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Woodland Theme Fireplace Mantle – Christmas 2014

Imagine my surprise when I saw that I’d already posted a 2014 mantle–a YEAR ago–and no one called me on it. Does that mean I’m not the only one who’s confused about what year I’m in when one is drawing to a close and a new one is on the very near horizon?

Oh, good. I love being in the same boat with such nice people. For posterity – I corrected last year’s post.

This post is truly the mantle as it looks for Christmas 2014.

Woodland theme - Mantle  2014As usual, I shopped the house, the Christmas tubs and the craft bins to find what I needed. The ‘shopping trip’ included a foray through the gardening shelves in the basement to create this woodland scene. Squint, and the sparkly white garland kinda looks like snow!

The ‘fence’ is an old wood cow stanchion. It’s one of those pieces I love when I find a use for it, but want to get rid of the rest of the year. Thousands of these wood stanchions were burned when the government insisted commercial dairies use steel. I found this stanchion several years ago while yard sale hopping in the boonies of Rhode Island. There was no longer a family cow in the tiny barn so they were selling the stanchion. I snapped it up when ‘prim’ (primitive) was so popular.

Bunny, bird and pine cones 2014

 

As you can see, raccoon and bunny were allowed to come into the house proper. Regulars on the summer deck this will be their first Christmas celebration with the family. If they behave they may be invited back.Racoon and berries 2014

I couldn’t offend Mr. and Mrs. Mouse, so this year they left the Christmas bin and found a spot on the mantle. Don’t they look spiffy dressed in their Christmas outfits?  (My sister says I have a whole world in my head that no one knows about. Yes. Yes, I do!)Best dressed mice 2014

A tatty vintage cardinal looks on from the top fence rail…

Vintage cardinal 2014

… while a gorgeous male cardinal lands center stage in the wreath.

Flying cardinal 2014

So there you have it. Christmas 2014 fireplace mantle.  I’m thinking it will be hard to say goodbye to.

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You won’t want to miss January’s edition. I’m sharing the interview I did with Jack ‘Preach’ Conroy before writing Book 2 of the SeaMount Series, INTO THE DEEP.  Here’s a sneak peek:
Q: What were you like in high school?
Jack: Justice was served with my fists. Everyone knew my father was the town drunk. I was the kid with the patched jeans.

Available on Kindle, Nook and iBooks.

Available on Kindle, Nook and iBooks.

Q: Who is your closest mundane friend?
Jack: I don’t have mundane friends.

Q: What’s the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen?

Jack: A sunrise in a place I can’t reveal. I was glad to be alive to see the sun come up. It was beautiful and at the same time, a blessing from the Almighty.

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INTO THE DEEP ~ IS NOW AVAILABLE

into-the-deep-web-copyThe second book in the SeaMount Series is now available on:
Amazon
Barnes & Noble 
Apple iBooks

 

Each story I write strengthens my conviction that I do not write alone. After pouring hours of prayer into a story, asking that it not be mine, but His, why am I still surprised when it unfolds in an unexpected way? As I write and plan future stories, I’m discovering that like real life, each man of SeaMount has his own unique faith walk. My prayer is that God will use Jack and Lucinda’s story to encourage you to go deeper with your faith. Don’t be afraid to step ‘into the deep’. It is there that you will find your greatest blessings.

Thank you for being the most amazing readers! I love hearing from you. I’m only a tweet, email, or Facebook message away.

God bless you on your journey,

Anita

He stilled the storm to a whisper;
the waves of the sea were hushed.
They were glad when it grew calm,
and he guided them to their desired haven.
Psalms 107:29-30

Where Have I Been?

I’ve been MIA on my blog and if you looked around my house, you would think I’ve been MIA there, too!

INTO THE DEEP went to the editor this week!!!!

Hallelujah!!

Art request form is off to my cover artist! Can I get an ‘amen’?

I felt guilty not being here. But every time I thought, ‘I need to write a post for my blog’ I would feel guilty because I wasn’t working on ‘The Book’. And yes, Into The Deep is going down in the Annals of Anita as ‘The Book’. By the time I was in the full swing of edits, my hair fell out.

Really. That happened.

I have fine hair, but a lot of it, thank God, because one sweep of my hand through my mop and I’d end up with twenty of them between my fingers. (Yes, I counted!) On my pillow. Plugging the shower drain. Falling on my keyboard. Drifting onto my dinner plate! It was hug-me-at-church-then-brush-yourself-off falling out. I didn’t freak out (much). I was more annoyed and embarrassed that I was leaving a trail everywhere I went.

By the time I visited my dermatologist, I had a new business all figured out in my head. An on-line store named Here’s Your Hat. If I was going to have no hair, I would have some fun hats to wear. I kept tugging on my eyebrows, trying to decide if I’d have to have them tattooed on, but thankfully they stayed put.

Photo Credit: Diply.com

Photo Credit: Diply.com

After all was said at the dermatologist’s and done at the lab, it came down to this: Telogen Effluvium  This malady wasn’t because Jack and Lucinda were giving me fits as I edited Into The Deep. There was a shock to my system that shut down hair follicles and sent my hair into the rest stage. A few months later, all that hair began to shed. What was the shock to my system? A norovirus. One of those ‘cruise ship’ viruses. Though I was spending time (in my head) on a tropical island with Jack and Lu, I didn’t have the fun of cruising to get there. I never became bald, but my hair is thin. I usually have so much, though, it isn’t noticeable to any one but me. I’m waiting to see how much grows back in. On the upside – it doesn’t take long to dry, now.

I have a new empathy for anyone who has been through a rapid hair loss for whatever reason – be it illness or meds to treat an illness, such as cancer. You folks are my heroes and heroines. And though I won’t be opening a hat shop, here is a place with some pretty soft hats: http://www.softhats.com.

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Update – SeaMount Series Book 2

God is so good, I could POP! But that would be messy so I’ll just happy dance.

The major rewrite of INTO THE DEEP is finally, finally finished. Still bunches to do, like foreshadowing events that happen at the end because Jack and Lucinda hijacked my story and made it so much better. And I have to check that the faith and romance elements are layered into the story. And there is stuff to cut and SENTENCESTHATLOOKLIKETHIS because there is something there I need to figure out. But I’m sitting here praising God!

Jack and Lucinda's story begins on the imaginary island of St. Beatrice in the Caribbean Sea

Jack and Lucinda’s story begins on the imaginary island of St. Beatrice in the Caribbean Sea

After a year of struggle, He has opened up TIME (my word for 2013) in this new year for me to write. My office job moved to Florida leaving me with a chunk of precious time mid day. I’m still on the school bus early morning and in the afternoon where I tie shoe laces, wrestle with stuck zippers and help the little ones safely cross the street. And I’m blessed to have four parents all between the ages of eighty-five and eighty-eight (my folks and Old Roady’s folks) to love through the challenges that come with age. (And a huge shout out to my wonderful sisters. We make a great team!)

I’ve made headway and I want to share that with everyone who is asking and praying and holding me up as I sit at the keyboard and write the story God has given me. Please know that you, my readers, are in my prayers, too. You are precious to me. Thank you for your encouragement. I can’t imagine taking this journey without you.

SeaMount Agency – A Home for the Heros

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1 OCEAN HOUSE

Information not yet on the SeaMount page of my website:

Sam Traven, owner/director of SeaMount Agency, will have his own story.

Originally, his story was to be the first book of the series. About 100 pages into Sam’s story, I came to the conclusion his backstory should unfold throughout several other books in the series before I give him his own happy-ever-after story. (story hint: I love ‘beauty and the beast’ stories.)

Before I realized how deep Sam’s scars went, I rocked along having way to much fun setting up housekeeping for him and his agency in an oceanfront home like those in a local beach community. Because of his physical needs, I gave him a gym and a pool for exercise, a spa area for therapeutic massage, and a greenhouse for his beloved orchids.

To run the place, Sam hired Agatha ‘Aggie’ Livingstone, heart-of-the-home and housekeeper, tough enough to handle a bunch of alpha males. She needed an industrial kitchen but for the sake of story, I couldn’t shut her up in there unable to interact with the guys, so I imagined something more open with an attached dining room. The picture in my head was a little hazy but I figured I’d make it work. I also needed a common area for the men to gather. A campfire kept coming to mind, so a crackling fireplace in a living room, (open and utiltarian) was what I pictured.

That was fun!

Then I set the story aside, telling Sam he’d have to wait for the woman of his dreams.

Amazing things happen when I let God – my creative Creator – lead the way.

Some of it scary stuff. Tough stuff till I got to the amazing part.

I jumped into Gray’s story, landing in the North Woods of Maine. Adventures one after the other until he got OUT OF THE WILDERNESS with Sophie and the girls. Then the fun stopped. The home, that big, beautiful building, I’d created for Sam and the men that worked for him was right there waiting for Gray and Sophie’s return. The foundations had been set in Sam’s unfinished story.

But for some reason, I was wandering in the desert.

Lots of writing drivel, revisiting the plot, praying and crying out to God filled those weeks. Stuff like ‘YOU gave me this story! HELP me!” And, “If you don’t want me to write, show me what I’m supposed to be doing!” And, “YOU promised to never leave me or forsake me! Helloooo. Feeling a little lonely here, God.” (I’m a firm believer in being honest with my heavenly Father. He created me and knows all there is to know about me. If I’m a little upset with how He’s handling things, He knows that, too. I figure I can be honest with Him and He won’t toss me out like last week’s furry leftovers.) My side of the conversation ended with, “Fine. I’m getting nowhere fast and you aren’t helping me. So be it. I’m done banging my head against the keyboard. I’m done. You hear me? No more whining, begging, wheeling and dealing. Stick a fork in me. I’m done! Let me know when it’s time to start up again.”

Facing the Ocean. Multi level decks

Facing the Ocean.
Multi level decks

Spring came and I visited the open house of a reconstructed-from-the-ground-up Victorian-style hotel in the very same  beach community I’d set up housekeeping for Sam. I never attend those things. Never. But this one intrigued me because it was so close to Sam’s story and maybe I’d get an idea or two if I started writing again. (Do you hear me, Lord?) It was also an opportunity to see a high-end resort that I’d never have the $$ to stay at. (Though a girl can dream…. Please. Buy my book.)

I walked through the front doors and stepped into the SeaMount Agency.

Hundreds (it seemed) of folks milling around, taking pictures and talking, and I stood there with my heart pounding and my ears buzzing because inside I was shouting, ‘OH MY GOD!’ Not in blasphemy, but with praise and awe and joy! I was all jittery inside. This hotel lobby was Sam’s ‘livingroom’. Windows on the side, chairs positioned just so in front of the fireplace. But not just any old fireplace. A beach stone fireplace. God out did my puny idea, and even gave me a glimpse of how He cares for the smallest details.

Several minutes of picture-taking later, when my feet were back on the ground, I reluctantly headed for the fancy dining room. I’d already had my ‘God moment’. Everything else would surely disappoint. Besides the whole kitchen/dining room had been a bit of a stickler in my vision. One step inside and once again my heart jolted into overdrive. There before me was my industrial kitchen – with a counter along one side. (Why didn’t I think of that!) Someplace I found out it was called an ‘exhibition kitchen’! I had no idea such a thing existed. But it was perfect for Aggie. And the dining room with windows overlooking the ocean and… and… I turned in circles wishing everyone would leave Sam’s house! And there, in the corner, another glimpse of God’s signature in the details.

Lap Pool

Lap Pool

I practically mowed folks down as I headed for the open staircase and the next floor down. “Please, God. Please, God.” What would I find. I passed more glimpses of Him revealing Himself to me and my heart was bursting as I hurried down the stairs to the lobby below. I believe, help me in my unbelief.

I found:
A beautiful fitness center. (For Sam to exercise in.)
A salon and spa area. (For Sam’s therapeutic massage. And, yes, I took pictures of the men’s locker room. Necessary research.)
An indoor lap pool. (I hadn’t thought of a lap pool for Sam. Duh.)

I was frenetic. Running hither and thither (I’ve always wanted to write that), taking pictures and envisioning the SeaMount men in the beach locker room, in the masculine board room with state-of-the-art technology. (Video conference!)

And everywhere, God’s loving hand revealed with those glimpses of ~ orchids.

In hallway nooks. In every room of the spa. As a centerpiece in the dining room. In the public bathrooms. In the private bathrooms of the hotel rooms. Orchids, Sam’s passion, every where I turned.

Orchid in the locker room

Orchid in the locker room

What an amazing God! How He love’s surprising His children. Yes, even the ones that act like spoiled two-year olds when frustrated and tired. (That would be me.) Why hadn’t I trusted more? How sweet it was to go home and write the rest of Gray’s story, OUT OF THE WILDERNESS, having seen the inside of the Ocean House. Like a cool rain beating down on that dry desert, the words flowed. I continue to work on the series, currently working on Jack Conroy’s story, INTO THE DEEP. When will I learn that God only wants good things for me, but in His time, not mine?

Are you still with me? This has been a looong post. Much longer than the experts recommend blog posts be. (No one has time to read long posts, they say.) But how could I shortchange this story and an awesome, magnificent God.

My favorite Bible verse –
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  Jeremiah 29: 11-13

He was there all along. Listening. Planning. Preparing the way.

Oh, and Sam’s greenhouse? There’s a place for that, too. Smack dab in the middle of the tournament level croquet lawn.

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Out Of The Wilderness: Mothers, Daughters and Quilts

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Bits and pieces of the author’s life are sprinkled in every book they write. Often the ‘story within the story’ continues even after the book is finished and in the hands of readers.

Mariner's Compass QuiltIn Out Of The Wilderness (SeaMount Series, Book 1), the inspiration for Sophie’s Mariner’s Compass quilt is the Amish Mariner’s Compass quilt Old Roady bought for me in Lancaster, PA. In the novel, this quilt was a gift to Sophie from her mother.

Sophie’s home is also a piece of my life. It’s modeled after my sister’s house. I loved her home. Beautifully decorated and always so welcoming. When she and her husband sold it to follow God’s call into ministry, I was so sad. In my story, Sophie needed a house, I immediately though of my sister’s home.

Sissy's House

I didn’t tell her what I had done. Her tearful surprise was just what I’d hoped for. (I love happy tears!)When she moved into this home, she was a widow (like Sophie). She raised two beautiful daughters here which made it easy for me to picture Sophie’s girls on the tire swing in the front yard and running through the house.

The threads of moms, daughters and quilts weave together continuing the story off the page. My sister’s eldest daughter just gave birth to a beautiful little girl,Owl quilt Fallyn Aurora. This is the adorable Owl Quilt (with a close up of the owl) my sister made for her first grandchild. The love that was fostered in that gray ranch house wraps around the next generation.

Perhaps sometime in the future, the story will come back to the page and Sophie will be a grandmother making a quilt for a tiny grand baby.

If you have read Out Of The Wilderness, which of Sophie’s three girls would make the best match for Davie?

The Scary Fun of Self-Publishing!

I feel like that gawky teenager all over again. On a family vacation, standing at the end of the high diving board and looking down. Scary fun! That excited feeling accompanied by a ping of fear. Hoping – praying – I don’t belly-flop.

That’s how I feel as I release the first book of my SeaMount Series, OUT OF THE WILDERNESS. 

I’m excited! I’m scared! I’m a little bit overwhelmed. I love the story. I love the characters. I hope you will, too!

Now available on Amazon. All other venues to follow soon.

Former Navy SEAL Grayson Kerr’s honor has become tarnished working as a soldier for hire. His newfound faith in God has him longing to restore his integrity. His new mission is to qualify for a job with the SeaMount Agency. He wants to be one of the good guys. In the midst of a wilderness survival trial, he discovers a woman and her children lost in the forest. Abandoning his own mission in order to help them could disqualify him for the job.

Sophie Moore has fought to hold heart and home together since her husband’s death. To lose custody of her daughters to his influential parents would be her undoing. Determined to make every moment together count, Sophie plans a weekend away. Almost at their destination, she takes a wrong turn and becomes lost in a labyrinth of logging roads. The scruffy, hard-edged soldier that finds them is their only chance at survival.

From the wilderness of Maine to the SeaMount Agency headquarters on the coast of Rhode Island, Gray works to expose the criminal plot behind Sophie’s custody battle. He jeopardizes getting the job he wants for having the love of the woman he needs. Being a good guy may cost him his one shot at redemption.

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