Friday, September 30, 2011

Getting back...

to blogging. After ten days in the hospital with my daughter, she is doing slightly better so I have a sitter that is coming in from late afternoon to early morning, allowing me to come home and rest, and have a little normalcy back!

So for Friday Funny today, I lifted this photo from Facebook.

On my book blog this week is an awesome promotional contest from Susan May Warren.
Check it out here:

I'm also giving away my review copy of the book here.

Wishing each of you a very blessed weekend!

Giveaway ~ Heiress by Susan May Warren

I'm giving away my review copy of Heiress. You can read the review in my previous post.

You must be a GFC follower of my blog.  I have an opportunity to offer some books for giveaways through a publisher but my "following" needs to be higher.

Leave a comment on this post!!! US Only! Winner will be drawn on Oct. 3rd.


Don't forget to enter to Win an opulent Gilded Age Prize Pack fit for an Heiress from Susan May Warren!

Click the link below. I am NOT sponsoring this one :) (only the review copy above ^)

Enter 9/22-10/5!

Heiress by Susan May Warren


Author Bio

Susan May Warren is an award-winning, best-selling novelist of over twenty-six novels, many of which have won the Inspirational Readers Choice Award, the ACFW Book of the Year award, the Rita Award, and have been Christy finalists.

After serving as a missionary for eight years in Russia, she returned home to a small town on Minnesota’s beautiful Lake Superior shore where she, her four children, and her husband are active in their local church.

You can find her online at:


Book Blurb

They can buy anything they want—fame, power, beauty, even loyalty.

But they can’t buy love.

The beautiful and wealthy heiress daughters of August Price can buy everything their hearts desire. But what if their    desire is to be loved, without an enormous price tag attached? When one sister betrays another for the sake of love, will    she find happiness? And what happens when the other sets out across the still untamed frontier to find it—will she  discover she’s left it behind in the glamorous world of the New York gilded society? What price will each woman pay for  being an heiress?

Set in the opulent world of the Gilded Age, two women discover that being an heiress just might cost them everything  they love.



My Thoughts

I confess. I love book covers. This one is stunning!

I've read many of Susan's books but until I read Heiress I had no idea she could take me in two different directions so skillfully. Most times, when reading a book, you get one heroine in one locale, but in Heiress you get two heroines in two locales, and it is NEVER confusing!

Esme & Jinx are quite the sisters. Fiercely independent, Esme wishes to marry for love. Traditional to the core, Jinx wishes to marry for socially acceptable reasons thinking she will be loved. These poor girls. I felt so sorry for them. At times, the pressure to be the perfect daughter seemed so overwhelming, and it certainly shaped how they felt towards one another and others. Obviously, the times were different and daughters had tremendous obligations to their families to marry well, often times "saving" the family from ruin. But I must say, with as many books as I've read set from the Regency to Gilded Era, this one makes me glad I wasn't living in those times. Nope. No thank you.

Susan is a master at portraying the opulence and grandeur. I could see the gorgeous ball gowns, sparkling dog collars, and those handsome men in their fancy waistcoats. She's also a master at portraying the deceit, jealousy, and manipulation that took place behind closed doors. Whew! I'll stick to reading books.

Not a spoiler but if you're squeamish about infidelity and abuse, I wouldn't recommend this one.  It's not graphic but the subjects are covered.

Thank you to the publisher and Litfuse for my review copy. This is my honest opinion.


Win an opulent Gilded Age Prize Pack fit for an Heiress from Susan May Warren!

Susan May Warren is thrilled to announce the release of her latest historical book, Heiress!

Find out what the reviewers are saying here!

Heiress, a richly complex historical romance, is the first in Susan's three book Daughters of Fortune  series. In honor of Heiress’ debut, Susan is hosting a FABULOUS Gilded Age Giveaway and giving away  an opulent prize pack fit for an heiress!



One grand prize winner will receive:


  • A $100 gift certificate to

  • A sleek silver iPod™ Shuffle

  • A beautiful strand of Pearls

  • Titanic DVD

  • Speakeasy Compilation Music CD from Starbucks™

  • Heiress by Susan May Warren

Click one of the icons below to enter. But do so soon - this giveaway ends 10/5/11. The winner will be announced Thursday, October 6 on Susan’s blog.

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter


Thursday, September 22, 2011

On hold...

for this week. Blogging will be put on hold because my oldest daughter, who is mentally and physically disabled, is in the hospital...again.. Even though I take my laptop with me she requires a lot of soothing and I can only check mail & update family/friends on Facebook when she is actually snoozing. Thanks to everyone for understanding because I know you do :)

Here's a picture of my Amy girl...she's a sweetheart!

She looks little but she is 27 and the most precious gift!

I'll  just say that she is medically fragile now and it only took a mild virus to significantly jeopardize her health.

Prayers are appreciated.

Have a great day in the Lord!

On hold...

for this week. Blogging will be put on hold because my oldest daughter, who is mentally and physically disabled, is in the hospital...again.. Even though I take my laptop with me she requires a lot of soothing and I can only check mail & update family/friends on Facebook when she is actually snoozing. Thanks to everyone for understanding because I know you do :)

Here's a picture of my Amy girl...she's a sweetheart!

She looks little but she is 27 and the most precious gift!

I'll  just say that she is medically fragile now and it only took a mild virus to significantly       jeopardize her health.

Prayers are appreciated.

Have a great day in the Lord!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Megan's Secrets by Mike Cope

This is such a great book that I had to cross post my review of it here. If you, or someone you know, is raising or has raised, a mentally disabled child, you need to get this book!

My Review
First off, let me say I wish I had an extra copy to give away. It's that good! 

As the parent of a mentally and physically disabled daughter I could relate on so many levels to what Mike shares in his book. Having lived through numerous spiritual and emotional ups and downs in the last 28 yrs I can say that it is absolutely 100% true that a child like Megan, or our Amy, shows you what love, patience, goodness and gentleness are all about.
Mike so adequately expresses what our family has felt and shared with others. I love how he affirms for us that life with a mentally disabled child is not bad or horrible or impossible, just different. His sharing of intimate feelings is poignant and beautifully interlaced with humor because that is what you have to do. See the beauty and the humor in every day moments with these wonderfully God-molded children.
I highly recommend this to anyone whether you are the parent of, family member of, or friend of someone raising or who has raised a mentally disabled child. You cannot help but see a small glimpse into what life is like for us and praise God for the privilege and honor of any time spent with our children. It would make a lovely gift to encourage a family, as well. I know I was renewed and encouraged to stand firm, trusting God in all things.
Well done, Mike and family!

Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy. I was not required to write a positive review. Opinions are my own.
To purchase:


Please visit Stuff & Nonsense II, to see the complete post with author bio, etc.

Have a great day in the Lord!

Megan's Secrets ~ Review & FIRST Wild Card Tour

My Review

First off, let me say I wish I had an extra copy to give away. It's that good!

As the parent of a mentally and physically disabled daughter I could relate on so many levels to what Mike shares in his book. Having lived through numerous spiritual and emotional ups and downs in the last 28 yrs I can say that it is absolutely 100% true that a child like Megan, or our Amy, shows you what love, patience, goodness and gentleness are all about.

Mike so adequately expresses what our family has felt and shared with others. I love how he affirms for us that life with a mentally disabled child is not bad or horrible or impossible, just different. His sharing of intimate feelings is poignant and beautifully interlaced with humor because that is what you have to do. See the beauty and the humor in every day moments with these wonderfully God-molded children.

I highly recommend this to anyone whether you are the parent of, family member of, or friend of someone raising or who has raised a mentally disabled child. You cannot help but see a small glimpse into what life is like for us and praise God for the privilege and honor of any time spent with our children. It would make a lovely gift to encourage a family, as well. I know I was renewed and encouraged to stand firm, trusting God in all things.

Well done, Mike and family!

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:



and the book:


Megan's Secrets: What My Mentally Disabled Daughter

Taught Me about Life

Leafwood Publishers (June 14, 2011)

***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

Mike Cope is an author, blogger, professor, minister and magazine editor. He has written four books, including What Would Jesus Do Today? and One Holy Hunger. He was a minister for many years at the Highland Church in Abilene and now works with Heartbeat Ministries. He and his wife, Diane, live in Abilene, Texas, and have two surviving children: Matt, a resident in internal medicine at Duke University, and Chris, a junior in high school.

Mike Cope’s best teacher was his mentally disabled daughter—Megan. In her ten years of life, she taught her father secrets more profound than anything he’d learned in college or seminary. In his moving remembrance, Megan’s Secrets: What My Mentally Disabled Daughter Taught Me about Life, Cope shares those secrets in a way that will make readers laugh, cry and find new hope.
Megan was a beautiful pint-sized girl whose only spoken words were “I’m Megan!” Although a child of few words, the best scholars in the world could not teach what she did in her brief life. Her life exposed some of the insanities of the world and revealed some life-giving secrets such as:

We are often fascinated with things that are impressive from the outside but which may not be that important to God.
What really matters has to do with the heart: keeping promises, seeking justice in a brutal world, learning to see those in greatest need and living with courage, joy and unconditional love.
God uses our brokenness to His glory.

This unique inspirational book wraps these secrets and more into stories that will restore hope to those grieving. All readers who long to see modern-day examples of the “little ones” Jesus held on his lap and loved will be inspired and moved to exult in God’s incredible wisdom. What Mike discovers is that life with Megan, who slept only three hours a night, was exhausting, challenging, and even disappointing but also filled with joy and truths.

Max Lucado, best-selling author and minister, says, “The world would look at Megan Cope and her brief little life and see limitations. Imperfections. Inabilities. Her dad, just like her heavenly Father, saw something else entirely. Joy. Big heart. Love. Wisdom. Raising a disabled daughter, and then saying goodbye after a brief ten years of life, Mike knows the struggles, triumphs, pain, everyday miracles. . . and the secrets. Secrets God shares with those who care for the least among us. In Megan’s Secrets, my friend Mike shares the wisdom he learned from loving Megan.”


Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Leafwood Publishers (June 14, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0891122869
ISBN-13: 978-0891122869


Looking for a Few Good Eggs

I gave this mite a gift I denied to all of you—eternal innocence. . . . She will never offend me, as all of you have done. She will never pervert or destroy the works of my Father’s hands. She is necessary to you. She will evoke the kindness that will keep you human. . . This little one is my sign to you. Treasure her!

MR. ATHA (the returned Christ) speaking of a child with Down Syndrome in Morris West’s The Clowns of God
A while back, I read an essay in Atlantic Monthly by Jessica Cohen, a Yale University student. She told about spotting a classified ad in the Yale Daily News: EGG DONOR NEEDED.
The couple placing the ad was looking for an egg from just the right donor, and they were willing to pay big bucks, to the tune of twenty-five thousand dollars. She learned that they wanted an Ivy League university student who was over 5 feet 5 inches tall, of Jewish heritage, athletic, and attractive and who had a minimum combined SAT score of 1500.

Being a bit short on cash, Cohen thought she might follow the lead. Cohen began corresponding with the anonymous couple. And as she did, she was introduced to a whole world of online ads by such desperate couples. She found one website with five hundred classifieds posted. An eBay for genetic material, she thought. Plus, there were ads like the following from young women wanting to sell their eggs:

Hi! My name is Kimberly. I am 24 years old, 5’11” withblonde hair and green eyes. I previously donated eggs and the couple was blessed with BIG twin boys! The doctor told me I have perky ovaries! . . . The doctor told me I had the most perfect eggs he had ever seen.

Cohen’s e-mails with the husband were strange. He and his wife were concerned about her scores in science and math. Then she sent a few pictures they had requested. The husband responded: “I showed the pictures to [my wife] this a.m. Personally, I think you look great. She said ho-hum.”After that, Cohen’s correspondence with the couple abruptly ended.

What kind of bizarre world is this? Our culture is fascinated with the “accidents” of birth: looks, athletic ability, and IQ. What if volcanic ash suddenly covered the United States, and it wasn’t until centuries later that archaeologists dug down to uncover our civilization, but the only written material they could locate were magazines from the checkout counters of grocery stores? What would those archaeologists assume about us? Maybe that we were the most shallow group of people ever?

This world of genetic engineering would favor my sons. But who—in our success-driven world—would want my daughter’s genetic makeup? She was, after all, mentally disabled. She would never take the SAT test, she wasn’t headed toward an Ivy League school, and chances were really good she wasn’t going to be over 5’5”! She couldn’t produce anything, had no fame to be proud of, and couldn’t brag of any trophies. We have classes in schools for “gifted and talented” students. By that standard, my daughter wasn’t very successful. And yet she was the most radical witness to the love of God I’ve ever met. She changed our world. I wonder: What if our society awarded friendliness, forgiveness, endurance, joyfulness, and unconditional love?

Megan was a quiet, loving witness to the gospel. She was an incarnation of God’s love. She received whatever gifts of service we offered to her without expecting more. She embodied the truth of 2 Corinthians 4:7: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”

Let the world search for “the perfect egg.” But our eyes have been opened by the breaking through of the kingdom in Jesus Christ. We’ve heard him say, “God bless you—you who are poor in spirit. God bless you—you who mourn. And God bless you—you who are meek.”

One of Megan’s much older friends was inspired by her life and wrote the following about her:

Megan proclaimed her message in her life. She was a walking icon of Christ’s admonition to take no thought for tomorrow, but simply, in faith, to let each day unfold on its own. I doubt it ever occurred to Megan to make long-range plans or to fear what the next five minutes might bring. Megan, like the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, trusted in the Creator, through his human agents, to supply whatever requirements she might have. She knew no other way to live. And in that respect, she sits in judgment on us all, and leads us toward a more primitive and perfect trust.

So many people were drawn to Megan. I think many college students in particular were drawn to her because they were being constantly bombarded everywhere else with messages about who they were supposed to be in order to be successful in this life. And the powerful reminder they always received from being with Megan was that success has more to do with internal qualities of the heart than with external circumstances and accidents of birth.

A society reveals a lot about itself by what it esteems and rewards. Apparently, we tend to value accidents of birth that we chisel and hone into perfection, then put on display—and even then we airbrush out the imperfections: how you look in a swimsuit, what you score on your SAT, how fast you can run a forty-yard dash.

No wonder so many people end up feeling bad about themselves. Some express this in self-loathing, others in arrogance. We watch anorexic models on television who’ve had surgical assistance with their shape, and we start feeling bad about ourselves. We often feel we’re too short, too tall, too wide, too skinny, hips too big, hips too small, curve too much, don’t curve enough. No wonder plastic surgery is such a booming business. Convince enough people that they are a mess as they are now, and you have an endless supply of business.

Megan had a way of exposing the insanity of all this craziness. As my friend Thom Lemmons said:

Megan was a flesh-and-blood display of the topsyturvy economy of the kingdom of heaven. She was one of the least of us, yet she occupied the apex of our care, absorbing all the loving service we could offer, and able to absorb still more. Without any thank you, without any false reticence, without even seeming to notice, she took all that we could give her, and still we were left with the sense
that it was not enough. And yet, to anyone who held her down for a breathing treatment, or marched with her through the church
parking lot, singing, “I’m in the Lord’s army. Yes, sir!” or changed her soiled undergarments, or tried in vain to rescue some semi-edible artifact from her unbelievably quick hands, or held her as she gasped for breath—to anyone who ever poured a minute’s worth of love down the bottomless pit that was Megan, the blessing that followed beggared any other reward. Megan taught us all the difference in value between receiving and giving. We only wished we could have done more: there was no question of doing less. And all the while, we were the ones being made over—by her innocent carelessness and her shattering need—into a closer imitation of the One who poured out his life as a ransom for many.

One day, Thom and Cheryl Lemmons were taking care of Megan at a time when she needed oxygen to survive. Thom describes how he thought he’d figured out a secret to Megan’s care.

The trick was to keep Megan within a short enough radius of her oxygen tank to permit the tubes to stay in her nostrils and simultaneously remain connected to the hose. She was also prone to seizures then, but I didn’t know that. At one point, I remember having her in my lap on the floor of the living room, and I may have even been singing to her. For a few moments, the ceaseless thrashing stopped, the grasping fingers were still, and she stared up into my face with what appeared to me as a beatific half smile.
Then, after a minute or two, we resumed the Greco-Roman wrestling match. “What a wonderful, peaceful, very brief interlude,” I thought, as I put her oxygen tubes back in place for the 5,357th time, “no doubt, made possible by my instinctive gentleness and boundless patience. Surely, even Megan is not immune to my gifts.” Later, over lunch, I was relating to the Copes and Cheryl my moment of epiphany with Megan, there on the living room floor. Diane got a slightly embarrassed look as I described the scene. Cheryl leaned over to me and whispered, “Thom, she wasn’t listening to you sing; shewas having a seizure.”

Classic Megan: if ever your sense of “Christian duty” became self-congratulatory or the least bit inflated by a sense of its own worth, Megan would simply leave you holding the punctured bag, and allow you to deal with your own deflated ego. Megan, how could we ever repay all that you taught us?

Megan’s simple-yet-profound life reminded us that God is a heart specialist who looks deeper than accidents of birth.

On the day she died, Diane and I were leaning over her praying for her, telling her we loved her, and assuring her it was all right to go. We almost forgot that anyone else was in the room. But the moment she took her last breath in the pediatric intensive care unit, my mother stood up from her chair behind us and began singing Megan’s favorite song:

I may never march in the infantry,

ride in the cavalry,

shoot the artillery.

I may never fly o’er the enemy,

but I’m in the Lord’s army.

Later it hit me: Megan had been preparing us her whole life with her simple little song. It’s like she’d been telling us that there were many things she’d never do, but we shouldn’t worry, because she’s in the Lord’s army. There’s a little grave just outside Abilene that bears her name, the dates of her abbreviated life, and then the words “I’m in the Lord’s army.”

This tiny minister taught me more than I learned in ninety hours of graduate school. She taught me that God will use my brokenness to his glory. She reminded me that the power is God’s, not mine. She made me remember we are often fascinated with things that are impressive from the outside but which may not be that important to God. She taught me that what really matters has to do with the heart: keeping promises, seeking justice in a brutal world, learning to see those in greatest need, and living with courage, joy, and unconditional love.

Now, years later, my diminutive instructor-daughter is still guiding me.


Saturday, September 17, 2011


~ Congratulations ~

Sarah won Missing in Mexico!

Michelle won Pirate of my Heart!

Thanks to all who came by and commented :)



Tuesday, September 13, 2011

New children's book series by Sheila Walsh

Isn't this just precious for that special little girl in your life?!

Gabby, God's Little Angel (Hardcover, Thomas Nelson, September 20, 2011, ISBN: 1400317150, $14.99) tells the story of Gabby, a guardian angel in training, sent to protect a precocious little girl named Sophie.

Written as a story to be read aloud, Gabby, God's Little Angel provides lessons about God's ever-presence and love. The first in this new Gabby series engages little girls with stories of Sophie's antics and the lengths to which Gabby goes to keep her safe, demonstrating Psalm 91:11: "He will put his angels in charge of you. They will watch over you wherever you go."

There is a lot of interest in angels in our culture, but so much of it is based on fairy tales and not the truth of God's Word. In Matthew, Jesus draws a child to his side and says, "See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven." (18:10)Walsh is moved by God's passion for children and wanted to show how angels can affect their lives every day. Walsh says, "We live in a crazy world, but we serve a God who loves us and our children with a relentless passion. What a gift to let our children know that they are never alone, that they are always loved. That is a story worth telling!"

Gigi fans will fall in love with Gabby and learn about God's love and provision and a little about His invisible creation, the angels.


Monday, September 12, 2011

WINNER of Ransome's Quest is...

~ Christy ~




An email is on it's way.

Thanks to all who participated. Stay tuned for more giveaways.

Review ~ The First Gardner by Denise Hildreth Jones

About the Book

Jeremiah Williams has been tending the gardens of the Tennessee governor’s mansion for over twenty-five years. And like most first families who have come and gone, this one has stolen his heart.

Mackenzie and her husband, Governor Gray London, have struggled for ten years to have a child and are now enjoying a sweet season of life—anticipating the coming reelection and sending their precious daughter, Maddie, off to kindergarten—when a tragedy tears their world apart. As the entire state mourns, Mackenzie falls into a grief that threatens to swallow her whole.

Though his heart is also broken, Jeremiah realizes that his gift of gardening is about far more than pulling weeds and planting flowers. It’s about tending hearts as well. As he uses the tools that have been placed in his hands, he gently begins to cultivate the hard soil of Mackenzie’s heart, hoping to help her realize what it took him years to discover.

A Southern tale of loss, love, and living, The First Gardner reminds us that all of life is a gift, but our heart is the most valuable gift of all.

About the Author

Denise Hildreth’s novels have moved her readers to tears and laughter as they stay up all night just to finish the last page. “I’m just a southern girl from South Carolina who knows crazy people, the south, and rigged beauty pageants. So, I thought I’d write a book about them. I didn’t even know I could write fiction. Come to find out people have fallen in love with that crazy Savannah from Savannah and I’ve fallen in love with telling stories.”

Denise has found a passion for people who are hurting. “I know what it is to hurt. I’ve walked through some of life’s darkest storms, but God has been such a faithful companion. I have one desire, to walk with people as they are set free from their condition and learn to walk in their position.” Denise’s powerful teaching leaves the hearts of the listeners challenged and changed.

Her books have the same impact. Though her books have received awards and accolades, the letters Denise receives from readers mean the most to her. “I know that I am doing what I was created to do when I get that letter that says, ‘After reading your book, Flies on the Butter, I knew I had to make things right with my mother.’ Everyday I thank the Lord that I am able to do what I love. I don’t take one day for granted. Nor do I take the hearts of people for granted.”

To learn more about Denise and her ministry go to her website, Denise Hildreth Jones.

My Review

Not having read any books written by Denise, I had no idea what to expect. I'm not a big fan of contemporary fiction but being a southerner, the setting and the cover enticed me to choose this book. I am so glad!!!
With a myriad of characters, this is one emotional roller coaster ride. From a child's giddy laughter to a gardner's silent prayers you will be taken to depths and heights you cannot imagine in this jewel of a book!

I must admit when I began reading I realized fairly quickly what was going to happen. That being said, it took awhile for events to unfold and in that time my anger began to build toward Mackenzie. I thought she was too indulgent and that was going to be trouble. Basically, I was blaming her ahead of time for what I knew was going to happen. Yep. It did. Can you tell I'm involved in this book yet?!

What I ignored, in my humanity, is that God is the One in control! There is nothing we can do to thwart God's plan but when tragedy strikes we must not play the blame game (even toward ourselves) because there is no one to blame. God holds all things in His capable hands and He is the One we must lean on in our darkest hour!

Of course Mackenzie's husband, the governor, and her mom play important rolls in the book but Jeremiah, The First Gardner, is the one I fell in love with. He's an old man with a heart of gold! I only wish I had a tenth of the servant heart and green thumb that he does. His quiet strength, unwavering love and wisdom are treasures that make this book shine. Oh, that we all could have a Jeremiah in our lives!

Bravo Denise!!! I highly recommend this book to everyone! It is a must read from this reviewers point of view whether you like contemporary fiction or not. You won't be disappointed. You might laugh, and cry, and get mad but you'll come out the better for it! I fully intend on reading it again. The only thing that could have possibly made it better is if those lovely orchids on the cover had been embossed :)

I want to thank Tyndale House Publishers for providing me with this book for review purposes. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are my own.

Sorry, y'all! This one is too good to give away but you can purchase your own copy from any of the following:


Review ~ Right from the Heart ~ A 365 Devotional

This is a beautiful book! From the embossed cover in a deep blue and gold to the Word of God chosen to grace each lovely designed page, beauty resides within. I'm a visual person so when I first received the book I was delighted at how much it appealed to my senses. It reminds me of books that might have been published long ago and would become treasured companions.

I love how the author has taken specific Scriptures then uses a practical example followed by application to give me encouragement in my daily walk with God. Even though it is laid out as a January through December 365 day devotional, you can begin at any point to use this in addition to your daily Bible study/reading time.

I was provided this book by Booksneeze for review purposes. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are my own.

To Purchase:



I review for BookSneeze®

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Giveaway & Review of Pirate of My Heart by Jamie Carie

Sorry about not getting this post up yesterday but I was busy with birthday celebrations :) I wasn't originally planning on giving away my review copy but I ended up winning an autographed copy of the book from Jamie's blog so y'all get to benefit from my win!

My Review:

I thoroughly enjoyed this lively story about Kendra and Dorian. There's plenty of witty dialogue and tension between them. The pace never lags. Around every corner you can find something to keep you turning pages. Action, adventure, betrayal, and most of all romance!

Kendra is adorable! She's a very committed Christian and even through the most daunting of circumstances continually prays and seeks God's will for her life. She's also got a hat fetish so watch out! You might find yourself wanting to go out and buy a flamboyant hat :)

Dorian has faced disappointment and betrayal in relationships and is understandably leery of becoming involved with another woman but he is drawn to Kendra like a moth to a flame, or maybe he likes her hats ;)

Together they wade through misunderstandings, adversity and deceit but gain trust and love in each other. They really are an irresistible couple. I recommend this book to any fan of Jamie's and historical fiction lovers. She has a distinctive writing style that will keep you coming back, book after book!

Special thanks to Julie Gwinn, B&H Publishing Group, A Division of LifeWay Christian Resources for sending  me a review copy. I was not required to write a positive review. This opinion is my own.

Leave a comment telling me your favorite Jamie Carie book. Ends Sept 15th at midnight. I'll draw a winner on Sept. 16th. US Only!!!

FYI: Jamie has a live action book trailer for her next book coming out in March 2012! Check it out here. It ROCKS!!!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Saturday Sillies!


I was way too busy to post Friday Funnies since I had a mix-up occur.

Some of you may have gotten a notice saying there was a post. If you came to look at it, it had disappeared off the blog because I had made a mistake.


Confusing is all I can say but that seems to be the state of my mind recently *big eye roll*.

So here I go, trying again :)

I saw this article quoted over at Lynn Dove's Journey Thoughts this week and got a good laugh out if it! She graciously said I could share it with y'all so I hope you'll stop by her blog and check out her complete post. While you're there take a look around. She has a terrific blog and is one of my favorite places to visit for encouragement!

I have just been through the annual pilgrimage of torture and humiliation known as buying a bathing costume. When I was a child, the bathing costume for a woman with a mature figure was designed for a woman with a mature figure – boned, trussed and reinforced, not so much sewn as engineered. They were built to hold back and uplift, and they did a good job.

Today’s stretch fabrics are designed for the prepubescent girl with a figure chipped from marble. The mature woman has a choice – she can either front up at the maternity department and try on a floral costume with a skirt, coming away looking like a hippopotamus who escaped from Disney’s Fantasia- or she can wander around every run-of –the mill department store trying to make a sensible choice from what amounts to a designer display of fluorescent rubber bands.

What choice did I have? I wandered around, made my sensible choice and entered the chamber of horrors known as the fitting room. The first thing I noticed was the extraordinary tensile strength of the stretch material. The Lycra used in bathing costumes was developed, I believe, by NASA to launch small rockets from a slingshot, which give the added bonus that if you manage to actually lever yourself into one, you are protected from shark attacks. The reason for this is that any shark taking a swipe at your passing midriff would immediately suffer whiplash.

I fought my way into the bathing suit, but as I twanged the shoulder strap in place, I gasped in horror – my bosom had disappeared! Eventually I found one bosom cowering under my left armpit. It took a while to find the other. At last, I located it flattened beside my seventh rib.

The problem is that modern bathing suits have no bra cups. The mature woman is meant to wear her bosom spread across her chest like a speed bump. I realigned by speed bump and lurched toward the mirror to take a full-view assessment. The bathing suit fit all right, but unfortunately, it only fit those bits of me willing to stay inside it. The rest of me oozed out rebelliously from top, bottom, and sides. I looked like a lump of play-dough wearing undersized cling wrap.

As I tried to work out where all those extra bits had come from the prepubescent sales girl popped her head through the curtains, “Oh, there you are!” she said, admiring the bathing suit. I replied, “Yeah, that’s me all over!” and asked what else she had to show me. I tried on a cream crinkled one that made me look like a lump of masking tape, and a floral piece which gave the appearance of an oversized napkin in a serviette ring. I struggled into a pair of leopard skin bathers with ragged frill and came out looking like Tarzan’s Jane – pregnant with triplets and having a rough day. I tried on a black number with a midriff and looked like a jellyfish in mourning. I tried on a bright pink high-cut leg one and I thought I would have to wax my eyebrows to wear it.

Finally I found a costume that fit…a two-piece affair with shorts-style bottom and a halter top. It was cheap, comfortable, and bulge-friendly. So, I bought it. When I got home, I read the label which said, “Material may become transparent in water.” I’m determined to wear it anyway. I’ll just have to learn to do the breaststroke in the sand.”

You laugh because you have been there just like me or you have a really good imagination! 

Have a great day in the Lord!

Digital Scrapbooking GIVEAWAY!!!

Mama Java is giving away a digital scrapbooking program from My Memories. 

Just click the banner above to head on over there and get in on the drawing!

Giveaway & Interview @ Stuff & Nonsense II

Novelist and travel expert Stuart Gustafson is talking about his writing journey today over @ Stuff & Nonsense II and has generously offered a copy of his debut novel, Missing in Mexico, to a commenter. Click the link below to learn more about Stuart and enter to win!

Stuff & Nonsense II

Pirate of My Heart by Jamie Carie ~ FIRST Wild Card Tour

My review of this fantastic book will be up tomorrow, Sept 10th, (which just so happens to be my last 40th-something birthday ;)) and I'll be doing a giveaway as well!

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!




Today's Wild Card author is:

Jamie Carie

and the book:

Pirate of My Heart

B&H Books (September 1, 2011)

***Special thanks to Julie Gwinn, B&H Publishing Group, A Division of LifeWay Christian Resources for sending me a review copy.***

Jamie Carie is the author of Snow Angel, a ForeWord magazine Romance Book of the Year winner, USA Book News National “Best Books 2007” Awards winner, and 2008 RITA Awards® Best First Book finalist. Her third novel, Wind Dancer, was a 2010 Indiana State Library Best Books of Indiana finalist. She lives with her husband and three children in Indianapolis.

Visit the author's website.

When her doting father dies, Lady Kendra Townsend is given a choice: marry the horrid man of her cold, money-grubbing uncle's choosing or leave England to risk a new life in America with unknown relatives. Armed with the faith that God has a plan for her, Kendra boards a cargo ship and meets American sea captain Dorian Colburn. But the captain has been wounded by a woman before and guards his independent life. A swashbuckling man doesn't need an English heiress to make him slow down, feel again, or be challenged with questions about his faith-or so he thinks. It is not until Dorian must save Kendra from the dark forces surrounding her that he decides she may be worth the risk.


Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: B&H Books (September 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0805448152
ISBN-13: 978-0805448153




Arundel, England 1777

The grey clouds of dawn shivered against the paned glass of the castle, shrouding the three figures at the side of the four-poster bed in an eerie light. The raging storm of the night before had settled into a dreary misting rain though an occasional jagged flash of lightning flaunted its power, not yet ready to relinquish its right to ravish the leaden sky. Dim light clung to the faces of those inside the bedchamber where the very walls seemed to echo the anguish felt inside the room.

All that could be heard in the chamber was the shallow, labored breathing of the one abed. A frail creature, now, pale and lifeless after the travails of childbirth. The others included the old family doctor, Radley, who hovered beside his patient and friend of many years with a strained look in his eyes. Hovering in the shadows was Bridget, the lady's long-standing nurse and companion. But their suffering was not to be compared to the tall, handsome gentleman who knelt at the woman's bedside, her hand clasped in his; a haunted look in his eyes that attested to the fact that he too feared the end was near for his beloved.

He gazed down at the limp form of his wife. She lay so still, so pale, sunk into the feather mattress as if she'd become a part of it. In a matter of hours she'd become a shallow breathing shell of the bright and glorious women she had once been. How was he to live without her? His heart spasmed with the thought.

He held his breath as her thin, white eyelids opened to reveal pain-racked eyes the color of bluebells. She exerted a small strength in squeezing his hand while a serene smile played at her lips. Her voice was a weak whisper. "I will not be leaving you forever, my darling. Our daughter will grow strong and always be a symbol of the love we shared."

"No." Edward groaned in anguish, his head falling forward, his hand clasping tight as if to force his strength into her. "I will not let you go."

"Love her, Edward, love her with all that you are." Lady Eileen closed her eyes seeming to gather what little strength she had to continue speaking. A small, whimpering sound came from the shadows of the room where Bridget held the newborn babe to her bosom. Lady Eileen opened her eyes at the sound. "Please, let me hold my sweet child."

The nurse skirted around the bed with the tiny bundle, her eyes bright with tears. "She's the mos' beautiful of babes, my lady, truly she is." She laid the wee babe in her mother's fragile arms.

His wife stared down at their daughter and then looked up at him. Her voice became fierce but still so quiet Edward had to lean in to catch the words. "This one has a special purpose in life and I expect you all to care for her as I would have."

Edward could only nod, mute and staring, aching with grief.

"I have one more request to ask of you, my love." Her breath rasped in and out causing the panic in Edward's stomach to claw into his chest like a nightmare's hand, but he nodded for her to continue and clung to her hand.

"My greatest joy in life has been you. I want her to find love, someone to share her life with who is as kind, as loving and wonderful as I have had in you." She rested a moment before continuing. "Let her choose, Edward, do not make a match for her. I know it is right." She gasped for a final breath. "I've made provision. In my will . . . no entailments, Edward. Give her the dragonfly brooch as a promise from me that I will be looking down from heaven to keep her safe."

"Of course, my darling, anything you ask I will do."

A small smile touched Eileen's lips as she gazed at their beautiful child for the last time. With a single tear sliding down her cheek she kissed the light fuzz on the child's head. "I love you." She breathed the words with her last breath, barely audible, and then she went still.

Edward collapsed over her limp hand still clutched in his strong one. "No," he cried with ragged breath. He brought the hand to his check, soaking it with his tears, willing her to come back to him.

Arundel, England - 1796

Kendra stopped halfway down the path that led to the stables, happiness lifting her heart at the autumn scene. The leaves had turned into a crimson, sunny yellow and carroty riot of color, as if a magician had waved a wand during the night and created a new world. She stepped across the lawn, feeling the kind of happiness that burst against the walls of her chest, stopping long enough to turn in slow circles so to watch the waving leaf show. She closed her eyes, still slowly twirling and smiled up toward heaven, humming a simple song of praise to God. The notes of her song danced around her and made a happy knot form in her throat. There was nothing she loved more than singing praises to God. Her father had instilled his love for God in her since she was a child - always making sure they had a curate in the village residence for weekly services at St. Nicholas Parish Church, praying with her each night before bedtime and teaching her scriptures and hymns. Most of all, he’d been an example of someone who was temperate, kind and patient. They had memorized the scripture about the fruits of the Spirit - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control - and often reminded each other of the one they should practice when the occasion called for it. She wished so much to be like him but sometimes her best intentions went awry and she fell short, far short of her father’s shining example.

The sound of wheels crunching over dead leaves gave her pause. She stopped, turned toward the horse-shoe drive at the front of the castle and saw a shiny black post-chaise carriage. Who could it be? They had not seen visitors in so long. Kendra hurried toward the entrance to meet their guest, then came to an abrupt stop and clasped her hands in front of her dress. She held her breath as a tall, handsome man sprang from the carriage. He was dressed in a waist-coat of navy wool with an intricately knotted necktie at his throat, cream colored breeches and matching hose. She lifted her gaze to his face. Her jaw dropped with surprise. The face staring back at her looked like the one in her bedchamber mirror each morning . . . except for the color of his eyes.
Andrew Townsend matched his nieces startling gape as he found himself looking into the younger, female version of himself. Surely this was not Edward's daughter! She could have been his own child. Recovering from his shock with more effort than he'd exerted in months, Andrew questioned the young lady. "And who might this lovely creature be? A relative of mine, perhaps?"

She curtsied and smiled up at him. "I'm Kendra Townsend sir, and who might you be?" Her smile was soft and contagious, so irresistible that Andrew found himself thawing in her presence.

"I am Andrew Townsend, your uncle, my dear." He held out his hand in greeting. "I am most pleased to finally meet you. It seems we bear a striking resemblance to one another."

"You're very handsome." She stated with bold faced honesty.

Andrew let out a bark of laughter. "Well. Thank you, I'm sure. Now, would you be so kind as to show me to your father? I have some business to conduct with him."

"Of course, sir." Kendra replied as she reached for his arm. "Your papa's brother, his twin, aren't you?" Her eyes lit up as she led him through the front door, past their astonished looking butler, and down the wide corridor, the elegant carpet making silence of their footsteps. Just as well, the surprise element couldn't hurt to gage how his dear brother was going to react to his request. “Father will be in his study with his solicitor this time of day.” At her knock they heard a preoccupied "come in."

The Earl of Arundel sat behind an ancient desk with stacks of documents in front of him. Facing him was Mr. Walcott, the trusted family solicitor. As they walked into the study, Edward's face lit up with joy. Then, as he looked beyond her, his eyes widened and his mouth dropped open.


Andrew put on his best smile and chuckled, walking forward toward his brother. He needed Ed to accept him back into the family fold and that might require some persuasion. "Great heavens, man, is it really you?" Edward came from behind the desk and greeted him with a handshake and an awkward hug that turned into a haphazard slapping against his shoulder. "You remember Parker Walcott." He motioned to the man who had risen, eyes round behind his spectacles.

"Yes, of course, how's the family, Parker? Dorothy and the children doing well?" Andrew felt the smooth mask of charm take hold of his being and hoped Parker would take the hint. He looked as if he’d seen a ghost.

"Oh, very good, my lord, yes indeed. And yourself?"

"After meeting my lovely niece here, I couldn't be in better spirits." Andrew replied. "Ed, why have you failed to mention our likeness in your letters? It nearly frightened us both out of our wits when we clapped eyes on one another." The laughter in his voice was real this time.

"It's been so long since I've seen you." Edward hastened to explain. "Until this moment I didn't realize just how much you resemble each other." He glanced from one to the other, astonishment and something disapproving, consternation perhaps in his eyes before continuing. "Your eyes are more blue than her unusual shade of violet, but you’re quite right, you resemble twins more than you and I ever did. It's remarkable, isn't it?"

Edward motioned for Andrew to have a seat. "Please, join us." They both looked up at Kendra to find her staring at Andrew. Andrew winked at her as he plopped down in the chair beside Parker. Edward cleared his throat and frowned at his daughter. "Kendra, go down and have Willabee bring up some refreshments please."

Kendra nodded but clung to Andrew's side before she left. "How long can you stay Uncle Andrew? You should stay at least until the end of the week." Her eyes were bright with excitement.

"And what, pray tell, happens at the end of the week?" Andrew asked with a half grin that he'd been told sent the ladies into a swoon.

"I've persuaded papa to have a garden party." Her eyes slid to her father before she continued. "He hates to entertain you know, but I've been so forlorn for company my own age since my friend, Lucinda, moved away that he's feeling guilty and has agreed. Please say you'll stay. Lady Willowbee's girls will be absolutely speechless for once."

"I seem to recall a Lady Willowbee, lives down the way, only other gentry around here, eh?" At Kendra's nod Andrew chuckled with the memory. "A bit of a sour puss. Are her girls as malicious and back-biting as she and her sisters used to be?"

Kendra put her hand to her mouth in an attempt to suppress a horrified giggle.

"Can't offend them though," Andrew continued with grave mirth, "must do our duty and invite the only other cream de la cream in the area, even though it is soured cream, is that the dilemma you find yourself in, my dear?"

“Papa says I must love them as the Bible says.” Kendra raised her brows in beseeching charm that he recognized as one of his own trademark moves. "But if you were there it would be ever so much easier. They will be nice in hopes of an introduction. Please say you'll stay."

Andrew caught his brother's gaze and asked in a soft voice. "Can you deny her anything?"

Edward looked down and cleared his throat, a red flush filling his cheeks. "Very little, I'm afraid.

Swinging back to Kendra's expectant gaze, Andrew mused. "I will have to give you your answer later, moppet, but I promise I'll try.

That seemed to satisfy her as she gave him a happy nod and turned to leave the men to their business.

"You're going to have a devil of a time fighting off all the suitors at your door, Edward. She's amazing." Andrew remarked as he watched the whirl of Kendra's skirts around the door as she left.

Edward sighed. "I've already had my share of offers, but she's just nineteen. I'm not ready to see her betrothed to anyone yet."

"I can understand why, she brightens up the old place." Pausing, Andrew ran his fingers through his blond hair and added. "I was truly sorry about Eileen, Edward. I would have attended the funeral had I not been out of the county."

"I won't pretend I was anything other than devastated. But time has a way of taking the edge off the grief and Kendra has taken care of the rest. I don't know how I would have gone on if she had died with her mother.”

Andrew didn't know how to respond to his brother's heart-wrenching revelation. Edward had aged in more than the receding hairline and creases around his mouth it would seem. Andrew cleared his throat and looked down at the floor.

Edward leaned across the desk, his hands clasped together. "Enough about me, what have you been doing with yourself these last fifteen years?"

"A little of everything, I dare say. Traveled around a good bit." The rake's smile slide across his lips and he shrugged. "Been enjoying life with good drink, fine horseflesh and beautiful women."

Edward shook his head in an older brotherly way. "I know only too well of your love for the worldly passions. It's a life that will never satisfy you, you know. I have to hear of your exploits every time I'm in London. When will you settle down? Start a family of your own?"

A bark of laughter escaped Andrew's throat. Not here ten minutes and he was already getting the lecture. "Now is not a good time for thinking of that, Ed. I - uh, seem to have gotten myself into a bit of a jam." Glancing at Parker Walcott, Andrew girded up his courage and rushed out the rest before his nerve failed him. "I was hoping to have a word with you, big brother. I have some business I would like to discuss."

Parker rose rather abruptly for one keen to the family's business dealings. Andrew smothered a chuckle as the solicitor beat a hasty path to the door. "I will bid you both good day, my lord. You and your brother have much catching up to do." Andrew suppressed a chuckle as he scurried from the room.

After the door was closed silence descended upon the room. Andrew braced his arms on his legs and pressed his sweaty palms together.

Edward broke the silence with a voice both grave and guarded. "What can I do for you, Andrew?"

Shifting in the chair, Andrew ran a well-manicured hand though his blond hair, took a deep breath and plunged into his story.
It would seem Andrew had heard, through a reputable source, about an investment that was sure to make him a very wealthy man. The Brougham Company had been started to finance several voyages of trade to America with goods the colonist desperately needed. Five great ships had set sail over six months ago to deliver their goods. Andrew had invested all that he had and was given a great deal of credit as he bore the Townsend name.

The first two ships to sail had been attacked by pirates and overtaken. The following ship did not survive a great storm, and of the two that made it to America, one had perishables on it that were ill-packed, causing the contents to spoil, while the other had cheaper goods that even when sold at an exorbitant price did not come close to making up for the expense of the trip. "I've lost everything and my creditors are threatening Newgate Prison if I don't come up with the funds."

Edward listened with sinking despair. It seemed fate would never grant his twin the power he so desperately coveted. "Of course I will help you, Andrew. Have your creditors send me the contracts and I will take care of them." He paused before continuing in a fatherly tone. "I understand you want to handle matters on your own, but please consider consulting me or even Walcott before plunging into a scheme like this in the future." Edward pressed his lips together with that eagle-eyed stare that always made Andrew squirm in his chair. "I could have had the company investigated for you, at the very least."

"Of course." Andrew shook his head, eyes downcast. The act was growing tedious but pressed on. "It's just that I was so excited. I wanted to surprise you and mother with my good fortune. I realize the family thinks me a spoiled dandy so I wanted to do something to make you all proud. Instead I proved what an idiot I am."

"Now don't be too hard on yourself. We've been through worse and we'll come through this together."

"I can't thank you enough, Ed, just the thought of that prison sent me fleeing here on wings. There is just one more thing," Andrew rushed out, fidgeting with his fingers. "I was wondering if the creditors could go through old Parker instead of you. That way it won't become common knowledge that my brother had to pay off my debts. It's a matter of pride you see." He raised his brows and gave Edward a shrug of his shoulders.

"Of course. There's no need for our business to become something for the gossip mills."

Andrew stood up, gave his brother a quick, firm hug, and hurried from the room.
Edward gazed at the closed door, sadness and bewilderment weighing down his shoulders like a heavy blanket. He had not seen his brother for years, and then when he finally did come home, it was only because he was in trouble and needed money. Would they ever be close?

Dear God, help me reach him.

He let his thoughts drift back to their childhood, a good and proper upbringing he had always thought, but not without its animosities. Animosities that led all the way back to their birth.

They had heard the tale countless times. Edward had been the first-born twin, the heir to the earldom, but it had come about by a strange quirk of fate. His mother, who now lived on her own estate miles from Arundel, had pushed for hours with no sign of the babies coming.

The midwife, in an effort to feel the baby's position, placed one hand on the extended abdomen and the other inside the womb. She pulled back in surprise. "Your ladyship, I do believe you are having twins. There's a head and feet near the opening."

His mother gasped and her face whitened. "Twins! I shan't be able to do it."

The contractions continued though, strengthened instead of daunted by the thought of two.

Hours dragged by as they all wondered if Lady Lenora would be able to deliver the babies. In a wondrous moment, a hushed moment between pushes, a tiny foot poked out of the womb. The midwife didn't say anything but knew the importance of the firstborn's place so she tied a scarlet thread around the tiny ankle. Gently slipping the foot back up, she concentrated on delivering the baby in the head-down position. The child seemed ready to cooperate and after several more minutes emerged from the womb.

"A boy, my lady." One of the servants rushed to take the child to clean him before he was presented to his mother. After another hour, Lady Lenora held two healthy sons. She noticed the thread and looked up at the midwife. "But what's this, Ida?"

The midwife told the story of how that child had poked his little foot out first and thought to tie the yarn around his foot in the event that Lord Townsend would regard him the first born.

And he had. Lord Albert Townsend named the babe with the string around his ankle Edward Alexander Townsend, and proclaimed him the rightful heir. Lenora named his twin brother, Andrew Richard Townsend and thought that son cheated.

Edward's knuckles whitened with the memory as he clinched his hands into fists. They'd been so close when they were boys! Inseparable until the day Andrew heard the story of his birth bluntly put by a stable hand. Andrew had changed then, pulling away and becoming distant and ever more brooding. After awhile it seemed they had little in common and less to like about each other. And that wasn't even the worst of it. The resentment his mother held destroyed their marriage. Lenora devoted herself to spoiling her younger son which forced the earl to take Edward's causes.

Edward sighed, his head dropping forward, sadness pulling at his heart. They were so different in every way. Andrew was strikingly handsome with his fair hair and pale blue eyes, so much like their mother. Edward supposed he was the epitome of an Englishman with his dark brown hair, aristocratic nose, and hazel eyes. And that was only their outward differences. Inwardly they couldn't be more distant. He a long-grieving widower and Andrew a financially destitute dandy in dire straits. But he was back.

His brother had come home.

Maybe if he loved him enough, if he showed it and gave him all the attention and praise and . . . well, whatever it was that Andrew needed, maybe he could, uptight Englishman that he was, humble himself and shower his brother with love.

Father, help me love him the way he needs it. Help me show him You.


Giveaway & Interview ~ Missing in Mexico by Stuart Gustafson

Recently I had the opportunity to participate in a series of book tours with a new company called Partners in Crime Tours. Being a suspense enthusiast I happily joined up to tour *Missing in Mexico :) You can read my review here.

It's my pleasure to have Stuart Gustafson, author of Missing in Mexico, on my blog today giving us an inside look at his writing process. Let's get right to the interview!

Welcome Stuart! Glad you could be with us today.

Tell us a little about yourself and your background.

I haven’t always been a writer, even though I did some writing in high school. But off to college, getting a math  degree, writing computer programs, getting an MBA, and finishing a career in high-technology. I was able to  take early retirement in 2007, which is when I got back into writing and being able to travel more for my own  pleasure instead of for work. Wow that was fast.

In addition to writing, I love to travel, and I have the US Registered Trademarked name of America’s  International Travel Expert®. I’ve flown over 1,000,000 paid miles on a single airline (that doesn’t count all  the free trips) to thirty different countries, and it’s the combination of writing and traveling that I’ve brought  together in my debut mystery novel Missing in Mexico. It’s a fictional story set in a beautiful place that I love  to visit every year, San José del Cabo, Mexico.

What do you feel is the most challenging aspect in writing?

I’m sure the answer is different for every writer, but for me it is finding the time to devote to actually sitting down and writing. For example, my next book has been sketched out for over a year. Each chapter summary is there; the full book synopsis is solid; I’ve written about one-third of the book itself. Finding the time to have full concentration where 100% of my attention is on that book and on nothing else is a very rare commodity. Developing the story idea is relatively simple; the execution is the hard part.

Which comes first? The character's story or the idea for the novel?

For me it’s definitely the idea for the novel that comes first. Actually, the VERY first thing is the location. Given that my mystery novels must be set in exciting locations around the world, I have to come up with that first, then I develop a story idea that’s well suited to that location. After all, not all story ideas fit in all locations. For example, a high-speed chase scene that’s supposed to be set in downtown Los Angeles wouldn’t be quite the same if the story’s set in Waco, Texas, instead.

Is there a message in your novel you want readers to grasp?

I wouldn’t necessarily call it a message, but there is an idea that I’m wanting to get across to them. That idea is that Los Cabos, Mexico, is a great place to visit. Some people have asked me about the title of the book, Missing in Mexico, and they’re concerned because of the recent news about missing people or other crimes in Mexico. Here’s what I tell them: this book is a fictional story; I had the title in mind long before there were as many problems being reported; all public records show that Los Cabos is THE SAFEST PLACE to visit in Mexico, and the book has a happy ending.

What books have influenced your life most?

I’m going to avoid the standard response that I typically hear. I tell people that I’m a writer, not a reader, meaning that I don’t read 30 books a year. I’m more of a music person, being brought up on classical music. I have a rather large CD collection, including a boxed set of 171 CD’s of all of the known music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. I have even listed to that complete set in order from CD 1 to CD 171, plus we celebrate his birthday, January 27, in our house by watching the movie Amadeus.

If you could sit down and interview one person, living or dead, who would you choose, and why?

I’d love to interview William F. Buckley, Jr., if no other reason just to hear him speak. His command of the English language was so strong, and yet he did it with such natural ease, that you wonder why everyone can’t speak that way (not “talk” that way; there is a difference).

Which part of researching was the most personally interesting to you? Were there any facts that you would have liked to include, but they just didn't make it into the story?

Given that I really like the Los Cabos area of Mexico (we spend 4 to 6 weeks a year there), I wanted to give as much information about the area as possible. I made two extra 4-week trips to San José del Cabo on my own just to do intense, detailed research for street names, restaurants, shops, etc. There was so much that never even made it into the first draft of the book. I had some experts look at the book and they told me that it was too much like a travelogue (and I’d left a lot out of it). So I cut 12,000 words out of that first draft, and continued to make minor revisions. I had to leave Chapter 16 – The Art District – in the book because it is such a marvelous part of the central part of San José.

Since you travel so much concerning your book(s) is there a favorite place that you would love to go back to but haven’t?

St. Petersburg, Russia. I was there for two days on a cruise seven years ago, and I do want to go back for several reasons. The art and the architecture are marvelous, and my wife wasn’t able to go on that trip, so I know she’d enjoy seeing it. I used to speak Russian, and hearing it again was a delight, and so I’d like to learn enough again to be conversational when I return – that would make it much more enjoyable. I think a river cruise from St. Petersburg to Moscow would be exciting, and it might provide material for a new book. What do you think?

Who is your favorite author, and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

I can think of two in particular: Tom Clancy and John Grisham. My brother was working at the Pentagon and one year for Christmas he sent me a book that was inscribed by the author, “To Stuart Gustafson with Best Wishes, Tom Clancy.” That book is Hunt for Red October. The book was fast-paced, and after reading it, I told my wife, “That would make a good movie.” (You think?) I would then buy his next novels the first day they were available and read them page after page. I liked the character progression and the way several sub-plots were kept moving at the same time. Yes, I still have that autographed copy in my collection.

What I liked about John Grisham’s novels was that he was able to write a story about “the little guy,” set it in a no-name location, and make it the most compelling story you could read. The setting wasn’t critical, although it played into the story, but it could have been set anywhere – small town, large town, any town USA, it didn’t matter. Even though his novels were about the legal system, each one was different, each one was gripping in its own way, and I enjoyed taking each one with me on the plane as I was always traveling from one place to another. But John Grisham was always traveling with me.

Can you give us a sneak peek into what book you are working on right now? When does it release?

My next mystery novel is set in the largest city in Australia – Sydney. I’ve been there numerous times, including five times last year conducting research for the book, so the descriptions will be quite authentic in the book. Plus I’ll be revealing one secret in the book that I’ve never seen disclosed before that the Sydney Harbour Security Force might not be too happy to have revealed. Oh well; then they should tighten up their security.

As far as a release date, I’d tell you the date if I knew it, honestly. The best way to find out is to sign up for my free travel newsletter. I also keep my readers informed on the latest news about my books. You can sign up at

Give us three facts about you. Be creative. Tell us about your first job, the inspiration for your writing, any fun details!

My first real job was selling shoes at JC Penney Company. The backroom wasn’t very organized, so I cleaned it up so everyone knew where everything was, what we had in stock, and I knew in my head every size , color, and style of every shoe that we had in stock.

The inspiration for my writing is the joy that I get when I travel to exciting places, and the hope that others will also enjoy visiting them. Meeting the local people as I conduct research and then talking with them again after the book is written, it’s as if we’ve become family. Knowing that I’m helping some people see parts of the world that they’ll never be able to otherwise visit. These are some of the things that continue to inspire me to write.

I also paint, in a somewhat modern style. One of my more interesting pieces was a 14-pound piece of stone whose texture was perfect for painting the ascent on Mt. Everest for a co-worker who attempted (two years in a row) to reach its peak.

Where can readers find you on the internet?

I have several websites and social media accounts, but the best place to find me is at my main site – This is where you’ll find the primary information about me, my books, travel tips and resources, and where you can sign up for my free travel newsletter!

Thank you so much for being here today Stuart and for giving us a glimpse into your writing process and extensive travel experience.

Stuart has graciously offered a copy of his debut novel Missing in Mexico to a commenter! Please leave a comment to be entered. Feel free to ask Stuart a question or share a comment on his interview.  US Only!!! Drawing will be on Sept. 14th.

* While this book is not labeled Christian Fiction, I didn't find anything objectionable in it :)