Archive for July, 2010

My Mary Engelbreit Sewing Room

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

Since I bought my current home five years ago, I’ve wanted to have a Mary Engelbreit sewing room. Of course, I started it off with appropriate curtains and other decor, but it wasn’t going to be complete until I finished my “Bloom Where You’re Planted” cross stitch and had it framed.

Here it is at last:


Bare Naked Soaps

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

I’ve been meaning to post about this for a while, but somehow I didn’t get around to it till now.

Anyway, dear Robin was kind enough to send me some Naked Soap for my birthday a few weeks ago.

Oh my goodness!

These are so very nice. I got several kinds, including Luscious Love and, my ultra fave, Pixie Dust.


Now, what’s particularly cool about these soaps? They are all hand made by Marie who also set up and designed my glorious new website including this very blog. How in the world does she have time to do all the wonderful things she does?

And thanks again to Robin who is far more generous than she ought to be.

Grave Agreement by Robin Hardy

Sunday, July 11th, 2010

WOOT!! There’s nothing I look forward to every summer more than Robin Hardy’s newest book about Dallas policeman/detective/millionaire Sammy Kidman.

This year’s edition is Grave Agreement. What a ride!

I usually say the Sammy books are fun. I can’t really say that about this one, though it does have its light moments, and Sammy is, as always, his lovable, charming, gorgeous self. But this time Sammy is under attack along with everyone around him.

As the back cover asks:


It’s a perfect summary of the book’s theme. Sammy’s young office assistant has dabbled with the dark forces of witchcraft and found that, as always, it takes far more than it gives, and it’s much easier to get into than get out of. When Sammy and his friends and family try to help her, they find themselves facing all the wrath of hell. Only God’s power and the Name of Jesus can protect them.

I gobbled this up in two days. It would have just been one day, but that pesky real life stuff kept interfering. And, for some reason, my body just insisted on getting some sleep that first night. But I really enjoyed the book, and I certainly couldn’t predict what was going to happen next.

Don’t miss this one.

Robin Hardy, as you can tell from this photo, has always had a mind of her own.

Cowboy For A Rainy Afternoon by Stephen Bly

Sunday, July 11th, 2010

A 10-year-old boy with red straw cowboy hat, cap gun, and silver-painted wooden bullets. Six story-telling, cribbage playing old cowboys. A ’49 Plymouth with open trunk. A damsel in distress. All the fixings for a summer’s day adventure at the Matador Hotel in 1954 Albuquerque.

Maybe you weren’t born 100 years too late!

Cowboy For A Rainy Afternoon is a twist on the traditional Western story.

In 1954, six men who spent their youth as cowboys in the Southwest, now gather at the Matador Hotel lobby in downtown Albuquerque, New Mexico, for weekly games of cribbage. One rainy afternoon, one of the men brings his grandson. They’re delighted with this captive audience. They all play cribbage and the men tell stories of their exploits in the old days. The eldest was born during the Civil War. All of them cowboyed from the late 1880s until the 1940s. They tell first-hand stories of what the West was truly like.

Many years later, the boy looks back and remembers the day he heard of a way of life and western tradition that’s quickly becoming extinct. He also recalls the lessons he learned and the excitement of a drama that unfolded before them that provoked the cowboys’ last stand.

This reminiscent account of real cowboy lives resonates like Andy Adams’ book, The Log of a Cowboy, written in the early 1900s.

Author’s suggestion: this book is best read aloud, as though around a campfire, by someone who gets the hang of the rhythm of the language.


Quotes from Cowboy For A Rainy Afternoon:

The Matador Hotel died on July 5th, 1965, but they didn’t bother burying it until last fall.

New Mexico heat blanketed Albuquerque that July like too many covers in a stuffy cabin. . .the kind of day that you sweat from the inside out and feel sticky dirt in places that you don’t ponder much except in the shower.

Cribbage and cowboys. . .I figured I fit right in.

The early May rain came down hard, the kind of cloudburst when the drops slap your face and you take it personal.

There’s a quiet buzz from antique ceiling fans, like six thousand crickets, all out of tune. You don’t even notice, until there’s silence.

Folks today think that 1954 existed in some other galaxy, on some other planet. Maybe they’re right. It’s hard to believe that world and this one are made of the same stuff.

“If you feel prodded, Shorty, it’s the shovel of the Lord. He’s diggin’ you up and intends on restorin’ you.”

REVIEW QUOTES from previous Stephen Bly novels:

“I have always been a fan of Louis L’Amour but I must say your book is as good if not better than anything of his. I shall remain a fan of Stephen Bly.” — Jimmy Dickens, Grand Ole Opry

“Bly offers a kinder, gentler Western that should appeal to fans of Louis L’Amour.” – Library Journal


Q. What is meant by the term “cowboy philosopher.” What is it about the “cowboy life” that lends itself to philosophizing and a closer walk with God?

A cowboy’s friendships were shaped by tough work and tragedy, companionship and daily battle with weather and critters. Only the battlefields of Europe and the Pacific would equal the old West in producing men of courage and character. This stark reality on the land, with lots of nights around a campfire and under the heavens, goaded them to storytelling, philosophizing, and wondering about God.

“Little Brother, a man don’t jump into the stream until he sees which way the water’s flowin’,” says a character in my newest release, Cowboy For A Rainy Afternoon (June 1st, hardback). It’s told from a 10-year-old boy’s point-of-view, but years later as an adult. He learns many life lessons one summer’s day in a lobby at the Matador Hotel in Albuquerque. He gets a graduate degree in cowboy philosophy.

Q. Why did you pick Albuquerque, New Mexico for your setting in this newest novel?

Because I’ve been there many times to vacation or do research. I enjoy this state very much. The only other place I’ve been that possesses such wonderful layers of culture stacked one upon another is Rome. The old cowboys at the Matador Hotel in Albuquerque share one layer of New Mexico’s history, a fairly modern era.

Every chapter I wrote in Cowboy For A Rainy Afternoon made me miss New Mexico. The state motto is “land of enchantment.” But it’s more than a Chamber of Commerce slogan that tugs me. It’s an intriguing state to explore. This state’s ripe for numerous stories.

Q. How did you get the idea for Cowboy For A Rainy Afternoon?

This novel is not based on my life, per se. However, what makes it personal, like a memoir: as a 10-year-old boy in 1954, I spent many afternoons playing cribbage with my grandpa, just like Little Brother in the novel. And I also heard many accounts about the “old days.” Many images from those times together in the 1950s embedded in my mind. I finally wrote about it.

Q. What was one of your challenges in writing Cowboy For A Rainy Afternoon?

A rather technical one…Albuquerque is tough to spell right every time. In fact, it ranks #4 in the most misspelled list on none other than The other contenders are Cincinnati, Tucson and Pittsburgh. I finally started to get it right on the second draft by remembering an old song: A-L-B-U-Q-U- E-R-Q-U-E (Lyrics by Herb Hendler, Music by Ralph Flanagan ©1951). This made it easy enough for even a cowboy to spell.

Gotta go, gotta go back to New Mexico,
where my true love waits for me.
Gotta get on the tracks
cause I’m on my way back
To A-L-B-U-Q-U- E-R-Q-U-E.

The tune, of course, is integral to teaching the spelling. I can’t help you there, even if we met in person. But my musical wife could hum it just fine.

However, I did discover that there are definite advantages to setting a story mainly indoors, as most of this book is. It’s easier to research. Take New Mexico, for instance. . .as soon as I move my characters out into the woods, I’ve got to decide which tree they’ll hunker next to. Hey, it’s not easy to pick the right tree. Picking the right weed can be tougher. So, I stayed most the time inside the Matador Hotel. Except when all the main characters hop into that ’49 Plymouth with the open trunk.

Q. What other kind of genre would you be interested in writing besides westerns?

My wife and I have enjoyed writing together what she calls ‘cozy mysteries’. We did The Hidden West Series (contemporary) and The Carson City Chronicles Series (historical) and so much enjoyed the research on location and process. I’d be delighted to do more these with her.

Q. What’s next for you?

I’ve got a contract for a historical romance western, set on a train from Omaha to Sacramento, with the working title Throw Away Heart. In addition, I’m thinking through a mystery story set in the early 1900s on the Oregon coast on a golf course, starring Stuart Brannon, one of my early cowboy protagonists, as an old man. He’s invited to a golf tourney by friends and feels very awkward on the links, but finds plenty of adventures anyway. As ardent fans of my books know, Stewart Brannon makes some sort of cameo appearance or mention in every Stephen Bly novel, whether historical or contemporary.


Stephen Bly has published 103 books of historical and contemporary fiction (37 classic westerns) and Christian life and family nonfiction for adults, teens, and kids (9-14 yrs.). Eighteen books were co-authored with wife, Janet. Four of his novels were finalists for the Christy Award. His historical western, The Long Trail Home, won a Christy. The Blys have 3 married sons and 3 grandchildren and live in north-central Idaho at 4,000 ft. elev. on the Nez Perce Indian Reservation.

Learn more about the Blys at their website or “On A Western Trail” blog or follow then on twitter or friend them on Facebook (Stephen Bly or Janet Chester Bly).

Cowboy For A Rainy Afternoon (hardback, Center Point) is available by order through your local bookstore (Ingram Distributors) or online or You may also check it out at your local library.

Prodigal Patriot by Darlene Franklin

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

The Reids refuse to live in fear. They decide on a dangerous course when the Tories of Maple Notch, Vermont, chase Patriot families off their land. They live in a cave and farm their land by moonlight.

When Josiah Tuttle discovers their secret and offers to help, Sally doesn’t know if she can trust him. After all, Josiah’s father is one of the Tories who forced her family into hiding.

The Tuttles have already lost one son to the hated Patriot cause. How can Josiah both honor his grieving father and protect the woman he loves? When called upon to take a stand, which side will he choose? How can Sally and Josiah battle through the barriers separating them to love and forgiveness?


I happy to have Darlene Franklin as a guest on my blog talking about her latest book, Prodigal Patriot.

Welcome, Darlene. Tell us about your new release. Who is this prodigal, and what makes his story unique?

Josiah Tuttle is a prodigal because he has defied his father’s wishes by fighting for the Patriot cause—and inadvertently causing his brother’s death. I like to think his story is unique because he is torn between honoring his father—a biblical command—and love for his country. Which should come first?
I have to give credit to my critique partner, Susan Page Davis, for the marvelous book title!

Aren’t good crit partners wonderful? So what are the underlying themes of the book? What will readers long remember after reading it?

In addition to the themes I’ve mentioned above—honoring God or country—my characters discover that serving God sometimes comes at a steep price. I suspect will remember this as the “cave” story but I’d love to think Josiah and Sally bring the humanity of the Revolutionary War to life for them.

What surprised you during the writing process? Or did the story turn out just as you had at first envisioned it?

This story stayed surprisingly close to its original plan. Not all of them do!

I know mine almost never do. I’m thankful, though, that most of my writing surprises are good ones. What came first for you in the writing process? Character, plot or theme?

Because Prodigal Patriot was inspired by real-life heroine Ann Storey, the plot (family living in a cave to escape Tory persecution) came first. For a patriot heroine fleeing persecution, I needed a hero with a vested interested in the Tory cause. Enter Josiah.

I love using real history for inspiration. In fact, I love the research that goes into writing a historical novel. What did you learn that you didn’t already know when researching this period in history?

I learned more about Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys as well as the two battles of Fort Ticonderoga. The first battle—when Allen claimed the Fort “In the name of the Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress!”—took place less than a month after the battles at Lexington and Concord.

What was the most difficult part of writing this book?

I always find it difficult to begin and easy to finish. I used to think that was because I was so ready to write “THE END” that I rushed the ending. But now I realize I don’t know the characters as well when I start. It takes several chapters for them to take on a life of their own. By the end, I’m heading into the emotionally-and-action-packed parts of the book with people who are as real to me as my own family, and it flies.

I’m just the opposite. Starting for me is the easy part. Getting it all tied together and coherent takes work. Did any of your characters insist on doing things you hadn’t planned on?

The one character I had to force into submission was Josiah’s mother. She kept showing up in the early chapters, but later in the book, she was simply gone. I had to reconcile the story.

So who are your favorite authors and what have you learned from them?

I read lots and lots of mysteries. I have learned a great deal about setting and character from authors like Dick Francis, James Lee Burke and Nancy Packard.

I love mysteries. What are you working on now?

I am about ready to start revisions to my third Vermont book, Love’s Raid, which features Josiah and Sally’s grandson, Daniel Tuttle. Robbers strike the Maple Notch bank a few days after Confederates raid banks in St. Albans (the northernmost battle of the Civil War). Daniel is the town constable, and has to decide if the robbery is the work of Confederates—or copycats closer to home.

That sounds exciting! And, finally, more than anything, what would you most like your readers to know?

That God loves them, and that God’s love is enough, no matter what!

Amen, Darlene! Thanks so much for visiting. I’m looking forward to reading Prodigal Patriot!

Award-winning author and speaker Darlene Franklin recently returned to cowboy country—Oklahoma—to be near family. She recently signed the contract for her twelth book. This fall she is celebrating the repacking of her Rhode Island romance in Seaside Romance and her third novella anthology, Face of Mary in A Woodland Christmas. Visit Darlene’s blogs at and

Go to her author page at to buy Prodigal Patriot and any of her other titles.

America the Beautiful

Sunday, July 4th, 2010

I realize this is a tough time for our country. Things are not going very smoothly right now. Unemployment is high, there’s an unstaunched oil spill in the Gulf, there is tension along our southern border, and politics seem to be exceptionally snarky.

But, in spite of it all, God has blessed and, out of His inexhaustible mercy, still blesses us. We still have the greatest country in the world. We still have more freedoms than anyone else anywhere else. We still have the power, we the people, to shape our own destinies.

God bless America. Even at the ripe old age of 234, she’s still beautiful.


The Joy of Creative Expression

Saturday, July 3rd, 2010

Imagine if you were out shopping one average day, and suddenly an opera broke out:

Opera Company of Philadelphia “Flash Brindisi” at Reading Terminal Market (April 24, 2010)

How can you not be smiling after watching that? It’s pure joy, free and unexpected and delightful.

Thank you, Opera Company of Philadelphia.