Thursday, April 23, 2015

Looking Out the Window: Amy Cattapan Talks about Her New Book, Angelhood. Gives Away a Copy.

A Warm Welcome to Amy Cattapan
Amy will give away an e-book. To enter to win leave a comment and an e-mail address below

First, tell us a little about yourself.

I’m a middle school English teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. I’ve wanted to be a writer since the sixth grade. In fact, by eighth grade I boldly declared in the yearbook that I would be the author of teen novels. What do you know! It actually came true!

I have four brothers, so I was well steeped in Star Wars, Star Trek, and Chicago Cubs baseball growing up. While a lot of people ask if my four brothers teased me when I was little, the worst I can really complain about are the plastic spiders. Mostly, I remember them twirling my pigtails in Princess Leia buns.

As an adult, I’ve spent my spare time pursuing my many interests and passions. For example, I’ve taken a variety of dance classes, including tap, jazz, salsa, and ballroom. I love to run and have completed many 5Ks and 10 Ks, along with two half marathons and one full marathon. I started baking when I was in junior high and took all the Wilton cake decorating classes when I was in my twenties. (Anyone in need of a multi-tiered wedding cake?) I also love to travel. I’ve been to Europe several times (Italy and England are two of my faves!), and last month I traveled to Guatemala for the first time and felt like Indiana Jones as I climbed ancient Maya temples and traversed suspension bridges dangling over waterfalls in the jungle.

Were you an avid reader as a child? What did you read?

I was the kid who eagerly joined in the summer reading program at the library and competed in the Battle of the Books while I was in junior high. The selection of middle grade and young adult books was nothing compared to what it is now, but I remember reading lots of Bobbsey Twins mysteries. (Anyone else remember these? I mean, they were old even for my time, but I loved mysteries!) I read a lot of Sweet Valley High books in junior high as well as some classics, like the entire Anne of Green Gables series and A Wrinkle in Time.

Tell Us about Angelhood

Seventeen-year-old theater geek Nanette believes her life is headed toward stardom on Broadway. But when her dream theater college rejects her and her best friend dies in a terrible accident, Nanette decides the world would be better off without her. Unfortunately, the afterlife offers something less than a heavenly situation. Trapped between alternating periods of utter darkness and light, Nanette is stuck following a high school freshman around. Soon, she learns she’s a guardian angel, and the only way she can earn her wings is to keep her young charge, Vera, from committing the same sin she did—taking her own life.

Unfortunately, Nanette is missing more than just her wings. She has no tangible body or voice, either. Frustrated by her inability to reach out to Vera and haunted by memories of her old life, Nanette wants to give up, but then she sees what happens when another Guardian at the high school turns his back on his charge. The shock is enough to supercharge Nanette’s determination. If she’s going to find peace in the afterlife, she’s going to have to discover what living is really all about.

This sounds like a great read. What is your writing schedule and where do you write?

I’m the kind of person who writes in furious spurts. In other words, I do really well with NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) as long as I have my story outlined—or mostly outlined—before I begin. In fact, Angelhood was my 2011 NaNo project. I was planning on writing a different story that November, but I didn’t have the outline ready. Then three days before November began, I got the idea for Angelhood. The plot outline came so quickly that I hit the ground running on November 1 and finished the whole book by the end of the month. It took many more months to revise, and then several years to find a publisher, but it all worked out in the end.
As for where I write, sometimes it might be on my couch at home. However, often I simply have to get out of the house, so I’ve written in many coffee shops as well as my local library.

It must be great fun writing in a coffee shop. You're inspiring me. Do you put yourself in your books?

Not intentionally, but I can’t seem to help showing up in my characters. I was a theater geek in high school myself, and my main character Nanette is a theater geek. I studied ballet for two years, and Nanette’s little sister is a ballerina. I wrote bad poetry in high school and college, and Nanette has to guard a high school girl who writes poetry. Since I’m a teacher in real life, I’m sure my personality shows up somewhat in the main teacher in the book, too.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?

I have a big Facebook launch party happening on April 30, and I’d love for everyone to drop by. We’ll have fun games and lots of prizes (including copies of my book as well as Laura Jackson’s Worth the Wait and Worth the Time), so come check it out. (

Angelhood is now available on Kindle for only $1.99 and in paperback on Amazon for $10.99. (

Amy shares a neat story about her Speech Contest Brownies

In my novel Angelhood, my main character Nanette remembers when she used to win oral interpretation contests at forensics competitions. Every time I get to that scene in my book, I remember the years I taught in small parochial schools where I would hold speech contests with my students. These would be very similar to the forensics or speech and debate contests held in high schools. To reward the kids who made it to the finals, I always made these caramel brownies. I waved them like a carrot on a stick. “You can have this yummy brownie as soon as you finish performing your poem or speech in front of the judges.” They were always so nervous, but looked forward to the brownies at the end. In fact, some students told me they competed simply for the brownies! So famous did they become that they’ve been nicknamed “Speech Contest Brownies.”

1 ½ sticks margarine, melted
1 German chocolate cake mix with pudding
1 small can of evaporated milk
1 package of caramels
1 12-oz. package of chocolate chips

Unwrap all the caramels and put them in a small microwave-safe bowl.  Then preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt the margarine in a large microwave-safe bowl.  Then add the cake mix and 1/3 cup evaporated milk (that’s about half of the small can).  Spread ½ mixture in bottom of an ungreased 9 x 13 pan.  You will have a very thin layer of batter, and you may want to use a buttered spatula to help spread it out.

Bake at 350 degrees for six minutes.  Meanwhile, melt caramels and 1/3-cup evaporated milk (the other half of the small can). 

After the six minutes are up, take the pan out of the oven and spread the chocolate chips over the cake.  Then drizzle the melted caramel mixture on tops of this.  Finally, drop the rest of the cake mixture by teaspoonfuls on top.

Bake another 15-18 minutes at 350 degrees.  Let cool completely before attempting to cut them.  I find it helpful to refrigerate them or even throw them in the freezer for 15 minutes before cutting them.  That way the caramel mixture has a chance to solidify and they won’t be quite as messy to cut.

Oh my goodness. These sound delicious!

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Looking in the Window: Welcome to Spring

I'm so happy to see Spring. Here's a poem to celebrate.
It was originally published in

             Best New Poets of 1988.        

For a peek at heaven,
God gave us a country spring.
where soft winds dance on open fields
and gently caress golden daffodils
nodding, nodding, nodding...
they seem to say,
"Welcome, bright new day."
Gentle drops of morning dew
kiss the roses and honeysuckle too.
Each sweet bloom
has its own perfume.
Yellow bells mark the way
for radiant colors bursting
into each new day,
The rhododendron, pink, or
fair lilies white.
It's all nature's delight.
Gail Pallotta


Thursday, April 2, 2015


"For God so love the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16

Photo Courtesy of Photobucket

"This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put hin to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him." Acts 2: 23-24"

Photo courtesy of Photoucket

"Where, O death, is your
Where, O death, is your
1 Corinthians 15: 55

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Looking Out the Window: The Stephanie Landsem Blog Tour for The Tomb, Her Retelling of a Classical Bible Story. Enter to Win a Gift Card, Read an Excerpt and Try a Recipe from the Bible

Enter to win a gift card now through April 1!
Click below
A Warm Welcome to Stephanie Landsem

Stephanie shares one of her favorite Bible verses

Although my favorite Bible verse changes with the day and what’s going on in my life, I tend to turn to the Gospel of John when looking for inspiration—especially writing inspiration. I’m always awe-struck at the very first sentence. These few words are simple, beautiful, and profound. They speak to my writer’s heart like nothing else ever has:
“In the beginning, there was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1

About The Tomb

“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.”

In this captivating retelling of a classic biblical story, Jesus shocks the town of Bethany with Lazarus’s resurrection from the dead, leading Martha—a seemingly perfect woman trapped by the secrets of her past—to hope and a new life.

Everyone in Bethany admires Martha—the perfect Jewish woman. She feeds and clothes her loved ones, looks after the family farm, and meticulously follows every precept of the Pharisees’ strict laws. But Martha is hiding a secret. At her sister’s marriage feast, she gave her heart and her innocence to a young musician who promised to return and marry her, but instead betrayed her love and abandoned her.

Seven years later, only two people in Bethany know of Martha’s secret sin: her brother, Lazarus, and Simon, the righteous Pharisee to whom Martha is betrothed. When Lazarus falls ill, Martha is faced with a choice: send for Jesus to save her dying brother—risking the wrath of Simon who threatens to betray her—or deny Jesus’ healing power and remain trapped in her tomb of secrecy and lies.
Meanwhile, on the shores of Galilee, Isa roams the wilderness, tortured by demons and knowing only that someone is waiting for him. When he is healed by Jesus, he finds that seven years have passed since his descent into madness. Isa journeys home to Bethany only to find he is too late to win back Martha’s love.

When Martha risks all to heal Lazarus, will Jesus arrive in time, or will he—like Isa—come too late?

One of Martha's recipes

Martha wanted to serve only her best to Jesus and his followers. This fruit and wine compote was a beautiful dish to serve at the end of her perfect meal.

Martha’s Spiced Fruit and Wine Compote
½ cup dried figs, halved
½ cup whole dried apricots
½ cup dried plums
1 ½ cup Zinfandel wine *
1 bay leaf
1 t coriander seeds
1 t fennel seeds
¼ t cumin seeds
¼ t black peppercorns
3 whole cloves
1 t ground cinnamon
1 T lemon juice
3 T honey
¼ t salt

Combine fruit, wine, and bay leaf in a medium saucepan. Let stand while you prepare the spices.
Put coriander, fennel, cumin, peppercorns, and cloves in a small skillet over medium high heat. Toast the spices until they are fragrant and the fennel seeds just begin to turn darker. Remove from heat immediately and pour into the bowl of a mortar and pestle. Grind the spices with the pestle until they are a fine powder. Add the ground cinnamon. This will smell divine!

Bring the fruit and wine to a boil then simmer uncovered for 30 to 45 minutes. Keep a good eye on the pan. When the liquid has reduced to a syrup consistency, remove from heat and stir in the spices. Add lemon juice, honey, and salt. Let cool.

Serving suggestions:

Serve as is, like Martha did, or
—over ice cream
—top a baguette slice with goat cheese and a spoonful of fruit and sauce
—over a slice of pound cake
*substitute concord grape juice instead of wine if you wish

An Excerpt from The Tomb
Chapter 1
Hear, O children, a father’s instruction, be attentive, that you may gain understanding! —Proverbs 4:1

MARTHA CLENCHED HER teeth so tight her jaw ached. She’d kept quiet for seven days. Seven days. Now she felt like a pot left too long over the fire. If another old woman gave her a pitying glance, if one more village girl whispered behind her hand . . . by the Most High, she’d boil over.
She filled a cup for Josiah, her sister’s new husband. Who would have believed it? Sirach of Bethany’s daughter—his younger daughter!—choosing her own husband. And what a husband he was. Josiah had many good qualities. He was kind and patient, and everyone knew how he loved Mary. But he was also poor and none too smart. Even his own mother admitted that he was about as useful as a three-legged donkey.

She took a deep breath and poured a cup of wine for her father, careful not to spill a drop on his fine linen tunic. When Abba agreed to the betrothal a full year ago, the women of Bethany had gossiped for weeks. Most had concluded that Sirach was eager to be rid of Mary, his grown daughter who spent more time playing with the village children than taking care of her father’s household. But they were wrong. Abba loved Mary just as much as he loved Martha and Lazarus.

Now, at almost fifteen years, Mary was ready to start her own family with a man she adored. Martha was glad that Abba had allowed Mary her heart’s desire. If only he would allow Martha hers.
If Mary can choose Josiah, why can’t I have a say in my husband? But of course, she knew why.
Her eyes strayed to the center of the meadow that stretched between the Mount of Olives and her father’s many fields and vineyards. The afternoon sun cast a patina of gold on a pair of musicians—an old man playing the flute and a young one strumming the kinnor. Lazarus sat at the kinnor player’s feet, watching him with admiration.

Martha sighed. Even her little brother got to be closer to Isa than she did.

A group of village girls linked arms and began to dance, each eyeing Isa as if he were the last honey cake on the plate. Didn’t they have anything else to do but stare and giggle about how handsome he was?

Isa didn’t even look at them. He never did. He looked into the distance, where the Mount of Olives rose between Bethany and Jerusalem. The love song of Solomon was on his lips, but Martha knew his thoughts were on her. Small comfort, with all the work she had to do.

Mary’s wedding feast had lasted the full seven days. Abba’s excellent wine had flowed as generously as the music, and laughter had filled their courtyard and the meadow that surrounded it. It had been good to celebrate Mary’s joy, but with all the rejoicing, Martha had found only a few moments to be alone with Isa. And tomorrow he would leave for the Decapolis. She had to find a way to talk to him today. Who knew when they’d see each other again?

Mary and her new husband rose from their seats. The men nearest Abba elbowed each other and smiled. Martha averted her eyes from the couple. The sun wasn’t even behind the blossoming apricot trees, and they were already going to the marriage tent? Of course, they wanted children, and there was only one way to get them. But did they have to look so eager? People would talk.

“Leaving us so soon?” Simon, their neighbor and one of the most respected men in Bethany, was a handsome man—at least that’s what the village girls said—but his large, wide-set eyes and full lips had always reminded Martha of a fish. He pursed his thick lips and raised his brows. “I’ve never known a man to need so much sleep.”

A chorus of twitters sounded from maidens clustered in the shade of the olive grove. Older women, those with babies at their breasts and sleepy toddlers, exchanged knowing glances.

Martha watched as the bridal couple took their leave of her father. She had to admit, marriage agreed with her sister. Mary’s softly rounded face glowed, and her eyes, the same deep brown as Martha’s, shone with what must be the marital bliss Martha had heard of. The linen dress Martha had made for her—the best linen, dyed Mary’s favorite shade of pink—fit her plump curves perfectly and suited her bronze skin and the deep blush on her cheeks.

As Mary moved beside her new husband, her arms jingled with a dozen brass bracelets, her betrothal gift from Josiah. They weren’t silver or gold—in fact, they were practically worthless—but the best Josiah could afford. Mary hadn’t removed them since the ketubah had been signed at their betrothal.
Josiah shrugged his thin shoulders as if to brush off the laughter. He looked down at his new bride, and a ridiculous smile stretched from his crinkly eyes to his wispy beard. Josiah wasn’t much to look at, but when he smiled at Mary like that Martha could see why her sister had pleaded with Abba—even though Josiah owned little more than the cloak on his back and a tiny home in the village.

No more servants for Mary, no fine linen from Galilee, no meat in her cooking pot—not with Josiah as a husband. They’d probably live on barley bread and water. Mary didn’t seem to care, and, at this moment, Martha could see why. What would it be like to be adored? To have a husband so in love that he couldn’t keep his eyes, or his hands, off you?

Yes, Abba gave Mary to Josiah, but he would never let Martha marry Isa. It was unthinkable.

Bio:   Stephanie Landsem, author of The Living Water Series, writes historical fiction because she loves adventure in far-off times and places. In real life, she’s explored ancient ruins, medieval castles, and majestic cathedrals around the world. Stephanie is equally happy at home in Minnesota with her husband, four children, and three fat cats.  When she’s not writing, she’s feeding the ravenous horde, avoiding housework, and dreaming about her next adventure—whether it be in person or on the page.

Visit Stephanie's Web site
Facebook Page

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Looking Out the Window: Stephanie Landsem Blog Tour - Prizes - Book Talk - Recipe and Bible Verse

Enter to win a gift card now through April 1st by clicking the link below!
Come back on March 31st to read about The Tomb
Stephanie also shares a recipe from the Bible story and a Bible verse

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Looking Out the Window: The Theft of an Antique Doll Theme for Linda Weaver Clarke's New Cozy Mystery

A Warm Welcome to Linda Weaver Clarke
Linda Shares Review Excerpts for Her Newest Book, The Mysterious Doll
It’s time to get cozy! The Mysterious Doll is the newest mystery in the Amelia Moore Detective Series. Linda Weaver Clarke blends a nice balance of mystery, romance, and humor. “I love the sparks of romance -- they spice things up and add much interest to the story.” – Susan Ortlieb, Suko’s Notebook

Most mysteries are a “who-done-it.” But in this cozy mystery series Amelia Moore, who is the founder of the Moore Detective Agency, specializes in missing persons. Her cases have taken her to some very interesting places and put her in some dangerous situations, but with the help of her partner, Rick Bonito, she always solves the case.

“This was a fun read and I enjoyed it very much. I think you will enjoy the other books in this cozy mystery series, as well. Amelia and Rick seem to be getting closer as the series continue and some romance is definitely in the air.” – Sonja Nishimoto, Sunnie Reviews

About the Series

“I am LOVING the Amelia Moore Detective Series!” wrote Shauna Wheelwright on her book review blog. “FUN! CLEAN! FUN! AMAZING! DID I MENTION FUN?! I recently reviewed The Bali Mystery and loved it so much that I quickly dove into this sequel.”

About The Mysterious Doll
In The Mysterious Doll, Pauline Jones is confused why her boyfriend took off without telling a soul where he was going. But that isn’t all. Sam Whitaker is accused of stealing a valuable porcelain doll from the museum. His disappearance makes him look guilty, but Pauline is convinced he is innocent. When Amelia finds Sam, she realizes they need to prove his innocence. Where is the antique doll and who has taken it?

To read a Sample Chapter, visit

Linda Weaver Clarke travels throughout the United States, teaching people to write their family history and autobiography. She is the author of several historical sweet romances, a mystery/adventure series, a children’s book, and a cozy mystery series.
The Mysterious Doll (ISBN-13: 978-1502929143, Red Mountain Shadows Publishing, 2014) can be found at local libraries or online bookstores. For more information, visit

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Winner of Deadly Echoes

And the winner is...

Drum roll...

Congratulations to Deborah Malone!