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.

I recently connected with author Jennifer Lynn Cary on Instagram. Jennifer had asked me to review one of her latest books, Relentless Joy and I gladly accepted.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

MY REVIEW:

Second Lieutenant James Salem’s heart melts with the first glimpse and sound from singer, Valerie Beauregard, at the officers’ club at Fort Bragg, North Carolina in 1928. He falls in love and pursues Valerie but finds out that she’s a minor with a controlling uncle as a parent figure. Jimmy tells himself to be content with friendship with Val, but his heart yearns for her. However, their paths divide when Val and her Uncle skip town. 

After four years, Jimmy spies Val on a ballroom dance floor, but she denies that she knows him. In the midst of taking a special assignment for the army on the Anacostia Flats, Jimmy and his friend, Ernie, see the need from army vets, protesting the army’s neglect. Val and her uncle are caught up in the dispute. Her uncle passes unexpectedly, and she’s left alone with little hope and no future. 

But Jimmy comes to the rescue, professing his love for Val once more. Will Val accept his proposal, or will the loss of her one link with family be too much for her? Will Val and Jimmy make a life together and discover what joy truly is? 

In a new town with folks she barely knows, Val grows in her faith and becomes grateful for the bonds she establishes there. She keeps a secret from Jimmy for good reason but ends up regretting that decision. Can Jimmy look beyond her negligence, seeing Val’s heart and how much she loves him?

Fans of strongly messaged, Christian historical fiction will enjoy this heartwarming story of love, faith, and family. Cary does an excellent job of casting real characters, who could easily walk off the pages of the book. Told with skill, the story of Relentless Joy will bless you as you read Val and Jimmy’s romance and faith discovery. 

MY INTERVIEW WITH JENNIFER:

When did you start writing?

I’ve always enjoyed writing. I typed my first story on my mother’s typewriter while in the third grade. But back in the 90s I returned to college to finish my teaching degree.

Ten years later, I felt God tap me on the shoulder and remind me I needed to write something if I was ever going to have a book signing.  That produced my first novel, which ended up with a vanity press. I finally got the rights back and rewrote it, plus added a sequel but then they ended up on my closet shelf.

In January 2018 when Ken Burns released his documentary on Viet Nam. I remembered so much, and it got in my head. So the next time I prayed, God told me I didn’t need to reinvent the wheel. He brought to mind the documentary and my current Bible study in the book of Ruth. I suddenly saw it all come together. That became Relentless Heart which I completed that November.

About that time, I reconnected with a former critique partner who’d gone on to edit for Zondervan before starting her own company. She came for a visit in June of 2019 and we came up with a plan. We’d start with revising those books on the shelf and I would write a third to make the trilogy—The Crockett Chronicles. Then we’d launch Relentless Heart. I’ve been writing almost daily since.   

What prompted you to pursue publication?

I felt God’s call to do that. He gives me the stories, it’s the way I share His gift. It’s never been about the money though I’m not going to reject payment. But the first reason is to share His stories.

What do you love most about writing?

Somewhere in each book there are moments when I write something that’s not in my plans. I have no idea why, but I put it in. Then later, I need something and there it is. For instance, in my book The Traveling Prayer Shawl that releases next March, there’s a scene where I needed a reason for someone to speak with my main character. So I had her cousin drop her Visa card and this guy returns it. One thing leads to another and she sticks the card in her pocket.

A few scenes later, she needs to find help for her cousin. She finds the card in her pocket, reminds her of that guy and she takes a chance and calls him. I hadn’t planned to make the person who found the card a reoccurring character, but now I had a reason to pull him into the story and he became important. All because I had a supporting character drop her Visa. That’s the stuff I love, the surprises.

Your novel, Relentless Joy, is partly set on military bases. Do you have a special connection to the military?

Not directly. But I have a great source. One of my best friends is married to a retired officer and her son is retired military. I can run questions past them, and they’ve been good about helping. The husband was stationed in North Carolina and explained how the air base was so close. He also gave me the idea for the paper they wrote that brought Jimmy and Ernie to DC.

I also had an uncle who served in Viet Nam and was a translator. He read through Relentless Heart and checked for correctness too.

One of your main characters, Valerie, meets Cole Porter. Why did you choose to include this iconic man of music in your book?

First, my dad was born in Peru, Indiana so I grew up knowing that Cole Porter was from there. Daddy was proud of that. Music was always important in our home and I even got to be in a Cole Porter musical in high school.

But my last trip to Indiana, we took a spin around Peru with my cousin and she pointed out Cole Porter’s mother’s house. It had been a museum but is now in need of repair (or was on my last visit). It was an easy way to thank the man for the songs and though I have no proof he was actually in Peru at that time in my story, it was quite logical as he was known to do that sort of thing.

My grandmother’s aunt and uncle were also musicians in Peru and lived close to Mrs. Porter who was famous for her garden parties. It not only could’ve happened, but my relatives might have played at one or two.

What would you like readers to take away from Relentless Joy? 

This year has been so difficult, but God never told us we’d be without problems. Jesus even said in this world we would have difficulties. But then He gave us hope. When our hope is in Him, we have joy no matter what is going on around us. Relentless joy isn’t dependent on our situation; it is there for us no matter the situation. That’s what I hope readers will take away.

“Relentless joy isn’t dependent on our situation; it is there for us no matter the situation.”

Jennifer Lynn Cary

What are your two most favorite fiction books, contemporary and classic? 

  1. My first is actually a series—the classic. I can read The Chronicles of Narnia over and over. I love the characters, the adventure, the deep truths, the writing.
  2. The second is a more recent book (contemporary) and this is the variable of the group (next year it could be different). I fell in love with A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner. I read that and decided I want to write like her when I grow up

Tell us about your newly released, Christmas novella.

I’m so glad you asked. Silver Bell Christmas is Melanie’s story. Melanie (a.k.a. Mil in Relentless Heart) is the Naomi figure from the book of Ruth. Though she is in all three of the previous Relentless books, I felt like she had more healing to do. Having lost a child, I know it takes time, and things can nail you out of the blue.

But as the story take place, she figures she’s had two years to heal so why was she still vulnerable to getting blindsided with phrases or photos or events? I’d also wanted to do a Christmas novella and it seemed like a perfect blend. In this book Melanie really does learn about living again and has another chance at love. But does she want it? After twenty-five years of marriage to a good man, why try for more?

And Ben Carpenter, who we first meet in Wedding Bell Blues, has been alone for a long time. He’s not looking either. But there’s something about that Melanie Wheaten. I had fun writing from a more mature POV and I think you’ll enjoy not only seeing how sparks can still fly, but how the whole Relentless Series is wrapped up, including an epilogue with 2068 future president, David Joshua Salem, and the tenacious journalist Natalia Alaniz.

What are you currently writing? 

I am furiously writing (4000 words per day) the third book of my new trilogy—The Weather Girls. Do you remember the songs from the 60s—”Sunny,” “Stormy,” and “Windy?” Well, I turned them into sisters, set it in 1970 and gave it a bit of a romcom flavor.

My goal is to release Sunny in May of next year followed by Stormy in July and Windy in September. I’m having a blast with the words and fashions and music. Each book begins with a prologue where their father holds them while looking out the window at the weather. That’s his inspiration for naming each girl. Oh, and their last name is Day. Yup, Sunny Day, Stormy Day, and Windy Day.

So when they all end up returning home to Gramma’s about the same time and start a new business, it only makes sense to call it The Weather Girls Wedding Shoppe and Venue. This has been so fun. I’m hoping that if I enjoy it this much, the readers will too.

List several titles that you carry or adjectives, describing yourself. 

Child of God, Wife, Mother, Granmma (Mimi), author, and Retired Teacher.

Thanks so much, Jenny!

THANK YOU:

Thanks so much, Jennifer for being a guest author on my blog. It was my pleasure to host you. I wish you all the best with your books and your upcoming weather series! I hope I can host you again in the future.

Thank you, followers and subscribers, for reading! If you enjoy Christian fiction, I know you will love Jennifer’s books.

HAPPY READING! J

Writing:

Normally, I have my blog posts drafted  the night before, but yesterday I couldn’t think of what to write about or why you might want to read my words. In short I felt uninspired. This morning I’m simply writing. Me, my iPad, and my left index finger, tapping out my thoughts. 

I’ve gotten ready for the day, which exhausted me as usual. Now, I sit in my recliner with several layers of blankets on, a pillow on my lap with my iPad propped atop it, the citrusy scent of evergreens in the air—we have our Christmas tree up and decorated—, and a steaming mug of tea at the ready. My choice of tea this morning—-Christmas in Paris, by Stash. It’s delightful and aptly named.

Morning Light:

The morning light slants in an east window near my chair, highlighting a ruby-colored candy dish, making it gleam a bright pink. How different things appear in bright light. It makes me wonder how I’d look under such circumstances. No doubt all my physical bumps and lumps would stand out, but what about who I am on the inside? Would the light reveal my grubby little corners, where the cobwebs of neglect and the dust bunnies of acquired, unhealthy choices have accumulated? Most likely. 

Light and Identity:

There’s no hiding in the light. No shrouding your faults with glad rags. But I’m thankful that with God stepping into the light doesn’t manufacture fear, rather the reverse. At times in my life, I’ve felt that warm light of God’s presence, grafting me to the brightness of himself. It’s not always a painless process, but it’s safe and worth it. 

I feel in need of more grafting, more light this year. I’m facing a black hole where everything I know to be me seems to be sucked into. I firmly believe that my identity as a person can never be taken away by physical disability or even cognitive disjunction. My spirit is still the same. I am a child of God, loved by Him and gifted to do good works in His name, but some days fear floods my eyes with tears and my mouth with frustration at how difficult basic life has become. 

Difficulties: 

I’m struggling to get dressed by myself and manage some aspects of self-care, to say nothing of the household tasks I can no longer perform or barely perform. I can’t be that woman taking care of my family in physical ways anymore. That saddens me and leaves me wondering if what little I have to offer is enough. 

Perhaps that’s where you’re at, in some respects. Maybe life has taken some part of who you were/are away. But I want to believe with you that—your loss doesn’t have to define you

Sit in the Sun:

Take some time to sit in the sun today and reflect on the core of who you are. When the light enters and exposes those wounds, those parts of you which no longer function or have changed, look to what remains. I hope you can see God in the center, holding your identity as His creation in His hand, where nothing can taint or scrape your name in His eyes.

That’s where I want to be this morning. I choose to step out of the shadows and bask in The Light, who has come to be Emmanuel, God with us. 

Blessings, My Friends:

May the light of His love brighten your day today.


By the Light of the Moon Series:

If you have a reader on your Christmas list, you can purchase the whole set for under $52.00 for paperbacks and under $14.00 on Kindle. Or treat yourself to a little moonlight reading.


SUBSCRIBE TO MY NEWSLETTER:

This month for a free cookie recipe, updates on what I’m reading and writing, news about my books, special sales, offers, and to be eligible for my winter giveaway of a set of Kindle books, sign up HERE.

Gratitude:

This month I have posted what I am thankful for each day on Instagram and Facebook. It has been both challenging and rewarding. Click on the linked words to see what I’m thankful for.

Reading:

I’ve stayed up reading the last few nights until 11:00, trying to make significant progress on All the Light We Cannot See. It has around 550 pages, a big commitment, but it has been on my list of books to read for some time. It is set during WWII but from different perspectives than what I have previously read in fiction. I have about 150 pages left and am enjoying it so far.

Short Synopsis:

Young, blind Marie-Laure learns to function without her father when he is arrested for hiding a precious blue diamond that the Nazi’s seek. She and her recluse of an uncle become embroiled in the sending of secret missives into the night.

Orphaned pre-teen Werner Pfenning grows up fast when his technical skills are put to use by the Third Reich. Surviving his training, he’s hunting those in France who are engaged in the resistance.

Beautifully written with an old-fashioned storytelling feel, All the Light We Cannot See so far has been a satisfying read. NOTE: for those sensitive to violence or course language, readers will find some instances of this within the story.

Coming next week on my Wednesday Book Blog:

Relentless Joy, by Jennifer Lynn Cary. I really enjoyed this title, and l think readers of Christian Historical Fiction, Christian Fiction, and Christian Romance will as well.

Other Reading This Coming Month:

I have scheduled Mr. Dickens and His Carol, by Samantha Silva, Falling Pomegranate Books: All Manner of Things, by Wendy J. Dunn, and A Painter in Penang, by Clare Flynn, and I am looking forward to reading them all. In January through the Coffee Pot Book Club, I will be hosting Clare and Wendy on my blog with my reviews and information about their books—Clare on the 5th and Wendy on the 18th.

Blue Moon Book Tour:

For the next few weeks, my book, Blue Moon, will be on tour with Celebrate Lit Book Tours. Read my kickoff post, reviews, and sign up for a giveaway of a $25.00 Amazon gift card and a pair of handmade, Blue Moon themed earrings.

Happy Reading and Happy Thanksgiving!

May you be blessed with good food, friends and family, and of course good books to read. Warmly, J

I’m thrilled to announce that my final book in the series, By the Light of the Moon, releases today! It was not a book I expected to write, but when I finished Silver Moon, Maang-ikwe’s (Loon Woman) story begged to be told. And so I listened. Here’s what readers are saying about the book…

The story is unique and intriguing and one will find himself diving deeper and deeper into it with every page. Nicely written and narrated, don’t miss this book. The cover of the book looks so magical and the title so apt.” — Nony

GOODREADS

This book is a well crafted historical fiction around love, hope and despair which engulf a lot of emotions inside you.” — Dipali Gupa

GOODREADS

“This is such an amazing story which captures so many emotions, and it’s really very moving. I am quite thrilled because of the central theme, and it quite felt like a movie, wholesome and thrilling.” — The Social Librarian

GOODREADS

Harvest Moon: A TALE OF FINDING GRACE AND BLESSING AMONGST LIFE’S HARDSHIPS

Harvest Moon is probably one of the best historical fiction novels I have ever read. I have come away deep in thought, feeling somewhat like I’ve had a mystical experience and one I will never forget.”

Viga Boland for Readers’ Favorite

In the wilds of 19th century Ontario, Maang-ikwe, a young Ojibwe woman, falls into a forbidden love, breaks her father’s honor, and surrenders her trust to someone who betrays it. The abuse she suffers divides her from her tribe and causes her to give up what she holds most dear. 

Niin-mawin must come to grips with his culture being ripped away from him. Brought up in a “white man’s” school, he suffers through an enforced “civilized” education and separation from his family. When a man he respects reveals a secret about Niin-mawin’s past, he embarks on a search for the person he hopes can mend the part of his heart that’s always been missing. 

Both Maang-ikwe and Niin-mawin wonder how a harvest of pain and sorrow will impact their lives. Will they find the blessings amongst the hardships, or will they allow the results of division and abuse to taint their hearts forever?

Fans of historical fiction, Native American fiction, Christian historical fiction, clean romance, and literary fiction will be moved by this deep, heartfelt novel.

“There wasn’t a single thing that was out of place or didn’t make sense. I would highly recommend this historical fiction novel to anyone who loves reading stories with intricate plots and powerful characters.” Rabina Tanveer for Readers’ Favorite

“Immersive and emotional. Supported brilliantly by strong secondary characters and foils that leap off the page, this novel is culturally insightful, engaging, and cleverly structured.” Self-Publishing Review

“Knipfer does an outstanding job of cementing place, time, and culture against the backdrop of evolving relationships. These approaches lend a solid feel of authenticity and attraction to her plot to keep readers both educated and engrossed, as spiritual and social matters evolve.” D. Donavon for Midwest Book Review

Prologue

September 8th, 1862
Red Rock Reservation, Ontario

My mother always said that one day I’d get ripped open by my stubbornness, and she was right. It’s my fool, stubborn heart which led to Ignacio’s banishment and will most likely lead to mine.

A harvest moon of orange glows in the evening sky like a pumpkin guiding my steps. My feet squash down the mounded soil as I walk through the corn in the field. I hope I have not been followed. I turn my head to watch, but I see no one in the shadows. Some spidery strands of corn silk cling to my hide dress. Tufts of silk spring from the corn ears, brown and brittle like an old woman’s hair.

I walk deeper into the maze of stalks. Wide, curved leaves as big as my arm cling to me as I pass. Most are dry and they crunch as I wade into them. They are reluctant to see me go. Perhaps the corn wonders when I will ripen.

Soon. Soon.

My hand finds the curve of my belly under my doeskin dress. I wear the traditional clothes of my clan with pride. They were forbidden at school, but I’m no longer a girl. I will not go to the white man’s place of learning anymore.

With the white man came his ways. They want to make the Anishinaabe white, but we are not. The Black Robes say they teach us civilized ways, but they are the ones who are not civilized. It is the white men who need to be taught this, for they are sick with greed. What grows inside me springs from such a place.

I can still feel his greedy hands on me.
“Ah!”
A knife-like pain suddenly presses against my back. I stop in the

shelter of the last row of corn. A warm stream runs down my legs.

It’s time.

I look up at the moon and groan. It is time for the harvest to come. Time to bear the sin of a needy man . . . a man I thought I could trust.

“Errr. . .”

I pant and crouch down. Fear rises in my throat like bile. A heat rushes down my back. My legs tremble.

Should I have rid myself of this seed?

The thought rolls in my mind like the waves of Gitchi-gami. Wiineta-gikendan told me to. But she did not say why. She is as her name, which means: Only she knows. She is a Medawin woman, my teacher, and she knows many things. She wanted me to take an infusion of wild parsley and pennyroyal to flush this seed out months ago, but I could not. Gitchi-manidoo stopped me, spoke to me. I trust him. He is bigger than man and his lust. He will take this dirty seed and make him clean. He will make me clean.

“Rrrr . . .”

I pant and wait for the right moment, as I have seen done. The time comes when I can no longer resist. It pulls at me. It threatens to tear me apart. Finally, I can stand it no longer.

I push forth a child—a son. With shaky hands, I cut the cord with my foraging knife and tie the stump off with a piece of leather fringe from my dress. I cradle him in my arms, not caring that he is slick with the life of my womb.

He wails, and I join him. I cry for what I have lost—my innocence and the man that I love.

Thanks for reading and celebrating with me!

Visit the “BOOKS” tab in the menu for more details about Harvest Moon and the the other titles in the series.

I am thankful for entertaining books that hold my attention but also provide something a little meatier. With almost thirty books to her credit, Lynn Austin doesn’t disappoint. I’ve read many of her books over the years. I’ve found If I Were You to be one of her best.

My Review:

Told in segments during and after WWI, the stories of Eve Dawson and Audrey Clarkson tangle and weave through opposite social circles, friendship, bombings, and wartime work until they collide when one friend assumes the other’s identity. 

While her mother is a maid to Audrey’s family, Eve befriends Audrey when they are children, but as they age their social standing separates them until the war brings them back together again. 

Both women serve as drivers and mechanics during the war and even go so far as to ferry stranded troops home in Audrey’s family yacht. They both give their hearts away to American soldiers: Eve’s to a man who’s already married and Audrey’s to a good-looking, rich serviceman who’s engaged to someone else. 

Rich, pampered, quiet, and sheltered, Audrey ends up envying poor, beautiful, and out-going, Eve. But little does Audrey know that Eve wishes she was Audrey and that she had the family who’s waiting for her in American. 

Who will the war take and who will it leave? Will Audrey be able to forgive Eve for stealing what isn’t hers to take? Will Eve regain the faith she had as a child or let her losses turn her bitter?

Fans of wartime fiction, Christian fiction, historical fiction, and Christian historical fiction will sink into this well-written drama with a unique slant. 

Austin tangibly intertwines the friends’ stories in a believable and fresh way, opening up the readers’ hearts to feel a myriad of emotions—from grief to joy, from jealousy to happiness. 

Not surprisingly, I give it five-stars. I’ve not met a book of Austin’s I didn’t like. Thanks, Lynn for writing quality Christian fiction.

What are you reading? Did you have a favorite title so far this month?

As always, thanks for reading my Wednesday book reviews! Happy Reading! J

Note: This post contains web links for the convenience of my readers.

It has been awhile since I let my mind wander in the realm of verse. Last night I allowed my thoughts take me where they would, and although this is probably more prose than free verse poetry, it’s a poetic picture of where I write most of my work. I hope you enjoy it.

An Evening Poem

I sit here, alone, as I often do,

comfy in my old wingback blue chair,

a cup of steaming tea nearby,

my feet up on a tufted butter-yellow footstool, 

with corded fringe around its perimeter.

Just me,

in my small bedroom,

dimly lit,

with a creaky, old maple floor,

protesting my every footstep

and the faint tingle of peppermint oil in the air—

to ward off mice. 

My companions…  

an old bird house with 

white chipping paint, 

a faded yellow roof, 

and ten tiny homes, 

filled with bird figurines and tiny yellow teacups.

Two cheery yellow felt dahlias

adorn one pale-egg-blue wall.

A shelf of read books and to be read books

occupy another.

Colorful metal birds in a steel-blue frame 

brighten the atmosphere,

and a message-board with cards I’ve been given,

dangling on mini clothespins,

reminds me that others care. 

One sky-blue birdcage hangs in a corner, 

housing two white lovebirds, 

gray hydrangeas, aqua peonies, 

and a string of fairy lights. 

I’ve left the door open, of course,

for the birds to fly free,

if they wish.

Birds aren’t meant to be caged, 

neither ceramic or flesh and blood. 

Petite white, one dimensional vinyl birds 

on pristine branches with crisp white leaves

dance across the same wall,

lending movement and a kind of freedom to the space. 

A desk and two dressers—almost as old as me—skirt the baseboards.

In addition to harboring my clothes, 

they’ve held so many different bits of my life on their surface throughout the years:

stuffed toys,

pink eyeshadow and lipgloss, 

strands of jewelry, 

my favorite books,

past photos of old boyfriends,

a China lady, dressed in a pink flounced dress, walking two poodles on gold chains, 

flowers from lovers,

perfume bottles,

Paper roses crafted from hymnal pages,

antique crystal displaying feathers,

as proudly as a peacock,

and pictures of my family.

Memories have carved out dings and dents,

here and there in the almond-streaked wood, edged in gold.

But I love it all the more,

because it’s been well-used and well-loved. 

My bed centers the room,

lounging under a gold chandelier

with hanging rainbow-makers 

straight from PollyAnna.

Pillows with gray and white birds 

in silhouette 

perch toward the head. 

One rectangular cushion spells out “HOPE”

and says it all.

Glancing around my room, 

my little haven,

I speculate…

Am I lonely,

here in the still of the evening?

Strangely not.

My thoughts keep me company tonight,

as they so often do,

and I tap them to life,

on my iPad, 

by lamp light,

under a burlap shade trimmed with aqua lace,

in my gray and white—with pops of yellow—bird-themed bedroom.

I listen. 

What do I hear?

In my spirit,

in my heart? 

My ears pick up

the scratch of mice in the walls,

the distant drone of the highway,

the hum of the refrigerator,

the whoosh of air through the heating vents,

and the ever-present ringing in my ears. 

No, not that.

Underneath it all, 

I hear words, whisperings.

And so I let them free,

as I must,

and grant them the voice they plead for,

in black letters on a white screen,

where I hope you will eventually read them,

glimpsing another portion of who I am,

as I write this evening poem.

Thanks for reading!

Do you have a favorite poem or poet? A few of mine are: Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Shakespeare, John Greenleaf Whittier, Christina Rosetti, and Emily Dickinson.

Happy Veteran’s Day

Today I am grateful for all those who have served in the armed forces. To help celebrate, today I am featuring a novel set around the time of The Great War, Broken Lines, by author Kelsey Gietl.

My Review:

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The start of the Great War looms. German born Amara Mueller sets her mind to stay safe in America, separated from her family in Germany, serving on opposing sides. Amara takes her brother’s suggestion to heart and works to secure a husband. But will heart lead her astray and into the arms of a man who’s less than suitable? 

Emil Kisch, an oxymoron, being a morality officer by day and a wastrel at night, can’t hide that fact that underneath he’s a caring man. Amara and Emil become entangled, but it’s anyone’s guess as to where their hearts will end up. 

Will Amara rise above her past abuse at the hands of her prior fiancé? Will Emil see through the facade of a close friend, who works to keep Amara and Emil apart. Most important of all, will the would be lovers be able to break through their lines of allegiance to form a new bond? 

Readers of historical fiction and historical romance will savor this wartime romance told with flare. 

Gietl excels at writing romantic banter between the characters. The story of Amara and Emil pulls the reader in and keeps them turning the page to find out what happens next. The story flows easily through this well-wrought, opening tale of a wartime saga. 

I recommend this wonderful novel to readers of historical fiction, clean romance, and wartime fiction.

My Interview With Kelsey:

1. When did you seriously start writing fiction? I wrote my first full length novel in middle school, but it wasn’t until 2014 that I began writing my first published novel, Across Oceans.


2. Tell us a bit about your publishing journey. 

I’ve always loved books and writing. My mom was a teacher so I grew up reading books before I could even walk. Throughout elementary school, I wrote short stories, poems, and even two novels with the goals of becoming a published author. Somewhere along the way though as high school then college then career and family came along, I forgot all about it. It wasn’t until 2014 when I ran across one of my old manuscripts that I decided to knock the dust off my dreams. Originally, I assumed that meant traditional publishing, but after my first eye-opening PennedCon writer’s conference, I realized that self-publishing was exactly where I wanted to be. I loved the idea of having creative control over every aspect and it’s a decision I’m glad I made.


3. What inspired you to write Broken Lines? 

I came up with the initial idea for Broken Lines while writing my second novel, Twisted River. I wanted to take two of my minor German-American characters and give them a story of their own; however, I wanted their story to be theirs and not merely a continuation of Twisted River. Therefore, I decided to have Broken Lines take place five years later in 1917 right in the heart of World War I. When I began researching the impact of World War I on German-American immigrants, I discovered stories of harsh descrimination due only to the fact that Germany was America’s enemy at the time. It was a time of great division with friends being encouraged to turn against one another and free speech no longer free, but carefully tailored to fit the mold. It struck me as a time that many can relate to even today and made for the perfect plotline I had been searching for.


4. How much research on WWI did you do? What were your best sources?

When I first had the idea to write a World War I novel, I knew very little about the details behind The Great War. Like most people I know, we never discussed it in school as World War II took the primary focus. So, I spent months reading books, newspaper articles, and first-hand accounts in subjects from life on the homefront to military tactics to enemy occupation on the Western Front. My novels are primarily character driven, so I wanted to provide a realistic look at life during that time without overwhelming the reader or making it feel like a historical data dump. Like so many other authors I know, probably only 20% of what I researched actually made it into the book, but every detail helped round out my characters’ story. Some of my favorite sources were the Missouri Historical Society Soldiers Memorial (https://mohistory.org/exhibits/wwi/), the Library of Congress (https://www.loc.gov/topics/world-war-i/), the International Encyclopedia of the First World War (https://encyclopedia.1914-1918-online.net/home.html), and the book St. Louis and the Great War by S. Patrick Allie.

5. What kind of books/genre do you enjoy reading the most?

Historical Fiction, especially if it has an inspirational, romance, or time travel aspect to it. I also enjoy clean contemporary romance and young adult fantasy.


6. What author has inspired you the most in your writing career?

This is a terribly difficult question! There are so many authors who have inspired me. From the World War I perspective, I would have to say Kate Breslin. Her historical fiction novels offer some fabulous perspectives on the Great War from lesser known viewpoints while incorporating intrigue, romance, and faith.


7. Who’s your favorite character in Broken Lines? Why?

My favorite characters in books and movies are often the ones that need the most redemption (Kylo Ren, anyone?). Therefore, I would probably say that, although I share more in common with my female lead, Amara, my male lead, Emil, was my favorite character to write. Having lost his brother on Titanic five years prior, he now spends his time as a morality squad officer, using his position to break the rules, drink himself under the table, and verbally fight anyone who looks at him the wrong way. Life is about having fun and war isn’t a problem he cares to dwell over. At least until one poor decision changes everything. Emil’s personality is drastically different from mine, and I liked the opportunity to look at the story from a new perspective. I also believe that every person has the ability to redeem themselves, and one of my favorite parts of writing is the ability to see that play out.


8. What would you like your readers to take away from reading Broken Lines?

There’s a quote from Broken Lines that I really feel sums it up so well: “Even if you feel broken, you are still beautiful. Life isn’t finished with you yet.” Like my characters, I feel that we’re all a little (or a lot) broken inside and sometimes that brokenness overwhelms us. When that happens, we have to remember to keep going. In Broken Lines, the characters endure many of the same challenges we face and overcome them, showing how we can learn from the brokenness of the past in order to create a more beautiful future.


9. Are you working on a second book in the series?

Yes. I am about halfway finished drafting Unsettled Shores and plan to publish in late summer or early fall 2021. This novel will travel from New York to London to occupied France, following the exploits of a secret letter delivery organization.


10. Name five titles and five adjectives that best describe you.

Titles – Author, Wife, Mother, Catholic, St. Louisan. Adjectives – creative, inspired, devoted, petite, artistic

“Even if you feel broken, you are still beautiful. Life isn’t finished with you yet.”

Kelsey Gietl, Broken Lines

Thank You!

Thanks so much, Kelsey for being a guest author on my blog today. It was a pleasure to read and review Broken Lines and feature you and your wonderful book.

Readers: Do you have a favorite wartime novel? Let me know in the comments.

Happy Reading! J

Release day for my book, Harvest Moon, approaches, and I thought I’d highlight characters who have a point of view in the story. 

Maang-ikwe or Maang-ikwezens: Her name means Loon Woman or Loon Girl, as I start her story when she’s around seven. 

Short Synopsis:

In the wilds of 19th century Ontario, Maang-ikwe, a young Ojibwe woman, falls into a forbidden love, breaks her father’s honor, and surrenders her trust to someone who betrays it. The abuse she suffers divides her from her tribe and causes her to give up what she holds most dear. 

Her inner qualities:

  • Feisty: This acts in her favor making her determined and strong-willed but also perhaps makes her rely too much on her own strength.
  • Stubborn: Acting as a double edged sword, transforming her into a tenacious spirit, Maang-ikwe’s stubborn streak builds a desire in her to have what she wants, despite who’s life she may interrupt. 
  • Hard working: With the kind of life she lives on the reservation for the first sixteen years of her life, Maang-ikwe is no stranger to hard work. But it’s community work, where friends and relatives share the burden. 
  • Loyal: One of the driving forces throughout the plot is her bond to her sister, Celeste. Maang-ikwe eventually puts her own wants aside for the sake of a promise she makes to Celeste. 
  • Spiritual: In tune with her heritage and the world around her, Maang-ikwe also embraces Christianity and learns to connect and hear from Gitchi-manidoo, her Ojibwe name for God.
  • Wise: Wisdom often comes through difficult paths, as Maang-ikwe discovers. The physical and mental abuse she suffers at the mission school doesn’t compare to what she endures at a friend’s hand and the ensuing consequences it brings. 
  • Medicine Woman: Maang-ikwe trains to learn the healing herbal arts of her tribe but also turns her heart to God, seeking his help and intervention in her work. 

Maang-ikwe’s Voice:

“After I’m done feeding him my milk, he will become another woman’s son. I cannot bear the thought; I shut my eyes tight to close it out. But it does not go away. It beats in my ears . . . a sad, sad song that will always be with me. This is what I will be left with instead of my own flesh and blood—a longing for what can never be.”

Maang-ikwe–Harvest Moon, Jenny Knipfer

Niin-mawin: His Ojibwe name means, “She Cries For Him”. He also adopts the French name Laramie as he battles with his identity. His perspective starts as a boy, while he attends a French Jesuit mission school. 

Short Synopsis:

Niin-mawin must come to grips with his culture being ripped away from him. Brought up in a “white man’s” school, he suffers through an enforced “civilized” education and separation from his family. When a man he respects reveals a secret about Niin-mawin’s past, he embarks on a search for the person he hopes can mend the part of his heart that’s always been missing. 

His inner qualities:

  • Rolls with the punches: Throughout the division from his family, troubles and ill-treatment at school, and the uncovering of a huge secret, Niin-mawin stays strong and handles life as best as he can.
  • Seeker: He’s always felt a bit lost, searching for something or someone to belong to, giving him identity and a purpose.
  • Gives his heart easily: Despite Niin-mawin’s life circumstances and trials, he trusts and cares easily for others, an unusual characteristic in one who has suffered. 
  • A bit of a gambler: He’s willing to take a risk, try something new, and enter uncharted waters. This serves him well and sets him on a course that will change his life.
  • Kind: He’s concerned about others and wants to help those in need.

Niin-mawin’s Voice:

Why did she not want me? The question shadows every other thought in my mind and wounds my soul.

He—Captain Lorrie—could not tell me. Neither would Gibba nor the man I thought had fathered me. Only she can tell me. Only she knows.

Niin-mawin–Harvest Moon, Jenny Knipfer

Other Voices in the Story:

Wiigwas-ikwe: Maang-ikwe and Celeste’s mother, her name means “Birch Woman”. She loses much, as she buries her first husband and two sons but remains open to hope when she meets a gentle, kind French man, whom she marries. 

A stabilizing force in her daughter’s lives, Wiigwas, loves her daughters dearly but chooses a path which brings Maang-ikwe and Celeste even closer.

Celeste: Half-sister to Maang-ikwe, Celeste’s bond to her sibling is formed early on as Maang-ikwe saves her life. That bond grows and into their adult years, Maang-ikwe helps guide Celeste through heart-wrenching events.

John Pierre: A young French/English man, operating a new mining venture, falls headlong for Celeste. Their lives blend together, but little does John Pierre suspect the trials of loss they will face together, leaving him alone, holding his infant daughter. 

Gaawesa: The son of the chief, Gaawesa is secretly engaged to Maang-ikwe. He’s strong, caring, but perhaps too suggestable, which takes him down a road he regrets. Unable to sway the tide of change for his people and way of life, Gaawesa pays a heavy price.

Ignacio: A young novice serving with the Jesuit priests at the mission school, he and Maang-ikwe develop an immediate bond, which becomes stronger and morphs into something neither of them suspect. 

Through him Maang-ikwe comes to know more about God and His Son. She embraces the kind of faith Ignacio shows her, a different kind, compared to what she’s been shown by Father Marcius. 

Ignacio’s sense of duty weighs heavy on his heart and winds up making him choose between the two loves in his life.

Edmund: A troubled but friendly man, Edmund is hired as a carpenter. He meets and sympathizes with Maang-ikwe over her ill-treatment at the mission school, which he’s been working on, expanding the building. 

He makes the biggest mistake of his life and causes emotional pain to someone he cares for. To escape his misdeeds, Edmund takes to shipping and becomes a captain on his uncle’s ship, but he can’t flee from his feelings and the secret Maang-ikwe reveals to him. 

Harvest Moon:

It’s my prayer that this tale of finding grace and blessings amongst life’s hardships will bless my readers. Rich with drama, love, sorrow, and joy, I hope Harvest Moon will stick with you, long after you turn the last page.

Thanks for reading! Blessings, J

I am pleased to be on a part of The Coffee Pot Book Club and the book tour for A Feigned Madness, by Tonya Mitchell.

Blurb:

The insane asylum on Blackwell’s Island is a human rat trap. It is easy to get in, but once there it is impossible to get out. —Nellie Bly

Elizabeth Cochrane has a secret.

She isn’t the madwoman with amnesia the doctors and inmates at Blackwell’s Asylum think she is.

In truth, she’s working undercover for the New York World. When the managing editor refuses to hire her because she’s a woman, Elizabeth strikes a deal: in exchange for a job, she’ll impersonate a lunatic to expose a local asylum’s abuses.

When she arrives at the asylum, Elizabeth realizes she must make a decision—is she there merely to bear witness, or to intervene on behalf of the abused inmates? Can she interfere without blowing her cover? As the superintendent of the asylum grows increasingly suspicious, Elizabeth knows her scheme—and her dream of becoming a journalist in New York—is in jeopardy.

A Feigned Madness is a meticulously researched, fictionalized account of the woman who would come to be known as daredevil reporter Nellie Bly. At a time of cutthroat journalism, when newspapers battled for readers at any cost, Bly emerged as one of the first to break through the gender barrier—a woman who would, through her daring exploits, forge a trail for women fighting for their place in the world.

My Review:

In the late 1880’s, determined Elizabeth Cochrane fights for a job with a top newspaper, the New York World, but little does she know the depths she will end up plunging into. 

Her unusual friendship with another reporter, George McCain, drifts into mysterious territory, and Elizabeth senses herself submitting to his handsome face and romantic charms. McCain speaks his regard for Elizabeth through “the language of flowers”. However, an impediment discloses itself between their budding feelings for one another. 

Writing under the assumed name of Nellie Bly and as a ploy to gain readers forthe World with a sensational article, Elizabeth decides to take a brave step and dive into the realm of the insane, feigning madness to gain entry to the infamous asylum on Blackwell Island in New York. Her objective: to reveal the inner works of the asylum and uncover the truth of those labeled as insane, the cast-aways of society. 

Appalled at the harsh conditions, unhealthy and unsanitary environment, and treatment of the women at the asylum, Elizabeth takes note. Eventually, she can’t stand by while the women she’s come to know and befriend are treated with such brutality. 

But will Elizabeth survive the consequences of her actions and endure “The Lodge”, as the nursing staff call a special region of the asylum for those whom they deem as buckers of the highly regulated regiments and rules of the dictatorship-like governing of the institution? Can she survive “the chair”, the ultimate punishment? If she does, will it land her the hard-won journalism job she’s gambled her life on? 

In the end will George and Elizabeth move past societal conventions to claim what their hearts tell them? Find out in this well-written, highly engaging historical fiction drama, based upon the lives of real people. 

This novel has everything I enjoy in my favorite genre. I had a hard time putting it down, and If you’re a lover of suspenseful historical fiction, I guarantee that you won’t be able to either!

I give A Feigned Madness 5/5 stars. 

Note: the novel does contain some graphic scenes of physical abuse for those readers who are sensitive to that. 

BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE AND LINKS

Publication date: 6th October 2020

Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Thriller

Publisher: Cynren Press

Print Length: 392 pages

Author Bio:

Ever since reading Jane Eyre in high school, Tonya Mitchell has been drawn to dark stories of the gothic variety. Her influences include Mary Shelley, Edgar Allan Poe, and Bram Stoker. More contemporarily, she loves the work of Agatha Christie, Margaret Atwood, and Laura Purcell. When she landed on a story about a woman who feigned insanity in order to go undercover in an insane asylum, she knew she’d landed on something she was meant to write. Her short fiction has appeared in, among other publications, Glimmer and Other Stories and Poems, for which she won the Cinnamon Press award in fiction. She is a self-professed Anglophile and is obsessed with all things relating to the Victorian period. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society North America and resides in Cincinnati, Ohio with her husband and three wildly energetic sons. A Feigned Madness is her first novel.

Connect With Tonya:

Happy Reading!! J

Last year during the month of November I posted daily on Instagram and Facebook about what I was thankful for. This year, I plan to do the same type of virtual gratitude journal. Starting every day with pondering something to give thanks for challenges me but also blesses me so much. Satisfaction, contentment, happiness, and even health can stem from giving thanks and actively counting our blessings. 

What’s the difference between being grateful and being thankful?

Not much, really. Being thankful shows the gratitude within. Gratitude lines up with the quality of being thankful and a readiness to show appreciation. In my mind I see being thankful as a way to relay or express my gratitude. 

Today I’m Thankful For: 

Today, I’m thankful for Ruby, my pet mini Yorkie. I say “my” but really Ruby loves my husband more than me, but I’m okay with that. He is a pretty great guy. 

We never thought we’d be small dog owners, but we are. After our chocolate Labrador passed away in 2014, my husband and I didn’t think we’d own another dog. However, he told me about some Yorkie puppies—which were available from a fella at his work—and love struck at first sight. 

When we brought her home in October of that year, she was the size of a guinea pig and could curl up inside my slipper. Full of spunk, that tough terrier spirit, cutenesses, and character, she’s a rather high-maintenance girl but so worth it. 

As I am fairly home-bound and don’t go out much of anywhere by myself these days, Ruby’s company during the day blesses me greatly. What’s cozier than having a soft, sweet little friend curled up on your lap? Not much. They say dogs are a man’s best friend, but Ruby has sure been there for me on some pretty rough days. I’d call her my bestie. ❤️ 

A Gallery of Cuteness

Why having an attitude of thankfulness is important to me:

Each day presents me with problems and difficulties related to my health. I have pain and odd sensations, my body doesn’t work right, and I often have trouble doing the simplest of tasks, like putting my socks on. The propensity to grumble and a discontented, low-burning anger flashes within me as my first reflex to what multiple sclerosis has brought to my life. It’s easy to fall into this net, but it only leads me to focus on what I’ve lost and the difficulties I face, leading to nothing but a pathway trodden with depression and hopelessness. That’s not the kind of life I want to choose. And gratitude is a choice. 

So, I choose to be thankful and focus my heart and mind on what I do have and what I can do, rather than the alternative. 

What are you grateful for today?

I’d love to know. Maybe it’s your family, your job, or something as simple as your morning coffee. 

Blessings, J

NOTE: My plan for grateful posts will not necessarily proceed in order of importance but grow organically with where my heart is on a particular day.

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