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, 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!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Anne Mateer's Playing by Heart

It's another great WWI-era read from Anne Mateer!

Here's the story:

Lula Bowman has finally achieved her dream: a teaching position and a scholarship to continue her college education in mathematics. But then a shocking phone call from her sister, Jewel, changes everything.

With a heavy heart, Lula returns to her Oklahoma hometown to do right by her sister, but the only teaching job available in Dunn is combination music instructor/basketball coach. Lula doesn't even consider those real subjects!

Determined to prove herself, Lula commits to covering the job for the rest of the school year. Reluctantly, she turns to the boys' coach, Chet, to learn the newfangled game of basketball. Chet is handsome and single, but Lula has no plans to fall for a local boy. She's returning to college and her scholarship as soon as she gets Jewel back on her feet.

However, the more time she spends around Jewel's family, the girls' basketball team, music classes, and Chet, the more Lula comes to realize what she's given up in her single-minded pursuit of degree after degree. God is working on her heart, and her future is starting to look a lot different than she'd expected.

As with Mateer's previous publications, I thoroughly enjoyed this story. The writing is crisp, the plot moves quickly, and the multi-dimensional characters have flaws, hopes, and disappointments to work through.

Lula can't shake off her past as Fruity Lu in her hometown. She doesn't want to take the only job available, but she has to prove to her town that she can start and finish something. The only person who can help her is Chet--who's single and attractive. But she won't fall for a local fellow. She has bigger plans.

Chet has his own issues--staying home from the war, his mother, his burgeoning feelings for Lula... Both he and Lula have to come to terms with God's plans for them, rather than their own plans.

The story differs from Mateer's previous works in that the hero and heroine both have viewpoints (as opposed to just the heroine). This makes for a rich romance and deeper character development for the hero.

A fully engaging read. I recommend to fans of inspirational, historical romance!

I received a copy from Bethany House for the purposes of review. A positive review was neither promised nor expected.

Monday, October 6, 2014

My First Cover!

A few days ago, the cover for The Most Eligible Bachelor Collection went up on Amazon! (Click to follow the link, if you like.) I'm totally biased, but I think it's a beautiful cover (and not just because my name is on it). I love the roses and the grand estate.

The book's available May 1. Between now and then there will be edits for my novella, Love's Reward. Also, the other authors and I are planning a pretty spectacular giveaway (bonus blessing for me: these women are delightful and I'm so glad for the opportunity to get to know them!).

May 1 seems far away, but I know it'll come and I will get to hold the book in my hands. I can't wait!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Finding the Seeds of Stories

How do authors get ideas for their stories?

Tough question. Sometimes the answer is, "things just come to you," although many times, my answer would be: prayer, grit, work, and agony. I'm only slightly exaggerating.

Occasionally, I'll be inspired by things I find in my genealogy projects, stories I read, or historical happenings.

For instance, I'll see something in an old newspaper that makes me say, hmm.

I was perusing a paper from 1909 and this story caught my eye:

Rancher Suicides
Ely, NV -- "...a rich sheep rancher ... committed suicide in a saloon in this city today by taking strychnine. His mind was temporarily deranged."

What? When I read he'd committed suicide in a saloon, I thought there would be a gun involved. But strychnine? Why did he bring a poison with him to a saloon? Why did he want that particular audience? How did the observers know he'd brought strychnine? Did he make a show of it, or quietly slump in the corner?

There has to be more of a story. Who was he really? Why did he do it? Why, why, why?

These mysteries are often the seeds of a story.

How about you? Where does your imagination take you when you read the news clipping?

Monday, September 22, 2014

Nob Hill: Glimpse Into My Coming Novella

My novella, Love's Reward, goes to the editor this week (which gives us about nine months to edit before publication in early summer, 2015). I've been hard at work, but I'm so excited, I want to share a few photos that helped inspire the story's setting!

The novella takes place in spring, 1896, San Francisco, CA among some of the city's wealthiest citizens. And there were indeed very wealthy people living in San Francisco. In the late nineteenth century, many of them clustered on Nob Hill, an exclusive neighborhood with breathtaking views. Because the residents were rich, they were called "nobility" or "nabobs", which was eventually shortened to "nob"--hence Nob Hill.

Take Mark Hopkins, for example. He was one of the Big Four who started the Central Pacific Railroad. Here's his home on Nob Hill in the 1880s.

Mark Hopkins Mansion, Nob Hill, San Francisco, 1880's. Survived only 28 years until the 1906 earthquake.
Mark Hopkins mansion, Nob Hill.
It's so grand, I used it as the setting for one of my secondary characters, Theodora Humphries. Get a look at the inside of it:
Mark Hopkins Mansion, Nob Hill, San Francisco, CA destroyed in San Francisco earthquake 1906
Hopkins mansion, interior
Too bad I didn't set the entire story here, eh? Alas, none of my characters are as wealthy as Theodora. Or Mr. Hopkins. (Sadly, the house wasn't entirely finished by his death in 1878.)

Mr. Hopkins' next door neighbor, by the way, was Governor Leland Stanford, of Stanford University fame. He was also one of the railroad's Big Four. His house is a little less showy than Mr. Hopkins'.
Mansion of Gov. Leland Stanford, Nob Hill, c. 1890--quite similar to Congressman Blair's house.

It is just the sort of house my hero's father, Congressman Roger Blair, would find worthy of his high position.

Unfortunately, these homes (and their neighbors') were utterly destroyed by the earthquake and fires of 1906 (except for the granite walls surrounding the homes of the Big Four, including Hopkins and Stanford). The neighborhood maintained (and still maintains) its swanky reputation, but every owner of a great mansion rebuilt elsewhere. The InterContinental Mark Hopkins San Francisco Hotel now stands where his mansion had been, and The Stanford Court sits atop the site of his home.

There are stories upon stories here, both real and imagined, just one of which is in my novella.

Monday, September 15, 2014

What to Pack to ACFW

ACFW is right around the corner, so I've dusted off a blog post from last year with my thoughts on what to pack. At my first national conference, RWA '13, I managed to overpack the wrong things and underpack things that might've been useful. So if you're a first-timer, here are my thoughts!

What to take in your tote bag/big purse?

You'll no doubt carry a bag around with you . When considering what to take, start Early.
  • Order business cards and any other printed promotional items early. Remember your business cards advertise your industry, which is YOU. Your card should include your name, tagline, and website information. Mine also includes a photo of me, my twitter handle, and my agent's contact info. If you do not have an agent, be sure to include your email address.
  • All of us need one-sheets. I use Vistaprint to print my one-sheets of my proposals for my editor pitches, but you can print something up on your computer easy-peasy.
  • Do you have a book to promote? You can leave small giveaways to share with others in the Goody Room or, at ACFW, on the Goody Table--and in your bag.
  • Bring something to keep business cards in--yours and the ones you receive. I put the ones I receive in a zipper pocket of my portfolio. Later, if a card is super important (ie has an editor's contact info on it), I take photos of it with my phone.
  • Prepare a one-sheet cheat-sheet for pitches, but memorize your elevator pitch. Also think about who your audience is, why you think you might be a good fit for a publishing company, and any other pertinent details about your story.
  •  Charge the battery in your camera. You'll want to take pictures of friends and your favorite authors!
  • Snacks. Otherwise you'll stand in a huge line at the hotel Starbucks. Even when meals are included, they may not be to your taste/dietary restrictions. It's always safest to have a protein bar at the ready.
  • Sanitizer, lotion, etc that is unscented--this is a rule at ACFW.
  • $1 bills to tip with. There are a lot of people to tip: maids, airport shuttle drivers, cabbies, etc.
  • Something to take notes with--your laptop or a notepad. If you forget a pen, don't worry. There will be one or two (thousand) in the goody room. ;)

What to wear? 

 Here's my thought:
  • Business casual clothes. To some, this means denim; to others, it means suit. You want to be comfortable, clean and neat. I take jeans for "off-campus" trips, but at the conference, I tend to wear pants, blouse, blazer or sweater, and flats. Sigh--no Uggs.
  • I turn into a Garanimal. I pick clothes in the same color family so if something happens to one pair of pants, the world doesn't end. Hopefully, I also pack less clothes this way.
  • Flat shoes (as I mentioned earlier). Heels are great for the gala, but unless you're the type of person who is fine wearing heels all day long, bring along some nice, comfy flats.
  • A shawl. I learned the hard way at RWA that the conference rooms can be cold. My 3/4 sleeve sweaters weren't warm enough and I ended up buying a black shawl in the gift shop when I already had one at home. A shawl is nice because you can shove it into your bag, and if you need it, you can wrap it around you like a blanket. (You can also use it as a pillow or blanket on the plane.)
  • Don't overpack. You will get free books. At RWA, I packed a bunch in my suitcase, but I still had to ship a box of books home. Remember the hotels charge a fee to do this. It's still worth it.
Also, remember your Bible, medications, cell phone charger, water bottle, makeup, and anything else you need to be cozy. Something to help you sleep can be useful, too.

Try to get some rest, too. At conference, there's always something going on. You have to say no to something. That's ok. Enjoy what you experience!