Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Death of Common Sense
Lori Borgman
www.loriborgman.com

Three yards of black fabric enshroud my computer terminal. I am mourning the passing of an old friend by the name of Common Sense.

His obituary reads as follows:

Common Sense, aka C.S., lived a long life, but died from heart failure at the brink of the millennium. No one really knows how old he was, his birth records were long ago entangled in miles and miles of bureaucratic red tape.
Known affectionately to close friends as Horse Sense and Sound Thinking, he selflessly devoted himself to a life of service in homes, schools, hospitals and offices, helping folks get jobs done without a lot of fanfare, whooping and hollering. Rules and regulations and petty, frivolous lawsuits held no power over C.S.

A most reliable sage, he was credited with cultivating the ability to know when to come in out of the rain, the discovery that the early bird gets the worm and how to take the bitter with the sweet. C.S. also developed sound financial policies (don't spend more than you earn), reliable parenting strategies (the adult is in charge, not the kid) and prudent dietary plans (offset eggs and bacon with a little fiber and orange juice).

A veteran of the Industrial Revolution, the Great Depression, the Technological Revolution and the Smoking Crusades, C.S. survived sundry cultural and educational trends including disco, the men's movement, body piercing, whole language and new math.

C.S.'s health began declining in the late 1960s when he became infected with the If-It-Feels-Good, Do-It virus. In the following decades his waning strength proved no match for the ravages of overbearing federal and state rules and regulations and an oppressive tax code. C.S. was sapped of strength and the will to live as the Ten Commandments became contraband, criminals received better treatment than victims and judges stuck their noses in everything from Boy Scouts to professional baseball and golf.

His deterioration accelerated as schools implemented zero-tolerance policies. Reports of 6-year-old boys charged with sexual harassment for kissing classmates, a teen suspended for taking a swig of Scope mouthwash after lunch, girls suspended for possessing Midol and an honor student expelled for having a table knife in her school lunch were more than his heart could endure.

As the end neared, doctors say C.S. drifted in and out of logic but was kept informed of developments regarding regulations on low-flow toilets and mandatory air bags. Finally, upon hearing about a government plan to ban inhalers from 14 million asthmatics due to a trace of a pollutant that may be harmful to the environment, C.S. breathed his last.

Services will be at Whispering Pines Cemetery. C.S. was preceded in death by his wife, Discretion; one daughter, Responsibility; and one son, Reason. He is survived by two step-brothers, Half-Wit and Dim-Wit.

Memorial Contributions may be sent to the Institute for Rational Thought.

Farewell, Common Sense. May you rest in peace.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Photo Friday week 1


For several weeks I am going to post one of my photographs on Fridays. I took this shot from the car on a trip. It's farm country at sunset in Nebraska.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Free Lunch at Arby's

Well, almost free - you have to buy a drink. My hubby got one the other day and said they are yumm-mmy. For a limited time, you can get an Arby's Roast Burger Free with the purchase of any sized drink at regular price.
Senior citizens, if you order a senior drink, you can NOT get the sandwich free. You must pay full price on the drink to get the sandwich.

It says limit one coupon per person per order. This typically means that if there are two people in your party, you can order two drinks, two free sandwiches and use two coupons. However, some managers are a little more hard nosed. If they won't let you use two in one order--split up and each person order and pay on their own.

Offer expires March 9, 2009.

Reader's Bucket List: Books to Read Before You Die

Last year AOL did a piece on Ten Books You Should read Before You Die that drew hundreds of comments. Here are the books the writers recommended:

#1 - The Holy Bible
The most popular and best-selling book of all time is The Holy Bible. No book has had more influence on the world. Its pages tell the story of the creation, fall, and redemption of mankind. Relive the story of creation and the fall of man in Genesis. Cross the wilderness with Moses in Exodus. Welcome the coming of Jesus Christ in the Gospels. The Holy Bible contains epic stories of history, heroism, and hope.

#2 - Gone With the Wind
Published in 1936, Gone With The Wind sold 50,000 copies on its first day, and two million after a year. Even though it is 1,037 pages long, readers all over the world snatched up the book. In 1937 it was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. Mitchell prided herself on the historical accuracy of her work. Gone With The Wind is a sweeping account of how the Civil War tore apart an entire way of life, and Scarlett O'Hara is one of the most enduring characters in American fiction.

#3 - The Lord of the Rings
The Lord of the Rings is regarded by many to be the most important and influential work of fantasy of the 20th century. It generated the fantasy novel industry practically single-handedly, inspiring a multitude of novels concerning elves and dwarves on quests to conquer ultimate evil despite overwhelming odds. Although intended to be published as a single volume, its division into a trilogy created the iconic format for epic fantasy literature.

#4 - Harry Potter series
Follow Harry Potter from his first days at Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry, through his many adventures with Hermione and Ron, to his confrontations with rival Draco Malfoy and the dreaded Professor Snape. From a dangerous descent into the Chamber of Secrets to the Triwizard Tournament to the return of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, each adventure is more riveting and exhilarating than its predecessor.

#5 - The Stand
In 1978, Stephen King published The Stand, the novel that is now considered to be one of his finest works. It depicts his apocalyptic vision of a world blasted by plague and embroiled in an elemental struggle between good and evil. It is a gripping work with the scope and moral complexity of a true epic. Those reading The Stand for the first time will discover a triumphant and eerily plausible work of the imagination that takes on the issues that will determine our survival.

#6 - The Da Vinci Code
The elderly curator of the Louvre has been murdered. Near the body, police have found a baffling cipher. While working to solve the enigmatic riddle, Robert Langdon is stunned to discover it leads to a trail of clues hidden in the works of Da Vinci -- clues visible for all to see -- yet ingeniously disguised by the painter. The Da Vinci Code heralds the arrival of a new breed of lightning-paced, intelligent thriller...utterly unpredictable right up to its stunning conclusion.

#7 - To Kill a Mockingbird
To Kill a Mockingbird is about the crisis of human behavior and conscience arising from the racism and prejudice that exist in the small Southern town during the Depression. Scout Finch tells the story of her father's defense of Tom Robinson, a young black man who is being tried for the rape of a white woman. Harper Lee's only novel, awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1961, is a much-beloved tale of growing up, as well as an exploration of heroism confronted with bigotry.

#8 - Angels and Demons
When a canister of anti-matter is stolen from a Swiss research facility, Robert Langdon is called in to investigate. In Angels and Demons, a Harvard professor, Langdon is an expert on the ancient, quasi-scientific, and widely feared organization know as the Illuminati, who may or may not be wrapped up in the mystery.

#9 - Atlas Shrugged
Rand's 1200-page novel Atlas Shrugged is a hymn of praise to the concept of rugged individualism, personified in John Galt. This polemic for Rands philosophy of "rational self-interest" has been a steady seller since it was published in 1957.

#10 - The Catcher in the Rye
J. D. Salinger's famous and enduring chronicle of Holden Caulfield's journey from innocence to experience is the quintessential coming-of-age novel. Salinger's 1951 novel The Catcher in the Rye was a bestseller and became an immediate cult favorite, but it has also, over the years, been subject to criticism and even censorship because of its liberal use of profanity, its frank conversations about sex, and its generally irreverent view of the adult world.

Note: This list is based on the results of a Harris Poll that asked 2,413 U.S. adults to name their favorite books.

As a follow-up piece more recently, AOL posted the top books derived from their readers' comments:
Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand
Swan Song, Robert McCammon
Up a Road Slowly, Irene Hunt
Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison
Between the Bridge and the River, Craig Fergus
Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck
Roots, Alex Haley
Rebecca, Daphne DuMaurier

How many of the books listed have you read? How many do you think you should have read? How many do you want to read eventually?

What books do you think everyone should read before they die?
My favorites of all time:

THE STAND, Stephen King
REDEEMING LOVE, Francine Rivers (the original version)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Tina Gayle: Pregnancy Plan

Check out this book by another one of my cool friends!

Pregnant shopkeeper Jillian Wilson prepares for single parenthood until high-risk security specialist Derrick Harris, the baby’s father, is caught in an explosion that changes everything. Confused, Derrick returns to the States with amnesia. Jillian believes she has it all a husband, a baby, a perfect life, to bad that her dreams hang on Derrick’s faulty memory and a lie.


EXCERPT FROM PREGNANCY PLAN:
"A pregnancy plan?" Derek’s words came from directly behind her. She could feel his breath on her neck, his eyes boring into her back.

"Yes, a plan on how to get pregnant." The frustration and anger began to build within her. Jillian gathered her shaking hands around her cup and willed them to be still. "Look, Derek, I don’t mean to sound rude, but it really is none of your business what I do. I’m not involved with Jason."

She saw his unwillingness to cooperate by the slight narrowing of his eyes. "You can rest assured that I am not going to break up your brother, Jason and Kelly." Jillian glanced back out the window and took a sip from her drink. "And my plan is none of your concern."

She jumped when she felt Derek’s hand on her shoulder. "What is it you’re afraid of?"

Jillian turned and pushed past him. She didn’t want nor need his sympathy. Out of space with the door in front of her, she pivoted on the heels of her Nikes. "I’m not afraid of anything. I know what I want and I have come up with a plan to get it."

Tina Gayle's Website: www.tinagayle.net
Myspace: http://www.myspace.com/author_tinagayle
Blogspot: http://www.tinagayle.blogspot.com
ORDER A COPY FROM AMAZON

3900 Saturdays

How do you plan to spend this Saturday?



The older I get, the more I enjoy Saturday morning. Perhaps it’s the quiet solitude that comes with being the first to rise, or maybe it’s the unbounded joy of not having to be at work. Either way, the first few hours of a Saturday morning are most enjoyable.

A few weeks ago, I was shuffling toward the garage with a steaming cup of coffee in one hand and the morning paper in the other. What began as a typical Saturday morning turned into one of those lessons that life seems to hand you from time to time. Let me tell you about it:

I turned the dial up into the phone portion of the band on my ham radio in order to listen to a Saturday morning swap net. Along the way, I came across an older sounding chap, with a tremendous signal and a golden voice. You know the kind; he sounded like he should be in the broadcasting business. He was telling whomever he was talking with something about “a thousand marbles.” I was intrigued and stopped to listen to what he had to say.

“Well, Tom, it sure sounds like you’re busy with your job. I’m sure they pay you well but it’s a shame you have to be away from home and your family so much. Hard to believe a young fellow should have to work sixty or seventy hours a week to make ends meet. It’s too bad you missed your daughter’s dance recital,” he continued; “Let me tell you something that has helped me keep my own priorities.” And that’s when he began to explain his theory of a “thousand marbles.”

“You see, I sat down one day and did a little arithmetic. The average person lives about seventy-five years. I know, some live more and some live less, but on average, folks live about seventy-five years.

“Now then, I multiplied 75 times 52 and I came up with 3,900, which is the number of Saturdays that the average person has in their entire lifetime. Now, stick with me, Tom, I’m getting to the important part.

It took me until I was fifty-five years old to think about all this in any detail,” he went on, “and by that time I had lived through over twenty-eight hundred Saturdays. I got to thinking that if I lived to be seventy-five, I only had about a thousand of them left to enjoy. So I went to a toy store and bought every single marble they had. I ended up having to visit three toy stores to round up 1,000 marbles. I took them home and put them inside a large, clear plastic container right here in the shack next to my gear.”

Every Saturday since then, I have taken one marble out and thrown it away. I found that by watching the marbles diminish, I focused more on the really important things in life.

There’s nothing like watching your time here on this earth run out to help get your priorities straight.

Now let me tell you one last thing before I sign off with you and take my lovely wife out for breakfast. This morning, I took the very last marble out of the container. I figure that if I make it until next Saturday then I have been given a little extra time. And the one thing we can all use is a little more time.

It was nice to meet you Tom. I hope you spend more time with your family, and I hope to meet you again here on the band. This is a 75 year old man, K9NZQ, clear and going QRT, good morning!”

You could have heard a pin drop on the band when this fellow signed off. I guess he gave us all a lot to think about. I had planned to work on the antenna that morning, and then I was going to meet up with a few hams to work on the next club newsletter.

Instead, I went upstairs and woke my wife up with a kiss. “C’mon honey, I’m taking you and the kids to breakfast.”

“What brought this on?” she asked with a smile.

“Oh, nothing special, it’s just been a long time since we spent a Saturday together with the kids. And hey, can we stop at a toy store while we’re out? I need to buy some marbles.”

Jeffrey Davis

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Password Jungle

This is an actual password screen:















Is it just me who finds passwords a monumental hassle? My passwords are out of control. I used to think an internet password was like the national secret, so I had different ones for different things - I started out at the dawn of the internet (like people who remember when radio was invented) and I began by neatly recording them in a journal. How unsuspecting I was. Who knew that so many years would pass, sites would come and go and fifty billion would spring up, and that some of them would require passwords with numbers and letters and in certain amounts?

All sites have logins to remember, but some have ID numbers or account numbers--a serial number--a product key--oh and secret questions or hints--usually a drop down menu and never the same choice anywhere you go. And if you don't write down the URLs, you can lose them when you get a new PC or your hard drive crashes.

And once I got wise to making them all the same password or a variation, it was too late. Of course, being handwritten, there's no rhyme or reason to my method, so I flip page after page, trying to remember how long ago I registered, because that will tell me if the notation is closer to the front, the middle or the back.

And then of course sites change and passwords corrupt or you never find your info again, and you have to set a new one. If I've written in pen, I place a sticky over it or tape paper over it - or cross it out and write it anew on a later page, but then the listing is no longer chronological for my brain, which is still trying its best to remember old or new.

Oh! And then you're supposed to change them every three months to keep them safe! Maybe if you hold a gun to my head.

I get it for important sites and private banking accounts and things, but people, let's be real here. If I use the same password for two years...what, a criminal will send ecards from Hallmark Greetings with my account? Someone will crack my first pet's name and read my private personal New York Times newspaper archives? The mastermind of a terrorist plot will order and pay for charms using my account?

I have been trying to convince my daughter to do a spreadsheet of passwords and logins for me, and she finally agreed, but as of yet she hasn't gotten around to it. So I have this fat unweildy book to pull out and search through when I can't remember a password. And my husband doesn't get my dread or the groan when he says, "Honey, we need to choose this year's insurance plan online."


Saturday, February 21, 2009

Book Quote

"I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves." ~ Anna Quindlen

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Cheryl Needs a New Blog Meme

You have Robyn (coolestmommie) to thank for this one.
Here's the deal: You google your name plus the word needs inside quotes like this: "Cheryl needs"

Enter that in the google search bar and then list the first fifteen hits that come up. This was actually addicting, and it's late and I cracked up, what can I say.

Cheryl needs to learn that reading is a solitary activity (Unless someone is reading over your shoulder. Duh.)

Cheryl needs to write some functions to figure out how that happened. (Cheryl functions best when she's writing.)

Cheryl knows she need to show her feet, from heel to toe. (oka-a-ay)

Cheryl needs guidance (where are we going?)

Cheryl needs an assistant. (Yes! This does work!)

Cheryl needs a bigger bum (WAIT! Whoa! NOT.)

Cheryl needs caffeine (only if you want see her in a coma - Cheryl hasn't had caffeine for 15 years)

Cheryl needs to follow her heart. (aw-w-w)

Cheryl needs 2 get ova herself. (could be)

Cheryl needs to pick on someone her own speed and size. (is there anyone my speed?)

Cheryl needs to stay at the weight she is at, she looks hotter than ever. (Okay, so maybe this is all true stuff)

Cheryl needs to keep on her toes. (They know my husband!)

Cheryl needs her head read. (scary - you don't wanna go there)

Cheryl needs to quickly rein herself in (whoa there, girl)

Cheryl needs to set specific and attainable goals with realistic timelines (AWK - they saw my planner!)

Cheryl needs to obtain a "P" Visa (does that mean I can go potty in any country?)

Cheryl needs a feminine look that softens the lines of her face and accents her bubbly personality (Yeah, well, all my fans think so)

Cheryl needs to eat a few fish & chips! (meet you at Joe Tess!)

Daily Inspiration

I'm blogging at Petticoats and Pistols today!

I'm still in my Hugh Jackman phase, obviously.

Come on over and see what I'm up to today.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Guilty Secrets Campaign


Mills and Boon authors are delighted that the organizers of World Book Day have included us in the Guilty Secrets campaign. You are invited to vote for the books you most enjoy reading. but don’t like telling people about. (I know, who would not want to tell people about a good book?)

Anyway, this is a great opportunity to put in a word for your favorite author. There is a Mills and Boon option, which of course is Harlequin, but there is also a blank space to add your own favorite - you can select as many authors as you like.

CLICK HERE TO CAST A VOTE
http://www.spread-the-word.org.uk/guilty-secrets/

39 Tips For a More Powerful Life

1. Take a 10-30 minute walk every day. And while you walk, smile. It is the ultimate anti-depressant.

2. Sit in silence for at least 10 minutes each day. Buy a lock if you have to.

3. Buy a DVR, tape your late night shows and get more sleep.

4. When you wake up in the morning, complete the following statement, 'My purpose is to __________ today.'

5. Live with the 3 E's -- Energy, Enthusiasm, and Empathy.

6. Watch more movies, play more games and read more books than you did in
2008.

7. Make time to pray and meditate. They provide us with daily fuel for our busy lives.

8. Spend time with people over the age of 70 and under the age of 6.

9. Dream more while you are awake.

10. Eat more foods that grow on trees and plants and eat less food that is manufactured.

11. Drink green tea and plenty of water. Eat blueberries, wild Alaskan salmon, broccoli, almonds & walnuts.

12. Try to make at least three people smile each day.

13. Clear clutter from your house, your car, your desk and let new and flowing energy into your life.

14. Don't waste your precious energy on gossip, energy vampires, issues of the past, negative thoughts or things you cannot control. Instead invest your energy in the positive present moment.

15. Realize that life is a school and you are here to learn. Problems are simply part of the curriculum that appear and fade away like algebra class but the lessons you learn will last a lifetime.

16. Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a college kid with a maxed out charge card.

17. Smile and laugh more. It will keep the energy vampires away.

18. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.

19. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.

20. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

21. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

22. Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the present.

23. Don't compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

24. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.

25. Frame every so-called disaster with these words: 'In five years, will this matter?'

26. Forgive everyone for everything.

27. What other people think of you is none of your business..

28. Time heals almost everything. Give time, time.

29. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

30. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends will. Stay in touch.

31. Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.

32. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.

33. The best is yet to come.

34. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

35. Do the right thing!

36. Call your family often. Email isn't the same.

37. Each night before you go to bed complete the following statements: I am thankful for __________. Today I accomplished _________.

38. Remember that you are too blessed to be stressed.

39. Enjoy the ride. Remember this is not Disney World and you certainly don't want a fast pass. You only have one ride through life so make the most of it and enjoy the ride.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

DRUM ROLL PLEASE!

Tuesday, February 17th at just before 4pm

I wrote 17 pages today! Whoo hoo! They felt good. The story feels great. Nothing better than when the story is all falling into place and you're luvin' it.

Granted, I am still in my jammies and I have no idea what's for supper....

Hey, if this face is my inspiration, who's to knock a good thing?

a very good thing

Photo Friday week 8


These are my lovely bleeding hearts. They are on the north side of the house among the ferns in the semi-shade.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Moving Forward Doesn't Always Mean Adding New Pages

On Friday I realized I couldn't go forward on my story without fixing and editing. I printed out my whole manuscript so far. Then I cleaned my desk. Major job. Huge. It makes me feel GOOD to have a clean desk. There's something liberating about it.

Today I spent from 9 until about 4:40 editing on the pages. I fixed my time frame. What I mean by that: One of the things I have to work at is getting the passage of time clear and concrete. I tend to write and write and obliviously pass time without being specific. I know I do that, so a few years ago in order to improve that aspect, I began printing out monthly calendars.

At abcteach.com. I print out blank calendar pages. From timeanddate.com I print the calendar from any year - this current story is set in 1882, the year of an exposition in Denver. So I filled out the blank months correctly and I keep track of story events on the dates. Works for me and keeps me accountable.

This story I'm working on happens to be one I love. It's a Harlequin Historical I'm calling Her Make-Believe Husband. I have a good feeling that the title will stick. Unless of course half a dozen other titles slated for the month have already claimed husband titles. Fingers crossed!

While I was reading through, I found chapters I had numbered incorrectly. I had a person alive at the beginning and then dead later. I changed one person's name part way through. I added a puppy that I kept forgetting about. And a whole lot more. The job took an entire pot of coffee and three cups of hot chocolate.

Then I took a shower and spent until 6 actually doing those edits in the file. It goes swiftly when I've done it on paper first. So I'm all caught up, have reevaulated my page goals and am ready to move ahead full steam toward the end. chugga chug chugga chug

And as it happens, I gained about 12 pages in the process.

I have notes of the things I need to remember tacked up all around me - great ideas and reminders and suggestions. Those are the things that make continuity flow and add the finishing touches. When it's going well like this, nothing feels better. And this one feels GOOD. Some books are easy, some are like pulling teeth. This one is bliss.

And gee, could it be because I've seen Australia THREE times that I keep picturing my hero looking just like Hugh Jackman? Not a bad thing.

Not a bad thing at all.

Dear Diary


Dear Diary,

For my birthday this year, my daughter (the dear) purchased a week of personal training at the local health club for me.

Although I am still in great shape since being a high school football cheerleader 43 years ago, I decided it would be a good idea to go ahead and give it a try.

I called the club and made my reservations with a personal trainer named Belinda, who identified herself as a 26-year-old aerobics instructor and model for athletic clothing and swim wear.

My daughter seemed pleased with my enthusiasm to get started! The club encouraged me to keep a diary to chart my progress.

________________________________
MONDAY: Started my day at 6:00 a.m. Tough to get out of bed, but found it was well worth it when I arrived at the health club to find Belinda waiting for me. She is something of a Greek goddess - with blond hair, dancing eyes and a dazzling white smile. Woo Hoo!!

Belinda gave me a tour and showed me the machines. I enjoyed watching the skillful way in which she conducted her aerobics class after my workout today. Very inspiring!

Belinda was encouraging as I did my sit-ups, although my gut was already aching from holding it in the whole time she was around. This is going to be a FANTASTIC week-!!

________________________________
TUESDAY: I drank a whole pot of coffee, but I finally made it out the door. Belinda made me lie on my back and push a heavy iron bar into the air then she put weights on it! My legs were a little wobbly on the treadmill, but I made the full mile. Belinda's rewarding smile made it all worthwhile. I feel GREAT-!! It's a whole new life for me.

_______________________________
WEDNESDAY: The only way I can brush my teeth is by laying the toothbrush on the counter and moving my mouth back and forth over it. I believe I have a hernia in both pectorals. Driving was OK as long as I didn't try to steer or stop. I parked on top of a GEO in the club parking lot.

Belinda was impatient with me, insisting that my screams bothered other club members. Her voice is a little too perky for that early in the morning and when she scolds, she gets this nasally whine that is VERY annoying.

My chest hurt when I got on the tread mill, so Belinda put me on the stair monster. Why the hell would anyone invent a machine to simulate an activity rendered obsolete by elevators? Belinda told me it would help me get in shape and enjoy life. She said some other shit too.

_______________________________
THURSDAY: Belinda was waiting for me with her vampire-like teeth exposed as her thin, cruel lips were pulled back in a full snarl. I couldn't help being a half an hour late - it took me that long to tie my shoes.

Belinda took me to work out with dumbbells. When she was not looking, I ran and hid in the restroom. She sent another skinny wench to find me.

Then, as punishment, she put me on the rowing machine -- which I sank.
_______________________________
FRIDAY: I hate that skank Belinda more than any human being has ever hated any other human being in the history of the world. Stupid, skinny, anemic, anorexic little cheerleader. If there was a part of my body I could move without unbearable pain, I would beat her with it.

Belinda wanted me to work on my triceps. I don't have any triceps! And if you don't want dents in the floor, don't hand me the stupid barbells or anything that weighs more than a sandwich.

The treadmill flung me off and I landed on a health and nutrition teacher. Why couldn't it have been someone softer, like the drama coach or the choir director?

________________________________
SATURDAY: Belinda left a message on my answering machine in her grating, shrilly voice wondering why I did not show up today. Just hearing her voice made me want to smash the machine with my planner; however, I lacked the strength to even use the TV remote and ended up catching eleven straight hours of the Weather Channel.

________________________________
SUNDAY: I'm having the church van pick me up for services today so I can go and thank GOD that this week is over. I will also pray that next year my daughter (the little brat) will choose a gift for me that is fun -- like a root canal or a hysterectomy. I still say if God had wanted me to bend over, he would have sprinkled the floor with chocolate!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Australia...again

This afternoon Kristin asked if I wanted to see a movie with her. I said yes of course. She asked if I had a preference, and I told her I'd see anything she chose. After watching trailers, she selected Autralia. LOL

My third time and I loved it every bit as much as the first two times.
I HEART this movie.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Friday was a snow day - no school - roads treacherous - Kristin shoveled HALF mid-day and Jay did the rest when he got home. Elijah made a fort.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Linda Ford: The Path to Her Heart

THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY by Linda Ford

I am fascinated to hear how authors get the idea for a particular story. I usually can't remember how my own stories begin except for my most recent story, released January 2009, with Love Inspired Historical. I had a contract for 3 books set in the Depression Era. I had only written one (The Road to Love). I came up with the second, The Journey Home. But I was near the end of the second story and still had no idea for the third when Emma walked on to the final pages of The Journey Home as Charlotte's new friend and bridesmaid.

This is what it says in my book, "Emma had joined the hospital staff during the summer, and she and Charlotte soon became fast friends. Emma, practical to the core, seldom bothered to dress up. She usually kept her thick blond hair in a tight bun, 'as suited a nurse', she insisted, when Charlotte tried to talk her into letting it hang loose. But Emma had allowed Charlotte to have her way for the wedding and her hair hung in shimmering waves halfway down her back."

So I had my heroine. Now I needed a hero and into my computer leapt Boothe Wallace, a widower who is running from his life back east. Not for his own sake but because of his little son, Jessie. I immediately knew why because both my husband and I have relatives who were born in the Depression and taken by friends because of economic circumstances.

In both cases, the parents were powerless to prevent it as the courts considered such things as how many children the biological family had as opposed to the family wanting to adopt the child. As well, they considered the fact that the adoptive family was better off financially. This happened far too often and left permanent scars in the child and the family who lost their child. But it seemed a natural fit for my story.

I needed something to happen to Boothe's wife that would make him resent the medical profession. About that time I was visiting my daughter and son-in-law (who is a doctor) and we talked about medical mistakes in the
30s. While I was visiting, he received a medical journal that mentioned the history of quinine-guess what? The drug was used widely in the 30s and caused death in certain cases. (I love synchronicity.)

I needed one last element-something that made Emma irresolutely committed to being a nurse to the exclusion of marriage. I again drew from my own experiences and the guilt one feels when things go badly wrong and one feels they are responsible for that bad event. I don't want to give any more details from my book on this matter because it is a secret that isn't revealed in the story until close to the end.

Doing research was also fun. Of course I had done extensive research on the drought and how it affected residents of the Great Plains but now I had to research medical things.

One book was Yes, Father, Pioneer Nursing in Alberta written by Alvine Cyr Gahagan. I don't remember where I found the copy I originally read but enjoyed it so much I wanted my own. The book is full of personal details and specific details about nursing in that era. Dust Bowl Diary by Ann Marie Low was another excellent book. Under a 1931 entry she says 'The heat deaths in the country total 1,231. I mean humans. Lord only knows how many animals have died.' Then I found a children's book that is part of the series Dear America called Survival in the Storm, The Dust Bowl Diary of Grace Edwards. Her description of volunteering in the hospital where people were dying from or recovering from dust pneumonia was so good.

My story was fun to write because so much of it seemed to fall into my lap-a gift.


READ CHAPTER ONE


Favor, South Dakota 1934


They represented all she wanted.

They were everything she could never have.

The pair caught twenty-four-year-old Emma Spencer's attention as she made her way home. The way the tall man bent to the sweet little boy at his side, the tenderness in his gesture as he adjusted the child's hat and straightened his tweed coat brought a sting of unexpected tears to her eyes.

The child said something, and the man squatted to eye level, took the boy's chin between long fingers and smiled as he answered. Even from where she stood, Emma could see strong and assuring depths in his dark eyes. Then he straightened, his expression determined, and stared across the street.

Emma ducked, afraid he'd notice her interest and think her unduly curious. But she couldn't resist a guarded look at the pair.

The boy took the man's hand. The man picked up a battered suitcase and they continued on.

Emma's throat closed so tightly that she struggled to breathe. An ache as wide as the Dakota prairies sucked at her thoughts. Just a few steps away, across the wind-swept, dusty street, stood the embodiment of all she longed for—a strong, caring man and a dear little child. She mentally shook herself. Although it was not to be, she had no reason to begrudge the fact. She loved being a nurse. She loved helping people. Most of all, she had a responsibility to her parents and brother, struggling to survive the drought and Depression on the farm back home. They depended on the money she sent from her wages each month. She thought of her brother, Sid, and drew in a steadying breath to stop a shiver of guilt. She waited for her lungs to ease and let her usually buried dreams subside into wispy clouds she knew would drift across her thoughts from time to time, like the straw-colored autumn leaves skittering past her feet.

The pair turned in at Ada Adams's boardinghouse and stopped at the front door, side-by-side, tall and straight as two soldiers. She smiled at the way the boy glanced at the man to see if he imitated the stance correctly.

The door opened. Gray-haired Ada reached out and hugged them each in turn, then drew them inside.

Emma gasped and halted her journey toward the boardinghouse. This must be the nephew—a widower—Ada expected. Somehow Emma anticipated an older man with a much older son. Truthfully, Emma had paid little attention when Ada made the announcement of their impending arrival. She'd simply been relieved Ada finally decided to get help running the house. The work was far too much for the older woman, suffering from arthritis. Now Emma wished she'd thought to have asked some questions. How old was the man? How old his son? How long was he staying? What had Ada said happened to his wife? Ada might have answered all her questions but Emma had been dashing out the door and hadn't stopped to listen to the whole story.

Emma hesitated, calming her too eager desire to follow this pair. She glanced at her sturdy white shoes. Her white uniform revealed the evidence of a hard day at the hospital. The weather had been cool when she left before dawn and she'd worn her woolen cape, but now the sun shone warmly and she carried her cape over her arm.

She needed a few minutes to collect her thoughts and seek a solution to this sudden yearning. Rather than cross to the boardinghouse, she continued along the sidewalk with no destination in mind, simply the need to think in solitude.

She passed yards enclosed by picket fences. Mr. Blake fussed about his flower beds, preparing them to survive a bitter South Dakota winter. She called a greeting and he waved.

Praying silently, she circled the block. Lord, God, You know the road before me. You know I don't resent my responsibility. In fact, I am grateful as can be for this job and the chance to help my parents. It's only occasionally I wish for things that might have been. This is one of those times. I thought I had dealt with my disappointment and buried my dreams, but it seems they don't have the decency to stay dead and buried. Yet I will not fret about it. I know You will give me the strength to do what I must. In Thee do I rejoice. Blessed be Your name.

A smile curved her lips as peace flooded her heart. She knew what she had to do, how she had to face the future, and she would gladly do it.

Her resolve restored, she walked back to the boardinghouse. Only for a second did her feet falter as she remembered Ada's nephew's dark eyes and the way he smiled at his small son. A tiny sound of disgust escaped her lips. She wasn't one to let fanciful notions fill her head. No. She was the kind to do what had to be done. No one and nothing would divert her from her responsibilities. She tipped her thoughts back to her prayer. God would help her. Yet, it might prove prudent to avoid as much contact with the nephew as possible. Certainly they would sit around the same table for meals but apart from that…

She suddenly chuckled. The man might be unbearably rude or snobbish, even if in those few moments as he encouraged his son, he'd touched her heart.

Her smile flattened. Rogue or otherwise, she needn't worry. He'd probably not even notice her. She was no china doll. Her eyes should have been blue to go with her blond hair. Instead she had dark brown eyes, equally dark lashes and brows. Too often people gave her a strange look as if startled by the contrast. She'd been told many times it gave her a look of determination—a woman more suited for work than romance. Yet…

She pushed away useless dreams, straightened her shoulders and stepped into the warm house.

She thought of slipping up the stairs to change, but she would only be avoiding the inevitable. Sooner or later she'd have to meet the man. Besides, despite the rumpled state of her uniform, wearing it made her feel strong and competent. A glance in the hall mirror, a tuck of some loose strands of hair into her thick bun and she headed into the kitchen.

He stood with his back to her. He'd shed his coat. He was thin as were many people after years of drought and Depression prices. His shoulders were wide and square, and he was even taller than she'd thought—six foot or better, if she didn't miss her guess. His hair was brown as a warm mink coat.

She blamed the hot cookstove for the way her cheeks stung with heat.

Ada leaned to the right so she could see past her nephew. "Emma, I told you my nephew, Boothe, was coming."

The man faced her. His eyes weren't dark as she first thought; they only appeared so because they were deep-set and gray as a winter sky, filling her heart with a raging storm to rival any blizzard she'd ever experienced.

"Boothe Wallace." Ada's voice came like a faint call on a breeze as Emma's emotions ran the gamut of longing, loneliness and finally into self-disgust that she couldn't better control her thoughts.

"Boothe, this is one of my guests, Emma Spencer."

Emma, her feelings firmly under control, stepped forward but halted as his expression grew forbidding.

His gaze raced over her uniform, pausing at the blotch where she'd tried to erase evidence of a young patient's vomit.

She wished she'd taken the time to change. "I'm sorry," she murmured, forcing the words past the blockage in her throat. "I just got off work."

"A nurse." Boothe's words carried a condemning tone, though Emma could think of no reason for it. She'd given him no cause to object to anything she'd done or not done.

"She works at the hospital," Ada explained. "And this little fellow is Boothe's son, Jessie."

Boothe showed no sign of moving over to allow Emma to meet the boy, so she stepped sideways. Jessie perched on the table. He gave her a shy, glancing smile, allowing her a glimpse of startlingly blue eyes. She wanted to sweep the adorable child into her arms. She wisely restrained herself. She loved working with children best. Her superiors praised her rapport with them.

The boy wore an almost new shirt of fine cotton and knickers of good quality wool. Compared to his father's well-worn clothes, Jessie was dressed like a prince.

"I'm happy to meet you, Jessie," she said in the soft tone she reserved for children and frightened patients. "How old are you?"

He darted another glance at her and smiled so wide she ached to ruffle his sandy-colored hair. "Six." His voice had a gritty sound as if he wanted everyone to forget he was a little boy and think he was a man.

That's when she saw the deep slash on his arm and the blood-soaked rag that had recently been removed. "You've been hurt. What happened?" Instinctively, she stepped forward, intent on examining the wound.

"Ran into a sticking out nail. Daddy got really mad at the man pushing the cart." He gave the cut a look, shuddered and turned away, but not before she got a glimpse of his tears. The wound had to hurt like fury. It was deep and gaping, but a few stitches would fix it up and he'd heal neatly as long as he didn't get an infection—and unless it was properly cleaned, he stood a good chance of just that. Dirt blackened the edges of the cut. "I'll clean it for you, and then your father can take you to the doctor."

But before she reached Jessie's side, Boothe stepped in front of her.

"No doctor. No nurse." His harsh tone sent a shudder along Emma's spine. "I'll take care of him myself." His stubborn stance was a marked contrast to the tenderness he'd exhibited a short time ago on the street.

She thought she must have misunderstood him. "It needs cleaning and stitching. I can do the former but a good doctor should do the latter." Again she moved to take over the chore.

Again he blocked her. "I'll be the one taking care of my son."

The challenge in his eyes felt like a spear to her heart, but she wouldn't let it deter her. "Your son needs medical attention."

"I don't need the bungling interference of either a doctor or a nurse." He'd lowered his voice so only Emma heard him.

She recoiled from the venomous accusation. "I do not bungle."

He held his hand toward her, palm forward, effectively forbidding her to go any farther.

She clasped her hands at her waist, squeezed her fingers hard enough to hurt and clamped her mouth shut to stop the angry protest. How dare this man judge her incompetent! But even more, how could he ignorantly, stubbornly, put his son at risk? Too many times she'd seen the sorry result of home remedies. She'd seen children suffer needlessly because their parents refused to take them to the doctor until their injuries or illnesses pushed them to the verge of death. She shuddered, recalling some who came too late.

He turned back to his aunt. "Would you have a basin?"

Ada's eyes were wary as if wondering if she should intervene then she gave a barely perceptible shrug, pulled one from the cupboard and handed it to him.

Boothe's demanding gaze forbade Emma to interfere. When he seemed confident she'd stand back, he turned to his son. "Jessie, I'm going to clean this and then I'll bandage it."

Boothe filled a basin as Emma helplessly looked on. It took a great deal of self-discipline to stand by when little Jessie sent her a frightened look as if begging her to promise everything would be okay. Unfortunately, she couldn't give such assurance. The wound continued to bleed. One good thing about the flow of blood—it served to cleanse the deeper tissues.

Boothe dipped a clean cloth in the water. Jessie whimpered. "Now, son. I won't hurt you any more than I need to. You know that?"

Jessie nodded and blinked back tears.

"You be a brave man and this will be done sooner than you know."

Jessie pressed his lips together and nodded again.

Emma admired the little boy's bravery. She watched with hawk-like concentration as Boothe cleaned the edges of the wound. He did a reasonably good job but it didn't satisfy Emma. She itched to pour on a good dose of disinfectant. Iodine was her first choice. She'd never seen a wound infect if it'd been properly doused with the potent stuff. She opened her mouth to make a suggestion but Boothe's warning glance made her swallow back the words. The boy would have a terrible scar without stitches, and the wound would keep bleeding for an unnecessarily long time.

"Aunt Ada, do you have a clean rag?" Boothe asked. Ada handed him an old sheet.

No, Emma mentally screamed. At least use something sterile. "I could get dressings from the hospital," she offered, ignoring his frown.

"This will do just fine." He tore the fabric into strips.

Anger, like hot coals to her heart, surged through her. How could this man be so stubborn? Why did he resist medical help with such blindness?

Ignoring her, though he couldn't help but be aware of her scowling concern, he pressed the edges of the wound together and wrapped it securely with the cloth, fixing the end in place with the pin Ada handed him then stepped back, pleased with his work.




ORDER YOUR COPY FROM AMAZON

Sneak Preview: THE PREACHER'S WIFE

I'm really excited to share this news with you. In June my first inspirational novel will be released from Steeple Hill. It's actually a story that I planned several years ago as part of a series. When I decided to submit to Love Inspired Historicals, telling this tale with a faith theme couldn't have been more perfect.

The cover is lovely, as all the LIH covers have been so far! (My workimg title was Song of the Mountain.) I've got stories for each of the three daughters up my sleeve as well. Hope this chapter whets your appetite for more.

THE PREACHER'S WIFE
READ CHAPTER ONE

Durham Nebraska June 1869


Only her husband’s physical body was lying beneath the lush grass in the fenced-in cemetery behind the tiny white church. His spirit had gone on to be with the Lord, but her mother-in-law insisted that Sunday afternoons were for paying respects to the dead. Josephine Randolph knelt and pulled a fledgling weed from beside the flat piece of granite engraved with her husband’s name.

Margaretta slipped a lace-edged hankie from the hidden pocket of her emerald green dress and dabbed her eyes. “He was too young,” she said for the thousandth time. “Too young to lose his life.”

Josie nodded. It had been three years, and while she had mourned her husband’s death and missed his company, there were no tears left. She had loved him. She had been a good wife. But in his affections she had always taken second place to her mother-in-law.

She hastened to remind herself that losing a son or daughter was devastating. Margaretta had lost her only child. Of course the woman was still suffering.

“It would be easier if I could take comfort in the fact that he’d left behind a living legacy.”

Knowing and dreading what was coming next, Josie got up and brushed her palms together.

Margaretta sniffed into her hankie. “Your inability to give me a grandchild is almost more than I can bear.”

Josie turned her gaze to the countryside, spotted an orange and black butterfly and watched it flutter on the breeze as she steeled herself.

“A child would have been a part of him I could hold onto. If only right now I could be caring for a little boy or girl with Bram’s features. I would have so love to watch him grow. His child would have been such a comfort to me.”

Josie wanted to cry, too. She wanted to rail at the woman who made her feel every inch as insignificant as her son had. Didn’t Margaretta think a child would have been a comfort to her, as well? Didn’t she know that Josie’s loneliness was eating her up on the inside? Didn’t she think Josie wanted more out of life than--than--this?

Momentarily, she closed her eyes against the painfully blue summer sky. She’d never wanted anything more than she desired a family of her own. She’d spent her entire childhood waiting for her circuit judge father to return home. The times he had, he’d spared her only meager attention before leaving again.

Because Bram Randolph had been a local newspaperman, she’d known he wouldn’t be a traveler. She’d married him with the hope of a secure future. Time had proven Bram more concerned with the whims of Margaretta than the needs of his young wife, however. And that was the simple fact.

“You are coming to the house for dinner, aren’t you?”

And be exposed to yet another opportunity for Margaretta to pursue her weekly harangue about Josie’s barrenness? Josie opened her eyes. “I’m fixing a stew for Reverend Martin,” she replied matter-of-factly. “I’ll stay and keep him company.”

“He seems to be recovering well.” Margaretta smoothed the fingers of her beaded gloves. “Whatever you’re doing must be working.”

Josie managed a smile. “God’s doing His part, too.”

Margaretta gathered the hem of her voluminous skirt and walked across the thick spring grass toward the street.

Josie glanced down and read the headstone again. Beloved son and husband. Not father. Sometimes she felt so incomplete, so alone. She hadn’t given her husband children, and for that glaring inadequacy Margaretta would never forgive her.

“Have a good afternoon!” she called after the woman.

Margaretta delivered a tepid wave and continued marching toward her home a few blocks away. Josie experienced the same relief she always did when her obligatory mourning session and weekly dressing down was over. At least she’d had a good reason to forego lengthening the torment by joining the woman for a meal. Margaretta’s house had a cold depressing atmosphere that matched the woman’s attitude.

Josie glanced at the bright blue sky with longing rising up so swift and strong that the ache caught her breath away. She’d prayed for contentment, but she needed more than this. When she didn’t keep busy enough she daydreamed of impossible things….

Taking a deep breath, Josie made her way with renewed purpose to the shaded two-story house beside the church. She climbed the back porch steps and let herself in. She’d started a stew earlier and now checked the savory broth, adding water and salt.

“It’s Josie!” she called, removing her bonnet and sweeping along the hallway toward the front of the house.

“Who else would be banging pans in my kitchen?” came the good-natured reply.

She found Reverend Martin in his study, seated where she’d left him on an overstuffed chair with a plaid wool blanket tucked around his legs. He closed his Bible and removed his spectacles, setting both aside. Last March he’d fallen from the roof of the church while replacing shingles and had broken several bones, including his collarbone and ribs. A particularly severe break in his leg had become infected and he’d been bedridden with a fever for weeks. Eventually, he’d recovered and was only now able to move from his bed to the study. The town doctor said it would likely be several more weeks before he’d be strong enough to resume his duties.

She’d always considered him a mentor, but these past weeks had made them friends as well. “The fire’s died down,” she said. “I’ll get a few logs.”

“I can’t seem to get warm.” He was paler and thinner than before the accident, and the change in such a vital life-loving man was heart breaking. The man was probably only in his late thirties, but these past weeks had taken a toll. Josie had dedicated herself to seeing him recover to his former self.

“The stew will warm you from the inside out,” she assured him. She took two split logs from the box beside the fireplace and knelt to add them to the fire, then used the poker to adjust the wood until the flames caught and licked up around the sides. The bark snapped in the blaze. Warmth spread from the hearth to where the reverend was sitting.

“That’s nice,” he said with a grateful smile. “I barely have time to realize a need before you’ve seen to it.”

“It’s a privilege to help.”

“And a help you are. I don’t know what I would do without you.”

“God would send someone. But I was available.”

He chuckled. “You’re a woman of great faith, Josie, but you count yourself a little short.”

She seated herself on a nearby ottoman.

“A lot of people are available,” he told her. “Few are willing.”

She never doubted that God was taking care of the reverend. It was when she thought of her own needs that her confidence got a little shaky. “How about a game of checkers before dinner?” she asked.

He gave her a mock frown and flicked his hand as though shooing away a fly. “Do you think I enjoy your kings chasing my last disk around the board, delaying the inevitable?”

She laughed. “Oh, come now, you win sometimes.”

“Only if you feel particularly sorry for me and deliberately pass up chances to jump. We need a new game, one I have a hope of winning.”

“Based on chance, rather than skill, Reverend?”

“Didn’t I see you and James setting up the board the other evening?”

James, a fatherless lad of about fourteen, came by a few times a week to split wood and perform a few other chores. Josie had quickly sensed that because his mother worked evenings at the cafĂ©, James was lonely. She’d offered to teach him the game. “You did. He’s fast becoming an apt opponent.”

The reverend’s enormous calico leaped from its spot on the divan to run through the doorway into the nearest bedroom.

“Must be a caller,” the reverend said.

Most everyone knocked at the back door and then walked in, but a rap sounded at the front. Josie and the reverend exchanged a puzzled glance before she got up.

A broad-shouldered man in a brown hat and buckskin jacket stood in the dappled sunlight that filtered through the leaves of the twin maple trees. She had a sudden swift impression of troubled intensity as his gaze bored into hers.

“Good afternoon, sir,” Josie greeted him.

He removed his hat, revealing thick chestnut hair in need of a cut. “Ma’am,” he said in greeting. “I’m Samuel Hart. The preacher sent by the First Christian Alliance.”

Over his shoulder three girls of varying ages waited in the street near a dusty team attached to a canvas-covered wagon.

His name registered immediately. “Of course! Come in.”

He turned and summoned the girls, the fringe of his jacket swaying as he gestured. The girls she assumed were his daughters were wearing clean, but wrinkled clothing and their hair was neatly tucked beneath stiff-brimmed bonnets.

He handed her his hat, still warm from his head, and she laid it on the hall table before ushering the little troupe into the study. “The interim preacher is here,” she said.

Samuel strode forward and shook the elder man’s hand. His size and his sun-darkened face and hands made the reverend seem even sicklier in comparison. “Pleased to meet you, Sir. These are my daughters. Elisabeth.”

Elisabeth was the tallest and eldest, with blue eyes and a full face. Her weary smile was hesitant.

“Abigail.” The middle daughter had hair a paler blond than the other two, blue eyes, a narrow face and a prominent chin.

“And Anna.” The youngest of the trio possessed wide hazel eyes and a charming smattering of freckles.

A look of confusion wrinkled Reverend Martin’s brow. “Josie, didn’t the letters say that Samuel was traveling with his wife and family?”

Josie had recalled the same thing. Before she could answer, Samuel Hart said, “My wife died on the way.”

The snapping fire was the only sound for a moment.

Anna slipped her hand into Abigail’s and the three girls huddled closer, their expressions somber, the pain of their loss evident.

“I’m deeply sorry,” Reverend Martin said.

Samuel nodded curtly, the subject apparently closed.

“This is Josephine Randolph.” The reverend indicated Josie with a nod. “God sent her to me. She cooks, takes care of the house, does my laundry…she even handled my bills and mail while I was laid up.”

“Pleased to make your acquaintance, ma’am.”

It was inappropriate that she should notice his well-defined cheekbones or his recently shaved firm square chin, but she had. Even his deep rich voice arrested her attention. But his eyes…she’d never seen so much suffering in a person’s eyes, and the sight carved a confusing ache inside her chest.
Samuel turned his gaze to look pointedly at his daughters.

One at a time, they said, “Pleased to meet you.”

Glad for the distraction, she said, “You’ve arrived just in time for dinner. I trust you’re hungry. Would you like to help me make biscuits?”

“I would,” Abigail said with a bright smile.

Watching his daughters’ hesitation and discomfort pained Sam. He hoped the pretty young woman’s friendly welcome made this day a trifle easier than the rest. The past weeks had been grueling, both physically and emotionally. “All of you will help Mrs. Randolph,” he called after them.

Over her shoulder, Anna cast him a wide-eyed glance, her expression so much like his late wife’s that it made his breath hitch in his chest.

Reverend Martin indicated the settee. “Have a seat.”

Sam brought his attention to their meeting and to the minister for whom he would temporarily be substituting. He was probably about ten years older than Sam.

Taking the offered seat, Sam was glad they’d stopped outside town to wash up and put on clean clothing. The man’s home was plain, but tastefully furnished and spotlessly clean.

“I understand you had a setback in your recovery,” Sam began.

“I was busted up pretty bad,” Henry answered with a nod. “Collarbone was the most painful. Couldn’t do anything for myself. My leg was on the mend, but then I got an infection. The doc told me he considered taking it off, but he and Josie came up with a plan for medicine and poultices and she nursed me day and night through the worst of it. She’s a praying woman, that Josie. Has God’s ear, too, she does. I can walk on my leg now, but it’s almighty weak.” He grimaced in exasperation. “Like the rest of me. Kind of lost my gumption.”

“That’s why the Alliance sent me,” Sam assured him. “I’ll be here to help you with your duties for the next several weeks.”

The First Christian Alliance had offered Sam a church in Colorado. It had always been his dream to travel westward, so he’d leaped at the prospect. At the time it had seemed like a glorious opportunity. This assignment was a chance he hadn’t been willing to miss, so they’d sold their home and packed their belongings.

Meanwhile they learned of this small congregation in Nebraska who needed someone to fill in while their regular minister recuperated. Sam had set out filled with so much hope and expectancy. He’d embraced the physical challenges of the trip with the enthusiasm of a man running toward his dream. Crossing wide-open country and testing his skills with a wagon and team and rifle were an unparalleled prospect for adventure.

How naive he’d been. He’d walked his unprepared family right into danger and had been unable to protect them.

“I’m sorry about your wife.” Henry’s tone held sympathy, his kind expression an opening to talk.

Sam hadn’t voiced the burden on his heart. He had to be strong and push on. He’d started this, and he couldn’t let down his children. He would see this through.

He looked into the other man’s eyes and swallowed hard. The weight that had been pressing on Sam’s chest sent out a new arrow of pain, and he was weary of holding himself together. “My wife and daughters were thrown from our wagon as we were crossing a river last April. My wife drowned.”

My wife drowned. Simple words that didn’t begin to explain the ghastly choice he’d been forced to make. It didn’t reflect the horror of watching Carrie being washed downstream in a muddy torrent, or of his frantic haste to rescue his daughters and search for his wife.

He couldn’t close his eyes at night without remembering the echoing gunfire that had drawn him to where one of the men stood in the shallows. He never woke up without seeing his wife limp and pale, her hair snagged in tree roots. More than anything, he wanted to remember her the way she’d been, but it was her pale lifeless image that tortured him.

“The wagon righted itself and the team pulled it on across,” he said. “Didn’t even lose a bag of flour or a wooden bucket.” The irony was eating a hole in his gut.

Mrs. Kennedy and another woman had laid out his wife in her finest Sunday dress, a blue one with tiny sprigs of white flowers and lace cuffs. With his heart an aching cavity in his chest, Sam had removed her wedding ring and given it to Elisabeth.

He’d second-guessed himself hundreds of times over the past days and nights, questioned his wisdom in bringing his family west, doubted his choices the day Carrie had died. Elizabeth had been six feet away; Carrie had been twenty or more. He’d shouted for the other men to find Carrie while he rescued his daughters.

What if he’d let the others get the girls and he’d ridden along the bank while he’d still been able to locate her? What if he’d let Abigail cling to that branch until one of the others got to her and had instead taken those precious minutes to find his wife?

The constant examination was pointless. His head told him that regret wouldn’t change anything, but the thoughts plagued him all the same. His lofty plans mocked him.

His children were motherless and he was a widower. If he hadn’t wanted to come west they would still be living in their comfortable house in Philadelphia. The girls would be in school now and Carrie would be singing as she prepared for their evening meal. He would come home from an ordinary day of planning sermons and kiss her on the cheek. She would smell like fresh-baked bread and lilac water….

The pain was paralyzing. He’d left part of himself behind that day. And taken away enough guilt and remorse to sink him the next time he tried to cross a river.

“The next time it rained,” he told Henry, “Anna was terrified. Each river we crossed, I had to hold her on the horse with me and wait out her cries begging me to turn back.” His hand trembled visibly as he opened his palm and raked it down his face. “Abigail has nightmares, and she’s only ten. Elisabeth is withdrawn. I don’t how I’m going to raise them without my wife, and I have no one to blame but myself.”

“You didn’t kill your wife, Samuel.”

He composed himself to say firmly, “It was my choices that took her away from her safe home.” His voice shook with anger and he steadied it by clearing his throat so he could go on. “I’ve had a lot of time to think back, and I never asked her if she wanted this. She just went along with the move because it was what I wanted. My dream led her to that river and my selfishness pushed her in. Because of my hasty judgment, she died.”

Henry adjusted his weight with a grimace, then asked, “Did you love your wife, Samuel?”

A hoarse declaration burned his throat. “Yes.”

“You didn’t intentionally put her at risk. Sometimes circumstances are out of our control. You did the best you could. You’re answering the call of God on your life, are you not?”

“I thought so. I truly did. But if I am, why did this happen?” Unable to sit, Sam got up, paced to a window and gazed, unseeing. “They dug a hole for her, out there on the prairie. I wrapped her in our wedding quilt. She loved that quilt. And we buried her there, where wagon wheels would roll over and hide the spot.”

Henry listened silently.

“We stood there after the others had gone back to their wagons, ready to move on. I was thinking that I hadn’t seen it coming. The day had been like any other on the trail. Then Elisabeth looked at me and asked me why God didn’t save her mother.” He turned to face the reverend. “I didn’t have an answer.”

“We don’t have answers to everything,” the other man said.

Sam raised a palm to ask, “But how can I be of use to anyone if I can’t help my own daughter? She’s thirteen and mature for her age. She needed an answer.”

“God doesn’t want you to be this hard on yourself,” Henry assured him. “You’re exhausted and you’re grieving. I’m sure First Alliance would understand if you needed some time. You’re perfectly welcome to stay here nonetheless.”

“No,” Sam told him. “I want to work. I need to. I want to plan Sunday sermons and make calls and teach. I need to do it.”

If Sam didn’t follow through with his plans, Carrie’s death would be for nothing.


COMING SOON!

My favorite holiday is just around the corner!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Rhapsody & Doubleday Book Clubs

I never showed you the ad for Her Montana Man in the Rhapsody book club catalog! Thanks to Linda Broday for sending this to me. I got 2 author copies - but I ordered 8 from the book club.

CLICK TO ENLARGE

blackmail photos

these people must all be related!



If you're surfing for something fun today, click over and read Mary Coneally's take on the history of Valentine's Day. Be prepared to see a lot of skin!

CLICK HERE

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Renee Ryan: The Marshal Takes a Bride

Renee Ryan is a friend of mine who has a book out this month! Her first Love Inspired Historical! I know you're convinced I have the coolest friends....

So anyway, here's what Renee has to say about creating her story:


One of the first things people ask me when they find out I’m a writer is, “Are you published?” I hated that question before I sold. I’m not crazy about it now. The assumption that we’re only “real” writers if we’ve published a novel is heartbreaking. I always thought it was about the journey, not the destination! Chasing the sale never works in the long run. Sadly, I know this from experience.

Another question I get asked a lot is some version of, “How do you think this stuff up?” The short answer is, “I don’t know.”

Long answer is: I get my ideas from everywhere—movies, the mall, the food court, seminars, workshops, driving in my car, a song on the radio, my daughter’s cheerleading competitions, the coffee shop, the dry cleaners, church, all sorts of places. Often the crazier the situation the more I start the “what if” game.

For instance, I my idea for THE MARSHAL TAKES A BRIDE came to me at an Old West exhibition in Colorado Springs, Colorado. A group called The Shady Ladies gave a talk on prostitution in the Old West. You might wonder what a nice Inspirational writer was doing at a seminar like that. Long story, centered around a very large wrong turn. But once I was there, I decided to stay. What fascinated me most about this presentation was the instant sadness I felt for the women who chose that profession. Or rather, for the women who “fell” into that profession. There weren’t a lot of options for unmarried ladies in the Old West, ladies who, say, found themselves without money or skills or a man to protect them.

At one point in the presentation, The Shady Ladies discussed birth control. Obviously, there weren’t many reliable methods back then. Mistakes happened.
But what did these women do with their mistakes? There were options, of course. One was to raise the child in a brothel or mining camp or wherever the mother conducted her business. Another option was to send the child to a baby farm. Baby farms were homes usually run by former prostitutes who took in their sisters’ mistakes.

By the way, don’t you hate the word, mistake? Me, too!

Needless to say, I had an AHA moment. Right there, in the middle of that seminar, an idea started germinating. And then the “what if” game took off in my head.

What if…a daughter of a prostitute vowed never to fall into the same life as her mother? What if…that same daughter decided to help other children avoid a similar fate? What if…this woman was a big thinker and wanted to do things right, even if that meant taking on a large debt? What if…she wanted her baby farm to be located in the richest part of town? What if…

Well, you get the idea. Bottom line, Charity House was born in that seminar and now I have a series of books about the men and women who live and work at this unique orphanage. From the start, I could see countless opportunities for God’s mighty work with these people. In fact, the possibilities are endless. And, Praise God, they keep coming to me as I sit down to write.

The heroine of THE MARSHAL TAKES A BRIDE is the schoolteacher at the Charity House School. She’s trying to raise her little sister she had no idea existed until six months prior to the opening of the book. The hero is a lawman bent of seeking vengeance for his wife who took a bullet meant for him. His wife was the sister of the owner of Charity House and thus has a tight bond with the orphanage.

U.S. Marshal Trey Scott is fixin' to walk down the aisle just as soon as his stubborn bride-to-be agrees to say "I do." Katherine Taylor's five-year-old sister and an orphanage full of children are depending on her. So why won't the pretty schoolteacher marry him to save her tarnished reputation? Granted, Trey isn't willing to abandon his quest to avenge his first wife's murder. His name alone will protect Katherine until he returns, but she thinks he should leave vengeance to a higher power. Will the sacrifice demanded by the woman he loves be too great to bear…or will it be Trey's ultimate redemption?














READ CHAPTER ONE

Denver, Colorado, June 1880


Cornered and nearly out of ideas, U.S. marshal Trey Scott refused to consider retreat. Not while he had a five-year-old little girl counting on him to triumph against the misery that assailed her. What had started as a mere game to the others was a matter of tragic proportions to the child.

Trey would not let her down.

Shivering, Molly Taylor pressed her tiny body closer to him. "You gotta save me, Mr. Trey."

Those big round eyes and that trembling lower lip punched through the last remnants of his resolve to remain neutral in this standoff. He would stick by the kid throughout this battle of hers.

Softening his expression, Trey knuckled a long black braid off her shoulder. "I won't let them get you, kitten. Just stay close."

He scooted Molly behind him, mutiny twisting in his gut. No one would stand in his way as he protected the girl

from her dreaded fate. The troubled child deserved some peace and joy in her life.

"Leave this child alone." He fixed an uncompromising glare on the leader—a woman of uncompromising valor—and ignored the half dozen or so others crowding closer.

The pale-eyed, persistent female held firm against him in their battle of wills. Apparently, this was no game to her, either.

Trey widened his stance and folded his arms across his chest, settling into the standoff as though he had all the time in the world. He wrestled against the knot of regret tangling inside his anger. At one time, he'd considered this woman beautiful, godly—even fair-minded.

He'd woefully miscalculated.

At least Molly had him on her side. A swift glimpse to his left revealed an opening in the hedge that ran along the perimeter of the yard. Mentally, he measured the dimensions and came up victorious. The hole was the perfect size for a forty-pound slip of a girl to glide through to freedom. He'd catch up with her before she made it halfway down Larimer Street and long before she hit the bedlam of horse-drawn taxis on Tabor Block in the business district.

Comfortable with his plan, Trey inched across the grass, tugging Molly along with him.

The boss matched him step for step.

Shooting the woman a warning glare, Trey then turned to Molly and cocked his head toward the thicket. "You know what to do," he whispered.

Tears wiggled just below long, sooty lashes. "What if they catch me?"

He lowered his voice. "I'll create a diversion."

"What's that?" Molly asked in a whisper loud enough to be heard two counties over.

"Never mind. When I say run, you run."

But the leader—wrapped in that deceptively feminine package—pulled around to the left, effectively closing off the escape. "Don't even think about it."

At the end of his temper, Trey swallowed back a bitter retort.

As though hearing his unspoken words, inflexible blue eyes cut through the distance between them.

"The game is over… Marshal," the woman said.

Although he had at least a hundred pounds on the stormy-eyed sprite, Trey had to stifle the shocking urge to withdraw. He'd stood up against cannons, gross injustice, crooked judges and vicious criminals, but nothing compared to the disapproval of Katherine Taylor—school-marm, official custodian of the Charity House trusts and Molly's overprotective sister.

With that inflexible look on her face, Trey knew he could no longer count on the fact that Miss Taylor would set aside her volatile feelings for him and be reasonable, for Molly's sake.

So be it.

He had to delay. Procrastinate. Postpone the inevitable.

But how?

The late afternoon heat pulled sweat onto his brow. He'd lost his hat long before the battle had begun. A light breeze lifted the hair off the back of his neck, the comforting sensation mocking his inability to think straight.

He circled his gaze around the perimeter of the yard, taking note of the snowcapped mountains in the distance. Too far away. Growing a little more apprehensive and a lot less confident, he focused on the brick, two-story mansions running shoulder to shoulder for several blocks off to his right. Too many questions. As a last resort, Trey shot a quick glance past the manicured lawn and blooming flowers to the large, fancy home behind him. Too risky.

His only hope was to take the woman by surprise.

As covertly as possible, he inched toward the hedge, but an irreverent growl wafted on a cloud of threat. A quick look to his right and Trey's gaze connected with two more villains joining the foe's ranks. Shifting to face these newest threats, he snarled at the man he'd once called friend and the woman who co-owned the Charity House orphanage with him. "Marc and Laney Dupree, this is not your fight."

A grin slid between the two. "It is now," Marc said for them both.

As one, they glanced to Katherine, then separated, covering the gaps she'd left when she'd moved in front of the hedge.

Blowing out a hiss, Trey lowered his head to Molly's. "Don't worry, kitten. I have everything under control."

Various snorts and snickers cut through his words as more joined the enemy's ranks. Katherine spoke for the group. "Just hand her over, and no one will get hurt."

Wrapping all four feet of trembling little girl in his arms, Trey darted a quick glance to the house in front of him. "Not a chance."

"This is ridiculous. Surrender the child, now." Katherine spoke in a flat, no-nonsense tone that made him bristle.

Marc took two steps closer. "Enough, Trey. Hand her over."

Trey eyed his friend turned traitor. Clean-shaven, dressed in a fancy vest and matching tie, Marc Dupree didn't look much like the tough, hardened man Trey had once known, a man who had overcome poverty and… worse. In fact, with the sun winking off the dangling watch fob, Marc looked more like a dandy than a threatening opponent.

But Trey knew the man had hidden skills. Came from living with that wily, unpredictable wife of his, the same woman who was now conspiring openly with the enemy in this standoff.

"All right, Molly," Trey whispered in her ear. "We're going to make a run for it."

Another low whimper slipped from her lips. "But, Mr. Trey, I'm not fast."

He folded her deeper into his embrace. "Don't worry. I'll carry you."

She wrapped her spider-thin arms around his neck, nodding her head against his chest.

Shifting her to a more comfortable position, he studied the biggest threat to the child. Her sister.

Just looking at the woman made his throat ache. Underneath all that prim schoolteacher starch, Katherine Taylor was a lovely, courageous bundle of feminine charm and beauty. Even amidst this contest of wills, Trey found a part of him admiring her moral fortitude and persistence. She'd triumphed over a scandalous childhood and the unspeakable violence committed against her. She was, quite frankly, a woman worthy of his respect.

Then again…

With the wind snapping tendrils of black hair free from that hideously confining hairstyle, she looked a lot like an avenging angel sent to demand his reckoning.

It was always like this between them—volatile, unpredictable, confusing—more so over the past few months.

Alarm spread through him, the physical reaction shocking him. The corresponding ache in his gut warned him that he'd made a mistake challenging Miss Taylor on this matter.

Seeking compassion, Trey pivoted to his right. But another glare of disapproval angled back at him. Carrying thirty or so extra pounds and a rounded belly, Laney O'Connor Dupree was just as relentless as Katherine.

"No way out yet, Molly. The flanks are too formidable for a quick escape."

"Don't let them get me," Molly wailed.

"Don't you worry. I'm a United States marshal. They wouldn't dare take me on."

The scoffing and giggles coming from the crowd behind Katherine didn't seem to fill the little girl with confidence. "They don't sound very worried."

"They are. They just don't know it yet."

Balancing on the balls of his feet, Trey tucked Molly firmly in the crook of his arm. Leading with his shoulder, he charged through the front line. With the element of surprise on his side, he knocked his big, overdressed friend back a few yards.

Marc recovered quickly, and while Trey battled with his childhood friend, two pairs of persistent hands worked from behind to wrestle Molly free.

She kicked and squealed. "No, I don't want to go!"

Trey ground his teeth together and dug his heels into the ground.

"Relent…Marshal," said Katherine.

Trey pressed Molly tighter against his chest.

"You've taken this too far already," Marc said.

Trey dodged a flying elbow. He spun to his right but slipped, dropping to his knees. Next thing he knew, Molly was wrested out of his grip, and he was lying flat on his back.

The impossible had happened. Trey Scott, defender of justice, protector of women and children, had just suffered defeat. At the hands of a schoolmarm, a dandy and a pregnant woman.

"Attack," yelled the fancy man.

High-pitched squeals lifted into the air.

"And, this time, finish him off."

In a blur, seven children jumped on him, fingers jabbing in his ribs and stomach. Trey clamped his teeth together. "I'm not ticklish."

Undaunted, fourteen miniature hands worked quicker.

Trey finally let out a hoot of laughter. He rose to his knees, just in time to see Molly ushered up the back stairs, caught in the clutches of her relentless big sister. "Mr. Trey," she yelled, "save me."

She reached her thin arms out to him.

Trey hopped to his feet and then darted toward the back porch, but he was held back by the Charity House orphans. One by one, he peeled away hands and feet. A particularly persistent little boy rode on his leg, clutching with the grip of a full-grown man. It took considerable maneuvering to release the kid without hurting him. Trey could use such a man on his side. He nearly considered swearing the boy in as a deputy.

Too bad the brute was only eight years old.

"Mr. Tre-e-e-e-ey…"

Trey raced up the back stairs, then shot in front of the door, barring entrance with his hulking frame.

He looked from one woman to the other. "Laney Dupree and Katherine Taylor, I'll not stand by and watch you degrade this child."

Katherine narrowed her eyes, depositing every bit of the formidable schoolteacher in her expression. "A bath is not degrading."

Trey dropped his gaze to Molly, and his gut twisted. She looked so sad and pitiful with her lower lip trembling. "It can't wait until tomorrow?" he asked.

Katherine pulled her lips into a tight knot of disapproval.

Sensing a stalemate, he appealed to the wisdom of the group. "Laney, do something."

Marc's wife shook her finger at him as though he was the one who'd committed a terrible wrong. "I'm going to have to agree with Katherine. The child needs a bath."

"No," Molly cried. She twisted out of her sister's grip, rushed to Trey and hooked her hand in his. "Mr. Trey says I don't have to if I don't wanna."

Laney chuckled, instantly sobering when Katherine leveled a glare on her.

Sighing, Katherine spun back to look at Molly, the first signs of frustration flushing in her cheeks. With fists planted firmly on her hips, she said, "A bath is not going to kill you, young lady. Just look at you. Not a clean spot to be found."

In a gesture identical to her sister's, Molly jammed her balled fists on her hips. "We was playing marshals and bank robbers with the other Charity House kids."

"And losing, from the sight of you," declared Katherine.

Trey took exception.

"We were just letting them win." He winked at the little girl. "Isn't that right, Molly?"

She favored him with a big gap-toothed grin. "Right. We can't never, not ever, let them stinkin' outlaws get the best of us."

Katherine gasped. "Did you teach her that?"

Trey had the presence of mind to cast his gaze to the sky before he responded. "Maybe."

Marc joined them on the porch, turning into the voice of reason. "It's over, Trey."

Trey looked from Katherine to Marc to Laney, then back to Katherine again. Ignoring the satisfied expressions on the faces of the three other adults, he crouched down to the five-year-old little girl's level. Plucking at one of Molly's braids, he said, "Sorry, kitten. Looks like you're taking that bath today."

Her eyelashes fluttered, and one fat tear rolled down her cheek.

Before he gave in to the pleading look, Trey squeezed his eyes shut, rose and shifted out of the way. He opened his lids in time for Katherine to link her disapproving gaze with his. "Stick around… Marshal. I'm not through with you."

With that, she spun around and marched inside the house, Molly in tow.

Laney poked him in the chest. "You just made a big mistake, my friend. Big mistake."

With her resolve firmly in place, Katherine marched up the back stairs of the twenty-year-old mansion turned orphanage, tugging a reluctant little girl along with her. The moment her gaze landed on Molly's tear-streaked face, Katherine's determination turned into heart-wrenching guilt.

By engaging in that senseless battle with Marshal Scott, she'd hurt the very person she'd set out to protect.

What kind of big sister did that make her? Usually, she turned to God to help her with the overwhelming task of raising her newfound sister.

Today she'd allowed emotion to get the best of her.

Sighing, she caressed Molly's hair and steered her into the recently refurbished bathroom, where Marc had installed multiple basins for the home's many children to wash up for the evening. On the outside, Charity House looked identical to the rest of the fancy homes on Larimer Street. But inside, the mansion had been perfectly altered to house forty special children and the adults who cared for them.




Renee Ryan writes for the Steeple Hill line Love Inspired Historical. Her fabulous editor is Melissa Endlich. Renee’s first book in the Charity House series, The Marshall Takes a Bride is a current February 2009 release. Her next book in the series, Hannah’s Beau, hits the shelves July 2009. For further information check out www.reneeryan.comORDER YOUR COPY FROM AMAZON!