Between the Rock and the Hard Place by Vicki Hinze

We’ve all been there with bosses, friends, family. Caught between the rock and the hard place. It’s uncomfortable, it’s maddening, and at times it’s heartbreaking.


We try to avoid those situations. We keep our opinions and thoughts to ourselves, avoid specific topics we know others have issues with, and sometimes we’re successful. Normally, between adults, we can agree to disagree. That, in my humble opinion, is how it should be. But the fact is, not everyone got that memo.


Listen, people aren’t clones. They have different opinions and ideas. They have different motivations and reasons for doing what they do. And, if those parties are family or real friends, they respect what they don’t know as well as what they do. They respect the person.


What do I mean by that? I mean we give our family and real friends the benefit of doubt that their motivations are pure and their reasons might well be something they cannot or choose not to share. Honestly, we do that for people we like. And the more we like them, the more benefit of doubt we grant them. Certainly nothing wrong with that. The more we know the person, the more we know and understand what is motivating their thoughts and actions.


In this type of situation, an issue arises is when what should be mutual respect is not mutual, and reciprocity is absent. A family member or real friend ignores your choices, your reasons for doing what you’re doing, and insists you react in a specific way to a specific topic or be forcefully alienated. In other words, they demand you think or act they way they want you to, or they belittle or give you grief for having a different reaction.


In that position, you have a couple of choices:

* You can do what the other person insists you do, forfeiting your choice and your reasons.

* You can attempt to discuss the situation with your family member or real friend, provided the gauntlet hasn’t already been tossed down and that opportunity removed from the table before you knew an issue existed.

* You can respectfully remove yourself from the situation, preferably without confrontation or a major blowout.

* You can engage in a confrontation or major blowout. (Rarely is this a constructive solution. Actually, I can’t think of a time when in personal relationships it has proven to be a constructive solution. Often it leads to permanent alienation.)


None of the above are optimum choices and none have positive outcomes. But in real life we are placed in these situations and they are absent positive outcomes, so we seek the outcome that is the least painful for all involved. We can’t control another’s actions, but we can control our own. So we seek the highest good for all. We seek a solution which inflicts the less amount of destruction and exhibits the greatest amount of respect—for ourselves and for others. Sometimes, that’s about the best we can do.


Losing a family member or real friend to disagreement is never easy. Nor should it be easy or painless to lose the connection to someone you’ve taken into your heart. The wound runs deep and it can cause bitterness, but only if you let it.


That is also a choice you make. Mostly you’ll wonder why you gave respect but were not respected. That’s a normal reaction, and an inevitable one. But once the shock wears off, it is not one to embrace.


As stated earlier, we cannot control the actions of others, only our own. And it is upon our own actions and reactions we should focus. Acknowledge the worse, but concentrate on the best. Continue to wish well. Continue to pray for insight and wisdom, for blessings for that person.


This might sound hard to do. That’s because it is. But, with time, it becomes easier, and a day does come when you know you’ve chosen the right path. Anger and upset is a heavy burden to carry. When you forgive—even those who never ask for forgiveness—you release that anger and upset.


It isn’t that you ignore it. It isn’t that you choose to let someone else walk all over you. It is that you respect your differences and refuse to fall to anger and upset over something you cannot control. When you forgive, you let go. You don’t carry that anger or upset anymore. You’ve accepted the reality of the situation. And while it might not be as you wished it, it is what it is, and you’ve accepted it and are free to move on with life.


For people of faith, who tend to put challenges on the altar early on, it is comforting to know that God’s got this. He will open eyes, change hearts, or deal with the situation bearing in mind the greatest good for all involved. That is a huge comfort. A huge blessing. When we have done what we can do, we trust God will do the rest—and He will do that best loving all who are involved.


It’s impossible to avoid being caught between the rock and hard place. And that, while unfortunate, is simply a fact of life when interacting with other people. As I told a dear friend not too long ago, “If you interact with others, expect conflict. It’s healthy, it’s normal, it’s inevitable. If you can’t deal with it constructively, become a recluse and get a dog.”


At the time, I thought that was about the best advice I knew to give. I still believe it now.*




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Welcome guest author Christy Barritt

christy barritt photo

Welcome, Christy. We’re happy to have you here with us today. Can you tell us a little about how you started your writing career? 

For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a writer. The desire started when I began reading Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden in elementary school. After that, I was hooked. I even wrote a few books in high school (that will never see the light of day!).

Then I went off to college to get a degree in communications, figuring it was too bad I couldn’t get a bachelors in novel writing and instantly find a job. If only it was that easy! After college I got a job with a Christian publishing house, and I thought I’d found my purpose: editing.

But at 23 my father became ill with Alzheimer’s disease, and I had to make a choice. I decided to give up my job and move twelve hours away, back home to be with him.

It was while I sat by my dad’s bedside that I rediscovered my love for writing. I also began freelancing and became a reporter for my local newspaper. I continued to learn my craft by participating in critique groups and going to writer’s conferences. I got an agent, lost an agent, almost got signed to publishing houses, and got signed only to have those very contracts fall through.

Eventually my first book was published, and I discovered that even once you had a contract, publishing was still a rocky road. But I pushed on ahead, determined to do what I felt was a call on my life.

Fast forward eighteen years after I moved home to be with my father, and I’ve now published sixty-four books. I’ve garnered several awards and even a movie deal. I’m so happy that I was faithful to God’s call in my life. It hasn’t always been easy, but the journey has been worth it.

About Christy:

USA Today has called Christy Barritt’s books “scary, funny, passionate, and quirky.”

A Publishers Weekly best-seller, Christy writes both mystery and romantic suspense novels that are clean with underlying messages of faith. Her books have won the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Suspense and Mystery, have been twice nominated for the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award, and have finaled for both a Carol Award and Foreword Magazine’s Book of the Year.

She’s married to her prince charming, a man who thinks she’s hilarious—but only when she’s not trying to be. Christy’s a self-proclaimed klutz, an avid music lover who’s known for spontaneously bursting into song, and a road trip aficionado.

Christy currently splits her time between the Virginia suburbs and Hatteras Island, North Carolina. She has more than sixty books published with over one million copies sold.

For more information, visit her website:



Christy’s latest series is the Lantern Beach Mysteries, featuring a detective that must go into hiding on a fictional island off north Carolina’s coast.


Thank you so much for joining us today, Christy.


All the best…


Mary Alford




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If you build it, He will come.

Inside the chapel at Blue Lake

By Marilyn Turk

If you’ve read my previous posts, you know I directed my second writers’ retreat this year.

For months beforehand, I planned, prepared, and promoted the retreat, praying and trusting God to make it as successful as last year’s first retreat. I did all I could, then I had to sit back and wait.

If you’re an impatient person like me, waiting is the hardest part of anything. But I knew that up to a point, I was not responsible for the outcome. God would have to fill in the gaps where I was inadequate. He would have to get the people there – that was one thing out of many that were out of my control.

So the big day arrived and people began showing up. And this is where the story gets even better. God appointed certain people to help me with each area where I needed help. The man and woman who were our greeters last year took over, greeting each guest with a smile and hospitality. The two ladies who ran the bookstore organized the books and sales. The ladies who volunteered to help me decorate grabbed the decorations and placed them in appropriate spots.

But there were a few things I hadn’t covered. And God provided.

1) We needed a techie person to run the slides during our assemblies. I’m not one, and when I attempted, I messed up. But quick to the rescue, one of our attendees jumped up and came over to fix the problem. I asked him if he would be responsible for handling that part of our retreat and he happily agreed.

2) I always forget to take pictures and rely on others to use their phones. But conveniently, an attendee had brought his new “toy,” a camera, and he offered to photograph the entire retreat.

3) We have a prayer basket for prayer requests. I asked a friend who was attending for the first time if she would periodically check it and pray for the requests. A fantastic prayer warrior, she approached me later and offered to pray individually with anyone who requested personal prayer. As a result, she stayed busy with prayer appointments.

The next morning as I met God by the lake at the retreat, I pondered how He had provided all I’d needed, even those things I hadn’t asked for – except for one thing. I’d prayed for 100 attendees and God provided 66. Then I remembered the same thing happened the previous year – I asked for 100 attendees and God provided 66. I smiled as I realized that God provided the number He wanted to attend, the perfect number for an intimate spiritual as well as writing retreat.

1 Cor. 3:6

Sunrise at Blue Lake

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Lyn Cote Reviews Kathryn Springer’s Dandelion Field

Writers start by being readers and I still read daily. I’ve found a good book for you! Well, that’s my hope.

The Dandelion FieldThe Dandelion Field by Kathryn Springer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

EXCELLENT, EXCELLENT book! But I wasn’t surprised. I’ve enjoyed others by Kathryn Springer, a friend and fellow Wisconsin writer.

The hero Dan and the heroine Gin both carry unhappy memories from the past. Gin’s a single mom and Dan’s still in love with the girl next door who married his best friend. These elements may sound familiar but not under Kathryn Springer’s insightful pen.

The other romantic couple causes the tension and drama–Raine and Cody, the girl from the wrong side of the tracks and the small town’s golden boy. Again a seasoned romantic conflict but again, Kathryn makes the old song new.

I rarely give 5 stars but The Dandelion Field deserved 5!

View all my reviews

QUESTION: Have you ever disappointed anybody? Yourself? No need to go into detail but how did you handle it?–Lyn Cote

BTW, my newest historical JOURNEY TO RESPECT, is on sale for 99 cents now. 

Some call him half-breed and all call her lady~


Click here to purchase.




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Step Ten in Our Journey

This is my second post about my novel Son of Perdition, a coming-of-age story about the son of Captain Ahab of Moby Dick infamy. In my May 3 post, I mentioned a book I used for research about the U. S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Charles Todorich’s The Spirited Years: A History of the Antebellum Naval Academy (Naval Institute Press, 1984). EPSON scanner image

While conducting his research, Charles uncovered first person letters and narratives that revealed the agony many of the academy’s young midshipmen experienced in deciding what to do once war was imminent. During their arduous training, these midshipmen had forged friendships they never expected to dissolve, much less that they’d ever be required to shoot at one other with intent to kill. But after the election of Abraham Lincoln, war was unavoidable, and each young man had to obey the calls of his home state, his parents, and his own deeply held convictions regarding slavery. The letters written during this traumatic time make it clear the midshipmen knew the war was over slavery, though some preferred…and still prefer…to couch it in the benign term “states’ rights.”

Annapolis MidshipmenBy April 1861, several southern students had resigned their commissions and gone home. “Their lives about to be forever altered by forces beyond their control, the midshipmen of the North and South bid each other farewell…the great events unfolding around them transformed the midshipmen into men, but this did not hold back the tears. Though soon to be their enemies in war, the seceders were treated as ‘erring brethren,’ not traitors, and the closing days of the antebellum Naval Academy saw many poignant scenes” (Todorich 195). ( At left is a line of antebellum midshipmen on the academy parade ground.)

I incorporated this account and others from Charles’s book in my story. Here is my rendering of one such scene. My fictional characters are Timothy and Hart from the north, and southern boys Beau and Wils. Midshipmen William T. Sampson and Charles W. Flusser and commandant Lieutenant Christopher R. P. Rodgers were real men who spoke the words repeated at the end of this segment.


Timothy looked at Hart and then studied his two southern friends. “What about you? Are you going to leave?”

Beau shrugged. “I wrote to my father. I guess I’ll do whatever he tells me. I have no doubt Louisiana will follow South Carolina in secession.”

Wils bent his head. “I expect Maryland will secede, as well. If we do, I’m bound to my home state.”

Timothy thumped his fist on the table. “Come on, fellas. What happened to ‘My country, right or wrong’?”

“‘Navy first, last, and always’?” Hart added.

Beau and Wils traded a look, and both shrugged. They all sat in silence for several minutes.

Beau put his head in his hands. “I can’t think of it. I just can’t think of ever firing on the Stars and Stripes. Why did that fool Lincoln have to get elected anyway? He received less than forty percent of the popular votes and not one southern electoral vote. You’d think our opinions didn’t even matter to the rest of the country.”

How Timothy burned to tell Beau whose fault it really was—the slaveowners. But he had no heart for a fight. Until coming to the academy, he had considered all slaveowners as nameless, faceless monsters. But Beau possessed a golden character. Loyal, fearless, strong, kind, generous … and completely blind to the evils on which his family fortune was founded.

“You think there’ll be war?” said Hart.

“Only if that Lincoln fellow causes it,” said Wils. “He just needs to let us go. We’ll establish our own country, and pretty soon we’ll have a treaty with the United States. Everything will be fine and neighborly. If he’s got a lick of sense, he’ll just let us go.”

Timothy stared at Wils. Did he really believe it was that simple? Lincoln had promised in his campaign to keep the country together. Yet looking at Wils and Beau, he could not think of fighting them. In gunnery practice, they had always imagined real-life enemies and gleefully demolished them. But to stare down the sight of a gun at one of these men … no, he could never do it.

As if reading his thoughts, Beau gazed at him, his eyes filling with tears. He shook his head and brushed them away. “It shouldn’t be this way. It just shouldn’t.”

Timothy, Hart, and Wils hummed their agreement, unable to say anything more.

The following week, Beau returned to Timothy’s room clutching a letter. It could mean only one thing. Timothy held his breath.

“I have to go,” Beau choked out. “My father said to come home right away.”

Timothy hung on his friend, trying unsuccessfully to hold back his own tears. He skipped class and helped Beau pack.

Once the job was done, the stewards carried the baggage downstairs to the waiting carriage. Wils and Hart, along with classmates Sampson and Flusser, joined Timothy to bid André Beauchamp farewell. They hung on each other and formed a procession on their way out of the barracks, singing discordant friendship songs in an attempt to bolster their spirits.

As they reached the ground floor and headed toward the Main Gate, the commandant, Lieutenant Rodgers rushed from his quarters, his eyes blazing. “What’s the meaning of this rioting? Why aren’t you men in class?”

Timothy could not speak, but Sampson said, “No riot, sir. We’re only bidding our classmate goodbye.”

Rodgers regarded them for a moment, then sighed, and gave them a sympathetic nod. “Ah, yes. Carry on, men.”


Sent to Annapolis to serve their country, bonded in friendship closer than brothers, these four young friends are wrenched apart by issues over which they have no control. If I have succeeded in drawing my readers into my story, by this point they will be grieving for all of them.

Historical fiction takes us away from our daily lives to another time and place, “the good old days,” when life was simpler, religion, morality, and manners were the mainstays of social order, and everyone knew his or her place, whether academy midshipman, plantation owner, or slave. Set against the backdrop of 19th Century America shortly before and during the Civil War, Son of Perdition examines the way in which our concept of God can affect how we live. The power of a story such as this is the reader’s ability to live the experiences of the characters.Annapolis House.jpeg

At right is a picture of the U. S. Naval Academy Superintendent’s home.

Unlike today, in the mid-1800s American society as a whole had a high consciousness of God’s movement in the affairs of mankind. When the Civil War pitted brother against brother, friend against friend, and Christian against Christian, each side believed its cause was God’s will. Is it possible for true Christians in all integrity to find themselves on opposite sides of major issues? What are the issues today that divide true believers in Christ as seriously as slavery did in the 1800s? Is there anything we…I…can do to help bridge the gap?

This is the end of our journey through the life Captain Ahab’s family. I hope you’ve enjoyed it. If you missed any segments, you can find them HERE. And of course, I’d be thrilled if you would purchase these books for your reading pleasure.

61K8Hnx59RL   Ahab’s Bride

Hannah Rose Cover Hannah Rose

Son of Perdition final cover Son of Perdition

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The Drone Mom by Julie Arduini

The Drone MomJulie Arduini_edited


Dr. Dobson has a classic parenting book, Parenting Isn’t for Cowards.

Preach, Dr. Dobson.

The last couple years have stretched my faith and refined me. I’ve learned these seasons prepare me for future opportunities, but it’s hard. HARD. The lessons have come from observing our kids go through stuff that I can’t fix or take on for myself. Most of them have been issues God’s used to grow them even though they didn’t do wrong or face a consequence from sin. Last year gutted me because of this. Already we’re seeing gold come out from that, and I’m so thankful.

This year it’s been more trusting God with our daughter, His daughter, mind you. He created her, He knows her days and all her issues. If you’ve been pictures, He numbered the hair on her head and this girl has long, thick, thick, thick hair. You’d think stepping out of the way and let God be God with her would be easy. Right?

As I came home one night after a long day with a disobedient dog, meetings, lack of writing time, putting out fires from others, I had a meeting left regarding our daughter. There was news that came as a surprise, and I had a lot of paperwork to complete. Given her medical history, I should be given word count credit because it was a novella when I was done. I was so drained I came home and burst into tears in front of my husband, something I rarely do. I knew I had to let her go and experience this without us. My husband, in the same state I was, declared we had the budget to send me with her.

I had to tell him to do so meant we didn’t trust God and all the doors He’s opened for her.

But our meltdown that led to a trip to DQ for chocolate therapy showed me something. I think there’s a new term out there to describe parents like me.

Drone mom.

Helicopter mom isn’t a new label, and I get it. These moms hover and have the capacity to stunt their child’s growth because they get in the way and handle everything the child needs to learn on their own.

Drone mom. I confess drones scare me. I find them intrusive. As I reflected on my fears I realized I’m buzzing real close to drone mom status. Zooming in and out of no where, all my ugly out there for the world to see, being scary. Issuing demands on how things are going to go, which let’s call it for what it is, I wanted it my way.

Drones are also noisy. At least the ones I’ve seen, and it’s almost a buzzing sound you’d hear from an electronic mosquito. Not a sound you want to hear for relaxation and peace. Do I want to be known as that mom who bullies her way through the doors and screeches through my demands? No. Advocacy is one thing, but what I was tempted to do and be was loud and in the way.

Although my experience with drones is limited, when I see them on the news, sometimes they are in trouble because the owners violated boundaries. Went onto private property. I just want to help. I want our daughter to have the best life possible. Sometimes my methods cross the line. I call my actions Sarah, Plan B, because what I’m basically doing is creating an Ishmael of a problem. I run far ahead of God and get over my head. Then I stop and scream for help.

Loving our children isn’t wrong. Creating boundaries and expecting obedience is good parenting. However, when faith as a parent is pushed aside and we start making choices rooted in fear, no one wins. Whether a drone parent catches on or not, the visual scared me back to my heavenly Father’s arms. I don’t want to be a drone parent.

If you can relate, run into His arms, repent, and ask for His wisdom and discernment as you love your children. He is faithful!

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Remembering the Sacrifice Mothers Make All Year Long

mother's hug

This last Sunday, we celebrated the mother’s in our lives and they so deserve our honor. They do so much for us each and every day of our lives. Whether it be bandaging a scrapped knee, or mending a broken heart, mothers are always right there beside us every step of the way through our lives and you are never too old to need your mother. When the worries of the world beat us down, there’s no better place to be than your mother’s arms.

Mother’s are tough when they need to be, and gentle when we’re hurting. They impart words of wisdom whether we want to hear them or not. And those precious gems come to mind when we need them the most.

My mother has been gone for almost six years now, yet not a day goes by that I don’t think about something she told me, or did for me growing up. A mother’s lessons last a lifetime.

There are other women in our lives that help to shape who we are as well. They are the aunts, the step-moms, and the mothers-in-laws who play important parts in our lives and love us no matter what.

Mother’s Day is a great day to tell your mother how much she means to you, but showing our appreciation shouldn’t be limited to just one day. So, if you’re lucky enough to have your mother or those other special women in your life still, don’t forget to tell them how much they mean to you every chance you get.

All the best…

Mary Alford



Past Sins – Available at Amazon:

She almost died at the hands of a madman. Will she survive another dance with the devil?

FBI Agent Samantha Morning Star barely survived a serial killer’s knife when the Night Slasher captured her, intent on making her his next victim. Samantha’s narrow escape still haunts her, sending her fleeing to the one place where she has always felt safe. The Durante Mountain Cheyenne Indian Reservation in Northern Wyoming. But Samantha’s past sins are all there waiting for her. The young boy she once loved and left behind is now all grown up and the chief of police for the reservation.

Chief Zack Standing Elk can’t believe it. The woman who tore his hearts to shreds is back. But Samantha isn’t the same person she once was when she left the reservation behind after her grandmother’s death, insisting that he not wait for her. Samantha is one troubled soul. It isn’t long before he realizes the reason behind the fear in her eyes, when the killer who took her hostage follows her to the Cheyenne reservation determined to claim her as his once more.

With the clock ticking on the Night Slasher’s latest victim, Zack’s past sins come back and haunt him as well. Can he find out the Slasher’s true identity before he takes another innocent life? And will he be able to stop the killer who is coming after Samantha full force?

Layers of The Truth – Available at Amazon:

When Cady Russell receives a heartbreaking call from Deputy Sheriff Aamon Lone Elk telling her that her sister has died in a fire that mimics the one that took her parents’ lives twenty years earlier, Cady knows she has to return to Wyoming to find out what really happened to Samantha.

Deputy Sheriff Aamon Lone Elk knows a little about grief himself. He lost his wife to a drunk driver five years earlier. Aamon still isn’t able to move beyond the pain. Yet meeting Cady Russell throws him. She is both beautiful and strong, and he is attracted to her right away.

Cady has been lost in the past as well, unable to move beyond the tragedy that claimed her parents. Now her sister is dead by the same means, and she is convinced the two fires are related.

As the attraction between then continues to grow, can Aamon keep Cady safe as they peel back the layers of lies connected to the two fires? Or will a killer bent on keeping his deadly acts secret send them both to their graves

Eye of The Storm  – Available now at Amazon:

Former CIA Agent Kate Reagan finds herself in the middle of storm that has disrupted her life for six years. When Kate’s entire team was killed by the terrorist they’d been chasing for months, Kate finds the only way to save her life is to pretend to lose it.

After moving dozens of times through the years, Kate ends up in the small mountain town of Soaring Eagle, Wyoming where everything about the place screams of the home she’s been longing for.

Running into Deputy Sheriff Brady Connors, Kate finds herself attracted to the handsome frontier lawman right away, but having a future is not possible while the enemy is still stalking her.

With Brady’s help, Kate is about face the showdown she’s been expecting for a long time, when the enemy coming after her proves to be closer than Kate could ever imagine.




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God the Creator


I recently started a Bible study about the names of God. I’m always fascinated by the many character traits of the names and titles of God. The names recorded in scripture carry so much significance. To study them gives us a picture of the almighty God, who is on one hand king, but also accessible to every one of us if we seek him out.

The first name I came upon is Elohim- God, the mighty creator. In the beginning, God created the heavens and earth. Genesis 1:1. Quite a way to meet our God as we begin the journey through the Bible.  The name tells of God’s creative power, but also his authority to speak words that would create a world from nothing. Then, as we continue through Genesis, we see how God fashions light from darkness, sky and waters, ground and seas, vegetation, day and night, animals and man in His image. You’ll never be able to convince me that the earth was created by accident. Not with all the intricacies we see every day in the world around us. In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. Psalm 102:25

As an author, I understand creating. I come up with a story premise. From there I must flesh out the story, create a plot, characters, conflict. I take a myriad of ideas and pick out what works for the next story I will be working on. Let me tell you, this doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time to make sure every aspect of my story will work together. That’s just the beginning. After the ground work is laid, I will write the story, which takes on another layer of creativity. And after the book is written, there are revisions to make it the best version it can be. This takes months to accomplish. God created the earth, and everything in it, in six days.

There are many other outlets of creativity beyond writing. I’m sure every one of us can look at a family member or friends and see God working through them. We are made in the image of God, after all. Being creative does not only mean being an artist, look at those who research, those who plan cities and roadways, those who find ways to make life better for people around them.

I’ll leave you with this scripture. I pray you take a few minutes to ponder our wonderful creator, Elohim, as you go about your day and experience His greatness all around you.

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall, but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40: 28-31

Tara Randel is an award-winning, USA Today bestselling author of sixteen novels. Family values, a bit of mystery and, of course, love and romance, are her favorite themes, because she believes love is the greatest gift of all. Look for her next Harlequin Heartwarming romance, THE LAWMAN’S SECRET VOW, available August 2018.  Visit Tara at Like her on Facebook at Sign up for Tara’s Newsletter and receive a link to download a free digital book.

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Do You Have a Why?

by Jim Denney

In 1969, I sat in a university lecture hall and listened as Dr. Viktor Frankl — psychiatrist, author, and Holocaust survivor — talked about living a life of meaning in a world that makes no sense. Hearing him describe how he survived the horrors of the Nazi death camps transformed my view of life.


Viktor Frankl, photo by Dr. Franz Veseley, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany license

Before the outbreak of World War II, Dr. Frankl was a psychiatrist in Austria’s largest state hospital. He treated patients who had either attempted suicide or were at risk for taking their own lives. As he interviewed severely depressed people, he discovered that the one factor that seemed to prevent suicide and heal depression was a sense of purpose.

If people had a reason for living, they could endure even the most painful circumstances. But for those without a reason to live, suicide became in inviting option. From those observations, Frankl developed an approach he called logotherapy, or meaning-centered therapy.

Dr. Frankl had nearly finished writing a book on logotherapy when he was arrested by the Nazis and sent to the Theresienstadt concentration camp. Transported by rail in a crowded, stinking cattle car, Frankl kept his precious manuscript hidden in his coat. Upon his arrival at the prison camp, he showed the manuscript to a capo — a prisoner who collaborated with the Nazis and helped guard the new prisoners. Frankl told the capo, “I must preserve this book at all costs.” The capo replied with an obscenity, then snatched the book from him and tossed it on the ground.

That book was Frankl’s life’s work, his reason for living. But at that moment, he realized that everything, including his book, would be stripped from him. How would he survive the grinding horror of the death camp? He’d have to find another reason to live.

He was eventually transferred from Theresienstadt to Auschwitz, and then to Dachau. He saw the human smoke rising from the chimneys of the camps. He lost his wife, father, mother, and brother in those camps. Many times, he came close to death — yet he managed to remain alive until the camps were liberated by the Allies. What kept him alive?

In that hushed lecture hall, my fellow students and I listened as Dr. Frankl explained, “I lived because I had a reason to live.”

He committed himself to re-writing the manuscript the capo had destroyed. Every day, he thought about his book. While digging trenches or caring for dying prisoners, he thought about his book. He’d find pencil stubs and scraps of paper, and use them to jot down notes that he hid from the Nazis. His determination to re-write his book even pulled him through a near-fatal bout of typhoid.

Dr. Frankl told us that those who survived the camps were the ones who held onto a reason for living. He quoted Nietzsche: “He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how.”

After he and his fellow prisoners were liberated by the Allies, he re-wrote his book from scratch — and it was a much more powerful and compelling book because he poured into it all that he had suffered and learned in the death camps. He had the notes he had saved on scraps of paper, and he began writing the moment the Allied soldiers gave him pen and paper.

Dr. Frankl wrote his new manuscript quickly, and the book was published in 1946, the year after the war ended. He called it Man’s Search for Meaning, and the book has remained in print continuously since its first printing. The dream of writing that book saved Viktor Frankl’s life.

Standing before us in that lecture hall, Dr. Frankl told us that, while digging trenches in the bitter cold, he would visualize himself standing in a warm and brightly lit lecture hall, teaching the principles of logotherapy to young students. I felt a tingle down my spine as he said that, because I was one of the students in that brightly lit lecture hall. I took part in the fulfillment of the vision that kept him alive during his worst days in the death camps.

What is your vision, your calling, your purpose for living?

You and I have the highest calling and grandest purpose in the universe. We serve the Creator. We know His Son. We share the Good News wherever we go. Whatever you are going through, whatever you are struggling with, whatever you are enduring right now, remember your purpose.

You have a Why to live for, and His name is Jesus. Keep your focus on Him and on the purpose for which He has called you.





Note: Battle Before Time, the first book in my newly revised and updated Timebenders series for young readers, has just been released in paperback. Click this link to learn more.

And if you’d like to learn more about how to write faster, more freely, and more brilliantly than you ever thought possible, read my book Writing In Overdrive, available in paperback and ebook editions at —J.D.


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The Things I’ve HEARD!!! (by Hannah Alexander)

Having lived in small communities all my adult life, I know the power of hearsay. Rumors. In fact, one of my favorite games as a kid was playing “Telephone,” when we would begin with one statement, whisper it around a circle of friends, and then hear what that statement evolved into. It was often hilarious, often confusing, and just plain fun.

Here are some of my favorite friends from high school. We played this game.

Sometimes the fun gets a little out of hand. That can happen in a church, in town, in clubs. It can actually hurt people. I recently heard several juicy tidbits of information that didn’t quite ring true. Since they affected me, I checked them out. Sure enough, without naming names, I discovered that no, old farmer Mitchell did not shoot through the window of his neighbor’s house in the middle of the night. What happened was that he shot at a fox headed toward his henhouse. That bullet didn’t even hit that house. It didn’t hit the fox, either.

I also discovered that, yes, the pastor of a certain church in town did have a relationship with a new woman in town. That woman just happened to be his sister. Nothing wrong with that. By the time word spread that the woman was his sister, the rumor had thrown a kink in the family relationships, and reverberated throughout the church.

I have heard some very shocking pieces of information lately.  I found some of them to be true, some false. For instance, the man working on landscaping grounds around the home we’re trying to sell does charge for his services, but the bill is nowhere near $45,000. Gasp. Thanking God for that!

Yes, some friends of mine were forced to sue an insurance company to make them pay for the damage done in an accident. It paid their hospital bills, however. It didn’t buy them a new house and set them up in a cushy business.

I can’t help wondering, casually, what rumors might be flying around about us. Do you? Whatever I hear that sounds outrageous, I either dismiss it as a grossly exaggerated nugget of truth, or, if it affects me, I gently dig until I get to the bottom of the rumor. I never believe much of what I hear, and sometimes I don’t even believe what I see with my own eyes. The Bible has some things to say about gossip and the people who spread it. Don’t allow yourself to be caught in that trap.

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Character Depth


By Nancy J. Farrier

I sat beside my dad in his room at the nursing home and watched my mom leave with the burnt sugar cake she’d made for his birthday. We’d already done the song and candles. She wanted to share the cake with staff members before we all sat down for our dessert and time together. This was my dad’s first birthday since he’d been in the nursing home and this celebration had a bittersweet quality.


As mom disappeared through the doorway, dad leaned close to me and said, “Don’t tell your mom, but I’ve never liked that cake.”


Shocked speechless, I gawked open-mouthed for a minute before blurting, “You don’t like burnt sugar cake?” He stared at me with his bright blue eyes and his mouth twisted in a wry expression. By this time, dad rarely spoke and before long he would lose all ability for speech. One of the final things he verbalized to me stated that he’d never liked the special cake my mom made just for him all these years. Why?


The shock my dad gave me reminds me of those times I’ve read a surprising revelation by a character in a book. Or, the times I’ve written in those twists. You know what I mean–the moment when a character does something startling and you have to consider why they acted in such a way.


If the author does a good job building the character, the reader can look back at the clues and see what led up to the momentous decision. The reader has an ah-ha moment when all the little pieces click in place. What appeared to be a random action or statement, becomes a revelation that leaves the one with great satisfaction and understanding of why it all took place. There is now an added depth to that character, leaving the reader with greater appreciation of the story.


Why did my dad say he didn’t like the cake my mom baked for him? As I pondered this question, I discovered two clues. First, my dad loved pie. He always said he liked two kinds of pie—hot and cold. He ate cake, but didn’t like cake like he did pie.


Second, my dad had the greatest love for my mom. He knew the burnt sugar cake took finesse to make. (The sugar had to be cooked just right to bring out the flavor without a burned taste.) Because mom worked so hard, he ate that cake for years and never let anyone know he didn’t like the flavor. None of us had a clue because he never complained.


When I considered his surprising statement in light of his love of pie, and his love for my mom, I had a deeper understanding of my dad’s godliness and an admiration for him that I hadn’t known before. This is the type of divulgence an author needs to strive for in their books.


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A Mourning Event

The last time I blogged, I told you about my visit to the Chatillon-DeMenil Mansion in St. Louis. Two weeks after my first visit to the mansion, I returned to attend A Mourning Event. You can never be sure if these historical “reenactments” of the period and/or event will meet expectations, but this one was very well done.

Bear in mind that mourning customs and length of mourning period depended upon social status, wealth, and geographic location. So, if you’ve read some different customs or time periods, I’m not surprised. I’ve seen differing customs, as well, but the information given at this event was for a wealthy family with servants living in St. Louis, Missouri after the Civil War.

Of course, black was the color of the day. Black bunting draped the front of the house, a black wreath stood on a wire stand near the door, and the butler was, of course, dressed in black and greeted us with the somber countenance of an employee mourning the death of his beloved employer.

Deep mourning was the first stage of mourning for a woman, and it immediately followed the death of a husband, wife, or child. Mourning clothes were generally plain with little or no adornment. A widow in deep mourning would wear all black clothing and jewelry. If out in public, she wore gloves and a black veil covered her face. Hats were not to be worn for mourning. Instead, bonnets covered in crape were worn by the grieving widow. She did not speak with anyone but her family or closest friends. She did not attend parties or gatherings and would basically seclude herself from the public in general. She would stay in this deep mourning for at least a year and a day. The hankies pictured at left depict those used during different stages of mourning.

Second stage mourning followed deep mourning and lasted around 9 to 12 months. Full mourning collars and cuffs were replaced by white, veils were taken off, crape was discarded, and jewelry of a wider variety was worn. By this second year the woman could add lace. The veil was of black crape, and very long, but by the second year it could be shortened.

Half mourning was the last stage of a woman’s mourning ritual. It was during these last 6 months that the widow could include the addition of lilac, lavender, violet, mauve, and gray. She was no longer limited to just black with a touch of white. She would use black and white ornaments for evening wear, bonnets were white, lavender silk or straw. Dresses with bold prints were also acceptable fashion. The dress at right would be for half mourning and the woman is shown with an infant casket.

For specific periods of time, depending on their community mores, a widow would not leave her home and did not receive any visitors. After a respectable time, she would then send out black edged cards advising friends and family that her time of heavy mourning had passed and she could now receive visitors. In general it took about two and a half years for a woman to complete the mourning process over her deceased husband. With each stage she slowly became part of society again. The picture above is the type of stationery that would have been used by the widow.

For a man, mourning was quite different. Men were needed to take care of the family and the business, therefore he was needed to return to his occupation as soon as the deceased was buried. A male’s mourning garb was his best dark suit with a weeper (made of crape) wrapped around the hatband of his hat. A man might wear a black cockade on his lapel and possibly a black armband as well.

Once a widower’s wife was buried, he may look for a new wife soon after – especially if he had young children at home or if she died giving birth to a living child. Here’s the most unique twist—if he re-married shortly after his deceased wife was buried, his new wife would then mourn for the first wife, wearing all the mourning clothing and going through the stages as described above! Now that would be a very difficult and strange way to begin a marriage, don’t you think?

May you find joy as you explore the past. ~Judy

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Step Nine in our Journey

I hope you’ve been enjoying my journey to tell how I developed my Ahab’s Legacy book series. Here’s the next installment, this one about Book Three.

 Son of Perdition final coverSon of Perdition is the coming-of-age story of Timothy Jacobs, a young man determined not to be like his infamous father. But how should I develop this character? What setting should I use? I could have come up with a clever tale and then shaped history to fit my plot. But that’s against everything I believe in as a historical writer. Instead, I studied my chosen era and shaped my protagonist’s life around what really happened. (At left is the e-book cover designed by Jeff Gerke.)

Of course, the first thing I wanted to do was tell a compelling, character-driven story, one with plenty of internal and external conflicts. In this case, I’m creating the tale of a young man determined not to be like his father, whom the maritime community regards as evil. Starting out, all I knew was that Timothy would, like any good protagonist, run into many obstacles on his life journey, one of them being a major war and another being a worthy adversary.

For Timothy’s antagonist, I chose Isaiah, the son of Mr. Starbuck, Captain Ahab’s late, lamented, and godly first mate. (In Moby Dick, both Ahab and Starbuck have young sons.) And, of course, a handsome young man like Timothy must have a love interest, so I gave Isaiah a younger sister named Jemima, a fairly common name for girls on Nantucket Island during that time. Because Isaiah despises Timothy for being the son of Ahab, he creates all kinds of havoc when Timothy and Jemima fall in love. Now conflicts abound.

Next, because I had been date specific in my first two books, I chose a timeline of nine years, 1857–1865, which would include events before and during the Civil War. Timothy comes from a seafaring family: his father was a whaler, and his stepfather is a cotton importer, who also just happens to smuggle slaves out of Norfolk and into Boston, an activity based on actual historical events. Therefore, Timothy will love the sea and will seek a seafaring career. Coming as he does from a well-to-do family, he will be well-educated and will train for a position of responsibility and leadership. Thus, the next logical step for him is to receive an appointment to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis on his way to becoming an officer in the U. S. Navy.

Beginning my story in 1857, I decided to use names of real-life faculty to interact with my fictional characters, placing these characters in situations and conversations that actually could have happened between faculty and students. I was careful not to malign anyone or have them do anything out of character. If anything, I might have gone a bit overboard in my heroic portrayals based on what I had read about these people and quotations about them from their contemporaries.

EPSON scanner imageThis brings me to the research part of my project. I started looking for books that would give me a true history of the Naval Academy. Among the many resources I found on, a golden jewel of information rose above all the rest: The Spirited Years: A History of the Antebellum Naval Academy, by Charles Todorich (Naval Institute Press, 1984). When I got my hands on this book, I knew heaven had opened and manna had come down. This is the definitive book on the antebellum U. S. Naval Academy, just what every author dreams of owning. It contains details of what and whom my hero would encounter, even obscure and complex details needed to reveal the daily lives and personalities of the midshipmen at the academy.

This book was Charles’s master’s thesis at the University of Maryland, meaning he did extensive and detailed research and took years to write it so he could get it right. His credentials as a naval academy graduate and his degrees in law and American history gave me confidence that I could count on his work being accurate. While writing my novel, I travelled to Annapolis with my husband and we had only two hours to search the stacks at the Academy’s Nimitz Library. No way could I ever have dug out everything I needed. Fortunately, Charles had done the work for me. I could use his book to frame the action in mine.

As a non-military person, I needed to find out what it takes to make a naval officer. I needed to know what the attitudes and ideals of the times were, how the academy personnel and students got along with the citizens of Annapolis, and what the young men did when the Civil War broke out and cherished friendships among northern and southern cadets were shattered. Charles writes about all of these in detail in The Spirited Years. These are the details that add TEXTURE and REALISM to my story.

Son of Perdition-Cover1The value of historical fiction is that it helps to make the past personal and relevant. Charles’s book has the best of both because he personalizes the midshipmen through real stories. I believe that the best fiction includes the personal human dramas of history. Since he had done all the research, all I had to do was wander through the orchard and pluck the ripe fruit from the trees. In addition, and actually most important, he gave me insights into the kind of men who stayed the course through the rigorous academy training when others were dropping out. (At left is the original print book cover.)

Here are some of the specific parts of his book I used to frame my story:

First, the actual buildings, the stage for my play. Now I knew where the midshipmen lived, studied, ate, drilled, attended class and church services, and played.

 Second, the midshipman course of study, essential to reveal the rivalry between my protagonist, Timothy Jacobs, and his antagonist, Isaiah Starbuck, each of whom was determined to be first in his class, an honor that actually went to Midshipman William T. Sampson. I certainly did not change that bit of history.

 Third, the administration and faculty, including Superintendent George S. Blake, especially his character, personality, demeanor, physical description, and how he interacted with the students. I also learned that Blake’s wife took on the responsibility of teaching the young men proper social behavior and even invited them into her home, as did many other citizens of the city.

Fourth, the interaction between the people of Annapolis and the Academy also includes the annual Winter Ball and other events in the Academy’s lively social life, which are essential to any young person’s coming-of-age. I also appropriated several actual midshipmen, such as Alfred Thayer Mahan, George Dewey, William T. Sampson, and others to interact with my characters. I took special care to include one Charles W. Flusser so that in my small way I could honor this most popular and gallant young man who died in a naval battle during the Civil War. Before reading Charles’s book, I’d never heard of this heroic patriot. Another Academy faculty member, Thomas T. Craven, developed and oversaw the summer cruises, upon which the midshipmen learned seamanship. The details of the summer cruises provided several dramatic moments in my story.

Finally, because my timeline included the Civil War, I was greatly appreciated Charles’s discussion of the arguments among the midshipmen over slavery. This is the most important historical issue I hoped to bring forward in my novel. Everyone in American knows about the Civil War. But because of some of the poorly researched or outright misleading books and movies, many young people have been confused and ill-informed about what really ignited that terrible conflict that took the lives of 600,000 of our citizens.

During his research journey, Charles uncovered first person letters and narratives that revealed the agony each young man went through in deciding what he would do once war was imminent. I incorporated his accounts into my story. For instance, he wrote a short passage in The Spirited Years describing the departure of southern midshipmen and the heartbreak it caused among close friends. Next time, I’ll post my rendering of that same scene using my fictional characters, two southerners and two northerners.

After finding The Spirited Years, I contacted Charles and we became friends. He served as my advisor and approved the final manuscript. Because of his help, it’s a project I’m very proud of.

Here’s the story:

MonongehelaTimothy Jacobs, a handsome midshipman at the U. S. Naval Academy, is determined not to sail the disastrous course that destroyed his infamous father, Captain Ahab. Certain of his own goodness compared to the man he both hates and admires, Timothy feels his good works are salvation enough. But after he is wounded during a Civil War sea battle, his all-consuming rage at God launches him on a bitter journey all too reminiscent of the father he vowed not to be like. (At right is the Monongahela, the ship Timothy served on during the Civil War.) Will Timothy learn the lessons his father ignored? Will childhood sweetheart Jemima show him the account of his father’s ill-fated voyage in time? Can Timothy accept that both he and his father have misunderstood the merciful, loving nature of God? Don’t miss this stunning conclusion to the Ahab’s Legacy Series, which began with Ahab’s Bride. “Louise M. Gouge has once again combined history, romance, and adventure to create a story as grand in sweep as the distance from the bottom of the sea to heaven on high.” Charles M. Todorich, Author the The Spirited Years: A History of the Antebellum Naval Academy

If you’ve missed any steps on this journey, please check this list of all my posts on Ahab’s Bride.

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Happy May!

texas wildflowersToday is the first day of May, a month in which there are two major holiday. Mother’s Day on May 13th and Memorial Day on May 28th. It’s also a month were many of the states begin to thaw out from the long winter’s chill.

But here in Texas, spring is in full bloom. The wildflowers are popping up in the pastures and along the roadways. The trees are green again. New life is springing up everywhere.

This is one of my favorite times of the year. The famous Texas humidity hasn’t made an appearance yet. The days are warm and the evenings cool. Perfect.


Past Sins

It’s the time for new beginnings and I have a brand new release out this month entitled Past Sins. This is the third book that takes place near the fictional town of Soaring Eagle, Wyoming.

In Past Sins, FBI Agent Samantha Morning Star barely survived a serial killer’s knife when the Night Slasher captured her, intent on making her his next victim. Samantha’s narrow escape still haunts her, sending her fleeing to the one place where she has always felt safe. The Durante Mountain Cheyenne Indian Reservation in Northern Wyoming. But Samantha’s past sins are all there waiting for her. The young boy she once loved and left behind is now all grown up and the chief of police for the reservation.

Chief Zack Standing Elk can’t believe it. The woman who tore his hearts to shreds is back. But Samantha isn’t the same person she once was when she left the reservation behind after her grandmother’s death, insisting that he not wait for her. Samantha is one troubled soul. It isn’t long before he realizes the reason behind the fear in her eyes, when the killer who took her hostage follows her to the Cheyenne reservation determined to claim her as his once more.

With the clock ticking on the Night Slasher’s latest victim, Zack’s past sins come back and haunt him as well. Can he find out the Slasher’s true identity before he takes another innocent life? And will he be able to stop the killer who is coming after Samantha full force?

So, wherever you are, I hope spring has made an appearance there. Happy Spring!

All the best…

Mary Alford



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What Really Matters by Vicki Hinze

Vicki Hinze, Christians Read, What Really Matters


Life throws a lot at people, and it starts immediately. As we grow and learn, it’s amazing how much we soak up like sponges and grasp. We learn what to do, what not to do. What to say and not say. What evokes a positive response and a negative response. Things that hurt and heal. Anger and soothe. Good and bad.


As we grow and progress, we get a lot of conflicting information, guidance and instruction. Opinions are plentiful and everyone has different ideas about dos and don’ts. Eventually, whether by trial and error, trial by fire, or by stumbling onto a less traumatic path, we get it. We learn to assign weight to what is important and what isn’t.


Often, especially early on, we deem everything important. But with experience and exposure, the weight we give to specific things changes.


Earlier in life much attention is on building the life we want. We get into our heads a vision of success, and we set out to manifest it. (It’s worthy of mention that our vision of success changes as we do.) Our changes might be voluntary—we decide something is or is not working for us—or involuntary. Something happens and we’re forced to change, whether or not we want to change.


The point is, that during different phases of our lives, we assign different values to what really matters. And in the latter stages, we often look back at earlier ones and wonder why we thought then that what we sought mattered. In our current circumstance, it doesn’t. But when it happened, it was—at least, to us back then. That’s a lesson to us.


We can’t view our personal history of what is really important from this new phase of our lives. We need to view our personal history of what was really important from the phase in which we experienced it. In that way, we are like our nation. We look back at history a hundred years ago, or two hundred years ago, and we cringe at some of the things we find. Things we would never consider acceptable today. But in the context of that time, we see those things were where the nation was then. Collectively, we learned, we grew, we evolved and we changed.


We do that in our personal lives, too. And just as we would be foolish to forget the lessons of our nation’s past (and doom ourselves to needing to learn those lessons again), we would be foolish to forget our personal past lessons. We endured the rough patches once. We don’t want to have to repeat them.


What really matters is that we continue to learn and grow. We never reach a phase in life where we stop learning and growing and evolving. Our priorities shift and change. What really matters to us shifts and changes, too.


As the phases advance, we place less importance on the physical, we’re more balanced on the emotional, and we focus more intently on the spiritual. We understand the circle of life and that eternity lasts far longer than the blink in time we spend as mortals. That every second of life is a gift and a treasure. That the soul is eternal and requires care as much as the physical body requires care.


Wisdom encourages us to respect all phases of our lives. To grasp early that the spiritual aspect of ourselves is the phase that will govern us long-term. While what we do in each phase of life matters and is important, it is the sum of all phases that brings us to the one that will have the greatest and most significant impact in our lives.


Because that is so, we dare not wait for that spiritual phase to incorporate the spiritual into our lives. In every phase, we should deliberately consider the physical, emotional and spiritual impact of what we say and do.


All three intertwine to become the whole that is us. All three play a vital role in who we were, are, and who we become. And all three are important. Knowing that, understanding that, is what really matters.






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