My mother’s sermons

I’ve never had a home office. My home is small, and I’ve shared it for many years with my mother, who was not well. When she died at the end of last year, the house suddenly felt cavernous. Slowly, I’ve become accustom to the quiet and the idea of having a home office. Of all the places I could put it, her room was the obvious choice.

It’s been easier than I expected to claim the space as my own because I know how happy it would make her to know I am writing in her room, which my niece and nephew still call “Grandma’s room.” I pray they never stop calling it that.

However, there have been moments the task of going through my mother’s things overwhelmed me, flattened me to the ground, and left me feeling like grief had me by my throat. Last night was one of those moments. My mother was a Presbyterian minister, and I found her sermons, over thirty years’ worth crumbled and jammed into plastic crates. They were handwritten or printed on everything from yellowed mimeograph to crisp copier paper. She’d scribbled last minute notes in the margins. More than her clothes, more than her possessions, her words made me crumble. Whether written or spoken, a person’s words are the closest someone can ever be to another person’s thoughts and who he or she really is at the core. It’s too hard for me yet to be reminded of my mother’s thoughts. She was closer to God and more deeply thoughtful than I could ever hope to be.

This has made me think of my own mortality. Maybe too I am preoccupied with it because the last few months my life has been filled with probate, wills, life insurance, and beneficiaries. Being surrounded with those things, I can’t help but worry what will happen when I die. Someday, I will have to leave my niece and nephew with the task I now bear for my mother. I pray it is a long time from now because I want the honor of watching them grow up into the man and woman God wants them to be. But when I do pass away, what will break them?

I pray nothing brings them sorrow, but if something does, may it be my words. I’m an author. When I die, I will leave millions of words behind. When my dear ones are ready, I hope they will read my books again and laugh at what a quirky imagination I had.

Last night, I only read one paragraph, one paragraph of one sermon, and I had to stop. But someday, I will retype all of her sermons and put them in a book if only for myself and my family. Just not yet.P1030463

Ask an Amish author about books and such…

Yes, it’s time once again for “Everything you wanted to know about Amish authors but were afraid to ask.” Of course, maybe you aren’t afraid to ask but just haven’t known whom to ask. Well, wonder no further. Jennifer Beckstrand has gathered eight Amish authors together to ask them the burning questions. If you have a question for our authors, please send leave it in the comment and I will forward it to Jennifer.

jw_smith_pix_bookcoverWe all have childhood memories of special books. What are some of the books that inspired you as a child?

Mary Ellis: I adored Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I got the impetus to become a writer “when I grew up” from Jo March. I received my first copy around 8 (a highly abridged illustrated edition.) I now own several editions, my favorite being a 1904 copy published by Little, Brown, and Company of Boston. On my bucket list is to find a first edition released by the University Press in Cambridge, Mass. I have been to her childhood home, Orchard House, where she penned her lovely tale in Concord, Mass. Okay, now you know I’m a Louisa groupie!

Vannetta Chapman: My grandmother was a writer, and I can remember sitting with her books in my lap. They were home economics books that had been translated into many different languages. I couldn’t actually read them, but I’d hold them and flip through the pictures. It was very special knowing my grandmother had written them.

Kelly Irvin: All the Little House on the Prairie books, A Wrinkle in Time, Little Women, The Changling, Harriet the Spy, The Oregon Trail. Nancy Drew mysteries. LOL. I read everything I could get my hands on as a kid. I lived at the public library, going to story hour every week and working as a volunteer shelving books when I was old enough. I think I read every book at the Robert Louis Stevens children’s section of the Abilene Public Library!

Shelley Shepard Gray: I mainly remember reading all of the Nancy Drew books, followed by all of the Agatha Christie novels. I don’t really write mysteries, but those books definitely inspired me to want to create characters that people want to get to know. Those books also spurred an interest in collecting books. At one time I had all the Agatha Christie books lined up in chronological order. That’s kind of a big deal for me, since I don’t even put soup on the same shelf in our pantry.

Amanda Flower: Charlotte’s Web, The Baby-sitters Club, Anything by Beverly Cleary, James and Giant Peach

Amy Clipston: My favorite book when I was a little girl was Elizabeth by Liesel Moak Skorpen. It’s out of print now, but I have a copy that I cherish. I also knew Good Night Moon by heart. My mother would turn the page, and I would recite it. When I was in junior high I read The Outsiders until the book fell apart. I also knew the movie by heart. I recently bought a set of S.E. Hinton books for my older son. He hasn’t opened one yet, but I’m not giving up hope yet!

Jennifer Beckstrand: Where the Red Fern Grows was one of those life-changing books for me. I remember sitting on the rug in Mrs. Hershey’s fourth grade class enthralled as she read to us. I think I have read that book to every one of my children. One of my favorite memories is sitting on the bed with my boys reading the last pages of the story, all three of us crying like babies when the dogs died.

Charlotte’s Web and The Outsiders are other tear-jerkers that really had an impact on me.

Amy Lillard: I think I had a lot of different reading material than most. I loved the Hardy Boys Mysteries (Not Nancy Drew but the Hardy Boys). I also loved the Miss Pickerell series, about a little old lady who manages to get into all sorts of trouble. But my favorite of all was a book called Shadow Castle.

What are your 4 or 5 favorite classic novels?

Mary Ellis: Gone With the Wind, Cold Mountain, Killer Angels, Great Expectations, The Stand

Vannetta Chapman: Jane Eyre, Little Women, Anna Karenina, Grapes of Wrath

Kelly Irvin: That is so hard! To Kill a Mocking Bird. Gone with the Wind. Anna Karenina, Doctor Zhivago, The Count of Monte Cristo, Gaudy Night

Shelley Shepard Gray: Gone with the Wind, To Kill A Mockingbird, Little Women, Murder on the Orient Express, Cannery Row

Amanda Flower: Charlotte’s Web, To Kill a Mockingbird, Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, Stuart Little

Amy Clipston: The Outsiders, Farewell to Arms, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends, A Light in the Attic, and Falling Up

Jennifer Beckstrand: Pride and Prejudice–my all-time favorite book, The Count of Monte Cristo, The Help, My Name is Asher Lev, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Ender’s Game, Ella Enchanted

Sorry, I can’t choose just 5!

Amy Lillard: I love To Kill A Mockingbird. That’s my all time favorite. I read it every year or so. I also love 1984, Of Mice and Men, and Lord of the Flies. All very different from what I write.

I love seeing what we all have in common as well as our differing tastes. To Kill a Mockingbird and Little Women show up quite a bit.

Have you ever used a personal experience in one of your books? Would you like to tell us about it? 

Mary Ellis: I use personal experiences in just about all my books. The trick for the reader is to figure out what’s fact and what’s fiction in my stories.

Vannetta Chapman: Oh, golly yes! Whenever my mind draws a blank — I just put in something from life! In my new release, Murder Simply Brewed, the romance is very similar to the story of me and my husband. :)

Kelly Irvin: Yes. My March release, Love Redeemed, draws on a personal experience. Without revealing too much of the story, I can share that I lost a brother who drowned in a boating accident in 1991. It’s taken that many years, but I was able to drawn on those emotions and the experience of what my parents went through to help my characters as they struggle through a similar loss. I do think, however, that we draw on all our experiences when we write, even if it’s not readily apparent. Who we are and what we’ve done throughout our lives colors everything we write, even if it’s subconsciously. My writing voice is mine because of everything that has happened to me in my life.

Shelley Shepard Gray: I’ve added all kinds of little ‘Shelley’ things to my books. I’ve had badly behaved dogs (our beagle once pulled a ham from a table two minutes before a dinner party), kitchen mishaps, characters enjoying pie and donuts. (I really love donuts) I’ve also had most of my characters be voracious readers because I am.

Amanda Flower: Well, my first protagonist India Hayes is an academic librarian at a small liberal arts college near Cleveland, and I’m an academic librarian at a small liberal arts college near Cleveland. Strange, right? And in the Appleseed Creek Mysteries, Chloe Humphrey is twenty-four and moves with her cat to Amish Country. Oddly, I moved to Amish Country with my cat when I was twenty-four. How weird are those coincidences?

Amy Clipston: Since my husband has had two kidney transplants, I featured a liver transplant in my book A Place of Peace. My memoir, A Gift of Love, which details my husband’s kidney transplants and my kidney donation, will be available in March. Also, my father had a massive stroke, and I feature a character who is a stroke victim in my novella A Spoonful of Love.

Jennifer Beckstrand: They say that art imitates life, which in my case means: I’ve never been shy about putting my most embarrassing moments on paper.

Anna Helmuth, the feisty eighty-two-year-old Amish grandmother in Huckleberry Hill, loves to knit and cook. Even after sixty years of cooking for her family, Anna likes to pull out her new recipe book and experiment with a recipe she’s never tried before. Anna has many talents, but cooking is not one of them. In fact, she has a well-earned reputation for being the worst cook in Bonduel, Wisconsin. I’m not saying that I am as bad a cook as Anna, but my life definitely provided some inspiration for the character.

Several months ago, my husband and I hosted some friends for dinner, and I broke the first rule of entertaining: Never try out a new recipe on dinner guests. I wanted to make something new and exciting to serve my guests, and the reviews for “Sweet and Sour Meatballs” sounded positively delicious. Trouble came with the cryptic ingredient called “chili sauce.” I bought a quart of the most likely chili sauce I could find and dumped it into the crockpot with my meatballs. As dinnertime approached, I tested my bright orange meatballs and realized that my concoction was going to be a tad spicy. Okay, mouth-on-fire spicy. Inedibly spicy. In desperation, I poured a pint of whipping cream into the crockpot because dairy is supposed to cool spicy food. It didn’t even make a dent and added about a thousand calories to my shame. I was forced to serve the meatballs-from-heck to my friends, who didn’t complain but didn’t eat much either. I take comfort in the fact that those meatballs certainly looked lovely served over noodles. A version of this story appears in Huckleberry Hill. The names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Amy Lillard: My latest release, Gabriel’s Bride, has several personal experiences in it, though I borrowed them from other people. What does that make them…? Second hand personal experiences? J Though I have to admit Rachel Yoder is more like me than I care to examine.

You can learn more about these great authors on their websites. We would all love it if you would like our Facebook pages too!

Vannetta Chapman: http://vannettachapman.com/

https://www.facebook.com/VannettaChapmanBooks

Amanda Flower: http://www.amandaflower.com/

https://www.facebook.com/authoramandaflower
https://www.facebook.com/IsabellaAlanAuthor

Amy Clipston: http://www.amyclipston.com/

https://www.facebook.com/AmyClipstonBooks

Mary Ellis: http://www.maryellis.net/

https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Mary-Ellis/126995058236

Shelley Shepard Gray: http://www.shelleyshepardgray.com/

https://www.facebook.com/ShelleyShepardGray

Kelly Irvin: http://www.kellyirvin.com/

https://www.facebook.com/Kelly.Irvin.Author

Jennifer Beckstrand: JenniferBeckstrand.com

https://www.facebook.com/jenniferbeckstrandfans

Amy Lillard: http://amywritesromance.com/

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Amy-Lillard-Author/177732292332322

Andi Unexpected Nominated for the Agatha Award

I’m so thrilled and delighted to share that my middle grade mystery, Andi Unexpected, has been nominated for an Agatha Award for Best Children’s/YA Novel. The Agathas are awards that honor the best in traditional mystery. It’s a great honor! My very first novel, Maid of Murder, was nominated for Best First Novel in 2010. That event changed the course of my writing career, so I know how monumental being nominated is. I’m so grateful for the Malice Domestic Convention that hosts the awards. I’m also thankful for my wonderful publisher Zonderkidz, my agent Nicole Resciniti, and my editor Kim Childress. The winners will be announced on May 3, 2014 during the Malice Domestic Convention.

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Here’s the full list of nominees:

Best Historical Novel

Heirs and Graces by Rhys Bowen (Berkley)
Death in the Time of Ice by Kaye George (Untreed Reads Publishing)
A Friendly Game of Murder by JJ Murphy (Signet)
Murder in Chelsea by Victoria Thompson (Berkley Prime Crime)
A Question of Honor by Charles Todd (William Morrow)

Best Children’s/YA Nominations

The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau (HMH Books for Young Readers)
Traitor in the Shipyard: A Caroline Mystery by Kathleen Ernst (American Girl Mysteries)
Andi Unexpected by Amanda Flower (Zonderkidz)
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein (Random House Books)
Code Busters Club: Mystery of the Pirate’s Treasure by Penny Warner (Edgmont USA)

Best Contemporary Novel

Through the Evil Days by Julia Spencer-Fleming (Minotaur Books)
Pagan Spring by G.M. Malliet (Minotaur Books)
How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny (Minotaur Books)
Clammed Up by Barbara Ross (Kensington Books)
The Wrong Girl by Hank Phillippi Ryan (Forge Books)

Best Nonfiction

Georgette Heyer by Jennifer Kloester (Source Books Inc.)
Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes by Maria Konnikova (Viking Penguin)
Not Everyone’s Cup of Tea: An Interesting & Entertaining History of Malice Domestic’s First 25 Years by Verena Rose and Rita Owen (editors) (Wildside Press)
The Hour of Peril: The Secret Plot to Murder Lincoln Before the Civil War by Daniel Stashower (Minotaur Books)

Best First Novel

Death Al Dente by Leslie Budewitz (Berkley Prime Crime)
You Cannoli Die Once by Shelley Costa (Pocket Books)
Board Stiff by Kendel Lynn (Henery Press)
Kneading to Die by Liz Mugavero (Kensington)
Front Page Fatality by LynDee Walker (Henery Press)

Best Short Story

“Evil Little Girl” in Don’t Get Mad, Get Even by Barb Goffman (Wildside Press)
“Nightmare” in Don’t Get Mad, Get Even by Barb Goffman (Wildside Press)
“The Hindi Houdini” in Fish Nets by Gigi Pandian (Wildside Press)
“Bread Baby” in Best New England Crime Stories 2014: Stone Cold by Barbara Ross (Level Best Books)
“The Care and Feeding of House Plants” by Art Taylor (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine)

Great Amish Book Giveaway!!

7 Best-selling Amish Authors, 27 books, 9 Winners, 1 Great Book Giveaway!

On Wednesday, January 29, 7 authors are joining together for a Great Amish book Giveaway!
All you have to do is stop by the following author’s websites or FB Page on WEDNESDAY and leave a comment. Giveaway limited to US mailing addresses.

On Wednesday, each author will randomly pick one or two winners. Each winner will receive a trio of books from 3 of the participating authors!
Here is the list of authors, and the place where you can find them:

Vannetta Chapman: http://vannettachapman.com/
Amanda Flower: http://www.amandaflower.com/
Amy Clipston: https://www.facebook.com/AmyClipstonBooks
Mary Ellis: http://www.maryellis.net/
Shelley Shepard Gray: http://www.shelleyshepardgray.com/
Kelly Irvin: http://www.facebook.com/kellyirvin
Jennifer Beckstrand: http://www.jenniferbeckstrand.com/

LEAVE A COMMENT HERE ON MY BLOG TO ENTER MY PORTION OF THE GIVEAWAY!!! Giveaway ends Wednesday, January 29th at 8pm EST.

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Follow Amanda on Social Media at: Facebook Twitter Goodreads Pinterest

Isabella Alan on Facebook

Birthday Book Giveaway!

It’s my birthday this week, and to celebrate, I’m giving away copies of my mystery novels written under my own name and my pen name Isabella Alan!!

There will be three winners. Winners can choose one novel from the following:

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To Enter CLICK HERE to visit the GIVEAWAY page on my website.

Giveaway is limited to U.S. and Canadian residents only.

Amish Authors Break Their Silence

Okay, most of us Amish authors aren’t all that silent, but that title did spark your interest, didn’t it? Once a month on my blog, seven Amish authors are going to answer questions for our readers. This month, Jennifer Beckstrand made up the questions. Next month, she will probably still make up the questions. But if you have a question you would like to ask our distinguished panel, please use the contact form here on my site and send me your questions. We’d love to hear from you.

Note from Jennifer: “First, introductions. I am privileged to have some great friends who also happen to write Amish. The authors participating in our monthly blog are Vannetta Chapman, Amanda Flower, Amy Clipston, Mary Ellis, Shelley Shepard Gray, and Kelly Irvin. And me. Thanks, ladies. This is going to be fun.”

First question: What is the first Amish book you ever read?

Vannetta: The first Amish book I read was not fiction! It was Suzanne Woods Fisher’s Amish Peace.

Amanda: Hidden by Shelley Shepard Gray

Amy: The Storekeeper’s Daughter by Wanda Brunstetter

Mary: When the Heart Cries by Cindy Woodsmall back in 2006. She got me hooked on Amish fiction with her Sisters of the Quilt series.

Shelley: Plain Truth, by Jodi Picoult

Kelly: When the Heart Cries by Cindy Woodsmall

Jennifer (me): Forgiven by Shelley Shepard Gray

If you could give yourself an Amish name, what would it be?

Vannetta: Oh, possibly Rachel. My name is difficult to say and spell, so I’d go with something simple!

Amanda: This is hard because I really like my real name and already have a pen name “Isabella Alan.” I guess it would be Becky Troyer… it sounds like an strong Ohio Amish name, and yes, it is the name of character from Appleseed Creek.

Amy: Definitely Katie!  I’ve always loved that name.

Mary:  Elizabeth Miller. Elizabeth is my mother’s name, and I love it! And Miller because I live close to Millersburg, Ohio. Then I can go from having only a handful of relatives to having hundreds and hundreds!!

Shelley: I think it would probably be the name of the heroine in my current work in progress. So that would be Ruth.

Kelly: Elizabeth, because I admire John the Baptist’s mother.

Jennifer: I love the name Kate. My first book is titled Kate’s Song. I have a daughter named Kate. And Kate Hepburn isn’t Amish, but she rocks!

How many Amish books have you written?

Vannetta: I have 8 Amish books published, and 3 more completed and in the editing process, plus another 5 contracted to be published in the next few years.

Amanda: 5 published, 7 written. Two are coming out in 2014: Murder, Simply Stitched and A Plain Malice.

Amy: I’m currently working on #12.

Mary: To date I have written 12 Amish books.

Shelley: Just finished number 22!

Kelly: Seven.

Jennifer: Four published, three more finished. (I feel like a newbie amongst these prolific writers!)

What is your latest book about?

Vannetta: My latest book, The Christmas Quilt, is about how a family and a community pull together to help a young couple going through a difficult time.

Amanda: My very latest book is Andi Unexpected, which is a mystery for children. They live in rural Ohio but are not Amish. My latest Amish book is Murder, Plain and Simple written under my pen name Isabella Alan. When Angela Braddock inherits her late aunt’s beautiful Amish quilt shop, she leaves behind her career and broken engagement for a fresh start in Holmes County, Ohio. With her snazzy cowboy boots and her ornithophobic French bulldog, Angie doesn’t exactly fit in with the predominantly Amish community in Rolling Brook, but her aunt’s quilting circle tries to make her feel welcome as she prepares for the reopening of Running Stitch. On the big day, Angie gets a taste of success as the locals and Englisch tourists browse the store’s wares while the quilters stitch away. But when Angie finds the body of ornery Amish woodworker Joseph in her storeroom the next morning, everything starts falling apart. With evidence mounting against her, Angie is determined to find the culprit before the local sheriff can arrest her. Rolling Brook always appeared to be a simple place, but the closer Angie gets to the killer, the more she realizes that nothing in the small Amish community is as plain as it seems….

Amy: A Mother’s Secret will debut in June, and it’s book #2 in my Hearts of the Lancaster Grand Hotel series.  In A Mother’s Secret, Carolyn Lapp hopes to find true love despite her brother’s insistence that happiness can come from a marriage of convenience.

Mary: My latest Amish book, A Plain Man, picks up the story from Sarah’s Christmas Miracle. It answers the question: What happens when a man returns to the Amish culture after being an Englischer for five years? It will release in April from Harvest House Publishers.

Shelley: My next book will be released on February 4. It’s titled Hopeful and it’s the first book in my Return to Sugarcreek trilogy. My heroine’s name is Miriam and she’s a cook and waitress at the Sugarcreek Inn. She has a crush on the very handsome Junior Beiler, he’s in love with the new school teacher-oh, and there’s a stranger in town, stalking the teacher. All I can say is that everything turns out just fine in the end.

Kelly: Love Redeemed, which releases March 1, is the story of a young Amish woman who makes an innocent mistake with tragic consequences. She and the man she loves are forgiven by their small community, but they have to learn to forgive themselves before they can share a life together.

Jennifer: Huckleberry Hill features a pair of Amish grandparents who try to find suitable mates for all their grandchildren. Their grandson, Moses, resists their meddling, but he can’t resist pretty Lia Shetler.

You can learn more about these great authors on their websites. We would all love it if you would like our Facebook pages too!

Vannetta Chapman: http://vannettachapman.com/

https://www.facebook.com/VannettaChapmanBooks

 Amanda Flower: http://www.amandaflower.com/

https://www.facebook.com/authoramandaflower
https://www.facebook.com/IsabellaAlanAuthor

Amy Clipston: http://www.amyclipston.com/

https://www.facebook.com/AmyClipstonBooks

Mary Ellis: http://www.maryellis.net/

https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Mary-Ellis/126995058236

Shelley Shepard Gray: http://www.shelleyshepardgray.com/

https://www.facebook.com/ShelleyShepardGray

Kelly Irvin: http://www.kellyirvin.com/

https://www.facebook.com/Kelly.Irvin.Author

Jennifer Beckstrand: JenniferBeckstrand.com

https://www.facebook.com/jenniferbeckstrandfans

Five Lessons My Mother Taught Me

There’s no New Year’s Resolutions from me this year. Typically, I make a list of them because I love making lists, and it consists of eat right, write more, travel farther, etc. This year, I’m not going to focus on accomplishments or tasks, which is new for me because I am a very driven person. Instead, I’m going to focus on five lessons of being that my mother taught me. She had a wonderful ability to live in the moment and find contentment where she was even in the most horrible of circumstances. I credit this to her strong will but more so to her deep faith in God, a faith I hadn’t realized was exceptional until it was gone from my everyday life.

My Mother’s Lessons…

1) When choosing between justice and mercy. Err on the side of MERCY.

2) FORGIVE and ask to be forgiven.

3) Doubt in belief is not wrong. FAITHFULNESS amidst doubt leads to hope and ends in salvation.

4) LOVE, but don’t love anyone or anything more than God.

5) Focus on HOPE, hope in Christ and hope in a final reunion.

I hope and pray you have a blessed and happy New Year filled with peace, love, faith, and hope. God Bless.

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How 2013 Changed Me

I think every family has those years that changed everything for good or bad. For my family, 1987 and 2009 are infamous, and 2013 has just been added to the list. A list where you say “1987,” and everyone sighs and says, “yes, that was a bad year.”

In my writing, 2013 was an unimaginable year. I had five books release: four Amish mysteries, two written under my own name and two written under the name Isabella Alan, and my first children’s mystery Andi Unexpected. In a year, I went from an author of three books to eight. I know how unusual that is and how blessed I am.

At the same time, one of my bigger writing contracts fell apart, which was an unexpected disappointment.

Above all the writing ups and downs I had this year, the loss of my mother was the most earth-shattering event.

She was a Presbyterian minister: the first woman to graduate from her theological seminary with a master of divinity, the first woman to be ordained her in presbytery. She was my best friend and the person I was closest to in the entire world. She was the person in my life who had the closest relationship to God. He chose her to bring people to Christ, and she did with a gentle hand of love and compassion and little fanfare.

She was the one at my side when doubt ruled my thoughts. Doubt in my ability, in others, in my writing, and in God. She promised it would be all right, like every loving mother promises her child. Now, I have to believe on my own because the reassurance I always counted on is gone. Because of that, I am different, fundamentally changed, broken but with a stronger faith in God than I have ever known.

A loss so great puts life’s little disappointments in perspective, even that broken contract. There will be other book contracts. There will be other stories to tell. There will other challenges to navigate. There will be pain, joy, and a great reunion when I can tell both her and my father, who passed away before her, how my story ended and how I chose to believe because they believed for me until I was able to carry the burden on my own.

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Dead Fred Goes to Europe

P1050061Last week Dead Fred and I were in Spain, Portugal, and France with my dear friend Mariellyn.

Here are the top ten lessons I learned on the trip.

1) I’ve traveled to over 20 countries now, and Spaniards are some of the nicest people I have met.

2) You can wash your hair with hand soap in a dire emergency… don’t ask…

3) The Eiffel Tower and Louvre lived up to the hype.

4) If I were to ever live abroad, Toledo, Spain would be at the top of my list.

5) 4 years of high school Spanish paid off.

6) Portugal’s beaches are beautiful.

7) The windmills of Don Quijote fame really are giant.

8) Picasso tried many different styles of painting before he found his own.

9) Tapas are delicious. I could eat eggplant with honey and goat cheese all day. Sounds weird, I know.

10) The Paris subway is nuts.

Enjoy Dead Fred’s photo journal!

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Andi Unexpected: Family Tree Activity for middle readers

An orphan starting a new life.

A hidden trunk.

And a forgotten namesake. . .

Twelve-year-old Andora “Andi” Boggs and her sister Bethany move to rural Ohio to live with their eccentric aunt after the sudden death of their parents. While dealing with her grief, Andi discovers proof of another Andora Boggs hidden in a Depression-era trunk. No one remembers this Andora. Andi, with the help of her new friend Colin Carter, is determined to find out who Andora was and what happened to her.

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I’m so thrilled Andi Unexpected is now available to readers through bookstores, online, and libraries! For ereaders, the Kindle edition is currently selling for $3.49!

Educators can find classroom helps for the novel through my website’s “For Teachers/Librarians” Page. There I share resources about the Great Depression in the United States and Ohio. (Please note the Library of Congress links are currently down because of federal government shutdown.)

I couldn’t be happier with the activity Zonderkidz created to supplement the mystery. Since the mystery is a study of one family’s history, the activity is a family tree that children (and adults) can do.

Check it out at the links below!

Zondervan’s Andi Unexpected Page

Family Tree Activity
(printout activity to share with your students)

Zonderkidz was generous enough to give me a good supply of this family trees already printed. Teachers and Librarians, who would like some copies for their students, can email me at authoramandaflower@gmail.com to request some copies while supplies last. All I need is the number of copies and the school’s or library’s address. Please include FAMILY TREE in the subject line of the email.

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Read the First Chapter Now

Order from Amazon.com, B&N, CBD, Zondervan
a mystery for children ages 8-12

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