Never Judge – Never

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Why is it so hard for me to learn to never judge? Never.

When news exploded with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s split from the Royal Family, I faulted Meghan for the enchanted wedding that almost all little girls dream about and living in a castle with lavish riches at her disposal—then walking out of the fairytale. My thought was—I hope people in the UK won’t think that all Americans are that selfish, self-centered and vacillating.

Then I read that Meghan had accepted a movie role and realized that God had gifted her with extraordinary good looks and talent, and that she was walking out her gifting. And I thought about my writing. It will never bring in lavish amounts of money, fame, and success—but it’s my gifting and I will continue to walk in it…even if I must walk out of situations to continue.

So instead of getting sucked into negative news again, I’ll celebrate the calling God gave me by introducing my newest book. And I will try not to judge so readily—really.

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Cordy arrives in Quartzsite, Arizona, from London, England, to decide the future of her aunt’s museum, a shrunken head that “speaks,” and to solve a 30-year-old murder—but she must not—simply must not fall in love again with her childhood sweetheart—because he might be the killer.

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Expletives and Superlatives

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There’s a Texas expression that I’ve never uttered before in my life, nor have I ever used it in one of my books, nor did I ever expect to ever use it: He’s talking out of his butthole.

Because I write clean-reading Christian books, I disdain profanity. Nothing will make me abandon a book more quickly than excessive profanity. Writers should be creative. Instead of repeating the “F” word endlessly, what’s wrong with: profanity dropped from his lips like cigarette ash; he used words that would have shocked his mother; his foul language was so excessive that it fatigued his listeners; her anger made her abandon her last shred of Christian training as she launched into a tirade against her coworker, the air splintered from the impact of cursing…etc.

Few things anger me. This did. An “academic” professor attacked the root of the Christmas story. He said Mary had been raped because she never consented to her pregnancy. This highly esteemed professor has a platform for attempting to destroy the foundational faith of students entrusted to him and is too lazy to research and get it right.

God gives us freedom of choice. Not everyone is a Christian. There are many other religions in the world. Everyone, even an atheist, has the right to choose what he or she believes. But it’s shameful and unforgivable that an “academic professor” who supposedly is better educated and more brilliant than the average gets away with spewing unfounded derisive words as truth.

Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” I don’t draw the salary that the university pays that lazy professor, but that sounds like consent to me. (Luke 1:38)

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior…For He who is mighty has done great things for me.” Luke 1:49.

“And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. He will be called the Son of the Highest…and of His kingdom there shall be no end.” Luke 1:31

The truth, the simple truth behind Christmas, the greatest love story ever written.

I’m trying. I’m really trying. But that professor’s words grate against my spirit and I can’t word it any better than my Texas friends: “he’s speaking out of his butthole.”

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Importance of One

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I admire bestselling author and blog writer Valerie Poore for many reasons, one of which is her fascinating and enduring books, which can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/Valerie-Poore/e/B008LSV6CE?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid=1574431296&sr=1-1 Another reason I admire her is the frequency and dependency of her blogs. Fulltime teaching, writing, historic barge repairs and retrofits, terrible, depressing weather—nothing stops her from gifting her followers with a blog each week. She announced this week in her blog that she’s taking some well-deserved time off, but will be back.

Me? I sit back and wait for a blog to fall on top of me before I hit the keyboard. Sometimes it happens once a week. Often it happens once in a while. What fell on me this week was the importance of one person. One person can make a difference.

While I was researching facts about Quartzsite, Arizona, for a book that will be released in January, I was astonished to run into Hi Jolly again. I first met him at the Frontier Times Museum when I was doing research for an article in a local Bandera, Texas, newspaper. He was a camel driver brought to the U.S. from Syria in the 1860s to head up the government’s failed experimental Camel Corps during the Civil War. Camels’ hooves proved too tender to traverse the rocky ground of the west, especially the Texas Hill Country—and they spooked horses. It was considered excellent when they spooked Indian horses—but less excellent when they spooked Army horses. Hi Jolly died in Quartzsite in 1902. A rock pyramid topped with an etched metal camel marks Hi Jolly’s grave. One person.

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So, too, with J Marvin Hunter, a hero of mine. I met him again this week when I was researching Mason, Texas, for a future book. I fell in love with J Marvin Hunter when I researched the Frontier Times Museum in Bandera, Texas, and ran my hands over the rock walls he built himself using unique and unusual rocks that he found and those that admirers brought him. Hunter published Bandera’s newspaper for many years while also publishing the Frontier Times Magazine, and writing and publishing books about infamous western outlaws. He wanted to build a museum to safeguard and share the many unique items in his collection—including a shrunken head from Ecuador, a shrunken dog from Ecuador, a two-headed goat, 400 bells from around the world, some worn by elephants, a battle to the death between a rattlesnake and a roadrunner, and the head mounts of two deer with interlocking horns that died battling one another—but money was scare during the depression, so he wrote and published books to finance the building of the museum, which today boats of more than 40,000 exhibits. One person.

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Then there is Jesus. Jesus who gave up His home in heaven to live here on earth and touch us with His saving mercy and grace. Jesus. One Person.

We can’t all write books, drive camels, build museums—and none of us can be God—but we can all make a difference.

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Misconceptions

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Many people believe it—but nowhere in the Bible does it say that Adam and Eve ate an apple. They ate the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

Many people believe it—but nowhere in the Bible does it say that Jonah was swallowed by a whale. It says the Lord prepared a big fish to swallow him. Scientists out to shoot holes in the Bible have conducted studies to prove that a person could not be swallowed by a whale and survive. And yet—surely the Lord God, Creator of heaven and earth is well able to prepare “a big fish” to swallow Jonah.

Misconceptions. They are everywhere.

Christmas cards portray bright fields of snow and evergreen trees decked with white—yet in many parts of the world—it never snows.

I got a bad review on one of my books from a reviewer who said, “We don’t have street vendors in the UK.” I based the character on a street vendor in Inverness, Scotland. The reviewer lived in England.

I got a bad review on another book from a person who said if I wrote about Texas, I should learn about it first. I was born in Texas.

Misconceptions. They are everywhere.

We all look at the world through the eyes of our experiences. If one has never read the Bible and relies on things other people have said—fruit becomes an apple and prepared fish becomes a whale. If one lives in northern climates, one will expect the whole world to have snow on Christmas. If one lives in England instead of Scotland, one may believe the UK has no street vendors. If one lives in tornado alley in north Texas, that person would not know about the plethora of wildlife in the Texas Hill Country.

Misconceptions. They are everywhere. We can do our part by focusing on bigger issues than fruit, fish, or real or imagined mistakes in books.

Kindness is a good starting place. “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32

Kindness is love in action and leaves no room for misconceptions.

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Stubbornness

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God has blessed us with a lovely, intelligent rough collie puppy. She has only one flaw—stubbornness. When she doesn’t want to go the way we are going it evolves into a tugging match and ends up with me dragging her.

It seems cruel to drag a puppy across the street or down the sidewalk—but when the light changes and cars are coming from both directions, or when there are workers ahead with dangerous equipment—dragging is a kindness that saves her life.

Stubbornness is an admirable trait in a writer. With 150 rejection slips from publishing companies in the U.S. and U.K.—I kept writing. With 40 years of disappointments and agony, I kept hitting the keys. My new Christian Cozy Mystery “Croft Murders,” featuring Mike the Headless rooster, Fiona the pouting rooster, and croft owner Nora whom someone wants to kill would not have been published without stubbornness.

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Nor would I be working on another book after the first review on “Croft Murders” was a three-star from a reader who said I didn’t know enough about Texas. I was born there and moved from Texas to Scotland eight years ago. Texas is indeed “a whole ‘nother country” with every climate and eco system imaginable. The tornado stricken, flat, snowy panhandle; the lovely Texas Hill Country with its plethora of wildlife; the nearly desert environs along the Mexico border; the east Texas piney woods and oil wells, and the west Texas mountains and Big Bend State Park. The reviewer apparently didn’t know much about home of my heart, the Texas Hill Country, because everything I mentioned about Texas in “Croft Murders” reflected a true experience.

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Savannah and I have worked out a compromise. As long as she’s in no physical danger, and as long as it’s not extremely important to go to any one particular place—I put the leash on her and follow her. Now before anyone reaches the conclusion that I’m a coward, or have never trained a dog before, I would just like to justify that compromise by pointing to…writing. Yup, all of y’all, writing.

The characters in my books come alive and take over the plot and action. Without dropping a spoiler about “Croft Murders,” before the characters took over, I planned a completely different outcome for Nora. Therefore, I can justify my decision to “go with the flow” where Savannah is concerned. I’m used to being dragged around.

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Epiphanies

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Epiphanies can happen anywhere, which is why the Merriam Webster Dictionary defines them as “sudden” striking understandings of something. My newest epiphany hit when I noted a towering tree with scared bark as I walked our dog. Irregularities made the tree unique, beautiful and strong.

God did not send storms to shake the roots of that tree and to twist and mar the bark, but He allowed the storms to mold the tree into perfection and beauty. So, too, with our lives. God doesn’t make bad things happen to us. But because this is a sin-sick world, bad things happen.

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Fleeing sexual and physical abuse at home, I ran away and lived under a bridge in the Texas Hill Country, painting signs for meals. I never went hungry. When flash floods came, I had to drive my pickup truck out from under the bridge and live in it on a back street. Those early hardships molded my life as a writer. I will be releasing book number 23, a Christian Cozy Mystery-Romance this week. God’s word never fails, is never wrong. God uses the worst part of our lives to build the best. “All things work together for good to those who love the Lord.” Romans 8:28

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No shakes, twists, mars, or scars are wasted in God’s perfect purpose for our lives.

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Worth the Fight

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My newest book, “Pirate Hole Murders,” should have been out two weeks ago. Wait. Wait. I hate waiting. Most people do.

Finally the imminent release day…more waiting. Because I had shared five Facebook posts with strong language about New York’s evil abortion law allowing abortion up until birth, I got locked out of Facebook. Facebook supports liberal agenda and is hostile toward conservative and Christian values. Google too, which is why I use Yahoo as much as possible. Google worked the lockout with Facebook, and all but the most recent emails disappeared.

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The impasse lasted nearly two days, and because of the difficulty of retrieving cover art from the missing emails publication of “Pirate Hole Murders” was further delayed. But when it was released, it made it to #15 on Amazon’s UK site immediately.

Some things are worth fighting regardless of the consequences. Abortion is one of them. I am honored to have been singled out for my stand against abortion. And had my Facebook and email accounts remained locked, “Pirate Hole Murders” would still have been released in spite of additional waiting because it had prayer support. Ultimately, God is in control. He is from everlasting to everlasting and is immune to time.

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God creates us. God hates murder. Psalm 139:13 says, “For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” No one—no sex, no religion, no culture, no one—has the right to murder the humans God creates in the womb where they are the most defenseless and deserve the most protection.

When the lockout of Facebook was lifted, the first thing I shared was another post against the evil of the new NY law. Some things are worth the fight.

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Happy 2019

Slipping in here a few days late to wish everyone a Happy, Joyful, God-Blessed New Year.

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So many people make New Year’s Resolutions, and that’s a good thing. Keeping them is especially good. Yes, I would like to exercise more this year and lose more weight, but that’s always my goal. Now that it’s been a year since my back surgery, I’m cleared to start running again.

As a writer, I can’t ignore that part of my life when planning for a new year. I wrote six books last year and I honestly don’t intend to write that many this year. The new series takes a lot of research which translates into a lot of time. I’m hoping to have the third “Fog Busters, Old Bones Detectives” out sometime in January.

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As a writer and as a person, the most important goals I can set for 2019, or any year, are found in the Bible, specifically in Philippians, Chapter 3: That I may know God and His power; That I may press on; That I may forget those things which are behind and reach forward to those things which are ahead, that I may press toward the goal of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

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That about sums up my 2019 goals. As an author, my inspiration comes from God.

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Whoever you are and wherever you are reading this, may God light your new year with beauty, bounty, and joy. Happy New Year!

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Mysteries

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I love mysteries. When I was a child, I read every Erle Stanley Gardner “Perry Mason,” and “Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine” I could find.

Recently I purchased a kindle book with an intriguing title, only to be disappointed that it wasn’t a mystery. I finished reading it and left a review for the author, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I enjoy mysteries.

So much of life is mysterious, especially in our human relationship with God. I’ve often asked God, “How do you do it? How do you give me ideas for books and help me write them?” Some might mistakenly claim that I labor under false humility. I don’t. God writes; I type. I have 19 published books.

My hope is that readers will enjoy “The Fog Busters—Old Bones Detectives.” Alec is nearly blind, John and Peg are nearly deaf, Morag is on a crutch, and the two youngest members of the amateur detective agency—Rory and Susan—are 60. The clean-reading, Christian cozy mystery is intended to entertain older readers, but the gentle humor should entertain readers of any age.

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When the Lord gave me the idea for the new mystery series two years ago, I made excuses for not writing them. I told God that I couldn’t write older Scottish characters because, having grown up in Texas, I wouldn’t understand Scottish-born people well enough to write convincingly. When I quit making excuses and started writing, the Lord took over.

“Black Pudding Murder” will be released soon. It’s been fun to write, but the real mystery isn’t in the book…it’s in how the Lord got involved to make it happen.

Jesus told His disciples, “To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God.”  I guess even God is into mysteries.

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Risks and Rewards

Bandera, Texas rancher Maudeen Marks took risks. She was a single, never married cattle rancher. No, correct that quickly because Maudeen did not ranch cattle—she ranched Texas Longhorns.

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“I never married,” she told me, “because World War II started and all the strong men left to fight the war and never came home. It would take a strong man to handle being married to me.”

Strong man, because she was a risk taker. She continued her father’s legacy of raising pure longhorn cattle after her daddy died. She bought a ranch in the Texas Hill Country and turned it into a dude ranch. Guests were welcome—but they had to mingle with Maudeen’s iconic Texas Longhorn Cattle. Maudeen’s longhorns were recognized as the standard for breed purity. They were also her pets. It was amazing to see the petite rancher wander into a sea of imposing horns and disappear behind them as she hand fed treats to her cattle and scratched their heads.

Maudeen led trail rides well into her eighties. Her risk-taking garnered her rewards: being honored as Woman of the Year, being selected as parade marshal, being inducted into the Bandera County Museum as the woman who put the mark in remarkable.

A may come before R in the dictionary, but risk comes before award in life.

My new Christian cozy mystery-romance-suspense was inspired by Maudeen who would have loved to buy the State of Texas, fill it with longhorns and Texas Rangers, and hold nightly dances from windmill to windmill. She never experienced the joy of marriage and having children in this life, but she is dancing with Jesus in Heaven now and celebrating her eternal reward.