CONGRATULATIONS!

Congratulations to Pam K., winner of Julianna Deering's new release, Murder on the Moor!

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

Congratulations to Deanna Stevens, Annie of Just Commonly and Trixi O...new owners of The American Heiress Brides Collection!

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Single Guy Reviews a Chick Flick: Leap Year

Guest blogger Calvin Chase

Hello, this is Calvin Chase, son of C. J. Chase, bringing you the second installment of my series, “Single Guy Reviews a Chick Flick." The premise of the series is simple: my mom chooses the movie, and I write the review. In the spirit of February 29, the movie under review today is appropriately titled Leap Year. Admittedly, I was a little apprehensive, considering how the last chick flick my mom picked (a drama) turned out, but from the moment the main character appeared on screen, I knew I would like this one.

The main character, Anna (played by one of my favorite actresses, Amy Adams), is a stager—a person who arranges a house to make it look as appealing as possible to potential buyers. Right off the bat, one thing is obvious about this woman: she is a control freak. For her, everything must have a plan, and every plan must go perfectly. Now Anna has heard from her best friend that her business partner/boyfriend is about to propose to her. Considering they’ve been dating for several years, she gets more than a little excited… which it makes it all the more disappointing when he gives her a pair of earrings rather than an engagement ring.

Tired of waiting for a proposal, Anna thinks about a story her father likes to tell. According to him, there is a tradition in Ireland where a woman can propose to a man on February 29. He claims that his Grandma Jane proposed to her boyfriend in such a manner and Dad’s been suggesting, with little subtlety, that Anna should do the same. Up until now, Anna had ignored her father’s urging, but with this latest disappointment fresh in her mind, she decides to do as her father suggests and “pull a Grandma Jane.”

Anna arranges to fly to Dublin, make preparations and meet up with her boyfriend, who’s already there on business. However, a storm diverts her plane to Cardiff (Wales) instead. After much hassling, she secures transport on a leaky tub to Ireland, and ends up in a pub in a backwater town a few hours drive from Dublin. As is the common clichĂ©, the barkeeper, a rugged man named Declan (Matthew Goode), does pretty much everything in the village, including run the inn and drive the “taxi." Anna hires Declan to take her and a suitcase he dubs Louis the rest of the way to Dublin.



Declan and Anna take an immediate disliking to each other (partly because Anna shorted out the town’s electricity when she tried to charge her cell phone), and amidst their constant bickering, their journey hits one snag after another. Several cows, car crashes and bar-fighting thieves later, however, the two start to gain a deeper understanding of each other. I dare not go into more detail than that for fear of spoiling the movie, but simply put, the two of them will fall in love before they reach Dublin—and the waiting boyfriend.




And now, the verdict. This movie is hilarious. There are, in my opinion, few things more amusing than watching a control freak with no control paired up with a cynical macho man. I will say, there were times where I felt that the romance seemed a tad bit forced, but even there, the movie does a pretty good job. This is definitely the kind of chick flick I think most men are likely to enjoy.


Thursday, February 25, 2016

Dressed for Death--the latest Drew Farthering Mystery!

RELEASE PARTY AND GIVEAWAY!
Woburn Abbey, the model for Winteroak House, the setting of Dressed for Death 


A Regency-Era Costume Party Should Have Been an Amusing Diversion, But it Seems Wherever Drew Farthering Goes, Mystery--and Murder--Are on the Guest List



Drew and Madeline Farthering arrive at a Regency-era house party at Winteroak House, excited to be reunited with old friends, including Drew's former Oxford classmate Talbot Cummins. Tal is there with his fiancée, Alice Henley, and though many present seem worried about the couple, nobody is prepared when Alice dies from an apparent overdose. Tal refuses to believe she'd taken the drugs intentionally, and a dark question arises of whether the death is an accident or murder.

The police have their own information though, and Drew is shocked when they arrest someone he's trusted and admired since his childhood--someone who's been smuggling drugs into the country for years. Stunned by what has happened, Tal begs Drew to get to the bottom of everything, but Drew has never felt more unsettled. Questioning his own ability to see people as they really are, Drew doesn't know whom to trust, and he's not ready for the secrets he's about to uncover--or the danger he'll bring down on everyone he holds dear.


"Christie fans now have Julianna Deering to add to their must-read list. Deering keeps readers on their toes guessing who-done-it in this well-plotted mystery."--RT Book Reviews



CONGRATULATIONS
JULIANNA!





The first three books in the series! Rules of Murder, Death by the Book, Murder at the Mikado

Gina, Susie, Julianna and Lisa gather today to celebrate the March 1st release of the 
fourth Drew Farthering novel!
Here they come now!
While we usually see Drew and Madeline dressed like this...
  

...we now have to imagine them dressed for a Regency house party. A lovely task it is!

The gown Madeline wears to the grand ball.
Please allow the footman to take your wrap, and join us in the drawing room (or the draring room), But... what's this? It seems our favorite couple can't go anywhere without a body showing up. Of course you won't be able to leave the house until the Detective Inspector has questioned you. At least the food is good!

If you recognized these treats, you're very perceptive (We're using the same baker as we have in the past!) We could use you to help solve this mystery! 
Might as well get comfy, like our friend Richard here... We're going to be here awhile.


Now, if you can keep your focus... Julianna is giving away a copy of Dressed for Death to one commenter (U.S. only please).  Let us know in the comment you want to be entered and answer this question:  A day at a Regency house party or a day at a 1930s house party. (Same house, different centuries)  What's your preference!  Let us know! Leave your email address in the safe from trolls:  such as Handsome (at) wow dot com


DRAWING DEADLINE is  MARCH 5, 2016

"I don't always dress up for Julianna's parties, but when I do,
I bring Rocky Road ice cream too.  I'm afraid I'm quite serious, yet I sense doubt."
Here's more on Julianna Deering:
she also writes as DeAnna Julie Dodson.

blogging... here on Inkwell Inspirations!

Dressed for Death bookmark. Free to readers for SASE to Julianna Deering, P. O. Box 375, Aubrey, Texas  76227
Dressed for Death notepad. Free to readers
(with bookmark and autographed bookplate) for SASE with 71 cents postage.





Monday, February 22, 2016

Release Party for The Cowboy's Bride Collection ~ and a Giveaway!


Yeehaw! Susanne here. Put on your cowboy hat and celebrate my upcoming release with me!


Ride onto the open range alongside cowboys and cowgirls who embrace the adventures of living in the Old West from Kansas to New Mexico, Colorado to Texas. Whether rounding up cattle or mustangs, training horses, fending off outlaws, weathering storms, competing in rodeos, or surviving drought these cowboys work hard each day. But when hardheaded men have their weaknesses exposed by well-meaning women will they stampede away or will a lasting love develop? Find out in this exciting collection of nine historical romances.

Welcome to the Party! Our hosts step straight from the pages of my novella, For a Song.

Jackson Bridge (Sam Reid):
Hero Jackson Bridge, after a tough day of breaking mustangs

Unidentified Girl with Ringlets, circa 1850's:
Jackson's daughter, Georgie, whose request caused a huge misunderstanding

Lily Kimball (The Paradise on PBS):
Heroine Lily Kimball wants to be the next Jenny Lind...and never go hungry again
You look parched, but no wonder. It is indeed a hot day here on Bridge Ranch in south Texas. Have some lemonade! Lily had to use dried lemons and lemon oil, but it turned out delicious. Just ask Jackson.
Homemade Lemonade sweetened with Stevia instead of sugar. We no joke make this twice a week....cheaper than store bought and unpasteurized, so you get all the antioxidants of the lemons! My toddler loves this!:
So refreshing.
Of course, a molasses cookie would go pretty well with it, too.
Molasses keeps these cookies magically fresh and chewy for days.:
Yum!
While you chew, here's the blurb for For a Song (individual novella):


Two songbirds, red and yellow—a straightforward order for an upstanding widowed rancher’s lonely daughter. But when a sister-act of saloon singers (a redhead and a blonde) arrives on the stagecoach expecting him to give them a job, his daughter changes her tune and starts singing not for a pet, but a pretty ginger-haired Mama.

Victorian Graphic- Girl with Birdcage, Bird, Cat - The Graphics Fairy:
The picture that inspired the story!
To celebrate, I'm offering a giveaway  starting today and running until Friday, Feb. 26. Scroll below for the Rafflecopter form or hop on over to www.susannedietze.com to enter there! (Entry form is the same!)

Goodies include The Cowboy's Bride Collection, a vintage bird dish towel, and a mini birdie notebook.





a Rafflecopter giveaway

Or find the book on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Cowboys-Bride-Collection-Historical-Romances/dp/1634095251/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8 The book is on a stellar sale of just over $8. That's less than a dollar a story!


Thanks for celebrating with me! 

Friday, February 19, 2016

Lights Out




Lights Out: A Cyberattack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath is the latest entry into the pantheon of doomsday literature. What makes it unusual is the fame and stature of its author, Ted Koppel, former anchor for ABC News’ Nightline program. While there have been many other “We're all going to die!” books published over the years, Koppel’s name and access to friendly media interviews have brought this one more attention than most.

Why would anyone want to read something so potentially depressing? For one thing, people kind of like to be frightened. No, really. Consider the popularity of horror novels, slasher flicks and roller coasters. Okay, only one of those is my “thing,” but I can’t deny that the adrenaline rush of a 100-foot drop keeps me paying amusement parks’ big entry fees. Thing is, those scares don't cost us much other than a few bucks (and in the case of a horror novel, maybe a night's sleep). We know roller coaster rides are actually safer than a drive to the grocery store, and as I tell my husband whenever he gets queasy watching a graphic scene in a television drama, "It's only a prop, honey. It's not a real body."

However, the world is experiencing a great deal of turmoil right now, which moves apocalyptic claims past mere fiction to the realm of possibility. Sure, there have always been wars and natural disasters, but they tended to be localized. A civil war going on in Rwanda? How sad, but it wasn’t part of my vacation plans for this summer anyway, so why would that concern me? Now we are witnessing chaos on a global scale. A civil war in Syria? As a matter of fact, that does impact me because ISIS has supporters and imitators all over the world. The “Pax Americana” of the past 70 years is coming to a close, and the technology which makes our lives so pleasant – we live better than humans of any other time – can be used against us.

Last year I was the victim of cyber theft. I don’t even know whose computers got hit. My grocery store’s? My credit union’s? Somehow, hackers had gotten both my credit card and ATM card information. It couldn't have been from the breech of Target's systems the year before because (since I had used both at Target during the time frame in question) I had called the credit union and insisted they replace both. (They kept arguing it was unnecessary. I was adamant that they issue me new ones. I won.) The credit union called about the suspicious activity on the credit card. I only found out about the ATM issue two days later when I went to use the card and it rejected.  The fact the hacker had made a new ATM card and had obtained my pin showed how sophisticated the theft was. Fortunately, VISA removed the charges from my bill, and my credit union made good on the money stolen from my account. I guess the credit union person believed me when I claimed I hadn’t driven 200 miles and back in a snowstorm to use an ATM. Or, more likely, I was only one of many victims that week.

My hackers just wanted quick cash, like the Russian mafia that hit one of my computers with ransomware a few months earlier and then offered to give me a fix for a “small” fee. (Uh, thanks, but no.) But what if someone with truly evil intentions was able to breach the security systems guarding the computers that control our lives and economy?  Imagine a power outage stretching across dozens of states and lasting weeks or even months.

The subtitle of Lights Out – A Cyberattack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath – reveals the book’s organizational structure. The first part details the likelihood of a successful attack on the American electrical grid and its consequences. The second (shortest) section claims the government is woefully unprepared to deal with a large-scale, extended-time outage. The final portion of the book highlights people and groups who practice emergency preparedness, so the reader can develop a plan.



What is my verdict? Well, first let me say this is a powerful book. A couple days before Christmas, I picked it up at the library on my way to take the boys for haircuts. There I was at the barbershop, reading while I waited, when the lights went out. Everyone in the shop got a good laugh when I showed them what I had in my hands. And then I took the book with me when we traveled to visit my husband’s family for the holidays. The day after we arrived at my sister-in-law’s house, an ice storm knocked out the power for 18 hours. Reading the thing in the dark for the second time, I began to wonder if God wasn’t giving me a visual message. You can bet I returned the book to the library as soon as we got home, before further electrical mishaps befell my family.


Beyond the funny coincidence, I always have mixed feelings about the whole “prepper” lifestyle. Some of the cases presented in Lights Out cross the boundary between precautionary and extreme – you know, the people with 25 years worth of MREs, a solar power system that could run an aircraft carrier, and enough firepower to conquer a small country. On one hand, I think of verses like Luke 12:27 (Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.) that remind me God is ultimately in control. That said, dependence on God didn't stop Nehemiah from rebuilding the wall or David from taking up a sword. God wants us to use our brains and do our part to protect ourselves and our families.

But I struggle to find balance. How much is too much? Can too prepared cross over to too paranoid? How many precautions should one take against the unforeseen, and at what point should one hand the entire mess over to God?

I meant to add this earlier, but for those who have the time, this is a longer interview Koppel gave:

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Side Saddle Found *Updated


by Anita Mae Draper


I can't imagine anyone riding a sidesaddle with ease, and yet when I watch the fox hunt on Downton Abbey, I see Lady Mary doing just that and keeping up with the men with an aura of grace.


Two types of side saddle riding habits

My riding has always been done in a western saddle with heeled boots and a wide-brimmed hat. Likewise, my saddle contains one central horn..

And yet, when I attended a museum auction in the spring of 2014, I was the only bidder on an old decrepit side saddle and therefore became the proud owner after dishing out twenty-five dollars. 


Old broken side saddle auction find in Saskatchewan


As you can see from the above photo, the leather has been ripped and sewn, then ripped again. Who knows how many times it has been repaired. On the horns, the leather is so dry it is scaly to the point of white shiny patches. I couldn't even fathom what the maroon velveteen is supposed to be.

It is just as bad underneath where parts of dried leather have broken off and perhaps even mice had nested inside. The nails look old, but are more round-headed than square, which puts the saddle no earlier than the late 1800's. Overall, the saddle seems irreparable. 


Old broken side saddle auction find in Saskatchewan

A friend who owns horses took the saddle to a friend of his who repairs saddles and leatherwork. Months later, I got the side back with the confirmation that it wasn't worth repairing. It also seemed to be missing something as it didn't look like the side saddles the man was familiar with. 

Indeed. The following image shows two side saddles built in Brisbane Australia in the 1900-1910 period.


Ladies' side-saddle made by L. Uhl & Sons Ltd, Brisbane, 1900-1910. Courtesy of the State Library of Queensland and Wikipedia

If you look at the difference between these two and mine above, you see that where my two horns basically curve inward, the 2 Aussie ones curve away from each other. It's because in these ones, instead of the right leg going between the horns, it curves around to the outside of the upper horn, and then the left leg is held beneath the lower horn.

Invented in 1830, the lower horn, known as the Leaping Horn (or Leaping Head) revolutionized women's riding. It held the leg secure and enabled women to stay seated while jumping hedges or leaping whatever was in their way. 

Not only didn't my side saddle have a leaping horn, but it appeared that one had never been part of it either. 

My research took hours to complete, and I'm still not exactly sure, but here is what I finally found at the Side Saddle Lady Museum...









Like I said, the above photos are not proof that my saddle is almost 200 yrs old, because there are too many discrepancies for that, but it shows that it was made in the style of a Welsh one which could have been the style in the whole of the British Isles. 

One aspect that points to it being an antique side saddle is that modern ones don't have the 3rd horn on the far left side which was originally used as a handhold for balance. According to the Side Saddle Lady Museum, "...gradually the offside pommel diminished in size, and by the 1870s/'80s it had often disappeared."

But what is the purpose of the maroon fabric? If it's to pretty-up the piece, it's not doing a very good job. And if it's to provide a practical pocket like the one on the right, there should at least be an opening, don't you think? 

I sure hope someone sees this post and lets me know more details.

In case you're wondering, I bought the saddle as an educational piece for when I do my readings at libraries and book clubs since it fits in with the historic Austin setting.

As a final note, my research led me to news that Lady Mary and the Downton Abbey TV show have made riding side saddle quite trendy again. In fact, there seems to be a shortage of side saddles as people of all ages are exploring this venue of physical activity.

It reminds me of the movement from skiing to snow boarding - with less pressure on the knees, and the ability to ride as long as you can balance yourself. It seems that people with certain injuries who couldn't ride astride are now able to ride again using a side saddle.

So I'll take this moment to send a bouquet out to all the organizations who teach and encourage the art of riding side saddle.

The Devon Horse Show in Philadelphia is one such show and deserves mention here for the numerous classes and opportunities for young and old riders to test their skills. If you'd like more information on their upcoming show, check their website

I'll leave you with this adorable image from the photo gallery of the Devon Horse Show which proves you're never too young to learn how to ride side saddle. 


3 yr old Junior competitor, Heather Lee O'Rourke, competing in the side saddle division of the Devon Horse Show

*UPDATE - I discovered an excellent video of Angelina Jolie learning how to ride side saddle while firing a weapon on the set of Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life



And in case you were watching the action and missed how she sat on the side saddle, here's a still image of the scene...



What do you think about riding side saddle? Have you ever done it? Interested in finding out? Care to share?


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Anita Mae Draper's stories are written under the western skies where she lives on the prairie of southeast Saskatchewan with her hubby of 30 plus years and the youngest of their four kids. When she's not writing, Anita enjoys photography, research, and travel, and is especially happy when she can combine the three in one trip. Anita's current release is Romantic Refinements, a novella in Austen in Austin Volume 1, WhiteFire Publishing, January 2016.  Anita is represented by Mary Keeley of Books & Such Literary Management. You can find Anita Mae at  www.anitamaedraper.com



Friday, February 12, 2016

Courage in the Dreaded Job Hunt

by Dina Sleiman

On Monday I’ll be starting a new job, and boy did this whole job search put all I’ve learned writing my Valiant Hearts Series to the test. It can be scary to go and hunt for a new job, especially when you’ve never had a full-time job and you’ve been (for most intents and purposes) a stay at home mom for two decades.

But much like my heroines, I had to find my courage and prepare for this battle. Maybe my preparations were more along the lines of studying the job market, preparing a kick-butt resume, and taking online classes to fill in some missing skills. And instead of armor, I donned a new business suit, classy jewelry, makeup, and professional-looking nail polish.

All along a little voice in the back of my head wanted to tell me that I’d never find a decent job, that no one wanted to hire a middle-aged mom, that I was crazy to intentionally enter the “rat race,” that I’d have to give up writing novels because I’d be too wiped out after a forty hour work week. But with two kids in private college and the debts stacking up, my family needed this, and again much like my heroines who never make excuses and do what must be done, I took up my sword (okay, my resume) and prepared to fight.

As the battle waged on I realized a few things. First of all, I needed to prove to myself that I could do this. That I hadn’t given up my chance at a career by staying home, and that all of the accomplishments I’d had in life and writing weren’t for nothing. I also realized that this was really just a continuation of what I had always done, putting my family first, but that my family was in a new season and needed me to ward off financial stress and help my children pursue their dreams and passions rather than stay home and nurture little people. Finally, I realized that deep down…I was a huge weenie, and it was time to show that courage I’ve been writing about.

Sometimes when God calls us to a mission, like writing novels, we make that mission the goal. But the true goal is serving God. And when we get too focused on the mission, God often asks us to lay it down, at least for a while. I was ready to take my focus off writing novels and put my focus on God. I was willing to put novel writing on the shelf for a year or two until I adjusted to a more intensive schedule, and see if and when God asked me to take it back down.

As it turned out, all my weenie worrying was for nothing. In less than a month I was offered a dream job. I will be writing (yes, writing!) for a wonderful Christian humanitarian organization called Operation Blessing International.  I have no doubt this job will be enjoyable and fulfilling and that I won’t be entering the “rat race.” In fact, I’m really excited about it. Beyond that, it’s not actually a full-time job. It’s a solid twenty-five hour a week job that will still meet our financial needs. AND…the hours are flexible and I’m allowed to work remotely, so I can be there for my teenager who’s still at home when he needs me. Perhaps best of all, at twenty-five hours a week, I don’t think novel writing will have to stay on the shelf nearly as long as I imagined it might.

So being valiant, facing my fears, and fighting this battle turned out to be a great thing. I feel incredibly blessed that God has seen fit to allow me this new opportunity. But don’t worry, Courageous (Valiant Hearts book 3) is all finished and ready to release in July, and I’ll also have a novella in the Inky's Austen in Austin Volume 2 releasing in September. After that, my writing career is in God’s very capable hands.