Thursday, July 12, 2018

Summer Reading - Swoons & Giggles

Today's Summer Reads Recommendations are all about Swoons and Giggles! These authors have managed to balance the beauty of ROMANCE with the release that LAUGHTER gives. So if you are looking for an amazing book to read this summer that is on the lighter side, check out these books!

Click the images below to be taken to the book's Goodreads page for more information.

Jen Turano

Any book you pick up by Jen Turano is bound to leave you in stitches. A unique voice and engaging characters, you won't want to miss her newest series!

Free Novella


A USA Today Best-Selling Author, Jen Turano has written the critically acclaimed Ladies of Distinction series, and A Class of Their Own series, published through Bethany House Publishers. Her novel, After a Fashion, was chosen as a top pick from Romantic Times, as well as being named a top ten romance of 2015 from Booklist. It is also a nominee for Romantic Times 2015 Reviewers’ Choice Award. Her book, A Most Peculiar Circumstance, was chosen as a top ten romance by Booklist in 2013. Her seventh book, Playing the Part, released in the spring of 2016, and will be followed by a new four-book series, Apart from the Crowd. When she’s not writing, Jen spends her time outside of Denver with her husband and neurotic Cattle Dog, enjoying herself as an empty-nester since her son recently abandoned her for the college life.

Mary Connealy

Who else can take cowboys (and cowgirls) mix in some comedy and add several helpings of romance? Mary Connealy has masted (and quite possibly created) the genre of Romantic Comedy Westerns...


Mary Connealy writes romantic comedy with cowboys always with a strong suspense thread. She is a two time Carol Award winner and a Rita, Christy and Inspirational Reader's Choice finalist. 

She is the bestselling author of 48 books and novellas. 

Her most recent book series are: Cimarron Legacy, Wild at Heart, Trouble in Texas, Kincaid Bride for Bethany House Publishing. She’s also written four other series for Barbour Publishing and many novellas and several stand-alone books for multiple publishers. 

Mary will be a published author for ten years in 2017 with nearly a million books in print. She has a degree in broadcast communications with an emphasis in journalism and has worked at her local newspaper.

Pepper Basham

Known for her swoony romance and #closetkisses, Pepper Basham is fabulous at intertwining humor and grace in her stories. You won't want to miss these Romantic Comedies.


Pepper Basham is an award-winning author who writes novels inspired by her love for history and the Blue Ridge Mountains. Her Penned in Time series has garnered recognition in the INSPYs, Grace Awards, and the ACFW Carol Awards. Her contemporary romance novel, A Twist of Faith, received 4-stars from Romantic Times, and most recently, her newest release, Just the Way You Are, received a Top Pick from RT with 4 ½ stars. Her newest contemporary romance, When You Look at Me, releases Fall 2018. 


To kickstart your summer reading plans...I am hosting a THREE BOOK GIVEAWAY! 1 (One) winner will receive a print copy of The Accidental Guardian by Mary Connealy, Caught by Surprise by Jen Turano, and Just the Way You Are by Pepper Basham. Open to US mailing addresses only, please. Void where prohibited. Giveaway closes 7/18/18 11:59pm EDT. Please enter via the Rafflecopter form below.

*My thanks to Pepper Basham and Bethany House Publishing for providing the giveaway copies.

So what will YOU be reading this summer?

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Remember When . . . Watches Appeared on the Wrist - Part II

Last week I started telling you about Hans Wilsdorf and the founding of Rolex. It was getting a bit long, so I figured I'd better break it up into two posts. πŸ˜‰ As a quick reminder, I'd told you a bit about Hans's early days and his determination to create a great wrist watch (called "wristlets" at the time) and then make his company name, Rolex, be the one people came to associate with the quality watches he produced.

But if you were paying attention to the years I mentioned, you'll have known that things were about to change for Hans. The Great War was coming. And though he'd become an English citizen when he married his wife, Florence, no one really cared about that.

He was German. He spoke with an accent. He had a clearly German last name.

Life became not so easy for the Wilsdorfs in London. He and Florence were both harassed whenever they went out in public. And to make matters worse, a new customs duty was put into place--33.5%. And for a business that was almost exclusively exported, this could easily spell The End.

The Wilsdorfs didn't have much choice. They packed up and moved to Bienne, Switzerland, for the duration of the war. Rolex already had a branch there, so they moved all operations out of England and continued to produce the watches quickly gaining a reputation for excellence.

But though the war forced them from their home, it also helped create a market for the wristlet. Timing was crucial in military operations, and having a reliable timepiece was essential. The few soldiers who went to war with wristlets soon proved how practical they were. Pocket watches were generally worn in a jacket pocket, which was then under an overcoat in the winter months. To check the time, soldiers would have to take off their gloves, open their overcoat, and dig it out of their undercoat. Compare that to just raising your wrist, and you can see why the men who had wristlets found them so much better an option. After the war ended, the popularity of the wrist watch surged.

And at the front of the wave was Rolex.

But Wilsdorf wasn't about riding a wave. He was about innovation--and marketing savvy. His next goal was to create a waterproof watch, which he achieved in 1926. The Oyster. But water had long been known as the enemy of a watch, so he had his work cut out for him, convincing the public that his Oyster really could keep running, even when wet. One boon came when a swimmer swam the English Channel, wearing one. They were already getting publicity for their feat, and Rolex got a bit too.

But that wasn't quite enough. So Wilsdorf came up with an ongoing publicity stunt. Shops that sold Rolexes were outfitted with aquariums, in which hung an Oyster, keeping perfect time despite being continually submerged.

It worked. By the time World War II rolled around, Rolex was well known around the world as being the best watch to be had. The most reliable. A byword for quality and luxury.

Now, though he was German by birth, Hans was firmly on the Allied side of both World Wars. And when he heard that Allied soldiers in the Second World War were stripped of their Rolexes when they were taken prisoner, he publicly swore that Rolex would replace any Allied soldier's watch that was stolen. And he kept his word. This story exemplifies just one of the many ways that Hans made Rolex a company with heart, not just monetary success.

So how does all this work its way into my book? Well, all of it obviously doesn't. But I'd looked up the history of Rolex out of curiosity when I realized I would have a clockmaker for a central character in An Hour Unspent, figuring the company was forming around the same time as my story. When I realized how well it actually lined up with my timeline, I decided to give Hans Wilsdorf a cameo appearance. He actually ended up presenting a plot point that was rather crucial...but of course, I'm not going to tell you what that was. ;-) Just that I had oh so much fun writing it!

And I also just want to say that the more I learned about Wilsdorf and the company he built, the more I admired him and Rolex. They aren't just glitzy watches for the rich, status symbols. They're undeniable quality built on innovation and popularity gained through determination and marketing brilliance. You just have to admire that.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Word of the Week - Slang

Slang. Something we all know. And probably use. "Informal language." Those words not accepted as proper but not bad. That informal language is in fact usually "characterized by vividness and novelty."

Mostly, the word hasn't changed that much...but it's broadened. And is, in fact, itself nearly impossible to trace the etymology of. Various experts have posited various theories, but none can be proven and said experts can't seem to agree with each other. It might have Scandinavian roots...or French ones...or something else entirely.

What we know is that its first uses were very specific. In 1756 we have a record of it appearing to mean "the specific vocabulary that thieves use." By 1801 it was the terminology specific to any particular field. But the definition we know now was only a few years behind, having been firmly established by 1818.

So we might not know where it comes from. But we certainly know where it's been. ;-) And because I have a strange household, my children will occasionally actually argue about whether a word is slang or "accepted."

Was "slang" acceptable in your family or school growing up?

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Happy Independence Day!

Wishing you a safe and fun Fourth, full of picnics and fireworks and reflections on the bravery that the Patriots embodied to make the United States a reality and not just a dream.

My family will enjoy a picnic and then watch the fireworks from my sister's porch. Though I think our favorite celebration was the year we hilariously went to Niagara Falls for the Fourth. Because nothing says American Independence like going to Canada! LOL

Do you have any special plans for the holiday?

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Remember When . . . Watches Appeared on the Wrist - Part I

I'm posting my "Remember When" a day early this week, in deference to Independence Day tomorrow. Just pretend it's Wednesday. πŸ˜‰

These days, when someone asks you what time it is, you might just pull out your cell phone. But until recently, that certainly wasn't the norm, right? You would have looked at your wrist--and many of us today still do. (I say "us," but the sad truth is that I rarely wear a watch--it hits against my laptop keyboard and is uncomfortable, and since I'm home most of the time, I can just look at a clock, so...)

But wristwatches--arguably the norm for timekeeping for the last century--were once the new kid on the block. And we owe their popularity primarily to one man.

Hans Wilsdorf.

Born in Germany in 1881, Hans and his brother and sister were orphaned when he was 12. His uncles decided that in order to see to the childrens' futures, they would liquidate the prosperous family business and equip the children with the means to be self-reliant. They were sent to boarding school, where Hans showed great promise in languages and mathematics. His fluency in multiple tongues led him to an apprenticeship at a pearl exporter with a worldwide sales organization--something that taught him much about business.

From there he was hired in the year 1900 by a French watchmaking firm. Again, it was his linguistics skills that got him the job, but he quickly came to love and appreciate the world of watches.

In 1903, Hans moved to London to work for another watchmaking firm. He ended up marrying an English woman, applying for and receiving English citizenship, and eventually began his own watch company with his wife's brother--Wilsdorf & Davis.

But Hans wasn't satisfied to just make traditional pocket watches in the traditional way. Hans had a vision of a "wristlet." A watch worn on the wrist. And he had a dream of being a watchmaker so respected that it would be his name that sold a watch, not the trader who sold it (as had always been the case).

So Hans set out on a journey. First, he utilized the Swiss watch movements he'd learned so much about in his previous jobs to acquire the best, most accurate workings possible. Then he soldered a strap onto a small pocket watch and strapped it around his wrist. But there were issues that needed to be overcome--the arm moves a whole lot more than a person's body, with more violent motions. This was terrible for watches. Such jostling usually damaged the works and make them, well, not work. Plus, there was the matter of dirt and other particles getting into a watch case. In a pocket, the watch was protected from such undesirables. But on the wrist? They'd get grimy, fast. And that would gum up the works. So that, again, they wouldn't work.

Through a series of different prototypes, Hans Wilsdorf worked out these issues. He created a case with a gasket to seal it from dirt, and utilized works so precise and robust that not only did the jostling not destroy them, but the watch still remained accurate.

In fact, his wristlet was honored with the Certificate of Chronometric Precision--an award that had until then only ever been issued to marine clocks.

During this time, Hans was trying to come up with a name for his company that wasn't just his name. He wanted something that would be pronounced the same in German, French, and English. Something that was easy to say, concise, and had that certain something when one heard it. It took him quite a long time to hit upon the name he felt embodied all those things.


In the 1910s, he began to do the unthinkable. He put Rolex on the face of a few watches. Now, this was unheard of. The face of a watch usually had the trader's name, because that was who people trusted. The manufacturer's name only went on the back of the case. Hans knew he was treading on dangerous ground...but at that point, most of his wristlets were being shipped out of England, to Europe. So what were they really going to do if his company name appeared on, say, 1 of every 6 watches? Nothing. So that's how it began. First on one, then on two, then on half, and eventually all of his watches bore the name Rolex on the face. And the traders accepted them because they were the best watches to be found.

Today, of course, we know the name Rolex. But it was still quite a journey from those early days to the company that is now a byword for luxury. Come back next Wednesday for the rest of the story, and to discover how this fun history worked its way into An Hour Unspent!

Monday, July 2, 2018

Word of the Week - Fair

It's summer. And so, as I was casting around looking for words to feature, my daughter said, "Do something summery! Like, you know...a carnival, or the fair."

When I'm writing this, our County Fair has just finished up, and the neighboring county's is scheduled for a few weeks from now. But I have to confess, I've never researched the history of these traditional events.

I started, of course, by looking up the word. First of all, I discovered that fair, the adjective, and fair the noun aren't related at all. The adjective dates back to the Old English fæger, meaning "pleasing to the sight, beautiful, morally good." Similar words can be found in other Germanic languages.

The noun, however--"a regular meeting in a city or town for buying and selling"--is from the 1300s, Anglo-French, from the Old French feire or faire. I had no idea these were totally different words, from different languages!

Back in the day, a fair was much like a market. But centuries ago, big events (often city- or county-wide) began to be scheduled for once a year, where people didn't just buy and sell, they came to see the latest innovations, enter their food and livestock into contests, and basically stay up-to-date with the rest of the world. 

The earliest county fair in America is recorded in 1641, in New Amsterdam. By the 1800s, they could be found in just about every county. They were still primarily agricultural expos. This was where new farm equipment was demonstrated and new techniques discussed. But by this time, a bit of the carnival atmosphere had also come in. Games, contests, and competitions offered something for everyone. 

I love that these events are still a part of our culture! I admit that my family mostly likes to go for the rides...and maybe the food, LOL. But I love that horse-pulling competitions have just morphed into mud-bogging and demolition derbies. That people still enter their livestock into competitions, and people still bring baked goods to pit against their neighbors'.

Do you go to your County or State Fair? If so, what's your favorite part? 

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Book Sale!

Have you read my Culper Ring Series yet? Order your SIGNED copy of Whispers From the Shadows on my website today!

About the Book

Treachery causes Gwyneth Fairchild’s world to crumble. The daughter of a British general during the War of 1812, she barely saves her life by fleeing London aboard a ship to America. Her goal is to find refuge with the Lane family in Maryland, having been told by her father she could implicitly trust Winter and Bennet Lane, even though their nations are once again at war. After meeting their son, Thad, she wonders how safe she truly is when she discovers that the Lanes trade in a dangerous commodity—espionage.

Not long after Gwyneth finds refuge in his city, Thad Lane experiences the tug of love, though he fears it may blur lines of loyalty. With family playing the part of enemies and enemies proving themselves friends, a future with Gwyn is uncertain. But at this moment, with the British advancing on Washington and Baltimore, they have only their shared faith in God as a shield about them.

As many of you know, I recently released Love Finds You in Annapolis, Maryland under the new title A Heart's Revolution! However, I have just a FEW copies of Love Finds You left in stock...And I am offering them to you for just $5! And they are SIGNED (personalization optional)! Purchase yours HERE before they are gone!

About the Book

In 1784 peace has been declared, but war still rages in the heart of Lark Benton. Never did Lark think she’d want to escape Emerson Fielding, the man she’s loved all her life, but then he betrays her with her cousin. She flees to Annapolis, Maryland, the country’s capital, and throws herself into a new circle of friends who force her to examine all she believes.
Emerson follows, determined to reclaim his bride. Surprised when she refuses to return with him, he realizes that in this new country he has come to call his own, duty is no longer enough. He must learn to open his heart and soul to something greater… before he loses all he should have been fighting to hold.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Fridays from the Archives - Our Place

As I madly work on my next story, I am taking a look back on thoughts about The Lost Heiress today.

Children on a Path Outside a Thatched Cottageby Helen Allingham, late 19th century

With the first round of edits wrapped up on A Soft Breath of Wind, I moved on this week to my first round of edits on The Lost Heiress. (Lots of editing going on around here!) There are some changes I know I'm going to make, some inconsistencies I'm finding. An old (for me) story taking on new life.

But one of the major themes in this book has been there since I was 12, when I first started writing it--the one that involves Brook, this noblewoman raised in a country not her own, finding her rightful place. Finding her home. Finding her family.

When I was writing this in seventh and eighth grades, it was easy for her. She lifted her chin, screwed her stubbornness and faith into place, and took England by storm. Her family all adored her, London adored her, life adored her. The only people who didn't were the bad guys, because they were evil and therefore couldn't love.

When I was writing this in seventh and eighth grades, I was trying to find my place. Trying to adjust to friends who were suddenly interested in boys instead of Barbies, in being popular instead of being genuine. I was trying to figure out how to be who I knew I was in a world that demanded I be who they wanted to make me.

I was an outspoken 13-year-old. The kind that refused to be led by other kids my age because, frankly, I found them obnoxious. I was the one who thought about consequences. About right and wrong. I was the one who told the other girls at the sleepover that if they were serious about trying a seance, I was going to call my mom and go home. The one who said if they were seriously going to try to sneak out, I would lock the windows and stand guard. The kind who greeted gossip with, "Are your lives so boring that you have nothing better to talk about than me? Seriously? Sorry to hear it."

Yes, I was an outspoken 13-year-old. But I also wanted those I liked to like me back. I didn't want arguments for no reason. I wanted to please people, when I deemed them worth pleasing.

I remember one time in the cafeteria, talking about spaghetti, of all things. I proclaimed my mom's homemade sauce the best (which it is. Just sayin'.). A friend asked, "Does it have chunks of tomatoes?" in a voice that I interpreted as meaning "because if it's the best, it will."

Now, my mom's sauce is ground totally smooth. But I hedged and said something along the lines of, "I don't know, maybe a few."

My friend then said, "I hate chunks of tomatoes."

And there I had a conundrum that brought me to an epiphany. My desire to make this friend agree with me made me lie--and now the truth, which would have been pleasing, couldn't be spoken. That was the day when I realized that my yes must be yes and my no be no. That was the day when I realized that having someone's good opinion didn't mean squat if it wasn't the right opinion.

That was the day when I realized that my place in life couldn't always be easy--but that it was only worth having if it was really mine.

I've never been one of those people to be found in a gaggle. I have some awesome friends, but the best ones are few. I have an amazing family, but I'm not the one always throwing parties, or going to them. I'm not the popular one. Sometimes I wish I were, sometimes I wish people showed up to things when I host them, that I knew how to draw a crowd. Sometimes I wish my place was what Brook's used to be in my story--beloved by all, effortlessly.

But it's not who I am. And it's not my place. It's never been my place, not when I was a kid penning her first novel in class, and not now when I'm rewriting it.

Brook's place has changed now too. Because even though 13-year-old-me wanted to believe someone could have it all, 31-year-old-me knows better. Because while there may have been, in some point in history, one young woman who was beautiful and rich and popular and of strong faith and different from everyone else...that's not the story most of us know.

And it's not the story I needed to write this time around. This time around, I needed a story of someone who had to fight for her home. Someone who had to decide whether she was going to be molded or if she would do the molding. Someone who had to choose what path she would tread and then face the consequences.

Someone who is less who I wished I were back then...and more who I grew to be.

Someone whose place wasn't just waiting for her--someone who had to find it. And when she does, she finds there are those in it who oppose her. And those who would do anything for her.

Because that is life. We can never have it all.

But we can have what matters most.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Remember When . . . Big Ben Joined the Skyline

When the design for A Name Unknown, book 1 in the Shadows Over England Series, was shone to me and I saw the spine for the first time, I was so excited to see the series logo they'd come up with. Big Ben's clock tower.

Big Ben says London. Which is what the designers were no doubt trying to invoke, as my family of thieves are firmly Londoners. But for me, it was more than that. Because in the third book of the series, An Hour Unspent, that iconic clock actually plays a role in the story.

For starters, a bit of naming. Most of us think of "Big Ben" as the clock, but it's technically not. Big Ben is actually the bell. The clock is the Great Westminster Clock, though over the years the name Big Ben has come to be associated with the entire structure. So now that we've got that straight... πŸ˜‰

The clock tower was designed by Augustus Pugin and completed in 1859. Pugin was an architect, one who is most remembered for redesigning the interior of Westminster Palace and the tower in question, which has become one of the most iconic symbols of England. Though he also designed the face of the clock, the mechanics of the thing he wisely handed over to someone else.

But interestingly, the movement--the gears and weights that make a clock work, and in this case, work with amazing reliability--was actually designed by two amateurs to the field. Edmund Denison, a lawyer, and mathematician George Airy. The construction was the only part undertaken by an actual clockmaker, Edward Dent.

The Great Clock's inner workings are so precise that a penny sitting on the pendulum is all it takes to make slight alterations to the time. That one little coin will make an adjustment of nearly half a second a day. That doesn't sound like much, but it allows for small incremental adjustments to keep the clock accurate year after year. The pendulum still has a stack of old coins on it, and the clock is still hand-wound three times a week.

In my story, I gave the job of upkeep of the Great Clock to my heroine's father, a clock maker. This part is purely fictional, of course, but it would have been considered a great honor to be tasked with such a responsibility, and in my story that's the proof of Cecil Manning's proficiency in his trade, even though he's by no means made himself rich.

That honor goes to another historical figure that my fictional Manning claims as a friend, who revolutionized the timekeeping world. But you'll have to come by next Wednesday to learn about that...