Message from Mogollon Rim Country

While I surely would never claim to be a cognoscente, or expert, about elk, the past decade has certainly taught me a lot about this animal. Seeing specimens around our house reveals new facets of their lives as the seasons changes.

One year, Lance videoed a male rubbing off his antlers for an extended time on one of the trees in front of our house. I was watching, too, and marveled at his tenacity and determination.

This past week, “the herd” has passed through nearly every day and often lingers for a while to reach high into our mountain oak trees for more leaves.

Imagine the strength of these neck muscles! I’ve always been amazed that such a large animal can survive on vegetation. But it’s true, every time you see them, they’re eating.

Since we first discovered this area, I’ve been working on a novel set in the Civil War era. For some reason, it has taken more than a decade (definitely a record!) to complete. But now, at last, Secondhand Sunsets will release next week.

It’s full of the flora and fauna of our area and the beauty of the Mogollon Rim. This pioneer story takes the reader on a treacherous journey across the nation, and highlights one woman’s will to survive.

Pant! I learned so much about this era’s history in the process, and though it seems peculiar to be releasing anything but a World War II story, here we go. So today I’d like to reveal the cover. Soon, we should have purchase information to share.

Gifts of Grace

Author Kathy McKinsey joins us today with her collection of three women’s stories. She’s giving away a free kindle copy of Gifts of Grace to someone who leaves a comment.

Three novellas. Three women search with hungry hearts, and God shows them surprising answers.

Tammy needs a new goal to fill her empty nest, and she needs to find forgiveness for her heart. 

Mourning the loss of her baby, Judy flees to the home she abandoned twelve years ago. The family farm. Is something new waiting for her at this old home?

Iola, who is blind, struggles to prove herself as a professional and to be the mother her sixteen-year-old daughter needs during a rough time.

Watch as God opens doors these women would never expect.

I wanted to challenge myself with several things in these three novellas. It’s been more than forty years since I moved away from our family farm. I decided it would be fun to set a story on a farm.

Besides the internet, my research included questions for my brother Jim, who is currently raising cows on our home place. This story was delightful to write.

I also wanted to have a main character be blind. Since I am visually impaired, it seems like this would be easy for me, wouldn’t you think?

But, even though I struggle to put much visual description in my writing, it certainly is easier to go by the assumption that everybody can see everything. Facial expressions, body movements to show emotions and reactions toward others. Visual recognition of where things are located in a room or in an outside setting. Observation of natural actions around the setting.

I wanted the character’s blindness to be a real part of the story, but not the most important part. I didn’t go into great detail about how the blind character performed everyday tasks, and found that the story flowed more naturally than I’d expected.

Other issues I wanted to deal with were forgiveness and a teen struggling with self-harm. I enjoyed writing these characters’ stories, sharing in their relationships, learning from their struggles.

Violets in February

We’ve all heard the saying, “God gave us memory so that we may have roses in December.” James Barrie, the author who gave us Peter Pan, was reminding us that warmth comes to us in mysterious ways when life’s cold sweeps down.

With no roses on hand, I offer this delicate violet bloom this morning. I’m thinking especially of friends and family enduring the bitter cold in Iowa, and also my friends suffering through an abnormal winter storm in Texas.

At times like these, little things can make a big difference. Many of you in Texas cannot even view this violet today because your power is down. But perhaps in a couple of days you’ll know I thought of you.

On May 3, 1922 at The University of St. Andrew, the oldest university in Scotland, J.M. Barrie was quoting from a poem by Geoffrey Anketell Studdert-Kennedy (1883-1929)

“God gave His children memory…That in life’s garden there might be…June roses in December.” 

The historical context, the end of World War I, entered into this address also. Mr. Barrie was facing young men who had lost brothers and friends in that horrible nightmare. The world still trembled in its aftermath. They had read about–or possibly seen for themselves–the poppies in Flanders Fields.

J. M. Barrie shared his thoughts with great humility. I wish I could speak with some of the students present that day, to ask how his thoughts on courage affected them.

If you’d like to read the speech in its entirety, you may find it here:

At any rate, back in this century, I know my friends are facing this dire weather with the everyday courage so necessary in life. I hope things soon return to normal for all of you.

How to Cope in the Time of COVID: Laugh

Carol McClain has some GREAT ADVICE and a giveaway this week . . . her humorous take on life reminds me of Erma Bombeck. Welcome, Carol!

Life has been so extra busy this last year. I’ve been busily scheduling:

  1. Book Launch for a new book.
  2. Craft Shows
  3. Concerts
  4. 5Ks
  5. Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas
  6. Protests 

The busy part wasn’t the activities. It was the cancelling of them all. (Except maybe protests).

How do we stay sane in this awful pandemic/politically charged/economically devastated society?

The prescription can be found in Proverbs 17:22: A merry heart doeth good like a medicine:”

Find the humor. 

The very act of smiling—even a fake smile—can change your mood. Go on and give it a try. We’re all in quarantine, so no one can see you grinning when you don’t want to (unless you have your Zoom video running.) PLEASE, always remember, if your camera is on, colleagues can see what you’re wearing or not wearing).

For me, humor has been my coping mechanism. A big zit on my nose? I don’t hide it with a burqa. I tell myself, “Own it, Carol. Make it work for you.” Or I ask for Ms. Pimple for rent. 

Laughter isa good medicine. Not only did God tell us this. The Mayo Clinic confirmed it.

According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter has the following benefits: 

  1. Cachinnation stimulates many organs.
  2. Chuckling activates and relieves your stress response.
  3. Mirth releases tension.
  4. Hilarity improves your immune system (Take that, COVID-19!).
  5. Got pain? Get snickering. Pain will flee (or escape my escapades in the thesaurus, or my poet’s penchant for alliteration).
  6. Glee increases personal satisfaction.
  7. And proving my initial point, guffawing improves your mood.

Don’t take my word for it. Check out the article.

If you don’t trust the Mayo Clinic, do a concordance check on your favorite version of Scripture. God decreed this truth long before American doctors had.

So, here’s my shameless self-promotion. Skip this portion if you have no interest in considering my latest book (or you don’t mind breaking my heart). 

All my writing, even when dealing with intense subjects such as child slavery, drug addiction, or loss, is always dosed with humor. People return to me time and again and speak about how my book made them laugh (even after they cried).

I’ve re-released a book now called The Perils of Cheryl. It’s a LOL novel about divorce, dating, and the divine. One reader said her husband repeatedly asked her what was so funny as she snorted and chortled in bed reading the novel.

Once more: Don’t take my word for it. Check out The Perils of Cheryl

Also, don’t take my word about humor being biblical. Here’s another reference from Proverbs. “She is clothed with strength and dignity;  she can laugh at the days to come” (Pr. 31:25).

To find out more about me–why not sign up for my newsletter? It’s easy–and I NEVER spam you.

Happier still is the purchase of The Perils of Cheryl.

You can win a copy of the book if you post a comment—make it funny so we can all be healed.

You can connect with me on Facebook at:

On Twitter and Instagram: @carol_mcclain

The Spies of World War II

Today, our guest author, Carole Brown, shares SING UNTIL YOU DIE, the third in her series of novels. Here, she gives us a grip on her story. Also, she’s offering a signed paperback to one commenter:

Unlike books one and two of The Spies of WWIIseries (With Music in Their Heartsand A Flute in the Willows), I couldn’t get a handle on where to go with Claire Anne Rayner and Wills Mason’s story in Sing Until You Die. I knew their names, knew their careers, but the plot evaded me until it was time to write the novel. And then…

Slowly the plot opened up:  

  • How Claire was using her career
  • What was being asked of Wills by his colonel
  • The conflict between the two main protagonists
  • The protagonists’ personalities
  • Why revenge was being sought by the foreign spy
  • Who the spy was

The more I wrote, the more I loved these two faulty, but loveable characters. Were they perfect? No. Were they determined to do what they felt was their duty, what they knew was their calling? Yes and yes. 

Claire, as a child and teenager, faced thoughtless and sometimes cruel teasings because of over zealousness from certain family and friends. In her youthful mind, she felt loathing for those hurting her and knew she’d never forgive those involved. 

Wills, on the otherhand, as a youth was bound to prove he was one better than his best friend. Nothing was too dangerous or too extreme for him to try. No matter how others might feel…

Yet, through loving family and friends, these two grew into adulthood as caring, serious, and  individuals determined to succeed in their separate pursuits. The only thing they needed to do was ask for forgiveness and forgive. Could they lay aside their accusations for each other and do it? Would they realize that past feelings and thoughts about the other might just be wrong?

I worked hard at showing the slow and sometimes painful process of their achieving that. But tying in the insidious spy, thrust these two adorable, but different, characters into each others’ lives. That brings about the question: 

Will the web of deceit the mysterious German spy is weaving destroy their one chance of happiness with each other, or can they both let go of the past and work together to bring the spy to justice? 

Sing Until You Die

From childhood up, Claire Anne Rayner has despised the man who’s like a brother and son to the rest of the Rayner House residents. But when she puts her musical training on hold and begins singing to the troops as a means of helping support and encourage them, she is pulled into a mysterious spy’s efforts to destroy a certain high-ranking man. 

Wills Mason is loved by everyone but Claire who cannot forgive him for his and her sister’s unmerciful, youthful teasing. But now, grown up and serving as a civilian spy, Wills must prove that Claire is not willingly relaying messages to the enemy, as his colonel believes, even when all evidence points that way. And can he prove he’s changed and can be trusted to cherish her heart as she deserves to be loved? 

Will the web of deceit the mysterious German spy is weaving destroy their one chance of happiness with each other, or can they both let go of the past and work together to bring the spy to justice?



Besides being a member and active participant of many writing groups, Carole Brown enjoys mentoring beginning writers. An author of ten books, she loves to weave suspense and tough topics into her books, along with a touch of romance and whimsy, and is always on the lookout for outstanding titles and catchy ideas. She and her husband reside in SE Ohio but have ministered and counseled nationally and internationally. Together, they enjoy their grandsons, traveling, gardening, good food, the simple life, and did she mention their grandsons? 

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The Difference Words Can Make

Ad hominem literally means “to the person” in Latin, as first used in post-medieval texts. An “argument ad hominem” meant a valid method of persuasion taking advantage of an opponent’s interests or feelings, instead of just sticking to general principles. Ad hominem later came to describe an attack aimed at an opponent’s character, the sense used today. The hostile nature of such attacks has led to this term meaning “against the person,” rather than its original Latin meaning of “to the person”, or engaging one’s opponent.

Ah, for more to and less against! These two nondescript words, to and against–what a difference they make. And today, we see the latter used so consistently, we stand to forget what the former can mean in civil society. It’s sad and frightening.

So we turn to…beauty! Here’s a shot from our road yesterday…what a glorious firmament, to use some old-fashioned terms. Just before I took it, the sun lent a shiny backdrop to the tallest tree–I think Lance would’ve been quicker on the draw and captured that. Still, the scene took me away from all the bitterness and unveiled hatred in our society.

This sky portends the storm upon us now. We’re getting heavy rain, much needed for this dry country. It’s turning to sleet, and by Monday, the forecast is 17-24 inches of snow.

As they say during Iowa blizzards, it’s hunkering down time. Sometimes we need to do this emotionally, too. Maybe we’ll go out into the fray again later. But for now, the sight of pines under these skies and the incredible beauty we know will accompany the snow suffices.

Paint Me Fearless

A big welcome to author Hallie Lee, who has published screenplays and now writes women’s fiction. Impressive! She gives us a look at her novel, Paint Me Fearless, which debuted at the number #1 spot on Amazon’s Hot New Release chart in contemporary Christian Fiction, and continues to battle the top spot out with Robert Whitlow.

Hallie is giving away a commenter’s choice–e-book or paperback. She has agreed to an interview, so here goes:

1) Tell us what is unique about your novel.

Paint Me Fearless depicts real struggles in women’s lives in a way that’s both edgy and innocent. Told in first person, the story alternates between the two main characters, Desi and Robin. They are young, and insecure. Like we all are at that age! What makes this book unique, I think, is the truth about the way we carry those insecurities into adulthood, even when we should know better, we still struggle with feelings of inadequacy, body hatred, loneliness – and jealousy. 

Through these characters, we see how fear affects the choices we make, and how it can alter our lives. The message is how we can overcome the falseness of the lies, and be free of the fear. 

2) How would you categorize your genre?

Honestly, I think it crosses genre lines and would resonate with fans of both mainstream women’s fiction as well as uplifting Christian literature. While certainly grounded in a Christian worldview, the characters are flawed, relatable … and redeemable.  Like all of us.

3) What’s your background? How’d you get here?

It took me a while! I wrote short stories in high school. Romance novels in my twenties. I got a lot of no’s. A lot of rejection. But my mama read everything I ever wrote. She inspired me. Encouraged me. So I never gave up. I suppose I honed my skills when my family moved to Santa Fe. It’s a movie making town and I had a lot of opportunities there. I learned to write screenplays, and had some success.

3) I see you’ve won the Actor’s Choice Award at a screenwriting conference in Santa Fe and a Silver in Drama in the PAGE International Screenwriting Contest. Tells us about that. Did you meet any movie stars? Ha!

I did! I met Shirly MacLaine. I saw Alan Arkin in Whole Foods. The Longmire guy, Robert Taylor, in Albertson’s. Ali McGraw. But in Santa Fe you have to be real cool about it …Ha! 

5) You grew up in Louisiana, right? Is that what inspired Shady Gully, Louisiana? Will the rest of the series take place in Louisiana?

Paint Me Fearless spanned Louisiana, New Mexico, and Kentucky. Write what you know, right? Ha! It’s the Shady Gully Series, so sure, mostly in Louisiana, but my characters will take a few trips to the land of the bluegrass in Kentucky for sure.

7) What should readers expect in Book 2?

A little more intrigue. And a lot of humor, believe it or not. It will take place five years from the end of Book 1, and this time, the story will be told through the point of view of men. We’re going to learn more about Wolfheart, the anti-villain of Book 1. But we’re going to see Robin and Desi and all the gang as well!

A note from Hallie:

When the delightful Gail Kittleson invites you to be a guest on her blog, you do a little happy dance, say a little prayer, and (hopefully) rise to the occasion! So…with that… Happy 2021 everyone! 

I’m Hallie Lee, and I’m honored to “meet” you today. Like you, I’m a fan of Gail’s, not only for her inspirational, prolific writing, but for her wisdom, her guidance, and of course, her flowers!!

Paint Me Fearless is set in Shady Gully, Louisiana, a small town chocked full of ornery, cantankerous characters. Think Steel Magnolias meets Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. It’s Inspirational/Women’s Fiction, and it’s Book One in the Shady Gully Series…

Paint Me Fearless

Sometimes just the perception of betrayal is enough to destroy a lifelong bond…

It’s the spring before high school and DESIREE and ROBIN have little in common.

DESI, having moved to Shady Gully from Albuquerque, is miserable as she tries to adjust to small town life, while ROBIN, forever doomed at the “bottom of the popularity pyramid” is terrified she’ll never measure up.

When Desi is introduced in class, Robin hates her on sight, but fate draws these two alienated girls to one another, and together they overcome mean girls, weight hang-ups, and disturbing family dynamics.

Their bond stands the test of time, even as their paths diverge and they raise families of their own, but when a shocking betrayal ignites old insecurities, the layers of their friendship begin to unravel.

As they confront the lies that ravaged their lives, they finally learn that the world’s prizes—beauty, recognition, and approval—are fleeting. And with that truth they find the freedom to live unashamed. And unafraid.

Reviews/What They Are Saying:

“Paint Me Fearless resonates with the crippling effects of our insecurities, both those we inherit and the ones we create.” 

“A sweeping story of family, friendship and the lies the devil tells us about ourselves …”

“A touching novel about two girls molded by their small town and the whimsical brushstrokes, both beautiful and shameful, of the adults in their lives.”

Author Bio:

I’ve lived in the south all of my life (with the exception of a brief stint in New Mexico) and most of my novels and screenplays are set somewhere below the Mason-Dixon line.

Despite my kinship with all things southern, it was the brief stint in Santa Fe, New Mexico where I honed my writing skills. The exposure to such a creative movie making community gave me the opportunity to attend many writing conferences and classes. 

As my screenplays were recognized with placements and awards in various contests, I had the opportunity to take a course with Emmy Award winning screenwriter Kirk Ellis in Santa Fe. Beyond that, producer Ronnie Clemmer (A League Of Their Own) saw something in me he wanted to mentor. 

But alas, my heart is southern. After a move to Kentucky a few years ago, I put away the screenplays and focused once again on my real passion—writing novels.

THE SHADY GULLY SERIES is the result. It’s women’s literature. It’s book club fiction. It’s faith based. It’s me.

Social Media: Visit Hallie’s website and sign up for her newsletter at

Paint Me Fearless, The Shady Gully SeriesHot New Release on Amazon

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Paint Me Fearless (The Shady Gully): Lee, Hallie: 9781952474279: Books

Country Music’s Hidden Gem

Last summer, I had the privilege of meeting Sharon and Billy Rae Stewart online. After hearing Redd Stewart’s incredible story–he composed The Tennessee Waltz, a beautiful song my mother used to sing around the house–I became more deeply involved in bringing this story to the world.

Here’s the cover of this new release, and I’m very proud to have played a role in its publication.

Now I’ll let Billy Rae, Redd Stewart’s son, describe what it’s been like to honor his father in this way. At the end, he shares the gifts he’d like to offer to three of you who leave a comment. I hope you visit the website he and Sharon created as a tribute to Redd, as well.

Hello everyone, this is Billy Rae. Let me start by saying becoming an Author was not on my bucket list. Music has always been my direction since I was 9 years old until my father passed away in 2003. My father’s story is an amazing one, full of life’s lessons that everyone can benefit from reading.

My father achieved his dreams against impossible odds, and had to overcome many struggles to become successful. His dedication to his craft and determination to succeed made his dreams come true. He succeeded in an industry where most people lose their souls and abandon their values just to become famous, but he did it without doing either. Starting his music career at the age of 13 in the middle of the Depression was enough to make anyone give up, but his life became a true rags-to-riches story.

This is the reason I just had to write this book. When you read it, you will realize that Redd Stewart never quit and also that he didn’t get the recognition he so rightly deserved. Writing this book was a way I could shine the light on a man who is what I call, Country Music’s Hidden Gem and my dad.

The process of writing the book was much easier than I’m sure most writers go through. I know the subject personally and have heard the stories over and over again. In 2003 when my father passed away, one of the first projects we wanted to work on was a documentary. We gathered together family photos and stories and organized all of the pictures, fliers, posters, awards, etc. my father had saved all through the years. We studied performance videos and interviews and numerous other resources.

We also did video interviews with family members to get stories and insights. On our tribute website for my father ( we had two guestbooks, one for basic stories and comments from fans and one for a petition to have him inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. The response was overwhelming. They came in from all over the world from fans and musicians he had played with through the years. 

All of this information made writing the book pretty straightforward. We decided to cover his life from the beginning to the end, and broke up all the resources into 10 year periods starting in the 30’s when he was born. We then went through each decade and decided the most important events to share with readers.

My wife Sharon made up index cards of those events. With her at the keyboard and me in my chair armed with those cards and resources to make sure I had my dates right, I would narrate the story from my head and she would type as we went along. After each part we would go back and tweak it. And that, my friends, is how we wrote the book!

Writing this book has been a dream come true, and I hope when you read it you will get to know the man I had the privilege of calling my dad. He was truly amazing.

We wanted to do a give away for all who read this blog, so we will choose three names from those who leave a comment, and they will get an E-book of Country Music’s Hidden Gem, along with one of my favorite CD’s that I personally remastered from the original entitled,’I Remember,’ which includes a beautiful 12-page booklet filled with lyrics and pictures that I know you will enjoy.

Thank you all for being here and God bless you all,

Billy Rae Stewart

You may follow Billy Rae and Sharon’s FB page My Unexpected Journey (White Socks Rock)

COUNTRY MUSIC’S HIDDEN GEM can be purchased here:


Puzzling It Out

About a week ago, Lance emptied a 1,500 piece puzzle on a table he moved in from outdoors. A card table wasn’t big enough to hold everything. First thing, of course, he put together the frame.

Except for one little piece. Now, how hard could it be to find ONE straight-edged puzzle piece in the mess spread out before us?

Very. Two days later, I happened upon the recalcitrant object and jubilantly fitted it in. Oh, the satisfaction!

Since then, long hours have passed organizing pieces by color, being foiled at fitting them in, and fretting when it seems as though ONLY THE ONE PIECE we’re seeking seems beyond our grasp.

Puzzles are somewhat like writing a book. They may lead you down dead-ends at times. They keep you up late.

And they’re addictive…perfect for a January getaway.


This is exciting–(:

Congratulations to my reader and author friends–we have a new publishing venue! One of the editors, Karen Ullo, joins us this week. She’s also an author–see below for her GIVEAWAY details.

Thank you, Gail, for inviting me to be here with you this week! I’m thrilled to introduce your readers to my fantasy novel Cinder Alliaas well as Chrism Press, a new imprint of Gail’s own publisher, WhiteFire Publishing, dedicated to fiction from Catholic and Orthodox perspectives.

First, I’m absolutely thrilled to announce that, hopefully within the next few years, Cinder Allia will become a movie! Believe Entertainment (God’s Not Dead, Unplanned) recently purchased the film rights, and we are actively working on developing the film! 

What if the happy ending dies before the fairy tale even begins?

The way the idea for Cinder Allia came to me is a funny story. Once upon a time, I got together with some of my childhood girlfriends for a sleepover. We were all in our mid-twenties and still single. Sometime after midnight, we started wondering what had happened to our Prince Charmings. Fairy tales had promised us princes! Then we thought, what if Prince Charming had died before we could meet him? We concocted a very silly story that the prince’s guardian angel had gone on vacation and left a replacement—the Angel Vinnie—in charge. Vinnie had been asleep on the job when the prince got whacked by a crack dealer. 

Fast forward many years to a happily married, mother-of-two version of myself… and I realized there really was something to that idea. What if Prince Charming died before he could save Cinderella—and what if it was the fairy godmother’s fault? Out of that very silly seed of an idea, something completely different blossomed: a tale of war and espionage, with a crippled prince, a spy priest, a stepmother whose wickedness is poised to take down the throne, and a cinder maid who has to save not only herself, but her kingdom. 

I’m pleased to be able to offer a signed paperback of Cinder Allia to one lucky person who comments on this post, so please, ask questions, make comments, and let’s talk fairy tales!

I’d also like to invite you all to come join the fun at Chrism Press. If you read a lot of Christian fiction, you may (or may not) have noticed that there are very few depictions within this market of Catholic and Orthodox Christians. Surprisingly, the story of Chrism Press begins with two Evangelicals, David and Roseanna White, the owners of WhiteFire, who noticed that lack and wanted to create a place for these voices to be heard. Rhonda Ortiz and Marisa Deshaies, two Catholics who were already part of the WhiteFire editing team, invited me to join them, and a new imprint was born. Our first releases will be issued in the fall of 2021. I hope you’ll sign up for our newsletter, and if you want a sneak preview of what this ecumenical fiction looks like, check out the book that inspired it all, Roseanna White’s own The Number of Love 

It’s lovely to “meet” you all. Thank you once more to Gail for hosting me. Come find me on the web!

My website: