Beyond the Politics, Check Your Heart

I figure it’s time for me to pause and say something to my blog readers, and anyone else who’s listening.

In general, I’m an upbeat kind of person. Yeah, I have a passion for books, so I post about them a lot. I’m in the middle of writing my own next book, which takes a healthy helping of my time. And with July coming up, I fully intend to have myself a merry little “Christmas in July” on my blog.

Still, while I’m busy writing and joyfully posting about stories and movies and all, I don’t want anyone to think I don’t very well see what’s happening in the United States right now. Not just what’s happening in America but what’s happening with Americans.

A country isn’t merely a place. A country is the people in that place. And, no, things aren’t just a little heated or uncomfy in America at present. We’re in a crisis. Not only does human crisis bring out the best or the worst in people, but it sets the stage for what kind of people they’ll be, going forward.

Trust and believe, you don’t become something deeply and drastically different overnight. It happens little by little—a day by day process. It’s a good thing when you’re aware of how you’re changing, how you’re evolving, when you’re intentional about it, and you wake up at peace with what you’ve become and are becoming. But it’s a sad thing when you wake up one day, look in the “mirror,” and realize there isn’t much true honor in what you’ve turned into. When you realize, somewhere along the line, in the middle of all the noise, you became too accustomed to tuning out your conscience.

With every discussion or dispute you hop into, you’re becoming something. With every catchy meme you jump on and share around on social media, you’re becoming something. With every voice you choose to agree with, every voice you choose to disagree with, and every voice you choose to disregard, you’re becoming something.

So my encouragement to everyone reading this is to stop and check to honestly see what you’re becoming. Not merely the person you say you are or want to be, or who you are when your friends are around to concur with your opinions, or who you are when you’re busy arguing with folks to prove a point. I mean for you to check on you. Not just to check on the immediate or loudest stuff in your brain, but to check on your heart. Deep down.

Don’t blindly allow this time of crisis to turn you into something you’ll regret or be ashamed of, years down the road. Don’t get so caught up in noise that you miss the present opportunity to work on your character, to become a better human being.

Don’t just know your politics. Check on that heart of yours.


Rough Days for Reviews, and My Encouragement

All the Book Love

As it happens with anything and anyone else, some days are harder than others for an author. On the marketing side of things, there’ve been some recent rough days in many an author’s neck of the woods, particularly where one crucial area of book marketing is concerned: book reviews.

There’s been an uproar (a recurrent one?) and much speculation as the online book reviews of more authors and reviewers have been disappearing. (Here are samples of the uproar and speculation, in case you’ve been out of the loop.)

I understand what all of the fuss is about, particularly for independent authors who work hard to get book reviews. Yes, the couple of handfuls of precious reviews I’ve been able to gather for my own books are the result of hours and hours, months and months of searching and querying, reading the review policies of anywhere from 600 to 700 book reviewers and bloggers, individually contacting about 300 whose preferences and requirements I met, getting “Yes, I’ll review your book!” responses from about half of those, and resulting in what I have so far.

Please excuse my inexact numbers. I’ll admit that the closer I got to 1,000 reviewers, fatigue set in, and I started losing track of the count, even with my recording all the data. 🙂 I had to get back to reading and writing to regain my strength.

And speaking of reading and writing, reviewing parameters have the potential to get sticky for a bookworm who loves writing books as much as reading and reviewing them. I mean, once someone writes a book, any other book that person reads from that day forward is “another author’s” book. That’s a whole ‘nother subject.

Anyway, in the midst of these rough days, I’ve had to recall the dear memory of once finding a novel that saved my life. The author wrote it long before I was born, and there’s no way she or her publisher could have known anything about Nadine C. Keels and what Nadine would be going through when she happened to find the book on a shelf, decades down the line. And I have no idea what difficulties the author or publisher may’ve had to overcome to get that book out into the world.

But God and the orchestration of His universe had a way of making sure the right book from the right author got into this reader’s hands at just the right time. I believe I’m not at all the only reader that has ever happened to, and it makes me trust that the same will ultimately happen for the books I’ve written for others.

Nope, this encouragement isn’t very scientific, but when I’m putting everything I am and everything I’ve got into writing and planning and publishing and marketing and all, and another uproar or obstacle in the process arises, I have to remind myself of why I think it’s worth it to keep at it, even when favorable results are hard to come by and seem minimal. There are so many uncontrollable factors anyway, factors that go into when, where, and why a book sells, and once it’s sold, if it’s actually read.

So, as a reader and an author, I’ll keep doing what I can, change or improve what I can, try not to stress too much over what’s out of my hands, and remember all the books that have gotten into my hands at the right time, despite what the obstacles may have been.

*Oh! And if you’re a reader, do know that the reviews you write mean so much and are a great help to the authors you love to read.*


“A Novel Saved My Life.”

Hope, Inspiration, Genius

A particularly meaningful author interview of mine is no longer available where it once was. So, I’m sharing a part of it here.

Why did you start writing, Nadine?

I often call fiction my “first love.” I’ve been a bookworm all my life, and my love of writing stemmed from my childhood reading adventures with books by authors like Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, and L.M. Montgomery. Hence, I’ve been writing stories since I was about seven or eight years old. Then, during the few days of a horrific experience I had when I was thirteen, a novel saved my life: John Nielson Had a Daughter, by Ruth Livingston Hill (Ruth Munce.) Recounting that experience would take a whole separate interview, but suffice it to say that my purpose for writing books was first awakened there. I now write to help people: to bring hope, to change minds, to expand imagination, to provide entertainment, and to save lives, all of which other authors’ books have done for me.

Fueled by the purpose awakened in me when Munce’s novel saved my life, I wrote my first novel, Yella’s Prayers, when I was seventeen, with the hope of saving someone else. Interestingly enough, I only recently learned that Munce, who lived to be 103, lived all the way until I began the first work I seriously planned on publishing. Munce passed just days after I started writing Yella’s Prayers, in May of 2001.


It’s important to know why you do what you do…


Favorite Reads 2014

Annual Favorite Reads Banner Jewels

I received complimentary copies of most of the books I mention here from the publishers in exchange for honest reviews, which you’ll find in the posts I’ve linked to.

At last! I’ve been anticipating this post since I started book blogging earlier this year. As this blog is all about hope and inspiration, these are the books that most fit that bill for me in 2014 and that I highly recommend to fellow readers. I’ve purposely listed them in an eclectic order. Here we go!
*And to the authors of the winning books, if you’d like a medal for making the list, see the bottom of this post.*

Keeping QuietThe Fine Art of Keeping Quiet by Charity Tahmaseb

Contemporary Fiction/Young Adult Fiction

★★★★★ from me

If I had to describe all the places this book took me as I read it, it would require a book’s-worth of space for me to make it plain. Here’s a brilliant novel that can do a world of good for any reader around twelve-years-old and up, a story that shows us what happens when you lose your voice as a person. How are you going to get it back? This is the kind of beautiful work I can see myself reading over and over again.

The Butterfly and the ViolinThe Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron

Christian Fiction/Historical Fiction

★★★★★ from me

Utterly life-affirming. I’m convinced that Cambron tapped into a place invisible and eternal to write this powerful piece of World War II fiction, as it tapped into something invisible and eternal in me, the place where the hope of glory lives, as I read it, and I doubt I’m the only reader who’s experienced it that way. What a debut for this author! I can’t wait to read the sequel in 2015, which I absolutely intend to.

Harvest of RubiesHarvest of Rubies by Tessa Afshar

Christian Fiction/Biblical Fiction

★★★★★ from me

New-to-me historical fiction by a new-to-me author. This amazing novel brought the heroine’s life as a scribe (at the time, a man’s job) down to earth without at all removing the true feel of the period. (Well, no–I wasn’t around during the time of the ancient Persian empire, but Sarah is so relatable, I might as well have been in Persia right there with her and her heartwarming friends…and challenging husband.)

The Almond TreeThe Almond Tree by Michelle Cohen Corasanti

Fiction/World Literature

★★★★★ from me

Written by a Jewish American author, here’s a book that’s garnered all kinds of attention and was the first such trip I’d ever taken to Palestine–a political novel, I’m sure, but I wasn’t caught up in the politics of it so much as I was gripped by its humanity. It’s a tragic but optimistic story simply told with the feel of a memoir, a novel I’ve deemed to be fuel for hope and compassion for humankind.

Prelude for a LordPrelude for a Lord by Camille Elliot

Christian Fiction/Regency Romantic Suspense

★★★★★ from me

What? A lady in Regency England playing the violin, of all instruments during the period? Simply scandalous! I was pleasantly surprised at the mix of action and suspense in this novel of artistry, romance, and questions of faith, and there’s nothing thin or forced in the development of these intriguing characters. Even if my physical ears couldn’t exactly hear Lady Alethea Sutherton’s music, my soul did.

Elderberry CroftElderberry Croft: The Complete Collection by Becky Doughty

Christian Fiction/Women’s Fiction

★★★★★ from me

An altogether refreshing find for me, a collection of twelve deftly intertwined stories in what I call an Anne-of-Green-Gables-Avonlea-type place. The months progress from a warm, feel-good tone to something appropriately darker as more of Willow’s story is revealed, but not too dark to still, ultimately, feel good. I was absorbed throughout this tough journey of faith, grief, and love.

Just MercyJust Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson


★★★★★ from me

I don’t read as many biographies and such as I do novels. Still, I was honored to get an early look at this timely narrative by Stevenson, the Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice that defends the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children in the criminal justice system of the United States. This is an important book for Americans of all races and classes.

Thief of GloryThief of Glory by Sigmund Brouwer

Christian Fiction/Historical Fiction

★★★★★ from me

Heartrending. Raw. Superb. Another World War II novel and a masterfully written piece of fiction, exposing a side of the war that I’d never visited before through a novel, in the Dutch East Indies, or Indonesia. This book’s back cover copy hardly does it justice, and the age of the woman on the front is more reminiscent of where the novel doesn’t linger than where it does, but those outside factors aside, the novel itself hits its mark profoundly.

Heidi Grows UpHeidi Grows Up by Charles Tritten

Classics/Children’s Books

★★★★ from me

Okay, so, Heidi doesn’t look like that. She has dark, curly hair according to her original author, Johanna Spyri, if my memory serves me correctly. And this rather YA fiction-looking book cover isn’t, admittedly, the cover of the old copy I procured this year. But this cover does tell us a little more than Tritten would’ve expressed outright to the kiddies, and if someone must write a sequel to another author’s work, I’d say Tritten’s way is the way to do it.

Black BubblegumBlack Bubblegum by Lewis P. Bryon

Inspirational Poetry

★★★★★ from me

Bryon (not “Byron,” mind you–Bryon) is a multiracial author and spoken word artist whose poetry should be read aloud, if the reader’s reading situation allows. While this is evidently a Christian collection of work from a man of faith, I wouldn’t at all call it syrupy or super-sanitized. Bryon’s words are honest, real, poignant, and they hit you where they hit you. And I dare you not to want to pop in a few pieces of gum to chomp when you read this.

Magnolia MarketMagnolia Market by Judy Christie

Christian Fiction/Romance

★★★★★ from me

I confess–reading Christie’s novel that precedes this one might have helped me to keep the beginning information on the characters straighter, as I wasn’t aware that this book is a sequel until after I got a copy. But, was my enjoyment of this novel with small-town drama and classism, romance, and humor diminished by that? Not in the least. My being a Seattleite also gives it extra points, but it’s a good novel no matter where you’re from.

Somewhere Safe with Somebody GoodSomewhere Safe with Somebody Good by Jan Karon

Christian Fiction

★★★★★ from me

So. With this novel, I’m totally guilty of knowingly jumping into an ongoing series without having read any of the books before it. In this case, the nine books before it. But, alas, I found this novel’s title irresistible. And when I tell you that I immediately felt right at home in Mitford with Father Tim Kavanagh and his supporting cast of neighbors, and I could easily see why Karon is a New York Times bestselling author, I so mean it.

Me and GeorgetteMe & Georgette by D.B. Schaefer

Regency Romance/Time-slip Fiction

★★★★ from me

I’ve simply never read another novel like it. I mean, Jewish and historical English culture mixed with humor, romance, and time travel? How could Schaefer pull that off? Yet, pull it off she does in an entertaining Regency novel that takes some unusual chances and is all the better for it. I hear tell that fans of Georgette Heyer novels will especially like it, and though I’m not personally familiar with Heyer’s work, I especially liked this novel anyway.

Congratulations, authors, and thank you for writing your books! If I’ve selected yours as a 2014 Favorite Read, you’re welcome to a complimentary medal to display on your website, blog, social media–wherever you wish. Click the image below and contact me to receive a full size PNG medal. (The lined watermark will be removed, of course, and the medal will include the award year on it.) Thanks again!