Monday, June 30, 2014

Carla Stewart ~ The Hatmaker's Heart

I'm thrilled to welcome Carla Stewart to Ink Dots this week. Carla's the award-winning author of five novels. With a passion for times gone by, it is her desire to take readers back to that warm, familiar place in their hearts called “home.”
Carla was the 2011 trophy winner of the Oklahoma Writers Federation Inc. “Best Book of Fiction”, an Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award (Faith, Hope, and Love) finalist in 2011 and winner in 2012, a two-time Genesis winner, and an Oklahoma Book Award finalist four times. She and her husband live in Tulsa and have four adult sons and six grandchildren (with one on the way!). Learn more about Carla at
The Hatmaker's Heart ~ For Nell Marchwold, bliss is seeing the transformation when someone gets a glimpse in the mirror while wearing one of her creations and feels beautiful. Nell has always strived to create hats that bring out a woman's best qualities. She knows she's fortunate to have landed a job as an apprentice designer at the prominent Oscar Fields Millinery in New York City. Yet when Nell's fresh designs begin to catch on, her boss holds her back from the limelight, claiming the stutter she's had since childhood reflects poorly on her and his salon. 
But it seems Nell's gift won't be hidden by Oscar's efforts. Soon an up-and-coming fashion designer is seeking her out as a partner of his 1922 collection. The publicity leads to an opportunity for Nell to make hats in London for a royal wedding. There, she sees her childhood friend, Quentin, and an unexpected spark kindles between them. But thanks to her success, Oscar is determined to keep her. As her heart tugs in two directions, Nell must decide what she is willing to sacrifice for her dream, and what her dream truly is. 
Carla says...
If I could explore anywhere in the world tomorrow, it would be... Cornwall, England. We went to England years ago but didn’t get to Cornwall. I’ve read so many wonderful books set there and have been enjoying Doc Martin on Netflix, so the bug to go there and explore those craggy shores is nagging me. Oh, Carla, I've been bitten by that same bug. Take me to England, and I'll be your best buddy for life. 
The best thing I did today is... spend time with my grandsons who are staying with us for the annual “fun at Mimi and Papa Max’s house.” 
A secret pleasure of mine is...sipping a glass of Chardonnay while my hubby and I sit on the patio and talk about what we did that day. 
I wish I could relive the day when I... got married. I can barely remember anything about the day, and I would love to be more observant and take the time to capture the mood and remember what was said and who came to the wedding. Looking back (forty-two years!), I know it was the day that was pivotal for the remainder of my life (as wedding days should be), and I would like to cherish it more. 
When I was a child I dreamed I would... be famous. Sometimes a radio disc jockey, sometimes an actress on a stage, sometimes an author who wrote books that carried readers on journeys. Obviously, I never became famous, but I do have a treasure trove of wonderful memories as a wife, a mom, a nurse, a traveler, and yes . . . as a writer. Dreams do come true, but they’re not always exactly as we envisioned. And for me, I’m just grateful to be able to share my stories with others. I love it that your dreams have come true, even if they look a little different to the ones you held as a child. 

I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but... someday I want to write a really good mystery. It was the genre I preferred to read for half of my life, and I sort of gravitate toward those that have psychological twists. Any ideas?? Oh... I'm not the best one to ask. I don't naturally gravitate to mysteries, but I'm sure your readers will tell you. :)  
If you'd like to win a copy of Carla's The Hatmaker's Heart, please leave a comment below. Tell us about the best/worst hat you've ever worn. I wore an 1850s bonnet on a school camp with my son when we visited the historic Sovereign Hill. BEST fun ever and a day I was sorry to see end. 
How about you? I'll announce the winner in the comment thread on Friday. 
Good luck and happy reading, 

Friday, June 27, 2014

52 Author Dates ~ Week 26

Where I thought I'd take a vow of silence

Take A Vow Of Silence

When I read ahead in my 52 Dates For Writers to this week’s challenge, I figured I might have to sneak off to a distant leafy monastery. Somewhere city folks escape to collect their thoughts in the absence of voices.

Instead, the challenge was to pick a place with plenty of conversation and take a vow of silence in the midst of rush hour. 

Listen - making notes of any conversations or lines that intrigue. Ignore the mundane. Catch something beautiful or mysterious... I was told 

So I chose a local restaurant where the breakfast rush hour has kept me busy eavesdropping before. (Please don’t judge. Eavesdropping is in a writer’s DNA.) Only this time, I sat down with the lunch crowd. 

And I wasn’t disappointed. Two young mums came in with a chatty toddler. A young Asian man brought his elegant grandparents in for a quick bite, and a group of suited men took their spot in a shady corner to sort out business. 

Where I ended up taking a vow of silence
Their voices carried across to where I’d been writing for about an hour before they arrived. But I set my words aside to listen to theirs. 

I took my vow of silence. And they filled it. 

The men in the corner gave me nothing. They spoke in hushed tones in a language I figured might be Arabic. When they weren’t talking their guffaws tumbled over the tables. 

The mums relaxed and shared a string of stories interrupted only when they had to corral the toddler. My favourite line from their table... “Keep your mouth and ice-cream off me.” 

But the line which caught my attention over all the chatter and kitchen clatter came from the young Asian man.

“What do you recommend?” he took the menu from the waiter. “I need something soft for grandpa. He’s got broken teeth.” 

Shh... listen
He’s got broken teeth.

I made haste to write that down. 

They ordered their risotto and a pot of tea for grandma and teeth-troubled grandpa. 

But all I wanted to hear was how grandpa’s teeth had crumbled. And I really wanted it to be something exotic. Had he sipped on too many childhood sweet teas from his father’s tea trolley in a busy railway station in Singapore? Had he once been a famous fairy floss maker who made a living touring the streets of Hong Kong with his sugar spinner? 

Just that one detail about the broken teeth lifted the dialogue. A little more detail than what you might hear when patrons order in a restaurant, and I was immediately engaged. As I should be with interesting dialogue. 

And that’s exactly why 52 Dates for Writers encourages a vow of silence

Where do you like to eavesdrop? (Don't pretend you don't.) What interesting conversations have made your ears prick up? 

Blessings for a wonderful weekend,

Monday, June 23, 2014

Karen Barnett ~ Out Of The Ruins

I'm welcoming author, Karen Barnett, to Ink Dots this week. Karen's the author of Mistaken and Out of the Ruins. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, two kids, and a mischievous dachshund named Mystery. When not writing, Karen enjoys photography, hiking, public speaking, decorating crazy birthday cakes, and dragging her family through dusty history museums. Karen’s debut novel earned her the Writer of Promise Award from Oregon Christian Writers in 2013. 

Out Of The Ruins ~ While her sister lies on her deathbed, Abby Fischer prays for a miracle. What Abby doesn’t expect, however, is for God’s answer to come in the form of the handsome Dr. Robert King, whose experimental treatment is risky at best.

As they work together toward a cure, Abby’s feelings for Robert become hopelessly entangled. Separated by the tragedy of the mighty San Francisco earthquake, their relationship suddenly takes a back seat to survival. With fires raging throughout the city, Abby fears for her life as she flees alone through burning streets. Where is God now? Will Robert find Abby, even as the world burns around them? Or has their love fallen with the ruins of the city?

Karen Says...

If I could explore anywhere in the world tomorrow, it would be...Either Denali National Park in Alaska or an old crumbling castle somewhere in northern Europe. Both are on my must-see list. Oh, Alaska and castles are on my list, too! I'm not sure where Denali National Park is, but I'm guessing it's beautiful anyway. :)

The best thing I did today is...It’s only 9 AM for me, so the day is young! So far the best part has been taking a few minutes to cuddle on the sofa with my hubby before the kids got up. 

A secret pleasure of mine is...Staying up late and watching multiple episodes of Doctor Who or Sherlock on Netflix.

I wish I could relive the day when I...First held each of my kids.

When I was a child I dreamed I would...Explore the natural world and film wildlife documentaries like Marty Stouffer or Jacques Cousteau.

I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but...I have long conversations with my characters when I’m trying to get inside their heads. Of course, I only do it when I’m home alone—my family already thinks I’m a little loopy. Ha, that's to be expected, Karen. I think you need to be a little loopy to take on fiction writing. (wink) Thanks so much for being my guest this week. Congratulations on the release of Out Of The Ruins.

If you'd like to win a copy of Out Of The Ruins, please leave a comment in the message thread below. 

Tell us what you'd pick if you had to choose between a trip to Alaska, or a long explore around a castle. I'd choose a British castle. Maybe a stack of British castles... :)

How about you? I'll announce the winner on Friday. 

Good luck and happy reading, 

Friday, June 20, 2014

52 Author Dates ~ Week 25


Writing is like walking in a deserted street. 
Out of the dust in the street 
you make a mud pie.
 John el Carre

And when there’s no dusty street (and you need to research book shelves) you can always make a trip to Ikea where the playground is adult sized and the exit’s at the end of the one-way maze. 

My 52 Author Date challenge emphasizes the value of play. “It’s vital to keep a healthy reserve of playfulness, for it is the flow of play - so abundant in early childhood - which allows us to experiment, to push boundaries, to avoid closing down our ideas too early, and to get down to the serious business of completing a novel.”

The willingness to play is crucial to the creative spirit. It’s probably behind some of the psychology of large stores like Ikea where shoppers not only browse the aisles, but are invited to step into tiny homes. Decked out with space saving ideas and solutions, it’s hard not to reach out and see how they work. 

If you’re like me you’ll dawdle through every display on every corner. You'll sit on couches, open drawers, lift lids and slide skillets over stove tops, imagining you’re the ruler of a world slightly different to the one you left behind that day. 

My Beloved and I made such a trip to Ikea, yesterday. For a few minutes we went our separate ways, and like Alice, I slipped into a Wonderland of play in a tiny house, only big enough to suggest how its solitary inhabitant might live.

The open plan bed/kitchen/bathroom/laundry/sitting area wrapped me in a few moments of delicious playtime. 

Could I live here? (Probably.) All alone? (Well, it is kinda cute.) Where would I put my computer? (Over here, on the kitchen table) Would I keep that ugly filing cabinet? (Nope, too tin-can like) Enough bathroom storage? (Possibly - wall space used well) Enough feminine touches to balance the space saving genius? (Yes, oodles of sweetness. Look at the hanging clock!). 

By the time my Beloved found me, I’d played out a day in the life of the person I’d be if I lived in that space. 

It was fun. I played. I imagined myself there. Alone.

Right next door a glossy red kitchen taunted us to play ‘would you ever buy me?’

Too modern for Crabapple House, but maybe...if we lived in an inner city warehouse conversion far removed from the apple trees and hydrangeas I currently tend. And if else might I change? What boundaries would I push to become the woman with the ruby red cupboards instead of the ruby slippers? 

As an author I’m encouraged to not avoid shutting down idea-streams too early, because it’s in that space of play and imagination I get down to the serious business of completing a novel.

Ramping up conflict. Taking a character from a tolerable scenario to an intolerable one. Letting dialogue spill from lips which may never have uttered the unforgivable. 

That's why Einstein said, 'Play is the highest form of research.' It's when we let our mind play, that we begin to solve problems. 

When's the last time you played? 

When's the last time you played... in Ikea? 

Blessings for a wonderful weekend, 

Friday, June 13, 2014

52 Author Dates ~ Week 24

Riverside Walk ~ Yarra River
River Walk

Even the upper end of the river, 
believes in the ocean. 
William Stafford

52 Dates For Writers sent me on a river walk this week. To remind me even with the passage of time 'a river can remain unchanged over the years.' 

To remember, while I may deliver my characters to readers for a season, in my imagination their lives should extend beyond the river of life in any given book. (Unless I decide to end it for the poor characters in a story, but it would not be fitting for me to say here, now would it?)

So yesterday, my Beloved and I walked along the Yarra River in Warrandyte. The Yarra River flows for 242 kilometres west through the Yarra Valley winding through plains on its way through Melbourne, eventually emptying into Hobson's Bay. 

Perhaps one day we might follow the river from its source to the sea. This time we took a one kilometre stretch, just down the slope from Warrandyte's well loved pretty main road of cafes and historic buildings.

Yarra River ~ Warrandyte
I've walked this stretch of the river before. Always upstream. Against the flow. 

This time we walked the other way. Through a gate and along the bushland track in step with the age long watercourse in its determined reach for Melbourne's bay. 

We talked about my writing journey and how it's thrown me against downstream bends I hadn't anticipated. Of hidden rapids which almost took me under, and how God has allowed currents to strengthen my resolve on my way to publication.

Long black coffee and flour-less orange cake
To a place where I imagine my readers might find me. An ocean where stories which have bobbed in the stream of my own consciousness might wash up for kindred spirits to share. 

And while I navigate the flood tides and low tides, I will always believe there's more to what I can see just now. More than the years I flesh out on the page for my characters, and much more than what I spy from where I watch the river when my Beloved stops me for a coffee break. 

Oh yes, I believe in the sea. 

Blessings for a wonderful weekend,

Monday, June 09, 2014

Jolina Petersheim ~ The Midwife

I'm so thrilled to welcome Jolina Petersheim back to Ink Dots with her second book release this year, The Midwife. 
Jolina's the award-winning and bestselling author of The Outcast, which Library Journal gave a starred review and named one of the best books of 2013. Jolina's sophomore novel, The Midwife, also taps into her and her husband’s unique Amish and Mennonite heritage originated in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. They now live in the mountains of Tennessee with their young daughter. Whenever she's not busy chasing this adorable toddler, Jolina is hard at work on her next novel. Visit Jolina at

The Midwife ~ The Past -- Graduate student Beth Winslow was sure she was ready to navigate the challenges of becoming a surrogate. But when early tests indicate possible abnormalities with the baby, Beth is unprepared for the parents' decision to end the pregnancy -- and for the fierce love she feels for this unborn child. Desperate, she flees the city and seeks refuge at Hopen Haus, a home for unwed mothers deep in a Tennessee Mennonite community.

The Present -- As head midwife of Hopen Haus, Rhoda Mummau delivers babies with a confident though stoic ease. Except in rare moments, not even those who work alongside her would guess that each newborn cry, each starry-eyed glance from mother to child, nearly renders a fault through Rhoda's heart, reminding her of a past she has carefully concealed.

Past and present collide when a young woman named Amelia arrives in the sweeping countryside bearing secrets of her own. As Amelia's due date draws near, Rhoda must face her regrets and those she left behind in order for the healing power of love and forgiveness to set them all free.

Jolina Says...

If I could eat anywhere in the world tomorrow, it would be...Well, this is a hard question. I’m over six months pregnant, so I’m not sure where I would like to eat tomorrow (on Saturday I had my husband drop me off at Blue Coast Burrito while he went to wash the car), but I know that today I could eat some Indian chicken biryani with a side of steaming rice, garlic naan, and a mango lassi for desert. (Recipe for mango lassi: Wow, all that sure sounds better than the tuna and crackers I just had for lunch. 

The most unusual job I've ever had is...Right after I married my husband, we started working together in our outlet grocery store (which we’ve since sold). I did most of the stocking, and he worked on pricing the miscellaneous items in the warehouse and listing them on eBay. We also lived in an 11,000 square foot apartment adjacent to the grocery store. So, if I was in the middle of cooking and ran out of an ingredient, I would dart through the office, down the steps into the store, and scan the shelves until I found it . . . or a substitute. 

My all-time favourite movie is...Sense and Sensibility, the Kate Winslet version. My best friend and I have watched it countless times over the years; she is the sensible Eleanor, and I will admit that I am the impetuous Marianne (though I am getting better as I become older). Oddly enough, my best friend’s and my life stories even followed along with Jane Austen’s plot. I love my Colonel Brandon.

I can't wait for the calendar to flip over to ... September 8th! This is the day we are expecting our second baby girl, and I’m so excited to meet her and kiss all of her little fingers and toes. Aww, I don't think there's a better answer than that one. :)

When I was a child I most feared...Getting kidnapped, which would separate me from my parents. I had a very overactive imagination even back then. I saw kidnappers behind every bush and every tinted window. I tend to still see kidnappers. My husband says I write too many books. ;) Ok, what is it with authors and kidnapping fears? You're the second this year who's answered this question with kidnappers. So glad it didn't happen for either of you. 

If I had a pet kangaroo, I'd name it...Oliver. Is it possible to have a pet kangaroo? If so, I want one. I’ve had a pet pig (Wilbur grew too big and had to return to his family) and a pet owl (which we released after he was grown). It's possible to have a pet kangaroo if you live in the right place (Australia Zoo perhaps) but it's not in my neighbourhood, or anyone else's I know. It's fun to imagine, though...Thanks so much for visiting with us again, Jolina. I hope that September date doesn't take too long to come around. Can't wait to hear news baby news from you. 


If you'd like like the chance to win a copy of Jolina's The Midwife, please leave a comment below with your all-time favourite pet's name, or a name you've been saving for a pet... for someday. I'll announce the winner on Friday. (Open to US readers only)

My one and only childhood pet was Jasper the bulldog. Now we have sweet Gilbert the cat.

Good luck and happy reading, 

Friday, June 06, 2014

52 Author Dates ~ Week 23

Welcome Winter ~ Crabapple House

Watch The Weather

I saved this author date for Australia’s first week of winter because I figured, (way back in the thick of summer) that by now there’d be a shiver-fest of frost and romantic wind gales to pack into this post. 

Surprise, surprise. Melbourne delivered not only a few fire worthy mornings, but a few glorious afternoons, as well. 

Melbournians will tell you if you don’t like our weather to just wait fifteen minutes. Chances are, the other seasons will turn up.

True to form, Melbourne’s winter didn’t disappoint in its predictability. It snuck in this week as if it wasn’t quite sure it was allowed to be here. Fog hung over the roads to school wrapping well known landmarks in early morning secrets. Drizzle played until midday and cleared into sun drenched afternoons. 

Farewell Roses ~ Crabapple House
Gilbert the cat sipped from puddles wherever he found them and snuggled next to the fire to dry his wet fur while the last of my roses drooped under raindrop skirts. 

Oh, I watched. I kept a winter weather diary to record atmosphere. I pondered how my characters’ moods might be reflected in the weather around them ~ the landscape and all its props.

Many will admit they love winter, but what they really mean is they love arming themselves against it. I’m the first to put my hand up for steaming mugs of coffee, apple cakes with homemade custard and soft blankets that smell a little like wood smoke. 

And fingerless gloves for those mornings when the family is still asleep and the keyboard is almost too cold to touch. 

If you’d like to arm yourself for the winter, I’d love to share a pair of my Mum’s fingerless gloves. Knitted with love, I have another pair for one lucky Ink Dots friend. (The last giveaway was in the middle of our summer.)

You might need them now, or you may wish to tuck them away for when winter has returned to your part of the world. Either way, they’re too pretty to ignore. 

Fingerless Gloves 
Leave a comment below to be in the draw. Share the kind of weather you like to ‘watch’ the most. Miserable and romantic, or sun-kissed and warm?

Blessings for a wonderful weekend, 

Monday, June 02, 2014

Jocelyn Green ~ Yankee In Atlanta

I'm thrilled to welcome Jocelyn Green back to Ink Dots this week and celebrate the release of the third book in her Civil War series, Yankee In Atlanta

Award-winning author Jocelyn Green inspires faith and courage in her readers through both fiction and nonfiction. A former military wife herself, she offers encouragement and hope to military wives worldwide through her Faith Deployed ministry. Her novels, inspired by real heroines on America’s home front, are marked by their historical integrity and gritty inspiration. Jocelyn loves Mexican food, Broadway musicals, Toblerone chocolate bars, the color red, and reading on her patio. Jocelyn lives with her husband Rob and two small children in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Visit her at

Yankee In Atlanta ~ She hid from her past to find a future ~ and landed on enemy soil. When soldier Caitlin McKea wakes up in Atlanta, the Georgian doctor who treats her believes Caitlin’s only secret is that she had been fighting for the South disguised as a man. In order to avoid arrest or worse, Caitlin hides her true identity and makes a new life for herself in Atlanta as a governess for the daughter of Noah Becker - on the brink of his enlistment with the Rebel army. Though starvation rules, and Sherman rages, she will not run again. In a land shattered by strife and suffering, a Union veteran and a Rebel solider tests the limits of loyalty and discover the courage to survive. 

Jocelyn Says...

If I could explore anywhere in the world tomorrow, it would be... I’m going to say the Louvre, in Paris, France, because it has so many beautiful, fascinating, and breathtaking things all in one place. I’ve been there before, but didn’t see enough. 

The best thing I did today is...I accepted help! Usually I like to be the one to give it, but I’m on a major deadline and a friend offered to come watch the kids for a couple of hours, and I jumped at the chance. (Catch me when I’m not on deadline and I’ll have a more interesting answer for you.)

A secret pleasure of mine is...Eating rhubarb pie in place of a meal. Or late at night. Which just makes me want to eat it again for breakfast the next day. Rhubarb pie? I don't blame you. Pie should be on every menu. Breakfast, lunch and dinner.

I wish I could relive the day when I...Went to Gettysburg for the first time in my life. I was there strictly to research for my book, so I spent the day not touring the battlefields, but poring over eyewitness accounts from women who lived through the battle. It was raining outside, which I found dramatic and lovely, and the archives were held in a building that had been used as a hospital during and after the fighting. It was like stepping back in time. 

When I was a child I dreamed I would...Be an author, a dancer, and a marine biologist. 

I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but...I haven’t dusted the top of my kitchen cabinets in years. Literally. Worse, I have no plans to do so in the near future. That's funny, Jocelyn. Last week's author mentioned housework in her answer to this question, too. 

Thanks for hanging out with us this week. I hope there's more rhubarb pie on the plate to get you through to your deadline. 


If you'd like the chance to win an e-book of your choice from any one of Jocelyn's Civil War Series, please leave a comment below. Tell us your about your favourite pie. Sweet apple with cinnamon, or savoury shepherd's pie with a mashed potato top? I'll announce the winner on Friday.

Good luck and happy reading,