The Maid of Fairbourne Hall

I spent all of January, February, and most of March writing my next book. Whew! It was a lot of writing in not a lot of time, and to get it turned in by my deadline, I had to give up one of my favorite things–READING.

Every minute that I wanted to be reading, I knew I needed to be writing, so I cleared the pile of books off my nightstand and got to work. Two and half months and a complete manuscript later, I looked at my to be read pile–that had somehow managed to grow–and dove right in. I hope to tell you about several of the books I’ve read since then, but I wanted to start with The Maid of Fairbourne Hall by Julie Klassen. Set in the English countryside and dealing with the upstairs and belowstairs and the lives of masters and servants, I hoped it would appease by craving for something–anything–Downton Abbey-esque. Turns out, I was right.

I picked up all 410 pages of this book on a Thursday morning plane ride and finished it by the next evening. I couldn’t stop reading the fascinating tale of the belowstairs, as seen by a lady of leisure.

The pace is nice and easy, with just enough intrigue to keep me turning pages, but never more than seemed to fit. I was transported to 1815 and the life of spoiled soon-to-be heiress Margaret Macy. I didn’t love her at first. I didn’t even like her very well–that is until she risked her own life to help a well-to-do coach driver and his unseen passenger. And of course, the hero Nate was everything a good romantic hero should be. Flawed and imperfect, yet absolutely redeemable.

One of my few complaints is that I thought it ended a bit abruptly. I’d have liked to read more about Nate and Margaret. But maybe that’s just a sign of a good book. You never want it to end.

If you’re looking for a trip to 19th Century England, open the pages of The Maid of Fairbourne Hall and dive in. I think you’ll be glad you did.

 

Have I told you about my new book?

Yeah, I didn’t think so. But I’m excited to tell you about it now. Please allow me to introduce Code of Justice, my third Love Inspired Suspense novel, available one month from today.

code-of-justice-cover-hi-res1

From the back cover:
“Follow the drugs.”
Her sister’s last words shake FBI agent Heather Sloan to the core. They also convince her that the helicopter crash only Heather survived wasn’t an accident. Sheriff’s deputy Jeremy Latham is assigned the case—he’s the one who can help Heather find the person responsible. Once she convinces him they should work together. As they dig for the truth, they learn to trust and care for each other. But will they lose it all when the killer targets Heather? She’s willing to risk her life to find her sister’s killer—but her code of justice could cost her the chance to win Jeremy’s love.

Read the first chapter here.

Why I LOVE this book:
I love my sister. I love her dearly. This week she called me because we hadn’t talked since I was back in Arizona over Christmas and New Year. We chatted for 2 hours and 14 minutes. I love that I don’t have to be anything but myself with her. We have an easy bond, and a lot of fun. She teases me, and I tease her right back. And I’m just plumb thankful to have her in my life.

But when I sat down to write Code of Justice, I imagined a heroine who had a similar bond with her sister. And then I turned it on its head. What if her sister had been taken from her? How would she react? What would she do? How far would she go?

I loved writing this story. It felt cruel to put Heather through so much pain, but as she struggles with vengance versus justice, I love her all the more. Her faults are so often my faults–stubbornness and diving in head-first without praying about the situation first. As she totters between anguish and a the hope of new-found love, I see my own life reflected in her story. Life isn’t usually all bad or all perfect. It teeters and totters. It sways and surprises us. I love that about Heather’s story. And I love that about my own life, too.

Just this week, I began receiving my first e-mails from readers. Apparently they’re falling in love with Heather, too, and my heart is nearly bursting. Thanks for the notes, friends. It’s always a joy to hear that one of my stories is being thoroughly enjoyed.

I’m honored to get to write these stories that I love.

Thanks for reading them.

Save the Date

Well, I’ve been doing a bit of reading lately. And I’ve got to confess. I ran into a couple of books that I just couldn’t seem to finish. They weren’t bad, per se. More like slow. And I just couldn’t get myself to that point where I couldn’t stop reading, so I gave up.

Yes, I recognize that I could be missing out on some exceptional literary works by doing that. I also realize that I only have so many hours in a day, and I want to really enjoy the ones I spend reading.

So imagine my joy, when I recently picked up a copy of the very, brand new (not really available everywhere until February) Save the Date by one Miss Jenny B. Jones.

First, a snippet from the back cover of the book, so my commentary may actually make sense. (Then again, it may not.)

You are cordially invited to the wedding of the year with the most unlikely bride and groom. Save the date…and say your prayers.

When funding for Lucy’s non-profit job is pulled, she is determined to find out why. Enter Alex Sinclair Enterprises–the primary donor to Lucy’s non-profit organizaiton.

Both Lucy and Alex have something the other desperately wants.

Alex has it all…except for the votes he needs to win his bid for Congress. Despite their mutual dislike, Alex makes Lucy a proposition: pose as his fiancée in return for the money she desperately needs. Bound to a man who isn’t quite what he seems, Lucy finds her heart–and her future–on the line.

Save the Date is a spunky romance that will have readers laughing out loud as this dubious pair try to save their careers, their dreams…and maybe even a date.

save-the-date

And now my comments. Read this book. Really. Seriously. Go find a copy of this book and read it. If you can’t afford it, tell me, and I’ll mail you my copy. It’s wonderfully funny (like when Lucy thinks that Alex looks like “man dessert” and I laughed so hard I snorted) and a thoroughly deep exploration of the lies we listen to about ourselves.

I loved so many things about this book–like the fact that the hero is a former football star and the way the heroine will do anything to save the home she runs for girls who have aged out of the foster care system. And don’t even get me started on Julian and Clare, who have just discovered Jesus and offer hillarious commentary on the Christian walk. Save the Date tugs at your heartstrings in all the right places and gives you hope and joy for the hard times.

There wasn’t a single slow page in the whole thing. I sailed through it in three days (or more accurately nights) and can’t wait for her next. Featuring a professional hockey player, perhaps? A girl can dream. 🙂

See ya next year, Christmas lights!

I took down my Christmas lights and tree and all my decorations this weekend, and if you’ve been following the blog, you’ll know why. If you haven’t, I’ll give you a hint. I finished writing the Christmas novella that’s due on Tuesday!!

Yuppers! The book is done, edited, and nearly ready to send off to my editor. And now I feel a little like this.

 

Join me in a little dance, if you will!

The Perfect Ratio

This week I had a terrible revelation! My books are piling up at an exponential rate. I’m having a terrible time keeping up with reading the books that I’m buying.

See, I like shopping. A lot. Call it therapy or just a way to support the economy. And as previously revealed, I especially enjoy using a good coupon–which usually requires me to buy more than one book. Before I know it, my room starts looking like this:

too-many-books

Piles abound, and the books–books that I really want to read–don’t get read. I just keep getting more books, and not reading them. At this moment, I think my current ratio is about 3:1. If I’m only reading 1 book of every 3 I’m buying, that’s not ideal. Mostly because I want to be reading them. But also because I’m feeling a little wasteful (even if a lot of the books I’m getting are being traded for on paperbackswap.com). I don’t want to be wasteful.

But also, I love books. I love being surrounded by them. Someone said something amazingly creative enough to get published, and even if I don’t know the words yet, there’s something thrilling about knowing they’re there, on the printed page, covering my floor.

But sometimes I think I need to only buy books that I’ll actually read, so I have a quality 1:1 ratio. But then … well, how will I know if I’m going to read every book that I get? And just because I haven’t read the books yet, doesn’ t mean that I don’t want to.

Which all leads me to the all-important question. What is the ideal ratio for book buying? Is it only 1:1? Or is it 3:2, so that you have some spares for next year or the next? Or is it 5:1 so you always have more books than you could possibly read?

Pondering the big questions until next time. -LJ

The Trouble With Coupons

(Before I begin, it occurs to me that the title of this post might also make a very fun book or short story title.  Doesn’t it sound like a story about a bargain hunter with a serious chick lit problem? Hmm … I’ll have to noodle on that for a while.)

On to my real thoughts about coupons–specifically those from Family Christian Stores. I happen to be registered with them, as I really do love their stores, so I receive regular catalogs. Being a book-, movie-, and music-lover, I generally enjoy flipping through the pages to see what new media is now on sale. Is it the latest Max Lucado book? How about the new Brandon Heath cd? (Man, don’t tease me on that one!)

And then I hit the last page, and there they are, practically shrouded in angelic light.

COUPONS

25% Off here or there.
33% off for Grandparent’s Day or whatever other obscure holiday approaches.
30% off for just being me!

And I think it’s never been so good to just be me. So I tell myself that I’ll just swing by FCS and take a quick peek. I don’t have any money, and I certainly don’t need anything. I have stacks of unread books at home. But it won’t hurt to just swing by the store and browse. Maybe I’ll get a good idea for Christmas presents–even if it is still 11 months away.

Then I find myself tucked between two rows of equally sweet smelling books. I reach out to touch one. Just to feel the texture of the cover. Maybe take a little sniff. I do love the smell of new books. And suddenly the book is tucked under my arm as though I’m going to buy it.

You don’t need it, says my wise inner voice.

But then I say to myself, “Self, you do have a coupon … just for being you.”

And before I know it, I’m at the counter setting a pile of books next to the register and proudly slapping my coupon on the top. I smile, thinking to myself how much money I’m saving on all 13 of these books.

And then the kindly cashier says, “That’ll be $93.” I choke back a sob and dish out the dough. I can’t very-well part with one of these precious books now. Nope. Now I’ll take all 13 of my treasures back to my bulging bookshelves. And when I look for grocery money the next week, I’ll remember where I spent it. And I’ll know that that’s the trouble with coupons.

Still searching for grocery money between the couch cushions until next time. -LJ

New Fun with Old Books

Okay, so like many of you, I have enormous numbers of old books laying around. Books that I bought and read and enjoyed (or didn’t enjoy) but don’t need to keep around the house anymore. After all, my bookshelves are nearly crumbling under the massive weight of the books that I do want to keep.

In the past I’ve tried to sell some older books to used bookstores, but that never seems to net much profit. In fact one time it cost me $5. I drove to downtown Colorado Springs and parked at a meter in front of a used bookstore there. I popped my quarter into the meter, figuring 15 minutes would be plenty of time. I dropped my box of books at the front to be considered. Then began strolling the aisles. Being very fond of books, I somehow got lost among the tomes and ended up returning to the front of the store about 30 minutes later. They bought 5 of my books for $5 total. I figured it wasn’t a complete waste. Until I got back to my car and saw the $10 parking ticket. The long-sense expired meter had done me wrong! And I ended up owing $5 more than I made on my books. Bummer.

So this week, I decided to see if I could figure out a good way to pass my plethora of used books along to other readers, who might also want to read them, without the threat of another parking ticket.

Enter the PaperBack Swap–or PBS. Turns out this handy little website allows you to swap your old books with other people looking to clear off a little space on their shelves. You pay to ship your book when someone requests it. But you don’t have to pay for shipping when you request a book. Shipping one book = 1 credit. And each paperback or hardback book you order will cost just 1 credit. (Audio books are 2.)

It’s easy, it’s simple, and if you’re anything like me, you may find it saving you a bit of money. 🙂

Now, there are a couple tips that I feel I should share:

  1. This is not a great place to look when you’re in a hurry to get a new release. Likely there are 40 other people looking for the same new release and only a couple readers who are offering it.
  2. Patience is key to using this site not only in the afore-mentioned situation, but also in waiting for your books to arrive. It can take almost 4 weeks for books to arrive at your home. It can also take a long time for someone to order one of your books, which means you’ll be waiting a while before you can order the next book you want.
  3. Look for books other than novels–PBS has a great selection of nonfiction and textbooks.
  4. This is a great place to look for out of print or older titles that bookstores may not be carrying.
  5. Please! Don’t abandon your favorite local bookstore. Whether you’re a Barnes and Noble, Borders, Family Christian, or even an Amazon fan, these stores offer a certain guarantee of selection and prompt service that PBS just can’t.

Happy swapping! Clearing off new space on my overflowing shelves until next time … -LJ

Liz Johnson is available for preorder on Amazon!!!

Woohoo! The Kidnapping of Kenzie Thorn is now available for preorder on Amazon! I won’t have final cover art for a while yet, but this is the first that it’s be offered for sale. At the low-low price of $5.50, this book will make the perfect gift for all of your friends! 🙂

Can’t wait for the actual book to be on shelves! Until the finished copies are collecting dust on bookshelves … -LJ

One Book in One Night

Everytime I start reading a new book, I tell myself that sleep is overrated. As I crawl into bed with a new book and before I start reading, I give myself a little pep-talk.

I don’t need sleep tonight.

Then a little voice pipes up, “But you have work in the morning.”

I’ll be fine.

“You can’t stay up until after 1a.m.”

I’ll be fine. I don’t need more than 6 hours of sleep. It’s no big deal. This book is totally worth it.

Every night that I start a new book, I have that same conversation with myself. Recently I was reading a YA by one of my favorite authors Tina Ferraro, and I knew that I should put the book down. It was starting to get late, and my eyes were starting to droop. But I only had 50 pages to go, and I wasn’t sure that our heroine would end up with the right guy. I couldn’t put the book down yet.

So I kept going. Kept reading. Kept my eyes open.

And then it was done, and the last page ended. I closed the book, turned to flick of my bedside lamp, and glance a my clock.

It was 1:30am!

I had to be at work in 6 and a half hours. “Oy! What have you done?” says that little voice. “Why must you always end up reading one book in one night? You’ve got to learn how to put a book down.”

Or I should start at a more reasonable hour so I can finish a book by 11 and still get a good night of sleep.

Until next time. -A very sleepy LJ