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From “76 Trombones” on the radio, to our hometown band’s rousing rendition of “Blaze Away,” to the bagpipes of the Grenadier Guards at Windsor Castle, to the Sousa tunes of my adopted country—I’ve always loved a good march. It’s in my blood.

Today I march forward, not in lockstep with anyone, but to the beat of a different drum. I look back only to see how far I have come, and to glean material for stories.

Though I camp out frequently for spiritual refreshment, or to help a fledgling writer, the movement is ever forward, never in retreat.

Along the way, I leave touchstones to celebrate victories large or small—reminders of why I set out on this crazy venture. Fan mail from students. My first royalty check. A napkin from Cherilyn’s launch party. The blue star Miss Downer gave me in kindergarten for my retelling of “I Saw a Ship A-Sailing.”

Single-minded as a foot soldier along a straight, solid Roman road, on the
foundation laid by writers who marched before us, I keep marching.

Step by step, word by word, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, page after page, chapter after chapter, to completion of another book.

And another. And another.

I’m a writer. It’s what I do. Read More 

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When I first sat down to write this blog last week, Christmas carols danced in head like sugar plum fairies. Frozen rain kept us indoors, and beyond the window lay a sparkling winter wonderland. Now the white has melted, but an Arctic wind has arrived, so I'm content to stay in - though I might bundle up and take Jet for a brisk walk to the pond this afternoon or tomorrow.

As I anticipate the year ahead, only God knows how much of our lives will change or remain the same. We've lost a cousin and several local residents in the past couple of months. But His presence makes tough times bearable, challenges winnable, and good days even more joy-filled if we walk by faith. It's time to shake out all the little sticky notes deposited in my Joy Jar throughout 2013. Below is a complete list, arranged not chronologically, or in order of importance, but alphabetically. Some are condensed to save space.


back in the saddle again (teaching)
bagpipes; tartan
Beatles memorabilia; secret sisters
Berean Fellowship (Independence, KS)
BBC online
black-and-white movie with Dirk Bogarde
black-eyed peas with cornbread
book sales at Hastings & at school
celebration of Angy Rowe’s life
chatting with cousins on Facebook any time
chocolate log; apple cake; Nutella
classical guitar by Rodrigo and Albinez
clear PAP test & only 1-2 needed the rest of my life
coffee-book smell at Watermark store
compliments and hugs from students
country eggs; egg cup collection
crafty ladies (and men)!
dipping into a poetry book, inspired to write more
Egyptian art; Impressionist paintings
e-mail; e-tickets
European Journal on channel 35
Felix M’s barcarolles
finding lost earrings/book/CD/passport/file/poem
finished a jigsaw puzzle
former neighbors reunited on FB
four days of revival
full church; full stomach
gentle rain; good soaking rain; any rain after a drought
getting paid to play with paint, job falling into my lap
Girls Scouts Thinking Day in Caney
good night’s sleep every night; interesting dreams
God painting the sky
green views from all windows of this house
Hal Lindsey Report (news lining up with prophecy)
handwritten cards and letters from friends
hot chocolate, hot cross buns
husband who can fix things AND organize taxes etc.
JM at church said his dream job is to be a preacher
journals old and new
libraries both large and small
King Crimson, Fairport Convention, Lettermen on YouTube
Last of the Summer Wine on channel 11
Loreena McKennitt CD
mashed potatoes, potato soup
maids (my appliances)
melting snow
mission projects with women at church
movie, The Blind Side
music by Da Faya & others on Classical Arts Showcase
nap with a good book under warm covers
new Writer’s Market – possibilities!
nostalgia of old seaside/railway paintings
open piano book, smooth ivory keys
Operatica CD; piano duet CD
pas de deux from Scheherazade
photography; 30-day Photo Challenge
Prairie Writers and Sedan Book Club
recipes old and new
redbuds in bloom
rekindling the writing flame; satisfaction of a day’s writing
research for London ABC book
SAMUEL and other children’s Bible stories
Schumann’s Scenes from Childhood
Scott Joplin rags
Sedan Business Women
sense of humor; sense of smell
singing alto in the community choir
smell of books, old or new
sparkling snow
spring breeze; sunshine
sun through stained glass windows
Team Kids excited about their Bibles
time spent with our daughter Rachel
Vacation Bible School
walks, runs & couch time with our rescue dog, Jet
warm shredded wheat; warm clothes in an icy wind
wedding anniversary, 35 years
well-written TV scripts
I will start a new jar in 2014!
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I recently paid a library fine of $1.80. It wasn't my first, and doubtless will not be my last. My father used to turn in books late, so I'm following in his footsteps!

It was Dad who took me, at age 7, to get my own "ticket" from Sandown Public Library on the Isle of Wight. It's a solid brick building, still in operation - though much updated inside with DVDs and PCs, and no more "Shh!" from our childhood librarian, Margaret Wright. The upper floor housed a geological museum, under the watchful eye of Mr. Grapes, curator, who became the inspiration for Alfred Mossle in my 2008 YA novel, Arrowhead's Lost Hoard.

In the 1950s, juveniles were allowed one book at a time. It didn't seem fair that adults could check out two books, one fiction and one non-fiction. My first choice was "Rufty Tufty" - the story of a little imp who would cause mischief, and then suddenly disappear. I read it all the way home, and wanted to return it the same day and get another book - but that was against library rules.

My favorite chapter book was "Treasures of the Snow" by Patricia St. John. I loved it so much that I started to copy it word for word in an exercise book, until I developed writer's cramp. I was delighted to find a paperback "Treasures of the Snow" some thirty years later, in a Texas public library.

In our first house on Fitzroy Street, we had a bookcase on the landing at the top of the stairs. I spent several happy hours there "stocktaking" - just like Miss Wright! I diligently organized the hardback books that belonged to me and my siblings, entering their titles in a small blue notebook. We had won many of them as prizes for church attendance or good grades at school. Popular series for British children back then included Just William, Jennings, the Secret Seven, and Famous Five. Our neighbor would sell his used copies to us for a shilling each. New, they would have cost ten-and-sixpence.

My friends and I mail ordered fan club badges from the prolific children's author Enid Blyton. With her encouragement, we went on nature walks and looked for interesting thiings to report. One day a missel thrush hopped very close to our picnic basket. I wrote to Enid Blyton, and actually received a reply.

So began a lifetime of reading adventures. The public library is one of the first places I visit after moving to a new town. I've enjoyed some fine libraries of all shapes and sizes on three continents. This year in Kansas, I've been in three book discussions, devoured hefty biographies (such as Agatha Christie and Paul McCartney), and joined in the fun of a kids' summer reading program.

I'll try to return books on time, but in these days of government cutbacks, an occasional fine is money well spent. Read More 
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