When President Lincoln declared a national day of Thanksgiving in the midst of the American Civil War, a series of editorials written by Sarah Josepha Hale inspired him. This commemoration of gratitude was to be celebrated on the 26th, the final Thursday of November 1863.

Interesting…do you recall hearing that Sara Hale’s writing created such an effect on the President? I didn’t…and it’s one more example of how our writing can be used. Maybe she intended this, or perhaps the outreach of her writing surprised her.

Tomorrow I’ll be in Story City, Iowa with a group of hearty souls undertaking memoir writing. We’ll be crafting a Christmas memoir, and of course, each participant’s will be unique. Our own personal take on life is so vital…we share our perspective.  And as Sarah Josepha Hale instructs us, who knows how much that viewpoint may affect others?

My books arrived last week…and that brings me to gratitude. Ah, yes. For the desire and determination required to research stories, and for the joy involved. For my husband, who pays the bills, for the easy availability of facts and stories from World War II, for a cousin, sister, and friends who encourage me, for my publisher, and for readers who allow my characters into their lives.

All these gifts shower upon me, and I’m so thankful…

“…we plow the fields and scatter the good seed on the land, but it is fed and watered by God’s almighty hand…” Matthias Claudius, 1782, translated by Jane M. Campbell, 1861. Thanks to these two people for unleashing their creativity. I wonder if they thought their words would still be sung by churchgoers in 2018…

Who knows how our gifts sent out into the world might be used? Our task is to simply keep sending them. 

A week of Thanksgiving lies ahead–may yours be full of good memories.

From Scholarly to Whodunit

Sharon Dean introduces us to her love of literary history here. If you like a thought-provoking whodunit, you will enjoy Death of the Keynote Speaker, which I just finished reading. This week, Sharon’s giving away one free copy of Leaving Freedom (either e-book or paper) to a commenter. Welcome!

In her scholarly book on girl sleuths like Nancy Drew and Cherry Ames, Bobbie Anne Mason wrote, “A scholar is a version of a sleuth” (The Girl Sleuth, 1975). I was a sleuth when I wrote scholarly books. I’m still one now as I write fiction. Besides puzzling out how to construct a plot and develop a character, I’ve discovered what propels my imagination: my scholar’s sense of history and my personal sense of place.

In my first Susan Warner mystery, Tour de Trace, Mississippi’s history crept into my descriptions of the Natchez Trace and the fraught racial past of that state. My second novel, Death of the Keynote Speaker, is set on New England’s Isles of Shoals. It weaves a fictional writer into the real history of Celia Thaxter’s literary salon on Appledore Island and a notorious murder on Smuttynose Island. My third mystery, Cemetery Wine, draws on New Hampshire’s history and its connection to the Underground Railroad as Susan Warner searches for who murdered an African-American scholar researching that history.

Set between 1973 and 1982, I suppose my just-published novel, Leaving Freedom, is historical. Even more, it’s informed by a sense of place.  My protagonist, Connie Lewis, travels from Massachusetts to Florida and through Buffalo and Niagara Falls to Oregon. In Oregon, she discovers places I’ve visited: the apothecary of nineteenth-century herbalist Kam Wah Chung, the landscape of the John Day Fossil Beds, the giant redwoods of the Smith River, the beautiful town of Ashland. Connie twice visits the Rajneesh commune that took over the tiny community of Antelope, Oregon, in the 1980s as she searches for a place to call home and pursues a writing career.

Like Connie, I’m settling into a new place, learning to call it home even as I’m drawn back in my imagination to my New England roots. The novel I’m working on now, tentatively called The Barn, springs from an image of a barn I remember from my childhood. Above its door, a large wooden cow’s head looked out from the hayloft, peering at passers-by. I thought it was a real cow. It’s given me the sense of place I needed to start writing a novel that flashes back to a cold case in 1990. The cow is watching as I uncover the history of my imagined cold case and discover where it will take me.

For more on me and my work, see my webpage, and my Facebook author page, Sharon L. Dean.

That new release I’ve been mentioning…Ta Da! 

My publisher’s graphic artist did a great job of capturing World War II headlines here…headlines and radio news reports became the mainstay of so many during this long, anguish filled time. 

Glenora Carson, the heroine of this novel, spent every evening with her father, straining for word of her brother Red’s ship, somewhere in the Pacific. She’d already lost her beau when the Arizona sank.

Other families, by the tens of thousands, practiced this same ritual. We can visualize them, with supper dishes done, knitting or mending in hand, engrossed in Edward R. Murrow or Eric Severeid’s voice coming to them from far, far away.

Ahhh….how this era grips our souls, for it was our fathers, uncles, and grandfathers who risked their lives on foreign shores.

In this story, we also meet Hank, a quiet, convalescing infantry soldier, badly wounded in North Africa. He’s glad to be alive, and thankful to find work in Glenora’s father’s garage. He never speaks of the war…why would he? But we can rest assured he thinks about it constantly as his comrades in arms still slug their way through Sicily, Italy, and up the spine of the Alps toward Germany. 

The last thing Hank has on his mind is romance…same goes for Glenora.

I hope you embrace this time period as Glenora opens her heart to you…and maybe also to love. One reader has already said, “I want another copy of this story to give my mom for Christmas.” 

Here are some purchase links. This time, besides all the other forms available, a hardback copy is also being produced. (I think just paperback can be ordered right now, but soon…)

This is a much shorter read than my usual…I hope it provides a cozy evening for you, glass of wine or cup of cinnamon tea optional. (:





November’s Flown In

October partially undressed the flame bush near our back door,

Scattered leaves along the path south of our house…

Shone glory through what brightness remains on the branches,

And created curlicues against blue sky.

The end of October also sent us the BEST photo of our daughter and granddaughter, before the Hallowe’en night festivities in our little town.

Now, November paves the way for my latest release, Kiss Me Once Again, a World War II novella featuring a young woman used to sacrificing her dreams for the cause. Her name’s Glenora, and I’m delighted to introduce her to you. You’ll like this make-do Greatest Generation woman, and applaud her ability to do what needs to be done–even when it hurts.

This includes giving up her ISU scholarship and her dream of being a home ec teacher and grabbing a monkey wrench to work in her father’s garage when her brother joins the Navy after the Pearl Harbor attack. The fateful day the Arizona sank, taking her high school sweetheart with it, Glenora sealed off a portion of her heart.

Since I’m not one to spoil the story, I’ll let you know exactly where and when KISS ME ONCE AGAIN becomes available.

This marks my first plunge into the world of novellas with my publisher, WordCrafts Press, which also published A Purpose True. I’m so grateful to be connected with them–for one thing, the editor is a former Green Beret. You might want to check out their other publications at



Thanks to Mark Zuckerberg

Welcome to Char Jones, one of my favorite book reviewers. Here, she reminds us how FaceBook, while not perfect, has changed our lives.

This Thanksgiving I am especially grateful to Mark Zuckerberg. For his genius creation, Facebook, has enabled me to reach 60 countries in just two months as a literary reviewer! 

Using Facebook as my platform, I started blogging exclusively as a book critic in July, when, through a combination of sweat equity, alchemy and social media mastery, I was able to reach the maximum number of Friends — 5000 — in two and a half weeks.

My Friend mix is heady, including authors of two favorite historical fiction series — Susan Elia MacNeal, who writes about WWII spy Maggie Hope, and the mother-son team Charles Todd, who spins tales of Great War nurse Bess Crawford. 

Other esteemed friends include President Ronald Reagan’s daughter Patti Davis, a fine writer herself, and the CEO of Kensington Publishing based in London, England.

My world expanded exotically the night I discovered I had a Friend in Casablanca, Morocco, site of one of my all time fave movies.

And the path through the global thicket became even clearer through connection with Canadian author/illustrator Hélène Desputeaux, whose charming children’s picture books I had reviewed. 

Hélène and I became Facebook Friends, and one evening looking at her FB page I decided to check out her array of Friends, who turned out to be …. no surprise … illustrators! And not just Canadian artists, but artists from across the globe. I extended many Friend requests and to my great surprise and delight, many accepted. My world reach grew quickly from there.

The illustrator world seems an especially small one, so as I add another Friend from that amazing clan, I search for new Friends in countries I’ve not yet reached. 

This week alone I added Friends in Austria, Columbia, Costa Rica, Finland, Iceland, Jordan, Syria, Thailand, and Wales.

My Facebook Friends offer joy daily. Aussie author Anna Campbell suggests fine music. Writer Riham Adly from Giza, Egypt, and I share a weakness for books with medical themes and Anthropologie fashion. Malcolm Roscow from Bournemouth, England, serves as my Facebook Knight in Shining Armor ever since an online dweeb became a detractor. And so it happily goes. 

During this season of gratitude, therefore, I give thanks for my glorious global friends. Mr. Zuckerberg, I count you among them!

Char Jones blogs about books, movies, music, fashion, and life on Facebook as Literary Soirée. A past entertainment writer and healthcare executive, she can be found plinking away on two Apple devices simultaneously, Bose headphones atop her curls, cat Gracie snuggled against her, while her patient husband calls her for yet another missed meal. Her Facebook blog can be accessed at

How Do You Eat An Elephant?

I’m so delighted to welcome Lyn Vande Brake, whom I’ve known for several years. She’s a spunky gal with a boatload of energy and ideas. I’m looking forward to the release of her non-fiction book about how women can carve out our own little spaces in this busy world. She lives just off I-35 with her husband and a sweet array of the cutest animals. She’s graciously giving us a peek…

I am often asked, how do you write a book? The answer is, the same way you eat an elephant; one bite at a time, or in this case, one word at a time. Words turn into sentences which make paragraphs that become chapters and before you know it 40,000 words in 18 chapters are sitting in a Word Document.

The golden rule is ‘write what you know.’ Ask yourself, what’s happening in your life; significant or not, happy or sad, life altering or mundane. Life shows up every day for everyone, and over time is always a mix of all of these. It’s amazing what one  might consider as trivial that can turn into best-seller material.

I think of award-winning humor writer Erma Bombeck, the All-America housewife of yesteryear who raised three kids with her typewriter sitting on an ironing board so she could find time to write. Bombeck would become a household word back in the 1970’s  and ’80’s, making appearances on Johnny Carson and ABC’s Good Morning America. Nine of her twelve books, all about the joys of doing laundry, house-training a new puppy, and attending PTA meetings, appeared on the New York Times Best Seller List. Bombeck, when interviewed on how she got her start, said the first piece of real fiction she wrote was the weather forecast for the Dayton Herald News, a small hometown newspaper, where her most substantial contribution was as the obituary writer.

A couple years back, I was in desperate need of an escape place that would enable me to  run away from a husband whom I dearly loved but with his retirement, was driving me nuts. I found and purchased a little one-room Amish-built shed. Upon its delivery, I placed it in the center of my pony pasture and created sacred space in the shape of a she-shed where I reveled in quiet solitude.

A friend said, “You need to write a story about this.” And so I did. Then the same friend said, “This story needs to be a book.” 

Twenty-four chapters and a book proposal later, I have The Shaping of a She-Shedsitting at a publisher’s under spec.

How did I do this? One bite at a time.

Lyn Vandebrake is a published writer with her work appearing inFocus on the Family, Homelife, Baptist Press, Positive Living, Mountain Living, Alive, Living the Country Life, Christian Womanhood, The Summit and others. Visit her website at


Another note: Lyn, Carol Hedberg and I will be hosting a day-long WRITING FROM THE HEART workshop in Story City on November 19. If you need a creative getaway, check out our FB pages for more information.


My friend Jane posted this fascinating cloud photo from her home in Colorado:
I could study the play of light and shadows for hours –notice those lower dark clouds extending upward, too. Makes me think of a verse I memorized long ago for our sixth grade science fair… “When I consider the heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars which Thou hast ordained…”
Obviously, that was back in the day when science and Scripture cohabited without rancor. A simpler time, some say.
Not knowing the appropriate technical term for this phenomenon, I turned to Wikipedia and found another photo with a description:

Mammatus clouds in the Nepal Himalayas

Mammatus (mamma[1] or mammatocumulus), meaning “mammary cloud”, is a cellular pattern of pouches hanging underneath the base of a cloud, typically cumulonimbusrainclouds, although they may be attached to other classes of parent clouds. The name mammatus is derived from the Latin mamma (meaning “udder” or “breast”). According to the WMO International Cloud Atlas, mamma is a cloud supplementary feature rather than a genus, species or variety of cloud. They are formed by cold air sinking down to form the pockets contrary to the puffs of clouds rising through the convection of warm air. These formations were first described in 1894 by William Clement Ley.[1][2][3]

So interesting, especially when I’ve been researching the weather of 1944-45, when brutal storms made such unspeakable misery for American troops in the Battle of the Bulge. Picture young men in summer uniforms trapped in those freezing foxholes under enemy fire. Supply lines created a terrific challenge, and without vital winter clothing, their bodies paid a heavy price.

Trench foot and dysentery marked these soldiers, largely 18-22 year-olds from farms and towns all across the United States. While supplies lines halted, they froze. While commanders wrangled, they froze. And when they could no longer function, they arrived at field and evacuation hospitals, where nurses and doctors did their best to care for them.  Some of these medical personnel, like the heroine of the novel I’m working on, had already given several years of their lives to the cause, across North Africa, through Sicily, up the Italian boot, through France and into Germany.

Imagine performing everything from amputations to brain surgeries, back-to-back, for eighteen hours in a row…or longer–in tents. That’s just it, we CAN’T imagine. Maybe that’s why their stories grip us. We want to comprehend how much they sacrificed for freedom’s sake.

Another friend shared an equally spectacular photo of sunset in Mesa, Arizona. Thanks, Machelle! This one adds more brightness and cheer:


World War II did finally come to an end, so I have to remember that even as my heroine slogs through the winter of 44-45, a future spreads before her, with love and laughter, good times with family and friends. In fact, two of her comrades from the nurse corps will remain BFFs.

The Perils Of Wit

Welcome to Ruth Buchanan, who writes FUNNY STUFF -my hat is off to you, Ruth…easier said than done. And oh, how our serious old world needs to laugh! Besides her gift of humor, Ruth is offering a commenter a digital copy of Collapsible (U.S. only).

The Four Perils of Wit

I write comedy because I love laughter. It’s a gift from God, and sharing that gift with others is immensely satisfying. There are, however, some distinct downsides to writing humor.

Peril 1: Making jokes nobody understands. 

When you make jokes nobody understands, you’re impressing nobody but yourself. The key is to know your audience and think of what they’d enjoy rather than seeking to highlight your own wit.

Peril 2: Feeling that you must meet expectations. 

Sure, you can deliver droll dialogue in books and plays, but that doesn’t mean you can do the same thing in real time—or that you should even try. In attempting to be “on” all the time despite dips in mood, intermittent personal struggles, or a sluggish mental state, you may wind up trying too hard and displaying a grotesque parody of humor that delights no one.

Peril 3: Encountering the assumption that you don’t think too deeply. 

People tend to equate seriousness with depth and laughter with flippancy. Although there’s some truth at the core of the assumption, it’s still a dangerous over-generalization. Yes, it doesn’t cost much to be flippant, but not all humor is flippant and not all earnestness solemn. There is a type of joy that is serious and a type of humor that is actually quite sad.

Peril 4: Allowing wit to trump all other considerations. 

One of the worst perils of wit is the danger of letting the words fly without first considering the ramifications. When we write, input from early readers and editors can help us temper our impulses in subsequent drafts.

In conversation, however, it’s another matter. Those with quick wits will often allow their tongues to run ahead, speaking first and considering the consequences later.

This is perhaps the greatest peril of wit, and one not easily remedied.

Fortunately, there is hope.

Combatting the Danger

The best way to combat the danger is to fill your mind with things worthy of being said. That way whenever you do speak, you have a significantly lower likelihood of saying something foolish.

In his letter to the Philippians, the Apostle Paul sets the standard: “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Let us think on worthy things so that we may speak worthily.

In this way, we combat the worst perils of wit.

About Ruth

Ruth Buchanan is a Christian freelance writer who holds degrees in ministry and theology. She writes fiction, non-fiction, plays, and sacred scripts. She’s an eager reader, an enthusiastic traveler, and the world’s most reluctant runner. Ruth loves Jesus, family, church, friends, and coffee. She lives and works in South Florida. You can learn more about her and her books by visiting RuthBuchananAuthor.comor following her on social media.

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Check Out Book 1 in the Collapsible trilogy!

Rachel Cooper has life under control: good job, good friends, and good plans for the future. All of that collapses one early morning when she falls and breaks her ankle. Now she must face the horrors of preparing for an upcoming move and handling her tenth year of teaching while clomping around on crutches. Worse, somewhere in the shadows, the Memento Killer lurks—a serial murderer who stalks women with four anonymous gifts before moving in for the kill. When unexpected presents begin arriving on Rachel’s doorstep, she fears that she’ll soon be crutching for her life. Check out Collapsible: A novel of friendship, broken bones, coffee, shenanigans, and the occasional murder.

On Skipping a Post, Autumn Joys, and Essential Details…

Boy, is it tough to get back into a routine, even when I’ve only missed one post. So here we go, after a week in the Deep South. Well, deep for me, anyhow! Being with my friend Patti was a joy, not to mention her family…such CUTE grandchildren! My expectations of the weather were fulfilled, hot and muggy, and that proved true of my time in Columbia as well.

But I mo tell ya, honey, the weatherman lied about the temperature in Nashville. It was nippy down there at the Nashville Book Fair! But getting to meet my publisher at Wordcrafts Press and his wife (Mike and Paula Parker), plus several other authors with this company, was worth it. Making new contacts among those who braved the cold and rain to attend the fair–doesn’t get better than that.

So now, it’s back to Iowa,  where it SNOWED while I was gone…not typical for mid-October. Today, though, it’s in the sixties, and the glories of fall are visiting us once again.

A day like this calls for some rich vegetable soup simmering on the stove. OOPS that was before I added the zucchini…

Notice the color difference? This morning our writing group met at South Square here in St. Ansgar, and one discussion point fits here…the difference one small detail can make in our creativity. The addition of zucchini in this pot brightens the whole stew…gives more of texture to the overall dish. I could add some corn, which would also have its effect.

Now that I’m hunkering down with my World War II nurse’s story again, this principle applies. In the first drafts, I may not have taken time to add all of the “small” things…the seemingly insignificant quirks about locale, habits, or sounds and sights. But these elements become vital to the overall picture for a reader.

This type of editing equals fun for me…how can I make each scene stronger, each character more vivid, each challenge more of an obstacle? On Tuesday evening, I traveled to the Nora Springs Library for a book talk, and readers reminded me of some details I’d forgotten I included in the first book of Women of the Heartland. But they remember them…those details make a difference! (Click below for a peek at the series.)

Women of the Heartland

So many readers of In Times Like These agree on one point: Harold, Addie’s recalcitrant husband, should be shot! (His personality must shine through clearly!)

Creating believable characters–that’s what writing fiction is all about, and here I am, happy to be at it again.


Stacey Pardoe has such inspiration to share…enjoy.

There Are No Small Moments

I’m on my knees, camera lens inches from a dwarf ginseng, its tiny snowflake head bobbing in the breeze, when I realize we’re not alone.  “Beautiful day, isn’t it?” the khaki-clad elderly gentleman greets, and I’m drawn from my small moment with the ginseng.

“Sure is,” I say, somewhat embarrassed by the black dirt on my knees and elbows.

“Did you see the trout lilies?” he asks, and I notice the camera strapped over his neck.  I’m less embarrassed.

We talk for a long while about trillium and bluebells, and he finally meanders off along the path. Returning to my photo shoot with the ginseng, I remember the way I once looked at thirty-somethings with cameras and wildflower books.  At twenty-two, I kept track of miles logged and elevations reached, not dwarf flora, like violets and ginseng.  At twenty-two, I mostly lived for big moments – summit moments, and the thought of bending low for small moments seemed nothing short of condescending.

We walk farther down the trail, kids running ahead in search of toads and moths, and I consider these changing seasons.  When did small moments begin to take on such an authentic kind of glory?  It must have been before I dug the wildflower books out of the dusty boxes in the attic of the garage.

I remember when I started taking pictures of tiny mushrooms and sphagnum moss.  I believe that was the moment.  The moment I pulled out the camera and committed to capture the miracles I miss every day when I brush past in all my hurry, with my large-moment focus and my desire to prove something.

What if we could all live like we have nothing to prove?  What if we never again needed to prove our worth through demonstrating our intelligence, beauty, humor, and talent?  What if these things were simply gifts with which we blessed others, and we were fully content to live in the midst of our quiet moments in utter contentment?

Have I really learned the secret of being content in any and every situation?

What if there really are no small moments – just quiet moments . . . And what if the quiet moments are worth every bit as much as the loud moments performed before the multitudes?

I think long on it, while the kids build castles along the sandy creek, and I’m sure of it: These quiet moments of walking with children in the woods, baking cornbread, stirring scrambled eggs with a rubber spatula, folding tiny T-shirts, and wiping down dusty furniture are the moments that will make up the bulk of our lives.  There may be loud moments, platform moments, and moments that are broadcast before the world, but these big moments won’t make up the majority of our lives.

So what are we doing with our quiet moments?  Because the quiet moments are the ones that seem small, but they’re really the ones that comprise the essence of our lives.

Sitting along the water, I commit to live with more gratitude.  I commit to recognize the gifts that surround me and magnify God through naming them: dwarf ginseng, blue phlox, garlic mustard, and wild geranium; sandcastles at the creek, lunch on a hilltop, holding hands along the road; the mounds of dirty laundry that remind me of the gift of my family, the meat simmering in the crock-pot, the green crayon on the living room wall.  I won’t write these things off or roll my eyes.  I’ll embrace them and give thanks.

I commit to speak life.  I commit to ask direct questions and bite my tongue when I’m in a bad mood.  I remember to tell the kids that I love them just because they’re mine, that their mistakes will never define them, and that they make my world a better place.

I commit to live intentionally.  We role play the whole way home from the creek, and Bekah thinks of responses to every playground dilemma I can conjure up.  We read Bible stories before Caleb naps, and I pray specific prayers over each of them before he sleeps.  We turn off the TV and dive into imaginary play on the carpet with our assortment of mini characters.  I make some calls and send some cards.

When the sun sinks low that evening, Bekah and I put together a pocket guide of wildflowers from our sanctuary at the Wolf Creek Narrows Natural Area.  We find Latin names and study the history of each plant. It all feels a bit small, but when she looks at me with dancing blue eyes, filled wild with life and passion, I know for sure that none of this day was small at all.

Bio: Stacey is the wife of a handsome lumberjack, mother of two blue-eyed beauties, a freelance journalist, mentor, and certified special education teacher.  She writes weekly at