Congratulations to Jessica Bertrand, for winning our murder mystery game to receive a signed copy of For Whom the Bluebell Tolls!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Loving You Has Made Me Bananas

ramblings of the senior mind... by Debra E. Marvin

the older I get the more I think of younger days. The look back is much longer now than the look forward, but I'm not focusing on that. I think I just appreciate them more.  It's easy to forget the times of pain and worry and heartache. It's the lessons that have lingered. 

I find myself humming songs from my childhood, remembering funny things my grandmother did, and the many small ways I filled quiet days in my youth. I think this goes along with the age, of being a grandmother.  Goodness, being a mother leaves no time to look back, and maybe even to look at the day with any kind of focus!  Surely we all love time with our children, but we have a particular advantage when looking at our grandchildren. We get to experience the memories of our own children at those ages, and see both them and our grands with a more wizened eye.

You've heard it all. Life used to be simpler. I doubt that really, though it's absolutely true we didn't run to so many activities and feel so compelled to get the most out of every minute. Instead, the hard work of daily life was a smaller circle... more in tune with our home and our family.

There's not a lot of sadness in looking back. Regrets won't change a thing and thankfully all the good times seem to overshadow them.

Maya Angelou said 'I wouldn't give you nothing for the journey now'.  How true. While I'm the same girl who played alone in a barn, or cut out clothes for my trolls, listened to birds from my window, I'm a much wiser, satisfied version. 

I believe this particular nostalgia was brought on by the unearthing  a quilt I'd started when I was a teenager. I'm redecorating my sewing room/office spare room loft which prompts a good cleaning and organizing.
First of all, just the fact that I designed, cut and began to piece a quilt while a teenager makes me feel like I grew up in another century (yes I did, you're right, but I meant an even earlier one). I actually have a blanket half done and a granny square (crochet) collection for a second blanket. If there are teens out there who are doing these things now, I'd like to know.

And.. a couple of weeks ago, my family was going through some old photos. I'm the only one who knows who half those people are in my mother's collection. I better start making notes, huh? 

Do any of you have these moments of nostalgia?  Are they punctuated by some song that hasn't been on the radio decades? I think I know as many songs from the 40s and 50s as I do from the 60s. Only because I learned them from my mother. 

Can you share one with us? I need to get "Loving you has made me Bananas" out of my head!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

An Unscripted Courtship

By Lisa Karon Richardson

The seed idea for this series sprouted when I was reading an excellent biography of Emily Post by Laura Claridge. She mentioned this semi-magical sounding place called Tuxedo Park, and I just knew that it could be the setting for some great novels.

During the Gilded Age the gap between the haves and the have-nots was growing larger by the day. Unlike English nobles, the American aristocracy had no more inherent rights, privileges, or standing than the common man. Being capitalist to the core, however, American industrialists, such as J.P. Morgan, John Jacob Astor, and Cornelius Vanderbilt, soon remedied this circumstance by making sure that they cornered the market on society and shunned parvenus by carefully listing those worthy of notice. 

In 1885, Pierre Lorillard IV had a vision. On his family’s 4,000 acres in the Ramapo Mountains forty miles north-west of New York City, he wanted to create an exclusive country retreat, where his society friends could gather in the spring and autumn for the manly sports of hunting and fishing and where ladies cold join them at dusk for dinner and conversation. No fences, only low stone walls that blended into the surrounding would separate properties. Property ownership in this exclusive club was the shining jewel that meant someone had “arrived.”  Newsprint pages pulsated with reports on the happenings in “Tuxedo Colony.” 
The imposing main gatehouse of Tuxedo Park

Mansions, described as cottages, dotted the skirts of the lake. Their manicured lawns perfect for croquet or badminton. A boathouse held everything from canoes to long boats for regattas. Stables housed some of the finest horseflesh in the country, and a private racetrack made it possible to turn even that to a profit. Stocked lakes and land provided abundant fishing and hunting. Tennis courts, golf links, bowling lanes, and hiking trails also offered their delights to residents.

The rebuilt Tuxedo Park Clubhouse after the original was destroyed in a fire.
Social life revolved around the Tuxedo Club. Built in a “rustic” style by Bruce Price, father to Emily Price Post, who also owned property on the grounds, the Clubhouse was an architectural triumph perfectly suited to the setting. Sunset teas were held on the glass-enclosed veranda. Weekly orchestral concerts entertained the residents from a stage occupying one end of the stunning, circular ballroom. The stage also housed all the necessary accoutrements for producing amateur theatricals, which were regularly enjoyed. The most sought-after debutantes of every season came out at the Autumn Ball, a glittering event which was held each year around the first of November—a time when the forest itself looked dazzling in its flame-colored gown of autumn leaves. The debutantes launched at Tuxedo Park were expected to make brilliant matches.

Despite the opulence, life in the Tuxedo Park could be stultifying both to those who grew up with access to the park as part of their birthright, and the men and women who served them. The relationship between the Park property owners and renters and those from the Town followed strict class lines so that there was always a barrier to understanding between the wealthy socialites and the country workers.

And yet there were some who challenged the status quo, who decided there might be something more to life than social status. Life growing up in Tuxedo Park eventually enabled Emily Post to write, “Thus Best Society is not a fellowship of the wealthy, nor does it seek to exclude those who are not of exalted birth; but it is an association of gentle-folk, of which good form in speech, charm of manner, knowledge of the social amenities, and instinctive consideration for the feelings of others, are the credentials by which society the world over recognizes its chosen members.”

The stories in THE TUXEDO PARK series feature four heroines determined not to allow the Park rules ruin their chances for love. An Unscripted Courtship is the third in the series and it just released in January!

The play's the thing when a resident of Tuxedo Park wants to produce a re-imagined Shakespearian script in an amateur theatrical. The play was written by Julia Wren, the daughter of the local ice cream parlor owner. She reluctantly agrees to see her play on the stage, but her reluctance quickly erodes as she works closely with Robert Malcolm, one of the park's most notorious playboys. He makes his interest in Julia clear, but attractive though he is, she knows park dandies only marry girls of their own class. Parting is such sweet sorrow until a script is burned, then props start going up in smoke. When the attacks become more personal, Robert and Julia must cross the social divide in order to catch an arsonist before someone is seriously injured. As the bard said, “love ever runs before the clock.”

You can read the first chapter on my website here or exercise blind faith and buy a copy here.

The first two in the series tell the story of some of the other Park occupants during the same rather eventful year. The Honorable Heir by Laurie Alice Eakes can be purchased here. The Marshal's Pursuit by Gina Welborn can be obtained here.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Writing Myth #2 Called by God to Write

 by Gina Welborn

After being involved in numerous writing groups over the last decade, I've noticed a difference between Christian and non-Christian perspectives. This post is not about faith,, sorta. This post is not about values. This post is not about language or sex in books.

It's about two myths I've repeatedly heard Christian writers tout as truths.

#1 Everyone Has a Book in Him/Her
#2 Called by God to Write

To read Myth #1, click here.

So let's talk Myth #2.  
If God has called you to write, He will equip you. 

I've been struggling with this subject since I began writing fifteen years ago because what I heard as "truth" didn't feel right. And I wasn't sure what was wrong because how could it be wrong if all these spiritual people were saying it?

For the last four years, I've attended the ACFW national conference and heard speakers, fellow writers, and industry professionals talk about "God's call to write." It's almost gained this spiritual mysticism because when someone says anything contradictory to it, there is an outcry, almost, of heresy.

Sometimes I'm tempted to ask, "Do you truly believe this, or are you saying this because you want to come across as being more spiritual? And if God calls people to write, then why not people to be truck drivers or pharmacists or farmers? Why isn't there a convention for farmers called by God to farm?"

I'm not saying I don't think God calls people to be writers, or to write specific things. It's the next step that this belief takes.

When God calls a person to write, then God will equip that person to write.

The equivalent of that is if God has called a person to be a doctor, then God will equip that person to be a doctor. Or if God has called a person to be an NFL quarterback, God will equip that person to be an NFL quarterback.

Do you want that person doing surgery on you? Do you think any NFL team will sign a guy solely because he says God has called him to quarterback?

Or maybe writers are just more special than other professions. I'm a writer. We're not.

Education, training, practice, and experience matter. And matter big.

I've met men and women who were "called by God" to preach. Were they great preachers? Not necessarily. Preaching well is more than delivery. You need to know how to write a good sermon, or else you're just an orator. A few people are naturally good orators. But oratory is a learnable skill. Writing a good sermon is a learnable skill. Preaching is a learnable skill.

When my husband was a music minister, ladies would tell him how God had called them to sing. Some sang well. Others . . . didn't. Just because you believe God had called you to sing does not mean you sing well, or that you deserve to be the lead soprano. And when they weren't chosen for a solo . . . .

The majority of people who talk about being "called by God" are Christian writers and people in the ministry.

A calling is not equal to skill.
Skill does not equal a calling.

The reality is, very few people are gifted-by-God writers who didn't have to read a craft of writing book or take a class on creative writing. Most writers are learned writers. Just like becoming a surgeon or a nurse is a learned process. But it seems I keep coming across fellow Christian writers who tout the importance of God's call to write, as if His call is equal to Samuel anointing the shepherd boy David.

Beyond that . . .

A call does not guarantee success.
Success does not require God's call.

There seems to be this unspoken belief that if God has called us to write, then He is obligated to get us published, make us best-selling authors, get us huge contracts, blah blah blah. Why not? We submitted to God's will. If this is His will, then shouldn't He make all things work for the good?

Clearly, God owes us success because He's called us to do this.

I've been writing for fifteen years. Never have I felt God's call to write. I started writing because of a challenge. I continue writing because I enjoy the end product. And for those who have experienced God's call, success in God's eyes is your obedience to what He's asked of you. Writers with God's call on their lives are not any better (or worse) than those without. And if God has truly called you to do something, then let your left hand not know what your right is about. Take time to think how your "testimony" comes across to others, both Believers and not.

To all who follow Jesus, we are given two commandments:

To love Him. To love others as we love ourselves.

As you do those two things . . .

Just write.
Just paint.
Just sing.
Just practice shooting hops.
Just sketch manga, buildings, and people.
Just take photographs.
Just run.
Just build.
Just drive.
Just play the tuba, violin, clarinet, drums.
Just study.
Just do accounting things.
Just sell insurance.
Just produce tv shows.
Just sew square-dancing dresses, quilts, and dog costumes.
(I would say just doctor, but I don't want to advocate cutting people or pets for the purpose of sewing them up.)

And if you feel God has called you to do something specific, then as long as it honors Him and doesn't harm others, then do it. And learn to do it well.

QUESTION OF THE DAY :: I recently watched Anna Karenina with Keira Knightly and Jude Law. Early in the movie one character says to Anna, "I would rather reach the end of my life wishing I hadn't done something than wishing I had."

What about you? And has there ever been a time when you know God called you to do something and you did/didn't do it?

Gina Welborn is the author of eight romances, including one ECPA bestseller and her newest release, Holly Daze, an Amazon bestseller in Christian Historical Romance and Short Reads. After a decade in Virginia, she now lives in Oklahoma with her pastor husband, their five Okie-Hokie children, and a slew of pets.

Friday, February 20, 2015

A Triumphant Tribute

by C. J. Chase
I had intended another post. I had supplies, camera, etc. all ready. All I needed was a bit of time. Alas, an annoying convergence of (1) Mom (yours truly) being sick when (2) weather closed school for a week while (3) Dad (spouse of yours truly) is working 3,000 miles from home rendered my best plans inoperable.

But you know, a quick glance at the news makes my problems wither to insignificance. If you paid any attention this week, you probably heard the horrifying account of 21 Christians beheaded for the “crime” of being Christians, whose last words were “Lord Jesus Christ.” I’m not going to post the infamous picture of them as they await their deaths. Instead, I’d rather you ponder a few words from Revelation 20:4.

and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshiped the beast…

Evil is powerful and real, but even though it seems to be carrying the day, it isn’t forever.  Just one chapter prior, in Revelation 19, the Apostle John recorded Lord Jesus Christ’s triumphant victory over the beast--and that is forever. Handel set the words to some of the most famous music ever composed.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus. (Revelation 22:20).

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Write Canada and other Summer Plans

by Anita Mae Draper

It's a cold February day and although the sun is still low at its apex, it's brighter than it's been for months. A seed catalogue  arrived in last week's mail. And I'm coming out of a slump that had me hiding through Jan and carried into Feb. But spring is on its way and my Inky blogmates are already talking about this year's conference schedules.

I've made up my mind. I'm going east. Yep, I've decided to take in the Write Canada conference June 11-13 in Toronto, Ontario. Hosted by The Word Guild, Write Canada is billed as Canada's largest Christian Writers' Conference. Several of the faculty members are familiar to me, and I know a bunch of other Canadian authors who will probably go. That helps as this will be my first time attending.

So why did I choose a conference with a couple hundred attendees instead of the two thousand who will be attending RWA in New York this year?

Simple... I get to drive. I get to drive through the beautiful, rocky Canadian Shield where the scent of trees leaves me dizzy with memories. I get to drive through places I love, places I was grew up in, places that make me feel like I've come home.

TransCanada Hwy 1 near the Manitoba/Ontario border, 2013

In Aug 2013 my sister Bonnie and I took a wild ride into Ontario which I then blogged about in Memories of Rocks, Trees, and Lakes. Of course, there are lots of other pics in the post, but that title just about sums it up. Our journey took us 4,000 kilometres (2,500 miles) in 8 days.

This time I won't be rushed. At least, that's not the plan. Yes, I'll stop to visit relatives along the way like I usually do, but this time I will go way farther. At least an extra day travel  - 2 if I stop to take pics. And you know me and my camera...

I'm going to drive past my first military posting at CFB North Bay - it's the place where Nelson and I met, married, and celebrated out first child.

Nelson holding Crystal under the North Bay Gateway of the North Arch, 1979

An hour south, and I'll enter the area where much of Nelson's heritage comes from. Since we've been working on his family tree for our kids, I'm going to use this time to visit as many museums, libraries, and cemeteries as I can. And relatives. At least one cousin has offered their home to me and then threatened me if I didn't stay. I'm getting excited to see her again since it's been at least thirty years since I've been in that area. Yeah, I know... a long time between visits.

Once I'm near Toronto, I would love to make a sidetrip down to Niagara Falls. It was another one of the places Nelson and I visited when we got news of our imminent posting to the West. While looking through the photos of that trip where we hauled around our little Scamper trailer, I saw this one and realized it was our first 'selfie'.

Anita, Nelson, and Crystal Draper, 1979, Niagara Falls, Ontario. 

On Feb 5th I blogged about the 1912 Niagara Falls Ice Bridge over on the HHHistory blog and all that research sure brought back the memories. In this next photo, I'm standing beside the Horseshoe Falls looking downriver toward Laura Secord's homestead - a few miles away. You can see the Bridal Veil, and then the American Falls on the right, and then the Observation Tower. On the left is the Canadian Skylon Tower. Between them spans the Niagara Falls International Rainbow Bridge.

Looking downriver from the Horseshoe Falls with the Bridal Veil and
American Falls on the right, 1979, Niagara Falls, Ontario. Photo by Anita Draper.

I'm showing this because Inkies Barb and Deb both live in New York and we're discussing where we can meet. I hate to admit that I don't know exactly where they live, so Niagara Falls might be out of their way, but it would be a quick jaunt across the Rainbow Bridge - foot traffic - if we decide to meet here. If they're closer to the eastern end of Lake Ontario, that would be okay too, because I'd love another gander at Old Fort Henry in Kingston. Really, it doesn't matter where we meet - I just want to spend time with them.

Here are some other things I'd like to do:
- Ride the Portage Flyer Steam Locomotive, Huntsville*
- Cruise Muskoka or Lake Simcoe in a steamboat*
- Ride a moose on the 1908 Herschell-Spillman carousel, North Bay
- Take a one-day Apprentice Workshop at Black Creek Pioneer Village, Toronto

*This was something common back in the days of Nelson's grandparents, which was often referred to in their letters and in the local paper. A 127 year old steamboat still cruises the Muskoka district, and although I'm not sure what type is on Lake Simcoe, the location has to do with a future story and I really think a lake cruise will help my research. 

There are too many things I'd like to do, and I still need to figure out if I want to do my visiting before Write Canada or after. Usually, I'm too busy before a conference preparing my pitch, paperwork, and wardrobe. Yet afterwards, I'm keyed up and anxious to get back to my writing. 

And it will be a lo-o-o-o-ng way back!

What do you think? Should I play the touristy researcher before or after?

I'll sign off with one more photo I took on that long ago trip to Niagara Falls...

Horseshoe Falls, Niagara Falls, Ontario, 1979. Photo by Anita Draper


Anita Mae Draper is retired from the Canadian Armed Forces and lives on the prairie of southeast Saskatchewan, Canada with her hubby of 30 plus years and the youngest of their four kids. Anita's stories are set, but not limited to the western prairies. She is blessed to be included in Guideposts Books A Cup of Christmas Cheer collection. Anita is represented by Mary Keeley of Books & Such Literary Management. You can find Anita Mae at

Monday, February 16, 2015

Pre-Publication Panic

by Susanne Dietze

Earlier this month, I received the galley edits for my first publication, novella Love's Reward in The Most Eligible Bachelor Collection. The galley is a final proof of the book, laid out as it will appear in print (mine came electronically as a pdf file). Galley edits are the last chance an author has to change any little typos before the book is published.

Exciting times. Seeing the story like this, like a REAL BOOK, is enough to make me cry. It's gorgeous. It's real. It's big time.

Coming May 1! Find it on Amazon.
And it's also a bit daunting. Because ugh, did I really write that awkward sentence? And oh dear, can I rewrite the whole thing?

The answer to that last question, of course, is NO. This is the time to find missing apostrophes, not change the plot.

Oh man. I am the worst writer ever. I shouldn't even be allowed to write checks. Blah blah blah.

Time to get a grip, Self. If one of my friends came to me with these sorts of jitter-induced blatherings, I'd tell her this:
  • This story was critiqued by capable, experienced, smart people.
  • This story was edited by professional people.
  • You need to take a deep breath, honey. You've got a good case of Pre-Publication Panic.
The bottom line is, no book outside the Bible is perfect. (Well, Pride & Prejudice is pretty close, but you know what I mean.) I have made mistakes in this story, and I will make mistakes again in every story I ever write. That isn't the point. The point is, God saw fit to allow this story to go out into the world.

Which reminds me of what I wanted in the first place:

To write the stories God put on my heart, with the hope that someone out there is blessed, comforted, or encouraged by it. Just one person.

Because I've been that person before whose heart was blessed, comforted, encouraged, and, yep, even changed by a romance novel.

So there you have it. My imperfect offering. So I need to get over myself and let God do with it what He wills.

Who is this guy? Why, he's Daniel Blair, the story's hero. And he looks nice in a tuxedo, yes?

Josie, our heroine, has so much on her mind as she bustles around San Francisco. Ooh, I like her little reticule.

I should note that I received the galley of the entire book and oh my goodness, you all are in for a treat. The eight other stories in the collection look fantastic (our own Gina Welborn's story is adorable!). I haven't read every word of the other 8 stories because I've been spending time with Daniel and Josie, my characters, but I've peeked at them. And WOW!

Do you have an offering you're hesitant to give because it's not perfect?

Susanne Dietze writes historical romance. You can learn more about her on her website,

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Kissing Question

by Dina Sleiman

Hi friends. I had planned to use my February post to share a little about my upcoming Valiant Hearts Series, but I didn't realize it would fall so close to Valentine's Day. So I decided to share about a romantic element of the series, which is releasing soon. Enjoy and Happy Valentines Day!

While writing my YA medieval/adventure romance novels, I faced a bit of a moral conundrum. Should I include kissing in books geared toward Christian teens? I don’t think that kissing should be done recreationally or taken lightly. Therefore, in today’s culture, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that sixteen and seventeen-year-olds jump on the kissing bandwagon, and I certainly wouldn’t want younger teenage readers to think that I’m encouraging them to experiment with kissing.

On the other hand, I’m not sure that the “purity” and “courtship” fanatics have gotten this issue right either. Song of Solomon recommends that young women not “awake love before it pleases.” This is smart. Before a young innocent woman becomes awakened sexually, it is pretty easy to stay pure. Once that awakening process has begun, usually through kisses and embraces, it becomes more challenging to maintain godly morals. 

However, I don’t think the honeymoon night is the right time to BEGIN that awakening process either. For one thing, it’s just too late and too much pressure on a bride. In addition, I think that before you make a permanent decision like marriage (among other more important issues) you should at least take into consideration the level of physical attraction. While it is wise to base a relationship on a strong friendship, there also needs to be that reasonable spark of attraction or else marital intimacy could be very awkward. If there is no physical contact (i.e. kissing), that can be hard to assess. So I would say that once you start seriously dating with an eye towards marriage, perhaps in your late teens or early twenties, and once the friendship is on solid ground, kissing is fine. (Okay, let's fact it, kissing is great!)

Which brings me back to my medieval series. The medieval culture was different from our culture today. Girls typically married during their teen years, and my heroines are clearly headed in that direction. So my final decision was that they needed to experience some kisses with their potential mates, and that it would be appropriate to include a bit of kissing in my books. 

Besides, everyone loves a good kiss!

P.S. For a good balanced perspective on the concerns surrounding kissing, check out this article. I especially like the way they continually encourage you to seek guidance from the Holy Spirit. 

What are your views on kissing? Have you been exposed to any of the anti-kissing or courtship hype? How did you feel about it?
Dauntless by Dina Sleiman 
Officially releases March 3
Print Version Available on Amazon Now!

Where Legend and History Collide,
One Young Woman Will Fight for the Innocent

Born a baron's daughter, Lady Merry Ellison is now an enemy of the throne after her father's failed assassination attempt upon the king. Bold and uniquely skilled, she is willing to go to any lengths to protect the orphaned children of her former village--a group that becomes known as "The Ghosts of Farthingale Forest." Merry finds her charge more difficult as their growing notoriety brings increasing trouble their way.

Timothy Grey, ninth child of the Baron of Greyham, longs to perform some feat so legendary that he will rise from obscurity and earn a title of his own. When the Ghosts of Farthingale Forest are spotted in Wyndeshire, where he serves as assistant to the local earl, he might have found his chance. But when he comes face-to-face with the leader of the thieves, he's forced to reexamine everything he's known.

Read a sample of Dauntless
Pre-order at Christianbook
Pre-order at Amazon