Beauty Then and Now

A short distance from our place, I heard hooves on the road. An elk peered at me from the intersection. I peered back, and then she proceeded on her way, followed by her offspring.

Obviously, this isn’t one of Lance’s photos, since he would have the animals show up better.

At any rate, there they were, doing what elk do around here. The thought of parades came naturally, since I’ve been reading through the memoir of a man who spent decades designing and creating incredibly complicated floats for the really big time venues. Think Rose Parade.

So I’ve been pondering the importance of beauty, one essential element in a hand-crafted float replete with tens of thousands of flowers, flower petals, leaves, seeds, and other harvested materials. Of course, many other elements integrate to leave a float’s lasting impression, but it’s tough to outrank beauty.

We all share the desire to express ourselves through creating something of beauty. We do this through song, painting, cooking, sculpture, dance, story and ritual, and parades, for starters. In these endeavors, we attempt to make make sense of the world and of our own lives.

Where would we be without beauty to appreciate, to comprehend, to embrace? Entering into beauty in its many forms enhances our journey here.

Writing seems to be my way of beauty-making, and I like integrate these ramblings with what’s occurring with my written work. So here we go.

My publisher just sent a first look at the book cover for my next release, about two young World War women who sought beauty in the rapid changes of that era. . . the world at war. One of them, on an Iowa farm, spends every spare minute facilitating beauty on what some might label a humble stage, her garden.

Her best friend seeks her downed RAF pilot husband in the devastation of post-Blitz London. At the same time, she seeks beauty–in the people she mets, in the still-blooming laburnum trees of the city, and in her office work.

Through the only correspondence tool available at the time, Addie and Kate create another kind of beauty. Their letters back and forth across the Atlantic encourage, inspire, instruct and provide laughter in the midst of such a frightening period.

During the war’s first months, with bad news at every turn, how much could one letter from a friend or loved one mean? It’s difficult to overestimate!

We can count on letters being included on this new cover, which I’ll post as soon as it arrives in my e-mail. Meanwhile, I hope you’re finding beauty in your everyday world.


This wonderful blog is all about women flourishing, regardless of age, and I would like to multiply its readers by sharing it with you here.

My friend Rhoda Preston is reading No Stopping Us Now: The Adventures of Older Women in American Historyby Gail Collins, a decade-by-decade survey of the changing attitudes towards older women in the United States.

Here’s where you can access Rhoda’s post, and more enticing tidbits about some intriguing women in our nation’s history. One thing they were able to do: embrace the moment.

Take a minute to check out this post–you won’t regret it!

I’m embracing these moments here under Arizona’s Mogollon Rim, and sharing Lance’s latest flora and fauna photos. The people who live here think we’re pretty weird to come in winter–most people arrive in summer, to escape the heat of the Phoenix area.

But for us, it’s just gorgeous and the altitude helps me so much. I hope you enjoy this taste of the beauty that surrounds us.

The CUTEST baby elk!!!

GET a load of these INCREDIBLE neck muscles…gotta reach those leaves!

Our front yard just happens to be on their way.

Double Jeopardy

Welcome to Donna Schlacter! We’re featuring a Spotlight on Double Jeopardy, her historical novel that releases TODAY. She’s sharing a segment for you to enjoy, and offering an e-book contest as well. I hope this release makes a big splash, Donna!

January 7th, 2020 is release day for my first traditionally-published full-length historical. Set in 1880, Becky Campbell leaves her wealthy New York lifestyle in search of her father, only to learn he was murdered in the small town of Silver Valley, Colorado. Unable to return to her mother in humiliation and defeat, she determines to fulfill her father’s dream—to make the Double Jeopardy profitable. 

Zeke Graumann, a local rancher, is faced with a hard decision regarding his land and his dream. After several years of poor weather and low cattle prices, he will either have to take on a job to help pay his overhead expenses, or sell his land. He hires on with this Easterner for two reasons: he can’t turn his back on a damsel in distress. And he needs the money. 

Becky isn’t certain Zeke is all he claims to be, and after a series of accidents at her mine, wonders if he isn’t behind it, trying to get her to sell out so he can take over. 

Zeke finds many of Becky’s qualities admirable and fears he’s losing his heart to her charms, but also recognizes she was never cut out to be a rancher’s wife. 

Can Becky overcome her mistrust of Zeke, find her father’s killer, and turn her mine into a profitable venture—before her mother arrives in town, thinking she’s coming for her daughter’s wedding? And will Zeke be forced to give up his dream and lose his land in order to win Becky’s heart?

Leave a comment to enter a random drawing for an ebook copy of Double Jeopardy.


Chapter 1

1880 Silver Valley, Colorado

Dead. Dead as her dreams and her hopes.

Dead as a doornail, as her mother would say.

Just thinking about the woman drove a steel rod through Becky Campbell’s slumping back. Perched on a chair in the sheriff’s office, she drew a deep breath, lifted her shoulders, and raised her chin a notch. She would not be like the woman who birthed her. Pretty and pampered. A silly socialite finding nothing better to do with her days than tea with the mayor’s spinster daughter or bridge with the banker’s wife.

No, she’d much rather be like her father. Adventuresome. Charismatic. Always on the lookout for the next big thing.

Now her breath came in a shudder, and down went her shoulders again. She tied her fingers into knots before looking up at the grizzled lawman across the desk from her. “There’s no chance there’s been a mistake in identification, is there?”

He slid open the top drawer of his desk and pulled out a pocket watch, a lapel pin, and a fountain pen, which he pushed across the desk to her. “He was pretty well-known around here. I’m really sorry, miss.”

Becky picked up the timepiece and flicked open the cover. Inside was a photograph of her family, taken about ten years earlier when she was a mere child of eight and Father stayed around long enough to sit still for the portrait. Her mother, petite and somber, and she, all ringlets and ribbons. She rubbed a finger across the engraving. To R. Love M. Always.

Yes, this was his.

And the lapel pin, a tiny silver basket designed to hold a sprig of baby’s breath or a miniature rosebud—a wedding gift from her mother twenty years before.

She looked up at the sheriff, tears blurring her vision. “And his ring?”

The lawman shook his head. “No ring. Not on his body or in his shack.”

“But he always wore it. Never took it off.”

He shrugged. “Maybe he lost it. Or sold it.”

“I doubt he’d do either. My mother gave it to him when I was born.” 

She peered at him. Had he stolen her father’s ring? 

Or maybe Sheriff Freemont was correct. Maybe something as important as her birth hadn’t meant much to her father. Maybe she didn’t either. Was that why he left?

Because surely his absences couldn’t be explained by any rift between her parents.

Although, what Matilda Applewhite saw in Robert Campbell—Robbie to his friends and family—Becky had never understood. Her mother, who ran in the same circles as the Rockefellers and the Astors, with presidents and admirals—yet much to the consternation of her family, chose a ne’er-do-well like Becky’s father.

Becky set the two items side by side on the scarred wooden desk, next to the fountain pen. The same one he’d used to write his letters to her. Signing them, Give your mother all my love too. Your devoted father. She needed no more information. No more proof.


Not what she hoped for when she left New York a month prior, against her mother’s wishes, with little else to direct her steps than a ticket to Silver Valley and her father’s last letter. Written a year before, but as full of life, promises, hopes, and wishes as ever.

She collected the only three material evidences of her father’s existence and dropped them into her reticule then stood. “Thank you for your time, Sheriff. I appreciate my father’s death must be a difficult business for you.”

He stood and dipped his head. “Yes, miss.”

“Do you know how he died?”

He cleared his throat, not meeting her gaze. “Still investigatin’, miss. Lots of things to look into.”

She bit back a groan. Unlike in the city, where manpower and resources seemed limitless, out here, there was just the sheriff and sometimes a deputy. “Thank you again. Please keep me updated.” She turned to leave. “Where is he buried?”

“Over by the church. Just ask the preacher. He can show you.”

Not like she was in any rush to see her father’s final resting place. She stepped outside and scanned the street. Surely the man who was more gypsy than family man would hate to think of his physical body buried beneath the dust of any one place.

A morose sense of humor invaded her. At least it was a way to get him to stay in one place longer than it took to eat a meal.

Sheriff Fremont joined her on the front step. “You’ll likely be returning home now, I ’spect.”

She looked up past his dimpled chin, his bushy mustache, his aquiline nose, into eyes as dark as coal. “No, sir. I have no plans to return.”

“What will you do?”


She blinked several times as she pondered the question, which was a very good one indeed. She’d not thought beyond the ache building in her bosom for the father she’d never see again. At least when he went off on yet another adventure, she had the unspoken promise of his return at some point, in the distant future. And always a letter. Or a postcard. Never many words on either, but confirmation he was alive and she was still important to him. 

At least, important enough to sit a few minutes and pen a few words.

She stared at the dusty mining town. More tents than wooden structures. More mules than horses. More assay offices than churches.

Two men tumbled onto the boardwalk opposite her, rolled down the two steps to the street level, and lay prone in the dirt littered with horse apples. The barkeep, a barrel-chested man, his formerly white apron now stained beyond redemption and a dingy cloth slung over his arm, burst through the swinging doors. “And don’t come back here. We don’t need the likes of you in here bothering our customers.” 

The man turned on his heel and disappeared back into the saloon. Within ten seconds, the tinny notes of a piano filtered to her ears.

The two in the street lay still.

Had he killed them?

A pack of boys ran from a nearby alley, grabbed a hat from one the men’s heads, and raced down the street, jabbering and hollering like their britches were on fire. Three mongrels loped after them, tongues lolling and tails held high.

She turned back to the sheriff. “Is there a decent boarding house in town?”

One eye squinted as he peered at her for a long moment before nodding slowly. “So, you’re going to stay?”

“I have no reason to return.” 

She glanced at the two men in the street. One climbed to his feet, swaying unsteadily, while the other puked into the dust without even lifting his head. The acrid odor wafted across to her, and she wrinkled her nose, breathing through her mouth. Until the smell coated her tongue. Then she snapped her mouth shut. 

Maybe this wasn’t the town for her … 

No. She would never give her mother opportunity to say I told you so. 

“Well, we got us a hotel above the saloon over yonder, and just about every drinking establishment in town rents out rooms, but I wouldn’t recommend those places. Mrs. Hicks over at number fourteen Front Street rents out a few rooms in her house. Tell her I sent you.”

“Thank you, Sheriff.” She took a couple of steps, her drawstring bag banging against her thigh. “I’ll also need directions to my father’s claim so I can get that transferred into my name. As his next of kin.”

“You’ll need to check with the Land and Assay Office, two doors up from the mercantile. But I don’t know what kind of a title he bought. Some can be transferred, but most who come out here can’t think past their next pay lode, so they don’t spend the money to buy that kind.”

She tipped her head. “You mean I might need to buy my own father’s property?”

He shrugged. “Not that I know much, but that’s what I’ve heard. I wish you luck, miss. You’ll need it if you plan to stay here.” He tipped his hat to her before closing his door.

Becky drew in a breath of the warm May afternoon then released it in a sigh. First the cost of the train ticket, then her meals and occasional hotel rooms along the way. And now this. Was there no end to the ways her dwindling cache of gold coins could disappear like snow in July?

First things first—a proper place to stay tonight. She picked up her carpetbag waiting on the bench outside the sheriff’s office and walked in the direction the lawman had indicated toward the home of Mrs. Hicks. Her heels beat a rhythm like a drum corps in a parade. She nodded to women and couples she passed but averted her eyes from the solitary men.

And there were many. Of all sizes and shapes, ages, and deportment. Several ogled her from the chairs they occupied outside the six—no, seven—saloons she passed, and that was only on her side of the street. A lone barber lounged in one of his three chairs, not a customer in sight, testifying to the fact that the men hereabouts were more interested in cards, booze, and loose women than in personal hygiene. 

A fact she confirmed when one lout stood his ground and refused to let her pass. Cheap perfume, rotgut whiskey, and sweat mingled to create an odor that made her eyes water. 

Another man stepped up behind the drunk. “Micky, are you troubling this young lady?”

Micky swayed in place, twisting the brim of his hat in gnarled fingers. “She one of your flock?”

“Doesn’t matter. Apologize and move on.” 

The drunk tipped his hat to her in apology and stepped back against the building, allowing her to continue. The preacher, his collar white against the severe black suit, nodded, and she acknowledged his courtesy with a tiny smile. “Thank you. Reverend?”

The clergyman dipped his head. “Obermeyer, Pastor Obermeyer.”

She held out her hand. “I’m Becky Campbell.”

He blinked a couple of times then his brow raised. “Oh, you’re—”

“Yes. Robbie Campbell’s daughter.” She glanced over her shoulder. “The sheriff told me you could show me where my father is buried.”

He held her hand and sandwiched it between his own. “Please accept my condolences on your loss, Miss Campbell.”

“Thank you.” That now too-familiar ache swelled in her bosom. Would it never ease? “If I may call on you another time? I’m off to find lodging.”

He tipped his head to one side. “Oh, you’re staying?”

Why did everybody think that because her father was dead, she would leave?

Or was this wishful thinking on their part?

If so, why?

She nodded. “I am.”

He shook himself like a hound dog awakening from a nap. Had he stretched and yawned, she would not have been surprised. “Good. Good.” He pointed down the street. “The church is there. The parsonage is the tiny house behind. I’m in my study most days. Come any time.” He tipped his hat. “Perhaps I’ll see you in church tomorrow?”

“We shall see. Thank you for rescuing me from that horrible man.”

His shoulders slumped. “So many have too much time and money on their hands.” He quirked his chin toward the others walking along the street. “Many work all week then come into town and spend it on a Saturday, only to go back and repeat the same cycle next week.”

Sounded like a hopeless cycle. But what could she do about it? Nothing. If she wanted to make it on her own here, she had her work cut out to stay out of the poorhouse. She surely wouldn’t ask her rich-as-Midas mother for assistance. Maybe once she got on her feet … “Thank you again. Good day.”

She gripped her carpetbag and continued on her way, pleased that at least two men in this town—the sheriff and the parson—were raised by genteel women. She should count herself lucky she’d met both today. Having even one on her side might come in handy at some point. And having two—well, that was just downright serendipitous. 

Three blocks through the business section, then a right for two blocks, and she soon found the house she sought. Narrow but well-kept flower gardens lined both sides of the walkway. She unlatched the gate, headed for the door, and knocked. Her gloved hands sweating, she longed for a cool drink of lemonade or sweet tea. As she raised her hand to knock again, the door swung open and a tall, thin woman of indeterminate age peered down at her.

Becky tossed her a smile and introduced herself. “The sheriff said you might have a room for rent?”

“How long?”

“I’m not certain. I plan to stay until I settle my father’s estate, at least. Possibly longer.”

The stern look on the woman’s face eased. “Sorry for your troubles. Four dollars a week including meals.” She peered past Becky. “And I only take respectable women. No children. No men. My name is Joan Hicks.”

While the amount seemed high, Becky had little choice. “My name is Becky Campbell.”

“Oh, you’d be—”

Becky sighed. Either her father was famous, or infamous. The former, she hoped. “Yes. His daughter. And yes, I’m staying in town until I get his claim sorted out.”

The wrinkles around the landlady’s eyes deepened, and her mouth lifted in a smile. “Actually, my next question was if you want dinner tonight?”

“I would. Thank you. What time?”

“Dinner’s at five. Perhaps you’d like to see your room and freshen up.”

She was going to like this obviously kindly, no-nonsense woman. So unlike her own mother. “Thank you.”

The interior of the house was dark but cool, and Becky followed Mrs. Hicks up two flights of stairs to one of three doors that opened off the top landing. The landlady stood aside and held out her hand, palm up. “Payment due in advance. Pot roast for dinner.”

Becky dug the four coins from her reticule and handed them over. “Thank you.”

“No keys for any of the rooms. I got the right to inspect the room with an hour’s notice. No cooking or smoking in the rooms. Privy is out the back door.”

Becky swallowed back a lump of disappointment. She’d expected indoor plumbing, just as she enjoyed in New York, but the modern conveniences hadn’t made their way this far west. 

Or at least, not to this house in Silver Valley.

She entered what would be her home for at least the next week, longer if she could figure out how to make her remaining money stretch further. She set her bag on a dressing table, and then she closed the door. When she sank onto the bed, the springs creaked beneath her weight. She sighed.

A pang of—of what? Homesickness? Missing her father? Wishing things were different?—caught her off guard, spreading through her like a flooding river, threatening to wash away all hope. So much for her dreams of prospecting with her father in the mountains of Colorado. Of catching up on all the years they’d missed.

Rather, that she had missed.

She doubted her father had lacked any adventures or excitement.

His life had been so different from her own. 

She dumped the contents of her drawstring bag onto the bed and sorted through them. Sixty-three dollars which, along with the hundred or so in her carpetbag, should tide her over for a while. If she didn’t have to buy her father’s claim. If she didn’t have to pay top dollar for every single thing she needed.

Because if there was one thing still alive in her, it was the desire to understand her father. To understand what drove him to leave the comforts of home and travel to this remote place. Was it the lure of silver? Was he simply tired of his refined life? Of his wife?

Of her?

Available at and fine booksellers in your area.

About Donna:

Donna lives in Denver with husband Patrick. As a hybrid author, she writes historical suspense under her own name, and contemporary suspense under her alter ego of Leeann Betts, and has been published more than 30 times in novellas and full-length novels. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Writers on the Rock, Sisters In Crime, and Christian Authors Network; facilitates a critique group; and teaches writing classes online and in person. Donna also ghostwrites, edits, and judges in writing contests. She loves history and research, and travels extensively for both. Donna is represented by Terrie Wolf of AKA Literary Management.

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What Can Be Online University:

Celebrating 2019 . . . on to 2020

New Year’s Eve, and the Amaryllis blossomed days ago. It’s looking a little worn out.

What a year it’s been! Sharing  All For the Cause with the folks at Camp Algona in April warmed my heart. What a great job they’ve done with the museum there. If you have a chance, you won’t regret paying them a visit in 2020.

The Until Then book launch at the Romeoville, IL public library allowed me to meet the rest of my heroine Dorothy’s family—I had no idea how much they’d wanted Dorothy’s incredible story published. I had met her son and daughter, but now I know everyone!

The second printing revised the SPECIAL THANKS page, so for those who bought books at that launch, it now reads: 

    A heartfelt thank-you to Sandra and Mark Worst, Dorothy’s daughter and son, who introduced me to their amazing mother and supplied me with more information than I could possibly use.

    Thank you to the faithful readers who spent countless hours ferreting out errors—you know who you are. Thank you, thank you.

    I’m also so very grateful to WordCrafts Press and to those who follow my work and encourage me with their reviews.

I’m delighted that Cindy and her husband are creating an audiobook—can’t wait to hear Dorothy in action!

What a legacy she left: a true World War II heroine with fortitude, tenacity, faith, and the capacity to find JOY in the midst her vocation, even in dire times. Thank you for sharing your intriguing mother/grandmother with me! 

As I mentioned, those who carefully pre-read manuscripts make an author’s life so much easier. Thank you Leslie, Irene, Nancy, Holly, Jean, Jill, Sonia, and J.D. . . . I’m pretty sure I’ve left someone out, which is why I don’t list names in the books. Please know that your kindness means so much. An author simply cannot rely solely on her own “editing eye.” 

Thanks also to the many library directors who allow me to share with their patrons. I love spreading the word about WWII heroes and heroines, many of them ordinary folks who sacrificed for the cause and made a quiet, but significant difference

There’s no way to thank these members of the Greatest Generation enough, but we can still do our best. Historical fiction provides one way to learn about and appreciate their careful attention to duty—and this is why the stories keep coming.

Most of all, I’m grateful for readers who encourage me all year long. Your reviews and personal notes help make the labor of writing worthwhile.

I’ll close with a quote from K.M. Weiland, an author I’ve met online. 

 “I don’t think there has been a moment in my entire life when I have not known in my heart that telling a story was vital, but the older I get, the more I consciously believe that telling a story—and telling it well—is one of the most tremendous contributions any human can make to the world.” 

How encouraging! Reading has been dear to me from childhood on, and I’ve always wanted to make a difference. It’s such a joy to be able to contribute.

And it’s time to regroup so this plant can blossom again. (:

Dorothy, Rupert, Twila and Stan, characters all, take their places in my Women of the Heartland stories:


I’m always grateful for new friends gathered during the year, and 2019 has brought me a written friend from Idaho. I’m so looking forward to getting to know her better during the new year, and am delighted to share her new historical novel with readers. Happily, I’ve read this story, and still think about its characters. If you enjoy historical fiction of this era, this book belongs on your reading list!

Jan is offering a free paperback copy of ALL MY GOOD-BYES to one commenter here. Now, she shares with us a little of her family history behind this novel.

I Wish I’d Known

It dawned on me the other day that I was born just 9 years after the end of WW2. This boggles my mind. As I have been researching for my latest release, set in those years, I had it set in my mind that the war was far removed from me. But the more we discover about our pasts, the more we realize how things that happen long ago effect who we are today. 

If it had not been for certain circumstances of the war, I would not be here at all. I don’t mean to sound mysterious, okay maybe I do, but legacies were cut short for many of the men and women who fought and died then. World War II changed the course of history for families everywhere. 

I had to research to find out how my life came to be, because my parents both were gone by the time I became interested in their stories. I never bothered to prod them about their experiences as they lived through the depression and the war. I took for granted that life had been as smooth as mine. I never realized there were so many secrets unspoken, so many unpleasant memories tucked down deep. By the time I felt the weight of the past calling me to write, it was too late to ask those close to me all the important questions. 

This is now a sort of mission for me – to encourage folks to talk to their aging parents and grandparents and even great-grandparents. Some may still not want to explain their experiences, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. Most of them have rich stories that should be written down and passed down to the next generation. How tragic that so many of these stories are being lost as the people of those war years die. 

One thing I discovered as I pulled out family photos and documents is that most of them were not marked with names and dates. It would have been so much easier to put the puzzle pieces of my family together if those items had been identified. This is something each family can do when they are together for the holidays – catalog all those pictures of places and people. 

As I finished up my historical series, I was so thankful for the treasures of knowledge I had gained. But I long for more. I want my children to know where they came from and the solid, courageous, and honorable heritage they can be proud of. I tell what I know, even when they look bored or roll their eyes.

But I’ve noticed one thing…the little ones are fascinated by the stories I tell. 

Like me, my grown children may not be all that interested until it’s too late, but when I’m not around to tell them anymore, my books will be. This is why I must keep writing them. It’s my way to leave the story legacy of the family for the future. 

I hope if you haven’t gleaned those experiences from your loved ones that you will take a few minutes to make a plan for the new year. Go through your closets and find the old albums and use them to start conversations with your elders. Or if you are the elder, initiate a reveal of those special memories. 

My book All My Goodbyes is based on the life of my mother and I hope the parts I had to guess about are close to accurate. It is a work of fiction but with real life entwined, with a surprise at the end. I hope you will read it to inspire you to uncover your own legacy. 

I would love for you to follow me on Facebook at Jan Cline author. Also, you can check out my website and sign up for my monthly newsletter to receive a free short story.

Blessings to your and your family. 


A December Twist

About a year ago, my publisher released a book I thought I’d never write. For one thing, it was a novella, much shorter than my usual. For another, it turned out to be a romance.

I must admit I’ve never held romances in high esteem. They seemed too predictable to qualify as “real” literature–I suppose those of you with tastes like mine will nod your heads about now. Some of us like not knowing how things will turn out–we feel characters exhibit more depth when the reader has no clue about their destiny.

Or the author, I might say, because that’s how it was for me. When I began writing Kiss Me Once Again, titled after a popular WWII song, I had no idea it would turn into a romance.

But my heroine Glenora knew all along. She tried to prepare me for this turn of events, but her gangly stature and low self-concept tricked me. She always thought, “Who could ever entertain romantic thoughts about me, such a tall girl with an angular face?

She felt this way even though Joe, her high school friend, had pledged his love to her before he left for the war. To her, it seemed an aberration that he had evinced interest in her, and nothing like this would ever occur again.

So she tucked away the word “romance” forever, like the prom dress she wore to the dance. Everything connected with that arena belonged in the past, in effect buried with Joe in the Arizona at the bottom of Pearl Harbor.

Glenora cherished these memories, but took on life’s present challenges with practical pluck. Writing faithful letters to her brother Red, especially in the terrible uncertainty after a typhoon struck his ship, became her duty. Though her own cup felt empty, she determined to keep Red’s full.

Her father’s angst over Red and his growing health concerns, and the family business–a small-town garage in need of a grease monkey in Red’s absence–these were tasks Glenora took on with a make-do attitude. Just as she took on the household when her mother died instead of following her dream to Iowa State.

She’d help her dad out at the shop, write faithful letters to Red, and keep her chin up. Yep, that’s what she’d do!

For readers who like lots of WWII information but also appreciate a sweet romance, this might just be the book for you to read over the holidays.

Winter’s Hidden Beauty

Some thoughtful Iowa photographs straight from my husband’s camera. The interplay of white on color, the patterns of windswept snow after a storm–winter beauty. along with its cold.

Today I’ll try to tie together a few straggly ends–it’s been that kind of season.

Ernest Hemingway wrote, “…before you quit, try.”

Sometimes we feel defeated before we even begin and ask “How could this possibly succeed?” But inspiration may come in peculiar ways . . . I’m experiencing this right now.

Over the past four months, we’ve observed an extremely independent, accomplished loved one’s thought processes decline. What beauty could we possibly find in this?

Along the way it has struck me that, like snow’s patterns on natural objects, unexpected balance and perspective may appear at peculiar times in our journeys. Even what we normally classify as negative experiences may contain bright spots.

Last week we learned that our local nursing home had an opening for my husband’s mother. As her weakness escalates, this news comes as a clear blessing, znd her willing attitude gives us such a lovely example..

Most people hate the thought of leaving their homes for such a facility. But my mother-in-law has accepted her situation with grace.

She realizes she can no longer live alone, and as she said yesterday, “I’ve been waiting for an opening.” You can imagine how her positivity eases this transition. On her first morning in her new room, she said, “This is my home now–I don’t even want to go back at all.”

So we move ahead, with eyes open for surprises, glimpses of loveliness along the way–ready to try as we begin.

This week also reminds us of the beginning of the Battle of The Bulge on December 14, 1944. On December 7, I spoke with a man whose father fought through that horrendous winter at the Bulge and never spoke of his service (he won the Purple Heart.)

Those soldiers and their medical support teams certainly took Hemingway’s advice. Quitting was not an option . . . they had to try. The whole world depended on the outcome. One Iowan taken captive at the bulge was trudging through northern Germany to a POW camp in the cold, and on a nearby wall one day, he spied a loaf of bread. No one else in the long line of prisoners noticed it, so he grabbed it and ate the whole thing.

There it was…what he most longed for, right along the way. A beauteous discovery, and one that sustained his faith.

In the final month of this year, realizing my writing will come to an end some day, I reflect on why I write World War II stories. It’s really quite simple: I want to do all I can to honor those who sacrificed so much for our freedom. I want future generations to remember them.

December Seventh

Local Iowa temps provide a recent example of the roller-coaster, up and down ride life can give us at times.

But can you imagine living through the attack on Pearl Harbor? I just heard a survivor interviewed on a news program. A typical Sunday morning at Hickam Field…breakfast as usual . . . and then the attack.

Japanese naval aircraft prepare to take off from an aircraft carrier (reportedly Shokaku) to attack Pearl Harbor during the morning of 7 December 1941. Plane in the foreground is a Zero Fighter. This is probably the launch of the second attack wave. The original photograph was captured on Attu in 1943. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

It’s good to recall that day, wise to consider how the world changed for so many in such a brief amount of time. A “sleeping giant” had been rudely awakened.

Puts things in perspective . . .

Meant for Her

This new contemporary title comes from Joy Avery Melville, an author I “met” online. Here, she describes her novel writing process. She’s offering a signed paperback copy to someone who leaves a comment. Enjoy!

When God nudged and steered me into writing Contemporary Christian Women’s Fiction, He allowed me the privilege of writing a strong thread of romance into the story.

I set out to write what I thought would be stand-alone novels, only to discover characters, who decided they wanted to keep the story moving into a series by bringing in sub-plots.

Since my books are character driven, I take my time to get their backstories cemented in my mind and heart. Then they take over, moving the novels forward chronologically. 

The research for Meant For Her—once I surrendered my will about the genre issue—took me seven months. The story developed over six weeks with some days out for traveling. Before edits and revisions, the book boasted 125,000 words. I’d never written such a lengthy novel in so short a time.

Meant For Her came about from overhearing a local TV news broadcast. The Lord kept bringing it to my mind long after the events had taken place. When I decided to follow His leading, He gave me what I call dot-to-dot connections. People came into my life when I most needed them for research and for human resources. 

It took a lot of people along the way to bring about the final Meant For Her. I am very grateful for the help, encouragement, and prayerful support so many have poured into my life.

Promotion and marketing were the farthest things from my mind during the writing and revision process, but God gave me just what I’d asked for the week the book was to release. My prayer was for open doors and opportunities I wasn’t aware were available. I was deluged with more than I could have asked or hoped for. (Doesn’t Scripture tell us that – why was I surprised?)

so appreciate the opportunity to be here with Gail Kittleson today. She opened her heart and blog for this occasion!

One of my favorite things to do these days is answer readers’ questions about Meant For Her and/or my writing. Feel free to ask!

Here’s a taste of the novel:

Had it all truly been ~ MEANT FOR HER?

Kidnapped, raped, brutally beaten, and left for dead, Candi Reynolds becomes a prisoner of fear. Faced also with the impact of the unexpected break-up with her fiancé, and an unwanted pregnancy resulting from the attacks, she believes God has forsaken her. Choosing to move back to the Michigan horse farm, owned by her older brother, Dr. Cam Reynolds, Candi essentially goes into seclusion.

Dr. Patrick (Mack) MacKevon, Carri’s ong-time friend, watches from the sidelines at the farm where his horses are stabled, while Candi struggles to regain a sense of normalcy. His own big-brother tendencies develop into a much deeper emotion over the months he prays for her.

Is it possible for Candi to put all of the pain and trauma behind her and renew her former relationship with the Lord? Will she allow her heart to open enough to discover authentic love, while making decisions of victory on her personal journey to joy?



The Day Before Thanksgiving

Sounds a lot like the night before Christmas, doesn’t it? Maybe the prequel to Thanksgiving Day ought to get higher billing. After all, we don’t always take the time for gratitude.

Time for gratitude? Yes. It does take the to think about our blessings, to formulate the words to express our gratefulness, and to shove aside everything else that fills our too-full lives. Gratitude takes time…and a certain mindset.

This morning, I snapped a photo through one of our south windows…screen and all. The wind went wild in the night and forced snow into every sliver of space.

Okay, so it’s upside down and I can’t get it to flip over. (: I’m still grateful. You even get a glimpse of a geranium plant I brought inside–it doesn’t even know winter has arrived.

And if you look closely enough, you might see the squares of the window screen at the bottom….ahem, the top. Nearly filled in completely with blown snow, they provide a good visual of gratitude. Perhaps this attitude acts like a screen, filtering what comes through.

We perceive our surroundings, our circumstances, through various filters. I’d like to adopt the filter of gratitude more consistently. Whatever we’re experiencing, however difficult it may be, still offers moments of clarity and whispers of the eternal.

Employing this filter, the day may be brighter than we had imagined. A cup of tea and a good book make everything look better.