We still have an answering  machine in our home.


It’s stuck on the wall between our kitchen and dining room, a 20th Century relic I just can’t part with.

My husband has grumbled about getting rid of our home phone and the machine, but I have a couple long-distance friends I talk with regularly, and I despise talking on my cell phone. So understanding hubby set it up that when we’re home and calls come in on our cell phones, we can answer on the home phone.

When the number blinks, we have new messages. Either an “IRS” rep demanding we call NOW before our bank account explodes or the ortho office reminding me about my older son’s appointment.

{Thank goodness the political season is over.}

But there are five saved messages that will never get deleted from our compact answering machine. In Lord of the Rings dialect, they’re my PRECIOUS.

They’re cheerful, congratulatory female voices letting me know You’re A Semifinalist or You’re A Finalist.

When I met one of the lovely message-leavers at a local writing conference last year, I started the conversation with, “Your voice is on my answering machine.” She got that deer-in-the-headlights look (in Florida, it’s more like squirrel-in-the-headlights) until I explained who I was and why her voice was on my machine. Then we laughed.

Those five saved messages slowly added up, little numbers that equaled Fulfilled Promises of this writing dream that took root decades ago and grew, bit by bit, until it stretched my aching heart.

Until this happened last weekend.


It’s a gift I still can’t fully believe and am so grateful for.

But there were other messages along the winding, wondering years, too. I see them more clearly now. Emails that healed the tender ache, notes that pressed me forward despite longing to give up.

Words prayed over me that wrapped me in the Father’s love.

Messages from writer friends, encouraging words just when I needed them. And messages in God’s Word.

“But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good.”

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks.”

“Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.”

“Forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

“But none of these things move me, nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”

Are you on a heart journey? Traveling a path you know you’re supposed to, but the end is out of sight? I’m not there yet either friend, and I’m realizing in shades of blinding, sunset beauty…that’s the point.

The goal isn’t the final objective. The goal is the journey–and the messages we leave and receive along the way. They’re grace and friendship and love and selflessness.

Here are a few pictures from the ACFW conference and Gala last weekend.


Cathy Gohlke, my favorite historical author. What a blessing to meet her!



Sweet author Lynne Pleau. She’s also from Newtown!


A writer and a gentleman, Joseph Courtemanche. He taught a class about basic weaponry at ACFW!



Fun, encouraging friends Deanna & Lucy. What a joy to laugh & celebrate with other writers!



Fellow finalist Deborah Clack. A sweet, funny fellow writer I’m so glad I had the chance to meet!



What a blessing that my mom and sister joined me this weekend.


Award ACFW
Just, you know, sleeping with my Genesis award Saturday night. 🙂



That this even has my name on it still makes me catch my breath. SO thankful!


“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you.”

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.



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, Facebook, Goodreads, Pinterest, YouTube, or Twitter @BrandyVallance.


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:

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). 🙂


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, Facebook, Goodreads, Pinterest, YouTube, or Twitter @BrandyVallance.


*Blog giveaway for U.S. residents only.