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, March 19, 2012

Hop Aboard a Gold Rush Era Stagecoach

I recently visited the Autry, a museum in Los Angeles dedicated to showcasing the experience of the American West.

Among other displays (Wyatt Earp's Colt 45, for starters), I was eager to see a Gold-Rush era stagecoach. We historical writers set our characters in all sorts of conveyances—from Regency phaetons to farm wagons—and I couldn’t resist seeing the historical form of transportation up close. Although I knew I couldn’t touch or approach the coach, I looked forward to “putting myself into the scene” as much as I could: seeing how tall I was in relation to it, wondering what it must have felt like to raise the hem of my skirt and petticoats and climb aboard, just as my heroines might.

I was surprised by the beauty and craftsmanship I saw.

According to a display photo taken before its restoration, Stagecoach Number 65 was well-used and of questionable color from numerous repainting. Restorers set to work and discovered a gorgeous surprise underneath the years of grime and paint.

This Concord stagecoach, Abbot Downing Company, was built in New Hampshire around 1850. Concord stagecoaches often featured landscapes painted on the sides, and it’s said the benches were cushioned with quality fabrics. In addition, “thorough braces” of cured leather strung in pairs under the coach, allowing the coach to swing back and forth like a cradle and sparing the riders from the jolts and bumps of the road.

According to the docent on hand, however, the passengers traversing Gold-Rush era Northern California in this coach would not have endured a pleasant journey.

The roads were primitive; the journeys, long. Four to six horses pulled the coach, which could seat nine people within on three bench-type seats (and perhaps more on top). Only three of those passengers inside could be female. It was not seemly for a man to have his boots, or knee, or any other part of his person between a woman’s legs. Therefore, the men riding on the center bench (which appears to have been backless) had to face the other row of menfolk.

I couldn't figure out how nine people crammed inside. I felt very spoiled by my Mom-mobile SUV.

And despite the “thorough brace” supporting the coach, passengers were often “sea-sick,” and invariably, the inside of a stagecoach was an unpleasant place to be after a while. The coaches didn’t stop to accommodate bouts of illness. No wonder passengers brought along remedies to help allay the symptoms of motion sickness.

Note the portable utensils and travel-sized salt container in the photo, as well.

Besides medicine and sanitary spoons, what did one bring along for a journey by stagecoach? Only twenty-five pounds of luggage was allotted per person, so one had to be choosy. Travel-size playing cards seemed to be a popular choice, from the number of them I saw at the Autry (It's not easy to tell in the photo, but they are quite tiny, like children's party favors.)

Here’s a satchel and the sorts of things one might pack inside--you've seen the medicines and cards, but this photo also shows a warm bonnet, tooth powder, soap, and tools. One imagines very few changes of clothing fit in the satchel, too.

It may not have been a romantic way to travel at the time, but the relics of a bygone era certainly spark the imagination!

I'll post more of my discoveries soon!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Humpty Dumpty is Real!

Several months back, I posted a devotional on Inkwell about some mourning doves' fruitless attempt to build a nest on the ceiling fan blades on my backyard patio. Every twig and leaf brought in by the doves for nesting slipped right off the blades--and an egg would certainly follow suit--yet they persisted for weeks.

I both marveled at their determination and boggled at their stupidity. (And I compared it to my relationship with God.)

Today I'll harken back to the mourning doves' lack of, er, foresight when it comes to laying eggs.

Behold, the cinder block wall in my backyard:

Humpty Dumpty, indeed! Poor thing.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Highland Crossings--A Sweet and Satisfying Read!

From Scotland to colonial North Carolina, an heirloom brooch passes through four generations of related women in Highland Crossings, a collection of four inspirational novellas. Romantic, sweet, and historically rich, the stories in Highland Crossings make for quick but satisfying reading. Written by four authors, the stories differ in style and tone but complement one another well, appealing to readers of varying tastes.

Pamela Griffin’s Healer of My Heart (1739) tells the story of Seona, who flees Scotland with the brooch, hoping for peace and anonymity in North Carolina. But when she’s caught as a stowaway aboard Colin’s ship, will her gifts as a healer help her cause, and in the New World, too?

In Printed on My Heart (1739) by Laurie Alice Eakes, Seona’s cousin Fiona comes to America for one reason: to bring the brooch back to Scotland. When she ends up tied to a whipping block, her only hope lies in becoming indentured to the town printer, Welsh immigrant Owain, who has secrets of his own.

Seren sells the brooch in Sugarplum Hearts by Gina Welborn (1789), in order to open a confectionary…but her business plans falter, and she questions her decision to sell such a precious heirloom. Scottish immigrant Finley’s business proposal will benefit them both, but when sabotage strikes, can Seren regain what she’s lost?

Jennifer Hudson Taylor’s Heart’s Inheritance (1815) follows Brynna, whose love of history and stability make her resistant to change. Her world is thrown into turmoil when Niall buys the building she wanted for a museum…and when the heirloom brooch is stolen. Will Brynna be able to restore her hope and embrace the changes God sends her way?

I thoroughly enjoyed this collection. Historical detail is woven with humor, depth, and romance in these fast-paced plots. These authors are talented, and I wished for more when I was finished!

A copy of this book was furnished by one of the authors. A review, positive or otherwise, was neither promised nor expected.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Ten Things...With Bob Marcotte

Welcome Bob Marcotte to Tea and a Good Book!

I've known Bob for a few years now. He's a musician and photographer, and now he's added the title of author to his resume. His debut book You Mean, Besides the Cancer? is a heart-wrenching journey through his wife Carole's cancer diagnosis and treatment. In it, he offers up his own experience as caregiver in order to help others going through a similar trial....which most of us will, at some point or another, ourselves, or in support of friends.

Today, Bob shares ten things with us.

1 – I’m still amazed that there are only 12 notes on a piano, 26 letters in the alphabet, and we’re still finding new ways to use them.

2 – Having been a church musician for as long as I have (since 1975, on an off), I can truthfully say that it’s been like having a bit part in the greatest show on Broadway. The good news is that  you have the best seat in the house and you’re on stage with the actors. The bad news is that you know all the lines but no one wants to hear you recite them, and no one notices you until you screw up.

3 – In my opinion, there are three great contradictions in life – Jumbo Shrimp, Military Intelligence, and Country Music. (OK, I’m kidding…about the first two).

4 – Creativity for me usually starts as a foreboding sense of something left undone.  It bothers me; it nags me until I address it. 

5 – Meatball sandwiches are proof there is a God and that He loves us, a meatball sandwich and a football game treads dangerously close to actually spending the afternoon in heaven.

6 – Except for trying my hand as a blogger for a while, this book is the first thing I’ve written. I keep up my writing on a new blog called www.besidesthecancer.org. It helps keep me sane.

7 – The saying goes that God won’t give you more than you can handle. I sincerely hope that I’ve reached my limit.

8 – From 2007 until today, our lives have gone from one where we thought we were in control, to a life of manageable ‘challenges’, to a life now being redefined on the most basic levels.  It’s like going from being the lion who led the pride, to prey.

9 – Profit was never a consideration when we decided to publish this book. Sure, we'd like to have it pay for itself, but the possibility that we've helped people we will never meet is a once in a lifetime reward.  If we hadn't done this, I would have spent the rest of my life wishing we had. 

10 – Cancer sucks. It destroys bodies, lives and futures, but it also creates tremendous doubt in even the strongest of souls.  The first thing that gets shaken is the belief in all things good – as in 'what did I do to deserve this?'.  It takes time, but one of the greatest gifts you can give a cancer patient is awareness of the goodness and the miracles that exist around them. 

11 – A Bonus Randomness – a great majority of this book was typed into my iPad, sometimes at Carole's bedside while she slept.

Thanks, Bob!

If you're interested in checking out You Mean, Besides the Cancer?, it's available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and from the publisher.