Saturday, July 31, 2010




Yesterday proved to be a downer day. I felt listless. Nothing grabbed me as important on my 'to do' list. I sat at home and fumbled with a riff-raff of miscellany. No purpose. No peace. I needed to get out.


Peace develops as a process.
Do you want personal peace? Then, get out of yourself and risk a project, a cause, or a relationship. "But that's just why I don't have peace," you might protest. "It's all that stuff and stress of life that gets me down." But the search for peace itself turns your attention inward. Focused on your wants. Your needs. Unless you reach outward, your efforts fail. You stagnate. One living being must reach out to another to stir potential vibrate life.

So, there's no guarantee that what you attempt to do brings you peace. Maybe not. But you won't know unless you try. Peace develops as a process. There's no magic spray can. If there was, you could buy it in 5-gallon drums.

I recall my confusion when my friend Karyn avoided another woman. I thought she and Alexa had much in common. Both had red hair. They loved to ski. They raised chow dogs. And they each had a great sense of humor. Slam dunk friendship, I thought.
Little Orphan Annie

"Alexa makes me feel like a penny waiting for change," Karyn finally confessed. "Or like Little Orphan Annie before she got her perm and learned how to dance and sing."

I realized Karyn measured herself by the ways they were different, not by similarities. They were too much alike, so comparisons happened. My friend was honest and perceptive enough to admit she felt they competed for the attention and affection of the same group of folks.

Once she got convicted of her wrong attitude, she determined to get out, to get of herself. "That's why I reacted so quickly when one of Alexa's dogs was diagnosed with an infectious disease. I knew I needed to help her with cleaning her pens and getting her other dogs separated. I did it more for me than for her--to get my heart right."


When have you needed to get out, that is, get out of yourself and risk doing something for someone else? Did it lead to personal peace?

Friday, July 30, 2010

THE HOUSE MY FATHER BUILT, a debut novel by Linda S. Clare

THE HOUSE MY FATHER BUILT, novel by Linda S. Clare

We like to introduce new books by writer friends to followers of our blog. We met Linda Clare at the OCW (Oregon Christian Writers) Conference several summers ago. Steve was keynote speaker and Linda taught the major class for nonfiction. We're delighted to feature her debut novel. . . .

About The Fence My Father Built:
When legally separated Muri Pond, a librarian, hauls her kids, teenage Nova and eleven year-old Truman, out to the tiny town of Murkee, Oregon, where her father, Joe Pond lived and died, she’s confronted by a neighbor’s harassment over water rights and Joe’s legacy: a fence made from old oven doors.

The fence and accompanying house trailer horrify rebellious Nova, who runs away to the drug-infested streets of Seattle. Muri searches for her daughter and for something to believe in, all the while trying to save her inheritance from the conniving neighbor who calls her dad Chief Joseph. Along with Joe’s sister, Aunt Lutie, and the Red Rock Tabernacle Ladies, Muri must rediscover the faith her alcoholic dad never abandoned in order to reclaim her own spiritual path. 

Linda S. Clare grew up in Phoenix, Arizona and taught art as well as elementary school in public and private schools. She has published four books, including her debut novel The Fence My Father Built (Abingdon Press 2009). She has won several fiction awards, teaches college writing classes and works as a mentor and editor. Her husband of thirty-two years and their four adult children, including a set of twins, live in Eugene, Oregon, along with five wayward cats, Oliver, Xena Warrior Kitty Paladine, Melchior and Mamma Mia!

Check out Linda's blog where she has lots of tips for writers:

Other books by Linda:
Making Peace with a Dangerous God
Revealed: Spiritual Reality in a Makeover World
Lost Boys and the Moms Who Love Them

What they’re saying about The Fence My Father Built by Linda S. Clare:

 “I was so moved by the first pages that I literally cried. This is simply a story you cannot take the chance of missing.” -- Eva Marie Everson, Author of Things Left Unspoken

"With vivid descriptions and a fine sense of place, Linda Clare introduces us to a little known landscape of the high desert west."—Jane Kirkpatrick, Award-winning author of Flickering Light and All Together in One Place.

"I've been a fan of Linda Clare's writing for many years and am so thrilled to see this book finally in print! " ~ Melody Carlson, author of Dear Mom, Just Another Girl, The Other Side of Darkness, 86 Bloomberg Place, The Carter House Girls, and much more....

"Linda's fresh original writing, a captivating back drop and cast of fascinating characters make this story of colliding cultures, a dead father's honor and a daughter's bleak reality a truly compelling read." ~ Bonnie Leon, author of Enduring Love Sydney Cove Series

I was unable to put down this book.  It held my interest to the very end." —Elizabeth Bantz, Author’s Choice Reviews

“Clare’s rich and thoughtful contemporary inspirational novel vividly portrays the day to day struggles of a neglected people against poverty, substance abuse and more, while holding out the enduring hope for second chances.” ~Lynn Welch, Booklist

"Readers trying to find their way home will relate to Muri's longing for father. They'll rejoice with her when she finds faith and the Father." Kim Peterson - CBA Retailers Magazine

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


sent by Linda Strawn

Last fall, we had an abundant crop of apples, but could not sell or use them up fast enough. Every day, my daughter would fill a bucket and toss the spoiled fruit out in the field. The cats loved to chase them, that is, until the deer showed up.

Linda Strawn is from Shasta County, California. She is a wife, mother, and an author of Christian fiction. Find out more about her at 

Here's the verse Linda has on her signature:
"Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart" (Proverbs 3:3).


sent by Lynn Skillicorn

Lynn says: I don't remember who sent me the bear picture. Someone emailed it to me a couple of years ago. It has probably been around the internet for a bit now. I wouldn't know who to give credit to for taking the photo.

Lynn is a member of our Yahoo Fan Group: 
Note from Blys: We're sure this is just the sort of picture that Shepard Smith of Fox News would show over and over. He loves bear pictures and videos, especially that one of the bear that fell out of a tree and onto a trampoline. He shows that one as often as he can!

What interesting contacts have you had with animals out in the countrysides?

Check out on the top right of our sidebar to see how you can send a photo for us to feature on our blog.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


Stephen Bly

I sat in the Eat Here And Die Coffee Shop in Medicine Bow, Wyoming, one time and overheard this conversation between two locals.

“Say, Wade,” a big guy said, “You know that new feller, Bob Lee? He bought the old Lingrave place.”

“Yep,” a gray-haired fellow with paint-stained overalls and work boots replied.

“He sure can’t make a go of it out there. So, I was wonderin’. . .do you know what that old boy does for a livin’?”


“Ain’t you ever asked him?”

“Nope. I ain’t one to go feedin’ off my own range.”

To feed off his range is to meddle in another’s personal affairs. According to the code of the west, no one questions a stranger. If he’s riding through for the aimless pleasure of wandering around to see the country, that’s his business. If he moves to the area to escape a difficult situation, it’s still his private concern. No one should try to pry it out of him.
But refusing to be a gossip or busybody gets tricky. One way is to ignore others completely—don’t talk to them, try to get to know them, spend any kind of time with them. But how do you show you care, that you’re concerned with their struggles, that you’re willing to lend a helping hand when needed? For the spiritually inclined person, how do you let them know you believe in the power of prayer?

It’s a fine art that takes tact.
There’s lots of miles between prying and praying. There’s a knack in reaching out without invasion of privacy. A true commitment to pray  avoids spreading tales.

What’s one way you can prevent feeding off someone else’s range?

Friday, July 16, 2010


Janet Chester Bly

I’m surrounded by imperfect people. And so are you.

Faults splinter the spine of every nation. Every leader. Every family. Every marriage. Every child. Every human. So many hurting, fractured relationships. Only God is perfect in all he says and does. Yet, multitudes get cranky with him too. Factor this into your interactions with people…all the complexity of those hassles. It’s part of the war you fight for peace.

What you consider flaws could be different filters. Not everyone sees issues the same nor holds compatible opinions. What’s with that? Drives you crazy, for sure. But that’s part of the mix. Get over it.

“I can stay composed for days on end, then ‘bingo,’ I lose it.” It’s good to know you’re flawed too. Be open to truth about yourself, about others, about your world. Then, live with it.

Marcella’s husband is a very methodical, exacting re-modeler. She has offered to help countless times, but he refuses. Meanwhile, Marcella and her four kids have been cramped in the basement for. . .would you believe?. . .nineteen years! They must traipse through the roomy disrepair and sawdust upstairs to leave the house.

How does she endure this travesty?

Marcella did a slow burn until she convinced her hubby to dig out an entrance from the basement. After several months, this one job got done. Marcella landscaped the back entrance with purple dahlias, alyssum, and lots of yellow daisies. Now that she avoids the upstairs route, she’s stopped stewing so much. She's too busy enjoying the butterflies.

Understand that no relationship will be perfect and you’ve conquered the major frustrations of your existence. Deal with what you’ve got. But also…be extra cautious about what you take on.

Folks who truly want peace get creative. 

What ‘very-different-for-you’ touch can you put on your day’s events and relationships…that just might turn it around?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Here’s our first entries in the new ‘Country Life Captions’ feature. Thanks to LeeAnn Bonds and Tim Dorgan for sending these great photos! To find out how you can also  participate, read details at the top right of our blog sidebar. Maybe your submission will be next!

1)  CHICKENS, POSING. . .by LeeAnn Bonds

My description: I love the art inherent in everyday country life. Whether it's a brief but glorious sunset, a fawn nibbling my weeds for a few moments, clothes on the line flapping in the breeze, or chickens hanging out on an old bench, there’s beauty spilling out everywhere I look.

I'm LeeAnn Bonds, living in Priest River, Idaho, way up north in the panhandle. I'm a writer, a pastor's wife, and mom of two grown and flown sons.

My site/blog:

2)  OLD & TIRED. . .by Tim Dorgan

Here is a picture I took in Starbuck, Idaho, in 2006. This silo has served its master well for a long time. It seems to be saying, "I'm ready for the next world, Master, at your pleasure." 

Tim Dorgan, Winchester, Idaho 

Which of these pictures brings back memories . . . or especially signifies country living to you? 


Sunday, July 11, 2010



I'm sittin' here in my office, about to shut down the computer and head to bed. I'm looking at a copy of my new book, Cowboy for a Rainy Afternoon. It's such a treasure to me. 

Over the past twenty or so years, I've written dozens of novels. I love them all . . . and especially the characters I've been able to create. They are like family to me. I learned early in my writing career, never waste my time writing a book no one wants to read. In practical terms, that means I never write the whole book until I have a contract for it. That has always been my philosophy. A couple samples chapters perhaps . . . then find a publisher . . .then write the book. That's the way I did it with Stuart Brannon, Nathan Riggins, Tap Andrews . . . and Paul James Watson (Paperback Writer.) Much of that last book is autobiographical, but I wouldn't write it until Broadman & Holman (B&H) sent the contract. 

Ah, but then there's Cowboy for a Rainy Afternoon. In the midst of writing The Horse Dreams Series . . . in the middle of the hassle with Brooks & Dunn concerning One Step Over the Border . . . in the middle of developing the character of Avery John Creede . . . I would sneak up to the bunkhouse and write another chapter of Cowboy for a Rainy Afternoon. No contract. No commitment to publish. I knew it might never come out in print. I didn't care. It was me. It is the closest story to my heart I've ever written. 

There is no driving plot . Oh, but there are so many wonderful stories. This is the book that I got to write not to please the publisher. . .nor the editor. . .nor my Janet. . .nor any of my wonderful fans. It is not by accident that Little Brother is 10 years old in 1954. So was I.

This novel's my treasure. My story. In this one you look into the heart and soul of the writer. 

It's a little intimidating to open myself up and tell you all this. After all, you might not like it all that much. Hmmm. I can handle that. After all. . .I wrote it just for me.

Cowboy for a Rainy Afternoon (Center Point Premier Western (Large Print)) 

Monday, July 05, 2010

False Front Town, Winchester, ID

Stephen Bly

Early architecture in the old west never won any prizes. A scarcity of building materials. Little time available for construction. Scant thought to design. These elements produced a scattered array of tents, tent-top buildings, log cabins, and adobe hovels. And occasional tract-type wood frame abodes that resembled various stages of tumble-down shacks. 

This worked fine, until a town flourished enough that business entrepreneurs brought competition. The capitalistic drive to attract customers kicked in. Thus, the false front building emerged. The basic idea centered on creating an extra wall that extended above or beyond the original building. 

A small, slant-roofed dwelling could look from the front like an upscale department store or two-story palace. At a quick glance, a settlement lined with false fronts seemed larger, more prosperous than it was. A clever, acceptable design for an emerging frontier. 

I liked this idea so much, I built a false front town in my yard. It's so fake there's no real buildings at all behind it. Pure entertainment for home bar-b-ques and the occasional tourist who drives by. We call it Broken Arrow Crossing, after my first Stuart Brannon novel: Hard Winter At Broken Arrow Crossing.
That may be okay for buildings, but not for me. 

It's tempting sometimes to be spiritual by erecting a false front. Rather than tackle a personal defect, I can try to spruce it up to appear more presentable...such as, call it a different name, assign some high-sounding motive. I've learned over the years, instead, to remodel my thoughts by flooding my habits and prejudices with biblical truth.

The best pursuit in life is knowing God, says J. I. Packer. The best major in the school of trials and troubles is growing in true, deep knowledge of a holy God who's full of rich goodness. 

Understand his will. Learn my place in his plan. Then, I'll truly transform...not the fakey changey type to impress others, but becoming the real and best me God intended when I was created.

Jesus didn't hold much stock with folks who put up false fronts. He got real blunt about it: People look at you and think you’re saints, but beneath the skin you’re total frauds (Matthew 23:28, MSG)

I want to be real in the skin that shows...with all its blotches and age spots.
Have you ever seen a false front town? Where was it and what was its purpose?

Sunday, July 04, 2010


a new romance novel
by Gail Gaymer Martin

We just returned from a wonderful week at Maranatha Family Conference Center in Muskegon, Michigan, on the shores of Lake Michigan. Steve spoke on "Best Days of Your Life," "How To Think Like A Cowboy," "How To Work Like A Cowboy" and finished with "Grandpa's Letter To Keaton" (which required a package of Kleenex--for him & the hearers). Great weather. Smooth flights. Fun time with fans. Met lots of new friends. 

Now, we have the privilege of featuring a newly released novel by a Michigan native. . . . 

Back Cover Blurb:
Perfectionist Martin Davis's life is in turmoil. The lonely businessman's search for companionship led him to adopt a dog--a rambunctious terrier. And now Martin's at his wits' end. When dog trainer, Emily Ireland, offers to help, Martin is grateful--and intrigued.

But he's wary of getting too close to the sweet, pretty Emily, especially when he learns of her scandalous past. Can Martin ever open his heart to the possibility that Emily just may be his perfect bride?

“It is obvious that Gail loves dogs, she loves flowers, and she loves her characters because each one is written so lovingly. I loved Bride in Training. It is a book that will tug at your heart and inspire you to seek your Heavenly Father….” CarlybirdK --

Bride In Training received 4 stars in the Romantic Times Book Reviews.

Award-winning author, Gail Gaymer Martin writes for Steeple Hill and Barbour with 44 published novels and over 3 million books in print . She writes women's fiction, romance and romantic suspense and is the author of Writing the Christian Romance, released by Writers Digest Books. Gail was recently named Author of the Year by Barbour Publisher's Heartsong Presents readership. Gail is a popular speaker at churches and women's events and teaches writing at conferences across the U.S.

Adapted from a personal note by Gail, taken from her website:

I was a slow starter. When I was in the third grade, my teacher wrote a prophetic message on my report card, "Gail is an excellent writer." It took nearly 50 years…(to become) a published novelist and freelance writer….

As a pre-teen, I wrote a series of Nancy Drew-type mysteries, and in my teen years, I wrote romances --- but not knowing romance needed a happy ending, I often did things like kill the heroine off at the end. Needless to say, my first attempts at romance failed.

Before writing, I taught English and public speaking at a local high school and later became a guidance counselor. I continue to maintain a professional counseling license.

Born and raised in Michigan, I live with my husband, Bob, who is my greatest fan and the best proofreader in the state. Second to writing, I enjoy music, especially singing as a soloist and choir member at my church and a member of the Detroit Lutheran Singers. I also play handchimes and handbells. 

I’m blessed to be among the fine Christian writers around the world. Writing romance and romantic suspense combines elements I love—romance, suspense, and my love for the Lord.

"These three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love" (1 Corinthians 13:13)