Thursday, April 27, 2017

Love in Store Majolica by Anita Mae Draper and #giveaway!

Thank you for hosting me, Laura. It's a pleasure to be here.

Giveaway: Anita is giving away a print copy of The SECRET ADMIRER Romance Collection in conjunction with this post. If you want a chance to win it, leave a comment before Sunday midnight April 30.

Looking through old catalogues gives a true sense of what was available to the staunch people who settled the west. So when I needed authentic items for the 1890 store in my new novella, Love in Store, I researched china and pottery items for the last couple decades of the 19th century.
Catalogue references to majolica ware for pitchers, vases, and flower pots made it sound like a common item, yet I'd never heard of it, so that's where my research began. When I found the following example in an 1894 catalogue, I knew majolica was pretty enough to be featured in my hero's Emporium.

Caption: Majolica Flower Pot. Source: T. Eaton Co, Ltd. Spring and Summer Catalogue, 1894

What is majolica? The simplest explanation is that majolica is an earthenware item covered with a lead- or tin-based glaze before painting. This surface allows for a brilliant white, opaque surface which, when painted, gives it lustrous qualities. Once I saw a few examples, I was able to pick majolica out of a group of pottery, although I won't hazard a guess whether I was looking at an authentic piece or a reproduction.

What struck me is that majolica items are imaginative and whimsical pieces—perfect for Adam's Emporium in Love in Stove. To give you an idea of what I mean, I've pinned several majolica pieces to my Pinterest story board, Novella: Love in Store.  (

On the heels of my majolica research, I was searching through a stack of dishes at my local recycle aka second hand store and found an incredible dish with Lily of the Valley flowers in a textured bowl. Although I hadn't seen the pattern before, I quivered at the thought that it might be majolica. Flipping it over didn't quell my rising excitement when I didn't see majolika, but the fact that it was made in Germany gave an indication that it was probably a current reproduction.

Caption: Reproduction majolica bowl w/handle holes

Further research confirmed the bowl as being a reproduction of the Palm Leaf and Lily of the Valley pattern originally made in the Villeroy & Boch factory in Schramberg, Germany. It took another search to find an image showing the holes fitted with a carrying handle.

Caption: Reproduction Majolica bowl with carrying handle

Finding majolica at the same time I was writing about it was one of those blessings that feel like God's pat on the back. It also brought Adam's Emporium to life. I created my Love in Store Pinterest board to show the inspiration behind the story. It fueled my imagination as I wrote the novella, and now I hope it brings Adam and Janet's story to life for you as well.

Anita's books are available wherever Christian books and ebooks are sold including

A special LOVE IN STORE PRIZE PACK GIVEAWAY will be held in celebration of the May 1st release of The Secret Admirer Romance Collection. For details, check the Contests & Giveaways page of Anita's website. (

Anita Mae Draper writes her historical romances under the western skies of the Saskatchewan prairie where her love of research and genealogy yield fascinating truths that layer her stories with rich historical details. Her Christian faith is reflected in her stories of forgiveness and redemption as her characters struggle to find their way to that place we call home. Anita loves to correspond with her readers through any of the social media links found at

Readers can enrich their reading experience by checking out Anita's Pinterest boards for a visual idea of her published stories at

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Close to You

Close to You: A Novel 

Paperback, ebook

April 26, 2016

by Kara Isaac

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Howard Books 
  • ISBN-13: 978-1501117329

A disgraced scholar running from her past and an entrepreneur chasing his future find themselves thrown together--and fall in love--on a Tolkien tour of New Zealand.

Allison Shire (yes, like where the Hobbits live) is a disgraced academic who is done with love. Her belief in "happily ever after" ended the day she discovered her husband was still married to a wife she knew nothing about. She finally finds a use for her English degree by guiding tours through the famous sites featured in the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies. By living life on the road and traveling New Zealand as a luxury tour guide, Allison manages to outrun the pain of her past she can't face.

Jackson Gregory was on the cusp of making it big. Then suddenly his girlfriend left him--for his biggest business competitor--and took his most guarded commercial secrets with her. To make matters worse, the Iowa farm that has been in his family for generations is facing foreclosure. Determined to save his parents from financial ruin, he'll do whatever it takes to convince his wealthy great-uncle to invest in his next scheme, which means accompanying him to the bottom of the world to spend three weeks pretending to be a die-hard Lord of the Rings fan, even though he knows nothing about the stories. The one thing that stands between him and his goal is a know-it-all tour guide who can't stand him and pegged him as a fake the moment he walked off the plane.

When Allison leads the group through the famous sites of the Tolkien movies, she and Jackson start to see each other differently, and as they keep getting thrown together on the tour, they find themselves drawn to each other. Neither expected to fall in love again, but can they find a way beyond their regrets to take a chance on the one thing they're not looking for?

My thoughts: First, the disclaimer. "I was provided a free copy of this book. All opinions are my own." That done, I wouldn't know a Took if I met one on the street and I am probably the only person on the planet who has never sat through a Hobbit movie. The references in this book were losing me as a reader, so my daughter who read this book and has seen every Hobbit movie ever made and read all the Hobbit books is now stepping in to review this. So without further ado, here's my daughter: 

CLOSE TO YOU is a very good book. If you are a dedicated Lord Of The Rings fan, then it is guaranteed to drive you nuts how much the hero doesn't know. He is floundering through it because all he wants is his great-uncle's money. The tour guide was being driven nuts as soon she picked him up at the airport, because she was dressed up as a Hobbit and Jackson didn't know what she was supposed to be dressed up as. All he knew is that she wore padding, an ugly dress and a frizzy wig and that is all he knew about it. 

When he encountered a gollum/smeagol statue, he was thrown for a loop and had to look it up in a "cheater book".  

Allison is a dedicated Lord of the Rings fan and she knows more than I know about it. And she's always verbally slapping Jackson upside the head. 

5 stars. I loved this book to death, I loved it.   (Mom stepping back in here) If you are a Lord of the Rings fan, you will adore this book. If you are joining me in the "haven't got a clue" category, then maybe not so much. Awarding this book the stars my daughter assigned.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A Spring of Weddings

Click here to purchase your copy

About the Book

A Spring of Weddings
Book: A Spring of Weddings: A Contemporary Spring Weddings Collection
Authors: Toni Shiloh & Melissa Wardwell,
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Release Date: March 30, 2017
A Proxy Wedding
Carly James values loyalty and friendship above all, so when her best friend calls asking her to be a proxy bride, she says, ‘yes.’ How hard can it be to say ‘I do’ so that her best friend can be with the one she loves? Only, Carly never counted on the feelings that began to swirl around with the proxy groom.
Damien Nichols likes life lined up from A to Z, but when his best friend calls in a favor, disorder begins to reign. Instead of taking a quick flight to the proxy wedding, he must take a road trip with the proxy bride. Carly’s free-spirit attitude bumps heads with his meticulous approach to life. As Damien discovers the woman underneath the carefree fa├žade, his emotions become involved.
Will love become real at A Proxy Wedding?
My thoughts: A Proxy Wedding was the first book I've read by Toni Shiloh.  It was a unique premise - I never read a story with a proxy wedding before. It was weird, but a very sweet romance as two strangers--complete opposites--were forced together for a week, even standing side by side as a judge pronounced them man and wife (in their friends' names, of course.) And what better than a wedding to make you think romance? 

The black moment seemed a little off. Carly completely changed personality there. So did Damien for that matter. 

All in all a sweet novella and I enjoyed reading it  
Hope Beyond Savannah
Lily Allman and Nikotemo (Nik) Lagatuo were the poster children for the term “opposites attract.” He was an evangelist and CEO for a non-profit from Samoa who grew up in a large loving family. She was a blond bombshell with a funky style and no family to call her own. Two of the most unlikely people meet in the most unlikely of places, but God had a plan when He brought them together. They never let their differences deter them from the love they had for each other, but when Nik’s mother comes to the States for the wedding, the idea of wedded bliss is shaken. Can prejudices be over looked, insecurities overcome, and hope for a better future be restored so that these two can have all that was promised?

My thoughts:  Hope Beyond Savannah is also the first book I've read by Melissa Wardwell. This one a bit more difficult to read than Toni's, as I was in Lily's position where I was the girl my then boyfriend wanted to marry and his mom treated me every bit as badly as Nik's mother treated Lily. I do admire Nik for standing up for Lily.

This story was very well written, Ms. Wardell is a talented author and I loved the way she wove it together so seamlessly. And despite the rocky, depressing situation Nik and Lily found themselves in, it worked out beautifully.

My thoughts: First, the disclaimer. "I was provided a free copy of this book. All opinions are my own." That done, A SPRING OF WEDDINGS contained two stories by two new-to-me authors. I enjoy reading contemporary romances, and these were sweet. They are both clearly Christian, but gentle with the faith message. If you like contemporary romances, you will want to read this collection. 

About the Authors
Toni Shiloh is a wife, mom, and Christian fiction writer. Once she understood the powerful saving grace thanks to the love of Christ, she was moved to honor her Savior. She writes to bring Him glory and to learn more about His goodness.

MWardwell-4Melissa Wardwell was born and raised in a small mid-Michigan community living there still with her Husband and three children. She enjoys taking pictures, reading, and leisurely rides with her husband on their motorcycle. All her stories revolve around women who are mothers. Single mothers, widowed mothers, young mothers, married mothers, and even women who have a mother’s heart but no children of her own.
Her hope is that each story touches your heart, gives you hope, or just gives you a moment away from the chaos of life.

Guest posts from Toni & Melissa

A Proxy Wedding
By Toni Shiloh
Spring is here! I love it because I always think of new beginnings as the flowers bud and then bloom. The trials and tribulation of the winter season are no longer on my mind. My hope that the winter season would not linger begins to become visible as new life takes shape on the bare trees. The seeds I planted in faith of God’s faithfulness sprout up in hope and promise.
When I sat down to write A Proxy Wedding, I had to imagine spring time, because the dreary, overcast skies outside my window were a constant reminder that I was in a season of sickness. One person would get sick, then the next, and the next. By the time the last person got sick, the round would start over. Visits to the doctor were made. Miserable kids were constantly whining in their discomfort.
It. Was. Rough.
It made perfect sense for me to throw my characters into a new situation. One that would make the stretch, take them out their comfort zone, and search for God’s goodness. I wanted to give them a hint of goodness and throw in a trial or two so they could make the decision that sometimes, risk is worth it. Just as we all react differently to new situations, so did my characters.
Carly was intent on making lemonade from her lemons. She tries to get the handsome broker, Damien, to see the importance of smelling roses and lingering over new adventures. Of course, Damien wasn’t partial to the frivolity. He’s so intent on becoming a success that he had no time to slow down.
In order for them to see God’s handiwork in their lives, I had to remind them that they were not products of their past. That in God, they’re a new creation with new opportunities available to them.
I hope you enjoy A Proxy Wedding. May you think of the Father’s love as you take time to stop and smell the roses.
Hope Beyond Savannah
By Melissa Wardwell
I hope you enjoy this story of love, acceptance and new beginnings. It was a joy to write because there is much more to it than the hope of marriage. It is about the blending of two families who are from two completely different cultures. Researching the island traditions, beliefs, and customs was not only fun, but enlightening. Being able to return to my background in bridal as well as the most beautiful city in the United States was just an added bonus.
With Nik and his family being from another country, I gave you a glossary of words and phrases used so you knew what was being said. I found the language to be rather beautiful and to not include it would take away from who these people are. I also give a small explanation as to what Rock-a- billy is. Lily is a funky chick who dresses in a fun and exciting way. When I saw this couple in my head, I knew it would be quite the uncommon match. As you will soon see, they fit together quite nicely.
My point in using a bi-racial couple for this story was based on what we have been seeing in the news lately. It is unlike anything I have ever done but after talking to friends in similar relationships, I knew I had to step out on this limb. I think it is time we begin to look at people through the eyes of God and not man, then we would see how beautiful we all are. It doesn’t matter what color our skin is or what our past contains, we are all God’s creation and we are beautifully and wonderfully made.

Blog Stops

April 25: Lighthouse Academy
April 28: Mary Hake
April 29: The Power of Words (Spotlight)
May 1: Quiet Quilter
May 4: A Greater Yes
May 5: Carpe Diem
May 7: God is Love
May 8: Autism mom


To celebrate the tour, Celebrate Lit Publishing is giving away a Kindle! Click below to enter. Be sure to comment on this post before you enter to claim 9 extra entries!
Link to purchase book:
Link for giveaway:
Giveaway code: b614

Monday, April 24, 2017

Q&A with Abuse Survivor and Founder of Hopeful Hearts Shannon M. Deitz

As a sexual abuse survivor I know first hand the pain that abuse brings, emotionally, physically and spiritually. Survivors want to know they are being heard and that they will be safe and protected. We do not need to be silenced because our situation makes others feel uncomfortable. To the contrary, we need people around us who are willing to listen and willing to stand up for us if we choose to go public. This focus in April is important because the more people who become aware of just how prevalent this problem is in our country, the more beneficial it will be for everyone. Being able to share our story with others serves to help prevent future abuse from taking place. If there is a survivor in your midst, be willing to listen. Be willing to hear their story. Shannon M. Deitz

What do people need to understand about sexual assault and child abuse? How have these tragic crimes continued to take place and have they grown over the past 5 years? 

Child abuse is more difficult to determine the true statistics because those reporting the abuse are often outside of the home, however still, 3.6 million referrals are made a year. Both sexual assault and child abuse are issues that render discomfort and disbelief when discussed so it takes an extensive amount of courage to speak up and tell someone what has happened. The stigma of shame and displaced guilt often keep the victim quiet and fearful.

However, the more we can bring awareness to both issues, especially during Sexual Assault Awareness and Child Abuse Prevention month, the louder survivors can be with their stories, and the more prevalent the issue can become in the public eye. The statistics (from what is reported) rarely change. 1 out of 6 women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime and 15% of them will be under the age of 12 the first time they are assaulted. Often when one is assaulted the shame and guilt are embedded so deep that their defenses become lower and they find themselves in the same situation repeatedly throughout their lifetime.

These crimes continue to remain high in numbers because it is such a difficult and uncomfortable subject.  We must pay attention and react and respond instead of turning a blind eye when we notice something out of the ordinary, or when a friend admits to an assault. 

One young man confided when he was a freshman in college and rushing a fraternity he walked out of the bathroom at his frat house's party to find a line of his 'brothers' waiting to 'rape' a young woman in the bedroom. While he didn't participate, he also didn't do anything to help the young woman. To do something would have meant to take a stand, to cause waves, and people instinctively shy away from confrontation. Yet that moment missed to help her still haunts the young man today.

These crimes are not fading, yet the more we continue to bring awareness the better chance those listening to other survivors’ stories will be apt to recognize the abuse they are suffering and want to speak out, and or make safer decisions. In bringing awareness we offer the opportunity for survivors to speak out and help others to know that they are not alone and to inform generations to come, encouraging them to get beyond the discomfort of confrontation.        

*statistics taken from RAINN and Child Help

What do people need to understand about survivors of abuse?

Survivors of abuse, both male and female, are not fragile. They are strong, worthy individuals who have overcome a great amount of suffering whether it was physical, sexual, or verbal.  Every form of abuse affects the person emotionally, lowering their self-esteem and sense of worth. Often survivors will hide or bury the facts and the deep effects of the abuse out of fear, shame, and lack of support. The best way for a survivor to heal from the abuse is to give a voice to what has been done or said to them; to be heard and to know they are supported and loved.       

What has inspired you to reach out to others?

I am a survivor of rape and incest.  The years I kept the facts of these traumas within me led me down some dark paths that were filled with bad decisions based on my lack of worth and self-esteem.  I want to educate and reach out to other survivors before they get entangled in that dark path and make decisions that can affect them for the rest of their life, adding to the trauma of what has been done or said to them in the past.

Why do you feel it is important for you to share your story?

When I began to live my life in the freedom of being a survivor, no longer tethered to chains of negativity, pessimism, and insecurity, I realized how much I longed to see others free from these same chains. I knew the only way to reach others was to tell my story in its truth and entirety. What affected me in my healing process was to hear other stories similar to mine and to witness their successful triumph and victory overcoming their past. I began to realize if they could do it, I could too. I want to share both the stumbling and the victories so that others can relate and recognize that they can also be victorious over their past. 

How has sharing your story with others helped you in your journey to healing?

The more you share the truth about your experience the easier it is to accept it and move passed it in order to embrace your present and future. By sharing my story through speaking to groups and leading retreats, I find that it gives me strength and fortifies the healing process. What has been ‘done’ to me is a part of who I am, but it doesn’t define who I am.  In fact, I’ve come to the place where I can thank God for every aspect of my life, the dark and ugly moments, along with the joyous times, because He has brought good from it all and allowed me to recognize that I am stronger because of it.

Low self-esteem, especially among teens, has become a national epidemic. What do you want someone struggling with feelings of low self-worth to understand?

My instinct is to respond, “You are worthy! You are unique and there is no one else in this world just like you and this world needs you and the skills and talents YOU have because each one of us has been given a specific purpose to use these talents and gifts and no one can replace you.”

But I also have been in a place that I have felt extreme unworthiness and insecurity. I know that if I heard someone say that I’d doubt what those talents or gifts were, because I wasn’t like everyone else. To that I say, “Would being like everyone else make you happy? Would going against who you are, what sparks interest and joy inside of you just to get others attention bring you joy? Most likely not.” 

In this day and age of social media, self-worth is defined by the number of followers we have on Instagram or how many ‘likes’ they give to your posts. It is important to realize that those are numbers and most of those people have so many numbers because they ‘follow’ and ‘like’ everyone just to get more numbers. When it comes down to knowing you, who knows you best?

You, my friend, are worthy of life and others would be so lucky to know you, who you really are and share in the gifts and talents you’ve been given. 

What is your goal with Hopeful Hearts Ministry and what motivated you to start it?

Hopeful Hearts Ministry aids the long-term recovery of survivors of abuse through peer support sessions, counseling, and public awareness services. Our faith-based care alleviates suffering and helps restore confidence and self-worth.

When I was called into speaking on a national and international level on various topics regarding faith, the most popular message I gave, the one that resonated best with audiences at least, was when I spoke of my own personal journey, the abuse I incurred and how I overcame the stigma of shame attached.

As the years progressed and my voice became stronger, God led me to more and more opportunities to work with survivors of all ages, especially those in my generation and generations ahead of me who were taught to keep skeletons in the closet. It became very clear that there was a desperate need to empower all survivors to have a voice, to educate the world on what abuse is, to teach others how to listen to those who have suffered abuse, and to learn how to stop the generational cycle of abuse.  In 2012 a friend said to me, “Why don’t you start a non-profit? Think what more you could do.”  Hence, Hopeful Hearts Ministry was formed.

Tell us about the I Have a Voice project and the feedback you have received from viewers.

In 2013, I realized the importance of a survivor speaking truth and being heard. I decided to create the “I Have a Voice” YouTube video series, revealing 5 emotionally-charged personal stories of survivors of abuse. This hope-filled project consists of intensely moving interrelated videos, all with a collective purpose to help victims to overcome their past and be empowered to move forward. Men and women have responded as a result of the videos, expressing their gratitude in knowing they are not alone. They are empowered to move forward in their lives. Since 2013 we have added 2 more I Have a Voice Videos.  From one male viewer:
I came across your website yesterday and was very moved to listen to your short YouTube video "I Have a Voice - Childhood sexual abuse and forgiveness".

Your sharing of your story, your truth, was very powerful. I especially liked the part where you defended the (any) abused child by saying "it's not right" (to take away the voice of a child).

That really hit home and I was moved by your honesty, courage, and willingness to stand up for and speak out on behalf of the abused child.  ~ James, TX
 Shannon M. Deitz is the award-winning author of Exposed:  Inexcusable Me, Irreplaceable Him and Redeemed.   She was recently listed as one of the best authors in Houston by CBS Houston Radio.  

 For more information about Shannon Deitz and Hopeful Hearts Ministry, please visit her website:
 This may be used with permission and credit attributed to Shannon M. Deitz, Hopeful Hearts Ministry 2017.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Princess Prayers / Berenstain Bears Friendship Blessings Collection

Princess Prayers 

The Princess Parables

Board book, ebook

 April 4, 2017

by Jeanna Young (Author), Jacqueline Kinney Johnson (Author), Omar Aranda(Illustrator)

  • Age Range: 4 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 3
  • Board book: 30 pages
  • Publisher: Zonderkidz; Brdbk edition 
  • ISBN-13: 978-0310758693

Good morning, Lord, it’s time to rise.
The sun is shining bright.
I’ve got my day ahead of me,
so help me do what’s right.

Help me to be kind and good
and do my very best
to show my love for you today
so others will be blessed.
Princess Prayers includes fifteen sweet prayers for little girls who want to live like princesses for God their King. Prayers are included for girls to be able to pray and learn alongside princess Grace, Hope, Faith, Charity, and Joy. Every little girl is a princess, and this padded cover board book will help them engage with Scripture and discover how to open their hearts to God.

My thoughts: First, the disclaimer. "I was provided a free copy of this book. All opinions are my own." That done, PRINCESS PRAYERS is a prayer book for girls. It includes a verse, a prayer, and a beautifully drawn picture of the princesses and something relating to the prayer or verse. Perfect for reading to your favorite little princess or for girls to memorize and recite. Easy for a beginning reader to read all alone, or for teaching children how to pray. 


The Berenstain Bears Friendship Blessings Collection Berenstain Bears/Living Lights

Hardcover, ebook 

April 4, 2017

by Jan & Mike Berenstain

  • Age Range: 4 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 3
  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Zonderkidz 
  • ISBN-13: 978-0310753384

The Berenstain Bears Living Lights, series continues to attract young readers through creative and engaging stories that not only entertain but teach values and life lessons. Now, five of the series’ favorite titles are available in a great new hardcover. This Berenstain Bears Living Lights treasury called Friendship Blessings Collection is sure to be a popular choice for Berenstain Bears fans.
This collection includes:
  • The Perfect Fishing Spot
  • Reap the Harvest
  • Faithful Friends
  • Kindness Counts
  • God Made You Special

My thoughts: First, the disclaimer. "I was provided a free copy of this book. All opinions are my own." That done, THE BERENSTAIN BEARS FRIENDSHIP BLESSINGS COLLECTION is a collection of five different Berenstain Bears stories in one beautifully done hard cover volume. 

Berenstain Bears is my youngest daughters favorite stories right now, and she enjoys reading them herself, or cuddling while I read them to her. Fans of Berenstain Bears will love this Friendship Blessings collection and want grab a copy for their personal library, their children, grandchildren, or even great-grandchildren. 

Also perfect for church and public libraries, daycares, preschools, and elementary schools.