Monday, October 9, 2017

A Berry Sweet Life

By Cynthia T. Toney

Strawberry farming. 

It gets into your blood, as it did me, a city child who visited her paternal grandparents’ strawberry farm during springs and summers of the 1960s. I loved nature and the miracle of life growing in its many forms. I felt closer to God among newborn chicks and young strawberry plants struggling against a late frost.

That Louisiana farm and others like it in the area inspired the physical setting for my first historical novel, The Other Side of Freedom. I chose a period of American history, the 1920s, because of my interest in Italian immigration and organized crime, as well as other significant changes and events in the U.S., many of which Americans more often associate with big cities.

So what was Louisiana strawberry farming like in the 1920s?

Before tractors became commonplace, small family farms of the decade used mule-drawn plows and produced surprisingly large crops of strawberries that way. Farmers transported their berries by car, pickup truck, and horse-drawn wagons to collection points in the small towns nearby.

Word of delicious strawberries from Louisiana rivaling those produced in California made its way to northern cities like Chicago. The Illinois Central Railroad routed them there, and strawberry towns began to flourish.  A box manufacturing company in Independence made specialty crates for the growing industry.

The Louisiana Strawberry Cooperative Association began to use auctions for selling strawberry crops to get farmers the best prices possible. Auction houses sprang up in towns such as Ponchatoula and Hammond. Beautiful and now collectible labels for strawberry crates, flats, and pints were designed and printed for prominent strawberry producers.

Strawberry pickers and packers came from families’ own children, local day laborers, laborers from out of state, and descendants of former slaves from large plantations.

The larger story of strawberry farming in Louisiana is intertwined with the history of the post-Civil War South, Italian and other immigration, developments in commercial art and architecture, and new trends in business practices and shipping. Other states have their own stories as well.

Strawberry farming wasn’t an easy life for anyone, especially in the early days. But by the time I experienced my family’s farm in the 1960s, it was sweet, from a child's perspective. The family farm during strawberry season remains one of the sweetest memories I have.

When my father graduated from high school, my grandfather told him that he could attend college or stay and help work the farm. My father chose to go to college, but guess what he majored in.

Horticulture.

About the Author

Award-winning author Cynthia T. Toney might be new to penning historical fiction, but she isn't new to writing. Her young adult novels, 8 Notes to a Nobody, 10 Steps to Girlfriend Status, and 6 Dates to Disaster continue to thrive awaiting their final book in the Bird Face Series. Learn more about Cynthia at her author page on the Write Integrity Press site or at CynthiaTToney.com.


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Facing Fear With Faith by Peggy Cunningham

We all face things we fear. And, perhaps, children's fears may be more intense. How do
we help them through their fears and teach them to trust God? My children’s book, Really
Rare Rabbits Book 2: Giant Green Ghosts and the Secret at Peppermint Pass is a tool to
help children overcome their fears and trust God. These rare, adorable rabbits take you on
a dangerous journey with them to meet their grandfather. On the way, they face their
fears and learn to trust God.

As a writer, I reap the benefits of researching Bible principles for my children’s books. I
spend time praying and searching verses to incorporate in my stories. Those verses
inevitably cause me to dig deeper for spiritual nuggets to help children, and in the
process, my soul gets stretched. My walk with God grows more intimate as I strive to
impart God’s truth that will impact young lives for Jesus. I love writing for children
because I know how their little minds and hearts quickly soak up God’s Word.

We all go through storms in our lives or face giant obstacles in our paths. Maybe they
aren't the giant green ghosts that my rabbits encounter, but all the same, we cringe when
our giants appear. Children also face their giants. Fi Fi trembles when she meets the
giants, but she remembers a Bible verse tucked away in her heart. "Do not fear; I will
help you" (Isaiah 41:13 NIV).

How about you? Are you facing giants today? Don’t tremble, trust God to slay your
giants. Maybe you aren’t a children’s writer, but just as I wrote how God’s Word helped
Fi Fi, it will help you overcome your fears. And, who knows, maybe you’ll discover God
wants you to write for children.

About the Author

Peggy Cunningham and her husband, Chuck, have been missionaries in Bolivia, S.A., since 1981. They have a children's ministry and work with national churches. In addition to her children's books, she writes devotionals for women like her DANCING LIKE BEES, and her new SHAPE YOUR SOUL, coming in spring of 2018. Also coming in the spring is a new series of Holiday stories for children, using the animals at her ranch in Bolivia as her main characters. Watch for HOORAY FOR HOLIDAYS, beginning in January of 2018. Learn more about Peggy and her books at her author page at WriteIntegrity.com.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Collaborative Creations by Shirley Crowder

From time-to-time someone will comment on how difficult it must be to have to co-write with someone.

Guess what? It isn’t! Including the books with Harriet, I have collaborated with two other people on projects, and have worked well with them.

The most important thing in co-writing, after both of you being Christ-followers, is to share very similar theological beliefs and understanding. If these are too dissimilar, the final manuscript will be choppy and inconsistent in presentation of biblical truth throughout the book.

Practically speaking, there are a few things that help make the co-writing process work well.
  • Pray for each other.
  • Agree in advance who will write what portions.
  • Leave your pride behind.
  • Have the person with the most expertise in Word compile, make changes in, and maintain the combined document.
  • Be sure to turn on “tracking” so it is easy to see what edits the other person made.
  • Defend/explain why you think something you wrote should not be changed.
  • Explain why you think something the other person wrote should be changed.
  • Flexibility—be prepared for rewrites, edits, and delays.
As you work together, you read and edit each other’s work. The changes you each make in the other person’s writing will help give the book a more consistent writing style and presentation.

Finally, while there are portions of this process that can be tedious, like galley corrections, it is fun to work with another person. And, when you get stuck, they can help make suggestions that jump start your thought processes and make completing the piece easier.

Have fun and don't forget to laugh at yourself!

About the Author

Shirley Crowder is a biblical counselor and co-host of "Think on These Things," a Birmingham, Alabama, radio/TV program for women. She is commissioned by and serves on the national Advisory Team for, The Addiction Connection, and is the author of STUDY GUIDE ON PRAYER. Later this year, she'll be releasing a collection of devotions on prayer that she has co-authored with Harriet E. Michael. Learn more about Shirley at her Write Integrity Author Page.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Another Book, Another Hurricane - One Author's Saga

Last October, it was Hurricane Matthew that chased Fay Lamb and most of the east coast of Florida to higher ground. The launch of her romantic suspense, EVERYBODY'S BROKEN had to be delayed a full week until she could return to her home and help spread the word about her newest book.

This time, Irma visited, not with floods to Fay's area, but with devastating storms and numerous tornadoes. Thankfully, her family and property are fine. Fay's particularly delighted that the outdoor cat she had adopted weathered the storm.

However, Irma left her with spotty electricity and almost no internet access. Nevertheless, despite Hurricane Irma's attempts to delay this book, FROZEN NOTES has launched.

But this book launch is different, with an ironic spin. Fay has committed all of her royalties through the end of 2017 (from all of her books) to go toward hurricane relief.  FROZEN NOTES is up on Amazon.com in both e-book and print version. And 100% of the author's royalties will go to Samaritan's Purse for its hurricane relief efforts.

As the clean up in South Texas continues, the clean up in Florida begins. Fay and her family are busy helping where they can. We can help this author who is giving so much! Share the link to this blog. Buy FROZEN NOTES to enjoy an outstanding suspense and help hurricane clean up. And while you're at it, continue helping with hurricane clean up by purchasing the rest of her Amazing Grace series: EVERYBODY'S BROKEN, BETTER THAN REVENGE, and STALKING WILLOW.

Her Ties that Bind series is part of this special deal - 100% of all her royalties go to relief efforts. So purchase CHARISSE, LIBBY, and HOPE. (And watch out for DELILAH, the final book next spring.)

Even Fay's non-fiction book, THE ART OF CHARACTERIZATION, will benefit those displaced by the hurricane. A PERFECT gift for aspiring novelists or fiction writers!


Monday, September 11, 2017

The Source of Inspiration by Betty Thomason Owens

Early morning noises penetrated my sleepy head, along with the smell of meat frying. Grandma was up making breakfast. A rooster crowed outside the window. In the distance, a horse nickered and snorted. I rolled out of bed and got dressed. In the big, country kitchen, I splashed my face with water from a tin wash pan, then dried off with a thin cotton towel. No morning showers or baths at Grandma’s house. No indoor plumbing.  A bath required hours of hard labor, hauling in water, heating some on the stove, filling a galvanized tub. It only happened once a week.

I set the table with Grandma’s mixed-matched dishes, then set out cups for five—Grandma, my step-grandfather, my two brothers, and me. I was too hungry to dread the day just yet. That would come as soon as the breakfast dishes were stacked in the wash pan.

Already, they were gathering in the yard. I could hear their voices. I peeked out the screen door to see several of the neighbors sitting on the back of the wagon, ready to go the cotton field. Ready to start the long day’s work.

I was not. I knew it would be hard work. By noon, I’d be hot and tired and hungry again. Picking cotton had to be the worst work ever. Especially for a nine-year-old. Playing hide-and-seek, kick-the-can, or just wandering and wading in the creek seemed way better. But cotton harvest meant all hands on deck (Daddy was a sailor, so I heard that a lot).

I envied little brother, because he did get to play. He played with sticks and rocks in the deep shade of the trees that lined the field. Sometimes, he even lay down in the dirt and slept. Oh, how I wanted to be able to do that, too.


These are the memories that wound their way out of my heart and mind and into the pages of Annabelle’s Ruth and its sequel, Sutter’s Landing. I’m delighted to share them. Those days were difficult, but what I remember most is the sunshine, laughter, the camaraderie of the field hands, and their beautiful voices raised in song as they worked. 

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Pix-N-Pens Publishing Notes by Harriet E. Michael

Pix-N-Pens is a part of Write Integrity Press. It is the nonfiction and children’s picture book imprint of the parent company, Write Integrity.  As a nonfiction author I, along with several other wonderful authors, write under this imprint.

I cannot speak for the children’s writers as I am not one, but will share a little about PNP and nonfiction writing.

PNP strives to publish books that have messages that bring the readers hope and that glorify God. This so closely agrees with my own personal goals in writing nonfiction. I too strive to bring readers hope and glorify God with my writing.

I have been writing nonfiction for the Christian market since 2010, when I began my writing journey. For many years I wrote only small pieces that I had freelanced and submitted to magazines, devotionals, and anthologies. Today I have over 200 such pieces published in numerous magazines, devotionals, online sites, and anthologies. I still freelance on a regular basis and even lead workshops on it at writers’ conferences.

In 2015, my full-length manuscript, “Prayer: It’s Not About You” was contracted by Pix-N-Pens and released a year later in May of 2016. Since then my childhood friend, Shirley Crowder wrote a study guide for my book and we are currently under contract with PNP for two more books. We are both quite happy as PNP authors and thank God for this publishing company!

About the Author

Harriet Michael is a writer, a grandma, and an outstanding prayer warrior. Her books are filled with insight and experience growing up as a missionary kid and serve to encourage believers in walking daily with our Lord. 

You can learn more about Harriet at her author page

Monday, September 4, 2017

Content Edit Tips

You have a story? You've written, "The End." Now what? How does the story in the computer become a book that other folks can download or hold in their hands?

There are a number of ways to get your manuscript into a published, available form, but you will want it to be at its absolute best. If you're seeking traditional publication your manuscript needs to be perfected and polished. If you're wanting to indie publish, even moreso should your manuscript be perfect. No one wants to hear from a reviewer that the book was disappointing because there were extraneous typos. An even worse scenario would be for readers to be frustrated over inconsistencies or errors within the essential elements of your story.

Before you start worrying over punctuation and typos, you'll want to go through the 7 major elements
of your book. Tonight, Tuesday September 5, at 7PM Central, the Executive Editor of Write Integrity Press, Marji Laine Clubine, and her special guest, author Fay Lamb who is a highly sought freelance editor in her own right, will discuss the major elements of a fiction novel and how to edit for those elements.

In fact, this topic is such an in depth concept, Fay and Marji will be discussing it through December on Publishing Laine, a talk show on the "Along Came a Writer" network at Blogtalk Radio. If you have questions about editing, email DownPublishingLaine@gmail.com. If your question is used, you'll receive a free book - US residents only.

And if you're looking at this article after Tuesday, September 5, 2017, you can visit the Publishing Laine show at THIS LINK.

Friday, August 25, 2017

FROZEN NOTES by Fay Lamb

The final installment of Fay Lamb's Amazing Grace Series is available in E-book at a 40% discount for only a few more days. Until September 4th, you can order FROZEN NOTES for only $2.99! Don't miss out on this outstanding book and be some of the first to read it!


Lyric Carter’s dreams of fame and fortune in a rock band ended the day Balaam Carter left to pursue their dreams without her. When Balaam’s brother promised to love and protect Lyric and to love her son, Cade—his brother, Balaam’s child—as his own, she believed him. But Braedon turned her dreams into a nightmare by killing Balaam’s best friend, turning the gun on himself, and placing Lyric in the middle of a criminal investigation that could leave her and Cade dead.

Balaam Carter’s every dream has come true, but he’s living in a nightmare of addiction and regret. The famous rock star would give everything he has to return to the girl he once held in his arms—back when his only crime was running moonshine for his father. Now, he’s seeking redemption for all the destruction his dreams have brought to the people he loves.

No one said the road to recovery would be easy, but Balaam is also desperate to protect Lyric and the little boy he left behind from a state full of drug lords who believe Lyric has the evidence that will tumble their lucrative cartels. Balaam’s continued sobriety, his natural ability for finding his way out of trouble, and his prayers to God above for the strength to never let them down again are all that he has to protect Lyric and his son. And still, he doesn’t know if he’s up for the task.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

My Wondrous Cow by Peggy Cunningham


Have you experienced an undeniable God moment? For me, one such moment came in a phone call. The proof of this call is visible upon entering my living room because there she stands—a cow. You can’t miss her. She claims her corner spot––ten years and counting. At every glance her way, she reminds me of God’s incredible love. Proof of His love—a cow in my living room. Her story is recounted to curious visitors frequently.

How did she end up at my house? Love––God’s love.

I first saw the likes of her at a friend’s home and immediately fell in love with her. So, I set out to find a cow just like her to travel to Bolivia with me. We’ve carried many things back to Bolivia after furlough––but a cow?

My quest began in my hometown area in the beautiful mountains of western Pennsylvania where ski resorts welcome visitors from near and far. Little specialty shops lure visitors with their crafts and homemade delicacies. The aroma of freshly baked cinnamon rolls seeps into the rows of novelties as you walk the stores’ aisles. That’s where I found her standing in a corner. Just one problem stood in the way of the purchase—her price. Her delicate material and hand stitching by a local lady explained the exuberant price. No, my cow doesn’t have bristly hair and a cold rubbery nose or give milk. Her soft material invites caressing, and her button nose—literally a button nose––is pure cuteness.

She’s a vacuum cover.

I walked away after checking the price tag––$70. My prayer, “Well Lord, if you want me
to have a cow, I will.” I started down the stairs to the main level of the store––glancing
back a few times wondering if I could sew her myself.

At the bottom of the steps, my phone rang. It was my friend, Alice. She only spoke a few
words, “You have your cow; don’t bother looking for one.”

Stunned, I glanced at my husband. With tears dripping, I mumbled, “I have a cow!”

God loves me that much to care about a vacuum cover–– my wondrous cow. He provides
our needs and our wants. He loves us all that much. “To him alone who does great wonders, His love endures forever” (Psalm 136:4 NIV).

My cow testifies to His love and great wonders for me.

About the Author

Peggy Cunningham and her husband, Chuck, have been missionaries in Bolivia, S.A., since 1981. They have a children's ministry and work with national churches. Peggy's children's book series, Really Rare Rabbits, volumes one, two, and three, released by Pix-N-Pens Publishing in 2013, and her recently released devotional book, Dancing Like Bees, are all available on Amazon in print and on Kindle. You can learn more about Peggy at her author page on WriteIntegrity.com and also Amazon.com

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Preview our Newest Romantic Suspense

IMPERFECT LIES is the newest romantic suspense from the writing desk of Elizabeth Noyes. Right now, the e-book is available for pre-order at a 40% discount.

Catch Elizabeth Noyes discussing the category of suspense with Write Integrity Press's executive director, Marji Laine Clubine, on Publishing Laine on Tuesday, August 1, at 7PM Central on Blog Talk Radio. Here's the LINK.

And as a special gift, enjoy the first chapter:

“Yes!”
Mallory clapped a hand over her mouth, startled by how loud her shout sounded in the empty house. She wanted to giggle, jump up and down, and shout to the world. The New York Times had seen her article! They knew her name. Chicago and Seattle, too. They wanted her to come for job interviews. Her. Mallory Cameron, from Hastings Bluff, Idaho.
A dozen twirls around the kitchen left her a little breathless, but did nothing to slow the adrenaline rush. She flopped onto one of the tall barstools, jumped up again, and paced the kitchen. Of all the times for her family to disappear on her. Here she’d just received the biggest news of her life and had no one to share it with.
She could talk to TJ, but her brand-new sister-in-law wouldn’t be free until late in the afternoon. The principal of the elementary school in Challis where TJ taught frowned on cell phone use during class hours.
Jonas was an option. Mallory considered a run over to the big barn, but decided against it. The youngest of her brothers had left out before dawn that morning, concerned about one of the mares due to foal. If he took the time to listen to her, all he would offer was a caveman grunt, and then they’d both feel weird.
Her thoughts turned outside the family to her friend, Shea, who worked at the diner, but a quick glance at her wristwatch nixed that idea. By the time Mallory finished her chores, got cleaned up, and drove into town, the lunch rush would be in full swing there. Shea wouldn’t have time to breathe between orders, much less sit down and chat.
Mallory tapped her lips with an index finger and smiled. Hazel eyes came to mind. “James, it is,” she said aloud. “Even sheriffs have to eat sometimes, right?”
Her oldest brother, Garrett, had brought him home more than two years ago to recuperate from an injury. A shudder went through her at the memory of the ragged gunshot wound in his side. He’d been grumpy at his helplessness, but also grateful for help in his vulnerable state. She’d fallen a little in love with him that day, and sank deeper with every day that passed.
Regardless of whether he reciprocated her feelings, James was a friend. She tapped out a quick text and hit send. Free for lunch?
His reply came back seconds later. Sure. Come by the office.
Her stomach lurched. Would it upset him to know she might move away, or would he wish her well and say goodbye? She’d find out soon enough.
Be there at 11.
Chores first. Rascal, their foreman and her dad’s oldest friend, had asked her to feed and water the animals in the small barn adjacent to the house this morning. She didn’t mind, but it worried her a little. Rascal never asked for help. The foaling mare must have a problem.
In the mud room off the kitchen, Mallory slipped her cell phone in her jeans pocket and donned a heavy jacket. She stomped her feet into well-worn boots and stepped outside into the brisk morning air.
A flock of birds drew her attention as she walked to the barn. The black mass swooped and wheeled in complete synchronization, until they lit among the treetops behind the barn. Bare limbs swayed in the light breeze. Denuded branches coated with hoarfrost glistened in the weak sunlight and framed the dark clump against the gray sky.
A moment later, the birds erupted from the branches in a furious cloud, and disappeared beyond the forest.
Uneasiness made her skin crawl. Ravens had long been considered harbingers of bad luck, probably because of their glossy black plumage.
She shoved the superstitious thoughts away. Anything could startle a flock of birds—rustles in the underbrush, a glint of sunlight on metal, a sudden wind … or perhaps the primal instinct all animals possessed when danger loomed.
The same intuition that made the hair on her arms stand on end.
Unnerved by where her imagination led, she ended that train of thought and entered the heated barn through the small door on the side. The big sliding doors stayed closed in the winter months, opened only when the horses were taken out for riding or exercise.
Soft whinnies greeted her. The horses knew breakfast was late.
Mallory chattered, aware of how her voice soothed the animals. “I know, I know. I’m late. Bet you guys are hungry, huh? Well, hold your horses.” A laugh burst out at the pun Rascal always used.
Using the scoop in the barrel, she measured oats into one pail and fortified feed into another, enough for all seven horses. Let the feeding frenzy begin. Thank goodness, one of the hands would come over and muck the stalls later.
When she reached the empty stall at the end, her throat tightened. Buffy’s loss had hit her sister, Cassie, hard. All of them, really. Such a senseless waste.
Mallory blinked away unexpected tears and headed outside to tend to Edwina, the ornery old billy goat she and Cassie had rescued once upon a time. With everything stored away again, it was time for a much-needed shower.
Three steps outside the barn, the stillness made itself known. The wind had died down, but everyday sounds should still remain—bird titters, rustling branches, small animals in the underbrush, whinnies from the pastured horses.
That same awareness she’d felt on her way out here returned, a sense that if she turned at the right moment …
Wow, her imagination had a mind of its own this morning. She put a clamp on the wayward thoughts, but did a slow, three-sixty sweep of the surroundings anyway.
All of nature seemed to hold its breath.
Unnerved again, she hurried for the safety of the house.
Inside, the deadbolt on the kitchen door complained from lack of use. The family seldom locked up given the distance of the ranch from town. They’d even given up on the state-of-the-art security system that her middle brother, Wade, installed two years past. No one came this way unless they had a reason to. And when they did, the locked gate at the property’s entrance announced their presence.
Mallory considered rearming the security system as she shrugged out of her coat. Garrett always said you should trust your gut. She pulled off her boots, patted her pocket to make sure she had her phone, and started toward the front of the house. Whether imagined or real, she would feel better with locked doors and windows between her and whatever lurked out there.
The quiet snick of the front door lock and chain fed her uneasiness. She finished a sweep of the first-floor entry points, windows included, and decided to rearm the security system.
Jonas would probably set the alarm off when he came home. He’d get mad, and then make fun of her.
Tough.
She headed upstairs.
The grandfather clock in the foyer struck a double four-count of Westminster quarter chimes. Half past ten. Feeding the horses had taken longer than she expected.
She made short work of checking all the upstairs windows and hurried through her shower. Time for her battle gear. The black skinny jeans should get the job done, the ones Dad called ‘vacuum-sealed.’ Paired with her new Lively boots and the sapphire turtleneck that made her eyes pop, James wouldn’t stand a chance. He was, after all, a man.
Fifteen minutes later, Mallory pulled on her new Shearling jacket and a pair of leather gloves, and started for the barn again. Alert and wary, her eyes strayed from side to side, in constant motion.
She covered the distance between house and barn in record time, surprised when her anxiety didn’t return. What also surprised her was the big F-150 Super Crew Raptor in all its shiny black and chrome Ford beauty parked next to her sister’s little Ranger.
Jonas must have come back while she showered.
Mallory changed directions and stepped inside the barn. “Jo?”
No answer.
“Jonas?”
Her footsteps slowed. Diablo’s stall stood empty. Jonas had taken his horse and ridden into the mountains again. Which meant something bad must have happened.
Wade claimed Jonas had nightmares and sometimes just needed time alone, to find peace and quiet. Curious how her two oldest brothers had seen a ton of deadly action in the Middle East, but didn’t feel the same need for solitude that Jonas did.
These solitary jaunts of his had increased in frequency. Lately, his jokester nature made fewer and fewer appearances. How long would he stay away this time? Two days? Three? That thought made her worry grow. Jonas knew how much she hated staying alone in the house.
She whipped her cell phone out and pressed pound-five, the speed dial number for Jonas.
The call went straight to voice mail.
Of course, it did. She dialed pound-eight next.
Rascal answered on the first ring. “H’lo.”
“Why is Jonas’s truck parked at the house?”
A long silence. “We lost them both, the dam and the foal.”
Both? The news crushed her. How much worse for her brother. Jonas put his heart and soul into the Triple C breeding program. “He took Diablo.”
“Figured he would. Let him be, honey. If he’s not back in a couple of days, I’ll go check on him.”
“Thanks, Rascal. I’m so sorry.”
“Me, too, little girl.”
The thrill of the phone calls she’d received that morning disappeared. Her eagerness to see James receded. She almost sent him a text to cancel, but then wondered why. Not seeing James wouldn’t bring the mare or the foal back. And she still wanted to share her good news.
She climbed in her sister’s truck. After Cassie lost her driver’s license and Mallory totaled her Honda, there didn’t seem to be any urgency in replacing her car. A quick twist of the key and … nothing. Not even a click. A second attempt yielded the same result.
“Are you kidding?” Dad took it in for the 60,000-mile service last month. It should work fine. She pounded the steering wheel. “Aaaagh.”
Okay, now what?
Had the weather not turned bitter cold, she’d consider riding one of the horses into town. But that would take too long, plus she’d end up smelling like Eau de Horse Sweat. Ugh.
She could call James. He would come get her, but she wanted her own way home if things turned awkward between them.
She turned her head and stared at Jonas’s truck.
These jaunts of his typically lasted one or two days, sometimes more. He’d kill her if he found out. Jonas had named the darned thing, for Pete’s sake. He didn’t let anyone, not even Dad, drive Darcie.
But he wouldn’t know.
With a silent promise to be uber-careful, Mallory entered the small office inside the barn and twisted the combination on the lock box. An array of keychains hung on hooks inside, one for each of the family vehicles—a horsehead for Dad, a tiny BMW logo for Mom, and giant letters for the rest of them. She grabbed the “J” and hurried back outside. One click and … beep-beep. The doors unlocked. Lights flashed.
It took her several minutes to readjust the seat and mirrors to fit her more diminutive five-feet-five height. Jonas took after their dad and the other brothers. At well over six feet, they all had legs that stretched into tomorrow. “Please, Lord, help me remember all the settings so I can put everything back the way it was.”
Darcie’s roar made her little Ranger sound like a sewing machine. Mallory reached for the gearshift. She hesitated. What if Jonas did come back?
An old gas receipt nestled in the cup holder between the seats. A pen that had teeth marks on it lay on the floor. She scribbled a quick message and made a mad dash to secure the note under the Ranger’s windshield wiper.
Guilt assuaged, she climbed back inside and shoved the truck into gear. Time to go.
The drive from the house to the main road spanned not quite two miles. She slowed as the double-entry neared, and punched every button on the visor until one triggered the opening.
The left gate jerked, out of sync with the other one.
She made a mental note to tell Rascal, and then drove through in the middle of the lane.
A thump and a crunch sent a shockwave through the truck.
“No, no, no.” Mallory glanced in the rearview mirror and saw the faulty gate rebound off the rear of Jonas’s truck.
Once clear of the entry, she hopped out to check the damage. The glass bulb of the taillight remained intact, thank goodness, but a pile of red plastic shards lay on the ground, all that remained of the cover.
“Agggh!” She threw her hands up in the air. “Jonas will kill me.”
Her mind jumped into problem-solving mode. Toby, down at Wrangler’s Auto Parts and Service, could order a replacement. She’d pay to have it overnighted. Maybe he would deliver and install taillight cover, and take a look at Cassie’s truck while he was there.
Behind her the defective gate closed flush with the other one, but then it drifted ajar a good two-feet. A swift kick wouldn’t accomplish anything, except maybe bruise her foot. She squatted and gathered up the plastic fragments instead. Now, she was late, and Mr. Punctual, a.k.a., Sheriff James Evers, would give her grief about it.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Yoruba Proverb isn't Always True

Missionary kids are "playing" together again after twenty years.
by Harriet E. Michael

"Ogún ọmọdé kìí ṣeré ogún ọdún.”

This is a Yoruba proverb which translated into English says, “Twenty children cannot play together for twenty years.”

The Yoruba people are native to the country of Nigeria, West Africa where I was born and spent my childhood. They use proverbs often to explain the world around them. This proverb belongs to the category of “simple truth”—proverbs used to explain simple truths. It means people grow and make new friends. They move away and do not stay with the same group of people who were their childhood playmates. Some English expressions with the same meaning might be, “life goes on”, “times change and we must change with them”, or “nothing stays the same.”

Well, my group of childhood friends is the exception to this truth. Though we grew, changed, moved apart, and became very different individuals living in many different parts of the USA and even the world, we nonetheless managed to remain close friends. This unique group of individuals, who shared a common childhood in Nigeria in our beloved tropical homeland half a world away from where most of us live now, grew up calling each other’s parents aunt and uncle. Even as adults, we still feel a kindredship as though we are family—cousins perhaps.

One of my missionary cousins is Shirley Crowder. Some years ago, at a mission reunion, she handed me a book to which she had contributed. That was the first time I knew she was a writer. I don’t know when she discovered that I was a writer, too, but a few years ago, she suggested that we prayerfully consider writing a devotional book together. Through that experience, we learned that we work well together. We have similar views on scripture but different strengths when it comes to writing.

Since that first book, we have worked and continue to work together on other projects. She wrote a STUDY GUIDE to my book, PRAYER: IT'S NOT ABOUT YOU, and now we are working on two more books in our prayer series which will be released in the coming months by Write Integrity Press's nonfiction line, PixNPens.
So, I guess it could be said that I am once again “playing” with my childhood friend in spite of a lot more than twenty years having passed since we played together happily beneath the shade of mango trees.

About the Author:


Harriet E. Michael is a writer, gardener, wife of over 35 years, mother of four, and grandmother of one. Her first book with Pix-N-Pens Publishing, PRAYER: IT'S NOT ABOUT YOU, began an unexpected series she now calls the Prayer Project.

In coming months, this project will release its third book, a devotional on prayer. In 2018, she and her writing partner, Shirley Crowder, will release the final book, an anthology of prayer and the stories around them.

Learn more about Harriet and her books on her author page at WriteIntegrity.com.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

This New Release Will Have You Belly-Laughing!

Deborah Dee Harper has expanded her Road's End Mishap series. Her newest book delves into politics and romance - strange bedfellows, but not compared to the quirky collection of citizens in Road's End.

Be prepared to laugh aloud as you're reading and read it in public places at your own risk!

Here's the short version of FAUX PAS:


What would you do if you discovered, by accident, no less, that the President of the United States was attending your daughter’s wedding in less than two weeks?

Panic. You’d panic, I tell you.

That’s what the parents of the bride, Pastor Hugh Foster and his wife Melanie did. Add in a severe storm, crazy senior citizens who believe the POTUS lied his way into office, a crumbling, but historic church you happen to pastor, a cranky Secret Service agent, a four-year-old grandchild-to-be you know nothing about, and a son-in-law-to-be whose faith in the Lord has waned, and well … you’ve got yourself a humdinger of a wedding. Not to mention that same future son-in-law is a University of Michigan Wolverines fan (gasp!... not a Michigan State Spartans fan) and prefers sweet tea to unsweetened. My gosh, what is the world coming to? Talk about a FAUX PAS! Well, good luck with all that, Pastor Foster.

Oh, and Heaven help the president.

Enjoy the first scene:

The man in the doorway stood about as tall as your average redwood. He wore a navy-blue suit, white shirt, and a red and white striped tie. Put a few stars on his forehead, and he’d have made a great flag. You could slice carrots with the crease in his pants, but I doubted he had much experience in the kitchen aside from maybe bench pressing the stove. The old-fashioned cast iron kind, not one of today’s namby-pamby appliances.

I stood and walked toward him. “I’m Hugh Foster, sir. Welcome.”

He whipped out a snazzy-looking badge holder, flashed it in my face, then snapped it shut. Efficient.
“Ross MacElroy,” he said. “Pronounced Mack-el-roy. Accent on the ‘Mack.’ I’m from the government.”

Government? Take our county job handing out church basement repair permits seriously, do we?
“Nice to meet you, Mr. MacElroy. I’m the pastor here.” I stuck my hand out. He looked at it. Okay then. He’d fit right in around here. He had all the charm of my unconventional, and some would say, demented elderly neighbor, Sadie Simms, and the rugged good looks of … oh, I don’t know, maybe a T-Rex?

“From the church,” I added, as if I should own up to it. “The Christ Is Lord Church. Only church in Road’s End, I might add. My wife and I also run The Inn at Road’s End on the corner.” I gestured behind me. “Back there. Other side of Rivermanse Lane.”

“How many entrances?”

“Pardon me?”

“Entrances. To the church.”

“Oh. Well, just the two—front and back.”

He peered at me as if I had an escape hatch built under the pulpit for those moments when a pastor needs to make a quick getaway—one I wasn’t about to let him in on. “You sure about that?”

I nodded. “Yep,” but it sounded lame even to me. It came out more like “I’m pretty sure, but I suppose I’d crack under torture, so please, no thumbscrews.” I cleared my throat and tried again. 

“Yes, that’s it. Say, would you like some coffee before we get down to business?”

Mr. MacElroy, from the government, scanned the sanctuary from side to side and back to front without appearing to move his head. How did he do that?

He nodded; I wasn’t sure if that meant he wanted coffee or the coast was clear or he’d decided I wasn’t withholding valuable egress or ingress data. So, I went out on a limb—coffee it was.

“Well, we can either sit in here or go into my office.” I pointed to the sanctuary doors behind him. “In either case, the coffee’s back there, so I’ll just go get us some. Take anything in it?”

Silence. I took that as a no. I left him and his X-ray vision to their probing evaluations and scuttled out. I peeked in on Grace, our church secretary, before heading into our micro-kitchen. “We have a visitor, Grace. Our inspector guy, Mr. Ross MacElroy, accent on the ‘Mack’. Bit of an odd duck. 

Flashed a badge at me; says he’s from the government.”

She shrugged. “Not sure why’d he’d admit that, but then some folks take their work seriously, I guess. At least, he’s prompt. I didn’t think he’d be here for another half hour or so.”

“That’s all well and good, but I hope he doesn’t take his job so seriously he denies our permit. If we don’t get this building shored up pretty darned soon, we’re gonna find ourselves working eye-to-eye with Roscoe and the rest of the gang out in the cemetery.”

She sighed, shooed me away with the flick of a finger, and said, “Least Roscoe’s quiet. Go away.” 

Grace is a subtle soul.

I started to walk away then remembered my manners. “Coffee?”

“Shoo!” Guess not.

I gave her a mock salute and left. I poured two mugs of coffee from our ten-year-old Mr. Coffee and returned to the foyer. I spotted Mr. MacElroy in my office. He stood with his hands behind his back, rocking on his heels, peering out the wavy-glassed front window at the parking lot. I wondered if he’d had time to peruse my files or hack into my computer. Hope he didn’t find my miserable Solitaire scores.

“Here you go,” I said, setting the mug in front of him. “Nice and hot. Grace makes great coffee.”

He nodded. “I know.”

Right. I motioned to the chair in front of my desk and sank into my own. He sat—I marveled that the chair didn’t collapse—took a sip of coffee, then set the mug down and pulled out a small leather-bound notebook and expensive-looking pen. “Let’s get down to business.”

I nodded. “Shoot.”

His head snapped up. “That supposed to be funny?”

“Uh, no, I don’t think so. Do you want it to be?”

He glared at me for a few more seconds then tapped his pen on the pad, cleared his throat, and scanned the information in his book. “All right then. You’re Hugh Foster, recently retired Air Force chaplain. Married to Melanie Foster.”

I nodded.

“Your parents and in-laws are still living in Michigan where you and your wife grew up and eventually met at Michigan State University,” he continued. “Melanie majored in horticulture; you went on to become a pastor. You served in the Air Force for twenty-seven years then retired here to Road’s End, Virginia, bought The Inn at Road’s End—a lifelong dream of both you and your wife—on the southeast corner of Gloucester Street and Rivermanse Lane. Shortly after opening up for business, you assumed the pulpit at the Christ Is Lord Church across the road from said inn on the southwest corner of the aforementioned Gloucester Street and Rivermanse Lane.”

Right. The very church we’re sitting in, on the only corner in the entire town. I hoped he couldn’t read minds.

He stopped to take a breath. I would have, too, but I was fresh out, so I blinked vigorously instead.

He flipped back a few pages in his notebook and continued with my life story. “While in the Air Force, you were stationed at eleven bases, lived in thirteen different houses, and served in both Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom. Lived outside the country for a few of those years, raised your three kids—now all grown. One of them is getting married this June—on the 20th. A daughter. I have their names,” he glanced up, “but then you know them, don’t you?”

I gulped. I had a moment before, but I wasn’t so sure anymore.

“While in the military, you and Melanie were active in your communities, had numerous friends, and visited Virginia—Colonial Williamsburg and its environs, in particular—every chance you got.”

“Wait, wha …?” That was me, always the glib one.

He held up his hand. “There’s more. As recently as this past winter, you and your wife and most of the townspeople were involved in an altercation in which … uh, let’s see, a late model Hummer was blown up by a person named Sherman DeSoto. I see he had an accomplice named Sophie who was never charged.” He paused and made a notation in his notebook; I wondered if Sophie was about to be arrested. Good luck with that, Ross.

“Shortly after, a hostage situation occurred involving several senior citizens,” he droned on, “one man was shot, though not fatally. Coincidentally, shortly after said altercation, renovations were made to the church with monies collected by one Bristol Diggs, former homicide detective who served a year in prison on felony charges before being released under mysterious circumstances, retiring from the police force, changing his identity, and moving to Road’s End to become a part-time church caretaker and town handyman. Am I correct so far?”

I nodded. Stupidly.

“Is there anything else you want to tell me?”

I tried to think of something he didn’t already know. “I had Cheerios for breakfast.”

He stared at me with those beady, T-Rex eyes. “You find this amusing, Pastor Foster?”

I shrugged. “Well, yes, I guess I do. I mean all this to dig out of the mess we’re in? To shore up a crumbling foundation? All we’re asking for is clearance. Should be a simple enough operation.”

“Is that what you call it? A mess? A crumbling foundation? And you’re asking for clearance for just what operation?” He said the last word as though he were vomiting.

This guy was starting to get my goat. I ignored his questions. “According to the information I’ve been given by Bristol Diggs—and given his expertise in this area, I trust his judgment—this is necessary, even urgent. This situation needs immediate attention before everything falls in around our heads. And the operation I’m talking about is simple. Out with the old, in with the new. You know about these things. What’s so difficult about fixing what’s broken? After all, you’re with the government, right?” It occurred to me that I was probably asking the wrong guy considering that part about working for the government.

His glare could have boiled water. “Let me get this straight. You’re admitting that you’re planning to undermine the current foundation and replace it with a new one, right? And this Bristol Diggs you’re collaborating with—would that be the same Bristol Diggs involved in the altercation this past December?”

I stared at him. “How many Bristol Diggs can there be? And no, I’m not undermining anything. The damage is done. Decades of neglect have brought us to this point. Bristol assures me it'll be a relatively painless procedure. The transition from old to new will be seamless, and once we’re finished, no more worries about the world crashing down around our shoulders.”

The man literally puffed up like one of those pans of popcorn you heat on the stove—probably the same stove he bench presses—and pulled himself to his full height, about nine feet from my angle. “I’m afraid, Pastor Foster, that I can’t allow this to go on any further.”

When I stood, I noticed that even though he wasn’t nine-feet tall, I was still considerably shorter. It crossed my mind to stand on my chair so I could address him at eye level, but then I remembered it was on casters. Just my luck, I’d pitch backward through the window to the parking lot behind me and frankly, the building had enough things wrong with it without me adding a broken window to the list. I settled for standing on tiptoes. “Listen, Mr. MacElroy, we seem to have gotten off on the wrong foot here. If your agency can’t accommodate me, I understand. You have bosses, too. All I seem to be doing is shooting the messenger.”

Hard to say what happened after that. One minute I was standing behind my desk with my head thrown back at a forty-five-degree angle admiring Ross the Redwood, and in the next, I was sprawled face down on my desk with my nose pressed into my first draft of Sunday’s sermon. Hulk’s little brother and his beefy knee seemed bent on smashing my spine through my lungs and nailing my ribs to the oak desktop.

I remember wondering, as I drifted toward asphyxiation, if he’d turned green.


Friday, June 30, 2017

Welcome to Our Newest Release!

We're so excited to share about Betty Thomason Owen's second book of her Kinsman Redeemer series! SUTTER'S LANDING is a visit to a simpler, more gentle time where neighbors went out of their way to help you, and love expanded like the blossoms of a rose.

Here's the short version: 

Still reeling from tragic losses, Connie and Annabelle Cross face life with their signature humor and grace, until fresh hope arrives on their doorstep.

In early spring of 1955, Annabelle Cross and her daughter-in-law, Connie have nearly made it through the first winter on their own. Then the skies open up as West Tennessee and much of the south endures one of the worst floods in history. As many of their neighbors endure losses due to the flooding, Annabelle and Connie sit tight on dry ground.

As spring gives way to summer, Annabelle begins to dread Connie’s upcoming marriage and removal to Sutter’s Landing. Though she’s happy to note the growing affection between Alton Wade and her daughter-in-law, their marriage means Annabelle will be on her own for the first time in her life.

Connie’s doubts increase when Alton’s bigoted brother Jensen uses every opportunity to drive a wedge between them. Is she doing the right thing? Did she move too quickly? Unexpected summer visitors and anticipation of a new neighbor provide diversion and open possibilities for both Annabelle and Connie.

Enjoy this preview:

Chapter One
April 8, 1955
Trenton, Tennessee

Connie Cross sat straight up in bed. What was that sound? Slowly, her vision adjusted to the semidarkness of her room. Outside, but close—too close. A gunshot? She slipped out of bed, donned her robe and tiptoed through the next room where her mother-in-law Annabelle lay. A soft snore told her the woman still slept.

Quiet as possible, Connie opened the back door and stood looking through the screen. Chilled air curled around her ankles and sent a shiver up her spine. She pushed the screen door open. Outside, on the small back porch, she stood for a moment to get her bearings. A thick, white fog enveloped the surrounding area. She wrapped her arms around herself for warmth and peered into the mist.

One of the hens broke into a loud cackle, which wasn’t unusual, though a bit early in the morning for such a racket. Connie was just about to retreat to the warmth of her bed when she caught movement out of the corner of her eye. She squinted in that direction, listening. Was someone approaching the house? An odd noise, like an animal snuffling, was the only sound. Her scalp prickled. She trembled, though not because of the cold. The sound moved closer.

Gradually, a shape emerged, advancing through the mist. Before she could make out what it was, there came a sharp whistle. Her back straightened as her nerves uncoiled. She recognized that whistle. The thing halted. Connie stepped forward. “Samson, is that you?”

The dog whined, and gave a soft yip. He trotted closer, nose to the ground, tail at attention.

A smile warming her insides, Connie peered into the mist. “Alton?” Their nearest neighbor, Alton Wade, was also her fiancé, though they hadn’t publicly announced it yet. A moment later, she made out his lanky frame, moving toward her.

“Samson, sit,” he said.

The dog sat.

Alton stopped below the porch, too far away for her to make out the face beneath the brim of his hat. Dressed in a loose jacket, he held a disjointed shotgun in the crook of his arm. “Did I wake you?” His voice was low, as though he was not yet fully awake.

Keenly aware of her state of undress, Connie kept both arms crossed over the front of her blue chenille robe as she crept closer to the edge of the porch. “You did. Was that a shot I heard?”

“Yes, it was. A fox was about to have herself a morning snack on Miss Annabelle’s chickens.”

Connie caught her breath. “Did you kill it?”

“Of course, I did.”

Connie could hear the prideful grin on his face. She gave him an answering one. “Of course, you did.”

Behind her, the screen door inched open and Momma spoke. “Killed what?”

Connie turned to look at her. “Alton killed a fox about to get your chickens.”

“Land sakes. Well, thank you kindly, son. Will you come in and warm yourself?”

He gave a low chuckle as he shifted his stance. “No, thank you, Miss Annabelle. I’ve got to get back home and see to my animals. I’ll take that vixen’s carcass with me, if you don’t mind.”

She giggled. “Not in the least. You take it with my blessing.”

Alton hesitated another moment, while his gaze burned into Connie’s. He lifted one hand to tug the brim of his hat. “Good morning, ladies. I’ll be back around later on.”

“Good morning,” Connie whispered. I love you, her heart sang, as a thrill chased up her spine.

Momma held the door for her. “You best get in here before you catch your death.”

Death. As she turned toward the door, Connie glanced over her shoulder to the place where Alton had disappeared into the mist. By now, he’d be back at the chicken coop, gathering his prey. Would death steal him away from her, too? She sucked in a jagged breath as the screen door eased shut behind her. She sincerely hoped not. But thoughts like these were a daily struggle. When did one overcome such a fear?

It was less than a year since she and Momma had been widowed. Ray Cross and both his sons had drowned in a boating accident. Three lives snuffed out in a moment’s time. She rubbed her arms against another tremor that shook to the very core of her being. Forcing those thoughts aside, she moved purposefully toward her bedroom, to make the bed and get dressed before little Joseph David awoke. She hoped he’d sleep for another hour or so, since he’d been awake so much last night.

As she straightened the bedclothes, Momma shuffled in from the kitchen. “I’ve gotta get a peek at my grandbaby.” She bent over the cradle for a moment. “Good morning, precious.” Before leaving, she pressed a kiss against Connie’s cheek. “Coffee’s on.”

Connie hoped she’d brewed it good and strong. Perhaps the grayness of the morning had set her on edge, she wasn’t sure, but she’d need to pull herself up and out of this melancholy soon. She glanced at the snoozing baby and breathed a soft prayer.

She and Alton had sat together at church for the first time this past Sunday. Up until that time, they’d been discreetly separated by his mother and Momma. The rumor mill that had been a mere trickle, let loose like a flood. The looks cast her way after the service told her she was not a popular choice for this eligible bachelor.

Alton’s older brother Jensen’s gaze was the most brutal of all. She could easily understand why he was such a success as a lawyer. His wife, who had never said two words to Connie, looked down her regal nose before turning her back, feigning an interest in the altar bouquet.

Connie blew out a breath in an effort to cleanse her mind of the troubling memories. The only expression she should be remembering was the one on Alton’s face. She smiled at that thought. His eyes had taken possession of hers, searched the depths, and left her weak in the knees. In church. She’d scurried down the aisle to join Momma who’d been busy showing off her precious bundle. Joseph David was the delight of the senior ladies’ Sunday School class these days.

Momma was certainly humming a happy tune when Connie entered the kitchen a few minutes later. The sweet, spicy smell of cinnamon rolls filled the air. Connie breathed it in. “Oh, my, what’s the occasion?” Momma usually saved cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning, or once in a while on Easter Sunday.

“Does it have to be an occasion?” She cast a grin over her shoulder as she drew out a pan of the fragrant pastries. “I just had a craving for cinnamon, and this is what came of it.”

“I’m not complaining,” Connie assured her. She crossed to the dish shelf, grabbed a cup and poured herself some coffee. While Momma iced the rolls, Connie stirred the eggs. Their hens weren’t laying yet, so Mrs. Byrd, their neighbor across the road, kept them well supplied in return for a bit of help. Connie had learned to gather the eggs, clean out the chicken coop, milk the cows, and feed the horses. She enjoyed most of it, and Momma didn’t mind watching the baby. It was a lot easier than picking cotton. She hoped her cotton-picking days were over.

Momma set a heaping plate of rolls in the middle of the table. “I expect to see Riley one of these mornings. He did promise to plow my garden.”

Connie ladled a serving of scrambled eggs onto their plates. She set the skillet back on the stove. “Maybe he expects Alton to do it.”

“Now why would he expect that? Y’all haven’t announced anything.” She settled into her chair and waited for Connie to join her.

“I imagine by now, it’s probably all over town.”

Momma giggled. “Only that he’s interested. Interest doesn’t obligate a man to take care of a widow’s chores. Riley’s one of my oldest friends. Besides, he promised.”

Joseph David decided now might be a good time to wake. He let out a squall just as someone knocked on the front door.

Momma frowned as she pushed away from the table. “You get the baby, I’ll get the door.”

Curiosity drove Connie to peek out the window on the way to the bedroom. Why had she done that? A black sedan with an emblem on the door sat in the drive. A man in a dark suit stood on the porch. Not again. Please, God, not again.