A Tale and A Treat

A Tale:

Family Reunions Take Time

Every year I make a pilgrimage to Upper Michigan for a reunion with my Husband’s side of our family. And, every year the participants change. Some of our members are unable to make the trip anymore due to health issues. Some are too busy. Some are broke. Some have a rotation with their other relatives and this is “not the year” to visit with us. So, every year is a new dynamic.

This summer was no different. My husband’s eldest brother was unable to make the voyage and since he is the patriarch, and the funniest of his seven siblings, David K. was sorely missed.

This year we did have an addition to our party. I’ve been married to my husband, the very same man, for 28 years, and this is the first time I have ever laid my eyes on our great-nephew’s face; for the first time I had the privilege of getting to know the grandson of my brother-in-law, Daniel, his wife, and their five year-old daughter. My pilgrimage only took about five to six hours to drive by car. Their journey from California took a few flights across the country and a rental car—plus, of course, time.

My husband’s last memory of Daniel was as a baby stretched out on the dining room table with a cloth diaper underneath him and one on top as he was being changed. Sometime in life choices and circumstances can cause family members to drift apart, add to that many years of maturing, and decades can fly by between reunions.

In the second title in the Texas Trail series, Captive Trail, the Morgan family longs for a reunion that in the end involves flights (on horseback), nuns, shotguns, life circumstance, and is many years waiting. The story opens when Taabe Waipu flees from her Comanche village on the eve of her wedding. She sets her course for the south on a horse she stole from her dowry. She heads home—even though she doesn’t know exactly where that is or who she really belongs to.

Ned Bright spots a lifeless body by the side of the road as he delivers letters, packages and people for The Butterfield Overland Mail Company: a white woman in native clothing. He delivers the injured Taabe and his unusual passengers, a group of Ursuline nuns returning to their mission station near Fort Chadbourne.

Traumatized, weak, dehydrated, and feverish, Tabbe recuperates at the mission while Ned and the Sisters try to find the family she was kidnapped from as a child. She lives in constant fear that the braves will return to take her back to her Comanche village before she can remember her Christian name and the dangerous language she drove out of her memory. 

Just as she is set to reunite with her family, the brave she was destined to marry descends upon the mission with shotguns and torches. Tabbe must make a choice. Give up and return to the native village or risk the lives of her friends, Ned and the Sisters. The nuns pray. Shots are fired, torches are thrown, and at least one person is caught in the fight.

Captive Trail is filled with adventure against the backdrop of Texas history. More information is to come from the author, Susan Page Davis. So, keep checking our blog as the launch in September draws near.


A Treat:

When I think of Texas, I think of chili and barbecue, but mostly chili. Man, do I have a phenomenal recipe for chili. I use ground turkey, black beans, plenty of mushrooms, and a can of spicy Rotel for added flavor. I love chili in the fall and winter. As much as I hate to admit it, fall is right around the corner. It is such a great 1 pot meal.


1 ½ lbs ground turkey

1/8 cup chili powder, or more to taste

2 tbsp tomato paste

1-2 red peppers, chopped

1-2 green peppers, chopped

1 onion, chopped

1 carton mushrooms, chopped

1 14.5 oz can crushed tomatoes

1 14.5 oz can Rotel (diced tomatoes with chilies)

1 14.5 oz can tomato puree

1 14.5 oz cans tomato sauce

2 14.5 oz cans black beans, drained and rinsed

2 cups brown rice, unprepared

Sour cream

Cheddar cheese

Tortilla chips

Directions: Brown the ground turkey in a Dutch oven with the chili powder and tomato paste. Add the chopped vegetables and then the tomatoes, puree, and sauce. Add the beans, and let the entire dish simmer for 45 minutes to an hour. While the chili is simmering, prepare your rice by following the directions on the bag.  When the rice is done and the chili is warmed through start serving it up by scooping rice into a bowl and topping it with chili. From there, add cheddar cheese and sour cream. I don’t even use a spoon, I just use tortilla chips to eat the whole bowl.

Enjoy this recipe as the weather starts to inevitably cool. Maybe enjoy it while you are reading the latest book in the Texas Trails series.



A Guest Post About Texas from Darlene Franklin

Darlene Franklin is one of three authors working on our Texas Trails Series that will start being released in September.

My very first attempt at a novel involved taking a fantasy-like story I had made up as a child and converting it to a western setting. As I wrote the story, I came to realize that the Wild West forms the basis of American mythology. We view ourselves more in terms of rugged cowboys than patriotic revolutionaries (although both apply). For a girl who had grown up in New England, it came as quite a revelation.

 So I was delighted when the opportunity came to work with respected authors Susan Page Davis and Vickie McDonough on a Texas series. Texas embodies the West, and I even lived there for a brief span of time. (Now I make my home next door in Oklahoma, which has its own western traditions.)

 Vickie, Susan, and I tossed around several ideas for creating a historical series set in Texas. We flirted with the idea of six flags over Texas(France, Spain, Mexico, Texas, Confederacy, and United States).  In the end, we settled on Texas Trails, a generational saga during the nineteenth century. That way, our stories are tied together but allow for individual freedom in writing.

We used one of my favorite tools: a historical timeline, in particular, www.texasbob.com, and took note of events in Texas history that interested us. I looked into everything from camels used by the army to the visit of Lillian Gish to Galveston to a train collision filmed early in the silent film era. Sometimes two of us were interested in the same thing; Susan and I both loved the idea of a cowboy strike that took place in 1884. But in the end, the following historical nuggets formed the backdrop for our six stories: 

    • 1845: Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels purchases the land that will become New Braunfels and thousands of Germans follow him; Texas enters the union as the 28th state (Lone Star Trail, by me)
    • 1857: Congress awards a six-year contract to the Butterfield Mail and Stage Line. Also ongoing stories of white children captured by Indians (Captive Trail, by Susan Page Davis)
    • 1861-1865: Reconstruction following the War Between the States (as it is remembered in Texas), together with the formation in 1856 of the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. (Long Trail Home by Vickie McDonough)
    • 1874: John B. Jones is commissioned major in the Texas Rangers’ Frontier Battalion (reinstituted after the end of the War Between the States); the “Hoo Doo” War erupts in Mason County(range war and blood feud). (A Ranger’s Trail, by me).
    • 1883: The first cowboy strike in Texas takes place in the Panhandle. (Cowgirl’s Trail, by Susan)
    • 1896: Cattle, oil, and a stunt to wreck two trains near Waco results in the death of two spectators. (The End of the Trail, by Vickie)

Lone Star Trail pits a German immigrant (part of the Verein that followed Prince Carl) against a prejudiced Texan who lost his father in their War forIndependence fromMexico. German Texans are rightly proud of their tremendous influence in the hill country and beyond. 

We hope that our stories offer a taste of the drama, variety, and the unique heritage of our nation’s largest state.


The River North Fiction Book Club

The River North Fiction Book Club met for the first time this past Saturday and it was great. We have a great blend of women who are thoroughly excited about the idea of discussing Christian Fiction and giving some input on future projects from titling and book covers to content ideas. We really started getting to know one another and passed out the first book that we will be discussing, Pearl in the Sand. The ladies were very excited about this title. We even came to confirm as a group, and to the surprise of most of us there, that Rahab, the central character in the book, was the mother of Boaz. This is a big deal because God placed Rahab in Jesus’s genealogy even though she was a harlot. We were all quieted by this idea and then led to even deeper conversation. It might have only lasted an hour, but it was an hour filled with laughs, learning, teaching, and growth. Some of the favorite quotes of the morning came from Elizabeth and Linda, respectively, “Mom, I can’t go and play outside, I am reading, the books are my friends!” and “When the student is ready the teacher will appear.” I am looking forward to getting together again with these ladies next month to discuss the book. Please check us out on our meetup link: http://www.meetup.com/River-North-Fiction-Book-Club/ we welcome any age and any level of technology knowledge. I will keep you posted on the details of our next meeting time. Until then, pick up Pearl in the Sand and keep up with us. It is a great story and there will be some amazing discussions to be had! If you live in the city of Chicago, we hope to see you at the next meeting!

God’s Providence, A Sprained Ankle, and German Emigration in Texas (part 2)

Well, so far we have covered German emigration in Texas in our last blog—along with the common thread of life, the providence of God.

By 1845, Texans had fought to keep the land that they had settled. They fought against natives. They fought against Mexico. When the main character of Lone Star Trail, Jud Morgan, encountered the waves of immigrants from Germany threatening to take over Texas’s land, he was ready for a fight.

Jud’s mother, Mrs. Morgan offered a place for the Fleischers to stay after their wagon accident. Mrs. Fleischer was injured and their whole world was torn apart. While under his roof, Jud began to admire their daughter, Wande Fleischer. Kind and compassionate, she was not what he had expected from his enemy. They shared a common belief but attended different churches. The Fleischer’s lost a daughter to illness and the Morgan’s lost a daughter to the Comanche. Wande was waiting on her marriage to Konrad. But, Jud was beholden to no man.

Forced to face the hardness of his own heart, Jud begins to see the people of God as individuals, capable of great compassion and terrible evil. But it may be too late for him. After Konrad breaks Wande’s heart, the pastor from the Fleischer’s church appears to have taken his place.  And, now fire is rising from the direction of the Fleischer’s new farm.

However, sometime God hides surprises.

You might remember from the last blog that I never made it to the ICRS convention in Atlanta on Monday because gale force winds and rain swept through Chicago and canceled my flight setting everyone in a rush to wait standby on the next few flights.

But God is good.

I called my son to pick me up at the airport. It was his last night at home before leaving for California where he will be stationed for the next two years. Prepared to leave on my business trip, we said our goodbyes before l went to bed on Sunday. I was delighted to have one more evening with him. An inconvenience turned into a blessing.

So, on Tuesday morning, I finally flew out of O’Hare and was on the shuttle bus from the airport in Atlanta headed to the conference hotel. Late to my first meeting, I had my phone in one hand looking for the number of the person I was going to miss. I reached out to grab the handle of my suitcase, my heel caught the edge of the pavement and I fell off the sidewalk twisting my ankle and was saved from hitting the driveway by the kind shuttle bus driver. But my ankle was done for. It was the beginning of a convention with three days of meetings crammed into two and I could hardly walk.

Did I learn anything from this? Yes. Don’t text and walk. Don’t get so consumed with other things that you are blind to what is right in front of you—whether it is the blessing of another evening with someone you adore, the edge of the sidewalk, or the promise of love. God hides surprises. All you need to do is pay attention.

God’s Providence, A Sprained Ankle, and German Emigration in Texas (part 1)

My life has been filled with surprises lately–not all welcome ones either, like a sprained  ankle. 

The ICRS conference this week was the perfect time to launch River North Fiction, Moody Publisher’s new line. We didn’t receive the necessary legal approval to use our logo until late, so tight timing threatened to derail our plans. At the last minute–I mean VERY last minute–we completed our cute press  packets and shipped them overnight to the convention hotel with 15 minutes to spare.

I was all set. Flights were made. Check. Hotel reservations made. Check. Last-minute meetings with agents, authors and press contacts made and confirmed. Check and check. Bags packed. Check. One quart-sized ziplock bag filled with travel-sized containers of my favorite lotions, hair products, and cosmetics ready for security. Check, check and double check.

My husband and I kissed goodbye at O’Hare airport and I was officially launched on my trip to Atlanta with every hope for a successful convention.

Or so it would seem.

Unscathed through ticketing and security, I set off for the gate. With time for breakfast, I planned to fly out in the morning, drop my bags at the hotel and arrive  on the convention floor in plenty of time to make my first meeting just after lunch. The airline staff announced the boarding for the first set of passengers. They began to assemble at the counter in an organized fashion. And they stood there. Waiting. Without warning the sun dimmed; the skies grew dark; lighting cracked so loudly it was audible over the hum of jet engines; cosmic force winds drove pelting water against the windows. The plane outside at the end of the gangplank disappeared. Then the gangplank vanished and with it so did my hopes of flying out of Chicago.

Almost as fast as it arrived the storm subsided. The gangplank and plane became visible once more but the force of the storm changed the course of the day. My flight was canceled; long lines quickly formed once again around the ticket counter. I lost all hope of flying out by 3:00pm. The whole day was spent standing in line trying to get a flight out and canceling and rescheduling the meetings it took days to arrange. Tomorrow I would try again.

 Things were definitely off to a rough start.

 So too for one of our heroines in the new fiction series Texas Trails, about Texas history in the 1800’s and five generations of a family named Morgan.

 In the first title, Lone Star Trail, Wande Fleischer, along with her parents and siblings left their home in Germany. All they had was a cart full of their belongings and hope. Hope for a new start. Hope for promised land free for then to farm. Hope for marriage to Wande’s fiancé who traveled before her to establish their home. Hope for all their children to have a prosperous future.

 However, in 1845, Wande was greeted in Victoria, Texas with torrential rain. Her beloved sister perished the first few days after landing. Now their cart was stuck in the middle of the dirt road as she sunk knee deep in mud and fought the temptation to raise her fist in defiance to the God who brought them there and the wagon that passed without helping.

 Jud Morgan had no interest in helping any of the German immigrants flooding the countryside. Not even if they looked rather helpless with their belongings strewn all over the road. He wished they would go back to where they came from.  He wanted nothing to do with them.

 However, Jud’s compassionate mother took pity on the Fleischer family and offered them a place to stay–leaving Jud to face his fear, anger, and prejudice.

 A good rain can also bring in some unexpected blessings along with a change of plans including a sprained ankle. More on Tuesday.


In honor of our Texas Trails Series coming out in August I took to Twitter and Facebok to figure out what the ideal Southern dessert is and I decided to make a traditional peach cobbler. It was a hit here at the office! I put it out and less than 30 minutes later the dish was clean! I have now been reassured by one coworker that they will eat anything I bake. I am a recipe kind of girl when it comes to baking. There is too much of a science involved for me to take any detours.

I used a recipe from Paula Deen the Southern Belle herself Paula’s Peach Cobbler . For those of you who know Ms. Deen, there is no need to fear the amount of butter in this recipe. I would say it qualifies as average. The trickiest part of this dessert was defnitely the peeling of the peaches. It was worth it though for their sweet juiciness as opposed to canned peaches. I truly feel that the fresh peaches made all the difference in the world for this cobbler. The other key that Paula stresses is being sure to use self-rising flour. She is right, don’t even mess around with anything other than the self-rising in this recipe. We will branch out as this six book series is released and maybe try a chili, barbecue sauce, baked beans, oh, cornbread, technically we can do anything. Send us your thoughts on a great Texas recipe we should try out as we continue to discuss the Texas Trails Series


Summer Reading Recommendations

Hello friends,

Today a few members of the River North Fiction team have some summer reading recommendations for you. We will be hearing from Michele, Manager of Sales Communication and Administration and Brittany, the Editorial Assistant.

I love fiction – especially that moment when you have finally embraced the characters in such a way that they have become a part of you and a part of your life if even for a short time.  I love the way a cast of characters find their way into your heart.  And I love the way the writer allows you to see their lives in such a way that you begin to see yourself.  Somehow, that moves me.  It is very often, too, that these brief glimpses help me gain a perspective on life that I might have missed had I not picked up this particular book.   So many books have given me that gift, but I’d love to tell you about one of them.

Tuesday Night at the Blue Moon by Debbie Fuller Thomas is a poignant story about a girl named Andie who was switched at birth and then as a teenager is switched back to live with her birth mother she has never known.  Andie is forced to live with strangers in an environment totally foreign to her.  She not only struggles with the everyday occurrences of life and how to deal with them now, but also with her longing for acceptance and hope.  Marty, Andie’s birth Mom, is also faced with the seemingly insurmountable task of bringing her precious daughter home and helping her to feel a part of an already dysfunctional family.  She desperately wants God to heal her family.

The chapters alternate between the perspectives of Marty & Andie so the reader is given the unique opportunity to dive deeply into their thoughts, feelings, and  insecurities.  While I surely may never have been through this particular circumstance in my life, I was certainly moved by the characters’ longing for wholeness & contentment and how through ways unknown to them, God showed up and began to unite a family as only He can do. 

I encourage you to pick up Tuesday Night at the Blue Moon. You won’t be disappointed!


Ahhhh summer. I love summer. Especially in Chicago. There are so many things going on every day of the week. There are street festivals, free concerts, food trucks, picnics, the beach, and bike rides. That is the short list, there is much more. Of all these things, there are few that I enjoy more than laying outside in the sun reading a good fiction book.  I especially enjoy this after I finish studying for my classes. It is great to have a fiction book to enjoy after slaving away over a text book. I call it a treat for my brain. This summer I have read June Bug by Chris Fabry, A Turn in the Road by Debbie Macomber, and I’ll Walk Alone by Mary Higgins Clark. Now, I realize none of these are River North Fiction or Moody Publishers titles, but it just goes to show how much I love fiction.

June Bug is a great story about a young girl who finds out that the man she has known to be her father her entire life is not actually who he says he is. Chris Fabry writes wonderfully about their journey together and June Bug’s search for where she came from and who she really is.

A Turn in the Road is a story about a road trip from Oregon to Florida that is taken by a woman, her daughter, and her ex-mother-in-law. Along the way the women learn more about each other than they have ever known and there is plenty of mild romance and adventure woven throughout the story for all three of the women.

I’ll Walk Alone is a bit of a thriller that I found to be a bit suspenseful and entertaining. A prominent NY woman is struggling with the anniversary of the date that her son was kidnapped and is soon thrust into the spotlight as the assumed offender. She has to prove her innocence all the while still searching for her son. She is bound and determined to do this by herself and finds that she needs the help of others.

June Bug was easily my favorite of these three, but the other two were very easy to become wrapped up in, therefore, I recommend them all.


Dawn of Hawaii Winner

Congratualtions to Miss Aimymichelle, http://aimymichelle.blogspot.com/, the winner of the first two books in the Dawn of Hawaii series. Thank you for your comment!!