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Happy Birthday to the good doctor

tweetle_beetles_fEvery March 2, when Theodore Geisel’s birthday rolls around, we who grew up reading Dr. Seuss and who nourished our children on his stories get a little nostalgic. We suddenly want a Red Fish, Blue Fish fix or Hop on Pop, or – dare I say it – a little Fox in Socks. (Oh, how I remember my kiddos asking for Fox in Socks at bedtime after a long, hard day and, knowing I would never get through all the tongue-twisters, asking them if they wouldn’t rather have me read Are You My Mother? instead.)

We couldn’t keep all the books our kids had on their bookshelves when they were little, but we did hang onto all the Seuessian books. We hoped there would be a time when we would have grandkids and they would be at our house and we’d want there to be books for them to read or have read to them. Now that we are expecting our first grandchild in June, I see I must unearth Fox in Socks and get back to speed on the oral delivery of its pages.

In honor of the good doctor’s birthday, and to celebrate the recent announcement of a forthcoming Seuss book What Pet Should I Get, Barnes and Noble came up with a fitting hypothetical question: what if Dr. Seuss wrote the plots for other famous books? The first three are:

A Song of Ice and Fire series, by George R.R. Martin
One king, two king. Dead king, who king?

The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
He has brains in his head. He has feet in his shoes. But the ducks just keep flying wherever they choose.

The Twilight series, by Stephenie Meyers
When you’re in a slump, you’re not in for much fun. Un-slumping yourself requires sparkling in the sun.

You can find all the rest here:

How about you? Could you Seussify the plot of a famous book? Here’s my stab at it:

Gone With the Wind: The wind can take a lot of things, naivete and plantation kings…

Now you try!

 

Want to be an advance reader of The Amish Clockmaker?

08 25_2563Word of mouth is and will probably always be the best way to get the word out on a new book. With that in mind, I’ve a question for you. If you like books with Amish characters or books in an Amish setting, if you like stories that dovetail faith, hope, and love, and if you are a fellow writer or aspiring writer of if you have a blog or are active on Facebook or influential in your book club or if you just love to get the word out on new books, I would like to chat about sending you a copy THE AMISH CLOCKMAKER for you read and then chat up wherever you have social contact. It’s my favorite one of the three-book series that I wrote with my good friend, Mindy Starns Clark and it comes out in February 2015.

This is the third and last installment in the Men of Lancaster series that Mindy and I co-wrote and it’s the perfect blend of what she does best, mystery, with what I do best, dual-time period plots. Here’s the story in a nutshell:

“Newlywed Matthew Zook is expanding his family’s tack and feed store when a surprising property dispute puts the remodel on hold—and raises new questions about the location’s mysterious past.

Decades earlier, the same building housed a clock shop run by a young Amish clockmaker named Clayton Raber. Known for his hot temper, Clayton was arrested for the murder of his beloved wife, a crime almost everyone—including his own family members—believed he’d committed, even after charges were dropped. Isolated and feeling condemned by all, Clayton eventually broke from the church, left Lancaster County, and was never heard from again.

Now the only way Matthew can solve the boundary issue and save his family’s business is to track down the clockmaker. But does this put Matthew on the trail of a murderer?

A timeless novel of truth, commitment, and the power of enduring love, where secrets of the past give way to hope for the future.”

Comment below if you’re interested and I will email you so we can chat.  Have a great weekend!

Coffee: The nectar of the gods!

It’s National Coffee Day, comrades, (as well as my oldest son’s birthday) and to mark the occasion, I shall list for you my personal Best Coffee Ever Hall of Fame, in hopes that you will share the love and post your top java picks in the comments section. If you don’t like coffee, my condolences. I used to be an infidel in this regard. I didn’t develop a taste for coffee until I was in my late 20’s and living overseas. It was in Europe, where all the best beans are sent, that I got hooked to the yummy elixir, and which is why I start the list (it is in no particular order ) with:

Kronung1. Jacob’s Kronung, which we discovered while stationed at Ramstein Air Base and living in the tiny farming village of Mittelbrun, was our gateway drug, you might say. We started out as bashful, one-tawny-brown-cup–a day to three cups a day of darky dark in a matter of mere months.  I still love Kronung and am so happy that I can get it at the commissary at our local USMC base and at the German grocery store thirty minutes away. Wunderbar.

2. Caribou Coffee, nearly any flavor but especially Mahogany, is probably the most amazing thing ever to caribou-300x242come out of Minnesota besides Paul Bunyan. In Minnesota, there’s a Caribou Coffee on every street corner, not a Starbucks, or at least there should be.  When I travel and find myself in a Midwest airport terminal where there’s a Caribou Coffee joint, no matter what time of day it is, I stop for a Mint Condition, one of Caribou’s signature drinks. I can get Caribou K-cups here in San Diego, but it’s not the same as the whole bean kind. We spent a dozen years braving Minnesota’s audacious winters – and they were made infinitely more bearable because of Caribou Coffee.

IMG_6826.JPG3. A new favorite of mine, from just the last couple of months, is Portland’s Stumptown brew, which I had for the first time while visiting Oregon this summer, also for the first time. It’s possible my first taste of Stumptown was so memorable because I had paired it with an insanely delicious Maple Bacon Bar at Voodoo Doughnuts.  But we brought home to San Diego a bag of freshly roasted beans, which disappeared pretty much overnight — and without any Vood00 Doughnuts to go with — so it’s likely the coffee is fab all on its own.

4. Lastly, this cup of coffee that my soulmate and husband Bob is drinking, is matched by a cup that I am also drinking – across the table from him – and it  was quite possibly THE best cup I have ever had, ever. We are sipping these in a little French town in Provence with severe jet lag weighing on us like a coats of leaden threads. But this cup of coffee, a café au lait of divine origin, was so exquisite, and the company so lovely (we were celebrating our 25th when these photos were taken – nearly ten years ago!) and the church bells so sweet (it was a Sunday) and the croissant so delish, this cup is hard to beat.BobFranceCoffee So now it’s your turn! What’s your favorite cup of Joe or brand?

I am taking notes….

SueFranceCoffee

On my tombstone

SylviaPlathI came across an interesting little blog post this morning which I am taking full advantage of since I am on a tight deadline this week. If you click on this link you will arrive at the post, entitled The Last Word: 9 Famous Authors’ Epitaphs.  Among these nine I found my favorite, the incorrectly quoted gem on Sylvia Plath’s headstone: “Even amidst fierce flames the golden lotus can be planted.”

So it got me to thinking what I would have carved on my headstone if today was the day I had to pick those words (and a if money were no object, because four lines is arguably a lot of words to hew into stone). It’s lifted from Henry Van Dyke’s Gone From My Sight:

“And, just at the moment when someone says, ‘There, she is gone,’
there are other eyes watching her coming,
and other voices
ready to take up the glad shout, ‘Here she comes!’

What would you have inscribed on yours? I really want to know! And I mostly promise not to steal it from you…

 

If you’re a Downton Abbey fan. . .

Call the MidwifeA good friend of mine told me not long ago that she’d stumbled upon the British TV show CALL THE MIDWIFE while on Netflix. She added the first season to her queue of choices she could watch right away on streaming and settled down to view the first episode. She was quickly hooked, watched more, and then told me about it., knowing I’m a history junkie. The same thing that happened to her, happened to me. I fell in love with these characters, the post WW2 setting, the costumes, the music, everything about it.

The series is based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth and is set in east London in the later 1950s. The first series of six episodes premiered in the UK in January 2012. The series pilot begins with newly-trained midwife Jenny Lee arriving to work among other midwives and the nuns of Nonnatus House, an Anglican nursing convent. The young midwives and the sisters must cope with the many problems among the East End’s desperately poor , and of course they have their own fears, hopes, and dreams.

I finished watching Season 1 last night and am eager to begin Season 2. In the meantime, I can’t follow the series on Facebook or Twitter for fear I will learn something ahead of when I should learn it. Even gathering this photo above and the video below put me on edge as I trolled the Internet for them! The preview below introduces you to Jenny, and you can see a bit of her wonderfully detail-rich character.  If you’re already a fan of the show, I would love to hear your comments about the series, without of course, revealing anything about seasons 2 and 3! If you’ve not seen it yet, I highly recommend you add to your Netflix library.

 

What kind of book are you?

whatkindofbookI’m taking a ten-minute break from the deadline to post this very fun little identity quiz from BuzzFeed.

What Kind of Book Are You?

You need to give it a go just to be able to click the pictures of all the things you like best – as they relate to reading! Just for the record, I am a hard-cover, which feels pretty dang classy. Here’s more about who I am, according to the test results: ” Mmmm, everyone loves that “new book” smell. You’re fresh off the shelf, spine unbroken and pages unturned, but you’re ready to be opened because you’ve got a great story you want to share with the world.”

Is that not great or what?

I’ve got a great story I want to share with the world. Every novelist lives to hear that said of them.

Take the test and share your results!

 

 

For the beauty of the earth…

IMG_3030I’ve a very busy and wonderful week coming up! The first of my four children is getting married on Wednesday. I’ll admit I am a little distracted with what’s to come and what’s still to do, so instead of a blog post of words today, I am offering you a blog post of photos. These were taken last week while I was teaching at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference in the foothills of Santa Cruz, California. I’ve seen them many times before, but every fresh glance at a California Redwood knocks my socks off. Enjoy… IMG_3024  IMG_3033  IMG_3049

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Through the Lens of Love

To mark the release of A FALL OF MARIGOLDS, I am happy to welcome writer friends to the blog to share with you a story about a family heirloom that is precious to them. An heirloom scarf is what ties two women together in A FALL OF MARIGOLDS, and heirlooms are what tie these blog posts together. At the end of the week, there will be a fun giveaway. Enjoy!

MarcibookcoverToday I am happy to welcome novelist Marci Nault, author of THE LAKE HOUSE,  to the blog. Marci Nault hails from a town not too far from Lake Nagog in Massachusetts. Today she can be found figure skating, salsa dancing, hiking and wine tasting around her home in California. Marci is the founder of 101 Dreams Come True, a motivational website that encourages visitors to follow their improbable dreams. Her story about attempting to complete 101 of her biggest dreams has been featured in newspapers and magazines nationwide, and she regularly speaks on the subject on radio stations in both the United States and Canada. Marci says THE LAKE HOUSE began as a comedy, “but as the characters revealed their stories the book became about the desperate need for second chances and finding home in the most unlikely place. It’s about friendship and falling in love even when you think the opportunity has passed.” Read to the end to see how you might win a signed copy.

“…found the deepest beauty and clicked the shutter…”

MarciheadThere’s a simple house in Leominster, MA, built by my grandfather. He lovingly placed joists, support beams, and stucco to create a strong foundation and secure walls.  Inside he crafted the cabinets in the small three-bedroom house where he and my grandmother raised their four children.

As a little girl, Sunday afternoons were spent in this house playing with my brother and eight cousins. We’d run up and down the hall sliding in our socks on the shiny-waxed surface. We played wiffle-ball in the backyard and could be entertained for hours on the glider swing that turned into imaginary modes of transportation.

Days when the Patriots played, the men overtook the living room and no matter how many times our mothers called out it was time to go, the men would respond, “There’s only five minutes left in the quarter.” Five minutes seemed like hours of pure playful luxury to us kids.

MarcihouseWe marked the New England seasons in this home: summers running through sprinklers; fall jumping in raked leaf piles; winter making snow angels; and spring licking our lips in anticipation of homemade maple syrup as my grandfather hung the buckets from spouts on the Maple trees.

By the time the flowers bloomed in the yard, my grandfather would retreat to his rusted shack to pour the sap onto the hot, table-like burner. Due to the wood fire and the sizzling, popping sap we were told to stay away. I’d always creak open the door, my long blonde hair, which hung to my knees, held tightly in my fist behind my neck.

My grandfather seemed to glow in the last of the sunlight that came through the windows. He’d motion me to his side, take a string and tie my hair back. His hands smelled sweet with the tinge of syrup combined with the scent of tobacco. I’d sit with him, not talking, but somehow listening to his thoughts about birds, the woods, and past memories. To many he was a bear of a man, stubborn in nature with a loud accusing voice, but his granddaughters were his sweethearts – Pepere’s little girls. The definition of safety was being by his side or in the house he’d built.Marcihouse2

My grandmother was the photographer and seamstress – creating beautiful creations with both her arts. She worked mostly in slide film, enjoying how she could shut off the lights in the kitchen and project her memories on a big screen for all of us to see. There was something comforting about those yellow boxes of slides – the story of my life and family kept safe and important.

A few months ago, my grandmother suffered a massive stroke that landed her in a nursing home. Five years before my grandfather had passed after surgery for a broken hip. Soon the house of my childhood will sell; the sugar shack replaced probably with a new home built on the land. I want to keep this home with everything I have, and I wonder if a house has ever been considered an heirloom.

As my mother was going through the lifetime of their belongings I found my grandmother’s camera equipment.  As I held the metal Canon in my hand, I felt as if it carried a presence of my grandmother’s life. Every time she saw something she loved she brought this camera to her eye, found the deepest beauty and clicked the shutter.

cameraTears came to my eyes as I held the lenses that were used in my first photography lessons. I put the camera away, knowing it would go to my aunt, but I asked one thing – if she’d pass it onto me in her will.

A few weeks later my mother handed me a note. The camera was mine because my aunt understood what it meant to me. It’s film, not digital. The lenses are ancient in today’s world, but for me this camera holds every memory of that sweet childhood. I can’t carry a house with me. I’ll have to let it go. But every time I look through the lens a part of their lives will be with me. This camera is a physical reminder of all they brought to my life and how they helped me to see the world through the lens of love.

You can reach Marci on her Facebook page, her main website or her 101 Dreams website or on Twitter at @101dreamslist.

Thanks so much for being here, Marci, and sharing such a tender story about your grandparents’ house. My paternal grandparents’ house has the same effect on me. Readers, you can be in on the drawing for Marci’s lovely book, THE LAKE HOUSE, just by commenting below. Post your hello by Friday, March 7 at noon Pacific. You can just say hi or tell us about your grandparents’ house and what memories thinking of it conjures…

 

All that glitters…

To mark the release of A FALL OF MARIGOLDS this month, I am happy to welcome writer friends to the blog to share with you a story about a family heirloom that is precious to them. An heirloom scarf is what ties two women together in A FALL OF MARIGOLDS, and heirlooms are what tie these blog posts together. At the end of the month, there will be a fun giveaway. Enjoy!

Today I’m happy to welcome Barbara Claypole White. English born and educated, Barbara writes and gardens in the forests of North Carolina. Her husband is an internationally-acclaimed academic; their son is an award-winning young poet / musician. His battles with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) have inspired her to write stories that find healing and hope in the darkness of invisible disabilities such as severe grief or clinical depression. Her characters are quirky and damaged, but they always find the light through the trees (a recurring image in her writing). The Unfinished Garden, Barbara’s debut novel, won the 2013 Golden Quill for Best First Book. The In-Between Hour, her second novel, has been named a Winter 2014 Okra Pick by Southern Indie Bookstores. Read to the end to see how you can win a signed copy of the The In-Between Hour.

“A Starburst of Diamonds”

BarbaraCWhiteI’ve never been a sparkly baubles kind of girl. When my husband and I decided to get married twenty-five years ago, he bought me a simple, gold watch; I bought him a decorative walking stick. We’re both feminists at heart, and we wanted to do things a little differently. Without glitter and whistles and bells. Or diamonds. (I didn’t have a wedding gown either.)

I continued to be strangely proud of the plain wedding band on my fourth finger for the next decade or so. And I reveled in the fact that my husband and I were starting new traditions that didn’t come from his family or mine.  Then my father died, I rushed back to my childhood home in England, and everything changed. Nothing mattered more than keeping the past alive and preserving memories—and memorabilia—to hand down to future generations.

Before I flew home to America, my mother and I had one of those soul-searching conversations about life and death. She asked if there was anything special in the house that I would like her to bequeath to me in her will. I didn’t have to think about an answer because I looked at her fingers and knew. There was only one engagement ring I could ever have imagined wearing. It had belonged to my maternal grandmother, and it had dazzled me since I was a lTheInBetweenHourittle girl. A starburst of diamonds around a sapphire, it seemed to have magical qualities, and my mother wore it constantly.

When I was packing, my mother handed me the ring. It fit perfectly. That ring is now my most prized possession.  I barely remember my grandmother, but I’ve always felt connected to her. Like me, she married an older man; like me, she was a country girl.  I’ve also been told I’m her doppelganger.

The ring is mine, but I know that it’s mine only in transition. One day I will pass it along—as a treasured family heirloom.

Connect with Barbara on her website , Facebook or Twitter @bclaypolewhite.

Thanks, Barbara, for sharing about the one ring you DID want! If you have a US postal address, you can be in on the drawing for Barbara’s newest book, The In-Between Hour, by commenting below. Did you have a favorite piece of jewelry that was passed down to you?  Post your comment here by noon Pacific on Feb 12 and your name’s in the hat. Good luck!