A visit back to Kentucky

Happy Monday, readers. I just heard from my friend and research contact to the Amish of Kentucky, Linda Hitchcock. She just came home from a trip to Simpson and Allen Counties. Not only did she discover a wide variety of produce, but some downright great bargains such as hand-woven straw hats for 6.00, and pickles, jams, jellies and relishes at $2.75 each. And the vendors were the friendliest she’d ever met. Besides watermelon rind pickles and chow-chow, they had “moonshine” jelly, brightly-colored pepper jellies, and jams with eye-catching names like TOE Jam, TRAFFIC Jam and FROG Jam. TOE has tangerine, orange and elderberry; traffic a mixed variety and FROG includes figs, raspberries, orange and ginger. While shopping, Linda was told that “Amish vendors must do something different to stand out these days.” The jam Linda purchased came from Spring Valley Farms, owned by the Habegger Family. Their label says: “Old Fashioned, All-Natural Home-Style Canning”. There’s a little circle which says “Preserving the Past” and a picture of two draft horse heads on the labels. The Habegger started making sorghum molasses in the mid-1960’s and has farms in both Holland, KY and Caneyville, KY.

Linda also learned that you can no longer purchase eggs from produce stands in KY unless they have refrigeration. And have you heard the term, “women of color” used in describing us outsiders? Linda learned it the other day. It doesn’t mean skin color, rather women who wear colorful clothing instead of the drab Amish attire.

I enjoyed meeting Linda while researching the Old Order Mennonites and Amish of KY in preparation to write A Little Bit of Charm. Thanks, Linda, for a look back at a beautiful part of the US of A.  Have a great week, readers. Mary

Little Bit of Charm, A



We have a winner, folks!

Happy Monday afternoon, readers!

Without further ado, we have a winner of last week’s blog contest for Karen Robbins’ latest book. Carol Baker, come on down! (or at least contact me via email!) You’ve won a print copy of Death Among the Deckchairs. This is book 2 of Karen’s Casey Stengel cozy mystery series. Don’t forget…a free download is available of book one, Death Among the Orchids, and a half-off coupon is available for Death Among the Deckchairs. Go see Karen Robbins at: http://karenrobbins.com/author.htm

Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of traveling to Ohio’s Amish Country, namely Wayne and Holmes Counties. I saw old friends, got some great recipes, and took lots of pictures. Needless to say…I ate well and brought home Amish baked bakery to last all week. The hay has just been cut and stacked, the corn is almost ready to pick, and laundry was hanging on porches due to intermittent showers. Enjoy a few photos of rural America. When I’m down there…I’m as close to heaven as I will ever be until I die! Happy reading this week!  MaryGE



Welcome Karen Robbins–free down and win a signed copy of her book

Happy Monday, readers, Please help me welcome Karen Robbins to Home Thoughts. If you leave a comment on this blog for Karen, you can win a print copy of her latest book, Death Among The Deckchairs. Here’s a bit about her story: blog DAD cover

A cruise. A bikini clad body. What next? All Casey wanted was a relaxing cruise where she could visit with her daughter, the cruise director, but suddenly she finds herself in the middle of a murder at sea. Who would have guessed the beautiful young woman dead in the deckchair next to her had an enemy who would use her love of the sun to end her life? When Max joins Casey, what she thought would be a romantic ending to her cruise becomes an intense search for evidence. Somewhere among all the dermatologists holding a conference on board ship is a killer. Is it the victim’s doctor husband? Or one of his co-workers? And how does the shark expert fit into the puzzle?

What was your inspiration for Death Among The Deckchairs? This is the second book in the Casey Stengel Mystery series that began with Murder Among The Orchids. The series has evolved over the years but began with the character of Casey who originally was a paralegal. I had taken a course of study to become a paralegal and toyed with a character who worked in a law officed that dealt with wills and probate. When Heartsong began looking for cozy mysteries for their mystery club books, I reworked my original story and character to fit their guidelines. Casey became a household manager and a sleuth with a serious addiction to Dodgers’ baseball. Unfortunately, the book club met its demise just as I was about to have a contract but eventually the story found publication and I’m excited to keep the character going. With all of our travels (I’ve earned the tag Wandering Writer), I can’t help but let those adventures influence my writing. Death Among The Deckchairs takes place entirely on a cruise ship. Over the years we have taken 53 cruises and are planning an around the world cruise for 2015. Up next in the series will be Secrets Among The Shamrocks which will take place in Ireland where, in 2011, we spent a month exploring.

What’s the toughest part of being an author? For me, it’s time to write. All total, we travel around four to five months of the year. I have to find time to squeeze in my writing while waiting in airport lounges and finding quiet corners on a cruise ship when we are away. Please note: I am not complaining. Internet is not always available or good so keeping up with my platform on social media is difficult at times as well. My biggest problem is having more ideas than I have time to write them all. A nice problem to have but it is like trying to chose which child you love the most.

I think one of the toughest parts of being an author though is putting yourself out there by submitting to agents and publishers and getting rejected. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been writing. It still happens and you still feel a let down. Recently I spoke to an enrichment class of 5/6 graders about being an author and dug out some of my rejection letters. (Yes, I started long ago when they still used snail mail.) The kids were amazed at them and it was one of the things they kept refering to in the thank you notes they sent me. My message was: don’t get discouraged. They were about to enter a writing contest and the teacher was grateful that I had spoken to that part of a writer’s life.

What are you working on now? Next up is my sequel to In A Pickle (Martin Sisters Publishing), the story of a 65 year old pickle entrepreneur who puts marijuana in her pickles thinking it is marjoram and gets into all sorts of trouble. The second in that series will be called Pickledilly and will find Annie Pickels and her friend Edna traveling to England for the inspiration to their next pickle recipe. When she returns, Annie will be challenged by a realtor who claims she doesn’t own the farm she lives on. Her pickle business will grow championed by the young man who got her into all the trouble in the first book.

KAREN ROBBINS is a freelance writer, author, and speaker. She and her husband are travel addicts and stop by home in the KAREN_1_500PXCleveland area of Ohio on occasion to repack the suitcases. Her stories are often inspired by adventures in many different parts of the world. Along the writing adventure, Karen has published Divide The Child, Murder Among The Orchids, In A Pickle, and Death Among The Deckchairs. She has also coauthored A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts and A Scrapbook of Motherhood Firsts and has contributed to several Chicken Soup books. Travel articles, essays on grandparenting, and some of her short stories can be found in various magazines both online and in print. While the world is fun to explore, Karen most likes to spend time with her eight grandchildren. They offer the greatest adventures of all. Find Karen online: www.karenrobbins.com Follow Karen’s travels at Writer’s Wanderings. Connect with her at her Facebook Author Page

Readers, Karen is offering you a freebie:

Use coupon code BX36W for a free download of Murder Among The Orchids at Smashwords.com https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/82884

Use coupon code MX52W for 50% off Death Among The Deckchairs at Smashwords.com https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/323673

To purchase at Amazon:   http://www.amazon.com/Death-Among-Deckchairs-Stengel-Mystery/dp/1490365907/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1372693308&sr=8-1&keywords=death+among+the+deckchairs

To purchase at Barnes & Noble:


Please leave a comment for Karen.  I will give away one copy of the paperback edition of Death Among The Deckchairs next Monday. Have a great week, readers. Happy reading!  Mary




Here are the Christy winners!

Happy Wednesday, readers. And yes, it’s still raining in Ohio. I’ve been watching the Weather Channel and it seems everywhere east of the Mississippi has been getting soaked for days, if not weeks. Can’t we shift the winds to blow all this into the Southwest? It’s always all or nothing when it comes to the weather these days. Keep your umbrella handy and your windshield wipers turned on high. Eventually the sun will be back.
Last week I listed the nominees for the prestigious Carol Awards, given by the American Christian Fiction Writers organization. Today I will list the winners of the Christy Awards. Too sets of awards? Yes, think of one as the Academy Awards and the other as the Emmys or Grammys of Christian fiction. I bet you’ll find some familiar names among the winners. Congratulations to all the winners!
Contemporary Romance:
The Breath of Dawn by Kristen Heiztmann
Finalists: Lethal Legacy by Irene Hannon
Wildflowers from Winter by Katie Ganshert
Historical Romance:
Against the Tide by Elizabeth Camden
Finalists: Be Still My Soul by Joanne Bischof
Love’s Reckoning by Laura Frantz
Contemporary Series, Sequels, and Novellas
You Don’t Know Me by Susan May Warren
Finalists: Two Destinies by Elizabeth Musser
Waiting for Sunrise by Eva Marie Everson
Rare Earth by Davis Bunn
Finalists: Downfall by Terri Blackstock
Submerged by Dani Pettrey
The Last Plea Bargain by Randy Singer
Contemporary Standalone:
Not in the Heart by Chris Fabry
Finalists: Borders of the Heart by Chris Fabry
The Air We Breathe by Christa Parrish
Soul’s Gate by James Rubart
Finalists: Daughter of the Light by Morgan L. Busse
Star Flower by Anne Elisabeth Stengl
First Novel:
Intro the Free by Julie Cantrell
Finalists: Tangled Ashes by Michele Phoenix
Wedded to War by Jocelyn Green
Young Adult:
Child of the Mountains by Marilyn Sue Shank
Finalists: Failsgate by John W. Otte
Interrupted: A Life Beyond Words by Rachel Coker
Flame of Resistance by Tracy Groot
Finalists: Wedded to War by Jocelyn Green
A Wreath of Snow by Liz Curtis Higgs
Curl up with a good book in the shade, and happy reading!    Mary

Happy 4th of July!

Happy Wednesday, Readers! Anyone looking for some great summer reading with the long holiday weekend upon us? Here are the finalists for the 2013 Carol Awards. These are the highest honors bestowed by the American Christian Fiction Writers.  I’ll bet you’ll recognize some familiar names on this list. I wish all of you a safe and happy Independence Day!

Category: Seaside Reunion by Irene Hannon (Love Inspired)

A Horseman’s Hope by Myra Johnson (Heartsong Presents)

Lost Legacy by Dana Mentink (Love Inspired)

Contemporary: Heart Echoes by Sally John (Tyndale House)

You Don’t Know Me by Susan May Warren (Tyndale House)

Beyond the Storm by Carolyn Zane (Abingdon Press)

Debut Novel: Wildflowers from Winter by Katie Ganshert (Waterbrook/Multnomah)

Proof by Jordyn Redwood (Kregel)

A Sweethaven Summer by Courtney Walsh (Guideposts Books)

Historical: Where Lilacs Still Bloom by Jane Kirkpatrick (Waterbrook/Multnomah)

At Every Turn by Anne Mateer (Bethany House)

The Discovery by Dan Walsh (Revell)

Historical Romance: To Whisper Her Name by Tamera Alexander (Zondervan)

A Promise to Love by Serena B. Miller (Revell)

Short-Straw Bride by Karen Witemeyer (Bethany House)

Mystery/Suspense/Thriller: Downfall by Terri Blackstock (Zondervan)

Gone to Ground by Brandilyn Collins (B&H Publishing)

The Soul Saver by Dineen Miller (Barbour Publishing)

Novella You’re a Charmer, Mr. Grinch by Paula Moldenhauer (Barbour Publishing)

Impressed by Love by Lisa Karon Richardson (Barbour Publishing)

A Recipe for Hope by Beth Wiseman (Thomas Nelson)

Romance: The Accidental Bride by Denise Hunter (Thomas Nelson)

Saving Gideon by Amy Lillard (B&H Publishing)

An Uncommon Grace by Serena B. Miller (Howard)

Romantic Suspense: Tidewater Inn by Colleen Coble (Thomas Nelson)

Saving Hope by Margaret Daley (Abingdon Press)

When a Heart Stops by Lynette Eason (Revell)

Speculative: Daughter of Light by Morgan L. Busse (Marcher Lord Press)

Judge by R. J. Larson (Bethany House)

Daystar by Kathy Tyers (Marcher Lord Press)

Young Adult: Prophet by R.J. Larson (Bethany House)

Like Moonlight at Low Tide by Nicole Quigley (Zondervan)

The New Recruit by Jill Williamson (Marcher Lord Press)

Congrats to all the finalists! The winners will be announced during the 2013 ACFW National Conference in Indianapolis on September 15, 2013.    Happy reading!  Mary