May 15, 2014

It's almost time...

Some of you who have followed the blog over two years know who this is.
For those of you who do not know, you will. Very soon.

In your comment, tell Joy and I what you see.
That's all. It's both stunningly simple and strikingly complex at the same time.
Every participant is entered in a drawing for a $10 Amazon or B&N Giftcard.
The best answer wins a $15 Amazon or B&N Giftcard AND three extra entries in the next hero feature drawing. Trust me. You'll want them.
Drawing & winners announced Monday, May 26th.
Please be sure to leave your email address in a spam fighting format
like those_green_eyes (at) epic (dot) com

So hero girls, tell us--what do you see?

May 1, 2014

Colonel Aric von Schmidt

Finally! The new feature is here! I apologize for my tardiness, hero girls. I had everything I needed from Kate to be up and running on the 15th, but my best laid plans were interrupted by a major family crisis. The kind that stops life for a while & makes you wonder if you will be able to keep breathing. Needless to say it has been a very difficult few weeks. But, Huzzah! I'm finally up to the task of doing our new hero justice.
And this feature proves once again how connected Nancy and I are. Did ya'll notice the last hero's name? Ari. Add a C and what do you get? Aric. Crazy, right? Ari's story is a biblical fiction. Aric's book is a Bible story with a twist. A historical twist. I want to take a moment and applaud Kate's vision & creative genius with this book. My author self is a little green with envy at the brilliance of taking the Biblical account of Esther and reimagining it in the midst of a Nazi death camp. The parallels are undeniably similar. But there was no edict passed enabling the Jews to arm and defend themselves. And without an Esther to intercede, it became the job of common men and women to take a stand for the Jewish people, often at the risk of their own lives. I am so thankful for those who did not turn a blind eye to the suffering of their neighbors, but opened hearts and homes to the persecuted at a time when there was nowhere else to go. Some people may have a problem with portraying a Nazi SS Kommandant as a hero. After all, history is pretty clear. The Nazi regime did horrible things. They were not heroes. They were the enemy. And true to form, Aric is not a good man. He has done horrible things. But when his eyes are opened, and he sees for the first time the price others are paying for his stand (or lack thereof), his response is everything. And that is what makes Aric worthy of being here on FHF.

About For Such A Time:
In 1944, Hadassah Benjamin feels abandoned by God when she is saved from a firing squad only to be handed over to a new enemy. Pressed into service by SS Kommandant Colonel Aric von Schmidt at the transit camp of Theresienstadt in Czechoslovakia, her Aryan-like looks allow her to hide behind the false identity of Stella Muller. However, to maintain her cover as von Schmidt's secretary, she is forced to stand by as her own people are sent to Auschwitz. 
Suspecting her employer as a man of hidden depths, Stella appeals to him on behalf of those in the camp. Aric's indulgence gives her hope even as she risks discovery with every attempt to help the prisoners. When her bravery brings her to the point of ultimate sacrifice, she faces an excruciating choice. God may have brought her to the camp for such a time as this, but how can she save her people when she cannot save herself? 

Excerpt from For Such A Time: 
Aric couldn't understand why she mattered so much to him. The war had inured him to so much death and brutality; Stella was a stranger, who because of Gestapo malice had become merely another warm-blooded obstacle in the Reich's path. 
Yet, having returned yesterday to retrieve Stella from his cousin's house after his business in Munich, he'd lifted her into his arms and felt jarred by his own fury. It was the first time in a long while something- someone- had moved him. 
She was so thin he'd felt the protruding ribs beneath her thin cotton dress. Even this morning she seemed weak, enough so that he was glad he'd changed his plans. 
Aric hadn't intended to leave her alone, but Eichmann's early phone call had changed all that. The SS-Obersturmbannfuhrer was in Prague for a week's summit before continuing on to Berlin. When he'd suggested driving up to Theresienstadt to meet, Aric convinced him the city would be a better venue. 
Aric didn't fool himself over his motives; he meant to protect her. His wounded dove . . .
His jaded humor left him as he watched her eat. Last night she'd asked to leave. He'd all but refused her, telling her that he needed a secretary. Aric knew that wasn't the whole truth of why he'd saved her. Still, whatever his real motives, he felt compelled to finish the task, to feed her until the hollows disappeared from her cheeks, dress her in fine clothes- blue to match the shades of her eyes- and pearls to encase her slender neck. She would smell of fragrant cloves and fine cigarettes, not body odor and fear. 
He willed her to heal quickly. For the sooner she looked like one of his staff and less like a prisoner, the better. Until her hair grew out and the bruises on her face and hands faded, she was in constant danger. She emptied her bowl and then patted her mouth with her linen napkin. He noted the marked improvement in the healthy pink color of her lips. So full of promise . . .
"I'm finished, Herr Kommandant." 
A note of pride touched her voice. Aric let his report slide to the table. She sat perfectly straight in the chair with her hands in her lap, looking secretly pleased with herself. 
Her fear of him had disappeared . . . or at least abated. A promising start. 

Excerpt used with permission. All rights reserved.

Gallant Score:
Aric looks on Stella as a human being and not something to be used or exterminated. His respect for her life goes a long way towards earning her trust. Despite the faults of his past, he has a good heart. One that has been calloused by the realities of war- so much that he has forgotten how to care. Stella opens his eyes to see everything in a different light. She becomes a treasure to him- something worth protecting. It's no surprise, then, when Aric stands up for Stella to his peers and superiors, and defends her against the lecherous Hermann, risking his own reputation in the process. 

Wounded Score:
While there are some hard wounds in his past, the deepest cuts happen in his present.  Because of Stella, Aric gains a unique insight into how his decisions have forever changed life for so many people. Faced with this new reality, Aric has to decide how to cope. He is a monster. But he is also a man. A man whom he hopes is not beyond salvation. 

Softie Score:
Aric isn't a Softie. As you may have already gathered, he is a war-hardened Colonel, whom life and experience have not been kind to. Everything about him speaks to his profession. Only when you dig deeper into his character and examine the people he chooses to keep close to him can you see his inner soft side. Take Joseph as just one example, and you being to see that Aric is already taking small steps in the right direction, doing what he can to right the wrong happening all around him. 

Stupid Strike:
There's nothing to say here. Aric's character (aside from being a Reich member, that is) is above reproach. 

Swoon Score:
So, confession. I can't say that I really "swooned" over Aric. And it's not his fault, believe me. He has a lot going for him. I think it may be because I was so invested in his journey, I didn't have time to stand back and admire the view. I wanted Aric to succeed. I longed for the redemption- for the hope. If I may use the analogy from another great story, I wanted to see Aric shed the dragon's skin and become a man again. But like Eustace, it takes the help of a Higher power to truly transform Aric, and it doesn't happen without pain. 

A Florida girl who migrated to the beautiful Pacific Northwest, Kate Breslin lives with her husband, John, and a very spoiled cat named Coco. Kate has written several travel articles, published award-winning poetry, and her first manuscript, a Scottish historical romance, was finalist in RWA’s Golden Heart Contest. These days, when she’s not writing inspirational fiction or spending time with her author friends, she’s avidly reading books, watching anything Jane Austen on BBC, or following John’s musical career as his #1 fan. An avid  “tree-hugger” she often enjoys long walks in the forests and playing in the garden-growing all kinds of flowers and herbs, especially those that attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Kate’s also a traveler-she and John have toured most of Washington state and many places in the U.S. With her intrepid mom as traveling companion, Kate’s also been abroad-Paris, Munich, Rome, Pompeii, Athens, even a day trip to Turkey. Her next story takes place in Western Europe.

FHF Exclusive Directly from the Author: 
“Aric grew up a lonely boy after his mother’s death; his father, a stern man withdrew into his grief over the loss of his wife, leaving Aric to spend his days riding out to hunt and explore the hills of his homeland. He felt different from other boys, and living out in the country he had few friends. He created his own world in the forests—as a king leading his knights into battle, or sometimes a pirate seeking buried treasure, pretending to help his father replenish what they’d lost in the first war and regain his love. Oftentimes, he came across some animal that had been left injured or abandoned in the woods and brought it home. Though he usually suffered ridicule from his father, Johann von Schmidt would nonetheless show his son how to care for the poor creature, or make a home for it at the farm. In this way they maintained their bond with one another.”

The giveaways:

One copy of  For Such A Time print or e-book (winner’s choice), goes 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: blue.danube.waltz (at) musicbox dot com

If you have already enjoyed For Such A Time, a $10 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card can be yours if you leave the name of a character from the book in your comment that is not used in the excerpt or description. Again, once the character name has been used, you have to find another.

Drawings on May 14th. 

I (Joy) am super excited to announce that in 30 short days, I will be meeting my fellow FHF blogger and dear friend Nancy face-to-face for the FIRST TIME!! Everything about the trip has been God sent, and I cannot wait!!! Mark you calendars for the JUNE 1ST Feature! Not only are we going to have a FABULOUS hero (and girls, I do mean fabulous...) but it will also be during Nancy's and my time together. What kind of giveaway scheme will we have cooked up by then? One never knows..... ;) 

Also, I don't believe it's an accident that this post fell just a few short days after Holocaust Remembrance Day. What do you do to keep history alive? How does the Holocaust speak to you personally? 
Inquiring minds what to know! :)