Congratulations to Niki Turner on the release of her first novella, Sadie's Gift!!! Check it out here.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Sadie's Gift Release Party


SADIE'S GIFT is available as one of the short and sweet 
stories in the Christmas Traditions Series. 

99cents!  buy Now Ebook

Niki's first release has given us a chance to celebrate and throw a virtual party that's a little bit Christmas and a little bit dress-up party.  Think Colorado Springs, 1921 and a chilly Christmas Eve!  Pick something warm to wear, though you won't even have to go out in the cold! Just imagine blue skies, freshly falling snow and a coat your grandmother or great-grandmother would have worn.

Keeping it casual, ladies. "This old thing?"
Our heroine Sadie Hubbard is a nurse at a Preventorium where children faced the possibility they'd contracted or would contract Tuberculosis. Niki introduced us to this world in her Inkwell post about Preventoriums, Sanitariums and Tuberculosis.

Hero Nathan Wells has lost a brother to this terrible disease and is on his way back home. Guess what? He doesn't make it out of the city before fate and Father Christmas (and Father God) do a little number on his heart.

1920s Colorado Springs
It might be worth going out in the snow just to wear these boots!

I have photos of my grandmother looking somewhat similar. hmmm. I think I'll borrow this outfit!
We're staying with simple homey comfort foods, so come in out of the cold and join us as we celebrate SADIE'S GIFT! Two other Inkies,Gina Welborn and Jennifer AlLee  (as well as other friends) have novellas in the Christmas Traditions series, so I'm already picking my cookie recipes for our cookie exchange. 

Not sure how this gentleman, Ryan Paevey, found himself serving hot chocolate, but he assures us it's the real deal, creamy whole milk, cocoa powder and sugar.   YUM!  I seem to be spilling my cocoa. Sorry.

This is the real deal pudding too. More chocolate! Stove top made with scalded milk, separated eggs... nothing like it! Go ahead and try it. Granny will let you lick the spoon!

Please join us in congratulating Niki and while you're at it, will you consider donating some toys to children in hospitals in your area?

For more on Niki Turner, visit her personal blog IN TRUER INK, and her Pinterest Page for Sadie's Gift.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Got Cukes? Make Relish

by Anita Mae Draper

Back before I was writing as a profession, Sept always brought kitchen counters full of preserving jars - empty or full or both. Now with only our youngest at home, I'd rather use my time crafting stories and working on genealogy than spending hours stressing over anti-garden-growing weather followed by hours of cleaning and preparing produce and jars. Since my husband was raised without a garden and the season of preserving which followed it he never understood my 'hoarding food' passion when we could buy everything we wanted in the store. This meant it wasn't a big loss when I quit.

But sometimes I miss it.

I love walking into the kitchen during the pickle-making process and being hit with the smells of garlic, vinegar, and spices.

The canning recipes I used most often which resulted in awards at local fairs, were:

  • Apple Pie Filling
  • Apple Jelly
  • Crabapple Jelly
  • Green Tomato Mincemeat (vegetarian)
  • Green Relish
  • Spiced Pickled Beets 

I used the Apple Pie Filling recipe mainly when we lived in Eastern Ontario where there was an abundance of apple trees.

The Crabapple Jelly was a mainstay in our family until the last few years. We still have 2 varieties of crabs, but now I love watching the birds eat them while on their long migration southward.

Green Tomato Mincemeat makes wonderful holiday tarts while using up all those green tomatoes that aren't good enough to ripen between layers of newspapers. Our summers are very short.... the summer of 2014 arrived last Sunday and lasted a good eighteen hours. I'm kidding of course because we actually had one hot day in July and two more in August before the rain returned.

I received the Green Relish recipe from a French-Canadian neighbor, Marie Drouin, back in our Ontario days. I've always found the end result to be as good, if not better, as the sweet green relish you buy at the grocers, providing safe food handling procedures are used.

ca 1990 Anita Mae Draper's garden and backyard, Casselman, Ontario

One day I visited Marie while she was working on her relish recipe and during her coffee break she kindly copied it out for me. With mounds of my own cukes waiting to be processed, I was so thankful to receive it I didn't question that it was written in French. I figured after all those years of taking French in school, I'd surely be able to translate it. But in those pre-internet days, I couldn't figure out how much graine de celere and moutarde poudre was called for in the recipe because it was written as 2c. a the with the appropriate apostrophes going in both directions.  2 cups? It couldn't be.  2 tablespoons? More likely teaspoons.

But I needed to be sure, so I paid Marie another visit and while she talked, I scribbled the English translation on the recipe card as you see it below.

Green Relish Recipe Card Side 1

Green Relish Recipe Card Side 2

As you can see by the stains and marks, the recipe has been well-used. And that doesn't even include the times I used it after I wrote it into my recipe journal in case I lost the original card.

Please note that the best cucumbers for relish are the firm, smooth-skinned, dark green cucumbers that grow about 8-9 inches long and not the long slender English cucumbers, nor the small 2-4 inch pickling cucumbers. Some varieties of this cucumber have small spines (pricks) which are easily brushed off and are shown as white spots in the photo below. Cukes that are yellowing, soft, or shrivelling, do not make good relish.

I went to my photo files for a picture of the best type to use but the only example I have without searching through boxes of photos is this one that JJ entered in the Comic Character/Animal from Vegetables category in the Weyburn Fair when he was 6 years old. For those who don't know the characters from Big Idea's Veggie Tales, JJ's entry was Larry the Cucumber for which he received 2nd place.

6 yr old JJ's 2004 Weyburn Fair entry

Older brother Nick who was 9 yrs old at the time, entered another Veggie Tales character, Bob the Tomato, and snagged the 1st place ribbon which is Red up here in Canada. The only criteria for this category is that the character/animal be made from something grown, either in Canada or elsewhere. For both entries, the boys used mushrooms, raisins, vanilla bean, etc for the features.

9 yr old Nick's 2004 Weyburn Fair entry

This video has nothing to do with a Cucumber Relish recipe except for showing the size and type of cucumbers to use for best relish results. It's also a very silly song for your entertainment.

I'll be posting a transcript of this recipe, over on my website's Recipe Blog which is woefully out of date and needed something current to give it new life.

Do you preserve or can for the winter? What are your thoughts ... satisfaction when you see your shelves?  Or not worth the time and trouble?

Fun sharing time: What's your favorite Veggie Tales character or song?


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 4 kids. She writes cowboy stories set in the Old West, and Edwardian stories set in the East.  Anita Mae's short story, Riding on a Christmas Wish is published in A Christmas Cup of Cheer, Guideposts Books, October 2013. She is honored that Guideposts Books have chosen a second short story, Here We Come A-wassailing,  for inclusion in the 2014 Christmas Cheer II book set.   Anita Mae is represented by Mary Keeley of Books & Such Literary Agency. You can find Anita at

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Death and a new Darcy at Pemberley

Debra E. Marvin

As so often happens, many of our favorite costume dramas show first in the UK, and then months/years later, show up on US telly. Thankfully our friends at Masterpiece Theater feed  our need for British drama and I admit to being a Masterpiece snob.  Intellectually speaking, who doesn’t love the fact there are no commercials! 

Back in  2011, the well-known mystery author P.D. James ventured from her usual genre in an attempt to combine her love of Austen and murder by joining the ranks of Austen Fan Fiction-eers.  Hundreds of books have been written based on Austen characters.  I truly understand this.  Did Ms. James, now in her nineties, succeed?  It’s debatable.
I listened to Death comes to Pemberley, and it was my first taste of James’ writing. That was probably a mistake. She is the author of sixteen or so novels, mostly mysteries dealt with  by the character Adam Dalgleish.  I was expecting a rousing mystery so I hung in, interested, because 1) I wanted to find out how she produced the villain in the end, and 2) what the heck. The characters were people I knew… well, you know what I mean.

Then, in the fall of  2013, I learned that a 'mini-series' version was coming to the small screen. A new Elizabeth and D’arcy!  The fabulous Anna Maxwell-Martin was to be Elizabeth. That alone would have sold me. Last Christmas, the UK watched. The reviews were mixed, much like the book, but seemed to be liked, overall. 

Not long after reading (listening) to the book, I found the video online and watched it – all three parts, back-to-back.  In so doing, I saw many changes from the book and felt it was an improvement.  If you read it out of passion for Austen’s characters, you might be disappointed. Ms. James doesn’t flesh them out as we’d hoped, and even the mystery seemed a bit stodgy at times.  But the screen production had the luxury of giving the characters more life and manipulating the plot a bit.   I think it was a success, and even with reading the book and seeing the series, I will watch it again because I'm a sucker for costume drama and would never miss a visit to Pemberley!

Death Comes to Pemberley will be shown on Masterpiece starting Oct 25th.   Let me know what you think!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Building a Strong Foundation

By Niki Turner

One of my sons is going to be featured in an art show in Denver later this month. I bought my ticket, and noting the "cocktail attire" requirement, went shopping. (When you live in Western Colorado, "cocktail attire" means wearing jeans that don't have cow manure on them... but things are different on the Front Range!)

I found a dress, but right away determined the dress would need some "help" in the form of foundation undergarments, which got me to thinking about the importance of having a solid, sturdy foundation of faith.

Your foundation is your support system. It's what keeps you upright, what prevents you from wilting or bending or collapsing. As a 44-year-old mother of four and grandmother of 3, I have some jiggly bits and wiggly parts that need to be corralled in order to make my dress presentable to the public.

So it is with my faith... I have some jiggly bits, things I don't fully understand, some parts and pieces I haven't completely reconciled, that need a solid foundation.

Having a reliable foundation is crucial to having a faith that prevails over the circumstances life throws at us.

"These words that I speak to you are not mere additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundation words, words to build a life on." Luke 6:47 The Message

My husband worked as a contractor for a number of years. On every project I would question the length of time it took to get past the foundation and to the stuff I could see: walls, windows, doors, etc. It took more time to establish a sound foundation than it did to put up walls, install fixtures, or any other part of the construction process because the foundation was critical to the future success and longevity of the building.

The same is true of our faith. We need to dig deep and work the words of Jesus into the hidden parts of our lives: our thoughts and feelings and motives, the way rebar is worked into the foundation of a building.

Jesus instructed us to work the word into the very fabric of our lives, to make His teachings the central part of our day to day existence. When we do that, we can enjoy a foundation that is sturdy and strong enough to withstand any storm of life. So the next time you reach for your Spanx, or whatever foundation undergarment you rely on, remember, your faith needs a solid foundation, too. If it feels uncomfortably jiggly, go back to those foundation words.


Niki Turner is a novelist, journalist, blogger, and production manager for the Rio Blanco Herald Times in Meeker, Colorado. She lives on Colorado's Western Slope, blogs at and is a co-blogger at She is also the Colorado Coordinator for American Christian Fiction Writers. Her fiction blends the good news of God's love with come-as-you-are characters in stories that encourage and inspire. Her novella, "Sadie's Gift" is available on Kindle and Nook as part of the Christmas Traditions series. Her novella, "Santiago Sol" will be published by Pelican Book Ventures as part of the Passport to Romance collection at a date to be announced. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

When the Game Stands Tall

by C. J. Chase
Some years back—at about this time of year—a fellow Green Bay Packers fan and I were sitting in the church choir before practice discussing the relative strengths of the AFC and NFC when a man walked by. He paused, rather astounded, and said, “Women discussing football!” I sometimes think that could be the basis for a great country song—the things women discuss (like football) when men aren’t around that would totally shock them. 
World famous author C.J.
Chase holds signed book
while modeling Packer scarf.

Yes, it’s autumn again, so you know what that means: school buses are chugging down the road, leaves are changing their colors, and another another football movie has hit the theatres with all the predictability of a run up the middle.

First, let’s look at the typical sports movie. If you’ve ever had kids or even just ever been a kid, you know the formula. A team of misfits gets a down-and-out coach. After a disastrous start to the season, they learn to work together and go on to win the championship. See The Mighty Ducks (hockey), Angels in the Outfield (baseball), Facing the Giants (football), etc. Need more examples? Karate Kid (martial arts), Cool Runnings (bobsledding), Seabiscuit (horse racing), get the idea. There are variations, but the formula is basically the same with only the actors and the sports changing. One could say it’s a winning formula for movie studios. (Bad joke, I know.)

We took our boys to see When the Game Stands Tall two weeks ago. As a sports movie, it turns the formula upside down because the focus is on losing. Losing? But aren’t sports all about winning?

The movie is inspired by real events. For over a decade, from 1992 – 2003, De La Salle High School’s football team went undefeated, a record of 151 straight wins. (For comparison, the next longest winning streak in high school football is 109 games.) The problem was that the longer the streak lasted, the more pressure there was on the coaches and players. What team wanted to be the one that ended the streak?

Of course, eventually life came knocking as it always does. The coach had a heart attack. A player was murdered. And then, the team lost. Unlike the typical sports movie where underdogs make good, WtGST deals with the fallout of being stripped one’s identity as a winner. As someone who has seen a large number of sports movies (did I mention I’m a mom to three boys?) I found that far more impactful than another rah-rah, we-are-the-champions guy flick. Sooner or later, we all go through those times when everything we have built our identity on comes crashing down around us. What defines us is how we react in those moments. Do we give up, or can we pick ourselves up, learn from our mistakes, and begin again?

WtGST stars Jim Caviesel as Coach Bob Ladouceur and is another one of those movies that audiences have liked far better than the critics. (Currently on RottenTomatoes, 79% of viewers gave it a positive rating compared to just 17% of critics.) As one might expect, Hollywood took poetic license with some events to create drama (hence the “inspired by a true story” disclaimer) but Coach Ladouceur's son seemed pleased with the movie in an interview here.

The movie has a PG rating. We took our 7-year-old because he still has far to go in learning to be a gracious loser, but I think much of the movie was still a bit over his head. There are also a couple intense scenes (the coach’s heart attack, the player’s murder, an abusive father attacking his son) that may be inappropriate for very small children. De La Salle is a Catholic high school, so Christian faith elements are sprinkled throughout (the coach teaching a Bible passage, a player who talks about a “purity pledge,” the players reciting the Lord’s Prayer).

All in all, WtGST was an inspiring way to spend a couple hours on a rainy afternoon.

Do you like sports movies? Can you at least tolerate them for the men in your life? Do you have any favorites? (True confession: I think I still have to go with Miracle as my all-time fav even though I prefer football to hockey.)

After leaving the corporate world to stay home with her children, C.J. Chase quickly learned she did not possess the housekeeping gene. She decided writing might provide the perfect excuse for letting the dust bunnies accumulate under the furniture. Her procrastination, er, hard work paid off in 2010 when she won the Golden Heart for Best Inspirational Manuscript and sold the novel to Love Inspired Historicals. You can visit C.J.'s cyber-home (where the floors are always clean) at