Claim your mountain!

Don’t lose sight of common sense and discernment..They keep you safe on your way.” Proverbs 3:21-23

IMG_0304My daughter and I had planned our dream trip to France for over six months. We envisioned a three week road trip to places we each wanted to revisit or to explore for the first time. Any adventure I had like this in the past included my husband as the designated driver. But this time, I was the sole driver for the 21 days. Oh course, I questioned my ability to navigate in France, but we made sure we had a European GPS. Therefore, what could be amiss. I’m a great driver, at least in the United States and more specifically Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi.

As we planned, I don’t recall being overly concerned about the French terrain. My concerns centered around navigating the cities and the tiny roads in the villages. Why didn’t I think about the hills and the mountains? Possibly because I don’t confront them often at home. The Rockies I have left to my husband’s driving skills. And the Appalachians were not so imposing on many trips to Virginia.

IMG_3222Now, I had to face my mountains alone–challenges I put in front of myself and accepted by the lack on my part of dwelling on the obstacles the Pyrenees and the Alps might cause. And there they were…

The most important thing is that I complete my mission, the work that the Lord gave me. Acts 20:24

IMG_0377I had to conquer the Pyrenees upon entering Andorra. These rugged mountains with a high point of 9,652 feet forced me to calculate my proximity to cliffs and to curves where other vehicles seemed awfully close.

I did it even when I had to back down the mountain half a mile due to construction. I hope never to have to do anything like that again….

IMG_3855The most impressive sight on our whole trip was our introduction to the Alps when leaving Italy for France. Slowly the range crept closer, immense and imposing. My mountains, my challenge. I laughed instead of shaking in fear or crying. How did I get in this situation?

Mont Blanc, 15,781 feet of solid mountain, the highest mountain in the Alps, looming, challenging, drawing me near. Praying for a calmness that I didn’t feel.

IMG_3854This mountain, like many challenges, had a way through it–an 11.6 km tunnel (at a hefty cost of $55.) God is like that too. So often He provides a detour or a reprieve in the midst of the hardships or challenges of life.

I conquered and claimed my mountains in the literal sense last month giving me a visual of how to face my other challenges ahead of me.

IMG_3864What mountains are you facing or have you faced where God gave you a way through, a reprieve?

We put our hope in the Lord. He is our help and our shield…Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord, for our hope is in you alone. Psalm 33:20-22




Château de Chenonceau

IMG_0107.JPGMy FAVORITE place on earth–the Château de Chenonceau in the Loire Valley on the River Cher in France. This fairytale castle captured my heart and imagination forty years ago and draws me back often. My most recent visit took place in July. My heart dances at the thought of it.

IMG_2726Built in the 16th century, this “small” rather magical place has housed many flamboyant characters from kings and queens to mistresses and philosophers. The stories vibrate from the tapestries, paneled rooms, tiled floors, stone staircases, and treasures displayed throughout the rooms.

And oh, the stories going around in my head! One will become a novel, a part of my Gardens in Time Series (yet to be published.) Book #3 will take place in Chenonceau during the Age of Enlightenment in France around 1750. The historical characters will be Louise Dupin who surrounded herself with poets, writers, scientists, and philosophers as well as those on the political scene. Her salon became infamous as a stage for debates and ideas prior to the American and French Revolutions.

IMG_0110The fictional characters of my novel will interact with those who question traditional authority and ways. Lisette, possibly the name of the heroine, has always lived on the farm connected with the castle and now supplies the flowers and ornamental foliage that perfumes the salons and enhance the guests’ experience. Christophe performs the role of a guard acting on behalf of the king keeping the grounds safe. How will their lives change as the ones within the walls of the castle deem it necessary to change the world? The gardens of the castle act as a perfect backdrop for intrigue, love, good food, beauty, secrets, peace, and dreams whether royalty or commoner, educated or illiterate.

IMG_2644Today the grounds of the Château de Chenonceau in France are a gardener’s delight. They have been maintained with their original structure and intent in place. Each time I visit there is more improvement and much more to explore. The formal gardens of Diane de Poitiers and Catherine de Médicis are manicured to perfection in all seasons. I explored the Labyrinth with my daughter as well as a huge garden divided into plots full of all the vegetation used for decorating the chateau. Hundreds of varieties of flowers, fruit, and vegetables occupy the area, giving the visitor a visual of what it might have been like a few centuries ago. Also, there is a 16th century farm complete with stables, houses, pond, and storage rooms.

My mind was overloaded with ideas and images as I walked on this historic ground one more time. I hope to write this novel soon and send it on its way.

Is there a place that you want as a setting for a novel? (I have so many!!)

Book Review and Giveaway: Kingdom of Ruins

Please join me in welcoming D.C. Marino and the release of her new novel Kingdom of Ruins.


Tour page on Celebrate Lit

About the Book

Title: Kingdom of Ruinswa1YUJLg (1)

Author: D.C. Marino

Genre: Fantasy

Release Date: July 27, 2018

In the Lands Within, history does not rest. Each archaeological layer communicates with the living generation, choosing its friends and enemies—and its kings. But an alliance has been struck no one could have anticipated, and an ancient evil is soaking into the soil. History is being erased, purchased and re-written at a terrible price. And a kingdom that shouldn’t have been forgotten is fading from memory.

In the Lands Without, archaeologist Lori Brickland has found a pottery shard with a heartbeat. The pulse might be a trick of the mind, or it might be the first sign of life in a world of ruin. An exiled traveler will say she shouldn’t search for the truth, a calculating ruler will say she’s the one he’s looking for. And the kingdom? The kingdom will need her before the end. It’s time to accept what she’s always known…

This isn’t archaeology.

This is war.

Click here to  purchase your copy!

About the Author

D.C. Marino is a dedicated reader of history books and fantasy novels, both of which DC Marinooccupy an equal amount of space on her bookshelves. But it wasn’t until she realized how one breathed life into the other that she became addicted to finding the intersections of the real world and the fairy story. Still more: what those intersections about us as a creative, curious people. Kingdom of Ruins is her debut novel.


Guest Post from D.C. Marino

Hi everyone!

I’m so excited to share Kingdom of Ruins with you! This story has been on my heart and mind for over ten years now, so this feels a bit surreal. I’d love to tell you a bit about why I wrote this book. But in order to do that, I need to tell you why I almost didn’t.

Fantasy. It isn’t real. Why should I spend time writing a story that doesn’t grapple with the actual issues of the day? Why not speak plainly, instead of inventing another world to explore the real one? These were the questions I asked myself every night before I fell asleep. I adored fiction that transported me to factual events, or introduced me to historical figures, but every time I picked up a pen, the fantastical wiggled out of it.

I was afraid I was writing the wrong story.

This story oddly (or not so oddly) enough began with Lori, an atephobic archaeologist. Meaning she had a passion for archaeology, but a phobic fear of ruins. Why would she shrink back from the work she loved? Because no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t make whole the broken. Life ends in dust, and that’s all there is to it. I felt the same way. Not only was I writing something I wasn’t sure would be relevant, but could it mend anything? Make a difference? Or was it futile, like trying to resurrect the past?

What I found was exactly what Lori begins to find in Kingdom of Ruins. That even though things seem unfixable, it isn’t the end. The world Lori enters is full of darkness and peril, but it also holds a chance for her to heal from more than just her fear. While I wrote, and especially as I neared the last chapter, I realized she and I had both overcome a great challenge. I won’t tell you her conclusion, but I will tell you mine:

I wrote the right story.

I hope you enjoy every bit of the journey as I did, dear reader.

D.C. Marino


                 My review of Kingdom of Ruins                  by D.C. Marino

5 stars for Kingdom of Ruins

This fantasy tale is refreshing with colorful characters in another world worn with mysteries and secrets, begging for answers and hope. History is alive. Ruins breathe and yearn to tell their stories. I enjoyed the journey wanting for the hope of life to replace the tombs of death.

Lori is a present-day archaeologist who feels the past through items or places she finds. Her career threatens to end as she develops, or permits, her atephobia (fear of ruins) to prevail.  As she slips into the past, she discovers a hidden part of history that releases clues to possibly prevent more ruin.

Can she prevent anything with her presence and her acute sense of life in pieces of history? Or will it all slip away into a past never to be remembered?

Personally, I have felt how an inanimate object can seem to breathe and beg to be noticed, call for its story to be told again and again. I’ve experienced an old house suffocating from lack of a living being’s love. Then, I’ve felt it breathe as windows were opened and humans with their love and care entered the boundaries of its walls. As a house that is abandoned and begins to decay, history needs to be remembered before it falls to ruin.

I enjoyed the details of this fantasy as the characters attempt to revive a bit of the past before it is too late.

Blog Stops

Be sure to stop by the different blogs to enter for your chance to win prizes. Don’t forget to make comments on the blog stops.

Carpe Diem, July 31

Remembrancy, July 31

Inklings and notions, August 1

Fiction Aficionado, August 2

Multifarious, August 3

Jeanette’s Thoughts, August 3

Connect in Fiction, August 4

Bigreadersite, August 4

Bibliophile Reviews, August 5

A Reader’s Brain, August 6

Just the Write Escape, August 7

Margaret Kazmierczak, August 8

Aryn the Libraryan, August 8

Simple Harvest Reads, August 9 (Guest post from Mindy Houng)

Blogging With Carol, August 10

proud to be an autism mom, August 10

Texas Book-aholic, August 11

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, August 12

Janices book reviews, August 12

A Baker’s Perspective, August 13


$50 Amazon

To celebrate the tour, Celebrate Lit Publishing is giving away a grand prize of a $50 Amazon gift card!!

Click below to enter. Be sure to comment on this post before you enter to claim 9 extra entries!

Deadlines, endings, and beginnings

Work as if you were doing it for the Lord, not for people. Colossians 3:23

Work as if you were serving the Lord, not as if you were serving only men and women. Ephesians 6:7

IMG_4632I am a list maker. I admit it and claim it! Deadlines, chores, to-do, writing, reading, grocery, goals, financial, exercise, daily, weekly, monthly, yearly. I love lists. And luckily, I don’t mind having an item reappear because I didn’t complete it on its assigned day. I’m flexible to a degree.

IMG_4631Right now I am facing the end of my summer break. It’s time for me to go back to work. As a teacher I give my energy to my students and vocation for ten months and enjoy the two months off in the summer. My energy is then spent on other non-working goals. So, the summer is ending and takes with it my detailed lists of home projects, writing, reading, movies. Next week, shorter versions of those lists will appear, for I can’t imagine giving up reading and writing just because I work outside my home.

Deadlines inspire me instead of intimidating me. Presently, I have editing deadlines before my novels can be released. Deadlines dominate my teaching days as I strive to complete and distribute information in an enlightening way to my students within a certain period of time. I put deadlines in every area of my life. My favorite ones are the ones that have a short-term ending date–two weeks, six weeks, a semester. It’s hard for me to concentrate on a deadline two years away.

IMG_4634Endings are bitter-sweet. I strive on the feeling of achievement and accomplishment. Yet, the end of a great book or the end of a restful summer comes with a sigh of wanting it to continue just a bit longer. But, vacation will come again as will the next awesome book.

Beginnings have the air of hope and anticipation, even of mystery. So many unexpected blessings wait around the corner. For example, this school year or even this next week will introduce me to some exceptional students and colleagues who end up teaching me so much about life and relationships as well as technology and facts.

Remember to enjoy your deadlines, endings, and beginnings as you do the work God has given you to do.

What deadlines, endings, or beginnings are you currently facing?

Late Summer TBR list

I can’t believe summer is almost over. As a teacher, I have one more week–to read freely, to write, to do whatever I want to do. Then, back to work for me. Yet, that will not stop my reading.

IMG_4549I’m excited about the next books on my list. They have been staring at me from my pile for a few months. Perhaps you will join me in reading some of them.

IMG_4550The first, and the one I am currently reading, is A Loyal Heart by Jody Hedlund. I always enjoy a romance from the Middle Ages, 1392. So far, Lady Olivia’s story is full of intrigue and surprises.

The Backcountry Brides Collection features 8 novellas by authors I follow such as Carrie Fancett Pagels, Angela K. Couch, and Denise Weimer. These stories take place in Colonial America. A historical time surrounding my own research.


Melanie Dickerson retells the story of Aladdin in The Orphan’s Wish. If you haven’t read any of Melanie’s novels, she has a long list of fairy-tale retellings. 

I’m going to try a new author, Kimberley Woodhouse, with The Mayflower Bride. I’m ready to join the passengers of 1620.

I’m continuing the Uncharted Beginnings Series by Keely Brooke Keith with Book Three All Things Beautiful. It is 1868 in a hidden island country. Her novels are always creative and inspiring.

Although I’ve not read much about the 1920s, I’m looking forward to learning something from Ain’t Misbehavin’   by Jennifer Lamont Leo. I’m sure I’ll be entertained by Chicago’s vibrant history.

To get me in the spirit of Christmas, I am going to read the Once Upon a Dickens Christmas Series by Michelle Griep. The first one is 12 Days at Bleakly Manor. Ready for a mystery!

What are your reading plans?


Kindness reaps bundles of love

Perhaps you do not understand that God is kind to you so you will change your hearts and lives.  Romans 2:4

Good people have good thing in their hearts. Matthew 12:35

IMG_4913On July 2, I left for 20 days with my daughter on a road trip through France. It was an adventure with tons of awesome memories. I’ll share about a few of those later. What I left and came back to deserves my attention now. I’d like to share that journey, a journey of kindness and love. On July 1, the night before I left, my stray cat, now named June, gave birth to six precious kittens in my closet.

IMG_4494June’s story with us began in late May when she adopted us. Not much more than a kitten herself, she decided to visit my house daily. So loving, so pretty and small. I loved her instantly. And how I had missed the cuddling and purring. My cat Cleo (17 years with me) died last summer, so my arms have been empty for almost a year. To me this was God’s gift!

Before I could take her to the vet, she let us know she was expecting little ones. I have always had our pets fixed so this was a new experience for me. What to do? Accept the blessing of June and do our best for her litter. What I didn’t expect was the true kindness my husband showed during the whole process. He has always just “tolerated” my desire to have a cat. At least at the beginning, then he forms an attachment. I was asking him to stretch his toleration to the extreme.

IMG_4539I know the scriptures above speak of showing kindness to people, but I can see that it applies to animals too. My husband’s kindness to one of God’s creatures shows how the act of kindness does change the heart. June knew it also, for almost immediately she became my husband’s companion, preferring his lap to mine. I wonder if she knew we needed her as much as she needed us.

How could I leave the newborn kittens? Would they survive without me? Of course, nature and instinct were all they needed along with some food and a safe place to live provided by my husband. I missed their little eyes opening and their learning to walk. I sound like a busy, absent parent. I guess I was.

There was only one major mishap when one of the kittens fell between walls in the attic (the mother was not very smart when she moved the kittens to the attic!) My husband out of the kindness he continued to show made many holes in the wall in order to save the tiny, blind kitten. Daddy to the rescue. He took away the mother’s decision-making powers at that point.

IMG_4427I’m home now loving on my six awesome kittens and June. I’m praying there are five other people wanting to show kindness for God’s creatures in the next few weeks as we need some adoptive parents!

What acts of kindness have you witnessed?

The Ultimate Road Trip

france-largeI’m so excited! My daughter and I leave Tuesday for 17 days in France and one day each in Andorra, Italy, and Switzerland. What a summer road trip as we rent a car and follow our planned route with many unplanned detours. As always, the six months of planning leading up to departure has been an attempt to find a way to capture some dreams.

When-to-visit-AndorraI hope to be able to write a weekly blog while on the voyage. You can follow our adventure on FaceBook–Marguerite Gray.

rome-to-cinque-terre-hero.jpgFor now–Bon Voyage!