Pastry, Royalty, and Mystery

I don’t know about your TBR list, but mine is growing weekly. As I meet and hear about new authors, I’m curious to read their books. That’s a lot of writers and even more books. To narrow that list down to a favorite would be almost impossible. Ack!


I’ve decided to tell you about one author I know a little better than the rest because I’ve known her for a longer period of time. This year marks eight years. I’m honored to call her mentor, friend, and one of my favorite authors.

headshot21I met Sandra when I enrolled in a two-year Apprentice Course with the Christian Writers Guild. Through bi-weekly emails, I became acquainted with her philosophies.

One of the first pieces of advice she gave to me was about vulnerability. It is a bit of guidance I carry with me daily.

Your vulnerability is what buys you the right to teach your reader, remember! – Sandra Byrd

Curling up with one of Sandra’s books is like sitting down with an old friend. I reach for my much-loved blanket, my favorite hot beverage, and climb in my comfy chair for an extended visit. It’s easy to lose myself in whatever period she writes. The sights, sounds, and smells, of her imaginary worlds, bring life to the characters in her story.

For example in the modern French Twist series, you can almost taste the delectable pastries in the Bijoux. The Ladies in Waiting series takes the reader to the uncertain times of Henry VIII’s court and ends with the reign of Queen Elizabeth. The Daughters of Hampshire is set in the adored Victorian Era.

17197682_10210762378807328_1032950164_n Sandra Byrd

The last book in the DH set, A Lady in Disguise, is coming out this month, so I need to arrange my TBR list.

For anyone who loves to read, I highly recommend Sandra Byrd as an author whose books will be a delight to explore.

You can connect with Sandra on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, or her Blog.

Click to tweet: Your vulnerability is what buys you the right to teach your reader, remember!

Writing Prompt: You are seated at the ACFW Conference when your favorite author joins you for a chat.




3 Questions Wednesday with Jacqueline Gillam Fairchild

photo0057fourbysixAuthor Jacqueline Gillam Fairchild has a special occupation as the owner of Her Majesty’s English Tea Room and the British shoppe Fairchild’s. Imagine serving a proper English tea every day.  I’m ready to go. But first, let’s find out a little more about Jacqueline…

First Question:

What inspires you?

Jacqueline: I am inspired by everyone I meet and their stories. We all have stories, if we take the time to listen. They don’t have to be gigantic or earth shaking, they simply are each and every one of ours.  And as I hear them, I am inspired. I have a strong faith that people just need a friend.  I like to listen and then help people find that gem inside them they always knew was there.

Maybe that is why I started writing:

I think women crave a prettier, kinder, independent world.  Through my restaurant, my shoppe and my stories I show women how this can be achieved.  How they can find that gem inside themselves and develop it into their dream career or hobby.

I inspire and encourage women to leave the rat race before they are forced out, and to become self-starters in all the ‘dream’ categories from running a bed and breakfast, tea room, bridal business, photographer, pastry chef, interior designer and floral designer, to name a few.

My stories include the beginning and end—the very young and the very old and the ties we make with them in the middle.  And perhaps a bit of whimsical magic, because, after all there is that magic inside of us that sometimes we just miss. I think of myself as Hallmark meets Disney.

It’s wonderful that you have so many ways to inspire people. 🙂

You’re a new addition to the crayon box. What color would you be and why?

Jacqueline: I love color. I guess I can say I would want the entire box of crayons. Each color brings out a feeling or mood for me and I feel sometimes people unknowingly limit themselves. The colors of nature are my favorite because they simply are there, waiting for us.

Interesting answer. Last question:

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Jacqueline: As a child I wanted happy endings.  I felt by owning my own business (Her Majesty’s English Tea Room and my British shoppe Fairchild’s) I could bring beautiful things, and quiet moments of tea time to so many people while my creative side had endless outlets. I have always written, and always knew that I would take my businesses to the next level with my novels. I love people from the quiet small moments to the momentous ones and feel my stories capture them.


Jacqueline, we’re so glad you joined us today! 

Jennifer: Thank you for taking the time to visit with me. I think your blog reaches people you will never meet, but will change just a little bit.

More about Jacqueline: Follow my daily blog of one happy thought My facebook pages are always fun: Her Majesty’s English Tea Room and Jacqueline Gillam Fairchild. My Pinterest boards are a variety of all the things I love: Her Majesty’s English Tea Room at Fairchild’s.

This is Lucy my therapy dog. Therapy in that she simply loves me and is there for me, regardless of my day. I always have dogs and cats in my stories. They are the furry people  I think we all need.


Tea time–that quiet time that restores us. Aren’t there just 20 minutes in the day, just for you?

Would you enjoy receiving  a hard copy of Jacqueline’s novel Estate of Mind or a gift certificate to tea at Her Majesty’s in Dunlap, Illinois? If so, please leave a comment below and you’ll be in the drawing to win…

Estate of Mind 

estate-of-mindWelcome to Estate of Mind. A beautiful bed and breakfast in an old apple orchard in the middle of the middle of nowhere. Ever wonder what restoring an old mansion and turning it into a bed and breakfast would be like? Miranda simply had to move her aging father from the city to a country retirement center and get her two small children out of inner city schools. This meant sacrificing her own career.

How hard could it be to find a new career in the country? Or a place to live? Harder than she ever imagined!

As the housekeeper at a derelict mansion, Miranda begins cleaning out decades of trash while vowing that when the absentee owner returns, she will give him a piece of her mind for living like such a slob. After endless scrubbing, painting, polishing, and restoring, the old house is magnificent. To Miranda’s delight, the attic holds a treasure trove of old furniture just waiting to be brought back to life. Encouraged by her friends, Miranda turns the gorgeous estate into a bed and breakfast. But what happens when the absentee owner finally comes home, only to be checked in by Miranda’s seven-year-old son?

5 Reasons to Love Wemmicks, Parables, and Max Lucado Books

By Jennifer Hallmark

wemmickDo you know what Wemmicks are? How about little Hermie? If not, you probably haven’t read a Max Lucado book to a child yet.

What? You didn’t know that my all-time favorite non-fiction author of encouraging, inspirational books for adults also writes children’s books? Then let me share with you 5 reasons you need to read these books…child reading

  • The Wemmicks– There are at least 5 books featuring the Wemmicks, small wooden people carved by a woodworker named Eli. The issues and situations they deal with definitely mirror those we encounter daily. Max addresses these issues gently, displaying the grace of God.
  • They touch your heart-One book I especially love is “Just In Case You Ever Wonder.” I cannot read this to my grandchildren without tearing up. We are so special to God and this book is simple enough for a child to understand, but deep in truth.
  • Little Hermie books-They are extremely easy to read with bright illustrations children enjoy. And I love the way Max uses insects as the main characters.
  • Christmas stories-Beside A Fruitcake Christmas, which is a little Hermie story, there is Itsy Bitsy Christmas: You’re Never Too Little For His Love, The Crippled Lamb, and one that I own, The Christmas Story for Children. Again, basic truth written for all ages.
  • Parables, Love and Acceptance-The basic theme of all these books is grace. They resonate with the parable of the prodigal son’s message: If you cry out to God, He will hear and come running. You and your children will feel the one-of-a-kind of love the Father has for you through the sweet messages in Max Lucado’s books.

(Click to Tweet): 5 reasons to love Wemmicks, parables, and Max Lucado books. #amwriting #amreading

20170214_134402Oh, and as for his selection of books for adults? I presently own ten, but would love to have them all. The first inspirational Christian book I ever read was When God Whispers Your Name. Someone at the church I had just started attending gave it to me, saying they felt like I needed it. They were right. It opened a whole new world of reading and drawing closer to God.

My favorite Lucado books are When God Whispers Your Name, In the Grip of Grace, On the Anvil, Facing Your Giants, and the mini-book, Give It All to Him. I buy that last one in large quantities and give them away. The parable within is a wonderful tool for witnessing to the lost or strengthening anyone who needs a little reassurance.

I’ve just purchased one of his latest, a novel titled Miracle at the Higher Grounds Café. I can’t wait to see what encouragement and surprises await me.

So why don’t you give those Wemmicks a try? You’ll be glad you did…

Writing Prompt: The Max Lucado book lay near the fireplace, just inches from the burning logs. I’d meant for it to go in when I threw it but it seemed to have a mind of its own. I fell to my knees as…




Winter Winners

spring 1Spring is at our doorstep and winter will soon be a passing memory. But at the Writing Prompts blog, we still have time for a few more book winners before the snow melts. Are you on our list?

Gail Pallotta’s romance, Breaking Barriers, in either mobi (kindle), epub (nook) or PDF (winner’s choice) has been won by Randy Tramp. Congrats!

Betty Sanders has been picked to win either a Kindle or print copy of Jerusha Agen’s book,THIS REDEEMER . Congratulations!

Randy Knight’s book, Night to Knight, goes to Shauna Williams!

Nike Chillemi is gifting two copies of Harmful Intent to Caryl Kane and Randy Tramp. Woo hoo!

A copy of Restoration of the Heart by June Foster goes to Ann Ellison. Yay!

A big THANK YOU to all our faithful readers for taking the time to stop by and comment.

Disappointed you didn’t win? Next month, we’ll give away more books.  And don’t miss April. We’ll be giving away a gift card for the best answer to a writing prompt.

See you then...lamb 3

March of Modern Authors

by Betty Thomason Owens

You step through the front door of a bookstore or library, and then what? Where do you head first? What name draws you? Are you a browser, looking for something interesting, or do you make a beeline for a certain shelf?

book-112117_1280While raising my family, I made bimonthly trips to the local library. I was a classic reader. I started with the “A” shelf and read my way through. It took me a while to get past the first column with all the Alcott, Austen, Brontes, Dickens. . . well, you get the picture. I read a number of Miss Read books and du Maurier mysteries.

But to pick one author out of the many, especially when you have numerous friends who are excellent authors–not sure I wanna go there.  I might just take the easy way out and name a few neighbors. Kentucky is proud home to many wonderful writers. If I start naming them though, I’d get myself into trouble for sure. It’s like choosing a favorite child–in front of the others. Can’t be done.

Throughout the month of March, our crew (and a guest or two) will talk about the writers who have left a lasting impression on their lives. Gifted storytellers. Books that resonate with their readers.

  • What’s your favorite?
  • Can you name a few?
  • Do you read fiction, or nonfiction?

bird-2047081_1280I shall never forget the magic of those first few lines of The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

“When Mary Lennox was sent to Misselthwaite Manor to live with her uncle everybody said she was the most disagreeable looking child ever seen.”

fog-258244_1280By the time Mary found the secret garden, the little flower-lover in me was totally hooked. I was in third grade, and I think it may have been my first “chapter book”.

It held first place in my heart till I picked up Jane Eyre. That book, with it’s foggy, craggy moors and rough-edged characters still draws me. I reread it every once in a while.

So, while the March winds blow, and Old Man Winter gives way to Spring, join us for a look at our favorite authors.

Right now, I’m going to toss another log on the fire and curl up with a good book. One from a well known Kentucky writer. She’s writing cozy mysteries these days. Wonder if you can guess who that might be? 🙂

(Click to tweet) You step through the front door of a bookstore or library and then what?

Writing Prompt: This photo immediately reminded me of the movie, Ever After. Who would live in such a place? Can you begin or end a story here?castle-1975928_1280


3 Questions Wednesday with Gail Kittleson


Gail Kittleson

Author Gail Kittleson taught college expository writing and English as a Second Language. Now she writes memoir and women’s fiction, and facilitates writing workshops and women’s retreats.

With great pleasure, we welcome her back to 3 Questions Wednesday!

First question–

What inspires you?

Gail: Words inspire me. I can’t get enough of them. Long words, short words, phrases, and above all, quotes. Not just quotes from famous people, but the quotes on my tea bag every morning. Not all of them inspire me, but I’d have to say most of them do. Little notes like, “One of the greatest mental freedoms is truly not caring what anyone else thinks of you.” Taken to the extreme, this attitude could cause chaos. But I also relate to the power of being freed from the tyranny of others’ opinions. And there are certainly characters in my novels who feel weighed down by such a burden.

This morning, the quote was from Wayne Gretzky, an athlete I wouldn’t normally be reading about. But listen: “You miss 100% of the shots you never take.” Wow! How inspiring is that? Whatever I’m facing that scares me and makes me wonder if I should hold back…ooh, better rethink that.

Of course, Scripture inspires me—that’s a given. But so many of the quotes that abound nowadays have roots in scriptural principles.

I love a good quote. 🙂 Now…

You’re a new addition to the crayon box. What color would you be and why?

Gail: I would be yellow—vibrant, clear, cheerful yellow, a primary tone that never fails to catch my eye, the color that enlivens tulips, daffodils, and daisies. When I asked my artist daughter to help me decide on colors for our dining and living room, she picked a deep intense yellow for the dining room. At first I thought, “I can’t put something this bright on the first room everyone sees when they enter our house.” But she asked, “Why?” The angle of her eyebrows told me I could, and moreover, I should.

So I did, and we love it. People say the light streaming in the south windows reflects so beautifully on this color. Its brightness cheers me every time I walk through the room, which is often. What’s not to love about this color?

Sounds like a beautiful room. Last question…

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Gail: .I wanted to be a writer. That morphed into being an English teacher, where I could inspire others to love the written word. But at base, the desire to write remained a calling, and though facilitating workshops on writing satisfies me in a unique way, writing thoroughly delights me.

Teaching and writing are both great professions. Thanks so much for stopping in! Readers, don’t forget to check out Gail’s newest book, With Each New Dawn here.

AND Gail has graciously offered to give away a print copy of her book, In Times Like These, to one person who leaves a comment. Make sure to enter below…
In Times Like These

screen-shot-2016-05-07-at-10-31-13-am-copyPearl Harbor attacked! The United States is at war. But Addie fights her own battles on the Iowa home front. Her controlling husband Harold vents his rage on her when his father’s stroke prevents him from joining the military. He degrades Addie, ridicules her productive victory garden, and even labels her childlessness as God’s punishment.

When he manipulates his way into a military unit bound for Normandy, Addie learns that her best friend Kate’s pilot husband has died on a mission, leaving her stranded in London in desperate straits. Will Addie be able to help Kate, and find courage to trust God with her future?

gailGail Kittleson calls northern Iowa home, where she and her husband enjoy grandchildren and gardening. In winter, the Arizona mountains provide new novel fodder.



The Most Adorable Dogs Ever

By Karen Jurgens

Growing up, I developed allergies to everything clothed in fur and feathers. That basically meant no horseback riding and no indoor pets. But there was one bright spot. The doctor said I might tolerate a French poodle.

The Most Adorable Dogs Ever by Karen Jurgens francois

My family’s first poodle was a silver toy named François. He was a grumpy little guy who endured my affection but preferred to lie in my dad’s arms while he sat at the kitchen table and read the newspaper. After my mother chose to have his glands surgically removed, the poor little thing caught a staph infection and eventually had to be put down.

My dad took his death very hard. So hard, in fact, that we promptly found a new puppy.  Our second was a black toy we purchased from a show breeder in Lexington, Kentucky. With his jet-black coat and long legs (the reason why he couldn’t be a show dog), we named him Bojangles—Bobo for short.


Having Bobo pacified my dad, but this sweet boy was utterly devoted to my mother and she to him. He traveled everywhere with my parents, by plane or car. He later developed a quirky security attachment to one of my mother’s purses, so she let him sleep next to it. When they stayed in a hotel, Bo knew that his mommy would be back because he had her purse.

But that wasn’t the cutest part. He also had a baby blanket he carried everywhere he went. When it was time for bed, he would snatch it and prance upstairs to my parents’ bedroom where he usually slept. After a few rounds of chasing his favorite squeaky toy, “Mousie,” he would be ready to cuddle on his blanket and go to sleep.

The Most Adorable Dogs Ever by Karen Jurgens

At the age of twelve, little Bo lost his hearing and his eyesight. Understandably, he developed severe anxiety. To help relieve it, the vet scheduled him for cataract surgery. That morning, the anesthetic affected his heart and halted the operation, and he died the next day, on Thanksgiving Day.

Many sad years passed without a poodle in our family. But when my daughters were very young, the right time came to add a new pet.

The Most Adorable Dogs Ever by Karen Jurgens betty-with-cait-at-bedtime

Babette was a large white toy, and like the others before her, quite beautiful. Although not nervous or high-strung, Babette developed a territorial nature that had to be controlled. She was born with the propensity to snap before she thought, so we all had to handle her carefully to avoid being bitten. I was her “handler,” understanding her body language the best. Whenever I bathed and groomed her, I always knew she had had enough when she gave that warning growl. We always listened and left her alone—except once. When she snapped at my nose as I kissed her head, that was the last time I ever lavished her with casual affection.

The Most Adorable Dogs Ever by Karen Jurgens betty-on-couch

But she certainly possessed her adorable moments. One Christmas Eve she stayed up all night guarding the presents around the tree as if they all belonged to her. So, on every Christmas and birthday, she also had to have her own presents. We would loosely wrap up chew bones and squeaky toys, and while my daughters opened their presents, Babs would open hers, chewing and tearing off paper until she reached her gifts. Afterward, she would guard them for days, and we knew better than to bother her.

The Most Adorable Dogs Ever by Karen Jurgens The Most Adorable Dogs Ever by Karen Jurgens The Most Adorable Dogs Ever by Karen Jurgens The Most Adorable Dogs Ever by Karen Jurgens

My daughters both took piano lessons, and Babette absolutely loved to listen to them play–so much so, that she would sit on the cushion with Cait while she practiced.

The Most Adorable Dogs Ever by Karen Jurgens The Most Adorable Dogs Ever by Karen Jurgens

When she was younger, she tolerated being put into doll cradles and strollers. She also loved to watch the girls swim but refused to ever get in the pool herself.

The Most Adorable Dogs Ever by Karen Jurgens The Most Adorable Dogs Ever by Karen Jurgens The Most Adorable Dogs Ever by Karen Jurgens The Most Adorable Dogs Ever by Karen Jurgens

At the age of almost fifteen, her health began to go downhill. Like Bo, she developed heart trouble, but in her case, she died peacefully at home on her favorite ottoman. My mother had recently had her groomed, so she was absolutely beautiful in death. We still have a tuft of her fur that her groomer had packaged inside a glass Christmas ornament years earlier. Every December, we still lovingly hang it on our tree.

The Most Adorable Dogs Ever by Karen Jurgens The Most Adorable Dogs Ever by Karen Jurgens The Most Adorable Dogs Ever by Karen Jurgens The Most Adorable Dogs Ever by Karen Jurgens

We haven’t adopted another poodle since our sweet Babette, and it has been an empty eight years. However, we do plan to look for a new puppy this summer. Again, it’s time!

Writing Prompt: The most adorable thing about my dog/cat is …

This will be my last regular post for Writing Prompts. I regret having to say adieu, but I will still be around as a guest blogger from time to time. Many thanks, Jennifer and Betty, for an enjoyable and adventuresome two years. I have been truly blessed to be part of the Writing Prompts Crew.