Monday, March 25, 2013

Preserving History

I read an article the other day in a newspaper publication titled, "Historic treasures preserved by prosperous people." It talked about several business tycoons who shared a passion for preservation and how they invested their fortunes by developing places that people can visit to learn about history. The article went on to name such places as: The Henry Ford in Dearborn, Michigan; Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia (we've vacationed here. Great place to visit!); Winterthur Garden, Library, and Museum in Wilmington, Delaware; and The Getty in Los Angeles and Malibu, California.

My husband and I are history buffs, loving anything historical. We love antiques, have a collection of old books (I read our copy of Little Women over the holidays that was published in 1911!), I enjoy reading books set in historical time periods, our house is decorated with primitive items (originals, not remakes), etc. After reading that article the other day, I realized that preserving history isn't just for the wealthy. People do it everyday. We've been doing it for years.

My project this spring, aside from my manuscripts, is a kitchen makeover. It's a small room, and I simply couldn't take the dark colors any longer. After days of priming everything in the entire kitchen, I took a trip to Menards, picked out paint, and got started last week. I was going for a bright, airy feel since I spend so much time in the kitchen, unable to keep any of my guys full (not for more than a couple of hours anyway). I chose "Island Waters" for the color on the walls which isn't a lot of space at all--just wanted to give the room a little color. When the paint dried, it turned out be the teal-ish color of an old classic car. Always talking about doing a retro themed kitchen, now is our chance. 

We had the best time last Friday, going through local antique shops in search of real retro lighting, cabinet hardware, etc. (We figured if we were going to do it we should be authentic. Antiquing is something we've always enjoyed doing together, even the kids, and even participate on vacation if a place catches our eye.) Though we didn't have any luck finding what we were looking for, we did stumble across a great place we didn't know existed--Habitat for Humanity Restore. The best way to describe it is a Goodwill for housewares. They sell new and gently used home improvement goods, furniture, home accessories, building materials and appliances to the public at a fraction of the retail price. All proceeds go to local Habitat for Humanity affiliates to help build and renovate more homes and communities. You can even donate unwanted items!

We found some great stuff in there: counter tops, cabinets, tile flooring, lighting, hinges, etc. This will be one of the first places we look from now on when starting a home improvement project, and the first place we go when we need to donate housewares.

Turns out, we had the exact lighting we were looking for in our basement already. My husband had bought retro industrial shop lights at an auction years ago for $3, and with a good cleaning and a coat of paint, it looks great!

My kitchen is far from being done as I'm working on it amongst three-thousand other things, but I will post pictures once the project is complete. But all of this rambling was to show that preserving history isn't just for the wealthy (if it was, we wouldn't be candidates). We can all have a part in it--on item at a time.

See, for more information on the organization.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Big Sky Romance Series by Denise Hunter

I love reading books in a series. I also love reading books set in the west. In Denise Hunter's Big Sky Romance Series, I got the best of both worlds. . . .


 Abigail Jones intends to spend just one summer in middle-of-nowhere Montana with her Aunt Lucy. Time away from her job is just what Abigail needs to reassess her life. The slow pace has her breathing deeply for the first time in years. And the majestic scenery encourages her to get reacquainted with herself . . . and God.

What she didn't count on was the handsome widowed cowboy who owns the ranch where her aunt lives. When the rancher loses his daughter's nanny, Abigail decides to lend a hand for the summer.

Wade Ryan can't help being attracted to Abigail. But he's given up everything to protect his daughter, and he's not about to risk it all on a pretty face.

Under Abigail's care, Wade's home and daughter thrive. And with Wade's touch, Abigail's heart feels at home at last. But Abigail knows this elusive rancher is hiding something. Will her own secrets separate her from the cowboy who finally captured her heart?

Author: Denise Hunter
Publisher: Thomas Nelson, 2011
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Theme Verse: "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life..."-- John 14:6

My thoughts
This was the first book I ever read from Denise Hunter and became a life-long fan. Set in the fictional town of Moose Creek, Montana, the setting and the characters instantly drew me into the story, and when I got to the last page, I didn't want the story to end. But, I got a glimpse of them again in book #2 of the series, The Accidental Bride.

Shay Bradenberger is raising her daughter in Moose Creek, Montana, on her childhood ranch, nestled against the Yellowstone River. Despite the hard work, she can't seem to keep her head above water--and now the bank is threatening to foreclose. She prays for a miracle, but the answer she receives is anything but expected.
Having agreed to play the bride in the Founder's Day wedding reenactment, Shay is mortified to be greeted at the end of the aisle by none other than Travis McCoy, her high school sweetheart--the man who left her high and dry for fame and fortune on the Texas rodeo circuit.
Then the unthinkable happens. Thanks to a well-meaning busybody and an absentminded preacher, the make-believe vows result in a legal marriage. But before Shay can say annulment, Travis comes up with a crazy proposal. If she refuses his offer, she may lose her home. If she accepts, she may lose her heart.
Shay isn't sure if the recent events are God's will or just a preacher's blunder. Will trusting her heart to the man who once shattered it be the worst mistake of her life? Or could their marriage be the best accident that ever happened?
Author: Denise Hunter
Publisher: Thomas Nelson,2011
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Theme Verse: "For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ."-- Galatians 1:10
My thoughts
This story jumps right into the action. The tension between the hero and heroine (romantic and otherwise) propels the story. I've read this book twice I loved it so much, and the first time, I stayed awake until 2am because I had to know how the story ended!
Annie Wilkerson is Moose Creek's premiere horse trainer and equine columnist for Montana Living. Money is tight as she tries to put her kid-sister through college and provide for her young nephew.
When Annie's column is cancelled, she's given the first shot at the new lovelorn column--and she can't afford to turn it down. Only problem is . . . Annie's never been in love.
Always resourceful, she reluctantly strikes a deal with the town's smooth-talking ladies' man Dylan Taylor: She'll work with his ailing horse, Braveheart, if he'll help her answer the reader letters.
Working closely with Dylan is harder than Annie imagined, and she quickly realizes she may have misjudged him. But her unwavering conviction that cowboys are nothing but trouble has kept her heart safe for years. And she can't risk getting hurt now.
The more Annie tries to control things, the more they fall apart. Her feelings are spinning out of control, and her sister's antics are making life increasingly more difficult. Annie knows she needs to turn the reins over to God, but surrender has never come easily.
When Dylan reveals his feelings for her, Annie doesn't know what to trust--her head or her heart.
The trouble with this cowboy is that he might just be exactly what she needs.
Author: Denise Hunter
Publisher: Thomas Nelson, 2012
Genre: Contemporary Romance
My thoughts
I won an advanced copy of this book from Denise herself! Of course, I was excited to get to read the final story in The Big Sky Romance Series before anyone else. Denise did a beautiful job wrapping up the series with this story. Annie is a pistol, and you can't help but love Dylan and his witty, flirtatious ways. The story has a great twist at the end that kept me turning the pages.
Denise is the author of several novels and has received countless awards for her hard work. She's been a RITA finalist, an INSPY award finalist, an ACFW Book of the Year finalist, and a Reader's Choice Award winner (just to name a few). She lives in Indiana with her husband and three sons.
To learn more about Denise and her wonderful stories, visit her website at where you can sign up for her e-newsletter  and get the latest on her upcoming books.

Visit her blog that she shares with her best friends--Colleen Coble, Kirsten Billerbeck, Diann Hunt, and Hannah

 Don't miss her novel Barefoot Summer, available June 2013!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Printed Books or E-Books?--That is the Question

The subject of printed books versus e-books has been a hot topic lately among the publishing industry, blogs, my writing critique groups, and even newspaper articles. So which is better? Do we have to choose? Can we have a healthy balance of both?

No one can deny that with the overwhelming progress in technology the publishing industry is changing. These changes, obviously, affect the authors. Whether we like it or not, I believe we'll eventually have to adapt. If our readers want to curl up in bed in a dark room with a glowing screen, or carry a good story along with Internet access, their email, movies and games in one handheld device, then I feel we need to accommodate. But is there a right or wrong answer?

My love affair with books started with my collection as a child, handed down from my older siblings. In fact, I loved them so much I used to play "librarian" and stamp (literally) the inside of the books before handing them over to my pretend patrons. (Yes, I had a vivid imagination and played with other things besides books. Lol.) There were a few of those books I couldn't part with as I grew up, and now my boys have them. I came across one yesterday when I was choosing a book to read to my youngest son as we worked on potty training (which is proving to be even harder than writing a novel!), and the inside cover is completely littered with ink.

When I was old enough to go to school, my love of books increased as I discovered the library. I was usually the last one to the check-out because there were too many books to chose from, and I wanted to read them all.

As an adult, I LOVE bookstores.

Support your local bookstore!
I love the cozy feeling I get when I walk inside, the smell of the pages, the colorful spines, all of the adventures waiting inside the covers . . . .

I look ahead twenty years and wonder--if all stories come to be published in e-book format only, what will happen to local bookstores? Libraries? I can't imagine a world without them.

Yes, I own a Nook. And, yes, I love it. I've read a few books on it, and it is perfect for reading in bed or on the go. And who doesn't love those great Amazon deals, or sites that offer free e-books? But a part of me can't help but feel that something is missing. I like a printed book in my hand, the feel of the pages, running my fingers over the book cover. My dream has always been to hold one of my own books in my hand and be able to do those things. When my short story "The Value of a Penny" was published in the I Choose You romance anthology by OakTara, there was nothing like holding that book in my hand, opening the cover to my story, seeing the words I'd written face to face. (And I'm working hard to get to feel that experience again!)

I'm also writing a novella for a publisher that, if published, will be available in e-book format only. Does this bother me? No. God has given me stories to tell, and it doesn't matter to me how they reach the public. (But don't get me wrong. I still want to hold my own book in my hand!)

What I'm trying to say is: in this great debate of printed books vs. e-books, I don't think there's a right or wrong answer. I think it all comes down to personal preference. My personal preference is a good old-fashioned book.

Which do you prefer--printed books or e-books? Do you get more out of one than the other? Do you find yourself reading more with an e-reader?

I'd love to hear from you!