Mandy Foster regrets her past. If anyone discovers her secret, tradition dictates she will be shunned. She’s determined to guard her heart, even if it means a lifetime alone.
Breaking from the Land’s tradition, carpenter Levi Colburn is building his house outside the village—across the road from Mandy Foster to be exact. Though he hopes to marry Mandy someday, she rejected him once and has been unattainable to every man in the village ever since. When rebels tear through Good Springs and abduct Mandy, it’s up to Levi to find her. But will she accept the tender care of the one man who truly loves her?
Book Two in the ground-breaking Uncharted series, Uncharted Redemption weaves dramatic new layers into life in the Land.
Uncharted Redemption is available now in paperback, ebook, and audiobook
Levi Colburn hammered a nail into the frame of a house that would end seven generations of family tradition. He straightened his back and surveyed the four completed wall frames—all of which lay flat on the ground, begging to be raised. Ready to see the frame of his house upright, he tied a rope to the top of each wall. Wiping the sweat from his forehead, he glanced at the angle of the morning sun and then at the road through the clearing at the front of his property. Everett was late.
Levi dropped his hammer onto the building site’s leveled ground and stared at the road. He needed Everett’s help to raise the frame but loathed the thought of waiting any longer. As he paced the subfloor, he calculated the logistics of completing the task by himself. If he could get the frame up and the roof on, he could be sleeping in the small house in a matter of days.
He walked across his cleared property to the road to look for Everett. Stagnant air left the usually rustling gray leaf trees still. Without a steady ocean breeze, he found the gray leaf’s pleasant but medicinal aroma potent. He intended to complete his house before the end of the austral summer, so he had to continue the job with or without help—or a breeze. After a quick glance toward the Fosters’ sheep farm, he decided Everett was either too busy or had simply forgotten his promise to help lift the heavy frames. Either way, Levi could not wait another day.
The Fosters’ dog scampered down from its place on the front steps of their farmhouse and bounded to Levi with its tail wagging. He ignored the dog’s giddy greeting and looked down the road toward the village of Good Springs. After confirming his solitude, he turned and walked back to the wall frames on his property.
He surveyed the pieces that would soon form the skeleton of his long-awaited home. Then he looked at the muddy dog licking his boots. “Well, Shep, if I’m meant to live here alone, I can raise the frame alone.” The dog stopped following him and whimpered. He took it as a challenge and marched toward the wall frames. Determined to see his house built, he snatched his hammer from the dust and slipped it through his belt loop. He drew two long planks from a high stack of lumber and carried the wood to the first wall. With a row of nails trapped between his lips, he bent to the grounded frame and hammered the support boards into place.
Confident in his bodily strength, he slid his hands into a pair of leather work gloves and gathered the ropes attached to the top of the wall’s frame. He wrapped the left rope around his left hand and the right rope around his right hand. Gripping the ropes, he walked backward in incremental steps and pulled with steady force until the wall was upright. He moved quickly to the center of the skeletal wall and drove nails through the frame and into the subfloor below. Then he reinforced the wall from the other side.
His pride at conquering the first wall added a slight swagger to his gait as he walked to the lumber stack. He repeated the process on the opposite wall of his new home. While raising the second wall, the muscles in his shoulders burned in protest of such a great demand. He stopped his work after securely bolstering the second wall and stretched his neck deep to one side and then to the other.
As he caught his breath through parted lips, he studied the long wall that would be the back of his house. He mentally gauged its weight while he drew a handkerchief from his trouser pocket. Wiping his face, he looked at the road again and hoped to see Everett Foster.
Still alone—and still determined—Levi secured four pieces of support lumber to the long wall. With his back to the road, he wrapped the ropes around his gloved hands. He imagined the house’s frame complete and conjured every ounce of strength he could to lift the wall from the ground. His muscles strained and trembled as the wall inched away from the dirt. The ropes squeezed tighter around his hands. The wall barely climbed halfway to an upright position when the rope in his right hand snapped. The skewed weight on the other rope jerked it from his hand, pulling the glove off and ripping a chunk of his palm along with it.
He clutched his torn hand to his chest and blew out a growl of pain. The wall frame bounced once when it hit the ground and sent dirt flying into the air. Blood flowed from his hand and dripped between his fingers. He pulled his shirt over his head and wrapped it around his bloody hand. The cloth of the shirt immediately absorbed the warm sticky blood. He stepped off the subfloor and moved toward the road; his stiff breath was stunted by the shock of searing pain.
As he approached the clearing, he saw Mandy Foster standing on the road in front of his property. Shep raced to her, but she did not look at the dog. Her mouth gaped and her green eyes protruded as she stared at his blood-soaked bandage. “Levi!”
Mandy was the last person Levi wanted to see in his current condition. He groaned and wondered if she had witnessed the actions that led to the injury, but he was too preoccupied with physical pain to feel embarrassment. No doubt the barbed blanket of humiliation would be waiting to cover him when the pain subsided.
Mandy ran and met him before he reached the road. “What happened to you?”
He ignored her question, wanting her to go away as much as he wanted her to come closer. He stopped walking and peeled the fabric back from his hand to wrap it tighter. She touched his arm as she looked at his wounded palm. “You have to go to Lydia.”
“It’s just the skin.”
“No, your flesh is torn. You need stitches.”
She was right, but he would not admit it aloud. He struggled with the shirt he was using as a bandage and moaned at the thought of going to his sister for help, even if she were the village’s only doctor. Though the pain’s grip was beginning to lessen, the intense throb of his torn hand made his pulse ring in his ears. He sucked in a breath to speak. “No. If my father sees me wounded from working on the house alone, I will never hear the end of it.”
“Lydia is probably in her cottage. Your father may not see you go to her.” She reached for the bloodied shirt then rewrapped his hand with enough pressure to slow the trickle of blood. He wondered if the blood bothered her and watched her face. She glanced at his bare chest then up at his eyes. Her finely arched brows pulled together. “How did this happen? You weren’t raising the walls alone, were you?”
He was not sure which was worse: ripping his hand open or being questioned by the coquette who once rejected him. He snapped his wounded hand away from her and trudged down the road toward the village. When she caught up and walked beside him, he sighed audibly. “I don’t need a chaperone.”
Her long red curls bounced as she sauntered down the gravel road beside him. “If you lose any more blood, you will need a stretcher.”
He wanted to divert her attention away from his wounded state. He noticed the flecks of wood shavings that clung to the ends of her hair. “What brought you out of your workshop?”
She pointed her proud chin toward the village. “I heard the groans of a pitifully wounded carpenter and decided to escort him to the doctor.” She smiled and assumed a mock cuteness that made him want to pull her hair and run away like he did when they were children. He did not know how to tell her he loved her then, and would not dare tell her now. Not again.
He glanced at his throbbing hand. “Where was your brother this morning? He was supposed to help me raise the walls.”
“Actually, I came to find you on Everett’s behalf.” Her smile faded. “Another lamb went missing last night and Everett left the house before breakfast this morning. He searched until dark when a lamb disappeared three days ago, and I assumed he would do the same today. I knew you expected him to help with your house, so I came to tell you.”
Levi regretted his accusatory tone. He looked across the wide green pasture to his left. The Fosters’ land stretched to the west as far as the horizon. “Your father has a couple hundred sheep. Why is Everett so concerned with a lamb or two?”
“The lambs are precious to Everett. He names them and knows every one of them as if they were his children.” She shook her head. “The disappearance of two lambs in less than a week is troubling. He and my father are both quite mystified.”
Though he heard her full and smooth voice, he was too engrossed in his injured hand to respond. He held up his arm, and a stream of blood dripped from his elbow. He would get the stitches, but he would not suspend the work on his house.
Mandy continued her chatter as they walked across the Colburn property to Lydia’s medical cottage. Levi hoped his father would not be outside and was relieved to make it past the main house and to the cottage without being noticed.
Mandy did not bother knocking on the cottage door. She opened it and immediately sang out, “Doctor Bradshaw, you have a patient.” Levi rolled his eyes.
Lydia was not inside the entry-level medical office. Levi walked to the staircase and looked up to the door of Lydia and Connor’s bedroom. Though his sister had been married for over a year, he still could not take the thought of her upstairs alone with her husband. He considered sending Mandy up to get Lydia when the door opened.
Lydia descended the stairs. “Good Morning, Levi.” She smiled at him, but then shock replaced her gracious welcome as her eyes landed on his bloody hand. “What have you done?” She hurried him to the patient cot then unwrapped the ruined shirt from his hand and examined the damage. She turned to the cabinets on the wall near the cot. He caught her rapid movements in his peripheral vision, but he did not look at her. Medicine bottles clanked, followed by the sound of liquid pouring.
Lydia returned to the cot with a shallow pan half-filled with tepid water. She washed his wound and wiped it with a rag dipped in oil from the gray leaf tree. The oil’s pungent fumes made him blink. Lydia grinned. “It’s strong, I know. This is a new method I have developed. The gray leaf penetrates the injury more rapidly.”
“Are you going to experiment on me while I bleed to—” His question dissipated as the power of the gray leaf tree seeped into his hand and engaged his system. His nerves settled and heat flowed into his body where the blood had drained out. His breath steadied and euphoric warmth slowed his pulse. Something tingled deep in his hand as the gray leaf’s strength overpowered his pain. Then the sensation was gone and so was the pain.
He gazed up at Mandy, who stood near the cot pulling a curl of hair through her fingers. With the gray leaf medicine coursing through his veins, his heart did not ache when he looked at her. Her fingertips swirled the cord of red hair around and around until the curl was as taut as a spring. Her mouth moved as she spoke to Lydia with that fluid voice. He liked the sound of it until he realized Mandy was talking about him.
“He nearly ripped his hand off trying to raise his house by himself. He didn’t want to come to you at all, but I forced him. I’m not sure what he would have done if I hadn’t arrived when I did. He bled the entire mile walk here.”
“I can speak for myself, Amanda.” Levi straightened his posture in an effort to retain some of his dignity. He felt childish sitting there on the patient cot with two women fussing over him, though the humiliation was a faint echo of what it would be if his father walked in. The relief brought by the gray leaf had also given him a slight sense of apathy, which he found unusual and comforting.
Lydia prepared a suture, then she sat on the cot beside him. She pulled his hand onto her lap and began stitching to close the wound. He looked away and noticed Mandy’s face as she watched the needle. Her fingers halted their curl twirling and her nostrils flared. Though her queasiness gave him a twinge of satisfaction, he wanted her to leave. “Thank you for your valiant effort in seeing me to the doctor, Mandy. You’re free to go now.”
Mandy turned her back to them and faced the window for a moment. “Yes, perhaps I will be going.” She had her hand over her stomach, and he almost felt pity for her.
“Thank you for helping my brother, Mandy.” Lydia’s eyes focused on her stitching. She did not look up as Mandy left the cottage.
Levi stared at his hand, surprised that watching the needle and thread pass in and out of his flesh did not bother him. The numbness from the gray leaf oil made his arm feel as if it were detached from his body. He doubted he would ever understand the wonders of medicine as Lydia did, but he was grateful nonetheless.
Lydia tied a knot and cut the silk thread. “I assume Mandy spoke the truth—you did this working alone.” He gave no reply. Lydia glanced at him before she stood and stepped over to the countertop next to the patient cot. “The village needs your carpentry skills, but you won’t be able to work if you get your hands ripped off. And you are a grown man, so I should not scold you.”
“Father will do it for you.”
“No, I don’t think he will.” She took a small jar of gray leaf salve from the cabinet and returned to the cot. Then she covered his stitched palm with a thick layer of the ointment and began to wrap his hand in a clean gauzy bandage. “Father has granted you the freedom you desired and the land to build your own house. Perhaps he took longer to come to that decision than your patience afforded. Regardless, he has yet to present the hostility you seem to expect from him.”
From where he sat on the patient cot, Levi could see out the front window of Lydia’s office. Between the thin curtains he had a clear view of the back door to the home he was born in. The imposing structure cast a shadow over her cottage, just as it had over his life. “Things may have changed some because of Connor’s arrival, but I don’t feel this great sense of acceptance from Father like you do.”
Lydia finished bandaging his hand and he examined it. The gray leaf medicine kept it numb. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome.” She piled the bloody rags in a ceramic bowl and lifted a corner of his once-beige shirt, which was now drenched in red. “I believe this is ruined.” She released the garment and wiped her hands, then pointed at his arm. “Move your fingers.”
He wiggled his fingertips under the gauzy material to demonstrate their dexterity. “Much better.” He stood to leave, believing the ordeal was over.
“You haven’t been released from my care.” She lifted an eyebrow and smiled as she stepped to her desk. “Lie back for a few minutes. I’ll tell you when you can go, but you won’t be returning to work today. Your injury will heal quickly and completely, but you must rest.”
The medicine left him lightheaded—or perhaps it was the loss of blood—but he would never confess it. He sighed and obeyed the doctor, even though she was his sister. Stretching his legs out on the cot, he laid his bandaged hand across his bare chest. No matter how he tried to center his thoughts on his building plans—even the pleasure of being sated by the smell of freshly hewn lumber—his mind continually returned to the fantasy of one day sharing his house with Mandy.
* * *
Uncharted Redemption is available now in paperback, ebook, and audiobook
Lydia Colburn is a young physician dedicated to serving her village in the Land, an undetectable island in the South Atlantic Ocean. When Lt. Connor Bradshaw’s parachute carries him from the war engulfing the 2025 world to Lydia’s hidden land, his mission could expose her simple society. As Connor searches for a way to return to his squadron, his fascination with life in the Land makes him protective of Lydia and her peaceful homeland, and Lydia’s attraction to Connor stirs desires she never anticipated. But will they be able to keep the Land hidden?
The Land Uncharted is available now in paperback, ebook, and audiobook
Lydia Colburn refused to allow a child to bleed to death. Pulling a sprig of gray tree leaves out of her wind-whipped hair, she rushed inside the farmhouse and found the injured boy sprawled across the bed exactly as Mr. McIntosh had said she would. She dropped her medical bag on the floor beside Mrs. McIntosh, who was holding a blood-soaked rag against young Matthew’s lower leg.
Lydia touched Matthew; his skin felt clammy and his breath came in rapid spurts. “He’s still losing blood. Get the pillows out from under his head.” She slid her hands beneath his fractured limb and gently lifted it away from the mattress. “Put them here under his leg.”
Mrs. McIntosh’s thin hands shook as she moved the pillows. “I gave him tea from the gray leaf tree as soon as his father brought him in the house.” Her voice cracked. “I know he doesn’t feel the pain now, but it hurts me just to look at him.”
“You did the right thing.” Lydia maintained her professional tone as she opened her bag and selected several medical instruments. She peeled back the bloody rag, revealing the fractured bone. Its crisp, white edges protruded through his torn skin. “You’re going to be all right, Matthew. Do you feel any pain?”
“No, but it feels weird. I don’t like it.” His chin quivered as he spoke. He stared at his mother with swollen eyes.
Mrs. McIntosh drew her lips into her mouth as she fought the urge to cry. Her hand passed over his head with rigid strokes. “You’re going to be fine, Matthew. Miss Colburn will fix it.”
When Lydia put her hands on the boy’s leg, he recoiled and screamed. It was not from pain but from terror. With his fractured leg tucked close to his body, Matthew buried his face into the ribbing of his mother’s dress. Lydia gave Mrs. McIntosh a chance to muster her courage and make her son cooperate, but instead she coddled him. Though Lydia appreciated a nurturing mother, this was no time to help a child hide his wound. “Your mother is right. You’re going to be just fine.” She reached for his leg again. “You don’t have to look at me, but you must leave your leg on the pillow. Matthew? Let me straighten your leg.”
Mrs. McIntosh glared at the bloody wound and then began to weep. “Oh, Matt, I’m so sorry. My poor baby!”
“Mrs. McIntosh?” Lydia raised her voice over the woman’s sobs. “Mrs. McIntosh? Rebecca! I know this is hard, but please, be calm for Matthew’s sake. I need you to help me. Can you do that?”
Mrs. McIntosh sniffled and straightened her posture. “Yes. I’m sorry, Lydia.”
“I need more light. Do you have another lamp in the house?”
“Yes, of course.” Mrs. McIntosh wiped her nose on her sleeve and scurried out of the room.
Relieved that Mrs. McIntosh was gone, Lydia caught the boy’s eye. She touched his foot with both hands. “Matthew, you must lie still while I work on your leg. You won’t feel any pain since you were a good boy and drank the gray leaf tea your mother made, but now you have to be brave for me and hold still. All right?” She was prepared to hold him down but loathed the thought. Matthew seemed to understand her seriousness and allowed her to move his broken leg back onto the pillow. She worked quickly and methodically until the bleeding was under control. She cleaned his flesh with gray leaf oil, then looked into the open wound and aligned the bone.
Mrs. McIntosh’s footsteps echoed in the hallway, but Lydia was not ready for the anxious mother’s return. “Please, bring some cold water and a few clean rags first. I need them more than I need the extra light.” Lydia gave her voice enough volume for Mrs. McIntosh to hear her without entering the room.
She glanced at her patient’s face as she continued to work. His eyes were clenched shut. Her heart ached for the pallid and broken boy. “I heard you had a birthday recently, Matthew. How old are you now? Fifteen? Sixteen?”
Matthew opened his eyes but stared at the ceiling. “I’m seven,” he slurred through missing teeth. His respiration had settled; the gray leaf’s healing power was beginning to take effect.
“Ah, I see you’ve lost another baby tooth.” She cut a piece of silk thread for suture and kept the needle out of his sight while she threaded it. “Soon you will have handsome new adult teeth.”
Matthew closed his eyes again and lay still. Mrs. McIntosh walked back into the room with a pitcher of water in her hands and a wad of kitchen towels tucked under her elbow. She set the water jug on the floor beside Lydia’s feet and bundled the rags on the bed. “Is that enough?”
“Yes, thank you.”
“I’ll be right back with the lamp.” Mrs. McIntosh vanished from the room again.
Lydia covered the stitches with a thick layer of gray leaf salve. As she wrapped his leg loosely with clean muslin, she heard Mr. McIntosh enter the house. Mrs. McIntosh spoke to her husband in a hushed tone then walked into the room holding a lit oil lamp.
Mrs. McIntosh sighed. “Oh, thank heavens you’re done.” She set the lamp on a doily-covered table beside the bed then sat on the edge of the mattress beside Matthew. “He’s asleep,” she whispered.
Lydia slathered her hands with the disinfecting gray leaf oil then wiped them on a clean rag. As she gathered her medical instruments, Mr. McIntosh stepped into the room.
He cleared his throat. “Is there anything I can do?”
Lydia glanced at Mr. McIntosh. “I need a couple thin pieces of wood to splint his leg, if you don’t mind.”
Mr. McIntosh nodded and left the house. A moment later, he returned with two flat, wooden shingles. Lydia used them to splint Matthew’s leg, then she began to clean and pack her instruments. As she worked, she gave Mr. and Mrs. McIntosh instructions for bandaging and cleaning his leg. Then she handed Mrs. McIntosh a jar of gray leaf salve. “Use this twice a day on the wound. With rest and proper use of the medicine he should heal completely in a few days.”
Lydia followed Mr. and Mrs. McIntosh out to the porch. Stars crowded the clear sky and crickets’ intermittent chirps pierced the cool night air. Lydia’s horse snorted as Mr. McIntosh gathered the reins and walked it to her.
“Thank you, Lydia.” Mrs. McIntosh fanned her face with her hands.
Mr. McIntosh removed his wide-brimmed hat and wiped his brow with a cotton handkerchief. “It seems too dangerous of a job for a woman—taking the forest path alone at night like you did to get here.” He put his hat back on his head and dabbed at the sweat on his neck. “I’m grateful you got here in time to save my boy, no doubt about it, but the way you rushed down the forest path instead of taking the main road scared me. Granted you beat me back here by twenty minutes, but still it’s too dangerous at night to—”
“The cover of darkness does not mean I’m released from duty.” She stepped around Mr. McIntosh and strapped her medical bag to the saddle.
He nodded then handed her the reins. “That’ll be the last time Matthew climbs to the roof of the barn.”
“Yes. Please see to it.” She smiled and tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear.
“I heard your family will be gathering tomorrow night to celebrate Isabella’s seventy-fifth birthday. How about I deliver a lamb roast as your payment?”
“That sounds fine. I’ll tell my father to expect you.” She mounted her horse. “I know Aunt Isabella will be glad to have roast lamb at her party.”
“A lamb it is. Thank you, Miss Colburn. Oh, and do take the road back to the village. I’d never forgive myself if something happened to you on your way home.”
* * *
The Land Uncharted is available now in paperback, ebook, and audiobook
I am learning where my boundaries are as a writer. God is so graciously enclosing me behind and before and laying His hand upon me. He has given me boundaries out of His love for me and His purpose for my writing so my creativity will flourish and define my unique approach to storytelling.
I write stories about make believe people in an imaginary land who live in simplicity yet go through improbable situations that somehow parallel our lives. No matter the characters and the plot, my stories have the same theme. It is the core message the Lord has given me to share: You can trust God.
In The Land Uncharted, Lydia and Connor had to trust God’s sovereignty. In Uncharted Redemption, Levi and Mandy had to trust God’s forgiveness. In Uncharted Inheritance, Bethany and Everett had to trust God with their future. In Christmas with the Colburns, Lydia had to trust God with her family. When I went back in time to tell the history of the Land, the same theme flowed. In Aboard Providence, Jonah and Marian had to trust God’s unfailing provision.
I’ve heard writers muse about writing for an audience of one. While that sounds uber spiritual—and famously singable—I don’t write for God. I pray I write for God’s glory, meaning what I write points the reader to God’s redemptive plan. But I write for the readers who need to hear the core message He has given me.
I hear from readers in their eighties and in their late teens, but most are in their thirties and forties. My readers are mostly women, but occasionally I hear from men. From the messages my readers send, I know many are similar to me in temperament, ideals, and dreams. I’ve learned a few other things about my average reader too…
She grew up reading or watching Little House on the Prairie. Though there was a 50/50 chance her parents had divorced, she dreamed of someday marrying a man like Charles Ingalls. She was raised in a Christian home or was around the Christian faith enough it affected her thoughts and conscience. She might be a devout Christian now, or she might be seeking God (whether she realizes it or not). She loves to learn but doesn’t want to be preached at. She enjoys American history and is enthralled by herbal remedies and organic gardening, even if she doesn’t have the time or skill to keep a houseplant alive.
She wishes life were simpler and fantasizes about throwing her phone out the car window on the commute from work to her kid’s ballgame or her zillionth errand or a chemo appointment. She dreams of homeschooling her children on a self-sustaining 40-acre plot in the middle of nowhere while she still has time with them or about raising the children she is still trusting God for in a simple lifestyle or about getting her daughter-in-law to limit her grandkids’ screen time. Either way, she grits her teeth when she pays the bills each month and sees how much money is spent on data.
In all of this yearning for a simple life, she curls up in bed at night with a book to escape the clutches of click bait and reality television. She might not be in her own bed. I’ve received enough letters from readers to know it’s likely she’s reading in a hospital bed or sitting beside a loved one who is in hospice.
The book she chose to read tonight probably has a sweeping landscape on the cover and maybe a woman in a dress from a bygone era. It’s usually a paperback, but it might be an ebook because she didn’t have the energy to get to the bookstore or library. If it is an ebook, she wishes it were a physical book for the feel of the paper and the smell of the ink. She imagines reading it by the light of an oil lamp with the thud of horse hooves stamping onto her property, announcing the return of her faithful husband from some noble and manly adventure.
She might have a husband who is truly noble and faithful, or he might have left her for a career or mistress or alcohol or Heaven, or he might not be in the picture yet or never will be. She might have regrets or she might be at peace with her relationships. Regardless, she believes people—men and women—can and should treat each other in a chaste, temperate, charitable, diligent, patient, kind, and humble way. She wants those qualities exemplified in the books she reads while she dreams of her own noble adventures.
Wherever she reclines and whatever pain she is in, she reads for comfort and encouragement. She reads to know she is not alone. She reads for someone to show her: you can trust God, even with this—whatever her “this” might be.
In the late 17th Century, Boston publisher Benjamin Harris reprinted portions of his English Protestant Tutor, added new material designed for the American colonies, and called it The New England Primer.
The Primer was the first reader specifically made for the American colonies. It was widely used in schools, promoting literacy and instilling Puritan culture into early American thought by rote memorization of protestant doctrine.  Over 450 editions and adaptations were created, including the Indian Primer, which was printed in 1781 in English and Mohawk. The First Great Awakening (1730s-1740s) influenced changes in the Primer to focus on God’s love rather than God’s wrath.
The New England Primer was the most published and used schoolbook in America in the 18th Century. An estimate 6-8 million copies had been sold by 1830, yet only about 1,500 still exist. This attests to the Primer’s use, especially by children.
It began to fall out of use after Noah Webster’s Blue Back Speller (1790). Webster said of the Primer: “It taught millions to read, and not one to sin. Let us thank God for having given us such ancestors, and let each successive generation thank Him not less fervently for being one step further from them in the march of ages.” Oh, the myriad steps we’ve taken away from those values in the 200 years since Webster’s comment!
Photos of my copy of The New England Primer. Albany: Joel Munsell’s Sons, 1887. Facsimile of 1777 edition. (80) pages. 5.25 x 3.5″, leather spine, blue paper boards.
 The New-England Primer. (2016). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/topic/The-New-England-Primer
My 1827 copy of A New Abridgement Of Murray’s English Grammar
I collect books. Not surprising for an author, I know, but the books I collect aren’t on most wish lists.
I only collect certain antique textbooks. My favorites are pre-1860 American schoolbooks because I imagine these books could have been taken to the Land with the founders in my Uncharted series. Good condition is a plus, but I love little notes and doodles by students. I also find fading, foxing, and crackly pages charming.
Title page of A New Abridgement Of Murray’s English Grammar
Since this hobby is strongly linked to my fiction series, I decided to feature some of these wonderful old schoolbooks. I refer to them in my stories and sometimes show a character reading or holding one. Today I present an 1827 copy of A New Abridgement Of Murray’s English Grammar. The actual title is: A New Abridgement Of Murray’s English Grammar, with questions, containing all that is generally used in the duodecimo and octavo editions, condensed and arranged to facilitate the learner.
The author, Lindley Murray, died in 1826, so it’s understandable the publisher didn’t consult him on the alteration.
Lindley Murray was an American Quaker born at Swatara, Pennsylvania in 1745. After the American Revolution, he moved to England where he wrote many prominent textbooks, including Murray’s English Grammar.
According to the now public domain article by Charlotte Fell Smith (1894): His attention was… drawn to the want of suitable lesson-books for a Friends’ school for girls in York, and in 1795 he published his ‘English Grammar.’ The manuscript petition from the teachers requesting him to prepare it has been religiously preserved. The work became rapidly popular; it went through nearly fifty editions, was edited, abridged, simplified, and enlarged in England and America, and for a long time was used in schools to the exclusion of all other grammar-books.
You can see and feel the press marks in the paper. Love the old process!
Lindley was married 57 years and had no children. He wrote and published 11 textbooks. Hundreds of thousands of copies of his books were used in schools around the world. Through his books, he taught more children than most of us ever will.
 Smith, Charlotte Fell (1894). “Murray Lindley”. Dictionary of National Biography. 39. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
As a writer, people often tell me something and then immediately ask, “Are you going to put that in one of your books?”
The answer is always no. It doesn’t matter what antidote was relayed, what supposed fact was spouted, or what tidbit of unsubstantiated gossip was deposited. I’m not putting your story in my book. I may take note of how the person paused and chuckled before delivering the punch line of a joke, or how she glanced side to side and lowered her voice as she spread her gossip, or how the tip of his nose turned pink long before he came to the sad part of his story. That might end up in a book.
Gesture, tone, response—these are the things I look for, but not just in my interactions with people. [bctt tweet=”One of a writer’s best tools is the misunderstood art of people watching.”] I say misunderstood because often when I’m sitting alone, someone thinks I’m lonely and comes to talk to me. When I’m people watching, I’m working.
Here are some of my favorite places to people watch:
Songwriter John Mayer nailed this one in his song Wheel: “Airports see it all the time where someone’s last goodbye blends in with someone’s sigh cause someone’s coming home.” Airports are a parade of human experience. It’s in the pastor praying over departing missionaries, the businesswoman stomping toward her gate and the rhythm of her suitcase wheels rolling on the tile behind her, the soldier’s welcome home kiss with his wife, who holds their newborn.
Not quite as dramatic in emotional depth, but bubbling with frustration, chaos, and teen angst, a shopping mall is a like a catalogue of human features. The faces range from the overwhelmed mommy who brought the double stroller but neither of her toddlers will stay in it, to the Botoxed suburbanite dashing from Macy’s to Banana Republic, to the senior citizens in tapered-leg jeans and arch-supporting sneakers powerwalking around and around until their step counters beep two miles.
A tour of several different types of churches is necessary for the full scope of church people watching. Every church has its own culture and feel, but I’ve noticed some commonalities in the sanctuary pre-service. Watch the pastor’s wife, flustered as she wrangles her four children into the second pew from the front, suddenly straighten her posture and broadened her smile when the congregants start to arrive. Watch the early birds who sit in their routine seats, sigh with contentment, and absorb the peace. Watch the middle-aged man who slips into the room halfway through the service, perches on the edge of the back pew, and drops his face into his hands.
These are the things from real life that end up in my books, and not the circumstances, but the emotion conveyed through the slightest gesture. If you’re a writer, go people watching for inspiration. If you’re a reader, check out The Land Uncharted and see if you enjoy how my hobby of people watching enlivens my writing.
This post written by Keely Keith originally appeared on Krysten Lindsay’s Blog, December 2014.
Releasing a book is kind of like dressing a kid for his first day of school. You wave goodbye as the school bus drives away and pray your baby doesn’t get picked on. He will. At some point. And so will your book.
Even if your book never gets a low rating, most authors are sensitive enough to be hurt by the barbed remarks floating in 4- and 5-star reviews. And of course we all want to believe only mean-spirited trolls post 1- and 2-star reviews. Sometimes that’s the case. Sometimes negative reviews are the legitimate opinions of readers who simply did not enjoy the book.
Either way, reviews are often painful for authors. We eagerly await them, expect them to be filled with praise for our hard work, then read them and want to drink what’s under the sink. [bctt tweet=”Your reaction to negative reviews might determine the length of your writing career.”]
Don’t let it be the death of yours. Here are a few tips for handling negative reviews:
Don’t read reviews. Yes, I’m serious. Reviews are not for authors. Reviews are written by consumers for consumers. Stop visiting your Amazon page (which hurts your page’s ranking if you don’t purchase your book every time you land on the page, by the way). Stop searching online for your name and your book title. Cancel your Google Alerts related to your author name and your books. Replace this unhealthy behavior with writing your next book.
If you do read something in a review that offends you, do not re-read the review for at least 3 days, if at all.
Do not respond to the review. Some people thrive on expressing negative opinions. Some people thrive on getting attention or being involved in drama, especially with a public figure, which you are now that you are a published author. Their words might upset you, depending on the source and scope. Regardless of their motivation, tone, or method, you cannot respond to them or to the public about them. Ever.
Seek any underlying nuggets of truth that can be used to better your next work. While there are meanies out there and jealous writers and trolls, often the negative comments that sting the most are the ones that point out truth. You can ignore preferences (I hated this book because it was written in third person), and you can ignore poorly written reviews (I thing you’re book was dum), but you can choose to accept constructive feedback (…so much backstory I forgot what the book was about) and use it to make your next book better.
Look for pull quotes to use if the negative review is in a reputable publication. I once grumbled to an established author about a review of one of my books. She read the review and said it was a treasure trove of pull quotes. She showed me what lines she would use in marketing if it were one of her books. Suddenly, I only saw unique concept and enjoyable plot and original setting.
Screenshot every positive comment you come across and every kind message from readers. Save them in a folder called Encouragement. Then when you come across something negative, open your Encouragement folder and absorb all the positive things others have said about the same book.
Keely Brooke Keith is the author of The Land Uncharted (Edenbrooke Press) and Aboard Providence (CrossRiver Media, coming October 2016). Keely lives on a hilltop south of Nashville where she dreams up stories about imaginary lands. She is a member of ACFW.
This post written by Keely Brooke Keith originally appeared on CBE Author Blog.
I recently asked a few authors if they could give a new writer one sentence of advice, what would it be. From award winning authors, New York Times best sellers, and powerhouse indies, here are their replies:
“Develop perseverance, a thick skin, and a love of rewriting because it takes all three to last more than a year in a writing gig.” – Angela Hunt, Christy Award winning author with more than four million copies of her books sold worldwide
“Measure your success as a writer in terms of things you can control—writing to the best of your ability, making your page count, finishing a project—not in terms of things you can’t.” – Lisa Wingate, Christy Award winning author of The Story Keeper
[bctt tweet=”“Measure your success as a writer in terms of things you can control.” – Lisa Wingate”]
“Invest time and money in books, magazines, classes, conferences, critique groups, and webinars on the craft of writing, and then hang out with interesting people.” – Kathy Nickerson, award winning author of Thirty Days to Glory
“To help you find your voice, visualize the one person you know who best represents your target audience and write as if you’re writing personally to him or her.” – Jennifer Case Cortez
“Starting a novel is like any new relationship; make your book feel special or it will get bored with you.” – Cynthia Port, author of Kibble Talk
“Find a critique partner or group who write in your genre so you will grow as a writer, learn the craft, and forge deep friendships with kindred spirits based on the work you critique and the critiques you’ll receive.” – Heidi McCahan, author of Unraveled
“If you know you’re supposed to be writing, prepare to push past multiple rejections, harsh critiques, and disheartening feedback to the reward at the end of the tunnel: finding your true readers, who will enjoy your books and tell others about them!” –Heather Day Gilbert, author of God’s Daughter
“Learn to thrive—in the struggle, in the joy, in the creative process—flourish in the messiness of it all.” – Christina Yother, author of the Hollow Hearts series
“Study and know your genre back and forth, and make sure your cover, blurb, and contents all align with what the reader expects from that genre.” – Victorine E. Lieske, New York Times and USA Today best selling author
“You are the only person in the entire world that can write what you do, so believe, keep going and shine.” – Megan Easley-Walsh
“Take advice and guidance from experienced editors and fellow authors, but never allow them to change the story you feel driven to write.” – Paul Cwalina, author of Dropping Stones
“Write even when you don’t feel like it.” – Lindsey M. Bell, author of Searching for Sanity
“Don’t write what’s trending and don’t write for the market, rather, dig deep and write the story God purposed only you to tell.” – Brenda S. Anderson, author of the Coming Home series
“Take a day of rest from your writing–that means promoting it as well!” – Lauren H. Brandenburg, author of The Books of The Gardener Series
“Don’t make it hard for people to find you.” – Marianne Sciucco, author of Kindle bestseller Blue Hydrangeas, an Alzheimer’s Love Story
“Read, read, read and write, write, write.” – RJ Thesman, author of the Reverend G series
“Write what inspires you and not what you think will inspire readers.” – T.I. Lowe, best selling author of Lulu’s Café
“Write from the secret places of your soul; only by risking your heart can you craft a powerful story that will touch readers.” Katy Huth Jones, author of Leandra’s Enchanted Flute
“Read your work aloud—it will show you your grammar errors, but more importantly it will teach you cadence and rhythm and help you find your voice.” – C.M. Keller, author of Screwing Up Time, an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Quarterfinalist
“If you want to grow as a writer, never be satisfied with your original efforts: you must fearlessly self-edit and rewrite.” – Sarah Ashwood, author of The Sunset Lands Beyond series
“Write what you want to know, and teach your readers as you learn.” – Lars D. H. Hedbor, author of Tales From a Revolution Series
“Never give up because the only good writing is rewriting.” – Steve Stroble, author of Fool’s Gold
“Write the story you feel in your heart, not the one others tell you to write.” – Shannon L. Brown, award winning author of The Feather Chase
“Join a critique group and never stop honing your craft!” – Regina Tittel, author of the Ozark Durham series
“Take the time to find your own voice and when you do, don’t be afraid to use it.” – Barbara Hartzler, author of The Nexis Secret
“Join a supportive group online or face to face, where you can collaborate with other writers.” – Melissa Miles, author of Burning Prospects
“Writing is a gift of expression and creativity; don’t be afraid to share the work, improve the stories, and learn life lessons along the way.” – Julie Gilbert, author of the Devya’s Children Book series
“When faced with a roadblock, press on with courage.” – Nancy Kay Grace, author of The Grace Impact
Post originally appeared on KeelyBrookeKeith.blogspot.com, August 2015.