dream and a story I had in my head for 15 years. I kept writing because I found I loved it! So I guess you could say it’s all God’s fault.

I had decided all five of my male characters from Marcus Remington’s story (The Virtuous Viscount) needed their own tales. After all, these men need wives! They just have a bit more of a challenge finding their “happily ever after.” This year it was Theodore’s turn for love. Next year Captain Jared Allendale will have his opportunity but it will likely occur mostly in France, Spain and Portugal before they end up at Rose Hill.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
There’s some evil afoot. My band of men seem to keep running into a dark, sinister character known as The Black Diamond. He surfaces in the Virtuous Viscount, is in the background of Lord Phillip’s Folly, becomes far more involved in Sir Michael’s Mischief and is quite personally involved in Lord Harrow’s Heart. He’s a threat to the crown as well as to these men – and the women they love. So there’s a thread of mystery and suspense that weaves through the books. It’s not all about stolen kisses!

Look for the animals too. Some play more significant roles than others. My favorite though had to be the ferret that was in Michael’s story. There’s a sweet kitten in Theo’s tale that gives an assist at an important time.

Check out my fellow writer and friend Shellie Neumeier today at:  http://shellieneumeier.com/2012/12/the-next-big-thing-blog-hop/

On December 19th – go visit my friend and fellow Regency Romance author Susan at: www.graciouswoman.wordpress.com.

Meander Scar (Book Review)

I happen to be friends with Lisa Lickel, the author of Meander Scar.I’ve read two of her other books and have reviewed them here on my blog (Summer in Oakville and The Map Quilt). When she gave me a copy of her book Meander Scar to read, I felt honored. Always dicey though to review a book by a friend because I want to be honest. But I dug in and read.

Oh. My. Word.

Meander Scar has to be one of the best books I have read in a long time. I couldn’t put it down and when I got to the end I just wanted to cry. I still do as I think of it.

Ann Ballard has been living her life in limbo since her husband Gene disappeared in New York seven years go. Attempts to rule him as dead were constantly blocked by Gene’s mother, Donna.  Ann’s son has been angry and blaming his mother for his father’s disappearance but is now married about to have a child of his own. Oh, and there’s money. Huge amounts of money, held in trust and locked away from Ann so she barely can survive in spite of her missing husband’s wealth.

Then Mark Roth rolls back into town, all grown up from the 19 year old next door neighbor boy – now a man and an attorney and declares his love for the 40 something Ann, it propels them on a journey of towards love and to uncover the truths behind the mystery that has held Ann captive for seven years.

Can Mark prove his love to Ann ‘s heart that has been abandoned and alone for so long? Can they overcome the age differences?  Can Mark find the family and love he has only ever seen from Ann but never experienced in his own family? Can love prevail and faith grow through the twists and turns that life takes?

I don’t want to spoil the surprises in what is a mysterious love story that will twist your heart and raises the bar to what a biblical version of love really is. Lisa writes with raw passion with all the emotions expressed from love to anger to despair and to grief. She takes you there which is wonderful and uncomfortable all at once.

I love  Mark and Ann and wish there were a sequel to their love story. . . it might only have the mystery of how love prevails over time, but isn’t that the greatest mystery of all anyway?

I love this book. If I didn’t have it in ebook form it would be one of the few books that would never leave my possession (I often give paperback fiction books away to our church library). Not because I want to be selfish – but more because it’s one of those rare books I would want to read again. . . and again. . . I need to create a category on my kindle for “keepers” – this would be one of the rare books in there.

Kudos, Lisa Lickel, on a fabulous piece of fiction. And thank you for being a mentor and friend in my own writing journey. You are a jewel.

The Map Quilt: Buried Treasure Mysteries Book 2 (Book Review)

I’ll admit I did it. I rarely buy fiction, but when my friend Lisa Lickel came out with her e-book, The Map Quilt, I actually PAID to have it on my kindle. I know. I need help.

I’m more of a comedy and/or romance kind of girl. I’m not big on mystery and there is certainly one in The Map Quilt. Murder. Fire. Enemies. Buried Treasure. Midnight visitors. But there was also a sweet romance between Hart and Judy. Lighthearted bantering that made them seem so real. And cupid also decided that one romance just wasn’t enough! Drama, suspense and mystery as well.

So what’s it about? Hart has developed a new technology for the farming industry but before it can reach production a mysterious fire, death of a hostile co-worker and the missing invention raise all kinds of questions. How does that weave in with a mysterious quilt and a missing deed to a property in another state and this unusual speaker who has come to share information as well as seek answers to an age-old mystery?  A skeleton, gold-coins and the smell of gasoline. Lisa ties all these elements together into a beautiful package.

It was also a wonderfully complex book. Lisa really knew her stuff and had obviously researched things well to weave history of the underground railroad as well as current issues with technology into her book against the backdrop of a small Wisconsin community. A cozy mystery.

I enjoyed this book. I got so sucked into it I couldn’t go to bed until I finished it. It is the second book after The Gold Standard, which I have not read (yet). It stands alone though and it is not necessary to have read the first book to fully enjoy this one.

Lisa, I’m blessed to call you a friend and happy to say I loved your book (she knows me well enough that if I didn’t, I would say so – or just avoid posting a review!).

It’s not out in paperback yet, but will be in time. But the e-book is worth the price. So go get it.

A Summer in Oakville (book review)

I’m ashamed to admit that I was reluctant to read this book. The title didn’t really grab me. Maybe because I live in Wisconsin near Oakfield and didn’t think that a book about Oakville would be all that interesting.  So why did I read it? Well, to be honest – because two authors I admire wrote it: Shellie Neumeier and Lisa Lickel.

This book is an inspirational contemporary story about small town life and a family that hails from there. There is action, romance, a struggle against local politics and the desire to preserve heritage. What is unique about this story is that it is one series of events that is told in novellas based on the perspective of four members of one family.

The first to tell her story is Tessa. A mom of two grown daughters and a grandmother who is rooted to her hometown and willing to dig those roots in deeper even at the expense of her marriage. She is  plagued by a secret from her past that threatens to explode in the midst of her present challenges. Is her marriage doomed? And how will she deal with the man from her past that stirs up pain and longing at the same time?

Tess has a daughter, Lindsay. Her story is second in the book. Lindsay seems to be a little more mature than her mother, and wiser. She is struggling to find value and worth, while hanging out in the country at her Grandparent’s home and waiting for the career opportunity that will make the best use of her gifts and education. Can she ‘fix’ her grandparent’s problem? And what about her conflicting feelings for the young man who stirs her heart but might be her enemy?

The next story told is from the perspective of a hurting and rebellious young man, Andy (Tessa’s nephew/Lindsay’s cousin).  He struggles to understand why God would allow his mother to die and he acts out in ways that risk his own life. Sent to stay with his Grandparent’s in sticks of Oakville is not an ideal summer vacation when a kid has experienced life in Madison, Wisconsin.  Andy learns the hard way the  value of work, family and of forgiveness.  And he might be a bit in love too.

Andy’s father, Art (younger brother to Tessa), has run away from the farm in the country to escape his ghosts. Earning a PhD and having a successful career, he ironically studies gerontology (aging) while at the same time basically ignoring his aging parents. He feels like he is failing as a single father after losing his wife in a tragic accident. He struggles to believe in a God who would allow so much grief in his life. How can he reach his son when he is so wrapped up in his own pain? A lost romance lures him back to Oakville and his story actually has the sweetest ending of them all.

One series of events in a small town forces a family to reconnect. This story leaves some unanswered questions and I find myself wishing that the Grandmother’s story had also been told here. I would have been good to explore her  perspective as she juggles all the emotions  of her two children and grandchildren, the crisis that threatens her home, and her struggle to care for her disabled husband. What is impressive is that her character, as the glue to this family, is consistent through the four novellas. She’s one awesome lady in my opinion.

I recommend this book because it is written so differently from anything else I have picked up. Faith is important to this story. Two authors have written but there is one voice. I know both of these authors personally and could not figure out which one had written which chapter. The characters speak with authenticity. This family is not perfect, but their struggle is genuine. The book is a good reminder too that as we go through life – and face our difficult circumstances, there are people around us, experiencing those same situations through an entirely different lens of experience and emotion, and yet God is weaving all together beautifully.

Congratulations to Shellie Neumeier and Lisa Lickel for crafting a unique book. I will probably be reading it again which I don’t often do with novels. Maybe, as a writer,  I’ll challenge myself to write Grandma’s story just for fun.