Monday, December 31, 2012

In Wonder -- In Joy

“Look among the nations, and see;
    wonder and be astounded.
For I am doing a work in your days
    that you would not believe if told."
Habbukuk 1:5

We enter the new year with trepidation, anxiety, hope, anticipation. I was reminded of this when I watched my daughter poke and prod her birthday cake this last week. She was tentative at first, then more confident, and finally her fingertip dipped all the way into that succulent French cream frosting and a victorious laugh escaped her. 

Habbukuk's first words of prophecy were not particularly filled with joyful overtones. If you keep reading, the "work" he referred to was the invasion of an evil nation as payment for the sins of Israel. But I keep getting stuck at "wonder and be astounded...I am doing a work in your days you would not believe if told". Isn't that how God works? Mysteriously, unexplained, no obligation to foretell the end result. The Israelites certainly entered their year with fear and trembling if they listened to the prophet Habbukuk ... how will we enter our year?

In awe. In wonder. In amazement. God has done, is continuing to do, and will do astounding things. 2013 will come with wonders unannounced. Grief, perhaps. Joy, hopefully. Change, inevitably. But none of it, not one millisecond of it has fallen out of the grip of God. 

We can look in wonder at 2013, we can touch it with hesitation, or we can dive into it expecting God to work His glory and just and merciful rule. His grace is sufficient ... so be not afraid. He has lit your candle, so allow it to burn bright ... there's a celebration to be had. The glory of the majesty of Jesus.

My daughter said to me later, "I'm growing up now." I replied, "yes, you are. That makes mommy sad." She patted my hand in her no-nonsense, unemotional way and stated, "don't worry, Mommy, I'll always be your baby."

Be God's baby today. Allow him to carry you into the New Year and foster the anticipation of a little child ... 

*Winner of the Christmas Bundle Giveaway: Rosemary Foley! Congrats!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Book Report: Against the Tide, by Elizabeth Camden

 Well, it's Book #3 for the Jaime Christmas Book Bundle and Book #3 for Author, Elizabeth Camden. I have had the privilege of reading all three of Elizabeth's books at her request and I will say this: "Against The Tide" is definitely her best yet!

So, Elizabeth is indeed a historian. Really, this book is thick with historical detail about the Nineteeth Century opium trade. This is one of the things I love about Camden's novels ... the history. BUT! For those of you who hate history like I despise mathematics, do not be faint of heart! This is not a history book. It is a novel. And, I believe even those who aren't huge on historicals will enjoy this one.

Here's why....

Characters: Lydia is an orphaned young woman who will have an intelligence level I will never attain. Her ability to learn languages makes her character unique in many aspects and sets her aside from the proverbial historical independant woman. I love that Elizabeth Camden has made her heroine spunky and independant while choosing a one-hundred-percent unique career with the U.S. Navy of all places. No mail order brides, seamstresses, or school teachers here folks. Nuh. Uh. And don't get me started on Bane -- the "bane" of Lydia's existence -- his over-confident charming arrogance had me at "hello" (although I believe we did see snippets of him in past Camden writings-- if my memory serves me right). He reminds me of that know-it-all type who can do anything and has no weakness - anywhere - except when it comes to Lydia.

Setting: The drug world of the 1800's. And we thought we had a meth issue! Talk about drugs. Opium to be specific. Who knew Americans tanked their infants up on drugs and orphanages used drugs to subdue orphans. Now that's a new take on discipline. I'll pass. But really, it's intriguing, suspenseful, deadly and the greatest base for a GREAT novel!

Romance: Thick. Did you ramp it up this time, Elizabeth? Cause I don't remember the romance being this gripping. And it's not like the two main characters are macking on each other. Seriously. I think it's the tension and the thick attraction in spite of the odds. I don't know, honestly. I can't wrap my head around what makes this romance so ... gripping. I think I need to reread the novel before I give it away.

SO! that being said, yes, I'm giving this copy away in my Christmas Bundle. We need a well-rounded bundle so now we have an Amish, a Contemporary, and now a Historical. Isn't that the greatest?!? Here's how it'll work -- leave comments, like our Facebook pages and let us know you did, AND become our blog follower (see the widget to the side) and leave that in your comment too. You'll get an entry for every "like" "follow" and "comment". That's a possibility of four entries just off this one post!

While you wait for the drawing to be announced - DECEMBER 31st! - check out Elizabeth's website. She has a great one! She even has a blog you'll really enjoy.

MERRY CHRISTMAS from Anne and I at the CCC Blog. We'll be taking a break next week and I'll be back on December 31st to announce the winner of the Christmas Bundle.



Thursday, December 20, 2012

Snow Day = Coffee Day = HAPPY HOLIDAY!

Admission? Okay, so I'm writing this Wednesday night and it'll post Thursday morning (this morning). I'm going to bed with anticipation. We're supposed to receive 17" of snow. YESSIREEBOB! This Wisconsinite is so excited. Here's what I love about snow days:

1. Snow Days. Calling in to work is practically a no brainer. And trust me, in Wisconsin you NEED 17" to justify calling it a "snow day". 6" just doesn't kick it as a reason to call in. Practically anyone used to driving in snow can make it to work with 6" on the ground.

2. Coffee Days. There is no better morning than standing by your patio door looking out on a winter wonderland. The crystals, the glow of white, the shimmer of snowflakes, the miracle of each unique flake out performing the other ... sigh ... and holding a big mug of coffee, rich with the scent of nutty warmth. Gosh I can't wait.

3. Holidays. In anticipation of this weekend and next week, snow will be a welcome sight. It's been a boring December so far. The 2" on the ground is nice, but not enough. I want to snowshoe through my woods, build snowmen with my kids, make snow angels with my daughter ... Yes ... it's coming.

Here's to this morning, and snow, and ... peace!

What's your favorite part about a blizzard?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Top 5 Christmas Memories of Childhood


1. When I was about four, believing my great uncle Bud when he had me listen for the sound of the
    reindeer feet on the roof.

2. My grandmother Emma's gifts were always wrapped in the "Sunday Funnies" newspaper instead of
    wrapping paper.

3. That blinding old fashioned flash bulb on grandpa Dick's camera when he took pics while we
    unwrapped gifts.

4. Laying on the floor between the stereo speakers, staring out the window at snow while listening to
    Johnny Mathis's Merry Christmas album on long play.

5. Getting a beanbag and my first pair of bell bottom jeans.

Now guess what year I was born! (okay, don't). Think way back in time!

It's not that I really believed there were reindeer and a Santa. It's that life was simple and innocent enough that I could have believed it if I'd wanted to.

What are your favorite childhood memories of Christmas? 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Take Time--Make TIme

Yesterday was our 24th anniversary. Yay God!!

You might think we booked a candlelight dinner for two. A gift of jewelry. (Not Anne.) A bottle of cologne. (Not Ted.)

A movie date night? (Nope. Not us.)

Nope, the best gift was having dinner around the table with husband, daughter, and son. We had a family hug in the kitchen and my hubby prayed before we all filed through the kitchen and grabbed a plate of baked potatoes, BBQ chicken, and spinach. Then we filed into the living room in front of the fire and watched the end of Click before we played a round of Black Sevens--a made up game using Rook cards. Five rounds later, filled with silly stories, funny noises, bragging, strategizing, reading each other's minds, belly laughs and serious competition--and I won!

But more than the game. We've been blessed. I'd trade a candlelight dinner, expensive jewelry any day for  precious moments like these. Each year is sweeter. The moments more dear.

Take time to make your family memories this season.
Make time.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Reflecting on Miracles

Considering last week's horrible nightmare, Christmas doesn't seem to be a time of miracles. Horror, grief, trauma...anything but joy, peace, goodwill to men.

I'm solemnly reminded of another Christmas many years ago when a tyrant sought his own end to an innocent. The cries of the mothers could be heard through out the nation. Horrible injustices meted out against helpless ones.

Where was God then?  Where is God?

The course of humankind has always been stained by our sins. Yet in the  violence there is Hope. Not hope of this world, for this world has failed us. But hope in one child saved from the terrbile atrocity to become one later. To bear our sins, my sins, the sins of humankind. To create hope in the chaos of man's failure.

For unto a saviour is born...his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Almighty God, the Everlasting Father...

God was there that sordid night in Bethlehem, and He came to save...

Friday, December 14, 2012

Book Report: Texas Wildflowers, by Anita Higman

And she did it again! Anita Higman wrote a winner and it's BOOK #2 in the Jaime Christmas Bundle (Book #1 is Accidentally Amish, by Oliva Newport).

This time, Anita wrote us a 4-in-1 collection of Texas novellas. The four sisters are delightful, spunky, romantic, love-torn, and adventurous. It's hard to write a book report because really, there's four different heroes and four different leading ladies.

So let me do my best:

Setting: Texas. Minus the big hair and rhinestones, this novel screams Texas. Galviston Island, mountain towns, a canyon, and a bayou. Anita picked just about every biological environment in Texas and wove a story around it. If you thought Texas was all sand and scorpions, think again.

Plots: It's romance. What more of a plot do you need--really! A jilted bride (at the altar no less) to an Internet romance, Anita Higman shows her creativity as a writer when tackling the most common of book subjects: Love! Written in 1st person, you get a glimpse of the romantic adventure from the point of view of the heroine. But it's not a narrative, don't worry, it reads fast and easy.

Quotes: Here's some quotes from the book just to whett your appetite... "The kiss was a magnum opus and we were just getting started. My wind chimes rang with approval". "I stuffed my mouth full of cheese puffs again". (BEST LINE EVER!) "I'm sorry ... I just don't love you enough".

Heroes/Heroines: They're spunky but unassuming. Assertive and timid. The four sisters are NOT carbon copies and don't think the author ran out of characteristic ideas. It's as diverse as the State of Texas. And so are the heroes.

Sigh. This is a book to curl up with when you have just an hour to relax and need a fun read. Of course, you won't finish the novella in an hour, and you'll stretch your hour to two 'cause you won't want to put it down.

A great read. Fun CLEAN romances. Edifying of faith and filled with God's promises.

Would you like to win the Jaime Christmas Bundle? Leave a comment and you'll be entered. Leave a comment on the link above for "Accidentally Amish" and you'll be entered again. Invite a friend to leave a comment and have them mention your name and you'll get a BONUS entry! "Like" Anne and my pages (see Facebook links on the right sidebar) and mention that in your comment here and you'll get even MORE entries! See -- winning Christmas Bundles is fun, so is stuffing your to-be-read piles with great reads! :)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Coffee I.V.

It's 11:50 p.m. and I should be in bed, but I've been swept into a great novel. Tomorrow I'll need a coffee I.V. (that's intravenous--not Roman numeral) to function!

I'm reading Kristen Heitzmann's The Breath of Dawn. It--is---so---good. I've been HOOKED, I'm running with the line, and I'm sinking into it's pages! I've been up past my bedtime for the third night in a row! I'd be done with it if it weren't for daily life requirements--and the fact that I'm purposely pacing myself so that it will last longer.

I plan to write a review in January, so stay posted. Or, better yet, put it on your Christmas list!!

So, what books are you reading now, or read recently that kept you up past your bedtime?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Ancestral Occupations

Winner of last week's book give away for Love Finds You in Annapolis, Maryland is Lane Hill House!!
Also, the give away for Liz Curtis Higgs's A Wreath of Snow was unclaimed, a second drawing has the winner: Merry! Merry Christmas! 

Last week I fell down a rabbit hole onto Ancestry.com and was having fun researching family history and looking for that interesting tidbit of information that might get me further down my family tree branch, or give a great story idea.

Do you know what occupations your ancestors spent their lives doing?
What glance at history can you get from their unique occupations?

Let's face it, there were a LOT of farmers in the 19th century! But there were also many other interesting occupations of the times. 


My great grandfather was a house mover. Really? Who moves houses? and how could there have really been enough to support him for a living? But I found it this week in a census that he had work for nearly 40 weeks of the year in 1939, while many others of that time could hardly find steady work through the year. Granted, he didn't strike it rich!

I have an ancestor who was a cooper--a barrel maker. But seriously,who needs wooden barrels when you have cardboard and plastic? So I guess that occupation didn't get passed down.


Another ancestor was a blacksmith. Now there's a hard working man. What hot work. My great great grandfather would have had to fix most of his own things around the farm. But I'll bet people came to him to have pieces fixed or made as well. Need a hinge? Oh right, there's always the local hardware store nowadays.


Another ancestor was a miller in Lancaster County, PA. What did he mill you might ask?  Hemp. Err--Yep. Hmmm. I guess to make ropes? He was the likely son or grandson of our immigrant from Switzerland. We were able to find the mill stone still intact on the farm with his initials in the stone. And I don't suppose it's legal to have a hemp mill now. So, yep, that didn't get passed down either. 

My grandfather was a carpenter. He did odd jobs and fix it work. He did a lot of painting. The thing I love? He often worked on these stunning old Victorian summer homes in Bay View, Michigan near Petosky. In a way, just looking at these beauties from the road--his legacy lives on. They just don't make them like that these days!



What's in your history? 
What have you stumbled on in your reading or research that you'd like to see in a novel?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

When The World Ends

Thx to freedigitalphotos.net!
Garsh I love Christmas! This seems to be Christmas Kick-Off week at the CCC Blog and I'm so excited! Too bad the world ends next Friday. December 21st was the end of the world to the Mayans ... or maybe they just ran out of carving space on their calendar. Wouldn't that be a lark? I can just see it. The calendar carver turns to his pal and says, "Dude, I ran out of space. That's gonna mess people up bad someday".

When the world ends I hope to be content, at peace, and ready to face my Maker. When the world ends I want to be holding my babies and embracing my husband. When the world ends, I want to look at my life with no regrets and look into eternity with thrill. When the world ends ... I'll be ready.

In the meantime!! IT'S CHRISTMAS!!! A time to celebrate! So, are you ready? Are you ready to face the holidays with joy that comes from welcoming an everlasting Savior? Are you ready to remember the gift He brought--Himself? Are you available to be moulded into a person who sheds the Light during a Christmas season that can be so dark to so many? Sometimes this season SEEMS to really be the end of the world as some people know it. Tragedy, sorrow, anxieties, stress, overwhelmed fatigue ... it IS the end of the world as we know it. Christmas has ushered in a new world, a new Hope! Like Anne wrote yesterday, do you see it? Do you see that Hope?

I hope your world as you know it ends today ... and the newness of the Christmas BLESSING which is Jesus transforms an otherwise traditional Christmas.

How has Jesus transformed your Christmas and brought an end to your tarnished world?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Do You See What I See?

Everywhere we look, we are overwhelmed with the shear darkness of this world. But are you looking for a star? 
For a light? 
Do you see what I see?
Turn on the evening news and you hear about shootings, fatal accidents, robberies, job loss, poor economic outlook, fiscal calamity, and political rhetoric that all serve to snuff the living hope out of your soul and leave you full of worry, anxiety, and despair.

In fact, the true sadness is that I don't even have to turn on the evening news to hear these things. 
Do you hear what I hear?

Isaiah 9:2-7
New International Version (NIV)
 The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned.

with permission: www.freedigitalphotos.net
Are you looking for the star of old that promised a redeemer?
What are your eyes on?
No wonder the magi decided it was worth the risk to make a trek to find such hope. They might have risked peril to find baby Jesus and offer him precious gifts. But when the thing you reach for is greater than the thing you risk, perhaps the light can shine ever brighter?

Sometimes when the tree needles are dried up and falling onto the carpet, the presents are all unwrapped, the trash bag is overflowing with discarded wrappings, and the kitchen is littered with leftovers to clean up--I confess there is a small part of my heart that feels a little empty. Don't get me wrong, I love the traditions and memory making and watching the kids have fun. Any emptiness is only a small part of me that mistakenly believed the traditions were what would save me and fill me up for the year. Or that push, shove, grab feeling you get when you shop sometimes.

But no. Don't let the tinsel fake-ness of secularized Christmas leave you empty.

Doing dishes for the thousandth time, I glance at the star on the top of our tree as it sags at a 45-degree angle, and whisper a prayer for real  hope. Hope everlasting. Love that will truly redeem and deliver. 

It was never anything but the Christ-light that was ever supposed to fill us with this hope everlasting. 

Isaiah 9:6
New International Version (NIV)
 For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
So  what  are you looking for?
Do  you  see  what  I  see?

Where have you seen the Light?

Friday, December 7, 2012

Book Review: Love Finds You in Annapolis Maryland by Roseanna M. White

Here's a book review from Roseanna White's 2011 Love Finds You in Annapolis Maryland, plus a preview of her next release due out in February 2013.
Again, leave a comment for a chance at a free copy announced December 13th (continental US only).


Cover:
Okay--let's face it, this book has shelf appeal! I bought this book without having heard of Roseanna previously, just because of the great cover. So, cover team--big score. I give you a ten!

Setting: 
Though there is a fragile peace in 1783 post Revolutionary War Annapolis, the effects of the war still simmer just beneath the surface in our country's capital. The sides chosen before the war are not easily forgotten and pull Lark Benton and Emerson Fielding into the center of the resolving conflict.

Theme:
When independence is won and allegiance shifts, the citizens of our young nation were faced with choosing between duty and liberty. Roseanna does a wonderful job of highlighting how these challenges transformed our early national identity. I was challenged to think on this timeless idea of liberty and reminded not to take it for granted.

Romance:
--tender
--blooming

This book found a spot on my "keep this one" bookshelf. Overall, a wonderful mix of spiritual thought, romance, and early American history.

Click on the link to order your copy :
http://www.amazon.com/Love-Finds-You-Annapolis-Maryland/dp/B0085SG8GO/ref=pd_sim_b_6


Bio:
Roseanna M. White pens her novels under the Betsy Ross flag hanging over her desk, with her Jane Austen action figure watching over her. When she isn't writing fiction, she's editing it for WhiteFire Publising or reviewing it for the Christian Review of Books, both of which she co-founded with her husband. 

Coming Release, February 2013: Ring of Secrets
Culper Ring Series, Book 1

Love Has No Place in a World of Spies

1779—Winter Reeves is an aristocratic American Patriot forced to hide her heart amid the British Loyalists of New York City. She has learned to keep her ears open so she can pass information on British movements to Robbie Townsend, her childhood friend, and his spy ring. If she's caught, she will be executed for espionage, but she prays the Lord’s protection will sustain her, and Robbie has taught her the tools of the trade—the wonders of invisible ink, secret drop locations and, most importantly, a good cover.

Bennet Lane returns to New York from his Yale professorship with one goal: to find General Washington’s spy hidden among the ranks of the city’s elite. Searching for a wife was supposed to be nothing more than a convenient cover story for his mission, but when he meets Winter, with her too-intelligent eyes in her too-blank face, he finds a mystery that can’t be ignored.

Both are determined to prevail at any cost…and each is committed to a separate cause. Will God lead them to a shared destiny or lives lived apart?

You can pre-order it now on Amazon:

Chat questions:
Would you rather read historical or contemporary?
What's your favorite Christmas food?
Christmas trees: real or fake???






Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Coffee break!

Getting ready for the holidays requires extra coffee consumption for me. Not the stress so much as the busy nature of the season. I also find myself stopping more often to breathe in the sentimental moments and take a second to appreciate all the warmth associated with Christmas.  What unique things do you find yourself doing during the season?

What's in a Kiss?

What's in a kiss? With the onset of the Christmas mistletoe, I am curious as to people's opinion on what makes the best kiss!

Is it purity or passion?
Is it tenderness or agressiveness?
Is it light or hard?
Is it Spiritual or physical?
Is it a prelude or an epilogue?

My own personal preference is reading a kiss filled with the cherished purity of a man who treasures this beautiful gift of God. Of course, that would include tenderness and probably a searching lightness, for fear he may break something too precious too soon. Definitely Spiritual, for three cords are not easily broken ... so I love a kiss where the hero and heroine have waited and sought God in their emotion, and it's probably an epilogue ... until they get married ... which in a book ... requires a closed door anyway.

That's me.

Best Kissing-scene authors? I enjoy Deeanne Gist. She's my favorite. It's like adding a bit of nutmeg and cinnamon to your coffee -- spice without tainting the purity of the blend. Yummy! :)

Your favorite kissing-scene author? What's in your perfect kiss?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Top 5 Books on my Christmas List for 2013

Naomi is the winner of Liz Higg's Wreath of Snow, but has not responded to her winner status, please Naomi--send me your contact info. If we do not hear from you by Friday, December 7th, a second winner will be drawn.
Have you searched 2013 new releases from your favorite authors? 

If not, you better make your list and check it twice!
Aren't you ready to curl up with a great new release?


used by permission: www.freedigitalphotos.net
Here are just a few of my picks for 2013. It was SO hard to choose only five! I usually keep a much longer list of books on my TBR (to be read) pile on Pinterest and Goodreads. There is a nice link on Goodreads for 2013 Christian fiction releases and you can add them to your list. 

1. It Happened at the Fair by Deeanne Gist.
2. Stealing the Preacher by Karen Witemeyer.
3. A Noble Groom by Jody Hedlund
4. Love in the Balance by Regina Jennings
5. The Icecutter's Daughter by Tracie Peterson

I've added an Amazon link to the sidebar for your ease. If you hover your curser over each book listing, you can see the release dates for each. 

Please add in the comments the titles and authors you are impatiently waiting for a 2013 release.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Walking Through Each Other's Darkness

2 Corinthians 1:7

English Standard Version (ESV)
7 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.
2012 has been a difficult year for my family. At the risk of sounding like a complainer, we have battled post partum depression, massive job strains, an absent Daddy on missions trips and youth work, illness including pink eye, stomach flus, bronchitis, and more. Sound unique to us? No. Not really. We can all list the stresses that attack us on a daily basis.
I wrote a FB message to Anne last week where I "dumped". My words were: "...Just not sure how long I can go without ever being able to do anything like exercise, have a Bible study, prayertime that's not on the run, etc. ..." We all have our stresses and our overwhelming obstacles of life. Enough of the competition, let's face it-- stay at home moms, career moms, any mom, gets overwhelmed and faces burn out. We all have our limits. Last week I hit mine.
It was interesting to me after I finally allowed myself to word-barf my problems to Anne, that just doing so made me a bit lighter. Especially when she replied in encouragement. I didn't carry my burden alone. Funny thing was, she had a few burdens of her own, so I was able to reciprocate. Then I left work to head home to the piles of housework, childcare, etc. that awaited me.
I arrived home to a sparkling kitchen, toys neatly put away, a bathed daughter, a fed son and supper on the table. God love my blue-eyed man! He apologized for having to eat and run but off to work my youth pastor husband went ... two ships passing in the night. My 7 month old son decided to clonk out in his crib from 5 pm straight through to 9 pm. That left four hours of undevoted Mommy and Baby Girl time. Time we haven't had in ... well, forever.
I danced -- WE danced in abandon. Literally. Turning the music up on TV we flailed our arms, wiggled our legs, jumped and landed in a pile on the floor. A giggling mass of girlieness for over an hour. It was beautiful.
In the midst of my joy, I texted Anne: "You must be praying for me". She replied: "I am."
Don't forsake friendship. Don't forsake sharing in each other's afflictions. The blessings of the comfort that comes in walking through each other's darkness' with them, joining together because of the unshakeable bond of Jesus, is a treasure. Knowing that comfort makes Jesus all the more alive, precious, and real.
And when my baby girl took my face between her two palms and whispered through rosy lips, "Mommy, you are enough for me"... I wept. Tears of joy. Tears that even through the overwhelming nature of life itself, the Lord shines down blessings through best friends, baby girls, and wild dance.
Have you danced in abandon lately? Have you experienced sharing in or receiving another's comfort?

Friday, November 30, 2012

Book Report: Accidentally Amish, by Olivia Newport

Christmas tree. Check. Coffee. Double check, check, and triple check. I'm ready. To read. But not Amish. Good grief, have you SEEN the books in the Inspirational section at Walmart? Amish, Amish, Amish, Nicolas Sparks (he's inspirational?), Amish. I'm not an Amish fan. Problem is, I'm an Olivia Newport fan. Fine. I'll give it a shot.

Olivia, dear heart, you are AWESOME!! You've gained a fan of YOUR Amish novel. Accidentally Amish is everything BUT the a-typical Amish novel. No WONDER Oliva knocked this one out of the park -- or barn, might be more appropriate.

First of all - get this line #1: "His kiss was firm and lingering as he cradled her head in one broad palm". K. Yep. HELLO! That's a line-grabber. I honestly drew back and almost spilled my coffee. NOT the opening line I pictured in an Amish novel. I was expecting, "She pulled her skirt up so it wouldn't get caught in Abraham Lapp's buggy-wheel". Pleasantly, suprised. (And in case you're a concerned momma, she doesn't get any more graphic than line #1).

Ok - let me break it down Jaime-style:

Characters: Annie is ridiculously smart, a computer programmer, a smartphone eficionado, a technology guru. She's savvy, bold, a bit cunning, yet remarkably vunerable. She's a momma's girl, (cute), she's a history buff, she's in hiding for maybe her life, but definitely from her scheming partner.  Rufus is Amish (love the name "Rufus" btw). He is witty, smart, bold, unmoved by Annie's smartphone and even yanks out a suprising phone of his own. His own business is in trouble by his personal scheming enemy, yet his reaction is one of peace, while Annie makes it her mission to save hers AND his careers.

ADDED TWIST: Welcome to the Mayflower, folks. Well, not quite. BUT YES! There's a unique twist to this book. When Annie realizes she and Rufus share similar familial surnames, the reader is tossed back in time to a ship of early Amish Americans on their voyage to make a new life in the Americas. WOW! So not expecting that. It's like eating a scoop of ice cream and finding a glob of hot fudge in the middle. It's like a contemporary reader and a historical readers HEAVEN in one book. It's the uniting of all that I love, Contemporary Romance, Historical, Suspense and ... well, I don't love Amish, but hey, it works here so yes, AMISH AMISH AMISH!

Location: Ok - so Olivia Newport just keeps throwing the curveballs - or chicken eggs. It's NOT set in Pennsylvania!!! Or the east. Or the Midwest. it's set in COLORADO! Oh yeah, like THAT is my first thought when thinking of where the Amish live.

Plot: You really have to ask after my gushing in the last three paragraphs. It's there -- in spades. The story is so layered I can't even review it without giving something away.

Faith: Olivia isn't shy. Faith is intertwined in this novel with the creativity and devotion of a great author.

I LOVED THIS BOOK!! It's a perfect Christmas present -- I'm giving it to my mother-in-law for Christmas (please, Mom, don't read this blog today). SO! If you want to take part in this Amish-Suspense-Contemporary-Historical-Romance ... go here to buy your copy asap!

Then leave a comment for YOUR chance to win the JAIME CHRISTMAS BUNDLE!!! YESSIREE!!! Starting with this book, every review I personally give for the month of December is going into one BIG CHRISTMAS PACKAGE that will be drawn for on December 25th! AND, I'll be giving a bonus review here and there throughout December - not just on a Friday! BUT! You have to leave a comment to be entered to win and then wait ... like we all have to ... for this special Christmas giveaway!!!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Long Distance Coffee

Ever have a friend whose heart you carry in yours but the miles between you stretch out over several states?

I've had several of those over my lifetime. And I'm sure many of you have too. My dear friend Jayne introduced me to gourmet coffee in 1989. How do I remember that? Because I thought I'd done good to make it all through college and not have succumbed to it. But Irish Creme and French Vanilla over a card game of Hand & Foot with our dear foursome friends were the undoing of my decaffeinated life. I embraced it fully and never looked back!

But when I hear the sound of opening a fresh can of coffee, or the whir of my bean grinder, and the sizzling sounds of dripped coffee beneath my pot and the warmer--and when I smell that awesome smell of fresh brewed coffee--it says "friendships and connections" to me.

And it makes me smile inside. It lifts my heart a notch higher. It puts a little extra joy in my tank. And to think that several of my dear friends are lifting their own cup of jo at the same hour of the day somehow makes the miles seem shorter and fewer. Because we all know that given the choice or the chance--we'd be sitting together sharing our lives over our favorite dark brown brew.

So next time you sit for bit and sip your favorite brew, take the time to send a little cheer across the miles. Say a prayer. Send a text. Write a note. Ask God for a scripture to send to your friends. And remember all the good times.

I think sometimes that there is nothing that holds the power to wound and the power to heal quite like the friendship of women. If you've never watched the movie In Her Shoes, you should. I love the scene where Cameron Diaz reads my favorite e.e.cummings poem. I don't have a bio sister, but this is to all my sisters in Christ: 

(tip up your mug)


[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]

BY E. E. CUMMINGS
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
                                                      i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)
“[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]” Copyright 1952,

So, who do you carry in your heart?
How far away do your long distance friends live?
How have you kept the miles shorter?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

19th Century Fashion in Fiction

The winner of last week's book give away: Naomi!! Please email me your address so we can mail your copy of Liz Curtis Higg's A Wreath of Snow!!

Where do writers go to research historical fashion for their fiction?


Do you get swept up into the world of yesteryear when you start reading historical fiction? or fantasize about what it would have been like to wear those long beautiful evening gowns of the 19th century?

Personally, I really don't like to wear dresses. But I am fascinated by the amount of creative work that went into fashion a hundred years ago, and I wouldn't refuse the chance to try on one of those gorgeous gowns. Like today, a hundred years ago the degree of high fashion or utility of a garment reflected so much about the person wearing it. And that's what draws me, the-not-so-fashionista-woman, into researching fashion for my current WIP (WorkInProgress--my current work of fiction).

by permission www.freedigitalphotos.com

In my new WIP, my heroine has just lost her courage for the future, and the hero is just finding his. The setting is Wisconsin, 1894.


Alright, now onward to the fashion.

Heroine first.

She likely took some, but not all of her clothing with her from Chicago. She was raised with wealth, but after her father's death she lost her savings in order to fund her dream. I imagine that she has given away or stored most of her more elegant gowns and likely has a few very serviceable pieces she wears to travel, and for day to day work. She is probably given a nurse's gown or has one made. So, she may appear as an odd mixture of wealth, vocation, and very plain dress wear--and of course, she is a woman who looks beautiful in anything she wears!

For my research, I stumbled upon a great website from my Jane Austen blog link, Victoria & Albert Museum at: http://www.vam.ac.uk/page/0-9/19th-century-fashion/
I imagine she might have worn a traveling suit like this one I downloaded from V & A:
used by permission: copyright Victoria and Albert Museum, London
This is an 1895 day jacket and skirt used to travel. This one is made of cotton for light weight and warmer weather, so I assume Lena's travel suit would have had a similar cut and style, but would have been made of wool to travel to Wisconsin in January of 1894. This beige color, according to V & A's description, was a popular color for travel as it did not show the dust of the journey as much as other colors.

And for her day dress she might have worn something similar to this dress also found with a description on V & A's website:
used by permission: copyright Victoria and Albert Museum, London
This day dress was made in 1889 and sports a waist length bodice. It is paneled with satin, edged in ribbon, and trimmed in back with a made up bow. The bodice is lined with the same green silk that makes up the skirt's petticoats. Both the bodice and skirt are boned and the collar and cuffs are faced with gold beaded tulle.

This dress was made in Paris, but I suspect my heroine's dress would have been made in Chicago or New York, and would have been made from lower quality or warmer materials.

But for the nurse's uniform, I found a nice link to a medical museum in Youngstown, OH: http://rosemelnickmuseum.wordpress.com 

They have a nice display of an 1890's nurse's uniform my heroine might have worn:


On the other hand, my hero looks to the heroine as if he's stepped straight off the stagecoach still dressed in his black Stetson, cowboy boots, and oiled canvas slicker--a picture of masculinity and strength. In 1894, the west was far from fully civilized, cowboys still existed. Geronimo had just surrendered in 1886, and the Massacre at Wounded Knee had just occurred in 1890. My heroine sees the hero as out of place and a generation behind in style--but his charisma and the fact that he embodies her dreams of a man, do little to make her want to change him.

My hero's aura and garments are a bit tougher to research. I did find a picture of Texan cowboys in 1891, some modern descriptions of oiled canvas, and a black frock coat he might have changed to for a nice evening out.
used by permission: copyright Victoria and Albert Museum, London
This 1890 type of frock coat was likely worn by both the elderly doctor and by my hero when he takes her to dinner. It is longer than some coats, double breasted, made of heavy wool with a sateen lining and a velvet collar.

Or he might have worn something like this western wear found at:http://westernemporium.com/mens_oldwest_clothing.php?from=link

You can also check out my Pinterest board for 19th century fashion at: http://pinterest.com/annelovespins/


So, are you intrigued?
Would you read on to find out more about my heroine and her hero? Can you "see" them better now?
What details in fiction draw you in?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Researching a Setting

I've been researching for my current work in progress (wip). I love to research where my story will take place. Whether a writer writes historical or contemporary, there is a lot that should go into a setting.

A setting is one of the four corners of a stories foundation. The other three being: Scene (atmosphere,  clothing, set), characters, and plot.

I've learned a lot from authors about researching a setting. If you're an avid reader,  you'll find this interesting:

My current wip is set in a lighthouse in the U.P. of Michigan in 1875. My brain freezes on overload of questions. What type of lens did they use? Did a light keeper sleep? How did the light stay lit? Could wind break the lighthouse glass? Did a light keeper also run rescue missions?  What was a day in the life like? 

So I have tapped into several resources. Not the least of which being Google Books. I've read a volume written in the early 1900s about the history of lighthouses. I've read a kids novel about the daughter of a light keeper. But by far the most helpful has been the journal my dad picked up for me. Written by the light keeper who managed the lighthouse my wip is loosely based off of.

A day in the life?

"Saved a drunken miner stuck on an ice block on Lake Superior"
"Whitewashed the cottage kitchen"
"Drive wagon to nearby town for supplies."
"The boys caught three trout in the river"
"Inspection tomorrow. Lamp mechanics fine tuned in preparation for the inspector"

...and so on.

It's been so fascinating to know they had to polish the lenses on a daily basis. Even a smudge was unnacceptable. The types of oil used to light a lens varied depending on the decade and the location of the lighthouse. The Fresnel lens wasn't the first lighthouse light - it was a lamp with lots of little mirrors. Lighthouse keepers often were up around the clock during bad weather. If the lamp went out, the blame was on them for the lost lives to follow. Random inspections were made by the United States Lighthouse Board ... if you didn't pass, you were replaced as light keeper. Proxy lightkeepers were allowed to maintain the lighthouse for a time during the illness of the master keeper. Often there were assistants (family - wives, children), to aid the lightkeeper in manning his post. Lighthouse keepers aided on the harbors. They met ships. They rescued drunks that wandered onto the ice during the night and woke to find the ice had broken away and floated off.

Research takes you into a culture. An author wants to get into the mindset, the culture, the era, and the weather. It's how they take you, the reader, there. Hearing it first hand makes all the difference. How do authors research? They do it with a curiosity that kills the cat...only in these cases, that curiosity writes a book instead!

As a reader, what settings have MADE a book for you--the kind of setting you remember months after the book has closed?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Humble Pie for Thanksgiving?


A Psalm of Thanksgiving.

100 Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands!
Serve the Lord with gladness;
Come before His presence with singing.
Know that the Lord, He is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;[a]
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
And into His courts with praise.
Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.
For the Lord is good;
His mercy is everlasting,
And His truth endures to all generations. (NKJV)

by permission: www.freedigitalphotos.net


Well, I sampled peach pie, pumpkin pie and blueberry dessert over the course of last week's Thanksgiving festivities. There was also the option for apple and pecan pies, which I bypassed. But the pie that stayed with me the longest was the one we had for our service this morning at church--humble pie!

Verse 3 in particular reminds us during our thanksgiving--who we are NOT, and who God IS.  For God is God, and we are not Him. And it is He who made us, and not WE ourselves. 

I have no saavy words. No sage wisdom to impart. No secret to survive the holiday "crazies".  I only challenge you to remember this simple thing and rejoice that God is both Sovereign and Immanuel. He holds the world in His hands, and He sent His son to be our Saviour. 

May your upcoming holidays be filled with the joy of knowing such a great God.




Friday, November 23, 2012

Book Report: A Wreath of Snow by Liz Curtis Higgs

Free Give-Away:  Continental US only, an entry for each question comment, winner to be announced Wed, November 28th, 2012.
A Wreath of Snow by Liz Curtis Higgs is a perfect novella to spark your Christmas spirit. You won't need black Friday for that. From its plaid covered spine to the wintry scene on the cover, you'll be drawn into this heartwarming tale of Scottish comfort in the form of this Victorian Christmas story of forgiveness.


Setting: 
Though much of the story is set on the train and in Margaret Campbell's home town of Stirling, Scotland, Christmas Eve 1894 finds her moving against the tide of holiday travelers heading back  home to join their families in celebration. Alone and disappointed, she's on her way back to her townhouse in Edinburgh when a perfect snow storm sets the stage for a divine appointment.

Plot & Character:
All Margaret wants is to return to Edinburgh where her life is simple and uncomplicated--yet singularly lonesome. When her trip to Stirling ends prematurely with painful memories of her role in her family's less than perfect past, she boards a train heading into the heart of a winter snow storm and crosses her paths with the most unlikely key to forgiveness. Handsome and kind, Gordon Shaw attracts her attention and her heart until this Glasgow newspaperman's true identity is revealed. Will their common past unite them or serve to drive apart those she loves the most?

Themes:
The holidays are often "the best of times & the worst of times" for families. The idea of returning home stirs many different things in the hearts of different people. Some refuse to return home in order to avoid family conflict that overshadows the celebration--the idea of being alone for the holidays might seem easier than facing old hurts. This tale is for anyone who feels the sting of the unhealed past when your holiday travels take you back to revisit old wounds and disappoint your ideal holiday hopes.

Romance:
--Believable & Lovely
--Sweet & Inspiring

Questions: 
Do you shop Black Friday?
From home on the internet, or the real deal?
Are you a happy-shop-early type, or a stressed-out-last-minute shopper?


Click here to purchase your Black Friday copy on Amazon.com A Wreath of Snow by Liz Curtis Higgs


Author: 
Liz Curtis Higgs is the author of thirty books—fiction, nonfiction, and children's—with more than three million copies in print. Her six Scottish historical novels have won the hearts of readers and reviewers around the globe. Whence Came a Prince received a Christy Award for Best Historical Novel. Here Burns My Candle won the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award for Best Inspirational Romance, and Mine Is the Night was a New York Times bestseller.


Discover more about Liz’s fiction: Website: http://www.MyScottishHeart.com
Facebook: http://www.Facebook.com/MyScottishHeart
Twitter: http://www.Twitter.com/MyScottishHeart Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/lizcurtishiggs/a-victorian-visit-to-stirling-scotland/