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!


  1. Wonderful interview, ladies. Barb, you've gone through some amazing experiences, definitely divine appointments.

    Congrats on the release of GOLD FRANKINCENSE AND MURDER, Barb. Best wishes for success.

    Merry Christmas!

  2. Thanks, Dora! Lilly certainly knows how to ask probing questions! And Merry Christmas to you!

  3. Great interview ... and may I also say....YUM! :-) Blessings, ladies!

  4. The cookies are time-consuming, but they are totally wonderful. A holiday tradition for my family.

    Glad you could stop by, Marianne!

  5. Dora, Barb, and Marianne... so nice to see you here! Thank you for coming this far off the beaten path to visit. GOLD, FRANKINCENSE AND MURDER is just the kind of book I like to escape into, so this interview and review was a pleasure. And thanks for sharing your family cookie recipe, Barb... I've been thinking about making some ever since I read it!

  6. What a wonderful interview and thank you for sharing those hurtful memories, but isn't it a blessing to look back and see that yes, God truly does use everything for His good!
    Great story, too, Barb!

  7. Yes, he does, Donna. Now if only I would remember that in the middle of difficult times, instead of complaining and griping. But yes. God is good.