Caryl McAdoo

I Love New Beginnings

In the late 1990s, right before the turn of the century, Ron and I attended a church called New Beginnings. I thought the name fitting since Jesus offers everyone new beginnings—again and again, actually. When we repent and ask the Father’s forgiveness, He only sees the shed red blood that cleans us white as snow, and voila! We have a brand-new beginning!

One reason I chose back in 2019 to write a series of wagon train stories—the multi-author Prairie Rose Collection—was the spirit of those pioneers who left family and friends behind to seek out their new beginning. Do you wonder now how many heard a still small voice saying, “Go west. Go west,” in their heart of hearts?

Of one thing I’m pretty certain! There were probably as many different reasons those sojourners would have given as there were wagons making the two-thousand-mile trek. Of my three prairie roses, Remi (2019) went to find her father, Lilah (2020) was forced to go by an evil stepfather, and Ruth (2021) sought to flee a sordid past and her poor decisions. She prayed for a new beginning.

Well, last month in July, Amazon launched a new program for authors and readers called Kindle Vella. I probably first heard about it in May. Instead of writing chapters, the author writes episodes. The best way to describe it is that it’s like a television show you read! The stories will have seasons of X-number of episodes!

There will be characters you love and adore and a few you love to hate. Of course, there will be cliff hangers, but in every episode, one story in the lives of the folks will come to its end, another will be moving forward, and a new one will begin. After discussing the new venue, Ron and I decided we might like to try it, so we talked over many options for our story/show.

Every May when the new collection of Prairie Roses launches, we get a big boost in sales that’s a lot like the Energizer bunny! My readers love the covered wagon stories, so we elected to write a series starring a wagon master, Ambrose Lee, and a strong-spirited woman with three children, Blaire Beechy. She has two near-grown daughters Adeline and Beatrice and a twelve-year-old son, Tucker.

There needed to be a tall and handsome scout, of course—that’s Emmerson, plus we threw in a crazy lady! I love Birdie! So far, ten episodes in, we’ve introduced several families in a few of the other wagons as well. The Slocums with two wagons have ten children, and there’s Bob and Debbey Cozzone and their gang.

Oscar Spencer is a young artist taking his two sisters Clara and Stella west after their parents’ deaths. All they’re interested in is finding him a wife. Fun, fun, fun! The possibilities are endless—as are the adventures and romances! I’m so excited about the story!

Here’s where you can read the first three episodes for free!

The Oregon/ California Trail was no cakewalk, y’all. It was a hard arduous expedition fraught with danger and hardships—one after another after another.

The wagon master must keep them all going, hoping to reach Independence Rock—in what is now Wyoming—by July Fourth in order to have a good chance of getting across the mountains before the winter snows set in, the Cascade Mountain Range if Oregon’s Willamette Valley was the destination or the Sierra Nevada Mountains if California.

Getting caught before getting over those dangerous ranges would prove deadly! Everyone today has probably heard of the Donners’ Expedition. After several mishaps eighty-seven souls got caught in the Sierra Nevada Range and hunkered down for the winter of 1846-1847. Almost half perished, and those who survived did so by cannibalism.

My Captain Ambrose certainly heard the dreadful story and determined those who entrusted their lives to him would not suffer such a fate. It’s his second year to make the trip to California, and in 1849 gold had been discovered—the reason many of his waggoners are making their way west.

The trains almost always left in the spring when the prairie grasses grew tall enough to support the beasts of burden pulling the wagons. Back in those days, most left from Missouri; its western border was also the western boundary of the United States. Our characters in WAGONS WEST leave from Independence.

Ron and I drove from our home in Clarksville Texas to that Missouri city, then journeyed along the Oregon/California Trail, stopping along the way to visit museums and see sights such as Nebraska’s Ash Hollow State Park where the men had to lower their wagons, one by one, over a cliff to the ground three hundred feet below!

It was an awesome journey I highly recommend! I learned so much about wagon trains, and I think it shows in my stories. There could never be better research than seeing for myself! I hope you’ll enjoy all my covered wagon stories! What do you think? Would you set out after a new beginning?


Linda Brooks Davis

Life on planet Earth involves change. The soil. The environment. Languages. Animals. Human beings. Sometimes for the better; other times not so much. Take ageing for example. I’m unashamed to announce I’m 75, but I’m also not celebrating the changes ageing is forcing on me. Like dull, wrinkled, sagging and spotted skin. Graying hair. And weight gain. Are you?

Then again, I loved watching my children grow from helpless, fresh-faced infants to confident adults with a few gray hairs.

God created us with the capacity for a range of sentiments. Mine can move from one end of the emotional scale to the other in a single day. How about you?

Ever thought about how our emotions change over time? When we’re babies, we have no governor for our emotions, but as we mature, we learn to moderate our reactions. What we howled and kicked about in infancy, we ignore or do something about as adults. As babies, we scrunch up our faces and shriek when we’re irritated; as adults, we use words and measured actions. (Hopefully)

Fictitious characters must battle emotions also, or readers don’t care about them. They’re wooden cut-outs otherwise. So, we authors show characters’ emotions, not tell them. Take anger for example. Rather than tell the reader the character is angry, we show the emotion in the character’s reddened face, clinched fists, gritting of teeth, or maybe the stomp of a foot.

As a historical novelist, I’m forever considering emotions that are not only universal but timeless. As far back as Creation, emotions have played key roles in the story of mankind. Pride brought down Eve. Anger and jealousy destroyed Abel. Fear made Abraham a liar. Joy and grief took King David to his lyre and timbrel. The same emotions transform lives all these eons later. Saul’s pursuing David in ancient times might look somewhat like road rage today.

I can point to specific moments when I have experienced the timeless emotion, joy, at levels that exceed every other moment of my life. Each time, I’ve recalled the joy demonstrated by biblical characters of ancient times and thought God has come near.

  • One: the day I learned my daughter was expecting triplets. I was at work when I received the news. Unable to contain my joy, I sprang from my chair. Leaped. Bounded down hallways and aisles. And squealed. My peals of joy drew fellow workers from all around—even the floor below.

That evening I recalled the experience and thought of David dancing for joy before the Lord in 2 Samuel 6:14 KJV.

Did I dance for joy at home that night? (I’ll never tell.)

  • Two: the day I learned a story I had written won the Jerry B. Jenkins Operation First Novel contest and would become a published novel (The Calling of Ella McFarland).

At home with my husband, I experienced a gamut of emotions. Joy. Gratitude. Shock. Vulnerability. But the overwhelming emotion was disbelief. I paced and mumbled, “This can’t be true. This can’t be true.”

Later, my husband eyed me. “You gonna be alright? I wouldn’t want to go to bed, and you have a stroke.”

Compelled to leave the house for breathing room that very cold January night, I sat on our back porch, inhaled the crisp night air, and gazed at the stars in the clear sky.

My joyful disbelief brought to mind the women’s reaction to the resurrection of Jesus in Matthew 29:8.

Did my disbelief bring on a stroke? Thankfully, no. (But only God knows how close I came.)

The characters I’ve encountered while writing my books have experienced the darkest emotions and the brightest triumphs. They’ve asked the same questions and railed against God in the same ways. “I don’t care about Your will! Do something!”

  • On a single, protracted occasion, I experienced the deepest grief of my lifetime and responded in the same way. Shocking, heart-rending, relentless anguish that surpasses every other sorrow I’ve known engulfed me the year I turned 71. I shouted, “No! This can’t be!” I fell to the floor and curled into the fetal position, moaning. I clenched my hands and hammered the air. “Where are you, God?” I even wandered so far as to declare, “I don’t care about Your will! I can’t live like this. Do something!”

Eventually the Lord nudged me toward His Word. I considered the Old Testament Patriarch, Job. If you recall, his story began in Heaven with God and Satan …

Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.

Job 1:8 NIV

Why in the world God would point out Job to Satan. Was He looking for trouble for Job? Did He not care what Satan would do to this faithful servant? Why then should anyone strive to be blameless and upright, shun evil, and fear God, I asked myself?

Why did God allow this misery and loss? Eventually I came to a place—on my knees—where the Lord answered. When I drilled down to the essence of my question, to the truth I had avoided so long, I realized I had wanted something above God’s will. I wanted my will to be done, not His. What I grieved for had become an idol. Realizing this and begging God’s presence in my struggle, He forgave and changed me. God came near, and Peace came with Him.

The timeless emotions of joy and sorrow engulfed Job at the dawn of recorded history. They do so for my fictitious characters in the first two decades of the twentieth century. And they descended on me in my sunset years of life.

But the human condition and need for God remain the same. Timeless emotions stretch from pole to pole in every generation, tying us together with our ancestors, our fellow inhabitants of planet Earth, and our Creator. They even bring fictitious characters to life and tie them to our hearts.

I suggest we writers add to our interviews of victims of violence or illness, physicians, attorneys, and others and find someone who is willing to share their great grief, especially when it’s overlaid with trauma. Sure, I’ve known anger and sadness as a child, young adult, and even as a mature adult. But I have a deeper and broader understanding of these emotions today. And it’s worth sharing. Perhaps doing so will help someone who’s wondering where God is and if He cares.

God does come near. He always will. He’s timeless.


Linda Shenton Matchett

WWI: A Personal Connection

Unfortunately, much of the world’s history is defined by wars. Two of the more recent (WWI and WWII), passed eighty and one hundred year anniversaries, so a lot has been said and written about them. Both have been popular settings for novels in the last few years. The American Revolutionary War and Civil War are also often used. My knowledge of WWI is minimal so when an opportunity arose to write a book set during the time period, I jumped at it because of a personal family connection: my great uncle, a veteran of The Great War, passed away two years after the war in a sanitorium because of being subjected to mustard gas during battle.

My great-aunt never remarried, and her husband’s picture, a tiny two-inch by three-inch photo, sat on her nightstand until the day she died. She also kept a small leather pouch that contained his death certificate, the receipts from his funeral, and the New Testament he carried with him while at war. The family rarely talked about him, adding to the mystique of his life.

The United States didn’t enter WWI until 1917 when Germany announced they would sink any ship that approached Britain. Spending less than eight months in the conflict, America lost 116,000 men, and another 204,000 were wounded. All told, thirty countries were involved in the conflict, and eight million soldiers died, with more than twenty-one million wounded.

At the beginning of the war, the usefulness of air machines was met with skepticism on both sides, so planes were primarily used for observation during the first year. Rapid advancements in technology by the Dutch aircraft manufacturer Anthony Fokker, who was working for the Germans, gave them the fighter plane. Expansion of the British Royal Flying Corps and creation of French fighting squadrons evened the score, and both sides took to the air as part of their strategy. You may be familiar with Manfred von Richthofen, better known as the “Red Baron,” who was Germany’s most famous and successful pilot.

The majority of the war was brutal hand-to-hand combat. Soldiers lived and fought in trenches that were dug as divisions gained and lost ground. Conditions were terrible, and many soldiers became ill from the unhealthy environment in the trenches. The land between the forces was called “No Man’s Land,” and often contained mines.

As in WWII, civilians “did their bit” for the war effort by working in industry, agriculture, and other jobs left vacant by men who enlisted or were drafted. Also as in WWI, the Allies’ ability to outproduce the Central Powers helped win the war. Major innovations were made in technology, chemistry, and communications. Major medical advances were also made.

The war ended when Kaiser Wilhelm abdicated on November 9, 1918. The Armistice was signed two days later. Some of the wars most famous participants include Sergeant York, Babe Ruth, Will Rogers, Norman Rockwell, Groucho Marx, Jack Benny, Buster Keaton, Moe Howard (of the Three Stooges), Oscar Hammerstein, Rudolph Valentino, George Gershwin, Robert Frost, T.S. Eliot, Jack Dempsey, and Charlie Chaplin.

It is my hope that my novel, A Christmas Ornament for Etta (coming in November 2021), will honor my uncle and all who served in “the war to end all wars.”


Liz Tolsma

Memories with Aunt Liz by Rebecca Tews

God has truly blessed me in that I am very close with my family—my parents, siblings, aunts and uncles, cousins, grandparents. In particular, I am close with my Aunt Liz. Many of you know her as Liz Tolsma, author of Snow on the Tulips, Daisies are Forever, Remember the Lilies, and so much more. For me, however, I did not know she was a serious writer. Not until I was eleven, when the novella Christmas Collection, A Log Cabin Christmas, released. I remember my mom taking my sisters and I to the bookstore to buy it so that she could read Aunt Liz’s story, Under His Wings. Before that was published, though, Liz Tolsma was just Aunt Liz. My mom’s sister and excellent Thanksgiving host.

As I look back over the memories, I think she and I always had a special bond, even before I realized she and I shared a passion for writing. I’m looking back at a certain Thanksgiving when I was seven or eight. I don’t really remember details. All I know is that she and I accidentally wore matching orange sweaters and had agreed to wear those sweaters at every Thanksgiving after that. We didn’t keep up with that agreement, but I still thought it was cool to have something in common with her, something just the two of us could have. Little did I know at the time that writing would become that “something”. It was when I was sixteen when I realized this, when Aunt Liz took me to the ACFW writers conference in Nashville, Tennessee. And that weekend was such an amazing experience! Not only because I was introduced to the writing world, but also because I got to spend that weekend with Aunt Liz. We explored Nashville together, went to events, and I basically got to be a mini her for a little while.

As I’m looking back at this memory, one certain moment sticks out to me. One that made me realize how much she and I have in common. As many of you may or may not know, Aunt Liz is an amazing mother to three kids, each of them adopted. She loves them very, very much and I’m sure would not trade them for anything. But when someone at the writers conference came up to us and asked if I was her daughter, Aunt Liz turned to me afterwards. It wasn’t something she had heard before with her kids, and she told me how weird but cool it was for someone to say that to her. Since then, whenever I feel down about my appearance or compare myself to another girl, I remind myself that I shouldn’t. I look like Aunt Liz, who is such a beautiful and inspiring woman and someone I look up to. I love her very much and am blessed to be her niece.


Marguerite Martin Gray

Average vs. Genius

I am project minded. I function best with a goal and deadline on my calendar at all times. If there is not one, I find one and hit the ground, investigating the avenues in order to achieve the results I want.

My father is the same way. He must have a list of projects to accomplish whether creative or physical. His list is as long as mine. The difference? He is a genius. He can handle a variety of things at one time and do a very good job! I try to keep up, but I must not have the brain power or the energy.

My lists include house, garden, work, and writing projects. I’ll share what I have to do for my writing in order to complete anything. If I see all the items on the list and all the different.


Naomi Craig

The Blinded Syrians Captured Part 1

Now the king of Syria was making war against Israel; and he had consulted with his servants, saying, “My camp will be in such and such a place.” And the man of God [Elisha] sent to the king of Israel, saying “Beware that you do not pass this place, for the Syrians are coming down there.” Then the king of Israel sent someone to the place of which the man of God had told him. Thus he warned him, and he was watchful there, not just once or twice. Therefore the heart of the king of Syria was greatly troubled by this thing; and he called to his servants and said to them, “Will you not show me which of us is for the king of Israel?” And one of his servants said, “None, my lord O king; but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom.” (2 Kings 6:8-12)

I love this so much! How many times has the Lord foiled the plan of the enemy by preparing His people in advance? Essentially, God was spying on the Syrians and reporting all the details to Elisha, who then informed the king of Israel. Not once or twice–at least three times.

Naturally the good ol’ king of Syria was a bit frustrated and he questioned the loyalty of his servants to find out who was the snitch. Now this had happened often enough that the servant actually knew Elisha was the “spy” {{{how he figured that out I’d love to know—did he send counter spies into the military camps of Israel, befriend the soldiers, gain their trust and find out their secret weapon?}}}

The Syrian king sends his armies out again, this time to Dothan where Elisha lives and surrounds the city. In the morning, Elisha’s servant notices the horses and the chariots and panics. “Alas, my master! what shall we do?”

If Elisha had gotten word ahead of time that he was the Syrians’ next target, he didn’t stress about it. The very same God who had delivered the Israelite army from the ensnaring traps of the Syrians multiple times, would deliver Elisha now.

Elisha says to his servant “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” He prayed for the Lord to open the servant’s eyes and then the mighty Syrian army suddenly doesn’t look so large. An extravagant army made up of horses and chariots of fire surrounded the Syrians.

My God can do beyond what you can ask or imagine!

The Lord “blinds” the Syrians into a confused daze, and Elisha leads the army into the capitol city of Samaria where they are fed a great feast and sent on their way.

Are you feeling the pressure of all the things that surround you? Is there something in your life that seems hopeless? In your job or marriage or parenting? I’m here to tell you that those who are with you are greater—far greater than we could ask or imagine greater—than those who are against you. The same God who reported military activity to Elisha and confused the Syrians to protect His man, walks with you through the depths of your trials. He is the same God who will not allow this heartache to crush you. He is standing by your side ready to deliver you.

Lord, open their eyes that they may see.” Elisha prayed this twice that day. Once for his servant to see the things above, and once for the Syrians to see they had been bested.

Friend, I encourage you to pray that same prayer. Ask God to show you what He is doing for the next step. He will keep you in perfect peace when your mind is stayed on Him.

He already knows the plan and has already won the victory. We simply need to see with spiritual eyes.

*all scripture is taken from the NKJV Bible