Thursday, November 17, 2011

Behind The Courting Quilt; Day 9 of Log Cabin Christmas Blog hop

Awhile back, when I was immersed in quilt lore and life, someone gave me an old quilt book.  I say "old" but it was from 1984 so not that old.  It was published by The House of White Birches, Inc in New Hampshire.  The woman had been cleaning out her closet and found it and decided maybe it was a book I could use.  My life at the time dealt with the quilts of the Aurora Colony and the four books I'd written related to that communal society that survived west of the Mississippi until the late 1880s.

As part of the promotion for those books I also wrote a short piece for an historical quilt journal about the quilting women of Aurora.  While reading that journal I came across a story of a signature quilt made in the mid 1800s and the story that went with it was that each signed block had been quilted by a woman being courted by a certain man.  He kept all the blocks and when he finally married, it wasn't to any of the signature-makers.  He married a woman who had not made a block for him and she finished the quilt! 

That story gave me the idea for "A Courting Quilt" included in A Log Cabin Christmas, which can now be claimed as a New York Times Bestselling book as of September 25, 2011!

That story was just the seed. From there the juices of creativity mixed their way in the stew of an idea.

Enter my friend's quilt book called Bible Quilt Blocks.  If each of those women made a Bible quilt block rather than a signature one, and I gave them a thread salesman as the mastermind behind it, and I found a woman who owned a log cabin store who was desperate to find a way to keep in business despite growing competition, and the thread salesmen oversteps his bounds and the widow discovers she's falling in love with the scamp, I might just have a story! 

I opened up that little book to the wonderful world of Bible-related quilt blocks.  Each had a story to go with it and a great essay by Mary Louise Kitsen called "Biblical Old Tradition." In my story, I didn't mention all of the designs...there were 24 to choose from. But the one's I did chose I love.  "Robbing Peter to Pay Paul."  That phrase has no reference in the Bible at all! But what is of interest is that Peter and Paul were opposite personalities as portrayed in the New Testament so that quilt block would be best made with bold but opposite designs. 

Storm at sea quilt block
Another favorite was "Storm at Sea".  When I saw that block I thought "How did they make it appear to be a watery upheaval?" There are no round surfaces, only triangles placed in certain ways to make our eyes think they're uneven and shaped like the bottom of a boat.  Jonah comes to mind? The ark? Maybe a boat where fisherman cast their nets.

While researching historical fiction I often come across the role that quilts played in women's lives. Quilts thread their way through many of my stories including The Kinship and Courage series especially AllTogether in One Place and book two, NoEye Can See.  But quilts take center stage in "The Courting Quilt" set in old Brownsville, a woolen mill town of the 1800s in the central Willamette Valley of Oregon.  Women still quilt there and despite its small size, there's a quilt shop right in town.  To me, that's a sign of creative women bringing comfort to the community.   
Yankee Dutch Quilting & Dry Goods
106 E. Bishop Way (Highway 228 at Main Street)
Brownsville, Oregon  97327
If I were to make a Biblical quilt block think I'd adapt "Road to California" a popular block during the gold rush years and call it instead  "Road to Eden." This would have a double meaning for me since an old nickname of Oregon is "Eden's Gate" and Brent Walth wrote a book Fire at Eden's Gate: Tom McCall and the Oregon Story to celebrate that connection. Here I am, back to writing about writing and...quilting.

Question: If you were to "name" a quilt block based on a favorite scripture, what title might you come up with?  Put on those creative hats.  I know you can do it.  Some of you might even be able to draw the design and bless us all with the comfort of scripture and quilts. 

Post your answer or comment here and then be sure to visit Erica Vetsch @ Erica Vetsch: On the Write Path (part 2) blog tomorrow for the chance to win two copies signed by all the authors!  You don't have to be a quilter to love quilts!

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Log Cabin Christmas, NYT best-seller, Blog Hop Day #6 Guest Margaret Brownley

“When God said let there be peas on earth I don’t think he meant us to eat them.”
                                    George, age 6 in Snow Angel/A Log Cabin Christmas

My husband and I spent our honeymoon in a rustic log cabin in Yosemite.  It would have been the perfect honeymoon getaway had it not been for that mouse.
Standing on a chest of drawers screaming wasn't exactly how I pictured my wedding night.  It was even worse the next morning when we had breakfast at the lodge with everyone staring at us. 

That was the first and last time I’d stepped foot in a log cabin, so before I could write my story for A Log Cabin Christmas I had to do some research.  That’s the fun part of writing but so is sharing fun facts with readers.

  • Abe Lincoln was born in one.  Okay, so maybe you already knew that, but did you also know that the first president born in a log cabin was Andrew Jackson? 
  • Pound for pound wood is stronger than steel which makes Log Cabins virtually indestructible (except by woodpeckers and carpenter bees).  They can stand up to earthquakes and are pretty much fire-resistant. A log home was the only beachfront home in the Carolinas to remain standing during Hurricane Hugo.
  • Log cabins were not an American invention. The Swedish bought the idea to American in the 1600s. 
  • Providing there were trees, a log cabin could be built in days, needed no nails and was rainproof, sturdy and cheap to build.  The only tool needed to build one was an ax. 
  • Log cabin designs were influenced by the Homestead Act of 1862 which required homes to be at least ten by twelve and have one glass window.
  • Foundations were built eighteen inches high because it was believed that termites couldn’t climb that high. (I know for a fact that eighteen inches will not keep out mice!)
  • A log cabin helped win a presidential election.  William Harrison made a big deal over his “humble beginnings” and used the log cabin logo (along with hard cider) to show he was a “people’s man.”  Ironically, the man was born in a wood frame house. 
  • Log Cabin syrup was introduced in 1887 by Patrick J. Towle, a Minnesota grocer. The name was chosen to honor Towle’s hero Abraham Lincoln.

Now that you know a little bit more about log cabins, here’s a short preview of my story:


The moment schoolteacher Maddie Parker walked into the tumble-down log cabin schoolhouse, she knew coming to Maverick, Texas was a mistake.  Now she’s stuck at school with three of her rowdiest pupils during a blizzard and in terrible danger of becoming unglued. 

Sheriff Brad Donovan is fit to be tied.  What kind of teacher would keep her pupils after school in such weather? Now it’s up to him to rescue them—no easy task.  For now he’s stuck at the schoolhouse with no means of escape.  But while the storm rages outside, hearts are thawing inside.

Brad and Maddie have personal reasons for fighting their attraction to each other, but as the days drag on it becomes increasingly hard to do. Was it fate or bad luck that brought that together? Or could this have been God’s plan all along?     

P.S. If have an adversity to mice don’t worry.  The only furry creature in my story is a bear! 
Now that I shared my log cabin story, how about sharing yours?

Margaret is the bestselling author of more than twenty-five books.  Her next book Dawn Comes Early will be released March 2012.  It’s the first book in her exciting new Brides of Last Chance Ranch series.

Are you participating in the blog hop? Be sure to visit the contest guidelines and fill out the entry form to enter.
Tomorrow be sure to visit Erica Vetsch: Erica Vetsch: On the Write Path

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Log Cabin Christmas, NYT best-seller, Blog Hop Day #3, Wanda Brunstetter

Wanda with her family
Today I am hosting Wanda Brunstetter for day 3 of our blog hop.  Unfortunately she is not able to join us due to writing deadlines.  To encourage her to remain focused to provide you with future best-selling author fiction, I offered to fill in for her. 
Wanda Brunstetter chose the scripture "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding."  Proverbs 3:5.  It's the perfect scripture for her story titled "The Christmas Secret."  Wanda's written many novels, both historical and Amish-themed works.  Her latest novel has been on the New York Times Best-seller list...and so has A Log Cabin Christmas.  The scripture fits perfectly for a story that has twists and turns and characters thrown from times of joy to times of sorrow and then, because it's Christmas, back again to that happy ending.  It's like life in that way, I think. We simply can't know the ways of the Lord and we have to lean not on our effort to figure things out be willing to live with the uncertainty of the future and trust that God is in control.

A favorite writer of mine, Frederick Buechner, noted that the work of words is "to seek, to treasure and to tell secrets."  That's just what Wanda's story does.  Her characters are seeking answers to a troubling situation.  A wedding is planned for Christmas Day but something happens to interrupt the plans.  And it's the telling of a secret that opens the door for a surprise ending you'll love.

Have you ever had a secret unveiled when you least expected it?  Without giving us too much detail, how would you describe your feelings when you discovered what you'd never known before!

Here's a little surprise to end today's post with... Chapter 1 of Wanda's short story from Log Cabin Christmas.  Enjoy!  In case you have not yet registered for the contest, be sure to visit the official rules page. If the rafflecopter entry form isn't available, just be sure check back.

The Christmas Secret
by Wanda E. Brunstetter

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart;
and lean not unto thine own understanding.
Proverbs 3:5

Chapter 1
Allentown, Pennsylvania
Feeling the need for a bit of fresh air, Elizabeth Canning opened her bedroom window and drew in a deep breath, inhaling the earthy, leaf-scented fragrance that she knew even with her eyes closed was like no other season but autumn. 
When a chilling wind blew in, rustling the lace curtains and causing her to shiver, she quickly shut the window. It was too cold for the first of November. Did the nippy weather mean they were in for a harsh winter this year, or would they be spared and have only a few bitterly cold days? Whatever the case, she hoped they’d have snow for Christmas. God’s sparkling white crystals always added a little something extra to the beauty and atmosphere of the holiday season.
Through the closed window, Elizabeth heard geese honking in the distance, no doubt making their southward journey. She could almost feel their excitement as they flew to warmer territories. It never failed, spring or fall; hearing geese high in the sky stirred a thrill deep in her soul. 
When a knock sounded on the door, Elizabeth turned and called, “Come in.” 
The door opened, and Elizabeth’s friend, Helen Warner, entered the room. Her coal-black hair, worn in a chignon at the back of her head and covered with a silver net, stood in sharp contrast to Elizabeth’s golden-blond hair, which she wore hanging loosely down her back today. But then, Helen, who’d recently turned twenty, had always been the prim and proper one, often wearing highneck dresses with perfectly shaped bustles, like the one she wore today. Elizabeth, on the other hand, was the practical type and preferred full-skirted calico dresses, which were more comfortable when one was cleaning or working around the house. She felt rather plain next to Helen, but fortunately their friendship was based on more than the clothes they wore or their differing opinions on some things.
Elizabeth’s meticulous friend was outgoing and always seemed to have an air of excitement about her. Maybe Helen’s confident demeanor came from being the daughter of an esteemed minister of the largest congregation in Allentown, for she had a certain charisma that glowed like a halo around her. To Elizabeth, it was most invigorating, even though she, herself, was more down-to-earth.
“I thought you were going to help me clean the cabin today, but it doesn’t look like you came dressed for work,” Elizabeth said.
“I was hoping you’d change your mind and go shopping with me instead.” When Helen took a seat on the feather bed, her long, purple stockings peeked out from under the hem of her matching
Elizabeth’s brows furrowed. “There’s no time for shopping right now. If David and I are to be married on Christmas Eve, then it doesn’t give us much time to get the cabin cleaned and ready for the wedding.”

Helen’s brown eyes narrowed, causing tiny wrinkles to form across her forehead. “It’s one thing to have the ceremony in the cabin, since you’re only inviting family and close friends, but are you sure you want to live in that dreary little place? It’s so small, and far from town.”

“It’s not that far—only a few miles.” Elizabeth took a seat beside her friend. “The cabin has special meaning to me. It was the first home of my mother’s parents, and soon after Grandma and Grandpa moved to Easton, Mother married Daddy, and they moved into the cabin to begin their life together. They lived there until. . .” Elizabeth’s voice trailed off, and she blinked to hold back tears threatening to spill over. “After Mother died of pneumonia when I was eight years old, Daddy couldn’t stand to live there any longer, because everything in the cabin reminded him of her.” Elizabeth may have been young, but she remembered how empty and lifeless the cabin had felt once her mother was gone.

“So you moved to town and lived at the Main Street Boardinghouse, right?” 
Elizabeth nodded. “We stayed there until I was ten, and then when Daddy got his shoemaking business going well and married Abigail, we moved into the house he had built.” She smiled and touched Helen’s arm. “Soon after that, I met you.”

“So you’re used to living in town now, and just because your parents and grandparents lived in the cabin doesn’t mean you have to.”
“David and I want to begin our life together there.” Elizabeth sighed.
“Besides, he’s just getting started with his carriage-making business and can’t afford to have a home built for us here right now.”
“I understand that, but can’t you continue living with your father and stepmother or even at the hotel David’s grandfather owns?”

“I suppose we could, but it wouldn’t be the same as having a place of our own to call home.”
Helen folded her arms with an undignified grunt. “Humph! That cabin isn’t a home; it’s a hovel. If David’s so poor that he can’t offer you more, then maybe you should consider marrying someone else. Maybe someone like Howard Glenstone. I think he’s been interested in you for some time.”
“I’m not in love with Howard. I love David, and I’d be happy living in the cabin with him for the rest of my life if necessary.” It was obvious to Elizabeth that Helen didn’t understand or appreciate how the homey little dwelling came to be. It must have taken a lot of hard work, frustration, and long hours for her mother’s father to build the cabin for Grandma and the family they’d one day have. How proud Grandpa must have been, knowing he’d built the place with his own two hands. 
“I just think a woman as beautiful as you could do much better,” Helen said.
Elizabeth bristled. “Are you saying that David’s not an attractive man?”
Helen placed her hand on Elizabeth’s arm. “I’m not saying that at all. David has very nice features, and with both of you having golden-blond hair and vivid blue eyes, you make a striking couple.” She patted the sides of her hair. “Of course, I’d never be attracted to anyone who had the same color hair and eyes as me.”
“When you meet the right man and fall in love, you won’t care what color his hair and eyes are, because real love isn’t based on a person’s looks.” Elizabeth touched her chest. “It’s what’s in the heart that counts. While I do think David is quite handsome, the things that drew me to him were his kind, gentle spirit and the fact that he’s a fine Christian man.”
“He does seem to be all that.” Helen smiled at Elizabeth. “I’m sure the two of you will have sweet, even-tempered children with beautiful blond hair and pretty blue eyes.”
Elizabeth smiled. “I’m looking forward to becoming a mother. In fact, I’m looking forward to every aspect of being married.”
“Including cooking and cleaning?” Helen’s nose wrinkled.
“Yes, even that.” The springs in the bed squeaked as Elizabeth rose to her feet. “Speaking of cleaning, I should hitch my horse to the buckboard so we can go over to the cabin now.”
Helen gestured to her fancy dress. “I suppose I should change into one of your calicos first.”
Elizabeth pointed to her wardrobe across the room. “Feel free to wear whichever one you want.”

David Stinner had never been one to shirk his duties, but today he was having a hard time staying focused on his work. All he could think about was Elizabeth, and how he couldn’t wait to make her his wife. They’d been courting nearly a year and would be married on Christmas Eve. He couldn’t think of any better Christmas present for himself than making Elizabeth his bride, and she insisted that getting married to him on her birthday was the best gift she could receive for turning twenty. She was everything he wanted in a wife—sweettempered, patient, intelligent, beautiful, and a Christian in every sense of the word. She would make not only a good wife but also a fine mother to the children they might have someday.
“Hey, boss, how come you’ve been standin’ there holdin’ that piece of wood for so long?”
David whirled around, surprised to see his helper, Gus Smith, standing behind him. When he’d last seen Gus, he’d been at the back of the shop, cutting a stack of wood.
“I wish you wouldn’t sneak up on me like that,” David said, shaking his head. “I nearly dropped this piece of oak for the sideboards of Arnold Higgin’s bakery wagon.”
Gus’s bushy dark eyebrows lifted high on his forehead. “Looked to me like you were just standin’ there holdin’ that piece of wood, and you’re nowhere near the body of the bakery wagon you started yesterday.”
“I was taking a few minutes to think, that’s all.”
“Thinkin’ about your bride-to-be, I’ll bet.” 
David nodded, his face heating with embarrassment. He hated how easily he blushed.
“Are ya gettin’ cold feet?” 
“Of course not. I was just thinking about how Elizabeth and her friend, Helen, are going to the cabin to do some cleaning today. I wish I could be there to help them.”
“Why can’t ya be?”
David glanced across the room, noting the bakery wagon he’d been about to work on. Then there was an emerald-green carriage needing a new set of wheels, a coal-box buggy that was only half built, and the town coach the banker had brought in yesterday for new axles and springs. “I have too much work to do here right now. I promised to have the bakery wagon done by the end of next week, not to mention the other orders we have waiting.” Some days could be a bit overwhelming, but David was grateful for the work and good relationships he’d been building with his customers. He was also humbled by their trust in the fine craftsman he was proving himself to be.

“Maybe you can go over to the cabin when you’re done workin’ today,” Gus suggested.

“That’s what I’m hoping to do.” David leaned the piece of wood against the wall.
Gus moved closer to David. “You still gonna live in the log cabin after you and Elizabeth are married?”
David nodded.

“Wouldn’t ya rather live at the hotel your granddaddy owns? It’d be closer to your shop and has a lot more conveniences than the cabin.”

“It wouldn’t be our own place, and all we’d have is one small room.”
“That dinky old cabin ain’t much bigger than a hotel room.” Gus snorted like an old bull.
“It’s big enough for our needs, and once my business grows, I can either add on to the cabin or have a house built for us here in town.”
Just then, David’s mother rushed into the shop, wearing no shawl around her shoulders, despite the chilly day. “Come quickly, David! Your grandfather fell from a ladder, and he doesn’t respond!” Her hazel-colored eyes were wide with fear, and a lock of reddish-brown hair had come loose from the chignon at the back of her head. David figured she must have run all the way here.
“I’ll be back as soon as I can,” David called to Gus. He grabbed his mother’s hand, and they rushed out the door.

If you are interested in reading more about Wanda, visit her website.
Are you participating in the blog hop? Be sure to visit the contest guidelines and fill out the entry form to enter.

Tomorrow be sure to visit Liz Tolsma at Heart, Soul & Splash of Sass

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Log Cabin Christmas, NYT best-seller, Blog Hop Day #1

Welcome! I thought it was time to launch another contest as well as introduce to you some really grand authors whom I have had the pleasure of working with on my recent project: A Log Cabin Christmas.

Over the next two weeks you will be introduced to new author each day.  There will be interviews, stories behind their chapter, recipes, and of course, historical tidbits!

Everything you need to know is on my Contest & Giveaway's tab.  So head on over there to check out what you need to do.

When you come back I will have some links for you to check out as well as your question for today!

For information about me and my books please visit my website:

I like to share encouraging stories about me, my husband, my dogs, my writing, & nature here on my blog.  Maybe you would like to subscribe to get it delivered into your inbox or online blog reader? It's easy to do right up there on the left side of the page.

I'm on Facebook and Twitter too where I post on a regular basis, maybe I will see you there!

Lastly, if you enjoy reading newsletters from authors, Story Sparks may be just right for you.  You can see some archived copies here before you make up your mind to subscribe (delivered to your email) or not.

FINALLY: here is your question for the day...
Are you ready for Christmas?  What will be your favorite gift you are giving this year?

Tomorrow you will be visiting with Liz Johnson over at: I write about love and such
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