Thursday, June 28, 2012

Fill In The Blank Friday

It's HOT around here this week! To combat the heat, we're eating (drinking?) smoothies and eating a lot of fruit cold from the fridge.

Has it been hot where you live? Do you like the hot weather? (I'm not really a fan of the uber hot, but I like it better than the uber cold!)

This week's Fill In The Blank Friday is:

The food/drink I choose when it's really hot is ____________________.

Please continue to pray for those affected by wildfires in the west, the tropical storm flooding in Florida, and the flooding in northern Minnesota.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

World War One Wednesday

This past Monday I was privileged to be able to visit Soldiers' Field Park in Rochester, MN, home of the Soldiers' Field Veterans' Memorial. The above picture shows part of the memorial. It's beautiful, stirring, and sobering. The names of veterans are inscribed on pavers and on the wall at the rear of the memorial. Along the outside of the granite circle are engravings depicting the wars the citizens of Minnesota have fought in, from the Civil War through the present day. Quotations are inscribed on the inside of the circle. There are statues, cannons, and benches. You can see a bit more about the memorial by clicking on this link:

This is the flag that flies at the center of the memorial. As you can see, the flags in MN were at half-mast on Monday. Funeral services were held on Monday, June 25th, 2012 for Minnesota soldier Marine Corporal Taylor J. Baune of Andover who was killed earlier this month in Afghanistan.

Once I completed my tour of the memorial, I was ready to visit the Honoring Our History Exhibit, created in partnership with the National World War One Museum and Waddell & Reed Investment and Asset Management Company. Chauncey Waddell and Cameron Reed were both World War One veterans, and they founded their investment company together in Kansas City in 1937. The Waddell & Reed company is a solid contributor to the WW1 Museum, and in honor of the company's 75th Anniversary, they chose to create the traveling exhibit and send it to 75 cities that have Waddell & Reed offices.

The exhibit was full of interesting treasures, facts, photographs, and video displays. Most amazing of all, was that the entire exhibit was contained in a single semi-truck. The whole exhibit is wonderfully put together and displayed, and I would love to see it again sometime. Below are a few pictures I took of the exhibits and some of the things I learned. I hope you'll find them as interesting as I did.

I love to learn new things from history, and I was delighted to find this little gem in one of the display cases of the exhibit. This is a Princess Mary Christmas Box. Britain's Princess Mary led the effort to provide "everyone who would be wearing the King's uniform on Christmas Day, 1914 with a gift from the nation." The brass box held candy, tobacco, and other small treats, and the box served as a keepsake. The top of the box shows a silhouette of Princess Mary, and is stamped with her initial, and the countries of France, Russia, Japan, Belgium, Servia, (sic) and Montenegro. Each box contained a Christmas card that read: With Best Wishes For a Victorious New Year, From The Princess Mary and Friends at Home.

This is a wicked-looking machine gun. This particular model had a seat, and the entire gun and seat swiveled, giving the gunner a wide swath to cut through enemy lines. In the photographs of "no-man's land" the area between the German and Allied lines on the battle field, bare dirt, rough wooden barricades, and miles and miles of barbed wire stretched. It was into this hostile wasteland that thousands of soldiers went 'Over The Top' and into the very mouths of machine gun nests like the photograph above. The command to go over the top was the one the soldier dreaded the most.

A Doughboy uniform complete with rifle, knife, pack, and puttees. Puttees are long strips of cloth wound around the leg from knee to ankle. They serve as support and protection for the wearer, and were a distinctive feature of the allied soldiers' uniforms.

 I thought these paper dolls were charming. The kids look like the Campbell's Soup kids, don't they? These types of books were sold in an effort to show how everyone was expected to do their part in the war effort, even kids.

This is an emergency naval medical kit. It contains sutures, scalpels, scissors, probes, and tweezers. The small boxes on the right are bandage kits. They hold cotton gauze, safety pins, and cotton balls. The Red Cross on the white background is the international symbol of military medical, and of the Red Cross and was worn as an armband to identify its wearer as a non-combatant. 

I took a bunch more pictures, watch a lot of video tape, and read lots of signage in the exhibit which is all housed in an 18-wheeler semi truck. The stop in Rochester is the 54th stop on a 75 city tour. Check out to see if the World War One exhibit will be in a town near you. And if you're passing through Kansas City, be sure to visit The National World War One Museum. Details can be found at

And on a fun note, the local television station visited the exhibit while I was there and shot this video. The back of my head made it into the video. :)

Question for you: Museums or Amusement Parks? What's you're pleasure?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Tantalizing Ladies

Last week it was my privilege to attend a meeting in Maple Grove, MN and get to know an extraordinary group of women. They call themselves the Tantalizing Ladies Tea ~ A Book Club Coterie. Isn't that the most wonderful name?

They meet monthly, and they have a marvelous time. I was told they have so much fun, it's practically illegal, and I believe it!

In addition to being loads of fun, they also excel at hospitality. My sister-in-law and I were welcomed into the group with open arms.

We had the most lavish and amazing high tea with so much yummy food. Cucumber sandwiches, raspberry cold soup, lady fingers, mint chocolate cakes, chicken salad, mini quiches, strawberries, and so much more. And Earl Grey tea.

In addition to the wonderful meal, we also each got to choose our own teacup and matching saucer from the china cabinet. I chose a pretty one with black-eyed susans.

And even more fun...we each chose a hat from the box our hostess had for us.

After our meal and much laughter, they invited me to talk about the book they had just read, A Bride's Portrait of Dodge County, KS, and a little bit about how I became a writer.

Next month they're reading Katie Ganshert's Wildflowers from Winter!

Here are a couple of pictures from the day.

This is my adorable sister-in-law Linda in her hat. We had such a good time!

Here are the Tantalizing Ladies! They are so much fun! That's a copy of A Bride's Portrait of Dodge City, KS on the table. Don't you love our hats?

Do you belong to a book club? Do you drink tea?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Fill In The Blank Friday

Isn't this little lady beautiful? My friend Ed Higgins showed me this tiny bird who had nested in his clematis vines right beside his front door. She was so wee and still, watching me and covering up her babies.

So, this week's Fill In The Blank Friday is: My favorite thing about summer is _________________.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

World War One Wednesday

Do you knit? My mother is a master knitter, making sweaters, socks, shawls, and more. I am the recipient of many of her knitting endeavors -- Happy me!

While researching the American homefront during World War One, I was amazed to learn how much the U.S. Army relied on the knitting of American women to help outfit the troops in Europe. The Red Cross mobilized citizens to knit for the doughboys, socks, scarves, gloves, sleeveless sweaters to wear beneath their woolen uniforms, and more. Millions of women all busily knitting for the cause created a sense of unity, of purpose, and it gave mothers, sisters, and wives a practical way to use their talents to help their loved ones during the war.

To learn more about Knitting for the Cause, click on this link:

Question for you: Do you knit? I'm a crocheter from time to time, and currently an embroiderer of quilt squares. I've never learned to knit, though it's on my bucket list.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Sagebrush Knights Edits

Woohoo! Content edits on Sagebrush Knights are done! Super, super happy with the way these four novellas came together. Here's a little bit about the stories. They turned out even better than I'd imagined.

Set in 1874, SAGEBRUSH KNIGHTS is the story of four sisters from Seabury, MA (fictional) who are in need of husbands. Their father, a medieval scholar, has passed away, and they have no means to support themselves. When one of the sisters discovers a copy of The Matrimonial News, a periodical devoted to facilitating mail-order matches, she convinces the other three to place an ad with her. The sisters stipulate that they must find men from the same town, so they will at least have each other as neighbors and support. An answer comes quickly from Wyoming Territory. When the ladies arrive in the little town of Sagebrush hoping to find their knights-in-shining-armor, they are disappointed in the serfs who greet them. While technically neighbors, the ranches are so far apart, the Gerhard sisters will have to learn to trust God and their new husbands if they are going to survive in the West.

Knight and Day: EVELYN GERHARD STANFORD, eldest of the Gerhard sisters and a Civil War widow, keeps the knowledge of her ten-year-old son a secret from her prospective groom. Resentful that God made her a widow with a baby on the way, now ten years later she is angry that God would force her to move so far away and marry a stranger to survive. When she arrives in Sagebrush with her son in tow, she’s shocked to realize her groom forgot to mention his ten-year-old daughter. Where her son is bookish and quiet, his daughter is a mischievous hoyden, and Evelyn and GARETH KITTRICK are as opposite as the children. While she tries to teach Gareth’s daughter some manners, Gareth tries to teach Evelyn’s son what it means to be a man. And all the while, they are learning to be a family.

Lady in Waiting: JANE GERHARD is the invisible sister, the plain one. Overlooked, she longs to be special to someone. But the man she weds is a workaholic who spends all his time on the range. HARRISON GARVEY’S father has made him a wager. If he can’t double his ranch’s production within three years, he has to abandon his dream of being a rancher and move back east. And his time is running out. Jane tries to win Harrison’s attention by being the best rancher’s wife she can be, but it isn’t until she works herself to exhaustion and Harrison must tend to her that she learns he’d give up the ranch if it meant winning her love.

Shining Armor:GWENDOLYN GERHARD, the youngest of the Gerhard girls is shocked to find out the man she intended to marry has died while she journeyed to meet him. Even more shocking is the fact that he was over seventy years old. His grandson, MATTHEW PARKER, shows up in Sagebrush determined to send the woman home, convinced she was a gold-digger preying on a dying old man. When he learns that she has no family to return to, he has no choice but to marry her and take her back to his ranch. But that doesn’t mean he intends to fall in love with her. He’s fighting a losing battle against the charming, sweet Gwendolyn until he finds out his grandfather intended him to marry her all along. Gwendolyn must convince Matthew that her love for him is real and that she wasn’t in collusion with his grandfather.

On A White ChargerEMELINE GERHARD has long dreamed of living on a ranch and learning to ride horses, herd cattle, and cook over a campfire. She’s thrilled to be heading to Sagebrush. Imagine her surprise when her cowboy turns out to have a ranch all right. A sheep ranch. With gentle persistence, JOSEPH BARRETT shows Emeline the reality of life in the west, and the special bond between a shepherd and his sheep. When area cattlemen threaten the flock, Emeline and Joseph band together—with the help of her sisters and their husbands—to save their ranch.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Fill In The Blank Friday

Last week's Fill in the blank Friday was My favorite Muppet is ________________ because _______________________.

My answer is: My favorite Muppet is Kermit, because I had a stuffed Kermit doll when I was a kid, and I loved it!

The above picture is of my son and daughter feeding a giraffe at the MN zoo. This was a real highlight for my daughter, who loves all things giraffe. We've since been to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs and fed their HUGE herd of giraffes. On that trip, my daughter also got to see Okapi for the first time. The Okapi is her favorite animal of all time.

So, my question for this Fill in the blank Friday is: My favorite zoo animal is ______________ and my favorite zoo is _______________.

My answer is: My favorite zoo animal is the Tiger and my favorite zoo is Como Zoo in St. Paul, MN.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

World War One Wednesday

One of the most tragic campaigns of the entire First World War was the allied attempt to take Gallipoli. The battle for Gallipoli marked the first major action seen by the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps forces (ANZAC) and proved to be costly for these allies from 'Down Under.'

When I first watched the movie Gallipoli, starring Mel Gibson, I kept thinking, "This can't have happened. They wouldn't charge repeatedly into the face of such awful and overwhelming firepower."

And yet, that's what they did. Bravely, for God, King, and Country, they, like the Light Brigade of the Crimean War, charged into the fray.

April 25th is ANZAC Day in Australia and New Zealand, and surpasses Armistice Day and Remembrance Day in both countries as military memorial days.

In a small cove on the coast of Gallipoli in Turkey, a memorial to the  ANZAC soldiers sits. They've named the place Anzac Cove, and the memorial is inscribed with the following words:

Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives... you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours... You, the mothers, who sent their sons from far away countries wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.
— Atatürk 1934

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Deep Breath

Writers are mostly insecure folks who put on a brave front. It's all good. We can do this. We are writers, hear us roar.

But we're needy people. We need affirmation. We need props. We need the occasional breadcrumb thrown our way.

And by we, I :)

For the first eleven books I wrote for Barbour, I worked with the same editorial team. Rachel Overton and Aaron McCarver, from the very first book, used tact, friendship, and their considerable skills to help me hone my craft and polish my stories into the best books I could possibly produce.

I was and am very comfortable with Rachel and Aaron. That isn't to say they aren't tough when they need to be. Neither one of them lets me get away with anything!

But this last book I got edits on, I had Rachel for the content edits, but Aaron was booked solid, so I got content edits from Nancy Toback. I was NERVOUS! What if she didn't 'get' the story the way I intended? What if she wanted too many changes and the story veered from what I had envisioned?

I opened that document with one eye closed and squintin' out of the other one, bracing myself for a surprise.

Whew. Big sigh of relief. Nancy is a wonderful editor who treated my work with gentle kindness, pointing out what needed to be changed, making suggestions, and otherwise just being really nice!

This last weekend, I got content edits for Sagebrush Knights, and this time, Rachel Overton didn't do them. Again, I was nervous! Ellen Tarver did the edits, and her accompanying email was so nice and encouraging. The edits on the novellas are fairly light, and I should be able to knock them out this week.

I feel like I've made some big strides as a writer this past month, and it doesn't have a lot to do with putting words on a page, learning a new technique, trying a new strategy. It has to do with letting go of my security blanket (Rachel and Aaron) and trusting more in my writing and storytelling abilities, and Barbour's ability to choose professional, generous, talented editors to help me reach my writing goals.

So, have you had to take a deep breath in your journey lately? Have you made some progress? Have you grown?

Friday, June 08, 2012

Fill In The Blank Friday

Your answers to last week's Fill In The Blank Friday were great! Which Star Wars character would you most like to be? Luke Skywalker, R2D2, Deliah Blue, Obi-wan,Qui-Gon Jinn (or Liam Neeson :D ) Yoda, and Chewy were all represented. Strangely, nobody wanted to be Princess Leia. Must've been those weird cinnamon buns she had stuck to the sides of her head. :D

My answer to which Star Wars character I would most like to be is - an Ewok. They're round and cute and can dance.

Thanks so much for playing along last week. I really got a kick out of your answers. I'm hoping you'll join in this week, too.

This week's Fill in the Blank Friday is:

My favorite Muppet is ________________ because _______________________.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

World War One Wednesday -Scrapbook Page

As most of my blog readers know, I like to create a scrapbook page for each of my releases. You can find previous posts and scrapbook pages by clicking HERE, HEREHERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE.   (Wow, I didn't realize I'd posted so many scrapbook blog posts over the years.)

I love finding stickers, sayings, paper, and embellishments that represent things in my book.

I also love that my daughter, Heather, helps me with the pages. We get to be all crafty and creative together, bouncing ideas off each other. It's a girl bonding kinda thing.

Here is Heather with our latest creation, the scrapbook page for A Bride Sews With Love In Needles, CA (Click on the book title to take you to the page for the book.)

The page turned out so cool, thanks to her efforts. She's a whiz with a glue stick. (All that time spent with pre-schoolers is paying off big-time!)

 Here is the cover art for the new book. There will hopefully be one minor change in the final cover. Meghan's dress will be unrelieved black with the white apron. The art department is working on getting the blue stripes out. :) I was waiting to do a big cover reveal here on the blog when the cover was just right, but the cover went live on first. It's a beautiful cover, don't you think? And the model looks just like I pictured Meghan would. The town of Needles, CA is named after the jagged mountains you can see in the background of the cover, the Colorado River flows beside the town, and the train brought passengers daily to the hotel where Meghan worked.

Here's a picture of the scrapbook page. It's divided into thirds. The top third is for Caleb McBride, the hero of the story, with stars on a blue background, a horse, cowboy boots, and a cactus. The middle third has horses in the background, a large American flag, and the cover of the book. The bottom third represents Meghan Thorson, the heroine, and is red and white stripes. It has a quote from Virgil, a picture of some Red Cross signature quilt blocks, and a lunch counter. (Meghan serves in the Harvey House hotel in the lunchroom.)  Scattered across the page are stars and flowers, and there is a coffee cup and teaspoon for Meghan as well.

Using luggage tag letters, we spelled out El Garces Hotel in the upper left corner. The Fred Harvey Company operated hotels all along the AT&SF railroad line, from Kansas City to Los Angeles, with dozens of stops along the way. Harvey Houses served gourmet food with impeccable service and provided luxury-hotels as well. One of the jewels in the Harvey House crown was the El Garces Hotel in Needles, CA. Due to the harsh climate, the Harvey Girls were paid extra to work in Needles.

 In each of the scrapbook pages we've made, there is something we've put in that is extra-special to me. The photograph of the four Red Cross quilt blocks is my favorite part of this page. Those four quilt blocks are part of the quilt I'm making with the help of my sister-in-law, Linda. I cut out and pieced the blocks, and Linda wrote all the names on the quilt, and together we're embroidering all the names in red thread. When we're done, there will be about 350 names in 56 squares.

The names we're putting on the quilt are the World War One veterans of Dodge County, MN. I saw my first signature quilt in the Dodge County Historical Society museum in Mantorville, MN (Where my heroine is from.) and was inspired to write a story with a signature quilt. Then I was inspired to create a quilt of my own.

Question for you...Do you have family members who served in World War One? Do you quilt? Do you scrapbook? Have you ever created scrapbook pages for your novels?

Sunday, June 03, 2012

June Goals

These days I'm feeling a little 'Koala-ish.' Slow moving, contemplative, content to hang out.

Mostly because for the first time in a long time, I'm not under a deadline. I don't have a specific project to work on. Suddenly, I'm at a bit of a loose end.

At first, I thought this might be depressing, aimless, unfruitful. But over the past two days, I've got to say, not having a specific word count or editing goal to get in each day has freed up my mind to wander around in search of new story ideas.

A week ago, I had nothing. No ideas, no sparks, nothing keeping my attention.

Now I have three different series ideas all warring in my head. Title ideas, characters, occupations, settings, motivations, goals, conflicts.


But I know myself. I'd be content to wander around on imagination island all summer, then turn around and wonder where the time went and what I got accomplished. So I need to set some specific goals re these story ideas.

So here are my goals for the month of June:

1. Complete a proposal for the Southern Princesses series, including the first three chapters of book one.

2. Content/copy edits on my novella collection Sagebrush Knights, which should arrive sometime this month.

3. Continue to compost the North Star Detective Agency and Dr. Elliot series ideas for future proposals.

4. Keep sewing on the Red Cross Signature Quilt.

How about you? Are you pressing on with your goals this summer?