The Gift of Story

Merry Christmas!

I am still on a bit of a blogging hiatus. I’ve been writing quite a bit, but for reasons I cannot explain, I haven’t been able to string together a decent post here…on my own site.

*sigh*

Truthfully, I miss blogging. I miss the days of yore when I could sit down and punch out a funny story in less than an hour. I think there will be time for that again some day.

Or maybe there won’t.

I’m not entirely sure just yet. But I do know one thing, I am as addicted to the written word as I ever was before. In fact, I’ve made it a point to spend more time reading these last couple of months.

I needed to lose myself in story again to remember why I loved it so much.

I’ve also been working on my second book. With very few moments to spare in my days, the down time I’ve had has been spent developing new characters. The process is a slow one, but my plan is to finish the manuscript by early summer.

*fingers crossed*

In the meantime, here are a few of my book recommendations for you all! Give the gift of story this Christmas (and, in some cases, your gift may just benefit others in need).

1.) Like a River From Its Course – Kelli Stuart

Come on, now. You didn’t think I’d compile a list of books and not include my own, did you? *wink*

I received a lovely review of my novel this week. I’m grateful for every review that comes through, but truth be told I love reviews from men just a little more. If I can win over a male reader with my writing, then I feel like I’ve accomplished something.

“This is the best historical novel I have read this year. It was moving, powerful, amazing. I have been on a mission trip to Ukraine and the people there remember the horrors of WWII. Thank you for telling their stories so eloquently.” Doc Kirby

Have you purchased your copy of Like a River From Its Course yet? When you do, a portion of the proceeds go to Hope House Ukraine, a ministry of World Hope Canada working with girls who have aged out of orphanages.

 

2.) Life Creative: Inspiration for Today’s Renaissance Mom – Wendy Speake and Kelli Stuart

My second book released in September, and this is the perfect gift for the creative moms in your life. Wendy and I have had so many sweet compliments about this book, and I am equally proud of it.

Purchase Life Creative today and bless a young mom who feels a bit lost in motherhood. A portion of the proceeds from this book are sent to Lulu Tree, a ministry that aims to “prevent tomorrow’s orphans by equipping today’s mothers.

3.) A Cup of Dust – Susie Finkbeiner

Susie Finkbeiner’s historical fiction novel set in the 1930’s Oklahoma was a beautiful, heart wrenching story. I had never heard of the Dust Bowl, and after reading her book I did a little research and was fascinated to learn more about this devastating time in our nation’s history.

You’ll get lost in the compelling characters that Finkbeiner has created, and what’s better is that the sequel, A Trail of Crumbs, releases in just a couple of months. I had the privilege of reading the second installment in her series early, and I can tell you it is as well written and researched as the first book.

4.) 7 Women: And the Secret of Their Greatness – Eric Metaxes

I’m about a quarter of the way into this book, and I couldn’t love it more. As the mother of two daughters, I love stories of strong women who leave a big impact. Eric Metaxes, the author of Bonhoeffer (one of my favorite biographies) brings the stories of some of the greatest female leaders to life in this book.

From Susanna Wesley to Corrie ten Boom, Mother Teresa to Joan of Arc, Metaxes gives readers a glimpse into the lasting impact of these strong women.

 

5.) The Tale of Despereaux – Kate DiCamillo

This book is a gem. It isn’t a new book, and many of you may have read it before, but I never had so I was thrilled when it was on the list of books for Landon’s literature class this fall.

The Tale of Despereaux is pure magic from beginning to end. Kate DiCamillo is a master at bringing story to life, portraying deep lessons through the most lovable of characters. The kids and I read The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane last year and loved that story just as much.

This is a must read for parents and kids alike!

6.) Truly Madly Guilty – Liane Moriarty

I met Liane Moriarty this past September at the #ReadSavannah event in Savannah, Georgia. She was witty, gracious, and generous with her time as she promoted her new bestseller, Truly Madly Guilty.

I enjoyed the book (though admittedly, I liked Big Little Lies better). This is a book of secrets, connections, and the common event that changed multiple lives. It’s a page turner from beginning to end.

7.) All the Pretty Things – Edie Wadsworth

I love a good memoir, and my friend Edie did not disappoint with this beautiful book in which she shared the beauty and brokenness of her youth. You will be encouraged, blessed, and moved by Edie’s poignant prose, beautiful storytelling, and big love for all the pretty things.

8.) Carry On, Mr. Bowditch – Jean Lee Latham

Tia has been reading this book in her literature class, and she and I both love it. It’s a tough read for the younger kids, but the language is rich. At times, I’ve read out loud to her, and other times she’s read it herself.

Be warned, the book is sad. Tia and I both have wiped our eyes several times while reading.

9.) Carrot Top Paper Shop Bookmarks 

Every reader needs a bookmark to hold her place, and adorable bookmarks make reading all the more fun. I’ve fallen in love with Carrot Top Paper Shop in recent months. Her prints of literary heroines are too cute, and she has bookmarks to match!

Buy a bookmark for the book lover in your life. They make perfect stocking stuffers!

10.) The Puffin Hardcover Classics Box Set

I’m hard core coveting these books right now.

And also this set.

Not only are they the classics we all know and love, but they are gorgeous, making bookshelves as visually appealing as they are emotionally appealing.

These would be a wonderful collection to wrap up under the tree as a family gift. Or you could just send the entire box set to me if you want. I won’t argue. 

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This is my personal Tep Ten list of perfect gifts for the bookworm. What about you? What would you add to this list?

*This post contains affiliate links

Making Space

There is a lot of noise in my house.

A lot of noise.

I do not have quiet children. I have the loud, gregarious type of children who enjoy being seen and heard, some of them more than others. And the more the noise ramps up, the more this mama feels like she is losing it.

It’s not just their voices, though. They’re into music now, so there’s always music playing in the background, which I love. I always dreamed of having a house filled with music and laughter. Only, and I’m revealing my age here, their music is loud and…dare I say annoying?

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And it isn’t so much laughter that’s floating through the halls of my home as it is a mixture of bickering, posturing to be heard, and the telling of silly jokes that I think are supposed to be funny, but 99% of the time I don’t get the punchline.

I think maybe I am the punchline.

It’s been an intense season around here. No one told method launching two books in three months would leave me feeling poured out in ways I didn’t know possible. I hesitate to say anything because it sounds like I’m complaining.

For the record, I am not complaining.

If I were to list the number of blessings to come out of the last five months, this blog post would turn into a short novella. It’s been a wild, but extremely exciting ride, culminating in the release of the books, both of which I am immensely proud.

I’m also immensely tired.

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I’ve felt all poured out the last couple of weeks. I sit down to write, and the words feel stuck. They can’t seem to make it from my fingers to the page, which is a problem when you make your living as a writer.

I think I just need some time. I need time to be with my family and not feel rushed.

I need time to exercise, coaxing my loose muscles back into shape.

I need time to let my neck heal, since I somehow seem to have injured it with all this rigorous book launching. (It’s ridiculous, I know. But I refuse to say my neck hurts because I’m getting old. I’m sticking with the whole “writing injury” thing.)

There’s this sense of angst that settles in my heart when I consider taking a break. Part of the business of writing requires that you build an audience. Know your people and talk to them. Publishers like that.

The truth is I like it, too. I like sharing my life with readers, and in turn I like them sharing their lives with me. But it’s time for me to give myself a little space.

I’ll be taking a blogging break. I just need to give myself the freedom to step back, not completely. I’ll still be sharing on Instagram, and on Facebook, and occasionally on Twitter. I would love to have you follow me in one of those spaces.

But I’m going to let this space breath for a little while. Because here’s the thing:

I’m working on a new book.

I’m really excited about it. I love the characters already, and I’m fleshing out the details. I’m ready to start diving in, but I need to give myself a break in other places in order to let my brain process. So I’ll be quiet in this space for awhile, but I do hope you’ll stay connected.

Because this journey is so much more fun with community.

If you haven’t picked up your copy of Like a River From Its Course, grab one today! Did you know the book made the CBA Bestseller list this month? It’s up there alongside Beth Moore and Francine Rivers, and WHAT THE WHAT?!

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And if you haven’t gotten your copy of Life Creative: Inspiration for Today’s Renaissance Mom, then I’d love for you to snag a copy of it as well. It’s being hailed as a beautiful love letter to motherhood, and that’s exactly what we hoped it would be!

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Happy Monday, everyone! I’ll be around, so find me and let’s keep connecting! Big love for you all!

*affiliate links provided

Welcome New Readers!

“There are few moments when you receive a book and it just captures your attention and demands to be read. This is one of those books. It is powerful, emotional and full of passion. I cried, smiled and my heart broke at various times throughout the book. I was so attached when I first opened this book, it came with me to soccer practice and I read it the whole time we were there. It was definitely a book I read in one sitting and then re-read over again to further appreciate it.” Amazon review

It’s been just under a month since Like a River From Its Course released, and what a ride it’s been. I’ve been overwhelmed with the response to the book, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of this process. So may of you made it an exciting time for me, and I could not be more thankful.

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“Like a River From Its Course is an emotional, moving story that will leave you horrified by the depth of human depravity and yet inspired by the characters’ courage and faith in the midst of adversity. The author’s research shines through this book, as there is an air of realism that permeates the pages. The fact that I was reading about characters whose experiences were based on true stories made them all the more heart-breaking to read about. Kelli Stuart writes with a sure hand, with carefully crafted scenes and the ability to bring her characters to life.” Amazon Review

As I continue to share and spread the word about Like a River From Its Course, it’s also time for me to begin shifting my focus toward the next book launch.

In just two months, my second book will release. CRAZY! Who’s idea was it to release two books in four months?!

Life Creative: Inspiration for Today’s Renaissance Mom is co-authored with my dear friend, Wendy Speake, and I’m unendingly grateful to have her on board this time around. She’s like a book marketing ninja, which is good because I’m almost brain dead after this last month.

Many of you are new to the website, and I’m so glad to have you here! Feel free to poke around.

Visit this page to learn a little more about me.

Visit this page to read some of the true stories that inspired Like a River From Its Course.

Click here to find a synopsis of the book, as well as Pinable images for sharing!

Read this post to see how your purchase of Like a River From Its Course is helping a young Ukrainian girl named Masha.

Contact me here if you have any questions.

You should have already received a message offering you access to the freebies you get for subscribing to KelliStuart.com. These freebies include two ebooks, the first four chapters of Like a River From Its Course, and a Reader’s Guide perfect for book clubs. If you haven’t received the links to those freebies, contact me and I will send them right over!

Stay tuned for some SUPER exciting news! I can’t wait to share an upcoming opportunity with you all!

We are beginning to wind down our summer here in Florida. Only two more weeks until school starts! As much as I’ve enjoyed this break, the return of a routine is always welcome. I will be working on developing a more consistent posting routine again, as well.

In the meantime, welcome, and thanks again for making the launch of Like a River From Its Course such a memorable time for me! I’m looking forward to getting to “know” many of you in the months to come!

Happy Monday!

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Have you ordered your copy of Like a River From Its Course yet?

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Order now and see why people are calling it the best book they’ve ever read!

Click here to order your copy, or to leave a review if you’ve already read it.*

Thank you!!

*affiliate link included

Vacation, Huffington, and a WINNER!

Once upon a time, I wrote blog posts every day.

EVERY DAY!

I don’t know how I did that, honestly. Life was different then. The kids were younger, most of them still napped, and our days were less dictated by sports and activities, and growing social calendars.

All that to say, I haven’t had much time lately to write. Not writing is hard for a writer. I feel like I’ve been neglecting a part of myself.

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What I haven’t neglected, however, is some sweet time with this family of mine. We are in Texas for the week, holed up in a hotel (six people in one hotel room isn’t exactly a vacation, but I can’t find a better word for it…torture? No, that’s not right) while our daughter does a gymnastics camp.

Despite the cramped quarters, we’ve had some fun, and are making good memories with friends and with one another. And my brain is relishing in a bit of free time.

But it hasn’t been a totally work-free week! Before leaving, I submitted a blog post to The Huffington Post. It finally went live today. This was my response to the terrible attacks in Nice last week.

How History Can Help Our Fight Against ISIS

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Now, moving on to the GOOD news!

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A winner was drawn this morning for the Like a River From Its Course giveaway and blog tour! Congratulations to Miranda Marchese! My publicists from Litfuse Publicity Group will be in touch via email with details on how to claim your prize. You can also email your mailing address to info {at} litfusegroup {dot} com. Congrats!

Thank you to everyone who entered, and who helped spread the word. It’s been fun to see so many new faces around Twitter and Facebook!

If you haven’t ordered your book yet, do so today! I’m blown away by the reviews and responses I’ve receive from readers. This book was a labor of love, and it holds a large piece of my heart, so hearing the impact it’s leaving on readers has blessed me so much.

Order Like a River From Its Course now and find out why people are calling it the best book they’ve ever read!

Happy Tuesday, everyone! I hope you’re all enjoying some sweet down time with family here in the middle of summer!

 

Behind the Scenes: The Mastermind of Babi Yar

When working on Like a River From Its Course, I knew that I wanted to give as historically accurate a glimpse into World War II Soviet Ukraine as I could while still offering myself plenty of creative license with the stories. Having so many real life stories to draw from helped shape many of the characters and their narratives, but what about the side stories?

What about the real life men and women responsible for the heinous acts of the 1940’s?

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Writing a book about World War II is daunting. The market is fairly saturated with stories from that era, so how would I write about those days in a way that was fresh and new? I needed to add an element of realism to make those wretched years come alive.

I spent countless hours researching the events that took place in Kiev, Ukraine, with the largest tragedy occurring at Babi Yar, the “killing ditch” where roughly 34,000 men, women, and children were killed in just two days time.

The mastermind behind that horrific event was a man named Paul Blobel.

800px-Paul_BlobelA wicked, wretched little man, Blobel not only took credit for ordering thousands of Jews killed, but he was known to speak highly of his involvement in these mass executions.

In one of the books I read, a story was told of the day that Blobel and one of the Gestapo leaders drove past Babi Yar. The decomposing bodies of the Jews lay smoldering in the narrow ravine, and as the story goes, Blobel looked at the smoke, rising into the air in plumes of heartache, and said to his comrade, “This is my ditch. Isn’t it grand?”

The level of hatred that this one man possessed, and the demons that operated from his shell of a body were hard for me to comprehend. There were days when I had to swallow hard the bile of anger as I considered his actions, and those of the many like him.

It is these aspects of the book that make the story gritty and tough to read. I couldn’t possibly gloss over the sheer darkness of those days and somehow honor the fallen. If we are to respect their memories at all, then we must respect the wretched ways in which they died.

Including some of the real life characters in the book gave me a chance to show the extreme depravity of these men. But it also shined a light on the beauty and resilience of those who fought and survived those years.

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Juxtaposed against Paul Blobel’s ugliness was the beauty of Ivan Kyrilovich, a man who was willing to give his life for his Jewish neighbors. Maria Ivanovna was willing to take a beating for her friend. Luda Michaelvna chose love over hatred after being assaulted. Sergei Ivanov worked as a partisan, despite the danger it put him in.

For all the horror of World War II, there was a whole lot of hope, and when you start mining through all these stories you find that the wretchedness of men like Paul Blobel cannot withstand the ultimate beauty of the human spirit.

We live in a day when fear is ever present. Tensions are high around the world, and there’s no better time than now to look at the past and to remember that the spirit of a man cannot be so easily quenched.

Order your copy of Like a River From Its Course now!

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There’s still time to enter the Kindle Fire Giveaway if you haven’t done so yet. It’s quick and easy to enter, and the prize is great! You can win a copy of Like a River Form Its Course, a Kindle Fire with the case of your choice, and a $30 Amazon gift card.

Click here to enter!

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Addressing the Question of Faith

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When I first set out to write a novel set in World War II Soviet Ukraine, I did not intend to add an element of faith. This was, after all, a time of great spiritual oppression, with Stalin’s communist regime silencing anyone who might pose a threat to them. And there was, perhaps, no people group greater persecuted than those of the Church.

I met three fascinating World War II survivors in Odessa, Ukraine, all of whom had been Christians in those dark days of war. Two of the men were forced to serve in the penalty battalion of the Red Army after they were caught hiding and harboring Jews. Both credited God’s protection for their survival.

I wanted to tell these stories and, in fact, in one of the earlier versions of Like a River From Its Course, I did have a storyline that was based on one of these men’s experiences. But it became apparent early on that not all the stories could be told.

It would have been an impossible book to read.

So I whittled the stories down to four, and I planned to leave the spiritual component out of the book altogether. But then I began to wonder…

What does war do to a person? In the case of Ivan, after having survived the horror of Babi Yar, how would such an experience define how he saw the world? Would there be any questions of God in such a time of darkness?

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I began to research how people of faith responded to the Nazi invasion, and I discovered that in the years between 1941-1945 there was a resurgence of the Church throughout the Soviet Union. Long oppressed and forced underground, they experienced a bit of freedom during the war years because the leadership of their country was so occupied with the fighting.

And so I began to explore the idea that perhaps people sought out answers to some really tough questions during that time. These were people who had survived the collectivization of their farms, Stalin’s purges in which millions of innocent people were sent to the Gulags if they were at all perceived threatening, and the famine of the early ’30’s that decimated the population.

Ukraine was particularly hard hit in these arenas. But there’s something else that’s important to understand: Ukraine was once the centerpiece of Christianity in that part of the world.

Tradition tells the story of the apostle Andrew visiting Kiev in his missionary journeys, and it’s said that Princess Olga was one of the first in the monarchy to accept Christianity. In 988, Princess Olga’s grandson, Prince Vladimir the Great, established Christianity in its Byzantine-Slavic rite as the national religion of Kievan-Rus. 

The Church has a long history in Ukraine, which made the exploration of how a character would seek God in communist USSR a fascinating topic for me.

But here’s the kicker: I needed this to be authentic.

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I’ve had a couple of emails from readers now, and at least two comments in the review section of Amazon, questioning the spiritual storyline of the book. One comment said the spiritual thread was nearly non-existent, and what was there felt like Catholicism.

That was intentional.

Ivan Kyrilovich was a man raised under the talons of communism. Thanks to the quiet prayers of his mother, he had at least some exposure to faith, but it was minimal. I wanted his journey to be one of questioning. I wanted to show that he struggled with this concept of faith, because wouldn’t he?

Wouldn’t you?

I couldn’t wrap a neat little bow around this quest for faith, because the truth is that after the war, the church had to move back underground. My intention wasn’t to show some western-like grand conversion, but rather to display nuggets of truth inside one man’s quest for understanding.

As for how the faith played itself out, the predominant form of Christianity present in those days (and dating back to Vladimir the Great) was the Russian Orthodox Church, which does look very similar in nature to Roman Catholicism.

Mary plays a big role in the Russian Orthodox faith, as do the many saints. There is the belief that you have a saint who shares your name, and you can pray specifically to that saint when in need.

Icons also play a major role in the Church, and if you ever have the chance to visit an Orthodox church in the former Soviet Union, I hope you’ll study the icons closely. They are fascinating pieces of art depicting a long oppressed and persecuted faith.

If I was going to write an authentic story, then I needed Ivan and Tanya’s quest for faith to be authentic. It wasn’t going to be western in any way. It had to be real to both the time and the culture.

Beyond that, though, my prayer is that we can all be encouraged by the brief message of faith in Like a River From Its Course. For many years, man attempted to erase God from that land. They sent religious leaders to prison camps, turned churches into communist training facilities, and threatened anyone who attempted to spread Christianity with death.

But faith is not so easily snuffed out.

In the midst of one of the darkest periods of history, the Church surged back into the land and provided hope where there seemed to be none. In the words of Father Kyrilovich, “Life is a series of trials, all strung together by moments of beauty. But when the string of joy and beauty breaks, what is left to hold life together if there is no God?”

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If you haven’t entered the Kindle Fire giveaway yet, hop on over and do so now. Entering is easy, and the prize is great! A copy of Like a River From Its Course, a Kindle Fire with your choice of case, and a $30 Amazon gift card.

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And, as always, keep those reviews of Like a River From Its Course coming!

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

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