Birthday’s Should be Celebrated

I’m big on celebrating my birthday–in my own way. I’m not a fan of big parties. I’d rather celebrate all month long with small events, like meeting a friend for lunch (did that and it was awesome!), or going to a movie, calling friends on the phone.

This year I came up with this idea. Why not ask three of my writing friends to give their books to one person who is subscribed to my newsletter?

I asked and they said yes!

So I’m asking you, would you like to be the winner of these three books? Please enter and help me celebrate!

From a Distance explores the Orphan Train

Writing  From a Distance for the Spinster on the Orphan Train collection took me down quite the research road.  Or rails if you wish.

While this book is more about Shanna Becket, an agent on the train, than the orphans, to write it I had to understand how the orphans were collected and dispersed out west. Most of my research didn’t end up in the book, but that’s the way it is with writing. Under every story, there is a hidden glacier of knowledge gleaned by the author.

Did you know there were no “Orphan Trains” instead, regular trains were used, sometimes a car would be filled with children? Most of the time there were small groups who were looked after by a few agents.

The agents took food along with the utensils they would need for the children. The also took along emergency bags that included wash cloths, soap,  blankets, and medicines, like Larkspur, in case vermin (lice) had snuck past the caretakers. Talk about a packing for a road trip!

The saddest part of the research book was reading about children separated from their siblings. In later years, some of them were able to reconnect but many were not. Their family history would be lost forever because they were too young to remember.  And then there were those who were given to families looking to supplement the farm labor. Those children were often housed with the livestock and when they turned 18 they ran away (if not sooner) or told to leave. They seldom shared in any family inheritance.

While these are sad stories of failures it is likely these children would not have survived the cold New York winters living on the streets.  Could it have been handled differently? Sure but back in the late 1800s this was new and those with kind hearts wanted to help the children. And many were treated like members of the families that took them in.

Shanna’s trip from New Your City to  Trenton, Illinois was close to 1,002 miles! She would have left on Monday and arrived at her destination on Wednesday evening.

While From a Distance is not a true story, but  I did discover there was an orphan adopted in Trenton who later moved to Marion, Illinois–or so the story goes. Sometimes history is not exact.

 

To save her life, a spinster runs from her brutal stepfather. But what she runs to might be more than she can handle.

Shanna Becket, abused for years by her stepfather, runs away from him. When she secures employment as a Children’s Society Agency agent, her travels bring her dangerously close to meeting him again.

Aidan Sollar, trying to please his wealthy father, oversees the building of a Chicago hotel in the hopes that his father won’t give it to his older brother.

They meet while traveling the country, but Shanna can’t trust any man. A sick orphan brings them together, and Shanna is forced to place her well-being in Aidan’s hands. But accepting the love she’s only observed from a distance is another story. And Aidan must choose between his family’s wealth or love.

Painting Brick

Painting the bricks behind my wood stove has been on my to-do list for way too long. Should I or should I not? Once you paint brick there’s no going back to the original color without sandblasting. That’s not something I ever envision happening in my family room. Not to mention me with a sandblaster in hand might be deadly to something or someone.painted brick woodstove

Our family room is long (think bowling alley) and has one big French door at the end of it next to the wood stove. This corner has always felt like it’s pulling the room into a dark hole.

This darkness of the stove combined with the dark brick has always felt like it’s pulling the room into a dark hole. Go ahead and whistle the theme song to Twilight Zone.

Here’s a before shot–unpainted brickeven the shadows scream hurry up and paint this wall!

I’m not sure why I thought this would be a good project to start after a 13-mile bike ride. But for me when the urge to paint hits I must do it! I love to paint but it’s been a while since I’ve had the energy to tackle a project but today I’m ready.

Vacuum the bricks first. Who knew so much dust and cat hair could make a home between bricks? Or um, could that be considered insulation? I might have discovered this detail if I ever took the time to clean the bricks. Hey, I have books to write, no judgment, please.

I had some Benjamin Moore Marshmallow White left from painting part of this room several years ago. I made a mix of half paint and half water. Then I removed my wedding ring, grabbed an old washcloth and said a prayer.

brick one coat of paint

This is with one coat. I liked it, but I didn’t love it. Too busy.

painted brick Benjamin Moore

Done. I’m debating painting the mortar joints, but for now, I’m learning to enjoy it. It’s such a difference that it’s taking a bit of time to adjust.  I’ve lived in this house for over 20 years so when I come downstairs I expect to see the dark hole behind the stove. It’s refreshing to see the light color!

This project was much easier than I thought it would be. I’d rate it a beginner, so easy that with guidance a child could do it.

 

*I’d recommend doing this on a day you don’t ride your bike 13-miles because it’s tiring to get up and down so many times.

While you’re here help yourself to a free copy of All in Good Time

Dreams Realized

Dreams Do Come True

 

Hosting a mini writer’s retreat can bring to the surface dreams of the past. This retreat was small–me and another writer/editor Jennifer Vander Klipp at my house. We were comparing when we knew we wanted to write and I remembered I had two of my first books hidden away.

creative, novel, to read, faith, for women, romance

Check out that amazing binding I used. Reading through them would give any editor a headache because there is so much repetition and the grammar-oh my!

If You Wish Upon a Star was about bumping into a movie star and having him over for dinner. I was dreaming big time.

Tragedy Strikes is equally painful in the unfolding of love and death.

I’m not sure why I saved these but I’m glad that I did. I can see how my younger self truly wanted to write books, not just short stories–evident because they’re more than two pages long and bound.

After these two came many more written pages, then typed on a Royal typewriter my mother found somewhere, but I no longer have the stories or the typewriter.

Along the way, I learned how to use punctuation, how to write dialogue, and pull readers into the story. I’m still learning something new as writing for publication often changes.

Looking back, I had a dream. I didn’t know then how it would be realized, that I would be blessed with contracts with traditional publishers, that I’d get to hold a book not bound with rickrack in my hand.

I have to thank you–my readers, for helping me achieve this dream.  You’ve been a big part of this journey. I write and you pick up the stories and leave reviews. Thank you!

If you have a little one writing please save their work for them so they too can look back and see how far they have come some day.

And if you’re considering writing a book check out these books.

Chopped or what are you making for dinner?

What’s for dinner? Don’t get Chopped

one pot cookbook meal

Street Fair Sausage and Potatoes

Sometimes, no make that most nights I have no idea what I’m going to cook for dinner. It’s not a lack of planning a menu but forgetting to take a major ingredient out of the freezer to thaw.

One night, I was in control of the remote ( a very rare occurrence)  and discovered the food channel. For once, they were speaking my language.

Chopped on foodnetwork was the name of the show. The contestants are given a basket of ingredients some of which most home cooks, chefs, or those of sound mind would never put together to make a dish. Bacon candy was one ingredient. Fascinating for me as I’m often flinging open cabinets searching for anything that will work and count as a real meal though I’ve never found bacon candy to use.

The more I watched I became convinced I could do this kind of cooking. Then it hit me.

Then it hit me. I would be chopped out of my kitchen (meaning I’d have to leave like a chef who didn’t do well on the show) because I don’t live in a chef’s world.

There isn’t fresh produce, cream, fresh herbs, fruit and spices to pick from in my house and no bacon candy. No wonder they can make magic out of strange foods.

My conclusion? Anyone can be a great chef if you have access to a fully stocked fridge and pantry just a few feet away. I’ll never be that kind of chef but I can whip up a grilled cheese sandwich or bacon and eggs in mere minutes. 

I’m going back to my tried and true cookbook. One Pot Cookbook even though it isn’t a gluten-free specific most of the meals, like the one above are easily adapted for my consumption.

I almost always have the ingredients or can substitute from the pantry, plus the food tastes great. Clean up is fast too.

 

Did Last Year Get Away From You How to Track the Seasons

Last year slipped away from me. When Christmas arrived it was almost a surprise. I missed spring and summer. How did that happen? It used to be easy to know when to switch out holiday decor because I had little ones telling me. Now that I’m an empty nester I don’t decorate for every holiday.

Is time passing by too fast for you? 

Do you suppose this happens because the retail stores are muddling with our internal calendar? Before Holloween is over, Christmas trees are displayed and on January 2nd this year, my store had Valentine’s Day decor to purchase. 

 

This year I am stopping time! You can too!

The plan?

Decorate for each season. I don’t mean full-out window gels and wreaths on the door. I don’t have the time or money to purchase and make decorations that will also need to be stored.

The solution?

Find one place in your home that you pass by every day. It might be a shelf, a small spot on the kitchen counter or like me the fireplace mantle.

Yes, I have one. No, it doesn’t get changed except for Christmas.

Until now.

Winter Decor

I refuse to go through another year of catching up to the seasons. I have this stunning mantle. It is part of a log cabin from my home state of Missouri. This old log has seen a lot of seasons!

Winter decorating can be a challenge because it’s right after Christmas and the house looks so dull.

I wanted to have some sparkle to reflect the snow and ice of winter. I spray painted a few pinecones from our tree, let them dry, and then put them in this small vase. The rest of the decor on the mantle didn’t change. By adding this one piece, I know at a glance what season it is.

Next month I’ll be taking away this  piece and adding something red for Valentine’s Day.

So tell me in the comments, “Do you decorate for the seasons and holidays?”

 

Christmas is almost here!

One week until Christmas!

Does that sentence send you into a frenzy? Is panic setting in? 

Maybe you’re the person who had cards addressed and mailed the day after Thanksgiving? Your gifts were bought and wrapped before St. Nick’s?

I’ve been both of those personalities in the past.

There comes a time when your children grow up, move out and Christmas slows down. That’s where we are now. Sort of.

We’ve cut down on how much we spend on gifts after doing Dave Ramsey’s course and surprise everyone is okay with that. Which means I have much less to shop for and wrap. 

Because we have a two-year-old grandson we stuck to our tiny tree which means less decorating and more safety. Again, no one seemed to notice the lack of nutcrackers, stairs wrapped with garland or the table full of snowmen. 

Christmas Merry Christmas

What have I learned? 

I’m doing the same thing next year. There is no need to make myself insane with decorating, though I wish I could buy more for my kids. I most likely will always wish to shower them with presents. 

So from me to you, I wish you a Blessed Christmas, lots of family time and focus on Christ the newborn.  I’ll be back to writing posts in the New Year.

Merry Christmas!

Christmas Carol

Diana

12 Brides of Christmas Bestseller

UPDATE! WINNERS HAVE BEEN CHOSEN.

GIVEAWAY CLOSED!

It’s true! The 12 Brides of Christmas is a bestseller again this month on the ECPA list.

ECPA Bestseller December

I’m so excited that I’m offering a free giveaway on 3 of my books!

 

Read more about this fun Christmas book here.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The 12 Brides of Christmas Collection by Mary Connealy

The 12 Brides of Christmas Collection

by Mary Connealy

Giveaway ends December 17, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Also making the CBA best seller, is Mind of Her Own! Read more about this book here

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Mind of her Own by Diana Lesire Brandmeyer

Mind of her Own

by Diana Lesire Brandmeyer

Giveaway ends December 17, 2015.
See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Goodreads Book Giveaway

We're Not Blended, We're Pureed by Diana Lesire Brandmeyer

We’re Not Blended, We’re Pureed

by Diana Lesire Brandmeyer

Giveaway ends December 16, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

 Read more about We’re Not Blended We’re Pureed a survivor’s guide to blended families here