Monday, September 22, 2014

Andrea Grigg ~ Too Pretty


I'm thrilled to welcome my friend Andrea Grigg to Ink Dots this week and celebrate the release of Too Pretty. Andrea grew up in Auckland, New Zealand, but has lived more than half her life in Australia. She lives with her husband on Queensland’s Gold Coast, where they have raised their three adult children – two daughters and a son. 

Andrea loves words and finding out what makes people tick. Her debut novel, A Simple Mistake, is a contemporary romance, and was a finalist in the Caleb Awards 2012. Her second novel, Too Pretty, was released in August this year.

Too Pretty ~ Being beautiful isn’t easy – just ask Ellie Paxton.

Frustrated by a long string of empty relationships, Ellie makes a promise to God not to date for six months, a promise she’s determined to keep.

Tired of being continually misjudged because of her looks Ellie moves to Sydney for a fresh start. But when her path keeps crossing with the darkly handsome Nathaniel, that promise becomes much harder to fulfil.

As they battle with their attraction for each other, Ellie is not the only one to discover it takes more than simply looking in a mirror to find out who you truly are …

Could it be that God has a bigger plan? Could this really be one of those matches made in heaven …?

Andrea Says...

If I could explore anywhere in the world tomorrow, it would be...my photo cupboard. If you equated the number of photos in there with the same number of people, you could say there’s a secret city lurking in my house. It holds a wealth of memories and just like an overseas holiday, I need to plan ahead to give it the attention it deserves. Ah yes. The photo stash. I think we have a cupboard like that and I'm always wondering when someone will make sense of our holiday snaps. Maybe when you've sorted yours, Andrea...? 

The best thing I did today is... I’m involved in a community choir at Pacific Coast Christian School where my son teaches. Today we sang an Aboriginal lullaby as part of the school’s NAIDOC celebrations. (National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee). One of the parents played the didgeridoo and it was something else, I can tell you. It was a very special event and I felt honoured to be part of it. Sounds wonderful. Wish we had a clip of that lullaby. 


A secret pleasure of mine is... reading when I should be writing. Oops – now it’s not a secret!

I wish I could relive the day when I... got married. Geoff and I will celebrate our thirtieth anniversary in December and I would love to go back and be the proverbial fly on the wall and watch the day unfold. I remember a lot of it, especially what Geoff said to me when I walked up the aisle ;). It was really funny but I’m not telling you what it is because I’m saving it for a blog post. (Mean, aren’t I?) Congratulations on your upcoming milestone! What a fabulous achievement and celebration. Now we want to hear more of what Geoff said!!! 

When I was a child I dreamed I would… become a hairdresser, then it changed to an air hostess, but by the age of twelve I’d decided I would become a teacher. And I did! Teaching has given me a lot of joy, both from the kids and my colleagues. Oh, the stories I could tell...

I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but... I often leave things to the last minute. I have no idea why and I’m always promising myself to work on it and I AM getting better. (After umpteen years of trying I should jolly well think so!)  You know the saying, ‘I work better under pressure’? It’s really just a cop out. And now everyone knows!!! That 'working under pressure' must have delivered, Andrea. I'm hearing great things about your writing and can't wait to get stuck into my copy. Thanks so much for visiting with us this week. I wish you every success with Too Pretty. 

*****

If you'd like the chance to win a copy of Too Pretty, leave a comment below. Tell us how you store your family photos. Are they all mixed in together in a battered shoe box or filed in chronological order in photo albums? I'll announce the winner next Monday. 

Good luck and happy reading, 


Friday, September 19, 2014

52 Author Dates ~ Week 36



Go Dancing 

This week’s Author Date challenge called for 20 minutes of dancing.

On my own or with others. Freestyle, waltz... zorba. 

My dancing came after a happy email from the Tampa Area Romance Authors. 

I’m thrilled to announce I received word on Sunday that I’m the Winner of the 2014 Inspirational Category of the TARA contest. An excerpt from my 1850’s Australian goldfields series caught the eye of judges and editors, and that folks, is plenty of reason to kick up my ruby slippers. 

At first I danced alone. In my pjs. Celebrating with God in thankful whispers. That quiet little jig you do when good news hits before dawn and you must keep quiet because the rest of the house is sleeping. 

But my feet kept moving and soon enough I’d knocked on doors and alerted my family. 

Trusted friends upped the tempo when I texted my news and they replied in equal measure with their own brand of dancing ~ emoticons and stickers and rows of exclamation marks. 

Later that day, I announced my win on facebook, and many of YOU kicked up your heels and joined the conga line. And the fun continued well into the night when sweet souls cut in from all over the world. 

Dancing with my Beloved
By Wednesday, I’d been snoopy dancing for a lot more than 20 minutes. And Wednesday delivered the best dance partner I could wish for. 

My Beloved returned from an overseas work tip and the real celebrating took off. 

Kitchen style dancing with plenty of un-choreogrpahed dips and lifts.

I’m blessed to be surrounded by dance partners from all over the world. THANK YOU all so very much for cheering for me. Winning a writing contest two years in a row really does put a spring in a girl’s step. 

Ink Dots friends, you always jive with me and I can’t imagine Snoopy Dancing without YOU.

Blessings for a wonderful weekend
,

Monday, September 15, 2014

Anne Mateer ~ Playing by Heart


I'm welcoming Anne Mateer back to Ink Dots today, to celebrate the release of her latest historical romance, Playing By Heart. 

Anne is passionate about bringing history to life through fiction. She is the author of four historical novels as well as a contemporary short story which can be found in this season’s A Cup of Christmas Cheer II. Anne and her husband live in Texas and are the parents of three young adults. 

Playing by Heart ~  Lula Bowman has finally achieved her dream: a teaching position and a scholarship to continue her college education in mathematics. But then a shocking phone call from her sister, Jewel, changes everything.

With a heavy heart, Lula returns to her Oklahoma hometown to do right by her sister, but the only teaching job available in Dunn is combination music instructor/basketball coach. Lula doesn't even consider those real subjects!

Determined to prove herself, Lula commits to covering the job for the rest of the school year. Reluctantly, she turns to the boys' coach, Chet, to learn the newfangled game of basketball. Chet is handsome and single, but Lula has no plans to fall for a local boy. She's returning to college and her scholarship as soon as she gets Jewel back on her feet.

However, the more time she spends around Jewel's family, the girls' basketball team, music classes, and Chet, the more Lula comes to realize what she's given up in her single-minded pursuit of degree after degree. God is working on her heart, and her future is starting to look a lot different than she'd expected.

Anne Says... 

If I could explore anywhere in the world tomorrow, it would be… Scotland. I’d spend at least a month, part in the cities, part in the country, part in a hotel, part in a small house. And of course I’d have my hubby with me. I imagine we’d spend a lot of time in dusty old bookshops. I love that, old Scottish bookshops. Couldn't get better. :)

The best thing I did today is… spend time praying for my family and others. I love that even if I don’t get to see or talk to someone every day or even every week I can still participate in their life through prayer. 

A secret pleasure of mine is… Sundays. We attend church on Saturday night, so Sunday is truly my day of rest, one generally devoted to reading for pleasure. I really, really hate it when I don’t get my Sunday! Sounds perfect. :)

I wish I could relive the day when I… got the call offering my very first book contract. It truly was the perfect day—the culmination of what I'd been dreaming of and working toward without any of the stress of being on the other side of it yet! 

When I was a child I dreamed I would… live in a high rise building in the middle of a city. I’m still hoping for part of that to happen one day. I don’t want a high rise apartment anymore, but a more urban setting would be fun. Not a permanent move, but a year or two. You never know! I hear you. We lived on the 28th floor of an apartment building in Bangkok for a year. An unforgettable experience. 

I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but… I love to drive with my radio up really loud—and tuned to 80s music, if possible. :) We won't hold it against you, Anne. I know Ink Dots friends also listen to 80s music, with their ear buds in! Thanks so much for visiting us this week. I wish you every success with Playing By Heart. 

*****

For your chance to win a copy of Anne's Playing By Heart, tell us what era/style music we'd hear in your car or home. 

I'll announce the winner in the comment thread on Friday. 

Good luck and happy reading, 

Friday, September 12, 2014

52 Author Dates ~ Week 35


Listen To A Professional Storyteller.  

The Boyhood of Raleigh by Sir John Everett Millais
The best storyteller I knew was my uncle. 

He’s passed away now, but thanks to him we retain some of our family history and have unravelled the mysteries behind many family photos.

In the absence of my uncle, I took myself off to the local library for Toddler Story Time.

I know this is a little bending of the Author Challenge. The storyteller in this case read from her stack of books. 
And even though she didn’t offer a script-less story, I was charmed to watch the modern librarian share her love of fiction with those just learning to embrace the power of words. 

Here’s what I learned. 

1. The Storyteller Will Always Get Kicked In The Shins...if she’s strategically perched on a small chair above an expectant crowd. 

She won’t escape without a few bruises. And neither will the story writer. 

There might be someone ready to mess with you if your story doesn’t match their expectations. Or perhaps their impatience might send an anxious foot your way. It may even be, in their enthusiasm, your audience can’t get close enough. 

Telling a story involves some risk. And by some, I mean exposing you flesh and bones to the mercy of your audience. 

Story Time ~ behind the library shelves.
2. The Storyteller Holds The Power...if she whispers and raises her voice accordingly. 

Little ears, and I’m sure big ones, hang on the tension when a story dips and soars. Our librarian used her inside voice to hold the children enthralled for the exciting beginning and suitably terrified them when the black moment evolved. Those baby-listener eyes widened and their rosebud mouths gaped in anticipation. (This is when they left her shins alone.)

3. The Storyteller Invites The Listener To Come Along With Her... if the story captivates and reflects their world. 

None of these toddlers knew a real life talking hog, but when Peppa Pig went on a sleepover, they all had tales to share of sleeping at grandma’s house. This is when the storyteller asked if Peppa's experience matched theirs. (And this is when the shin kicking picked up again.)

Excited toddlers saw themselves in the story and wanted to know what Peppa Pig did next, eager to taste the world through her eyes first... then maybe try some of the mischief for themselves. 

Story Time ~ Behind the library shelves

Story is a mirror. It holds someone else’s truth in a way which looks very much like our own. 

That’s why two dozen little people fought for the best spot on the librarian’s mat. Why they drank in the adventures, the fear and the happy resolutions on the last page. 

And why I loved to sit at my uncle’s feet... and listen.

His stories were not just about my family in the old country. They were about me. 

*****

Do you have a favourite family storyteller?

Blessings for a wonderful weekend, 



Monday, September 08, 2014

Mary Connealy ~ Tried and True


It's always fun to welcome Mary Connealy to Ink Dots. This time we're celebrating her latest release, Tried and True. 

Mary writes romantic comedy with cowboys. She is a Carol Award winner, and a Rita, Christy and Inspirational Reader's Choice finalist. She is the bestselling author of the Wild at Heart series which recently began with book #1 Tried & TrueMary is married to a Nebraska rancher and has four grown daughters, and three spectacular grandchildren. 

Tried and True

Saddle up for a wildly fun ride with the Wilde sisters! 

Kylie Wilde is the youngest sister--and the most civilized. Her older sisters might be happy dressing in trousers and posing as men, but Kylie has grown her hair long and wears skirts every chance she gets. It's a risk--they are homesteading using the special exemptions they earned serving in the Civil War as "boys"--but Kylie plans to make the most of the years before she can sell her property and return to the luxuries of life back East.

Local land agent Aaron Masterson is fascinated with Kylie from the moment her long hair falls from her cap. But now that he knows her secret, can he in good conscience defraud the U.S. government? And when someone tries to force Kylie off her land, does he have any hope of convincing her that marrying him and settling on the frontier is the better option for her future? 

Find Mary online at 

http://petticoatsandpistols.com/">Petticoats & Pistols
http://mconnealy.blogspot.com/">My Blog
http://www.maryconnealy.com/">My Website
http://www.maryconnealy.com/newsletter.html">My Newsletter


Mary Says...

If I could eat anywhere in the world tomorrow, it would be... I’m going to say a town not a restaurant because I have a daughter who lives in Baltimore, Maryland and I would just love to have lunch with her. I saw her not that long ago but I miss her while she’s there in college and lunch with her would be fantastic. I don’t care if we eat fast food in the car (thought I hope we can do better than that!) Naww...  I hope you get to share a meal with your girl very soon. 

The most unusual job I've ever had is... OH! MY! GOSH! Dorothy, I once for a summer job worked in a factory that made the back end of grain trucks. You know semi-trailers. HUGE things. I’d come home every day so hot, soaked in sweat, covered in grease. BUT THAT WASN’T THE BAD PART! (I’ll insert here that it actually paid quite well and I needed the money for college). They didn’t let me work on the line in a permanent position because I was only there for the summer. But I filled in on all these massive iron bending machines and with power tools for people on vacation and I always mowed this huge lawn on a great big mower. AND (here’s the bad part) they also let me paint the employee lunch room. Part of that was, they had one of those ceilings with big tiles, you know the kind where the tiles are set in a metal grid? Well, some genius decided it would be COOL if the tiles were white and the grid was black. Also the tiles needed to be coated with something from down in the factory before I could paint them because they absorbed too much paint. So I had to stand on a ladder and lift each and every one of those tiles  (about 2 feet by 3 feet) out of the grid, carry it down, move the ladder and climb up to get the next one and there was this pink insulation above the tiles in the ceiling and for some reason that must trap mice? SO WHEN I’D LIFT A TILE OUT DEAD MICE WOULD RAIN DOWN ON MY HEAD. 

I was already afraid of mice and this was like my own private nightmare come to life.

My gosh it was 40 years ago and I’m hyperventilating as I type. I would like to add here I DID IT! I did NOT quit. Ok, now... YOU WIN. For the longest answer EVER.. and by far THE MOST revolting. And for the greatest courage ever displayed in a casual worker. I'm so glad they paid you well! 

My all-time favourite movie is...While You Were Sleeping with Sandra Bullock and Bill Pullman. I love it so much and it’s a Christmas movie so I try and watch it every year at Christmas.

I can't wait for the calendar to flip over to… SEPTEMBER (hey, it already did). The ACFW conference is in September and I see people there I love that I only see once a year. It’s coming! I can’t wait! I'm so sorry I won't see you at the ACFW conference this year. Was fun catching up in San Antonio, though. :) 

When I was a child I most feared... mice. No contest. Though I had seven brothers and sisters in an old country farmhouse and I used to lay awake at night and worry about fire. I’d plan and plan and plan how I’d get everyone out. I was an insomniac with an over active imagination even back then. Fire AND mice... the stuff of nightmares!

If I had a pet kangaroo, I'd name it...Well, we had an Australian shepherd dog for years, what a great dog he was. And we named him Dingo. So I think in that spirit, I’ll name the kangaroo, Aussie. This is also the kind of shampoo I use. Aussie. So it’s like my whole existence yearns for Australia. I’ve also named three bad guys in my books Sidney. I didn’t realize it until someone pointed it out. So that’s almost Sydney, Australia, right? That's pretty cute. You love us!! (We love you, too.) Thanks so much for being my guest this week and sharing more of your funny/terrifying stories. Wishing you every success with Tried and True. 

*****

If you'd like to win a signed copy of Mary's Tried and True, leave a comment below. Tell us which creepy crawly, rodent, vermin you hate the most. And why... 

I can't wait to read your answers and I'll announce the winner here on Friday. 

And don't forget to join the facebook chat for the launch of Tried and True. Lots of prizes, lots of fun. Get all the details and click to join the party here: https://www.facebook.com/maryconnealyfanpage/app_733730226693502

Good luck and happy reading, 

Friday, September 05, 2014

52 Author Dates ~ Week 34


Cook Something Luxurious

I didn’t have to venture too far from the writing desk for my author challenge this week. Only one floor down and into the Crabapple House kitchen where the apron, the eggs and the chocolate awaited. 

That’s right. Chocolate. And cherries. 

For years my signature sweet dish has been Black Forest Cake. Baked for the first time by me for my Beloved, back in the day when he was my darling fiance. 

He requested Black Forest Cake and I was not game to tell him I’d never, ever attempted one before. 

Finding the recipe was the easy part. Putting the cake together took ALL DAY LONG and by the end I’d tackled cake making steps way beyond the skills of a twenty-year-old-wife-to-be.

Fast forward 25 years, and I’m still making this deliciousness for my family. At least once a year. 

Why not more?

Probably because it takes ALL DAY LONG to put it together. Although I make less mess these days, and I’ve streamlined some of the steps and even short cut through others, it's still a labour of love.

Why was the author in me encouraged to Cook Something Luxurious?

Because according to 52 Dates for Writers, my "character’s relationships with food can evoke setting, bring an awareness of dominant and counter cultures to the fore, and betray their passions and anxieties."

I’m called to consider such questions as:

Who taught my characters to cook?

Who do they cook for?

What is this character’s earliest food memory? 

As I pulled the elements of my Black Forest Cake together, I thought about a scene where one of my rough Australian heroes teaches the pretty English heroine his way of making damper. She’s got her own well established ideas about dough making and this scene is just as much about the undercurrent of their attraction, as it is about getting bread on the table. 

Back to the luxurious Black Forest Cake. This week’s cake crowned our son’s 20th birthday party. It is, after all, a celebration cake. Not something you’d snack on every day. I’ve made it for Greek Easter, Christmas, baby dedications and to welcome special guests to Crabapple House. 

Black Forest Cake ~ Crabapple House

But nothing beats the memory of making it the first time with my Mum in her kitchen. The careful study of the recipe, the checking of measurements to get all steps right, and the final unveiling when my Beloved came to visit and I took him to the fridge to share what I’d made. For him. 

I’m going to share a recipe link here. It's almost like mine. (I like to add a luxurious ribbon of toasted almonds on extra cream which takes this cake to a whole other lever.) 

Because everyone needs a little luxury in the form of chocolate, cherries and cream. You can take your own short cuts and streamline the steps to suit your taste. 

But you will have to place each and every toasted almond sliver on your luxurious cake.... one by one. 

What's your speciality? Sweet or savoury?

Blessings for a wonderful weekend,

Monday, September 01, 2014

Melissa Jagears ~ A Bride In Store


I'm so thrilled to welcome Melissa Jagears back to Ink Dots. This week we're celebrating her newest release, A Bride In Store

Melissa is a stay-at-home mother on a tiny Kansas farm with a fixer-upper house. Her passion is to help Christian believers mature in their faith and judge rightly. Learn more at www.melissajagears.com

A Bride In Store ~ Mail-order bride Eliza Cantrell is on her way to meet her intended groom and help him grow his general store business when her train is held up by robbers and she loses her dowry. She's further thwarted upon arriving in Salt Flatts only to find Axel, her groom, away on business.

Hoping a wife would push Axel to become a better business partner, William Stanton had encouraged him to seek a mail-order bride. With Axel gone, Will feels responsible for Eliza, so he finds her a place to stay and lets her help in the store.

Working together isn't what they'd expected, and when Axel is further delayed, neither can ignore the sparks that fly. But Eliza is meant for Axel and is set on a future with the store, while Will is biding time until he can afford medical school.

Their troubles are far from over when Axel returns to town, however, and soon both Will and Eliza must decide what they're willing to sacrifice to chase their dreams--or if God has a new dream in store for them both.

Melissa Says... 

If I could explore anywhere in the world tomorrow, it would be... A castle in Europe. I don't know which one, that would be a hard choice! You'd find yourself in good company. European castles are the top answer for this question from my author guests. :) 

The best thing I did today is... Well since I just got up I'd say, made a baby stop crying.  Yay, I can see why you'd want to celebrate that. Well done! 

A secret pleasure of mine is... Circus Peanuts (Do you have them in Australia? Link to article about how you love or hate them: http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/money/industries/food/2006-07-27-circus-peanut_x.htm)) I love them, if not careful I can eat the whole bag in a day. Wow, we don't have them in Australia and I'd never heard of them before today! I think the article is right. They're a real enigma! :) 

I wish I could relive the day when I... Got married, because I would do some things over! I'd listen to the violin, I'd have brought my photographer a copy of the list of what pictures to take that he forgot to bring that made that into a time-consuming task that most of my guest got too impatient to wait for us to return so we could have talked to more out-of-towners, and I'd have eaten dinner! Ha, ha... yes, many brides could relate to your wish list. Especially the eating part. I haven't a clue about what was on my plate. 


When I was a child I dreamed I would... Go to India, I went to China, so I got close! 

I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but... I hardly keep things about myself to myself, so if you ask me a question, I'll answer it.
Thanks for sharing with us today, Melissa. I wish you every success with A Bride In Store. 

*****

If you'd like to win a copy of Melissa's A Bride In Store, tell us if you've been to India, and why.... or how close you've come. Melissa made it as far as China. I used to live in Bangkok and that's the closest to India I ever came.  

How about you? Where on the map is your closest to India spot? 

Comment below and I'll announce the winner on Friday. 

Good luck, and happy reading ,

Friday, August 29, 2014

52 Author Dates ~ Week 33

Phillip Island

Swim In Cold Water 

It wasn’t an ice bucket challenge, as some have excelled in these last few weeks. 

But it was meant to bring awareness... if only to me.

To push, and I mean PUSH me, out of my comfort zone. 

I spent this week on a solitary writing retreat at Phillip Island. More words on the page written on location, my feet on sandy beaches flooded in winter sun. 

Right where my stories are set. 

Bliss.

And I’m grateful. 

During a mid morning walk along the beach where one of my heroines wrestles with all life’s thrown at her, I wondered (for a heartbeat) if I might slip into the ocean and fulfill this week's challenge. 

If there’s water colder than the deep blue sea wrapped around Phillip Island, I’ve yet to find it. And this particular stretch of ocean is a few miles from where my heroine, a shipwreck survivor, is carried to safety.

Glorious Phillip Island ~ even in winter

Good spot to dip in cold water, right? The perfect location to get under the skin of my girl and better understand what it might feel like to bob in icy depths, praying for rescue.

Or... 

Or... I could’ve returned home to brave the cold waters of our backyard pool.

So, perhaps I chickened out on this one. Perhaps I chose not to risk solitary shivers on a lonely beach, in favour of safer waters. Where family could talk me into the plunge and throw me a towel when they were done laughing. 

And here’s the evidence. (Don't let the sun fool you, folks) 

Surely you didn't think there'd be more of me, did you? 
Me, in a pool. In winter. 

Swimming in water so cold my lungs lost half their capacity to the shock and another quarter to fist clenching pressure I couldn’t fight. Dunking my head took some persuasion, and when I did, the pain jabbed me around the ears so fast I soon forgot my lost breath. 

Lucky for me, my ever-loving son supervised and encouraged this mad experiment. I left the pool when I chose to, (imagine my swift exit) where a fluffy towel AND terry robe awaited.

Not so my poor heroine.

Now, when I edit her shipwreck scenes, I’ll have a better idea of how terrifying cold water can be, and I’ll use my imagination to amplify what it meant for her to float under the cover of night, against jagged rocks, pulled by the smash of the sea ... and the deep green eyes of her fine rescuer. 

Oh, and I’ll be sure to never throw one of my characters into a volcano because I am not doing that challenge. Ever. 


*****

Are you a fan of cold water swimming? What's the coldest swim you've attempted? Did you slip in on purpose or were you pushed? 

Blessings for a wonderful weekend,