Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Celebrate with Me!

The winners are: 

From blog followers: bluerose and Me & Mine in a Small Town.
From commenters: Janna and Misskallie2000
From my newsletter: haleygirl58 and jrs362


Last week I received a copy of my latest book in Guidepost's Patchwork Mysteries series. In Squared Away, Sarah Hart is trying to get to the bottom of a counterfeit problem in her town. As with anything Sarah does quilts are involved.

It's a fun story with a hint of romance, lots of mystery solving and small town America.

I'd like to share it with you.

I've got six copies I'm giving away.
  • Two copies will go to randomly selected followers of the blog. For extra chances on the blog, let me know that you follow me on facebook or twitter with your name. Also post about the contest on your facebook page, blog or twitter, and let me know here. I may add books to give away if we get over 75 comments.
  • Two copies will go to randomly selected individuals who subscribe to my newsletter. You can sign up here.
  • Two will go to those who comment on the post on Facebook. You can find me on Facebook here.
Join in the fun!

Patchwork Mysteries

     Family Patterns by Kristin Eckhardt
     Time to Share by Jo Ann Brown
     Muslin Mysteries by Vera Dodge
     Timeless Treasures by Cara Putman
     Homespun Holiday by Kelly Ann Riley
     Pieces of the Past by Susan Page Davis
     Threads of Truth by Kristin Eckhardt
     Secret in the Stitches  by Jo Ann Brown
     Bound in Love by Camy Tang
 Yesterday’s Secrets by Kelly Ann Riley
 Squared Away by Cara Putman

Monday, May 30, 2011

Review: Grandma's Attic and More Stories from Grandma's Attic

Any of you remember reading these books as tweens? I loved the In Grandma's Attic books, but my one complaint is that the print was so small I haven't been able to interest my ten year old in them.

These new editions take care of that issue, by making these wonderful short stories easy-to-read.  And engaging illustrations have been added to several of the stories in each book.  Each short story tells of an event in Arleta's grandmother's life. Everything from a hoop skirt to a quilt or a button serve as the launching point for a story that illustrates an important life truth.

These short chapters are easy for young readers to enjoy. But the content is great for any age. If you like Little House on the Prairie, you will equally enjoy these books.

 Synopsis: Remember when you were a child--when all the world was new, and the  smallest object a thing of wonder? Arleta Richardson remembers: the  funny wearable wire contraption hidden in the dusty attic, the  century-old schoolchild's slate that belonged to Grandma, an ancient  trunk filled with quilt pieces--each with its own special story--and the  button basket, a miracle of mysteries. And best of all was the  remarkable grandmother who made magic of all she touched, bringing the  past alive as only a born storyteller could.

Here are those  marvelous tales--faithfully recalled for the delight of young and old  alike, a touchstone to another day when life was simpler, perhaps  richer; when the treasures of family life and love were passed from  generation to generation by a child's questions, and the legends that  followed enlarged our faith. Recommended for ages 8 and up.

Part of the  bestselling Grandma’s Attic series, these charming tales—updated with  delightful new illustrations—will whisk you away to another time and  place. And you’ll find something worth far more than any treasure or  keepsake…timeless lessons of life and faith!

Friday, May 27, 2011

CFBA: The Reluctant Detective

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
The Reluctant Detective
Monarch Books (April 30, 2011)
Martha Ockley

    I really enjoyed this book. The British flavor is a delightful change and the heroine is far from perfect. She's like me -- struggling to live her faith in the midst of an often confusing situation. She's also a not-quite-reformed former detective, who can't help investigating when a fellow clergy member is murdered. I can't wait to find more books by this new-to-me author.

Martha Ockley is the pen-name of Rebecca Jenkins. She read history at Oxford University, and spent several years working alongside her father, the Rt. Revd. David Jenkins (Bishop of Durham 1984-94) during the turbulence of the 1980s. She lives in Teesdale in the North East of England where the landscape and history provide the inspiration for her Regency detective, F R Jarrett. Since September 2009 she has been Royal Literary Fund Fellow and Writer in Residence at York St John University. She is a full-time author, writing both fiction and non-fiction. (She should not be confused with a Canadian actor and singer, also called Rebecca Jenkins.)  

The Reluctant Detective sees Faith Morgan arriving back in the region of her birth - Winchester in Hampshire. Recently ordained, she had been working as a curate in an Anglican inner-city church. Within an hour of her arrival at Little Worthy, she witnesses the sudden shocking death of a fellow priest during a communion service at St James's. He had been poisoned with a pesticide mixed with the communion wine. The senior police officer who arrives at the scene turns out to be Detective Inspector Ben Shorter, Faith's ex long-term boyfriend.

She is urged by the Bishop to stay on to look after the parish of Little Worthy. As she meets her parishioners she learns some surprising facts about her apparently well loved predecessor, and starts to suspect a motive for his death. And it is she who finally identifies the murderer.

The story gets off to a dramatic start with the previous vicar collapsing as soon as he drank the communion cup, and it holds the interest throughout. There is some romantic interest too. Inspector Ben Shorter starts by sneeringly telling his sergeant, "Ms Morgan is a vicar. One of the ordained," Ben emphasized the word. “She's a card-carrying professional at the touchy-feely stuff.” But he soon starts to feel differently about her again, although she is well aware that he "didn't understand the reality she experienced through her faith. He didn't even recognize its existence. That was the gulf between them." Her own beliefs and doubts are convincingly described, for even she can't help wondering, "What if there is no truth to it?" But for her, as for Pascal before her, it was a gamble worth taking.

If you would like to read the first chapter of The Reluctant Detective, go HERE

Thursday, May 26, 2011

In the face of disaster, what can we do?

I've been burdened by the tornadoes and their horrific paths of destruction. I first asked God what I could do when I saw the horrific images of Alabama. Then the weekend storms hit Joplin. A third of the town...gone.

It's almost too much to fathom.

But the burden wouldn't leave. So I kept praying. A donation didn't seem like enough, though I did that, too. I wanted to do something tangible. Something the kids could participate in like giving of clothes and books to those who have lost everything.

I mentioned an idea to my pastor's wife, and literally, in twenty-four hours God exploded it into something so much bigger. I love how He does that! Our church is a collection point for material goods to go to a church in Joplin where my pastor's brother serves as a worship pastor. I sent out a facebook message to 41 friends (don't you love social networking) and now three local churches are partnering with us. I worried about how we would transport the goods, and one of those churches has a box truck we can use. A friend has a trailer we can borrow. God saw all of this and has it planned!

So what can we do?
  • Pray. I absolutely believe prayer is key. I'm praying that God will lead the searchers to those awaiting rescue. I'm praying for peace and comfort to those who lost so much. And I'm praying for the storms to calm.
  • Give. There are excellent organizations like Convoy of Hope and Samaritan's Purse that are on the ground making a difference. For Samaritan's Purse, the link takes you to the donation page and enter an amount at the US line. For Convoy of Hope, you can also go to KLOVE's page for easy donating. These organizations are on the ground with critical food and water and the love of God. Samaritan's Purse is organizing volunteers, too.
  • If you want to help with physical items, there are many churches that will serve as collection points. If you're near West Lafayette, Indiana, bring them to my home church Bethel Christian Life Center. We will get them to Joplin Family Worship Center, for distribution
  • Desperately needed items:
    • Baby food
    • formula
    • diapers
    • kids' clothes from infant on up
    • toys and books are welcome too, but think small since we'll have to transport everything.
    • tarps in all shapes and sizes.
    • hygiene products -- everything from hotel sample sized to full sized
    • I'm also hearing that things like cell phones and chargers are critically needed, too.
 If you would like more information on how to help, contact one of the organizations listed above or email me if you're close to Lafayette.

I refuse to stand paralyzed in the face of disaster. Instead, I choose to do something and be the hands and feet of Christ to those in desperate need.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Running Free: a lesson from Jessie

My family has a dog. Kind of an over-grown, but oh-so-skinny mutt. We selected her at a shelter four days after our other dog was killed. Mason was the wonder dog with one weakness -- bunnies. Jessie is a patient dog with one weakness -- freedom.

We don't have a fence -- though we keep saying we're going to add one. Instead, we give Jessie lots of freedom in the yard via a long thin cable. It's at least twenty feet long and lets her reach most places a fence would.

But it's not enough.

Jessie truly is an object lesson in the grass is always greener on the other side of anything. If her cable snaps, which happens after lots of use, she's free. So she runs.

If the kids accidentally leave a door open, she's free. So she runs.

If someone not familiar with our escape artist comes in without carefully shutting the door behind them, she's free. And she runs.

And we chase. All over the neighborhood. Fortunately, she usually stays contained in the neighborhood, but that isn't a guarantee of safety. Fortunately, she doesn't get out more than two or three times a year...anymore. We're getting smarter. She's getting a wee bit calmer. Ever so wee bit.

But the last time she ran, it made me think about how I am with God. He gives me borders and boundaries for my safety. I don't always like them. At the least little break, I'm running for what looks so much better. Then a carload of sin barrels down on me. I get thirsty from the effort. But I keep going, just like Jessie, until I weary and remember how much better I had it laying beside still waters in green pastures.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Review: Over the Edge

Brandilyn Collins is back with another suspense that is ripped from the headlines. This time the setting is the battle over Lyme Disease.  Over the Edge tells the story of a woman who is targeted by a man determined to show her husband is intentionally lying. She's targeted because her husband is a leading researcher on Lyme. And when she comes down with symptoms, his research moves into his home.

The pacing is typical Brandilyn Collins: tight and spiraling. The book spans about a week as Janessa tries to determine what's happening to her body. Questions multiply faster than her symptom riddled mind can comprehend. And as I expect with a Brandilyn Collins book, the spiritual thread is intricately intertwined. You can't separate it from the rest of the story. A great read for when you can stay up all night.

Synopsis: Torn from the front lines of medical debate and the author's own experience with Lyme Disease, Over the Edge is riveting fiction, full of twists and turns—and powerful truths about today's medical field.

Janessa McNeil’s husband, Dr. Brock McNeil, a researcher and professor at Stanford University's Department of Medicine, specializes in tick-borne diseases—especially Lyme. For years he has insisted that Chronic Lyme Disease doesn't exist. Even as patients across the country are getting sicker, the committee Brock chairs is about to announce its latest findings—which will further seal the door shut for Lyme treatment.

One embittered man sets out to prove Dr. McNeil wrong by giving him a close-up view of the very disease he denies. The man infects Janessa with Lyme, then states his demand: convince her husband to publicly reverse his stand on Lyme—or their young daughter will be next.

But Janessa's marriage is already rocky. She's so sick she can hardly move or think. And her husband denies she has Lyme at all.

Welcome to the Lyme wars, Janessa.
“A taut, heartbreaking thriller. Collins is a fine writer who knows how to both horrify readers and keep them turning pages.” --Publishers Weekly
“A frightening and all-too-real scenario. Very timely and meaningful book.” –RT Reviews
If you would like to read the Prologue of Over the Edge, go HERE

Watch the book video:

Brandilyn Collins is an award-winning and best-selling novelist known for her trademark Seatbelt Suspense®. These harrowing crime thrillers have earned her the tagline "Don't forget to b r e a t h e..."®  Brandilyn's first book, A Question of Innocence, was a true crime published by Avon in 1995. Its promotion landed her on local and national TV and radio, including the Phil Donahue and Leeza talk shows. Brandilyn is also known for her distinctive book on fiction-writing techniques, Getting Into Character: Seven Secrets a Novelist Can Learn From Actors (John Wiley & Sons). She is now working on her 20th book.

In addition, Brandilyn’s other latest release is Final Touch, third in The Rayne Tour series—young adult suspense co-written with her daughter, Amberly. The Rayne Tour series features Shaley O’Connor, daughter of a rock star, who just may have it all—until murder crashes her world.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Review: A Killer Among Us

What makes a family? That is the underlying question of Lynette Eason's latest thriller, A Killer Among Us.

Kit Kenyon is a hostage negotiator who has moved to town to get to know her biological sisters. Noah Lambert a good detective, and her new partner. Together the two are thrust into the pursuit of a serial killer who seems to target law students. Then the two of them find themselves squarely in the killer's sights.

The suspense builds with each new murder. The crimes happen quickly, leaving little time for them to catch their breath. The clues are tight and kept me reading as I guessed the killer's identity. While I guessed correctly, I still found the book very enjoyable and well worth the read. The romance was well written, adding to the tension without detracting from the suspense threads. and for those who have read the earlier books in the Women of Justice series, you will love the reappearance of Sam and Conner, Jamie and Dakota. This book is one that will pull you deeply into its pages and not let go until you reach the highly satisfying end.

Available May 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Friday Recipes: Julie's Potato Soup

I know May is not traditionally soup weather, but this is such a yummy soup, I had to share anyway. I like to make this soup and keep it in a crock pot all day until it's time to serve. It's great for gatherings as a counter to chili. A very yummy soup. And I love the leftovers if there are any at the end of the night.

Julie's Potato Soup

1 box of Uncle Ben's long grain rice
4 cups of milk
1 can of diced potatoes
1 can cream of potato soup
8 oz. of Velvetta
small package of bacon bits

Combine milk, soup, diced potatoes, cubed Velvetta, and bacon in a large pot or crock pot. Cook the rice and add to the soup. Add more milk if needed. That's it. You can serve right away or keep warm for later.


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Bonus Recipe: Rhubarb Custard Cake

You know I've been posting some favorite recipes here on Fridays. But in honor of the Hearts at Home Blog Hop, I'm adding a spring favorite today.

Here's an oh-so-easy and yummy cake that you'll love to share with friends and family. And they'll think you've worked oh-so-hard.

Rhubarb Custard Cake

1 yellow cake mix
4 cups fresh or frozen rhubarb sliced
1 cup sugar (though I usually use 1/2 a cup)
 1 cup heavy whipping cream

Make the cake according to package directions. Pour into a 9x13 pan. Layer the rhubarb on top of the batter. Sprinkle the sugar on top of the rhubarb. Then pour the whipping cream over the top of that. Bake for about 40 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

It’s delicious warm. While it bakes, the rhubarb, sugar and whipping cream sink to the bottom and make a delicious custard. A delicious and easy dessert.

Click here to add your blog entry to Heart's at Home's Third Thursday Thoughts Blog Hop...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Looking for YA Titles?

Are you looking for YA titles, either because you like to read that genre or because you have a teen or tween reading them? If so, please pop over to a new blog I've started with my sister (another homeschooling, book-reviewing momma). The blog is oh so creatively titled Teen and Tween Book Reviews.

We'll be planning giveaways for June to coincide with summer reading.

We'll also be loading lots of reviews. Some will be written from our perspective. Some will invite our reader kids to write with a little help from mom. Some will be non fiction. Most will be fiction titles.

So pop over there and then let me know what you think. What kind of books would you like to see highlighted? Are author interviews helpful? etc.

I'm looking forward to this new journey!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Fade to Blue & author interview + giveaway

Today, I'm delighted to host my friend Julie Carobini. She writes fun stories set in California along the ocean. She has a new book releasing this week, and it's another good one. I read  -- no, savored -- Fade to Blue over several days, letting myself enjoy the heroine's journey.

In honor of the release of Fade to Blue, I'm giving away a copy of Sweet Waters, the prior book in the Otter Bay series. To be entered leaving a comment about your favorite ocean/water escape. Congrats to winner Sarah Forgrave.

Suz Mitchell is a determined dreamer and won't allow her ex-husband Len's jail sentence to ruin their young son Jeremiah's life. An accomplished artist, she moves with her child across the country to California's central coast and lands a job restoring priceless art for the historic Hearst Castle overlooking the ocean.

A serious old flame, Seth, also works at Hearst and jumbles the dreams inside Suz's heart. While sorting out the awkwardness of their past split and current spiritual differences, a repentant Len shows up eager to restore his family.

What I loved about this story is that Suz is a gal I wanted to bring home for coffee. I needed to know how she waded through so many issues and how they resolved. There also was a major twist at the end that I loved. It really upped the stakes and made me love the outcome all the more. 

If you would like to read the first chapter of Fade to Blue, go HERE.

I always want to know how people got started writing. Where did your interest start?
My father wrote magazine articles on the side, including interviews with entertainers such as Fred Astaire and Fred MacMurray. Always loved that! I too became an article writer almost twenty years ago, but I always yearned to create fiction. I wrote two novels that did not sell, but as they say, third time’s a charm, and my debut novel, Chocolate Beach, released in 2007 (re-released with recipes in 2011 as an eBook). By that time, I had a renewed faith in God as well as a redefined focus on the kinds of stories he was leading me to write.

What compelled you to write this book?
Ever since the inception of the Otter Bay Novels with Sweet Waters, I’ve wanted to set a book with the famed Hearst Castle as its backdrop. So much intrigue and mystery about that real castle on the hill and its eccentric, yet astute owner. Of course, novels are more than their location. So after writing the 2nd of these stand-alone novels, A Shore Thing, even I longed to know what happened next for the big-hearted, single mom from that story. Fade to Blue satisfies that curiosity … ☺

What surprised you as you wrote this book?
Writing this story was much like holding a seashell, constantly turning it over in my hand. Though they’re often tossed into the sea with nary a glance, seashells are intricately beautiful—even when broken. The more I examined the shattered life of Suz—the heroine of Fade to Blue—the more beauty I found. Only the One who restores our souls can make that happen.

Are there  specific lessons you hope readers will learn and apply to their lives after reading your book?
I hope readers get lost in the story and the beautiful setting, that they revel in God’s creation as much as I did while writing it. I also hope they experience the Good Shepherd’s gentle leading (Psalm 23), and fall in the love with the concepts of forgiveness, sacrifice, and grace—as much as they do the breathtaking locale.

How does the book intertwine with God’s call on your life and how you are currently serving Him? This story reminds me not to dwell on the past, but to prayerfully, joyfully—and ‘hope’fully— move forward. Such lessons there! Suz Mitchell made mistakes in her past—so have I—yet healing brokenness and restoring souls is God’s business. Praise him for that!

Anything else you want to add in closing?
Just that I hope people reading this are encouraged to follow their heart’s desires with the Good Shepherd as their guide. God took all the lows and highs in my life and created something new with them. Although I’d always wanted to write, I had no inkling that I’d be writing beach- themed novels one day. I just kept praying and writing and seeking until an idea popped into my head. I followed that idea, and now find myself talking about my fifth novel filled with ‘waves of grace.’ Be encouraged!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Friday Recipes: Cajun Shrimp

This is a hands on, messy recipe. And it's always a crowd-pleaser. Just don't forget to ask your guests if they don't like shrimp before you make it. It's also a dish you stick in the oven as they walk in the door.

Anytime I make this it makes me think of the couple that introduced it to us (the Westfalls) and the great time we had together as we peeled dozens of shrimp. So messy, and so incredibly yummy!

2 sticks butter    (I use 4 sticks of butter and melt in the 9x 13 pan)
2 sticks margarine

8 oz worcherster sauce
bulb of garlic
4 lemons (2 juiced into the mixture and 2 sliced to be put on top the dish)
4 tablespoons of black pepper
1 teaspoon of Rosemary
4 teaspoons of tabasco (though I never add this)
2 teaspoons salt
2-3 pounds of shrimp in the shell (1 1/2 pounds is good for four moderately hungry people)

Mix all ingredients except shrimp and sliced lemons. Pour 1/2 of mixture in bottom of pan and top with shrimp. Then pour the rest of the sauce over the shrimp. Top with sliced lemon. bake for 15-20 minutes (or until shrimp turn pink) in a 350 degree oven.

Serve it with sliced French or Italian bread that will be dipped in the sauce. Serve in bowls and have extra bowls on the table for collecting the shells. I also serve it with a spinach salad that my family loves. It's a great meal and who doesn't like to not have to worry about getting messy :-)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

YA Author Nicole O'Dell Stops by

I'm delighted to have my friend Nicole O'Dell drop by today. My oldest adores her Scenarios books. These great books set up a situation in which a teen has to make a choice. Then the book sets out the options: what happens with each choice. These books cover great topics from drugs to drinking to cheating to sex.

Please share about your newest releases.
Dare to Be Different and Risky Business are 2-in-1 repacks of the first four books in the Scenarios series. Swept Away is the anticipated 2-in-1 brand new release of books five and six in the series. In Swept Away, seniors and best friends, Amber and Brittany, are neck and neck in a good‐natured competition for a car being given away by a local business. When Amber cheats on her final exams to win the car and Brittany gets blamed for it, Amber is torn. Will she let her friend take the fall? Or will she admit she cheated and face the consequences? The second story finds sophomore Lilly Armstrong facing the question, “How far is too far?” with her boyfriend. When Jason convinces Lilly to lie to her parents about a church overnighter so she can stay at his house while his parents are out of town, how far will she let things go?

Each issue-driven Scenarios book has alternate endings that allow the reader to make an important moral decision for the main character and follow the consequences of her choice. They’re designed to help girls make their choices before they find themselves unprepared and face-to-face with peer pressure and end with a contract and prayer to help solidify her commitment to Godly choices.

Dare to be Different contains Scenarios for Girls books one and two: Truth or Dare and All that Glitters. (lying, peer pressure, boys, alcohol)

Risky Business contains Scenarios for Girls books three and four: Magna and Making Waves. (Stealing, loyalty, performance-enhancement drugs)

Swept Away contains the never-before released Scenarios for Girls five and six: High Stakes and Essence of Lilly. (cheating, loyalty, purity, honesty)

These are great books, but I know it's not all you're writing. What else are you working on right now?
I’m continuing on in the Diamond Estates series and the Drama Ensues series. I’m also wondering why I named them both with DE titles? Isn’t that a strange coincidence? They’re very, very different series—I hope you check them both out. Diamond Estates deals with troubled girls in a group home, to state it very simply. The Wishing Pearl, book one in Diamond Estates, is releasing on October 1, 2011. You can check it out on my website. Drama Ensues starts its appearance in 2012. It has a different style—quirky, drama club, artsy—yet it’s compelling in its coverage of the issues.

What interests do you have outside of writing?
Diapers? No, seriously, I love what I’m doing. I’m living my dream. I’ve given up a lot of outside things to give more time to my passion. How many people can say that about their work? Someone brilliant once said that if you’re able to do what you love, you’ll never work another day in your life. I’m grateful to God for what he’s given me, and I happily give my spare moments to my writing and all that goes along with it. I do exercise. Sometimes.

Oh, and I speak at events, lead a local writing group, and teach a publishing course at the community college. I also host Teen Talk Radio—a weekly radio show where I bring guests on to talk about anything and everything today’s teens might be interested in. You can find it at www.choicesradio.com.

You are one crazy busy lady, Nicole. How do you choose your settings for each book?
I wish I could say that I got inspiration for my stories from my exotic travels. But it’s more based on the characters. They speak to me. I tried to have Carmen from The Embittered Ruby (book two of Diamond Estates--coming soon) hail from Virginia. But try as I did, that girl was from New York, no matter how hard I tried to make it otherwise. I love it when that happens!

You've been writing for awhile now. What is the one thing you wish you had known before you started writing novels?
Honestly, what comes to mind is the one thing I’m glad I didn’t know. I had no idea how difficult the process was supposed to be. I didn’t know about people enduring years of rejection letters. I didn’t know that many writers had unpublished manuscripts gathering dust in the corners of their offices. I hadn’t heard the stories of pitches and near misses. I just had some stuff to write. So I did.

I often wonder if the results—or even my efforts—would have been different if I’d known how rough it was supposed to be. I’m thankful I was protected from both the knowledge and the experience.

Now one last question, one I've wondered the answer to for awhile: Why Teenagers?
Well, I didn’t choose this age group for my focus—God did. Honestly, it’s difficult. It’s heartbreaking sometimes, and exhausting a lot of the time. I often ask myself if I’m too old or too out of touch to minister to teens. But then I get a letter or an email from someone who was touched by something I did or said. I’m reminded in those moments that God has called me to reach out to teens, probably because those were the years of my deepest personal spiritual battle.

In my teens, I was pulled hard to both extremes. God wanted big things for me, and satan wanted the opposite. My struggles, my failures, my pain—those things drive me to want more for today’s teens. I want to spare them from some of the heartache I endure and help them tackle the temptations and peer pressures head on, confidently, secure in their Savior’s love.

They’re the future.

She writes. She talks. She reads. She changes diapers. Nicole O'Dell is a mom of six--including a set of toddler triplets who may or may not be potty trained sometime in 2011. Jury's still out on that one. She is the author of a bunch of YA books, including the popular Scenarios for Girls interactive fiction series and the upcoming Diamond Estates Series. She's also the host of Teen Talk Radio. You can find her books and links to all the fun social stuff at www.nicoleodell.com.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Friday Recipes: Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cake

This is another recipe that I received in a binder at a wedding shower. And this is another cake I can whip up quickly if I have the ingredients on hand. The great thing is these ingredients are pretty standard in our house. This is one of the moistest cakes I've ever had and it's so good as...um... breakfast. Hey, I drink it with a nice tall glass of milk.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cake

1 3/4 cups boiling water
1 cup uncooked oatmeal
1 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1 stick butter
1 cup sugar
2 extra large eggs
1 3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon cocoa (but can leave out or substitute flavored instant coffee)
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups walnuts (though not at my house!)
6 ounces chocolate chips

Pour boiling water over oatmeal. Let stand ten minutes (I always add the butter while the water is hot so it will melt). Add brown sugar, white sugar. Stir until butter melts. Add eggs and mix well. Sift flour, soda, slat and cocoa togeher. Add to sugar mixture. Mix well. Add 1/2 of chocolate chips. Pour batter into greased and floured 9 x 13 pan. Sprinkle remaining chocolate bits and nuts on top. Bake in 350 degree oven about 40 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Be prepared to have the recipe ready to hand out when you serve this cake.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

CFBA Tour: To Win Her Heart

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
To Win Her Heart
Bethany House (May 1, 2011)
Karen Witemeyer

Karen Witemeyer has a gift for creating characters that are at odds for each other, yet as a reader I totally root for her. Her heroines are strong women in an age that didn't necessarily encourage that. In To Win Her Heart, she's created another winning combination. Eden is a woman I can relate to...she loves books and feels trapped by her past. Because of that past, she has determined to never open her heart to a man..and then Levi catches her unawares. On the surface  he looks like nothing more than an oversize blacksmith who can't form words very well. But she quickly determines there is much more to the man. The problem is he's hiding his past...for very believable reasons. And the coming eruption could keep them apart. 

This was a story I could get lost in. One that compelled me to keep reading as I had to know how the story turned out. At the same time it revealed truths about the reality that our past does not have to define our present or our future. A great read.  

After completing his sentence for the unintentional crime that derailed his youthful plans for fame and fortune, Levi Grant looks to start over in the town of Spencer, Texas. Spencer needs a blacksmith, a trade he learned at his father’s knee, and he needs a place where no one knows his past.

Eden Spencer has sworn off men, choosing instead to devote her time to the lending library she runs in the town her father founded. When a mountain-sized stranger walks through her door and asks to borrow a book, she's reluctant to trust him. Yet as the mysteries of the town’s new blacksmith unfold, Eden discovers hidden depths in him that tempt her heart.

Eden believes she's finally found a man of honor and integrity. But when the truth about Levi's prodigal past comes to light, can this tarnished hero find a way to win back the librarian’s affections?

If you would like to read the first chapter of To Win Her Heart, go HERE.

Karen Witemeyer is a deacon's wife and mother of three who believes the world needs more happily-ever-afters. To that end, she combines her love of bygone eras with her passion for helping women mature in Christ to craft historical romance novels that lift the spirit and nurture the soul.

After growing up in California, Karen moved to Texas to attend Abilene Christian University where she earned bachelor and master's degrees in Psychology. It was also there that she met and married her own Texas hero. He roped her in good, for she has lived in Texas ever since. In fact, she fell so in love with this rugged land of sweeping sunsets and enduring pioneer spirit, that she incorporates it into the pages of her novels, setting her stories in the small towns of a state that burgeoned into greatness in the mid- to late1800s.

Karen is living her dream by writing Christian historical romance novels for Bethany House. When she visited her publisher back in January of 2010, she was interviewed by the staff. If you'd like a behind-the-scenes glimpse into how she develops her story ideas and a description of her bumpy journey to publication, click here to listen to a podcast of that interview.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Review: Lightkeeper's Ball by Colleen Coble

 Anybody who knows my story, knows that Colleen is my mentor and a dear friend. She's also a fabulous writer, one who sweeps me into her story world. The Mercy Falls series has been no different, and The Lightkeeper's Ball is a wonderful addition.

The setup is elaborate with Olivia Stewart finding herself backed into a position where she must marry a man she doesn't know -- and one she fears killed her sister. She agrees to cross the country to see him, but only if he doesn't know she's coming. Then Harrison Bennett is even less interested in marrying her. He's convinced her sister used him, and has no intention of committing to marry another Stewart. From her first moment near Mercy Falls, Olivia's life is threatened and makes a decision that could protect her life, but cost her love. The intensity of the story doesn't falter as Olivia and Harrison work from opposite ends to solve the mystery. Add in romance and a fascinating historical timeperiod, and the book was one I couldn't walk away from. 

For those who have read the earlier installments, you will delight in seeing former lead characters play supporting roles. But for those who this book would mark your first foray into Mercy Falls, you will find the book a delightful stand alone.

What do I have to offer this world?  Can I really be loved for who I am on the outside and not for how others view me?  Where does my true significance come from?  In her third installment of the Mercy Falls series, The Lightkeeper’s Ball, award-winning author Colleen Coble will answer these questions while leading her readers down a path of betrayal, desire and ultimate fulfillment.

  The Mercy Falls series centers on a small town in California and its lighthouse.  Coble uses the lighthouse as a reminder that Jesus is our lighthouse always leading us home.  In her latest addition to the series, the main characters must wrestle with their desire to find fulfillment in more than their work and money while being hunted by those who are holding on to resentment and unforgiveness.

With murder, suspense and desire, readers will enjoy peeling back the layers and discovering that this is more than your average romance novel.  They will be perched on the edge of their seats trying to solve a mystery while discovering that the true worth of an individual never comes from a name or accomplishments.  True worth can only be found in Christ.

Q: What inspired you to write a historical series based in the early 1900’s?  What would you have enjoyed about living in that time period and what would you have found the most difficult?

I happened to read an article about the Gilded Age and it mentioned how that era was so similar to today’s.  I was intrigued with that, plus I wanted to choose a time period that wouldn’t be too much of a departure from my contemporary books.  In that era, there were still cars and telephones!

I would have loved the simpler lifestyle.  However, I would miss my jeans!  How vain.

Q: Society at the turn of the century was very preoccupied with appearances and impressing other people.  How is that not so different than our society today and how can we keep from falling into that same trap?

That’s exactly right! The parallels between the two eras are astounding.  I’ve been at the cancer hospital this week with a dear friend, and it was a reminder of how fragile this life is.  We seek THINGS when God wants us to seek Him. We need to keep our eyes set on eternity and remember that THIS life is the real dream.  When we reach heaven, we will finally start to really live.
Q: What do you hope that your readers will take away from reading The Lightkeeper’s Ball?

I hope the readers who feel they have to earn love will take away the realization that their true worth is that Jesus loves them and died for them.  They are valuable beyond comprehension.  When we can step into the role of daughters and sons, we can realize our true potential.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Babies are precious no matter their story.

Every once in awhile corporate America gets it right. This time, Pampers got it right. Below is an ad the company made that shows that every baby no matter how conceived is precious, a miracle and worth loving and protecting.

After you watch it, go buy some Pampers for your little miracle. Or take a package of them to your local crisis pregnancy center or domestic violence shelter. They always need some to give to those who come to them for help.


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