Little Things

I don’t think I’ve ever noticed these fragile “caps” on new pine growth.

Have you?

All these years, the pine just outside our front door has kept growing, but I’ve not \

paused to notice these tiny caps made of something like onionskin.

What else haven’t I noticed? Most likely, a lot.

However, I’ve always appreciated the delicate bells on Lily of the Valley. So small, very invasive, but beautiful, imho–kind of like cardinals, a mere splash in a sea of springtime flowers, but deserving of notice.

Engaged in editing these days, both for my own work and some others’, I focus on what needs fixing. It’s great to work with authors willing to let go of their work and be open to suggestions–wanting to grow in our skills helps us so much!

And attention the the “little stuff” becomes an absolute requirement. Just this morning I spoke with a fellow Iowa author who “got a late start” like me. The learning curve seems insurmountable at times–but it did to me, too.

As usual, tales from the infamous stalls and starts in my “career” come in handy.

Nothing encourages us like stories. At least that’s how it is for me, and the stories that come to us at just the right time need not be remarkable to anyone else.

Beauty and Time

In terms of world history, forty-five years qualifies as hardly an eye-blink. True. But for a marriage, it’s a considerable amount of time.

This week, I became familiar with a renowned artist’s battle with disease and pain. Who knew that Pierre-Auguste Renoir, the creator of such fabulous paintings, suffered so? Click here to read more on a modern artist’s blog:

Renoir’s philosophy provides something to ponder:

“The pain passes but the beauty remains.”

Can anyone NOT relate? Our lives overflow with ups and downs–we ride waves of joy and sorrow, productivity and pain. At times, we collapse on the shore.

But when we open our eyes, beauty remains. Perhaps this bit of loveliness covers only a small space, but to us, means everything. On the road Lance and I travel, this “awakening to beauty” has been continual, starting with creating a home. Lance caught this robin in the act . . . so serious, so intent on its task.

From that first “I do,” we’ve employed lots of other powerful verbs. Bear with me, please, I’m in editing mode right now, and strong verbs make all the difference!

We’ve had to say, “I will,” and once in a while, delve deep to utter, “I won’t.” Tough for both sides.

The idea being to always return to that original “I do”–I DO take you to be my “wedded husband/wife.” I know, I know, this ages us.

Of course, this vow entailed far more than we ever could have imagined. but through umpteen moves, (one trans-Atlantic) job changes, child-rearing, overseas deployments, personal struggles, successes and losses, this I DO has grounded us.

Simply said, today we celebrate our fortitude, determination, tenacity, and when need be, courage to listen to our hearts and stand up for ourselves. We’re eating lunch at a local restaurant today and paying a visit to a gardening center and a thrift store–that’s our celebratory plan.

Doesn’t take much to satisfy us, eh? Well, consider our age and temperaments. (:

Behold this thoughtful anniversary bouquet, replete with yellow–such a cheerful, forward-looking color. Sunflowers, roses, daisies . . . I embrace each bloom. As a personal mantra, acknowledging pain (as Renoir did) but focusing on the beauty makes quite practical sense.

Well-made Plans

The rest of this geranium looks like it’s on its last leg, BUT one little stem greeted us with GREEN LEAVES back here in Iowa. Such a cheerful sight!

A small sign, but so powerful! There’s still life in this plant after wintering over without any nurturing whatsoever.

Of course, that’s what geraniums do, right? But still, these tiny green leaves encouraged me. Sometimes we may feel downhearted, discouraged, dilapidated, spent due to health challenges or what life in general throws at us. About a year ago, I was undergoing surgery for a broken femur. An undesirable circumstance, to say the least.

Then comes that BUT.

The other day I re-discovered one of Robert Burns’ poems written in the 1700’s. The well-made plans of mice and men…”gang aft agley,” and it’s only human to wonder about and ponder our troubles.

Often, things simply don’t turn out as we planned. That’s why we’re instructed to cast all sorts of catastrophes in the way of our fictional characters.

And it’s why signs like a few vital leaves can mean so much!

To a Mouse by ROBERT BURNS –Scottish poet

On Turning her up in her Nest, with the Plough, November 1785.

Wee, sleeket, cowran, tim’rous beastie,

O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!

Thou need na start awa sae hasty,

          Wi’ bickerin brattle!

I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee

          Wi’ murd’ring pattle!

I’m truly sorry Man’s dominion

Has broken Nature’s social union,

An’ justifies that ill opinion,

          Which makes thee startle,

At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,

          An’ fellow-mortal!

I doubt na, whyles, but thou may thieve;

What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!

A daimen-icker in a thrave

          ’S a sma’ request:

I’ll get a blessin wi’ the lave,

          An’ never miss ’t!

Thy wee-bit housie, too, in ruin!

It’s silly wa’s the win’s are strewin!

An’ naething, now, to big a new ane,

          O’ foggage green!

An’ bleak December’s winds ensuin,

          Baith snell an’ keen!

Thou saw the fields laid bare an’ waste,

An’ weary Winter comin fast,

An’ cozie here, beneath the blast,

          Thou thought to dwell,

Till crash! the cruel coulter past

          Out thro’ thy cell.

That wee-bit heap o’ leaves an’ stibble

Has cost thee monie a weary nibble!

Now thou’s turn’d out, for a’ thy trouble,

          But house or hald,

To thole the Winter’s sleety dribble,

          An’ cranreuch cauld!

But Mousie, thou art no thy-lane,

In proving foresight may be vain:

The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men

          Gang aft agley,

An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,

          For promis’d joy!

Still, thou art blest, compar’d wi’ me!

The present only toucheth thee:

But Och! I backward cast my e’e,

          On prospects drear!

An’ forward tho’ I canna see,

          I guess an’ fear!

Books, Books, Books

Having a box of brand new books arrive in the mail always perks me up.

This means the weeks and months of laboring over a story has come to a conclusion. But the real satisfaction has only begun!

This time, there’s a unique feel, because this release is my very first cozy mystery. As it makes its debut, I hope readers will cheer for my characters as they strive to solve the death of a church member right in the basement kitchen.

How awful!

My challenge, besides learning the ins and outs of cozies, was to step inside Madge and Bill’s heads as they tackled this intrigue. The local sheriff carried out his investigation, of course, but seemed to be getting nowhere.

Madge, always curious anyway, received even more motivation from her status as a suspect in the murder, along with their new young pastor. What a conundrum, to suddenly be fingerprinted and questioned–something neither of them would ever have imagined.

My first box of books came a couple of days ago, and yesterday my first sale occurred. Ta DA!

This Saturday, I’ll be doing local book signings, hoping for more readers to descend and be excited about this cover and the contents.

One thing’s for sure. This process never gets old.

New Cover! Intriguing Novel Red Hot Off the Press!

It’s wartime…from several theaters, dire news accosts the small town of Caroline, Iowa. In the local newspaper office, Madge McQuestion sorts all reports to make sure readers get the full scope.

But what to make of a sudden death right here in her church basement? And an outrageous Easter bonnet at the core of the investigation?

The town sheriff plies his investigative skills, but as one of the chief suspects, Madge cannot simply sit by and watch. Along with her husband Bill and their new fledgling pastor, she sets out to solve this murder behind the scenes.

Available now in Kindle and Hardcover, soon in paperback!

Still Puzzling

We’ve been working on this one for a few weeks now, and there’s an ambiance to this scene, stories that draw me, waiting to be told.

See the woman carrying her Christmas gifts to the wagon?

She looks so young, yet manages a household back on the farm or ranch. I like the way her husband holds their daughter’s hand . . . or maybe it’s his daughter and he lost his first wife, and this young bride is getting used to being a stepmother, as in the Oke series.

Or . . . well, any number of scenarios could be playing out. What we do see is the general store front and center, a place where folks search for ways to brighten the cold days of winter in their stark cabins.

The artist included a boy helping his father load a big present onto their wagon. Another mother holding a baby follows her young child and husband inside. What quiet expectations does she cherish? Some yard goods for new curtains? A little something special to add to the Christmas meal–perhaps some nuts or raisins the storekeeper ordered in?

Plenty of room here to brainstorm about theme. What focus propelled the artist? What life concepts did he wish to portray?

Ah…it’s all about story, and imagination plays a huge role. It’s fun to speculate…and may even motivate me to start writing!


A few feet away, there’s a steady sound. If you didn’t know what it was, you might picture a cauldron with something cooking. You’d envision steam and the constant movement of ingredients in liquid. And you’d be right.

Last week’s snow has nearly melted, no big project is calling my name, it’s Monday morning, so I’m making soup. A definite soup person myself, I was glad to discover our neighbor does not like to cook, and loves her veggies and meat in broth, too. If Lance gets tired of my concoctions–because it’s difficult to make just a little soup–our neighbor will help out.

There’s just something about that bubbling sound…quiet, nonintrusive, yet noticeable in the background, like white noise. Someone ought to add “soup boiling” to the list of white noises on those machines…what a comforting thought as you drift off to sleep. Even if you’re facing a rough night, somebody’s got the food covered.

Learning about the suffering of people during WWII always broadens me. Tens of thousands in Holland starved to death . . . Audrey Hepburn, an eighty-eight pound teenager at the time, ate tulip bulb soup with other desperate citizens.

What solace they would have gleaned in the reliable resonance of real vegetables and beef or chicken boiling in a pot. Such a simple item, something we take for granted. Delving into history often swells into gratitude–I have never known the sort of hunger they endured.

So today, I hone in on this wholesome, vibrant, homey sound.

Maybe it will usher in a new character…some woman cooking for her family. Perhaps she’s in a distressing situation. Perhaps not.

Hmm…images are starting to bubble up in my mind. (:


It might sound a bit confusing to look forward to a retreat, but I’m quoting an author friend from Connecticut when I say this. Today she told me she’d made her reservations at the quaint GILES HOTEL in Comfort, TX for our late February writers’ retreat.

In military terms, the word retreat smells of defeat, but more than one victory has come about after troops experienced a retreat. Take General George Washington, for instance–when facing General Howe’s forces, retreat became Washington’s strategy.

We’ve all seen the painting and heard the story of this famed Revolutionary War hero crossing the Delaware with his men in the dead of night . . . well, that qualified as a RETREAT. General Washington retreated his troops many times, but in the end, those retreats contributed to his final victory over the British.

Gazebo with breakfast/meeting room in background

A limited number of authors, or as some of them would say, “wannabes” will gather in Comfort, Tx, not far from San Antonio. We chose this venue purposefully, since the hotel’s own history highlighted one of the stories in our 2022 Christmas collection.

We’ll eat together, explore some writing genres and techniques in mini-workshops, and venture forth into the quaint town of Comfort to explore the wealth of history right down the street. Some will be working on stories for the 2023 edition of A Hill Country Christmas . . . that’s exciting!

Others may spend time on their own, if that’s what they need at this point–any portion of our schedule is open to individual discretion, of course. But hopefully our networking will enhance the effect of retreating.

We still have some spots left–join this site for more information.

Facebook address for Deep in the Heart Writers Retreat (event):

or contact us:

Gail at or Lynn Dean at


2022–For Better Or For Worse

On December 30, it’s natural to look back over the past year, celebrate successes and victories, bemoan our errors, and perhaps plan ahead a little. I’m so grateful for new author and reader friends, the joy of producing our Texas Hill Country Christmas Collection, and am looking forward to our writers’ retreat in late February.

In the rear-view mirror, one choice I’d change if I had a do-over…on a cold, miserable mid-April day, I might still go walking in the closest large building to our home, BUT I would not go upstairs. Thus, I would not roll my left ankle coming down the steps and splat onto the unforgiving hallway floor. Breaking a femur is no fun.

Yep, that’s one thing I’d change. And I was only trying to keep exercising in spite of the weather…

A whole bunch of other people I met in the hospital and rehab and even now in ongoing physical therapy might note similar alterations in their behavior this past year. One of them, a new friend I met on a day when her facial bruises made a memorable impression, writes this:

I was on my way home from volunteering at Food Bank and I stopped to check for mail. It was dark, so I turned on emergency flashers, but forgot to put the car in park. As I got out, the car rolled forward and I fell backwards (onto right hip area). As I tried to get up to stop my car, my arms and/or legs gave out and I hit my head on the street. I then managed to get back into my car, which had stopped at my cul-de-sac turn (as if to say, “Get in. I’ll take you home.”).  Luckily, there were no serious injuries- just a very “colorful” couple of weeks to come. 

Don’t you love her sense of humor? And Jan has even shared some photos.

When she first shared her story, Jan said, “Lesson for all: Put car in park before exiting!” So you know what she would change if she could go back.

Another shot of Jan in the Emergency Room:

And another later at home. Note: sometimes the healing process can make us look even worse than at the beginning.

The wonderful thing is, finding a bit of humor in our situations makes all the difference. If Jan had looked like anyone else around us the day I met her in a very public spot, her remarkably humble attitude might not have shown through. And we both agreed that sometimes it seems like our bodies resist the “normal” track.

Neither of us have any idea what’s ahead in 2023, of course, but we’ve both made it this far. One thing that’s helped me on “low” days has been keeping a list of people fighting much bigger, life-and-death battles…

a young mom with a newborn AND a frightening cancer.

Someone who had two bone breaks last year and now faces serious cancer surgery.

And the list goes on. Lifting them up in the middle of a sleepless night puts my own woes in perspective.

As you look back on 2022 and ahead to a new year, any stories you’d like to relate? We all benefit from this kind of sharing!

And a healthy 2023 to all of you.


Time and again, C.S. Lewis nails it. I just became familiar with his little Christmas poem called “The Nativity” from The Collected Poems of C.S. Lewis: A Critical Edition.

Among the asses (stubborn I as they)

I see my Saviour where I looked for hay.

How often does what we think we’re looking for get in the way of what we might actually see by opening our minds and hearts?

Can anybody identify?

We live in the midst of change…constant change. Maybe it’s due to aging, but change seems to blast us lately. “Us” includes our circle of family and friends, and change exists everywhere. Feels like we’re constantly hit with another alteration to get used to.

Yesterday on her birthday, Lance pulled up a photo from our daughter’s childhood. Reminded me of how creative she is, and how time has flown by. Here, I see childhood’s uninhibited joys…exploration and discovery.

Ah, the pure pleasure of playing in the mud! Messes didn’t bother me that much back then, all part of learning.

Anyway, here we are with Christmas around the corner. A different Christmas, with friends rather than family…and my prayer is for eyes to SEE, not just to LOOK.

May you, too, find what you didn’t expect this season!