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The Corn Plant Saga by Julie B. Cosgrove

People have asked me to tell this true story. It’s long, but here goes….

Back in 1974, I bought a small corn plant at a local nursery because, well in the 70’s, everyone had a jungle in their apartment. But it didn’t thrive, so I put it in the bathroom to get more moisture. Every time my to-be-hubby came over, he’d been down, waggle his finger and tell the scrawny four-leafed heap, “You better grow, little guy, or I’ll make her pitch you out.” Yes, we talked to our plants back then. It was a 1970’s thing.

Fast forward through the years. We moved twenty-two times in thirty-three of them, and the corn plant was always last on the truck and first off. Then in 2005, we had to leave because of Katrina. All of our salvageable items were put in a storage pod and sent to San Antonio. Only some of our clothes, the “very breakables” and our prized possessions (well, and the cats) would travel with us. People from our church gathered to help us pack and bid us farewell. Corn plant by then was over seven feet tall…a scrawny-trunk thing we tied to the wall with string and thumb tacks.  No way would it survive months in a storage unit. Six men stood in our garage constructing a container to house the plant, which would travel in the bed of my husband’s truck. Using cardboard and plywood they encased it as if it was Michelangelo’s David.

As I followed in my car, I watched through the windshield wipers as the the wet winds whacked the carefully plotted-out tower. When we crossed the border into Texas, I gasped as it bent into a jack-knife. Tears welled. For three hundred more miles it bounced and bowed toward the bed of the truck. About 1 a.m. we arrived at my family cabin in the Texas Hill Country, which would be home until he found a new job. That’s when my husband analyzed the damage. I blubbered as he dismantled what remained of the tower and confirmed my worst fears. All the angst over the past few days following the hurricane poured down my cheeks. I took the top of the plant and jammed it into a gallon jug, filled it with  water, and set it by the window. My husband, instinctively knowing not to question my futility, carried in the pot with the bare trunk and plopped it next to the same window. Somehow, we just couldn’t toss it down into the ravine gully.

The snippet grew roots inside the plastic jug. Hubby found a job in Florida, so we moved – this time with plant-jug steadied on the floor board of my car. We left the scraggly trunk behind. Later my cousin opened the cabin for the spring and found it had sprouted! She kept watering it and the next summer we snipped it off the trunk, jugged it, and took it back to Florida. Now we had two corn plants, side by side in the same pot.

My son no longer lives with me, but often when he comes over, he bends down, looks at the corn plant and says, “Well, I guess God wants us both to live a bit longer. Lookin’ good, plant.”

On the “bad days” when my chronic pain gets to me, I see the lush green plant and it helps me put things in perspective. It is as if God is telling me He still wants me to “bloom where I am planted.”

In 2008, we moved back to Texas. For reasons I will not go into, my husband developed medical problems and grew more and more ill. During this time, one of the corn plants wouldn’t thrive. It’s leaves were lighter in color, the other was lush and green. As he diminished, so did the plant. One by one the leaves yellowed and withered. I planted it in it’s own pot but no amount of soil, food or horticultural care would stop it’s decline. Eventually, two years later, the scraggly one died. The last leaf dropped off. It left me with an eerie feeling, to be realized forty-eight hours later when my husband died in the shower getting ready for work.

I moved with the healthy one to an apartment, and my son later moved in with me to ease my widowhood. Lo and behold, a “shoot” began to grow off the surviving corn plant. An offspring. Here is the plant today, June 2017.

More About the Author:

Besides being an award-winning suspense and cozy mystery writer, Julie is also an Internet missionary for Campus Crusades Canada. The articles and devotionals she writes and edits reach over 600,000 people a month and lead many of them to contact mentors who guide them through life issues and into a deeper relationship with Jesus. She writes for several other faith-based devotional sites as well, and her blog Where Did You Find God Today has readership in ten countries.

More About Baby Bunco:

Who would leave a newborn baby in the bathtub of a condo in Sunset Acres, a retirement community, and why? And was a young woman slain behind the convenience store across the highway it’s mother? Janie and the Bunco Biddies want to find out, but soon they discover sleuthing can get a bit dicey.

Julie’s First Book in the Bunco Biddie’s Mysteries is Dumpster Dicing

As Janie and Betsy Ann go for their morning jog, the city sanitation vehicle follows its normal five-mile Tuesday morning route through their retirement community of Sunset Acres. The two Bunco-playing biddies spot a leg dangling out of the dumpster when the truck lifts the trash container high in the air. Someone diced up one of their newest residents—a grouchy loner named Edwin Newman. Did he unpack too much of his dicey past when he moved in last weekend?

About Julie’s next release, Three, Sixies and Thieves

In Sunset Acres, some of the condos with threes and sixes in their house numbers are being robbed. The police see it as random, but Janie thinks otherwise. When she and her Bunco friends catch the thieves red-handed, one of the robbers is arrested. However, the next morning he is found hung in his cell. With her son-in-law, Chief Detective Blake, on vacation, can she trust anyone in the department to reveal what really happened?

If you missed our interview with Janie Manson, the heroine of the Bunco Biddie’s Mysteries, you can find it here. The interview with author Julie B. Cosgrove can be found here.

Interview with Julie B. Cosgrove, Author of Baby Bunco

Today’s guest on Inner Source is author Julie B Cosgrove. Besides being an award-winning suspense and cozy mystery writer, Julie is also an internet missionary for Campus Crusades Canada. The articles and devotionals she writes and edits reach over 600,000 people a month and lead many of them to contact mentors who guide them through life issues and into a deeper relationship with Jesus. She writes for several other faith-based devotional sites as well, and her blog Where Did You Find God Today has readership in ten countries.

Welcome to Inner Source, Julie. I’m so glad to have you here today. My first question has to be about the game of Bunco. In your cozy mysteries, I get an idea of how the game is played, but how did you come up with it as a backdrop for a cozy mystery series?

Thanks, Fay. I am honored to be asked to be here. I play Bunco with other Christian ladies whenever I can, so it seemed like a different theme…and a fun way to bring in all the characters.

A senior community in Texas is also a very good backdrop and allows you to create some sweet and quirky little characters. Did this setting spring from any experience or did you just make it up and run with it?

I had a book booth at a festival several years ago at one of these graduated retirement communities and toured their facilities. These communities are really popping up as all of us Baby Boomers get up in years. So I asked an editor at a writers’ conference, where I was holding a workshop, if that would be a unique setting. Her eyes lit up, so I went with it. The first in the series, Dumpster Dicing, came out in August, 2016 and won Best Cozy Mystery by the Texas Association of Authors.

In Baby Bunco, the mystery deals with quite a serious subject. I don’t want to give the story away because it is definitely worth the reader waiting to find out what’s going on. In the backdrop of this sleepy little area, which I understand is growing but sits out away from some the metropolises in that area of Texas, do you find a lot of crime to draw from in your stories?

We raised our son in one of these bedroom communities in Central Texas, and as it grew (from 4,500 to 50,000 in eleven years), our security and sense of safety diminished.  It became “new territory” for crime gangs whereas those territories are often well established and marked out in metropolitan areas. Also because these towns are spread out, it is easier for the crime syndicates to go unnoticed, believe it or not.

And I have to ask this one because I interviewed her on Monday. Janie is a former police officer’s wife, and she’s pretty handy with getting herself into trouble while doing some pretty mean investigative work. Is Janie based upon someone in your life?

No, not really. I think she is a composite of who I’ll want to be in another decade or so, along with some pretty gutsy Texas matrons I have known through the years. I basically wanted to show that just because you have gray hair, it doesn’t mean you have dementia or are feeble. With many folks living well into their eighties and nineties, seventy is the new forty.

I know that you have a new novel in the series which is about to be released. Would you like to tell us a little about it? When can we expect it? I’d also love to hear about any other works in progress we can look forward to seeing from you.

There are two more Bunco Biddies Mysteries under contract, in various stages of being edited and proofed.

Threes, Sixes and Thieves, God willing, will launch later this summer. The publisher has had scheduling and staff issues. I chose the title because when three sixes are rolled in Bunco the game ends. But “Three Sixes” didn’t exactly work for a Christian fiction title (for obvious reasons.) So the Editor in Chief came up with the new title.

In Sunset Acres, some of the condos with threes and sixes in their house numbers are being robbed. The police see it as random, but Janie thinks otherwise. When she and her Bunco friends catch the thieves red-handed, one of the robbers is arrested. However, the next morning he is found hung in his cell. With her son-in-law, Chief Detective Blake, on vacation, can she trust anyone in the department to reveal what really happened?

Early in 2018, number four, ‘Til Dice Do Us Part releases. Yes, Bunco Biddies fans, there is a wedding in the works at Sunset Acres. But while decorating for the bridal shower, Ethel falls from a ladder. While in the ER, she overhears a crime being plotted. Janie believes her, but will anyone else? When the two of them get the groom-to-be involved in their hospital sleuthing to keep him from seeing the bride on their wedding day, he disappears along with a hospital employee. Can Blake, Ethel and Janie, along with the security guards, find them both alive before the organ cranks up the wedding march?

And, I am under contract for a spin-off series, The Case Files of Jack Manson, set in the Austin area in the 1970’s when Janie is a newlywed and her sleuthing skills are just beginning to develop as she helps her husband climb the police ladder from beat cop to detective. Look for Blame Games, Same Games and Name Games to launch in 2018-2019 through Write Integrity Press.

More About Baby Bunco:

Who would leave a newborn baby in the bathtub of a condo in Sunset Acres, a retirement community, and why? And was a young woman slain behind the convenience store across the highway it’s mother? Janie and the Bunco Biddies want to find out, but soon they discover sleuthing can get a bit dicey.

Julie’s First Book in the Bunco Biddie’s Mysteries is Dumpster Dicing.

As Janie and Betsy Ann go for their morning jog, the city sanitation vehicle follows its normal five-mile Tuesday morning route through their retirement community of Sunset Acres. The two Bunco-playing biddies spot a leg dangling out of the dumpster when the truck lifts the trash container high in the air. Someone diced up one of their newest residents—a grouchy loner named Edwin Newman. Did he unpack too much of his dicey past when he moved in last weekend?

About Julie’s next release, Three, Sixies and Thieves

In Sunset Acres, some of the condos with threes and sixes in their house numbers are being robbed. The police see it as random, but Janie thinks otherwise. When she and her Bunco friends catch the thieves red-handed, one of the robbers is arrested. However, the next morning he is found hung in his cell. With her son-in-law, Chief Detective Blake, on vacation, can she trust anyone in the department to reveal what really happened?

If you missed our interview with Janie Manson, the heroine of the Bunco Biddie’s Mysteries, you can find it here.

Character Interview: Janie Manson from Julie B. Cosgrove’s Baby Bunco

Today’s guest on Inner Source is Janie Manson from Julie B Cosgrove’s Baby Bunco, part of the Bunco Biddie’s Mysteries.

Welcome, Janie. I’d love for you to introduce yourselves to our readers because I think you have an interesting life to share.

Oh, my dear. I think all of us live interesting lives, don’t you agree? We all have our woes and joys. It makes us who we are.

My husband, Jack Manson, a renowned detective in the Austin Police department, was killed in the line of duty―leaving me a widow when my children were in their late teens and early twenties. After two decades, I decided to sell the house and move into a Fifty-five Plus community to be nearer to my daughter and her family. Her husband is the Chief Detective of the Alamoville Police Department. Not as famous as my Jack was, but he is a sharp cookie, nonetheless.

Anyway, several of my lifelong friends already lived there or were planning to make the move as well. Eventually we started a Bunco group going because (she whispers with her left hand angled to her mouth) their scheduled “senior” activities here at Sunset Acres are awfully lame.

Early on in our adult lives, Betsy Ann and I became walking buddies, and Ethel also joined us. It has kept us fairly fit and spry through the years. We still try every morning to power walk the almost two miles around the side roads of the community, not counting the golf course. We veer away from it. Old men with poorer eyesight swinging clubs at little hard balls with divots? That can get a bit dangerous. (She laughs.)

True story. My husband and I were driving around a curve at a local golf course, and an older man was on the tee. He swung the ball with all his might, and I tell you, I saw his eyes widen as he noticed his ball sailing right toward our car and my window. He missed, and I don’t know who was more thankful. I think you’re smart to avoid the golf course.

As the widow of a detective on the police force, I can’t imagine how difficult it was for you to let your husband go out the door every time he headed for work. With the growing crime rate against our police officers, is there any bit of wisdom, maybe even a Scripture, that sustained you through those years?

You cannot live healthily in fear. Our hearts, bodies and minds are not designed to do that. God asks us to live by faith instead, believing that come what may He is right beside us and has a purpose for all we go through. Romans 8:28- 31, knowing He works all for good to those who love Him, often was my go-to verse. Well, it still is.  Many a time I also poured over Psalm 144 in the wee hours of the morning when Jack was on a stakeout. I know it is the Soldier’s Psalm, but my husband often faced a battle of good versus evil, too. (She chuckles). But, then again, don’t we all?

Yes, we do. You have some awesome friends, and I’d love for our readers to be introduced to them by you. I believe you have a unique perspective on each of these quirky ladies and gents.

Let’s see. I’ve told you a bit about Blake. He is a good and honest man who loves his family. More than a job, his mission is to protect the citizens of this community. But underneath that Stetson is a fairly hard head. Even so, I think we get along okay, as much as any mother-in-law and son-in-law can.

Ethel and Betsy Ann are my lifelong buddies. We met early on when I Jack and I moved into our first home back in 1970. Betsy Ann and I were both pregnant at the time, and Ethel was organizing a neighborhood watch. She is a mystery aficionado and has collected, and read I might add, over five hundred whodunnit paperbacks. She has them sub-categorized in a file catalog by author, crime and method. Betsy Ann was a reporter for the garden section of the local newspaper for twenty-five years, so she has a touch of the sleuth gene in her as well.

If you had to pick one of the Bunco Biddies to go into a dangerous situation with you, which one would you trust the most? Which one would you not want to go into a perilous adventure by your side?

I’d trust Ethel the most because she is level-headed and has a no-nonsense attitude about life. Betsy Ann is a dear, but she tends to be a bit emotional and, well ditzy. But that’s part of her charm. Mildred has a tender heart, but she is too fragile right now. She’s had some major life challenges in the past year. We try to tiptoe on eggshells around her right now, but she’s gonna be fine. (Janie winks.)

And my last questions have to be about your son-in-law. You know he loves you, don’t you? I actually think he admires you very much. Blake is a wonderful guy, but I really want to know how you took the news when you learned that your daughter, Melanie, would be dreading her husband walk out the door, just as you must have all those years.

I hope that, by watching me as she grew up, I showed her how to boldly live this life. Perhaps I showed her too well. Blake reminds me a lot of my Jack at that age. There are times I wish she’d married an accountant or something, but I know God planned for them to be joined and truthfully, she couldn’t have picked better. Trust me though, each night I go down on my knees for her and the kids, and each morning I ask God to send His angels to guard Blake.

Being a cop’s wife is not easy, but at least their husbands come home when they get off duty, God willing. Of course the same goes for the families of our policewomen who serve. I cannot imagine how the spouses of our deployed service men and women make it day to day knowing their loved one is a second away from danger at any moment. They have to lean on God Almighty as well as family and friends. I pray for them as well. We all should, don’t you agree?

I agree 100%. I believe prayer is the best gift that we can give to those who stand between us and evil.

Thank you for visiting with us, Janie. I look forward to the interview of your author, Julie B. Cosgrove on Wednesday.

More About Baby Bunco:

Who would leave a newborn baby in the bathtub of a condo in Sunset Acres, a retirement community, and why? And was a young woman slain behind the convenience store across the highway it’s mother? Janie and the Bunco Biddies want to find out, but soon they discover sleuthing can get a bit dicey.

Julie’s First Book in the Bunco Biddie’s Mysteries is Dumpster Dicing

As Janie and Betsy Ann go for their morning jog, the city sanitation vehicle follows its normal five-mile Tuesday morning route through their retirement community of Sunset Acres. The two Bunco-playing biddies spot a leg dangling out of the dumpster when the truck lifts the trash container high in the air. Someone diced up one of their newest residents—a grouchy loner named Edwin Newman. Did he unpack too much of his dicey past when he moved in last weekend?

About Julie’s next release, Three, Sixies and Thieves

In Sunset Acres, some of the condos with threes and sixes in their house numbers are being robbed. The police see it as random, but Janie thinks otherwise. When she and her Bunco friends catch the thieves red-handed, one of the robbers is arrested. However, the next morning he is found hung in his cell. With her son-in-law, Chief Detective Blake, on vacation, can she trust anyone in the department to reveal what really happened?

More About the Author:

Besides being an award-winning suspense and cozy mystery writer, Julie is also an Internet missionary for Campus Crusades Canada. The articles and devotionals she writes and edits reach over 600,000 people a month and lead many of them to contact mentors who guide them through life issues and into a deeper relationship with Jesus. She writes for several other faith-based devotional sites as well, and her blog Where Did You Find God Today has readership in ten countries.

To Love a Weed by Deborah Dee Harper

I don’t have purple hair, nor do I style it the way this pretty little thistle head has, but if I did, this is what I’d like to look like. And yes, I know that’s weird.

We’re living in a new house which we love, but it’s at the end of a road in a rather new sub-division which is still undergoing aggressive construction. We’re the last house on the road at the moment, so the land past our house (to the left as you’re looking at the house) and behind it is vacant. I like to tell people we live on the edge of a nature preserve because the rabbits, geese, and who-knows-what-else make their homes there, but in truth, it’s just vacant land piled high with dirt, chunks of trees, and other rubble the construction equipment has shoved aside to clean up another day.

The little beauty above is a thistle weed and it’s growing on the piles of dirt and rock surrounding our house. I can’t get to it without risking life and limb (thank goodness for zoom lenses), but if I could, I’d gather a few for a colorful bouquet.

It’s amazing to me how something as lowly as a common weed can be so beautiful, yet have such little value when compared to the more acceptable flowers we slave over (and pay good money for) in our gardens. If God had never given us anything but the “no maintenance, grow anywhere” weeds to satisfy our desire to beautify our surroundings, we would be hard-pressed to complain. Take a few thistle heads, some Queen Anne’s lace, dandelions, and the wild variations of asters, daisies, and a host of other flowering “weeds,” and you’ve got a luscious, colorful bouquet of God’s love for us displayed in even His most modest of creations.

I wonder how often we overlook an individual because they seem common. If God can love the weeds on this earth, how much more does He love all of His children–young, old, pretty, homely, rich, poor, in good health or bad, black, white, brown, red, yellow, pink, or orange–who cares?

He cares. For all of us. For the hybrids, the old standards, the lush, the wild, the rare, the plentiful, the run-of-the-mill, the powerful, and the weak. Which one are you?

See you along the trail…

We’re living in a new house which we love, but it’s at the end of a road in a rather new sub-division which is still undergoing aggressive construction. We’re the last house on the road at the moment, so the land past our house (to the left as you’re looking at the house) and behind it is vacant. I like to tell people we live on the edge of a nature preserve because the rabbits, geese, and who-knows-what-else make their homes there, but in truth, it’s just vacant land piled high with dirt, chunks of trees, and other rubble the construction equipment has shoved aside to clean up another day.

The little beauty above is a thistle weed and it’s growing on the piles of dirt and rock surrounding our house. I can’t get to it without risking life and limb (thank goodness for zoom lenses), but if I could, I’d gather a few for a colorful bouquet.

It’s amazing to me how something as lowly as a common weed can be so beautiful, yet have such little value when compared to the more acceptable flowers we slave over (and pay good money for) in our gardens. If God had never given us anything but the “no maintenance, grow anywhere” weeds to satisfy our desire to beautify our surroundings, we would be hard-pressed to complain. Take a few thistle heads, some Queen Anne’s lace, dandelions, and the wild variations of asters, daisies, and a host of other flowering “weeds,” and you’ve got a luscious, colorful bouquet of God’s love for us displayed in even His most modest of creations.

I wonder how often we overlook an individual because they seem common. If God can love the weeds on this earth, how much more does He love all of His children–young, old, pretty, homely, rich, poor, in good health or bad, black, white, brown, red, yellow, pink, or orange–who cares?

He cares. For all of us. For the hybrids, the old standards, the lush, the wild, the rare, the plentiful, the run-of-the-mill, the powerful, and the weak. Which one are you?

See you along the trail…

More about the Author:

Deborah Dee Harper currently resides in Alaska where she writes inspirational and humorous books for both children and adults and takes thousands of photographs. When she isn’t writing or taking photos, she stalks moose and other wildlife, survives earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, endures the long, dark, frigid winters, revels in the endless summer days, and is awestruck by the rippling northern lights of the Alaskan night skies. She also leaps mountains in a single bound and wrestles grizzly bears along hiking trails. (Not really. Just making sure you were paying attention.) Whenever she can, she loves being with her daughter, son-in-law, and three grandsons in Kentucky, and her son, daughter-in-law, and two more grandsons in Michigan. (For real.)

She can be reached at deborahdeetales@gmail.com, at her website www.deborahdeeharper.com, and her three blogs: www.deborahdeetales.blogspot.com, www.deetrails.blogspot.com and www.laramieonthelam.blogspot.com.

More about Misstep:

Winnie and Sadie are still fighting, and I’m still living in the strangest town on earth.
It’s December in Road’s End, Virginia, a tiny town long forgotten by anyone but its residents, where Colonel Hugh Foster and his wife, Melanie, have chosen to live—for better or worse. The jury’s still out on that one!
Road’s End is comprised entirely of senior citizens whose kids have grown and left for greener pastures. Hugh, Melanie, and Bristol (one of the few sane people in town) are faced with a crumbling church in desperate need of repair and renovation, a dwindling congregation of opinionated, ornery senior citizens, and a camel—yes, a camel. And if that’s not enough, the trio and the rest of the Road’s End residents, are soon mired in danger and intrigue when a group of gun-toting drug dealers arrive in town, bent on killing the church handyman, and conspiring to ruin the doggonedest record-breaking blizzard the town has ever seen.
Poor drug dealers.

Deborah has an upcoming sequel to Misstep entitled Faux Pas. Here’s more of the hilarity you’ll find in Road’s End, Virginia.

What would you do if the President of the United States was attending your daughter’s wedding?

Panic. You’d panic. Add in a severe storm, crazy senior citizens who believe the POTUS lied his way into office, a crumbling, but historic church you happen to pastor, a cranky Secret Service agent, a four-year-old grandchild-to-be you know nothing about, and a son-in-law-to-be whose faith in the Lord has waned, and you’ve got yourself a humdinger of a wedding. Not to mention that same future son-in-law is a University of Michigan Wolverines fan (not a Michigan State Spartans fan) and prefers sweet tea to unsweetened. My gosh, what is the world coming to? Talk about a faux pas! Well, good luck with all that, Pastor Foster.

And Heaven help the president.

Stepping out of her humorous genre, Deborah also has another upcoming release entitled The Sin Seeker.

Sin Seeker, is the first book in my Sin Seeker series. The story deals with sin and the very real battle we’re in every day of our lives with the forces of darkness. Graves (Gray to his friends) Hollister is a discouraged social services employee tasked with the thankless job of keeping children safe from parents who don’t deserve them in the first place and who neglect and abuse them regularly. He starts hearing demonic voices shortly before a hideous tragedy occurs, after which he quits his job and sinks to the bottom of a bottle of anything he can find that’ll put him in an alcoholic stupor. He spends two months trying to obliterate his memories. Finally, he realizes he can’t; he must face them, so he enrolls in seminary and becomes a pastor. With his new role as pastor and his newfound ability to actually see the sin on the people God has tasked him with helping, Gray finds himself thrown head-first into a world of evil and demons, angels and miracles.

If you missed our interview with Hugh Foster, you can read it here, and Deborah’s interview can be found here.

Interview with Deborah Dee Harper Author of Misstep

If you know me, you know that today’s guest is one of my favorite authors of humor. Deborah Dee Harper writes laugh-out-loud mysteries with characters that will never leave you. In between the laughter, there are a couple of tears, well, because Deborah knows how to take the reader on an adventure of mishaps and funny moments.

The following is the blurb for Misstepwhich captures the mischief of the story.

Winnie and Sadie are still fighting, and I’m still living in the strangest town on earth. 

It’s December in Road’s End, Virginia, a tiny town long forgotten by anyone but its residents, where Colonel Hugh Foster and his wife, Melanie, have chosen to live-for better or worse. The jury’s still out on that one!

Road’s End is comprised entirely of senior citizens whose kids have grown and left for greener pastures. Hugh, Melanie, and Bristol (one of the few sane people in town) are faced with a crumbling church in desperate need of repair and renovation, a dwindling congregation of opinionated, ornery senior citizens, and a camel-yes, a camel.

And if that’s not enough, the trio and the rest of the Road’s End residents, are soon mired in danger and intrigue when a group of gun-toting drug dealers arrive in town, bent on killing the church handyman, and conspiring to ruin the doggonedest record-breaking blizzard the town has ever seen.

Poor drug dealers.

Deborah Dee Harper currently resides in Alaska where she writes inspirational and humorous books for both children and adults and takes thousands of photographs. When she isn’t writing or taking photos, she stalks moose and other wildlife, survives earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, endures the long, dark, frigid winters, revels in the endless summer days, and is awestruck by the rippling northern lights of the Alaskan night skies. She also leaps mountains in a single bound and wrestles grizzly bears along hiking trails. (Not really. Just making sure you were paying attention.) Whenever she can, she loves being with her daughter, son-in-law, and three grandsons in Kentucky, and her son, daughter-in-law, and two more grandsons in Michigan. (For real.)

She can be reached at deborahdeetales@gmail.com, at her website www.deborahdeeharper.com, and her three blogs: www.deborahdeetales.blogspot.com, www.deetrails.blogspot.com and www.laramieonthelam.blogspot.com.

I have been wanting to ask this question to an author with a sense for comedic exploits, and you so exhibit that sense in Misstep. Does writing humor come easy to you or do you have to work at it?

Fay, I can honestly say that (for the most part) it comes easily to me. And that’s not necessarily a good thing or because it’s some special skill. It’s mostly because I can be a smart aleck at times J. I love to laugh, and I love to make others laugh. I firmly believe God gave us a sense of humor for several reasons—to enjoy the humorous things that happen around us every day of our lives, to defuse situations that might become volatile if we don’t look at the funny side, to help us enjoy others who might be different from us (but still beloved children of God), and lastly, a way in which to understand aspects of human behavior we can’t quite explain any other way.

I think many writers could easily write humor because all you do is get in the zone, i.e., enter the personality of your character, and let the thoughts flow. Once I established who the characters were in the Road’s End series, they sort of took over (what I call a “character coup”) and hijacked the whole darned thing. There comes a point in every writer’s book when it no longer belongs to them. The characters have banded together and taken over. That’s when it gets interesting J .

Ah, we are sister authors. My authors initiate successful coups as well.

Because I’m so fascinated with your ability to bring such joy to your story, and because when I do write comedy, the humor replaces something dark or something that troubles me, almost a coping mechanism that my brain brings to characters in my work as well. Many times my characters will cope with darkness with humor—at least I laugh at them. I don’t know if anyone else does.

(Fay, I’ve read plenty of your humor! I don’t know if you even realize what you’re writing is hilarious. It’s just a part of you, and I love it!)

Thank you. Sometimes I don’t even see what I’m writing as funny until I sit down and see what I’ve written about. I laugh best at myself. I do know from personal experience, that people laugh during your stories. From a reader’s perspective, it seems as if you must overflow with happiness to bring such pleasure to others. It’s hard to imagine that you write with perfect comedic timing with anything but perfect peace, but as a spectator in life, I sense that this is a misnomer. Life isn’t always rosy. So, how do you cope with writing humor when life for you at a given moment might be anything but humorous?

Actually, Fay, writing humor when I’m down is a great way to pull myself out of the pit. After all, when I write I’m “becoming” one or more of my characters, and since they’re such goofballs, I have no choice but to succumb to their silliness. I don’t mean to say that it’s always easy; sometimes writing is the last thing I feel like doing, and writing humorously seems impossible. But if I’m on a deadline, I have no choice. And oddly enough, being down in the dumps brings out the sarcasm in me, and sometimes humor is nothing more than veiled (and hopefully, good-hearted) sarcasm. Once you get rolling, it comes easier with each keystroke. Sometimes it’s all I can do to type fast enough to catch my characters’ goofiness. Humor is a great medicine for me, and I’ve relied on it my entire life.

One more question on writing humor only because I’ve seen so many try to accomplish it and fall short. Even a born jokester finds it hard to pull off the punchline, or as in writing, the setup and the payoff. If there is a budding author out there who wants to write humorous stories, is there any element of craft or any other advice that you can give them for honing that skill?

I honestly feel that a person who wants to write humor can write humor because it’s in their very essence, i.e., you won’t want to if you can’t. You don’t want to write humor unless you have it within you. Think of it this way (and try not to cringe like I’m doing as I type this): people write porn—yes, it’s a horrible thing, yet there it is. But a person who wants to write it can find it within themselves to do it. Those of us who wouldn’t touch it with a ten-foot pole couldn’t do it anyway. It’s just not in us. It’s the same with mystery, romance, historical, horror, sci-fi, paranormal, or any of the zillion other genres and sub-genres that exist nowadays. There’s a part of us that can conjure up whatever it is that’s required in that particular genre. Now don’t get me started on how a person who can write porn should fight that desire to do so because it’s from the devil, because I could talk about that all day and that’s not what I’m here to do. Nevertheless, if a writer wants to write humor it’s because God has put that desire and ability into their make-up.

Okay, enough of that. I find that I look for the humor in situations—everyday, run-of-the-mill events that we all experience. For instance, we’ve all gotten behind the person in the checkout line who argues every price the cashier rings up then can’t find their debit card, and when they do, it’s declined, and they decide to write a check and have to dig to the bottom of their luggage-sized purse to find their checkbook, then ask the date, slowly write out the check, their pen runs dry, the woman behind you goes into labor, then delivers (twins), the milk in your cart sours … and still, that customer is up there clogging up the line without a care in the world. You’re furious, they’re oblivious. You can either laugh it off for the ludicrous situation it is, or let it bring you down.

I think most, if not all, humor writers find themselves looking for the laughs in their lives rather than the tears. Besides, humor is oftentimes taking a situation and exaggerating it, as in the example above. Another good example would be the relationship between Dewey Wyandotte and George Washington of Road’s End. Yes, they serve as one another’s BFF (best friend and enemy), but it’s an exaggerated association between two old men, both opinionated and obstinate. The humor comes with the embellishment of that behavior—and anyone who tries to do that with their humor will find it becomes much easier with time. Give it a try.

With regard to exaggeration and the example above in the checkout line, obviously everything I wrote didn’t happen. But because we’ve all been there, using exaggeration makes it funny. The purse is luggage-sized, the pregnant woman had time to finish her pregnancy, go into labor, and deliver twins, the milk sours. It all points to a ridiculously long wait in line, and while that in itself isn’t particularly funny, using it in a piece of writing and exaggerating the circumstances does two things: it gives you a funny scene, and it relieves your white-hot anger at that person at the head of the line.

To make an already long story short, look for humor and you’ll find it. I try not to read in my genre (against all the advice) because I want my humor to be fresh and entirely my own. I don’t want to accidentally latch on to someone else’s ideas or methods. That’s not to say reading humor is completely out of the question. As long as it’s not similar to what I’m writing, reading humor can get me in the mood. Surround yourself with it, look for the humor in the day God has given you, and make it your own!

Okay, about that lady in the checkout, are you sure you’re in Alaska? Or maybe you visited Florida and got in line behind my dear mother-in-law? That wasn’t an over-exaggeration of being in line behind her. *Smiles*

And now, I have to know how you came to meet these lovable misfits who live in Road’s End. Is there somewhere that you’ve visited that brought them to mind or do you actually know a couple of eccentrics like the residents that Pastor Hugh shepherds?

This is going to sound hokey, or worse yet, coming off as though I think I’m special to God (which we all are), but most of the characters were almost planted in my brain. Psychologists and psychiatrists would say, with good reason, that my subconscious conjured up everything, but I can’t help but feel that God helped me tremendously. It’s as though once I came up with a character, say, George, and he introduced me to Dewey, and they turn out to be perfect at playing off one another. Then came the wives who had to be a little nuts in their own right to be married to those men. It turns out they’re a little eccentric all by their lonesomes.

I’ve visited Virginia’s Colonial Williamsburg about twenty times, so I’m in love with that time period—the homes, gardens, the beauty of Virginia in all seasons. So using my love for all things colonial, I put my characters in fictional Road’s End in Virginia, and made it a little village filled with history and historical buildings like The Inn at Road’s End and the Christ Is Lord Church. Road’s End has played a role in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars and everything in-between, so the stories those buildings and grounds could tell are endless!

While I don’t have anyone in particular who matches the personality of any one of my Road’s End characters precisely, I think George and Martha, Dewey and Winnie, Sadie, Frank, Leo, Perry, and the rest of the gang are probably mash-ups of people I’ve run across during my lifetime. I think that’s true of most writers. People they’ve known, worked with, grown up with, or gone to school with end up in their books in one fashion or another. Humor’s no different.

Lastly, I think if I’d actually known someone with … say, Sadie’s personality, I’d have lost my sense of humor altogether! J

I don’t want to give away Sophie’s identity, but when she stepped into the story, I actually did fall on the floor laughing. Really. And as the exploits with Sophie continued, I found myself unable to breathe. My sides hurt from all the abdominal exercises that a true belly laugh can give to you. How in the world did you think of bringing Sophie to Road’s End?

Sophie was one of those characters who just happened. When Sherman DeSoto came to town, he was such a strange character I just knew he’d have someone like Sophie with him. Besides, the town was preparing for the live Nativity, so it just made sense. Sophie shows up in all the books of the Road’s End series. I think she’s here to stay. In my experience, the less planning I do and the more I let the characters take over, the better it turns out! When one idea pops into your head, somehow it leads to how that character can do something outrageous with it, and that leads to another and another, and pretty soon you have an entire scene or chapter or perhaps an entire thread in your plot–all from the addition of one crazy character.

I would be so disappointed if Sophie didn’t show up in each of the stories. But nothing will ever trump her first introduction. I’m laughing right now as I think of her.

I happen to know that there is a second “Mishap” which is about to overcome the Road’s End residents, and I can guarantee the reader it is as hilarious and as heartwarming as the first. Can you tell us a little about the next release? Also, you have a book in a different genre that will be out in the future. I’d love to hear about it as well.

You’re right, Fay, the second book in the Road’s End series, Faux Pas, is on the way, and thanks so much for your kind words about it J. It’s being released on July 4, 2017, and I’m really excited about it. A few months have passed since the incidents in Misstep, and Hugh and Melanie Foster are thrilled to find out their only daughter, Amanda, is getting married! The only problem (the first of many), though, is that the wedding is a mere two months away, and Mandy has asked Hugh to officiate the nuptials at the Christ Is Lord Church right there in Road’s End. Sadly, the church is threatening to collapse into the dirt floor basement and is in need of immediate repairs. Right off the bat, Hugh is faced with getting permission to repair the pre-Revolutionary War era building. And that’s just the beginning. The Fosters are unaware that Mandy’s fiancé, Jonathan Sterling, is the only nephew of Stuart Thomas Rogers, the President of the United States. And he’s coming to the wedding.

As if that isn’t enough to drive Hugh into the Witness Protection Program, the cranky residents of Road’s End have it in for the president for not coming through on his campaign promises to bring God back into the government and to the forefront of the nation. When they find out he’s coming to the wedding, all heck breaks loose as Sadie Simms prepares to give the president what-for and present him with a Constitutional amendment, while the men of Road’s End prepare to honor him with their version of a parade. A wedding, a president, an antagonistic senator, a new son-in-law, brand-spankin’ new grandson, a church under repairs, cranky senior citizens, and Sophie. What more could a man ask for?

The other book, Sin Seeker, is the first book in my Sin Seeker series. It’s darker than the Road’s End books and deals with sin and the very real battle we’re in every day of our lives with the forces of darkness. Graves (Gray to his friends) Hollister is a discouraged social services employee tasked with the thankless job of keeping children safe from parents who don’t deserve them in the first place and who neglect and abuse them regularly. He starts hearing demonic voices shortly before a hideous tragedy occurs, after which he quits his job and sinks to the bottom of a bottle of anything he can find that’ll put him in an alcoholic stupor. He spends two months trying to obliterate his memories. Finally, he realizes he can’t; he must face them, so he enrolls in seminary and becomes a pastor. With his new role as pastor and his newfound ability to actually see the sin on the people God has tasked him with helping, Gray finds himself thrown head-first into a world of evil and demons, angels and miracles.

Deborah, thank you for joining me here today. I will be so thankful if you’ll return in July to discuss Faux Pas. I’m thinking I’d like to interview Sophie. 

Here’s more about Deborah’s July release, the next story in the Road’s End series, Faux Pas:

What would you do if the President of the United States was attending your daughter’s wedding?

Panic. You’d panic. Add in a severe storm, crazy senior citizens who believe the POTUS lied his way into office, a crumbling, but historic church you happen to pastor, a cranky Secret Service agent, a four-year-old grandchild-to-be you know nothing about, and a son-in-law-to-be whose faith in the Lord has waned, and you’ve got yourself a humdinger of a wedding. Not to mention that same future son-in-law is a University of Michigan Wolverines fan (not a Michigan State Spartans fan) and prefers sweet tea to unsweetened. My gosh, what is the world coming to? Talk about a faux pas! Well, good luck with all that, Pastor Foster.

And Heaven help the president.

If you missed Monday’s interview with Hugh Foster, the hero of Misstepyou can find it here.

Character Interview: Hugh Foster from Deborah Dee Harper’s Misstep

Today’s guest is the pastor of a little church in Road’s End, Virginia, and the hero of Deborah Dee Harper’s novel, Misstep. Welcome to Inner Source, Hugh. We’d love to hear a little about your past and just what brought you to this small Virginia town.

Thanks, Marji. Glad to be here. Melanie and I just finished up twenty-seven years in the Air Force where I served as chaplain. We lived all over the world, but through it all, Mel has dreamed of owning an inn much like the ones found in the Colonial Williamsburg eighteenth century style. When we found Road’s End, quite by accident, we were intrigued with the beautiful house that we’ve since bought and named The Inn at Road’s End. We were hooked.

Now, in one sentence, I’d love to have you describe your parishioners?

My parishioners at the Christ Is Lord Church are fine (funny), loyal (loony), patriotic (pushy), Christian (without a doubt), awesome (argumentative), and unconventional (off-the-wall) folks who enrich (exasperate) my life in so many wonderful (wild and wooly) ways.

That’s a delightful description of that unique crew of wacky individuals.

Your wife, Melanie, is a wonderful person. She has to be because I’m going to tell you that while you might not believe so, you fit right in with the rest of the folks in that little place. Melanie seems to be the stable one, and well, she’s put up with a lot. What do you believe is her secret to remaining calm in the midst of lunacy?

Yes, well, Fay, I’ve begun to wonder myself if I’m part of the problem here. I have my own idiosyncrasies (fear of spiders, snakes, close places, storms, etc., not to mention my OCD tendencies—and I do mean don’t mention it—please).

Mel is a lucky woman in that she married me—which allows her to remain calm in the face of constant chaos, serene when everyone around her is psychotic, and happy when I’m hot under the collar. And she can do all that because in contrast to what I’m doing, she can’t help but appear calm, serene, and happy. (That’s why she’s lucky. She gets to be compared to me which makes her look supremely better in all situations.)

All joking aside, though, her secret is her deep, abiding faith in Jesus Christ. She, better than me (and I’m the pastor, for crying out loud), has been able, ever since I’ve known her, to throw all her burdens at the foot of the Cross and believe with all her heart that Christ has her back. She’s cool when I’m sizzling with frustration and anger. She’s calm when I’m clutching at straws and looking for the lifeboats. She’s unflappable when I’m … well, flappable. Mostly, though, Mel is a child of God, and I will be everlastingly grateful to Him for putting her in my life.

Of all the characters that you live amongst, which one (besides Melanie) would you say is your best friend and why? Which one would you avoid the most if you could and why? And which one makes you laugh the most and why?

I’d have to say Bristol Diggs is my best friend, if for no other reason than he’s the only other totally sane person in town. Bristol has some strange things in his past, but those have only made him stronger and have brought him to Road’s End, for which I will be eternally grateful. He shares my sense of humor, and maybe most importantly of all, is just about as clueless as I am, particularly when it comes to women and what makes them tick. We make a great team.

Without a doubt, the person I avoid the most HAS to be Ruby Mae Headley. Don’t get me wrong, Ruby’s a fine lady, but she never …stops …talking. Never. With her daughter Grace being my secretary, Ruby Mae thinks she’s somehow got the inside track on anything remotely church-related, which in her mind means she’s in charge. If it isn’t what hymns she’s going to torture…whoops, I mean perform on Sunday, it’s what topics I should address in my sermons (just how God chooses His special projects, meaning her, for instance) or how we can bring in more money to the church coffers (which usually involves the church buying something from her to turn around and sell to someone else). And don’t get me started on those hats.

The one who makes me laugh the most would have to be Dewey Wyandotte. Bless his heart, he’s a little dim, and George, who has an inflated opinion of himself anyway, takes full advantage of every opportunity to let Dewey know just how dim he is. On the other hand, Dewey can be shrewd; you just have to sort through all the silliness to find out who the real Mr. Wyandotte is. In the third book of the series, Misjudge, the readers will get a closer look at the characters and find out just how much they’ve contributed to our nation and their neighbors. Dewey is always good for a crazy idea, and more often than not, gives it right back to George. Go, Dewey!

Yes, Ruby Mae, bless her heart, is a strange bird, and I would love to sit and listen to Dewey and George ague all day.

Hugh, I purposely shared your story with my pastor and his wife, more particularly his wife, because I wanted them to know that they are not the only ones with eccentrics in the congregation. As a pastor who has a whole church filled with eccentrics, I’d love for you to provide some advice on how you deal with a total group of lovable loons so that maybe my pastor can learn to deal with a group of them, of which I know he considers me one.

Ha! If your name was Clair, we could call you Clair de lune. Just a little joke there. Just as your pastor does, I’m sure, I rely on God to keep me sane. If He didn’t want me as a pastor, believe me, He had every chance to make sure I didn’t make the grade. I’ve often asked Him whether or not He’s blessing or punishing me by setting me in the midst of all these crazy … er, eccentric people. In fact, I ask that very thing in Faux Pas after a particularly insane meeting in the church basement. I take it one day, or argument, as the case may be, at a time and ask for His guidance continually. He never lets me down.

Thank you for visiting us, Hugh. I’m looking forward to the next adventure Faux Pas.

Thank you, Fay, for hosting me. I’ve had a blast, but please don’t show this to any of the folks in Road’s End, because then I’d have to hurt you, and you can imagine how that would go against my grain, being a pastor and all. Still … (sorry, Lord).

Your secret is safe with me. However, I know at least one of those eccentrics can use a computer, can’t they?

I look forward to the interview with your author, Deborah Dee Harper on Wednesday. Until then, I want to introduce her to your readers.

More about the Author:

Deborah Dee Harper currently resides in Alaska where she writes inspirational and humorous books for both children and adults and takes thousands of photographs. When she isn’t writing or taking photos, she stalks moose and other wildlife, survives earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, endures the long, dark, frigid winters, revels in the endless summer days, and is awestruck by the rippling northern lights of the Alaskan night skies. She also leaps mountains in a single bound and wrestles grizzly bears along hiking trails. (Not really. Just making sure you were paying attention.) Whenever she can, she loves being with her daughter, son-in-law, and three grandsons in Kentucky, and her son, daughter-in-law, and two more grandsons in Michigan. (For real.)

She can be reached at deborahdeetales@gmail.com, at her website www.deborahdeeharper.com, and her three blogs: www.deborahdeetales.blogspot.com, www.deetrails.blogspot.com and www.laramieonthelam.blogspot.com.

More about Misstep:

Winnie and Sadie are still fighting, and I’m still living in the strangest town on earth.
It’s December in Road’s End, Virginia, a tiny town long forgotten by anyone but its residents, where Colonel Hugh Foster and his wife, Melanie, have chosen to live—for better or worse. The jury’s still out on that one!
Road’s End is comprised entirely of senior citizens whose kids have grown and left for greener pastures. Hugh, Melanie, and Bristol (one of the few sane people in town) are faced with a crumbling church in desperate need of repair and renovation, a dwindling congregation of opinionated, ornery senior citizens, and a camel—yes, a camel. And if that’s not enough, the trio and the rest of the Road’s End residents, are soon mired in danger and intrigue when a group of gun-toting drug dealers arrive in town, bent on killing the church handyman, and conspiring to ruin the doggonedest record-breaking blizzard the town has ever seen.
Poor drug dealers.

Deborah has an upcoming sequel to Misstep entitled Faux Pas. Here’s more of the hilarity you’ll find in Road’s End, Virginia.

What would you do if the President of the United States was attending your daughter’s wedding?

Panic. You’d panic. Add in a severe storm, crazy senior citizens who believe the POTUS lied his way into office, a crumbling, but historic church you happen to pastor, a cranky Secret Service agent, a four-year-old grandchild-to-be you know nothing about, and a son-in-law-to-be whose faith in the Lord has waned, and you’ve got yourself a humdinger of a wedding. Not to mention that same future son-in-law is a University of Michigan Wolverines fan (not a Michigan State Spartans fan) and prefers sweet tea to unsweetened. My gosh, what is the world coming to? Talk about a faux pas! Well, good luck with all that, Pastor Foster.

And Heaven help the president.

Stepping out of her humorous genre, Deborah also has another upcoming release entitled The Sin Seeker.

Sin Seeker, is the first book in my Sin Seeker series. The story deals with sin and the very real battle we’re in every day of our lives with the forces of darkness. Graves (Gray to his friends) Hollister is a discouraged social services employee tasked with the thankless job of keeping children safe from parents who don’t deserve them in the first place and who neglect and abuse them regularly. He starts hearing demonic voices shortly before a hideous tragedy occurs, after which he quits his job and sinks to the bottom of a bottle of anything he can find that’ll put him in an alcoholic stupor. He spends two months trying to obliterate his memories. Finally, he realizes he can’t; he must face them, so he enrolls in seminary and becomes a pastor. With his new role as pastor and his newfound ability to actually see the sin on the people God has tasked him with helping, Gray finds himself thrown head-first into a world of evil and demons, angels and miracles.

The Teacher Who Couldn’t Read

Years ago, as an elementary teacher, I attended a reading conference in Toronto, Ontario. I enjoyed the privilege of hearing keynote speaker, John Corcoran. At the conference, I bought his book, The Teacher Who Couldn’t Read and today treasure my autographed copy. It has graced my bookshelf for quite awhile, but when the idea for my novel Misty Hollow came about, I ran to my shelf, grabbed the book, and gave a victory cheer. His book was the perfect reference in creating my illiterate Appalachian hero, Joel Greenfield.

Corcoran describes an unbelievable story about how he graduated high school and college and actually taught history for seventeen years. At around fourth grade, he began to fall behind and compensated for his handicap by acting out. In high school, he excelled in athletics and was admired by faculty and friends. So how did he get by as a functional illiterate?

He devised clever ways of deception including cheating and lying. With his charismatic personality, he charmed others into reading books and documents to him. Once in college, he actually passed his test out the window to another student who took the exam for him. A favorite deception was claiming he forgot his glasses at home.

While teaching high school, he utilized discussions and debates where texts were never used. He even asked a student to read the morning bulletin to the class, though at the bottom it read “Please don’t let a student read this bulletin.”

He eventually married and had a daughter. He would “read” her bedtime stories by looking at the pictures and making up his own version.

Corcoran doesn’t place blame on the educational system but on his circumstances. Since he went to school in the 50s, educators have discovered more ways to help students with reading disorders. In his thirties, Corcoran finally found the courage to sign up for an adult literacy class and learned to read. He now supports literacy through the John Corcoran Foundation.

In writing Joel’s character, I borrowed some of Corcoran’s methods of compensation. Joel uses the glasses excuse, asks others to read for him, and employs deception such as taking his Bible to church and pretending he’s following along. Most valuable in writing his character were Corcoran’s descriptions of his emotional journey—the shame, frustration, and fear of being exposed.

For all readers with a heart for literacy, Corcoran’s book is a must read. In any case, it’s a fascinating tale. Thanks, Mr. Corcoran, for sharing your story with American. Like my fictional character, Joel Greenfield, many have profited by the telling of your journey.

About the Author:

An award-winning author, June Foster is a retired teacher with a BA in education and MA in counseling. June’s book Give Us This Day was a finalist in EPIC’s eBook awards and a finalist in the National Readers Choice Awards for best first book. Ryan’s Father was one of three finalists in the published contemporary fiction category of the Oregon Christian Writers Cascade Writing Contest and Awards. Deliver Us was a finalist in COTT’s Laurel Awards. June has written four novels for Desert Breeze Publishing. The Bellewood Series, Give Us This Day, As We Forgive, and Deliver Us, and Hometown Fourth of July. Ryan’s Father is published by WhiteFire Publishing. Red and the Wolf, a modern day retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, is available from Amazon.com. The Almond Tree series, For All Eternity, Echoes From the Past, What God Knew, and Almond Street Mission are available at Amazon.com. June enjoys writing stories about characters who overcome the circumstances in their lives by the power of God and His Word. Recently June has seen publication of Christmas at Raccoon Creek, Lavender Fields Inn, Misty Hollow, and Restoration of the Heart. Visit June at junefoster.com.

About Misty Hollow:

When two people are cultures apart, only God can bridge the gap.

Molly Cambridge arrives in the tiny Appalachian town of Misty Hollow intent upon bringing literacy to the area’s uneducated women, only to be met by opposition at every turn by the headstrong, unbending mayor. When she asks for use of Town Hall, he refuses her offer to teach without pay and turns her down flat saying he only allows village business conducted there.

Joel Greenfield, son of a poor dirt farmer, is illiterate. When he admits to his passion to turn the family farm into a dairy business, the obstacles are insurmountable. He couldn’t even read the manual on how to use farming machinery, much less generate the necessary capital. His father’s objections further frustrate his desires.

When Joel offers Molly use of the old barn on the Greenfield property, they discover an irresistible attraction for each other. But the mayor has plans of his own to break them up, send Molly back to Nashville, and seize the Greenfield farm for himself. Can Molly and Joel overcome the hurdles to fulfilling their dreams and find their way to each other? Only God has the answers.

Interview with June Foster, Author of Misty Hollow

Today’s guest in June Foster, the author of Misty Hollow. An award-winning author, June is a retired teacher with a BA in education and MA in counseling. June’s book Give Us This Day was a finalist in EPIC’s eBook awards and a finalist in the National Readers Choice Awards for best first book. Ryan’s Father was one of three finalists in the published contemporary fiction category of the Oregon Christian Writers Cascade Writing Contest and Awards. Deliver Us was a finalist in COTT’s Laurel Awards. June has written four novels for Desert Breeze Publishing. The Bellewood Series, Give Us This Day, As We Forgive, and Deliver Us, and Hometown Fourth of July. Ryan’s Father is published by WhiteFire Publishing. Red and the Wolf, a modern day retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, is available from Amazon.com. The Almond Tree series, For All Eternity, Echoes From the Past, What God Knew, and Almond Street Mission are available at Amazon.com. June enjoys writing stories about characters who overcome the circumstances in their lives by the power of God and His Word. Recently June has seen publication of Christmas at Raccoon Creek, Lavender Fields Inn, Misty Hollow, and Restoration of the Heart. Visit June at junefoster.com.

June, you and I have known each other for a while now, and I’m delighted to have you back with us. I have watched your career grow as you work hard to bring your stories to life, and I know that your books are the favorite of many readers. So, tell us the secret of being a prolific author.

Thank you for inviting me to your blog today and for your kind remarks. Indeed, we have known each other for quite a few years. I first met you through Scribes at ACFW when you were the moderator. I’ll always appreciate your patient instruction.

I am prolific in the sense that I’m presently working on book number fifteen and have only been writing since 2010. I credit any success to the Lord Who sent me on this journey. I didn’t write my first book until I was in my early sixties. I laugh and explain that God must’ve put me on the fast track to writing and publishing because He knew my time on earth wasn’t as long as my many author friends.

Misty Hollow is your newest release. Will you tell us a little about the story and about what led you to write it?

Misty Hollow is the story of a young teacher, Molly Cambridge, from Nashville who has a heart for teaching adults to read. She takes a position in the elementary school in Misty Hollow, but her primary goal is to open a learning center to teach adults to read. Misty Hollow is her ancestral home, and Molly had witnessed her paternal grandmother struggle with illiteracy, another motivation to teach adults.

Joel Greenfield is a dirt farmer who longs to turn his unproductive land into a thriving dairy farm. Only thing, he can’t read the manual on how to operative a milking machine.

When Molly and Joel meet, they find an immediate attraction, but Molly can never learn Joel’s secret—he’s illiterate.

Before I began writing, I taught elementary children and, of course, reading was a big part of their curriculum. As Molly told you, I attended a reading conference and had the privilege of hearing John Corcoran speak. His story of how he didn’t learn to read until his thirties touched me. So my author’s imagination set to work asking questions like what if an illiterate young farmer from the Appalachians fell in love with a teacher from the big city? Another theme I explored was Christian maturity. Joel and part of his family, though they couldn’t read the Bible, still loved the Lord. Christianity isn’t about how smart or rich we are, but about a life of humility. The Greenfield family in their small town of Misty Hollow typifies that quality.

Misty Hollow is a fictitious town in Tennessee, and I know that you visited the Smoky Mountains because you’ve been there with me a couple of times. Tell me what led you to the Appalachians as a backdrop for Misty Hollow?

I can remember a couple of adventures we had. Especially when we made a wrong turn and ended up high in the mountains. Only thing, we found a great place for lunch.

Oh, yes, we found our way from Atlanta, Georgia, to Waynesville, North Carolina, via a very sharp turn that I couldn’t remember ever being on my road home–because I’d read the sign that said “Highlands” as “Franklin.” After said curve we headed up one side of the mountain to Highlands, and back down the other side past Glennville Lake and into Sylva, North Carolina. But we had a good laugh and a great meal. So back to the question after my little reminiscing …

Yes, I’ve read articles and seen documentaries of how reading illiteracy is prevalent in the Appalachians so I figured this might be a good location for a story about illiteracy. Though the number of farms have dwindled in recent years, I decided to make my hero a dirt farmer. One only needs to look at photos of the Smoky Mountains to see the hazy, smoky mist that settles over the hills and valleys. Often those valleys or hollows feature a river or stream running through. Thus Misty Hollow came to life.

You’re a retired teacher, and I’m going to tell you for the first time, that if someone asked me, without my knowing, what you did before retirement, I would have guessed that you were an elementary teacher. You just have that curious way about you (I still laugh at our Florida alligator misadventure), and you have this caring and nurturing nature. I see that in your heroine, Molly. So, tell us, is there any part of you in Molly?

Yes, authors often see their characters through the own past experiences. Molly loves her eager, rambunctious third graders in Misty Hollow. She’s anxious to see their success as much as I did when I taught my little ones. But like Molly, I taught adults, as well. Not illiterate adults, but grown students who were learning to speak English. I desired to see their success in mastering the language the same way Molly wants her Appalachian students to read. So yeah, Molly is pretty much like me. Only thing, I didn’t fall in love with an illiterate man but a soldier in the Army.

If one of our readers knows someone who needs help learning to read, especially an adult who has struggled, do you, as a retired teacher or through your research for Misty Hollow have any advice or know of anywhere they can seek help?

Yes. There are many tutoring centers in communities throughout the US. Some are paid, but others are manned by volunteers. It’s only a matter of doing a bit of investigating. John Corcoran learned to read with a one-on-one tutor. Some require individual help, like John and Joel Greenfield. A tutor doesn’t always have to be a teacher by profession, but can be trained to help students. Nevertheless, the job requires an infinite amount of patience. If one goes to a reading center, the teaching materials are carefully selected for the appropriate age group. In Misty Hollow, Joel reads a book on a third grade level but a story that would appeal to adults.

One last question for you, June. What new and interesting characters are you writing about that we may soon be able to meet?

My work in progress is set in small town Alabama. Zack Lawrence is a young pastor who’s seen more than his share of tragedy. His pregnant wife suffered a pulmonary embolism, and he discovered her on the floor dead, the baby gone as well. To make matters more difficult, the church he’s pasturing must close the door for lack of parishioners. He blames himself and can’t move beyond the guilt holding him captive.

Ella Harris is a high school counselor with a heart for hurting teens. When Zack returned from seminary with a wife, her heart broke as she’s loved him since they both went to high school together.

This novel leans more toward a character study of hurting people and how God intervenes with His healing power.

That sounds like another excellent June Foster read. I look forward to it!

About Misty Hollow:

When two people are cultures apart, only God can bridge the gap.

Molly Cambridge arrives in the tiny Appalachian town of Misty Hollow intent upon bringing literacy to the area’s uneducated women, only to be met by opposition at every turn by the headstrong, unbending mayor. When she asks for use of Town Hall, he refuses her offer to teach without pay and turns her down flat saying he only allows village business conducted there.

Joel Greenfield, son of a poor dirt farmer, is illiterate. When he admits to his passion to turn the family farm into a dairy business, the obstacles are insurmountable. He couldn’t even read the manual on how to use farming machinery, much less generate the necessary capital. His father’s objections further frustrate his desires.

When Joel offers Molly use of the old barn on the Greenfield property, they discover an irresistible attraction for each other. But the mayor has plans of his own to break them up, send Molly back to Nashville, and seize the Greenfield farm for himself. Can Molly and Joel overcome the hurdles to fulfilling their dreams and find their way to each other? Only God has the answers.

 

Character Interview: Molly Cambridge from June Foster’s Misty Hollow

Today’s guests on Inner Source is the heroine on June Foster’s latest release, Misty Hollow teacher, Molly Cambridge. Molly, welcome.

I’m so glad to have you here with us today. Will you tell our readers a little about yourself and what has brought you to Misty Hollow, Tennessee?

Thanks, Fay. It’s a privilege to appear on your blog. I’m from the metropolitan area of Nashville. I trained to become an elementary teacher, but if I hadn’t allowed my controlling father to dictate my life, I would’ve learned how to work with illiterate adults. My dad insisted I teach little kids, like my mother and grandmother before her. He said it was a Cambridge tradition, and I didn’t argue with him. But truthfully, my heart goes out to the dear people of the Appalachian Mountains, especially those who are limited by their lack of reading skills. I’ve read a lot on my own and feel qualified to teach adults. I’m planning on opening a learning center in the Misty Hollow Town Hall. Only thing—the stubborn mayor doesn’t quite seem open to the venture.

While you are from Tennessee, what do you find different about Misty Hollow from your hometown of Nashville?

The after school and weekend activities of children in Misty Hollow as compared to those in Nashville is the first thing that comes to mind. My students back home used to play with video games, iPads, and watch TV all weekend. Here the children romp in the forests, discovering ways to make up games using sticks and rocks. They go frog gigging, play hide-and-seek, and learn how to milk a cow.

But another big difference is the ethos of the adults. I ran into a group of men who expect their wives to remain at home, cooking, cleaning, and caring for the children. Literacy instruction wasn’t a high priority. Not all Misty Hollow residents hold to this mindset, however.

Another big difference is the availability of groceries. In Nashville, the mega stores sold every kind of food item imaginable as well as providing a hair salon, a fast food restaurant, a floral shop, and financial institution all under one roof. But I’m partial to the grocery in Misty Hollow because my uncle owns it. He sells homemade items Aunt Sue makes like bar-be-que, boiled peanuts, collard greens, and buttermilk bread.

You champion the cause of teaching adults who struggled to learn to read for whatever reason. When you meet someone who doesn’t know how to read, what problems do you see that they encounter that most of us take for granted as simple tasks, and how do they manage to work around their problems?

When we go to a restaurant, we pick up the menu and read the items available to order. We couldn’t possibly comprehend how difficult it is for an illiterate adult. They have no idea what’s offered. My friend, Joel, compensates by sniffing the air and identifying what’s cooking—like fried chicken. Too, he asks what the special for the day is and orders that. Another trick he uses is saying he forgot his glasses and asks the server to read some of the entrées to him.

When we’re driving and need to locate a certain street but aren’t sure how many blocks away it is, we watch the signs. Not so for illiterate adults. People who can’t read are granted the ability to obtain a driver’s license, but they still encounter difficulties in maneuvering the area, especially if they’re driving in a new environment. Again, Joel compensates by observing the country side. If he’s visiting another farm, he can look for houses, barns, etc.

Reading billboards is impossible and only the pictures give a clue as to the nature of the ad.

Joel once described the problem as if a magic carpet had transported him to China, and he had to decipher the written language there.

What would your advice be to a reader of this blog who knows someone who cannot read? What would you recommend they do for this person, especially one who is timid about letting someone know of their illiteracy?

My author, June Foster, once attended a national reading conference in Canada and the guest speak was John Corcoran. She told me what happened. Amazingly enough, John went all the way through college with an extremely limited reading ability. His book, The Teacher Who Couldn’t Read, delves into the unbelievable journey. Finally, in his thirties, with a private tutor, John mastered the ability to read. I would tell the friend who can’t read about John’s story and explain how it is nothing to be embarrassed about. Around 32 million adults in the US can’t read at a functional level, so I’d remind the person they aren’t alone. There are many local literacy centers, and you could ask the non-reader if they’d like you to help them enroll.

One more question for you, this time as a teacher to a parent. What do you suggest a parent do to encourage a child who might be slow to pick up on reading?

My author’s own daughter had a problem with reading, and she told me about it. In third grade, her daughter still couldn’t read, so my author tutored her privately. That didn’t work as her daughter was a stubborn girl, so my author appointed her older daughter as a tutor. That helped and today her daughter is a teacher herself. But not every parent feels comfortable tutoring. So, I’d suggest enrolling your student in an after school literacy center. Another option is to talk to the classroom teacher and request your child be tested for a reading disorder such as dyslexia. Public schools have special classes for these students. I’d suggest parents keep their child in prayer and remain patient. Never under any circumstances belittle your child for not reading on the level with their peers.

Thank you, Molly. Your story has a unique backdrop and message, and I know that the readers will enjoy their trip to Misty Hollow. I look forward to speaking with your author, June Foster, on Wednesday.

About Misty Hollow:

When two people are cultures apart, only God can bridge the gap.

Molly Cambridge arrives in the tiny Appalachian town of Misty Hollow intent upon bringing literacy to the area’s uneducated women, only to be met by opposition at every turn by the headstrong, unbending mayor. When she asks for use of Town Hall, he refuses her offer to teach without pay and turns her down flat saying he only allows village business conducted there.

Joel Greenfield, son of a poor dirt farmer, is illiterate. When he admits to his passion to turn the family farm into a dairy business, the obstacles are insurmountable. He couldn’t even read the manual on how to use farming machinery, much less generate the necessary capital. His father’s objections further frustrate his desires.

When Joel offers Molly use of the old barn on the Greenfield property, they discover an irresistible attraction for each other. But the mayor has plans of his own to break them up, send Molly back to Nashville, and seize the Greenfield farm for himself. Can Molly and Joel overcome the hurdles to fulfilling their dreams and find their way to each other? Only God has the answers.

More About the Author:

An award-winning author, June Foster is a retired teacher with a BA in education and MA in counseling. June’s book Give Us This Day was a finalist in EPIC’s eBook awards and a finalist in the National Readers Choice Awards for best first book. Ryan’s Father was one of three finalists in the published contemporary fiction category of the Oregon Christian Writers Cascade Writing Contest and Awards. Deliver Us was a finalist in COTT’s Laurel Awards. June has written four novels for Desert Breeze Publishing. The Bellewood Series, Give Us This Day, As We Forgive, and Deliver Us, and Hometown Fourth of July. Ryan’s Father is published by WhiteFire Publishing. Red and the Wolf, a modern day retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, is available from Amazon.com. The Almond Tree series, For All Eternity, Echoes From the Past, What God Knew, and Almond Street Mission are available at Amazon.com. June enjoys writing stories about characters who overcome the circumstances in their lives by the power of God and His Word. Recently June has seen publication of Christmas at Raccoon Creek, Lavender Fields Inn, Misty Hollow, and Restoration of the Heart. Visit June at junefoster.com.

BLIND HATRED: A DEFINITION AND A CONFESSION by Kathleen E. Friesen

My mother would never allow her children to say, “I hate you!” No matter how heated the argument (and with five kids, there were plenty of quarrels), she would remind us that hatred means a desire for death. “Do you really want (brother/sister) to die?” No, of course not. Our heads would hang, and we’d (eventually) make up.

Mom’s definition wasn’t far off the one The Advanced English Dictionary gives for hatred: The emotion of intense dislike; a feeling of dislike so strong that it demands action.

Trevor Hiebert, the hero in Redemption’s Whisper, harbors hatred toward a former foster father and has vowed to exact revenge. His hatred is understandable, but it blinds him and hurts those close to him.

The Bible tells us in 1 John 2:11, “But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” That describes Trevor so well.

It also describes me.

I know what it feels like to hate, to wish death upon someone I knew. When I discovered that the father of a two-year-old girl I loved dearly had sexually traumatized her and her equally cherished siblings, my vision went dark and my heart turned to hatred. I wanted this “pillar of the church” to pay. I wished all the evil he’d committed would turn on him and destroy him.

Like Trevor, I could not forgive the culprit on my own. In fact, the only way I could forgive was to step back, admit my inability, and release him—and my anger—to the God who knows. Only He can move a heart to repentance.

Only He could change my heart to the point where I can pray for that man, not for punishment but for healing of the wounds that provoked him to harm innocents. It’s a prayer I have to repeat each time I think of him. May God have mercy on us both.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9)

Thank you, Lord Jesus, for Your redeeming grace.

About the Author:

Kathleen Friesen writes contemporary stories of faith that overcomes tough trials and deep heartaches. Her desire is for her readers to see themselves in the characters of her stories, and to realize that Jesus Christ is the true hero. Kathleen spent her childhood in the Pacific Northwest and, after marrying the man of her dreams, survived the first thirty years of married life on the Canadian prairies, where they raised three fantastic children. Now she and her patient husband, Ron, live in the beautiful Okanagan Valley of British Columbia.

More About Redemption’s Whisper:

Desperate to escape her past, Hayley Blankenship flies from Toronto to the Saskatoon home of Pastor Dave and Lydia Harris, the only people who may be able to help her. If she doesn’t find a reason to hope, she may give in to the temptation to end it all. If only someone could love her, in spite of what she’s done.

Trevor Hiebert aces the interview for his dream job in Toronto, but he’s torn. His beloved parents need him, and while he doesn’t want to let them down, he craves the affirmation he hopes to find in the big city. But on the flight home to Saskatoon, he meets an intriguing, gorgeous redhead with dark secrets of her own. Can these two troubled souls gain the peace they need—and in the process, find love?

About Nila’s Hope:

Just when her career as a carpenter and a relationship with handsome co-worker Will Jamison are within reach, Nila Black’s abusive ex-boyfriend is released from prison. He’s out of jail, out for revenge, and making promises she knows he’ll keep. Nila will do whatever it takes to save her friends from the evil that will come their way if she doesn’t put distance between them-even if it means abandoning her new-found faith. It will take a miracle and an angelic messenger to show Nila that God is her greatest protector. He has never left her side, and He wants only the best for her and for the man she loves.

Did you miss the Inner Source interview with Hayley Blankenship, the heroine from Redemption’s WhisperIf so, you can read it here, and Monday’s interview with Kathleen can be found here.

Inner Source also previously interviewed Nila and Kathleen regarding Nila’s Hope.