Saturday, November 28, 2015

Congratulations to Jennifer AlLee, Niki Turner, and Gina Welborn for being spotlighted in USA Today Life!

Romance Unlaced: Novellas bring us historical holiday spirit

Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the busiest time of the year for me. I am one of those people who hates lists, but during the holidays I make them. My reading changes, too. It is not that I read less. I just read differently. I am more apt to read shorter works that I can fit neatly into the hours I carve out for myself here and there.
Historical romance writers must know this, because they keep providing me with lots of novellas themed to Christmas celebrations. It is fun to read about the holiday spirit as these characters interact against a historical Christmas backdrop. A few hours with one of these novellas and I get a double fix — historical romance, and a cozy holiday world.
Here is a list of some of the historical Christmas anthologies available new this season. Give one a try!
Scroll down the list to read about CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS, the Amazon bestselling collection which features novellas from Jennifer, Niki, and Gina.
EIGHT CBA and Amazon Bestselling and Award-Winning Authors present heartwarming novellas of Christmases gone by, where the true meaning of the season warms your heart and love flows as fast as apple cider. Includes a brand new release, “Eleven Pipers Piping,” and also Selah Award finalist, “The Fruitcake Challenge.” Grab your favorite drink, no matter the temperature outside, curl up in a cozy chair and lose yourself in holiday romance.

Friday, November 20, 2015

The First Thanksgiving

For the past several years, I’ve taken late November as an opportunity to write about Thanksgiving—the holiday and the practice of giving thanks. (See here. And here. Oh, and here too.) Let’s just call it my little attempt to preserve an official day of thanks to God from being swallowed by retailers’ desire to maximize Christmas profits. This year, we’re traveling to the South for our bit of Thanksgiving trivia, so to get you in the mood, here’s a bluegrass version of Turkey in the Straw for your listening enjoyment while you read.

The South, you say? But everyone knows the Pilgrims and Indians celebrated the first Thanksgiving in modern-day Massachusetts. That’s what all the books say in school. 

One of the things I’ve always found amusing about living in Virginia is the annual The-First-Thanksgiving-Was-in-Virginia November classic that appears in local papers across the state. You’d think home of such famous places as Jamestown (site of the first permanent English settlement in North America), Yorktown (site of the British surrender in America’s revolution), Appomattox (site of the end of the American Civil War), Arlington (perhaps the most famous military cemetery in the world), not to mention some of the world’s most famous historical figures (Washington and Jefferson top that list) would let Massachusetts have this one. But no.

You see, there was a thanksgiving observation in Virginia on December 4, 1619—while the
17th century re-enactors at Jamestown, VA
Pilgrims were still in Europe—when a group of Englishman landed at an area called the Berkeley Hundred in the fledgling Virginia colony. (The various “Hundreds” in early Virginia derive their name from the hundred-acre tracts the Virginia Company awarded to investors who brought settlers to the colony.) The new arrivals' charter decreed that “
the day of our ships arrivall at the place assigned for plantacon in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God.”

Berkeley Hundred later became Berkeley Plantation. The manor house on the current site was built in 1726. Benjamin Harrison (signer of the Declaration of Independence) and William Henry Harrison (ninth president of the United States) were both born there.

From what I’ve been able to find, the Thanksgiving observance at Berkeley was more a prayer service than a harvest feast. That makes sense since people who had just arrived probably wouldn’t have squandered limited provisions on a feast when they had to wait nearly a year until their first harvest.

With Thanksgiving sometimes turning into a Day of Gluttony and Sports, I kind of like the idea of returning it a simple prayer service. However, when it comes to the who-got-there-first argument, I’m going to give this one to Massachusetts since it seems the Virginia thanksgiving was localized to a particular place/group and not colony-wide. Besides, can you imagine how difficult it would be to keep Thanksgiving separated from Christmas if we celebrated it in December?

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Fall Livestock Movement

by Anita Mae Draper

It's the middle of November and we've been enjoying gorgeous weather up here in Saskatchewan. For whatever the reason, I seem to have been in the the right place to catch livestock movement in the past few weeks.

The last week of Oct started off with a nice encounter with a mini-horse. We stopped off at a friend's farm to drop something off on our way to Regina and found the driveway blocked by a closed gate because their mini horse was running loose in the yard. Nelson walked up to the house while I took photos from our car. And yes, we made sure the gate was closed when we drove away.

Nelson and mini-horse

A couple days later we were on our way to the Circle Square Ranch to drop our son off for work and we found these cows standing on the side of the road. They're nice cows and all, but they should have been on the OTHER side of the fence.

Loose cows on the side of the road

The next day, I looked out my kitchen window and saw a bay pony trotting down the road heading south. All alone, it kept its head down and speed even as if it was on a mission. I didn't recognize it, so put out a notice on the local Facebook page. Soon after, I was relieved to see a truck heading down the road after it.

Unknown pony on the loose

On November 7th, we were on our way to Regina when we had to stop for a cattle drive. It was quite unique as the cattle came down a dirt road from the north, crossed the highway, and continued travelling south. On either side of the crossing sat a truck and cattle trailer with the drovers and quads on standby if needed.

Cattle crossing Hwy 48 

Cattle heading south 

Finally, here's a video I took on Sunday about cowboys checking for strays during the fall round up.

If you can't see the video, please let me know. I unlisted it on my YouTube channel because it came out so blurry... when I watch it full screen on my computer, I can see the cowboy's mustache. But when it uploads on YouTube, I can barely see his face. Frustrating.

And wouldn't you know it...the forecast is for a deep drop in temperatures over the next few days, high winds, and the possibility of driving snow. I would groan about it, but since I can't complain about the weather we had in October, nor November thus far, I'll just recharge my camera batteries, stock our fridge, and wait for whatever comes. I mean, we want a white Christmas after all, and we need the cold weather and clouds for that.

Now, how about you... any cattle drives or loose livestock running around where you live?


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. Anita's short story, Here We Come A-Wassailing, published in A Cup of Christmas Cheer, Volume 4, Heartwarming Tales of Christmas Present, Guideposts Books, October 2014, was a finalist for the Word Guild's 2015 Word Awards. Her first novella, Romantic Refinements, will be released January 2015 in Austen in Austin Volume 1, WhiteFire Publishing. Anita is represented by Mary Keeley of Books & Such Literary Management. You can find Anita Mae at

Monday, November 16, 2015

Stir Up Sunday

by Susanne "early bird" Dietze

Ugh, you've skimmed down the post and seen the Plum Pudding, and now you're rolling your eyes. A Christmas post? But it’s not even Thanksgiving!

Yes, I hear you. But trust me. Our friends in England are shopping for yummy things this week because this coming Sunday is “Stir Up” Sunday: the traditional day to concoct the Plum Pudding for one’s Christmas dessert. (Puddings improve with a bit of age, so they are made several weeks in advance.)
Christmas pudding.JPG

When I say "Stir Up" Sunday, do you imagine a wooden spoon mixing flour, raisins (aka plums) and other goodies in a big bowl? Despite the actual stirring accomplished on “Stir Up” Sunday, this custom actually got its name from church!

In the Anglican tradition, the last Sunday of the liturgical year is the week before Advent (which begins four Sundays before Christmas--this year, the date falls on November 22, hence the timing of this post). For almost four centuries, congregations in countries all over the world that used the Anglican Book of Common Prayer prayed a collect that begins like this:

“Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people…”

Hence, “Stir Up” Sunday. Nice that it fits with pudding-making, too.

(Fun note: This prayer was included in the Gregorian Sacramentary, which dates from approximately AD 600.)

(Fun note #2:  Since 1970, the last Sunday of the liturgical year in liturgical Protestant traditions has been known as the Feast of Christ the King. On that day, those in the Anglican tradition pray a collect that is more appropriate for that day. However, Anglicans still pray the "stir up" collect on the Third Sunday in Advent!)
1559 Book of Common Prayer--stir up our wills, Lord!
But back to pudding.

In days of yore, English families went to church together on “Stir Up” Sunday, then came home and met up in the kitchen to mix and steam the Christmas pudding. Everyone, from children to servants, took a turn stirring the pudding. The reasons for taking turns were both sentimental and practical: everyone got to make a special wish when they stirred, and the labor was distributed, because the stirring is harder than it sounds. The dough is thick and requires muscle to mix well.

making chistmas pudding.jpg
Stop tormenting your sister, young man, or you don't get to make a wish! (Found here.)
Stirring was supposed to be done east to west, to honor the journey of the Magi to the Christ Child.

Clearly, puddings were a big deal, steeped in tradition and ritual. Not just the stirring, but the whole process. Some recipes include thirteen ingredients, one for Christ and each of the disciples. Families often made two, one to keep and one to share.

After the stirring process, the pudding was steamed and set aside for a few weeks to age. Then, before serving, some families added tokens to the pudding (by pressing them into the squishy dessert and, one imagines, covering the holes with decorative holly). One’s “fortune” was told by the token one received in one's slice: a shoe meant a journey ahead, a ring meant marriage, a wishbone indicated good luck, a thimble foreshadowed thrift, and a coin meant wealth.

Today, most people expect a token placed underneath their slice, a safe place so one need not nibble ever-so-carefully to avoid breaking a tooth or choking on an unexpected surprise. Also, sadly, most people today don't stir their puddings on "Stir Up" Sunday anymore. Not when there are so many puddings ready-to-eat in the market.
We had a Downton Abbey brand plum pudding for dessert a few years ago...and we set it on fire and everything!

Whether or not you craft a plum pudding this coming Sunday, I pray you are “stirred up” by the Holy Spirit to do the good works He intends for you to do! 

Including preparations for Thanksgiving next week. ;)

(Fun fact #3: Inky Debra E. Marvin makes plum puddings! Read her post on how to do it here!)


Romance novelist Susanne Dietze wishes you a Happy Thanksgiving despite the Christmas-nature of this post. Thanks for reading this far in the spirit of holiday goodwill.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Can You Be Better than the Bible?

 by Dina Sleiman

I have an odd question today. Can you be better than the Bible? I suppose most Christians would summarily respond "no, of course not." Yet often people's lives and theology seem to suggest that they secretly think yes. What is it with Christians trying to sanitize everything and pretty it up and make it nice? The Bible isn't always nice. Recently during our morning devotionals I read the scripture in Galatians where Paul suggests that the circumcision advocates go all the way and chop off a certain key body part. LOL. I looked at my thirteen-year-old son and said, "I guess Paul was throwing a bit of a temper tantrum." And as a popular facebook meme suggests, when asked, "What would Jesus do?"--throwing over tables is an option.

Here's the thing. The Bible is not always neat and pretty and tied up with a bow. Sometimes daughter-in-laws seduce father-in-laws. Prostitutes make it into the lineage of Jesus. Men who are said to be after God's own heart also commit adultery and murder. Prophets smear poop on things. Then there's the Song of Solomon, a rather erotic book that I sometimes wonder if Christian parents even allow their kids to read.

I recently saw a facebook post by a fellow author asking someone to explain to her why Ruth lay down at Boaz's feet. She said this seemed rather risky and risque, and of course twenty or so comments tried to explain why it wasn't. Eventually I couldn't take it any longer and replied, "I think it was risky and risque, and I think God has a message for us in that."

If the Bible is indeed (as we claim we believe) God's inspired Word to mankind, then we need to accept all of it, even when it's messy. And if it is indeed God's inspired Word, we can't be "better" than the behavior recommended in it. Of course I'm not talking about bad behavior of specific individuals, but rather the Bible's prescribed behavior, particularly in the New Testament. When we try to be better, nicer, more pure, and more sanitized than the Bible itself, what we actually are is out of balance.
For example, while certain aspects of life like drinking alcohol or dancing can in some cases lead to sinful behavior, the Bible never says that either of these are sinful. Still, some denominations of Christianity try to turn them into sins. If someone chooses not to drink alcohol, that can be a wise decision, but if they judge others and treat it like a sin, they're out of balance. When they contrive elaborate theologies of why the wine Jesus turned the water into wasn't really wine, they're out of balance. And when you're out of balance, another word for that is: WRONG!

Paul says it is for freedom we've been made free. Satan wants us bound, God wants us to feel free to enjoy life so long as we follow the Spirit and stay within certain general guidelines. Getting drunk is a sin. Drinking wine is allowed if you can do it with self-control. Dancing with an intentional goal of seducing anyone but your own spouse would reasonably seem to fall outside of those prescribed guidelines (although I don't think it's anyone's job to judge the motives of another persons heart), but dancing as worship is encouraged, and dancing to enjoy life and music and community is fine.

Or let's take kissing before marriage. The Bible never says it's wrong, yet some Christians today treat it like a sin, or a lack of purity. The Bible DOES say not to have sex outside of marriage, and yes, excessive and indiscriminate kissing could lead one down a wrong path. But that doesn't make kissing before marriage a sin. You can't just go around making up sins for expediency. The same goes for dating. Adult Christians should feel free to make those sorts of choices for themselves and not be judged by other Christians.

Again, remember that when we try to be better than the Bible, something is dangerously off course. I have an acquaintance who recently wrote a book called Courtship in Crisis about the problem's within the new Christian courtship movement. Here's my thoughts on the issue. When young men and women are taught to feel impure every time their bodies experience natural, God-ordained sensations, they are being set up for problems later on in their marriages. How are they supposed to magically retrain their minds in one brief ceremony to enjoy what has been causing them perpetual guilt and turmoil for years? Guilt and turmoil that the Bible doesn't require.

Feelings aren't sin. Physical sensations aren't sin. What we do with those feelings and sensations determine our sinfulness or righteousness. If we choose to revel in them and fantasize over them, or worse yet to dive into them, that is very different than experiencing them and then making good decisions concerning them. It's very different than saying, "Dear Father God, I'm having these feelings and don't know what to do with them. Please guide me through this situation."

And even when we make poor decisions, God is there to forgive and restore us.

Of course I realize that some of my readers are teens, and so I remind you that children are instructed by the Bible to obey their parents. That message is clear. And adult children must still show their parents honor and respect, but they must also make their own decisions before God and take responsibility for their own choices.

On the flip side, to parents and church leaders I would say this. I grew up in the church, and trust me, kids who grow up in the church have excellent "b.s." detectors. They know when the adults in their lives are giving them rules that go beyond the Bible. And all that serves to do is undermine their credibility. When people try to make rock music, black fingernails, blue hair, and the like into "sin," they risk pushing others away from the true gospel message of freedom, grace, and redemption.

Okay, I may have fallen into rambling a bit, but this has been niggling at me for a while. So here's what it all comes back to. Can you be better than the Bible? No. Not if you believe it's truly God's Holy Word, as we Christians claim to believe it is. So let's get real, authentic, maybe a little vulnerable. Let's stop living nice, safe, clean, pretty lives and not be afraid of the riskier existence of walking by the Spirit of God. Let's present a version of Christianity to the world that is not based on rules and limits, but on the immeasurable gift of God.

We can't be better than the Bible, we can only be out of balance. And out of balance is just plain wrong.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

We're All In This Together

The past year has been a tough one. There's no way I would have gotten through it if not for the support of my friends and family. So it seems like a good time to pull this post out of the Inky Archives. Originally published in August 2011, it means more to me now than ever.

by Jennifer AlLee

Human contact. It’s one of those essentials of life that we often overlook. Oh sure, we have contact with our immediate families, but that’s not always enough for every situation.

Take the writer, for example.

Writer’s think differently than normal people. We see what ifs everywhere. We hear the voices of our characters talking to us… and we talk back. We also deal with more assaults to our self-esteem and emotions than you’d think. Often, they come from outside sources, but just as often, they come from ourselves. Talking to a spouse might help, depending on the severity of the situation. Nine times out of ten, the non-writing spouse won’t understand why it’s a big deal.

So what’s a writer to do when she feels particularly vulnerable, her armor more dented than the surface of the moon? Reach out to the only people who truly understand her: writing friends.

You can take the word “writer” and substitute any other you choose: Secretary, CEO, pastor, teacher, stay-at-home mom, dental hygienist, and on and on and on. Sometimes, the only way to get out of the doldrums is to have your friends pull you out. And the best friends for the job are the ones who know what you’re going through.

Of course, God knows this.

And let us consider one another in order 
to stir up love and good works, 
not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, 
as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, 
and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. 
(Hebrews 10:24-25, NLT) 

He’s talking to members of the early Christian church. There was a bunch who really needed to band together. They were persecuted. They faced attacks on a daily basis. Who else but another Christian would understand? Notice, He doesn't tell them to get together and pretend that nothing bad has happened. He doesn't tell them to ignore each other’s pain. He tells them to exhort each other, lift each other up.

In our modern world of emails, Facebook, and such, there’s no excuse for being alone. A timely email message from a friend across the country means just as much as going out for coffee and a chat with your friend from across town. Take some time to reach out today, whether you need to be uplifted, or you think of someone else who could use an emotional boost.

 We’re all in this together.

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, and Christian Authors Network. Her novels include The Pastor’s WifeThe Mother Road, A Wild Goose Chase Christmas, Last Family Standing, and Vinnie's Diner from Abingdon Press; Diamond in the Rough, Vanishing Act, and Curtain Call from Whitaker House and co-written with Lisa Karon Richardson; the novella Comfort and Joy in the Christmas anthology, Mistletoe Memories from Barbour; and A Worthy Suitor from Harlequin's Heartsong Presents.

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Truth Indicator

By Niki Turner

I've got an idea for a spec fiction novel... It's about Christians who have "truth indicators" embedded in their heads. Or necks. Or arms. Or somewhere. Truth indicators that would flash, or chime, or set off a siren whenever we encounter a falsehood, letting us know deception is afoot.

OK, it's not an idea for a novel, it's a daydream, or maybe just wishful thinking. But it's not totally unrealistic according to the Bible.

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future. (John 16:13)

As Christians indwelt by the Holy Spirit of the Living God we should be able to ferret out lies when we come across them. We should be alert to deception. And we should be actively in search of truth with the help of the Holy Spirit.

And yet it seems we're often among the most gullible... the first to share "clickbait," the easiest to offend, the ones who read and believe the junk e-mail. There's something wrong with that.

We've been given the ultimate "truth-o-meter" in the form of the Holy Spirit. We should be the first ones to spot deception, the first to point out a trick, the ones who can discern lies and reveal the truth in every situation. It's practically a superpower! We're called to be a light in a dark place... why are we so often surprised by the darkness?

Here's my prayer for myself and all my friends...

May we, every time we open our email, or our Facebook account, or Twitter, or watch the news, or read the newspaper, or whatever passes before our eyes, be alert and aware of the most Holy Spirit of Truth who lives within us, leading us and guiding us, separating truth from deception on every level. And may we be bold (and kind at the same time), in declaring and distributing the truth and in denouncing deception. May we be carriers of truth in all that we do!

Niki Turner is a novelist, journalist, blogger, and the production manager for the Rio Blanco Herald Times weekly newspaper, one of the oldest continuously operating newspapers in Colorado. Her first completed manuscript earned second place in the Touched By Love 2009 contemporary category romance contest. She also blogs at
Niki is a Colorado native who grew up in Glenwood Springs—home of the world’s largest hot springs pool. She married her high school sweetheart 25 years ago. They have four children, four grandchildren, and two West Highland White Terriers.

In 2014, she published “Sadie’s Gift” as one of the Christmas Traditions novella collection with eight other authors.  The Skiing Suitor, one of the Love’s Sporting Chance series published by Forget-Me-Not Romances, released in August 2015. Her most recent project, “Santiago Sol,” was published by Pelican Book Group as part of the Passport to Romance novella collection. She’s currently working on a new novella for Whitefire Publishing and another one for Barbour House.

Share This Post

How Our Giveaways Work: The Official Rules

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.