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.

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

A WILD Western Story

Welcome to Jodie Wolfe, whose new Smitten (Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas) release To Claim Her Heart, has made it to the top of my reading pile. Want to take a time-trip back to 1893 and experience romance in the Cherokee Strip Land Run? Then this is perfect for your summer reading, and if you’d like to qualify for a drawing for a free e-book, please leave a comment.  

Here’s the great cover, and I’ve asked Jodie some questions about her novel. 

Tell us why this story is dear to your heart. It’s the one my mother-in-law always wanted me to write. Sadly, she didn’t live to see the book in print, but when she was dying she knew I had written the story.

How did your favorite character take shape?

I wanted my hero and heroine to claim the same piece of land and planned to have the hero be a preacher who was at a loss after his fiancée died. I needed to come up with a feisty heroine who also had hurts from her past that would necessitate her particular affinity to a preacher.

Does she/he remind you of anybody?

Not anybody in particular. I often try to create quirky characters that prickle each other from the beginning because it’s something I enjoy reading. 🙂

Here’s the back cover blurb for To Claim Her Heart

 In 1893, on the eve of the great race for land, Benjamin David prays for God to guide him to his ‘Promised Land. Finding property and preaching to the lost are his only ways of honoring his deceased fiancée. He hasn’t counted on Elmer (Elsie) Smith claiming the same plot and refusing to leave. Not only is she a burr in his side, but she is full of the homesteading know-how he is sadly lacking.

Obtaining a claim in the Cherokee Strip Land Run is Elsie Smith’s only hope for survival, and not just any plot, she has a specific one in mind. The land’s not only a way to honor her pa and his life, but also to provide a livelihood for herself. She’s willing to put in whatever it takes to get that piece of property, and Elsie’s determined to keep it.

Her bitterness is what protects her, and she has no intentions of allowing that preacher to lay claim to her land . . . or her heart.

Please share a favorite quote from your book.

I love this quote from my hero, Benjamin.

“You can’t keep holding on to the bitterness, or it’ll eat you alive. Don’t allow Satan to win. He desires for you to be discouraged, defeated, and unforgiving, but God has better things in store for you, if you’ll allow Him to work in your life again.”

What do you want readers to come away with?

A sense of the hope we have in Christ. No matter what struggles we go through (or my characters go through), the Lord is always faithful and provides hope in ways we least expect it.

Where can readers connect with you?


Jodie Wolfe creates novels where hope and quirky meet. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and Romance Writers of America (RWA) and has been a semi-finalist and finalist in various writing contests. A former columnist for Home School Enrichment magazine, her articles can be found online at: Crosswalk, Christian Devotions, and Heirloom Audio. She’s a contributor for Putting on the New and Stitches Thru Time blogs. When not writing she enjoys spending time with her husband in Pennsylvania, reading, walking, and being a Grammie. Learn more at

Thank You For Going

Chautona Havig, a loving soul desiring to inspire the hearts of others, is today’s guest author. Service in the military is a large part of my family’s story, and I am grateful for her thoughtful words to all of those who have served in whatever capacity.

Thank You For Going

I’ll never forget the moment I read L.M. Montgomery’s glorious words in Rilla of Ingleside. I hadn’t been fond of the book, but those words (and a second reading a few months later) gave me a greater appreciation for it. The scene is the train station where many in Anne’s town are sending their boys off to WWI—to fight for Canada. For King and country. One snotty mother gives Anne Blythe a dig that would tear at the heart of any soldier’s mother. It goes like this:

“I don’t know how you can stand this, Mrs. Blythe. I couldn’t if it was my pore boy.” And mother—oh, mother could always be depended on! How her grey eyes flashed in her pale face. “It might have been worse, Mrs. Drew. I might have had to urge him to go.” Mrs. Drew did not understand but Rilla did. She flung up her head. Her brother did not have to be urged to go.

Memorial Day—the day we remember anyone who has fought and died for this country we call home. So amid the cookouts, the ball games, and the swimming pool parties, I just want to take a moment to do what this day is all about. Remember.

To every mother who gave birth to an American soldier, God bless you. May God give you peace when your child is so far away.

To every father who taught that soldier honor, sacrifice, and duty, thank you for your example. Those daily choices to do what’s right, to do without all the toys, to go to work… again. They were worth it—so worth it.

To every teacher, preacher, neighbor, mentor, recruiter, and drill sergeant who made a difference in that soldier’s life, I respect you for your influence. Investing in one person’s life often ripples through generations. Thank you.

To the wife or husband who kept the home fires burning, so to speak, thank you for YOUR service. Our servicemen and women could not do what they do without the confidence in knowing that all is well at home.

To the children who grow up knowing that their parent may miss holidays, important events, and milestones, we’re so sorry. We pray they return soon and safe—to you.

To everyone who says goodbye and watches loved ones leave as youths, knowing they’ll return as soldiers, sailors, airmen, or Marines, say goodbye with the knowledge that they’ll never be the same—and they’ll always be the same person you’ve always loved.

And to every soldier who has served, fought, died, or is serving, fighting, and might die, there are no adequate words, but thank you.

Thank you.

I think I’ll go read that amazing scene from Rilla of Ingleside again. Imagine the flash of Anne’s eyes, the buoying of her spirit as she says, “I might have had to urge him to go.”

To all who serve in our military. Thank you for going—even without our urging.



Author of the Amazon bestselling Aggie and Past Forward Series, Chautona Havig lives and writes in California’s Mojave Desert. With dozens of books to her name, Chautona spends most of her time writing, but when she takes the rare break, she can be found reading, sewing, paper crafting, or sleeping and dreaming of finishing the dozens of books swirling in her overly-active imagination at any given moment.

Connect with Chautona: 
Website  //  Facebook  //  Twitter  //  Pinterest  //  Instagram

So I Wrote This Book…

Lisa Lickel, an encouraging online writer-friend, describes her novel Requiem For the Innocents. I read this story a couple of months ago, and highly recommend it if you like to read hard-to-put-down tales that make you think. And…Lisa is giving an e-book away to one of you who leaves a comment.

So, I Wrote This Book…

In 2008 I met my first agent. We had recently signed a contract for my first published book for Barbour’s new cozy mystery book club supposedly releasing later that year. I had signed up for one of those luxury writing conferences, the kind where you have to take a plane, then a shuttle from the airport, and eat food you don’t recognize served in tiny portions and try to find people and classrooms and stand in line for an hour to get an autograph. I came prepared with four story concepts to pitch, one of them I titled Innocents Pray.

I’m not great at titles which you must have in order to explain your book to potential publishers, even when you know they’re going to change it. The theme of this story was who does God answer when people offer fervent opposing prayers? Like, if you’re a Cardinals fan, and your friend is a Brewers fan, and the teams play each other for the league championship, and you both pray really hard for a win, does God like your prayer better if the Brewers win? Or did it matter?

I liked the irony behind “innocent” people praying with all their hearts for a particular answer. The same title had only been for a nonfiction book several years earlier, and since it wasn’t heavily used, I kept it, even though informal surveys of my writerly friends had strong mixed feelings. Since no one could come up with anything that strongly said, “this is it!” I worked with the cover artist and did it my way.

Sales tanked. Actually, they never launched. I had trepidations about the whole thing and trembled over the release. You see, I signed or was offered contracts with three successive agents using this novel as my audition. None of them could sell it, and one agent withdrew the offer of representation. At first I was told it was a denominational issue, then it was a “sorrow” issue; there was always some divisive issue about this story. But I loved it. I had worked on it for six years, and when self, or Do-It-Yourself publishing became slightly less objectionable and horrifying for traditionally-published authors, I went all-in and used the imprint of my publications business to publish this book completely on my own.

My writing buddies endorsed me. My book club picked it up for discussion, and I garnered a few good reviews, but book stagnated. I had to do something. I’d researched cover concepts and felt the art was good. The teaser was good, according to more desperate surveying: “One wants her to live, one wants her dead, and one wants her cells.”

The title still puzzled readers. Here’s the back cover copy:

Justice, mercy, and humbleness collide when four people pray for different answers to the same situation. How will God answer all of them?

What is wrong with trying to cure cancer? Brother Able, hospice chaplain, asks himself that question every day. His boss, Dr. Rich Bernard, performs closet genetic experiments at Paradise House. He blackmails Able into keeping his secret. When a grieving husband asks Able to pray for his dying wife, Able finally breaks his silence.

Libby Davis might be prepared to accept death, to sacrifice herself for Rich’s greater cause but fails to comprehend the love of a husband who cannot let her go and the son who’s a whisper from the edge of reason. Brother Able wades into battle for those innocents in her life. If he wins, it won’t be only Libby’s family he saves.

Like many authors, I needed to get out of my own way.

Just because I liked the idea of my characters’ not-so-innocent actions translating into a play-on-words title that would hopefully drop jaws of potential readers didn’t mean I would get my way. And I didn’t. So I changed the title about two months later.

What I am learning is to be flexible and find surer footing in presenting my books. I am confident that my stories do touch readers, but finding that beautiful key to unlock the adventure for readers is a continuing challenge to meet and overcome.

Where to buy the book and book info:

Print ISBN 13: 978-0-9904281-0-7

ISBN 10: 0-9904281-0-9


6 by 9 inches, 340 pp


Ebook ISBN-10: 0-9904281-1-7

ISBN-13: 978-0-9904281-1-4

$4.99; some sites have a $.99 sale


Library of Congress Control Number: 2016908998

Key words: healing, cancer treatment, family drama, Christian fiction, Catholic, hospice, genetics, book club books


Apple iBooks:

BN shortlink

Kindle shortlink:


Lisa Lickel, a Wisconsin writer, lives in the rolling hills of western Wisconsin. A multi-published, best-selling and award-winning novelist, she also writes short stories and radio theater, is an avid book reviewer, blogger, a freelance editor, and sometimes magazine editor. She is part of Novel-in-Progress Bookcamp and Writing Retreat, Inc., mentoring writers from across the US and Canada. Visit




Amazon author page:

RUSH…a Trip Back in Time

I’ve always thought it would be fun to bring an ancestor to life for a modern-day audience. A few months ago, I read Jayme Mansfield’s RUSH and vicariously spent some time claiming land in Oklahoma with Jayme’s great-great grandmother. Jayme is giving a print copy of RUSH to a commenter. 

Jayme, how did you choose your genre? What about the writing process for this genre challenges you most? 

I love reading historical fiction, so it’s a natural draw to write in that genre. Researching for accuracy and depth of story and characters is essential. Since there are so many means available for research, it’s not difficult as much as time-consuming—in a good way! I’ve learned so much while researching and find special gems of information to add to the stories. RUSH was particularly exciting to research as the story is based on my great-great grandmother’s experience in the 1893 Oklahoma Land Rush. My family had a treasure trove of letters, documents, photographs, and an oral history to pull from that brought her story to life.

Tell us about your characters. Do you have a favorite?

Several of the characters are closely based on real people from my family lineage. Mary Louisa Roberts is the real name of my great-great grandmother and the main protagonist. Her perseverance, independence, and faith are not only inspiring, but endearing for readers. Since I share her bloodline, I admit she is my favorite! To fictionalize her life and round out the story, I created several characters. One whom readers wish was real is the handsome and kind illustrative journalist from Boston who becomes Mary’s love interest. Of course, there are several bad guys, and one in particular makes the skin crawl!

What struggles in Mary Louisa’s story are still applicable for women today?

Even though life is much different today than back in 1893, women often still struggle with identifying and following their true calling, especially in the midst of caring for others. Mary is not only a woman in a man’s world, but she is a single mother of a young child. Forgiveness, daring to love again, and trusting are timeless challenges.

What underlying moral premise undergirds your story? (What universal truth can readers take away?)

RUSH’s book trailer,, shares the message that there’s something special about the past—it draws us in and reminds us we are part of it. It’s a beautiful trailer and I hope you take a brief moment to enjoy it.

In what ways has writing changed your life?

Oh, where to begin? Besides all the wonderful people who are now part of my life, my work focus has shifted from teaching language arts and visual arts to primarily writing. I still spend a great deal of time running my art studio, but writing seems to permeate everything and is always on my mind.

Gail, thank you for inviting me to share about my passion for writing. Here’s to all of us crazy about books!

Jayme H. Mansfield is an author, artist, and educator. Her award-winning novels, Chasing the Butterfly and RUSH, are book club favorites and Amazon bestsellers.

Her stories weave artistic, visual imagery with compelling plots and captivating characters. Romance, nuggets from the past, and timeless truths provide the fiber to make her novels rich and memorable.

Jayme lives in Lakewood, Colorado, where she and her husband have survived raising three hungry, hockey-playing sons. Currently, a very needy Golden Retriever runs the roost. When Jayme isn’t writing, she teaches art to children and adults at her long-time art studio, Piggy Toes.

Visit Jayme at and subscribe to her monthly newsletter. She’d also love to connect with you on Facebook at


Blessed by Time

Anne Baxter Campbell joins us today, with a giveaway of her novel, Blessed By Time, a story about a young child (Tammy) who insists she’s seen Jesus. Her mother, Sarah, is sure her daughter was hallucinating. Her father doesn’t believe in fairy tales. It might take 2000 years to convince the adults.

The book is a little about grief, but much more about faith. The winning commenter may choose a signed print copy or an e-book.

                                            Good Grief!

What’s good about grief?

In the summers when I was young, I normally spent a month or more on my grandparent’s dairy farm. Did you know cows grieve when you take their calves from them? They’d bellow all night.

Even birds grieve. One spring I noticed a male English sparrow hopping around on the ropes of a clothesline near the end of a metal cross-pole. He’d look into the end of the pole and chirp continually. It wasn’t just for a day or two. This went on all summer.

I found out he and his sparrow spouse had built a nest inside the pole. I’m not positive what happened, but apparently the mama had laid eggs and hadn’t wanted to leave them. She probably died from heat stress, and there was no consoling papa sparrow.

I know how he felt. My spouse died two years ago, and I’m not sure I’ll ever stop missing him.

Why do we grieve? Maybe because we’re made in God’s image.

God has grieved, too. He grieved every time His people cheated on Him. Have you read Hosea? Read it, and see if you feel the grief He expressed.

And when Jesus died on the cross―remember? The thick, heavy curtains that surrounded the Holy of Holies in the temple―they tore top to bottom. The sky went black. The earth shook.

Those of you who have lost a spouse or a child―do you relate?

At one time I thought black was worn for grieving because it was customary. When my husband died, I couldn’t wear bright colors. It wasn’t that it was customary, it was just that that’s how I felt. Black, gray, or brown suited me much better.

Why did God make us like this? Why can’t we just accept and go on? Even knowing my husband is out of misery and in such a happy place doesn’t make me stop missing him. Why?

Well, what kind of person doesn’t feel sympathy or empathy for someone who is hurt? Sociopaths, maybe, but not the rest of us. Tears are a universal language that needs no interpretation or one hundred percent agreement.

Hugs are universal therapy for hurts. Love is the perfect medicine, the ultimate healing balm. Why?

Because we’re made in God’s image. And that’s good.

Buy link to Amazon:
I’m on facebook and twitter as Anne Baxter Campbell–just enter the name in the search column.

River With No Bridge

Ever hear of the inholders? I hadn’t, either. Montana native Karen Wills Cunningham, who will enlighten us. She’s living evidence that one CAN go home again!

One Writer’s Path

Born in Montana and spending summers here while growing up, I recognized early on that this is my spiritual home. But I came of age in the sixties and life led me down unplanned paths. Then, to quote Dante, “When I had journeyed half of our life’s way, I found myself within a shadowed forest, for I had lost the path …”

My midlife crisis led to a liberating decision. With my son and daughter off to college, I sold our home, closed my law practice, and moved to the Wills family cabin just a few miles from Glacier National Park. I intended to realize my lifelong dream of being a writer.

If I’d been in love with Northwest Montana before, the year I spent alone in the remote, primitive mountain cabin brought me to a deeper commitment. Then a comment by my mother planted the seed for River with No Bridge. As we drove around Lake McDonald one day, Mom said, “Someone should write a novel about the inholders.”

Inholders were people who already owned land inside what would become Glacier National Park in 1910. I started researching the area’s history from the late 1800s and found a treasure trove in the George C. Ruhle Library in Park Headquarters. Interviews of and books about “old timers,” natives, mountain men, and settlers fascinated me. Their lives were hard, but they loved the panorama of the Rockies, glacier lilies in spring, wildlife, and the challenge of making homes in the wilderness.

I’d written a children’s story about an Irish tinker’s daughter who sails for America to join her father. I decided to make the Irish girl, now an orphaned young woman, the protagonist of my novel. River with No Bridge became an immigrant story with themes of survival, tolerance, revenge, and love of nature.

In 1882, Nora journeys from Boston to Butte, Montana, to marry a good man, a miner. But novels of ongoing happiness lack drama, so I created hard times including heartbreak, tragedies, and a period of poverty for Nora to overcome. She is helped by a half-Chinese/half-white man who convinces her that the region of the North Fork of the Flathead River promises healing for them both in a wilderness paradise. It will be a paradise difficult to win…

The beauty of Northwest Montana and its history of courageous natives and newcomers inspired me to write River with No Bridge. My midlife crisis has ended happily, and the stories continue. You may contact Karen at

An Inherited Genre

Please welcome author Luana Ehlrich, our first spy/thriller author. I love the part her father plays in her passion for this genre–he allowed her to read the thrillers he brought home in her youth. Wow – what a wonder to share a genre with him!

Anyone who signs up for Luana’s newsletter will be able to download a FREE copy of Titus Ray Thriller Recipes with Short Stories.

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Luana, your protagonist, Titus Ray, intrigues me – please tell us about him.

Titus Ray, a CIA intelligence officer with the Agency for almost twenty years, is a loner and battle-hardened veteran of the covert wars. When his mission in Iran is blown, he escapes from the secret police and is forced to seek shelter with some Iranian Christians. Before he’s smuggled out of Iran, he makes a decision to become a believer himself, and once he returns to the States, he’s faced with figuring out how he can live a life of faith in the world of espionage, while battling his own demons and carrying out the responsibilities of his career.

Titus Ray tries to maintain his religious compass while entrenched in the world of espionage. What do you think is central to that struggle and his success?

Titus grew up in a home with no religious affiliation. His father, an alcoholic, was emotionally absent from family, and the only time Titus ever heard God’s name was in cursing. When Titus is forced to live with a group of Iranian Christians for three months, he’s amazed at their ability to be joyful in the midst of persecution. As he observes their faith, their love of the Bible, and their relationship to Christ, he desires to have such a relationship for himself. After he makes his commitment, that relationship becomes a thread running throughout all the books in the series.

A thriller isn’t a typical genre of Christian fiction. How did you come up with the idea for this series?

This type of series came to mind when I first heard about the persecution of Christians in Iran about six years ago. Because I’ve always been an avid reader of mysteries and thrillers, I knew my first book would be in this genre. However, when I heard about the Iranian Christians, I began asking several questions, the backstory of my first book, One Night in Tehran.

What would happen if a veteran CIA intelligence operative in Tehran  became a believer? How would his conversion affect his career? How would a man trained to lie and deceive follow the teachings of Christ in the real world?

Could you give us a sentence or two about each book in the series?

 In One Night in Tehran, Book I in the series, Titus goes on the run from an assassin and encounters an Iranian couple in Oklahoma who may have ties to the killer. He also gets involved in a murder investigation with beautiful local detective, Nikki Saxon, who considers him a suspect in the case.

In Book II, Two Days in Caracas, Titus travels from Costa Rica to Venezuela in search of Ahmed Al-Amin, a Hezbollah assassin, before he murders a high-profile government official. Along the way, a family crisis jeopardizes his mission, an Agency division head threatens to destroy his career, and he becomes more involved with Nikki Saxon.

In Three Weeks in Washington, Titus races across two continents pursuing Jihadi terrorists who plan to attack the nation’s capital with chemical weapons. Titus puts his own life on the line when he exposes an Iranian deep-cover operative with close ties to American government officials and jeopardizes his relationship with Nikki.

In Book IV, Four Months in Cuba, Titus arrives in Santiago de Cuba determined to rescue his fellow operative, Ben Mitchell, from the Los Zetas drug cartel. Within days, he discovers it won’t be a simple rescue mission, and in the months that follow, he almost loses his life, as well as his faith.

Book V, Five Years in Yemen, will be released in the fall of 2018. The prequel to the series, a novella, is also available. One Step Back gives readers the backstory of One Night in Tehran.

All the books in the series are available on Amazon as print books, eBooks, and audiobooks.