Monday, August 31, 2015

My Vintage Heart

I just about slobbered over the new vintage Ball jars this year! 
Check these out:

They are violet purple!  Eee!

But why the love of vintage in my soul? Hmmmm.

Roots. I think that's it. I just love the sensation of feeling connected to days gone by. The feeling of work accomplished. The evidence of lives lived in significance. The knowledge of a people who went before me and left their mark. The idea that those who passed through this life before me, hold out a reflection of meaning they discovered in everyday life. 

To me, the idea of vintage is a rich history of people living simple lives. Conquering the toil of everyday life, stamping their creative hand of beauty upon it.
Satisfaction is: a canner full of tomatoes!

I love the comforting familiar sound of a simmering canner.

My husband smiles when I've stared in amazement at my beautifully canned tomatoes and declare: "they are so pretty!" Call me old fashioned. But it's art to me. 

 Is there a more beautiful red than this?

But seriously, God's creation in a jar? 
How can you not look at that and just think: mmmmmmmm.

And remember the hum of seasons passing. The reassuring repetition of the generations. Canning with mom again this year, we often commented on how we learned the art and skill of it. She remembers learning to can from her mom. I still remember my grandmother's garden with fond memories, and my great grandmother's raspberry patch and flowers. All of it a certain sort of lovely art. 

Canning Day with Mom (yes, my sleeves are rolled up; it's not glamour day)

My family comes from a long line of those who lived off the land and learned to make it an art.
Loving vintage things is a way of celebrating and remembering it.
Readers: What part of vintage draws on your heart?
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, August 28, 2015

Our Friday Guest is Sandra Bricker! Giveaway

Erica here: I am so pleased to host Sandie Bricker here at CC&C this week! Sandie is a gem. A writer, an editor, tv aficionado, cancer survivor, and all around sweetie pie. She came to my rescue when I needed a press release and had no clue what I was doing. Be sure to read about Sandie, then head over to Facebook and get to know her a little better. 

SANDRA D. BRICKER was an entertainment publicist in Los Angeles for 15+ years where she attended school to learn screenwriting and eventually taught the craft for several semesters. When she put Hollywood in the rearview mirror and headed across the country to take care of her mom until she passed away, she traded her scripts for books, and a best-selling, award-winning author of Live-Out-Loud fiction for the inspirational market was born. Sandie is best known for her Another Emma Rae Creation and Jessie Stanton series for Abingdon Press, and she is the managing editor of Bling!, an edgy romance imprint for Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. “I believe in the power of the parable,” she says. “And I just love words in almost any form. From the assembling on the page to the polishing and perfecting, there’s almost nothing more powerful.”As an ovarian cancer survivor, Sandie also gears time and effort toward raising awareness and funds for research, diagnostics and a cure.

How did you begin writing?
Whenever someone asks me that question, I’m always inclined to say, “In the womb.” I truly can’t remember a time when I wasn’t creating story, imagining characters and fantasizing about adventures. I think I was in 6th grade when I wrote my first short story, and I published my first article as a senior in high school. In the early 80s, I packed up what I could fit into the back of my ugly little Ford Fiesta and ran away to Los Angeles to go to film school and learn to be a screenwriter. It wasn’t until later when necessity dictated a move in focus from the screen to the page.

Take us through a day in the life of you, the author (because some us picture you rise from bed, calmly pour your coffee, sit in a sunny little alcove, and write for eight hours before getting ready for a luxurious dinner out with your special someone) ;)
Wow, you’re a writer too! That’s quite a lovely fantasy you have there. I think my days are easier than for many writers with kids to wrangle and husbands to please. In that way, I’m really blessed to have a schedule I can design for myself. That said, going from hobby writer to professional writer brings deadlines and commitments and expectations that I never considered until they were upon me. There are certain elements of my “day in the life” that rarely change: Morning devotions; reading email; checking Facebook. But the rest of it is fluid (like a white water river some days!). Things can be flung at high speed toward me, one after another, all day long. I rarely have dinner at the same time two days in a row, and I’m almost always making up for lost time when everyone else is winding down for the day. It’s not unusual to find me still working on my laptop at midnight.

Tell us where you got the idea for your latest book and why you developed a passion to write it?
The idea for Moments of Truth came in stages over the course of a few years. I’ve always been enamored with the idea of ensemble pieces where families are created rather than simply being a matter of fact. My parents are both gone, and I don’t have any sibling relationships, so it’s become a natural thing for me to “create” family from relationships and connections that God brings into my life. Because of that penchant, readers have seen hints of this element in many of my books; in particular the Another Emma Rae Creation and Jessie Stanton series for Abingdon Press. With Moments of Truth, however, I was encouraged to take it to the next level and really show a group of girlfriends who are nothing short of family. And because of my own foundational Christian faith, it really appealed to me to also step outside the usual CBA box and have only one of the five with a strong born-again faith, demonstrating how that one ray of light bleeds out to the lives of all the others.

Who is your favorite character in this book and why?
It’s a challenge to choose just one of the women, but I think I have to go with Regan. She’s a writer, and she looked up one day to find her husband standing at the front door with his bags packed and no reasoning behind why he was leaving. She’s spent the time following his departure with a chip on her shoulder, vowing to never give another man the opportunity for a repeat performance. Regan speaks to me … or I spoke to her. When you’re a writer in love with your characters, which comes first? The chicken or the egg?

What is the most important takeaway from your book that you hope your readers see?
The primary one that I hope they’ll glean is that each of us – with our seemingly insignificant faith – is really equipped with a lamp that gives enough light to touch the lives of everyone around us.

If you were to be offered the opportunity to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro or to back pack deep into the heart of the Swiss Alps, which would you do and why?
I’m not really that girl for either of those, but if you twisted my arm behind my back until I gave you an answer … I think I’ll backpack in the Alps in the hope of stumbling across a five-star chalet.

And while you’re on this grand adventure, would it be necessary for you to have coffee or tea? (‘cause we’re split evenly in preference here at the CCC blog)
Sadly, I recently gave up coffee. It still brings a tear to my eye to speak of it. I spent most of my life as a tea drinker until I met a man who ruined me and introduced me to the joys of coffee. For health purposes, I’m trying to embrace tea again. I’ll let you know how that goes.

If you had to write your novel long-hand, would you use a fine point Sharpie, a roller ball pen, a fountain pen, or a pencil?
I’d WANT TO use a fountain pen because I adore them. But in reality, the time it would take to hand-write a novel with fountain pen and ink … I think I’ll opt for a nice roller ball gel pen from sheer laziness. Please don’t think less of me.

Your favorite flavor of pie … because we’re heading into pie season!
Banana cream with graham cracker crust. (And a coconut cream pie chaser??)

What are you currently working on in the book world?
Moments of Truth will be unleashed on the world at the end of September, so I’m spending most of my time trying to let people know about it. The fiction road in the CBA has been taking some pretty hard hits in recent years. This is my first novel not attached to one of the bigger traditional publishers, so I’ve had to be very creative about inviting readers to join these extraordinary women on their journey … without the ad dollars of a traditional publisher behind me. One fun thing that I’ve come up with is a website devoted solely to the women and “girl power” of Moments of Truth where readers can learn more about them, take a quiz to see which of the women they’re most like, and – the most fun aspect of all – in September I’ll begin featuring special BFF friendships. I hope your readers will check out and send in their stories and photos for a possible feature!

In October, I’ll launch a new sort of interactive continuation of my Emma Rae books with Always the Baker: The Love Story Continues. It picks up where the last novel left off – with newlyweds Emma and Jackson living in Paris for a year – and it will be offered in three segments, giving readers a chance to vote for the direction the story will take in between.

Lastly, will you leave us with a snippet from your book that is one of your favorites and gives us a glimpse into its pages?
I’m happy to! How about we pick up with meeting Regan for the first time:

Eight years of marriage. No kids. Got the house.

Regan felt as if those words might make a great tattoo—assuming she were inclined to get a tattoo, of course—maybe right across her forehead. Anything to keep from explaining it time after time. With the long bangs she still wore acting as a curtain of sorts, when someone inquired yet again, she could just lift them with the back of one hand, give the inquirer time to read her forehead, and be on her way. Story told. No muss, no fuss.

No muss, no fuss.

The words made her chuckle as she stirred vanilla creamer into her morning cup of bold roast. Had she ever had a muss- or fuss-free day in her life?

Regan twisted her long dark hair into a knot at the top of her head. She pushed her brown-rimmed glasses up the bridge of her nose before snapping the lid on her travel mug and padding, barefoot, across the cold stone tile of the kitchen. She climbed the oak stairs to the loft and stopped to push the large window wide open, stopping to inhale the salty Pacific Ocean in the distance before flopping into the creamy Italian leather chair in front of her desk and flicking the power button on her laptop as she did. It wasn’t much of a commute to work, but she set the alarm every morning, showered and dressed, and filled her travel mug with coffee before setting out across two thousand square feet of house. It made her feel as if her role as a blogger for Vertical Magazine carried more important weight than a simple lifestyle blog for women might tend to hoist. Regan knew a little something about the challenges of remaining vertical, after all, especially in the face of adversity.

It didn’t pay much, but her one lone skill for putting words on the page combined with an abundance of random opinions on just about any topic concerning women made the job a good fit for her now. She almost thought it was a joke when Vertical’s senior editor had called.

“I ran across your blog this morning,” said Delores Cogswell. “And I was so drawn to it that I spent hours reading the archived material. This is really something special, Miss Sloane. The way you tie your friends and your life with the lives of your readers. Oh, and I love how you refer to your ex-husband as 30-Watt.”

Actually, it was 40-Watt; a metaphor for the realization that his 100-watt smile— the one promising a shiny future together filled with wonder and joy and children—soon grew dim in the face of reality.

“Anyway … You have a very in-your-face writing voice that I really appreciate,” she went on. “Would you consider writing it for Vertical?”

Seriously? Regan had only just found her so-called in-your-face style in recent years. Since Craig left.

“You’re like a mousy little bombshell,” Craig had told her when they first started dating. If only she’d have paid closer attention. When a man referred to a woman as mousy right out of the gate, she later realized, that might be a sign their foundation might lack what’s needed for him to stick around.

She’d started MOMENTS-OF-TRUTH.NET on a whim; an outlet for venting the steam of her own white-hot shame and niggling perplexity over the end of her marriage. Surely there were other abandoned women out there, married one moment and single the next, who might relate to what she had to say.

“Miss Sloane?”

“I’m sorry. Could you repeat that, please?”

It wasn’t like she hadn’t already thought about going back to work. She couldn’t just sit on her duff and do nothing but collect a meager monthly alimony, after all. But Regan had spent the last four years of her eight-year marriage trying to get pregnant. It seemed like an important focus at the time—fertility treatments, about three hundred sharp kicks in the fanny with a hypodermic needle, ovulation calendars and lunchtime rushes to the bedroom, Craig’s conference room, even the back seat of the car on one occasion. Anywhere they could find to seize those opportune moments for baby-making. But those experiences had resulted in nothing to show beyond the occasional breathless satisfaction. Not a baby, and not even her husband and the potential father of a baby sticking around.

Those years of frustration and failure didn’t exactly bulk up a resume. Out of nowhere, however, this phone call from Delores Cogswell had solved the problem. Someone out there saw the only thing she had left with any value, and liked it enough to offer her a job.

So, what? A few years of working from home for Vertical during the healing process, writing her little blog and connecting with women just like her suited Regan just fine; despite that irritating little flutter in her gut lately, the one that poked her and whispered it might be time for something more. The one she worked hard to ignore because change struck her as quite terrifying in light of the fact that she’d only just begun to feel sure-footed on her own.

Regan drew in a warm gulp of her coffee and sighed, opening her inbox as she did each and every morning. She skimmed the first few emails there:

A collection of column suggestions from her editor;

A funny picture of Iris and Lynette in front of a truly hideous old hutch—the latest in a line of thirty or more of them Iris had considered in her consuming quest to redecorate the dining room;

An abrupt message from Delores Cogswell:  Please mark your calendar. I would like a conference call with you today at eleven o’clock sharp.

As Regan added the appointment to her online calendar, the fleeting thought that Delores might fire her pierced the nerve behind her left eye. She quickly checked the site meter on her blog, and the numbers soothed her fear; but only slightly. She’d been holding steady at around ten thousand page views per day for the last month since some oddball reviewer took notice and gave her blog a mention; this week had seen an increase to twelve thousand. Then again, maybe Delores wanted to offer obligatory congratulations rather than fire her.

The next email in the list bore the FEEDBACK label, telling her it had come through the blog site from a reader. A woman named Bristol, 26, recently abandoned by her husband.

“I’ve been reading your blog for a year now, and I know you’ve been through the same thing,” Bristol wrote. “How did you ever manage to get out of bed again? I’ve never even considered the option of divorce, and I didn’t think Neal had either, but three nights ago he left me. I feel like I’ve been hit by a freight train.”

Regan couldn’t really say she’d never seen the train barreling down the tracks before Craig came back from his monthly business trip to Atlanta and packed two large bags instead of unloading his carry-on.

She’d heard the clomp-clomp-clomp of the wheels as he rolled the suitcases from the hall carpet and across the tile in the foyer. Drying her hands with one of the soft organic dishtowels she’d bought that afternoon while shopping with Abby, she strolled out of the kitchen and spotted his things parked at the front door as if waiting for a bus to come along.

“What are you doing?” she asked him. “You have another trip?”

He hesitated. “N-no.” It wasn’t like Craig to stammer. Or hesitate.

“Then where are you going?”

“Here’s the thing. I got a place in the Gaslamp Quarter,” he stated. “It’s close to the office, and it has good natural light …”

Regan didn’t remember much of the other details about her husband’s new downtown abode, but two days later he returned with three generic strangers and cleared out his side of the closet, his office in the loft, and more than half of their modest wine collection to take to that new well-lit place of his.

On his way out the door, Craig had handed her an envelope she couldn’t bring herself to open until the weekend. After she’d skimmed his petition for the dissolution of their marriage, Regan poured a large glass from the open bottle of merlot on the counter and downed it; then she calmly collected the four new organic dishtowels she’d bought—two with the tags still attached—and tossed them into the trash. They’d read warm and homey to her when she bought them; but Craig’s packed bags at the door while she cluelessly dried her hands with one of them ruined the appeal. She didn’t ever want to feel their lying softness again.

Erica here again: Sandie is graciously giving away a copy of her new release, Moments of Truth. To enter, use the rafflecopter below. 

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Thursday, August 27, 2015

Exceedingly Abundantly

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond all that we ask or imagine, according to the power that works in us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21 (MEV)

Five months ago I was cheering on one of my writer friends who was planning to enter a writing contest called Blurb to Book through Love Inspired Books. My friend writes contemporary romance, and as she prepared to enter, I didn't contemplate entering myself because I write historical.

Three days before the deadline for the contest, I received a Facebook message from Erica, encouraging me to enter Blurb to Book in the historical division.

Have you ever had a light bulb moment? This was it for me. Here's exactly what I wrote to Erica: "I've heard about the contest, but didn't even think to enter until you sent my mind is spinning with possibilities."

It suddenly dawned on me that there's more to Love Inspired than contemporary! They have a fabulous line of historical romances. Immediately, my mind began to buzz with half a dozen ideas-- until I landed on the story I was meant to write (more about my story next week!). I looked at the contest rules and set to work on my 100 word blurb and first page.

I can't explain what happened next, and I can only give God the credit, but I had an amazing sense of peace settle over me. The contest felt right. The story idea felt perfect. I didn't have to strive for the details. It all came together like a perfectly timed orchestra, and God was about to whirl me around the dance floor.

Two weeks after submitting the blurb and first page, I was told I would advance to the second round (first three chapters and full synopsis) month later, I was told I would advance to the third round (a 70,000-75,000 word manuscript)...and three months after that (just last Thursday), I received a call from my agent telling me I was offered my very first contract from Love Inspired Books. Twenty minutes after talking to my agent, Tina James, the Executive Editor of Love Inspired Books, called me to welcome me to the team.


I'm still in a state of awe. The verse I shared above is bathing my heart in wonder. I'm honored and humbled to write for such an amazing publishing house. I had prayed and asked God for another publishing contract, but He went exceedingly abundantly above all I asked for or imagined--and to Him be the glory.

This celebration comes a week after Erica announced her own sale to Love Inspired Historical through the Blurb to Book contest! I couldn't be happier for my dear writing friend, and I couldn't be more thankful for the little nudge she gave me to enter.

Let's celebrate BIG!

In honor of Love Inspired Historicals, I want to give one lucky winner the entire August collection of LIH books (in e-reader form)!

LIH August Collection
I also want to give the winner a copy of the two novella collections Erica and I are in together.

The Most Eligible Bachelor Collection & The Convenient Bride Collection
from Barbour Publishers, May & July 2015
That's twenty-two incredible historical romance stories!!!

Just enter the Rafflecopter below for your chance to win*. :) Good luck!

Gabrielle Meyer:
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*Due to shipping costs, only US Citizens, please.
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Wednesday, August 26, 2015


This past weekend, my daughter and I took a trip to Galena, IL. We enjoyed the museums, the shopping, and the dining, and took in a live show.

Here are some of the photographs. Ah, summer, how I'm going to miss you.

Peace in Union by Nast. It is hard to get the scope of this picture until you see it in person. The painting is 9 ft. by 12 ft.

General Grant's saddle. He was a gifted horseman, His favorite was a thoroughbred named
Cincinnati, and his backup was a horse named Jack. 

Grant's top hat and case, along with some of his cigars. Before the war, Grant rarely smoked, and when he did, he smoked a pipe. But a photograph of him holding a cigar was circulated early in the war, and after his success at Fort Donaldson, folks began sending him cigars by the barrel full. He gave away many of them, but began smoking them frequently, too.

Heather and her mascot, Okapi. Okapi got her picture taken many times on this trip. :)

The DeSoto House hotel, where Abraham Lincoln and US Grant both gave speeches from the second floor balcony.

This flag was rescued off a sinking ship during the War of 1812. To the far left is a spyglass that was used first in the War of 1812, then over 100 years later by the original owner's descendant in World War 1. 

This house is at the museum Vesterheim in Decorah, IA. The entire cabin was made from a SINGLE White Pine Log.

I loved this painting in the Washburne House in Galena. This is my next heroine. I love her glasses.

Heather and I took in a live show by Jim Post as Mark Twain. It was delightful, and afterwards, we got a photo op. 

I loved this dress.

From the Washburne house. This was the mirror over the fireplace in the library, the room where Grant waited to receive election results from his run for the White House. Mr. Washburne had a telegraph installed in the library to receive results, and this marked the first time an election was reported with results within 24 hrs of the polls closing.

I wish our current politicians would take as much responsibility for their actions.

Heather at the lookout over Guttenburg IA.

Heather and Okapi in front of the Washburne house. Elihu Washburne was the brother of Cadwallader Washburne of Minneapolis whose mill, the Washburne A exploded in the 1870's in downtown Minneapolis.

Grant's statue in Grant Park. There was a Civil War re-enactment bivouac in the park that evening.

Elihu Washburne's desk. Notice how the louvers on the shutters are vertical, not horizontal.
We had a fabulous time and made some great memories. 

Where have you been this summer? What memories have you made?

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

5th Grade Me

My Dad saves the darndest things, and every now and then he brings them up from the depths of his filing cabinet and slaps a Post-It note on it. "For Jaime" or "Run by Jaime" or "Jaime interested?" Of course, I'm a sucker for his treasures. This week, there was a spiral bound notebook on my parent's kitchen table waiting for me when I arrived. It didn't need a Post-It.

My 5th grade creative writing notebook. Yep. This is it. Right here, people. THIS is where it alllllllllllllll began. I paged through it eagerly. I mean, writing genius has to start somewhere. . .ahem-cough-er-yeah.

Kokomo Jo was staring over my shoulder. And, that's when it happened. . .

She started giggling. My five year old started giggling at my 5th grade self.

Apparently, "writing genius" may not be the correct definition of what was inside its pages.

But, it was fun to peruse the pages. Stories about my stuffed animals, about flowers, about "what's for dinner" abounded. Apparently, I really did enjoy using my imagination. One story had about fifteen characters in it--in the first page--all named with first, middle, and last names. I think I enjoyed naming characters more than I did writing about them.

I also uncovered the gold nugget. The story that started it all. Truly. This was my first story ever after which my Dad read it and said, "let's rework this". He began talking to me about the art of writing, of senses, of feelings and emotions finding their way onto the page. Eventually, we took these two pages of nothing and reworked it into my first full storybook (a few pages) entitled "Whitey the White Oak". But you can see below my entry into the writing world...

And then, I uncovered something that only confirms why I am a writer today. In the back of the notebook, my math homework.

and this was before common core math ... nuf said.

I was destined to be a writer, as my 5th grade me made itself evident in my first full story and my numerical dysfunction.


Jaime Jo Wright - author of spirited turn-of-the-century romance, stained with suspense

COMING SOON! March 2016, "The Cowgirl's Lasso", The Cowboy Bride's Novella Collection from Barbour Publishing

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Monday, August 24, 2015

Monday's Devo: Look for Life

Ever have those split second moments when you've relied on technology--but it epically failed you?

Yes, I was thinking about epic fails last week while pumping gas into my van.

I tootled up to the pump, parked it, and swiped my grocery card to collect on my ten cents off per gallon. But when I grabbed the handle and squeezed, I noticed the nozzle was missing its back splash guard. Ewww, what if it overfilled and splashed gasoline on me? Oh wait, it can't do that, because when you use the discount, it only gives you fifteen gallons and slows to a trickle right at the end. Phew. Oh, but my tank wasn't totally empty, so there was still a chance for splash back. Where should I look? The pump or the digital reader?

That was when I remembered my training: "look at the patient." (I'm a nurse first, writer second). With fifteen years of working Intensive Care, we were always trained to never trust the technology first. If a patient on the heart monitor is showing flat line, but they are talking to you and breathing fine--check to be sure the monitor hasn't just fallen off the patient. If a finger-stick iron check shows dangerously low, but the patient is rosy-cheeked, breathing fine, and not bleeding to death--recheck your equipment. Technology can fail! We were taught "high tech requires high touch".

I stared at the gas nozzle, thinking about technology in our world and the need to not only "look at the patient" but to look at each other and look for life! At first glance, signs may indicate a sure end, or eminent disaster. Look deeper. Look for signs of life. When talking with a friend, acquaintance, or stranger, look for reasons for hope, love, and believing. Some people throw you flat-liners--believing they are beyond resuscitation. Some throw you dead battery warnings--making you think they are half gone. Some may tell you the lines of communication with the Father are down.
Cut. Dead.

But we have to look for life. There's usually a flicker. 
Sometimes I've believed the pseudo-techno-warnings people have thrown me, and epically failed to look for signs of life at the heart of the matter.

Jesus looked past the obvious signs, beyond all extinguished hope, and not only believed, but actively saved. He was so bold. If I could only have a fraction of that boldness.

I mean, look at Lazarus. He was four days dead in the tomb. Stinky. Rotting. All signs pointed to the fact that it was beyond hope. Everyone was weeping, wailing, grieving his loss. Yet Jesus called him forth to life.

John 11: 21-27: “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
“Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

And Jesus looked beyond all the obvious and raised him to life.
An unusual story. But the thing is---Jesus taught us to look for life, to call forth hope, and belief.
When things look impossible. Don't forget to look for life.

Hope looks up. Watch for it.
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, August 21, 2015

Interview & #Giveaway with Kathleen Y'Barbo

YAY! I (Jaime) am so excited to feature Kathleen Y'Barbo because she is, after all, one of my favorite people. She spent some time chatting with me and it was SUCH a blast to hear her answers. ENJOY!

· How did you begin writing?

It all started in 1996 when I got a nasty case of the flu and did nothing but read book after book for several weeks. At some point, I decided to stop reading and start writing though it took a few months for me to actually take the plunge. In April of 1996, I bought a word processor. Five weeks later, I finished my first 100,000 word historical romance. It took another four years of writing before I got published, but I’m thrilled to be celebrating 15 years as published author and next year will celebrate 20 years in this crazy amazing writing world.

· Take us through a day in the life of you, the author (because some us picture you rise from bed, calmly pour your coffee, sit in a sunny little alcove, and write for eight hours before getting ready for a luxurious dinner out with your special someone) ;)

Oh, I wish! I did write full-time for many years, but with four children at home, my schedule was dictated by schools, sports and homework. Often I wrote while my kids were at school, took a break when they got home, and picked the writing back up after everyone had gone to bed. My children are grown now, but I still maintain a divided schedule. Now it is my job as a paralegal at a law firm that fills my daytime hours. Before work, I usually get an hour in, and then I write in the evenings and on weekends. Thank goodness, I learned to write fast!

· Tell us where you got the idea for your latest book and why you developed a passion to write it?

Thirteen years ago, I was having lunch with my pretty widowed mother at Luby’s when she uttered these words: “If I am ever going to find a man, he’ll either have to quilt or sing because the only places I go are to the fabric store and choir practice.”

I wrote that down and held on to the story idea behind it for more than a decade. I’m thrilled I can now bring Firefly Summer, the tale of Bonnie Sue and the ladies of the Pies, Books & Jesus Book Club to my readers. While Sugar Pine, Texas isn’t exactly the little Texas town I was raised in, it’s close. So finding a passion to write about the people and place I love? That was easy. Tackling the topic of forgiveness? A little more difficult. Still, I am so proud of this story and the Pies, Books & Jesus Book Club series. I can’t wait to share more stories of the ladies of Sugar Pine.

· Who is your favorite character in this book and why?
Bonnie Sue, of course, because she’s based on my very Southern mama.

· What is the most important takeaway from your book that you hope your readers see?

Firefly Summer is about learning to forgive. It’s about how family doesn’t always look like you expect and how love and grace are dishes best served with a smile. Oh, and it’s about books. And pie!

· If you were to be offered the opportunity to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro or to back pack deep into the heart of the Swiss Alps, which would you do and why?

Backpack! I don’t do heights so well, but I love hiking.

· And while you’re on this grand adventure, would it be necessary for you to have coffee or tea? (‘cause we’re split evenly in preference here at the CCC blog)

Definitely tea!

· If you had to write your novel long-hand, would you use a fine point Sharpie, a roller ball pen, a fountain pen, or a pencil?

Fountain pen! I have the most fabulous Waterman pen with a fine point. I use it for everything—except writing books. However, if I must, I’d give it a try.

· Your favorite flavor of pie … because we’re heading into pie season! 

And because I wrote a whole series of books about pie! My favorite flavor of pie is Buttermilk Pie, amazing since I do not like buttermilk at all. However, in Autumn Leaves, the next book in the Pies, Books & Jesus Book Club series, I write about a Pie Cake. Imagine three different pies baked into three different flavors of cake and then stacked up and covered in frosting. I know, right?! I’m tempted although I’ve not yet tried to make it.

· What are you currently working on in the book world?

I’m busy plotting several things. Some of them can’t be revealed yet, but I can say that I am working on the third book of the Pies, Books & Jesus Book Club series, due to be released in 2016. This means my favorite character, the fabulous Bonnie Sue, will be back for one more great adventure. Who knows what trouble she’ll get into this time? I know I don’t!

· Lastly, will you leave us with a snippet from your book that is one of your favorites and gives us a glimpse into its pages?

I’ve already given you the line that was the starting point for the entire series, but I would love to share one of my favorite scenes with you. To set the scene, forty-something Sessa (Bonnie Sue’s daughter) has raised her granddaughter since Pansie’s father was killed and her mother declared herself unfit to raise a newborn and disappeared. Pansie is now three years old and quite a handful, but she’s taken a liking to former rodeo cowboy turned doctor Trey Brown. Here’s the blueberry kisses scene:

Sessa returned to find a grown man and a little girl carrying on like fools in the rain. Not just dancing, but twisting, turning and jumping. Pansie’s blueberry stained dress stuck to her in places and Trey’s pearl snap shirt was drenched to his skin.

She backed up into the shadows and her heart melted. If she hadn’t already been falling for the man, this moment would have sealed the deal.

The frolicking stopped when Trey motioned for Pansie to move closer to put her feet on top of his boots. “Just hold on to my hands and don’t let go while we dance.” She complied and they began a slow twirl, something between a waltz and a Texas two-step.

“Good job,” Trey told her. “See, that’s how princesses dance in the rain with cowboys.”

She tossed the washcloth on the table and leaned against the doorframe, arms crossed and watched the cowboy and the princess dance.

“This is like at school,” she heard Pansie tell Trey. “We’re making a joyful noise.” Then Pansie spied her. “Gwammy, come dance!

Trey aimed a grin at her and her knees nearly buckled. “That’s right,” he said with an I-dare-you tone. “Come dance!”

She moved to the edge of the porch. “Oh, I don’t know. It looks like the cowboy already has a princess to dance with.”

Trey knelt down and whispered something in Pansie’s ear. A moment later, the little girl came running toward her, curls flying and her grin broad.

“Come on, Gwammy.” She tugged at Sessa’s hand and urged her out into the rain.

Sessa felt the first few drops of rain slither down her neck and she shivered despite the warmth of the evening. Pansie pulled her closer to Trey as the downpour dampened her hair.

“Hey cowboy,” she said when Pansie left her in front of Trey to go and chase the raindrops.

Trey grasped one of her hands and then took a step back to offer a courtly bow. “Hello, my queen.” He then closed the distance between them to wrap his arm around her waist. “Shall we dance?”

Unlike the dance he’d shared with Pansie, this dance was slow, deliberate, a conversation without words. His eyes never left hers, and she didn’t dare look away.

The warmth of his palm in the small of her back distracted her almost as much as the width of his chest and the breadth of his shoulders. Of the muscles she could feel as she held tight to his arm.

Don’t let go.

She held on tighter, and he smiled. “Doing all right, your majesty?”

“Oh yes, cowboy.”

“Then don’t let go.” He hauled her close and then the horizon slipped as he dipped her backward.

And then he kissed her.

From out of nowhere Pansie appeared in her line of sight. “Hey there, princess,” Trey managed. “This cowboy’s kind of busy right now.”

“Blueberry kisses!” she shouted as she planted sloppy kiss on Sessa’s cheek. Then, being the diplomat, she did the same for Trey.

“Blueberry kisses,” he said as he swiped at his cheek and then stuck his finger in his mouth. “Tasty.” He paused. “And unforgettable.”

Then he kissed Sessa again.


Bestselling author Kathleen Y’Barbo is a multiple Carol Award and RITA nominee of more than fifty novels with almost two million copies in print in the US and abroad. A tenth-generation Texan, she has been nominated for a Career Achievement Award as well a Reader’s Choice Award and Book of the Year by Romantic Times magazine.

Sadie’s Secret, a Secret Life of Will Tucker historical romantic suspense novel and the winner of the 2015 Romantic Times Inspirational Romance of the Year, is in stores now.

For another book with ties to Kathleen’s hometown of Port Neches, Texas, Firefly Summer, the first novel in the contemporary Pies, Books & Jesus Book Club series features a character with the same name as her mama—Bonnie Sue. And a very similar personality. Check out the book here:

When not wearing her writer’s hat, Kathleen is a paralegal, a proud military wife, and an expatriate Texan cheering on her beloved Texas Aggies from north of the Red River. Connect with her through social media at


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Thursday, August 20, 2015

Rules for a Victorian Dinner Party

One of my recent novels was set in 1898 during the Victorian era. I had so much fun researching the customs and etiquette of this highly formal time. But even more than that, I loved informing my husband on numerous occasions that his behavior was a sign of "ill" or "low" breeding! :)

For instance, tapping one's fingers in the company of others is a sign of "low" breeding. Placing an arm on the back of a lady's chair is a sign of "low" breeding. And one must never take more than two spoonfuls of sugar, unless one wants to appear greedy.

For today's post, I've decided to share some dinner party etiquette - in case you're ever invited to a Victorian Dinner Party.
Many of us were exposed to Dinner Parties by
watching Downton Abbey.
Dressing for the Dinner Party:
For the Ladies
  • Do not dress above your station; it is a grievous mistake, and leads to great evils, besides being the proof of a complete lack of taste.
  • Do not expose the neck and arms at a dinner party.
For the Gentlemen
  • The unvarying uniform is black pants, waistcoat and jacket, with white tie, shirt and gloves. 
Seating Arrangements:
  • It is customary for the host and hostess to be seated opposite each other, at the side of the table, in the center.
  • Husbands and wives should sit as far as possible from each other. Society is the enlargement, the absorption, and, for the time being, the breaking up of all private and exclusive engagements.
The Before Dinner Interval:
  • At some point before dinner is announced, the hostess will discreetly point out to each gentleman the lady he will escort to dinner. He shall serve her throughout the meal.
Upon Sitting:
  • The guests find their places by the names on the place cards and every one sits down in a gay flutter of talk and laughter.
The Delicate Art of Dinner-Table Conversation:
  • The conversation should be easy, playful and mirthful.
  • The rules of politeness are never at variance with the principles of morality. Whatever is really impolite is really immoral. 
  • Do not mention at the table anything that might not properly be placed upon it.
The Etiquette of the Dinner Table:
  • Eat slowly; it will contribute to your good health as well as your good manners. Thorough mastication of you food is necessary to digestion.
  • Be moderate in the quantity you eat. You impair your health by overloading the stomach, and render yourself dull and stupid for hours after the meal.
The After-Dinner Interval:
  • Contrary to the custom of low society, civilized gentlemen do not remain at the table after the ladies have retired, to indulge in wine, coarse conversation, and obscene jokes. The more enlightened practice is for the ladies and gentlemen to retire together from the dining table.
  • It is expected that guests will linger for two or three hours after the dinner. In any event, no one may politely depart until at least one hour has passed.
After the Dinner:
  • Within one week, pay a brief "dinner call" to express thanks to your host and hostess, and to briefly reminisce over the delights of the evening. Do not stay for less than ten minutes or more than twenty.
Simple, right? I didn't mention all the rules listed. And I didn't get into the obligations of the host and hostess, the proper table settings, the proper behavior of servants, and on and on. It gave me great fodder for my book.

What about you? What surprised you most about a Victorian Dinner Party? Is there anything you'd like to resurrect?

These rules are from "The Essential Handbook of Victorian Entertaining" adapted by Autumn Stephens, A Bluewood Book

Gabrielle Meyer:
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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

When an Unspoken Dream Comes True

Hey, Erica Here:

Last week a dream that I had never spoken aloud came true. It was one that I didn't even know was there, deep in my heart. 

Last Monday, I sold a book to Love Inspired Historical. 

March 15th, I entered the Blurb2Book Contest. I submitted to round one a 100 word story idea and the first page of a manuscript.

Then I waited. I had no idea how many people would enter (more than 375) nor how many would be chosen to move on to the next round. (Turns out, 25 in each of three lines, historical, suspense, and contemporary romance for a total of 75. Or about 20%) To make things even more exciting, our own Gabrielle Meyer also entered the contest.

Finally, on April 13th, Round two was announced. The 75 writers had one month to submit a synopsis and the first three chapters of the story. The editors at Love Inspired were divided into teams, and these teams of editors would decide who moved on to the final stage. Praise Jesus, both Gabe and I advanced to Round Two!

After what seemed an incredibly long wait, May 15th rolled around. The final 25 in each category would be shaved to the final 10 in each category. I'll confess, I didn't have a good feeling about this one. I had received a pretty cutting critique on the first scene of my novel and had become convinced it must be dreck. But I kept plugging away, working on the manuscript while I waited for results.

When the final ten in each category was revealed, I was stunned and thrilled to find that my story had made it through to the final round. And cheering on Gabrielle, who had also made the final ten. Out of 375+ entries, we had made it into the top 30.

Then the race was on. A completed manuscript was due by July 15th. Talk about writing like your hair is on fire. Actually, it wasn't a bad thing, because there was no time to brood or fuss or worry. you just had to write. Each of the finalists received feedback on their manuscript from stage two, and it was up to us to take that feedback and make changes to our story. A good test for the editors to see how well we could follow direction and tailor our stories to fit the guidelines and brand of Love Inspired.

Once the manuscript was turned in, there was nothing to do but wait. We were told that everyone would have an answer on their manuscript by August 30th. Between times, we had no clue what to expect.

Then, the editors announce a sale. Love Inspired Suspense acquired Jordyn Redwood's manuscript. Woohoo! 

And then I got the call. My agent called while I was at a writer's group (she caught me being good. :D ) and said we had done it. We had sold a ms to Love Inspired Historical. Squee!!

And so far, three more manuscripts have sold for a total of 5. (We're still waiting for Gabe's call!)

So how did this fit into a dream I didn't know I had? Well, when I was in 9th grade, my mom introduced me to the author Essie Summer's work. Essie was a Presbyterian minister's wife who lived and wrote in and about New Zealand. She had a wonderful style and vocabulary, a love of poetry and Shakespeare, and I fell in love with her work. I have all 51 of her books, and I treasure them.

And she wrote for Mills & Boon, the UK division of Harlequin. 

As of Monday, I also write for Harlequin in their Love Inspired Historical division.

I wish Essie was still alive so I could write to her and tell her how much she inspired me, how much I loved her stories, and how she'd set my feet on the path I'm now treading. 

Erica Vetsch:
Executive Assistant
Earl Grey Aficionado 
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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Jaime Jo Wright - Undergoing a Change

Sometimes the writing journey is an odd one! Case in point: two weeks ago I received an email from my agent letting me know there is another "Jamie Wright" (notice first name spelling difference) within the writing world. This isn't all that unique, to be honest. I'm sure if you google many names you'll see duplicates, with maybe the exception of Charles Dickens and JK Rowling.

But, in order to try to aim for as much separation as possible, my agent recommended I change my name. This turned into a lengthy conversation surrounding strategy. I mean, if "Jaime Wright" suddenly became "Katherine Potter", you would all be quite confused, right? ;)

So, we played around with different possibilities, different name transitions, the what-ifs of that name over this name, and my only personal issue of: but my name is actually Jaime Wright! Slight identity crisis going on.

It turned into a simple fix, really. One that I've embraced and actually am coming to really love because it truly emphasizes my personality. And why wouldn't it? It's the nickname I've carried for quite some time: "Jaime Jo".

So in true writerly fashion, we added the "Jo" to my name and it will be changed on my first release's cover and any going forward. It's an easy change to make, and isn't as shocking as say, the name my daughter and I came up with as a possibility: Ambrosia Charlotte Reminisia Mergatroyd.

Have you ever had to change a part of you that you feel reflects your identity? 


Jaime Jo Wright - author of spirited turn-of-the-century romance, stained with suspense

COMING SOON! March 2016, "The Cowgirl's Lasso", The Cowboy Bride's Novella Collection from Barbour Publishing

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