When History and Literature Collide

My story begins last Saturday night.

Marion, KY is a very small town. I mean, like, 3,000 people small. Some claim that there’s nothing to DO here. So, the library (ahem) is trying to offer more recreational activities to spice things up. Last Saturday, however, was NOT a library activity, but our local Community Arts Foundation offering a Chautauqua speaker portraying Daniel Boone!


Some of you who know me know that Fess Parker, who played Daniel Boone in the 60’s television series, was my first crush. I’ve been fascinated with Daniel Boone since I was about 4 years old.

Daniel_Boone_book._copyThis, however, was NOT Fess Parker, but actor Kevin Hardesty portraying the character of Captain Boone much more realistically. He told of the hardships and triumphs of the frontier, stories of his family and of the many trials they faced. I was captivated.

You can imagine, then, how enthralled I was to begin reading Laura Frantz’s latest book, A Moonbow Night. I started reading that night after being immersed in the frontier with Daniel Boone. In my mind I went straight to 1777 Cumberland Falls, in Eastern Kentucky, and the very area where A Moonbow Night takes place, but it meant even more, now.

MoonbowLFI’m so glad I was in that place at that moment. The literary descriptions, turns of phrase, and deep point of view of Laura’s stories consistently hold me in a state of attention that literally makes me lose track of what time, era, place, I’m in.

As of today, I’m only halfway through , but I wanted to share what I’m reading right now, because I’m so excited about it. If you like to lose yourself in a good book, pick this one up – or any of Laura’s books, for that matter! Every time I declare one “my favorite” of hers, I read another that replaces it!

Oh, and if you’re ever in Eastern Kentucky (which to us Western Kentuckians is a “whole ‘nuther country”), check out Cumberland Falls. It’s a beautiful place in the daytime, but now my dream is to visit it when I can actually witness a real-live “moonbow!”

Change is Constant

We are in the process of down-sizing. Hubby wants to retire to move on to his next thing, whatever that is. My first book is coming out in APRIL. Oldest daughter is happy and healthy in NYC. Youngest daughter is about to graduate from college.

All these things indicate change. Change of life, change of situation, change of circumstance.

Another thing happened in the past week that has me dwelling a little more on the past.

My last great-aunMs.-Dorothy-botht, Dorothy, passed away at the age of 96 and a half. She was widowed in 1976, so she was a widow longer than she was a wife. Her life wasn’t perfect, but when you put it all together, she was amazing. Spending time with her always brought stories that you’d never heard before.

My favorite is a story of her oldest sister, Thelma. Neither I nor my mother had ever heard it until my great-uncle passed away and the family gathered at her home.

The entire family was at church where revival services were being held that week. My great-grandfather was the song leader, and Aunt Thelma was the pianist.

The service came to the end, and the invitation was given. Granddaddy Phillips was perplexed. Where was Aunt Thelma?

She had sneaked out of the church to run away with Uncle Henry to get married! Aunt Dorothy was VERY upset at the entire thing — It had utterly spoiled her fifth birthday!

If you don’t know your family stories, ask someone. Some of those stories might never get told if YOU don’t know them and pass them on! There are stories of using bread sacks for snow boots, of identical pairs of shoes (of different sizes) mixed up by a pair of brothers, of mismatched earrings, and so much more.

Life is a rich tapestry of stories. As your life changes, hang on to the constants and take comfort and enjoy the stories of change in your past. Share them!


Edit Out Loud

When I began my novel, I didn’t have a clue as to the depth and breadth of this thing called EDITING. I wasn’t one of those who resented other people editing “my baby,” because I’d re-written it too many times to be that sentimental about it. I was just grateful that my editor was kind, even when suggesting changes.

My publisher suggests to everyone that they read aloud their work as part of the editing process. I thought it was a good idea, but couldn’t imagine reading my whole book again – and aloud. I’m a fast reader – reading aloud slows me down!

But after it was pointed out that I had way too many repeated words (smiled, grinned, laughed, etc.), I decided to give it a try.

It took about 3 days, in hitches, to read it aloud, and I couldn’t BELIEVE how much it helped. Here are some areas that made the most difference to me:

  1. Repeated words. When you read aloud, it shows you just how boring repeated words can be. You can imagine that I immediately looked up synonyms for “smile” and “laugh.”
  2. Unnecessary words. Along those same lines, when saying it aloud, you realize that you don’t need to describe when the conversation lets you know what the character is emoting.
  3. Out-of-place sections. Oh. My. Goodness. My last read-through showed me that the VERY FIRST PARAGRAPH, taking place in April, was repeated verbatim in a section taking place in JUNE. Oy. I had to change the entire first scene of the book on my last read-through. Neither I nor my editor caught that the first time. When I got to it in “June,” I thought – wait a minute, I’ve seen that before . . .
  4. Poor word choices. Sometimes we write things as dialogue that a human would never say. Sometimes we write things as description that will make a reader laugh when it is at a particularly poignant scene. For instance – Sarah’s shoulders slumped slightly. Alliteration is fun, but not when the character is sad! When I read that one aloud, I literally laughed out loud.

Westerfield.commaThere are many other advantages to reading your manuscript aloud. It’s taught me that I not only need to do this at the end, but as I go. Punctuation, paragraph length, spelling – all those things can be caught on a read-aloud.

So my advice? Slow down and read aloud. You’ll be glad you did.

Be Still and Know . . .

38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. Luke 10:38-39 ESV

Mary and Martha. Just reading those names evoke images of a bustling Martha making her home perfect and welcoming for her Lord, Jesus, as Mary sits at his feet drinking in the teaching of her Savior.

40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” Luke 10:40 ESV

Bless her heart.

She meant well.

She had all the best intentions of the world.

She was doing what she had been taught was “the right thing to do,” and she was doing it with all her might. It was the way she could show Jesus that she loved Him, right?

But the love she meant to show soon became tempered with self-righteousness and pride. She couldn’t figure out how Mary, raised in the same household as she, was just sitting there, doing nothing, while she, the good daughter and sister, acted as servant. Their mama taught them better than that, didn’t she?

What did Jesus say to Martha?

41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42

Mary was learning that the only way to truly be in tune with Jesus was to be still.

Martha, ever the pragmatic sister, had to be reminded to stop, and to open her heart and her mind to Jesus. She had to be still in order to hear Him, and to let Him into her heart.

Be-still-520x245I have always struggled with the “should” and “ought to” tasks in life. If I do good things in my own power, who gets the glory? If I’m constantly trying to take care of the messes before I have to admit them to God, what am I gaining? He knows the number of hairs on my head. Knowing what is on my mind isn’t much of a stretch.

If I experience a form of success, I learn to depend on my own brand of “goodness.” If I fail, I wonder why God wasn’t listening. Bitterness seeps in. Oh, but I kind of forgot to consult You, didn’t I? Hmmmm . . .

When I reach this point – and I do, often – I have to remind myself to BE STILL. God is there. He hasn’t moved. I have.

Psalm 46 takes my eyes off of myself, and puts them squarely where they need to be – on God.

God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.[c]

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.

Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
    he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Come and see what the Lord has done,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease

to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the shields[d] with fire.
10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.”

11 The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Psalm 46

I found the following video, and I hope you enjoy it. It’s an acoustic version of “Be Still” by Steven Curtis Chapman that is on the album “Deep Roots,” in which he is accompanied by his father, brother, sons, and other instrumentalists. It’s a blessing to me, and I hope to you, as you strive, along with me, to BE STILL.

Why I love Friday the Thirteenth

Happy Friday the Thirteenth!

When did Friday the thirteenth become an “unlucky” day? According to WikiPedia, it didn’t become a widespread superstition until the 19th century, although some trace it back to the Middle Ages, when someone linked it to Jesus’ Last Supper, in which there were 13 attendees on Maundy Thursday before Good Friday.

lastsupper The fear of Friday the thirteenth is called paraskevidekatriaphobia, from the Greek words Paraskeví (meaning “Friday”), and dekatreís (meaning “thirteen”).

I never really thought about being fearful of a particular day or number – I mean, God made each day, and He tells us to “Fear not” more than anything in the Bible!

ellen-gina1995-001There came a day, though, that I learned to love Friday the 13th. It was 1994, and I was expecting my second child, Ellen. They calculated the due date, and guess what? The estimated date of birth was to be Friday, January 13, 1995. We laughed about it the whole time.

But guess what? She was right on time. On Friday, January 13, 1995–exactly 22 years ago, today–Ellen Priscilla Merrick was born.

ellen2-001On that blessed date God blessed us with a healthy, beautiful, compact bundle of energy with a head-full of dark hair and the ability to sleep anywhere but her car seat. Really.


Ellen will be graduating from college this May, with a degree in vocal performance. She’s all grown up, but still my little girl in whom I am exceedingly proud.

2016-11-11-21-09-23-hdrHappy Birthday to my Friday the thirteenth blessing!

3 John 1:4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

Time to READ

keepcalmreadWhat am I reading these days . . . AM I reading these days?

I was going to re-read Grace Livingston Hill’s The Substitute Guest. Nope.

I pulled a few Christian Fiction Christmas novels off the shelf my last day before Christmas at the library. Did I read those? Nope.


The massive number of Christmas events and celebrations are over, New Years is coming this weekend, and what have I read?

Edits, mostly.i-love-my-editor

Don’t get me wrong, I love editing my own work. It is a joint-effort between my editor, Pam, and I, and I am constantly amazed at the things she points out and suggests that make me smile and face-palm all at the same time.

But rather than talk about what I HAVEN’T read, I’ll tell you what I’ve just started. It’s Sandra Robbins’ Love Inspired Suspense, Stalking Season, part of the Smokey Mountain Secrets series. I’ve had it on my TBR pile for a while, and I’m FINALLY starting to see some time to really enjoy reading.

Here’s a blurb:

stalkingseasonsandrarobbinsAfter moving to the Smoky Mountains at Christmastime, Cheyenne Cassidy is ready for a fresh start—until danger from her past follows her to her new home. Cheyenne believed the stalker who killed her parents was dead, but somehow he’s back and determined to kill her. And her only hope for survival is relying on Deputy Sheriff Luke Conrad. The lawman wants to help Cheyenne face down the obsessive madman, but he can’t protect her if he doesn’t know the full story. And Cheyenne has no choice but to trust him with a secret she’s never revealed about her stalker. Armed with the knowledge of her tragic past, Luke will put his life on the line to keep her alive…but will that be enough to save her?

Sandra is an awesome author, and a member of my own writing group. If you haven’t read her novels, both historical and suspense, you’re missing something! She has another series, the “Firebrand” series, it is amazing, as well. Here is a blurb for that series:

The Firebrand Brotherhood began as an elite group of ex-military individuals who performed missions for the CIA.sandrarobbins_targeted-200x300 Now retired, they have opened The Firebrand Training Center to train military and law enforcement personnel. Enemies who will stop at nothing want vengeance on the brothers, and they intend to annihilate the leaders of Firebrand and those they love.

 Book 3 of this series is in my I HAVE TO READ THIS AS SOON AS I CAN GET MY HANDS ON IT pile.

So, the moral of this story is, don’t beat yourself up if you CAN’T seem to find time to read between hurrying hither and yon. Apparently the Farmer’s Almanac is calling for lots of snow in my neck of the woods in the next few months.

I’m not making any New Year’s resolutions, so I can spend the time I would have been researching diets or exercising doing what I love most . . .


Read on, readers!



“Has it been a NIGHT, or what?” She whispered the words, mostly to herself.

The Innkeeper’s wife hadn’t stopped for anything all day. Cooking, cleaning, making sure the less-desirable guests didn’t make off with the possessions of the nice folks who just wanted to follow the rules and do as they were decreed.

Now, rowdy guests finally quiet, kids fed and put to bed, the kitchen ready to start up before daylight – which wouldn’t be too many hours, now – she is finally ready to lay her head on the pillow and claim her OWN bed.

She could hear the clink of coins on the other side of the curtain, wondering just how long her innkeeper husband would count and re-count the money. This census was a God-send for them. Yes, it was hard work, but it was the first time a decree from Caesar Augustus had resulted in a positive way, financially, for the little people in their part of the world.

“Please, Father God, bless all those under our roof.”

She prayed for their guests. She prayed for her husband and family.

When the candle went out and the curtain parted, she breathed a sigh of relief. A few hours. That’s all she needed. She relaxed.

Just as her husband was settling in – immediately starting to snore, as usual – she heard a voice outside       

“Please! Help us!”

Fear rippled through her as she wondered – was this legitimate? Who would be out at this time of night? But then, travelers had been arriving all day. Why not all night?

With a sigh, she poked her husband. “Wake up! There’s someone outside!”

“There’s always someone outside! The town is FULL tonight. WE’RE full tonight. They’ll just have to go somewhere else . . .” He turned over, his sentence ending on a little snort-snore.

She shoved his shoulder. “No! They’re asking for help!”

“Then you go . . . I’m exhausted . . .”

Another punch. This time, harder. “Get out of this bed or you’ll have to sleep with the donkeys tonight!”

She didn’t usually threaten, but there was something about the young man’s voice, and the stifled cry of pain from what sounded like a young woman that made her anxious.

He got up and put his robe back on, lighting a candle once more. After a few seconds, she followed him to the door. What she saw broke her heart.

A very frightened young man was turning away from the door, going to a heavily pregnant young woman. A girl, really, her face etched in pain.

Her husband turned away from the door to face her. “I told him we have no room.” He shook his head, as if saddened at the situation. “There’s just no place for them – and if there were, she can’t have her baby HERE, in the midst of all these people.” His hands were in front of him, entreating her to understand.

Her earlier threat to her husband came back to her – sleeping with the donkeys – and the innkeeper’s wife smiled triumphantly.

“Go and catch them! We do have a place!”

His eyes widened. “Not my bed, I hope!”

“No, somewhere even better – the stable!”


“ You just put clean straw down in the last stall in case anyone came with a donkey or camel, and nobody has asked for it. It’s there, it’s warm, and it’s got no eager onlookers.”

“But . . . the stable?” He was not convinced. “Besides, they’re long gone by now . . .”

“Take a look.” She pointed out the door to the young man and woman just a few steps farther than they had been moments before. She was squeezing the young man’s hand tightly, gritting her teeth as another wave of pain had obviously stopped them in their tracks.

“Young man! We have a place! It’s not much . . . a stable . . . but it’s clean and warm. You’ll have it to yourself if you don’t count donkeys and cows.”

Relief was evident on the boy’s face. He glanced at the girl. “Will that be OK? It’s a stable, not an inn.”

The young woman spoke gently. She looked at the young man, and then back at the innkeeper and his wife. “God has provided a warm place. And I can’t go farther. It sounds perfect.” Another contraction made her close her eyes as the color drained from her face, visible even in the dim light of the lantern.

“We’ll take it. May God bless you people, as you are blessing us.”

The innkeeper’s wife gathered some extra blankets and rags, and an extra lantern, and made her way behind her husband as he showed them down the path to the stable. It was a cave, really, but a place where the wind would not cut, and the horde of people invading the town for the census would not bother them.

A few hours later, the innkeeper’s wife was awakened by a cry. Not a frightened cry, but the amazing, heart-warming cry of a newborn just introduced into the world. She smiled, relieved that the worst was over for this young family, and went back to sleep.

Little did she know that what had come was her own salvation.

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

–Isaiah 9:6



Today is Thanksgiving Day. While you may or may not be celebrating today, the weekend is a time to stop and consider for what we are thankful.

GiveThanksWriting is a blessing, and I am thankful that I am able to put pen to paper.

I’m around the written word all day, every day. As a public library director, I have no shortage of great literature to read.

So, since there is so much to read, what could I get out of writing? For what am I thankful?

I thought of a few things:

1. I’m thankful for the satisfaction of knowing that I, too, can write a full-length novel. It may never be published, but it’s there, and it pleased ME. I wrote the kind of book that I like to read. Isn’t that what we should ALL strive to do, as writers?

2. I’m thankful for a blog family, and a place to write regularly. Sometimes my blog posts are seat-of-the-pants write-it-this-morning posts that hit all the points needed, but don’t have a lot of depth. Sometimes there is actual thought put into it (This one, I hope!). Sometimes it’s a place where I can share a meaningful memory or experience. Ah, those are the ones I love the most. When I can talk about what God is doing in my life, or about a beloved family member, a wonderful experience from my past – that’s the stuff dreams are made of, for a writer – or at least, for this writer.

3. I’m thankful for my writer-friends. Writing has given me friends I would have never known, otherwise. When I started writing fanfiction and posting it online, I found some kindred spirits, none of them published. I found one of my best friends. I found a community. Some of those friends have since been published (cough,cough – Lorna Seilstad, Marlene (J.S.Marlo), and they’ve dragged all of us along for the thrilling ride!

4. I’m thankful for those writing connections that help me in my job as a librarian. Writing has given me insight into the writers that I love to read, and has enhanced my knowledge of the publishing world. I’ve actually MET these people. I know some of the things they go through. I know what their novels are based on, and I can pass on that knowledge to others that might want to read more of this or that author’s work.

But the thing I’m most thankful for, writing-wise?

5. God’s grace and forgiveness.

PIEYes, I would love to be published. Yes, I would like to see my name on a book cover. But that’s not why I was given even the smidgen of ability to write that I was given. I was given it to glorify HIM, not me. Maybe that’s why I haven’t written beyond this blog in a very long time. Because I have to know that the only reason to write is to write for HIM.

Maybe I need to change WHAT I write?

I thought, just the other day, that some of my favorite blog posts have been family stories – stories that have been passed down from both sides of my family. Maybe I should write about another time, and what happens with real families who are just trying to live each day, loving one another, and loving their Lord.

Sometimes (especially if I’ve been watching Doctor Who!), I think of storylines that are pure fantasy. What would happen if . . . ?

Then there are mysteries, crime drama . . . all the things I enjoy on television . . .

One thing is for sure, though. I will write when God tells me what He wants me to write. In this particular instance, this post, I’m writing for YOU . . . but really?

It’s for HIM.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving BorderCROP

We’re giving away a copy of Rose Ross Zediker’s current release, Wedding on the Rocks, to one lucky winner. The deadline runs until November 30, 2013. All you need to do is leave a comment.


When she traded small-town life for the bright lights of Chicago, Jennifer Edwards yearned to discover a world beyond Faith, South Dakota. So when her father’s illness calls her home to run their cattle ranch, she tells herself it’s temporary. Then why is she even thinking about a future with archaeology professor Brett Lange-the boy she left behind-whose life’s work is digging up the past?

Twelve years ago, Brett had a crush on Jennifer the size of the T-rex that put his hometown on the map. Now she’s a citified magazine editor who prefers designer duds to dungarees. Except that’s not the real Jennifer. Brett needs to make her see how a little faith can go a long way in uniting two perfectly-in-sync hearts.


Anniversary 031Look in my closet and you’ll see what I’m sentimental about. Look around my house. I’m sentimental about my childhood.

I know, everyone thinks they had either an idyllic childhood, or a horrible childhood. There were some bad times for our family – sickness, death of loved ones, etc. – but I really had it pretty good. (Yes, even after my sister came along . . .)

I guess that’s why I love some of my “stuff.” I know, it doesn’t take the place of the memories, but they’re like touchstones for me. Photographs, a special toy, a record album (NOT a CD, a VINYL ALBUM!), a lunchbox – they all bring me back to a simpler time and place.

This time of year, the falling leaves take me back to a huge maple in our front yard that literally left a foot of golden leaves every year. It was like the sunshine didn’t want to leave us, and decided to lie about and let us enjoy it for a few weeks before the dreary days of winter set in.

Anniversary 019A fire in the fireplace makes me remember those Christmases at my grandparents’ house, where the only time there was a fire, was at Christmastime. The green army blankets left the doorways where they hung, protecting us from drafts, and the fire warmed the whole space.

Attending a concert given by my daughter’s college choir the other night, they pulled a quartet out to sing a couple of southern gospel songs – they took me right back to my dad singing in a quartet, my grandmother playing for them, and the many albums of quartet music that formed the background music of my childhood – I’ve had “Sweeter As The Days Go By” running through my head ever since.

My parents’ 50th anniversary this year had us looking through old photographs – it brought back so many memories of the house we lived in when I was very young. The recent death of my grandmother brought the family together to share memories of days gone by. I look at my piano, and I can see my grandmother playing it, my dad, aunt, and uncle singing around her.

Quilts. They’re all over my house. I have the butterfly quilt that my mother started piecing when she was 13, and finished quilting when I was 13. I have the “doll” quilt that my paternal grandmother made and always had on the bed in the back bedroom when I would come to spend the night. I have the quilt that my maternal grandmother made FOR me when I was 10 or 12, and upon which she taught me to quilt. Every quilt has bits of fabric that have stories – and we talk about them, still.

skilletBut you know what one of my favorite touchstones would have to be?

My iron skillet.

My other grandmother, who has been gone for several years, told me that it had belonged to my grandfather’s mother or grandmother. It is the skillet that, at her house, I learned to cook bacon (crispy, not limp!) and French toast. I think of her every time I make cornbread. It is seasoned to perfection. I guess you might say it’s one of my most prized possessions.

I know “stuff” isn’t as important as people – but sometimes I think God imbues our “stuff” with the ability to maintain those memories that make us, us. I thank Him for it every day.

To what childhood object are YOU most attached?



royalty-free-weed-clipart-illustration-435888I walked by the field of a lazy person,
    the vineyard of one with no common sense.
I saw that it was overgrown with nettles.
    It was covered with weeds,
    and its walls were broken down.

Then, as I looked and thought about it,
    I learned this lesson:
A little extra sleep, a little more slumber,
    a little folding of the hands to rest—
then poverty will pounce on you like a bandit;
    scarcity will attack you like an armed robber.

Proverbs 24:30-34

We’ve all been there – probably some of us more than others.

KIDGARDENAs a very young child, I loved the garden. I could walk through the dirt barefoot, dropping the seeds in the carefully marked row, then later, after other people had tended it, I saw the fruits of my “labor.”

Later on, as an older child, I dreaded the garden. I became one of those “tenders.” My grandmother and I, or my mother and I, would chop out weeds – including the dreaded “sticker weeds” – in the hot, dry summer, when I would MUCH rather have a little more sleep, a little more slumber  . . . 

It wasn’t that I didn’t like what CAME from the garden, it was just that I, as a human living in a fallen world, had become LAZY. 

As a young adult, we planted a few gardens only to let the weeds take them over. It just wasn’t EASY or CONVENIENT to tend the garden.

It was WORK. (Cue Maynard G. Krebs from “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis) 

That’s not a politically correct thing to say, is it? Work is often seen as a punishment, or a choice, rather than as one of the necessities of life.

God made us for work. Originally, he gave Adam and Eve the Garden of Eden – His own perfect place for THEM – only to have sin enter the world. When they were cast out of the Garden, they learned all about nettles, weeds, and broken walls.

I wonder if they thought back to the life they had forfeit? They had come to a place where it was either work, or die. Not, “if the tomatoes don’t make it, I can run to the store.” It was tend the garden, or go hungry.

The last few years I’ve been working on the whole lazy thing. I’ve frozen corn and tomatoes. I’ve cut our grocery budget simply by MAKING things rather than just run out and buy them. I’m trying to combat scarcity and poverty, God’s way. 

I think it’s called “growing up,” and at nearly 50, it’s about time. 

I’m trying to bring some common sense back into my life. How about you? Are you ready to DO something? Get a load of Steven Curtis Chapman’s “Do Everything!”