All I Want for Christmas…

Our alarm clock sounded at 4am Monday morning. For the third day in a row, in a string of many days to come, my husband rose early to go to his parents’ house to be there before his father woke up. Needing round the clock care now, his father can’t be left alone, and Ken’s mother can’t do it by herself. There’s only so much time his sister can take off, and his brother lives in another state. So, I set the clock Sunday night, kissed Ken goodbye Monday morning, and watched him leave the room, his shoulders slumped, his heart heavy.

A few hours later, I was on the way home from the gym when I heard the news that a bomb had been detonated on or near a New Jersey transit train at a station in NYC. I immediately stopped the car and texted my dear friend, George, a daily traveler on the NJT into NYC. Thank Heaven, the train was at another station, and he was safe. To say I was relieved is an understatement. I don’t think I can take more bad news. Between our family’s daily struggles, a number of sick and dying parents among the friends in our group this holiday season, a  cousin’s house burning down over the weekend, the never-ending news cycle of lying, corruption, and perverseness, as well as the threats to peace on earth, I’ve had enough of bad news. Haven’t we all?

hallmark_channel_christmas-620x412A little while later, when I sat down to work, an article in the Washington Post caught my eye. Titled, We can’t take any more of 2017, so we’ve turned to the Hallmark Channel in desperation, the article had me hooked. Though we don’t have cable, I’ve been stalking YouTube for Hallmark Christmas movies. I’ve been through every sweet Christmas movie on Amazon and Netflix, and I can’t get enough to satisfy my craving. I admit, I’ve always been a sweet movie fanatic, a Hallmark fan to the end. I tried paying for Hallmark Movies Now but found it a waste of money at Christmas time because it contains only a handful of holiday movies, and they’re all old. Not fair, Hallmark, not fair. I’d pay good money to have access to what’s on their channel without having to have cable. Do you hear that, Hallmark?

Anyway, back to the article. I think I speak for the masses when I say, we are ready for good news, sweet romance, and happy endings. And though these movies aren’t usually Christ-centered, they do offer those three things (my good friend and fellow blogger, Anne Kennedy, wrote a great blog that pretty much sums up the standard Hallmark Christmas movie plot).

Sweet RomanceWe all need hope and goodness in our lives.  Luckily, there are many of us out there, aside from Hallmark, working very hard to provide just that. There’s a whole category of fiction that is Clean and Wholesome Romance, or as it’s more commonly known, Sweet Romance. Sex, if any, is behind closed doors, foul language is kept to a minimum or nonexistent, and deaths, even murders, are not graphically depicted; yet the couple still finds their way to happily ever after.

I find it no coincidence that, just twelve days before Christmas, today’s Gospel reading is from Matthew 11:28-30:

Jesus said to the crowds:
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

It’s crunch time. We’re all trying to keep our heads above water, and we all have things going on in our lives, but then we have this great reminder that no matter what’s going on, Jesus is there. He is not only the reason for the season, He is our hope, our counsel, our way to peace. Whether He’s acknowledged by the Hallmark Channel or not, He is there.

So, the next time you’ve had it with the news, or even with your own personal life, know that there is a place to where you can escape. And when you’ve run out of movies to watch on Hallmark, look for a clean and wholesome romance novel. And above all, look toward Heaven. There may never be a time without troubles or peace on Earth, but there is peace to come – a real-life happily ever after. I know a happy ending is all our family wants for Christmas this year. I’m pretty sure we’re not alone.

What I was writing about this time last year:  Lighting the Way This Christmas

9780692946176Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and sweet romance 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 followed up her success with, Island of Miracles, which has outsold all of her other books worldwide and ranked as high 600 on Amazon. Her next children’s book, The Greatest Gift, is now available. Amy’s novel, Summer’s Squall, is now on sale.

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

 

Summer in December

My book, Summer’s Squall, is being featured on several blogs this week. Here’s what the bloggers are sharing with their readers.

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Do you like winter? There are a lot of people who don’t. Just remember, summer is coming. Yes, it’s about seven months away, but we can still celebrate it. And today, Amy Schliser is on the blog telling us all about her new book, Summer’s Squall.

About the Book

9780692946176Summer’s Squall, begins in Baltimore where Baltimore City Police Detective, Abe (Lank) Lankton, assumes he’ll be helping his cousin solve a minor problem when she calls and asks him to fly west. When he learns that he’s been called out there to aid in capturing an elusive stalker, his first instinct is go straight back to Maryland. However, when he meets the alluring victim, Summer Cooper, all bets are off. With his future, and his own life, in jeopardy, Lank must choose between going back to the life he knows in America’s Charm City or staying out west to help Summer. But Lank’s not sure that Summer is all that she claims to be or that the stalker even exists. One thing he knows for sure, Summer is guilty… of stealing his heart. Summer’s Squall is published by Chesapeake Sunrise Publishing and will be available in local book stores. It may be ordered through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBooks, and most other online sellers.

About the Author

Picture2Award-winning author, Amy MacWilliams Schisler, grew up in Maryland, not far from Washington, DC. She graduated from Salisbury University with a Bachelor’s Degree in History and Political Science and from the University of Maryland with a Masters of Library and Information Science. Amy began writing as a child and spent fifteen years working as a librarian, a job she dearly loved, before becoming a full-time author. Her debut book was the beloved children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad, an autobiographical book about spending the day with her grandfather that is used throughout the state of Maryland as part of its Maryland history unit. Amy’s first novel, A Place to Call Home, was published in 2014 by Sarah Book Publishing. Her books, Picture Me and Whispering Vines, received 2016 and 2017 Illumination Book Awards, which recognize the best Christian themed books published both in the traditional book form as well as the ebook industry. Whispering Vines received a 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. She followed up her success with the acclaimed, Island of Miracles in 2017. Amy’s weekly blog currently has over 1000 subscribers, and topics vary from current events to her home life with her husband, Ken, and their three daughters, Rebecca, Katie, and Morgan as well as their two dogs, Rosie and Misty.

Schisler delights in speaking to groups, and more information may be found at her website: http://www.amyschislerauthor.com.

You may follow Amy online at the following places:

http://amyschislerauthor.com

https://amyschisler.wordpress.com

http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor

https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler

https://www.bookbub.com/authors/amy-schisler

Twitter @AmySchislerAuth

Giveaway

Picture3Amy is generously giving one lucky person two signed paperbacks. One copy is for you and the other for your friend. You can enter here: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/9912248026/

Tour Schedule

December 4

Bookish Orchestrations – Intro Post

December 5

Lisa Swinton – Queen of Random – Book Spotlight

Letters from Annie Douglass Lima – Book Spotlight

Rachel Rossano’s Words – Book Spotlight

December 6

Rebekah Lyn Books – Book Spotlight

Amy Schisler, Author – Book Spotlight

December 7

Among the Reads – Book Spotlight

December 8

Adventures in Publishing – Book Spotlight

December 9

Bookish Orchestrations – Giveaway winner

Excerpt

Lank stood at the back door and watched the lightning. The mountains were invisible, shrouded in black from the ground to the heavens. Each bolt of lightning illuminated the sky with an iridescent glow that gave clear understanding of the term, electric blue.

“This is spectacular,” Lank said.

“It is pretty incredible,” Summer agreed. It was the first time they had been seen each other in forty-eight hours, and Lank couldn’t help but see the irony of them being together during a lightning storm. Every time he thought about her lately, he felt like he’d been hit by a bolt out of the blue.

Another strike hit a distant mountain with offshoots of light emanating from the bolt like the long, spindly branches of a tall, pine tree.

“The lightning is seriously intense,” Lank said, feeling like a kid mesmerized by his first storm.

“And dangerous. One strike to a dry, dead tree can start a fire that would spread for miles and lay waste to everything in its path.”

Lank marveled once again with his new appreciation for nature. “I guess that’s something I’ve never given a thought to. Forest fires are pretty non-existent on the east coast.”

“And pretty common out here. We had one about seven or eight years ago that spread all the way up to the base of the San Juan’s. You could see the haze and smell the smoke even with the doors and windows closed.”

Lank was speechless. He’d never seen such a beautiful storm, and it was hard to reconcile that with the destruction that he knew a forest fire could create. He turned to Summer.

“Why do you stay up here? So far from civilization? With bears and mountain lions and lightning that could burn down your house? Why, with everything you’ve gone through over the past couple months, do you stay in this house, on this mountain, alone?”

Summer looked at Lank and then turned back to the light show. She fiddled with the cross dangling below her throat as she watched the light flash across the sky. When she finally spoke, her voice was low, and her gaze was fixed on the black horizon with its intermittent blue light.

“Once, when I was younger, my parents took us to Disney World. It was a dream come true for me. Even Johnny, who acted like it was a stupid trip for his baby sister, had the time of his life. We went to all the parks, rode all the rides, watched the shows, and had our pictures taken with every Disney character imaginable.”

Lank watched her as she spoke. Her red hair hung loose around her shoulders, and the occasional flash of light made her eyes even greener than usual. She was the most beautiful sight he had seen since he’d arrived in Colorado. He watched her lips curve into a smile as she remembered her family trip.

“One night, we went to see Fantasmic, the light and water show. Have you seen it?” She turned and looked at Lank who shook his head, too awestruck by her to speak.

“It was this amazing show of lights and lasers and water spouts. But as I watched it, all I could think about was that it was made up. It was a technological wonder of grand proportions, but it was a show.” She turned back to Mother Nature’s show outside the window. “This,” she said as she gestured to the sky, “this is the real deal. This is a light show of epic proportions that Walt Disney could only dream of portraying with his fancy lights and music.”

Summer turned to Lank and smiled. “I wake up every morning with a heavenly masterpiece painted across the sky outside my window. I drive to work amid the majesty of the most beautiful mountains in the world. I see God’s version of a magical light show every time we have a storm. If I’m lucky, Black and I can spot a bobcat or a mother bear and cubs up on one of our rides. I walked through Cinderella’s castle, rode the Matterhorn, watched Fantasmic, and met creatures of all kinds in their costumes and wigs, but I never once saw anything that compares to what I have on top of this mountain.”

Without thinking, Lank reached up and tucked the stray lock of hair behind her ear. He felt Summer catch her breath at his touch. His hand lingered near her face before he gently touched her cheek and let his finger trail down her face.

“I’ve never seen anything as beautiful as what’s standing in front of me at this moment,” Lank said quietly as he lightly caressed her cheek with the back of his fingers.

“Lank, I,” Summer began to speak, but Lank put his finger on her lips.

“Shh,” he whispered. “You don’t have to say anything. I think you know how I feel, but I don’t think you know how you feel. Not yet.” He felt her shiver and saw the relief in her eyes. It was all he could do not to take her into his arms.

“As far as I’m concerned, I’m here on business. God help me, I might not sleep a wink waiting for you to decide what you want, but once you can see clearly and choose me for who I am and not what I can do to save you; once you’re no longer the damsel in distress but the strong woman I believe you to be, then I’ll be here.”

Lank leaned down and placed a soft, gentle kiss on her lips before backing away and heading upstairs to the room next door to hers. He had made up his mind, right or wrong. Summer was the only woman who had ever made him feel this way – focused yet confused, secure yet unsteady, manly yet like a child in need. He was too far gone to turn back now.

What I was writing about one year ago this week:

How Do You Measure A Year?

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 followed up her success with, Island of Miracles, which has outsold all of her other books worldwide and ranked as high 600 on Amazon. Her next children’s book, The Greatest Gift, is now available. Amy’s novel, Summer’s Squall, is now on sale.

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

 

 

 

Breaking The Rules

For anybody not involved in the world of publishing, you might be surprised to know just how many rules there are when it comes to writing and publishing books.

There are rules about the length of a book:

  • Historical novels must contain around 100,000 words.
  • Fantasy novels must contain more words than the Bible.
  • A cozy mystery can be short, but a regular mystery must be long.

There are rules about plotlines:

  • Particular publishers don’t allow time machines to be used for time travel. Obviously standing stones are permitted.
  • Mysteries should not contain the supernatural – those are two different genres. Hmmm. Wouldn’t the X Files qualify as mystery and supernatural?
  • Romance novels absolutely, positively, without question, must have a HEA – or for those not in the business, a “Happily ever after.” Never mind that Casablanca and Gone With the Wind are classified as romance….

There are rules about what writers are allowed to write:

  • Romance writers can write in any subgenre—mystery, suspense, paranormal, historical, etc., but general fiction writers in any of those categories aren’t supposed to have a lot of romance.
  • Authors should not bounce between genres. I guess nobody ever told that to mega-bestselling author, James Patterson.
  • Children’s writers should write for children only, and adult writers should write for adults only. Again, James is breaking the rules.

There are even rules about the specifics of writing.

  • Fiction writing can contain phrases or even single words as whole sentences. Wow. Interesting. Got it? And fiction writers can begin sentences with conjunctions. And end them with adverbs, usually. Or with prepositions.
  • The POV (point of view) must be held by only one person at a time. You’re either reading the book from the POV of the antagonist, the protagonist, or the narrator. And switching between more than three POVs is a death knell. Sorry, Maeve Binchey – all those awards you’ve won should be taken away.
  • And never, ever, switch back and forth between POVs. Did you get that, Nora Roberts?

And the rules go on and on and on. In fact, there are so many rules that it’s nearly impossible for an author to keep track of them all. Some authors live by and insist on following all rules. Others bend the rules, and others, like the ones mentioned above, just throw the rules out the window. Which is fine with me. Just fine. Because I hate rules. I hate rules as much as I hate labels

When I sit down to write, I just write. My characters dictate the action, and the actions dictate the genre. I don’t want to follow rules. I just want to tell a story, and if that story doesn’t quite fit in with whatever the rules are, who cares? As long as the story is good, isn’t that all that matters?

Unfortunately, it’s not. Every time I publish a book, I must choose a specific genre, and for romance, a subgenre. In order to belong to many writing associations, a writer must declare that she write books only tailored to a particular audience. I recently spoke with a blogger who was shocked that men actually read my books. “Aren’t you a romance writer?” he asked. Ugh! Why the label? Why can’t I just be a writer? Why can’t I just write fiction? I get that readers have propensities toward certain types of books, but more and more I’m hearing from people who simply like to read good books, regardless of the genre.

So, I’m just going to say it. I’m going to admit something that will cause many of my colleagues to cringe. I am a writer. Period. I write the way I want to write. My stories unfold in the way they are meant to unfold. I don’t set out to write romance, or mystery, or suspense. I set out to entertain. I’ve spoken with other writers who balk at this notion. “You can’t bounce around like James Patterson unless you are James Patterson,” I’ve been told. To which I ask, why not? I’m often told that readers simply won’t continue to read my books if I don’t stick to one genre and follow all the rules. I beg to differ. Perhaps I’m wrong about that. Perhaps I am driving the nails in my own coffin, but I don’t think so. My readers seem happy with my books, no matter what genre I am forced into, so I don’t plan on changing my attitude or my style. I just wish it was easier to get my books out there without having to tow the line.

If you are a writer, I’d like to hear your thoughts. How do you feel about genres and labels?

If you are a reader, I’d love to know what you think as well. What draws you toward a particular book or author?

As for me, I must be going. I have work to do on my next novel. I’m not sure yet what the final genre will be or what rules I might break, and I really don’t care. I think I’m in pretty good company on that. James, Nora, don’t you agree?

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What I was writing about one year ago this week: Finding Joy in the Most Unlikely Places.

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 followed up her success with, Island of Miracles, which has outsold all of her other books worldwide and ranked as high 600 on Amazon. Her next children’s book, The Greatest Gift, is now available. Amy’s novel, Summer’s Squall, is on pre-sale and will be released on December 1, 2017.

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

A Whale of a Tale

DSC06345If I were to ask you, or most people, what your favorite animal is, I’m sure you, or most, would answer “cat,” dog,” or other similar such creature.  My children have always thought me a bit strange because I have a great love for (they would call it an obsession with) elephants, sharks, and whales.  Since I was a small child, I have always been fascinated by these three majestic creatures.  When I was very little, I had a small collection of whales – glass figurines, stuffed animals, and such.  As a teenager and young adult, I had quite an extensive collection of elephants – everything from clothes to glass and wooden figures to unique collectibles from around the world (gifts from friends and family).  For Christmas a few years ago, my husband gave me a shark dive in Australia.  It was the most amazing experience ever!

Recently, our family traveled up north and enjoyed a ferry ride to Nova Scotia.  I was excited to discover that we would have the opportunity to see dolphins, porpoises, sharks and whales as we crossed the Bay of Fundy.  The morning began enshrouded with a thick, white fog that wasn’t unlike the New England Clam Chowder the girls had enthusiastically eaten with dinner the previous evening.  Aboard the ferry, we sat in the lounge, huddled in our sweatshirts and clinging to our warm tea and coffee.  Hoping that the fog would lift, we waited for the announcement that it was the right time to observe the sea life.

When we were about an hour outside of Digby, we made our way outside onto the deck with cameras and binoculars.  The wind was blowing so hard that it was almost impossible to even open the door.  We stood on the deck, lined up along the railing, eager to greet whatever beautiful creature arose to bid us a good morning.  The fog had lifted, but there was still a cold, misty chill in the air in spite of being mid-summer.  The shores of Digby were ahead of us, barely visible on the hazy horizon.  The Bay was calm as the sea birds dove below the water and then shot up into the air with their catch in their beaks.

After a while, the girls were cold and bored, and they decided to retreat back into the lounge and test the wifi (they are teenagers, after all).  Ken and I stood on the deck in silence and kept watch on the horizon.  As we neared the landing, we knew that our chances were growing slim to see any marine life.  A ripple of excitement went through me as I sighted movement off to the left.  Peering across the sea, I watched as a school of porpoises gently glided through the waves, their fins in perfect harmony with each other.  Too fast in and out of the waves to stop for a picture, the porpoises swam on out of sight.

As we stood against the backdrop of the open sea while it rolled onto the approaching shore, I knew that we would see no whales today.  The closer we drew to land, the thicker the fog became.  What had cleared while out at sea was now drifting back toward us, covering the ferry with its mantle of white.  At the very last minute before the call to return to our vehicles, I felt, more than saw, a stir out at sea, and I turned just in time to see a monstrous and majestic creature arise from the water.  I suddenly knew how Ahab felt when he first laid eyes on the Great White Whale.  My heart beat faster as I watched the beautiful animal clear her lungs with a mighty geyser that sprayed salty tasting droplets on the fascinated onlookers.  As she began her descent back into the sea, her eyes locked with mine.  Unlike the cold, dead eyes of a shark, hers were bright and full of life.  An understanding passed between us, and I held my breath as I watched her sink into the water, the turquoise pool sliding over her shiny black body and hiding all traces of the magnificent creature.

I breathed for the first time in what felt like several minutes.  I could scarcely believe what I had just witnessed.  I couldn’t wait to tell the girls what they had missed.  I’m sure you will agree that it was a moment to remember forever.  Or perhaps you will realize that Melville and I have more in common than a love for whales.

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, online, and through ibooks. Amy’s next mystery, Picture Me, will be released in August of 2015 and will be available in stores and online.  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