Thursday, May 25, 2017

What Does it Mean to Practice Hospitality?

Gabrielle Here:

One of my favorite things to do is have guests over. Whether it's a weekend writing retreat, an impromptu cookout, a bridal shower, a sporting event on television, or a holiday gathering, I am always the first to offer our home and extend the invitation.

A summer gathering in our backyard

Watching fireworks over the Mississippi

Decorating Christmas cookies with our neighbors

After we decorated the cookies, we went around the
neighborhood delivering cookies and singing carols

Go, Vikings!

Halloween costume party and trick-or-treating
Memorial Day Weekend camp out in our backyard

There are a few reasons I love to host. First, growing up, our home was the hub of activity. My mom has nine siblings and my dad has eight, this made for some large family gatherings on both sides. Christmas, to me, isn't complete without fifty people in the house playing games, filling the buffet table with scrumptious food, and tripping over a hundred shoes by the front door. I don't remember a weekend that there wasn't some relative visiting or a day that someone didn't "pop" in to say hello.

The other reason I love to host is because I'm an extrovert and I get energized being with other people. If it's been a while since we've had someone over, I start making plans to host another gathering.

And, third, I love to host because of Romans 12:13. "Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality."

Do you see that word? Practice.

When I was a young wife, I would get so overwhelmed hosting events at my house. I would put so much time, effort, and stress into each gathering, it made me cringe every time I thought about having people over, and then I would shy away from extending invitations.

But then I heard a speaker talking about Romans 12:13. She said, the admonition to practice hospitality is just that: to practice. It won't ever be perfect. Your house won't be perfect, your food won't be perfect, your conversation won't be perfect--in short, you're not aiming for perfection, you're simply practicing. And each time you host an event, you learn something new to apply next time.

When I started looking at hosting events as "practice," it changed my entire perspective! I started to relax!!! I started to ask others to help with tasks. I stopped making excuses for the unfinished trim in my kitchen, the fingerprints on my windows, and the chipped siding on my house.

I stopped trying to be perfect and just started being me.

Have you ever gone to someone's home, or attended a party, where everything appeared perfect? I have, and you know what I thought? "I can't invite so-and-so to my house! What would she think about the unfinished remodeling projects, the store-bought food I serve, or the stains on my carpet?" So I never extended the invitation. I know there are many women I could have been friends with, but I was too intimidated to have them come over because my house could never measure up to theirs.

But the reverse is true. I've gone to people's homes that aren't "perfect." Maybe the hostess isn't a great cook, maybe she doesn't care if her bookshelf is dusty, or that the kids' toys are strewn about the living room. Maybe she has a pile of clothes in a laundry basket on the couch that need to be folded. You know what I think about that? "Finally! Someone I can relate to. If she comes to my house, I can be real and honest and not worry about what she's thinking. I can focus on getting to know her and not stress out about the details."

The truth is that most people don't judge your home, your food, or your clothes. If they are a true friend, they have come to see you. If they are judging you, then maybe it's not a relationship to pursue.

See that dirt? We were in the midst of a huge landscaping
project (which still isn't completely finished two years later...)

No one cared if the backyard wasn't perfect

Hosting a meal with friends and family in the midst of
our kitchen remodel--yes, that's a plywood counter...
Wouldn't it be nice if we could all drop the pretense of "perfect" and just be real? Think about how much more we could practice hospitality. Think about how freeing it is to just be yourself, with all your flaws, imperfections, and messes. When you're free to be you, then you're free to offer what truly matters: your time, energy, talents, and love.

I can guarantee you that our friends don't come over to see our house. They come to spend time with us.

A sign in a friend's home says it all.


I love practicing hospitality, because I've learned how to relax and let the imperfections be a part of the experience. One friend said that he enjoyed coming over on Thursday nights to watch basketball with my husband last winter, because he was able to see the process of our remodeling project from start to finish.

If I waited until my house was perfect, I'd never have anyone over. If I tried to clean every square inch of my house each time I hosted a gathering, I'd never offer to host again. I would have missed out on hours of laughter, deep, meaningful relationships, and blessings too numerous to count.

Your Turn: Do you enjoying hosting? Why or why not? What stops you from inviting people to your home? 

Next week, I plan to share some tips for hosting a stress-free gathering!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Another Change of Plans

Erica Here:


For ages, we, Peter and Heather and I, were looking forward to May 20th. We had tickets to see the MN Twins play. (Actually, Heather and Peter had tickets to see the Twins, I had a ticket to see the Kansas City Royals who were in town for a three game series.)

For ten days beforehand we started watching the weather forecasts...and the closer we got to game day, the worse the forecast looked. Rain, rain, and more rain. 100% chance of rain from 1-5 pm, when the game was scheduled to be played.

Sigh.

We drove up to Minneapolis, about 100 miles from our house, walked through the rain (Thank you, Jesus, for umbrellas!) picked up our batting shirts (free to the first 10K fans) at the turnstiles, then went to the ticket window to get tickets exchanged for another day. Great seats for the game on Memorial Day (of course, there is now rain in the forecast for Monday...good grief!)

Then arose the question, what should we do now that we have an afternoon in the Twin Cities to kill?

Go to a history museum, of course! The Minnesota Historical Society Museum had a new World War One exhibit that we hadn't seen, so we hotfooted it from Minneapolis to St. Paul and popped into the History Center.

I have to say, the exhibit, while very well curated and interesting wasn't at all what I thought it would be. The artifacts and documentation focused on what was happening on the home front during the War rather than the European battlefields.

Women's suffrage, the African-American struggle for equality, silent movies, food drives for Belgian relief, the movement toward prohibition, traveling evangelists, and more.

I did get to visit with an artist who is creating several World War One murals. Since I have very little artistic ability, it was fascinating to watch him work on a portrait of Harry S. Truman. One of the murals had the Union Station from downtown Kansas City, and another had a young Dwight Eisenhower. So many Kansas connections! :)

All in all, we had a great day, even though it didn't go as we had originally planned.

Lemons, lemonade. :) Speaking of which, we had some lemonade when we ate at Chick-fil-A! :D





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Friday, May 19, 2017

Interview & #Giveaway with Author Patricia Beal

I'm super excited to read this book! The cover is gorgeous and I've met this sweet, classy author in person! Please welcome Patricia Beal . . .

______________________________________________


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?

Thanks for having me here! A Season to Dance is my debut novel. It’s the story of a small town professional ballerina who dreams of dancing at the Met in New York, the two men who love her, and the forbidden kiss that changed everything. But it’s more than big dreams and dreamy suitors. It’s about a young woman trying to fill the God-shaped hole in her heart with misguided career and romantic pursuits.

What inspired me? A good idea. Writing a novel was an old dream. It first crossed my mind in 1987, when growing up in Brazil, I read Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist. But for years, I didn’t have a novel idea worth developing. In January of 2011, on I-40 (somewhere between Nashville and Winston-Salem), I had a good idea. It was one scene, but it was enough. I wrote a chapter every Saturday and finished the first draft before the end of the year. Polishing it was much harder and took a lot longer.

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

Ana Brassfield, because we journeyed together. I didn’t grow up in a Christian home, and for most of my life I believed there had to be some kind of god out there and that being a good person was important. But in the summer of 2012, an early version of the novel was rejected in three different continents on the same week. I was tired and lonely, and I freaked out. I decided the notion of a loving god was absurd. There was no loving god, if there was a god at all.

Self-gratification became the chief end of my existence, and I looked behind every door for happiness and satisfaction. I didn't find anything worth keeping though, and at the end of every new pursuit, I was still tired and lonely—and this time surrounded by a darkness and a hopelessness that was brand new and incredibly scary.

Then Jesus passed by, and where I saw the end, He saw the beginning. He fought for me, lifted me out of what had quickly become a murky and joyless existence, and brought me into His perfect light. I was born again in January of 2013, and soon after that, I realized the novel wasn’t complete. I cancelled a trip to a third secular writers’ conference and started a 14-month rewrite. This book, A Season to Dance, is the book that wrote me.

If you could cast your characters in a Hollywood adaptation of your book, who would play them?

Peter would be Blake Shelton. Claus would be Mikhail Baryshnikov, a young Mikhail Baryshnikov—I’m thinking late eighties, when the movie White Nights was really popular. And Ana would be me and you. I think there’s a bit of Ana in each of us.

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

I wrote most of the novel while we were stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia, so the story begins in that area (chapter 2 does—I have an in medias res opening). My husband is a retired infantryman. The theater is the theater where I was dancing at the time as a member of the Columbus Ballet, and Callaway Gardens was less than an hour away—I visited it often. When the story travels to Germany, I used Wiesbaden as the main setting because it’s a big city and I know it well. I lived there as an Army public affairs officer in 2003. The small town of Rüdesheim is special to the story too, a place of decisions, joys, and sorrows. By the time I polished those scenes, we were serving in Germany again, and visited Rüdesheim often. Research! Tough job. What can I say? 😉

Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it and why?

Stories that end without God’s hope. Because I’ve done time in hopelessville, but I don’t live there anymore.

Moving on from your story, tell us a little about yourself. We’ll help! What literary character is
most like you and why?

Jonathan Livingston Seagull. I dream big dreams and pursue them relentlessly. God made me that way. He gave me Asperger’s Syndrome. Some dreams come true, many don’t. But there’s joy in the pursuit.

What strange writing habits do you have? Like standing on your head while you write with a pen between your teeth?

Strange writing habits? I don’t know about strange, but I Google expressions a lot. English is my third language and I second-guess myself often. It’s silly though. Sentences are right 99.9% of the time, just the way they appeared in my brain.

Do you have a writing mentor, or another author who has inspired/encouraged you in some way?

Jeff Gerke taught me to write for an (accepting) audience of One. Jeff is also the Lexus of editors and polished A Season to Dance before I showed it to agents and editors in 2014. His books on writing have shaped who I am as a writer, and we’ve been working together on my second manuscript.

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?

Lol… It’s everything. It’s all connected. I think we’ve covered that. I want to continue writing with God. If I ever feel like He’s not in it, I need to stop. Exodus 33:15.

Because Jaime has some darker elements to her split-time historical and contemporary romantic suspense coming out this year, she likes to ask weird questions. So, if you were responsible to write your own epitaph for your tombstone, what would it say?

Nothing happened until Jesus passed by.

Anne is an insatiable romantic with a serious vintage aura in all she writes. Do you have fabulous love story in your family history that you could share with us in a few words? If not, what about your own?

Yes and no. There are good stories but not many happy endings. Even my grandma (my mom’s mom) was divorced. Asperger’s runs in my family, and that combined with little to no knowledge of God’s truths hurt our chances.

But there’s an interesting story I explore in my second manuscript, The Song of the Desert Willow, a split-time military romance. I use a lot of my maternal grandmother’s history in it—life in the German colonies of the south of Brazil before WWII, the beginning of the shoe industry there (still famous worldwide, with women’s shoes always available at stores like Neiman Marcus), the life of the richest family in town, the town’s most influential man (my great grandfather, whose name today’s children still know and whose life they still study), his death, loss, change... It’s fascinating to me. I pray I can paint a vivid picture of this unusual slice of history and get people to care.

Erica and Gabrielle both write sweet historical romances. How does romance influence your own writing?

My writing dream has always been to touch people’s hearts with simple stories that speak to the human condition. Can’t do that without romance because love is so central to most of the decisions we make (good or bad). So both the debut and my work in progress, while contemporary fiction, also have a strong romance element.

And for some extra fun . . .

If you could pick one superhero to save you from impending doom, who would it be and why? Jesus. Because He rocks this saving business. He saves completely and forever. Can’t beat that 😉

If you could guest star in one TV show, what would be and what would your ideal role be? I haven’t watched TV since Downton Abbey ended, but let’s see… Before I was a Christian, I used to love Sex and the City. First I would be Carrie Bradshaw with the Russian in the horse drawn sleigh scene in season six. That’s dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov! My Claus! Then I would love all the women in the show, pray for prepared hearts and opportunities to witness, and tell them that there’s a different way to do life—a way that brings more joy and that can put an end to the mad search for wholeness.

Name one significant heirloom or keepsake you have and why it’s important to you: My paternal grandfather’s sword. He was a pilot for the Brazilian air force and died in action when my grandmother was pregnant with my dad.

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

My husband looked at me and then back at the girl in the portrait. Did he still feel like he was holding me back because of the disease? One day, maybe, I would manage to convince him that I loved him more than I loved ballet.
He sat and reached for the Gibson guitar that was on the nearby floor stand. I’d been trying to keep the instrument clean without touching the tuning pegs. He strummed all six strings twice and tried to adjust the tension on the first one, his hands failing to get a strong grasp of the tuning peg with each attempt.
I sat next to him, yearning to be near. Maybe he would let me help somehow. But he scooted away and my heart sank. Why don’t you let me help you, my love?
His left hand squeezed the guitar’s neck, his fingertips pale on the fretboard. His right hand kept hitting the strings too low or too high as he tried to play. But he braved each note and every line, and I recognized the song.
As he sang about a man and a woman who completed each other in the most simple and perfect ways, I did what I always do when I don’t want to cry. I counted. I smiled and looked beyond his shoulder, counting the bricks around the fireplace. Seventeen, eighteen…
He finished playing but didn’t lift his head.
“I love you so much.” Lift your head and look at me. Let me help.
“I love you too.” He spoke the words without looking up and with no excitement.
That was okay, though. We’d gone through so much over the years. I knew he loved me.
He put his guitar down and stared at it, looking betrayed.
God, help us…
He walked to the coffee table in small, careful steps and grabbed his keys.
Oh, no. Please don’t let him drive. Please, please, please. “Honey, do you really think you should—” The door slammed shut. Was he serious? I sat there gripping the arm of the couch with one hand and covering my mouth with the other.
At length, I crossed the room and pushed the curtain aside to scan the driveway. He was gone. I slammed both hands on the cold window. “Why?” Would he ever stop driving? His stubbornness would surely kill him sooner than the disease.
Why?
I put Don Quixote, a long and vibrant ballet, in the DVD player, and as I always did when he drove away like this, I tried—with some success—to lose myself in the beauty of the Mariinsky’s production, filmed in 2006 in St. Petersburg, Russia.
He was usually back before the gypsy dance, but the third act started without any sign of him. Drizzle now covered the window, and I did my best to focus on Dulcinea’s enchanted garden. God, please keep him safe. If You’re still mad at me, hurt me, but don’t let anything happen to him. He doesn’t deserve to suffer any more than he already has.
The fourth act started. Please, God.
Novikova was finishing her last solo. Don Quixote was almost over. I checked my phone. Four fifteen. Please, God. My hands were shaking, the palms clammy. I exhaled.
And then I heard it. The doorbell. I pulled in a sharp breath.
No one ever came to our place unannounced. No, God. No. Maybe he’s hurt. Spare him.
I opened the door and saw two police officers. The cold drizzle touched my face, and I heard the distant bark of our dog. But he was next to me. Had he barked? I saw one officer’s mouth move, but I couldn’t make out the words.
Memories of our wedding day and of our lives together flashed through my mind.
“I cannot lose him again,” I whispered.

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Thursday, May 18, 2017

Tomato Florentine Soup with Tortellini

Last week, I shared one of my favorite summertime recipes, Chilled Strawberry Soup. This week, I thought I'd share one of my all-time favorite go-to recipes, and one that people request all the time. It's super-easy to keep the ingredients on hand and doesn't take long to make.

Enjoy!



Tomato Florentine Soup (with tortellini)
2 T. olive oil
1 small onion, diced
3 large garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp. oregano
2 tsp. thyme
8 c. chicken broth
2 (14.5 oz.) cans Italian style diced tomatoes
2 c. packed spinach
2 tsp. basil
2 (16 oz) bags frozen cheese filled tortellini
Grated Parmesan, to taste

Heat olive oil in large kettle. Add onion and garlic. Cook, stirring constantly until soft. Add oregano and thyme. Cook one minutes. Add chicken broth and diced tomatoes, bring to a boil. Add spinach, basil and frozen pasta. Boil 5-10 minutes. Serve with grated Parmesan.

Your Turn: What's one of your go-to recipes? Do you like to make soups? What's your specialty?

Gabrielle Meyer
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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Change of Plans

Erica Here:

In the 10+ years I have been a part of the Christian Publishing world, I've learned one basic truth:

Nothing moves as slowly or changes as quickly as as the publishing industry.

On Monday, the Christian publishing industry saw this in action when Harlequin, a division of HarperCollins Publishing, sent out an email to their authors announcing the closing of FIVE separate lines of Harlequin books.

Included in the closures was Harlequin Love Inspired Historical which will end in June of 2018.



The line for which Gabrielle Meyer and I write.

So many authors instantly and without warning effectively lost their jobs.

Shock, dismay, uncertainty, frustration, anger, denial....all the emotions. Something we thought was a steady certainty with a very loyal reader base, something we thought would always be there...suddenly wasn't. Isn't.

I wish I could say this was the first time something like this had happened to me. Several years ago, I experienced the same shock when Barbour announced it was closing the Heartsong line. Heartsong was where I got my start in traditional publishing, and one day it wasn't there.

I wondered if my career was over.



Turns out, it wasn't. But it wasn't what I thought it would be either. I thought I would publish lots of books with Heartsong, but the number was nine. I thought I would publish lots of books with Love Inspired Historical, and the number was three. (The third comes out this November.)

Monday's news was an unpleasant surprise, and my heart goes out to the LIH authors, the editorial staff, and especially to the readers who enjoy these stories each month. Right now, there are a lot of authors wondering if their careers are over, where should they turn now, and what does the future hold.

All I can say is, God is faithful. He is neither surprised nor dismayed by this news. I know from my own experience that publishing lines close, editors leave, agents change careers, contracts fall through, bookstores close, companies declare bankruptcy...and much more...and through it all, God is faithful.

We need to be faithful, too. If we are called to write and share stories, God will open the doors.

I ask for your prayers, for the authors who are grieving, for the editors who will have to be making changes, and for our readers. Pray for peace, for direction, and that no matter what, we will seek to glorify God with our words and our attitudes.





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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

#CBA May #NewReleases! #GoodReads To Add To Your #TBR Pile! :)

I (Jaime) LOVE new releases! Excited to bring you a list of SOME of May's new books hitting the shelves! As usual, ones I'm adding to my TBR pile are listed with a book cover! :)

 More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.


Contemporary Romance:

Amish Brides by Jennifer Beckstrand, Molly Jebber, Amy Lillard -- Under bright blue skies, wedding bells ring--fulfilling sweet dreams, impossible wishes, and joyous new beginnings among these three new stories. (Contemporary Romance from Kensington Publishers)

Sprouts of Love by Valerie Comer -- An overzealous community garden manager delivers more than the food bank manager can handle. Can love sprout amid the tsunami of vegetables? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Summer Dreams by Delia Latham -- God's love...reflected in the waters of the Pacific, and in the eyes of a young couple who walk its moonstone shores. (Contemporary Romance from White Rose Publishing [Pelican])

  Right Where We Belong by Deborah Raney, Melissa Tagg, Courtney Walsh -- Three sweet stories of small-town romance by three tried-and-true authors. Whether in a quaint home bakery in Langhorne, Missouri, a cozy boho coffee shop in Maple Valley, Iowa, or a charming lakeside cottage in Sweethaven, Michigan, love grows best in small towns just like this! (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)



  A Spring of Weddings by Toni Shiloh and Melissa Wardwell -- Two Spring wedding novellas, "A Proxy Wedding," and "Hope Beyond Savannah." (Contemporary Romance from Celebrate Lit Publishing)




  True to You by Becky Wade -- Former Navy SEAL John Lawson hires genealogist Nora Bradford to help him to uncover the identity of his birth mother. As they work side-by-side, this pair of opposites begins to suspect that they just might be a perfect match. (Contemporary Romance from Bethany House [Baker] Publishing)




Cozy Mystery:

What the Bishop Saw by Vannetta Chapman -- A fire blazes out of control in the San Luis Valley of Colorado, leaving an elderly, Amish bachelor dead. Bishop Henry Lapp rushes to the scene, and he learns the fire was no accident. When the police point the finger at a suspect Henry knows is innocent, the bishop must decide whether or not to use his mysterious, God-given gift—one he's tried desperately to ignore all these years—to try and set the record straight. (Contemporary Romance from Harvest House Publishers)


General Contemporary:


A Season to Dance by Patricia Beal -- The heart wrenching love story of a small town professional ballerina who dreams of dancing at the Met in New York, of the two men who love her and of the forbidden kiss that changed everything. (General Contemporary from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)




  Looking Glass Lies by Varina Denman -- A poignant and relatable novel, Looking Glass Lies captures the war women wage against themselves, and the struggle to see beauty reflected in a mirror not distorted by society’s unrelenting expectations. (General Contemporary from Waterfall Press)


Historical:

Blind Ambition by Carol Ashby -- What began as a bored man's decision to try a different road turns into an emotional and spiritual quest that changes the direction of his entire life. (Historical from Cerrillo Press)

  Wings of the Wind by Connilyn Cossette -- A broken and bitter Canaanite woman dresses as a man to fight against the invading Hebrews, never expecting that she would live to be captured and married to one of her enemies, and certainly not to find love and healing among the very people who killed her family. (Biblical/Historical from Bethany House [Baker] Publishing)



Historical Romance:

The Secret Admirer Romance Collection by Amanda Barratt, Lorraine Beatty, Molly Noble Bull, Anita Mae Draper, CJ Dunham, Jennifer Uhlarik, Becca Whitham, Kathleen Y'Barbo, Penny Zeller -- Shy expressions of love lead to nine historical romances. Declaring one’s love can be hard--even risky--especially when faced with some of life's greatest challenges. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)


  The Noble Servant by Melanie Dickerson -- She lost everything to an evil conspiracy . . . but that loss may just give her all she ever wanted. (Historical Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)






  My Heart Belongs in Ruby City, Idaho: Rebecca's Plight by Susanne Dietze -- It’s a mail-order disorder when newlyweds realize they've married the wrong partners with similar names. An annulment seems in order--and fast. But when the legalities take longer than expected, Rebecca Rice wonders if Tad Fordham wasn’t the right husband for her all along. . . . (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)


  A Love So True by Melissa Jagears -- They begin with the best of intentions, but soon the complications pile up and Evelyn and David's dreams look more unattainable every day. When the revelation of a long-held secret creates a seemingly insurmountable rift between them, can they trust God still has a good plan for them despite all that is stacked against them? (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker] Publishing)


Road to Harmony by Sherry Kyle -- When Jonas returns to Harmony, Elena's heart is torn between her secret love, and the storeowner her parents hope she marries. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

Hills of Nevermore by Janalyn Voigt -- Can a young widow hide her secret shame from the Irish preacher bent on helping her survive? (Historical Romance from Mountain Brook Ink)


Romantic Suspense:

Fatal Mistake by Susan Sleeman -- Each day could be her last...but not if he can help it. An FBI agent must protect the woman who can identify a terrorist bomber in bestselling author Susan Sleeman's riveting romantic suspense novel. (Romantic Suspense from Faith Words [Hachette])

_________________________________

Leave a comment with which novel you'd choose to read first off of the list above 

Monday, May 15, 2017

#Mother'sDay

I know Mother's Day can evoke negative experiences for some if we choose to define motherhood in a narrow biologic definition. But we can all choose to join in the midwifery of delivering life, celebrating nurture, and the rich beauty of womanhood. Anything on this earth can be twisted by the deceiver into something ugly, nasty, and weighed down in mire if it becomes bereft of all that it could be--and womanhood, motherhood, sisterhood--is no different.

But Anne here. Glass half full. I love Mother's Day for the moment to celebrate all that is good. Because we should band together, lift one another up, and cheer each other on. We should inspire each other to deeper faith and richer friendships. I hope you found a way to do that this week in some way.

I was blessed to have all my kids home for the weekend. My daughter-in-law and I spent literally all of Saturday on Ancestry.com looking up her family and solving a mystery of an unmarked photograph from about 1920. In the process, we discovered her 3x's great grandmother was a mother of three living boys and two living girls, having lost two boys and two girls. She went on to raise her sister's children and several orphaned girls. Her obituary said she lived a life that was always concerned for the spiritual welfare of children. What a testament. She turned her losses and the losses of others into opportunities for nurture, healing, and beautiful restoration. #OvercomingLosses


I also listened to a sermon last week where the minister interviewed a woman from Flint, Michigan, who lived in the hood where so much street violence had occurred that she was afraid to leave her house, but God impressed upon the minister to knock on her door and form a relationship with her that introduced faith into her life. The woman was participating in this sermon seven years hence and was telling how this one act of faith changed her life because the women who she chose to disciple with "kept coming". She called them her "spiritual stalkers"--in a good way. Women reaching out to women. Bravely stepping out in the midst of dangerous places. Sisters now, in Christ. #SpiritualSisterStalkers

I sat yesterday on the church pew between my husband, my mom, and on her other side was my husband's spiritual mom who picked him up for church every Sunday through his childhood. She treated him like her own four boys. She had him at her farm, at her Sunday dinner table, in their hay mow, in her prayers, during time of spiritual bankruptcy. No surprise that tears streamed down my face at the richness of having a full pew, my adult children on the pew in front of me. Not that the sitting in a pew is rich--but the heart-reasons for why and how we all got there, why we stay there, why we keep coming back. That. #SpiritualMoms


These are only three short blips on my radar of a full and overflowing cup.
I hope you can name many more of your own.
So. Happy Mother's Day. Blessed womanhood, sisterhood, motherhood.
What's your hashtag?

-------------
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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Friday, May 12, 2017

Interview & Giveaway by Author @LaurieTomlinson!

We all know Laurie Tomlinson is one my (Jaime) favorite people!!! :) :) I call her my "sister" and I am so, so, so, so ridiculously proud of her and her latest release! (Which I've read several times and will continue to read again! :) 

Laurie Tomlinson is an award-winning contemporary romance author and cheerleader for creatives. She believes that God’s love is unfailing, anything can be accomplished with a good to-do list, and that life should be celebrated with cupcakes and extra sprinkles. Her novella That’s When I Knew was featured in the Love at First Laugh collection, and her debut novel, With No Reservations, is now available from Harlequin Heartwarming. You can connect with Laurie on her websiteFacebook page, and Instagram.

Book Blurb:
There can be more than comfort in food… 
What could well-known and wealthy Graham Cooper Jr. have in common with a blogger like Sloane Bradley, a woman with secrets she's kept firmly out of the public eye? That is, besides a love of food. Sloane still can't believe Cooper's the chef at the restaurant she's been assigned to promote. But she's boiling to prove to him that her "little blog" can put his place on the map. She can also fall head over heels for the guy, who has secrets of his own, it turns out…except for one thing. She can't get past the post-traumatic stress disorder that keeps her walled up in her home studio.

 Here's some about her novel and some more get-to-know-you with my Laurie!
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Thank you so much for visiting us today here at the CCC blog!

You’ve had a new release! Can you share a little bit about it and how you first hatched the idea for this story?

Yay! With No Reservations tells the story of a food blogger, a reformed-bad-boy-millionaire-turned-chef (is there a word in the English language that makes that less complicated???), and a lot of unresolved issues keeping them both stuck in the past. The story started with Sloane, my food blogger heroine. I love food blogs and wanted her to have that unique job!

What special research did you need to do for this novel and did you enjoy it or find it laborious?

As a Hermione Granger type, I love research. I had the privilege of speaking to people who have struggled with some of my characters’ issues I don’t have personal experience with and loved hearing their perspective to try to make the story as authentic as possible.

What is the primary spiritual theme of your book, and if that’s not applicable, what do you hope readers take away from reading your novel?

Even though my story isn’t a Christian novel, there was very much a spiritual thread, and that’s John 10:10: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” The Lord didn’t die and set us free so we could keep living like slaves. There’s also a strong component of healing in the story, too J

How did you determine what names to give your characters?

I’m not sure. It sounds weird, but that’s just who they were?

Which sub-character is your favorite and why?

I love Alicia, the mother of Cooper’s “Little Brother,” because she has also been through some hard things but is fighting to make a better life for her and her son. She’s a whip-smart law student who works hard, is an amazing mother, and isn’t afraid to ask for help. I want to be her when I grow up.

Moving on from your story, tell us a little about yourself. We’ll help! What literary character is most like you and why?

Every quiz I’ve ever taken says Emma, but I refuse to acknowledge that as fact and instead pick Hermione Granger. She loves books, will fall out of her seat to tell someone the right answer, and is loyal to who and what she believes is true J

What hobby do you enjoy in your “free” time (‘cause we know you have tons of free time!)

I love cooking and baking and entertaining. Of course, I’d do this a lot more if I had a magical cleaning fairy or self-scrubbing dishes!  

Tell us about your pets (if you have some)!

I have one dog, a yellow Lab named Sampson. He’s amazing with my kids, low maintenance, and the perfect companion for late-night writing sessions! Sampson also makes a wonderful foot warmer J

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, faith is the fabric of my writing. I don’t know if I can describe it better than to say it’s the end and the means!

Because Jaime has some darker elements to her split-time historical and contemporary romantic suspense coming out this year, she likes to ask weird questions. So, if you were to find yourself stranded in a creepy old house at night, who would you want with you to keep you company?

My five-year-old daughter because she makes me brave and is super fun to explore with!

Anne, Erica, and Gabrielle both write sweet historical romances. How does romance influence your own writing?

Relationships highlight the messiness of human life and also the redemption in my kind of stories J To me, true romance isn’t about chocolates and roses and pretty declarations but about people who see the gross parts of each other, inspire each other to be better, and love each other through it all.

And for some extra fun . . .

If you could pick one superhero to save you from impending doom, who would it be and why?

He doesn’t have any superpowers, but Captain Malcolm Reynolds can save me any day!

If you could guest star in one TV show, what would be and what would your ideal role be?

This is a hard one! I would pick House, MD and be the patient whose mystery they’re trying to solve. My problems would help one of the doctors reach a major realization in his/her own life, and I think I could rock a super stoic death scene.

Name one significant heirloom or keepsake you have and why it’s important to you:

Don’t be mad at me, Anne, but I’m not very sentimental about heirlooms! I have kept my baby blanket, which is a quilt the perfect size for my adult height, but it’s currently folded up in a closet so it doesn’t get any more destroyed :)

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


My friend Nike made this meme for the story with one of my favorite quotes. It’s always fun to see which parts resonate with different people!


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Sold yet? You should be! :) :) You can purchase a copy of Laurie's novel here!


AND! We're giving away a copy, so be sure to enter below WITH A SPECIAL BONUS!! I'll (Jaime), be giving away a Kindle version e-copy on my FACEBOOK page too! So, be sure to head over there and comment on that pinned post! :) TWO chances to win. That's how much I believe in this novel :)




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Thursday, May 11, 2017

Chilled Strawberry Soup

Gabrielle Here:

As each season changes, I start to crave different foods. In the summer, I want BBQ chicken hot off the grill and cold slices of watermelon at a picnic table. In the fall, I want apple crisp and hot chocolate around a campfire. In the winter, I long for comfort foods like mashed potatoes and meatloaf, sitting around the family dining room table. In the spring, I crave chilled strawberry soup and chicken salad sandwiches on a croissant sitting on patio furniture, soaking in the warm sunshine.

Don't even get me started on holiday food!! Isn't it interesting that we crave different foods at different times of the year? Maybe it's the weather, maybe it's associated with a good memory, maybe it's what's in season. For whatever reason, it's fun to make those favorite recipes and share them with others.

Since it's spring, I thought it would be fun to share my recipe for chilled strawberry soup. Have you ever had it? The first time I tasted it was sixteen years ago when my mother-in-law made it for me at my bridal shower in May. I was a little skeptical at first, but I became an instant fan, and now I'm asked to make this all the time.


It's incredibly easy to make and it's a crowd favorite. It's really appropriate for any time of year (I also make it for our Christmas Tea Party), but spring reminds me of my bridal shower, so that's when I like it best.

Chilled Strawberry Soup
Prep: 10 minutes
Ready In: 8 hours

Ingredients
2 cups frozen strawberries
2 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons white sugar, or to taste

Directions
Puree strawberries, milk, cream and sour cream in a blender or food processor until smooth. Stir in sugar to taste. Chill 8 hours or overnight in refrigerator before serving.

That's it! I garnish it with a sprig of mint (yum!) and sliced strawberries. I also serve it with toasted pound cake croutons. All you do is buy a Sarah Lee pound cake (or make one yourself), cube it and toast it in the oven for a few minutes. 

(The picture above was made with frozen mixed berries, which is also very good.)

Your Turn: Have you ever had strawberry soup? What other kinds of chillded soups have you had? What foods do you crave for each season?

Gabrielle Meyer
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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

What did you want to be?

Erica here:
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I'm curious...what did you want to be when you grew up?

One of the warehouses at Vetsch Hardwoods

Did you know from a young age what you wanted to do? Did it take you awhile to figure it out? Is what you're doing now remotely related to your childhood ideas?

My husband and I were talking about this recently. When he was a kid, he wanted to be a paleontologist or a dentist, and when he got older, he wanted to be a teacher. Then he wanted to work in radio, which he did for awhile.

What he didn't want to do is work for/with his dad in the family business.

So guess what he does now? Yup, you guessed it. He is now an owner in the family business, and he loves what he does.

When I was a kid, I dreamed of being a veterinarian, a nurse, a medical missionary, a teacher, or a writer. (I also wanted to train horses for the circus, own my own zoo, and breed racehorses.)



I did grow up to be a teacher, and I'm now a writer...still waiting for the circus gig, though.)

Our daughter came out of the school after her first day of kindergarten and informed me that she was going to be a teacher. She never wavered from that goal, though she refined it as she got older to Early Childhood Educator. Now she's a pre-school teacher with Head Start, and that fills her teacherly happy cup up every day.

Teaching school all week isn't enough!
She teaches pre-school Sunday School, too!

Our son rarely mentioned what he wanted to be beyond perhaps a video game beta-tester. :) Now he works for a courier service based in the upper midwest, and he drives lots of miles all by himself, which he seems to like immensely, since he doesn't have to talk to anyone and can listen to his music while he drives.

My cutie-patootie son, age 1
So, how about you? What did you grow up to be? Was it what you dreamed about being as a child?

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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Interview & #Giveaway with Larry Timm

I'm (Jaime) super glad to have another guest, Author Larry Timm, in my place today to tell us about his new release and the life of a suspense writer!! Stay tuned to the end, as we're giving away a copy too!

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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?

Thank you so much for inviting me to be a part of the CCC blog. I am thrilled to be here.

MURDER FOR EMILY’S SAKE, my debut suspense novel, has been a labor of love that began several years ago. The concept hit me one day, and it grabbed my heart and mind and said, “You better pay attention to me, because I’m not going away!”

MURDER FOR EMILY’S SAKE is about three women who met a teenage girl named Emily outside of an abortion clinic, and help her make the decision not to abort her baby. A few months later, due to a rare condition, Emily dies attempting to give birth. Her father, driven mad by grief, swears he will hunt down the three women, because he believes they are responsible for Emily’s death. The three women—Lindsay Birk, Nancy Gunn, and Kathy Schultz, who are committed to speaking up for the lives of the unborn, must now fight for their own lives. Emily’s father plans on burying them, like he had to bury his daughter…except they will be alive when he puts them in their caskets. Then, once he buries them, he is sure they will die…eventually…for Emily’s Sake.

I was inspired to write this story by my conviction about the sanctity of human life, born and unborn, and my belief that many times God’s most precious gifts are many times also the most fragile. My deep appreciation for the brave and committed men and women who put themselves “on the line” to defend the lives of the unborn also inspired me to write this story.

On a REALLY personal note, this story, came to have an even more intimate meaning to me when my daughter was diagnosed with cancer (after chemo and radiation, it’s in remission). More than ever before, I try not to take the gift of each day for granted. This book is dedicated to my daughter. If you want to learn more about our journey through our daughter’s cancer, you can read an article I wrote by going to http://christianstandard.com/2017/01/beauty-in-the-battle/

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

Wow! This is a really tough question. I became so attached to all the characters. But I loved seeing Lindsay Birk’s character develop as the story went on. She found a greater appreciation for the things and people in her life, and she was driven by an inner strength that only grew more intense as the story went along. Her determination and grit amazed to me. And Momma Mac was a blast! She’s a joyful person whose loyalty to family and friends inspired me. And, man, does she have a habit of saying whatever is on her mind!


If you could cast your characters in a Hollywood adaptation of your book, who would play them?

Great question! The problem is I don’t know the names of the current crop of Hollywood types.


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

I picked Wichita, Kansas because that’s where I was raised.

Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it and why?

Since the common wisdom is that a writer should write what he knows, I’m sure my wife would say that I shouldn’t attempt to write Romance novels. Ouch.


Moving on from your story, tell us a little about yourself. We’ll help! What literary character is most like you and why?

Okay, this is going to sound weird, but the literary character that has stuck with me most over the past several years is Odd Thomas. He’s an incredible character from the Odd Thomas series of novels by Dean Koontz.

Odd Thomas believes in doing the right thing to help others, even if that conviction puts him in some really hard positions. He believes that there is good and evil in this world, and he wants to see good win.

And he is longing for a better day…a better place.



What strange writing habits do you have? Like standing on your head while you write with a pen between your teeth?

When I’m writing, I have a habit of talking out loud to myself. And I pace…a lot! I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer, so sometimes I have to talk myself through scenes as I’m writing.


Do you have a writing mentor, or another author who has inspired/encouraged you in some way?

There are several: Deborah Raney, in addition to being a mentor, did an initial edit on this book, and she has been a great help to me. And Nancy Mehl has been a good friend and mentor, as well as a fellow-suspense writer. Kim Vogel Sawyer has been an encourager too. Also, Joe Courtemanche, Karl Bacon, and Mike Ehret have been constant sources of inspiration and encouragement to me. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the wonderful writers from ACFW, especially from the chapter in Wichita. Writers have always been my heroes. And Dean Koontz continues to amaze me with each of his books.


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?

My faith affects everything about my writing. Whether I’m writing fiction or non-fiction, I first and foremost write for an audience of One, and that One is my Lord Jesus. I never have and never will apologize for letting my faith inform my writing. To me, writing is an act of worship. I pray that God will help draw people closer to Him through whatever I write. Yes, I want my writing to entertain, but more than that, I want it to inform people of some element of truth. And there is truth because there is God.


Because Jaime has some darker elements to her split-time historical and contemporary romantic suspense coming out this year, she likes to ask weird questions. So, if you were responsible to write your own epitaph for your tombstone, what would it say?

“It wasn’t the bacon!”


Anne is an insatiable romantic with a serious vintage aura in all she writes. Do you have fabulous love story in your family history that you could share with us in a few words? If not, what about your own?

This one is easy to answer! My wife surrounds our home with a love that makes what I do possible. She never lets me forget that she believes in me, and loves me. I mean, seriously, I married waaaaay out of my league. One of the most amazing examples of the love that she nurtures in our home is what she says each night and each morning to our children. She tells them, “I love you, my precious gift from God.”

Erica and Gabrielle both write sweet historical romances. How does romance influence your own writing?

It probably influences my writing more than I think. I do try to create relationships that have ups and downs, but also have note of hope and restoration. I do want to weave in the truth that love conquers all.

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



  “As dawn broke on Friday morning, fingers of orange light stretched slowly over the freshly mounded dirt. Jack patted the last shovelful down, pausing long enough to wipe sweat from his forehead.
  No one would find this grave until it was too late.
  He walked across the dew-soaked grass and tossed the shovel into the truck bed. It landed with a muffled clatter on the tarp he’d used to cover the casket and the parts to the lowering device he’d stolen from the storage shed at the local burial vault company.
  He went around to the passenger’s side door and removed the rusty metal grave marker he’d taken from the cemetery where his dear Emily had been laid to rest. It was a temporary marker, the kind with a small rectangular notice holder attached to a metal stake. He’d removed the existing notice and now inserted the new one he’d prepared. He read it out loud one more time, just to be sure it sounded right…
  He’d decided against using the day and month of her birth, choosing rather to only list the year. Besides, if he used the full birth date, then he would have to use the full death date. And that was impossible. He simply did not know how long she would survive after being buried alive. She might die today or tomorrow, but her death would come soon.

  After returning to the head of the grave, he smiled and pushed the stake down into the soil.”


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