Hey Good Lookin’, Whatcha Got Cookin’ by Cher’ley


 This Blog  by Cher’ley Grogg

Food is an important part of our lives and we all have favorite recipes we have been raised with. There were 5 kids and two adults in our family and often we children would bring in visitors and Mom would always say, “Stay to eat. We’ll throw another potato in the pot.” Some of my favorite foods were the soups that Mom made. She had many different kinds of soups, and one of my favorites was hamburger soup.


1 finely chopped onion
1 pound lean ground beef
4 celery stalks, chopped
4 carrots, chopped
2 cups potatoes, cleaned, peeled, chopped
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes (we always had home-canned)
1 6-oz can tomato paste (to thicken quicker)
Pepper and salt to taste


Brown hamburger and drain. Transfer to a pot, add chopped carrots, celery and potatoes.  Continue cooking over medium heat for about 5 -8 minutes.  Add diced tomatoes and tomato paste (do not drain the diced tomatoes).  Blend. Simmer for about 30 minutes or until potatoes and carrots are cooked. Bigger families, “Just throw another potato in the pot.”

My mom could create something that tasted good from practically nothing. When my children were younger, I too picked up some cheap and far-reaching dishes. When times were tight, the cook would always find ways to stretch the budget just a bit. I discovered many things that made good gravy, even a bit of flour and bacon grease tasted good over biscuits fresh from the oven. But, I find that I miss my mom’s simple recipes and since my children and grandchildreI remember n aren’t around much for meals, I’m still trying to learn to not cook for an army, but most of the older recipes tend to taste better when “super-sized”.

Aunt Linda is the main cook in “Stamp Out Murder”, people visiting McKeel’s Bed and Breakfast want good old-fashioned, West Virginia style food and Linda doesn’t disappoint them. In fact, many of the return guests do so because of her wonderful, mouth-watering recipes.

***Do you miss your Mom’s or Grandma’s cooking? What was your favorite dish? Do you have a favorite dish that you fix?***

Cher’ley’s Books are listed below and on sale at Amazon and local bookstores. Her newest book is an Advanced Coloring Book and she has one that is freshly published with 11 other authors.

Stamp Out Murder”.
 The Secret in Grandma’s Trunk” This is an especially good book for your Tween Children and Grandchildren
The JourneyBack 3The Journey Back-One Joy at a Time and the B&W Edition of The Journey Back
Boys Will Be Boys   The Joys and Terrors of Raising Boys-An Anthology
 Cowboys, Creatures, and Calico 

All About the Girls 5(3)

Four Moons and Fair Ladies Four Moons and Fair Maidens

Memories from Maple Street U.S.A: Pawprints on My Heartlink coming soon

Wonders of Water      Advanced Coloring Book

And please join me on my Facebook Fanpage, that’s managed by one of my most faithful fans: Cindy Ferrell
Here’s a link to Cher’ley’s WEBSITE

Celebrating Moms, Celebrating Women

Gayle & Mary outsideThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

During my presentation and book reading last Saturday at the Natrona County Library, they sat next to young children or held babies in their arms. On the drive a few short hours later to a different community’s bookstore, one sat in the back seat of my vehicle next to her little one buckled into a car seat. Of whom do I speak? Moms.

Mother’s Day, which began during the early 1900s, arrives on Sunday. I’ll be with my mom that day as I travel this weekend to my parents’ home in Denton, Montana. With every year that passes, I treasure each Mother’s Day I’m able to share with my mom. Although she views it as “just another day” in her nonchalant “don’t make a big deal of things” attitude, I view it as a day of blessing. I love my mother, I admire my mother, I respect her and I cherish her. She is not only the woman who raised Gayle and Mom_Little Snowy Rangeme (and did so with great love, encouragement, and selflessness), she is also my dear friend. I confide in her, I cry on her shoulder, and I celebrate positive things with her; she is always there for me. We may not agree on some things, including politics, but we respect one another and listen to each other. And, we dearly love and respect one another.

As Mother’s Day approaches, I not only give a shout-out to women who have the difficult yet loving job of raising children, but I also raise a glass in toast of all women, especially those I know — for we all “birth” and/or care for something in our own way. I have friends who have raised children as single moms, most no fault of their own (husbands committing adultery and widowed at a young age). I know women whose boyfriends/ fiancés decided to leave when the ladies became pregnant (I work part-time at a pregnancy center, and this happens frequently).  Many of my friends are “mom” to furry “kids” as well as to human children, and other women, like me, didn’t have babies from their womb but do have children of their heart (both furry ones and adopted human children). And, even those who never married and have no kids, but they run businesses, work at jobs, and volunteer for non-profits. Women do many things, and a lot of them balance several things, whether they are mothers to human or furry children or not.

Gayle with Stacy and CindyWomen are smart, they are talented, they have strong work ethics, and they are compassionate. Yet, it’s challenging to be a woman. From our sex-driven culture (movies, TV, magazines, prostitution, sex trafficking) to the lower wages women earn in the workplace, difficulties still prevail in our society and between the genders even after years of greater equality and justice. It’s no longer an Ozzie and Harriet world, some of which isn’t so bad (including increased numbers of women in management roles, as business owners, and serving as scientists, college presidents, and state governors); yet, there is still a road to travel to have men and women be seen, and treated, as equals.

Gayle_Lea_Casey_Leah_booksigningSo, this Mother’s Day, I celebrate my own mother and other women in my life who make an impact, not just upon me but upon other people. I celebrate my deceased grandmothers, especially Grandma Mardy who encouraged me to attend college and expressed her pride about my writing. I honor my many female friends, those who are moms to human children and to furry kids; those who are writers and other creatives and those who use their talents and skills in other productive ways; those who are facing health challenges and preserving through those situations; those who have lost their spouses and children; those who volunteer to help others in need; those who run their own businesses and those who work two or more jobs to make ends meet – all of my female friends and family make life more beautiful because of who they are and what they do. I love and admire every one of you, including my Writing Wranglers and Warrior friends!

Happy Mother’s Day to women everywhere!


Gayle_CHS booktable34Gayle M. Irwin is an award-winning Wyoming writer. She is the author of several inspirational pet books for children and adults, and she freelances for newspapers and magazines. Her most recent release is a children’s picture book titled A Kind Dog Named Mary, about her springer/cocker mix that is trained as a therapy dog. Gayle has contributed stories to many different Chicken Soup for the Soul books, including the 2014 release The Dog Did What? and last year’s release The Spirit of America, in which she writes about America’s national parks. She supports various pet rescue organizations as a volunteer and with contributions from her book sales. Learn more about Gayle and her writing and speaking endeavors at www.gaylemirwin.com.


Mary Book Cover   cody-cabin-cover2   bobcat-front-cover  bookcover_tail-tales_front-cover    Blind Dog Ebook Cover_updatedMay2014  Chicken Soup_DogDidWhat_Cover  Spirit of America book

No Old Fool or April Fool

Gayle_Cheyenne bookstoreThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

Today is April Fools’ Day, also known as All Fools’ Day, a time for playing pranks and practical jokes. Although it’s origin is unknown, according to the folks at Discovery News, various cultures have celebrated such antics for centuries, including the ancient Roman festival known as Hilaria.

My family and I aren’t much for practical jokes and pranks. Although I’m sure as a young child I attempted to play jokes on folks, I don’t remember doing so very often just because my parents didn’t care for such things – and since people can be really mean-spirited, we just never got into that type of behavior.

April 1, however, is very special to me because it was my maternal grandmother’s birthday. She was an amazing woman – no fool and no April fool. She was wise, generous, loving, and very strong of faith. Her parents hailed from Germany and Switzerland, settling in Iowa to operate a store and raise six children. My grandmother learned and practiced work ethic at a young age, and she and her first husband operated the store for many years. After re-marrying several years later, she and my grandfather had a small farm outside of Burlington, Iowa where they grew crops and raised sheep. My mother was born when Grandma Mardy was nearly 40 years old, and she was raised on that farm. No electricity even during the 1950s and she remembers Grandma not only helping Grandpa on the farm, but also cooking, baking, cleaning, and raising my mom. My mother was their only child and I was the only grandchild. My grandmother was one of my biggest fans, you could say – she helped me make it to college (I’m the first person on either side of the family to receive a college degree) by setting up a small fund to which she contributed during those first 18 years of my life.

Grandma Mardy_100 dpiEven before college, Grandma Mardy was my friend and cheerleader. I talked to her about my first love, or what I thought was my first love, and she wisely counseled me about relationships when I was 19 years old. She took her first plane ride at age 80, coming out to my high school graduation (my parents and I had moved from Iowa to Wyoming my final year of high school). She made two other plane flights out west before she passed away at age 91. Her mind stayed fairly strong through her aging. I think she kept herself sharp through reading and remembering – she shared stories with me as I aged, too, and she was able to remember many of the German words she grew up on. Her faith sustained her, and blessedly, she was able to live in her home until her dying day. I write about my precious, caring Grandma in “All About the Girls,” edited by our own Cher’ley Grogg. And on this day, just like every April Fools’Day, I think about her. Happy Birthday, Grandma Mardy — I’ll always love you and be grateful to you!

Gayle and Mom_Little Snowy RangeI have a story in that same anthology about my mom. I am blessed to still be able to spend time with her. She is now 77 years old. I will be seeing her and my dad this week — he turns 80 in a few months. Now that my parents are the age of my grandmother, in essence, I all the more treasure the time I am able to have with them.

I had a birthday just last week (Grandma Mardy’s birthday was just a week after mine). I am now more than a half-century old (where did that high school/college girl go??!); I hope as I enter this latter stage of life with the dignity and strength exhibited by both my grandma and my mom. Neither ladies were/are old fools or April Fools – wise, calm, respectful, devoted women, they were/are – I would do well to walk in their footsteps.


Yellowstone Sign_Gayle Mary_smallerGayle M. Irwin writes inspirational dog books for children and adults and contributes short stories in five Chicken Soup for the Soul books — her sixth such work, about America’s national parks, will appear in this year’s Chicken Soup patriotic collection The Spirit of America, to be released June 2016 . She enjoys sharing what people can learn from pets and nature. A former humane and conservation educator, Gayle once lived next door to Yellowstone National Park. She continues to enjoy America’s natural splendors, traveling as often as she can from her home in Wyoming. Gayle volunteers for various animal rescue organizations, to which she donates part of her book sale revenues, and she speaks in schools, at libraries, and for various faith-based and civic groups. Learn more at her website: www.gaylemirwin.com.

SageBigAdventureFront-small   Sage Finds Friends_front cover    Cody Cabin_New Book CoverImageWalking_FrontCover_small   Dog Devotion Book_Cover_Final   Dog Devotions 2 Book Cover Sage Advice Cover   Blind Dog Ebook Cover_updatedMay2014


Happy Mother’s Day! – Have a cupcake

CindyCarrollEToday we’re off to visit my mom for Mother’s Day. As of Friday neither her nor my sister had decided  what they wanted for dinner on their special day. But I can tell you what they’re getting for desert! We are a family that loves sweets. My mom is a baker. Some of my best memories are of my mom, me and my sister in the kitchen baking cakes, cookies, squares. And my mom always does everything from scratch. Until I was in my teens I didn’t even know you could get cake mixes in a box. Trying to figure out the perfect thing to get my mom is no easy task. So I’m lucky I like social media so much and spend so much time on Facebook.


cupcake in a teacupI know I’m lucky, not only to still have my mom around, but to also live close enough to her and my dad that I get to see them weekly. For special occasions more than weekly. This will be the first mother’s day for my mom without her mom. My grandmother died last October. It will be hard for my mom so we’re trying to make Mother’s Day as special as we can. With two daughters and a granddaughter I think we can pull it off. To that end, I was looking for something different to get for her this year to accompany the card. Luckily I was on Facebook yesterday. There’s a new cupcake place in town and I happen to like their page – Sweet Temptations Cupcakery. Intrigued by their new Madame cupcake I clicked over to their page and saw these little gems being offered for Mother’s Day! It’s the perfect gift for a mother who loves her tea and sweets. She gets to keep the cup and saucer and eat a delicious vanilla cupcake with champagne buttercream frosting.


A dozen cupcakes

Of course, before I could be happy about giving her such a desert I had to sample the cupcakes myself. I can’t give her cake without knowing what it tastes like. 🙂 So the fiancé and I picked up a dozen cupcakes for ourselves. I know, a dozen cupcakes for two people is crazy. But we rarely have sweets in the house and they aren’t the jumbo cupcakes you find at some places. They’re small but pack a lot of flavour. I love their variety. They all looked so delicious it was hard to pick just six. My fiancé also picked six. I have tried two so far. The pink lemonade (bottom right in the picture) was awesome. And the fresh strawberry (pink frosting top row) was very tasty. I can’t wait to try the rest of my picks but so far the pink lemonade is winning for taste for me.

What are you doing for your mother for Mother’s Day?

Check out my website: http://www.cindycarroll.com
Follow me on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/CindyPCarroll
Like me on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AuthorCindyCarroll
Sign up for my newsletter: http://www.cindycarroll.com/blog/newsletter


ReflectionsFinal2A road trip goes wrong for a group of friends trying to help one of them get over a break up. They find an inn where the mirrors are cursed and they realize they don’t know each other as well as they thought they did.

A road trip without a plan sounded like a good idea when Lena and her friends hit the road. A mini vacation and support for Steve, recently dumped, have the friends travelling through small towns and back roads. After hours of driving in the heat in a cramped car they’re all ready for something to eat and a good night’s rest. Reflections Inn looks perfect for the group of friends. A little run down, it hides a supernatural horror.

Buy on Amazon: http://amzn.to/1avH00L
Buy on Barnes and Noble: http://bit.ly/19Ti2ux
Buy on Kobo: http://bit.ly/13CBz9M
Buy on Amazon Canada: http://amzn.to/15oFc4a

Squirrel Stew Anyone?

propic11_1_1This post by L.Leander, Author of Fearless Fiction

They say write what you know. I agree with that in some ways but I always believe it’s necessary to stretch your wings and try things that are new.

In my second book of the Inzared series, Inzared The Fortune Teller, life was very different from today. My character, Inzared, grew up on a bleak mountain in North Carolina where life was hard and food provided from the dense forests that surrounded the base of the mountain.  Her father was adept at bringing home deer, bear, possums, squirrel, rabbit and any other game  or fowl to make succulent stews or preserve for the cold winter months.


I actually based Inzared on my mother-in-law who regaled me with tales of her hardscrabble life on a farm in the piney woods of North Carolina. She was proud of her heritage and never let anything go to waste.

deeerThis excerpt from Inzared The Fortune Teller happens around 1855-56. Inzared’s son Timmon is now the provider of food for the family although Inzared is a crack shot and can easily bring home a squirrel or two herself. Some of the meat was made into tasty stews and some of it dried into jerky.

Excerpt from Inzared The Fortune Teller ©L.Leander

With Timmon gone and the girl asleep, I gathered firewood. Above me I heard the sparrow’s sweet song and a couple of squirrels as they chattered to each other across the squirreltrees. I moved quietly so as not to disturb the other creatures that lived in the forest. Spotted a black snake as it wound its way across a wet path of brown leaves, in search of somethin’ to eat, I supposed. Farther along I caught a glimpse of a mother whitetail deer as she nursed her baby fawn. She looked up in alarm, but I stood still and she relaxed as she nuzzled her baby. Timmon had his bow and arrows and I knew he’d look for small game, squirrels and rabbits with which I would make tasty stews and dried jerky for our travels. Gaji, I thought as I let myself wonder about the strange girl who had so suddenly appeared in our camp. Then I chuckled as I realized that I was also Gaji, but I’d lived with Gypsies so long I thought like them. Wandered back to the fire with an armload of dry kindlin’ and thought about what I should do.

With an experienced self-proclaimed “hillbilly” for a mother-in-law I’ve eaten and made these dishes. It was this knowledge that campfire2helped me write some of the scenes in my book. I’ve canned, preserved, dried, and smoked meat, made sauerkraut in large crocks, churned my butter, made head cheese and am an excellent cook on either a wood stove or outdoor campfire. In another post I’ll tell you about my pies on the campfire.



Here are a couple of links if you’d like to check them out. One is for the squirrel stew.


similar to what I made and the other is a you tube video about making jerky and cooking whole squirrels over an open fire.


And just for kicks, here’s a you tube link to Merle Haggard’s Rainbow Stew.


Have you ever had squirrel stew?  Would you try it?  I’d love to hear your answers!


Books by L.Leander:

INZARED Book Cover_1Inzared, Queen of the Elephant Riders (Book 1)





Inzared Queen of the Elephant Riders Video Trailer


InzaredTheFortuneTeller_V2Inzared, The Fortune Teller (Book Two)





Inzared, The Fortune Teller (Book 2) Video Trailer


13ext13 Extreme Tips to Self Publishing






13marketingtipscover13 Extreme Tips to Marketing an ebook






You can also find L.Leander here:

L.Leander Website

Amazon Author Page

Facebook Author Page







Merry Christmas 2013

propic11_1This post by L.Leander, Author of Fearless Fiction

It’s here.  Christmas Day, the day we have been planning for all year.  Gifts are open and it’s nearly time for Christmas Dinner.  Can’t you smell the spicy aroma of ham cooking in the oven with pineapples pierced with cloves and basted with brown sugar and pineapple syrup?file0001795692878  Don’t you just love the sounds of the children oohing and aahing over their gifts?  Can’t you feel the love that abounds this time of the year with family and friends?

You sit in the midst of a floor strewn with wrapping paper and a jumble of toys, sweaters, and other things you handpicked for everyone.  You think about Christmases past, when it wasn’t all about the latest toy or hippest clothes everyone let you know they wanted for Christmas.  You allow your mind to drift (just for a moment) back to the Christmases of your childhood and realize they weren’t quite the same.

We always had soup on Christmas Eve.  Then Dad called Santa on the santatelephone to ask him if he could please come early to the Flory house.  We traditionally opened our gifts on Christmas Eve because my Father worked for the Michigan State Highway Department and was called out almost every year to plow snow.  Then we children went to a bedroom upstairs.  There were four of us and I read the Christmas Story from the Bible while we kept an eye out the window just in case we could see the lights from Santa’s sleigh as it landed on our rooftop.

All of a sudden a hearty “Ho, Ho, Ho” would boom up the stairs and we’d hear my Mother’s voice say “Santa Claus was here, you can come down now.”

We scampered down the winding staircase to see our Christmas tree all aglow and presents spread around it.  There weren’t a lot of presents, just enough.  Dad was the person who handed out gifts one by one.  We each watched the other open a gift and waited until my Father put the wrapping in a bag.  What fun we had.  My Mother had spent months crocheting special scarves, mittens and doll clothes.  She made pretty new dresses for us three girls and a cowboy shirt and pants for my brother.

We each got one toy and it was usually the thing we coveted most or something close to it.

One of my favorite Christmases was the year my Dad gave my Mom a box of potatoes.  She opened it and beamed at Dad.   “How did you know just what I wanted?” she asked as she set it aside.  With a big smile on his face Dad said, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“Maybe you’d better look a little farther.”  Mom took the potatoes out one by one and at the bottom of the box was a brand new pair of Gingher Shears (most coveted by seamstresses) for her sewing room.  I still remember the tears of joy in her eyes.

We headed to the mantle for our Christmas stockings.  We each got a Naval orange, a Macintosh apple a banana and a scarf and mittens.

Next Dad pulled out a five-pound box of chocolates and a bowl of nuts to crack.  Bing Crosby played on the stereo; we sampled the chocolates, cracked nuts, and sat on the floor feeling the warmth of our close-knit family.

Christmas Day was the one day of the year my parents slept in due to Dad’s working until the wee hours of the morning clearing the state highways of snow so travelers could get to see their loved ones for Christmas dinner.

We had our own Christmas Dinner around two o’clock in the afternoon.   It was always the same, the glazed ham with mashed potatoes, a special fruit salad that I still make for Christmas every year, yeast rolls and pie for dessert.

My memories are intertwined with church services, prayer as we sat down to churcheat our dinner, the Christmas story told over and over (at church and at home), the nativity scenes and Christmas tree which stood in all it’s beauty while the star twinkled on top.  We knew it was all about Christ’s birthday, a little baby born in a manger because there was no room at the inn, and that Santa Claus lived at the North Pole.  We accepted all these things as truth because Mom said so.  She also made sure we gave some of the money we had been given as allowance or worked for to the Salvation Army or a homeless shelter so that others could have Christmas too.  She told us “You reap what you sow.”

So, as you sit and watch the children play while you sip hot cider and visit with Aunt Minnie take time out to remember “the reason for the season.”  Praise God in all his glory that he sent his own Son to earth to take on the burdens of the world.  Thank Him for allowing us to give the magic of Santa Claus to our children, even while we teach them the true meaning of Christmas.merry

I’d like to take this time to wish each one of my Writing Wranglers and Warriors and their families a very Merry Christmas season and a Happy New Year.  I cherish each and every one of you and enjoy the blessings we all give each other as we seek to promote each other’s work.  Have a blessed Christmas Day wherever you are!

In closing I leave you a link to a Christmas song by Joey and Rory, a duo my husband and I love to listen to.


Books by L.Leander:

It’s The Alligator’s Christmas

propic11_1_1This post by L.Leander, Author of Fearless Fiction

I’m looking out my window as I write and it’s a winter wonderland outside.  The sun is shining (even though it’s 13 degrees) and the trees are wearing their winter coats of snow.  We’ve shoveled the driveway four times in the last week but don’t mind.  It’s just another adventure, but definitely not as warm as Mexico.

We decorated the tree and when we turn on the twinkling lights it gives us joy and brings back happy times of Christmases past.  christmas tree  We look forward to meeting our daughter and son-in-law halfway between our homes on the 27th of Dec after spending Christmas Day with my sister and her family.

All around I hear Christmas carols and the  familiarity and traditions they proclaim.  Usually I’m a part of the Christmas program at our church but this year I’ll listen, as we moved recently and have only been to our new church a couple of times.   We try to stay out of the holiday shopping crowds but I do enjoy hearing the tinkle of the Salvation Army bells as their ringer welcomes each and everyone.  Each store has Christmas music playing and it puts one in a festive mood.

nativityTo me Christmas is about Christ being born, the nativity scene, church services, the three wise men and the faith that fills my heart.  While I have no problems with the commercial end of Christmas I do think it has gone a tad overboard.  It’s a family time and one to spend remembering that night long ago when a child was born in a manger because there was no room at the inn.

There have been many songs written about Christmas and as I have eclectic tastes in music I enjoy listening to both traditional and non-traditonal holiday songs.   My favorites are:

The Little Drummer Boy http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9egKDz0by44

I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GJSUT8Inl14

Angels We Have Heard on High http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=THg8Yes6zec

Mary Did You Know.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ax5d8JzdyaA

As a songwriter myself I’ve written a few Christmas songs and there is one that I get asked to do at most of my gigs, even during the summer months.  I lived in Florida when I wrote this particular song about eleven years ago when asked to do a Children’s benefit.  Unfortunately I have never recorded the song so I can’t give you a link but thought you might get a kick out of reading the words.




It’s the alligator’s Christmas just look at that big wide grin

He knows that lots of girls and boys will soon be dropping in

It’s the alligator’s Christmas don’t you get too near

Or you’ll be his Christmas present under the tree this year

The alligators gather to sing and dance and play

While they all make merry Santa will come their way

It’s the alligator’s Christmas just look at that big wide grin

He knows that lots of girls and boys will soon be dropping in


Papa alligator is proud of all his children

They’re big and strong and healthy so you better not go swimming

‘Cause it’s the alligator’s Christmas just look at that big wide grin

He knows that lots of girls and boys will soon be dropping in


When they open presents their laughter may sound funny

Be careful you don’t end up as supper in his tummy

‘Cause it’s the alligator’s Christmas just look at that big wide grin

He knows that lots of girls and boys will soon be dropping in


©Linda Stewart

When things get settled down I’ll record this on my computer and share on another post so you can hear the music.

What’s your favorite Christmas music?  I’d love to know.  Merry Christmas!

Books by L.Leander:

Words and Worlds by Erin Farwell


I started reading at such a young age that I don’t remember learning to do so. Ever since letters had meaning and formed into words that made sense, books have owned a place in my soul.

Mysteries captured my imagination, the action, suspense, danger, and drama were both real and safe, a perfect haven for a child with too much imagination. I started with Nancy Drew and Dana Girls stories and moved on to Phyllis A. Whitney books for young adults.

An Unsuitable Job for A Woman by P.D. James was one of the first books that spoke to the budding writer in me as it taught me about the struggles a character faces when the world sees them differently than they see themselves. Her Adam Dalgliesh character is also fascinating and entertaining.unsuitable

Elliot Pattison showed me how to create a place so real that it becomes a character in its own right. After reading The Skull Mantra I feel as if I’ve been to Tibet in my heart if not in truth.

As a reader I soon came to realize that I love books with characters that grow and change from story to story. They are impacted by what happened in the earlier book and will evolve again with the next one. In other words, I love books which reflect life. Martha Grimes first introduced me to this concept. I enjoy how some of the characters move on and others are stuck, most happily, exactly, and intentionally where they are. Deborah Crombie, Elizabeth George, Peter Robinson and Charles Todd have created characters so real I feel as if I know them I have enjoyed sharing their joys and losses as their stories unfold over the pages of their books.

MoHowLightre recently I’ve been having a love affair with Louise Penny’s books. I almost wept with sadness at the end of A Beautiful Mystery and with joy at the end of How the Light Gets In. Laurie R. King is always entertaining and I especially enjoy her re-imaging of the iconic Sherlock Holmes.

Books also represent a connection to my mother. Some of my earliest memories are of sitting on her lap as she read to me. Today we swap favorite books and authors; our taste in mysteries is nearly identical. I “found” us Louise Penny and she “found” Craig Johnson. There is some debate over who discovered some of our favorites but it is a good-natured banter and we are always on the hunt for our next new favorite.

Each of these authors, all of their books, and many more besides have inspired me to create worlds of my own with words of my choosing. Only the first novel in my series is published but others are coming. I tell my stories with my unique voice and hope it is a worthy addition to those who speak so eloquently to my heart.

Who are your favorite authors?

Farwell-Shadowlands-Final Cover.indd





AHE New Cover

The Best Birthday Ever

propic11_1_1This post by L.Leander

What does your birthday mean to you? Is it a special day or just a normal day? Do you like lots of presents, cards and cake or do you prefer to keep it low-key? Each of us has our own way of wanting to celebrate our special day and I’m going to tell you about the most memorable birthday I ever had. By the way, tomorrow is my birthday so that’s why I came up with this remarkable topic!file0001936934915

My family lived in a rural town where everyone pretty much knew everyone else. We lived on a corner about two blocks from the school. I was nine years old and this would be my tenth birthday.

I had lots of friends in school and most of them had bicycles. They rode them to school and in their leisure time after homework. I may have been a mite jealous although I don’t remember feeling that way. I begged and begged my parents for a bike. Most kids had started riding at five or six but my father was certain I would be killed if I had one. He came up with so many reasons he didn’t want me to ride that I finally gave up.

castgfdg“You’ll run into a tree. A car’ll hit you. You’ll break a bone. You’ll forget to do your homework or your chores and you’ll be late for meals.” Dad had an answer for every thing I thought of to get a ride of my own – I even offered to go to work and pay for part of it myself. Granted, this was in the 50’s and I believe I received a quarter a week allowance.

My father also forbade all of my siblings and me from tree climbing because we would surely fall and break an arm or leg. Although I usually listened very carefully to my father’s warnings I have to say I may have climbed one or two without his knowledge and arrived safely on the ground. Since my siblings were in on the mischief none of us ever told for fear we’d get a spanking.

My Mother made a very big deal of our birthdays. When the day came we didn’t have to do any household chores and she would make whatever we wanted for supper. She always baked and decorated a cake. I had a few birthday parties, too and they were great because Mom was so creative. We became used to being treated as kings or queens on our birthdays.file3941254091863

My tenth birthday dawned bright and sunny, warm for an August summer. I woke lazily and smiled at the sun that streamed in through my window. My sisters and brother were soon in my room screaming “Happy Birthday Linda,” while they jumped up and down on my bed until we heard one of my parents step on the squeaky board in the hall. We settled down pretty fast but I couldn’t wait to see what the day would bring. I had ordered pizza and root beer for supper.file000679986039

We didn’t have a lot of money with four kids and a stay-at-home mom, but she sewed and painted and created wonderful things for all of us. It was usually a good idea not to get too focused on the latest craze in toys because we knew our parents couldn’t afford them. It didn’t matter. We felt loved and secure and enjoyed anything we received.

My three siblings and I tramped down the back stairs to the dining room where we ate our oatmeal and toast. I was lucky that year because my birthday fell on a Saturday and Dad was home to enjoy the day with us. We were a little boisterous around the table but quickly stopped our antics with a stern look from Dad. I picked my dishes up, took them to the kitchen and started up the stairs to get dressed for the day. I planned to wear a special shorts set Mom had made that I loved but only got to wear on special occasions.

“Linda, come back down here.” I heard my Dad’s firm voice call me.

Coffee and NewspaperI came back to the table, where he was still reading the newspaper.

“I want you to dress in some old clothes. There are a lot of papers in the back yard and I want you to clean them up. Take the old pick (a broom handle with a nail) and put everything in the barrel. I’ll burn them later.”

“But Dad,” I whined. “Don’t you remember? It’s my birthday and I don’t have to do anything today.” (Oops, did I really say that?) flashed through my mind.

“I don’t care if it’s your birthday or Christmas. The back yard needs to be cleaned and since I’m off today I can mow later.”file0001621993863

There was no changing Dad’s mind once he had made a decision and I knew better than to argue and was shocked that he hadn’t reprimanded me for the backtalk. I trudged back up the stairs, unhappy and wondering what on earth had changed.

I put on some old clothes, got the pick out of the garage and began the laborious task of picking up every scrap of paper I could find. There seemed to be more than usual so I muttered and stabbed a little harder than I needed to. When I had almost finished (about an hour later) I saw one last thing under the cedar trees. I tried to ignore it but I knew Dad would get after me for not doing a good job.

I walked slowly over to the line of trees. As I neared I could see this was rather a large piece of paper. I got my pick ready, raised it to stab the paper and suddenly a name leapt out at me. It was my name! To Linda on her tenth Birthday Love Mom and Dad. In shock, I put the pick down and retrieved the envelope from the grass.

The envelope was well sealed but I carefully opened it. It wasn’t a card. I looked at the piece of paper inside. I read it twice before I realized what it meant.

“Go to the garage,” the writing commanded.

I was puzzled but hurried to the old garage and opened the creaky wooden doors. There stood a brand new salmon and white bicycle with a big bow tied around it and a warranty hanging from the handlebars. Down the side it proudly displayed the words Montgomery Ward in white lettering.th

It took a minute for the whole thing to sink in. I looked at the bicycle and caressed the sleek body. I gripped the handlebars and imagined white streamers flowing in the wind as I rode. I pushed the bike out of the garage and across the back lawn only to see my Mother and Dad beaming with joy and my sisters and brother almost as excited as I.

“I didn’t think you’d ever find that paper,” quipped my dad with a smile. “Enjoy it but be careful, ok?”

I nodded my head, lay the bike in the grass and ran up to hug both of my parents. Then it was time to learn how to ride the thing. I positioned my bike on the sidewalk in front of our house. I got on it and although I was scared I wobbled along – right into a big oak tree in our front yard! I fell down on the body and you can imagine how much that hurt. I climbed off, determined to learn. After two or three days I was my knees and elbows were skinned but I was a master at riding that bicycle and I spent after school time and weekends riding my new bike all over our town, my hair streaming in the wind. Oh the feeling of freedom I felt! My friends oohed and ahhed over my new present and we often rode together, riding some of the back roads through the pine trees and anywhere else we could find new adventure.

It was only later that I realized how much my folks had sacrificed to buy me that bicycle. Money was very tight and we wore hand-me-down clothes our cousins outgrew and all the clothes Mom spent hours making for us. I learned my father had gotten home from work that Friday night and holed up in the garage to assemble the bike. In those days they were shipped disassembled. He spent a good part of his night in the garage making sure it would be ready for me the next day. My Mom had some extra cash she had been saving from the sewing work she took in and my father applied for a credit card (something he swore he’d never do) in order to give their oldest daughter something she had been pining for since she was five.

This was the very best birthday I ever had and I rode that bike until I was in my late teens. By then I was much more interested in boys and driving so the bicycle languished in the garage and we finally sold it when my father was transferred again. I remember going in to look at it one last time and whispering, “Good-bye old friend. We’ve had a lot of good times, haven’t we? I hope you’ll make some other little girl as happy as you’ve made me.” A tear rolled down my cheek as I walked away but I quickly dried it and looked forward to the future, no longer a little girl, but a strong confident woman.

I’d love to hear your favorite birthday stories. I’ve carried on the tradition of making birthdays a special day with my children. How about you?

Books by L.Leander:


Life with Tractors

propic11_1_1This post by L.Leander, Author of Fearless Fiction

The year I turned thirteen we moved to a farm. Granted, it was only a hobby farm, but it was forty acres with a stream that meandered through graceful hardwoods where wildflowers bloomed in the spring and the autumn leaves were breathtaking in the fall. The property also had a nice sledding hill, a must for cold Michigan winters. My three siblings and I were thrilled because up until that time we had always lived in town.

I dreamed of having a horse but my dad bought Bantam chickens instead. We had a whole flock of them in the chicken coop and around the yard. There was a once-pretty flower garden some past owner had planted and it was all overgrown with weeds, but the Poppies, Iris, Sweet Williams and a host of other flowers proudly displayed their brilliant colors, ignoring the drab coats of the milkweed and quack grass that tried to force them out. My dad told my mother (in a sincere voice) that he would “Clear that mess out of the front yard.” I remember her answer. “Chuck, if you mow down that garden you’ll have to deal with me first. Look at how gorgeous the flowers are. I’ll get it weeded after we unpack.” And that was that.simco30

We moved in the fall of the year and in early spring we wanted a garden. Dad bought an old International tractor that made little putt putt sounds when he drove it. He tilled up the garden spot and we feverishly planted and weeded, jumping up and down for joy when the first vegetables came up.

simco36That old tractor was a dream of my father’s. He had also grown up in town and always wanted to farm. He bought a flatbed trailer, hitched it to the tractor and pulled his four children all around the property. We loved it. We named the tractor Isabel Putt Putt. We continued to love Isabel and were happy for the many things Dad said she could do, like ready the garden, till up the field and even plow snow. But then came Dad’s brainstorm.

“Arlene, I think I’m going to turn up the soil on the ten acres to the east and plant rye,” he told my mother at breakfast one morning.

simco2She replied, “How are you going to do that? You have a full-time job.”

We should have seen it coming but hey, we were only kids. Dad turned to the four of us and said, “Wouldn’t it be fun to plant a crop in the field? Tonight when I get home from work we’ll take ole Isabel out and see what we need to do first.

The dismay on our faces told it all as we observed the fieldsimco3 of stones. Dad looked at the four of us. “I’ll pull the flatbed out here every morning and you kids can pick stones out of the field. Then when I get home at night we’ll move them.” There was no discussing things with my father; once he made a decision it was final. My two sisters, Sandy and Sheri,our little brother Chip (who was definitely too young to pick rocks) and I looked at each other. There went our summer.

Every morning Dad got up early to go to his job as a maintenance worker for the State Highway Department. He’d stop at each of our bedroom doors and sing “Good morning Merry Sunshine. Time to rise and shine and get out to the field. See you tonight.” He’d take his lunch bucket, kiss my mother on the cheek, hug each of us and leave.simco33

The moment Dad was gone there was a chorus of “Oh Mom, do we HAVE to?”

“Of course you do. Now get dressed while I get some breakfast ready and get out there before the sun gets too hot.”

simco10For some reason that was a sweltering June, unlike most Michigan summers. We three girls worked hard, eager to please our father, whether we liked the job or not. Little brother Chip insisted on being with us, but he was more of a hindrance than help. We made a game of the work and generally got the flatbed full of rocks and stones by early afternoon. That was good because when Dad got home at 3:30 he’d take us to the lake to swim before we went back to help him unload the rocks. We finally got the stones pretty well cleaned out (with Dad’s help on the weekends) and he tilled the soil and planted rye. To this day I don’t know why he planted rye, but we rejoiced when we saw the tiny sprouts peek through the ground and green up.

In hindsight it might have been better had my father sought some advice before he planted a crop in June that he should have planted in April or May. While the crop (all ten acres of it) grew, the weather turned cold early that year and Dad lost the field we had worked so hard to create. It was the only year he planted a crop. However, the garden flourished and that unsightly flower bed became a thing of beauty. Isabel Putt Putt was relegated to the barn until Dad needed her to plow snow or some other minor chore.simco12

The reason I’m sharing this piece of my childhood is that my husband and I went to an event last weekend called John Deere Tractor Days and Antique Tractor Show in Simco, Wisconsin. I have never seen so many tractors in my life. I searched and searched, but no International like ours did I find. There were Farmalls, Allis Chalmers, International, Oliver, Case, Detz, Ford, Massey Ferguson, and of course, John Deere. I took lots of pictures, watched several demonstrations, and the tractor pull.

Simco was recently featured on the television show “American Pickers.” It’s a recreation of an old-time village and it’s full of vintage things the man who built it has collected over the years.simco16

By the time I got home that night my head was swimming with details. Hubby gave a running commentary on each tractor and I’m sure that were I to write a book that included tractors I would ace it.

My point? Any event in your life could be fodder for your writing. Who knows when I may need to describe a tractor, an old-time store, a blacksmith shop, or even a tractor pull?simco13

I’m curious. What things have you attended or seen that you used in your writing or tucked away for the future? I’d love to know!

Books by L.Leander: