Thursday, February 16, 2017

Talkshow Thursday: Meet Katherine Newman

Talkshow Thursday: Meet Katherine Newman

On The Rails is my most recent publication. Set during 1910, the novella is about Katherine Newman and her experiences as a Harvey Girl in Arizona. What’s a Harvey Girl? Draw up a chair and let Katherine tell you all about it.

Linda: You were a schoolteacher prior to heading West. What was that like?

Katherine: I am from a small town in Ohio, so our school only had one room. That meant I had students from Kindergarten all the way through the end of high school. Although most kids dropped out after eighth grade. So many of them had to work to help provide for their families. Many families felt their children didn’t need what they would call higher education (high school). The best way to learn a subject is to teach it, so I used the older students to help teach the younger students. That also helped control the classroom by keeping them all busy.

Linda: What was the process of getting hired as a Harvey Girl?

Katherine: I had a bit of an in because my mother had been a Harvey Girl. But I still had to complete the application process. I was interviewed extensively and had to provide three character references. Then I waited and waited. Finally out of the blue, I got a letter telling me I had been hired and to report to Williams, Arizona in a week. That didn’t give me much time to prepare.

Linda: What is a typical day for a Harvey Girl?

Katherine: Our days are quite busy. We work a split shift, and serving the meals is the least of our responsibilities. In between the trains we shine the silver, dust, fold napkins, water the plants, iron our uniforms, and any other task the Head Waitress tosses our way. The idea is to create a warm, inviting atmosphere for the diners.

Linda: Fred Harvey had already passed away by the time you were hired, but his sons were running the company. What is it like to work for the Harvey organization?

Katherine: From what I understand, Mr. Harvey’s sons run the company exactly as he did. Mr. Harvey started the company in the mid 1880s because a traveler took his life in his hands eating at the establishments along the railroad lines. Mr. Harvey had already owned a restaurant so he knew he could do a better job. He managed to secure a contract to provide food on the entire Santa Fe line and became very successful. Attention to detail and extraordinary customer service are watch-words in the Harvey Company. Known for our well-cooked food, extensive choices, and generous portions, we are expected to create an exquisite dining experience that will keep our customers returning over and over. We never know when there will be an inspection, so we’re always ready. There are a lot of rules, but they make sense so the business can run smoothly.

Linda: What kind of rules?

Katherine: We have a very specific dress code including the fact that we are not allowed to wear make-up. We’re also not allowed to date during the first six months of our employment, and after that we have to seek permission from the House Manager. A strict curfew is enforced, and we sleep in a dorm. The rules protect our reputation, because in some places waitresses are considered not much better than soiled doves, although I don’t know why.

Linda: What do you like best about your job?

Katherine: I have met people from all over the country. It has been very exciting, and I’m glad to be a Harvey Girl.

On the Rails is available on Amazon and your independent bookstore: Pick up your copy today!

About the book: Warren, Ohio, 1910: Katherine Newman loves being a teacher, but she loves Henry Jorgensen more, which is why she’s willing to give up her job to marry him. But instead of proposing, Henry breaks up with her. Devastated, Katherine seeks to escape the probing eyes and wagging tongues of her small town. A former Harvey Girl, Katherine’s mother arranges for Katherine to be hired at the Williams, Arizona Harvey House. Can she carve out a new life in the stark desert land unlike anything she’s ever known?

Henry Jorgensen loves Katherine with all his heart, but as the eldest son of a poor farmer can he provide for her as she deserves? The family’s lien holder calls in the mortgage, and Henry must set aside his own desires in order to help his parents meet their financial obligation. But when Katherine leaves town after their break up, he realizes he’s made the biggest mistake of his life. Can he find her and convince her to give their love a second chance?

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Growing up, Valentine’s Day was always extra special because it is also my mother’s birthday. Yep, she’s a Valentine’s baby, so for me the holiday is also about cake and presents. Who doesn’t love that?

Nowadays, Valentine’s Day is big business. With over 1 billion cards sent annually, it is the second most popular card-sending day (Christmas is the most popular). Chocolate and flower sales also spike on this day.

But for the men and women affected by World War II,Valentine's Day was probably another difficult holiday to get through while separated by thousands of miles. In 1943, Life photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt captured a series of pictures of farewells at Penn Station referred to as “True romance-the heartache of wartime farewells.” 

So when did Valentine’s Day begin? Apparently, no one is really sure. Some accounts claim the holiday has Christian roots, while others are adamant that pagan and Roman traditions are where it all started. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

One story talks about a man named Valentine who defied Claudius II’s edict prohibiting his soldiers to be married. Valentine performed marriage ceremonies in secret, and when he was caught was executed. Another story claims Valentine played an integral part in helping Christians escape from Roman prisons. Then there’s the viewpoint that the Christians moved St. Valentine’s feast day to February 14 in order to Christianize the festival of Lupercalia. The festival was later outlawed. During the Middle Ages the concept of romance was added to the day because it was believed that February 14th was the beginning of the mating season for birds.

It wasn’t until the 1700s that Americans started to exchange Valentine’s Day cards. Known as the Mother of the Valentine, Esther Howland began to mass produce and sell cards around 1840. Her family owned a book and stationery store in Worcester, MA. Previously Valentine’s Day cards were imported from England, hence not affordable for many people. Esther created dozens of samples made with lace paper and ribbons, hoping to secure at least $200 in orders. Needless to say she was stunned when her brother returned with over $5,000 in advance sales. Ultimately the family would do over $100,000 each year, cementing Esther’s position in history.

How do you celebrate Valentine’s Day?

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Talkshow Thursday: Deborah Piccurelli

Talkshow Thursday: Deborah Piccurelli

Linda:  How long have you been writing, and when did you decide to pursue publication?

Deborah: I have been writing for somewhere between 20-25 years, and I decided at the beginning that I would write for publication, although my first book wasn’t published until 2004.

LM: Where did you find your inspiration for your story?

Deborah: Two ways. As a romantic suspense writer, I saw a clip about fetal harvesting on Good Morning America that was introducing the full story to be aired on the next 20/20 episode. I scribbled a quick note on a piece of paper and inserted it into my “Story” folder. For the characters, I noticed there were a lot of talk shows on TV exploiting little people. I vowed to the Lord that I would one day write a novel showing that, even though different, they can have normal lives.

LM: Do you have an unusual research story to share?

Deborah: Yes, since the main characters in Hush, Little Baby are little people, I wanted to interview some, if they would be willing to speak with me about their difference. I went online and found an organization called Little People of America. There was a phone number for the president, so I called it. The person who answered was none other than Matt Roloff, star of the TLC show, Little People, Big World. At that time, the show was not yet on the TV. He spoke with me for a short time, then suggested I order his book, Against Tall Odds, which I did. A few weeks later, I still hadn’t received the book, so I called again. This time, Matt’s wife, Aimee answered. I asked about the book, for which she solved the problem, but then I asked if I could interview her from the perspective of a female little person. She agreed and we chatted for a while about many different things, even how kind or receptive some of the talk show hosts were. All in all, I have to say that both Matt and Aimee Roloff were so giving of their time and of information without hesitation. Only thing is, once the show took off, Matt was no longer the president of LPA, and due to busyness, he had an assistant who would not grant access to either of them.

LM: The age old question for writers-are you a “pantster” or a plotter?

Deborah: Mostly a “pantster.” I usually know the beginning, some things in the middle and the end. I make a list of those things, and then start writing.

LM: What is your favorite scene in the story?

Deborah: Writing that book was so much fun, that I have so many scenes I am fond of. If I have to choose one, it would be the one where Evan discovers Amber’s secret.

LM: Sounds intriguing! What is your next project?

Deborah: Right now, I’m working on a TV script the Lord has led me to do. I have a few books started that I’ve put on the back burner, as a result.

LM: What are your passions outside of writing?

Deborah: Reading, spending time with the Lord, family or friends. There are some other creative things that I used to enjoy, which I don’t have time for, anymore. Things such as crocheting, sewing, drawing.

LM: What else do you want folks to know about you?

I would like readers to know that I am an advocate for sanctity of life. That includes in every area: abortion, assisted suicide, and anything else that affects the quality of the precious life that God has gifted us with. Most of my books will reflect that through either the story or the characters, or both.

Ten percent of the proceeds from Hush, Little Baby go to Life Dynamics, an organization that works to prevent abortion, along with all of its components, fetal harvesting being among them.

Want to know more about Hush, Little Baby? Here's the back cover blurb: 

Investigative journalist, Amber Blake, is a little person bent on payback for the death of her average-sized twin sister. Enlisted by her former partner and estranged husband, Evan, she poses as a counselor in an abortion clinic to expose the doctor responsible for fetal harvesting. As a Christian, she struggles with concealing her beliefs to maintain her cover, while the doctor’s romantic overtures tumble her stomach. Amber agrees to date him for the sake of the story . . . but nothing prepares her for what’s behind a mysterious door in his office.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Mystery Monday: Mystery Fiction Awards

Mystery Monday: Mystery Fiction Awards

It seems to be awards season. We've seen the Grammys and the SAG programs on TV, and the Oscars are coming up shortly. Even the NFL has created an awards show that was aired the night before the Superbowl. Literary awards are spread throughout the year, most associated with an annual conference. For you mystery lovers out there, here are a few of the more well-known honors:

The Agatha: Malice Domestic is a mystery fan conference held in the Washington, DC each Spring. The focus is on traditional mysteries, and The Agatha Award is given to an author whose book came out the previous year. Nominations are made by conference attendees, and the final decision is made by the Board of Directors. Past winners include: Rhys Bowen, Laurie King, Louise Penny, and Hank Phillipi Ryan

The Anthony: Boucheron is an annual conference that moves its location between Canada and the United States. The Anthony Award is given in honor of the late Anthony Boucher (William Anthony Parker White), New York Times writer and critic and co-founder of Mystery Writers of America. The honoree is chosen by attendees. Past winners include Margaret Maron, Laura Lippman, Jeffrey Deaver, and William Kent Krueger

The Dilys: This award was given by the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association at the Left Coast Crime Conference from 1993 to 2014, and is named for Dilys Winn, the first mystery-specialty bookseller. The award is given to titles that Association members most enjoyed hand selling. Past recipients include: Anne Hillerman, Susan Elia MacNeal, Chris Pavone, and Archer Mayor.

The Edgar: Begun in 1946 and named for the author Edgar Allan Poe, this award is given by Mystery Writers of America to member authors for "the best in mystery fiction and non-fiction." Any book, short story or television show is eligible to win and must be submitted through a nomination process. The Mary Higgins Clark Award is a special subcategory in this award. How many of these past winners have you read? Jane Casey, Lois Duncan, Stephen King, and Chris Abani.

The Macavity: Named for T.S. Eliot's "mystery cat," this award is given to authors nominated and chosen by members of the Mystery Readers International organization. There are five categories: best novel, best first novel, best short story, best nonfiction, and the Sue Feder Award (begun in 2006). The most recent recipients include: Julia Spencer-Fleming, Jacqueline Winspear. P.D. James, and Michael Connolly. 

So if you're looking for a great mystery to read, try some of these award winning books.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Wartime Wednesday: Stars who Served

Wartime Wednesday: Stars Who Served

In the 1940s film stars were seen as glamorous people who had little to do with "real life." (The perception is probably still true!) For some performers that may have been true. Earning hundreds of thousands of dollars ,which are the equivalent of millions today, allowed them to purchase gated homes with servants and staff who handled every detail of their lives. Others saw their careers as a job that gave them the opportunity to raise a family in comfort-important because of the recent Great Depression.

Then World War II came, and Hollywood had trouble staunching the flow of actors and actresses who signed up in droves to serve their country. Here are just a few who served before their careers began:

Bea Arthur: Born Bernice Frankel, Bea enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1943. As with most women in the Corps the majority of her duties were administrative and clerical in nature. She eventually was reassigned as a truck driver before being honorably discharged in September 1945.

Bob Barker: This famous game show host is 1/8 Sioux and grew up on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. War started after he entered college, so Bob put his education on hold and enlisted in the US Navy where he became a fighter pilot. 

Marcel Marceau: French actor and mime, Marcel Marceaux was sixteen when war came to his country, but that didn't stop him from serving. Marcel joined the French Resistance to do his part against the Axis countries. As a member of the Resistance, he forged documents and identity cards before posing as a Boy Scout leader and smuggling Jewish children out of France. When he was old enough for combat he joined the Free French Forces.

Tony Bennett: Drafted into the Army in 1944, Tony was part of the unit (63rd Infantry) that "cleaned up" after the Battle of the Bulge before moving into Germany to ferret out enemy troops in bombed-out towns. He also took part in the liberation of the concentration camp in Landsberg, Germany.

Art Carney: Comedic actor Art Carney is well-known for his part in The Honeymooners, but long before that he was drafted into the infantry during WWII where he became part of a machine gun crew. A member of the replacement troops after the Normandy invasion, Carney was injured by mortar shrapnel. The wound left him with a life-long limp.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Blog Tour: Summer on Sunset Ridge

Blog Tour: Summer on Sunset Ridge


Click here to purchase your copy.

About the Book


Book: Summer on Sunset Ridge, Freedom Series Book 1  

Author: Sharlene MacLaren  

Genre: Historical Christian Romance

Brought up on a Quaker farm near Philadelphia at the brink of the Civil War, plainspoken Rebecca Albright is charitable, peace-loving, submissive—and a feisty abolitionist. Determined to aid the Underground Railroad no matter what the cost, her path collides with that of formidable slave-catcher Clay Dalton. When Rebecca is assigned to nurse Clay back to health following a near-fatal gunshot wound, her uneasiness around him and the questions surrounding his mysterious past complicate their strained but developing relationship.

Sherriff Clay Dalton is grimly fighting several battles of his own as he stays on at the Albright farm to work off his debt to the family that has saved his life and taken him in. He is torn between his past commitments in the South and his unlikely present among this quiet Quaker community in the North. Almost against his will, he begins to ponder the impossible idea of a future with Rebecca.…

When tensions between North and South escalate, Rebecca and Clay find themselves propelled on a journey to discover just who God has called them to be, and they soon realize that each holds a key to the other’s answer.

My Thoughts

Rebecca Albright is the oldest daughter in a devout Quaker family who is mired in the Underground Railroad. An incident on her first mission brings her to the brink of death and into the path of slave catcher Sheriff Clay Dalton. Author MacLaren uses authentic “plain” language and vivid description to evoke the pre-Civil War era and Quaker community in Pennsylvania. Historical information is effectively woven throughout Summer on Sunset Ridge educating the reader without being ponderous. Characters are well-developed and likeable.

About the Author


Sharlene MacLaren Born and raised in western Michigan, award-winning, bestselling author Sharlene MacLaren attended Spring Arbor University. After graduating, she traveled with a nationally touring Christian vocal ensemble, returning home to Spring Arbor to marry her husband, Cecil, whom she’d known since childhood. Together they raised two daughters. Now happily retired after teaching elementary school for 31 years, “Shar” enjoys reading, singing in the church choir and worship teams, traveling, and spending time with her husband, children, and grandchildren. Her novels include the contemporary romances Through Every Storm, Long Journey Home, and Tender Vow; the beloved Little Hickman Creek series (Loving Liza Jane, Sarah, My Beloved, Courting Emma, and Christmas Comes to Little Hickman Creek, a novella), and three historic romance trilogies: The Daughters of Jacob Kane (Hannah Grace, Maggie Rose, and Abbie Ann); River of Hope (Livvie’s Song, Ellie’s Haven, and Sofia’s Secret); Tennessee Dreams: Heart of Mercy, Threads of Joy, and Gift of Grace.

Blog Stops

January 19: Giveaway Lady
January 20: The Power of Words
January 21: Bigreadersite
January 23: Genesis 5020
January 24: Pause for Tales
January 25: Book by Book
January 26: A Greater Yes
January 27: Splashes of Joy
January 29: Stuff & Nonsense
January 30: cherylbbookblog
January 30: Daysong Reflections
February 1: Rhonda’s Doings


To celebrate Sharlene’s tour, Whitaker House is giving away:

Grand Prize

Brown and tan fashion purse with cross, multiple interior and exterior pockets and


Five Sharlene MacLaren titles: Summer on Sunset Ridge (Forever Freedom #1); Heart of Mercy (Tennessee Dreams #1); Livvie’s Song (River of Hope #1); Hannah Grace (Daughters of Jacob Kane #1); Loving Liza Jane (Little Hickman Creek #1)

Second Prize

“Keepers of the Light” Orange/Cinnamon/Clove candle from and
Summer on Sunset Ridge

Third Prize

Summer on Sunset Ridge

Click below to enter. Be sure to comment on this post to earn 9 extra entries in the giveaway!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Mystery Monday: Who is Helen McCloy?

Mystery Monday: Who is Helen McCloy?

Courtesy AZQuotes
When one's parents are an author and a newspaper editor can a daughter choose any career but that of a novelist? Similar to children of actors who grow up to be actors, perhaps it is the same with writers.

Born on June 6, 1904, Helen Clarkson received a top-shelf education. She attended the Brooklyn Friends School run by the Brooklyn's Quaker community then following graduation traveled to France and studied at the Sorbonne. Remaining in France, she obtained a job with Universal News Service (a Hearst company). Five years later she quit to become an art critic and contributor to the London Morning Post.

Returning to America in 1932, Helen began to write mysteries and created the pseudonym Helen McCloy. Her first novel, Dance with Death, was published in 1938. Success came quickly, and she published one book a year for the next ten years. Helen continued to publish books until the late 1970s, half of which were part of her Dr. Basil Willing series, the other half were stand alone novels.

Hailed by many critics as one of the greatest writers, Helen explored topics such as the psychology of Fascism, human sensory perception, and the concept of doppelgängers. Her characters have detailed life histories that are explored throughout the novel. Vivid description enables readers to immerse themselves in each scene.

Helen was an active member of Mystery Writers of America and was its female president in 1950. In 1971, she helped found MWA's New England chapter. She was named MWA Grand Master in 1990, and the organization offers a scholarship named in her honor. She passed away in 1994, leaving a long legacy in the mystery writing community.