Thursday, December 31, 2015


Ten, Nine, Eight...

Can't believe it's New Year's Eve already. Wow, this past week has flown!  

Emily, John, and Lauren at this fall's Clemson Homecoming
Not sure how you'll be spending your countdown to midnight, but this afternoon our family will be glued to the TV watching Clemson play in the Orange Bowl. Alma mater for both me and my husband, Clemson has been undefeated for the entire season and will face off today against Oklahoma in what is also the College Football Playoff Semifinal.

The last time Clemson held the title of National Champ was in 1981, which also happened to be our senior year. Lots of memories there!
Tonight's dessert: Clemson apple pie!

I'm not usually big on football, but when it's your own school, it makes a difference–plus my husband and daughter Lauren are rabid football fans, so it's fun to join in their excitement. (Emily falls somewhere between them and me. She goes to games and enjoys them, but she's not exactly losing sleep over who'll win today haha.)

Anyway, I just wanted to pop in and share a few fun pics. I also wanted to follow up on last week's promise to tell you more about some upcoming giveaways. Tomorrow will be this blog's first-ever "Free Friday," where you'll be given a chance to win something fun–sometimes a book, sometimes something book-related, it'll be different for each drawing–every other Friday, right here on this blog. I'll post all the details tomorrow, including the first item up for giveaway, so be sure to check back.

In the meantime, have fun watching the ball drop!


John, still every bit as handsome as he was when we first met at Clemson in 1979!
Lauren on the field after a game

Ready for the big event

Friday, December 25, 2015


Bob Barbor. Congrats, Bob!

And congratulations again to ALL the winners 
of the Countdown to Christmas! 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

One Last Chance to Increase Your Odds

Here I am with my older brother David on Christmas morning, circa 1964.

I can't believe it's nearly Christmas Eve...and that there are only two drawings left!

Want to up your odds of winning? Answer this quick survey, and you'll earn three extra bonus entries for the drawing(s) that remain:

I have enjoyed this giveaway so much, I'm sorry to see it come to a close. The good news is that more big things will be coming, so be sure to stay tuned.

For now, enjoy a few more pictures from Christmas past...

Would you believe we still have Pebbles and Casper? Our mother saved everything!  The toys are a little the worse for wear after all these years, but they're definitely still ebay-able, which I'm sure I'll be doing soon.   

Gotta love that Mid Century Modern furniture!

Today's Giveaway: The Amish Blacksmith

Virginia Slaughter. Congrats, Virginia!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Doing the Happy Dance

Today's post is simply to give you a smile.  I discovered this little treasure about two years ago, among my family's old home movies. It was made in 1963 when I was three years old.

It's best if watched all the way to the end, but it's only 15 seconds long.

LOVE this happy dance, watching it reminds me that enthusiasm can go a long way in making up for  any actual talent. It also goes to show that even at three, I knew how to pull off a big finish. :)

Have a great week!

Today's Giveaway: The Amish Bride

Claudia Wineke. Congrats, Claudia!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Big News? Oui! Si! Ja! Sim! Eh?

A few weeks ago, I mentioned in a comment that I’d like to open this contest to my international readers but that shipping costs were prohibitive. Well, today I’ve got great news. I brought up the problem with my publisher, and they figured out a way to make it happen digitally. 

Thus, starting with tomorrow’s drawing, this contest will now be open both to domestic and international readers. For those outside the United States, winners will receive a specially-coded e-version of the book. (Sorry, no e-books for my domestic winners, those in the US will still be getting the paperback versions only.) Please note, also, that the e-books will be English-language versions and not translations into other languages. 

Help me spread the word to our fellow readers up North, down South, and across the ponds. And whether you live in the US or somewhere around the globe, if you haven't yet signed up, simply CLICK HERE to get more information and to enter the drawing.  

Good luck! Bon chance! Buena suerte! Viel Glück! Boa Sorte! Eh?

Today's Giveaway: Beauty to Die For

Ashley Lamb. Congrats, Ashley!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Mr. and Mrs. Author

Today's drawing is for Echoes of Titanic, which I co-wrote with my husband, John. Thought y'all might enjoy some photos of the whole process...

John has always been a huge help with my books, but this was his first time as a full-fledged co-author. A lifelong Titanic buff, he was the perfect partner for this project.

We started with research, which really helps to garner story ideas.
John studies an actual deck chair from Titanic
Here he is with our daughter Emily in New York City, at the entrance to the commuter footbridge
our heroine used each day when walking to her Wall Street office.
The Molly Brown House in Denver, CO
A Titanic restaurant on board the Celebrity Millennium

We started brainstorming in earnest on a cross-country train trip from Oregon to Pennsylvania.

Once home, we plotted out the whole story.  After that, the actual writing began...

...with more than a little help from the dog.

 We worked around the clock, even when a big snowstorm blew in.

Though later, when the sun came out, we did take a break to play.

Then it was back to work, until the manuscript was finished.

 Months later, the book arrived!

 We had a wonderful book release party.

  Did signings...

and interviews... 

 ...and even ended up on the bestseller list.

The whole process was thrilling, exhausting, hilarious, exasperating, enlightening, enriching, and so much more. Bottom line: It was tremendous fun, and we can't wait to collaborate on another one!

To learn more, read the article I wrote about our experience, "Collaborating While Cohabitating: A Survivor's Guide".

Today's Giveaway: Echoes of Titanic

Virginia Koch. Congrats, Virginia!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Bringing a Book to Life on the Screen

If you're the type who enjoys the previews when you go the movies, then chances are you've also checked out a book trailer or two.  For a while, they were all the rage, though I've noticed that publishers and/or authors aren't really doing them as much anymore.

Today I'd like to show you three of my favorite trailers: my first, my only fully-illustrated one, and my all-time favorite.

Whispers of the Bayou

Back when trailers were first catching on, I tried making my own. This was my first attempt, for Whispers of the Bayou. The whole concept of book trailers was so new then, I wasn't sure what I was doing. But I did know the feeling I wanted to convey, so I decided just to go for it. By today's standards, it's definitely amateurish (no live video, just a montage of still images), but I think it came out pretty good for the time. At least it still gives me a little shiver when I watch it.

FYI, the girl standing in front of the big Southern house as well as the one holding her hair up to show the back of her neck is my daughter Lauren. At the time, she was a lot younger than the character she represented, but the pictures move by so fast, I figured we could get away with it. :)

Beauty to Die For

As trailers grew more common, my publishers took over the task of creating them. This next one is my only fully-illustrated trailer, created by B&H Publishing Group for the book Beauty to Die For.  I thought it was simply awesome and was so excited when it came out.

The Amish Groom

This last one is so good that it's almost like watching a movie made from the story. It was created by the incredibly gifted Caleb Rexius, who always does amazing work. As filmmaker, actor, and narrator, he was on both sides of the camera with this one. It's not only my favorite trailer for my own books, it's my favorite trailer for anyone's books. :)

Give it a look and see what you think...

Now we just need someone to option this book for a movie for real!

See Them All

And that's it, my three favorite trailers. You can find links for all of my trailers at my website, on each book's individual page. (Note that not all of my books have a trailer. If you don't see a link, then no trailer exists for that particular book.)

Still the Rage?

All this talk of trailers does lead to me to wonder if they really were a passing fad or if readers still want them.

How about you? Do you ever watch book trailers? If so, have you ever read a book primarily because of its trailer? Let us know in the comments, below.

Today's Giveaway: Simple Joys of the Amish Life

Helen Lacina. Congrats, Helen!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Learning to Be Still

Today I decided to share a scene from Secrets of Harmony Grove, one in which my heroine describes what it's like to experience the peace and quiet of an Amish home, and how drastically that compares with the usual noise and chaos of her daily life.

In the story, Sienna Miller is a business woman living in Philadelphia who has some Amish cousins in Lancaster County. Over the years, she's paid them many a visit, and in this scene she describes what it's always like when she first arrives and is forced to adapt to their uniquely low-key lifestyle...

At five minutes, I would finally stop listening for a radio or TV in the background. At fifteen minutes, even if the company was interesting and the conversation stimulating, I would find myself glancing at my phone wondering if e-mails had come in, discreetly checking for texts. At twenty-five minutes, I would wonder to myself how these people could possibly live like this. Weren’t they bored out of their minds?
It usually took about an hour before my muscles would finally start to relax. But by the two-hour mark, I would find a stillness I forgot I could even experience.  
To their credit, this kind of silence was intentional. As isolated as the Amish often seemed, it always surprised me how very aware they were of the impact noise could have on a life and the damage confusion and chaos could wreak on a soul. 
Ultimately, beyond that hard-won stillness came the true goal: a oneness with God. Was it any wonder I always felt spiritually renewed when I spent time in Amish country? By turning down the noise of my life, I was able to hear those still, small whispers of a loving God, whispers that filled my heart and never failed to refresh my soul.

That pretty much describes my experience as well, and it's one reason I love writing about the Amish, because all that time spent around them reminds me to slow down, turn off the noise, and listen for what's truly important.

Do you have a "noisy" life? How do you find peace and quiet amidst the chaos?