Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Initials of Love

During the 1800s the good women of Cornwall sent their menfolk down the mines well equipped for a day's labour. Frugal housewives took seasoned meats from last night's dinner pot and wrapped them in flaky parcels of pastry.

But what about dessert? Wouldn't a hungry miner long for something sweet after his egg and bacon or rabbit pie? In true ingenious fashion, someone came up with the idea of double fillings. One end of the pie would be savoury, while the other came filled with sugared apples, figs or jam. The original fast food combo meal!

At the beginning of each shift, the uncooked pies were tucked into a small hot oven, purpose built near the mine's entrance. To ensure each miner reached for the right lunch, mothers or wives fashioned their initials on the top with a swirl of pastry - a true sign of ownership.

Leaving no doubt as to the rightful owner, each man was free to work knowing his pie would be there for him when he surfaced. It had his name on it, and no one could dispute it.

We have the same right today as children of God. We belong to Him because He has filled us and marked us as His own. Paul wrote to the Corinthians encouraging them to remember this promise.

It is God who makes us stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set His seal of ownership on us, and put His spirit in out hearts as a deposit. guaranteeing what is to come. 2 Cor 1: 21-22

When the furnace of life threatens, do you remember the seal of ownership stamped by the Heavenly Father?

The Lord Jesus has promised to return for us one day. We belong to Him, and we are His forever.

(photo source - rhubarb in the garden)

Monday, May 28, 2012

Vicki McDonough

Vickie McDonough is an award winning author of 25 books and novellas. Her novel, Long Trail Home, is a finalist in the 2012 Booksellers' Best Awards, and her books have won the Inspirational Reader's Choice Contest, Texas Gold, the ACFW Noble Theme contest, and she has been a multi-tear finalist in ACFW's BOTY/Carol Awards. She is the author of the fun and feisty Texas Boardinghouse Brides series from Barbour.

Brooks Morgan is quick on the draw, but his weapon of choice is his smile. He's smart and witty and has charmed his way through much of life, but now that he's growing older - and a bit wiser - he wants to stop drifting and settle down. He sees his chance when he wins Raven Creek Ranch in a poker game, but when he goes to claim his price, a pretty young woman with a shotgun says the ranch belongs to her. Brooks isn't leaving his one and only chance to make something of his life - but neither is she. Can they reach an agreement? Or will a greedy neighbour force a showdown, causing them both to lose what they want most in life?

Welcome to Ink Dots, Vicki. Tell us about your family. I live in Oklahoma, and I've been married for thirty-six years. I'm the mother of four grown sons and a grandma to a feisty six-year-old girl. My oldest son, a restaurant manager, is married to a sweet bank branch manager and they have the worlds smartest little girl, Hailey. My #2 son still lives at home but has a full time job. #3 son is in the Army National Guard, and my youngest son will be a senior this fall at Oral Roberts University.

How did you come to write this book? My agent approached me about writing a series with two other authors, Susan Page Davis and Darlene Franklin. We brainstormed and came up with an idea for a family saga set in Texas, which spans 50 years and several generations. The series is titled Texas Trails. I wrote the third book, Long Trail Home, and I also wrote End of the Trail, which is the sixth book and releases June 1st. One event in Texas history that has always interested me is the staged train crash at Crush, Texas. My hero and heroine in End of the Trail attend this exciting event and encounter unexpected adversity.

What's the most fascinating thing you discovered in your research for this book? My husband and I went on a research trip to Waco, Texas, when I was researching this series. We got to visit the Texas Rangers Museum, which is a fascinating place. The city is a very interesting place with lots of history, but the most interesting thing is that Waco has a suspension bridge that is a smaller replica of the Brooklyn Bridge. The Waco Suspension Bridge crosses the Brazos River in downtown Waco. It was officially opened on January 7, 1870, and at the time was one of the longest single suspension bridges in the world.

We have a famous bridge Dowunder too. Have you been to Australia?  I have not had the privilege of visiting Australia but it is in my top three list of places to visit. I've wanted to go for soooo long, and I really hope that one day I'll get to.

I hope you do too. What's on the horizon for Vicki McDonough? The first novella I wrote, which was A Stitch In Time novella collection, is being reprinted in a special anthology called A Stitched Together Romance Collection. It releases next spring. I have several proposals out with different publishers and I'm hoping to have an announcement about another book or series soon.

Here's a peek at the first chapter of End of the Trail. Vickie has generously offered one lucky Ink Dots visitor the chance to choose any book they might wish from her Heartsong collection, should they be the winner of this week's book give-away. 

Simply visit her website - Vicki McDonough go to the Heartsong Books link, and leave a comment back here at Ink Dots telling us which of her Heartsong books you would like to win. You have until Friday to enter and there's 11 books to choose from, so good luck and happy reading. 

End of the Trail
Central Texas 1896

               Lightening skittered across the granite sky. The boom of thunder that followed spooked Brooks Morgan's horse into a sideways crow hop so unexpectedly that Brooks had to grapple for the saddle horn to keep from losing his seat. He tightened up on the reins and guided Jester back onto the trail. He had hopped to make it to the town before the storm let loose but it looked like he was in for a soaking. He didn't mind a good washing down, but Jester hated rain.

Friday, May 25, 2012

When Words Beckon

I am bombarded by words. My own, and those penned by others. I have tons of historical research texts, more delicious to me than chocolate covered liquorice. Then there are words sent to nudge or wink. Facebook posts, designed to catch my attention for a split second the way a neighbour might as they wave from the other side of the road. Texts from my Beloved. Emails, newsletters, blogs and forums. Notes left by my children. They all blink at me.

And then there's God. He beckons each day. To cheer and encourage. To correct. And show the way forward. To bless with a cover of love.

I'm so hungry for words I often take more in than I can chew. I have so few places to hide where they can't find me. But how do you bookmark everything you want to savour? How do you allow what is profound to linger and not be swallowed by the flood which will come in it's wake?

Before I reached the ranks of motherhood, a wise woman, mother to four young boys at the time, and with one more to add to her brood, gave me sage advice I have not forgotten.

Mia told me, in the busyness of life she would leave her Bible open on the kitchen bench. It would sit there all day like a slow burning lantern. She may have only read a few verses that morning before little ones needed her, but she knew her mind would play those words over and over, if left in an obvious place. While she juggled toddlers on her hip or nursed babies in another room, her eye would catch on the open Bible, and she would meditate on the words already planted in her heart that day. When she could, she would revisit them, and read on.

Great tip, isn't it? Thank you, dear Mia. I have practised this myself over the years. Allowed God's words to touch my heart by keeping them near. Even in this age of gadgets and monitors, I leave a page open on my computer with today's scripture reading. Ready to prod my mind to consider afresh what God has for me. As I change pages on my screen to find an online thesaurus, or shift from my inbox to my own stories, there it is. Like a well loved Bible on the kitchen bench. Open. And beckoning.

How do you keep God's words close, when so much competes for our attention?

Your word is a lamp for my feet; 
a light on my path. Psalm 119:105


And many congratulations to Lee Franklin. You are the lucky Ink Dots winner of Michael Humphrey's All Living. I guess you will have more words to fit into your world too, now. Happy reading. I'm sure you'll love it.

Blessings for a wonderful weekend,
(photo source - rhubarb in the garden)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Once Upon A Time

My uncle was for many years, the family custodian of stories. For an immigrant family displaced from their homeland, this was a big deal for us. Ten years older than my mum, Uncle was the one we went to, to mend the holes in our family history.

One night, when I was a young teenager on holiday at Uncle's beach house, we lost electricity for a few hours. In a flurry of excitement, my aunt found candles and set them around the room, including the top of the now dead TV.

So what do you do, when you can't watch the end of the movie? When the 'lights' brighten only a corner of the room?

My uncle suggested we tell stories. And he went first. His story held us in such a grip, it was the only one we cared for that night. Against the flicker of candle light, he took us to a little Greek village, back to the 1930s when he was a little boy.

He has passed on now, and I'm thrilled to capture some of what he shared. I only wish there had been more nights where the candles cast a glow on his yesterdays.

Here's his story, retold by me.

One summer, the village rang with wedding bells for a teenage bride. Her groom had not pressed for much of a dowry, as he knew he was getting more than what he deserved; the most beautiful bride the village would ever see.

The bride's mother however, did not let the groom dictate her duties. It had taken years to amass her daughter's dowry. Demanded or not, it would serve her daughter well.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Michael Humphrey

This week's featured author brings something different to Ink Dots. More than an historical romance, this book spans the history of mankind and touches every era we know.

Michael Humphrey has a degree in theology from Ambassador University. He currently works at Purdue University in the School of Visual and Performing Arts and has a window cleaning business. He has written and performed poetry on stage and television, sung in a band and dj-ed on the local radio station. All Living is his first published novel.

"They want what they suspect I have."

The first born son of Adam and Eve... is still alive!

He has one week to reveal his secrets to his best friend, Lester, before he moves to the Middle East for one final divine task. But with a ruthless secret society of shadowy evil, known as the Lightmen closing in, time is in desperately short supply.

In order to succeed he is going to need Lester's help. But first, Lester needs a history lesson. With God's permission, Al finally tells of his life as it is and once was.

As Al recounts his story to his only confidant, Lester not only learns the secrets of his mysterious best friend, but the story behind the world's beginning -  and in the process he may even find faith for himself.

Welcome to Ink Dots, Michael. Tell us about yourself. Who are the most important people in your life right now? My wife and five children have always been my top priority in life. In order to succeed on one level you must sacrifice on another. I have never wanted to pursue a career that kept me away from my family for any length of time. I prefer to be home every evening; playing board games, riding bikes, telling stories and having fun together. If I had to pick one family member who daily inspires me to accomplishment, I would have to say it is my wife. She is a light when I'm in shadow, a giggle when I grumble, a buoy when I'm bailing water. It wasn't long after marrying her that the idea for this book occcurred to me. I thank her for encouraginhg me to start, nudging me to continue, and inpsiring me to finish. I have married my muse, and I am filled daily with the wonder and astonishment of her. She is my Keziah. This book is for her.

Wow, that's quite a dedication. What inspired this story? Genesis 3:20 says, "And Adam called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all living." It was not until the next chapter, that I read "Now Adam knew Eve his wife and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, 'I have gotten a man from the LORD.' Reading this late one night ten years ago, it occurred to me: Why would Adam name his wife "the mother of all living" before she had a son that most assume was the first born? What if Adam and Eve had other children before Cain and Abel? What if there were a first born son named All Living? Interesting questions. I can see how this took off in your imagination. 

What happened next?  I went to the concordance and looked up the English words 'all' and 'living' in the original Hebrew. 'All' was translated from the word 'Kole' and 'living' in the Hebrew was 'Chay.' Kole Chay. There was my main character. From there the idea for this unknown older brother of Cain and Abel began to take form.

Wow, your writing has taken you on quite a journey. Have you been to Australia? I have never been to Australia, but it's on my 'bucket list.' Cost is the major obstacle, even for just my wife and I. Perhaps when our five children are older. Maybe I should write a book that takes place there and deduct the airfare as a business cost. Hmmm.....

Ok, so if it's not a trip to Australia, what's next for Michael Humphrey? As I was working on this book I realized that I would not be able to tell the entire story that I had in mind in a single work. I originally envisioned a trilogy; the Garden to the Flood, the Flood to Jesus, and Jesus to present day. However, in this first volume, I did not even make it to the flood. Thus the next stage of this series will deal with how to get my main character, Kole and his family through the flood. (Obviously he was not on the boat with Noah.) It will also detail the story of Kole and Keziah, from their burgeoning romance to their 700 year love affair.

It certainly is an intriguing premise... the story of the unknown older brother of Cain and Abel. Here's a peek at chapter one. And for one lucky reader who comments below, Michael has offered a free print copy of All Living. 

All Living 
Chapter 1

                        Al was old but not quite six thousand years old. He sat in the corner booth of a little bar only three blocks form his large Victorian-Midwest house. Next week, when he moved to the Middle East, he'd have to live in a much more utilitarian manner, but all things considered, he was looking forward to it. He had not been to Jerusalem in over 150 years and he missed the old neighbourhood, although news reports showed the area had changed considerably. He sat and stirred his drink, watching the red and white straw push the crushed ice cubes around in a clockwise direction. So much has happened, he thought, so many memories to carry around. It was time to tell his story.

                        He looked at his watch, 7:32. Lester was running late. Lester was a fifty-something -year-old kid he'd befriended over thirty years ago, his oldest living friend. During the last few centuries, Al had become a bit reclusive, content with being more of an observer than a participant. When his personal life periodically flourished he tended to neglect witnessing the rest of the world's activities. He loved so intensely that he could get carried away and forget his real job. What he was actually preparing himself to do.

                       With the entire human race as his family, Al had had many friendships during his life, many loves, so many lost to him now. Dead. Al had buried everyone he had ever cared for. He though about his wife, Keziah. Time for reminiscing later, he knew, even though he remained acutely aware that time was running short for this current existence. Not just for him though, for everyone.

I wish you every success Michael, with All Living and your future writing projects. 

Don't forget to leave a comment for you chance to win a copy of All Living

Friday, May 18, 2012

An Unplanned Escape

It's been a week of sleeping and reading.

I can now tick off a severe pre-winter cold and worst migraine of the year. And I shall look ahead to a new week of greater productivity, confident I've had my share of the sick-bed. That's the plan, anyway. If you have any influence, anywhere...please inform the germs they've been here and done their damage. They are free to find another home.

Thanks to my beautiful family, meals and chores have not been left undone. And thanks to Siri Mitchell's recent release, The Messenger, I've put a delicious dent in my birthday stash of books.

Reading has shortened these miserable days. Together with hot drinks and quilted covers, I've nestled more than I expected. Lost myself in a tale of secrets, faith and love. Abandoned myself to a world I will never taste for real.

And I want to go back there. As I am in the grip of a story I don't want to leave just yet.

Don't you love it when a story does that to you? Takes hold and wrestles all else from the hours until it takes you to that final page.

I'm sure the winner of this week's book giveaway will feel the same when they receive a copy of Lena Nelson Dooley's Maggie's Journey. And that lucky winner is Alissa Buda. Congratulations Alissa! May you too slip into a world you do not wish to say goodbye to, so soon.

How about you? Have you read a book you did not wish to end? What makes us want to stay in the folds of a well crafted story? I hope you have one such book tucked away for this weekend.

Be blessed, and enjoy the escape.

(photo source - the murmuring cottage)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Migraine Cure?

I have a migraine. I don't remember writing in on my to-do list, but in true headache fashion, it's bumped off more than I care to lose this week.

But I was cheered by an overnight email from a dear writing buddy, Jalana from Tennessee. She received a parcel I sent last week, and oohhed and aahhed with me over all the Australian goodies I sent her family.

In my parcel of lollies and biscuits, I added a box of loose leaf Melbourne Breakfast tea, for that Downunder flavour. Problem is, my dear friend is not so sure how to brew tea using loose leaves.

So here's a recipe I found in one of Australia's earliest cook books, on tea making according to the ancient custom of the Chinese, who invented this well loved brew. This translated version appeared sometime in the 1870s. I wonder if Jalana will try this at home...

On a slow fire set a tripod, 
Whose colour and texture show its long use.
Fill it with clear snow water.  
Boil it as long as necessary to turn fish white, and crayfish red. 
Throw it upon the delicate leaves of choice tea, in a cup of yooe ( a particular kind of porcelain).
Let it remain as long as the vapour rises to a cloud, and leaves only a thin mist floating on the surface. 
At your ease drink this precious liquor, which will chase away the causes of trouble.

Well, if they say so. I'll just find me some clear snow, then.

But for those like Miss Jalana, enjoying warmer weather with no snow, here's another set of instructions you may like to follow.
How to Brew Tea.

Tea recipes, I have. Migraine cures, I don't.

Do you? I will send someone a box of Melbourne Breakfast Tea if they suggest the remedy which brings me relief. All testing will be conducted under the scientific observations of my family, who know well enough, I have yet to win this battle. Won't you help me chase away the trouble?

(photo source - the murmuring cottage)

Monday, May 14, 2012

Lena Nelson Dooley

It's my pleasure to introduce Lena Nelson Dooley, author of Mary's Blessing. I met Lena in 2010, at the ACFW conference in Indianapolis and know first hand, of her generous spirit and love for other authors. Lena is an award winning author with more than 690,000 books in print.

Lena loves James, her children, grandchildren and great grandson. She loves chocolate, cherries, and spending time with friends. Travel is always on her horizon. Cruising, Galveston, and the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas, Mexico. Helping others becomce published really floats her boat, with eighteen signing their first book contract after her mentoring. Three of her books have been awarded the Carol Award silver pins, and she has received the ACFW Mentor of the Year award.

Lena is currently under two 3 book contracts with Charisma House/Realms. In addition to her writing Lena is a frequent speaker at women's groups, writers groups and conferences.

Mary's Blessing - When her mother dies, Mary Lenora must grow up quickly to take care of her brothers  and sisters. Can love help her shoulder the burden?

Mary Lenora knows she is adopted. As she was growing up, her mother called her "God's blessing." But now that she's gone, Mary no longer feels like any kind of blessing. Her father, in his grief, has cut himself off from the family, leaving the running of the home entirely in Mary's hands.

As she nears her eighteenth birthday, Mary can't see anything in her future but drudgery. Then her childhood friend Daniel begins to court her, promising her a life of riches and ease. But her fairy-tale dreams turn to dust when her family becomes too much for Daniel, and he abandons her in her time of deepest need.

Will Daniel come to grips with God's plan for him? And if he does return, can Mary trust that this time he will really follow through?

Welcome to Ink Dots, Lena. It's a thrill to have you 'visit'. Tell us a little about your family. My husband and I have been married almost 48 years. We have two daughters, two sons-in-law, two grandsons, two granddaughters and one great grandson. We all live in Texas, except one grandson who is overseas in the army. Wow, 48 years! Congratulations, and what a blessing to be surrounded by your loved ones. 

Mary's Blessing is an historical romance. What's the main theme you wish readers to take away when they read this book? One theme of Mary's Blessing is how to deal with a poor self image, but the main theme is forgiveness. I'm a storyteller who takes her characters through hard situations and shows how they learn to trust God in all things.

You enjoy travelling. Have you ever been to Australia?  I fell in love with Australia decades ago, long before the rest of the people in our country did. I have never been there, but I would love to go. However, I have visited your country through the written word. I've read every novel I could get my hands on set in Australia and I've read non-fiction books about Australia, and I have had a large collection of National Geographic Magazines about Australia. I'd love to see Ayers Rock and Coober Pedy. The tropical rain forest and the Great Barrier Reef, the Snowy Mountains and Tasmania. Actually I'd love to have a motor home and spend a couple of months just going where we want to and visiting with the Australian people. You would need months, maybe years to do all that! I hope you get to visit someday soon. Until then, we'll have to get to know you better through your many books. 

Here's a taste of Lena's Mary's Blessing. If you would like to read more of Lena's stories, please leave a comment below and you will have the chance to win a print copy of book one in this series, Maggie's Journey. 

Mary's Blessing

Chapter 1
Outside Oregon City
April 1885

                     "Pa?" Mary Lenora Murray shouted back over her shoulder as she picked up the picnic basket. "You ready to go?" Why does he always drag his feet when we go to church?
                      Her father came through the mud room into the kitchen, letting the screen door slam shut behind him. He smelled of heat, hay, and sunshine, with the strong tang of muck from the barn mingled in. By the looks of his clothes, attending church was the farthest thing from his mind. His ratty trousers held smudges of several dark colors. She didn't even want to guess what they were. And the long sleeves of his undershirt, the only thing covering his torso, were shoved above his elbows. Grayed and dingy, the shirt would never be white again, no matter how hard she tried to clean it.
                     Mary bit her tongue to keep from scolding him as she did her younger brothers and sister when they made such a racket entering the house. No doubt her would give her some excuse about having too much work to go to church. Not a big surprise. She'd heard it all before too many times.
                     He set a bucket of fresh water before the dry sink and gripped his fingers around the front straps of his suspenders. That always signalled he was about to tell her something she didn't want to hear.
                   "I'm not going today." This time, he didn't really make any excuses. Just this bald faced comment.
                    She took a deep breath and let it out slowly, trying to calm her anger. She'd give him a sweet answer even if the words tasted bitter in her mouth. "The new pastor is coming today. We're having dinner on the grounds after the service. Remember, I told you when we got home last Sunday." She flashed what she hoped was a warm smile at him and prayed he couldn't tell it was fake.
                   "What happened to the last one? He didn't last very long, did he?" Pa started washing his hands with the bar of homemade soap she kept in a dish on the shelf. "Don't understand why that church can't keep a pastor. Someone musta run him off."
                    Mary couldn't keep from huffing out a breath this time. "I told you about that too." She clamped her lips closed before she asked the question that often bounced around in her mind. Why don't you ever listen to me? At seventeen. she was close enough to being an adult to be treated like one, and she'd carried the load of a woman in the household for years.
                   "His wife died, and his father-in-law begged him to bring the grandchildren closer to where they live, so he headed back to Ohio. Living in the same community as their grandparents, he'd have a lot of help with the younger ones."
                    Mary had never known her grandparents, none of them. Not her mother's parents. Not her father's parents. Not the parents of whoever gave birth to her. She didn't wonder about any of them often, but today, her heart longed for someone who really loved her.


Here's where you can find Lena Nelson Dooley

Friday, May 11, 2012

Covered By Kindle Tingles

I'm a sneak. I will admit. I poked around my birthday presents, while no one was in the room, and my packages sat all beribboned on the breakfast table.

I had to. They needed moving, about 10 centimetres that way, for me to set my boys' breakfast bowls down. Nothing wrong with that, right? I only shifted them a little. I was, after all, juggling hot porridge. And when the hungry ones were fed, and others, more bleary-eyed emerged for birthday songs and kisses, I hardly drew breath before ripping into my goodies.

I won't lie. I knew the contents of some. I'd squirrelled away a few treasured have to have books, and told my Beloved they would be perfect for my birthday. My clever ones took other bait I casually left around, and fished for me that perfect birthday morning smell.

New books, sigh. How they adorned my table with May bliss. Books and more books. Fresh pages and news stories and endless hours of promise.

Last to delight, but by no means puny or least, a secret parcel beckoned from the mess of ribbons. Lighter than the others. As light as a book-mark, and boxed like a ticket to somewhere fancy, it required layers of tissue, and ceremony to unfold.

And ticket, it was. My pass to a reading wonderland people call Kindles. Outer cardboard sleeves were removed, and there it nestled, in its groove in the box. Ready to thrill me.

I weighed it in the palm of my hand, and smiled at the thought of all my unread e-books on the laptop, about to wing their way to my new gadget. That glorious feeling of title after title at my fingertips.

And like a sneak, I scrambled to convince myself, it's only a little bit different. Isn't it?

That new book smell won't emerge from Kindle tingles, but the thrill of the story will always grip me, right? My bookmark might flash muted grey, not poke out its red velvet tongue, but I will drift in and out of the adventure and hardly notice how I remembered where I left off. Won't I?

Of course I will.

But here's one thing I must sort out for good. And you might have an answer to my newest reading dilemma. How shall I cover this new friend from the impact soft paper books never face?

Plastic rarely inspires me. Leather is more in keeping with the guts of what will live in my Kindle. Fabric? Maybe. Clever people who thread needles with their eyes closed, sell works of art designed to protect the Kindle. Do you want your cover to blend in on the shelf, or catch your eye with its winking good looks? There are so many choices.

So, Kindle family, what do you say? Have you forgiven yourself for leaving paper pages behind? And how do you keep your Kindle safe?

Ironic Twist - For the last 6 weeks, I've announced the winner of the Ink Dots Book Giveaway each Friday. So far each book has been an e-book. Not this time. 

This week's book is a hard copy of Nancy Herriman's The Irish Healer. And the winner is.... Marg. Congratulations to you!  I know you will enjoy the adventure, with or without the paper. :)

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Dear Autumn, You Can Come Any Day...

Autumn, and in particular the month of May, have always brought a delicious goodness to my soul. I'm a May baby, and when I was a child, our school breaks were such that my birthday fell during the term one holidays. Bliss for a little girl, who liked reading at home better than anything else.

So you'll forgive me if I don't delight in Summer with all her berries and seaside languor. If I bypass Spring and her luscious promises. Even Deep Winter, which I am not afraid to embrace, does not thrill me the same way a May day can.

Thankfully, Melbourne offers an autumn I cannot fault. Roll your eyes if you must, at the mess of leaves, the loss of daylight and the inching in of colder days, and even colder nights. But that's exactly what I welcome.

Bunkering down. Comfort foods and sweet hot drinks. Blankets and fires and fog in the morning, with a bathing of glorious afternoon sun.

With this turning of the seasons, families turn too. Inward, to the simmering pot. To the blaze of the heater and the hunt for long forgotten scarves. The wrapping of one another in layers and flavours not remembered til now.

Yes, I'm one who loves to nestle. To find that familiar groove and slip in. Autumn gives me that, and I look forward to it every year with the same anticipation of a birthday. Oh wait... it's time for that too....

How about you? Tell me why you love your favourite season.

(photo source - rhubarb in the garden)

Monday, May 07, 2012

Nancy Herriman - The Irish Healer

It's my pleasure to introduce Nancy Herriman, author of The Irish Healer. Nancy received a Bachelors Degree in Engineering from the University of Cincinnati. After 20-plus years in Arizona, she retired from a career in the high-tech industry, returned to Ohio and took up the pen. She hasn't looked back. The Irish Healer is Nancy's debut novel. When she isn't writing or gabbing over lattes about writing, she is watching historical shows on cable TV or performing with various choral groups. She lives in central Ohio with her husband and two teenaged sons, and wishes there were more hours in the day.

The Irish Healer -  During the deadly 1832 cholera epidemic in London, a heartsick Irish healer must find the strength to overcome most fearsome obstacles. Accused of murdering a child under her care, Irish healer Rachel Dunne flees the ensuing scandal while vowing to never sit at another sickbed. She no longer trusts in her abilities - or God's mercy. When a cholera epidemic sweeps through London, she feels compelled to nurse the dying daughter of the enigmatic physician she has come to love. James Edmunds, has his own doubts about God's grace. Can they face their darkest fears? Or is it too late to learn that trust and love just might heal their hearts? 

Welcome to Ink Dots, Nancy. What do you love about where you call home? I live in the state of Ohio in the mid-west of the US. I love the friendly atmosphere and relatively slow-paced life, although there's plenty to do and we're within easy reach of big cities. And after living in the dessert southwest for many years, I'm loving having four seasons again! Oh I hear you about the seasons. That's why I love living in Melbourne. We have a famous saying, If you don't like the season in Melbourne, wait five minutes and you'll get another one. But we are enjoying a golden autumn right now. Just beautiful. 

Congratulations on your debut novel. Tell us why you became an author. Simply, I love to write. From my sneak peek, I can see you're great at what you love. 

The Irish Healer is set in the 1830s. Why did you chose this period of time for your story? I've always been fascinated with the mid to late 19th century, since it was a time of great change, both  technologically and socially. And since I wanted to tell a story involving a struggling healer, what better time and place than during a cholera epidemic before medicine understood how to treat it. That is a very interesting time to set a story. 

Speaking of interesting... Have you been to Australia? I've not had the opportunity to visit Australia, but would love to experience aboriginal culture as well as see the beautiful coastline (and a few kangaroos wouldn't be bad.) I can't say any kangaroos bounce down my street, but if you were to come, I know where to find some. It would be my pleasure to be your guide. 

What are you reading now? I am reading The Messenger by Siri Mitchell. Oh, I'm almost 100% sure The Messenger is squirrelled away in a cupboard awaiting Mother's Day ribbons. I can't wait to join you in savouring that read! But for now, let's take a peek at your debut novel

Nancy's offering a free copy to one lucky guest who comments below. And why would you not? It sounds fantastic! I'll announce the winner on Friday, so please make sure I can find you, if your name's the one I call.

The Irish Healer
Chapter 1

"My name is Rachel Dunne. I am not a murderer."

Rachel tightened her grip on the ship's wooden rail, as if she might choke into silence the echo of her own voice. Better to focus on the receding sight of Ireland's blue-green hills, seek to memorize every bounding stream, every wisp of misty fog, every rubble-walled farmer's field, than to remember. 

For who knew how long - if ever - it would be before she saw her beloved homeland again?

"Oh mother," she murmured over the slap of the paddle wheels and the hiss of the steam, the scree of persistent seagulls skimming the boat's wake. 

"How did it come to this?"

This parting, this going, Deoraicht. This exile.

Mother was not there to answer Rachel's question: they could only afford ship's passage for one, and Rachel was the one who had to leave. Mother and the rest had stayed behind in Carlow to mend the damage Rachel had never meant to cause. Restore the honor of the Dunne name in a town already prone to mislike them for their English ways. Once Rachel had been a healer, but she could not heal the scar upon her family. No more than she had been able to heal poor Mary Ferguson, who also died so quickly and so quietly even Rachel had been at a loss to explain the how and why. 

I would never harm the ill. I am the banaltradh...

A healer. If the thought didn't hurt so much, Rachel might laugh. She had vowed to never let herself be a healer again. 

Friday, May 04, 2012

Behind the Scenes with Kate Bracks

Last Saturday it was my privilege to share an afternoon with Kate Bracks. Over tea and lemon tarts, we chatted about her experiences as a MasterChef contestant, how winning this competition has changed her life, and the road ahead for this humble wife and mum, chef and cook book author from Orange, NSW.

Kate generously answered all my questions in preparation for our interview the next day at Edge Church, and then sat back to share even more of her experiences these last 12 months, because as we say in Australia, she's a good sort, and I'm a sticky beak.

Turns out, for a sticky beak, I'm pretty good at filling my sheet with questions. Far too many for a 15 minute interview. So for those who heard the bare bones, here are a few extras we didn't get to on Sunday morning, including Kate's recipe for Mandarin Oil.

1. What are your best tips for not getting into a cooking rut?
Plan to be inspired. Read cooking magazines, watch shows about food, and let something new whet your appetite. Then plan your menus. Weekly meals don't need to be boring or repetitive. Know your family's schedule and work with it. Sausages and mash are ok when it's a busy night. Save the new delights for when you can enjoy creating and savouring them.

2. What's in your fridge you're excited to cook with when you get home? A lovely bunch of fresh coriander.

3. What might we find if we took a peek into your kids' lunch boxes? Their lunch boxes look like anyone else's kids' lunches, but we have been doing one new thing lately to increase their veggie servings. Each night, the kids get to choose one vegetable they want to add to their lunch for the following day. They can choose from celery, carrot, cherry tomatoes or cucumbers. They really love doing this.

4. What plans do you and your husband Luke have for beyond the MasterChef experience? Our dream is to open a B&B. A place where we can welcome people with food and share ourselves with them as they pass through our lives. We believe the Bible talks about welcoming the stranger, and hospitality is very much related to how we share our table with others.

With her new cook book A Sweet Life fresh on the shelves, her Masterchef responsibilities and the B&B dream, I think Kate's going to be one busy cook for some time. But she's a girl with her priorities in the right order. Family is her most important project, and understandably, she was eager to get home to her three kids and husband.

But she didn't leave without sharing one of her favourite and probably easiest recipes. Mandarin Oil, best saved for sweet treats, but also delicious in salads and on fish, can be made using any citrus.

Mandarin Oil

Grate the peel from one mandarin.
Infuse in oil for an hour.
Drain and pour over any chocolate and hazelnut sweet delight of your choice, or substitute the mandarin with lime and drizzle over fish.

Bon Appetit.
 May your weekend be full of 
good food and fine company. 

And congratulations to Amanda Deed. You're the winner of Monday's e-book offer - 
To Dance Once More by Sherri Wilson Johnson. 

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

When Inadequacy Steals the Story

Have you ever rid yourself of a mess so completely, you had no chance of getting it back again?

My guest author this week, Sherri Whitson, threw an early manuscript into the fireplace when she thought it belonged in the ashes, and no where else.

I know how she feels. There are days when my efforts impress me very little, and if they could be gathered up as a wad of papers, perhaps I too, would be tempted to cast them in the fire.

It's easy to look at our inadequacies as the complete picture. As if they alone define us.

But that's not good enough for God. He's not in the business of leaving us in our unfinished, and spoiled state. He longs to refine us for His purposes and for us to enjoy fellowship with Him.

I'm so glad Sherri didn't leave her writing journey at the hearth. She didn't let rejection have the final say, and pursued her craft by doing a writing course and discovering what she needed for the task ahead.

She learned the importance of admitting her inadequacies and searching for ways to overcome them. Easy to say, much harder to do in real life. But she did, and she's now sharing manuscripts with an audience instead of the fireplace.

Do you have something you've cast in the fire God may want rescuing? Is inadequacy smouldering in the ashes, stealing your story?

Let God have His way. Look for what He prods your heart to do next. And turn those ashes to beauty.