It’s Not All Gravy

Musings on Life and Writing


#FridayReads A Charming Christmas Story

Posted by mcm0704 on December 4, 2020 |

First, I want to tell you what I’m reading. Some time ago I joined NetGalley, where I can acquire books to read and review, and I’ve received a lot of good stories via that site. (You can, too, and it’s free to join.)

I’m currently reading In a Town Called Paradox by Miriam Murcutt and Richard Starks, and it’s a very complex and engaging story. I was captivated at once by the opening of the book:  “I wasn’t looking for Marilyn Monroe when I bumped into her, even though I knew she was in town filming River of No Return…

The story, told from the primary POV of Corin Dunbar, who is sent to live with her aunt in Utah after her mother dies, asks the question: If each of us has a life story, then who determines how it unfolds and how it should end?

It’s not a lighthearted read, but a very satisfying one. The paperback is available now and the eBook releases in February 2021.

Now, here is an excerpt from my Christmas story, THE LAST DOLLAR. This magical fantasy was originally written with a good friend, Craig Wargo, with whom I wrote many stories and screenplays before he passed away. He graciously gave me permission to publish this story under my own name.


Kate pulled her coat tight against the cold wind that pierced the thin fabric like fingers of ice. Last minute shoppers carrying gaily-wrapped packages crowded the streets, their breath little puffs of fog that caught the twinkle of holiday lights. Despite the cold, people smiled and greeted each other, and for a moment Kate almost let herself believe that the magic of Christmas could make a difference.

Earlier, even her children had been caught up in some unnamed excitement as they’d searched the house for pennies and nickels-anything they could contribute toward buying something special for the holiday. The boys had turned it into a treasure hunt, and each discovery of one more coin had brought whoops of joy.

The fruit of their labors was tucked deep in the folds of her pocket. She touched the coins, picturing the four of them waiting at home with great expectation.

Ella, the oldest, had barely resigned herself to a wardrobe from the thrift store. Ginger, the baby, couldn’t become accustomed to starvation. And Fifi, the cat, had come down with a rare case of facial cat-measles. Well, they looked like measles, Kate had agreed with the children, but in reality, she knew Fifi must have had a run in with an old car battery.

Thank God Jake and Edger were in perfect health. The only thing Kate worried about in their regard was whether they’d ever learn to share. She recalled how often, as they huddled together in sleep on the hardwood floor, Edger would be shivering. He’d miss the blanket and pillow by two feet, while Jake was wrapped as snug as a caterpillar in a cocoon.

She’d tried to teach them about sharing. “The greatest gift,” she often told them. “Is the gift of giving. Doing for others and doing until it hurts.”

Maybe the nightly blanket routine was Edger’s way of giving. But more likely it was Jake’s way of taking.

Kate stepped aside for a mother who was pushing a stroller, and for a moment envied the woman’s fur coat and leather boots. How warm they must be. If only… If only nothing. Accept your fate. Isn’t that what Mama always said?

Touching the coins in her pocket again, Kate lifted her chin and walked toward the entrance to the grocery store. That would be the best place to start. The prices on their holiday items would be slashed this late on Christmas Eve.

Nearing the automatic doors, Kate’s attention was caught by the tinny clang of a bell. She followed the sound to its source; a Salvation Army volunteer standing just inside a ring of illumination from strings of white and blue lights looped around the front window. A tin bucket was suspended from a hook in a metal tripod next to him. Few people paused before the old man, whose cold-reddened cheeks matched his uniform, but the negligence didn’t appear to daunt him. He greeted everyone with a bright smile and a booming, “Merry Christmas.”

Despite her initial inclination to avoid the man, there was something compelling in the cheerfulness he radiated. Kate paused, noting how even his thick, white mustache turned itself into a comical grin.

“Merry Christmas,” he called again, rolling his r’s and ending the last syllable with a crisp bite.

For a moment Kate wished…But that was silly. She was in no position to help the needy. She WAS the needy.

Sound reasoning or not, fingers of guilt squeezed her heart as she moved with the flow of customers into the store. Fine one she was to preach about giving.

She shook the recrimination aside and headed for the aisle with the toys. Maybe she could find something for the kids to share. But the games were priced beyond her meager stash, and four kids couldn’t play with one plastic truck. At least not in anything resembling peace and harmony.

The twinkling lights of the seasonal aisle drew her like a siren. She paused in front of a tree that was decorated in shiny bulbs. It would be so lovely in the corner of the living room, a bright splash of color against the gray wall. It would bring life to the whole apartment.

She turned away with a sigh. “You’re being silly again. Wishing is for children and fairy tales.”

Kate’s initial sense of purpose faded as she wandered through the store, finding nothing she could afford. What had she expected to do with only a dollar?

That’s all from me for today, folks. I hope you have a safe and happy weekend. If you enjoyed the excerpt of the story and would like to read more, click HERE. Enjoy…

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Christmas Cheer

Posted by mcm0704 on December 2, 2020 |

Well, December is upon us and we’ll soon be facing another New Year. This past one certainly has been a challenge for so many of us, and my hope is that we can all ease through these next few weeks without any mishaps and get a start on 2021 with good health.

Before I turn the stage over to my friend Slim Randles for his Wednesday’s Guest post, I do want to take a moment to mention my two Christmas short stories that are available at Amazon. While our lives are all topsy-turvy due to the pandemic and all the political and social unrest, it’s good to read a story that lifts our spirits. I’ve been reading a few of those, including The Cowboy Who Saved Christmas , a collection of three fun and romantic stories by Jodi Thomas, Sharla Lovelace and Scarlett Dunn.

My stories, The Gift and The Last Dollar center around families, kindness, and a bit of magic.

Now, here’s Slim. Grab a cup of hot chocolate to keep you warm this chilly winter day and enjoy…

Steve was just sitting there on the tailgate of his pickup, looking out at the world and thinking he’s doing all right. The two little kids walking down the sidewalk saw their favorite cowboy sitting there and grinned.

“Hi Steve!”

“Oh hey there, Bobby … Sylvia … how you kids doing these days?”

“Had a good Thanksgiving. Yep. Getting ready for Christmas. Bobby was telling me just a while ago that he wants to train horses, like you, when he grows up.”

“I told you not to say anything, Syl, but there you go again. Now Steve will think all I want is horse training lessons.”

“Horse training lessons?” Steve said. “Now that would be a good idea, actually. It’s always a smart thing to learn from others’ mistakes before you make the same ones.”


“See this scar on my arm?” They both nodded. “Barbed wire fence at 27 miles an hour. Horse didn’t have a mark on him.”

“That was a mistake?”

“Sure was, Bobby. I wasn’t supposed to ride that horse. I was about 12, and they told me to ride something gentler.”

“But you didn’t, huh?”

“No, Sylvia I didn’t, because when you’re 12, you already know more than the grown-ups around you. It was great, being that smart when I was only 12.”

The kids examined every inch of the scar. “I bet you learned, huh?”

“Oh sure, I learned never to run a fractious horse along a barbed-wiire fence. And I learned other stuff, too. My right leg’s been broken once and I couldn’t work for almost two months. My left foot was stomped on and two bones broken by a draft horse I was shoeing, and this scar on the back of my neck? Low branch on a tree and a runaway colt. And on this other arm … see these? That’s all from a horse jerking his hoof while I was shoeing him and I hadn’t clinched the nail yet.”

Bobby thought for a minute. “That’s a lot of learning, Steve. Did it hurt?”

“Every one of them and a couple I don’t show to anyone. Are you ready to learn how to be a cowboy? Need some scars?”

“I …. well … I guess I’d better ask my folks first.”

Brought to you by A Cowboy’s Guide to Growing Up Right. Look it over at

Avuncular tips from a guy who made lots of mistakes.

Check out all of Slim’s award-winning books at his Goodreads Page and in better bookstores and bunkhouses throughout the free world.

All of the posts here are from his syndicated column, Home Country that is read in hundreds of newspapers across the country. I am always happy to have him share his wit and wisdom here.

Slim Randles is a veteran newspaperman, hunting guide, cowboy and dog musher. He was a feature writer and columnist for The Anchorage Daily News for 10 years and guided hunters in the Alaska Range and the Talkeetna Mountains. A resident of New Mexico now for more than 30 years, Randles is the prize-winning author of a dozen books, and is host of two podcasts and a television program.

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Positive Vibes For Monday Morning

Posted by mcm0704 on November 30, 2020 |

Well, my family and I got through the Thanksgiving Holiday, each of us celebrating as best we could. There was so much talk on our Zoom gathering, and in texts back and forth, about pumpkin pie and how some of us were suffering from pie depravation that one of my sons came to my house on Saturday; and we made pies. He took some home and also played Pie-Santa for two of his sibs.

Of course, we had to test the pies before he left.

Yes, it was as good as our taste buds were anticipating.


A friend sends me daily prayers and inspirational posts that most often really touch my heart and my soul. One of the things I particularly like about them is that they are not strident messages of judgment and damnation if you don’t believe the way the sender does, and they are very ecumenical in spirit.

In these times as we all deal with the effects of the pandemic and the social unrest around the world, perhaps we could all benefit from messages that lift our spirits. So here’s a snippet from one of those posts.

Some sentiments from a very wise woman:

“Keep praying, but be thankful God’s answers are wiser than our prayers.”

“I am not afraid of tomorrow for I have seen yesterday and I love today.”

“God does not send suffering. He sends help.”

This is another post sent to me by the same friend. It has been making the rounds on the Internet, but nobody seems to know the original author of the piece. It is another message worth sharing. 

Barely the day started and… it’s already six in the evening.

Barely arrived on Monday and it’s already Friday.

… and the month is already over.

… and the year is almost over.

… and already 40, 50 or 60 years of our lives have passed.

… and we realize that we lost our parents, friends.

and we realize it’s too late to go back…

So… Let’s try, despite everything, to enjoy the remaining time…

Let’s keep looking for activities that we like…

Let’s put some color in our grey…

Let’s smile at the little things in life that put balm in our hearts.

And despite everything, we must continue to enjoy with serenity this time we have left. Let’s try to eliminate the afters…

I’m doing it after…

I’ll say after…

I’ll think about it after…

We leave everything for later like ′′ after ′′ is ours.

Because what we don’t understand is that:

Afterwards, the coffee gets cold…

Afterwards, priorities change…

Afterwards, the charm is broken…

Afterwards, health passes…

Afterwards, the kids grow up…

Afterwards parents get old…

Afterwards, promises are forgotten…

Afterwards, the day becomes the night…

Afterwards life ends…

And then it’s often too late….

So… Let’s leave nothing for later…

Because still waiting see you later, we can lose the best moments,

the best experiences, best friends, the best family…

The day is today… The moment is now…

Before I close, I do want to mention a cool feature over at TopShelf Magazine, where my book Evelyn Evolving, is showcased with a number of other books. There are a number of genres listed, so there’s something for every reading taste, and they’re all bargain books. So, if you are in a book-buying mood, you might want to check them out. 

That all from me for today. I do hope you are managing to stay safe and well. 

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Black Friday Shopping

Posted by mcm0704 on November 27, 2020 |
Yesterday I took my dog for a walk in a nearby park. It was a pretty day, warm and sunny, and we both enjoyed the outing. Of course, I can’t resist taking a picture or two.

Some of the pretty fall colors.

A creek ran through it.

Dusty waits patiently while I take pictures. Good dog!

As we all know, today is the biggest retail day of the year for most retail stores, but it has rarely been a day for me to shop before now. I hated fighting crowds for the latest and greatest new thing, and what it has evolved into in the past thirty or so years has skewed the whole point of Holiday shopping. I wrote the following back in 2010, and while some of it no longer applies – maybe – some of it does. 

I remember a time when shopping the day after Thanksgiving was fun. A lot of people were doing the same thing, but there was no pushing, no shouting, no mad rush to get the latest must-have toy, and nobody grabbing it out of your hands once you had it.

For the most part, everyone was relaxed and in a Holiday mood. Smiles were exchanged and clerks and cashiers wished everyone a Happy Holiday. It always made me think of the wonderful Christmas song, “Silver Bells”, and I could imagine we’d entered some magical place where people passed “meeting smile after smile. And on every street corner you’ll hear…”

It was also a time when stores opened at a normal time, and people came and went, then more people came and went. Stores did not open at some ungodly hour in the AM, so shoppers had to set alarms to get there on time. Folks also didn’t camp out in parking lots and on sidewalks for days to be the first ones in. And they didn’t stampede into a store and injure other people in their desperation need to make sure they got the best deals offered.

For most of this past week, we were bombarded with reminders of this all important retail day. The media made a big deal out of Black Friday, airing what I’m sure they thought were cute human-interest stories about what people were doing to prepare. Plus there were all the ads from department stores, and it seemed like they were competing to see who could open the earliest. Some were even open on Thanksgiving and just stayed open all night and into today.

Watching this all unfold, I realized that Thanksgiving is getting lost. Think of all the retail personnel who were not able to truly celebrate the day because they had to get ready for The Big Day. And what about all the people who opted out of getting together with family at all because they preferred to be the first in line at Best Buy. One local man was interviewed on television and said, “Sorry, Grandma, we’re not coming for Thanksgiving.”

He laughed. The news anchors laughed. But I wanted to call up Grandma and tell her how sorry I was that her family preferred the X-Box over her.

Thankfully, more stores are offering Black Friday deals for online shopping, and I’ll be doing a bit of gift-buying today from the comfort of my office. What about you? Will you be braving crowds and going out to shop? Whatever you decide to do, be safe and be happy.

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Thanksgiving Wishes

Posted by mcm0704 on November 26, 2020 |

I want to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. I do hope whatever you have planned for the day brings you joy and peace.

Today I’m thankful for technology that will unite some of my family via the Internet. Too bad we can’t squeeze some of the delicious food through our computer connections. 🙂

I’m also very thankful for my kids, and kids-in-law, who are all so incredibly good to me. I have to say that here, but I’ll also tell them when we talk this afternoon.

I’m also thankful that I was able to get a traditional Thanksgiving dinner plate from a local restaurant. It came with a piece of pumpkin pie, and I ordered another piece of pie for tomorrow. One of the best thing about the turkey dinner & all the trimmings, is the leftovers, and that includes pie.

That’s all from me, folks. Stay safe. Be happy. Be thankful.


Day Before Thanksgiving

Posted by mcm0704 on November 25, 2020 |

When I was a child, we would often go to West Virginia for Thanksgiving. My father would feel the pull to visit his childhood home, and his kinfolk, and my sister and I would go every other year, as dictated in divorce papers.

Back then, I didn’t know about divorce papers, or what my mother did while we were gone and she was alone. All I cared about was getting to Grandma’s house where snowy hillsides waited for little bodies to roll down and become snow-people. And all the delicious food, and..

During the drive from Michigan, my father would always sing, “Over the River and Through the Woods, to Grandmother’s House we go. The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh through the white and drifting snow.”

We wound around snow-capped mountains on narrow roads, carved deep into rock-strewn hillsides, but I was never afraid. I’d pretend our old Chevy was a sleigh and in my imagination two white horses were pulling us. The horses were sturdy steeds, they would get us there safely.

The drive was long, but excitement and imagination filled the hours, and then we were there.

At my Grandmother’s house where relatives waited to share a veritable feast with us; turkey, mashed potatoes, beans – lots of beans because we always had lots of beans at this grandmother’s house – and a wide variety of pies and cobblers. I’m sure there were other things served, but I don’t remember everything we ate. What I remember most is what filled our hearts. The stories. The laughter. The music. The love that a little girl found at Grandma’s house.

That kind of gathering that creates beautiful memories is what holidays are all about, and sadly, this year many of us will not be gathering with family. For some, like me, there isn’t going to be anyone to share a meal and some stories and laughter with.

This is the first year that I won’t be preparing the traditional Thanksgiving dinner. I won’t even be making any pumpkin pies. When talking to one of my sons the other day, I asked if he was getting a pumpkin pie to go with the dinner that’s planned for him and his wife. He said no.

“Why? I thought you loved pumpkin pie.”

“I do. I love your pumpkin pie.”

That made me wish I could go to the store and get everything to make them a pie, but I didn’t. I couldn’t. Cases of the COVID are rising in the city where I live, so I’m being super cautious.

Perhaps this is a good time for all of us to be super cautious. It pains my heart that I will not be with at least part of my family tomorrow, but the day will pass, and being alone won’t kill me. Being exposed to the virus could.

I don’t want this blog post to be a downer, so now I’ll let my good friend Slim Randles share a bit of humor with us.

Steve will have Thanksgiving dinner over at Doc’s and Mrs. Doc’s this year, and any number of his friends are grateful for that. Steve is one heckuva cowboy and trainer of young colts, and a good friend to all, but he’d never make it as a dinner host.

Very few Thanksgiving dinners achieve legendary status, but “Steve’s Thanksgiving” was certainly one of them. Some said it happened because he’s lived alone and cooked meals for himself for so many years. Some say he has worked alone for so long that he isn’t of a coordinating mind. The answer could be buried in the middle there somewhere. Steve himself isn’t certain.

It all happened early in Fall a couple of years ago when Steve completed his cabin up in the mountains here. He’d even finished the turret. In about September of that year, he’d started cleaning the place up on his infrequent visits, because he just knew somewhere inside that he’d created a modest monument there and wanted to share it with his friends. Naturally.

So, back at the ranch bunkhouse down in the valley, he’d studied up on how to roast a turkey: what to put on it, how to thaw it, how to tell when it’s done, all that stuff.

Then he invited his friends for Thanksgiving dinner, up at the cabin. He told each one that he’d be fixing a turkey dinner up there and to come on up and have some fun. And each of them, in turn, asked Steve what they should bring for the dinner.

“Oh, I don’t care,” he’d said, “you know … whatever you’d like, I guess.”

He said that to Doc and Mrs. Doc. And Dud and Emily. And Herb. And Bert and Maizie. And Marvin and Margie. And Mavis at the Mule Barn.

That Thanksgiving Day was a sparkler … crisp sunshine, Fall colors. Oh man, it was great!

And the turkey was in that wood-fired Home Comfort range and looking brown and juicy when the friends started to arrive. They’d each made the considerable drive up the mountain to the end of the road, then walked in the last hundred yards to the warm and cozy little cabin.

And each of them … every one of them … brought a pumpkin pie.

Turkey and pumpkin pie. Traditional favorites on Thanksgiving. But … strangely enough, after three of the pies had been consumed, there were still some left over.

But hey, that turkey turned out all right. And this year, Steve’s going over to Doc’s and Mrs. Doc’s for dinner.

Mrs. Doc told him to bring biscuits.

Brought to you by Home Country, the book on Amazon, Kindle

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The Cowboy Who Saved Christmas Book Blitz

Posted by mcm0704 on November 23, 2020 |

The Cowboy Who Saved Christmas


Jodi Thomas,

Sharla Lovelace, and Scarlett Dunn

Genre: Romance / Adventure / Anthology

Publisher: Kensington Books

Date of Publication: October 27, 2020

Number of Pages: 336 pages

Scroll down for Giveaway!

Just in time for holiday reading pleasure comes this charming collection. 

The Lone Star State doesn’t have to be lonely during Christmas time!

Legendary author Jodi Thomas headlines a new holiday-themed Western historical romance collection featuring three Texas-set stories of romance and adventure. The Civil War is over, Christmas is coming—and it’s time for three rugged cowboys to hang-up their spurs and settle down.

These authors combine their talents and excel at creating atmosphere and complex characters which infuse these stories with Texas history and evoke the grandeur of a bygone era and the indomitable pioneer spirit of the region.

Prepare to be swept off your feet by these heroic cowboys who will stop at nothing to make sure this Christmas is one to remember. Ideal for gift giving, The Cowboy Who Saved Christmas will be the fan-favorite collection of romance for the 2020 Christmas season.


“FATHER GOOSE is a warm, entertaining story, with Trapper and Emery starting with nothing, yet finding love and hoping for a future.” — Rose from Roses Are Blue

“It was a pitch-perfect reading experience that left my heart bursting with joy.  This story has become an instant classic in my holiday reading canon.” — PJ Ausdenmore from The Romance Dish

“I love an anthology at this busy time of the year because I can read a complete story in a short time–this book hit the mark.” — Mary from Bookfan


AmazonJodi Thomas’s Website

When I met Trapper in the first story in this collection, Father Goose, I was hooked. I immediately could tell what kind of man he was by the way he thought about the part he played in the Civil War, as well as what he remembered of his family and childhood. Such great characterization was created in a few paragraphs, and I especially liked that it was done without the “grocery list” of physical descriptions.

Jodi Thomas has a deft hand with establishing her characters.

When Trapper wins a poker game, the prize from one player is the opportunity to drive a wagon from Jefferson, Texas to Dallas, the big surprise is the cargo. Five young rich girls who are returning home from school for Christmas. The teamster was hired to haul the wagon, but he’d rather keep the advance money and stay safe. Here’s what he says to Trapper, “You’ll need a lady’s maid, a few men to ride shotgun, and probably a cannon to get them to Dallas. Every outlaw within a hundred miles is probably heard of the girls coming home and plans to ransom them after they leave you for the buzzards.”

Not an auspicious start for Trapper, but as the story unfolds, it’s clear that he is more than man enough for the challenge.

Then there is Emery, the shy cook and server in the saloon where Trapper has been gambling and eating his dinner since coming to Jefferson. He has not noticed her in any significant way, but she has noticed him. The way their lives intersect after she finds the treasure in a small storage room in the saloon is perfect.

What a wonderful story of Christmas hope and love.


 Jodi Thomas is a New York Times bestselling author and fifth-generation Texan who sets many of her award-winning stories in her home state, where her grandmother was born in a covered wagon. A multi-RITA Award winner and member of the prestigious Romance Writers of America Hall of Fame, she’s written over 50 novels with millions of copies in print. Her most recent releases are The Little Tea Shop on Main and the first book in her new Honey Creek series, Breakfast at the Honey Creek Café, which is out now.

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How Smart is a Turkey?

Posted by mcm0704 on November 18, 2020 |

Thanksgiving is right around the corner. That is if you think in terms of calendar corners, since we just have one weekend to go then Turkey Day will be here. The  holiday will be very different this year, thanks to COVID19, and families may not be gathering like in the past. As for my family, we’re still waiting to see if the current spike of cases here in Texas continues before making a final decision on getting together.

But it’s never too soon for a slice of pumpkin pie, and I’m happy to share my recipe with anyone who would like it. It’s been said I make damn good pumpkin pie, even my kids think so.

In the meantime, here’s Slim Randles as today’s Wednesday’s Guest, with a look at Thanksgiving in his part of the country.

When it comes to our unique holiday of Thanksgiving, I think we all can see past the turkey and trimmings to what it’s all about. Oh, there are some historians who will tell us the Pilgrims really didn’t share a meal with the Indians, and that’s okay, because they got grant money to tell us that.

And there are other historians who tell us that the Pilgims and the Indians were pals and split the turkey and dressing. And that’s okay, too. Historians have to eat just like the rest of us.

But to me, what really happened those 200 years or so ago, is immaterial. No matter who came up with the idea, Thanksgiving is a good idea. At least once a year we need to pause and give thanks in our own way for our blessings.

Of course, those of us who don’t live in the big cities tend to be thankful for different things than those who may live in stuccoed cliff dwellings. We tend to look at the natural blessings more than the manmade ones. We tend to be grateful for the simpler things, like calves in the spring, and how clean they look before they discover mud.

Folks in Home Country are deeply grateful that tasty rabbits arrive in large litters, and bears don’t. When we think about it, we are thankful that we get eggs from hens and not from rattlesnakes, as checking the rattler house each morning could get way too exciting.

When you consider that porcupines have quills, and deer don’t, it gives us pause for praise, and we’re happy that it’s skunks who carry scent glands and not dairy cattle.

We are thankful, too, that hurricanes and tornadoes only happen in warm weather. It’s bad enough to lose the barn without being chill-factored to death while it’s happening.

Down at the Mule Barn truck stop, Dud said he was thankful turkeys were stupid. When asked why, he said, “Ever look in a turkey’s eyes? Not only is no one home, but someone shut off the lights somewhere back in the Middle Ages. A turkey has just enough brains to operate his heart and lungs.”

“And you’re thankful for that?” we asked.

And Dud said “Sure. If turkeys had been given the rudimentary intelligence of an empty clarinet case, we might be forced to eat sheep on Thanksgiving.”

Brought to you by the good folks down at Make A Wish Foundation. Make a donation and a real difference in someone’s life.

Check out all of Slim’s award-winning books at his Goodreads Page and in better bookstores and bunkhouses throughout the free world.

All of the posts here are from his syndicated column, Home Country that is read in hundreds of newspapers across the country. I am always happy to have him share his wit and wisdom here.

Slim Randles is a veteran newspaperman, hunting guide, cowboy and dog musher. He was a feature writer and columnist for The Anchorage Daily News for 10 years and guided hunters in the Alaska Range and the Talkeetna Mountains. A resident of New Mexico now for more than 30 years, Randles is the prize-winning author of a dozen books, and is host of two podcasts and a television program.

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Book Review: The Love Note by Joanna Davidson Politano

Posted by mcm0704 on November 16, 2020 |

Is it a sign of the times, or just my bad luck to read samples of some books, then buy them or get them from NetGalley, only to read a few chapters and give up? Or maybe it’s my state of mind, which really has no name right now. Between my health issues and current affairs, I’m not sure what I’m feeling from day to day.

Anyway, when a friend sent this meme…

… I had to chuckle. I’ve been looking for my ducks for quite a while now. How about you?

One book I have finished recently is The Love Note by Joanna Davidson Politano.

Genre: Christian / Historical Fiction / Romance
Publisher: Revell
Publication Date: October 20, 2020
Number of Pages: 400

Focused on a career in medicine and not on romance, Willa Duvall is thrown slightly off course during the summer of 1859 when she discovers a never-opened love letter in a crack of her old writing desk. Compelled to find the passionate soul who penned it and the person who never received it, she takes a job as a nurse at the seaside estate of Crestwicke Manor.

Everyone at Crestwicke has feelings—mostly negative ones—about the man who wrote the letter, but he seems to have disappeared. With plenty of enticing clues but few answers, Willa’s search becomes even more complicated when she misplaces the letter and it passes from person to person in the house, each finding a thrilling or disheartening message in its words.

Laced with mysteries large and small, this romantic Victorian-era tale of love lost, love deferred, and love found is sure to delight.

This is such a charming story with all the right ingredients for an enjoyable read, great characters and a compelling plot. The way Willa wins over the irascible Golda, her charge at Crestwicke Manor, is just one example of the ways the different characters change once that letter starts to circulate.

As a horse-lover, I did enjoy the character of Gabe and his way with horses. I could see how Willa was drawn to him, yet reluctant to show her heart because of her dream to be a doctor. The tension between her desire and her heart was so deftly drawn, I could relate to her dilemma.

Aunt Maisie, or Crazy Maisie as some of the people at the manor called her, was a delightful character, and the teasing story she told about the mysterious Rose played out in perfect segments. The final reveal wasn’t a total surprise to me. I’d begun to suspect, but false leads as to the identity cast a shadow of doubt just when it was needed.

Overall, this is a very satisfying read, and  I recommend it to all readers who like a bit of religion, and a bit of romance, in a story about a woman making tough choices and charting her own future. That wasn’t so easy to do in the 1800s, or even the early 1900s, and Willa’s courage and determination are to be applauded.

While I wasn’t part of the official Lone Star Literary Blog tour for this book, I did receive a copy of an ARC in exchange for an honest review.


Amazon┃ Barnes and Noble ┃ ┃ IndieBound ┃ Baker Book House

Joanna Davidson Politano is the award-winning author of Lady Jayne Disappears and A Rumored Fortune. She loves tales that capture the colorful, exquisite details in ordinary lives and is eager to hear anyone’s story.

She lives with her husband and their two kids in a house in the woods near Lake Michigan.

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That’s all from me for today folks. If you’ve read a good book lately, please let us know in a comment. I’m sure there are plenty of people looking for a new story to entertain them while social distancing.

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Venerable Movie Houses

Posted by mcm0704 on November 11, 2020 |

Before moving on, I do want to pause a moment to acknowledge all the Veterans across the country. Thank you for your service! In the past, I’ve blogged about all the members of my family who have been in the military and you can read that post HERE if you’d care to. I wrote it in 2016.


Those of us of a certain age have fond memories of the theaters of our youth where we spent hours watching our favorites on the big screen while we munched on popcorn and candy. When I read Slim Randles offering today, I thought of the one I used to go to a few blocks from my house. My mother, sister, and I went as often as we could scrap together the three quarters needed to buy a ticket, along with a nickel each for popcorn.

I also thought of this book that my son, Mike, wrote with an associate at the Austin History Center,  Susan Rittereiser, Historic Movie Houses of Austin.

Historic Movie Houses of Austin

Now here’s Slim. Enjoy…

Mickey Baker has owned The Strand – our local movie theater – since the new releases starred Virginia Mayo. The Strand, naturally, is an icon here. More than a few of our long-lasting marriages in the area began with a first date there. Most of us have consumed more than our share of Raisinettes and Jujubes while watching Duke Wayne whip the bad guys.

We know every inch of The Strand. We know where the rips are in the used-to-be blood-red carpet, which of the seats don’t fold all the way down, which seats are most secluded in case it’s a smooching date.

It was ol’ Dud, back when he was about four feet tall, who discovered how to combine chewing gum and the lock on the back door to provide five-finger discounts for friends wanting to watch Victor Mature run around in a loincloth.

The Strand, in other words, is a vital part of our past, if not of our lives today. Now ‘a days we just go rent those tapes and disks and stay home and watch the newer films when we feel like it.

That might be because we now appreciate being able to stop the action for an occasional bathroom break now and then.

Attendance at The Strand dropped dramatically when home entertainment really hit a lick. But Mickey fought back. He tried the free popcorn route for a while. All he charged for was the butter. Attendance didn’t really pick up, and the popcorn bill was … well, appreciable if not staggering.

Mickey now thinks he has the answer. He bought a disk player thingie that works on a big screen. Then he bought some old movies and lowered the price.

The first night he did this was a triple header, and we all turned out to see our old heroes vanquish Nazis, solve the bank robbery in Cactus Gulch, and find out who really killed the big-city mayor.

We paid too much for popcorn, but who cares?

The Strand lives on, even if there is more gray hair there than at a Percheron horse show. Besides, when was the last time you saw The Duke standing 15-feet tall?

Brought to you by  A Cowboy’s Guide to Growing Up Right.

In addition to hosting a radio show, Slim Randles writes the nationally syndicated column, “Home Country” that is featured in 380 newspapers across the country. He is also the author of a number of books including  Saddle Up: A Cowboy Guide to Writing. That title, and others, are published by  LPD Press. If you enjoy his columns here on the blog, you might want to check out the book Home Country. It features some of the best of the columns he has shared with us, as well as the 4 million readers of the newspapers where his columns appear.

That’s all for today, folks. I do hope you enjoy this mid-week boost. Whether it’s humor or philosophy, Slim always has a good uplifting message. Be safe. Be well.

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