Tag Archive | Life

Have You Taken the Journey Yet?

It’s the perfect time for summer traveling, but with today’s high gas prices, it’s not always feasible. So, here’s an alternative!

Take a journey with me through the pages of “His Heart’s Long Journey!” This series is based on the true story of Vern Harpole. At the age of eight, Vern is abandoned by his mother and left on the porch of a bakery in Kansas City. The kind baker and his wife take Vern in after they’re unable to locate Vern’s mother.

They teach Vern everything he needs to know about baking and running a business. They also grow to love him, and vice versa. Yet, the need to know why he was abandoned troubles Vern, and he can’t let it go. In addition, something keeps compelling him to go West. His life’s journey takes him on quite an adventure.

Today thru Tuesday, July 26th, book one, “Forsaken by Love” is available as a FREE download from Amazon. Here’s a little more about the book!

Ready to read?!

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

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!

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!

Free Download! Forsaken by Love

During this ‘stay-at-home’ time, it’s nice to be able to virtually travel to another time and place.

I’m happy to say that today thru Wednesday, you can download “Forsaken by Love” for FREE from Amazon! I hope you’ll enjoy Vern’s journey. The book is based on a true story that one of my friends graciously shared with me. When she told it, I knew I had to write it! I’m thrilled she allowed me to tell it.

 

Appreciating the ‘Simple’ Things

I’ve lost count of how often I’ve said, “We’re living in crazy times.”

For anyone who has lost a loved one from this virus or is currently ill with Covid-19, I’m sure the words to describe it would be much harsher than ‘crazy.’

We’ve all experienced loss. As it is with this new virus, sometimes it’s unexpected and tragic, other times, it comes from a lengthy illness or simply because we’ve reached the age that our bodies shut down. But even when we have the chance to prepare ourselves emotionally for the moment we’ll have to let go of the person we love, we’re never ready. We don’t want to lose anyone we cherish.

Life never guarantees another day. That’s something else I’ve heard and said for as long as I can remember. The older I get, the more I appreciate the wisdom in being told to appreciate the simple things and enjoy every moment with the people I love.

Since there’s more than enough gloom and doom in the media, I don’t want this post to be about the negative aspects of what we’re facing. I want to express the good I see in being alive every day. In addition, I’d love to hear from you and know what you enjoy the most in your day-to-day living.

I love that first sip of coffee that’s waiting for me the instant I walk into my kitchen. I’m grateful for the electricity that continues to flow through my home, even when I’m sleeping, so that my automatic coffee maker comes on at the right time. And speaking of electricity–that alone is something to cheer from the rooftops!

I have hot water for my shower and to readily wash my hands umpteen times each day. Electricity powers my laptop, so I can continue to write, and it recharges my phone, so I can stay in touch with family and friends. It keeps my refrigerator cold, so my food doesn’t spoil, and it keeps the food in my freezer frozen for the long haul.

I have a sweet husband who’s happy to go out and do the grocery shopping and other necessary tasks like picking up the mail. As for me, I stay comfortably at home, writing. And what a blessing that is! I still get to escape with my characters to other times and places, and I’m graced with wonderful emails and messages from readers who thank me for taking their minds off the current issues. If that’s not a good reason to smile, I don’t know what is. Thank you, readers!

I have a loyal dog who gets me moving when I’ve been sitting too long. We may only go out into the yard, but at least I’m getting out of the house for a few minutes. He’s been overly happy lately, because I never leave him.

I bought the ‘Stay at Home Dog’ shirt months before this virus came to be. At the time, I thought it was simply cute, but now, it’s fitting. He loves being at home, and I’m thankful he’s here.

I have word games on my phone to entertain me when my brain needs a rest from writing, and jigsaw puzzles that I love to put together. The bigger the better. I even dug out some puzzles that I’ve had since I was a little girl. The photo at the bottom of this post is one of them. I try to challenge myself by not looking at the picture while I’m working them, but I still like to start by putting the border together. My son says I shouldn’t do that. He’s trying to get me to work them from the middle out, but I have yet to try that. With one exception… I found a border-less puzzle that not only didn’t have a border, it also had five additional pieces, just to throw me off! It was called an “Impossible” puzzle, but I’m happy to say that I mastered it. Such fun!

I’ve been taking the time to experiment with new recipes, and I’ve also cooked things that I hadn’t made in years. Like old-fashioned tapioca pudding. It’s so good when it’s hot off the stove! And if you want a wonderful treat, cook up some stove-top chocolate pudding and put it over vanilla ice cream. It’s delicious. Even better than hot fudge.

I’m grateful that I’ve not lost touch with my church friends. I sing in the church choir, and we’d been practicing for an Easter cantata, but of course, that didn’t happen. Still, we meet once a week on Zoom. We don’t sing, but we lift each other up in prayer and share how our lives are going. Eventually, when we can get back together again, we’ll sing the cantata. Easter should be lived every day of our lives, so even though the date might not be the ‘right’ one, the message always is. God is gracious and still in control, and though we might not understand why we’re going through these troubled times, He knows. His love never leaves us.

Maybe we all needed the opportunity to take a deep breath and slow down. Even so, I hate to see anyone suffer. I’d like everyone to be able to get back to work and doing what they love.

So, tell me what makes you smile, and what you love the most! We’ll get through this together and be stronger for it.

For the Love of a Chihuahua

I got my first furry pet when I was in elementary school. Second grade, I think. She was a solid black cat named Midnight, who I found on the school grounds and brought home. Originally, Mom insisted she stay outside, but when the first rainstorm rolled in and Midnight pawed at the back door, Mom’s heart melted and she brought her inside.

From that day on, we had cats. Lots of cats. We did what we could to come up with the most unusual names for them. After Midnight, we had Precious, (not so odd), Googey, Silmarillion, (my sister is a Tolkien fan!), Sarazar, Lithwaite, and Smokey. There were a few others, too, but these stood out the strongest in my memory.

Even after I left home, I continued to have cats. Luna was a big favorite. She was a beautiful Himalayan who went to live with my mom when I moved across the country. Upon arriving in the south, I had a cat adopt me. Spooky (another black cat) showed up on my doorstep on Halloween. Coincidental? Probably.

Spooky was a very cool cat, but three years after my arrival in Tennessee, I met my current husband. A man who is severely allergic to cats! Dog gone it! When we got married, Spooky went to live with a friend of mine. Sandy, my friend, had a pet hedgehog, and soon, Spooky and the hedgehog became best buddies.

Many years have passed since then, and for a long time, I was utterly petless. Then, my son left for college, and my husband and I became empty nesters. I never thought I would be affected by the quietness of our home with just the two of us in it, but it hit me hard. Because of my blues, my husband brought home Sophie, a sweet black Labrador. Eventually, Sophie had a litter of puppies, and we added Misty and Dusty to our home. They are the yellow Labs in this photo. Cute, huh?

I discovered I was a dog person, and I finally felt content giving up my love of having a cat in the house. My new big babies eventually weighed over 90 lbs. each, but that didn’t stop me from cuddling them. Labradors are incredibly lovable. They enriched our lives for over thirteen years, and when they died–all within a year of each other–my heart broke.

I decided I wasn’t going to go through that pain again.

BUT . . .

Odd how things change. A friend told me she was looking for a home for her Chihuahua. I never thought I’d like a little dog, after becoming so fond of the big ones, but Jax changed my mind and my heart. He has wormed his way in deep! This little guy has brought abundant joy and love into our home. He’s my companion when I write, and he does a great job of getting me off my rump every hour to take him outside. It’s easy to get caught up in my stories and lose track of time, and I used to set an alarm. Otherwise, I’d sit for so long, my legs would fall asleep!

Because of Jax, I’m moving a whole lot more, and I have no need for the alarm. He has his daily routine, which includes getting up at 5:30am. I don’t mind. He starts my day with joy, and in the evenings, when I’m relaxing and watching TV, he curls up on my lap and keeps me warm. His disposition is generally good, but he hates my telephone and gets jealous if I’m talking on it or playing games. (I love playing word games!) He wants the attention and whines when I give it to anyone or anything else. Maybe I’m spoiling him, but one thing’s for sure. I’m feeding off his unconditional love.

I still like cats, but since I can’t own one any longer, I’m grateful to have discovered the love of a Chihuahua. He’s about the size of cat, so maybe in that way, he’s a better substitution than the Labradors. He’s definitely easier to cuddle.

I heard that petting an animal can lower your blood pressure and reduce stress. I totally agree!