Making Do

This past two weeks have tweaked my perspective after I fell and hurt my wrist. Since driving is out, these days have been more isolated than normal. Some friends came to my rescue with groceries and other household needs like chopping vegetables, opening cans, and vacuuming.

Some other friends visited, too:

Nice to have company…the first few days, I read through a pile of books I’ve been meaning to get to, and learned so much…about World War II. How’d you guess?

Once I could type again, even one-handed, my latest hero and heroine kept me company. Oh, what the ordinary citizens of the 40’s went through–they made do all the time. For this story, I’m researching the war in the Philippines.

Here’s one of my resources, a compilation of the Los Angeles Examiner’s wartime headlines. With a trusty magnifying glass borrowed from a friend, I’ve unearthed some real gems–hopefully, you’ll read some of them when ALL FOR THE CAUSE is published.


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.

Link to newsletter with FREE book:

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.


Sunshine and Clouds

Last night’s storm produced a gorgeous landscape this morning.

I’ve been trying to capture the beauty – certainly wish Lance were here – he’d do a far better job. But still, I keep snapping shots.

These two look a lot alike, but the second highlights the sunshine a bit more. A little difference in perspective. Put together with the photos Lance sent of Iowa’s ice storm last week, it’s all about glistening and shimmering.


Not to mention frigid and frustrating to people with plans for the day.

But consider the shimmering. The storm immersed every single centimeter of each twig, blade of dried grass, and object in its path. No escape, for ice makes no exception.
As my husband says about situations we must accept, “it is what it is.” And from a purely aesthetic viewpoint, ice slashing down from the skies creates a beautiful scene.

Now, the storm that hit here last night is headed north, and I doubt many are looking forward to more cold and snow. Thankfully, winter cannot last forever.

Recently, a neighbor from my childhood contacted me. We’ve been sharing our perspectives and I’m learning so much. Our families weren’t close, so her perceptions of “the way we were” shine a fresh light on the past. Kind of like sunshine on snow.

Our correspondence takes me back…way back. And that, of course reminds me of Addie on her Iowa farm back in World War II, and her bff Kate writing her encouraging letters from London. An avid reader recently wrote me that she stayed up nights for two weeks reading this novel and its sequels.

In my youth, I’d NEVER have imagined I’d one day create such a series, though books were my best friends. The ups and downs back then, though, shaped me into a writer. It is what it is, and I’m determined to seek the sunshine



Finding a Way

If you’ve seen my FB page from yesterday, you know that last weekend provided an incredible experience. My co-facilitator and seventeen other writers at our Pine retreat proved the truth of our title, Writing Into Daylight.

Whether through memoir, other nonfiction, or fiction, we’re moving out of the shadows. I could go on about that metaphor, but would rather share a photo my husband took this morning in frozen northern Iowa.

Clearly, an ice storm has put this bird feeder out of commission. However, a tenacious squirrel awoke this morning with one goal: food.

Yes, he thought, it’s frigid and miserable, but this furry creature’s willing to do whatever it takes to satisfy the hunger roiling inside.

What will it take to reach his desired goal? He’ll do it. The hunger drives him, despite all odds.

For those writers at our retreat, this squirrel provides a picture of the writing life. Challenging, goal-oriented, lonely, passionate. We might have to go out on a limb, pardon the pun:

The deeper connection is that for some of us, writing equals sustenance, nurture. It’s our calling, our vocation, and even though risks present themselves, we must write.

All kinds of doubts and questions assail us. Do our words deserve to be heard/read? Does what we have to say really matter to anybody out there? Will our stories touch, nourish, encourage or warn readers?

Like this squirrel, we cannot know the answers before plunging into the work. But we take the leap, ignoring the voices, inner and outer, that proclaim us foolhardy. Perhaps we feel we’re hanging on by one claw, but sitting back and watching just won’t do.

At times in my leapsthe odds against success seemed far too high, the struggle much more arduous than I’d realized. In addition to the laborious task of writing, we’re responsible for promotion? We’re expected to swing out there with no net underneath, to seek potential readers? Yep, it is what it is. Might as well accept it.

But somehow, this process sustains us. Such an intriguing journey, replete with opportunities to toss aside the torch and give up. Yet also brimming with adventures, new contacts, and opportunities to grow.

I’m very grateful for our weekend adventure, all the chances to step outside my comfort zone, think outside the. box, and especially, new writing friends. Doesn’t get any better!

Last but definitely NOT least, I’m so thankful for Lance’s expertise with the camera–what a perfect SHOW he provided for us this morning!

Once in A Blue Moon

We just experienced a lunar eclipse, otherwise known as a “blue moon.” Lance set his alarm and caught some photos around 5 a.m. today.


One of our slang terms comes from this phenomenon: To do something “once in a blue moon” is to do it very rarely: “That company puts on a good performance only once in a blue moon.” The phrase refers to the appearance of a second full moon within a calendar month, which actually happens about every thirty-two months.

Ties in perfectly with something I do as rarely as possible -prepare my part of our income taxes…ARGH! I put it off as long as possible, in spite of determining that this year, it’ll be different.

With far more right than left-brained tendencies, putting the past year’s activities into concise columns is no fun. But this necessary accounting is…well, necessary.

Yesterday I completed the final edit of my next novel, All For the Cause, before submitting it to beta readers. The cause, of course, is World War II, and now I have time to work on the cozy WWII mystery an author friend and I are co-writing.


The moon holds a certain mystique…does it really affect human behavior as specifically as we often hear? For me, taxes have zero mystique, but almost always some mystery.

But sending my heroine and hero off to be critiqued also gives me pause. Have I been faithful to their their deep-seated motivations and goals? Have I taken into account their idiosyncrasies, even ones that might drive readers crazy? Have I honored their devotion to the war effort?

Stan, the hero, truly challenged me, since I’ve never fought my way through the jungles of Bataan, been wounded, or gritted my teeth and determined to heal completely so I could return and participate in the liberation of tens of thousands of G.I.’s taken captive by the Japanese in the Philippines.

I gave my best effort to comprehending what he went through, including interviewing an incredible WWII veteran who lives quite close to us. His story enlivened Stan for me, and provided details I’d never have found any other way.IMG_4666

So onward with this writing journey. We’ll see what my beta readers have to say and make adjustments. If past manuscripts are any indicator, there’ll still be plenty of editing to do.

No matter how much time and energy the process takes, I’d far rather do this than tax preparation! And just for good measure, here’s another intriguing photo taken two days ago from under the Mogollon Rim.


Singing the Winter Blues Away

What a treat to have Margaret Kazmierczak, my online author friend from across the Atlantic, with us today. Brew yourself a cup of hot tea and enjoy her musings on winter. And leave a comment if you’d like to win an e-copy of her memoir – with a definite U.K. flavor and humor. 

Why do we call it the middle-of-winter blues – blue? I see no blue outside nor inside! Personally, I believe we ought to change it to the middle of winter greys. The sky is grey; the atmosphere is grey, people’s faces are grey, clothing is grey, the snow, if we get it in the South of England, is grey and slushy, and the days are grey with fewer hours of daylight – do I need to go on?

We eat more than we should and decide that we need to lose weight. So then we get the weight loss blues/greys.

Woe is winter with its rain, cold, damp, grey weather. Welcome to my England – actually, that’s not true as my winter is far from grey. The only grey is my hair! But it was not always like this. I too suffered from the blues for a long time until I realised that January 1st was just another day and February a step closer to brighter mornings–therefore, I didn’t need to put a blue-grey tint to these months.

Grey is a matter of opinion or perspective. Winter always leads to spring. Nature needs to die to reinvent itself. The gorgeous colours of Autumn give way to the life spine of a tree, its scars highlighted by the sun.

Landscapes become visible without the foliage concealing the beauty beyond. There is crispness as you walk, a fresh painting of a spider’s web glistening in the low sunlight. Ice producing dazzling displays of rainbows in fragmented puddles.


Snowflakes whirl in the wind, dancing to the heavenly music of the angels.


Birdsong greets me to a new awakening.


The flowers now gone promise to rise again in Spring in a celebration of hope.How can this season be blue/grey?

We need a break in the seasons, to reassess our lives. Are we at the ending of a story, or at the beginning? Winter allows for both, the blues followed by the yellows. How long you remain in the blue will depend on your winter.

Winter is a great reminder; it tells me of how fortunate I am to live in a country where we have heating at the click of a switch. We can snuggle under duvets in the safety of our homes. Water comes out of a tap, and the air is relatively unpolluted. Christians can freely worship, and there are life choices we can make each day without fear.

I need winter to remind me that without death I cannot begin again. Nothing is permanent…only God.

January is often a difficult month for many, with the bright lights of Christmas doused. It is easy to sink into the dull months and respond accordingly. But what if we shone brightly during the downpours and sing in the rain, so to speak? How many sad faces could be turned upside down into a smile?

I don’t do New Year resolutions, but maybe this year I shall target the blues with a sunshine beam to get the happy juices going in my fellow human beings. Perhaps the seeds will break through early this year if we turn our faces to the Son and remember that after the blues (the passion) comes the resurrection. Now, that is something to celebrate!

One of my favourite experiences is walking into my home after escaping the frozen outdoors and feeling the warmth hug me. Peeling off my coat, scarf, hat and boots and flopping into a comfy chair with a steaming cup of hot tea. It is by far the epitome of joy in winter – a spirit lifter.

And that is indeed one of the greatest gifts you can give to someone else who is suffering from the middle-of-winter blues. To be a spirit lifter. To share a picture of hope in a person’s life. To show the beauty of winter in all its glory, because nature never stops creating breathtaking pictures.

Country Folk of Another Era

Reading Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale has given me an even deeper appreciation of the way simple country folks suffered in the early years of World War II.

When we say country, we visualize rural American farm families. But in France in the early 1940’s, thousands of peasants tended their gardens and vineyards, cared for their children, and enjoyed a simple pastoral setting.

Then, suddenly their freedoms were swept away by the brutal Nazi occupation.

What’s interesting is how people came from all walks of life to help the French Resistance change the tide of the war. One of these, from my Women of the Heartland series, hailed from Iowa farm country. Used to the sight of corn and soybeans ripening for harvest, Kate Isaacs is thrust into the midst of unthinkable horrors.

Unthinkable but very real. Her land-centered background serves her well as she treks back woods trails to avoid the Gestapo, delivering vital messages for the Resistance. So does her heritage of valuing hard work and tenacity. You can’t take the country out of a country girl, right?

Admittedly, this “country,” replete with mountains and deep valleys, is different from Kate’s moorings. Along the way, she views incredible structures like the Abbey of St. Pierre at Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne, built in the ninth century. She gasps at this architecture and takes heart at the eternal message of hope engraved in this incredible structure’s entrance.

If you need some more historical fiction to get you through the winter, may I suggest…


The Ins and Outs of Life

A friend of mine wrote, “I really hope the New Year will see changes in my attitude. I have to stop w/ the pity parties, the hatred toward the consequences of my choices or lack thereof. There’s enough good in my life. I may not have all I expected to have in life at this age, but what I have, I want and I need to care for it.”

Perspective. That’s one of the gifts of aging. Of course, nobody wants to talk about aging, but things go better if we keep on learning.

Many birds here under the Mogollon Rim enjoy eating acorns – this one is a Stellar Jay one of the small, rounded nuts in its beak.

IMG_1923The woodpeckers have learned they can’t use our outer walls for a granary, to store the little acorns for winter food, although they certainly made hay while the sun shone. But our trusty bird netting surrounding the whole house has thwarted their storage intentions.

IMG_1829A few years back, we discovered about three hundred and fifty holes in our house…beak-sized and drilled with great intensity over the months we were absent. And each hole contained a treasure in woodpecker language: food.

These little 1/2 inch acorns pepper the mountain oaks around here, but who would have thought they’d end up in our house? Lance filled the holes with some foamy goo he found at the hardware store, and after it hardened, the netting provided a way OUT of being attacked.

A way out…just what we needed–we’d tried everything, hanging shiny CD’s from the eaves to scare the acorn-carriers away, etc. The birdies, of course, still sought a way in, but have had to accept what they cannot change, while we had to change the things we could. 

In this new year before us, and those two phrases depict many of our desires. Sometimes we seek a way in…into a deeper relationship, into a more serene existence, into success. Other times, a way out describes what we need. Still other times, we need to embrace acceptance.

Perspective…just another way of looking at things. I’m going to try to remember this in 2018.


Root Canals and Crowns and Christmas…

Today a lowly tooth underwent a transformation–a very pleasant, welcome change for me. Last Friday, I had a root canal. We often use this experience as an example of the WORST, but the surgery truly was the best, relieving unrelenting pain. And today, the saved tooth received a protective covering known as a crown.


What a process, and with the help of the friendly folks at Burgmeier Dentistry, I chronicled some of the steps.


A myriad of required tools20171222_091446plus precision, patience,


skill and experience (thank you, Doctor KYLE!!!)


some intense heat…


and voila! a perfect fit and the ability to eat normally again.


What does this have to do with World War II or the Christmas season? For one thing, I really enjoyed chatting with the staff today, several of whom have a great interest in the forties era.

And of course, Gratitude for GOD WITH US…no matter what we’re experiencing.

I’m so thankful for the sacrifices of thousands during the era of my novels, sacrifices to ensure our nation’s freedom and future. And Christmas? This holiday focuses on a priceless gift, with gratitude at its very heart.


May your celebration this year be deeply meaningful and filled with peace. 

Joys of Christmas Past

Last week our community held a gathering for people to share their Christmas memories–some ninety-plus year-olds joined us. Can you imagine remembering the Pearl Harbor attack being reported in a radio news flash? 

Here’s a photo of my first Christmas. Before Charles Schulz cried the phrase, “Charlie Brown Christmas tree,” my brother and I posed beside one. In this 1951 photo, we look pleased and proud of our find along one of the ditches bordering our farm.


Cutler Old Picts

Mom looks happy, too, with the war over and never a hungry moment on the farm, like those she’d survived in her Depression-laced youth.

The war had ended five and a half years earlier, and good times were on the upswing. If you lent yourself to back-breaking farm work, you could make it. If anybody can identify the auto in the background, I’d like to know the year and make. Behind the tree sits Grandpa’s green Ford farm truck.

Like most children, my brother and I knew only the present: a loving mother, a hard-working dad, a roof over our heads, food and clothing. No fear for the future, no sense of the past…only this present moment in time.