Curling Up with a Book Weather

Although winter doesn’t officially start until mid-December, we’re definitely feeling the season’s approach here in the Appalachian mountains. Tuesday’s forecast high is 25–eek! There are a few spots of color still lingering on the mostly bare trees, but it’s clear that fall is waning fast. The wind is growing more fierce and my overstuffed reading chair with its cozy throw is looking more and more inviting.

Time to do some serious reading!

Here’s what’s in my stack of things to read as winter begins to nose around the house and sneak through the door every time we open it:

  • Secrets of a Charmed Life – Susan Meissner (I’m nearly finished and it’s FABULOUS.)
  • Love’s Fortune – Laura Frantz
  • Shrewd: Daring to Live the Startling Command of Jesus – Rick Lawrence
  • Lizzy & Jane – Katherine Reay
  • Out of the Storm: A Novella – Jody Hedlund

An embarrassment of riches! Of course, my stack is even taller, but these are the ones at the top. I get nervous if I ever find myself without something to read “next.”  So what’s in your stack of books for winter reading? What have you read lately that you’d recommend?

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Appalachian Thursday–Civil War Veterans


The cemetery were quite a few Phillips were laid to rest.

In honor of Veterans Day this week, I thought I’d reach back a little further and honor some of the Civil War veterans in my family. I’ve already written about my most direct descendant, David Phillips, so this time I’m going to share some of David’s first cousins. The sons of William and Mehitable Gould Phillips.

Franklin – The eldest son was a member of Co. E, Sixth West Virginia Cavalry, late Third Infantry. He was wounded and captured, but lived to father ten children by two wives. He died November 26, 1899.

Herbert (Cudge) – The fourth son was taken prisoner at Franklin in Pendleton County on May 25, 1862. He was sent to Libbey Prison and was never seen again. He had one child–Jerome.

James – A member of Co. E, Third West Virginia Infantry, James was killed at the Battle of Cross Keys, Virginia. It was around the same time Franklin and Cudge were taken prisoner.

Lafayette – Another member of Co. E, Third West Virginia Infantry, Lafayette survived the war.  He married Elizabeth Cogar and had seven children. He died November 13, 1907.

Lothrop – His first enlistment was in Co. E, First West Virginia Light Artillery. He re-enlisted in the First West Virginia Cavalry. He survived the war and had eight children.

Mortimer – Somehow, Mortimer ended up in the Sixth Illinois Infantry. He died February 28, 1885, in Illinois.

In 1976, Mona Phillips Morgan wrote this:

The New England patriotism of the Phillips family was renewed in its Upshur County branch during the Civil War. We are proud to say no Upshur County Phillips had to be drafted in that war. There are thirteen Phillips names listed.

Most of the Phillipses were fond of hunting and fishing. They did not strive for wealth although they lived well, and had plenty to eat and wear. They were honest, law-abiding people who always stood for the right and were ready to defend and protect the flag of our country.

They had a common purpose, that of building a nation under God. They had high hopes for their descendants.

As do I.

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Riding Shotgun with a WWII Vet

WWII PilotOur neighbor and good friend Bill is a WWII fighter pilot. He’s also 93. Recently, he invited us to go to dinner with him and we were delighted to accept. He said he’d pick us up and we’d go get a steak–great.

Oh, wait. Did I mention he’s 93? And that he planned to drive us? I was nervous as we started out, me in the passenger seat and my husband in back. I mean, no one’s reflexes are that great after 90–right?

But as we drove along chatting, Bill driving the curvy mountain road with one hand on the wheel, I remembered his stories. He was a fighter pilot, after all, and while he hasn’t flown a plane for quite a few years, he once did. I’ve seen the picture of him standing on the wing of Fickle Flossie. He told us he inherited the plane from a soldier who got to go home and while the painting of scantily clad Flossie was a bit risqué, he opted to keep it.

We made it to the restaurant without mishap and after a good dinner and great conversation he chauffeured us home again. I’d given up being nervous by then. This is a man who risked his life for our country–for the American people–for you and me. I can’t think of anyone I’d rather ride shotgun with.

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Appalachian Thursday–WV Election Exceptions

Saira BlairIf you’re from West Virginia, you never really give up being a West Virginian. You root for the WVU Mountaineers. You celebrate the state’s birthday (June 20). You know and will happily sing the state song (Oh, Those WV Hills). And you keep up with what’s happening back home.

Which means this past Tuesday was mighty interesting for me!

As my husband and I kept up with the races in NC, I also checked those in WV now and again. With the feeling that really, if I’m from the state and care about it as much as I do, I should still get a vote. Oh well.

Now, WV has long been a blue state. Although a largely conservative blue state. (We like to be different.) But as of this past election cycle the Mountain State is turning red. I suspect this is primarily due to the President’s policies relating to coal. Mining is a complex issue, but if you want to be elected in WV, you don’t mess with coal or associate with anyone who does.

But it’s not just that the pendulum is swinging–it’s HOW it’s swinging. The new senator from WV, Shelley Moore Capito, is the first-ever female senator from my home state. And she’s the first Republican senator since 1958–nearly sixty years.

Then there’s Saira Blair, who is now the youngest person in the WV House of Delegates. Are you ready for this? She’s 18. She beat out the 66-year-old Republican incumbent in the primary when she was 17. She plans to defer her spring semester at WVU to attend the legislature’s 60-day session.

I try not to talk politics much (I’ll stick with religion), but this election cycle in the Mountain State was just too exceptional to skip. Regardless of whether you’re red, blue, or some shade of purple, these are interesting days.

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When is busy too busy?

FamilyA show of hands please–who out there is busy?

Ah-ha. I see a lot of hands. And I hear a lot of friends, family members, and co-workers who share tales of their busy-ness with me. And I tell quite a few of my own.

Two members of a missionary family from Turkey spoke at church yesterday. Dad and one of his adopted Turkish daughters came to talk with our church before their return to the mission field.

The daughter is 17. She’s poised, lovely, well-spoken, and an all-around delight. After the service, church members gathered around the table to share lunch with father and daughter. We talked about a variety of topics including the differences between Turkey and America. The daughter commented on how busy everyone in America is. She added that while people in Turkey might be just as busy, they don’t let on. If a visitor comes, they stop what they are doing for tea and a visit. Often a long visit.

Which set me to thinking. What am I busy about? Oh, good things, surely. My job, projects at church, writing and promoting my novels–the list goes on and on. Okay, so I could spend a bit less time on Facebook. Okay, so I could give up television entirely and be none the worse for it. But what about the important things.

I often get into such knots over my to-do list. But I rarely stop to consider what would happen if I didn’t check everything off. If I’m honest, there are very few (like, not any) life-or-death items on that list. If I don’t get the Christmas ask letter out on the date that’s on my calendar . . . nothing terrible will happen. If I fail to make a fabulous dessert for the ladies’ meeting at church . . . no one will mind. If I go one day over on my writing deadline . . . the world will not end.

But what if, when a friend called, I stopped what I was doing to listen? What if, when a child lingered in my office, I gave her my full attention? What if, when I travel to see my family, I left my laptop at home? What if I put people at the top of my to-do list.

I really, really, really wanted to finish the first draft of my third novel yesterday. But I also knew it had been too long since I visited Lawrence and Mabel, an older couple who can’t get out much. His health isn’t good and she lost her eyesight last December. I LOVE these people–salt of the earth folks with great stories and sweet hearts.

It was so tempting to wait and visit them another day, after I’d met my deadline. But instead I hauled myself over there and sat with them for a while. And it was delightful. And they were thankful. And my spirit was filled.

I finished the manuscript that evening, refreshed and ready to spill out a story of faith. I’d have to say I was better for putting people at the top of my list. Now, to do that each and every day . . .


Posted in Church, Family, Friends, Love, Writing | Tagged , , | 13 Comments

Appalachian Thursday–Until the Harvest

My publisher sent me the cover art for Until the Harvest, book #2 in the Appalachian Blessings series, some weeks ago. And all I could do was gaze upon it, longing to show it to everyone I know. The rule of thumb is–don’t share the cover art until readers can order the book. Or, to put it another way, don’t create a demand you can’t fulfill.

Well, as of yesterday evening, Until the Harvest is available for pre-order through several major retailers. So here it is. Book #2.

Until the HarvestIsn’t it GORGEOUS?!? When I saw the cover of Miracle in a Dry Season I really liked it, but kept thinking that it would be more appropriate if that apron were full of apples or speckled brown eggs. Peaches always seemed so very Southern and I write Appalachian (which is a whole other thing–ask anyone from West Virginia or Eastern Kentucky). So here are my eggs and they are PERFECT. Plus that shade of blue. Sigh.

Of course, the real test is what’s beyond the cover. Here’s the summary:

When a family tragedy derails Henry Phillips’s college studies, he’s left unmoored and feeling abandoned. Although Henry tries to find escape in bad company, the only things that can tamp down his anger and grief are the family farm, his fiddle, and sweet but unusual pre-teen Mayfair Hoffman.

Unfortunately, Mayfair’s older sister, Margaret, with the freckles and cute, turned-up nose, has the opposite effect. Worse, she’s his grandmother’s housekeeper and helper, so she’s always around and ready to push his buttons. At first he thinks she doesn’t care about his loss, before beginning to understand she’s facing her own struggles. Mayfair’s health and unique gift sit at the heart of those worries, and Henry and Margaret soon find themselves relying on each other as both Henry’s future and Mayfair’s life are put at risk.

Until the Harvest releases May 5, 2015. Can’t wait to hear what you think!

Posted in Appalachian, Miracles, Reading, Waiting, Writing | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Vacation–A Writer’s Definition

fawn at pondWhen I was a kid, vacation meant time away from school. It meant a trip to the West Virginia State Fair or Sea World or the beach. It meant fun and freedom!

When I was first married vacation meant time away with my man. It meant time to travel back home to see my family. It meant time away from work.

Today, vacation often means time to write. Time to do my other job while putting the demands of my work at the children’s home on the back burner for a while. It means time to escape to a world of my own creation.

That’s what this week is all about. I’ve had a few little vacations here and there this year to go to conferences, visit family, and just loll around in my pajamas. But this week is all about finishing book #3.

The funny thing is, book #3–The Memory of Drowning–was written, oh, seven or so years ago. It was my first manuscript and as such has been “done” more times than I can count. But now it’s time to truly whip it into shape as the third installment of the Appalachian Blessings series.

And guess what? Turns out it’s easier to write a book from scratch than to go back and “fix” a manuscript I wrote when I had more enthusiasm than good sense. Oy. I mean, stuff has happened! Book #3 is set in 2008 and I now have 60+ years of back story to keep in mind as I edit the living daylights out of this manuscript.

Nonetheless, I’m excited to tell this story. I’m eager for you to meet Perla and Casewell’s granddaughter, Ella. I’m thrilled to walk with her as she travels a journey of faith that’s none too easy. You know, just like the rest of us.

Wish me well. Pray for me. I have a story to tell and I want to do it WELL.

Posted in Appalachian, Family, Waiting, Writing | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments