Jenny Knipfer–Author

Historical fiction author, Jenny Knipfer, shares her books, inspiration, thoughts on life and writing, and book reviews. Purchase Jenny's books, read her blog, or listen to encouraging podcasts, highlighting the life of a writer.

The Forgotten Room ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

By Karen White, Beatriz Williams, and Lauren Willig

Historical fiction in setting, The Forgotten Room tells the romantic, triad tale of Olive, Lucy, and Kate. Their stories—separated by a spilt timeline of about twenty years between each perspective—paints an intricate puzzle of old passions, family ties, and secrets.
All three characters and their love interests play a part in a secret room sequestered away in an old mansion and a painting of a dark-haired woman wearing a ruby pendant. What is it that binds all three women to the forgotten room?

The writers reveal the plot bit by bit, surprising the reader at the very end with the last piece of the puzzle. The Forgotten Room is a well-told tale of diving into the depths of passion come what may vs. the age-old predicament of practically. These scenarios ply against each other, two sides of the same coin; some characters choose one side, while some choose the other. As a reader, you’ll end up questioning which you would choose.

I would place The Forgotten Room in the historical romance genre. The story does contain intimate scenes, but they are tastefully done and not described in vivid detail for those readers who enjoy a tamer romance.

I don’t typically read romance, but I really enjoyed this book!

What are you reading?

Next week, I’ll share my TBR pile with you. I have acquired a healthy stack, and I have a number of Kindle books waiting on my iPad as well. I enjoy reading so much, and even as a busy writer, I will always make time to read!

Happy Reading! J

We can seek and make unlikely friends and associations when our spirit needs them. Perhaps in this time of being more distant with friends and family, you have done the same. Maybe you talk to your dog or cat more. Perhaps you chat with your plants; I do. 🙂 Whatever the case, the point is that we all need company. No person can tolerate isolation, and we make the best of what we have. Often times, we see more because of trying circumstances.

In this segment of my upcoming novel, Silver Moon, my character, Oshki, is on break from his tour in the trenches during WWI. He misses home and his family and makes an unlikely friend, who lifts his spirits. Read Oshki’s journal entry below.

January 10th, 1917

This is my last day at the rest camp. The weather is cold but not bitterly so. I like to spend as much time out of doors as I can. The open space frees me.

There is so little in the trenches. I must enjoy it while I can.
I’ve made a friend while I’m here, not the human kind. He is a bird. A meadow pipit. He has olive-brown coloring with darker, barred wings edged in white and a creamy white breast. I saw him on top of a thistle digging for seeds. I roam the outskirts of the camp every day. One spot in the northern corner hosts a few dried, wild plants spreading from the grassy
meadow beyond.

I’ve made a spot there to write in the afternoon. It is a small corner of
relative quiet away from it all. Every time I am in my spot writing, Frank (that’s what I call my bird friend) comes and lands on the thistle closest to me. I hold as still as possible and watch him.

Today he actually landed on my arm. Well, I lured him a bit by placing a few seeds on my left forearm in hopes that he would risk the contact. He did. Frank chirps and chirps. His thin orange/brown beak opens and closes as if calling to someone. Perhaps he calls to his lover. Off he flies now. I’m jealous.

I wish the call of my heart would reach Mauve over the miles. I finger Pearl’s downy scrap of hair, which I keep over my heart. It’s soft, and I imagine it feels like the fluffy feathers of my little friend. I’m way past being tired of this war. I hate soldering, but it has become what I do . . . what I am.

I sicken with longing for my family and my land. I know I have a family here of sorts, and I’m grateful for the men who fight beside me, but it is not home.

As much as I detest the trenches, I am ready to go back. I am antsy to keep plugging away in the hopes that doing my job will eventually bring about the end of this conflict. God, please let it be so.

I watch as a few flakes of snow start to fall. My friend spreads his wings and flits away. I will put away my pen and journal and do likewise.

Thanks for reading!

I hope this excerpt encourages you to look for the little gifts of friendship, where you might not have looked before.

Blessings, J

Paperback releases on June 30th.

My Review:

What the Wind Knows, by Amy Harmon ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Anne, a fiction writer, travels to Dromahair, Ireland to see where her grandfather, Eoin, came from and what family heritage she can discover. Anne uncovers more than mere history; she steps into it.

A man from her past captures her heart, and they are drawn together like windmills to the wind, turning and blending together, despite what blows them apart. 

Rich in Ireland’s power struggle, the story unfolds amidst historical characters like Michael Collins, a leader in the IRA. Suspicions arise, and some folks in the town love Anne, while others don’t trust her. 

The mysterious lough (lake), shrouded in mist, holds secrets that both mend Anne’s heart and rend it in two. 

Harmon helped me step into the shoes of the characters of Anne, Eoin, and Thomas by relaying such tangible and real voices filled with gems of wisdom like—

“None of us are the same, Anne. Some days I hardly recognize myself in the mirror. It’s not my face that has changed; it’s the way I see the world. I’ve seen things that have permanently altered me. I’ve done things that have distorted my vision. I’ve crossed lines and tried to find them again, only to discover that all my lines have disappeared. And without lines, everything blurs together.”

As a reader, be prepared to be shocked, swoon, tear up, and be in love with this wonderful, detailed story of What the Wind Knows. 

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ for plot, Fantastic!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ for author voice, style, and POV

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2 for the amount of history

I speed read through many of the weighty segments of Ireland’s clashing power struggle. The amount of detail was a little too much to hold my interest in parts. 

All in all, I recommend What the Wind Knows as a fantastic read and will definitely read another book by Amy Harmon! 

Thanks for reading my review! Check back next Wednesday as I review The Forgotten Room. Sounds mysterious doesn’t it? So far its right on target to being a deliciously satisfying read.

What are your reading?

Click to read Silver Moon for FREE! Offer expires June 29th.

Happy Memorial Day! You may have bought a crepe paper poppy or seen them during this time of the year. I hadn’t really understood why veterans used the poppy as a symbol of remembrance until I started to research WWI for my upcoming book, Silver Moon.

What do poppies, Belgium, Ontario, and poetry have to do with one another? Let me explain.

In Silver Moon, I highlight the story of three men from Ontario, fighting on the Western Front during WWI. I did quite a bit of research for this book. Tying in real life events, places, conflicts, and battles became a priority to me as the stories of my characters unfolded. My facts came from various books and websites. One of the best being The Canadian Encyclopedia.

I learned just how pivotal a role Canadian men played in WWI and particularly in Flanders, Belgium around the city of Ypres. In part, my heritage is French/Canadian and Belgian, so the history of these two countries blending together during WWI kept me searching for the story behind the story that I wrote. Following is a taste of what my characters endured.

Excerpt from Oshki’s Journal from Silver Moon

April 21st, 1915

We are weary, worn, and battle-fatigued, but thank God we were joined by a rag tag band of British and remnant French forces. We prevailed in keeping the enemy from advancing into Ypres. I’m resting. I squint as I write this by the light of the moon, which hangs like a drop of silver mercury over our heads, a tiny candle, and a box of matches I found yesterday in a cubby hole in the trench we occupy at the moment.

Something in me tells me the worst is yet to come, but I don’t want to believe it. How beastly we men have become, but, no, that is too good a comparison. We are worse than the beasts of the field, for they kill to eat, but we kill for much lesser things.

I must try to focus my mind as Maang-ikwe taught me, or I will surely submit to the fear rising in my chest like fire; it burns worse than the gas does. I will set my pencil down now and rest until it’s my turn to keep watch.

Vimy and Passchendael: A bit of history

This excerpt is from The Canadian Encyclopedia website…

“British and French strategists deplored diversions from the main effort against the bulk of the German forces on the European Western Front. It was there, they said, that war must be waged. A battle-hardened Canadian Corps was a major instrument in this war of attrition (see Canadian Command during the Great War). Its skill and training were tested on Easter weekend, 1917, when all four divisions were sent forward to capture a seemingly impregnable Vimy Ridge. Weeks of rehearsals, stockpiling, and bombardment paid off. In five days, the ridge was taken.”

A real photo from WWI at Vimy Ridge

Library and Archives Canada/PA-1017

Silver Moon opens in the wee hours of the morning before the battle for Vimy Ridge, which was the highest point in the area with a route to the sea and railroad access. Clearly, whoever had control of Vimy Ridge had a vast advantage over the opposing forces. 

Where do poppies come into the picture? 

The poem, In Flanders Fields, by Dr. John McCrae, a man from Ontario who served at Flanders, made the poppy a symbol of remembrance to the many men who fought and died there.

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

    That mark our place; and in the sky

    The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

    Loved and were loved, and now we lie,

        In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

    The torch; be yours to hold it high.

    If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

        In Flanders fields.

Poppies actually did grow in Flanders after the war, covering a war-torn land in beauty, where many men lost their lives. To this day different military and veteran organizations use the symbol of the poppy to raise funds to aid veterans disabled from war and to remember the fallen. 

Read more about how the poppy became a symbol of remembrance on The History Channel website.

Thanks for taking a trip back in time with me today! I promise more such trips ahead.

Blessings, J

Five-star review for Silver Moon…

The central characters are all powerful and heroic in their own ways, but I felt most for Oshki and Jimmy in the trenches. The descriptions of the physical experiences and hardships there were visceral and vivid and stayed with me for a long time after I finished the book. Overall, Silver Moon is a highly recommended read for fans of historical wartime fiction, powerful emotive drama, and excellent atmospheric writing.”–K.C. Finn for Readers’ Favorite

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Set during Hitler and Stalin’s ethnic purges of Slavic countries, Salt to the Sea tells the story, in first-person, of a group of people fleeing to board a ship destined for safer harbors. Little do they know what awaits them.

Florian, a young, strong painter, hides something stolen and precious, to none other than Hitler himself. But who exactly is the thief, and why does Florian risk his life to carry what he conceals?

Joana, a nurse with a secret, is inevitably drawn to Florian as she ministers to his wounds. They work together to keep their rag-tag group of young adults, a middle aged woman, an old man, and a young boy alive and together. 

Emilia also bears something precious and strives to hide her Polish nationality from authorities. Will she deliver her burden and survive to the end? 

This YA historical fiction book has earned much praise, as evident by the reviews at the beginning of the book, but I didn’t love it. This disappointed me greatly, because my favorite book of the year was The Fountains of Silence, by Sepetys. 

Although the plot and storyline of Salt to the Sea were compelling and an interesting, I could not get over the choppy feel of the book in general. Instead of chapters, the book was formatted in very short—in general 1 1/2 page length—first-person points of view. Just when I meshed with one character, the POV would switch. I didn’t like this and would have preferred longer sections. Also, many of the sentences seemed short, blunt. These two issues may be due to the fact that the book is categorized as young adult. I don’t normally read YA books and am unaware if this is typical of young adult books or not. 

Do you read young adult historical fiction books? If so, what is a favorite book of yours?

If you’re an indie author or thinking about venturing out on your own, this post is for you!

Desiree from Reedsy recently connected with me and asked to be hosted as a guest blogger. I had not heard of the company before, but after looking through what they have to offer, I agreed. Since, I have signed up and have experienced some helpful training and gleaned some great tips, all of which were free.

Reedsy also has a bevy of already scouted professionals to draw from, if need be, in every area from editing to marketing, which are paid services. I would have been glad to know about this early in my indie writing career. I spent many hours searching for various professionals to assist me but not knowing if they indeed were reliable. Below is Desiree’s guest post. Enjoy!

The 5 Most Common Publishing Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them)

Getting a book published is no easy journey, especially for new authors. Some might feel immobilized and sink into the quicksand of indecision, while others might charge straight into uncharted territory without planning where they’re going. No matter what route you take, there are plenty of potholes that can hold authors back from successfully reaching their intended destination.

But if you’re aspiring to publish a book, you’ll be glad to know that the path ahead is not unwalked, and you can learn from many who have been there before! Even veteran authors might want some insight on how to make everything smoother. Below, we map out some of the most common publishing mistakes and how you can evade them on your path to authorhood.

1. Going it alone

Publishing a book can feel overwhelming, especially for first-time authors and/or those who self-publish. The temptation is often to take on every part of the process yourself, from editing to your cover design. Perhaps you enjoy doing things on your own: taking a retreat to a cabin in the woods or a brooding walk on the moors while you’re writing. But whether or not you buy into the idea of the solitary writer, no author can brave the publishing journey alone.

If you’re opting to go the traditional publishing route, a literary agent can help you get your foot in the door and be an ally to you throughout the complex publishing process. But if you decide to self-publish, you don’t have to do it all yourself — you can (and should) ask for help when you need it! Typesetting, cover design, and marketing are all arts just like writing, but they require very different creative muscles. Fortunately, publishing is not a marathon that you have to embark on all alone; it’s a relay race that you and your team will conquer together!

Don’t feel afraid to invest in yourself and get help. Make use of others’ expertise rather than wearing yourself down to make sure that your book is not imperfectly edited or improperly formatted. That’s how your work will reach its full potential!

 2. Not making the right first impression

First impressions matter. And, like it or not, most people decide whether or not to buy your book based on the way it looks. There are so many books out there also vying for attention that you’ll need a visually arresting cover that stops readers in their tracks (or in their scroll). A sloppy or basic book cover gives the reader the impression that the text is also, well, sloppy or basic. If you don’t feel equipped to create a professional-caliber cover yourself, remember tip #1 — find a pro who can help you out!

Another mistake is not thinking carefully about the book description that goes on the product page of your book. It’s the second thing that readers look at, which means this too can make or break you. Give a brief synopsis, not a lengthy plot summary: you want to hook the reader, reel them in with intrigue, and make them curious so they’ll want to dive in and discover more. Keep things short and simple, and top it off with a reason why this book is for them.  

 3. Neglecting the marketing

“If you write it, they will come”: this is a major misconception. Just because you wrote a book doesn’t mean that people are automatically going to read it, and even experienced authors make the mistake of overlooking book marketing. When you’re self-publishing, ensuring that your book reaches the right audience — people who genuinely want to buy it — is crucial.

Every author should create a detailed marketing plan when publishing their book. This includes outlining who the target audience is and what strategies you can use to reach them. Spend some time studying comparable titles on the market to see what works, while also considering what makes your book stand out.

Some marketing strategies you might want to try include email marketing, price promotions, and digital advertisement. The right platforms for you will depend on your book’s genre and target demographic, but the right combo is out there for everyone!

Establishing a strong web presence and author website is also essential so that readers can easily learn more about you and your work. If you hope to have a long and prosperous career as an author, a good online presence is the first step to creating your fanbase who’ll support you throughout your future projects. And that takes us to the next mistake…

4. Not getting the right reviewers

Reviews are an important part of your marketing plan and essential to the long-term success of your book. Positive reviews bring in new readers and reap rewards long after your initial marketing push. But you don’t want just anyone to be reviewing your book — generic stock reviews or reviews that are obviously all from your family and friends might turn potential readers off (not to mention they’re discouraged on Amazon and Goodreads).

The good news is that Reedsy Discovery allows you to submit your book for review and gain exposure to new readers. And getting book reviews from book bloggers, industry professionals, or other authors is a great way to help build your credibility!

In addition to this, look for reviewers who often address your target audience and start crafting pitches to them. Be sure to look beyond traditional press outlets when seeking reviews — the book review landscape is constantly changing with new developments in digital media, and Youtube and Instagram can be as good a springboard for your book as “traditional” platforms.

 5. Rushing the process

It’s understandable to want to get your masterpiece out there as soon as possible, but don’t rush things! Too many authors forget to breathe and end up burning themselves out.

Remember, there are so many elements that go into the process of publishing a book and it simply can’t all happen overnight. Just like producing quality writing takes time, each stage of the publishing process — from editing to book design to promotion — should be given its due diligence to create the perfect product. So take your time; your book, and your sanity, will benefit from going at the right pace. Hopefully this guide to the most common publishing mistakes and ways to avoid them will help you better navigate the treacherous wilds of the publishing world and emerge (mostly) unscathed. Bon voyage, and don’t forget

“Desiree Villena is a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace that connects authors and publishers with the world’s best editors, designers, and marketers. She’s very passionate about indie publishing and helping authors reach their dreams! In her spare time, Desiree enjoys reading contemporary fiction and writing short stories.”

Thanks for reading!!

If you have any questions about what I’ve learned along my indie author journey so far, leave a question in the comment section below or use the contact form in site menu. I would be happy to share my experiences with you.

You can also listen to a number of podcasts, in which I address my journey so far as an indie author.

Instead of a traditional book review today, I wanted to give you a preview of my soon-to-be-released novel, Silver Moon.

Life progresses with resilience despite trouble times. It’s true today, and it was true during WWI. In a scene from my upcoming book—RELEASE DAY IS JUNE 30TH—Mauve and her mother, Ellie argue about Mauve’s forthcoming wedding on the eve of her fiance’s enlistment in WWI.

Scene from Silver Moon:

“Ack . . . Marm. It’d be foolish for us to wait. We love each other, so why should we?” 

Mauve stood with her hands on her hips and demanded her mother give her plausible reasons to refuse the man she loved. Her red, wavy hair flowed down her back, tumultuous as her attitude. She glimpsed her reflection in the small mirror on the wall in the kitchen as her temper flared. A perturbed expression was etched on her square face. Mauve watched the hardness she felt come to the surface of her features. It gave the set of her jaw a decisively masculine edge. 

“Well, that’s all very well an’ good, but what will ‘appen when Oshki leaves ye with a child and off to war ‘e goes?” Ellie put to her. “You need ta be realistic. Fairy tales don’t build t’ world.” 

“Should we put our lives on hold because of what could happen? The future isn’t guaranteed for anyone and . . .” 

“Don’t talk to me as if ye are t’ one to be telling me what’s what. I’ve lived a wee bit more o’ life than ye have.” Ellie slammed her coffee cup down on the kitchen table. A bit of the brew splashed out and soaked into the table covering. 

“I’m not, I’m just saying . . .”
“I know what ye’re saying all right!”
Mauve watched her mother visibly simmer down and lick her taut lips. 

Ellie continued in a more controlled tone.
“T’ fact of t’ matter is, during war things are different. People change. 

Life changes. I worry for ye is all.” Ellie reached for Mauve’s hand. Their breakfast sat unfinished on the kitchen table. The younger children were already off to school. But Mauve pulled away. 

“You just don’t understand.” Mauve turned and walked away, but then stopped and spoke one last thing without turning back to face her mother. “I’ll do what I think best, with or without your and father’s blessing.” 

“Isn’t that what ye always do?” Ellie said in a quiet but bitter voice. 

Thanks for reading this excerpt.

To keep current with Silver Moon’s progress and my writing journey, please subscribe to my newsletter in the box on the bottom of the Home page.

Blessings, J

I am so pleased to feature historical fiction author, Pamela Binnings Ewen today. By following Pamela on Instagram, I heard about her new book, The Queen of Paris, released in early April of this year. It sounded so good. Months ago, I requested an interview with her and an advanced copy to read and review. She accepted, and at her request, her publishing company, Black Stone publishing, sent me a copy of The Queen of Paris, a novel about Coco Chanel.

Pamela’s Interview:

When did creative writing become a part of your life?

Books and reading have been an important part of my life for as long as I can remember. As a child, stories and characters came alive to me. In the fifth grade I taught myself to type and made my first attempt at writing a story, which was a complete rip-off on Little Women. Over the years I continued writing for myself, mostly poetry and short stories.  Writing seems to run in my family. My family, the Burke family, originally from New Iberia, Louisiana, has a lot of prolific writers, which I think is an interesting fact. The best known are cousins James Lee Burke (The Robicheaux series among others), Andre DuBus III (most famously, The House of Sand and Fog), and his father Andre Dubus III (most famously, The Bedroom).

The urge to write something serious to be read by others arose about twenty-five years ago, when I began working on my only non-fiction book, Faith on Trial.  The basic research took many years though, because I was still practicing law at the time. When it was published, Faith on Trial received quite a bit of national press. I think for one thing, the idea of using a trial format to examine real evidence as you would in a courtroom, intrigued some people—especially those who wanted to believe but just couldn’t get there. Many readers told me that Faith on Trial had changed their lives—as it did mine.  While writing this book, I realized that I love writing about ideas.  But I also found that writing fiction is more fun, and that the most enjoyable way to explore interesting issues is through fiction.  Since then I’ve also realized that sometimes fiction exposes clearer truth than facts.

What writers have inspired you in your writing journey?

 It’s difficult to limit my favorites to a list! I read all the time, including not only for fun but also in my research.  And I learned the craft of writing fiction from reading great books—classics and contemporary. In the classics, I especially like Edith Warton, Eudora Welty, Henry James, Virginia Wolf, F. Scott Fitzgerald, E.M Forester, Somerset Mauham, P.C Wodehouse. If you’re familiar with these writers you may notice a common theme–women’s issues (with the exception of P.C. Wodehouse who, to me, is just plain funny). These older books have a subtle touch as they illuminate womens’ early struggles to survive in a man’s world. The evolution of women’s power and freedom from that day to ours is also fascinating, and often a focus of my own books.   

As to contemporary writers, I love Pat Conrad (his writing is musical), Phillipa Gregory’s historical novels, Amor Towles, Paula McLain, and so many others that they’re impossible to list.  Also, I love poetry, especially Edna St. Vincent Millay, Billy Collins, Rumi, Blake, Shelly.  Poetry expands our thoughts to new ideas, new ways of looking at this world. When I’m tired or frustrated in writing, I try to relax and read poetry. For me it often brings up new ideas and possibilities that I’d not thought of before.   

What is your favorite work of fiction?

Oh boy – this one’s hard. Ok. I think maybe Edith Wharton’s House of Mirth. Her writing is clean and entertaining, while at the same time dealing with serious issues. Wharton gives us a single woman living at home at the turn of the last century, a spinster, struggling with the reality of an unknown future as she grows older without the support of any man—father, husband, brother, patron, and before women saw the light of other opportunities beckoning ahead.

 As to contemporary books I love almost anything written by Philippa Gregory, I also love A.J. Finn’s ‘Clara Vine’ Series, (amazing research), Jody Picooult, Beatrous Williams, Fiona Davis, and a new author I’ve just discovered, Liza Nash Taylor.  There are too many others to name!  

Why did you choose to write about Coco Chanel?

Chanel has always been an iconic figure. I’d always pictured her as a typical fresh young French woman, and a glamorous and sophisticated business woman in her older years—glittering, ambitious, and strong. But about six or seven years ago I came across a non-fiction book written by Hal Vaughn, Sleeping with the Enemy (Random House). Vaughn’s research on Chanel was in-depth, including photographs of recently released WWII military files which flipped her entire image upside down in my mind. After several years of research, reading every biography and non-fiction book about Chanel that I could find, it appeared to me that that no one had ever written the real story of her years during the Nazi occupation of Paris during the war, The facts as related by Vaughn were shocking. But after initial research, I realized that cold facts did not go far enough. I wanted to know ‘why’ Coco Chanel had chosen the path she took during that time. Answering that question became my lode-star while writing The Queen of Paris.

What was the biggest obstacle in writing Coco’s story, and the biggest blessing?

The biggest obstacle was that, at least on the surface, Coco was not a likeable character.  Chanel is and was at that time an iconic figure, but with a difficult personality. I think that most readers prefer the main character to be someone they can root for. But on the other hand, complex characters are also interesting. My goal when I began writing the book was to explore the reasons why she acted as she did, not in order to judge or excuse, but rather, to show the evolution of the thoughts beneath her actions. And those reasons turned out to be fascinating! My hope is that readers will gain some insight into Chanel’s strange behavior during those years as each short flash into her past pairs with the present in the story, like light cutting through darkness.

How does her story inspire you?

I don’t know if I would use the word ‘inspire’. I really wanted to just tell the story of these four years of her life, and in the process find out why she made the decisions she made. Coco Chanel’s life story was already well known, except for these four years.  She was a complicated, extremely talented woman. Writing in the shadows as you must in historical fiction, I wanted to find out how her past formed her life, and informed her decisions. My goal was to show what she was thinking during those terrible years, without judging or excusing her behavior from the outside looking in. So that in the end, readers could come to their own conclusions and judgments.  

What have you learned from your characters?

My characters are almost always a person or idea or fact that catches my interest and intrigues me. Sometimes I think of them for years before deciding to write the story, as in the case of Chanel.  In the process of creating characters, I find they generally evolve in an unpredictable fashion.  I think that’s because often we are forced to make unexpected decisions in life, and our reactions to each problem and consequence form our personalities and our choices as we grow and learn—or don’t. I have learned that to be real, characters in a story must do the same and that makes the character and plot more interesting. I don’t like to solve problems in my stories with coincidence.

 None of us can predict even what will happen in the next day of our lives. I think finally I have absorbed this truth, and I to try to enjoy each day as it comes. I did not write The Queen of Paris with a conclusion in mind. Instead I followed the facts, and sometimes wrote in the shadows when there was enough circumstantial evidence to justify that. (Sorry, I’m sounding like a lawyer, I know).  And, hopefully readers will come to their own conclusions. But I do think the book highlights the need for each of us to stay alert to the possible consequences we create when we make choices, not only to ourselves but in the world around us. We don’t exist in isolation—we must force ourselves to look at things we would rather not see. And to act to make things better when we can.  

What brings you the most joy as a writer?

Writing takes me to another place.  I escape into the world I’m creating or researching. Also, I love exploring ideas. I love the research, and when that’s done the expansion of that information into new thoughts. Exploring the issues raised by ideas sparked by facts and then watching this grow into a plot and characters is fun.

Are you working on another novel?

Yes, it’s tentatively titled The Girl from Provence.  The main characters are two minor characters in The Queen of Paris. It’s also set during WWII.   

photo credit: Jenny Knipfer

My Review:


The Queen of Paris by Pamela Binnings Ewen tells a story as classy as Coco Chanel herself. In this richly layered novel, Ewen portrays Coco in her early life as a very young woman, before she was famous and in the years after and surrounding WWII.

This iconic woman desired to be loved, like anyone. Her complicated love life brings about an even more complicated situation. Coco seems to be forever chasing true love, both romantic and paternal.

A determined woman, Coco fights for her name and company and makes decisions which hover in the gray area of life. During the war, some think her a traitor and collaborator with the enemy, but at the core of Chanel burns the desire to keep what’s hers.

Ewen’s in-depth research fuels this glittering tale of glamorous fashion and perfume icon, Coco Chanel. Well-done!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ for characters and story – I loved the imperfect, complicated character of Coco. The rich descriptions Ewen paints placed me at the scenes in the book.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2 for plot – For me, things wrapped up a little too quickly toward the end, but perhaps that was reflective of Coco’s reality.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ for a fairly clean read – There are some sexual encounters mentioned, but they are kept nondescript.

Thank You!

Thank to Pamela for interviewing with me, and as always, thank you, dear follower, for reading. To learn more about Pamela, you can visit her WEBSITE or follow her on:






As promised, I am posting every Wednesday with reviews of books I’ve read or about books, in some form or fashion. This book has been sitting in my TBR pile, but it moved to the top of the stack last week. I enjoy Hazel Gaynor’s writing style, which I would phrase as a bit mystical, with real voices, and a hint of tragedy. I have read several works of fiction by her and meshed with each.

Book Review

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter by Hazel Gaynor

I anticipated this novel to be one I would fall in love with, and it didn’t disappoint. Gaynor weaves an enchanting story of historical figure, Grace Darling. Renown for helping her father rescue a boat full of survivors from a ship wreck off the Irish coastline in 1838, Grace’s life becomes intertwined with one of the survivors. 

Her life at the Longstone Lighthouse with her family becomes fraught with story hounds, reporters, performers, and artists all wanting a piece of Grace’s glory or an inside scoop into the life of an idolized lighthouse keeper’s daughter. 

Sara Dawson, a survivor Grace rescued, and Grace develop a friendship, which leads her to form a romantic inclination with Sara’s brother, George. 

The story jumps ahead one hundred years to Matilda, who travels from Ireland to America to live with a relative, Harriet, on Rhode Island. Matilda carries a secret with her, but little does she know that a secret awaits her in Newport. 

Rich with heartfelt emotion, Gaynor conveys Grace, Matilda, and Harriet’s points of view in first person and highlights minor characters through a third person narrative. 

I found The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter a tragic, detailed drama of what it might be like to live in a lighthouse and just how much it might demand of you.

Share With Me

What have you read lately and loved?

Today I want to relate the aspect of mothering in a spiritual way. With Mother’s Day approaching, I thought of this devotional I wrote years ago for a church Mother’s Day event. In so many ways as mothers, we teach. The Apostle Paul instructs his prodigy, Timothy, to spiritually teach believers in the new church: by the example if his life, by word, by love, by faith, by integrity, and by reading scripture, giving counsel, and teaching.

— First Timothy 4:12 and 13 says, “Teach believers with your life, by word, by demeanor, by love, by faith, by integrity. Stay at your post reading scripture, giving counsel and teaching.” 

I see this applying to us at mothers as well. God has given us a high calling to help shape a life he has shared with us. I think He gives us practical instruction in these verses on how to that. Let’s look at this instruction in parts. 


By Our Lives:

Children constantly watch us, and they learn by default from our example. They pick up and copy our smile, frowns, words, and actions.  Beth Moore in her book, “Breaking Free,” quotes a story that she found inspiring, taken from a book entitled, “It’s Always Something,” by Gilda Radner…

“When I was little, my nurse Dibby’s cousin had a dog, just a mutt, and the dog was pregnant. I don’t know how long dogs are pregnant, but she was due to have her puppies in about a week. She was out in the yard one day and got in the way of the lawn mower, and her two hind legs got cut off. They rushed her to the vet, and he said, “I can sew her up, or you can put her to sleep if you want, but the puppies are okay. She’ll be able to deliver the puppies.”

Dibby’s cousin said, “Keep her alive.”

So the vet sewed up her backside, and over the next week, the dog learned to walk. She didn’t spend any time worrying; she just learned to walk by taking two steps in the front and flipping up her backside again.  She gave birth to six little puppies, all in perfect health. She nursed them and then weaned them. And when they learned to walk, they all walked like her.”

I think there are many lessons in this story, but I want to pull out the fact that what has crippled us as adults will have effect on how our children walk through life. How we walk will be how they learn to walk. I think this story reminds us of just how much little ones learn from the actions of a parent. We exert influence as mothers. Let’s submit that influence to God asking him to help us in how we live, to give the best blessings to our children by the example of our lives.

By Word:

We teach by our words. Words make up the very basis of our communication with each other and pertain greatly to how we experience the world. 

In Genesis God spoke creation into being. In the gospel of John, John writes of Jesus, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Also in the New Testament, God’s word is described as being alive and active. 

As children of God, I think our words–in a much smaller portion–are alive and active as well. Words have the power to bless and the power to curse. I think back on some of the greatest hurts in my life, and they often originated with words, the spoken intent of another person. In looking back, I also see that some of the greatest blessings have come through encouraging words of love, spurring me on like nothing else.  Our words are important. They create, or they destroy.

By Demeanor:

Our demeanor reflects on our children as well. Demeanor is defined in the dictionary as: outward bearing, behavior, manner, to conduct. I think of this as the outward manifestation of what dwells within us. It escapes like air from a burst balloon—uncontrollable and unpredictable. Who we are inside comes out in our demeanor. We teach our children by our demeanor. If we see some unpleasant things escaping from our lives, taking form in our demeanor, we can submit those to God. He is in the business of transformation. None of us are perfect, but the more we look to Him, the more we become like Him.

By Love:

One of the three lasting gifts mentioned in the second book of Corinthians is love, it is also the greatest. When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment is he said, “Love the Lord your God, with all of your heart, mind and soul and love your neighbor as yourself.”  Mt. 22:38 All the guidelines for our lives are summed up in this statement. Loving someone else equates to the hardest labor we will ever perform but also the most rewarding, for love transforms not only those who are loved by us, but also our own hearts as well. 

The Gospel of John says that we know love (are able to love) because God first loved us. If we want to love our children, the best we can, we must first understand that God loves us. Our identity and love originates from God loving us first.

By Faith:

Faith seen in people who have influence over us inspires our choices. I remember getting up in the middle of the night as a kid, trying to creep quietly down the creaking steps from upstairs, to get a drink of water or use the bathroom. More often than not, I would spy my mom asleep in her chair with an open Bible on her lap. I knew that she had been up reading God’s Word and praying. Out of all the images that stick with me, of my mom, these remain crisp in my mind. 

We teach by our faith. The Bible says, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” Romans 10:17 There is no better way to strengthen our faith that by reading God’s word and letting it be at home in our hearts and minds.

By Integrity:

Integrity teaches, naturally. It is defined as: moral soundness, wholeness, completeness, the quality or state of being, -unimpaired. 

In speaking of David, the Psalmist says in Psalms 78: 70-72, “He chose David also his servant and took him from the sheepfolds, from following the ewes’ great with young. He brought him to feed Jacob his people and Israel his inheritance. So he fed them according to the integrity of his heart and guided them by the skill of his hands.”

I resonate with the phrase, “Bloom where you are planted.”  I think that speaks about being at peace with where you are in life and about integrity. The quality of your heart and your potential to bloom is not hindered by your circumstances. The quality of David’s heart equaled the same as a shepherd of sheep as a shepherd of people. God called David a man after God’s own heart. I pray that can be said of me, of us – that we can be called women after God’s own heart.  Integrity comes as we seek God, to have a heart like His.

Read Scripture, Give Counsel, and Teach:

Finally, Paul exhorts Timothy to read scripture, give counsel, and teach.  I think one of the best gifts I ever gave my children was the gift of spending time reading with them before bed. Most nights, when my boys were small, I would read to them. Sometimes our reading would take the form of a classic tale, a fantasy, or a Bible story. Reading in itself opens up the pathways for all other learning. But reading the scripture, not only helps children develop their capacity to learn, it reveals the truth of God’s word to their hearts. The Bible instructs us to, “Hide God’s word in our hearts that we might not sin against Him.”

A quote I like by Strickland Gillilan says, “You may have tangible wealth and gold, caskets of jewels and coffers of gold. Richer than I, you can never be. I had a mother who read to me.”

My mom read to me as well, some from the same books that I kept and was able to share with my children. If we make time to spend with our children in this way, I think as they grow, it opens up opportunities to share counsel and teaching in their later years. Reading together is a simple communicative form of intimacy that leads to a level of greater intimacy as children age. So, I encourage you to take time to read, because it not only builds your child’s intellect, it builds truth and a common platform of shared time and experience in which to stand on when counseling your children. —-

My children have grown into men now, but these same strategies still apply, just in a little different way. There never really comes a time in our lives when we stop mothering.

If you are a mom or stand in a mothering role in someone’s life, I hope something I’ve shared encouraged you today. May you have a blessed Mother’s Day weekend! J

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