Tuesday, October 4, 2016

How Do Wrtiers Find Inspiration? Guest Post by Elaine Cooper

My lovely and talented friend Elaine Cooper, whose newest novel, Saratoga Letters, released today, shares how she found her inspiration for this exciting story set during the Revolutionary War:

"Writers are sometimes asked where they get their ideas for a their books. There is really no clear answer for every writer nor for every book. But after writing five novels and one nonfiction, I have come to the conclusion that, for me, the key to inspiration is waiting for that nudge that begins to toy with my writer’s muse. In the case of Saratoga Letters, one of those inspiring thoughts was literally from a key.

"My husband and I were visiting Saratoga Springs, New York, in 2014. We stayed at a 1970s era motel along the main road. It had the simple d├ęcor of most motels from the ‘70s—two beds with nondescript bedspreads, a slight step-up to the shower area, old white and black tile, and the standard solid black phone that was the main source of communication for visitors before cell phones were birthed.

"But one of the main differences between modern day hotels and older motels is the key. In 2016, keys look like a credit card. In the 1970’s, a key was a metal device attached to a plastic key holder that was inscribed with the room number. It didn’t inspire me at first, until I looked for my key when we were checking out.

“Where is it?” I searched through my purse, around the floor of the car, and everywhere I could imagine a key slipping away from my safekeeping. My husband tried to be patient. We were already so tired from traveling hundreds of miles, that a lost key became an annoyance. I told the motel owner that I had lost the key and I was so sorry. I was sure I’d find it tucked in a suitcase or something. And of course, I eventually did—after I returned home!

"But this lost key suddenly became more than a minor annoyance. It became the impetus for a story idea. I had already heard from a historian at Saratoga National Park Service about a bicentennial celebration in 1977. It was the commemoration of the 1777 win by the American troops at Saratoga, New York. So what if the fact that there were two keys to each motel room during the ‘70s meant that a female visitor to the bicentennial was in danger? What if there were leftover, deep-seated feuds from the original battle in 1777? What if hatred had sifted down through the generations to complicate the lives of those in 1977? What if… but wait. I don’t want to give the plot away entirely. 

But just to give you a wee taste of the story: 

It is 1777. The Battle of Saratoga, a turning point of the Revolutionary War, encourages the American Continental Army with their first great victory. But there seemed little to celebrate for one patriotic woman forced to nurse wounded British soldiers right in their war camp. Thrust into deception by a cruel Loyalist uncle, Abigail is forced to lie in order to survive, all the while dealing with fears that challenge her faith. Danger stalks her everywhere, yet her salvation springs from an unexpected source.

Then…  Two hundred years later, on the anniversary of the Battle of Saratoga, thousands arrive from Europe and the United States to celebrate the event—including descendants from the war. One young American, Abby, meets another offspring of a British soldier. When her life is threatened, Abby turns to the only person she knows at the event—her British ally. Can she trust him with her life? Or will he betray her in the same way Loyalist spies betrayed her ancestors? Perhaps letters from long ago will reveal the truth.

Thanks for joining us today, Elaine! It's always fun to read how novelists come up with their inspiration. I LOVE historical romances, which this little synopsis hints that Saratoga Letters might be. . . I look forward to reading it!

To find out more about Elaine, please visit her at 

To purchase Saratoga Letters, please click on the title. 

P.S.: I will be taking a much needed blogging break for the month of October, during which I'll be speaking for two events, singing with my husband for another, and giving away sweets and signing books at a Sweetest Day Celebration. Whew! I'll be back here with you on November 1. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Is That a Tattoo?

My son Ron and I sat on the sofa and talked, warm fingers of sun oozing through the curtains. I turned to face him. I like eye contact, especially with my kids. Were those navy blue robot feet stepping out just below the hem of his shirt sleeve? I worked to keep my voice calm; lowered it two notches. "Son, is that a tattoo?"

He lifted his sleeve to unveil the splendid artwork. There stood a smiling robot sporting a necktie, a pen peeking over the top of his shirt pocket. One of Ron's happiest creations, drawn several years earlier when he was a carefree high school student.

But now it was on his upper arm. Forever. "When did you get this done?"

"God's Tattoo," one of the drawings Ron did for my book
Two Scoops of Grace with Chuckles on Top
He smiled, patient and calm like usual. "About six months ago." 

I sighed. "I hate to even ask you how much it cost."

"A hundred dollars."

I felt my heart flatten. "Oh, son. I just hope it doesn't ruin your chances of finding a good job." 

Again his patient smile. He didn't even have to work at keeping his voice even. "I thought long and hard about this, Mom, and I feel I can live with Robot Executive as a permanent part of my body. I'm really not worried about job interviews. I'm an artist*after all."

I had to agree, even though I hated the idea of marking up his lovely skin with a needle and ink. This was my baby boy. Well, he had been twenty-some years before. 

Several years after Robot Executive's arrival on Ron's shoulder, I noticed a second tattoo
on his other arm. It was a simple drawing he'd found in one of his dad's old clip art books. It showed a hand gripping a rubber stamp that read "APPROVED," which had been imprinted on the surface below it. 

I stared at it for a minute before speaking. "Wow. I think you prophesied on this one, Ron."

"Oh no, Mom, I just thought this was kinda funky and cool. There is nothing deep about it."

But I--the Mama--knew better. I recalled all his years of self-doubt, asking the Lord for direction in his career, wondering where he fit in the whole puzzle of life. Now it seemed he had come to a place of accepting himself and the gifts God had placed in him. He was embracing the Lord's approval of Ron Levellie as a person, not for the laughs he could elicit from others or the good deeds he could do. But for himself. Made in God's image.
 Approved. It was more than just a fun piece of art stuck on his upper arm. 

It was a tattoo of grace.

At least, that's my story and I'm sticking to it. It helps me accept the tattoos on my son, and it helps me see that if we are in Christ, we're approved by God, regardless of our differing tastes and styles. So there. 

Do you think we unwittingly make statements about ourselves by choices we make? Have you ever changed your mind about something, like I did about my son's tattoos? 

*Ron has created all the drawings in three of my four published books. Please email me at jeanettelevellie@gmail.com if you'd like to hire him to illustrate your next book!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

What Are You Afraid of?

Often of late when I get my feelings hurt or become angry more than the situation merits, the Lord prompts me to ask myself, "What are you afraid of?"

If I perceive that the reason my husband interrupts me is because he thinks what I have to say is unimportant, am I afraid he thinks I'm stupid? Or am I afraid I truly am stupid? 

If I get my dander up because my mother seems to imply that I handled something in an inept manner, am I afraid of her opinion of me? Or am I afraid that I am inept? 

If my books don't sell well, am I afraid that I others will view me as a poor writer? Or am I afraid I really am a poor writer? 

I don't know. 

This is why I believe Jesus nudges me to explore why I 
overreact to certain people and situations so vehemently; why my emotions spin out of control when someone pokes a wound I thought was healed. Seeing that it's still open and very sore, not healed at all, embarrasses me. But it also makes me want to know: why hasn't it healed? And what am I afraid of? 

What are you afraid of? Are you willing to invite Jesus into your wounds, to explore with you the roots of your pain and fears? Do you believe he can and will heal you? 

If I'm gutsy and real, I can say that I'm afraid of more than I'd like to admit. And I am willing to ask the God who loves me to walk with me into the pain. I believe healing awaits me there, in His embrace and through His Words.

That's why I never quit asking myself,
"What are you afraid of?"

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

A surefire way to predict winter weather

The Wooly Worm Report

drawing copyright Ron Levellie
Did you know there is a surefire way to predict winter weather? According to early American folklore, you can forecast the harshness of an upcoming winter by examining the brown band around a wooly worm’s middle. The thinner the brownish red band, the harsher winter will be.  
flikr image
But I have my own methods.  As we go on a walk up the country lane near our home at Nevins and I spot a wooly worm scooting across the pavement, I’ll note its coloration. If it’s dark brown or black, representing the bare earth, I predict a mild winter with no snow. If it’s orange—a happy, warm color—I maintain the upcoming winter will be warmer than usual. And if the wooly worm is white or tan, I report that winter will be fast and fun, with snowfall only on Christmas Eve.

Scientific? Hardly. Accurate? Rarely. But my overly biased wooly worm reports make us laugh every time. And giggles help us get through the long, freezing months better than gripes.  I imagine even the wooly worms laugh. At me.

I may not be able to predict the weather, but I’m convinced that the Apostle John predicted accurately when he told us Jesus is coming soon. I hope you and I will spend eternity together with Him, in that lovely city where every day is bright, and every wooly worm gives a sunny report.

The above is an excerpt from my book The Heart of Humor: Sixty Helpings of Hilarity to Nourish Your Soul, a combination of funny stories and articles on how humor helps.

Please join me this week on

Karen Lange’s blog, Write Now, for a

chance to win an autographed copy of

my newest book,

Touchable God: Finding the Lord’s Friendship Through Prayer.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

I Repent!

When people tell me:

  • they are sad about,
  • they wonder why, and
  • they refuse to accept 

my comment that Touchable God might be my last book,

I want to do something drastic. So . . .

I repent!

Yes, we've had a hard year in our family, my faith has been tested to its breaking point and I don't feel like I have another book in me. But I'm still young, right? And I want to give God a vote. So I will say that if the Lord wills and if he gives me ideas, I will write and publish books until Jesus returns to get us out of here.

Speaking of Touchable God, the winner of an autographed copy from last week's contest is Diannah! Congratulations, Diannah. I hope you enjoy this peek into my prayer life and the prayers for friends in crisis.

Have you had to repent lately? Did you feel better afterwards?