Congratulations to Alison (agboss) who won Susanne Dietze's The Reluctant Guardian!

Congratulations to Elise Jehan who won a copy of The Secret Admirer Romance Collection!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Counterfeit Cowboy

by C.J. Chase

What happens when an unreformed con man falls for his next mark?

Lacy Williams’ debut Marrying Miss Marshal was a shelfmate to my first book, so I was happy to read her latest, coming out in December. While Counterfeit Cowboy is a follow-on to Marrying Miss Marshal, the book stands alone. In fact, I didn’t realize the two were connected until very late in Counterfeit Cowboy.

From the back cover:

From the moment Jesse Baker collides with Erin O'Grady on a Boston train platform, he faces a dilemma. For once, Jesse doesn't want to lie about who and what he is. Yet if she learns he's a con artist, not a cowboy—and the urchin with him is certainly not his brother—she'll never give him a chance.

Erin suspects there's more to the enigmatic cowboy than meets the eye. But the sheltered socialite is certain his deep compassion is real. On the long Christmastime train ride to Wyoming, hearts and courage are tested and true motives revealed. And the journey that began in a charade may end with redemption—and a very real love.

Counterfeit Cowboy is really Jesse’s story in that he has the furthest to travel, and I don’t mean just on the railroads. Jesse has made many mistakes—mistakes that have sucked him further and further into the abyss.

Set in 1890, the story begins with fresh-out-of-prison Jesse Baker needing to travel immediately from Boston to Chicago, but he has no money, no friends, no family to speak of. While he’d like to leave his old ways behind, he needs money for train fare. Now. Unfortunately, as a man who spent his life on the streets and in prison, he lacks the knowledge and skills to acquire funds honestly. Earning the money legally—assuming he could even find someone willing to overlook his past and hire him—would take more time that he can spare. And so he determines he must resort to his old scams.

But a last minute act of compassion causes him to lose his best shot at a quick hit—and brings him into Erin O’Grady’s sphere. Erin is everything Jesse isn’t: wealthy, honest, a person of deep faith. The two of them, along with an orphan named Pete, set off on a mid-December trek from Boston to Wyoming by way of Chicago. Despite her faith, Erin suffers from the insecurities she developed as an overprotected daughter. Can Jesse truly change, and even if he does, will Erin be willing to forgive when she learns the man in the cowboy costume is just another street hustler?

What I liked most about Counterfeit Cowboy is that Williams doesn’t offer an easy solution to Jesse’s and Erin’s dilemma. Through much of the book I had some qualms about Jesse’s transformation and whether I’d believe a happily-ever-after ending for this couple. Without giving anything away, let me just say, “Finish the book.” Williams adequately addressed my concerns by the end.

As to whether the counterfeit cowboy ever becomes the real deal…well, you’ll just have to read the book and find out for yourself.

Question for you: how difficult do you find it to change the behavior patterns that developed over the years?

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. Her next book, The Reluctant Earl, will be available  February 5, 2013. You can visit C.J.'s cyber-home (where the floors are always clean) at

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Sight Unseen

by Barbara Early

Now that Thanksgiving is over, the holiday shopping season begins in earnest--not that it even waited for Thanksgiving to be over this year. It seems as soon as the turkey is cleared off the table, thankfulness is forgotten, and the mad dash to accumulate more stuff begins.

Now, like most people, I do buy gifts for a small group of family and friends--and I’ll admit to taking advantage of the markdowns to purchase things for the home, But I loathe crowded stores. So I’ve reverted to online shopping. Cyber Monday works great for me. I can sit in the couch in my jammies, steaming cup of coffee in one hand, while I click from store to store, department to department, filling virtual shopping carts. In a few days, a doorbell and a large thump alert me that the poor UPS and/or FedEx man (yes, they have met in my driveway) has dropped another load. Since I live in a rural area, and it’s a drive to the stores, I figure it saves me both time and money.

The dining set from Amazon
Sometimes there’s a little trepidation buying things sight unseen. Will those towels be as soft as the reviewers suggested they were? (Yep, they’re great.) Will that inexpensive dining room set be as lovely and as sturdy as the picture and reviews say? (Absolutely--my largest sight unseen purchase to date, and it’s wonderful.) Will those energy efficient light bulbs arrive unbroken? (Not a chance. Mailed those shards of glass right back.)

I have friends who never shop online. Too dangerous, they say. They want to be able to see and touch and smell the items they’re buying ahead of time. And that’s OK, I guess.

Now, you might be wondering why I’m talking about internet shopping on a day when we generally blog about faith. I’m getting there.

In the New Testament, shortly after Jesus’ death, the disciples met in an upper room--to console each other and discuss the reports that some had seen Jesus alive. When Jesus appeared to them, they were afraid at first, but later joyful.

But one disciple wasn’t with them. Thomas.

And when the other disciples gave him the joyful news, Thomas’s alarms went up. Too good to be true. He said, “Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

Something makes me think Thomas wouldn’t have made a good internet shopper.

When Jesus appeared to the group again, eight days later, Thomas was there this time. Jesus said to Thomas, “Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.”

Now Thomas believed, but Jesus went on to say, “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”

See, faith isn’t seeing. Faith is believing even when you can’t see--especially when you can’t see.  2 Corinthians 5:7 says, "For we walk by faith, not by sight:"

Now, Paul wrote that to the Corinthian church. This was a Gentile church, and most people had learned of Christ second and third and fourth-hand. They’d never seen him or heard him, met only a few who had, and didn’t, at that point, even have a fully complete Bible to read about him.

And yet they believed--not only trusting Christ for salvation, but even suffered persecution for that faith.

Now it’s OK to be a little nervous while trusting God--if that even makes sense. God can help our unbelief if that’s what we want. But as Christians, we need to do a lot of believing sight unseen. We believe God exists, even though we’ve never seen Him. We believe Christ was born of a virgin, lived a perfect life, never sinned, yet died for our sins--even if we never witnessed any of that personally. We believe we have a home in heaven waiting for us, even though we have only the vaguest of descriptions. And that Jesus will one day return for us, but we don’t know when.

But personally, we also trust him to guide our paths, to reign victoriously in our lives in spite of our circumstances, to help us deal with the difficulties of life and even deal with other people. We know He will direct us as we make decisions and He will comfort us in distress.

All sight unseen.

Question: Do you shop online or prefer stores? Buy anything Black Friday or Cyber Monday? And more seriously, what are you trusting God for?

Barbara Early grew up buried in the snowy suburbs of Buffalo, NY, where she developed a love for all things sedentary: reading, writing, classic movies, and Scrabble. She holds a degree in Electrical Engineering, but her penchant for the creative caused her to run away screaming from the pocket-protector set. Barbara cooks up cozy mysteries with a healthy dose of comedy and sometimes a splash of romance. Her holiday novella, Gold, Frankincense, and Murder was released in e-book format from White Rose Publishing in December 2011. A three-book cozy series from Berkley (Penguin) is slated to be released starting in spring 2014 under the pen name Beverly Allen.You can learn more about her writing at

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Merry Little Christmas from Anita Higman

Jen AlLee here, extending a big Inky welcome to author Anita Higman. Anita's giving away a copy of her new Christmas novel. Details for entering are at the end of the post.

What inspired you to incorporate Jim Crow laws and segregation into your book?
Even though A Merry Little Christmas is really a love story, I felt it needed some additional conflict, and some of the racial struggles of the 60s seemed to be the right choice for this particular plot. I grew up in the 60s, and I was always interested in the African-American Civil Rights Movement. In some ways I feel I’ve waited my whole life to write this book. It came easily to me in that it’s been percolating in my imagination for a long time, but it was also hard to write because I had to consider more deeply the injustices of that era. Even though it sounds like a cliché, A Merry Little Christmas truly was the book of my heart.

The farm scenes seem pretty realistic. Did you grow up in the country?
I did. While the small towns in the book are totally fictitious I did grow up on a wheat, cattle, pig, and chicken farm in Western Oklahoma, and it was pretty much identical to the one in the novel. If the farm scenes seem realistic it’s because I got to know farm life quite well before I moved off to college at eighteen.

Franny and Charlie come from very different backgrounds, but are both looking for something very different from the way they've grown up. Do you think as humans, we all just have a "grass is always greener on the other side" mentality?
Yes, that is a human frailty that is easy to succumb to, and I’ve been guilty of it as well. But God is good about reminding me that he’s placed me on my own unique life-road, and it may have little to do with anyone else’s journey. Besides, in many cases when we get a closer look at someone else’s “lush green grass” it usually turns out to be turf.

Do you think that sometimes we don't pray for what we want because we are afraid of getting what we pray for?
Perhaps that’s true, which would explain why Franny is equally nervous and excited about the sudden answer to her prayers.

Was there a reason you added the themes of Christmas and music to the story?
My editor asked me to add those elements, and it was a blessing, since Christmas is my favorite time of year, and I love music. Also, female readers in general love novels that are set during the holidays, and I’m hoping the music adds a cozy feel to the overall Christmas theme.

What is your favorite Christmas song?
“The Holly and the Ivy.” The song has a melancholy feel to it, but it’s also beautifully sweet. I love the “Currier and Ives” style pictures my imagination conjures up when I’m listening to it.

What is your favorite Christmas tradition?
I love to have my gal friends over for brunch around Christmastime. I have been collecting tea dishes for many years, and so when I do a brunch, I go all out. Women are usually in a service mode most of their lives so when they come to my house I want them to feel wonderfully pampered. And by the time they leave, I hope their hearts are a little merrier and they feel we’ve celebrated Christmas well!

Is Franny's character based on any "real life" person?
Franny is like me in some ways, but she has a lot more courage than I have and more laughter in her heart. So, really, I want to be Franny when I grow up.

Does the song "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" have a special significance to you?
The song makes me swoon it’s so romantic and lovely. It makes me think of being snowed-in with the man I love. Of course, that scene also needs a mountain cabin with a crackling fire and two mugs of wassail.

You have written everything from romance to suspense/thrillers to nonfiction. What is your favorite genre to write?
I love inspirational romance. There’s just nothing else like it for writing and reading. It naturally makes you want to curl up on an overstuffed couch and read the day away.

Win the Book
Anita is generously giving a copy of A Merry Little Christmas to one lucky reader. To enter, please leave a comment to the post along with your email address. The winner will be chosen at random on Friday, November 30th.

About the Book
Fall in love with this cozy story about two people from different worlds. Franny Martin is an Oklahoma farm girl who’s preparing to spend the holidays alone…again. Then Charlie Landau shows up one day, all wealth and polish, and offers to buy Franny’s farm. Franny has no money to speak of, but she is clever and spirited, and she’s more than happy to sell the farm and move to the city.

As Sinatra croons from the radio and Christmas descends upon her charming farm, Franny teaches Charlie the curious and sometimes comical ways of country life. In the process, they unearth some discoveries of the heart—that sometimes love comes when you’re least ready for it. Will the holidays bring their most impossible dreams within reach?

About the Author
Best-selling and award-winning author, Anita Higman, has over thirty books published (several coauthored) for adults and children. She’s been a Barnes & Noble “Author of the Month” for Houston and has a BA degree, combining speech communication, psychology, and art. Anita loves good movies, exotic teas, and brunch with her friends.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

War of 1812 Groupie Post #3

Our War rages on.
While you go about your business in 2012, those of us travelling the parallel world of 1812 watch November fade away and with it, the first six months of war between Great Britain and the United States.

Last week, Anita Mae Draper brought you the story of Canadian Heroine Laura Secord  (She and I enjoyed a lively discussion on the war and patriotism and chocolate.)

New York State map showing the St. Lawrence River at the north, and Lake Champlain along the state's northeast border.  Lakes Ontario and Erie were a major theater of operation for the navies of 1812. Sacket's Harbor is on the extreme eastern shore of Lake Ontario.
Winning supremacy on Lake Ontario meant starving your enemy’s forts of munitions, food and soldiers.  A ship on Lake Ontario had to be built on Lake Ontario because the St. Lawrence and Niagara were impassable before the construction of canals and locks.

At the time war was declared in June of 1812, the U.S. Navy had one vessel on Ontario, the Oneida. President Madison called on Isaac Chauncey, experienced and proven Commodore of the New York harbor Naval Yard to create a naval presence on the Lakes Erie, Ontario and Champlain.
 Commodore Isaac Chauncey was a well respected naval commander before he became the driving force in the United States' presence on the Great Lakes during the War of 1812

Chauncey got by with a little help from his friends.

Chauncey, along with shipwrights, builders, sailors and officers from New York traveled rivers, portaged across land, barged across lakes and poorly constructed canals to Lake Ontario to sail (hoping not to encounter the enemy) to Sacket’s Harbor, a tiny shipping village with a deep harbor, on the eastern shore of Lake Ontario. Much of the supplies from the NY shipyard were sent to Sacket's.
Sacket's Harbor map circa 1814  on the far eastern shore of Lake Ontario,
just south of the mouth of the St. Lawrence River.

Chauncey arrived on October 6th 1812. His predecessor on Ontario, M. T. Woolsey, had purchased and refitted merchant ships into sloops of war. Commmodore Chauncey needed his friend, the famed shipwright, Henry Eckford’s to complete his next ship, the Madison  before winter.

Normally, this meant finding the right trees, cutting them, transporting them, letting them age. It was a rigorous, time-consuming process to make a tree into a ship. Shipwrights created each rib of the ship's body from pieces of curved wood pinned together. Given the shape of a ship’s bow, midships and stern, this was a long process. Then they covered the “ribs” with planking, (again, curved), and the process of installing decks, masts, storage compartments, rudder,  guns and more.

 After launch, interior work was completed while the rigging was installed. Hundreds of yard of various sized rope was used for the sales. Hundreds of yards of canvas was sewn together to create its sails.

Incredibly, the US Madison was launched in November of 1812, barely six weeks from scratch instead of a normal six months to a year or more.

How did they do it?
The large, curved frames, the 'ribs' were created by pinning smaller, overlapping pieces together to fit a ‘mold’. Eckford used frame pieces constructed in NY’s navy yards, probably using existing wooden molds to ensure the consistent size and curve of each piece. These pre fabricated pieces were then shipped using the same laborious waterways and land trails, but overall saved time in the Sacket’s harbor shipyard.
Scotsman by way of Canada... Shipbuilder Henry Eckford might have been the greatest shipbuilder in the world for all his significance to the U.S. Navy.

Eckford’s shipbuilders also used green wood rather than aged wood. This would severely shorten a ship’s life but the point was not to have an ‘old ship’ but ships on the water, able to win battles or at least intimidate the enemy. Those beautiful tall ships were only as important as the battles they won.

By the examination of scuttled ships and shipwrecks on Ontario’s bottom, we now know more about how Eckford shocked his Canadian counterparts by his speed.  Some metal clamps were used in place of the wooden dowels (pins) traditionally used to force together the pieces of wood making up the frame.

With an amazing schedule of new ships and a larger, more experienced assembling of sailors and officers, Commodore Chauncey went into the winter of 1812/1813 with lake supremacy over the British on Lake Ontario. 

Not much happened during the winter.  Harbors often froze over, something many a salty sailor found shocking after years at sea. Do you have any idea what the weather is like in Sacket’s Harbor in the winter? Downwind of arctic winds from Canada, enhanced by hundreds of miles of open water?

As it so happens... I have been immersed deep into this world during the month of November where my fictional characters have walked the shipyard with Eckford, nodded to the commodore's brother and watched the sun set over Lake Ontario.  All while anticipating enemy ships on the horizon.

This is a photo I took in September of the Brig Niagara departing Buffalo.
Be warned. I have a lot more War of 1812 thoughts to come.  See Posts #1 (an intro) and #2 (Battle at Fort Erie)  if you'd like.

Besides watching Jethro Gibbs build a boat in his basement on NCIS, 
have you seen any ships or boats in process? I'm including a link to a time lapsed video of a traditional boat building to give you some idea what what I mean by "ribs" if you are interested. The video is not short but you can skip through it.

Debra E. Marvin tries not to run too far from real life but the imagination born out of being an only child has a powerful draw. Besides, the voices in her head tend to agree with all the sensible things she says. Debra likes to write, weed and wander and is blessed to have the best family and friends in the world. She has decided she needs to live closer to her grandchildren. She’s thankful each day that God is in control, that He chooses to bless us despite ourselves and that He has a sense of  humor. Her work has finaled in the TARA, Great Expectations, Heart of the Rockies, Maggie, Rattler and most recently, the Daphne DuMaurier for the second time. Not too bad considering she’s trying a mashup of gospel and . . .  gothic.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Where do writers write?

by Niki Turner

When I was little I used to watch ants marching in and out of their anthill homes, bringing food for the colony or hauling out tiny particles of sand and soil as new "rooms" and tunnels were constructed. I wanted more than anything to be able to crawl into one of those tunnels and explore the underground chambers. Books with illustrations of rabbit warrens, fox dens, beaver dams, beehives and the secret interiors of other animal homes fascinated me.

As an adult, I find myself curious about the secret chambers of another kind of animal: writers.

Writing, as a profession, tends to be a fairly solitary activity. As such, pictures of famous writer's workspaces have been shared and posted and circulated for generations, satisfying our desire to peek into the creative processes and procedures of our favorite authors.

Here's a few...
Jane Austen's writing desk. Interesting article HERE.

Mark Twain's office (one of them) was in his billiard room. 

Charlotte Bronte's writing space.
Roald Dahl's writing shed. Lots more pictures HERE.
Robin Lee Hatcher's office space.

If you're a writer, where do YOU write?

Have you tried writing in a coffee shop, like J.K. Rowling? How about writing out-of-doors? Are you chained to your desk, or do you move around? Has anyone tried writing standing up (as Hemingway was said to do)? How much does your setting affect your creativity?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Sherlock Holmes


Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes

    Two days ago, Barbara Early gave us a fascinating post about Sherlock Holmes and his many incarnations.  And, truly, Holmes has been a quite popular character since Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created him in 1886, and there are a great many I enjoy.  But I have to admit I was surprised to see that Barb's post did not include the Sherlock Holmes, Jeremy Brett.
Granada's Television Series
    Brett played Holmes from 1984 through 1994 in the TV series of Sherlock Holmes adaptations produced by British television company Granada Television.  The first two seasons were titled The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.  Later came The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, The Return of Sherlock Holmes and The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes as well as five feature-length specials.  By the end of the series, Brett had played Holmes in 42 adaptations of Doyle's 60 Sherlock Holmes stories.  Quite a feat!
    One thing I particularly appreciate about these adaptations is that (with a few notable exceptions) they obviously take great pains to stay faithful to Doyle's stories.  Much of the dialogue is taken directly from Doyle's work, and the sets and costumes seem as if they could be from his time entirely.  And the closing credits are ornamented with the original illustrations used when the stories first appeared in The Strand Magazine.
Watson and Holmes from The Strand
    And, especially in the early episodes before his health began to decline, Brett looks very much like the lanky, hawk-faced Holmes of those illustrations.  He gives the character the calculated coldness one might expect, but there is also a fevered energy and poignancy to his performance.  His Watson, David Burke (and later Edward Hardwicke), is also much closer to Doyle's capable ex-soldier/physician character than the one portrayed in some adaptations (particularly the lovable but bumbling Nigel Bruce who was Watson to Basil Rathbone's Holmes in the films of the 1930s and '40s).
Holmes and Watson from the Television Series
    The series ended when Brett passed away due to heart failure in 1995.  But it seems likely that, since he had been seriously ill during the last of the series, he would not have continued anyway.  I am glad that he has left us such faithful and enjoyable adaptations of Doyle's stories.  For me, he will always be Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, the Sherlock Holmes.

Who's your favorite Sherlock Holmes?  Why?
Do you like adaptations of books that are extremely faithful or do you think film makers should make improvements as they see fit?

DeAnna Julie Dodson has always been an avid reader and a lover of storytelling, whether on the page, the screen or the stage. This, along with her keen interest in history and her Christian faith, shows in her tales of love, forgiveness and triumph over adversity. She is the author of In Honor Bound, By Love Redeemed and To Grace Surrendered, a trilogy of medieval romances, as well as Letters in the Attic and The Key in the Attic, contemporary mysteries. Her new series of Drew Farthering Mysteries will debut in the Summer of 2013 with Rules of Murder from Bethany House.  A fifth-generation Texan, she makes her home north of Dallas with three spoiled cats.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Wishes from the Inkwell

Well Wishes!
Songs of Praise!


May Your Thanksgiving Blessings Abound!