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.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

It's That Time of Year...

From the fullness of His grace we have all received one blessing after another. -John 1:16

The stockings are hung, the fridge is stocked...I'm just about ready for Christmas. Not quite, but almost. I'm putting aside my writing projects for a short time to focus on the holidays. Reading projects, too: starting today, I'm going to re-read favorite Christmas tales, from old novellas to The Tailor of Gloucester by Beatrix Potter.

When I'm not shooing dust bunnies, helping the kids with crafts, or baking, that is.
May your Christmas be blessed as you celebrate the coming of the One who gave His life for you and offers His salvation, and may your New Year be rich in His peace.

See you in 2012!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Medieval Christmas with Jennifer Hudson Taylor!

Welcome Author Jennifer Hudson Taylor to Tea and a Good Book!

Jennifer Hudson Taylor is an award winning author of historical Christian fiction set in Europe and the Carolinas and a speaker on topics of faith, writing and publishing. Her work has appeared in national publications, such as Guideposts, Heritage Quest Magazine, Romantic Times Book Reviews, and The Military Trader. She serves as the in-house Publicist at Hartline Literary Agency. Jennifer graduated from Elon University with a B.A. in Journalism. When she isn't writing, she enjoys spending time with family, long walks, traveling, touring historical sites, hanging out at bookstores with coffee shops, genealogy, and reading.

What Would Christmas have been like in the times of your two Medieval-set novels, Highland Blessings and Highland Sanctuary?

Akira and Bryce, as well as Gavin and Serena (the main characters of Highland Blessings and Highland Sanctuary), would have had their servants decorate their castles in holly, ivy, evergreen, mistletoe, and pine boughs. They would have lit extra candles. It was a time of gathering and feasting with family and friends, They would have eaten minced pie, which consisted of mixed meats with spices and dried fruits. It was made in a rectangular shape to symbolize Christ's crib.

They might have gone caroling since it dates back to the early middle ages when carols were banned from European churches. To keep from interrupting the serous quiet masses, the churches sent carollers out into the streets.

By the 15th century, songs such as: Here We Come a Wassailing, The Twelve Days of Christmas, The First
Noel, Good Christian Men Rejoice and Greensleeves were all well known as traditional carols. Caroling in the form of tramping from door to door died out with the end of the feudal system and didn't revive again until the Victorian period.


Thank you, Jennifer! It's amazing how many familiar traditions have been in practice more than five hundred years!

Jennifer's latest novel, Highland Sanctuary, is available now from your favorite retailer, including Amazon. After the blurb, read my thoughts!

A Sanctuary of Secrets...

Gavin MacKenzie, a chieftain heir who is hired to restore the ancient Castle of Braigh, discovers a hidden village of outcasts who have created their own private sanctuary from the world. Among them is Serena Boyd, a mysterious and
comely lass, who captures Gavin’s heart in spite of harboring a deadly past that could destroy her future.

The villagers happen to be keeping an intriguing secret as well. When a fierce enemy launches an attack against them, greed leads to bitter betrayal. As Gavin prepares a defense, the villagers unite in a bold act of faith, showing how God’s love is more powerful than any human force on earth.

Safe only in the Village of Outcasts, Serena Boyd’s secret is a dangerous one: she suffers from seizures, which during medieval Europe were explained as demon-possession. The penalty—which her father tried to inflict upon her birth—is death.

A warrior and heir to a chieftain, Gavin requires a well-heeled bride. When he arrives to work at the Castle of Braigh, he doesn’t want to be drawn to Serena, a mere servant. Still, he finds himself protecting Serena and the members of her community when odd happenings occur. The villagers won’t trust him completely, however, especially with their mysterious secrets. When he sees firsthand what Serena’s been hiding, will he still love her and be able to shield her from those who think her evil? Or will her future—and the future of her village—be indefensible?

 Drawing from her own experience as the mother of a daughter with a seizure disorder, Jennifer Hudson Taylor writes a touching, tender tale about love in its various forms: mother to child, man to woman, and within a community.  The spiritual threads are encouraging and challenging to both the characters and the reader. I appreciated the research that went into describing the details in the story, including the judicial process.

Fans of medieval-set tales, historical fiction, or love stories will enjoy Highland Sanctuary.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Behind the Wheel: The First All-Female Road Trip

Alice Huyler Ramsey drove for miles, searching for the yellow barn without success. The  barn served as a landmark in an American Automobile Association’s guidebook, which motorists relied on for navigation back in 1909, but the brightly-painted building, which indicated she should make a turn, was not where the guidebook said it should be.

Little did Ramsey know that the pro-horse farmer who owned the barn painted it green in order to foil her attempt to be the first woman to drive an automobile across country.

Assuming she'd miscalculated, Ramsey continued onward, went the wrong way, and got lost.

But not for long. As she would throughout the journey when she hit dead ends or rough terrain, Ramsey backtracked, corrected, and continued westward on an adventure of a lifetime.

Ramsey wasn’t out to prove anything. Making the 3,600 mile drive from New York City to San Francisco wasn’t even her idea. But it was one she embraced—and executed—with gusto, seizing the opportunity and letting it take her where it would.

In 1908, Ramsey’s husband John bought her an automobile.  Just 22-years old, she took driving lessons at the local Maxwell-Briscoe dealership in Hackensack, New Jersey and spent the summer putting 6,000 miles on her new car. After she participated in a 200-mile endurance drive, a Maxwell-Briscoe sales manager with the too-fabulous name of Cadwallader Washburn Kelsey saw an advertising opportunity in her, and he proposed the cross-country trip (all expenses paid, of course) to prove that a Maxwell was so safe and reliable, even a woman driver (!) could drive one across America.

Ramsey said “yes” and invited a few friends along: her sisters-in-law Nettie Powell and Margaret Atwood, and 16-year-old Hermine Jahns, none of whom could drive. On June 9, 1909, Ramsey kissed John goodbye, cranked the Maxwell’s engine, and set off from New York City.
On the road, Ramsey and her companions showed flexibility and resourcefulness. They slept under the stars some nights, and spent others in grand hotels when they paused for publicity stops (one hotel in Wyoming gave Ramsey a present to take with her: bedbugs). When restaurants or locally-offered home-cooked meals weren’t available, the ladies procured tins from general stores and picnicked alongside the road.

Ramsey changed a dozen flat tires, cleaned spark plugs, and ran out of gas—little wonder considering that checking the fuel tank required the removal of the entire front seat cushion. Another day, Powell and Atwood carried ditchwater to the radiator using their silver toiletries holders.

Needless to say, progress was slow. The car’s speed topped at 42 mph on the Cleveland Highway, but most of the roads Ramsey traveled were unpaved and landmarks weren't always reliable. Hired drivers and supporters guided Ramsey when possible, but she was often on her own regarding directions. A few protesters popped up along the way, but they were not against female drivers, as far as I can tell. Most of them, like the farmer with the yellow barn, were pro-horse.

Aside from dealing with the car, Ramsey had almost-daily meetings with the press and found herself in danger more than once. Her path crossed a manhunt searching for a killer in Nebraska, and in Nevada she and her friends were surrounded by a Native American hunting party.

Ramsey and her companions arrived in San Francisco on August 10, 1909—59 days after they set out. Both driver and sponsor seemed pleased with the result of the trip. Maxwell-Briscoe saw an increase in car sales, and Ramsey (who got to keep the car) and her friends returned home, proud of their accomplishment. Ramsey settled back into her life, bore two children, and in 1917 her husband John was elected to Congress. He never learned to drive, relying on his wife, who continued driving until her death in 1983.

In 1961 she published the story of her journey, Veil, Duster, and Tire Iron, one year after she was named AAA’s “Woman Motorist of the Century.”

I like to think of her as much more than a motorist, however. Alice Ramsey was presented an opportunity for adventure doing something she enjoyed, and she embraced it. She persevered, even when others tried to make things difficult.  Her husband’s support, the fellowship of friends, and the reminder of her goal no doubt made the difficult times more tolerable. She kept on driving, sometimes off course, but she kept moving.

And she didn’t turn back.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Few of My Favorite Things: Ornament Edition

Don't you just love Christmas trees? Each is as unique as the decorator, revealing the tastes and joys, pasts and presents of the family who hung each ornament. We have a lot of ornaments at our house -- more than we need -- but each one represents something, a memory of the moment it was made or received, whether it's a kindergarten creation or a souvenir from a vacation, and I can't bear to part with a single one of them. One of my favorite days of the year is when all of the boxes come out and we unpack the treasures for our tree.

Some of my friends have themed trees. Red White and Blue God Bless America Trees; Gingerbread Trees; Star Trek (yes! you know who you are!); Feathers and Fur. My theme, I suppose, is "anything goes." But I do have a special collection of ornaments, and I'm sure you won't be surprised to learn they are teapots and teacups. I thought I'd share just a few of them with you.

Like all of our other ornaments, each is a memory. I purchased this one myself from a tea shop one November. My friend Laura and I had a wonderful afternoon that day, enjoying scones and fragrant Buccaneer tea -- a delicious blend of coconut and rooibos and I'm not sure what else, but it's divine. I'm a sucker for red toille, so I couldn't pass this up:

The newest in my collection came from my friend Susan. She sent it to me last year for Christmas with instructions to open the package early and hang it on the tree. I love the shade of blue and the wintry feel of this teacup!

This last photo shows two more. One is a pink teapot, which reminds me a bit of a favorite (human-sized) teacup I have, an Old Country Roses pattern laid over pale pink. It also came from a tea shop. The Christmas pattern teacup came from my friend Jill, the last Christmas I lived in the same town as her before I moved away. There's a pot to match this one, too. I love the Victorian collage-look of it.

There's a peek at a few of my favorite ornaments! What about you? What are some of the treasured ornaments gracing your tree?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Ten Things...With Author Barbara Early

Welcome Barbara Early, author of Gold, Frankincense, and Murder, to Tea and a Good Book!

Barbara Early grew up buried in the snowy suburbs of Buffalo, NY, where she developed a love for all things sedentary: reading, writing, classic movies, and Scrabble. She holds a degree in Electrical Engineering, but her penchant for the creative caused her to run away screaming from the pocket-protector set. She taught secondary English and science for several years in a Christian school before home schooling her daughter successfully through high school. Barbara cooks up cozy mysteries with a healthy dose of comedy and sometimes a splash of romance, and was a double finalist in the 2010 ACFW Genesis competition. When not reading or writing, she enjoys cooking, crafts, home-improvement projects, and spending time with her husband and daughter.

 1. When I was little, I bore an uncanny resemblance to Shirley Temple.

2. I never button my coat or wear a scarf.

3. I have a degree in electrical engineering that I never used. 

4. I homeschooled my daughter from third grade all the way through high school.

5. My TV crushes are/were Simon Templer, Spock, Remington Steele, and Monk.

6. My beverage of choice is a 50/50 mix of cranberry juice and ginger ale.

7. As a teen, I accidentally sneezed soup out my nose at a missionary.

8. I clean my house while wearing my pajamas.

9. When I was a child I asked for a cat. They told me I could have a pet tree instead. I fell for it. My pet maple lived to be about 15 before it got some spotted disease and had to be cut down. I cried. I still get attached to trees.

10. I sleep best when the temperature in the room is below sixty degrees.

Here's a peek at Barbara's book,Gold, Frankincense, and Murder:

High school geometry teacher, Donna Russell likes her life well-ordered and logical, even if it is a tad solitary at times. But when a charming co-worker at the local food bank disappears just before Christmas, Donna is left with more questions than solutions.

After the missing man's neighbor, muscle-bound EMT Sam Holton, volunteers as Donna's crime-fighting sidekick, sparks fly between them. Donna wonders if Sam can be trusted, or if he's trying to throw an unknown into her calculations—and her life.

And when police recover a body from the icy Niagara River, Donna is faced with the most frustrating equation of all: can murder plus mayhem ever equal romance?

To learn more about Barbara or get a copy of her book, check out these links:

purchase link: http://www.pelicanbookgroup.com/ec/gold-frankincense-and-murder

Thanks for visiting us, Barbara! I'm looking forward to losing myself in this mystery this Christmas!