Dana Mentink

If I only had a brain…or two!

As a kid, my favorite movie was The Wizard of Oz. Remember that scene where the Scarecrow asks the Wizard for a brain? He says something to the effect that the Scarecrow already has whatever intelligence he needs. It’s a matter of application. Boy, do I feel the truth of that these days. I’m not certain if it’s the virus that shall not be named, health problems for my beloved mother-in-law, or the transition from teaching to writing full time, but my brain is struggling to keep up! Could it be that I am a creature of routine and my life patterns have been disrupted lately? (No Death Valley trip? Nuts! Waiting for another shot at a book contract that was previously rejected? Sheesh! Pivoting with adult children who seem to have minds of their own? If they’d just LISTEN to me! Ha!) So what’s a person to do whose mind is moving in too many directions at once? Here’s my plan.

1. Start with gratitude. When I wake up in the wee hours for the gazillionth time, I start with a “Top Ten Gratitude List” between me and the Big Guy. You know what? That actually helps me calm down and “stay in my lane” so to speak. Amazing how many blessings there are to be grateful for in this dark, scary world!

2. Substitute quality for quality! If you do online grocery orders you know that the shopper can make switches for items they can’t find. That’s okay…unless you’re like my sister and you keep getting a dozen mangoes when you only asked for one! I have lifted a thought from this online experience, which is to say, if I can make a substitution and still meet the quality control standards…then lets do it! For example, if I can’t attend that coffee with my friend for whatever reason, let’s reschedule right away at the earliest possible convenience. Sure we can talk and Zoom or whatever in the meantime, but let’s keep that important face to face on the books so we can still strive for that quality we need. If I can’t go to see my hairdresser, then I’m gonna twist up my hair until it works out to see her, no attempting to cut it myself or go to someone else. Quality for quality, you see?

3. Keep the optimism train going. It would be so easy to give into despair, right? All those family gatherings that didn’t happen. The loved ones who aren’t there anymore. The time that can never be recaptured…those are very good reasons to mourn and mourn we should, but giving up is not an option. I have heard people lament that perhaps the virus will never be defeated. I understand. We are weary. We are ragged. We are afraid. But the Spanish Flu of 1918 was devastating too, the worst the world had ever seen. It lasted two years and there was no effective medical treatment, no intensive care units, no widespread use of antibiotics. It passed and this will too. All we can do is to keep loving well, the best way we can, from near or far and pray unceasingly that there will be an end to this pandemic.

I join with you in prayer my friends.  He will listen. He always does.


JL Crosswhite

What does writing a book have in common with…


I’m working on a new series with the first book releasing this month. The series is called Holcomb Springs Small Town Romantic Suspense, and the first book is Beneath a Star-Lit Sky. I like how this series and this book show how long the creative process can end up being for me.

Before when I’ve talked about where I get my book ideas, I mention that I call it the compost pile. Any of you gardeners know about the magic of compost. You take a bunch of unrelated kitchen scraps—coffee grounds, carrot tops, egg shells, lettuce that went bad, rotten oranges—and throw them in your compost pile. With the magic of decomposition, in about a year you have something wonderful for your plants.

The creative process is a lot like that for me. I get bits and pieces of ideas from all over the place—things I’ve experienced, places I’ve visited, a news story that stuck with me—and I toss them in my mental compost pile. When something has come together enough to actually be a story idea, it gets its own file.

The germination of Beneath a Star-Lit Sky began at least ten years ago. I remember being on a long drive and talking to my dad on the phone and somehow getting on the topic of criminals in the wilderness, particularly the Sidney Poitier movie, Shoot to Kill. A lot of things can go wrong in the wilderness, and having a bad guy after you just makes it worse.

As I was writing and finishing up the previous series, In the Shadow, I had been wanting to write a series set in a small town. I liked the idea of all the characters continuing to run into each other and being a part of one another’s lives, for good or for ill.

My previous books had been based in the Southern California beach town of Laguna Vista (which also exists only in my imagination). But if you’ve read any of the In the Shadow books, you might have noticed that they made frequent visits to the Southern California San Bernardino mountains.

Since I grew up at the base of these mountains and spent a lot of time up there, I wondered if I might figure out how to create a small town in the mountains. There are some up there, but I like creating my own so I can take liberty with things and not feel like I’m insulting any real town.

There was an old gold mining town—Belleville—that used to exist in an area called Holcomb Valley. I imagined what would have happened if that boomtown had continued on to become a resort town similar to Big Bear or Lake Arrowhead. I liked the idea of having a small town on the edge of the wilderness with all of the problems and possibilities it can bring. And it was within driving distance of Laguna Vista, so all of our old friends could come up and visit.

So the compost pile came together to truly cause my story idea to flourish and blossom into a full-fledged book! Toss in a few previous characters, and I had a ton of fun thinking about all the possibilities while keeping in touch with old characters who have become like friends. I hope you enjoy what’s to come. It’s going to be an adventure!


Kathleen J. Robison

True Love

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” Matthew 25:40

How can we not talk about love in February? So many fond thoughts come to mind, not the least of which is my husband of forty-seven years. The things I love most about him…He loves Jesus, and he loves people. He makes friends everywhere we go, and they all want to be his best friend. He takes time for those that others might pass by or not even notice, and he is the epitome of loving your neighbor. He has no boundaries.

I’m drafting a Serial Novel entitled Bud and Ella, and my husband is the inspiration for Bud. I plan to send the chapters to those on my email list. If you’d like, you can sign up to receive my monthly newsletter at www.kathleenjrobison.com. I’d love to hear what you think about Bud and Ella, but I’ll share a chapter here.

I have many stories about my husband’s gregarious kindness towards others, but my favorite happened years ago on an unusually freezing day in Southern California. Here’s an excerpt from Bud and Ella, Chapter Two.

Bud picked up the pace. “Come on, Ella. It’s freezing out here!” A frigid wind blew, stinging his cheeks. Rubbing his hands together, he grabbed the long, brass handle of the coffee shop door and pulled it open. They hustled in, and with it brought a breeze that caused an almost audible shudder to the patrons.

Ella ordered. “Can I have a vanilla latte with coconut milk and only one pump of syrup?” She turned to Bud. “What would you like?”

           He stared at the menu as if he’d never seen it before. Too many choices. Always too many options. He was a plain black coffee drinker, but Ella’s fancy drinks always tasted so good. “Yeah. What is the drink with chocolate?”

            “A mocha, sir?” The young barista asked.

           Bud blew into his hands, still trying to warm his fingers from the chilly air. “Is that more coffee or more chocolate? I mean, I like chocolate, but not too much.” He put out his hands as if to temper the barista.

           “Would you like a Frappuccino?”

           Bud stared blankly and turned to Ella. 

           She stepped forward. “No. Can you just make a hot Mocha with half the chocolate and no whip cream?”

           “Sure, would he like coconut milk as well?” The teenager smiled at Bud.

           “Oh, heck, no!” Bud scrunched his face but quickly turned it into a smile and patted Ella’s head.

           “Whole milk is fine,” she said. “Thank you. You can put both drinks under Ella.” She touched Bud’s shoulder. “Let’s find a table.”

           He didn’t move. 

           “Bud, come on.”

           Ella took a few steps, but Bud stood frozen. His eyes fixed on a large, disheveled man standing by a tall table next to the window. His tattered black clothing was stained with who knew what, and an offensive odor wafted in their direction. The man’s bare hands hugged a cup of coffee. As he picked it up, he tipped it, seeming to savor the last drop before setting it down, still grasping as if it could take away the cold.

           Bud turned back to the counter. “Hey, can you make another one of those chocolate drinks?”

            The teenager smiled. “Sure. What size?”

           “Large. Ella, pay him, will you?”

           “Grande or Venti?” The barista asked again.

“Whatever…the biggest one,” said Bud.

Would you like it half mocha as well and with –”

           Bud held up a hand like a stop sign. He swatted Ella playfully, and pointed, indicating he didn’t have the patience for ordering.

           “A normal mocha and make it a Venti. That will be fine.” She smiled.

           Bud turned to Ella. “Get our drinks and give the large one to him.” Bud pointed to the man sitting by himself. 

           Pulling at his long black beard, the man rubbed his eyes and searched the room. His long, matted hair stuck out in all directions, and his gaze locked on Bud.

           Bud walked toward the man, but Ella took his hand. “Honey, be careful,” she whispered. “Look at his hands.”

           They were red, dirty, and crusted with scabs. At least they weren’t open and oozing, but they were alarming just the same. The man looked away and lowered his head.

           “Be quiet, Ella.” Bud squeezed her hand, dropped it, and walked over.

           “Hi, I’m Bud. What’s your name?” He extended his hand.

           He didn’t smile, but the man looked Bud in the eye, took his hand, and shook. “I’m Alex.”

           Bud smiled. “It’s cold out there, ain’t it, Alex?”

           “Yes. Sure is.” He shivered a little.

           Turning around, Bud waved at Ella, who retrieved their order, and brought over the drinks. All three drinks were wedged in a four-way cup holder, and Bud’s brows furrowed at the fourth spot, which held a tiny envelope. He handed the large drink to Alex.

           “Here you go, Alex. I hope you like chocolate.” 

           Alex nodded and stared at the envelope. 

           Bud followed his gaze, then turned to Ella. “What’s that?” he asked.

           Ella shrugged. “Just a gift card.” She looked at the man and smiled.

           Giving Ella a side-hug, Bud grabbed the gift card. “Here you go, Alex. Stay warm, okay?”

He extended his hand once more, and Alex shoved his leathered hand out for another shake. Bud slapped his shoulder.

“Gotta run, we have a town meeting to go to.” As they left the table, Bud turned. “Hey, Alex, do you recycle?”

           Alex stared back with no expression.

           “Bottles and cans? Do you collect them?”

           Alex shook his head.

           Nodding, Bud repeated goodbye, and he and Ella exited.

           A blast of frigid air hit them again, and they practically ran to the car. When they jumped in, Bud turned on the engine and cranked the heater. Ella fumbled with a little spray bottle and held it toward Bud. Holding out his hands, she spritzed them with hand sanitizer.

           “Yikes! That stings!” He turned to Ella. “So, how much was the gift card for?”

           Ella rubbed her gloved hands together and shrugged. “Twenty-five dollars.”

           Bud coughed and sputtered. “Are you kidding me! What are you trying to do? Kill the guy with caffeine?”

           Ella smirked. “Better than cheap wine.”

Chuckling, Bud recalled telling Ella the story of how when he was younger and not a believer, he used to buy cheap wine for the homeless guys hanging outside liquor stores.

           Driving to the meeting, Bud remained quiet. Before exiting, he mumbled. “The guy doesn’t even recycle.”

And that is an somewhat accurate account of what happened. I’m a suspense writer, and my books Revived Hope, Shattered Guilt and Restored Grace (June 2022 release) are in the Romantic Suspense genre, but this story was not True Crime, but True Love. I have lots more accounts about my husband’s kindness towards others, without a thought to anything but their needs. As a pastor he’s been late for meetings when seeing a needy homeless person on the street. The elders at church finally had to reel him in from giving the shirt off his back, so to speak. Still, Alex in the coffee shop was no exception to Bruce’s kindness.

When Jesus speaks of the least of these, my husband is love in action. Not placating or obligatory love, but genuine. He’s a good reminder of Jesus’ love for all. True Love.


Mountain Brook Ink

When Sparrows Fall by Sara Davison

We live in crazy, crazy times. Two years ago, the lives of everyone on the planet were turned upside down, and the chaos and uncertainty continue to this day. To add to my personal upheaval, a few days ago we learned that our landlord is putting our home—the house we have only lived in for one year—up for sale. What that means for us—whether we can stay and likely face a serious rent increase, or whether we will need to look for another home—is very up in the air at the moment. As is pretty much everything else in life.

It is tempting to throw the blankets over my head and stay in bed all day, hiding from the world. It’s even more tempting to give in to the fear and uncertainty and allow anxiety to overtake every thought and emotion. But God …

In Matthew 10:29, Jesus admonishes those who place their faith and trust in a loving God with the words, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.”

Although sparrows appear, in our eyes, to have very little worth, God cares for them. How much more, then, does He care for us? And how much more does He see what we are going through and desire for us to believe that we are never outside of His loving protection and plans for our lives?

The idea that God is always with us, that we are never alone, is the theme of every one of my books. My hope and prayer for each story is that, if nothing else, readers will take that assurance away with them. That they will be reminded that our God is El Roi, the God who sees me. He knows what we are experiencing. While He often does not choose to deliver us from our circumstances, He does promise that He will walk with us every step of the way, whatever our journey looks like.

My new series, Two Sparrows for a Penny, revolves around human trafficking. Although the main character in each of these three books endures horrific circumstances, each woman comes to see that God has not forgotten or abandoned her. He has always been with her, and He promises that, one day, perfect justice will be carried out on her behalf. The verse printed inside the cover of book one, Every Star in the Sky, is Isaiah 40:26.

“Raise your eyes on high And see who has created these stars, The One who brings out their multitude by number, He calls them all by name; Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, Not one of them is missing” (NASB).

How moving it is to realize that God knows the name of every star, so He surely knows the name of every one of us! In fact, He promises in His Word that the name of every person who places their faith in Jesus Christ is engraved on His hand. What an incredible thought!

Later this year, the fourth and final book in my Night Guardians series will release. In Forged, the main characters learn that God often allows us to go through fire, as He did with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. But even there, we are not on our own. When King Nebuchadnezzar peered into the flames, he saw a fourth person walking with those three men, a powerful reminder that we do not walk alone through our circumstances, whatever they may be.

Sometimes, it can be easy to write these truths into my books or to speak them to others. The test comes when facing fear and uncertainty in my own life. Do I truly believe what I write? That God is always with us and that He is sovereign and in control? That nothing can thwart His plans and no circumstances can befall me that He does not allow? That He is a good Father and that all His plans are for my good and for His glory? Only when I find myself in the midst of the flames can I truly discover the answers to these questions.

It is a daily challenge to lay down my anxiety and to trust, but every time I do, every time I claim the promises God has made in His Word, He proves Himself faithful. His grace, mercy, patience, and love are endless and new every morning. He cannot and will not break His promise to take care of me and be with me always.

Dear ones, my hope and prayer for you is that, whatever you are going through, you will discover those truths for yourself. You will experience a deep sense of God’s presence with you on whatever path you are walking. And you will be able to lay your fear and uncertainty at His feet, fully trusting that you are always under the care and protection of the One who sees and cares for every sparrow that falls.