Cheryl St.John: Those Church Ladies & Their Marvelous Cookbooks

I have a thing for cookbooks. And especially church cookbooks. And especially especially old ones. Those church ladies have always been able to cook, haven”t they? I also have a thing for interesting tidbits of American history and enjoy learning how things were done and imagining the people. In the 80s I participated in putting together a church cookbook, and I bought enough copies so that my daughter”s could all have one once they were married. The recipes have become such family favorites that they are staples at gatherings and even weekday meals. One of my daughters wore hers completely put until it fell apart.

Years ago a friend from a writer’s listserv sent me a copy of a cookbook her grandmother had given her. Little did she know that all these years and books later, I would still be gleaning helpful tidbits from a booklet titled COOK BOOK compiled by THE LADIES of the Methodist Episcopal Church, Eureka Kansas, 1896.

making scones

From this little gem, I have used names, recipes and tips, and created businesses for the fictional towns in my stories. Cookbooks are pieces of history, especially those put together by the women of those early towns and cities. The advertisers who paid for space and thereby funded the ladies’ project were a diverse group. Leedy’s Dry Goods and Clothing House for example boasts the lowest prices guaranteed and quality unexcelled. Their tag line: Good cooking is most appetizing on neat linens. We have them.

Chas. A. Leedy sold dry goods, boots and shoes, fancy goods, clothing, and men’s furnishing goods. I have no idea what a men’s furnishing good was, but I am confident Mr. Leedy sold only quality in that line.

Interesting that listed among the directors of the First National Bank was none other than C.A. Leedy. Seems men’s furnishings were making him a tidy profit.


H. C. Hendrick called himself a dealer in pure drugs—my how the times have changed. No one admits to being a drug dealer nowadays. H.C. sold medicines, chemicals, oils, varnishes, glass, putty, fine brushes (my husband swears a little putty and a fine brush can conceal anything; he must have descended from the Kendricks). They also sold a full and complete line of fancy toilet articles, fine stationary, choice perfumes, books, dye stuffs and all other articles usually kept in a first class Drug Store. Prescriptions were accurately compounded.

Then there was H.C. Zilley, dealer in hardware, stoves and tinware who sold agricultural implements and wagons, with sidelines of furniture and undertaking. Why not get into the undertaking business? He already had the shovel and wagon.

Lewis’ Art Studio did photography in all its branches; proofs are shown and all work guaranteed. VIEWING A SPECIALTY. I don’t know what that means either, I’m just telling you how their ad reads. YOUR PATRONAGE SOLICITED. Those printers liked their capitals, and they had all kinds of fancy fonts. This place was opposite the courthouse, FYI.

1874Now, Frank B. Gregg, he sold Fire,…Lightning and Tornado… Insurance – and he liked effusive punctuation. Okay, this was Kansas, so that tornado insurance probably came in handy. Suppose Aunty Em took out a policy with Frank?

A.Frazer’s Transfer and Bus Line: Meets all Trains, All Calls Carefully Attended

Your guess is as good as mine here.

Miss Nellie Smith was pianist, teacher of piano and organ and a pupil of Rudolf King, Kansas City. Her terms were moderate.

W.W. Morris was another dealer in pure drugs and medicines. Also advertised were paints, oils, varnishes school andmiscellaneous books, stationary, window shades, wall paper, musical merchandise, jewelry, fancy and toilet articles. “We manufacture the following specialties and guarantee them to be the BEST articles for the purposes recommended: Calla Cream, Castole,

Excelsior Compound.” They were located NO. 23 OPERA BLOCK.

The church ladies who contributed to this publication had wonderful names like Madella Smith, Eva Downard, Katie Addison, Olive Sample, Hattie Kelley, Lydia Thrall, Cornelia Newman, Mabel Mueller, Lulu Kendrick and Lizzie Bell.


A big percent of the recipes contain lard, and many of them, like biscuits and Boston brown bread, ginger cake and ginger snapsare items we could whip up in our kitchens today, with the exact ingredients and directions. Others—not so much. Like suet as an ingredient. I’ve only fed suet to the birds. And what is black mustard? It’d required to make cucumber catsup.

Another example:

Scrapple: Scrape and clean well a pig’s head as directed in pig’s head cheese, put on to boil in plenty of water, cook 4 or 5 hours, until the bones will slip readily from the meat :::are you shuddering yet?::: take out, remove meat, skim off the grease from the liquor in pot and return the chopped meat to it, season highly with salt and pepper and a little powdered sage if liked, and add corn meal till of the consistency of soft mush; cook slowly 1 hour or more, pour in pans and set in a cool place. This is nice sliced and fried for breakfast in winter and will answer in the place of meat on many occasions.

As you can see the Methodist Episcopal Church Ladies have given me plenty of material for my stories. Little did they know so long ago that their contributions and ads would

be research and fodder for imagination.


My newest venture is indie publishing, and I”ve just released three of my earliest books for Kindle and Nook. It was interesting to read over the stories I wrote so long ago, and it was great to have an opportunity to tweak things and bring them more up to date.

If you have a Kindle or Nook, you can start reading any or all of them within minutes by clicking on one of these links. If you”ve already read them or plan to, I would appreciate all reviews.

Land of Dreams

For Kindle:

On Nook:


In this tale of hope and love, too-tall spinster Thea Coulson wants to be a mother to a child who arrives in Nebraska on an orphan train. When Booker Hayes shows up to take his niece, a marriage of convenience suits them both. Thea’s dreams are filled with the tall, dark army major, but she guards her heart. Booker’s first taste of home and hearth has him longing for more, but first he must win the hearts of both of the females in his life.




Saint or Sinner

For Kindle:

On Nook:


Joshua McBride returns from the war a changed man, ready to put down roots and plant his feet in the community.  Prim and uptight Miss Adelaide Stapleton, leader of the Dorcas Society, doesn’t believe he’s changed—people are never what they seem.  But she has plenty of secrets of her own—among them the inescapable fact that Joshua sets her heart to pounding and makes her long for his disturbing kisses. How long can she keep her own past hidden—and resist temptation?



Heaven Can Wait

For Kindle:

On Nook:

Raised within the confines of a strict religious community, Lydia Beker longs for a simple touch, dreams of seeing more of the world. When handsome farmer, Jakob Neubauer and his family visit the bakery where she works, she is fascinated, but Outsiders are forbidden to her. Jakob is attracted to Lydia, as well, and she makes the difficult decision to leave everything she knows behind to marry him. He offers love and passion, but will she ever fit into his world?

Heaven Can Wait is one of the top ten January covers at in the Indie Cover Awards.

Drawing Winners for Colorado Courtship!

Thank you each and every delightful friend who came visiting today! Debra and I enjoyed your company so much.

We’ve put your names into the cowboy hat and have given it a spin.


The winners of copies of COLORADO COURTSHIP signed by both of us are….






Yee Haw!

Drawing for 2 copies of Colorado Courtship: Interview Cheryl St.John & Debra Ullrick

The great thing about doing anthologies is spending time with the other author or authors. Sometimes there are stories to coordinate, but there’s always promotion to do together. I was glad for this opportunity to connect with Debra Ullrick. Hopefully you will catch our other blogs around the blogosphere this month as well as pick up a copy of our anthology.

For something different we thought it would be fun to interview each other. So here you have it.


Debra: When did you decide you wanted to be writer?

Cheryl: I used to read horror, true crime and westerns—primarily those by Louis L’Amour. Through a book club, I discovered gothic mystery-type romance and had my first peek into the possibilities of great storytelling plus a romance. Wow, I was hooked and started reading romances.

Up until then I’d been dabbling at writing, but I‘d never gotten serious. The defining year for me was when my youngest daughter went to first grade. I had been at home raising four children spread out over several years and felt the void of sending the youngest to school all day. Until then I’d been playing at writing, keeping handwritten notebooks and dallying with the stories like a hobby. Then and there I decided I was actually going to do what I’d always dreamed of doing and write an entire book. I started the manuscript in October and finished it during that school year.

I had the time of my life. I had no idea what I was doing, so it had no plot or conflict, but the characters were fun and I enjoyed creating a romance. I even submitted the manuscript to every publisher and agent I could find. Only years later did I understand how embarrassing that was. I did everything you’re not supposed to do. I chose an unmarketable time period, and I even bound my submissions in pretty folders. The story is still in a box where it deserves to be.

The thrill of creating those first stories is a good memory. The job suits me perfectly. I set my own hours; I’m my own boss, and I don’t have to get out of my jammies or put on makeup if I don’t want to. Romance is what I love to read, and one of the first things we hear in writing classes is “write what you love” or “write what you know” — well I don’t know all that much, but I know what I love.


Debra: Do you have a favorite out of all the books you’ve written? If so, why?

Cheryl: SAINT OR SINNER and JOE’S WIFE have a couple of my all-time favorite heroes, and SWEET ANNIE and HIS SECONDHAND WIFE are two of my favorite heroines. THE DOCTOR’S WIFE and PRAIRIE WIFE are favorites because of the depth of emotion and healing.


Debra: What do you like to write about most?

Cheryl: Anything with deep emotion. My critique group says I love angst, and I guess I do. I enjoy taking a character out of a familiar setting and placing him somewhere completely foreign. I also like stories of false pretense or masquerade, where a person is pretending to be someone he or she is not. I love to put a character in a place where he or she has to feel strongly and react. I write about underdogs who deserve better, people who get second chances, those who need redemption or forgiveness. Love might make the world go around, but these things keep it on its axis.


Debra: What is one myth you think people have about authors?

Cheryl: That anyone could do it.


Debra: What inspired you to write Winter of Dreams?

Cheryl: I had been wanting to write a story about an undertaker for a while, and when this opportunity for a novella came along, that was the first think that popped into my head. Novellas are great for writing that story that doesn’t have enough plot for a full-length novel. Once I had my undertaker, the rest was easy: Create a heroine with built-in conflict.


Debra: What do you want people to take away from Winter of Dreams?

Cheryl: Just as people come in all shapes and sizes and colors, love happens in many shapes and forms as well. We are faced with situations every day, not romantic situations necessarily, but circumstances in which we can recognize love and share kindness. In my Love Inspired books I hope readers recognize God’s limitless love for us.


Debra: What is your favorite quote?

Cheryl: “I do not sit down to work because I am inspired. I become inspired because I sit down to work.” – Oscar Hammerstein


Debra: If you could sit down and talk to any author, even one from the past, who it be and why?


Cheryl: There are two authors I’d like to talk with:

LaVyrle Spencer, because, even though I always wanted to write and dabbled at it here and there, her books inspired me to get serious and go for it. She wrote some of my favorite books of all time. Rye Dalton from Twice Loved remains my ultimate hero.

Stephen King, because, well, he’s Stephen King. I’m in awe of his brilliant ability to create characters and scenarios that engage readers on an astonishing level. I know it seems odd for a romance writer, but before I read romance, I read western and horror, and he was my go-to author. When my kids were young we had a pool, and every summer I read The Stand while lying on the deck. I enjoyed both mini-series versions too. I really like his book On Writing, and I’d love to pick his brain.


Debra: What does your writing cave look like?

Cheryl: Messy.  Papers everywhere.  Books all over.  I’m known far and wide as a collector and my office reflects that particular gene as much as any room in my house.  In my office  have a curio full of old and new dolls: Barbies, My Scene, Ginnys, Disneys, Madame Alexanders, and any others I can’t resist.

There are framed writing awards on the few visible walls—most of the wall space is taken up by bookcases.  The color of the walls is called Strawberry Pot, it’s a soothing and inspiring teal, my favorite color.   I have a comfy rocking chair piled with pillows, a TV on an upper shelf, a counter full of office machines like copiers and printers and two computers.  My book covers are thumb tacked to the bulletin boards that back my desk area on three walls, along with pics that readers have sent.  I have half a dozen oil lamps, a row of Angel Cheeks, framed photographs of the cutest kids ever, a jeweled tiara and paperweights.  A vintage globe that belonged to my grandmothers sits atop one of my cabinets.  There are many things I love about my space, and one of them is that it’s sound proof.  You can actually hear the difference when you come into the room—the effect created by four walls of books.

Debra: When you are not writing what do you do?

Cheryl: Probably not sleeping,  LOL  My husband and I like to garden together, so many of our weekends are spent creating arbors and gardens and ponds.  We love to shop flea markets and browse antique malls.  More often than not you could find me selecting paint, then watching him roll it on or arranging a spot in the house just so.  I like to make interesting displays of vintage collections and have so many I have to change them out to enjoy them. I’m a movie junkie, so late at night I watch movies (and take plotting notes—it makes me feel like I’m working). December found me watching every Lifetime and Hallmark Christmas movie there was.



Cheryl: What was your first novel and what do you remember most about it?


Debra: My first novel was The Bride Wore Coveralls. I love the heroine because if I could be like anyone, it would be like her. She’s tiny, petite, feminine, yet rugged, she’s feisty and spirited, a woman who doesn’t let people bully her around. Plus, she’s a great mechanic who repairs autos and builds and races mud-boggers as well, if not better, than any man.


Cheryl: Do you have a favorite character you’ve written so far?

Debra: Yes! Selena Farleigh Bowen, the heroine in The Unlikely Wife. I fell in love with this heroine because what you see if what you get. She’s not out to change who she is for anyone or to put on a show for anyone. She’s real and genuine. Despite her Kentucky hills upbringing and those who think less of her for it, she’s content with who she is and where she comes from. She’s kind, caring, and yet she doesn’t let people walk all over her. She’s a woman who can take care of herself, and I admire that. She’s also a woman who loves deeply and enjoys the simple little things in life.


Cheryl: What can your readers expect from you in 2013?

Debra: Well, I’m working on a three-book proposal and a contemporary single Christmas heroes novel. Plus, The Unintended Groom, the last in the Bowen series, is coming out in June and, of course, our novella anthology Colorado Courtship is coming out in January.


Cheryl: What is your favorite thing to do during a relaxing evening at home?

Debra: Watch a good movie or TV show with my sweet hubby. Boring, I know, but just being in the room with my husband is a joy to me, no matter what I’m doing.


Cheryl: Do you enjoy hobbies or creative pastimes?

Debra: I used to love to draw western art, using acrylics, charcoal, and pastels, but not anymore. (You can see some of my drawings on my website at I also used to crochet dolls, but I don’t do that anymore either. I do love to go to classic car shows as often as I can. Not sure that’s creative or not, but it is to me. hehe Actually, writing has taken over all of those creative pastime activities. Shame on me. Tee hee.


Cheryl: What book is on your desk right now?

Debra: None. If I had one on my desk I wouldn’t get anything done. However, I have a ton of them on my headboard, my bookshelves, and my two Kindles.


Cheryl: List your top five favorite movies of all time:

Debra: All of Jane Austen novel movies – every version of them, Wives and Daughters, While You Were Sleeping, You’ve Got Mail, and Sleepless in Seattle.


Cheryl: What is your favorite quote?

Debra: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” By Eleanor Roosevelt.


Cheryl: Do you make New Year’s resolutions or set goals in January? If so, will you share one or two?

Debra: Yes, to get better organized, to completely read through another devotional, and to pray more, especially since I have a better understanding of what prayer really is all about – connecting with God.


Cheryl: What is your guilty pleasure?

Debra: Hidden Object and Match 3 computer games. I’m addicted to them and find them very relaxing. I have almost 300 pc games. Talk about guilt. Yikes!


Colorado Courtship
Love Inspired Historical 2-in-1
January 1, 2013
ISBN-13: 978-0373829484


Winter of Dreams by Cheryl St.John

If Violet Kristofferson had known that her new employer was the town undertaker, she might never have come to Carson Springs as his cook. Yet she needs a fresh start away from scandal. And Ben Charles’s unflinching faith could be her path to something truly precious—a new family.


The Rancher’s Sweetheart by Debra Ullrick

The cowboys on her uncle’s ranch show Sunny Weston no respect—except for foreman Jed Cooper. A riding and roping contest is Sunny’s chance to prove herself. But now that she’s falling for Jed, will she find courage to take the biggest risk of all, and trust her heart?

Cheryl and Debra are each giving away a copy of COLORADO COURTSHIP signed by BOTH of them! LEAVE YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS IN A COMMENT TO BE ENTERED IN THE DRAWING.


Share this post on Facebook and Twitter while you’re here for an additional chance.


Cheryl St.John: Family Traditions

The story I’m working on right now has a thirteen year old girl named Jane, who grew up in a foundling home and foster homes. In one scene, my main character, Ruby is reading Jane Hans Brinker or The Silver Skates. She explains about how she’d read that the author had never been to the Netherlands, but had learned all about customs and traditions of the country from a neighbor.

Jane has no concept of cultural or family traditions, which got me to thinking how many things we take for granted. Families are one thing we accept as part of our everyday normal lives, until we see someone without one–or someone living far from their family. We have a friend who is in America to go to school and work and his entire family is in Africa. Because he’s working toward a better future, he hasn’t seen his children or is wife for a long time.

Most of us have traditions, like decorating the Christmas tree together, movie and pizza on Friday night, a specific birthday cake, fishing on the Fourth of July. Families who have rituals have the strongest ties, because of the sense of continuity and memory building.

In 2000 the University of Wyoming shared 5 reasons to celebrate family life. By understanding these reasons, we can increase our efforts and realize the importance of daily life within our family.

1) Time to relate or communicate with one another. Caring, problem solving, balancing individual and together time are also part of this time to understand one another’s needs, goals and challenges in life. Help in adapting to new stages of development, crisis or the flow of events.

2) Things like learning a new hobby, caring for a family member, planning a weekly schedule together, learning a new skill like meal preparation or grocery shopping, or establishing a signal to ease transitions like a hand sign to say, “You have 5 more minutes.”

3) A time to heal and forgive from a loss or disappointment in life. Using this time to talk about the good times and tell stories. Time to spend together as a sign of cooperation and reconciliation.

4) Time to affirm family values, faith and life experiences. The materials we read to reinforce our faith. The crafts, decorations or special things we do related to holidays or special family events. The time we spend sharing with others outside our family for those in need.

5) A time to celebrate together. The special events in our lives including holidays and special accomplishments by family members.

One tradition that has developed over the past several years is our Thanksgiving photo of the females. Sometimes one or two aren’t there; sometimes it’s the whole gang together, but we always do our group photo. The outtakes can often be more fun than the actual finished portrait. This year was so cold and windy we couldn’t go outside and the indoor lighting was poor, so we traveled all over my daughter’s house looking for a good spot. We never found one, but we laughed a lot.


How have your family traditions evolved over the years?





an ebook release


Charlie McGraw never should have bought the angel book for his precocious daughter. Because then Meredith wouldn’t be convinced that getting a new mommy was as simple as having an “angel” sprinkle him with her “miracle dust.” And she never would have believed the beautiful blond-haired woman who drove a truck called the “Silver Angel” was some treetop angel come to life.

Starla Richards was no angel. But try telling that to a five-year-old who was so starved for a mother’s love that she’d stowed away on Starla’s rig. Or convincing herself that miracles just didn’t happen to ordinary people when Starla found herself snowbound with a handsome, caring widower and his adorable daughter….

Revised for the Heartwarming line from a previous SIM edition, Charlie’s Angels

Best of the Best Native American Romances – Cheryl St.John’s List

A while back a group of inspirational authors and readers shared their favorite Native American stories, and so of course I made a list. I had read several of them, but am now collecting all these books. I wanted to share my list with you, because who doesn’t need a wish list? If you have more to add, this is the place, and I’d love to hear about them.

A Whisper of Peace, Kim Vogel Sawyer



Ostracized by her tribe because of her white father, Lizzie Dawson lives alone in the mountains of Alaska, practicing the ways of her people even as she resides in the small cabin her father built for her mother. She dreams of reconciling with her grandparents to fulfill her mother’s dying request, but she has not yet found a way to bridge the gap that separate her from her tribe.

Clay Selby has always wanted to be like his father, a missionary who holds a great love for the native people and has brought many to God. Clay and his stepsister, Vivian, arrive in Alaska to set up a church and school among the Athbascan people. Clay is totally focused on this goal…until he meets a young, independent Indian woman with the most striking blue eyes he’s ever seen.But Lizzie is clearly not part of the tribe, and befriending her might have dire consequences for his mission. Will Clay be forced to choose between his desire to minister to the natives and the quiet nudging of his heart?


 Courting Morrow Little, Laura Franz



Morrow Little is haunted by the memory of the day her family was torn apart by raiding Shawnee warriors. Now that she is nearly a grown woman and her father is ailing, she must make difficult choices about the future.

Several men–ranging from the undesired to the unthinkable–vie for her attentions, but she finds herself inexplicably drawn to a forbidden love that both terrifies and intrigues her. Can she betray the memory of her lost loved ones–and garner suspicion from her friends–by pursuing a life with him? Or should she seal her own misery by marrying a man she doesn’t love?


The Frontiersman’s Daughter, Laura Franz



Lovely but tough as nails, Lael Click is the daughter of a celebrated frontiersman. Haunted by her father’s former captivity with the Shawnee Indians, as well as the secret sins of her family’s past, Lael comes of age in the fragile Kentucky settlement her father founded.

Though she faces the loss of a childhood love, a dangerous family feud, and the affection of a Shawnee warrior, Lael draws strength from the rugged land she calls home, and from Ma Horn, a distant relative who shows her the healing ways of herbs and roots found in the hills. But the arrival of an outlander doctor threatens her view of the world, God, and herself–and the power of grace and redemption.


Through Rushing Water, Catherine Richmond



Sophia has her life all planned out—but her plan didn’t include being jilted or ending up in Dakota Territory.

Sophia Makinoff is certain 1876 is the year that she’ll become the wife of a certain US Congressman, and happily plans her debut into the Capitol city. But when he proposes to her roommate instead, Sophia is stunned. Hoping to flee her heartache and humiliation, she signs up with the Board of Foreign Missions on a whim.

With dreams of a romantic posting to the Far East, Sophia is dismayed to find she’s being sent to the Ponca Indian Agency in the bleak Dakota Territory. She can’t even run away effectively and begins to wonder how on earth she’ll be able to guide others as a missionary. But teaching the Ponca children provides her with a joy she has never known—and never expected—and ignites in her a passion for the people she’s sent to serve.

It’s a passion shared by the Agency carpenter, Willoughby Dunn, a man whose integrity and selflessness are unmatched. The Poncas are barely surviving. When US policy decrees that they be uprooted from their land and marched hundreds of miles away in the middle of winter, Sophia and Will wade into rushing waters to fight for their friends, their love, and their destiny.


The Shadow Catcher’s Daughter, Carla Olson Gade

Eliana has secrets. Daring Eliana Van Horn aims to make her mark by joining her father as his photography assistant–disguised as a young man–on a survey expedition to the remote Four Corners.
Living in the shadows of his native heritage, trail guide Yiska Wilcox is thrown off course when the shadow catcher’s daughter opens up the uncharted territory of his heart.
As they travel through dangerous terrain in the mountains and deserts of Colorado and New Mexico, Eliana and Yiska must learn to overcome the barriers of culture, faith, and ideals to discover common ground.
Though they are worlds apart, will they stake a chance on love?




Valley of Dreams, Lorraine Snelling


Addy Lockwood’s mother died when she was little, so Addy traveled with her father’s Wild West Show and became an amazingly skillful trick rider, likened by some to the famous Annie Oakley. When her father died, she continued to work with the show, having nowhere else to go.

Now Addy has discovered that “Uncle” Jason, the show’s manager, has driven the show into debt, and he’s absconded with what little money was left. Devastated, Addy decides to try to find the hidden valley where here father had dreamed of putting down roots. She has only one clue. She needs to find three huge stones that look like fingers raised in a giant hand.

With Chief, a Sioux Indian who’s been with the show for twenty years, and Micah, the head wrangler, she leaves both the show and a bundle of heartache behind and begins a wild and daring adventure.


Dakota Moon Trilogy, Stephanie Grace Whitson

Heart of the Sandhills:

Genevieve LaCroix Dane Two Stars, married for just a little more than a year, is thankful to be with her beloved husband, Daniel Two Stars. Though they are struggling, they have each other and dream of making a happy home in a safe place.

But “happily ever after” is not always easy to live out in real life. Daniel and his friend, Robert Lawrence, now plow the land that used to be theirs in return for only a portion of the crops and the right to live in two small log cabins with their families. Though many respect their hardworking Indian neighbors, others are unable to look past the color of their skins and see their hearts. They only see “murdering savages.” In the wake of the Dakota Sioux uprising, fear and prejudice toward the Indians grow stronger every day.

How long will Genevieve and her family be able to turn the other cheek in the face of hatred and injustice? Is Daniel’s restlessness a sign that God has another work for him beyond the farm? Should they stay in Minnesota or look for a better place out west?

Valley of the Shadow:

Eighteen-year-old Genevieve LaCroix protests when her father tells her it’s time to leave home and get further education at nearby Renville mission. The daughter of Good Song Woman and Etienne LaCroix, she carries in her blood the proud heritage of a Dakota warrior and a French aristocrat. But when Gen arrives at Renville mission, she learns that her heritage is not valued in the changing world created by new white immigrants.

At first the lessons learned at the mission are difficult and lonely. But soon Gen finds new friends and begins to understand this strange culture she has become immersed in. When the missionary family takes in Two Stars, an injured young Dakota warrior, Gen begins to learn how quickly a life can change.

When the Minnesota Sioux Uprising destroys the world she has known and threatens the people she loves most, Gen begins to question everything she has been taught about God.

Edge of the Wilderness:

In the aftermath of the Dakota War of 1862, Genevieve LaCroix struggles to accept the horrible news that Daniel Two Stars has been falsely imprisoned and executed as a criminal, when, in fact, he risked his life to save others. When a man Gen respects proposes, she learns that obedience can require painful choices. But then, just when she has learned to be content as Simon Dane’s wife and stepmother to his children, Gen learns that Two Stars is alive.


Walks Alone, Sandi Rogg



A Cheyenne warrior bent on vengeance.
A pioneer woman bent on fulfilling a dream.
Until their paths collide.
After fleeing her abusive uncle, Anna is determined to reach the city of her dreams. But White Eagle and his fierce warriors take her prisoner. Anna attempts a harrowing escape, but her savage captor is determined to have her at all costs and forces her to be his wife. Has God forgotten her, or does He have plans of His own?
A man with a boot in one world and a moccasin in the other, White Eagle is disillusioned with his faith after a minister leads a massacre on his peaceful tribe. Where is his God? He’s definitely not with the white men who are slaughtering his people. But White Eagle also can’t give in to the idolatry practiced by his fellow tribesmen. Only the Truth can set him free.

 Wildflower Bride, Mary Connealy



Glowing Sun, a white woman raised by the Flathead tribe, has vague memories of her former life, including a name—Abby Lind. When she’s forced to sever all links with her adopted family, Abby wonders if she’ll ever find a home again. Tenderhearted Wade Sawyer, responsible for Abby’s survival during the village massacre, convinces the knife-wielding woman to return with him to the Sawyer Ranch, never realizing danger lurks behind every corner. Can they survive long enough to fall in love?


Morning for Dove, Martha Rogers



When Luke Anderson falls in love with Dove Morris, he is aware of her Native American heritage. What he is not prepared for is the prejudice suddenly exhibited by his parents against Dove. Luke struggles with the feelings until a wildfire on the prairie threatens Morris Ranch. Luke joins the battle to stave off the fire as it approaches and risks his life to save Dove. Will his parents see that love knows no boundaries of race or culture when it is rooted in God’s love for His people?


Also on the list:

Under a Desert Sky, DiAnn Mills

A Love Forbidden, Kathleen Morgan

The One Who Waits for Me, Lori Copeland

Cheryl St.John: The Early Days

I had been writing and submitting for several years before I joined an RWA chapter and a local writers group. With the help of other more experienced writers, workshops and conferences, I learned and grew. Those first early projects are still in boxes in a storeroom—where they belong. I truly didn’t know what I was doing. After studying Dwight Swain and garnering the advice of great ladies like the late Diane Wicker Davis (Avon) and Barbara Andrews (Ecstasy – and Silhouette as Jennifer Drew with her daughter Pam Hanson) and also being with a critique group, the first book I wrote start to finish was Rain Shadow.


At a Minneapolis conference Pam and I attended, after spending the entire morning in the bathroom doing self-talk, I pitched the book at my first editor appointment. The editor asked to see it and later rejected it saying my hero was too unsympathetic.


I had submitted to agents about that same time, and one called me, saying with certainty, “I can sell this book for you.” I was thrilled, of course, and she did indeed sell it to Harlequin Historical. Forty-four books later she is still my agent. After some initial quibbling over my title, it stuck and RAIN SHADOW was released in 1993. Back then HH did what they called March Madness and introduced two new authors each March. I loved the cover, loved it loved it. Loved the Wild West Show on the front. Adored her fringe jacket. Blew up the image and admired it. The art department used the pictures I’d sent them, and even her gun is in perfect detail.


Question from shopper at one of my very first book signings: “Is this you on the cover?”


Note to self: At all times be prepared to answer very odd questions graciously.


My second sale followed right on the heels of the first because it was a book I’d written previously. It had been shopped around other publishers without success. My new editor, who continued to be my editor for the next ten years, agreed to look at Heaven Can Wait, then asked me to cut a hundred pages and take out a subplot. Which I did with a lot of help from my critique group. It’s difficult to be that brutal to your own work. The story was indeed better for that revision. So the books came out one after the other, but not in the correct chronological order, story-wise. The villainess in Heaven Can Wait is the dead wife of the hero in Rain Shadow. So whenever I talk to people who will be reading them for the first time, I suggest they read them in the correct order.


So there you have the inside scoop on my first two sales and how they came about. It’s still exciting to see a new cover for each current release. It’s always a thrill to know that the stories I’ve worked so hard on are bringing pleasure to readers. Nearly twenty years later, I’m currently revising those books to bring them out as digital releases. I’m working on Heaven Can Wait right now. Interestingly, I ran across a review by a reader who had never read the story before and had some very insightful comments. What worked in 1993 doesn’t necessarily work today—and there’s more freedom in the creative aspect when a writer publishes a book independently. So Jakob and Lydia are getting new life and the villainess of the story? Well, she has a new and improved persona.


As readers ourselves, writers know the delight of finding a new author, of becoming lost in a story, of falling in love with appealing characters. Being able to write those stories for others is a joy and a satisfaction beyond measure.


What we remember when we think back on a story isn’t always the specific details of the plot or even the character names. What we remember is how the book made us feel. If we were swept away, excited, intrigued, riveted, saddened, we recall those feelings. I’ll bet you remembered the way the first romances you ever read affected you on an emotional level, and you probably remember the stories today.

Which romances did you first read that have stayed with you forever?


Addendum to this blog post:

As soon as Kristin Burns saw this announcement come across Facebook, she went to her bookshelf and got books out to take this picture and send it to me. It’s foreign editions of these two books. Fun – thanks!

Teachers: Miracle Workers Through the Years

While seeking an interesting topic for schooldays and teachers, I googled movies about teachers. I found a lot of them I liked, but one in particular resonates with me because the story is profound and amazing and true.


The Miracle Worker is based on Helen Keller’s autobiography, The Story of My Life (1903).  American playwright William Gibson wrote a play for a 1957 Playhouse 90 broadcast.  The original Broadway production opened at the Playhouse Theater in October 1959 and won the 1960 Tony Award for Best Play. Anne Bancroft who won the 1960 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for her role as Annie Sullivan and Patty Duke as Helen Keller recreated their stage roles in the movie.


I never see either of them without remembering their performances in this movie. Recently I watched the Hallmark movie, Homecoming, with the still-beautiful Anne Bancroft. Okay, I confess, Mrs. Robinson flitted before my eyes for a second there, too.


Television remakes were done in 1979 and 2000. many of you might remember the Melissa Gilbert version, where Melissa plays Helen and patty Duke plays Anne Sullivan.


At the age of nineteen months Helen Keller lost her sight and hearing during an illness, historically surmised to be  scarlet fever or meningitis. Pampered and spoiled by her parents from then on, Helen got her way by hitting, kicking, and throwing tantrums. Giving their daughter one last chance before she is institutionalized, her parents send for a teacher from the Perkins School for the Blind. Annie Sullivan was once blind herself, but after nine operations on her eyes gained sight. Against all odds, Annie determined to break through Helen’s world of darkness and silence.


One of the most moving scenes is when Helen finally understands the connection between the finger spellings and the objects they represent. Teacher and student show Helen’s parents what she has learned. There is much excitement and hugging, after which Helen pokes Annie, asking for her name. Annie spells t-e-a-c-h-e-r.


Helen pats the pocket on her mother’s dress, asking for the keys she put there. Helen takes the keys and offers them to Annie, a sign that Helen is finally willing to welcome Annie as her teacher. We are moved by the overwhelming emotions of each person. Helen who has lived in a frustratingly dark  and silent world, unable to communicate has just found a way to connect with the world. Annie has finally given Helen the keys to rich and fulfilling life. And while Helen’s mother is grateful to Annie and joyous for Helen, she must feel like the outside now.

In the final scene, just before bedtime, Helen comes into Annie’s room and kisses her cheek. They rock together for a while, as Annie spells out i-l-o-v-e-h-e-l-e-n. This is a teacher who will forever be remembered for her persistence and tough love. It blesses me to know teachers like Annie are still helping special needs children. It takes a special gift and a willing heart to commit to children in similar circumstances.

If you haven’t seen The Miracle Worker for a while, give it a watch. If you’ve never seen it, treat yourself.

Cheryl St.John: What Would Laura Ingalls Think of Your Kitchen?


There are an awful lot of modern conveniences I wouldn”t want to do without. Showers come to mind. Coffee pots. Washing machines. I can”t even fathom a day in the kitchen without electricity.


kitchen range


Most of us have heard of the Ben Franklin stove, but it wasn”t really what we think of as a stove at all. In 1744 Ben Franklin invented an open cast iron heater, like an insert, that projected out from the fireplace and radiated to all parts of the room. It was used for heating purposes.


pot bellied stove 1875
So the stoves we read about clear through the 1850s and 1860s were heaters. The pot bellied stove was a common heater for over fifty years. It was much bigger than we”d imagine, and most often used in depots, general stores, livery stables and shops.


A stove to cook on wasn”t invented until 1870, when the fireplace heater was improved upon for cooking and baking. It was still a fireplace insert, often ornate.


By 1885 the common kitchen range had a flat top and round burners, but still no reservoir.




In the late 1890s and early 1900s hard-coal heaters were common, and the flames inside could be seen through an isinglass window. Once gas was piped into city homes in the 1890s, people had gas cook stoves and space heaters.



The steel-plated kitchen ranges with reservoirs, warming closets and nickel plated trim were the norm around the turn of the century. A fancy one cost about twenty dollars or less.

kitchen range 1885


I can tell you I”m very thankful for my kitchen range and microwave. What would Laura Ingalls make of it?

Cheryl St.John: Dream Like an Olympic Gold Medalist

I confess. I’m an Olympic junkie.

I guess I always have been. When they show those vintage (I like the word vintage, don’t you? It’s so much classier than ‘old.’) clips of previous trials and gold medalists, I remember watching the athletes at that time, too. I enjoy all of the behind-the-scenes info about the athletes, how they share their struggles and sacrifices and how their families support them.


Television coverage is so much more amazing now with all the technology. Watching the parents in the stands makes each endeavor all the more exciting. And this year has been exciting.

My favorite summer competitions are beach volleyball, gymnastics and swimming, and I try not to miss a minute. The women gymnasts had us on the edge of our seats this year, didn’t they? We cried with Jordan Weiber when she didn’t make it into the top two for individual competition. What a ridiculous rule. She’s better than many who made it through, but just because only two per team are allowed, the best athletes are not up there! Frustrating, isn’t it?


We held our breath when the did the USA team did the uneven bars and floor exercises—and cheered with them when they won. What a heart-pounding evening that was. With the men’s relay thrown in between, so we could be in suspense there too.

Watched a special on Marlen Esparsa’s journey through matches and world competitions to fight her way to a spot on the USA team. She will fight for a medal on Monday. Watching the Olympics is exhausting, I tell you!


I do love technology, but it can be very dangerous and incredibly distracting.. I can watch live television on Kindle or ipad anywhere I go that has WiFi. It’s a Dish perk. That means I can have Olympic coverage right at my desk. Sick, huh?


I had to turn it off today. I do have a deadline, after all.


We can liken what the Olympians do to reach their goals to any endeavor we might take on. Most of those athletes have prepared for this competition since they were children. They trained and sacrificed to get where they are. Anything a person wants badly enough is worth working toward.


Publishing a book doesn’t just happen. It’s a rare author who wakes up one day and says, “I’m going to write a NYT best seller this week,” and then sees the dream come to pass. Most dreams take an exhausting measure of effort and work. An extreme amount of sacrifice and dedication go into the successful writing and publication of a book.


Nobody else can make your dream happen. The people who make their dreams come true work on them every day. I look at those young people in London this week and am so impressed by their dedication to the Big Picture. They eat right. They train every single day. They get up early. They sacrifice other things to reach that one goal–the dream.

One of the commercials that’s been playing quotes several of them: “I haven’t watched TV since last summer.”

They set their goals and then they set their priorities to meet those goals. They have taken the steps, and the steps were huge and hot and sweaty and difficult. If we don’t set a goal and then commit  to take steps to make it happen–we end up where we’ve always been. There’s the stickler—the uncomfortable word: COMMIT. Pastor Dale Marples always said, “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you always got.” Change is hard, but we have good examples around us.


We can apply these principles to any endeavor we wish to pursue. Every dream is worthy of a chance.