Monday, June 30, 2014

Murder at the Mikado Release Party

It’s party time once again! And this is no ordinary shindig. This is the launch party for the very latest Drew Farthering mystery. Murder at the Mikado by Julianna Deering is now available! Shout it form the mountaintops!

Fans of the first two mysteries featuring the Delightful Drew will not be disappointed by this latest foray into the glitz and glamour of the 1930s.

"When a CELEBRATED ACTOR IS FOUND MURDERED IN HIS DRESSING ROOM, All signs point to Drew's Old Flame. But Behind the Curtains nothing is what it seems and this Quickly Becomes his MOST puzzling case YET."

Sounds yummy, doesn’t it?

But, before you run off to download your copy (here) join us for the celebration. We’ve brought out the stores from the depths of Inktropolis. Gorgeous vintage Chanel and Lanvin gowns. (I call dibs on that rather spiffy black and red number.) If you’re chilly there are a few furs. And of course, there is plenty of jewelry on loan from Tiffany.

The masseuse is on hand and every imaginable spa service is available. We've got the whole day to relax and make sure we're glowing for the pinnacle of the party this evening. 

Once everyone is dolled up we’ll hop in the Rolls, because we’re going to the opera. Light opera, of course, Gilbert and Sullivan to be specific. Who knows, maybe if we’re lucky, something dastardly will happen and we’ll get to see Drew in action. I’ve heard rumors that he’s going to be here…

With a hero that handsome, we don't even need a murder to make the night interesting. From what I hear, his faithful pal, Nick, is no slouch either. So bring on the pin curls and bias cut silk!

Strawberries and champagne to the left, hairdressers to the right, make-up straight ahead, and chocolate pretty much everywhere. Duke Ellington is on the record player and the day is young. Let’s make the most of it!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Monuments Men (and Women)

Family Movie Night! My kids love it. I dutifully brought home two Redbox movies: Jack Ryan and The Monuments Men.

When Jerah saw the movies, she said, "Hey, isn't this the movie some guy walked out on?"
Me: "Uhh, I don't know."
Her: "I think it was."
Me: "Well, you don't have to watch it."
Her: "Eh, why not."

Why the guy walked out, I have no idea. Don't care either. We enjoyed the movie. What's more important is watching the movie motivated us both to do some googling about the real story of these men who saved priceless artifacts.

The Monuments Men were a group of approximately 345 men and women from thirteen nations, most of whom volunteered for service in the newly created Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives section, or MFAA. Most had expertise as museum directors, curators, art scholars and educators, artists, architects, and archivists. Their job description was simple: to save as much of the culture of Europe as they could during combat. These men not only had the vision to understand the grave threat to the greatest cultural and artistic achievements of civilization, but then joined the front lines to do something about it.

Marburg, Germany; June 1945
Click here for Smithsonian's TRUE STORY OF THE MONUMENTS MEN

Visit the Monuments Men Foundation.
Visit the Monuments Men official website.

Shadowed by Grace is a dramatic story inspired by the Monuments Men of World War II by acclaimed author Cara C. Putman. Desperate to save her dying mother, Rachel accepts her newspaper’s assignment to travel to Italy to capture images dangerously close to the front lines of WWII. Her real motive – to find the father she never knew -- an artist she hopes can offer the comfort and support both she and her mother need to survive. It’s an unlikely situation for love and faith to flourish, but soon Rachel not only finds herself, but also her long-lost earthly father, and ultimately, the man her Heavenly father created to cherish and provide for her.

From the Author

Books are born many ways. Shadowed by Grace started when I walked by a display at our local library the summer of 2010. There a new non-fiction book stood cover out.

The photo on the front piqued my interest: a clearly WWII soldier standing with a large painting. The stories I read in that book, Monuments Men, by Robert Edsel, intrigued me and made me want to learn more. Before long, characters and story ideas filled my mind, and I began fleshing out the story that became Shadowed by Grace.

The idea of an elite, tiny group of soldiers who were tasked with saving Western civilization fascinated me. Their task was compounded by the fact that WWII was the first war that involved constant aerial bombardment.

What challenges would they face?

What would they fear? 
Then I started looking for unique roles American women filled on the European front. The idea of a war correspondent who was a photo-journalist seemed the perfect fit. An artist in her own right, she would understand the importance of saving art. Rachel Justice and Scott Lindstrom were born and became the heroine and hero in Shadowed by Grace.
B&H Publishing Group (December 4, 2013)
  • ISBN: 1433681781
Desperate to save her dying mother, an American woman accepts her newspaper's assignment to travel to Italy where she takes photographs dangerously close to the front lines during World War II. But Rachel's real motive in this journey is to find the father she never knew, an artist she hopes can offer the comfort and support both she and her mother need to survive at such a desperate time.

In her quest, Rachel becomes involved with what will become the Monuments Men effort to save great monuments and works of art from the Third Reich. Soon enough she will find more than she ever imagined--in war, in love, and in God.
Available in PAPERBACK or KINDLE currently on sale for $0.99

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Subconscious Writer

by Dina Sleiman

In novelist circles you hear a lot about plotters (authors who carefully plan their books in advance) and pantsers (authors who write by the seat of their pants and make discoveries along the way.) I’ve even heard the term “organic” writer tossed around lately, which is a prettier name for pantser. I’m a combination. I like to start a book organically, but at some point I can see through to the ending quicker than I can type, at which point I write a synopsis to help me remember the story. Sometimes I really think I need a new kind of name for myself. I propose, "The Subconscious Writer."

Why subconscious? Because so much of my creative process takes place on a level even I do not understand. Ideas percolate under the surface, maybe for weeks, maybe for months, maybe for years. At some point they burst out like a geyser. Characters are talking to me, scenes unfolding in my head, worlds evolving, and I’m frantically trying to get them down on paper before I lose them. I’m sure if push came to shove, I could sit down and come up with an idea and craft a book like a normal person, but that’s not the way I typically do it, and it’s not the way I desire to do it.

An upside of this subconscious process is that I rarely deal with writers block. If the words and scenes aren’t there, I simply don’t write. If I’m under some sort of deadline, I will sit down and read the last chapter or so, and then try to write a few paragraphs. Often, that will stir things up and get them moving in my head, and I’m on my way again. If not, I don’t push it. And if possible, I wait for that exciting artistic wave, because it’s so much more fun to surf it than to try to paddle against the current.

When I returned from Colorado a few weeks ago, I had every intention to work on my newest novel, Chivalrous. This is one I needed to plot in advance for the publisher, but I had my first solid creative burst before my trip and the novel was well under way. However, when I returned, I could just tell. It didn’t want to come. My subconscious was trying to unravel things. I didn’t feel any leading from the Holy Spirit to write. And so I didn’t.

Instead, I did what I felt prompted to do. I worked on me. On the trip, God had been dealing with my heart, and I wanted to continue that work. Over the next few weeks, I read a lot of nonfiction books about the spirit, personality, and the true self. During that time, a few ideas welled up from my subconscious about places in the book where I needed to tweak the plot to be truer to the heroine’s character. Then finally, while reading Desire: The Journey We Must Take to Find the Life God Offers, bells went off in my head. There was a lesson in that book that my heroine desperately needed to learn. Problem was, I needed to learn it too. And Gwendolyn couldn’t learn it until I did first.

What if I had rushed the process? What if I hadn’t waited for my subconscious to untangle things? What if I had pushed ahead of the prompting of the Holy Spirit? I still would have written a good book, but it would have been missing something. It wouldn’t have been all God intended it to be.

I desire to write hand in hand with God in a creative partnership. (He’s so much smarter and more creative than me.) I can’t do that by rushing through a novel. In the end, being a “subconscious writer” isn’t the goal. It’s just the process. The ultimate goal, whether pantser or plotter, is to be led by the Holy Spirit and allow him to flow through every word we put on the page. This is how to write with a godly passion that will cause our readers to fall in love with our stories and transform them from the inside out.

Readers, have you thought about how authors write? Would you rather read a story that is planned or that develops naturally? One written out of practicality or passion? Writers, what is your process like?


Dina Sleiman writes lyrical stories that dance with light. Most of the time you will find this Virginia Beach resident reading, biking, dancing, or hanging out with her husband and three children, preferably at the oceanfront. Check out her novels Dance from Deep Within, Dance of the Dandelion, and Love in Three-Quarter time. And please join her as she discovers the unforced rhythms of grace. For more info visit her at

Friday, June 20, 2014

Buckle up to write!

By Niki Turner

Whenever I get in a car with someone my brain is programmed to ask: "Are you buckled?"

I used to be a random buckler, but when my three sons and their friend were in a roll-over accident and walked away without a scratch, I attributed their protection to their guardian angels (who are very tired, I think) and the fact all the boys were wearing their seatbelts.

Over the last few decades we've learned that wearing a seatbelt provides invaluable protection to accident victims. And yet, as writers, hurtling through the highways of our stories, we rarely think to "buckle up" when we sit down at our desks, even though the risk of "crashing" is just as great as it is on our modern freeways. 

Have you ever crashed? I have. The after-effects of a crash can manifest as writer's block, as prolonged periods of procrastination, as fear (ever been afraid to open your WIP?), as incessant and futile fiddling with a story, as the inability to "launch" a manuscript via submission to an agent or editor. If you've been writing for any length of time, you've probably crashed at least once. 

What causes a crash? Poor visibility (lack of plotting/planning). Obstacles (unforeseen developments in the storyline). Road conditions (confusion, excess elements). Operator error (author fatigue, lack of experience, etc.). The possible causes are endless, and unique to the individual author and even the individual project. A writer might breeze through one story, only to "choke up" in the middle of the next project. In short, crashes are a risk we all take, every time we put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.

And so, are we buckled up to prevent serious injury in the event of a writing crash?

The Bible makes frequent mention of something called "a buckler," usually in reference to a shield. The KJV Dictionary defines it like this:
buckler, n. A kind of shield, or piece of defensive armor, anciently used in war. It was composed of wood, or wickers woven together, covered with skin or leather, fortified with plates of brass or other metal, and worn on the left arm. On the middle was an umbo, boss or prominence, very useful in causing stones and darts to glance off. The buckler often was four feet long, and covered the whole body.
The buckler, like the shell of a turtle, provided full body defense against any attack of the enemy. Various sources say the buckler was routinely soaked in oil (the Holy Spirit) and water (the Word of God) in order to swiftly dispel flaming arrows. The "turtle-back" formation of the Roman army involved hooking these body-sized shields together and raising them overhead, then marching forward under the shelter provided.
2 The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.
 Ps 18:2 KJV
If, as a writer, you've suffered a "crash," whether in the form of severe procrastination, or avoidance, or frustration, or fear, it's time to pull up your buckler—the Lord—to cover and defend the work of your hands. 

You may have been beating yourself up for a lack of discipline, or an inability to concentrate, or a failure to focus... but as one who is called of the Lord to write, it's entirely possible that the resistance you're encountering is spiritual in nature, and requires a spiritual response. 

We wouldn't think of teaching a Bible study, or speaking at a conference, or leading a small group, or preaching a sermon, without "covering" ourselves spiritually. Why do we continue to put ourselves "out there" as we write (definitely a spiritual exercise as much as a cognitive one) without benefit of His covering?

So, whether you've crashed or not, here's a challenge: before you begin writing, or even when you THINK about writing, call on the Lord as your buckler, acknowledge His protection and covering, create in your mind a safe place wherein you can write as the Lord intended you to write. Actively pull that buckler up over your writing space the same way you buckle your seatbelt when you get in the car. Your writing gift is valuable. Guard it.

(Original post: ACFW Western Slope Prologue Chapter)

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Harriet Hubbard Ayer - America's first Self-Made Cosmetics Tycoon

Harriet Hubbard was born on June 7, 1849 in Chicago, Illinois. Seventeen years late she married Herbert Copeland Ayer, a man fourteen years her senior. The marriage, though, did not last due to Herbert's adulterous lifestyle. In 1886, Harriet divorced her husband, not to the shock of Chicago's elite citizens. Her divorce faux pas fit in with the reputation she had garnered after . . . 

  • serving sauterne (French sweet wine) with Sunday breakfast 
  • counting the flaming and flamboyant Oscar Wilde among her admirers
  • displaying far too great an interest--and an excessive amount of herself--in avant-garde Parisian fashions

Harriet Hubbard Ayer was an accomplished Chicago socialite who, by necessity, turned away from her privileged world to achieve wealth and success in business at a time when most genteel women did not work. 

"I have very expensive tastes." 
~Harriet Hubbard Ayer


After separating from Herbert, Harriet took her two daughters, Hattie and Margaret, and moved to New York City. The collapse of the Ayer iron business in 1883, compounded by her mother’s dwindling inheritance, rendered Harriet almost destitute. Resolved to support herself and her daughters, Harriet accepted a job as a saleswoman and interior designer at Sypher's, an antique furniture store. While on a business trip to Europe seeking treasures for clients, she discovered a chemist in Paris who created creams and perfumes. She bought from him the formula for a face cream, returned to American, and began creating her own product line of Recamier creams.


An early pioneer of product endorsement, Harriet paid celebrities--Lillian Russell, Cora Brown Potter, Sarah Bernhardt, Fanny Davenport, and even the Princess of Wales--to associate their name with hers. According to actress Lily Langtry, Recamier creams could remove a "tan, sunburn, and the many annoying blemishes women, especially in the changeable climate of this country, are subjected to." She also enlisted "eminent scientists" to verify her products were free of harmful chemicals such as lead, bismuth and arsenic. Because the department store cosmetic counter had yet to come into existence, the company’s products were distributed through drugstores, fancy good dealers, and mail order. Like patent medicine suppliers, Harriet advertised widely in newspapers and on billboards.

The company Harriet founded did not long outlive her departure, going into receivership in 1896. The lurid nature of the widely reported court cases – which included allegations of insanity, poisoning, theft and general treachery – may have been a factor in its demise.

The corporate assets of the Recamier Manufacturing Company were bought by Maria Rinn, a former employee, for $4,000 at the 1896 receiver sale. She continued the business until 1920 when she sold it to Anna Reynolds. How successful these ventures were is unknown.


Harriet Hubbard Ayer inaugurated the beauty industry and women’s acceptance of cosmetic products, both of which changed grooming habits forever. She anticipated modern American consumer culture and the identified women as consumers for whom shopping became a leisure activity and makeup a necessity. Consequently, advertisers learned women were consumers to whom they needed to direct their promotions.

The New York World published a weekly beauty column written by Harriet. What used to be "tawdry commerce" was now appearing on tastefully painted ladies on the nation's finest boulevards, in factories and offices, and small towns from coast to coast. According to Harriet, as females entered the work force in greater numbers, they discovered that donning war paint was de rigueur in competing for jobs. While Harriet understood the value of good looks, she firmly believed for women who wanted to succeed in a rapidly expanding world, it was necessary to do far more with their heads than merely decorate them.

QUESTION OF THE DAY: What are your favorite beauty products?


Gina Welborn wrote public service announcements for a news radio station until she fell in love with writing romances. Her Barbour novellas can be found in HIGHLAND CROSSINGS, A CASCADES CHRISTMAS, and ECPA-bestselling MISTLETOE 
MEMORIES. The year 2014 ushers in the release of her novels: THE HEIRESS'S COURTSHIP, THE MARSHAL'S PURSUIT, and MASTERPIECE MARRIAGE. A moderately obsessive fan of CommunityTeen Wolf, and Once Upon a Time, Gina lives in Oklahoma with her pastor husband, their five Okie-Hokie children, a box-lab, fifteen rabbits, three guinea pigs, and a fancy Russian dwarf hamster named Tom Bob Deucalion. 

Visit her new website!
Visit her new blog!

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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.