Once in a while, it’s fun to pause from telling y’all about my stories and talk instead about the other books that make up my life. 😁 And this last month, I’ve been SUPER BUSY preparing two amazing books for publication. So naturally, I want to tell you about them. πŸ˜‰

WhiteFire Publishing has just officially launched its young reader line, WhiteSpark. And our two launching titles are pretty fabulous. Leading the way is our Young Adult title, Gone Too Soon, by bestselling, award-winning author Melody Carlson.
Now, Melody has long been established as a writer of both young adult and adult novels, historical, contemporary, you name it. At this point, I’ve read quite a lot of her books. But I gotta say. This one. This one is my favorite. This one is something special. This one grabbed me by the heart within pages and just didn’t let me go again. This one will rock your world.
It’s about a family–a family on the brink of disintegration. Six months before the story opens, the eldest daughter, Hannah–the “perfect” daughter–was killed in a car accident. And now nothing is right. Kiera, the “problem child” middle daughter, doesn’t know what to do. Their father barely ever comes home. Their mother is relying more and more on alcohol and prescription drugs. And her little sister, Maddie, is being shipped off for the summer. It seems like nothing will stop their family’s tailspin…until Kiera finds a diary hidden away in her older sister’s room. Then even what she thought she knew is turned on its head. Apparently, Hannah wasn’t so perfect. Apparently, her last year was far from ideal.
And apparently, their family’s problems began well before Hannah died. The question is…can her words now somehow help put things to rights?
I’ll say up front that I’m not an emotional reader. I don’t often cry when I read. But this one…okay, so I didn’t cry, but I got chills, people. Genuine, “Oh my goodness!!” chills. Aimed at teens who are sure to see their world in the one between the pages, it’s also suitable for adults. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Get it for your teen. Get it for yourself. Get it for anyone who needs to see the hand of God at work. It’s available at a bargain price for your e-reader, in paperback, and also in hardback with dust jacket.

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Oh, funny behind-the-scenes. I did the cover design for this, of course–but as I tried out various options, Melody and I agreed we wanted to see the diary on the cover. But I couldn’t find a single decent stock image of a diary like I wanted. I could, however, find one on Amazon. πŸ˜‰ So I ended up ordering one and staging my own photo shoot. It isn’t often I use my original photos for a cover! I had to purchase the keychain too…it’s not actually in the book, but it’s representative of the car that plays a huge role in the story.
Next up is Benjy and the Belsnickel, a middle-grade story that the 8-12 crowd will LOVE. When this book was first submitted to us, I actually read it to my kids (9 and 11 at the time) as part of our homeschool day to get their take. (Hello, beta testing!) They both highly enjoyed it, especially my son.
Benjy is such a fun story! The title character is an 11-yr-old boy in a rural Pennsylvania town in the 1930s. He attends a one-room schoolhouse, where he is constantly pulling pranks and getting in trouble with the schoolmarm. The thing is, he’s not sure why. He tries to be good–he wants to be good–but the allure of mischief is just too strong. I mean, who wants to do spelling when it’s one of the last warm days of autumn and his baseball bat is calling his name?? Who wants to suffer through math when the first snowfall promises fun sledding?
But with every prank he pulls, Benjy is met with the same threat from all the adults in his life–he’d better be careful, or he’ll earn a visit from the Belsnickel.
This is what I LOVE about this book–the Pennsylvania Dutch legend that comes to life! The Belsnickel, you see, is an old PA Dutch tradition that runs parallel to Santa Claus. We all know Santa is known for bringing presents to good kids and coal to bad ones. Well, the Belsnickel is his antithesis. He only visits the naughty children, and he comes with a whip in hand, a terrifying hat decorated with porcupine quills and bells, and a strict warning: make better choices or face the consequences.
Benjy’s pretty sure the legend is just that–folklore. Except he keeps hearing bells at every turn and is pretty sure he sees the Belsnickel’s shadow looming. Is it his imagination or truth? And is the threat enough to make him change his ways?
With just enough legend to make kids squeal, but plenty of humor, hope, and family love to keep them firmly planted, this is a must-read this holiday season for the young ones in your life!
AND…inside the book, there are illustrations at the chapter heads and between some of the chapters. Illustrations were done by my daughter! When Bonnie (the author) mentioned a few line drawings to me, I immediately thought of my budding artist of a daughter and wondered if her style would fit. I sent Bonnie a few samples of her work to see if it fit the style she had in mind, and she gave me an enthusiastic “Yes!” So my thirteen-year-old wowed us all with her talent (as usual) and produced the 23 pictures now featured in this book. Yes, I’m a proud mama. For good reason! This girl is GOOD!

Benjy and the Belsnickel is also available in three formats, though the hardback version is case laminate, not a dust jacket. Better for those younger readers, and more handy for lending and sharing. 😁

You can watch a fun interview with Bonnie HERE.

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