Stories All Around Us

SummerMy husband and I went to dinner Sunday. We enjoyed a lovely meal and headed out into the mild evening to make our way back to our car.

I think I’ve mentioned that I can’t resist a dog.

Well, there was a girl sitting on the sidewalk with a puppy dancing around her. I handed the takeout box to my husband and crouched down to say hello.

Oh my. Four months old and all feet. His name was Bemis.

I petted and played with the puppy and chatted with his person. She looked like she was late teens or maybe twenty. Neat and tidy if a little offbeat. She had some small sketches set out beside her with a sign that said, “Buy My Art.”

She said she travels from city to city, hopping trains and hitchhiking. I told her to be careful and she assured me she’s very careful. I bought a piece of art (a pencil sketch of a dragon–quite good!) and told her I’d be praying for her.

I don’t know her story. I don’t know her history or her dreams. But she touched my heart. Her and that adorable puppy.

But I know God loves her just like he loves me. And he loves you. He has a plan for her–and I hope she learns what it is.

So today, I’m asking you to join me in praying for Summer and Bemis. Pray for a girl with a backpack, a puppy, and a knack for drawing pictures. Pray that she’s safe and that she finds whatever it is she’s looking for.

She has a story and I pray that she lets God direct each chapter.


Appalachian Thursday – Signs of Spring

crocusEvery year a few hardy daffodils jump the gun and bloom in February.

Every year we act surprised.

Somehow it seems too soon, but I’ve looked back at notes from five years ago and this is nothing new. Every February the daffodils unfurl seemingly fragile yellow petals. Crocuses appear like someone scattered them in the night while we were sleeping. Sometimes there’s even a buttercup or dandelion smiling up at me from the dead lawn. And this year, the temperatures have veered wildly into the 70s trying to make us think spring is well and truly here.

But I try not to get TOO excited. I can’t help but remember how we often have at least one snow in April and I want to warn my flowers to take a steadying breath and wait.

At the same time, I love seeing signs of spring. I love getting hints that soft, warm days are right around the corner. The ultimate Appalachian harbingers of spring is, of course,  peepers. For a week now I’ve been hearing them each morning and evening in the swampy spot down by the creek. A chorus cheering spring on even if it IS too soon.

Because we’re still going to have some icy, wintry, northern days before it’s time to complain about the heat again. More than once I’ve seen apple blossom bitten back by a late frost. The old timers look at the daffodils and shake their heads. “We’ll have winter, yet,” they say.

I have a terrible habit of looking for “signs” in every area of my life. The catch is, I spend too much time looking for signs and not nearly enough living in the moment. I’m too busy trying to guess what comes next. Planning and anticipating can be good things, but they can also become debilitating. Spring and the future will both come when they’re ready.

In God’s own good time.

Ashes to Ashes – A Lenten Reflection


There were fewer than twenty of us gathered in the little white church on the hill for the Ash Wednesday service last week. The evening was mild and the service was brief with some music, scripture and words from the pastor, and then the ashes.

Lent is my favorite season and Easter is my favorite holiday. I like it better even than Christmas. I look forward to getting up early on Easter morning for the sunrise service and when we come to the place where the pastor says, “He is risen!” and we all answer, “He is risen, indeed!” my heart never fails to soar.

But before the resurrection, there’s this deep, lovely time of reflection. And it starts with ashes.

My pastor dipped his finger in the bowl of oil mixed with ashes from last year’s palm branches. He placed a gentle finger on my forehead, making a cross and saying, “Sarah, from ashes you have come and from ashes you shall return.”

And my heart soared with something like Resurrection Sunday joy. Because this is good news indeed.

In Genesis 3:19 after the fall, God said to Adam, “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”

Dust. Ashes. I suppose that might sound sad to some folks, but what I hear is that the pain, sorrows, difficulties, and challenges of this world are temporary. And this frail, human body of mine is just a temporary vessel molded from dust and ashes. It’s not meant to last forever.

So when I see all the ways my body is failing, declining, heeding the call of the dust from which it came, I can find peace in knowing that’s what’s supposed to happen. When my dreams, goals, and ambitions don’t quite work out the way I hoped, I can find peace in knowing this toil–this sometimes futile sweat of my brow–is only temporary.

Because I know there’s more to the story. We begin Lent with ashes–a reminder that we will die. But we end it by celebrating Christ’s resurrection–a reminder that in him, our earthly deaths are just the beginning of a new, perfect life eternal.

John 3:35-36 – The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.

Appalachian Thursday – The Heirloom

On October 2 of this year, my latest work will release–as part of a collection title The Heirloom (available for pre-order). As a follow-up to The Sound of Rain, I’ve written Hank’s story. You remember Hank–he was George Heyward’s right-hand man until Judd came along. And now he’s wondering where his future lies.

Earlier this week, we got to release the cover!

This collection has been SUCH fun. I was at a writing conference in 2016 when I sat down next to Karen Witemeyer and she looked at me and said, “You’re books are set in the 1950s, right?”


Karen, Kristi Ann Hunter, and Becky Wade (all favorite authors of mine!!) were hatching an idea to write a multi-generational series of novellas that would trace the women of one family from Regency England to modern day America. Their only gap was the 1950s.

Oh, I was IN!

And so, after lots of e-mails and a pretty hilarious Skype meeting, we set to work. The thread tying the stories together is a brooch that’s supposed to bring true love when it’s gifted from mother to daughter. Fun!

Plus, I get to insert Appalachia into a series that includes Regency, western, and contemporary stories. Talk about variety! And my character is such fun–a mountain girl who’s much better at shooting than socializing.

Here’s the brief summary for A Shot at Love: Fleeta Brady’s rough-and-tumble childhood means she prefers hunting to more feminine activities. She never expected her family’s brooch might be how southerner Hank Chapin turns her attention from competition to romance.

Fleeta also puts in an appearance in Becky Wade’s contemporary story (the last in the bunch). So excited for this series of interconnected stories to be released this fall.


My Vision Statement — Update



My headshot from 2012–less gray hair in this one!

In 2012 I wrote my vision statement–a statement of my goals as an author. I think it’s important to not only create such a document, but to revisit it regularly to see how I’m doing and what needs to change. So with 2018 well underway, I thought I’d check in . . .


  • Share my faith and love of Christ with the world through my novels. Ensure each novel has a clear, Christian message that can be easily grasped and incorporated into daily living for my readers. I feel pretty good about this goal. I’ve gotten quite a few comments about my books having a clear Christian message without beating anyone over the head–that sounds about right to me.
  • Build a strong relationship with my agent that is mutually supportive. Check! Fortunately, I’m blessed with an agent who puts relationship-building high on her to-do list. And we pray for each other!
  • Sign with a major publishing house and publish the “Appalachian Blessings” series including at least three books.. Done! I need to revamp this goal now that I have four books and two novellas under my belt. 
  • Use my writing as a platform to reach broader audiences with the message of Christ through speaking, blogging, book signings, book clubs, etc. Stay humble and accessible. This stays the same. I’ve continued to do signings, interact with book clubs, and keep up my blogging. As for staying humble and accessible–that’s NOT hard. This business has given me far more opportunities to check my ego than I’d like!
  • Be a good steward of any money I make. Prayerfully use the money to support the ministries God has given me. While I’m not exactly pulling down the big bucks, I am grateful that writing supplements our income and that I can use to support several ministries in a small way
  • Invest in myself and other writers through workshops. Attend and lead classes. Always strive to make my writing better and to encourage other writers to share their faith through creative writing. I continue to coordinate the writing contest at a local conference and have taught several classes now (which I REALLY enjoy!). I continue to attend conferences not only to network, but to LEARN. There’s still so much I don’t know . . .
  • Continue to build a supportive writing “family” made up of other writers, friends and fans who will help cheer me on while I do the same for them. That would be YOU along with so many writers I’ve gotten to know along the way. Thanks for joining me on this journey!
  • My goal for 2015 was to work on growing my writing to the place where I can work my “day job” part time and focus more on writing and all that comes with it. -This is still a work in progress. My day job with a children’s ministry continues to grow and be incredibly rewarding. Even so, getting to a place where I can split my time more evenly is something I hope will be possible one day.
  • My new goal for 2018 is to raise the stakes in my writing. I want to be willing to take risks and push my stories into places and subjects that might feel uncomfortable to me at first. I’m looking to break through barriers in my own heart and mind to give God free reign to speak through my writing.

There are few things more satisfying to me than having a plan and making progress. I’m a list-checker-offer. Can’t wait to see where I’ll be in another few years. I’m not sure what’s going to happen, but I do know God’s plans are bigger–and better–than mine.

How about you–do you set goals (I’m NOT talking resolutions here!).

Release Day is Tomorrow!

Dad at churchReleasing a new book just doesn’t get old. It’s kind of like my birthday. There ought to be cake and maybe some champagne. Certainly streamers and cheering.

And there’s NOTHING wrong with celebrating all week long! So today, to kick off the party, here’s a link to the first chapter of The Sound of Rain.

It still makes me cry to read it.

I think that’s a good sign.


The Sound of Rain 11.7.17

My wonderful editor sent me an early copy of The Sound of Rain over the weekend. There’s always something special about holding the actual copy. At last, the story I’ve been living with for more than a year is REAL.

This story was inspired, in part, by a tale my great uncle Harry used to tell about being in a mine cave in. So that’s where the novel begins–with Judd Markley trapped in a mine. The part about him having a boot pressed against his cheek is true to Uncle Harry’s story.

If you click below, I’ll read you the opening pages.

And if you want to know whose boot it is–I hope you’ll go out and get a copy of the book when it releases three weeks from tomorrow!

Judd Markley is a hardworking coal miner who rarely thinks much past tomorrow until he loses his brother–and nearly his own life–in a mine cave-in. Vowing never to enter the darkness of a mine again, he leaves all he knows in West Virginia to escape to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It’s 1954, the seaside community is thriving, and Judd soon hires on with a timber company.

Larkin Heyward’s life in Myrtle Beach is uncomplicated, mostly doing volunteer work and dancing at the Pavilion. But she dreams of one day doing more–maybe moving to the hollers of Kentucky to help the poor children of Appalachia. But she’s never even met someone who’s lived there–until she encounters Judd, the newest employee at her father’s timber company.

Drawn together in the wake of a devastating hurricane, Judd and Larkin each seek answers to what tomorrow will bring. As opposition rises against following their divergent dreams, they realize that it may take a miracle for them to be together.