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Friday, May 28, 2021

The Glorious Month of May

I've been absent from this blog for quite awhile--2020 was rough. You don't need me to tell you that, though. It kind of carried over into 2021 and I disappeared into my garden, whenever possible. I'm emerging now, rather like a mole from its burrow or a butterfly from its cocoon. Better imagery. The stirrings to write again are nudging me as I remember how I used to be. Not just before 2020, but before my dad died (end of December, 2018). Before a lot of things. Before daughter Alison had cancer (2020) and all that meant for her and the rest of us. She's doing great now, thank God, with frequent checks.

Through it all, the garden has been a balm for my spirit. I'm nurtured, inspired, and a more creative person from the days spent among living things. My latest creative outlet is making fairy gardens. I'm using every possible container I find or acquire. It's kind of like playing with dolls again, in a way. I love the little fairies and creatures I add to my assembly of plants.

One big push this spring, apart from the garden, has been to go through and clear out my parents' house. Mom is living with my sister, Catherine, now and Alison and her husband are buying the place. They're into repairing and remodeling which requires an empty house, so the rush was on. Going through everything I've known my whole life (plus new discoveries from the distant past) is a highly emotional journey. My folks collected a museum worth of belongings, plus Dad was the family historian, so he inherited a wealth, as did Mom. She has albums, journals, books, etc., from the missionary side, especially those who served in China. Here, I add that I spent my early childhood in Taiwan while my parents taught English at Tunghai University, outside of Taichung. And yes, I remember. Then we moved to Bristol, Tennessee, where Dad taught at King's College, onward to Knoxville to get his doctorate in English at the University of Tennessee. Then back to his and my birthplace, the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, where he taught at Bridgewater College and mom did a variety of things.

Each step of the way is well recorded. I come from a long line of people who put pen to paper and operated the earliest cameras ever made. A lot. 

We're sorting through letters, journals, albums, pictures...many of which go way back into the 1800's. We've got the major wars covered, of course. Even colonial America. For instance, on my dining room table is a box filled with the letters my Grandfather Churchman wrote to my grandmother over a hundred years ago, before, after, and during WW1. My father saved them, and so, I think, must 1. But where to put stuff?

Fortunately, Dad labeled everything or we'd often be in ignorance. One simple hand carved wooden vase turned out to have far more significance. I've relocated many items to the garden and figured this would make a good garden feature, until I turned the vase over. Dad inked a message that this vase was carved by the Japanese American father of my Grandma's Mack's friend who gave it to her as a thank you for taking in his daughter during WW11. Both Grandmother and Grandfather Mack (Mom's side) rescued the young woman from a Japanese internment camp where her father spent the duration of the war. 

We even found the album our Great-Great Grandfather George W. Finley (Dad's side) put together that includes the 'invitation' he received to join the Confederate army and fight for Virginia. He was promised an officer's rank, if he came willingly. Considering he ended up in Picket's Charge at Gettysburg, miraculously survived the horrific battle, his subsequent capture and imprisonment, he might have been advised to turn that offer down. He did his duty, though. Men in that age were all about honor and duty. Maybe that's a good thing. I think so. 

We can learn a great deal from the past. And from the garden.

 (My letter writing Grandfather Churchman and his beloved wife, my grandmother)

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Riding a Stone Boat

by Judy Ann Davis

If you’ve ever planted a garden or dug in a flower bed or walked on a plowed farm field, you know how those pesky stones poke up unexpectedly from the earth. 

May is the month when farmers plow, harrow, and sow their crops here in the Northeast. Winter, and the snows it brings, has finally disappeared. Now that rainy April has shut off the water spigot in the sky, the drier fields await attention, and their only gift to the farmer is stones. 

When the last glacier came down from the Arctic region, it kneaded stones into the soil at varying depths. And when the mile-high ice sheet eventually melted away, it deposited rocks which had been embedded in the ice. When the fields are plowed for planting, the frost action often lifts these rocks to the surface. 

For many farmers, this meant the back-breaking work of picking these stones before planting could begin. How did they do it? With stone boats, also called a drag or skid boat. 

A stone boat is a long, low, flat sled-like contraption, often homemade and consisting of wooden planks mounted across a pair of wide runners similar to a sleigh. Some are built with a turned up nose to make dragging it across the field easier. It’s surmised that this upturned prow reminded early farmers of a boat gliding through water. The stone boat in theory glides over the soil.  

In the early days, stone boats were pulled by horses. Later, they were dragged over the fields by tractors. Our stone boat was hooked to our Farmall tractor with chains, probably the same hitch that was used when my father farmed as a boy. 

I remember picking stone with Dad on a field where we usually planted corn. The back-breaking technique of the job has not changed over the years. You pick up the larger stones and place them around the outside of the boat and throw the smaller ones inside. 

Once the stone boat is filled, it’s taken to the back or low end of the field where the hard work of touching each stone is once again needed to unload the boat. I should mention that some thought does go into this simple tiresome process. You must decide where you’ll deposit the stones before you begin. Stone boats can’t be backed up. If you take a drive into the country, you’ll often see these “stone piles” alongside farmer’s fields where a piece of land has been cleared. However, stone piles have now dwindled as construction companies request the crude stone to use in building houses and replicating stone walls.

Is there any joy in picking rocks? Only one. Once the boat is loaded, you get to hop on and ride the boat to the stone pile where you unload it. 

                                                        Judy's Amazon Author Page Link

Saturday, May 22, 2021


 by Rain Trueax

Due to drought, not many wildflowers this year; but there are some cactus blooms
 When this is published, we'll be on the road heading north with a new-to-us vacation trailer. While we likely will have internet some places, it's always dicey and then we get to the farm-- there will not be much of any. The trip to the farm is about getting winter hay, fertilizing fields, fixing fences, etc. etc. The farmhouse will have occupants; hence we will be living in the trailer, which means no cable TV (not that I care), no cell phone (I care a lot), and dicey on any internet connections while we are in one of those places without coverage. 

The trailer is now set up with desks for both of us to write-- but the connection to the larger world is dicey at best.This will be the first time staying in a vacation trailer for that long...


This means I won't be able to do this blog for the summer and early fall. If someone takes over the 22nd, I'll totally understand. Otherwise, I'll probably pick it back up in October or November. Life is full of changes and mine is about to have a lot of them as in living in a vacation trailer with three unhappy cats while Ranch Boss is off taking care of what ranch bosses do as he helps our son with that work. I'm trying to feel positive about it and not depressed but that's not easy.

Someday we might get what was my parents' mobile home upgraded enough to stay there when we come north for the ranch work. *fingers crossed* It's now been unoccupied for a lot of years. Alas, for now, a very different life awaits me even though it's on property we have owned since 1977. I should add our son would've moved out of the house. We didn't want that as our goal is for him to take over the land and home :) Transitions.

Thursday, May 20, 2021



Sunday, May 20, 2018

Competing For A Cowboy -- Sibling Rivalry

Laurean Brooks

Hello out there, fans of Smart Girls Read Romance blog. I've given considerable thought to what to post this month and finally settled on a topic.  Because it's May, and my favorite TV cowboy will celebrate his birthday on May 30th,  I decided to devote this blog post to him.

Since heart-throb Clint Walker, better known as Cheyenne, arrived on the screen in 1963, my heart has never been quite the same. My sister Jewell and I fought over this handsome, lanky, and muscular cowboy. Every fall, Jewell and I watched for the premieres of new TV Westerns. We would watch the first shows then decide who got to claim which cowboy. We divvied them up equally. This method worked out well with Bonanza, The Virginian, and the other Westerns.

Until . . .Cheyenne Bodie trotted in on a stallion, flashing his crooked grin right at me (Jewell insists he was grinning at her). Alas, our carefully made-up rules flew out the window. One look at this cowboy brought out the competitive spirit in two normally agreeable sisters. Neither of us gave in. When I yelled, “He's mine, I saw him first!” she would yell back, “No, I saw him first!” (Not.)

After weeks of debate that did nothing to settle the matter, we knew the only option was to share Cheyenne. At night, after everyone was in bed, we lay awake in our twin beds and took turns imagining scenarios then relating them, about life in the mid-1800s and our respective courtship with Cheyenne Bodie. Usually, we incorporated silly scenes that sent us both into hysterics.

The trouble was, Mama was a light sleeper. If her bedroom had been anywhere but across the hall, our giggles wouldn't have awakened her. But, with our luck, that's exactly what happened.

She'd yell from her bed, “If you girls don't quieten down and go to sleep, I'm coming in there. And you are NOT going to like it!”

I hate to admit this, but a couple of times she did march across the hall. When she stood over us, between our beds,  pointing her finger at us, we pretended to be fast asleep. It saved us, but my heart beat so loud I was sure she heard it. After, “Okay, this is your last warning!” she swept out of our room and back to hers. Out of sheer terror, we shut our mouths and willed ourselves to fall asleep.

Clint Walker will turn ninety this month. I can't believe how fast the time has flown. I still have the glossy picture of him (from his fan club) in a billfold I carried through junior high. It's even autographed, “Best Wishes.” And for what it's worth, Jewell does NOT have his picture.

Eat your heart out, Sis.

I hope you enjoyed this post. If you did, please leave a comment and tell us who your favorite heart-throb was. Some of us were born decades later, so we will have varying ideas on which guys made the list. Still, 'm sure our blog readers would love to compare our crushes with theirs.


If you enjoy a romance with multi-faceted characters who get themselves into  humorous situations, along with an intriguing plot, BENEATH A MACON MOON is the story for you. 

Click on link below.

Beneath A Macon Moon by [Brooks, Laurean]
When Jaela Andrews learns distressing news, she packs her bags and heads to Macon. But if she thinks she will find solitude and a quiet place to rethink her life in the Victorian home, she is wrong. 

Enter Eric Larsen, the Handyman, who is renovating Jaela's refuge. Sparks fly over the noisy tools. And who could guess the hilarious situations they fall into? You will laugh, you will cry.

Can a rich girl find common ground with a simple carpenter? The chemistry and attraction are strong, but is their mutual love enough to make it work?

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Summer's Coming by @JoanReeves #SmartGirlsReadRomance

Summer is coming, and you know what that means!

Vacations, snow cones, iced tea, picnics, ice cream cones, and trips to the beach.

If you're lucky enough to live near a lake or an ocean, you're probably already shopping for this year's swimsuit.

A trip to the beach was a vacation for me when the kids were young. I could lie back and keep an eye on them while they built sand castles, played in the waves, laughed, and screamed using their outdoor voice.

Oh, those were fun times. Another great thing about spending a day at the beach was reading. Whoopee!

Beach Books = Summer Fun

Yes, Darling Hubby and I took turns keeping an eye on the kids so I could read a big thick romance novel.

Unfortunately, this was before the Kindle was a gleam in anyone's eye. I'd go home with sand in my paperback and buckled pages from the kids running up and grabbing my book.

There are many devices on which you can read ebooks now, but my favorite is still my Kindle because sunshine doesn't "wash out" the pages. An iPad is like that too because it's backlit, but my Kindle is small enough I can drop it in my beach bag.

Breaking News

Last summer, I created a fictional beach called Last Chance Beach, located in an island of your imagination. I said, Last Chance Beach was where dreams go to live again. I published a box set of 14 short stories under the title, Last Chance Beach: Summer's End.

My friend Caroline Clemmons wrote The Man in Gull Cottage for the box set. The embedded link takes you to her story on Amazon Kindle.

There was such an amazing response to that island setting in each book that I worked on the concept with some author friends so Last Chance Beach could "grow" to enable us to write single title romance novels using that setting. The result is Last Chance Beach Romance, a series of full-length romance novels united by the setting of Last Chance Beach. A new Last Chance Beach Romance will be published every 6-8 weeks.

Deceptively Yours is the first Last Chance Beach Romance, and it's available for pre-order now. This is a steamy Romantic Suspense about lost love, second chances, and redemption.

Blurbing the Book

Tatiana was twelve when her mother died, leaving her alone in the world. Her cousin took her in. What seemed like an act of kindness was a scheme to use her artistic talent to cheat wealthy men who were least likely to display art they thought had been obtained illegally.

For six years, her life offered nothing but fear and danger—then she met Declan. He gave her love, passion, and hope for a future together.

In an act of breathtaking courage, she defied her cousin. He responded with a vicious assault. A chance meeting with an elderly man saved her and gave her a second chance at life. 

Ten years later, Tatiana has done everything in her power to repay her benefactor, to prove she’s worthy of the care and fatherly love he’s given her, and to become a better person.

But she’s never forgotten the man who taught her the meaning of love and desire—the man she loved and lost. 

Destiny hands her a second chance at love when she and Declan meet again, but she resists him and the love he offers. She’s not the girl he fell in love with. She never was. She can’t undo the lies she told, the secrets she’s kept—and continues to keep.

Declan knows a devastating secret lies at the heart of Tatiana’s refusal to accept him. He patiently waits for her to tell him the truth about what happened ten years ago, but his patience ends when he suspects she’s in danger. Will what he discovers kill his love for her?

Will Tatiana find the courage to reveal her secrets before it’s too late? Will she accept the love and intimacy she finds in Declan's arms?

Deceptively Yours, a passionate romantic suspense about a woman and a man who are destined to be together, is set against the island paradise of Last Chance Beach, where dreams go to live again.

Passionate? That means very sexy, but NOT erotica. If you don't care for romance novels with sex, some of the other Last Chance Beach Romance novels will be your cup of tea.

Deceptively Yours is at the New Release price of 99¢ for the first few weeks. It publishes on May 23. If you grab a copy and love it, please leave a review.

Subscribers are the first to know about New Books and Giveaways.

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you'll receive a link to a free romance ebook.
(The free book link is fixed.
If you have any problems, please let me know.)
Joan @ JoanReeves dot com


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Friday, May 14, 2021

The Games People Play by Bea Tifton

My Sunday School class has been Zooming every other week for months. When we first started, after the lockdown had begun, two things became apparent.  1. We were not going anywhere, and 2. We were running out of things to discuss.  One can only yell, “Hey, you’re on mute!” so many times in an evening before everyone needs to move on.

So, we began to follow themes. Here are some of the questions we answered and my own contributions.  I am soooooo over Zoom, but we actually had some pretty fun conversations, and I know much more about my fellow classmates, even friends I’ve known for years.  We have one professor who would compile our submissions into clever presentations. 

 Send a Picture of You as a Baby:I was bald as an egg with a clueless expression on my face. The hair came in, but the clueless expression returns more often than I'd like.

Send a Picture of You in the 1970s: Since I’m the youngest member it didn’t take people long to guess. Christmas Eve, 1970, age two. I’d had a big day, but not as big as my mother’s hair.

Show and Tell: I mean, really, do any of us really ever outgrow that? I showed a ration book from WWII I’d gotten with three coupons still in it and a scrapbook compiled by a lady in 1910 who was a student at the Women’s Normal College in Denton, Texas, which later became the University of North Texas. A lady found it in a garbage heap at the curb and gave it to me because I earned my Master’s in Library Science from UNT. I’d have loved to have seen the rest of the stuff she found!


And, of course, Snovid 2020, when it snowed so much the entire electric grid in Texas came within six minutes of actually going down, possibly for months. We focused on the pretty pictures each of us had taken. I also included a picture of some unidentified tracks. The consensus of the group was that these are dinosaur tracks, but I disagree. Everyone knows they hate cold weather. 

 We played many more, but some were more fun than others. I love looking at family photos and hearing stories, so those were my favorites. It’s amazing how much I learned about people with whom I’ve been friends for years. Sunday School has resumed in person as of this past weekend, but I’m not going until we reach herd immunity as I have some chronic health problems. It will be nice to see everyone in person again eventually, although I will miss the games we played. I’ve got this great idea for another one…