USA trip: Chicago and road trip to Indy

Last week I shared my highlights from the Great Train Adventure. If our itinerary had run according to plan, Suzie and I would have spent two hours in Chicago before boarding a train to Indy. Instead, we were still in Wisconsin when the train to Indy departed from Chicago. 20140326-205804.jpg

The Amtrak staff were helpful, and we decided to accept their offer of a free night’s accommodation in Chicago. We were given a room in the gorgeous Swissotel overlooking the Chicago River. Our dinner ended up being room service at midnight. This was the start of nearly a week where my Aussie body clock decided that 2am was an appropriate time to fall asleep! I never adjusted to the eastern time zone in Indy that is ten hours different to Australia. Needless to say, I wasn’t feeling at my best in the mornings at the conference in Indy.

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The next morning we decided to hire a car to Indy instead of waiting for the train that departed later in the day. The ACFW conference was starting the following day, and we wanted to arrive in time to get settled the night before. Plus, we had dinner plans with writing friends that we didn’t want to miss. I was disappointed that we didn’t have time to explore Chicago, and I’d love to visit again. I was looking forward to our road trip and seeing the countryside between Chicago and Indy. This was my first visit to the midwest, and we drove past miles of corn fields on the interstate. But, the real challenge was leaving Chicago and ending up on the right road to Indy.

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I had started adjusting to being on the wrong side of the road while we were in Washington (our cars are right hand drive in Australia). The freeway system south of Chicago was an experience. Our car rental company wouldn’t provide us with a GPS because we were travelling interstate from Illinois to Indiana. We were given a map and told which interstate turn off we needed to make. I concluded there was a road to every city in the US out of Chicago! I’ve never seen so many turn offs in such a short distance. Suzie was driving and it was my job to navigate. Well, that was a big fail on my part when we worked out we were on the road to Detroit, Michigan and had somehow missed the Indy turnoff! After turning around and putting the smart phone to work, we ended up on the correct interstate and crossed the Illinios state line into Indiana. We eventually reached Indianapolis and made it to dinner at the hotel with our friends on time. If you’re interested in learning more about my 2013 ACFW Conference experience, I blogged about it here. I farewelled my travelling companion, Suzie, in Indy. Next week I’ll continue my journey from Indy to the beautiful state of Oregon.

Heartsong Presents April New Releases

My first fiction book release with Harlequin’s Love Inspired Heartsong Presents line, Falling for the Farmer, was released in February 2014. Today I’m posting information on the new Heartsong Presents releases for April.

Four Heartsong Presents books are released each month under the Love Inspired brand: two contemporary inspirational romances and two historical inspirational romances. The Love Inspired range of books include contemporary romance (Love Inspired), historical romance (Love Inspired Historical) and romantic suspense (Love Inspired Suspense).

International readers outside the USA and Canada can purchase the print books online from Amazon and The Book Depository (free international shipping). If you’re looking for inspirational (Christian) romances to read, please check out the Heartsong Presents and Love Inspired books.

The Mistaken Heiress

THERE’S A MAN IN KATE SANDERSON’S WOODS 

Kate plans to start a landscaping business on the property her beloved grandfather promised would be hers. So when she encounters a mysterious stranger who insists he owns her inheritance fair and square, she can’t let it go without a fight. No matter how attractive he is.

Steve Adams is taken with the beautiful setting, a perfect place to build a home for troubled kids. But he didn’t expect a flame-haired beauty to claim the place, or his affections. When Kate decides to give up her claim for the kids, can Steve convince her that everything he has is hers, now and forever?

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Read a FREE sample at Amazon.com

Rodeo Song

JENNA WENTWORTH FOUND THE MAN OF HER DREAMS 

But when silken-voiced Garrett Steele set out for stardom, he left Jenna—and his cowboy past—far behind. A chance encounter at one of his concerts propels him back into Jenna’s life. But, once burned by love, Jenna must guard her heart against the captivating singer.

Once upon a time, Garrett vowed he’d be a success, no matter what. But that path shattered his soul. His reunion with Jenna makes him long for things he once took for granted. Now he must show her that he’s found what he was looking for all along…right here in his hometown.

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Read a FREE sample at Amazon.com

An Unconventional Lady

ANNIE ROLLINS LONGS FOR ADVENTURE 

But her strict mother keeps her close to home, working as a Harvey Girl waitress. Until Dallas Baker shows up in town and takes the job Annie really wants—leading tours through the Grand Canyon. Annie’s frustrated, but finds it impossible to ignore the handsome outdoorsman.

With her split skirts and modern hairdo, Annie challenges Dallas’s old-fashioned notions of what makes a lady. To his surprise, he finds her delightful, until he learns she has no interest in settling down. Dallas is ready to win her heart, but is Annie willing to fall in love?

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Read a FREE sample at Amazon.com

Beloved Protector

TAPAT IS IN GREAT DANGER 

Unexpectedly caught in a battle between Roman forces and Jewish zealots, Tapat seeks refuge in a cave. When soldiers discover her hiding place outside Jerusalem, she’s terrified. Then she realizes that their leader is Andronicus, the man whose life she saved six years ago.

Seeing Tapat again reminds Andronicus of all he has sacrificed for Rome. As a soldier, he is forbidden to marry, but he’s never forgotten the lovely Jewess he yearns to make his own. Now she’s in danger, and he’ll risk everything to protect her. But can he truly give up the soldier’s life for the love of a woman?

buy the book from The Book Depository, free delivery

Read a FREE sample at Amazon.com

USA trip: The Great Train Adventure

Last Friday I shared the highlights from watching my first live American baseball game in Seattle. Suzie is a big fan of train travel and we decided to travel together to the ACFW writing conference in Indianapolis on the train. The Amtrak Empire Builder train travels along the main northern train line from Seattle to Chicago. Our plan was to catch a connecting train in Chicago to Indianapolis. Below is a photo of the Empire Builder train at King Street Station, Seattle.

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Suzie and I shared a roomette. During the day we had two seats facing each other, with a fold up table between us. At night the seats converted into a lower bed and an overhead shelf was pulled down to create an upper bunk bed. The sleeper carriages have an attendant who looks after you, and all your meals are provided in the dining car.

Amtrak have recently announced their new Writer in Residency program. They are offering free trips for writers, and I can understand why many writers are interested in applying. Suzie and I spent most of our time on the train writing and brainstorming new book proposals while we enjoyed the scenery. I started brainstorming and outlining three new book proposals that I hope to sell to my publisher.

There is something inherently relaxing about train travel. I didn’t get a lot of writing done on my current work in progress (The Doctor’s Return, August 2014 release) despite having a deadline less than three months later. My problem (if you can call it a problem, lol) was that I was entranced by the view outside the window. I’m used to seeing gum trees in Australia. The Pacific North West, for example, was a big distraction with miles of fir trees in the gorgeous Cascade Mountains.

We spent two nights on the train. The sun set on our first night while we travelling in Washington toward Spokane. We travelled overnight through the northern part of Idaho and woke up in Montana. The photo below was taken from the train in Montana.

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The Canadian Rockies were on the far northern horizon as we continued our journey through Montana toward North Dakota. The Amtrak staff were super-helpful and the servers quickly learned how I like my English-style cups of hot tea with two percent milk instead of cream. I also tasted grits for the first time, courtesy of another passenger who shared our breakfast table. We met some interesting people during our meal times, and I was delighted to meet a group of Aussies who were travelling to Minnesota.

I’ve always wanted to see prairies, since I was a little girl who loved Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books and the Little House on the Prairie tv series. We travelled through hundreds of miles of flat prairie and beautiful mountain scenery in Montana.

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The sun set in Montana on our second night and we woke in the morning in North Dakota, not far from Fargo. We were supposed to be in Minnesota by morning and stopping for 45 minutes in St. Paul. Suzie and I had arranged to meet our other writing critique partner, Stacy Monson, at St. Paul station. We ended up seeing Stacy for ten minutes on the train station platform. Those precious minutes were a highlight of my trip.

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I was thrilled to see the Mississippi River for the first time in Minnesota. At one stage we stopped beside the river for half an hour while we waited for a freight train to pass us. The stops along the river provided great photo opportunities and another distraction from writing.

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By lunch time on our second day in Minnesota, we knew for certain that we were going to miss our train connection in Chicago to Indianapolis. The Amtrak staff were helpful, and kept us updated on our options during the afternoon and early evening as we travelled into Wisconsin. The sun set before we reached Milwaukee and travelled along Lake Michigan to Chicago, Illinois.

Stop by next Friday to learn about our unexpected overnight stop in Chicago and impromptu road trip to Indianapolis.

USA trip: American Baseball

Last Friday I shared my Seattle highlights and visit to the Space Needle. I’ve always wanted to see a live American baseball game. I was thrilled when my friend Suzie Johnson told me that we’d be in Seattle on a baseball weekend. The Seattle Mariners are her team and they were playing an afternoon game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Safeco Field.

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We visited the merchandise store and I purchased Seattle Mariners baseball caps to take home to the family. Since we had arrived early, we walked around the staduim and absorbed the atmosphere.

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The photo below was taken from the seating right next to the diamond.

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We had purchased seats in the cafe, which is different to what I’m used to back home at sporting venues. The seats came with a food voucher for lunch. We sat at a long bar style table right in front of the window. The photo below was taken during lunch while we watched the game.

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The Mariners ended up losing the game, but Suzie and I enjoyed a lovely day at the baseball despite the loss. The other thing I’ll always associate with baseball is dirty chips. I walked around the stadium and all I could smell was garlic. We have hot chips in Australia, usually seasoned with salt and occasionally with chicken salt. My kids like hot chips with tomato sauce (ketchup). Dirty chips are seasoned with garlic, chilli, parsley, parmesan and chopped pork belly. I couldn’t resist ordering a bowl, just to see if they tasted as good as they smelled!

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Stop by next Friday to read about another highlight from my USA trip…the great train adventure.