Eight Books You’ve Never Heard of for Summer 2017

I like to read. A lot. That is to say that I like to read very much, and I read a lot. I have so many lists of books that I practically have books of lists. Every morning, I log into an inbox full of book suggestions from listservs, publishers, booksellers, and friends. I tuck all of them away in folders in my email. Once a week, I go through the list and order as many as I can from the library. What I can’t order, I buy. I’m sometimes criticized for using a Kindle reader instead of holding actual paper books between my fingers, but honestly, how else am I going to take a dozen books on vacation with me? I once packed a whole extra suitcase of books. Have you seen the prices for extra suitcases these days?

Anyway, as I said, I like to read. No, I love to read. And I love receiving suggestions as to what to read. So as payback for the many suggestions I receive, I thought I’d put together a short list for you to get your summer reading underway. All of these are new, or new to me, authors with books I’ve read lately* and recommend for your reading pleasure, depending upon your reading mood.

For a sentimental read – Sunflowers in a Hurricane by Anne M. Faye

A mystery that will keep you guessing – Inherit the Bones by Emily Littlejohn

A paranormal romance, light on the paranormal, but heavy on the romance – The Dreamer by Alexa Jacobs

For some light-hearted, romantic fun with a delightful story – Two Doctors & and a Baby by Branda Harlen

A romantic suspense that surprised me – Luxury Model Wife by Adele Downs

For the history buff – Church of Spies by Mark Riebling

For adventure, culture, history, overcoming hardship, romance, and expanding your intellect, this one has it all – The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See

Okay, a shameless plug for a beach read I hope you’ll love – Island of Miracles by Amy Schisler

*disclaimer – some of these were books I judged for the Romance Writers of America romance fiction contest, and I was pleasantly surprised by how good they were!

What I was writing about one year ago this week: The Smell of Sunshine.

Things I’ve read this week that are worth sharing:  18 New Historical Fiction Novels to Read With Your Book Club by Chanel Cleeton on BookBub; 7 Challenges Successful People Overcome by Dr. Travis Bradberry, author Emotional Intelligence 2.0.

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages.  She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me  and Whispering Vines, are recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top three inspirational fiction books of 2015 and 2016. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Amy’s most recent novel, Island of Miracles, is now on sale.

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)


Embracing the Romance

imageI’ve been running from it, kicking it away, fighting to hide it, and just plain old denying it; and now I’m coming out into the open to admit it.  I write romance novels.  To be honest, I hate genres.  I hate being labeled as any kind of author because I write what I write, whatever strikes my fancy, whatever my characters want the manuscript to become.  I have never intended to write a romance.  I once asked romance novelist Robyn Carr where she thinks I belong.  She didn’t hesitate, “You’re a romance writer.”  I could barely fake the smile that I returned to her as she beamed proudly at her proclamation.  “No, I’m not,” I wanted to scream to the room full of writers and fans.  I write children’s books, mysteries, suspense novels, and a blog.  I DO NOT write romance.  At least, that’s what I’ve always told myself.  Alas, here’s the truth: I DO write romance.  And here’s why…

  1. I like romance.  I like the happily ever after.  I like that when someone finishes my book, they are going to be crying happy tears because, as my editor said about my newest novel, Whispering Vines, “the book ended as it should.”  I like to put down a book feeling as though everything is right with the world, even if it’s just that little, contrived world of someone’s imagination.
  2. I love the romance community.  I belong to several writers’ associations.  None of them is as welcoming, supportive, charitable, and helpful as the romance groups I belong to.  I ask for reviewers, and they jump at the chance to read my books.  I ask for advice, and fifty people chime in to help.  Who wouldn’t want to be a part of a great community like that?  And don’t get me started on how devoted the fans are.  They’re the best!
  3. The sky is the limit.  While I really do not like labels, I have come to realize that, as a romance writer, one can really bypass labels or accept all labels as possibilities.  You see, as a non-romance fiction writer, I have several genres of choice: mystery/suspense, contemporary, historical, real-life crime, and so on.  But as a romance writer, I can have my cake and eat it, too!  I can write a mystery, then a sweet love story, then a historical romance, then a children’s fairy tale.  And there’s still more.  Again, the sky is the limit.
  4. Romance sells.  According to the Atlantic Monthly, romance sales “far outperform other genres of literature, including religious/inspirational books, mystery novels, science fiction and classic literary fiction.”  I guarantee that every person reading this knows a romance novel connoisseur (or is one herself).  You don’t?  Guess again.  They may be reading romance in bed after dark when nobody else sees it, but they’re reading it.
  5. It’s fun and satisfying.  Sure, I enjoy an accurate historical account, and they often help me sleep at night (or rather, fall asleep).  And a good thriller can be a real page turner.  But when it comes down to it, the books that keep me reading are the ones that give me something to root for.  Will Ella overcome her horrible curse and find true happiness with Prince Charmont?  Will Mr Darcy stop being an arrogant jerk long enough to see that he desperately needs Elizabeth in his life?  Will Scarlett ever see past her own selfishness and realize that all Rhett really wants in life is her?  These are questions that we must know the answers to!  And when that happily ever after comes (or the promise that “tomorrow is another day”), we are satisfied.  It leaves us with that glowing feeling that somehow, everything can turn out fine no matter what obstacles one must face even if we have to imagine that tomorrow, it all works out for the best.
  6. It doesn’t have to be about sex.  There is a big push today for books with explicit sex, but not all romance is written for people without imaginations.  While an honest, loving, uplifting scene of intimacy is just fine when appropriate, a good novel doesn’t have to include play by play sex scenes.  If the story can hold its own, it doesn’t need gratuitousness to keep readers interested.
  7. There’s already enough hate in the world.  Don’t we get tired of seeing bad things happen every time we turn on the news?  Must all television shows these days be built around the presence of evil?  Sure, bad things happen.  Even in romance novels.  There has to be some kind of roadblock to happiness, tragic flaws that the hero or heroine must rise above, perhaps even a bad guy wreaking havoc on the characters’ lives.  But in the end, romances all have one thing in common – the happily ever after.  And isn’t that what we all want out of life?  To live happily ever after?
  8. There’s always a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  There are storms in life.  We’ve all faced them.  And it’s nice to have a reminder that if we stick around, put in some effort, and dare to take chances, not only can we weather the storm, we can see the rainbow and rejoice as the sun clears.
  9. A good man is hard to find.  Flannery O’Conner was right.  But in romance novels, even the bad boys are tamed by the love of a good woman.  Isn’t that why every girl has a fling with a rebel or someone from the wrong side of the tracks?  Don’t we all want to fall in love with Pony Boy?  Okay, that’s not a romance, but you get the point.  Does Sandra Brown have any male leads who aren’t brooding rebels obsessing over something in their past?  And don’t they always turn out to be the perfect man in the end?
  10. Because, in the end, love is all that matters.  Even St. Paul the Evangelist knew that.  Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”              Corinthians, 13:6-7

Who wouldn’t want to contribute all of that to the world?  So I write romance.  And I say, ain’t love grand?

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages.  She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her latest book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three eBooks of 2015. Her next book, Whispering Vines, is now available for pre-order.

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

Amy’s books:  Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015)

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“I am your father…”

imagesI’m going to do something today that I never thought I would do.  I have the privilege of aligning myself with one of my greatest idols, master story-teller, George Lucas.  This morning, I re-watched Lucas’ interview with Charlie Rose; and for the second time, I was mesmerized by his story and struck by his priorities.  When asked why Lucas walked away from directing for fifteen years, he said “I wanted to be a dad.”  Wow.  One of the most successful movie makers in the world, and arguably the most successful story-teller of our time, walked away from it all to be a dad; not a politician, not an actor or a rock star, not some other avenue toward greater celebrity, but a dad.

Yes, one could argue that Lucas had no need for more wealth or greater celebrity, but in today’s world, that’s hardly the point.  In a world where everyone’s main objective seems to be to grow richer and more famous, here is a man who had it all, the world at his fingertips, and the only thing he really cared about was being a good dad.

Almost ten years ago, I walked away from a job I loved.  I was a librarian at a local college, and it was the greatest job, with the greatest people, ever.  I was happy to go to work each morning, and I enjoyed every second of my day, except….  Saying goodbye to my girls every morning was hard, very hard.  And they were strong, independent girls who had no problem waving goodbye to Mommy and going to school.  It was Mommy who was always sad.  And then there were the days when one of them was sick, and I had to make the call to work, feeling guilty if I stayed but even guiltier if I went.  Though my girls had wonderful caregivers, I wanted to be the one there with them when they were sick, when they were sad, when they learned to walk and run, and every step in between.  And so I made the decision to leave the job I loved and come home to a life I Ioved more.  And I’ve never regretted it for a minute.

Our society has created a world where mothers are forced to work – sometimes for economic reasons, and sometimes for political or societal ones.  Moms (and Dads) are expected to work crazy hours, be on call 24/7, and keep up a pace that, at times, seems inhuman.  Top that off with the expectation that all mothers should be able to create things like Martha Stewart, cook like Bobby Flay, and clean like a team of Merry Maids.  Is there even time to be a Dad or Mom in today’s world?  Sadly, many young people are deciding that there is not.  The population of the Western World is declining because couples do not have either the time or the money to start a family.  Where are our priorities?

My husband, Ken, works long hours and is on call 24/7, but he makes being a husband and father the most important thing in his life.  In spite of his grueling travel schedule, he is at every field hockey game, swim meet, and tennis match.  He never missed a dance recital or a play performance.  We let our children know every day that they are what matters, they are our world.  A Polish proverb says, “You have a lifetime to work, but children are only young once.”  It is a rule by which we both try to live.

Am I saying that all good moms are stay-at-home moms?  Absolutely not.  I’ve never actually considered myself a stay-at-home mom. I taught computer classes at our local community center for several years after leaving my full-time job.  That steamrolled into my own business, teaching senior citizens how to use and take care of their own computers in the comfort of their homes.  Both jobs were very rewarding, and I’ve met some fascinating people, many I am happy to now call friends.  And when I was ready, I became a full-time writer.  I may be at home, and I do drop everything to be there for my girls, but I have always been a hard worker.  My mother did the same.  She worked small, part-time jobs here and there, but she was always there for us, no matter what.  She and Dad sacrificed for us so that they could be a part of our lives, and you know what?  We never felt the tightening of the belt or noticed the lack of money, never traveled or took lavish vacations, but as Dolly Parton said, “we were rich as we could be.”

Let me just say, that working moms and dads can be great parents, too.  I look at my aunt who raised two independent women, beautiful on the inside and out, while working full time.  I watched her sacrifice at home and at work to take care of her family. Having been witness to the hard work yet never-faltering attentiveness of their parents, my cousins now have beautiful families and careers of their own.  My aunt always made sure that her family came first.  And that, I believe, is the measure of success.  By putting family first, we can have it all, maybe not in the eyes of society, but in the eyes of the ones that matter the most.

George Lucas told Charlie Rose that Steven Spielberg once told him that he hopes to die on a movie set.  George said he hopes to die in bed watching a Spielberg movie.  Charlie asked, “And how do you want to be remembered?”  Lucas gave the simplest yet most profound answer, “As a good dad.”  After the life he has lived, a man who will be immortalized through the stories he created wants to be remembered simply as “a good dad.”  Is it any wonder that in his greatest story, it was because of the love for his child that the father sacrificed everything he had, everything he worked toward, and his own life to save his son?  In the end, it was not his actions as a villain that most people recount when speaking of Vader, but as a father.  Lucas knew all along that fame, fortune, and power are trivial, and that being a parent is what truly matters.

Amy Schisler is the author of two mystery / suspense novels. Her first book, A Place to Call Home is in its second printing and may be purchased in stores and online.  Amy’s newest mystery, Picture Me, was released in August of 2015 and is available in stores, at Amazon, and at Barnes & Noble.  Both novels are also available for Kindle, Nook, and iBooks.  Amy’s children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad, may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

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

It’s All About the Giving

12294857_409592349244777_826596147234890410_nI am usually finished Christmas shopping by the first of November, except for a few stocking stuffers and perhaps an extra gift here or there.  That’s good because this month, we have incurred several unexpected expenses, and Ken asked me to tone down the gift giving.  “No problem,” I told him, “I’m pretty much done shopping.”  Then I went to my gift closet and pulled out everything I’ve bought in my travels over the past year, and guess what.  I haven’t bought nearly as many presents as I thought I had.  As Charlie Brown would say, “Good grief.”

I went through my list, checked it twice, noted that everyone on it had been nice, so what was I going to do?  I had a few small things here and a couple of unique items there, but nothing that added up to anything special for anyone.  The girls are easy.  They get one nice present, an outfit, and small stocking stuffers.  Luckily, those things were already ordered or stashed away.  But what about our parents, our siblings, and our many nephews and niece?  How can I go almost empty handed to our Christmas celebrations?

And that is where my mother and daughter saved the day.  Over Thanksgiving, all of the children were busy making crafts that my mother supplied (as is our day before Thanksgiving tradition). Rebecca decided to make a Christmas gift for her boyfriend’s mother.  Everyone was so impressed with what she made, that the whole family asked for one for themselves for Christmas.  The sparks ignited.  Rebecca and I combed through Pinterest and then spent the afternoon on Saturday scouring the stores for just what we needed to make Christmas presents for everyone in the family.  Ken, Katie, and Morgan all got into the excitement and offered suggestions, and that’s when it hit me.  I was so busy thinking about what to buy, that I had forgotten about what to give.

The only Christmas gift that matters was already given to us over 2,000 years ago.  The gift of self.  Yes, there is certainly a lot more to the story, but that’s what it really boils down to.  God gave us Himself.  It’s not about the toys or the clothes or money spent.  It’s about replicating that wonderful first gift – the giving of oneself to those we love.  So while we may be handing out boxes and bags of things we’ve created, what we’re really going to be giving out is the gift of ourselves – our time, our talent, and mostly, our love.

I’ve learned that sometimes it’s the unexpected detours in life that force us back onto the right road to our destination.  But no matter which road we are on, we are all called to love, to serve, to give.  So whether it’s something handmade or homemade, a visit, a hug, or a helping hand, give the gift of yourself this Christmas.  It’s really the only thing anyone really wants to begin with.

Amy Schisler is the author of two mystery / suspense novels. Her first book, A Place to Call Home is in its second printing and may be purchased in stores and online.  Amy’s newest mystery, Picture Me, was released in August of 2015 and is available in stores, at Amazon, and at Barnes & Noble.  Both novels are also available for Kindle, Nook, and iBooks.  Amy’s children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad, may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

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

My Legacy

030This morning I attended the Baccalaureate Mass for our school’s Class of 2015.  Our Pastor asked each student to think ahead 60 years and imagine looking back on their lives.  “What will your legacy be?” he asked them.  He implored them to do more with their lives than just make money.  He told them that their legacy is important and that they should make it matter.  Each one of us will leave behind a legacy, something that we pass down to future generations, whether we are the President of the United States, a businessman, a teacher, a doctor, or a parent.  Each one of us will do or say something that will not be forgotten, good or bad.

If we are lucky, we will be remembered for more than one thing.  I hope to be remembered by the whole world as a writer, but I want to remembered by those who knew me best as a faithful wife, mother, friend, and Christian.  It doesn’t matter to me if I ever become rich, but I hope that the words I write will someday inspire a generation.  I don’t care if I’m ever recognized for the volunteer work I do, but I hope I’ve made a difference in somebody’s life.  It won’t mean a thing if I don’t have countless friends, but I hope that the ones I do have know they can always depend on me.  I don’t worry about how far I will climb, but I pray that my children will always look up to me.

A few years ago my oldest daughter told me that she believed I had wasted my education (I have a Masters of Library and Information Science) by deciding to stay home and spend more time with my children.  Now, of course, I’m a published author with another book on the way, and she sees how hard I worked to get here in spite of concentrating on my family and not my career.  Yesterday she told me that she never appreciated me enough and thanked me for being the mother I am.  I’d say that’s a pretty good legacy to leave behind even if I never do anything else for the next 60 years.

Amy Schisler is an author of mystery and suspense novels.  Her first book, A Place to Call Home is in its second printing and may be purchased in stores, online, and through ibooks.  Her previously published children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

You may follow Amy at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com

Blessed With Mothers

I have been so very blessed in my life when it comes to mothers.  I have the best mother any girl could ever want.  When I was growing up, I knew that my mother was an authority who needed to be respected and obeyed, but I also knew that she was my friend.  From an early6893 age, my mother included me on her girls only weekends and day trips with the ladies.  I suppose it was because it was just the two of us in a house full of men, but I always looked at it as our time as friends and not as mother and daughter.  I called Mom’s friends by name, and they treated me like one of them.  In my teen years,I knew that I could talk to my mother about everything and that somehow she would understand.  As a wife and mother, my Mom is my rock, my go-to, my wise sage.  I don’t know how I could have gotten this far in life without her.

Add into the mix my wonderful aunts who have always treated me more like a sister than a niece.  I still remember going to DSC08911work with Aunt Pinky on Take Your Daughter To Work Day when I was very little.  And I’ll never forget the road trip to the Pennsylvania outlets with Aunt Debbie when I was about 13.  On those rare occasions when I needed advice from someone other than my mother, Aunt Debbie was my confidant.  Even when she told me things I didn’t want to hear, I valued her opinion and still do.  When I was younger, I always knew that if, heaven forbid, something happened to my own mother, I had wonderful aunts who would be the mothers I needed.

Mike and Ashley's wedding5 (21)-001Of course, I know that all of those women are the amazing mothers, friends, and women they are because of my most beloved and cherished grandmother.  Not a day goes by that I don’t think of her.  She was everything a woman should be.  She was kind, nurturing, smart, courageous, and spent most of her life taking care of others.  I was so blessed to have her in my life for 37 years and for my children to have known her.  I still say that when I grow up, I want to be just like Gram.

IMG_0052_6_1You would think that I was blessed enough to have my sainted mother, my heroic grandmother, and my remarkable aunts, but no, God continued to bless me with a wonderful Godmother who has always loved me like I am her own daughter.  Though we don’t see each other often, I know that she is always there for me, and I can’t wait to see her this summer.  And I am further blessed with a mother-in-law upon whom I can always count.  We’ve all heard horror stories, and I DSC00228know  some people who have lived them, about dealing with mothers-in-law.  Well, let me assure you, the reason everyone else complains  about theirs is because I got the best one out there.  I know she is always there for me, and I hope she knows I am there for her as well.

So this Sunday, as you honor your mother, I will honor my mother and all of the women in my life who made me the person I am today.  Happy Mother’s Day to you all.  I love you.

Amy Schisler is an author of mystery and suspense novels.  Her first book, A Place to Call Home may be purchased in stores, online, and through ibooks.  Her previously published children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

You may follow Amy at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com

Giving It Up

lent4There has been a lot of talk around our house the last couple of days about giving things up.  I’ve read Facebook posts by many friends extolling the giving up of bad habits, cravings, and addictions.  This morning, I read a blog post about an endeavor called “40 Bags in 40 Days” in which participants pledge to declutter every day for 40 days.  The decluttering can be of everything from closets to email inboxes.  The key is to get rid of unwanted and unneeded “stuff.”

I’m sure each one of us can name something in our lives worth giving up for 40 days, or perhaps forever.  My prayers go out to my brother-in-law who is giving up smoking.  Many know what a cross that is to bear, so I’m sure prayers would be greatly appreciated, which brings me to a question I have always asked myself.  Is it better to give something up or do something new spiritually?  I’ve struggled with this over the years.  The whole concept of giving things up is completely lost on me unless there is a real reason to do so.  Giving things up just to herald that you’ve done so just doesn’t seem to be the point of all of this.  I heard a priest, who has a radio show, say recently that when you give something up, you should use that extra time, money, space, etc. to do something good, help others, give to the poor, or otherwise allow someone else to benefit from your sacrifice.  And that’s really the key isn’t it?  Sacrifice.  We aren’t supposed to be trying to lose weight or have a cleaner closet.  The point is to sacrifice, to rid ourselves of the things that are making us unworthy in the eyes of God.

So, yes, I will be giving things up this year, and yes, they will be the regular things you’d expect – sweets and wine.  However, I’m going to take it a step further.  I’m giving up all restaurant food except for salad (a huge sacrifice since we tend to eat out more than the normal family).  What I’ve struggled with is how to make that into something spiritual that benefits others around me.  What have I come up with?  I will find the one thing on the menu that I want more than anything else, note the cost, and donate that amount to a good cause.  It may be an extra drop in the basket at church or a donation to Feed the Poor.  Whatever it is, I know that my sacrifice will be helping someone else and hopefully will help me in my journey home.

What are you giving up for Lent?

Amy Schisler is an author of mystery and suspense novels.  Her first book, A Place to Call Home may be purchased in stores, online, and through ibooks.  Her previously published children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

https://amyschislerauthor.com/amyschislerauthor.com/Books.html You may follow Amy at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com