Adventure Outside Books

FB back Dunoon

Most of my books are mystery-romance-suspense and revolve around adventure, but sometimes adventure is overrated. Most of my adventures outside books revolve around getting lost—or similar calamities.

God has a sense of humor. Both my husband and I are directionally challenged, yet God put us together. Sometimes getting lost is a positive experience. Getting lost led us to Scotland’s historic Ballachulish, a slate quarry which opened in 1692 and employed up to 300 men for more than 250 years. Roofing slates were shipped to Scottish cities, with a record 26 million Ballachuish slates produced in 1845. It is now a tourist attraction of walking trails and poignant memories carved in rock.

blog ballachulish signvert        blog arch Ballachulish

We just returned from two days of travel, six hours of driving both days. We only got temporarily lost on the way up to the Black Isle, and twice on the way back, so it was good other than the eight road work delays. Due to time constraints, we couldn’t stop to take pictures on the way up. We planned to stop on the way back. Never count on the next day for good weather in Scotland—we should know that.

When we finally reached the hotel booked for any time after 2 p.m., it was closed. Every door in the front was locked and no one answered our incessant doorbell ringing—incessant because I was desperate to get to a toilet. It was after 5 p.m., and there was not even a light inside. We stood there in the rain and cold wind (me with my legs squeezed together) considering our options. I walked around to the back and found an open door to what was apparently a linen closet and workshop. First I shouted, then getting no reply – I walked in, still shouting. No answer, but I found an unlocked door that led into the motel. I could see a bathroom in the gloom. Steps led up into the bowels of the historic hotel, which was built in 1892, a listed two-story square rubble stone building with dormer windows, a Tudor hood mold at the main entrance, and spacious rooms with elaborate trim around the high ceilings inside.

My husband was appalled (or perhaps frightened) by my bold adventuring, so he was back in front of the building waiting in the rain. The entrance along the main road opened into a bar and I got a chuckle thinking that people passing by and seeing Alan waiting might wonder if he had retired from the ministry to indulge in drink. Eventually two other people showed up—and unlike us—they had cell phones and called someone.

We finally made it to our room, which was grand and beautiful—but as cold as the outside stones. The restaurant was closed, so it was back out into the rain to walk across the street and get take-away Indian curry, which we ate in the closed restaurant.

The shower was good once I finally snapped to the fact that it was not a power shower and the reason I couldn’t find a button to push to turn it on was because there were no buttons. The bathroom heater didn’t work, so we were nearly as cold the next morning as we had been the previous night.

Then the trip home, driving through a rain/snow mix over mountains and behind slow moving vehicles and watching with pounding hearts as impatient drivers put their lives at risk attempting to pass big trucks in limited visibility.

Sadly, when we were almost to Dunoon, I looked in the rear mirror to see a car zooming along a line of seven vehicles attempting to pass all of them and realized with horror that an oncoming car was about to smash into it. We went around a hairpin turn and I couldn’t see what happened. A few minutes later, police cars with flashing lights rushed past us, and when I looked back in the rear view mirror, only two vehicles of the seven remained behind us…and there was no sign of the car with the impatient driver. So we started praying for everyone involved in the accident and thanked the Lord for our own safe travels.

Some adventures are better missed.

FB back Dunoon 2

Conversation Stopper

The Old Testament prophet Isaiah wrote about Jesus some 740 years before Jesus was born. Isaiah may have been martyred—sawn in two—during the reign of Manasseh for speaking truth. He condemned the wealthy for oppressing the poor; he condemned women who neglected their families in the quest of carnal pleasure; he condemned priests and prophets who became drunken men-pleasers instead of teaching and keeping God’s law.

Isaiah declared God’s displeasure with sin and endeavored to turn his generation away from disobedience to God. He paved a foundation of hope and promise for those who remained true to God by telling them about the birth of Jesus, Savior and Redeemer.

Speaking out against sin and injustice, Isaiah said, “Woe unto…” Yet after he had a vision of the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, Isaiah said of himself, “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips.” (Isaiah 6:5) Faced with God’s holiness, Isaiah realized that the same sinfulness he had prophesied against in others was found within himself.

That’s why I wrote gritty, real “Killer Conversations.” I’ve been criticized because the narrative of child abuse creating a serial killer is not a fairy tale—it’s painful and haunting. It’s the only book I’ve ever written that has received a one-star review. As Christians, we sometimes use what we perceive as our goodness as an excuse to criticize others. We use the fact that we don’t smoke, drink, curse, etc. as a battering ram against other believers. It’s a temptation to set ourselves up and put others down. We forget: “There by the grace of God go I.”

Chuck Norris began running from bullies

This kid won over the bullies by standing up to them…and you will be amazed at who he is.

Mustard Seed Budget

chuck-norris-war-movieWith a huge, swarthy bully chasing him, the tow-headed third grader ran home after school as fast as he could.

This was little Carlos Ray’s misery everyday in Miami, Arizona – until a gas station attendant stopped him and taught him to stand up to the bigger boy.

Little Carlitos trembled with fear as he faced his bully. The two grappling in the dirt for minutes that seemed like an eternity, and Carlos was receiving a walloping. Suddently, he grabbed his adversary’s finger bent it backwards. The bully cried out in pain and surrendered, according to the autobiography, Against All Odds: My Story.

chuck-norris-as-a-child When he was known as Carlos Ray

That’s how America’s toughest tough guy got his start. The shy and intimidated little kid later learned martial arts in Korea, while he was in the Air Force. It was in Korea that Carlos Ray Norris adopted his nickname “Chuck.”

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The Price of Beauty

snow sunset

For some reason, folks harbor a love affair with snow. They pen poetry about snow, create paintings of snow, feature snow on Christmas cards. They think it’s beautiful.

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Beauty has a price. The same clean whiteness that lights up Christmas cards also clogs roadways, causes accidents, makes structures collapse, shuts down power, closes schools and hospitals, and kills living creatures

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Lush lawns must be mowed. Colorful gardens must be weeded. Beautiful animals must be fed, watered, exercised, brushed, and taken to vet clinics. Lovely homes must be painted and maintained. Beauty comes with a price.

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The only free beauty I know of is God’s. Heaven will be more beautiful than anything we can imagine from our earthly focus. Psalm 27:4, “one thing I have desired of the LORD that I will seek; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life and behold the beauty of the LORD.”


Oh…wait a minute. Heaven is not free. It cost the life of Jesus Christ, Son of God.

But Heaven’s beauty is free for us, because Jesus paid the entry fee.

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Vacations should be fun and relaxing. Sometimes…they aren’t.

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When I was four and my sister was two, our parents took us camping in Sequoia National Forest in California. We had fun at first, feeding deer, and expressing awe and amazement at the sight of the enormous towering trees. Then we saw a dog, its muzzle completely covered by porcupine quills. We raced after dog, wanting to help. Fortunately for us, our parents called us back and let the dog take its anguish to its owner.

Fast forward to bedtime. Mom had forgotten to pack blankets. There were patches of snow outside our tent and the inside temperature plummeted after dark. Simply put, we were freezing. My sister cried incessantly, and I think I probably cried along with her. When we finally got to sleep, we were awakened by horrified screaming. A bear was licking my father’s feet. We left at daylight the next morning.

Later, when we were older and had been joined by the rest of our siblings, our vacations transferred to Florida in the summertime with mosquitoes and sunburn, terrifying lightening storms, flooded tents, alligators—and even a car wreck.


Remembering those vacation calamities inspired me to write my newest book, a cozy Christian mystery-romance-suspense set in Scotland. Scotland has been voted the most beautiful country in the world and vacations in Scotland should be fun and relaxing. But are they? The answer to that is in “Lamps of Doom.”


Childhood vacations for landscape artist Nicky Randall were traumatic enough. But she returns as an adult to face valuable antique lamps disappearing from a locked house and a skull in the garden. Her attempt to solve the 12-year-old mystery faces her with dangers—both to her life and to her heart.


Being a writer, it amused me when I got up early and walked into the living room to find our two big stuffed bears perched in the chair as if they had just returned from a nighttime frolic. It was easy to understand how authors had been inspired to write children’s stories about toys coming alive at night and frolicking. It’s all a matter of perception.

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Being a Christian, when I see a rainbow bending its bright colors across the sky, I think of God’s promises. Those who put rainbows on flags think of something else. It’s a matter of perception.

The gun issue raging in the U.S. is also a matter of perception. Some think outlawing guns will make it safe. They blame guns for violence. Others know that the problem is not in lifeless weapons that are powerless on their own, but rather in hearts full of hate. It takes a finger on a trigger to make a gun fire.

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Growing up in the country, it was essential to have a gun. My baby brother was saved by a gun when a copperhead snake, head raised in a striking position, locked its gaze on my youngest brother. We took guns to school for shooting classes. But there was never a school shooting, nor a single student injured. Learning to shoot a gun was considered as essential as driving lessons. Cars and guns are both tools, and both can be used beneficially or lethally.

Guns are essential in the Texas Hill Country where it’s not unusual to need a gun to stop the charge of a rabid animal, kill a rattlesnake, or protect livestock from predators.

My son was killed in a violent plane accident while on active duty in the U.S. Marine Corps. I understand a parent’s grief. I mourn with parents who have lost their children from any horror—including illness.

Luke's Bible

Some claim it’s a matter of perception, but I can’t understand how the same people who want to take away guns from non-violent people are okay with killing innocent, defenseless babies in the womb. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution promises life and liberty to all its citizens. I don’t understand the perception of denying the protection of the First Amendment to citizens who need the greatest measure of protection. That’s why I wrote “Love’s Beating Heart.”


Some things are not perception. Some things are sin. Murder is a sin. Hiding hate in your heart that would lead to violence and murder is a sin. Killing babies and labeling it with socially acceptable labels like “choice” and “abortion” is a sin. Some values are not open to interpretation—they are set in stone by God.

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Coincidence? Not.

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My mother, who lived most of her life as an atheist but died a Christian, would have called it “coincidence.” That was her favorite description for anything lacking a logical explanation.

Luke was 10 when we started back to Texas from Montana. For Texas folks, Montana winters are brutal and “summers” are weak. When we arrived in August with our Texas tans, everyone asked where we were from. Five months later on January 1, we headed back to Texas. It was -12F. When we got to Jackpot, Nevada, it was still snowing, but Luke and I walked around with no coats because 32F felt warm.

Our route took us through Reno. It was still snowing. We stopped briefly for gas and food. Miles later, I wondered if we should have stayed. Snow grew deeper with every mile, but we were crossing the Dreaded 40-mile Desert and there was no place to stop. I hid my anxiety from Luke and told myself that as we continued south, it would get warmer.

There were sandwich boards signs along the interstate, but I couldn’t read them. They were covered with snow. And I was still tense from the frightening signs in Montana’s Blue Mountains: “Watch For Ice Heaves.” What was an ice heave? Where did I watch for one? Would it race across the road in front of us? Would it fall from the sky? Would it fly from a tree and smash our windshield? What if there were deep pits in the road and we fell into one? Why put up a sign warning about ice heaves without explaining what they were?

So…I ignored the sandwich board signs, although a diminutive pocket of common sense nudged me: suppose the signs were warnings that the interstate was closed? Would I get arrested?

In another of Mom’s “coincidences,” a semi-trailer truck parked on the side of the road pulled out in front of us. I followed that big rig’s tire tracks all the way across the desert to the next town. I knew that if I lost that truck, we would get stuck in a snow drift. By this time, I was fairly certain the signs warned: “Interstate Closed.”

When the semi pulled off on the exit to Lovelock, Nevada, I pulled off, laughing when a string of headlights followed. Other drivers either couldn’t read the signs or had ignored them. Not a single pair of headlights continued straight.

My truck made it through town until it got directly in front of our former pastor’s house. It stopped in the middle of the road and would not budge. Pastor Ted and Jenny Kern were kind and lovely (and still are). They invited us to spend the night. They said the interstate was closed, motels were full, and people were camped out inside the police station.

The next day when enough snow had been cleared, I drove to the local supermarket. The interstate was still closed. I couldn’t leave for Texas. Nevada State Troopers were stationed at the interstate ramps turning drivers back.

Coincidence? As I stood in the snow, arms outstretched, praying and asking God what to do, friends of ours from a gold mine drove up. “Hey, girl,” Ed hollered. “Need a job? Clo broke her arm. We need some help.”

Luke was ecstatic. What boy wouldn’t love roaming the desert and exploring a gold mine? We drove 40 miles out to the mine, Ed’s truck behind ours so he could push us forward every time my truck stopped.

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More coincidence? Months later, Clo sent me into town for the mail. I parked in front of the post office, collected the mail, and got back into the truck. The gear shift lever fell to the pavement. Not knowing what else to do, Luke and I walked over to the Kern’s house for assistance. Jenny called a church friend to fix the truck, painfully shy Thomas Logue, a strong Christian who loved helping people and fixing things—and could repair or build almost anything.

A few months later, Pastor Ted married us. Luke gained the most wonderful stepfather any child could have in Tom, who died of cancer in 2014. The Marine Corps sent Luke home from Iraq for the memorial service.

Coincidence, Mom? I think now you would agree with me that there are no coincidences. They are all God incidents.

(Pastor Theodore Kern pastors Crescent Valley Baptist Church in Battle Mountain Nevada, along with three mission churches in outlying areas. Jenny just retired from her teaching career to spend more time with grandchildren and also plays the piano for church services.)

Blog WheelerSnow

Let’s Consider

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Let’s consider a wagon train traveling from the east coast to California during the ‘49er Gold Rush, a distance of between 2,600, and 3,000 miles which took months to complete. No, let’s don’t.

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We have just survived a bit over two weeks with no internet and still have no phone or phone number. It’s painful.

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Lost communication gives the isolated person the same loss of power feeling as going down the road in a vehicle and having the steering wheel break off in your hands. You can turn the wheel, shake the wheel, or throw it out the window with the same lack of response.

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One thing for which I am endlessly grateful is that with God—loss of communication is not possible. We don’t need a phone or internet to talk to the Creator of the universe and to hear His still, small voice. It sounds in the roar of the sea, the breath of the wind, joyful bird songs.

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God answers back in glorious artwork in the sky, the majestic rise of mountains, the soft, cold touch of snow, and the light, shadows, and colors of the unique and wonderful world He created for us. We are never sans communication when we open our hearts to God.

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Not Obvious to Me


When I was four, my worried mom took me to an eye doctor. He asked her why she thought I couldn’t see, and she explained that I didn’t color between the lines in my coloring books. I sat there thinking, “Oh, that’s what those lines are for.”

What was obvious to just about everyone else was not obvious to me. No one had explained that the object of coloring books was to color within the lines. To me, coloring books offered exciting pages of opportunity to create magic with my favorite colors. Lines were unimportant.

When I was in first grade, my teacher scolded me for not coloring tree trunks brown and the sky blue. I feel vindicated now in not noticing the brown-blue fact that was obvious to my teacher: do you know how few tree trunks in Scotland are brown and how rarely the sky is blue?


When I was six, my grandmother ordered me to quit climbing up the hill to play with the children there. They were my friends and I didn’t understand the edict, especially after Grandmother’s long-winded explanation ending with, “Why do you think we fought the Civil War?” I had never even heard of the Civil War. When I sought clarification from Mom, she explained that the children up on the hill were black. I had never noticed. Friends are friends. Color is unimportant.

At my last newspaper job, I got sent to interview a visiting Scottish minister because the person who had been assigned the story missed work. When I asked with concern what was wrong with her, the boss fixed me with a hard stare and said, “You don’t know she’s an alcoholic? Everyone knows. Where have you been?”

As usual, I had been sheltering from the obvious. Obvious is not always joyful or friendly. This time, being clueless proved a blessing. The subject I interviewed is now my husband author Alan T McKean who writes exciting, historically accurate time travel novels. (


More recently, we were invited to “tea.” Being Texan and accustomed to iced tea on the porch, I found myself eating three complete meals that evening: one before leaving home for what I assumed would be hot tea, once at “tea” which proved a complete meal, and the third at a friend’s house who had invited us for dinner that night. Not observing the obvious can be fun…but filling.

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I have learned that being oblivious to the obvious frees the mind from contentious thoughts about things that are wrong in this world which we are powerless to fix. Besides; I’m in good standing with Job, my hero of faith who proclaimed, “From where then does wisdom come? It is hidden from the eyes of all living, but God understand its way and knows its place.” (Job 18:23-23)

I’m content to leave hidden things to God (things hidden to me) Who made a way for the rain and a path for the thunderbolt. Obvious has never been my friend.

Things I Love, Things I Hate

I hate cold, I hate winter, I hate snow – I hate Santa. That sounds more like an opening line for “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” than my usual upbeat, positive blog, yet all these statements are true.

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I hate snow because it’s cold and I hate cold and being cold. Probably dates back to childhood, surviving in sub-standard houses, some of which had no heat. Then cutting and gathering firewood in the ice and snow with no gloves or warm outer garments. As for Santa, he gets bashed because if you teach children Santa brings them gifts and then they learn it’s not true, will they believe in God?

Thanks to all of you who read my blogs. I love and am thankful for each one of you. And I’ll forget about stacking icy firewood with raw bleeding hands and take a positive turn.  I’ve just released a new mystery-romance-suspense book, “I’m the Grasshopper.” Releasing a new book always raises my cheerful volume, even in the cold, cold winter.

Newspaper staff writer Stacy Estes has never forgotten the fate of her childhood pet – a grasshopper – when it encountered a spider. Her failed romances make her view herself as the grasshopper and men as spiders. She. Is. Done. With. Romance.

Stacy is a runner and hider. Until she trips over a body at her grandmother’s house and goes from reporting the news to being the news. Stacy fights to keep her secrets intact, including her physical disability, especially from the first love of her life who has moved back to the community. Lost treasure? Gold mining in Texas? Flying saucers on her grandmother’s hill? And what about the men who go into the Comanche Cliff store – but never come out again? Mysteries entangle and endanger Stacy. When a local poacher is jailed for murder, Stay’s life unravels.

Her investigation into the murder victim on her grandmother’s property takes her to the strange world of boanthropy, where people believe they are cows. It sends her into a confrontation with satanic worshiper “Snake.” And she is slated for the next sacrifice.

“I’m the Grasshopper” is a great Christmas read, clean enough that the kids or Grandma can pick it up and read it, yet packed with excitement, adventure, mystery and love. Stacy has a physical disability, but does that make her a “cripple,” as a heartless co-worker labels her?

To give credit where it belongs, the Bible promises in Romans 8:28 that “All things work together for good to those who love the Lord.” Being in extreme pain and on crutches for months gave me the idea for the story and characters. God is always faithful to His word. I’ve since had successful spinal surgery, so it will be a very Merry Christmas for me.

To all of you reading this blog, have a Very Merry Christmas and a Deeply Blessed New Year. Thanks for being there! God bless.

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