January 15, 2014

Fly Away Home Cover Reveal

Glamor and journalism in 1950s New York City - what could it be?  Only Rachel Heffington's debut novel, Fly Away Home, very appropriately set to release on Valentine's Day.

fly away home
new york city

Callie Harper is a woman set to make it big in the world of journalism. Liberated from all but her buried and troubled past, Callie craves glamour and the satisfaction she knows it will bring. When one of America's most celebrated journalists, Wade Barnett, calls on Callie to help him with a revolutionary project, Callie finds herself co-pilot to a Christian man whose life and ideas of true greatness run noisily counter to hers on every point. But when the secrets of Callie's past are hung over her head as a threat, there is space for only one love, one answer: betray Wade Barnett to save her reputation, or sacrifice everything for the sake of the man she loved and the God she fled. The consequences of either decision will define the rest of her life. 

Self-preservation has never looked more tempting. 

I had the honor of reading an earlier draft of Fly Away Home back in late 2012, and thus am in a position to inform you that the book is darling. (Of course, anyone who knows Rachel Heffington and her writing will hardly be surprised at that.)  It is an excellent read at any time, but I recommend it especially for the rainy, P.G. Wodehouse sort of days.  Pairs well with blankets and a cappuccino.  Rachel will be releasing the novel both in physical form and as an e-book - hopefully simultaneously, barring any technical issues or explosions - so you can grab a copy without feeling guilty about how little shelf space you have.  In the meantime, keep your eyes out: there's more to come before the novel releases on February 14!

about the author

Rachel Heffington is a Christian, a novelist, and a people-lover. Encouraged by her mother to treasure books, Rachel's favorite pastime was (and still is) reading. When her own library and her cousin's ran out of interesting novels, twelve-year old Rachel decided she would write her own; thus began a love-affair with word-crafting that has carried her past her teen years and into adulthood. Outside of the realm of words, Rachel enjoys the Arts, traveling, mucking about in the kitchen, listening for accents, and making people laugh. She dwells in rural Virginia with her boisterous family and her black cat, Cricket. Visit Rachel online at www.inkpenauthoress.blogspot.com.


To celebrate the cover reveal and upcoming release, Rachel has put together a giveaway package for one fortunate (or is it providential?) winner. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

January 10, 2014

Something in the Hearts of Men

that is our shield-ring, our last stronghold;
not the barrier fells
and the totter-moss between,
but something in the hearts of men.

- rosemary sutcliff, the shield ring

Mirriam - it is always Mirriam's fault, isn't it? - wrote a post recently called "God Is Not Your Bestie," a good and all-too-brief defense of reverence in our relationship to God.  In my own circles I see very little of the phenomenon that would treat God like a member of one's exclusive high-school clique, and I'm very glad for it.  However, you can't very well live in this day and age without in some way coming into contact with a larger trend, of which I would argue our insipid treatment of the Most High God is but a (very telling) symptom. 

For our "spiritual life" (a silly phrase, as if our "spiritual lives" were not integrally tied to our "physical lives") is not the only area lacking in proper reverence; God is not the only one or thing to which we owe more respect than we give - although He is of course the only One deserving of our all.  Over the last three centuries or so we have elevated the individual and lowered the "great ones of the earth," a leveling process which has in many ways made society more pleasant and equitable, but which has also married lack of respect to great selfishness.  Not to say, of course, that mankind has not always been selfish.  We just happen nowadays to have a philosophy built around it.

This marriage, I would argue, has given birth to the offhandedness of modern Christianity and the want of depth in so many aspects of life.  What have we done, for instance, with the ideal of friendship?  Mirriam talked in her post about how we cheapen God by making Him our "bestie," but let us also talk about how we cheapen friendship with talk of "besties" at all!  I would hardly hold the three (four? D'Artagnan is forever complicating matters) musketeers up as models to be emulated, but at least Dumas was able to present a smashing good picture of loyalty in his D'Artagnan romances.  Sutcliff does much the same thing, though in a quieter way, and captures also some of the beauty of romantic love - which cannot be said of Dumas and can rarely be said of professing Christians.

There are things in life worthy of respect, even of reverence, and we too often miss the mark.  When God has instituted something beautiful as part of the revelation of His own Beauty, we ought to do our darnedest to capture it in as much of its glory and dignity as we are able.  Dumas and Sutcliff got it right.  Should we not rival unbelievers in our appreciation for the high things of the world, in our lives and consequently in our writing as well?

January 6, 2014

Ha Ha! To the Old Year

yes, this is from pinterest
I'm not much of one for making concrete resolutions for the new year when January 1 rolls around.  There is something embarrassingly cliche about making a list of things you Will Do Come Hell or High Water (or February).  Besides, as a friend observed cheekily in commenting on 2013 -

I find measuring events by their relation to the revolution of the earth about the sun to be so pre-Industrial Revolution.

But we tend to make resolutions all the same, or at least I do.  And perhaps it's because, though January 1 is just another day signifying that, yes, the earth continues to truck around the sun, there is something built in to the human psyche that craves the feeling of newness and rebirth.  Life is full of cycles, and I think God made us to see and appreciate the patterns He's built into the world.  They provide, after all, a comforting reminder of His faithfulness and wisdom.

This is not to say that I will be making resolutions proper; Jenny already offered an excellent caveat to that.  Nonetheless, the start of 2014 seems a good time to pause, say "ha ha! to the old year," and think a little about the one ahead.  It promises something of minor interest for me: I'll be turning eighteen, which is somehow exciting (something about being able to vote, I understand) and supposedly a threshold into adult life.  I don't know about that.  I tend to think I have either been an adult for a while or will not be one for a while yet, but we oughtn't contradict Them in matters like these. 

On a more mundane note, in a few days I'll be toddling back to college for a new semester.  (According to my own misstatement, I'm going to be "an upper Freshman.")  Full of quarks and Japanese history, this promises to be a more intense semester than the last and once again I make no promises as to the regularity of my posting.  However, as I wade back into the world of syllabi and deadlines, I do hope to use what free time I have in a more productive fashion.  No doubt I'll spend most of my day studying and panicking, as I did during the fall, but I know I can make use of the bits and pieces of extra time if I only apply myself with a little more diligence.  When you've been plugging away at something mentally taxing, it's all too easy to spend the in between moments doing comfortingly mindless nothings that in moderation are refreshing, and in excess are a waste of your existence.

"KILLING TIME!" roared the dog - so furiously that his alarm went off.  "It's bad enough wasting time without killing it."
- tock, the phantom tollbooth

We're meant to do all to the glory of God, and to live diligently and wisely in this world - and though I suppose you could say that somehow we can pin to the glory of God, I've got to admit that I don't see how Pinterest helps us be salt and light or even a contributing member of society. I like Pinterest, of course, but using a spare moment to work on a review for Squeaky Clean Reviews or chip away at the rewrite of Wordcrafter would be a far more worthwhile undertaking than scrolling through boards.

And it seems to me that if one is old enough to vote on the political future of a nation, one is old enough to engage with dedication in a few worthwhile undertakings.

January 2, 2014

A Literary Drill

Yes, it's true: I succumb to peer pressure.  On the second day of the new year I feel I ought to be posting something rather splendid and Scarlett O'Hara-like about tomorrow being another day; however, Jenny beat me to the punch in her usual dashing, sensible manner.  Instead, I'm going to follow her footsteps and Mirriam's and, as a kind of follow-up to my last post, babble on a bit about books in fifty-five questions.

1. Your favourite book as a child? Jenny waffled between two of the Chronicles of Narnia, so I feel a little guilty saying that my favorite was either Detectives in Togas or Mother West Wind’s Children, both of which I read far too many times. But it could have been worse, you know. It might have been The Secret of the Twisted Dark Chimney of Tunnels and Traps with Scary Organ Music (aka Nancy Drew).  

2. What are you reading right now?  The Man in the Iron Mask. Woe is me. Also Ethandune and the second half of Gleanings from Paul, which I started a significant while ago.  

3. What books do you have on request at the library? None. I have a certain theoretical appreciation for libraries, but never use them except for research.

4. Bad book habit. Telling others, or myself, that I will read a book and promptly losing interest in said book.

5. What do you currently have checked out from your library? Thankfully nothing. I had a horrible panicky moment in which I thought maybe I’d forgotten to return books to the university library.

6. Do you have an e-reader? No.

7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or do you tend to read several at once? I’m generally reading several concurrently, although I try not to double fist. I like to have an upstairs book (or two) and a downstairs book.

8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog? I doubt it. Since starting a Goodreads account in 2009—or rather, since beginning to keep up with it in 2010—I think I’ve tried more consciously to vary the type and genre of the books I read. However, the blog itself has had very little impact that I can see.

9. What was your least favourite book this year? I was none too fond of The Comedy of Errors, but it was mercifully short. I would probably have to say Death Comes to Pemberley, which I hoped but did not really expect would be good. It was not horrible—I read to the end—but the author was unable to grasp the spirit of Austen or her characters. You cannot accurately convey the charm of Elizabeth Bennet by commenting repeatedly on her fine eyes.

10. What was your FAVOURITE book this year? Historic Doubts on the Life and Reign of King Richard III. No, not really, though it was a darn fun read. Since Jenny already mentioned The Grand Sophy, and it is beginning to be a cliché, I’ll say Rebecca. I was not expecting to like it half as much as I did, and it was a treat to be plunged into a classic about which I knew nothing. Haven’t had that happen to me since Jane Eyre.

11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone? Shouldn’t number 12 come before number 11? Anyhow, since my comfort zone tends to be a moral spectrum rather than a genre, I admit to not reading outside of it as often as I perhaps should. Of the thirty-six-ish books read this year, I’d say five or six were outside my comfort zone, with the farthest out being Bernard Cornwell’s Stonehenge.

12. What is your reading comfort zone? I’m not sure I have a well-defined comfort zone so much as a well-defined discomfort zone. I try to stick my nose into various genres (alright, so I’m bad at science); however, I tend to lose heart when the protagonist has no redeeming qualities, when the romance has been done rubbishly, and when the plot takes place underwater. Honestly, I have yet to get through 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

13. Can you read in the car? Unequivocally no. I found it hard work reading in an airplane, even when doped up on Dramamine.

14. Where is your favourite place to read? I like reading in my armchair, especially when Buster is on my lap and not being too invasive. Bed, however, is the best place.

15. What is your policy on book-lending? Lending books never ends well. They’re inevitably lost or damaged. Conversations with me usually go –

Moi: “Hey, have you read this? YOU HAVE NOT READ THIS. Read. The book.”
Them: “Okay, okay. Can I borrow it?”
Moi: “What, are you crazy? I’ll buy you a copy.”

16. Do you ever dog-ear in books? No.

17. Do you ever write in the margins of your books? I underline more than I write in margins, but I’ll do both in non-fiction works.

18. What about text books? That depends on whether or not I intend to sell them back at the end of the semester.

19. What is your favourite language to read in? Don’t I wish I had a choice!

20. What makes you love a book? Well that’s a huge question. I think characters come first: I can enjoy a book, even admire it, if the characters are all miserable, but I can’t really love it. Otherwise, I think it varies. Sometimes it is whimsy; sometimes it’s humor; sometimes it’s gut-wrenching endings. I do love intricacy and subtle foreshadowing, and little details that link scenes or books in a series and that you might miss the first time through.

21. What would inspire you to recommend a book? If it has made me laugh uproariously, or if it has staggered me and made me lose sleep, I’ll jaw about it to anyone who will listen and then try to dig up someone who would actually appreciate it. Fortunately I’ve got two sisters, and between them I can generally find someone to hop on the bandwagon.

22. What is your favourite genre? Robert Louis Stevenson. Wait, that’s not a genre? Phooie. I don’t think I have a favorite genre, really: I read a lot of classics because for some reason I think it’s fun to listen to Dumas rattle on about Morpheus and sleep-inducing poppies, but classics span quite a range. I try to read pretty widely, returning with regularity to histories, historical-fictions, and fantasies (usually children’s, ‘cuz I’z fouryearsold).

23. What is a genre you rarely read but wish that you did? Science. I will return to you, Arthur Custance! I promise!

24. Favourite biography? I greatly enjoyed The Forgotten Spurgeon, which is only partly a biography. Robert K. Massie’s Nicholas and Alexandra, as my introduction to reading-history-for-fun, holds a special place still. However, I tend to read more histories than outright biographies, and if I were allowed to fudge a little I’d say Thomas Costain’s Pageant of England as a semi-biography of the Plantagenets.

25. Have you ever read a self-help book? No. I don't think so.

26. Favourite cookbook? One with shiny photos of yummy food.

 27. What is the most inspirational book you have read this year? Knowing God by J.I. Packer.

28. Favourite reading snack? I tend not to eat snacks while I read. I inevitably get something on the pages.

29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience. I am not entirely sure what this question means. Is it asking when the last time was that I read a book due to hype and was disappointed? Or is it asking when the last time was that I wanted to read a book and my excitement was killed by everyone’s blathering on about it? I know of no instance for either scenario. The most hyped book I read recently was Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and my opinion on that had nothing whatsoever to do with the feelings of the General Populace.

30. How often do you agree with critics about a book? The only critical reviews I tend to read are the ones that get pasted on the back of the book, and which always seem to have been carefully edited to sound positive. And then I don’t generally go comparing my opinion with theirs. (Because my opinion is obviously THE BEST.)

 31. How do you feel about giving negative reviews? If the book is by an author still living, I dislike giving negative reviews for fear they’ll see it and be mortally offended and hate my guts. If the book is by an author now dead, it’s often considered a classic and I try not to register my opinion (because in this case nobody cares). It’s all one and the same, really. You can still tell which books I don’t like because I fail to post reviews on Goodreads.

32. If you could read a foreign language, which would you choose? Latin, I think. It would be useful when read those obnoxious theologies where the author feels it necessary to throw out archaic proverbs without translating.

33. What was the most intimidating book you've ever read? Nicholas and Alexandra was intimidating at the time. Probably shouldn’t have been. But it was.

34. What is the most intimidating book you're too nervous to begin? Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. Because it is big, and possibly quite dark, and probably outside my comfort zone—and also because I fear I might like it too much. Because I’m odd like that.

35. Who is your favourite poet? Poetry is another thing I ought to read more of and don’t. However, I am very fond of Tennyson.

Though much is taken, much abides; and though 
we are not now that strength which in old days 
moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are: 
one equal temper of heroic hearts 
made weak by time and fate, but strong in will 
to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield. 

36. On average, how many books do you have checked out of the library at any given time? Probably a dozen when the time rolls round to begin writing papers.

37. How often do you return books to the library unread? Never…?

38. Who are your favourite fictional characters? Buckle up, ladies and gents! Alan Breck Stewart (Kidnapped & David Balfour); Uncas (The Last of the Mohicans); Hawkeye (ditto); Howl (Howl’s Moving Castle); Sherlock Holmes (…); Muggles (The Gammage Cup); Sir Percy Blakeney (The Scarlet Pimpernel)…

39. Who is your favourite fictional villain? “Eugenia Wraxton,” said no one ever. Actually, looking over my list, I find most of my favorite novels have antagonistic forces rather than a single villain. Lord Feverstone (The Space Trilogy) is a good one; Inspector Javert (Les Miserables) is also well worth mentioning.

40. What are the books you are most likely to take on vacation? Howl’s Moving Castle. Probably a Stevenson. Also probably The Conquering Family, because it’s the only one in the series I have yet to read, and whatever I may be reading at the time.

41. What is the longest you have gone without reading? “You’re sick of reading? That’s like being sick of BREATHING.”

42. Name a book that you could not or would not finish. Patrick: Son of Ireland by Stephen R. Lawhead.

43. What distracts you easily when you're reading? Buster.

44. What is your favourite film adaptation of a novel? “North & South.” I enjoyed it far more than the book, which is a rare treat: I think Gaskell would have been pleased with the director’s ability to flesh out a novel she felt herself was too rushed.

45. What is the most disappointing film adaptation? The new “Chronicles of Narnia.” I know the old BBC films are, well, old, but in their puppet-style they were far more faithful to the spirit of the books.

46. What is the most money you have spent in a bookstore at one go? I am famously cheap and have a terrible time in bookstores. I buy my books online, and only drop $15 when it’s something like Preble’s Boys.

47. How often do you skim a book before reading it? If it’s a book about which I know nothing, I occasionally flip through. If there’s an unpleasant scene, you always land on it.

48. What would cause you to stop reading a book halfway through? I have this terrible sense of obligation to finish the books I pick up. I rarely put them down unread, unless the lack of morals makes me lose connection with the characters.

49. Do you like to keep your books organized? Too organized. They are perfect at the moment, and I hate the idea of rearranging them so as to fit in the books that are currently languishing about my room.

50. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you're done with them? I keep just about everything. If they’re really terrible, I throw them away; if they’re cheap blah books, I shuffle them off somewhere; and if I don’t know what to think of them, I keep them and stare perplexedly at them every time we cross paths.

51. Are there any books you've been avoiding? Jonathan Strange… George Washington… Wuthering Heights… Man, I’m avoiding a lot of books.

52. Name a book that made you angry. The Scarlet Letter, perhaps. It’s been a while since I read it, but I seem to remember being mildly peeved.

53. A book you didn't expect to like, but did? To Kill a Mockingbird. American classics are not usually up my alley.

54. How about a book you expected to like, but didn't? The Black Arrow. I love Stevenson, but that novel was a bit of a letdown: I read it this year and am already vague on the plot. Besides, he portrays Richard III (Duke of Gloucester, actually) as a sadist. You’re putting a real strain on our relationship, Stevenson!

55. Favourite guilt-free pleasure reading? Daddy-Long-Legs. I suppose that’s not really fair: I do feel a little guilty, seeing as I’ve read it half a dozen times already. Still, I think it’s my favorite pleasure read.
meet the authoress
I am a writer of historical fiction and fantasy, scribbling from my home in the United States. More importantly, I am a Christian, which flavors everything I write. My debut novel, "The Soldier's Cross," was published by Ambassador Intl. in 2010.
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published writings

The Soldier's Cross: Set in the early 15th Century, this is the story of an English girl's journey to find her brother's cross pendant, lost at the Battle of Agincourt, and of her search for peace in the chaotic world of the Middle Ages.
finished writings

Tempus Regina:Hurled back in time and caught in the worlds of ages past, a Victorian woman finds herself called out with the title of the time queen. The death of one legend and the birth of another rest on her shoulders - but far weightier than both is her duty to the brother she left alone in her own era. Querying.
currently writing

Wordcrafter: "One man in a thousand, Solomon says / will stick more close than a brother. / And it's worthwhile seeking him half your days / if you find him before the other." Justin King unwittingly plunges into one such friendship the day he lets a stranger come in from the cold. Wordcount: 124,000 words

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