• Life Outside the Pages

    Those who can’t: Collect!

    I have a little problem; I rescue afghans from thrift stores.

    Not Afghan Hounds…though they are very pretty! But I don’t think my house could hold very many of them; they’re biggish.

    I’m talking about small blankets made for cuddling under on the couch while reading a book or watching television. Traditionally made of wool, they now come in more affordable options, such as acrylic and cotton. The debate rages on about which is better when it comes to making afghans: knitting or crocheting. I say either produces a cozy throw you can snuggle under while enjoying some down time.

    I can’t stand to see a pretty one in a thrift store. This may be because I have never made one, so am somewhat in awe of the time and skill it takes to do so.

    In a household with two people and one undersized sofa, how many of these things do you need?

    So I regularly resolve not to buy any more; but then inevitably I find myself standing in a thrift store, gazing in wonder and, yes, pity at a gorgeous, discarded piece of handmade folk art.

    I imagine the time and effort that went into creating each lovely throw, and wonder why it ended up tossed into the donation bag.

    The time consideration, and even the cost of materials, is daunting. But it’s the love that goes into making an afghan that gets me right in the feels. I look at a colorful, intricately-designed little blanket and picture some old auntie or grandma – or hey, a devoted granddad or papa – spending many a winter’s evening, yarn running over her fingers, cat grabbing the ends by her feet, as she creates a cozy bit of comfort for someone she loves.

    How does such a thing get tossed away?

    Maybe there are just too many of them. A prolific crocheter could make a couple dozen a year. I suppose after a while, all her loved-ones are up to their eyeballs in afghans.

    Or maybe the gift went to someone who just isn’t into country kitsch in the first place and it quickly found its way to Goodwill.

    Or maybe the creative lady in question just kept making them as personal therapy long after all her friends, relatives and church charities had all the throws they could use. So she hoarded them lovingly in boxes and bags and bins until she died. Imagine the treasure trove someone discovered upon cleaning out her home! I am grateful that her heirs donated them instead of simply tossing them in a dumpster.

    I have one my grandmother made for my wedding, nearly 40 years ago. It was fashioned from cream yarn, knitted with intricate Swiss dots and cross-hatching in the pattern. I used and displayed it for many years, but now it is old and yellowed. Of course, I’ll never discard it; I wonder if I could dye it a lovely sage green to give it a new lease on life?

    So, back to me standing in the thrift store looking at another beautiful bit of discarded folk art. You know I’m buying it, right?

    Just last weekend I added to my collection. I was at a lovely Christian thrift store in Strasburg, Ohio, when the colorful geometric blanket complete with fringes caught my eye.

    I picked it up and examined it, expecting stains or holes. Nope. It was perfect. I took it up front and asked the price, thinking it had to be at least $50.

    The two young Mennonite women manning the counter looked at each other questioningly. “No price tag?” one asked. I shook my head. They consulted silently again, and the other turned to me and said, “It’ll be $4.”

    I hope my mouth didn’t drop open. “Sold” I said, placing it on the counter.

    And I brought it home, where it will be appreciated and loved for another generation.

    If I get too many, I guess I could rehome them like one does with kittens and doggies.

    But for now, I’ll cherish each one, and wonder who made them and to whom they were originally given.

    I hope they know their art is appreciated and cherished. As one who can’t (or doesn’t have time to lean, honestly) create these handstitched works of art, I’ll collect them! And no apologies.

    My newest “rescue”, from the thrift store in Strasburg, Ohio.
    So cozy! And it pairs well with the ginger cat pillow my son gave me for Christmas!

    Aren’t the giant, blue corner tassles fun?

    I simply couldn’t leave this nuanced blue beauty behind when I discovered it in an area Goodwill!
    The work that went into this piece of art steals my breath! Who made it? Where? When? Why did it end up discarded? I’ll never know, but I love it as if it had been given to me by a favorite friend.
  • Reviews by Anne Blackburne

    Courting an Amish Bishop

    Mindy Steele’s latest book, “Courting an Amish Bishop“, which is book number four in Barbour Publishing’s “Heart of the Amish” series, released April 1. I got my copy in the mail shortly thereafter, and gobbled it up in just a couple reading sessions!

    It was that good!

    The book features Stella, an herbal healer living her independent life on a hillside in the woods with her silver lab. She’s doing very well, treating the people in her Amish community and delivering the occasional baby.

    Then influenza hits the nearby Amish community, and her help is needed there. She goes without hesitation to do what she can.

    That’s when she meets Simon, a very attractive widower with a teenage son Stella falls for right away. In fact, she falls for Simon’s whole family — and maybe for Simon, too. Then she finds out he’s the bishop.

    Why is that a problem? Read on to find out!

    I highly recommend this book.

    If you’ve missed the other books in The Heart of the Amish series, they are: “The Flower Quilter”, by Mindy Steele; “Ruth’s Ginger Snap Surprise”, by Anne Blackburne; “The Quilt Room Secret” by Lisa Jones Baker; and coming soon, “Mary’s Calico Hope” by Anne Blackburne, and “Serenity’s Secret”, by Lisa Jones Baker.

    I’m having so much fun being part of this wonderful series of stand-alone stories. I hope you’re enjoying them, too.

  • Books

    Courting an Amish Bishop Releases Monday!

    No fooling: Mindy Steele’s new book from Barbour’s “Heart of the Amish” series comes out on Monday, April 1!

    I just ordered my copy, and am eagerly waiting for it to arrive in the mail. This is another wonderful story from popular author Mindy Steele; her second in the Heart of the Amish series.

    Brief synopsis: Meet Stella Schmucker who faithfully uses her herbal knowledge to help her Amish community while neglecting her own desire for romance—until she meets the bishop.

    The cover is so sweet! I can’t wait to read my copy, and then I’ll go review it, because good book reviews help authors, and I know from Mindy’s previous stories that the review will be good! Mindy doesn’t disappoint.

    The other books in this series include: The Flower Quilter, by Mindy Steele (September, 2023); Ruth’s Ginger Snap Surprise, by Anne Blackburne (December, 2023); The Quilt Room Secret, by Lisa Jones Baker (February, 2024); and coming June 1 by Anne Blackburne, Mary’s Calico Hope! And September 1, Serenity’s Secret, by Lisa Jones Baker.

  • Life Outside the Pages

    Could You Let Your Dog Eat This Cutie?

    Millie

    Short story long…

    I have a rescue poodle named Millie. She’s a big (around 65 pounds), happy girl who started life making puppies for a living, and is now spending all her time hanging out with me (I take her to the newspaper every day, where she shares the job of official greeter with our cat, Arthur), figuring out ways to get treats, and playing with a ridiculous variety of toys.

    I subscribe to one of those monthly boxes of doggie toys and treats – don’t judge me; my kids are raised and I don’t spend my extra money on vices for myself. Well, not all of it! Does chocolate count? I don’t think chocolate counts.

    Anyway, each month when the box arrives, it’s hard to tell who is more excited, me or Millie. Well, last month, one of the toys that arrived was just way too cute to become a chew toy. Plus, it really seemed to fit in with my Amish romance writing vibe.

    So I liberated it. Now it’s going to be an inspiration for my writing. I mean, look at it! A cinnamon roll, with a happy, smiling face! How could I let Millie, much as I love her, chew the little cutie up?

    So now that I’ve rescued the bun from the rescue dog, it needs a name. I decided to come to you guys to help me choose one!

    Let’s have a little contest. Give me your ideas, and at the end of March I’ll hold a random drawing to choose the new name for my tasty-looking little friend. Please go to my Facebook page, and suggest a name or two.

    The person who submits the winning name will get their own first name in my next book!
    Your name will become a minor character name in my next “Heart of the Amish” story, “Lizzie’s Little Mouse”, which will release from Barbour next winter. You can tell everybody that character is named after you!

    So start brainstorming those names! You can submit more than one, but don’t inundate me, please. 😉Obviously, keep them family friendly. I can’t wait to see what you come up with!

  • Reviews

    Publisher’s Weekly Lauds “Mary’s Calico Hope”

    When my first book, “Ruth’s Ginger Snap Surprise”, was released, it received a very favorable review from the industry’s leading reviewer of new releases, Publishers Weekly. I was over the moon!

    With my second book releasing on June 1, again from Barbour, and in the same “Heart of the Amish” series as my first book, I asked my publisher whether I was likely to get another review from the industry giant, whose opinion is sought and valued by all sorts of industry pros, including booksellers looking for likely titles to sell.

    She warned me that it was possible, but unlikely that I’d be reviewed twice in row.

    Well, bless me, they reviewed “Mary’s Calico Hope“, and they loved it! I’m beyond thrilled.


    Here is the review from Publishers Weekly:

    Mary’s Calico Hope

    Anne Blackburne. Barbour, $14.99 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-63609-855-5

    Mary's Calico Hope

    “Blackburne’s latest Heart of the Amish romance (after Ruth’s Gingersnap Surprise) unspools a tender love story between an injured Amish woman and the Mennonite doctor who wants to help her heal. Since a buggy accident more than 25 years ago killed her father and left her badly hurt, Mary Yoder has spent her days in near-constant pain, though she keeps busy breeding chickens, weaving and selling baskets, and caring for her younger brothers. When Reuben King, the handsome new doctor for the nearby Willow Creek community, takes an informal interest in Mary’s case and suggests she undergo a surgical procedure (performed by another doctor) that might improve her mobility, Mary’s resistant. Eventually, she warms to the idea as she spends more time with Reuben, sparking an attraction that’s forbidden by her community. Mary turns to prayer to sort out her thoughts about her health and love life, but when advice arrives from an unlikely source, she’ll have to trust herself to follow it, and to take a few risks along the way. The chemistry between the two leads is palpable, and it’s easy to root for the spunky, independent, and dauntless Mary as she fights to carve out a life of her own choosing. Blackburne’s fans and series newcomers alike will delight in this sweet and energetic tale. (June)DETAILSshare”


    Isn’t that wonderful? I wish I could personally tell the reviewer how much I appreciate his or her take on my book! Publishers Weekly reviewers are anonymous, though, to encourage honesty, so that’s not possible. But if he or she happens to read this . . . thank you thank you thank you! You made my day!

    Ruth’s Ginger Snap Surprise (which was just named a best seller for March by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA) in new releases for March) also received an excellent Publishers Weekly review. It’s available for purchase wherever fine books are sold online and in book stores nationwide. If your book store doesn’t have it, please request it. They shouldn’t have any trouble ordering it for you!

  • Life Outside the Pages

    Area Writers to be Featured at Author Event

    The 2023 authors who will be at Writers at the Crossroads March 23 : Alex Erickson, Jacob Paul Patchen, Megan Slayer, J. Paulette Forshey, Beverly Kerr, Bev Justice, back, Jane B. Night, Mike Ghere, J.L. Enger, Susan Gee Heino, Clayton Etter, Saralee Etter and Anne Blackburne

    Writers at the Crossroads has become the place for authors to read and display their latest creations. This year’s event takes place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. March 23, at Crossroads Library, 63500 Byesville Rd., Cambridge.

    Fifteen years ago, Crossroads Library was searching for a way to bring more adults to the library. That first year, local authors were given five minutes to read either a section from a book they had written or a short story. It drew a small crowd and was the beginning of a lasting friendship between the library and local readers.

    Cambridge Writers has been instrumental in organizing this event along with the cooperation of the library. This writing group, led by J. Paulette Forshey and Cindy Stonebrook, welcomes all writers to their meetings every Wednesday at noon in Crossroads Library. They provide information on ways to improve your writing skills, and give encouragement.

    Over the years, Writers at the Crossroads has grown and now features well-known authors from not only Ohio, but Indiana, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania. Every author has a table to set up their display of books, which are for sale.

    The event will end with a raffle of items donated by many of the authors and area businesses. All proceeds from the raffle are given to the library to use in their children’s program. So far, the group has donated more than $3,000.

    This article originally appeared on The Daily Jeffersonian: Showcase of authors planned at Crossroads Library on March 23

  • Reviews by Anne Blackburne

    Book Review “An Amish Second Christmas”

    With stories by Shelley Shepard Gray, Patricia Johns and Virginia Wise

    Time for a report on the book I read on my recent cruise! My friend, Linda, found “An Amish Second Christmas” at a store in SE Ohio in February, and after she read it, I grabbed it because it has three stories from three of my favorite authors of Amish romance!

    The authors are Shelley Shepard Gray, Patricia Johns, Author, and Virginia Wise.

    All three stories were, as expected, wonderful. Are you surprised by this??

    Shelley’s story, “Their Second Chance”, focused on Amish nanny Hannah Eicher, her sweet pup, Daisy, and a handsome, English fireman named Rob Prince. Hannah and Rob have to work hard to make their relationship work – and to convince her family that he’s the man for her. I loved this story and it’s unexpected, but satisfying, ending.

    Patricia’s story, “His Amish Angel”, is all about Maggie Lapp, a fierce young Amish woman who has decided she is unmarriageable! Why? Because she’s too outspoken. (I can relate to this, I’m afraid!) So she finds satisfaction and a place of belonging by secretly writing a weekly newspaper advice column called ‘Miss Amish’. Enter Maggie’s former fiancé, the very traditional-minded Atley, who accidentally ruins everything by revealing her secret . . . and the sparks fly! But a second chance at love is also taking flight.

    Finally, Virginia’s story, “An Heirloom Christmas”, focuses on Rachel Miller, another independent young Amish woman who is recovering from a bout with cancer, and is determined to prove she can make it on her own by selling heirloom plants she cultivates in her greenhouse. Enter Joseph Webber, who needs a job to pay for a new buggy after irresponsibly wrecking the one his father gave him. Rachel remembers Joseph as a cheeky lad from her school days. She longed for his attention then – and is NOT interested in it now. Or . . . is she?

    Thank you all for your wonderful stories! I laughed and cried as I read them under a palm tree on a Caribbean island; and in my cabin any chance I had during my week-long adventure.

    The book itself may be a bit the worse from wear (sorry, Linda!) after my sister accidentally sat on it in a wet bathing suit. Ha ha! But it’s still readable!

    I recommend this book, and basically anything from these three wonderful women. And if you’re looking for something new, I’d be honored if you’d read my debut novel, “Ruth’s Ginger Snap Surprise”, available on Amazon.com. My second book, (with characters you’ll remember from Ruth’s story), is “Mary’s Calico Hope”, and it is releasing very soon – in e-book on May 15, and in print on June 1.

    If you’d like to keep in touch with me, I’d love it if you subscribed to my newsletter! My web manager assures me there’s a place to do so here on my website. If you can’t find it, you can message me your email in my Facebook messenger at Anne Blackburne on Facebook. I’ll post about once a month, except when I have a book coming out. Then it may be a bit more often!

  • Life Outside the Pages

    I’ve Got a Newsletter!

    I officially launched my very first author newsletter this week, and I think it’s not half bad!

    Looking around, I realized most my fellow authors have such a thing. I thought, meh, I’ll do that when I actually have a book published! Who wants a newsletter from someone who really has no news?

    But now that “Ruth’s Ginger Snap Surprise” has been out for nearly three months (and on the Amazon bestseller list most of that time!) and “Mary’s Calico Hope” is set to release June 1, I figured I couldn’t dodge the newsletter responsibility any longer.

    Plus, my fabulous tech genius bro-in-law, Phil, told me if we didn’t launch a newsletter pronto, I was going to lose my domain on Mail Chimp. Well, I couldn’t let that happen, right?

    So, the thing is done. If you’re one of the 91 people who have asked to be included, you should have received the newsletter (which I’m planning on publishing monthly) this past weekend.

    If not, please feel free to PM me on Facebook at Anne Blackburne. Give me your name and email, and I’ll see that you are added to the list to receive my next newsletter in March.

    I’m having fun with this writing journey! I hope you’re having fun traveling along with me.

  • Life Outside the Pages

    Winner of a Ginger Snap Original Painting!

    I am a major procrastinator. I apologize to all the people who came to my book signing for “Ruth’s Ginger Snap Surprise” at Bookology a few weeks ago, and signed up to win this painting I did of Ginger Snap. All the people whose names I collected will eventually receive my newsletter; I say eventually, because I still don’t have a newsletter! One thing at a time, right?

    We had a marvelous turnout that day, despite frigid temperatures and fresh snow in the morning. So many friends, old and new, braved the weather to come to Bookology in Cambridge to say hello. Many of you purchased a copy of my book, “Ruth’s Ginger Snap Surprise”. It was a wonderful day. You all made me feel so very, very special and blessed!

    So now, without further delay, I’ll announce the winner (chosen at random by my daughter using the old-fashioned pick-a-number-any-number method) of this painting! Drum roll please! And the winner is — well, ARE, in this case — Les and Betty Hoffmann! I’ll email you and you can give me your mailing address so I can send you your painting. Thank you so much for coming out to support me in the cold!

    As you may be aware, the next book in the Heart of the Amish series, “The Quilt Room Secret”, by Lisa Jones Baker, is on shelves now. And on or around April 1, the fourth book in the Heart of the Amish series from Barbour Publishing, Mindy Steele’s “Courting an Amish Bishop”, will be out. (Mindy also had book one, “The Flower Quilter”, which I absolutely loved. I want to make my own flower quilt now!)

    After that, it’s only a little while until my next book, “Mary’s Calico Hope”, book five in the Barbour series, will release on May 15 in e-books and on June 1 in print! Here is something else you may not know. The story takes place in the same story world as Ruth’s story! In fact, if you read my first book, you met Mary Yoder. She works for Ruth’s love, Jonas, in his basket shop, and uses crutches to help her walk due to a childhood accident.

    And here is more exciting news! Around this time next year, I’ll have a third story in that story world, which I’m calling my Willow Creek Amish world, even though it is part of Barbour’s Heart of the Amish. Are you confused? I hope not! I signed a contract a couple weeks ago to write “Lizzie’s Little Mouse”, about Elizabeth Miller, whom you met in Ruth’s story (she got the little gray kitten from Lydia Coblentz), and who you’ll see again in Mary’s story. I’m pretty excited! I’ll tell you more about Lizzie another day. For now, it’s Mary’s turn.

    Soon I’ll start telling you all about Mary Yoder, and her wishes and her fears. But today is for celebration! Congratulations again, Les and Betty Hoffman!

  • Reviews by Anne Blackburne

    Happy Release Day for “A Quilt Room Secret” by Lisa Jones Baker!

    From Barbour Publishing’s Heart of the Amish series, comes book #3 in the series, “A Quilt Room Secret“, by Lisa Jones Baker. This is the third book in the series in which my debut novel, “Ruth’s Ginger Snap Surprise” is book #2. Book #1, in case you missed it, is “The Flower Quilter” by Mindy Steele.

    This is a delightful book about two people who have been best friends . . . and maybe more? . . . all their lives. Except for that unfortunate period of time when one of them moved away.

    “As they took turns pushing each other on the swing that hung from a large tree, the mature—for a five-year-old—Jacob Lantz asked Trini Sutter to marry him. The nine-year-old thoughtfully responded that she’d consider his proposal when they were older.
     
    Nearly two decades later, the Amish farmer returns to the beautiful countryside of Arthur, Illinois, to take the independent owner of The Quilt Room up on her promise. Quiet, handsome Jacob is truly in love with the spirited list maker, and Trini finds herself falling in love with Jacob, but the youngest of eleven has big plans of her own.
     
    Jacob’s long-held aspirations are put to the test when he learns that Trini has been holding a secret. He prays for a turnaround of events; however, when Trini moves away from her tight-knit community, he begins to realize that his dream of them being Mr. and Mrs. most likely won’t happen. 
     
    Will Trini forfeit her own well-laid plan for the man of her dreams?”

    Don’t miss out on this wonderful story by a wonderful story-teller!

    You’ll find it wherever fine books are sold! Available now in print and e-edition.