Sunday, December 6, 2015

"She Walks In Beauty" by Siri Mitchell

She Walks In Beauty by Siri Mitchell

What a lovely book title and taken from a line in Lord Byron’s poem! Siri Mitchell had me from the introduction of the first chapter when she states…“During the opulence, the splendor, and the excess of the Gilded Age.” Who wouldn’t want a peek into this interesting time period, which by the way, this author paints with words so lavished with grace, beauty and truth that it is difficult to put the book down once one begins to read its pages. The historic backdrop is rich as cream, adding to the stories splendor that lasts long after the last page is read.

Siri’s characters are delightful and invigorating and complex enough that they could be modeled after real people. Clara Carter, an unwilling socialite, had her family’s honor weighing upon her shoulders. She is her social season’s exquisite favorite, well at least for most people. I completely enjoyed getting to know Clara and her dilemma with opulence and I smile to think of her now! She is my favorite of the characters offered in this story, but that does not mean that Lizzie Barnes, Miss Miller, Aunt, the De Vries brothers, Mr. Douglas or the others do not hold my interest, respect or angst with the full measure that their characters should convey.

Lovely sentence rhythm, well rounded characters, intrigue and mystery were delicately and profoundly balanced on the tip of Siri’s pen for She Walks in Beauty. I thank you Siri for your gift of writing and willingness to spill your heart and imagination on the pages, creating a novel that resonated with me and the others I know who read this satisfying and memorable 1891 story.

I still miss her pages now that the book is finished. Yes, this is a definite re-read novel. A favorite! As one of my Pens of Praise writers, Becky McLafferty, stated, “Looks like we have found another new favorite author.” My heart leapt with the truth of her words. Indeed we have and I hope that you will experience Siri Mitchells novels soon. You deserve her, really you do!

Questions for Siri Mitchell:

1) Siri, you sure did your research with this novel. I was definitely impressed with how you weaved historical lifestyles and thought into your plot and character’s dilemma. How did you come up with this story? This book was one of three that focused on dangerous fashions. The first was A Constant Heart. It was set in the Elizabethan era when women poisoned themselves through their use of lead face paint. The second was Love’s Pursuit. It was a little less literal, the central idea being the era’s emphasis on appearance; the thought that what you wore could ruin your reputation – even among those who had known you forever. With She Walks in Beauty, the danger came in the form of the corset.

2) Do you research characters or write from your gut? Are any of your characters modeled after real life people? I don’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about or interviewing my characters. I feel like my job is mostly to just listen when they speak and record what they say. Most of the time my characters aren’t modeled specifically after real life people, but many times, they’re influenced by a type of person from their era. The hero in A Constant Heart is based on the ideal Elizabethan courtier. Clara, in this book, is based on her era’s society debutante. Hannah, from The Messenger, is based on several Revolutionary-era female spies and the real life dilemmas of conflicted Quakers during the period. My spring release has a quartet of West Point cadets. They’re based on the general types of cadets found at military academies and filled in with bits and pieces of legendary graduates of those pre-war years…and as I re-read this paragraph, I guess the better answer to your question would be ‘sort of’, wouldn’t it? 

3) Where do you enjoy finding research most? (In historically written books, internet or libraries?) I’m old-fashioned: I love to hold a real book in my hands as I read although I’ll take information in any form I can get it. Particular research favorites from my bibliography for this book are: In a Gilded Cage by Marian Fowler; American Beauty by Lois Banner; and The Good Old Days – They Were Terrible!  by Otto Bettmann. I also made ample use of the archives of The New York Times as I wrote this book.

4) What would you like to tell your current readers and hopefully future readers about the 1891 time period that you couldn’t include in this story? I think it’s important for readers of any historical novel to understand that for the purposes of the story, the scope of the characters’ world has to be artificially narrowed. There was so much I couldn’t include in this story, so much happening outside New York City in the nation and also in the countries across the globe. The women’s suffrage and the temperance movements were gaining influence. Out West, the Massacre of Wounded Knee had just taken place. The very first Sherlock Holmes story was published in 1891. The first successful flight of a manned aircraft took place in Prussia. Commercial production of the automobile began (in France). This was also the era of the robber barons who had created fabulous wealth using unscrupulous business practices and the era of sensationalism in news reporting.

5) Who was your favorite character in this novel and if this story was made into a movie who would you like to play the part of that character? Aside from Clara and Harry, I thought there were some great secondary characters in this novel! My heart went out to Katherine. And Mrs. Hobbs, who was obsessed with death and dying, made me laugh. And Lizzie was just so pure-hearted and loyal. Before I start drafting my stories, I usually make a character collage with images of the characters. The collage for this book can be seen on my Pinterest board:

6) What do you find to be the best trait of the 1890’s? Although it was taken to an extreme, I like the idea that there was a general knowledge of etiquette and an expectation of the use of good manners throughout society. I think we could use a little more of those in our culture today!

7) What was the worse trait of the 1890’s? The worst trait had to be the rigid roles required of both men and women in terms of their places within the family structure and within society in general. There was very little room for individuality. I explore this in even more depth in my English-set 1850s novel, Like a Flower in Bloom.

8) You have leapt time periods with your other novels and I always find it interesting to see where your capable mind will land. Do you have a favorite historical time period? I’ve gone as far back as the Dark Ages of Europe with one of my Iris Anthony books (The Miracle Thief) and as modern as the 1920s with Love Comes Calling. My next book, Flirtation Walk, is set in the 1850s. I have to say that each era has its own appeal. And just as soon as I’ve a ruled out a time period as being too dull, I seem to find a story in it!

9) Do you wish to share with us the next novel you have in the works? I just sent off the final proofs of my spring release, Flirtation Walk. It’s set at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in the 1850s. Here’s a story summary:

Lucinda Curtis, the daughter of a con man, is trying her best to leave her father’s sordid past behind her. When he unexpectedly dies, she takes the opportunity to move to West Point to live with her aunt, ready to take on a new life and determined to marry a respectable man, a West Point cadet, to impress her relatives.

Seth Westcott, a cadet at West Point, is proud to be at the top of his senior class. Then his mother dies and his sister is taken in by a swindler, and Seth wants nothing more than to head west to track down the con man. But the army will only send the cadets at the bottom of the class to the frontier which leaves Seth with some tough choices. 

When a woman trying her best to be good meets a man determined to be anything but, can there be hope for love or will two lonely hearts be condemned to casual flirtation?

Thank you Siri for graciously being willing to participate with this novel review and the questions that were posed to you. I’m currently reading Love Comes Calling and enjoying every word!

10) Where can your readers and followers find you online?

Thursday, November 12, 2015

DiAnn Mills - Teaching on Characterization!

Christian Writers Group
Next meeting…
Monday, November 16th 6:30 – 8:30pm
Faith Church
2201  42nd Street, Manitowoc, WI  54220

Faith Church is located next to Festival Foods
Not far from the Manitowoc exit off Interstate 43

Would you like to write colorful and interesting characters?
The teaching for this month is and I quote Becky McLafferty:

“Hi everyone,

We are excited to announce a writing workshop coming up November 16 as part of our Pens meeting--an interactive workshop with award-winning Christian author DiAnn Mills!!”

Becky sent an email announcement requesting a RSVP from those interested in DiAnn’s teaching on Developing Characters. We are meeting DiAnn Mills via the on-line Zoom connection.

November’s Prompt challenge:  We can either write a Bible story in our own words or we can pick a character type that we would want to write and plan the bare bones outline for this character's story. After our lesson this month we can apply what DiAnn has taught. Then for our next meeting we can introduce our characters to our fellow writers!

You are welcome to bring your latest WIP, or work in progress, for a five-minute reading but this is not required to attend our meetings.

Don’t forget to visit one of our local shops and bring your coffee or cappuccino with you. Let us know if you can attend the February meeting so we can save a special spot for you!

May God bless you richly and always as you write for His glory!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

"The Mistress of Tall Acre" by Laura Frantz

The Mistress of Tall Acre by Laura Frantz

Laura Frantz has done it again…whisked me away to another time, another place where I do not hear the blast of car horns or televisions rivaling with chirping crickets and twilling birdsong. Instead, my mind engaged with these well-shown events and challenges that follow the American Revolutionary War.  Interesting transitions took place with our new independent nation, as it tried to find its footing. But, don’t get me wrong, this novel is not a history book. Everything flows nicely with the plot making a deeper and richer story because the setting is accurate and enhances the situations of the characters.

This novel called The Mistress of Tall Acre, has earned my round of applause! It is important for me to like the characters that I read about and spend time with. I very much like Sophie Menzies and General Seamus Ogilvy who are the main characters of a story that has surprising twists and turns! When I communicated with Laura about this book and that I was in the process of reading it, she mentioned it had a twist to it….”A TWIST” no no no no…there was more than one for sure! I loved the story and she kept me turning the pages. (Sometimes it is so inconvenient to be employed! Ha ha!)

I enjoyed other characters in this novel. Doesn’t everyone want a Glynnis in their life? Oh, sweet Lilly Cate! I will tell you nothing more about them and other characters for Laura is the inventor of their story and I don’t want you to miss your first impressions and growing familiarity with them.

I loved this visit to post American Revolutionary times, where people dealt with prejudice, unfairness, and adjustments that were not easily overcome. We can all identify with those challenges as our nation groans with similar concerns though different situations. Williamsburg is visited in this novel! Williamsburg, VA is a favorite vacation spot for my sister and myself. Reading the references to that important location of course caused me to smile and wish I were there!

This is a novel I highly approve of and will suggest for anyone who wants to know what excellent books I’ve been reading lately. So far my sister and I have read this copy and I’m sure that we will be fighting over who gets to read it next many times over! {Okay, we don’t fight really, but we have decided to read the same book about the same time in the past. That happens with our favorites and well, this is one of our new favorites! I may not have told my sister that I wanted to read certain books when she did. Or I may have just told her no.}

If you buy this for a birthday gift, Christmas gift or just because gift for a special person in your life— they will thank you for the experience. My heart still hums with the pleasure of reading The Mistress of Tall Acre by Laura Frantz and I’m sure if you give it a try, then yours will also.

Don’t be shy… if you’ve read this book tell us your thoughts!

Questions for Laura:

1)      When did you fall in love with American Revolutionary times?
As soon as I learned to read those little biographies of historic figures like Betsy Ross and Dolly Madison and Sacajawea, I was smitten!

2)      Who is your favorite person from those days?
Daniel Boone. Thankfully, my next novel includes him and the entire plot revolves around a little known incident in his life. Thanks to historical fans for asking me to write another Kentucky novel and include my lifetime hero!

3)      Who are your hero and heroine fashioned after?
Wonderful question! Seamus is a combination of George Rogers Clark and George Washington, both heroes of the Colonial period. My heroine resembled the lovely Madeline Stowe who portrayed Cora in the film, The Last of the Mohicans.

4)      Is this a standalone novel, or will there be more stories that come from Tall Acres?
Readers are already asking for a sequel and I’m honored by that. If that happens I think the heroine would be a grown-up Lily Cate J. And an adult baby Adam!

5)      Now that you have moved into a log cabin built by a writer what has sparked your imagination for future novels?
I’m still pinching myself that I’m living the log cabin dream of my childhood. I really believe it’s time for me to return to my Appalachian roots. The area I’m living in (and where I grew up) has tremendous story potential. I need only tap into my family tree and the history of this incredible Kentucky county.

6)      The Mistress of Tall Acre’s cover is lovely. Did you have a hand in its design or were you able to suggest what you would like?
I had actually asked for the hero and his wee daughter to be on the cover but Sophie, our heroine, won out! I was able to choose the dress she is wearing from a portfolio of period gowns. I thought it was important for the house, Tall Acre, to be on the cover as the estate is so key to the novel. And I have to put in a plug for the back as the house in cameo is heavenly as is the back of Sophie’s gown on the spine!

7)      Getting down and personal…what is your favorite food?
Is this a trick question? I hate to say it but the only thing I DON’T like is escargot and oysters, etc. A favorite would be regional – chicken and dumplings  :)

8)      What is your favorite hobby not counting writing and reading? (Yes, I can be mean!)
I love handwork like cross-stitch and knitting though I’m a terrible knitter! I may try crochet soon. I’m wild about Pinterest, so much so that it counts as a hobby. And I’m an avid walker/hiker who goes out every day.

9)    Who is a favorite actor that you would enjoy in a movie made from one of your novels? (I can’t help but hope that some wise investor will contract your books and make them memorable movies like Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre.
Oh my! What a delicious question! I would have to pick Richard Armitage as a hero. He’s such a classy gentleman and full of smolder ;).

10)      What else would you like to tell us about yourself or your novels or plans in the future?
3 more novels coming through 2019. Can’t wait!  (I agree! I can't wait either!)

11)      How do you wish your reading friends to contact you?

I always answer email at
Huge thanks to you, Sue, for such a fun interview!

Every novel by Laura Frantz has been a worth read in my opinion!  

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

A Patchwork of Promises by Gayle C. Ottemiller

I had the pleasure of receiving A Patchwork of Promises by Gayle C. Ottemiller this past weekend and was thrilled at its unique delivery for encouragement and information. Truly, any quilter, whether you are experienced, novice, or a wanna-be (like me) will love this devotional book. In fact, anyone who had a quilting friend or relation would be warmed by the stories shared in these devotions. As I read these, I was reminded of my own sweet memories and I believe you will think of yours also!

 I know that you should read one devotion per day, but I read three at my first sitting, one right after the other. I appreciated the Living Bible or The Message scripture used to start the devotion and then again at the finish to state God’s promise. What spiritual delights wait for anyone who would read A Patchwork of Promises

Perusing these pages, I discovered a sweet simplicity that stirred my emotions with stories of quilts and the people connected with them. Some stories told of thoughtful mothers and others were about givers who’d never known those to whom their quilts would bring comfort.  I felt that the scriptures used in this book were powerful and useful for anyone at any spiritual level. The topics were engaging and memorable, for though I read these late at night when my brain usually does an information dump…I’m still savoring their sweetness and the power of the message they conveyed.

The added plus is the information stitched into the devotions about quilting. I eagerly wrote those tips down for my ‘someday’ when I hope to start a memory quilt for my family. In a few words, I would describe A Patchwork of Promises as unique and inspiring, a book that touches the reader’s spirit, soul, and delight for quilting. How many fortunate people will be wrapped in the quilts and love inspired by this worthy read….innumerable I hope! I highly recommend this devotional for your personal use or for gift giving!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

“Purely Inspirational”

Pens of Praise
Christian Writers Group
Next meeting…
Monday, October 19th   from 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Faith Church
2201  42nd Street, Manitowoc, WI  54220
§   Faith Church is located next to Festival Foods
§   Not far from the Manitowoc exit off Interstate 43

During our October meeting, we will explore a teaching which reaches into the “Purely Inspirational” realm taught by Susan Kinney. Bring your favorite Bible along! Don’t forget your spectacles!

Our prompt for October is: Your FAVORITE Bible story – In Your Own Words. Whether you write poetry, a one page short story, or article, recall your favorite biblical story and share your excitement with our Penzers!! We are a safe place to spread your wings to soar when sharing your inspirational writing.

Not in town with us…no matter you may join in and write to our prompt! That will be second best to being here!

Warning !!! You may end up LOVING to write!
Visit a local shop and bring your coffee or cappuccino with you.

Let us know if you’re attending so we can save a seat just for you.

We look forward to seeing you there! May God bless you richly and always 
as you write for 
His glory! 

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Sarah Sandra Guest Post on Acne Remedies

Greetings all, 

I want to introduce a blog piece shared with us from Sarah Sandra. It is my joy to work with her on this blog event and I found her information interesting and I hope it will be useful for those who suffer with Acne. You may find other topics of interest with Sarah at Sarah Sandra  www.OLWomen.Com
Now take a gander and read and enjoy! 

5 Pretty Simple Home Remedies Ideas for Acne

The important part of you is none other than your skin, it is your friend and you like it and it likes you. You do protect it from any kind of damage but that one annoying thing appears all of a sudden from nowhere and you start hating your skin; yes the Acne! You start to use the harsh chemicals, scrub and everything you get at particular time just to be free of it but the main question here is how to get rid of acne, so we are here to offer you the pretty simple home remedies you can use for the treatment of acne. You do not need to waste your money on the market scrubs or substances. Just follow these medications and you will fall in love with your skin all over again. There is no need to worry if you can consider these:

5- Utilize a Banana Peel

Banana is comprised of all categories of goodness even the part that is not used by us. The peel of the banana contains a prevailing antioxidant known as lutein that helps in the growth of cells and lessens swelling. Rub the banana peel on your face to minimize the redness and distress of acne.
Method of treating acne with banana peels:

·         First of all, cleanse the affected area of skin with a cleanser to ensure that it is free from dust and oils then wash with cool water, dry your skin with a clean towel. Do not rub your skin too harshly, it will make the acne worse.
·         Select the banana that is ripe, yellow having black spots, you should avoid the bananas that are over-ripe; greasy and black.
·         Take a banana peel and cut it in small pieces so that it’s easy to handle.
·         Now rub the interior part of banana peel on the affected area of your skin. Gently massage your skin with it for about 10 minutes. After every few minutes, do check the peel, if it’s turned black then take the new piece of peel and continue to massage.
·         Do not wash your skin immediately after applying the banana peel, do wait until the end of the day if you can and then wash your skin with cool water so that the banana peel is fully absorbed in your skin. If you cannot wait the whole day then do the massage before going to bed and wash your face in the morning.
·         Do this task on the daily basis at least for a week, you will notice that you acne will start to disappear. If you comprehend that your skin is becoming irritated by the use of banana peel and stop using it on daily basis and let your skin rest.
4- Usage of Lemon Juice

The lemon juice contain Vitamin C which is the best for all types of skin, it helps in exfoliating the skin as well because it’s a citric acid. It can also be used as the skin whitener to lessen the redness of skin but one thing you should keep in your mind, do not apply lemon juice before going outside in the sun, it might cause a damage to your skin.
Method of treating acne with Lemon Juice:
·         Wash your face first to ensure there is no dirt or oil, make sure your skin is completely dry before applying the lemon juice.
·         Take a cotton pad and soak it in the piece of fresh lemon. Leave the cotton pad in the lemon piece for few seconds for good absorption.
·         Use the cotton pad on the affected area of your skin, you might feel the itchiness on your skin but it must not hurt; saturate the cotton pad in the lemon piece as needed.
·         After 30 minutes, rinse your face with water and remove any excess lemon juice.
·         Do this task every 1-3 days for couple of weeks for better results.
3- Strawberry Facial Mask

As strawberries are high in salicylic acid which is used in the treatment of acne that is why it can be used as a facial mask to get rid of the acne and it also helps in new cell growth.
Method of making a homemade strawberry cleanser:
·         Mesh the strawberries using a folk.
·         Mix them with 2 teaspoons of honey and merge them together.
·         Wash your face with cool water and dry it but leave it a little wet.
·         Apply the mask on your face for about 20 minutes.
·         After that, wash your face with warm water and apply some moisture on your skin.

·         Use this mask for at least a month.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Next meeting -- Monday 6:308:30 p.m. September 21st

2201 42ND Street, Manitowoc, WI  54220
Faith Church is located next to Festival Foods
Not far from the Manitowoc exit off Interstate 43

Our teaching for September is called “Now What's Cooking in the Crockpot of My Mind?” taught by our very own Kathy Leist and we will explore ideas and where to catch them! This is a continuation of last month’s fun, popular teaching!

The prompt you are invited to write to is…What is your favorite tension technique? If you were at last month’s class then bring another and have some fun!.

Disclaimer: Warning you may end up loving to write!

Visit a local shop and bring your coffee or cappuccino with you.
Let us know if you’re attending so that we can save a seat just for you.

God’s blessings upon you as you write for His glory!