Lilly Maytree is in Alaska today...

Lilly Maytree is in Alaska, today...looking for adventure and divine appointments. Want to follow along? Enter her ARMCHAIR TRAVELERS PORTAL


The Essential Barbara Early...

Welcome, Barb! It's great to have you stop by during this very special week of the release of your book:

(see Lilly's Book Club for a peek)

What a wonderful way to start the holiday season. And since it is that time of year, it's nice to think about the ways God has touched our lives with His purpose and plans, even when we haven't realized it at times. Often we can look back and see how certain experiences formed the essence of who we have become today. With that in mind, what experience in your youth do you feel most contributed to who you are?

I was one of very few professing Christians in a fairly large public school. And I had more zeal than sense. I was called a “Jesus freak” and a “holy roller,” and well, I was bullied tremendously. It was torturous. 

In my junior year, when the schedules came out, I was upset that all of my few friends were in a different lunch period. So I sat with this group of girls. They were just nice quiet girls. After several weeks of being the last to the table, one day I got there first. And waited. And waited. Later, I saw that they had found another spot at a different table.

It was a hurtful and humiliating experience. From then on, I arranged to sit in on another class during lunch--said I wanted to review before taking the achievement tests. It was a half truth. I couldn’t face lunch alone in a room full of people.

Two weeks later, one of the girls and her boyfriend were murdered by a romantic rival--a rather disturbed kid whom she had rebuffed. And I regretted that she died when I was still bitter at how she and her friends treated me. I also regretted that I didn’t look past my hurt feelings to see an eternal soul--one for whom Christ died.

The bullying stopped as the whole school began some soul-searching. Suddenly people wanted to hear about my faith. But what a terrible price! And it’s affected how I’ve viewed others since--especially those who have mistreated or abused me. Life is so short, and so many are just hanging by a thread. We may not have tomorrow to share the gospel with others.

What an experience to have to go through at an impressionable age. But what you took away from it is so true, and still timely, today. And I agree with you that many people are just hanging by a thread, and looking with all their heart for answers. So many on the verge of making vital decisions! Have you ever had what you would consider a divine appointment? 
I think life for the Christian is a series of divine appointments. So many times we meet people in what appears to be chance, but God has a special purpose. I remember one time being in a church that had a bus that went to pick up children and take them to church. In helping with that, I misread an address, and met a young college student from China. 

He’d been raised in atheism, but he was curious about Christianity. My husband and I spent a lot of time with him and his wife--answering their questions and telling them about Jesus. He eventually came to faith. Later, I learned that he was the son of a major figure in the communist party in China. I’ve lost touch with this man, but the last I heard, he wanted to go back to China and start a church--presumably in the underground church movement. And all because of a misread address!
What an amazing story! Definitely a God thing. Being an adventurer, myself, I'm always interested in hearing about anything unusual or exciting that others have experienced, too. What is the most exciting adventure you ever had?

Well, the investigation is still ongoing. I did spend my wedding night in a hotel that had a reputation for being haunted--not that we saw anything other-worldly. Although when we arrived, we couldn’t get the door open. It appeared the deadbolt had been turned--and it was locked from the inside.

But perhaps writing itself has been the biggest adventure for me. Putting words on paper and sending them out into the world--just to see what comes of them.
I would have to agree with writing being the best adventure, too. Tell me what you like most about being a writer.

I like when the characters I’ve created start surprising me and won’t obey my carefully plotted outlines. It’s a little like puppets coming to life. They start expressing themselves, demanding their own voices, and determining their own courses. It’s a little like magic.
Well, the magic was certainly there in GOLD, FRANKINCENSE, AND MURDER, I really enjoyed it (head over to Lilly's Book Club to see my review). How did it come to find a home at White Rose Publishing?
Someone had passed along the call for submissions for the Christmas extravaganza. I had a short mystery story that I had written for a contest. It had a subtle romantic subplot that I deepened and added scenes to get to the requested length. Then I edited it, prayed, and hit “send.”

It must have been just the right amount of "faith and works," then. Another divine appointment that will touch many others. I'm sure it will bring enjoyment to a lot of Christmas holidays, this year. Speaking of which, What is your favorite Christmas tradition?
Cookie baking. I love making a variety of cookies and decorating them, and loading them up into tins and platters. These days, I try to give away as many of them as I can. I certainly don’t need them. But I do enjoy the process.

I notice there was some cookie baking in GOLD, FRANKINCENSE AND MURDER, too. You wouldn't happen to want to share one of those recipes with us, would you? 
I'd be happy to. While this cookie is more German-Hungarian in origin, this is the cookie I imagined that Sam offered to Donna. This is a time-consuming, artisan cookie, and it can take a bit of practice to get them to look nice. But absolutely scrumptious, and well worth the effort. I recommend making extra and eating the mistakes!

(although I guess the accepted spelling is Kiffles)
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups flour
1 egg
9 ounces cream cheese, softened (awkward amount today, but this recipe goes back to when cream cheese was sold in 3 ounce packages)
Using an electric mixer, cream the butter, cream cheese, and egg. Add flour. Do not over-mix. Form dough into a ball and refrigerate overnight.
Filling: (makes enough for multiple batches)
2 cups finely ground walnuts (Grandma used a meat grinder. I use a grinder attachment to my mixer. I’d imagine a food processor would work too.)
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 egg whites
juice of one lemon, about 1/4 cup
2 tsp cinnamon
Mix all ingredients. If made ahead, refrigerate. Extra can also be frozen and kept for other purposes. It makes a great filling for nut rolls (instead of cinnamon rolls) or in quick breads and coffee cakes.
On baking day:
Refrigerated dough
2 egg whites, beaten
Powdered sugar
Roll out dough onto a well floured surface, to a thickness of less than an eighth of an inch. (The dough will incorporate more flour as you roll.) Cut into circles with a round glass or large cookie cutter. (You want a diameter of around 3 3/4 to 4 inches.)
Put a little less than a teaspoon of the filling on the edge of the cookie. (You’ll be tempted to use more, but the cookie will burst while cooking if you do.) Starting at that side, roll loosely, then curve into a crescent. Use egg whites to seal, and pinch edges shut. Brush tops with egg whites, then place on an ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes. Remove carefully from cookie sheet and sprinkle with powdered sugar while still warm. (I put my sugar into a wire mesh strainer and shake it over the top.) Allow to cool completely, then sprinkle with sugar again. Enjoy!

Thank you, Barb, can't wait to try them out, they sound delicious. And thank you so much for stopping by this week, and sharing a bit of your heart with us. Here's wishing you all the best with GOLD, FRANKINCENSE, AND MURDER, and may this be your best Christmas ever!


Gold Fever... Could Happen to Anybody

I'm not that fond of jewelry, or even driven to accumulate mountains of wealth for myself. I am quite happy as long as my needs (and some of my wants) are met, and there is a bit of extra left over for adventuring. All-in-all, a pretty average citizen, except for one thing. I have a very chronic case of Gold Fever.

It has gone on for so long, I'm not sure when it actually started. However, after many hours of contemplation on the matter, I can trace the earliest origins of it back to the fact that my father had a subscription to Westways Magazine during my very impressionable growing up years. Yes, I am sure that's where it all started. I don't know what the magazine is about these days (it has been published continually for over  a hundred years). But back then, it highlighted unusual places one could travel to, by car, on a weekend from Los Angeles. 

Our first trip was out into the southern California desert (hotter than blazes out there, too) to dig up shark's teeth. Rumor had it that there was some huge inland sea thousands of years ago (leftover from some world-wide flood?) and there was a veritable hoard of ancient teeth that could be dug up with a mere hand-shovel and a piece of screen. And we found some! I dug them up myself, out there in that dry cactus-strewn wasteland of sagebrush and tumbleweeds. What an amazing thing-- and what fun! 
You might wonder what shark's teeth have to do with gold, but I have thought about that, too. And perhaps if we hadn't found any that day, I would have gone on to grow up into an entirely different person altogether. But the experience of searching for a peculiar treasure -- and finding it -- has an amazingly strong pull attached. Especially for a child. Besides that, there was the digging.

Digging has some kind of pull all its own. And I have found that if you are to successfully avoid Gold Fever, you should avoid the pleasures of digging at all costs. Because it almost always leads to the the onset of Gold Fever. Even people who dig in gardens have been known to accidentally dig up treasures (or even valuables) from the past. Before you know it, you're hooked. Well, that's what happened to me back then, at that innocent age, when I wasn't aware of the dangers. 

But a person can accommodate an inordinate pleasure of digging. A lot of people do, and they still lead fairly normal lives. It was the second thing we added  that actually knocked us over the edge. But we didn't see that coming, either. In fact, we had such a good time on that little shark tooth expedition, we decided to go for another. We were prime targets by then, but blissfully ignorant, and I happily looked forward to whatever my dad might pick out for us next.

It was a trip to "Fat Hill."

A place you should avoid at all costs if you are to escape the perils of Gold Fever. But don't worry, I will tell you how. Next time. After I tell you what happened to us, there. Meanwhile, be careful if you find yourself having to dig, for some reason. Because at this point, it could still take you unaware. 

And it could happen to anybody.


The Trouble with Relationships

   A continuing warm welcome to to my guest, E.A. West, who is going to talk to us today about something everyone can relate to...

As we all know relationships take work. Some take more work than others, but if the other half of the relationship is worth it, you’ll do whatever it takes to nurture that relationship. The same is true of relationships in fiction. The very foundation of romance novels is the development of the relationship between the hero and heroine. They can face all kinds of dilemmas and pressure, both internal and external, but in the end their love for each other conquers every challenge.

In The Key to Charlotte, Zakaria faces a unique challenge with being attracted to Charlotte -- she's autistic. While this really isn't as big a deal as you might think, it can create some interesting 
relationship situations. After all, one of the key components of autism is social deficits. This can mean a lack of social graces, an inability to participate in small talk without going insane, missing the subtle nuances of social gatherings, speaking out of turn, or even a complete lack of comprehension of what a relationship entails. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but I think you get the idea of what kind of challenges Zakaria could face by considering a relationship with Charlotte. To find out exactly what kind of social deficits Charlotte has, you’ll have to read the book.
Relationships are complex, evolving things that run a spectrum from flowing fairly smoothly from the start to seeming like nothing will ever go right. When it comes to romance novels, you’ll see both ends of the spectrum and everything in between. I like to write stories that fall somewhere in the middle, with enough smooth moments to give the reader hope all will turn out great for the hero and heroine and enough rough spots to make readers wonder if there will be a happy ending.
The development of relationships may drive you crazy or leave you feeling all warm and fuzzy inside. If the relationship is in a romance novel, the development probably involves a combination of the two. Non-writers may not realize it, but fictional people can be just as exasperating as real people. The biggest difference (aside from the fact that one is a figment of the imagination and the other isn’t) is that if authors get too frustrated with their characters, they can rewrite them with different personalities or make them conform to the author’s will in some other way. That doesn’t work with real people, which is just as well. If everyone did what you wanted all the time and you could make them act however you wanted whenever you wanted, life would be so boring.
So, enjoy your relationships with others, appreciate their differences, and realize that your hard work now is worth it in the end. Even if the relationship doesn’t work out, at least you’ll know you gave it your best shot, and that’s always a good feeling.
To celebrate the release of The Key to Charlotte, I’m giving a copy to two lucky commenters on this blog tour. The rules are simple. Between October 28 and November 6, leave a comment on any of my blog tour stops (including this post) with your name and email address letting me know you want to be entered into the drawing. You can find a complete list of the blog tour stops on my blog I will draw two names at random from all of the entries and announce the winners on November 7 (winners will also be contacted by email). The two winners will each receive a free PDF of The Key to Charlotte. 

Good luck to you all!