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.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Congratulations to the ACFW Carol Finalists!

Here are the finalists for the 2015 Carol Awards. The winners will be announced September 19 during the gala awards dinner in Dallas at ACFW’s annual conference.

Last Family Standing by Jennifer AlLee, Abingdon Press, editor Ramona Richards
Lizzy & Jane by Katherine Reay, HarperCollins Christian Publishing, editors Becky Monds, L.B. Norton
The Story Keeper by Lisa Wingate, Tyndale House, editors Sarah Mason, Jan Stob

Chateau of Secrets by Melanie Dobson, Howard (Simon & Schuster), editor Beth Adams
Saving Amelie by Cathy Gohlke, Tyndale House, editors Sarah Mason, Stephanie Broene
What Follows After by Dan Walsh, Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group, editor Andrea Doering

Historical Romance:
For Such a Time by Kate Breslin, Bethany House (Baker) Publishing, editors Raela Schoenherr, Luke Hinrichs
With Every Breath by Elizabeth Camden, Bethany House (Baker) Publishing, editor Raela Schoenherr
While Love Stirs by Lorna Seilstad, Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group, editors Andrea Doering, Jessica English

Poison Town by Creston Mapes, David C. Cook, editor L.B. Norton
A Way of Escape by Serena B. Miller, independently published, editor Connie Troyer
A Cry from the Dust by Carrie Stuart Parks, HarperCollins Christian Publishing, editors Amanda Bostic, Natalie Hanemann

An October Bride by Katie Ganshert, HarperCollins Christian Publishing, editor Becky Philpott
I’ll be Home for Christmas from Where Treetops Glisten by Sarah Sundin, Waterbrook/Multnomah (Random House), editor Shannon Marchese
A Cowboy Unmatched by Karen Witemeyer, Bethany House (Baker) Publishing, editor Karen Schurrer

The Wishing Season by Denise Hunter, HarperCollins Christian Publishing, editors Ami McConnell, L.B. Norton
Love Redeemed by Kelly Irvin, Harvest House Publishers, editor Kathleen Kerr
Somebody Like You by Beth K. Vogt, Howard (Simon & Schuster), editor Jessica Wong    

Romantic Suspense:
Under a Turquoise Sky by Lisa Carter, Abingdon Press, editor Ramona Richards
No One to Trust by Lynette Eason, Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group, editor Andrea Doering
Deceived by Irene Hannon, Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group, editor Jennifer Leep

Short Novel:
Second Chance Summer by Irene Hannon, Love Inspired (Harlequin), editor Melissa Endlich
Rescuing the Texan’s Heart by Mindy Obenhaus, Love Inspired (Harlequin), editor Melissa Endlich
The Wyoming Heir by Naomi Rawlings, Love Inspired (Harlequin), editor Elizabeth Mazer

Orphan’s Song by Gillian Bronte Adams, Enclave Publishing, editor Steve Laube
A Time to Die by Nadine Brandes, Enclave Publishing, editors Jeff Gerke, Karen Ball
Jupiter Winds by C.J. Darlington, independently published, editor Carol Kurtz Darlington

Young Adult:
This Quiet Sky by Joanne Bischof, independently published, editors Amanda Dykes, Denise Harmer
Samantha Sanderson at the Movies by Robin Caroll, HarperCollins Christian Publishing, editors Kim Childress, Mary Hassinger
Storm Siren by Mary Weber, HarperCollins Christian Publishing, editor Becky Monds

Debut Novel:
Playing Saint by Zachary Bartels, HarperCollins Christian Publishing, editor Amanda Bostic
For Such a Time by Kate Breslin, Bethany House (Baker) Publishing, editors Raela Schoenherr, Luke Hinrichs
The Hesitant Heiress by Dawn Crandall, Whitaker House, editor Courtney Hartzel


- See more at: http://www.acfw.com/carol/2015_carol_award_finalists#sthash.qZqdUBge.dpuf

Monday, June 22, 2015

Summer Garden to Summer Table!

What's growing in your garden this year?

I've been enjoying my summer tomatoes for a few weeks now. Paired with fresh basil, they've made for some delicious bruschetta.

I'm also making Tomato Salad Dressing, which is wonderful on salads as well as on pasta or crostini toasts with some soft goat cheese. It won't last in the fridge long, but it's so tasty you might just use it all up first.

Oh, and the first ingredient is sun. Or at least dry weather. Don't make this on a rainy day! It needs to sit out in the summer sun so the flavors can blend.

Tomato Salad Dressing

8 good-sized ripe tomatoes or 4-6 beefsteak tomatoes--vine-ripened from your backyard is best!
1 c. olive oil
1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
2-3 T. fresh basil, sliced thin
1 t. sugar
1-2 cloves garlic, chopped
green onion to taste, finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste
(other herbs you might want to add? A little parsley and/or oregano...but let basil be the strongest!)

  1. On a warm, sunny day, peel the tomatoes (score an x on the bottom and then dunk them in a pot of boiling water for a few seconds: the peels come right off.).
  2. Chop tomatoes and add them and their juice to a glass bowl (I use an 8-cup Pyrex bowl, but it isn't full--it's just a good size for me.).
  3. Add other ingredients.
  4. Cover tightyly with saran wrap and place outside in a safe place in full sun for 3-5 hours.
  5. That's it! Serve at room temperature but store in the fridge.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Ten Things with Author Carrie Fancett Pagels...and a Giveaway!

Welcome, Carrie!

 Carrie Fancett Pagels, Ph.D., Tagline, “Hearts Overcoming Through Time,” is the author of The Lumberjacks’ Ball (April, 215) an Amazon Christian Historical Romance bestseller. The Fruitcake Challenge (September, 2014) was a Family Fiction finalist for Book of the Year and is a Selah Award finalist. Lilacs for Juliana releases in 2015 and is the third novella in The Christy Lumber Camp Series. Saving the Marquise’s Granddaughter (White Rose/Pelican) releases in 2015. Her short story, “Snowed In,” appears in Guidepost Books’ A Christmas Cup of Cheer (2013). She’s the Amazon best-selling and top-rated author of Return to Shirley Plantation: A Civil War Romance (2013). Her Historical Category winner, “The Quilting Contest,” is published in Family Fiction’s The Story 2014 anthology (Salem Publishing). Carrie received Honorable Mention for the 2014 Maggie Awards for Excellence. Administrates two popular group blogs: www.OvercomingWithGod.com and www.ColonialQuills.org.  Former psychologist (25 years), married mother of two.
Carrie's Ten Things

Maybe you don’t know these ten things about me but since I’m so chatting and all over the internet, maybe you do!

 1)   I am a bona fide Yooper woman, having grown up in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula AKA Frozen Tundra (that’s what “Mr. Chicago”, my husband, calls it!)
2)   I am also a bona fide Southern woman, having lived over thirty years in the south! My ancestors (if the genealogy is correct) were some of the early settlers in the very area I now live in here in Tidewater Virginia! And I have more “creds” than that in the south, some I recently found out about that were a little shocking (to me at least!)

3)     I have TWO engineers in my family and another who says he wants to be one! My husband is a graduate of the United States Merchant Marine Academy (on Long Island) with a mechanical engineering degree and my daughter is a graduate of the University of Virginia, electrical engineering.

4)     I have a PhD in school psychology from the University of South Carolina and was a psychologist for 25 years. I am listed in multiple issues of Who’s Who, was an NIMH Fellowship recipient, have worked/taught in a medical school and a university, my doctoral dissertation is cited in an encyclopedia of research on stepfamilies making it a seminal work, I worked in a state hospital, a state pre-school, school districts, and mostly in private practice, too. I have presented at national conferences and have published in my field.

5)     I have Rheumatoid Arthritis and other arthritis or I’d still be doing #4! But God had other plans.

6)     I firmly believe a life without some pink in it is a sad life! ;)

7)     I have a child who is overcoming ASD. Prayers appreciated. Much progress already, PTL!

8)     I love to bake but I rarely follow a recipe exactly. So some of my creations are a little “different” and also when people ask for my recipe I have to hedge! And I really do love a fruitcake made properly! The first book in The Christy Lumbercamp Series, The Fruitcake Challenge, includes a storyline where cooks came up with all kinds of various fruited cakes and breads reflecting many different countries. I prefer a solid pound cake with some tropical fruit in it and some of the standard dried fruits, lots of different nuts, but NO raisins!

9)     I have hardly been able to walk for the past three years but PTL after the latest procedure it looks very promising!! The surgery I had on my foot last year didn’t calm the Achilles tendon enough so I had PRP done, which I think has helped. First I have to recover from my open gall bladder surgery, though, to really test that out!

10) I do NOT like writing in isolation. I LOVE having fellow reader/reviewer/bloggers who support and encourage me on the Overcoming With God blog www.OvercomingwithGod.com. Diana, Teresa, Noela, and Bonnie have been amazing. I’ve also leaned heavily on accountability partners Julie, Sarah, and Melanie.  And I’ve got an amazing group of encouragers and promoters in my Carrie Fancett Pagels’ Pals group on Facebook which was a GREAT support for my current Amazon bestselling book The Lumberjacks’ Ball. I also LOVE the tea parties we have with Colonial Quills blog, and with other authors (We have a huge 7-author party event “Time for Tea & Romance” on Facebook on Tuesday June 23rd with Carrie Turansky, Melissa Jagears, Julie Lessman, MaryLu Tyndall, Tamera Alexander, Gina Welborn, and myself.)

~Thank you, Carrie! I love learning more about you!~

GIVEAWAY: Winners choice: A pair of teapot earrings, ebook copies of The Fruitcake Challenge, The Lumberjacks’ Ball, and Return to Shirley Plantation: A Civil War Romance, OR a paperback copy of one of those three books.

Love, love, love engaging with readers—so please leave a comment to enter!!!
Giveaway ends Friday, June 19, 11:59pm EDT.
Head over to Inkwell Inspirations today for another chance to win one of Carrie's books and to learn about her upcoming Facebook party! Her parties are so much fun!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Color Me Challenged

One of my friends posts photos of her accomplishments on her Facebook page...nothing new there, right? We all do it, or have friends who do. But these photos caught my attention because they were pages from coloring books that she'd filled in with colored pencils.

I hadn't heard of Adult Coloring Books before that. Maybe I'm just out of the loop, but it's a Real Thing. A Big Thing. Johanna Basford's Secret Garden, published in 2013, has sold 1.4 million copies and is an Amazon bestseller.
Amazon purchase link

The last time I colored a picture (with colored pencils or crayons, between the lines) was at church, helping kids with a project. I remember many, many hours helping my kids fill in the black lines in various coloring books, and a looong adventure spent coloring a complicated American Girl poster with my daughter.

But me, coloring, all by myself, for myself? Umm... Nope. Can't remember anything once I was out of school.

Basford's second book, Enchanted Forest, is pretty popular, too. It has over 300 Five-Star reviews on Amazon.
Amazon purchase link
Basford hand-draws each page, which is far too complicated for young hands. The pictures look beautiful, I admit. But spending time coloring one? Me? Maybe you're thinking something similar. I'm too busy. If I'm going to indulge in something creative, it has to pay off...

Uh-oh. I think I'm getting the point.

Basford isn't alone in creating coloring pages for grown-ups. Lucy Mucklow and Angela Porter offer an entire Color Me Series.

Amazon purchase link
Here's the back cover copy:

Our lives become busier with each passing day, and as technology escalates, so does our access to work, obligations, and stress. Constant stimulation and expectation have left us burnt out and distanced from the present moment. "Now" has become something that happens online, not in the space and time that we physically occupy. Color Me Calm is a guided coloring book designed for harried adults. Art therapist Lacy Mucklow and artist Angela Porter offer up 100 coloring templates all designed to help you get coloring and get relaxed.

I don't know if I'll hop on the coloring bandwagon, but I am challenged by its intention. When was the last time I did something creative just to be creative? Not for my career (writing books). Not to give as a gift or complement my new release (beading bookmarks with my daughter for giveaways for my book).

I honestly don't remember, because even though I didn't realize I was doing it, I've judged creativity without "purpose" as something I'm too busy to do. And as you might have guessed, I'm stressed out. Fretting. Sad about a few things.

Stress and sadness are part of life, but God has given us many ways to cope with it while we shelter under His arms. One of them is rest.

In resting, we let Him do the work. We trust Him enough that we can let go and let Him handle things while we take a break. He made us to need sleep, after all. So why do we often look at fatigue and rest as a weakness?

Coloring might go along with that. Creating just to create. Not for show. Not for anyone else's eyes. Just to feel the paper give way to our pencil, to hear the swish of strokes while the color of our choosing fills the space between the lines.

Blood pressure goes down. Heart rate, down. Rest.

I think I still have a Spiderman coloring book around here somewhere...

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Ten Things with Shannon Vannatter...and a Giveaway!

Welcome, Shannon!

Central Arkansas author, Shannon Taylor Vannatter is a stay-at-home mom/pastor’s wife. She lives in a town with a population of around 100, if you count a few cows and once climbed a mountain wearing gold wedge-heeled sandals which became known as her hiking boots. Vannatter won the Inspirational Readers Choice Award in the short contemporary category, The 18th Annual Heartsong Awards 3rd Favorite New Author and #1 Contemporary Award.

She has ten published titles and is contracted for five more. Her books are available at christianbook.com, barnesandnoble.com, amazon.com, harlequin.com, and barbourbooks.com. Learn more about Shannon and her books at http://shannonvannatter.com and check out her real life romance blog at http://shannonvannatter.com/blog/.


Ten Things About Shannon Taylor Vannatter

 1. I own 50 pair of high heel shoes in lots of different styles and colors—pink, red, gold, bronze, yellow, orange, aqua—to name a few. I also have 5 pairs of tennis shoes, a dozen pairs of casual to dressy sandals, and 4 pairs of boots—including a leopard pair. And yes, I wear them to church.
2. I’m a dog and cat person. I’ve had both as pets for most of my life. A had a poodle and a two cats growing up. In the early years of my marriage, I had three dachshunds and a cat. We now have a chocolate lab and two cats.
3. My favorite hymn is The Old Rugged Cross.
4. I can bend all of my fingers at the joint near the end without bending my knuckles. My son can do it also. We amaze and entertain his friends with our talent.

5. I’m an avid bargain hunter. If it’s not on sale, I don’t usually buy it. I love flea markets, thrift stores, consignment stores and Goodwill.
6. I was a hairdresser for ten years and am still an avid primper. I’m one of those people who don’t leave the house without my makeup on and hair fixed.
7. The first book I ever wrote took shape in my head when I was fifteen, but I was in my thirties before I realized it was a book.
8. I have over two hundred rejection letters on the first five books I wrote. I wrote those five books without ever taking a writing class or attending a conference. After five years, I decided I must be doing something wrong and joined two writer’s groups and started attending workshops and conferences.
9. I prefer dressing up over casual attire. I always said if I had the money and somewhere to go, I’d dress like a modest Dolly Parton. I decided to do it anyway.
10. Even though I’m a pastor’s wife, I consider being mom my most important job.
Here's a peek at Shannon's latest release, Rodeo Reunion:

And Slade Walker's not a likely candidate. Even if the former major league pitcher just agreed to coach her son's little league team. The single mom can't risk everything on a bronc-riding chaplain who's only passing through Raquel's small Texas town. 

Slade is taking a hiatus from the rodeo circuit to meet the sister he never knew he had. But the pretty widowed nurse next door is making him think twice about hitting the road again. He can't turn his back on the cowboys who need him, but Raquel and her boy need him, too. Can Slade fulfill his calling and finally find a place to hang his hat?
 Purchase Links:
Giveaway details:
Here’s something special to commemorate the Heartsong Presents line since it’s ending this month. Comment to enter the drawing for a copy of Rodeo Reunion. Ten copies will be split among names drawn during the blog tour from June 1st – July 1st. One winner will receive a baseball themed memory board personally crafted by the author. Winners will be revealed on the author’s blog on July 22nd.
Thanks for visiting today, Shannon! We have a few things in common...we're pastor's wives, moms, and we love a good bargain!
Congratulations on your new release, and thanks for offering the giveaway!

Monday, June 1, 2015

Summer Reading!

Ahh, summer. Warmer weather, slower pace, cooking over the grill...I have been ready for this for a long time.

One kid is in summer school, freeing up an elective period, so we aren't entirely footloose-and-fancy-free around here. Nevertheless, there are popsicles aplenty and a little bit of downtime.

I fully intend to camp out in a lounge chair with a tall glass of lemonade and dig into my To-Be-Read stack. A little research. A little spiritual direction. A bit of fiction, of course.

My kindle is dying (sad face!) but I need to get a new one ASAP so I can dig in to the novellas I downloaded by the talented Carrie Fancett Pagels, like The Lumberjack's Ball. They'll be perfect reading while I recover from a little procedure.
only 99 cents on Amazon Kindle!

Also on top of the list are Barbour's Oregon Trail Romance Collection and The Convenient Bride  Collection. Squee!

Amazon link

Amazon link

I'm also going to read One Thousand Gifts to help me focus on being grateful.
Amazon link

How about you? What are you reading this summer?