Wednesday, December 31, 2008


One of the most meaningful Christmas gifts I got this year came from Kendra, my daughter! You've all heard of 'wall art'. Sometimes it comes in the form of actual art, and sometimes, words and/or phrases. Well, she found the PERFECT phrase to match her mom's heart and passion! One of my dearest, darlingest friends, the girl in the red shirt, made the sign (vinyl letters on stick-on paper) for Kendra, and then she and my adorable niece came to put it up in my office today. Here's a glimpse of the process. (You will see that Cecil had to get his hand in there as well.)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Did you say smile, Grandma?

This is what you get when you tell three over-stimulated kids two years and under to "smile for Grandma" on Christmas Eve: an obedient, but exaggerated, smile (Dylan); an oblivious, out-to-lunch stare (Gavin), and a 'Somebody-get-me-out-of-here!' look (Alexis).

I took about six shots, and this one is as good as it gets. **grins** (I trust you all had a glorious CHRISTmas!)

Monday, December 15, 2008


My wonderful mother has Alzheimer's, was diagnosed at age 87, and now, going on 96, she still has an appetite and has retained her sweet, gentle spirit. And guess what else - GOD IS NOT DONE WITH HER!

**She doesn't know my name
**She doesn't know her grandchildren
**She doesn't remember that she was married to the most wonderful man, my daddy
**She doesn't even remember her Heavenly Father, even though His Spirit indwells her
**I can say, "Mommy, Jesus loves you SO much," but all she does is stare at me with a blank look
**But, still, God has not completed HIS work in her! The image of Christ still shines through her somewhat jagged, saggy smile, her silly spur-of-the-moment giggles.

What possible purpose could God have in keeping her on earth, you ask? Well, for starters, my family has had the wonderful privilege of sharing the love of Christ with her caregivers because she's still here. She has meaning. I compare her to a chipped and cracked tea cup, once new and shiny, but now having imperfections that go from top to bottom, cracks that can no longer be repaired here on earth. One day, though, her marred, imperfect cup will once again overflow with worship and gratitude to her Savior, Jesus.

I love you, Mom. Thank you for all the wonderful lessons you've taught me over the years, but mostly, thank you for allowing Jesus to shine in and through you for 95+ years and showing me through example what rewards await those who make Christ the focal point of their lives. In my eyes, you are a treasured china tea cup.


Thursday, December 11, 2008


Hannah Grace

Whitaker House (January 30, 2009)


Sharlene Maclaren is an award-winning novelist , retired elementary school teacher, wife, mother, and grandmother.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $ 9.99
Publisher: Whitaker House (January 30, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1603740740
ISBN-13: 978-1603740746


Sandy Shores, Michigan • August 1903

The minute hand on the nickel-cased Waterbury clock ticked away the seconds as Hannah Grace Kane primped in the mirror. She leaned back and squinted with displeasure when her unruly, rusty-colored curls refused to cooperate, poking out all over like a bunch of broken bedsprings. “Aargh!” she muttered, throwing down her comb and watching it bounce off the wood floor with a ping before landing on the braided wool rug.

“Supper’s almost ready!” wailed the youngest of the Kane sisters, Abbie Ann, from the foot of the stairs.

“Abbie Ann, you’ll damage my hearing,” Jacob Kane muttered.

Even from the upstairs bedroom, Hannah heard her father’s newspaper rattle and sensed that his tone bordered on brusqueness. She pictured him sitting in his plush blue velvet chair, as he always did at six o’clock, the Sandy Shores Tribune spread in his lap, his reading spectacles perched low on his longish nose. “Why is it that at seventeen, you’re still screaming like a banshee?”

“Seventeen, Papa? Have you forgotten that I turned eighteen in May?”

There was a lengthy pause. “Eighteen? Are you sure?”

Her high-pitched giggle drifted upward. “Of course I’m sure, silly. A lady never forgets her age.”

“Well, then, all the more reason to cease with your howling.”

“Sorry, Papa.”

“Besides, Hannah Grace isn’t even eating at home this evening.”

“Oh, how could I forget? That ol’ Stuffy Huffy’s coming to call. I suppose they’ll take a long stroll in the moonlight. Blechh.” Her voice danced with unrestrained sarcasm, and Hannah could only imagine the look of disapproval on her father’s bearded face. “I don’t know what she sees in him, do you, Papa? If you ask me, he’s boring and unfriendly.”

The newspaper crackled. “Abbie.” He heaved a breath, which echoed up through the register. “Doctor Van Huff seems like a nice enough gentleman. There is no call for judging him. And besides, your sister seems to like him.”

“I’m not judging. I’m merely expressing my view on things, which I happen to think is more fact than opinion. Personally, I suspect she just likes him ’cause he’s just about the only eligible bachelor around.”

Hannah bent down to retrieve her comb and sighed in the process. Everyone knew sounds carried faster than a windstorm in this two-story, foursquare structure. Was there no respect? Why, had she wanted, she could have walked to the twelve-inch heat vent in the floor and peered through its narrow slats to give her sister a snarling glower, but she

wouldn’t, for that was exactly what Abbie wanted her to do. All three Kane sisters had played the “spying game” through that heat register as children, but Abbie seemed bent on continuing it till kingdom come.

“Abbie Ann, you mind your manners. Hannah will hear you.”

Well, it’s about time someone thought of that, Hannah mused, thankful for her grandmother’s scolding tone. Helena Kane, Jacob’s mother, had tirelessly tended to the entire family since shortly after the girls’ own mother had succumbed to pneumonia and died just days short of Abbie’s second birthday. “Ralston Van Huff is a fine, upstanding citizen, and you had best show your respect.” Even after all these years in Michigan, her British accent still lingered like a fresh aroma.

“I do, I do,” Abbie insisted. “But he’s always talking about himself and that stupendous medical practice he runs. After a while, one grows downright weary of it.”

Jacob snapped his paper and exhaled noisily. “The man is doing his best to make a success of himself. I would think taking on the task of town physician would require a bit of ambition…speaking of which, shouldn’t you be out in the kitchen helping your grandmother and sister?”

“I’ll second that,” said Grandmother. “Take the napkins out of the bureau, Abbie.”

“Do you suppose he’s a true Christian, Papa?” Abbie asked, ignoring his inquiry.

“Well, I would hope so. Hannah Grace wouldn’t settle for anyone who didn’t claim to have a faith of his own. May I please read today’s news now, Abigail?”

Keeping one ear to the conversation downstairs, Hannah picked up her comb and resumed her hair-styling task.

“I, for one, think Dr. Van Huff is charming.” Maggie Rose spoke up for the first time that evening. From the kitchen wafted her habitually melodious voice—melodious in that she spoke in pleasant tones rather than melodious from a musical standpoint, that is. Sadly, Maggie thought she could carry a tune quite well, but after years of sitting beside her in church, Hannah knew otherwise. “He picked two roses from our garden last week and gave one to Hannah and one to me. I’d call that rather sweet.”

“Oh, poke me with a stick!” Abbie whined. “He should rather have picked flowers from his own garden—or bought some at Clara’s Flower Shop.”

“Abbie Ann Kane, stop being so persnickety,” Grandmother said. “My goodness, what side of the bed did—?”

A deafening scream sounded through the house when something metallic made clanging contact with the linoleum floor.

“My giddy aunt, what a gobblin’ mess we have here! Don’t burn yourself, Maggie!” Grandmother screeched. “Abbie, come in here this minute and lend a hand. Noodles are everywhere.”

“What’s happened?” Jacob asked.

“It looks like a pig’s breakfast just landed on our kitchen floor. Oh, forevermore and a day! Supper will be delayed, I’m afraid.”

Abbie’s uncontrollable giggles lent to the clamor of rushing feet, running water, Grandmother’s stern orders to stop laughing and fetch some rags, and Maggie’s pathetic verbal attempts to vindicate her clumsiness.

From her cushioned bench in front of the vanity, Hannah stifled a smile, glad to be upstairs and away from

the commotion. She leaned forward to study herself in the mirror. After this close scrutiny, her slightly upturned mouth curled into a pout. Grayish eyes, neither true blue nor clear green, stared back at her as she viewed her thin, longish neck and narrow shoulders, pointy chin, square jaw, and plumpish lips. To top matters off, she had a skinny frame with very little up front to prove her womanhood. As a matter of fact, she’d thought more than once that if she wanted to pass as a boy, she could pile all her hair under a cap, if ever there was one big enough, don a pair of men’s coveralls, work boots, and a jacket, and no one would be the wiser.

She thought about her sisters’ attractive looks—Maggie’s fair-haired beauty and Abbie’s dark eyes, olive complexion, and flowing, charcoal hair. Assuredly, they both outshone her pasty features by a country mile, Abbie’s assets originating from their mother’s Italian heritage, Maggie’s coming from their Grandmother Kane’s long line of elegant features. To be sure, Helena was an aging woman in her sixties, but anyone with an eye for beauty could see that with her high cheekbones, perfectly set blue eyes, well-chiseled nose and chin, and remarkably smooth skin, she must have been the picture of youthful elegance and charm.

But where did she, Hannah Grace, fit into the picture? Certainly, she’d inherited her grandmother’s curly hair, but where Helena’s lay in perfect, gentle waves, gathered into a tidy silver bun at the back, Hannah’s crimped and frizzed atop her head like a thousand corkscrews. And nothing she did to tame it seemed to work. She’d even lain her head on an ironing board some years ago, like a sacrificial hen, and allowed her sisters to straighten it with a hot iron—until they came too close to the skin and singed her scalp. The silly recollection made her brow crinkle into four straight lines.

She pulled her shoulders back, dipped her chin, and tried to look dignified in her ivory silk afternoon gown with the button-down front and leg-o-mutton sleeves.

“Hannah Grace Van Huff,” she whispered, testing the name aloud and wondering how it would feel to say it for the rest of her days.

Tonight, they would dine at the Culver House in downtown Sandy Shores, and, afterward, perhaps walk down to the harbor to watch the boats come and go. Along the way, they would pass the closed shops on Water Street and probably do some window gazing. Ralston would speak about his practice and tell her about the patients he’d seen that day—the broken bones he’d set, the wounds he’d wrapped. He would tell her about his dreams of constructing a new building—one that would allow him to relocate his practice away from his residence. Not for the first time, he would mention his hopes for a partner with whom to launch this undertaking, someone who shared his passion for medicine, of course, and had the financial wherewithal to pitch in his fair share. There would be a placard above the door and maybe a more prominent sign in the front yard. They would hire a nurse, of course, and, down the road, a bookkeeper to keep the multiplying records straight.

He would ask Hannah about her day at Kane’s Whatnot, her father’s general store, and inquire as to how sales had gone. She would be vague in her answer, knowing that the details would bore him to tears. Nevertheless, he’d smile and nod, appearing deeply interested, but then quickly resume speaking about his medical practice.

Perhaps Abbie was right in calling Ralston stuffy and boring, if not a trifle selfish, but he had ambition on his side, and Hannah admired that. Even Papa recognized it. Besides, she’d reached the ripe age of twenty-one, and hadn’t Grandmother once said that when a woman reached her twenties, her chances of finding a genteel fellow slimmed considerably? It was best not to listen to Abbie’s foolish musings. What did she know about the subject? Dr. Ralston Van Huff would make a fine catch for any woman.

“Hannah wouldn’t settle for a man who didn’t claim to have a faith of his own.”

Her father’s words circled in her head, almost like a band of pesky mosquitoes out for blood. Well, of course, Ralston had an active faith. She’d met him at a church gathering, after all. True, he rarely speaks about the Lord, but these things come with time and practice, she told herself. One doesn’t grow strong in faith overnight.

As the racket continued downstairs, Hannah proceeded to pile her mass of red curls on top of her head, using every available pin to hold them in place.

“Thank heaven for hats,” she muttered to herself.

Gabriel Devlin tipped his dusty hat at the woman he passed on the narrow sidewalk, then scolded himself for stealing a glance backward after she passed. What was he doing? He was done with women! And he had Carolina Woods to thank for that. No, I can thank the Lord for bringing our impending marriage to a halt, he rephrased in his head.

A horse whinnied and kicked up a swirl of dirt as it galloped by, carrying its rider through the street, a barking dog on its heels. Since stores closed at precisely five o’clock in this

small but thriving community of Dutch settlers known as Holland, Michigan, the dog and horse were about the only sounds he heard as he made his way toward an open restaurant, stepping down from the rickety-planked sidewalk and crossing the heavily trodden, dirt-packed street in the middle of town. He removed his hat and slapped it across his leather-clad thigh, letting loose a cloud of dust he estimated was almost as big as the horse’s. Setting it back on his head of sandy-colored hair, he stepped up onto a slab of newly laid concrete and saw that one entire block of sidewalk looked freshly poured. Evidently the town council had started a beautification project, at least on this side of the street. He surmised the other side would follow, perhaps before the first blast of winter weather.

He passed several storefronts, glanced in a few windows, and then saw something out the corner of his eye that brought his steps to a halt as his gaze fell on the object of interest. Across the street and another block over, a young lad was crawling out from under a tarp that was stretched over the back of a wagon. He put his hands on his hips and twisted his body from side to side, stretching as if he had just awakened from a long nap. Then, he rubbed his neck and looked at the trees swaying overhead. The horse that was hitched to the front of the wagon turned and granted the boy a disinterested glance, then swished its mangy tail.

Wondering what the boy was up to, Gabe feigned interest in a window display, embarrassed to discover that it was laden with feminine wares and frilly garments. Still, he kept up the fa├žade so as not to miss the boy’s next move. With deft hands, he was plundering through the items under the canvas, stuffing things into every pocket, front and back.Hannah Grace  17

Instinct told him to yell at the lad, for surely he was stealing from some unsuspecting citizen, but something held him back—the tattered clothing hanging off his skinny shoulders, the uncombed mop of black hair, the spattering of dirt and grime on his face and arms, and those shoddy-looking boots.

When the little vagabond had filled his pockets with who knew what, he took off on a run down an alley between two buildings, disappearing within seconds like a fox daunted by daylight. Gabe shook his head, vexed at himself for not caring more but feeling too exhausted after his long day’s ride to muster up much indignation. Maybe once he crammed his stomach with beef stew and bread and gave his horse and mule a period of rest at the livery, he’d go looking for him to see if he could figure out his story.

Pfff! Who was he kidding? After a quick bite and a bit of respite, he planned to finish his trip, following the path along the railroad tracks to Sandy Shores, his final destination. There’d be no time to look for a tattered boy who couldn’t have been a day over nine years old.

A few restaurant patrons cast him curious looks when he found a window seat in the smoke-filled room, but most kept to themselves, faces buried in newspapers or hovering over their suppers. They were likely accustomed to summer tourists, although, by all appearances, he probably resembled a bum more than anything else.

Certainly not Sandy Shores’ newly appointed sheriff.

“What can I do for y’, mister?”

He gazed into the colorless eyes of an elderly woman whose hard-lined face, slumped shoulders, and pursed mouth denoted some unnamed trial of the past. Gray hair fell around her stern countenance, straight and straw-like, reminding him of a scarecrow—the kind whose expression would chase off the meanest bull.

“I’ll have a bowl of beef stew and a slice of—”

“Plumb out.”

“No beef stew?”

“You hard o’ hearin’?”

“Chicken noodle?”

“No soup atall.” With hooked thumb, she pointed behind her. “Menu’s back there.”

His eyes scanned the chalkboard behind the counter where someone had scrawled several words with creative spellings: “Chikin liver and onyuns – 50¢; potatos and gravy on beef – 75¢; cheese sanwich – 25¢; pork sanwich on toasted Bred – 35¢; Ted’s specielty – 50¢”

“What’s Ted’s specialty?” He had to ask.

“Fish. You want it?”

“Is it cooked?”

She gave him a scornful look. “What kind o’ lame-brained question is that? ’Course it’s cooked.”

“I don’t know. Some people eat raw fish.”

“Not ’round these parts they don’t. Where you from?”

“Ohio. Columbus area.”

She sniffed. “Long ways from home, ain’t ya?”

He grinned. “It’s taken me a few days’ ride.”

Lifting one brow as if to size him up, but keeping her thoughts to herself, she asked, “You want the fish? It’s fresh out o’ the big lake, pan-fried.”

His stomach had been growling ever since he walked through the doors, and, in spite of the grit and grime beneath his feet, the dark and dingy walls, and the fetid odors of burnt onions and cigarette smoke, he had a feeling this Ted fellow could cook.

“I’ll try the fish.” He smiled at the killjoy, but, as expected, she just nodded and turned on her heel. “Can I have some coffee, too?”

Another slight nod indicated she’d heard him.

“Ohio, huh?”

From the table next to him, a man sporting a business jacket, string bow tie, and white ruffled shirt, lowered his newspaper. A half-smoked cigar hung out the side of his mouth directly under his pencil thin moustache. He removed the cigar and laid it on an ashtray. “What brings you to these parts?”

Always wary of shysters, Gabe examined the fellow on the sly. Experience had taught him not to trust anyone until he’d earned that right. “Work,” he replied.

“Yeah?” The man massaged his chin, and Gabe knew he was getting equal treatment, a careful scrutiny. Suddenly, the stranger reached across the four-foot span that separated their tables and offered his hand. “Vanderslute’s the name. George.”

Gabe stuck out his arm and they shook hands. “Gabriel Devlin. Good Dutch name you’ve got there.”

Vanderslute chuckled. “You’re definitely in Dutch territory. Pretty near half the town, I’d say. Maybe more.” He looked out over the small, dimly lit eatery. “Not Ted, though. He’s English, through and through. That there was Eva, his

aunt. She owns this place, has for thirty years.” He leaned forward. “She comes across as an old crank,” he murmured in hushed tones, “but on the inside, she’s nothing but mush. Known the two of them since I was this high.” He stretched a palm out level with the tabletop. “Used to stop by here on my way home from school. Depending on her mood, Aunt Eva—that’s what everyone calls her—would pass out free cookies. On good days, that is.”

Vanderslute took a sip of coffee, then took a giant drag off his cigar and placed it back on the tray. Gabe felt the tension roll off his shoulders. He glanced out the window and spotted the little ragamuffin again, his lean frame bent over a barrel as he rifled through the garbage within. “Who’s that little waif over there?” he asked.

“Huh? Where?” Vanderslute pitched forward to peer out the smudged glass.

“Oh, him. He’s been hanging around for a few days. He’ll move on. ’Spect he jumped the back of a train coming from Chicago area. Vagabonds do that from time to time.”

“Vagabonds? He’s just a little kid. Hasn’t anyone tried to help him?”

“He runs off every time. Like some wild pup. Some of the ladies leave bowls of food on their doorsteps, and he’ll run and get them whilst no one’s watching, providing some mongrel mutt doesn’t beat him to it.” He laughed, as if what he’d just said was unusually funny.

Just then, Eva brought a steaming cup of coffee to the table and George slid back in place. When Gabe looked out again, the boy had vanished—like some kind of apparition. He blinked twice and shook his head.

Silence overtook the two for the next several moments as George dug into the plate of roast beef and potatoes Eva had dropped off at his table when she’d deposited a mug of coffee under Gabe’s nose. Gabe’s mouth watered, his stomach grumbled. He sipped on his coffee and ruminated about the boy.

“What’s your trade, anyway?” George asked between chews.

Gabe took another slow swig before setting the tin mug on the table. “You ever hear of Judge Bowers?”

“Ed Bowers, the county judge? ’Course I have. I work the newspaper. I’m a line editor, not a reporter, but I read the headlines before anybody else does. I hear he just appointed a new interim sheriff up in Sandy Shores—someone from…” A light seemed to dawn in his eyes. “Ohio.” Gabe grinned. “You wouldn’t be…?”

“You should be a reporter,” Gabe said. “You’ve got the nose for it.”

“You learn, you know. Well, I’ll be. Too bad about Sheriff Tate, though. He was a good man, honest and fair. Heard his heart just gave out.” George shook his head. “The law business is hard on the body. Good thing you’re young. What are you—twenty-four? Twenty-five?”


George nodded, as if assessing the situation. “You can handle it. Most of what happens in these parts is petty crimes, but there’s the occasional showdown. Not often, though,” he added hastily. “You watch yourself, young man. You’ll do fine.”

“Thanks. I appreciate that.”

Not a minute too soon, Eva returned, this time plopping a plate of pan-fried fish in front of Gabe. On the side were cooked carrots drizzled with some sort of glaze and a large helping of applesauce. The most wonderful aromas floated heavenward, and his stomach growled in response. “Eva, you are an angel.” He smiled at her and felt a certain pleasure to see one side of her mouth quirk up a fraction and the tiniest light spark in her eyes.

“Pfff,” she tittered. “Go on with you.” She swiveled her tiny frame and hobbled off toward the kitchen, still looking like a scarecrow, but with a little less severity.

As he always did before delving into a meal, Gabe bowed his head and offered up a prayer of thanks to God. Then, he draped a napkin over his lap, knowing George Vanderslute’s eyes had taken to drilling holes in his side.

“You’re a praying man, I see.”

Gabe took his first bite. “I am. I pray about everything, actually.”

“Huh. That’s somethin’.” Seeming stumped, George forked down the rest of his meal in silence, the smoke from his cigar making a straight path to the ceiling.

As much as he would have liked taking his sweet time, Gabe wolfed down his plate of food, thinking about the miles of road that still stretched out before him. If he didn’t arrive before nightfall, he’d have to camp alongside the tracks again, and the thought of one more night under the stars didn’t set well with him.

The image of the mysterious little imp who’d stolen from the back of a wagon, rummaged through a waste barrel, and disappeared down an alley materialized at the back of his mind. Would he be shivering in some dark corner tonight, half starved? Gabe swallowed down the last of his coffee, determined to chase him out of his thoughts.

Protect him, Lord, he prayed on a whim, suppressing the pang of guilt he felt for not taking the time to search for him.

Sandy Shores came into view at exactly a quarter till ten, three hours after he left Holland. It had been the slowest, steepest, and most precarious leg of the entire trip, requiring him to navigate gravelly slopes in the light of the moon. Not for the first time, he thanked the Lord for his sure-footed mule, Zeke the Streak, who could not run if his life depended on it but still had strength enough to pull a redwood from its roots; and for Slate, his dapple-gray gelding, calmly bringing up the rear but possessing the speed of a bullet if the situation called for it.

A cool breeze was coming off the lake, bringing welcome relief from an otherwise long, hot day on the trail. Gabe cast a glance out over the placid lake, amazed once more by its vastness. At first glimpse, one would never suppose its distance across to be a mere one hundred miles; it seemed more like an ocean. Gentle waves licked the shoreline, making a whooshing sound before ebbing back into the chilly depths. The Sandy Shores lighthouse, sitting like a proud mother at the end of the pier, flashed her beacon for incoming fishing boats and steamers.

Electric streetlights lit the way as Gabe turned east off the railroad path onto Water Street, which led to the center of town. On the corner to his right stood the three-story Sherman House, the hotel he would call home until he found permanent housing suitable for his budget, if not for his taste. According to Ed Bowers, who had made all his room arrangements, he had a view of the Grand River Harbor and the big lake from his third-floor window. Nice for the interim, he thought, but not a necessity for my simple lifestyle. He’d grown up in affluence and decided he was ready for humbler circumstances. His father’s money had been well-earned, and it had reaped him warranted respect in the community and surrounding areas. Even so, Gabe couldn’t live off his father’s wealth and still respect himself. Besides, he’d had enough of women pursuing him for his family money—Carolina Woods, for one—and it was high time he moved away from Ohio, where the Devlin name didn’t make such an impact every time folks heard it mentioned. Furthermore, a smaller town meant smaller crimes, he hoped—the kind that didn’t require gunfire to resolve them.

Boisterous piano music and uproarious laughter coming from a place called Charley’s Saloon assaulted his senses after two hours spent with nary a sound, save for Zeke’s occasional braying, some sleepy crickets’ chirps, and a gaggle of geese honking from the lake. Gabe wondered if he should expect a run-in or two with a few of Charley’s patrons.

His eyes soaked up the names of storefronts—Jellema Newsstand, Moretti’s Candy Company, Hansen’s Shoe Repair, DeBoer’s Hardware, Kane’s Whatnot—and he wondered about the proprietors who ran each place. Would they accept him as their new lawman, particularly since the late Sheriff Watson Tate had held the office for well over twenty years?

When he spotted Enoch Sprock’s Livery on the second block, he pulled Zeke’s reins taut. Slate snorted, his way of exhaling a sigh of relief for having reached their destination.

“I know what you mean, buddy,” Gabe muttered, feeling stiff and sore himself. He threw the reins over the brake handle and jumped down, landing on the hard earth.

“You needin’ some help there, mister?”

A white-bearded fellow with a slight limp emerged from the big double door.

“You must be Enoch.”

“In the flesh.” The man extended a hand. “And who might you be?”

“Gabriel Devlin.”

“Ah, the new sheriff. We been expectin’ ya’. Hear your room’s waitin’ over at the Sherman.” They shook hands. “Nice place you’re stayin’ at.”

Gabe grinned. “News gets around, I take it.”

Enoch snorted and tossed back his head. “This ain’t what you call a big metropolis.” He took a step back and massaged his beard even while he studied Gabe from top to bottom. “Awful young, ain’t ya?”

Is this how folks would view him? Young, inexperienced, still wet behind the ears? He supposed few knew he’d been responsible for bringing down Joseph Hamilton, aka “Smiley Joe”—a murderous bank robber who wielded his gun for goods throughout Indiana, Ohio, and parts of Kentucky. His last spree was on February 4, 1901, when Gabe received word in his office via telegraph that undercover sources determined Smiley Joe had plans to rob the Delaware County State Bank at noon that very day.

It hadn’t made national headlines, but every Ohioan had the best night’s sleep of his life after reading the next day’s headlines: Gabriel Devlin, Delaware County Sheriff, Takes Down Notorious Middle-West Bank Robber!

Having watched the entire robbery out of the corner of his eye while pretending to fill out a bank slip, Gabe, who had placed two plainclothes deputies at the door in case the villain tried to escape, confronted him while the deputies aimed their guns. “Smiley! It’s the end of the line for you, buddy,” he said coolly. “Drop the bags and turn around slowly, hands in the air.”

At first, it appeared Smiley would comply. His shoulders dropped and he started to turn. “Drop the bags!” Gabe yelled. “Hands to the sky!”

Other deputies, all placed strategically around the bank, surrounded him. The bank stilled to funeral parlor silence as customers scattered and backed against all four walls, terror pasted on every face.

But Smiley Joe wasn’t one to surrender, and, in a rattled state, he went for the eleventh-hour approach: he drew his gun. Wrong move. Shots were fired, and, when it was over, one wounded customer lay sprawled on the floor, groaning and bleeding from the shoulder, while Smiley Joe Hamilton lay dead, Gabe’s gun still hot from the bullet he shot through his head.

“That’s all right by me, you bein’ young,” Enoch was saying. “Time for some new blood ’round here. ’Sides, any friend o’ Judge Bowers is a friend o’ mine.” A slight accent from the British Isles colored his tone.

“I appreciate that.”

“Want I should take your rig inside and tend to your animals?”

“That’d be mighty nice of you.”

Gabe made a move to retrieve his money pouch, but Enoch stopped him. “You just get what you need out o’ your rig, and we’ll settle up in the mornin’.”

“You have no idea how good that sounds.” Gabe reminded himself to retrieve his carpetbag from the back of the wagon. All he needed was a change of clothes for tomorrow, his shaving gear, a bar of soap, and some tooth powder. Right now, nothing sounded better than a soft bed. Shoot, I might even sleep through breakfast, he mused. Ed Bowers didn’t expect him in his office until mid-afternoon.

Slate sidestepped the two as they went to the back to remove the tarp. When they did, they got the surprise of their lives.

“Wull, I’ll be jig-swiggered. What is that?”

Gabe stared open-mouthed at the bundle of a body curled into a tight ball.

“Looks to be a sleeping boy,” he murmured.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


Yes, yes, it's true! My baby is coming. In fact, she will be dropped off on my doorstep, all bundled up in a box, perhaps as early as Tuesday! What, you say? Someone is dropping your baby off at your doorstep--in a BOX?

Indeed! Isn't that the easiest means of delivery? Ask any mother and she'll say she'd gladly skip labor and have someone bring that baby directly to her! Right, moms?

Trouble is--I HAVE had to endure labor pains--some rather painful, plodding, and slow going ones, others moving along at a rather nice pace. That's the way it is with we writers, especially us "seat-of-the-pantsers", who never quite know from page-to-page what's going to happen next. Unfortunately, sometimes we "pantsers" have to wait days between scenes; thus, the labor.

Well, my draft finally complete, and all those edits nailed down, they sent my "baby" off to the printers some weeks ago. But, alas! I just received news TODAY that "she" has arrived at the warehouse, Hannah Grace, that is, number one in my Daughters of Jacob Kane Series!

Oooh, wheee--I think I shall HAVE to do a "GIVEAWAY"! WHAT DO YOU THINK?


And now, take a look at my brief synopsis!
BACK-COVER BOOK BLURB: Raised in the resort town of Sandy Shores, Michigan, Hannah Grace, the eldest of Jacob Kane's three daughters, is feisty and strong-willed, yet practical. Between working at her father's general store and courting the town's physician, Ralston VanHuff, Hannah has her life planned out in an orderly, meaningful way. Or so it seems.

But Hannah's world turns upside down when the new sheriff comes to town. Gabriel Devlin is strong, outspoken and a Christian, to boot--but he's sworn off women, having met ones mostly interested in money and apathetic toward God.

Determined to ignore the newcomer's handsome looks, Hannah is drawn to him nonetheless by a runaway orphan boy named Jesse. While Hannah works to befriend the shy vagabond, who's living with Gabriel until other arrangements can be made, God works in her heart.

What plans does HE have in store for this young woman who thought she had it all together?

Saturday, November 01, 2008


I am a novelist, a creator, an actress of sorts, a romantic, and a generally goofy person who probably has a touch of undiagnosed ADHD. What I am not is an organizer, a plotter, a planner, a supervisor, or a multi-tasker. Therefore, I have boxes, drawers, and cabinets full of unsorted papers, ancient papers, that is, dating back to high school and college days; old report cards, outdated car insurance tabs, oil change records from autos I no longer possess, medical insurance statements from 1970 (exaggeration), and so on. In case you're wondering, Cecil has his own filing system in his office, and never the twain shall meet. So there's my filing system, which pretty much stinks, and there's Cecil's, which stinks less.

Now, as my writing career takes wing, I find my flawed, foppish filing system falling further into futility, and frankly, I'm full-out frustrated!

So, I was talking to one of my girls about this in the car the other day, telling her I'm at that stage, what with publishing contracts and other important work-related papers floating around in unknown places, business receipts lying under paperweights and stuck in corners, where I need to hire someone to ORGANIZE ME! I said, "I will pay someone $15 per hour (I don't know what the going rate is, but I threw out that figure) to go through all my files -- redistribute, purge, sort, shred, whatever it takes, and get me on the right track. She quickly raised her hand. "Mom! I can do that!"

"You can?" I almost drove off the road. This is the girl who never cleaned her bedroom as a teen, well, rarely. Only when she could no longer make a path to her bed. "Seriously?"

"Seriously. I'm good at that stuff."

"You are?" Now that she's married and has a child, I will admit her housekeeping skills have changed dramatically. She hates dust, dirt, and disarray. But she likes money and the chance to make a little extra as the holidays draw near.

So, guess what. I hired her! And she is doing a great job. Well, I cringe every time I hear the shredder, but that's beside the point. "What are you shredding now?" I call from my computer.

"You don't need to know!"

At one point she did come into my office with a stack of papers and ask, "Mom, why are you saving these?" They were my gas and electric bills from the past 20+ years all clipped together. I told her I like to compare costs from year to year. She asked why. I said, "Um, I don't know really. So I can get depressed?" She shook her head at me, and 30 seconds later, I heard the shredder. There went the last 20 years of utility statements! Blink! Gone! But so much of my life was wrapped up in those utility statements. (Just kidding.)

Okay, so this will be a good thing in the end, right? I will have a system that works. Tonight she asked me if I'm going to maintain this "system" once she has it all in place, and I told her I absolutely would, but I had my fingers crossed behind my back when I said it. "Mom." She gave me that narrow-eyed, scolding look. "I'm going to have to keep checking up on you." Wait! Who's the mother here?

Well, for the past few days the paperwork's been scattered across the floor in the guest bedroom downstairs. She has already filled one HUGE garbage bag to the brim with shredded papers. (Dear Lord, what of my life is going to the dump?) And she is working on the next bag! (Help me! I've created a monster.) Anyway, thought you'd like to see a photo of my assistant hard at work, earning her 15 bucks an hour.

Oh, and she has to have this done by next Friday, as I'm having that bridal shower at my house, you remember. Never can tell who might wander downstairs and peek into the guest bedroom. I wouldn't want anyone thinking I'm not organized! teehee

Saturday, October 18, 2008


TRULY IT IS!!!I looked out my back slider at precisely the right moment -- just as a colorful Maple had decided to shed its coat for another season. Off came its leaves, drifting down by the thousands like feather-light snowflakes, blanketing the ground in red and gold. We were baby sitting our grandkids, Dylan and Lexi, at the time, so Cecil decided to take Dylan out for a bit of raking. Well, as you know, you don't rake with a two-year-old and expect the pile to stay intact. In fact, the pile became a "bed" of sorts.





There is NOTHING on earth like Grandpa/Grandson time. SEIZE THE MOMENT!

Friday, October 10, 2008


Let me tell you, Cecil and I packed in a whopping lot in the eleven or so days we spent in London and Paris. And I dare say every delicious calorie consumed was almost immediately walked off! In London, we experienced every mode of transportation from the trains and buses to the taxis and the underground. We snapped pictures of beautiful Regent Street, Westminster Abbey, Parliament, Piccadilly Circus, Big Ben, and the Thames River. We visited Hampton Manor, a castle built for King Henry VIII. We shopped at Harrods Department Store and Hamley's Toy Store--oh, and we breezed through the amazing Liberty Department Store, a castle onto itself. In Paris, we visited the Eiffel Tower, crossed the Seine River, walked the grounds of the Louvre Museum, sipped on coffee at one of the many outdoor cafes, enjoyed a lovely, romantic dinner at a wonderful restaurant, and kissed on a few street corners. Oh, there was so much to see I can barely even put it all into words. I mean, how do you write about an experience like that in a few short paragraphs?

Well, let me say the sights were amazing, yes, even enthralling and spectacular, but far more exciting to me was meeting my precious Shoutlife friend, Maria Cristina, and her ADORABLE fiance, Simone, face to face! To know them is to love them and Cecil and I are BLESSED BEYOND MEASURE BY THE EXPERIENCE!

People and relationships are so much more important than things, and meeting my precious Maria on this trip reminded me of that truth over and over. I can't tell you how many times throughout our time together I whispered up a prayer of thanks to my Heavenly Father for orchestrating this beautiful friendship, which shall take us into eternity. Of that I am CERTAIN.

I've said it before -- we serve a generous, loving God who wants to give us gifts. And the precious gift of friendship is the best one of all!

If I had the choice to revisit the Eiffel Tower or Maria's backyard gate, which do you think I'd pick?

Simone, Maria, Cecil, and me enjoying dinner at a restaurant--our last night together...

Maria and Shar

Tuesday, October 07, 2008


I am deathly, I mean deathly--and that is not an exaggeration--afraid of mice. I HATE THEM, I DETEST THEM, I CRINGE AT THE SIGHT OF THEM, I REFUSE TO WALK DOWN THE STORE AISLE OF THE PET SECTION IF I THINK THERE MIGHT BE ONE IN A CAGE, I CAN'T LOOK AT ONE ON A TV OR MOVIE SCREEN--AND I CERTAINLY CANNOT TOLERATE seeing one in my own house!!! Well, today -- yup! -- for the first time in the 26 years we've lived in this house I saw one run across my floor!!!!!! Lord, help me!

I was sitting in my office chair, holding my sleeping 7-month-old grandson, when my dog suddenly leaped up. (If you know my lazy, 100#, 10-year-old collie, you know he NEVER leaps up.) My big ol' cat, who'd been sleeping on the big pet pillow nearby, also, hmm, stirred. Meaning he sat up and stared in the same direction Dakota was staring. I then heard the tiniest little noise and looked down. There, I saw a little dark thing peeking around the corner OF MY OFFICE DOOR. YOW!!! I shocked myself by not screaming. I did, however, sprint out of my chair and run the opposite way, out through the bathroom, the guest bedroom, and into the laundry room. Then I took a dare, a GIANT dare, and peeked around the corner, where I'd seen the...eeeooouuuu...mouse. Guess what. The cat was still sitting on the pillow and WATCHING the thing run across the floor. At least my dog appeared mildly interested, as he followed it with his nose--somewhat.

From there, I ran up the stairs, breathless, into Cecil's office--(THANK GOD HE IS CURRENTLY UNEMPLOYED!!!!!) "I-I-just saw--a--mouse!" I managed to get out. He swiveled around, all nonchalant. Oh, I hate that.

"You did?"

"Yes! Go get it!" (Oh, by the way, the baby, of course, is no longer sleeping due to all the bobbling up and down, and I feel somewhat guilty for my childish reaction, and for not putting him in his crib before my world crashed in on me.)

I stayed hovered in a corner of Cecil's office, hugging the baby close, while he went to get a broom. A broom! And then I listened to a bit of a scuffle going on underneath me, and then a lot of pounding. UGH. The sound shall remain in my head for days, maybe months, to come.

I thought I lived in a mouse-free environment. Now, all I can think about is, does this thing have a family? If so, are they lurking about looking for him? Yes, my hubby set traps, four of them, all slathered with peanut butter. And every half-hour for the last seven hours I've made him check them. So far nothing--so maybe there's hope that he was just a fluke? But then just tonight at small group Bible study one of the guys there had the nerve to say that where there's one there's ten. HUH???? What kind of friend would say such a thing? Now, I have to sit at my desk with my feet up for at least the next two months--at least until I can feel reasonably certain there are no more yucky little gray things running around. And by the way, I asked my hubby what the cat did when he went after the mouse with a broom and he said he just sat on his pillow and watched. Grrrrrrr. I'm so mad at my cat! What good is he?

Okay, well, thank you for allowing me to vent. And let me just say, IF YOU READ THIS TO THE END, YOU ARE A TRUE, TRUE FRIEND.

Oh dear, writing deadlines loom, and now I have to think about the possibility of something crawling across my foot?????? Pray for me. And I don't say that in a trite manner. I AM SERIOUS AS A DEAD LOON!

Sometime this week I shall tell you about our trip to Europe--and add pictures!

Unless I see another one of those ucky things in my office.

Then it could be a while.

Sunday, September 14, 2008


You won't believe it. I just finished it off and it was great! I'm sending you the recipe to this DANGEROUS cake. Why is it dangerous? You'll see when you get to the end...


1 coffee mug
4 Tbsp. cake flour (cake flour makes for a lighter cake than regular flour)
4 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. baking cocoa
1 egg
3 Tbsp. milk
3 Tbsp. oil
Small splash of vanilla
3 Tbsp. chocolate chips (optional, but, really, why would they be optional?)

Add dry ingredients to mug, mix well with a fork. Add egg, mix thoroughly. Pour in milk, oil, and vanilla, mix well. Add chocolate chips if using, and WHY wouldn't you be, for Heaven's sake? This IS a chocolate cake!

Put mug in microwave, and cook for three minutes on HIGH. Cake will rise over top of mug--do not be alarmed! Allow cake to cool then tip onto a plate.

Why, put a scoop of ice cream on top, of course, and ENJOY! (This can serve two if you're feeling slightly virtuous.)

WHY IS THIS CALLED THE MOST "DANGEROUS" CAKE RECIPE IN THE WORLD? Because now we are all only five minutes away from chocolate cake any time of the day or night!!!

I love you all!

Monday, September 08, 2008



Oh, I hate to see it--this ebbing away of one season and the flowing in of another. It's that dratted "circle of life" thing. I told you I turned 60 last month (see it's already the NEXT MONTH!), and ever since, I've been viewing life through clearer, if not more realistic, eyes. Oh, I'm not depressed, discouraged, or defeated, mind you. If anything I'm energized and excited about God's offerings! I sometimes feel a little like that bright-eyed kid I once was, not quite tall enough to reach the kitchen counter, so standing on tiptoe to watch my mom put away the week's groceries, knowing a promised, delicious treat is coming. The older I become the more I'm reminded of God's generous, faithful, perfect love for me. Everyday, I anticipate something good coming down the pike. I'm not saying life is a box of chocolates. NO! Life is scary sometimes; it's full of ups and downs, holes and speed-bumps, disappointments, skinned knees, and bruised hearts. But it's also full of God's grace and mercy and forgiveness. That's the "something good" I'm talking about.

So why is it I cleave to summer? Probably because I didn't do all the things I had good intentions of doing. Yesterday, I took one long look at my shimmering, glimmering pool out my kitchen window. The kids and grandkids were over and my husband and grandson were playing 'Who's gonna get wet first?'. I had a kitchen full of dinner dishes to clean up, but the shrieking sounds of pool play and splashing water beckoned me--as did that lovely, flawless September sunshine. ((Next Sunday, there will be a loop-lock winter cover spread across my pool. Wasn't it just yesterday we took it off after a long, grueling winter?))

I raced to the other room for my swimsuit and jumped into it speedy quick. I'd missed opportunities for pool fun this summer because other things took precedence, like keeping a spotless kitchen, sorting the day's laundry, or even heading to my office to complete that all-important scene in my current novel.

But today I planned to enjoy it, lie in it, lavish it, let the sun drain its hot rays deep into my pores--and phooey on the sunscreen! Phooey on the waiting dishes, the mashed potatoes still sitting in their big serving bowl.

Oh, it was grand listening to Dylan squeal, "Grandma's coming!" Grand when he splashed my back, when I took to the rubber mat and sailed from one end to the other (Grandma's little boat!), grand to listen to all the banter and play and delighted shrieks. And even grander after everyone left for home and naps, and I still lay there in the stillness of an early, early autumn day, tiny breezes rippling the water, listening now to the banter of tree frogs and squirrels, of bird calls and cricket cries.

Yes, it is that "circle of life" thing that keeps our seasons coming and going, makes the wrinkles on our faces grow deeper and longer, makes our children grow into adults who become parents themselves. It's important to recognize there's little we can do to slow down time. What we can do, though, is put a temporary halt to our own rushing lifestyles, take a minute to listen to the cricket's song, the rustle of leaves, that distant dog's lonesome bark. We need to do this. It's the only way to keep our senses sharp, our souls energized, our hearts alive.

And sometimes there are other benefits to slowing down and letting go of some things. Others take notice. Yesterday when I came in after my long afternoon of lazing in the pool--guess what I found. A sparkling kitchen.

Now, that's a benefit I'll gladly accept!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008


To be posted VERY LOW on the refrigerator door:

Dear Dogs and Cats:

1.The dishes with the paw prints are yours and contain your food. The other dishes are mine and contain my food. Please note, placing a paw print in the middle of my plate and food does not stake a claim for it becoming your food and dish, nor do I find that aesthetically pleasing in the slightest.

2.The stairway was not designed by NASCAR and is not a racetrack. Beating me to the bottom is not the object. Tripping me doesn't help because I fall faster than you can run.

3.I cannot buy anything bigger than a king-sized bed. I am very sorry about this. Do not think I will continue sleeping on the couch to ensure your comfort. Dogs and cats can actually curl up in a ball when they sleep. It is not necessary to sleep perpendicular to each other stretched out to the fullest extent possible. I also know that sticking tails straight out and having tongues hanging out the other end to maximize space is nothing but sarcasm.

4.For the last time, there is no secret exit from the bathroom. If by some miracle I beat you there and manage to get the door shut, it is not necessary to claw, whine, meow, try to turn the knob or get your paw under the edge and try to pull the door open. I must exit through the same door I entered. Also, I have been using the bathroom for years --canine or feline attendance is not required.

5.The proper order is kiss me, then go smell the other dog or cat's butt. I cannot stress this enough!

And, to pacify you, my dear pets, I have posted the following message on our front door:

To All Non-Pet Owners Who Visit and Like to Complain About Our Pets:

1. They live here. You don't.
2. If you don't want their hair on your clothes, stay off the furniture. That's why they call it "fur"niture.
3. I like my pets better than some people.
4. To you, they are an animal. To me, they are my short, hairy, four-legged children.

And as a side note, dogs and cats are different from real kids in that they:
1. Eat less
2. Don't ask for money all the time
3. Are easier to train
4. Normally come when called
5. Never ask to drive the car
6. Don't hang out with drug-using friends
7. Don't smoke or drink
8. Don't have to buy the latest fashions
9. Don't want to wear your clothes
10. Don't need a gazillion dollars for college, and...
11. If they get pregnant, you can sell their children

Until one has loved an animal, part of his soul remains unawakened.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008



Yes, that's me as a baby, then a "kid", then a young lady with long hair. Oh me, oh my! Where has the time gone? Did I mention that I'm going to be ***60*** on August 26? Yes, that's right ~~ SIXTY! (See my post of a few days ago.)

Recently, I did an interview for someone's blog and the theme was: "When I Was a Kid..." The questions certainly stirred a host of memories for me. On my actual birthday, I'll post the interview, so come back if you want to read my answers. response to this interview I had to go in search of some old photos of me, and what a time I had trying to find them. Mission accomplished, though, photos scanned, and there they are!

More later...must get my beauty rest in preparation for my "big day"! My daughters are treating me to a trip to Chicago. I am sooooo excited about this little 'getaway'!


Saturday, August 02, 2008


Long Journey Home is available for immediate shipping on Amazon! It won't hit store shelves till September 1, so I was surprised to see Amazon ahead of the game--and excited--and BLESSED BEYOND MEASURE!

Long Journey Home is the first manuscript I ever wrote back in 2000. Retirement from teaching was still a couple years out, but I started praying that God would lay a new passion on my heart in preparation for leaving teaching. Well, I started having a recurring dream that I'd written a novel, which seemed a little odd to me since I hadn't dabbled in fiction writing since high school!!!!! But remembering that I'd asked God for a new passion, I decided to try my hand at writing a story. About a month later, a full 90K word novel emerged (I've never written that fast since!), and my passion was born! Now, I'm delighted to say that manuscript has found a home -- WHITAKER HOUSE PUBLISHING asked to pub it between my two series, and I was thrilled. (Thank You, Jesus!)

Soooo, if you're interested, go to, plug Sharlene MacLaren into the search space, and my books will pop up. Scroll down to Long Journey Home and wa-lah!


Friday, August 01, 2008


One of my dear friends would have to bring up the fact that it is almost August. In fact, by the time you read this, it WILL be! It's almost midnight as I write this, and almost time to flip the calendar page.

I used to love August. Why? Because it's my birthday month, and who doesn't love their birthday month? ME now. I am getting so old that I should really think about rolling back my odometer. Is that legal to do? The other day I was browsing through the antique store and they wanted to KEEP me!

I remember our first black and white TV, Bob Hope, Red Skelton, Bing Crosby, Doris Day, Rock Hudson, Annette Funicello (she was a mouseketeer!), Father Knows Best, My Three Sons, Mayberry, The Hardy Boys, and Loretta Young...

I remember when bread was four loaves for a dollar, gas wars, (yes, 27-cents a gallon!), fishing with my daddy, Dick and Jane, Think and Do books, Old Yeller, watching Mommy sit at the sewing machine, Fury, My Friend Flicka, Howdy Doody, The Yearling, our first console stereo (we called it a hi-fi, which stood for high-fidelity!)...

I remember going to church twice on Sunday, Wednesday night prayer meetings, and never missing a night of week-long revival services (yawn), ginger snaps, penny candy, two-cent suckers (tootsie roll pops), running barefoot down our dirt road, and Daddy whistling while he worked around the house on Saturdays, his shirt-sleeves rolled up past his elbows, his old pants sagging at the waist. I remember...

OH, OH, OH! IT'S MIDNIGHT. And officially August.

This is my big year. I have truly passed the halfway point, probably the two-thirds, maybe the three-quarters. I am going to be 6-0 this month, and that feels geezerish!

I sound like I'm complaining, but I'm not really. I just put on a good act. I am truly happy and contented to be where I am. Every stage of my life has been a blessing, even the difficult times, because I've truly discovered God's faithfulness in all situations, and more so the older I get. Now I DO sound geezerish! But it's the plain truth.

Yes, I'm going to be older than rocks, but that's okay. With God, my marvelous HUNKY hubby and darling family at my side, why should it matter? I have it all -- not wealth and possessions, mind you -- but GOD and family, the things that make you RICH without having all the money.

I LOVE LIFE AND ALL OF YOU, and suddenly I LOVE that I'm going to be 60!!!!!!!!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

HANNAH GRACE, Book One of "The Daughters of Jacob Kane" coming in January 2009!

Here are a couple of images I thought you might like to see. First, my upcoming book, Long Journey Home, hitting shelves in late August, early September. Then a sneak peek of the first book in my next series, Hannah Grace, from the Daughters of Jacob Kane! Of course, that one doesn't come out till next January '09!

Come on over to my website(s) if you want to get some synopses of these upcoming books! Go to either of these locations by copying and pasting the following addresses into your browser:

Love you all!

Friday, June 06, 2008


May I make a little announcement that literally thrills me to the bone and sends me to my knees in gratitude to my Heavenly Father?

This year’s Romance Writers of America National Conference will take place in San Francisco in July. Here they will announce the winner of the Inspirational Readers’ Choice Contest, which is the “Faith, Hope, and Love” division of RWA and open to authors of inspirational novels published in 2007. About a week ago, I received word that judges of this contest nominated Sarah, My Beloved for the “Long Historical” category. Can you believe it? I can’t! In fact, my little mind is blown away! GONE! (grins)

No, I will NOT be attending the awards dinner. *You will note there are four finalists in my category, which means there is a tie for third place. I fully expect to land in the third place tie and will GLADLY and humbly accept that honor, but I don’t think it warrants my flying to San Francisco for one night! (And, no, I am not the least bit sorry about not going.)

Here are all the IRCC finalists and their categories:

Long Contemporary:
Surrender Bay by Denise Hunter (Thomas Nelson)
Too Good To Be True by Trish Perry (Harvest House)
Taming Rafe by Susan May Warren (Tyndale House)

Long Historical: (3rd Place Tie)
Remembered by Tamera Alexander (Bethany House)
Petticoat Ranch by Mary Connealy (Barbour)
Lady of Milkweed Manor by Julie Klassen (Bethany House)
Sarah, My Beloved by Sharlene MacLaren (Whitaker House)

Women's Fiction:
Let Them Eat Cake by Sandra Byrd (Waterbrook)
The Oak Leaves by Maureen Lang (Tyndale House)
Remember to Forget by Deborah Raney (Howard)

Short Contemporary:
Simple Gifts by Lori Copeland (Zondervan)
Forever Christmas by Christine Lynxwiler (Barbour)
Mom in the Middle by Mae Nunn (Steeple Hill)

Short Historical:
Bluebonnet Belle by Lori Copeland (Steeple Hill)
The Lumberjack's Lady by Susan Page Davis (Barbour)
The Bounty Hunter and the Bride by Vicki McDonough (Barbour)

Romantic Suspense:
Buried Secrets by Margaret Daley (Steeple Hill)
Nowhere to Hide by Debby Giusti (Steeple Hill)
Ransomed Dreams by Amy Wallace (Multnomah)

Unwrapping Christmas by Lori Copeland (Zondervan)
The Spinster and the Lawyer by Jeri Odell (Barbour)
Moonlight and Mistletoe by Carrie Turansky (Barbour)

Thank you ever so much for indulging me as I share my joy. God is so amazing to have given me this passion to write! And it is solely for His honor, glory, and the furthering of His Kingdom that I put my fingers to the keyboard!

Monday, May 19, 2008

By Sharlene MacLaren

A very dear teacher friend wrote and asked me to pray for her in these final days of school. She didn't crawl into bed until 2:30 this morning, as she had a mountain of paperwork to complete, grades to compile, and tests still needing scoring. She was worried she wouldn't have clarity of thought today, or even the strength or wherewithal to make it through another school day. You teachers know what I'm talking about--or maybe you spouses of teachers. As requested, I sat at my computer and prayed for her, and then I wrote her a note of encouragement. ((Please feel free to copy and pass this on to any and ALL teachers you know who might need a gentle word.))


My dear friend, I surely will pray for you -- and am right now in fact! As I am praying, a few things come to mind for you to do in these final days and hours, and so I'll share them.

First, take a long look at each student, or as many as you can, and figure out how they made a difference in your life this year. Did he/she make you a better person by maybe growing your patience, or making you smile or laugh? Did anyone make you shed a tear or maybe cause your heart to grow a couple sizes with some heart-wrenching story?

Second, did any of them make you proud, more contented in your job than you ever thought possible, or give you just the exact lift you needed for that particular day?

Third, which students did you pinpoint at the beginning of the year as ANNOYING, only to discover them on your "very secret" end-of-the-year favorite list? (These are the ones you want to make sure you hug tightly at that last goodbye, for they taught you a few things maybe you can't even fully identify yet.)

Fourth, think about who surprised you most with his/her academic growth? Point-blank, who grew up before your very eyes in the past nine months? Then think about this -- YOU aided in that growth!

Fifth, which students do you look at, maybe point at with a mental finger, and say to yourself, "That is why I LOVE teaching!" You're going to have the sour grapes mixed in the fruit salad, the apple slices with the black spots in the center, the not-so-sweet melon wedges, but most of the salad is going to be DELICIOUS. Same with the students who walk through your door each year. Some make the chore of showing up every day a bit of a task, and, let's face it; some of their parents are just as bad! But the majority you will wind up loving by the end of May, and your heart will squeeze a little when they look at you and say, "Good-bye, have a great summer!"

My friend, these thoughts just tumbled off the top of my head this morning, so I thought I'd mention them to you. I know how very overwhelming the end of the year can be. I experienced it 31 times! Live each final moment slowly and deliberately. As the old saying goes, "Don't forget to stop and smell the roses." In your case, "Don't forget to stop and study each young face--and thank the Lord for the blessed opportunity He gave you by placing them in your care for one entire school year." Without knowing it, you made a HUGE positive difference in your students' lives. HUGE! What did they do to make you better?

Blessings for a PERFECT student sendoff and then a much-needed, relaxing, joy-filled, splendid, sunshiny summer!

Hugs and prayers,

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


ON MAY 12, 1913, DOROTHY MAY HESSELBART CAME INTO THE WORLD, a bouncing, happy baby girl, sweet from the top of her head to the tips of her toes, and remaining as such for the next 95 years! How do I know this? Because she is my mother, and I've watched her live her life. She has always been gentle, loving, soft-spoken, passionate about serving the Lord, an avid reader, a constant learner, a model of utmost patience, a strong support to her family, a sweet companion, hard-working and diligent, talented in a myriad of ways (playing the piano, singing, sewing, crocheting, knitting, cooking, baking, and the list goes on!) She's been my friend, a wonderful listener, a great conversationalist, a wise decision maker, a sweet comfort and a strong encourager. It is impossible to put into a few words all the many things she has meant to me.

My mother has Alzheimer's and, most days, seems to be in the final stages of the dreaded disease, if sleeping her life away is any indication. This picture, however, was taken on one of her 'better days', a few weeks before her 95th birthday. It was the day we introduced her to another of her great-grandchildren. Rarely does she speak a coherent word, but this particular day, she looked down at Gavin and said, "Oh, isn't he cute?" AMAZING!

She does not know who I am--only that I'm someone safe. She cannot call anyone by name, but will occasionally still say, "Jesus." It is a mysterious, heart-wrenching, disgusting, painful, debilitating, incurable, unstoppable disease -- and yet at the same time it has taught me things. Things like compassion and understanding, patience, endurance, kindness, and gentleness. It has taught me how to love on deeper levels. When I go to visit Mom I try to take time to speak with the other residents, smile, pass out hugs, say a comforting word. I seek out the staff and try to encourage them, thank them for all they've done and continue to do.

If I search for a "why" in all of this, the only thing I can come up with is that the rest of us have gained from all that she's endured.

For that, I say, "Thank you, Mom." Thank you for enduring, for suffering, for going through these trials so that the rest of us could develop stronger character.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom, and a blessed 95th birthday. I love you, and I rise up and call you blessed.

Your loving daughter...

Sunday, April 27, 2008


I looked out my dining room window today to find the dogwood tree in full bloom. And out the big front picture window, my huge magnolia fairly exploding with vibrant pink flowers. When did this happen? Overnight? Daffodils, crocus, forsythia, and tulips -- they're all popping out at once.

Everything's comin' up roses!

I love driving down our tree-lined streets on the way to town. Just weeks ago, those trees stood barren, their long, skinny branches draped across the road, showing no signs of life. Today they stand in almost prideful wonder, displaying lush, verdant leaves. They seem to be shouting, "Look at me, I made it through another harsh winter! And I'm growing taller and stronger every year!"

This is day, cold and despairing, and the next, rich and full with hope and expectation.

Maybe you're going through one of those shivery, fearful, bleak spells right now. You look around and everything appears hopeless and dead. Your heart literally hurts, your stomach ties itself in knots, your head throbs with the ache of trying to stay strong.

Look up! God is there! He is standing in the shadows, waiting, ready to help; His ear turned toward your cries. He is your strength in times of trouble. The Word tells us that when we are weak, His strength is made perfect. In other words, we are at our strongest when we admit our weakness and surrender everything into His very capable hands--allow Him to breathe new life into our barren limbs!

We grow through these fruitless, hard, grueling times. And we come out stronger and better. Romans 8:28(a) says, "And we know that ALL things work together for good to them who love the Lord..."

Believe it! Whatever you may be going through right now, IT IS TEMPORARY, you will get through it.

"When I cry unto the Lord, then shall my enemies turn back; this I know, for God is FOR me. In God I have put my trust: I will not be afraid..." Psalm 56: 9, 11

Thursday, April 24, 2008

A newlywed couple had the worst time communicating. It seemed like every time they had a disagreement, it turned into a major fight--except their fights always wound up being the pouty kind where each gave the other the silent treatment.

Sometimes these "spats" could last for days. During one such spell, the husband had an early morning appointment and didn't want to oversleep, so he left a note for his wife that said, "Wake me up at 5 a.m. I have a meeting at 6." He put the note on her pillow so she'd be sure to see it. Indeed, when she came to bed, she picked up the note, read it, and quietly nodded.

Good, the husband thought. She'll wake me in the morning and this silent treatment business will finally come to an end.

The next morning, the husband awakened at 9 a.m. He had missed his appointment! Lying on the pillow beside him was a note, and scribbled on it were the words, "It's 5 a.m. Wake up."


A far-fetched story? Perhaps. But in some ways very realistic. Ever give someone you love the silent treatment? Maybe someone's hurt or disappointed you and your stubborn refusal to talk is your way of "getting even". When my husband and I married over 32 years ago, we had a few "silent" battles of our own. Neither one of us has ever been the "yelling" type, so we showed our anger in quiet ways -- punishing the other with silence. Thank God we've "outgrown" that silly behavior, learning the importance of communicating our hurts, disappointments, and, yes, sometimes our anger.

I think of all the times in my life I've given God the silent treatment. Battles I tried to win in my own strength, problems I tried to solve by myself, paths I tried to carve out without His clear guidance or direction.

How many times I've tripped and fallen flat on my face simply because I didn't seek Him first!

"Lord, remind me when I fail to acknowledge You. Nudge me, poke me, wake me up if needs be--but please don't let me get away with giving you the silent treatment."

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"Show me your ways, Oh, Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth, for You are God, my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long." Psalm 25:4,5

Saturday, April 19, 2008

This "Iffy, Spiffy, Sniffy" Month... Friday, April 18, 2008 - 9:30 PM

Michigan has been having some lovely weather the past several days, and in Michigan we TREASURE glorious spring days. Why? Because April is that very "iffy" month. One day spiffy as a brand new penny--simply golden, sunny and teasingly warm, and the next, cold as a landlord's heart. No kidding! It can be convertible-top down on Monday and heaters at full-blast Tuesday. But we're so excited about seeing the sunshine that we Michiganders can take a few cold days mixed in with the warm (even a couple more snowflakes) 'cause we know we're in for a whoppin' good summer.

BEST KEPT SECRET: Michigan summers are almost always AMAZINGLY WARM AND WONDERFUL! April to October = Glorious

Can you tell I love spring? Everything about it speaks of new beginnings. It's almost like New Years' Day, in fact--when you get that chance to start all over. Spring is that time of fresh beginnings, new sights to see, new scents to sniff, new grass to touch. (Remember those first days, as a child, of skipping barefoot through the grass, that splendid tickling, daring feeling of shedding shoes and socks and running laps around the house? Wasn't it marvelous?)

I think God created spring so we could experience His creation through bright, hopeful eyes. Yes, winter is long and grueling, especially for we northerners, but the promise of spring and new life somehow charges our weak batteries, gives us newfound strength -- puts the vigor back in our steps!

Yes, April may be "Iffy", but it's wrapped up in promises, and it's a special reminder, to me anyway, of God's faithful, ever-present love and goodness.

A Happy, Blessed, Joy-filled spring to all of you!

With love and warm-weather hugs...

Friday, April 18, 2008


I am way more than a grown woman. I'm going to be 60 years old this summer! I'M A GRANDMOTHER, for Pete's sake. So why do I still find myself doing the most childish things just to get a laugh? My darling hubby is forever pressing me in the side during church--or at funerals or weddings--if I start talking to someone next to me, or, worse, get the giggles. (IMAGINE! Who does he think he is???)

Well, onto my story...

Tonight, I was sitting in a very important church business meeting with about 200 in attendance (IN THE SECOND ROW, OF COURSE), my best girlfriend, Debbie, and her hubby sitting on my right, my husband up on the platform discussing church budget matters. I mean this is serious. He is our church administrator.

Out of boredom, I looked in my purse for a mint and laid eyes on a little McDonalds' toy my grandson had gotten in a Happy Meal last week when Cecil and I took him to lunch. It is the butt-ugliest little toy I've ever seen. It must be a character from some movie, but I haven't the first clue which one. It's hot pink and black and round, and has these weird little moveable arms that when you pull them upward, a LOUD song comes blaring out. I knew this, of course.

Feeling mischievous, I handed the toy to my girlfriend and whispered, "Here's a present for you."

She picked it up, studied it, smiled, and said, "Gee, thanks. What is it?"

"I don't know. It's Dylan's. It's been in my purse since Saturday. Isn't it weird looking?"

"It's a little disco dancer or something."

She tossed the toy on the pew and gave her full attention back to my "serious" husband.

The place was just too quiet for its own good. I mean, really.

DON'T ask me why I did it, but I reached down and pulled that toy's arms up. I knew what would happen, mind you, but something in me just wanted to create a stir. I'm naughty, what can I say?

Well, the LOUD blast from that hideous little toy vibrated our pew. Debbie nearly jumped out of her pants and started giggling while I fussed with the thing, trying to find an OFF button. There had to be one somewhere, but nope. It was one of those toys that HAS to play itself out to the bitter end. The pews behind us started cracking up. One lady leaned forward and whispered, "I've known for years someone should've separated you two!"

Well, our shoulders shook for the next three minutes while my husband tried to conduct business. My mascara ran, and so did Debbie's, but oh well. What about my Debbie's hubby, Rich? I think he moved about three feet away from us.

After the meeting, someone came up to me and said, "Haven't you learned yet how to put that thing on vibrator mode?" Hahaha! He thought it was my cell phone ringing. I love that.

I know your question--was Cecil mad at me for causing the disruption? Nope. After 32 years, he's learned I'm a bit hard to control at times, and he just accepts it and loves me anyway!

And so does my Heavenly Father. WOW!

Isn't it great that with all our quirks, faults, goofiness, mistakes, and imperfections, we can still count on our God to love us unconditionally? Whew! I'd be up a crick if He didn't.