No Tricks, Only Treats at the Writing Prompts Blog

pumpkinHalloween is here and we’re handing out treats today. Let’s find out who’s to be blessed by our latest bi-monthly contest.

Our September/October Winner of the $25 Amazon Gift Card is…

Amy Campbell! Congratulations, Amy!

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post announcing our next big contest! You’ll want to be sure and enter often.

Same time, Same place…

Coffee or Tea? Both! Straight From the Heart of India!

This month’s topic on Writing Prompts is…Coffee or Tea? How fun! Not only do I enjoy both coffee and tea, I’ve been blessed to have walked through a coffee estate in Tamil Nadu, South India as well as drink Darjeeling Tea in Darjeeling (almost 1500 miles northwest of Tamil Nadu in West Bengal, India–almost to the China border).

First, let’s talk coffee.

My husband’s family owns a small coffee estate in the hill station of Yercaud in Tamil Nadu. He says his mother gave him coffee in his baby bottle!

We’ve visited the family’s coffee estate a few times and have always enjoyed the thrilling ride up to the hill station…a 22 hair pin curve drive up the mountain along narrow roads. “Locals” eye us from the roadside. 🙂

Monkeys on the roadside on the way up to the Yercaud, Tamil Nadu hill station

We even wake up to these fellows peeking in the window! Once, the day after we left Yercaud, the local news reported that a herd of elephants had blocked the road for the entire day. I was both disappointed and glad that we missed that scene.

Below are photos of our visit into the estate, a tropical mountainside paradise…

Road in to the coffee estate. We had to rent a special Jeep to get in. At one point, I got scared and asked to get out and walk.

Road into the coffee estate. We had to rent a special Jeep to get in. At one point, I got scared and asked to get out and walk alongside the slow-moving Jeep. Do you blame me?

Inside the coffee estate on a cliff that overlooks the valley. When the British ruled India, they would come away from hot Madras and relax in these fertile hill stations.

Inside the coffee estate on a cliff that overlooks the valley. When the British ruled India, they would come away from hot Madras (todays Chennai) and relax in these fertile hill stations. Yercaud is filled with lovely churches, monasteries, convents, and spirituality centers. It’s the place where my husband ran miles to and from the church every day to serve at Mass…before school…barefoot.


Back to coffee…In Yercaud, the Catholic monks also own coffee estates.

Yercaud, Tamil Nadu. The monks own and operate several coffee plantations in Yercaud.



My husband and I on the misty mountain


Trees with black pepper plants growing up the trunks. Pepper is also grown on the coffee estates, along with oranges, jackfruit and other interesting flora and fauna.



Coffee plants beyond the rocks

Coffee plants close up

Coffee plants close up



Leaving the tropical south, let’s go north into Tea Country…

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And a 40 hour drive (about 1,600 mi) away from Tamil Nadu is Darjeeling, tea capital of the world.

And a 45 hour drive (1,557.4 mi) away from Tamil Nadu is Darjeeling, tea capital of the world. My husband and I also visited Darjeeling. Lovely tea gardens.

Lovely tea gardens of Darjeeling.

Here we are drinking Darjeeling Tea in Darjeeling in West Bengal, India.

Here we are drinking Darjeeling Tea in Darjeeling in West Bengal, India.

Driving around Darjeeling, the shops are so close to the road if you wanted to you could grab something off the shelves as you drove by

Driving around Darjeeling, the shops are so close to the road if you wanted, you could pull up and call them drive-throughs. .

Looking our from the tea shop over the city of Darjeeling.

Looking out from the tea shop over the city of Darjeeling.

Did a little shopping, too. Typical shop. We were purchasing shawls for the cooler weather.

Did a little shopping, too. Typical Darjeeling shop. We were purchasing shawls for the cooler weather.


And then back in warm south India, in Chennai, where (coffee or tea aside) a tender coconut drink is just what you need sometimes.

Thanks for coming along with me to India. It’s such a diverse land. Every trip is unique and amazing! If we here at Writing Prompts have “wine” as a topic, I’ve got a great story about drinking wine on the shores of the roaring magnificent Arabian Ocean under the glow of a full moon. One of my favorite memories!

And if you like fiction or nonfiction stories about India, my books are full of scenes from my times and experiences in Incredible India:

1coverCrooked Lines: On the shores of Lake Michigan, Rebecca Meyer seeks escape. Guilt-ridden over her little sister’s death, she sets her heart on India, a symbol of peace. Across the ocean in South India, Sagai Raj leaves his tranquil hill station home and impoverished family to answer a higher calling. Pushing through diverse cultural and religious milieus, he labors toward his goals, while wrong turns and bad choices block Rebecca from hers. Traveling similar paths and bridged across oceans through a priest, the two desire peace and their divine destiny. But vows and blind obedience at all costs must be weighed…and buried memories, unearthed. Crooked Lines, a beautifully crafted debut novel, threads the lives of two determined souls from different continents and cultures. Compelling characters struggle with spirituality through despair and deceptions in search of truth.

Beautiful beach and seaTsunami 2004 – Still Wading Through Waves of Hope – December 26th, 2014 marked the anniversary of the monster waves seen around the world. Is life restored back to normal on the shores of Nagapattinam, South India? Will it ever be? Like a sweeping wave, news of the tsunami fundraiser spread to a national level. Bishop Leo Michael became the ideal vehicle to collect, then ferry aid across the sea. He had lived and worked in the now tsunami devastated region for many years, spoke the native language, and had a counseling degree. TEN days later, trekking into impassable villages and decimated shorelines, the Michaels helped the widows and the orphans and those most affected by the tsunami.  TEN years later, the Michaels returned to the same villages and encountered surprising changes and a life-threatening situation.

Writing prompt: Write a few paragraphs about drinking your favorite beverage in a place in the world you would most like to visit or have visited. What emotions did you feel at the time?

104 (2)Holly Michael has enjoyed a writing career as a journalist, features writer, and a regular ghostwriter for a Guideposts magazine before authoring novels and nonfiction books. Married to Anglican Bishop, Leo Michael, Holly has three grown children; a lovely daughter Betsy and football-playing sons—Jake (NFL) and Nick (University of Louisiana-Lafayette). Kansas City, Missouri is home and she blogs at

Contact her at or on Facebook @ or Twitter: @HollyMichael


3 Questions Wednesday with Cari Schaeffer

20140428_144615Today’s 3 Questions Wednesday guest is one of our own Crew members, Cari Schaeffer.

I know our readers want to know more about you, Cari. Here’s our first question:

Which author would you never get tired of, and why?

Cari: At the moment, I am devouring works by Michael Palmer and his son, Daniel Palmer. Their books are, 95% clean of foul language (some of the characters are horrible villains, so…) and believable. One book, a medical suspense, deals with a surgical cure for PTSD. That is a hot topic today in our country. As a veteran, my heart goes out to those whose physical wounds heal and scar over, but whose minds and souls seem to be forever fractured. As a former ICU RN, I appreciated the medical accuracy of the book. It’s obvious the author did their homework. There’s nothing worse than reading a book and being thrown off because of an inaccuracy in any particular field. This book really had me thinking – could this happen?? Currently, I’m on my…sixth book between those two authors in about two weeks. Love them!

Wow. You must read fast. 🙂 On to the villain…

Who is your favorite fictional villain?

Cari: Perhaps she can’t be classified as a “classic” villain per se, but my vote goes to Mrs. Hilly Holbrook from The Help. That woman is the embodiment of everything wrong with trying to play Keep Up with the Joneses. She’s superficial – focused only on the external appearance of herself, her home, and her life. She surrounded herself with like-minded women who propped her up. She had lofty ambitions for her husband’s career without regard to anyone that was in her way. One of the most memorable statements she made was, “Be careful, Skeeter. There are real racists around here.” as though she wasn’t one. She worked hard to destroy anyone who dared put a pin to her bloated life balloon. I totally cracked up when The Terrible Awful was done to her. She became apoplectic trying to convince everyone it wasn’t Jackson, Mississippi (or her) when the book came out.

Good choice! Last question:

What project are you currently working on?

Cari: The second book in my trilogy series, “The Yellow Ribbon Chronicles”. The series is a work of fiction, but based on the experiences of several actual military wives (including my own) who’ve shared their stories with me and given permission for them to be fictionalized in this series. The trilogy will cover about twenty-five years of recent history; from the 1980s into the first decade of the twenty-first century. It provides incredible from-the-inside-out perspective of what it’s like to be a military spouse. It embodies the good, the bad, and the ugly. There are so many misconceptions of what it’s like and I appreciate the opportunity to set the record straight and hopefully enlighten readers.

Thanks so much for dropping by, Cari!

Hello and Goodbye3D-EBook Hello and Goodbye small

The life of a military spouse is tough for Heather. The long separations, deployments, military housing and the regulations, the rank structure and how it permeates every aspect of their life together…The list goes on and on.

Heather had no idea when she married Rick just how much she would be tested, or how their relationship would be stretched.  Will they endure, or will they snap?

Sacrifice, service, heartache, loneliness, strength, and tears. This is the cost of entry into this unique band of individuals. Not everyone is up to the task.

Join Heather and Rick in this first installment of the trilogy as they take this journey together.  Meet some of the unique characters and see some interesting places from the amazing, and often overwhelming, perspective of a military spouse.

Cari Schaeffer has worn numerous hats in life. She proudly wore the uniform of the US Air Force. After serving, she worked as a critical care RN for almost a decade. She also owned her own Personal Chef and Catering company for six years. Finally, she chose to turn her attention back to her family.

Closing her business hasn’t made her a couch potato. She cooks at the weekly Wednesday night dinners for her church, and volunteers at the Cross Talk Café in support of the Celebrate Recovery church ministry on Friday nights. She has volunteered her time as a Mentor Mom for two MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) groups. When she’s not busy in the church doors, she’s happily entertaining people in her home.

She not only has a passion for writing, but also for serving. She views writing as a form of service for people from all walks of life. Jesus used storytelling to convey life principles, why can’t we do the same?

She lives in southern Illinois with her ridiculously patient husband of twenty-four years, three children, and her two Chihuahua guard dogs, Snoopy and Stanley. Faith, Hope, Love, and Chocolate is her first novel.

Caffeine’s a Drug Too


Creative Commons license, SiefkinDR 2 July 2011

Despite writing many tales involving desperate murder plots and assassination attempts, I’ve never actually had anyone hire an assassin to make an attempt on my life. I’m thinking, after this post, that may change. I can already envision the coffee lovers of the world starting a gofundme account to raise the assassin fee.

But I’m still going to say it. Caffeine is a drug too. It falls into the stimulant drugs category along with cocaine and meth, only, of course, much, much weaker. And more legal.

And drugs, even weak drugs, affect your brain chemistry. As a mental health counselor, I see a lot of patients who have some kind of anxiety disorder. Panic Disorder, General Anxiety Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, these are all anxiety disorders. Guess what is one of the worst things possible for any kind of anxiety disorder?—a stimulant drug.

The amygdala region of the brain regulates the “fight or flight” response and decides when is an appropriate time for your brain to dump adrenaline into your system. For example, rabid mongrel coming your way, good time for your brain to dump adrenaline into your body and give your feet the swiftness of wind as your heart pounds. Have to present notes at your work meeting, not such a good time for your brain to dump adrenaline and make your heart gallop out of control. The reason people experience anxiety disorders is that, for whatever reason, their brain has started making poor choices concerning when to dump adrenaline.

Since caffeine stimulates the adrenaline-dumping portion of your brain when there is not a deadly threat such as a rabid mongrel coming your way, caffeine weakens that part of your brain and, with long-term use, can affect your brain’s ability to make the correct choice about adrenaline dumping. Now, of course, some people are less sensitive to caffeine than others and may be able to get away with putting massive amounts of caffeine into their body for years. And I shan’t say I’ve never had a single cup of coffee since I earned my master’s degree in 2011.

Still, given the choice between coffee and tea, I chose non-caffeinated herbal tea every time. Nothing against the coffee lovers of the world. I love the smell of brewing coffee too. But if you’re ever having trouble with anxiety, or sleepless nights, or just overall stress–I’m raising my hand here–dump the coffee down the sink and reach for some Celestial Seasonings tea bags.

And while we’re talking caffeine, can I just say Red Bull comes straight from the pit. Hyperbole, perhaps. But seriously, if you’re suffering from anxiety and want to save some money at the counselor’s office, choose tea. You could always buy some scones to go with it.

Complete the prompt below for an extra entry in our quarterly drawings! Submit your completed writing prompt via Comments.

When’s the last time your body’s dumped adrenaline into your system? Was it useful, or did you wish your amygdala had kept that adrenaline to itself? 🙂

Scary Good Giveaways

pumpkinWhat’s better as we approach the holiday season than a giveaway? Two giveaways.

How about three?

Three, it is. First, we have the winners of Debra Lynn Collin’s book, Cowgirls Don’t Cry.

Lientjic Human and Jennifer Slattery! Congrats!

Next, we’re giving away Eva Marie Everson’s book Five Brides. The winner is…

Ginger Solomon! Congrats, Ginger!

Make sure to stay tuned to our blog as we announce our Christmas Extravaganza and all the great prizes that will be given to three blessed winners.