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.
On Wednesdays I have shared what I’m reading and book reviews on my Instagram page. Read my previous reviews by visiting my page and clicking on the “Reviews” highlight button. However, I am excited to translate my love of reading to my blog. I plan to post every Wednesday with an update on my reading and share a photo and/or review of a book that I have read, starting with this sweet historical fiction book by Rachel Fordham.
Books I Love to Read:
*Christian Historical Fiction
Once in a while I’ll read outside of my usual genres to highlight and help a fellow author or if I come across something that peaks my interest. This last week I finished Hope of Azure Springsby Rachel Fordham, which is currently free in Kindle version through Prime Reads or Kindle Unlimted.
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ The Hope of Azure Springs by Rachel Fordham
It’s been a while since I read as sweet a story as this book portrays. I am not much for romance novels. I prefer to have a more literary or deeper read, but The Hope of Azure Springs contained likable characters, nuggets of wisdom, and enough mystery to keep my interest, even though there really wasn’t the sexual tension present in most romance fiction. I actually appreciated this. The on-again/off-again tension between romantic counterparts in novels gets often overdone and predictable.
The story follows Em, rescued from a desperate situation with a tragic past. With this background she patterns her belief in the assumption that she’s not worthy of being chosen or being called beautiful.
Caleb, the local lawman and Em’s rescuer, builds a friendship with her despite the obstacles. They develop feelings for each other, but their depth is put to the test as each of them discovers what love looks like and what it does not.
I really enjoyed this lovely story. I might have made Em’s emotional struggles a little deeper. With the amount of hurt and neglect she carried, she did seem to rise above her issues with out too much inner conflict.
Thanks for Reading!
Thank you for reading my first blog post on book reviews! I hope you visit me again to read more.
A listlessness has taken root in my life. My days blend together, and I don’t seem to get a whole lot done. Numerous projects are set out on my craft room table begging for my attention, but I lack the gumption to dive in. I have bags, pouches, and jewelry to make, but no inspiration with which to do so. More than that—the passion to craft has drifted away, at least for the time being.
To tell you the truth, I’d rather be reading or writing. The question to read or not to read is not a valid question for me. Reading will always be the answer, although I do have to temper my time reading to ensure I don’t get a headache.
I strive to read at least one book a week, and I write something every day: a blog post, social posting, my current manuscript, or just a personal journal entry. Maybe I put out enough energy through my words that my creative juices for the other things I enjoy doing have been swept by the wayside.
One of these days, I know the stacks of colorful fabric stashed in an old, white dresser with open drawer space and the many trimmings and pre-cut pieces of fabric will call to me. And I will listen and create. I’ll sort through my array of stashed beads in numerous fishing tackle boxes, find something to catch my eye, and design a new piece of jewelry.
But for right now, I focus on words, thoughts, and stories, both real and imagined. To see what I’m reading follow me on Goodreads or Bookbub. On Instagram click on my review highlights.
Here’s a sample of my current writing project: my seventh historical fiction novel, On Bur Oak Ridge…
We’re better at looking back than forward. Since such is the case, our eyes would be better placed at the base of our heads. I see nothing when I gaze into the future. It appears like the purple haze of the distant hills—without definition, lacking firm, clean, and distinctive lines. In a word—smudged.
The ironic truth is that “smudged” could explain my appearance. Life has taken an eraser to the right side of my face. Melted, waxy patches of pink skin shine in the lamplight from my temple to my neck. The skin around my right eye hides the small world of greenish-blue color—the window to my soul.
I know what people see through this broken window—a monster. I tilt my head and run the tips of my fingers over the corded texture of my skin. From this viewpoint, I could play the part of Dr. Frankenstein’s creation. My fingers explore lower until they reach the hollow of my neck, where the music once lived. But no longer. The notes have died. I sigh, reliving a memory of grief for what I’ve lost.
My hand falls. With the stare of the dead, I look back at myself in the cracked bureau mirror. The crack in the glass runs diagonal across my face from temple to jaw, bringing a visual division to my deformity. I puff out air from my nostrils with a resignation I am getting used to. Bit by bit I’ve buried who I used to be. That grave leaves me uncertain of who I will become.
What is left for me?
Next to nothing. I have the flowers and little else.
You’ve made friends, my conscience tells me. Yes, I have. I should be grateful instead of mourning the past.
For the first time in years, I will leave behind the walls of my strange shelter: the asylum. Tomorrow I board a train to visit Mabel, my friend. I’ll wear a mourning veil in public so people won’t gawk or reel back in revulsion at the naked sight of my face. The worst is when the children cry, then I become a nightmare to some poor little soul. I hate that: adding to another’s fear. We all bear enough.
My lungs command a deep breath, and I reach to turn down the lamp. The future comes tomorrow whether I am ready or not.
“Ready or not!” The words stab me in the throat, and I feel as if I’m being basted with a sharp needle. Those were Lonny’s last words. My eyes roll shut, and I see the flash of white, the brown curly head, the grin before he turned, the crash of the poles, like the blast of a mighty horn. I wanted to scream, but my voice caught in my throat, choking me. My mouth hung open, but all that came out was silence.
I breathe: in and out slowly, like the doctor taught me. The visions recede.
My eyes open. The room has been thrown under a dark caul, and I realize I must have turned down the wick of the kerosene lamp. Now my face looks ghostly in the silver-backed glass. I move to the bed, jump in, and tuck the covers up to my chin, praying I won’t dream of Lonny.
Please, God. Not tonight.
Thank you for reading my thoughts and this portion of my current WIP. What have you been reading or working on during this time of staying at home?
In this new era of social distancing, this scene of community from my upcoming book, Silver Moon, put me in mind of canning with family members. Working towards a common goal together is satisfying, but it has been a while since I’ve been a part of a larger group gathering larger than my immediate family group of five.
Set during WWI, Silver Moon paints a picture of life on the frontlines for several male characters, but also what it takes for a community of ladies to weather the war. At this time in history, home canning would have been an important way to preserve the food grown in your own garden. The water-bath method was primarily used as pressure cooking had not made a substantial entrance into home, food preservation yet.
Along with the fresh-baked smell of bread and cookies, the scent of dill, vinegar, and pickling spice reminds me of home and conjures up scenes of community. In these times of distance, when we can’t be a part of a larger group gathering, remembered scenes of community help us pull through. Read on for a glimpse into this homey scene from my book . . .
“Does anyone need more dill?” Natalie held up a large handful of the green pungent herb.
“Me, I think.” Nora Smith raised her hand as she fit her last head of dill in a clean, empty canning jar. A head of dill spread out its florets in a fan-shaped pattern at the bottom of each of the four jars in front of her, save one.
Several of the other women clustered around a group of tables in The Eatery, which Natalie had closed for the occasion, raised their hands.
The Webaashi Bay Women’s Club was hosting their second meeting of the year. Lily had asked Natalie last month about the possibility of hosting a home canning session at The Eatery. Natalie had told Lily she could hardly refuse the woman she called one of her best friends.
Natalie passed out the dill. Once every lady had their jars filled, Lily readied them for the next step.
“Now ladies, I’m sure you’ve noticed the pans of cucumbers in front of you. We are going to have a little competition.” Lily saw several of the women looking a little nervous, but most of them smiled and winked.
A bit of healthy competition will be good for us all, she thought.
“When I say go, pack your scrubbed cucumbers into the jars. Big ‘uns at the bottom. Little ‘uns at the top. Ready?” Lily looked around the room. “Set.”
She saw Mauve mouth the words, “I’m gonna win.”
She just might, Lily realized. Mauve’s skill set in the kitchen leaned toward proficient.
“Go!” Lily shouted.
The bustling of bodies, the squeaking of wet cucumbers against glass, and the good-natured laughs and giggles of the ladies could be heard throughout the group.
Lily had determined whichever lady filled their jars first would win a book on home canning, donated by the town shop, Booksellers: Simon & McMann. It had previously been known as Taylor’s Bookshop, owned by Jeremiah Taylor and his wife.
“What if ya got too many?” Rowena Martel, Job’s wife, complained and held up a couple of stray vegetables. “They ain’t gonna all fit.” Her chocolate-hued hand rested on her outstretched hip as she spoke.
“You might have extras,” Lily said to Rowena and all the women frantically stuffing green cucumbers in their jars. “Just fill your jars to the ridge of the glass. Raise your hand when you’re done.”
She smiled. It only took several minutes for hands to be raised.
Ellie Murray’s hand shot up, but at exactly the same time so did Althea Aimes’s.
Rats, I didn’t think about what I’d do if there was a tie. Lily rolled over her predicament in her mind. How do I decide who gets the book?
Ellie and Althea looked at each other. Ellie tucked a strand of her graying, red hair, which had escaped her bun, behind her ear.
“Wall, don’t really need t’ book now. Give it t’ Althea,” Ellie graciously offered as she continued to smooth down her unruly hair.
“Oh, no. That wouldn’t be fair,” said Althea.
Lily knew Althea liked to stick to the rules. She was the constable’s wife, after all. Lily considered her a sweet woman, with just a smidge of plumpness around her cheeks. Although she hosted a fit figure, Althea had an eternally cherubic face which made her appear heavier than she was.
“We could share the book,” she offered graciously.
Her round, pink cheeks pushed up as she smiled, giving her even more of an angelic look.
“Oh, what a lovely idea,” Lily said.
Whew, she thought, grateful for Althea’s suggestion.
“Ellie, what do you say?”
Ellie nodded. “Fine by me.”
“Well, there you have it, ladies. Our winners are Ellie Murray and Althea Aimes. They’ll be sharing the prize. Congratulations!” Lily clapped and the other ladies did as well. “Now that we have filled our clean jars with clean cucumbers, we must add the brine.”
Natalie came from the back kitchen with a steaming pot of vinegar, water, and pickling salt and spices. She set it down in the middle of the long table on a towel.
She gave the group further instructions. “Now, ladies, take a ladle and fill your jar with brine up to the glass ridge.” Natalie gave an example with an available jar. “Be careful; the solution is hot. Hold your jar with a towel if you need to.”
While she spoke, Renae Waters had come from the back with a pan of hot rubber rings and lids.
“Next, take tongs and place a rubber ring on the lip of the jar, fit the glass lid down and anchor it in place. Now,” Renae held up an example of the lid in each hand, “some jars will have the zinc tops which will screw onto the threaded glass jars. Some will have a rubber gasket attached to the lid and a separate ring. If you don’t know what kind of top you need, just ask.” She looked around. “Any questions?”
“What’s this do-jiggy?” Rosalind Tremblay asked. She was the daughter of Vincent and Mary Tremblay who owned the chandlery and light shop in town.
“That, my dear, is the wire latch that will hold your glass lid in place,” Maude Montreaux pointed out to Rosalind, who stood on her left.
“Ah,” Rosalind moved the wire clamp up and down, “I see.”
Celeste Cota raised her hand. “Are we placing the sealed jars in boiling water, then?”
“Right you are, Celeste,” Lily confirmed and made the announcement to the group. “After your jars are sealed, stack them in a crate, which we will bring back to the kitchen where several large kettles with hot water are ready to receive them.”
“How long d’ey have ta boil?” Rowena asked.
Lily was ready to answer, but Jenay, who stood by Rowena, beat her to it.
“About fifteen minutes.” Jenay smiled at her neighbor. “I’ve been canning things like this for years with my aunt. Did you and your mother do any canning?”
“Yas, done some with my mam, but it’s been quite a while. I ‘as jist little, don’t ‘member all the steps.” Rowena shrugged.
“Well, now you may can them with your daughter,” Jenay suggested as she finished tightening her last lid.
“Yas, that I can.” Rowena flashed a white, toothy smile Jenay’s way.
“Ladies . . .” Lily clapped her hands to get everyone’s attention. “Time to bring the jars back to the kitchen. We need get them in the water as soon as possible.”
“Why’s that now?” Rowena questioned Lily.
Renae jumped in and schooled Rowena. “Sterilization. The heat and the brine will do the job of killing bacteria.”
“Bac-teer-i-a? What’s ‘at?”
“The no-see-ums that will make you sick and spoil the food if they’re not gotten rid of.”
Rowena just widened her eyes, raised her eyebrows, and shook her head with puzzlement.
The ladies all worked together to carry their jars to the kitchen. They took turns canning the pickles, because not all the jars would fit in the flat-bottomed kettles in one batch. It took about an hour for all the pickles to be complete. Everyone pitched in and cleaned up, and at the end of the afternoon each lady took home their canned pickles.
Lily felt exhausted but like she had accomplished something worthwhile. The ladies of the town had learned or refreshed their skills at food preservation, and Lily knew from the chatter and laughter of the afternoon that they had had a pleasant time doing it.
It feels good to make a difference, no matter how small, Lily reflected as she stowed the last jar in her buggy and headed home.
Thank you for reading this post. I look forward to sharing more excerpts from Silver Moon as the date of publication draws nearer. Visit my Instagram profile and click on Silver Moon in the highlights to read more of about the story.
Spring always puts me in the mind to organize and do a little deeper cleaning than usual. My husband helped me clean out our entryway closet, and I have plans to organize my books and a few other areas.
I never minded cleaning my home, when I could. My muscle weakness from MS doesn’t allow me to do my past cleaning routine; I have help with that now. I liked the way lemon wood cleaner tingled my olfactory receptors, and the slight squeak of the polishing cloth against the wood tables was music and my ears. It always felt good to leave the bathroom sparkling and the floors clean. Today, my thoughts revolve around cleaning, but not the typical kind . . .
I didn’t know what to say today, when I sat down to write this post. My thoughts seemed small. There isn’t much to tell you in the face of the pandemic that has the world in its grip. It seems surreal, and I have to agree that truth is really stranger than fiction.
But to be honest, my little world has not changed much. I don’t get out on my own like I used to, so staying at home isn’t new for me. I’ve gotten good at puttering around the house, finding ways to fill my time up, and thankfully, I enjoy being at home.
When I’ve caught up on what’s happening outside of my small bubble, I’ve pinched myself a few times and reminded myself that this is real. An entity we can’t even identify with the naked eye calls the shots, and humanity moves like pawns on a chessboard. Well, that isn’t entirely true, at least I don’t believe so.
We Live in the Now:
I trust that God is in control. That helps me sleep at night and keeps me from developing an ulcer from worrying. But no matter what your spiritual beliefs are, I think we can all agree that on Earth we live in the now—a moment in time—this breath you take, the tick of a clock, the beat of your heart. We must be present in this moment and abide here because our next isn’t guaranteed. That’s what makes life precious.
The past is history and the future is a hope, but the now? We only have “the now.” How do we live in the moment, enjoying life as it speeds by? It helps me to pitch the things which weigh me down and do a sort of inner cleaning. I don’t want to waste my time on consuming emotions which will rob me of the peace of life’s moments.
My Advice on Cleaning:
Turn off the news. Set down your phone. Don’t be a part of that negative conversation on social media. Breathe. Pray. Be.
Do some inner spring cleaning with me: fling off fear, wring out worry, hack out hatred, evict envy, pinch prejudice in the bud, dredge out despair, AND INSTEAD, call on courage, practice peace, let love be your first action, crave contentment, judge not lest you be judged, hold onto hope.
Perhaps you’re shaking your head as you read this. Does this sound like too much work? Or maybe you’ve tried before and not succeeded in exchanging some of these negative feelings for positive ones. We all struggle with that because we’re human. If you want a cleaner inner-house, but don’t know how to get started, ask God for help. He takes joy in answering prayers like that. I’m confident He’ll show you the way to a tidier inner abode.
I challenge us all to think a little harder, dig a little deeper, pray a little more, and clean out more than our cupboards this spring. May a physical inventory prompt an inner one. That’s what I’m striving for.
Blessings and prayers to you for health inside and out during this world crisis. J
The most precious stones on earth are forged in dark caverns under years of intense pressure. Still these gems require cutting, shaping to release their true beauty and become treasure forged in darkness.
I’ve always thought everything in nature has some parallel in our lives, in the spirit. So many of life’s lessons have made sense to me through the scope of that lens. From the magic of a tiger-lily in the weeds to a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis. Nature is our school and the Spirit our teacher. I’m always on the lookout for how to match up the world around me to what’s happening to me on the inside.
One of my favorite Bible verses opens my first novel, Ruby Moon—“He will give you the treasures of the darkness and hidden riches of secret places.” Isaiah 43:1 I’ve lived this. I know it’s true.
For years I struggled on and off with depression. Trust me; there is no darker, hopeless place to be. Depression paints everything in life gray or black. I knew what I should be thinking, but I could not make myself think it. I prayed, begged, and pleaded for help from God. He answered via various means and most of the time not in the way I expected.
During this deep cavern time, the mining began in earnest. He pic-axed through the rocky portions of my heart to unearth the gems that He knew were there. I wrote my heart out. Poems and songs came from this time–deep thoughts ringing with the echo of all I’d passed through. After, I figured life could not get any rougher. I was wrong.
My world gradually fell a part five years ago when I had a lengthy MS attack, which has left me with permanent nerve damage and on a gradual slope of decline. There were times when I felt stripped of everything, all that I knew to be me. All the gifts I had used throughout the years seeped away. I remember one day so crisply.
I sat in my favorite spot by our south-facing bay window, where I have many green and blooming plants. My head hurt with a two-month migraine, I couldn’t read, write, talk, sing, walk, watch TV, listen to or make music, or use my right arm and hand without difficulty or pain. But in this place I prayed. Me, sitting and silently, pouring my heart out to God. Gradually, my thoughts turned to worship, and my heart to peace. He was with me beyond my understanding; when I was at my least, he was at His greatest.
Since, I’ve endured various levels of pain, depression, grief, and sorrow. And you know what? I never endured alone. In those dark places, I saw God and knew that He loved me and would never leave me. He molded each tear, fear, and pain into something brighter and better. Something that sparkled when held up to the sun. I got to know the Him better, as comforter, friend, savior, and the one who sings over me in the night. And I changed.
As a Result:
My faith grew as God met me in the promises of His word. Treasure indeed. This kind of treasure cannot be corrupted, like the material items we place value on. I became more gracious, understanding, and patient with myself and others. And I hope wiser.
A most interesting thing came from that time. When all else fell away, I saw what really mattered: my relationship with God, from which everything else should flow.
My Prayer for You Today:
You would pour out your worry, fear, pain, sorrow, and grief to Someone who loves you and sees it all. See yourself as a gem—imagine your favorite—being crafted in these deep places of life. Trust that if you give whatever you’re going through to God that He will mold something precious from it, and your pain need not be in vain.
Hope for the best: knowing Him more because of your trials.
With our current health crisis, we have been told to distance ourselves socially from others and stay at home in our nest.
Home. It conjures up a feeling of safety, warmth, and love. It’s where my husband and I have built a comfortable nest. I’ve surrounded myself with things that I like: cozy furniture, plants, books, dishes, special momentos, crafting paraphernalia, home decor. But mainly home means being with the people closest to me. At this stage in life that amounts to my hubby and Ruby, our dog; yes, I consider Ruby a person. My oldest son stays with us too, for now, but I hardly see him. He’s either busy working, relaxing after work, fishing, or spending time with friends. I love the days when we all—hubby, me, our two sons, daughter-in-law, and grandson—gather around the table, sharing a meal.
For some folks the idea of social distancing and staying at home for lengthy periods of time causes anxiety, boredom, and a longing to be with others. If you are an extrovert, the idea of being penned-up in your home away from people could be troubling. Luckily these days it’s easy to stay connected via social media and visual calls.
But maybe you’re the person who finds the thought of enduring days of your own company unnerving. I’ve never had a problem with tolerating my own company. Then again, I’m an introvert. I often experience secret glee when an appointment on my calendar gets canceled—for one reason or another—and I get to stay home. As long as I would be able to have a pet, I’d be a passable hermit.
How I manage social distancing?
Because of my health and my mobility issues, I’ve been practicing social distancing for many months without realizing it. What do I do all day at home?
I check social media. This has been a way for me to interact with readers and writers as an author and hear from friends and family that I don’t often see. Many people complain about the negativity of social media. I pass over those types of posts and concentrate in reading and posting more positive thoughts.
I call a friend or family member. Talking on the phone has never been a favorite pastime of mine, but I do it now and then to connect with family and friends who are not nearby.
I do some author-like business: I record bills and income, check emails and ads, work on a social, blog, or podcast posts, etc.
I read, write, or edit: To see what I’ve been reading, check Facebook, Instagram, or click on my Goodreads page and read my reviews. Click on reviews under my profile picture. I am on the home stretch of my 6th novel, Under the Weeping Willow. The next book tickles my thoughts now and then, but I need to do another passthrough of Under the Weeping Willow before I allow myself the freedom to listen to the new characters, brewing in my head.
I sew, color, or bead: I have some pouches to stitch up for gifts and a prayer bead set to make. They are on my goal list this week.
I sit in the sun or get outside: I can’t go for a walk anymore, but on nice days I push my walker around on the deck, getting a few steps in the fresh air. On less weather-friendly days, I sit in a comfy chair near our large south-facing window and read; it makes me happy.
I search Pinterest for a new craft to try: I’ve found so many fun decorating, craft, and cooking ideas on Pinterest. Find my page HERE to see my pins.
I do some household chores, a bit of cooking, or take care of my many plants: I’m thankful to have a kind lady who comes to do the harder chores, like cleaning the bathrooms, mopping the floors, and vacuuming. I still manage dishes, meals (hubby helps a lot with this one), and laundry, for the most part. I sometimes ask Google to play some music while I dust or cook.
I pray and meditate: I need to be better at making this a regular part of my day. I need to nourish my spirit as much as my body. I usually fall asleep praying for others.
I stretch and force myself to do what I can for exercise: This represents a tough one for me. My muscles fluctuate between feeling like mush and hard as steel. Too much motion, and I have pain; too little, and I clamp up. It’s a balancing act. One that I haven’t quite figured out yet. It seems to be changing all the time.
I play with the dog: I’m so thankful for our mini Yorkie, Ruby. She brings joy and laughter to every day.
I watch TV shows and movies on my streaming channels: OK, you can call me a chair potato. That’s what I felt like the last few weeks. My energy level has been low, and I pulled a muscle in my calf. Thus, I required more rest than usual. Currently, I’m watching Heartland and loving it.
All in all, my days pass fairly fast, here at home in my cozy nest. Maybe I’ve given you an idea of something you can add to your day as you keep closer to home in your nest.
Fear can be a savage beast. It makes us sick, paralyses our progress, and eats our hope. In short, fear often plays the role of the big bad wolf.
I’m not talking about the kind of fear that speaks caution to us in potentially dangerous situations. To me such a voice represents reason. Caution and our conscience telling us to be watchful, careful, or move into action to escape a danger can be a healthy thing and can literally save our lives and prevent harm. This often works from learned pain experiences—think of touching a hot stove. Fear and pain have important roles. We were given emotions for a reason. The problem comes when some grow out of proportion and take on the role of devourer.
Have you watched the movieInside Out by Disney/Pixar studios? I have and loved it. The story pointed out a fact: all emotions serve a purpose. Ridding our life of the more unpleasant ones, like sadness or even fear, can cause problems and keep us from growing in character. I can testify—sadness has opened my heart up and brought me more wisdom than happiness.
The fear which waits to devour us like a hungry wolf comes from not the preservation of life but the destruction of it. God’s message of “Do not be afraid” repeats throughout the Bible more than almost any other. As our maker, God knows we are prone to fear. Poor little Much Afraid from Hannah Whitall Smith’s book, Hind’s Feet on High Places, comes to mind when I picture a down-trodden person incapacitated by fear. The story is an allegory to how we can trust God in the midst of frightening circumstances.
With this present health crisis, I would urge you to remember who holds all things. Picture a cataclysmic event so devastating that the mountains would tumble and the earth crumble as if they were nothing more than Lincoln Logs. Even in this, God tells us not to fear.
Long ago I trusted God with my life. He holds the span of it in his hands. I can honestly say—I hold no fear when it comes to the newest virus threatening mankind. My todays and tomorrows are numbered exactly as they should be. In this I rest. The fact that an illness could come and wipe me out in a manner of days doesn’t phase me. I’m more afraid of what I live with every single day: MS.
March is national MS awareness month. Here’s MS in a nutshell: anything that the nerves control can go awry. When a person has MS, their body’s own white blood cells attack the nerve coverings, thinking they are an enemy to be destroyed. When the cells break through the myelin sheath, electrical shortages occur and bodily functions and motion don’t work in varying degrees of disability. MS also effects individuals differently, making it more difficult to diagnosis and treat.
Although MS waged war behind the scenes in my life for some time, I woke up one morning in 2014 instantly experiencing the results. It was terrifying. In a manner of days, a foreign numbness, tightness, and dizziness took over. I felt like my body had been invaded. I’ve seen ups and downs since then. Currently, I am on a gradual downward trend that will continue until my body gives up.
What scares me is that I could wake up with God-knows-what tomorrow in this war. Every night I go to bed and the Big Bad Wolf tempts me to be afraid of what the dawn may bring. Every. Single. Day.
However, I have learned to be brave, trust God, and rest in peace knowing that He is larger than my fear.
I am happy to introduce fellow Wisconsinite and author, Brenda Marie Webb. Last year Brenda and I connected on Instagram, and I bought and read her book, A Thousand Mothers.
Brenda is a self-proclaimed history nerd and a member of the Historical Novel Society. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband, 2 crazy rescue dogs, and a lot of cats.
A Thousand Mothers is Brenda’s first historical fiction novel. She recently finished working with other writers from around the world on a Holocaust Survivor interview project through the Holocaust Awareness Museum and Education Center in Philadelphia. The project paired historians, professional writers, journalists, teachers, and professors with a Holocaust survivor, liberator or resistor to document history based on their testimonies. The essays have been published and are available as academic resources for educators and students.
Brenda has a BA in history and has taken advanced courses in Holocaust studies through Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. She has a passion for helping Holocaust and concentration camp survivors tell their stories.
My Author Interview with Brenda:
what A Thousand Mothers is about.
To sum up A Thousand Mothers in just a few words would be to say that it’s about love and bravery. It tells the story of beautiful, courageous women and what they had to do to survive the misery surrounding them in a concentration camp.
A Thousand Mothers starts out in December 1942 in the Plonsk ghetto in Poland. The ghetto is being liquidated and a young wife, Perl, is being deported to an unknown destination. Perl is sent to Ravensbruck where she meets a group of women who become her family. Tragedy strikes and the women do whatever they have to do to honor a promise they made to Perl.
The women are strong, brave, and loyal and form bonds that last through the horrors of life in a concentration camp, through liberation and into the future.
you start working with the Holocaust Survivor interview project through the
Holocaust Awareness Museum and Education Center in Philadelphia?
I was taking an online class on Nazi Antisemitism and The
Evolution of the Final Solution through Yad Vashem in Israel and my professor sent
me an email about a writing opportunity that he thought I would be interested
in. I filled out the application and
sent in a sample of my writing along with a letter of recommendation from my
professor and to my surprise, I was one of the twenty applicants from around
the world selected to work on the project.
I was paired with a Holocaust survivor in Pennsylvania and I was able to go to Pennsylvania and spend two days with him and his lovely wife.
Why is it
important for you to tell the stories of the survivors?
The average age of remaining Holocaust survivors today is
83. We’re losing them every day and when they’re gone, their stories will be
gone, also. It’s so important to get their collective memories and testimonies
After liberation, many of the survivors wouldn’t talk about their experiences. Some out of fear of not being believed and some because they were told to forget about what happened to them and move on. Just because the war was over and the camps liberated, it didn’t mean the end of anti-Semitism. It was still widespread, and Jews were still being persecuted.
prompted you to take your project further and craft a novel from your work?
I want to write about what I’m passionate about and I want
to give a voice to those extraordinary, fearless victims history may have
forgotten. The Holocaust is a subject that many people, especially young
people, don’t know about.
I read Martha Hall Kelly’s book, Lilac Girls, in 2017, and the concept of a female-only concentration camp, staffed with female guards fascinated and horrified me. These guards were wives and mothers and yet treated their prisoners worse than their male counterparts. I started reading everything I could about the camp and the more I learned about the camp and the “rabbits” of Ravensbruck, a vague idea for a story came to me and I began outlining A Thousand Mothers.
The Holocaust survivor that I was paired with had spent some time Ravensbruck before finally being liberated from Bergen-Belen. He was a small boy but still remembers the horrors of the camp and being terrorized by the female guards. After hearing his story, I knew exactly what I wanted to write.
Please tell us about your road to publication with A Thousand Mothers.
My road to publication started with a year of research and
outlining. I read everything I could get my hands on and filled notebooks with
facts, dates, and ideas. I finally had to force myself to stop researching and
concentrate on writing. It was easy to fall down the “research” rabbit hole
because it was comfortable.
I’m a plotter and as I had mentioned, before I ever started
writing, I had an outline and a timeline in place. It was important to me to
make sure it was as historically accurate as I could make it. It is a fiction book, and I had to change
some facts to make them fit the story, but the setting of Ravensbruck is true
and is described as accurately as possible.
After my year of research, the first draft of A Thousand Mothers was written pretty quickly. I sent the very rough first draft to alpha readers and then spent about 4 months working on edits and revisions. After that, it was off to a round of beta readers followed by a month of more edits and revisions.
I sent it off to my editor for developmental edits and copy
edits in June 2019 and then it went to the proofreader and formatter.
It was published November 25, 2019
with an independent publishing group or self-published?
I went the self-publishing route. I didn’t want to spend
years querying publishers. I’m old! I wanted to see ATM published in my lifetime.
I also wanted full control over my book.
surprised you most about being an author?
There are a few things that surprise me. The first thing that surprised me was how hard it was to get ATM published. There are so many steps involved to get a book ready for publication. Writing the 1st draft was easy! There are beta readers and more edits, developmental editors and more edits, copy editors and more edits. Formatting, proofreaders……
Then there is the never-ending marketing that must
be done. You need to have a social media presence, a website, a newsletter,
etc. I’m still trying to find a balance to get everything done and continue
I had a book signing on February 15th
at a local bookstore and the turnout was amazing. I was so stunned that all
these people gave up their time on a cold, snowy Saturday afternoon to come to
see me. A teacher I had in high school came to the book signing and an old
friend that I haven’t seen in years came out. I’m so honored and touched!
The other thing that surprises me is that people
want me to sign their book. It makes me laugh every time someone asks me for an
aspect of being an author/writer do you struggle with the most?
My biggest struggle is self-confidence, or in my case, lack
of self-confidence. One-hundred people can tell me how much they loved my book,
and I feel the need to tell them how awful it is! I’ve given away so many
copies of ATM because I don’t feel I should be taking money for my novel.
My MIL asked for a copy at least 4 times before I finally
gave one to her and I pleaded with her not to read it.
I just read a book about “self-worth” and a sentence really
resonated with me. It said “Confidence is internal. It has nothing to do with
My 2nd struggle is marketing, which sort of ties
into my confidence struggle. Marketing doesn’t end when your book is published,
which you know. BTW, I just read Ruby Moon and it’s wonderful! Your story is so
interesting and unique. I love your style of writing, it’s poetic. I got lost
in your words.
I know I should be pitching my book to bloggers and
podcasters, but I can’t. I also should
be asking for reviews, but it’s so hard to put yourself out there.
inspires you most as a writer?
I’m inspired when I read other author’s beautiful writings.
Anne Franke was 15 years when she died in Bergen-Belsen, but her book changed
the world. I’m inspired by people who give their best to make the world a
History inspires me, photos, quotes, art. They all get my
could give a couple of tips to other aspiring writers out there who are
dreaming of publishing their work, what would you say?
#1 Don’t give up! It’s a long, arduous process but you’ll
get there, and it will be worth it!
#2 Take your time and make it as perfect as you can.
#3 Edit Edit Edit!
Don’t be surprised if your final draft is completely different from your
1st draft. If you can afford it, hire a developmental and copy editor. They’re
#4 Believe in yourself! You have something to say!!
working on future projects?
Yes! I’m working on my 2nd novel, which is a follow up to A Thousand Mothers and tells Mattie Kaczlowicz’s story and his journey through the horrors of Auschwitz concentration camp.
I don’t have a title yet, but I hope to have it published in
the spring of 2021.
Thank you, Brenda for guest blogging and answering my author interview questions! It was a pleasure to host you, and I look forward to doing so in the future. Following is my brief review of A Thousand Mother’s.
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️I found A Thousand Mothers an inspiring and hopeful story despite the depiction of the horrific circumstances of the Nazi death camps. I had to take breaks between readings. The suffering of the characters became real as I read. I could taste the tears, feel the pain, and yet sense the determination to keep going.
The story unfolds in part at the camps through different perspectives, which all revolve around keeping one baby alive. Against odds the women of Ravensbruck band together to preserve the life of Flora. The second half of the book tells the story of the survivors and their lives after the war. The story is ripe with history and well-researched.
I found the varied view points throughout the book a little confusing. I think the story would have benefited from less perspectives, but I can see in the passing of the responsibility of Flora from one woman to another that may have not been feasible in the storyline. Time stamps at the beginning of chapters would have been helpful as well.
All in all, Webb wove an intricate tale of hope in the darkest of times. A Thousand Mothers is well-worth the read!
Thanks for reading!
As always, thank you for following my blog and reading. I hope you’ll take the time to read Brenda’s inspiring book, A Thousand Mothers. The ebook if only $2.99 in Amazon. Click the above graphic to purchase. To connect with Brenda, follow her on Instagram or Facebook.
Tomorrow I will publish a podcast at Jenny Knipfer–Author Podcasts about my imagination process when I write, so I wanted to link a similar theme here on my blog. My interview with Sarah Letourneau in my post last week inspired me to write a poem about imagination and crafting characters for a story . . .