Novel Releases Today

Today The Road to Paradise, a novel by Author Karen Barnett releases to the public. The story is part of a series on Vintage National Parks which bring to life President Theodore Roosevelt’s vision for protected lands. He is quoted as saying, “There can be nothing in the world more beautiful than the Yosemite, the groves of the giant sequoias and redwood, the Canyon of the Colorado, the Canyon of the Yellowstone, the three Tetons; and our people should see to it that they are preserved for their children and their children’s children forever, with their majestic beauty all unmarred.”

Here’s what the book jacket tells us: “An ideal sanctuary and a dream come true–that’s what Margaret Lane feels as she takes in God’s gorgeous handiwork in Mount Rainer National Park. It’s 1927 and the National Park Service is in its youth when Margie, an avid naturalist, lands a coveted position alongside the park rangers living and working in the unrivaled splendor of Mount Rainier’s long shadow.

But Chief Ranger Ford Brayden knows too well how awe-inspiring nature can quickly turn deadly. Ford is still haunted by his father’s death on the mountain, and the ranger takes his work managing the park and its growing crowd of visitors seriously. The job of watching over an idealistic Senator’s daughter with few practical survival skills seems a waste of resources.

When Margie’s former fiancé sets his mind on developing the Paradise Inn and its surroundings into a tourist playground, the plans might put more than the park’s pristine beauty in danger. What will Margie and Ford sacrifice to preserve the splendor and simplicity of the wilderness they both love?

I’ve reviewed Karen’s first four books— Mistaken–, a book about prohibition in the 1920’s, and the Golden Gate Chronicles, a series centered around the 1906 San Francisco earthquake— Out of the Ruins, Beyond the Ashes, and Through the Shadows—in earlier blogs. Karen’s style and impeccable research combine to give the reader a thoroughly satisfying reading experience.  Available from Amazon, CBD, Barnes and Noble, and at your favorite bookseller The Road to Paradise is sure to please..

My copy came early. I read the story.  You won’t be disappointed.

Comfort in the Familiar

Valentine’s Day landed midweek this year. My husband and I drove to the coast, one of our favorite places to visit. We’ve traveled this route many times—each curve of the road familiar, the line of trees along the shoulder the same, the waterways running alongside still carving out the path they’ve been reshaping for decades.

Comfort often comes in the well-known. Memories surface from previous visits. Like the wayside where my family often stopped for breakfast when I was a child because I became too carsick to continue without food. Or the little hole-in-the-wall restaurant my husband and I visited forty years ago and had a bowl of their homemade mushroom and potato soup. We both remember how delicious it tasted. That’s saying something since he doesn’t like mushrooms.

And yet, within the familiarity, comes change. We mourned over the giant trees still laying across the streams after the recent ice storm, their roots exposed, their trunks left to decay. The potholes along one stretch are bigger now. Maneuvering around them takes concentration. The stretch of beach near the jetty is overgrown with windblown plants and multiple rises of sand that block the view. Both of us recall when we could leave the parking area and run unobstructed to the water’s edge. Tides and time have altered the shore to the degree that this is no longer a pleasant place to stay long.

Walking with God is like our journey to the ocean. We remember the first years getting to know him. The things he did for us as he claimed us for his own. Our memories move on to the comfort we’ve found in his presence. Knowing that no matter what happens, God makes all things possible in his time. We are warmed by his words in Jeremiah 3:13: “The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.’” We look forward to our tomorrows knowing life brings change and those differences may alter the landscape of our lives. But because God has walked with us in the past, we can trust him to be with us as we face the future. He will not abandon us.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow.


Writer’s Conference Weary

ocw 2016 001This past week I spent almost four full days attending workshops as well as coaching classes at the Oregon Christian Writers summer conference in Portland, Oregon. Evening seminars after dinner  were taught by the unparalleled wisdom of  James Scott Bell, a prolific, award-winning author from southern California.JamesScottBell-150x150

My coaching class was taught by Lynn Austin, a historical writer who has more than nineteen novels to her name as well as having garnered the coveted Christy award eight times. Lynn’s teaching covered the basics of polished writing and she flavored her instruction with personal insights of things she’d learned during her writing journey. Time well spent.austin

A conference of this size inspires you to return home ready to write again. Those who came discouraged leave with a better mindset. Spending time with an author you admire, or meeting an editor with whom you hope to have a working relationship one day, can energize the weariest of word processors among us. Getting praise for your efforts is icing on the cake.

Those who need a reality check get a close up evaluation of their work and how it measures up to others of like persuasion. Having a professional assessment of your work-in-progress can be costly if done for hire, but at a conference, appraisals by other writers are part of the package. Most writers who have been awarded that job are published authors with years of training in their resume. Seeing your words through another’s eyes can be both humbling and rejuvenating.

One must be mindful of the verse in Isaiah 40:31: “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”  Writing is not an effortless occupation, nor is it one that rewards without restraint

The biggest complaint is of the conference not being long enough, even though you come home tired and drained. Your learning capacity cup runs over from having been filled with enough information to boost you into the next year.

II Timothy 2:15 speaks of learning God’s word: “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of Truth.”

So it is for writers—learning how to process text one word at a time.



Conferences and Colleagues Spell Opportunity

OCW_SC2016_CVentTopBanner_4This week I’m packing my bags for the Oregon Christian Writers summer conference in  Portland, Oregon. The conference has grown in recent years to include editors, writers, and agents from across the United States. It’s a great opportunity to connect with others in the publishing world, hone my skills, and renew old friendships. I have my own agenda as well—spend time with editors, find critique partners, and ask questions.

JamesScottBell-150x150This year’s keynote speaker will be James Scott Bell, a former attorney and fiction author from southern California, whose best-selling titles include many legal thrillers. He has written instructional books on writing that have topped the lists of most authors who want to improve their craft. He is also a columnist for Writer’s Digest magazine.  I first met Jim at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference and have taken several different classes and workshops from him. He presents his material in a straight-forward, but entertaining manner. Not to mention he’s an all-around nice guy.

Angela Hunt, the second guest speaker, is a multi-published author of both non-fiction and fiction novels whose titles have earned the coveted Christy award, several Angel Awards for Excellence in Media, and the Gold and Silver Medallions from Foreword Magazine’s Book of the Year. Her novel, The Note, was featured as a Christmas movie on the Hallmark channel in 2007. I’ve also taken classes from Angela, learning how to frame story structure on a skeleton. Yes! It’s true.Angela-Hunt-150x150

My roommate and I have planned this getaway like a vacation—making time for relaxing on the shores of the Columbia river, down time on the hotel patio, as well as attending classes and workshops throughout the four-day conference. I’ll be back with stories to tell. Who knows, maybe I can fix some of my writing flaws. You’re never too experienced to learn.

My Readers Respond

iced tea Not many weeks ago, I posted titles of new books available for summer reading pleasure. At the time I also invited my readers to suggest authors whose names and works might be unfamiliar to me. To my delight I have three authors—Ann Gaylia O’Barr, Camille Eide, and Frieda Wampler—to introduce to you. Each one is published through a smaller publishing house.


Foreign Espionage

I first met Ann Gaylia O’Barr at the Mount Hermon conference in San Jose, CA in 2009 and then again at a ACFW conference in Dallas, Texas. Her books intrigued me because Ann writes from the depths of fourteen years of experience as a Foreign Service Officer in the United States Department of State. Her assignments included tours of Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Canada, and Tunisia. The first novel included not only espionage, but detailed descriptions of historic sites her characters lived around and worked within.

Ann has two new books out in a mystery and family series that features Mark Pacer, a young man from Appalachia who journeys outside his comfort level to join the Foreign Service. When he arrives in Washington, D.C. for diplomatic training, he is an outsider. His academic credentials from a Southern  university are brilliant, but his accent sets him apart. His father has accused him of choosing a “highfalutin” profession. He falls in love with Reye, a woman in his training class who has no interest in a hillbilly. Should he give up and return home? This story, Where I Belong, was a finalist in the Selah awards from this year’s Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference.

If Winter Comes-coverwebThe second, If Winter Comes, carries Mark and Reye through their first separate Foreign Service assignments, two weeks after their marriage. Reye witnesses the buildup to the eventual takeover of the Tehran embassy, while Mark deals with an abused American child in a custody case. Can their marriage survive the separation so early? Will Mark break the law to help the child escape?

Both books can be found at or on


Inspirational Romance

Named the best inspirational romance of 2015 by Romantic Times and awarded a rare five gold star top pick rating as well, The Memoir of Johnny Devine by Camille Eide has received rave reviews. Set in the 1950’s, when women were supposed to marry, stay home, and take care of their household, unmarried and educated Eliza Saunderson is committed to her career and to making a difference in social justice. Her sensitivity, intelligence and grace endear her to her boss, Johnny Devine.The Memory of Johnny Devine

Kristin Wise of Romantic Times says Eide “has managed to intertwine a beautiful love story, the desire to build a personal relationship with God, and the necessity for social change into one fantastic read.” Published by Ashberry Lane, the book is available from and Barnes and Noble.


Great Depression Memoir

When my high school friend, Larry Wampler, approached me with the memoir he helped his mother, Frieda, who is 97, write about her childhood growing up in Westlake, Oregon, I had to investigate. After reading the tale, I knew my readers would want to know about this delightful look back into history.

Westlake Girl: My Oregon Frontier Childhood is a charming tale about a girl who struggles against the barriers facing her because she is female and living during the Great Depression. The daughter of a Hungarian immigrant, she grows up helping her father run a general store, complete with a two-seater outhouse and a Sears Roebuck catalog. She navigates a boat on the lake, tames a pet seal, and cuts her hair because it is more convenient to wear it short, and not because the flappers are adopting the style in the East. The family photos included with the story are priceless.

Published this spring by Globe Pequot Press under their TwoDot imprint, the story is available from More of the story can be viewed at

Izetta book cover

And for my e-book readers:

True Love Story

My writing colleague Tammy Bowers recently published an e-book, Izetta, who was her aunt, a tragic love story based on true events of passion, murder, and the power of prayer.

In southern California in the late 1950’s a Marilyn Monroe look-a-like named Izetta meets Joe Conkey. The magnetic pull to this man is nothing she’s ever experienced before. There’s one problem: Joe is the best friend of her fiancé—Ford. Izetta dumps Ford and elopes with Joe. This is her second elopement, the first ended in disaster. This second one seems perfect, except for the dark cloud of Ford. Her millionaire ex isn’t bowing out nicely.

Izetta can be found on at:




Storykeepers #19–Freedmen Freed Men

atticsOne of the most interesting aspects of my research into the life of my great-great-grandmother has been the disagreements between scholars on what truly happened to runaway slaves during the 1840’s.

I’d been led to believe that kind, God-fearing white folks abounded along the trail, helping the fugitive find his or her way to freedom in the north. I’d read books where quilts of various colors were hung on fences to alert those seeking shelter to possible dangers. Other accounts told of hidey-holes under a barn floor where fleeing slaves could stay beneath a trap door. Still others told of wagons built with fake bottoms where the runaway could ride prone beneath the main carriage, sight unseen, as the driver transported his cargo to safety.

Not necessarily so, say historians.

While much of the above could have happened, more likely than not runaway slaves found their way to freedom on their own two feet, living under trees, and traveling by night. With the abolishment of slavery in the North by the end of the eighteenth century, free black men, and their families living there, provided shelter for the escapees who knocked at their doors. Single men were more often successful than those trying to flee with families.

Quaker communities spread themselves across the northern states, their stance against slavery borne of religious beliefs. Populations of African-Americans increased in communities inhabited by Quakers, as the runaway came, found shelter and acceptance, allowing immersion into the society with relative ease.

In Iowa, where my great-great-grandmother spent her teenage years, anti-slavery Quakers played a leading role in the compassionate treatment of men and women on the run. Documented evidence exists of more than a hundred homes across the state—all fitted with basements, attics, or spring houses—owned by Iowans who helped freedom seekers to new lives.

Ephesians 6:8-9 says, “because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free. Masters, do the same for your slaves. Give up your use of threats, because you know that He who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with Him.”

The most sobering bit of information I uncovered is that from the early 1830’s through the end of the Civil War fewer than 35,000 men, women, and children escaped, while four million slaves are reported to have lived in the South. Numbers of those who either died or were returned to their masters is unknown. Such a small percentage of success for so great a risk taken.


Storykeepers#18–Prairie Emergencies

rattlesn ake

A trip to Urgent Care this week prompted me to consider the dangers my great-great-grandparents faced as they attempted to cross the prairie. What I discovered wasn’t what I expected.

Moviemakers have made us believe Native Americans, riding wild ponies and whooping at the top of their lungs, were the greatest threat. Few tribes are portrayed as helpful—building bridges over swollen rivers for wagons to cross, or supplying the pioneer diet with fresh foods.

Instead, we’re shown painted savages, flailing tomahawks and aiming arrows at the poor, helpless settlers as they crept two miles per hour behind a team of oxen across a field of parched grass.

Not so, say historians. Native Americans often were  more help than harm to those seeking new homes in the west. Disease, food poisoning, and accidents claimed more lives than any other cause—not exactly Hollywood blockbuster fare.

Poor sanitation and personal contact accounted for the loss of ten percent of the migrating population. Waterborne bacteria lingering in stagnant ponds brought on cholera. Symptoms included severe diarrhea, stomach cramping, and vomiting. The disease could kill its victim in as few as twelve hours.

Dysentery, a result of unsanitary conditions, became common and though not usually fatal, affected the very young and the elderly.

Mountain fever could strike anywhere. It didn’t often kill, but it could delay a wagon train enough to matter later. Measles came with children, who regularly recovered. Adults, on the other hand, could be fatally afflicted.

While gunshot wounds usually affected the men, falling off a wagon could prove just as deadly. A child over the side could land beneath a wagon wheel and be crushed.

Lightning, tornadoes, and mammoth-sized hail attacked vulnerable wagons with fierce intensity.

Food poisoning from contaminated meals, scurvy from deficient diets, and pneumonia from changing climate added to the list of possible demise one might encounter.

Few doctors ever accompanied the wagon trains. No hospitals or emergency rooms waited to help them. They were at the mercy of those natives willing to help and the whims of an untamed land. I, for one, was glad to learn the natives provided their expertise in times of crisis.

Luke 10:36-7: (From the parable of the Good Samaritan.)   “So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves? And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.”

Acknowledgements: http:/ and dangers along the trails

Storykeepers #14–Runaway Fugitives


While my great-great-grandmother waited to join her future husband in Oregon territory, the slave controversy continued. Tempers flared and conflict threatened as the numbers of those fleeing for freedom continued to  climb. Laws threatened to change the landscape.

The first fugitive slave law, passed in 1793, stated that no person held to service of labor in one state, shall, by escaping to another state be discharged from their bondage. The ruling required both slave and non-slave states to return the runaway, and without benefit of a jury trial to prove the legitimacy of the claims.

As northern states moved to abolish slavery, the enforcement of the law relaxed. Officials withdrew from returning the runaway to his or her owner. Disregard of this law enraged southern state slave owners and would lead to the passage of the Compromise of 1850, a ruling some claim postponed the inevitable War between the States.

This second decision called for the return of slaves on pain of heavy penalty, but permitted a jury trial as long as the fugitives could not testify in their own defense. After its passage, runaways were at risk for recapture all their lives. Slave owners further drove the point that children born to escapees became the property of the mother’s master all their lives as well.

Oney Judge, one of Martha Washington’s slaves, fled to New Hampshire, married, and had a child. Despite living in freedom for nearly fifty years, she and her descendants were still legal property according to the decree and if the Washington family decided to press the point, all of Oney’s offspring could be returned to service.

Northern states moved to protect free black Americans from conscription by requiring proof the person in question was indeed a runaway and the property of another. As the need for laborers continued to grow, nefarious slave traders were known to drug, capture, and relocate black men and women to the south, claiming them as fugitives, even if they carried papers proving otherwise. More than three hundred cases have been documented.

I can only imagine the relief my great-great-grandmother felt when a letter arrived telling her the Oregon homestead had been claimed and her hero was on his way back to get her. That was 1850. Still, she would have to wait.



Wikipedia online–The Fugitive Law of 1793, Compromise of 1850

Story Keepers #11–Long Walk Home

40th anniversary 006Abandon ship!

Under cover of darkness, the men aboard the Hackstaff let down lifeboats and rowed to the north shore, avoiding discovery by Indians they’d seen walking the other side. Fall weather remained warm and they didn’t need heavier attire. They crept along the riverbank, each man carrying a portion of what few foodstuffs had remained on board. Little else could be carried. My great-great-grandfather kept his sack of gold.

Once safe, the men discussed their plight, deciding to walk north and connect with the trail between Oregon and California. Without horses, supplies or adequate weapons, many feared they’d become lost or separated. Several hadn’t before survived wilderness conditions. Uncertain where they went aground, historians believe the ship beached at the Rogue River. The distance home could have been more than two hundred miles—on foot.

The terrain proved difficult. Brushy undergrowth and steep climbs tested the hardiest among them. Two men with rifles hunted game. Three deer were shot, gutted, and roasted over a meager fire built with a few dry matches left in one man’s pocket. The famished men used sticks to broil the meat over the hot coals, eating the venison with their fingers and without salt. Hunger needed no extra seasoning.

Trekking north once again, another man scored an elk. But several were too hungry and weak to eat the meat. Searching the area for other edibles, they discovered slugs and offered them to the starving. Though disgusting, the forest fare proved providential and the sickly regained strength enough to travel, though the exertion again took its toll.

Many reached the point of giving up once more until they found a mountain stream which provided  crayfish. Without any means of building a fire, they ate them right out of the shell.

My great-great-grandfather buried his sack of gold beneath an oak tree, the weight of it too heavy to carry. Though later he would return to search for the treasure, he never recovered his fortune.

Not knowing where they were, my great-great-grandfather discovered the trail they’d hoped to intersect. Spotting a dog running toward them, the men thought of eating it, but not before his master, a trapper, appeared. The man had no way to help them, but encouraged them to continue a little ways further where they would find other settlers. They did, and soon were on their way home.


All the Way West, Hallie H. Huntington

The Golden Frontier, The recollections of Herman Francis Reinhart, Doyce B. Nunn, Jr., editor

Story Keepers #10–Lost At Sea

40th anniversary 022Continued from last post. . .

The Hackstaff left San Francisco Bay with twenty-seven passengers aboard and provisions for a fourteen-day voyage up the Pacific Coast stowed securely within the belly of the vessel. Soon, though, those aboard grew wary, as the captain seemed to have lost his bearings. The captain, bewildered by the whims of the Pacific Ocean, admitted he was adrift. A relentless, turbulent wind had pushed them further and further away from their destination. The captain thought they’d been driven south of their San Francisco launch, rather than north.

With the water supply dwindling and no sight of land around them, the travelers realized they’d have to find fresh water soon. The ship sailed into what appeared to be the mouth of a river. The captain and crew dropped a lifeboat over the side and proceeded to row into the opening. Soon, though, they sighted Indians waiting on the shore, war paint covering their faces. Not recognizing the tribe, the sailors turned the rowboat around and headed back to the mother vessel.

Setting sail, they crept along the coastline, even though the dangerous rock formations had not yet been charted. As the wind died down, the tide propelled the ship nearer the rocky seashore. Long oars were shoved over the side, the sailors pushing the craft away from the beach’s edge with only the strength of their backs and arms to save them. Finally, the wind changed and carried them back toward the open ocean. Their need for water had grown to crisis status.

Another river mouth was sighted and they inched their way over the bar and crept cautiously inland. One man was posted in the crow’s nest checking the channel for clearance, and another sailor waited at the bow, testing the depth. Though the ocean swirled with silt, they believed another hundred feet would give them fresh water.

With a thud, the ship came to an abrupt halt. The vessel slid into a sandbar and stuck. The crew waited for the next high tide, and when the surge finally arrived, efforts to float the ship back to sea proved futile. They ran from one side of the craft to the other trying to rock the bottom free from the sand, but to no avail. The ship only sank deeper into the mire. Frustration turned to desperation. Soon all would be lost.


All the Way West, Hallie H. Huntington

The Golden Frontier, The recollections of Herman Francis Reinhart, Doyce B. Nunn, Jr., editor