Friday, October 19, 2018

MELANIE'S GHOSTS - Bonnie Engstrom - One Free Book


Welcome back, Bonnie. Tell us about your salvation experience.
I was raised in the church, so always a believer, but not a practicer. I was the president of my church’s youth group, and I attended women’s Bible studies when my children were young. When one of my dear friends’ three-year-old little boy died, everything changed. Actually, before he died and while he was hovering near death with a heart ailment, I got an inspiration. I lived in a close-knit community of eleven hundred homes where all the streets were connected. I had an idea, one that God surely put on my heart, to make big red hearts with an explanation on the back of each asking people to tape them on their garage doors as a sign they were praying for little Michael. A friend and I drove around and delivered them. (One slightly humorous thing was we would stop kids who were playing on each block and offer them a quarter to deliver the hearts. Guess that tells you how long ago that was.) Almost half of the community displayed them. It was very encouraging to the parents. I think it was at his funeral that I reaffirmed my faith.

Recently, I got water baptized – something I’d never done. Besides feeling Jesus’ touch, the most special part was my little eight-year-old grandson got baptized, too.

You’re planning a writing retreat where you can only have four other authors. Who would they be and why?
Simple. I would invite Deb Raney whose novel I first read that inspired me to start writing; Cynthia Hickey, my wonderful friend and publisher who has faith in my writing and never gives up on me; Alice Arenz whose friendship and prayer support sustain me; Roger Bruner (yeh, gotta throw a guy in there) also whose prayer support for my grandchildren and his honesty keeps me encouraged.

Do you have a speaking ministry? If so, tell us about that.
No, but I have a prayer chain ministry. I moderate two online prayer chains. Neither are large, just under 20 prayer warriors. The Moms Prayer Chain started about twenty years ago with women all over the country. We are very close and very faithful. The Writers Prayer Chain is small and consists of other Forget Me Not Romance authors. Only about three are faithful, but when two or three are gathered together . . .

People are always telling me that they’d like to write a book someday. I’m sure they do to you, too. What would you tell someone who came up to you and said that?
I always encourage them with “You should!” because that’s the first step. I offer to edit or beta read when they do. The response is usually, “You’d do that for me?” Of course, I would because there is little else as self-fulfilling than writing.

Tell us about the featured book.
Melanie’s Ghosts is the seventh book in The Candy Cane Girls Series.
Ghosts

One is laughing down from heaven.
One wears rags.
One is falling in love with her.

Melanie’s faith is shaken.
Her husband Larry is dead. They had only been married a few hours before he was arrested. Will her best friend Natalie be enough? Who will understand about Larry’s crime, his deception, and how he died? Surely not her new friend Robert who lost his wife to cancer; no deception there.

Just sadness.

Should she believe the homeless old woman who claims to be Larry’s estranged mother, calling herself Melanie’s mother-in-law? Especially when the raggedy old lady stalks her and camps on her doorstep. Why did the woman abandon her son and husband over thirty years ago? Robert gives her empathy and support . . . until his own secret is revealed.

All Melanie has left of Larry is the gorgeous blue diamond ring!

Her special group of friends, the Candy Canes, promise to pray for her. But, is prayer enough? She counts on all of them for support and answers! The love of a dog with her shaggy fur, big eyes and her kisses may have to be enough.

Larry, his homeless mother, and even Robert, all haunt her. Her only normalcy is teaching the adorable three-year-olds in her preschool class. Maybe little Jackson will help put the ghosts to rest.

Please give us the first page of the book.
Proverbs 19:21 “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”

Prologue

“This is wrong. No sense. Makes no sense.”

Melanie embraced his big, strong brown hand between her small white ones.  Larry didn’t move. He was dead.

~

Melanie sat across the table from attorney Randi. Her fingers were paste white and knuckles blue. Is that what death does? She examined her glittering fingernails; the fancy ones Kay had gifted her with for her marriage to Larry and now insisted she needed again as a boost for the burial. But, their luster was useless. Her life was, too. Her future held no meaning. She was a widow, not a newlywed.

Natalie, her best friend, shifted in her chair. “What is the next step, Randi? Melanie needs somewhere to go in her heart and in her head. She needs to find understanding and peace. What do you suggest?” She looked over at Mel and squeezed her hand, the hand that rested on her special blue skirt, the one she clung to and claimed as her God skirt, the one she wore when she met Larry. What would happen to the skirt now? Would it be folded away in a memory trunk, or maybe destroyed?

Randi, professional attorney as she was, blinked rapidly. Moisture coated her lashes. “I have been trying to decide how to tell you. Not easy.”

“Just tell, please. I need to know what to do.” Melanie squeezed Natalie’s hand tighter.
Randi sighed and pushed a paper toward the two women.

“A list? You are giving me a list?”

“No, I am giving you a suggestion. Hopefully a healing option.” She lowered her chin. “Sorry. But I believe this is the one thing that will give you comfort and clarity.”

Melanie picked up the typewritten paper, the paper with the single suggestion, and held it in trembling hands. Natalie leaned closer to look. “Oh!” The expletive blew out of her mouth like a gust of dry wind.  

How can readers find you on the Internet?
I’m not very good at Facebook, although my publisher keeps encouraging me. I’ve just learned how to tweet and have only done it a few times. Here are a few suggestions:

I love to connect with readers, even non-readers. Email me at bengstrom@hotmail.com and put BOOK in the subject line so you don’t fly off to cyberspace. The first person who puts BOOK in the subject line and mentions Lena’s blog will receive an autographed print copy. Be sure to include your snail mail address. U.S.A. only, please.

You can check out, even order, Melanie’s Ghosts at https://amzn.to/2N65P05 and my other books at https://amzn.to/2x791Os. Sadly, Amazon has included other author’s books, but mine are there.

I just learned Twitter and can be found @BonnieEngstrom1. Please follow me and help me learn how to tweet.

My website is www.bonnieengstrom.com where you can see all the grandchildren, even the little redhead who got baptized with me!

Please connect with me. I would love to connect with you.

Thank you, Bonnie, for sharing this new book with us.

Readers, leave a comment for a chance to win a free copy of the ebook. You must follow these instructions to be in the drawing. Please tell us where you live, at least the state or territory or country if outside North America. (Comments containing links may be subject to removal by blog owner.)

Void where prohibited; the odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. Entering the giveaway is considered a confirmation of eligibility on behalf of the enterer in accord with these rules and any pertaining local/federal/international laws.

The only notification you’ll receive is the winner post on this blog. So be sure to check back a week from Saturday to see if you won. You will have 4 weeks from the posting of the winners to claim your book.

If you’re reading this on Goodreads, Google+, Feedblitz, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, or Amazon, please come to the blog to leave your comment if you want to be included in the drawing. Here’s a link:

Thursday, October 18, 2018

TRUE NOBILITY - Lori Bates Wright - One Free Book

Dear Readers, I’m thrilled to feature Lori on my blog. She has a fresh unique voice. You’ll want to watch for each of her new books. Her amazing characters leapt from the right into my heart. The plot line was different from anything I’d read. I found it hard to close the covers, even to eat or sleep. I highly recommend this book.

Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.
I come from a long line of quirky folks - our family gatherings are memorable. While I think every character I write probably has a smidgeon of me in there somewhere, I love to get a point in the story where the characters begin to take on their own unique personalities. They surprise me often. When they react in a way that I wouldn’t necessarily expect them to, I know I have a compelling story.  

What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
Well, there was the time a boy I liked came to visit and I decided I would impress him with ultra-curly eyelashes. The thing is, I had no idea how to use an eyelash curler and I ended up with no eyelashes at all. His expression was priceless. Who knew you shouldn’t use one of those things after slathering lotion on all over your hands? **shaking my head**

When did you first discover that you were a writer?
When I was in third grade, the Albuquerque School District decided to go with an experimental open concept classroom where a select group of students got to work on only what interested them. I wrote stories all day long. My math skills sorely suffered that year, but I learned that I could devise stories that my friends liked to read. Eventually, my teacher submitted a poem I wrote that was published in a collection of children’s writings. 

Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
One of my favorite things to do on vacation is to visit the library in any given town and head for the family history and local archives section. I love to read family histories and diaries. Real life accounts are fascinating! I never fail to come away with seeds of story ideas just begging to take on a life of their own.

How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
I learned a long time ago that I need make time every day to spend alone with God. Some days it’s five minutes as I drive to the grocery story. Some days I get an hour to study His word and pour my thoughts into a prayer journal. I truly need time in His presence just to keep everything else in proper perspective. 

How do you choose your characters’ names?
First off, I go in search of a census during my time period in the county or state where my story is set. I get a good list of names and surnames. Then I go to baby name sites to see what the meaning of the names might be.

What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
My family - hands down. My two kids are grown now with kids of their own and I am so proud of the wonderful humans they’ve become.

If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
A bear. A mama bear to be precise. Fiercely protective, yet playful. And then there’s the whole hibernation thing where you get to eat all fall and sleep all winter.

What is your favorite food? 
I’ve never met a bowl of chips and salsa that I didn’t like way too much.

What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
Probably getting the POVs under control was my greatest obstacle. When I first started writing, I wanted the reader to know what everyone in my make-believe room was thinking all at once! It got confusing.

Tell us about the featured book.
True Nobility is the first full length book I wrote (some twenty years ago) and is my debut into the world of publishing. Though it has gone through major revisions over the years, this book remains near and dear to my heart with characters that feel like old friends. Here’s the brief description from the back of the book:

Alone in an unfamiliar country, everything she believes in is shattered. Driven by desperation, she risks it all to return to the one man whose love promised to be true. 

Lady Victoria Haverwood, beloved daughter of a widowed Earl, has spent years at a fashionable boarding school longing for the day she can finally come home to take her place as Mistress of Wrenbrooke. But when she becomes the target of a murderous plot, her idyllic plan is swiftly turned upside down.

Nicholas Saberton, an accomplished American Naval Captain, is commissioned to escort the earl and his daughter safely across the ocean to the lively shores of Savannah, Georgia. Pledged to protect her with his life, Nicholas is determined to remain immune to Victoria’s innocent charm. Focused on building his shipping empire, the Haverwood heiress becomes an irresistible diversion.
  
Danger shadows them. Soon the repercussions of her father’s past ensnare Victoria in a web of deception that threatens to consume her. Only her love for Nicholas will give her strength to discover the truth. But will it be too late?

Please give us the first page of the book for my blog reader.
England, Midnight, 2 February, 1860
Moonlight fell through an open casement as a rising shadow crept closer to the bed. Stillness clung to the damp night air. In the distance, a night owl’s warning went unheeded as the silver glint of a blade sparked a terrifying illumination before plunging deep into the satin quilt.

Across the room, a door flung open where a night-capped silhouette wavered. The shadow of a pistol, held between shaking hands, centered unsteadily at the black-cloaked assassin.

Victory, however, proved short-lived.

An empty chamber pot hurled across the dim room knocking the weapon to the floor. With a daring leap, the murderer made an escape through the open window, instantly swallowed up by darkness.

In burgundy robe and slippers, an elderly gentleman shuffled further into the room. With anxious fingers, he struck a matchstick to light the lamp on the night table. For a brief moment, his shaking hands lingered over the smooth coverlet before pulling it back. The down-filled bolster he’d carefully arranged there earlier now sported an eight-inch knife jutting from its middle.

Pulling a monogrammed handkerchief from the pocket of his robe, he dropped to sit on the bed, then dabbed at the sheen on his brow. Unfolding a note, he reread the message he’d received not three days past.

Take every precaution!
Your daughter, Victoria,
is to be killed before
her twentieth birthday.

Cold dread pounded through his veins as he stared blankly into the flickering flame fighting for life against his heavy breath.

It was then Edward Haverwood, third Earl of Wrenbrooke, resolved to do everything within his power to save his beloved daughter from the clutches of a maniacal killer.

How can readers find you on the Internet?
I love to connect with readers!
OR they can visit my website and sign up for my newsletter for the latest news and updates (or just to say hi) at

Thank you, Lori, for sharing this book with my blog readers and me. I’m eager for them to read it.

Readers, here is a link to the book.

Leave a comment for a chance to win a free copy of the book (your choice of an ebook or print book.) You must follow these instructions to be in the drawing. Please tell us where you live, at least the state or territory or country if outside North America. (Comments containing links may be subject to removal by blog owner.)

Void where prohibited; the odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. Entering the giveaway is considered a confirmation of eligibility on behalf of the enterer in accord with these rules and any pertaining local/federal/international laws.

The only notification you’ll receive is the winner post on this blog. So be sure to check back a week from Saturday to see if you won. You will have 4 weeks from the posting of the winners to claim your book.

If you’re reading this on Goodreads, Google+, Feedblitz, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, or Amazon, please come to the blog to leave your comment if you want to be included in the drawing. Here’s a link:

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

REMEMBER TEXAS - Laura Connor Kestner - One Free Book


Welcome, Laura. Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.
Not much. I want my characters to be more interesting than I am.

What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
I drove down the highway with a life-size cowboy mannequin (complete with Stetson and boots) strapped into the passenger seat beside me. I bought him from a resale shop after the store owner rescued him from a museum that was closing. I named him Chuck. He sits in my office now and watches me write.

How fun. When did you first discover that you were a writer?
Around the time I read my first Nancy Drew book. Also, my family subscribed to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and I read it every day. I began creating my own newspapers (with the help of my siblings) which included advice columns, weather reports, comics, and even sports. Years later, I would go on to write for several (small town) newspapers. Writing has just always been a part of my life.

Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
I love suspense, cozy mysteries, historicals, contemporary romance…well, you get the picture. I just love to read.

So do I. How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
Prayer, regular church attendance, and spending time with my family.
           
That’s three of my favorite things, too. How do you choose your characters’ names?
For contemporary, I use whatever catches my eye—could be from a news story or even a Facebook post. For historicals, I’ve used names from my ancestors, as well as old news articles and historical documents.
 
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
Right now, I’m still a bit over the moon about seeing Remember Texas in print.

If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
A rubber chicken. Because I like to laugh.

That’s a good one. What is your favorite food?
It’s a toss-up between enchiladas and pizza.

What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
My short attention span—and I haven’t really overcome it yet. Sometimes I write for twenty minutes, then do some research, then write again, then wash dishes, and then back to writing.

Sounds like a good plan to me. Tell us about the featured book.
Abigail Horton’s life is turned upside down during the last night of a week-long revival when her father—believed dead—shows up in the custody of a Texas Ranger. Abby is thrilled to see him, and equally devastated to learn he’s been living the life of an outlaw. Texas Ranger Caleb Calhoun stops in Moccasin Rock to let his prisoner, Bob Horton, visit briefly with family before transporting him to Austin for trial. Caleb takes a room at the family’s boarding house, planning to be in and out of the small town by morning. But within hours he’s kissed Abby Horton, made an enemy of her naïve suitor, and let his prisoner escape. 

As Caleb searches for the missing outlaw, and Abby struggles to keep the man’s whereabouts a secret, they also battle a growing attraction to each other.

Throw in a Calhoun family mystery, an elderly preacher on a mission, an old flame of Caleb’s, a secretive spinster, a team of surveyors, and Abby’s mother and brother—and you have a compelling story of faith, family and forgiveness.

I can hardly wait to read it. Please give us the first page of the book.
Moccasin Rock, Texas
July 1891
Abigail Horton sighed as her younger brother Robby eased the sleeve of his best shirt up over his wrist and deliberately scratched at a scabbed-over chigger bite until it bled.

“That’s not going to help you at all,” she whispered.

He glanced at her, shrugged, then let his arm drop and waited for the blood to run down onto his hand.

Abby understood her brother’s frustration. She wasn’t desperate enough to start clawing at her own skin yet, but she was more than ready to go home. They’d been sitting in this tabernacle for almost two hours now, and Reverend Wainright was still going strong.

 Robby gave her a smug little grin when the trickle of blood finally touched his fingers. He replaced the grin with a frown, then reached around Abby and tugged their mother’s arm.

Mama, who’d started the evening freshly starched, was now wilting in the heat and not in the best of humor. She glanced his way, narrowed her eyes, and returned her attention to the pulpit.
  
Abby bit back a smile, then withdrew a linen handkerchief from the pocket of her calico dress and passed it to her brother. His shoulders sagged and his lower lip thrust out in a pout as he made a half-hearted swipe at his hand. Even though Abby was twenty-two and Robby only eleven, he resented her attempts at mothering. But Mama had more than enough to deal with. Abby tried to help as much as she could, whether her brother liked it or not.

Robby offered her the hanky when done. Abby waved it away. He shoved it into his own pocket and laid his head back against the pew with a sigh loud enough to earn him a sharp look of rebuke from Mama. No one else in the congregation seemed to notice. All eyes were on Hamilton Wainright, the legendary traveling evangelist.
 
How can readers find you on the Internet?
On my website: lauraconnerkestner.com   
On Twitter: @LauraConnerKest

Thank you, Laura, for sharing your book with my blog readers and me. I love historicals set in that time period, and I love books set in Texas.

Readers, here are links to the book.
Remember Texas - Paperback
Remember Texas - Kindle

Leave a comment for a chance to win a free copy of the book. You must follow these instructions to be in the drawing. Please tell us where you live, at least the state or territory or country if outside North America. (Comments containing links may be subject to removal by blog owner.)

Void where prohibited; the odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. Entering the giveaway is considered a confirmation of eligibility on behalf of the enterer in accord with these rules and any pertaining local/federal/international laws.

The only notification you’ll receive is the winner post on this blog. So be sure to check back a week from Saturday to see if you won. You will have 4 weeks from the posting of the winners to claim your book.

If you’re reading this on Goodreads, Google+, Feedblitz, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, or Amazon, please come to the blog to leave your comment if you want to be included in the drawing. Here’s a link:

Sunday, October 14, 2018

WNNERS!!

IMPORTANT: New instructions for winners in 2018 - When you send me the email, make sure your subject line says this: Winner - (book title) - (author's name) If you don't do this, your email could get lost in my hundreds of email per day. I WILL SEARCH FOR POST TITLES STARTING THAT WAY.

Lori (IL) is the winner of Summer Plans and Other Disasters by Karin Beery. 

Jason (AR) is the winner of The Nephilim Virus by John T Prather. 

If you won a book and you like it, please consider giving the author the courtesy of writing a review on Goodreads, Amazon.com, Christianbooks.com, Barnes and Noble, or other Internet sites. Reviews are such a blessing to an author.

Also, tell your friends about the book you won ... and this blog. Thank you.

Congratulations
, everyone. If you won a print book, send me your mailing address:
Click the Contact Me link at the top of the blog, and send me an Email.


If you won an ebook or audio book, just let me know what email address it should be sent to.
Remember, you have 4 weeks to claim your book.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT - Mary Ellis - One Free Book

Dear Readers, I’ve been looking forward to this latest romantic suspense novel from Mary Ellis. I always read her books as soon as they arrive. As usual, I fell in love with her multi-faceted characters. Some things in her novels are quirky, and there were more quirky characters than usual. And the suspense kept me guessing. I highly recommend this wonderful read.

Signing books at a library event
Welcome back, Mary. You have a lot of books out now. What is your favorite setting to use in your books?
It’s a toss-up between the charming little towns not far from my Ohio home to set my Amish tales, or the gorgeous cities of the South such as Savannah, Charleston, New Orleans, or Memphis, because I do love to travel! My husband and I will be fortunate enough to spend the upcoming winter months in Georgia. As much as I love Ohio, I do not like winter anymore.

I’m glad my husband and I live in Texas in the winter. What do you look for when you’re shopping for a book to buy for yourself?
I love mysteries, whether historical, contemporary, or Amish. They must be good, clean reads with no graphic descriptions, foul language, or sexy scenes. But I do love a little romance in the story, because after all, love makes the world go round!

Give us a little tour of the setting for this book.
Home office
The setting of Hiding in Plain Sight is the historic section of Charleston, South Carolina, voted by Fodor’s Magazine as the most beautiful place to visit in America. I certainly must agree. I had so much fun dodging horse-drawn carriages on the cobblestone streets. I also have scenes set on Kiawah Island, fifteen miles away at the beach. Best of both worlds!

What other books do you have coming out soon?
I have an Amish novella, Nothing Tastes So Sweet, releasing in the anthology, The Amish Sweet Shop, in December. Emma Miller and Laura Bradford also contributed novellas to this anthology.

Writing porch
I’d love to feature that on my blog, too. Please give us a glimpse inside your home.
My home is an A-frame in the middle of three acres of woods. Very private. But the driveway is no fun in the winter. I attached a picture of my office and my porch where I do my writing in nice weather.

Is this novel part of a series or a stand-alone book?
Hiding in Plain Sight is book one of the Marked for Retribution Mysteries. Book two, Sweet Taste of Revenge, will release in February of 2019. I’m happy to say that book three in the series has just been contracted for late 2019.

I’ll be looking forward to each of them. Tell us about this story.
On the run from a troubled past, Kate Weller, the newest member of Price Investigations, covers her tracks, changes her name and takes a case in Charleston, South Carolina, where she can hide in plain sight. Renting a charming room with a waterfront view, Kate sets about trying to locate her adopted client’s natural siblings, only to find more questions than answers when she eventually tracks down a long-lost sister. Meanwhile, her new landlord won’t stop sticking his nose into her case. As far as Kate’s concerned, Eric Manfredi should focus on whatever competitor is bent on ruining his family business. But when petty vandalism turns lethal, and Eric’s father is arrested for murder, Kate determines to prove his innocence. Can she find the real culprit before a killer from her own past tracks her down?

Please give us the first page of the book for my blog readers.
Chapter One
Savannah   
It wouldn’t have taken much to turn a lousy day into something left of atrocious. First, Kate Weller had argued with her landlord who was suddenly demanding a year-long lease instead of their current month-to-month agreement. Apparently, paying in full and on time can work against a person. The landlord wanted her to stick around forever. Next, the air-conditioning in her old Mustang quit working. Since a person couldn’t run surveillance with the top down in a convert­ible, she was forced to endure an uncomfortable afternoon. Finally, she had to watch a landscaper toil for hours in the hot sun without showing the least bit of interest in his female co-worker. Kate yearned to tell his suspicious wife she was imagining things. But since her newfound career as a PI demanded finesse as well as endurance, she would resist insulting the client and be thankful she had a job, considering the gaps in her résumé.

Kate liked her job and the people she worked with. Beth Kirby, a fellow employee, was given the thankless job of training her during her probationary period. She liked her boss, Nate Price too, despite only meeting the man once. And as the agency’s traveling PI, she loved knowing she would soon move on to a new case in a different town. Where no one knows my name, she thought, putting a new twist on an eighties sit-com jingle.

Considering how many times she got stuck in traffic, she should have found the answer to world peace, let alone mapped out her future. Because it was definitely time to move on. An occasional hang-up in the middle of the night might not cause concern. But when the same car parked outside her apartment four nights in a row, Kate knew her past had caught up with her. It wasn’t easy to hide in the twenty-first century.

Maybe if I learned how to cook, quilt, and sew my own clothes, then I could hide in an Amish community. Or maybe not.

After parking the Mustang behind the building, Kate climbed the steps to the second floor, turned the key in the lock, and pushed open the door. Silently, she stood listening . . . for what? The cocking of a trigger? The slide of a semi-automatic chambering a bullet? Or maybe the deep breathing of a madman waiting for her to step across the threshold. Kate had no idea exactly who was after her or how deadly were their intentions. But if the past was a good indicator of the future, she didn’t want to stick around to find out.

So readers, are you hooked now? And Mary how can readers find you on the Internet?
I can be found at: http://www.maryellis.net/ or

Thank you, Mary, for sharing this book with my blog readers and me. I know they will enjoy this story.

Readers, here are links to the book.
Hiding in Plain Sight - Christianbook.com hardback
Hiding in Plain Sight (A Kate Weller Mystery) - Amazon hardback (best price)
Hiding in Plain Sight (A Kate Weller Mystery) - Kindle

Leave a comment for a chance to win a free copy of the book. You must follow these instructions to be in the drawing. Please tell us where you live, at least the state or territory or country if outside North America. (Comments containing links may be subject to removal by blog owner.)

Void where prohibited; the odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. Entering the giveaway is considered a confirmation of eligibility on behalf of the enterer in accord with these rules and any pertaining local/federal/international laws.

The only notification you’ll receive is the winner post on this blog. So be sure to check back a week from Saturday to see if you won. You will have 4 weeks from the posting of the winners to claim your book.

If you’re reading this on Goodreads, Google+, Feedblitz, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, or Amazon, please come to the blog to leave your comment if you want to be included in the drawing. Here’s a link:

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

GATHERING OF SISTERS - Darla Weaver - A Different Kind of Interview - One Free Book


An interview with Darla Weaver,
Author of Gathering of Sisters

Once a week Darla Weaver hitches up her spirited mare, bundles her children into the buggy, and drives six miles to the farm where she grew up. There she gathers with her four sisters and their children for a day with their mother. In Gathering of Sisters: A Year with My Old Order Mennonite Family (Herald Press), Weaver writes about her horse-and-buggy Mennonite family and the weekly women’s gatherings that keep them connected. On warm days, the children play and fish and build houses of hay in the barn. In the winter, everyone stays close to the woodstove, with puzzles and games and crocheting. No matter the weather, the Tuesday get-togethers of this Old Order Mennonite family keep them grounded and centered in their love for God and for each other, even when raising an occasional loving but knowing eyebrow at each other.

The rest of the week is full of laundry, and errands, and work that never ends. But Tuesday is about being sisters, daughters, and mothers.

Q: Gathering of Sisters tells about getting together weekly with your mother and sisters. Tell us a little bit about your family.
 There were five of us sisters, growing up together with our four little brothers in the white farmhouse our parents built. The nine of us kept this five-bedroom house brimming with life, and crowded with both happiness and some inevitable sadness. We did a lot of living and a lot of learning in that house.

And then we all grew up.

I was the first to leave. On a warm and sunshiny day in September 2000, after the leaves on the lofty silver maples had faded from summer-green and before they wore brightly flaming autumn shades, I was married to Laverne Weaver. It was the first wedding in that mellowing white house we all called home. Four more were to follow in the next several years. Except for my youngest brother, we’ve all left home. Most of us live close, but one brother lives in Alaska.

Q: Why did you decide to make an effort to get together once a week?

That left Tuesdays. Tuesday really was the perfect in-between sort of day to spend with Mom and my sisters. On Tuesday the five us sisters still come home. We pack up the children—all eighteen of them during summer vacation—and head to the farm.

We go early. I drive my spirited little mare, Charlotte, and she trots briskly along the six miles of winding country roads. Regina and Ida Mae live much closer. They married brothers, and their homes are directly across the fields from Dad and Mom’s farm. They usually bike, with children’s noses pressed against the bright mesh of the carts they tow behind their bicycles. Or they walk, pushing strollers over the back fields and up the lane. And Emily and Amanda, who also married brothers and live in neighboring houses about five miles away, come together with everyone crammed into one carriage.

Q: Do all the kids enjoy Tuesdays as well?
The children love Tuesdays. On warm days they play on the slide and the swings in the cool shade of the silver maples, jump on the trampoline, run through their grandpa’s three greenhouses, ride along on the wagon going to the fields where produce by the bushels and bins is hauled to the packing shed. They build hay houses in the barn and explore the creek. The boys take poles and hooks and bait and spend hours fishing and playing in the small creek that flows beneath the lane and through the thickets beside the pasture fence. They catch dozens of tiny blue gills and northern creek chubbs, most of which they release back into the water hole, a deep pool that yawns at the mouth of a large culvert, to be caught again next week. They work too, at mowing lawn, raking, lugging flower pots around, or anything else that Grandma needs them to do, but most often Tuesdays on Grandpa’s farm are play days.

Q: What do you do when you are all gathered together?

Every day is different, yet every Tuesday follows a predictable pattern that varies with the seasons. Winter finds us inside, close to the warmth humming from the woodstove, absorbed in wintertime pursuits which include card-making, crocheting, sewing, puzzles—jigsaw, crossword, sudoku—and reading books and magazines. But as soon as spring colors the buds of the maples with a reddish tinge, we spend more time outside. The greenhouses are loaded with plants, the flowerbeds full of unfurling perennials, and the grass is greening in the yard again.

In summer, while the garden and fields burst with produce, the breezy shade of the front porch calls. It wraps around two sides of the house and is full of Mom’s potted plants and porch furniture. We sit there to shell peas, husk corn, or just sip a cold drink and cool off after a warm stroll through the flowers.

Then autumn echoes through the country, the leaves flame and fall, and we rake them up—millions of leaves. Where we rake one Tuesday is covered again by the next, until at last the towering maples stand disrobed of leaves, their amazing seventy-foot branches a wavering fretwork against a sky that is sullen with winter once more.

Q: How did your sisters react to the news about you writing this book?
The initial reactions varied.
“I suppose you would change all our names,” Mom said after a while.
That was a new thought for me, and one I didn’t want to con­sider. “Oh, no, that would be much too hard. We would just use every­one’s real name.” Merely the thought of renaming eighteen children exhausted me.
“Oh, yes, I won’t write anything you wouldn’t like,” I promised.
“She will still have to claim us as sisters,” Regina points out, as usual finding a positive angle to the topic. “She won’t make us sound too odd or ornery or anything.”
Regina’s oldest daughter, Jerelyn, who at fourteen has graduated from eighth grade and is again spending Tuesdays with us, considered staying home for the entire next year to keep her name out of the book. But on a whole, no one really objected. Like Laverne and our children, Mom and my sisters are almost used to my compulsive scribbling. Almost.

Now on to some frequently asked questions about life in Mennonite communities.

Q: What does daily life look like for a Mennonite?
In some ways being a Mennonite is not so different from being anyone else. We have one life to live, we work to make a living, take care of our families, make time for the things we enjoy, eat, sleep, pay our bills and taxes. Some days are better than others as for anyone else.

In other ways it’s vastly different from the culture around us. Partly in the conservative way we live; perhaps even more in the way we look at life.

The most important goals for most of us are: Faith in God and in his Son who died on the cross for sinners; growing into a closer walk with him; learning to love, serve, and obey his commandments. These beliefs help shape our lives as we grow older.

Old Order Mennonite life is family-oriented. It centers around our church, our families, our schools and neighborhoods. It has been said, “Destroy the home and you destroy the nation,” which has been proved true in various eras of history. God’s plan for one husband and one wife, working together to care for their children, is a most important foundation for our lifestyle.

But, of course, we are far from perfect. Although the majority of us strive to live lives that demonstrate a faith and love and steadfastness rooted deep in God and his word—the Bible—we make plenty of mistakes too. Stumbling and falling and getting up to try again, praying that God will help us do better tomorrow, is a part of life, too.

Q: Do Old Order Mennonites believe in the new birth?
Of course. We believe the Bible truth: “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).

It is when one believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God that God’s Spirit comes into one’s heart. It is by repenting of and turning away from our sins that they can be forgiven. It is by faith in God’s power, and asking in prayer, help us break away from sin’s strongholds. And it is because of that new birth that we desire to live a life that God can bless and sanctify.

But those who grow up in Christian homes may not always be able to pinpoint a certain day or year when their new birth occurred. To say, “When were you born again?” is a little like asking, “When did you grow up?” Sometimes there is a specific date to remember. Just as often there isn’t, because we grew so gradually into the awareness of our need for a personal Savior.

Was there ever a time I didn’t know and believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who came to die for my sins? If so, I can’t remember it. I did have to come to the place where I was willing to accept that for myself, acknowledge all the sin in my life, and turn to God for help and forgiveness. That day came, gradually. When I asked Christ into my heart to be Ruler there, it led to more years of growing up, and into what it means to be one of his disciples.

When I was born physically I still had much to learn. When I was born again spiritually I had just as much to learn about living a Christ-centered life. I’m still learning about it. I imagine I’ll be learning more for as long as I live.

Q: What could a visitor expect at one of your church services?

Church services last around 2 to 2 ½ hours and are in the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect, although the Bible reading is done in German. They begin with everyone singing together. One of the ministers then has a short sermon, which is followed by silent prayer. Then a second minister explains a chapter from the New Testament, or part of a chapter that he had selected and studied previously. Services are closed with an audible prayer, more singing, and the benediction.

It’s a special time of singing, praying, and worshiping God together with our congregation, and is full of encouragement and inspiration.

Q: Throughout most of the country, we would find most businesses open at least part of the day on Sunday. Would we find any businesses in your community open on Sunday?
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt though labour and do all thy work” (Exodus 20:8-9).

When Sunday comes around, those of us who own businesses do close them, and most of our work is put aside. Sunday is kept as a day to go to church to worship God, then spend it socializing with family and friends. It is a day to get together for meals, visit families who have a new baby, or just relax at home.

Sometimes when it’s warm we go fishing or hiking at nearby state parks or in our own woods. Sometimes we go on picnics or visit the neighbors. In the evening, the youth group gathers at one of their homes to play volleyball, sing and eat.

Sunday is set aside for worship, rest, and family time. It’s refreshing, both spiritually and physically, to have one day each week reserved for that. Work almost always waits. Worshiping God is first priority, then being with family.

Q: What kind of activities are your youth groups involved in?
Most of the young people are part of a structured youth group that gathers each Sunday evening in one of their homes. If it’s warm they play volleyball before singing hymns. A snack is served, unless everyone is invited for supper, then an entire meal is served. This can be quite an undertaking for the hostess, depending on the size of the group.

While Sunday evening gatherings are a regular thing, there are sometimes “work bees” during the week, when they get together to help someone who needs it. They might go to sing at a nursing home, go skating in winter, fishing in summer, or other upbuilding activities.

The majority of the young people are a part of this group and are dedicated to serving God. However, the upper teen years can be hard whether you’re Mennonite or not, and there are always some who drift away and choose not to live as part of our culture.

Q: Can you tell us about your private schools?
Parochial schools are a vital part of our neighborhoods. Three men serve as the school board for each one, and they are in charge of hiring teachers, handling the financial part of running a school, upkeep of the building, and any other need that comes up. They serve in three-year terms and are up for one re-election at the regular yearly community meeting where all directors and trustees for various things are selected.

Most schoolhouses have two classrooms and two teachers. The number of children attending each one varies greatly. Parents pay a yearly tuition which covers the teachers’ pay, books and supplies, and building repairs.

Most children start first grade in September after their sixth birthday. They graduate after completing eighth grade.

Each school day starts with a Bible story, reciting the Lord’s prayer together and singing. Lessons include, but are not limited to, reading, writing, math, spelling, English, vocabulary, history, geography, some science and nature study. Curriculum varies a little from school to school and from one area to the next, but these are the basics.

Religion is not taught as a subject. Rather, faith in God, and Christian living as based on the Bible, is woven into almost every textbook and lesson. It’s a way of life for us and can’t be separated into a single subject. 

About the Author 
Darla Weaver is a homemaker, gardener, writer and Old Order Mennonite living in the hills of southern Ohio. She is the author of Water My Soul, Many Lighted Windows, and Gathering of Sisters. Weaver has written for Family Life, Ladies Journal, Young Companion, and other magazines for Amish and Old Order Mennonite groups. Before her three children were born she also taught school. Her hobbies are gardening and writing.

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