Tuesday, June 28, 2016

10 Signs Your Baby Has Grown Up

The one thing that I love about summertime is having my kiddos all to myself. Well, fine. My daughter CoCo has only had one year of school through which I could moan about having to share her with others, but still . . . I'm enjoying this summer because she's home.

But now that she's home, I'm noticing something . . . my baby has grown up. Oh, she's not 18 and she's certainly not striking out on her own, but look at that pic! LOOK AT IT!?! My little graduate, from Kindergarten, sure, but still. Cap. Gown. I remember: Diaper. Bottle. My mom said to hold my breath 'cause the moments go fast. She wasn't kidding. I know when she is 18, I'll return to this post and scorn my amazement at how she's "grown up", but for now, this is what I know.

Ten Signs Your Baby Has Grown Up


  1. They can read. This is that moment you change the notifications on your cell phone so they don't flash on the lock screen. No need for my ever-ready-reading daughter to announce to the whole room those private, albeit most likely harmless texts that I'd rather just keep private. 
  2. They start asking what particular concepts mean. "Mommy, what is a four-letter word?", "Mommy, how come so-and-so's mommy and daddy don't live together?", and "Mommy, how come you have a tummy ache every month?"
  3. They can get their own dinner. She can heat up a tortilla and fill it with taco meat leftovers and have her dinner and her brother's made before I sit down.
  4. They ask you to make coffee. Case in point, this Saturday I decided to skip coffee (don't ask). The conversation when sort of like: "Momma? Aren't you going to make coffee?", Me: "No" Her: "Well, I need some. Can you brew it please?" Me: "Uh....sure?"
  5. They tell you they're ready to date. We had THE conversation about dating and I hastily explained she needed to wait for several years yet. Which incurred the onslaught of impending tears until she clarified she meant she wanted a playdate not a date with "Hayden". OH! Yeah. We can do playdates at 6 years old, and sure, "Aria" can come too. But still, she's growing up. She didn't have friends over when she was 2.
  6. They can go pee on their own -- in the middle of the flipping night! 'Nuf said.
  7. They know they can do chores and frankly refuse with much teenage-angst in a Kindergartner's body.
  8. They freely handover their dress-up Princess clothes because "I'm pretty much done with dress-up now." *sob
  9. They can tuck their brother in bed. Sorta weird for me, but sometimes she likes to play "momma".
  10. And the worst? She's not going to marry Daddy anymore. She doesn't know who she's going to marry, and sweet thang isn't even sure she's going to get married, but she knows, if she does, it won't be Daddy. But she was sure to clarify "I'll visit him when he's old in the nursing home. Don't worry, Momma." K. Thanks, honey.
Anne watched her baby get married this last weekend. I'm sure she has an entirely different list of top 10 signs her baby has grown up. I believe as mothers, we have a new Top 10 every year. 

But there's a few  Top 10's that I failed to mention, that I believe, as mothers, we don't grieve but rather, cheer.
  1. They embrace their faith as their own.
  2. They develop their own independence.
  3. They develop their own self-confidence.
  4. They know their foundation.
  5. They garner their strength from the Lord and not from others.
  6. They dream giant dreams and believe with God, anything is possible.
  7. They learn that caution is good, but fear is disabling, and they learn to charge through it.
  8. They begin the life-long journey to conquer self-control, kindness, love, and the other fruits of the spirit.
  9. They cease to notice differences like color, disability, and education and instead see inside to the valuable soul.
  10. They choose to believe in a Savior and follow Him regardless of the cost.
This Top 10 may come through various times of their life. But it is these that make me sit back and perhaps like Mary did, ponder all of these things in my heart. This is when I see that my baby is growing up. And, it is good. 

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Professional coffee drinker and best-selling author, Jaime Jo Wright, resides in the hills of Wisconsin writing spirited and gritty turn-of- the-century romance stained with suspense. Her day job finds her working as a Director of Sales & Associate Relations. She’s wife to a rock climbing, bow-hunting Pre-K teacher, mom to a coffee-drinking little girl and a little boy she fondly refers to as her mischievous “Peter Pan.” Jaime completes her persona by being an admitted social media junkie and a coffee snob. She is a member of ACFW, has seen her work on both the ECPA and Publisher’s Weekly top ten best-sellers list for inspirational fiction, and has the best writing sisters ever!

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Monday, June 27, 2016

So This Happened



So this happened in my dear Anne-Girl's life this Saturday ...



Her baby boy was married. To a beautiful young woman. 

Anne wanted to share a gazillion pics with you all today, but she is wiped out! (Surprised?) So she'll be back next week, I'm sure, with a thoughtful post and fabulous memories!

Meanwhile, help me share congrats with the mother-of-the-groom!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Interview & #Giveaway with @VarinaDenman

Super excited to continue on from Tuesday's guest post with Varina Denman! Now that we've learned some of the behind-the-scenes of her latest novel, I'm excited for you to get to learn even more about Varina and her sparkling personality :)

___________________________________

Thank you so much for visiting us today here at the CCC blog! Can you tell us about your latest release and what inspired you to write the story?

Jilted, book three in the Mended Hearts series revolves around Lynda Turner who suffers from depression. And no wonder! She’s been jilted by more than one man, abandoned by her friends, and shunned by the church. Even though I haven’t experienced anything as traumatic as Lynda, I suffer from mild depression, so I have great empathy for her. I pray that her story encourages other women who struggle with depression, or helps them to sympathize with friends who suffer.

Of all your characters in this story, which one did you enjoy writing the most and why?

Clyde Felton, the local ex-convict, was a joy to write. He’s a huge, muscular man with a curly blond ponytail, and he spent twenty years in a state penitentiary for statutory rape. In other words, he’s SCARY … to people who don’t know him. Lynda (of course) knows that Clyde is actually as gentle as a kitten, and he wants nothing more than to pull her out of the darkness toward happiness again.

Can you tell us about a scene that you wrote and eventually deleted? It’s always fun to know of the little details that didn’t make the cut J

A major plot point in Jilted has to do with an old pistol, and I wrote a few scenes where teenagers were shooting enormous West Texas wind turbines for target practice. I loved being able to connect the gun with the windmills which are also key to the story. However, *sniffle* during edits, I realized
that the wind turbines weren’t in West Texas at the time the gun was being referenced. Ah, well … I may save that detail for another book.

How did you decide on the setting/location for this novel?

Jilted is set in West Texas, in the fictitious town of Trapp. I grew up visiting my grandparents on their ranch in that region, and that’s where I learned about Mesquite trees, jackrabbits, and rattle snakes … all of which make an appearance in the Mended Hearts series. Even though I never called West Texas home, I lived in a small town during my high school years, and that’s where I learned the nuances of the setting for Jilted.

What made you pick these specific names of your main two characters?

Clyde has always been named Clyde, right from the start when I wrote him in to book one, six or so years ago, and honestly I don’t remember why I named him that except the it just SO FIT HIM. He was Clyde Felton, through and through. Lynda, on the other hand, had her name changed more than once, and it took forever to decide. Nothing quite fit (probably because I didn’t have her personality nailed-down back then.) And then I realized several of my characters had rhyming names, or names that started with the same letter, or were similar in some other way … but I finally settled on Lynda (with a Y), and the name has come to suit her very well. An ordinary name with a slight twist to it, just like the character.

Moving on from your story, tell us a little about yourself. We’ll help! What’s your least favorite household chore and why?

If you could peek inside my house, you would notice that I (apparently) have several least favorite chores. But my least LEAST favorite is probably mopping. I think the reason is because I have to bend over, and it makes my back ache. Or it could simply be that I’m lazy. Who knows?

What are your hobbies outside of writing?
Summer is upon us, and full of events. Are you doing anything special this summer season?

Does reading count? This is a book blog, so probably everyone says that, but there you go. I like to read. I also watch TONS of movies and television shows, and I’m a NetFlix junkie. In the summer months I try to lay by the pool as much as possible. I’m normally very pale, and my summer months are habitually spent trying to master a tan. I usually succeed about the time school starts.

We talk a lot about faith and how it weaves throughout our fiction, here at the blog. How has your faith affected/or not affected your writing?

Oh, my goodness. God has taken me by the shoulders and spun me round and round. All I can do is hold on tight. I never intended to be a writer, but somehow God shoved me into it. And now He keeps pushing me out of my comfort zone which always leads to growth for both me and my characters.

Tell us a little about a day in the life of you? Wake up time? Lounging in your jammies all day, drinking coffee, living the luxurious life of a writer ;)

I THRIVE ON MY ROUTINE. On days when I’m able to stick to it, I’m one happy writer. I get up around 5:30, and actually put on clothes. I head upstairs to my office for devo and a little writing, then come down for breakfast an hour later. Breakfast is also a part of my routine: fruit smoothie with protein powder. Then I write till lunch and eat again. During the school year, my afternoons are spent helping my girls with their schoolwork (we homeschool), but in the summer months I write all afternoon as well, and feel uber-productive. On a good day, I stop working around 5:00, but during deadlines, I might work work work till late into the night.

We have a bit of a war going on here at the CCC blog. Anne and Jaime LOVE coffee and Erica and Gabriella enjoy a joyful cup of tea. What is your preference? Help us break this tie…

I have ridiculous food sensitivities that prevent me from drinking anything that I actually WANT to drink. (no sugar, no milk, no fat, no caffeine, no fun) So when I drink coffee, it’s decaf with sugar-free chocolate syrup stirred in, and when I drink tea, it’s decaf green tea with a packet of artificial sweetener. Don’t those sound like lovely options? I’m not sure I can be a tie-breaker, because I have to vote NEITHER … just give me a glass of water.

And a few fun and quirky questions always reveal of lot from our authors who visit. So, first, if you were to take a boat down the Amazon river, what would you be most interested in seeing?

Traveling down the Amazon river is at the top of my never-want-to-do-it list, so if it were to happen I’d love to see the dock where I would get off and go back home. Then again … isn’t that where “Anaconda” was filmed? (I’m so not a geography scholar) I’d much rather see a ginormous snake from the safety of my television screen … but if I was there anyway …

If you had a choice of living in any era other than the present, what would you choose and why?

It would be fun to live in the Roaring 20’s just to see the clothes and the dancing. I’d love to be a fly on the wall at one of Jay Gatsby’s parties.

We’d love you have you share a snippet from your novel to entice us and hook us! J Please share something below:

My daughter, Ruthie, always called me a glass-is-half-empty kind of person, but she was wrong. Not only was my glass half empty, but a tiny crack shot diagonally from a chip on the rim, and something bread-like hovered in the murky liquid. But I was in the process of tossing that damaged tumbler and getting a brand-new one. Even though I would never be a Susie Sunshine, I was determined to stop hiding inside myself. But it wasn’t proving easy.
Today I sat in my hatchback on the side of Highway 84, sizzling like bacon in the afternoon sunshine. I did this a lot. Sometimes I turned off at the lake and stared at the rippling water, but most times, like today, I drove all the way to the wind fields to gaze at the turbines—white needles against a blue sky. I reached across the seat and cranked down the window on the passenger side to allow a breeze in. Ninety-four degrees in September, but it could have been worse. Last week we were still in triple digits.
As a pickup truck sped past, my little silver car rocked gently and I almost ducked, but it was only Old Man Guthrie. His index finger made a slow salute in greeting, but I did nothing in response. My typical hello. My friend Clyde Felton called me distant, but really I was just tired. Tired of waving. Tired of pretending. Tired of trying.
I focused my gaze on the jagged pastureland beyond the pavement and hoped nobody else would interrupt my thoughts. Then again I sometimes wished God had provided an on/off switch so we women could shut down our brains when the memories started echoing.
For me, those memories were men. Ruthie may have insisted that my glass was half empty, but I liked to think it was filled up fine until the men in my life started throwing rocks at it for sport. Over the years I had gradually trained myself to shy away from males, other than the men in my family. And Clyde. Even Old Man Guthrie knew better than to stop and check on me, thank goodness. If he had, I would’ve been forced to explain why a grown woman was sitting in her car on the side of the highway, staring at the wind turbines. I smiled.
Those windmills, marching across the Caprock like evenly space tin soldiers, stretched for miles south of town and settled my nerves like a dose of Valium. Not that I’d had any Valium lately, but one doesn’t quickly forget.
Depression almost killed me.
Twice.




Varina Denman writes stories about the unique struggles women face. Her three-book Mended Hearts series, which revolves around church hurt, is a compelling blend of women’s fiction and inspirational romance. A native Texan, Varina lives near Fort Worth with her husband and five mostly grown children. Her passion is helping others make peace with their life situations. Connect with Varina on her website or one of the social media hangouts.

Jaime, Thanks for hosting me on your blog today. I’ve enjoyed being here!
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Thursday, June 23, 2016

8 Tips for a Successful Retreat

This past weekend I hosted a writing retreat in my hometown. Several people have asked me how it went, and my answer is always: "It could not have gone better!" We seriously had the most amazing time and I'm already looking forward to next year!

As I thought through our retreat, I've pinpointed some of the reasons it went so well. If you're planning to host a writing retreat (or any ladies retreat for that matter), here are some tips for success:

1. Enlist Good Helpers. This is probably my number one piece of advice. I had the help of my sister, my cousin, and one of my best friends. If I had tried to tackle this event myself, I would be a complete wreck! Instead, I enjoyed myself and loved the comradery with these ladies. They were completely competent and confident in their roles, and that allowed me to do what I needed to do.
  
My friend Alena (left) and my sister Andrea (right) at Costco
the morning of the retreat.

My sister Andrea (left) and my cousin Cori (right). They
practically lived in this kitchen all weekend! Though they
did join us for meals and some downtime. Every time I
entered the kitchen, these two were laughing and smiling.
They thoroughly enjoy each other's company, and they've
already agreed to come back next year! I had some good
laughs with them, too. :)
They created the most delicious food!
Including warm, fresh,
blueberry sauce. Mmm...
2. Plan Ahead. I had a detailed itinerary, with some back-up plans in case of bad weather or personal preferences. The food was probably the biggest thing to plan, so I met with my sister ahead of schedule and we planned the menu. We chose food that we had prepared before, so we knew the meals would turn out great, and we knew how to make them. She took the menu and broke it down into shopping lists. This took her about four hours, but the lists were so detailed and so complete, we were able to get our shopping done in record time and we didn't have to go to the store in the middle of the retreat for a forgotten item! Also, depending on what kind of retreat you're planning, think ahead to what tools and supplies you'll need. I knew we'd need a big Post-It pad and whiteboards for brainstorming, so I had them ready.


3. Choose a Relaxing Setting. Sometimes you're able to host a retreat in a mansion on the banks of the Mississippi, and sometimes it's in your own home. No matter where the retreat, try to encourage a relaxing atmosphere. The best way to do that? Be relaxed yourself. I had a couple ladies tell me this past weekend that when the hostess is relaxed, it enables them to relax. No one needs to know when something doesn't go right. The guests are there to retreat from life's stress--so let them.







4. Plan Fun Icebreakers! The first evening of a retreat everyone is usually getting to know one another, or catching up if they're friends. I don't plan any work on the first night. Instead, I plan fun games to get people laughing and encourage them to step outside their comfort zone (a little). This past weekend we played Pictionary, two truths and a lie, and a few other icebreakers. We introduced ourselves and then asked each person to tell us what name they had always wanted as a child. There were some interesting answers... :)



5. Plan Time to Work, Play, and Relax. But don't force people to do what you want them to do. I planned an itinerary, but I told everyone the weekend was theirs to do what they wanted. Some people came on the walking tour I gave, some watched the fireworks, some enjoyed a romantic comedy I played on a big screen, and others took walks. Some chose to brainstorm, some chose to write, and some chose to just visit and fellowship with other writers. I wanted each person to come away from the weekend feeling inspired, relaxed, and excited to keep pursuing their writing goals.

Brainstorming on the front porch.

An impromptu dance lesson and sing-along.

Enjoying the beautiful sunset.

On a historic walking-tour of my hometown.

A little browsing and shopping downtown.

Campfire on the banks of the Mississippi River.

The retreat happened to be on the same
weekend as a local festival and we had
front row seats to the fireworks! I planned
next year's retreat on the same weekend
so we'll have fireworks again.

6. Practice Hospitality. What do I mean by this? Being a hostess is all about practice. You'll never be perfect, and no matter how well you plan, the event will have a few snares. Be flexible, easy to work with, and keep smiling. This will ensure that your guests are happy (regardless of the fact that there is suddenly no internet service and you're in a house with eighteen writers--some on deadline--who need the internet!). When you realize that you're simply "practicing," you'll be a lot easier on yourself. I can guarantee it. :)

7. Have a Fun Memento for Everyone to Take Home. I wanted something meaningful for each lady to bring home from the retreat, but I didn't want to spend too much, so I came up with a fun idea. I copied each lady's Facebook profile picture and then had them printed. I put the picture in the center of a piece of cardstock and invited the ladies to write one word to describe each person. At the end of the weekend, I put them inside a clear frame and sent them home with the ladies to remember the retreat, but more importantly, I want them to know how special they are.



8. Invite Your Best Friends. Only kidding! :) My real advice is to be warm and welcoming. The beauty of a retreat is that at the end you'll consider each woman a friend. There were a couple ladies who attended that I had never met before, and I was so happy to get to know them better. It's a wonderful way to bond and grow in friendship.


I'd love to hear from you! Have you hosted a woman's retreat before? Have you attended one? What advice do you have?

Gabrielle Meyer
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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Stagecoach Days

Erica Here:

Okay, so last week I completely spaced off my blog post. I was on deadline, and blog post day was the day my manuscript was due. I was writing like my hair was on fire!!!

And I was also prepping for a retreat hosted by Gabrielle Meyer in her hometown of Little Falls. (I am sure she will have more on that tomorrow.) We had a great time, and I'm already looking forward to going again next year, hopefully!

I do apologize for missing my turn on the blog last week though.

In other news, this weekend I will be at the Dodge County Historical Society Museum for Mantorville, MN's Stagecoach Days. June 25th from 11-3, I'll be signing books and talking about Red Cross Signature Quilts.

For more info about this year's program, check out their facebook page.

https://www.facebook.com/Mantorvillestagecoach 

What festivals or celebrations are held where you live?


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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Story Behind the Story - with @VarinaDenman

Jaime here! I had to have my friend, Varina Denman, guest post today. Friday, we'll be giving away a copy of her latest book, and her trilogy is so interesting to me, that I wanted her to have a chance to share the story behind how they came to be. So help me welcome, Varina 

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Jilted, book three in the Mended Hearts series, revolves around Lynda Turner who has suffered with depression for years. And no wonder! She was jilted by more than one man, her friends turned their backs on her, and the local congregation shunned her. Even though I haven’t been through anything as devastating as Lynda, I can relate to her pain because I also suffer from depression (though my symptoms are mild in comparison to hers). It seems like more and more women have this problem these days, and my prayer is that Jilted will be able to encourage them to keep fighting the battle, and reminding them that God is bigger than their grief.

But I didn’t set out to write a book about depression. Six years ago, I started writing my first novel, Jaded, never dreaming it would eventually turn into a trilogy. Way back then, Lynda was a supporting character, the mother of my heroine, and while I knew she was depressed, I didn’t put a lot of thought into her struggle. At that time, I was more concerned with the problems she was causing for other characters (bless her heart). But over the course of the first two books, Lynda’s personality grew until she deserved a book of her own, and in the end, her story tied all the loose ends together, giving the series a satisfying conclusion.

However, I can’t give Lynda all the credit. As I began plotting her emotional journey, I realized the book belonged to the local ex-convict, Clyde Felton, just as much, and because of that, I increased the number of chapters in his perspective. Even though Clyde is not the main character in Jilted, his story is the skeleton for the entire series since his sin (twenty years ago) set in motion all the conflict. Now that I’m on the other side of the writing process, I consider the “Story Behind the Story” and see that writing the Mended Hearts series helped me along my own emotional journey. I’ve grown stronger in my battle with depression, and I’ve learned—like Lynda—that life is worth living … even when it’s difficult. 

About Jilted:

A heartbroken woman desires to move beyond old memories, but will her past give way to hope? Lynda Turner has struggled with depression since her husband abandoned her and their young daughter fifteen years ago. Yet unexpected hope awakens when a local ex-convict shows interest. As long-hidden secrets resurface, Lynda must fight for her emotional stability and for a life in which the shadow of shame is replaced by the light of love. Jilted tells of a woman who has lost the joy of living, of a man determined to draw her back toward happiness, and of a town that must—once and for all-leave the past where it belongs. It is a gentle reminder that all things can work together for good.

______________________________

Jaime again. :) I wanted to thank Varina for sharing her testimony about the writing of this book. Depression is something many of us have struggled with, if not been close to someone who has. Varina's vulnerability and her willingness to delve deep into this rather secretive subject, makes me respect her greatly. Join us on Friday for a full interview with Varina and a chance to win a copy of Jaded!
______________________________


Professional coffee drinker Jaime Jo Wright resides in the hills of Wisconsin writing spirited turn-of-the-century romance stained with suspense. Coffee fuels her snarky personality. She lives in Neverland with her Cap’n Hook who stole her heart and will not give back, their little fairy Tinkerbell, and a very mischievous Peter Pan. The foursome embarks on scores of adventure that only make her fall more wildly in love with romance and intrigue.

Jaime lives in dreamland, exists in reality, and invites you to join her adventures at jaimejowright.com.


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"The Cowgirl's Lasso", The Cowboy Bride's Novella Collection - Barbour Publishing - COMING MARCH 2016

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Monday, June 20, 2016

The Love of the Father

Yesterday was Father's Day....and I couldn't help thinking of those without fathers....

According to the National Fatherhood Initiative, 24 million children in America -- one out of three -- live in biological father-absent homes. These statistics are taken from the U.S. Census Bureau.

It's been no secret to anyone who knows my husband, that he's been on the search for his bio-dad all his adult life. For him, it's been a haunting question without an answer. He's been blessed with many solid "fathers"--probably more than the average man has been. The image of all of them flash in my mind, Cal, Ron, Henry, Lee, Coach Dan Robinson, Wendell, Vernon, Aden, and Gil…to name a few. Because of the Father, and these men, my husband hasn't become a statistic on the long list of things that befall the fatherless. But that doesn't stop the haunting question….who is he?


We've done family research, he's done generational interviewing, and even genetic testing. All possible roads and bridges have been crossed to no avail. All options exhausted. Now it's in the Father's hands. He will write the next chapters--perhaps not until my hubby reaches heavens doors will he know that truth.

Saturday night, he drifted to sleep on the floor while tending the fire in the stove, only to waken cold and chilled. He stirred the ashes, and put on some kindling and stacked it full, drifting off once again--only to waken sweating before a roaring fire. By then it was after three in the morning, so he crawled to the couch until I woke him at eight.

He grinned through a sleepy haze, "I had a dream--I met my father."

He dreamed a dream. Had a vision, I think. They met. He saw his face, had a conversation, got to say all the things that mattered. It was calm, no angry words. He'd not known of Ted's existence, he said.

He'd be back, he said.

Such a lovely gift.


Ted called his friend on the way to church to have the "what's your lesson on today?" conversation. Brothers in Christ, talking about their Father. They do that almost weekly. Duane told him the lesson was about Gabriel coming to Mary to announce Christ's coming birth.

Their question: 
Would you be a scoffer if someone told you they'd been visited by an angel? Had a dream or a vision? A promise?

Would you be a scoffer if the Father sent his son, and that Son lived and died for us--then promised--he'd be back?

Such a lovely gift. A Father. A Root. A Promise.

He'll be back.


Posted with permission and blessing from Ted.

(It's a busy week before my son's wedding, so this is a re-post)
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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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