Why Read?

Since you’re reading this blog, that tells me you do read! Excellent!

I’m curious, do you read books? I’m not asking as a means to tell you to go out and buy mine, (although if you decide to do that, that’s okay, too😊), I’d like to know because I hear more and more that people swear books are becoming a “thing of the past.”

Simply pondering that idea hurts my heart–and not only because I’m an author. Books have played a big part in my life. I have my favorites from my childhood like the “Little House” books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and “The Chronicles of Narnia,” by C. S. Lewis. I used to love getting those little flyers in school with the order forms allowing us to be able to buy books and have them delivered right to the classroom. What a wonderful treat! I don’t know if they even do that anymore.

As I got older, I still read the previously mentioned books (many times), and expanded to “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings.” The list of what I’ve read is vast, so I’m not going to put you through reading that. However, I treasure every hour spent with my nose in those pages.

I’ve discussed the subject of declining readers with several of my author friends, and they’ve told me that at in-person events, people will ask them, “When’s the movie coming out?” and go on to say, “I don’t read.” Ouch!

We’d all love to have our books turned into movies, and I hope I see that happen before I leave this earth. However, even if that does happen, I can guarantee that there’s so much more to experience by reading the book and not just seeing the movie. Movies have a limited amount of time, so a lot of details are whittled down to accommodate the time constraint.

I understand the entertainment value of movies. I happen to LOVE movies. They’re a quick entertainment fix. Maybe people are reading less because they feel it takes too long, or perhaps they feel pressured to keep busy and won’t allow themselves the time for it. I sure hope that society hasn’t made people feel that they’re not permitted to slow down long enough to indulge in the experience of really “living a story.”

When you open the pages of a book, or fire up your e-reader, your mind will take you to another place, and maybe even another time. It’s important to keep our minds sharp and active, and extremely crucial to use our imaginations. Movies offer the interpretation of the screen writers, directors, set designers, and actors. As a reader, you become those people and even the costume coordinator if the author doesn’t go into a lot of detail in that regard. Some are more descriptive than others. You paint the picture in your mind’s eye, and if the author has done their job, you’ll also feel what the characters are experiencing.

I refuse to believe that our need to have everything quickly in our grasp means the death of reading. There are thousands of books that will never be made into movies, and if you only allow yourself that format of experiencing a story, you’ll miss out on so much.

So please, pick up a book and remind yourself what it’s like to dive headfirst into an adventure. The original “virtual reality.” No helmet required, just your brain. You might be surprised to find that you have an amazing imagination!

I prefer a paper book!

Whispers from the Cove

When I first visited Cades Cove in the Smoky Mountains, I was taken back in time. If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you’ve likely seen many posts about the smokies and my passion for the history of the cove and the people who lived there.

I’m excited to share this beautiful video produced by Vince Pinkerton! He captured the feel of my story and gave me abundant chills in the process. It’s incredible to see this come to life, if only for a brief 30-second clip!

If you’ve not yet delved into the Smoky Mountain Secrets Saga, I hope you’ll consider giving it a read. Book one is just the beginning. After all, the series is a ‘saga.’ My prayer is that we’ll learn from our history and not repeat the same mistakes.

“Whispers from the Cove” is available on Amazon in paperback, ebook, and audiobook. Here’s the link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06ZYYY5WK

The Devil Plays Six Strings

I had the privilege of being able to preview Vince Pinkerton’s debut novel, The Devil Plays Six Strings. Making me even happier, Vince allowed me to edit it, putting me even deeper into the incredible story. I told him that it was fine as it was, (he’s a brilliant writer), and that it just needed a little polish. Kind of like putting wax on your favorite fancy sportscar. I wanted his book to shine.

It’s not the sort of book I typically read, but I couldn’t put it down! There are parts that get very dark and disturbing, but what can you expect when a down-on-his luck man sells his soul to the devil in order to provide food and a home for himself and his infant son?

This story opens in 1930–a time when racial tension was even worse than it presently is. The main character, Elijah, is a black man who loses his wife after giving birth to their son. She possessed a deep faith that made her shine, and she wanted Elijah to grasp onto that faith, make good choices in his life, and pass on all things good to their baby boy. Unfortunately, Elijah doesn’t choose wisely, even though he tries to do what he thinks is best.

This isn’t a feel-good book, but it’s definitely thought-provoking. You’ll find yourself cheering the good characters on and cringing whenever the evil ones come onto the page. Mr. Pinkerton paints imagery with words almost too well!

I highly recommend this memorable book! You can find it on Amazon in ebook and paperback. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09TVSB4ML

Artisan Market – Nashville, TN!

Join me in Nashville on Saturday, November the 6th, for the 2nd annual artisan market sponsored by Andrea Kenney Ministries!

I’ll have a selection of all my titles, as well as books written by Sweet Romance writer, Darcy Flynn!

If you’re looking for just the right Christmas gift, look no further! Whether you choose to purchase books or some of the many decorative craft items, you’re sure to find something you like.

I hope to see you soon in Nashville!

Beautiful Smoky Mountains

I grew up in a small town in northern Idaho, and I loved the mountains. I have great memories of hikes I took with my grandpa, as well as treks up the mountains to pick huckleberries with my mom and dad. To this day, I can still remember the smell of huckleberry bushes. As we drove up the rugged roads, we’d stick our noses in the air to catch the scent of those wonderful berries. And when we smelled them, we’d holler for the vehicle to be stopped so we could get out and hunt them up.

Almost thirty years ago, I left Idaho in pursuit of my dreams, and I moved to Tennessee. Here, I met my husband, and he introduced me to another range of mountains. The beautiful Smokies. They have some similarities to the Rockies, but they’re also different in their own right. The shades of green are definitely different, and I’ve never smelled huckleberries in the Smokies. Regardless, I fell in love with the mountains all over again.

My husband took me on a trip to Gatlinburg, TN, for one of our first anniversaries. The town has its own charm–as does Pigeon Forge and some of the other outlying cities. We took a drive ‘up the mountain’ to a place I’ll cherish forever. If you’re familiar with my books and my writing, you’ve probably heard this story before, because I can’t stop talking about it! We ended up in Cades Cove.

When he told me we’d be going to a place that only had a one-way road that looped from one end to the other, and that everyone had to drive around it slowly, I wondered why. He talked it up as if it was the best thing in the world. Honestly, I thought it sounded horribly boring. As much as I appreciate pretty scenery, putting along on a one-way road didn’t sound too appealing. I wanted excitement and adventure–like I knew I could get at the nearby theme park.

I learned a valuable lesson on that venture. My husband was right. It was the best thing in the world. Cades Cove transported us back in time to a simpler life. One that was unhurried and pure. The cove sits in the middle of the mountains. Acre after acre of land that was once farmed and loved by the people who lived there. Some of the original cabins still remain, along with a mill, several churches, and cemeteries with the graves of those who’d called the cove their home. The unsurpassed beauty of the land touches my heart every time I go there.

We return to Cades Cove every year. I’ve memorized much of it, but I’m never any less in awe of the splendor. It had to have been difficult for the residents of the cove, when the states of Tennessee and North Carolina decided to create a National Park that included the Cades Cove land. I doubt it was easy to put a price on the land they loved, then leave it behind and go elsewhere. Some residents were able to stay, yet I’m sure it wasn’t the same.

All that being said, I’m glad that the past has been preserved in the cove. When I learned about the hardships that the residents endured during the Civil War, I was compelled to write about it. Here’s a link to the first book in my Smoky Mountain Secrets Saga: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06ZYYY5WK I did my best to capture what life was like for those families, and to this day, I feel like I can sense them walking by my side when I visit the cove.

Every place in this world has a story to tell, and I hope that you’ll make a trip to the Smoky Mountains and specifically, Cades Cove. Be sure to have your camera handy, so you can capture its majesty. It’s a little bit of Heaven on Earth with some wildlife thrown in for good measure. You might see a bear or two, as well as deer and turkeys. If you like to hike, there are plenty of trails you can take. Some will lead you to remote cabins, and others are simply for the sake of enjoying nature. More than anything, you’ll come away, content, with an appreciation for the simpler things in life.

In my opinion, that alone is worth the trip!

Are You Puzzled?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved puzzles. Mainly, jigsaw puzzles, but I’m also fond of word games like crosswords and word searches. I’ve heard that doing those keeps your brain active, and as I grow older, that becomes more and more important. My parents are in their eighties and still sharp as ever, so I’m hopeful that I’ve inherited their sharpness genes.

So what is it about jigsaw puzzles that draws me in? Maybe it’s because I like to fix things, and if I see something all discombobulated, I want to make it right. Plus, it’s so much fun watching an image come together. I don’t know about you, but I get a happy thrill every time I put a piece in place. I guess it’s good that it doesn’t take much to amuse me!

My first puzzle memory is from when I was about six years old. We lived in Spokane, Washington at that time, and there was a local fair a short distance down the road from us. It was one of those sorts that was likely put on by the high school and run by teenagers. They had all kinds of games and activities for children. I can’t remember what the particular game was that caught my eye, but the prize for winning the game was a puzzle. They were used puzzles donated by the organizers of the event. Used or not, I didn’t care. Trouble was, I didn’t have any money and couldn’t play the game. So, was that a good memory? Oddly, yes, since it makes me smile to remember it. I didn’t get a puzzle from that fair, but my desire for jigsaw puzzles never left me.

I have quite a collection now, and many of my puzzles have been put together more times than I can count. Most of them have 1,000 pieces, and I can usually put them together in a few days’ time. I like to work on them in the evenings after a day of writing. It helps me relax, but it also allows me time to gather my thoughts for my next day of writing.

I like the puzzles that have interesting pieces–those that aren’t a typical shape. They make the entire process more challenging. However, I also appreciate pieces that fully interlock. So, I guess you could say, I love any type of puzzle.

I recently put together the most tight-fitting puzzle I’ve ever encountered. So tight that I could hold it up in the air while it still had a lot of pieces missing. Hopefully, you can see what I mean in this photo.

Yep! You can see right through the middle, and nothing fell apart when I held it up. Crazy! This is the kind of puzzle that wouldn’t even need glue if you decided to frame it.

I always start by putting together the border. I think that’s pretty typical, thought my son tells me it would be more challenging if I didn’t. From the picture on the box, I also know what it’s supposed to look like when it’s done. Again, my son tells me not to look at the image to increase the challenge of putting it together. I try that sometimes, but there are certain puzzles that stump me and I have to look.

I think my writing style is similar to the way I construct puzzles. I know how I want a story to start, (thus the border), and I know how I want it to end. (Like the finished picture). But the middle often takes me in different directions. I may add a piece that takes me down an unexpected road. Those little surprises makes the process so much fun! A character who I think is minor becomes a major part in putting together the puzzle of my story.

I suppose I also like to fix the discombobulated lives of my characters. I promise a happy ending–eventually–but they usually go through many challenges on their way to attaining it.

Thank you for reading, and I’d love to hear your ‘puzzling’ stories, too!

Write on!

The Love of Cotton Candy

Isn’t it amazing how a simple smell or taste can take you back to your childhood? Of course, some of those reminders might be bad, like the flavor of nasty-tasting medicine, or the odor that lingered when you accidentally stepped in a pile of doggy doo while out trick-or-treating. Yep, that happened to me!

However, I want to talk about a good memory!

When I was a child, my parents would take me to one of those home-town carnivals that came through town every year around the Fourth of July. The carnival was part of a community festival called Frontier Days. In addition to the carnival rides and games, there was also a parade. I’ve seen photos of me and my siblings dressed up as pioneers in a make-shift covered wagon. I was very young then, but it was memorable enough that I recall thinking we were pretty awesome.

Now, back to the whole smell and taste thing. The simple thought of that particular event immediately sparks memories of an assortment of smells: Popcorn, the sawdust spread on the ground beneath some of the stomach-churning rides, mud from the rain that always seemed to dampen the celebration every year, beer, and cotton candy.

Cotton candy.

My first memory of popping some of that fluffy confection into my mouth comes from one of those Frontier Day’s celebrations. I clearly remember my aunt, Judy, telling me the proper way to eat cotton candy. She said that in order to avoid getting completely sticky, you needed to pull off a small amount and literally pop it into your mouth, doing all you could to avoid touching your fingers to your lips and getting them wet. Putting your mouth directly on the spool of fluff was a no-no. Especially if you planned to share your treat!

I didn’t do such a good job instructing my grandson.

The photo is a little blurry, but you get the idea! I tried to teach him to ‘pop,’ but he dove right in!

Now that I’m older, I like getting sticky even less, but I still love cotton candy. Recently, I discovered a new kind of ice cream that has rocked my world! Kroger brand has cotton candy flavored ice cream called Mermaid Sparkle. It’s to die for. Best of all, you can eat it with a spoon and you won’t get sticky.

Sure, there are many foods I enjoy, but I can’t think of any others that produce so many wonderful memories. Our lives are a patchwork of memories, and I feel it’s important to cherish all of them. I’ve learned a lot from my past. Not only how to properly eat cotton candy, but after my other experience, I know to watch where I walk on Halloween.

Life is a journey, and I want to thank you for sharing these memories with me!

God bless!

Becoming Our Parents

I’m sure you’ve seen the great commercials on TV about people who are becoming their parents. I laugh at the ads because I can completely relate to them.

I don’t know when the transition takes place, but it definitely happens. Not only in the things we do, but for me, I see the transformation in the mirror. So often, my mom smiles back at me. I have many of her mannerisms, and when we talk on the phone, we frequently sound alike. We have the same vocal tones, and we oftentimes sigh or laugh at the same time and sound identical.

So, there’s the physical transformation, but what about the mental transformation? When do we start behaving like “old fogies.” Even that dated term validates what I’m saying. When I was young, I felt so up-to-date and “in-the-now.” When my parents did something silly or forgetful, I’d just chalk it up to their age. Now I’m the one doing ridiculous things and forgetting what day of the week it is.

I suppose it has everything to do with the brain. As we age, we process things differently. And, we considerably slow down. We wake with aches in our bodies that we can’t explain and groan with that first step we take out of bed.

I guess what surprises me the most is my change in attitude. Things I used to think were funny or entertaining on TV, I see now as dumb. I get frustrated when I drive down the road and have to listen to the loud thumping of the music coming from the car next to me. As a youth, I likely would’ve thought it was cool. So, yes, I’m becoming an old person. Sigh . . .

On the bright side, I have so many stories to tell. With all the years I’ve lived, (boy, I’m really sounding ancient!), I’ve accumulated massive amounts of life experiences. I feel I’m capable of giving my children and grand-children advice from all that life-lived knowledge. The same kind of advice my parents gave me. I may have thought some of the things they told me were foolish, but I’ve come to realize that they were usually right. (And if you’re reading this now, Mom and Dad, don’t gloat!)

I’m blessed that my parents are still living. I can go to them when I need to talk, and I continue to listen to their advice. They’ve inspired me time and again! I pray that I can do the same for my children, and that they’ll always turn to this “old person” whenever they need me. Besides, I count on them to help me manage all the difficulties I face with every new-fangled gadget that’s released. I’m still learning new ways to fully use my phone. It took me until about three years ago to part with my flip-phone. (Should I be hiding my head in embarrassment?)

The photo above is me and my dad at the zoo in 2019, and the one to the right is my Mom at her 80th birthday celebration in 2018. Unfortunately, they live a great distance from me, but in that respect, I’m grateful for my new-fangled phone. We can talk as long as we want and we don’t have to incur hefty long-distance charges! If you’re as old as I am, you’ll remember the days when it was cheaper to call after 7:00 p.m. It’s nice not to have to worry about the time of day when making a call.

Going back even farther in time, do you recall the days of party lines? No, they had nothing to do with politics! Households had shared telephone lines, and you could pick up your phone and hear your neighbor talking to someone. Of course, if they knew you were on the line interrupting their call, you’d get fussed at. Rightfully so!

I appreciate the advancement in technology, but I often miss the good ol’ days. The new phones have great benefits, but it makes me sad to see so many people with their faces glued to their phones. They’re missing out on the real world before them. So, please, take it from this old fogey. Put your phone down and look at what’s around you, and if you’re in a restaurant, talk to the person you’re there with, not the one on your screen.

From someone who loves to write historical fiction, take the time to enjoy the simplicities in life. A walk in the woods, a picnic by a lake, watching the sun set (or rise), or enjoying a board game with your family. (The old-fashioned, non-electronic type).

We’ve seen our share of frustrating times this past year, but never lose hope! Life is good!

God bless you all!

To Review or Not to Review

I don’t ever like to say something bad about anyone or anything, but on occasion, it’s good to let people know if you’re disappointed with something. For example, there have been two times in my life that a manufacturer has changed a particular food product that I enjoy. Supposedly, they’ve made it “new and improved” and “better-tasting.” In the two instances I’m referring to, I completely disagreed with the manufacturer. So much so that I wrote a letter to one stating my disappointment in the change, and the other, I made a phone call and left voicemail. I suppose you could say I’m passionate about food, and when a beloved recipe is altered, I find it disappointing.

Of course, my grievances did little good. They didn’t say, “Oh, my goodness, Jeanne Hardt doesn’t like this new recipe, so we’d better go back to the old one!” I don’t have that kind of pull. Although, I did get a coupon from the manufacturer I wrote to for future products. Still, I would have rather had the original item before the recipe changed.

So, where am I going with all this? Well . . . as an author, I can say without a doubt that positive reviews are always welcome and appreciated on my “product.” Hopefully, none of my books will leave a bad taste in your mouth or the desire for a change in my recipe. It would be wrong of me to say, “Don’t write a review if you didn’t like my book,” regardless of the fact that I prefer reading the positive comments! Not everyone has the same taste in literature, and I’ve gotten my share of negative reviews. Honestly, even they can be helpful. I never respond to any review, because that’s not my place to do so, or the purpose of a review. Still, I put my mind to what was said and ask myself if there’s something I need to improve. Most of the time, I simply accept that my style isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay.

The main purpose of a review is to help a potential new reader decide if they want to give the book a try. So, with that being said, reviews are important to those potential readers. They might base their decision solely on the rating of that book or a particular comment that a reader has made. Because of that, I encourage you to post reviews. I believe that many venues will also allow you to post a rating alone, without a written review, which is also good.

If you’re unsure what to write, simplicity is best. It’s as easy as saying, “Great story.” “Captivating.” or “A page-turner.” Those kinds of comments are always appreciated, and hopefully, you’ll feel that way about what you read. Most importantly, honesty is best.

There are a few things I’d caution you NOT to do:

1. Don’t give away secrets. Nobody likes spoilers, and if you tell the big ‘aha’ moment in the book, you’ll be spoiling it for the potential reader. So choose your remarks carefully. If you like or don’t like a particular character, it’s fine to say, but don’t give away what that particular character does. We all like to be surprised, don’t we?

2. As an author, I’m so blessed to have friends that read my books. And, of course, I hope that never changes! If you know an author and post a review for their books, it’s a good idea not to say, “this author is my friend,” in the context of the review. It can affect the validity of your review, because the reader might think you’re simply being kind to your friend by saying something nice about their book.

Authors wouldn’t have careers without readers, and we appreciate each and every one of you! We strive to write stories you’ll treasure, and we thank you for taking the time to let us know your thoughts.

Who is Vern Harpole?

It was a fun and exciting new experience to write a fiction book based on an actual person. I was blessed to have a good friend who gave me the freedom to expand her grandfather’s story and ‘fill in the blanks’ so to speak in areas of his life that the family is unsure of exact details.

In “His Heart’s Long Journey,” you’ll travel with Vern as he seeks out answers to his past and also strives to move forward with his love interest, Margaret Jordan. Margaret is a strong-willed woman with her own troubled past, and the last thing she wants is the attention of a man.

When my friend, Ann, told me her family’s heart-wrenching story, I was compelled to write it. It was hard for me to believe that someone could experience all that Vern went through in his young life. As I wrote, I felt I really knew him. He became alive to me, and I hope that when you read this series, you’ll feel the same.

I also became fond of schnecken while writing this story. The trade of being a baker was passed on to Vern from the family who took him in at a very young age. Mr. Hinze was a German baker who taught Vern all he knew. Schnecken is a German sweet roll, similar to a cinnamon roll. I found a wonderful recipe online while researching German pastries. You can find it on the food.com website.

This is an actual photo of Vern in his baker’s garb. I didn’t see this photo until after I wrote the series, but I was surprised to find how much he looked the way I’d imagined him.

If you haven’t read “His Heart’s Long Journey,” I hope you will. It’s so much fun to travel in the footsteps of the past and share in the lives of others. Book one, “Forsaken by Love,” can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B082QWKM56