October 15, 2013

Colonel Rob Savage

I'm kind of mad as I write this. Mad that I don't have the cash reserve to buy a copy of this book for every single hero-girl here and mad that a book with a hero THIS good as of the writing of this feature still has just five Amazon reviews and one belongs to me. The only thing making this better is getting to feature Rob and doing my part to fix this literary diamond in the rough atrocity. Check that--it's not even in the rough. It's more like this is a ten-carat Harry Winston of a hero and he's tucked away in a velvet bag in a rarely used desk drawer because there isn't thousands of marketing dollars behind him. Ladies, Rob is what FHF is about. He owned me completely after about three chapters. As he is distilled and concentrated wounded-hero elixir, I had to keep reading to be sure he would appeal to the hero-girls on all levels and was a true orange-head hero, but that wasn't a hardship at all, hehe, and he absolutely is. In every way.


About Broken Wings (released Sept. 1, 2013):

He lives to fly—until a jagged piece of flack changes his life forever.

A tragic childhood has turned American Air Forces Colonel Rob Savage into an outwardly indifferent loner who is afraid to give his heart to anyone. RAF nurse Maggie McGrath has always dreamed of falling in love and settling down in a thatched cottage to raise a croftful of bairns, but the war has taken her far from Innisbraw, her tiny Scot’s island home.

Hitler’s bloody quest to conquer Europe seems far away when Rob and Maggie are sent to an infirmary on Innisbraw to begin his rehabilitation from disabling injuries. Yet they find themselves caught in a battle between Rob’s past, God’s plan, and the evil some islanders harbor in their souls. Which will triumph?

Excerpt from Broken Wings:


          What was tattie bree--and Lucozade? He'd heard somewhere that the Scots ate weird things, like oatmeal and liver stuffed into a sheep's stomach and everything that came from the sea, even slimy creatures without scales or fins. "Maggie, use English," he said more gruffly than intended. "I get so frustrated when I can't understand you."
          "I'm trying my verra best no' to frustrate you, Colonel." Her sharp tone got his attention. She was so beautiful with her chin raised and her large, dark blue eyes sparking with indignation.
          "So it's 'Colonel' now, is it? I must have put a burr under your saddle."
          "Rob!"
          He was sure she hadn't understood the American idiom, but it had surprised her out of her snit. He couldn't suppress a grin. "That's better. I don't like it when you're mad at me, bonnie Maggie."
          She rolled her eyes. "For your information, tattie bree is a thick potato broth. They make it in the kitchen and it's verra guid. And Locozade is a nourishing drink made with glucose syrup. You'll find it all over Scotland, no' just in infirmaries."
          "Why didn't you say so in the first place?"
          "Because I'm back in Scotland now and I keep forgetting you don't understand Scots."
          He reached for her hand, needing the comfort of her touch. "Did anyone ever tell you your eyes turn dark blue when you're angry?"
          "Och, you're skiting--fooling--with me."
          "I mean it. Right now, they're sort of violet blue, but when your dander's up, they turn almost navy." He squeezed her hand. "Let your hair down, please. I've been trying to imagine all that black hair spilling around your shoulders and down your back."
          She drew back with a gasp. "I cannot. It's against Regulations."
          "Forget the Regs--just this once."
          "Absolutely no'."
          "I'm talking too much and that's a first. People usually accuse me of being a real bore."
          "You don't like to talk?"
          He wanted to tell her the truth--that until he'd met her he had never been able to talk to a young woman without mangling his words until he was so embarrassed he stopped talking completely--but he never shared his past with anyone. "Not idle chatter."
          "I hadn't noticed."
          "I guess I've never been around someone I wanted to pass the time with. Please bring me some of that 'guid' tattie bree before I starve to death."
          She returned with a tray minutes later.
          He ate a large bowl of the thick broth and choked down a bottle of Lucozade, squirming when the pain in his back began to escalate. He didn't want to ask for APCs this early. "I know you have things to do, but could you tell the Selkie story again?" he asked as she straightened his covers.
          "The Selkie again?"
          "I want to hear it when I'm not full of morphine." His thoughts did not stop there. And I want to hear your soft voice that takes away the pain and fear.
          "We shouldn't spend that much time. I need to bathe and shave you."
          "The crofter returned to the cave with food and water," he prompted.
          "You've remembered. Verra guid."
          He stifled a groan and tried to smile. "What happened next? I need to find out if she stayed on the island."
          "Och, all right, but we don't have time for the ending now--'tis too important to hurry through." She pulled up a chair and sat beside him, accepting the hand he held out.
          The story wove on and on as the two evaded the fishermen by hiding in caves or abandoned cottages, huddling together for warmth, eating what little the crofter could find in the fields. "It didn't take long for the crofter to fall in love with this bonnie lass with her rosy cheeks and lips and her silken, white skin. Of course, he couldn't believe she was really a Selkie, you understand." She continued by relating how the crofter's gentle, tender nature slowly won the trust of the Selkie. "After a week, she no longer waded out into the sea when the strange, haunting voice of her Selkie-lover crested the waves with the dying sun." Maggie laid his hand on the bed and leaped up. "Now, 'tis bathing time."
          "You can't stop now."
          "I can and will."
###
          Rob awakened in the middle of the night, chest heaving, body covered with sweat. What a dreadful nightmare. He wiped his face on a corner of the sheet, trying to recall what he had dreamed. He could only remember a grinding, tearing, screeching sound, flashing lights and then--nothing.
          So he hadn't made it over the security fence, after all. No wonder he has so many aches and bruises. If he could have used the rudders, he might not have lost so much altitude before he reached the base.
          Used the rudders.
          He tucked his hand beneath the covers and moved it down to his thigh. He pinched the flesh. Nothing. No pain, absolutely nothing. His breath caught in a ragged sob. The surgery hadn't worked after all.
          If only he hadn't been so set on using a single bomber. If only Wells had refused to allow it. If only...

Excerpt used with permission. All rights reserved.


Gallant Score

The world needs more men like Rob. So I'll look past him stealing a kiss from Maggie with the prowess of Ty Cobb stealing a base. Because when her father walks in on said stolen kiss, their man-to-man conversation afterward was pure orange-head material. But even way before that, the way Rob chose to handle what he knew was a poorly planned mission and couldn't rest until he knew the fate of his men that has been with him on his B-17 that went down. Brave. Honorable. Trustworthy (in spite of the nasty rumors that get started about him and Maggie by a very disturbed and vengeful woman). Rob's crippling injury actually only brings this side of him out even more, though in different ways than when he was commanding the 396th and flying.


Wounded Score

Confession. I have no idea how someone as wounded (physically and emotionally) as Rob pulls off such an off the chart gallantry score and a softie score this high. But he does. Believably, naturally, and in his unique Rob way that's humor and redirects to mask and avoid some very deep scars on his heart. I really, really want to tell you what they are but it would diminish your reader experience. Therefore you just have to wait for Rob to finally, finally open up to you in the pages of Broken Wings. Well, to Maggie, but you know what I mean. Rob endured a heart-breaking childhood, which contributed to him being about as socially awkward with women as you can imagine as an adult, and that's BEFORE that jagged piece of metal flays his back open and takes away the last thing left that he loves--flying. =/


Softie Score

You'll see this very early in that dance he shares with Maggie. Then in the undercurrent of his personality even when he's cranky. That moment on the beach during the rescue when he takes care of the little baby? Total heart melt moment. I've never encountered such a strong hero with such a deep softie side. It was incredibly refreshing and so much part of what makes Rob the man he is.


Stupid Strikes

None to report. Rob does a few things throughout the book that really make me cringe, but nothing I would pop him here for.

Swoon Score

Yep. Everything about him. Hero serving his country, his crazy sense of humor, the whole tall, dark and handsome package, a childhood that will pull your heartstrings hard (the scars on his heart and the reason he's so reserved go way back), a DNA-deep need to protect people, never backing down, and a mind that never shuts off. I loved everything about Rob and fell for him fast and hard. Any hero girl will. Which is why he's here.

Dianne Price fell in love with writing at the age of five. Because her father was a barnstorming pilot, she was bitten early by the “flying bug” as well. She attended the University of California, Santa Barbara and met and married the man God had prepared for her—an aeronautical engineer. After their five children were in school, she burned the midnight oil and wrote three novels, all published by Zebra Press. When her husband died only three years after he retired, she felt drawn to visit the Outer Hebrides Isles of Scotland, where her husband’s clan (MacDonalds) and her own clan (Galbraiths) originated. Many yearly trips, gallons of tea, too little sleep, and a burst of insight birthed her Thistle Series.

PUBLISHER’S NOTE: Dianne, born August 1933, lived joyfully despite dealing with terminal cancer and died in August 2013, a mere week before the release date for the first book of this series, Broken Wings. Everyone involved with the production of this book and the next five has been blessed beyond measure to have known Dianne and be a part of giving readers a chance to meet Rob and Maggie and visit the beautiful, fictional isle of Innisbraw. Leave a message for her family and sign up to hear the latest about her books at Dianne's publishing page or "Like" her Facebook page. Also, sign up for the Ashberry Lane newsletter to always know the latest about Dianne's releases.

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The FHF Exclusive Directly from the Author

Dianne actually wrote an extra scene to have on her website as a teaser. It's no longer up, but Ashberry Lane has made it available to us here at FHF for our hero-girls. Thank you to the Price family, and to Ashberry Lane for this extra look at Rob and Maggie. Trust me, as you read this book from the beginning, you get used to the Scotts, and literally almost learn another language. It's part of what I enjoyed so much about the story.


Maggie dug through a poke of tatties, nattering to herself. “He’s cold and hard, that’s what he is. What kind of man won’t talk about his own mither?” She tossed two tatties, a neep, carrot, and onion, onto the bunker—enough for a large pot of tattie and mince bree. She grabbed a paring knife and attacked the onion.
Five years she’d been away from her beloved green island—from her family, her friends, the sweet smell of heather spilling doon the slopes of Ben Innis, the sound of the sea sooking on the shore. Nursing school had seemed like an eternity, but then came the war and her commission in the RAF Nurses Corps. After three years of hopping between RAF hospitals, she’d leapt eagerly at the chance to serve on an American airbase, to hone her skills and learn new ones.
Why had he spoiled her homecoming?
She had thought Rob was getting better about talking. He’d only grunted once on that dreadful trawler ride from Oban to the Isle of Innisbraw, and then ’twas because she’d—och, she’d asked about his family.
Tears stung her eyes. It had to be the onion.
No grunt from him this mornin. Only a ragged, “Don’t talk about that.”
She chopped the vegetables, knife and tears flying.
She’d told him about her mither’s dying when birthing her brother, Calum. It only seemed fit to ask about his mither. Wasn’t that what friends did? Och, she was his nurse, his therapist, aye, but they’d been through so much together since his B-17 crash-landed on the airbase runway.
Had his family abused him? Or his mother—had she abandoned him? The thought stabbed at her heart, bringing a gasp.
After filling a large kettle with water, she scooped in the vegetables, added minced beef, seasonings, and Oxo bullion cubes, and set it on the hot peat stove to simmer. What a fine pair they were—him holding tight to his emotions and her crying a burn when happy, sad, ... or angry.
A bit of scripture blazed across her mind: You must make allowances for each other’s faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.
Remorse tore at her soul. How had she allowed herself to forget all she had learned from God’s Word? She wasn’t tied to a bed or wheelchair, didn’t writhe from pain. She could walk ootside and feel the sun on her face, taste the salt on an inshore breeze.
Maggie checked her watch. Forty-five minutes ’til the bree was done. Enough time to bring him comfort—to lace her fingers through Rob’s and assure him she’d no’ ask about his past again.

The giveaways

A copy of Broken Wings, print or e-book, winners choice, to a randomly drawn commenter. Tell me what intrigues you most about Rob and that you'd like in the book drawing. Very important- leave us your email in a way we can contact you if you win, in a spam fighting format like
flyboy (at) Innisbraw dot com =)

If you've already gotten your hands on this novel and already devoured it, PROPS TO YOU. Let's do a drawing for the $10 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card but you have to leave me the name of a character that isn't Rob or Maggie. Same rules as usual. Once that character is used, you need another. We need your e-mail to reach you if you win so be sure you leave it or have it linked in your profile.

Drawings will be on Halloween! (10.31.2013)

WWII month is wrapping up here at FHF so let's talk war heroes. How exactly would you define a war hero? I have my criteria but I want to know yours. Let's play!

October 1, 2013

Tom MacGilliver


Welcome, one and all, to what Nancy and I have dubbed WWII Month! I don’t think it’s ever occurred before, but Nancy and I just ‘happened’ to read books written in the same time period & almost the same setting weeks apart from each other. And what do you know? We discovered two very orange-worthy heroes. After careful thought and much deliberation (cough), we decided October would be “WWII Month” here at FHF.

I have always wanted a bomber jacket. They’re just…cool. And for me, the topic of WWII and bomber jackets go hand-in-hand. It could be because flying is a part of my family history. My husband’s grandfather was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force. During WWII, he was a B17 bomber pilot. I never got to hear all his stories, but I think his favorite one to tell was about the giant python that stowed away on his plane. They discovered it mid-flight and somehow managed to calmly complete their objective and land where they were supposed to, instead of doing what any normal person would do- parachute from the plane, allowing it to crash and thereby kill the snake. Sadly, Grandpa passed away before I really got to know him. And despite my light-heartedness here, I know war is a brutal and dark thing. I want to take a moment and acknowledge the many real heroes whose sacrifices will not be forgotten, and who will always be missed by those who love them.

Grandpa & Grandma Frost
To get back to our feature: Chris Evans is a good character model for our hero, Tom MacGilliver. For those of you who don’t know, this (click here) is Chris Evans, aka Captain America.

With Every Letter is a book to be savored, like a good cup of coffee. Or tea, if you prefer. Plan to settle down, snuggle in, and engage in a story that doesn’t let go. I’m going to be up front and tell you- Tom is a different kind of hero. We all love the step up & take charge, confident, bold hero. The fearless, give orders, and don’t-take-no-for-an-answer hero. Tom isn’t any of those things. At least, not at first. He’s wrapped himself up so tight it’s almost hard to see his shining armor underneath. Why is he here? Because Tom doesn’t stay that way. He learns from his mistakes. He chooses to change, and in doing so, he becomes the man he has always wanted to be. And we, as the reader, get a perfect view of the long, slow, beautiful dance that is Tom and Mellie’s story.



About With Every Letter - Wings of the Nightingale Book 1 (released Sept. 2012):


Lt. Mellie Blake is a nurse serving in the 802nd Medical Squadron, Air Evacuation, Transport. As part of a morale building program, she reluctantly enters into an anonymous correspondence with Lt. Tom MacGilliver, an officer in the 908th Engineer Aviation Battalion in North Africa. As their letters crisscross the Atlantic, Tom and Mellie develop a unique friendship despite not knowing the other's true identity. When both are transferred to Algeria, the two are poised to meet face to face for the first time. Will they overcome their fears and reveal who they are, or will their future be held hostage to their past? And can they learn to trust God and embrace the gift of love he offers them?

 

Excerpt from With Every Letter:


          “Excuse me, gentlemen. That’s not all. Please be seated.”
           Tom settled back into his chair.
           “With Lieutenant Colonel Black’s permission…” Newman nodded to the commanding officer of the 908th. “I have an invitation for you.”
           He put one foot on a chair and raised a sheepish smile. With his square face and dark good looks, he could be in a movie himself. “This is my wife’s idea. Personally, I think it’s corny, but my wife’s a beautiful woman, so what can I say?”
           Tom joined in the men’s laughter.
           “This movie inspired her. She charmed the nurses in her charge to write letters to you oafs. Anonymous letters, like in the movie.”
           He held up a stack of envelopes. “You each get one letter. You can reply or not, your choice. If you do, play by my wife’s rules, or she’ll make my life miserable. No names, no pictures, and no personal details- hometown, people’s names, anything like that.”
           Tom sat up taller, and his mouth drifted open. If he were in an actual movie, a shaft of light would have pierced the deck of the ship and landed on him.
           Anonymity.
           Free from the prison of his name, he could be himself. He hadn’t had that with another soul since he was seven. Even with his mother, he kept tight control to reassure her.
           He squeezed his eyes shut. Lord, please. Let the letter be from the right sort of woman.
           Lieutenant Newman passed out the envelopes, and Tom ripped his open.
           A snapshot tumbled out. A pretty brunette in a cheesecake pose.
           He sighed. Even though she’d broken the rules, he read the letter. The young woman gushed over movie stars and big bands and dancing with her friends, and said she sent the photo so he’d write back. So he’d know she wasn’t an ugly hag.
           Tom looked up. All around him, men smiled and pointed to their letters. Once again, alone in a crowd. He’d pass the letter on to a man who would appreciate her froth and bubbles.
           A few rows ahead, three officers broke out into raucous laughter, centered around Lt. Martin Quincy, one of the three platoon commanders in Company B.
           Quincy stood. “You fellows want a laugh? Listen to this dame- ‘Before I start this letter, I must be clear that I’m searching for friendship, not romance. I don’t want to mislead you or toy with your affections. I do apologize if you hoped for a romantic letter from a perky beauty.’
           “You know what that means?” Quincy shook the letter. “She’s a cross between a monkey and a cow.”
           “You lucky dog.” Lieutenant Reed, the third platoon leader, broke down into laughter. “Imagine your children. Your ugly mug and hers.”
           Quincy cussed. “Just my luck. Who wants to trade?”
           “I do,” Tom whispered, but his voice didn’t carry over the crowd’s jeers.
           Quincy crumpled the letter and lobbed it into the trash can by the door.
           The men rose to leave, but Tom stayed in his seat, gaze fixed on the trash can. No one deserved to be thrown away. Abandoned.
           After the officers left, a private arranged the movie reels for rewinding, and Tom retrieved the letter from the trash.

Excerpt used with permission. All rights reserved.

Gallant Score

He dug her letter out of the garbage, ok? Does that resonate with anyone else? Reading this scene took me back to that awkward, gangly, teenage stage when I just wanted someone (besides mom or dad) to think I was worth something just the way I was. Tom values Mellie as a person even before he knows who she is or what she looks like. Throughout the story, he continues to give her guidance and be a listening ear that she desperately needs. At the same time, he is giving her the confidence to become a better person, because he loves her from the inside, out. When he finds himself drawn to a flight nurse, Tom makes the choice to avoid her, choosing to honor his anonymous sweetheart and his love for her, instead.

Wounded Score

Tom has some deep wounds. His need for anonymity comes with good cause. What do you do when your name is synonymous with “murder”? Tom comes across as wishy-washy, and he has a hard time earning respect. Tom knows what he needs to do, but can’t bring himself to cross that line. He has a reason for that- a good one. But being so bound to his past brings a wrecking ball to his present and threatens his future in a big way. He is literally forced to become what he always feared. When the dust settles, Tom must choose whether to let his wounds become scars, and bear them with honor, or to bleed out, and watch his dreams die slowly.

Softie Score

I think Sesame is proof enough of Tom’s worthiness here. (What can I say? I’m a dog person) But ya’ll probably need more, so…Tom cares about Mellie, too. And he isn’t afraid to show it. He treats her with respect, kindness, and honor. He continues to love and reach out to her, encouraging her to trust him and overcome her fear.

Stupid Strikes

The nature of Tom’s character kind of makes me want to pop him a few times. Ultimately his choices come with appropriate consequences. And when it comes to Mellie, he really is doing the right thing. But there is one thing that I must strike him for… YES! That’s for not putting your buddy’s life first.

Swoon Score

Tall. Blond hair and blue eyes. Sun tanned. Tom is a good looking guy (see above link again for a reminder). But what is so great about this story is that the focus isn’t on appearances. To borrow a quote from one of my favorite movies, you learn to love and “…trust the soul of a man (or woman) rather than the look of him (or her).” Tom is swoon worthy because of his gentle, patient pursuit of the woman he loves. He doesn’t give up, and his persistence pays off. Tom and Mellie’s story isn’t perfect. Sometimes it hurts. But I loved it because it’s real. And their flaws and failures are not often dealt with so honestly in fiction stories.

Sarah Sundin is the author of On Distant Shores and With Every Letter in the Wings of the Nightingale series, and also the Wings of Glory series. In 2011, A Memory Between Us was a finalist in the Inspirational Reader's Choice Awards and Sarah received the Writer of the Year Award at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. Sarah lives in northern California with her husband and three children. When she isn’t ferrying kids to tennis and karate, she works on-call as a hospital pharmacist and teaches Sunday school and women’s Bible studies. Please visit her at http://www.sarahsundin.com.

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The FHF Exclusive Directly from the Author

Character inspirations can come from the oddest places. Lt. Tom MacGilliver’s character was inspired by a newspaper article about a man who was about to be executed, leaving behind a young son. My heart broke for that little boy. What would it be like to grow up knowing you were the son of a condemned murderer? And what if—the gears turn in my devious author mind—what if the son bore the murderer’s name? What if that murder carried a “Lizzie Borden” notoriety? What if he had to spend every waking moment convincing people he wasn’t dangerous?

So Tom MacGilliver came to be. I’m not totally heartless. I gave him a determined and loving mother, a strong relationship with the Lord, and a naturally sunny personality. Then Tom is offered a chance to enter an anonymous correspondence with an Army flight nurse, inspired by the classic Jimmy Stewart movie, The Shop Around the Corner (which also inspired You’ve Got Mail). Tom leaps at this opportunity. Anonymity means freedom. For the first time in his life, he can be genuine and open and have a true friendship.

As an Army engineer in World War II, Tom faces challenges from the moment his Engineer Aviation Battalion lands in North Africa. He struggles to build airfields under fire, in the mud, in primitive conditions, and with limited supplies. He struggles to lead his “misfit squadron” when he’s been trained all his life never to show anger or make waves. And he struggles with his growing feelings for his anonymous nurse. If she knew his identity, would she still love him?

This story was a lot of fun to write and a challenge—with dual identities for hero and heroine, delays in letters being delivered, and keeping track of who knew what and when—all set against the backdrop of the turquoise Mediterranean.

***And another bonus- if you all love the cover of this book as much as I do, check out this cool inside look at the biggest challenge for the photo shoot here: http://brandonhillphotos.com/with-every-letter/ ***

Thanks so much to Sarah for sharing Tom and With Every Letter with us.

The giveaways

We’re giving away one copy of With Every Letter, print or e-book, winner’s choice, to a randomly drawn commenter. Make sure you tell us if you want in the book drawing and leave an email address in a spam fighting format like bomber jackets rule (at) I want one dot com

If you’ve already read Letter, you can still win a $10 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card by leaving us the name of a character from the book. Once the character name has been used here in the comments, you have to find another.

Drawings will be courtesy of Random.org on October 14th.

And just one more thing, before we go. Imagine you’re alive during WWII. What would YOU do to help your country? Be a Rosie the Riveter? Work in a hospital or become a flight nurse like Mellie? Or maybe a female journalist, braving all to put the truth in print for the loved ones at home? I want to know!