Something That’s Better

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“You are a beggar.” I tisked and shook my head at our nosey Sun Conure, Mango.

Leaning against the kitchen counter, I ran an avocado under the faucet then dried it with paper towel. Avocados are one of my favorite healthy additions to salad, and I try to eat at least one a week. I ignored the needy bird, slicing the fruit in half and twisting it open.

From his perch across the high bar separating our kitchen from the dining room area, Mango jiggled in a beggar bird dance and fluttered his wings in case I’d forgotten he was there.

“Nope. Can’t have this.”

Mango enjoys fruits and a few veggies: apple, blueberry, banana, raisins & grapes, strawberries, mango, broccoli, carrots, and corn. His store-bought bird food contains some of these items as well as all sorts of nuts and seeds and dried fruit.

We give him two or three food treats a day. But he is absolutely not allowed to eat avocados. (Or chocolate.)

Mango and one of his favorite treats–a blueberry.

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I’m not sure why he can’t have avocado, but it’s definitely a no-go.

As I finished scooping out the firm, greenish-yellow avocado halves, my mind wandered familiar paths…school starting for our boys, unsettling issues I’ve been having with my asthma, home remodeling projects undone, the book I’m trying to finish editing before a big writing conference, the writing conference itself…

As they often do, my worn worries turned to whiny prayers. “Lord, why can’t…”

“Help me let this go and trust You…”

“Keep them safe while…”

“Please make it that….”

One particular writing concern, something I’ve been praying specifically about for two years–something that almost worked out recently but ultimately didn’t–weighed so heavily I blinked away frustration tears.

Another prayer trickled from my lips. “Why couldn’t that have…”

Mango eyed the chunks of avocado and dance-strutted across the thick perch over his cage.

I glanced up, shaking my head at the bobbing bird . “You can’t have this. It. Is. Not. Good. For. You. I’ll give you something else that’s better.”

I handed him a sliced almond, and he eagerly grabbed it with his black beak and dug in. (Eating only 5% of it, as birds do.)

And the still small voice, the one God’s given us to guide and direct, nudged and kneaded my heart, still tender about the dream.

“I’ll give you something else that’s better.”

For I know the plans I have for you…

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.

Giving that tender dream back to God…I needed to do it. To be reminded that He’ll give me something that’s better.

If you’re in a similar place…praying, hoping, praying, trying to trust. Maybe downtrodden and discouraged about a closed door, too. Or even confused about something you thought God had planned for you.*

Hold fast to the Hope you have, and trust God’s higher ways. He loves us–He made us–so He knows what’s best for us.

I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord! (Ps.27: 13 & 14)

 

*Praying for you, friend.

 

 

 

Author Interview & Giveaway ~ Brandy Vallance: Within the Veil

Within_the_Veil_sg_Half.jpgI’m excited to welcome my friend, talented author, and sister-in-Christ, Brandy Vallance to my blog! Brandy ‘visited’ a year-and-a-half ago when her debut, The Covered Deep, was released.

Her second historical romance, Within the Veil, released June 28th, and I’m so thrilled to get an opportunity to ask her questions about the characters, her favorite tea(s), and what she learned about gypsies while writing this lyrical romance about a Scottish half-Gypsy and an English palace guard set in Scotland in the late 19th century.

Within the Veil Blurb:

They never should have met. But they might be made for each other.

 Feya Broon, a Scottish half Gypsy, knows what it is to go hungry. Trapped in the Edinburgh tenements with a father lost to his past and only the faded memory of her mother’s faith, Feya is desperate to provide for her siblings. When an ill-conceived plan leads to thievery, she finds herself in the last place she’d ever want to be–captured by a palace guard. But there’s something about this man that tears at every preconceived notion she’s ever had about the haughty English.
 
Alasdair Cairncross never dreamed he’d be forced to transport a Gypsy woman halfway across the wilds of Scotland. The timing is disastrous, considering his fiancée’s imminent arrival and his father’s political goals. Not only that, but the fiery young woman threatens to lay bare secrets Alasdair would rather keep hidden. And yet the farther they travel together, the less concerned he finds himself with duty–both to the crown and to the plans his family has for him.
 
 As their walls begin to crumble, Feya and Alasdair must fight to survive a decades-old feud, a Highland kidnapping, and the awakening of their own hearts.

 

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About Brandy:

Brandy Vallance fell in love with the Victorian time period at a young age, loving the customs, manners, and especially the intricate rules of love. Since time travel is theoretically impossible, she lives in the nineteenth century vicariously through her novels. Unaccountable amounts of black tea have fueled this ambition. Brandy’s love of tea can only be paralleled by her love of Masterpiece Theater Classics, deep conversations, and a good book. Brandy is the 2013 Operation First Novel winner and the 2012 winner of the ACFW Genesis Contest for historical romance. Her novels have been featured in USA TODAY and Writer’s Digest. You can connect with Brandy via her website www.brandyvallance.com, Facebook, Goodreads, Pinterest, YouTube, or Twitter @BrandyVallance.

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K: Let’s begin with the most important question—what kind of tea did you drink/guzzle while writing this amazing story?

B: Ha! Great question. Here we go: PG Tips, Harney & Sons Hot Cinnamon Spice, Celestial Seasonings Bengal Spice, Tazo Earl Grey, Two Leaves and a Bud Organic Assam Breakfast, Twinings Darjeeling, Yorkshire Gold, many other varieties and even some Yerba Mate!

K: Wow, that is quite a variety of tea! Sounds perfect for novel-writing. Speaking of…Within the Veil is your second novel. It’s just as lovely and vivid and emotional as The Covered Deep, your debut. Was it easier, more difficult, or just different crafting your second historical romance?

B: In some ways it was easier and in others it was more difficult. As far as the writing went—the technical aspects—that seemed like muscle memory. I didn’t have to follow a plot structure as heavily as I did with The Covered Deep. It was like my subconscious just knew what to do. I did try to push myself out of my comfort zone, so in that aspect I’ll say that it was more challenging.

K: How does the creation process begin for you? A picture of a person, plot ideas, a particular scene?

B: The only thing I knew starting out was that I wanted to write a Scottish vs. English, enemies to lovers story. At first, I didn’t plan on the Gypsy element. That just showed up in chapter one. Feya’s father started talking about the caravans and the Gypsy fires and I was like what? At that point I threw myself into research about the Gypsies in Scotland and I really liked what I found. Non-writers will find this response a bit on the insane side, but writers will know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s amazing how our subconscious works.

K: Feya and Alasdair are both strong, vibrant, flawed people. Life-like characters who lived and breathed beyond the pages of Within the Veil. I miss them! If you could spend an hour with Feya and an hour with Alasdair, what would you talk about? What do you think they’d say?

K: I miss them too! I still think about Paul & Bianca all the time and I know it’ll always be the same with Feya & Alasdair. Oh, to spend an hour with Feya! Feya is like that wild friend you have who always makes life more interesting. She’s so passionate about everything. There’s really no middle ground for her—she’s either all in or completely against something. She’s just so full of life! I think it would just be fun to sit with Feya and drink tea all night. Listening to her stories would have me laughing so hard I’d be in tears. I’d love to hear about the folklore of Scotland. She drops a lot of mentions of that in the book. And just her expressions are so funny. It’s also hard to pretend with Feya, she’s pretty insightful. So, we’d have many hilarious discussions that would end in deep, authentic, unforgettable conversations.

Now, as far as Alasdair is concerned . . . I’m not sure I’d be saying much. The man is devilishly handsome and that smile . . . He’d get bored with me pretty quickly. I’d just be staring at him the entire time, blushing.

K: Ahhh, Alasdair…*sigh* Okay, moving along. Within the Veil portrays the prejudice Romani Gypsies experienced during the 19th century in Scotland. Intense dislike—in many cases, hatred—and forced separation affected the gypsies’ lives so profoundly. Was the research difficult? Enlightening?

B: The research was very enlightening. I was struck—and saddened—that many of the Gypsies problems from all that time ago have not changed. In 2013 a leading Hungarian journalist—Zsolt Bayer—wrote in Magyar Hirlap (a newspaper): “Most Gypsies are not suitable for cohabitation. They are not suitable for being among people. Most are animals, and behave like animals. They shouldn’t be tolerated or understood, but stamped out. Animals should not exist.” In 2015 a Gypsy shanty town in Paris was raided. Four hundred Gypsies were evacuated. I watched a lot of documentaries and the more I watched the more I wanted to write Feya’s story. To learn a little bit more, this is a very good, brief video on the Gypsy people: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z70wX8wLRtI

K: Which character in Within the Veil was most challenging to get to know? Which character was the most fun to get to know?

B: Ranald Aldourie was the hardest for me to get to know. Some of his motivations didn’t come out until the 4th draft!

I really enjoyed getting to know Alasdair because I gave him a gifting that my son has—synesthesia, a neuropsychological condition where all of the senses are combined. While writing Within the Veil, I asked my son to describe to me how certain things looked. Many of the synesthetic scenes that I put in the book came from his exact descriptions.

K: Yes, Alasdair’s condition added such a fascinating, emotional thread to the story. Publishing is a difficult, unpredictable business. What has been the most challenging part of the writing and publishing journey for you? On the flip side, what has been the most rewarding?

B: I think the most challenging part of writing is always self-doubt. We writers are plagued with it. We’re always battling some personal demon or the other while writing a book. As hard as this is, it is necessary and it is vital. Writing a novel is so hard because it is so important. If you have done it right, people are going to be changed by your writing. I feel that the author has to be personally transformed during the writing of a book for it to be truly powerful, and that’s not an easy process. A lot of vulnerability is involved—or at least it should be—and bleeding on the page is essential.

The most rewarding thing for me is always connecting with readers. Hearing that something you wrote made a difference to them is a really amazing thing. I love seeing pictures of my books with readers. That is a personal favorite. This time I even got to see a picture of your bird, Mango with my book!

K: Oh yes, that was fun getting his picture with the beautiful cover! Here’s Mango and Feya (along with a little piece of popcorn to lure him in).🙂

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K: This reader fan wants to know what’s percolating in your writerly imagination?  

B: Right now I’m working on the second draft of a very fun time travel novella. The working title is All She Never Wanted. The heroine’s name is Gemma and she’s super fun. A bit on the shy side at the opening of the book although she is learning how to stretch her wings. Here’s a bit of the blurb:

 A skilled London bookbinder and paper marbler, when Gemma’s not helping her father’s antiquarian business succeed, she’s hiding in the book stacks. But when reading Bronte leads to her first kiss, she tumbles into an adventure that may require more than she was trained for. Now she must solve an ancient mystery, outwit a secret society, and rescue her kidnapped father, all before being drawn into a manuscript that makes the reader travel through time.

I’m enjoying it and I hope readers will too!

K: What an intriguing blurb! Can’t wait to read it! *Raises hand for the beta reader line.*

Brandy, THANK YOU for stopping by and answering my questions, and for writing such unforgettable stories and characters!

To celebrate the release of Within the Veil, we’re giving away a *signed* copy of the book!

Please leave a comment on my blog or on the Facebook post, and let us know about a story or character that stayed with you (and why, if you’d like.) The giveaway will run from Sunday, July 17th through Friday night, July 22nd (Midnight). Make sure you leave your EMAIL ADDRESS so I can reach you, should I draw your name on Saturday, July 23rd!*

You can connect with Brandy via her website www.brandyvallance.com, Facebook, Goodreads, Pinterest, YouTube, or Twitter @BrandyVallance.

 

*Blog giveaway for U.S. residents only.