Welcome to my little bit of cyber-space. It is my prayer that all who enter here may be richly blessed by the God of all grace. All praise to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

From my house to yours...Merry Christmas to all and wishing you a very Happy New Year in 2010!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Great Gift ideas--Two "Bouncing Grandma" Mysteries by A. K. Arenz

Are you done with your shopping yet? I am happy to tell you about two books that would make great Christmas gifts for any reader on your list. Or you could always buy one for yourself!

The first book in this cozy mystery series by A.K. Arenz is titled The Case of the Bouncing Grandma, about Glory Harper, a grandmother who sees a foot dangling from a carpet when her mysterious neighbors move in. Glory isn't taken very seriously by the police department ever since a skateboarding accident she had resulted in a multi-car pile-up. But, one of the detectives seems to be interested in more than just her story. This book has enough twists and turns to make you feel like you're on The Whip at the county fair. It was a finalist in the ACFW Book of the Year Contest for 2009.

The enjoyable sequel is entitled The Case of the Mystified M.D. Glory's pup finds the severed body part this time. There are many secrets in this story, and several of the town's characters were being blackmailed. Follow the crooked trail left by the blackmailer with Glory and her friends. See if you can solve the mystery before they do.

The author, Alice Arenz, is a friend and prayer partner of mine, and you can find more about her and her other books at www.akawriter.com

These books are very enjoyable reading suitable for teens and above. My own mom was known by her friends as "Bouncy" before her death, so they have a special meaning to me. For ordering these books and others check out the regular online sites or the publisher at www.sheafhouse.com They also have several books on sale, and the shipping for any size order no matter how many books you buy is only $4.50 so check it out. Happy reading!

Monday, December 07, 2009

New Interview--Amber Stockton

I am pleased to be apart of the blog tour for a longtime friend, Amber Stockton. Amber was one of the first people I met at my first ACFW conference, and she was very welcoming. We were also in a critique group for a couple years. Back then, she was known as Amber Miller. Let's ask her a few questions and find out what an eventful life she had led this past few years.

1. Tell us a little about your family.

I am married to another author, Stuart Stockton, who has his first book releasing in April of 2009. We had our first child in March, a beautiful daughter, and we live at the base of beautiful Pike’s Peak in Colorado Springs. We also have a half border collie, half flat-haired retriever named Roxie, who keeps life bouncing. Outside of our little circle, I have 3 brothers and my parents have been married for over 35 years. Stuart has 2 sisters and a brother, 3 aunts, 2 uncles, 4 cousins, 1 nephew and 1 niece. His parents have also been married 35 years.

2. Besides when you came to know the Lord, what is the happiest day in your life?
Oh, that’s easy. July 28, 2007 when I married the love of my life, Stuart. The next is the day we celebrated the birth of our first child. We are proud parents to an 8-month-old little girl, and life is fantastic. The next happiest day would be when I sold my first book in December of 2006.

3. What would be your dream vacation?
A few weeks to a month touring the British Isles. My husband and I both have British ancestry, and I have Scottish in me as well. It would be amazing to set foot on the same ground as our ancestors before us. If I can’t do that, Hawaii or Alaska would be next on the list.

Rose here again: I know Amber likes to travel as my hubby and I spent some time with her on Chincoteague Island one summer on the day of the annual swimming of the ponies across the channel. We all got soaked, but still enjoyed re-visiting the site of some of Amber's childhood memories and where some of her relatives still live. And Amber told me that she is planning to write a 3-book series set there that I can't wait to read!

I hope you will join me by travelling to some of the sites below to read more about Amber and her new book that releases this month--Patterns and Progress. Read the first chapter here: http://www.amberstockton.com/excerpts/pnpexcerpt.html and while you are there, I hope you will check out her other books and info on where to order them.

Petticoats & Pistols - http://www.petticoatsandpistols.com

Dawn Kinzer (all week) - http://dawnkinzer.blogspot.com

ausjenny - http://ausjenny.blogspot.com
Erica Vetsch - http://onthewritepath.blogspot.com

Martha Rogers - http://marthasbooks.blogspot.com

Pat Gonzales - www.pattishene.com
Abi Buening - http://myheartbelongs2books.blogspot.com

Abi Buening - http://myheartbelongs2books.blogspot.com
Stormi Johnson - http://writesthoughts.blogspot.com

Cara Putman - http://carasmusings.blogspot.com
American Patriot Blog - http://americanpatriotseries.blogspot.com

Edit Cafe - (guest blogger) - http://editcafe.blogspot.com
Cindy Woodsmall (all week) - http://www.cindywoodsmall.com/booklover/category/book-lover/
Rose McCauley - http://rosemccauley.blogspot.com
Lauralee Bliss - http://blissfulwritingthoughts.blogspot.com

Jennifer AlLee - http://jenniferallee.blogspot.com
Allie Newberry - http://blog.allienewberry.com
Favorite PASTimes interview - http://favoritepastimes.blogspot.com

Cathy Bryant - http://WordVessel.blogspot.com
Eileen Astels - http://eileenastels.blogspot.com
Favorite PASTimes interview - http://favoritepastimes.blogspot.com
Seriously Write - http://seriouslywrite.blogspot.com

Patty Wysong - http://pattywysong.blogspot.com

Patty Wysong - http://pattywysong.blogspot.com

Margaret Chind - http://cherryblossommj.blogspot.com

Lisa Lickel - http://livingourfaithoutloud.blogspot.com

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The winner of The Bartered Bride by Erica Vetsch is...Charity. And now, for our new contest...

Everyone except Charity who has a US mailing addy and leaves a comment and email info during the month of December will be entered in the drawing to win a copy of Love Finds You in Revenge Ohio by Lisa Harris.

If you have read any of the other Love Finds You In... books or any of Lisa Harris's other books, you will know you are in for a well-anticipated treat, so I hope you will leave a comment this month and give yourself the gift of reading this fun book. It's a well-written read and has many twists and surprises to keep you reading quickly to the end. Below is the back-cover blurb to give you a glimpse into what you can look forward to:

"The only thing worse than being a spinster is being a twice-jilted spinster. At twenty-five, Catherine Morgan is hardly an old maid. But she's given up on marriage and instead manages the family's general store in the small town of Revenge, Ohio. Bound by a promise to care for her three sisters until they marry, she'll do anything to keep them safe. But Sheriff Corbin Hunter stands in her way. He has evidence that her sister's fiance is really an infamous bank robber--and the man who murdered his father. Catherine finds herself torn between saving her sister's heart and losing hers to the man who jilted her seven years ago. Will Corbin's desire for revenge cause him to lose Catherine a second time?"

Monday, November 30, 2009

Book Review, Fields of Grace by Kim Vogel Sawyer

It is always a privilege and honor to read and review a book by Kim Sawyer, as she is one of the first writer friends I made at the first ACFW conference and she is one of the authors I pray for each day. She's also one of the sweetest people I know. Kim's writing has grown over the years, and this was one of my favorite books she has written.
Fields of Grace is a fictional story which begins in the real historic town of Gnadenfeld (which means "Field of Grace") which was the birthplace of many of Kim's Mennonite ancestors. It connected with me on many levels--farming, a sea voyage, family hurts and healings, and God's grace.
Although happy in their village, Lillian Vogt sets out on the voyage to America to help her son avoid serving in the Russian Army. She knows there will be many adjustments to make, but has no idea of the horrors she will face on the ship and the many other losses and lessons she will undergo on the first year in her new home. As you read this book, you will experience the journey and growth with her, so be prepared to shed some tears along the way.
I think this must have been one of the hardest books for Kim to write as she had to take her characters through many trials on their journey of grace. Although the main characters come to an understanding and love for each other and for God and His grace, I hope there will be a sequel to this story so we can see God's grace continue to work in the lives of the next generation.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Support our Service Men and Women

I'd like to use this week's blog to point you to a great project that personally helps our servicemen and women, especially those serving in dangerous areas such as Afghanistan and Iraq and guarding from pirates around the tip of Africa. Please check out http://www.thehugsprojectofwky.com/ I hope you will prayerfully consider giving a gift to this worthwhile endeavor any time of the year, but especially at this time.

This project is very special to me for two reasons: 1) I remember how my own hubby spent two Christmases away from me and the rest of his family, and how much he and the other servicemen appreciated anything we sent from home,(see last week's post) and 2) the Western Kentucky branch of this organization is headed up by my college roommate's little brother. In fact, the picture attached to this post is of his son, Cpl Christopher Ferguson, USMC deployed to Japan who has already served in Iraq, one regular tour and one special op. Christopher is on my daily prayer list for service members, which is the absolute best thing we all can do for them, but I believe this project is one of the next best things we can and should do.

I don't know how to say it any better than Gayron does, so I am copying his letter below. Please check out the site and send a check of any amount to help send all our service members a "HUG" from home this season. I'll close my thoughts by copying what Gayron puts at the bottom of all his correspondence. "Some people's heroes wear capes, mine wear Kevlar." Let's help our heroes in Kevlar have a Merry Christmas!

The Hugs Project of Western Kentucky, Inc.
4931 Epperson Road
Paducah, Kentucky 42003
(270) 898-4464
Email: HugsProjectOfWKy@aol.com
Local website: www.thehugsprojectofwky.com
National website: www.thehugsproject.com
Dear Friend:
We can’t believe it’s almost Christmas again. Just last year, we were able to send our troops 514 packages of love and support because of the people like you who care about our troops.
Imagine if you will, what it would be like to celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years in a war torn land. A place that is a grimy desert or barren and frozen mountainside filled with danger and yes, even death. You cannot feel the love and caring of your family and friends or see the smiles on your children’s faces each day or the hug of your family when you come home each night. It is the worst time of the year to be in the Theatre. But over 190,000 of our young men and women are doing just that.
We at The Hugs Project of W Ky are doing everything we can to send love and support to our troops in harm’s way each month. Normally we send between 50 and 85 boxes each month, but during November, we send as many as we can get the funds, items and volunteer’s to help. As I mentioned, last year we sent 514 packages at a cost of just under $25,000.00. The postage alone was almost $5,600.00. We received almost $6,000.00 in donated items and purchased another $12,400.00 in additional items to go in the packages. We estimate approximately 1,000 packages will be needed from our group this year. Postage went up $1.00 per box in addition to the cost of the items going into the boxes.
The Major General in Ft. Campbell paid us a visit while we were on base in August and said that over 400 of his soldiers were going to Afghanistan in January and asked if we could work with them to help show support to our troops that were being deployed. As some come home, others go to replace them. That is why this goes on every month of the year. But at Christmas, we want to send as much as possible to make their time in the Theatre as bearable as possible.
We ask everyone who cares about our troops to give what you can to help us show them that America has not forgotten them. We want them to know they are loved and remain in our thoughts and prayers every day. Won’t you help? Donations are tax deductible as we are a 501 C 3 organization. Without your support, we cannot get the job done for them.
Gayron Ferguson

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A big salute to my favorite veteran--my husband, my hero, SSGT Chester Wells McCauley

Chester joined the US Air Force in January, 1969, after our marriage in May, 1968. (The first picture is of Chester in his Air Force uniform--tip from Dale McCauley--click on the picture to enlarge it; the second picture is of us on our 40th anniversary!) He then left for his basic training at Lackland AFB, Texas in April, 1969. I remained back in KY teaching school while he finished his basic and moved to Denver CO for more training. I joined him there in June, and we lived in a basement apartment within walking distance of the base. We left Denver in Sept. for a visit back to KY before arriving at his tech school training in Wichita KS, in October where we also lived in a basement apartment. When he completed his training there in Feb, 1970, we went back to KY for a month's leave before he shipped out to Thailand in March. While in Thailand, he served at Tahkli AFB and Khorat AFB. This was during the height of the Viet Nam war, and he worked many 12 hour shifts, 7 days a week. He was often so tired that he was able to sleep on the concrete on the airstrip when he had the chance!

Chester was on the Lead Crew as a weapon's mechanic, which meant he trained and certified other crews to load the bombs on several planes to fly from Thailand into Viet Nam.

He returned home from Thailand in January, 1971, and after another month's leave in KY, went to his next base at Myrtle Beach, SC. Both of our homes there were on the lower level of small shared houses, but they were only 2 blocks or less from the Atlantic Ocean! I joined him there and was hired to teach school at Conway Elementary. He did have to go to a base in Louisiana for 2 weeks once, but everything was going great until he got orders to go TDY (temporary duty) back to Thailand. He left in October, 1972.

Since his group wasn't supposed to return until April, but his date to be discharged was April 1st, they told him and another guy they could go back to the States if they could be ready to leave in 1 hour, so they did it! I didn't even know he was on his way until he called me from California to say he was on American soil! I was so happy to know he was back safe and sound and even sooner than expected, but I told him there was a problem. An ice storm had hit SC and most of the south. Our electricity had been out for several days, schools were called off for the week, and I doubted he could get a flight anywhere near Myrtle Beach. He told me not to worry--he would make it. He did--3 days later after getting a flight to Atlanta, then taking a bus to North Carolina, then renting a car with 3 other GIs wanting to get home. Since he was the only one over 21 and able to rent a car, at least he got to drive while the others had to shovel snow and push the car out of drifts! They spent two nights sleeping on the floor of homes of two of the guys. Then, while I was watching the return of the POWs on TV, he finally knocked on the front door! My prayers had been answered!

Chester was discharged on April 1, 1973, and in June (after my school year was completed) we returned home to KY and he was finally able to get back to what he had always wanted to do--farm! He is still farming today, and we still live in the house where we moved in June, 1973, where we raised our three children.

As you can tell from my story, we spent our first three anniversaries and several Christmases apart, but we have both agreed that the years we spent while he was in the Air Force held many good experiences for us. We would move to a town, knowing no one but each other, and had to work together to find a place to live, a church family, me a job, etc. We had to learn to depend on each other and the One who always travelled with us and lighted our path.

So, on this Veterans' Day, I want to thank my special veteran and all our veterans and current service men and women and their families who have sacrificed so much, and especially our God who has blessed us all so richly. May God bless America!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Blog Tour for Debut author--Erica Vetsch

I am so happy to be a part of this blog tour for Erica Vetsch. I first came to know Erica when she met me and several other ACFWers at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport last September (2008) for the ACFW conference. After getting lost in the confusing parking lot (!) she kindly gave us a ride to the hotel. Then a couple days later the attendees went wild with excitement when Erica's name was called as the recipient of a first time author contract. The contract was for this book--The Bartered Bride!

So, I eagerly anticipated reading this book, and it lived up to my expectations and more! Any time you stay up past midnight reading a book, especially one from a first-time author, you know you have a winner on your hands!

I am pleased to take part in Erica's fist blog tour and pleased to announce that she will send an autographed copy of The Bartered Bride to anyone in the US who comments on my blog this month and leaves a way to be contacted.

And, to whet your appetite, Erica is allowing me to post the entire first chapter below. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did, and rush out to buy a copy or order it from http://www.heartsongpresents.com/ or http://www.cbd.com/ I also hope you will check out Erica's great blogsite at http://www.onthewritepath.blogspot.com/ It gives a list of all those taking part in her blog tour, and she is starting a new feature called Three Ingredient Thursdays that I plan to check out each week. I just copied the recipe for Crockpot Turkey Breast and plan to use it soon.

And now, witout further ado--the first chapter of The Bartered Bride by Erica Vetsch:
“The idea’s preposterous, and I’ll have nothing to do with it.”
Jonathan Kennebrae bolted from his chair and stalked across
the office. “You won’t manipulate me like this. And I doubt
Noah or Eli will go along with the scheme either.”
His grandfather, Abraham Kennebrae, sat ramrod straight
behind the walnut desk. For a man confined to an invalid
chair these past eight years, his voice still rang with authority
and vigor. “I’ve spent a lifetime building up this family’s
fortune and power, and I want to die knowing it will continue.
If not through you, then through your brothers. The best
way to ensure this is to marry you boys off well. You act as if
contracted marriage was something new. It’s been going on
for centuries.”
Jonathan clasped his hands behind his back under his
coattails and stared out the window of Grandfather’s library.
Two acres of emerald grass stretched below to the shoreline.
Lake Superior spread before him, cobalt blue under an
azure sky. The Lady Genevieve, the family yacht named for
his grandmother, bobbed gently along the dock beside the
boathouse. Her white hull gleamed, her mast pointed to the
cloudless heavens. He wished he stood at her wheel, skimming over the waves, away from this incredible conversation.
“It’s all arranged, Jonathan. Three weddings, three sound
marriages, and the consolidation of four of the wealthiest
families in Duluth. And not only that, but it brings together
under one name all you need to control every aspect of this
harbor: shipping, grain, ore, and lumber.”
Jonathan turned and leaned against the windowsill. The
morning sun fell through the stained glass of the upper
windows, shattering rainbows on the Persian rug. He crossed
his ankles, trying to appear casual. “All arranged? You and
your cronies have everything mapped out? And Noah, Eli,
and I have no say? Have you decided who is to marry whom,
or were you just going to have us draw straws?”
His jaw ached, and the pain between his eyebrows increased.
An image of Grandfather and his bewhiskered, cigar-smoking
circle of friends bending over charts and arguing the relative
merits of their offspring wavered before his eyes. “I have no
intention of marrying an empty-headed showpiece chosen
by you. Are your grandsons no more than pawns to be
shuffled about at your command? Whose idea was this?” His
throat ached with the desire to yell, but years of training and
deference to the man before him kept his voice controlled.
“Now, lad”—Grandfather made a dismissing motion—“you
make it sound worse than it is.”
“I don’t see how that’s possible. I feel like a horse at auction.
Did you sell us to the highest bidders?” Sarcasm dripped out,
laced with exasperation.
Grandfather wagged a gnarled finger. “Don’t take that tone
with me. I’m still the head of this household. I made a sound
business decision for this family. You’ll accede to my wishes in
this. You’re nearly thirty. It’s past time you were married and
setting up your household. As a member of the aristocracy of
this city and this state, you have an obligation to marry well.”
“Shades of the Four Hundred.” Jonathan jammed his hands
into his pockets. “This is 1905, and your ideas are outdated.
This isn’t New York City. It’s Duluth. I’m not marrying
someone so I can be invited to better parties and promenade
through Newport every afternoon during ‘The Season.’ And
I’m certainly not interested in any female who wishes to
marry for those reasons either.”
“You couldn’t be further from the truth. You aren’t marrying
into the salons of Fifth Avenue. You’re marrying to gain
control of the harbor.” He waved his hand in a sweeping
motion toward the lake. “Control that harbor, and you control
millions of dollars. Control millions, and you control the
politicians in St. Paul and Washington. Control St. Paul
and Washington, and you control the power to make more
millions. Don’t you see it?”
“What if I don’t want to control the harbor? What if I’m
content with what I have: a solid business with an excellent
reputation and a sound financial base?”
“Then you’re a fool. You’ll have wasted everything I’ve spent
my life building up. Now is the time to strike. Of the four
richest families in Duluth, I’m the only one with male heirs.
Lawrence Brooke, Phillip Michaels, and Radcliffe Zahn have
only daughters. And don’t forget, a marriage to Lawrence
Brooke’s daughter brings not just the grain docks in the harbor
but the railroad that hauls the grain from the Dakotas, too.”
Jonathan ran his hand over his hair. “You still haven’t convinced
me. I don’t even know these women. Why would I
want to marry any of them?”
Grandfather thumped the blotter. “Stop being obtuse. I’ll
make it as plain as possible. You will court and marry the
daughter of Lawrence Brooke, you will gain control of the grain
docks in Duluth harbor, and you will do so before Christmas.”
“Before Christmas? That’s impossible. Christmas is less
than three months away. Isn’t that a bit quick?”
“Poppycock. I see no reason to wait. Waiting only increases
the chances that something will go wrong. We must act now.
You, as the eldest, will set an example for your brothers. The
twins will fall in line. And it isn’t as if the young women won’t
receive the benefits of a sound match. Wealth, status, security,
influence. What more could a woman want?”
Jonathan snorted. “I’m no expert on the female mind. I have
no idea what they want. But what happens if I don’t do as you
say? Or what if the woman won’t have me?”
“I will disinherit you without so much as a blink.” Grandfather
regarded him with glittering eyes. “I will leave my
fortune only to those grandsons who do my bidding. Those
who will not, receive nothing. I’ve already rewritten my will to
reflect the changes.”
Anger replaced the exasperation and unbelief in Jonathan’s
chest. “You cannot be serious.”
“I’ve never been more serious in my life.” Grandfather
narrowed his eyes and pursed his lips, causing his wiry sidewhiskers
to bristle out like a badger. “Do you care to challenge
me? The will stands as long as the girl is legally free and
morally acceptable for you to wed.”
Jonathan’s mind raced, and his muscles tensed. How dare
that old reprobate? Kennebrae Shipping was his. He’d run
the company, chaired the board, and overseen the day-to-day
operations for the past eight years. He, not Grandfather, had
expanded the fleet, brokered new contracts, enticed investors.
The company was his life. He’d be dead before he’d let anyone
take it from him.
A knock sounded on the library door. The butler entered,
a silver tray in his hand. “This just arrived for you, sir.” He
extended the salver toward Grandfather.
The old man took an envelope from it and turned it in his
“Will there be a reply, sir? The gentleman who delivered it
is waiting.”
Grandfather picked up his letter opener. He slit the heavy
cream envelope and read, satisfaction spreading over his face.
His fingers drummed the desktop.
Jonathan paced between the marble fireplace and the glassfront
bookcases. Grandfather’s words were no idle threat.
He’d disinherit Jonathan without so much as a by-your-leave
should Jonathan cross him. He had seen it in the old man’s
eyes. Galling, that’s what it was. To have a bride chosen for
him based upon her wealth and connections. And worse, to be
chosen as a husband based on his.
Grandfather leaned forward and uncapped the silver
inkwell. He dipped his ebony pen in the liquid and scratched
a few words on the card. “McKay, give the gentleman this.”
“Very good, sir.”
The door had barely closed before Jonathan whirled from
contemplating the oil painting over the mantel. “Do Noah
and Eli know about this?”
“No, of course not. I’ll tell Noah when he returns to the
harbor, and I’ll tell Eli when he returns from Virginia.
Though why Eli can’t learn shipbuilding right here in Duluth
is beyond me.”
“He wanted to learn from the best, and the best shipbuilders
are on the East Coast.” Jonathan rubbed his palm against the
back of his neck. How could he get out of this? His strides
measured the room.
“Will you stop pacing like a caged wolf? You’d think I was
asking you to go to the gallows.” Grandfather backed his chair
and wheeled it around the edge of the desk. A blanket covered
his stick-thin legs from hips to ankles.
Jonathan sagged onto the horsehair settee. “From what I
can tell, marriage and hanging have a lot in common. The
man ends up dangling from the end of a string either way.”
Grandfather chuckled then shook his head. “Where’d you
get an idea like that? Your grandmother, God rest her soul,
was a fine woman.”
“What about my parents? To hear you talk, they couldn’t
be in the same room without bloodshed. How they wound up
with three sons is beyond me.”
Sadness lined Grandfather’s face. “Your parents were both
high-strung. Always convinced the other was being a fool. But
they loved each other, in their own way. I thought they’d settle
down eventually. It’s a shame you never got to know them.
Your father couldn’t live without her. The carriage accident
was a mercy. He was never the same after your mother died.
And neither were you, though you were only four at the time.”
“I have no real memories of my parents, only their portraits
in the drawing room.”
“Those were your grandmother’s idea. Had them painted
from their engagement pictures. Thought it might be nice for
you boys to have them.”
Jonathan took note of the nostalgic look in Grandfather’s
eyes. If he could just keep him talking about old times, about
Grandmother, perhaps he would forget this nonsense about
“She was a saint. And what she ever saw in an old boot like
you, I’ll never know.”
“Hah! That’s just what her parents said when I came
courting. Never thought I’d amount to anything. But I
showed them. Built up the biggest shipping line on the Great
Lakes and built Kennebrae House for your grandmother, too.
Nothing was too good for her.”
“She deserved every one of the fifty-five rooms for putting
up with you.”
“Well, your new wife will, too.”
Jonathan blew out a breath. So much for getting Grandfather
off the subject. “I haven’t agreed to this madness. Anyway,
I think you’re assuming a lot. I haven’t even met this Miss
Brooke. We might not suit one another at all.”
“You’re both young and rich. You’ll suit one another just
fine. How do you feel about music?”
“I asked how you felt about music. An evening of music
and fine food.”
What kind of sidetrack was this? Jonathan put his guard
firmly up.
The old man had a gleam in his eye, an unholy sparkle that
boded no good.
“You mean one of those parties where the hostess shoves
her daughter onstage, and the poor girl scrapes away at some
writhing violin concerto or pounds out a tortured nocturne on
the piano while the audience tries not to wince or die from
boredom? And at dinner they make up compliments over
dried-out chicken and pasty potatoes until they can make a
graceful escape?”

“I hope it isn’t as bad as you describe.”
“What are you hatching?”

“The note that came earlier. It was an invitation to Castlebrooke.

Mrs. Brooke is having an evening of music and refreshments

tonight. I sent the reply that both of us would

be delighted to attend. And you’ll have ample time to study

your bride-to-be. She’ll be the one performing the tortured


Sunday, November 01, 2009

Lots of winners...

Cherie J. is the winner of The Familiar Stranger by Christina Berry. Christina is a winner because she has just completed a two month blog tour, gaining scads of new fans. I am a winner because I had 29 commenters this month (my second highest total so far) and all of those who posted on the book tour blog here or one of the other 30 sites this month still have a chance to win one of Christina's 10 giveaways, so let's hear it for all of us! >< Lots of hands clapping!

Check back on Wednesday, Nov. 4th to find out how you can win a signed copy of Erica Vetsch's The Bartered Bride in this month's book drawing.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Blog Tour for The Familiar Stranger by Christina Berry

All aboard for the last stop on Christina Berry's two-month long blog tour for her outstanding debut novel, The Familiar Stranger. I am giving away the copy I purchased of the book to anyone with a US address who leaves a comment on any of my posts during the month of October, and Christina is doing a drawing as soon as her last two bloggers post within the next few days for 10 winners who comment on her blog tour stops this whole month, so by leaving a comment on this post you will have double the chances to win a copy. Make sure you leave your email addy so Christina or I can contact you if you are one of the lucky winners!

Christina and I first met online through American Christian Fiction Writers. Then I signed up for the "infrequent, humorous newsletter" she co-authors with her mom. You can sign up, too, and check out back issues at www.ashberrylane.net/update.aspx and by signing up you will be entered in a drawing for lots of neat prizes like a copy of every book Christina ever publishes! In one of her newsletters she did a giveaway for a free short edit of a manuscript, so I entered that and won! After seeing the great advice I got from the free edit, I paid her to critique the rest of my manuscript. A very good gift to myself, as her crit helped me to get my story in shape to soon submit. She is an excellent editor, so check out her site at http://www.christinaberry.net/ for info about that service. Well worth the money.

Christina and I finally met in person at the recent ACFW conference in Denver, CO. In fact, I rode the shuttle to the hotel with her and her mom and several other conference attendees. Then the two of them and I were meal greeters at one of our evening meals, so shared some more time together and even ate a couple other meals together, too. The picture I am posting is of me and Christina at conference all dressed up for the awards banquet. She's the young, pretty, skinny one!

I left a post on Oct. 1st with her bio and a short blurb of the book that you can check out for more book info, so I wanted to ask her some different questions here today.

Thanks for visiting, Christina. I hope you get some well-deserved rest after this looong tour! Since I am a writer also, I was wondering what kind of planning you do before writing a novel?

My previous writing has been heavily plotted and I’ve known almost everything about the characters before diving into the story. Writing with a co-author, Mom and I both need to know exactly how a character looked and his or her history. We wrote out each scene’s main plot point and point of view character on index cards and posted them on a large corkboard. We also found catalogue models that looked like our characters, made collages of the pictures, and slipped our character interview in the back of the plastic sleeves.

With The Familiar Stranger, the first scene came to me like a movie. Once the first chapter was written, I took a few hours to write down how I saw the story progressing. Then I numbered each main point and called it a chapter. All told, I had just over one page of plotting. To keep everything straight, I made notes about the characters as I went along. A very different experience to write by the seat of my pants, but I’m working through my current book in the same way.

Can you tell us a little bit about your personal life?

Though the plot of The Familiar Stranger came from news stories, I’d been looking for a fictional vehicle to express the lessons I’d learned regarding forgiveness in my own marriage. I knew no one was interested in reading my particular story, but I still felt God had given me something to say. My husband and I worked through a major issue six years ago and found a vibrant, completely renewed marriage on the other side.

However, seven months ago, that same issue broke our bond. Now as a newly-single woman, I’m in the midst of promoting a book that touches far closer to home than I would have ever dreamed. If no one else ever reads it, I’ve been convicted and encouraged by my own words. If that isn’t a gracious God at work, I don’t know what is!

Rose here again: If you don't win in the book drawings or if you want additional copies for gifts, here are two links:


You can also have any bookstore order copies for you if they don’t have any in stock. Happy reading!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Book Review--The Light Across the River by Stephanie Reed

I have fallen behind on my book reviews, so plan to post several more between now and Christmas to help you in your gift buying. And remember to leave a post with your email addy for one chance at our drawing for this month, The Familiar Stranger by Christina Berry. And also come back on Oct. 31st for a special chance to win a copy from Christina herself as that is the last day of her 2-month-long blog tour.

The book The Light Across the River is the sequel to Across the Wide River, but you don't have to read the first one to enjoy the second. They both portray a family involved in the Underground Railroad in Kentucky, one of the things which first attracted me to this book since that is where I live.

To whet your appetite I want to share a quote from the back cover by author Susan K. Marlow "This book has everything--history, action, suspense, adventure--all nicely blended in a page turning story of real people living out their convictions."

This book is a fictionalized account of the Rankins, a real family, and real events such as the saving of the slave Eliza about whom Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin. It is listed as Juvenile Fiction, but I would recommend it for adults as well, in fact for anyone with an interest in the people, both young and old, black and white, who let their lights shine during this dark period of our country's history. It is published by Kregel, so can be ordered from them or at www.amazon.com I also hope you will check out the author's website at www.stephaniereed.turboflanges.com Happy reading and gift buying! Remember--a book is a gift that keeps on living in the reader's mind long after they close the covers!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Book Giveaways
There has been much discussion on the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) loop this past week about the legalities of giving away books that an author or book company has sent to you for purposes of reviewing the book. The consensus seems to be that it is still okay to do so, but you need to put the facts of how you got the book on your blog, so that is what I will be doing concerning my monthly book giveaway from now on. And just to clarify, most of the books I give away have been given to me by a friend or a publisher for review purposes, although I have purchased some of the books.

The discussion led me to my topic for today's post. I check out a couple of posts almost daily and others weekly. If I read all the blogs that interest me, I would never get any reading or writing done! LOL I thought I would compile a list of the blogs that often do book giveaways, and I hope that several of you will add other book giveaway sites in your posts. That way we can all be winners!

And anyone who leaves a post this month with their email info will be entered into a drawing for the book The Familiar Stranger by Christina Berry to be held on Nov. 1st. (see post on Oct. 1st to read a review of this wonderful book. And yes, Christina is a friend of mine, but I bought this book myself. She is giving 10 books away this month to 10 lucky people who post on her book blog tour, so if you leave a comment on Oct. 31st on my blog, you will have 2 chances to win!

Below are a list of sites I have checked out and/or won books or other items from. It is great fun to win books, but even more fun to read about all the wonderful Christian books out there, so check out one or more of these sites:

http://www.lenanelsondooley.blogspot.com/ Lena usually reviews at least 3 books a week and draws for the winners each Saturday. Her author interviews, like Lena herself, are very fun and eclectic.

http://www.inkwellinspirations.blogspot.com/ This new site is written by 15 writers. To celebrate their grand opening, they are giving away an item each day this month and 2 grand prizes at the end of the month, so this is a site you will definitely want to check out soon! I enjoy reading it because it ranges from devotions to book reviews to info about the authors--all great stuff!

http://www.on-the-write-track.blogspot.com/ This is another new site, written by Lynda Schab. Her giveaway each Monday for the next 11 weeks is called The Twelve Books of Christmas! Guess who won the first Christmas book--moi! If I were a Grinch and wanted to keep the chance of winning all of those wonderful Christmas books just to myself, I wouldn't be telling you all about it, so pass the word and share some Christmas cheer!

http://www.favoritepastimes.blogspot.com/ This site is wo-manned by 8 contributors and gives away one book each week. In keeping with the name of this blog, the books are usually historicals, so all of you fans of that genre need to mosey on over.

http://www.dimensionsartandeternity.blogspot.com/ This is one of my favorite sites, co-written by Robin Johns Grant and her niece, Kristi Israel. Written from the different points of view, you never know what the topic will be, but I think you will love it! Their giveaways have ranged from an Amazon gift card to books to hand made crafts, so head on over and find out what is in store for you there.

I know there are scads of other sites that do giveaways, so please add your favorite in the comments section. Thanks, and may the best reader win!

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Congrats to Amy Barkman for winning Maggie Rose! Two chances to win The Familiar Stranger by Christina Berry this month!

The Familiar Stranger is one of the best-written debut novels I have ever read, so I am happy to be a part of its online blog tour this month. You can win a copy from me by posting any time this month on my blog, having a US mailing address, and leaving a way to contact you. AND you can have another chance to win a copy from the author herself by posting on my blog on October 31st which is the day her blog tour will stop in for a visit. Or you can visit any of the other stops on her blog tour (a different site each day this month!) to have an even better chance of winning because she will choose 10 winners on October 31st from all the comments left on her blog tour this month. Read more about the tour and its sites at http://www.christinaberry.net/ or http://www.authorchristinaberry.blogspot.com/ You will also have to check out the author's photo and book cover there as they were too big for my dial-up system to download.

Now, a blurb of the book to whet your appetite: The Familiar Stranger is about a couple going through a really rough patch in their marriage. When an accident incapacitates the husband, their relationship must be redefined. Which could be a lot easier to do if BIG secrets from his past didn't raise their ugly heads. Despite the upheaval, the choices they make involving forgiveness and trust might allow a new beginning. Or...they might not.

Here's a short bio of Christina Berry who besides being a great writer is also an editor-extraordinaire: As a single mom and foster parent, Christina Berry carves time out of her busy schedule to write about the heart and soul of life. She lives with her family in rural Oregon.

I hope you will check out her sites and get to know more about this great new author! Also check back on Oct. 31st as she will answer some questions for us. Then check here on Nov. 1st to see if you won a copy.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

More Conference Photos and Info

I'm back with installment #2 of ACFW conference pics and info. Joining me in the first photo is Christina Miller who attends our KY Christian Writers meetings, altho she lives in Southern Indiana. Christy was a finalist in the Genesis contest for unpubbed writers. We are very proud of her.

The next picture is me with prayer partner and friend Connie Stevens who received her first contract while at conference! We are all so happy for her! Check out more of her faith-filled journey at http://www.conniestevenswrites.com/

The lady in the blue denim jumper is my former agent, Andrea Boeshaar. One of the reasons she quit agenting was to have more time to write her own books. She recently received a contract for 7 books from Strang. Way to go, Andrea! Find out more at http://www.andreaboeshaar.com/

The youngest attendee of the conference was this little cutie shown with her dad, Stuart Stockton www.ritersbloc.com . She is wearing a costume similar to a character in her dad's book, Starfire. You can check out more about his debut novel at http://www.marcherlordpress.com/ Stuart and his wife Tiff who is pubbed by Barbour under her middle and last name, Amber Stockton, met at one of the first ACFW conferences, and are now happily married and the proud parents of this sweetie. The both write fiction, but you can read about their real-life romance at http://www.amberstockton.com/

I hope you will enjoy checking out these authors and their books. Be sure to leave a comment by September 30 if you want to win Maggie Rose by Sharlene MacLaren. And check in on October 1st to find out the winner and the name of our next book drawing you could win!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Two Trips--Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky and ACFW Conference in Denver

I usually try to blog once a week, but this time it has been three weeks since I blogged due to two trips this month. From Sept. 7-11, I spent five days on my annual spiritual retreat at the Abbey of Gethsemani. It was a wonderful time of prayer, Bible reading and also digging into some other Christian study books, along with several quiet walks and meals. Gethsemani is a silent retreat center run by Benedictine monks. A wonderful place.

Then from Sept. 16-20, I was in Denver for the 8th annual American Christian Fiction Writers' conference. My return connecting flight was delayed due to a plane malfunction so I spent an unexpected night in Memphis, TN and didn't get home till Monday afternoon. So, I feel like I've been a day behind all week, but I wanted to post some highlights from the conference along with some pictures.

Our first speaker was Donald Maass of Writing the Breakout Novel fame. His class was as good as his book and gave me several ideas for making my manuscript better before submitting it to an agent. Our keynote speaker was Debbie Macomber who has sold over 100 million copies of her books in 23 languages. I got to assist at her booksigning and found out she is more humble and sweet than you can imagine. She was also such an encouragement to all the writers at the conference with her own story and her admonitions to persevere! She is wearing the red sweater in the first picture.

We had many other classes, meetings with an editor and agent and wonderful worship services, but my favorite part of conference is always meeting up with writing friends, both old and new, so I will share a few pics of some of these special people. My roommate was JoAnn Swearingen whom I had met at another conference and got to know much better at this one. She is a great writer and also a talented artist. (She's wearing a gorgeous pink top in our picture.)You can check out her site at www.joannswearingenfiction@viviti.com

Kim Sawyer, another friend who happened to win the Book of the Year award (yea, Kim!), and I always try to catch up on each other's lives and take a picture at the annual conference. (she's in the black) Check her out at http://www.kimvogelsawyer.com/

Another fun meeting and picture event was with the other three authors who have joined me in proposing a Christmas anthology for Barbour--Jeanie Smith Cash (who came up with the idea), Deb Ullrick (in the back), me and Jeri Odell. Prayers for this project to come to pass would be muchly appreciated. I love and collect Christmas books, and this has been such a fun group to work with!

I think four pictures is about all my dialup will download without timing out, so check back in a few days for more conference photos.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Drumroll, please! The winner of Menu for Romance by Kaye Dacus is...

Robin Johns Grant.

Congrats to Robin who is a faithful blogger on my site and at her own site at www.dimensionsartandeternity.blogspot.com. Check her site out (she shares writing there with her niece) and you might win another book!

And check out my post from August 29th to read more about the book you can win this month--Maggie Rose by Sharlene MacLaren. Leave a comment and info on how to reach you by September 30th to be entered in the drawing.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Book Review--Maggie Rose by Sharlene MacLaren

Warning: Do not start this book unless you want to stay up reading past midnight for two nights like I did!

This book, Maggie Rose, is the second in The Daughters of Jacob Kane series by Sharlene MacLaren. Although I had not read the first book, there are enough bits and pieces of the family history in this book to let you enjoy it without reading the other one first. And, book three, Abbie Ann, about the third daughter of Jacob Kane is slated to be published next Spring, 2010. I look forward to reading it and losing some more sleep!

Maggie Rose is called by God to leave her hometown to travel to New York City to help at the Sheltering Arms Refuge, a short-term home to keep orphans who will be transported across the country for adoption. There she meets a newspaper reporter, Luke Madison, who is assigned the job of writing a story about the home and the orphan trains. Luke has experienced heartache that has shaken his already-weak faith.

Luke and Maggie Rose are attracted to each other, but she will not allow herself to fall for someone who doesn't love the Lord like she does. They accomplish a daring rescue together and are also the targets of some shady characters. Read this book and find out how God keeps them all in His sheltering arms.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I'm the Recipient of the...Superior Scribbler Award

Joining me on the red carpet are the other 851 blog writers who have also received this award, including the wonderful Karen Lange, another KY writer who nominated me! You can check out her site at http://www.karenelange.blogspot.com/

And you can also check out the complete list of winners at www.scholastic-scribe@blogspot.com I tried to copy the rules but couldn't, so you will have to check out the site for yourself to read them. The first rule is to pass on this award to 5 deserving fellow bloggers so here is my list:

Rachelle Gardner whose blog on the writing profession as seen through the eyes of an agent is invaluable and one I read almost every day. Check her out at http://www.cba-ramblings.blogspot.com/ You can thank me later!

Another very helpful writing blog is http://www.kayedacus.com/ Kaye Dacus is a wonderful author who has just been published for the first time this past year, and already has three books out and another one soon to come. She is also a great editor. Right now she is doing a series on the "bad guys" in our books--those guys we love to hate, or is it hate to love?

Another great editor who has her first book (The Familiar Stranger) coming out the first of next month is Christina Berry. Check out her site at http://www.authorchristinaberry.blogspot.com/

My next pick is a group of 5 authors who jointly do a blog at http://www.writespassage.blogspot.com/ These lovely women are: Tamera Alexander, Robin Lee Hatcher, Judith Miller, Tracie Peterson, and Kim Vogel Sawyer. They all write historical fiction, although some of them also write contemporary fiction, too.

Another group of four ladies compose the http://www.girlswriteout.blogspot.com/ site. They are Kristin Billerbeck, Colleen Coble, Denise Hunter, and Diann Hunt. You'll enjoy the variety of views on this site. Plus you'll read about some of the funniest, heart-warming, chick-litty, scariest books out there--just not all in the same book!

Now, I am supposed to tell you something about me that many people don't know, so how about I took violin lessons in the second grade, I have travelled to 10 countries in Europe plus several other countries in the Western Hemisphere, and I can recite the alphabet backwards! Hope you'll check out these other sites and learn more about all these interesting authors.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

"Don't Quit--Persevere."

Since perseverance is something God has been working on in my life for a few years now, the title of the preacher's sermon this morning really caught my attention. I believe God wants me to persevere in my writing, but no matter what God wants you to persevere in, the points of the sermon will apply to you, too, so I am sharing them.

He spoke of a man whom I had never heard of before (maybe I didn't listen too well in history class?)--William Lloyd Garrison. Mr. Garrison was so against slavery that he published an Abolitionist newspaper named The Liberator from 1831-1865. The minister said Mr. Garrison sold his bed and ate practically nothing in order to use his money on the publication. You can read parts of the publication online at http://www.theliberatorfiles.com/ He published 1,803 weekly issues of The Liberator. Even when his voice was in the minority in the United States. Now that's perseverance!

I'll close with the five qualities the minister mentioned as necessary to help us to persevere. We must have:
1. vision, 2. confidence, 3. discipline, 4. hope, and 5. gratitude to God! How do you stack up? I've still got some room to grow!

Sunday, August 02, 2009

New contest, and last month's winner is...

Diana Brandmeyer! Deb Vogts debut novel Snow Melts in Spring will be on its way to her as soon as I receive her mailing info. For a glimpse at this month's contest offering, see my previous post on July 18th for info about Kaye Dacus's novel Menu for Romance. I know you will love this book and its engaging characters, so be sure to leave a post and contact info (must have US mailing addy) during the month of August. Everyone except Diana is eligible, so what are you waiting for?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Book Review--Menu for Romance by Kaye Dacus

I am happy to tell you about a book that will dish up some romance for you, served Louisiana style. Meredith Guidry is a party-planner extraordinaire, and Major O'Hara is a locally famous chef. They've worked together for years, but both refuse to give voice to their growing attraction to one another.

Meredith tries to date some other guys to get her mind off Major. He finally decides to tell her his family secret that has always kept him from commitment, but is involved in a car accident on the way. With cracked ribs and a broken leg, he has to admit he can't always take care of everything, while growing in admiration of Meredith's strength of character and heart.

Meredith and Major were well-rounded secondary characters in Ms. Dacus' first book Stand-In Groom. I'm glad they got a book with their own story, and I hope we will see many more books about this family and its various members in future books.

So go out and satisfy your romantic appetite by buying this second book by Kaye Dacus and enjoy a well-written, funny and endearing romance. Consider it a yummy dessert without calories!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Importance of Writing Conferences

Last month I had the opportunity to attend the Write to Publish conference in Chicago for the first time, so I wanted to share some pictures from there and some thoughts on conferences in general with you. Please add your comments below and tell us about your favorite conference experiences!

The classes and meetings with editors and agents are all very helpful, but my two favorite parts of Christian conferences are the worship services and all the wonderful people to meet and fellowship with.

Marty Nystrom, who composed "As the Deer Panteth for the Water" and many other Bible-based praise songs, was our worship leader at WTP. He did a great job of focusing our minds and hearts on Christ and letting Him work through us instead of focusing on ourselves.

Mary DeMuth whose site you can check out at http://www.marydemuth.com/ was our keynote speaker each evening. She gave several examples of tough real-life experiences God brought her through and which she has shared in her writing, and encouraged us to "infuse truth in our writing" by going with Jesus into "that tunnel of healing" where "He will go with you and grieve with you and walk out hand in hand with you."

I am sharing some pictures of some of the great writing friends I met at WTP, some for the first time, but we felt like "kindred spirits" from the first moment. In the top picture I am with Lanita Boyd and Jill Orr, two of my new friends whom I spent a lot of time with. Lanita only lives about an hour from me, so she invited me to ride up to Chicago with her. We met Jill our first day there. She was another "newbie" to the conference, so Lanita kindly mentored both of us.

One of the favorite things Lanita, Jill and Marjean Brooks and I did was visit The Wade Center on the edge of the Wheaton campus. This stone and brick home surrounded by an English garden houses many of the works of C.S. Lewis, George MacDonald, J.R.R. Tolkien and four other authors. It also contains C.S. Lewis's desk where he wrote and a wardrobe from his home that was built by his own grandfather. The wardrobe is filled with fur coats like the one in "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe" so I am sharing a picture of myself and Marjean ready to go inside and visit the land of Narnia. If you are in Chicago, this is a place you should check out for sure!

Another picture is of Millie Samuelson, my suite-mate (each dorm suite has two separate bedrooms with a shared bath in between) and a new friend Emily Downs. Emily and I both write fiction, so shared many classes together. I had met Millie at the last ACFW conference, so was glad to see her familiar face when I first arrived! Check out Millie's site at http://www.milliesbooks.org/ to learn more about her books and the various places she has lived such as China!

There were several ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) members at WTP also, and some of us met one evening for supper. From L to R we have Kenny Noble, Millie, Deb Read, Lisa Lickel and myself. Several of us were in the great fiction workshop taught by Jeff Gerke. Check out his brilliant ideas at http://www.wherethemapends.com/

Posting about the WTP conference has made me look forward to the ACFW conference in Denver in September. Hope to see many of you there. If you are not familiar with the BEST Christian fiction writers' organization and conference, hurry on over to http://www.acfw.com/ and join us!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Contest winner and new book contest and review--Snow Melts in Spring by Deborah Vogts

Congrats to Sharon Ball who wins a copy of Breach of Trust by DiAnn Mills. I have another great book to offer this month. Anyone with a US mailing address who leaves a comment and a way to be contacted is eligible to win Deb Vogt's debut novel. The release date for Snow Melts in Spring is today, July 1.

I met Deborah Vogts several years ago at one of the first ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) conferences. I am so happy for her success at landing super-agent Rachelle Gardner and having her first novel published by Zondervan. Congrats to Deb and Rachelle! You can check out more about both of these ladies and this book at www.cba-ramblings.blogspot.com

Deb loves the Flint Hills area of Kansas and has written a lovely story placed in this lovely setting. Deb also loves horses which play a main part in this story. Here's a snatch from the back cover blurb to whet your appetite for this book. One person will win it, and I hope the rest of you will buy or order it soon! Happy reading!

"Mattie Evans grew up in the Flint Hills of Kansas. Although her family has lost their ranch, she still calls this land home. A skilled young veterinarian, she struggles to gain the confidence of the local ranchers. Fortunately, her best friend and staunchest supporter is John McCray, owner of the Lightning M Ranch. They both love the ranch, and neither can imagine living anywhere but in the Flint Hills.
When Mattie is called in to save an injured horse, she finds herself unwillingly tossed into the middle of a family conflict. Secret pain, passions, and agendas play out against the beautiful landscapes as love leads to some unexpected conclusions about forgiveness and renewal."

Monday, June 29, 2009

Tourists in Venezia and Tuscany and Florence

It has been almost a month since I last posted some pictures from our Italy trip last month, so here are a few more. Hope you enjoy travelling vicariously with me!

In Venice we did a lot of touristy things--like feeding the pigeons in St. Mark's Square, taking a gondola ride on our 41st anniversary, and eating lots of gelato! We also took a water taxi to the Isle of Murano off the coast of Venice and watched an experienced glass blower turn melted sand into beautiful objects d'art.

After two days in Venice, we travelled down the road to Florence, another magnificent city filled with century-old treasures. We ate more gelato and toured the beautiful Santa Croce church seen here with the star of David on top. Inside are many frescoes and the tombs of several Italians such as Machiavelli, Michelangelo, Galileo and Rossini. We later saw Michelangelo's famous David and several renditions of it. We saw where the Medici families lived when they controlled Florence and Tuscany for over 300 years. I hope you can see the distinctive skyline of Florence in the picture behind me and my husband. Notice the church spires and bell tower. The dome-shaped one to the left of my head is the top of the Duomo.

On our way back to Rome, we spent several hours at a picturesque Tuscan village which was one of our favorite stops of the tour. San Gimignano is a real Renaissance village with watchtowers intact, known as the "medieval Manhattan of Tuscany." It even has a set of "twin towers" to prove it! I hope you can see the hand-carved stones in the ancient walls behind me and my husband eating...more gelato!

Back in Rome, our last night included a farewell Italian dinner, complete with opera singers and pasta at the Papa Rex Ristorante--a lovely ending to a lovely time. Arrivederci, Roma!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Books by Kim Sawyer--My Heart Remembers and Where the Heart Leads

With all my travels this year, I am waaay behind on my book reading. This past two weeks I have allowed myself the pleasure of reading the last two of my dear friend Kim Sawyer's books that I hadn't read yet. You can read more of Kim's journey to publishing on her website at www.kimvogelsawyer.com and can even order the books there.

I love all of her writing, but I have to say that these two stories really tugged on my heartstrings at all the characters had to go through to follow where God was leading their hearts. I know your heart will be blessed in reading them, too.

Besides being a great writer, Kim is also very prolific. She self-published 4 books in the Mountain Lake series, then in 2006 she had two books pubbed by major publishers-one by Barbour and one by Bethany House. In the past 3 years, she has had 9 more books plus a novella in an anthology and had 2 of her sets of books compiled into 3-in-ones. She is one busy lady!

If you want to see a picture of me with Kim, then scroll down to the April 25th, 2009 post. Now we only have 2 more months to wait until her next book comes out in August of this year. It is entitled Fields of Grace and I can't wait to read it! I hope you will check at your bookstore or library for any of of Kim's books you haven't read yet and use them to keep you enjoyably occupied while waiting for the next one to release!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Book Review--Breach of Trust by DiAnn Mills

I just returned from the Write to Publish Writing Conference 5 days ago and all the aspects of great writing are still swirling through my head from the many wonderful teachers and the classes I attended .

I have to say that this book by DiAnn Mills is definitely great writing and then some--well written hero and heroine you immediately feel drawn to--with high morals, yet flawed like the rest of us; also well-rounded minor characters; superb description; exciting plot with escalating conflict and tension; and many unexpected twists and turns that will keep you reading long past your bedtime like I did!

Here is the back blurb description of the heroine: Paige Rogers is a former CIA agent who lost all she treasured seven years ago when her entire team was killed in a covert mission. She blames their leader--Daniel Keary, a just-announced candidate for governor of her state--whom Paige believes betrayed them. Disillusioned and afraid for her life, she disappears and starts a new life as a small-town librarian."

If you read this book, I guarantee you'll never look at your librarian with the same eyes! And you'll be caught up in this book like a movie unfolding before your eyes. Come to think of it, this book would make a great movie!

DiAnn has graciously offered to mail a copy of Breach of Trust to our winner this month. Please leave a comment by June 30th to be eligible for the drawing on July 1. And leave your email addy or some way of contacting you if you win. Must have US mailing address.

Monday, June 01, 2009

And the winner is...

Lisa Lickel who will receive a copy of The 100 Most Important Bible Verses in honor of my 100th blog last month. I had 30 blog comments last month, so keep them coming.

This month's book to win is a Breach of Trust by DiAnn Mills. Since I am packing and getting ready to leave for the Write to Publish conference in the morning, I will have to cut this short and post a review of the book after I return. I will tell you that I think it's one of the best DiAnn Mills' books ever, and I am a big DiAnn Mills' fan!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Arrivederci, Roma!
This month has held several celebrations including my 100th blog post (see May 1st post) and my 41st wedding anniversary on May 11th. It also held the second crashing in the past three months of my four year old computer. It would not turn on at all last week, but I am very thankful for a young neighbor who was able to save almost all my files and finally has my new computer up and running so I can post this.

The first night we arrived in Rome, we took a bus to see the Trevi Fountains and the Spanish Steps. My hubby took this picture of me, Kathy and Dave, and Louise, a new friend from Australia whom we met on the tour, in front of the crowded steps. We all are carrying roses and Dave even has one in his teeth! A street vendor "gave" them to us, then took some back when we didn't offer him as many Euros as he'd hoped!

Another picture above is of my hubby and me with two of our best friends, Kathy and Dave, who were celebrating their 25 anniversary on this trip, also. We are standing in the Colosseum where we could still smell the dried blood of those slaughtered in this arena almost two millenia ago. The Colosseum held up to 55,000 spectators at one time. I just finished reading A Voice in the Wind by Francine Rivers which contains several scenes of fighting in this same location. I highly recommend this book and any book by Francine Rivers, BTW. She is one of those very talented Christian writers who successfully writes both historicals and contemporary stories. She also has published several Bible studies that are great.

You can find the old mixed with the new on almost every corner of Rome. The triple arches are the Arch of Constantine. The picture of the hole in the top of a building with the sky shining through was taken inside the Pantheon. Our very knowledgeable guide, Salvatore, said this massive structure would not have been able to hold together without collapsing upon itself without the hole.

We also toured the Catacombs, but they didn't allow any pictures there. We were allowed to shoot photos inside the Vatican and Sistine Chapel as long as we didn't use flash, so my pictures taken there are not very clear.

We celebrated Mother's Day and our last night in Rome by eating with our friends at a local Italian restaurant. I ate delicious eggplant and some ravioli and a caramel dessert. The picture at the top is of my husband and me taken at that restaurant.

Next on to Venice, but that will have to wait for a few days. I'm off to Chicago on Tuesday, June 2nd for the Write to Publish Conference. Prayers are much appreciated, and perhaps I'll see some of my readers there! Let me know if you read this blog.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

I'm on a roll...in wooden shoes!

I think there is a mixed metaphor hiding in my title somewhere! I'm on a blogging roll as I seldom blog two days in a row, but all your comments and congratulations on my 100th post have inspired me. Plus I wanted to pass along the info below about Robin Jones Gunn's latest Sisterchick adventure--Sisterchicks in Wooden Shoes. (That's Robin in the photo above wearing the wooden shoes!)

The latest Sisterchick book will be in stores on May 5--that's next Tuesday, just in time for Mother's Day gifts. If either of my daughters are reading this, hint, hint!

Here's a summary from Robin's newsletter: "Summer and Noelle, two pen pals since 4th grade, meet for the first time in the land of tulips and windmills. An abnormal mammogram sends Summer on a quest to fulfill her lifelong wish before she begins the same struggle her mother fought against breast cancer. The story of these two Sisterchicks is brimming with hope and cheer and will bring encouragement for any woman who has faced a fearful future."

Since I have read many of Robin's books, I can tell you that reading one of her stories will encourage ANY woman, so buy it for yourself if you don't get it as a Mother's Day gift.

And in case I don't post again before Mother's Day, prayers for blessing on all women the world around. Even if you aren't a mother, or if, like me, your mother is living in your heart instead of on this earth, I'm sure you can find some woman who needs a word of encouragement and hope--and maybe a gift of a book! Hint, hint!

Friday, May 01, 2009

A Milestone--my 100th blog post!

Can you believe it? This is my 100th post since starting this blog in September of 2006! In honor of this milestone, the book I will be giving away this month is The 100 Most Important Bible Verses. I hope we will have lots of entries for this special collection. The inside back cover states "Let the truths of the 100 most important Bible verses change your life, forever."

Every one with a US mailing address who leaves a comment during the month of May is eligible for the June 1st drawing, except for Sharon Ball who is this month's winner of Stand In Groom by Kaye Dacus. So, celebrate with me by leaving a comment and you may be celebrating even more next month if you win!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Book Review--A Promise for Spring by Kim Sawyer

If you have been following my blog for very long, you've read several reviews of books by Kim Vogel Sawyer. Besides being a wonderful author, she is a dear friend, and I am always happy to have the privilege to read and review her books. But you will have to buy your own copy, as I don't use her books as giveaways, although I do share them with neighbors!

Kim has a soft, gentle voice and demeanor, and her books are soft and gentle reads with much emotion, and you become so involved with the characters that you feel like you want to sit down and talk with them even after you finish reading the book!

A Promise for Spring is no exception. I usually empathize with the heroines in novels, but in this story, I felt great compassion for both the heroine, Emmaline Bradford, and the hero, Geoffrey Garrett. The young couple had been promised to each other back in England, their home country. Neither knew it would be five long years before they would see each other again, or how much each would change during that time. It reminded me of when my husband was overseas in the Air Force and I was back in KY attending college. Although our time apart was a little less than one year, we still had many adjustments to make to each other and the changes that had taken place in our lives.

Imagine traveling half a world away to marry a person whom you haven't seen for five years. Emmaline and Geoffrey have both gone through huge changes in their relationship with each other and with God. They each need to renew their faith in Him and in each other before their new life together can flourish. I hope you will buy and read this book to find out if and how a "well-bred Englishwoman" will "become a wildflower bride."

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Kids are kids all over the world

I recently returned from a mission trip to the Ukraine with the mission organization known as Goin' Fishing. GFM (see more info in previous blog, January 29, 2009) was started several years ago by a man very dear to my heart and the hearts of many others, including my family. Bro. Earl Mullins was the principal of Portland Christian School, my Alma mater, for many years. After he retired, he started GFM so he could "Go Fishin" for men! And he did, in many places around the world, with an emphasis on Russia. Since Bro. Earl's death in 2006, Paul Kitzmiller has led Goin' Fishing Ministries and the mission trips. He and his wife lived in Russia off and on for over three years.

Our team was composed of Bro. Paul, his wife Virginia, a lady from Sellersburg, IN, Libby McMahan, and my neighbor and friend, Joan Marsh. God truly blessed this trip with financial support and much prayer support. We thank all of those who shared those blessings with us so we could pass on the blessing to the Ukrainians, and receive a rich blessing ourselves.

We had many eye-opening experiences and met many fine Ukrainian Christians, but as a former elementary teacher and mother and grandmother, the best part for me was the interaction with the kids!

I have been given the opportunity to travel to several countries, and I can truly say that "kids are kids all over the world." The Ukrainian children were no exception. Their smiles lit up the rooms and our hearts.

Much of our work was with about thirty sixth and seventh grade students at the Rainbow Orphanage outside Donetsk. The children swarmed around us when we arrived, and met us at the door or on the front porch on following days. We divided into three classes. I taught the Bible lessons while Joan did skits that emphasized the theme of the lessons, and Libby aided the students in making crafts that also correlated with the Bible theme. At the end of each hour, the students rotated, while we teachers stayed in the same room and taught the same lesson three times each day. Kind of a mini-VBS!

Our overall theme for the week was God's love--using stories of God's creation, Adam and Eve's sin, and Jesus' birth, death, resurrection and ascension. Our team was pleasantly surprised at how much Bible knowledge the students already possessed, and we pray that as they remember the lessons we shared they will internalize and accept God's love and salvation into their own hearts.

On the last Saturday of our time there, the kids were treated to an outing at the Circus. Although we did miss seeing the circus through their eyes, due to the tickets being for the wrong date, we were very happy the circus manager made it possible for the kids to experience it, and we did get to hear about their favorite parts later when the children were brought to a Ukrainian church for a meal and treats. They also performed a concert for us, displaying their talents at singing popular songs and Scripture songs.

The one thing different about these children compared to American children is that when the meal was finished, the kids immediately stood and began clearing the dishes from the table, an example American kids should emulate! I even have the picture to prove it! (see first picture above.)
We met several children at the three churches we attended, including the young boy shown with his mother above. I also had the opportunity to speak to the 8th graders at the Christian Day School on the campus of Donetsk Christian university where we stayed. All of the Ukrainian children spoke much more English than I could speak Russian! The picture of me with a pretty young teen girl shows one of the students I met at the Christian school who came to tell me "good-by" or "Das Vadanya" on the day we left.

I miss the children and pray for them every day. I hope you will join me in prayer for these orphans and all those who work with them--orphanage employees and local church groups who visit and teach them weekly. And I encourage anyone who has the opportunity, to open your hearts to the possibility of taking a mission trip to the Ukraine or where ever God leads you.