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Friday, July 1

Stories From a Small Town by Jana Richards

My newest release, STRONG ENOUGH, is set in a fictional small town in North Dakota. I gave Masonville a population of about five thousand because that was the size of the town my family and I lived in before we moved to the big city. It was big enough to have services like a veterinary clinic, restaurants and an assortment of shops, but small enough that you knew almost everyone. Sometimes that was a good thing, and sometimes it wasn't.

You can’t have an embarrassing moment in a small town without someone knowing about it. I can vividly remember a couple of times when I longed for the anonymity of the city. Like for instance, the time when my then four-year-old daughter threw a def-con 4 temper tantrum when we were downtown at the post office picking up the mail. I didn’t think anyone we knew had seen her meltdown, but I was wrong. My husband’s colleague told me her husband had witnessed the whole thing. Wonderful.

Then there was the time my husband was away on business and I forgot to set my alarm. I woke up in a panic, convinced I had slept in and we were late for school. I hurried my girls out of bed, got them dressed, threw some breakfast at them and rushed them to school. When we got to the school, everything was quiet and there was no one there. And that’s when I realized we were an hour too early. It was 8am instead of 9am. So, I slinked home in my car, and we watched cartoons until it was really time to go. Later that morning I got a call from my daughter’s kindergarten teacher. Apparently, someone had seen us arrive at the school that first time and she wanted to know if everything was all right. So embarrassing! I had to tell her everything was fine and that I was an idiot who couldn’t tell time. I still don’t know who ratted me out. We didn’t even get out the car. Even your car isn’t anonymous in a small town!

But small towns aren’t all bad. Not by a long shot. In times of trouble they can be a cocoon of comfort. When my nephew’s daughter was diagnosed with cancer, the small town where I grew up and where he and his family still live, rallied around to support them. People raised money and were just there for them. My great-niece is doing fine now. And she still has a whole town looking out for her.

In STRONG ENOUGH, my character Charlotte has a secret from her past she’s so ashamed of that she can’t speak about it to anyone. Living in a small town only makes it worse. She can’t bear to be the object of gossip in her hometown.  

Small towns are complex mixes of light and dark, annoying and comforting. But when the chips are down, a small town will be there for you.

Check out the Masonville series! In the small town of Masonville, love overcomes hard times.

Tuesday, June 28

A Little Time with Nicole Trope by Janie DeVos


     When summertime rolls around, I immediately think of cookouts, trips to the beach, vacations to places unknown, and, of course, curling up in the shade somewhere with a frosty favorite and a great book.  Life doesn’t get much better than that as far as I’m concerned.  Recently, I got into a book that I not only spent a few hours with one lazy summer afternoon, but the better part of a couple of nights, too.  Usually, I’m fairly disciplined about turning the lights out at a reasonable hour, but not so while reading Nicole Trope’s fabulous book, THE FAMILY ACROSS THE STREET.  Talk about a page turner!!  I had to fight with myself to keep from taking a peek at the end to see how it all turned out.  I was so impressed with her writing that I reached out to her via cyber space and she was kind enough to respond, and what a nice gal she is!  She’s one prolific writer with a long list of books, and, fortunately for us, she has a new one coming out June 21st titled HIS OTHER WIFE.  (The links for purchasing all of her books are listed below).  I asked her if I could ask her some questions about her writing and she was more than gracious in agreeing to do so.  I found her answers quite interesting, and I think you all will, too.  So, ladies and gentlemen, I give you Nicole Trope. 

1).  When did you first realize you were a writer?

As with most writers-I was an avid reader first and from a very young age, but at some point, I realised that even when writing my own diary, I was trying to turn it into a story. I knew at the beginning of High School that I wanted to be a writer. 

2).  How do you come up with a storyline?

It comes from everywhere-the newspaper or television or the internet. I will hear something or see something and suddenly, a series of images appear. If they appear fast enough and I can remember them the next day, then I know I have something. Lots of idea disappear but those that are meant to stay hang around and when I can’t stop thinking about something, I know it will work for a novel.

 3).  Can you tell us about one of your favorite characters you’ve created and why it’s a favorite?

I love Ruth from ‘The Stepchild’ because she was trying so hard to heal herself and Daniel from ‘The Boy in the Photo’ because he grew from a child to a young boy and had to deal with so much as he figured out who he was. I have a novel coming out at the end of the year called ‘The Foster Family’ and there is a character named Gordon-an older man who breaks my heart. And I love Logan from ‘The Family Across the Street,’ because he was trying to be a better man when it would have been easier to just give up. There are so many and each time I write a new novel, I find a new favourite.

 4).  Has anyone been particularly influential in encouraging you to write?

 I had a couple of teachers who encouraged me and my mother has always read my work but I did feel like my desire to write made me a slightly weird person growing up. Publishing a novel feels like it is a ‘pie in the sky’ dream but it was a desire that I could never let go of.

5).  Please talk a little about dealing with rejection.

I had many, many years of rejections-they piled up- but each time I thought, ‘time to give up and let go’, I would get a rejection where the editor or agent had taken the time to really read the work and thought I had potential. I always took that as a sign to keep going. As a writer you will face rejection for the rest of your career. My editor has rejected some of my ideas and once, a whole book. Readers write reviews that feel like rejections and I always have to remember to step back and not take any of it personally. It boils down to not letting anyone or anything get in the way of you achieving your dream.

6).  We all make mistakes throughout our careers.  Looking back, is there any one thing in particular you wish you had done differently?

 I wish that I had studied writing at university-I think it took me a long time to learn what publishers were looking for and how to actually write a novel-I even got my first agent with a rather badly structured, very short book. He was unable to get it published of course but never gave me any real notes for improvement. I also think I made a big mistake staying with my first publisher for as long as I did. They were not supportive and instead of leaving, I stayed where I was because I was convinced that I was the problem. I wasn’t.

7).  What was one of the smartest things you feel you did in furthering your writing career?

Moving to Bookouture-the best thing I’ve ever done. My first publisher was not equipped to deal with the eBook market, which is where my novels work well. Bookouture are leaders in the field and the difference is remarkable. They also have an incredibly supportive way of dealing with their authors. Something simple like returning an email within a few days makes a huge difference. I remember waiting weeks for a reply from my previous publishers. No one is that busy and the message it sends is, ‘you are not important enough.’ At Bookouture all their writers matter.

 8).  How many drafts do you usually write before submitting the final product?

 So many drafts. I usually edit the first few chapters over and again, until I feel that I have the voice of the novel in my head. The characters need to feel real and distinct. Then every chapter is rewritten a couple of times and the whole book twice or more, before I send it to my mother to read. I take time away from the novel then and edit one more time before submitting to my editor. Then it’s edited by the publishers at least four times.

9).  Do you know how your book will end when you begin it?  If so, does it ever change?

I usually do but it does change and it’s always a lovely surprise when it does. I have just finished a draft of a book for next year and I had a very clear ending in mind, but everything changed without me even thinking about it. It’s a strange and wonderful feeling to be typing and have an idea appear on the page before you have fully processed it.

 10).  Are you involved with writers’ groups, either virtually or in person?

Not really but Bookouture have an author’s lounge where the writers share information and support and I always find answers to all my questions there. 

11).  You have a busy life being a wife, mother of three, and a prolific writer.  With that rare opportunity when you do have time to yourself, what do you like to do?

 I have to say that the writing keeps me on an even keel. If I’m not working on a book, I have a tendency to let my anxiety take over. Turning everything into a story does have its downsides, especially when I am worrying about something. I love the gym and I have a standard poodle named Jax, that I walk twice a day while I listen to podcasts. I am an avid reader as well. I also love a good television drama so have all the streaming services. Nothing beats a good story.

12).  Who do you most admire among present day writers, and past writers?

I read quite widely. My favourites are Terry Pratchett, Fay Weldon, Alice Hoffman, Joanna Trollope, Anne Tyler, Carolyn Brown. I like to read books outside my own genre to really take my mind away from my work.

 13).  Do you have a favorite book that you've written?  If so, what makes it your favorite? 

The Boy in the Photo- probably because it was the book that led me to leave my old publisher and start looking for someone new. I remember thinking that if I hadn’t found an agent in six months, I would take it as a sign to give up and get another job. It took a couple of days for just about every agency I contacted to request a copy of the manuscript. In the end, the agency route wasn’t for me (I like to have my emails replied to) but the novel found a wonderful home with Bookouture and Christina Demosthenous.


Here’s a little tease from Nicole’s new book, HIS OTHER WIFE.  Enjoy! 

She has my husband. She has my child. She has my life.

I never thought I would end up here. Alone, in a cold one-bedroom apartment, only seeing my precious daughter once a week.

Another woman is living the life that was once mine. I wish I was still married to my ex-husband, the love of my life. I dream of tucking my five-year-old child into her ballerina bed sheets every night. I miss living in a beautiful house, the perfect family home, with a winding staircase and a sprawling garden.

I’d do anything to be with my family again. To start over and prove to them that I’ve changed, that I won’t lose control like before.

But when I get my second chance, the vicious messages come. The noises at night. The feeling of being watched. It’s happening all over again. I know I’m not going mad, but no one will believe me. I don’t know if I even believe myself.

All I wanted was my life back. But now my life is under threat – and my darling little girl is in danger…


Here are the links to purchase Nicole’s books: 





Sunday, June 26

STRONG ENOUGH now available!

STRONG ENOUGH, book 4 in the Masonville Small Town Romance series, now available!

Love can make you stronger, if you let it.

Charlotte Saunders has a full life—a rewarding career as a nurse, meaningful volunteer work at a dog shelter, and family, friends and pets she adores. But no matter how hard she tries, she can’t forget the horrible event that’s haunted her for ten years.

A survivor of childhood sexual abuse, Damon Greyson now helps others who have suffered trauma. His experience and intuition alert him to trouble in Charlotte’s past, and he wants to help her, if only she’d let him.

As they work together to help veterans suffering from PTSD and neglected dogs needing loving homes, their feelings for each other deepen. But when the trauma from Charlotte’s past roars back to life, both are forced to confront their painful histories—or die trying.

Buy Links:

Amazon - 

Amazon CA - 

Amazon UK - 


Barnes & Noble: 



Saturday, June 25

The Sycamore Standoff by Stacey Weeks

Author Stacey Weeks joins the Wranglers in the corral today. Make her welcome!

The Opposite of Fear is not Always Courage. It can also be Peace.

In general, the Western world—and many in the church—do not know what to do when confronted with fearsome circumstances or unexpected suffering. We need only to observe the world as it navigates out of a global catastrophe that has torn through churches and communities to see that God’s people haven’t always suffered well amidst the fearsome unknown. Yet our responses have the power to either draw others to the Lord or drive them away. How we represent Christ while we face our fear matters.

This is part of the reason I love writing fiction. It’s therapeutic to craft characters who love the Lord and then put them into situations where God stretches and tests their faith. It helps me work through impossible choice scenarios, consider how to rebound after failure, and how to seek the Lord humbly.

Meet Meg Gilmore

Meg Gilmore seeks more than an absence of anxiety, fear, or stress. If that’s all that inner peace required, her twisted insides would have smoothed out when she escaped her abusive ex and resettled in the small town of Sycamore Hill. But the peace she sought didn’t come through removing the source of tension.

Meg wants the Lord to remove the root of her fear (like her ex trying to extort her). She wants God to save the ancient tree that’s become her safe space. But neither would guarantee her the kind of peace that remains when the storms rage. She needs a peace that is different from the world’s peace (John 14:27). A peace that doesn’t come through the removal of trials but from enduring the trials with a trust that what the enemy meant for destruction will be the very vehicle God uses to strengthen her soul.

Meet Eli Martin

Eli’s need to control his environment feeds feelings of anxiousness and challenges his theology. Which is true? His chaotic feelings or God’s promise of peace?

His flesh whispers that failure is guaranteed, but the Spirit says he can do all things through Christ who strengthens him (Phil 4:13). His flesh pushes people (and God) away, but wisdom says humbly seek the Lord, and God will meet every need (Phil 4:19). His flesh screams there is not enough time, but the Spirit reminds him that there has always been enough time when he keeps the Lord first (Matt 6:33). Yesterday, fear overwhelmed him. Today, he starts again with the Lord and trusts Him for another day. God’s mercies are new every morning. He is faithful (Lam 3:22-23). Eli knows this. Now, he has to live like he believes this.

The Sycamore Standoff

Meg and Eli fight for biblical thinking one day (one hour!) at a time, and they learn to live and focus on each day as it comes, not worrying about tomorrow (Matt 6:34). Peace follows this battle for their minds. It is exhausting but freeing. It feels dangerous yet is safe. It provides no answers, but it causes them to depend on the One who holds the answers, and that is why it brings peace within circumstances that haven’t changed. Meg’s fearsome past still exists. Eli can’t control the present. Yet peace anchors them—to God and each other.

Perfect Peace in the Face of Fear

Managing our circumstances will never bring lasting peace—the darkness and pervasiveness of sin roots far too deep than that. Instead, peace comes with an understanding that God uses suffering to accomplish far more extraordinary things than He would by removing suffering.

Like Eli and Meg, I’ve found God in the blessings and provisions of life, but the spectacular sights and rewards that come from the harder work of seeking God in difficulty are even more precious. God has strengthened me to endure and revealed that nothing I fear can limit His hand.

She wants independence. He wants her affections. They’ll have to face her past for any chance of a future.

Escaping an abusive boyfriend, Meg Gilmore finds refuge in Sycamore Hill. She’s particularly drawn to a 250-year-old tree she names Alfred. Like her, Alfred is a survivor, and the shade beneath its protective branches is her go-to place for solace. When a construction firm slates the majestic tree for destruction, Meg resolves to save Alfred. But Meg underestimates an adversary who refuses to yield to her requests to work around the tree.

Eli Martin’s family money is as old as the tree Meg is desperate to save. Attracted to Meg from day one, he sees Meg’s campaign to save Alfred as his chance to seal her affections. The best way to fight big business is to attack them in the pocketbook, and he devises a plan that Meg’s adversary won’t be able to afford to fight.

When Meg’s ex arrives, Eli once again rises to her aid. However, Meg insists he can’t simply throw money at problems to make them go away.

Together they face what truly terrifies Meg, finding freedom and love in the most unlikely places.

Book Excerpt:

Something wasn’t right. Meg Gilmore stopped abruptly on the sidewalk in front of her cedar-sided historical home. As she squinted at the tiny one-bedroom bungalow, the hairs on the back of her neck lifted, and an unseasonal shiver rippled down her spine. Her backpack slipped off her shoulder and landed on the ground with a thud.

The Canadian flag mounted to the right of the front door rippled in the warm, late-afternoon breeze. The vintage mailbox remained closed. Tulips and daffodils waved a happy greeting from their sunny spot in the front garden. Nothing was trampled. Nothing appeared out of place. Everything looked just as she’d left it this morning. 

Yet it all felt wrong. The double-check-your-locks, peek-in-the-closet, and look-behind-the-shower-curtain kind of wrong. Meg’s legs quivered, and she settled a hand over her midsection. She couldn’t explain why. There was no reason for the chill filling her core. 

She instinctively shrank back. She hadn’t felt this kind of inexplicable apprehension since . . .  well, she really didn’t want to think about that. She forced her spine to straighten and picked up her bag. She wasn’t the same person she was back then. She sucked in a deep breath, marched to the front door, jabbed her key into the lock, and twisted. The lock clicked open as she would expect, and she gave the door a trepidatious shove. 

Her breath shot out of her. See. Everything is fine.

Finding a house that she loved in a historical neighborhood in Sycamore Hill had been one more rung on her ladder toward independence. Sure, she didn’t own it. And yes, it was the smallest house on the street. But she’d scraped together the first and last month’s rent to secure the place while studying as a full-time student at Grander University and working part-time at The Muffin Man. And she’d done so all by herself. 

Her keys clinked against the ceramic rim of the shallow, catch-all bowl she kept on the entry table. In less than a minute, she moved through the entire house, tidying a stack of books here and a throw blanket there. She snagged her journal from where she’d left it this morning on the round table in the breakfast nook. Everything was fine. Normal. Just as it should be. Just as it had always been since she arrived in Sycamore Hill. But if that were true, why did an invisible weight press on her chest, making it difficult to take in a full breath?

She hugged her journal. Journaling usually filled her soul with a cathartic calm—the kind of peace missing from her messed-up insides right now. Her counsellor-turned-friend, Kim—trustworthy from the days Meg lived in Sycamore Hill’s local shelter, Life House—would tell her to work it out on paper. But she’d graduated from their program nearly a year ago, and she didn’t want to write. She wanted to talk. 

Lord, You say to pray about everything, so here it is. Something feels off. Her eyelids fell closed, and she inhaled a focused, deep breath. Help me remember that You are with me always.

A sudden vibration in her back pocket made her yelp, and then she laughed. She rubbed her palm over her galloping heart as she tried to force her uncooperative gaze to focus on the text message from Eli. Meet me at Alfred in 10?

She gave it a thumbs up, and the reply went out with a quiet whoosh. She was being ridiculous. This was ridiculous. Meg tossed her knapsack onto her bed as she passed the open bedroom door. The smooth, undisturbed quilt sagged under the weight of her textbooks. The bedroom was the only separate space in the house, if you didn’t count the restroom. Having come full circle, Meg sat down on the small bench near the front door. She had no logical reason for her rising panic.

But it happened like that sometimes. Coming out of nowhere and gut-punching the breath from her lungs.

A burning sensation scorched the back of her throat. She tugged off the ballet flats she’d worn to school and pulled on a pair of socks and sneakers. Outside the paned glass back door, the sun remained high in the sky, having only partly begun its descent into evening. Hours of daylight remained—not that she needed hours. She lived only five minutes from every amenity Sycamore Hill offered its residents. Meg shut and locked the door behind her and headed toward the center of town. With every step that put distance between her and her house, the creepy feeling of being watched receded, and her labored breathing eased. 

By the time Meg rounded the corner onto Main Street, she almost felt normal again. Her boss from The Muffin Man bakery called out a cheery good afternoon as she passed. She smiled. Grabbing breakfast-to-go at the bakery that employed her had become part of Meg’s morning routine, her one treat on a tight budget.

Her steps hitched. All the articles she’d read advised women with a past like hers to avoid predictability in their schedule, but it had been so long since . . . Her chest constricted. Had she made herself too easy to find?

Her phone vibrated again. Running late.

Meg had hardly read the message before someone brushed past her, nearly sending her phone to the sidewalk. Her breath stalled in her throat as she fumbled to maintain a hold on the device.

“Sorry,” mumbled a woman, hurrying past her before turning toward the bank.

Meg sagged and sent Eli another thumbs up. Everything was fine. As she crested the gentle incline of Main Street, the magnificent sycamore she’d nicknamed Alfred came into view. The tips of its full crown waved hello, and the quivering in her belly settled. Its rich and familiar aroma soothed her erratic heartbeat. The shade beneath Alfred’s protective branches was her go-to place for solace. And today, she needed solace.

But then she spotted a chain-link fence imprisoning it. A padlock. A public notice.

As if a fist had reached into her chest and squeezed, her heart wrenched. 

Meg raced toward the tree, hitting the barricade with the power of a gale-force wind. She rattled the locked gate, shaking loose a poster pronouncing: The Future is Yours. Come Home to a New Horizon Property.

She picked it up. Condos? She tore her gaze from the poster to Alfred’s patchwork bark that exposed white, green, and cream-colored inner layers. Alfred mattered more than condos. The massive sycamore fig—the singular remnant of an ancient forest from another era—stood as the sole survivor of his community. He was a fighter.

Like her.

~ *~

Stacey Weeks is a ministry wife, mother of three teenagers, and a sipper of hot tea with honey. She loves to open the Word of God and share the hope of Christ with women. She is a multi-award-winning author, the primary home educator of her children, and a frequent conference speaker. Stacey has a Graduate Certificate in Women’s Ministry from Heritage College and Seminary, and she is working toward a Graduate Certificate in Biblical Counselling.


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Tuesday, June 21

Ch-ch-ch Changes

By Margie Senechal

 Changes are afoot in the Senechal household and our extended family.

 First my oldest nephew (of two) got engaged this past weekend and plans on getting married in November. Congratulations to Evan and Graci. I’m thinking wedding plans are going to be kicking into high gear by the end of the summer, if not before.

 Last week I started a new job. I am now the new Indirect Loan Coordinator for Unitus Credit Union. So far, every day has been a learning experience. Banking is an entirely new language for me. Like indirect means we deal with motor dealerships and not as much with a personal customer. Unless one calls to inquire about their loan payment or a question.

While I had a good job at Walgreens, I’m hoping this will be a great job that will pave my way until retirement. I know my knees are beyond happy with this move. As it is a remote job, I’ll also be saving on gas—not that it was a big deal before because I live just two miles away from my store. Yes, it’s still my store. It probably always will be in my heart.


The past two months my writing has taken a backseat as I prepared to get this job. The company is a great company with a really caring upper management and company policies. Not to mention the pay bump that is enough that it will change our quality of life. 

For one, I was able to hire a handyman neighbor to help me get my yard under control. This spring, rain has been relentless—even the Columbia River is threatening to spill over. And it always seemed to rain on my weekends so I couldn’t get out there and mow the lawn or hack away at the blackberries.

A couple of years ago, my apple trees were so heavy with fruit that they simply laid down their branches. I knew I needed someone to come with a chainsaw and cut those limbs back, but it never happened. Until about two weeks ago. I can see the birdhouse in the healthy apple tree from my desk once again.

 I can also see the back of my property for the first time in a very long time (I refuse to be judged by telling you how long). In fact, I discovered my neighbors at the back have stacked wood along our fence line. Who knew?

 I’m hoping by the end of summer, I’ll be able to host bunco on my patio once again. We’ll see. I know how those eggs in the basket have a habit of breaking. 


And now, I have just enough time to write for a short spell before I begin work for the day. It’s time to reestablish that habit.


Friday, June 17

A Wrangler on Aging: My Language is Deteriorating

No kidding—it really is! I’ve always taken pride in the fact that I have a good vocabulary. My mom insisted we have extensive vocabularies and use them appropriately. We played word games voraciously when I was kid—Scrabble, Boggle, Probe—and to this day, family gatherings include word games. Our latest fave is Apples to Apples—très fun! I’m a whiz at spelling, and usually, if someone asks me what a word means, I can come up with the correct definition without running to a dictionary. My grasp of language and its appropriate use is part of why I’m a good copy editor (I have clients who’ll testify, honest!). I adore discovering new words and finding ways to use them in my writing.

So it surprises me to find that I’m using expletives more frequently as I get older. And I’m not talking about the occasional crap or damn. I’m talking the real words—the ones that would have gotten my mouth washed out with soap when I was a kid. You know, the words from George Carlin’s infamous list. (Google it!) I’ve never really been a language prude, but I’ve always been someone who disdained “bad words” as the language of the uneducated. For years, I believed that profanity demonstrated a lack of creativity and a poor vocabulary.

Lately though, I’ve discovered that often the best word, the very best word I can use in some situations is a profane one. Sometimes people behave like ass-hats and that’s the only suitable word to use to describe them, so I use it—but always appropriately. I’ve developed serious post-menopausal short-term memory loss, so s#*t! pretty much takes care of the frustration of not remembering where I put my damn reading glasses. And sometimes, in the throes of a particularly gnarly hot flash (yes, I’m still flashing like a freaking lightning bug!), or when I’m restless and my emotions are in a confused knot, I just want to scream the F-bomb. So I do and it makes me feel better.

As a writer, I’m not particularly proud of this, but as a woman, I’m kind of intrigued with the relief that one good loud F-bomb can bring. How many centuries have men used profanity to relieve tension? Husband has always maintained that calling a broken anything a bad name is the first step to fixing it. You know, maybe my language isn’t really deteriorating at all, maybe it’s just getting more colorful—yeah, that’s it! I like that! I’m colorful! And even though I’ve added some profanity to my vocabulary, I’m not going to be adding it to my small-town romance stories—that would take away from the sweetness of it all, but know this...when my characters are up to here with whatever situation I've put them in, when they are angry or frustrated beyond measure, they're surely thinking what I won't write!

How about it, Wranglers? Where are you on the topic of profanity? Do you use it? Does it bother you when other people do? Talk to me and feel free to use whatever word fits your current mood.