Interview, Review, and Giveaway

I met Jen Tur51qZW8j8-JL._SY346_ano a few years ago at a writing conference. She took me to coffee and told me about how she started as a writer and asked me about my own projects. I am very excited to have the opportunity to interview her about her latest book, Storing Up Trouble. Make sure you leave a comment to be entered to win a copy!


I noticed you dedicated this book to your husband. I have to ask, was your meet cute and romance as crazy as some of your characters?

In all honesty, no, it wasn’t crazy at all, although the first time I met Al, I turned down his invitation to dinner. We met at a bar in Buffalo, NY, and he came up to me about a minute after I arrived at that bar with my sister. I thought it was rather strange that he asked me out to dinner so quickly, so I turned him down. What I didn’t know at that time was that he was actually late to have dinner with another lady that night. He left soon after I refused his dinner invitation and I ended up going out to dinner with one of his friends (which didn’t work out because I just didn’t feel a connection to that man.) Anyway, a couple of weeks later, I went to this event called The Up-Downtown Party that Buffalo held for professionals every month, and the first person I saw was Al. He just had such a wonderful smile, and seemed genuinely delighted to see me again. We started talking and I definitely felt a connection with him. We’ve been together ever since, which is now going on thirty-one years.


I loved the cats, especially Phantom. Are you a cat person or a dog person?

I’m a dog person, although I don’t currently have a dog. My favorite breed is Australian Cattle Dogs, but after my Cattle Dog, Sasha, died three years ago at the ripe-old age of fifteen, I decided to wait a while before getting another dog. Al and I were thinking about getting a dog during this whole shelter in place business, but dogs are rather hard to come by these days, so we’ll be waiting a bit longer.


What’s your favorite part about writing?

Writing “The End.” Hahahaha – not really. My favorite part is editing because, for me, at that point I’ve gotten the hard stuff out of the way, and it’s really fun to go back through and fluff everything up.


I have never heard of a pistol purse before this book. Where did you discover this weapon?

I was researching different pistols that ladies frequently used during the Gilded Age and I found this picture of a pistol purse, and then I found a video of a man demonstrating how one worked. I knew I needed to fit one of them into a story, and “Storing Up Trouble” seemed the perfect place for me to do that._You're acting beyond peculiar, which is peculiar in an of itself since peculiar seems to be a common state for you._


Have you ever done something crazy in the name of research?

Not really crazy, although I have been known to drag my friends to historical sites, no matter if they’re history buffs or not. I normally bribe them with lunch, dinner, or whatever enticement I think is needed to get them to accompany me.


Who is your favorite classic author?

Edith Wharton, although Charles Dickens is also a favorite.


I know one of your treats of choice is potato chips. What is the weirdest flavor you’ve ever tried?

Those Flaming Hot ones are interesting – and not in a good way.


I appreciate that all your books have an interwoven spiritual truth. Do you have an idea of what it will be before you start, or does it flow from the character’s journeys?

I rarely know what the spiritual arc is going to be when I start the book – they just seem to show up as I’m writing and I take it from there.


The scenes in the store fascinated me. If you had to choose one of the jobs to work, what would it be?

Since I have a background working in department stores, I’ve done all of the jobs Beatrix works on in the book, except for the coat check because none of the stores I worked in offered that service. Frankly, though, I don’t really care for sales at all, so I wouldn’t want to work any of the positions I gave to Beatrix, preferring the buying offices to anything on the floor.   hand-2912572_640


You are known for giving your characters unique–but historically authentic–names. What is the absolute favorite name you’ve ever found/used?

Gertrude Cadwallader – probably because my sister used to have a hamster named Gertrude.


Storing Up Trouble was the last book in the series, do you ever feel sad to let the characters go?

Nope – by the time I’m done with a series, I’m normally tired of the characters and am perfectly happy to see the last of them. I also never read my books once they go into print because, well, it’s not like I don’t know how they end.


Can you share any teasers about your next book?

My next series surrounds a group of ladies who, because of necessity, form a most unusual agency – The Bleeker Street Inquiry Agency. The first book in the series, “To Steal a Heart” releases in November, 2020, and it’s about Miss Gabriella Goodhue, who spent her childhood living on the means streets in Five Points as a thief. Gabriella has some interesting skills that aid the Bleeker Street Inquiry Agency, and when she runs into Mr. Nicholas Quinn, a friend from her past, while in a rather tricky situation, they soon find themselves embroiled in a mystery that could very well see both of them dead.


Thank you so much for sharing!

Some special notes. 

  1. My review of Storing Up Trouble is included below.
  2. As a lover of happy endings, I was excited to hear that Jen and her husband adopted a sweet new dog! There was a slight delay in posting this to make sure the post office open.
  3. The post office needed to be open because Jen has offered to send out Storing Up Trouble. To enter to receive a copy of Storing Up Trouble, comment below. A smiley face, photo of your pet, or emoticon are also acceptable. 🙂 


When Storing Up Trouble started out with a Frankenau Pistol Purse packing heroine, I knew I was in for a fun read. From the zany supporting characters to the fascinating historical details to the interwoven Spiritual truths …well, this book was just what I needed right now.

So, what were my favorite parts?

I love the hero and heroine, but I also adored the supporting characters. More than one romantic pairing meant more opportunity to root for Happily-Ever-Afters.

The cats. Yes, this book features heroic cats. As a cat lover often saddened by the heroism attributed to dogs that is denied to cats, I appreciated that in Storing Up Trouble cats get the full credit all felines will tell you is their due.

I liked the relationships beyond the romance—siblings, friends, and a man and his mule—to name a few.

I came away grateful that I do not have to wear a bustle, secure 200 buttons on my dress with a buttonhook, or work in a meat-packing plant.

This book is a fun and light-hearted read, but it also includes truths about caring for others, relationships, and finding the path God has for you in life. I highly recommend it.

I am grateful to have received a complimentary copy for the purpose of review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Sweets and Stress

baked pastries
Photo by Artem Beliaikin on

I am not entirely sure who first pointed out that stressed was desserts spelled backward. Anyone with a sweet tooth can point to this unsub (yes, I have been watching mystery shows during quarantine) and say thank you for providing us all with the perfect excuse for eating cakes, cookies, and everything else most likely to give one cavities.

I do have a sweet tooth, and I have eaten far more desserts than I should have. Some, however, will remain the most memorable desserts consumed.

One such “treat” was on a visit to friends in Brazil. As the dining room was full, my little sister and I were sitting at a tiny table in the kitchen. After an unfamiliar lasagna–far richer than we usually ate–we looked forward to dessert.

papaya fruit
Photo by Daria Shevtsova on

Only dessert was thick slices of papaya and ice cream. Neither my sister or I are fans of the floral taste of papaya, but we both loved ice cream. After a bite of papaya, we placed the rewarding ice cream into our mouths and had a very bad realization. We did not like rum and raisin ice cream. Our dessert became a process of washing each offensive taste down with the other offensive taste.

Another memorable dessert was served while my family were attending a conference. We stayed with some wonderful people who opened their home to us. One night, the hostess offered pie for dessert. She had one chocolate cream and one other flavor. As a devotee of chocolate, I asked just for the chocolate, assuming that only one flavor would net me a bigger piece.

Unfortunately, my plan only managed to half the amount of pie I received as every piece was the same size regardless of whether people received one flavor or two.

Then there was the creation of one of my sisters. She was never a fan of baking, but into the kitchen she went to create a cake. The result was dubbed a volcano cake for the crumbled tower of moist cake held together with frosting. In spite of the appearance, that cake was one of the best I’ve ever eaten.

A rather less delicious cake was served at my sister’s wedding. Some dear friends had offered to purchase the cake as the wedding present. They arrived with an elegant looking cake that had a different flavor in each layer. I hoped for the flavor based on a popular Brazilian bonbon. Instead, I received a huge slice of prune and doce de leite (caramel) cake. It was a popular flavor in Brazil, but I liked it about as much as the papaya and rum and raisin ice cream.

sliced cake on white saucer
Photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh on

Although desserts might be the comfort of stressed people everywhere, right now I don’t know that there are enough desserts in the world — even if one includes rum and raisin ice cream.

But there is a better cure for stress. We can find our peace in Jesus, the Prince of Peace.  “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you…Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27

In God, we can find peace — and we won’t have to worry about our pants still fitting.

What’s your most memorable dessert? Please share and include the recipe. 🙂




Of Names and Mysteries



Who was he?

I didn’t know much about him or the other people whose names graced the pages of the books that weigh more than my cat. She, ahem, is not particularly slim. As a title-abstractor-in-training, I am growing accustomed to all that it is involved in tracing a piece of property’s history. The house doesn’t matter. It is all about the land.

And, for me, the people who once owned it.

I wander courthouses and research the history, deeds, and other documents associated with a particular parcel of land. In essence, I am an amateur detective without having to sneak around the suspect’s house. Since I tend to giggle at inopportune times, I don’t think I would succeed as the detective.

detective-152085_640Title Abstracting allows all of the thrill and none of the might-face-off-with-a-killer-armed-only-with-a-toothbrush. I am fascinated by the random stories pieced together from the mere legal documents surrounding real estate. Why did a couple divide their property after thirty years of marriage and still remain one another’s heirs? How did a random couple end up on a deed they had no claim to? Why did the divorce degree have to include a clause about the wife leaving the house clean?

I suspect the divorce was not amicable.

My trainer encourages me to keep my mind on the task and admits they, too, sometimes find themselves falling down the rabbit trails of the whys and wherefores of these lives that I investigate without ever knowing.

Through it all, I collect names. The unique ones. As a writer, I love names. Ora Lee, Flossie, and Florence. Arno and Hattie.

Although I didn’t find the latter two in the courthouse tomes. I found them in the pages of a book my friend wrote. She was inspired by the letters her grandparents wrote during World War I. Letters found in an old tin. If I was writing this book, I couldn’t have come up with a more perfect idea for the discovery.

She confessed that she had to let go of the real Arno and Hattie in order to create a novel and fill in the gaps left by the correspondence, but the magic of reading a story about people who were almost real remains. Cover reveal

I seriously wish the courthouse kept old letters so I could fill in the gaps left as a title abstractor.

Then again, I really wouldn’t get any work done.

Or maybe I would be inspired to write a book like Three Little Things by Patti Stockdale.

And I might just call my hero Delbert.




The Word Not Chosen


Like most people, I am starting 2020 with multiple plans to start the new year right — and a plethora of highly silly jokes about having perfect vision because it is the year 2020.

Sadly, I still need glasses and life doesn’t come with a ten-step program of the exact correct thing to do. One might pray and ask for God’s leading, but in the end, it is up to them to actually take a step forward.

As my friends posted their chosen words for the year, I was surprised. I had never thought about choosing a word that would be my guide for a year. I have written New Year’s resolutions, but I have never thought to contain all of those many goals — weight loss, more exercise, and traveling to planet Mars — in one single word.

Then I realized that for many years, I have had a word. Oh, I didn’t write it down or make a lovely meme. No, I pasted it in my brain and allowed it to consume me. “Perfection.”

egg-2048476_640Perfection doesn’t sound like a dangerous word. On the surface, it might even seem like a good word. We should always be striving to be better, purer, godlier.

But like an egg that looks smooth, porcelain, and easy to hold on the outside, you crack open perfection and you find slime and slipperiness. It oozes from your hands and is impossible to hold onto.

Perfection forces one to refrain from trying anything unless it is without any mistakes on the first try. Perfection leaves one spiritually struggling because every sin seems impossible to find forgiveness for. Perfection can leave one scared to press post on a blog or comment because there might be a misplaced comma or misspelled word.egg-943413_640

Perfection can leave one stuck.

We are told to be perfect as God is perfect–but we are also told to strive, press forward, and run the race. As someone who recently fell in love with biking, I can tell you that the first time I rode I didn’t go very far, and my legs suffered from jello-itis. The next time I rode farther. And as the distance grew, the residual pain and stiffness lessened.

The truth is we can’t be perfect without God. We won’t be perfect in this life. Yet, in Christ, we can find new life. Hope. And someday, through Him, we will be perfect.

silhouette-683751_640So maybe 2020 has brought me clearer vision. I haven’t picked a word that will define my year. I have picked a word that will not define my year.

So, do you have a word that will define your year? Or a word that will NOT define your year?



Merry Christmas

Whew, what a ye.

Wishing you and yours a blessed Christmas as you celebrate the Savior’s birth!

A Short Devotional

When God selected those who would be mentioned as the visitors to His newborn Son, He could not have chosen two more different groups.

First, He chose the shepherds. “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.” Luke 2:8. In this time in history, shepherds were the lowest of the low on the social scale. They were uneducated. They spent their time tending sheep. They were poor. They were nearby.

Second, He chose the Magi. “Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea…, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem.” Matthew 2:1. These men were so highly educated, they are known by the synonymous name of Wise Men. They not only noticed the new star, but they also had the means to travel to Judaea to discover its origin. They were well-respected. They were rich. They brought expensive gifts from a faraway land.

The shepherds were almost certainly the first to visit the newborn King. The Wise Men were almost certainly among the last before Joseph, Mary, and Jesus fled to Egypt.

Why does it matter who visited the Christ-child? Perhaps, we can learn that anyone can be saved. God can save the rich and the poor. God can save the educated and the uneducated. God can save those who are near—raised in Christian homes—and far—those who have heard the Gospel only once.

As we celebrate the Christmas season, may we also “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” Mark 16:15

Read my short Christmas story at


A Child’s Guide to Paying a Compliment


They (those mysterious purveyors of all opinions) say to write what you know. Writers will agree that real life situations inspire them. Listening to conversations improves your dialogue-writing skills.

Only, it is very important to consider the source of inspiration.

As he approached, the butterflies in her stomach gave up fluttering and adopted clog dancing as their activity of choice. He embodied the romantic hero of every fairytale. She smiled as he neared. “Hi.” 

He grinned. “I wanted to introduce myself and tell you that you look old and weird.”people-1316454_640

As my poor female character makes an awkward exit, let me assure you that I have heard those very words from the lips of some of my nephews and nieces. Thank you, kind children. Nothing bolsters one’s confidence more than hearing they look weird and old.

My sister once received her own “compliment.” When introducing herself, a little girl misheard her name. Upon being corrected, the little girl said, “Well, if it had been Amy, it would have been a pretty name.”

I sometimes think God put children into the world to help man overcome the sin of pride. 

Now, another nephew of mine was slightly more creative with his “compliment.” As someone who appreciates the finer wardrobe in life — like jeans and t-shirts — I have never considered myself a fashionista. Still, I had recently bought a long sweater. Blue, soft, comfortable, I wore it on a visit to my sister’s house.

wizard-1454385_640I tell myself it was the long blue sweater that inspired my nephew to comment, “You look like a wizard.”

As I searched for a mirror to double-check that I had not grown a gray beard, I thanked my nephew for his touching compliment.

Before my nephews reach the age where they go a-courting, I am resolved to give them a brief lesson on how not to compliment a lady. “You’re beautiful” might be generic, but trust me, it’s a far sight better than “You look like an old, weird wizard.”

In spite of their lack of complimenting skills, I love kids. After all, “children are a gift of the Lord” (Ps. 127:3NASB).

And part of the gift they bring is humility.

What’s the weirdest compliment you have received from a child?


E-bikes and Me-Powered Bikes


I have recently discovered that I am a biker chick. No, I am not revving the engine of a motorcycle and dressed in black leather. My one attempt to ride a motorcycle ended with a broken mirror and me miraculously not hurt…but that is another story.

I prefer a regular old bicycle — fitted out with a motor. In short, an e-bike.

After a visit from my uncle where he talked about the long bike rides he took with my aunt, I was looking forward to trying out an electric bike on my next visit to Oregon. I saddled up on my electric bike and prepared to see the world from the back of a bicycle.

Of course, me being me, it wasn’t quite that easy.

Although I hadn’t ridden in years, riding a bike is like, you know, riding a bike. The addition of a motor just made it nicer. When faced with a hill, all you do is turn your wrist and the motor takes over. Okay, so I also might have made use of the motor when there were no hills in sight. My aunt led the way and my uncle remained in the back to help any stragglers. Spoiler alert: I was a straggler. My first time out, I turned the motor up to full throttle as everyone else in the group pulled away. bicycle-1300317

As they disappeared from sight, my uncle checked my bike and realized that I had the motor on the lowest setting. Even with it maxed out, I could barely approach a decent speed. After he told me how to fix it, I took off with the wind blowing in my hair. We rode through the countryside and neighborhoods.

Nothing could stop me now.

Until I started to hear a flapping sound. And my bike felt a little sluggish.

Yes, I had a flat tire. My uncle drove home to get a pickup.

The next day, we headed out again with the tires on my borrowed bike once more in working order. We raced along the route with my aunt in the lead. As we passed the place where my tire had given out the day before, crowds threw rose petals and trumpets blew — or maybe my fellow riders jokingly congratulated me.

Not too long after we passed the point of victory, my bike seemed to grow a lot heavier on the way up a hill. In fact, it felt like my motor had given out entirely. I checked my speedometer and realized that the reason my motor felt like it had died was because it had died.

For the remaining distance home, I was on me-power and me-power only. The wind still blew through my hair, but not quite as strongly as it had before.

Our visit ended before we could go for another bike ride. I think this is probably a good thing, since bad things come in three, and I kind of wondered what would be next.

Flat tires and tired motors aside, I realized I love biking. I have now started riding back home. There’s a lot to be said for biking. One can enjoy the beauty of God’s creation. One can exercise. One can breathe fresh air.emotions-2713109_640

And if one is me, one can find a lot of excuses to laugh.

“A joyful heart is good medicine.” Proverbs 17:22



Exhaustion and Dining Companions


Moving is exhausting. Writing conferences are exhausting. Vacations are exhausting. So, of course, it made sense to pack them as close together as pickles in a jar. In the last few weeks, I moved from the house I lived in for ten years, prepared and left for a writing conference in San Antonio, and decided to drop in on friends and family in Oregon–it was only a few thousand miles out of the way–before heading back to Indiana.

As you can imagine, finding time to write has been about as easy as finding a place cold enough to wear a parka in San Antonio. This trip was my first visit to the city, and I struggled to keep my body from morphing from solid to liquid form in the overwhelming heat.

I wonder how I ever survived living in Brazil.

I’ll be sharing more about my conference experiences in my newsletter (to sign up click here), but first I would like to tell you about some of my dining companions.

We were walking along the San Antonio Riverwalk when we stopped for lunch at a Tex-Mex restaurant. Our dining companions greeted us before the waitress.

Mrs. D was quite the hungry dining companion. At first, she was polite in her requests that we share our meals. Gradually, she grew more insistent as she did her best to clarify that she would really like a bit of sustenance. Her method of accomplishing this was to tug at our pants. When we ignored her, she tugged harder and still harder as she struggled to make us understand. She vocalized her needs, but we–cruel people that we are–ignored her. Her family and friends hovered nearby.

Mrs. D

Then there were the rest of the audience who were silent but gawked at us with open mouths. They each wore bright red lipstick to outline their gaping mouths, which they opened and closed to demonstrate where the food would go should we choose to share.

The Lipsticked Audience

We finally rewarded their persistence by crushing leftover chips and throwing them into the water. Lest that sound rude, I should probably clarify that the dining companions were ducks and tilapia.

Eating on the sidewalk café may have been hot–and left me with a sunburn on only one side of my neck–but I always will remember my dining companions.

Even if they were a bit less than human.

They were finally rewarded for their patience.

Have you ever had a unique dining companion?