Wednesday, May 31, 2017

What I Learned in Spring

1. I always thought Somebody's Watching Me was sung by The Police.

Wrong. It's sung by a singer named Rockwell, whose father was a bigwig at Motown Records... and Michael Jackson sang backup vocals on the chorus.

The Police did sing about watching, though... "Every breath you take... I'll be watching you."

2. Girl Scout cookies- different kinds for different states. I discovered this when I was visiting Kami in Knoxville, and a troop was set up in front of the store. I spied a yellow box and requested "Lemonades"... but they didn't have lemonades. They had Savannah Smiles, which were ok, but not as good as the Lemonades we have in Kentucky. The leader said, "We wish we had those, but our manufacturing plant doesn't make those." Yet another time I was lucky to be in Kentucky!

3. "OK" is a mistake- short for "oll korrect", a popular misspelling of "all correct". I've used "ok" my whole life but had no idea what it stood for!

4. Morehead State University... landlocked... has a beach volleyball team. That has amazed me! When I picture beach volleyball, I picture, well... the beach. And the closest thing to the beach in Morehead is Cave Run Lake, which is beautiful, but not my idea of a beach...

5. Anybody who is familiar with Kentucky knows about Ale 8 1, our signature non-alcoholic drink manufactured in Winchester. It was created in 1926 to be served at the  Clark County Fair, and was named Ale81, as in  "A late one"- the latest thing. It's not my cup of tea, but a lot of people in my parts drink it religiously!

6. You can totally do something if you put your mind to it!  Sincerely, Lauren Bates, DNP, RN =)

7. Mean Joe Green drank more than 20 bottles of Coke a day for his 1979 Coke commercial... and the commercial took 3 days! Mean Joe was known for his "mean" image, and this Coke commercial helped paint him in a better light. He actually drank the Coke, though, because he wanted to make it authentic.
Check out the commercial here-
8. The third Thursday of April is National High Five Day.
9. Vanderbilt Costume Ball of 1883- I had always been fascinated by the Vanderbilts, since watching a show about Biltmore and other famous houses. I recently read a book set at the Vanderbilt Costume Ball of 1883, an elaborate affair where one woman dressed as a cat... complete with an actual cat head as part of the costume. Learn more here:

Linking up with Emily Freeman at, where each quarter she discusses things she's learned.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Anticipated Books for the Second Half of 2017

I recently followed several book review blogs and I was thrilled when I found that one of them linked up with this post over at The Broke and the Bookish. Every Tuesday they do a top ten related to some kind of book topic, so y'all know I had to put my two cents in. This week's topic is the most anticipated books of the second half of 2017.  (Click on the link to find lots of book suggestions!)

I'll admit this is a hard topic for me, because as much as I love books I don't really "anticipate" them much... namely because I'm cheap and tend to wait to purchase books until they've been out a while. Plus, I've got so many on my to-read list that I feel bad neglecting those I already have to start one I don't, but there are always exceptions to the rule.

So, here goes!

1. Camino Island by John Grisham- releasing in June. I love anything by John Grisham, and he is one author I will buy fresh off the press!
2. The Identicals by Elin Hildebrand- releasing June 13th, just in time for it to be a good book read... which is what Hildebrand always delivers!
3. When We Were Worthy by Marybeth Whalen- releasing in September. This book caught my eye when I saw it involved high school cheerleaders, because I still feel like a high school cheerleader even though that's been 20 years ago.
4. Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate- releasing June 6th. Wingate is another author that I absolutely love.
5. The Writing Desk by Rachel Hauck- releasing in July. I don't even know what this book is about but I know I'll love it because I have loved everything I've read by Hauck.
6. Love Story by Karen Kingsbury- releasing June 6th. The characters in Kingsbury's books are so relatable... I feel like I'm meeting with my next door neighbors.
7. The Sunshine Sisters by Jane Green- releasing June 6- another great beach read!
8. Church of the Small Things by Melanie Shankle- releasing in October- because she is funny. And relatable. And I feel like she reads my mind.
9. Of Mess and Moxie by Jen Hatmaker- releasing in August- Because what woman doesn't need to be reminded that it's ok to be strong but also a mess?
10. The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin- releasing in September- Ever since reading The Happiness Project, I've been enchanted by Rubin's form of self-help.

And, on my night stand... not new releases, but ones I look forward to every summer- Gone with the Wind and To Kill A Mockingbird

I'd love to hear what you're anticipating!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

If We Don't, Who Will?

A field of crosses.

Each representing a life.

The ultimate sacrifice.

Gone too soon...

the pages turned and the cover closed on their story.

One by one, their names were individually called and a flag was placed on the top of their cross.

Just a brief moment in time, of reflection.

Stories ended before they had even begun...

And I thought how so many in that generation are gone, and nobody knows their stories...

I know the story behind one of those crosses. His name was George Washington Arrowood, and he was my Mamaw Na's older brother. He was a handsome young man, just 19 when he was sent overseas. He went into training and then came home on a furlough, missing his brother Paul by 2 days, as he was headed to Europe and Paul was headed to the South Pacific.

GW's Daddy was a preacher, and his Mama was a devout woman, petite in stature, but if she was anything like my Mamaw probably a little firecracker. Mamaw often recalled the story of when they received the telegram telling of GW's death. He is buried on a cemetery in South Jackson, with his Mom and Dad and his brother-in-law, and a baby niece named Sharon, my Mom's sister whom she never met.

A few sketchy details passed down by word of mouth...

and he was well-loved, as were many of the other men from here in Breathitt County whose names were read Friday night. I thought of how many of them were so very young... many Privates and Private First Class. Some of them buried at sea, some of them buried overseas, with no marker for their families to visit. Some of them killed before they even left stateside...

And each of those men left behind a family with a wealth of stories, memories of their loved ones and treasured family folklore to be told and retold...

We are a culmination of the stories of those who have gone on before.

What of those men (and women) who didn't have families waiting for them? Who will tell their stories?

If you've ever been to Arlington you know the solemnity of row after row of wooden crosses, symbolizing brave men and women across the generations that showed the greatest love because freedom is not free.

Perhaps tomorrow as you have your cookout or jump into the lake or toss a football with your loved ones you could pause and reflect on those who gave the ultimate sacrifice... and then find someone in your family who served and let them tell you their story, if they so choose, or the story of someone they've lost...

Because if we don't tell their story, who will?

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Remembering Your Stories

I'm a big fan of stories. If you follow my blog at all you know I love to read...

and my favorite kind of books are those with engaging plot lines that suck you in and tell a mesmerizing story.

I can remember when I was younger both of my Grandmas would keep me entertained for hours with stories...

and I'm big on the importance of the story of the individual.

That's why a tweet I recently read stuck in my mind, and I've been pondering it.

It basically said that our stories don't matter, it's God's story that matters...

and while I think I understand the premise of that statement, I have to say that our story matters BECAUSE God's story matters.

I won't be presumptuous and say that God's story isn't possible without our stories, because God is God and can do all things, created all things, and without Him we wouldn't have a story...

but He also specifically made us with a calling, a purpose, and He loves the stories of our lives.

Just like a novel, there are some good parts and some bad parts.

Plot twists and parts where you feel like you should cover your eyes.

Parts when you groan at the decisions made by the main character, and parts that are so sickenly sweet it renews your faith in mankind... for a few minutes, at least.

I think God wants us to tell our stories... the good and the bad and the ugly... to bring Him glory.

In fact, in Revelations we are told, "And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and the Word of their testimony..."

His Word, Jesus, yes....

but the word of their testimony. Their stories of how He saved them. How He changed them. How He redeemed them...

their stories.

And just as God left us a "letter" to follow, His Word, we are a letter. In 2 Corinthians 3:3, we're told, "It is clear that you are Christ’s letter, produced[a] by us, not written with ink but with the Spirit of the living God—not on stone tablets but on tablets that are hearts of flesh." (HCSB)

We are letters telling of Christ. Our daily words. Our actions. Our thought processes and how they impact how we love...

we're telling the Gospel story as it interweaves with the mundane but beautiful dance of our very lives.

Your story matters... and so does every other story of every other individual breathing right now.

Keep telling it. Keep living it.

Don't try to hide the messy parts... they are often the most thrilling of the entire story!

And if your life is a book... that means that each day... today... is a new chapter.

Full of new opportunities to rewrite the plot...

Kind of like those choose your own adventure books you've seen.

I'm thinking this weekend, Memorial Day weekend, would be a great time to remember some of those stories your loved ones might have told you... of difficult times in your family. Of brave heroes who went off to war and didn't come back. Of love stories and stories full of hope.

And then, share your story with someone. Remember where you've came from...

so that we can see how far we've come.

And if you're really into storytelling, grab the Bible. It's truly the greatest story ever told, with a true heroine who rides in like a knight in shining armor and battles the dragon to save His love. If you don't know Jesus, I can guarantee He'll change your story. I'd be happy to share more with you! Just comment below.  <3

Friday, May 26, 2017

Joyful Noise

Wednesday I had piano lessons. It's part of my whole "live to the fullest" goal of 2017. I took piano lessons as a child, but detested practicing. When my piano teacher moved away, the lessons stopped and my days of painfully deciphering sheet music were over.

But I always regretted it. I would watch others who could sit down on the piano bench and make lovely music, and I would wish that I had stuck with it.

So I decided to take the plunge and start taking lessons again. I asked around to see if anyone had recommendations, and found a piano teacher. My first lesson started me off in a beginner's book, with the very basics, but it was new and exciting and when I sat down at my Grandma's piano to practice those three note songs I felt akin to Mozart.

And then, life. End of school events and running around and trying to squeeze in a few minutes to run up to Grandma's old house to practice. I found myself in the car on Wednesday heading to lessons knowing that I hadn't practiced like I should, and finding myself wishing that I wasn't in the beginner book and it wasn't so hard to try to figure out what the notes were while thinking of how softly the music should be played and which finger should be where...

and I thought how like life that is. We often want to start off in the most advanced position, with little practice and little effort... but that's not how it's set up. Before I learned to read I had to learn my alphabet, and then learn the sounds and how they are strung together to make words, and then eventually how sentence structure works. I didn't just pick up Gone with the Wind... I had to start with those elementary books.

And piano will be the same way. I'll eventually get the hang of it. I'll eventually be able to sight read and not think of where the notes are on the page.

In the meantime, I'll keep plucking away at three note songs and occasionally attempting Jesus Loves Me in the most elementary fashion...

Because God just likes my joyful noise, however it is made.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Alice's Notions- May 24

My thoughts: World War II has always fascinated me, and so any fictional book set in or around that time captures my imagination. This book combines a small town that reminds me of my own hometown with that time frame, so it was a great read for me! I loved the idea of a barn quilt tour, as my small town recently did quilt blocks on local buildings. Alice was a likeable character, as was Greta, the German refuge who Alice is unsure of. There were also some unlikeable characters, which is great for the book. Sheriff Jenner, who should be a good guy, is extremely unlikeable to me!

Alice has to figure out who she is as a person, and work through her feelings about the people around her as they relate to who she is. The cast of characters she is surrounded by are interesting to say the least.

I'd recommend this book to anyone who enjoys fiction set in small-town communities, and for anyone who loves the WWII era. Alice is a good example of the women who were forced to find their way in a changed world following the war. Great read!

I did receive a complimentary copy of this book for a review, and this is my honest review.


Book: Alice’s Notions
Author: Tamera Lynn Kraft
Genre: Christian historical romance
Release Date: April 1, 2017
In this quaint mountain town, things aren’t always what they seem.World War 2 widow Alice Brighton returns to the safety of her home town to open a fabric shop. She decides to start a barn quilt tour to bring business to the shop and the town, but what she doesn’t know is sinister forces are using the tour for their own nefarious reasons. Between her mysterious landlord, her German immigrant employee, her neighbors who are acting strange, and a dreamboat security expert who is trying to romance her, Alice doesn’t know who she can trust.


Tamera Lynn Kraft has always loved adventures. She loves to write historical fiction set in the United States because there are so many stories in American history. There are strong elements of faith, romance, suspense and adventure in her stories. She has received 2nd place in the NOCW contest, 3rd place TARA writer’s contest, and is a finalist in the Frasier Writing Contest and has other novellas in print. She’s been married for 38 years to the love of her life, Rick, and has two married adult children and two grandchildren. Tamera has two novellas in print: A Christmas Promise and Resurrection of Hope. Her first full length novel, Alice’s Notions released in April through Desert Breeze.
You can contact Tamera on her website at

Guest Post from Tamera Lynn Kraft

How Classic Movies from the 1940s Made Their Way in My Latest Novel
By Tamera Lynn Kraft
One thing I loved about writing my post World War Two novel was my main character’s passion for movies. Alice Brighton and her late husband loved to go to movies on Friday nights. Now, even after the war made her a widow, Alice still loves movies and compares everyone she meets to a movie character.
Of course for Alice, all these wonderful classic movies and movie stars and a part of her culture, but for me, it was so much fun because I love classic movies. In the novel, Alice compares her landlord to Cary Grant. Cary Grant is one of my favorites. After starring in movies like Suspision, Arsenic and Old Lace, and Notorious, Grant was one of the biggest stars around in 1946 when Alice’s Notions takes place. My favorite Cary Grant movie wouldn’t be made until a few years later. An Affair to Remember, released 1957, with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr is one of my all-time favorites.
At one point in the novel, Alice thinks back to when her late husband always said she reminded him of Judy Garland. Garland would have been twenty-four at the time, just a bit younger than Alice, but she became a big star in her teens. She began acting at two years old when she debuted as Baby Francis and sang Jingle Bells. After playing in various roles including a few movies with Mickey Rooney, Garland had her big break in The Wizard of Oz. She went on to star in a ton of movies and had a thriving singing career until she committed suicide in the 1960s. One of my favorite Judy Garland movies released in 1945 during the war was The Clock. The Clock was about a woman who met and fell in love with a GI on leave. Their romance was intensified because they only had the weekend before he was shipped out again for the remainder of the war. This movie must have been in Alice’s mind since she had lost her husband shortly after the movie came out.
During Alice’s Notions, Alice goes on a date to see the movie, The Postman Always Rings Twice, starring Lana Turner and John Garfield. It was released in 1946 and was considered scandalous at the time because the two main characters have an affair and murder her husband. The main theme of the movie is you can’t get away with your sin. The truth will be revealed. In Alice’s Notions, the truth being revealed is also a main theme.
So you may be wondering what classic movie Alice’s Notions reminds me of. Charade with Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn was released in 1963. In that movie, Hepburn is being pursued and doesn’t know who she can trust. The movie has light hearted intrigue, suspense, and romance just like Alice’s Notions. Alice, also, doesn’t know who she can trust.

Blog Stops

May 11: Genesis 5020
May 13: Carpe Diem
May 20: Mary Hake
May 22: Vicky Sluiter


To celebrate her tour, Tamera is giving away a $25 Amazon Gift Card!
Click below to enter. Be sure to comment on this post before you enter to claim 9 extra entries!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Living Fearless... or Not So Much

Last year I served on the launch team for a book by Kelly Balarie called Fear Fighting. It was a great read. I finally completely finished it this evening.

It was a book that I kept circling around. It had a study guide in the back, so I took my time finishing those questions.

Tonight, I'm reflecting on fear...

It's something common to all of us. We each have different fears, and to other people our fears may feel trivial, but because we are all unique they are distinctly part of us.

I don't think fear is necessarily a bad thing.

 Fear can keep us from placing ourselves in dangerous situations.

Fear can keep us driving the speed limit, and going to the doctor to get checkups, and exercising...

Fear can make us listen to our parents when we are younger...

And fear can make us dependent on God.

I think that's the key, perhaps... because we are told to fear God and keep His commandments.

Not fear God as in shaking in our shoes, fear... but rather by being in complete awe and reverence of Him... because He is worthy.

When we think of how all-powerful He is, and how He has a plan for each one of us that is unique, it's a little easier to face our fear of the future. Of the unknown. Of the scary diagnosis or the difficulty family time...

because we know He is there, and He will never leave us or forsake us.

Being the wrong kind of fearful keeps us stagnant... stuck... tongue-tied and unsure and convinced that we should just stay put.

That's no way to live.

And I want to live, don't you?

In fact, I've embraced that very mantra as my word of the year- to "live".

Truly live.

To do that, I've had to face my fears...

I started taking piano lessons, starting at the very beginner book even though I feared that made me look silly. Even though I feared I wouldn't catch on...

I signed up for a Spanish class, even though I'm afraid I'll struggle and my fellow faculty member will think I'm stupid.

I am making myself vulnerable on social media, admitting that I struggle (a lot)... and am committed to making myself vulnerable in real life, even though I am terrified of rejection.

I've been pushing myself physically this past month, and am tossing around the idea of training for an event, even though I'm afraid I won't be fast enough or strong enough... or enough...

He tells us that He is strong in our weakness. When we choose to LIVE dependently on Him, handing our fear over to Him. we learn to focus on all that is great and good about Him and begin to see things  from His perspective... not fearless, because we are in awe of how great He is... but definitely not full of fear...

Thanks for a great book, Kelly!  Much food for thought!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Thoughts on Middle School...

When I say middle school was the hardest time in my life, I wouldn't be exaggerating. That time when everyone is looking at you, or at least it feels that way... judging you... and even though it's the same for everyone, you feel alone.

 I can't imagine what it's like with all of the social media in today's world.

 Today, though, as I sat in those bleachers, I thought of all of the good times I had at SMS. Making music videos in Jack Strong's room and my first solo in Chorus ...and lounging on the track and sneaking over to the nursing home to get pops from the employee lounge... cheer practice in the lobby and movies in the library....

 I wouldn't go back to middle school or high school for any amount of money, but I recognize the immense opportunity in front of those students sitting in the floor today. To them, the next four years may or may not creep by... but to us parents, it will seem like overnight. Such potential in those seats, but also so many who will face obstacles no kid should have to face. Thinking back on my class at SMS, there were over 200 of us. 176 graduated. Some of them moved. Some of them dropped out. I don't know what happened to some of the others, and those are the saddest stories, perhaps, because they somehow slipped through the cracks. 

 I saw the whole gamut of emotion today- exhiliration and full joy, tears of happiness, maybe a little amazement from some kids. Fear and apprehension about the next steps of life...

 I feel like I'm in commencement speech mode even though I never gave a commencement speech in my life... but I'd say the same things to those 8th graders as I said to the graduating seniors... except I'd remind them that they can choose their path to life. For those in my class who didn't graduate high school, somebody sometime along the way stopped believing in them. 

 BELIEVE IN YOURSELF even when noone else does. And if noone else believes in you, know that Caleb Bates's crazy Mom believes in you. I may not know you from Adam, but I'm telling you here's one adult that will be in your corner. 

 Statistics tell us that being from Eastern Kentucky make us disadvantaged. We live in poverty and to many are a hopeless cause. I'm here to tell you that YOU ARE OUR HOPE. Sorry to put that on your shoulders... but you can do it. Choose to rise above the apathy and the drug addiction and the helplessness. And don't ever give up. 

Proud of you, 8th graders!!! Looking forward to good things from you in the coming years!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Dear High School Senior

Dear High School Senior,
Twenty years ago I was standing right where you are getting ready to stand... On the brink of uncertainty at the top of this mountain you've been climbing for the past twelve years. (I know I don't look that old, and it's hard to believe, but I digress...)

I had no clue what I was going to do with my life. My high school experience was average. Average GPA, taking some hard classes like Calculus that I needed a lot of help in. Pretty good ACT score, ...but not high enough to put me in the running for any major money scholarships. I cheered, but wouldn't make the high school squad if I was graduating with you. I was in Chorus, and was pretty good, but never good enough to make it to All-State. Never made Student Council. Didn't make prom court. I was always an introvert and people thought I was a snob, and maybe I was a not so nice person. That is one of my biggest regrets. (And lest you read this age think I'm complaining, I'm not. I got to cheer for two state football championships and cheer at Rupp and won 3rd place in state with the FPS. I just wasn't the "shining star"... )

There was nothing special about me, and at the time I let myself believe that.
But here's the thing. The world needs "average" people. We need those shining stars, too.

We need you. So as you stare off into the horizon, remember that comparing yourself to someone else is like comparing apples to oranges. Dream big. Don't ever let anyone tell you that you aren't good enough because you're from Eastern Ky. If anything, the obstacles that we often have to overcome makes you better than.

Pursue something you are passionate about. Don't settle. Don't be afraid to rise to the challenge. It's ok to fall... Just dust yourself off and start again. Smile at people and take time to learn their stories, especially if theirs are different than yours. Every story matters.

Don't define success by the expectations of others. By the world, or your parents... but know that you are truly successful if you live every day to the fullest, and are the good kind of exhausted when your head hits the pillow. You know the difference.

Love hard and be the best you that you can be... Not trying to be somebody else. You can truly do anything... And if it's hard, just keep pushing.

I wish someone had told me all that twenty years ago... Or that I had listened!

Y'all are amazing!!! And we are cheering you on!
A Nostalgic Member of the BHS class of 1997

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Hidden Thread- May 16

I love a good story.
Stories where there's some tragedy, some intrigue, lots of tension...

And this novel by Trenow is just that. The heroine, Anna, is introduced into London society in an overwhelming way. Having lost her mother recently, she's not sure how she should feel about life in general, and to say her Uncle's house and family is unfamiliar is an understatement. She doesn't understand London fashion, and she doesn't understand London societal rules...

And what is a good love story without breaking few of society's rules? Because a chance encounter with Henri, a French immigrant, forces Anna to look within herself and determine where she fits.

I enjoyed the description of the silk industry, as it was something I was not familiar with. The characters in this book are pleasant and I really like Anna. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys romance with tension. I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley and am providing an honest review, which will be posted on their website.
Professional Reader

Title: The Hidden Thread
Author: Liz Trenow
Publication Date: May 1st, 2017
Publication Date: Trade Paperback
ISBN: 9781492637516
Summary: The Hidden Thread is a breathtaking novel about the intricate craft of silk and the heartbreak of forbidden love.
When Anna Butterfield’s mother dies, she’s sent to live with her uncle, a silk merchant in London, to make a good match and provide for her father and sister. There, she meets Henri, a French immigrant and apprentice hoping to become a master weaver. But Henri, born into a lower class, becomes embroiled in the silk riots that break out as weavers protest for a fair wage.
Goodreads Link:
Buy Links:
Barnes & Noble:
Book Depository:

About the Author:

Liz Trenow is a former BBC and newspaper journalist, now working freelance. She is also the author of The Last Telegram.
Connect with Liz: Website | Twitter | Facebook


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Behind the Scenes- May 10

Y'all!!! First off I had heard of a "wallflower", but had no idea that it really meant something. Permilia is the epitome of wallflower, much to her stepmother's dismay. This introduction into society is a delightful read, and is even more so as I learned that the costume ball Permilia attends was a real event with guests wearing elaborate costumes!!! Permilia and Asher, as well as the supporting characters, are well-developed, and Permilia just may be one of my favorite characters yet because she is funny, honest, and sure of herself, even in a time when women aren't supposed to be sure of themselves. I'd highly recommend this book for anyone interested in the 1800s and  societal living with a touch of romance.

Book: Behind the Scenes
Author: Jen Turano
Genre: Inspirational Historical Romance
Release Date: April, 2017
Miss Permilia Griswold may have been given the opportunity of a debut into New York high society, but no one warned her she wasn’t guaranteed to “take.” After spending the last six years banished to the wallflower section of the ballroom, she’s finally putting her status on the fringes of society to good use by penning anonymous society gossip columns under the pseudonym “Miss Quill.”
Mr. Asher Rutherford has managed to maintain his status as a reputable gentleman of society despite opening his own department store. While pretending it’s simply a lark to fill his time, he has quite legitimate reasons for needing to make his store the most successful in the country.
When Permilia overhears a threat against the estimable Mr. Rutherford, she’s determined to find and warn the man. Disgruntled at a first meeting that goes quite poorly and results in Asher not believing her, she decides to take matters into her own hands, never realizing she’ll end up at risk as well.
As Asher and Permilia are forced to work together and spend time away from the spotlight of society, perhaps there’s more going on behind the scenes than they ever could have anticipated. . . .


Jen Turano, author of nine books and two novellas, is a graduate of the University of Akron with a degree in clothing and textiles. She is a member of ACFW and lives in a suburb of Denver, Colorado. Visit her website at

  1. What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you personally?
  2. Amusing things happen to me all the time, but I think my favorite was back in college when I was a lifeguard. You see, there’s a lifeguard code – You will be cool at all times, especially when you’re sitting in a lifeguard chair, twirling your whistle exactly so, and, you know…looking cool. So, there I was, in my black lifeguard bathing suit – swinging my whistle. It was an unusually hot day, so I’d angled my umbrella exactly right as I watched the diving-board section. Now, I know this might come as a surprise, but being a lifeguard at the neighborhood pool isn’t exactly thrilling. It’s rare that anything exciting happens, and that particular day was no exception…until a large gust of wind came out of nowhere and the umbrella took it upon itself to close – right over me. And because it was now really gusty, the umbrella then lifted up, taking me with it right off the chair and into the depths of the deep end of the pool. From all accounts, it was quite the sight. First, there I was, swinging my whistle and looking groovy. Then all you could see were my legs flailing about as the umbrella covered the rest of me, and then…I was plummeting toward the pool, hit the water with the umbrella over me, and promptly sank. Obviously I managed to get out of the umbrella, but in the process, part of my bathing suit came off, and…well, that’s a story for another day.

  1. What is your favorite book from your childhood?
“Andrew Henry’s Meadow.” It was actually my little brother’s book, gotten from one of those book of the month clubs, but I loved it. I recently found a copy on an e-site and ordered it, and it’s just as delightful today as it was back in my childhood.

  1. Who does the cooking and cleaning in your house when you are on a deadline?
I don’t actually cook much even when I’m not on deadline, so that’s not really an issue. Al and I do a lot of salads or throw some chicken on the grill. We also have a lot of grocery stores that have wonderful deli and gourmet foods, so we get a lot of things there. As for cleaning, I’m one of those neurotic people who can’t work without everything being in place, so I do a lot of tidying up before I go to bed. And, because I do some of my best thinking when I clean, I’ve been known to abandon my writing when I get stuck and pick up a mop or cleaning rag, which means my house is rarely a disaster since I need to get unstuck a lot.

  1. Where is your favorite place to write?
I do the majority of my writing in my office, although I will occasionally take a pad of paper and a pen outside to handwrite when I get bored of my office or it’s a really nice day and I don’t feel like being trapped inside. It’s not that my office is my favorite place to write, it’s more that my writing is my job and I’m more focused on that writing when I approach it as such.

  1. What is your favorite part of the writing process?
I really like when characters and new story ideas begin to fester. That normally happens when I’m in the midst of another series. By the time I’m done with whatever series I’m working on, the next series is pretty firmly set in my mind, which means I can jump right in as I wait for edits on recently completed work. My absolute favorite part of writing, though, is when I turn in the very final edit on a book and don’t see it again until it comes out in print. Although, I must admit, I’ve never, not once, read one of my books after it has gone to print. Seems rather pointless since I do always know how the book is going to end.

  1. Why did you choose the timeframe or setting this book is written in?
I’ve been wanting to set a book during Alva Vanderbilt’s famous costume ball of March, 1883, for years. Since I decided to slowly travel through the Gilded Age, I just reached 1883 on my plot timeline, so knew I was finally going to get to throw some characters into the very midst of Alva’s ball. It was a blast to write, loved going back to all my books on this particular ball and seeing the pictures, and only wish the Vanderbilt house at 660 Fifth Avenue was still standing so I could visit it in person to visualize the splendors located inside a little more clearly.

  1. What inspires you?
I think like most writers, I simply get inspired by the world around me. I love to people watch, and I love to imagine all sorts of outlandish scenarios as I do that watching. I also get inspired by reading the headlines of the daily papers, and by the research books I read. I also love to look through old photographs of the Gilded Age, and became intrigued with Alva Vanderbilt’s ball when I saw a picture of a young lady, Miss Kate Strong, with a stuffed cat on her head and wearing a choker necklace with the name Puss engraved on it. That was all it took for me to investigate the Vanderbilt ball further, delighted to discover it truly was a ball that only comes along every blue moon.

Blog Stops

April 27: The Scribbler
April 27: Genesis 5020
April 28: Back Porch Reads
April 29: Bookworm Mama
April 30: Radiant Light
April 30: Bigreadersite
April 30: Lane Hill House
May 3: Book by Book
May 5: Baker Kella

To celebrate her tour, Jen is giving away a $25 Barnes and Noble Gift Card and the four books: After a Fashion, In Good Company, Playing the Part, Behind the Scenes!! Click below to enter. Be sure to comment on this post before you enter to claim 9 extra entries!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

What I Read in April

1. Sweet on You- I reviewed this book in December, but still had a couple of chapters to finish. I reviewed the second book in this series in April, but still have a couple of chapters to finish. I love this author. I like this character. Check it out!

2. Three Moons over Sedona- This is one I've had on my Kindle for a long time. I loved Sedona when I visited Arizona a few years ago, so I could totally picture in my head the land features described. In this novel, the main character's husband had just died, and she decides to have a "mid-life" crisis by driving until she doesn't feel like driving anymore. What results is new friendships, some romance, and a journey of finding herself that couldn't have happened if she had just stayed put in her hometown. I loved the characters. The writing flows well, and is easy to read. A great summertime read for sitting around by the pool!

3. Independent Study- This is the second book in The Testing Trilogy and it is great. Reminiscent of series like Divergent and The Hunger Games, this is a fast-moving book with well-developed characters that will keep  you on the edge of your seat. I highly recommend it! I'm reading the last book right now.

4. Murder for the Time Being- Loved this book. Reviewed it at the end of March. Lexi is an awesome character and her story is amazing. Very fast-paced, that kept me guessing until the very end.

5. The Story of Land and Sea- This book is set during the final days of the American Revolution and tells the story of Helen, her daughter Tabitha, her slave, Moll, her father and her husband. Death is a central theme, as is the importance of allowing people to make their own choices. The interweaving of their lives is a haunting tribute to how we connect with one another. Not my favorite book, to be honest, but a good read nonetheless.

6. Zip It: The Keep it Shut 40-Day Challenge- I read this one as a part of Karen Ehman's #DoingLentTogether facebook page. Based on her book Keep It Shut, this book had 40 quick devotionals focusing on the power of our words. Loved it. Need to read it every month of my life!

7. The Women of Easter- I got this book from blogging for books and was delighted to discover Liz would be reading through it for Lent on her facebook page. It's a marvelous read that highlights the lives of the three Mary's in  the New Testament, as well as focusing on the relationship of women to Christ. Love it.

8. Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk- This is a book I was excited about. I wanted to read it before I watched the movie, but we ended up watching the movie first. It's about war hero Billy Lynn's whose company is paraded around the country, ending with a televised halftime show during the annual Thanksgiving Day game for the Dallas football team (although I don't think it ever said Cowboys, probably because of copyright issues, I know enough about football that I pictured that team and their infamous cheerleaders throughout the prose). The story involves some flashbacks of war battles, time with his family, how he came to be who he is, and real-life moments including the half-time show. As expected, this book has a lot of inappropriate language. As much as I wanted to love it, I just didn't. It ended very abruptly and left me wondering if he'd go back to war only to get killed.

9. Steadfast Love by Lauren Chandler- I LOVED this book. Loved it. Focusing on Psalm 107, Lauren shows us how through worship and difficulties, God is our anchor, a steadfast love and hope for us. Beautifully written, Lauren draws from personal experience and pulls out portions of Scripture to encourage. Highly recommend this book!!

10. The Yellow Envelope- Loved this book as well. It tells the story of Kim and her husband Bryan, who quit their jobs and sold everything they owned to travel the world. I reviewed it this month, so click on the link to read more.

11. Lucky Us- This book tells the story of Iris and Eva, two sisters, and their motley crew of supporting characters in the 1940s. Well-written from the viewpoints of different characters, including through narrative and letters, the book shows how families can become frayed but can come back together. Again, not my favorite book, but not a bad read.

Lots of books left on my challenge. I'm reading 36 books right now- oh, boy!!!! But my favorite time of the year is coming up and I'm hoping for lots of reading!

2017 Popsugar Ultimate Reading Challenge
A book recommended by a librarian
A book that's been on your TBR list for way too long- Girl on the Train
A book of letters
An audiobook
A book by a person of color
A book with one of the four seasons in the title
A book that is a story within a story-The Story Keeper
A book with multiple authors
An espionage thriller
A book with a cat on the cover- The Cat That Went Bump in the Night
A book by an author who uses a pseudonym
A bestseller from a genre you don't normally read
A book by or about a person who has a disability- Tough as They Come
A book involving travel- The Yellow Envelope
A book with a subtitle- Zip It: The Keep it Shut 40-Day Challenge
A book that's published in 2017
A book involving a mythical creature
A book you've read before that never fails to make you smile
A book about food
A book with career advice
A book from a nonhuman perspective
A steampunk novel
A book with a red spine
A book seet in the wilderness
A book you loved as a child
A book by an author from a country you've never visited
A book with a title that's a character's name- Dearest Dorothy...
A novel set during wartime
A book with an unreliable narrator
A book with pictures
A book where the main character is a different ethnicity than you
A book about an interesting woman
A book set in two different time periods
A book with a month or day of the week in the title
A book set in a hotel
A book written by someone you admire
A book that's becoming a movie in 2017
A book set around a holiday other than Christmas
The first book in a series you haven't read before- The Most Famous Illegal Parade in Goose Creek
A book you bought on a trip

A book recommended by an author you love
A bestseller from 2016- Hillbilly Elegy
A book with a family member term in the title
A book that takes place over a character's life span
A book about an immigrant or refugee
A book from a genre/subgenre you've never heard of
A book with an eccentric character
A book that's more than 800 pages
A book you got from a used book sale
A book that's been mentioned in another book
A book about a difficult topic
A book based on mythology