You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas Card Keepsakes

One of our Christmas traditions involves Christmas cards. For many years, each year we choose our favorite one -- it can be because it's the prettiest, the funniest, or because it has a special meaning coming from the person sending it.

Once the choice is made, I frame it and add it among the others that I've placed all over the house.
The remaining cards go into a basket that I bring out every year so that we can read them. I especially like the ones with pictures of the senders' babies and children. It's fun to see how they've grown.
I wonder how long we're going to be able to keep this tradition, since fewer and fewer people are sending cards.
What are some of your Christmas traditions?

Monday, December 22, 2014

A Colonial Christmas

Congratulations, Carol Antley, on winning a copy of Christmas Treasures for participating in the punctuation contest.
You were correct - the comma in "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" comes after Merry.

Christmas customs of the late eighteen-century America included going to church (except for Presbyterians who considered going to church on Christmas day – if it fell on any day but Sunday – “too Anglican”), dinner, dancing, and visiting.

Homes were decorated simply with whatever evergreens were available—pine, boxwood, Fraser fir, magnolia leaves, holly, mountain laurel, and ivy, as well as lavender, rose petals, and pungent herbs.

Christmas celebrations were for adults and weren’t centered on children. For example, Philip Vickers Fithian's December 18, 1773, diary entry about exciting holiday events mentions: "the Balls, the Fox-hunts, the fine entertainments..."

At many parties, revelers would sing hymns and beloved songs such as “Joy to the World” and “The First Noel.”

Gift giving wasn’t as common as today. Masters gave their slaves, servants, apprentices, or children cash, little books, and sweets.

Christmas dinners consisted of fresh meat of all sorts, since December was the best time for slaughtering. Besides beef, ham, turkey and goose, some people served fish, oysters, mincemeat pies, and brandied fruit.

The affluent would also serve wine, brandy, rum punches, and other alcoholic beverages.

One year guests at a Christmas banquet hosted by a wealthy Virginia planter named George Washington, who later became the first president, dined sumptuously on the following dishes: turtle soup, oysters, crab, codfish, roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, venison, boiled mutton, suckling pig, smoked ham, roast turkey, several dishes of vegetables, biscuits, cornbread, various relishes, cakes, puddings, fruits, and pies. Wines, cordials, and a special holiday drink known as eggnog usually rounded out the plantation Christmas feast. Picture caption found on
Answer the question below and leave an email address for a chance to win a copy of Christmas Treasures, An Anthology of Short Stories.
What is the correct punctuation in this song title?
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Meet Author Elaine Marie Cooper

        My guest is Elaine Marie Cooper, author of Fields of the Fatherless, a historical fiction based on a true story from the American Revolution. She has also penned three historical romances: The Road to Deer Run, The Promise of Deer Run and The Legacy of Deer Run. Her passions are her family, her faith in Christ and the history of the American Revolution, a frequent subject of her fiction. She grew up in Massachusetts, the setting for many of her novels.
        Her new release is Bethany’s Calendar, a memoir of her daughter’s battle with brain cancer.

What’s your background, Elaine, and how did you became interested in writing?
I think most authors confess to a childhood passion for writing. My early attempts at the craft were an assortment of short fiction, poems, and a television manuscript! I’m sure they were quite amusing. I never thought this interest would lead to becoming a writer but the Lord kept leading me onto that path, regardless of my own plans.

What gets you in a creative mode and how do you begin your writing process?
With prayer that God will guide my writing. And then lots of coffee. ;-)

Many writers utilize a writing group. Where do you get constructive critiques and feedback?
I get lots of feedback from my husband (who is an editor) and other editor and writer friends. I value the opinions of others in the field. About a year ago, I began a writer’s group called Word Weavers so that Christian writers would be able to get constructive feedback on their work. They’ve been an invaluable help to me.

What led you to write Bethany’s Calendar?
I have to say it was the Lord impressing the idea on my heart during praise and worship time at a writer’s conference. I had no intentions of ever writing the painful saga of my daughter’s battle with brain cancer. I thought I would only continue writing historical fiction. But like Bethany’s illness changed her plans, God changed mine.

What is Bethany’s Calendar about?
It’s the story of facing my worst fear: losing a child. It’s also the story of how we helped her through that painful journey and how others in similar situations can be strengthened in their role as caregivers. This memoir is geared toward families dealing with serious illness, cancer sufferers, nurses, and friends of caregivers. I pray that what my husband and I learned during this crisis will give hope and help to others.

While reading Bethany’s Calendar, my heart ached for you and your family and I wondered how difficult it was to lay open your “mother’s heart” as you did.
Reliving that painful time was at times excruciating. I had many prayer warriors lifting me up to help me through the writing of the chapters. What a blessing to feel the prayers of others.

What's the most important thing readers will learn from Bethany’s Calendar?
I pray that readers will see how faith in God can help them through the most dire of circumstances. Life is not easy but the Lord has promised us He will never leave us or forsake us. I also pray that caregivers will learn ways to be advocates for their loved ones who are ill. Every patient who is weak from illness, needs a strong supporter who is willing to go to bat for them.

Now that Bethany’s Calendar is out in bookstores, do you have any projects you're currently working on?
I’m working on a historical fiction set in Saratoga, New York in October of 1777. And in October of 1977. And no, it is not a time travel novel. ;)

When you're not writing, what do you enjoy doing?
Being with my family. Crocheting. Going to quality movies. Drinking tea and eating scones.

Where can readers find your book?
At Amazon. Here is the purchase link:

Elaine’s contact information:
Blog and Website address:
Twitter: @elainemcooper

Here's my review of Bethany's Calendar:
         Beautifully crafted … poignant … heartrending, yet full of hope. In Bethany’s Calendar Elaine Marie Cooper lays open her “mother’s heart.” With grace, love, stunning honesty, and welcomed moments of humor she introduced me to and made me love and care for her dear, beautiful, vivacious daughter until her loss became my own. 
        Throughout Bethany’s Calendar, Cooper has delicately woven threads of advice on how to respond and care for patients and families during end-of-life experiences and grief. What a journey. What a blessing. Thank you, Elaine.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

"H" is for AJ Hawke

I am participating in an "A to Z" blog hop. This week's letter is "H." Please, scroll down and click on the links to the other participating blogs. It'll be fun.

Also, AJ has offered to give away a copy of Colorado Evening Sky to one lucky person who leaves a comment.  I'll make the announcement December 3.
AJ Hawke
Are experiences in your novel based on someone you know, or on events in your own life?
The events and characters in my novels are a mixture of all I have read and experienced throughout my life. No specific events or people, all have had an influence.

Travel always adds a lot to our knowledge and experiences of life and I have been blessed to have traveled to many places in the world.

Which of your characters is most/least like you, and in what ways?
I would like to claim I’m like Susana, Emily, or even Elisha for their kindness, patience, and spiritual maturity. Maybe a little like Joe in his making do with what life has brought to him. Jeremiah in his ability to leave the past in the past is possibility a little like me. Now, the mean guys are not anything like me. I would never be like that...well, maybe a little.

What book are you reading now?
When I interview someone on my blog, I try to read their book. Since October I have read the following:
Susan Page Davis - The Christmas Tree Bride, Another Christmas Story, Special Delivery
Darlene Franklin - An Apple For Christmas
Carrie Fancett Pagels - The Fruitcake Challenge
Cynthia Hickey - A Texas Ranger’s Arms, Hand carved Christmas
Tammy Doherty - Celtic Cross, Claddaugh, Celtic Knot

On my to-be-read stack are books by: Lynn A Coleman, Lena Nelson Dooley, Martha Rogers, Debbie Lynn Costa, Susan F. Craft, Marilyn Turk.

If you could have dinner with one of your characters, who would it be and why?
Oh, this is hard. I have so many nice characters. Elisha is in all of the Cedar Ridge Chronicles, starting with Cabin on Pinto Creek. He starts out as a down and out cowpoke. Young, not very worldly, and through growth as a person and as a Christian, he becomes the wise leader of those around him. His patience and steadfastness, along with his caring and reaching out to those who needed his wisdom, makes him a very appealing character that you want to sit and chat with about life. Of course, he wouldn’t come to dinner without bringing his wife, Susana. She is lovely.

Do you have any upcoming events?
Thanksgiving, ten for lunch that day, Oh the challenge of it. Then Christmas with all the decisions about gifts, ones I will be requesting, not giving. What? Isn’t that how it works?

Oh, you mean upcoming events with my novels. Not really, just getting myself to write every day. Now, that is major.

What motivates you to write, and where do you get ideas?
I write because all these characters and settings keep bouncing around in my head. They won’t go away until I capture them on paper. Reading has been a big part of my life from the time I was in fourth grade and read Betty Zane by Zane Gray.

Through the years I amused myself on long car rides by telling myself a story. One day I said to myself, “Self, why don’t you just write it out?” And so I did.

Ideas come from out of the air. I have no idea how I get them. Ask me to add five numbers correctly in my head and I cannot do it. Give me an idea and I’ll write you a novel.

For example, I was at a writer’s conference in Colorado Springs listening to DiAnn Mills teach about story development. She had an exercise for the class and gave us ten minutes to figure out how two people could meet and connect from different parts of the country. I came up with the first scene of my novel, Caught Between Two Worlds. On the plane ride home I completed the first chapter.

So ideas are just floating in the air everywhere. You just have to listen for them.

Do you have a life verse?
Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.  1 Thess. 5:16-18

That’s for today. Tomorrow it will be different as I study the Bible and find what I need for my life each day.

Who is your greatest encourager?
My family, including my older sister (she’s kind of dangerous, as she tells me the truth, which is so rare). Also, my favorite brother-in-law (only have one so he must be my favorite) and my older brothers and their wives. Then my Monday evening ladies Bible study group all encourage me. Various writer friends and I will not start naming them because I will leave one out. Uh, you just wanted one? Sorry about that but I am blessed to have so many. I could go on and on.
COLORADO EVENING SKY is Book 4 of the Cedar Ridge Chronicles. It can be read as a Stand Alone, but if you have read the series in order you learn what has been happening in the lives of the characters from the first three books.

The year is 1890, and Thomas Black battles to survive another day. Convicted of cattle rustling at age 17, he has three years left on a 15-year sentence in the infamous Yuma Territorial Prison. Feeling abandoned even by his God, he must fight on occasion to stay alive. But, most of the time, he fights to forget his mother’s tears and the fact that he has nothing to show for his life except for a prison record, wasted years, and deep regrets. Given the opportunity to finish out his sentence working on Jeremiah Rebourn’s ranch (COLORADO MORNING SKY) outside of Cedar Ridge, Colorado, Thomas must decide whether to be a man of his word or hit the outlaw trail.

Catherine O’Malley finds herself facing loneliness of another kind. She runs a little café on a dusty main street 800 miles away in Colorado. It is a hard time and place for a pretty, unmarried woman in her twenties to run a business. She longs for a family and a loving husband to protect her.

Lives that couldn’t be farther apart in social status, miles, and years are set on a collision course in book four of the Cedar Ridge Chronicles. With a prosperous suitor at her door, Catherine must make a decision that will alter the course of her life as well as the lives of others. Thomas must find a way to thwart a plot that threatens Catherine and send him back to prison.

What comes next?
I’m presently writing a contemporary western romance the takes place in the Texas Hill Country. No title yet so I am calling it Lance McTavish for now. This will be the first in a series about the McTavish family.

At the same time I am writing the fifth book in the Cedar Ridge Chronicles. This will be Jim Finely’s story, one of the cowboys introduced in JOE STORM NO LONGER A COWBOY. Again, no title yet but the story is in my head.

I’m also starting research on the first book for a new series that will take place in Texas starting in the 1850s. Calling this one THE SADDLER and you can guess that he will be a saddler maker.

As you can see, I can never complain that I have nothing to do. So many words and so little time to put them down on paper.

Where can people get a copy of COLORADO EVENING SKY?
All of my books are available as e-books or paperbacks only on AMAZON.COM

Cedar Ridge Chronicles, Inspirational Historical Western Romances
Cabin on Pinto Creek, Book 1
Joe Storm No longer a Cowboy, Book 2
Colorado Morning Sky, Book 3
Colorado Evening Sky, Book 4

Stand Alones:
Mountain Journey Home, Inspirational Historical Western Romance
Caught Between Two Worlds Cowboy Boots and High Heels, Contemporary 
          Inspirational Romance

Where can you be found on the web?

Thanks to Susan and all the readers for the invitation to be a guest on your blog.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Meet Author Debbie Lynne Costello

The winner of Debbie Lynne Costello's book, A Cup of Christmas Cheer, is BONNIE ROOF. Congratulations Bonnie.

Debbie is giving away a copy of her book, A Cup of Christmas Cheer,  to one lucky person who leaves a comment. I will announce the winner on November 26.  (USA mailing addresses only, please.)

Are experiences in your novel based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
They are to a certain extent. Military is pretty strong in my family. My father served in the Navy reserves, my husband was Air Force, my son was Navy, and I have uncles who served in the Navy, nephews in the Army, and the list goes on. My great-grand father 8 times fought in the Revolutionary war with his 3 brothers. He was wounded and walked with a limp the rest of his life. But the real inspiration came from a great-great uncle who never made it home from WWII. So this story was just begging to be told.

What book are you reading now?
I’m reading a couple books right now. I’m reading So Long Insecurities by Beth Moore with my ladies small group and my pleasure reading I’m reading Melanie Dickerson’s new release The Princess Spy.
What are your current projects?
I’m having fun promoting Cup of Christmas Cheer II! And I’ve just finished up my edits on my upcoming release, Sword of Forgiveness book one in the Winds of Change Series. It’s a medieval set during the late 14th century. Now I’m starting the sequel.

If you could have dinner with one of your characters, who would it be and why? Oh that is so hard! There are several I wouldn’t mind having lunch with. I have a real fun 19th century Scottish hero who makes me laugh. I do love a Scottish accent. ;o) I love my medieval hero and heroine and wouldn’t mind having dinner with either of them. Especially if we could have dinner at their castle!

What motivates you to write, and where do you get ideas?
Ideas are everywhere I look. God is so awesome and gives me ideas that I nurture and plot and make into stories. But I say this very sincerely, the ideas do come from the Lord. I couldn’t do it without Him. My motivation is twofold. First it is my escape. I love to be able to go where ever my heart desires. It’s a wonderful way to relax and unwind. My second motivation is that I feel a sense of duty to write. God gave me this talent to spread His truths. I owe it to Him to obey and write until He tells me not to.

Do you have a life verse?
Isaiah 40:31  But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. This is such a wonderful promise from our Lord.

Who is your greatest encourager?
My husband. He is behind me all the way! He’s actually the one that got me to start writing. He is always willing to take me places to do research. He puts up with my nose being buried in my computer in the evening. And he cheers me on with every. My wonderful friend and crit partner, Kathy Maher is another person who has talked me out of pitching my computer into the wall when I have been ready to give up. She’s been a friend, a critique partner, and a prayer partner. And also MaryLu Tyndall who has been there for me since before I even knew a writer needed an agent to get anywhere in this industry.

Tell me about one of your personality traits.
I am a very driven person. I’m super self-motivated. My husband tells me all the time if I had went to work at his company when he did, I’d be the president by now. LOL. He has such great faith in me!

Do you read reviews of your books? If so, do you pay any attention to them, or let them influence your writing?
I will have my first release in January of 2015. But I’ve decided that I won’t read my reviews. I know many writers have different opinions, but I’m writing what God is telling me to write. I heard of an author who said she didn’t read her reviews because the ones that were bad reviews only made her want to give up and quit and she was writing for the Lord. The good reviews could cause her to become proud and the glory was God’s not hers. I loved her attitude and think she has a good point. So I don’t plan on reading mine.

Where can people get a copy of your book?
People can order the book by clicking on this link.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Mousy Eyebrows

I'm participating in an A to Z blog hop. This week's letter is "E."

Gainsborough’s portrait of Grace Dalrymple Elliot
in 1782 shows the craze for dark eyebrows.
During the third quarter of the 18th century, dark eyebrows became all the rage for women.

Over time, lead-based cosmetics caused hair loss at the forehead and over the brows, resulting in a receding hairline and a bare brow.
You want my fur for what?!!
It became the custom as early as 1703 to trap mice and use their fur for artificial eyebrows, which were glued on. Sometimes, the glue did not adhere well, which I think would make a fabulous scene in a novel.  (Hm-m, I'll have to think about that.)

In 1718, Matthew Prior wrote a poem about eyebrows. Here’s the last stanza:

On little things, as sages write,
Depends our human joy or sorrow;
If we don’t catch a mouse to-night,
Alas! no eyebrows for to-morrow.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

You've Got to Pick a Pocket or Two

I'm participating in a blog hop called "A to Z." Each week our group will publish a post featuring the letter of the week. This week is the letter "D." Scroll down and make sure to visit the other blogs. It's sure to be fun. Oh, and leave comments, too. They are always appreciated.
"D" is for Jenny Diver
Picture was found on –
        One of the characters in my post-Revolutionary War novel, entitled Laurel, is modeled after Jenny Diver, a notorious pickpocket.
        Jenny was born as Mary Young around 1700 in Ireland. She was the illegitimate daughter of a lady’s maid who, after being forced to leave her job, gave birth to Jenny in a brothel. At age 10, Jenny was taken in by a gentlewoman who sent her to school where she learned needlework and to read and write. Once she had mastered needlework, she moved to London to become a seamstress. There she met the leader of a gang of pickpockets and learned the skills of a street criminal so well she soon became their leader.
        Though she was caught several times, imprisoned in Newgate, and sent to the American colonies, she managed to return to London under assumed names.  Eventually at the age of about 40, her luck ran out, and she was caught and put on trial for street robbery.
        The following description is from The Chronicles of Crime or The New Newgate Calendar. v. 1/2, by Camden Pelham:
        After conviction she appeared to have a due sense of the awful situation in which she was placed; and employing a great part of her time in devotion, she repented sincerely of the course of iniquity in which she had so long persisted. On the day preceding that of her execution, she sent for the woman who nursed her child, which was then about three years old, and saying that there was a person who would pay for its maintenance, she earnestly entreated that it might be carefully instructed in the duties of religion. On the following morning she appeared to be in a serene state of mind. The preparations in the press-yard for a moment shook her fortitude, but her spirits were soon again tolerably composed. She was conveyed to Tyburn in a mourning-coach, being attended by a clergyman, to whom she declared her firm belief in the principles of the Protestant Church. Her remains were, at her own desire, buried in St. Pancras churchyard. Her execution took place on the 18th March, 1740, when she was hanged from London's Tyburn Tree.

My novel, Laurel, will be released January 12, 2015, by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

"C" Is for Christmas Novella

I'm participating in a blog hop called "A to Z." Each week our group will publish a post featuring the letter of the week.  This week is the letter "C."   Scroll down and make sure to visit the other blogs. It's sure to be fun. Oh, and leave comments, too.  They are always appreciated.


Meet Author Sandra Ardoin

Are experiences in The Yuletide Angel based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Neither, really. The idea began with the creation of a mood and an event—Violet’s fear over what her brother’s impending marriage means for her and Hugh’s nighttime foray. The story and the characters built from there.

Which of your characters is most/least like you, and in what ways?
I think I’m most like Violet, shy and retiring, at least until I get to know someone. We’ve both learned to be a little more outgoing in public situations, yet neither of us will ever be the life of the party.

Do you read reviews of your books? If so, do you pay any attention to them, or let them influence your writing?
I’ll admit to reading the reviews for The Yuletide Angel. Fortunately, they’ve all been positive so far. As writers, I think we can learn from more than one review or critique that has the same criticism, but we have to be careful not to let everything that’s written, good and bad, go to our heads or dampen our moods. I’ll find out if that easier said than done.

What book are you reading now?
Right now, I’m reading Amanda Cabot’s At Bluebonnet Lake. I love her historicals, but this is the first contemporary by her that I’ve read. I have a large stack of books to read and review and have gotten a bit behind with the release of the novella.

What are your current projects?
I’m writing a contracted novel for Heritage Beacon, an imprint of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. A Reluctant Melody involves a secondary character in The Yuletide Angel, Hugh’s brother Kit. It’s scheduled to release in January 2016.

If you could have dinner with one of your characters, who would it be and why?
Good question. While I love Hugh and Violet, I think I’d like to have dinner with Kit and ask him more about his past mistakes. Ha! Maybe because he’s the hero in my next book!

Do you have any upcoming events?
I have two booksignings in my area coming up in November. I’ll be sharing the table with two writer friends. We did something similar in August and it was a lot of fun.

Can you tell us about some of the milestones you’ve reached as a writer?
I’ve had several. The first, of course, was receiving that first sale in 1986, a poster quote. After my daughter was born and I became a stay-at-home mom, I began writing short stories for children and adults, so that first sale was encouraging. Then in 2009, I began writing novels fulltime. In 2010, I had my first experience with the royalty system when my short story “Get a Clue” came out in Family Ties: Thirteen Short Stories (for children). Getting my agent in 2012 and my first publishing contract last May were huge milestones.

What motivates you to write, and where do you get ideas?
Well, right now, what motivates me to write is a contract I need to fulfill. Actually, I love writing fiction, expanding those imaginary scenes and snippets of dialogue that enter my mind on a frequent basis. My ideas comes from various places. Maybe I’ll read something that sparks a question or idea. Sometimes, it’s as simple as a what I mentioned before—an image or a line or two of dialogue will pop into my head. From there, I investigate who said what, why, and what happened next.

Do you have a life Bible verse?
I have favorite verses. I’ve leaned on Jeremiah 29:11 for my writing. God has encouraged me too many times in this endeavor for me not to believe He has some plan for what I write. Another favorite is Isaiah 55:8 (and 9). Those verses always remind me of who God is. Colossians is one of my favorite books of the Bible.

Tell us about one of your personality traits.
I can be a little obsessive/compulsive at times—nothing like Monk, though. When getting ready to leave the house, I run through the rooms, checking to be sure everything is off and nothing is plugged in that shouldn’t be (like my curling iron), and that I have my keys and whatever else I need. Then I do it again (and, sometimes, again). My daughter blames me for that same habit.

Where can people get a copy of your book?
The Yuletide Angel is available in both print and e-book on Amazon and in e-book on Barnes and Noble.

Sandra Ardoin is a multi-published author of short fiction who writes inspirational historical romance. Her Christmas novella, The Yuletide Angel, recently released. She’s the married mother of a young adult and lives in North Carolina.

Visit her at and on the Seriously Write blog. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Goodreads, and Pinterest. Sign up for her newsletter.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

"B" Is for Brick Books

I'm participating in a blog hop called "A to Z." Each week our group will publish a post featuring the letter of the week.  This week is the letter "B."

Scroll down and make sure to visit the other blogs. It's sure to be fun. Oh, and leave comments, too.  They are always appreciated.

Since my Revolutionary War and Post Revolutionary novels have the names of flowers, I'm growing an author's garden with chamomiles, laurels, and cassias. 

When looking for garden art, I came across the idea of painting bricks to look like antique books, which I'll place among the flowers. 

My granddaughter and I painted six books, 3 named after my novels, and 3 after our favorite books (Ben Hur and Jane Eyre for me; and Tuesdays with Morrie for Kenzie). 

I'm amazed at how much they look like real antique books! 

Here's the video my granddaughter and I followed -- How to Make a Brick Book

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

"A" is for Author's Garden

By Susan F. Craft

I'm participating in a blog hop called "A to Z." Each week our group will publish a post featuring the letter of the week.  Scroll down and make sure to visit the other blogs. It's sure to be fun. Oh, and leave comments, too.  They are always appreciated.
I’m creating an “Author’s Garden” in my yard in honor of my Revolutionary War novel, The Chamomile, published in 2011, and two post-Revolutionary War novels, entitled Laurel and Cassia, which will be published January 12 and September 14, 2015, respectively, by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas.

So far, I’ve planted six chamomiles, three laurel bushes, and four cassia trees.

When they bloom, chamomile flowers look like daisies, except the yellow centers are cone-shaped instead of flat. When you walk through them, they give off an aroma of apples.

The laurels, or mountain laurels, will have pink blossoms and glossy dark green leaves.

The cassias will have brilliant yellow, cascading blooms and will reach about ten feet tall. Cassia, the “poor man’s cinnamon,” is mentioned in the Bible several times as one of the ingredients of anointing oil. According to Psalm 45:8, when the Messiah returns, his robes will smell of cassia. (All your robes are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia; from palaces adorned with ivory the music of the strings makes you glad. NIV).

I’ve ordered an aluminum bronze-colored bench, which should arrive soon. I’ve also been searching for garden sculpture. Haven’t decided on the sculpture, yet.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Meet Author Melody Balthaser

Melody Balthaser

How did your interest in writing begin?

      My mother, who was a very expressive narrator, was responsible for my early love of reading. I remember her reading Five Little Peppers and How They Grew by Margaret Sidney to me. Then came Little House on the Prairie series, which I devoured, and during my teen years came my love of the romance genre. I was content with reading other people’s creations until the day, twenty years later, when a young woman named Sophie moved into my imagination. I couldn’t let her live a lonely existence in my head so her life poured out onto paper.

What was the inspiration for Seeking Sophie?

       Many years ago, I read a novel about a lighthouse keeper and so enjoyed the mystique of the profession. As the characters in my own story began to develop, they naturally progressed to a lighthouse setting.

Why historical romance?

      I find history so fascinating, in particular the women who sacrificed so dearly for the benefits we now enjoy. Their stories need to be continually told so that generations understand their import. I enjoy the research needed for an historical novel. What I learn about our forbearers consistently humbles and amazes me.

What do you hope to accomplish with your writing?

      I want my writing to entertain and enlighten. When life is particularly difficult, reading a good book can be a therapeutic escape. Beyond that, it can set the reader on a course to discovery of themselves and their relationship with God.

In 1858 New England, orphaned, indentured servant Sophie Stalz stabs her master to protect herself from rape. Now she must rely on her brother and his friends to protect her. Escaping through the Underground Railroad, Sophie finds herself stranded on an island in the hands of a stranger.
Surrounded by the sea and occupied with the duties of a lighthouse keeper, Jackson Scott just wants to be left alone with his memories. His fortress is about to crumble when his friend deposits Sophie on his doorstep. An old debt needs to be paid and the cost is dear.
As her master is Seeking Sophie, will Sophie and Jackson find a life together free from their past?

Melody lives in rural Pennsylvania with her husband and their three children. She has traveled to Africa to help orphans in Zambia and worked in children’s and women’s ministry. She enjoys traveling, hiking, camping, and canoeing, but when winter settles in she heads indoors to sit in front of the wood stove, while a classic chick-flick plays on the T.V., and homemade soup simmers on the stove. Melody’s passion is to encourage people to let God’s love free them of fear and rejection to live the adventurous life their Creator intended.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Betty Zane, The Heroine of Fort Henry

Elizabeth Zane (1765-1823)
Betty Zane delivering the gunpowder
 Library of Congress,
 Prints & Photographs Division, [LC-USZ62-2355]
      On September 11, 1782, Fort Henry in Wheeling, WVA, was under siege by the British and their Indian allies. Elizabeth (Betty) Zane’s family had taken refuge in the fort.
     Betty was loading a Kentucky rifle when her father was wounded and fell right in front of her. Soon after, the captain of the fort realized they were out of gunpowder.  
     With no men or time to spare, Betty volunteered to retrieve the needed gunpowder from her family’s cabin a short distance away.
     Shocked at seeing a woman run out from the fort, the enemy didn’t try to shoot her on the way there. But, on the way back, they noticed that she was carrying gunpowder in her apron. They opened fire, barely missing her with arrow and musket shot. 
     Reinforcements arrived the next day to save the fort.
     Betty’s story is best told by John S. Adams, who wrote a poem called Elizabeth Zane, which he penned more than one hundred years after the event.

This dauntless pioneer maiden’s name
Is inscribed in gold on the scroll of fame.
She was the lassie who knew no fear
When the tomahawk gleamed on the far frontier.

If deeds of daring should win renown,
Let us honor this damsel of Wheeling town,
Who braved the savages with deep disdain,
Bright-eyed buxom Elizabeth Zane.

‘Tis more than a hundred years ago,
They were close beset by the dusky foe;
they had spent of powder their scanty store,
And who should the gauntlet run for more?

She sprang to the portal and shouted,
“I ‘Tis better a gril than a man should die!
My loss would be but the garrison’s pain
Unbar the gate!” said Elizabeth Zane.

The power was sixty yards away
Around her the foemen in ambush lay;
As she darted for shelter they gazed with awe
Then wildly shouted, “A squaw! A squaw!”

She neither swerved from left or right,
Swift as an antelope’s was her flight.
“Quick! Open the door!” she cried amain,
For a hope forlorn! ‘Tis Elizabeth Zane!

No time had she to waver or wait
Back must she go ere it be too late;
She snatched from the table its cloth in haste
And knotted it deftly around her waist,

Then filled it with powder –never, I ween,
Had powder so lovely a magazine;
Then scorning the bullets’ deadly rain,
Like a startled fawn, fled Elizabeth Zane.

She gained the fort with her precious freight;
Strong hands fastened the oaken gate;
Brave men’s eyes were suffused with tears
That had been strangers for many years.

From flintlock rifles again there sped
‘Gainst the skulking red-skins a storm of lead,
and the war-whoop sounded that day in vain,
Thanks to the deed of Elizabeth Zane.

Talk not to me of Paul Revere
A man on horseback with naught to fear;
nor of old John Burns with his bell-crowned hat
He’d an army to back him, so what of that?

Here’s to the heroine, plump and brown,
Who ran the gauntlet in Wheeling town;
Here is a record without a stain
Beautiful, buxom Elizabeth Zane.

      Betty Zane's great-grandnephew, the author Zane Grey, wrote a historical novel about her, titled Betty Zane, which includes an account of Betty’s bravery. Unable to find a publisher for it, he published it himself in 1903. Grey later named his daughter Betty Zane after his famous aunt.
     Betty was buried in the Walnut Grove Pioneer Cemetery in Martins Ferry, Ohio. Her heroism is remembered each year during Betty Zane Pioneer Days.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Camp Asylum, A Civil War POW Camp

A picture of Camp Asylum drawn by one of the Union prisoners.
      The South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology recently completed research and a dig at the site of Camp Asylum, a Union POW camp on the grounds of the SC State Hospital, originally called “The Lunatic Asylum” in Columbia, SC.
A sifter for sorting through the
dirt. In the background is part
of the 10-foot brick wall that
once surrounded the entire
Asylum grounds.

      Over 1,000 Union officers were imprisoned in the camp from October 1864 until General Sherman’s troops attacked the city February 17, 1865. The officers had been held at camps in Richmond, Virginia, Macon, Georgia, then on to Savannah, and Charleston, before arriving in Columbia. 

Archeology dig site showing where a tent was with a small

fireplace/oven, and the ditch that was dug around it.

      Leading the dig was University of South Carolina archeologist Chester DePratter whose team of about a dozen members were allowed only four months to try to salvage the remains of the camp before development begins on the site.
      According to Depratter, when the prisoners were let in through the gates on December 12, 1864, most of them had a single blanket, or two at most, that they could use to wrap around themselves to keep warm. Their only option for shelter, for many of them, was to dig a hole in the ground.
      DePratter and his team looked for and uncovered the holes, called “shebangs.”
A "shebang" that was dug for two prisoners, who
would sit on the carved "step" during the day and
sleep in the hole during the night.
Because the prisoners had few, if any, possessions, the team didn’t uncover many artifacts, which included uniform buttons, combs, coins, and pieces of cloth.
Anecdote about Camp Asylum --
      Adjutant SMH Byers, an officer in the Fifth Iowa Infantry, escaped from the POW camp on the day General Sherman entered Columbia, SC. He approached the general and handed him a piece of paper. That evening, as was Sherman’s custom, he emptied his pockets and took a closer look at the paper. It proved to be the words to Sherman’s March to the Sea, which Byers composed while a prisoner at Camp Asylum. Sherman was so impressed, he attached Byers to his staff. Byers later became the United States consul to Switzerland. In various diaries several Columbia women recall being entertained by the Camp Asylum glee club, who sang Sherman’s March to the Sea as well as Dixie.
      My historical fiction, A Perfect Tempest, takes place during the six months of the prison camp. The heroine, Deborah Wingard, is the daughter of one of the asylum’s physicians. Deborah, who falls in love with the commandant of the camp, joins a spy ring to free one of the prisoners, her cousin’s fiancé.
     Here’s a short excerpt from the book where Deborah and her freed companion, Becca, are taking food to the guards and prisoners.

      Deborah helped load the food onto a mule-drawn cart, slipped a basket filled with biscuits onto her arm, and then she and Becca guided the mule down the hill. As they neared the camp, they heard singing and stopped to listen. Deborah hummed along with the voices that blended in perfect harmony.
      “What’s that tune they’re singing?” Becca asked.
      “It’s Stephen Foster’s ‘I Dream of Jeanie’. The glee club sounds better every time I hear them.”
      “Yes. Those Yankee boys can sing all right. Sometimes, on real quiet nights I can hear them, and the sound is so sweet, it almost makes me cry.”

Monday, March 17, 2014

The White Cockade

Cockades, handcrafted ribbon rosettes, served as the political lapel pins of yesteryear. People wore them to identify themselves with their political stance, to declare their loyalty, to support their troops, and to show patriotism.

At the time of the Revolutionary War, men pinned cockades on the side of their tricornes or cocked hats or on their lapels. Women also wore them on their hats or in their hair. During the American Revolution, the Continental Army initially wore cockades of various colors as a form of rank insignia.

General George Washington
wears a cockade on his hat.
On July 23, 1775, General George Washington wrote: “As the Continental Army has unfortunately no uniforms, and consequently many inconveniences must arise from not being able to distinguish the commissioned officers from the privates, it is desired that some badge of distinction be immediately provided; for instance that the field officers may have red or pink colored cockades in their hats, the captains yellow or buff, and the subalterns green.”

Brigadier General Francis Marion
The Swampfox of South Carolina.
After a time, the Continental Army reverted to wearing the black cockade they inherited from the British. Later, when France became an ally of the United States, soldiers pinned the white cockade of the French Ancien Régime onto their old black cockade; the French reciprocally pinned the black cockade onto their white cockade, as a mark of the French-American alliance. These cockades became known as the "Union Cockade."

By the time of the War of 1812, however, Americans had reverted to black cockades.

A fantastic step-by-step demonstration of "How to Make an 18c Cockade" can be found on the blog, American Duchess, Historical Costuming at

According to some historians, on April 19, 1775, when colonial militias confronted British troops at Concord’s North Bridge, they marched to the tune of “The White Cockade.” This was a traditional Scottish tune that celebrated the attempt by Bonnie Prince Charlie to reclaim the British throne for the House of Stuart. Colonists were familiar with this “rebellious” tune as a country dance and a fife and drum piece. You can hear this tune by going to this link:

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Hope to publish posts soon.

Dear husband has been critically ill for weeks, and my place is with him. I pray that he recovers quickly, and I hope to publish some posts soon.