Trip Tidbits

Back in North Iowa after five days in Texas Hill Country, I have photos! I’m very grateful to several people who made my research so easy and intriguing. First of all, Lynn Dean, who drove me around like a professional chauffeur. Here’s a photo of her with John Byerley, whom I cannot thank enough for showing us around Loyal Valley.

In front of the Loyal Valley Schoolhouse, John is taping the sole of Lynn’s boot.

This one-room schoolhouse, now owned by John, is where Donnie, one of the characters in my novel to be released in early September, went to school during World War II. His father, Everett, brought him to the U.S. along with his butler friend in 1938.

And here is the actual spot where German pioneer immigrant John Meusebach established his home in the mid-1800s, with fruit trees he planted still visible in the background. This incredible pioneer established many communities in the Hill Country, first by forging a treaty with the warring Comanche tribe.

This powerful leader led the way for thousands of immigrants to purchase land and make a living. As Donnie’s father gets to know this country, he realizes how much John Meusebach has to teach him from a century earlier.

We visited John’s gravesite, where the engraved logo, Tenax Propositi, declares what was required of these intrepid early settlers. Tenacious of Purpose. His life testifies to the incredible difference one person’s courage and fortitude can make.

More to come soon!

Shepherd- It’s All About Books!

This week, Ben Fox highlights his vision for his remarkable new site. I’m excited about this venture, and think you will be, too. Ben invites readers to send him feedback and ideas at ben@shepherd.com


I love to read and I love wandering through my local bookstore. Nothing can replace the pleasure I get from that experience. That said, I want to try to build something like that but for the online world and help readers discover books in a new way while helping authors meet more readers.

Shepherd is my attempt to try to find new ways to discover amazing books. I ask authors and experts to recommend 5 books on a topic they know well. Alongside that list, I introduce readers to the author and their book.

This is a win-win situation where readers can find amazing books and authors get to introduce their book to more readers. 


For many years I’ve been wanting to do something to promote books and reading. I started working on the project full-time in December 2020, with no background in publishing. But I am a long-time tech entrepreneur. I think that brings a fresh perspective to this industry and I am hopeful I can bring some value to readers and authors. 

I bought the domain Shepherd.com many years ago. I wasn’t sure what I was going to use it for, but when building this project I felt the domain name was a perfect match for this project. It matches the goal of shepherding readers to pastures full of amazing books. 

In addition to myself, I work with a freelance developer in Berlin and a designer in Serbia on a part-time basis. For the April launch of Shepherd, I manually created data entries for 400+ book recommendation lists, 2,340 books, and 2,457 author profiles. I should have some help soon to speed that up, and along with the developer, have built a really great system to improve the process.


There is a growing trend in publishing that authors have to become their own marketing team. This concerns me because it takes time away from writing and is very difficult to do. I have decades of experience with online marketing, which it is not easy to learn and requires daily investment. 

One of my long-term goals with Shepherd is to make it easier for authors to market themselves and figure out how I can help. To start, I ask authors to recommend 5 books on a subject they are passionate about and we feature one of their books alongside that list forever. The goal is to help authors meet more readers interested in that topic and sell more books.

This is just the start, and we have a lot more coming at Shepherd. 


I love to read and books, and stories are one of my favorite things about humanity. I want to see more authors make enough from their writing to do it full time. Partially for the selfish reasons that I love reading and want to read more great books. And, partially because I think the more we share our experiences and perspective with others, the more we create a more understanding world. 

We live in a time where social-media algorithms serve only to reinforce our world view. I want Shepherd to play a role in combatting that. A book is one of the best ways to help someone see the world through different eyes. We need a lot more of that right now.

I’ve got a lot planned for Shepherd! Between now and August we will be rolling out a feature to relate book lists to each other to help readers follow their curiosity through the site, full topic pages to help readers find books they are interested in, and a search feature. Plus, a lot of improvements to the front page to help readers find something that interests them. 

Visit Ben’s site to find what may become your favorite book!

https://shepherd.com/.

All I Have Seen . . .

Out back, our “cottage garden,” is aiming to mimic those in England. These botanical gems appear rather scattered, but are, in fact, designed to appeal to the eye like a butterfly flitting from blossom to blossom.

Our early flowers include coreopsis, and behind, barely peeking through, forget-me-nots with their delicate periwinkle hue.

The Romantic poets–think Thomas Hardy and Coleridge–created floral treasures just outside their cottages–hence the name. There, beauty was allowed space to run wild, much like the human imagination.

Here, a few of our daisies are blooming against purple stalks of my favorite ground cover, ajuga.

Our garden includes vegetables, and some of our first lettuces added flavor and color to today’s lunch:

The novel I’m working on right now moves from England to Texas Hill Country, and over the next few weeks, I plan to share photos from our courtyard here in Northern Iowa, and then some from those Texas Hills as I embark on a short research trip.

After some severe disappointments, our hero emigrates from his native land in the years before World War II. As he begins a new life, he wonders if the climate of these Texas hills will support a cottage garden.

Well, there’s only one way to find out! RW. Emerson encourages him along the way: “All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.”

Seeing developments in Europe through this British chap’s eyes intrigues me. At the same time, his perspective on developments here in the States, like the Pearl Harbor attack, broadens my understanding of those tumultuous days in our history.

Hope you enjoy the blossoming of our cottage garden and an inside glimpse as this story gradually takes shape.(Yep . . . like a cottage garden!)

Aw, I had to run out for a better shot of those lovely little forget-me-nots!

Night Bird Calling

Q & A with Cathy Gohlke

Three-time Christy and two-time Carol and INSPY Award–winning author Cathy Gohlke writes novels steeped with inspirational lessons from history. Her stories reveal how people break the chains that bind them and triumph over adversity through faith. When not traveling to historic sites for research, she and husband, Dan, divide their time between northern Virginia and the Jersey Shore, enjoying time with their grown children and grandchildren.

Cathy is giving away a hard copy of Night Bird Calling to one commenter on this blog. And here’s my review of this novel: Religion can cause great pain when it’s used to control others, and there’s a vast difference between this kind of travesty and true spirituality. The author has the courage to go behind the scenes with abuses kept hidden in other eras, but also shows how healing results through honesty and faith.

What inspired you to write Night Bird Calling?

Years ago I wrote a number of short stories based on some quirky characters in a fictional North Carolina foothills town called No Creek. I loved those characters, but in order to create a novel I needed an outside character who could see both strengths and foibles in my town folk and still care about them, still want to become part of their community, and who could tie their stories together.

For many years I’ve also wrestled with the idea of writing about the racial divide and abuse I saw growing up during years of the civil rights movement in the South, as well as domestic abuse and church oppression, things I experienced in my youth and young womanhood. Night Bird Calling is the marriage of all those experiences and stories.

Night Bird Calling involves some very challenging topics like domestic abuse, racism, and church abuse. What motivated you to write on these topics? I grew up mostly in the South during years of the civil rights movement, where I witnessed segregation, desegregation, racial oppression, and abuse but also heroic stands against injustice and some hard-won changes. I learned that attitudes do not change just because laws change. Transformation of the heart is also needed.

That is as true today as it was then. As a young woman, I ran away from an abusive marriage and an oppressive church. My journey toward emotional and spiritual healing took many years. I want women in similar situations to know that they are not alone, that God loves them so very dearly and that the condemnations of their oppressors do not come from Him.

I wrote Night Bird Calling not only for victims of abuse, but in the hope that readers might gain insight, sympathy, and empathy for those who’ve been abused or pushed down, that they might better understand and see creative ways they can help, ways they can be a voice for the voiceless or those needing someone to walk alongside them.

Visit website at cathygohlke.com and Facebook at CathyGohlkeBooks.


Tyndale: https://www.tyndale.com/p/night-bird-calling/9781496429728

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Night-Bird-Calling-Cathy-Gohlke/dp/1496429729/ 
Bookshop: https://bookshop.org/books/night-bird-calling-9781496429728/9781496429728

ChristianBook.comhttps://www.christianbook.com/night-bird-calling-softcover/cathy-gohlke/9781496429728/pd/429729

Research on a Musical Note

I’ve been having fun listening to CDs of World War II broadcasts to the Armed Forces. The Armed Forces Radio Services was formally established on May 26, 1942.

Initially AFRS programming included transcribed commercial network radio shows such as the Kraft Music Hour without the commercials.

Soon numerous original AFRS programs such as Mail Call were added. Famous crooners (mostly Bing Crosby) and musicians (Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Duke Ellington) regaled their audiences with songs, dialogue, and jokes.

So much to learn about the “trivia” of the era . . . what new products were being advertised, and even how many ration points they would cost the buyer.

Delightful stuff! I may just keep on and on. (:

Borrowed Lives

Carol McClain is with us again this week, with a novel that delves into the darker side of our society, yet with hope and humor. Knowing goats, an eccentric family, and recovery are involved in this story tweaks my curiosity. Carol’s giveaway to one commenter is a kindle version of BORROWED LIVES. Also love this title! Tell us about your book, Carol.

One of my most frequently asked questions is, “How do you get your ideas?”

The answer is simple. From people.

I love people—their quirks, their heroism, their frailties. All of us have the capacity for greatness or great cruelty.

When I moved to Tennessee, I became involved in helping addicts overcome their addictions and the issues those addictions caused. The stories I heard appalled me—what people had to endure would not be believable.

In our church, we have one family devoted to foster care. The work they do astounds me. I tried my hand at foster care many years ago and discovered how totally inept I was with the process.

From these factors, Borrowed Lives was born.

Borrowed Lives

After her own tragedy, Meredith Jaynes finds three abandoned children. If she turns them over to DCS, the sisters will be separated. But healing them isn’t possible in her broken world.

Borrowed Lives is a novel about loss, hope, love, and faith from beginning to end.

God Only Lends Us Those We Love for a Season 

Distraught from recent tragedy, Meredith Jaynes takes pity on a young girl who steals from her. Meredith discovers “Bean” lives in a hovel mothering her two younger sisters. The three appear to have been abandoned. With no other homes available, Social Services will separate the siblings. To keep them together, Meredith agrees to foster them on a temporary basis.

Balancing life as a soap maker raising goats in rural Tennessee proved difficult enough before the siblings came into her care. Without Bean’s help, she’d never be able to nurture these children warped by drugs and neglect—let alone manage her goats that possess the talents of Houdini. Harder still is keeping her eccentric family at bay. 

Social worker Parker Snow struggles to overcome the breakup with his fiancée. Burdened by his inability to find stable homes for so many children who need love, he believes placing the abandoned girls with Meredith Jaynes is the right decision. Though his world doesn’t promise tomorrow, he hopes Meredith’s does.

But she knows she’s too broken.

https://www.amazon.com/Borrowed-Lives-Carol-McClain-ebook/dp/B08Z3HL2FZ/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Borrowed+Lives&qid=1617991853&sr=8-1

Carol McClain My times are in His hands.

Sign up for Carol’s newsletter and blog.http://www.carolmcclain.com/

Carol McClain is the award-winning author of four novels dealing with real people facing real problems. She is a consummate encourager, and no matter what your faith might look like, you will find compassion, humor and wisdom in her complexly layered, but ultimately readable work.

Aside from writing, she’s a skilled stained-glass artist, an avid hiker and photographer. She lives in East Tennessee. Her most recent interests are her two baby does Peanut & Buttercup. Like all babies, they love sitting on our laps and being bottle fed.

You can connect with her at carolmcclain.com.

On Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/author.Carol.McClain

On twitter and Instagram: @carol_mcclain

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14030286.Carol_McClain

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/carol-mcclain

Heroes of The Tundra

A warm welcome to Laurie Wood, who lives in Central Canada and writes inspirational romantic suspense with an edge of danger. She’s also a military wife who’s raised two wonderful special needs children to adulthood. They’ve lived all over Canada and are still on that journey. When she’s not writing she can be found at her spinning wheel, knitting, or hanging out with her dogs in the garden.

AND… Laurie has served as a police officer. This hooked me immediately–in her series about PTSD and police officers, she knows what she’s talking about! She’s giving away an e-copy of Northern Protector to a commenter. Thanks for visiting!

If He’s Not a Cop, He’s Nobody

Constable Ben Koper is still healing from the polar bear attack that almost killed him. Nine months after it happened, he returns to Churchill, Manitoba, a changed man—scarred more than just physically. PTSD is his new shadow, haunting his every step, and he can’t seem to kick the pain meds he shouldn’t need anymore. He’s determined to prove, to himself and his colleagues, that he’s still up to his job. Failure isn’t an option.

ER nurse Joy Gallagher spent the entire last winter texting with a healing Constable Koper. What started as friendly concern from this single mother has grown into full-fledged romantic feelings, and she’s eager to level up their friendship and introduce him to the idyllic comfort of small-town life. Until a teenager is murdered at a summer party. The crime is strikingly similar to the cold case murder of Joy’s foster sister, stirring old trauma Joy has never fully dealt with.

When another victim is snatched in town, Ben and Joy must confront their own demons, and join forces to track down an elusive killer. The race to rescue the next victim before it’s too late will test Ben and Joy to their limits. Can they survive their encounter with this heinous killer, or will the past destroy them.?

NORTHERN PROTECTOR is the second book in my Heroes of the Tundra series. (NORTHERN HEARTS is a Christmas novella set in the same town of Churchill, Manitoba) The hero, Ben Koper, is the best friend of the hero from the first book. He’s actually mauled by the polar bear in book 1, and this book is the story of his recovery from PTSD from that traumatic experience and injury, as well as how he grapples with addiction to painkillers.

I wanted to write about PTSD because it’s more common in the life of police officers than we like to think. Not every officer will face down a polar bear, but police work isn’t like it’s shown in TV or the movies. When I was a police officer, I faced off against a man with a gun one-on-one, several who wanted to use a knife on me, a hostage situation outside a liquor store, and was in many, many physical fights trying to arrest someone.

I’ve arrested rapists, drunk drivers, men who’d just beaten their wives or children, women who’d beaten other women, women who’d beaten up their children, and people in bar fights. And while I was never shot or knifed, I had my wrist broken once by a biker who refused to give up his booze when I said he couldn’t take it back. I won that fight but ended up with a broken wrist and the rest of the summer off because I was in a cast. I also got a permanent back injury from being thrown against the concrete wall in our prisoner’s cell block by a guy on some kind of drugs who mistook me for someone else.

Back in the mid-1980’s when I was a police officer, no one called the after-effects of situations like these PTSD. We just had to “shake it off”. However, I can tell you that being in a hostage situation isn’t like it is on shows like “The Rookie” or “Law and Order.”

Nor was going one on one with a biker who outweighed me by about a hundred pounds like anything I’d ever seen on TV. The “bad guys” don’t conveniently fall to the ground with one punch to the jaw. It’s more like a Mixed Martial Arts battle, heavy on the face punches.

When police officers take off their uniforms after their shift, they’re just regular people. They have to make split-second decisions about their safety and that of others around them. A situation can change in an instant. On a tv show, the police might be out of breath after a foot chase, but they don’t have nightmares, or feel like their skin is crawling the next day when they go to pick up their start-of-shift coffee. 

This book is my favourite of the ones I’ve written so far. It takes courage to go back to work after a traumatic experience on the job. I hope I’ve done our police officers proud with this story.

NORTHERN PROTECTOR:

Constable Ben Koper is still healing from the polar bear attack that almost killed him. Nine months after it happened, he returns to Churchill, Manitoba, a changed man—scarred more than just physically. PTSD is his new shadow, haunting his every step, and he can’t seem to kick the pain meds he shouldn’t need anymore. He’s determined to prove, to himself and his colleagues, that he’s still up to his job. Failure isn’t an option.

ER nurse Joy Gallagher spent the entire last winter texting with a healing Constable Koper. What started as friendly concern from this single mother has grown into full-fledged romantic feelings, and she’s eager to level up their friendship and introduce him to the idyllic comfort of small-town life. Until a teenager is murdered at a summer party. The crime is strikingly similar to the cold case murder of Joy’s foster sister, stirring old trauma Joy has never fully dealt with.

When another victim is snatched in town, Ben and Joy must confront their own demons, and join forces to track down an elusive killer. The race to rescue the next victim before it’s too late will test Ben and Joy to their limits. Can they survive their encounter with this heinous killer, or will the past destroy them.?

Buy Links:

Amazon.com:https://amzn.to/3femV6Y

Amazon.ca:    https://amzn.to/2KfyoYq

Anaiah Press: https://bit.ly/3pGPrD6(Print copies)

Bio & Social Media Links:

Laurie loves to hear from readers and always replies, so feel free to get in touch with her:

Please visit her at https://www.lauriewoodauthor.com

Facebook:             https://www.facebook.com/lauriewoodauthor

Twitter:                 https://twitter.com/LaurieJeanWood

Looking Back . . . and Ahead

We’ve been re-re-remodeling our old house. Again. Yep.

It’s good to look back to when we first purchased this property. It wasn’t what we were looking for, but in a town of 1,000 or so, you don’t always have a wide choice. I wanted a big old square house with a front porch, but none were on the market when we moved here. So . . .

We found a home with history. Guess that fits us both, although at the time, I hadn’t begun writing WWII novels. I did look into the history of this structure, though, and discovered it was one of the first built in St. Ansgar. 1873.

Continue reading

Williwaws and Wild March Weather

Don’t you love learning new words? My latest, which you see above, means a sudden violent gust of cold land air common among mountainous coasts of high latitudes, a sudden violent wind, or a violent commotion.

Williwaw certainly describes a great many situations in our world this past year. We surely have witnessed a violent commotion in several areas of our lives. In addition to the wild winter weather still bearing down on parts of our country, children are uprooted from their normal educational process, adults are laid off from work, and citizens still sequester in fear. The suddenness of all this makes williwaw an appropriate noun to use in discussing these circumstances.

Of course, this proved true in many other eras in our nation’s history, as well. During and after the Civil War, for instance, chaos reigned in many quarters of the U.S. Unemployment, loss of domicile, child endangerment–the list goes on and on. Making comparisons leads us nowhere, but history does offer lessons for future generations.

The Civil War affected widespread areas, and vigilante justice often prevailed. For those with an itch to “Go West, young man,” the time was ripe. And for those with underhanded motives, using others for selfish gain proved easier than ever.

Enter one male character of my new release, Secondhand Sunsets. I dare not call him the hero . . . oh, no!

But this story’s heroine, young in years yet old in grief, definitely qualifies for her role. Putting ourselves in Abby’s place may seem a bit overwhelming, for her losses had mounted due to the war and other tragic events. In our society, she would definitely qualify for several support groups and might be labeled as suffering from PTSD.

Her devastation leads her to trust an untrustworthy man, and she nearly pays with her life. Sickened by the sympathies of her small community, Abby only wants to flee. Comforting words taunt her, and she sees no future in this vale of sorrow.

Her story exemplifies the unconditional love that plants us in hope. No matter how far we veer from our spiritual moorings, we never wander beyond this unchanging commitment to our health and wholeness.

Secondhand Sunsets enters our world in the midst of an anxious time. Grief and loss came upon Abby suddenly, too, like a williwaw. May her journey bring encouragement and satisfaction to readers, one and all.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Secondhand-Sunsets-Novel-Mogollon-Rim/dp/195247454XAmazon Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/Secondhand-Sunsets-Novel-Mogollon-Rim-ebook/dp/B08XTJC1JDBarnes & Noble Nook: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/secondhand-sunsets-gail-kittleson/1138920048Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/secondhand-sunsetsApple Books: https://books.apple.com/us/book/id1556170460Google Play Books: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Gail_Kittleson_Secondhand_Sunsets?id=SbUgEAAAQBAJ