Wednesday, January 14, 2015

An Exclusive Look at The Wood's Edge

It's always a fun time when my publisher provides me the link to the exclusive two chapter sneak peek of my books. I've just received the link for The Wood's Edge so without further ado...

The Wood's Edge (The Pathfinders #1)
WaterBrook Press (Penguin Random House)
April 21 2015 
ISBN-10: 1601427328
ISBN-13: 978-1601427328

At the wood's edge cultures collide. Can two families survive the impact?

The 1757 New York frontier is home to the Oneida tribe and to British colonists, yet their feet rarely walk the same paths.

On the day Fort William Henry falls, Major Reginald Aubrey is beside himself with grief. His son, born that day, has died in the arms of his sleeping wife. When Reginald comes across an Oneida mother with newborn twins, one white, one brown, he makes a choice that will haunt the lives of all involved. He steals the white baby and leaves his own child behind. Reginald's wife and foundling daughter, Anna, never suspect the truth about the boy they call William, but Reginald is wracked by regret that only intensifies with time, as his secret spreads its devastating ripples.

When the long buried truth comes to light, can an unlikely friendship forged at the wood's edge provide a way forward? For a father tormented by fear of judgment, another by lust for vengeance. For a mother still grieving her lost child. For a brother who feels his twin's absence, another unaware of his twin's existence. And for Anna, who loves them both--Two Hawks, the mysterious Oneida boy she meets in secret, and William, her brother. As paths long divided collide, how will God direct the feet of those who follow Him?

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Our First Allies: the Oneidas

This week I've been working on the historical note that I like to add at the end of my novels, this time for A Flight of Arrows, the sequel to the book that will soon be releasing, The Wood's Edge.

Writing the historical note for The Wood's Edge, even more so now for A Flight of Arrows, has caused me some heart wrenching. You see, there was so much more history I wish I might have worked into these stories. Granted, there is more history in The Pathfinders series than in any books I've written prior... but not so much that it overwhelms the story of the characters I've attempted to tell. That's a delicate balance I didn't want to tip.

The history I'm talking about is that of the Oneida Nation of the Iroquois. As I wrote in the Author's Note at the end of The Wood's Edge (here's a sneak peek for you, no plot spoilers):
Some years ago, while deep in research for a novel called Burning Sky, I read numerous accounts of the Haudenosaunee (the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy) and their experiences during the Revolutionary War. Those six nations are, east to west as they dwelled across what is now New York State, the Mohawks, Oneidas, Tuscaroras, Onondagas, Cayugas, and Senecas. My focus during that early research was on the Mohawks. But another nation, the Oneidas, kept snagging my attention as I read book after book and followed countless research trails online.

Of all those nations long united under their Great Law of Peace, the Oneidas went against the majority of the Haudenosaunee and sided with the Americans during the Revolutionary War. Though some individuals managed to remain neutral, the rest, by and large, sided with the British. This brought about a breaking of a confederacy that had existed for centuries, amounting to a tragic mirroring of what was happening among the European colonies -- a civil war. As I came to understand the tremendous pressure the Oneidas found themselves under during this time, the heavy price they paid for following their convictions, and the contributions they made to the founding of an American nation, I couldn't resist attempting to tell their story, at least in part.

At least in part. And that's the bit that's heart wrenching. There were so many Oneidas whose names and deeds have come down to us through the history books that I found compelling, that brought me to tears, and that I wished I might have added to these stories. But even a series of books can only support so many characters, so I was forced to pick and choose.

I'm very happy with the historical characters I was able to work into the telling of The Pathfinders tale, and with the history of the Oneidas I've been able to portray, spanning the era of the French & Indian war through the Revolutionary War. I've introduced warriors, sachems, missionaries, men and women who managed to straddle two cultural worlds, some who drew their heritage from both. I'll let you discover them in the pages of the books.

But when you are through, it's my hope that a curiosity will be kindled, a curiosity to know more about these Oneida men and women to whom we as a nation are indebted.

If I've managed that, there's no better place for you to continue your discovery than with a book called Forgotten Allies, The Oneida Indians and the American Revolution, by Joseph T. Glatthaar and James Kirby Martin.

A few years ago a movie was slated to be made based on this book. The movie's title is First Allies. The latest news I can find on this is that the movie is "on hold." It's yet to be green-lit. I very much hope it becomes a reality one day, as I would be first in line to see it.

If you should come across news of this movie going into production at last, I'd appreciate it if you'd share that with me here or on my Facebook Page.

You would make this author very happy. :)

Saturday, January 03, 2015

The Books of Yesteryear (2014)

Try as I might, I didn't read quite as many books in 2014 as I did the year before (a whopping 101 books in 2013). This year I managed 97 books, and instead of keeping a log here on the blog, I kept one on Pinterest. You can peruse it here if you are so inclined.

Follow Lori's board Reading Log 2014 on Pinterest.

It only lists 96 books, because one of those 97 was for endorsement and I've yet to see a cover image for it on line to add to my board. It was a historical novel called Laurel, by Susan Craft.

I tried many new to me authors in the CBA and general market, returned to some old favorites titles for a reread (or re-listen), read lots and lots of research for my own writing, made sure to read at least one memoir, continued my reading affair with YA Dystopian novels, and eagerly gobbled up the latest offering of some favorite authors, particularly historicals. But a few contemporaries too along the way.

So many books I didn't get to that I meant to read last year, but soon I'll get to them. Except, oh my, I've seen what's coming from some authors in the months ahead and looks like I'll be scrambling for time to work all the good books into my reading schedule.

I think it's never been a better time to be a book lover, writer or reader or both.

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Book Baby #3

You would think I'd be used to it by now with two books published, having gone through the editing process, the cover design, then the interior, getting glimpses of what the finished book would look like along the way, then finally opening those big brown boxes that land on my front step and finding these inside:

But here I am, third time around, and my reaction is the same and just as strong. My heart still pounds and my hands still shake a little as I draw the first Advance Reading Copy of The Wood's Edge from the box and it still seems surreal that once upon some random day, years ago now, I had an idea for a story, and through all the many steps, all the months of work by me and many others (it takes a village), there now exists a book. 

Hopefully it is one that blesses you, dear reader friends, with characters you will love, hours of enjoyment, and a sense of God's presence and grace.

Come April 21!

Monday, December 08, 2014

Decembers Past & Present: a Christmas Note

Last December, right about this time of the month, I had the last phone conversation I would ever have with my Dad. I didn't know it would be the last. He was 70 and had been in poor health off and on for much of the past 30 years. Many heart surgeries, crippling nerve damage, cancer... but he'd always bounce back, recover, or at least somehow keep pushing on. But last December 22 we had a call to say that this time he was gone.

I was in the midst of final page proofs for The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn. I quickly wrapped those up while we had our quiet Christmas here in Oregon, turned them in a week early, then flew back east to attend Dad's memorial service during the week between Christmas and New Years. I ended up traveling back and forth from Maryland to West Virginia, in company with many family members I don't get to see often. Then, on the first leg of my journey home, having been given a first class seat I hadn't paid for, I had a clear aerial view of the Appalachian Mountain front from DC down to Atlanta. I spent those precious moments imagining Tamsen and Jesse in their much more difficult passage across those mountains that I live so far away from, and (like those family members) am not able to visit as often as I'd like. That was one of many healing moments during that journey, one of those times where God surprised me with His grace, presence, and peace.

Our last photo together
When The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn released, there was a thread of sadness woven through those weeks, knowing I couldn't share it, or any other books to come, with Dad. But he got to read Burning Sky, my debut novel, in his last months on earth, and I'll always be grateful that my publisher, WaterBrook, and my editor, Shannon Marchese, made it possible for me to announce the news of my first publishing contract in person to my Dad during yet another December, 2011, when he spent Christmas on the west coast (his first there in 50 years), where I've live since the early 1990s. That was the last time I saw Dad, though again I'd no idea it would be the last time.

Now another year has flown. December again finds me finishing up the final proof read of a novel that will release in April. The Wood's Edge has passed out of my hands now. I can't change another word of it. But I can still pray over its pages (and do!) and for the readers it will reach this coming spring. My prayer for this book is that readers will, along with enjoying a story near to my heart, meet the God of Heaven in its pages. The Father of us all, in whose presence my Dad now dwells. The Wood's Edge bears this dedication:
This book turned out to have much to do with fathers. It is dedicated to mine, who is loved and missed.

Larry George Johnson
August 24, 1943 -- December 22, 2013

First Look: back cover (click to read)
December 2014 also finds me finishing up another manuscript for WaterBrook. A Flight of Arrows, sequel to The Wood's Edge, is due in January. I'm polishing it up, tightening my typically overwritten first draft, and soon this story too will be out of my hands. At least until the rounds of edits start next year.

And in the back of my mind is a whole new cast of characters waiting to have their story told. Very soon now I will gather up the stacks and stacks of research books I've referenced over the course of these last two manuscripts and put them back on their respective shelves. Then I'll go through my titles, pull out the new research books that have been waiting for me to get to them, decide if I need to find more (most likely, yes!). I keep the reference books for the current novel-in-progress close by my desk, all together, over the months or years I have most need of them.

December is once again proving a month of transition, though a far gentler one (thus far) than 2013. For the first time in a while I will be able to set aside all writing-related activities for a few days and simply enjoy spending time with Brian, his elderly mom, and friends. I'm looking forward to getting a Christmas tree this coming Saturday. I haven't had a live tree for a few yeas now. I've missed it!

My prayer for you, readers, writers, and friends, is that you will sense Emmanuel, God with us, during this busy season. That God will surprise you with His presence in unexpected moments, through whatever this season brings for you. That's the gift I wish for you!

                                   From the Bentons!

Monday, November 24, 2014

The final editing stage

The brown truck stopped outside my house... I heard the knock at the door... my dog set to barking... I opened the door...

The typeset pages of The Wood's Edge are here! 

Time for a final proofread and then... next I'll see of this story it will be bound between covers.