I knew that C.S. Lewis and I had more in common than our Christianity when he said, "You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me." Welcome to a celebration of faith, tea, and the written word. I'm always engaged in a book, and whether it's one I'm reading or one of the inspirational historical romances I write, there's always a cup of tea close by. Join me in a cup as we chat about faith, our favorite books and the exciting places our reading and writing adventures take us.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Delirious for Downton

My friends across the pond are enjoying another Season of Downton Abbey (as are some of my American friends, thanks to the internet). While I'm very, very curious about my friends Bates, Edith, Tom (stay away from that pushy schoolteacher, Tom!), and the rest of the upstairs/downstairs gang, I've held out.

Still questioning the wisdom of this. I could have answers!

But I wouldn't necessarily be able to speak about them, which is half the fun.

It's already available for preorder on Amazon! Look how big the babies are now!

Speaking of spoilers, avert your eyes for a bit if you wish to know nothing about the current season. I'm not giving anything away, mind you, because I haven't seen the current season. But I do know a bit and I want to know what the hoopla is about:

  • Who might be moving to America? Tom, you are forbidden to go anywhere!
  • Why is George Clooney in the Christmas episode? (Celebrity gossip tangent: George became friends with Hugh Bonneville while filming "Monuments Men" and that is how he got the gig. If there is a bit of poetic justice in the Downton Universe, he will be there to woo Edith and won't care a figgy pudding about Mary.)
  • What happened to Edith's beau/baby daddy?
Ok, it's safe to look again.

Meanwhile, I have my Downton Abbey possessions to comfort me (yes, this is a joke).

Last year I scored for Christmas. Mom gave my daughter and me D.A necklaces that are super fancy. I was also given Downton wine (according to the label, it was chosen by Bates himself). I photographed it next to Downton Abbey wrapping paper, which I found at World Market (they also sold china, white with little gold and black flourishes).
Ooh la la! I'm just like the Crawleys!

I was also given a D.A. plum pudding, which we ate Christmas Day. It was dense, sweet, and chock full of raisins.
Of course we set it on fire! If you look closely, you can see the blue flames.

And this year my friend gave me some D.A. tea. It's delicious!
Yum! Other flavors are available, too, but this is mine!
Looks like there are lots of new D.A treats for 2014, too.

Scouring Amazon, I found new goodies for this year. Behold, a cd of Lord Grantham's favorite Christmas tunes! Elizabeth McGovern (Cora) sings! The classical pieces look fabulous. Of course, this isn't the first D.A. cd. There's a soundtrack out, too.
Available here
I think this cookbook may end up on my Christmas list. Because I want to eat just like Lady Mary does (assuming she eats chocolate, tea sandwiches, and opera cake).
Yum again!

 
Want another book with pretty pictures? Julian Fellowes put out this one, with recipes for "kedgeree, orange marmalade, asparagus tarts, cream of watercress soup, Irish stew, lemon barley water, meringues with red berries, parmesan straws, Christmas pudding with brandy butter and more." I'm not sure how I feel about lemon barley water.
Want it under your Christmas tree? Click here.
Looks fun to me. But if your budget is a little tight (and $11 for an ornament isn't ridiculous sounding, which it is to me) why not bring a little D.A. to your tree with this bell pull?
Ring ring!
If only I could ring for Carson.

Speaking of Carson, he's written a book on staff management. It'll be out Nov. 25.

If you're having problems with your footmen, click here.

Is there nothing that man can't do?

Last but not least--because I could go on forever, trust me--is the official board game. This is something I may have to buy so I can play with my local D.A.-fan friends, and haul in a suitcase to next year's ACFW for some cutthroat competition with a few Inkies.
Oh mercy. Guess what I want for Christmas.
Whom shall I be? Why am I even asking this when Tom is an option? If Deb Marvin beats me to that punch, I'll call the Dowager.
Oh wait, looks like our options are Faceless Anna and Faceless Barrow (aka Thomas, not to be confused with Tom, thank you very much). I'll pick the red Anna.

It looks a bit like Clue, but the directions describe tasks to complete.

Squee! Roll the dice and have a sip of D.A. tea while the Christmas cd plays in the background. We're on!

Who's with me?

originally appeared on Inkwell Inspirations

Monday, November 17, 2014

Chugging Along

How's your November going?

I'm still plugging along on NaNoWriMo, but I admit it's not going as fruitfully as I'd hoped. November is a busy month with my family, and we've had a few extras piled on to the usual sources of busyness. Isn't that how life always goes?

I'm tired. Worn out. Weary.

I'm spiritually tired, too. Seems like some things are tough to get over. Other things, I'm not sure why I bother. Sometimes doing the right thing doesn't appear to bear any fruit.

Ever feel like that?

But I'm determined not to give up.

James 1:12

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.
 

2 Thessalonians 3:13

And as for you, brothers, never tire of doing what is right.
 

Ecclesiastes 9:11

I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.
 

Galatians 6:9

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
 
 
This November, I look forward to reaping a harvest that will never spoil or decay. Even if I don't see that day for years to come.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Nutcracker Christmas by Jennifer Allee

I'm reading a delightful holiday-themed novella by Jennifer AlLee right now: 

Nutcracker Christmas, part of the Christmas Traditions novella collection. Right now this sweet story is available as an e-book for only 99 cents!


Here's the scoop:

Isabella Brandt lives to dance, but she's spent the last four years in obscurity as part of the corps. Now, she's finally landed a principal role in The Nutcracker. But a handsome Hungarian violinist and a shocking visit from her past may knock this ballerina off her feet and ruin Christmas.

Sounds good, doesn't it?

It's 1945, and Isabella's just one of many ballerinas in the San Francisco Ballet Corps trying out for a plum role in The Nutcracker. Victor Randolf, Hungarian immigrant and violinist, is delighted for the job in the orchestra. Working together, they become close, but a Thanksgiving surprise threatens to ruin their relationship. Not to mention Christmas. And Isabella faces an entirely different looking future than she'd planned.

The 20K word novella is a quck-paced read. I love Jennifer's style. If you have a Kindle and enjoy inspirational romance, this is a sweet holiday option.

Click here to buy!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Now that it's November...

  • I'll make my super easy pumpkin cake (1 can pumpkin + 1 box spice cake mix, bake at 350 for half an hour). Not the healthiest recipe, but it's so fast...and sometimes fast is what gets things done.
  • I'm drinking a lot of hot apple cider. Warms my hands and tummy, and tastes like autumn.
  • I'm curious to see which of my neighbors will begin decorating for Christmas first.
  • I may not decorate, but I might give in and listen to some Christmas music while I write or drive in the car--alone, so my family doesn't laugh at me.
  • Yep, I've already started Christmas shopping.
  • I'm also reading Christmas books, including Cup of Christmas Cheer from Guideposts! A few of my friends have stories in this year's volumes (3 and 4) and I was privileged to critique one. These are the sorts of books I leave out every December for family members or guests to curl up with; they are short stories big in holiday spirit.
  • Thanksgiving is coming! What will I do differently this year? I'm always shaking up side dishes.
  • I'm working on NaNoWriMo, trying to write 50K words in 30 days. So far, so good. But it's a busy month, so I expect a few challenges.

How about you? What are you up to, now that it's November?

Monday, October 27, 2014

Gearing up for NaNo

November is National Novel Writing Month--NaNoWriMo, or NaNo for short.

In one month, authors from all over the world participate, committing to do their best to complete 50,000 words--1667 words a day. Does it sound doable? Impossible?

I think it's both, depending on the day. But last year, I gave it a try, and found it a great way to finish a first draft of a historical novel that's now out with publishers. Each day that I wrote, I entered my word count into the program (I'd already registered) and the number was broadcast on my profile page on the website (and on my website, since I'd installed a NaNo widget) so the world could see my progress.

That widget was enough to get my rear end to stay in the chair.

The NaNo community is encouraging. There are local gatherings, if a writer is so inclined. Not everyone finishes, but that's ok. And it's not a system that works for everyone.

But I need to finish a first draft ASAP, so I'm giving it a try again this November.

I'll put into practice some tricks I learned last year:

  1. Pray for discipline and diligence. And grace and creativity, too. God has given you this story to tell, and He alone knows the plans He has for it. Maybe publication, maybe not. But if we write to honor Him, He'll be glorified in what we accomplish.
  2. Prep in advance. I have a synopsis, a Pinterest story board, character worksheets, and an XL spreadsheet broken down by chapter and scene, all ready to go. When I sit down, I consult my XL chart and see what happens in what scene, and in whose Point of View I think I it should be. This helps guide my writing.
  3. Take notes on these sheets if something changes as you write. This happens. As I write, I realize a character has a dog or has a nervous habit--or would never do what I have neatly written in my XL sheet that she does. No biggie. Jot down the info for reference.
  4. If I'm stumped by something happening in the story, I make a note in the text (I use ***), add a note to myself on my sheets (ie "figure out if John does X and why") and then skip ahead to something easier to write. Sometimes, something has to get figured out in my brain in a later scene before I understand what should have been accomplished in that earlier, tricky scene. Later, I do a search for *** and find all those spots again, easy peasy.
  5. Any other problems? Come back to it later, when it's not NaNo. This isn't the time to fuss over adjectives, syntax, or imagery. If it's not flowing, leave it to fix in rewrites, which are far easier for me than first drafts anyway. Sometimes, this means flat writing. "He walked down the path. There she was. He struggled for words." Just spit out what the action is and (wait for it) Come back to it later.
  6. Do not do research online. Or check email or Facebook or Twitter. This is time to get words on a page. If you have a research question, mark it with your asterisks or whatever you choose to mark question areas. Then come back to it later.
  7. Get a hot mug of coffee or tea, a snack, and a blanket so you don't need to get up if you're cold, etc.
  8. Set a timer for 45 minutes (or whatever works for you). Write nonstop during that time, and then take a break. Your body needs to do something other than sit all day (and your brain needs a break, too). Use the restroom, fold laundry, walk around your house, brew more tea. I tend to listen to a CD or album on my phone: when it's done, that's my cue to get up and move around.
  9. The crock pot is your friend. Dump food in it in the morning. Family is happy at dinnertime.
  10. Some days you will get no writing done. That's ok. You may not even meet the 50K word goal. That's ok too. Life happens.
Anyone else have any good NaNo tips?

Want to give NaNo a shot? Here's the website: http://nanowrimo.org/

Looking forward to sharing this novel with you all!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Ten Things with Author Sandra Ardoin!

Welcome Sandra!



Sandra Ardoin is a multi-published author of short fiction who writes inspirational historical romance. Her Christmas novella, The Yuletide Angel, recently released. She’s the married mother of a young adult and lives in North Carolina.
 
Visit her at www.sandraardoin.com and on the Seriously Write blog. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Goodreads, and Pinterest. Sign up for her newsletter.

Sandra's Ten Things:


1) I had my jaw broken … on purpose. Do you know how hard it is to eat a blenderized burrito? But after a week or so of a liquid diet, it was worth the effort.

2) I’ve been called a late bloomer and, yes, it’s the story of my life. For instance, I didn’t marry until I was thirty-one and had my child at thirty-five. While most of my friends are grandparents … well, maybe one day.


3) As a writer, I’m a hybrid—part plotter, part pantser. I like to have an idea of where I’m going and how I’ll eventually get there. But I’m too impatient to start the journey to plot out the entire trip.

4) I once rode my pony in a parade. Can we say, “Long day!”?

5) I’m the only one in the family who likes raisins … and cucumbers … and tomatoes. What is wrong with those people?

6) I burn myself on the oven more times than not. I’d try not to use it, but my family likes to eat.

 7) I love watching sports on TV—NFL, NASCAR. I used to watch PBR, but can’t find it anymore on my non-cable stations. I enjoy the “here and now” competition, but I am not a stats keeper. Generally, in six months, the identity of the last Super Bowl winner eludes me.

8) I used to write and sell poster quotes. Many were education/attitude-related, and one appeared in a movie. “Life has rules. Play fair.” J

9) We still own (and drive) the Camry my husband and I bought new two weeks after our wedding—27 years ago. In truth, my daughter drives it now. It’s been in and out of the auto hospital a few times, pitted by a Texas hail storm, and banged up by accident, but it still runs.

10) Favorite food: Mexican, preferably Tex-Mex
      Least favorite: Any vegetable with a “good for you” label.

Thanks, Sandra! I love Mexican Food too.

What an intriguing cover!
 The Yuletide Angel:

It's Christmastime in 1890s Meadowmead, and someone is venturing out at night to leave packages at the homes of the needy. Dubbed The Yuletide Angel, no one knows the identity of this mysterious benefactor.

No one, except Hugh Barnes, a confirmed bachelor who finds himself drawn to the outwardly shy but inwardly bold Violet Madison, a young woman who risks her safety to help others.

When Violet confesses her fear of eviction from her childhood home, Hugh longs to rescue her. His good intentions are thwarted, however, when Hugh's estranged brother shows up in town ... and in Violet's company.

But Violet faces an even bigger threat. A phantom figure lurks in the shadows, prepared to clip the wings of The Yuletide Angel.

***



Sounds like a fun holiday read! Thanks, Sandra!

 
 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Ten Things with Author Laurie Alice Eakes!

Image of Laurie Alice Eakes

Welcome, Laurie Alice!

“Eakes has a charming way of making her novels come to life without being over the top,” writes Romantic times of bestselling, award-winning author Laurie Alice Eakes. Since she lay in bed as a child telling herself stories, she has fulfilled her dream of becoming a published author, with a degree in English and French from Asbury University and a master’s degree in writing fiction from Seton Hill University contributing to her career path. Now she has nearly two dozen books in print.

After enough moves in the past five years to make U-Haul’s stock rise, she now lives in Houston, Texas, where she and her husband are newly minted church leaders. Although they haven’t been blessed with children—yet--they have sundry lovable dogs and cats. If the carpet is relatively free of animal fur, then she is either frustrated with the current manuscript, or brainstorming another, the only two times she genuinely enjoys housekeeping.

Here are Laurie Alice's Ten Things:
  1. Once upon a time, I was a missionary. Other than a short stint in France, I worked at the US headquarters of Operation Mobilization. Mostly, I did things like type letters from the director to missionaries all over the world. I’m an appalling typist.
  2. I once flew across the Atlantic in a plane so small we had to refuel in Iceland.
  3. My favorite color is purple.
  4. I used to live on the top of a mountain, where odd things occurred in the fenced land a few hundred yards away—like planes flying low and then just disappearing, helicopters used to circle around, and sometimes I heard automatic gunfire. I was also stranded up there once alone, with no electricity and no phone service or cell reception during an ice storm. And people wonder why I write suspense?
  5. My favorite fruit is raspberries.
  6. My favorite time period is the eighteenth century.
  7. I have sailed on a tall ship and climbed the rigging.
  8. I love hyacinths.
  9. My favorite state is Virginia.
  10. Coffee is my favorite beverage.

Click here to purchase on Amazon!
Check out Laurie Alice's latest release, Moonlight Promise!

Camilla Renfrew is a highborn English lady fleeing false accusations when she runs smack into love on a steamboat bound for the new Erie Canal. But can this unexpected attraction survive the treacherous journey?

***

Thanks for sharing with us today, Laurie Alice!