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.

Release Day

I’m researching my next novel deep in the heart of the Philippines, but pausing today to celebrate the release of A PURPOSE TRUE, the culmination of Addie and Kate’s story. My order of the new book is scheduled to arrive today, so I will post a picture of me hugging the UPS or FED EX delivery person, if at all possible.

Thanks to everyone who follows my work and encourages me in this writing endeavor. Seventy-six years ago on this day, the United States suffered great loss at Pearl Harbor and entered a long and costly war. I hope to keep people remembering what our ancestors contributed to the effort to halt the outbreak of evil across the world.

And as you follow Kate and Domingo through Southern France in their work for the Resistance, may you sense their growth through trial and tribulation–and the blossoming of their mutual commitment.

Today I’m visiting The Over Fifty Writer, where you may leave a comment for the giveaway of an e-book copy of A Purpose True and learn more about my long journey to this momentous day.


Cover_APuroseTrue01 w author headshot

Playing in the Minor Leagues

Recently I’ve gotten to know Rhoda Preston, my neighbor. Even though she has a lot on her platter, as you’ll see here, she always has a smile for me when she’s working at her desk, and she keeps her door open. 

One commenter here will win a copy of Rhoda’s recently published non-fiction book about the Old Testament Minor Prophets, Playing In The Minor Leagues. The title alone makes me want to read this–and it would also make a good gift for someone interested in the scriptures.  

playing in the minor leagues cover

The Rev. Dr. Rhoda Preston is a United Methodist pastor, author, and former preschool editor at the United Methodist Publishing House. Her most recent book, Playing in the Minor Leagues: A Look at the Minor Prophets, explores what the twelve Old Testament minor prophets (Hosea through Malachi) can teach us about the essential game of life. How did they address God’s major concerns for the world? How might their insights strike home with us today? Each prophet is presented in easy-to-understand fashion, placing each into historical context, providing in-depth commentary, and showing connections with New Testament Scriptures. Each chapter includes discussion questions for group study. Copies of the book are available on Amazon, in both paperback and Kindle editions. Additional articles on the prophets can be found on her blog,, and on her Pinterest page at

Several years ago, during the Christmas season—in celebration of the wise men who followed a star to Bethlehem–our congregation introduced the tradition of “Star Gifts.” A Star Gift is simply a paper star with a word written on it. During our worship service, ushers pass Star Gifts to the congregation using our traditional offering plates. Instead of placing something into the offering plate, everyone is invited to reach in and take a star.

“Don’t intentionally choose a star,” we’re told. “Just reach in and grab one. Consider the word on that star to be God’s gift to you for the coming year. Take the Star Gift home and hang it up where you are sure to see it every day. Each time you glance at the star, ponder the significance that word might have in your life, and how God might be speaking to you and guiding you through that word.”

Every star in the offering plate contains a different word. It might be imagination or strength, courage or forgiveness, honesty or flexibility, integrity, humor, humility, hopefulness, peace….

Since I serve as the pastor of two separate congregations, I received two Star Gifts this past year. One said “Listening.” The other said “Helping.” I took the stars to my office, posted them on my bulletin board, right next to my calendar. Each morning I pray: “Lord, in everything I do today, give me a listening heart and helping hands. For You are a God who listens and helps, and I want to follow You.”

Sometimes my schedule can get so busy, so hectic. And when folks stop by my office, I may seem pre-occupied. “I hate to bother you…” they’ll say. And that’s when I realize: it’s time to stop what I’m doing and give this person my full attention. It’s time to listen carefully, and to help as best I can. God doesn’t want me to treat people as interruptions. God has given me the gift of just enough time, and the ability to make a difference. And I am so grateful, Wise and Generous God, for that gift!

Don and me (2)

You can enjoy more of Rhoda’s writing at her blog,




A NOVEL IDEA! Kathy Cretsinger

What a creative way to co-write a story, Kathy–enjoy this, everyone. AND, Kathy, who is also founder of Mantle Rock Publishing, is giving away either a print or ebook of Smoky Mountain Brides. Just leave a comment to qualify. 

In 2012 I could borrow Martin Luther King’s words, “I have a dream.” I’m afraid my dream was not the same as his. I had a dream to publish a book, and I did. Since I told a class at a conference that no one would tell me I couldn’t do anything, I was not going to be defeated in publishing my book. That was all I wanted to do, publish my books. That changed rather quickly. Before long I was publishing for other authors.


Back in 2012 I saw that new authors were having problems in getting their book published. The larger publishing companies were cutting back on manuscripts, and most authors didn’t want to self-publish. That’s where we stepped in to offer them something that was from a small publisher. Mantle Rock Publishing LLC publishes from twelve to fifteen books a year. Our goal for 2018 is for twenty books. We’ve opened a new line of Fantasy/Speculative books, and one Fantasy will go out in February.

The Fantasy line is in addition to our Contemporary Romance, Historical Romance, Cozy Mysteries, and Romantic Suspense. We will have our plate full. We hope to be able to publish all of the books within six months of a signed contract.

My real dream had always been about writing. When my kids were small I’d tell them stories about growing up in a cave with a dinosaur as my pet. Our oldest went to school and told her teacher the story. The teacher promptly told my child that it was a story. She emphatically told her that her mother didn’t lie.

I love putting words on paper and have since elementary school. I love developing a story. That’s how Smoky Mountain Brides came about. I wondered if two girls who were best friends since childhood could plan a wedding at Christmas on the same weekend.

Christmas-BridesPam Watts Harris agreed to collaborate with me and the two stories of Kayla and Becki came to life. Two girls who lived in different parts of the state became engaged at the same time and each wanted the other to be their bride’s maid/matron of honor. They had different lifestyles, different thoughts of their wedding, but basically the same values. This is how we did it.

Kayla was Pam’s main character. Pam wrote her book until we got to the wedding. Becki was my main character, and I did the same as Pam. We swapped manuscripts toward the end, made sure we had everything right. We each wrote our wedding scene, and then we put them together. It wasn’t that difficult. It was a lot of fun.

Our website is and you can click on the blog for a pop-up to sign up for my newsletter. We also do a podcast each Monday. Our books can be bought on You can purchase Smoky Mountain Brides at

Thanks Gail for having me on your blog.

Recipes and Baking Mixes and…

Good evening, friends. My husband sent me this e-mail when he saw me barely navigating the world this morning:  24067841_10154896266161861_5658206082048030083_n

This means it’s a headache day for me, and though these fall and winter pains are no surprise and I know it’s due to the barometric pressure changing, it’s nice to see it in blue and white. This would be why I feel SO much better in the mountains.

Now, at nearly six p.m., I’m able to do some work at the computer, but earlier, about the only thing I could manage was baking. With the holidays coming up, that’s a good idea. And next Monday night, we’re having a JOYS OF CHRISTMAS PAST gathering for folks to share their holiday memories–a perfect day for me to get a head start.



This new recipe surprised me. It truly took about an hour from start to finish, and the final goodies look tempting. My daughter and granddaughter stopped in later and put their seal of approval on the taste.

Since this was such a success, I’ll share the super-simple recipe:

Mix together 1 pkg red velvet cake mix, 6 tbsp melted margarine, and 2 large eggs. You might have to add a little extra flour to make these into 40-60 balls, depending on the size you choose. I like small, because they puff up and look downright cute.

Dip the balls in a mixture of 1/2 cup powdered sugar + 1/2 teas. cornstarch. stirred. Place on greased sheet and bake 8-9 minutes at 375 degrees.They’re ready to eat when they exit the oven – enjoy using these for your holiday guests.

Of course, I had to do a little research on cake mixes…were they available to my World War II characters? Surprisingly, on December 10, 1930, John D. Duff of Pittsburgh applied for U.S. patent no. 1,931,892, thereby birthing the first baking mix (for gingerbread). It’s interesting to read more, seems his company needed to use up lots of molasses…

Anyway, there you have it. A new recipe, and some baking history, to boot.


The Desire Accomplished…

is sweet to the soul.” Ahh…part of a favorite verse from Proverbs 13.

Today I’m announcing the release date for A Purpose True – December 7, 2017, in remembrance of the Pearl Harbor attack that launched the United States into World War II.

This release signifies a desire accomplished. I hope readers find satisfaction in the conclusion of this story, and enjoy re-entering this complicated era. Thank you so much for waiting with me. Here’s the purchase link:

This trailer, made for the prequel’s audiobook, actually fits so well with A Purpose True, I’m sharing it again..
And here’s the cover – at last, a face for Kate!
APT square

Laura Hilton

Laura Hilton introduces us to three Thanksgiving novellas today.

Gingerbread Wishes

As Thanksgiving approaches, Becca Troyer finds herself overwhelmed with an abundance of winter squash and pumpkins that she isn’t a bit thankful for. Desperately trying to sell them at a farmer’s market so she won’t have mountains to can, she’s surprised when a mime drops to his knee in front of her and proposes marriage.

Yost Miller is helping the volunteer firefighter raise funds at the city park when he notices his long-time crush Becca selling vegetables. Drawn across the grass, he spontaneously proposes marriage. But afterward, Yost isn’t sure how to proceed to show her that his feelings are real.

Just as he begins to find solid footing, confidence is yanked away, leaving him floundering. Will he lose Becca to another man? Or will this Thanksgiving be a season of blessings and wishes come true?

Thanksgiving Strangers

 Faithe Beiler believes God wants her to feed the poor at her family’s restaurant, but when she mistakes Crist Petersheim for a homeless man and gives him a free breakfast, he’s offended. Yet he can’t help being intrigued by this pretty waitress with a giving heart.

Crist blames God for the tragedies in his life, so the last thing he wants is to get involved with an Amish girl, who trusts God in all circumstances. He fears for Faithe’s safety, though, when she invites every homeless person in the neighborhood, including drug dealers and criminals, to a free Thanksgiving dinner. Street savvy, Crist risks his life to protect her from danger.

As Crist’s heart softens toward God, Faithe finds herself falling him. Then she discovers his deception, and her world is shattered. Can she ever trust him again?

The Thanksgiving Frolic

Monroe has the prettiest girl and the fastest horse— but pride goes before a fall.

Monroe’s girlfriend, Rosemary, and her family organize the Thanksgiving Frolic, a service project to help Amish folks who have fallen on hard times. Monroe wants to go along but his dad won’t let him. Furthermore, Monroe’s dad thinks Rosemary’s family should clean up their own messy farm before they try to help others. Will the contrast between Monroe’s and Rosemary’s families end their relationship for good? Rosemary’s grandpa tries to offer words of wisdom, but people don’t take him seriously. The Thanksgiving Frolic heats up to a fever pitch, before a moment of silence changes everything.

Love's Thankful Heart Cover

and to her Christmas novel

Christmas Admirer cover




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This morning, I viewed the new trailer for the With Each New Dawn audiobook. How fun to listen to parts of the story coupled with images of the London World War II bombings.

When the cover came up and I saw my name there, it hit me–I’m the author of this intriguing story. That may sound a little weird, since I ought to know that, right? Well, I do, but maybe it’s the difference between knowing something in your head and in your heart.

Anyway, with all the anticipation and final edits about A Purpose True right now, being surprised is a good thing. It’s a reminder I’m not in charge, and our publications develop lives of their own.

You can see the trailer below, or on My Books page.

And VERY SOON, as promised, I’ll have the final cover for A Purpose True to share with you, along with the purchase links. Thanks, dear readers, for all of your support and encouragement throughout this process.

The Last of the Roses


Seems not long ago when the first rose of the summer bloomed, and here it is, nearly the end of October.

Whoever coined the phrase time flies knew what they were doing. I’ve been editing and editing and EDITING…the final book of the Women of the Heartland series. Coming out in November…still not sure of the exact day of release. But the cold has blown in, and it’s time to rescue the last roses from my friend’s bush.


It’s also nearly the 500th anniversary of the Reformation…yep, did you know that Martin Luther was a the best-selling author? If my writing affects one-hundredth of a percent of his following, I’ll be surprised.

My recent notes while reading about London during the Blitzkrieg… snippets of information like this come together to create a book. I suppose Luther took notes, too, but he wrote without the ease of modern technology, probably long into the night by candlelight.

Nothing about his life was easy, and interestingly, he included a subdued white rose in his seal, connoting the fruits of faith.

Whatever our task, that’s what it’s all about, believing that what we do makes a difference. Even a small difference in a few lives. As roses, in their quiet way, add beauty and lightness to our journey (if we take time for them…) so our work can enhance this weary world.

Next post, I hope to share the cover of A Purpose True and its release date. In the meantime, I’ll keep on editing, and  hope you find a little time to spend with a rose.

The Humble Milkweed


Probably many of my readers recall picking milkweed as children–such an unique plant.


Yesterday my twelve-year-old granddaughter and I reveled in the superb softness of milkweed down. She sent it flying far and near, and piped, “Grandma, it’s softer than my special silky blanket!”

For the sake of the Monarch butterfly,  people have started re-growing this “weed” that used to flourish in Iowa’s ditches. Back in the forties and fifties, milkweed fluff was everywhere.

Many of us ran our fingers over the satiny floss that floated like dandelion fluff on sunny fall days. But few realized how vital this wispy white stuff had been in the World War II effort to save sailors’ lives. The Japanese controlled kapok, the normal life vest filler, so milkweed floss became a workable substitute.


I’ve been reading an incredible book called And If I Perish, about nurses and doctors who risked–and often gave–their lives to help wounded soldiers. My research also gave me the story of an Indiana sailor who suffered in the waters of the Pacific and would have died without his life belt. He brought it home as a keepsake, and when his mother looked it over, she realized the inspection number on the belt belonged to her.


Yes, she worked in a factory that produced life belts and vests. Such an ironic twist to this sailor’s story of deliverance. The war era is full of these stories–I can’t get enough of them.


One thing is certain, I’ll never look at milkweed quite the same way again.