Sandra Melville Hart shares a bit of History about Abilene, Kansas

I just finished reading the other contributions to The Cowboys, and I have to say–we did a great job! Here’s a post from fellow contributor, Sandy Hart . . .


In case you missed my previous posts my latest release is part of Smitten Historical Romance Collection: The Cowboys. I’m one of four authors in this collection that releases August 15th. Today I’ve asked Sandra Melville Hart, another author from the collection to give us a peek into her story Trail’s End setting.

Trail’s End set in Abilene

by Sandra Merville Hart

My brother married a Kansas girl and moved to that beautiful state soon after their marriage. On a family vacation to Kansas, we visited Abilene.

The town had been a wild Cowtown in its early days. Wild Bill Hickok was the marshal of Abilene in 1871. My sister-in-law had ancestors who lived there. One of them was friends with Wild Bill—what a surprise!

I learned a little history of the wild western town and wanted to learn more. Who knew that a family vacation would spark an idea…

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Cowboys, Cattle Drives and Romance

Great article about cattle drives by The Cowboys’ co-contributor Jennifer Uhlarik! The Cowboys officially releases 8/15!


Today, I’m sharing more about the upcoming release of Smitten Historical Romance Novella Collection: The Cowboys, all four novellas feature adventure and fun romance with hunky cowboys. Jennifer Uhlarik, award- winning author and lover of all things western set her novella Being Brave on a cattle drive. It is so exciting and swoon-worthy. Jennifer is sharing her knowledge of all things cattle drive and more about our novella collection.

The Jobs on a Cattle Drive

One of the most enduring and iconic images of the Old West is the cattle drive—where cowboys moved several thousand cattle from Texas to a rail town in Kansas. There, the herd was sold and transported to stockyards in the east. This major undertaking happened yearly after the spring roundup, and typically, several ranches pooled their cattle into one large herd and hired men to drive them north. But what were the specific jobs or…

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Who Doesn’t Love Cowboys? And a Giveaway?

Our novella collection, *The Cowboys*, officially releases next week, and since I’m still dealing with the aftereffects of radiation treatments, I’m going to share some posts by my fellow-authors, beginning with Cindy Ervin Huff.


It’s coming! Tomorrow will be August. On the 15thThe Cowboys will be released. I’m so excited. In this post I thought I’d share the WHAT IF moment behind my novella Healing Hearts that appears in this collection.

Don’t you just want to ride off into the sunset with hm?

My editor Pegg Thomas, from Smitten Historical Romance (an imprint of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas) asked me if I’d be interested in being in a collection where the main character is a cowboy. Who doesn’t love a good cowboy story? Three other wonderful authors joined me in the adventure: Jennifer Uhlarik, Sandra Melville Hart and Linda W. Yezak, all wonderful, award-winning authors.

In romance the female character is the first character you met. The book starts by introducing her. But The Cowboy starts with scenes of the male lead. So that was an interesting challenge. Kansas was chosen…

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August Titles from ACFW Authors!

August 2019 New Releases

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website. Oh–and don’t miss my new release in the collection listed in Historical Romance: The Cowboys!

Contemporary Romance:

The Butterfly Recluse by Therese Heckenkamp — Lila finds solace in her sheltered world by raising butterflies and surrounding herself with their gentle beauty. They’re all she needs—until a motorcycle-riding stranger roars up her driveway, invading her safe haven, throwing her life off-kilter, and forcing her to question everything. What exactly is he after, and what is he not telling her? In one intense night of desperation and revelation, Lila must confront her darkest fears—and hopefully discover that with faith and courage, shattered dreams can be restored, damaged hearts can love again, and broken wings can heal . . . maybe even fly. (Contemporary Romance from Ivory Tower Press)

A Glitter of Gold by Liz Johnson — Anne Norris moved to Savannah, Georgia, for a fresh start. Now her pirate-tour business is flagging and paying the rent requires more than wishful thinking. When she discovers evidence of a shipwreck off the coast of Tybee Island, she knows it could be just the boon she needs to stay afloat. She takes her findings to local museum director Carter Hale for confirmation, but things do not go as planned. Carter is fascinated with the wreck, the discovery of which could open the door to his dream job at a prestigious museum. But convincing Anne to help him fill in the missing pieces of the puzzle is no easy task. And working with Carter means that Anne will have to do the one thing she swore she’d never do again: trust a man. (Contemporary Romance from Revell-A Division of Baker Publishing Group)

Hometown Healing by Jennifer Slattery — She’s home again, but not for long… Unless this cowboy recaptures her heart Returning home with a baby in tow, Paige Cordell’s determined her stay is only temporary. But to earn enough money to leave, she needs a job—and her only option is working at her first love’s dinner theater. With attraction once again unfurling between her and Jed Gilbertson, can the man who once broke her heart convince her to stay for good? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

General Contemporary/Women’s Fiction:

Grace in Deep Waters by Christine Dillon — William Macdonald is at the pinnacle of his career. Pastor of a growing megachurch and host of a successful national radio programme. Clever and respected, he’s a man with everything, including a secret. His wife has left him and he can’t risk anyone finding out. Blanche Macdonald is struggling. Her once rock-solid marriage is showing cracks. She promised to love her husband for better or for worse, but does loving always mean staying? Blanche desires to put God first. Not William. Not her daughter. Not herself. When is a marriage over? When do you stand and fight? (Women’s Fiction, Independently Published)

When Mountains Sing by Stacy Monson — Mikayla Gordon loves nothing more than sleeping under the stars, reeling in the “big one,” and long hikes in the wilderness. A medical crisis reveals a 30-year-old secret that turns everything she’s known and believed upside down, unraveling her dreams and her identity. In search of answers, she follows a trail from Minnesota to Colorado and discovers more unwelcome secrets even as she falls in love with the majestic beauty of the Rocky Mountains, and a wilderness camp leader who shares the greatest secret of all. Knowing her life can never go back to what it was, she must make decisions that will impact far more than just her future. (Contemporary from His Image Publications)

All In by L. K. Simonds — Cami Taylor: a blackjack dealer, a bestselling author, and a fraud. Cami’s boyfriend, Joel, loves her in spite of her flaws. He wants to marry her, buy a house on Long Island, and raise a family–a life that’s a million miles from Cami’s idea of happiness. Her therapist suggests compromise and trust, but Cami bolts like a deer. She breaks off the relationship and launches on a new quest for happiness, not knowing that a nasty surprise waits around the corner. What follows is a fight to the death. Who will be the one left standing? (Contemporary from Morgan James Fiction)


Finding Lady Enderly by Joanna Davidson Politano — A rag girl accepts an invitation to become the lady she’s always dreamed of being, but some dreams turn out to be nightmares. (Historical from Revel – A Division of Baker Publishing Group)

Historical Romance:

Lady and the Lawman by Crystal L. Barnes, Vickie McDonough, Annette OHare, and Kathleen Y’Barbo — Four historic stories of lawmen and the ladies who love them. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

The Farmer’s Daughter by Mary Davis, Kelly Eileen Hake, Tracie J. Peterson, Jill Stengl, and Susan May Warren — Enjoy five historical novels by some of Christian fiction’s bestselling authors. Meet daughters of prairie farms from Montana south to Kansas who find love in the midst of turbulent life changes. Marty’s nieces are kidnapped. Rosalind’s town is overrun by a railroad company. Amy’s jealousy comes between her and her twin. Beulah’s answer is needed to a marriage proposal. Lilly’s choice puts her at odd with her neighbors. Into each of their lives rides a man who may only make their situations worse. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

The Cowboys by Sandra Merville Hart, Cindy Ervin Huff, Jennifer Uhlarik, and Linda W. Yezak — Taming the West–one heart at a time. Healing Heart: A physically scarred cowboy finds solace with a ranch girl who is hiding from her past. Becoming Brave: A cattle drover wants to get his boss’s heard safely through Indian Territory…as soon he figures out why a bloodstained woman is holding a gun on him. Trails End: Waiting for his boss’s cattle to sell, a cowboy takes a kitchen job at a restaurant where the beautiful and prickly owner adds spice to his workday. Loving a Harvey Girl: To improve the local preacher’s opinion of career women, a Harvey Girl makes it her mission to redeem a wayward cowboy, but finds herself longing for a husband, hearth, and home. (Historical Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

Lost in the Storm by Tamera Lynn Kraft — Lavena, a journalist during the Civil War, wants to become a war correspondent. She finally gets her chance, but there’s a catch. She has to get an interview from a war hero who has refused to tell his story to every other journalist, and she has to accomplish this impossible task in a month or she’ll lose her job. Captain Cage, the war hero, has a secret that will destroy his military career and reputation. Now, a new journalist wants him to reveal what he’s been hiding. He’d prefer to ignore her, but from the moment she came into camp, he can’t get her out of his mind. Leading up to the turbulent Battles for the city of Chattanooga, will Lavena and Cage find the courage to love and forgive, or will they be swept away by their past mistakes that don’t want to stay buried? (Historical Romance from Mt Zion Ridge Press)

Love’s Allegiance by Linda Shenton Matchett — Inspired by the biblical love story of Rebekkah and Isaac, Love’s Allegiance explores the struggles and sacrifices of those whose beliefs were at odds with a world at war. (Historical Romance from Shortwave Press)

The Brightest Hope by Naomi Musch — Five years after the Great War, Holly Allen is a well-adjusted war widow with a knack for running the family press. She’s over the days of waiting for a white knight to ride in and sweep her away from her cares. Besides, if Hugh Phelps is a knight, he’s certainly a black one—with his prison record, personal demons, and the ghosts of war that haunt him. When Holly hires Hugh, despite her reservations, it isn’t long before she sees the man he could really be, and as Hugh finds his niche at Allen’s Printing, he finds his lady boss equally appealing. Despite the attraction, however, Holly won’t let herself fall for a faithless man, and Hugh isn’t on gracious terms with God. Then, just when new beginnings seem possible, old heartaches from the war come calling. Now it might only be in letting go of everything dear that they both discover what real love is. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

Annabelle’s Joy by Betty Thomason Owens — She’s waited too long. When Tom proposed last year, Annabelle wasn’t ready to open her heart to another man. Pain still held a thin crust around it. Time has healed her heart, but with a new woman in town, one who clearly has her sights set on Tom, does it matter if Annabelle’s heart is ready to love again? Folks in town are keeping a close eye on their pharmacist, hoping to be the first to hear the good news. He’s been courting the widow Cross for nigh on two years now. Annabelle Cross better wake up and put her dancing shoes on. Mr. Tom is prime real estate. (Historical Romance from Write Integrity Press)

Mystery/Cozy Mystery:

Hidden Secrets by Janet Sketchley — When an online vendetta against the Green Dory Inn escalates to physical threats, a cryptic message about a tunnel points to the property’s original owner, a notorious Prohibition-era sea captain rumoured to have left hidden wealth. (Mystery, Independently Published)

Murder at Rendsburg Resort by C. L. Wells — Trapped in a remote resort with a killer on the loose, the body count piling up, and no one else to save them, mystery writer Jill Pemberton must help find the killer before they claim their next victim. (Cozy Mystery, Independently Published)

Romantic Suspense:

Two Steps Forward by Luana Ehrlich — When CIA operative Titus Ray has an unexpected encounter with a Jihadi terrorist while he and Nikki are on their honeymoon in Morocco, he assumes it’s a coincidence, but when they travel to Israel for the second half of their honeymoon and encounter him again, he takes action, which takes him to Baghdad to prevent the assassination of a high-profile government official. (Romantic Suspense, Independently Published)

Edge of Truth by Kimberly Rose Johnson — The DEA sends two of its best agents, Kara Nelson and Jeff Clark, to Central Oregon, to shut down a major drug ring. Kara and Jeff usually work alone, but Operation Trail Ride throws them undercover together in a way neither of them expected. A notorious Miami drug lord wants Kara dead. Can these agents pull off the greatest acting job of their lives—and manage the sparks flying between them? Or will they die trying? (Romantic Suspense, Independently Published)


Redemption by Jacques R. Pye — Sterling Newman and Armena Sandal face death as they struggle to help the Alesandrans and the Kirilleans combat a force seeking the destruction of both worlds. (Speculative, Independently Published)

Young Adult:

Shards of Light by Susan Miura — Sometimes the pieces of a shattered dream can transform into something extraordinary. (Young Adult from Vinspire Publishing)

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Writing in Times of Adversity

I’ve seen dozens of posts about whether and  how to write during hard times. The answer to “whether” is always yes. Authors see it as an escape, a balm during times of trouble. I have friends who continued writing and producing during times that were far more difficult than what I’m going through right now. They amaze me.

During the hardest, most painful time of my life, from late 2010 through late 2012, I was writing both The Cat Lady’s Secret and The Simulacrum. Brad and I had been working on The Simulacrum together for years. He had the basics of the novel already; he just needed me to flesh it out more.  The Cat Lady’s Secret was all mine, and it was supposed to be a straight-out romantic comedy. But the tone shifted during those years, and what I had originally intended became altered. It’s still a good book. I reread it a few weeks ago and still love it. I’m in awe of how it came together despite the circumstances during which it was written. It was a God-thing. It had to have been.

This time around, with adjusting to Billy being retired and dealing with this breast cancer—even though it’s “little c” cancer and should never again be an issue once I’ve gone through treatment—I couldn’t seem to get myself to write. First of all, with Billy home all the time, I’m having to rearrange my daily schedule to match our new daily schedule, which changes almost on a daily basis. I’m no longer regimented as I was when he was working.

If you subscribe to my newsletter, then you already know that my biggest problem is the “I don’t knows.” For some reason, having so many question marks circling in my head whenever I try to plan for the year has stymied me. It’s hard to plan things when I don’t know when I’ll start the IV treatment and don’t know how it’ll make me feel or whether I’ll be able to travel. Building our new house and moving this year are totally off the table. We simply can’t deal with that and everything else too. But it leaves enough for me to juggle, both emotionally and physically.

Yesterday, I sat down to my manuscript, Kayla’s Challenge, again for the first time in weeks. The last time I sat down to it was the first time in weeks. And the time before that. I haven’t worked on it solidly since before Billy retired in early April. I’ve been able to do my editing jobs for Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas and my administrative job for ACFW, but I haven’t been able to write. You know what that means? I’ve been totally left-brained. That alone is reason enough to keep writing or doing something that stimulates my creative side. I’ve neglected it.

So, as to the question of whether you should continue writing during times of adversity, I have to go with the others and say yes. And the reason is clear: you must keep your creative side sharp.

Then there’s the second question . . .

How to write during times of adversity

  • The “No Time” Excuse

Not long ago, Pamela Thibodeaux, a writer friend, came to visit, and I cried on her shoulder a bit. Haven’t been able to write. Haven’t had time. Everything is all wonky. Can’t concentrate. Can’t get into it.

Although she was sympathetic through most of my whining, she took a hard line when it came to my work. Should I be writing? Unquestionably. No excuse. You must.

No time to write?


You always have time to write. Take a notebook with you wherever you go. In a waiting room? Write. Driving somewhere? Write. Sitting through a boring TV show with the hubs? Write.

In fact, according to Michael Scott, another friend, the best way to become an author is to be uber busy in other areas of your life. If you really want to write, you’ll find time and you’ll make good use of it.

  • The “Loss of Regiment” Excuse

That’s pretty much covered above: If you can’t write when you always write, write when you can.

But there’s another line of thought too: Set your hours and expect everyone to respect them. I can’t remember exactly what K.M. Weiland, my hero and critique partner, uses to make sure her hours are respected—a flame thrower?—but she’s the first one who made me realize that it is within my power to keep my hours sacrosanct. It may involve some snarling, but you have a right to your time and a right to have your time respected.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you have a right to neglect your family and other duties. But whether it’s for thirty minutes or for a few hours, if you’re serious about being/becoming an author, your work time is important and should be honored.

  • The “Can’t Get Into It” Excuse

That’s the hardest one for me. I can’t get into it for two reasons: I’ve been left-brained for too long, and I’m dealing with emotional stress, which tends to absorb all my energy. But I found the second problem can be helped once the first one is.

  1. Try some warm-up exercises. Yesterday, I thought that going through a couple of chapters of my manuscript would kick the right side of my brain into gear, but instead, I edited. Left-brain activity. I’ve been doing it all year, so I simply fell back into the pattern. I decided to play instead, and here’s my favorite playground: Random Plot Generator. Try it. You’ll see immediately why I love it.
  2. Indulge in some free-flow writing. If you have a work in progress, take your characters out for a spin, driving them away from your manuscript and into a different world of “what if.” What if your novel’s hero got to meet your movie/TV idol? What if you took your villain to church? What if your historical character suddenly found herself in the 21st Century—or your contemporary heroine found herself in Downton Abbey? Just play with it.
  3. Notice your mood vs your manuscript’s tone. My first suggestion is not to work on your manuscript if the two don’t match. As I said about The Cat Lady’s Secret, the tone changed drastically from what I originally intended. But, your mood could enhance your tone. Use whatever you’re going through to make your characters’ emotions more real, more intense. Aside from making your novel better, it can be amazingly therapeutic.

Once you get into the flow of it, you’ll discover that you’ve escaped for a while all the things that are hard for you in your real life. You’re likely to emerge from your session more relaxed and refreshed.

Life is what life is—it’s full of ups and downs, and we’re not going to escape that as long as we’re in our clay houses. Part of being a professional is doing your job regardless. One friend of mine plows ahead while in the throes of migraine pain. Another met deadlines after her son died. Still another turned crisis after crisis into devotional books so she could share her lessons, love, and concern with those enduring what she endured.

Curling up in a ball in a dark corner of the room is also an option. But it’s best not to stay there.

Get up and write.




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New Releases for July!

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Contemporary Romance:

Hometown Hope by Laurel Blount — In the three years since her mother’s death, widower Hoyt Bradley’s daughter, Jess, hasn’t spoken—until she suddenly begs him to save her favorite bookstore from closing. Hoyt is desperate to hear his daughter’s voice again, but he and the bookstore’s pretty owner, Anna Delaney, share a less-than-friendly past. Working together is complicated enough…but can they avoid falling in love? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

A Heart Surrendered by Joy K. Massenburge — Since her teens, pastor’s daughter Sharonda Peterson devoted her life to church service and solitude after the one night she gave Carl Ray Everhart everything. Sobered by a near-death experience, prodigal Carl returns home from an acting and singing career to serve as the worship leader at Sheronda’s church, and she finds that it takes every ounce of her resolve to resist his pursuits … not to mention memories that threaten to overturn the delicate balance she’s created. Can she finally surrender the one thing she’s tried all these years to protect: her heart? (Contemporary Romance from Harambee Press [Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas])

Starting Anew by Melanie D. Snitker — He’s afraid to trust. She has a secret that could change everything between them. Will they let go of their fear, or allow it to rob them of their chance at happiness? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)


Underestimating Miss Cecilia by Carolyn Miller — Can shy, sweet Cecilia overcome her family’s prejudice to see a future with the recently returned prodigal son from next door? (Historical from Kregel Publications)

Benaiah: Might Man of God by PH Thompson — A novel of Biblical, historical fiction about Benaiah, one of King David’s mighty men, examining the premise: What happens when the king’s most obedient soldier is issued a wicked command? (Historical/Biblical from Word Alive Press)

Historical Romance:

Waltz with Destiny by Catherine Ulrich Brakefield — When the men and women of World War II marched off to war, they didn’t know what lay ahead. All they knew was that upon their young and inexperienced shoulders rested the plight of the free world. (Historical Romance from CrossRiver Media Group)

Thimbles and Threads by Mary Davis, Grace Hitchcock, Suzanne Norquist, and Liz Tolsma — Enjoy four historical romances that celebrate the arts of sewing and quilting. When Tilly, a schoolteacher; Alice, a bridal shop owner; Sarah, a seamstress; and Melissa, a rag doll designer, put needle and thread to fabric, will their talents lead to the surprising gift of love? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Refiner’s Fire by J.M. Hochstetler
Will the promise their hearts cling to finally find joyful fulfillment, or will war’s refining fire separate them forever? (Historical Romance from Sheaf House Publishers)

Where Dandelions Bloom by Tara Johnson — To escape an arranged marriage, Cassie Kendrick enlists in the Union army as a man, taking the name Thomas Turner. On the battlefields of the Civil War, keeping her identity a secret is only the beginning of her problems, especially after she meets Gabriel Avery, a handsome young photographer. Anxious to make his mark on the world and to erase past guilt, Gabriel works with renowned photographer Matthew Brady to capture images from the front lines of the war. As Gabriel forges friendships along the way, he wonders what the courageous, unpredictable Thomas Turner is hiding. Battling betrayal, their own personal demons, and a country torn apart by war, can Cassie and Gabriel forgive themselves and trust their futures to the God who births hope and healing in the darkest places? (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker])

The Express Bride by Kimberly Woodhouse — Jacqueline Rivers manages a Pony Express station in 1860 Utah territory after her father’s death. There are daily stresses placed on her in this unconventional role—and now a government official is asking her to sniff out counterfeiters. When Elijah Johnson passes through on the stage while on an exhausting quest to find his boss’s heir, he doesn’t want to leave the beguiling station manager. In fact, he may never leave when caught in the crossfire of the territory’s criminal activities. Can she remain strong when secrets of the past and present are finally unearthed? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Romantic Suspense:

Legacy Rejected by Robin Patchen — She’s not giving up her home, no matter what threats come against her. Realtor Ginny Lamont’s family has abandoned her, leaving her with nothing but a warning that she’s in danger. But Ginny’s built a home in New Hampshire. After a childhood of nomadic living, she’s not running again, certainly not because of some nameless, baseless threat. Real estate developer Kade Powers is thrilled to go out with Nutfield’s beautiful new real estate agent. But the prowler they surprise after their first date offers a glimpse into Ginny’s past and the legacy of lies her parents left her with. She brings a mystery, one he’s determined to help her solve. With Kade’s help, Ginny searches for the truth of her parents’ criminal activity while her enemies close in. When mobsters show up in her quaint New England town, will she find a way to bring them down, or will she lose the home—and the man—she’s come to love? (Romantic Suspense, Independently Published)


Storm Rising by Ronie Kendig — Mentioned in the pages of the Old Testament but lost to history, the Book of the Wars has resurfaced, and its pages hold secrets–and dangers–never before seen on earth. Tasked with capturing the ancient text, former Navy SEAL Leif Metcalfe is once more given command of his own team. But their best efforts are ruined when a notorious Bulgarian operative known as Viorica snatches the volume right out from under them. Iskra “Viorica” Todorova is determined to use the book to secure the thing that matters most–freedom. But a series of strange storms erupts around the globe, and the coming dangers foretold in the text threaten crops, lives, and entire nations. Though both are haunted by secrets of their past and neither trusts the other, Leif and Iskra must form an uneasy alliance to thwart impending disaster. However, the truth hidden in centuries-old words could unleash a storm of their own destruction. (Suspense from Bethany House [Baker])


The Story Raider by Lindsay A. Franklin — Deceiving an empire is a treacherous game. Tanwen and the Corsyth weavers race to collect the strands of an ancient cure that might save Gryfelle. But Tanwen has a secret–Gryfelle isn’t the only one afflicted by the weaver’s curse. As Queen Braith struggles to assert her rule, a new arrival throws her tenuous claim to the Tirian throne into question. Braith’s heart is turned upside down, and she’s not sure she can trust anyone–least of all herself. The puppet master behind Gareth’s rise to power has designs on Tanwen and the story weavers, and will stop at nothing to reclaim the throne. A plot to incite the angry peasants of Tir takes shape, and those dearest to Tanwen will be caught in the crossfire. As the fight for Tir consumes the realm, no one can remain innocent. (Speculative from Enclave Publishing)

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Pre-Order a Must-Read!

The Cowboys is now available for pre-order! If you prefer print over electronic, you’ll never find a better price than now—$9.99!


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A Different Type of Cover Reveal

2019 is not going as planned.

This year, my sweet Billy was supposed to retire, then we were supposed to sell our house here in east Texas and move closer to home in central Texas. By now, we were supposed to be watching our new home becoming a reality, and by late next month, we were supposed to be moving in.

Well, Billy retired April 8, and that’s as far as we got.

In March, my mammogram showed a suspicious lump not bigger than the nail-bed on my pinkie finger, and the biopsy proved it to be cancerous. The pathology report said it was ER positive and HER2 positive. If you’ve had breast cancer before, you might be familiar with these terms. The positive reading on the estrogen receptors isn’t too bad, but the HER2 protein being positive is scary. That’s what makes the type of cancer I have more aggressive. According to the pathology report after the lumpectomy in April, 15% of the cells were reproducing. HER2 positive cancer is invasive and can come back anywhere in the body.

Complication and frustration never-ending

The news wasn’t all bad at first. Good news is, HER2 positive cancer is treatable. And, according to the oncologist, my numbers are good: only an 8-14% chance this could return after radiation and five years on an estrogen blocking drug—meaning there’s a 86-92% chance it won’t return.

I took comfort in those words from my oncologist and thought I’d avoid chemo treatments, until I talked to the radiologist. She managed to scare me silly, reminding me this is the second time I’ve had breast cancer, which illustrates my body’s propensity to produce cancer cells. Oh, goodie. She indicated that chemo is a must for me: it’s either a 100% survival rate now or, within five years or so, talking about how much time I have left.

So now, I want the chemo, but—according to the oncologist—because of the severity of my Crohn’s disease, I can’t have it. Complications from Crohn’s nearly did me in twice already, and the chemo is almost guaranteed to cause a flare-up.

But there’s a med, Herceptin, that targets the HER2 protein. (Actually, there are several meds, but I think Herceptin is the newest.) It’s not a chemo drug, but it is administered along with a chemo, and that protocol—Herceptin + chemo—is approved by the FDC. Question is, will the insurance pay for Herceptin alone? My oncologist is trying to find out. Some insurances will. There’s a chance mine won’t, but we’re going to ask for an exception based on the Crohn’s problem. Trust me. This has been a slow process.

But that’s not all

Radiation is a definite must, along with a drug like Tamoxifen, which targets the hormone receptors (the ER part of the cancer). Neither does anything for any HER2 protein cells that might have escaped the lumpectomy, though, and since my margins weren’t clean afterward, this makes me nervous. But I still need to get the radiation. And, again, there are complications and frustrations.

Like I said, Billy retired in April and got on Medicare, leaving me alone on our insurance policy–which we got through his company, but now are paying for through COBRA. Our joint policy stopped at the end of April, so everything up to that point was covered and the deductible had been met. According to the powers that be, everything was supposed to ride along with me to my own insurance policy. Just a continuation, they said. But I got a new number and am not recognized in their system yet.

That means, #1, those who can find me in the system say that I haven’t paid anything toward the deductible, and #2, I can’t get approved for radiation because my account isn’t recognized.

Granted, the hospital is working with the insurance to fix the problem, but this is June and the cancer was discovered in March. I’m getting a tad antsy to start treatment.

What all this means to you

I’ve debated for months over just how public I wanted to make this news. It’s not like it’s a secret, really. I’ve told my street team and newsletter subscribers along with most of the folks I know personally. I don’t know why I haven’t announced it here, just as I have all the other challenges I’ve faced over the years. But making it public—this public—just didn’t feel right.

Then, it dawned on me. I have a message to spread. Get tested.

This post is about me and my breast cancer, and I imagine there are a whole lot of women out there ready to give me the secret pink-ribbon handshake into an exclusive club.

But cancer is evil. Any kind of cancer. Prostate cancer is just as deadly as breast cancer—and just as survivable if caught early. So is colon cancer. Ovarian cancer, cervical cancer. Many cancers are treatable now, but the secret is to catch them early. Get tested.

Here’s the deal: As frustrating as everything has been so far, I’m still in pretty good shape because we found the tumor early. It was tiny, and only a miniscule part of the margin showed up “not clear.” I have an 86-92% chance of the cancer not returning if all I do is take the pill and get radiation. That percentage improves considerably if I get some form of a Her2 protein-targeting drug. Herceptin isn’t the only one. If I can’t get that one, maybe I can get another.

Most folks don’t discover their problems while in the midst of doing retirement paperwork. Most folks don’t have to worry about whether their insurance will cover their treatment. Most folks don’t have other medical conditions that affect and complicate their treatment options.

In other words: Most folks aren’t like me and have fewer excuses–especially if they’re insured, because insurance usually pays for cancer screening. Get tested.

If you live in a human body, get tested.

Increase your odds of survival.

Schedule it today.



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Cover Reveal!

Woo-hooo!!! I’m excited to announce The Cowboys collection, releasing August 15th from Smitten (an imprint of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas).

I’ve written very few historical pieces: one that I never published; one, Slider, that won honorable mention in the Saturday Evening Post‘s  “Great American Fiction” contest; and now, this one in The Cowboys collection—Loving a Harvey Girl.

All four authors in this collection were finalists in our genres in the 2019 Selah award (did I ever announce that Ice Melts in Spring took third place?), so you know the stories in this collection have to be good.

Of course, as the name implies, all the stories have to do with the old west. They all include handsome cowboys and feisty women and the occasional American Indian. These historical romances range in tone from drama to comedy, and each story is a guaranteed page-turner.

Mine is lighthearted and fun, with characters I came to love quickly in a short time. I have to admit, I get a kick out of writing novellas. The shorter works require the author to pack a lot into fewer pages, but they don’t have to be as intricate as longer works. They’re just plain fun to write, and I can crank them out fairly quickly. Not like writing my novels; I always sweat over those. But writing a novella is refreshing. It reminds me of why I enjoy my job.

This will be on the market for pre-order soon, so keep an eye out for the announcement. We’ll have a lot of pre-release activities that should be tons of fun for the readers, which I’ll announce here on my blog. I hope you’ll participate!


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Great New Releases for June!

June 2019 New Releases

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Contemporary Romance:

The Art of Rivers by Janet Ferguson — Can a woman whose life has been damaged by addiction trust her heart to a man in recovery? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Cross My Heart by Robin Lee Hatcher — Horse rescue farmer Ashley helps Ben start an equine therapy barn on his great-great grandfather’s farm. When they consider a relationship together, her bitter experience with her opioid addict brother reins in any hope for a future with Ben, who is five years in recovery from alcoholism. Ben knows that with God, all things are possible—but will Ashley find it within herself to give love a chance? (Contemporary Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)

Risking Love by Toni Shiloh — Nikki lives with a perfect trifecta of noes. No guys. No dates. No way. After years of keeping men at bay, Nikki Gordon has it down to a science. No one, not even sweet, hunky Shorty Smalls can change her mind. Period. So if she’s got it all figured out, why does her heart sink to her toes when she sees Shorty with another woman? (Contemporary Romance from Celebrate Lit)


Uncharted Destiny by Keely Brooke Keith — When Bailey sets out to rescue her lost friend in the Land’s dangerous mountain terrain, she discovers more about the Land—and herself—than she bargained for. (General from Edenbrooke Press)

Six Houses Down by Kari Rimbey — Two days after Sharon Webster’s distant husband returns for a surprise visit, their autistic son slips out of the house and is lost in historic Washington D. C. As they search for their boy, Sharon is forced to rely on the husband she believes no longer loves her. An elderly black couple down the street seems to understand her unspoken hurts. Has God sent them to help her find trust again? (General Contemporary, Independently Published)


In the Shadow of the King by Melissa Rosenberger — Beset by doubts and jealousy about prophecies spoken over her brother Yeshua, Hannah struggles to see the truth before her eyes until it is too late…or is it? (Historical from Carpenter’s Son Publishing)

Historical Romance:

This Healing Journey by Misty M. Beller — An adventure-seeking wilderness girl and an ex-cavalryman looking to settle down fall in love while caring for a wounded Indian child that shows up in his barn. Will their differences keep them apart or become their greatest strengths? (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

Cameo Courtships by Susanne Dietze, Debra E. Marvin, Jennifer Uhlarik, and Kathleen Y’Barbo — In 1851, a special cameo is gifted by Queen Victoria to Letitia Newton, who though considered an old maid, meets the perfect gentleman minutes after donning. Told by the Queen the cameo is to be shared, Letitia gifts the “Victoria Cameo” to a woman in her family, hoping adventure and romance will follow each of its subsequent wearers. Adventure indeed follows two competing journalists, one of whom carries the cameo while looking to expose a smuggler, a trouser-wearing frontierswoman and a reverend who are on a mission to ransom the cameo from a manipulative brothel owner, two Pinkertons who are charged with the care of the cameo but must rely on one another when the cameo is once again stolen, and a young woman who doubts the cameo can help her when a handsome Scottish library administrator ruins her dream of overseeing the new Carnegie Library children’s department and keeps a social chasm between himself and her father. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Mail-Order Refuge by Cindy Regnier — Carly Blair from Baltimore buys a train ticket to Kansas where she will become the wife of a man she’s never met. She must leave Baltimore to escape the evil plans her ex-fiance has for using her artistic talents for a counterfeit operation. Rand Stafford, Kansas cattle rancher is looking after his two orphaned nieces, but knows they need a mother. He’s not interested in love since being left at the altar so he advertises for a mail-order bride, willing to do whatever it takes to give Mary Jo and Jenna a proper home and upbringing. Can Carly and Rand find love where they least expect it, or will the shadows of the past dash their hopes for the future? (Historical Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

No Ocean Too Wide by Carrie Turansky — Between the years of 1869 to 1939 more than 100,000 poor British children were sent across the ocean to Canada with the promise of a better life. Those who took them in to work as farm laborers or household servants were told they were orphans—but was that the truth? (Historical Romance from Waterbrook/Multnomah [Random House])

Romantic Suspense:

Darkwater Truth by Robin Caroll — Adelaide Fountaine, general manager, is enthusiastically renovating parts of the Darkwater Inn. Her intentions come to a screeching halt when a skeleton is found behind a makeshift wall—an axe beside it. As Adelaide works alongside owner Dimitri Pampalon and Detective Beau Savoie, the two men who have been pursuing her heart, she learns the eerie death has tentacles that reach deep into the seedy past of both the Darkwater Inn and the evil underground of New Orleans. The past and the present collide as the stakes are upped—not only for Adelaide’s heart, but for her very life and her father’s life as well. The threats are deadly, the coils of evil are tightening around everyone involved, and they are more powerful than anyone could have ever imagined. (Romantic Suspense, Independently Published)

Over the Line by Kelly Irvin — Gabriela’s brother is missing, he’s a suspect in a murder, and she’s in the cross hairs of a criminal organization. The only person who can help her is the one man she can’t trust. Will Gabby & Eli find her brother before it’s too late? (Romantic Suspense from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)

Long Walk Home by DiAnn Mills — As an Arab Christian pilot for a relief organization, Paul Farid feels called to bring supplies to his war-torn countrymen in southern Sudan. But with constant attacks from Khartoum’s Islamic government, the villagers have plenty of reasons to distrust Paul, and he wonders if the risks he’s taking are really worth his mission. American doctor Larson Kerr started working with the Sudanese people out of a sense of duty and has grown to love them all, especially Rachel Alier, her young assistant. But despite the years she’s spent caring for them, her life feels unfulfilled. It’s a void noticed both by Paul and by Rachel’s older brother, Colonel Ben Alier of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army. When Rachel is abducted, Paul, Ben, and Larson agree to set aside their differences to form an unlikely alliance and execute a daring rescue. Their faith and beliefs tested, each must find the strength to walk the path God has laid before them, to find their way home. (Romantic Suspense from Tyndale House)

The Last Chaplain by Carl M. White — At the request of Pastor John Grant, the last chaplain of the United States Senate, Lisa Smithy embarks on the adventure of a lifetime: find a former Senate staff member and convince him to reveal to a DC reporter the plot that led to Dr. Grant’s removal and the discrediting of his best friend, a United States Senator. From the South, to the West, to the Midwest, evil men are desperate to stop her, and romance surprisingly finds her. Can she bring together the former Senate staffer who knows all and the Washington reporter who can tell all, while eluding the men who would end it all? (Romantic Suspense from Austin Brothers Publishers)

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