Four Recommended Reads

Okay! I couldn’t resist. Just had to tell you the news about my friend Karen Witemeyer’s new historical romance novel. Karen, who lives in Texas, sets her irresistible stories in Texas during the 1800’s. On a side note: She and Gloria Clover and I critique each other’s manuscripts, encourage one another, and cheer each other on. Congratulations on the June release of More Than Meets the Eye, Karen! Warning: If you read one of Karen’s novels, you will be hooked on reading them all.

More Than Meets the Eye by Karen Witemeyer — Many consider Evangeline Hamilton cursed. Orphaned at a young age and possessing a pair of mismatched eyes–one bright blue, the other dark brown–Eva has fought to find her way in a world that constantly rejects her. She’s made a safe haven with Seth and Zach, two former orphans she now counts as brothers. Seeking justice against the gambler who stole his birthright and destroyed his family, Logan Fowler arrives in 1880s Pecan Gap, Texas, to confront Zach Hamilton, the hardened criminal responsible for his father’s death. Instead, he discovers a man not much older than himself with an unusual family. When Zach’s sister, Evangeline, insists on dousing Logan with sunshine every time their paths cross, Logan finds his quest completely derailed. Who is truly responsible for his lost legacy, and will restoring the past satisfy if it means forfeiting a future with Evangeline? (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker])

And, as you all know, romantic suspense is my genre of choice whether reading or writing. Below are three new releases this month that you’re sure to enjoy!

Justice Betrayed by Patricia Bradley — It’s Elvis Week in Memphis, and homicide Detective Rachel Sloan isn’t sure her day could get any stranger when aging Elvis impersonator Vic Vegas asks to see her. But when he produces a photo of her murdered mother with four Elvis impersonators–one of whom had also been murdered soon after the photo was taken–she’s forced to reevaluate. When yet another person in the photo is murdered, Rachel suddenly has her hands full investigating three cases. Lieutenant Boone Callahan offers his help, but their checkered romantic past threatens to get in the way. Can they solve the cases before the murderer makes Rachel victim number four? (Romantic Suspense from Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group)

A Vast and Gracious Tide by Lisa Carter — After losing his closest friends and now his girlfriend to the ravages of war, Caden Wallis arrives on the Outer Banks for one final mission–to thank the woman who sent him a quilt while he was recuperating at Walter Reed Army Hospital. McKenna Dockery knows about loss. She juggles the family business, her ailing father, and an aging grandmother. Much to Caden’s surprise, she–not some elderly lady–is the quilter. The quilt was something she’d begun for her future husband but shipped to the military hospital after the tragic death of her fiancé. When a man is found snared in a net and murdered on McKenna’s property, she and Caden must work together to bring the killer to justice. (Romantic Suspense from Gilead Publishing)

Ransom of the Heart by Susan Page Davis — Police Captain Harvey Larson’s exhausting day takes a big detour when a teenaged girl approaches him at the diner, announcing that she is his daughter. When Harvey is on his way home from work a few hours later, his sister-in-law Abby calls him. She went to meet her husband for a dinner date and found a dead man on the floor at his place of business, and Peter has vanished. Harvey calls in his detectives and turns his car around. It’s going to be a long night, too. Once again, Harvey depends on his wits, his faith, and his squad, the Priority Unit, to solve a tough case and carry out Maine Justice. (Romantic Suspense from Tea Tin Press)

In the Shadow of Salem

Please Welcome Donna Gawell, history buff who’s not only the author of her novel set in 1600’s New England, but also a direct descendant of its heroine, Mehitabel Braybrooke. Yes, the name is a mouthful, but many names of that era were.

In the Shadow of Salem: For Mehitabel Braybrooke, life in Puritan New England moves from bad to worse when her orphan cousin arrives to live with her family. Jealousy and lies result in Mehitabel’s being “sent out” as a servant in a neighbor’s home. Foolishness and bad judgment further unravel her life until the unspeakable happens: Mehitabel is accused of crimes that warrant a death sentence, not once, but twice−the first time for arson, the second for witchcraft.

What sparked your idea for In the Shadow of Salem?

Mehitabel’s story has been told piecemeal by historians, and her historical records are anything but complimentary. It was clear from the neighbors’ testimony during a court trial that her stepmother despised her. I thought it intriguing to consider how Mehitabel must have felt being raised by a woman who hated her, one who could never have any children of her own. Mehitabel was the only child of a wealthy Puritan man who was instructed by the town court to raise her.

As I examined the facts from her historical records, I tried to consider what lead up to each event. For example: what background and story lead up to her being found in the mud with the pigs tearing at her clothing, and the rescuers declaring she was drunk? I ended up with an intriguing story about a very emotionally complex woman who lived through some horrible times.

Did anything interesting happen to you during your research?

I developed a great appreciation for the Puritans and their beliefs. They have a pretty bad reputation in today’s culture, but I admire their passion, focus, and dedication. They certainly weren’t Sunday-only Christians. On the other hand, they lost focus of God’s guiding principles during the Salem witchcraft trials, which are also part of my story.

What did you find the most challenging about writing In the Shadow of Salem?

The research essential in historical fiction is a perfect fit for my personality. I love that part of writing and blending in this interesting information, but I had no idea of how much time I would spend uncovering details. For example, it took hours to find the name of a real lawyer in 1670 in that area of Massachusetts. And I want to make my New England historian friends proud!

What details or choices of material in this story required special research.

I spent three years actively searching through New England archives, old town records, and information about the Salem witchcraft trials and life in Puritan New England. One of my favorite experiences was a trip to Ipswich, MA where I met with archivist and renowned historian, Richard Trask at the Danvers Institute. He sent me some newly uncovered details about the accusation of witchcraft Mehitabel endured..

What do you hope readers will gain from reading In the Shadow of Salem?

I wrote it as a story of redemption. Mehitabel started out in life as the “bastard” child of an indentured servant and had a nightmare childhood. She continued to struggle through much of her adult life but didn’t understand what God wanted of her.

How did you first come to realize you wanted to write this novel?

Although I have written various professional and travel articles and taught my students to write, I never thought much about fiction writing. Until I discovered my 9th great grandmother, Mehitabel Braybrooke. Before I began genealogy in 2012, I had almost no knowledge of my ancestors who came before my grandparents.

As my search wandered back to the 1700’s, a direct ancestor named “Mehitabel Braybrooke came into view.”  My first thought was “Wow, Mehitabel is an ugly name!” Then I noticed clues with the words “witchcraft” and “witch” in them. I discovered many records from the town and court records about Mehitabel and began to put together the facts of her life. I told her story to everyone I knew and then decided someone needed to write her story. That someone ended up being me! I felt God had given me the gift of discovering so many ancestors all the way back to the 1600’s and that Mehitabel was a special assignment.

Any future novel readers can look forward to?

I am currently researching and writing a novel set in a small village in Poland during WWII. My grandparents’ village has an amazing story.

The Nazis occupied it during the first days of the war. The Germans destroyed the villagers’ homes and forced the people into what we would consider slave labor. This village became the site of the largest SS training camp outside of Germany. Hitler also moved his top-secret V1 and V2 research facility to the area. My family who still live in this village are thrilled that someone is finally interested in the story. Many Polish Americans and people in Poland have provided me with incredible details and stories.

What is a typical day like for you?

I wake up at about 6 AM, do my morning devotions (Charles Spurgeon) and email, and then begin writing about 8:00. I write or research until about 8:00 PM,  but sometimes unchain myself from the computer to volunteer, cook, eat, clean, and visit with friends.

What advice would you offer to writers just getting started?

Write about something that is a personal passion, and ask God to provide you with people who will support and encourage you.

More About the Author:

Genealogist, historian, and author of several nonfiction books and journal articles, Donna Gawell is also a presenter on genealogy and family history writing for school, community organizations, and church groups. Donna holds volunteer leadership roles with Samaritan’s Purse as a Relay Center Coordinator for Operation Christmas Child. She is also Church Coordinator for International Friendships, Inc., a Christian outreach to international students at Ohio State University.

Donna earned her master’s degree in Speech Pathology and worked in the field of education for over thirty years. She lives in Westerville, Ohio with her husband Mark when not traveling to research her ancestral homelands in Europe and New England. Her website allows her to reach out to readers with similar passions and interests.

From In the Shadow of Salem, Chapter One:

September 21, 1692

 The lock on the door of the Ipswich prison clanged, and the bar raised to open it. No good news ever came when we heard those creaking hinges. Unwelcomed breezes stirred the poisonous stench of dung from the corners of our cell, as one solitary prisoner was delivered to our group of women. The dark shadows at sunset did not allow me to recognize the woman immediately, but old Goody Vinson could see her. “Mehitabel,” she whispered, “you will not believe who has come to join us!”

Joan Penney’s voice raged throughout the dungeon as she was hurtled down the stairs by the two night guards. They showed little respect for the elderly woman, and she stumbled on the last step. In disgust, the guards allowed her to fall onto the filthy straw floor. Her eyes were downcast as she hobbled over to sit with the older women.

A heavy silence fell over us, until Rachel Clinton spoke, “Joan, we have been waiting for you. Soon all of the townswomen will be here to replace those already hung in the gallows. Look, even your own daughter is here. Are your eyes so weak you don’t see her face?”

Rachel’s loathsome manner was unwelcomed by all. “Mehitabel, go to your mother,” she commanded me. “Share your warm blanket with her.”

A Father’s Day Mystery …

Father’s Day is only two days away, and it first occurred to me today that I never considered the pain Jill might have experienced on that day each year. The heroine in my novel series longed to know her birth father–even made up stories about him in her head–but she didn’t know his name or anything about him.

What was it like for her when she saw other little girls with their fathers? Or Father’s Day rolled around? I know how deeply she felt when she met her father in the pages of Her Deadly Reunion. But not much in the years before. It’s a Father’s Day mystery …

Would you fill in this blank place in Jill’s life for me? Venture a guess? Share an experience?

It’s Official! Second Novel Scheduled for Release

You asked, so I’m happy to announce: It’s official. Her Deadly Reunion, the novel you’ve been waiting for, releases November 15.

And thank you so much for your words of encouragement. They kept me going as I worked long and hard on the sequel to Her Deadly Inheritance. Your words like:

  • I plan on watching for whatever Beth offers to us in the future!
  • An author whose works I will read promptly after release.
  • Looking forward to reading more from this talented author.
  • I’m hooked. Hurry up with that second book.
  • Hope these characters return in another book!
  • Hope another book by Beth is on the way.
  • Looking forward to the next book!
  • Can’t wait for her next book.
  • Can’t wait for the sequels!
  • Cannot wait for the next novel !!!!!!
  • When is your next novel coming out, Ms. Ziarnik? I want it!!!
  • Loved the book and wish there were more by Beth.
  • This debut novel knocked my socks off. I look forward to her next book.
  • Hope there will be another story with Jill and Clay. Theirs is an adventure I would love to follow.

To answer some of your comments: Yes, you will see two more books about Jill and Clay. While preparing for Her Deadly Reunion‘s launch, I’ll be writing Her Deadly Vows. In the meantime …

Where is Her Deadly Reunion in its preparations for release? The interior design elements (what the pages and type face look like) are in place.

The book cover design team at Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas have the novel’s back cover copy (story blurb), the new author photo, and a document of details they will consider as they work. By the end of summer, we should have a beautiful new cover for the second book.

I can’t wait to see it. And when I do, you will, too!

Until then …Thank you for accompanying me on this writer’s journey. You make it all worthwhile.