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Ten Years In Bath, Freedom and God’s Hands

It seems I’m coming up to (and in one case I’ve passed) some big anniversary markers in my life. Most people have a lot of changes in their life around the age of 18 so I’m sure I’m not the only person who finds at 28 that the last ten years has been quite a ride.

Like others I went off to university and just over ten years ago on October 5th 2004 I turned up in Bath ready to study and meet new people. One of the first people I met was my now husband, Phil (yes I did declare my undying love to the first guy I met at University and yes I’m aware you’re not meant to do this) although it’s still quite a few weeks away from the anniversary of us getting together as a couple.

While I was getting to know Phil he invited me to go along with him to church and I couldn’t see any reason to object to the idea so off I went with him. It was quite an experience. Within minutes of the service starting I found myself overwhelmed with the feeling of being safe and peaceful, something I hadn’t felt in years for one reason or another (I didn’t come from the most stable of family backgrounds and despite my mother’s best attempts to make our family life safe and carefree I was a little too good at getting myself into trouble), and on the 26th October 2004 I decided I was going to try to follow Jesus and the things he taught. That makes it my tenth birthday this Sunday. I later discovered that the same feeling of safety came back every time I worshiped.

Shortly after that I went to Freedom Bath and Bristol, one of the churches in Bath, and accompanying the feeling of safety I got every time I reached out to God, I also felt very much at home. There’s never been one person specifically or one event or moment. I just walked into Freedom on November 13th 2004 and knew I was home, and almost ten years later it’s still the same. Every time I walk in I know it’s where I belong. That feeling and concept often comes up in the stories I write and I know it’s because I get to feel that sense of belonging each and every week.

Within my ten years at Freedom I’ve also seen some pretty awesome things. I’ve personally been healed twice. The first time my right leg grew by about 2 inches (it was shorter than my right and had been causing back problems, including scoliosis), and the second time I was healed of some internal bleeding which I blogged about already here. I’ve had several financial miracles where money has turned up right when I needed it, once so I could quit the day job and start my writing career, and another time so my husband and I could buy our first house.

Being in Freedom has also meant I’ve had great teaching from the leaders, I’ve been supported, encouraged and often inspired as a writer and part of the creative community within the church, and I’ve had plenty of mentors, friends and people to do life with. I am so much more emotionally stable and have a greater understanding of who I am, what makes me me and what I want to do with my life than I ever have before. Bad stuff still happens occasionally, but it helps to know I’m not alone in facing it, unlike how I used to feel before I came to Bath.

I’m definitely looking forward to the next ten years with God, Church, my husband and my friends.

Character Spotlight: Anya

Anya is the secondary/supporting character in the Sherdan series. Somewhere between a third and two fifths of the chapters in the Sherdan world are from her point of view.

Anya is probably the female character of mine I like the least (of the good protagonists anyway). I don’t dislike her, not by a long way, but I don’t get many warm fuzzy moments over her. I do respect her. Life for her in the first two Sherdan books isn’t easy. She gets tortured, imprisoned, almost raped and plenty of other stuff on top.

My biggest problem with her is that she’s religious, and yes I know I’m going to have to explain that. I don’t mean religious as in, believes in God, I mean religious in the sense of someone who believes in God and then acts a certain way because they think they are meant to rather than is actively trying to follow Jesus because of a conviction and emotion or belief in something born from experience. Sort of how we all brush our teeth, because we are told it’s good for us, we do it twice a day. Sometimes I forget to do it and I feel no guilt, I just do it because my parents said I was meant to and for the most part I take their word for it. There’s no engagement on my part.

For the most part Anya is like that. She has been brought up to believe in God and it isn’t until she’s tortured that she starts to work out there’s more to God than just doing what he says. Because of this ‘religious’ attitude to her faith she lacks in the ability to understand Sherdan and his problem with her way of life and the downsides of this form of Christianity.

Thankfully she gets better during the books. There’s still a bunch of stuff she will and won’t do but she starts to get a feel for the concept that she’s on a journey with God and she has a unique purpose she’s meant to work out with Him that involves more than just going to church and being a good girl. She has to think for herself, tackle big things and seriously think about loving someone who’s not got the same faith background as her. In short she has to decide what matters to her and what doesn’t.

While she’s trying to work all this out she sort of screws things up a bit with Sherdan. They love each other and I think that’s fairly obvious from mid book 1 but she’s a bit shocked by it and it presents her with decisions she never thought she would have to make. She also discovers that being a ‘good’ Christian isn’t always black and white. She doesn’t want to allow someone to have sway to potentially tempt her out of her belief system so she isn’t kind to him and then she realises she’s being judgemental, which is wrong as well. It’s tough to find everything you’ve spent your life believing is off centre and not quite know how you’re meant to be treating people.

As a result of these problems she yo-yo’s quite a lot between being nice to him and pushing him away from her. It isn’t until book 2 where she realises it’s not right to shut him out because he doesn’t believe exactly what she does that she starts to allow him the respect he deserves. Although none of this is helped by how controlling he is as she’s well aware she belongs to God not to anyone else.

I think I’ll like her more as the books progress. I’m sort of hoping she mellows out a little, actually learns to trust God and allow Sherdan into her life properly so she can show him the good sides of her faith rather than all the sucky things that an imperfect faith can exhibit. Of course, he also needs to learn to trust her.

Character Spotlight: Sherdan

This is one of my special characters. I love all my characters but a few always stick out in my head and this is one of those. He’s my first male leading character and although he’s far from perfect he’s still one of my favs.

I have two books out with him in now and I’m putting together the plot for a third, which feels kinda nice. I really like writing sequels. I suspect I’ll get bored of the characters eventually but for now starting a sequel feels a lot like visiting old friends. I just pick up where I left off.

Sherdan comes across as a complete meglomaniac at the start of the first book. He doesn’t care who gets hurt in his quest for the greater good. Has people tortured on almost a whim and is more than happy to bribe people or even blackmail them to get what he wants. He also even plays God a little with his enzyme and the people he gives it to.

Despite all that though, there is a softer side, he just tries to push it aside, thinking it’s weaker. He’s a scientist who, until recently, bought into the idea that we evolve and life is purely survival of the fittest. Compassion, love and mercy are often considered to be weaknesses by people in those schools of thought.

However, I love throwing my characters curveballs and seeing how they react. Sherdan soon falls in love, as all my MC’s often do. This is a really good thing for him and softens him in all the right ways.

Through Anya he does also get challenged about the idea of a God and what that might look like as well, which is a new thing for him. Whatever he decides he believes in it starts making him think about what he’s doing and whether he wants the destination he’s heading towards.

Overall Sherdan is one of those characters people love, despite all his many flaws and imperfections. You just can’t dislike him, even though you know you ought to. And no matter what he does I think he’ll always be one of my favourites. Maybe because he’s my first male lead. He’s just… rather special.

Calling vs Career

This has been a pretty hot topic in my life recently and I’ve had a lot of people giving me advice on what to do in certain situations regarding writing over the last few months. After a while I realised that, whenever I got two opposing sets of recommendations for what to do and how to do it, it always came down to whether I approached writing as my calling or my career. I’ll start by defining what the two are.

Calling, according to my understanding of it, is what you feel you are meant to do with your life. In some ways, your reason for being on the earth. It’s the things you can do from your unique blend of skills and life experiences to make the world a better place. I believe my calling is directly related to being put on earth by God for something He’s decided he wants me to do. There are some things that are generic in that. The bible lists a bunch of things every follower of Jesus is meant to do, like ‘Act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.’ But in essence, I also believe I’m meant to tell stories in one form or another for the foreseeable future.

Career is more of a financial thing. It’s the success and financial reward an occupation brings. Having a good career is when we reach the top of that paricular occupational ladder and earn a larger amount. It’s very much about the stability it brings to life and how other people measure us against each other. When you have a career you know what you’re doing between 9am and 5pm on week days (mostly anyway) and you know what to put on that occupation slot of all those official forms.

Personally I couldn’t care less about my career. I really mean that. If I make money, great, if not, well I still intend to keep writing and telling stories. Some of it will be easier to do if I earn money but that’s only because it takes money to make some of the stories and do some of the ideas in my head. That doesn’t mean I won’t be sensible and try and make money but it does mean when it comes to a decision where one option is about following my calling and the other about following my career, I will pick calling.

A great example of this is writing in more than one genre. You’ve probably noticed I do this. I’ve got two novels in historical adventure, a novel in sci-fi, which is the start of a series, and several fantasy shorts with a series in that genre on the way as well. That’s three genres. This is considered a bad move in terms of a career as a novelist/author.

Readers like to know what they are getting. The quickest way to build a loyal fan base and sell lots of books is to write in one genre and deliver one style of book again and again. Everyone who likes my work can then buy everything without having to worry that they might not like it, and I can ensure every new book sells better than the last (as long as I don’t royally screw something up).

Writing in more than one genre leaves fans unsure about each purchase and even a little confused sometimes. They need to check what genre it is before they buy and while they love one of my books they may only like elements of others. I know this happens because I had a conversation, only last Sunday with a fan. He loves fantasy and tried my sci-fi book because he liked the fantasy stuff. He didn’t like it as much and he won’t even touch my historical adventure novels. To him I’ve wasted my time writing those (he didn’t actually come out and say that last bit and I’m not sure he’d even go so far as to think it, but it’s essentially true).

But the problem is, a lot of my story ideas are inspired by some kind of revelation and often they only fit in the genres and scenarios they came to me in. If I choose to write in only one genre, I wouldn’t be writing two-thirds of the ideas that come about as a result of storytelling being my calling.

When I pick a new idea, the first a formost decision is what ‘feels’ like it needs to be written next. Which one is it the right time for, regardless of how it fits with what I’ve already got (sometimes I get a nudge one way or another and sometimes I don’t but I always check before deciding with any other method). For now, both my sci-fi and my fantasy feel like they need to be written. There’s lots of great ‘moments’ in those characters lives that keep bugging me to be told. So I imagine that for the next little while I’ll be alternating between those two series. But that doesn’t mean I won’t ever write another historical adventure. I’ve got some more ideas for them, just right now they aren’t bugging me to write them.

So I’m writing in more than one genre and I’ll continue to do so despite the fact that this decision is proving detrimental to my career, at least in the short term, because for me, telling stories is about so much more than how many I can sell and how much money I can make. It’s about telling the right story at the right time so it’s relevant to my readers, no matter how few.

Good, Clean, Murder: A Review

I’ve read a couple of books by this author and when I saw she was releasing another book I just had to pick this one up and help support her launch.

I picked this book up in the morning and didn’t put it down again, except to fix some breakfast, until I’d read the whole thing. Jane was gorgeous in every way and I totally adored her from the first moment.

The mystery was great and I was left guessing until the big reveal at the end. I also felt every moment of Jane’s confusion in what to do with her life. Trying to follow God’s calling is never easy and combine that with crime solving and you’ve got quite a recipe for a headache.

Just like the other books I’ve read by this author, this keeps the lighthearted feel to it with the moments of humour and general awkwardness, while still feeling tense enough to keep you page turning.

On top of all that I really liked the snapshot of US living. For someone not from the UK instead I still felt like I could picture the book and what things were like from how everything was described. Sometimes I read books by US authors and they take for granted that the reader knows certain things that are actually locational. I didn’t find that was the case with this book and it made it so much easier to get into it.

A Story Of How God Changed My Life

As some of my readers are aware I’m a Christian. I have been since October 26th 2004 at approximately 9:50pm. I go to church almost every Sunday and often both the morning and evening service. Over the last eight and a half years I’ve seen some pretty amazing things happen. There have been healings, encounters with the holy spirit, visions and all sorts of other miracles. A whole bunch of stuff that just isn’t explainable in any other way than, God showed up.

Most of the time my personal experiences of God are very much that; personal. Someone I know refers to them as kisses from heaven. Little things that God does that only really mean something to me, but recently I had a big something happen. It’s not the first and I really hope it won’t be the last, but it was bigger than I’m used to and I wanted to tell this one, after all it is my occupation, telling stories. This one just happens to be true.

As many of my blog readers have been aware I’ve been going to hospital and doctors appointments a lot lately. I’ve never come out and said what was wrong but it was quite major so I’m going to finally explain.

A little under two years ago I started to notice, for no reason I could pin down, my body would reject food occasionally. I’d eat something, think I was totally okay and then about 1-2 hours later I’d get a lot of stomach pains and find myself having to rush to the loo. It wasn’t pleasant.

Originally I thought this might be some kind of allergy. I tried cutting out all sorts of foods, one by one. Caffeine, dairy, spicy foods, wheat, gluten. None of it helped and the problem slowly got worse and worse until, not only was this happening upwards of once per week, but I was also finding a really black substance coming out with everything else (I later learnt this was what digested blood looked like).

I also started to grow really really tired. It started to get difficult to go for the usual walks I went for. I couldn’t walk back up the Bath hills home after shopping in the city centre and I could barely cope with a few minutes standing at the sink to do the washing up. I felt tired, almost constantly. Getting out of bed took effort and sometimes I would feel like I’d walked 10 miles when all I’d done is showered.

For the first little while I went back and forth to the doctors, trying to get them to take me seriously and understand something more than stress was wrong with me. I grew quite depressed at finding every day was a constant process of decisions between the many things I wanted to do. Things I never used to have to choose between. If I worked for a few hours I wouldn’t be able to do the chores and if I walked to town to run this errand I would either have to stay there till I got a lift back or spend money on the bus. If I spent time with friends it would mean I couldn’t write as much. Every day was full of painful choices.

There was a week when I had family visiting and I had to take about a week off, both before and after they came, to rest because spending time with them and trying to have fun tired me out that much. Shopping and trying on clothes was exhausting, and on top of that I couldn’t eat a whole bunch of things and was on pills that had to be taken 20 minutes before I ate. No caffeine, no alcohol, no dairy, no insoluble fibre (bran, wholegrain, seeds, raw vegetables, fruit skins, coconut etc), no sweeteners and not too much carbonated drinks.

On top of all of that, timing taking those pesky pills to be close enough to twenty minutes before eating, when going out to eat was a nightmare! Not to mention the times my husband would start cooking a meal at home (I was often far too tired by then to help cook) it would get to about five minutes before it would be ready and one of us would remember I hadn’t taken a pill. The amount of times I’ve had a plate of food in front of me that was starting to get cold and I couldn’t eat it yet are too numerous to count.

And even after all that there was more. About half the time I had some kind of stomach pain, often dull aches but occasionally the pain would get so bad I’d be doubled up in agony. Pretty much the rest of the time everything would feel unsettled, tense and uncomfortable. The few times I felt okay for some reason I would usually notice and comment in surprise to my husband that I actually felt comfortable for once.

I had hospital test after hospital test (and lots of those were rather unpleasant too) and nothing showed up. All they seemed to know was my bowels were really not happy and I was bleeding somewhere as yet undiscovered.

Needlesss to say by the end of 2012 I had pretty much retreated into myself. I wrote when I could, spent most of my time on the sofa, except for Sundays were I went to church and tried to get my tired self through the service and encounter God in some way. Often I would have to fight my feelings to even get to church but it really was the highlight of my week. I mean it. I enjoyed church the whole way through. I know that’s a foreign idea to many people, but I loved going to church, I have ever since that moment in 2004.

I knew it would be all to easy to get angry at God, especially as I felt like I was watching my dreams all slip out of reach with every day that went by and I still felt too tired to do anything but sit, but somehow I didn’t. I cried a lot, I asked my husband how life could be so unfair a few times and saw the pained expression as he tried to answer but I never really got angry at God. I focused on all the little things God had done for me, all the little ways my life was still better than it had been before October 26th 2004, and somehow, week after week I kept going, trusting, and making the best of what I had.

At the start of this year though I felt my attitude changing a little. I stopped saying no to everything that required energy. I got angry, but not at God. I suppose angry isn’t quite the right word. It wasn’t really anger so much as defensiveness. I decided I was going to see my dreams come true, even though I didn’t have the energy right now. It wasn’t really as simple as that sounds though. I just knew I had to keep moving forwards. That every day I had to take a step towards something important or I’d end up sliding backwards.

I started looking out for opportunities to do something a bit more challenging. I even abseiled for charity (yes I did this while really sick. In hindsight I really don’t recommend it. I was dizzy while standing at the top and with the adrenaline I got buzzed with coming down, when I reached the bottom I almost went right over and getting down the rockface itself, well let’s just say that’s on my list of things I hope I never ever have to go through again).

I also finally started telling people what was actually wrong with me. I guess I stopped being proud and hiding it, but I think even now there are people that were fairly close to me who don’t know quite how sick I got. I just didn’t want to talk about it, but I think I should have. I also think I probably should have asked for help more often, but I know I got better at being open about it and I think that was a good thing.

As you have probably worked out by now this blog post is all written in past tense. That does mean I’m no longer sick. The first Sunday in March I was absolutely shattered. I remember thinking I was more tired than even I normally felt and I’d been to the morning service, eaten lunch with friends and really didn’t feel very good. I was in pain and only going to the evening service because things had been amazing two weeks before at our Church’s album launch and there was a part of me that really wanted to connect to God like that again. It was a struggle though. I hurt, I was tired and it’s a lot of effort to stand and worship, but I made myself do it.

Part way through the service a bunch of people were encouraged to come to the front if they felt like they had been silenced lately. I went up. I am not even sure if I really felt like I had been silenced. Technically I was still writing, but it was one of those moments where my body started moving and taking me to the front before I could really think about it. I just went up, on instinct or whatever you’d call it.

Oddly enough as I remember it now, as soon as I got up there the pain I was feeling faded. I worshipped and stood side by side by a whole bunch of other people. Then at some point our pastor said to put our hands up if we needed a body healing of some kind. Again my hand shot up, before I could really think about it. I wasn’t exactly opposed to the idea of being prayed for to be healed but I’d not gone out of my way to seek it either. But I remember thinking ‘What have I got to lose? I know God heals. I’ve seen him do it before. Maybe today’s the day he wants to heal me again.’

So a couple of people came up to pray for me and I have to say what happened next is really really hard to explain. I remember finding it hard to breathe. It was like I couldn’t breathe out though, like something kept wanting to come in and fill me up, and fill me up it did. If I hadn’t known it was God I actually think it would have been rather scary. I felt filled with something incomprehensibly powerful. Something not me, but part of me, all at the same time. I’d felt filled up with stuff before in the presence of God. I’d felt loved and a sense of peace but I’d never felt anything quite so full on ‘it could do anything it wanted to’ powerful before. I guess it’s what I imagine superman must have felt the first time he lifted a car or iron man when he walked into that first barrage of bullets and nothing harmed him. I do also remember thinking ‘holy crap’ a few times as well and I almost laughed aloud at the ironicness of swearing at being filled up with God’s power. I also remember feeling like my insides were on fire, especially my face behind my eyes. They tingled and yeah, it was weird. But eventually it was over and I went home. I felt like something had happened, but I didn’t know what. It really could have been anything.

It wasn’t until the Thursday after I noticed I wasn’t in any pain and I actually couldn’t remember if Sunday had been the last time I had been in pain. Over the next few days I just made a note of how my body was behaving and I noticed I could get up in the mornings. I woke up and I felt okay. Not amazing but I was actually waking up when my husband’s work alarm went off and I didn’t have to persuade my body to get up.

By the following Sunday I mentioned it to a few people. I just told them I felt really good and hadn’t been having any problems. I thought there was a chance I’d been healed. By Tuesday I felt sure enough to tell my church small group and Wednesday morning I stopped taking the pills. Thursday I went for a walk. A 4-5 mile long walk. I went with a friend and do you know what, I felt better than he did when we got back to the house. Other than a few achy muscles that weren’t used to being used I didn’t even feel like I’d been for a walk.

Since then, I’ve had alcohol, caffeine and re-introduced everything else back into my diet but the dairy (the caffeine was interesting. It turns out I’m now so sensitive to it I kept myself awake all night after having about 250ml of dr pepper one afternoon, so I think I’ll be limiting myself to how much caffeine I have, but not for medical reasons). I’m going to try the dairy as well soon but it had a worse effect than anything else so I’m going to do that one gradually.

I’m now sitting looking at my life with the energy I had before, there’s no pain and no problems. I’m not bleeding and I’ve got more energy than my husband! God changed my life. And I don’t actually think He did it because I did anything or followed some magical formula, or said the right words at the right time. I think He did it, just because He could, because He decided that He wanted, in that moment, to give me my life back.

The biggest thought I’m left with is this. I really hope I don’t forget how much I appreciate having my life back. How amazing it feels to be able to do everything I want to, when I want to. How great it is to have choices that don’t hurt. I really hope I choose the right things to do with all this extra time and energy I’ve got. I hope I put it to good use, because it’s a gift. One that can be taken away, and it wasn’t until it was gone that I realised how valuable it was.

How to survive 6 years of marriage

Ok, so this isn’t really a serious how-to post today but it is my 6th wedding anniversary. Whoop!

I often wonder how on earth I managed to persuade a very clever, charming and, in my opinion, handsome man to ask me to marry him, let alone keep him for this long. (I also don’t feel old enough to have been married that long but that’s not today’s point).

Believe it or not, I’m like most creatives, emotionally unstable and seriously high maintenance. He puts up with a lot of that with a smile on his face and doesn’t seem to complain.

Of course things are never perfect, we argue and bicker occasionally and have had low points in our relationship. On top of that I’m sure we’re not totally sorted in how we relate to each other but we have more fun than sadness and we’re nice to each other more than angry. Here’s a few ways I think we’ve managed it.

Firstly, compromise. I know this is one you’ve probably all heard but after having been in a couple of relationships where at least one of us was totally selfish all the time I can say it works better to put the other first and compromise on the differences where both parties are passionate about it. Often it’s actually the little things too, like where to go to eat. Sometimes I really want something, other times I let my husband have the curry he wants even though I don’t (I’d hope you know you’re agreed on the big things like kids and where to live before you marry).

Secondly, respect. This was a huge one for me. I knew I needed a guy who I thought of as smarter than me or I wouldn’t respect him enough in his own right. I’ve got a pretty forcefull and argumentative personality at times and having someone who can reason well, and with sense, often stops me from doing things that are maybe a little dumb and also stops there being any chance of me squashing his personality with mine. He’s secure and I can respect him for being him.

Thirdly, focusing on the positive, not the negative. I actually think this is a principle that works in everything but generally I try to focus on the good aspects of my husband. There are things he does to annoy me, and they can be often, but he’s amazing in other ways. As I said before he puts up with all my many emotional reactions to things. He doesn’t get frustrated when I decide I want to watch the new season of x-factor, the voice, or BGT and then randomly decide I don’t part way through, because it makes me feel sad I can’t sing as well. He’s amazing at fixing my computer problems for me and while I’m in a very financially unstable career he’s happily paying all the bills and putting a roof over my head (me giving up my job was pretty much his idea, he said he’d rather have me happy and even now he says the same thing when I get insecure and think I should be in a ‘real’ job).

Fourthly, knowing love is not how I feel but how I act. This was something I worked out in my late teens, looking at all the marriages and divources in the family around me as well as the reasons people gave for not staying with other people. Loving someone isn’t about how you feel on any given day. There are always going to be days when you don’t feel like being lovely and nice to them and they eat your chocolate, or complain too much because you’ve eaten theirs. But 6 years ago today I made a vow, that whatever things were like, bad or good, sickness or health, rich or poor, whatever the weather, that I would stand by the man who took my hand that day.

Fifthly, spending time together regularly. What is, in my opinion, the most important thing to do. You can’t show someone you love them or keep going in the same life direction if you stop spending time together and let yourselves grow separately. We try to keep at least one night a week to sit down with each other and I can’t count the number of times one of us has said to the other, ‘let’s go do this so we can talk and I can get your opinion.’ We make sure there’s time to tell each other all those little thoughts we’ve had about things and see if we’re on the same page and if there’s going to be some bigger event in our lives we try to make sure we do it together so we can share the experience, especially if it’s going to grow us as people. Growing together is always better than growing apart and over the years people can change a lot. It’s a constant process of getting to know each other and sharing what’s going on inside and that requires time and effort.

Finally, recognising God needs to be in there. I don’t normally mention God here on my blog as I don’t like to be preachy but I really do put it down as being the biggest sole reason I still have a stable marriage. On both sides of my family, through a large number of generations, there are second and third mariages and people still in relationships they are unhappy with, yet somehow I’ve managed to last 6 years and I can still say I’m happily married. In fact more often than not I still look out my husband and feel that warm, fuzzy feeling of being in love, like I used to when we were first together. I put most of that down to the prayer, time spent learning what love is really like when done God’s way and the times we’ve seen God do wonderful things together, on our combined faith and journey.

Things haven’t always been sweetness, roses and puppy dogs in my relationship but for the most part it’s been amazing and even when it’s not been everything I want, it’s still been a lot better than I ever thought I’d manage.

Her Daughter’s Dream: A Review

Her Daughter’s Dream is the second book in the series by Francine Rivers. This book follows Marta from the first book until her death, Hildemara from the first book until she’s in her 90’s, Hildemara’s daughter Carolyn, Carolyn’s daughter May Flower Dawn and then finally, her daughter, Faith. As you can see that’s quite a lot of daughters and the book pretty much brings everything up to the current age.

It leaves off exactly where the previous book ends so I’d actually recommend making sure you’ve got this book sitting in the tbr pile when you start the first one. Francine Rivers seems to be the kind of person who likes doing that with her series books. I had the same problem with her Mark of the Lion trilogy.

I actually prefered the sequel in this case as well. I don’t know for sure if it was because the more modern lives of Carolyn and Dawn were easier to relate to or they just made more mistakes growing up similar to mine but I found I empathised with the two of them more than I had with the previous two. This book also managed to make me cry at several points, very suddenly at one point too. Having a box of tissues handy while reading may well be very wise.

With the conflict between the first two women and the resulting conflict it causes between the next two I admit I was expecting some kind of working through or a resolution at some point during the two books and I wasn’t dissapointed. Although it wasn’t possible to entirely resolved everyone with everyone, (five generations can’t all easily live at once) they did manage to sneak in a few well thought through plot points to make sure Hildemara understood Marta did love her.

While both books focus more on the females of the family than the males there is still some story around the relationships each woman has with their husbands. Some of those men sure had to put up with a lot as well. I felt sorry for them on more than one occasion. They didn’t help either though in some cases. A lot of them had quite the desire to sign up for the military in some way or another. With all the other issues the girls faced it made quite a few of them worse.

Over all I’d be very surprised if Francine Rivers didn’t manage to touch on at least one issue most daughters have with their mothers. There were quite a lot of relationship struggles and misunderstandings and with any luck readers will be able to look at their own relationships in a fresh light. Misunderstandings are sometimes so easy to form and so hard to get rid of.

A Moment In Time

As I’ve already blogged about here I offered to share book 3 as it happened. I also said that it would be based on an idea started here.

My first task was to name my two characters. I had Jordan from the forming ideas post but as I plucked it out of the air I decided to rename him. He’s now become Sherdan. I also needed to name our little Christian girly and I ended up going for Anya. Feel free to let me know what you think of those names and suggest any alternatives if you don’t like them. That’s kinda what me blogging this is going to be about. You get to yay or nay everything (though I do reserve the right to not listen if I really believe myself to be right) and I’m happy to explain my reasonings behind choices.

Sherdan means untamed in celtic and Anya means favour or grace.

With the two names decided upon I would normally then go into the character bio’s and start to get a feel for what the two of them are like as well as start to put some background together for my plot and opening. I’ve not done that yet, however, as I had another moment between our two characters come to me. This was mostly inspired by a very random dream I was having where I was trying to explain to Simon Cowell (I’d auditioned for x-factor) why I didn’t mind that God did things I didn’t understand. So thank you Simon Cowell for your inspiration (isn’t it awesome that you helped and you didn’t even have to try). So here’s the resultant chunk.

A Moment In Time

Anya was still curled up against the wall when Sherdan walked in. He frowned but sat down in his normal seat. She raised her head and smiled at him. Her body was still slumped and she did not hold her head up for long before she put it back down again.

The food he had left for her was untouched. With her weariness so evident this confused him. She had now been in his compound five days and not eaten a single thing. He had moved her to more comfortable quarters as well but she ignored the bed and other furniture and just sat in the corner of the room.

“You still won’t eat,” Sherdan said. She shook her head.

“I am not going to let you read the prophecy just to keep you from starving yourself.”

“That’s not why I am doing it.”

“Why are you?”

“I’m fasting so God gets you to show me the prophecy.”

“You are insane… that makes no sense. You will end up killing yourself. I thought that kind of thing was something Christians frowned upon.”

“I’m not suicidal if that’s what you mean. I’m fasting because God wants me to.”

“God wants you to starve yourself to death?”

“No. I feel God has asked me to carry out this task, of checking the prophecy and I personally find fasting and praying an effective method of achieving things that seem otherwise impossible. I won’t die.”

“I’m confused.”

“Sometimes doing things that don’t make sense ends up being the right thing to do. I am only a single thread in a tapestry. Only God knows the whole design.” Anya paused and rested for a moment. Sherdan waited. He could see she was struggling. Normally he would have cut a Christian off when they were going into this level of their faith but he had to admit her behaviour had his attention.

“The things I do may seem odd or insignificant but God knows what will happen to the threads I am weaved with. The direction every conversation will go. What of the words I speak will have an effect on other people and their decisions. All I have to do is obey and I will see his great work unfold. Already the things I have said and done have had an effect on you.”

Sherdan did his best to hide his shock at her last remark. It was like she had read his mind. Only seconds before he had been pondering the unusualness in him giving someone so seemingly crazy so much of his attention.

“So, can I see that prophecy now?”

Sherdan hesitated, for the first time. He knew he should not but he was unsure how much longer she could last without food and this whacky little Christian was oddly endearing.

When he still did not respond she raised her head again. Her eyebrows raised expectantly.

He looked away as he shook his head and got up to leave. Not yet.


Next time

Ok, the next blog I want to do on these guys I’m going to completely open up to your influence. It’s going to be an interview with Anya. Yup, you read that right. I’m going to let you, the readers, interview Anya. For the rest of the month just comment here with the questions you’d like to ask her. I’ll then come up with the answers to the best ones and post them here for everyone to see. So what are you waiting for, comment below to find out about her.

As Sure As The Dawn: A Review

As Sure As The Dawn is the third and final book in the Mark Of The Lion trilogy by Francine Rivers.

The third book follows one of the more minor characters from the first two parts. Atretes, the German from the Chatti tribe who was taken from his village and forced to be a gladiator, is the main character with the Christian widow, Rizpah as his love interest. It starts off in Ephesus, not long after Atretes has finally won his freedom. Atretes and Rizpah intitally do not like each other very much but they have a common bond, which eventually soothes their relationship, in the form of Atretes son, Caleb. Rizpah is employed as his wet nurse.

They then set out on the very long journey from Ephesus, to Germany and the Chatti tribe. Both characters have a very different approach to travelling and they clash frequently. This often results in Atretes getting the whole family into some kind of danger and then having to be rescued from it by one of the other Christians in the travelling group. Both characters are quite hot tempered and stubborn and it causes many interesting moments for them both.

As it is usually with Francine Rivers, the locations were very accurately and stunningly described and all her research was very well done. I also found these characters even easier to relate to, especially Rizpah. There was something about the way she thought, felt and her reaction to Atrete’s temper that I could understand. I may have had something in common with her stubbornness too, just maybe.

For me the magic was very much in the ending of this book though. It was very well written with plenty of unexpected but fitting twists and turns. I gobbled the book up very late one evening and couldn’t go to sleep until I had finished it.

Definitely a 5 out of 5 stars for this one.