Friday, September 30, 2011

Hearty Kielbasa and Potato

I like this one because it only dirties one pan, cutting board, and strainer, quick, easy, and husband LOVES it.

2 lbs potatoes (about 6 potatoes cut in cubes)
1 lb kielbasa (halved and sliced)
2 cups frozen green beans
1T olive oil
1 tsp Creole Seasoning (make your own)
1/4 tsp salt
onion flakes
3 garlic cloves, minced

Place cubed potatoes in a dutch oven or deep pan and cover them with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium high and cook for 12-15 minutes. Add frozen green beans and cook for 5-6 minutes until tender. Drain and set aside.

In empty pan, cook kielbasa until browned. Add the potatoes, oil, seasoning, salt, onion flakes (your discretion), and garlic, stir. Cook on low for a bit until heated through

Thursday, September 29, 2011

If my brain is organized..the rest will follow

This past weekend was a busy weekend for me. My friend Cherilyn (also a contributor on this blog) let me help her with a wedding she was photographing this weekend. Being a new photographer I was excited for the exposure plus the challenge. I have photographed a wedding before but it was my daughters wedding and Cherilyn helped me with that too but it doesn't count.

We spent two days taking pictures. I tried to delete the ones I didn't like as I was taking them or when I had time but when I got home I soon found out I didn't do so well in that area. I tend to over shoot a pose or take several shots of the same thing to make sure I get the shot I am intending to get. I guess mostly because I don't have enough confidence to make sure I get it the first time. Mostly nerves. When I get home and put the SD card in my computer I find that I have taken over 700 pictures. I am overwhelmed and not sure where to begin. Cherilyn must have sensed my anxiety from afar, because she sent me an email explaining how she organizes photos she needs to edit.

I am very thankful for this, but I also believe it will help anyone that needs to organize photos they need to edit, or post, or have printed. I have found that it works for all sorts of photos and have implemented them in all pictures I need to do stuff with. I realize it's basic and most people already may do this, but just in case, here it goes.

I make folders on my desktop and label them. For instance in the wedding category, there are before, posed, during, rehearsal, after. For my sister, I just label it with her name. For senior pictures, I also label by name. For pictures I take, I usually just put them under a folder with my name, but if there are several different categories, then it could be like Easter, Christmas, Birthday, etc. you get the idea. Then I move the photos to their respective folders. This way, I don't have to be looking at all of them and think OH MY! Then I choose the pictures I want to start with first. Since I tend to overshoot most of the time, I look at each one either by thumbnail or individually and start deleting the ones I don't like, or ones where their eyes may be closed or someone isn't looking. After that is done, then I edit, or for those that don't do editing, upload to Facebook to a specific album or upload to the website I use to print.

I hope this helps you all when you feel overwhelmed with pictures. If you are like me, sometimes you wait until your camera or SD card is full before you decide to upload. Good Luck in all of your photo ventures.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Shannon Vannatter Returns!

So yesterday we spoke with award-winning romance author Shannon Vannatter about her newest book, Rodeo Dust, which releases in October - as well as where she gets her ideas, how she met her husband, and her shocking puzzle obsession (gasp!)

Today we're back with a few more questions for Shannon - and we can't wait to find out how she, as a pastor's wife, author, and mom of a nine-year-old does it all!

Jenny: How do you write best?

Shannon: My husband and I have a separate office that we share. If I really need to get some writing done, I'm in the office at my desk. If I'm not pressed for time, sometimes I'll do a change of scenery and take my laptop to the recliner in the living room. The summer before last, I did a lot of writing on the front steps of our house, while my son was in the pool with friends. This summer, I decided they were old enough to be out there alone and set up shop at the dining room table next to the window so I could check on them. I write best with no noise or distractions. No TV, music, or anyone home and awake.

Shannon at the computer, writing my very first "badly written" (her words) book back in 1999.

Jenny: Sounds wonderful. Mine is still two, so I'm a little more hands-on now... Well, how do you balance all your many responsibilities, besides parenting and spending time with your husband, like household chores, exercise, Bible study and so forth?

Shannon: During the school year, I write while my son's at school and my husband's at work. When I pick up my son, the computer goes on the back burner. As far as exercise goes, we live on a dead-end gravel road, so when weather permits, after we get homework done, I walk up the road, which is all uphill and quite long, while my son rides his kid-sized four-wheeler. When weather doesn't permit, I do aerobics or treadmill after I take him to school.In the summer, I write after everyone goes to bed, sometimes til 2:00 if I'm on a roll. My son and I both love to swim, so that's my exercise for the summer. We have a lovely blue Walmart pool in our front yard. It was the only spot level enough. And then there's time spent together as a family when my husband gets home from the dental lab.

Jenny: So your husband's a dentist, too, then. You've mentioned before that he's bivocational. Talk about a Renaissance man - dentist and pastor! I love it!

Shannon: So do I! And after our son goes to bed, my husband and I drink coffee and talk for an hour each night.

Jenny: Wait... you drink coffee at night?!

Shannon: Yes, we drink coffee at night. We're such caffeine freaks, it doesn't keep us up.

Jenny: Wow. It would keep me up! Not my husband, of course, who's Brazilian - and Brazilians practically invented coffee. He could probably take it intravenously all day long and still fall asleep. Me? I'd be up all night on the back of the sofa playing the fiddle to some noisy bluegrass.

Shannon: (laughing) Well, I'm a night person, so it helps me wind down. I study my Bible at night, too. Saturday is family day, and we try to do something fun that we all enjoy. I often have speaking engagements or book signings on Saturday, but I try to arrange it where we still have some time - and I try not to book back-to-back Saturdays with writing-related stuff. A lot of the time when I speak at conferences, my guys come with me, and we make it a mini-vacation. Sunday is our busiest, most stressful day because my husband is a bi-vocational pastor.

Shannon says this book signing picture was snapped at a local store that's been really supportive, The Bible House.

Jenny: Well, as a busy mom, do you have any tips, plans, schedules, or advice that keep your household running smoothly?

Shannon: Not a one. I live, work, and love by the seat my pants. I'm the most unorganized person you'll ever hope to meet.

Jenny: (laughing) That must be why we get along so well! I'm very much the same way. So... tell us about your other previously published books. Which ones have been your favorites?

Shannon: I think White Roses will always be dear to my heart. I wrote it shortly after my husband sprang his calling on me. We'd been married sixteen years, and he told me God was calling him to preach. So I wrote a book with a girl feeling unworthy of dating the preacher. That's what the story ended up being after about twenty-five versions, but that's what it started out as. And it was my first traditionally published book and my first major award winner.

Jenny: What other projects do you have in the works?

Shannon: This French guy has been bugging me for about three years. But I didn't have time for him, and I didn't have a setting for him. I finally figured out where his story takes place, so I'm working on the first three chapters and a proposal.

Jenny: Wow! Can't wait to read that one! What else?

Shannon: I have another with an Arkansas setting. It was originally one of my early suspense works. I started from scratch and am rewriting it without the suspense part. But the French guy is bugging me more so that's what I'm currently working on. They're both longer works, more in the 80,000 word realm.

Jenny: What advice would you give to writers hoping to be published one day?

Shannon: Join ACFW. I learned genre generic craft at local conferences. But I learned what it takes to get published, specific to my genre through ACFW.

Jenny: And that's where we met, too, over lovely desserts... in fact, I have a picture of fellow Barbour authors Julie Jarnigan and Roger Bruner with their beautiful chocolate cake right here. (Surprise!) Remember this?

Jenny: Of course I was probably the only weirdo there snapping pictures of other people's plates... Speaking of food, how about that recipe from Rodeo Dust?

Shannon: Here it is!

Taco Soup

1 lb. ground beef
2 cans pinto beans
1 8 oz can stewed tomatoes
1 can sweet corn
1 can Ro-Tel ( I use original)
1 pkg. ranch dressing mix
1 pkg. taco seasoning mix
1 chopped onion
2 to 3 cans water (depending on how much broth you like)

Brown ground beef and onion. Drain and add remaining ingredients. Simmer 30 minutes. Also great in Crock Pot all day. Serve with Frito corn chips and shredded cheese.

Jenny: Thanks, Shannon! Let's have a few more questions about you before we sign off. What's your favorite thing about your house and the place where you live?

Shannon: I love that we live in the middle of a hayfield. It's very peaceful. You can hear the frogs and crickets at night. And occasionally a pack of coyotes. They sound kind of creepy, but it's home. My parents are across the hayfield, so my son thinks he lives there.

Jenny: I love coyotes! Sigh... Okay, name a place you'd love to go - and a place you'd never want to go.

Shannon: I'd love to go to Georgia. I still have an aunt and cousins there. We've only been there twice since we moved when I was twelve. And... I don't want to go anywhere outside this country. Why bother when we live in the U. S., the best country ever. (I can't believe I said that to someone who lives in Brazil!)

Jenny: I'm totally with you on what a great country we have. But... a certain 6'5" Brazilian and our little curly-haired son made me change my mind about my permanent residency for a while! So how would you spend the perfect day? Watching a soccer game in MaracanĂ£ stadium in Rio? (Just kidding...)

Shannon: No way! With my family. Playing putt golf or tracking through the woods in the fall.

Jenny: The woods in the fall sounds great, especially when I live in eternal summer! Well, to wrap up, Shannon, what's one thing most people probably don't know about you (and
might be surprised if they did)?

Shannon: I'm very girly. People know that. I love ruffles, lace, sparkles, high heel shoes, makeup, and primping. But I also love hiking in the woods, riding four-wheelers, and bowling. But nothing as yucky as fishing. My son is into fishing right now. Ugh.


Well, that's it for today with Shannon Vannatter! And I'm so thankful she could stop by and spend some time giving us these insights about herself and her life. Best wishes on your newest book, Shannon, and in your writing career!

Jenny Rogers Spinola lives in Brasilia, Brazil with her Brazilian husband, Athos, and nearly three-year-old son, Ethan. She didn't want to ever leave the U.S., either, but is really glad she did! Jenny teaches ESL private classes and is the author of Barbour Publishing's "Southern Fried Sushi" series (first book released OCTOBER FIRST!) and an upcoming romance novella collection based on Yellowstone National Park (also with Barbour Books).

Introducing Shannon Vannatter!

It's always funny how you meet people, isn't it?

Shannon Vannatter and I met at my first American Christian Fiction Writer's Conference (ACFW) last year in Indianapolis. I'd never been to an ACFW Conference (which was absolutely WONDERFUL, just life-changing) and I'd never been to Indiana. And frankly, it had been a while since I'd had a trip home to the U.S. away from Brazil, so I was sopping up every minute.

In fact, I was rejoicing over the raspberries or chocolate or something on the luscious dessert Barbour Publishing bought its writers - probably even taking a picture of it - when Shannon and I struck up a conversation.

We've kept in touch since then, done interviews together, and both have new books releasing soon (although this definitely isn't Shannon's first!) - the more I find out about Shannon, the more I love her. I couldn't wait to do this interview about her and learn more about her family, lifestyle, and prior writing experiences.

Shannon is a stay-at-home mom and pastor’s wife in central Arkansas. Her debut novel, White Roses, won the 2011 Inspirational Readers Choice Award in the short contemporary category. The Eighteenth Annual Heartsong Awards named her Third Favorite New Author, and White Roses #1 and White Doves #8 in the contemporary category. The Arkansas Democrat Three Rivers Edition voted her "One of Twenty to Watch in 2011."

Shannon has taught fiction workshops at The White County Creative Writers Conference in Searcy, Ark., Life Press Christian Writers Conference in Memphis, Tenn., Ozark Creative Writers Conference in Eureka Springs, Ark., and Ozark Romance Authors Conference in Springfield, Mo. She also taught a writing class as a continuing adult education course at the Arkansas State University.

Her latest book, Rodeo Dust, will be available through Heartsong Presents in October and her first e-book, Rodeo Hero, releases in 2012.

She's also kindly agreed to give away a copy of Rodeo Dust (isn't that a gorgeous cover?!) so please leave a comment on this post. The winner will be chosen Thursday.

So, Shannon, I can't wait to find out more about you! Thanks for interviewing with me.

Jenny: How did you get started writing? Do you have any special or funny memories related to writing?
Shannon: I had a story in my head from the time I was fifteen, and it wouldn't leave me alone. But I didn't realize it could be a book until I was thirty. At thirty-three, I got a hand-me-down computer and as soon as it was operational, I was writing the story that had tormented me all those years. It was very badly written, but still a good story. Even in it's badly written state, I got encouraging rejections. The editors said it was a good story, I just needed to work on my craft. One editor said that if I worked on my craft, the big publishers would jump on it. That still gives me a giggle since I know how badly written it was and the big publishers haven't jumped my way yet. Now that I've gotten the craft down, maybe I'll rewrite it someday.

Jenny: That's amazing! I'd love to read it. So what were your first stories and books about?
Shannon: They were romantic suspense. But I realized I really don't like researching murder and mayhem. I finally took stock of the fact that I read romance. It made sense to write what I love.

Jenny: Now we're all sitting on the edge of our seats waiting to hear YOUR love story...
Shannon: I met my husband in the ninth grade. It was his hair.

Jenny: (laughing)
Shannon: He had John Travolta (from the "Welcome Back Kotter" days) hair. (Oops - I just showed my age...) Anyway, I saw him and thought, "I'm going to marry that guy." Based totally on his hair. He says the same thing about me. I had long, all one length, straight-as-a-stick hair, and he loved. it! Now he's bald on top and keeps his head shaved, while I wear mine shoulder length and poufy. So we had to find something else to base our relationship on. My parents both walked me down the aisle to give me away at our wedding. We've been married twenty-seven years and we have a biologically nine-year-old son. It's a long story. The greatest thing about my husband is that he's very supportive - and he still makes me laugh.

Shannon and her husband kissing at the Romance Waterfalls in Arkanasas. Her books White Roses, White Doves, and White Pearls are all set in Romance. People go there to get married, often at the waterfall.

Jenny: I love your story! I had no idea about the hair... yours looks pretty amazing, though, in your head shot. You have a great family! What's your son like?

Shannon: He's... really stubborn. He gets that from his dad. But his dad says he gets it from me. He's a wonderful artist, which he gets from his dad. He drew stuff when he was four that blew adults away. He's good at playing guitar too. He started lessons last January and it's amazing how he's progressed. When he was three and a half, we were remodeling our kitchen. We'd torn out the cabinets and he could walk up to the window for the first time in his life. He looked out and said, "Hey, I can see out this window because my head sits up so high on neck now." :)

Jenny: I love it! So how did you grow up, Shannon? Where? What previous jobs have you held?
Shannon: I was born in rural Arkansas, and I've lived in Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and near Atlanta, Georgia from the ages of one to twelve - then moved back to rural Arkansas. I graduated in a class of twenty, and that was a huge class for our tiny school. I went to cosmetology school and worked as a hairdresser, a loan clerk at a bank, and a data entry clerk for a large fragrance company. Then I had a baby and retired to be a stay-at-home mom/writer/pastor's wife, not necessarily in that order.

Jenny: You were a hairdresser! So that explains the great hair. Well, what other interests do you have outside of writing?
Shannon: I love to sew, but not clothes. If you make a pucker in clothing, it shows. I sew home interior stuff: curtains, valances, bedspreads, and comforters. If you make a pucker, there's enough ruffles it doesn't matter. I only have one set of curtains, one set of toppers, and one bedspread in our house that I didn't make. My son loves it because he always has a cool room unlike any of his friends. He's had Noah's Ark, Bob the Builder, Spiderman, Patriotic, and currently Arkansas Razorbacks.

Jenny: I'm a horrible seamstress. But I really admire people who can sew! What else do you enjoy?
Shannon: I love jigsaw puzzles. At least 1000 pieces, but not the ones that are all the same color. That's just frustrating. Puzzles relax me, but I don't want to do anything else. No cooking, no showering, just leave me alone and let me do my puzzle. Because I get so fixated, I don't do them very often. My parents got me a puzzle board one year for Christmas. It has drawers around the sides for the pieces. It was the best gift I ever got. And of course, I love reading. But it's just like the puzzles, I don't want to do anything else if I'm reading a good book.

Jenny: Good writers are often voracious readers. So let's find out a little about your writing. Can you tell us a little bit about Rodeo Dust?
Shannon: I had a lot of fun with the hero's dialogue. He thinks and says everything in rodeo, bull, and ranch terms. Here's the back cover blurb:

Ad exec Rayna Landers meets bull rider Clay Warren at the State Fair of Texas. While Rayna thinks she’s content solo, Clay longs for marriage and family. Though poised to win his third world championship, his ranch is in a slump. Clay convinces his publicist to hire her advertising firm in a last-ditch effort to keep his employees and lasso her heart.

Soon the city girl is on the ride of her life, until the rodeo unearths buried memories from her past. Clay sees her through the trauma, but an injury and his stubborn determination to get back in the hypothetical saddle threatens their budding relationship. Can they rely on God to find their common ground or will they draw a line in the rodeo dust that neither will cross?

Jenny: Wow! Where did you come up with the idea for that one?
Shannon: I usually get ideas from things I see. Rodeo Dust came from several years ago when we'd taken our son to the Arkansas State Fair. I saw a cowboy-to-the-bone guy dressed in typical Wranglers, boots, and hat holding hands with a city girl dressed in a spiffy business suit and suede boots. I wondered how they met and what they had in common. The wondering became a book. And since my husband is from Texas, I decided to set the story there.

Jenny: What's one thing you hope readers will come away with after reading Rodeo Dust?
Shannon: That we must trust God with everything this world holds.

We'll stop here for today, put please tune in for tomorrow's segment - where we're going to find out how Shannon does it all, the place she'd never go (you won't believe this one!), and something pretty much nobody knows about her. Oh, and a recipe, too!

Don't forget to comment on today's post for a chance to win a free book!

You can find out more about Shannon and her books at her website: - and her blog where she celebrates real and fictional love stories with weekly inspirational author features and book giveaways:

Her latest book, Rodeo Dust, will be available through Heartsong Presents in October, and her first e-book, Rodeo Hero releases in 2012.

Thanks for stopping by!

Jenny Rogers Spinola lives in Brasilia, Brazil with her Brazilian husband, Athos, and nearly three-year-old son, Ethan. She's been to a rodeo once - in Georgia - and does, in fact, own a cowboy hat. Jenny teaches ESL private classes and is the author of Barbour Books' "Southern Fried Sushi" series (first book released OCTOBER FIRST!) and an upcoming romance novella collection based on Yellowstone National Park (also with Barbour Books).

Friday, September 23, 2011

Homemade Yogurt in the Crock Pot

My love affair with homemade yogurt goes back all the way to my childhood days, when my Mennonite grandmother made soft, tangy yogurt and served it in small brown bowls.

After that I ate the processed stuff for years - decades - until I tried making my own yogurt here in Brazil, when we first moved to Guarapari, Espirito Santo back in 2004. The result was disasterous; half the time the yogurt didn't gel, or turned thick and sticky like glue with a weird aftertaste, and I ended up wasting more milk and yogurt than I was actually saving... so I stopped.

Fast-forward to now, 2011, when Athos (who doesn't cook much, mind you) informed me that yogurt requires a "dark, opaque" place to work - so the glass jars I was using back in Guarapari might have been the problem. In addition, I read online that you can actually make yogurt in the Crock Pot with little fuss and few problems... and since I'd just bought a Crock Pot in the U.S. for $16, I decided to try it out.

And........... WOW! I can't even begin to describe how WONDERFUL this homemade yogurt is - and how simple! The ONLY conditions are that you 1) have a Crock Pot with a low-heat setting and 2) use only regular homogenized or pasturized milk - NOT the long-life stuff we have in Brazil called ulta-pasturized. We CAN find homogenized or pasturized milk in the refrigerated section of Brazilian supermarkets *sometimes*... not always... which is why we don't make it more often.

However, in the absence of a fresh milk, I've used DRY WHOLE MILK POWDER with startingly good results - so much so that my husband can't tell the difference when I use fresh pasturized milk and the dry stuff.

Premade yogurt is actually pretty expensive in Brazil - around 60 cents to a dollar for a small 2/3 cup-sized container - and remember that our currency is worth around half the value of dollars, so it's like we're paying double that price. (Imagine plunking down US$2-$3 for single serving cup of yogurt! And that's IF we can find natural yogurt - back in Guarapari it was extremely rare to find anything but flavored stuff, which doesn't work as well if at all, since much of it isn't actually yogurt at all but sweetened, flavored milk thickened with gelatin.

So, anyway - back to the yogurt making. Now I buy a relative inexpensive box of fresh milk, or two, or the equivalent in dry milk powder whisked with warm water - plus one container of yogurt for starter. With this, I produce enough yogurt for all three of us to have generous servings, usually twice with leftovers (around 3 cups), with a cost of not much more than two-premade containers (1 1/4 cups-ish).

AND the quality and taste is soooooooooooooooooo much better!

Here's how to make it:

1) Heat the milk (I use 1 liter boxes, around 4-5 cups) in the Crock Pot on low for about three hours. It should be hot enough to form a skin on top of the milk when it cools - and you can peel that skin off, of course, and toss it. But it's an important temperature indicator.

If, when you produce the final yogurt, it's sort of slippery and slimy, dishing out in long strings instead of plopping in creamy spoonfuls, this can be an indicator that you didn't let it get hot enough before cooling. You can still eat it, of course, and draining it will remove the weird consistency - but try to make sure it gets hot enough, and for a long enough time, the next time you make yogurt.

2) When the milk is sufficiently hot and has formed a skin, turn off the Crock Pot and let it sit for 2-3 hours. The milk should be warmish, not hot. If the milk is hot enough to smart when you insert your finger, or still steams, it's too hot and will kill the yogurt cultures. Sometimes my Crock Pot does too good a job of insulating, and I have to leave it for 4 hours, until the milk feels more like warm bath water.

3) Stir in about 1/4 cup fresh yogurt with active cultures. This is the plain, natural, unflavored yogurt without colors or added fruits or sugars. To mix it well, scoop up a cupful or so of the milk, stir in the yogurt until smooth, then dump it in and stir everything well.

4) Put the lid back on the Crock Pot and cover with a thick, fluffy towel and a blanket, so it's completely bundled up to hold in the heat. (The Crock Pot should be OFF). Leave it there for 6-8 hours or even up to 24 hours - without disturbing.

5) And... that's it! When you go to check it the following morning (I always add my yogurt in the afternoon/evening and scoop it out the next day), you'll see immediately that the consistency has changed, and the yogurt has separated with a clear whey forming on top. Voila! Homemade yogurt!

You can even keep this whey as it's really nutritious and high in protein, and supposedly you can cook it and make ricotta cheese. However, I haven't seen that happen yet; I just burned a nice black circle on the side of the pan.

6) If you like thicker, Greek-style yogurt, like the yogurt shown in these photos (which is so incredibly good!), there's one more step. Line a colander with a piece of cheesecloth, or, since I can't find that here most of the time, a lint-free piece of fabric (an old, clean pillowcase is ideal) and set both over a bowl. Dump the yogurt into the lined colander, cover, and refrigerate. Leave it sitting for several hours (I leave mine at least 6-8, overnight) to drain. The next morning I uncover it to find a perfect, white, thick colander of Greek yogurt, so rich and creamy it's almost like whipped butter (but without all the fat!)

We dress it up with a little jam or honey, some nuts and raisins, a sprinkle of oats, and there you have it! The best yogurt I've ever had in my life!

And unlike my previous efforts, the Crock Pot method has never, ever failed. :) Twice I've lifted in the lid in the morning and found watery, whitish soup, and groaned out loud - thinking I'd ruined another batch. But no - if you leave it right there in the Crock Pot an extra day, by evening it will have miraculously firmed up into perfect yogurt. I think this has happened only when the Crock Pot didn't stay warm enough (I forgot the blanket once), so the yogurt culture didn't have enough time to multiply throughout the milk. That's my guess; I really have no idea. But we were happy with the results.

Good luck1 I'd love to hear how it goes for you.

Jenny Rogers Spinola lives in Brasilia, Brazil with her Brazilian husband, Athos, and nearly three-year-old son, Ethan. She's got milk heating for yogurt in the Crock-Pot as we speak. Jenny teaches ESL private classes and is the author of Barbour Books' "Southern Fried Sushi" series (first book released NEXT MONTH!) and an upcoming romance novella collection based on Yellowstone National Park (also with Barbour Books).

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Book Review ~ Spoken From the Heart, by Laura Bush

You don't have to like her husband or be a Republican, to love Laura Bush.

If you're a mother, a daughter or a wife, it will be impossible for you to not enjoy, Spoken From the Heart.

Being a writer is naturally and undeniably part of my reader's personality. Not sure if that's a good thing, but I can't get away from it. I considered Laura's book, not just a memoir, but a memoir that could help others write a memoir. It's a conversation I have heard a lot of lately, the overwhelm of memoir writing. Laura has achieved what a fellow writer and I decided to be the best way to do it. Laura tells stories, one after the other, sometimes stories within other stories. She seems only concerned with that story and there's no concern for the stories connecting, or gaps in the years. Perhaps that year had no good stories in it.

Laura talks about her parents and grandparents. She makes your heart ache for the old fashioned sort of love that no one remembers anymore. She tells sad stories and serious, makes jokes and shares her wisdom. She reminds me of my three favorite, whimsical women. My surrogate mothers who don't know that's what they are!

Twenty years before I was born, Laura and her family spent summers in my backyard. She longed for sisters and brothers and adored a favorite grandmother, with the same name as mine. She has a love affair with school supplies. By the middle of her book, you know her, or you want to. She is normal and regal, all at once.

Best of all, Laura tells about a time that I could only know through stories and she does it well. For some people, history is hard to get interested in, too slow, too...old. But Laura makes it interesting, funny, even attractive.

When I read, I take notes. I write down quotes I love, words I want to look up and terms I've never heard before. It's part curiosity and part my need to have some tangible evidence of what I've taken from this time away from the internet, my own writing, my housework.

Of course every woman who writes a book, is a woman, writing, which automatically makes me interested. Laura's senior english teacher described her writing as Dr. Guthrie style. So I was off to the internet. I found nothing, so I read on. As it turned out, Dr. Guthrie was a local minister, whose sermons were apparently well thought out and delivered, as were Laura's papers. She used the word 'canon,' but not to describe a camera.

In the context of a work of fiction, the term canon denotes the material accepted as "official" in a fictional universe's fan base. Laura's use was, "My mother loved to read. Her canon ranged from the traditional to the eclectic, writers like John Marquand and Somerset Maugham." I love my new word. :)

In 1963, Laura was involved in a car accident that took the life of a close friend of hers, ten days before his eighteenth birthday. She was a senior in high school and it forever changed her. In the book, she talks about how she wished she had handled it differently, what she would change, other than the accident itself. She didn't let it break her. It's in that moment that you press on, read more, long to figure her out, to tap into her strength, her secret.

Laura talks about the assassination of JFK, a piece of history I have always been fascinated with. Much like Princess Di, Oklahoma City and 911; I am always profoundly touched by instances of such sad loss, such a snuffing of potential and goodness.

Laura's voice never seems to change. Through college and marriage, motherhood to the White House and home again. She always sounds like the first lady and the lady next door.

For any woman, Spoken From the Heart is an easy, enjoyable read. Maybe for the men too, but I don't claim to know anything about them. ;)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Needing Encouragement (and finding it in the least likely place!)

Boy, what a month!

It all started August 26, 2011. I went to my sisters for what was to be a quick trip to pick up her CPU she was loaning me (because I've had this virus thing going on for simply ever). I had our newish (we got it in April) van legally parked on the street. As we were getting ready to leave and head for home, I hear this muffled sound and thought it was one of the neighborhood dogs, then someone knocked on the door. It was a neighbor alerting me to the fact that someone had just hit (and run) our van.Thankfully there were 3 witnesses and the guy was caught about an hour later. Way over the legal limit of .08 blood alcohol content, he blew a .206! We are also thankful he didn't hit anyone else (that we know of) or kill anyone. That was the beginning of my discouragement.

I was stressed, my children were traumatized. I got sick, my son wouldn't eat. We had to cancel a family trip. We were sinking into despair it seemed. Over what, I would later ask myself. I was angry, I had be wronged and I wanted everyone to know about it! And I wanted it fixed RIGHT NOW!

Something had to change! We could keep worrying over this problem.

I asked for encouragement from some of my sisters in faith and one offered me this verse:
The LORD shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace. Ex 14:14.
Hold my peace?? Ouch! But I knew it was what I needed to hear. Not exactly the "encouragement" I was looking for though! My sister was wise and allowed the Father to speak through her, and I needed to listen.

So I kept repeating this verse to myself, over and over again those first few days. Then I laid my burden down, and went on with life. Instead of focusing on what had be done to us, to ME, I started listening to others and their struggles.

  • One of my friends lost her husband, the father of her two children.
  • Hundreds of people lost their homes to fires in Texas.
  • People all over the northeast were flooded out.

So many more serious troubles than mine. So I prayed for others, instead of myself. Suddenly my problems weren't so important anymore. Vehicles can be replaced.

But who knew that it would be so difficult to get my vehicle fixed or even simply appraised? But alas, here were are 3 weeks past still without word from the other insurance company about fixing or replacing our van. So it seems my "troubles" are trying to sneak back up on me?

Isn't that the way it always is? Just when you think you're doing good, smack, here it comes again! I usually tend to pick my burdens up again (and sometimes again) after laying them down at the Master's feet. But I am determined to leave them lay this time!

I am encouraged by the fact that I do know that my Master is fighting my "battle" for me. I am thankful that I have lost little compared to what I still have! I am thankful that even in my moment of weakness and self-pity, He is still faithful!

So my friends, if and when you find yourself in a discouraging predicament, keep the faith, look around you, pray for others and let your worries melt away in the Sea of God's forgetfulness. It may be hard to do, but look to those who can truly offer you Godly advice, and heed it. For He cares for you.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Currently Free Financial Kindle Book

Saving for Retirement without Living like a Pauper or Winning the Lottery

If you don't have a kindle you can always download Kindle for PC (or iPhone or Android, etc) so you can read it for free, or to store them until you do buy a kindle.

*I don't endorse these books, just letting you know they are free for a limited time.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Brownie Mocha Trifle

Brownie Mocha Trifle


  • 1 package fudge brownie mix (8-inch square pan size)
  • 1-3/4 cups cold milk
  • 2 packages (3.4 ounces each) instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 1/4 cup cold brewed coffee
  • 2 cups whipped topping
  • 1 Heath candy bar (1.4 ounces), crushed


  • Prepare brownie batter and bake according to package directions. Cool; cut into 1-in. pieces.
  • In a large bowl, beat milk and pudding mixes for 2 minutes or until thickened. Stir in coffee. Fold in whipped topping.
  • In a trifle bowl or 2-qt. glass bowl, layer a third of the brownie pieces, pudding mixture and crushed candy bar. Repeat layers twice. Chill until serving.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Winner of Love Finds You in Narazeth, Pa.!

Thanks to all who stopped by and left comments on Melanie Dobson's two-day interview this week. She has picked a winner of her new novel, to be released later this month, entitled Love Finds You in Narazeth, Pennsylvania.

Congrats to Jennifer Creiver of Rogersville, Mo., who writes, "You've made my day!" upon hearing she's the winner.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Shifting Seasons

I LOVE Fall.

Really, I can’t think of enough ways to say this. And frankly, my husband wishes that I would stop trying to figure out new phrases to express my love affair with Autumn. He’s tired of hearing about it.

Last week, I warned him I was going to pull out the Fall decorations and beautify the house. He made some sort of vague response about the ridiculousness of putting out pumpkins when the temperature was almost 100 degrees. Then, wisely, he retreated to another room…far away from the ensuing decorating/rearranging madness.

I wasn’t going to wait a single day longer to prep for my favorite Season’s arrival. I didn’t care about the scorching temperatures, or the fact that it was barely the first of September and no where near the “official” beginning of Autumn. That’s because I wait through three other long phases of the year just to get to this one.

So what exactly does this have to do with anything—other than the fact that my obsessive love of all things yellow, orange, red, and/or pumpkin-like might indicate a need for some therapy?

Honestly, I’m not sure.

But I started thinking the other day that I don’t anticipate changes in my “life seasons” with nearly that kind of enthusiasm. On the contrary, I would go so far as to say that I detest changes—especially ones in my life. When I feel God pulling me one way, perhaps gently prompting me to prepare for a shift in the path my life is taking, I drag my feet, and sometimes pitch a fit. I like to be comfortable. Safe. Familiar.

And inevitably, when the changes come, I feel miserable at first. Because I haven’t been prayerful…or cooperative. Like a spoiled child, I’ve ignored the wisdom of my Father and have made the transition difficult.

But I wonder…

If I attacked everything in life with the same sort of enthusiasm as I do for things that I enjoy or that interest me (say, like, Fall?), I think it’d be much easier. Easier to glide from one place in life to another. From one day to another, even. It’s kind of a sobering thought to realize that, in hindsight, the bad periods in my life might not have been so terrible if my attitude were a little more joyful. Or trusting.

So, as I set out literally the 531st pumpkin figurine in my house, I’m thinking I might try to do better on prepping for other—personal—changes…upcoming Seasons in life. Who knows, maybe I’ll actually enjoy the change if I’m not too busy grumbling about it.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD,
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Jeremiah 29:11

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Interview With Melanie Dobson, Plus Giveaway, Day Two

We rejoin author Melanie Dobson on day two of her interview. Yesterday, Melanie talked about her family and life writing at home. Today, she will talk about her current project and the business of writing.

Melanie has graciously agreed to give away one copy of Love Finds You in Nazareth, Pennsylvania. To be eligible for the drawing, leave a comment on today’s blog. The winner will be announced Thursday. Open to U.S. residents only.

What project are you working on right now?
I just contracted for a historical romance novel titled Love Finds You in Mackinac Island, Michigan, so I’m off to Michigan this month to begin the research. I’m also writing a mystery novel for Guidepost’s new The Secrets of Mary’s Bookshop series.

What’s the best thing about working from home?
The flexibility in my schedule. I can volunteer in the kids’ classrooms each week and be home when they have vacation days. I do my best to work around their school schedule. I’m also nearby if they get sick or something else happens at school.

What’s the worst thing about working from home?
The flexibility in my schedule! When I’m not volunteering at school, I have to be diligent about writing during school hours. I’d rather go out to lunch with a friend or exercise. When I’m on deadline, I’d rather do just about anything except write. I have to push myself to stay in my chair and persevere. Sometimes I work all night before deadline day.

What keeps you home instead of having an outside career?
My kids! Sometimes I miss the camaraderie of being in an office and the travel I used to do for conventions and events. But it’s definitely worth it to me to work at home while my kids are young. I love picking them up from school and having some unrushed time with them in the afternoons. And I love being able to take off most of the summer and holidays as well.

Do you have a schedule and always work at the same time every day, or is your work time random and haphazard?
My schedule is pretty consistent during the school year. I usually write at a coffee shop while the kids are in school. I have an office at home, but I find myself getting easily distracted with laundry etc. so it’s better for me to write at the library or a coffee shop. When the girls are out of school, my schedule is more erratic. I’m sending email from my phone while they are in swim lessons or at the park. There’s a lot of juggling involved some days, but I’m grateful I can be with them instead of away at an office.

Any other words of wisdom you would like to share that you haven’t mentioned in the questions above?
It was a pretty big adjustment for me to go from being in the “corporate world” to working at home. Looking back, I’m incredibly glad I made the choice to pursue a career I could do from home.

Where can readers find out more about you and your work?
The best place is on my website at

Also, Melanie told me that her publisher is giving away Love Finds You in Homestead, Iowa, free on the Kindle this week.
Love Finds You in Nazareth, Pennsylvania
Christian and Susanna Boehler had never spoken when they were chosen by lot to marry in a Moravian community in Germany. But in 1754, they travel to Pennsylvania with a dozen other newly married couples to establish the settlement of Nazareth and share their faith with the surrounding Indian nations. Just as Susanna’s heart begins to warm toward her husband, she learns that he had asked to marry another woman—and that he loves her still. As war rages between the British and French Indians and their young marriage faces hardship, will Susanna and Christian remain strangers in marriage, or will their hearts finally be united in love?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Interview With Melanie Dobson, Plus Giveaway, Day One

Some of the best friendships begin when we least expect them. I first met Melanie Dobson in the early 1990s at a trade convention for religious broadcasting industry. Thus began our friendship that has grown over the years despite the physical distance between us.

At that annual convention, we would often meet for breakfast and talk about writing and our dreams to become published fiction authors. While I’ve yet to realize my dream, I’m happy to report that Melanie is already an award-winning author of nine contemporary and historical novels including The Silent Order and her latest Love Finds You in Nazareth, Pennsylvania. Melanie was the corporate publicity manager at Focus on the Family before she launched a public relations business in 1999. She now writes fiction fulltime so she can work at home. Melanie and her husband Jon have two daughters, and they live outside Portland, Oregon.

Melanie has graciously agreed to give away one copy of Love Finds You in Nazareth, Pennsylvania. To be eligible for the drawing, leave a comment today or tomorrow. The winner will be announced Thursday. Open to U.S. residents only.

Today, Melanie will talk a bit about her family and life as a writer at home.

Tell me a bit about your family. How old are your children now?
Jon and I married in Colorado Springs, Colo., thirteen years ago. We have two adopted girls named Karly and Kiki. They are seven- and eight-years-old now and keep us entertained around the clock.

Why did you choose to work from home rather than find a job elsewhere?
For many years, my husband did contract work for film and animation companies, which meant we traveled around the United States and even to Germany for his job. Instead of trying to find work each time we moved, I started a public-relations business from home in 1999. During that time, I also slowly began to pursue my dream of writing fiction as well. We adopted our first daughter in 2003, and the next year, I signed my first contract for a novel. I’ve been writing fiction ever since.

You started working from home before you had children. What challenges did working from home present to your marriage, and how did you compensate?
My greatest challenge with working at home before I had children was that I lived in my office. It didn’t feel at all like a home. When we were on the East Coast, my phone would ring late at night from clients and media on the West Coast. And there was—and still is—just one more project to do or email to write in the evenings.

Before we had children, Jon and I would often go away for the weekend to camp or stay at a bed-and-breakfast to escape the home office. Now I try not to work after the girls come home from school, though I still find myself working after they go to bed.

Love Finds You in Nazareth, Pennsylvania
Christian and Susanna Boehler had never spoken when they were chosen by lot to marry in a Moravian community in Germany. But in 1754, they travel to Pennsylvania with a dozen other newly married couples to establish the settlement of Nazareth and share their faith with the surrounding Indian nations. Just as Susanna’s heart begins to warm toward her husband, she learns that he had asked to marry another woman—and that he loves her still. As war rages between the British and French Indians and their young marriage faces hardship, will Susanna and Christian remain strangers in marriage, or will their hearts finally be united in love?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Currently Free Kindle Parenting Book

 Teen-Proofing by John Rosemond

If you don't have a kindle you can always download Kindle for PC (or iPhone or Android, etc) so you can read it for free, or to store them until you do buy a kindle.

*I don't endorse these books, just letting you know they are free for a limited time.

Contest Winner of Laura Frantz Book!

Hey all,

Hope you're having a wonderful weekend. Adge has won a signed copy of Laura Frantz's latest release, the Colonel's Lady.

Thanks so much for stopping by Adge! And thanks to everyone else who participated.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Friendship Tea For A Great Start!

'Tis the season of new beginnings! School has started,we meet with new teachers, make new friends, seek out sign ups for all sorts of new activities.
One thing I have been involved in that is starting up this week, is MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers). Over the past 2 1/2 years, I have been the group coordinator, hoping to assist mothers in cultivating authentic friendships! It is so important that we have support and encouragement in this season of life with small children. Friendship is important at all stages of life, but so far, I have craved it most as a stay-at-home mom.
In honor of all the mommies out there who are pouring into their children, cultivating new friendships and depending on old friendships, I want to give you a recipe that is near and dear to me because I was first introduced to it by one of my oldest friends. It just so happens to be called, "Friendship Tea", and the recipe is from my Alma Mater (Texas A&M) Mother's club of Dallas County. Yep, it's from moms to moms and it's all about FRIENDS! :)

Friendship Tea

1 (3-ounce) jar instant tea
2 cups sugar
2 (5-ounce) packages instant lemonade mix
1 (16 ounce) jar instant orange drink (Tang)
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Mix ingredients thoroughly. Use 2 rounded teaspoons in 1 cup of boiling water. Keep in air tight container. A great gift for friends, teachers, or anyone. (From Anna Sheffield)

picture by Kanko at Flickr (

Thursday, September 8, 2011

What Home Based Business Should You Start--Consider your Strengths

Both my husband and I are starting home-based businesses. But if we're committing to these things for the long haul, how will we know if this is the right businesses for us?

If you're in the deciding and planning stage of starting your own business, I'd suggest you take your strengths into consideration before deciding on the best business to pursue.

1. Your Intellegences
2. Your Birth Order
3. Your Obsessions
4. Your Skill Sets
5. Your Spouse

1. Your Intelligences. If you are/have been an educator, you would know this terminology as Mulitiple Intellegences or Differentiated Learning.

If you don't know what your intelligences are (or even if you do) the book, The Gift in You, not only contains an extensive quiz to figure out what your dominant intelligences are, but also how your brain uses them to solve problems, and what is blocking you from using your intelligences to their highest capacity. The book is written from a Christian viewpoint, but the information is all presented using scientific material. This book is also for anybody whereas most material on Gardner's Multiple Intelligence Theory is written for the educational professional.

The 7 Intelligences are: Intrapersonal, Interpersonal, Linguistic, Logical/Mathematical, Kinesthetic, Musical, and Visual/Spatial

But don't let the names fool you. You may test as a musical person, but that doesn't necessarily mean you should be an opera singer, it may mean being a public speaker would be something to look into. (The book explains the nuances of the gifts.) If you know what your areas of dominance and weakness are, you can think through your proposed business idea considering your strengths.

For Example: If your dominant intellegence is Kinesthetic (a tactile mover) freelance editing probably won't be something you ought to choose.If you're an Intrapersonal Linguist, mowing lawns shouldn't be your choice. It doesn't mean you can't do these jobs or even do them well, but you're better suited for others, and most likely will enjoy and stick with a business more suited to your talents.

Though I highly recommend the book, this site might give you some idea as to what your intelligence is. (Though they add an 8th category that doesn't match up with the brain science presented by Dr. Leaf.)

2. Birth Order 
Though there are always exceptions, what is typical of your birth order should be contemplated before going into business. I'm firstborn (bossy, organized) and my husband is lastborn (fearless, creative). This definitely shows up in what businesses we are each pursuing.

Also my intelligences coupled with my birth order changes me a bit, too. If I were a last born with my intelligences I'd be different, and I'd have to structure my business accordingly.

(Here's a site to look at on Birth Order to get an idea)

3. Obsessions

Look at what you collect already, what obsession have you kept up with over many years? What do you always gravitate back to? What manuals, television programs, and books do you always make time for?

My husband has a million and a half projects/jobs he wants to do, and he's always collecting stuff in order to do these projects . . . one day--but only one of these obsessions does he keep purchasing for, keeps collecting books for, keeps spending his tiny spare moments of time to work on. This is the obsession he needs to look at making into a business.

4. Skill Sets

What training and schooling have you already had? What jobs have you already held? What life experiences have you had?

Consider both the ones you loved and the ones you hated. What did you like and dislike about each job, what did you excel and fail at in each job. Then try to match yourself with a job that uses the most of your enjoyable, proficient skills, and avoid (or possibly outsource) jobs using your hated, underdeveloped skills.

5. Your spouse's abilities and desires

Consider your spouses intelligences, birth order, dislikes, and skills--but don't volunteer them! If you are married, consider if your spouse could possibly take care of parts of the business that you don't like...BUT make sure they want to!

I'm much more organized and detail oriented, but my husband's initial thought that I could do the books for his company of machine parts that I don't understand did not sound like anything I ever wanted to do. I don't understand mechanics, and I don't ever want to. I am not the person he should rely on for getting the right parts and oils for his mechanic business.If you want to make it a couple's business, don't expect one spouse who seems gifted for the work to help unless they are willing. Otherwise, your business might just cause big problems in your marriage over the years.

If your spouse is unwilling or unable to help, can you do this alone? Might you have to hire or outsource parts of your business to someone more capable than yourself? Maybe you could tweak your business idea to avoid areas that you may not want to or can't deal with expertly.

Finally, don't look at just one area or you could be in trouble. As for me, many people think I take really good photographs, people even ask me to take their photos, but because of my weak visual/spacial intelligence, my lack of obsession/drive, my birth order, and type of interpersonal intelligence I possess, I know that despite having a good eye, a photography business wouldn't be the wisest choice of business for me despite believing I could make money with it if I wanted to. My photography will remain a hobby that simply saves me from having to hire a photographer for my family--unless, of course, I ever want to be in any photos. :)

Are you considering starting a business? Have you considered the 5 things above and found the unique business suited for your strengths and avoiding your weaknesses? Have you tried a business and failed at it because you hadn't taken one of the above into consideration?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Interview and Giveaway with Author Laura Frantz: Work

Hello everyone. We're back today for the second part of our interview with the fabulous author, Laura Frantz. Today we'll be focusing on the business side of working from home. Be sure to check out yesterday's post, for more of the interview.

Laura, what jobs have you attempted while working at home? What are the pros and cons of these jobs? Would you do them again?

Publishing is my first work-at-home experience. I’ve always been in the work force outside the home before that.

How do you balance the demands of work and family?

It’s a daily dance. Praying and making a game plan helps. I plan menus in advance, only go to town to shop once a week, limit my social outings, rarely talk on the phone or watch TV, etc.

(Naomi adds:) I rarely watch TV as well. I wonder if that's common for authors. I find that even when I do watch a movie, it's not as rich or fulfilling an experience as reading. I normally end up ducking out of the movie halfway through to go read. :-)

Are there times you wish you worked outside of the home? How do you deal with those feelings?

Since I worked outside the home for 20 years or so before marrying in my 30’s and having children, I never wanted to return to the outside work world. Home is truly an oasis for me.

How do you arrange the physical space in your house so you have a place to work?

I have always had a little office sans laundry room with a big desk. But this year my oldest son moved to the garage apartment and gave up his room of 13 years. I was so delighted to turn that space into a little library/office with bookshelves and woodstove, etc. Our house is small so this was an unexpected treat.

(Naomi adds:) LOL! An office sans laundry room? I'm always delighted to hear of the places authors find to write. Lots of times I write at the kitchen table. There's not even room in our house for a desk right now. And our printer's at the church my husband pastors, so I have to drive 8 miles to print something off. But none of that prevents a writer from writing, does it? It sounds as though you really enjoy your new office space, and I bet your son loves being in the garage!

Do you have a schedule and always work at the same time every day, or is your work time random and haphazard? Why?

Last year the demands of writing became so great that I felt the Lord urging me/us to put the boys in public school. This was so difficult for me, but let me tell you, having them away from 8-3 makes a HUGE difference. It helps that they love school and were ready to go. I try to get as much done as possible when they’re at school and shut the computer off when they get home.

(Naomi adds:) I'm sure putting your boys in school was a difficult decision, but I'm glad the Lord gave you peace about it. It sounds as though you have a good balance.

What's your favorite aspect of working from home?

I often say to my family how thankful I am that I can get up and not even comb my hair or put on lipstick to go to work.

Any other words of wisdom you would like to share that you haven’t mentioned in the questions above?

When I’m facing deadlines and feeling especially overwhelmed with family busyness, I always pray that the Lord will give me uninterrupted writing time. He is so faithful!


Thanks so much for taking time to be with us yesterday and today, Laura. If you missed yesterday's post, here's a little information about her current book. Laura is giving away a signed copy of The Colonel's Lady, so don't forget to leave a comment and your email address below. And if you have the time, Laura would love for you to stop by her blog at

Thanks so much for everyone's time, and without further ado, here's the fabulous Colonel's Lady once more:

Can love survive the secrets kept buried within a tormented heart?

Roxanna Rowan may be a genteel Virginia woman, but she is determined to brave the wilds of the untamed frontier to reach a remote Kentucky fort. Eager to reunite with her father, who serves under Colonel Cassius McLinn, Roxanna is devastated to find that her father has been killed on a campaign. Penniless and out of options, Roxanna is forced to remain at the fort. As she spends more and more time with the fiery Colonel McLinn, the fort is abuzz with intrigue and innuendo.

Can Roxanna truly know who the colonel is--and what he's done?
Immerse yourself in this powerful story of love, faith, and forgiveness set in the tumultuous world of the frontier in 1779.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Interview and Giveaway with Author Laura Frantz: Home

Hello everyone, and happy "Day After Labor Day!" I trust you enjoyed the long weekend, even if it does signify the end of summer and those fun-filled beach days.

Today and tomorrow, we're kicking off the fall season here at Making Home Work with an interview from the spectacular author Laura Frantz. If you like novels and you've never read anything by this wonderful author, get your hands on one of her books TODAY. Her stories will carry you away to the unforgettable world of the Kentucky frontier.

Thanks for being with us today, Laura. Let's jump right into the interview:
Tell me a bit about your family. How many children do you have, and how old are they?
I’ve been married to Randy for 17 years, and we have 2 boys, Paul and Wyatt, ages 12 and 14.
I've seen pics of your two boys on your blog. They're such handsome little men!
Why did you choose to work from home rather than find a job elsewhere?
Before I married I worked outside the home – teaching, social work, waitressing, and more. When my children were born I found myself wishing I could stay home with them and contribute to our income in even a small way but, the publishing dream was so unrealistic I almost gave up on it. Since I homeschooled for 8 years, I wanted to teach my kids and also work from home but couldn’t find a way to do that other than writing.
What is the most challenging aspect of working from home while raising children?
Staying organized and achieving a harmonious balance between being a mom and a writer. It’s not easy! I did take 5 years off when they were little, and it was the best move I ever made. Now that they’re older and independent, I don’t feel guilty “going to work” even if it’s simply closing the door to my office, which I rarely do. I want them to feel they can come in at any time and that they’re more important than books.
(Naomi adds:) I appreciate you point about your children being more important than books. I'm terrified that one day my boys will come to me and say "Mama, do you have to write? Can't you play with me instead?" I want my kids to know they're more important than writing, but I want them to support my writing and not view it as something that takes away from their time with me.
Did you ever get your children involved with your home business? What advice would you give mothers thinking about having their children help with their business?
My boys are really intrigued that their mom writes books now, but they weren’t so thrilled when they were little. I try to keep them in the loop about publishing as they seem interested and often ask questions. They love handing out promotional materials like bookmarks and are getting to the age where they can assist in mailing books and other office tasks. Helping out teaches them organization, and they see that writing really is a ministry.
(Naomi adds:) Laura, I completely sympathize with your boys not being thrilled about your writing at the beginning! Since I got my publishing contract, I've tried explaining to my four year old that Mama is writing a book when she "works at her computer." But he doesn't make the connection. I'm hoping I can see that light of understanding in his eyes when he holds my first novel. :-)
If you're married, what challenges did working from home present to your marriage, and how did you compensate?
Honestly, I feel married to my computer sometimes – and my husband does, too! I try to be really sensitive to not work in the evenings. I also try staying open to his schedule as much as possible, and we make time to get out and have fun together. We talk about the workload of writing A LOT which keeps us communicating. Writing has never been work to me, though publishing is. I have to discipline myself away from writing as I could pretty much do it 24/7. I’ve never been one of those writers who feel it’s just a job.

If you could start all over again, what would you do differently? What would you do the same?
I would have tapped into the online writing community earlier and began blogging and making contacts. On the other hand, not having online distractions helped me log many hours of writing which made me a stronger writer.
(Naomi adds:) I feel the same way. I burrowed myself in my own little writing world for the first couple years I wrote. I could have been making connections during that time, but then I wonder if my writing would have grown as quickly as it did. Both developing your writing and connecting with readers and writers takes time. I'm not sure there's a right or wrong way to do it, just a lot of different choices.
Is it worth it? What keeps you home instead of having an outside career?
If I view writing/publishing as a ministry, it is truly worth it. If I look at it from the monetary, 8-5 angle, it is not. The publishing world is very consuming and will try to woo you away from what is truly important, mainly your faith and your family. Yes, even the CBA. At times it’s a challenge to stay grounded and remember that it’s all about God’s glory and not ours.


Thanks so much for the interview, Laura. You have some really insightful points, which I hope and pray will encourage our readers. Laura's third book, The Colonel's Lady, released in August, and it's a great story! Here's more about the book:
Can love survive the secrets kept buried within a tormented heart?

Roxanna Rowan may be a genteel Virginia woman, but she is determined to brave the wilds of the untamed frontier to reach a remote Kentucky fort. Eager to reunite with her father, who serves under Colonel Cassius McLinn, Roxanna is devastated to find that her father has been killed on a campaign.

Penniless and out of options, Roxanna is forced to remain at the fort. As she spends more and more time with the fiery Colonel McLinn, the fort is abuzz with intrigue and innuendo. Can Roxanna truly know who the colonel is--and what he's done?

Immerse yourself in this powerful story of love, faith, and forgiveness set in the tumultuous world of the frontier in 1779.

To enter our book giveaway, leave a comment below with your email address. A winner will be announced at the end of the week. If you're interested in learning more about Laura, stop by her blog at And don't forget to return tomorrow for the second part of our interview with Laura.