About

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I'm most recently a writer.  In the six plus decades of my life, I've been a wife, mother, grandmother, Jill of all trades though mistress of but a few, and most of the time pretty content with my lot.  As a much younger person, I believed I was called to write, but life and living distracted me for most of those decades.  An unwilling transplant from the South,  twenty years ago I unintentionally landed in the geographical center of the US.  Writing came about in part due to the unwillingness, I expect.  When caring for family, gardening, and renovating a century-old house failed to provide sufficient creative outlets, I turned to the one thing I always intended to do.  Eight titles later, I'm grateful I found myself while Lost in the Plains!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

A Valley Rise Christmas--Day Eight

This scene from Heart of My Own Heart joins Stani and Emily for Christmas morning at Valley Rise Farm--




Emily was in the kitchen just after dawn, humming along with the carols on the radio as the bacon sizzled and when Stani crept up behind her at the range, she let out a little sigh.  “You didn’t really think you could startle me?  I could feel you coming all through the house.”

“Feel me?”  He lifted her hair and nuzzled her neck, his hand finding the little bulge at her waist.

“You’re radiating something this morning.  Christmas joy, maybe?  I could hear it echoing in your footsteps.”  She turned in his arms, a twinkle in her eyes.  “Besides, I heard you banging around in the hall closet.  What is it you have hidden in there, anyway?”

“Christmas surprise.  But not until after breakfast.”  His kiss was meant as a reminder of all the past breakfasts they’d shared, including the one on Christmas morning only a year ago. 

They didn’t rush through the meal, and John joined them while they were still at the table, pouring a cup of tea and helping himself to a chunk of cinnamon bread.  “What’s on the agenda this morning?” 

His eyes widened as Emily went down the list.  Open a few gifts, dress for church.  Have a quick lunch after church, then start dinner preparations, which would involve a list of things all its own. 

“No just sitting around the fireplace with our feet up?  Yesterday was hectic enough.  I could use a day off.”

Their voices rose in unison protest.  “John, it’s Christmas Day!  This is the real celebration.  Friends and family all gathered for a meal, music and gifts.  Tonight, when we’re all so full we can’t move, then we’ll sit by the fire.”  Emily was on her feet, pulling at Stani’s hand.  “But right now, I want to show you something, darling.  In fact, if I don’t, I’ll just explode.  Get your coat.  Hurry!”

Laughing and rolling his eyes at John, he let her lead him to the front door.  “Really, love, you want me to go outside now?  It’s snowing!”

“Only a little flurry.  And there’s nothing much on the ground.  It won’t take long!”  Her excitement was tangible, as she bundled into her coat.  And it was infectious.  He realized his own heart was racing as he did the same.

He took a moment to tie her muffler high around her ears.  “Are you sure you can’t just tell me what it is I’m supposed to see, without running out into the yard yourself?”

She grabbed his hand and pulled him through the door.  “No!  I want to see your face.”

He followed her across the yard toward the gate, struck by the stark winter scene that spread in every direction from the high ground on which the house was situated.  Beyond the surrounding valley, the distant ridges were nearly obscured by a blue haze.  The ground underfoot was covered with a light dusting of dry snow, and huge flakes drifted lazily through the air.  Near the gate, a lone pair of cardinals took flight, their bright wings a startling intrusion of color into the gray landscape.  The silence was profound, and he took a moment to appreciate the peace of this place.  And then Emily pulled him through the gate and came to an abrupt halt, steering him around until he stood facing the house again.  The satisfied smile on her face suggested they had reached their destination, but he couldn’t imagine what he was expected to see.

“Look, Stani!”  She nodded toward the fence, or was it meant to be toward the house?  Still, he couldn’t grasp this marvelous thing she was showing him so proudly.

Finally, his eyes fell on the sign.  The large oval that bore the name of Valley Rise Farm.  It had been newly painted, the letters a fresh, crisp green against the white background.  Beneath, scripted in red, were the names of the farm’s proprietors.  Now, instead of the former “J.E. Haynes,” it read “S. and E. Haynes-Moss.”  When he couldn’t find words, she hugged his arm and said softly, “James brought it out and hung it last night.  Do you like it?  I decided to use our names the way you did for the foundation.” 

He took another moment to recognize what this really meant to her.  It was her farm, her legacy from her parents.  Now she was adding his name to the most treasured thing in her life.  “I love it, darling girl.  You know, I even had a thought about it, when we were shopping for the caretaker’s home.  But then I decided it was too much yours to ever change it.  Haynes has always been here, and for some chap named Moss to move in was just too overreaching.”  He wrapped her in his arms, staring into the intense gray depths of her eyes. 

“Not overreaching at all.  It’s yours now too.  It’s ours, Stani.  And that J.E. Haynes person is gone forever.”  Her kiss was deep and sweet and for a time he was lifted off the cold hillside, swept away by the miracle of this girl in his arms, who carried his child deep inside her, whose love had brought him to a place he could call home. 

Friday, December 23, 2016

A Valley Rise Christmas--Day Seven

   We move next to Heart of My Own Heart to join Stani and Emily as they celebrate Christmas at the farm--their first Christmas as a married couple. 


For the first time, Stani Moss performed in the church where a year earlier he had begun his own journey to meet the Christ Child.  On the night of their return to the farm, Pastor Mike had asked if he would consider playing at the Christmas Eve service and he had immediately agreed.  Now, as he sat with Emily and John in a pew full of friends who had been strangers a year earlier, he knew he had completed that journey.  Watching the cherub choir, now under the care of Sara McConnell, seated around the crèche just as they had been with Emily that night, he felt the same tingle of anticipation.  Glancing at her candlelit face beside him, he saw much the same emotion shining in her eyes, and the corners of her mouth were turned up in that sweet, tranquil smile he so loved.  Beyond her, James and Penny sat hand in hand, their eyes meeting briefly as if to confirm the step they had taken together such a short time ago.
At the rear of the already crowded church, a whispered commotion could be heard.  Turning, Stani saw that Jack had arrived and was ushering in a group of late arrivals.  Leading the way down the aisle, he was followed by Bobby, walking slowly and leaning heavily on a cane.  Next to him, Ruthie carried little Emily, who gazed down on the faces along the way, her eyes bright with curiosity.  Three little boys followed, Robbie Joe bringing up the rear.  Stani watched their progress, as Jack brought them straight to the front of the church, where they filed into the pew directly opposite.  From his seat on the aisle, Robbie Joe looked across at Stani and smiled his brightest gap-toothed grin.  As he turned to leave, Jack laid a hand on Stani’s shoulder.  “Merry Christmas, son.”
The organ began to play, as the last of the congregation filed in, and when Pastor Mike took his place in the pulpit, a chill touched the back of Stani’s neck.  “This is the night of brilliant stars and heralding angels.  This is the night of humble shepherds and watchful wise men.  This is the night of our Savior’s birth.  Let us worship God together, on this night of miracles.”
Stani listened to the scriptures and carols, Emily’s hand tucked securely in his.  At the appointed time, he rose and took his violin to stand near the manger.  Aware of the wide-eyed cherubs, watching from the other side of the crèche, he smiled.  Then closing his eyes, he played.  What Child Is This?, a tune as familiar as his own breathing, tonight infused with a new spirit.  When the choir joined him, the music soared, swirling within the little church to draw in every listener.  In his mind’s eye, he saw Emily, her eyes glistening in the candlelight, her hand resting lightly over their unborn child.  His heart swelled in his chest, filled with more love and longing than he could ever have imagined a year ago, when he had stood at the back of this church and for the first time recognized the voice of God speaking so clearly.
     When he returned to his seat, he met the gaze of the little boy opposite, a gaze so full of awe that he felt another shiver of emotion.  For a long moment, he stared at Stani as if seeing him for the first time.  But when Stani smiled into the dark eyes, Robbie returned an adoring grin and darting across the aisle, threw himself into Stani’s arms.  Wordlessly, he gathered the child to him, momentarily overwhelmed by his own response.  This boy, so earnest and open, would never understand the power of his simple gesture.  But for Stani, who had yearned for the courage to show the same kind of gratitude to the man he most wanted to please, Robbie Joe’s arms, tightly hugging his neck, were the finest Christmas gift he could ever receive.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

A Valley Rise Christmas--Day Six

Late on a very eventful Christmas Eve night, as Stani reflects on all he's experienced in a few short hours, he and Emily welcome in their first Christmas together in one final scene from Hearts Unfold.

 They sat by the fire for a long time in contented silence.  He could believe in miracles after this night.  His experience in church, witnessing the birth of a baby, and the discovery of just how intensely he loved her, wanted to protect and care for her, were all miraculous.  Every hour with her seemed to change him, lead him forward to a new sense of himself.  He tried to recall the pastor's words at the close of the service tonight.  Words like strengthen and support, honor and serve; words which gave direction, pointing to a better life.  Peace and love, and courage.  He had begun to believe he might be capable of much more than he'd ever attempted.  With inspiration in the form of this girl now nestled so warmly at his side, he might learn to be the kind of man she deserved.

Three years earlier, it seemed to him now, he had in fact died, only to be born into this new life.  If almost losing his life had earned him this amazing woman's love, then he could accept the idea that there was a plan, a divine vision for them.  There was so much more to learn, more to discover on this journey; but he knew tonight he had at last opened his heart and, as she had promised, God had been there, had spoken to him, and he had recognized his voice.

“Emily, it's almost Christmas.  Should we put the baby in the manger now?"

Together, they went to the mantel and she took the tiny figure from its hiding place.  Ever so gently, she placed it on the little straw bed.  Softly, lovingly, she spoke words familiar, but never before understood.  “And he shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

A Valley Rise Christmas--Day Five

This one of my favorite scenes from Hearts Unfold, as Christmas Eve continues. . .

     With each reading of the beloved scriptures, with the singing of each carol, she found deeper peace.  Her littlest charge, Jenny, curled on her lap and at times one or the other of the children snuggled against her as they watched the glimmer of the candles and listened to the choir.  When she knelt before them, leading them in the first stanza of “Away in a Manger,” their sweet, clear voices were the only sound in the church.  Tears filled her eyes.  They not only sang like cherubs, but their faces glowed with the wonder of their accomplishment.  As the choir joined in the next stanza, she felt a shiver of joy.  This was her home, her church, her people.  This was where she was meant to build her life.
     When they returned to their places near the altar, her tiniest cherub tapped her on the shoulder and pointed into the congregation, calling out a name she couldn't quite understand.  Emily put her finger to her lips in a silent shush, and the little girl sweetly imitated her gesture.  With a soundless laugh, she gathered the child onto her lap, hugging her close, but something made her look back in the direction Jenny had pointed.  At the rear of the church, where several latecomers stood along the wall, she spotted Jack, rain glistening on his uniform jacket.  She was surprised.  He’d planned to attend the eleven o'clock service, she was sure.  She wondered briefly if there had been some kind of emergency.
     The congregation sat in rapt attention, all eyes focused on Pastor Mike as he read the final passage of the nativity story.  The first chords of “Silent Night” sounded and Emily got to her feet, checking that the children were holding hands as instructed.  When she looked back for Jack, the place where he'd been standing was empty.  Still wondering about his disappearance, she started to sing, getting through the first measure before her voice caught in her throat.
     She could see him clearly, framed by the heads and shoulders of rows of familiar faces.  His eyes, fixed on a place somewhere above her head, were glistening with unshed tears.  Jenny pulled gently on her hand, and she lifted the little girl to her hip.  When she raised her eyes, he was looking straight at her, smiling tenderly.  Jenny reached up and touched her face, and she realized tears were coursing down her cheeks.  Lowering her head, she kissed the tiny fingertips, smiling into the little face beside her.  The hymn ended and in the hush which followed, everyone stood with heads bowed, waiting.
     Pastor Mike's voice rang in the silence with the words of the Charge.  “Go out into the world in peace; have courage; hold on to what is good. . . .” Through the roaring in her ears, over the pounding of her heart, she could barely make out the familiar words. . . “support the weak; help the suffering; honor all men; love and serve the Lord.”  In her arms, Jenny cuddled closer, resting her head on Emily’s shoulder with a contented little sigh as the service came to a close.  “The Lord bless you and keep you.  The Lord be kind and gracious unto you.  The Lord look upon you with favor and give you peace.  Amen.”
     The first notes of the postlude thundered around her.  She stood still, her heart thumping against her ribs.  Parents came forward, complimenting her and the children, collecting their offspring.  She passed Jenny to her father's arms, accepted hugs from the other children.  One of the mothers put a wrapped gift in her hands, but she was only vaguely aware of the activity surrounding her.  Pastor Mike was coming toward her, a smile on his face, his hand extended.
     And then he was beside her, his arm gently encircling her waist.  Somehow, she found her voice.  “Pastor Mike, this is my very good friend, Stani Moss.”

Monday, December 19, 2016

"Katie" is Nominated for Best Romance!



Katie Lost and Found, a story of lost love found and second chances in life, is currently nominated in the Romance category here-- http://www.goldenboxbooks.com/golden-book-award-contest.html
Your vote would be much appreciated! You can even cast your vote more than once--as often as you like! It takes about 30 seconds, no signing in, or revealing your identity, or anything!









 

Sunday, December 18, 2016

A Valley Rise Christmas--Day Four

Three years later, Emily is once again a permanent resident of her childhood home.  And once again, she prepares to celebrate Christmas Eve with her friends and neighbors.  For the first time, she has volunteered to direct the children's choir, her "Cherubs," as they participate in the service.

 Christmas Eve dawned gray and cold.  The forecast called for rain, not snow, and the low clouds held the promise of a gloomy day.  But Emily refused to be discouraged.  She made up her mind to be brutally cheerful, no matter how much the pain under her ribs reminded her of Stani's absence.  She had plenty to keep her busy, and the time would pass, whether she chose to be happy or sad.  As music blared through the speakers, filling the house, she hummed along, even danced a few steps across the kitchen floor, reminding herself of all she had to be happy about.  If everything else paled in comparison to the sight of his face, the touch of his hand, so be it.  Blessings were blessings weren't they, none of them to be counted as anything less.
At six she ate her supper and dressed for church.  She had been to Martha Jean's and, as a gift to herself, purchased a ridiculously expensive new blouse.  White silk, with an open collar and flowing sleeves caught at the wrist in lace cuffs, it was the perfect complement to the camel skirt and dark green vest she’d bought in the fall.  She loved the elegant length of the skirt, falling just above her ankles.  It would be appropriately graceful as she sat on the floor with her little ones during the service.  She wasn’t often overly concerned with her appearance, but tonight she took special pains. In honor of the occasion, she wanted to look her best. 

Before she left, she moved Joseph and Mary into the stable, with the noble donkey grazing on the hearth nearby.  The shepherds she placed on a table not far away, where the heralding angel's message could reach them.  Finally, she set the angel directly beneath the star hanging above the mantel.  Leaving the lamp shining in the window, she started out for church just as rain began to fall in earnest.

The little stone church was packed, buzzing with excitement as families gathered and friends greeted one another as if they hadn’t been together in months, rather than days.  Her cherubs, with their shining clean faces and carefully brushed hair, seemed suitably impressed with the importance of their roles in the service, even a little subdued.  Emily could only hope that attitude lasted through the hour they spent in full view of the congregation.

But as the music began, and she led them to their places, all her anxiety melted away.  It was a sacred night and even if the children were restless or sang a little off key, nothing could cast a shadow over the beauty of this, her favorite night of the year.

Friday, December 16, 2016

A Valley Rise Christmas--Day Three




Continuing in Hearts Unfold, Emily returns to her home church on the arm of her godfather, Jack Deem,
and is reminded of all she has missed since she left for college.  A chance conversation also reminds her of the possibility of miracles even in the most dire of circumstances.




          
In the narthex, the smell of pine boughs and the glow of candlelight wrapped around her, drawing her in.  The sanctuary was already crowded.  Local families swelled with out-of-town guests, sleepy children in the arms of proud grandparents, several young men in uniform, their mothers or sweethearts clinging to their arms, all gathered in anticipation of the hour to come. From her seat next to Jack, she searched the familiar faces.  Down front, Sara McConnell sat between sons Peter and James.  Peter had let his hair grow longer, now that he was at college, and the blonde mane was very becoming.  He was even better looking than the last time Emily had seen him, which must have been almost two years ago.  James, home on leave from Southeast Asia, was in uniform.  Thin and deeply tanned, he looked older, and there was a tense, haggard expression on his face as he gazed down at his mother.
They’d been close friends; Peter and Emily the same age and James four years older, they had played together as children.  She’d even dated Peter briefly during their sophomore year, ending the relationship with an uneasy truce after some awkward attempts at romance.  She smiled as she recalled telling a red-faced Peter he could keep his sweaty hands to himself if that was all he was interested in.  But they had put that aside during their senior year, when she'd been struggling to adjust to life alone and James had been preparing to go overseas.  The three of them had supported each other, finding comfort in the fact they were each moving into a future filled with uncertainty.
Slipping closer to Jack, she looked around in amazement.  This gathering looked like every other Christmas Eve service she'd attended through the years.  The same smiling faces, some looking a bit frail now with age; the same murmur of voices, using every moment to visit before the first notes sounded from the organ.  There were smiles of surprised recognition, and she knew the news of her presence would spread through the congregation by the end of the service.
Behind her, a man and woman were deep in soft-spoken conversation, commenting on the artificial trees with their tiny electric candles that stood grouped behind the crèche figures at the front of the church.  The man was saying what a pity about those cedar trees.  His wife whispered, “You did your best.”
“But it's still a shame not to have real trees.  I just couldn't get to 'em before the ice came.  Guess they're still stacked up on the side of the road by the springs.  Pity, wasting all those trees.”  The woman shushed him softly.
Emily gasped at the vision of a black clad figure, sailing through the darkness and coming to rest on a nest of soft cedar branches.  She looked at Jack's profile, but he seemed not to have heard.  Could that have been what happened?  If the trees intended to decorate the church had indeed cushioned his fall, how could anyone deny Stani had been saved by an act of God?
The organ came to life, and she saw Pastor Mike step to the pulpit, raising his hands for silence.  Over the soft music, Emily listened to his warm, strong voice as he called the people to worship.
         “This is the night of our savior's birth.  Let us open our hearts in welcome as we come together to worship God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit on this most miraculous of nights.”

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

A Valley Rise Christmas--Day Two



Last time, in Hearts Unfold we saw Emily Haynes preparing her house in anticipation of Christmas with family heirloom decorations, honoring traditions established through the years by her parents.  Today we meet Stani Moss, who has known little or nothing of tradition and yet recognizes the beauty and mystery of the Christmas Eve celebration without understanding its meaning.


Tuning out the conversation in the front seat, he turned his thoughts ahead to the rehearsal tomorrow afternoon.  Robert would drive him to the church where he was scheduled to play for midnight Mass, immediately following the radio broadcast on Christmas Eve.  The evening would be hectic, he knew, but he never turned down the opportunity to perform in a church.  He had played in cathedrals and synagogues, churches and chapels.  The same sense of intimacy, no matter the size of the building, lent a unique depth to his performance, which he had never been able to attain in a concert hall.
Stani especially looked forward to this event.  From that first Christmas Eve Mass at St. Patrick's, just after they'd moved to New York, he'd had a fascination with this particular celebration.  Jana had taken him, her one venture back to her childhood religion.  The pungent-sweet smell of cedar, and the glow of hundreds of candles, along with the glorious music, made a profound impression upon him.  He'd become curious for the first time as to what motivated so many people to come, year after year, to sing the same hymns and whisper the same prayers.  He hadn't pursued religion; it didn't fit into his already over-scheduled young life.  But he’d discovered performing in churches evoked the same emotions he’d experienced that night.  He found himself looking forward to the prospect of spending another Christmas Eve among people who came to greet a child they believed had forever altered the nature of man.  It would be a welcome change from the faceless crowds in dim, smoke-filled rooms, crowds which seemed to be drawing him farther and farther from his own humanity.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

A Valley Rise Christmas--Day One

 The holidays are upon us again! How many times have I heard and even said those words in my life? They seem to strike so many emotional chords in each of us. Excitement, dread, tearful memories and warm reassurance, all tied to holidays past. The past several years I've posted this series of scenes from the Valley Rise Series. Once again, I hope they add a little something to your holiday preparations! 

It occurred to me that since there are so many Christmas-related scenes in the Miracle at Valley Rise books, I could share them with you during December as my thank you gift to you for following me here.

While I didn't set out to feature the holidays so prominently, it turned out that Christmas took on very special significance from the beginning.  For all of us, there are certain memories attached to specific times of year, traditions we hold dear, and events we always revisit when the anniversaries roll around.  For the family at Valley Rise Farm, that seems to be especially true.  I hope you'll tune in to share the spirit of the holiday season with the characters who live in the pages of my books.

In this scene from Hearts Unfold, young Emily Haynes has secretly returned to her secluded farmhouse home in search of a way to retrieve what's left of the life she shared with her parents.  With her mother dead and her father in a nursing home, there doesn't appear to be much hope, until Emily decides to take control of her destiny.  Since it's almost Christmas, her first step is to bring a little holiday cheer to her home.

   
After some digging in the closet beneath the stairs, she retrieved the ornaments, garland and lights that had each year decorated a fresh evergreen.  At last she found the crèche, tucked in its own box, each china figurine wrapped in tissue paper.  She recalled packing it away, that first painful Christmas, when she and Pop had pretended not to notice the vast empty space where her mother should have been.  By the next year, they had given up pretending and barely allowed the holiday into the house.
Setting out on her mission to bring Christmas to the room, she eyed the mantel wall first.  The fireplace, flanked by glass-front cabinets and two high windows, would substitute for a tree, she decided.  Humming along with the music, adding a waltzing step every now and then as she worked, she spread silver garland and glowing colored lights across the mantel and the tops of the cabinets.  She added carefully spaced clusters of glass ornaments, shining spheres of red, green and gold, along with blown glass figurines of angels, stars and Father Christmas, all well-remembered from her childhood.  When she’d achieved just the desired effect, she hung the delicate gold star that had always topped the tree, in the center of the chimney.
Going to the other end of the room, she spread a shawl of fringed red velvet on the piano, just as her mother had done every year, and placed an open book of carols on the music rack.  Finally, she took her father's violin from its case and gently nestled it in the folds of the shawl, laying the bow carefully across the strings.  Stepping back, she let out a sigh of satisfaction.  She had paid tribute to the past, mindful of the obvious changes; but she’d also taken a step toward future Christmases.
          Finally, she positioned the figurines facing the fireplace where the little wooden shed waited, well out of harm's way, on the hearth.  Mary and Joseph with the donkey near the front door, the shepherds and their flock of three sheep on the piano bench, and the wise men with their camel on the table next to Pop's chair.  The solitary ox rested in the stable, next to the tiny cross-legged manger filled with paper straw.  The figure of the newborn baby with his outstretched arms she tucked on the mantel near the heralding angel, hidden from sight for now.  Gazing back at the travelers journeying toward her, she laughed softly.  She was truly home for Christmas, as she had never expected to be again.