Monday, February 20, 2017

From the Archives: Picking Dandelions

By Catherine Castle
(Original airdate: 3/24/14)

photo by C.Castle
When my daughter was young, I often had scads of dandelion bouquets on the table. We didn’t use weed killer, since I didn’t want to expose my daughter to the chemicals, and our lawn was a canvas of yellow polka dots on a green background. Day after day, she would come into the house after playtime, clutching as many dandelions as her little hands could hold. I took them with a smile, put them in a vase, and proudly displayed them. I encouraged her to pick those bright yellow flowers from our lawn whenever she saw them.

Yes, I enjoyed seeing her face beam as she handed me her gift.

No, I never told her they were really weeds.

And yes, I did feel a bit guilty encouraging her to clean the yard of blooms. After, all, no yellow dandelions dotting the grass meant a yard that at least looked weed-free. And if by some miracle she managed to pick a billion dandelions before they went to seed, I might actually have a weed-free lawn.

Or maybe not.

I knew there was no way my little weed picker would ever be able to rid the lawn of dandelions. Yet I kept encouraging her to pick those flowers.

Are you saying, “Oh, you bad mommy!” yet? 

Before you do, consider this: The way I used my unsuspecting daughter to weed the lawn, is often the way we weed our lives. We pluck the tops off of our sins, effectively hiding them from the world and fooling ourselves into thinking we’re cleaning up our life. And all the while, the weed roots just grow deeper because we haven’t taken the time to root out the bad stuff that lies below ground.

Luke 12:22 says “There is nothing covered that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known.”

We can keep plucking the heads of our sins so they aren’t visible to the world, but the Lord can still see them all. So, which will you choose?  A vase full of dandelions with the potential for even more deeply rooted ones to grow? Or would you rather dig out as many as you can from the stubborn soil? The latter is the more effective, and more long lasting, way to have a clean lawn … and a clean heart.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Faith, Facts & Fiction - An Interview with Janalyn Voigt

 Good morning, Stitches Thru Time friends! I have someone very fun and special to introduce you to today. Janalyn Voigt is a co-author of the Heroes, Heroines and History blog with me and I am pleased to host her in honor of her newly released book.

  Janalyn's father instilled a love of literature in her at an early age by reading chapters from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Robinson Crusoe and other classics as bedtime stories. When she grew older and her father stopped reading stories at night, she continued putting herself to sleep with tales she ‘wrote’ in her head. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Janalyn became a voracious reader, something she credits with teaching her to write. She trained as a classical vocalist, which explains why her writing is often described as musical.

When she's not immersed in one of her story worlds, Janalyn can usually be found weeding the garden, spending time with her family, or singing in the worship team at church.
Join Janalyn Voigt’s Newsletter:

Welcome, Janalyn! We're so glad you could visit us today. Tell us about your new release.

Thanks for the welcome. I’m thrilled to visit with you today. The first installment in the Montana Gold western historical romance series set in mid-1860s, a turbulent time in the American West. Hills of Nevermore tells the story of America Liberty Reed, who leaves her homestead with her infant daughter after her husband’s death and joins a wagon train bound for Bannack, a booming gold camp. America is befriended by Addie Martin, another widow who lost her husband at the Laramie Crossing. Addie plans to set up a cook tent for the miners and invites America to help her.

In Bannack, America witnesses Shane Hayes, an Irish circuit preacher, being thrown out of a saloon. She intervenes to prevent him from being shot and finds herself in an uncomfortable conversation. America believes Shane’s God is angry with her for the shameful secret she hides, so she tries to avoid him. What she doesn’t know is that Shane has secrets of his own. When circumstances throw America and Shane together, they each come face-to-face with God.

Where did the inspiration for your story come from?

During a road trip, my family drove past a stagecoach station called Robbers’ Roost in Montana’s Ruby Valley. Intrigued by the name, I read in a local brochure that outlaws once used this roadhouse as a base from which to rob stagecoach stations carrying gold on the road from Virginia City and Bannack. The Vigilantes of Montana came into being in response to the robberies and murders caused by gold lust. My imagination took fire, and I vowed to write a story set in this stunning location.

How does your faith and spirituality work in with your writing?

Writing with a Christian worldview comes naturally to me because my faith is an integral part of my being. I don’t have to think about it. Each book I write contains a central theme that aligns to my faith, and these come from my deep-seated beliefs.

What is your favorite thing about writing historical romance?

I love learning about history through my research. That includes exploring websites, spending time in the library, reading original accounts from diaries and letters, and finally taking to the road on a research trip to the locations covered in my books. This creates a lifestyle that I enjoy. What I discover in my research is too good not to share. There are so many stories of well-lived lives and fascinating historical details that have been lost in time. Only a portion of what I find makes it into my novels. So, I write about my research and literary travels to tell the stories behind the stories at my author website.

What are you working on next?

I’m currently working on Cheyenne Sunrise, the next book in the Montana gold series. It tells the story of Bry Brennan, an Irish immigrant whose brother, Con, takes her West to help him on his ranch. Along the way, she encounters wagon guide Nick Laramie, a half-blood Indian struggling to survive although he doesn’t fit with either of his parents’ people. After her deceased husband’s treatment of her, Bry doesn’t have a high opinion of men. Falling in love again is out of the question, but she finds herself drawn to Nick anyway.

I’m also editing Sojourner, the second novel in Tales of Faeraven, an epic fantasy series. This is an interesting stretch in my writing career where I’m working back and forth between two publishers, one for western historical romance and the other for medieval epic fantasy. Those genres sound disparate, but there are many similarities. The feudalism in the Middle Ages was not unlike the cultural makeup of the American West. Forts were similar to walled castles, for example, and the cowboy code that arose was not unlike the medieval code of chivalry.

Very interesting. Looks like you have some great stuff going on. Thank you so much for being with us!

Thanks for the opportunity to meet your readers, Amber!

About Janalyn's new book:

Can a young widow hide her secret shame from the Irish circuit preacher bent on helping her survive?

In an Idaho Territory boom town, America Liberty Reed overhears circuit preacher Shane Hayes try to persuade a hotel owner to close his saloon on Sunday. Shane lands face-down in the mud for his trouble, and there’s talk of shooting him. America intervenes and finds herself in an unexpectedly personal conversation with the blue-eyed preacher. Certain she has angered God in the past, she shies away from Shane.

Addie Martin, another widow, invites America to help in her cook tent in Virginia City, the new mining town. Even with Addie’s teenage son helping with America’s baby, life is hard. Shane urges America to depart for a more civilized location. Neither Shane’s persuasions nor road agents, murder, sickness, or vigilante violence can sway America. Loyalty and ambition hold her fast until dire circumstances force her to confront everything she believes about herself, Shane, and God.

Based on actual historical events during a time of unrest in America, Hills of Nevermore explores faith, love, and courage in the wild west.

Don't forget to leave a comment for Janalyn to get your name in the STT Weekly giveaway! Check out all of our giveaways on our Prizes Galore page.

Friday, February 17, 2017

The Scottish Romance

I’ve visited Scotland hundreds of times during its turbulent history—in the pages of Scottish romance novels. During my young adult years, I read them fervently between college classes and at lunch breaks during work.

Over time they became more sensual than I liked, so I moved to Regency England and the American West for my historical fix.

Why did I and a lot of other women fall in love with clans, macho men who wore plaid skirts, and feisty lasses? The setting is beautiful and varied, from lowlands, highlands, stunning lochs, lush glens, and ancient castles.

The history is fascinating. From the Gaelic kingdom of the sixth century to the Jacobite rising of 1745, and all the clan fighting in between, Scots history provides plenty of conflict to carry a good plot.

The clan system is all important to the appeal of the Scottish romance for much the same reason Amish fiction is popular. There’s something intriguing about a closed society. In truth, the clan system declined rapidly with Bonny Prince Charles’s defeat in the Jacobite rising of 1745, but the cherished traditions remain to this day.

I confess one of the reasons I love these romances is the Scots hero. He’s definitely an alpha male, but he’s chivalrous at the same time. If you dig into Scotland’s history, you’ll find a higher regard for women than most cultures of the day.

Since the beginning, Scotland regarded female succession acceptable, and Scotsmen had no problem pledging allegiance to women rulers. Even in the area of religion, women gained important roles in the Calvinists sects, since they were deemed equal in God’s elect. Society was surely male dominated as in most of the world, but women were respected.

The Scotsman was viewed as brawny, but respectful of women—a natural romance hero.

Since I have this attraction for the Scottish romance, I had to write my own. The Chieftain’s Choice will introduce a new series, The Wolf Deceivers, so named since each novel deals with a group of people deceived by wolves in sheep’s clothing. Release date: February 27.

I wish there were more Christian Scottish romances. The last one I read was Masquerade Marriage by Anne Greene, an excellent selection. Does anyone have others they could recommend? Comment to enter our next giveaway, Carole Brown's Undiscovered Treasures.

    Alana McWayre is a lovely, docile lass of noble lineage, but no man will offer her marriage. She is the daughter of a notorious traitor who decimated the clan during a post-Jacobite uprising. Having grown up lonely and unloved, she’s astonished when the dying and much revered chieftain of Clan Carmichael chooses her to wed his younger son. She’s perplexed when the older son and heir, Gavin, arrives to claim her as his bride. Hasn’t her beautiful cousin, Vanora, the heiress of Gilmour Hall, boasted since girlhood she will marry Gavin to enjoin their bordering lands?
    Gavin expects nothing more from his arranged marriage to Alana than a compliant wife who will produce the future heir and an escape from her malicious, deceitful cousin. He underestimates Vanora's schemes, however. Trouble erupts between the Carmichael and Gilmour clans. With rumors swirling of tainted blood and witchcraft, Gavin realizes only a higher power can save Alana from the evil hidden behind the walls of Gilmour Hall.