Friday, January 31, 2014

Release Party for True North by Susan Diane Johnson

"we're expecting you..."

 Today we are boarding a cruise ship for the weekend-- just in time to escape the cold and snow!
It's the best way to celebrate Susan Diane Johnson's newest release, TRUE NORTH!

 Grab a treat on your way by...
We are not alone on the ship but we do have a 
private spa booked for later today.

 We spared no expense to whisk you away from your January 
(a very cold, snowy and blustery month for many of us) 
and plan a warm escape. It's time to relax!

While Suzie's story takes place on an Alaskan cruise... we are heading to the eastern Caribbean!

Ahh... here's our waiter now. 
Henry will be bringing us something cool to drink while we relax in the spa. 
Don't be shy. 
We booked it for a private party! I have been waiting for this foot massage for weeks!
Some guy named Henry... don't forget to tip, ladies...

 "hey, Suzie! Didn't you say your hero Joe looks like that waiter?"


Enjoy learning more by visiting these links...

An interview with Suzie by Susie Dietze

 Book Review for TRUE NORTH by DeAnna Julie Dodson

 Comment here today or in one of the posts linked above if you'd like to be in the drawing for Suzie's book!

Isn't this a great place to grab dinner? We don't want to over-do it. We have lots of calories to come!

 The sun is setting on our first day! Don't rush off... we have your room booked for the weekend. Better a three day cruise than a three hour tour, right?
Meet you all in the private library after dinner~

Meg Ryan... sneaking on board?  She looks just like Suzie's heroine Lisa.
Desperate to save her marriage after tragedy has torn them apart, 
Lisa Kendall hopes to restore it by unexpectedly showing up on an Alaskan cruise ship 
where her husband, Joe, hoped he'd be alone. 
What she doesn’t know is that Joe has already decided the best 
thing for Lisa is for him to be out of her life.

As Lisa tries to get through to Joe, she realizes God has been trying to get through to her.

 TRUE NORTH is available now at these retailers: 


Thursday, January 30, 2014

Wait Expectantly

by Suzie Johnson
Before 2013 was even at a close, I had the word I wanted to focus on for the new year already picked out. Or at least I thought I did. Now I can’t even remember what that word was.

But one night in late December, I went to bed feeling something that is difficult for Christians to admit to: fear. There was a situation in my life that needed fixing. I couldn’t see any possible way for it could be fixed. And yet, I knew that in spite of it, I couldn’t spend my time feeling fearful.

That’s counter-productive. It also puts a barrier between me and God. I couldn’t put my full faith and trust in him if I was feeling fear. But this isn’t a judgment on anyone who feels fear. We are all human, and our development of faith and trust is between us and God. For me, there was a barrier.

And the fear was making me sick; both physically and emotionally. I had to figure out a way to deal with it. As I prayed out each of my fears to God, a word came to my mind. 


I didn’t know why it came to mind. I just knew if it came to me while I prayed, I needed to give it some consideration. As I did, some of the almost crippling fear that had gripped me for way too long began to ease. Not that the situation was fixed, by any means, but for the first time, I didn’t feel as afraid.

To be clear, I never doubted God would be there for me. But I was afraid of what would happen if the situation wasn’t fixed. 

That might seem a little contradictory, but I can’t explain it any better than this: I don’t think knowing he’s always there for me is the same as knowing I will never have to experience pain or unpleasantness. And no one wants to experience pain of any sort, and when we’re faced with it, it’s kind of scary. Sometimes, it’s a lot scary.

After much thought and a little more prayer, with the word still whispering around in my mind, I determined that I should wait expectantly and see what God would do to help in this situation. More of the anxiety and fear began to ease, and I went to sleep feeling almost excited to see just how everything would play out.

Excited, not fearful. Even now, I marvel at the thought.

The next morning, for the first time in a long time, I didn’t wake up with a feeling of dread. I spent some time that morning searching the Bible, because for my fears to ease the way they did, there was no doubt the word expectantly was from God. This is what I found:

Give ear to my words, O Lord, consider my sighing.
Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray.
In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; 
in the morning I lay my requests before your and wait in expectation. 
~~Psalm 5: 1-3 

Wait in expectation. 

I’ve seen this scripture before. I think I’ve always thought of it as “I will pray and expect you to answer,” almost as if I should expect the answer to be what I want. But on this day, on this morning, I saw it differently. I viewed the phrase “wait in expectation” much like a mother waiting for her child to be born. There’s excitement in that, eagerness, an air of “I can hardly wait”.  

The moment I had that realization, I claimed that scripture as my own for the year. Not just a word for to focus on for the year, but an entire scripture. And not long after that, on that very same morning, the first of many blessings came. By the end of the day, I began to wonder just how many times God could bless a person in one day. Now, at the end of January, exactly thirty days later, I’m wondering how many times he could bless a person in one month. 

Our God is such an amazing God, and tonight I am so very thankful that he loves us more than we can even imaging loving our own children.

Suzie Johnson is the author of two contemporary novels, True North, and No Substitute (under the name Susan Diane Johnson). Her first historical novel, Sweet Mountain Music, will be available in May. She is also member of American Christian Fiction Writers, and Romance Writers of America. Suzie and her husband are the parents of a wonderful son, and they live on an island in the Pacific Northwest with their naughty little cat. She believes her island is the perfect spot for writing romantic fiction. You can contact her through her website (below), or at

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Mazo de la Roche, Part 1

by Anita Mae Draper

Posting the 1911 Courtship Letters on my Author Memories blog involves hours of research, yet it's one of the most enjoyable aspects of genealogy. I'm always surprised though when I'm reading a newspaper from decades ago and find items of interest relevant to me. One of those items was this snippet in the Newmarket Era where I find most of the information to corroborate what is happening in the Courtship Letters:

Newmarket Era (Newmarket, ON), 14 Jul 1922

I recognized the name Mazo de la Roche like a smack to my head. That was quickly followed by the thought of a TV series, The Whiteoaks of Jalna, which was based on Mazo's 16 book series. And then I remembered that a few months earlier I'd read in the Social column of the Era that Mazo de la Roche had spent her summer(s) at one of the many beaches along Lake Simcoe. This was exciting because my husband, Nelson, was born in Newmarket, and then lived at Willow Beach on the southern shore of Lake Simcoe as a youngster. It's also within a few minutes drive of Keswick, the location of my Christmas Cheer story, as well as being a stone's throw from Belhaven, the family home of Ethel Nelson, author of half of the 1911 Courtship Letters.

That got me wondering if I could find the census records of this famous Canadian author on the huge Ancestry website (which by the way, was free again last weekend). So I did a simple search for Mazo de la Roche, and the location as York County which took in Newmarket, and most of the South shore of Lake Simcoe, and all the way down to include Toronto. Here`s what I found:

1881 Canada census for Newmarket, Ontario - Lundy and Roche

I`ve enlarged and cropped the census for clarity, but I draw your attention to the highlighted line in the transcription for Alberta Roche who has a husband, William, a salesman, and a daughter, Maryo who was born about 1879 in Ontario. At least the transcriber thought it says Maryo, but it showed up on my search because the Ancestry computers believe it is Mazo. The census also shows the Roche family living with the Lundy family.

My initial questions were: Is this really her? Who is the Lundy family?

The first thing I did was check her birth year against known records and found the following sources:
- Wikipedia: January 15, 1879 – July 12, 1961
- SFU Biography: de la Roch, Mazo: 15 January 1879 - 12 July 1961
- Find-A-Grave: St. George's Anglican Church & Cemetery, Sutton, Ontario: Jan. 15, 1888 - Jul. 12, 1961

All the dates matched except for being 9 years out on her headstone. Nine years is a big difference. But if she wasn't born until 1888, then it wouldn't be her on the 1881 census. I looked back at it and saw that Ancestry hinted there was a possible birth record, so I pulled that up.

Although I've cropped this single record from the six listed on the full page, it clearly shows that Mazo Louise, female, was born on 15 January 1879 to W. Richmond Roche, merchant, and Alberta Louise Lundy. It further shows that W. R. Roche, merchant, of Newmarket, was the one who informed Dr. Patterson on 14 February 1879 that his wife had delivered a baby at home.

So not only has it confirmed Mazo's birth, but it shows her mother's maiden name was Lundy which explains why they were living with the Lundy family on the census.

A few weeks ago when I decided to write this post, I happened to be perusing a local used book store and the author's name of Mazo de la Roche jumped out at me from the spine. I snatched it up thinking it was a Jalna book, and was pleasantly surprised to find it entitled, Ringing the Changes: An Autobiography by Mazo de la Roche.

And right there on page 2, Mazo wrote, ...My father's father I never saw. Whereas my mother's father, 'Grandpa Lundy', was very near and dear to me. 

Proof positive that the census record above is Mazo de la Roche, author of the Jalna series.

I find that each time I pick up Ringing the Changes, I am drawn in to her life. Much speculation has been made on her private life, especially as it pertains to her relationship with her life-long companion, Caroline, who was her cousin in real life, but whom she felt was her sister. Actually, as I read her autobiography, I keep thinking of Anne Shirley of Anne of Green Gables and how she and Diana were kindred spirits.

I skipped portions of the book however, as I searched for evidence that Mazo had indeed lived near Lake Simcoe, and when I found the passage, I was simply riveted. Yet, I don't have room to tell you all that happened, but I came to the part where it's like one of those jokes where you go home to find your parents have moved while you've been away. Except this was no joke. Neither was it quite as severe, for she wrote,
...four days later I arrived in Toronto, the manuscript of my story safely under my arm. It was Exhibition time. The windows of the greengrocers were blazing with ripe peaches - the streets seething with visitors from out of town. I telephoned the Studio. Mrs. Reid's voice answered. She told me that at the end of August my family had moved to a cottage they had taken for the remainder of the season at Lake Simcoe...

She goes on to explain how their message must have been lost and how she had to stay that night in a hotel room without a lock. She improvised with a washstand and two chairs which sounds so flat, but the way she tells it is quite humorous. The next morning she...caught an early train to Lake Simcoe and found the cottage, standing among apple trees. 

Mazo's autobiography is written sequentially, with her writing experiences part of her daily life. There is not one without the other. However, I am so impressed with her attitude as a writer that I'm going to write another post specifically on this topic. Although her autobiography doesn't give actual dates, she wrote that she began writing when she was 12 yrs old and sent in her first story shortly after. She follows this with a statement that she didn't know what she was or wasn't supposed to do until later, so she did what came naturally at the time.

Jalna by Mazo de la Roche
Here's where I admit that I've never read any of Mazo's books, nor have I watched her 1972 CBC TV mini-series, The Whiteoaks of Jalna. Apparently, the books have been re-published, but CBC has not released the series in any form.

While researching for this post however, I found a free download:

Jalna, by Mazo de la Roche - Project Gutenberg Canada.

One thing to note about the printed book series is that she has written them out of order. I never realized until I discovered NLS Minibibliographies: The Jalna Series; or, The WhiteoakChronicles by Mazo de la Roche which states that Mazo's first book, Jalna, is actually the seventh book in the storyline, however, the website lists them in order as well as explaining how she imagined the complete series in her head before any words were written.

To finish this first post on Mazo de la Roche, I'll leave you with this Historical marker which I found, along with directions and a map to its location, at Ontario's Historical Plaques.

Mazo de la Roche 1879-1961 Ontario Historical Plaque. Courtesy of

As for the actual writing of the millions of books de la Roche has sold around the world, I'll leave that for the next post.

Have you read a Mazo de la Roche novel? What did you think?


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's short story, Riding on a Christmas Wish is 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

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Missionary Eric Liddell

by C.J. Chase

I was thinking of doing a theme for my history posts in 2014. But what to choose? Focus on a single time period? Hmm, maybe. Bad boys of North American history? Okay, that one sounded kind of fun.

But then I came across this article in Christianity Today: “The Surprising Discovery about Those Colonialist, Proselytizing Missionaries.” If you haven’t read it yet, you simply must. (It’s long, however, so wait until you have finished reading and commenting on my brilliant post, ‘k?) In short, a doctoral candidate used statistics to analyze the relationship between 19th century Protestant Christian missionary activity and modern democracy in places such as Africa and Asia. He discovered a very strong correlation exists between those missions of 100+ years ago and better outcomes for the societies today. For example, most of Africa was under European colonial control at the time. Those colonies where missionary activity was allowed or even encouraged have become the African countries of today with the highest rates of literacy, the best health outcomes, and the lowest rates of corruption. The colonies where missionary activity was discouraged continue to lag behind despite 50 years of independence from colonial rule.

As I finished the article, I knew I had found my theme for 2014. Who were these faithful people who had followed God’s call to save souls in some of the most remote areas of the world and ended up bettering the lives of millions over 100 years later? In rembrance of his January birthday, I decided to start with one of the more familiar names.

Eric Liddell was born January 16, 1902 in China to Scottish missionaries. He went to Britain as a boy to attend boarding school, and it was there he discovered his gift for running. Yes, running. Do you remember the award-winning movie Chariots of Fire?

After Liddell’s surprising gold-medal win in the 400 meter race at the 1924 Olympics (he had refused to compete in the 100 meter—his best event—or as part of the 400 meter relay because both events were held on Sundays), he returned to China in 1925 and joined his parents in their work. He taught school and was Sunday School superintendent at his father’s church.

In 1934 he married Florence Mackenzie, a daughter of Canadian missionaries to China. By that time, parts of China were already under the control of the invading Japanese Imperial army. When Britain went to war with Japan’s ally Germany, the situation became fraught with danger. In 1941, Liddell sent his pregnant wife and two daughters to her family in Canada while he stayed behind to help the suffering Chinese. He never met his youngest daughter, never saw his family again. In 1943, the Japanese interred all “enemy” foreigners in camps. Liddell died in 1945, just months before China’s liberation. 

Eric Liddell’s story has been well documented, so I’m not going to give a lot of details here. You can find more at The Eric Liddell Center or get a copy of Chariots of Fire. The soundtrack alone is worth the cost. Just be aware that the screenwriters played a little fast-and-lose with some of the timelines to add drama. (I hear writers do that on occasion. Not that I, ahem, would know anything about that.)

Here are two other video clips. The first is original footage from Liddell's Olympic-winning race. And then I included the opening credits of the movie...just to give you uplifting music to go with the rest of the story.

Modern mission work in China began in 1807 and all but ceased when the communists seized power in 1949. Click on this link to view a list of known Protestant missionaries who served in China during that century and a half. It looks like a lot—until you consider how many millions of people lived in China even then. If each one of those named discipled even 100 people, how many Christians might one expect to find in China today?

In 2007, Asia Times published an article by the great foreign affairs writer Spengler (a.k.a., David Goldman) “Christianity Finds a Fulcrum in Asia.” (CJ’s note: the link to the article in Asia Times seems to be broken, but I found it reprinted here.) Spengler cites a conversion rate to Christianity of ten thousand Chinese per day. Per day. Now look at that list of missionaries again. Already, China has more Christians than any other country in the world with the exceptions of the US and Brazil. China is on track to be the country with the most Christians by mid-century.

Spengler goes on to discuss the ramifications of this explosion of Christianity, particularly for the future development of democracy in China. And that brings me back full circle to the doctoral dissertation I mentioned above, and the far-reaching impact of missionary work.

Asked if he regretted leaving behind the fame and glory of athletic competition, Liddell is reported to have said, "A fellows life counts for far more at this [missionary work] than the other."

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 current release, The Reluctant Earl, is now available  in online bookstores. You can visit C.J.'s cyber-home (where the floors are always clean) at

Monday, January 27, 2014

Are You a Walter Mitty?

By Niki Turner

Just a few days before my oldest son headed off for professional over-the-road truck driving school (he passed with flying colors, and is, as I'm typing this, is hauling a load to New York in a 40-ton semi), we spent a lovely afternoon running errands, going out to dinner, and taking in a movie. We picked "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" for our evening's entertainment.

If you haven't seen it, in my opinion, it's worth the time and energy and ridiculous amount of money it takes to see it in the theater, and that's not a recommendation I give very often.

Suffice to say, I cried... not just at the theater, but for several days afterward. Not because the story has a sad ending, but because I recognized myself in Walter Mitty, and because I so want to encourage others to pursue their dreams and desires to the fullest.

When I got home, I decided I needed to find the movie's soundtrack... something to remind me of the film's message when I had a bout of "absent eaglet syndrome." (I can't have empty nest syndrome, because I still have one at home full-time, one at home part-time, and my oldest and her family with us in the same abode. But when one leaves the nest, it stings, regardless.) ANYWAY... I digress.

As it turns out, "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" was originally a short story, written by James Thurber and published in The New Yorker magazine in 1939.  (You can read the original version here.) Thurber was a peer of E.B. White, who wrote such classics as "Charlotte's Web" and "Stuart Little," and was a co-author of "Strunk and White's Elements of Style." Yeah... THAT White, who knew?

Thurber's story was adapted for the stage several times, and a film loosely based on the story was made in 1947, starring Danny Kaye.

Walter Mitty's character, who daydreams about what he could be doing instead of actually DOING it, inspired slang terms. "Mittyesque" and "Walter Mitty" came to represent a person who is ineffectual because he or she spends more time fantasizing about life than actually living. In the military, the term denotes a person who intentionally tries to fake an impressive career.

The 2013 movie, in case you are growing concerned, has a happy ending. But it did make me think (besides the whole encouraging my children to "fly" thing)...
  • Am I spending more time daydreaming about being a writer, vicariously living through other writers, or imagining life as a writer, than I am actually WRITING?
  • In the original short story, and the recent film, Walter Mitty's potential is short-circuited by two things: his fear of failure and the unknown, and the pressure of everyday, mundane tasks and obligations that threaten to swamp our calendars, overwhelm our schedules, and wear us out mentally and physically. What am I allowing to short-circuit my dreams? 
  • What have I dreamed of doing as a writer that I've put on the proverbial back burner? Is it poetry? Literary fiction? Attempting a full novel? Stepping into a different genre than what I'm comfortable with? 
If you honestly examine yourself, are you playing a Mittyesque role with your dreams, or are you taking steps to achieve them?

It's not about being published or unpublished, it's about living out the God-given dreams that dwell in your soul. (Yeah, I know... OUCH.) That said, what are you going to DO about it? I'm working on answering that question myself.

Niki Turner is a writer, former pastor's wife, mother of four, and grandmother of three. 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.

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