My newest book Once Again: an inspirational novel of history, mystery & romance, scheduled for release November 1, is the first in what I call the Rewinding Time Series. It’s about a young woman named Merrideth Randall, whose day job is teaching history at a small college. In her after hours, she turns to her first love, historical research. She has a tool other historians can only dream of—a computer program that rewinds time, giving her a first-hand look at the past.
In Once Again, Merrideth uses the amazing program to assist her in finding the location of a long-lost pioneer fort and to meet the brave settlers who lived there in the late 1700s. Although the book is categorized as Sci-fi/time travel, it’s not a traditional time-travel tale, because Merrideth only virtually experiences people’s lives as she “rewinds time.” (I didn’t want to mess up the whole space-time continuum thingy. You’re welcome.)
Professor Merrideth Randall has lots of historical mysteries to solve in Once Again and is scheduled for plenty more in the upcoming books. But she is also trying to find the answers to life’s puzzling “little” questions—like why bad things happen to good people, and what kind of God do we have, anyway?
When one of the young pioneers takes the Gospel to an Indian tribe, Merrideth thinks he is “brave, but foolish.” She doesn’t understand “why missionaries risked their lives “to take their religion to people who had their own and didn’t want or need someone else’s.” And when she realizes the young preacher is ministering to the very tribe that had scalped his brother, she is astonished at the scope of his forgiveness.
Her colleague Brett Garrison puzzles her, too:
Brett made being a Christian sound like something more, but Merrideth couldn’t put her finger on what differed between his religion and hers… Hopefully, he would not turn out to be one of those people who had a Bible verse for every occasion. One of her freshman roommates had been like that. Emily had started in spouting verses the first day and hadn’t let up until another roommate told her to stop already with the proselytizing. By their sophomore year, Emily had gotten metaphorically slapped down enough times that she stopped quoting Bible verses altogether. Merrideth always felt a little guilty when she thought about that. Maybe she should have stuck up for Emily, but hadn’t she needed to learn not to be so pushy with her beliefs?
Merrideth has always thought she was a Christian. After all, she goes to church, contributes when the offering plate goes by, and “tries to be nice.” But with what she’s seen and learned, she begins to wonder whether she’s a Christian after all.
She is right to question her salvation. She is a fictional representation of the many, many Americans who have a form of Christianity, but not the substance—a believing faith in Jesus Christ. In the coming books she will continue to ponder questions that have no easy answers and meet people who cause her to think. But have no fear; one day it will all be clear to her. Another title for the series might be, “The Redemption of Merrideth Randall.”
Based on the one-star review I got last week for my earlier book Time and Again, I predict that the Rewinding Time Series is going to drive some readers nuts. I should tell you that Time and Again and the rest of the trilogy have very mild Christian themes. And since, I personally dislike fiction in which the characters are like Merrideth’s roommate, constantly spouting Bible verses, I don’t ever do that in my books. But for some readers even a mere two verses is just too much to be tolerated. Here’s a portion of what the reviewer said about the main character of Time and Again:
She’s CONSTANTLY quoting Bible verses. I can handle religion being woven into a story where appropriate, but this had the preachy quality and that rubbed me the wrong way.
I have to admit, I was annoyed when I first read her review, because what she complains about are the very things I try so hard not to do—and didn’t do, in my opinion. Afterwards, I thought that I should be happy. That negative review was a form of persecution, right? Satan hates anything that promotes the Kingdom. So I must be doing something right.
And Satan will have even more to hate with my new Rewinding Time Series, because Once Again and the succeeding novels will have a clearer, even more obvious Christian message than anything I’ve ever written. (But still no spouting!) So I’ve put on goggles and a helmet to meet the onslaught of gnashing teeth and angry words that I fear will be coming my way when Once Again is released in November.
Please pray that the biblical principles and messages woven into the story touch the hearts of readers as well as entertains them. And support Christian writers by leaving positive (but honest, of course!) reviews whenever possible in order to dilute hateful reviews such as the one I just got. (My personal policy is to not leave a review at all if I can’t say at least something positive about a book.)
On November 1, Once Again will be available on Amazon HERE.
You can find out more about Once Again and all my novels, including the history woven into them, on my website: http://www.deborahheal.com.
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From Professor Randall’s Notes…
Field Research Location:
Columbia and Waterloo, Monroe County, Illinois.
Discover where Fort Piggot was located on the Kaskaskia Trail, while staying clear of attractive, single colleagues (ie. Brett!) so as not to commit career suicide, and keeping the “rewinding time” program secret, so Uncle Sam doesn’t turn into Big Brother. Whew!
Merrideth Randall’s day job is teaching history at McKendree College. But after hours she turns to her first love, historical research. And she has a tool other historians can only dream of—a computer program that rewinds time for a first-hand look at the past!
She uses it to find the location of Fort Piggot and other early settlements in the Illinois Country. Rewinding to the 1780s, she meets the courageous pioneers who withstood Indian attacks, hardship, and loneliness to farm the rich land. One settler even takes the Gospel to the very tribe that wreaked havoc on his family, but Merrideth can’t decide whether he’s a hero or a fool. How can a person forgive a crime so huge?
Merrideth also meets James and Isabelle Garretson, ancestors of her handsome colleague Brett. He’s a physics professor with rock-star status on campus, and amazingly enough, he seems to be pursuing her. But she has a firm policy against dating co-workers, even ones descended from heroic stock.
She’d love to tell him about her amazing program, but he’s not so good at keeping secrets. It would never do to let the government get its hands on it, or privacy would be a thing of the past.
With her findings, Merrideth is able to help Brett with his family tree, but she can’t tell him everything she learned—like that he inherited his black hair and green eyes from his ancestor James Garretson, or that his aunt’s poetry is eerily similar to the verse Isabelle Garretson composed at her spinning wheel.
And Merrideth has secrets about herself that she’d just as soon Brett didn’t find out either. Discretion is not his strong suit. But one virtue Brett does have in spades is patience, and he’s quite willing to wait for Merrideth to figure things out.
Deborah Heal is the author of the Time and Again “History Mystery” trilogy, which has been described as “Back to the Future” meets virtual reality with a dash of “Seventh Heaven” thrown in.” She was born not far from the setting of Every Hill and Mountain, and for many years she lived near the setting of Time and Again and Unclaimed Legacy. Today she lives in Monroe County, Illinois, the setting of Once Again. Deborah Heal is married and has three grown children, five grandchildren, and two canine buddies Digger and Scout, a.k.a “Dr. Bob” in Unclaimed Legacy. She enjoys reading, gardening, and learning about southern Illinois history.