by Dana McNeely
Series: Whispers on the Wind #1
Published by Mountain Brook Ink
Publication Date February 20, 2021
Genres: Biblical Fiction, Christian Fiction, Action/Adventure
Setting: Israel 1000 - 732 BC
Main Character Ages: 15-18
Written for: Adults
He is destined to be high priest-but at what cost to those he loves?
In ancient Samaria, Aban anticipates his rites of passage with excitement and dread. He yearns to join the priesthood of Ba'al Melqart, unlock the power of the rain god, and hear the deity's voice. He's been warned the licentious ceremony can take a dangerous turn, but as eldest son of the high priestess, he holds a privileged position. If he can make it through the ceremony, one day he'll rise to high priest.
On the eve of the rituals, Aban's mother confesses a dark secret about the bloody sacrifice demanded by Melqart. Aban may have escaped the flames, but if he is to save his brother, Aban must take his destined position of power as soon as possible.
When the mysterious prophet Elijah interrupts the rites, overturns the idol, and curses the land with drought, Aban's world is shaken. The current high priest and the king appear powerless, but even more confusing is the fact that the rain god does nothing.
Against his better judgment, Aban conceals the strange prophet's whereabouts, forfeiting the high priesthood. Now an enemy of the relentless Queen Jezebel, Aban has little time to question his fading commitment to Ba'al Melqart as he and his loved ones flee. But the conflict in Samaria is much larger than just a high priestess and her sons. Soon, Aban will have to choose a side in Yahweh's war against the Ba'als-and it may cost him his life.
I received a complimentary copy of this book. This gift did not influence my opinion or review.
You may recall my review of Rain earlier this year. Dana McNeely, the author, consented to tell us a little about herself. Grab a cozy mug of tea and snuggle in to learn about this talented author! Just her answers to my questions will give you a feel for the beautiful gift she has for writing!
As always, a sneak-peek into the first few pages of the story and quotes you can share follow the interview…
What are some of the challenges you face as an author?
The most difficult challenge I’ve faced as an author is balancing writing time versus time on social media. To write I need a kind of dreamy quiet and intense focus on my characters in the story world. Social media is like showing up at a noisy party with flashing lights and fifty people talking at once. It can be fun, but I leave feeling a little discombobulated and asking myself, “Now, where was I?”
What are you working on now?
As Book 2 begins, Miriam travels to Jezreel to help a young woman during a difficult pregnancy, only to find herself trapped when war breaks. When the woman dies in childbirth, Miriam faces a difficult decision.
Meanwhile, her hometown Samaria is surrounded by the combined armies of thirty-two kings. Dov, having risen through the ranks to a mid-level command, is concerned by King Ahab’s swift capitulation to demands by the enemy invaders.
Once again, a mysterious prophet appears with a strange pronouncement. Is it the end for the northern kingdom?
I’m currently working on a series sequel to Rain. Book Two of “Whispers on the Wind” takes place after the great drought and follows the adventures of Dov and Miriam. In Rain, these secondary characters befriended Aban after he hid the prophet Elijah’s whereabouts from pursuing soldiers.
Ooh! I can’t wait. I loved Dov.
What is the most fun thing you did in the name of researching one of your books?
When researching my work in progress, I had a wonderful interview with an expert in wildlife rehabilitation. This woman, who specializes in raptors, talked with me for over an hour. She asked about my storyline, my characters, the biblical setting. We honed in on hawks and eagles indigenous to Israel. Finally, we decided the perfect raptor for my character to encounter was a golden eagle. I’m excited and terrified as I write this thread into my book. Thankfully, my kind expert agreed to read those sections for accuracy.
What is your favorite book or character that you’ve written?
Who’s my favorite? I’m a mother and a grandmother, and I have the same answer for my characters. They’re all my favorites. Really, that’s an easier answer for me as a writer than as a mom and grammy, because I can rewrite each character until I love them. But I have to say, it was fun to write my antagonist, Jezebel. I enjoyed finding a backstory that made sense of her drive for power. I liked getting into her head. In the end, I both liked her a little and feared her. I’m looking forward to writing more about Jezebel in Book Two.
Wow! She isn’t the one I would have guessed. But that makes sense and I love your reason for having her be your favorite.
What is your favorite genre to write, and why?
After trying Cozy Mysteries and Inspirational Suspense, I was captured by the stories of Elijah. When the widow’s son died, I mourned for the bereft mother. When Elijah prayed and God restored the boy’s life, I stopped reading and a story started to form in my mind. Six years later, so nearly overnight, I had a book! I love bringing the Bible’s stories to life with sights, sounds, and foods the characters would have experienced. I also enjoy the challenge of weaving a plausible imagined story around the Bible’s truth.
I completely understand you choosing Elijah. His story is one of my very favorites.
What is your favorite place to write?
My favorite place to write is my library/office. Bookcases fill every wall except for a spot where I’ve squeezed in a small desk and printer. I’m surrounded by books, both fiction and nonfiction. I own a lot of research books. When I find a book with the information I will use in a story, it’s helpful to own the book so I don’t need to take extensive notes or track it down later.
What is your favorite thing about being a writer?
My favorite thing about being a writer is the moment I get into a dreamy state—when I can almost climb into the story and live it. My fingers are typing what I see, hear, smell, and feel. If it’s an emotional scene, it can be a draining experience, but I love it!
It is obvious from Rain that you really do climb into your stories!
How much of yourself do you write into your characters?
I imagine myself walking in each character’s shoes. I’m the faithful prophet, jealous for his God, angered by the people’s apostasy, and not all that good with people. I’m the impetuous youth, making stupid mistakes but protected by a merciful God. I’m ashamed to admit, it wasn’t all that hard for me to become the evil Queen Jezebel, self-absorbed and afraid of being insignificant.
What are your biggest challenges to writing?
My biggest challenge to writing is just getting started. Even if I have a few ideas of where the story is going, I guess I’m afraid I don’t know what I’m doing. This year, I learned something that helped. I “primed the pump” by writing about writing. I typed lists of characters – what they want or don’t want, love or hate. I typed lists of questions and the Bible verses I’d use. I made remarks about what could happen between the lines that the verses didn’t spell out. I wrote “this might happen” or “that might happen.” Writing about writing seems silly, but I think it helped me with the fear.
How do you choose your characters’ names?
It’s hard finding that perfect name that fits your character’s personality, ethnicity, and time. There are no Top Ten Baby Names of 895 BC. I searched through Lebanese baby names for my Phoenician characters, and Jewish or Hebrew names for the others. An editor suggested I change one main character’s name because he said it was anachronistic. I checked my research and disagreed. Also, by then, my character had developed a stubborn, opinionated personality and refused to be called by any other name.
Who was the person who most motivated or encouraged you to become an author?
God sent not one, but a string of people to motivate me. My dad, who constantly told stories, my mom, who took me to the library every Saturday. A high school teacher, who harshly criticized my essay but later explained why it was so terrible. Another high school teacher, who praised everything I wrote and found me a job with the city newspaper. My husband, who told me I could do whatever I set my mind to. Writing contests and judges. And when I gave up, God prompted a stranger to send me a surprising text.
Hello. Are you the Dana McNeely who wrote Rain? And if so, have you sold it yet?
Does anyone in your family read your books?
Rain is my debut novel. I’m thankful, however, that my dad got to read an early version of Rain before he passed away. Happily, he found it “fascinating.” My mom read it after him and handed me a little notebook filled with typos she found within its pages “It was like watching a movie,” she said.
A movie with a lot of typos, I guess. ☺ I’m looking forward to giving Mom the final, edited version with the gorgeous cover.
Kind of a “thanks, I think” moment?
What makes you feel alive?
I love walking. It’s great for the body and soul. Lately, my walks have mostly been in our large, beautiful yard. I often mention I’m married to The Constant Gardener. Thanks to that sweet guy, there’s always an unusual plant blooming or popping out new leaves. Young trees set fruit or ancient ones cast delightful patterns of shade. Butterflies feed on our many nectar flowers and lay eggs on host milkweeds and pipevines, ensuring future generations of winged beauty. Our sweet old dogs revel in the yard, especially if another walker goes by with their canine companion. If I’m alone in the yard, sometimes I listen to an audiobook while walking. That gets me extra steps!
When I can, I enjoy strolling through one of the local botanical gardens or zoos, where I watch people as well as animals. I live in Arizona, but whenever I get the chance, I love beach walking. The waves, the sand under my feet, the cooling breeze, the immensity of the ocean, not to mention the smell of salt and sea – it’s glorious.
What is your favorite Bible verse?
One of my favorite Bible verses expresses my deep feelings about God and also has a fun reference to Rain.
Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord; His going out is sure as the dawn; He will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.Hosea 6:3 ESV