A Nickname Turned Novel…

“…Rumpelstiltskin.”

I looked up at the grinning blue eyed little girl, her blonde hair dancing around her shoulders. I don’t recall for certain what she said to me, other than that she included her newest nickname for me. In the short time I’d known this girl, several years my junior, she had come up with a small number of names to call me, often with a meaning that went above my head. Like today.

I turned my attention back down to the Monopoly board, but her brother shook his head. “Wow. You have the nicest names for her!”

I snapped my head up again and the girl’s grin deepened. I turned to her brother. “What is Rumpelstiltskin?”

She started to giggle, while he raised his eyebrows. “You don’t know who Rumpelstiltskin is?”

“No.”

He didn’t answer, but took his turn at Monopoly instead.

“Is Rumpelstiltskin good or bad?”

He shrugged. “He’s pretty much a villain.”

The girl laughed.

That night marked my very first introduction to the gold spinning character of fairy tale. Over a decade later, that grinning blue eyed girl still calls me Rumpelstiltskin (or Rumple, depending) except she’s a lovely blue eyed woman instead. (And one of my favorite people, in case you’re still questioning her choice of nickname.) I looked up the fairy tale when I had a chance and it stayed on a shelf in my mental library. Just waiting, apparently.

Waiting until Chautona Havig told me about the mystery fairytales series. She told me all about them one night, all about the plans to turn fairytales into mysteries set in the 1920’s. Despite being in the middle of deadlines for other books, I found myself fascinated. Fairytales and mysteries together? It sounded like so much fun.

When the opportunity to join the series came my way, I took it. As for fairytale? I said I had an idea I could do for Beauty and the Beast, but what I really would like to do would be… Rumpelstiltskin. Years of hearing my nickname had created an affection for the fairytale, while those same years of ruminating on the storyline had wrought a desire to do something with it myself. I just wasn’t sure that anyone else would like the idea. But Chautona did – and off I went!

I discovered one problem, however. I didn’t have much of an idea how to write about Rumpelstiltskin in the real world –  with a murder mystery, no less. I only knew that I wanted to…

In southern Arizona lies Superstition Mountain. It’s beautiful, high, and majestic. It is also one of my favorite sights. To add to the fascination, Superstition Mountain has a legend buried deep within its canyons. The Legend of the Lost Dutchman Goldmine.

I have been enchanted with the legend of the Lost Dutchman Goldmine since childhood and when I thought of Rumpelstiltskin and that goldmine together, they simply clicked. Every roadblock I came up with faded away. I started research – so much research – and even that seemed to align perfectly as I went along. Tiny Apache Junction, the Goldfield ghost town, the dance pavilion, the beautiful desert with all of its cacti, scraggly plants, and critters… The area around Superstition Mountain began to populate, 1929 began to come alive. I saw twirling dresses, slow moving burros, storytelling old prospectors… And then, Dorothy Sinclair showed up, looking out of her low window with the Superstition Mountain towering above her… And I knew I had my story.

It took some time as I went along until I found my Rumple, but find him I did… I just won’t tell you where or how.  Thus, The Lost Dutchman’s Secret was born into the Ever After Mysteries Series.

And speaking of the series… We’re doing our cover reveals! You really ought to go back and see the covers that we’ve already put up – but today is the cover reveal for The Lost Dutchman’s Secret!

But there’s a thing – see, Amazon has a placeholder cover for the book currently, but it’s changing soon and the first person to find the placeholder cover replaced with the real cover on Amazon, shares it somewhere online, and sends the link or screenshot to that share will win a free advance reader copy for the book! You’ll get it before anyone else (except the launch team) gets it!

What are you looking for?

Remember, the left is the placeholder that is on Amazon now. We’re releasing one final cover per day on Amazon and making a game of it. Watch the Amazon Book Page for the change to the beautiful cover painted by Josh Markey. (I loved the new cover the moment I saw it!) We’re so excited that he’s doing this series! His work is just lovely. Keep an eye out, share that link, then send your email to celebratelit@celebratelit.com. The first email to arrive with proof of sharing The Lost Dutchman’s Secret wins!

It’s a series though, so tomorrow make sure you go and see Denise Barela’s cover reveal, (it’s her debut novel!) watch out for her cover change, and share it too!

To the KING be all the glory!

Thanksgiving 2020

It is Thanksgiving 2020.

This year has been a difficult year for so many. Regardless of your political views, opinions on masks and lockdowns, level of health, or place of residence, the likelihood that you are among those who struggled this year is fairly high.

Exactly 400 years ago in the year 1620, the ship The Mayflower reached the shores of Cape Cod. What followed may be called the greatest trial in the lives of some of those pilgrims, if not all; out of their small band of just over 100 people, nearly every one fell terribly ill. Half of them died before the end of their first winter. During their first year in the New World, the pilgrims underwent intense hardships, privations, and losses. Yet, when harvest time came in 1621 and they found themselves blessed by God with a good harvest, they invited their friends and celebrated a Thanksgiving feast because the LORD had blessed them.

I am not going to try to compare our hardships to the pilgrims of 1620. I don’t think that can be done, neither do I find it helpful. Job losses, illness, depression, loneliness, disappointment, loss of loved ones… I know the list goes on. Our hardships look different than those of the Plymouth colony, but hardships they are. As we near the end of the year, “2020” has become synonymous with a bad time. If they could, there would be a rush to end it yesterday and get on to the, hopefully, brighter future of 2021. Thanksgiving Day seems so insignificant and boring in light of some of the other things we’ve been fighting.

Let me encourage you, however, to take a step back and pause. I’m not going to tell you that you need to wait for Thanksgiving Day to pass before you put up your Christmas decorations – it’s a little late for that anyhow. I would like to suggest though that, this year, this difficult, painful year, where so many of us, myself included, have experienced fear, loss, loneliness, heartache, isolation, illness, job loss, and many other things – may I submit that this year is the year that we need to follow in the footsteps of the Plymouth Pilgrims and remember Thanksgiving.

This year, the year where so many difficulties, trials, and struggles seem to have collided into one place, this year where we are tempted to just wish the year be gone, this year is the one that we need to remember Thanksgiving and practice the name in deed. This is the year we need to take the time to recall the blessings that the LORD planted in the midst of the trials – and I know that He did – and thank Him for those, because this is the year it’s difficult. This is the year, we want to get wrapped up in our trials and might just forget altogether.

Have we eaten? Talked to our best friend on the phone? Attended church? Made a new dress? Found a new job? Enjoyed a Zoom call? Reached the end of a project or goal? Worked through depression? Written a book? Read a book? Bought a new book? Found a new favorite song? Taken up walking? Spent more time with people that you normally don’t see very often? Survived a dreadful illness? Had water to drink? How about coffee or tea, or even better, both?

These are blessings, even in the midst of trials. (And I know there are more. I’m not trying to be exhaustive.) These are gifts of the LORD to the people that He created and we, as His people, ought to be thanking Him no matter what has gone on, because He is good and His mercy endures forever. And even if we can’t think of a single thing – and I’m certain we can if we try hard enough – have we been forgiven and cleansed by the saving blood of the Redeemer? Am I a child, loved by my Father, the Creator of the Universe? Then we have much reason to be thankful!

This year, more so than its easier predecessors, we need to refuse to allow ourselves to brush off or forget Thanksgiving. Christmas is beautiful – but it can wait (or take a break) for a day. This year, even more than we ever have before, let’s take this day and thank the LORD for His blessings, His provision, His love and kindness. Make lists, share on social media, talk about them with others. We should be filled with thanksgiving and praise to the LORD every day, but let’s make a point to set aside this Thanksgiving holiday as an especially grateful one. Let us join the psalmist and “come before His presence with thanksgiving, let us joyfully shout with psalms. For the LORD is a great God and a King about all gods…” And He is still great and still King, even amidst the hardships of 2020. Let’s remember that and thank Him!

“Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, for His lovingkindness is everlasting.” Psalm 107:1

To the KING be all the glory!

Café Chocolaté: Chapter XXVI

Chapter XXVI – Adrian Terrence

Adrian watched Ginger sit down, noting the change in her manner. Earlier, she had been compliant, but confident. Almost arrogant. Now, she sat with her shoulders slightly bowed and her eyes lowered.

“You said that you wished to speak with us, Miss Thomas?” Xavier finally spoke, when the silence had lasted a full minute.

Ginger still sat silent for several seconds, before she raised her head. She seemed to notice Monique and nodded toward her with a questioning air. The child sat, trying to poke some life into the flattened face and ears of her stuffed bunny.

Xavier followed the look. “She stays with me.” Monique glanced up at Xavier, looked at Ginger, and went back to Mr. Pickles in silence. “She can’t be shielded from what’s happening. Just use discretion where you can.”

Ginger nodded, then continued to hesitate. Adrian began to expect her to up and walk away.

Instead, she pulled back her shoulders and raised her head, but the same defiance did not surface as before. “Listen, I have to start out by repeating that Eddie did not kill anyone.”

“But you’re afraid that he may have done so anyway?” Xavier asked.

“No! It’s…” She sent a look toward what could be seen of Eddie still lying on the floor. “I did – for just a minute – consider that he might have done it – but I panicked! I would have known better otherwise.”

“What made you panic, Ginger?” Adrian hadn’t opened his notebook and decided to push it aside for the moment.

Ginger spread her hands flat on the table, her eyes closed for just a second. She opened them with a sigh. “I know who Gary Bradshaw is from previous experience.”

“Before last week?” Adrian wanted clarification.

Ginger nodded. “From six years ago.”

Adrian looked directly at the woman. “When Eddie was questioned for shoplifting?”

Ginger nodded again.

“Perhaps it would be wise to tell us how you know about him.” Xavier folded his arms onto the table. “As well as how Eddie knows about him.”

“That’s just it.” Ginger curled her hands into fists and then shoved them into her lap. “Eddie didn’t even meet him. Gary Bradshaw was one of the witnesses from the shoplifting case. Eddie was put into police lineup three different times. Gary Bradshaw was the only witness who identified Eddie as the thief.”

“And you know this how?” Adrian asked.

Ginger shrugged. “I went to the station to get Eddie. Someone slipped up or outright gave the guy too much information, including Eddie’s name. Gary Bradshaw was ticked that they wouldn’t arrest Eddie on his say-so and was loudly complaining to the lady with him. I didn’t even have to eavesdrop to hear him. Everyone heard him.”

“I see.”

Ginger glared at Xavier. “Eddie said that they wouldn’t tell him anything. The police wouldn’t, that is. I didn’t tell him either.”

“Why didn’t you tell your brother about the person who accused him of theft, Ginger?” Adrian finally pulled his notebook over, but he still didn’t open it.

“I thought… I thought that if he knew about it and they questioned him again, it might sound badly. He said that he didn’t do it and I didn’t want to make things worse for him.”

Xavier remained impassive. “And yet, you panicked, Miss Thomas, if only for a moment.”

“It wasn’t just Gary Bradshaw who made me panic.” Ginger shook her head emphatically. “It… It was the ice pick.”

The cousins exchanged glances. “The ice pick?”

Ginger nodded.

“You defended him when Eddie found the ice pick.” Adrian felt more than a little confused.

“No… I mean, yes, I did. But that’s not what I mean. I mean, when I found the ice pick.”

Even Monique looked up and Adrian dropped his pencil. Xavier cleared his throat. “You found the ice pick, Miss Thomas? Before your brother?”

Ginger nodded again.

Adrian tried to process and frowned. “When exactly did you find the ice pick and where did you find, Ginger?”

Ginger’s voice dropped very low. “In the neck of Gary Bradshaw.”

Adrian couldn’t help but stare at her.

Xavier continued to remain unfazed. “Please explain, Miss Thomas.”

Ginger clenched her hands even tighter. “It was a couple of minutes after the explosion. Eddie ran off to help people. I started to go talk to Timothy Teller and Anna Carpentier. I had to pass Gary Bradshaw as I was standing behind the counter, and… and when I did, I saw…” For a moment, her voice wavered. She stuck her chin up. “I saw Gary Bradshaw just sitting there. He was obviously gone and I recognized the ice pick. We keep it on the wall and I knew who the man was. I just panicked! I pulled the ice pick, threw it on a shelf under one of the counters, and hurried over to talk to Timothy and Anna. It might have taken me two minutes and everyone was too distracted to notice me. Even Eddie.”

“You thought that Eddie committed the murder, because you knew of the previous connection and you knew that he had access to the ice pick?” Xavier asked.

“And because we were both right there. Eddie could have walked over to Gary Bradshaw without my knowledge, while I talked to a customer.” She shook her head. “It was irrational, but not impossible. I know he didn’t do it though – because I know him.”

“Regardless, you decided to protect a murderer, Miss Thomas.”

Ginger glared. “He’s my brother.”

“That does not make it right.”

Ginger wavered. “Which is why I am talking to you now. But I didn’t care about right nor wrong. I didn’t really think at all – or I would have never panicked.”

Xavier only nodded.

“I’m telling you everything now.” Some petulance reentered Ginger’s tone. “Surely that counts for something.”

Adrian opened his notebook and began jotting down notes. “It would count for more if you saw someone else near Gary Bradshaw near the time of the murder, Ginger.”

“I didn’t.” Ginger sighed. “I wish I did. I’d certainly tell you about it. But I didn’t see anyone. I didn’t see anyone at all.”

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Author’s Bookshelf: Starlight and Time

My reading time took a blow this last week, as I had writing projects to catch up on and not a lot of time to do them. So, I sacrificed reading to catch up. (And mostly succeeded!)

Consequently, I only read one book this week. Starlight and Time by D. Russell Humphreys. I read it on the recommendation of a dear friend. (The same friend with whom I’ve been buddy reading The Lord of the Rings.) Though published in the late 90’s, I found it a truly fascinating discussion regarding the scientific possibilities of Creation Week. I had never imagined anything quite like this theory – I had actually never really revised the my toddlerhood vision of how God created the earth. I found it all rather wonderful and the science seemed possible. I would rather like to do some research to discover whether more work has been done on the theory in the last twenty years.

I haven’t worked on anything else yet, though I’m thinking it may be time to reread The Betrayal.

What are you reading this week?

To the KING be all the glory!

Reading Recap for 2019

It seems that authors everywhere are talking about their favorite books they read in 2019. Usually posting a top ten on their blog or Facebook page.

I have tried to follow suit. I really have. I have sat down and tried to pick ten books out of the 67 or more different volumes that I read in 2019, but I have failed. I really did read a lot of good books this year. (You can see the log of what I read in the picture above. It doesn’t include books I read twice – they’re only drawn in once.)

In January, I read Peter Pan for the first time. I loved the way J.M. Barrie told his story. Parts of the book are a little weird, and I honestly didn’t expect Peter to be so flighty in his memory, but I quite enjoyed the book. (Which is probably one reason I’m writing a story with Peter Pan as the theme now. More on that later, however.)

2019 marked the first time that I completed C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series. I had read The Magician’s Nephew and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe more than once, but for various reasons I had never finished the series. I completed it in 2019 and could only say I was sorry not to have read it before. (Though there is something to be said for finishing Narnia while traveling to and staying in Britain!) The Voyage of the Dawn Treader had me skeptical, but in the end I liked it as much as the others. I fondly recall The Silver Chair. I don’t comment on all the theological points of The Last Battle, but that book, especially, left me in awe. Particularly the depiction of death and going to Heaven. It was so beautiful and like nothing I had ever read.

On the recommendation of a friend, I read Silas Marner by George Eliot this last year. The first page, I confess, had me skeptical. (It doesn’t take much for me to be skeptical about a book in the beginning. At least, it doesn’t usually stop me from continuing.) It seemed a little dry. I soon found myself proven wrong. I loved how the author portrayed Silas as such a simple man, but wholly human and likable. Not animal-like in any way, just because he had such a simple way about him. I loved watching him take in his little girl, learning to love and care for the child. It was so sweet. I bought a copy of my own a short while later.

In the summer, I read Brothers at Arms: Treasure and Treachery in the Amazon by John Horn. Lawrence and Chester quickly placed in my list of favorite characters. I actually read the entire Men of Grit series in the summer, and I enjoyed every one, but Brothers at Arms is my favorite. The Mountain Fortress: Escape to the Outback is probably my second favorite, though it is difficult to choose.

I can also count As You Like It as one of my favorites this year, but I can not with honesty say whether I loved the Shakespeare play for itself or whether the fact that I read it for my trip to Oxford, saw it as my first play, and attended the play in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, no less, made it a favorite. I can not decide on an unbiased opinion in this case and I do not intend to continue trying at present.

War in the Wasteland. Douglas Bond has been a favorite author of mine since I was sixteen. With that knowledge, I had high hopes for this book, but it far exceeded my expectations. You can read my review here.

Suit and Suitability by Kelsey Bryant. I know that I actually wrote one of the books in this series. I also know that we published The Vintage Jane Austen Series two years ago. For various reasons that I will not bore my readers with, I only managed to give the entire series my full attention this year. I would venture to say that, lovely as our series is, Kelsey may have written the best story out of them all. I really loved the way that she retold Sense and Sensibility.

This seems to have been my year for reading series, which is odd since I generally avoid them. (Short version: I’m always afraid that the further the series goes, that the author will somehow ruin the story. I didn’t see that happen in my 2019 reading, however.) I discovered Chautona Havig’s Meddin’ Madeline series to be quite fun. So fun, in fact, that I am cheerfully anticipating the release of book four. I do enjoy a good mystery and the characters really are realistic, but relatable. I can’t pick a favorite here… I really can’t. I rather think of them as one long book. I’m not sure why.

Another series I enjoyed in 2019 is The Accidental Cases of Emily Abbott by Perry Kirkpatrick. Not sure I could pick a favorite book here either, but I do have a favorite character. Brent Peterson makes being a spy look like such an adventure. Again, I look forward to the next installment. This series was likely one of the most amusing of anything I read in 2019.

Although I have read them before, rereading most of The Lord of the Rings in tandem with a dear friend of mine (we’re still working on the end,) deserves mention, as I have highly enjoyed the reading. Also, I began by reading The Hobbit first, which I hadn’t done before. It’s been fascinating to notice just how often The Hobbit or its characters are referenced in the succeeding books.

I read The Weight of Glory toward the end of summer. I love how C.S. Lewis can make clear, things that have confused or befuddled me. I plan to read it again.

Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis and Not a Word by Chautona Havig both get honorable mention, as favorites of mine that I reread.

As this list is growing long beyond all sense of reason, I shall bring it to a close. I would, however, be remiss if I didn’t include among my very favorites, Dorothy Sayers Lord Peter Wimsey books. I have not finished this series, but I plan to. Whose Body? Charmed me from the first chapter. Lord Peter has not replaced my favorite detective, (because who could replace Sherlock Holmes?) but he does hold second place, currently. His best friend, Detective Inspector Charles Parker, may also be my favorite police detective ever, actually. I look forward to finishing the series.

These are not in order, though they are somewhat in order of my reading. Somewhat. Some of my most favorite are up towards the top, but then… some of them are farther down. And then the list gets mixed up.

I enjoyed my 2019 reading year and I’m looking forward to 2020. (Thus far, I am enjoying Tolkien’s The Return of the King.) What were some of your favorite reads in 2019?

To the KING be all the glory!