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).

The Blank Page

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Some days are like this. I sit and stare at a blank page. It mocks me, telling me that I have nothing of interest to say, that my words don’t matter, that my thoughts are inconsequential. It forces me to blink several times, looking away from the glare that stares back. I find myself seeking solace in other people’s words – on the Internet, in books, on the phone. My own words have failed me. They hide behind the cobwebs in the recesses of my mind. The harder I look for them, the more they shrink away, like a childish game of hide and seek.

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And when I find them, they take off running, a marathon of thoughts riddled with leaps and hurdles that only I can overtake. I reach for them, trying to harness their energy before letting it explode onto the page. And when the explosion takes place, letters, words, thoughts, dialogues, settings, characters, and ultimately a plot are unleashed, a seismic wave of ideas that leave me breathless. I can’t stop it, can’t roll it back, can’t contain the beast that it becomes. For days, weeks, months, I become a slave to the words that fill the once-blank pages. Clothes go unwashed, dinners go uncooked. My fingers fly fast along the keys until, at last, a solitary tear falls. I know that I have reached the end of the story, the end of the words.

And then I am back at the beginning. Looming in front of me is a blank page. My head pounds as the taunting grows louder. “Write,” it screams at me. And so, with fingers pressed to the keys, I close my eyes, return to the game of hide and seek, and draw my characters into the open once again. 

The second book in Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Promise, will be available to pre-order on Tuesday, April 24, 2018.

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What I was writing about this time last year:  Do You Believe in Miracles?

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 Me, Whispering 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 latest children’s book, The Greatest Gift, is now available; and her novel, Summer’s Squall, can be found online and in stores. 

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)

 

A Sneak Peek and A Promise for More

 

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A view of Chincoteague Island from the Assateague Lighthouse

Over the past year or two, I have fallen in love with a particular family. I’ve cried with them through their pain and heartache. I’ve celebrated with them in their times of joy. I’ve cheered for their accomplishments. And from what I’ve heard, others are falling in love with them, too. No, I’m not speaking about the Pearsons of This is Us fame, though I truly love them as well. I’m talking about the Middleton and Kelly families, and if you’ve read my award-winning novel, Island of Miracles, then you know exactly to whom I’m referring.

 

A couple nights ago, Ken and I shared a toast over dinner. He raised a bottle of beer to my glass of whiskey (which, in case you missed it, is the new healthy drink of our age). We toasted to the completion of the first draft of the next installment in the story of Kate, Aaron, Zach, and Kayla. While it’s far from being a fete accompli, as there are still revisions, additions, corrections, etc. to be done, this is the first time that I finished a first draft and felt like I could send it off to the publisher as is. And I think it’s because I have gotten to know the characters and their stories so intimately that it feels natural to hammer it out in print. The words simply flow fro my fingers onto the blank pages, effortlessly filling the spaces in no time at all.

And since I’m so excited about this first draft, I’d like to spread some of the excitement around by giving you a sneak peek into one of the chapters of Island of Promise. Read, comment, share, and let me know if you, too, feel my excitement. I can’t wait for this summer to be able to take you all back to Chincoteague Island, to the place where miracles happened for Kate and Aaron and where promises are made and broken and made again for Zach and Kayla. So, sit back, relax, and take a short trip to the island. I hope it leaves you wanting to come back for more.

As soon as they got home, Kayla instructed the boys to do their homework, and she went right to work in the kitchen. She stirred the pot pie filling and started putting together the dough. She lost herself in the task, making her signature dish without a recipe and without having to think about the ingredients or the steps. Kayla was on autopilot, and she loved it. She reveled in the feeling of the smooth pie crust as she kneaded it beneath her palms. She stirred the thick filling again, tasted it, added more seasoning, and then tasted it again. It was perfect, and she allowed herself to take pride in her work.

This was what she missed, what kept her grounded. She loved Second Helpings and didn’t want to have to give it up, but she didn’t love the hectic pace at which she had to cook the meals. By providing dinner for sometimes as many as five or six families each night, she had lost the passion for cooking. She had forgotten how it felt to let the seasonings slowly run through her fingers as she dropped them into the pan, to knead dough until it was smooth and shiny, to place a beautifully prepared dish on the table and watch everyone enjoy their meal. She thought that she could have all of that and share it with others, but now she saw that all she was doing was hurrying through the process in order to have everything ready for pick-up. She was cooking her beloved recipes but without the love.

Using her palm, Kayla slowly rolled the dough into two perfect balls, setting one aside, and flattening the other onto the counter. She was in a trance, unable to see anything beyond the pate brisee as she rolled it out to the perfect size for the round baking dish.

“Did you not get enough to eat at your mother’s?” Zach asked, his voice soft and low.

Kayla’s trance was broken. She slowly looked up at him, feeling as if she was awaking from a dream. A dream where she was doing her favorite thing, with Zach lazily watching her as he leaned against the doorjamb, a look of pure love and admiration on his face. She blushed, realizing that she was not dreaming, and that that was exactly how Zach was looking at her.

“I’m sorry,” she said, hoping the catch in her voice didn’t give away the rapidity of her pulse. “I didn’t know you were there.”

“I could tell. You looked… peaceful.” He pushed away from his stance against the wall and walked toward the island where she rolled the dough. He spread his hands apart and placed them on the hard surface, surveying her work.

“I was remembering how much I love to cook, especially when there’s a special reason.”

He cocked his head to the side. “And the special reason?”

“It’s for Justine and Hank. Anne organized a meal calendar. She asked if I would donate a gift card or have a pizza delivered.” Kayla shook her head and smiled. “She should have known better than that.”

“She should have. You’d never send someone a pizza.”

Kayla looked up and saw the humor in his expression. He was teasing her, and it sure felt better than him feeling sorry for her. So often these days, she felt like everyone was looking at her with pity or trepidation. She much preferred being teased.

“How’s Nick settling in?” she asked as she rolled the dough over the thick, marble rolling pin and lifted it to the baking dish. She gently set it down over the dish and unwrapped the dough so that it fit perfectly inside the hollow of the dish.

Zach watched her with appreciation, and it made Kayla feel good. She was in her element, and she knew it.

“So far, so good. He’s checking the listings in the paper, circling potential jobs, and coming up with his plan of attack.”

Kayla turned to stir the filling and watched Zach, from the corner of her eye, break a small piece of dough off from the second ball and pop it in his mouth.

“I saw that,” she said without turning around.

“Man, I forgot that all moms have eyes in the back of their heads.”

“We do,” she said as she returned to the island. She pressed the dough onto the counter, sprinkled flour over it, and began to roll it out. “So, what brings you over, other than to steal a piece of pie crust. You can’t be hungry after Mom’s Sunday spread.”

“You’d be surprised,” he said, moving behind her to enjoy a giant inhalation of the pie filling.

“Don’t touch that,” Kayla commanded as Zach picked up the spoon.

“How did you—”

“Eyes in the back of my head,” she reminded him. “You didn’t answer me.” She finished rolling out the top of the pot pie before returning to the stove and turning off the flame under the filling.

Zach watched as she poured the filling into the pie shell and proceeded to cover the top with the dough, using the same maneuver she had used to lay the bottom crust in the dish.

“I wanted to make sure you don’t need anything before tomorrow.”

“You asked me at mom’s if I was ready.” She crimped the edges of the crust and poked three holes in the top of the pie.

“That’s not the same,” he said, opening the oven for her.

After placing the pie in the oven, Kayla noted the time and began cleaning up her cooking tools.

“I suppose it’s not,” she said, turning toward him and resting her back against the kitchen sink. “I’m good. The boys need to pack for Dad’s, but otherwise, there’s not really anything to do.”

“And you’re still holding off on telling them what’s going on?”

“Until I have a diagnosis, there’s really nothing to tell.”

“So, the boys have to pack. What about you?” Kayla felt a chill run down her back as he looked at her with such intensity that she felt naked.

“I’m good,” she faltered. “There’s not much for me to do.”

“How about that dinner?” He gestured toward the oven. “Can I take it to Justine and Hank for you?”

Kayla looked at the oven and thought for a moment before shaking her head. “I want to take it and let them know that I’m thinking of them. But…” She hesitated and lowered her voice. “Maybe you could go with me? Under the circumstances, I’m not sure I want to go alone. Todd is very close to Henry and wants to go with me. I’m afraid it might be difficult. I don’t even want to imagine what they’re going through.” She shuddered and glanced toward the den where the boys did their homework.

“Of course, we’ll all go together. What about EJ?”

“Well, he’s going to fight us, but I don’t think I can leave him home alone. I know he’s old enough to stay by himself, but until we know what happened to Henry…”

“I understand. I’ll talk to him. He’s Todd’s big brother and can take some responsibility for looking out for his little brother. Don’t you think?”

Kayla knew exactly where he was going with that and agreed wholeheartedly. If EJ thought he was helping his mom and being given the responsibility to look out for Todd, he’d take the task very seriously.

“Perfect,” she said. “The pot pie will be ready in about forty-five minutes. Should we meet at the truck, or would you prefer we take my car?”

“The truck is fine. I’ll talk to EJ and then go let Nick know what’s up.”

Kayla watched him go and let out a breath. As much as she hated to admit it, having Zach in her life felt a lot better than not having him around at all. But she knew better than to put her trust in him. He was still holding something back, and she needed assurance that they could count on him to be there when it matters. With her impending diagnosis and Henry’s disappearance, she realized all the more that you never know what the future will hold or if there will be a future at all.

Are you looking for a new way to meditate on the Stations of the Cross this Lent? If so, check out the newly revised edition of Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms. You can download the ebook version today!

What I was writing about this time last year:  Not a Thing Could Come Between Them

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 Me, Whispering 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 latest children’s book, The Greatest Gift, is now available; and her novel, Summer’s Squall, can be found online and in stores.

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)

You’re My Inspiration

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When I began writing the award-winning book, Island of Miracles, I never planned to have another Chincoteague Island book follow it. But as the book was coming to a close, I found it hard to say goodbye to the characters I had created.  When I got to the end, I had no follow-up story in mind, yet the words To be continued… sprang from the page. There was no doubt, by then, that the story of the Middleton and Kelly families was not over. 

Now that I have begun writing the first draft of the sequel, it strikes me that many of the characters and situations in this book, more so than any of my books, are a direct reflection of the people and events that have influenced me throughout my life. Perhaps that is why I can’t just let it go. While all of my characters take on a life of their own and become very real to me, the ones in Island of Miracles became living, breathing individuals in my mind and heart. It now makes me wonder about the impact that others have on all of our lives and if we even realize how much we are influenced by what goes on around us at the time.

I wrote Island of Miracles at, what I consider now, a turning point in my life. It was just after I visited the Holy Land, and I was forever changed as a person in ways that cannot be explained unless you have been there yourself. I was hungry to write a book that was about something more than romance and intrigue. I wanted it to be filled with inspiration, and I found that inspiration in the people I most love and admire in my personal life.

Many of the characters are named for real people who mean so very much to me. If you read Island of Miracles, you will certainly remember the young priest who helps Kate along her journey. Father Darryl is indeed a real person whose faith, optimism, and general outlook on life has had a great impact on me since I met him on my trip. One of Kate’s closest friends, Anne, is based on three of my closest friends. One has been my best friend for almost 25 years; and the others have become two of my closest friends over the past two years, beginning with the bond we shared in the Holy Land, and it now feels like they have been a part of my life from the beginning.

Ronnie is a dear friend who inspires me with her faith, perseverance, and patience. Dr. Sprance is not a heart doctor at all unless you recognize his ability to show unconditional love to those he meets. His unwavering faith touches every person who knows him. He may not be a doctor who can heal the heart, but he truly is a healer of the soul. Trevor is my Godson, and while he is still young, I see in him the gentleman he will become someday. Tammi, Shannon, and Marian are all friends who have touched me deeply through their friendship, and I cannot imagine life without them.

I am introducing a new character in the sequel who is named after my other best friend. Due to circumstances beyond her control, she was forced to begin her entire life again in her thirties, reshaping it in her forties, and learning to enjoy life as it is and not how it might have been. I don’t think she has any idea how much she inspires me every single day with her quiet resolve and desire to find joy and peace in an unsettling world.

And then there’s the other new character I am introducing, a young former Marine trying to find his place in the world. Yes, he too is a real person, and he knows exactly who he is. He’s always telling us how we helped him become the person that he is, but I don’t think he realizes how he has helped us in our journey as well. It is nothing short of inspirational to watch this young man mature and discover who he is and who he is meant to be. 

Of course, my parents and my brothers have greatly influenced me over the course of my life. As have my husband and our children. In fact, I’m not sure we ever reach a time in our lives when we cease to be influenced by the people, places, and events around us. We are all living in a constant state of growth, change, and renewal. I thank God every day for the many influences He has placed in my life. Know that if your name or your circumstance appears in any of my books, you, your life situation, your decisions, and the person that you are, have greatly influenced me in someway. For that, and for you, I am most grateful.

Who or what has influenced you?

What I was writing about this time last year:   Starting Today…

Amy 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; and her novel, Summer’s Squall, is now on sale online and in stores.

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)

What If?

cropped-img_01491.jpgWhat if? We ask ourselves that all the time, and so often it’s rhetorical, but seriously, what if?

What if you hadn’t met your spouse where and when you did? What if you hadn’t taken the leap and changed careers? What if you had been on that plane?  What if you hadn’t decided to move into a house across the street from your great-grandparents and given them and your children the best years of their lives?  What if you hadn’t told someone you loved them before it was too late?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the little decisions that we make every day that end up having a real impact on our lives. Sometimes we don’t see it right away; it might take years to realize how that one choice made all the difference. Sometimes, we never know the importance of our choices and how they affect our lives and others.

One advantage of being a writer is that I get to explore the “what ifs” and try out all of the possibilities.  I get to make all of the decisions and even change the outcome if I want to.  It’s easy to make a decision when writing a book that creates that opportunity for two people to meet and bond, or for a character to move to another country and start over, or for a person with a broken soul to find a way to mend.  But what about in real life? 

How often do you take a chance? Are you open to all life’s possibilities? What are you waiting for right now? Call that person you haven’t spoken to in years. Take the trip you’ve always dreamed of. Write the novel you’ve always wanted to write. Life is too short to look back and wonder, “what if?

Come join me in celebrating the release of Summer’s Squall!

Amy-FullPgAd

What I was writing about one year ago this week: Fiddling on the Roof.

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)

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)

The Voices in My Head

They’re back. The voices in my head that won’t leave me alone. They won’t let me sleep at night, won’t stop nagging me all day, won’t be quiet when I try to pray or concentrate on anything other than them. They are demanding, ruthless in their quest to break free, to be born into this world, to exist somewhere outside of my mind. And there are dozens of them. Men, women, children, young, old, of various ethnicities and backgrounds. They all want to be given a voice, a home, a story.

No, I’m not suffering from any kind of mental illness. At least, I don’t think I am. Unless this is how it begins. There were others, after all–Salinger, Poe, Kerouac, Hemingway, Plath, Joyce, and even Dickens. Some are even said to have gone mad while writing. But I’m pretty sure I’m still sane (though Ken and our girls may disagree at times).

The voices in my head are the characters that seem to multiply on, at least, a weekly basis. There are so many that I can’t decide which ones belong in which stories, which ones are main or supporting characters, and which ones are simply intruders with no business being in my mind or my stories. Those voices quickly die among the herd. But there are others waiting to take their place.

It’s a shame, actually, to have so many people and stories in my mind because, right now, I haven’t got the time to bring all of these characters to life and tell their tales. But the time is coming. Our youngest daughter, Morgan, is a junior in high school. I imagine that in less than two years, I will have a much quieter, slower life, and that is when the fun will begin. That is when the multitude can be unleashed, when story after story can be written. And truth be told, it’s a little daunting. All my life, I’ve told stories, imagined worlds and people, contrived conversations, created events, and now I’m really just beginning to give them life. And I never want it to end.

Cover-001Which is good because the stories go on and on and on. So many stories. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed and unable to write the first word because I don’t know which one to choose. Which voice is the loudest? Which is the most demanding? Which will be the most well-loved? And it seems I’m not alone. According to the Washington Post, James Patterson has “a three-inch-thick folder labeled ‘Ideas,’ one sheet listing 21 separate projects boiled down to their titles.” I have online folders, Apple notes, and a white board that boast a combined 16 stories at various stages of creation, including two that will be released in the coming months, the first being another children’s book. I’m not quite the next James Patterson, but I’d love to give it a try!

 

So, here’s to all of you who read my books and my blog. No matter how many voices are in my head or how many stories are on my docket, they would be worthless without you. With that in mind, I will raise a glass to you, my readers, the next time I open a bottle of wine. In fact, I’d love to have you join me in raising a glass. You’re all invited to my next book launch! It is being planned for the first weekend of December. Be on the lookout for more details. And who knows, yours might just become one of those voices in my head.

What I was writing about one year ago this week: “Without any doubting or quiddit”.

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/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)