Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Christian Fiction Scavenger Hunt Stop #27

THE HUNT HAS ENDED! THANK YOU ALL SO VERY MUCH FOR COMING BY!!!

Welcome to the 2020 Christian Fiction Scavenger Hunt! I am SO very excited to get to take part.


 If you've just discovered the hunt, be sure to start at Stop #1, and collect the clues through all the stops, in order, so you can enter to win one of our top 5 grand prizes!

  • The hunt BEGINS on 10/15 at noon MST with Stop #1 at LisaTawnBergren.com.
  • Hunt through our loop using Chrome or Firefox as your browser (not Explorer).
  • There is NO RUSH to complete the hunt--you have all weekend (until Sunday, 10/18 at midnight MST)! So take your time, reading the unique posts along the way; our hope is that you discover new authors/new books and learn new things about them.
  • Submit your entry for the grand prizes by collecting the CLUE on each author's scavenger hunt post and submitting your answer in the Rafflecopter form at the final stop, back on Lisa's site. Many authors are offering additional prizes along the way!

So! I'm Shannon McNear, and I've been writing this or that since about the third grade. I started my first novel at age 15, not knowing it would be 30 years before I'd receive my first publishing contract--but oh, what a journey it has been! During that time I accumulated seven completed novels (in varying states of polish), first sold a story I hadn't even written yet, and now I'm celebrating my seventh title in print! How cool is that?? You can learn more about them here on my site, or on Facebook, Pinterest, or Goodreads.

Though I've written variously in fantasy, a bit of contemporary, and a lot of historical--most of it during early America, specifically the Revolutionary War and immediately after--this newest story, a novella, takes place in 1919, right after WWI. It's the second story in a collection that follows the travels of an heirloom nativity set through several generations of a family, beginning in 1899, but here's a bit about mine:

While traveling with her aunt from Charleston, South Carolina, to Kansas City, Missouri, Stella Shepherd finds diversion in the form of three brothers who joke about being called "the Wise guys"--apparently the only boys in a sea of sisters and female cousins, and all veterans of the recent Great War--but it's the youngest who tugs most at her heart. Nat Wise finds this darling young woman both a reminder of all that he risked and an unexpected comfort, even as she challenges his faith--but what does he have to offer her, beyond a listening ear and travel conversation? How can the interest they feel for each other be anything more than a passing fascination?

Indeed! What could be more ridiculous than the idea of a couple meeting and then knowing within a day or two that they'd found someone they really did not wish to lose track of before they me had time to discover whether their feelings could become something lasting? And yet, I've heard story after story of couples who met and fell in love within a very short time, whose marriages endured for decades. Did they know something we don't? Were they just more committed to the concept of lifelong relationship?

While contemplating the premise of this story, and wondering how readers would respond to something that amounted to little more than love at first sight, I realized I had another problem ... how to build a convincing story over the span of just days! Because a journey by train didn't take nearly as long in 1919 as one would think ...

Researching the History of Railway Travel

Dining car, early 1900's
Dining car, early 1900's
Y'all, I am a research NERD. I can't tell you the hours I've wasted--the days, the weeks and months!--trying to get this or that detail just right. And here I'd proposed a story that takes place almost entirely on board a train, when I'd never even ridden one before. So you can imagine my panic ...

Now, I've gotten reasonably good at online research and had already discovered American-Rails.com, among others, and Wikipedia is much more complete and helpful than it used to be on all sorts of topics. And then there was my discovery of The Official Guide of the Railways, published for many years and absolutely invaluable for coordinating actual historical rail schedules. (I couldn't find one for the year 1919, so I leaned heavily on the 1921 edition and tried to keep in mind that this is fiction, after all.) But there's nothing like experiencing something for yourself--what things look and smell and feel like, in real life.

News of our contract came at the end of the summer, when local railway museums were closing down in preparation for winter. I widened my search, since we make frequent-ish visits to the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, and found the Minneapolis Transportation Museum, which offered a Fall Color Tour in western Wisconsin. (Sadly, the current season there is closed because of COVID-19.) I wasted no time in checking with my daughter away at college in St. Paul to see if she was interested and available (my husband wasn't because of work obligations), then booking the tickets.

Imagine my delight, when we arrived and boarded, to find that most of the train cars date right to the era of my story. After the initial talk, we were encouraged to walk around and explore, so explore I did. I'm sure I had more fun than anyone else on the tour that day!

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Here's the Stop #27 Basics:

If you’re interested, you can order Love's Pure Light on Amazon, CBD, Barnes & Noble, or at your local bookstore!
Clue to Write Down: has been
Link to Stop #28, the Next Stop on the Loop: Suzanne Woods Fisher!

ADDITIONAL PRIZE!!!

I’m offering three books to three entrants—any one of my last five releases (Backcountry Brides, either Daughters of the Mayflower title, The Blue Cloak (for mature readers only!!), or Love's Pure Light. All you have to do is sign up to get my e-newsletter (top right of my home page) or note that you’re already a subscriber. Additional points for those who visit my author page on Facebook, or visit and follow me on Goodreads, Bookbub, or on Pinterest! Print copies for USA only; e-books for International winners. I'll announce the winners sometime on October 20!

Rafflecopter form below—for my personal giveaway only!

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Story Connections!

For those of you who have ever wondered whether my stories are connected (most are!) and which characters show up again or are mentioned elsewhere ... this is for you!

Defending Truth in A Pioneer Christmas Collection, takes place in 1780, just after the Battle of Kings Mountain, during the American Revolution. The couple featured in this story, Truth Bledsoe and Micah Elliot, show up again in The Cumberland Bride, which features Truth's little brother Thomas, 14 years later.

The Highwayman (formerly in The Most Eligible Bachelor Collection and now available as a single e-book or part of To Catch A Bachelor from Winged Publications) takes place in 1775, on the eve of the American Revolution. Sam Wheeler and Sally Brewster are the featured couple, and one of their grandsons, Josh Wheeler, is the male lead of The Rebel Bride.

The Counterfeit Tory in The Backcountry Brides Collection takes place in late 1781, as the American Revolution is winding down, and features Jed Wheeler, Sam's cousin from The Highwayman, and Lizzy Cunningham. There are appearances by Micah Elliot's older brother, Zacharias, and in the epilogue, Sam and Sally and their growing family. Jed reappears in The Blue Cloak, along with one of his own sons.

The Cumberland Bride (#5 of the Daughters of the Mayflower series) takes place in 1794 and features Thomas Bledsoe, Truth's younger brother in Defending Truth, and Kate Gruener. Thomas and Kate also make an appearance in The Blue Cloak.

The Rebel Bride (#10 of the Daughters of the Mayflower series) takes place in 1864, during the Civil War, and features Joshua Wheeler, grandson of Sam and Sally from The Highwayman, and Pearl MacFarlane, granddaughter of Thomas and Kate from The Cumberland Bride, as well as great-granddaughter to the couple in my yet-unpublished Revolutionary War story, Loyalty's Cadence.

The Blue Cloak (#5 of the True Colors Crime series) takes place in 1797-99, and while centering on a particularly horrifying slice of historical true crime, features the fictional couple Ben Langford and Rachel Taylor, with appearances by Jed Wheeler and Thomas and Kate Bledsoe.

The Wise Guy and the Star in Love's Pure Light takes place in 1919, and though not connected to the rest of my stories, is one of four novellas featuring an antique nativity passed down through four generations of a single family.

And ... that's all for now! More to come, eventually.

(Any questions??)

 

Monday, June 29, 2020

Thoughts on faith, or the lack thereof

This was originally written as a response to a family member who shared that the questions posed by the lead singer of a prominent Christian band, admitting he had questioned his faith for years and finally abandoned it in great relief, were questions she shared. I know others share the same questions and doubts. And while it feels like the social dialogue has suddenly changed, it's my belief that it really hasn't--that these issues are so basic to the Christian worldview, and much could be remedied by proper knowledge and understanding of what the Bible actually says, I decided to make my response public. I welcome questions--but reserve the right to delete unhelpful comments.

So if you have questions about the faith and feel that no one has ever adequately addressed them--this is for you. I pray you find a deeper understanding, and ever-deeper trust in the only One who can ever make sense of all the madness.

First … questions are normal. Doubts are normal. It’s what you do with them that makes the difference …

I just had one variation of this conversation with one of my kids yesterday about the guy from Hawk Nelson. How Christian entertainers and artists need prayer because they’re as visible, maybe more, than people in ministry, and thus even more of a target for the enemy. But I’m not sure that approach is what you need, personally.

Last night I went to that guy’s Instagram account and read everything he had to say, and then later lay awake for a couple of hours thinking about it all. It’s ironic because I’ve been reading through the book of Job, and then teaching the youth group out of Ecclesiastes, and both books grapple with these same questions. Where is God in the face of injustice? Why do the same evils happen to everyone, regardless of how they live their lives? If you know anything about the story of Job (and I wouldn’t be surprised if not—that one gets ignored by “faith” teachers because it doesn’t line up with their theology), then you already know that God never, this side of heaven, answers Job’s questions. He basically shows up, asks Job if HE was the one who set the stars in place and laid the foundations of the earth, etc. etc. etc., and brings Job to a place of realizing that hey, he’s really in no position to question things that we aren’t capable of understanding in this life. Sounds really unfair of God, doesn’t it?

So let me tell you another story. This morning, after sleeping only half the night because, well, Big Questions about Life, the Universe, and Everything, I got up, threw on my bathrobe, and after just a sip of coffee went out to feed the chickens. I needed to make sure first thing that they were all right after the door to the coop was left open all night—last fall we had trouble with a mink or some other predator getting in behind the high fence of their yard and killing 1-2 each night, and I’d been scrupulous about making sure they were safely shut in at sundown every day, until last night. The chickens were fine, though, just very hungry! I tossed them a can full of scratch over the fence, then went into the coop via the storage room to fill their regular feeder and set that out in the yard before turning back to begin the task of gathering eggs. That’s when the rooster—right after I’d fed him, the ingrate!—decided to sneak attack, and I was so startled, I tripped and fell in the floor of the chicken coop. (I am fine, too. LOL) Fortunately I had a hoe to hand and used that to fend the silly critter off so I could get back on my feet and push him back long enough to pull the coop door closed to let me gather eggs in peace.

Dumb bird. Humans feed him, every single day. And still he sees us as a threat to his harem. I mean, he literally turned from pecking at pellets, to throwing himself at me as I was “retreating” with the empty feed can.

How often, though, do we do that with God?

I have no way of communicating to this rooster that I’m not a threat—quite the contrary, I’m a good part of why he’s even still alive. We at least have the advantage of some communication, however limited, with God. But even so, there’s so much we don’t, and can’t, understand. Think about how limited we are sometimes even as parents to explain to our own children why we have to do what we do! How much greater is that divide between us and the Creator of the Universe??

Even so, there is much He gives us. Going back to our questions and wranglings over evil and injustice. If there is no God, why do we even care? What’s the basis of our indignation over wrong, if there is no Absolute to define what good is, to start with? Why is abuse such a big deal, including wrongs that have been done us, personally? And what about music and art? How can we even recognize and appreciate beauty? C.S. Lewis made the comment that every physical human craving is met by something: are we hungry? There’s food. Are we thirsty? There’s water. Tired? Sleep, or at least rest. But emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, we find ourselves craving something that this earth holds no answer to. That in itself, he says, is proof we’re made for something outside this world. I was thinking last night how all of history holds questions and dilemmas that will not, cannot, be answered this side of eternity. All of humanity, literally all of creation, is holding its breath and waiting for the culmination of all the answers.

But … we are not there yet. We’re still caught in the agonizing grind of the day by day, where life is full of questions and contradictions and paradoxes and ironies. Like stupid roosters who can’t recognize the being who provides them food. And then bigger things that seem impossible to get past.

The thing is … no other religion or philosophy or worldview offers what Christianity does: HOPE. Meeghan and I have been watching this Korean drama that’s part historical, part adventure/intrigue, with what appears to be a thread of romance shoved in there sideways. It has struck me time and again how completely without hope the historical Asian mindset is—and yet such a deep respect for beauty and craving for wisdom and truth. Yes, it gets overlaid and mixed in with all the usual gunk—human ambition, pride, selfishness, greed. And those things are what muck up the basic message of the Good News of Jesus coming to die for us. I read that guy’s questions about that as well—why all the killing, always the killing, even in regards to the Son of God. And again I ask, why would it matter unless there IS a God and He’s woven that longing into our very souls and spirits to look for more? I can offer answers to those questions, BTW, but are the intellectual answers what we really need? Or just a deeper assurance that God really does KNOW, and He’s got it, and all of it WILL BE ANSWERED when the time is right? But in case you’d like my attempt at the intellectual answers as well …

Why the killing? Well, death entered as a result of man’s disobedience. Think about this: God gave Adam and Eve absolute perfection. They lacked nothing. And … it wasn’t enough. The serpent persuaded Eve that God was somehow being unfair or withholding a rightful good by telling them not to eat of the ONE tree. (… sound familiar??) And then … blood was shed to cover the result of that disobedience. (God killed two animals—two of Adam and Eve’s pets, for crying out loud—to provide skins to cover their nakedness. Which, nakedness was not the problem! It was their newfound consciousness of it, and the potential issues THAT was going to cause.)

So, that initial shedding of blood was not just practical, it was symbolic. It was setup for the whole Jewish sacrificial system, which in turn was a foreshadowing of the sacrifice Jesus would make for our redemption, indeed, had to make. Nothing can make payment for our violating God’s law except for blood. Think too of the earliest law—after Cain killed Abel, it says that “whoever sheds blood, by man shall his blood be shed.” Why God let Cain off the hook, I don’t know, except that he begged for mercy, and so we see that God is also merciful even though bloodguilt demands payment.

Let’s go forward in time to the Israelites taking the land of Canaan. Mention is made at one point of the sin of the Canaanites not having reached full measure of awfulness—but then, somehow, it was, later. The people of that land were terrible, brutal … parents selling their children into ritual prostitution, other people using those prostitutes without thought—indeed, as an offering to their “gods”—children and babies being sacrificed to appease those same gods. Was all of that okay?

Also, notice that it wasn’t too different from some aspects of our culture today, even though we sanitize it and dress it up in nice clothing. But maybe I digress. God told Israel to go in and wipe out those nations, yes, but they also had instructions that if anyone wanted to follow God—the one true God, who does indeed extend mercy and grace throughout the Old Testament, and anyone who thinks He was just “angry” hasn’t read much of their Bible—then they were brought in and became part of the congregation of Israel. Trouble was, Israel didn’t do that completely, and instead started adopting the ways of the Canaanites, down to the whole thing of child sacrifice.

Was that okay?

Sooo … fast forward some more to Jesus dying on the cross. Did you know He fulfilled every single prophecy in the Old Testament, and then some? (I say this because most people aren’t aware that even the design of the Tabernacle and the sacrificial system is a picture and foreshadowing of Him and what He does for us.) And … did you know that God even gave us historical evidences of the Resurrection? There are a handful of facts that even skeptics admit:
  • Jesus was a real person who lived and was killed by the Romans (writings of Josephus)
  • His followers saw something that they believed was the risen Jesus, and it so convinced and transformed them that they devoted their entire lives to the cause of Christ—to the point that EACH ONE OF THEM died for it, or were willing to
  • A confirmed opponent of this Way, Saul of Tarsus, also saw something that he was convinced was the risen Jesus—and he also devoted his entire life to preaching Christ, to the point of being beaten and stoned and shipwrecked and all kinds of other persecutions, and eventually dying for it
[Note: my thanks to former professor Gary Habermas, who has devoted years to defense of the faith, specifically in reference to the historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus]

All these together give us some pretty hefty confirmation that Jesus was real and that He died, and that He rose again. What other religion claims that? And other philosophies sometimes convince groups of people to kill or commit mass suicide—but each one of them, separately, dying for it? If it were a hoax, someone would have cracked and admitted it. And then those who didn’t believe would have been all over it.

And why is the Resurrection important? Because without it, we have just another religion. Just another theory about how people should live. Has it been mistaught through the years, or distorted? Of course. Humans are still stupid, even redeemed humans. We still fail each other. We still garble the message, even when our intentions are good. And—you know already that [the representation of faith given us by a particular family member] isn’t a good one, or wasn’t (I can’t speak to where [they] might be right now—and yes, I do pray for [them] even if I still can’t bring myself to resume a relationship with [them]). But those scars go deep, and I’ve found just in the past 2-3 years that I still deal with repercussions of things done to me in my childhood. Which—yes, some things are just plain evil, no matter how you slice it. But again, who’s to judge that, unless God really IS and has laid down a real standard of right and wrong?

Anyway. That’s just a sampling of the abundant intellectual reasons available. But I suspect what most are looking for are the emotional reasons to believe. My Philosophy professor said years ago, when reason and emotion conflict, emotion will win. It’s ironic, really, and more than a bit paradoxical, that people crave the emotional answers so strongly … and yet we can’t throw reason out the door, either.

Ravi Zacharias, who recently went home to Heaven, spoke so much about all this. An immigrant from India, he attempted suicide at 17 and then gave his life to God, and as a result of his study offers some of the best defenses of Christianity I’ve ever heard. Here is a brief introduction of this man and his work:

 

Sunday, December 01, 2019

The Rebel Bride release day!

Release Day!!!

Ahem. Pardon me while I squee a little.

Today marks the official release date of my fifth--count 'em, FIVE--published title. I can hardly believe it.

This was my second-hardest story to write. (The one coming out in March 2020 rates as my hardest.) In fact, as I state in the reader's note, I never wanted to write a Civil War story, and yet ... here it is.

God has a really keen sense of irony.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Shenandoah Hearts by Carrie Fancett Pagels

This week I'm featuring the first novella in The Backcountry Brides Collection, titled Shenandoah Hearts, by the woman who started it all! Carrie Fancett Pagels founded the team blog Colonial Quills 7 years ago this month (we celebrate TOMORROW with another tea party), and an all-colonial novella collection has been her dream for quite a while now.

Shenandoah Hearts is set in 1754 on the Great Wagon Road from Philadelphia down into the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. As the French-Indian War commences, Magda Sehler wonders if Jacob Owens lost his mind to have abandoned his Philadelphia business and moved to the Shenandoah Valley. Or has he lost his heart?

Of the setting, Carrie writes:

Jacob Owens is a prosperous merchant, owning and running a Philadelphia shop. He’s had the wonderful ladysmith, Madga Sehler, working with his family for years. But the Sehler family is relocating to the Shenandoah region of what is today Virginia. This backcountry area was dangerous. Beautiful but dangerous. Far from Jacob’s home. And did I mention dangerous?

In romance we always have the “why?” and the “why not?” I’m a big proponent of understanding the characters’ backstories. So what do we have in Jacob’s present day and in his backstory that would lead him to abandon his livelihood in Philadelphia? Jacob’s parents lived in Philadelphia and brought him up there. But wait – his grandparents had lived in the backcountry. And every visit to Philly brought tales of the glorious beauty of the Blue Ridge mountains. So his grandparents had lived there in the early 1700's, my oh my – and what adventurers they had to have been. Jacob’s eldest brother is, in fact (and fiction!), living in western Virginia, developing a forge and iron working business in which Jacob will share partnership.

But…Jacob’s next eldest brother is in the military. He has been sent to the western area of Virginia in the Shenandoah Valley, to guard against encroaching French interests. And he tells Jacob this is an area brewing with trouble. These two brothers are particularly close. And Jacob’s brother has planted the notion that if ever Jacob should wish to journey to their grandparents’ former “backyards” that he’d be welcome in the milita. Or as a supplier to the forts, which was badly needed.

What’s a man to do? When Magda leaves with her family, apparently accepting an offer of marriage from the older wagonmaster, many a man might decide – she’s made up her mind. But a wise customer shares her advice. And Jacob seeks God’s direction in his life.

Want to know what happens?  Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of the collection! Also, don’t forget to enter our Rafflecopter giveaway, which runs through May!

Shannon notes: This story is companion to the Colonial Quills serial, A Forted Frontier Holiday, which ran November 2012 through January 2013. A richer understanding of Carrie's novella is gained by reading the serial story alongside. :-)

Carrie Fancett Pagels, Ph.D., is the award-winning author of fifteen Christian historical romances, including ECPA bestsellers. Twenty-five years as a psychologist didn't "cure" her overactive imagination! A self-professed “history geek,” she resides with her family in the Historic Triangle of Virginia but grew up as a “Yooper,” in Michigan’s beautiful Upper Peninsula. Carrie loves to read, bake, bead, and travel – but not all at the same time!

Carrie's Website: www.carriefancettpagels.com
Carrie's Pinterest page for 18th Century clothing:  https://www.pinterest.com/carriefpagels/18th-century-clothing/

Other places to connect with Carrie:

Where to find our book:

Christian Book Distributors

Check at your local Christian bookstores, e.g., Lifeway, to see if they have copies, too

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