Meet Heirs of Ireland Author Michael K. Reynolds

Need a gift for a special Dad this Father’s Day?  Let me recommend a book series I just finished reading–The Heirs of Ireland by Michael K. Reynolds.

When I first met Michael at Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference, he was giving away gold-foiled chocolate pieces tagged with the cover of his first book, Flight of the Earls, which released in 2013.

The story traces the plight of an Irish potato farmer who sends his two oldest children, Clare and Seamus Hanley, to America to seek their fortunes. The father believes the brother and sister will send money home to save his family. But arrival in America plunges the siblings into dire circumstances and they live like rats in a poverty-stricken neighborhood. No money makes it to Ireland.

The second story, In Golden Splendor, follows Seamus’s journey to California where the 1849 gold rush is on. He has fled the mountains of Colorado after being branded a horse thief and a deserter from the U.S. Army, finding new purpose in a letter he discovers while pilfering through a lost load of mail. In his pocket he carries the picture of  Ashlyn, a woman stranded in San Francisco whose plea for help drives him. The lust for gold and the environment it breeds are described in  gritty detail.  Meanwhile, sister Clare remains in New York and wonders if she’ll ever see her brother again.

The third story in the series,  Songs of the Shenandoah, just released his spring, finds Seamus once again serving the military, this time as a chaplain for the Confederate army. His beloved wife, Ashlyn, has returned to her family’s farm in the South and in the face of war Seamus must either serve as a soldier for a cause he doesn’t believe in or follow his newfound faith ministering to the wounded. Sister Clare fights her own battles in New York writing for a doomed daily newspaper.

I recommend the entire series. Once you are hooked on the struggles of Clare and Seamus as they venture to America, you’ll want to know the entire story. Men and women alike will find their adventures thrilling, the writing fresh, and the history compelling. Available in bookstores, on Amazon.com, and at Christianbook.com (CBD)as singles, a series, or on Kindle. Just in time for Father’s Day.

 

Giving Thanks for the Honorable People Around Us

Today I left my purse in a shopping cart.

I climbed in my car and drove away. I didn’t discover the bag missing until I arrived home. I wish I could tell you I prayed before I panicked. But that would be a lie. I panicked first.

I whipped my car back into the street and hurried back to the busy shopping center where I’d left the cart. Visions of missing credit cards, the stash of cash I’d just gotten at the bank for the weekend, and my personal identification flashed through my mind. The nightmare grew as I drove, every conceivable scenario  filtering through my fertile imagination.

I prayed at stoplights and behind slow vehicles. I prayed at corners and around bikers. I prayed as my hands gripped the steering wheel to keep from honking at drivers getting in my way. I prayed as I drove into the busy lot where Memorial Day weekend shoppers whizzed by like ants on a mission. I parked in my original space and scanned the row of carts.

Empty.

Wiping the perspiration now dripping from my brow, I calmly parked the car, got out, and prepared myself for the worst.  Since I’d left at the back of the store, I re-entered there. Only one cashier worked the area and customer traffic was lighter. He glanced up at me and I told him my problem.

He smiled. “It’s at customer service.”

“Praise God.” I hurried to the front of the store. Everyone around me gasped when I explained why I was there.

“Good luck with that,” said one man. “There won’t be any money left.”

The woman working at the desk made me identify the purse by its color and then had me prove it was mine by showing her my ID. A quick inspection revealed nothing obvious missing—even the cash remained intact.  Relieved, I returned to my car and did a thorough investigation. Nothing was missing. God had heard my prayers.

James 1:17 (NIV): “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

This Memorial Weekend, give thanks you live in a country where criminals may make the news, but good people still abound. A country where honorable citizens are everywhere around us even though they never get good press. And to that person or persons who found my purse and returned it to the store, I say, “Thanks!”

Have a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend.

Mother’s Day–Remembering When You Earned the Title

Thirty-seven hours.

When I think back to the Sunday I became a mother, the lingering memory is the stretch of time from beginning to end.  Before you gasp and send me a sympathy card, let me explain—not all of those hours involved labor.

Following a rupture of the membranes  in the afternoon, contractions began in earnest on Friday night.  By the time I called the midwife, the pangs fizzled like rain after a thunderstorm. At the birth center, the nurse tried to jumpstart the labor by having me drink Pepsi mixed with castor oil—not something I’d recommend. When that didn’t work, the staff sent my husband and I out to walk in the Saturday sunshine. We strolled past every vintage home, saw every unkempt lawn, and identified a zillion trees before we returned to the center, but still labor eluded me.

Convinced I was a lost cause, the midwife transferred me to the hospital Saturday night. To our surprise, my contractions resumed coincidentally with the signing of my admission papers. Exhausted, I slept my way to ten centimeters. The nurse woke me to push. I still remember my husband’s tired voice as he counted during each contraction—1…2…3…4…

Early Sunday morning we produced a beautiful baby boy. No pain meds, no surgery, nothing but a measure of true grit. I couldn’t call my friends because they were all in church. It didn’t matter. We drove home beaming, parents of a child who would grow to manhood and of whom I am proud to call my son.

I’m sure every mother remembers the day she earned the title. Whether by giving birth, adopting, or foster parenting, motherhood is an awesome responsibility. Within a mother’s influence lies the key to a hundred tomorrows. Civilization hinges on the quality of effort women expend raising their children. It’s not a task to be taken lightly and it’s full of rewards.

In Proverbs 31, God speaks of the virtuous woman. I’ve read the passage many times, wondering how many of us measure up—most of us would be bushed.

In verse 30, God concludes: “Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing. But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, And let her own works praise her in the gates.”

Happy Mother’s Day.

Interview with Author Karen Barnett–New Book: Out of the Ruins

 While her sister lies on her deathbed, Abby Fischer prays for a miracle. What Abby doesn’t expect, however, is for God’s answer to come in the form of the handsome Dr. Robert King, whose experimental treatment is risky at best. 

As they work together toward a cure, Abby’s feelings for Robert become hopelessly entangled. Separated by the tragedy of the mighty San Francisco earthquake, their relationship suddenly takes a back seat to survival. With fires raging throughout the city, Abby fears for her life as she flees alone through burning streets. Where is God now?  

Will Robert find Abby, even as the world burns around them? Or has their love fallen with the ruins of the city?

Today I’m interviewing Karen for an inside look at her new story:  

This book is a different setting from your first novel.  Why did you choose San Francisco? How did you decide which facts to use considering all that has been written about the earthquake?

The idea for Out of the Ruins came to me while I was watching an American Experience documentary about the 1906 earthquake. They included taped interviews with actual survivors, all of whom were children during the time of the disaster. It was their first-hand descriptions that pulled me into the terror of the story. I remember thinking, “What would it feel like to wander through those streets and see the city in flames around you?”

I did careful research into the events surrounding the earthquake and the three days of fires that followed. Though I attempted to stay fairly close to the factual history of the disaster, it was the many personal stories, letters, and journal entries of the time period that tugged at my heart.  

Abby’s struggles are internal, external and eternal.  What was your goal writing that many layers into one protagonist?

My goal is always to make the characters come alive in the hearts of the readers. I find it difficult to connect with flat characters, so I certainly don’t want to write them. With so much happening outside of Abby and Robert’s control (earthquake, fires, evacuations), it was important to make them more than just victims of circumstance. Their inner conflict and growth needed to be every bit as critical in order to balance the chaos going on outside. I think that’s the challenge of writing a story based during a disaster—or any type of high-stakes external conflict—the character needs to be strong enough to carry the story. I hope Abby and Robert accomplish this.

The love story weaves its thread throughout the tale. How did you view Robert King when you began the story and did he live up to your expectations at the end?

When I first began writing Robert’s character, he came on the scene as this cocky, overconfident young doctor with grandiose dreams of making medical history by discovering the cure to cancer. As the story progresses, he finds his feelings for Abby and for his patients have deepened to the point where he needs to surrender his pride and let God be the hero. Does he live up to my expectations? I think I learned through writing his character that heroism is about sacrifice. I’m drawn to heroes who are willing to sacrifice themselves (or their desires) for those they love. And amazingly enough—that’s what Christ did for us!

When I read the novel, I found myself wincing at some of the trial-and-error kind of testing that  Robert and Dr. Gerald Larkspur were forced to use to investigate the effects of x-rays on human tissue. I often felt they were in danger.  Did your research reveal how many lives were affected as early research such as this worked to improve its technique?

I was stunned by the countless stories of doctors, scientists, technicians, and nurses who lost their lives due to their over-exposure to X-ray radiation. I have an early X-ray manual that assured users that the technology was completely safe and harmless. We know better today, but it took many deaths to prove it. I recently read a story of how the doctor who invented the portable fluoroscope showed it off at his little girl’s birthday party, scaring all the partygoers with images of their skeletal hands. Can you imagine that happening today?

While I was writing this book, we lost a young friend to cancer. Every time I stepped inside the children’s hospital, I thought of those doctors and the research they were doing back in the early 1900s. The experiments were dangerous (more so than they understood at the time), but today we have some valid treatments for cancer thanks in part to their sacrifices. We don’t have all the answers yet, but doctors and scientists are still hard at work searching for a cure.

What do you hope your readers will take away from the story?   

I hope readers are reminded that God is always with us—even when we’re trying to run from Him or push Him away. He’s always waiting with tender love, desiring to welcome us back in.

This is book one in a series entitled The Golden Gate Chronicles.  What can your readers expect from you in the future?

Book two, Beyond the Ashes, will be coming out in 2015. In this story, we’ll revisit San Francisco as it’s in the process of rebuilding. We’ll be meeting Robert’s widowed sister Ruby, who comes to the city to put her life back together and finds herself drawn to Robert’s mentor, Dr. Gerald Larkspur. As Gerald begins to show signs of the very disease he’s been fighting to cure, Ruby will be forced to ask herself—is it worth a second chance at love when time might be short?

Anyone you’d care to thank as Out of the Ruins launches this week? 

If you happen to read the acknowledgements in the book, you’ll see I have about a page and a half of people to thank! Two groups jump to the top of the list. First, my family—they make huge sacrifices to allow me to pursue this dream. And second, my critique partners—they continually push me to be the best writer I can possibly be. I have learned so much from each of them.

Special Announcement:

If you live in the Albany, Corvallis, Lebanon and surrounding areas of Oregon, Karen will be signing copies of Out of the Ruins and her other novel, Mistaken, at the Willamette Valley Christian Supply, 916 NW Kings Avenue, Corvallis, Oregon this Saturday, May 3 from 1-3.  Come meet the author and visit this new store.  Hope to see you there!