Are You Smarter Than the Average Bear?

Let me give you a dose of eighth-grade math PTSD. Who remembers mean, median, and mode, our initial foray into the (horrible, terrible, no good, very bad) world of statistics? If I were to rank all the college classes I’ve taken, Stats would be at the low end of the bottom tier. But, regardless of the scars it might have left on us all, most of us are familiar with finding the mean. (Averaging, in mere mortal speak.) Average is considered the middle of the road, the fifty percent mark. Anything greater than .50 is above average. Everything that falls beneath is below average. Simple enough concept.

Yet, according to a psychology study, sixty-five percent of Americans believe they are above average. [1]

Y’all, the math doesn’t work.

In these days of crippling self-confidence issues, maybe it’s good that we think we’re better than we actually are. Nothing wrong with a positive self-image, right? High self-confidence can give us the boost to try something scary, like hang-gliding, opening a new business, or raising bees.

I wonder why we’re predisposed to think of ourselves so highly. The study didn’t pinpoint the reason why we tend to overestimate ourselves, only that we do.

What I found disturbing was we give ourselves an above-average rating most often when judging ourselves morally. [2]

In other words, I am more likely to believe I am morally superior to those around me than, say, that I am more clever or wise.

Hmm. That caused me to do some serious self-reflection. How would I rank myself, compared to others, in aspects like intelligence, honesty, faithfulness, cleverness, competency, friendliness?

I recently read the novel, Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier. (Spoiler alert. I will discuss the ending of the novel.) In the story, the unnamed narrator is a young woman in her twenties who marries a wealthy Englishman in his forties after a whirlwind courtship. (Let’s call her Claire.) Claire grew up poor and was working as a lady’s companion when she met Maxim. She struggles with self-worth throughout the novel, especially when they arrive at Manderly and she learns about the beautiful, composed, socially graceful Rebecca, who died the year prior.

Claire convinces herself Maxim doesn’t truly love her because she believes he has never gotten over losing Rebecca. However, when a boat crashes near their home, the rescue operation discovers the sunken remains of Rebecca’s sailboat, with her decomposing body inside. Since Maxim identified “her” body two months after the accident, he becomes a suspect in Rebecca’s death.

He confesses to Claire that he actually hated Rebecca, who was cold, manipulative, and unfaithful. She goaded Maxim into shooting her, telling him she was pregnant with another man’s child. Maxim killed her, then took her out on the sailboat and scuttled it with her body inside.

When Claire hears Maxim’s confession, she does all she can to clear his name. She travels to London to see the doctor Rebecca visited the day she died and learns Rebecca was not actually pregnant. She had cancer. The doctor told her she had only months to live and would die in agony.

This information is shared with the prosecuting attorney, and when asked, Claire lies for Maxim. Though she knows he shot his wife, she tells them Rebecca was distraught with the news of the diagnosis and killed herself.

Now. Back to the morally superior question. On average, we tend to rank ourselves as “above average” on moral issues. However, if you found yourself in a similar situation, where you could reasonably excuse the bad actions of someone you loved, especially if the truth would ruin not only their life but also yours, would you lie to protect them? If your lie kept your child from going to prison? Your mother from the death penalty?

What would I do? Would I truly be a member of the “above average,” or would I be part of the 15% who thinks I am better, but who is fooling themselves? I hope and pray, should I ever be in this position, I would turn to God and trust in his providence. Regardless of how bad things looked, or how devastating my truth would be, I must hope I could do what the Bible teaches us.

Thou shalt not lie.

I hope I could stick myself close to God, like a grass burr attaches to my sock, and trust his guidance would carry me through whatever heartache might come.

What about you? If you were Claire, would you have handled things differently? If you have a story like Claire’s where God brought you through the fire, share it with us so we can draw strength for our own trials.

[1] https://tinyurl.com/SmarterSurvey

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5641986/

Discover a wonderful surprise …

Cilantro. Brussel sprouts. Liver and onions. You either love them or hate them.

My “ew” food was grapefruit. It tasted bitter and was hard to get into. The peel came off easily enough, but the membrane encasing each segment was tough, difficult to chew, and left a weird sensation in my mouth. To avoid that, I attacked the translucent skin encasing each segment with my sharpest knife, like a surgeon wielding a scalpel, peeling the membrane away. Once I had uncovered naked pulp, I ate it, pretending it was an orange. Without the bitter membrane, it tasted pretty good. But the process took way too long and a level of absorption that rivaled Hannibal Lecter.

My brother- and sister-in-law are health-conscious vegetarians and eat grapefruit for breakfast. They own those fancy little shark-toothed spoons, a necessity if you plan to separate the pulp from the pith. But nothing puts a kink in your slinky faster than getting a squirt of acidic juice in your eye as you wrestle with your hemisphere of pungent bitterness. The level of sugar required to make that palatable effectively negates the healthy vibe. Between squinting for visual protection and the involuntary facial contortions resulting from activating the bitterness receptors on the back of my tongue, I feared I gave Mr. Bean a run for his money.

Then I stopped one summer at a roadside fruit stand on my way to South Padre Island and bought four large grapefruit. I had grand plans of being healthy while I was on the island. Replacing donuts with something distasteful for breakfast qualified.

I discovered something wonderful. Texas grows delicious grapefruit. The Rio Grande Valley, Texas’s cornucopia, produces globes of deliciousness with names like Rio Star or Ruby Red. El pomelo grown here are larger and pinker than the measly, bitter yellow ones from Florida. I fell in love with grapefruit that summer.

Life changed when I bought a cold-press juicer. I envisioned myself using it to concoct healthy drinks out of kale, spinach, and ethically sourced oak leaves that would cleanse my liver, restore my pre-menopause memory, or make my skin look youthful and fresh. Then I had an epiphany. Juice the grapefruit.

Friends, I’m here to tell you nothing tastes better than a glass of fresh-pressed grapefruit juice. One softball-sized fruit yields about eight ounces of bliss. I slice them into wedges vertically (not the direction you cut if you plan to acid-etch your eyeballs for breakfast), then carefully remove the pinkish-orange outer peel. I say carefully, because you don’t want to accidentally squeeze the segments and waste any of that precious, delicious elixir. Then, one at a time, drop the slices down the juicer’s chute and watch liquid the color of a sunrise come pouring out.

So, in the year of our Lord 2024, screw your courage to the sticking point and try something new. Boldly go where you’ve not gone before. Start each morning with a glass of freshly pressed grapefruit juice. You won’t be sorry.

If music be the food of love, play on. ~William Shakespeare

I spent nineteen years of my life inside a high school math classroom and I overheard many conversations. One of the most interesting topics to eavesdrop on was when the kids played the “Would You Rather?” game. A lot of questions were completely silly, like “Would you rather be Wonder Woman or Captain Marvel?” However, one struck me and all these years later, I still think about that question often.

Would you rather go blind or deaf?

Ooh. That would be a hard one to choose.

On the one hand, if I went blind, I could no longer drive. Driving, and the freedom it brings, would be hard to give up. I would never see the Grand Canyon; or any more beautiful sunsets; the face of Elias, my newest grandchild; or my granddaughters at their weddings.

But if I went deaf, I’d no longer hear music. That would be a huge thing to give up. I love music. The unexpectedness of a subtonic VII shift. Perfect harmonies. The power of a gravely voice that can sing sweet and clear just as well.

My husband and I spent a recent vacation with some of his school friends. Randy and Danny are brothers, both very smart and both very sarcastic. Being around them for a week was to be treated to nonstop comedic routines, perfect timing delivered with deadpan emotion. Side-splittingly funny.

We discussed music one night after supper. Sitting around the table, Danny asked if the music was more important to us, or the words. The construction or the story? Randy fell into the story camp. A lot of country music tells a story.

I’m on Team Music. I can listen to a Josh Groban song where he sings in Italian and not understand a word. But the music draws a story in my imagination. The notes speak to my soul. However, the poetry of a song’s lyrics get to me too. So maybe I’m Team Story after all. Hard to decide.

Randy grew vociferous in his defense of the story side of music. Danny, sitting quite still, got a self-satisfied look on his face. I knew he was about to deliver a bombshell of a wisecrack. He held his hands up, pantomiming playing a jaw harp. He said, “Randy would hear a song with this–” insert the jaw harp playing a single note–choing– “and would say, ‘Yeah! That’s a great song.'”

We laughed until tears streamed down our faces, but I’ve thought of that conversation a lot. What team would you be on? Are you moved by the notes or by the words? What is the one song in the world that always elicits an emotional response for you?

I like to write my books with music playing in the background. The sound of the songs sets a mood for me. I have playlists that I use for different scenes. Sad scenes. Love scenes. Angry scenes. What are your go-to songs? I may add them to my lists. If you want me to share my playlists, just comment at the end and I’ll send you my Spotify links.

When I wrote A Father’s Gift, I played songs that sounded sad or poignant. Manny, the main character, lost his father when he was a young boy. Now, with the birth of his first child impending, thoughts of his dad consume him. What could his father have taught him, had he been around? What advice would he share? Manny goes on a quest to find answers about what really happened that fateful day so many years ago. But his questions stir up sleeping dogs that certain people would rather let lie.

This novella eBook is currently on sale for $0.99. Quick and easy to send as a digital gift. Check it out while the sale lasts.

https://tinyurl.com/2xnz3cjd

Here is one of my favorite songs about the season. I hope you enjoy it. And I pray you have a blessed and merry Christmas.

The most important thing people did for me was to expose me to new things. Temple Grandin

If you’re like most people, you tend to cross the road when you see change coming. We enjoy the comfort of doing / being / experiencing things we know.

But I like to mix things up every now and then. One easy thing to try is reading something written by an author I’ve never experienced. Being a writer means I have an unending supply of new material to sample. I enjoy supporting my fellow authors by purchasing their books, encouraging their efforts, and sharing the news of their accomplishments.

Today, I want to introduce you to Jodie Wolfe. Jodie’s tagline is “Where Hope and Quirky Meet.” If that doesn’t tell you everything you need to know about how Jodie writes, then see for yourself. She is doing a guest post for me today, so friends, meet Jodie!

Peace and God’s Creation – by Jodie Wolf

Every fall I look forward to going to the mountains behind our home to hike and enjoy the beauty of God’s Creation and the beautiful colors He has on display. Last year, my husband and I discovered a reservoir in the middle of the mountain. Even though we’ve lived in the area for over thirty years, we hadn’t heard about it. At the time, we couldn’t walk around much because I was in a surgical boot after having foot surgery a few months before.

This year, I couldn’t wait for the leaves to change on the mountain so we could go explore. I packed a picnic supper, and we left as soon as my husband got home from work. For the most part, we had the lake and the incredible view all to ourselves. As we sat down to our meal after hiking on one of the trails, I was overwhelmed by the beauty of God’s Creation. His peace flooded my soul. I couldn’t help but feel the trees were singing for joy with their colors on full display. It reminded me of this verse from Psalm 96:12 (NIV).

Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing forest sing for joy.

As we left the area and started our drive home, my heart was at peace—His peace.

Peace is something my character in my new book, Wooing Gertrude, struggles with. Here’s a peek at the back cover blurb:

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?

(me again:) I enjoy stories about strong-willed, independent women. I feel sure this one will make me laugh. If you’re interested in trying something new, you can purchase Jodie’s book here:

Purchase Links

Ebook: https://pelicanbookgroup.com/ec/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=1635

Print: https://pelicanbookgroup.com/ec/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=1636

Jodie Wolfe creates novels where hope and quirky meet. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), and Faith, Hope, & Love Christian Writers (FHLCW). She’s been a semi-finalist and finalist in various writing contests. A former columnist for Home School Enrichment magazine, her articles can be found online at: Crosswalk, Christian Devotions, and Heirloom Audio. When not writing, she enjoys spending time with her husband in Pennsylvania, reading, walking, and being a Grammie. Learn more at www.jodiewolfe.com.

Social Media Links

Website: https://www.jodiewolfe.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Jodie-Wolfe-553400191384913

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/jodie-wolfe

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/JodieAWolfe

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15220520.Jodie_Wolfe

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Jodie-Wolfe/e/B01EAWOHXO/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

I hope you enjoy Jodie’s book. And if you still need ideas for Christmas gifts, any of books one (Protected), two (A Father’s Gift – set at Christmastime), and three (Accepted) in my San Antonio series would make perfect stocking stuffers. Available on Amazon.

That’s a Long Row to Hoe

If you live in farmland, you’ve probably heard this phrase before. “A particularly difficult or problematic task, situation, or set of circumstances to contend with or confront.”

We have farmers in our family. The idea is not a new concept for us. We spent time with relatives this past weekend at a wedding in Lincoln, Nebraska. Douglas and Teresa, the farmers, headed home and got right back on the John Deere. The harvest is ready. Corn waits for no man.

Writing a book feels similar at times. The row ahead seems endless, and all you can focus on is what is right in front of you. The knowledge of everything that still awaits is daunting. But writing waits for no man. You dig in, put your head down, and work.

But finally, you’re finished. No more research. No more feedback from critique partners. No more editing. No more proofreading. You’ve finished the book, and you can sit back with a sigh of relief.

Sigh. That’s me today.

Accepted is done, uploaded, printed, and available for purchase. Today is book birthday number three in the San Antonio series.

If you like historical romance, you need this book. The probability is high you’ll learn a fact you didn’t learn at school. You’ll laugh and maybe cry. And you’ll see God’s love.

Need a little taste to be sure? Here are the first few pages. If you decide it’s for you, you can order here.

https://tinyurl.com/Accepted-book-three

Now, sit back and dive in. Enjoy.

San Antonio, Texas – Spring, 1864

Chapter One

They wasted time with every moment they stood idle.

Jonathan Campbell squinted one eye and peered at the cloudless sky. Mr. Nelson, from the feed store in San Antonio, should be along directly. Jonathan had placed his order for corn and cotton seed back in March, and they were due to arrive today. He sucked his teeth, impatience building. The store owner’s offer to deliver surprised him, but he was glad enough to accept the help that saved him from making a trip to town. The urge to start made him antsy. Where was the man?

With one knee pressed into the damp ground, he stretched his tight back with a groan. Sweeping his hat from his head, he wiped his sleeve across his brow. The sun’s rays brought welcome warmth after a frigid February and a rainy March, and he had worked up a sweat. Long, straight furrows gave testament to the labor he and the two farmhands had completed so far. The week had been productive. Preparing the soil to receive seed, helping along the life cycle established by God, spoke to a spot deep in his soul.

He gave the wrench he gripped in his sweaty hand one last yank and glanced up at the young man, who waited for him to work his magic with the plow. The hired hand had phenomenal skills with horses, but mechanical things reduced him to fumble fingers. “Try now, Teddy. I think it’s ready to go.”

Teddy grinned. “Is there nothing you can’t fix?” He popped the reins against the back of the draft horse, urging him on with a click of his tongue. The animal’s enormous hooves dug into the ground, and the machine lurched into motion. The depth wheel rotated easily now, silver metal from the plowshare glinting in the sun.

A pleased smile broke across Jonathan’s face as the rich, brown earth appeared. God made Adam from the dust of the ground. If only creating came that easy for him. Unfortunately, his took nothing but good, honest, hard work. Ah, well. When God made him, he added an extra pinch of farmer. He loved this life.

He stood and tugged his hat back down, then dusted his hands together. Halfway across the field, Ernest drove a team of mules, working his half of the acreage. The older man worked too far away for Jonathan to see, but he imagined the wicked grin that probably crossed his face. Teddy’s delay gave Ernest a jump on their progress.

Neither helper said anything aloud, but the farmhands competed to see whose team would finish first. Each stood convinced his choice of work animal ranked superior to the other. Teddy had fidgeted, casting anxious glances toward the opposite side of the field as he waited for Jonathan to fix the broken plow.

Ernest preferred working with the lean mules. Teddy loved the big draft animal. Jonathan preferred the animal that cost the least to feed and care for. At present, the contest measured in at a draw. Both required shoes to protect against the stony sections of land, both required feed during the winter. But both pulled their weight. Neither pulled particularly at his heartstrings. They were animals. Property. They had a job to do. And right now, that job meant getting this pasture ready for planting.

“Jonathan.” Belle’s voice carried across the field. He turned with a smile to greet his little sister.

She tramped over the plowed furrows, stepping up and down between the rows of dirt. A hamper banged against her knee as she came his direction, fingers wrapped around the handle.

Jonathan met her halfway.

“What’ve you got? The way you’re lugging that basket around, it must weigh as much as you.”

“Ma’s seen the way y’all eat when you come for lunch at the house. She packed enough for an army, so far as I’m concerned. You’d never know there’s only three of you.”

Jonathan laughed as he reached for the food. He rubbed his hand over her head, callouses on his palm snagging against her smooth blonde hair, pulling strands from her tidy braids.

“Stop.” Belle yanked her head away with the injured tone only a thirteen-year-old could affect. She smoothed her hand against the braids, darting a quick glance toward Teddy.

“Whoa there, missy. Don’t bat those big blue eyes at the hired help.” Jonathan cocked a warning eyebrow at her.

Belle turned as red as a tomato. “What—?” She stammered to a halt. “You’re stupid.”

Jonathan moved to block her view of the strapping young man walking behind the Percheron. “We’ve got work to do. Thanks for lunch. Head on back and see if Ma needs your help.”

Belle narrowed her eyes. “I don’t answer to you. Just ’cause Pa died doesn’t mean you get to boss everybody around.”

“That’s exactly what it means.” Jonathan held up a hand, a peace offering. “But my apologies.” He waggled his fingers toward the house. “Unless you plan to drive a plow, you’re in my way.”

Belle stuck out her tongue. Then, with a last glance toward Teddy, she whirled around, braids flying.

Jonathan chuckled as she stomped off. Indignation vibrated through every step.

Both teams turned the corner at the far end of the seventy-five-acre field and headed his way. He whistled to catch the men’s attention and swung the basket through the air. “Lunchtime, boys,” he hollered. A field this large took a while to prepare, and they were on a schedule. But they had to stop to refuel now and again.

By the time they reached him, he had the contents spread across the ground. Six sandwiches, made with thick pieces of homemade bread and a hefty slice of ham, came wrapped in a dishcloth. A glass jar held fermented sauerkraut Ma’d put up last fall. Jonathan shook out equal portions onto tin plates he found in the basket’s bottom. One jug held milk, and a second carried water from their well. A plate of cookies lay on the bottom of the basket, a sweet dessert to finish the meal. When the men joined him, Jonathan bowed his head and gave thanks for the food.

They sprawled on the grass, enjoying the chance to rest. Life burgeoned busily around them as spring woke the earth. Mockingbirds sang, trilling through their repertoire of borrowed tunes. Bees hummed over early spring wildflowers, gathering nectar and pollen as they went. A breeze ruffled Jonathan’s hair as he leaned back on one hand, chewing with contentment. He could spend the rest of his life taking care of this farm and be completely happy.

They wolfed down the meal, taking turns drinking from the jugs. Ernest smacked his lips over the sauerkraut. “Not as good as my mutter used to make, but this is gut.”

Jonathan cocked an eyebrow at the older German, grinning. “I’ll let Ma know she’s earned your stamp of approval.”

Teddy brushed crumbs from his mouth. “What’s next, boss?”

Jonathan flinched at the title. He wasn’t ready to fill his pa’s shoes.

The young man reached for a second cookie. “Are we gonna do an extra field of cotton this year after we get the corn in?”

“Yes. The seed arrives today. I want to turn the sod in that section on the other side of the creek. We’ll plant cotton there. Last time I visited Galveston, I saw cotton bales lined up from one end of the port to the other. Rumor has it the armies want to buy every bale they can find to make uniforms for the dad-blasted war, but Union soldiers are blockading the port. Corn will always be our money-maker, but cotton prices may go up this year.”

Ernest sighed. “Plowing a new field is such a beating. We could build anything under the sun with that sod. It’s tough as nails.” He glanced at the team of mules grazing nearby. “My boys’ll need an extra helping of feed tonight.”

Teddy snorted. “Benny’s strong enough to do it. And he won’t need no extra feed, neither.”

Ernest glowered. “I never said the mules couldn’t do it. But they’ll deserve a reward for good work.”

Jonathan stood, ending the argument before it started. “Back to work, fellas.”

Benny nickered, perked ears facing forward as he stared toward the farmhouse. Jonathan turned, following his gaze.

“Here we go.” He rubbed his hands together in pleased anticipation.

Mr. Nelson’s wagon rumbled down the drive. Jonathan walked to meet the man. Seed bags filled the wagon bed, piled in orderly rows.

He frowned. Lots and lots of rows. Maybe the man would make another stop after dropping off his part of the purchase.

Jonathan doffed his hat, extending his hand for a greeting. Mr. Nelson pumped it, well pleased to deliver his bounty.

“Afternoon, Mr. Nelson. You’re here just in time. I’m gonna start in behind these men and plant while they finish plowing. I think we can finish today.”

Mr. Nelson hitched his thumb over his shoulder toward the bed of the wagon. “You’re gonna need more land plowed if you plan to use all this. Had to deliver this one myself. Didn’t want to put the responsibility of carrying back such a large payment on one of the stock boys.” He gazed over the partially plowed section. “But another reason I offered to deliver the seed is so I could check out what betterments you must’ve done on the property. For sure, this little field ain’t gonna use the whole order. It’s a sight more’n what your pa ever ordered.”

Ernest and Teddy approached the wagon.

A sick feeling curdled in Jonathan’s stomach. He peered at Mr. Nelson, wanting to ask, but afraid of the answer. Had he ordered all that?

Is that enough of a taste to wet your whistle? If you’ve purchased books one and two (Protected and A Father’s Gift), I thank you. Your support means everything. If you haven’t, don’t worry. You can read each book as a standalone. But if you want to start at the beginning, Protected (eBook) is on sale for $1.99 until midnight tonight. Grab it while you can.

And thank you for encouraging me. You make that long row worth the effort, and I appreciate you.

Promise is a big word. It either makes something or it breaks something.

Since my husband, John, and I retired, we are now free to spend more time on “Grandparent duties.” Things like taking kids to the dentist so Mom doesn’t have to take off work. Or running forgotten things to the school, like homework or a Chrome book.

One thing I enjoy the most is meeting my grandkids at their schools for lunch. Parents don’t usually have this luxury. So, me and John showing up with a restaurant lunch is a special treat.

When we take lunch to my son Zach’s kids, it’s an all-day affair. He has four children, and three of them are at the same school. When we go see the young ones, we’re there for the long haul. The ladies in the front office laugh when they see us coming, loaded down like a pack mule.

Telling them we’ll come can seem like a small thing, a promise easily broken. After all, I justify to myself, I can always go next week. Missing a particular day is no big deal.

But I saw firsthand how wrong that assumption is.

Last week was Grandparents’ Day at Zach’s kids’ school. Liam, the oldest of the three, asked if we could come. John had plans, but of course, I said I’d be there.

Because it was Grandparents’ Day, a line had formed in the front office.

I headed down to the lunchroom to get a table while a runner went for the boys. Because of the delay, Alice’s class was already seated by the time I arrived. Usually, we’re there waiting for them, and we surprise them as they’re walking in from recess. But Liam told the other two we would be there, so Alice watched the door, waiting for me to come in.

She had just turned away when I entered, so she didn’t see me. Her shoulders slumped. She crossed her arms on the table and laid her head on them. Was she upset? I snuck up behind her, covered her eyes with my hands, and said, “Guess who’s here?”

When she lifted her face and turned toward me, a grin split her face from ear to ear, but a lone tear slipped down her cheek. She thought I wasn’t coming. She thought I had broken my promise. With a quick hug, all was made right in the world. We headed to the parents’ table, where the boys soon joined us.

What if I’d changed my mind? What if I told myself, “You’re busy . . . so many things to do today. Just go next week?” Alice’s tear gave the answer to that question.

One thing we can always trust in is God. He always keeps His promises. The Bible tells us, “He remains faithful. He cannot deny Himself.” 2 Timothy 2:13.

In Deuteronomy 31:8, God promised to never leave us or forsake us. Never will He leave sitting at the lunch table wondering where He is.

This knowledge of God’s faithfulness gets me through tough times. When I feel like life spins out of control or wonder why events didn’t pan out the way I expected, I fall back on this belief. God has promised to work all things out to the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28).

But best of all, nothing I can ever do will cause Him to stop loving me. One of my favorite verses in the Bible says this:

38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

That’s a powerful promise. And if ever I forget it and lay my head down to cry, I know God will come up behind me and say, “Guess who’s here?”

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)


Literary/Contemporary:


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)


Thriller/Suspense/Romantic:


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. https://docs.google.com/…/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.