Tuesday, February 28, 2017

My Bucket List

You know that thing called a "Bucket List"? I have one. Don't we all? There's a few things I definitely want to accomplish before I die, but also some I already have accomplished.

  1. Being Published. This was a huge bucket list item. Check! 
  2. Getting Married. Yeah. I always wanted to get married, to have that someone who was devilish and rakish and an all around rogue. Check!
  3. Traveling the World. Sure, there's a ton more places I'd like to go, but so far I've been able to hit: Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, England, Nepal, Thailand, China, Taiwan, and oh yes, Canada. ;)

So what's left on my bucket list? 
Really, it's the rather weird things ...

  1. I want to catch a sail-fish, or as some call them, a sword-fish. Catch and release; I've no interest in eating it. 
  2. I want to swim with a dolphin. Who doesn't? Cliche. Err. Still I do.
  3. I want to rent a flat in Rome and live there for at least a year and write.
  4. I'd like to go crocodile hunting in Louisiana, or Alabama, or anywhere where there are crocs.
  5. A few countries I'd still like to see are: New Zealand, Vietnam, Russia, Poland, Ireland, Iceland, Norway & Holland.
  6. I'd like to spend a night in a ghost town. Deliciously creepy.
  7. I'd like to spend a day with royalty. Just to see how it's done.
We'll see what I actually accomplish before I die . . . I'm not holding out for number 7 but if Queen Elizabeth is up for it, I do make a mean cup of tea.

What's on your bucket list?


Jaime Jo Wright
Professional coffee drinker & ECPA/Publisher's Weekly best-selling author, Jaime Jo Wright resides in the hills of Wisconsin writing spirited turn-of-the-century romance stained with suspense. Coffee fuels her snarky personality. She lives in Neverland with her Cap’n Hook who stole her heart and will not give it back, their little fairy TinkerBell, and a very mischievous Peter Pan. The foursome embark on scores of adventure that only make her fall more wildly in love with romance and intrigue.

Jaime lives in dreamland, exists in reality, and invites you to join her adventures atjaimejowright.com.

Web site: www.jaimejowright.com 
Facebook: www.facebook.com/jaimejowright
Twitter: www.twitter.com/jaimejowright 
Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/jaimejowright 
Instagram: www.Instagram.com/jaimejowright 
Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/author/show/13916081.Jaime_Jo_Wright

Monday, February 27, 2017

How Research Changes You - Guest blog from Elizabeth Musser

Anne is on a writing hiatus preparing for her upcoming novella release from Barbour Publishing (more on that to come in the future!). So we are delighted to have guest blogger and author, Elizabeth Musser here on the CCC blog today. She is introducing you to the research an author will do for their novel and how that research changes you! (And she's going to give away a copy of her latest novel!) ELIZABETH MUSSER writes ‘entertainment with a soul’ from her writing chalet—tool shed—outside Lyon, France.  Elizabeth’s highly acclaimed, best-selling novel, The Swan House, was named one of Amazon’s Top Christian Books of the Year and one of Georgia’s Top Ten Novels of the Past 100 Years.  All of Elizabeth’s novels have been translated into multiple languages. The Long Highway Home has been a bestseller in Europe.

For over twenty-five years, Elizabeth and her husband, Paul, have been involved in missions’ work in Europe with International Teams.  The Mussers have two sons, a daughter-in-law and three grandchildren who all live way too far away in America. Find more about Elizabeth’s novels at www.elizabethmusser.com and on Facebook, Twitter, and her blog. See photos from scenes in The Long Highway Home on Pinterest.

 Please help us welcome, Elizabeth!


On a blistering day in Montpellier, France, I walked through the city’s majestic square, flowers and fountains splashing their welcome as I hurried along the wide open space. I found my way to the public library, hiding myself in the stacks as I searched for books on Algeria’s War for Independence from France.

Before moving to France as a missionary, I didn’t even know that Algeria was located across the Mediterranean Sea from France! But getting a contract for my first novel changed everything. That was back in 1994, way before internet. I actually had to go to a library, check out a book—in French, no less—or maybe search through micro film, watch documentaries and interview people who had been involved in some way in this war.

And it changed me, all this research.

Suddenly I understood a lot more about the racial tensions in France. So when seated around the dinner table for a four-hour-long meal, I carefully asked questions and found my French friends surprised and intrigued that I knew so much about this war.

Fast forward to 2010 when our mission agency asked my husband and me to take on a new role called Pastors to Workers.  Our home base remained in France but our territory included from Ireland to Ukraine.  We traveled to 13 different countries, interacting with workers on 25 different teams.
Suddenly, I was seeing up close ministries I had been hearing about at missions conferences for so many years.  Our job was to listen, counsel, laugh and cry, pray and listen some more to these dear workers who were indeed pouring out their lives for the physically and spiritually oppressed: refugees, students, gypsies, trafficked woman, secular humanists, pilgrims, artists. 

One ministry to refugees birthed outside of Vienna in the 1980s particularly stirred my heart. In our pastoral role, Paul and I had the privilege of interacting not only with our colleagues who ran The Oasis ministry center but also with refugees.  We heard stories of men, women and children fleeing persecution along what is called The Refugee Highway and finding hope at The Oasis where believers served up coffee and Christ. 

These displaced people, mostly young Muslim men, played chess and Uno with the missionaries and volunteers.  Some watched the Jesus film in their own language.  Others attended clandestine Bible studies.  And a few left with Jesus in their hearts.

One of the things that struck me from attending The Oasis was something each of us can learn.  Do what you can.  Offer a smile, a sack of clothes, a warm meal, a whisper of hope, a Bible.  The Lord wasn’t asking me to solve the huge worldwide dilemna of refugees.  But I felt that I could do something—and that ‘something’ was to write a story that tells a few of their stories.  The Long Highway Home is fiction, but it is based on many, many stories of refugees finding hope in the midst of the horror as Jesus reveals Himself to them in the most surprising ways.  And I wanted to tell the story of hard-working missionaries who are giving their very lives for these people.

Because of my personal interaction at The Oasis and the long months of research, I look at the present day refugee crisis with a different filter, a filter that says simply: do what you can.


The Long Highway Home

Sometimes going home means leaving everything you have ever known.
When the doctor pronounces ‘incurable cancer’ and gives Bobbie Blake one year to live, she agrees to accompany her niece, Tracie, on a trip back to Austria, back to The Oasis, a ministry center for refugees that Bobbie helped start twenty years earlier.  Back to where there are so many memories of love and loss…

Bobbie and Tracie are moved by the plight of the refugees and in particular, the story of the Iranian Hamid, whose young daughter was caught with a New Testament in her possession in Iran, causing Hamid to flee along The Refugee Highway and putting the whole family in danger.  Can a network of helpers bring the family to safety in time?  And at what cost?

Filled with action, danger, heartache and romance, The Long Highway Home is a hymn to freedom in life’s darkest moments.

Purchase The Long Highway Home on amazon.

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Friday, February 24, 2017

Interview & #Giveaway with Author Amanda Dykes from @BarbourBuzz

YAY! It's Amanda Dykes Day on the CCC blog! And I (Jaime) am loving this novella collection! I was able to read it via NetGalley early, so I'm ALL IN when I say, you'll want to pick up a copy ASAP! http://amandadykes.com/mybooks/ (And enter to win a free copy at the end of this post!) So without further adieu, please meet my dear friend, Amanda!


Thank you so much for visiting us today here at the CCC blog! Can you tell us about your latest release and what inspired you to write the story?

I’d love to, and thanks for having me!

The short answer is: tartans, highlands, lochs, London and floating symphonies are what inspired this particular tale.

The long answer: A Song in the Night is the second novella in the Message in a Bottle Romance Collection, which traces a single bronze bottle and its journey throughout the centuries as it touches hearts with a message of hope. When my amazing co-authors and I first came up with the premise, we began to brainstorm different time periods that the bottle could traverse and I found myself in an era entirely new to me: the 1700’s. It’s a time period brimming with history in Scotland, and my own family’s Scottish history had some interesting things going on during that time, so I began to spin the tangled beginnings of a story that would begin in Scotland and end in England (more on that later).

At the bottom of it all, though, is the desire we each had to explore the ways God can weave personal messages of hope into the lives of His beloved, even at times that may be dark and difficult.

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

That’s a tricky one! I loved writing each one of them, but I think I had the most fun writing Eugenia Bettredge. She enters about halfway through the story, and she just took me by surprise and sprinkled the rest of the story with unexpected spunk. In researching fun Scottish foods for her to gush over, I stumbled upon the cheesey potato dish of Rumbldethumps. I dare you to say it and not smile!

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

Such a fun question! In my early brainstorms, I imagined the hero, Duncan, to look a bit like Horatio Hornblower (Ioan Gruffudd). Wind-blown by the salt-sea, and duly brooding:

…and Meg, the heroine, to look like actress Tatiana Maslany (I was on a big Heartland kick at the time):

…I thought they both had that edge of the highland wind about them… rugged in their own way. Ready to take on whatever their journey might bring.

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

Random things that happen in my life: one day the idea flew into my head that someone should create a floating symphony. Whether in real life, or in a story. A symphony played on a boat, perhaps, in some whimsical and majestic setting where people could listen on.

Well, guess what? One Google search quickly informed me that I was (very) late to the party! Lo and behold, King George I and George Frederic Handel had beat me to the idea in 1717!

His Royal Highness, who was wanting to find ways to strike up rapport and earn favor with the people of his kingdom, commissioned Handel to write what we now know as “Water Music” and have a symphony perform it on a barge floating down the Thames.

This was a huge deal, as symphonies just weren’t heard by the general public. It was the chance of a lifetime for them, and the banks of the river were packed with people (as was the river itself, with boats of every kind) the night of the floating symphony.

I was utterly smitten with the whole account. But then, my heart was beating away off in the highlands of Scotland with a certain bagpiper and a maiden traipsing the countryside with the Tinkers. So, I did what Great Britain itself was doing that century: united the two countries into one kingdom (or tale, as the case may be).

I’d always wanted to write a “journey” tale, and this offered the perfect excuse to do so. To get those highlanders to London Town and see what adventures awaited them along the way. Plus, I got to include a river voyage down the Thames, which is a boat journey I’ve actually taken, once upon a time years ago.

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

What a good question!! I had to think hard about this. I think the simple (and yet complex) answer is that when it comes down to it, I will write whatever God leads me to write. I’ve found that no matter the tale, it seems He always has a way He wants to grow, stretch, challenge, encourage the writer along the way, beckoning them into a closer “leaning-in” to Him. A place where we lean closer, listen harder, dig deeper, in order to find out what He would teach us, and what He would have us write about whatever it is He’s spinning into our hearts.

J.R.R. Tolkein, when writing about creating stories, said:

“…we make…because we are made: and not only made, but made in the image and likeness of a Maker.”

I think that’s so poignant. This idea that we make, because we have been so lovingly made. That we create, because we know what it is to have been created, and known by a loving Creator. And yet anything we make, is just the slightest whisper, just a shadow, of what He has done, giving us an ever-growing hunger to know our own Creator more.

…which is a very long way of saying: I’ll write whatever He wants.

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

THAT IS A HARD QUESTION! Out of all the characters, ever?! I’m going to have to narrow it down or my book-geek-tendencies are going to short circuit. How about narrowing it down to a pool of four: which of the March sisters from Little Women am I most like?

I think am a Beth who likes to think she’s a Jo. I get my breath taken away over a good piece of music, dislike confrontation, love peace and beauty and quiet… and yet Jo is the one barreling through the woods, wild and free and full of spunk and words, and that just sounds more exciting. So perhaps I’m a Beth who, though she may not barrel through the woods, does meander in that same wild and fresh air. Though I’m quite clumsy, too, so in that metaphor, make sure I trip over a few tree roots along the way. ;)

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

You’ve been spying on me! Just kidding. I haven’t tried the pen-between-my-teeth-while-upside-down-trick. But every now and again I catch myself making really strange facial expressions, mimicking what I imagine the character doing so I can try and get the description right. I’ve realized I need to be more careful about contorting my face when I’m writing in public.

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

One thing I’ve learned about the Christian writing community is how incredibly warm and supportive it is. I would never be able to list all of the people who have come alongside with timely encouragement, shared wisdom, and the beautiful gift of friendship.

Of course I couldn’t answer this question without mention of my four brilliant co-authors: Maureen Lang, Heather Day Gilbert, Jocelyn Green and Joanne Bischof (who is also a beloved critique partner for whom I am eternally grateful!). The group of us have gone from co-authors, to brainstormers, troubleshooters, prayer partners, and friends, and I for one will always be so grateful to have shared this road with each of these beautiful ladies.
I’m also so grateful for wisdom, insights, encouragement, examples, accountability and friendship shared at different times along the way from Dani Pettrey, Laura Frantz, Melissa K. Norris, Kelli Standish, and my wonderful agent, Wendy Lawton, just to name a few. Like I said, this community is rich and abundantly generous in helping those around on this sometimes-turbulent writing journey.

We talk a lot about faith and how it weaves throughout our fiction, here at the blog. How has your faith affected/or not affected your writing?

There is this song by Josh Wilson, called “Sing It” (you can listen to it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iXdVD9foAg4 ).

These lyrics:
 All the words in all the world could never say enough…
But you placed this song inside my heart and all I know to do for you is sing it
No, It’s not much… but it’s what I've got, and all I know to do for you is sing it.

To me, that is the song of my heart when it comes to writing. Like any calling, this road can be lined with doubt, but when it comes down to it, there are words beating inside that just want to be poured out, that just want a chance to offer worship to the creator of that heart. Bottom line, it’s the very reason I write.

To me, the greatest story of all time is that of Redemption. The taking of something broken, the binding up of those cracks, the healing and transforming of those seams, the strength and new life that follows. We all experience it, we live it. And so the chance to be a part of echoing that great story in some small way through story—it’s absolutely humbling, intimidating, and exhilarating.

We have a God who gives beauty for ashes (Isaiah 61:3), who transforms. Every story I write, whether I plan it or not in my crazy outlines, emerges with a theme of transformation and redemption.

I love this quote from writer James Baldwin:

“Every writer has only one story to tell, and he has to find a way of telling it until the meaning becomes clearer and clearer, until the story becomes at once more narrow and larger, more and more precise, more and more reverberating.”

I write redemption because I’ve been redeemed. It’s the truest thing I know.

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

Whew, I don’t know! Let’s see… I love being a mom. A wife. A daughter and sister. I love simple pleasures and fresh air and birdsong and scripture and books and words and especially Psalms. I love music. I hope others live lives rich with simplicity and true things and love and the knowing of the God who loves them. So I guess, to sum all that up in a few words, my hope is that I could live a life that might earn these words:

It’s simple. She loved. Because He first loved.

For some humor, though, let’s be real: it’s clear that I tend toward the wordy side of things. I could use a lesson in succinct-ness. So whatever I wrote, chances are it would get cut off mid-sentence and hopefully give some people a laugh. ;)

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

My parents’ names are Jack and Jill, and theirs is a love so faithful and deep and true it could rival the most sweeping and epic of fairy tales and win, hands-down.

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

They say to “write what you know”, and so when I’m writing romance, I love to draw inspiration from my real-live hero. You can read a little of our story here (http://amandadykes.com/we-never-had-a-first-date/ ). We are flawed people, and as such there is always room for growth—but what a joy to grow alongside one another. I hope that the romances I get to write reflect the truth of that, the gift of growing together.

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

Certainly! I’m going to plunk you right into the middle of a highland reel at a country dance, where the aristocratic Englishwoman Mrs. Bettredge is doing her best to keep up with the fancy steps, all while romantic tensions weave across the room between Meg and her Piper, Duncan.

In this excerpt, we are in Duncan’s point of view. Without spoiling the details, he is restraining from the dance at the moment, and instead is watching Meg, her friend Kate, and Mrs. Bettredge from his place against the wall. I’ve made a few tiny tucks to avoid spoilers, but here ye are, lads and lasses. The characters of A Song in the Night:


...During a time when this new Great Britain of theirs faced enemies from without and within. These country folk and sojourners gripped one another’s arms as if on a battlefront… and began to march in dance.
The music was lively, the souls even more so. To an outsider, it might look like an utter tangle at first, but every step of a reel was planned, every weaving movement as intricate as if the dancers pulled strings behind them, tying an elaborate Celtic knot as they went.
Kate hollered instructions to Mrs. Bettredge around the poor fellow in between them. “To the right! Now left! Now clap and—yes! There you are. Less like a rabbit, if ye please. More like a gazelle, Mrs. Bettredge.”
“Cow’s bell?!” Mrs. Bettredge tipped from side to side with great confidence.
Gazelle! Yes, there! Now to the center, and take your partner’s hand…”
“Aha! Here I go! Did you see that? Rather like a gazelle!” Her face flushed with alternating concentration and delight as she swished herself side to side. Her feet did not know the intricate steps, but she caught the movements of the circle dance fast and was soon hollering her own whoops and trills along with the others.
And then there was Meg. Her lips parted in a smile so warm it made him ache. Oh, how she laughed. Tossed her head back, dark hair flying like freedom itself. Eyes alight as she danced with abandon, like a bird in full and stunning flight. She looked his way, searching— her smile brighter when she found him.

Duncan swallowed. Longing filled him for the fine light of Meg’s spirit. If all went well in the coming days, that spirit would fly far across the ocean... The very thought snapped something within him. Father above, keep her. Keep her fast and well, even if ye keep her not for me.
Jaime here again. I think I just saw Anne swoon over that last line, Amanda! (I might have joined her in the swoon, but shhhhh, don't blow my mysterious-girl cover). BE SURE TO ENTER TO WIN A COPY!

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Thursday, February 23, 2017

My Ten Favorite Movie Musicals

Gabrielle Here:

A couple months ago, I shared some of my all-time favorite movies. I thought I'd be a bit more specific and just focus on my favorite movie musicals this time around. Some of these are a repeat from my list of all-time favorites, but they are worth repeating. :)

My criteria for this list is two-fold: it's a movie I could watch over and over again, without getting bored, and it's full of songs I have memorized (and periodically find myself singing to my bewildered children...).

I'd love to hear if any of these are your favorites, and I'd love for you to share with me some I didn't mention.

1. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954), starring Jane Powell and Howard Keel. One of my all-time favorite movie musicals. This story is about a man who marries a wife the day he meets her, and then later helps his six brothers kidnap the women they're in love with, so they can get married, too. Sounds more like a suspense thriller than a romantic comedy, but I assure you, the women don't mind being kidnapped--at least in the long run. :) Such a fun movie with lots of great singing and dancing.

2. Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), starring Judy Garland and Tom Drake. This story follows the Smith family in the year leading up to the World's Fair held in St. Louis. I love this one because it has some fun songs, lots of Americana, and highlights several holidays.

3. Please Don't Eat the Daisies (1960), starring Doris Day and David Niven. A story about a family with four boys who leave New York City and buy an old mansion in need of repair. The boys in this movie are hilarious and remind me of raising my own set of twin boys! Doris Day is also one of the most talented movie actresses of her day and has an amazing voice.

4. Tammy and the Bachelor (1957), starring Debbie Reynolds and Leslie Nielsen. This story is about a young lady named Tammy who was raised in solitude on the river with her grandfather. One day, he grandfather is taken away to jail for selling moonshine, and Tammy finds herself at a plantation where she doesn't know how to act "proper," but ends up teaching all the proper people a thing or two about life. I love Debbie Reynolds, and man did she have some pipes!

5. Singing in the Rain (1952), starring Debbie Reynolds and Gene Kelly. About a silent movie star who is thrust into talking films and the young lady he falls in love with who is secretly hired to do voice-overs for an actress with a horrible voice. I seriously don't think there is a more dynamic duo than Debbie Reynolds and Gene Kelly. I could watch them sing and dance all day. :)

6. My Fair Lady (1964), starring Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison. A young woman, Eliza Doolittle, is taken off of the streets by an educated professors and taught how to speak and act like a lady to fool the elite society of London. Such a fun, fun movie! I love all the songs and have them memorized by heart. One of my very favorites is On the Street Where You Live. Seriously, I could break into song right now...

7. Mary Poppins (1964), starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke. A magical nanny arrives to help Jane and Michael Banks reconnect with their rigid father. Lots of whimsical singing and dancing. Disney at its best. Julie Andrews has an amazing voice and she is such a classy lady. Dick Van Dyke is hilarious and fun to watch.

8. The Harvey Girls (1946), starring Judy Garland and Ray Bolger. A young lady travels west to answer a mail-order bride ad, but finds her groom-to-be is not what she expected. Instead of marry, she starts to work at the Harvey House and goes head to head with the owner of the local brothel. A wonderful Judy Garland film, full of lots of great songs and a colorful cast of actors and actresses.

9. Sound of Music (1965), starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer. Maria longs to be a nun, but Mother Superior believes she has a lot to learn about life before taking her vows. She sends Maria to the von Trapp family to be the nanny. Maria ends up getting into a lot of innocent trouble and falls in love with Captain von Trapp and his children. The quintessential movie musical with one of the most beloved singer/actresses of the ages.

10. The King & I (1956), starring Deborah Kerr and Yul Brynner. The King of Siam hires a British lady to teach his many children how to speak English and conduct themselves respectably. A Rogers and Hammerstein musical with beautiful sets, gorgeous costumes, and a feisty hero and heroine.

These are just some of my favorite movie musicals. I know I could add dozens more, but I'd rather hear from you!

What are some of your favorite movie musicals?

*I have a winner from last week's giveaway of The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill, by Julie Klassen. The winner is Amyc. Amy, you've been contacted. :)

Gabrielle Meyer
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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Challenge Accepted

So, just after Christmas, I took the plunge and purchased Aimee Stewart's Heroes and Heroines chart from Heaven and Earth Designs, a company that specializes in charting artwork for cross-stitch.

This particular design, depicting famous couples from literature, comes in several sizes and color intensities, and of course, because I do nothing by halves, I chose the Super-Sized, Max Color chart.

Which means 240 colors and more than 700,000 stitches. The finished design is 999 x 714 stitches. I'm working it on 25 count (25 stitches to the inch) easy guide laguna evenweave fabric, which means the fabric is pre-gridded with light gray lines in 10 x 10 stitch squares to make keeping your place and counting easier. (And boy, howdy! Does it work!)

Heaven and Earth Designs (HAED for short) has a very active Facebook group with almost 10,000 members worldwide, and every so often, HAED issues a challenge to their stitchers. I joined the group just in time for Challenge #4, which was to stitch the equivalent of one page of a regular sized chart or one and a half pages of a large format chart before the challenge was over.

Those who know me also know that I will pick up that kind of challenge in a heartbeat!

The rules are simple. Take a photograph of your work in progress, ready to begin a fresh page. (It had to be a page you hadn't started yet...not even one little stitch!) In my case, blank fabric since I hadn't started yet when the challenge began. Also show the chart's first page with a photo of the piece you were working and a blank printed page (or two) of the chart.

Here's my fabric (see the gray grid lines?) Each of those tiny squares is 100 stitches. Also in the picture is the cover page of the chart with the HAED Logo, the Artist (Aimee Stewart) and a photo of what the piece will look like when I'm finished. I also included an unmarked first page of the pattern. And all those plastic bags on the right? Those are my floss bags. (I've since swapped to a box since it was taking me so much time to find the color I wanted or return the one I had just used to the proper bag.)

Here are the first two pages of my chart, since I realized after I took the first one that since I had opted for the large format chart (Yep, that's the large format!) I would need to stitch about a page and a half to complete the challenge.

The next requirement for the challenge was to take a photograph of your work at about the halfway mark.

I started in the upper right corner, and it took me awhile to both get used to the tiny stitches and the pattern. I also tried a couple different methods...cross country, where you stitch all of one symbol everywhere on the page, and parking, where you stitch all the symbols of a particular color within a smaller area, then 'park' the thread in the next stitch in the next area and begin a new color in the first, continuing until that small area is finished and moving to the next and picking up the 'parked' threads.

It was confusing to me, too, but there is an awesome tutorial video on Youtube by Carolyn Mazzaro. (It's long, but I FFwd to the salient bit.) In this video, Carolyn is working on an HAED piece, and you can see all the color changes! In bits where there are lots of color changes in a small area, HAED stitchers call this 'confetti,' and it is often bemoaned. However, when it's finished, it looks amazing, so it's worth it.

Late on Monday night (very late, but we won't talk about that) I finished the first full two pages of Heroes and Heroines. It equates to about 10,000 stitches. (You can see two of my parked threads in the upper right, ready to begin those colors on the next page, but for the most part, I have reverted to going 'cross country' working all of one color on a page before switching to the next. The colors are so vibrant and rich! I am eager to get to the next page. I'm thinking this pattern is going to take me between 3-5 years to finish, but when it's done, I will have a real treasure.

Those who finish the challenge are in line to receive a free chart from HAED. Isn't that fun? I can't wait to see what the mystery chart is.

What are you working on right now? Finishing a book? Knitting or crocheting? Garden planning? Cross stitching? Quilting? something else?

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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Soul Scents with @PaulaMoldenhauer

Jaime here. I'm in Chicago this week on a work trip, so a wonderful author-friend and fellow literary agency-mate has honored me with her presence today. Paula Moldenhauer is a wonderful author and you will  be so blessed to meet her today and receive some devotional insight on this beginning of the week! I know I am!


Thank you so much for visiting us today here at the CCC blog! Can you tell us about your latest release and what inspired you to write it?

Oh my goodness! It’s been a whirlwind. I released the four-book Soul Scents devotional series, culminating with Soul Scents: Flourish, all in one year! Talk about ambitious! The Soul Scents collection invites readers into an ever-deepening discovery of who God is and how He interacts with us. Combined, its four volumes—Awaken, Rooted, Bloom, and Flourish—offer a year’s worth of devotional reading. Each book has thirteen weeks of down-to-earth insight gleaned from Scripture and my own journey into spiritual freedom.  The week-day readings include Scriptures and prayers. It’s my hope that readers will grow through this series in their ability to rest in the Son’s embrace as they enter the beautiful heart of the Freedom Giver Himself.

Book one, Soul Scents: Awaken, (https://www.amazon.com/Soul-Scents-Spiritual-Journey-Embrace/dp/1522759689 ) invites readers to awaken to a more intimate, peaceful relationship with God.

Soul Scents: Rooted, (https://www.amazon.com/Soul-Scents-Spiritual-Journey-Embrace-ebook/dp/B01D3VL2I6 )the second book in the series, focus on rooting us in our identity in Christ and includes topics such as worthiness, spiritual battle, and destiny.


Book three, Soul Scents: Bloom, (https://www.amazon.com/Soul-Scents-Spiritual-Journey-Embrace-ebook/dp/B01HG55FAG) shows how we can bloom in His presence in sunshine and storm as His Spirit carries us through both joy and struggle, offering the love, strength, and wisdom we need.

Soul Scents: Flourish (https://www.amazon.com/Soul-Scents-Flourish-Spiritual-Journey-ebook/dp/B01N0S6R15 ) surprised me. When I began the series I didn’t know the Lord would ask me to write about my journey out of emotional, verbal, and spiritual abuse in this final book. It’s really about finding the courage to let God lead us to the other side of deep wounding so we can live in greater joy and freedom.

What personal truths did you learn while writing this book, and how did they change your walk with Christ?

You know, I’m 51 years old. The Lord has been faithful to heal me incrementally. He never takes us faster than we are able to move as He brings us into greater light and truth. In the journey of releasing this series, He probed old issues where I’d already made progress, like people-pleasing and basing my identity in the wrong things, which the first two books deal with. Or like the struggle to trust Him when seasons of hardship last years, not months, like I write about in the third book. But it was the last book, Soul Scents: Flourish, that took me really deep.  He showed me where lie weeds twisted around the good plantings of my heart, choking abundant life. As I faced the deeper reality of my pain and abuse and stepped into greater truth, the tendrils of that vile weed uncurled. As God revealed how pain and abuse twisted my understanding of who He is and how He works, the distrust of His goodness (that I’ve secretly always struggled with) fell away.  The result was increased intimacy with Jesus and the deeper joy I prayed for but couldn’t find.

When you think of your readers, what are the hopes and prayers you have for them as they read this book?

For me life is all about discovering the wonder of relationship with our Creator. It’s more beautiful and joyful than I could have dreamed when I chose to follow Jesus as a seven-year-old. In my process of deepening intimacy with the Lord, I’m blown away by how full of grace He is and how committed He is to setting us free from the things that hold us back in our relationship with Him and our ability to live in the fullness of who He created us to be. That’s what I want for readers. Deepened intimacy. More freedom to love God, themselves, and others. Healing from the stuff that holds them back. A release into the greater fullness of who they are and who He meant them to be. Scripture says when we discover His love we’ll be blown away by the amazing things He will do in our lives (Ephesians 3:14-21). I’m praying that for my readers!

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

I don’t know that there is a subject I would avoid, but I find that I have low tolerance for graphic display of violence, abuse, psychotic episodes, etc. in movies and books. I used to think it was because I was too sensitive or na├»ve. Now I understand that evil is evil. My own abuse has been so deep, that I feel the evil in these portrayals.

Writing about real issues is who I am. But I think I’ll always need to do it in the context of God’s great grace and peace, whether in fiction or non-fiction (I wrote both). This is something I’m praying about because I know my specific calling is to write in a way that helps those held captive, whether from false teaching, abuse, or the after-effects of abuse, find Jesus, more healing, and greater freedom. But for some of us that journey has to be quite gentle.

Moving on from your book tell us a little about yourself. We’ll help! What strange writing habits do you have? Like standing on your head while you write with a pen between your teeth?

When writing Bloom and Flourish I often had 3-5 journals open on the desk in front of me. Does that count? In 2012 I was riding high, I’d just received my first traditional contract, was releasing a second book with my buddy, Kathleen E. Kovach, and was in negotiations for another. I’d just come out of years of hardship that interrupted my writing journey (which I talk about in Bloom), and thought my life as an author had truly begun. I was so excited! Then I had back-to-back car accidents resulting in concussive symptoms and whiplash. My doctor told me no reading or writing for a while. Even after he lifted the ban, if I read or wrote for very long I’d get strange symptoms in my head. If I didn’t stop, they would progress into symptoms throughout my body.

I had to really slow down. As I improved, I tried hard to work again, but it was like pushing a brick wall. Finally the LORD, my husband, and my prayer group all helped me understand that the LORD was inviting me into a season of healing. When I finally surrendered I spent a lot of time walking, talking to my flowers, and sitting on my deck with my journal. Then suddenly one day I knew HE wanted me to release the devotional series. As I wrote, it was incredible to realize what He’d taught me during my Sabbatical was what I needed to write. The words just poured out of me and He’d often send me to my journals to glean the wisdom and truth He gave me over those healing years between 2012 and 2015. I love how organic the process was, how my time of healing was really writing this series. I just didn’t know it.

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

There are more than I have time to write about! Of special note are Marlene Bagnull, who was the first professional to see my calling as a writer. She took a personal interest in me, which made a huge difference in my ability to persevere. Then Rachelle Gardner contracted me as a client. Her belief in me was a needed piece in my journey, and when she encouraged me to write my truth, it unlocked something within. I’m also forever grateful to Brandilyn Collins and to my prayer group. I don’t know if I’d have made it without their prayers and encouragement.

We talk a lot about faith and how it weaves throughout our fiction, here at the blog. How has your faith affected/or not affected your writing?

Honestly my greatest passion is Jesus and my life in Him, so all of my writing comes from that place.

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

Ha ha! Hm . . . I think: She loved her God, her family, and helping captives find freedom

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

I do! In fact it is the story seed for my latest contracted novella (details coming soon!). One time I was visiting a little family owned restaurant deep in the country near where I grew up in the foothills of the Ozarks. The proprietor was kind enough to come out and talk to us about the history of her building, which was originally a little country store and was the setting for the store in the old movie, “Where the Red Fern Grows.”

We commented to her that we hadn’t had French fries like she sold since my grandma, Eunice, died. Her gaze whipped to me. “You’re Aunt Eunice’s grand-daughter?” she said. Then she told me a story about my grandpa Curtis that I’d never heard.

Evidently her father’s dad died when he was very young, so at age eight or so he was already driving a wagon to try to help support his mother and sisters. The older boys picked on him, flicked him in the head, and generally mistreated him. She said one day he was in the wagon, crying, while an older boy was bothering him. My grandpa was also employed with this company and witnessed the incident. He was a big man, and he stalked over to the wagon and picked up the older boy by his overall straps! He told everyone watching that from that day forward anyone who picked on the little boy would answer to him. From that day forward nobody bothered the little boy. I started crying and so did the lady telling me this story. Isn’t that just like God to give me such a wonderful memory of my grandpa? I use parts of this story in the book releasing from Barbour Publishing in January of 2018, and my hero’s character arc grew from this starting point.

Erica and Gabrielle both write sweet historical romances. How does romance influence your own writing and if it doesn’t, what other elements influence your writing?

I’ll put it this way. I see life as an opportunity to be a part of the grand Love Story with Jesus, and if a novel doesn’t have some romantic elements, I just feel cheated!

And for some extra fun . . .

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

Hmmm . . . Thor is pretty hot . . . but I’d rather be rescued by Aragorn from Lord of the Ring or Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice. lol

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

I started to say Juliet O’Hara from Psych because she’s just so cool and strong and beautiful and gets to fall in love. Then I thought of Sarah Walker from Chuck for the same reasons, but then again I wouldn’t want to discover dead bodies or be kidnapped by serial killers or have to shoot anyone. How about Queen Elizabeth from The Crown?

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

I sometimes wear my parent’s wedding band. It was given to me after they divorced. At one point I considered not keeping it because of painful memories, but the Lord reminded me that their union is where I began, and He wanted me here on this earth. He knew what my journey would be, and He’s been with me all the way. The ring is a symbol to me of God’s grand plan for my life.

We’d love you have you share a snippet from your book! J Please share something below:

Week One, Day One from Soul Scents: Flourish

He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds.
~ Psalm 147:3 NLT

That night I lay naked before him, and his fingers traced the long, jagged marks. Then he kissed each one. “They are your battle scars,” my husband said. “Every one is beautiful.”
My stretch marks are intense.
Birthing four children in six and a half years was not kind to my body. With each pregnancy the marring lengthened. By the end of the last pregnancy some scars stretched tall, above my belly button. Lower on my abdomen it’s like a never ending layering and widening of the tracks. Some of the marks pucker even now, almost twenty years since this body held a child within.
My tummy is full of scars, but I rarely think about them.
Long ago my husband gave them value and beauty, for each shredding of my epidermis was part of something glorious and breathtaking. New birth. The making of someone new and treasured.
On a more recent night I sat outside in the dark, the breeze brushing my arms with goose bumps, and Someone else talked about my scars. Not the ones on my body, but the ones on my heart. The ones not everyone sees, but He does. “You are my partner and bride,” whispered my eternal Groom. “You bear many scars, but each is lovely to Me. I see no fault. I am highly pleased.”
To flourish with Christ is to reach the point in our relationship with Him where we’re secure enough to talk about the things we’d rather leave unspoken, to expose our wounds and scars and know there will be no rejection, no manipulation, no judgment.
Just new healing.
New freedom.
Flourishing is enjoying the comfortable companionship that comes from a confident relationship. Just as we understand we are safe in a healthy marriage or long-term friendship, we realize we’re safe and secure in this relationship with Jesus. It's okay to live life and talk about things, even if it means unpacking some of those bags and boxes that have been stacked in the basement where we've tried to ignore them. We can open them slowly knowing our companion is there and won't judge us for keeping the silly mementos or for leaking tears when a tender memory surfaces.
He is here now. He was there then. We’re safe in His arms, and it's all right to take a moment to process or to close the box and return later. If we choose to linger there with our exposed boxes, we don't have to explain it to Him or tell Him the story. He just wants to share the moment, reminding us He knows how much it hurt, how sometimes we still bleed, how part of our wounds have scabbed and some have scarred. He knows we don't like how the scars look and that we’re afraid people will mock us for them. He knows where we still carry anger, hidden even from ourselves.
His response is love. Pure. Without selfishness clouding His perspective. His plan is to help you and me heal as much as we can this side of heaven. He wants to take us through the pain so we are free from it.*
When I planned a four-book series culminating with Soul Scents: Flourish, I had no idea this would be our journey. But it makes sense, doesn’t it? The ever-deepening discovery of who Jesus is leads to ever-deepening trust in Him. And where there is trust, there is intimacy and authenticity. The good and bad together. The most sacred parts of ourselves vulnerable, yet safe, in His hands.
This journey we’re taking together is beautiful, my friend. It is the kind of walk where we invite only the few, the brave, the most trusted. It is an unveiling of the pain and scarring for the purpose of healing. As He heals our wounds, He also heals our misconceptions of who He is. And so the intimacy cycle continues. Deeper trust, purer love, greater intimacy—all these good things—follow the healing.
We flourish in freedom in Jesus, the only one whose selfless love is always trustworthy, always acting for our good. He never takes, demands, or uses us up. He gives. He helps. He empowers. This is the Jesus who stretched His arms on the cruel cross, who bore in His body the marks and scars of the world, who chose this. For us. To show us the way out of the world’s wounds and to invite us into relationship more whole and pure than we ever dreamed possible.
This Jesus tenderly caresses the scarred places and says, “I find no fault.”
My friend, our scars are victory marks. The places He has healed and is healing. He tends our wounds, loving our hearts to health and strength. He turns dead, black, lifeless places to pink, healthy, whole places. He cleanses angry places filled with puss. He cradles our heart in His hands until the emotional bruises heal.
It is from these scars He births new life.

Sweet Jesus, You say I am beautiful just as I am. Scars and all. Thank You for covering me with Your precious blood, wiping away the fault and failure. Thank You for fully and completely accepting me. All of me. Thank You for giving me the freedom to live as Your treasured bride, to flourish in the fullness of Your pure love. To accept myself in You. Help me to believe You truly love me this way. Without condition. Without condemnation.

*Special thanks to Carmen Barber whose private prayer time helped flesh out these thoughts and who then shared them with me as I fought to understand what God was doing with this book.


Jaime again. See what I mean? I absolutely loved this time with Paula and I hope you did too! She is willing to giveaway either the FULL SET OF DEVOTIONALS in e-copy form, or one of the devotionals in hard copy form. (Winner's choice). Enter below to win!

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