August activities, and…comparing

My FB page report for the week says activity is up by 1,450 percent. That sounds great. The trouble is, I have no idea why.

I traveled to Ames this week to meet potential students for my September OLLIE memoir writing class, and had fun chatting with some writers. Ahh…my favorite folks–looking forward to getting to know them and their stories better in a few weeks!

Friday night we saw “Annie” performed by Cedar Summer Stock. All of their 2018 performances featured incredible voices, choreography, costumes, and scenery…what more could anyone ask? Watch for them next summer.

On Saturday, we went to a cousin’s house for a family picnic. Oh my, what a spread. My gluten-sugar-lactose free offering turned out fine, but compared to the other great fare, well…actually, another one of our granddaughter’s quotes says it best: Comparison is the THIEF of joy. 

So there you go–why compare? And that brings me to flowers: observe.

Specimen one, an amazing geranium.

Specimen two, Gerber daisies in full spread.

And last, but not least, this year’s spectacular yellow begonias. I can’t get over how from delicate pale yellow clamshells (lower right), such incredible blossoms emerge.

So what’s to compare, right? Three lovely floral beauties, each with so much to offer. Yet, we compare things…and people… constantly.

Merriam-Webster defines compare as to examine the character or qualities of especially in order to discover resemblances or differences or to view in relation to.

I’ve been comparing the manuscript I’m working on with its predecessors. Why would I do this? Maybe because this story  has given me lots of challenges from the get-go. The research  leads me deeper into comprehending the vast effects of World War II…but how can I possibly do this topic justice? Does comparing help? Not so much.

I’ve grown as a writer since the last one, so maybe I expected the process to be easier this time. Yes, maybe that’s it.

Yet this is a whole different flower. Yes, it’s that THIEF at it again! Just get back to this story unfolding right now. Forget about the others…seize the joys and frustrations of this one.

It’s healthy to have little self-chats like this from time to time, don’t you think?


An author I’ve come to know online recently shared this thought as something that’s helped her through life.

She shared this with an authors’ group, and I wrote her to ask if I could use it in my workshops and elsewhere. In addition, I asked Leta to describe how this became her philosophy. Here’s what she said:

“There’s a saying (unfortunately not mine) good judgment comes from experience and experience comes from bad judgment. That has certainly been a truism in my life, especially the younger years. For too long, I met difficulty with the wail – Why me, God? Finally I found the answer. ‘Because I want you to grow and mature into a spiritual adult, my child.’ Leta McCurry – 84 years a student in the classroom of life.”

What can I add to this profound perspective? Nothing I can write will improve on Leta’s summary, so I’ll let it stand “as is.” This is the same way we learn to accept with a grateful heart what we cannot change, and to accept ourselves in the midst of that process.

I’m sure Leta would appreciate you stopping by her blog and connecting with her.

And here are some photos of midsummer in the heart of Iowa. With thanks to Lance… (Practicing gratitude reveals the beauty all around us…) Enjoy!



Impatiens, granddaughters, and a budding story…

This summer, we’ve been relishing the double impatiens adorning our front step–our granddaughter picked them out on a spring trip to the garden shop and decided these white buckets sitting in our shed could hang from the stair rails. She was right. (I can’t get this photo to turn around…but you get the idea.)


What great taste! Sweeping the steps this morning, I noticed this small white bud, fallen before its time.

Such promise here…multi-layered petals packed safely away in one succinct package. With time, water, and sunshine, this would’ve been one of the faintly pink blossoms that stop us mid-flight to take another look.

At the same time, I’ve been stuck in my writing, unable to settle into telling an incredible woman’s story. Perhaps it’s because she’s a real WWII nurse who made an incredible difference in so many soldiers’ lives. Until now, my characters have all come into being through what we call the muse. 

But this woman actually suffered through more battles than I could have imagined. So tenacious and stalwart…how can I possibly do her memory justice?

Whatever the reason, I’ve been struggling. But yesterday, our granddaughter shared a quote with me that has me rethinking things:

If the plan doesn’t work, change the plan, but never the goal.

Maybe for this particular novel, I must break free from my usual method. Maybe I need to learn a new process.

And maybe I will!



Obviating 101

Here’s more than you ever wanted to know about one particular verb and its synonyms:

       Obviate derives from the Latin obviare (“to meet or withstand”) and the Latin obviam (“in the way”) and is the origin of our adjective obvious. Obviate has a number of English synonyms, including prevent, preclude, and avert; all of these can mean “to hinder or stop something.” When you prevent or preclude, you put up an insurmountable obstacle. Preclude often implies a degree of chance involved in halting an event. Obviate generally suggests using intelligence or forethought to ward off trouble. Avert implies a bad situation prevented or deflected by effective means.

Midsummer finds us obviating all over the place. Example: our tomato plants, hit by last week’s storm, are now ready for the next one, having been grounded with
reliable (we hope) metal anchors.

Lance also spent a sweaty hour fixing an eave spout about the garage door, so it now drains into a suitable spot.


Mundane, everyday actions, but they obviate disasters. Okay, minor disasters. (: Reflecting on many of my actions throughout life as child, wife, mother, and friend, obviation often played a role.

Of course, we can’t avert every undesired occurrence. But this doesn’t stop us from trying. Later in life, we learn these events might have happened to make us–or somebody else–stronger. Oh, the joys of hindsight…

On these slow summer days, I ponder obviation in relation to my novels. What experiences have developed my characters’ strength, self-discipline and motivation?

Most likely tough ones that tested their endurance more than they care to recall. Yep. Just today, my morning teabag presented an applicable quote: Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go. T.S. Eliot

      What a freeing concept–wish I’d embraced it long ago.  

The heroines in my own reading take risks…big ones, and so do those in my writing.  Maybe that’s why WWII folks attract me so much, eh?

The Dog Days

Learned something new today: the Latin word canicular, meaning “small dog”, originates in Canis, from which we get our word canine.

Sirius, the star that represents the hunter Orion’s hound in the constellation, was also called Canicula. Because we first see Sirius rise during summer, the hot sultry days from early July to early September came to be called dies caniculares, i.e. “the dog days.”

Isn’t it fun to discover all the ins and outs of our vocabulary? All of what I’ve written so far is to introduce more photos from our England trip. The first, from Bletchley Park, shows some women dishing up corned beef hash. They offered tastes, and sent the recipe home with all comers.

Note the authentic 40’s clothing, enamelware, and head gear. Now, picture British women like these sweating over a hot stove in a cramped flat with no air conditioning, not even a fan. In one of England’s industrial cities, with bombs being dropped night after night.

The hash wasn’t bad…exactly. Just very bland, but spices were hard to come by. That’s why the black market managed such a thriving business, despite severe reprisals if the seller were caught in the act.

Here are some items he (or she) would carry…I personally would have a TOUGH TIME if tea were rationed, and know some people who might be highly tempted to go black market for precious coffee!

The oppressive heat of dog days makes many of us crabby, but we can find a cool place to spell us through the worst. The citizens of England could not, but they KEPT CALM and CARRIED ON. And can you imagine how relieved they were when one by one, items became unrationed? Keep in mind, this took years AFTER the war…my hat is off to all who toughed it out!

As July Fourth Nears…

Summer is a-bustin’ out all over.

A father cardinal stays mighty close to his fledglings in their nest just outside our back door.

Yes, and flowers display their fragile glory everywhere we look:

And here come the begonias near our front porch–wish you could all come and sip a cup of tea out there.

Now, take a look at our granddaughter’s team last week, the night they won their sixth grade softball championship. One of those magical moments filled with gratitude. I’ll cherish these smiles marking the GOOD KIND of pride for years to come! (Can you tell which one she is?)

Last but not least, I’m still basking in memories of our trip to England, often recalling Winston Churchill’s grit in an almost impossible position. I know, I know, you may be getting sick of me mentioning him…can’t help it, though. I’m SO SO very grateful for how he played his role in history.


A happy Fourth of July to you, and a little publishing news. I submitted a new manuscript to a publisher last week, something from World War II, of course, but a little different…it’s Glenora Carson’s story: she was one of the women who got their hands greasy during the war years doing a man’s job. More to come on this novella, with the title Kiss Me Once Again.

Also, I submitted my next novel to an agent. You just never know what might happen …never a dull moment, though.


Independence of Thought

My husband spent considerable quality time with our Independence Day author in Iraq and elsewhere…I hope you enjoy what Colonel Piontkowski, whose writing incites both laughter and thought, has to share. Note how he transports us instantly into a situation. (:
I didn’t realize what was happening until he held the sharp, straight edged razor up and smiled. It was supposed to be a simple haircut, but then I’ve never been in a Barber Shop in Baghdad, Iraq before. The young Iraqi gentlemen asked me how I wanted the hair.
You who’ve enjoyed the military know the style; short on the sides, very little on top. The next question seemed innocent enough, “Do you want the sides shaved?”
Before I could think about it, my mouth said yes. As he stood there smiling, razor in hand, my brain kicked in, “This is an Iraqi holding a sharp razor with nothing between it and my American throat but fear, panic and the sudden need to go to the latrine (restroom).”
As he began shaving the sides of my head I frantically scanned around for any Christian symbol, but seeing none I tried to slowly and calmly remember the Act of Contrition. That finished, small talk seemed the thing to do and something that could, potentially, save my life.
I mentioned what a generous tipper I was to barbers (who let me live). He looked confused when I mentioned what a wonderful god Allah is. He seemed somewhat surprised when I told him that if I ever had a son, I would name him Mohammed.
“Yessirree! I’d do anything to help the Iraqi people (especially the ones with razors near my cranium).” After he finished with the cut, shave and obligatory shoulder massage (another story) he smiled and thanked me for being so calm and quiet in the chair. I tipped him well and left before he saw the puddle where I’d been sitting.
Bigotry and prejudice come in many forms; I’m not proud of the implied mistrust of a stranger with a certain nationality and religion in the foregoing story. With Independence Day approaching, it’s good to engage in a little prepositional pondering.
We are blessed with the freedom of worship, freedom of speech and freedom of the press, among others. There are also “freedoms from.” We should be free from prejudice, bigotry and hatred.
To be free from judging people merely on their racial, religious or national heritage is to live a life of true liberty and peace. (Forgive me, but I still refuse to trust ANYONE with a razor near my throat.)
You’ll enjoy reading our guest’s biography as much as his article, and can find plenty of similar treasures at his blog:
As you can see…maybe he doesn’t shave at all now? (:

Rev. Richard L. Piontkowski, Jr. and his twin sister Carol were born in Knoxville TN where his father attended the University of Tennessee. He was born three minutes after his sister, which was fortunate as her umbilical cord was around his neck; nothing has changed in 60+ years.

He grew up in North Platte NE where his only experience of public education was kindergarten where he was slapped for talking and listened to a Bible story in class every day. His remaining life was in Catholic schools and universities where he was also slapped and learned more Scripture. He was ordained a Roman Catholic priest for the Diocese of Grand Island NE in 1982 and eventually earned a Master of Divinity, Licentiates (Masters) in Sacred Theology and Canon Law before successfully defending his doctoral dissertation in Canon Law from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome, Italy. After finishing school he was forced to get a real job with real people in a real parish.

Fr. Richard joined the Army Reserve in 1989, served one tour in Iraq and retired as a Colonel after 27 years in the Army Reserve. During his tour in Iraq he began writing for his parish bulletin, St. Mary’s Cathedral in Grand Island NE, a weekly column entitled “The Rector’s Ramblings.” After returning home he continued to write the Ramblings. After switching pastorates and leaving Cathedral many people asked that he continue to write, which is now “Fr. Richard’s Ramblings.”

He currently lives in Loup City and Ravenna NE where he is the pastor of five Catholic parishes, including Ashton, Hazard and Pleasanton. Fr. Richard lives with his two silky terriers of twelve years, Bert and Ernie. Father had hopes of one of them following in his steps and becoming a priest but neither practiced celibacy or obedience.

Fr. Richard is a voracious reader of anything in print, and enjoys good scotch and bad golf. For him, rural Nebraska is a slice of heaven.

The Locket

Two weeks ago at a luncheon honoring women ninety and over (at the UM Church in Charles City, Iowa), I heard even more World War II stories. They fit right in with the red, white, and blue decor–patriotic and cheerful.

Some of the women brought a treasure from way back then, and one showed us her locket from childhood.

Her father left for the war before she was born, so inside are photos of him and her. The good news is, he returned, and she has many more good memories of their relationship.

On Father’s Day, we celebrated this vital familial connection. For those who missed out on knowing their fathers in a meaningful way, that can be a tough holiday.

That’s how it would have been for Kate, the heroine of A Purpose Truewho lost both father and mother in her early childhood–to World War I. But someone comes into her life offering his memories of her loved ones…can you imagine how much that would mean?

Perhaps you have a cherished treasure that belonged to a loved one…I have my mom’s simple graduation ring. The white onyx is almost worn through, but it’s good to take it from its safe place from time to time and remember.




Whispering Hope

It’s wonderful to welcome back Peggy Blann Phifer, who is offering a free kindle version of her latest release, Whispering Hope, to a commenter. Don’t you love the heroine’s gloves and glamour on the cover? 

Thanks for having me on your blog, Gail. I’m pleased to be here. You asked me to share some thoughts about my writing, my book, the genre, and what it took to get it written. So, here goes …

Whispering Hope is what I call Historical Romantic Suspense. I’m not sure there actually is such a genre … officially … but it’s my story and I’m sticking with it. And yes, it’s all three.

Historical: Yes, the time is 1930, during Prohibition. The opening scenes are set in Chicago, but the rest of the story takes place in northwest Wisconsin, my old stomping grounds, in a fictitious town and county created entirely out of my imagination. It was fun to write, drawing on some old memories and locations I knew back in the day. But mostly challenging. It took a lot of research. I bought books, maps, a PBS video of the era produced by Ken Burns, and LOTS of “Googling.” I have at least a ream of paper I printed out during the writing time.

Romance: My lead female protagonist, Virginia “Ginny” Hopewell, Wisconsin country girl, visiting her cousin in Chicago, gets caught in a shooting at a local speakeasy. At the same time and place, was my male protag, Ransom “Rance” Blake, FBI agent for the Chicago Bureau of Prohibition. Their paths cross again after Ginny returns to Wisconsin and Rance is sent up there to apprehend the man responsible for the shooting and to discover how illegal liquor from Canada is getting into Wisconsin and down to Chicago.

Suspense: It’s all there. An elusive gangster. Illegal stills. Suspicious guests at the Whispering Hope Resort. Murder. And a kidnapping.

I hope this whets readers’ appetites!

Back Cover Copy:

1930 Chicago is no place for a Wisconsin country girl.

Virginia Hopewell visits her cousin in Chicago and gets caught up in a deadly gangster shooting at a speakeasy, barley escaping with her life. After learning of the tragic death of her father, brother, and sister-in-law, Ginny returns to Wisconsin and convinces her mother to reopen the resort her father had closed after losing everything in the stock market crash in 1929.

Ransom Blake, an agent with the Chicago Bureau of Prohibition, had been at the same speakeasy acting on a tip about the shooting. Rance is charged with finding the gangster responsible. He and his team are sent to Wisconsin where the man was reported being seen, and to investigate how illegal liquor from Canada is making its way to Chicago.

With the opening of Whispering Hope Resort, Rance registers as a guest and comes face to face with the lovely redhead he’d briefly encountered at the speakeasy during the shooting.


Author Peggy Blann Phifer, a retired executive assistant after twenty-one years in the Electrical Wholesale Industry, lives in the ‘boonies’ of NW Wisconsin. A late bloomer, Peg didn’t start taking writing seriously until age fifty.

Her debut novel, To See the Sun, a contemporary romantic suspense, released in January 2012. A second novel, Somehow, Christmas Will Come, contemporary women’s fiction with a touch of romance and mystery, released in November 2014, revised and re-released in late 2015. A new work titled Whispering Hope, an historical romantic suspense, set during the years of Prohibition, released in early May 2018. Her work has also appeared in numerous anthologies over the past five years.

Peg is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. When she’s not writing, Peg enjoys reading, blogging, and sharing her home with her daughter, son-in-law, and a Border Collie mix dog named Rocky.

Social media and buying links



Twitter: @pegphifer





Purchase link for Whispering Hope:


CHASE – Young Adult Adventure

Today we feature a Y/A novel, CHASE, and author Glenn Haggerty shares below how you can receive a free copy. Thanks for visiting, Glenn. 

How did you get the idea for your latest release? 

Chase was initially just a picture in my mind. At the time, my concern for the problem of drugs in middle and high school had been simmering. Then a scene appeared where a lowlife drug-dealer meets with one of his runners. I let my imagination roam. The incident turned into a scene, which expanded into a full-length novel. I tried to put myself into the mindset of these characters and interestingly, ended up cutting that scene and reworking it into a different setting and another short story. But by then the bull was out of the pen, as it were, and the story had to be written!

What is your favorite aspect of one of the characters, and why? 

Contradictions. Tyler embodies the contradictions of many 13-year-old boys. Wanting to be included, wanting to be the hero, but still bound by insecurity and fear. Naïve and self-deprecating, he is also stubborn and tenacious. He struggles to figure out another complex facet of friendship even as he struggles to figure out where girls fit, if they fit, into his life. In the end, he learns to apply faith, and God does some extraordinary things through him.

Do you pattern your characters after any boys you’ve met? 

My characters are composites of people I’ve met or read about, so, yes to some extent. On the other hand, I believe my characters are more imagined than reflective of myself or characters that I’ve met.

What advice would you give to someone hoping to write stories for young people?

Honestly, writing for students is tough right now because it is so difficult to connect with the readers, and access to public schools, where most of the market resides, is problematic. Reaching parent groups, homeschool and Christian school gatekeepers is important, but connecting directly with the students is most important of all. Begin early to cultivate your relationships with people in your target market. If you can write an entertaining book and get it directly to the students, they will respond positively.

Glenn writes inspiring adventures with an edge. No matter how dark the day, finding hope to pursue the prize is the core of all his novels and studies. He is a member of ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers), a graduate of Vision Loss Resources and Bethel Seminary, the father of six and grandfather of seven. Glenn likes tandem biking, kayaking, and daydreaming and lives in Minneapolis with his wife.

Back cover copy for Chase, Intense Book 3

            “There they are.” Chase’s voice rolled up the slope. Even hollering his voice sounded flat and lifeless like someone had drilled a hole in his body, and his soul had leaked out.

 Drugs infiltrate Tyler Higgins’ middle school turning ordinary kids into brain dead druggies. When his friend is infected, Tyler decides to cut the small town drug flow by ratting out the dealer before it’s too late.

Shadowing drug runners is risky business. A bowhunter has already disappeared, and Tyler’s true adversary remains veiled. After his first spying mission misfires, Audrey, his classmate, volunteers to help, but Tyler can’t imagine where this mission will lead. Everything goes sideways, but he doggedly follows the twisting trails, risking his friendships and his own neck. In the end, he isn’t sure who he can trust or if he can rescue anyone—including himself.

Buying Links


Barnes & Noble Nook, iBooks, Kobo and others

You can visit me at, or on Facebook at, and on Twitter, @grhaggertyjr

PS You can pick up a FREE copy of book 1 of this series here