Betwixt Two Hearts ~ A Crossroads Collection

I felt very honored to be invited to participate in the new Crossroads Collection: Betwixt Two Hearts. I bought the first three when they came out, and I enjoyed the unique concept – a collection of novellas that are each free-standing book but tied together in a theme, and one full-length book by Amanda Tru that connects them all.  (Note – most of the “novellas” are more like full-length books.)

Betwixt Two Hearts - a Crossroads Collection by Amanda Tru, Cathe Swanson, Chautona Havig, Carol Moncado, Kari Trumbo, and Alana TerryIn Betwixt Two Hearts,  Amanda opens the collection with a story about two people establishing an online matchmaking agency. Not a dating site, mind you, but a real matchmaking agency with the goal of setting up marriages.  Each of the subsequent books is a contemporary Christian romance about two people who meet through the Betwixt Two Hearts agency. In addition to mine, you’ll find delightful stories by Amanda Tru, Kari Trumbo, Alana Terry, Carol Moncado, Chautona Havig. and ME.

Mine is The Swedehearts Glory Quilt, the second book in my Glory Quilts series. It’s lighthearted – mostly – and features some of the same characters from The Christmas Glory Quilt.  David Reid is a sincere Christian man, eager to move on in his life. He’s an engineer, so he’s got a plan.  But is it God’s plan for him, or is it David’s?  Eleanor has no plan. Her loving, well-intentioned family wants to control her life and doesn’t understand why she would abandon the plan they made for her. So Eleanor runs away to find herself.

David signs up for Betwixt Two Hearts because he wants a wife. Eleanor’s motives are not so pure. She wants a fake boyfriend, to convince her parents she’s doing just fine in her new life.

Readers say they like flawed characters, so I’ve tried to make Eleanor a very human, flawed person. Even when she’s most annoyed with her family, she acknowledges that they’re good people.  But she occasionally crosses the line between a reasonable attempt at independence into selfishness and even lying, “gaming the algorithm” to get the perfect match and then being unwilling to confess when she finds out how much she likes the man they choose for her.  I hope her conflicted emotions resonate with readers.

As I write this, I am impatiently waiting for the publication of The Swedehearts Glory Quilt in paperback, repeatedly checking my email and hitting the refresh button on Amazon. I’m hoping to see it today, so I can share my beautiful cover! The picture on the cover is from 85mm Photography in Minneapolis – artistic, amazing wedding photographers.  They’ve “captured” Eleanor and David perfectly. 

I made a new quilt for this book – as is my plan for the whole series! – and will be offering the pattern as a bonus to anyone who purchases (or reads in Kindle Unlimited) the Betwixt Two Hearts collection or the Swedehearts Glory Quilt paperback before March 31.  More on that later.

 

In other news….

The Christmas Glory Quilt by Cathe SwansonThe Kindle version of The Christmas Glory Quilt is now available for Kindle and in paperback. (It’s free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers, of course, )

If you read and enjoyed it in the Comfort & Joy Christmas Lights collection, I’d be thrilled and grateful if you’d leave a review on the Amazon page or on Goodreads. Thank you!

If you missed the free Christmas Glory Quilt pattern,  you can purchase it on Etsy. The Swedehearts pattern will be available after March 31.

 

Comfort & Joy ~ The 2018 Christmas Lights Collection

Comfort & JoyIt’s here! Comfort & Joy, the 2018 Christmas Lights collection, has four brand-new books from Chautona Havig, Toni Shiloh, Alana Terry  — and me! My contribution, The Christmas Glory Quilt, features all the most heartwarming things I know: quilts, family, sewing, Minnesota winters and Swedish traditions. Add in a large homeschooling family with fun characters of all ages, a great aunt with an interest in genealogy, an old family farmhouse, and a unexpected family heirloom… what more could you want in a Christmas romance? Oh right… the romance! That’s

sweet and heartwarming, too.

 

The Christmas Glory Quilt Pattern

Do you like to make quilts? I’ve been teaching quiltmaking for over 25 years, but this is the first time I’ve featured quilts in a book. It was fun!  You can purchase the quilt pattern for The Christmas Glory Quilt in the GloryQuilts Etsy shop.

The Christmas Glory Quilt by Cathe Swanson

The pattern is clear and simple, but if you like to have even more illustrations, I’ll have step-by-step photo tutorials on my GloryQuilts website soon, and I’m also working on a YouTube tutorial series to go with the quilt pattern. You can follow me HERE on YouTube to get a notice when I upload the tutorials.

 And when you’ve made the quilt, send me a picture!

 

 

Christmas at the Unity Plenkiss

Christmas at the Unity Plenkiss by Cathe SwansonHave you read my Great Lakes Christmas books? If not, this is the time to pick them up, at a discounted price.  Christmas at the Unity Plenkiss includes both books – Snow Angels and Hope for the Holidays.

Life at the Unity Plenkiss Community Center is always interesting.  There are so many different kinds of people in this Chicago neighborhood. I think you’ll be touched and entertained by the stories.

The first book in the Great Lakes series, Baggage Claim, isn’t set at the Unity Plenkiss at all, but you’ll meet some of the characters there. There are two more books in this series. Chasing Grace will be available this winter, and Home Run will happen next summer.

As always, my books are Kindle Unlimited library, so if you are a subscriber, you can read them free!

Snow Angels

When Lisa Marsh is roped into serving Thanksgiving dinner at the local community center, she encounters hundreds of children, lively teenagers, stubbornly independent veterans, eccentric elderly people, and a particularly rude and scruffy homeless man named Pete. The evening ends in disaster, but when her best friend challenges her to reach out and help other people, Lisa decides to take on the project of reforming Pete – whether he likes it or not.
Her plan is simple: Help him find a job and become respectable. All he needs is a helping hand and some guidance. And a shave. Definitely, a shave.

Pete is willing to work, especially if it means spending time with the pretty volunteer, but her tactless determination to “reform” him makes him dig in his heels. Her creative ideas for employment become increasingly outrageous, but every time he tries to put an end to her meddling, she charms him with her good intentions and willingness to serve others.

Lisa finds herself unaccountably attracted to her vagabond protégé and irresistibly entangled in the lives of the other people she meets at the community center. Before she knows how to stop it, her one small service project snowballs into an extraordinary Christmas ministry that just may change her life forever.

Hope for the Holidays

Newly arrived from her home in the Congo and armed with a brand-new degree in nonprofit management, Carrie Strough is eager to organize and improve the Unity Plenkiss Community Center. Unfortunately, no one wants to be organized, and only Micah Neresen, the charming and handsome pastor of the local church, is interested in her plans. Or is he just interested in her?

With a cast of lively and eccentric characters including a homeless vet with PTSD, a con man, an elderly couple with an over-the-top Christmas display, a feisty committeewoman with a past of her own, and a police investigation, Micah and Carrie wonder if there is any hope for the holidays this year

A Sparkle of Silver by Liz Johnson

I’ve been busy preparing for the launch of Comfort & Joy, the 2018 Christmas Lights novella collection, but I took time to enjoy the new Liz Johnson book, A Sparkle of Silver.

A Sparkle of Silver by Liz Johnson

I’ve read other books by Liz Johnson, so when I was offered an advance reader copy of A Sparkle of Silver, I accepted it gladly and appreciated the break from my own writing! I really enjoyed it.  (Her book, not the break.) Millie and Ben are relatable – broke. burdened with responsibilities and guilt, doing the best they can in hard circumstances. They’re genuinely good people we like to root for.

We want them to succeed at finding the treasure because they aren’t just doing it for fun, being greedy. They need the money. Ben is stubbornly trying to make restitution for something that wasn’t his fault. Millie is desperate, working against a deadline to find enough money to pay for her grandmother’s care.

The setting – an opulent 1920’s era mansion with a history of lavish parties for the wealthy elite of Georgia – was intriguing. To gain access to the house, Millie got a job as a reenactor – dressing in the vintage clothing and putting on a show for guided tours through the historic building. I would have liked to read more about that, mostly because it sounds like a great job!

The historical romance and mystery were related through diary entries. Liz Johnson did a good job with this character. Ruth was a guest, not part of the rich crowd, and I could easily imagine her writing out the events and her feelings, a little overwhelmed and confused by her surroundings.

The ending is delightful for both timelines.  There is a swoony romantic scene and a not-too-outlandish happy resolution. I enjoyed it.

 

 

 

 

I look forward to the next book in this series, but unfortunately, it’s still nearly a year away. In the meantime, I recommend Ms. Johnson’s Prince Edward Island Dreams  series – especially if you’re an Anne of Green Gables fan!

Comfort & Joy

Comfort & Joy - The 2018 Christmas Lights Collection, with Alana Terry, Toni Shiloh, April Hayman, Cathe Swanson and Chautona HavigThis week, I’m finishing up my Christmas novella, The Christmas Glory Quilt. It will be my contribution to the 2018 Christmas Lights novella collection: Comfort & Joy.  This year’s collection is going to be bigger and better than ever before,  with contemporary Christian Christmas stories from Alana Terry, April Hayman, Toni Shiloh, Chautona Havig and me.  Isn’t it a beautiful cover?

Frost Heaves by Alana Terry
The Trouble with Christmas Cheer by April Hayman
Deck the Shelves by Toni Shiloh
The Christmas Glory Quilt by Cathe Swanson
The Ghosts of New Cheltenham by Chautona Havig

Comfort & Joy will be available exclusively on Amazon on October 15th. We’re looking for a few more launch team members, to help share the news. If you are interested in getting a free advance reader copy of the book and participating in our very fun Facebook group, please click HERE for more information and fill out the form.

 

The Christmas Glory Quilt

The Christmas Glory Quilt by Cathe Swanson - in the 2018 Christmas Lights Collection, Comfort & JoyThe Christmas Glory Quilt will be the first in a series with a seasonal quilt theme – Autumn Glory Quilt, Easter Glory Quilt, etc. (I still need to work on those titles!) Being an overachiever, I designed a quilt to go with the book and plan to offer the pattern as a bonus for early purchasers of the book.  It was a busy summer – and I had to write the book! – so it took a long time just to get it pieced.

Yesterday morning, my good friend and book cover designer, the multi-talented Chautona Havig, said, “I need pictures of the quilt, draped around two people. Now.” So I dropped everything and quilted. For nine hours, I sat at the dining room table and quilted. I finished about six o’clock and my husband helped me take pictures. Triumphantly, I sent them to Chautona.

But they weren’t good enough. An iPhone 5S may take good pictures for posting online, even indoors, but they aren’t good enough to use on the front of a printed book. I thought, “All that work, for nothing. I wasted the whole day, when I should have been working on the book, cleaning house, making dinner, taking a shower…”

Have you even done something difficult and then it fell short? Wasn’t good enough? Did it crush you? Make you feel like a failure? In my head, I know that now I have a finished quilt. I need to figure out how to get a better picture. It will be challenging, but I will make it work out. In my heart, I am disappointed. Deflated. Frustrated. I have to do the pictures all over again and I’m further behind on my book.

Redeeming the Time

But there was a grain of something good in the experience, and it wasn’t the quilt or the pictures. For about half an hour, my husband and I had a wonderful time together.

What we needed was a “green screen” picture of the quilt wrapped around two people. Chautona was going to cut out the quilt part of the picture and superimpose it on the purchased picture of these two attractive models. Kind of like paper dolls, if you remember those.

 

 

 

 

 

So the quilt had to be draped just right, to fit the existing picture. My husband hung a black sheet on the wall, and we set the laptop, open to the picture of the models, on a chair in front of us. To get the right angle, we put the phone/camera on top of a stepladder on top of the piano bench. We practiced standing in the right position first, and then we worked on arranging the quilt.

The thing is, those models are wrapped in a soft, stretchy knit blanket. A brand new quilt is stiff. It doesn’t drape. But we tried. We wrapped up in it, as best we could, then we scooted forward to push the camera button and scooted back, trying to get into position before the ten-second timer went off. It was hilarious. We laughed together, harder than we have in years. We have more ‘blooper’ shots than usable pictures. In most of them, we were rolled up like a burrito or shaped like a Christmas tree. Sometimes, the camera snapped the picture before we were ready.

 

And we laughed and laughed. My husband said, “We know how to do Friday night!” It was a good time, and it will be a sweet memory. Marriage is hard, and sometimes the fun is just drained away. Sometimes we – like many married couples – go along from day to day, doing what has to be done. So I spent a day making that quilt, and even though my original purpose wasn’t achieved, the time was redeemed. God knew we needed that “date night” more quilt pictures. Isn’t He wonderful?

Comfort & Joy

I look forward to sharing more about The Christmas Glory Quilt soon. I’m having so much fun writing it!  All of the books in this year’s collection, Comfort & Joy, are enjoyable, so watch for updates on the Comfort & Joy Facebook page. 

Amish Cooking with Rachel J. Good

Are you a creative cook? It should be easy for most of us. We have year-round access to foods from all over the world, in and out of season. We have refrigerators, stoves and a variety of electric appliances.  Best of all… we have Pinterest! And if we don’t cook, we can still order pizza, right?

How creative would you be without all those conveniences? Day after day, three meals a day? I’d probably do great for one week and then we’d starve. My creativity is not manifested in the kitchen, so I asked Rachel J. Good, author of best-selling Amish romances, to tell us how her Amish friends do it.

Hi Rachel! What inspired you to write Amish fiction?

Rachel J. Good and Amish CookingI grew up near Lancaster, and later when I worked in the library, we had many Amish patrons. I especially loved the Amish children who came to my storytimes. My best friend gave part of her farmland as a right-of-way to an Amish school, so we enjoy watching the children walking or driving their small pony carts to school. I now have many Amish friends in Lancaster County, who have invited me into their homes and lives. I admire their steadfast belief that God is in control of all circumstances of their lives and their forgiveness of others who wrong them, so I try to incorporate those values into my books along with the love and closeness of Amish families and communities.

It sounds your relationships there are a blessing!

One of the fun things about doing research for Amish novels is visiting my Amish friends in their homes. I admire how hard they work during the day. They get up at daybreak to gather eggs, milk cows, feed chickens and other animals, and then cook breakfasts for their large families. Their houses are always spotless, so they have long lists of chores to accomplish. And during the spring, summer, and fall, they add gardening and canning to their list of chores. Actually, they can all year, because they also can meats.

I’ve sometimes gone along to pick up bulk meats, and young boys pull wagonloads of chicken and beef to the car. (Yes, our Amish friends like us to drive them to get the huge meat orders. There’s not a lot of room in their buggies once all the children have been squeezed in.) When they get home, they have plenty of work to do. If you’ve ever seen an Amish basement or pantry, it’s filled with shelf after shelf of gleaming glass jars in a dazzling array of colors. In addition to chicken and other meats, those jars hold fruits, vegetables, tomato sauce, applesauce, cheese sauce, soup, pickles, jam, chow chow, grape juice, and many other delicious foods.

Canned food To can chicken, my Amish friends fill quart jars with raw, boneless chicken thighs. They add a 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper to the jar. They cook the jars in a hot water bath for three hours. If you have a pressure canner, you can cook the chicken for 90 minutes. This chicken is great for quesadillas, casseroles, and soups.

Having canned food on hand helps an Amish wife in many ways. If she needs to serve a quick dinner (lunch to the Englisch, or non-Amish) because friends stop by or she wants a “fast-food” meal after a long day of cleaning and outdoor work, she can send one of the children down the cellar to grab a few jars of ham and bean soup and applesauce. What does applesauce have to do with soup? If you ever dine with the Amish, you will see that they put applesauce on just about everything: pizza, bread, and even in soup. In just a few minutes she has a hot meal ready to serve her friends (adding some crackers and a dessert, of course) or a hearty meal for her whole family.

If her husband’s favorite supper is yummasetti, and she just doesn’t have all the ingredients to prepare it exactly the way the recipe says, she can take some macaroni and add a jar of cooked ground beef and a jar of canned cheese sauce to it and have a quick favorite (close to the real thing) ready when he gets home from work.

*Check out the Yummasetti recipe below!*

Some of the canned foods become part of the Sunday meal the Amish serve after church. Because the Amish meet in homes, each family will host the church service, usually twice a year, depending on the size of the district. Part of the Amish church meal is pickles. Most Amish women will can enough pickles each year to feed their families and to serve when church is at their homes. Pickles are also a staple at most meals.

Cooking with the Amish - manual chopper from AmazonWe often pop things into a microwave, but the Amish don’t have electricity. So how do they can foods, cook such good meals, or heat up leftovers? The more conservative Amish groups use woodstoves; other districts use propane or bottled gas to run appliances. As long as they aren’t hooked up to the grid, these appliances aren’t considered being part of the world. My Amish friends in Lancaster use gas and also run their refrigerators with propane. To warm leftovers, they usually put them in a saucepan or baking dish and heat them on the stove or in the oven covered with foil, so it doesn’t seem much different than our kitchens. But you won’t see any electrical appliances like blenders, mixers, choppers, etc., unless the home uses solar. Our friends have several manual choppers like the one pictured. All of our Amish friends also have grills and enjoy grilling hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken, fish, sausages, and other meats outside.

Yummasetti

4 lb hamburger

1 onion

12 oz macaroni

1 ½ qt potatoes

1 pt peas

2 cans cream of mushroom soup

1 can cream of chicken soup

3 c milk

Bread crumbs

Cheese

In a skillet, fry the hamburger with the onion. Cook macaroni and potatoes in two separate pots. Drain both. Mix meat, macaroni, and potatoes with peas and put mixture in a large roasting pan. Mix soups with milk and pour over the meat mixture. Cover and bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees.   Uncover and sprinkle with bread crumbs and cheese. Bake until cheese is melted.

Thanks, Rachel! It’s fascinating that even though the Amish are our neighbors, their lives are so different from our own – and in some ways, we are very much alike. I am looking forward to reading your recently released book, The Amish Teacher’s Gift! Can you tell me about it?

The Amish Teacher’s Gift was a joy to write. It’s about an Amish teacher in a special needs school. I had a wonderful time researching Amish methods of teaching their special children and was amazed how up-to-date their techniques were. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised, because although the Amish only go to eighth grade in school, all the Amish I know are lifelong learners. They came to the library often to get nonfiction books on many different topics.

The Amish Teacher's Gift by Rachel J. Good The Amish Teacher’s Gift by Rachel J. Good

Widower Josiah Yoder wants to be a good father. But it’s not easy with a deaf young son who doesn’t understand why his mamm isn’t coming home. At a loss, Josiah enrolls Nathan in a special-needs school and is relieved to see his son immediately comforted by his new teacher, a woman whose sweet charm and gentle smile just might be the balm they both need.

With seven siblings to care for, Ada Rupp wasn’t sure she wanted to take on teaching too. But the moment she holds Nathan in her arms, she realizes she’ll do all she can to help this lost little boy. Plus, it gives her a chance to spend more time with Josiah. Falling for a man in mourning may be against the rules, but his quiet strength is the support Ada never knew she needed. Yet with no time to court and a family secret holding her back, how can she allow herself to fall in love?

And available for preorder now:

The Amish Midwife's Secret by Rachel J. GoodThe Amish Midwife’s Secret by Rachel J. Good
Kyle Miller never planned on becoming a country doctor. But when he’s offered a medical practice in his sleepy hometown, Kyle knows he must return… and face the painful past he left behind. Except the Amish community isn’t quite ready for Kyle. Especially the pretty midwife who refuses to compromise her traditions with his modern medicine…
The more Leah Stoltzfus works with the handsome Englisch doctor, the more she finds herself caught between the expectations of her family and her own hopes for the future. It will take one surprising revelation and one helpless baby in need of love to show Leah and Kyle that their bond may be greater than their differences… if Leah can find the courage to follow her heart.

 

About the Love & Promises series:

Following Rumschpringe the Amish face many life decisions–embracing their faith, choosing their careers, entering lifelong relationships. A group of friends shares this heartwarming time as they grow, live, and learn to love.

 

 

 

The Love & Promises titles:

The Amish Teacher’s Gift  (April 24, 2018)

The Amish Midwife’s Secret (November 27, 2018)

The Amish Widow’s Rescue (May 26, 2019)

 

Rachel J. Good:

Rachel J. Good grew up near Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, the setting for many of her Amish novels. Striving to be as authentic as possible, she spends time with her Amish friends, doing chores on their farm and attending family events.

Rachel loves to travel and visit many different Amish communities. In searching for the best Amish soft pretzels, she’s visited many Amish markets, auctions, and mud sales. Because of her love of Amish food, she tries to include recipes in her books as often as possible. When she’s not traveling, she spends time with family and writing.

In addition to her Amish novels, she’s written more than 40 books, including children’s educational books, adult nonfiction, and fiction for children and teens under several pen names. To find out more about Rachel and her books, you can sign up for her newsletter: http://bit.ly/1qwci4Q

Where to find Rachel online: 

www.racheljgood.com

https://www.facebook.com/racheljgoodnovels/

https://www.facebook.com/people/Rachel-J-Good/100009699285059

https://twitter.com/RachelJGood1

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14661177.Rachel_J_Good

https://www.pinterest.com/racheljgood1/

https://www.amazon.com/Rachel-J-Good/e/B019DWF4FG

https://www.bookbub.com/authors/rachel-j-good

https://www.instagram.com/rachelj.good

Thank you, Rachel J. Good, for sharing those insights into the Amish community!

 

Amish Quilts Coloring Book by Rachel J. Good

As a professional quilter, I was tickled to see that Rachel has an Amish Quilts coloring book! How fun! Amish quilts are beautiful. A funny story about that…

At a local quilt guild meeting, nearly 30 years ago, we had a guest speaker who told us about Amish quilts. A newspaper reporter was there, and he wrote up a nice article with quotes from the speaker. A few weeks later, at the Amish market, one of the Amish ladies stopped me. She said, “I have a bone to pick with you!” That naturally surprised me very much, since we had just a pleasant, passing acquaintance, talking mostly about sewing and quilting.  I asked her why. “Because you said that we Amish people always make one deliberate mistake in our quilts, because only God is perfect. And that’s not true, because only God is perfect, and we make plenty of mistakes without doing it on purpose!” I didn’t try to explain that I wasn’t the one who had made that statement, but I apologized and said I would set the record straight at our next meeting. She smiled kindly and never mentioned it again.  It’s one of my favorite memories of the Amish community we lived near in Missouri.  They were such nice ladies.

Do you like reading Amish fiction? What aspects of the Amish community and life do you find most interesting?