I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Parable of the Talents or What Are You Doing with Yours?

Patricia Bradley

Good morning! As Minnie Pearl used to say, "I'm so glad to be here!"  I've missed y'all, and one of the reasons I haven't been here is I've been on deadline. But the book is in, and I have a name for it: Justice Delayed, Book 1 in the Memphis Cold Case Series. Now I'm just waiting to see if my editor likes it.

digging a holeThis morning during my quiet time, I was in the different versions of the Parable of the Talents.  I'm reading through the New Testament in chronological order, so all three versions were there and they were basically the same. That's one thing I like about reading the Bible in chronological order--I get triple and sometimes quadrupled versions of the same subject, good for my ADHD mind.

For those not familiar with the parable, the master was going away, and he gave three of his servants talents (one talent was worth more than a thousand dollars). One received ten, one received five and the last received one. When he returned he summoned his servants and demanded an accounting. The first two had doubled their talents, but the last one had dug a hole and hidden his. His excuse was, he was afraid that if he invested and lost the money, the master would put him in prison. Well, it doesn't exactly say that, but close.

In the end, that servant's talent was taken from him and he was put out into the darkness. The other two were given more talents. As I thought about the takeaway of this parable, I thought of the talents (or gifts) God has given each of us. If we use them in the way the two servants who doubled their money, God will give increase. But so many of us are like the servant who dug a hole and buried his. We are afraid to put ourselves out there, so in a sense, we're burying the gift God gave us.

Why? Shyness, maybe, or low self-esteem...or maybe we don't recognize our talent. I've had people tell me they had no talent, but I know better. God gives each of us gifts or talents. One of those who told me they had no talent had overlooked her natural ability for taking a piece of clay and making a vase. But to be really good at it, she needed to practice. And she didn't, even though she loved working in the clay. For whatever reason, she buried that talent.

I've been told I have a talent for writing, and if I do, it's because God gave me that gift, but it was up to me to sit in front of a computer sometimes eight hours a day to develop it.
I cross stitched a saying once: Success is that place in the road where opportunity and preparation meet, but too few people recognize it because it comes disguised as hard work.

So what do you think? Leave me a comment, and I will enter you into a drawing for my novella The Gingerbread Pony, digital right away and for those living outside the Continental US, print copy as soon as Amazon approves my file. :-)
This post is running simultaneously on my blog: www.ptbradley.com 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Novelist Angela Bell Visits!

by Teri Smith

Novelist Angela Bell is a 21st century lady with 19th century sensibilities. Her activities consist of reading, drinking tea, and writing letters with a fountain pen. She resides in Texas with pup Mr. Darcy and kitties Lizzie Bennett and Lord Sterling. Angela’s Victorian Era novella, The Substitute Bride, just released in The Lassoed by Marriage Romance Collection. Pop over to her website, http://authorangelabell.com, to learn more and connect with Angela on social media.

I caught up with this 19th century-loving author recently and asked her a few questions!

What was it like to hold your book in your hands for the first time?
      Surreal. There was so much excitement and anticipation, waiting for the package of my advance copies to arrive. Yet when the moment came and I actually opened the box, I just went still. No tears, screaming, or jumping up and down. Only a quiet, blissful state of amazement. Too much happiness for my brain to process, I think. Aside from finally holding the book in my hand, the best part was giving copies to my beaming father, sobbing mother, and ecstatic siblings.

How many years did it take to be published after someone told you to forget it because it was too hard?
·         I was sixteen at the time, so it’s been nine years now. After that remark, I took a break from writing, so only seven of those years were spent pursuing a career as an author.

Those seven years, I readily admit, were quite difficult. I experienced harsh critiques, rejections, a physical injury, delay due to said injury, losses, more rejections, and countless hours of hard work. And being published has only added another level of difficulty in the form of deadlines and marketing, which push me far from my comfort zone.

But it did happen! My dream came true. I found an amazing agent who said yes. Published one novella and have another coming out this summer. Yes, getting published is very difficult. But it is not impossible. Yes, a writing career is hard work. But if that's your heart's God-given dream, it is so worth it!

What are you working on now?

    At the moment, marketing and learning as I go! Guest Posts, Facebook, Pinterest. Plus, I was privileged to take part in a special, virtual event. For 9 weeks, through March 14th, on Monday evenings, the authors of The Lassoed by Marriage Romance Collection are presenting chats for a book club at The Vine Bookstore in Dyer, IN. If you're in the area, you can attend in person. But anyone else can watch LIVE via Google Hangouts! My chat was first up on January 18th and can now be viewed on Youtubehttps://youtu.be/niRkalokhkU?list=PLflsX7062eroexqwsCfrdAju3yxphLfN5

In February I plan to get back to work on a full-length novel, and I will also soon be working on edits and galleys for my second novella, which releases this summer in another compilation from Barbour Publishing.

You began writing in a different genre. What made the change?
·        I’ve switched genres several times, which I think was part of the process of finding and developing my individual writing voice. My genre odyssey went like this: Children’s Stories, YA Contemporary, YA Science Fiction, NA (New Adult) Steampunk, and now Historical Romance (with a Steampunk twist).

Most of these changes happened as a trial and error learning curve, but the transition to romance required a push—um gentle nudge—from my agent. A nudge for which I am now rather grateful as it resulted in my first publication, The Substitute Bride, and the creation of my brand—Victorian History and Steampunk Whimsy in a Romantic Blend.

What kind of research did you do for the genre, setting, etc.
·        The Substitute Bride is set during the Victorian Era in 1865 and takes place in England, starting in London and then moving to a country manor in Essex. The majority of my historical research consists of simply reading books (fiction and non-fiction), articles, etc. about the period and from the period—every single day—in small quantities. That way I am constantly learning new things and maintaining a connection to the style of the Victorian Era. Then I conduct more story scene specific research as it’s needed during the writing process. One of my favorite modern resources is What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew by Daniel Pool.

With The Substitute Bride, I did specific research on book-binding for my heroine Gwen who is a self-taught bookbinder, automata for my hero Elliot who is an inventive Baron, and Victorian wedding traditions. Here are examples of the latter: Queen Victoria sparked the tradition of brides wearing white when she wed Prince Albert in 1840. Weddings were required by law to be morning affairs until the late 1880s, which is why marriages were celebrated with a wedding breakfast.  

Please join me in congratulating Angela for her newest novella, and jump on over to this link to purchase it: http://www.amazon.com/Lassoed-Marriage-Romance-Collection-Historical-ebook/dp/B0194D71KU/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1453781006&sr=8-2&keywords=Angela+Bell

Angela will be around today. Ask her any question you would like!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Heads up—the scoop on Leap Year

Delores E. Topliff

I have a retired friend about to turn 18. No, she was she not born with a silver spoon in her mouth, nor is she the long-awaited heiress of a family with millions. Instead, she was born February 29th, that Leap Year day added every four years to balance our calendar. 

And Leap Years permit special fun. Research says the tradition allowing women to propose marriage during Leap Year began  in 5th century Ireland  with Saint Patrick or Brigid of Kildare (bless them). In 1288, Queen Margaret of Scotland (then age five) passed a law requiring payment if men rejected marriage proposals. Their penalty was paying a pair of leather gloves, a single rose, £1 cash.
American comic strip originator, Al Capp, spoofed that tradition by creating Sadie Hawkin’s Day, a fictional folk-holiday in his great hillbilly strip, Li'l Abner where unattractive but fast-running Sadie could get a bridegroom by outrunning one in a foot race. This inspired frequent Leap Year Sadie Hawkin's dances where girls ask boys out—and possibly start great romances. I remember one I went to . . . 
It’s not romantic tradition for girls to drop to one knee and offer marriage. But one of the happiest Christian marriages I know was where the woman did basically that. Her intended was extremely handsome and capable but shy. She was fairly plain but had a wonderful personality and was an excellent homemaker. She proposed, he accepted, they wed, raised a lovely family, and truly lived happily ever after.
Leap Year is here again. Romance writers can create endless fictional or real-life scenarios. Girls, enjoy February 29th and this whole year. If you’re not married, consider setting your sites on your quarry. Grab your running shoes. Lay out your racetrack. Take a deep breath. Ready, set, go—and tell us about it.
If you’re married, how did your proposal take place? 

Do you know a great marriage where the woman initiated the proposal? (Truthfully, most proposals are initiated with the proposer being fairly sure their intended will accept.) Here’s wishing everyone success in finding (or capturing) their perfect mate! 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

My Favorite Things

By Jennie Atkins

When asked what my favorite movie is I can instantly reply, The Sound of Music.  Its imagery, music and plot make it appealing to me on a multitude of levels.  My favorite being the music. I don’t know too many people when its title is mentioned that don’t automatically picture Julie Andrews standing on the top of a hill belting out the words “The hills are alive with the sound of music.” 

Having seen this movie at a young age, I can honestly say it cemented a love of music, song, and lyrical messaging into my life. Music plays an important role in my life.  I associate events of my past with certain songs. I can recognize a movie by their opening music without looking at the television. And like the chorus from the Sound of Music says, “My heart wants to sing every song it hears.”

So as we enjoy this season of faith, love and renewed hope. I go back to one of the songs from that movie called My Favorite Things.

The writer of the song may have delighted in bright copper kettles.  I can’t say that, but I do love to cook for my family.  I take so much join in having them gather around the dining room table to enjoy the food I prepared, laugh at the antics of the grandkids, and catch up on the years events.

I may not think brown paper packages are pretty, but I am thankful for what God has given me so that I can delight in giving gifts to others.

I don’t necessarily get excited about doorbells, but I do get excited when they herald family and friends into my home.

I may have never been bitten by a dog, but there have been times when life has taken a chunk out of me.  I’ve been tired, overwhelmed, and discouraged.  But if this song reminds me of anything--it was to count my blessings.

By thanking God for what he had done and praising him for what he will do in my life in the upcoming year, I can easily push aside any gloom or dismay that tries to hang over me like a dark cloud and count my blessings.

I thank God for my life-long friend and husband, my children and grandchildren, and for the many friends that have entered my life, if only briefly. I am thankful for all God has provided, including my health. But most of all, I am thankful for God who loves me in spite of myself.

So as 2015 comes to a close, I pray all the best for you and your families.  May your joys be doubled, may your sorrows be few, and may you rest in the abundance of God’s eternal blessings in the upcoming year.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

What the gift says about the giver

                        Delores E. Topliff

As we prepare for Christmas, you, like me, probably choose gifts hoping to bring maximum delight to the faces of those you are shopping for--whether its kids, grandkids, friends, neighbors, students, co-workers, or shut-ins. And we’re careful to give what we believe our recipients will enjoy most whether it’s movie tickets, a restaurant meal, or a Starbucks card. Choosing the right gift shows how well we know the person.

This season the Lord turned my thoughts to His joy in preparing gifts just right for us, especially His Most Amazing Gift. He pictures our delight as we discover the priceless, everlasting, fulfilling, limitless riches tucked inside the ongoing gift of His Son. That thought enriches how I see Him and gives new glimpses of Him eagerly waiting for us to untie the strings and unwrap the package to get full benefit of everything packed inside.

Parents, grandparents, and friends often make even the outside of the package special with individually-chosen tissue papers or glittery fun cut-outs to tuck inside. God does that for us, too. He handcrafts sunrises or sunsets using our favorite colors. Has a bird land on a branch to warble an uplifting song just when we need it. He provides the funds we need OR leads us to amazing sales that stretch the money we have.

When I was 13, my Sunday School teacher married her pastor sweetheart before they went to Kenya as missionaries. Since my bank account was zero, for a goodbye gift I created an African cookbook with recipes for roasted elephant leg with instructions for how to saw off the leg, roasted termite cakes, ostrich egg omelets, etc. She called it priceless and laughed until she cried, saying its humor would keep her from getting homesick. Her laughter was the thanks I needed.

Consider the best gift-giver of all, all-knowing, all-powerful God, and His joy this season and always as He chooses gifts exactly right for each one of us.

Describe a personalized gift God has given you that means a lot.

What unique gift have you really enjoyed preparing for someone else? 


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

In the Dark

Since July, I’ve shared a lot about my family’s crazy season of waiting and change. Although we are still waiting on God to show us our next adventure, we’ve been consistently amazed at all the ways God has shown us His love and provision while we wait. Despite this, it is sometimes easy to become overwhelmed by what you lack.

Two weeks ago today, near hurricane-force winds ripped through the Inland Northwest. Autumn windstorms are common in our area, but this one was like nothing I’ve ever seen. When it was all said and done, hundreds of trees were down across the area and power was out to more than 200,000 people.

We lost our power around 4pm on Tuesday. We’ve lost power before, but it’s usually back on within a few hours. When my husband got home from work, he told me that based on the damage he’d seen, he couldn’t imagine our power would be back on right away, so we went out into the storm for ice. We were shocked at how much of our area was dark. It turned out that nearly 70% of the Spokane area was without power.

That first night, we got our flameless candles and tap lights, and enjoyed a little electronics-free family bonding time. It was kind of fun. But twenty-four hours later, we were still without power. A sweet couple from our church who had power invited us for dinner and we welcomed the opportunity to warm up and charge our phones. When we got home, we bundled up like the Pioneers for bed. Seriously, I had on long johns, heavy socks, a hat, and mittens when I climbed under a pile of blankets. It was kind of fun to pretend I was Laura Ingalls Wilder out on the Prairie.

By day three (Thursday) we were all getting a little restless. It was frustrating because temperatures were falling, which meant our house was getting colder, but not cold enough to save the food in our freezer. And since our cell phones were our only access to news and updates, we were blowing through our 2G data plan. We spent our evening with our best friends who’d had their power restored earlier in the day, and although we were optimistic that when we got home our power would be back on, it was not. 

On day four (Friday) we started to get frustrated. A neighbor told us that she'd called our power company for an update; the rep told her they thought we'd already had our power restored and it might be three or four days before they could get "back" to us. We decided it was time to check on our freezer and make some decisions regarding our food. We were amazed to find that most of it was still frozen pretty solid, except a few things in the doors. We were encouraged that we could go probably go another day.

Day five (Saturday) we all hit a point where we didn't think we could do another day. If you've ever been without power for more than a few days, then you know what I mean. If you've not ever experienced this, then I probably sound whiny and lame. But there's this point where the darkness begins to feel oppressive and the lack of light, heat, and electricity begins to drain your energy and hope. We were done. And then, a family in our church offered us the use of their little generator.We got it home and running, and got our freezer plugged in. We turned on a few lights, charged our phones, and even brewed some good coffee in our Keurig. Despite these small wins, we finally had to concede that our house was too cold for sleeping so we packed up to go and stay with a family from our church who lives nearby.

It's amazing what a warm bed and a good night's sleep can do for your outlook. On day six (Sunday) we got a second wind, especially when we saw power trucks working in our neighborhood. We were sure we'd have power by the end of the day. And then the power company issued an update explaining that the damage was worse than they'd originally assessed, and it might be Thanksgiving before everyone had their power back. On Sunday night, we drove past the trucks and were disappointed to find it had taken them several hours to repair one block of downed wires...because they still had ten more blocks to go.

Day seven (Monday) we awoke to another storm warning; this storm would bring gusty winds and snow. My internal dialogue? We are going to die here, in the cold and dark of our powerless house. Oh, and a snowy windstorm is forecasted for tonight? Perfect.

Our power was finally restored just before 4pm on day nine (Wednesday). We went into Thanksgiving truly thankful for something we'd taken for granted just over a week earlier.

At some point during that week, a good friend of mine posted a thought on his Facebook page:

Don't forget in the darkness what God showed you in the light.

It occurred to me that our nine days without power is much like our wait on God for the next step in Craig's employment. We are on month seven of that wait. The first month felt much like an adventure. Months two and three we were able to wait patiently because we just "knew" it wouldn't be long. Month four was when we actually had to trust God for provisions. Month five we were done, but month six we got a second wind. Then month seven. November. Dark and cold and powerless.

But here's the thing: during the power outage, when we hit that place where the darkness threatened to overwhelm our hope...on our day seven...what we didn't know then was that within two days, our power would be back on and we'd have a  whole new appreciation for it.

So, as we embark on month eight, I am choosing not to forget in the darkness what God showed me in the light, but also what He showed me in the dark. He has always provided for us, even in the darkest, coldest days in November when friends and family and people we'd never met offered their homes, their electricity, their food, their laundry facilities, their generators, and most importantly, their support and encouragement. And just like my new appreciation for electricity, I know I will emerge on the other side of our current season with a new appreciation for everything.

~Heidi Larson Geis

*Photo Credit: www.krem.com

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Rewriting Another Person's Story

By Jennie Atkins

Have you ever watched a movie and wish it ended a different way? Or that there was a sequel to right all the wrongs in the plot? 

One such movie for me is the 1987 version of The Quick and the Dead starring the western heartthrob Sam Elliot.

It is about a green-behind-the-ears eastern couple (played by Kate Capshaw and Tom Conti) wanting to make their mark on the wild west of the late 1870’s. They roll into a town occupied by rough group of hooligans eager to rob the tenderfoots of their possessions.

In steps tall and lanky Sam Elliott. He helps the couple through many scuffles with the outlaws.  But loses his heart in the process. Sparks fly between Sam and Kate’s characters, and although he desires to scoop her up and ride off into the sunset, he doesn’t.  He is a gentleman putting the needs of others before his own passionate desires in typical Louis L'Amour fashion.

I couldn’t help but wish that sometime in these character’s futures they would meet up again, sans the husband played by Tom Conti and play out a sequel where the strong western woman tames the rouge drifter.

I imagine this is where sequels take shape in the mind of one author wanting to change what was done in the first place. 

So how about you?  What movie would you do differently?