Friday, July 31, 2015

Interview and #Giveaway with Author Harry Kraus


So pleased to have Author Harry Kraus here today, a renowned fiction and non-fiction author and a medical missionary in Kenya. I personally haven't read Harry's fiction, but I have read his non-fiction book "Breathing Grace" and was blessed and inspired by it. So i am so happy to have Harry here today and be sure to check out his website, it's a fascinating read!

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Harry, what inspired your latest story idea?

My latest novel, One Drop of Me was inspired by the concept that it only took one drop of black blood to make a person a slave. If a white man had children with a slave who was 3/4th caucasian, his children (like Thomas Jefferson’s in my novel) would be 7/8th white, yet still be considered black and therefore, property. We still do this to some extent. Think about it: President Obama is just as white as he is black, but we say, he is African-American, not white.

How would you describe your favorite characteristic about your story’s hero and heroine?

My heroine, Lisa Griffin, has resiliency! Faced with some of life’s most difficult challenges (betrayal by her husband, loss of a child) threatened, but failed to defeat her (oh, she had plenty of downward movement, but she bounced!). She found strength and inspiration to overcome in the life of Sally Hemings, a slave (and sexual partner) of Thomas Jefferson.

What spiritual theme in your story do you hope every reader is challenged by?

The spiritual theme is that there are many things which can enslave us (not just governments, such as in the Civil War). We can be enslaved by our own fears or a bad marriage. In this novel both Lisa Griffin (the contemporary heroine) and Sally Hemings (the historical heroine) find that true freedomis found through unconditional love.
Jaime & Anne are coffee addicts. Erica & Gabrielle are tea lovers. What about you? Coffee or Tea?

COFFEE! I served for most of a decade in Kenya as a missionary surgeon and Kenya grows some of the best coffee beans in the world. I came back from Kenya, a full-fledged coffee-snob! I grind my own beans and drink it straight and uncontaminated by all the girly taste-destroying creamers. (I’m smiling as I write this if you can’t pick up on my tone of voice here).

Jaime inserts comment: Can I share this with my male coworker who puts so much girly creamer in his coffee it tastes like melted pudding?

Favorite historical movie? Or mini-series?

I enjoyed Band of Brothers. War and crisis knit men together like nothing else can.

While Jaime loves to take selfies, and Erica & Gabrielle love museums, Anne loves Pinterest and food pics. What comes to your mind to share?


Chicken Spinach Manicotti: Take 1 and 1/2 cup finely chopped chicken and mix it with 2 cloves garlic, a package of thawed chopped spinach, 16 ounces of cottage cheese, two egg whites, and 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese and stuff into cooked manicotti shells and cover with spaghetti sauce and bake. (From kraftrecipes.com). Easy and so good. Enjoy with a glass of fine Chardonnay if you are so inclined (smiling again).

Jaime inserts comment: When's supper? I'll be there. (Bringing the Chardonnay)

Always wanted to be an author? Or surprised your path led you to publish?

My first dream of writing came when I was in my surgical residency training, an absolutely crazy time to take up a new occupation! My path to publication was smooth. After one rejection, I was picked up by Crossway Books who subsequently published my first five novels. All my stuff (predictably) has a realistic medical stripe. That’s a Kraus signature.

Favorite century to read? To write? To watch on TV or in a movie?


My favorite century to read it the one I live in. That said, I loved writing the story in One Drop of Me of Thomas Jefferson and his slave, Sally Hemings.

Favorite heroine of all time, and why?


Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games). She is loyal, resourceful, and never melodramatic!


Readers may contact me through my website: www.harrykraus.com, but I’m afraid it’s a bit out of date. I’ve been taking out a few too many gallbladders and that interferes with my web upkeep. I can be emailed at harry@harrykraus.


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Jaime Wright -

"The Cowgirl's Lasso", Coming 2016, Barbour Publishing

Spirited and gritty turn-of-the-century romance stained with suspense. Youth leader. Professional Coffee Drinker. Director of Development & Associate Relations and specializes in sarcasm :)
- Represented by: Books & Such Literary Agency

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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Duluth, Minnesota

By Gabrielle Meyer

I love Minnesota. From the rugged mountain range in northeastern Minnesota, where the world's largest freshwater lake resides, to the vast prairies of southwestern Minnesota, to the Big Woods of northern Minnesota, to the Mississippi River Valley of southeastern, and the Red River Valley of northwestern Minnesota--not to mention the 11,000+ lakes in between...my home state is breathtaking and diverse.

Today, I want to talk about one specific region of Minnesota--the North Shore.


This past weekend, my husband and I took our four children to Duluth, Minnesota, one of our favorite cities on the North Shore. Once you arrive in Duluth, it feels as if you have left Minnesota and are in a seaport city. Everything about Duluth is charming, from the San Francisco-esque streets, to the canal bridge that allows huge ships into the harbor, you forget you're in the heartland of America. I love Duluth's brick streets, Victorian homes, craggy rocks, soaring seagulls, and wonderful restaurants. Lake Superior is so large, you cannot see across it and you truly feel as if you're looking our onto an ocean.

When we ate our first meal overlooking the lake, our five-year-old son said a prayer: "God, thank you for our food, and for Duluth, and for the lake that looks like an ocean."

I couldn't possibly share everything I love about Duluth, so I'll simply show you a few pictures. I hope you enjoy this mini-getaway to Duluth.

Our first stop was the Glensheen Mansion, home to the
Congdon family from c. 1905 to 1977. Stunning! Here are
my children in the gardens. The house on the left is the gardener's
home and the building on the right is the carriage house and men's
sleeping quarters. The blue behind is Lake Superior.
The main house
The girls at the Glensheen boathouse

Looking out the hall window from Glensheen



My husband is a champion rock skipper (okay,
family champion...)

Canal Park, near downtown Duluth, is a favorite spot! This
fountain always draws our children.

Here we are in front of the fountain in 2015...
 
And us in 2010 in front of the same fountain...
 
One of our stops was the Lake Superior
Railroad Museum. Inside the original depot, a
historic town has been recreated, with authentic
items on display. The trains are also amazing, and
you can climb aboard.

The kids boarding a historic train.

The original northern Minnesota mail train.

The weather was in the upper 80's with a heat index of the
mid-90's, and the humidity was HIGH. Needless to say,
it was a very warm weekend, so we went swimming. Lake Superior
maintains a temperature of about 40 degrees, so it was FRIGID
in the water!


This part of the lake has sand dunes.

Lunch was at Grandma's Restaurant, a famous place in Duluth.
We had front row seats to watch the lift bridge!
 
In Canal Park



A view of Duluth from the lighthouse in Canal Park

Chasing seagulls in Canal Park

If you look closely, you'll see a wee bit of a rainbow to
the left of the lighthouse.

Watching a large ship come into harbor


On our second day, we went up the shore to
Gooseberry Falls State Park. A DNR officer
was showing the kids different wildlife
specimens.

Our boys at the middle falls.



Walking the trail to the upper falls.


After we left Gooseberry Falls, we went up the shore to
Split Rock Lighthouse, one of the most popular tourist destination
in the State of Minnesota. This is our family at the top of the
lighthouse.
 
At the top of the lighthouse in 2010 when the boys were only
a few months old.

The original light, well over 100 years old.

View from the lighthouse.



 

Some happy campers. :)

Our last stop before heading home was Canal Park to
eat supper. The kids splashed in the water while we
waited for our table.
I love Duluth, and I love sharing it with my children. My husband and I have been there numerous times, through each season of our lives. When we were children, while we dated, just after we were married, when we were pregnant with our oldest daughter, when it was just the girls, when the boys were little, and now. Each time we go, we return to our favorite places, but try to see something new, as well. This year was special, because it was the first time the boys were old enough to appreciate our trip. Everyone is still talking about their favorite memories, and I'm sure they'll continue for weeks to come.

Your Turn: Have you ever been to Duluth, MN? Do any of the pictures or information surprise you about this lakeside town? Is there somewhere you like to visit over and over?

Gabrielle Meyer:
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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Journeys of the Heart Novella Collection



Last week saw the release of The Journeys of the Heart novella collection! I'm super-excited about this collection. I just finished reading Camy's and Winnie's novellas on Tuesday. I LOVED them. And I know you will, too. My own contribution to this collection is a story that melted my heart. 

To celebrate this release, I'm giving away a print copy of this collection!  The rafflecopter to enter the drawing is below.


Here are the story summaries:


From merry old England to the wilds of Texas, take a delightful journey into adventure and romance alongside a feisty spinster, an English lord, a trail boss, a determined widow, and an unusual train companion—a parrot.

The Gentleman’s Quest by USA Today bestselling author Camille Elliot

When a man's body is found in the stables of Heathcliffe Manor, all evidence points to Christopher Creager as the culprit. The only one who can help him is the woman he hasn’t let himself go near: Honoria Dunbar. But when he enlists her help he discovers Honoria is facing a life-sentence of her own…


The Road Home by Winnie Griggs

Anisha's life is just beginning, and Wyatt feels like his is over. How can a displaced, exotic beauty and former surgeon help two grieving orphans find a forever home?


The Trail Boss’s Bride by New York Times bestselling author Erica Vetsch

Trail boss Steve Ketchum hates river crossings, but before he can get his cattle started across he's got to move an abandoned wagon out of the ford. He goes to haul it away--and discovers the last thing he ever expected. The wagon contains a newly-minted widow—and she’s expecting, too.





This is the photograph that inspired my story The Trail Boss's Bride. It pretty much sums up my story perfectly.

You can learn more about the story by clicking on this link:

http://www.amazon.com/Journeys-Hometown-Romance-Camille-Elliot-ebook/dp/B00YMEE2D6/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Parenting 101: It's Easy...Right?


If you'd told me I was going to be a career-woman I probably would have lol'd. I was raised from the homeschooled all 12 years thing, to the daughter of a pastor, to the I-married-a-youth-pastor. So where does working outside the home and having two kids fit into the equation? Heck, I even know how to can tomatoes...something I'm trying desperately to forget.

It's intriguing to explore the nuances of being a WOHM (Work Outside the Home Mom) and how it fits into the mold of being the Mom God created me to be. Since there's not a lot of resources out there for us WOHM's, it's nice to know that after almost six years, I see that it CAN be done, and in a God-honoring way where my husband and I are still a team and yet I bring home the bacon. (Which doesn't equate to us living on a pig farm...yet).

So here's a few critical things I've learned about myself in this foray into the workforce of directing people, hitting the 9-5 grind and still coming home to balance family, housekeeping, child rearing, church ministry and that ever-distant concept of ... writing a novel?!

1. Oprah is nuts. Yes I deserve "me" time. Yes, it would benefit my family. But no, there's no way possible to make that happen. So yes, Oprah is nuts.

2. I can't cook--so it's an obvious disqualifier for me being a SAHM

3. I am not a self-contained liberal advocate who thinks her husband is a wuss or that I am somehow superior.

4. Being a mom becomes more precious because of my limited time.

5. House chores are suddenly put into perspective on the low scale of importance.

6. Sometimes you just have to realize not every one is going to agree with you being a WOHM.

7. Sometimes you just have to know that the Lord takes people down very unique roads and it's awesome to see how He works.

8. Coffee is a necessity for every mom -- Acronym notwithstanding.

9. I will never--ever be geared mentally, physically or emotionally for more than 2 kids.

10. ...and that's OK

11. I will often be an outsider in the world of Moms...and that's ok too.

Unlike SAHM's, makeup is daily occurrence, as are showers, dress clothes, and heels. But like SAHM's, pajama pants are still the preferred source of comfort and kids bouncing off the walls still make me smile...and cringe. We have a lot in common...and a lot of differences. But this I know to be true...we all, at the end of the day, kiss our children's temples and pray a prayer of grace and blessing. In that, we are united.

So how does ANY mom keep their sanity? I say it's CHOOSING TO BE INTENTIONAL. I've learned this the hard way but it's true. Things don't fall into place into people's laps and your life doesn't turn out like a Disney movie.

Being Intentional means:

1. You plan ahead down to the minute. Hard for us non-planners. Ask my sister, Halee!! LOL I'm so not a planner. Or my sister Laurie, who buys me planners for my birthday. Yep. Not a planner. But I map out my days hour by hour. Work, home, how many chores I can accomplish in 1 hour a day, what specific fun thing I will choose to do with my kids before bedtime, and intentional snuggles in the morning may mean not griping when the kiddos come into bed at 5:30 AM.

2. You realize it's okay not to be the center of your children's world. It's healthy actually. But then that also means you do need to be intentional in BEING in your children's world. Because all of a sudden you can look at the clock and realize it's bedtime and your kids have been playing on their bikes outside on their own for...forever.

3. Take time for bedtime. I'll be honest. I hate bedtime sometimes. The five times per child getting out of bed once in. Yes, yes, I know what Super Nanny would say. I get strict discipline. But outside of procrastinating, they're also finding reassurance, learning how not to be afraid, and getting extra loves. And they do obey. Just sometimes, one good night kiss isn't enough. I should know. I would still sit on my Daddy's lap if I could.

4. Take time to pinky swear. Sometimes team work is required. Kokomo Jo (5 1/2) and I realized a few weeks ago we're very similar. We don't get mad easy but when we do, we get MAD. And then we talk over everyone. We don't listen. We're like bulls loosed in the roadways of Mexico to skewer any one wearing red. So in a long conversation, my overly mature daughter decided we needed to pinky swear that if we saw the other doing this, we'd say "STOP. BREATHE. LISTEN." Oddly, pinky swearing works. Last night I was going to lose it. So was she. Just a tad stressed. Bedtime had overreached the 5 times up boundary and had proceeded into the "get to bed or I'm going to blow a gasket" level. Kokomo Jo came downstairs and said, "momma, remember how we pinky sweared?" She held out her pinky. So did I. We giggled. But we remembered. She went to bed. I cooled down. She didn't get up again. We snuggled this morning. The line of being the authority needs to be retained as a parent, but it's good to work through your weaknesses with your kiddos sometimes too. They don't see you as perfect, but they learn to work with you, forgive you, and even sometimes, lift you up. 

So that's my parenting column for the blog this year. :) My PhD in living life has been hard earned and I'm still waiting for the diploma.

What's been or is your biggest parenting struggle?

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Jaime Wright -
"The Cowgirl's Lasso", Coming 2016, Barbour Publishing

Spirited and gritty turn-of-the-century romance stained with suspense. Youth leader. Professional Coffee Drinker. Director of Development & Associate Relations and specializes in sarcasm :)
- Represented by: Books & Such Literary Agency

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Monday, July 27, 2015

Monday's Devo: Fishing & Moving Furniture

The Winner of The Curiosity Keeper is Danielle Hull, watch for an email!!
Does anyone else have those things in your marriage that you've just decided you don't do well together, so you avoid them? 

It's sort of like "doing church", it sometimes seems better to just "leave things the way they are..." that way no one gets out of sorts.

For us it's moving furniture...
Personally, I'd be just fine if my furniture stayed the same until Jesus comes back. I don't like change. Often Ted and I can't agree long enough on the plan to make it happen. It took a hurricane to make it happen last time! We figured out it's easier to have a few ideas and then just "get-r-done". In 2004, I spent eighteen days in Biloxi, Mississippi, helping on a healthcare team after Hurricane Katrina had ripped through two weeks prior. We had discussed painting the bedroom for months, but just kept delaying. When I arrived home, he surprised me with a bedroom that was repainted and the furniture was all rearranged. I was thrilled. No arguing. Just done!

Well, eleven years have passed and it's time to redo our front room. I've been dreaming about a library/writing room. Pinterest hasn't exactly solved my indecision! Ah-hem. Yes, I confess, I've been dragging my feet. Dreaming is easier than committing, but it doesn't net you much.

My Pinterest Library Dream....

I'm not looking forward to the chaos I'll have to go through to get the final finished project.

But, last week when my daughter's boyfriend booked his ticket to visit from Ireland in November--I found my incentive and my deadline. I started chucking junk and cleaning out drawers of stuff I don't need. I drug Ted into the front room and the proverbial furniture-moving-bickering ensued. We managed to carry two heavy items up the steps together without dropping them, hitting anything, or killing each other. It's just that his idea of how to hold and tip things is not the same as my vision of how to do it. Yanking, pulling, and grunting with it, upwardly we went.


I left for work the next morning wondering why after 27 years of marriage we still bicker over how to move furniture.

Change is hard.
Changing myself is hard. 
Waiting for someone else to change is hard. 

But it's often necessary. And I keep thinking of Jesus on the beach with his disciples after his resurrection, when they are fishing the same old way--the way they'd done it forever and ever. But their nets were empty. Their efforts exhausting. I can imagine the bickering. "John, I said set the hook better." "Pete, don't tell me how to do what I know how to do." "James, row us over to that really good spot, no, not there, over the other direction."

And Jesus. He's on the shore and calls to them, "cast your nets on the other side..."

Do it differently than the same old way you've always done it. Cast on the other side.

I can just see the bubble clouds in their heads, questioning the Lord. Wondering what could possibly work better than their own time-worn ways. But, they set aside their questions and doubt and obediently cast their nets on the other side. Bickering aside. Joined together as one in a unified task.

And the nets are filled to overflowing. It wasn't the first time Jesus had asked them to cast on the other side and filled their nets to overflowing. He'd first done it when he called them as disciples and made them fishers of men. I wonder if they listened better the second time around? What if church is like that? What if marriages are like that? What if we make things more complicated than they are?


On the way home from work, I was still thinking of all these things. My day had been intense at work. I felt a bit woeful and repentant that Ted and I had argued and was ready to make peace and "cast my net" how ever he wanted to do the furniture. Ready to tell him, I walked into the house and he'd finished it all! The carpet was ripped out, the furniture was all moved. And he smiled and said, I've called someone for a quote on that bay window you've been dreaming about....  Sigh.

Yes. There's a mess. My dining room is stuffed with things. I can't get into my writing office, the doorway is crammed with a file cabinet.

Change is messy.

What if the church of the future doesn't look like we had envisioned in our little thought bubbles in our heads? What if it's less about warming a church pew, and more about getting outside the church walls, touching lives? Moving furniture? What if the church of the future is messy? What if we do it differently?

Casting our nets on the other side, should net us not only fish, or bay windows--but relationships, joy, peace, faith, hope, and unity. 

Jesus and the Miraculous Catch of Fish
John 21: Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: 2 Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. 3 “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
4 Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
5 He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”
“No,” they answered.
6 He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.
7 Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. 8 The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards.

If the Father is building mansions in the heavens, shouldn't we be about moving the furniture? Fishing for men? Casting our nets on the other side? Setting aside our ways, for His ways...
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Blog post by Anne Love-
Writer of Historical Romance inspired by her family roots. 
Nurse Practitioner by day. 
Wife, mother, writer by night. 
Coffee drinker--any time.
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