Thursday, October 31, 2013

All Hallow's Eve--For All the Saints

by Susanne Dietze

Today, as temperatures drop and October fades into November, your house might look like mine: bedecked in faux spider webs, harvest orange candles, and school-painted paper jack-o-lanterns. The kitchen permeates with scents of apple cider, popcorn and the unmistakable earthy smell of pumpkin innards. We’re gearing up to trick-or-treat, but around here, we don’t forget that Halloween started as All Hallows’ Eve, the night preceding a special day in the church. November first is the day set aside to celebrate All Saints, a long-held observation of those who’ve served Jesus faithfully.
by Fra Angelico

I love saints: I’m always adding to my saint book collection, learning about the saints who are living now or who have gone to heaven, and how and why the church holds them dear. All Saints’ Day is quite a feast in our church. White linens, meaningful hymns, and joy are expected and powerful in the service. We remember all kinds of saints, like those who are Saints with a capital "S," Christians who are recognized by the Church, known by many, painted on icons and featured in stained glass windows.

But these capital “S” folks aren’t the only ones invited to the All Saint’s party. We are too, and it’s an interesting perspective to realize that we live among saints, present and future (as we do future non-saints. As C.S. Lewis put it, each person we encounter is immortal and heading toward one of two eternal destinations. If that statement doesn't shake you into trying to woo others heavenward, I don't know what does.).

It’s always sort of jarring to me, though, that the celebration of the saints also includes me, a broken, sinful person who fumbles through life. Saints are supposed to be goody-two shoes, religious people who make right choices at every fork in the road. You know the kind. They may be interesting to read about, but I sometimes wonder if in day-to-day life, they got on everyone’s nerves because they, oh, say, never rolled their eyes, or got angry at the person ahead of them in the “15 items or less” line at the supermarket for having eighty cans of cat food.

Except that goody-two shoes isn’t in the definition of a saint. Not even close. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is written “To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus” (1:1). That means, if you are a Christian, one whom God has called to be one of His people and who is “faithful in Christ Jesus,” you’re a saint. Pretty cool, huh? And we’re all knit together in Jesus’ body, here to help each other along our journeys of faith and direct each other’s gaze to stay fixed on Jesus.

Have you ever sought inspiration from the saints? Just as the light illumines stained glass windows, God shines through the lives of saints as examples for us. When we look to the saints for inspiration, comfort, or encouragement, they point us to God.

For instance, when I put my foot in my mouth (which if you know me, you know I do a lot) I have the example of Peter to go to. He made a lot of mistakes, but he always turned to Jesus and got on with life, a reminder to me to give my blunders to Jesus and keep serving Him.
File:The Denial of Saint Peter-Caravaggio (1610).jpg
The Denial of St. Peter by Caravaggio

When I get irritated at someone who pushes my buttons, I think of Thérèse of Lisieux, one of my favorite saints, who considered spending time with those who’d hurt or bothered her as acts of devotion to Jesus.

Brendan’s faith, proved by getting into a little boat to take the Gospel across the sea in obedience to God’s call, gives me courage on those days when I fear the unknown. Brothers Lawrence’s offering of every moment to “practice the presence of God” reminds me to serve God cheerfully in every chore.
Saint brendan german manuscript.jpg
St. Brendan and the Whale, 15th C manuscript
When I feel discouraged or depressed, I thank God for those current-day saints He’s placed in my life who, like Barnabas (whose name had been Joseph, but was renamed to reflect his gift of encouragement) cheer and hearten me.

Saints have helped me get through other rough patches. As the young bride of an equally young seminary student, folks warned that parishioners may not take us seriously as spiritual leaders, young as we were. Sometimes, those folks were right, much to our frustration, but God directed my eyes to others who served Him as younger people. Charles Lwanga and his companions, who were either teenagers or in their early twenties when they were martyred in Uganda over a hundred years ago, gave me strength, and pause: no matter how old I grow, I will still be growing into their level of spiritual maturity.
Charles Lwanga

I encourage you to check out a book on saints. One place to start could be 365 Saints by Woodeene Koenig-Bricker, a page-a-day-type book which is easy to go through. Naturally, these glimpses of saints just scratch the surfaces of their lives, but you may read about someone new whose story you’d like to explore further.

If you have a good book on saints, let me know! And may the Lord bless you as you walk with Him faithfully today, dear saints.

Previously appeared on Tea and a Good Book.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Author D.E. Stevenson

by C.J. Chase

With a deadline of the day before Halloween (does that make October 30 All Hallow’s Eve eve?), I considered tying my post in with the holiday. But how to do that? Horror? It’s a genre I avoid. I think I’ve read one book and seen nary a movie that could meet such a classification. (Oh, the horror!) Well, then maybe a discussion of fantasy creates that appear in fiction and mythology such as unicorns and minotaurs and dragons. Except, while I have somewhat more familiarity with them than horror, fantasy is still not a favorite of mine. Well, then, what about a post on villains? Oh, yeah, already did that...

Then the other day my youngest was rummaging through the bookcase and pulled out a worn, dog-eared novel by D. E. Stevenson. Oh, the memories that flooded my mind of gentle stories set in a now-gone era. And then followed an idea for a Fiction Wednesday post. Good-bye Halloween theme. (In truth, it wasn’t a sacrifice for me. I’ve never been a big fan of Halloween. I mean, a “holiday” where we put kids in ghoulish costumes and send them to extort candy from strangers under threat of doing mischief if people don’t comply? What are we trying to do – raise a generation whose highest ambition is to become IRS agents?)

publicity photo of D.E. Stevenson
Born at the turn of the (last) century, Dorothy Emily Stevenson (1892-1973) was a Scottish novelist of over 40 books. It’s hard to classify her work in modern genre terms. They are part coming-of-age, part sweet romance, occasionally part family saga…well, you get the idea. Some are dark and angsty. Others light and humorous. She even wrote one futuristic novel. They’re really just stories about people set mostly in the Britain of her lifetime.

Stevenson married a British officer, James Reid Peploe, in 1916 while he was coalescing from wounds sustained in WWI. Her first novel, Peter West, published in 1923, was not well received, and it would be nearly 10 years before she published a second. Talk about second book blues! However, the success of Mrs. Tim of the Regiment (1932, based in large part on her diaries as a military wife) turned her into a full-time author.

I’ve never seen a reason why she published under her maiden name. Was it because an officer whose wife became a (horrors!) novelist would have caused all sorts of awkwardness in class-conscious Britain? Or did her publisher or Ms. Stevenson herself prefer to emphasize her connection to the even more famous Stevenson author, Robert Louis Stevenson (her father’s first cousin)?

My first D. E. Stevenson reading experience was Celia’s House followed by Listening Valley when I was a teenager. The books deal with WWII, but the endings felt unfinished to my late-20th century sensibilities – until I looked at the copyright dates and realized she wrote them in 1943 and 1944 respectively. Realizing that at the time Ms. Stevenson wrote those books she had no idea how the war would end, gave me an appreciation for the uncertainty people of her time faced.

I’ve read perhaps a quarter of Stevenson’s books. Finding them can be a challenge. Libraries may have some (alas, my local library only has two – and yes, I’ve already read them). Used copies offered on the internet often run in the $10 to $20 range, though first editions of her most popular works can list for much more. Fortunately, I’m not the only fan, and some books have been re-released in the past several years, including inexpensive Kindle versions.

If you like early to mid-twentieth century British settings populated with interesting characters, Stevenson is an author you might want to try.  

Do you sometimes read "old," out-of-print books by now-gone authors? Do you have any favorites (authors or books) you'd like to share? 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Postage Stamp Degradation or Evolution?

by Anita Mae Draper

Do you look at the stamps on the letters and parcels you receive in the mail? I am not a stamp collector, but I find myself drawn to the beautiful artwork involved in postage stamps with their different themes that cover every type of life on earth as well as most historical events.

Assorted Canadian stamps

At an early age, I learned to collect used stamps and bring them to the church where they were added to a large jar. I didn't know what they would be used for, and I never asked. It was just something you did much like adding your dime in the offering plate.

On one of my downtown forays to Winnipeg's Hudson Bay Company store I happened to end up on the 5th floor in the coin and stamp corner and a small white gunny-sack looking bag caught my eye. I eased open the strings that held it closed and found it chock-full of used postage stamps - stamps that looked like the ones I'd been cutting off envelopes and giving to the church.

I brought the bag to the man behind the counter and told him they looked like the kind I'd been bringing to church. He explained that it was one way local churches raised money for missions - by selling the collected stamps to the dealers. And then he went one step further and explained the correct way to cut off a stamp so a stamp collector would appreciate it more. In the following image, these 3 stamps could be worth more to a collector because they include the cancellation stamps - the rubber stamped image that covers both the stamp and the envelope.

Properly cancelled stamps cover the stamp

The cancellation stamp details the origin and date and therefore contains historical information to enhance the stamp itself.

But lately, I've noticed a change in both the Canadian and American postal systems. Take a look at the following air mail envelope which I feel is a keeper for its beauty alone. Other than the return address which I've blocked out, do you see anything strange?

Example of an American air mail envelope

If you look close, you'll see that the top stamp - the one with the coffee pot - was cancelled in Spokane. But the others weren't cancelled at all. What does this mean? Well to me, it means a free stamp that I can re-use. Not that I'd do it, though because that would ruin this historical artifact.

The following image shows only the corner of 2 envelopes among several that I've received from the same person - and none of them have ever had cancellation stamps. How does that happen?

Envelopes received without cancellation stamps

The bubble envelope below wasn't from the same person that sent the above envelopes, and yet none of these postage stamps are cancelled either.

Bubble envelope received without cancellation stamps

Then I received this next envelope. None of the stamps are cancelled, but 3 of them have a black mark streaking across one corner. I suppose this is to stop anyone re-using the stamp, but those marks ruin it for an experienced stamp collector.

Black marks serving as cancellation stamps

And then horrors, I started receiving envelopes with stamps that had been scribbled on, as if a toddler had gotten a hold of them and tried to draw a picture. Before I decided to write this post, I threw out several envelopes that contained many gorgeous stamps with pen scribbles on them.  The image below is only a small portion of the stamps I've noticed with this characteristic, and some of these have even been properly cancelled.

Canadian stamps scribbled in lieu of or in addition to being cancelled

To me, marking and scribbling on postage stamps is akin to vandalism. When I first spotted this trend, I thought it originated from Canada Post's privatization of postal outlets where the private postal workers were cutting costs by not buying the rubber cancellation stamps. But is the same thing happening in the United States?

And it's not just North America. The following four groupings were taken from envelopes from Finland. The top left and bottom right were properly cancelled. The bottom left is acceptable. In the top right grouping, however, only the right side is cancelled. At least the left side isn't scribbled out.

Finnish stamps 

A final observation... many people don't put stamps on parcels, but pay the postal clerks who add a stamp printed off on a postal machine like this one:

It's boring, but it works. Recently, however, a bubble envelope with this stamp arrived in my mail box:

Can anyone tell me what type it is? Is it the next generation of electronic stamps? And if it is the next generation of postage stamps, I wonder if it's something I should be collecting for hubby.

What are your thoughts? Do you notice the stamps on your mail? Do you know what's happening in the industry? We'd love to hear your thoughts on this. 


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  semi-finaled in the ACFW's 2011 Genesis contest, and finaled in the Daphne du Maurier, Fool for Love, Duel on the Delta and the Linda Howard Award of Excellence contests.  Anita Mae has a short story, "Riding on a Christmas Wish" published in A Christmas Cup of Cheer, Guideposts Books, October 2013.  Anita Mae is represented by Mary Keeley of Books & Such Literary Agency. You can find Anita at

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Disappearing Debutante

By Lisa Karon Richardson

On December 12, 1910 a wealthy and fashionable young woman from New York’s Diamond set, went out for a walk and to do some shopping. She never returned.

Her name was Dorothy Arnold, and on paper at least she had everything to live for. She was a Bryn Mawr graduate and an aspiring writer. The last place she was seen was a bookstore where she mentioned her intention of walking home through Central Park.

At first her family tried to keep the disappearance on the down low. They weren’t too concerned for her safety because just a month before, Dorothy had eloped and spent a week with a young man named George Griscom, Jr.

But Griscom turned out to be in Italy.

As her absence became more worrisome her family engaged the famous Pinkerton Detective Agency and got the police involved as well. Her story became the proverbial media circus. Leads popped up all over the US and even abroad. Her father spent over $100,000 searching for her. Dorothy’s erstwhile suitor, Griscom also spent a small fortune trying to obtain information. But no one ever found her.

Everyone seemed to have a theory. Some thought she’d simply decided to chuck her “old” life and start anew. Rumors circulated of a secret pregnancy and travel to Switzerland. Many assumed she was dead.
Real-life stories like this one drive me crazy. I want closure. I want resolution. And that’s one thing that fiction often offers us (and which I appreciate.) When frustrated by stories that don’t end the way I think they should, I often rewrite them in my head. So maybe you can give me a hand with this one. What do you think happened to Dorothy? How would you wrap up the story?

Influenced by books like The Secret Garden and The Little Princess, LISA KARON RICHARDSON’S early stories were heavy on boarding schools and creepy houses. Now, even though she’s (mostly) grown-up she still loves a healthy dash of adventure in any story she creates, even her real-life story. She’s been a missionary to the Seychelles and Gabon and now that she and her husband are back in America, they are tackling a new adventure, starting a daughter-work church in a new city. Vanishing Act, the second in the Charm and Deceit, series co-authored with Jennifer AlLee, released in September 2013 as did “Midnight Clear,” part of the Mistletoe Memories collection.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Friday for Fiction Foodies

By Niki Turner

We had "bangers and mash" for supper last night (that's sausages and mashed potatoes, for us Yanks). Why? Because it was mentioned in a book I've been listening to again (yes, it's the Outlander series... *blush*). Anyway, it sounded yummy, so I decided to try it out, and, in my opinion, it was quite tasty. Just like the ratatouille I made after watching the Disney flick by the same name.

As I stirred the onion gravy (something I hadn't made before), I started wondering how many recipes have achieved fame thanks to a book. During our homeschooling years we experimented with a number of historical/fictional meals. Our family favorite? The meat stew on homemade bread trenchers during our Medieval era study.

Here are a few of the more famous recipes in literature. Have you tried any of them?

Quite possibly one of the better-known fiction-inspired recipes, thanks to the book AND the movie. I love fried green tomatoes! Living in Colorado, we always have an abundance of green tomatoes, because just as the tomatoes emerge and get ready to ripen on the vine, we have a frost, freeze, or snowfall that necessitates the quick disposal of as many green tomatoes as possible.

Every time I read through the story of Abigail taking raisin cakes to David to appease his wrath I wonder what raisin cakes would taste like. Were they like fruitcake? Or were they more like raisin bread (like this recipe). Or, were they just wads of raisins mashed together in a cake-like shape?

Johnny Cakes from "On the Banks of Plum Creek" (Little House on the Prairie)
Among a multitude of other recipes from the Little House series, like homemade butter, cheese, and salt pork. I mastered homemade biscuits before the age of 10 while wearing my "Laura Ingalls dress." 

Butterbeer from the Harry Potter series
This is one I've yet to try, but it sounds delicious.

Turkish Delight from the Chronicles of Narnia
I DID make this. Once. And I still have two-thirds of a bottle of rose water in my pantry to prove it. If I was a better candy-maker it might have worked out. As it was, the goo in the pan tasted good, but it wasn't exactly transportable.

What about you? Any recipes you've read about that you have a hankering to try? Or recipes you've tried and found less-than-appealing, or any that have become real-life faves at your house? Do you notice food in books?

Niki Turner is a writer, former pastor's wife, mother of four, and grandmother of two and a half. She has thus far been unsuccessful at coming up with catchy taglines for her writing, her purpose in life, or what she hopes to achieve in the future. Suggestions are welcome.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Don't let strife steal your life!

By Niki Turner

I got my first flu shot this year. We are expecting a new grandbaby in January, one of my kids is in public school, one is in college, and my husband and son-in-law are out every day working with the public every day. It just seemed like the right thing to do this year, so we all went in for a poke in the arm. (If you have a conviction about immunizations, that's fine. You are free to get a shot or not get a shot. I suggest you pray about it and follow the Lord's leading.) 

Flu Shot
So I posted something on Facebook about my flu shot, and it generated some "conversations." You know those days when it's just better to avoid social media? It was one of those days. It seems like there are days, even weeks, when everyone has a gripe or a complaint or an anti-something opinion to post. The negativity agitates my spirit the way I used to get annoyed when my kids bickered and argued in the back of the minivan. Why? Because it's STRIFE, and strife is not a good thing to keep around. 

From a natural standpoint, constant discord and contention is harmful to our health because it puts us in a state of negative stress, which weakens immunity, damages organs, and wears out our body parts sooner than God intended.

From a spiritual perspective, strife gets us out of sync with God. You can't be in strife and "love your neighbor as yourself" at the same time. It also generates a laundry list of other un-Christlike behaviors: grumbling, whining, complaining, backbiting, quarreling, gossiping, and so on.

It's possible to be in strife with ANYTHING, even an inanimate object. A malfunctioning car, the muddy footprints tracked through the house, yourself (yes, you can be in constant discord with yourself), God, your family members, the government, your bank account, even something as inconsequential as a fly. Or a Facebook post.

In Judges 6, we read about the nation of Israel being attacked, repeatedly, by the Midianites. 
Because the power of Midian was so oppressive, the Israelites prepared shelters for themselves in mountain clefts, caves and strongholds. Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples invaded the country. They camped on the land and ruined the crops all the way to Gaza and did not spare a living thing for Israel, neither sheep nor cattle nor donkeys. They came up with their livestock and their tents like swarms of locusts. It was impossible to count the men and their camels; they invaded the land to ravage it. Midian so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out to the Lord for help.
Judges 6:2-6 NIV (emphasis added)

Now, you might be thinking, "What does that have to do with us today? We don't live near tribes of marauding raiders..." Well, thankfully, no, but Midian isn't just a random name of some random tribe. Midian, in Hebrew, is from the root word "madown," meaning brawling, contention, discord, or strife. 

So you could say that the Israelites were hindered from prospering, to the point of poverty, by repeated attacks of strife.  

Hmmm. Sound familiar? 

Strife is as prevalent today as it was back in those days of marauding invaders. It just shows up and camps out in different forms... and devours our peace, and our joy, and our blessings. So what can we do? 
Sometimes, staying out of strife is as simple as keeping our mouths shut (or our fingers off the keyboard). Sometimes, the only way out of strife is to avoid a situation, a place, or a relationship, and that gets more complicated. There is, unfortunately, no shot in the arm that will make us immune, but there are plenty of Bible verses that can help us avoid the life-thief that is strife in our day-to-day lives. Here's our family favorite... it gets quoted frequently around here.
Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 
2 Tim 2:23-25 NIV
I'm hoping for a flu-free season this year, and a strife-free one, for all of us!

Niki Turner is a writer, former pastor's wife, mother of four, and grandmother of two and a half. She has thus far been unsuccessful at coming up with catchy taglines for her writing, her purpose in life, or what she hopes to achieve in the future. Suggestions are welcome.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Genre Mash

By Lisa Karon Richardson

On Sunday I heard “The Monster Mash” which brought back a shard of memory from an awkward middle school dance, but that’s a story for another day. The other thought prompted by the song was of the way book genres have been mashed together in recent years to make new, wonderful, weird combinations.

When I was little it seemed that “historical” meant sweeping family saga. Mysteries came in two varieties: hardboiled and cozy. Fantasy meant a stylized medieval setting with wizards, trolls, elves. But these days Historical Romantic Suspense is a thing. The line between Fantasy and Science Fiction has blurred to bring us steampunk (with or without supernatural beings.)

It’s possible that the trend could be taken too far. 

NOT that this book has taken it too far, I actually really like Marcher Lord Press's products and I bet they found a way to make this actually work. You can check it out more here.

I don’t think every element of a story needs to be chased down and tagged. That could get as a annoying as a facebook message replete with hashtags, #annoying #overuse #unnecessary. It’s kind of like poetic description, a little is tremendous—too much takes us into purple prose territory. I think the key for the author to remember is that when you are doing a mashup it is important to honor the elements of each of the genres upon which they are drawing. Not that every element can be equal, like in ballroom dancing, one of them is going to have to lead, but don't just let the other peter out. Be adventurous, but don't violate your readers trust! 

Are there any genre mash ups that you love? Is there a book that is representative of that to you? Any genre mash ups that surprised you? 

Influenced by books like The Secret Garden and The Little Princess, LISA KARON RICHARDSON’S early stories were heavy on boarding schools and creepy houses. Now, even though she’s (mostly) grown-up she still loves a healthy dash of adventure in any story she creates, even her real-life story. She’s been a missionary to the Seychelles and Gabon and now that she and her husband are back in America, they are tackling a new adventure, starting a daughter-work church in a new city. Vanishing Act, the second in the Charm and Deceit, series co-authored with Jennifer AlLee, released in September 2013. As did her novella entitled “Midnight Clear,” part of the Mistletoe Memories collection.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Please See Me

by Dina Sleiman

As many of you already know, being married to a Lebanese husband, I have a heart for the Middle Eastern world. In fact, the countdown is now under a month until the release of my newest novel, Dance from Deep Within, which will feature a Muslim heroine. And over the years, I have also written a number of songs about the Islamic world.

One of these songs, "Please See Me," has a very special sort of inspiration. In 2007, I was at a conference in Paris and heard a former Muslim woman speaking. In reference to the veiled women of the Middle East she said, "These women are crying out, 'Please see me!'" With my heart aching from the woman's passionate cry, I hurried up to my hotel room and began scribbling down words, and thus the song was born.

More recently I have been very touched by the story of a young girl from Pakistan named Malala. Malala has stood up and demanded to be seen. She has become a voice for the women oppressed by radical Muslims throughout her nation and the Middle East. After surviving a murder attempt by the Taliban, sixteen-year-old Malala has gone on to meet heads of state, and she has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. 

So I think it is very timely that a Middle Eastern production team has just completed this amazing live action video of "Please See Me." The producer actually depicts many images of this culture that I would have had a hard time imagining, like the difficulty of finding a suitable snack while shopping in town in the full niqab style veil. And the actress in the video has done a wonderful job at capturing the emotion of the song. I would like to share it with you today.

I hope this song will awaken your heart to the women of the Muslim world. You can order this song or any of the songs and prayers from the "A Cry for Peace" cd by clicking here. 
Despite her conservative Muslim heritage, Layla Al-Rai longs for a chance to earn her degree in engineering and perhaps even...dare she choose her own husband. But young women from her background rarely enjoy such freedoms. When she finally talks her parents into letting her attend college, she is drawn to fellow twenty-something students, Allie and Rain, over a class project. Allie, the blonde ballerina, faces her own struggles as she deals with an ex-fiancé and a church she had hoped to leave behind. Rain, the bi-racial hippie chick, longs for something to believe in, but her questioning could cost her the love of her life. When Layla s childhood sweetheart reenters her world, it seems her dreams might become real. Until everything falls apart. When she meets truth face to face, will she find the courage to accept it even if it requires the ultimate sacrifice?
Dance from Deep Within by Dina L. Sleiman.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Review of Vanishing Act by Jennifer AlLee and Lisa Karon Richardson

    I haven't had much opportunity to read for pleasure lately, so I was delighted to have an excuse to "have" to read Jennifer AlLee and Lisa Karon Richardson's Vanishing Act.
    Vanishing Act is Book Two in the writing duo's Charm and Deceit series with Whitaker House.  This book fits nicely under the series name, because its lead character, Juliet Button, is charming and deceitful.  It's uncommon for the heroine of a Christian novel to be a fake medium whose goal is to cheat her "sitters" out of their money, but AlLee and Richardson do a great job in making her a sympathetic character.  She truly seeks to comfort those who have lost their loved ones, and she has to support her "family," a small group of people who have no one but each other.  And, even with that reasoning, she realizes what she is doing is deceptive.  It gives her character depth.
    When the book's hero, Pinkerton Agent Carter Forbes, asks her help to expose a rival medium preying on Carter's sister, she does so only in exchange for his promise to leave her and her family alone.  But when President Lincoln's youngest son, Tad, is kidnapped, Juliet and Carter join forces to find the boy before it's too late.
    I really enjoyed this story.  It was a nice combination of suspense, mystery and historical romance with a little humor sprinkled in.  The politically motivated kidnapping, the heroine's unusual family and her even more unusual occupation made Vanishing Act a welcome change of pace from more formulaic stories.  I liked the relationship between Juliet and Carter as they worked together to solve the mystery of the abduction along with the puzzle of their growing feelings towards one another.
    I'm eager to read Book One in the series, Diamond in the Rough.  It would be nice to see more of Carter and Juliet's adventures, too.  They make a great team.

Have you  read Vanishing Act?  How about Diamond in the Rough?  What did you think?

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, The Key in the Attic, The Diary in the Attic and The Legacy in the Attic, contemporary mysteries. Her new series of Drew Farthering Mysteries debuted in the Summer of 2013 with  Rules of Murder,  to be followed by Death by the Book and Murder at the Mikado in 2014 from Bethany House.  A fifth-generation Texan, she makes her home north of Dallas with three spoiled cats. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Celebrate Vanishing Act...and a Giveaway!

Step right up for a Day of Magic! 
(Susanne here, using her best sideshow voice.)

Magic! Magic! That's right! You're in for quite a show. Sleight of hand. Rabbit out of a hat. You won't believe your eyes.

Because today on the Inkwell, we're celebrating the release of Vanishing Act (Book 2 of Charm and Deceit) by Jennifer AlLee and Lisa Karon Richardson!
Love the gown and bonnet!

What better place to celebrate a Civil War-set novel than an 1860's themed soiree where we don pretty gowns, and our servers offer us delectable treats whilst entertaining us with the odd parlor trick?

Would you care for a refreshing glass of fruit punch? Afterward, I shall produce a coin from behind your ear.*

But wait a moment, kind sir. Pray tell, might you please explain what all this magic is about?

Let's examine the book, shall we?

Juliet Button doesn't even believe in ghosts, but she believes in supporting her makeshift family of misfits. Having spent years as assistant to her uncle, an illusionist, she now has all of the skills and know–how she needs to make an audience believe the impossible. So, she begins a career as a medium by the name of Miss Avila. She wants nothing to do with a detective with the power to destroy the life she's built, but when President Lincoln's youngest son is kidnapped, and the first lady comes to her for help, she can't refuse, even if it means facing Pinkerton agent Carter Forbes, who knows far too much about her already—and possibly falling in love.

A medium? Not an occupation many Christian heroines find for themselves. Juliet must be in a pickle.

And what is this about the kidnapping of President Lincoln's young son? Oh dear. Good thing we have a Pinkerton agent at our disposal. Dear Carter. Meanwhile, Poor Mary Todd Lincoln is worried sick.
Mary Todd Lincoln reveled in the social life of Washington. She spent copious amounts of money remodeling the White House and on extravagances like 300 gloves in 4 months and a 2500 dollar carpet. These shopping sprees landed her 6000 dollars over her 20,000 dollar Congressional limit. Some historians explain her shopping sprees as symptoms of bipolar disorder. Her spending was so bad that it was even an issue in the election of 1864.
Mary Lincoln knew so much grief. How sad.

It sounds as if the stakes in this novel are high, indeed. Add to it a spiritual journey and the element of romance between Juliet and Carter, and oh dear! I may swoon! (Never mind that I'm wearing a period-appropriate corset for the party that might or might not be cutting off my circulation.)

I have a feeling everything will work out in the end, don't you?

"An 1864 Mathew Brady photo depicts President Lincoln reading a book with his youngest son, Tad"
President Lincoln and youngest son, Tad, who is safe and sound in this image!

Meanwhile, here comes our server with a tray of cakes and other sweets! What's this? He would like a volunteer from the audience?

One of the Inkies has leaped to her feet, and in a swish of silk, she is at the front of the room. My, she is blushing as our waiter/illusionist gently assists her into a box on the table where he--gasp! He's going to cut her in half!

Oh dear. Perhaps it's best if I cease writing and rush to her aid. That saw he's wielding looks rather sharp. I'm not sure our waiter is a true illusionist and this seems a rather dangerous way to find out....

In the meantime, Jennifer and Lisa have graciously offered to give away a copy of Vanishing Act! Please leave a comment by 11:59 pm EDT, Saturday, Oct 19, and one name will be drawn at random.

* Jude Law at the premiere screening of "Midnight in Paris" on the opening night of the 64th Annual Cannes Film Festival. (Pacific Coast News). All other images from Lisa Karon Richardson's "Charm and Deceit" pinterest page.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Fan Mail for Mr. Lincoln

by Jen AlLee

Fan mail. If you're the one getting it, it can be encouraging, frustrating, or even frightening. If you're the fan, you never know how the person you're writing to will react.

On October 15, 1860, eleven-year-old Grace Bedell of Westfield, N.Y., wrote a letter to presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln. It read as follows:
Abraham Lincoln
August 13, 1860

Westfield Chatauque Co
Oct 15. 1860

Hon A B Lincoln

Dear Sir
My father has just home from the fair and brought home your picture and Mr. Hamlin's. I am a little girl only eleven years old, but want you should be President of the United States very much so I hope you wont think me very bold to write to such a great man as you are. Have you any little girls about as large as I am if so give them my love and tell her to write to me if you cannot answer this letter. I have got 4 brother's and part of them will vote for you any way and if you will let your whiskers grow I will try and get the rest of them to vote for you. You would look a great deal better for your face is so thin. All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husband's to vote for you and then you would be President. My father is a going to vote for you and if I was a man I would vote for you to but I will try and get every one to vote for you that I can   I think that rail fence around your picture makes it look very pretty   I have got a little baby sister she is nine weeks old and is just as cunning as can be. When you direct your letter dir[e]ct to Grace Bedell Westfield Chatauque County New York
I must not write any more   answer this letter right off

Good bye
Grace Bedell

I love how sure this little lady was that he would write back! And what an interesting campaign strategy she had. Mr. Lincoln certainly must have gotten a smile out of her letter. And he did take the time to write back.
Abraham Lincoln
February 9, 1861

October 19, 1860
Springfield, Illinois
 Miss. Grace Bedell

My dear little Miss.
Your very agreeable letter of the 15th. is received.  I regret the necessity of saying I have no daughters. I have three sons -- one seventeen, one nine, and one seven, years of age. They, with their mother, constitute my whole family. As to the whiskers, having never worn any, do you not think people would call it a piece of silly affection if I were to begin it now?  
Your very sincere well-wisher, A. Lincoln

Lincoln apparently wasn't too concerned about what people would think, because as we all know, he did grow the beard. In fact, when he was President-elect, he stopped in Westfield on February 16, 1861, sporting his new beard. Thousands had gathered to meet him, but he asked if Grace Bedell was in attendance. She was, and clambered forward to meet him. Years later, Grace talked about her meeting with the President.
Grace Bedell
in the 1870's

"He climbed down and sat down with me on the edge of the station platform," she recalled. "'Gracie,' he said, 'look at my whiskers. I have been growing them for you.' Then he kissed me. I never saw him again."

This story speaks to the power of one voice, the power of public opinion, even the power of a nice, healthy beard. But to me, it's a wonderful human moment between the leader of the country and a child who wanted to help her choice for president. Who's to say the presence of a beard didn't influence some voters? Either way, an adult took the time to read a girl's letter, write back to her, consider her opinion, and then follow up with her and show her that he'd followed her advice.

How cool is that?

How about you? Have you ever written a fan letter? Did you ever hear back?

JENNIFER ALLEE was born in Hollywood, California, and spent her first ten years living above a mortuary one block away from the famous intersection of Hollywood & Vine. Now she lives in the grace-filled city of Las Vegas, which just goes to prove she’s been blessed with a unique life. When she’s not busy spinning tales, she enjoys playing games with friends, attending live theater and movies, and singing at the top of her lungs to whatever happens to be playing on the car radio. Although she’s thrilled to be living out her lifelong dream of being a novelist, she considers raising her son to be her greatest creative accomplishment. She's a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Romance Writers of America, Christian Authors Network, and the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance. Her novels include The Pastor’s WifeThe Mother Road and A Wild Goose Chase Christmas from Abingdon Press; Diamond in the Rough and Vanishing Act, the first two books in the Charm and Deceit series, from Whitaker House and co-written with Lisa Karon Richardson; and the novella Comfort and Joy in the Christmas anthology, Mistletoe Memories from Barbour.

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We, the ladies of Inkwell Inspirations, would love to give free stuff to everybody. Since we can't, we will often have a giveaway in conjunction with a specific post. Unless otherwise stated, one winner will be drawn from comments left on that post between the date it was published and the end of the giveaway as determined in the post. Entries must be accompanied by a valid email address. This address is used only to contact the commenter in the event that he/she is the winner, and will not be sold, distributed, or used in any other fashion. The odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. NO PURCHASE, PLEDGE, OR DONATION NECESSARY TO ENTER OR TO WIN. ALL FEDERAL, STATE, LOCAL AND MUNICIPAL LAWS AND REGULATIONS APPLY. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED.