Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 Memories

As always, the end of a year has one looking back and looking forward. We light to reminisce about the highs and lows of the previous twelve months and to stare out at the pristine and unmarked adventure of the next twelve.

For me, as for many, 2014 was a year of milestones and changes. 

  • I was welcomed into the CC&C blogging family.
  • After a season of no writing deadlines and contracts, I got several in a row!
  • My son's basketball team won their conference tournament.
  • My son turned 18 and graduated from high school and began college.
  • I ended my homeschooling career.
  • My husband and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary.
  • My husband and I went on an epic vacation touring Civil War sites in the Deep South. 
These were only a few of the milestones and happenings of my year. These were the big ones, but life is made up mostly of the ordinary days between those big events. The laughter, the meals eaten together, the evenings on the patio enjoying the flowers and the lingering twilight, sharing the funny things my daughter's preschool class gets up to, discussing books, movies, and sports teams, worshiping together at church. The big events are great, but it's the little things that color my memories of 2014.

What was a 'Big Thing' that happened to you this past year, and what are some of your favorite 'in between' moments?





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Earl Grey Aficionado 
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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Best New-to-Jaime Authors of 2014

2014 was my year to branch out into the world of different authors. I have my all time favorites, but this year, I figured I'd stretch myself and read new stuff from new authors and in new genres. Some went ok, some were crash and burns, and some were...well...UH MAZING!

So here's my UH MAZINGS of 2014:

 So all right, maybe I didn't stretch myself out of my historical romance love affair, but I did read Carrie Turansky's debut novel, set in Regency, England. AND LOVED IT! So much so, that reminds me I need to order her next book that's already been on the shelves for a few months! I'm so behind.

What did I like best? 

The heroine wasn't run of the mill, Regency heroine. AND, the author didn't try to emulate or copy Jane Austin or Downton Abbey, and yet I still came away with that same warm feeling that entices me with a good English read. I've read a review that felt Turansky tried to copy Jane Eyre ... I didn't see any remote attempts at that. And I am, after all, practically a descendant of Jane Eyre. ;)

Carrie Turansky is a true mistress over the regency and deserves SIX stars for this novel!

___________________________________

 I signed up to review Victoria Bylin's debut contemporary romance novel. Hmmm....I do read contemporary romance, but am a bit of a snob and they all seem to run together for me. NOT THIS ONE.

Why did Until I Found You stand out?

A blizzard for one. Do you realize how many contemporary romances are set in summer, spring, tropics, TEXAS, or even on a cruise? There is a blizzard in this one. Loved. It. And the hero wasn't NICE. Ok. I am often misunderstood for why I don't like "nice" heroes. By "nice" I do NOT mean I want the hero to be an abusive brute who is self-centered and lazy. But I do tire of super good, sensitive heroes. My Dad is sensitive, but he has his issues and is manly. My husband TRIES to be sensitive, but I always tease his epitaph will be his biggest catch phrase "Get Over It". The hero in this book is a lot like that. He's tough, manly, has a past, but also loves fiercely and will move mountains if needed. LOVED this new, fresh voice in contemporary fiction.

___________________________________


 Good heavens help! I really DID step out of my norm to read this novel. For two reasons: one, the cover is stunning and demands you read it. Two, Laurie Tomlinson practically puked praises for the author and the book's context.

So I read it. Strike that. DEVOURED it. 

Everything about this speculative fiction novel was amazing. Or is it Dystopian? I dunno. Those genres confuse me.

But the heroine is so angsty and troubled and snotty and loyal and hurt and passionate and loving and fierce, that I totally related to her. I almost felt as if I were her. Scary. Because my hair isn't white and I can't summon storms with my emotions.

And the best part is book 2 is already on my preorder list. So, take it from me, if you're a die-hard historical reader, venture forth, brave soul. Storm Siren will not disappoint.

___________________________________


Can I make a horrid confession? I've had a difficult time reading historical romance this year. Maybe it's cause I'm grumpy, but I felt they're all starting to sound, well ... the same. But I thought I'd give Karen Barnett's new historical romance a try. Partially and primarily because we share the same literary agency for representation.

Holy buckets! Yes, I just said "holy buckets". The woman freaking made me cry. CRY I TELL YOU! I blame Karen for that. For the tears I shed in the truck on the way home my from in-laws, reading by the light of my cell phone and scaring my poor little children.

"Who died?" my husband quipped. And I blubbered and blathered my way out of his questions so I could curl up and finish this intense and satisfying read. Karen is a MISTRESS of the historical romance. There was a plot. And by that, I mean, a story. Something that drove this romance forward. Not mystery, or suspense, but good solid story. 500 Stars for Karen!

___________________________________



In 2007 I strolled along the pathways of Dachau in Germany. "Strolled" is perhaps the worst word I can use to describe walking in the footsteps of murdered ghosts. Once you have caressed the shooting wall of a concentration camp or breathed the stale air of a gas chamber, your life will really never be the same again.

Kristy Cambron mastered her heroine's journey through the concentration camp. Her harrowing, heartbreaking journey shattered with loss and yet sparkling with hope.

In the pit of an earthly hell, Cambron's characters shine heaven. It's a story of love, of hope, of music whose melancholy tones drift through the pages with a crescendo that climaxes in an epic finish.

I breathed the story for days after finishing it.

And that, my friends, is what defines literary greatness.


What was your best reads of 2014? Please share!

 _________________________________

Jaime Wright - 

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

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Monday, December 29, 2014

Goodbye 2014

Wow, what a year it's been! This week we all look back, and look forward. We celebrate the ups, the downs, and take stock of our losses and gains. Then we commit the coming year to our Lord's care, glad that we could not have known all that we might face before we needed to.

Above all, we rejoice in our Savior's sovereign care.


January & February brought frigid temperatures and tons of snow!

In March, Ted and I refueled with a wonderful marriage retreat with friends, and I went north on the train for a writer's weekend with Jaime and Laurie.


 April, & May were full of preparation for Ben's graduation open house. Ted was finishing his first year in his new classroom. We sorted through twenty years of old classroom supplies, and prepared the back yard.



  Our youngest turned 18, graduated, and we pulled off a wonderful open house celebration in June.



In July my mother was very ill, yet miraculously recovered fully and we are still rejoicing!
Ted and I purchased a fun vintage get away, and headed north with friends in August. We proved we are still young at heart, and rode a four-wheeler Razor over Michigan's sand dunes!


 In August we laid my 94 year old grandmother to rest, and launched our youngest.

In between all that craziness, in September I finished my third manuscript and headed off to ACFW writers conference in St. Louis. The "Sister-Chucks" minus one New Zealander (Kara Isaac), were reunited!


 Sisterchucks: Jaime Wright, Laurie Tomlinson, (moi), Halee Matthews, and Sarah Varland


In October, Grandpa Harper went home to be with Jesus.


In November, I celebrated 25 years working as a nurse, the last ten of those as a family nurse practitioner. I was also thrilled to sign a contract with literary agent Sarah Freese of WordServe Literary.

In December, we look back on 2014. 
A year of many milestones.
Farewells.
Launchings.
Friendships.


And we rejoice that the Sovereign God, our Lord Jesus Christ, held each and every one of these moments in His hand, as He does the coming year of 2015.
-------------
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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Represented by Sarah Freese, WordServe Literary

Friday, December 26, 2014

A Boxing Day Giveaway!

The winner of the Book Bundle From Ruthy is Dawn Leonard!  The winner of the bonus gift of a copy of Ruthy's "Her Holiday Family" is Bonnie! Congratulations, ladies!


So, what is Boxing Day? 

Here's the definition from Wikipedia:

Boxing Day is a holiday traditionally celebrated the day following Christmas Day, when servants and tradespeople would receive gifts, known as a "Christmas box", from their bosses or employers,[1] in the United Kingdom, Canada, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, Kenya, South Africa, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and other Commonwealth nations, as well as Norway and Sweden. Today, Boxing Day is the bank holiday that generally takes place on 26 December.

Around here, it's an excuse to give away some fun stuff on this snowy weekend.




And what's better for a snowy weekend than some yummy coffee and a book of Christmas stories?

Jaime has generously dipped into her stash of delicious coffees, and I'm giving away a copy of the NYT Bestselling novella collection: A Log Cabin Christmas. As a BONUS...this copy is SIGNED BY ALL NINE CONTRIBUTING AUTHORS! BOO-YA!



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Thursday, December 25, 2014

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year


The Christmas Eve Service at my little church is my favorite service of the year. The hush, the candles, the happy faces...singing carols, reading the Christmas story, remembering the birth of our Savior...and each year I think the same thing:

Each year the service is the same, and yet there is always something new and unexpected, 

We are the same, and yet there are new faces and some we will not see again this side of Glory,

The Story is the same, yet the Story is always fresh and wondrous.


I hope you have an opportunity to worship with fellow believers on this night, to embrace the time-old traditions and the ancient story of redemption unfolding. Sing, pray, worship, fellowship, remember, celebrate.

Merry Christmas Eve!


Executive Assistant
Earl Grey Aficionado 
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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

My Foodie Pic Addiction

Yes, I confess I take pics of my food. Yes, I've posted them on Facebook.
Sheepish grin...

My stuffed peppers, homemade guacamole, quesadillas, beans & chips

Jaime posts selfies. I post food pics.

Yes, I know it annoys some people as much as seeing selfies does. But let's face it, it's better than many other things I could be posting. I'm not ranting. I'm not being negative. I'm not complaining about the state of the world, politics, mob mentality, or police violence in the streets. So what's the big deal if I feel the need on occasion, to post pics of my food? 

My Garden Chowder

It's just that whether it's my own labor, or that of someone else's, when I see a lovely plate of food, my mouth waters. My senses are filled. Satisfaction is near. Every wonderful food memory I have combines in that moment. 

And life is good. And I'm thankful.

My baked Oatmeal with pears

Even my brother took a food pic at Christmas dinner yesterday around the table at my parents. All my mother's hard work, her good cooking, all wrapped up in that plate of food. All her love and care, culminating the years and decades together, ready to land on my palate. Sweet satisfaction. A celebration of love. Yes, that's why I take pictures of my food.

Mom's homemade mashed potatoes, homemade bread, cranberry salad, apple salad, cole slaw, garden green beans and corn, 
& smothered venison steak (on my brothers plate)!

And at this holiday time, I fully intend to enjoy each plate. Each moment of love and yumminess! As you should too! I will unabashedly share all the foodie pics I so feel the need to do. Yes. I will.

May the Lord bless the many, many hands that prepare the food you'll eat over these next holidays!
-------------
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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Represented by Sarah Freese, WordServe Literary

Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas Regrets



I remember sitting on the stairs with my Gramma Wright every Christmas singing carols ... "where the treetops glisten, and children listen to hear sleighbells in the snow ..." Gramma spent every Christmas with us until I was eight. She jumped clear out of her skin when our dog's nose touched her hand, she smiled at everything I said as though it was the most genious piece of information she'd ever heard, she gave the best Christmas presents ...

Until I turned nine. That Christmas she was in a nursing home and her present confused me. It was a plastic doll face with crocheted blue and white bonnet and three blue and white crocheted hot pads buttoned to its neck. I remember opening it at home, Gramma wasn't there, and staring at the ugly, strange gift and feeling disappointment. Last year Gramma had given me a plastic mixer that actually mixed eggs if you turned the handle fast enough. This year ... needless to say, this greedy, ungrateful little nine yr old donated it to the local Good Will.

I would give anything to get it back. It would hang in hallowed spot on my kitchen wall, plastic doll face and all. You see, it was the last Christmas gift I would ever get from my precious, best friend in the whole wide world. It was the best she could give. I found out later, shortly after she died, that the only place she could shop was the nursing home craft store. It was the closest she could come to getting me a doll. At nine, I cried, hard, wrenching tears. Gramma had passed and I tossed her last act of sacrifice away.

Today, twenty-eight years later,  I know Gramma would forgive me. It's Christmas when I most miss her, it never goes away ... the missing. I'm sure she's happy though, where the treetops glisten year round. Someday I'm going to find me a dollfaced hot pad and buy it - just to remember the love shared one Christmas from a passing Gramma to her granddaugher. I love you Gramma.

 _________________________________

Jaime Wright - 

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

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Friday, December 19, 2014

Coffee Chat with Ruth Logan Herne!

(Heather Sebastian is the winner of last week's double book and coffee giveaway!)

Erica Here: This week's Coffee Chat is with Die-Hard New Yorker and all around firecracker Ruth Logan Herne! I first met Ruthy through the Barclay Sterling Writer's Contest for unpublished writers...and she was kind enough not to give me the LOWEST score in my category...though I think I was somewhere around 10 out of 12? It was my first writing contest, and Ruthy was nice!...Way nicer than she was to Mary Connealy who entered the same contest...long story. (BTW, Mary and Ruthy are besties, so it's all good.)

So, without further ado, here's RUTHY!


Here at CC&C, we’re all about the coffee and tea. What is your beverage of choice?


Wait. You’re kidding me, right? I’m from New York, darlings. There is no choice. A cuppa joe, and then straight back to jail, that’s how things work here in the Empire state.  J
Coffee…. Always coffee. And if I’ve made it through a whole week without killing a real person, I use my gift card from one of my Manhattan sons to stop by Starbucks and grab a fancy coffee. That’s my mini-reward system at work, and NO ONE DIES!!!!


All coffees and teas are better with a snack or two. What’s your go-to snack?


When I’m behaving it’s cheese… Cabot’s Extra sharp cheddar, Parmesan, etc… when I’m breaking the rules it’s cake/pie/cookies. I love baking, I love eating but I’m stinkin’ short! So I have to be careful… the plus side of working full time with kids is that I can still bake… and share the fun and the treats!


Jaime is all about the selfies, so we’d love to see a selfie of you. J

Um, okay, let me tell you what’s NOT GOING TO HAPPEN.  First, I haven’t even figured out how to do them, short arms and big teeth make me look ridiculous. I can look ridiculous without any help from the camera, thank you, darlings…. And I’m about the least photogenic person I know (go straight back to those big teeth, turn right, do not pass “Go” do NOT collect $200.) So imagine a waif of a girl with long, curly, Celtic princess type hair… I don’t look anything like that, but I’d be happy for you to imagine it!

Erica here...Ruthy is totally lying about not being photogenic. She's adorable. So, I decided to post a picture of her anyway...and this one has a bit of a story behind it. Way back when...before I knew Ruthy very well, someone random person decided to create a Facebook account using my name and this picture of Ruthy. I emailed Ruthy to let her know...it was so funny that they would put us together. I never found out who did it, but the account was erased ASAP after Ruthy notified FB. I can only imagine what her email said. :D  Anyway, Ruthy is a cutie-pie, and her puppies are adorable, too!


Anne and Erica are history museum addicts. Can you tell us a little about a history museum that is close to where you live or grew up?

They have those things????? For real????? See, I’ve got this thing called the World Wide Web. They just invented it, marvelous little research tool. (Stops… thinks…. Light bulb moment!!!) Well, I do love going on historical trips. The Genesee Country Museum, a made-to-life village here in Mumford New York…. And I just went to Gettysburg, there’s some story fodder there, don’t ya’ know… and I love historic villages and buildings, and that, but honestly, if Mary Connealy didn’t DRAG ME to museum type places, I’d probably never know what they were! That might me a slight….very slight… exaggeration. Now mind you, I love reading about history and I wrote my first historical BY ACCIDENT and loved it, so youse historical writers are just plum stuck with me now because once I have fun, there’s no stopping me!!! J


Can you tell us a little bit about the research you did while writing  "A Town Called Christmas", your contribution to the Seekers “Hope for the Holidays” historical collection?


Sure! It actually started as an idea that didn’t make the cut for a Barbour collection, and as I put together the story idea, I fell in love with it because there was a swell of English immigrants that let bygones be bygones and came to America for a new opportunity, including my hero… And oh my stars, it was just so fun pitting this big, rugged, fairly well-to-do Englishman with all those raggle taggle pioneers in his path! And he was JUST RIGHT FOR SYLVIE…. And she needed someone to see beyond her past, and she was a little bit bossy, and she had a heart of gold, and there were just children everywhere, the ones who didn’t perish while their parents fought Mother Nature and rugged conditions to give them a new chance at life!!!! So I had to write it and it’s just stinkin’ adorable. I love that book.

What does your writing space look like? Do you have an office, a corner of the couch, or do you go to the library or coffee shop?

<Scratches head….> Well, I write anywhere. In the kitchen, in the living room, in the bedroom, wherever I can hide from the madding crowd, and no, you cannot see my office because there’s like stuff in there, every which way, and I keep thinking I’m going to get organized but I’d rather write.
So that’s what I do. J


What are you reading right now?


My buddy Jan Drexler (an amazing woman and author and yes, she paid me to say that so people would think she’s popular and I’m just ever so glad to help out)… sent me “Land of the Burnt Thigh” a great documentary on South Dakota and the late 1800’s/early 1900’s. What a great eye opener that is! I might have to write another historical!!!  (big grin!) I actually already did, there’s one coming out with Barbour in the spring and one coming out in a spring Seeker collection. Honestly, who knew torturing folks with disease and lack of food and sanitation would be this much fun????

What do you have releasing right now?

So right now I’m in two holiday collections, and that’s just more fun than you can imagine…. Hope for the Holidays Historical Collection (A Town Called Christmas) AND Hope for the Holidays Contemporary Collection (Longing for a Miracle) AND…. My fifth Kirkwood Lake book from Love Inspired!!!! “Her Holiday Family” is just the sweetest book, a lovely story of coming home… and finding the hometown roots you never thought you had, just in time for Christmas.

Here's a little bit about Ruthy:


Best-selling, multi-published author Ruthy Logan Herne is most likely tucked in an upstate New York snowdrift right about now, writing more sweet books about the joys of faith, hope and love while cooking stew, herding cats, wiping noses and baking something really good-smelling in her newfangled cookstove! J  She loves God, people, dogs, kids, romance and coffee and manages to put all of the above in her stories, which makes them CROWDED but so fun that people can’t even hardly help but like/love them. She loves hearing from readers and hangin’ with writer buds and readers in Seekerville www.seekerville.blogspot.com

Here are the links to find Ruthy's latest releases online!

http://amzn.to/1ohurB7  (Hope for the Holidays Contemporary Collection)

http://amzn.to/1uBTUSw  Hope for the Holidays Historical Collection



Here are some great places to find RUTHY online:

Website link   http://ruthloganherne.com

Here's Ruthy's response when I asked if she would like to do a giveaway of one of her books...SOOOOOO Generous!!!!



Yes! I’d like to give away a copy of each Hope for the Holidays collection! One historical and one contemporary!  And two copies of Her Holiday Family, either e-book or signed copy!


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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Throwback Thursday

Most folks, when you ask them what they know about gangsters from the Roaring Twenties will mention Capone and Chicago, and rightly so, but did you know that Minnesota was a hotbed of gangster activity in the 1920's and early 30's? No kidding! I had no idea before I moved here, but the number of crooks, gangsters, robbers, rum-runners, kidnappers, and otherwise undesirable individuals who sought refuge in St. Paul during Prohibition is off the charts.

Our most famous residents during this time were the Barker-Karpis Gang (remember Ma Barker and her boys?) Baby-Face Floyd, and John Dillinger.

The reason so many bad guys headed to St. Paul when the heat was on was because most all of the police force in St. Paul was on the take. They operated under "The O'Connor System." This system had three rules:

1. You must check in with Harry Sawyer (thought to have murdered his boss, Dapper Dan Hogan, using a car bomb, in order to take his place as kingpin gangster of St. Paul) at the Green Lantern Saloon when you hit town.

2. You must leave a telephone number and address with Harry where you could be reached for the duration of your stay in the city. (This was so they could call and tip you off if the Feds started sniffing around.)

3. You must make a contribution to the Chief of Police's 'operating fund.' (Tom Brown was the most corrupt chief of police any city ever had. He was in cahoots with criminals of every stripe, taking bribes, payoffs, and portions of ransoms. What a creep!)


To learn more about the gangsters of St. Paul, I recommend:

John Dillinger Slept Here


and

Secret Partners: Big Tom Brown and the Barker Gang












Were you aware of Minnesota's Gangster History? Did any famous gangsters live in your area?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

25th Anniversary


Yesterday, my husband and I celebrated 25 years of wedded happiness. It's so hard to believe it's been that long since we said our vows, and yet, it also seems as if we've been married forever.

When I look at these pictures, I realize just how young we were.  We had so much ahead of us! Finishing college, having children, changing jobs, moving to Peter's birth-state, building a house, loss of loved ones, births of new loved ones, new cars, old friends, laughter and memories.

We've crammed a lot of living into 25 years together, a lot of loving, too. I'm so thankful for my husband, a godly, caring man with a sense of humor and a heart of service.

I hope we have at least 25 more years of adventure ahead of us.