Monday, November 25, 2013

Books: News, Giveaway, Sale

A few weeks ago I offered Tea and Trouble on Kindle for free, for two days.  The idea is to get more publicity, ratchet up your rankings on Amazon, and just have fun.

The whole thing went a little bit crazy, with friends linking it on Facebook, and then friends of friends, and to my astonishment the ranking on Amazon went up and up and UP, from down in the multi thousands to the hundreds, then into the top 100 free Kindle books, then all the way up to 20.

Just to explain the rankings: the #1 book is the one that's selling the best.  The ranking doesn't tell you how many sold, only how it's doing in relation to other books.

Afterwards I went hunting for actual numbers and found that over 10,000 copies had been downloaded, including 72 in the U.K.

Utterly astonishing, and also a very cool loaves-and-fishes moment for me, that I was able to give away so many copies of something that I really had only one of, if that makes any sense.

The promo also helped with sales of both the ebook and the paper copy, and resulted in a bunch more reviews, so it was all good.

To those of you who helped out: THANK YOU.

Soon after, this accurate peek into my life appeared in the Sunday comics and made my children guffaw:

It's time for the annual book giveaway, something I've come to enjoy a lot.

If you're new here, here's the deal:

You send me an email at and tell me of someone who needs some love and encouragement in the form of one of my books. Tell me their name and address, a bit of their story, and which book I should send them.

The titles: Ordinary Days, Upstairs the Peasants are Revolting, Downstairs the Queen is Knitting, Tea and Trouble Brewing

I mail them a book for free.

[Disclaimer, just in case: I reserve the right to say no, just in case this somehow gets weird.]

Please don't nominate yourself. . . but that would never occur to you anyway.  Special consideration goes to moms going through a hard time this holiday season due to grief, health issues, financial issues, family troubles, and so on.

Like I said, this has been a lot of fun in the past, so don't be hesitant to nominate someone.

And, lastly, a Christmas special:

I'm offering a set of all four titles for $40, including postage.  (Regular price: $51)  If you pick them up at my door, the price is $35.

This offer is good only in the USA.  And it ends December 11th, since I like to send them by media mail and it can take two weeks to get there.

If you're from outside the USA, you can buy them for $35 plus shipping costs.

To order: send me a note and a check at 31148 Substation Drive, Harrisburg, OR  97446.

All of you have been a blessing to me, and I hope your holiday season is blessed in return.

Quote of the Day:
"Alway curious about the seemingly austere Amish/Mennonite life, Mrs. smucker presentation was a delightful encounter, a glimpse into a life that is rich rather than austere."
--Starla Lago, an Amazon reviewer

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Dividing and Conquering

We are facing the prospect of making decisions about my parents' things.  While both Mom and Dad are still living and in surprisingly good health, the time has come to make some changes and this will mean the emptying, selling, distributing, cleaning, and deciding process that so many of you have been through.

Because of two destructive fires in the past, we don't have huge amounts of heirlooms.  However, there are still lots of things some of us will want: quilt tops, pretty dishes, dressers, books, and so on.

And oh so many things none of us will want, which will be a challenge all its own. Let's just say I didn't pull my hoarding tendencies out of thin air.

This is my question for all my experienced, expert friends: What's the most equitable and practical way to divide stuff between six children?  And a bunch of grandchildren?

I've heard of families who used a sticker system, others who assigned values and tried to divide it equally, others who took turns choosing and then turned the grandchildren loose when the children were done.

I'd love to hear from you.  What works?  What doesn't work?  What almost worked for you and would have if you tweaked it a bit?

Leave your ideas in the comments or message me privately at


Quote of the Day:
Background: Emily is a very cautious driver who likes to stay under the speed limit.  Unlike some others in the family.
Around the dinner table, we discuss near-misses in the past--
Me: Emily, you should tell that story of when you were passing the combine on 99 and didn't look in your mirrors...
Steven: Are you sure the combine didn't pass you?

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

One More Day!

I'm extending grace and mercy to everyone who's a procrastinator like me:

The Tea and Trouble ebook is free for one more day!

Thursday, Nov. 7.

Right here.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Free Tea & Trouble on Kindle

This Wednesday, November 6th, is a free-promo day for the Kindle version of Tea and Trouble Brewing.

You can find it here.

Here's the whole address:

You can help in this publicity stunt by downloading it on Wednesday, linking it on your blog or Fb page, tweeting about it, and calling your mom to tell her about it.

Thanks in advance for helping nudge the numbers on Amazon!

Quote of the Day:
We had grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup for supper.  As you may have caught on, we are big on random facts.  Hence this conversation:
Jenny: Sandwiches were named after the Earl of Sandwich.
Me: Sideburns were named after Mr. Burnsides.
Jenny: General Burnsides.
Ben: General Ambrose Burnsides.
Jenny: General Ambrose E! Burnsides.
Ben: Now you're just making it up.
Jenny: No, seriously, I'm not.
Me: Oh for goodness sakes, you just can't ever trump anyone else with information in this house.
Ben: Sadly, I wasn't able to pull out his mother's maiden name.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Letter from Harrisburg

A frantic search through the trash turns up nothing but lessons

Maybe, I admitted afterwards, calming my knotted insides with a cup of tea, it wasn’t my job to root, rubber-gloved, through the garbage. Maybe Ben’s college degree and future career did not depend on that missing clear plastic textbook wrapper with its elusive password, after all. Maybe it was up to him to find a way through this little crisis. Maybe it wasn’t mine to fix.
But unfortunately, I didn’t realize that until later.
I used to think that by the time I had four children in their 20s, the house would be mostly quiet. I would have time to make quilts, and we could get by with a single pizza for dinner.
Instead, my independent and adventuresome offspring still go and come in such random patterns that, when people ask how many still live at home, I have to stop and count. Off they go to a few months of Bible school, to a year’s volunteer work in other countries, to college. Then home again for a few months and off on the next quest.
At the moment, five of my six live at home. The best thing about this is their lively company, especially the entertaining repartee, such as:
“You should sing on the radio,” Ben says after hearing Steven sing cheerfully.
“Why?” Steven says.
“So we could change stations,” Ben says.
Or this:
“People with British accents are taken much more seriously than people with Southern accents,” Emily says.
“Yes,” Jenny says. “Unless they’re people with Southern accents and a gun.”
“Somebody, put the ketchup in something attractive,” I say while preparing Sunday dinner.
“Here, Steven, open wide,” Emily says.
I laugh at them and think indulgent motherly thoughts about what astonishingly bright children we’ve been blessed with, so gifted and quick.
And then in the next minute they make me frightened and frantic, because they are all making adult decisions, and they insist on being independent and self-assured in this as well. As opposed to the obvious and wise alternative: asking me what they should do, taking careful notes with a yellow pencil and saying, “Yes, Mom. Absolutely,” as they humbly follow each bulleted point.
I think the boys ought to cut their hair and the girls should eat more nutritious snacks. I want this one to get a better job and that one to send in his Bible school application. I take note of nice, well-behaved, potential future in-laws and make weighted suggestions.
Even though, in reality, none of it is mine to manipulate.
Twenty-year-old Ben spent a year volunteering in the big city of Toronto, and came home in September, just in time to begin another year at Linn-Benton Community College.
As a future engineer, his textbooks are enormous and expensive. Physics for Scientists and Engineers A Strategic Approach Third Edition came in the mail one day and Ben tore the 5-pound book out of its package. The next day, he discovered that the wrapper was supposed to contain a little paper with a password to a corresponding website, crucial to the course.
And he had, of course, ripped off the plastic wrapper and tossed it away. Buying another password would cost more than $60.
What I wonder now is, why did I snatch at this problem as mine to fix and completely obsess about it? Maybe because he is a poor student, fresh off the mission field.
Ben and I pawed through the clean and paper-filled office garbage and the slightly slimy kitchen wastebaskets with no success. I reached around him without asking and scrolled down the Amazon page on his laptop, looking for information, and then insisted that he call his instructor and ask for advice.
Ben calmly said he didn’t think that was necessary and listed his reasons. I thought he was foolish and stubborn, and I hoped savagely that his sweet little girlfriend would see this infuriating side of him before he ever proposed to her.
Then, desperate, we donned protective gloves and dug through the days-old trash in the barrel outside, picking through old meat wrappers and soggy tissues and far worse.
We didn’t find it.
My husband tried to slip an occasional word of advice to me into this frantic quest: “Let it go. Let him worry about it. It isn’t your problem.”
Of course, he was right, which I didn’t admit until the search was over and I saw that I was obsessed beyond all rational reason.
How embarrassing.
I have been teaching a Sunday school class in which we study women of the Bible. The parallels to us, today, are astonishing, especially that recurring resolve: “Nothing is happening here, so I need to take action. This is entirely mine to fix.”
The childless Abraham and Sarah in the book of Genesis were solemnly promised a son but were still infertile, so, after years of waiting, Sarah got the bright and improbable notion that Abraham could have a child with the servant girl and all would be well. The servant did have a son, but all was very much not well, and the generations to follow paid dearly for her manipulation.
Their daughter-in-law, Rebekah, was determined that her second-born son, Jacob, would receive the ceremonial blessing and used trickery, scheming and outright lies to make it happen. She paid for it by sending Jacob away for his own safety, never seeing him again.
“Dear me, can’t you see this would have worked out if you had just trusted God and waited a bit longer?” I say to these long-ago women as I study the lesson at the kitchen table on Sunday mornings.
But Scripture has a way of speaking right back at me. What about trying to rescue Ben from his own carelessness? Or the probing questions I ask the kids who don’t talk enough? Or all the hints, tinged with accusation, that I toss their way, knowing it’s theirs to figure out but also utterly certain that things won’t work out unless I step in.
“Be quiet. Trust me. Wait. Just enjoy them — your gifts from me.” That’s what I hear from God when they’re all asleep and I sit with a pot of tea and my Bible in the early quiet.
All right then. If you say so. After all, Ben figured out a way to get that crucial password without any help from me.
On the way to church, Steven, who is not into arson or smoking, has a match dangling from his mouth. Emily asks, logically, “Why do you have a match in your mouth?”
Steven mumbles, “ I’m gonna set the church on fire. On fire for God.”
After church, the match is still there. I think, “Oh please!” and other admonishing motherly things I want to say, but I don’t say them.
Emily says, “You setting the church on fire?”
“Nope,” Steven says. “Just looking striking.”
I laugh, which is, in the end, the best response to these remarkable young adults of mine — far better than anxious manipulating, endless hinting or digging through garbage for something that was never mine to find.