Geek Girl Goals: or 6 ways to grow as a reader in 2019

I’m just going to be completely honest with you. Ready? Inch a little closer, let me whisper in your ear.

I’m not good at New Year’s Resolutions.

I mean, I’m absolutely wretched at them. I break them mere hours after the ball drops in Times Square.

You want to know what my resolution was last year? To wish all my Facebook friends a happy birthday on their actual birthday. I lasted 6 days.

See? Wretched.

BUT when I determine to achieve some geek girl goal (ie. write a novel, read every Steinbeck novel in 6 months, memorize Kate’s monologue from Taming of the Shrew) I’m SO ON THAT!

So, I decided that for 2019 I would resolve to grow as a reader.

Living a literary life take building some brainiac muscles, but I think I’m up for that challenge.

Want to join me?

Fantastic. Here are some habits we can practice in order to grow as readers in the New Year.

  1. Less screen time, more page time: Blerg! Don’t you hate it when you realize that you have spent an hour toggling between Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter just to have seen the same old things over and over? How about the amount of time it took to binge watch this or that show? I don’t know about you, but I, for one, am going to spend less time with my eyes on a screen and more time with my nose in a book. It’s okay to log off, close the lap top, put the phone across the room. I like to use an app blocking program like 1Focus to keep me honest.
  2. Read books about — well — reading: 2018 brought us a few books about refining our reading lives. How wonderful! Karen Swallow Prior’s On Reading Well is a literary tour with many recommendations. I’d Rather Be Reading by Anne Bogel (of Modern Mrs. Darcy) reminds us of what made us fall in love with reading in the first place. Check out these books and be inspired in your reading!
  3. Challenge yourself: Do you struggle to find new-to-you books to read? Do you find that you easily get stuck in a rut? Why not try a reading challenge? Anne Bogel recently announced her 2019 challenge complete with free printables. You can also check your local library or indie book store.
  4. Consider adding a few classics to your list: The literary world has a rich history that is full of beautiful writing. John Steinbeck, Alexandre Dumas, Jane Austen, Edith Wharton, Kurt Vonnegut, Frederick Douglass, Flannery O’Connor, Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Wright, Harper Lee, Shusaku Endo…I could go on all day. There is a classic for every taste. Not sure which would be best for you? Leave a comment below to let me know a book you LOVE and I’ll try to hook you up with an excellent classical match.
  5. Track your reading: Looking back at all you’ve read is quite satisfying. I love remembering all the wonderful books I’ve enjoyed (and some I didn’t like all that much) at the end of each year. Lately, I’ve come to love tracking my reading on GoodReads and BookBub. A bonus is having the opportunity to connect with other readers and get recommendations. Let’s connect on those sites!
  6. Join a book club: Book clubs are great for breaking out a reading rut, getting new perspectives on literature, and providing deadlines for when a book needs to be finished. Plus there’s usually snacks involved. What’s not to love?

I can’t wait to hear how your reading lives are going in 2019. If you’d like to keep up with what I’m reading, you can follow me on BookBub, GoodReads, and Instagram. It would be fun to follow each other in our literary endeavors!

Happy Reading!

10 ways to get into the Christmas Spirit

I super duper love (almost) everything about Christmas! Decorating the tree, baking cookies, singing carols…I love (nearly) all of it! 

What’s that you say? What’s the “almost” and “nearly” all about? 

Well. Sigh. There might be a few things about the holiday season that get me down. Like the stores packed with grumpy shoppers or the pressure to get the very perfect gift. Or the battle over how festive a coffee cup is or how to offer a kind greeting to strangers. On a deeper level, I hurt for friends who are experiencing a first Christmas without someone important to them. 

It can be a rough season, right? It’s easy to get stuck in the ick of emotions and stress and downright anxiety. 

So, how do we combat that? Well, I’m glad you asked! 

Here are 10 things I do to help me get into the Christmas spirit. I hope you get at least a few ideas. And I’d love to hear what you do in the comments! 

  • Watch a Christmas movie! There’s a Christmas movie for all tastes. Snuggle up in a blankie and watch your favorite!
  • Get out the photo albums! Find photos from Christmases past. Bonus points if you can laugh at your funny hair and/or outfits! 
  • Read some poetry!  A few that I recommend are Christmas Bells by Henry Wadsworth Longellow and In the Bleak Midwinter by Christina Rossetti.
  • Bake! Get out your Grandma’s old recipes (or Google some). Bake a few batches of cookies (or buy them pre-made) and decorate them to your heart’s content. Bonus points if you share a dozen with your neighbor. 
  • Avoid the mall! The hustle and bustle can be overwhelming. But the intimacy of shopping at a local store can be just what you need. Plus, they usually have staff who can help you pick a sweet gift for a loved one. 
  • Choose kindness! Volunteer at a soup kitchen, pay for the order of the guy behind you in line, hold the door for someone, call a loved one just to chat. You’ll be amazed how much better, how much more Christmasy this makes you feel!
  • Listen to a child tell about the birth of Christ! If there are kids in your life, ask them to tell you the story. There’s nothing like hearing it all from their perspective. Or you can always watch this fun and touching retelling: 
  •  Sing! Play some Christmas music and sing your lungs out! Oh, it doesn’t matter if you can’t carry a tune. Nobody has to hear you. Just sing and dance and let the music work its magic. Bonus points if you gather a group of friends to carol at a retirement home. 
  • Send a few cards! I know that sending Christmas cards is both overwhelming and expensive, especially when we have a list of hundreds of friends and family. Instead, pick 5 people who could use a little encouragement and send them a handwritten note. Bonus points if you deliver it in person.
  • Attend an event! Plan on going to a Christmas Eve service at church or a community concert. Find a church play or a hymn sing. Whatever it is, being with others can left your spirits. Gather a friend or two to go with or take along your family. You might just have a great time.

I hope at least one of these suggestions proves helpful to you. What do YOU do to fuel the Christmas Spirit? I love to hear from you. 

And…Merry Christmas!

Fiction Recommendations for the Book Loving Kids in Your Life!

Every year I get messages from friends, asking for some recommendations for fiction books to give kids at Christmas. I happen to think that books make the VERY BEST GIFTS!!! So I’m always happy to provide titles.

This year I thought I’d compile a list here for fun! Check it out!

Picture Books

Maybe God is Like That Too by Jennifer Grant: I love Jennifer Grant and her powerful picture books. In Maybe God Is Like That Too, she tells the story of a grandmother pointing out God’s presence in the world all around us. I especially love that this book features a grandparent, grandchild relationship.

Snuggle Time Christmas Stories by Glenys Nellist: One of the very best things about picture books is the snuggle factor. Glenys has identified that sweet time with a series of Snuggle Time books that families can share. This one is especially sweet for this season.

The Song of Delphine by Kenneth Kraegel: As far as I’m concerned, you can never go wrong with a Kenneth Kraegel book. Stunning illustrations join touching storytelling to provide tales that kids will want to read over and over. Whenever I’m asked to be a “secret reader” at my kids’ school, I grab a Ken Kraegel book to share. It’s always a good choice.

Superhero Levi by Catie Cordero: A story about a four year old who is differently abled and how he faces challenges that end up making him a superhero. Based on the author’s real life nephew, this book is touching and important.

Chapter Books

Bud Not Buddy, The Mighty Miss Malone, and Elijah of Buxton (and EVERYTHING else) by Christopher Paul Curtis: Curtis is a family favorite around here. We read his books together and every time we end up having great discussions about race relations in our history, family dynamics, and overcoming adversity.

Ramona Quimby Series by Beverly Cleary: I know. I know. These books have been around FOREVER. But that’s because they’re great. I will always have a special place in my heart for Ramona.

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, Because of Winn Dixie, Flora & Ulysses, Ramie Nightingale, (and ALL THE OTHERS) by Kate DiCamillo: Kate is the kind of author I’ve come to trust. She always delivers an entertaining book cast with endearing characters and a powerful story. For the younger crowd, the Mercy Watson books are fun, too!

The Green Ember Series by S.D. Smith: These books are fantastic for readers who like adventure, fantasy, and talking bunnies armed with swords. Yes, you heard me right.

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhh Lai: For kids who gravitate toward poetry, this book is a beautiful telling of a family finding refuge in the United States in the 1970s. This is another that I was glad to read aloud to my kids. We all grew in empathy as a result.

Prince Puggly of Spud and the Kingdom of Spiff by Robert Paul Weston: This book is fun! Told in verse and with lots of clever use of language. You can make reading this a game in which your kids try to find “unknown words” (words they don’t know the meaning to yet). It’s great for vocab building.

Last Man Out by Mike Lupica: If you’re looking for books for reluctant readers who also happen to be sports fans, Mike Lupica is your author. He provides exciting sports-packed scenes as well as strong family dynamics. One of my boys has read Lupicas books over and over.

Adventures with Waffles by Maria Parr: This book has never gotten all the attention it deserves. It’s beautiful, sweet, and touching. An excellent family read.

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend: For the readers of Harry Potter, Nevermoor is a fantastic choice. Packed with adventure, clever characters, and vibrant writing, this book is absolutely delightful.

Soar by Joan Bauer: Here’s another for the sports enthusiast! My family adored the friendships in this book, the family dynamics, and the message of rising above.

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia: For kids who love historical fiction, particularly set in the 1960s, One Crazy Summer is for them! Strong female characters, overcoming adversity, and catching a glimpse of life beyond what is detailed in history books, this one deserves the many awards it’s won.

Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman: I love a silly book every now and then. This hits the spot! Great for reluctant readers, too!

The Day the Angels Fell and The Edge of Over There by Shawn Smucker: While these books are officially marketed to YA readers, they are also great for upper elementary and middle schoolers. Well, and adult readers really enjoy them, too!

The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates Series by Carline Carlson: Pirates, a strong female protagonist, magic, and a TALKING GARGOYLE???? Yeah. This series is a whole lot of swashbuckling fun. I read them with my kids and we LOVED them.

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin: Another classic! Quirky characters, clever plot, and intriguing mystery. What’s not to love?

The Mysterious Benedict Society Series by: Trenton Lee Stewart: My daughter adores this books, reading them multiple times. Clever, well written, and with endearing characters, this is a fantastic series!

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis: I would be remiss if I recommended books for kids and didn’t end the list with Lewis. This series has it all: talking animals, swords, battles, magic…EVERYTHING! Reading these books together is a fantastic experience for the whole family!

I hope this list gave you at least a few great ideas for the book loving kid in your life! And I wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and Joyful Reading!

Now Go: Writing and Fear and Madeleine L’Engle

Only a fool is not afraid,Mrs. Whatsit told him.Now go.-2

Life can be scary. We’ve been at war for over a decade, there are rumors and hints of new wars in our newsfeeds near daily, our kids go to schools where they have to practice hiding in the case of a shooter entering the front doors. And on and on and on. 

As Mrs. Whatsit said, “Only a fool is not afraid.”

In this world we will have trouble. Jesus let us in on that truth. BUT, we can’t quit. We can’t curl up in a ball and despair. We’re to take heart. Because as bad as it is and as bad as it might get, Christ has overcome. 

“Now go.” 

Move through your day, loving through the fear. Radiating joy beyond the pain. Bestowing mercy and gentleness and downright goodness on whoever you encounter (that counts of online, too). 

Because we know that, ultimately, we are not meant for this world but another. We are created for a place where there is room for us, where nothing will rot or decay and where violence is abolished. 

That’s the hope that we have. 

Walk in that hope today, friends.

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Congratulations to Hannah Corner for winning the random drawing for an ebook copy of Catie Cordero’s Ramble and Roar. Hannah, I’ll be in contract to make sure you get that book ASAP! 

Living a Dream: Ramble and Roar

What’s this? A BLOG POST from Susie? But it’s been ages?

I know that’s what you’re thinking. Sigh. It has, indeed, been overlong since last I blogged. But I just needed to use this space to toot the horn for my good-great-fabulous friend Catie Cordero. Her debut novel Ramble & Roar  released recently and I think YOU should read it. 

I believe in this novel SO MUCH that I’m offering one lucky person an ebook copy sent from yours truly. All you have to do is comment below to be entered. Easy peasy.

I’ll draw a winner on May 29, 2018. 

Now, I’d love for you to meet Catie who has so sweetly written a few words for you today.  

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If ever I go to a costume party, the character that I’m most likely to be is a flapper or Pocahontas. Because in my dreams, I’m either dancing in a speakeasy or exploring nature. Dreams are like that. However, when we open our eyes, the dream ends and reality begins again.

But once in a while, our most delightful dreams do become our reality. Over the last year, 3D Ramble and Roar BookI haven’t woken up from my favorite dream of all: publishing books. It’s a dream that I’ve had since I was 10 years old. I would write poems and short stories for hours, hoping one day, maybe I’d share my words with the world.

I’m now 33 years old, and I’m releasing my debut historical fiction novel, Ramble and Roar. It’s an adventurous story about a debutante-turned-flapper named Eliza Belcourt who travels to New York City to pursue her dream of becoming a famous jazz singer. But her sparkling dream comes with a price, and the Irish mob is ready to collect. As Eliza grasps for success and love, she finds that her city of bright promise might offer only dazzling lies.

Ramble and Roar is an honest, daring story that captures the pleasure–seeking decade of the 1920s in all its glory and grit. This story was a fun challenge for me to write. It took years of research in order to capture it accurately, but I’m pleased to finally share it.

Now, all that’s left to do is to continue dreaming of the next adventure.

IMG_7005Catie Cordero is a lover of stories. She writes both adult and children’s fiction. She combines humor, adventure, and genuine characters into page-turning books that will resonate with readers long after they flip the last page.

She has a full and oftentimes spontaneous life with her husband and two kids. She enjoys her small hobby farm with a garden, chickens, a dog, and two cats.

In 2017, Catie founded her Indie Publishing company: Flywheel Books. The goal of Flywheel Books is to inspire wonder in its readers and create a love for reading.

 

The Original Uncle Gus and Aunt Carrie

I never met my Uncle Gustav or Aunt Carrie Seegert. They’d been gone for years by the time I was born. But I heard about them often. They were, after all, the folks who took my grandma in when her mother couldn’t care for her anymore. 

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Gerald, Aunt Carrie, and Uncle Gustav (sitting)

Whenever we went to visit their son Gerald and his wife Dorothy in Blissfield, Michigan we’d drive past the old Seegert farm where my grandma and her cousin grew up and where Uncle Gustav raised beef cattle.

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Uncle Gustav Seegert. See that lava lamp on the TV? That was a gift from my grandpa because he thought it was funny.

My mom made a lot of Aunt Carrie recipes and still has several dishes from that old farmhouse kitchen.

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Aunt Carrie (in the groovy flowers) and Grandma Pearl.

Every story of the two of them made me imagine them as warm, kind, down-to-earth people. I sure wish I could have known them.

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Uncle Gustav and Aunt Carrie with Grandma Pearl in what might be one of the first photo-bombs.

When I started working on A Trail of Crumbs I knew that Pearl and her family needed a soft place to land. That was when I decided to model their Michigan family after our Seegert relatives. While I didn’t have first hand knowledge of my Uncle Gus and Aunt Carrie, I did know their son Gerald.

Gerald Seegert was a tall man and sturdy. He had the kind of laugh that could fill the whole house. He let us roam around the farm, exploring the barns and he gave us long rides on his tractors.

And I knew his wife Dorothy who always (ALWAYS) set a pretty table and covered it with the best food. She made sure we were spoiled beyond reason with cookies and candies and bottles of Coke.

They never had children which I didn’t understand as a child. I thought they would have made the best grandparents.

Pearl Spence’s Uncle Gus and Aunt Carrie are a combination of two generations of my Seegerts. Two generations of folks who valued family, hospitality, laughter, and their land. And two generations who knew what it meant to welcome family home.

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Read more about Uncle Gus and Aunt Carrie in The Pearl Spence Books! All three available now.

The Original Pearlie Lou

One of my college creative writing assignments was to interview someone. Anyone. Then we were to write an article based on that interview.

I didn’t have to think twice about who I wanted to interview. I knew it had to be my grandma. For one, she lived nearby. I happened to work at the retirement home where she lived. For another, I’d always been intrigued by her life.

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Grandma had always been full of stories of racing around the farm in Blissfield, Michigan with her cousin Gerald or hitch hiking to Ottawa Lake with her girlfriends. She’d told me more than a few times about how she waited tables at a diner in Toledo and later met my grandpa when she went dancing at a beer garden.

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But there were so many holes. So many questions I had for her about the father who left or the mother who sent her to live with her Uncle Gustav and Aunt Carrie. I wanted to know how she felt about all of that. I wanted to know about her marriage when she was 16 years old and the baby she claimed had died. I was hungry, eager to understand her.

When it came time to interview her, I lost my nerve.

She died a few years later and I will always regret the not knowing.

When I started work on A Cup of Dust, I hoped to flesh out my Grandma Pearl’s story. To feel a sort of connection with her.

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Pearl’s story isn’t exactly Grandma Pearl’s story. But there are mirror images of my grandma’s life in the novels.

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Grandma Pearl’s Ray was her cousin Gerald. She spent years living with her Uncle Gustav and Aunt Carrie in Blissfield. Grandma was a tough cookie who found it hard to resist a dare. And my grandma loved to dance.

I like to imagine that when she danced she lost herself to the music, letting her arms swing and her legs kick. And I like to think that when she first danced with Grandpa Jack that she knew that she’d found home.

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This is is! Release week for the final installment of Pearl Spence’s story. I’m still wrapping my head and heart around it. It’s bittersweet, that’s for sure.

You know what would help make it better? If you’d celebrate with me. November 28, 2017 I’ll be hosting a Facebook release party and you’re all invited! We’ll have fun facts, short videos, challenges, and giveaways! Whoooooooo Hooooooo! Click HERE to RSVP. Don’t forget to invite your book loving friends!

 

A Song of Home Photo Contest!

All along as I wrote Pearl’s story I found inspiration from the photography of Dorothea Lange.  She had a way of capturing moments, important details, catching personality. She truly was a master, an artist.

Now, I wouldn’t say that I’m a great photographer. But I do enjoy snapping pictures and posting them to Instagram.

You too? How fun!

How would you like to use your Instagram to help get the word out about A Song of Home? What if I told you had a chance to win a prize?

Here’s the deal: Snap a picture of something/someone who makes your house a home. Write in the post about what makes them such an essential part of home for you. Then tag me (@susie_finkbeiner) and use the hashtags #MySongofHome and #ASongofHome (you’ll get two entries if you use both #s). You can enter up to once a week. The more you post, the more chances you have to win.

Don’t have Instagram? No problem. Put your picture on Facebook and tag me (@SusieFinkbeiner) or Twitter (@SusieFinkbeiner).

Here’s a sample post!

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I love how my puppy Falstaff welcomes me every evening when I get home from work. #MySongofHome #ASongofHome @SusieFinkbeiner

You can get started sharing pics now (November 13)! I’ll draw 2 winners on December 13 (must have a United States mailing address in order to win).

What’s the prize? One signed copy of any of my books (winner’s choice) and a $5 gift card to Starbucks.

Sound like fun?

Then go, friends, go!

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Don’t forget to pre-order your copy of A Song of Home from Baker Book House, Amazon, or Barnes and Noble. You can also get the ebook version for iBooks.

If you haven’t yet read the first two books in the Pearl Spence Series, the ebooks are now just $3.03 each! 

Thanks for your support!

But Take Heart

But takeYesterday afternoon my kids and I were sitting at the table. They had homework and I so did I (just a different kind). They chattered as they worked multiplication tables and nibbled on snacks as they practiced spelling words.
 
Then my daughter said, “Someone at school told me that something bad happened in Las Vegas.”
 
One of my boys asked what happened. I didn’t want to tell them. Up until now I’ve been able to insulate them from this kind of thing. I’ve been able to protect their innocence.
 
Still, I knew that if I didn’t tell them, someone else would. So I explained what happened, how many people died, how many were injured. And I told them that I don’t know why the man did it because he died, too.
 
It was very quiet around our table.
 
Then one boy said, “Is that why we do lock-down drills at school? Because people do things like that?”
 
I told him it was. And I told him how I hated that this was the world we live in.
 
“Heaven won’t be like this,” my daughter said.
 
She’s right and I made sure to talk up hope because it’s the only way to survive this mad world. Hope is a gift that we can’t let go of.
 
But this cynicism in my told me, “Nothing will change. This will happen again. People will use this to push forward their pet agenda. Next week we’ll have forgotten just like we have every other time.”
 
Those doubts muted hope a little. Why? Because the doubts are founded in reality. We always forget. Move on. Argue why nothing can or should change. Today I read that a popular talking head called mass shootings “the price of freedom”.
 
I think he’s forgotten what freedom is. I think I have too.
 
There’s a passage of Scripture I can’t get out of my head these days. It’s what has kept me going for a long time and now especially. Jesus told His disciples that they would have trouble in this world.
 
Had they known the magnitude of the trouble coming their way, I wonder if they would have kept going. I hope so.
 
Then Jesus said, “But take heart! I have overcome the world!”
Today it’s hard to see Christ’s overcoming of the world. I’m struggling to see it. Still, I’m trying.
I know I’m not the only one.
People in Puerto Rico are suffering, there’s a genocide in progress in Myanmar, people are persecuted for their faith all around the world. We still see people who die of starvation, lack of clean water, lack of available healthcare. There is a very loud resurgence of white supremacy in several states. A friend of mine is in the hospital, fighting for her life and we’re praying for God’s mercy.
The suffering is all around us.
But take heart.
Even when the world seems to be crumbling.
Take heart.
When it seems there’s so much at stake. So much to lose.
Take heart.
Have courage.
Cast your cares onto the One who has already defeated death and the grave. Run the race, knowing it is already won. Throw off what holds you back because it little matters. And remember that the trouble here is only for a little time. The blink of an eye.
And in the midst of the chaos, show mercy because it has been shown to you. Love well because you are dearly loved. Lay down your life for others because Christ has laid down His life for you.
Take heart.
He has overcome the world.

WhiteFire Scavenger Hunt Stop #14

Welcome to the WhiteFire Publishing Scavenger Hunt! You’ve reached stop number 14! If scavenger-hunt-full-meme.jpgyou’ve just discovered the hunt, be sure to go back to stop #1 and collect all the clues in order. Once you have them all, you’ll have uncovered a secret message. Turn that in at the final stop for a chance to win one of THREE amazing prize packages!

  • The Hunt begins at Roseanna White’s site
  • Take your time! You have all weekend to complete the Hunt—entries will be counted until Monday June 26—so have fun reading all the posts along the way and getting to know each author
  • Lots of extra prizes! Many of the authors are featuring unique giveaways as well, for even more chances to win!
  • Submit your entry for the grand prizes back at Roseanna White’s blog.

My WhiteFire Novels

I had the honor of having two of my novels published with WhiteFire Publishing. I’d love to tell you a little bit about them!

Paint Chips is the story of a mother and daughter separated by harsh circumstances and their journey back to each other. Domestic abuse, human trafficking, and major loss fill the pages of the novel. However, hope carries the characters through to what — I believe — is a satisfying ending.

Paint Chips stack

My Mother’s Chamomile is perhaps my most personal novel and one which is dear to me. It’s the story of a family in the funeral business and address the question of who takes care of the helpers when they are in need. It’s a novel of mercy, comfort, and love. It’s a novel written out of my own grief and because of that, it is a piece of my heart.

My Mother's Chamomile Front

Here’s the Stop #14 Scoop: 

You can order my books online through Baker Book House, CBD, Barnes & Noble, or Amazon.

Here’s your Stop #14 Clue:

where spirit

Next stop is #15: Susanne Dietz. Visit her stop by clicking HERE.

All finished with the stops? Submit your entry HERE.

Now for MY give-away!

I’m excited to give one lucky winner a copy of Paint Chips and My Mother’s Chamomile! Click  a Rafflecopter giveaway to enter! I’ll choose a winner by random on Monday, June 26, 2017.

 

 

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