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.

Grasshopper cover #3

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.

Grasshopper cover #2

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0787RWNSG/ref=sr_1_1_twi_kin_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1513147845&sr=8-1&keywords=I%27m+the+Grasshopper+stephanie+parker+mckean

Christmas = Freedom

One of the hardest things I’ve done in my adult life was to complete driving lessons here in the U.K. and take the driving test. After 48 years of driving my way – I had to learn to drive someone else’s way.

img_2329

Until a person passes the driving test here, they must attach “L” plates (Learner Driver) on their vehicle every time they get behind the wheel. The L plates must be taken off again when a licensed driver gets behind the wheel. We’ve been held captive by L plates four years, putting them on when I drive, taking them off when Alan drives, and replacing them when the wind blows them away. Needless to say, a learner driver can only drive the car with a licensed driver beside them.

If I had realized what a sense of freedom would follow passing the test and discarding the L plates, I would have done it sooner. It’s a Christmas gift to myself – freedom. This spring, I can take the car out hunting for adders to photograph. Alan, who is not keen on snakes of any size or kind, can stay home.

Christmas is about freedom. We decorate in glad joyful colors, we send Christmas card with Baby Jesus in the manger, we cook a lovely meal for family and friends, we exchange gifts – but the reason for the season is freedom.

Jesus was born into this world as a baby, but that’s not the end of the story. The end of the story is His death – which purchased our freedom. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but should have everlasting life.” John 3:16.

Jesus died for us, but that’s not the end of the story. The end of the story is His resurrection. Jesus arose from the grave and lives forever. He lives inside us in the form of the Holy Spirit if we invite Him.

Christmas = Freedom. “O Death, where is your sing? O Hades, where is your victory? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Just as UK law can no more hold me to having another driver beside me or putting L plates on the car because passing the test purchased my freedom from that law, Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection purchased our freedom from death and gifted us with eternal life.

Jesus is the reason for the season – but so is freedom.

img_2329

http://www.amazon.com/Stephanie-Parker-McKean/e/B00BOX90OO/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

Big Dogs, Small Dogs

scot-puppyFirst the disclaimer. I am not a dog expert, “dog whisperer,” or dog trainer. The dogs in my books like the lovely rough collie Shiloh in “Bridge to Brigadoon,” plus the equally lovely collie in “Bridge to Desert Desire” and “Bridge Back” are based on dogs that have owned me and buried their memories in my heart. That said, I had an epiphany this morning about big dogs versus small dogs.

Angel Joy weeds

Small dogs are often fearless. They launch themselves at an “enemy” so much bigger than they are that it makes us laugh. Often, while they are tilting at canine windmills, bigger dogs are scrunching up to hide behind something too small when they perceive human displeasure directed at them.

IMG_1105

I believe small dogs are courageous because their human owners constantly lavish them with love and attention. A small dog can be held on a lap and cuddled. They realize they are the center of their human’s universe and that builds them up on the inside resulting in self-confidence.

536469_325492654189580_99719090_n

Bigger dogs don’t fit on laps after they outgrow the puppy stage. They get pushed off, ordered off furniture, stuck outside in the yard – and are often, perhaps, in trouble for being able to reach and destroy human belongings that small dogs can’t reach. Unlike small dogs, their self-confidence never gets bolstered.

blog beach bully

If this surmise is true, it should be a reminder to parents to love their children and lavish attention on them. Children can never be “spoiled” by too much love. Lack of discipline will “spoil” a child, but lack of love cripples them for life. We should love our children at every age, every stage.

63305_10152322844665495_1281380852_n

Now what does this have to do with Christmas? It’s just a reminder to love our family at Christmas and on every day of the year. Our days on this earth are limited. Our love shouldn’t be.

Luke_Raven

http://www.amazon.com/Stephanie-Parker-McKean/e/B00BOX90OO/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

This Queen Serves a King

IMG_8346_00

From my memory of childhood fairy tales, kings and queens were nearly always portrayed as cruel tyrannical villains. Thus, it was heartening when poor downtrodden folks won a victory over the proud aristocrats.

This perception from childhood made it difficult for me to engage respect and appreciation for the Royal Family when I first arrived in Scotland, but childhood perceptions are often flawed.

Queen Elizabeth II is the longest reigning monarch in British history. At age 90, she still works 40 hours a week, feeds her own dogs instead of delegating the chore to someone else, and rides a horse. She attends church regularly, even while on vacation. She doesn’t use profanity.

Being a monarch does not insulate anyone from grief, problems, and trouble. The Queen called 1992 ‘Annus Horribilis.’ Tragedies for the Queen included a fire in Windsor Castle; Prince Andrew’s separation from his wife; Princess Anne’s divorcing her husband, and a biography of Diana which confirmed her unhappy marriage to Charles and resulting affair, and Charles’ affair with Camilla. Queen Elizabeth’s response was to thank people for their prayers.

The Queen celebrated Jesus’ Birthday in 2013 by stating, “It is my prayer that on this Christmas Day we might all find room in our lives for the message of the angels and for the love of God through Christ our Lord.”

The Queen noted in her Christmas 2015 address, “Despite being displaced and persecuted throughout His short life, Christ’s unchanging message was not one of revenge or violence, but simply that we should love one another.”

Example through leadership is important to Queen Elizabeth. She takes her example from Jesus, quoting: “God sent His only Son to serve, not to be served. He restored love and service to the center of our lives in the person of Jesus Christ.”

Happy 90th Birthday on April 21st to Queen Elizabeth II, a queen who serves the King.

(Thanks to Author Alan T McKean http://www.amazon.co.uk/Alan-T.-McKean/e/B00BR1PM5Y/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0 for the pictures of Balmoral Castle where Queen Elizabeth stays when she’s in Scotland.)

http://www.amazon.com/Stephanie-Parker-McKean/e/B00BOX90OO/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

IMG_8343

“Always the Moon” – even at Christmas

Usually I write at least one column every year bashing “Santa.” This because how can we trick our children into believing in the “jolly red elf,” then expect them to believe us about God after they find out we’ve lied to them about Santa?

However, this Christmas I want to write about my hero. Her dream since childhood was to become a writer. She survived a horrific childhood that included repeated, brutal rapes. One of them put her in intensive care for a week because she nearly bled to death. The only way to stop the bleeding was a transfusion and she was a rare blood type. Unforgivably, no one asked questions and the rapes continued. At one point, she was held captive on a boat with an armed felon who had drowned his own son so that she would not flee or tell anyone about the abuse. She escaped and married a Mexican National. They lived across the border in a one-room shack and shared a communal outhouse with ten other families. She worked on the U.S. side of the border and walked the four miles across the bridge to and from work every day.

They rented a house on the U.S. side of the border for themselves and their three children, a one-bedroom, three-room house with a bathroom and shower attached outside the house. Her husband was critically injured at his road job across the border. It took years for his head and leg injuries to heal enough that he could return to work. Meanwhile, she discovered questionable procedures at her job and was fired and blacklisted for vocalizing her concerns. By this time they had a fourth child. They were so broke that they sent their baby across the border to live with grandparents temporarily. She worked her way through university graduating with honors. Through all this…she never stopped writing. She never let go of her dream to be a successful author. Now, just in time for Christmas, she has released a poetry book of intense, moving brilliant poetry, “Always the Moon.”

Oh, and did I mention her other books, A Love Beyond, His Temporary Wife, Wildflower Redemption, Take Me Out, Unattainable http://www.crimsonromance.com/
La Llorona (The Wailing Woman), and inclusion in two internationally best selling cowboy anthologies?

My hero sister, Leslie P. Garcia.

http://www.amazon.com/Always-Moon-Leslie-P-Garcia-ebook/dp/B0196OK5AK/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1450026769&sr=1-1&keywords=always+the+moon+leslie+garcia

AlwaysTheMoon_CVR2

CHRISTmas Light

Some associate Santa with Christmas. He rides into town on a fire truck and throws candy for children, or lands in a helicopter, or stations himself in malls and stores for photo opportunities.

The inspiration for these events came from a poem written in 1823, “A Visit from Saint Nicholas,” and a song written in 1933, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” Both poem and song birthed the popular U.S. image of a red-clad, white-bearded present-bearing Santa.

However, far more populous, present, and visible than Santa – are lights. Atheists attempt to steal CHRISTmas by demonizing the friendly “Merry Christmas” greeting and insisting on “winter holidays” or “seasons greetings,” but the joke is on them. For as long as CHRISTmas lights dispel winter darkness with cheery spots of brave color, hearts will be reminded of Jesus, the Light of the world. “For the LORD will be your everlasting light.” Isaiah 60:20. And in Jesus’ own words, “I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness.” John 12:46.

The conspiracy to take Christ out of CHRISTmas is not new. Public schools began fazing out nativity scenes for children to color and replacing them with Santa on a rooftop; Santa’s sleigh and reindeer, and Christmas trees nearly 50 years ago. Christmas carols like “Joy to the World” and “Away in a Manger” were replaced with “Here Comes Santa Claus” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” The anti-God, anti-Christ movement picked up momentum over the years like a bulldozer headed down a ski slope. Today, the war on CHRISTmas and Christians is real and really vindictive.

Still there are lights. Colored lights and white lights at Christmas lifting hearts and drawing souls closer to worshiping God, in Whom is found no darkness. The atheists and “anti,” “politically correct” crowd may glom on to the fact that lights proclaim the Light of the World, Jesus and outlaw them too. For it is possible to dispel darkness by lighting even one light, but when one light is shining – nothing can bring back total darkness.

And when the atheists and their followers outlaw lights for celebrating CHIRSTmas, the moon and stars will still point to Jesus, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe.

The Lights have it.

http://www.amazon.com/Stephanie-Parker-McKean/e/B00BOX90OO/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

IMG_0824

Thanksgiving

Scotland folks don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, but we will be having a quiet one of our own. There is so much for which to be thankful!

Every breath we take, every step we take, everything we see, hear, touch, feel, or taste is reason enough for an attitude of gratitude. Add to this family, friends, pets, shelter, food and other provisions – and we are blessed beyond measure.

This Thanksgiving we will thank God for health and provision. We will pray for others less fortunate, and do what we can to help them. We will pray for the world’s return to the love, peace, and joy that comes as a gift through a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is the “Reason for the Season,” and Christ is in CHRISTmas, but the gift of Jesus’ love, joy, power, and salvation is not reserved for one day a year. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life every day.

Another thing on my list of Thanksgiving praise is the publication of my fourth Texas Miz Mike mystery-romance-suspense, “Bridge to Brigadoon,” set in Scotland. I’m excited!

To thank readers, I am offering a choice of gifts to the first five folks who review “Bridge to Brigadoon” on Amazon: either signed copies of “Bridge to Nowhere” or “Bridge Beyond Betrayal,” or a Scottish mug. When the review is posted and the reader has sent me his or her physical address and indicated which gift he or she would like to receive – I will send it immediately…with a grateful and thankful heart!

 

In one of the wackiest Miz Mike adventures ever, successful writer Michal Allison Rice is packed off to Scotland by her son and daughter-in-law for a vacation. They believe the trip will heal her broken heart—and hope that it will teach her to mind her own business. Mike does not want to go to Scotland. It is COLD there. And once in Scotland, she doesn’t want to stay. Hotdogs come in cans, dill pickles are non-existent and driving on the wrong side of the road terrifies her. However, when elderly Ross Granger is killed, Mike feels responsible and sets out in search for the killer. Nearly killed herself, Mike is faced with a dilemma: no one believes her. She is viewed as “an American stushie-maker.” But the gravest danger of all proves to be Rev. Alan Evan Kirkland, a Scottish widower who befriends her, then demands the one thing in repayment that she is unwilling to give—her heart.

http://www.amazon.com/Bridge-Brigadoon-Stephanie-Parker-McKean-ebook/dp/B0186YKIGW/ref=sr_1_1_twi_kin_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1447939591&sr=1-1&keywords=bridge+to+brigadoon+stephanie+parker+mckeanBridge_Brigadoon_Final_Kindle_downsized

Sailcats, Crucifix Fish & the New Year

Sailcats, Crucifix Fish & the New Year

Kindhearted volunteer Marshall Scott answered the U.S. Marine Corps call to rescue me at the Charlotte, North Carolina, airport on Thanksgiving Day after I attended my son Luke Parker’s memorial service. Marshall took time away from his family Thanksgiving to make sure I made my connecting flight. Additionally he shared the legend of the Crucifix Fish.

Jesus on the cross is outlined on the front of the sailcat’s skeleton, complete with the hilt of the sword that was plunged into Jesus’ side. The back of the skeleton displays the Roman shield. When you shake the cross, you can hear the dice being tossed for the Lord’s clothing.

When I got back to Scotland, my research disclosed that gaftopsail catfish witness God’s love in life, too. For example: Jesus died on the cross and went down for hell for three days to take the keys of death and hell away from satan and secure eternal life for us. The sailcat lives on the soft bottom of the ocean – but unlike other catfish – it doesn’t feed there. Just as Jesus loves and accepts everyone of every color, every country, every social status in life, the sailcat feeds up and down through the entire water column.

Male gaftopsail catfish brood their young in their mouths until they hatch. During this entire period of up to 65 days, males do not eat. What a great parallel of Jesus’ nature; His willingness to sacrifice even His life that we might be born again and grow into His image. Jesus never leaves us nor forsakes us when we are weak.

Sailcats are saltwater catfish. As Christians, we are instructed to be salt in the world. We should walk in love, but also in truth. Our truth – salt – has great healing power.

Crucifix Fish skeletons are popular for jewelry, but rare. Imagine my delight when I received a Christmas present from the Scott family, a box containing a Crucifix Fish! It will be freely shared here, going so much further than just our house.

What a great New Year it would be if we all took lessons from Crucifix Fish: witness Jesus openly both in this life and in the memories left behind when graduating to heaven. Love and accept others, no matter how different. Get out of the comfort zone and dare to be salty! Put others first. For 2014, I want to live like a Crucifix Fish.

Texas Eugenia Thornhill, in my new Christian mystery-romance-suspense “Fear of Shadows,” reminds me of the lessons of the Crucifix Fish. She is too self-reliant and self-sufficient to need God until she solves the mystery of her fear of shadows. The truth almost destroys her. There is power in the Cross of Jesus, but to tap into it – Texas would need to get out of her comfort zone and get salty. Can the proud, independent Texan who embraces one rebellion after another do that?

http://www.amazon.com/Fear-Shadows-Stephanie-Parker-McKean-ebook/dp/B00HGLRS7O/ref=la_B00BOX90OO_1_6?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1387739222&sr=1-6

Image

Christmas shadows & Lights

For seven years of single parenthood, my son Luke (the late Major Luke Gaines Parker, Aug. 19, 1976-Nov. 17, 2013) and I lived in the Nevada desert. One of our favorite entertainments was holding sagebrush jumping contests – which I hasten to add, he invariably won!

Except the mountains changing colors as clouds pass over them, shadows in the desert are short. Rocks, sagebrush, Russian thistle (tumbleweed), rabbit brush – all cast short shadows and there are virtually no trees. When we moved to the Texas Hill Country, trees along the road threw shadows down and when those shadows hit the road in front of me when I was driving, I got dizzy. It was a silly thing and I couldn’t understand it until Mom’s Christmas present.

Because Mom never had much money to spend on us at Christmas, she came up with unique, affordable gifts like the scrapbook of childhood photos she compiled for each of us one Christmas. It must have taken her weeks of sorting through pictures to get all the photos in the right albums for the right children. Luke loved the pictures of his mom as a child. We were looking at the album one day when I focused in on a small wooden house splattered with shade from trees surrounding it. Suddenly, the picture reached out and grabbed me. I was pulled through the hall to the back door where – partly outside my range of vision – my father was beating something to death. I couldn’t see the victim clearly enough to identify it, and the unexpected image frightened me so badly that I snapped out of the trance. I tried to revisit that picture later when I was alone, but I never could get past the front door again. The image of him pounding something and blood everywhere had terrorized me.

So my newest book, “Fear of Shadows,” was born from that Christmas gift and from the horrendous memory that almost surfaced.

My father was an atheist. He was a cruel wicked man who obeyed no law – God or man-made – except his law: “What’s good for J.L. Potter is good.” As a result, he committed shockingly evil crimes during his lifetime and was one of the first 51 people in the U.S. to die from a newly discovered disease that hadn’t even been named yet. We know it now as AIDS.

“Fear of Shadows” is a Christian mystery-romance-suspense book written from my imagination, not a true story. They say that fact is stranger than fiction. It is a fact that when I was five, my father loaded me, his mother, a Great Dane dog, my grandmother’s dog, and two cats into a wood-paneled station wagon and drove away from California in the middle of the night. He left my sister, my brother, and my pregnant mother behind. We camped out in the then-untamed Florida Everglades swamp along a lagoon with venomous snakes and alligators. We ate bread and peanut butter, and pancakes that my grandmother cooked over an open fire, every day…day after day. All these years later, I still can’t eat pancakes. My father claimed he was looking for work. Perhaps he wanted to herd alligators.

So…who and what was his victim? I don’t know. But I think you’ll enjoy the story that this experience wrote for me. God Bless you and Merry Christmas.

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/387341

Image