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Happy New Year!

Dear Reading Friends,  

                                                                              

Happy New Year and thank you for your interest in my books! I hope and pray you and yours are doing well and are looking forward to what’s in store for us as we begin 2024. Since I didn’t manage getting out my recap of 2023 on time (how did the year go by so quickly?!), I’m beginning the New Year with this update for you, my faithful reading friends.  


2023 Blessings

Family and Grandchildren

We were blessed with two new grandchildren this year—Sawyer Joseph on the first day of spring March 20 and a namesake for my husband Bill, Wilhelmina (“Wilma”) Judith on October 13—bringing our grand total to 32 (17 girls and 15 boys) with another baby girl expected the end of February. We’ve been very busy grandparents, babysitting and helping out when needed and attending various recitals, concerts, plays, and sporting events. All of our nine children and their families are doing well and serving the Lord. We are grateful the entire clan was able to gather for Thanksgiving at our oldest daughter Katherine’s Chalk Horse Farm.



Health, Travel, and Ministry

My husband Bill continues to heal up well from his bout with prostate cancer last fall, returning to coaching soccer at Chantilly HS with our son Brendan and fulltime ministry at The King’s Chapel (TKC) in Clifton, VA, through the spring. We rejoiced to “pass the mantle” of Senior Pastor of TKC onto the capable shoulders of our son Mark with a Succession Sunday celebration on May 21. After enjoying a long sabbatical, Bill will resume part-time ministry as Pastor Emeritus. I will continue to serve as a mentor mom to our MOMs group for mothers of preschoolers.


I spent much of my spring on a knee scooter after extensive foot surgery, unable to bear weight or drive for eight weeks. I’m thankful to be back to walking several miles a day, having recovered in time for our planned “dream cruise” from Athens to the Greek Islands and Israel to celebrate Bill’s retirement and our big birthdays. Sadly, due to a delayed flight and a “series of unfortunate events,” we ended up being stranded in Rome, losing our luggage, and missing the entire cruise.  However, we were able to salvage the trip with an impromptu “Roman Holiday” and a night in Florence, where I fulfilled a bucket-list wish of seeing Michaelangelo’s magnificent David; and we ended the trip as planned, visiting Athens and Corinth and celebrating our anniversary at a rooftop restaurant overlooking the Acropolis.   


We did enjoy several wonderful beach weeks with the family and on our own at my “happy place” on Topsail Island, NC.  In September, I facilitated a reunion in Charlottesville, VA, of the Christian women I lived with back in our University of Virginia days, and we spent a weekend in Staunton for a wedding at a nearby vineyard.


Writing News

Regrettably, I have not written anything new this year and I’ve still not found a publisher for my novel Dancing in Hemlock, the love story of Edith and J.R.R. Tolkien.  I did edit two books for Freiling Publishing and have been slowly working on revising my murder mystery novella, Death at Clifton Manor, which is set at the country estate of my Oxford Chronicles characters, Lord Stuart Devereux and his new bride Natalie MacKenzie. Much of the summer, I spent revising and editing Expectations, Book II of The Oxford Chronicles for a new edition (2023), both in paperback and e-book, released just before Christmas by Freiling Publishing, following the new editions of Inklings, Book I of the Oxford Chronicles (2022) and Jillian Dare: A Modern Retelling of Jane Eyre (2021). God willing, Evasions will re-release in 2024. 

 

While Jillian Dare is a romantic suspense novel, The Oxford Chronicles fall into the category of “inspirational historical romance.” Of the series, I consider Inklings to be my best romance novel, Evasions, to be my best historical novel, and Expectations to be my best inspirational novel. As I wrote it, I contemplated the questions, “What if we don’t always live happily ever after?” “How do we respond when faced with disappointment, loss, and grief?”  Expectations has romance, two in fact; however, the characters also encounter multiple challenges of dashed expectations, loneliness, addiction, and bereavement, but then by God’s grace, find comfort, hope, and joy in the midst of their struggles. In writing it, I drew heavily on the wisdom of C.S. Lewis in A Grief Observed.  It has been gratifying to me that over the years, readers have written to share how Expectations helped them through a time of loss or grief.  It may sound strange, but providentially for me, as I reread what I had originally written nearly twenty years ago, I myself felt ministered to as I grappled with some of my own personal loss and disappointments. I hope you too will also be blessed by it and enjoy traveling to 1960s Oxford and Paris, as well as meeting Edith and J.R.R. Tolkien in their Headington home. (And if you have the opportunity, I would greatly appreciate some glowing reviews 😊).


Happy New Year! As 2024 unfolds, I pray you will be blessed abundantly beyond your expectations (Ephesians 3:20). 



Many blessings, Melanie

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