A Servant’s Heart is Here!

Beautiful young woman with bouquet of lilac in spring garden

I am pleased to share that my Christian historical romance, A Servant’s Heart, is now available on Amazon in paperback and for Kindle. This is the long-awaited story whose original title was River Farm. 

Idealistic, independent, and utterly alone, seventeen-year-old Catherine Abbott arrives in the Virginia colony in the spring of 1774. Now an indentured servant, she is determined to leave her painful past behind and build a new life.Dr. James Craig has lost his entire family and his fiancée. He immerses himself in his work and surrounds himself with a surrogate family of employees and servants to assuage his loneliness. When he hires Catherine and she comes to live at his farm on the Potomac River, it seems as if God has brought them together for a reason. But has He?

As the colonies teeter on the brink of war, the future is uncertain. James joins the Continental Army as a surgeon and is shaken by the suffering and death he witnesses. As Catherine’s steadfast faith draws her closer to God, James finds himself doubting God’s goodness.

A Servant’s Heart affirms that God is present and working for good even when we can’t understand the process or know the outcome. It is the story of a woman searching for a home, a man standing in the way of his own happiness, love thwarted by the course of history, and a message of hope about the power of God.

 

 

Profile of Lonna Seibert and her manuscript “A Servant’s Heart” on Susan Preston’s blog

I’m so pleased to be featured as a writer of Christian/inspirational fiction on Susan Preston’s blog. Susan is the award-winning author of the Apostle John series, books that explore what was like to be a Christian in the first century, A.D. You can find the post about my manuscript, “A Servan’ts Heart,” here:
 

A Writer’s Mind, A Reader’s Heart

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Note: This blog post contains a spoiler about a plot point in Robert Galbraith/J.K. Rowling’s crime novel Career of Evil.

I think one of the most important things a writer can do is show the reader something of the reader’s self on the page. To speak a truth, to acknowledge a hurt, to hold up a mirror in which a reader can see one’s own reflection and confront it, bravely and unblinkingly. And through this showing, this acknowledgment, this reflection, the reader begins to accept something about herself, to appreciate, to come to terms. Not every writer can do this, and not every writer can do this for every reader. But sometimes, a particular topic or experience, written with care and concern, can touch a reader’s heart like nothing else can.

I recently finished reading Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith, a.k.a. J.K. Rowling, the creator of the Harry Potter universe. This is book three of an ongoing series, and in this book, and the two preceding volumes, a likable and beautifully realized main character has a secret. Passing reference is made in the first two books to the fact that this character, Robin Ellacott, had a life-changing experience at the age of nineteen. Career of Evil reveals that Robin is a rape survivor.

J.K. Rowling writes about rape in a very straightforward way. There is no melodrama, no unnecessary glorification or gratuitousness. She writes with compassion and zero judgment for the victim. It is beautiful. And her depiction of the emotional aftermath is so understanding, so perfectly rendered, that it feels like a vindication and a legitimization of everything such a deeply personal violation makes one think and feel and believe-about herself-and others. More than any other experience or conversation I have had as a survivor of sexual assault, J.K. Rowling’s brief and simple treatment of this topic has made me feel that I am okay and that my reaction to my own experience is okay, too. That’s an incredibly powerful thing for a book to do. And it’s a powerful thing for a writer to do. To reach out, through words on a page, and touch the heart and mind of a person she has never met, and make a reader feel that she is not alone, that she is believed, and that she matters. J.K. Rowling may have written imaginatively and wonderfully about a fictitious world of magic, but her writing is its own kind of magic, and I am filled with awe at her talent, and gratitude for her compassion.

Writing Contests Aren’t About Winning

winner

Writing contests aren’t for winning or for losing, they’re for learning. I’ve entered a few writing contests in my life, but none that felt like they had more significance than the ones I’ve entered in the past two months. At first they felt significant because I wanted to win. Pitch Wars? I wanted that mentor. Pit Mad? I wanted an agent to “favorite” my tweet. Pitch Slam? I wanted to go before the Jedi Council and ROCK IT. I wanted the validation that came with having someone notice me. I wanted to stop writing blind and have someone tell me the words I have worked so hard to produce are not rubbish. I want to feel like I might, someday, see my beautiful book baby in print.

But now? All those things would be nice, terrific, f-bombing fantastic, in fact. But they are no longer my greatest aspirations. Why? Because writing contests like these are more like writing conventions—bringing together like-minded individuals with common hopes, dreams, and goals, to support and encourage, to teach and learn, to invigorate and inspire. How many times has a writer heard the words, find your tribe? Ten times? A hundred times? More? Listen. No instructions, advice, or wisdom you hear will be more important. Your mom thinks you’re a great writer. Your spouse is cheering you on. Your best friend is super proud of you. Yes. Of course. Sure. But who knows how hard it is to sit down and write? Who knows the epic struggle when the words won’t come? Who knows the utter exhilaration when everything comes together just right? Who knows the bitter sting of rejection?

Another writer, that’s who.

When writing contests allow you to jump into the trenches with others who do as you do, something beautiful happens. Newbies become more confident. Struggling writers encourage one another. Agented and published writers share their hard-won knowledge. Everyone shows off their battle scars. These contests are hard. The work is real and the deadlines are real and the self-doubt is very, very real. But these contests are so valuable, too. Because if I can coalesce my 90K+ manuscript into a 140-character Twitter pitch or a 35-word pitch or make an agent want to go to war for my pages after reading just one query or my first 250 words, well, I can do just about anything, right?

Starting can be daunting. I thought I could never write a 35-word pitch. I thought I could never pitch my story in 140 characters (minus the required hashtags, for goodness sake!). But over the course of several days I have written more than 50 different 35-word pitches. Okay, sometimes they were 41 words and sometimes they were 33 words, but I did it. I’ve backspaced over words, letter by letter, in my Twitter text box trying to reach the Holy Grail of that beautiful zero until my fingers ached. I traded this word for that word, relentlessly hunted down and hacked adverbs and made sure I SHOWED rather than TOLD until my eyes crossed.

What am I left with? Confidence. Pride. Gratitude. And friends. Lots and lots of friends who will tweet me some encouragement. Laugh with me. Send virtual hugs. Tell me my pitch makes no sense. Share the hard truth that my 250 is weak. Or high-five me because, darn it, my 250 is awesome. We do all these things and we are better for it. And for those mentors and judges and agents and volunteers behind the scenes who take time from their lives, their families, their manuscripts and their own hopes and dreams to give others a hand up, I am so grateful. Contests build communities. That is their true value. It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s simply that you play the game. Write on, my friends. Write on!

The Orphan Bride by Brandi Gabriel

bride

A review of the book The Orphan Bride by Brandi Gabriel. Christian Historical Western Fiction.

The Orphan Bride by Brandi Gabriel is a book about the power of God, and His redeeming love, even in the face of a potentially impossible situation. It is 1883 and seventeen-year-old Lucy Weber’s time on the orphan train has just run out. No one adopted her when she was a child so now she must marry any man who will have her at the train’s next stop. When the train pulls into Saddle, Texas it looks like Lucy’s only recourse is to accept the proposal of the leering and frightening Clem Toeger, who claims to be Christian, although all his actions say otherwise. At the last minute, quiet and kindly Garrett Black appears. Garrett isn’t looking for a wife, but something compelled him to step into the church where Clem is planning to make Lucy his wife. Garrett knows Clem, and his awful reputation, and he knows he mustn’t let the marriage take place. With the backing of the local minister, Garrett is able to marry Lucy instead, thus protecting her from Clem. Garrett further shows his kindness and his Christian heart by agreeing to adopt Lucy’s five-year-old friend, Joan, who, after three years of being in Lucy’s care, is more like her daughter.

The new family of three begins an unfamiliar journey, getting to know one another, trust one another, and navigate the new relationships that have been created. The story of the orphan Lucy’s assimilation into the ready-made and large family of Garrett’s extended relations is a lovely touch–the girl who hasn’t known the love and security of a family for years suddenly finds herself blessed with many people to care for her. This adds depth and heart to the story, giving us characters to root for. The fatherly role that Garrett assumes for Joan’s benefit, the sub-plot of whether Lucy might someday be reunited with her long lost twin brother, Travis, and danger in the form of Clem Toeger, who repeatedly threatens and harasses Lucy, give us emotionally satisfying plots to entertain and outrage the reader in turn. Perhaps the most uplifting aspect of the story is how Garrett does not insist that Lucy begin performing the physical aspects of her wifely duties immediately, instead waiting patiently until she is ready. By putting her needs before his own he assures that true love accompanies their physical and emotional intimacy.

The characters’ love for, and reliance on God is inspiring and Lucy’s prayer at the beginning of the story, Please, God, give me the strength to face my future, no matter what it is, is both a heartfelt prayer for His mercy and His presence, and a surrender to letting His will be done. A wonderful reminder and lesson for us all.

 

Henry and the Monstrous Din – A Cautionary Tale?

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I am not a political person and I try to avoid controversy. But the state of our great nation and the direction we seem to be heading scare me. To say nothing at all is just as bad as spewing hatred. I don’t hate anyone, but I do question the choices and doctrines of those who may soon be leading us. So, when the dissonant noise of the political campaign trail, the biased reporting of the media, and the hurtful agendas of bigoted and narrow-minded people are applauded and championed, we must stop the noise, and use our own minds and hearts to decide what is right. And so I present, “Henry and the Monstrous Din,” an innocent children’s story written in 1966 with a great deal to say to us in 2016.

Henry and the Monstrous Din is Russell Hoban’s story of an imaginative little boy who, early one morning, begins to make a little noise. Before he knows it, the noise has grown and grown until it takes the form of a monstrous din, a living creature with a bass drum for a body, the twin bells of a traditional alarm clock for eyes, a steam whistle on the top of its head, and many other parts designed for raucous and ultimate noise-making. This monstrous din precedes to take his creator, Henry, for a long ride past his school, much to the principal’s dismay, and off into the countryside for an all-night adventure that includes a double-feature at the drive-in with plenty of popcorn and ice cream. As the monstrous din begins to get tired Henry is eventually able to convince it to take him home, and he subdues it once and for all by repeating the noises that first created it, in reverse, and more and more softly, until the din is gone.

I loved this story so much when I was a child. The idea that I might have the ability within me to create something so powerful, even if it was something I couldn’t at first control, was irresistible. Lillian Hoban’s pictures are so imaginative and fun to look at and her conceptualization of the din’s physical appearance is delightful to see. The language is incredibly detailed and evocative. The descriptions of the din’s noises are wonderfully descriptive, including my favorite: “like fire engines and bulldozers crashing into a piano warehouse.” The most beautiful language of all, though, comes when Henry and the din’s journey is described. “They galloped past fields and farms on faraway roads.” I love this! I was always drawn to assonance in books when I was a child, and this sentence fed that love, while also filling me with a sense of adventure and a longing to see those fields, those farms, to travel those roads.

The reader is never entirely certain whether this event takes place in Henry’s head, or if it is real. By the time he and the din return, it is still the same morning of the same day they left. The hole the din made in the side of the house closes magically and Henry’s parents are completely unaware that anything unusual—aside from a bit of noise—has happened. I like to imagine that Henry and his new friend did indeed go off on a wonderful adventure, and to think that Henry can bring his din back to keep him company whenever he likes.

This book shows us what we already know—that we can create things.

Our words and actions—our noises and even our silences, can have a tremendous impact on the people around us, and on events and the bigger world.

Henry cannot at first control what he has created and although it is just noise, there is the potential for harm. Every time Henry’s din encounters opposition, it drowns out those who would stop it with deafening and appalling noise. Noise can confuse us. It can bewitch us or frighten us. It can drown out our own inner dialogue, and muddle our perceptions of right and wrong. Noise can be distracting. It can be hurtful. And it can sweep us along with a strength that cannot be resisted. Whatever we create, whatever words or actions or noise we put into the world, we should be asking ourselves if we are right, if our creations are worthy, if we are kind, and whether we mean them for good, or for harm. We must always question our purpose and measure the effect we have on others and on the world. Otherwise the noise, the clamor of hatred and intolerance, hurts not only our ears, but our sensibilities and eventually, our very humanity.