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]

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

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:
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: 

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:

You can also check out my Pinterest board for 19th century fashion at:

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:

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.

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?

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.

--Believable & Lovely
--Sweet & Inspiring

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 A Wreath of Snow by Liz Curtis Higgs

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:
Twitter: Pinterest:

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Can Your Story Expire?

Don't ever consume bottled maple syrup that isn't REAL maple syrup! Aside from the bad reflections on my housekeeping abilities, I will have you note that the bottle of FAKE maple syrup that I found in the back of my kitchen cupboard has an expiration date on it of .... 2009.

I know. CLEAN OUT YOUR CUPBOARDS once in a while. I can hear you all screaming, so you can be quiet now.

Why do they put an expiration date on something that cannot expire? What is IN this stuff? It's like liquid tar that never loses its flavor, could substitute for super glue yet still tastes okay on pancakes, and has so much corn syrup it could be the new miracle fly trap! This bottle that expires in 2009, which means I probably bought it in 2006, doesn't even contribute to the penicillin charity like most foods do. It has retained its golden brown color that screams, "I'm still edible" while the digital inked stamp on its cap shouts, "throw me out before you Kamikaze your pancakes!"

What about your story? Can your story expire? Or have you created a timeless story that can be shared years beyond its written date? Not that I want to compare my books to pasty pancake gasoline, but it makes me think. I want to create a story that can surpass the fad of a genre, of a readership, of time. I want a reader to pass my book onto their child. Something good, something edible ... here's two suggestions:

  1. Make Your Story Resonate. A story must attract the human spirit. Flat characters, a plot that isn't relatable, void of emotion ... story killers.
  2. Make Your Theme Applicable. My favorite books are the ones where I relate to the. For me, it's usually a Spiritual truth portrayed through caracters that I have had affect my life in the positive. Learning something, taking something to heart, a breathing, pulsating message.
Now, as I ease the mummified syrup into its sarcophagus made of Glad heavy duty plastic, I wonder ... If your story can expire, is it really worth telling at all?
What are your thoughts on the matter? Can a story expire, or are all stories timeless?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Turkey Tales & Traditions

Thanksgiving is upon us, what will your tradition be this week?

Top 5 traditions this week at our house:
1. Bake a turkey
2. Make real mashed potatoes and gravy
3. Sleep in, then make blueberry coffee cake
3. Cut down a Christmas tree together
4. Decorate the tree

Sounds generic, but so full of family fun.

BUT, I'd love to hear some silly stories about traditions gone wrong--like baking that little bag of giblets into the turkey the first time because you didn't know what it was!? Traditions are meant to be "just right"--the same old same old.  But we all know life doesn't work out that way, and sometimes the tradition falls short and disappointments happen, expectations crash and leave us with a sense of less than what we'd dreamed of for our precious time off spent with family and friends. For these moments, a sprinkle of humor, and a barrel of laughs is just the right seasoning.

What are your traditions? Tell a time of traditions gone wrong. Let's laugh together.
Favorite family movies?
Do you travel or stay home?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Precious in His Eyes

* winner of Erica Vetsch's book is: "theycallmemommy"! Congrats!!

Zephaniah 3:17
English Standard Version (ESV)

17 The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.
Anne gave me this verse yesterday and I have been dwelling on it since then. The beauty of the relationship of God to His child is so prevalent here in this Scripture. Seeing the back story is important as we realize how "naughty" Israel had been. Forgetful of their God, emboldened in their will, captive by their enemies ... 
I was instantly reminded of my babies. C & C have very opinionated wills even at 3 yrs and 7 months. My daughter, C #1, is especially strong willed and independant. We clashed wills all morning yesterday a.m., made worse by the fact that I am sick and she has pink eye. Finally, I set her firmly on my lap and said, "you need to listen to me. When I say 'no', I mean 'no'!" I was adament. Firm. Motherly. Authoratative. C#1 replied with blonde curls and blue eyes insistant and equally as adament, "But Mommy, your 'yes' COULD mean 'yes'!" 
Sigh. It could mean 'yes'. I could tell her 'yes'. But I cannot let her run away with her will. How the Lord must grieve over his children who willfully oppose Him. Until, the will is steered back in His direction. Eyes turned back on the Lord in His glory and majesty.
He is in our midst and mighty to save.
He rejoices over us with GLADNESS.
How I relate. My daughter fell asleep with flushed cheeks, runny nose, runny eyes, and crusty tear ducts. Oh, how I love you, Little One. My heartbeat. My miracle. My precious gift of God. I rejoice over every eyelash, every little finger and toe ...
He will quiet you by His love.
I hurry from the room and my sleeping, shuddering sobs baby girl down the hall to run to a screaming baby boy with equally crusty nose and croupy cough. He has yet to bare his will. C#2 simply wants comfort and closeness. To cling to the one he knows will give him security, meet his needs, and protect him. Quieted by love. 
He will exult over you with loud singing.
Well, I didn't sing loudly as I hummed in baby C#2's ear. But the little fuzzy dark head that nestled into my shoulder, wiping a long string of buggars on my shirt, and clenching my hair with a tiny fist ... it made me want to rejoice. 
If I feel this over my children, how much MORE does God hover over us? He CREATED these emotions, these devotions and dedications we have toward our children. I would die for my babies. 'Nuf said. 
Remember today, you are SAVED, you are REJOICED OVER, you are QUIETED, you are GOD'S JOY. You are preciousness in His eyes.
How have you known God's presence in your life recently?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Book Report: A Bride Sews in Needles, CA, by Erica Vetsch

Gag. Choke. Suffocated Laugh. OMIGOSH. I love Erica's novels. I'm not sure she's TRYING to be funny, but she is. Her characters are all so rich and endearing. I mean, put a red wig on me and I think I WAS her main character. Rules -- meant to break right? oopsie ...

Characters: Meghan is a spitting Irish lass with halvsie side of practical, logic-driven Norwegian that makes her a stinker. A lovely stinker. She's so fun, spirited, gutsy, sympathetic, chatty, humorous, confrontational ... Erica, I'm running out of adjectives. Anyway, Meghan does NOT disappoint in her journey to be the BEST EVER Harvey Girl during WWI. Her quest to raise $1000 for the war fund isn't lacking in obstacles either. Enter hero Caleb, a war-coward, running from his duty, one of the few strong young men still at home ... or is he the coward they say he is? He's not the strongest hero I've read in a book, not the self-confident, cocky, sass-back-at-ya hero. Caleb's quiet acceptance of where God has him yet the empty hole inside, makes the reader ache to love him.

Location: Needles, California. Harvey. War Horses. Dust. Locomotives. Ford Automobiles. Indians. Cowboys. Tanks. Loved it.

Time Period:  I was surprised. When I picked up the book I had no idea it WASN'T the a-typical Victorian era historical. Instead, we're plopped right into the middle of the early 1900's and the all-consuming World War Number One. Again, we just don't get the opportunity to read about WWI in a lot of historicals -- so for that reason I loved it. It was new, refreshing, and an untouched piece of history in popular historical fiction.

Spiritual Takeaway:  Erica's approach to "inspirational" is soft but firm. I love how she incorporates faith and answers difficult questions - like the "why me's" of life - but yet she's not in your face about it. Anyone wanting a warm refreshing read can enjoy Spiritual application. And, it's gentle enough to be a great CHRISTMAS PRESENT to all your friends -- even those who don't profess a blatant Christian faith. They won't be offended, and maybe find themselves touch.

BUY A MILLION COPIES FOR CHRISTMAS! It's just. That. Good. Don't believe me? Why not enter to win!! Leave a comment and tell me what your all time favorite read is! (I need to build my own Christmas list too, y'know!)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

What's Your Coff----Tea?

For you tea-lovers out there, let's have a spot of tea--English style.

Tea always makes me think of the British. Probably because my favorite is Twining's English Breakfast (decaf--so I can keep drinking it all evening).

So, a bit of word news from the Brit's today....did you know that the Oxford English Dictionary picks a word of the year every year? Yep. Now ya know. So, boil your water, steep your tea and start guessing what the word of the year is for 2012.

Well, first off, it's not YOLO (you only live once).

The word....drum roll............OMNISHAMBLES:

Oxford University Press defines the word as a situation that has been mismanaged in every way with a long string of blunders and miscalculations.

So, I can't wait to twist my plot into omnishambles, or see the word in a novel.

What words would you vote for word of the year?
Do you ever read a new book and have to look up words new to your vocabulary?
Share some new words you've come across in your reading that intrigued you.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Mountains or Beach?

When my husband and I want to go on vacation, I want to go to the mountains and he wants to go to the beach. It's a real conundrum.

I want to go to the same tried and true vacation spots we've been to before. I don't want to think, plan, or make decisions on vacation. My idea of fun is to get the same hotel or cabin. Go to the same city or town. Sit by the pool, or climb the same mountain we've always climbed.

I call it nostalgia. Tradition. Relaxation. He calls it boring, same-old-same-old.

He wants to go on adventures. He wants to do new things. See something we've never seen before. Expand our horizons.

He calls it living. Risk taking. Fun. I call it anxiety.

Sometimes this dilemma has kept us from making a decision about vacation and we've just stayed home for a stay-cation. But often we take turns accommodating each other's ideas.

My idea of fun would be traveling to a historical site, visiting the genealogy library or a graveyard of a lost patriot relative. Or Europe. His idea is chartering a deep sea fishing expedition, scuba diving, shelling on a deserted island. Or getting in a cage to see a great white shark (not kidding) on the Australian Great Barrier Reef.

"My mamma told me...." (she is a wise woman), "the very thing that might have attracted you to your spouse is the thing that will someday drive you mad!" LOL.

Well, we all know she wasn't too far from the truth. I'm happy to say that my hubby has taken me to many a graveyard, patriot hunting.

Pic of Hubby & his 10th grt G'pa's stone; an Irish Rev War Patriot

And though I haven't gone scuba diving, I did consent to be dropped on a deserted island to go shelling with my daughter while he took my son deep sea fishing last year. I was even a good sport when we pulled up to a small channel and had to jump in ankle deep water, and walk straight into the jungle on a narrow foot path.
Drop point that looked like the jungle--yikes!

The guide said "just keep walking and you'll make it to the other side of the island." I had panicked thoughts of Survivor, and Jody Foster's OCD moments of leaving her apartment to go to Nim's Island. But alas, we found the other side of the island to be quite beautiful and very worth the discomfort of trying something new.

What we found at the end of the path! (Cayo Costa State Park, FL)

Compromise is essential in love--and on vacation!

(he made me post this pic! fyi-catch&release--it's a shark!)

What compromises have you made in order not to go mad?
Would you go to the beach or mountains?
Do you like a new adventure or the tried and true?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

When You Smell Like Coffee -- But Don't Drink, A Guest Post from Erica Vetsch

HEY! I'm SO excited to have my pal, Erica Vetsch guesting today at the CCC! She ROCKS! I met Erica a couple of years ago and since then it's history. Literally -- since we both love and write historicals. (She's published, I'm not - what's the diff? lol). ANYWHOSAWHUTSUN, Erica is stopping by today to share some coffee and give us a sneak peak into her life as a writer and also introduce us to her latest novel (which, btw, I'll be reviewing on Friday!). SO, Erica ... hey, lady, take it away!

First, thank you to Jaime for inviting me to share here on Coffee Cups & Camisoles. I enjoy this blog as a reader, so it’s a real treat to get to come and guest blog.
My hair smells like coffee. My laptop bag smells like coffee. My coat smells like coffee.
One caveat. I don’t drink coffee.
Wait! Before you tell me how heretical that is for an author, I do drink tea. Earl Grey tea, to be exact.
So if I’m not a coffee drinker, why does my hair, etc. smell like java? Because I’m a coffee shop writer. At least a couple of times a week, you’ll find me at the local Dunn Bros. coffee shop writing away.
Why, you ask? Because I find it very difficult to concentrate on fiction while I’m at home. At home there are dozens of things to snatch my attention away from writing. I’m a home-school mom with one teenager left to educate. I also work from home as the company bookkeeper for the family lumber business. When I’m at home, I’m not able to buckle down and write the way I would like because of all the distractions, necessary and those of my own making, that clamor for my attention.
Here’s where the coffee shop comes in. At Dunn Brothers, I order my large Earl Grey, get settled in at a table, plug in, and it’s time to write. There, I can concentrate on the screen and the fictional world I’ve created.
Folks have asked me if I don’t find writing in the coffee shop as or more distracting than writing at home? Actually, no. Though there are some exceptions, for the most part, I can concentrate very well there. The music is benign instrumental stuff, and the place, even when busy, isn’t all that loud. I find that I can block out the comings and goings, the conversations, the brewing and baking. I’ve made the coffee shop my writing ‘nest.’ It’s where I can forget all about responsibilities and to-do lists, inhale a little caffeine, and write fiction. And actually, I find I get a lot done, if for no other reason than to justify my tea and time away from home. I feel as if I have to produce.
I know this might not be possible for everyone. I know I’m blessed to be at a place in my life where I can spare a couple of afternoons and a few bucks for tea every week. I realize this isn’t everyone’s situation. For those who don’t have this kind of flexibility, I encourage you to make a writing ‘nest’ somewhere for yourself. Find a place that works for you, whether a desk in the bedroom, or the corner of your couch, the dining room table, or if necessary, behind the locked bathroom door. J Hey, whatever it takes.
About The Book: (From the back cover)
A Bride Sews With Love in Needles, CA
A Harvey Girl waits on True Love.
With her brother already on the front lines in France, Meghan Thorson becomes a Harvy Girl in Needles, California. Ready and willing to wait on the hundreds of doughboys heading for Europe, Meghan deems this service her way of contributing to the war effort. When a Red Cross  representative breezes through town, Meghan embraces the challenge to do even more, committing to completing a Red Cross signature quilt and canvassing the town for donations to the cause.
Horseman Caleb McBride makes his living by training stock for the US Cavalry and keeps his pride by remaining a loner. When Meghan meets Caleb, she senses something mysterious and wounded about him, piquing her curiosity. But after the townsfolk scorn him as a coward and a profiteer, Caleb feels her pity and becomes even more guarded.
When Needles is hit by an influenza epidemic and the Harvey hotel is made into a temporary hospital, Meghan discovers Caleb’s shameful secret.
Will both Caleb and Meghan find a way to kill their pride before their chance of love rips them apart at the seams?
Author Bio: Erica Vetsch is a transplanted Kansan now residing in Minnesota. She loves history and reading, and is blessed to be able to combine the two by writing historical fiction set in the American West. Whenever she’s not following flights of fancy in her fictional world, she’s the company bookkeeper for the family lumber business, mother of two terrific teens, wife to a man who is her total opposite and soul-mate, and avid museum patron.

See? Told ya we scored getting Erica to guest today. So here's our question for you ... where is your favorite writing spot and for our readers -- where is YOUR favorite READING spot? Because we all have that spot we love to escape to... no lurking now, please leave a comment and you just might get a chance to win Erica's book ;)

Monday, November 12, 2012

Jonah: Go To Ninevah!

At the all day worship training session I attended last week, we did an interesting workshop on how to read scripture as a part of Sunday morning worship. The leader used the tiny book of Jonah to illustrate how to take the scripture apart and  read it with fresh eyes, fresh voices, fresh perspectives.

Jonah is a small book that packs a whollop! We only dissected the first chapter and I felt challenged.

First of all, have you ever felt a clear sense that God was calling you to do something very specific? Even something that required you to get up and go somewhere? Do something? Speak to someone?

I've always wanted to be a nurse. There was never a time in my life that I doubted, questioned, or wondered if that was from God or if it was accurate. I'm grateful for the clarity I felt. But that kind of clarity seemed to just always be there. So what about other kinds of calls that God uses?

I'm talking "Tuesday I was walking on the treadmill, when God spoke to me and told me to...(insert God's message)."

I've only experienced one time in my life where I felt a profound sense that God called me to go do something very specific. After Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, I signed up with the Red Cross and received a call to serve on a medical team. When the lady called me to say I'd been chosen, she said these exact words: "Anne, they asked for you by name..." Something in my gut shifted into place, and I got a chill and just knew God wanted me to go. The test of that came when my family agreed with the call. (this is the nutshell version) :)

But in reading Jonah, I realized something. That even when Jonah was running away being disobedient and the storm came. The others on the boat asked him why this was happening and who he was. After telling them he was a Hebrew and believed in the God of the land and the sea. And after they threw him overboard and the seas calmed--they made confession to God. (paraphrasing here). So that even when Jonah wasn't obedient, men still came to a saving knowledge of God. Does that mean that we can be lax and disobedient? By no means.

Because when Jonah finally turned and listened to God, it says that the city of Nineveh repented, and they were  120,000 in number, a number far more than the few men who made confession on the small boat Jonah was thrown from.

So, the lessons I take away:
--God does call us to do very specific things and go to very specific places
--There is no where we can run from Him that He does not inhabit
--Even if we run or are disobedient, He is sovereign and all humanity will witness this
--But when we are obedient, His more perfect will is accomplished.

Probably more often God's call comes in a still small voice asking us to do smaller more ordinary things. But God's work is extraordinary!

So, when have you been called?
What were you called to do?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Book Review: Unending Devotion by Jody Hedlund

Jody Hedlund's Unending Devotion will draw you in within the first 50 pages--I was sucked in by page 20! Jody's seasoned style balances action, dialogue and conflict with engaging romance. The spark of attraction between hero and heroine is up front and satisfying yet believable while the external plot pace is interesting and holds the pace well through the story.

Jody's story is set in 1883 in Michigan's back woods logging camps during a time when the logging industry boomed much like the railroad business, or today's housing market. The opportunity for a logging company to make a mint and place the logging baron on a path for wealth was great. The financial prospects drew those of mind to grow an empire, but also those willing to profit from the laborers who worked the camps willing to spend a dime for a good time.

Lily Young only wants one thing--to find her sister no matter the cost. With no one else for her sister to depend on, Lily's devotion embeds deeply in her heart, fueling her drive and impulsive determination. She is ready to risk without calculating the cost. Connell McCormick never does anything without calculating the cost--to him, his family, or his business. But what he never figured into his equation was a vexing, persuasive brunette who challenges his mediocrity and snares his heart into risking much more than he'd ever planned.

Plot & Conflict:
Lily pulls Connell into her battle against an evil business owner who holds power over the town and keeps the loggers spending their hard earned money at his establishment, essentially buying their silence. Lily's quest to rescue her sister, threatens the powerful baron, destibilizing the status quo Connell has been content with. Will he keep the status quo and lose Lily, or go after Lily and risk everything he's worked for?

One word--sizzling and (okay two words) lovely.

--a page-turner
--3 thumbs up (or 4 stars) :)


Jody Hedlund is an award-winning historical romance novelist and author of the best-selling book, The Preacher's Bride. She received a bachelor’s degree from Taylor University and a master’s from the University of Wisconsin, both in Social Work. Currently she makes her home in Michigan with her husband and five busy children. Publishers Weekly called her newest book Unending Devotion, " a meaty tale of life amid the debauchery of the lumber camps of 1880s Michigan . . . exciting and unpredictable to the very end."  
So, visit your local bookstore and get your copy! :o)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

What's Your Coffee - Today Anyway

Compliments of FotoSearch
Okay, so I'm not drinking it now, but I'm admittedly salivating and considering driving the twenty minutes to get it. I had an APPLE CARAMEL LATTE last week at my favorite hideaway. Of course they didn't tell me whipped cream would be dripping off the sides of the mug. Shucks. I have to drink it. :) :)  :) :)

That's my fall favorite for sure so far! (fffffffff....)

What's your fall favorite goody?? Doesn't have to be drinkage, either?

OH YES!! And Thursday inspiration for me today is: BE STILL. Because God knew what He was doing when He commanded it. It makes for perfect coffee-drinking moments, reflection, meditation, worship, and peace.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

When Scenes Contradict Settings

*The winners of ANITA HIGMAN'S Merry Little Christmas are: Lindsey Harrel, Julia Reffner, & Ladette Kerr! - Congrats, ladies!

*I wrote this post when I was in Scottsdale, Arizona on a work trip. I'm only getting around to sharing it now ;)

There's NO business like SHOW business like NO business I KNOW ...
that's me singing and doing my little tap dance and trying to stay awake from the grueling agenda of my work conference. I mean, work meetings in front of a 5-star swimming pool on pillow laden couches make this trip super rough. And the fact that all I have to drink is bottled Perrier water -- for free -- and in-room espresso makers - it's like staying in a ghetto. I had to eat gourmet, brick fired pizza last night with mozzarella cheese shipped in from Florence, and walking the cobblestone streets of Old Scottsdale and seeing all the old buildings and old West towns was misery for a historical writer like me.

LOL - confused yet? Me too. Ever read a novel where the author's scene descriptions contradict settings? I have. Like the time I read about an out of work coffee barrista who drove a BMW. Yes. I drive a BMW too. I dumpster dive to feed my family on the weekend. Contradiction. Or how about a 1800's heroine who uses phrases such as: "Get with the picture, James, I'm simply stating facts". That's authentic. Truly. Because all ladies in the Victorian era spoke in blunt 21st century lingo.

As a reader, you won't connect with the characters of your book if there's too much contradiction. As a writer, that's our worst nightmare, isn't  it? 

How should readers process contradictions in a book:

  1. Keep Reading. Please give us writer's a break. We're still learning -- and if the book is published by a reputable publisher, odds are the contradiction somehow slipped through 12 editing sessions. We're sorry. Very. Sorry.
  2. Let Us know. Nicely. Please be nice. But let us know. A good writer wants to understand where they're NOT connecting with their readers. And we all have emails, Facebook, Twitter,Blogs, etc... so you can find us. But again, gently let us know -- and if you can, don't blast your correction on Twitter, Direct Message us ;)
  3. Learn. If you're a historical reader like I am, I don't mind contradictions. They don't offend me. I learn from them. I will either look it up online, check out a history book, or resource past information to see if I'm right or the author is. The fun fact as a reader? A lot of times what you THINK is a contradiction -- isn't. It may be tricky writing to lead into a great article -- like this amazing blog post (lol-gag) or it may be a fact you've had wrong all these years and you get to learn something new.
How should writers process contradictions in their writing:
  1. Make sure you're open to criticism. It's hard to hear criticism. So often it's not given constructively -- so admittedly, that makes it hard. But constructive criticism is typically helpful. It can enhance your scenes, better your writing and take you deeper not just into your story, but into what your readers are looking for.
  2. Correct them. If you can. If it hasn't gone to print. If it has, be aware of future contradictions. Look for them. Contradictions can be deadly to your overall story -- because the reader stops reading the story and instead reads your lack of authenticity.
  3. Don't make up stuff. RESEARCH!! If you're planting a character in the middle of Pearl Harbor on December 7th, don't have them wearing wedge sandals. Sandals in Hawaii make sense - wedges don't. They didn't exist in 1940.
Have your experience contradiction in a book you've read or written? Don't name names, but what didn't you like about or how did affect your reading?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Meet Jill Battaglia: Photographer

Meet Jill Battaglia!  

I met Jill virtually when I stumbled onto an image I loved online and thought to myself, wow, that would make an AWESOME book cover. So I searched until I found her website 
and was pleasantly surprised that:

--she in fact works for the book cover industry!

Since then we've shot some emails back and forth and chatted online. She has her work primarily at, but also some at Fine Arts America and Trevillion (click on these links to view). Once you are on Trevillion, just type her name in the search box and her work will populate for your viewing pleasure! We can't post her work here on the blog due to the constraints of her contracts. But I encourage you to go check them out!

She not only loves to shoot photos for the book industry, she's a servant of God who hopes her work can inspire and touch the world with the gifts God has given her. 

So Jill, tell us a little about yourself and what you do:
"I've always been into art in many forms and always loved photography. I got seriously involved in it in the mid-90's. I stumbled into stock photography and soon realized it fit me perfectly. Particularly Arcangel Images which caters to the book publishing market. I have the freedom to create whatever I'd like......keeping in mind what kinds of images would work well for covers. My local friends and I have loads of fun searching through antique and thrift stores for costumes and props for our shoots. We also plan shoots together and share our models and costumes. It is truly a very fun job!"

How long have you been a photographer?
"I became seriously interested in it as an art form in the mid 90s when I started printing my own photos and hand coloring them. I quickly started entering contests....and winning. Some were printed in national magazines. I was also interviewed as a featured artist in magazines in Portugal and China. I won local juried art shows that resulted in my own one woman show....twice. I considered myself an artist really more than a photographer. In the past seven years or so since joining Arcangel I've mostly concentrated on stock work instead of just "fine art" work. I guess I can now say I'm a photographer. " :-)

How do you feel that God has used your gifts as a photographer?
"I do believe that God has gifted me and I've seen his hand guiding me and blessing me in so many ways in my life and through my photography. I constantly feel the need to honor and glorify Him in what I do. So I try to find the time to create works that will convey a message, a verse,....maybe plant a seed or water a seed...or just maybe make someone stop and think."

What is your favorite part about doing book cover work? 
"It's hard to pinpoint my favorite thing.....I looove hunting for costumes and props with my buddies! I love dressing up my models (and sometimes family members) in those costumes and props and coming up  with all sorts of fun ideas to try out! I love working with the images in photoshop to really bring my vision to fruition. It's also fun to share those images on Facebook with my other Arcangel buddies. And of course it is quite a kick to walk into a book store and see my covers on the table or shelf!"  

Do you travel a lot to get the right scenery?
"We bought an RV and each year go traveling around different parts of the country. I pretty much have my camera strapped to me the whole time and we make a point of seeing things that I can shoot for covers. I've also started traveling once per year with another photographer friend. We went to Bodie Ghost Town out in California a few years ago along with Virginia City Nevada. This past year we went to Colonial Williamsburg. Next year we are planning a big trip to the Jane Austen Festival in Bath England."

When you do a book cover shoot, who contracts with you? the writer, editor, publishing house, PR person?
"The way it I shoot whatever I like. I send contact sheets of images to the agencies. They choose which images they want for their collections then I send in my high res versions. Then they are online and available for purchase. The agencies work hard to promote their photographers and take care of the business side of things. The publishers come to the agencies looking for particular images. If one of my images suits their need they buy it. The agency keeps 50 percent and in my opinion they earn every penny. I have dealt directly with publishers before and it is generally a giant hassle that I do everything I can to avoid. I just want to spend my time being creative. I have no idea how much input an author has."  

A huge thanks to Jill for taking the time to share her work and her passion with us. I hope you enjoyed a peek into the world of a book cover photographer's work!