Remaining in the background when things aren’t right isn’t right at all (Sneak peek into the prequel)

 

“You’re disappointed in me,” Pere concluded. “Well, it won’t be the last time, I’m sure. Being a commander, or even an adult, doesn’t mean we know always what’s right. We have to trust the nudges to do what we believe is right. And I think as long as you try to do the right thing, it will eventually turn out. It’s when you stop caring or don’t want to get involved and let anything happen—that’s when everything crumbles. General Stumpy was lazy and selfish. He allowed for all kinds of injustices and cruelty to flourish. The only example I have to follow is his; whatever he would do, I try to do the opposite. It’s all I’ve got.” ~The Walls in the Middle of Idumea

Too often I’ve publicly offended others who have come after me online–publicly and privately. And because I’m extremely non-confrontational (oh, how I wish I were like Mahrree!) I retreat, and decide to hide in the corner of my closet where I can never say or do anything stupid ever again.

Obviously I’ve not done well with self-banishment, because I’m still here. (Each self-imposed exile lasts no more than three days, because I can’t keep still.)

Lately, though, I’ve realized that retreat is selfish, feeling sorry for myself when I’m “picked on” is childish, and lurking in the background when things just aren’t right isn’t right at all. 

Someone has to say something; someone has to gently, kindly, firmly even stand up and say, “No. I cannot agree to this and will not submit to that.” Maybe because it’s the stories my parents told me of growing up in Nazi Germany are haunting me again, or it’s the examples of bullying and name-calling in the holocaust novel I teach my 10th graders, but increasingly I’m seeing the need for us to stand firm in our beliefs, to let people know what we think, and, if nothing more, demonstrate for others that we will not be intimidated.

Recently on a group discussion online I saw a woman relay something that happened in her church that alarmed her. She immediately wrote, “Not to say that this is wrong . . .” And honestly, I don’t know what she said after that because I HAD to write: “No, this IS wrong, and we shouldn’t be afraid to stand up and say so!”

Immediately I worried that I might offend, but I thought, No–I shouldn’t be afraid, either! Within minutes the response to my comment was overwhelming–in the affirmative. Comment after comment said the same thing, citing scriptures to back up what incorrect thing had been allowed to happen in the church, and the original woman who posted finally chimed in, after 50 responses with, “Thank you! I thought this was wrong, but I just wasn’t sure and I didn’t dare say anything. But now I will.”

It’s when we stop speaking out, stop standing up, and worry too much about offending the perpetually offended, that’s when it will all fall apart. 

It may still all crumble someday, but not because we didn’t say something about it. 

But I don’t think so. I think there will always remain pockets of strength that will withstand the oncoming anger (and, I beginning to suspect more and more, a future civil war) because we will be standing strong together.

New prequel is now available! Click on the image below to get it on Amazon, or read it here.

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IT’S HERE! The Prequel: “The Walls in the Middle of Idumea.” (And it’s a great place to start reading the series.)

The prequel I’ve been promising is now on Amazon! (There’s no greater feeling than waking up in the morning and seeing emails from Kindle Direct that begin with “Congratulations!”)

This shorter book (180 pages) is a great place to start reading the series. It works as both background and teaser, giving insights to characters you already know (if you’ve read the series) or will encounter later if this is your first introduction into the Forest at the Edge series.

Since it’s a smaller book, the paperback is only $6.50 and the digital download is only $.99. I’ve also committed to always providing my books for free here on my website. Click here for the .pdf version of the entire book. It’s copyrighted and to be used only for your reading pleasure, but you may share it as you wish.

I realized earlier this spring that Pere Shin’s story about the servants in the king’s mansion needed to be told, especially now when we have so many people ignorant of what’s really happening around them. The servants were naive; but today, too many people willfully don’t care to know what’s going on. That only enslaves them, not frees them.

From the back cover:

 Newly appointed as High General over the Army of Idumea, 40-year-old Pere Shin knows he’s only a figurehead. He’s hardly the typical officer: he’s cheerful, overweight, and bribes his favorite enlisted men with sweets. The army only expects him to sit quietly out of its way.

But Pere Shin has other ideas. There are secret groups to be exposed, and wrongs to be righted–he just has to find out who, and what, and where they are. As he does, he discovers more problems than he anticipates. So when his teenage son Relf offers to help, Pere decides that now may be a good time to give Relf some early command school training. That’s not the first decision he’s going to regret.

Taking place four decades before Book 1 of the Forest at the Edge series, this prequel tells the story that later inspires Pere’s grandson, Perrin, to go beyond the barriers that hold him back to expose what’s really goes on behind the walls in the middle of Idumea.

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On Greece, Rome, leaning against ancient temple columns, and . . . oh yeah, a new book coming soon!

To my horror I realized today that it’s been over two months since I’ve posted here. The past couple months of teaching high school–with my students taking the AP English Literature exam (scores are released this weekend–biting my knuckles), helping with Junior Prom (I got to be the MC announcing students, but I held back from using my full <announcer voice, voice . . .voice>), getting the school’s literature and arts book published (thank you, Amazon), helping students write graduation speeches (“Why aren’t you mentioning me?”), and grading finals (did they answer all the questions? Just slap a 90 on that.)–well, all that took every last minute of my days.

Then, the last day of school on June 14, my husband and I took off for sheer indulgence to celebrate our 31st wedding anniversary, since we’ve never really celebrated any of our past anniversaries beyond eating a piece of cake. We left our family, flew to Rome–just the two of us–and took a cruise to the Greek isles. It was my first passport, our first cruise, our first major trip anywhere. (People on our ship asked us if we took “practice” cruises before, and I just stared at them, not realizing that’s a thing. Matching t-shirts on cruises are also, sadly, a thing.)

Some of my students, after hearing where I was going and responding to my pictures on Facebook, said, “Man, you must be RICH to go on this trip!” (Forgetting that we’re school teachers in America.)

I replied with, “Not by any stretch. I’m working a second job for two summers to pay for it, we planned our port excursions on our own to save money, loaded up on the breakfast buffet before we left the ship so we didn’t have to eat until we got back for dinner, and for souvenirs we collected sand in test tubes and rocks off of beaches. In Rome we found a grocery store and bought local food for meals, paid only for two guided tours (Delos and the Vatican) and otherwise purchased guide books or just sidled up to other tour groups to listen in on what we were seeing in Athens, the Colosseum, Olympia, etc. We didn’t purchase the drinks package on the ship (picked up our own soda off-ship), walked for miles every day or took local buses and trains instead of taxis, and THAT’S how you afford a Mediterranean vacation!”

I never imagined I’d actually write a paragraph as I did above. Such a trip never was a possibility, only a dream. Yet it happened (after a GREAT deal of planning and saving). I’m still surprised we went through it, and that nothing horrible happened as a result. (I’m guilty of believing that if I try to do something fun, the cosmos will come back and bite me later. It still may . . .)

If you’ve read my books, it’s no secret that I borrow from ancient Greece and Rome: architecture and ruins, leadership and armies, “bread and circuses.” I’ve researched a great deal of their societies to create my own in the Forest at the Edge series.

In Book 6, Flight of the Wounded Falcon,  I gave Perrin and Mahrree experiences I’d never had (ok a little wish fulfillment in my books). I also gave them a way to remember it:

 . . . Mahrree gazed again at the large painting that nearly covered the wall in their little gathering room. For their anniversary a few weeks ago, Perrin had asked a landscape artist to create for them a painting of the ancient temple ruin where they had trekked so often.

The Shins had expected a small picture, but the artist, knowing how much they loved the site, created an immense painting of breathtaking realism of the entire area, with details and colors that left both Perrin and Mahrree speechless.

But the best part was that she had included both of them in the painting, smiling and leaning on either side of a pillar at the top of the stairs of the crumbling temple. They were only a few inches high, but even then the detail was astonishing.

They discovered later that the artist had been surreptitiously following them. Their grandchildren, in on the surprise, had found occasion to ask them to lean against things so that the artist could quickly sketch them at the correct heights. . . .

On nights like this, Mahrree stared at the painting and wished she and Perrin were at the ancient site again, as they had been dozens of times, all alone. . . .

The last time they did it was just a few weeks ago, for their 44th anniversary, just before they’d been presented with the glorious painting.

When Dave and I paid off the trip and realized we were actually going (although I kept thinking, Some disaster will strike and we won’t go; Greece will slip into the ocean, Rome will erupt in a giant volcano, I’ll get a horrible stomach flu . . .) I told my husband that all I wanted were a couple of pictures of us leaning against an old pillar. He hasn’t read the books (although I’ve used him on several covers) so he was a little confused by my request, but he was willing. (I wish you could see his, “Are you serious?” expression. After 31 years, I’ve seen it MANY times. He’s learned it’s just best to go along with things to keep me happy. That’s why we’ve been married for 31 years.)

On the island of Delos, we asked a man with a camera like mine to take our picture. (Here’s a travel hint: always find someone with a nicer camera than yours to take your picture; people with only phones have no idea what they’re doing.) The wind wasn’t too helpful, but the excitement–for me, at least–wasn’t blown away as we posed at the Temple of Isis (not the current ISIS, but an ancient one, fortunately):

Two days later we were in Olympia where the ancient Olympics were held for a thousand years, and whoa–more columns to lean against! So again I recruited a photographer, and my husband gave me that same puzzled look, then gamely leaned against another column:

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I see these photos from just a couple weeks ago and I still can’t believe that I was allowed to visit some amazing places. I still marvel that I’ve been allowed to have nine children, to teach high school students, to write an entire books series, to meet so many marvelous people . . . sometimes life is just too good.

No, I amend that: very frequently life is just too good. When you stop and analyze it, and realize what opportunities it gives you, it’s overwhelming. We have to sit in the grass and just whisper, “Thank you.”

Even if the cosmos does decide to come back one day and bite me in the rear because it’s my turn for a new trial, I’ll still have had all of this. Too much, and too good.

Oh, and did you notice what I put in the title about a new book? IT’S TRUE! I’ve written a prequel about the first High General Pere Shin and the servants of King Querul, and it’s nearly ready to be published! (Ok, so I had a few minutes here and there the past three months, and surprisingly I produced a new book with that time.)

I plan to release it this summer, now that my life has slowed down a little, so watch for updates and a LOT more posts about The Walls in the Middle of Idumea, a Forest at the Edge Prequel.

And no, you do NOT have needed to read the series to read the prequel. In fact, I think it’ll be a good lead-in to the rest of the series, especially since it’s only about 180 pages (not as daunting as some of my other books). So if you have any friends that have been interested in reading, tell them they can begin here!

The Walls in the Middle of Idumea–coming very, very soon!

Is your life going exactly as you expected it would? Same here. Maybe that’s not a bad thing.

Not what I expected BOOK 8 teaser HORIZONTAL

I hate surprises, procrastination, and not knowing how things will work out. So I plan for every contingency and emergency, and STILL God finds the one (or likely millions) of scenarios I didn’t anticipate and throws that one at me leaving me to think, “Why didn’t I see that coming?!”

And that sums up life, I’ve realized.

How many of you are living exactly as you expected you would? With all your family, financial, and employment goals achieved?

Yeah, same here.

Yet how many of you, if given the opportunity, would go back and reverse all the unexpected twists in your life?

I used to think I would, but now I realize I wouldn’t. Everything good and bad and perplexing has worked to shape me into the person I am right now, and I like who I might finally become.

The unexpected is good, in a long, roundabout way.

Speaking of the unexpected, I’ve heard back from a lot of you about the ending of Book 8. So far no one has said, “That’s exactly what I thought would happen.” (Which is a huge relief because I did NOT want to write a predictable story!)

To be honest, a lot of how the story went caught me off-guard as well. Trying to avoid a spoiler here, but about Lemuel and Perrin? That smacked me upside the head and added an unexpected layer of insight and depth that I didn’t know was coming. I didn’t set out to write the story that way, and that’s why writing this has been so darn fun.

Nor did I expect how eagerly you snatched up the book when it came out. You threw The Last Day to “Bestseller” status–thank you!

Best Selling Book 8 24 hours after release

I’m also happy to report that The Last Day is now available in paperback for $16.65, and for free on Smashwords. In fact, the ENTIRE SERIES is on Smashwords and for free!

I never expected to write this series, never expected to find so many new friends as readers, and never expected to have a little bit of success.

I guess being surprised every now and then is acceptable.

BOOK 8 “The Last Day” IS HERE!!! The final installment of “The Forest at the Edge” series

We made it, friends, to The Last Day!

But what is “The Last Day”? No one’s sure. Young Pere is finally on his way home, albeit with Lemuel Thorne prodding him along with a sword. Shem and Peto are trying to get everyone to the ancient temple site before General Thorne’s army arrives, but not everyone wants to go. A Deliverer is supposed to save the Salemites, a Destroyer is supposed to take care of the army, but they haven’t shown up yet. Mahrree’s become more stubborn than ever insisting on waiting for Perrin, and in the middle of everything Versula Thorne–Lemuel’s oldest daughter–thinks she can stop him. Are you ready?!

Clocking in at about 750 pages, this should keep you occupied for a few hours. You can get it in three ways:

1: Amazon download–priced at $.99, that’s .001 of a penny per page and tons of Kindle-gripping worry and finger-swiping adventure to end your summer right.

2: You can click here to read the entire thing as a pdf. on this website. Once again, I’m offering my book in a free format because I feel this story was “given” to me freely so I want to “share” it freely–literally. I will always offer all my books for free on my website because I’m merely a scribe for a much more creative Creator.

3: Good old-fashioned paperback, priced at $16.95 . It should be available later this week (always takes a few days to pop up on Amazon). Personally I love the feel of paper in my hands, and yes, ALL of my books have a paper component.

Boxed Sets?

I’ve had a number of readers ask for this, and I don’t know how to offer it. All of the books can be purchased as paperbacks, and I’ve designed the covers to have a uniform feel so they line up nicely on the shelf.

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(These are my “proof” copies, and the last two books still have all my notes sticking out. I showed Book 7’s notes to my students last year to demonstrate how with even half of dozen proofreaders, errors still show up in the printed copy.)

But as for an actual box to put them in? I haven’t yet found an online source that can do it for me.

So I may just have to order boxes, cut and tape them to the right size, decorate them myself, and send them out to you if you purchase all eight books and ask me for a box. Hey, at least each box will be unique and a potential collector’s item, right? I’m still working on the design, but markers will surely play a part in it.

And maybe some stickers from the dollar store.

I’m all about quality.

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Share this with your friends, let me know what you think of the ending, and be assured that I’m already working on preliminary notes for the prequel. It may be “the last day,” but the story is far from over.

Front Cover of Book 8: The Last Day! (And one more teaser)

Book 8 FRONT COVER

It’s seriously close, friends–the RELEASE of Book 8, The Last Day! I have been immensely blessed to have the time and resources I needed to get this conclusion out before school starts again next month.

I hadn’t released the cover until now, because frankly, it’s been a hard one to create. I had several visions of what I wanted it to be, who I wanted as models, but none of it was working the way I hoped it could. I loved this cliff side photo I took back in April when I visited Utah, the way the sun came down and sparkled its way through and naturally left its bursts on my image. I used it as a teaser, but in the end it became the official cover.

It may seem that I didn’t use any models in this one (again, lots of ideas, none working out) but in the end I did. In the corner of the open D of “Day” there are two figures climbing. It’s pretty subtle, but in the end I thought this would represent the feel of the book best.

Now, back to the last fine edit of the hard proof copy in my hands RIGHT NOW, but first, one more teaser for you:

“Are you about finished?” Beaved interrupted hotly. “Because I’m supposed to bring him at any moment!”

Cloud Man nodded and patted Young Pere’s hand which still held the unlocked chain together. “I think we’re almost ready.”

~ Book 8, The Last Day, coming before August is over

Book 8 IS COMING THIS SUMMER! (I promise, really–just hang in there, friends)

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Sorry I can’t be more specific with the date. I need to finish this year of teaching in June.
Then prep for and teach three weeks of summer school.
Then move into our fourth house in just one year (a personal best [worst] for number of moves for us).
Then finish editing Book 8 (all of my beta readers have now sent me their suggestions).
THEN publish and get this into your hands before school starts again in September. (Writing is a hobby, as you might have figured out, and not my full-time job. I squeeze it in when I have spare moments.)

I hope you’ll feel this last installment was worth the wait.

(If not, remember that you probably picked it up for free, so I’ll give you your money back.)

FREE .pdf file of Book 7: The Soldier in the Middle of the World–available now!

Book 7 FRONT coverAs with my previous book, Book 7 is HERE now, for free, available as a .pdf. Click right here for the page that will give you the link. 

Why do I do this, give away my books for free? As I’ve written before when I published Book 5, Safety Assured Leaving East of Medicetti, I feel I was given this series, like a rough blueprint, along with a pile of supplies, and told to “Go for it.”

I’ll be the first to admit I’m a clumsy builder, but writing and rewriting has brought such joy, and I want to share it. I don’t want a few bucks to come in the way of someone accessing it, and while the paperbacks cost a bit, I literally do not make anything from them. The prices are set to the barest minimum I’m allowed to set them to.

Years ago the phrase, “Freely given, freely shared,” came to me, and this blueprint and supplies were “freely given” to me by our Creator. I feel He wants me to “freely share” these books with you.  If you’ve read Book 5, you know what I’m talking about. Yes, I’ve put in a ton of labor for about eight years, but I’ve been compensated in other ways, if not monetarily.

No, I’m not independently wealthy. My husband and I are both in education and we have nine kids. Do the math. It’s dismal.

But this series hasn’t been about making money–it’s about sharing an idea that can improve our world for everyone.  

So share freely and get the word out: “There’s this slightly mad woman giving away her books. Snatch them up, quick, before she comes to her senses!” (No worry there; I’ve never come to my senses. I have no idea where they are, and they aren’t too worried about looking for me, either.)

Need a new read for the New Year? Here’s Book 7, The Soldier in the Middle of the World!

As if the headline doesn’t say enough, I’ll say it again: IT’S ALIVE! Here’s the link! The download is only .99!

Book 7 release

Thanks for your patience and thank goodness for Christmas vacations, giving me time to get this finished and published.

Book 8 is up on my laptop right now, and I have fantasies of getting it done sometime next summer. (Ahh, summer fantasies . . .)

In the meantime, I’m going to release a barbaric yawp in celebration and swagger around the house like this today because BOOK #7 IS OUT THERE!

(Now I need a nap. School starts again on Tuesday. Sigh.)

Book 7 Cover is here! And “The Soldier in the Middle of the World” is nearly ready!

I promise, dear friends, that I have NOT been neglecting Book 7. In the spare minutes I can squeeze out here and there, I’ve been formatting for printing, and this glorious long Thanksgiving weekend I neglected my teaching job, forgot all about Black Friday shopping, and instead MADE A BOOK COVER!

(Again, I used family members because they know I won’t feed them unless they dress up. I forced the jacket on to another son whose reluctant and stiff stance wasn’t acting; it’s how he really felt to be cajoled into his mother’s obsessive hobby.)

This means Book 7 is close–VERY, VERY close! Once I get the proof back and fix last-minute errors, The Soldier in the Middle of the World will be published!

Before Christmas? Maybe, maybe . . . I don’t dare make any promises, but I would love to be able to deliver that gift to you. In the meantime, my entire series can be downloaded for less than $2. Now THAT’S a cheap awesome gift to give!

Book 7 FRONT cover

Book 7 back cover

(I didn’t realize making the back cover white would mean it looks HUGE on my website.)