• 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.
  • 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

    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.

  • 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.

  • Life Outside the Pages

    What’s Next in Amish Romance from Anne Blackburne?

    It’s an exciting time to be me! After 35 years of trying to achieve my goal of becoming a published author, anyone who reads this blog knows my dream became reality in December.

    “Ruth’s Ginger Snap Surprise” released on December 1. This is the second book in Barbour Publishing’s new Amish romance series, “The Heart of the Amish”, featuring three authors, of which I’m one!

    What an honor to be included in a series that also includes well-known authors Mindy Steele and Lisa Jones Baker!


    Mindy’s book, “The Flower Quilter” released first in September. And Lisa’s book releases officially February 1.

    My second book in the series, “Mary’s Calico Hope“, which focuses on Mary Yoder, who was introduced in “Ruth’s Ginger Snap Surprise“, will release on June 1.

    Mindy’s second book, “Courting an Amish Bishop“, releases in April.


    And my wonderful literary agent, Tamela, just told me I’ll be getting a contract for a third book in the series this week! I’m on Cloud Nine! That book is tentatively titled “Lizzie’s Little Mouse”, and features another character introduced in my first book. Lizzie has a little gray kitten she named Little Mouse. Her dream is to own a bakery; but not just any bakery – ever since she visited New Orleans, she has dreamed of opening up a French bakery in the heart of Ohio’s Amish country! This will be her story. I’m not sure when it will be released. More on that as I find out more!


    In September, my first novella (a story that is longer than a short story, but shorter than a novel) releases from Barbour in a collection called, “A Lancaster Amish Christmas“. This book features four authors of Amish romance, and I am definitely the rookie of the group!

    The other three authors are Amy Clipston, Amy Lillard, and Mindy Steele. I’m thrilled to be included in the collection with these three beloved authors of Amish romance.

    My story is about Lucy, who is raising her tiny little sister, Millie. Their mother died in childbirth, and Lucy is determined to give Millie the very best life she can, despite some disapproval from people who don’t think a single woman should be raising a child by herself. More on this story as we get closer to the release date!


    So that’s what’s next for me. I’m done with the first draft of my novella, tentatively titled “Christmas Sunbeam”. I’m proofreading and cutting words right now. Do you know what they call it when an author is over her word count and has to cut a lot of words from her document?

    They call it killing your darlings! And it’s truly hard. But I’ll say this; I learned in the newspaper business that pretty much any time you edit down your word count, your story ends up being tighter and overall better for it. This book is due to the publisher on Valentine’s Day. And it’s a work of love, so that is quite appropriate!

    If you haven’t read Ruth’s story yet, it’s available on Amazon.com, and wherever fine books are sold! If you have read it and loved it, please leave me a review on Amazon.com, Goodreads, Barbour.com, Barnes and Noble, Books a Million, or anywhere else you like. It doesn’t need to be long or complex. A simple, “I read it and I loved it!” will do the trick.

    Thanks so much for being here!