Category Archives: A Bouquet of Brides

The Winner!! And February Contest

Congratulations to Becky who won January’s contest for A Bouquet of Brides!

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Becky! I’ll be in touch, and your book will arrive soon! Thank you for commenting often on January’s blog posts. I enjoyed our interactions very much!

Here are the contest details for February:

  • Every new post you comment on during the month of February gets you one chance to win. (This could be a lot of chances over the course of the month!)
  • Follow my blog during the month of February and get three chances to win
  • Sign up for my newsletter during the month of February and get five chances to win!

The contest details are a little different this month, so read them carefully! If you missed the first two blog posts this month, you’ll still be counted in the drawing if you comment on them. They are two of my favorites, talking about the inspiration for and the historical context of At Home With Daffodils, my novella in that book Becky will soon be reading!

The book to win this month is  Soul Scents: Rooted.

PMApprov2-01Become rooted in your identity as the beloved! Soul Scents: Rooted, the second book in the Soul Scents devotional series, includes topics such as worthiness, spiritual battle, and destiny. The week-day readings include scriptures and prayers.

The Soul Scents collection invites readers into an ever-deepening discovery of who God is and how He interacts with us. Combined, its four volumes, Awaken, Rooted, Bloom, and Flourish, offer a year’s worth of devotional reading. Each book has thirteen weeks of down-to-earth insight gleaned from scripture and the author’s journey into spiritual freedom.  Rest in the Son’s embrace as you enter the beautiful heart of the Freedom Giver Himself.

Thank you to all who participated in January’s contest. I had so much fun! Hope you did, too. I enjoyed seeing every new newsletter and blog sign-up, and interacting with those of you who commented here was a delight!

Until Next Time,

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For the History Buff

When I originally proposed At Home with Daffodils, my story in A Bouquet of Brides, I wanted the story set in 1895 in northeastern Oklahoma. When the novella was picked up by Barbour, and I began my research in earnest, I requested permission to move the historical timeline to after Oklahoma’s statehood, which happened on November 16, 1907. I made this change because I found myself getting lost in Oklahoma’s varied history. At the time of the original date part of what is now the state of Oklahoma was Indian Territory, and part of it was Oklahoma territory.

To further confuse things, it was difficult to know just which part of Indian Territory had white people “squatting” on the land. There were many white settlements in Indian Territory, despite legal efforts to keep this from happening. Take this a step further by digging into the history of the Cherokee Nation, which settled in the area I wanted to write about, and it became very difficult to know how to handle history accurately.  Though my blond hair and green eyes might not show it, I have Cherokee and Choctaw ancestry. I wanted to write about those years with the respect due this heritage, but soon realized that kind of research and historical under-girding was too dense for a book of novella length. I was relieved when the editor at Barbour allowed me to move my story to the years right after statehood.

In At Home with Daffodils my heroine is part Cherokee. Many of us who grew up in that part of Oklahoma claim a little of that heritage, whether or not we were legally part of the tribe itself. It’s interesting to note that the nearest real town to my fictional setting is Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Tahlequah is the capitol of the Cherokee Nation. The Cherokee Supreme Court Building, located in downtown Tahlequah and constructed in 1844, is the oldest public building in Oklahoma.

Cherokee Courthouse

(Photo from: http://visitcherokeenation.com)

Though modern conveniences like the automobile and electric lighting were seen in the big city in these years (and the RMS Titanic was being fully equipped with electric lights), this type of extravagance hadn’t made its way to the back hills of northeastern Oklahoma. Thus my story has undertones of the  kind of life many of us experienced through Pa and Laura as we watched the classic TV series, Little House on the Prairie.

That’s not to say that all of northeastern Oklahoma wasn’t modern at that time. The Cherokee Female Seminary was one of the first schools of higher learning for women west of the Mississippi River. When the original building burned in 1887, it was replaced by a very modern building located in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. In 1909 the state of Oklahoma purchased it from the Cherokee Nation, and the seminary became Northeastern State Normal School. This beautiful building is still in use. I had history and English classes here when I attended Northeastern State University after high school.

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(Photo from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cherokee_Female_Seminary)

It’s interesting to note that Indian Territory also boasted the first newspaper. According to http://www.visitCherokeeNation.com The Cherokee Advocate, printed in both Cherokee and English, was started in 1844.  The website further states, “Soon, the Cherokees’ education system of 144 elementary schools and two higher education institutes, the Cherokee Male and Female Seminaries, rivaled the best systems in the U.S. Many white settlements bordering Cherokee Nation took advantage of the superior school system and paid tuition to have their children attend Cherokee schools. Other bilingual materials, which had been made possible by Sequoyah’s syllabary in 1821, led Cherokees to a level of literacy higher than their white counterparts, all prior to Oklahoma statehood in 1907.”

Another example of elegance built in Indian Territory is the Murrell Home, which is the only remaining antebellum home in the state of Oklahoma.

MURRELL HOME

According to http://visitcherokeenation.com where I got this photo, “George Michael Murrell was a Virginian who married Minerva Ross, a member of a wealthy Cherokee family and niece of Chief John Ross. When the Cherokees were forced to leave their homes and move west to Indian Territory, Murrell moved with his wife’s family to the new Nation in 1839.”

I have another reason for affection for this lovely home. It was the site of a very special event in 1989.

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I’m including the next two pictures so you can catch a broader view of the home itself, including the richer landscaping it now boast, and also so you can maybe chuckle. My outdoor wedding was interrupted by what we call an old fashioned “Oklahoma gully washer!” The umbrellas were going up about the time I was coming down the sidewalk.

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But it all dried up nicely by the time my groom and I headed to Tulsa for the first night of our honeymoon. We were sent on our way by a shower of birdseed.

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Though the Cherokees brought much culture and modern thinking to northeastern Oklahoma, and even though Dilly would have lived in the Edwardian era of Titanic fame, Dilly was removed from such modern living. In fact indoor plumbing didn’t come to the back hills of the area until the mid-twentieth century.

It was fun to research how my heroine, Dilly, dressed, fixed her hair, and managed daily life.

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Dilly’s work in the general store and her life in this tiny community made a simple long black skirt, white shirtwaist, and sturdy boots more sensible.

I picture her like this:

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(photo found on Pinterest)

You can learn more about the history in northeastern Oklahoma by reading At Home with Daffodils.

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And now, for the winner of A Bouquet of Brides! 

I gotta tell ya, I really enjoyed sharing this month with you. Thank you for engaging with me, leaving comments, following this blog, and signing up for my newsletter. I hope you’ll continue to stick around this February. I’m planning two series. The first is “Lessons from a Heart Attack,” where I’ll share things Jerry and I processed in January as he recovered from his December 31st heart attack.

God’s gracious intervention saved my husband’s life, and an incident like that makes you dig a little deeper. I haven’t talked much about it here, but January’s challenges were stretching–and you learn from that stuff.

The other series is, “Keeping a Spiritual Journal,” a series requested by one of my Soul Scents readers. In honor of this series, the giveaway this month will be a Soul Scents book of your choice.

And the winner of A Bouquet of Brides Collection is . . .

Congratulations!!

Until next time,

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How is a Book Conceived?

Ever wonder how an author thinks up stories? It can be anything, really, that becomes what I call the story seed. Yesterday you got some sneak peeks into the inspiration for my novella, At Home with Daffodils. Today’s posts gives the rest of the story.

On that warm summer’s day when my husband, two youngest sons, my dad, and I drove through Camp Gruber, stopping to swim in the creek when I swam as a child, I had no idea a story was about to be seeded into my heart.

It happened after we drove on through the camp, coming out the other side to discover the quaint little building I talked about yesterday. Dad suggested we stop for lunch. (Don’t mind my hair in these pictures. Remember, I’d just enjoyed an unplanned dip in Greenleaf Creek.)

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Located on Qualls Road in Parkhill, Oklahoma, Jincy’s Kitchen is housed in what was once the general store for the old Qualls community. (As I mentioned yesterday, the site was used for the filming of the movie, “Where the Red Fern Grows.”) The old building still has the wooden cubed walls that once held merchandise. Now it contains memorabilia—antique dishes and newspaper clippings of folks important to the area.

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We ordered—and enjoyed—our home-cooked meal.

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Debbie Rucker, the proprietor and cook, left her stove to share the store’s history. The store was opened many years before by her grandmother, a single mom. The building was passed down to Debbie, and she opens the restaurant on weekends to keep the spirit of the Qualls community alive for the next generation.

 

I commented on the french fries. I hadn’t had homemade fries like that since my grandmother made them for me many years before. My husband said, “Yes. The fries were just like Grandma Eunice’s weren’t they?”

Debbie whipped toward me, “You’re Aunt Eunice’s granddaughter?” She explained that she had been married to my grandma’s nephew. Then the stories began in earnest. She said my grandparents were well-loved in the Qualls community; everyone had a story of a time Grandpa or Grandma helped them out. Then Debbie began to tell her special story. It was about her daddy and my grandpa. How I treasure this story!

You’ll read a similar version in chapter one of At Home with Daffodils. I won’t spoil it for you by sharing it here, but I find great joy in honoring my grandpa by creating a fictionalized account of the event.

I dedicated this novella to my grandpa. Maybe you’ll enjoy reading the dedication:

For Grandpa Curtis

Whose grave lies just outside Camp Gruber

Near the old general store at Qualls

You were the master storyteller

No doubt the hours I spent mesmerized by your stories

Influenced my decision to become a writer

I look forward to sitting on a front porch swing

(if they have them in heaven)

With you and Jesus

No doubt He’ll chuckle as Grandma whispers,

“I wouldn’t tell that one if I was you!”

Until next time,

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PS We’re almost to the end of our celebration of the release month for A Bouquet of Brides. As you know if you’ve visited here this month, I’m giving away a copy of the book. The contest ended on January 31st, and I’ll announce the lucky winner on Friday!

Just Where is Rock City

Just where is Rock City anyway? Today’s behind the scenes post is about the setting of my latest release.

Rock City, the fictional setting for At Home with Daffodils, my story in A Bouquet of Brides, is a made up town, but in my mind’s eye I saw the rolling hills around Parkhill, Oklahoma as I wrote. These are the same hills I roamed as a girl. I specifically picture the old general store in Qualls, Oklahoma, the same store used in the movie, Where the Red Fern Grows.

I couldn’t resist naming some of my characters and landmarks with the names of real people and places from the area. (For example the old store in the picture below is near Camp Gruber. Recognize the name? My hero, Jace Gruber, came by it honestly.) I hope my friends and family back home will enjoy those nods to the actual location and real people I knew as they read.

This picture shows my two youngest sons, Stephen and Sam, standing with yours truly in front of the country store, now a weekend restaurant called Jincy’s Kitchen.

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The picture below was taken during a drive through Camp Gruber. The boys couldn’t resist a quick dip in the simmin’ hole of my childhood, at “the slab.”

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I watched them for a while then the little girl in me couldn’t resist the opportunity to revisit one of my favorite childhood memories.

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I grabbed my suit and jumped in. I even tried the rope swing off the side of the bluff. When I surfaced, I yelled, “It wasn’t pretty, but it was safe!” (I let go much sooner than intended. It’s been a few years!)

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When I was invited to dream up a story with the heroine named after a flower, an idea immediately surfaced (more tomorrow on that) that would be set in the hills of my childhood. And if I was writing about that area, the flower had to be a daffodil. Thus Daffodil “Dilly” Grace Douglas was conceived in my mind.

Down the road from the farmhouse where I lived in northeastern Oklahoma was an old home place. You couldn’t see the building anymore, but you could see a field of daffodils (we called them jonquils) that someone planted years before. The picture below wasn’t actually taken there, but is similar to what I remember.

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Every spring each year I eagerly awaited their arrival, as I did the tiny spring bluets and Virginia spring beauties that also grew in the area. After I moved to Colorado, my grandmother sent me the tiny flowers in February. She wrapped them in a damp paper towel, covered with plastic. She also sent jonquil bulbs, and so I have cheery yellow faces transplanted from Oklahoma that bloom every spring in my yard.

I hope you’ll enjoy At Home with Daffodils, set in the rolling hills of my childhood. The country is beautiful, the culture engaging, and the generous people are salt-of-the-earth. The best thing I received from those years living in the hills of northeastern Oklahoma is a relationship with Jesus. He is indeed the one who removes our shame and finishes the good work He begins in us—no matter how flawed we believe ourselves or our pasts to be.

Blessings,

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PS We’re almost to the end of our celebration of the release month for A Bouquet of Brides. As you know if you’ve visited here this month, I’m giving away a copy of the book. Enter the drawing by signing-up for my newsletter or leaving a comment on my blog during the month of January (USA readers only). Each comment on a new post means another chance to win! (If you’re new to me, check out my website, where I have free resources and information about the Free to Flourish writing and speaking ministry.) The contest ends TODAY, and I’ll announce the lucky winner on Friday!

The Villain!

royalty free 4When the authors included in A Bouquet of Brides discussed plans for our blog tour, we debated including a set of blogs on the villain. After all, in sweet romance with a short word count, there isn’t always a clear villain like there would be in a suspense story. But the idea won approval, and here I sit.

It’s a good thing. Pondering who the villain in At Home with Daffodils is. It would be easy to pin the title on a character who shows up mid-story, interrupts the romance, and takes advantage of one of the main characters. (I hope that’s vague enough not to spoil the storyline for readers.)

But is that character really the villain? He’s self-centered, messed-up, and causes a lot of problems.

Merriam-Webster defines villain this way:

1: a character in a story or play who opposes the hero

2: a deliberate scoundrel or criminal

3: one blamed for a particular evil or difficulty

It’s that third definition that gets me.

By that definition I’ve been the villain in someone else’s story. Haven’t you?

And that’s why I’ll stop short of calling this character the villain of At Home with Daffodils. Of course there are messed-up people in this world who hurt us. Yes, some of them are deliberately evil, and yes, justice needs to be served.

But here’s the thing. I think the most dangerous villain my characters faced was themselves, at least if you look at the first definition—a character . . . who opposes the hero. By that definition the most dangerous villain I know in real life is me. When it comes right down to it, I’m the only person who can guarantee my own demise. When I believe lies about who I am and how God sees me, then I live from a place of opposition to my own forward progress, my own happy ending.

You can learn more by reading my story, At Home with Daffodils. Watch and see if my characters aren’t a lot like you and me, often held back by things they believe about themselves and God that simply aren’t true.

I hope you enjoy A Bouquet of Brides, where you meet seven American women who were named for various flowers but struggle to bloom where God planted them. Watch how love helps them grow to their full potential!

Blessings,

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PS We’re almost to the end of our celebration of the release month for A Bouquet of Brides. As you know if you’ve visited here this month, I’m giving away a copy of the book. Enter the drawing by signing-up for my newsletter or leaving a comment on my blog during the month of January (USA readers only). Each comment on a new post means another chance to win! (If you’re new to me, check out my website, where I have free resources and information about the Free to Flourish writing and speaking ministry.) The contest ends on the 31st, and I’ll announce the lucky winner on Friday!

Falling in Love Again (or A Hero and a Heroine)

daffodils (1)I fell in love again.

I mean that in the best sense. I really only have two true loves, Jesus and my hubby, Jerry, but I guess when you’re a romance writer, a little piece of you has to fall in love every time. This time it was with Jace Gruber.

Jace Gruber, the hero of At Home with Daffodils, is back in Rock City, but the adolescent voice is now deep and full of authority, and his broad shoulders and protective stance make him a handsome—and imposing—figure.

For years Jace ignored his own dreams, running from the reputation put upon the family by his absent, drunken father. He kept his head down, provided for his mom and sister, and tried to live out the legacy of the words his childhood sweetheart spoke over him.  Now that his mother is gone and his sister is married, he braves the censure of Rock City, the small town where he lived when his father began drinking. He’d be better off to go somewhere where nobody knew him, and he could start fresh, but he’ll never be able to move on until he knows if Dilly is still waiting for him.

If she is, will Jace ever be truly at home with daffodils?

daffodils-2162825_960_720Intelligent brown eyes and a smattering of freckles decorate the countenance of Daffodil “Dilly” Grace Douglas, the heroine of At Home with Daffodils, my story in the Bouquet of Brides collection.

I imagine Dilly, dressed in a long black skirt and plain white “shirtwaist,” making change for customers as she runs her mother’s general store in the rolling hills of northeastern Oklahoma, just a few years after statehood. The family store in Rock City also houses the first official post office in the area, so Dilly often serves as the acting postmistress.

When the story opens, Dilly Douglas has finally outgrown her hated nickname, Silly-Dilly. She keeps the books and manages purchasing at her mama’s general store, ever vigilant to prove to the small town of Rock Creek that she is a trustworthy, capable woman. Her mother believes she’s an early bloomer, like her namesake flower that opens to the sun early in spring. She says that from a young age Dilly has been dependable and trustworthy, but Dilly struggles to believe her mother’s words. She still hears the childhood chant ringing in her ears, “Silly Dilly . . . Silly Dilly . . . Silly Dilly . . . ” and often holds back her innate exuberance and joy in her efforts to prove her steadiness.

What happens to help Dilly blossom into the fullness of all she is? Of course it will have something to do with the reappearance of her childhood sweetheart, Jace Gruber, but I won’t spoil the story by telling you about that now.

Today through Friday we are going behind the scenes with At Home with Daffodils. Join me tomorrow as I introduce the villain! Throughout the week we’ll also talk about where my inspiration for the story came from (it’s a very cool, personal God-moment!), what I had in mind when I created the fictional community of Rock City, and what northeastern Oklahoma (also Indian Territory right before statehood) was like in the mid-1800s through statehood. There is a rich history in the land of my childhood that I can’t wait to share with you. You history buff won’t want to miss Friday and that is also when I’ll announce the winner of the drawing!

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PS We’re almost to the end of our celebration of the release month for A Bouquet of Brides. As you know if you’ve visited here at all this month, I’m giving away a copy of the book. Enter the drawing by following this blog, signing-up for my newsletter, or leaving a comment here on blog posts during the month of January (USA readers only). Each comment on a new post means another chance to win! (If you’re new to me, check out my website, where I have free resources and information about the Free to Flourish writing and speaking ministry.) The contest ends on the 31st, and I’ll announce the lucky winner on Friday!

PPS Toni Shiloh interviews me today on her blog. If you haven’t checked it out before, I highly recommend that you do, especially if you enjoy inspirational fiction. Everything Toni does is lovely and professional, and on Friday she shares a list of books that are on sale or free. You’ll love Toni’s blog!

In Sheep’s Clothing – the Takeaway Value

Today’s post comes from Pegg Thomas, the author of In Sheep’s Clothing, included in A Bouquet of Brides. It is the last in the series featuring the takeaway values in the novellas of my fellow authors. Join us every day next week for details about my story, At Home with Daffodils! I’ll start by talking about my handsome hero. I just love Jake!

And now–here’s Pegg!

One of the things I love about Christian fiction is the solid moral underpinnings. There is always a takeaway value of some sort within the stories that uplifts and inspires the reader. As I’m writing the story, I have no idea what the takeaway will be. Even though I’m a dyed-in-the-wool plotter as I write, I never try to force a moral conclusion to my stories. Instead, I watch and wait and see what comes out naturally.

My story in the collection, In Sheep’s Clothing, came down to trust. Yarrow Fenn, my heroine, struggles with trusting people for a very good reason … which I will not divulge here. My hero, Peter Maltby, has his own issues with trust. Even Meadowsweet, the cute little orphan lamb who tries to steal the spotlight, has to learn to trust. How all three overcome their hurdles is something you’ll have to read the book to find out.

To celebrate the release of A Bouquet of Brides collection and my story, In Sheep’s Clothing, I’m giving away one of my signature shawls. To enter, subscribe to my newsletter. I’ll be drawing for The Meadowsweet Shawl at the end of January.

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Pegg Thomas lives on a hobby farm in Northern Michigan with Michael, her husband of *mumble* years. A life-long history geek, she writes “History with a Touch of Humor.” When not working or writing, Pegg can be found in her barn, her garden, her kitchen, or sitting at her spinning wheel creating yarn to turn into her signature wool shawls.

Paula here:

I hope you’ve enjoyed getting to know my fellow authors and their stories as much as I have. Pop in each day next week to learn more about my story and leave a comment for a chance to win the book.

On Friday, I’ll announce who won January’s drawing for A Bouquet of Brides. Looking forward to interacting with each of you. Remember, the drawing ends on the the 31st and each comment on the blog means another chance to win! (So does following this blog or signing up for my newsletter!)

Blessings,

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