Thursday, May 18, 2017

Homeschool Author Mom H.L. Burke

Today's awesome homeschooling/mom/author is H. L. Burke. Thanks for joining me today!

How long have you been homeschooling?

Roughly three years. We're a military family and move around a lot, frequently in the middle of the school year, so we kind of need to be able to take school along with us at short notice.

How long have you been writing?

Forever, pretty much. I've been looking for excuses to share stories since elementary school. I was a homeschool student myself, so I had to start the “school” paper. I kind of took a break when I got married then started writing again about four years ago seriously planning to publish. I always intended to go indie. The traditional way just takes way too long, and I'm impatient.

What gave you the writing bug?

I'm a talker. I like to talk. Writing is like talking, just slower.

Do you remember the first story you wrote?

I dictated a short story about rabbits (which I illustrated) to my mom when I was six or so. The only bit I really remember is the brilliant exchange, “Why is it always snowing at your house, Snowflake?” “Because I am a snow bunny.”

What type of books do your write?

I call it “eclectic” fantasy because I am easily distracted, but I like something fantastical in everything I write, be it elaborate clockwork inventions in my YA Steampunk series or enchanted princes in my Fantasy Romance or adorable dragons in my Middle Grade.

How do you find time to write?

They have to sleep sometimes. Thanks to coffee, I really don't. Sort of kidding. But yeah, most of my writing is done for an hour or so after I've tucked them into bed for the night … sometimes, though, I'll bring a notepad to the park or the library or the McDonald's play place and set them loose while I get a little bit done. I can write a thousand words in a little under an hour, so I don't need that much time if I can focus (again, coffee).

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

It really depends on the project. I joke that I hate middles the “moving the characters from inciting event to major set back to climax” … I tend to get bogged down in the in betweens and trying to keep that interesting even though, In my brain, I'm just “traveling” to the next “interesting bit.” I also apparently have an addiction to “air quotes.”

Do your kids help with your creative process or give you ideas?

My kids keep me fresh and flexible. You can't slow down with kids and get in a rut. You can't become dependent on doing things a certain way and you have to count on things not going according to plan. It keeps me interested, honestly. I'm the sort of personality type who would go nuts doing the same thing day after day. I have to have change. 

What is the single most significant thing you can tell us about your writing career?

I have dragons. Lots and lots of dragons. Thanks,mostly, to coffee, I'm prolific. I currently have 15 published books, a few short stories (some in anthologies, some available as standalones on Amazon).

Can you tell us about a character in your current work in progress?

I just finished writing and am beginning to edit a short story that's a prequel to my Nyssa Glass Steampunk series. Nyssa is an orphan who finds herself trapped in a life of crime in order to pay off her uncle's debts. She wants out. Her dream is to fix things, and she loves taking apart gadgets to see how they work … this is her origin story about how she escapes her gang to become the “reformed cat burglar and electrician's apprentice” who we follow throughout the main series.

Click the cover
to go to Amazon
Nyssa Blurb:

Available for the first time in a single volume, all five Nyssa Glass Adventures.

Nyssa Glass is a reformed cat burglar turned electrician's apprentice, settled into a life repairing videophones and radio-sets. However, when her past comes calling, she finds herself on the run for a murder she did not commit. As her quiet life goes up in sparks, she must face killer robots, menacing villains, and sarcastic computers in a race for survival.

Nyssa has her hands full just trying to stay one step ahead of the police, but she still has time for adventure, humor, and even a taste of romance.

Here's chapter one of  Nyssa:

Nyssa Glass and the House of Mirrors

Chapter One

“Late, late, late …” Nyssa Glass nearly bowled over a wind-up paper-vendor as she emerged from her boarding house, her ruffled skirts swishing around her knee-high, buttoned boots. She clutched her leather satchel to her chest and inhaled the comforting, nutty smell of the flaxseed oil she’d polished it with the night before. The satchel was her most prized possession, carefully constructed with pockets for all her various tools, but stylish enough that she could wear it to church functions without drawing attention.
Mr. Calloway, her employer and mentor, always insisted on escorting her to church functions, but being away from her tools made her anxious, a throwback to keeping lockpicks in her back pocket, she supposed. If Mr. Calloway had made that connection, he probably would’ve tried to break her of the habit. He seemed to see it as a harmless quirk, though.
Nyssa searched her brain for an excuse for her tardiness. It wasn’t really one thing that had caused her to be late. More of a series of minute annoyances. Laces snapping on her corset, for instance. She hated her corset. It hadn’t been a required part of her wardrobe until the last year or so. Before her enrollment in Miss Pratchett’s School for Mechanically Minded Maids, no one had cared if she dressed like a boy. Now that she was a graduate of that prestigious school, though, she had to dress her status and age.
Turning sixteen seemed to have only brought on more wardrobe restrictions and pimples … the pimples being the second thing to go wrong that morning, though she supposed it was her own fault for letting them distract her. Normally she wouldn’t bother with make up, but the size of the red spot on the bridge of her nose had sent her begging her roommate for powder. Then breakfast was burned, keys were misplaced, and their elderly landlady had caught her in the hallway and wanted to chat.
“Should’ve just shouted, ‘sorry, late,’ and ran for it.” Nyssa shook her head at her own weakness. “No, you had to not only say 'I'm doing fine, thank you,' but ask her how her parakeet was faring as well.”
The air was cool, but hazy with the exhaust from the nearby steam-power plant. The click of the inner workings of New Taured's automated button factory rose above her footsteps, causing her to walk in time with that rhythm. A few folk lingered on the sidewalk, milling about; however, most shops wouldn't open for another hour. Mr. Calloway liked to open early to “make the most of the day.”
Nyssa liked to stay up late then sleep until her alarm clock screamed at her.
The clock tower at the end of the street clanged for seven o’clock. She clenched her teeth.
As she turned onto Clockwork Row, the timepiece store on the corner erupted in a cacophony of chimes, bells, and cuckoos. She wasn’t sure how the keeper tolerated that going off every hour on the hour. Nyssa needed silence to work … well, silence except for the sound of her own voice. Talking to herself was another of her “harmless quirks.”
Lights shone through the windows of Mr. Calloway’s shop, the painted letters declaring his ability to repair all forms of videophones, radios, and signal sending devices. The sign in the door already read “open.”
She pushed open the door, triggering a mechanism which chimed out the first several bars of a lullaby, and Nyssa smiled in spite of herself. It was a new tune today. Mr. Calloway liked to mix it up every so often.
The old man pushed down his magnifying goggles and smiled at Nyssa from the other side of the counter. “Ah, there you are. My watch must be fast.”
“Your watch, the clock tower, and the two hundred or so timepieces in the store next door?” She raised her eyebrows.
“I know. Coincidences abound.” He bent back over the inner workings of a radio.
Nyssa mulled over her options. Just because Mr. Calloway wasn’t going to make a big fuss over her being late didn’t mean he didn’t deserve an explanation, but as she’d hashed out on the way over, there wasn’t really an explanation, not a concise one anyway. “It won’t happen again,” she said simply.
Hiking her skirts to just above her knees, she vaulted over the counter.
Mr. Calloway pushed a schematic towards her. “Dalhart & Rivera is launching an upgraded version of their videophone next month. They sent out advanced schematics this morning, so we can be prepared for questions and complete any repairs.”
Nyssa unrolled the fresh white paper, inked in blue. It took her a full three minutes of scanning to spot the first difference between the new and the old. “Is this all? A slightly larger viewscreen and one or two new vacuum tubes? That hardly seems worth the trouble of a relaunch.”
“Ah, but you know every wealthy patron will wish to upgrade their in-home system, just to say they have the latest and the greatest.” Mr. Calloway gave a wry smile. His watery blue eyes looked huge through the lenses of his glasses.
Nyssa looked away to avoid laughing.
“It’s a shame, though. When the company was just ‘Dalhart Incorporated,’ they built things to last forever, not to be replaced every six months.” He waved to the wall behind him where a bronze-framed screen rested. “I purchased that model almost a decade ago, when I took the shop over from my father. Still works like a charm.”
If by like a charm you mean makes the caller sound like they are under a foot of water and look like they’re standing in front of a carnival mirror. Still, you have to admire the simplicity of those first models. Made to do one thing forever and do it the best. A lot of people could learn from that.
Mr. Calloway dabbed at his bald head with a handkerchief. “I want to do a quick inventory. You have the counter. Don’t scare off any customers, young lady.” He winked and left through the swinging door into the back.
Nyssa glanced over the counter. Mr. Calloway’s tools were scattered everywhere, completely ignoring the outlines she’d made to mark each instrument’s designated place. She clicked her tongue, and hung her satchel on a hook behind the counter.
“For as much pride as he has in this shop, you’d think he’d keep it in better order.”
“I heard that!” Calloway called from the back.
She chuckled. “Sorry, I forgot you weren’t deaf yet, just senile.”
“Hardy har har. If it matters so much to you, clean it up yourself.”   
Nyssa laughed, shook her head, and began lining up wrenches, spanners, and crimpers. She sorted the spools of wire by gauge and the vacuum tubes by size before spinning around to polish the reliable, old videophone’s screen.
“Trusty old Dalhart 2.” She swiped a muslin cloth over the raised lettering declaring the maker and the model number.
The lullaby chimed, and she turned with her best smile pasted across her face. Not that she didn’t like people, in small doses, but she was told her default face made her look cold and indifferent. People could be so darn sensitive.
A man with dark glasses and a top hat shadowing his pale face strode in. He wore a black raincoat with the collar pulled up to the corners of his thin mouth. He grinned at her as if she were a tasty leg of lamb and he a slavering dog.
Nyssa’s smile melted. She forced her lips back into an appropriate expression, but her hands gripped the edge of the counter. “Can I help you?” she asked.
“A charming little shop. You are the saleswoman, yes?”
“I can also do repairs. I have an electrician and mechanic's license.” She waved towards her own framed diploma, resting next to the yellowed one belonging to Mr. Calloway.
The man stepped to the wall and squinted at the document. “Ah, then you are Nyssa Glass.”
“That’s the name they printed on the certificate anyway.” Nyssa shrugged, beginning to feel impatient. “Did you need a repair or are you looking to purchase a device? We will be discounting our videophones soon to make way for the new models.”
The man grunted and paced towards the door.
Nyssa’s shoulders relaxed. Thank God, he’s leaving.
The man stopped, his back to her. Something glinted on the band of his top hat. Two somethings … Nyssa squinted then flinched back. A pair of yellow eyes blinked at her from the back of his hat. Her breath caught in her throat, and she resisted the urge to rub her eyes. She wavered for a moment between calling for Mr. Calloway and running to hide in the back room before drawing herself up and clearing her throat.
Shocks and sparks! It’s a trick. Some sort of robotic mechanism opening and shutting glass eyes. Nothing more. Look at him, posing so theatrically. He wants a rise. Don’t let him get one.
“You’ve come a long way since your days of breaking into houses for trinkets.” The man didn’t turn around.
“I’m reformed.” Nyssa stuck her chin out. She wasn’t sensitive about her past—too much. Still, she didn’t like the man’s tone.
“You aren’t afraid your past will catch up with you?” The man turned back, raising a thin eyebrow over his glasses.
Nyssa’s throat constricted. She didn’t recognize the man, but that didn’t mean he didn’t have some connection to her past life, to old partners or someone she’d robbed. Could she owe him money? Her bank account barely held enough for next week’s rent.
Nyssa felt under the counter for Mr. Calloway’s revolver. She couldn’t find it. Drat Mr. C and his constant need to move things around.
“My past is resolved. My employer is aware of it, and I’ve received an official pardon in return for completing attendance at Miss Pratchett’s and finding gainful employment.” She stared into his reflective lenses. “Obviously you have no intention of purchasing anything. I think you should go.”
The door to the backroom clacked open.
Mr. Calloway crossed his arms. “My employee is correct. We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone, so please leave.”
The man smiled. “So you received a full pardon?”
“Cleared of all charges.” Nyssa gave a sharp nod.
“As far as the east is from the west.” Mr. Calloway stepped further into the room. “Now go.”
“You can’t be pardoned if you’ve never been accused.” The man reached into his coat.
Nyssa stiffened, but a moment later the man drew out a black disc about the size of a compact. He flipped a switch on its side and a holographic projection flickered to life above it. Nyssa paled as a younger version of herself slipped through a window and rummaged about a large, wooden desk.
“The Lanchester Heist. Still officially unsolved. No charges ever filed, which means in spite of what pardons you may have received for other crimes, your tab is still open.” He flipped off the projector and shoved it into his pocket.
“How did you get that?” Nyssa whispered. If there was proof, why hadn’t it come to the authorities’ attention? Why bring it up now?
“It matters not.” The man shrugged.
“What do you want?” Mr. Calloway slid behind the counter.
Nyssa tried not to think of the revolver. Don’t do anything stupid, Mr. C. The man’s not robbing us. Just being a jackass.
“I have a proposition for you, Ms. Glass. I wish for you to return for one last job, a simple heist, really. In return I’ll hand over the copies of this recording and allow you to destroy them.”
Nyssa’s stomach twisted. Back in the day, she’d taken on “assignments” for less cause, just to survive. However, now she was finally doing more than surviving, working a job she loved with a man who respected her in spite of her past, not seeing her as a tool. “That’s not who I am anymore. It never was. I was just a scared kid who didn’t know any better. I’ll take my chances in court rather than return to that life.”
“They won’t prosecute her based on a technicality. The crime may not have been mentioned in her pardon, but the spirit of the decree was for all her past crimes.” Mr. Calloway motioned for Nyssa to come towards him. She hovered near his side. “I’ll speak on her behalf.”
The man’s mouth curled into a sneer. “You think you can be rid of me that easily? You don’t know who you’re dealing with, girl.” He stepped forward.
Mr. Calloway’s hand shot under the counter. He whipped out the silver-handled revolver. “I don’t like to live by the sword, but I will not let you harm this young lady. Get behind me, Nyssa.”
Nyssa’s pulse throbbed in her ears like the ticking of a clock. She squeezed between Mr. Calloway and the wall, so tight she could feel the raised letters on the Dalhart 2 imprinting on her back.
The man laughed. “Really, old man? Really?” He extended his seemingly empty gloved hand.
Mr. Calloway leveled the gun. “You’re unarmed. I don’t want to shoot, but I will.” The hammer clicked back.
“I don’t need guns.” The man made a fist. Wires shot from his knuckles and sank into Mr. Calloway’s chest. The gun went off, but the bullet flew over the man’s shoulder, shattering the window into a rain of glass. The air crackled as Mr. Calloway convulsed.
Nyssa screamed. A smell of charred flesh singed her nose. Then he collapsed at her feet, his eyes staring blindly up at her.
The man grinned. “Now, girly, looks like you just killed your employer. Sure, you can say it was a mysterious man you've never seen before, but why would they believe a ‘reformed’ cat burglar?”
Nyssa swallowed. The revolver glistened on the floor beside Mr. Calloway. She dove for it, but the man lunged at her. His hand clawed at her arm, and she stumbled back. With a snarl, he scrambled over the counter. Nyssa grabbed the closest thing, her own satchel hanging from a hook in the wall. With all her might, she swung.
The bag impacted against the man’s face, causing him to shout. He crashed into the shelf of tools behind the counter. Wrenches clattered to the floor and over his head.
Nyssa sprang over the counter, crossed the floor in two great leaps, and flew through the broken window. Broken glass crunched beneath her feet. She turned towards the busy Main Way, but a horseless carriage blocked her path. What if he has a partner in there? Spinning on her heel, she headed off in the other direction, towards a back alley.
The man’s cursing chased her down the street.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017


The last several months have been a little rough. Besides losing my father, I lost two friends, one very unexpectedly. It hurts to know that I will never see their smiling faces again except for old pictures and in my memory.

While I mourn their losses greatly, I know I will one day see them again. Songs come on the radio and remind me of each one. Those songs bring tears to my eyes, however, those tears are not altogether sad. I know they are no longer hurting. I know they no longer have to battle with this world. I know they have been reunited with loved ones who have gone on before. I know they are worshiping their Savior.

How do I know these things?

1 Thessalonians 4:13, "Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope."

I have hope.

For the last several years I've had an acquaintance who grieves greatly over the loss of a loved one on each anniversary. I can sympathize with her having suffered lost myself. There are some dates I wish I could just skip over. But this woman is so angry. She is hateful to people with whom she comes in contact with during these anniversary times. She even puts people on notice ahead of time, as if that gives her license to treat people the way she does. During those times she is absolutely miserable.

What's the difference between the two of us? She has no hope. I don't believe she knows Christ, so even if her loved one did know Him, until she receives that Hope for herself, she will never see that person again.

I thank God my Savior for a little word with a huge impact – HOPE.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Homeschool Author Mom Robin Merrill

Another busy homeschool-mom-author is up on the blog today. Welcome, Robin Merrill!

How long have you been homeschooling?

5 years

How long have you been writing?

Since I could write, but professionally, 17 years.

What gave you the writing bug?

Not sure!

Do you remember the first story you wrote?

Yes. I was in third grade and I handwrote an 18-page story about meeting Amy Grant. My poor teacher!

What type of books do your write?

My first love is poetry, but I also write fiction and devotionals.

How do you find time to write?

Not sure! I sometimes write late into the night.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

I always want to be honest in my writing, and sometimes that offends people, but I don't mean to!

Do your kids help with your creative process or give you ideas?

They certainly try. They are always giving me ideas, and I do read my stories to my fourth-grade daughter, who has found some plot holes for me.

What is the single most significant thing you can tell us about your writing career?

It has allowed me to stay home with my children, and for that I am eternally grateful.

Can you tell us about a character in your current work in progress?

I am currently spending lots of time with Gertrude. I met Gert in my first novella, Grace Space. I didn't expect her to be so loved, but she was, so I decided to give her her own series: Gertrude, Gumshoe. I am currently wrapping up book three!

Fiction from Robin Merrill:

Click on the cover
to go to Amazon
She begged God to rescue her. He said, “Go.” So she headed out into the blizzard. In a car that wasn’t exactly hers, with a dog who wasn’t exactly a rat terrier, she drove. Until she ran out of gas in the small Maine town of Mattawooptock. Mattawoopwhat? What on earth is God thinking? But it is there, in a weird little bathroom in a weird little church in a weird little town that Maggie Hansen finds herself. And as God would have it, she finds a lot more than that.

Click on the cover
to go to Amazon

Non-Ficiton from Robin:

In The Jesus Diet: How the Holy Spirit Coached Me to a 50-Pound Weight Loss, Author/Poet Robin Merrill shares her weight loss experiences through 30 Bible devotions designed to inspire others to join her on her journey toward improved spiritual, and physical, health.