Photos from our youth group trip to gorgeous Montana back country bring all kinds of over-used words to mind: beautiful, breath-taking…
But what about this mountain lake proves so inviting to the eye?
A crystalline sky, forest reflected on the water, a fallen log: all of these play a part. The collective effect helps us smell the pine, almost feel the water between our toes. Lance and I backpacked in this very basin about thirty years ago–incredible views!
This kind of editing keeps me busy right now, just before submitting Land That I Love to my publisher. The goal, to embellish each scene so it engages the reader, keeps me mindful of individual words and phrases, aware of the way each sentence begins and ends, and how paragraphs are organized.
It seems as if this process could continue forever–“I might could work on this manuscript until the cows come home,” as they say in Texas Hill Country.
For this very reason, deadlines are a good thing. Someone outside the process says “It’s time, you’ve done the best you can.”
Our granddaughter had to get WAY DOWN LOW for this photo to work:
Here, she shot what we normally see, as well as the view looking up:
In researching Land That I Love, I’ve had to get way down, too.
Way down into German American history in the state of Texas. Way down into human skills of surviving loss and rising above bitterness. Way down into the beauty of nature and how it frosts our lives with joy.
From cottage garden lore to the history of Nottinghamshire, to World War II and how it affected American and British citizens even in remote locales, to learning spelling in a one-room Texas Hill Country schoolhouse- Land That I Love offers all these.
Coming in late August to a purchase site near you!
Leaving Fredericksburg, we followed the route early settlers took to find their new homes. A lovely expanse of live oak and pecan trees meets the eye just over the Padernales River, and this is where John Meusebach paused. He had relinquished his royal status back in Germany to emigrate, and accepted the responsibility of seeing many other immigrants to this new land.
“This is it!”
His pulse must have raced at the beauty surrounding him. Perhaps his horse snorted in agreement. Here, a fertile land awaited them–the kind of place where a man could provide for his family.
In 1938, the railroad had come as far as Llano County, but not into Mason County and Loyal Valley. By then, this little town had gone through a name change–earlier known as Cold Water Springs, it became Loyal Valley in the 1860s, as an expression of German settlers’ loyalty to the Union, even though Texas had joined the Confederacy.
Everett, his butler/friend William, and Donnie, a lad of three, rode over this trestle still visible in the countryside. (Thanks to my author friend Lynn, who had spotted it previously.) Farther on, the train used a tunnel now filled with bats, since in the early 1940s, the military dismantled the tracks and used them for the war effort.
With the help of a local woman, we located the former depot and got a feel for the spot where Everett and his family disembarked for the trip to Loyal Valley. After crossing the Atlantic, searching out a suitable property while staying with a friend in New York, and traveling all the way down to the Hill Country, they were more than ready for their new home.
If they hadn’t been able to move in, Loyal Valley offered rooms at this hotel, still standing today.
Plots and paths can be anfractuous. They twist and turn but do not break (the English word comes ultimately from the Latin verb frangere, meaning “to break.”) Fracture, fraction, fragment, and frail all stem from Frangere. But one of the steps between frangere and anfractuous is the Latin anfractus, meaning “coil, bend.” The prefix an- here means “around.”
At first, anfractuous was used to describe our ears and the auditory canal’s curves. In modern times, we speak of an anfractuous thought process or an anfractuous shoreline. With summer yarrow in full bloom, we might quip, “Oh those anfractuous blossoms that defy description!”
The novel I’m writing could be called anfractuous. Most plots wind around until they reach their conclusion, and I don’t often know the end when I begin. But this time–let’s just say I thought this story was finished about a month ago. And then. . . . well, I discovered a few more twists to make before we could write THE END.
Enjoy some photos from the ghost town called Loyal Valley, the setting for this story. Above is Hickory Creek, ear Stone Mountain, a gargantuan granite escarpment near the town. Our rancher guide told tales of climbing up there in his youth–his angel was definitely on duty!
John Muesebach, a German immigrant in the 1840’s, named Loyal Valley Cold Springs at first, but changed the name during the Civil War to prove the community’s patriotism to the Union. I wish I could be a travel-time mouse and view the gardens this industrious American planted–everything from peaches to olive trees. He definitely had a gift for growing.
I fell in love with the name LOYAL VALLEY right from the start and began to discover how much this little spot in Texas Hill Country certainly has to teach us.
Here, Lynn Dean and I pose with John’s statue as he makes peace with the warring Comanches of the area. In this highly significant act, he opened up a whole new world for thousands of fellow-immigrants waiting in the wings.
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.
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.
It’s a true delight to present D.A. Featherling this week. What an ingenious, effort-full gift she has given to her grandson, and also to others who read her work! This travel adventure series, 13 books in all, was originally written for 10-12 year-olds, but adults seem to like it, too, although the series is geared for a Y/A audience. I’ll let Dorothy explain, and she’s giving away one paperback copy of Book One to each of THREE commenters. Now, D.A. explains the origin and development of her series:
These books were originally aimed at the YA audience. My grandson loves to read, and I wanted to write something he would enjoy, and I could leave as a remembrance/legacy for him. At the time I started the series, he loved time travel stories. So, as a doting grandma, I decided to write some for him.
Of course, the first issue I had to solve was ‘how was I going to get my characters from one place/time to another?’ A lot of time travel books have been written and everything from a tree house to a rowboat to a horse and more used as the medium of travel. I finally decided a board game would best serve my characters, so before I started writing, I designed The Time Game.
Twelve illustrations gave me twelve locations to send my characters and the center “Deep Underground” picture would finish the series with book number thirteen. I had the game manufactured and added a few ‘penalty’ type boxes to help the excitement of playing, but the illustrations were intended to be the key to the stories.
My protagonists are twins – Marcus and Samantha Willoughby – in the beginning twelve years old. I aged them a year every couple of years so that by the last book they were eighteen and graduated high school. That also allowed readers of various ages to enjoy the adventures since they weren’t limited to one age.
They discover an old board game in a deceased relative’s dusty attic. They take it home and soon find they have introduced excitement and peril into their lives they never expected. Their great-uncle was a self-styled scientist/inventor, and the game was produced and stored by him. A most important part of the story (and the game) are four stones (gemstones used in the game). The red stone transports the twins from their time to the place they ‘land’ and returns them home. The blue stone produces a force field, the green stone heals, and the yellow stone provides heat and/or light. The stones are introduced one at a time in the first four books and then in combination in succeeding books.
The game consists not only of the stones, but tokens as well. Each token is imprinted with one of the illustrations on the game board. When the twins put the matching token on the board square while holding the red stone and touching, they are transported through time to the place represented by the illustration. They have no control, therefore, on where or when they will end up. The titles of all the books represent the number of the tokens as well, i.e., “Eye of the Storm: The First Token”, and so on through book number 13 titled “Deep Underground: The Final Token.”
Wanting the books to be unique, I made a huge effort to find places that had something interesting and not necessarily well-known in history as destinations for the twins. Also, I wanted there to be an element of danger or adventure involved in each story. So it was necessary for me to do a lot of research to come up with unusual ideas that tied into the board illustration and ones that occurred at different times in history. The books are set, not in order, from 1798 to 2048 in various locations throughout the world…and beyond.
As you can tell, the twins get around to a lot of places and to a lot of different times. While researching for the novels, I often discovered what I considered interesting tidbits of historical information that really didn’t fit into the storyline. Not wanting my readers to miss anything, in most of the books, I’ve included a section at the back…”Authors Note”…and shared those bits of information. So the books are educational. And whether humorous or serious in content, always correct as far as the information is concerned.
I also made every effort to be sure the books are as historically accurate as possible. Many readers enjoy having a story that’s true and often contains real people who were involved in interesting and not well-known situations.
The Time Game Series books are clean reads, with a slight faith element where appropriate. Hopefully, even though my grandson is now a bit older and less inclined to read as opposed to looking at a screen, I hope the children/grandchildren of others will enjoy the books for years to come.
D. A. (Dorothy) Featherling is an award-winning, multi-published author with thirty books in print. She has published adult thrillers, mysteries, romantic comedies, and end times fiction. Her non-fiction books include a 1930s Georgetown, Texas cold case murder, two e-books on giving school presentations and a print book encouraging activity for folks who sit too much. She also has a thirteen-book time travel fiction series being read by ages 9-99. The board game that inspired the books has been produced and is available through her website.
Her administrative years in private corporations, state agencies, and a university physics research center, and as owner of a home staging business, have given her a multitude of ideas and characters for her novels.
She has also written numerous technical pieces and has won awards for fiction, journalism, and public speaking. Her first mystery, “It Adds Up to Murder,” book 1 of the “It’s Murder at the Office” series, won a Daphne du Maurier Mystery and Suspense Award. D.A. now lives in Georgetown, Texas.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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!
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!
Welcome to Georgiana Daniels, who veered from her normal writing path a few years back . . . and discovered a new genre! She’s offering a giveaway: a paperback copy of Crumbs of Passion to a reader hungry for some FUN READING. (USA only)
Have you ever had a harebrained idea that you had to see through to the end? That was me, back in November 2019—and that’s how Crumbs of Passionwas born! Every year I try (and fail spectacularly) at National Novel Writing Month, NANO for short. That year, I decided to switch things up and write a cozy mystery, just for the fun of it.
Until then, I’d written Christian fiction, and my hope was always to share a deeper purpose and meaning. But when KC Crumb—a woman on the wrong side of 35, returning home after losing her job and her boyfriend—presented herself to me, I had to see what would happen. (I mean, once she found the dead body of her ex in her garage, I knew things were about to heat up!)
Creating a small-town mystery with a cast of zany characters was both a creative release and a way to slip into someone else’s stilettos. I have to say, following my harebrained idea was the most fun I’ve had writing in years, and I believe it comes through in the book!
Now I’m inviting you along on my harebrained adventure, to join KC and her gang of gung-ho ladies from Crumb’s Bakery as they solve murders and share a whole lot of laughs and friendship along the way. (KC Crumb is also hoping for romance, but we’ll just have to see about that! Book 2, Crumb and Punishmentis in the works—due out Summer 2021.)
You can get to know the gang when you join my newsletterand receiveThe Mystery of the Missing Groom, the short story prequel to Crumbs, as a thank you!
What harebrained ideas have you had lately? Enquiring minds want to know!
What do you get when you cross a jilted ex, a dead body, and a killer canine named Pooh Bear?
When social media manager KC Crumb is fired from her bougie job in L.A., she returns home to Beaver Bluff, Oregon only to discover a dead body in her new rental. Unfortunately, the body belongs to her philandering ex-boyfriend—a man she publicly threatened before she left town 15 years ago. Now all eyes are on KC, including those of hunky officer Antonio Hamson. With the help of her new best friend, who happens to be a jiu-jitsu expert/librarian, and a gaggle of gung-ho ladies from her aunt’s bakery, KC and Pooh Bear set out to track down the real killer. Half the town is under suspicion, including a shady car salesman and a preening personal trainer, causing the clues to mount faster than the followers on her newly single social media profiles. And when her life is mysteriously threatened, KC has to sniff out the murderer…before the handsome officer hauls her in for homicide.
Georgiana Daniels is an author, homeschooling mom, and master’s degree student. “Busy” is her middle name, but if she finds a nugget of free time she enjoys knitting, reading, and fumbling around on the piano to the dismay of others. Georgiana lives with her family in Arizona where she’s always on the lookout for her next great adventure.