Sunday, May 19, 2019


~Post Includes:  Book Spotlight, Excerpt,
Author Bio, Unique Author Guest
Post & Giveaway~

Welcome to the Blog Tour & Giveaway for Heart Changer by Jarm Del Boccio with JustRead Publicity Tours!


Title: The Heart Changer  
Author: Jarm Del Boccio  
Publisher: Ambassador International  
Release Date: April 26, 2019  
Genre: Middle-Grade Biblical Fiction

Can an Israelite captive, wrenched from all she loves, serve the very man who destroyed her village?

Miriam is asked to do the impossible: serve the wife of Naaman, commander of the Syrian army. Clinging to treasured memories of home and faith, Miriam faces captivity with worry and bitterness.

Little does she know the Heart Changer is wooing and preparing her for a greater mission far beyond what she could imagine.

This middle-grade historical novel reflects the heartache and angst of a young refugee in a foreign land where all hope seems lost.


“RUN! RUN, MY DAUGHTER! DON’T let them see you!” Miriam’s mother cried in alarm, shielding baby Zacchaeus in her long robes. She watched, helpless, as her precious child ran to escape the oncoming invasion.
Picking up her skirts, the young girl fled down the center of the Shunem town market, following the frantic path of others, terror- stricken by the billowing clouds of dust gathering in the distance. As the villagers ran for their lives, baskets of fruits and vegetables, nuts and spices were carelessly scattered on the parched ground. Carts of fish and goat’s cheese were upset, the sound of splintering and cracking adding to the mayhem as striped awnings ripped from their doorframes. Goats and sheep scattered, and those who could not be freed from their leads bleated in fear. Shouts of the Syrian army, and the sound of clomping horse’s hooves on the stone pavement signaled the enemy’s advance. Cries and screams escaped from the villagers as they dropped a trail of precious belongings in their flight. A keepsake and a fresh loaf of bread meant nothing. Only their lives mattered now.

Miriam eyed another overturned cart, its sweets scattered in the dust, and swiftly darted behind it to evade the soldiers’ haunting advances. She covered her face with the cloth from her head covering, tucking it in to hide her maturing face. Heart pounding, she took a deep breath, pressing her head against the rugged wood, praying no one had seen her. At twelve, who knew what the enemy would do if they caught her? Miriam shuddered as she heard the screams of women and children running past. She wiped her palms and forehead with the hem of her skirts, and shut her eyes tightly, trying to block out the horrifying scene.

Jarm Del Boccio (‘J’ pronounced as a ‘Y’) finds her inspiration in everyday life, but in particular, when she travels the globe, observing the quirky things that happen along the way. Focusing on lives of characters from the past, Jarm is devoted to breathing new life into the pages of history. 

Jarm has a background in elementary and high school education, and served for seven years as a school librarian. Grateful for the opportunity, she taught three missionary kids in an isolated area of Papua New Guinea. She is part of SCBWI and American Christian Fiction Writers, and has published articles in “The Old Schoolhouse” magazine. 

The Heart Changer, her debut MG historical/biblical fiction, released with Ambassador International April 26th, 2019. Jarm is content with the journey God has placed her on, and lives with her husband and adult son and daughter (when they are not away) in a tree-lined suburb of Chicago.

CONNECT WITH JARM: Website | Facebook | Twitter

Behind-the-Scene Facts About the Book by Jarm Del Boccio

Although I write historical fiction, I try to stay as accurate to the Biblical account as I can. Here are a few areas I needed to research before I finished The Heart Changer, a story based on an Old Testament account from the 9th century BC:

It’s mostly desert (light brown sand and not burnt orange) with tufts of dried grass, unless the town was near a water source, such as a lake or river — then, their would be a few more trees and flowers. Olive, cypress and pine trees would have been prominent. In Syria and a bit south, many flowers bloom in the desert during April - the month my book released! They include yellow broom, red poppies and purple thistle. I also mentioned the oleander tree in my story. Our family visited Israel and Jordan a few years back, so I have plenty of photos to rely on as well.

We think of the usual hummus, baklava and flatbreads, which they do indeed eat, but there is much more. Thankfully, I had a missionary family who lived in the area, who could vet my story and suggest alternative foods. In the first couple of chapters, I mentioned my MC having porridge in front of a fire, only to discover the Syrians ate hummus and flat bread for breakfast. Oops!

The Syrians would also enjoy olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, grapes, goat’s cheese and prepared dishes, such as stuffed zucchini (Kousa Mahshi) and rice with peas (Ruz ma Bezella) served on Mother’s Day, in present day Syria on March 21st. If your interested, here’s a great website where you can find authentic recipes to try:

One of my endorsers questioned whether my MC, who is Hebrew, would understand the Syrian language. When I delved further into the issue, I discovered (verified by two Biblical scholars) that Syrians spoke Aramaic (now Arabic) which was from the same branch of the language tree as Hebrew. Therefore, they could understand each other as a spanish-speaking person would understand Italian. Whew! What a find. It make things so much easier for me.

In Biblical times, leprosy was highly contagious, so those plagued by it were sequester outside the town in a leper colony. They could never live with their loved ones again. The photos I found online of the leprous sores are frightening, especially in the advanced stages which disfigured the extremities.  So, I described them vaguely so I wouldn’t alarm a middle-grader, although I don’t think Naaman had an advanced stag of the disease. The Levitical law had strict rules about how to treat those with unusual spots, to avoid contamination. There are also other kinds of leprosy which are no more than a rash. Nowadays, thankfully, it’s cured with antibiotics.

Could Miriam have walked all the way to Damascus after her capture from her hometown in Shumem? I checked the milage and yes, depending on how fast the walked, the captives could have trudged up north to the capital city in a couple of days. It’s approximately 200 K between the two cities, which according to Google is a two day hike.

Even though I am writing historical fiction, again, I want to stay as close to the scriptural truth as possible. I have Miriam interacting (or knowing) Elisha, and the boy I called Jonas, who Elisha raised from the dead. I was thrilled to discover they lived around the same time and in close proximity to one another, so it wasn’t so far fetched! And Elisha was a prophet and ‘hero’ figure, so everyone in Israel would at least have heard of him.

I also examined the Biblical character’s dialogue and description of each, and made sure my characterization of them was feasible and not out of line. For instance, I have Naaman as a proud, but sometimes aloof commander and husband, which I would imagine are traits of many men in charge.

I wanted Adara, Naaman’s wife, to have a pastime — something to keep her occupied, since everything
was done for her by servants. I realized in that culture and time, weaving would have been a possibility. Although I did not research the exact process or loom used, I let my readers fill in the appropriate gaps. My favorite scene in The Heart Changer takes place between Miriam and Adara while she is working at her weaving.

Herbal medicine:
Since the people of the Middle East had no modern medicine in the 9th century BC, the only other option would have been plant sources — herbs and spices they would cook and distill for use as remedies. Miriam remembers her mother using many herbal recipes to help those who were sick in her hometown. Hyssop, mint, cinnamon and myrrh would have been a few. Check out this website for more:

Jewish Religious Practices:
I was worried the prayers and references to God (Yahweh) would be inaccurate or offensive to a Jewish person, since in Bible times the Hebrews would pronounce God’s name without the vowels (YHWH) so I asked a friend of mine, who is married to a Messianic Jew, to vet my story. She said I could use the word Jehovah and not be offensive, especially to a contemporary non-orthodox Jew. She also approved Miriam’s prayers as well.

I’m sure there are many more cultural and geographical items I could have researched, but since they were not important to the story, I again let my readers fill in the gap. It’s a great way to stay in the Word as I write!
* * *


(1) winner will receive 1 print (US only)

AND (1) winner will receive 1 ebook (open internationally except where prohibited by law)  

Enter via the Rafflecopter giveaway below. Giveaway will begin at midnight May 20, 2019 and last through 11:59 pm May 27, 2019. US only. Winners will be notified within 2 weeks of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen.

Giveaway is subject to the policies found here.

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Head over to our 'On the Scene in '19' website to enter to win a prize package including two signed middle-grade novels -and- four signed picture books written by members of this collaborative group. {US residents only} 

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  1. This book sounds wonderful! Thank you so much for the post!

  2. Congrats to Jarm on her book! It sounds like a part of history not really explored in historical fiction. I bet her travels really helped get the historical aspects right.

  3. What a fabulous excerpt! I love Biblical fiction and can't wait to read this one.

  4. I enjoyed reading about the research and fact checking this author did for her book.

  5. It takes time to build a great story and Jarm has succeeded. Thanks for the background on the book and giveaways!

  6. I'm looking forward to reading this. Thank you for sharing!

  7. Wonderful sounding book and I love the cover. Great giveaway!

  8. That sounds like quite an extraordinary book. Thanks for the review.

  9. What an amazing subject to write about. Thanks!