September 2023 New Releases from ACFW authors

September 2023 New Releases

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

Contemporary Romance:

A Louisiana Christmas to Remember by Morgan Tapley Smith, Betsy St. Amant, Lenora Worth — Three heartwarming, interconnected stories of faith, love, and restoration, brought to you by three Louisiana-native authors. Will a rare snowy Louisiana Christmas bring restoration and hope to the hometown and hearts of three women from the town’s founding family? In A Louisiana Snow by Morgan Tarpley Smith, meet Mattie: A passionate visionary who learns to forgive and finds love in unexpected places… In Restoring Christmas by Betsy St. Amant, meet Jolene: An artist and prodigal daughter who discovers love exists in the very place she once called home…
In A Christmas Reunion by Lenora Worth, meet Adale: A beautiful widow who finally dares to love again… (Contemporary Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Redeeming the Cowboy
by Lisa Jordan — Five years ago, bull rider Bear Stone lost everything. His best friend. His fiancée. His career. And Piper Healy, his best friend’s wife, never forgave him for the rodeo accident that killed her husband. Now they’re working together to save his family’s ranch. But can this cowboy choose between his last chance at the rodeo…and the woman he’s falling for? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired/Harlequin)

Where Love is Planted by Dawn Kinzer — A beautiful horticultural therapist.A handsome social worker in a woman’s prison. Will their loyalty to others cost them their own happiness? Or will something beautiful grow where love is planted? (Contemporary Romance from Morningview Publishing)

Historical Romance:

A Counterfeit Betrothal
by Denise Weimer — A frontier scout, a healing widow, and a desperate fight for peace. At the farthest Georgia outpost this side of hostile Creek Territory in 1813, Jared Lockridge serves his country as a scout to redeem his father’s botched heritage. If he can help secure peace against Indians allied to the British, he can bring his betrothed to the home he’s building and open his cabinetry shop. Then he comes across a burning cabin and a traumatized woman just widowed by a fatal shot. (Historical Romance from Wild Heart Books)

Francine’s Foibles by Linda Shenton Matchett — World War II is finally over, and America is extra grateful as the country approaches this year’s Thanksgiving. But for Francine life hasn’t changed. Despite working at Fort Meade processing the paperwork for the thousands of men who have returned home, she’s still lonely and very single. Is she destined for spinsterhood? Grateful that his parents anglicized the family surname after emigrating to the United States after the Great War, first-generation German-American Ray Fisher has done all he can to hide his heritage. He managed to make it through this second “war to end all wars,” but what American woman would want to marry into a German family? Must he leave the country to find wedded bliss?? (Historical Romance from Shortwave Press)

The Legacy of Longdale Manor
by Carrie Turansky — In 2012, art historian Gwen Morris travels to England’s Lake District to appraise the paintings and antiques of an old family friend, hoping to prove herself to her prestigious grandfather. When Gwen stumbles upon a one-hundred-year-old journal and an intricately carved shepherd’s staff similar to one in a photo of her parents, she’s left searching for answers. In 1912, after her father’s death, Charlotte Harper uncovers a painful family secret she can only confess to her journal. As Charlotte grows closer to shepherd Ian Storey and rebuilds her shattered faith, she must decide whether she will ever trust in love again. (Historical Romance from Bethany House)

Wooing Gertrude by Jodie Wolfe — Enoch Valentine has given up finding peace for his past mistakes. He throws everything he has into being the new part-time deputy in Burrton Springs, Kansas while maintaining the foreman position at a local horse ranch. But when trouble stirs on the ranch, he questions whether he’ s the right man for either job. Peace has been elusive for most of Gertrude Miller’s life, especially under the oppressiveness of an overbearing mother. She takes matters into her own hands and sends for a potential husband, while also opening her own dress shop. Gertrude hopes to build a future where she’ ll find peace and happiness. Will either of them ever be able to find peace? (Historical Romance from White Rose Publishing)


The Wind Blows in Sleeping Grass
by Katie Powner — After years of drifting, fifty-year-old Pete Ryman has settled down with his potbellied pig, Pearl, in the small Montana town of Sleeping Grass–a place he never expected to see again. It’s not the life he dreamed of, but there aren’t many prospects for a high-school dropout like him. Elderly widow Wilma Jacobsen carries a burden of guilt over her part in events that led to Pete leaving Sleeping Grass decades ago. Now that he’s back, she’s been praying for the chance to make things right, but she never expected God’s answer to leave her flat on her face–literally–and up to her ears in meddling. (Literary/Contemporary from Bethany House)

Split Time:

Fall Back and Find Me
by Sarah Hanks — Two resilient women separated by over 150 years are linked forever by their challenges, values, and determination. (Split Time from SonFlower Books)


Facing the Enemy by DiAnn Mills — When the long-awaited reunion between Risa and her brother, Trenton, ends in tragedy, Risa is riddled with guilt, unable to cope with the responsibility she feels over his death. On leave from the FBI, Risa returns to her former career as an English teacher at a local college, only to see her past and present collide when one of her students, Carson Mercury, turns in an assignment that reads like an eyewitness account of her brother’s murder, with details never revealed publicly. Alarmed by Carson’s inside knowledge of Trenton’s death, Risa reaches out to her former partner at the FBI. Special Agent Gage Patterson has been working a string of baby kidnappings, but he agrees to help look into Carson’s background. Risa and Gage soon discover their cases might be connected as a string of high-value thefts have occurred at properties where security systems were installed by Carson’s stepfather and children have gone missing. There’s a far more sinister plot at play than they ever imagined, and innocent lives are in danger. (Thriller/Suspense/Romantic from Tyndale House)

Seeking Justice
by Sharee Stover An agent and her K-9 partner risk their lives in the ultimate mission.
With her partner gravely injured in the line of duty, FBI agent Tiandra Daugherty has one shot to complete her mission. She’ll have to convince her partner’s twin brother, Officer Elijah Kenyon, to take his place undercover in a deadly drug ring. Together they must find justice for his brother and dismantle the gang. But the target is now on them, and the mission could prove fatal. (Thriller/Suspense/Romantic from Love Inspired/Harlequin)

Young Adult:

The Text by Julane Fisher — In 2048, 25 years after a pandemic killed one-third of the world’s population, America is flourishing under the department of Safety Threats and Reinforcement (STaR). STaR keeps citizens safe and healthy STaR’s social media app, Allicio, boasts two billion users. The a power outage shuts down STaR’s health monitors and disables millions of mobile phones. Sixteen-year-old Rami Carlton earned a starting spot on the varsity volleyball team. For fun, she races tech-genius Finley Drake to decipher the online identities of their techie friends. The game is harmless. So they thought. Rami receives a chilling text message that she’s being watched. That night, her mother disappears. Despite thousands of city-wide monitors, STaR’s Reinforcement Division cannot locate Rami’s mom. And Rami’s stalker threatens to kill her brother if she talks to Reinforcement Officers. When Finley hacks the nation’s cellular provider, Connect Mobile, he discovers STaR has a secret. STAR isn’t just watching. They’re manipulating Allicio. And Rami is their next target. (Young Adult from Infinite Teen)

Plus check out these recent additions to Fiction Finder published within the past month:

Cold Case Revenge by Jessica R. Patch — A kidnapped child. An unsolved cold case. This K-9 is on the trail. (Thriller/Suspense/Romantic)

Daniel’s Oil by Urcelia Teixeira — Keeping a secret is easy. Getting away with it is the hard part. (Thriller/Suspense/Romantic)

Escaping Illusions by Therese Heckenkamp — All she wants is a new beginning, but it will come at a chilling cost. (Thriller/Suspense/Romantic)

Just Be Here by Susan Page Davis — If Nick gets the promotion he’s dreamed of, will it rip him away from the woman he loves? (Contemporary Romance)

Reclaiming the Spy by Lorri Dudley — How can he protect her from himself when she keeps winding up in his arms? (Historical Romance)

The Last Laird of Sapelo by T.M. Brown — Based on the tragic story of Randolph Spalding, the youngest son of Georgia’s most well-known antebellum-era coastal planter and influential political figure, Thomas Spalding. (General Historical)

Want to become an Influencer?

Hey, friends! I’m looking for interested parties.

My next book comes out on October 24, and I’m seeking partners to help me get the word out. If you’re interested in participating in a book launch, fill out the form attached below.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, will include posting a graphic about the book on your social media once (sometimes twice) a week for the duration of the launch. You will also receive a digital ARC (Advance Reader Copy) of the book to read. Once the book is released, you will post a review on Amazon, Goodreads, and BookBub (or whichever of those you have an account with).

There are prizes involved! And if you invite a friend to join us, your name goes in the pot for the prizes double the times.

Can you help me spread the word? My latest characters, Jonathan and Quenby, will appreciate getting to know new readers.

Click the link below if you can help. Thanks!

Click Here to Apply for the Accepted by Paula Peckham Book Launch Team.…/1FAIpQLScW3…/viewform

(Why is there a donkey pictured? Read the book to find out.)

Book review day!

I spent a lot of time on a plane last week, so managed to squeeze in some good reading time. Here are reviews on two I recently finished.

First is a contemporary romance written by Mindy Obenhaus. If you enjoy the second-chance romance trope, this book will be right up your alley.

Love Inspired stories (the Christian branch of Harlequin Romance) follow a predictable format, so it is doubtful anything in this story will surprise you. Nevertheless, that won’t keep you from enjoying it. School-day friends meet up again 16 years or so later, both with some life experiences and hurts behind them. They have a painful past to overcome, but of course, they do. Yay!

Love Inspired books are carried at Walmart, but are also available using this link to Amazon. You can read my review on Goodreads below:

Loving the Rancher’s Children by Mindy Obenhaus
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
If you like the second-chances trope, you’ll enjoy this book. I liked how the characters were both in their 30s, so there was some life experience behind the story. The rancher’s children were predictably adorable. I also enjoyed the descriptions of the rancher lifestyle (I live in Texas). That part was very authentic. The only part that didn’t ring 100% true for me was the “fight” that had split the couple up back in the day. I’m not sure that would’ve had the power to carry that hurt for the next 16 years or so. But, discounting that minor detail, it was a thoroughly enjoyable read.
View all my reviews

The other book I finished was Michelle Griep’s Man of Shadow and Mist.

I really enjoyed this book. It was my first read of Michelle Griep’s novels, so obviously, I haven’t read book one in the Of Monsters and Men series. Yet! You can read this book as a stand-alone and will have no trouble keeping up without having read the previous story.
Man of Shadow and Mist does a good job of setting up questions in the reader’s mind about whether there is actually a vampire afoot or not. The townspeople certainly think so, but Rosa believes differently. She makes it her project to disabuse them of their superstitious fears. I enjoyed the historical aspect of the story; Griep does a good job of showing us the setting. If you enjoy stories where the underdog has to struggle against unfair judgements and prejudices, you’ll enjoy this one too.

Available using this link at Amazon.

Dog Days of Summer

I used to think us Texans reserved the right to complain about the heat July through August. Unfortunately, it seems to have spread. More and more of us are rearranging our lives to spend as little time outdoors as possible, and get everything done that absolutely must occur outside before 9:00 a.m.

I’ve always thought of those extra-hot days as the dog days of summer. However, turns out I was wrong. Or at least a little off target.

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

I thought the dog days described the hottest days, which in Texas is the entire month of August. The use of “dog days,” I assumed, came from the fact that dogs lay about all sprawled and lazy when it’s hot.

Dogs DO sprawl on their back to let heat escape from their exposed belly, but that’s not where the name comes from. It’s astronomical (as in, astronomy, not ginormous). These hot summer days are named after the star Sirius, which is the brightest star in our sky (except for our Sun, of course). Sirius holds a place in the constellation Canis Major, which is Latin for “great dog.” When Sirius (the Dog Star) rises before the sun, that time of year is typically mid- to late-summer. Ancients watched for the appearance of Sirius in the dawning sky to know when the flooding of the Nile River would commence.

So the dog days of summer are tied to the Dog Star, not the behavior of our favorite pets.

Be that as it may, regardless of what we call this period of summer, it’s HOT. This is when my lawn turns brown and the grass gets crunchy. This is when people post pictures of baking cookies or dehydrating fruit inside their cars or frying eggs on their sidewalks. The asphalt in our roads melts, and the sticky sound of the tires on your car as they roll along the road is audible.

So what’s a person to do? Going outside invites a heat stroke. How can we pass our time comfortably ensconced indoors with our AC blowing and every ceiling fan in the house turned on rocket speed? Read a book, of course! And I have a great recommendation for you. It even has the word “summer” in the title, so you can experience the great outdoors vicariously while you read.

What book do I refer to? The Best Summer of Our Lives, written by Rachel Hauck. Here is the blurb from the back of the book:

“Twenty years ago, the summer of ’77 was supposed to be the best summer of Summer Wilde’s life. She and her best friends, Spring, Autumn, and Snow–the Four Seasons–had big plans.

But those plans never had a chance. After a teenage prank gone awry, the Seasons found themselves on a bus to Tumbleweed, “Nowhere,” Oklahoma, to spend eight weeks as camp counselors. All four of them arrived with hidden secrets and buried fears, and the events that unfolded in those two months forever altered their friendships, their lives, and their futures.

Now, thirtysomething Summer is at a crossroads. When her latest girl band leaves her in a motel outside Tulsa, she is forced to face the shadows of her past. Returning to the place where everything changed, she soon learns Tumbleweed is more than a town she never wanted to see again. It’s a place for healing, for reconciling the past with the present, and for finally listening to love’s voice.”

Ooh, there is so much nostalgia written into this story. And when you have chapter titles like “We Can Work It Out,” and “One More For the Road,” the memories of your own best summer with best friends open up and flood your mind.

Rachel had these things to say about writing in general.

PP: Which of your books was your favorite one to write?

RH: Wow, great question. I’ve been sitting here thinking of “which one,” and I can’t say I have a favorite. All of them were fun … until I started writing. Ha! Then reality set in and I had to do the work to find the best story. I guess I’ll say this: my favorite book is the one I’m thinking of next. The creative, inspirational stage is the best. But putting it down on paper is hard.

PP: What has been the most fun part of being a successful writer?

RH: In 2012, I wrote a “bucket list” for a blog I was a part of. In truth, it was more of an impossible list. One of my four things was to “hit the New York Times.” Well, there’s no way I could make that happen on my own. But getting the call from my publisher and hearing, “Rachel, you’re a New York Times bestselling author,” was pretty darn fun.

PP: What has been the biggest challenge about being a successful writer?

RH: As with all success or failures in life, I can’t let them define me. I keep focused on my family and friends, my relationship with the Lord and who He says I am. Writing, at the end of the day, is my job. I love having success, but I don’t let it define me. The year I hit the New York Times, I knew the next year might be slow, quiet, and possibly with no accolades. I determined to cheer on the author who was succeeding, getting the awards and the bestseller.

PP: When you have time to read for pleasure (not reading to keep up on trends in your genre … just for you), which author is your go-to?

RH: I don’t have a go-to author. Rather, I like stories. If the story appeals to me, I’ll read it even if I’ve never read the author before. Of course, over time there are some authors I know will tell a good story every time, but for me it’s about the story itself.

PP: If money was no object, and you had no chance of failure, what would you like to do (other than writing)?

RH: Ooo, I’d love to be one of the sideline reporters for college football.

PP: If you discovered you had one year to live, what three things would rise to the top of your to-do list?

RH: 1. Spend time before the Lord in prayer and worship. 2. Do what He tells me to do. 3. Spend time before the Lord in prayer and worship.

It’s gonna be hot for the next several weeks. Fix yourself a tall glass of iced tea, grab a copy of The Best Summer of Our Lives, and settle in. And enjoy. You can thank me later for the recommendation.

Everyone who comments or shares this will be entered into a drawing to win your own copy of Rachel’s book. Good luck!

And the winner is Lee Carver!

“Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.” ~Lemony Snicket

If you’re like me, you probably have a stack of books piled in your house somewhere, waiting patiently for you to pick them up and read them. And, also like me, maybe you can’t resist buying yet another one that catches your eye.

That’s where audio books come in. You can listen to a book while you clean the house, sit at soccer practice, or drive to work. Plus, you get the added benefit of listening to the voice actor perform the story, just for you. You can have a book anywhere you can plug in your earbuds.

Which brings me to my fun announcement. Protected, book one in my San Antonio series, is now available through Audible. Performed by the inestimable Christy Lou, the story is full of various voices and accents as she brings the characters to life.

Check it out on Amazon. Sit back, plug in those headphones, and relax.

“Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.” – Pele

Writing, as it turns out, it much harder than I expected. Placing words on the page isn’t so bad. Making sure they’re good … that’s where the difficulty begins.

Then, once the words are firmly entrenched on the page, after being critiqued, edited, deleted, rewritten, re-critiqued, and finally accepted, comes the getting-them-out-into-the-world part.

Hurdles abound.

An editor must bless your work of art. Hurdle number one.

Depending on where you submit your masterpiece, you may need an agent to clear the path before you. Hurdle number two.

You must convince the publishing company your story is worth their while to print. Hurdle number three.

And once your novel finally sees the light of day, you have to let people know it exists. Hurdle number four.

But, sometimes the stars align. Your future works out just the way God planned it. Sometimes magic happens.

I’m grateful the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers chose my book, A Father’s Gift, as the third-place winner in the novella category of their 2023 Selah contest this week. Being in the top seven finalists was an honor, alongside such names as Hallee Bridgeman and Lynn H. Blackburn, much less earning the third-place spot. Congratulations to them both for their second and first place awards.

Edwina Perkins and Edie Melson, directors of the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference

I encourage all writers out there to persevere. Your story is important, and someone in this world needs to hear your words. And when it finally happens, please share your joy and excitement with the rest of us. We will be just as happy as you are, I promise.

A Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open ~ Pooh

One question asked every time I speak to a group of readers about my books is this:

How do you get your ideas?

My first book idea came from me creating a mash-up of my favorite novels, pulling bits and pieces from each, then finding a new platform from which to launch the conglomeration. Thus, Protected was born, and I introduced Abby and Manny to the world. From there, subsequent books tell the stories of the other people included in book one. Book two, A Father’s Gift, continues the story of my main characters in Protected, and book three, Accepted, (coming out in September, 2023), brings Manny’s best friend, Jonathan, and his story front and center.

Where did their stories come from? In my case, I believe the ideas for stories come from God. How can I weave a tale that shows ordinary people who survive their everyday problems and challenges to their faith? How can I share encouragement with readers to continue turning back to God if it doesn’t seem like he listens to our prayers?

I pray and wait for the ideas to come.

Many times, those ideas come while I’m in the shower. Does the spray of water massage my brain? Does steam break up whatever blocks my creativity? The answer is a mystery, but one that has repeated itself so many times, I now sometimes jump in the shower when I’m stuck and wait to see if inspiration strikes.

When I listen to music, often a story creates itself in the background as I sing along. Back when I still taught (math, by the way), I had what I thought was a wonderful idea for a writing assignment in the English classes. I’d been listening to my new Josh Groban CD (that tells you how long ago this happened—nobody buys CDs anymore). He sang in a foreign language, probably Italian. I couldn’t understand the words, but a very vivid picture emerged in my imagination based on the emotion in his voice and in the swells and lulls of the music. My pretend story made me curious—would other people hear something different? I wanted my friend Becky to let her students write what they “saw” by listening to the song.

I’ve learned to pay attention to those whispers. I pause, reel in my thoughts, and see if there is something I could turn into a novel. If I feel like the idea has legs, I jot it in a note saved on my phone for later. Sometimes those ideas nudge me. They seem eager to come to life. One book at a time for me, though. I’m not a writer who can have two or three projects going at once.

My favorite method of getting new ideas is when they come in a dream. Rarely can I keep a grasp on the tenuous threads that float through my mind in the dead of night. Three times, I attempted to recall the bones of the story after I woke up the next morning. Three times, the entire project vanished like the mist burning off in the light of day. I now force myself to jump out of bed and write it down. Those often feel totally ridiculous when I read them the next day. Instead of a story I can build up, I find myself staring at a scribbled description of something resembling a Mad Hatter’s party. Crumple that paper up and toss it in the trash.

But occasionally, the dream sequence is a kernel that puts down roots. I sit and ponder, and slowly, the idea blooms like a rose, each petal unfurling to reveal another trail in the story. That happened this week. I shared the idea with my Friday morning critique partners, and they agreed it would make a fun read. Cheryl remembered a contest she’d recently seen advertised and shared it with me. So now I have something to do with the story when I’ve polished the words, and they’re ready to go.

Creating that was fun. I’m so grateful I was in a place in my life in 2019 where I could retire from teaching and spend all my time writing. The pursuit is challenging and difficult, but ultimately rewarding. If you’ve ever considered writing, wait no longer. I’m happy to help you in any way I can. And if you are writing, share with the rest of us how you get your ideas.

And the winner is …

Ann Boyles, congratulations! You’ll receive the copy of Best Choices from the People’s Pharmacy. Woohoo! Thank you for sharing your home remedies with me.

Isn’t There a Pill for That?

Have any of y’all reached a boiling point with doctors? No? Only me? There are tons of fabulous doctors out there, and I see some of them. But I’ve fired my share. (By fired, I mean muttered under my breath all the way to my car and refused to see them again.)

My biggest pet peeve with them is their tendency to turn straight to a prescription to eliminate a symptom I’ve described.

Hold your horses, Doc. Can we do some digging first to find out what causes the symptom?

My major problem is I’m a horrible pill taker.

First, I forget about them somewhere around the middle of day two, and consumption is spotty after that. Kind of hard for the pill to do its thing if it’s sitting in the little amber-colored bottle.

Second, if there is a side-effect, I’m going to experience it. Once I notice the effect, it’s all I can think about, which probably makes it worse. I’m a sympathy vomiter. The mere suggestion of throwing up makes it real.

So I turn to the internet. I can visualize all my doctor friends shaking their heads as they listen to me describe my fascination with and reliance on alternative medicine solutions. I know. I get it. Why would I believe my neighbor’s great-aunt’s solution over theirs? Theirs, that took many expensive years of medical learning and training to come by.

It comes down to this. I’ve lived decades in this body, and I pay attention to its signals. And when my doctor brushes that off as he reaches for his prescription pad, I get annoyed. So I’m going to explore first, thank you very much. If none of my alternative methods work, then I’ll come listen to what they offer.

Full disclosure: My experiment with essential oils once turned a basic UTI into a full-on, raging bladder infection. Antibiotics to the rescue. I acknowledge I don’t always make the best choice.

But I do have success stories I want to share with you. Some are downright weird and utterly inexplicable, but effective. At least, they were for me.

For rashes and bug bites, I use lavender essential oil. Basically, if it stings or itches, it gets doused. My five-year-old grandson disturbed a wasp nest in our treehouse. His screams brought me running. Angry insects circled with menace, and his tears told me he’d already been stung. I grabbed him and ran to the house. Four angry welts raised on his leg. I rubbed lavender oil on them, and within minutes (almost before I could screw the lid on the bottle and put it back on the shelf), he hopped down, tears gone, and headed back outside. I’ve been stung by a wasp before. The sting has the impact of a hammer. The rapid improvement in how he felt stunned me.

I also use lavender for burns. Blisters from the oven, or pain from a sunburn — both get lavender. Relief comes almost immediately.

I have another essential oil miracle. I complained to my doctor about muscle weakness, insomnia, dry skin—the list went on and on. She tested my thyroid. Turns out, it was hyperactive. My T3/T4 numbers should have been in a reference range of 1.0 – 4.0. Mine registered at 0.01. (“Hyperactive” and low numbers seem counterintuitive, but it makes sense when they explain it.) She referred me to a specialist. He wanted to do an iodine test to see how quickly my body processed the thyroid hormones. When I called to make the appointment for the test, the nurse explained his plan was to radiate my thyroid, basically killing off part of it. Problem was, if he killed off too much, the damage was permanent, leaving me with hypothyroidism which would require daily medication for the rest of my life. (Please refer back to the fifth paragraph.) Not only that, but I would be radioactive for the next two weeks. I’d have to eat off of different plates, wash my clothes separately, sleep in a different bed, not hold my grandbabies. No way, Jose. Off to the internet I went.

I found an essential oil recipe and rolled the mixture onto my throat three or four times a day. I planned to use the oils for six months, then let my doctor run the blood test again. However, I visited her for an unrelated issue three months later, and she asked me about the results from the specialist. I told her I was trying the oils first (hyperthyroidism wouldn’t kill me; I had time to explore). She cocked a skeptical eyebrow and challenged me to take the test right then and there. I shrugged. Okay. Let’s do it.

The next day she texted me, in all caps, with a bunch of exclamation points. “YOUR THYROID IS COMPLETELY NORMAL!!!”

Score another one for the alternative methods.

I ran across another one on TikTok. She said she oils her belly button at night before going to bed. According to her, rubbing oil in her navel will correct dry skin. (A handful of Indian women concur; I searched TikTok for verification that this was a thing.)

I have a container of whipped tallow, rendered from beef fat by a friend and scented with essential oils that I’ve been rubbing on my feet. I tried it in my belly button. My shins used to look like fish scales. Now, although my skin isn’t perfectly hydrated, it’s much better looking. I still see crepey wrinkles, but the scales are gone. And the insides of my leggings no longer look like my legs have dandruff when I take them off at night.

The weirdest cure came from my People’s Pharmacy book. Somewhere mid-menopause, I started experiencing charley horses in my calves in the middle of the night. The pain woke me, and I’d lurch from bed to stand and stretch the muscle. Sometimes it cramped so hard, I had to press my leg down with my hand on my knee to get relief. I dreaded falling asleep because I knew pain severe enough to yank me from slumber lurked right around the corner.

I told my doctor it must be hormone-related, because the only other time I’d experienced this problem was when I was pregnant. He told me hormones don’t cause cramps and prescribed a muscle relaxer.

I coached the swim team at my high school at the time and woke each morning at 4:00 a.m. No way was I taking a muscle relaxer every night. I’d never wake up. And did we not care to find out WHY my legs cramped?

Off to my favorite alternative medicine book I went—Best Choices from the People’s Pharmacy. I tried several things listed before I found one that worked. The rejects?

Eat a teaspoonful of yellow mustard when the cramps hit. Yuck. No effect.

Sip an ounce of pickle juice. Double-yuck. No results.

Take magnesium. Ho-hum.

Drink tonic water. Nothing.

The one that worked, immediately, and for evermore—place an unwrapped bar of soap under the bottom bedsheet, but don’t use Dove or Dial. The small flat bars you get at a hotel work perfectly. I’m totally mystified about how or why this works, but I never had another cramp again. So, take that, stupid muscle relaxers.

What weird thing works for you? I love learning these home remedies, and I’m eager to know yours. Book five in my San Antonio series will have Lawrence training to become a doctor. Since we’ll be in the 1870s, he won’t have access to our modern solutions. I need your answers for my research. So hit me up! I’ll draw from all the names who reply and will send one lucky winner a copy of the People’s Pharmacy book. Hopefully, it will bring you answers like it has for me.

She ain’t from around here, is she?

Many of my Northern friends have commented on my Texas accent. I don’t think I have one, at least not much of one, but they disagree. I think the difference often comes down more to the word choices we make rather than the sound of our voices.

For example, in the South we use the word “y’all.” It’s a contraction of “you all.” But rather than that harsh New Jersey sound (picture Joe Pesci in My Cousin Vinny), it has a nice Southern drawl to it.

We also call all soft drinks “coke,” as in, “I’m gonna get a coke. You want one? OK, what kind, Dr. Pepper or root beer?”

This little guy? He’s a doodle bug.

We use the word “tump,” as in, “Don’t swing so high on the swing set. You’re gonna make it tump over.”

And we won’t get into the argument of how to pronounce pecan.

Most of the time, my non-Texan friends and I communicate well, despite our differences. We may hide a grin behind our hands from time to time, but we understand each other. However, in the past few weeks, three words I consider commonplace have stumped my critique partners.

That makes me curious. One partner lives in Illinois and the other in the United Kingdom in the Forest of Dean (but was originally from Australia). Do they not know the words I use simply because of geography?

So I’m doing a survey. Without looking these words up (’cause that’d be cheating), post your answers in the comment section below and tell me what you think they mean. Then tell me where your parents raised you. (Technically, that should say where you were reared, but nobody actually says that word and it sounds weird.) Ready?

  1. Percheron
  2. cup towel
  3. criminently

I can hear my grandmother’s voice on that last one, and it makes me smile. I’m eager to hear your definitions. If you have a word you think we won’t know down here, throw it in, too.

P.S. For those of you who have read and enjoyed Protected and A Father’s Gift, I have an update. I mailed the manuscript for book three, Accepted, to my publisher on Saturday. I hope the new book will be out by late summer/early fall. Squee!