Research on the Road – the Hideout Guest Ranch in Shell, Wyoming

By June Foster

My husband and I have traveled in our RV off and on for the last fifteen years. Beginning in 2010, I sensed the Lord calling me to write Christian fiction. I soon discovered traveling and writing fiction are best buddies. Every destination offers a setting for a book—one where I’ve actually walked the streets or roamed the countryside.

Last summer, I had the privilege of experiencing the most intriguing research on the road ever. We parked at Shell Campground in Wyoming at the base of the Big Horn Mountains for the entire summer. And most exciting, a very expensive, upscale guest ranch only a few miles away provided ample information.

So, the setting of my WIP is a Wyoming ranch I call Sunlight Peaks. The book, A Home For Fritz, will be out in May.

The owner of the exclusive guest ranch, The Hideout, was congenial and took me around the entire ranch in his open-air Jeep. (I’m glad I didn’t have to pay for a week’s stay at $3500.) I saw fields where his horses grazed, the barns and corral, the main complex that housed the elegant dining room and ranch offices, and guest quarters. He graciously showed me inside one of the guest rooms where, of course, my heroine stays during her visit.

But my research didn’t end there. I asked permission to interview the wranglers, which the owner granted. Since my hero is a wrangler, the chats were invaluable. I asked questions like: what do you like the most about your job? The least? Does management allow you to fraternize with the guests? Can you have a dog? Lots of others that related to the story.

Really exhilarating was the opportunity to visit the Big Horn Mountains. The entrance was only a five mile drive from the campground. In one of the mountain ranges is what the locals call the eye of the needle. It’s an opening in the rock which if you are at the pull-off on the mountain road at sunset, you have an exquisite view. Thus, I called my guest ranch Sunlight Peaks Guest Ranch. My hero and heroine fall in love as they witness the eye at sunset.

While in Wyoming, we attended a church in Greybull and got to know many of the locals. This was research in the sense that I based some of the characters on these delightful people. Not to mention the owners of the Shell Campground where we stayed.

The bottom line is: research on the road is the best, most effective type for an author. I lived the Wyoming life for three amazing months in 2017.

Click to tweet: June Foster: I soon discovered traveling and writing fiction are best buddies. #research #romance

Writing Prompt: Jed kicked at the dirt clod by his boot. Crazy woman. She’d be his or…


An award-winning author, June Foster is a retired teacher with a BA in education and MA in counseling. Her characters find themselves in tough situations but overcome through God’s power and the Word.

She writes edgy topics wrapped in a good story. To date, she’s seen sixteen contemporary romances and several short stories published. Find June online at junefoster.com.


June’s newest novel, A Home For Fritz, won’t release until May so she agreed to share with us a few of her newer books. 🙂

Letting Go

When Pastor Zack Lawrence loses his wife and unborn child, he can’t find the motivation to minister at his church in Oak Mountain, Alabama. Though Ell Russell has loved Zack since they were kids, she must abandon any hope for a life with him. Can Zack find love again or will he shred Ella’s heart once more?

Buy link: http://tinyurl.com/ybqmnc2v

 

Prescription for Romance

Though Scott Townsend made a commitment to the Lord, he can’t relinquish bitterness toward his younger brother after he squanders their parents’ money. When a beautiful, young pharmacist seeks affirmation and challenges Scott’s values, he must uphold his upbringing.   

Buy link:  http://tinyurl.com/y8jtqvuw 

For Such a Time as This: Write to Inspire

by Tracy Ruckman

When Betty invited me to write a post for this month, I was going through yet another challenging time in our lives, and I originally wrote a post that was pure pity party. I even had the gall to send it to Betty, and she graciously scheduled it.

But that night, the Lord convicted me. My own challenges pale in comparison (more like they’re invisible in comparison) to the world’s current challenges. Most of the people I know can only bear to watch or listen to the news in short spells – every moment seems to be fraught with horrific details of disasters, evil acts, hate-filled opinions. The images burn into our brains, and the fear and doubt mounts.

So I decided to rewrite this post, and Betty has allowed me to get rid of the pity party and offer these words of encouragement instead.

The last 20 years have been filled with so many changes, so much horror and destruction. What do we do with all this news? What do we do as we watch friends suffer through floods and fires or become victims to the latest maniac bombing or shooting spree? What do we do as we watch politicians play war games with our countries like we’re all pawns in a child’s board game? What do we do when loved ones go through one health crisis after another? Or when our child suffers from mental illness?

Many of us pray and give, and somehow manage to get through each day, yet we long to do something more.

I’m going to assume that most of you reading this blog are writers, so my following comments are directed specifically to the writers, but even if you’re not one, I hope my comments will encourage and inspire you just the same.

Writers – we have a task in the midst of all this turmoil and tragedy! We are WRITERS. We must record these events, write about them.

No, we’re not all reporters, and we’re not all on the front lines. But we can still write from our own perspective.

I’m not saying we all need to start shouting our opinions to the world. There’s too much of that going on now, and I honestly feel like that aspect leads to our overwhelmed feelings at times.

The kind of writing I’m talking about now is this: our words, our stories, our experiences MATTER, because we can be a light in the darkness. We can offer hope and encouragement, we can offer sympathy and comfort, right when the world needs it most. Our words, our attitudes, our actions, our beliefs can point people to Jesus when they’re desperately seeking a lifeline.

Even if you don’t have a blog or Facebook page, you can still use your writing. Keep a journal. It will not only help you process everything, it could serve as an encouragement or inspiration to the next generation of your family (or as a good reminder for you later in life.)

Send letters, or even short notes, to friends, loved ones, even the local news editor or a politician. Offer words of encouragement, or special insights the Lord has given you about these times.

If you do have a blog, website, or Facebook page, could you use them in some way to offer hope or encouragement specifically for these trying times? What have you experienced that has strengthened your faith? Was there some event in your life that brought you to Jesus? Think on those things and figure out a way to convey your story to the world.

Don’t worry about the audience for your writing. Let God handle that. Just pray, then write the story God lays on your heart. He’ll put your words in front of the person who needs them most, and you may never know it.

If you have a blog, website, and Facebook page, and are already using them for this purpose, is it time for you to write a book? Or the next book? Your story matters. Your words matter.

We’re right here, right now, for a reason. For such a time as this. Ask the Lord to use you for His purposes, and you’ll be amazed at how He will change your perspective. You’ll still be burdened for the world, but from His viewpoint, not your own.

Here’s a great song to remind us:

Click to Tweet: Writers have a task in the midst of turmoil and tragedy. #Write to #Inspire.


Tracy Ruckman owns TMP Books, a subsidy press, and is currently accepting new clients. TMP publishes fiction and nonfiction, and children’s books.

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

911: A Tuesday Morning That Would Change Our World

By Steve Connolly

It began like any other Tuesday morning for me. A casual drive to work. Fall colors dancing in the trees. Crisp cold air with no frost. It was the perfect day. Arriving at the office, I’d planned an early morning conference call with the west coast to update a current project. The meeting started on time and was running smoothly. Suddenly, a west coast co-worker said we needed to end the meeting because a jet plane had just crashed into the World Trade Center. At the time, it didn’t make sense. I thought it must have been a small plane. I looked at my watch. 9:50 AM.

Walking back into my department, I mentioned to a manager a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. She gave me a look which reflected how I felt. Someone must have gotten the event confused. We had another conference room in the front of the building equipped with a TV. When I turned on the set, a breaking news banner appeared. What I had been told by my west coast colleagues was true. The newscasters looked as if they were trying to decide what was happening. As I watched the screen, another plane crashed into the South Tower of the Trade Center. It was hard to comprehend. Just a few months earlier, on a business trip, I’d switched planes in NYC. I remembered seeing the World Trade buildings and thinking how massive they were.

Throughout the morning, acts of terror continued to advance. Next, a plane crashed into the Pentagon, and then another plane was forced to crash in the fields of Pennsylvania. Later, both towers of the trade center collapsed. Buildings were burning and parts of the city were evacuated. It was surreal. Never to be forgotten.

The result of the terrorist acts caught everyone off guard.  Regular travel was paralyzed and all US air traffic grounded. My boss was stranded in Los Angeles. My cousin and her mother had an unplanned extended stay in Las Vegas. A co-worker in Florida was forced to take a train home.  Everyone I talked to became hesitant to fly as we wondered what would happen next.

Was the terror over?

As the week went on, I kept close track of the news broadcasts. I watched as rescue personnel and volunteers combed through the rubble searching for survivors. The fires at the sites continued burning. I learned that my younger brother, Frank, a fireman from Miami Beach, volunteered to help in the search and rescue. This caused me to worry because my brother has a tender heart, and I wondered how this would impact his life.

Before I knew it, an opportunity opened for me to go to New York City. Our church was sending a group to hand out water and offer support to the people. This was not my thing, but thinking of my brother in the thick of the rescue effort, I figured I could do something to help. Once there, I found myself surrounded by New Yorkers who wanted to be comforted, either to talk or have prayer. I hugged many people that weekend.

Everywhere you looked there were flyers of the many loved ones still missing and unaccounted for from the towers. It was a sad time. At one point, we could walk down toward Battery Park. The route we took was several streets over from where the trade center buildings had stood. I was shocked by the destruction. The storefronts, several blocks away, were filled with ash.  Seeing glimpses of the tower’s rubble made it a challenge to grasp the reality of the terror. Fires continued burning filling the air with the smell of destruction. I was thankful I could be there to help, even if it was just a little.

So many changes were precipitated by the events of 9/11. The United States entered into war, attacking Iraq and sending forces into Afghanistan (the longest running war with US involvement). Today, we still have troops in both locations.  Many Americans have sacrificed their lives in these two countries. New words and phrases became part of our everyday vocabulary. ISIS, al-Qaida, Taliban, and Ground-Zero just to name a few.

The Department of Homeland Security was created, and the Patriot Act was implemented. The TSA was created (Transportation Security Administration) and assigned strict screening at all US airports. Only ticketed customers could go through security checkpoints to board flights. Airplanes were fitted with security cockpit doors.  So many changes, too many to list.

One day of events drastically changed our lives. The repercussions of that day continue to shape and change the daily routine of America. We cannot become complacent and let such a time of terror repeat itself.

Click to tweet: 911: A Tuesday Morning That Would Change Our World. #911 #NYC 

Writing prompt: It was two weeks after 9/11. I was on the street handing out water to those working in the rubble. I reached out to give the fireman approaching me a bottle of water. As I did he embraced me in a bear hug and whispered in my ear…

A Third Grandmother

By Darcy Fornier

For this month’s theme “It Happened in the Last Twenty Years,” any story from my life could fit. But I want to tell you about a person who left her impression on my life for always.

When I was young, my family attended a little white church atop a grassy hill with large maples framing the front. A postcard-worthy church. My mom attended there as a girl, and a sweet older lady by the name of Ada Mae took Mom under her wing.

I think if I had to describe Ada Mae in one word, it would be sweet. She had a beautiful smile and the warmest hugs. She’d set you straight if she needed to, but you never doubted she genuinely loved you.

I can vaguely remember being very small and visiting her house. Her husband Vernon loved to collect knick-knacks: seashells, little onyx carvings, glass baubles–things irresistible to little fingers. The coffee table overflowed with them, and no one was the least bit concerned I might break something. I mean, they told me to be careful, but not in such a way it inhibited my fun.

In 2005, when I was ten, Grandma Ada Mae needed surgery, and Grandpa Vernon was bedridden at that point with severe diabetes. So our family stayed at their house with him since Mom is a nurse and could care for him. My sisters and I loved it. The house was cluttered with years of things that had come in while no one ever cleared anything out. Some rooms were off-limits, but Grandma let us dress up in her old-fashioned dresses, rearrange her artificial flowers, and play house in her front room with all its old furniture.

Grandpa Vernon didn’t talk a whole lot whenever we visited, but he had been a pastor, and he loved to talk about the Lord. I loved to hear him and wish I could remember more of it. Sometimes in the evenings we’d get out hymnbooks and sing. I loved to hear Grandma Ada Mae pray. I couldn’t possibly imitate her—and it would sound strange if I tried—but her voice’s pitch rose and fell and the words flowed almost as if she were singing. She was talking to the Lord with her whole heart, and it was the most natural thing in the world.

I was thirteen and we were living out of state when Grandpa Vernon died. Grandma Ada Mae had severe rheumatoid arthritis, but she stayed in her home.

In 2010, between the sale of one house and the purchase of another, we lived with her for a month. That was fun. I loved to hear her stories of growing up during the Depression in the northeast Georgia mountains. She had a great sense of humor and loved a good wise-crack or practical joke.

Sometimes we helped clean her house, but she preferred to leave most of the clutter alone. She always had the television on, from years of living alone: the news three times a day, Christian channels in between, and game shows in the evenings. Late at night before bed, she’d read Grandpa Vernon’s super-giant-print Bible.

I got to know her even better that month we shared her house. We had such a good time. I haven’t enough room to tell you about all the little things that are so special to look back on.

In the spring of 2011, Grandma Ada Mae threw some fertilizer on Grandpa Vernon’s azaleas. She lost her balance and fell on the driveway, breaking her hip. Thank the Lord she always carried a cordless phone with her, just in case. Due to complications, her surgery was delayed a few days. In the meantime, the hospital gave her blood thinner to prevent blood clots from reaching her brain, heart, or lungs. Instead of a clot, she had a cerebral hemorrhage.

A person is never the same after a brain bleed. Grandma’s hip healed, but after a month of physical therapy, she still couldn’t return home. So, a year after we’d moved out of her house, she moved in with us.

But she wasn’t the same person. She didn’t always know us, so she didn’t trust us. We wanted so badly for her to get well. I was glad to help with her exercise, her baths, her eating, everything. But she grew weaker and more confused. Her lucid moments were precious, but they made the continuous confusion even harder to handle emotionally. Our life revolved around her, and it was stressful. Sometimes her biological daughter and grandson would stay with her for a few hours so our whole family could have a break.

Finally, on October 31, she passed away. (She would have laughed over that date, too.) That was the hardest loss I’ve experienced in my twenty-two years. I love my biological grandparents, but with Ada Mae, I never doubted her acceptance. She loved me, and prayed for me, and was proud of me no matter what.

I still miss her. So much.

Blood doesn’t necessarily make a family. Family takes unconditional love. Best of all is the family bound together by Jesus’ love. And that was Grandma Ada Mae for me.

Click to tweet: Grandma Ada Mae had a beautiful smile and the warmest hugs. #Family #InspiredPrompt

Writing prompt: Think of someone who has been family to you, even though you weren’t related. Describe them, or capture a favorite memory of them, in one sentence.


Darcy Fornier (pronounced forn-yay) believes the best stories provide clean, compelling entertainment while also provoking the reader to think about life in a new way. She’s been spinning stories ever since she learned how to play “pretend,” and she has seriously pursued writing since 2013.

When she isn’t writing, editing, or dreaming up a story, you might find her washing dishes, “dissolved” in a book, playing the piano, hiking in the woods, singing at the top of her lungs, or talking up a storm with her sisters. At six years old, she gave her heart to Jesus, and she lives to know Him more. She makes her home with her parents and two younger sisters, wherever that happens to be.

Readers can find me at my blog:

https://peculiarmissdarcy.wordpress.com

And on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/DarcyFornierWriter

Memories of “Canes” Football

By Steve Connolly

Having spent my early years in Miami, I have many fond memories of the city. I found Miami  an ideal city for a boy to grow up in. We lived on the edge of the Everglades, in a then small suburb, only a short bike ride to the wilds of the Everglades.

They were filled with dense trees and inviting canals. It was years before the exotic snakes and other wild things began to encroach on the landscape. Gator populations were lower, too.  Occasionally, we would come across a snapping turtle. Having no fear at that age, we would sneak up on them, touch their backside with our foot, and watch them jump into the canal. We would spend hours exploring, climbing trees and digging under rocks. To a kid, it was like heaven. I hated that we soon left Miami and moved to northern New Hampshire.

Before I knew it, I was grown and in college. Seeking a less expensive way to pay for college, I left New Hampshire briefly and was living back in Miami. Being a student, there was always a shortage of funds for gas and entertainment for a young fella. I found myself working a part-time job at a large bank in South Miami. Because they had a drive-in facility with extended hours, I found it worked perfectly for students.

During this time, I bonded with my coworkers, also students.  What I soon learned was that everyone was “into” football games at the University of Miami.  I had always been a Dolphins fan and had not paid much attention to college ball.  But the enthusiasm among everyone was at such a high pitch it soon rubbed off on me.

Everyone planned to attend the Saturday afternoon games at the Orange Bowl to watch the Hurricanes challenge their weekly teams. At first, I did not want to think about driving west of downtown to see the games, not the best part of the city.

And parking? I remember going to Dolphin games. Besides the dolphin tanks at the end of the field, one thing that stuck in my mind was the nightmare of parking. Hey, at the time I owned a classic Mustang and I was quite fussy about it getting banged up. You know how the priorities of a young teenage male run.

However, with a bit of prodding, I soon gave in and found myself volunteered to drive a bunch of us to a Saturday afternoon game. I found a spot in the surrounding neighborhood where I could safely park my car. I was never much on parallel parking and the spot I’d chosen would require skills in driving I had not yet obtained. It would have been easier to slide my car in sideways if that were even possible. But after a lot of biting my tongue to keep from cursing I got the car parked.

It didn’t take long for the infectious atmosphere to catch me. Everywhere I turned there were hordes of laughing students all hyped up and ready for the game to begin. Climbing into the stands, our gang became just like the rest of the fanatical fans. Yelling Go Canes! Soon I was filing the names of the players in my memory banks so it would seem I was totally engaged in this game. And you know what happened? I got bit by the college football bug. All these years later you’ll find me on a Saturday looking at schedules to see who’s playing and what time the games begin.

What further ingrained this fanatical love of the college football was our move to Alabama a few years back.  I tell all my out-of-state friends that before you can officially become a citizen of Alabama, you must sign a declaration of what team you will support, Alabama or Auburn. I have often thought of making up such a document to further emphasize this point to my friends. Of course, I declared my support to the Alabama Crimson Tide. My son, however, declared his loyalty to the Auburn Tigers. But that’s another story!

Last year, I went to my first Alabama Crimson Tide game in Tuscaloosa. As I stood in the crowd waiting for the players to take the field I was overcome with excitement. I guess the infectious cheers of the crowd took me back to those days at the Orange Bowl. Except for sitting in the nose bleed seats (which I did not budge from), I had a great time.

Recently, I decided that I needed to go back to my roots and support the team of my younger years, the Miami Hurricanes. Part of my justification is that it would drive my friends crazy, and would separate me from the never-ending feud between Tide and Tiger fans. By supporting the Canes, I can harass them all. It is all in good fun.

What about the professional teams? Yes, I still enjoy them as much as the college teams. And love to see the college players who get booted up to the Pros do a great job. What team do I support you may ask?

Go New England Patriots! Go figure… 

Click to tweet: I now support the team of my younger years, the Miami Hurricanes. #ncaaFootball #NFL 

Writing Prompt: I ran to the middle of the football field, clutching my Miami flag, when suddenly…

Save

Save