Simpler Times


“Be careful what you own.

Your possessions just might own you.”

This is a quote from my father that I’ve remembered throughout my life. In this spring season of garage sales and Craig’s listings, I look around my house and see that the blessing of living into today’s consumer world is also a responsibility. It is time that I ‘lighten’ my life. Can you relate?

A scribe using quill and Black Oak ink.
A scribe using quill and Black Oak ink.

In this process of trying to simplify and organize my life, sometimes it seems overwhelming and I begin to wonder if it is really possible. There are books on this topic—even a best-selling one. (The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by  Marie Kondo.  Hint: I really need this book!)

This is probably why I enjoy reading and writing stories. First off, stories are a neat little package with a beginning, a middle and an end. Stories are ORGANIZED. Also, things get ACCOMPLISHED in a story. The hero gets the girl, the villain gets his or her just desserts, the underdog saves the day. (This sense of accomplishment does not happen when I clean!)

Macktown Rendezvous
A man much like Stephen Mack

Second, since I read and write historicals, besides learning history along the way, it fascinates me to see how people lived in a “simpler” time. Even before the cowboys and cattle drives of the “west”, there were fur traders and mountain men and native Americans. These men and women knew how to get along with very little of the ‘extras’ in life that I would be lost without. Flint and a striking stone for fire. A horse. A basket to carry water. (No computer? No electricity? Are you serious?)

I recently attended a re-enactment of this ‘simpler’ life held right here in my hometown. Rockton has a history that dates back to the early 1800s when the French traders would come to trade with the native Americans that lived here. The re-enactment happens annually at the end of April and is called the “Rendezvous.”

Whitman Trading Post
Whitman Trading Post – 1846

Stephen Mack, Jr. is the first known white settler here in the Rock River valley. He came west in the early 1820’s as a fur trader for the American Fur Company of Detroit. In 1835, after the Black Hawk War, he settled down here with his Potowatami wife, Hononegah, and established a settlement which eventually came to be known as Macktown. In 1839 he built a ferry across the Rock River and later built a bridge. His home, a large frame house that he built in 1839, still stands, along with the Whitman Trading Post which he built from the local limestone in 1846. After Stephen Mack’s death in 1850, Macktown slowly faded away while at the same time across the river, Rockton grew.

I took Western Spring Weddingsthese pictures at the Rendezvous. I hope you enjoy them.


Do you have any tips for simplifying life?

Pass one along in the comment section for a chance to win a copy of my newest release ~ Western Spring Weddings!


The Books That Inspired Me To Write…

What are your Desert Isle Keepers? Which stories stayed with you long after you closed the cover?  Do you have comfort reads?  And the last question for writers, which books made you say, “I want to do that!” 

Here’s my list in no particular order….

1.  Christy by Catherine Marshall.  I was twelve when I read this story of a young woman going to the Appalachian mountains to be a teacher. In the town of Cutter Gap, Christy Huddleston experiences life in a whole new way, and she learns to see and love people for who they are.  Her friendship with Fairlight Spencer is both glorious and heartbreaking. The story is fiction, but it’s based on the life of Catherine’s mother. It’s also considered the book that gave birth to the Inspirational market, and the Christy Awards are named after it.

2. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.  Love this story!  The movies first brought it to life for me, namely the Hallmark movie with George C. Scott and Susannah York. A romance writer was born the night I saw the made-for-TV movie. Later I read the book for a Women’s Fiction class at UCLA. Forget symbolism and literary stuf, this is a story of redemption, transformation and romance. My favorite film version is the one with Timothy Dalton as Rochester.

3. The Black Stallion Series by Walter Farley. Alec Ramsey was my first crush.  I read this series over and over, mentally riding in the races and taking on whatever challenges came Alex’s way.  They fed my child’s imagination in a big way.

4. The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing.  We’re getting off the beaten path with this one.  I read it as a college freshman at the recommendation of a teaching assistant. In short, it’s about a woman trying to make sense of a chaotic world.  The title is derived from structure of the book.  It’s made up of narrative, four “notebook “sections–each a different color and about a different part of the main character’s life–and finally a Golden notebook.  I’m now light years away from the content of the book, but it made me want to write.

5.  Hawaii by James Michener. I read this in middle school, around the time I read Christy. I thought the beginning was a bit dull, but I plowed through and discovered the joy of historical fiction. Does anyone else miss the days of long books? Some of my favorites by Michener are Centennial, The Source, Space and Chesapeake.

6. Captains and the Kings by Taylor Caldwell. I read this shortly after my first son was born. What a wonderful mix of history and drama!  In the coming years, I read every Taylor Caldwell book in the Thousand Oaks, California library.  

7. The Outsider by Penelope Williamson. I will never forget reading this book for the first time. It’s a mix of violence and faith, love and hate, guilt and forgiveness. I finished it at 3 a.m., blinked away the tears and thought, “I want to do this . . . I want to write books like this one.”  That’s a lofty goal and I don’t think I’ve met the challenge, but I intend to keep trying.  No one uses language like Penelope Williamson.  This book doesn’t just tell the story, it sings every word.

So those are my favorites.  What about you?  What’s on your keeper shelf?  I don’t think any of us could pick just one.


P.S. My current release is available now at Amazon  . . . Marrying the Major . . . Check it out along with the other titles in the “Women of Swan’s Nest” series!