Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Recipes I Tried for Christmas Eve

Alton Brown's Cooked Eggnog and Slow Cooker Hot Chocolate were two new recipes I tried for Christmas Eve.

Due to popular demand, I'm posting both recipes here. They are both worth making---truly delicious.

Make these for your New Year's Eve or New Year's Day gathering.

Alton Brown's Cooked Eggnog

4 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
1 pint whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
3 ounces bourbon
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
4 egg whites*

(I added a teaspoon of vanilla to the mixture at the same time I stirred in the bourbon.)

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg yolks until they lighten in color. Gradually add the 1/3 cup sugar and continue to beat until it is completely dissolved. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, over high heat, combine the milk, heavy cream and nutmeg and bring just to a boil, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and gradually temper the hot mixture into the egg and sugar mixture. Then return everything to the pot and cook until the mixture reaches 160 degrees F. Remove from the heat, stir in the bourbon, pour into a medium mixing bowl or pitcher, and set in the refrigerator to chill.

In a medium mixing bowl, beat the egg whites to soft peaks. With the mixer running gradually add the 1 tablespoon of sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Whisk the egg whites into the chilled mixture.

My suggestion: Serve the eggnog in decorative glasses. Garnish with a sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg.

Slow Cooker Hot Chocolate

1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
6 cups whole milk
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

In slow cooker (Crock Pot), stir together heavy cream, milk, vanilla and chocolate chips. Cover and cook on low for 3 hours, stirring occasionally, until chocolate chips have melted and mixture is hot. Stir again before serving. Top with your favorite fixings! Mini-marshmallows are a nice touch.

Refrigerate any leftovers. We froze our leftovers and the frozen concoction is wonderful. We call it "Frozen Hot Chocolate" and eat it in bowls with spoons, like ice cream.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Chocolate Crinkles from Memories Around the Table

Make these Chocolate Crinkles for your Christmas celebrations. They're easy to make and great for chocolate lovers! The recipe comes from my cookbook, Memories Around the Table: Treasured Recipes, and is in memory of Margaret Garman, mom to my friend, Barb Eyster.

Chocolate Crinkles
Margaret Esther Garman
June 21, 1926 ~ May 10, 2012

1 cup cocoa
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 cups white sugar (I usually use less)
4 eggs
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons buttermilk
For dipping
Powdered sugar
White sugar

Mix all ingredients together and refrigerate the dough overnight. When ready to bake, take the dough out and roll it into small balls. Dip each in white sugar and then in powdered sugar. Bake at 350⁰ F. for 8-10 minutes.
Don't over bake.

Merry Christmas!

Memories Around the Table is available at Amazon and at my Rivers of Life Gift Shop.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The cookie recipe from inside a novel

The aunt in my novel loves cookies. Here's a recipe from the novel.

Recipe for Aunt Kazuko’s Oatmeal Raisin Cookies (1946) from the new novel, Under the Silk Hibiscus by Alice J. Wisler (Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 ½ cups rolled oats
2/3 cup buttermilk
½ cup chopped nuts
1 cup seedless raisins
Cream shortening, blend in sugar and add egg. Beat until smooth and light. Sift flour with salt, soda and cinnamon. Stir half the flour in with egg mixture; add milk, the rest of flour, and then oats, nuts and raisins. Stir till well mixed. Drop from a teaspoon onto a buttered baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees F. for 10 minutes or until nicely browned. Yields about 36 cookies.

Book blurb for Under the Silk Hibiscus:
During World War Two, fifteen-year-old Nathan and his family are sent to Heart Mountain, an internment camp in Wyoming for Japanese-Americans. Nathan desires to protect the family's gold pocket watch, a family heirloom brought over from Japan. He fails; the watch is stolen. Struggling to make sense of his life in “the land of freedom” as the only responsible man of the household, Nathan discovers truths about his family, God, and the girl he loves. Get a copy of Under the Silk Hibiscus here.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Dear Santa, just get me through the season!

It's that season again, the one where we are supposed to feel joyful. Excited, as the commercials on TV tell us that new cars and diamonds bring happiness. Festive, as recipes for desserts circle social media. In love with our extended families, even though we haven't spoken to them since last Christmas.

But what if you just feel blah?

The problem with feeling like Scrooge is that we think we're alone. That's because few are brave enough to step up and admit, "I hate this season." "I want to sleep it away." "I don't care about any of it."

My psychiatrists friends are busy this season, not with baking pies and going to parties, but with clients who ask for help. "Just get me through Thanksgiving and Christmas," one of my friend's patients said.

When the season presents itself as a huge undertaking and there is no energy for it, sometimes that's all we ask: Just get me through it.

Forget the shopping, the sales, the glitter, the fun.

I remember feeling like that for the first Christmases after Daniel died. Take a dirty rag, wipe the sky and everything around me with it, and that was how I felt. To avoid the usual Christmas tradition, which Daniel would no longer be part of, we left Durham. Our first Christmas was in Greensboro at an Embassy Suites. The next was in the Outer Banks, the third without him was at a beach in Virginia. We left the house where Daniel had celebrated four Christmases and did something different.

And we lived through those early agonizing holidays without him.

Those experiences help me to see that others also find Christmas to be hard. You don't have to have had a death of a precious child to feel distraught during the season. You might be going through other calamities----the loss of a marriage, a job, declining health, or the loss of even hope.

Perhaps deciding not to believe the myth that everybody else has great plans or is happy will help as you make your way through December and into the new year. Perhaps journaling will benefit you as you pour your frustrations and fears onto paper. A meditative walk might give you new focus.

Others might suggest reaching out to those who are less fortunate is the answer. But when you're trying to hold your life together, you may not have any ability to reach out to anyone. Praying might even be more of a wrestling match than a time of solace and mercy. You might just want to put on a slow song, set the timer and give yourself permission to cry for five good long minutes.

This season could be just plodding through one day at a time. I'm no psychiatrist, but from my own sorrow, I would say: Allow yourself to plod. Not feeling joyous at Christmas is not a punishable crime. Besides, to be honest, no one is experiencing every day of the month with bright smiles and sugary bliss, even those who appear to be.

The season will end, and at the end, you can say that you survived. It might not seem like a big feat, but deep down, you will know that it's a big accomplishment. The skills you discover might come in handy for other times when life is tough.

After all, life is all about adjusting and adapting. To live is to struggle. Don't believe anyone who tells you that life is meant to be a bowl of happiness.

Even the son of God, whose birh we celebrate at Christmas, came into a suffering world to suffer. He knows just how dismal being human can be. And He reaches out to all, offering peace, love, and hope.

Struggling with getting out of bed in the morning? This little devotional might help.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Chapter One, Under the Silk Hibiscus

When a Japanese-American family is sent to an internment camp, torn from all they know, they each struggle with loss, betrayal, and anger, but hope is what ultimately gets them through.

Under the Silk Hibiscus

Chapter One
As an afternoon wind blew over the camp’s sagebrush terrain, I wiped dust from my face with a handkerchief that once belonged to Papa. Frustration, like the surrounding barbed wire fences, taunted me. At breakfast, something vile overcame me; I’d demanded to know if anyone knew about Papa. I targeted my aunt because she was the easiest to bully. As I continued insisting that she tell me what she knew, the families at the nearby tables lifted their faces from bowls of dry rice. Shut up, I could read from the older men’s and women’s expressions. We’re at war; this is no time for you to become hostile. Besides, you are only a child.

Since there had been no communication from Papa after that fateful day in February when two FBI agents entered our home in San Jose, I was certain he was dead. They had taken him away in handcuffs. “Spy,” the tall one with a crew cut had called him. “We know you are working with Japan’s military.”

As the memory of that day burned in my mind, I trudged toward the camp’s latrine, bucket in hand. Yesterday afternoon, Lucy had smiled at me; I’d nearly danced across the dirt road. Today, I felt almost as despairing as the day Mama, my aunt, my brothers, and I were told we had forty-eight hours to pack up for relocation.

“Relocation,” Mama had cried, the word obviously foreign to her. “We don’t need to go anywhere. We are happy here.”

But happiness had not been the point. Fear seemed to be. Was it the picture of Emperor Hirohito on our living room wall that made Caucasian men tremble? Did they think that Mama was sitting under her knitted grey shawl at the kitchen table, sending messages across the Pacific to the enemy?

My thoughts sprang, one bouncing off another. An army truck sped past toward the mess hall, creating a blanket of dust around the row of bleak barracks. The roar of its engine brought me back to reality, and I increased my pace. If I weren’t careful, I’d wind up like my ten-year-old brother, Tom, who seemed to live in his own world of poetry books and fantasies. Tom could get away with it on two accounts. One, he was only ten, and two, he’d had polio, so was lame in his right leg. But I, Nathan Mori, was able-bodied and must not dilly-dally. Dilly-dally, that had to be my aunt Kazuko’s favorite word. She used it as often as she could. When I’d set out with a bucket just moments earlier, she had called out, “Don’t dilly-dally.”

At the communal lavatories, I hoisted the metal bucket to the sink and watched it fill with water. I splashed some of the tepid liquid onto my forehead, cheeks, and nose. Using Papa’s handkerchief, I wiped my face again. Papa, where are you?

“How is your mother?” an elderly woman stopped to ask as I made my way back to our barracks. She was one of the few who wore a kimono. Today, she was dressed in a charcoal one, the color of Heart Mountain at dusk.

I wanted to give her a hug for showing concern, but that would probably set her off. She was the same woman who complained in the mess hall that we should have seaweed. How, she’d shouted, was she supposed to eat steamed rice without a piece of nori? Aunt Kazuko had warned me not to tell this woman too much about our family affairs because she was a busybody. She’d been known to spread gossip quicker than sagebrush blew over the campsite. However, after my outburst this morning, keeping our family concerns a secret was over. Everyone now knew that I was angry. What did I have to hide?

“Your mother?” the woman asked again. “I didn’t see her at breakfast or at lunch.”

I felt the weight of the bucket in my hands, almost as heavy as the thoughts of my mother. “She’s all right.”

It was a lie, and something told me that Mrs. Busybody knew it. For a second I thought she was going to accuse me of not telling the truth; it wouldn’t have been out of her character.

She shielded the sun from her face with a thin hand pocked with liver spots. “Well,” she said, and gave a deep sigh. “Well.” With a nod, as though she had just recalled what to say next, she added, “I think she needs ginger root. My grandmother swore it helped her when she was pregnant. Is she sleeping at night? She needs her sleep.”

I didn’t want to go into all the details of how Mama had spiked a fever and moaned last night, keeping all four of us in our living quarters awake until the sun broke through the dark Wyoming sky, its broadcast of a new day. Only then had she calmed and settled into sleep. “I can come over. I’ll have tea with your aunt.”

I nodded, tried to smile, and said I had to go. As I took a step toward our barracks, the woman called out after me.
“You know, your father is not a spy.”

At her words, unexpected tears swarmed in my eyes. “Yes.” I drew a breath. “I know he isn’t.”

“He’s just in a camp. Like this one. No seaweed there either.”

Suddenly, I was aware that time had slipped, and I was late. The wrath of Aunt Kazuko was near, I could feel it. I hurried toward our barracks, allowing myself one last glance over the plains at the limestone mountain that emerged from behind the camp’s barbed wire fences. That was Heart Mountain, a strange name for a mountain by a camp that seemed so heartless. There were days I wished I could run to the mountain’s knobby peak and hide out until this war ended. But with looming guard towers strategically placed around the facility, there was no hope of that happening.

Once I stepped inside our family’s one-room unit, constructed of wood and insulated with tarpaper, my aunt rushed toward me like a military Jeep. “Where were you? I am dying here.” She had a robust face and stocky body to match, and I doubted she was anywhere near death.

At the lone table that stood in the middle of the room with cots to the left and right, Aunt Kazuko removed a glass and steadied it as I carefully poured water into it. This was a ritual we were familiar with, and no words were needed.

Aunt Kazuko carried the glass to Mama, who lay in one of the cots, a cotton sheet pulled over her protruding belly. As she helped Mama up, my aunt barked at me, “You need to go to hospital and tell them to come here. Your mother need medicine.”

I dismissed her choppy orders, spoken in a language she had not quite mastered. Yesterday, I made a trip to the hospital and, after waiting for fifteen minutes, a nurse came to my aid. She followed me to our barracks to check on Mama. She probed and asked a few questions while Aunt Kazuko and I stood around Mama’s bedside, trying not to appear anxious. The nurse told me that the baby would be here any minute now and to make Mama as comfortable as I could. She’s going to be fine, I said to myself, recalling the nurse’s words from yesterday.

Lifting a wobbly chair, I placed it closer to my mother’s bed. I smiled at her, remembering how she used to button my sweater on winter mornings and, with a playful smile, tell me that I was her favorite son named Nathan. “Hey, Mama.”

With Aunt Kazuko supporting her, Mama took a few sips of water before easing onto the uneven mattress filled with hay. She gave a weak smile. “Nathan,” she breathed. “My favorite Nathan.”

Aunt Kazuko moved to the table, poured her own glass of water and nibbled on a sugar cookie, one she had stowed away in her sleeve after dinner last night. She was always hiding morsels of food. If anyone ever wanted a late night snack, digging through my aunt’s sleeves would be a good move. I was grateful that my aunt gave me some time alone with Mama. Usually, she was flittering about, interjecting her worries. I took Mama’s hand in mine, noting the slender fingers, the simple gold ring that signified her union with Papa. Papa, who was somewhere, but had not been heard from in over six months.

Stroking Mama’s palm, I wished. It is a scary thing to wish when you know the wish can’t come true.

Nevertheless, I wished that she could play the piano like she used to. It seemed that no matter what was going on in my life, when Mama played Chopin or Beethoven, the world was a tranquil place. I was about to form a prayer of asking. In my opinion, people usually pray on one of two occasions—to ask for something or to thank God for something. I had no time to offer up a prayer of asking because my mother interrupted my thoughts.

“You work too hard.” She spoke as though the words sapped all her energy. I wanted to hear her voice, yet at the same time, I wanted her to rest and not tire herself by talking.

“Are you too warm?” Before she could nod yes, I picked up a silver and red silk fan that rested against the top of her leather suitcase under the foot of her cot. Opening it, the scent of sandalwood permeated the air. I moved it across her pale face. The breeze from it fluttered strands of hair into her eyes.

I brushed the black strands, smoothing them with my fingers over her scalp. I’d seen my father do this once and was captivated by what an act of sacrifice it was. He had taken time, time away from the business, time away from a game of chess—his love—to spend time with my mother and do something for her. The thought of that scene made it hard to swallow.

I needed to get a grip, as Ken, my seventeen-year-old brother always told me. Recently I’d been plagued with too many tears. “I ask God to give you some time for fun,” Mama said, pausing between each word. “You need fun.”

“Not everyone can run around and play,” I wanted to say, but I was sure if I said it, she’d accuse me of being too hard on my older brother. Ken felt life should be a playground and neither work nor household chores seemed to get in the way of him doing what he wanted.

She winced and closed her eyes. “Nathan,” she said after a moment. “I want you to make a promise.”

I leaned in closer as her dark eyes looked intently into mine. “The watch . . . You keep it safe.”

Immediately my view shifted from her face to beneath her cot. Inside her leather suitcase was the family heirloom, the gold and diamond pocket watch my grandparents had brought over on the freighter from Hiroshima. Of course, I knew of its importance, of the story that was behind that expensive piece of craftsmanship. I’d heard Papa tell how a member of nobility had requested a local craftsman to design the watch. When my grandfather saved the nobleman’s daughter from a raging river, the watch had been presented to him in appreciation for his act of valor. It had been in the Mori family ever since. Mama gasped for air, coughing. “Nobu?”

I sat straight. It was seldom that she called me by my Japanese name. “I will,” I vowed, recalling the Boy Scout promises I once held important. “I’ll keep it safe.”

Moistening her lips, she closed her eyes. “Good,” she whispered as the sun vacated the sky, casting shadows through the window onto her blanket. “Good. I know I can count on you.”


After dinner, Ken, Tom, and I walked from the mess hall over to the Yokota’s barracks which was parallel to ours, just across the dusty dirt road. Ken matched Tom’s slower pace—slower than most due to Tom’s right leg brace. The two conversed about baseball, recalling a game some of the boys had played at the camp when we’d first arrived. I hadn’t played or watched as I’d been searching for spare pillows for Mama so that she could sit comfortably in her cot during the day. She liked having pillows propped around her back and belly.

“That was the first time I’d ever seen you get a home run,” Tom said to Ken.

“Just call me Babe Ruth.” Ken laughed.

“I bet you were beat after that. I know I’d have been. That was a lot of running.”

“Ah, when you’re that happy, you don’t feel tired.”

I lagged behind, feeling a little sick, as the noodles and chicken I had just eaten thickened and soured in my stomach. The searchlights scoured the camp, I watched their beams and then looked beyond them over the barbed wire fence toward Heart Mountain. The mountain seemed close, like if I reached out, I could touch it, but I knew it was miles away.

At the entrance to the Yokota’s barracks, Ken paused and turned toward me. “Aren’t you coming?”

“Nah. Can’t,” I mumbled. Of course I wanted to hear Fusou Yokota sing. To my ears, her Japanese name of Fusou had to be one of the most beautiful names. And it matched everything else about her. Ken argued that Fusou wasn’t that great of a name. “It’s just a name. Nothing else.” What did he know anyway? I bet he’d never taken the time to repeat it several times in a silent room and watched how that name filled every dark corner with light. He didn’t know how it sounded as it pushed over his lips like a puff of air. He called her by her American name, Lucy, which was not nearly as special. In fact, everybody called her Lucy. Even she went by Lucy.

That evening, although I wanted to join my brothers, I rushed into our barracks to check on Mama. Someone had to be responsible. I hoped that the bowl of rice I had for her was still warm enough for her to enjoy. I entered our living quarters and shut the front door.

Seated next to Mama, Aunt Kazuko removed an object from her pocket. As I drew nearer to her and to Mama’s cot, I saw that it was a small sugar cookie. “I need a little pep,” my aunt confessed as she chewed. “Dinner was too small. A little pep for pep-me-up.”

Mama groaned. “Kazuko, you will turn into a cookie.”

I laughed. Ever since she’d been bedridden, Mama had been uncomfortable, but when her words showed that she still had her
humor intact, I knew that she couldn’t be suffering too much. I handed her the bowl of rice as my aunt scurried around the barracks for a pair of chopsticks.

Wanting to hear Lucy, I opened the wooden front door. Immediately, dust flew into our quarters, burning my eyes.
“You always forget to open slow,” my aunt chided. “Slow is best way.”

I also knew that quiet was best way, but now was not the time to pick a fight with my aunt.

Aunt Kazuko complained about not having shampoo that she liked. “My hair is like dried shrimp when I use that green stuff.”

“You should head over to the salon,” said Mama, referring to the hairdresser two barracks down who cut hair for fifteen cents. “She might have some better shampoo.”

My aunt finished her cookie and wiped stray crumbs from her lap.

“I need hair color, too,” she said and then explained in her native tongue about how her roots were looking grey.

We were forbidden to speak Japanese inside the camp. All the signs reminded us of this. Yet, there was something comforting about hearing the language of my people spoken. There were words for which English had no equivalence like gambare and gaman, words of encouragement and endurance.

Suddenly, my aunt stopped talking. From across the camp we heard the sweet voice of Lucy. Tonight she was singing about God watching over us.

“Go on,” Mama said to me as my aunt lifted a bite of rice on wooden chopsticks to Mama’s mouth.

“Go on what?”

She chewed the rice, swallowed and then shifted in her bed, her large belly protruding underneath the sheet. With a weak gesture, she brushed back hair from her forehead. “Go over to her house.”

My whole being lurched into one word: YES! Yes, I would head over there, yes, I had Mama’s blessing and yes, yes, again, yes, this would be my chance to get Fusou Lucy Yokota to notice me.

Inside the Yokota’s living quarters, men, women, and children were seated on mats on the floor. To the left of the stove hung a rope with an assortment of garments on it—a man’s shirt, a woman’s skirt, a hand towel, and a blouse.

Lucy stood near the table; cots had been pushed to the walls to make room for the crowd. I found a spot on the floor crammed between Tom and my classmate and friend from San Jose, Charles. Lucy had finished one song and was preparing to sing another. I was just in time! Charles’s elbow accidently jerked into my side, but I didn’t care. Pain didn’t matter, I was in the presence of Lucy!

All conversation stopped as Lucy nodded at the gathered group, the cue that she was about to sing. Her song was one I had never heard before, something about a lost canary finding sanctuary in a hollow log.

We were confined to a camp, away from all we knew, many of us separated from family members, but to hear her voice, that soprano timbre that was distinctly hers, made the smile stay on my face during her entire song.

When she finished, we clapped. A man in the front, with a boy on his lap, asked if she could sing a song in Japanese for his son, one about
he rain.

Ken rose to his feet, stepped over seated bodies, and moved toward Lucy. He poured water into a cup from a metal bucket that sat on a birch table, a table identical to the one we had in our unit. Gently, he handed it to her.

Why couldn’t I have done that? The answer was simple—that thought never crossed my mind. Whenever I saw Lucy, all I could think of was how pretty she was, how I couldn’t wait to hear her sing, and how I hoped that she’d look at me. I couldn’t think about actually doing something more.

She thanked him, her lips then pressed into a tiny smile. Ken winked at her and then slipped back to where he had been

Why couldn’t I be more like my older brother? I’d prayed to be, feeling that it must be all right to ask God to make a person more suave. After all, the Bible said somewhere that God opens His hands and satisfies all His creation with their desires. Ever since we’d come to camp, Lucy had been my desire.

When I drifted off to sleep that night, the sound of Aunt Kazuko’s snores penetrating my thoughts, I wondered how I could get Lucy to notice me. Dreaming about her was easy; it was the actual communicating that left me in a quandary.

In August, after we first arrived at camp, I saw her walking on the road, the wind in her long hair, a pensive look on her face. I decided I could do it and summoned the courage to speak to her. I’d seen her at the assembly center in Santa Anita, but had never said a word to her during our months there. Here was my chance! Standing in her path, I waited for her to approach me. She stopped, cocked her head to the side and said, “Hello.”

My throat was as dry as the summer air. “Uh . . .” She waited, a smile on her lips.

I’d almost forgotten what I’d wanted to say.

Looking me in the eyes, she asked, “You’re Ken’s brother, aren’t you?”

Borrowing strength from somewhere, I blurted, “Why do you want to be called Lucy?”

For a moment, her hand toyed with the silver barrette behind her ear. I was afraid that she wasn’t going to answer. “We are Americans,” she said at last. “Fusou is the old name for Japan. I can’t be associated with Japan now.”

“But you can still use that name,” I protested. “Your mother and father gave it to you. It’s . . . it suits you.”

The smile she flashed made my heart quiver. How could one person cause another to feel such . . . such tenderness toward her and affection? I swallowed and kicked a rock with my shoe, just for something to do, just because I didn’t want to be caught staring at her.

Read more by going here.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Autographed copy of Under the Silk Hibiscus

For all those wanting an autographed copy of Under the Silk Hibiscus, here is your chance! By clicking on the PayPal button below you can order one copy or three.

Under the Silk Hibiscus

Eat raisin cookies, get smarter!

Where else can you munch on oatmeal-raisin cookies and increase your knowledge of World War II? Under the Silk Hibiscus, my newest novel, provides the reader with food for the body and the mind. Set in one of the Japanese-American interment camps, the aunt in the story loves to have a "pep", a.k.a., a cookie. So I knew that there had to a recipe in the back for cookies. All of my other novels have recipes and I wanted this one to be just like them.

There are differences, though. My other five novels are all set in North Carolina. This newest one takes place in Heart Mountain, Wyoming. But I had to bring some South to it, so I made one of the soldiers Southern. And after the war, one of the internees heads for North Carolina to work at Lucky Strikes in Durham (where I live now).

This is also my first historical fiction. Research became my friend.

I grew up in Japan as a missionary kid and so my love for the Japanese and all things Japanese is ingrained in me. I feel like that shows in my story. The research part did make me sad as I saw how poorly American citizens were treated----just because they looked like the enemy. My desire was to portray the truth of how things were for Japanese-Americans both during and after the war. The discrimination was brutal. To keep the balance, I had to rely on humor. After all, my books must have that vital ingredient.

Whether you know a little or a lot about the plight of Japanese-Americans who lived on the West Coast during WWII and were sent to camps, I hope you'll enjoy Under the Silk Hibiscus.

And don't forget to bake the cookies so you can get the full flavor of the story. When Aunt Kazuko says she needs a pep for "pep me up", you should freely have one, too.

Pick up a copy for yourself and one to give as a gift this Christmas. The novel is available in both e-book and print versions.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Who inspired you to write?

She was old, round, and short. Her gray hair curled around her face, a face with eyes that peered sternly at her students through a pair of black-rimmed glasses. She carried a sharp number 2 pencil with her long before I knew what a number two pencil was. On the blackboard, she produced some of the finest letters of the alphabet I had ever seen. True, at age six I hadn’t seen many, but I knew that my teacher was precise and neat. Miss Terwilliger taught me to read and to write, but she did more than that. She overlooked my sloppy penmanship and read the stories I created. She then read aloud them to the class. In second grade, she was my teacher again, and marched me and my classmates into the third and fourth grade classroom where I read more of my stories. There was Susie Has the Chicken Pops and The Birthday Party.

Because of Miss Terwilliger, I knew I could write. She accepted every stapled stick-person-illustrated-messy-lettered story I gave her. These were not part of any assignment, just my passion coming through. Something about her made me want to share my tales. Perhaps even at a young age, I recognized that with her, my stories were safe.

All these years later when I’m asked which great author encouraged me the most in my writing, I’m not certain. But when I let my mind detour from authors and meet me in a little Victorian-style school in Kyoto, Japan, I find my answer. Miss Terwilliger taught me that I am and have always been an author.

Contributed by Alice J. Wisler
This article was first posted at The Most Important Thing.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Just a quick post: Under the Silk Hibiscus

And it's November! This is the month that Under the Silk Hibiscus releases!

I look forward to sharing my story with you. I can't wait for you to meet Nathan Mori, Lucy, and Aunt Kazuko. Nathan takes us through his life as the middle son of a Japanese-American family from San Jose, California. He and his family are sent away to an internment camp in Heart Mountain, Wyoming after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. As you read Under the Silk Hibiscus, I hope you'll have a clearer understanding of what it meant for the 110,000 Japanese-Americans who had to evacuate their homes on the west coast and live in internment camps throughout America. I hope your knowledge of this stressful time in our country's history will increase, as well as your sympathy. But most of all, I want you to enjoy the read!

I don't want to create any spoilers. I don't want to disclose too much for those who have not read the book. But it's not too early to tell you what you will learn pretty early on----Nathan is in love with Lucy, the young girl who sings in the camp.

". . . Your book is a love story much more than it is a romance. Thank you. I really enjoyed the book." ~ Lelia Rose Foreman

Will Nathan make it out of camp? Will Lucy notice him? Will Nathan be reunited with his father, thought to be a spy?

Soon, soon, you can find out for yourself!

Get your copy at Amazon.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Cooking with Author Tina Ann Forkner!

Who is Tina? For those of you who have not read any of her novels, you are in for a treat! I'm happy to have her as my guest today at my blog.

Tina Ann Forkner is the author of three novels including Ruby Among Us and Rose House (Random House), as well as her latest release, Waking Up Joy (Oct./Tule). Tina was raised in rural Northeastern Oklahoma where her most recent novel is set, but she makes her home in Cheyenne, Wyoming with her husband and their three teenagers. Tina has spent time serving on the Laramie County Library Foundation Board and is currently a substitute teacher for the Laramie County School District. Learn more: www.tinaannforkner.com

And here is one of Tina's favorite recipes.

Tina’s Easy Strawberry-Lemon JELL-O Cake

Joy Talley, in Waking Up Joy, is famous for her strawberry-lemon cake and people in the book want to get the secret recipe. As the author, I like to make the easy version that my Mom made when I was a little girl. You won’t believe how simple it is. Joy’s friends could have just made this one and it would have tasted almost as dreamy.


One Prepared 13x9x2 inch Lemon Cake (From a mix, of course or it wouldn’t be easy.)
One Unprepared 3 oz. Pkg Strawberry JELL-O
1 Cup boiling water
½ Cup cold water
2 Prepared Pkg Dream Whip topping. (It has to be Dream Whip. Be careful not to let the berries “bleed” onto the dream whip. That’s why you prepare both packages. The thicker the cloud the better.)
2 pkg sliced fresh strawberries
1 thinly sliced lemon

Let prepared lemon cake cool
Dissolve JELL-O mix in the boiling water. Mix in the cold water. Set aside.
Use the end of a fork to poke holes evenly (or randomly) in the cake.
Ladle the JELL-O liquid over the cake evenly ensuring all holes have been filled.
Place cake in fridge for one hour. (Or hurry it up by putting it in the freezer.)
Lay 1 pkg of the sliced berries on top of the cake.
Prepare Dream Whip. Spread it on the cake until it looks like a fluffy cloud.
Add the rest of the strawberries to the top of the cake.
Refrigerate for another 2 to 3 hours. (Or hurry it up by… you guessed it…the freezer.)
When you slice it, the pretty yellow cake should have pink stripes. Serve it on a pretty paper plate and garnish with one of the thin lemon slices.

A bit about Waking Up Joy

Behind every dream lost lies a second chance. When Joy Talley wakes up from a coma, her quirky brothers and sisters think she is off her rocker, but she has never felt better. Now Joy must face her darkest secret and risk reopening old wounds. Taking risks brings change, and suddenly Joy’s once humdrum, rural life in Oklahoma is anything but routine. Filled with magical charm and a small-town love story that transcends time, Waking Up Joy tackles dark secrets and complex relationships with wit, humor, and insight.

"One title that should appeal to those crossover women's fiction readers is Waking Up Joy (Tule, Oct.), by Tina Ann Forkner. When the adored town spinster ends up in a coma and is shocked by the conversations she overhears about herself while down for the count, she is determined to fix things. Joy must face the past--and her failed romances--in order to embrace a brighter future." - Library Journal

You can find Waking Up Joy here:


Barnes and Noble

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Historical Romance, Under the Silk Hibiscus

And in less than four weeks, my sixth novel, Under the Silk Hibiscus, will arrive!

This novel takes place in an internment camp in Wyoming where many Japanese-Americans were sent after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. There's upheaval, frustration, pain, and sorrow. Families are separated. Some members are accused of being spies, like Nathan Mori's father.

To balance the discrimination that evolved during this time period, I had to rely on humor and romance.

One of the most fun relationships I enjoyed crafting was between the main character, Nathan, and his aunt Kazuko. Even though she's single and has no children of her own, Aunt Kazuko knows how to keep Nathan and his brothers in line. She knows truth----particularly that a body can't live on hard work alone. She loves cookies and keeps morsels in her sweater sleeves, taking them out when she needs a "pep".

And of course, there's young romance. Nathan dreams of the lovely singer, Lucy, and wants her to notice him, but she seems more interested in his older brother, Ken.

There are two characters which are not people---one is Heart Mountain, the mountain viewed every day from those in the barracks at the camp. Then there is the Mori family's coveted gold watch, a family heirloom from Japan.

So the questions form: Will Nathan get the girl? What happens to the family heirloom during the war and after the war ends? Does Nathan's father return? How does war and discrimination change hearts? How does God's love prevail?

Here's the book blurb:

During World War Two Nathan and his family are sent to Heart Mountain, an internment camp in Wyoming for Japanese-Americans. Nathan's one desire is to protect the family's gold pocket watch, a family heirloom brought over from Japan. He fails; the watch is stolen. Struggling to make sense of his life in a bleak camp as the only responsible man of the household, Nathan discovers truths about his family, God, and the girl he loves.

Read more at Amazon.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Guest blogger, Author Sandy Ardoin

Today my guest is Sandy Ardoin, a fellow Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas author.

Let's take a peek into her new book.

It's Christmastime in 1890s Meadowmead, and someone is venturing out at night to leave packages at the homes of the needy. Dubbed The Yuletide Angel, no one knows the identity of this mysterious benefactor.

No one, except Hugh Barnes, a confirmed bachelor who finds himself drawn to the outwardly shy but inwardly bold Violet Madison, a young woman who risks her safety to help others.

When Violet confesses her fear of eviction from her childhood home, Hugh longs to rescue her. His good intentions are thwarted, however, when Hugh's estranged brother shows up in town ... and in Violet's company.

But Violet faces an even bigger threat. A phantom figure lurks in the shadows, prepared to clip the wings of The Yuletide Angel.

Passionate about horses and a fan of old westerns, it’s only natural that Sandra Ardoin sets her stories in the days of the horse and buggy. Her Christmas novella, The Yuletide Angel, is no exception.

Her short stories have been published in both adult and juvenile denominational publications, and her story “Get A Clue” is part of the Family Ties: Thirteen Short Stories collection.

Sandy is the married mother of a young adult.

Visit her at her website (www.sandraardoin.com) and on the Seriously Write blog. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Goodreads, and Pinterest. To receive updates, fun facts, and special offers, sign up for her newsletter.

You can get a copy of The Yultide Angel, published by Heritage Beacon, a division of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, by clicking here.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Under The Silk Hibiscus, my newest novel

Unfortunately, our country has a history of discrimination. During World War Two, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, Japanese-Americans were targeted. Out of fear, the United States government had those on the west coast sent to internment camps. Even though many of them were American citizens, they had to evacuate their homes, sell their belongings, and leave their businesses and friends.

Under the Silk Hibiscus, my sixth novel, is a story of such a time as this. The main character, Nathan, tells his saga through his fifteen-year-old eyes when he and his family were sent to Heart Mountain, Wyoming. As he grows older, we continue to hear, not only about life in the camp where his family lived until the war ended, but about life after the war when they returned to their hometown of San Jose, California and tried to rebuild their lives.

Early the next morning before faint sunlight crept through our billet’s slats, Aunt Kazuo screamed. “The baby is coming! The baby! Somebody help us!”

Ken wasn’t in our barracks. His cot was empty, untouched; in fact, both the pillow and wool army blankets were still in place as though he hadn’t slept there at all.

As usual, it was going to be up to me. I scrambled out of my own cot. One of my blankets fell onto the floor. From the back of a wicker chair, I pulled off a checkered shirt and then grabbed a pair of trousers that were in a heap at the foot of my bed. Once dressed, I worked my feet into my shoes and looked for my jacket. I didn’t wait for Aunt Kazuo to tell me not to dilly-dally. Sprinting toward the clinic, the frosty autumn air didn’t bother me.

By the time I reached the clinic, my face was damp from sweat. The main door was locked. I banged on it; I had to get a doctor.

Mekley, one of the uniformed soldiers assigned to the camp, appeared from the clinic’s vicinity. “What in tarnation are you doing?” he cried.

“I need a doctor.”

“Well, I need a million dollars.” He spoke with a drawl. Everybody told me it was southern. I didn’t know for sure. I’d never heard a southern accent before. I just knew that he was ornery. That characteristic had nothing to do with accents.

“I need a good woman too.” He winked, but it wasn’t a wink like Ken’s; it made me feel dirty to have witnessed it. “Know where I can find one?” he asked.

Thirst cloaked my throat and I tried to swallow to ease the dryness. Mama needed help and it was up to me. “Where’s the doctor? Where’s Doctor . . . ?” My mind suddenly became like a boarded-up window. What was the doctor’s name from San Jose? “Yamagata.”

“Ya-ma-ga-ta?” He said, drawing the surname out like it was a piece of taffy, the kind you got at the fair. “What happened that you need a doctor?”

“My mother’s having a baby.”

He grinned. “A baby, huh? Another one?”

I wasn’t sure what he meant by that. I knocked on the door again and then heard a strong and familiar voice from behind. “Are you looking for me?”

Turning around, I tasted relief. Dr. Yamagata stood before me, a Dunlap hat on his head.

“You have to come. My mother is in labor.”

“Can’t she come to the hospital like all the other mamas?” asked Mekley.

Under the Silk Hibiscus will make her debut on Veteran's Day, November 11---an appropriate date.

Under the Silk Hibiscus can be pre-ordered on Amazon.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Because we remember always

One of the reasons we are Carved By Heart is because we treasure memories. Memories----happy, silly, fun, tender and sometimes tearful---live in our hearts. We have lost a great love, but we have not lost love. Our loved for those no longer here on earth with us is forever present. I know that my memories of my son Daniel are always ready for me to recall and sometimes, even after nearly 18 years, I can still feel his four-year-old fingers in my hand.

Candles are a great symbol of remembrance. Candles offer a wonderful glow, a light to let us know that our loved one's light lives on.

Taking an unscented white pillar candle, we have embellished it with strips of white and purple ribbon. To personalize, we've added a label with a loved one's name. We've carved the name into a wooden stand with a carved dark brown border. There's an indentation for the candle. And then, we've included a silver photo frame. As a final touch, we've added a wooden heart, painted it in silver and glitter. Under the name, we've added a tiny silver charm.

Our remembrance candles burn bright in memory of our loved ones.

See more photos of our candles here at this link. We are happy to personalize a candle and stand/holder for you.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Advice for a Dead Child’s Birthday? Do What YOU Need

A living child asks for a birthday party. Or you, as the parent, ask him what he wants for his birthday. There’s dialogue. There’s a cake and candles and presents. The camera captures the smiles as he tears open his gifts. It’s easy. It’s tradition. Parents fall into bed at night, exhausted, but grateful. Their son or daughter seemed happy with her birthday. Moms and Dads rest-—they did it!

But what exactly is a parent supposed to do on the birthday of her child when he is gone? Not gone, as in out of town or at the beach, or out of the country. Gone as in-—no longer alive.

A dead child doesn’t want. A dead son asks for nothing.

What does a mom or dad do? Where’s the rule book for celebrating birthdays for a dead child?

Every year I hope to come up with something creative. Every year something comes forth-—a poem, an article, an idea, some gift to a charity in Daniel's memory. Each year I recall a little boy who told me that he wasn’t supposed to say "customer words" (cuss words). A little boy who celebrated his last birthday, his fourth, with the help of friends, family, and a big red fire truck that stopped by to give him and his guests plastic firemen hats. (Daniel didn’t seem too impressed, but he wore the hat over his bald head anyway.)

Today, Monday, is Daniel’s 22nd birthday. I want to go to Daniel’s Place, i.e., the cemetery. My three kids are busy with work and the first day of school.

How many years since Daniel’s death has the first day of school come on his birthday? Another reminder that he never got to go to real school, just Mother’s Morning Out at a church and a few sessions with the teacher at the hospital school.

My kids are remembering their brother. Liz, the youngest, who was born three months after he died, tells me she remembered at school today. But she isn't eager about going to Daniel's Place. What she wants is a nap after the first day of her senior year, a nap before she has to go to work.

I decide. I make a decision, those things that were so hard to do right after Daniel died. I’d made so many when he was alive undergoing treatments for his malignant tumor. When he died, I wanted to not have to decide anything.

But today I will go alone to Daniel’s Place. Because I am going to do what I need to do. This is my son’s birthday and he’s not here and I decide that it’s perfectly acceptable to be a bit selfish. Even though I’m a mom and moms are always doing for others and neglecting their own needs, I’m allowed. I will go alone to sit by his grave and not wait for others to find time to join me.

Carl says he’ll go with me. He never met Daniel either.

We stop at the Dollar Store and buy a Happy Birthday balloon with a butterfly. We indulge in a few snacks. Carl gets pork rinds even though the sound of them crunching annoys me. I pick out a bag called Party Mix because it has a birthday hat on the packaging.

“Really?” says Carl. “Party mix?”

I suppose he thinks a party is not what we parents of dead children have. Actually, I think, as I eat from the bag while the two of us are seated across from Daniel’s marker, I’m not feeling in the party mode. Last year the kids, Carl and I celebrated Daniel’s 21st year with a picnic. This year, I feel undone by a life that is relentlessly tough. My maternal inventory: I have an adult child with Borderline Personality Disorder who came back to live with us last summer and another who left home and did not graduate high school. The youngest is not allowed to screw up because mama is tired of dealing with disappointment and the law. And yes, I have a dead child I have not seen since he was four.

But today on this birthday without him. I want to remember a little boy who loved Toy Story, stickers, laughter, and watermelon. I want to recall when he said, “You’re pretty, mommy, can I kiss you?” and then when I said, “Yes,” he smiled and shouted, “Hot dog!”

The tears come; this year Daniel’s birthday hits me terribly hard.

I write out a message on a sheet of paper to attach to the butterfly balloon. In the distance a hawk soars over the tree tops. From a tote bag, I remove a Fisher Price airplane and a heart-shaped box Daniel painted and place them both on the grave. I take pictures.

I take pictures of the sky, hoping to get the hawk in one of them. Standing with Carl, we lift the balloon into the sky. It sails to the left. Never before in all the 18 birthdays since Daniel’s death has a balloon headed in this direction. Perhaps this is a reflection of why this day seems super hard to live. If it sailed right, maybe things would be going better.

Carl and I watch until the balloon makes its way safely over the electrical wires, over the tree tops, and over the Interstate. We watch until the balloon is no more.

When it comes to celebrating the birthday of a child no longer here, my advice to parents is do what you need to do. Take the day off if that's what you need. Who cares if no one else understands? Sit at the grave, take pictures of the sky. View the clouds, look for dragonflies. Write long messages and attach them to helium balloons. Drink a Corona or glass of chardonnay to your child’s life and try not to think of how unjustly short his time on earth was.

Take care of you. You, the one who lives with a hole in your heart. Be kind to you; you need to stay healthy. Surround yourself with those who get it, who encourage you, not belittle you, who let you tell the stories, who don't judge your tears. Hold on and drink deep from that well called hope.

Remember that your love for your child expands beyond the sky. Always.

On your child's birthday, give yourself that gift of remembering love.

~ Alice J. Wisler

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Sound of Memory

Wind chimes provide a wonderful aura to any garden or patio. The soothing sound of their music---provided by a breeze, wood, and copper tubes-----is a beautiful thing. And it's even more fun when you get to choose what you want written on the "flapper".

Our wind chimes can hold the carved name of a loved one who is no longer here. Or they can have a word or two that has significant meaning. Either way, you can be sure that no one will have a wind chime identical to yours. Yep, these are one of a kind!

Our first run of ordered wind chimes were eight in total. Each one was tailor-made and skillfully put together by Carl who has a knack for these kinds of things. Three kinds of wood were used as well as copper tubing, sturdy cord, hooks, and wood screws. When it came time to get the wind chimes ready for shipping, I helped with the packaging part---plenty of bubble wrap and tape.

The carved buttefly "flapper" catches the wind and sets the rest of the wind chime in motion.

Minus the cobwebs, aren't these shiny tubes beautiful against the backdrop of green leaves on trees?

Check out more about how these wind chimes are made at this link to our Carved By Heart shop.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Reflections of Comfort in Heartache

I set out to write a book about me—my anguish, my loss, my pain, my doubt, my questions. Instead I was pointed to God and wrote about His grace, His love, His faithfulness, and His forgiveness. Within those are His answers.

We often think it’s all about us—how much we suffer, how much we cry, how tormented we feel. But when we weigh all of our misery against His grace, His grace outweighs it all. God’s compassion is stronger, fiercer than our struggles, and His love more constant, radiant, and healing than any problem in our den of lions.

If you are early in your grief, you may not understand what I’m talking about. You might still be at odds with God, and while the title of this book caught your attention, as you flip through the pages, that’s all you liked. That’s okay. God meets us wherever we are and no amount of disbelief, anger, or frustration keeps Him from loving His children. It has taken me fifteen years, from the worst heartache of my life, to come to this place of comfort, this stream of beauty. And I never thought I’d be here. When my son first died, I told God that we would only communicate in passing, like a neighbor I don’t like when I see her over the fence. I almost wished I had had no past with God—no history, no conversion story—so that I didn’t have to be angry with Him for my loss. God would be distant from now on. As I learned to adapt to my heartache, I would not expect anything from Him again.

I am one who had to wrestle. Like Jacob, I did. I groaned and I fought and groaned some more. And through it all, I was surprised. What I thought I’d discarded for good, instead became a new song in my mouth. I welcomed a stronger, genuine, more realistic faith—a possession I keep within my broken heart, a gift no moth or thief can steal.

From the Preface for Getting Out of Bed in the Morning by Alice J. Wisler, published by Leafwood Publishers 2012
Available in print and e-reader at many shops including Amazon.

Friday, August 1, 2014

How One Woman Went From Not Caring for Dogs to Loving One

“You’re an animal hater.”

Although the word hate was a bit strong, I didn’t deny those words. I was not interested in having a pet, especially a dog. Other people’s dogs were fine, but I wouldn’t be fussing over some four-legged creature.

As I looked back to childhood, my baby brother was the one who brought stray dogs home. I’m not sure if they followed him or he coaxed them into our back yard. We got to keep one for a bit—outside under the wisteria trellis. Dad built a dog house from wood. Not long after that, this dog had puppies and we named one Buffy. Buffy, like her mother, was an outside doggie, but one day she got into the house. Like a crazed beast, she ran all over the bedrooms. She stopped long enough to chew my doll furniture. Pink cushions from my Barbie house were bitten and left strewn around my bedroom floor. I was infuriated and glad when Mom shoved Buffy out the door to go back to her dog house.

My brother was the only one in our family who really liked dogs. Strays continued to follow him home, but soon, although I’m not sure when it happened, we had no more dogs.

He made up for it though. He’s fifty now and has had dogs in his house as pets for years.

I, on the other hand, was not an animal lover. Yet, when my children were in elementary school, they begged for a dog. So after careful research, my husband and I bought a beagle for the kids and gave it to them for Christmas. My husband and kids agreed on her name—Dixie. We bought a book on how to care for beagles and gave it to my kids as well.

Dixie was a pretty and sweet doggie, although her nose got her into trouble. Like a typical hound, she followed her nose, and it led her to run away on a number of occasions. I ended up taking her on walks and even though she was a Christmas gift for my kids, I’m sure I did more for her than I’d bargained for.

Ten years later, when my second husband said he wanted a boxer, I cringed. Carl had grown up with dogs and as an adult had had boxers— his favorite breed—as pets. Dixie was still with us, yet, she had slowed down quite a bit. One dog is enough, I thought. But in a moment of weakness, I told my husband that he could have a dog and within a day of my saying that, he brought home a six-week-old boxer puppy. Carl, my kids and I felt that the name Levi suited this new addition.
Another dog. And a puppy to house train. What had I gotten myself into again? I was not one of those who cared deeply for dogs. I could take them or leave them, preferably, leave them. I would never call a dog “baby” or let him sleep in the same bedroom with me.

I’m not sure if I have mellowed with age or that boxers are my dog or perhaps it is just this one, but Levi has captured my heart. In the mornings, he slithers out from his quilt, I open the door and together we leave the bedroom. “Go outside, baby,” I say to him as my husband makes the coffee. Out through the doggie dog Levi heads and then comes back in to be made over by my husband, his stubby tail wiggling like Jell-O.

Levi has chewed my favorite sandals and used to love to steal my pink cap and take it outside. He once was caught on the counter eating a pumpkin pie I had just baked. But he has made up for his sophomoric behavior by cuddling on the sofa with me and looking empathetic when I’ve cried. He’s even learned how to sing (howl) when my husband plays the harmonica. He has such a cute face with such expressive eyes as he belts out a soulful howl. He likes ice cubes and expects them as treats. And he is so good looking; I call him the George Clooney of dogs!

He’s also been the dog we photograph for our business, Carved By Heart. Among many products we offer, we carve from photos of pets. Customers send us photos of their pets’ faces and we create from the picture into wood. Levi’s puppy face has received much attention. But when I try to pose him with our plaques, he usually doesn’t sit still long. I understand; I don’t like posing for the camera either.

As I write this at the computer, Levi curls around my feet, softly breathing in his sleep. I think he needs a treat and when I stand, walk into the kitchen and open the freezer, he jumps up to join me. I motion for him to sit; he knows the routine. Patiently he waits until I get a small cube for him, place it near his mouth and then he takes it and chews. I get an ice cube for myself and let it melt in my mouth.

I’d chew if I could, but I have to be careful not to crack any more of my molars. I smile at Levi as we head back to my computer. It’s amazing how the two of us grow more alike every day.

Alice J. Wisler is an author of five novels, three cookbooks and a devotional, writing instructor, and the co-owner of Carved By Heart (visit their shop on Etsy at https://www.etsy.com/shop/CarvedByHeart ). She and her family live in Durham, NC.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Guest author Kimberley Payne!

Welcome to Kimberley Payne! Kimberley's newest book is out and she's here to talk about it. I love the cover.

Adam’s Animals – Fun Facts About God’s Creation just released this spring!

Is your church running a Vacation Bible School (VBS) program this summer based on the Weird Animals curriculum?

Consider using Adam’s Animals along with the accompanying craft book, Super Simple Animal Crafts in your Sunday School program leading up VBS. It’s a great resource for your church to generate interest in your summer programs.

Adam’s Animals is an entertaining and educational book that offers children loads of fun while they learn about the Bible.

Inside you’ll find:
• Bible stories about the animal
• Fascinating facts about each animal
• Whimsical illustrations for creative colouring fun
• Word search puzzles to learn new words and improve spelling

Watch a video of author Kimberley Payne reading from Adam’s Animals

View sample pages from Adam’s Animals

What others are saying about Adam's Animals
"Kimberley looks at the creatures found in the Bible and gives children some incredible scientific facts about them. She then follows those facts up with Scripture references from the Bible on what God has to say about the many animals she has listed in this book. If your child is one who likes "Did you know...?" books, they'll love this one. Included in the book are word search activities and pictures to colour." – Laura Davis

"Author Kimberly Payne has done a thorough job of researching the animal kingdom and combining it with scripture and biblical stories. This book has many fascinating facts about animals and is laid our in a very organized manner with pictures to color and word puzzles." – Carol Stratton

"From ants to worms, children will not only find the facts interesting, some will even make them giggle. At the same time, they are learning how creative God is that he would make so many animals with distinct characteristics."
– Carol Round

"I plan to use this book in our home school program as it integrates faith, science, language and art. My kids love it - there is much information in it, our 12 year old couldn't get through it in one sitting." – Michelle Evans

"This is a delightful book filled with (as promised) fun facts about God's creatures. I appreciated the focus on scripture and how Kimberley aligns God's word with God's creatures. The word challenges are a wonderful way to hone other skills such as spelling and reading, too, so this is a great activity to go along with the information."
– Glynis Belec

"This children's activity book cleverly ties in scripture, so not only does it teach the inquisitive child about God's creations, but also about God's word." — Melanie Fischer

Buy the Book
On Amazon

About the Author
Kimberley Payne is an award-winning author who combines her teaching experience and love of writing to create educational materials for children about family, fitness, science and faith. You can visit her website at www.kimberleypayne.com.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Love After Death

I love you to the moon and back.

I love you beyond tomorrow.

Love. Love for kids. Love for our kids.

Who knows how deep it is?

Who knows better than a bereaved mother?

With the births of my first three children, I loved them in all their red-faced fuzziness. By the time my fourth child was born, I knew I loved her more than ever.

Did I love her more?

No, but I knew of the depth of my capacity to love.

What had changed?

My second child, Daniel, had died just three months earlier.

And with his death, I realized how great and vast and powerful and consuming a mother's love is for her child. And that once a child is gone, there is a fierceness to love, to love that continues, but has no living-on-earth object of love.

It's been nearly eighteen years since Daniel died from cancer treatments in 1997.

Every single day my love has grown for him and for his siblings.

I know the ache of loss and absence and that both of these bring you to a new understanding. Love goes on after death. On and on. And it is a kind of love that can take your breath away.

I knew I loved my children before Daniel left us, but I wasn't aware of how pulsating and immense this love was.

If you have lost a child to death, you know just what I mean.

If you have not lost a child, you think your love is already great. It is, I will not deny that. It is growing as all living things grow. But you can not know how your love can make you yearn so much for one who is no longer there by your side. You cannot know the extent of longing for one you will no longer see----even if only at Christmas because he lives overseas. This love can only be experienced in this way after you have had to say good-bye.

There is something about the permanency of death that makes us realize how much we can love because once that child is gone from us, we feel the sorrow of life without a living person to give that love to. But it's more than that, we recognize how devastated we are without this person in our lives and now entwined that child is to us. Even in death.

What irony that it takes death to discover this love.

Is it true then? She/He who has lost much, loveth more? Or does she just understand the ocean-like quality of love more completely?

Hug your children.

Cherish the memories.


World Blog Tour with Pamela Thorson

Today I have Pamela Thorson as a guest on my blog for the World Blog Tour. I'll post a bit about her and her recent book and then answer four questions about me.

Pamela's new devotional is Out from the Shadows: 31 Devotions for the Weary Caregiver. It's a carefully-written insightful book. Pam is a nurse and a veteran caregiver for her son. In this time-consuming role, Pam faces many challenges as well as gifts and blessings. Those who are also caregivers will find hope in her authentic words as they view fresh perspectives about their roles in caring for those with Jesus' love.

Every chapter of Pam's devotional ends with a prayer and some questions for reflection. Here is a prayer from the chapter called "Jimmy's Hunger".

Father God,
I understand my perception of You
has been shaped by my earthly father.
I ask You to reveal to me the ways
in which I have misunderstood who You are.
Help me break free from wrong pathways
and understand the depth of Your unconditional love.

Be sure to read more about Pam at her website.

Out from the Shadows is avaiable at many vendors, including Amazon. Read the book in paperback or on your e-reader.

Now it's time for me to answer these four questions which each Blog Tour host is asked to do.

1) What am I working on?

I am breaking from novel writing and cultivating bits and pieces of what keeps me up at nights----the desire to write a memoir. My agent is currently pitching this memoir titled I Came To Life Late. Yep, that title says it all, doesn't it? Everyone else seems to have things figured out and I am still out in the cold wondering where the front door to get into the party is. That's been me as a child and even as an adult! The memoir reflects on my childhood in Japan as a missionary kid and also how my past illusions about life have kept me from living life as it really is----tough, filled with disappointments and multiple heartache, and in need of God's grace, mercy and patience. As I write, I want most of all to be authentic in my story, not taking the easy way out by sugar-coating anything and that includes my marriage, my financial woes, my children, and the death of my four-year-old son Daniel. I know that there are many----especially women and mothers----who expected their lives and families to turn out differently than they have. This memoir is for them, a way of holding their hands and encouraging them to keep on looking up. As long as there is breath, there is hope.

2) How does my work differ from others in my genre?

Since I have five novels published (with the sixth due out this fall), I'll focus on them when answering this question. I think that my published novels are a bit more literary and quirky than many who write inspirational fiction. I like to write in first person, it makes it easier for me than third. My novels are also less subtle in their Christian message because I want to entertain first and master that. People pick up my novels to be entertained and so I want to deliver a well-crafted story in the best way I know how.

3) Why do I write what I write?

I love to have that unique voice and am working hard to improve it with each novel and story I create. My characters are flawed and in need of mercy. I want readers to know that they are not alone in their struggles and heartache. There is a God who listens, is full of compassion and love.

4) How does my writing process work?

I get an idea that usually comes to me on one of my walks, jot down the story briefly, make a chapter by chapter outline and go from there. Ideally, I like to write about three hours every morning. But I have to admit that I don't live in an ideal environment.

Next stop on the World Blog Book Tour?

Lindsey Bell! She will be posting on the Blog Tour next Monday.

Her book, Searching for Sanity, just came out in January.

Here's a blub about it:

Have you ever looked at your beloved children and wondered: What in the world am I doing? Why did God trust me of all people to raise them? Motherhood is the most difficult job many of us will ever take. Moms today are busy, overwhelmed and stressed. Many feel underqualified.

Searching for Sanity offers moms an opportunity to take a breath, dig into the Word, and learn from parents of the past. In short devotions designed for busy moms, this book explores the parents of the Bible both the good and the bad. Some of the parents within the pages of God's Word set great examples for us to follow; others made huge mistakes. In Searching for Sanity, you'll learn from both.The wisdom of God's Word, paired with the experiences of another mother-in-training, will help moms find sanity in the midst of chaos.

Read more about it on Amazon.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Cooking With Author Dianna Benson!

Today I welcome Raleigh, NC, author Dianna T. Benson to my blog.

Dianna's newest suspense novel, Final Trimester has just been released by Ellechor Publishing House. Read a blurb about this book, click on the link to order yourself a copy, and enjoy Dianna's recipe for Cream Cheese Brownies.

Final Trimester

Paramedic Jodi Duncan recognizes the work of a serial killer before the Myrtle Beach PD even suspects a connection between the deaths of two pregnant women. Despite the vast differences in the two cases, Jodi urges Detective Nate Quigley to think outside the box. After digging deep into the separate investigations, Nate finds no evidence to support a serial killer theory, and he warns Jodi to back off police business, which only fuels her passion for the cases.

When a third pregnant woman is murdered, Nate is named lead detective on the case and works to link the deaths in order to unmask and stop the serial murderer, a disturbed man who believes God and the devil battle inside his head to bend him according to their wills. As he fights both voices, his interest fixates on Jodi when he discovers her obsession with ending his rampage.

About Dianna

Dianna Torscher Benson is a 2014 Selah Award Winner, a 2011 Genesis Winner, a 2011 Genesis double Semi-Finalist, a 2010 Daphne de Maurier Finalist, and a 2007 Golden Palm Finalist. In 2012, she signed a nine-book contract with Ellechor Publishing House. She’s the author of The Hidden Son, her debut novel. Final Trimester is her second release.

After majoring in communications and a ten-year career as a travel agent, Dianna left the travel industry to earn her EMS degree. An EMT and a Haz-Mat and FEMA Operative since 2005, she loves the adrenaline rush of responding to medical emergencies and helping people in need.

She lives in Raleigh, North Carolina with her husband and their three children.

Visit Dianna's website.

Read more about Final Trimester at Amazon.

And be sure to try these delicious brownies.

Cream Cheese Brownies

1 cup butter or margarine
4 squares unsweetened chocolate
4 eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped walnuts
Vanilla extract
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened

1) Grease a 13X9 baking pan. In 2-quart heavy sauce pan over low heat, melt butter and chocolate. Remove pan from heat. With wire whisk or spoon, beat in 2 cups sugar and 3 eggs until well blended. With a wooden spoon, stir in flour, salt, nuts and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Spread evenly in pan.
2) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In small bowl with mixer at low speed, beat cream cheese, ½ cup sugar, 1 egg and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract until just mixed; at medium speed, beat 2 minutes, occasionally scraping bowl with rubber spatula.
3) With large spoon, drop mixture in dollops on top of batter. Using tip of knife, lightly score top surface in a crisscross pattern.
4) Bake 40-45 minutes until toothpick comes out clean. Cool on rack. Cut into bars. Refrigerate.