Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Since I last posted--five months ago--my father-in-law broke his leg, my mother had a massive stroke, our oldest son was diagnosed with liver disease, I started and finished another Heartsong and began a novella, and we were blessed with another grandbaby. I have stopped trying to figure out what God is doing with our family. He knows-that's enough. And we have seen his hand over and over.

Though I trust His will, I go through each day with the feeling that I should be somewhere, or be doing something, other than what I'm currently doing. Today, the day before Christmas Eve, is no different. Our kids from Missouri are coming in two hours. We've done less than a fourth of the usual decorating, I haven't baked or wrapped a thing, two beds are sheetless and two bathrooms need to be cleaned. I, and my list, are undone.

So maybe the last thing I should be doing right now is blogging. But something just dawned on me that I need to share: Even if I cross off everything on that list, it won't really be done. In minutes there will be new spots on the mirror and the clothes we're wearing will need to be washed tomorrow. I will never be able to say, "It is finished." Those words belong to only One. And those words make all this Christmas scurrying very silly. If I cannot accept the "undoneness" and rest in Him and what He accomplished, all that I do under the guise of celebrating His birth is senseless.

If you claim Jesus as your Lord, the most important work is already finished. Stop--in the midst of unwrapped gifts and unbaked cookies--to remember that the Baby in the manger completed His task. And that--not the ironed tablecloth--is what it's all about.

May you have a sweet and blessed Christmas...without self-imposed stress.

Monday, July 20, 2009


Bill and I spent the weekend in Galena, IL doing research for the Illinois series Cathy and I are working on. Thought I'd share a few teasers:
I wrote a scene a few weeks ago about our hero and heroine from Parting Secrets being served Saganaki--flaming Greek cheese--at the Log Cabin Restaurant. But I really needed more details than I could get online. (How's that for a reason for a weekend trip?) So we sat at a corner booth at the restaurant on Saturday night--Bill in amused, patient silence--me scribbling notes about the grapevines hanging from wagonwheel chandeliers and the poster of a chef holding a frog over a frying pan while saying "Tastes like cheeken!" Two waitresses brought our appetizer on a metal plate. When they reached our booth, one doused the square of deep-fried cheese with brandy. The other added flamage while they yelled "Opahhh!!" No idea what that means, but what a fun, tasty, calorie-laden experience.
We spent most of Saturday walking around the quaint town taking pictures. So now I have a visual of the Trolly Depot clock under which Steven twirls Jeanie (Parting Secrets) in an impromptu dance, and the gazebo where Wade and Angel (Pleasant Surprises) get married. It's such an artsy little place that I'm now thinking Ruby's love interest (Pure Serendipity) might have to be an artist. But first we have to figure out who he is!
Hope the teasers peak your interest!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Living It Out

This was a weekend of good-byes. On Saturday we attended the funeral for my husband's cousin who died unexpectantly of a stroke. Then this afternoon we said good-bye to Jen, the daughter of another cousin, and her husband and kids as they head out to and new life and career in Idaho. As we said a tearygood-bye, Jen talked about looking to Bill and me as examples of parents whose kids have turned out well. I was humbled by her comment and this weekend of good-byes has me thinking about the messages we give when we don't even know anyone's watching.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who has sat at a funeral and wondered what people will say about me after I'm gone. What kind of a legacy am I leaving for my kids and grandkids? Are they seeing integrity, compassion, and love for Jesus in my daily decisions and attitudes? As a writer, will the words I leave behind touch hearts and lives after I'm gone? Our latest release, Stillwater Promise, has a message about marriage I believe in passionately: Marriage is work, but so, so worth it. Don't ever give up. It is an extreme privilege to have a forum for writing out my convictions in story form, but if Bill and I aren't living out this principle before our kids and grandkids daily, my words in print will sound hollow.
My question to you is: How are you purposefully imparting wisdom to the next generation? What are you doing to "live out" what you believe?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Helping A Sister Writer

One of the amazing things about being a Christian fiction writer is the community that surrounds you. I have witnessed so many beautiful examples of "rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn." Sadly, today's post is about the latter. A sister writer, Sara Mills, lost her husband last week. He was only 40 and died suddenly of a heart attack. Sara, who is left with young children, was about to launch promotion of her second book, and now won't be able to do that. So members of American Christian Fiction Writers are doing what they can to help her.

This interview ran the day before her husband's death. I'm reprinting it here to give you a taste of her books in the hope that you will consider purchasing them. Miss Fortune and Miss Match are delightful books set in NYC in 1947. Please follow the link at the end to buy the books.

Q: Tell us how you got the idea for Allie and these books.
A: I got the idea for Miss Fortune in the middle of the night, when all good ideas come to me: One sleepless night I was watching The Maltese Falcon and I started to wonder how different the story would be if Sam Spade had been a woman. She'd never have fallen for Miss Wunderly's charms and lies. She'd have been smart and tough and she would have solved the case in half the time it took Sam because she wouldn't spend all of her time smoking cigarettes and calling her secretary Precious. The thought of a hard-boiled female detective got my mind whirling. I paused the movie and sat in my darkened living room thinking about how much fun a female Sam Spade could be. Intrigued but not yet ready to dash to my computer, I changed disks and put on Casablanca (my all time favorite movie ever). The sweeping love story, a tale full of hard choices and sacrifice was what finally made the whole idea click in my mind. If I could just combine the P.I. detective story of the Maltese Falcon with the love story from Casablanca, and make Sam Spade more of a Samantha, I could have the best of all worlds.
Q: These books are so good, I wish I'd written them. How did you set the stage to capture that gritty PI feel without being dark?
A: I find that a lot of PI stories are gritty and dark, focusing on the worst of the humanity, and while I wanted the Allie Fortune mysteries to be exciting and tension-filled I didn’t want them to be stark and hopeless. One of the things I tried to do to counteract the darkness was to give Allie a multi-layered life. She has cases, relationships, friends and family, all of which I hope combine to make the stories textured, rich and full of life.
Q: Allie is a character I'd love to have coffee with. What did she teach you while you wrote these books?
A: Allie was a great character to write. One of the things I learned from her was that human relationships (man/woman, mother/daughter, friends) are complicated and full of unspoken rules and expectations. Allie is a rule-breaker at heart and it complicates her life on a regular basis. One of the storylines I loved most is Allie’s relationship with her mother and how it grows and changes and how it’s shaped her. Another dimension of Allie’s character that really taught me a lot was her willingness to do whatever was needed to help those she loves. There is no price on that kind of friendship and it’s a characteristic I’d like to see more of in myself. Okay I admit it, I’ve got a bit of a friend-crush on Allie. LOL.
Q: One last question: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would that be and who would you take with you?
A: If I could go anywhere right now I’d head to Monterey, California (I’m writing a book set there right now) and I’d plant myself on the beach with a notebook, writing my story as the waves crashed. Sounds like my idea of heaven on earth. There’s something about the wind-shaped Cypress trees and the crash of the surf in Monterey that calls to me. I don’t know why, it just is.

Miss Fortune, Allie Fortune Mystery Series #1 By Sara Mills / Moody Publishers
In 1947 Allie Fortune is the only female private investigator in New York City, but she's kept awake at night by a mystery of her own: her fianci disappeared in the war and no one knows if he's still alive. Until Allie finds out, she will have no peace. When there's a knock on her office door at four in the morning, Allie suspects trouble as usual, and Mary Gordon is no exception. Mary claims someone is following her, that her apartment has been ransacked, and that she's been shot at, but she has no idea why any of this is happening. Allie takes the case, and in the process discovers an international mystery that puts her own life in danger.
Meanwhile, the FBI is working the case as well, and she is partnered up with an attractive, single agent who would be perfect for her under other circumstances-if only she knew whether her fiance was still alive.

Miss Match, Allie Fortune Mystery Series #2 By Sara Mills / Moody Publishers
FBI agent Jack O'Connor receives a letter from Maggie, a woman he used to love, saying she's in trouble in Berlin. The FBI refuses to get involved, so Jack asks Allie Fortune to help him investigate. Allie and Jack pose as a missionary couple who want to bring orphans back to the United States.
A child finds important documents that everyone in the city - Soviets and allies alike - want for themselves. Maggie refuses to tell Jack what the documents are, saying if things go wrong, they are better off not knowing. Through the course of the search, Allie's past is brought back to her, half a world away from home.

To learn more about Sara, go to

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Come Visit Lyn Cote's Blog

I'll be making an appearance on Lyn Cote's blog tomorrow. Lyn is a multi-published inspirational writer, also from Wisconsin. Stop by and learn about my gutsy grandma:

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Dream Chasers Has Arrived

The big brown truck that makes dreams come true pulled up in the driveway and left behind a box of pretty blue books. Dream Chasers, the second book in our Minnesota series, is now a touchable dream-come-reality. It's available through Heartsong Presents. (If you live close to Cathy or me, you can save postage.)
I'm still in awe that God allows me to do what I love and get paid for it. Not a lot, but enough for some fun things like Christmas and birthdays. Just this week I was able to give Bill a belated Valentine--a floor! )Take a tip from a romance writer--anything from Menards or Home Depot is the fast track to a man's heart.) He and our boys have finished off a family room in the basement, but, due to our new commitment not to use charge cards, we were going to wait on flooring. But a royalty check that I didn't expect will cover the cost. A Pleasant Surprise...which just happens to be the name of the Illinois romance we're working on now!

Brand-Aid Winner

I know this sounds contrived, but you have to believe was a totally fair, unbiased drawing... All the names went in--and my editor, JoAnne Simmon's, name came out! A Starbuck's card is winging its way to Ohio. Thanks again to those of you who left comments...and those of you who said you would if you could put it into words. Even that meant a lot.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Saturday, January 31, 2009

I was interviewed...

by award-winning inspirational author Margaret Daley and will be featured on her blog this coming week. Check it out at

Brand-Aid Contest

Christmas is over, writer’s block is stashed away with the ornaments, and I’m back to accumulating dust in direct correlation to word count.

I've been reading a lot about branding lately. For a writer, that essentially means defining your unique niche, sticking to it, and making sure all of your communications reflect that definition. It all seemed a bit claustrophobic since I’m playing around with chick-lit and women’s fiction and not sticking solely to romance. And then I stumbled upon this simple phrase: Tell the reader what emotions your stories evoke.

So simple/so profound. I can do that!

But I’m not going to...just yet. Instead, I’m going to ask you. Yes, I have a tagline I love...warm romance with dollops of faith and sprinkles of joy...but that doesn’t really describe what the reader feels. So (assuming you’ve read Beauty for Ashes, Garment of Praise, Far above Rubies, Over the Wall, Walk with Me, or a work in progress) if you’re brave enough to offer a couple emotion-filled lines, you’ll be in the running for a $10 gift card of your choosing. I’ll put all posts in a hat (well, most likely a mixing bowl...) and let one of my grandkids pick the winner on Valentine’s Day. Thanks in advance!

A Strange Christmas

This was the first Christmas since 1974 that we didn’t spend with our oldest son. Since Scott, Kristen, Reagan, Sawyer, and Sage weren’t able to make it up to Wisconsin this year, we mailed their stockings to Missouri. So sad. And for the first time since 1981, our Aaron was not here on Christmas Eve. NOT so sad! Because God, in his awesomely perfect timing, added another stocking to our mantle...on Christmas Eve!! Aaron and Adrianne gifted us with grandbaby #9 at 6:39 p.m. on December 24. Lillyanne Alice Lola Melby came into this world with tons of dark hair and kissably fat cheeks. What a gift!
Part of the reason our Missouri kids weren’t able to be here was because Scott flew out of St. Louis on December 27, on his way to three weeks in Egypt. Read about his adventures at