Meet Morgan

IMG_9192.JPGOver the past few weeks, my blog readers have seen Morgan’s senior photos, read my advice to her as she gets ready to head to college, and accompanied us to Greece and Rome. After all of that, Morgan suggested that you all might like to know her a little better. Since she’s heading off in less than two months to begin her journey to her future career, she’d like to share with you what led her to this moment. I hope you finish this feeling like you know her a better and knowing that there is still hope for future generations.

Warning: you may need a tissue or two.

 

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Morgan as the Tooth Fairy, #careergoals

Throughout my whole life, and up until January of 2018, I struggled with what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I was terrified to make the wrong choice, knowing that this was probably the most important decision I would ever make. For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be connected with medicine. I floated between dentist, surgeon, and even medical malpractice law. My whole life I served others with compassion and love, but it never clicked.  Little did I know, that in less than two months, my whole world would flip upside down. I knew exactly what I wanted to be: a nurse. 

 

On November 22, the day before Thanksgiving, my grandfather, who I called Poppy, was admitted into Johns Hopkins Hospital. This would be a shock for the whole family, because he had just gotten back from a week-long vacation in Colorado with my dad and aunt. Less than a week later, it was found out that he had Frontal Lobe Dementia, a rare and terminal form of dementia.  We were told that he might have up to six months to live, but it was looking like a lot less. In early December, he was allowed to go home with hospice care. By this time, Poppy had lost all ability to talk and had to be fed through a feeding tube. This change was dramatic because he was always the life of the party and the most talkative person in the family with the most stories. 

 

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Morgan and her Poppy

Poppy was a huge part of raising me. For example, he lived only 15 minutes away from my school, allowing me to see him often, and allowing him to always be present whenever anybody needed him. He came to my house just about everyday, whether it was to help my dad or simply to give to my sisters and me some pastry that he just mastered. So when I heard that someone I thought who was going to live forever was looking at less than six months, I became empty. More than just being upset that I was losing someone so important to me, I felt helpless. For me, there was only one way I could fix this, and it was to do something. So at only 16 years old, I became one of the primary caregivers for my grandfather. This forced me to become really mature really fast. I had to use my independence to be responsible for another person. 

 

Everyday after school, I would drive right to the farmhouse where Poppy lived. I would go straight inside and begin my daily routine: feed him through a feeding tube, give him any pain medicine, try to communicate in any way possible, and just be company for him. After hours of caring for him, I would go home, do my homework, and go to bed fully prepared to do the exact same thing the next day, and everyday, until this journey was over. For the next two months, until the time of his passing, this is exactly what I did. Over Christmas vacation, I stayed with my grandparents around the clock. I was dedicated to making Poppy feel comfortable and showed deep compassion for him. This compassion is something that I will carry with me into my future career.

I learned and used every skill I needed to fully care for my grandfather so that my grandmother, Grancy, could get some sleep at night and not worry about doing everything for herself and Poppy. There were times that I would tell her I knew exactly what I was doing, even if I didn’t, and then I would figure out how to do whatever it was. By the end of my time with my grandfather, I knew that nursing was my calling. Our time together gave me the opportunity to learn skills that I will use everyday as a nurse, such as giving insulin and feeding through a tube. While these skills are material things, I also grew in compassion, sympathy, maturity, and responsibility.

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Nursing Student Preview Day

Since that time, I have been very enthusiastic about my future. I am constantly trying to learn new skills that will benefit me, I have started teaching myself the Spanish that I will use with patients, and I am taking classes aimed towards health professions. When I told my uncle that I had decided to be a nurse he said to me, “You’re so smart, just go ahead and be a doctor! It pays more and you are more than capable of doing it.” I just smiled and explained to him that I don’t want to be a doctor. I don’t want to go and give patients their diagnosis and then move on to the next room to do a consultation. I want to be the person that cares for a patient for their whole journey and makes them comfortable along the way. While the time spent with my grandfather in his last few months was long, hard, and emotional, I know that it happened for a reason. I am eternally grateful for Poppy as he helped me figure out where I am meant to be in life, and not a day of my life will go by when I won’t thank him for being such a big influence on me. 

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Two peas in a pod

I think Morgan’s grandfather would be so proud of her as he would be of all of his grandchildren. It’s going to be hard to let her go, but I think Morgan will be do just fine. I’m so excited to watch her make her dream come true.

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What I was writing about a year ago this week: Chincoteague Island Trilogy.

Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture MeWhispering Vines, and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016.  Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her follow up, Island of Promise is a reader favorite. Amy’s children’s book is The Greatest Gift. The suspense novel, Summer’s Squall, and all of Amy’s books, can be found online and in stores. Her latest novel, Island of Promise, was recently awarded First Prize by the Oklahoma Romance Writer’s Association as the best Inspirational Romance of 2018 and was awarded a Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards 2019 for Inspirational Fiction. It is a finalist for the RWA Golden Quill Contest and the Eric Hoffer Award of Fiction.

Amy’s latest book, The Devil’s Fortune, is now available! Order your copy today.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor, Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and at http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017), Island of Promise (2018).

A New Beginning

They say every good thing must come to an end, but is that really true? I’ve been thinking about that as Morgan and I approach the end of our trip to Greece. With all the pictures, videos, and—best yet—the memories, does our trip truly come to and end? And even if the trip itself does end, isn’t the entire trip actually more of a beginning?

Why is the sunset considered the end of the day and not the beginning of the night? Why is the end of a relationship not the beginning of a new start? Why does everyone see graduation as the end of something so momentous when life has only just begun?

Sunset on Naxos

I remember, when I graduated from high school all those years ago, we were told that we were not celebrating our graduation but our commencement—not marking the end of something but the beginning of something even better. We were starting over, becoming who we were meant to be, discovering ourselves in a new way and in a new place. My oldest daughter always says that nobody should peak in high school because life doesn’t really begin until you leave home and discover who you are. Perhaps this is why we should celebrate not the ending but the beginning, the chance to truly grow into the person God designed us to be.

This is what my daughters and I celebrated after their graduations. I can honestly say that those trips with my daughters were new beginnings that opened new worlds for us both literally and figuratively. We visited new places, experienced new cultures, tried new foods, and spoke new languages. Our worlds expanded in the most concrete ways. However, our worlds as mother and daughters expended just as much, perhaps even more.

Oia, Santorini

Over the course of the past 10 days, Morgan and I, like each of her sisters and I in the past, visited new places in our relationship. We weren’t just mother and daughter. We experienced Greece as traveling companions and as friends. We developed a new culture, a new way of life, a new understanding of who each other is. We learned things together. We found new foods we want to make at home and new drinks we both enjoy. We learned a new language, not the language spoken by a particular civilization but the language spoken between a mother and an adult daughter.

Morgan and Amy in Santorini

I’ve been impressed with my daughter’s maturity, her take-charge attitude, and her willingness to try new things, including cliff jumping into the Mediterranean! I’m convinced there is nothing she can’t do, and it makes me feel like an accomplished mom of a confident and competent adult. It’s a gift to see her in a new light–an adult ready to take on the world.

Morgan cliff jumping on Milos

It’s always difficult when something ends. As human beings, we sometimes find it challenging to accept change, to embrace something new, to say goodbye to those things to which we are accustom. But I’ve learned that from endings come beginnings. Though it saddens me to think that my baby will soon be living over five hours away, it excites me to see what she will do, accomplish, become. I’m so proud of the person she is growing into and look forward to seeing her embrace her new circumstances, new challenges, new life.

My baby is all grown up (Syros)

This trip isn’t the end of our time together any more than her graduation was an ending. Like the sunset, it’s merely a transition into something new, something wonderful, something to look forward to. I spent eighteen years getting to know my precious child. I hope to have twice that many years to get to know this wonderful adult.

Sunset at the Temple of Apollo, Naxos Island
You can see videos of our amazing adventure.

Want More from Amy?

Subscribe to my newsletter for information on upcoming books, cover reveals, and insider information.  Do you know what my next book is about?  My newsletter subscribers do!

What I was writing about a year ago this week: A Glimpse of Paradise.

Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture MeWhispering Vines, and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016.  Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her follow up, Island of Promise is a reader favorite. Amy’s children’s book is The Greatest Gift. The suspense novel, Summer’s Squall, and all of Amy’s books, can be found online and in stores. Her latest novel, Island of Promise, was recently awarded First Prize by the Oklahoma Romance Writer’s Association as the best Inspirational Romance of 2018 and was awarded a Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards 2019 for Inspirational Fiction. It is a finalist for the RWA Golden Quill Contest and the Eric Hoffer Award of Fiction.

Amy’s latest book, The Devil’s Fortune, is now available! Order your copy today.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor, Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and at http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017), Island of Promise (2018).

A Mother/Daughter Adventure

Those who have been following me for a few years know that each time one of our daughters graduates, she and I embark on a mother-daughter trip abroad. Rebecca and I backpacked through seven countries, beginning in England and finishing in Sweden. It was a whirlwind, three-week adventure that we will never forget.
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Katie Ann and I spent over a week in London, exploring every British pop-culture phenomenon from the Beatles to Harry Potter as well as several neighboring cities, then we spent a few days in Scotland and a few days in Iceland.
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This year, Morgan and I are tackling the Greek Isles with five days on the mainland and a side trip to Pompeii.

While the places, the food, the plays, and the tours are memorable in and of themselves, it’s the little things that make these trips special. And you can experience your own special adventure with your graduate even if you only go as far as your own back yard. What’s important is to…

Let your child be the guide.
DSC01287Rebecca and Katie both had very specific lists of what they wanted to do on their trips. Rebecca had to see a Shakespeare play at the Globe, visit Elsinore Castle (the home of the real-life Danish prince on whom Hamlet was based), and see the Red Light District of Amsterdam (yes, we did walk through it, though I covered her eyes for most of it)!

Katie wanted to experience all of her pop-culture favorites. We toured the Harry Potter studio, walked on Abby Road, took part in the Sherlock Holmes tour, and saw Romeo and Juliet at the Globe. We took buses and trains outside of the city to see Windsor Castle and the Magna Carta in Salisbury. Katie was interested in digging up some family history in Edinburgh and visiting a glacier and a volcano in Iceland.IMG_4266

Morgan’s main interests are relaxing in the Greek Isles, doing some kayaking and hiking,  and shoppinglots and lots of shopping. It will be a very different trip from the others, but my girls are all three very unique individuals! To be honest, after the crazy spring we had, I am actually looking forward to a lot of down time in the hot sun and cool water.

Let your daughter plan your adventure, and give in to her wishes. You’ll see things and go places you never imagined (like standing INSIDE one of the tallest waterfalls in the world).
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Embrace the hiccups.
DSC01103.JPGRebecca and I wanted so badly to visit the beaches of Normandy, where her great-grandfather and his Brothers in Arms stormed the shore to liberate France. Unfortunately, there was a train strike the day we needed to get from Mont St. Michel to Normandy. We found ourselves spending an entire day inside the train station in Renee, France, playing scrabble on my iPad. We talked, laughed, and made the most of the time. When we arrived in Luxembourg a couple days later, we learned that there was an American cemetery not far from the city. It wouldn’t make up for not visiting Normandy, but we decided it was important to go. We had to take a bus and walk quite a bit to get there, but we were two of the few visitors there that day who were able to pay our respects to General Patton himself.

IMG_6473Like the train strike, we had small glitches here and there on both trips. There were some days when the weather was not in our favor. Katie and I ran through a downpour in London, lugging our bags and waving to taxis, and we walked the streets of Edinburgh in a foggy mist that probably would have kept us inside back home. Just because it rains on your parade doesn’t mean you should pack up the band and head home. An adventure is an adventure. Grab your umbrella, smile, and walk in the rain. You will never regret the time you spend with your child no matter the weather.

DSC01025-001Take God with you, or find Him there, and He will surprise you.
We spent a lot of time on our trips visiting churches and monasteries. Why? Because I love visiting churches, and in Europe, that’s where all the history is! While in Brugge, Rebecca and I found ourselves among a very small group of people visiting a local church. Well, unbeknownst to us, one of  Michelangelo’s Madonna statues stood in a corner of the church, and we got to see it. A year or so later, I sat in a dark movie theater and watched George Clooney and company save the Brugge Madonna from the Germans. Until The Monuments Men came out, I’m guessing most tourists would not have thought to visit that beautiful church, one of the highlights of our stay in Brugge.

One of the things I’m most looking forward to on this trip is our visit to Corinth. We will be walking among the ruins where Paul preached. We will trace the steps of the Corinthian Christians, whom Paul reminded that love is patient, kind, not jealous or pompous or rude, not brooding or quick-tempered, but believing, hoping, and enduring. What better lesson can a young adult learn, and what more could I want for my child?

No matter where you’re going or what you’re doing. Pray that the Holy Spirit be your guide. Let God lead you, or seek Him out. It will send a message to your child, reminding her that God is in all places and all things, and that it’s important to seek Him out and make Him part of your life, even on vacation. She will face many circumstances over the next few years where it will be crucial for her to remember that God is always there, waiting for her to find Him.

DSC00835.JPGBe in the Moment.
Yes, you may risk missing that plane to France, but when you hear the queen is coming, you must go see her! And running through the airport, shouting, “Look out, we’re on the Amazing Race,” will be one of the most memorable and talked about parts of your trip.

Embrace your time together.
Talk to each other. Laugh together. Try new foods, see new sights. Walk paths you’ve never walked, and reach for new heights. Ask your graduate about his or her hopes and dreams. Ask about her fears and his uncertainties. Remind your child how much you love him and how excited you are for her as she enters a new phase in life.

DSC00954-001Whether you head to foreign lands or walk to the neighborhood park, what maters most is that you do it together. Take this time to truly get to know this young adult, no longer a child, and enjoy her company. The summer will go by quickly, and before you know it, the first year of college will fade. You will blink, and law school will be almost finished. You will exhale, and a wedding is being planned. 

So, what are you waiting for? Live. Laugh. Love. Together.

More to come next week. For now, Morgan and I are off on an adventure.

Want More?

Subscribe to my newsletter for information on upcoming books, cover reveals, and insider information.  Do you know what my next book is about?  My newsletter subscribers do!

 

What I was writing about a year ago this week: Defining Success.

Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture MeWhispering Vines, and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016.  Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her follow up, Island of Promise is a reader favorite. Amy’s children’s book is The Greatest Gift. The suspense novel, Summer’s Squall, and all of Amy’s books, can be found online and in stores. Her latest novel, Island of Promise, was recently awarded First Prize by the Oklahoma Romance Writer’s Association as the best Inspirational Romance of 2018 and was awarded a Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards 2019 for Inspirational Fiction. It is a finalist for the RWA Golden Quill Contest and the Eric Hoffer Award of Fiction.

Amy’s latest book, The Devil’s Fortune, is now available! Order your copy today.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor, Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and at http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017), Island of Promise (2018).

 

Summer Reading 2019

416705_3263221894117_1074320104_32720367_2122303055_oA.jpgI love this time of year when I get to share my favorite recent reads with you, my friends, and I get to hear about what you’re reading! I like to give you several options, spread across genres. So, get ready to add to your list of what you want to take to the beach, on the plane, or down to the pool. Enjoy!

 

 

 

Here are my favorite books from the past year (click on the book cover to go to its Amazon page):

{41E245C8-93B9-4941-9566-BE0E8031B5EB}Img100WWII Espionage 
The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff
One morning while passing through Grand Central Terminal on her way to work, Grace Healey finds an abandoned suitcase tucked beneath a bench. Unable to resist her own curiosity, Grace opens the suitcase, where she discovers a dozen photographs—each of a different woman. In a moment of impulse, Grace takes the photographs and quickly leaves the station.
Grace soon learns that the suitcase belonged to a woman named Eleanor Trigg, leader of a network of female secret agents who were deployed out of London during the war. Twelve of these women were sent to Occupied Europe as couriers and radio operators to aid the resistance, but they never returned home, their fates a mystery. Setting out to learn the truth behind the women in the photographs, Grace finds herself drawn to a young mother turned agent named Marie, whose daring mission overseas reveals a remarkable story of friendship, valor and betrayal.
My thoughts: The Lost Girls of Paris is one of those books that authors such as myself long to write. With just enough truth to hook you and more than enough heart to reel you in, it’s the best way to lose an afternoon.

{51AAB332-ACF1-447C-BD71-12135E37CD9B}Img100Contemporary Women’s Fiction
Night of Miracles by Elizabeth Berg
Lucille Howard is getting on in years, but she stays busy. Thanks to the inspiration of her dearly departed friend Arthur Truluv, she has begun to teach baking classes, sharing the secrets to her delicious classic Southern yellow cake, the perfect pinwheel cookies, and other sweet essentials. Her classes have become so popular that she’s hired Iris, a new resident of Mason, Missouri, as an assistant. Iris doesn’t know how to bake but she needs to keep her mind off a big decision she sorely regrets.
When a new family moves in next door and tragedy strikes, Lucille begins to look out for Lincoln, their son. Lincoln’s parents aren’t the only ones in town facing hard choices and uncertain futures. In these difficult times, the residents of Mason come together and find the true power of community—just when they need it the most.
My thoughts: When you wake up at 4am and feel compelled to reach for the book by your bedside, you know you’ve chosen a good story. Night of Miracles will make you laugh. It will make you cry. It will make you know that all is right with the world no matter the outcome of your situation. All things happen for a reason. Beautifully written. Thank you.

{4CAA1BA3-55E0-4B1E-A49D-16C771E36B38}Img100Heart-Stopping Time Travel
The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain
When Carly Sears, a young woman widowed by the Vietnam war, receives the news that her unborn baby girl has a heart defect, she is devastated. It is 1970, and she is told that nothing can be done to help her child. But her brother-in-law, a physicist with a mysterious past, tells her that perhaps there is a way to save her baby. What he suggests is something that will shatter every preconceived notion that Carly has. Something that will require a kind of strength and courage she never knew existed. Something that will mean an unimaginable leap of faith on Carly’s part.
And all for the love of her unborn child.

My thoughts: All writers read a book or two and think, “I wish I had thought of this story and written it.” While that might be true of this book for me, I don’t believe I could have done any better than Diane Chamberlain already did. She wove a beautiful tale of love lost and love gained, twice over, spanning decades and cultures. Be forewarned, you won’t want to put this down.

{5A516DA4-494C-41B7-A3F8-806F4C1FE748}Img100A Mystery You Won’t Be Able to Put Down
Her One Mistake by Heidi Perks
Charlotte was supposed to be looking after the children, and she swears she was. She only took her eyes off of them for one second. But when her three kids are all safe and sound at the school fair, and Alice, her best friend Harriet’s daughter, is nowhere to be found, Charlotte panics. Frantically searching everywhere, Charlotte knows she must find the courage to tell Harriet that her beloved only child is missing. And admit that she has only herself to blame.
Harriet, devastated by this unthinkable, unbearable loss, can no longer bring herself to speak to Charlotte again, much less trust her. Now more isolated than ever and struggling to keep her marriage afloat, Harriet believes nothing and no one. But as the police bear down on both women trying to piece together the puzzle of what happened to this little girl, dark secrets begin to surface—and Harriet discovers that confiding in Charlotte again may be the only thing that will reunite her with her daughter….
My thoughts: Charlotte made mistakes. Harriet made mistakes. We all make mistakes. Sometimes our mistakes cause us to lose our friends. Sometimes they cause us to lose sight of who we are. Sometimes they lead to death. And sometimes, they allow us to see what we should have seen all along. Gripping to the end, Her One Mistake will make you question every word you read. Your only mistake would be to put the book down before finishing.

{1DFDC141-E7CB-4524-9671-DFC635B60BB6}Img100Charming, Witty, Unforgettable Historical Tale
The Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
In 1922, Count Alexander Rostov is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, and is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel’s doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him entry into a much larger world of emotional discovery.
Brimming with humor, a glittering cast of characters, and one beautifully rendered scene after another, this singular novel casts a spell as it relates the count’s endeavor to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a man of purpose.
My thoughts: Sheer Perfection. Whoever thought that a book about a man under house arrest in a hotel for 40 years would be interesting? Interesting, provocative, emotionally charged, and worthy of praise, A Gentleman in Moscow more than delivers. It entertains, engrosses, and enraptures. The prose is literary intoxication while the story is literary genius.

51xTm5QG3UL._SY346_Crime Thriller at Its Best
The People vs. Alex Cross by James Patterson
Alex Cross is on the wrong side of the law. Charged with gunning down followers of his nemesis Gary Soneji in cold blood, he is being turned into the poster child for trigger-happy cops. Cross knows it was self-defense. But will a jury see it that way?
When his former partner Sampson shows up needing his help, Cross jumps at the chance, even if it may end up costing him what’s left of his career. When a string of young, blonde women go missing, the investigation leads Cross and Sampson to the most depraved, darkest corners of the internet, where murder is just another form of entertainment.
As the prosecution presents its case, and the nation watches, even those closest to Cross begin to doubt his innocence. If he can’t convince his own family that he didn’t pull the trigger with intent to kill, how can he hope to persuade a jury? But even with everything on the line, Cross will do whatever it takes to stop a dangerous criminal . . . even if he can’t save himself.
Struggling to prove his own innocence and uncover the truth lurking online, Cross must risk everything to save his most at-risk patient of all: himself.
My thoughts: I’ve been a long-time fan of Patterson, beginning with my first job as a librarian back in 1992, just as Along Came A Spider was hitting the bestseller list. Over the years, Patterson has written books for adults, children, and teens, ranging from police thrillers to romance to Christmas picture books. I’ve read most of them. However, lately I find myself disappointed in many of his offerings, and the reason is abundantly clear. I’m a writer, and I know what it would mean to be taken under the wings of a prolific, award-winning author, as Patterson has done with the co-authors of so many of his books. But when it comes down it, his best books, by far, are the ones he authors himself. There is a distinctive flow, an energy, a torrent of action, dialogue, and characterization in his writing that simply isn’t there when the book is co-authored. The People Vs Alex Cross is a reminder of the brilliance that is James Patterson when he writes without the aid of someone else stringing his story together.

51-sSDyfdkL._SY346_Best Beach Book
By Invitation Only by Dorothea Benton Frank
The Lowcountry of South Carolina is where By Invitation Only begins at a barbecue engagement party thrown by Diane English Stiftel, her brother Floyd, and her parents to celebrate her son’s engagement. On this gorgeous, magical night, the bride’s father, Alejandro Cambria, a wealthy power broker whose unbelievably successful career in private equity made him one of Chicago’s celebrated elite, discovers the limits and possibilities of cell phone range. While the mother of the bride, Susan Kennedy Cambria, who dabbles in the world of public relations and believes herself deserving of every square inch of her multimillion-dollar penthouse and imaginary carrara marble pedestal, learns about moonshine and dangerous liaisons.
Soon By Invitation Only zooms to Chicago, where the unraveling accelerates. Nearly a thousand miles away from her comfortable, familiar world, Diane is the antithesis of the bright lights and super-sophisticated guests attending her son Fred’s second engagement party. Why a second party? Maybe it had been assumed that the first one wouldn’t be up to snuff? Fred is marrying Shelby Cambria, also an only child. The Cambrias’ dearest wish is for their daughter to be happy. If Shelby wants to marry Frederick, aka Fred, they will not stand in her way—although Susan does hope her friends won’t think her daughter is marrying more than a few degrees beneath her socially. At the same time, Diane worries that her son will be lost to her forever.
By Invitation Only is a tale of two families, one struggling to do well, one well to do, and one young couple—the privileged daughter of Chicago’s crème de la crème and the son of hard -working Southern peach farmers.
My thoughts:  Another winner by Dorothea Benton Frank. I laughed so hard at times, my husband told me I was keeping him awake. Other times, I needed a tissue or three. The end was just how it should be. Thank you, Dorothea Benton Frank.

front coverPirates, Hidden Treasure, Family Dynamics, and Unrequited Love – What More Could You Want in a Summer Read?
The Devil’s Fortune by Amy Schisler
As a child, all Courtney ever wanted was to own Riverview Terrace. As an adult, that was the farthest thing from her mind. Following a near-fatal accident and court-approved windfall, Courtney gains the funds to buy her ancestors’ colonial-era house, complete with rotting beams and a collapsing roof. The legends of pirate treasure, hidden passageways, and long-concealed family secrets intrigue Courtney, but when a vandal thwarts all progress, the house is suddenly much more than she believes she can handle. River Terrace may lead Courtney to her destiny, but will the journey be on a road paved with treasure or a dead-end street that leaves her with nothing but regret?
My thoughts: Okay, this is my latest book, but it’s my favorite of my books so far. Taken from the pages of my own family history, The Devil’s Fortune introduces readers to the infamous pirate Anne Bonny and weaves her story into those of the Tidewater Pirates who pillaged and plundered along the Chesapeake Bay, Patuxent River, and their tributaries. Anne reluctantly settles into life in the Colonies, making a home for herself on the shores of the Wicomico River. Hundreds of years later, Courtney, a caricature of my younger self, searches for many of the same things that Anne searched for, including an elusive pirate treasure. I hope you will feel as good reading this fictionalized excerpt from my family’s past as much as I enjoyed writing it!

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What I was writing about a year ago this week: “A Tremendous Thing”.

Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture MeWhispering Vines, and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016.  Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her follow up, Island of Promise is a reader favorite. Amy’s children’s book is The Greatest Gift. The suspense novel, Summer’s Squall, and all of Amy’s books, can be found online and in stores. Her latest novel, Island of Promise, was recently awarded First Prize by the Oklahoma Romance Writer’s Association as the best Inspirational Romance of 2018 and was awarded a Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards 2019 for Inspirational Fiction. It is a finalist for the RWA Golden Quill Contest and the Eric Hoffer Award of Fiction.

Amy’s latest book, The Devil’s Fortune, is now available! Order your copy today.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor, Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and at http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017), Island of Promise (2018).

Phenomenal Cosmic Power

aladin5.jpgYesterday, my daughter, my mother-in-law, and I went to see the new live-action release of Disney’s Aladdin. As with all of Disney’s films, it was a spectacle for the eyes and a sweet concoction for the ears. I was surprised that only Jasmine and Aladdin seemed Middle-Eastern. Those were some lily-white inhabitants of Agrabah! Overall, though, the acting was superb,, the score was enchanting, and we really enjoyed the film, except for one thing that completely ruined the ending for me and left me feeling very much out of sorts…

Most of you probably know that the story of Aladdin comes from The Book of One Thousand and One Nights (also known as The Arabian Nights). The story actually takes place in China, where Aladdin is a poor boy living on the streets in a nameless Chinese city. His mother is persuaded by a sorcerer to allow Aladdin to retrieve an oil lamp from a magical cave. The sorcerer double-crosses Aladdin, who becomes trapped in the cave. A magical ring allows Aladdin the means to escape the cave with possession of the lamp. The genie turns Aladdin into a wealthy prince, and he marries the sultan’s daughter. There is more than one genie involved but no magic carpet.  

In Disney’s version, the genie, a being of of “phenomenal cosmic power,” is the star of the show (the Broadway version leaves no doubt about this and is a spectacular must-see). In the animated version, Aladdin and the genie trick the sorcerer into wishing he was a more powerful genie, and alas, the genie becomes the one trapped–not in a cave but inside a lamp. The live-action version plays out almost the same EXCEPT, the sorcerer does not wish to become a the most powerful genie in the universe. No, in this newest retelling, the sorcerer wishes to become the “most powerful being in the universe.” The genie takes that to mean a more powerful genie, thus relegating Jafar to life in a lamp. Alls well that ends well. But not with me.

As my daughter, Katie, pointed out when we were discussing this almost insignificant and nearly missable word change at dinner, who decided that a genie is more powerful than God? There can be no doubt that everyone involved in the production of that scene, from the writers to the actors to the producers, knew and understood the change.  How could they not? It was a deliberate switch of words and a profound change in meaning. 

Let me be honest here. I love the Disney films. Yes, even the ones where the princess needs rescuing and child-bride Snow White gets her fairy tale wedding. There is something wholesome and fun about them that always brings out the kid in me. I delight in the music, and I’ve spent more than my fair share of money at Disney theme parks. And yes, our family are big Harry Potter fans despite the “magic.”

I am a believer that there IS magic in the world. Perhaps not in the likes of the boy wizard, Harry, or the sorcerer Jafar, but a beautiful, Holy Spirit-infused kind of magic that can be both tangible and ethereal. Moses parted the Red Sea. Elijah was taken to Heaven in a chariot. Jesus sent possessed demons into swine and cured blindness. Even today, the power of prayer has befuddled the medical community in many ways. How can any of that happen without a certain kind of magic? 

The point being that GOD is magic. God is the source of miracles. God is the epicenter of all that is good, all that is possible, all that is known, and all that is unknown. He alone is the most powerful Being in the world. For Disney to change that one little word, is to change the entire makeup of the universe. When I heard it, it was as if the theater went dark, and the action on the screen came to a screeching halt. For the rest of the movie, that line echoed in my mind. In a split second, Disney relegated God to less than nothing–a being less than nothing when compared to the magic and capabilities of a genie. But unlike the genie, God is real. He is alpha and the omega. He is the real friend we all need.
Friend Like Me.jpg

Yes, it was only a movie, but to me, it was just one more sign that Hollywood is trying to infiltrate the hearts and minds of those who follow the one, true, supreme being–to subtly distort our views and corrupt our beliefs. And they’re doing it one tiny word at a time. 

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What I was writing about a year ago this week: Withdraw From Your Cares.

Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture MeWhispering Vines, and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016.  Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her follow up, Island of Promise is a reader favorite. Amy’s children’s book is The Greatest Gift. The suspense novel, Summer’s Squall, and all of Amy’s books, can be found online and in stores. Her latest novel, Island of Promise, was recently awarded First Prize by the Oklahoma Romance Writer’s Association as the best Inspirational Romance of 2018 and was awarded a Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards 2019 for Inspirational Fiction. It is a finalist for the RWA Golden Quill Contest and the Eric Hoffer Award of Fiction.

Amy’s latest book, The Devil’s Fortune, is now available! Order your copy today.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor, Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and at http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017), Island of Promise (2018).

 

 

Dear Graduate, Be Happy

Dear Graduate,
I can scarcely believe that you, my baby, are about to go out into the world on your own. At eighteen, after twelve years of school (fourteen counting Pre-K and kindergarten), I’m sure that you think you know everything you need to know about the world and how to navigate it. I am confident that you have learned enough to be successful in college, to find the right friends, and make the best choices. You have already proven that time and again. However, there are many lessons still to be learned. The lessons I feel you most need to concentrate on are the Five Simple Rules To Be Happy.

5 Simple Rules.jpg

I’m not sure who originally came up with the list.  A former yoga instructor of mine finished every class with the rules, and you can find them listed in books, blogs, and articles everywhere. They’re available on mugs, paperweights, and T-shirts. While these rules make sense, and I do want you to follow them, there are important things to remember about each of them.

1. Free your heart from hatred. ‘Hate’ is one of the most overused words I ever hear. People hate everything from broccoli to music to people. Because it is so commonly used, I think people tend to forget what it actually means. Hate is intense. It is passionate. It can lead to death and destruction. It can tear apart lives and poison the soul. Psychologist Dr. John H. Sklare warns, “The more you hold onto hatred, the more likely it is that the hot coal of the emotion will burn you. And the more you feed it, the stronger it becomes.”

Never let hate be the emotion you feed. It will zap you of your energy, steal your happiness, and elude you of peace. It will take away your joy and turn you into a bitter, resentful person. Instead, always look for ways to love, even toward those who hurt you. Perhaps Mother Teresa’s advice is all you need to know, “I have the found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.” 

2. Free your mind from worries. Oh, my dear child, how I’ve seen you worry. I’ve watched you fret over the large and the small, and I’ve seen you become anxious over things that you cannot change or control. Remember that you cannot control all things and all people. You can only control how you react to them. React with patience, with kindness, and with love. Seek peace from your faith, and no that God has a plan for you. Put your trust in Him, forsaking all worries, and know that He will lead you down the path for which you were chosen. When in doubt, pray. When prayers don’t easily come, hold fast to this one,

Prayer for Serenity

God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time,
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardship as a pathway to peace;
taking, as Jesus did,
this sinful world as it is,
not as I would have it;
trusting that You will make all things right
if I surrender to Your will;
so that I may be reasonable happy in this life
and supremely happy with You forever in the next.
Amen.
                                            Reinhold Niebuhr

 

IMG_0672When times of worry strike, when anxiety overtakes you, find solace in the things that bring you joy. Take a break and visit someone who always makes you feel good. Spend just a few minutes with the Lord. Treat yourself to something that makes you happy. Reflect on all the good times you’ve had. Turn to someone who makes you smile. There are many times in life when a smile is all that is needed to cure whatever ails you.

3. Live simply. Do not hold onto things, people, grudges, money, or time. Let your heart delight in the small things: a child’s laughter, a puppy’s kiss, an afternoon with friends, a hand to hold, a shoulder to lean on, a delicious meal, a good book,  and a refreshing cry. Know that one true friend has more worth than fifty others who won’t be there when you need them. And always be that friend to others. Don’t take on too many responsibilities or neglect the ones that matter.

IMG_3070.JPGTake the time to breathe. Never underestimate the value of walk in the woods, a dance in the rain, or a snowflake on your tongue. Take time for yourself. Allow yourself to experience silence. Keep in mind the words of St. Pope John Paul II, “only in silence does man succeed in hearing in the depth of his conscience the voice of God.”

4. Give more. When you live simply, you will find that you have more to give. Give your time to help those in need. Give your ear to those desiring someone to listen. Give your words to those seeking comfort and reassurance. Give your talents to the causes that are most worthy. Give money to the poor and your coat to those in need. Share what you have, and never be selfish. 

“Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’
Matthew 25:34-40

5. Expect less. I’m going to admit that I have a hard time with this. I agree that you should never presume, but there are many things in life that you should expect. The motivational speaker, David Jospeh Schwartz, said, “Think little goals and expect little achievements. Think big goals and win big success.” Expecting less may allow us to feel less pain or experience fewer falls, but it can also lead to lower standards. You often asked why I always expected you to get As. What would you have said if I had only ever told you I expected you to get Bs? How hard would you have worked if I told you I only expected you to pass? Setting expectations is necessary in order to achieve goals.

You should expect your partner to be faithful. You should expect your friends to be loyal. Expect to be treated with kindness. Expect nursing school to be hard! 

I believe that this rule is more of a reminder to keep in mind that what you expect will not always be what you get. Sometimes, life will far exceed your expectations, and other times, it will fall short. You may need to adjust your expectations (like the year you took Physics). You may need to reassess your goals. You may need to find new friends. When faced with those times, remember that there is always a greater lesson to be learned. Sometimes you have to recognize that expectations are unrealistic, and that’s okay!

“You can’t expect perfection. It is important to sort of acknowledge some of our imperfections. I write them down. There’s something about acknowledging mistakes and being able to put them down on paper; they become facts of your life that you must live with. And then, hopefully, you can navigate the road a little bit better. “
Ron Howard, actor, director

DSCN8172The bottom line is, only you can create your happiness. Only you can control what you feel. Only you can find contentment with the world, with others, with yourself. By sowing love instead of hate, by freeing yourself of worries, by living simply, by giving more, and by setting the right expectations, you can experience profound joy, delight in all that matters, and find peace in your heart and mind. Of all the things you should remember as you march to Pomp and Circumstance, remember this, you have the power to live the happiest life possible. Go out there and seek joy, and everything else will fall into place.

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What I was writing about a year ago this week: It’s Summer Reads Time Again!.

Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture MeWhispering Vines, and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016.  Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her follow up, Island of Promise is a reader favorite. Amy’s children’s book is The Greatest Gift. The suspense novel, Summer’s Squall, and all of Amy’s books, can be found online and in stores. Her latest novel, Island of Promise, was recently awarded First Prize by the Oklahoma Romance Writer’s Association as the best Inspirational Romance of 2018 and was awarded a Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards 2019 for Inspirational Fiction. It is a finalist for the RWA Golden Quill Contest and the Eric Hoffer Award of Fiction.

Amy’s latest book, The Devil’s Fortune, is now available! Order your copy today.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor, Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and at http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017), Island of Promise (2018).

A Marriage of Worth

Baby RebeccaDear Daughter,
Congratulations on your engagement! It’s hard to believe that the day has come when I am writing these words. So often, I still think of you as my little girl, my first-born. Has it really been over twenty-three years since you came into our lives? It seems like yesterday that I first looked into those wide eyes, so full of curiosity and hunger for knowledge, and thought, “She’s mine.” Nothing has changed since that moment. You are still full of curiosity and have an insatiable desire for knowledge, and you are still mine. No matter how old you get, no matter where you live, no matter your choices in life, no matter whose heart or lead you follow, first and foremost, you will always be mine. That doesn’t mean I won’t allow you to live your life, make your own decisions, and become your own brand of wife and mother.

What it means is…

I will always have your back. I will always be there to catch you when you fall. I will always pick up the phone, race to your side, cheer your success, hold you when you fail, and pray for you every day. I will continue to marvel at the things you do and sometimes cringe at the things you say. I will never stop trying to teach you, but I will always listen to your thoughts and opinions. In return, I hope you will continue to listen to me. In case you don’t, or I’m not here in your times of need, never forget…

You have always been fiercely independent, and that shouldn’t end, but it will need to change. Jesus reminds us that “a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Matthew 19:5). In becoming one, you will no longer live for yourself but for each other. While this sounds romantic, it’s not. It’s hard. It’s really, really hard. You have to think of what is best for the two of you, at all times, rather than what is best for yourself. You will disagree. You will fight. You will be angry with each other. But just as a cut to your own skin wounds you, a cut in the flesh you share wounds you both. You need to remember that to each other, you are “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Genesis 2:23). What hurts one will ultimately hurt the other.

Ali McGraw and Ryan O’Neal, in the iconic movie, Love Story, popularized the saying, ‘Love means never having to say you’re sorry.’ This line has been misinterpreted often, and that’s so detrimental to a relationship. You see, you will have to say you’re sorry, perhaps over and over again, because you will make mistakes, and you will need to apologize, but what love actually means is that the person who has been hurt accepts that you’re sorry, forgives you, and moves on. Saying sorry is important, but forgiving is tantamount to loving. You must love each other so much that you are willing to forgive time and time again without regret and without repercussions. You know before you say the words that love has already brought about forgiveness. That’s what it means to not have to say you’re sorry.

For several years now, you have been the arbiter of your destiny. You have made all of your own decisions and chosen the path that is best for you. From now on, you will make decisions together for the best of your family. Some of those decisions will come easily to you both, but others will cause turmoil and dissension. Those are the most important decisions for those will create the moments in which you place your unfaltering trust in one another. There will be times when you will need to go against your better judgement, and he against his, but these will be times that will both test and strengthen your marriage. Accept them, and accept the chance to bend, for these moments can, at times, far outweigh the easier times when you agree on everything. These moments will be when you’re most angry, most lost, and most afraid, yet they may, in the end, be the most rewarding as they foster trust and growth. 

IMG_2758.JPGNever stop talking to each other. About everything. Tell each other your hopes and dreams, your fears and sorrows. Share the highs and lows of each day. Ask each other how you feel, what you desire, and how your day was. Talk of the lowliest and the mightiest things. But more importantly, listen to each other. Listen to what each says and does not say. Be attentive to what is asked for and what is not asked for but is desperately needed. Strive to know each other inside and out. Be in tune with the songs of each other’s hearts and the harmonies of your bodies. 

Don’t let your wedding Mass be the only time you invite God into your relationship. He enters into it from the start and desires to stay with you always. Remember that “Those who trust in him will understand the truth, those who are faithful will live with him in love” (Wisdom 3:9). Just as I will never abandon you, neither will God. Allow Him to be the rock upon which you build your marriage. When you build, make God the cornerstone. When you seek, allow Him to show you the way. When you wonder, be open to His wisdom. When you hurt, plead for His mercy. When you transgress, ask for His forgiveness. And do this together. Pray together, fast together, go to Mass together, seek Him together. It truly is the only way your marriage will survive and prosper.

Finally, be a woman of worth, for “far beyond jewels is her value” (Proverbs 31:10). I have strived, throughout your life, to teach you how to do this through the grace of God. And so, I leave you with His words and not mine. May He bless your love and your marriage, lead you to prosperity and joy, and grant you a life filled with happily-ever-afters.

I love you,
Mom

Who can find a woman of worth?
Far beyond jewels is her value.

Her husband trusts her judgment;
he does not lack income.

She brings him profit, not loss,
all the days of her life…

She girds herself with strength;
she exerts her arms with vigor…

She reaches out her hands to the poor,
and extends her arms to the needy.

She is not concerned for her household when it snows—
all her charges are doubly clothed…

She is clothed with strength and dignity,
and laughs at the days to come.

She opens her mouth in wisdom;
kindly instruction is on her tongue.

She watches over the affairs of her household,
and does not eat the bread of idleness.

Her children rise up and call her blessed;
her husband, too, praises her:..

Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting;
the woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
Proverbs 31

(And there’s this just in case Anthony needs a reminder of my words of wisdom to him.)

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What I was writing about a year ago this week: Returning to the Island.

Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture MeWhispering Vines, and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016.  Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her follow up, Island of Promise is a reader favorite. Amy’s children’s book is The Greatest Gift. The suspense novel, Summer’s Squall, and all of Amy’s books, can be found online and in stores. Her latest novel, Island of Promise, was recently awarded First Prize by the Oklahoma Romance Writer’s Association as the best Inspirational Romance of 2018 and was awarded a Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards 2019 for Inspirational Fiction. It is a finalist for the RWA Golden Quill Contest and the Eric Hoffer Award of Fiction.

Amy’s latest book, The Devil’s Fortune, is now available! Order your copy today.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor, Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and at http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017), Island of Promise (2018).