How precious are Your thoughts to me, O LORD ... how vast is the sum of them!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Five Fall Favorites Party!

Please forgive the spill-over into my sidebar, but I want this invitation to be nice and big so you can read all the information. :) This is the first year I've participated in the Five Fall Favorites party, and I'm really looking forward to it. I hope you'll join us!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Stuck on an Island

I hope you had a great Labor Day! For me, I was able to make progress on a story, which adds a special shine to any day in my estimation. 

The Real Green Gables

Since I last posted, I’ve resettled into a writing routine (as of right now!). What am I working on? A third Marielle novel, this one set on Prince Edward Island. (By the by, exactly one year ago today I arrived on P.E.I. to begin my own adventure there.) I don’t want to share many details too soon because details tend to be fickle and whimsical, but for now, the novel is going well. I know I should be optimistic, but, honestly, I’m holding my breath about how its progress will continue, because for the several months that I’ve had this idea and begun working on it, it evaded my interest and enthusiasm.

Surely you’ve also felt completely unmotivated about working on a project that you know you should be excited about. Days and weeks go by, and you’re feeling more and more unhappy about being “forced” to do it until you just want to slide it off your plate into the trashcan. That was me with this novel. Friends had made some suggestions that added to the plot, and I thought I was set. I began to peck at it but couldn’t manage much, especially on the days I did my editing jobs. I realized this couldn’t go on – either I’d have to get serious about it or drop it altogether. I went with the former because I knew there needed to be a third Marielle installment. And now, several weeks later, it’s captured my heart and I love writing it.

How did I get to that point? If you’re trying to overcome reluctance to work on one of your own projects, writing or otherwise, maybe something here might help:

- After hours of editing, I couldn’t stand to be on the computer anymore once I was done for the night. So I pulled out a good old-fashioned notebook and handwrote a few pages. It was slow, but at least it was progress, and a change of place and position loosened up my creativity.
- Tweaking what I’d already written to match the new plot ideas gave me a context for picking up where I left off after a long absence.
- Photos fed my visual-hungry brain and reminded me why I love Prince Edward Island.
- Research answered some questions and helped me craft atmosphere and details.
- Reminiscing about my own P.E.I. trip gave me inspiration for characters and settings.
- Poetry made me fall in love with words and imagery all over again, and writing tips made me want to try them out on my own creative work.
- Reading some of L. M. Montgomery’s beautiful writing (the P.E.I. author of Anne of Green Gables) inspired me more than anything else – after all, she is the person who ignited my work-in-progress in the first place.

So the next time I feel stuck, I hope can remember to take the time to search for inspiration to fill up my dry well. If we have nothing to draw from, how can we keep producing?

What do you do when you feel stuck?

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Book Spotlight: Gestern Blog Tour

Today I'm excited to spotlight Gestern, the fifth book in J. Grace Pennington's dynamic scifi series, Firmament. Not only this book but the whole series has received rave reviews. I'm looking forward to reading all the books when I get the chance! (I have two waiting for me on my Kindle.) 

About the Book

You never escape your past

Andi Lloyd is more comfortable than most with interstellar travel, but she's not prepared for the perils and peculiarities of a world she has all but forgotten—the planet Earth. As the Surveyor undergoes repairs, her brother August receives a message with news that will send both of them across the world to a place he never wanted to visit again.

Neither of them are prepared to be thrust into a world of political intrigue amid the tangled forests and crumbling ruins of Austria. They aren't prepared to encounter wild animals and endure cross-country hikes. And they definitely aren't prepared to face it all alone.

But despite the dangers they must press on into the unknown to find a way to save Andi's life, to decide the fate of Earth itself—and to rescue a lonely girl who just happens to be their little sister.

Buy from Amazon HERE.


About the Author

J. Grace Pennington has been telling stories since she could talk and writing them down since age five. Now she lives in the great state of Texas, where she writes as much as adult life permits. When she's not writing she enjoys reading good books, having adventures with her husband, and looking up at the stars.



J. Grace Pennington is offering three great giveaways! One is the CD she listened to while she wrote Gestern. The other two are a signed paperback of the winner’s choice. You can enter here: a Rafflecopter giveaway

Paperback of choice from Firmament series (2) 

Tour Schedule

Visit the other stops on the tour to learn more about Gestern by reading excerpts, reviews, and guest posts!

August 25
Frances Hoelsma – Excerpt
shout outs – Book Spotlight
Laurel's Leaves – Guest Post
The Destiny of One – Review

August 26
Jaye L. Knight – Excerpt

August 27
Kelsey's Notebook – Book Spotlight
Claire Banschbach – Excerpt

August 28
Rachel Rossano's Words – Guest Post
Rebekah Lyn Books – Excerpt

August 29
Bookish Orchestrations-Giveaway Winner

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Vintage Jane Austen Interviews

Most of you probably know about the Vintage Jane Austen project that I was able to be a part of. My contribution, Suit and Suitability, was published as an eBook back in May, and since then two more novels have come out! Paperbacks are planned in the near future.

One of the authors, Emily Ann Benedict, is interviewing each of the other authors on her blog. Since behind-the-scenes is always an interesting topic, I thought I'd share the links to each interview here. You can also find out more about each book through links on her blog.

Emmeline by Sarah Holman



Suit and Suitability by Kelsey Bryant
(Sense and Sensibility)

Perception by Emily Ann Benedict 
(Persuasion) (This interview is on Sarah Scheele's blog, another of the VJA authors.)

Bellevere House by Sarah Scheele
(Mansfield Park)

I'll post the link to the final interview once it is up!

Presumption and Partiality by Rebekah Jones
(Pride and Prejudice)

Friday, August 4, 2017

Where Have I Been? Visiting Other Planets?

For many people, summer is independent of all the other seasons, keeping its own schedule and playing by its own rules. So . . . I don’t know . . . is that a good enough excuse for my blogging silence for much of the summer? Hopefully maybe? I helped with a Bible camp for teens and a music day camp for kids (which finished up in August), and in the interim days was preparing for each one, on top of working my normal jobs. I’ve had a marvelous time!

But, confession: I’ve hardly done any serious writing. (Hence Camp NaNo in July was not an option for me.) However, now that life, from this vantage point at least, seems like it will settle into a straight line again, I hope to return to my writing routine. I started a new Marielle story and am tossing around a few other ideas as well.

Music Camp

Choir Practice
A Musical Game
Learning about the Planets and Decorating T-shirts

I’m not sure how many of you are familiar with Gustav Holst and his orchestral suite The Planets, but that’s been a bit of an obsession with me lately, as I had the pleasure of introducing kids at the music camp to it since our theme was “Outer Space: The Music of the Spheres.” The Planets is one of my favorite pieces of classical music. Our solar system’s planets fascinate me, so I had a great time discussing both the music and the planets themselves with the kids. If you’ve never heard it, I highly recommend it! It’s made up of seven unique movements; you’re bound to like at least one of them. My favorites are Jupiter and Neptune; my least favorite is Mars.

I. Mars, the Bringer of War. Holst wrote The Planets during WWI, so this ominous piece reflects the destruction and senselessness of war underneath a triumphant veneer.
II. Venus, the Bringer of Peace. Gentle, melodious tones bring peace and healing, with a sense of sadness for what has passed, but hope for what lies ahead.
III. Mercury, the Winged Messenger. Speedy Mercury is represented by the shortest movement in the suite. The quick, darting theme remind us of a bird.
IV. Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity. Jupiter is the “king” of the planets as it’s by far the largest. The music sounds like subjects celebrating their beloved king.
V. Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age. This sad, wistful piece sounds like an old man remembering the glory days.
VI. Uranus, the Magician. One pictures a pompous magician (dressed in blue?) waving his wand around performing tricks.
VII. Neptune, the Mystic. Deep blue Neptune reminds us of the ocean. The quiet, changeful, siren-like music images an underwater journey.

What have you been doing this summer? On my second note, have you ever listened to Holst’s The Planets?

Friday, July 7, 2017

The Coronation Blog Tour

Looking for a unique and exciting debut novel with a beautiful message to read this summer? It’s my pleasure to tell you about The Coronation, by Livy Jarmusch, founder of Crown of Beauty magazine

About the Book

Prince Addison is only several weeks away from inheriting the Kingdom of Tarsurella. The entire Palace is ablaze with excitement, as the Royal Family prepares for the event of a lifetime. Despite the exciting event which is near at hand, Addison and his younger siblings (all seven of them!) must carry on with their daily activities. 

Addison’s sisters, Princesses Bridget, Chasity, and Hope, have their struggles with being iconic European starlets of a modern day monarchy. The teen heiresses grace magazine covers, smile for photoshoots, and gracefully glide through important interviews–until a certain American popstar arrives on the scene. Kennetic Energy, the wildly popular band from the United States, is chosen to play at Addison’s Coronation. David Carter, the band’s handsome lead singer, fumbles through awkward moments with Princess Hope–in front of the cameras. When an embarrassing rumor sparks that Princess Hope is dating the young fellow, she is determined to get the band fired from their Royal gig. 

Meanwhile, Princess Chasity is dealing with her own fragile affairs of the heart. Her new security guard, Hanson Fletcher, is completely captivating, yet entirely frustrating. She attempts to keep the entrance of her heart firmly protected, while following the wisdom of Proverbs 4:23. But can she be successful in guarding her heart, from her security guard? 

The Coronation is Book #1 in The Tales of Tarsurella Trilogy.

Check it out on Amazon and on Goodreads! 

About the Author
Livy Jarmusch is a dreamer, singer, songwriter and orphan advocate. She loves fairy-tales, the smell just after it rains, golden retriever puppies and peppermint ice-cream cones. If you really want to get to know her, follow her on Pinterest, and if you find yourself repinning everything, you're sure to be the best of friends! To join this princess on her pilgrimage through life, follow on instagram @livylynnglittergirl & Pinterest @livyglittergirl. 
Also, visit her at  

A Note from Me

I’ve just begun to read The Coronation, and it’s already pulled me in with its intriguing storyline. I’ll be getting a review up once I finish, so stay tuned to either my blog or my Goodreads account if you’re interested in what I think. 

Tuesday, June 27, 2017


You may or may not have missed my post last week, but I had a good reason for its absence . . . family vacation! We visited my mom’s side of the family. My grandmother’s birthday is in June, and this year she turned 99. She is doing so well for her age! She has always been a reader, and she still devours a quantity of library books every month. 

If any of you have read the dedication of my novel Suit and Suitability, you may possibly remember I dedicated it to my grandmother Irene. She has always been a special person in my life. She was born in 1918, putting her at about a year younger than the middle Dashiell sister, Marion; so the Great Depression overshadowed her youth. But like many of the solid-gold Americans who lived during that decade, she came out the stronger for it. Although Suit and Suitability is not released in paperback yet, I did give her an unofficial proof copy because she was eager to read it. I am so blessed to have her!

Happy birthday, Grandma! You always have and always will inspire me and your many other children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

3-2-1 Write! Party Day Three

 Welcome to day 3 of the party hosted by Read Another Page! Today we are answering the question of favorite writing tools . . . and we can pick only one. One! I always have a hard time picking a single favorite of anything (except for color – blue is an easy winner), so I was waffling about my favorite writing tool until the last minute.

I was going to say my laptop, but that’s a given. So, I shall broaden the definition of “tool” and say my writing friends. The best thing about these “tools” is that I can’t control them, so they aren’t really tools. They are infinitely better than that! They are supportive, independent, and so very smart and astute, giving me advice, feedback, encouragement, and inspiration. When I first started writing seriously, I was terrified of letting anyone read and honestly critique what I wrote. I’m a fairly private person, so it’s not always second nature to share something so close to me as my writing. (Publishing is hard!) But once I do, I’m always amazed at how much my writing companions help me. 

Most books or other pieces of writing aren’t meant to resonate with one solitary person, so it’s very important to get personalized advice from someone outside your brain, preferably several someones, at different stages of your writing. They can tell you to [cross out] what doesn’t add to the story; they can ask you to clarify your ideas; they can help you when you don’t know where to go next; they can give you the encouragement you need to carry on when you think your work is no good. Writing and especially publishing would be a whole lot harder without these understanding people. Join with one or more honest critique partners and/or mentors to help your writing really blossom!

What would you say has helped you with writing the most?

My role in the party is finished, but make sure you visit Read Another Page tomorrow to find all the last-day posts. And don’t forget to enter this outstanding giveaway (full of writing tools). There is now a second-place prize of a $10.00 Amazon gift card!

The next stop on the party blog tour...

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

3-2-1 Write Party! Day Two - Writing Advice

Main Party Page

 Welcome to day 2 of the 3-2-1 Write party, hosted by Read Another Page! Today’s focus is on writing advice. There’s a lot of great advice out there, and not all advice applies to every writer equally, but I think I’ve chosen the two principles that help me the most. I would pass them on to any Christian writer.

  1. Write What You Know. This doesn’t limit you to what you know right now – it urges you to write about a subject that grabs you, and to explore and research the information you need to write a good story about it. Learning everything you can about your subject enables you to give readers an enthralling, enriching experience that makes them feel as if they have lived it. Readers like it when they sense their imagination is in the hands [of an author] who is completely familiar with the story’s world.

  1. Pray About What You Write. Counting down to the most important piece of advice brings me to this one. Pray about what you write on many different levels. Dedicate your work to the Lord, pray as you start writing, pray as you keep writing, pray when you’re stuck, pray when you’re discouraged, praise Him when it’s going well, pray about publishing plans, seek the Lord’s direction wherever you can . . . all of it is so important to our work as Christian writers. Whatever we do with our lives should be for the glory of God – especially such a powerful expression as writing. Don’t you agree?

What are your favorite pieces of writing advice?

Have you entered the Rafflecopter giveaway yet? It’s a grand prize full of several things that can help you fulfill any publishing dreams you may have! Also, make sure you check out Read Another Page for more party particulars . . . including the Quote Search. (The explanation for why I typed certain words in neon purple.) Also, visiting the other authors involved will give you the full experience. :) 

Go to the next stop on the party blog tour...

Monday, June 12, 2017

3-2-1 Write! Party Day One - Writing Books

Go to the main party page

Welcome to day one of the 3-2-1 Write party! Today [we shall have] the spotlight shining on our favorite books about writing. I’m sharing with you my top three favorites, the books that influenced me the most when I became serious about writing fiction.

I don’t read a lot of reference books on writing anymore, though there was a time I devoured them. Nowadays I graze on blog posts and web articles. But I have various titles on my to-read shelf, so I’m certainly not done with gleaning the vast amount of wisdom that’s out there. Besides being great tutors, most how-to-write books inspire me and urge me on to write, whether or not I need to apply what I’ve read to my current novel at the moment.

So here’s my un-ordered list:


  1. Fiction Writer’s Handbook by Hallie and Whit Burnett. This was one of the first books on writing fiction I ever read. Thus, though it may not have a lot of unique information, it shaped my understanding of the craft of fiction, teaching me what does and does not work when telling a story of any length – short story, novel, novella. It’s very thorough and well organized, divided into seven sections which have their own chapters. Whit and Hallie Burnett were influential American writers, editors, and writing teachers of the mid-twentieth century.

  2. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself into Print by Renni Browne and Dave King. I read this book right before I published my first novel, Family Reunion. Goodness, was it a book-saver! I tend to include way too much information in my works-in-progress; Self-Editing helped me realize what wasn’t needed in my manuscript, offering the valuable insight that less is often more when it comes to writing a story. For example, don’t use two words when one will do better, and don’t include scenes that provide information that’s already been given. This book also helped me refine my narration style, such as telling the story through what my POV character experiences. This is a book I definitely should reread, as first-draft writing habits are hard to break. (Note: I did not appreciate some of the language and examples used.)

  3. There was a mad scramble for this spot. I wish I could include several books here, but I’ll award it to Behind the Stories, compiled by Diane Eble. This book inspired me so much. Eble interviewed dozens of Christian fiction authors – including such greats as Janette Oke, Gilbert Morris, Randy Alcorn, and Jan Karon – and collected their honest stories of how they were called to start writing, how they got published, how they deal with fear and other emotions, and how they strive to honor God through their writing. This book doesn’t contain a lot of technical information, but it includes wonderful tidbits of advice for Christian writers, and for Christians in general as we all seek to please the Lord with our lives. My copy is particularly special to me because I had it signed by Bodie Thoene, my favorite author in the collection. 

What are your favorite books on writing?

Don’t go yet before you’ve entered the grand prize giveaway! Here is the link, and here’s what it contains:

    Paper copy of The Emotion Thesaurus 
    $5.00 Amazon Gift Card
    Free Cover Design by Victoria Lynn 
    $30 Blog Tour Orchestration by Faith Blum 
    Free Edit of up to 5000 words by Erika Mathews

The Emotion Thesaurus may very well become your favorite book on writing (I’m planning on getting a copy myself; it sounds amazingly helpful!).

Go to the next stop in the party blog tour...


    Wednesday, June 7, 2017

    3-2-1 Write! Party Invitation

    This is your personal invitation to the 3-2-1 Write! blog party I'm participating in. I'd love to see you there! Visit our blogs next week to join in the fun.


    Thursday, June 1, 2017

    The Secret Slipper Blog Tour

    Welcome to June, everyone! Today I’m excited to be a part of the blog tour for Amanda Tero’s latest release, The Secret Slipper. I’ve been following Amanda’s releases for a while now (and reading as many of them as I can!), and I was particularly excited about The Secret Slipper, as it’s a retelling of my favorite fairy tale, Cinderella.

    About the Book

    Being a cripple is only the beginning of Lia’s troubles. It seems as if Bioti’s goal in life is to make Lia as miserable as possible. If Lia’s purpose is to be a slave, then why did God make her a cripple? How can He make something beautiful out of her deformity?

    Raoul never questioned the death of his daughter until someone reports her whereabouts. If Ellia is still alive, how has she survived these ten years with her deformity? When Raoul doesn’t know who to trust, can he trust God to keep Ellia safe when evidence reveals Bioti’s dangerous character?

    As time brings more hindrances, will Raoul find Ellia, or will she forever be lost to the father she doesn’t even know is searching for her?

    Purchase HERE.

    My Review

    As I mentioned, Cinderella is my favorite fairy tale. The Secret Slipper is Cinderella with an intriguing twist it appears no one has ever written before: What if Cinderella’s father is the one who is looking for her? This creative turn of character made for a unique story that was able to focus on the yearning for family and belonging instead of the overdone romance, and, most importantly, how God turns out everything to work for the good of His children.

    The story is fast-paced and the plot is tight and well written. I read it in two sittings – I did not want to put it down. I found all the characters interesting, but I did feel I wanted a bit more character development among the major characters and differentiation among the more minor characters. But that’s just me! 

    I really appreciated the spiritual lessons that Lia and Raoul (Lord Kiralyn) learned, especially Raoul’s conviction about not leaning on his own understanding and instead praying and listening to God’s leading. That was something I needed to be reminded of, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since I read it; it’s really helped me over the past several days of life circumstances. It’s a very meaningful lesson to discover alongside Raoul.

    Another twist I was not expecting was in Lia’s character. She is the “Cinderella,” but she wasn’t the tale’s typical angelic maiden; instead, she had a lot of bitterness, which was actually more realistic. Although this was important to the storyline, I was a little disappointed that my normal favorite in the Cinderella tale was not more likeable to me. As it was, I was drawn to her mainly because she had my sympathy for her crippled foot. But her depth of darkness does allow God’s work to shine forth. 

    Although The Secret Slipper is the sequel to Befriending the Beast, I haven’t yet read the latter. However, I found The Secret Slipper reads fine as a stand-alone . . . except that it completely whets my appetite for Befriending the Beast

    In short, this novella immersed me in an intriguing story that was hard to put down and that truly spoke to my heart.

    (I purchased this book and was under no obligation to write a positive review.)

    About the Author

    Amanda Tero is a homeschool graduate who desires to provide God-honoring, family-friendly reading material. She has enjoyed writing since before ten years old, but it has only been since 2013 that she began seriously pursuing writing again – starting with some short stories that she wrote for her sisters as a gift. Her mom encouraged her to try selling the stories she published, and since then, she has begun actively writing short stories, novellas, and novels. If something she has written draws an individual into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ, it is worth it!

    “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5)

    Connect with Amanda


    Also Touring with The Secret Slipper
    (note that there's a giveaway going on!)
    May 25, 2017
    Amanda @ With a Joyful Noise | Release Day, Giveaway
    Leila @ Leila Tualla's Bookshelf | Spotlight
    Faith @ Writings, Ramblings, and Reflections | Review, Giveaway
    Leona @ Great Books for God's Girls | Review, Interview

    May 26
    Emily @ Zerina Blossom’s Books | Interview
    Kendra @ Knitted By God's Plan (Spotlight) and O'Scarlett Reviews (Review) | Spotlight, Review
    Alicia @ A Brighter Destiny | Review, Giveaway

    May 27
    Anika @ This Journey Called Life | Spotlight, Review, Giveaway
    Katie @ His Princess Warrior | Review, Giveaway
    Sarah @ The Destiny of One | Spotlight
    Heather @ Encouraging Words from the Tea Queen | Spotlight, Interview, Giveaway

    May 29
    Kate @ Once Upon an Ordinary | Review, Interview
    Sarah @ Penumbra Reviews | Review
    Dary @ Peculiar Miss Darcy | Character Interview
    Julia @ My Joyful Journey with Jesus | Interview

    May 30
    Kenzi @ Honey Rock Hills | Review, Giveaway
    Anita @ Christian Author: A.M. Heath  | Review
    Judith @ JudithWNicholson  | Interview

    May 31
    Jesseca @ Whimsical Writings for His glory  | Spotlight, Review
    Raechel @ God’s Peculiar Treasure Rae  | Spotlight, Review
    Esther @ Purposeful Learning | Review, Interview, Giveaway

    June 1
    Kellyn @ Reveries Reviews  | Review
    Victoria @ Victoria Minks Blog  | Spotlight, Review
    Kelsey @ Kelsey’s Notebook | Spotlight

    June 2
    Hanne @ RockandMinerals4Him | Spotlight, Review, Giveaway
    Erica @ Roxbury Books Blog | Spotlight
    Janell @ Views from the Window Friend  | Review
    Crystal @ Crystal’s Adventures for Christ  | Spotlight, Review, Interview

    June 3
    Alexa @ Verbosity Reviews  | Spotlight
    Faith @ Chosen Vessels  | Review
    Melissa @ Clothed with Scarlet | Review, Interview, Giveaway


    Wednesday, May 24, 2017

    Stage and Screen: 1935

    “Marion here is interested in becoming an actress,” Aunt Jennie said. “I haven’t seen her act, but if her voice is any indication, she’d be the bee’s knees onstage.”
    - Suit and Suitability

    Marion Dashiell, passionate, demonstrative, artistic, has been bitten by the Hollywood bug. Movies, a relatively new entertainment, were huge business in the 1930s, and though conservative Christian Americans were wary of the impact these films made, the cinema provided an escape into optimism for countless people during the Great Depression.

    Many movies of the 1920s and early ’30s were immoral, especially by that day’s standards. Nowadays people have become habituated to most movies having a bit of foul language, sexual innuendos, and violent crime, but back then many morality proponents objected to that kind of content being screened to young Americans. My grandmother, who grew up in the 1920s and ’30s, wasn’t allowed to go to the movies as a young child. In the world of Suit and Suitability, Ellen and Marion Dashiell’s parents didn’t allow them to, either, until they were teenagers. To boycott bad movies and take a moral stand, an organization of regular Americans was created in the 1930s called the Legion of Decency. The Dashiell family participated, though Marion, in typical Marion fashion, at times chafed at the restraints.

    What the film industry needed was a rating system, and this was finally enforced in 1934. The Production Code Administration (PCA) formed a code that reluctant Hollywood producers complied with to eliminate objectionable material in their films. Marion, who wants to be in Hollywood, is glad about that, as now more movies were being made that fit her family’s moral standards.

    Canton, Ohio, had its share of movie theaters. In old photos of Market Avenue North (one of Canton’s main roads), you can see the giant vertical sign for Loew’s, a nationwide theater chain, sticking out like a thumb over the street. A bit farther down is a slightly fancier vertical sign that still dominates the view today with the word “PALACE.” Canton Palace Theatre is one of the few magnificent movie palaces, popular in the 1920s, still standing in the U.S. This luxurious venue is rightly called a palace with its lush décor and colorful, grandiose rooms. It showed both movies and plays back in the day, and still does nearly one hundred years later. 

    Canton Palace Theatre

    Marion says about her search for a job, “It’s not exhilarating in the least. I didn’t get anything. I tried the Palace and the other theaters first, of course, but they weren’t looking for so much as a ticket agent, though I did notice the Palace has a stupendous lineup of shows and I’m more determined than ever to stay in Canton for that. Though a lot of good it’d do me if I don’t have any money!”

    But Marion’s first love is the stage. She is part of Canton’s prestigious Players Guild, one of the best amateur theater companies in the nation at that time. She participates in her high school drama program (in 1935 it put on Secrets, which was also a movie that starred Mary Pickford). Her first paying job is part of a summer stock theater, which travels the region producing a different play each week. She also dreams of Broadway, but doesn’t know which – Hollywood or Broadway – will be her ultimate destiny. Perhaps the Hollywood actor Wilkie St. John will have some sort of influence? (You know who he is if you’ve read Suit and Suitability).

    Broadway, 1916-17

    Broadway slumped in the 1930s, like many other industries (but unlike Hollywood). If you wanted to be an actor, you had a better chance in movies, which were becoming consolidated on the West Coast by that time. Broadway was more elitist and therefore played to a smaller audience, though it did produce a good number of popular classics such as Anything Goes (1934) and Porgy and Bess (1935). One of Marion’s favorite moments in her life is when she sees Anything Goes in New York City. (A note from me: I still remember seeing that unforgettable musical presented by a local theatre fifteen years ago!)

    Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed exploring 1930s Broadway and Hollywood while I was writing Suit and Suitability. Attitudes differed toward secular entertainment back then, just like they do today, so the moral questions involved made for some interesting conflict. Hopefully Marion makes the right choice at the end of the book.

    What are your favorite old movies or musicals? Anything from the 1930s?

    Tuesday, May 16, 2017

    Canton, Ohio, 1935

    Now that Suit and Suitability is available, I thought I’d open the door a bit wider to some extra knowledge about its background  – a place my imagination has walked in and out of for about two years.

    Ellen and Marion Dashiell’s story begins in Canton, Ohio, in the middle of the Great Depression. Why did I choose this relatively ordinary location? I was looking for a mid-American industrial town, and Canton winked at me because I have relatives there. They could tell me things about it, and who knew? Maybe I’d even get to visit.

    My choice was confirmed when I stumbled across the memoir, A Secret Gift, by Ted Gup, that tells the story of how his grandfather became the mysterious benefactor to dozens of impoverished Cantonians during Christmas 1933. The peek at life in the town was fascinating and enlightening. I learned about local favorites such as Bender’s (a restaurant) and Turkey Foot Lake (a popular recreational draw in the next county over).

    I actually did get to visit Canton in 2015 and do on-location research (thanks to my wonderful relatives, blessings from above!), gleaning even more valuable insights – streetcars were no longer used in 1935; the Pennsylvania Railroad station was painted red; McKinley High School seniors put on the play Secrets in 1935; the jail stood beside the courthouse until 1938. I had a spectacular time physically strolling the town that I had hitherto accessed only through my mind.

    Canton is in eastern Ohio, not too far from the Pennsylvania border. It’s the seat of Stark County’s palatial courthouse, where Suit and Suitability begins.

    The wind was against them as they descended the courthouse steps, snapping at their skin and clothes with ferocious bites. Canton’s brick and stone façades soared over them, every one impressing Ellen with her family’s insignificance and aloneness. She glanced left and right to watch for cars as she and her mother and sisters crossed the street. Even the Gothic church behind them was stern and cold. Bells clanged over the traffic noise, clock towers proclaiming twelve noon like any ordinary day.
    Ellen looked back at the gold-bricked courthouse, glancing
    at the angels trumpeting in the high tower. The trumpeters of justice? She’d always admired this palatial structure, but now it galled her.
    The Dashiell family lives in Vassar Park, a neighborhood that sprang up in the 1920s when housing was booming. Today it’s one of the inner layers of Canton, but back then, it was near the outskirts. Their home is a fairly large Elizabethan. Rather close to where I imagined them living, I found this house:  

    It had been a dream house, this Elizabethan. She [Marion], Ellen, and Greta had squealed in delight when they saw it for the first time seven years ago. It was out of a fairy tale. Its maples, elms, and oaks were woods, its flowering plum trees enchanted brides, its gardens fairy courts, its yard a lawn where energetic imagination knew no bounds. Inside, the girls each got their own room, like true princesses, and the number of rooms felt mountainous. Four bedrooms, two bathrooms, a cellar, an attic, a kitchen, a laundry, a dining room, a living room! Everything was bright and new. What she wouldn’t give to go back to those days.

    And then there’s Ridgewood, the luxurious neighborhood where the Dashiells’ relatives, the snooty Westwoods, reside.
    What a place for a stroll! Ridgewood was even more gorgeous than I imagined it: unique mansions, manicured lawns, stately trees, vibrant gardens, and those distinctive red roads . . .

    Ridgewood was a ritzier neighborhood than Vassar Park;
    one step out from Canton, it was at least one step up in class, with red brick roads, spacious lawns, and large, strongly individualistic houses. The Depression had raided here, too, however; several mansions had the empty, haunted look of homes longing after their owners.

    One of Canton’s greatest residents was William McKinley, the governor of Ohio before he became president in 1897. He is buried there in a memorial mausoleum that was built in 1905, so it would have been a place Suit and Suitability’s characters would know well. 

    Canton was full of industries: Hoover (sweepers/vacuum cleaners), Timken (roller bearings), Diebold (safes), and Republic Steel, to name a few. All humongous complexes that clouded the air of this once prosperous city but gave jobs to countless people, many of whom were immigrants. Ellen and Marion’s father is (or rather . . . was . . .) the vice president of Friar’s Tool and Die, a company I created based off Canton’s industries.

    Well, I’d better leave you with that. I hope you enjoyed this short visit to the Canton of Suit and Suitability! There’s still more to say about the theaters that played such a role in Marion’s life, but we’ll save that for next time.

    Wednesday, May 10, 2017

    Suit and Suitability Release Date

    You may have seen this announcement elsewhere, but the eBook of Suit and Suitability, novel number two of the Vintage Jane Austen series, is now available for pre-order on Amazon! It will be published on May 12. 

    About the Book:
    The mystery surrounding their father’s criminal accusations is almost as hard to solve as the many puzzles springing on their hearts.

    Canton, Ohio, 1935. Ellen and Marion Dashiell’s world crumbles when their father is sent to prison. Forced to relocate to a small town, what is left of their family faces a new reality where survival overshadows dreams. Sensible Ellen, struggling to hold the family together, is parted from the man she’s just learning to love, while headstrong Marion fears she will never be the actress she aspires to be. When a dashing hero enters the scene, things only grow more complicated. But could a third man hold the key to the restoration and happiness of the Dashiell family?

    Buy on Amazon
    Add to Goodreads

    What else you need to know:

    The current price is $2.99, but it will be marked up to $3.99 after May 14 and then to $4.99 a week later.

    As for the paperback edition, that will be coming soon! I'll announce when it becomes available. I'm a paperback type of person myself, so I'm really looking forward to its arrival.

    As I mentioned, this is the second book in the Vintage Jane Austen series, and the third to be released. If you haven't yet, check out Emmeline by Sarah Holman and Second Impressions: A Collection of Fiction Inspired by Jane Austen, edited by Hannah Scheele!

    Finally . . .
    I've been praising God all week that Suit and Suitability is finished and published. It's been a challenging two-year companion to my life, bringing me joy and causing me tears and driving me often to the Lord in prayer for wisdom and encouragement. I wouldn't have traded this project for any other!

    For all of you who helped me bring Suit and Suitability to the light of public day, I am deeply grateful. You were and are a blessing to me, and this book would not be the same without you! (It's even questionable whether it would be here at all.)