Tuesday, January 26, 2016



 “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.”—Robert Frost
Writers sometimes feel down and out, but encouragement can still find us in those times. For me, this essence slips into my day in small ways.

Maybe I notice something in nature—like this incredible Mountain bluebird my husband snapped in Arizona last month. Or even more earthy, the shape and form in this woodpile.

Often others’ empathy reflects in small gestures, too. Perhaps we receive a card or letter reminding us someone’s thinking of us, or on an unplanned meeting in the supermarket aisle, garner an unexpected hug from an old acquaintance.

Another unique blessing is reading a familiar passage in a different version: this often occurs for me with The Message. For example,
All this wood together would make good starter for a fire. But alone they can't do much. people who work together can accomplish amazing things, too.

“... God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.” 2 Corinthians 2: 2-4

A new way of wording an old concept—seemingly insignificant, but this different perspective provides comfort and encouragement.

Our task? To keep our eyes open for these “God winks that can easily pass us by if we’re not looking, not noticing. And our fiction characters can sometimes use a perk, too—it’s good to recognize how even our low times provide novel fodder.

What seemingly random encouragement has crossed your path lately?

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Bio: Gail taught college expository writing and now facilitates writing workshops and women’s retreats. She and her husband enjoy family in northern Iowa, and the Arizona mountains in winter.

WhiteFire Publishing released Gail’s memoir, Catching Up With Daylight in 2013, and her debut women’s historical fiction, In This Together (Wild Rose Press/Vintage Imprint) released in 2015. She also contributed to the Little Cab Press 2015 Christmas Anthology https://www.facebook.com/LittleCABpress

A World War II series is on the way!

Please feel free to contact Gail—meeting new reading friends is the meringue on her pie, as Dottie would say. Now get a peek at Gail's book.

In This Together blurb:

After losing her only son to World War II and her husband soon after, Dottie Kyle takes a job at a local small-town Iowa boarding house. Her daughter Cora moved to California straight out of high school to work for the war effort, married a sailor and settled down in the Golden State—another loss.
       Dottie cooks and cleans, volunteers at her church, and tends her garden. But she hungers to meet her two precious grandbabies on the coast. When troubles arise in Cora’s third pregnancy, Dottie longs to help, but old fears prohibit that arduous, cross-country train journey.
            At the boarding house, complications arise that force Dottie to speak up for what’s right, and as her confidence grows, so does the unexpected interest of the widower next door. Dottie has no idea second chances wait right around the corner.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

More Love and Laughter From Margaret Brownley


Leave a comment and enter to win a copy of Petticoat Detective or Undercover Bride. (Winner's choice; U.S. only).

Did you grow up in the west around horses?
I guess you could say that.  I spent my early years watching old westerns on TV every Saturday morning.  I was hooked and words such as “howdy” and “reckon” crept into my speech.

How many westerns did you read before you wrote one?
Let’s see, how many westerns did Louis L’Amour write?   I think I read just about every western out there before writing one.  I really liked Maggie Osborne and LaVyrle Spencer’s books because they combined western themes with strong women.  Strong women were the one thing I found lacking in L’Amour’s books.

What is your favorite western written by another author?
That’s a tough one. There’re so many of them.  I think my favorite book is Lonesome Dove.  It’s all about relationships past and present. My favorite western movie is still The Searchers.  As for TV shows I like Longmire, which is now available only on Netflix.  But it’s a great soulful contemporary western.

Anything in your background or among your ancestors to give you ideas for conflict, settings, etc.?
I don’t have to look that far back to find ideas for conflict or settings. I can see the Santa Susanna mountains from my office where many of those early cowboy movies I watched as a kid were filmed.  As for conflicts, I think our ancestors struggled with many of the same issues we have today.  One of the reasons I place my stories in the 1880-1890s is that in many ways it mirrors current times. Technology in the way of trains, telephones and electricity changed the way people lived in the 19th century, just as it has today.  The Victorians even had their own Internet.  It was called the telegraph.  Banks failed, the job market collapsed, and congress was just as inept back then as it is today.  Reading about how people in the past survived and, yes, even prospered in tough times inspires me.  I hope it inspires my readers.

Tell us about the idea that birthed your latest book.
Calico Spy is book three of my Undercover Ladies series (though each back stands alone).   The series idea came after reading about Kate Warne, the first female Pinkerton detective.  Allan Pinkerton hired her in 1856 and she turned out to be one of his most trusted detectives.  I was fascinated by the idea of women working as detectives some fifty years before the first policewoman was hired.   He actually had a whole department of female detectives.  Unfortunately, the files were lost during the great Chicago fire so there’s no information on them.  I can’t help but wonder what would motivate a woman back then into becoming a detective?

Do you sometimes need to write violent scenes? Is it difficult to describe a fight?
I don’t write violent scenes.  I just got through writing a saloon brawl, but it was more fun than violent. People do get shot in my stories but never in a gruesome way.  When describing a fight, I have to act it out before I can write it. Sometimes I get the grandkiddies to help and they love that.

Have you ever put a character into a situation you thought you couldn’t get him out of? How did you do it?
Oh, yes, lots of times. I once had a character tied to a chair with a mad killer in the house.  Another time I had a heroine atop a runaway stage.  I also had a hero being lynched by a mob.  If I told you how I got them out of these situations I would spoil my plots. But I don’t mind telling you, I’ve lost a lot of sleep through the years in an effort to get characters out of difficult situations.  It’s never easy.

Who is your favorite character among those you created?
Boy, that’s a hard question to answer. It’s like picking out your favorite child. I guess I have to say I always favor the character I’m currently working on.  Though I have to admit that the outlaw Sarah in A Lady Like Sarah still resonates with me.

How does humor rise from the characters and the situations you create? Give us an example of a short funny scene.
Yes, you’re so right; humor has to come from the characters.  You won’t find much humor in any of my first drafts.  That’s because it takes me awhile to know my characters enough for the humor to flow.  There’s a scene in Calico Spy where my heroine, working undercover as a Pinkerton detective, mistakes a bank robber for another detective.  He in turn mistakes her for another bank robber. This is all done in dialogue and it’s pretty funny, but I couldn’t have written it without first knowing the characters and what made them tick.

Was a career in writing expected, or was it a surprise?
I always wanted to be a writer and wrote my first “book” in fifth grade.  What continues to surprise me is that someone is actually willing to pay me to do it.

How many books have you written and what is the one you want to write above all else?
I’ve written more than forty novels and novellas.  The book I most want to write is the one I’m working on so that I can make my February deadline.    

Anything you’d like to add?
I just want to thank you for letting me visit.

About Margaret
BEST-SELLING AUTHOR MARGARET BROWNLEY has penned more than forty novels and novellas. Her books have won numerous awards, including Readers' Choice and Award of Excellence. She's a former Romance Writers of American RITA® finalist and has written for a TV soap.  She is currently working on a new series.  Not bad for someone who flunked eighth grade English.  Just don't ask her to diagram a sentence.

Calico Spy blurb

He never met a Pinkerton detective he liked; she never met a man so stubborn…

Pinkerton Detective Katie Madison Makes a Lousy Harvey House Waitress. But it’s the only way she can get close enough to the scene of the murders of two of the restaurant’s servers to solve the mystery. Between having impeccable posture, a perfect Harvey Girl smile, and memorizing menu specials of the day, not to mention dealing with the temperamental French chef, her mind might be too full to make any headway in the biggest case of her career.
               Sheriff Branch Whitman knows there’s something fishy about the pretty new Harvey girl with the flaming red hair, but he never would’ve guessed her to be a Pinkerton! And he’s never met a Pink he liked—but there is something intriguing about her.
               Soon a tornado hits town, and a shadow from the past puts Branch’s eight-year-old son in danger. Now the sheriff has no choice but to work with Katie—or chance losing everything he holds dear. Tracking a murderer is dangerous even for a man, and he fears for Katie’s safety. But as they get closer to the killer one thing becomes abundantly clear. Protecting Katie is one thing; protecting his heart something else.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Miracles Even A Child Could Understand

By Ada Brownell

Age 7, I stared in horror. Mama sat in the middle of the linoleum floor surrounded by a pool of blood with clots floating around in it.
By listening to my brothers and sisters, I learned Mama fell off a ladder. She punctured one of her internal organs on a sharp stick when she landed.
The phone call already had been made, and the black ambulance pulled up in front of the house.
“That’s the hearse,” someone said. “They also use it for an ambulance.
I was shooed into the kitchen while the medics loaded Mama on a board, carried her out and whisked her away.

Since I was so young when the accident occurred, I have no idea how the hospital treated Mother to save her life or if they gave her a blood transfusion. Whatever they did, her recovery was a miracle from God. The accident probably occurred in 1944. The Red Cross began its first nationwide blood program for civilians in 1948, opening its first collection center in Rochester, N. Y.  We lived in Colorado.

As an adult, I know without a doubt after losing that much blood, it was divine work of our Heavenly Father that Mama lived, especially in that era. But our large family (I was the youngest of eight children) knew how to pray, although my siblings and daddy were relatively new converts. Mama had a background in the Methodist Church. But beyond that we had a bunch of church folks in our small town that prayed for us even before we arrived in Fruita from the previous family home in Penokee, Kan..

“A big family is moving here, and we need to pray for them,” the pastor announced. W hen the crisis came with Mama’s fall, I’m sure the same prayer warriors stormed heaven in Mama’s behalf.
I don’t know how long she was in the hospital, which also had a floor dedicated to a tuberculosis sanitarium. After she was released, I remember sitting beside her in church, leaning on her, tears dripping off my cheeks, thankful she lived.
But fear still gripped my heart. To pay off the hospital bill, Mama washed dishes for the hospital—and the sanitarium. I overheard enough conversations to know TB is contagious, and sometimes kills.
When I voiced my fears to Mama she said, “We use lots of bleach and that kills the germs.”
The miracle I saw as a child taught me God answers prayer. When any problem surfaced, our family prayed, and I was right in the middle of it.
 I was only told of the miracles I experienced as an infant.  Mama probably was in the garden trying to make sure the family had enough food to eat and the older children watched me. One day my two-year-old brother emptied a salt shaker in my eyes. Our mighty God protected me from eye damage, and I’ve never had vision problems.
Then another time a sister gave me a bath in a dishpan on top of the wood cook stove. The stove hadn’t had a fire in it during the hot weather, but that day it did. She sat me down on the stove top and deep burns resulted.
Yet, I don’t even remember it. I don’t think I was taken to a doctor.  Our family was desperately poor. As far as I know, I never went to the doctor until I got married, except the physician came to the house when I was born and once when I had croup. God provided for our needs, including miracles.
We are so blessed our Heavenly Father loves us and cares so much He answers prayer. He’s still doing miracles and answering our petitions.


Monday, January 11, 2016


By Ada Brownell

How old are you when you’re “washed up” as a writer—meaning you’re not producing anything better than smelly seaweed?
When I retired as a daily newspaper reporter, I was excited to get back into free lance writing full time. But big problems set me out in deep water. All the Christian editors I knew retired or moved on. Then I’d had hand surgery and using a computer was difficult.
I began thinking I was too old to “walk on water” with Jesus and spread the Good News of the Gospel anymore. I ventured out of the boat a few times and couldn’t seem to get my head above the waves. Why didn’t I know how to swim anymore among publications that needed good inspiring copy? I’d been writing for these publications since age 15.
I spent a year or more trying to produce curriculum. I’d written a little curriculum in the past by assignment, but stupidly tried to market “special projects” curriculum, disregarding Christian publishers’ practice of planning curriculum two or more years ahead with set themes.
I nearly retired my computer after I worked so diligently on the curriculum project and had to give up. It was disappointing because I enlisted my talented daughter-in-law, Michelle, to design a scrapbook project as part of the curriculum to inspire teens to keep a spiritual diary of their “Dynamite Decisions” – the curriculum theme.
Then I started writing Christian news on assignment, but soon knew that didn’t satisfy my calling to spread the gospel. Yet, I had wet my toes in the publishing waters again without going under.
The breakthrough came when I began praying the Prayer of Jabez from 1 Chronicles 4:10 NKJ. I memorized the scripture: “Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that your hand will be with me, and that you would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!”
 I discovered creating a blog is no big deal, so created one—my own little publication. Soon I had guest writers.
Then more assignments came from Christian editors and I had articles published. Opportunities for personal ministry also popped up around me.
I had a book for which I once had a publisher and his publishing company went bankrupt. After years of giving up on it, I marketed the book, Swallowed by Life: Mysteries of Death, Resurrection and the Eternal, to traditional publishers and discovered I needed to be a pastor or a doctor with a huge following for this type of book. My qualifications as a Christian writer and teacher who spent a number of years as a medical writer for a newspaper didn’t carry much weight.
But after praying for my territory to be enlarged, I believed in the book once again and discovered Indie publishing. I knew about vanity publishing and thought it an embarrassing exercise in futility, but in this day of e-publishing, many well-known authors are going to Indie publishing because of the benefits.
So Swallowed by Life saw the light of day and my territory enlarged. It hit Amazon best seller status once.  Next, I took my out-of –print book, Confessions of a Pentecostal, published by the Assemblies of God and made it available for Kindle. Then my first novel, Joe the Dreamer: The Castle and the Catapult was completed; a little later, Imagine the Future You, a Bible study that included much of my curriculum, and Facts, Faith and Propaganda, which draws heavily on my experiences as a news reporter and Bible teacher.
 A new small publisher, Elk Lake, which is part of Book Fun Magazine, published my historical romance The Lady Fugitive, and wonderful readers of that book have created 48 reviews, most five stars, and wait expectantly for the sequel I’m working on, The Peach Blossom Rancher.
I’ve continued to sell to Christian publications and then the door opened to write op-ed newspaper articles.
 I’ve had birthdays, added numerous wrinkles, had cataract surgery, knee replacements, but kept exercising spiritually, physically and emotionally. I’ve done blog and speaking tours.
Perhaps “washed up” means “refreshed and polished.” After all, sometimes good things come in with the tide—like the time when we were nearly broke, enjoying a vacation in the ocean because it was free and a $20 bill floated almost into my hand.
Even adults search for sea shells and beautiful things that wash up on the beach. When I was on the coast a few days ago a couple was out with a metal detector.
I’m glad I didn’t “give up” on my calling.
©Ada Brownell

By Ada Brownell

Have a new Kindle or want to fill one up with squeaky clean Christian fiction? Get this historical romance you’ll read again and again because of the #suspense, interesting likeable characters, #humor, and #history.
Will Jenny avoid the bounty hunters? Can she forgive the person who turns her in?
The most common remarks among readers of The Lady Fugitive “I couldn’t put it down;” “I love the characters;” “Sorry when it was over.” “I was hooked from the opening page.”
Available in paper and for Kindle.
The Lady Fugitive 2015 Laurel Award runner-up.

See all Ada Brownell's books on her Amazon page https://www.amazon.com/author/adabrownell

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Family letters reveal life in Nazi Germany during World War II

Writing About a Family to Be Proud Of 

By Terri Wangard

A batch of forgotten letters was found in my grandmother’s house. Written in 1947 and 1948, they came from distant cousins in Germany. My grandparents and other relatives had been sending them care packages. My great-great-grandfather immigrated to Wisconsin in the 1870s, as did two brothers. A fourth brother remained in Germany, and these letters came from his grandchildren.

When I revived a dream to write in 2008, I decided the family in the letters would be the perfect subject around which to craft a story. Research revealed life in Nazi Germany as increasingly grim before the war even started. The letters provide a fascinating glimpse of life in war torn Germany, but nothing about the war years. How had the family coped? I turned to the internet and searched on the family’s factory name. I found it all right, in a list of German companies that used slave labor. I wanted my family to be the good guys, but that hope grew shaky.

Contact had ceased in 1948 after the German currency reform, and with their silence in the letters, many questions couldn’t be answered. Why had they refrained from any mention of their thoughts and activities during Hitler’s regime? Desire to forget? Shame of the vanquished? Concern the American family wouldn’t help if they knew the truth?

Circumstances of their postwar life offer a few facts. The family consisted of a brother, his wife, and three young children, and a sister and her husband, and their “old gray mother,” who turned 66 in 1947. Another brother languished as a prisoner of war in Russia, not returning home until 1949, I learned from the German department for the notification of next of kin. The sister and her bridegroom had lived in Canada for five years, returning to Germany in 1937 because she was homesick. They were bombed out of their homes and lived in their former offices, temporarily fixed up as a residence. Before the war, they employed about one hundred men, but in 1947, had fewer than forty-five, with no coal, electricity, or raw materials to work with.

My imagination took over. The family, not the newlyweds, came to Wisconsin. Because a critiquer scorned someone returning to Hitler’s Germany due to homesickness, I gave them a more compelling reason when I rewrote the story. The grandfather had died and the father had to return to take over the factory, much to the daughters’ dismay, who loved their new life in America.

They did not support Hitler. Because their factory had to produce armaments and meet quotas imposed on them, they had no choice in accepting Eastern European forced laborers, Russian POWs, and Italian military internees.

Maybe the family did support Hitler. Many did before realizing his true colors. My version probably doesn’t come close to the truth, especially concerning the daughter, my main character. The real daughter was twelve years old in 1947. No matter. This is fiction, and this is a family I can be proud of.

SUMMARY OF Friends and Enemies, an historical with a touch of romance.

World War II rages across Europe, particularly in Germany, claiming the life of Heidi Wetzel’s husband. In a bid to escape her grief and the frequent bombings of German cities, Heidi and her sister flee Hagen to a farm in the German countryside, where they help care for orphaned children. While there, Heidi comes across an American airman, Paul, with whom she spent time when her family was living in Milwaukee during her high school years. When Paul’s plane is shot down over Germany, his only thought is survival—until he hears God’s voice guiding him to his late wife’s friend.


Terri Wangard’s first Girl Scout badge was the Writer. These days she is writing historical fiction, and won the 2013 Writers on the Storm contest and 2013 First Impressions, as well as being a 2012 Genesis finalist. Holder of a bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s degree in library science, she lives in Wisconsin. Her research included going for a ride in a WWII B-17 Flying Fortress bomber. Classic Boating Magazine, a family business since 1984, keeps her occupied as an associate editor.

Saturday, January 2, 2016


This post is a rerun, but I think it still has value.


By Ada Brownell 

I wonder if people drink on New Year’s Eve because they need to have their senses dulled to face another year going into the unknown.  (If it doesn’t dull the senses why is it a crime to drink and drive with a certain blood level of alcohol?)

I’ve never understood people who drink intoxicating beverages. In my first stint as a reporter I rubbed shoulders with some people with brilliant minds, but at one get together of the staff I watched one of these academically sharp individuals change in one afternoon until he acted as if he were mentally challenged. He could barely get a sentence together, mispronounced words, and was wobbly on his feet.

If it tastes anything like it smells on their breath, I don’t think they go after it for the taste. We know many take a drink in the early evening and call it “happy hour.” Others take it to help them “relax.”
One fellow told me he didn’t know how I could have fun without drinking. “I’ve had a lot of fun in my life,” I told him, “And when it was over, I knew I had it.”

I could have added I didn’t have a hangover, either.

Mama was one of those Cary Nation type people and she broke up an illegal still in her youth all by herself. Then she and Dad had to run for her lives.
So it was no wonder I was raised on Solomon’s words, “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise” (Proverbs 20:2).
In contrast to a drinking any sort of brew, I face the New Year as I’ve always done—asking God to be with me and each one of our family, as well as friends and acquaintances—and taking promises from God’s Word about the future.
For instance, yesterday, Jan. 31, in my daily calendar by author Janette Oke the scripture was, “Now glory be to God, who by his mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of –infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desired, thoughts, or hopes” (Ephesians 3:20TLB).
Now taking that scripture and believing it is the way to start a new year.
There are other more wondrous ways to ring one year out and another in. I grew up in a church where people washed one another’s feet and prayed for the person as they worked. We called these services Watch Night Services and in most churches we had singing, rejoicing and testimonies for what God did in the past year. Often we’d break for food and fellowship.
Then as the clock approached midnight, often a wonderful soloist or duet would sing, “His Eye is on the Sparrow.” Then we fell to our knees and  thanked God for his previous blessings and asked him to lead, guide and bless our lives another year.
To me, that’s the way to really celebrate on New Year’s Eve.