Life with Mazie~Part 6~by Joanne Jaytanie

There you are! I’ve been looking for you.

I can’t believe summer is over. I've been really busy.

I got my first job.

I’m the office manager for my mom and dad.

Hey, someone needs to keep them focused, and I’m the best dog for the job.

Mom pulled me out of school this summer. She told me Auntie Noel wasn’t teaching because it wasn’t safe. I’m still not sure I believe her. I stayed busy anyway—there’s not enough playtime in the day.

For catch me if you can.

My favorite,


and Seek.

Mom says I’ll play until I fall asleep. Who’s she kidding. I never doze off.

And after months of begging, I finally got to go back to school. I’ve been practicing every day. Especially right before bed when Mom puts a little piece of cheese on each stair. She also hides cheese pieces on clear container covers in the bedroom and bathroom. It doesn’t matter where she puts them, I always find them!

This is me working with Auntie Noel. She says I’m doing really good at Nose Work. I love it.

And I did even better the second time.

It’s been another busy day, and I need a nap. But don’t you worry. I’ll be recharged and ready to go before you can even miss me!

The Critter Days of Summer ~ by Jennifer Daniels

Well another summer is in the books and it was a beautif
ul one here
in Upstate, NY. I spent a good
 chunk of it on the lake at my parents' house. It was an interesting summer here as I am sure it was for many. We had many visitors of the critter kind. My son went crazy this year with feeding the chipmunks, to the point they were eating out of our hands. If we did not get out soon enough for meal times they would squeak until we fed them.

Our little friends all were named. First came Jimmy, he was always the first one to arrive. He bounced higher than the others. Then there was Pip, that was my son's favorite one. She had a shorter tail than the rest of them. Shortly after she came Tiny showed up. She was the littlest of the bunch, hence the name. You could tell the females from the males because they typically walked more and the males hop. Last but not least is Nux. He was named after a character in Mad Max. He had what we thought was a tumor under the skin, but I think a fly laid an egg in him and he came back one day and it was gone. He also was the darkest of the four.

We all were able to have them eat out of our hands. They would hop right up and sit there while they feasted. My husband got such a kick out of the little guys that he made them their own perch to sit on so they were closer to the porch window. We could reach out and pet them. They are cute little critters to watch.

Then came Bonnie and Clyde, the racoons. They became our nightly pastime, watching them climb up the bird feeder pole then slide down it like they were off to a fire. It was hysterical. They, too, liked the perch that was originally made for the chippies.

They are little bandits! No wonder they wear masks. They stole one of my bird feeders. I have no idea where it is. We have looked everywhere, and to boot, they stole my favorite feeder. They look so funny and cute, but make no mistake about it, they are nasty little buggers.

I hope you all had a wonderful summer, continue to stay safe and protected.

Being Independent ~ by Bruno Skibbild

Forgive me for my spelling and grammar. English is not my first language reading is fine, talking better - and singing in English is almost perfect.

I live in Denmark - Danish is my first language. Living in a small country with one of the smallest language's in the World, there is no way around it when I want to get my words and tunes out there.

Being seen - being heard - being listened to.

That is the dream for me as an independent artist - to get out there - speaking about life itself with sorrow and pain, sunshine and rain - telling the stories from everyday life in poetry and music.

I guess it is the Dream for any artist - you can sit home alone and create new stuff - you can enjoy when you succeed inside. But at the end of the day the dream is for someone else to look at your painting, read your poem or listen to your song.

Because suddenly when that happens you are no longer alone with your Art.

The times that we live in right now are difficult for everybody - no one walks free.

Anxiety, stress and fear of the future are a part of all of us - Artists included.

So what does an Artist do when there is no possibility of getting your art out there in real life?

The Artist starts creating even more - writing another book and another - hoping that some day the world will be ready to receive.

Being independent is not about wanting to work on your own - wanting to be alone. It's about wanting to get out there in the world and find people who are the same - and in my view those people are everywhere.

They might not be in the established industry at first - but we shouldn't forget that inside every star is an independent artist.

For me being independent is about being myself - working every day to take that one step further - to get that one more listener - one more reader.

And every time that happens - I feel less and less alone - being independent.

Bruno Skibbild is a singer/songwriter/author who resides in Denmark. You can connect with Bruno by clicking the link below.

Beautiful Blue Beauties--Sapphires ~ by Grace Augustine

photo: Pinterest
The most famous of all sapphires is, of course, the beautiful 2.5c sapphire surrounded with diamonds that graced the hand of Princess Diana. The ring has since been passed on to the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, who proudly wears this remembrance of Prince William’s mother.

Sapphire is the birthstone for the month of September. This precious gemstone is a variety of the mineral corundum. As the third hardest precious gemstones, it comes in at a 9 on the Mohs scale.  It’s durability makes this stone one to be worn daily. 

photo: Deposit Photos
Ruby and Sapphire are both forms of corundum, but each forms in different ways. While the ruby forms in marble, the sapphire forms in granitic pegmatites or corundum syenites. Sapphires that are completely untreated are more valuable than those that have. Sapphires are mined in East Africa, Madagascar, Myanmar, Tanzania, Sri Lanka, Australia, and the United States. 
photo: Deposit Photos

One place to mine sapphires in the US is in my home state, Montana. Spokane Bar Sapphire Mine, outside of Helena, and Gem Mountain Sapphire Mine, outside of Philipsburg, have all of the equipment needed. When you visit, you can sift through your own purchased bucket of dirt, hoping to find one of the blue beauties. Please check out their websites.

The sapphire comes in a variety of colors and is mined in many different locations worldwide. Kashmir sapphires set the standard high with intense color and velvety hue. The Padparadscha sapphire is a rare pinkish-orange gem whose name means “lotus flower.”

During the Middle Ages, Greeks would wear the sapphire while visiting the Oracle of Delphi and to find favor with the god Apollo. In Medieval times, the stone was associated with the tranquility and majesty of the heavens. Because many believed it symbolized heaven, clergy wore sapphires. Kings and Queens wore the precious gemstone for protection and to attract wealth. The sapphire was also found in the breastplates of the High Priest of Israel.

photo: Pinterest/Blue Earth
“From antiquity, gemstones have been thought to possess mysterious powers. Sapphire is said to be the wisdom stone, stimulating concentration, enhancing creativity, and promoting purity and depth of thought. It is believed to focus and calm the mind as well as remove unwanted thoughts, depression, and mental tension. It is known as the stone of new love and commitment and is claimed to be useful in encouraging faithfulness and loyalty. Sapphire is thought to bring peace of mind, serenity, and prosperity.” (Fire Mountain Gems)

Clean sapphire stones with warm soapy water and a soft brush. Rinse the stone well after washing it. Ultrasonic treatment and steam cleaning may be used; however, like many gemstones, sapphire should not be boiled.

Sawtooth Vacation


The Sawtooth Mountains in Idaho are beautiful, wild, and a terrific place for a vacation.  The family headed there for a long weekend at a resort with lovely log cabins and a beautiful outdoor pool.  True wilderness, which meant the resort clerk made sure we knew that the local bears had come down from the hills and were prowling around for food, so we should be sure to bag up our garbage and use the tie downs on the garbage cans.  But this vacation was not focused on the wilderness; instead four siblings, their partners, mom and dad, and one grand baby were bedding down in one cabin, and the oldest brother and his wife were parked next to the cabin in their posh RV. Luxury and intense family togetherness!

The cabin had a beautiful covered porch where we set up a string of metal tables so everyone could sit down to dinner.  After dinner the whole crew played a raucous game of cards and everyone finally packed it in when the growing mosquito population threatened exsanguination. Snoozing in the RV meant that we needed to plug it in somewhere, but the cabin windows were fixed and the cabin had no external plugs so there was no way we could snake an extension cord safely through a window. So the cord had to come through the main cabin door...leaving it ajar.  Somehow my husband and I were appointed to sleep on the floor up against the door, so we could hold it shut against all invaders, including garbage-hunting bears.

The real guy was cuter.

The night was long and the floor was hard. Every rustle and snore woke us up, so it's no wonder we were awake at 3 a.m. when a rustling noise came from a grocery bag on the floor.  As our flashlight found the bag, over the edge popped up the cutest little pale gray mouse with huge pink round ears and twitching white whiskers...Mickey had nothing on this guy. 

Unfortunately, the discovery that a mouse had been raiding the baby's cereal enraged the new, first-child mom and everyone was up for at least 30 minutes discussing what to do with the rest of the food.  Mickey Jr. got away scot free, thank goodness, but the rest of us took forever to settle down.

 Sometime around dawn, after two hours of never quite falling asleep, the two of us door guardians heard heavy footsteps thudding up the stairs and onto the front porch.  The adrenaline rush accelerated when we heard a rasping sound as something moved around the metal tables, just on the other side of the not-even-closed doors. Something big was licking the tables for leftover crumbs.

My husband jumped up (in naught but his underwear), wielding his flashlight, ready to take on the invader...was it a bear foraging for food, just outside the door, less than a yard away? 

 "What are you doing?" I squeaked, wondering how the hell opening the door was a good idea.

He clearly wasn't listening though. Fixated on the threat, he threw open the door before I could even get out of my sleeping bag, so we were both front and center when a huge head loomed out of the pale morning light and, backlit, filled up the doorway.

My husband inserted himself right up to the door frame, bravely blocking the killer bear and hissed, "Shoo!"

 Shoo?  Shoo?!?

It was one of the resort's burros; they had freed themselves from their overnight shelter and gone foraging for food amidst the cabins.


Refilling the Well ~ Lexa Fisher

Photo by Frederick Tubiermont on Unsplash

Creatives often feel negligent if they aren’t generating new ideas constantly, but there are times when the creative well needs to be refilled. 
On my staycation last month, I indulged in activities that took me away from my normal routine, though I still made sure I got in my daily writing time. 

Abandoned railroad track 
As I put the staycation days to good use, my first stop was visiting the actual town and surrounding area that my next story is based on. A hike along an old mining trail showed how rough life was back in the early 1900s. This old railroad track was abandoned shortly after it was built because winter snows repeatedly washed it out.

The heroine in my next story will be using a metal detector to uncover history. My love of tangible history led me to this hobby and it seems my husband was equally as intrigued when much to my delight he bought a metal detector. We visited and detected on beaches and parks I had never been to. 

Before we went in search of treasure, we found great pleasure in a new YouTube channel on metal detecting. As with any hobby, there is a lot to learn. We invested in a quality detector that will serve us for years. Lesson one: metal detectors are LOUD, so I was glad we purchased a model with wireless headphones.

There is quite an acquired skill to metal detecting with the many beeps and tones that one hears. Different pitches cue you into what type of metal you may be hovering over. One spot we dug had two coins nestled together, known as a "spill".

We also found a disturbing number of rusted nails on beaches, likely from burning wooden pallets for bonfires. It's hard to think of going barefoot along a beach again.

Over our week off we developed blisters from digging into cement-like, arid soil to uncover coins, cheap jewelry, but mostly beer bottle tops. 


It's said, write what you know, and now I know a lot more about metal detecting. Swinging the three-pound metal detector over the ground got tiring on my shoulder in about half an hour, so I gave my heroine a job that will give her better upper body strength.

The total find for our staycation week? $1.28 in change, lots of time together exploring in the fresh air, and plenty of story ideas sparked by expanded new experiences

Photo by frank mckenna on Unsplash

Meet our Members

Author Jacquolyn McMurray

When she’s not writing, Jackie enjoys spending time with her family, reading, sewing, and solving crossword puzzles.  In a past life, she was an elementary school teacher.

To view Jacquolyn's blog posts or listen to interviews, please click HERE

Writing vs. Dust Bunnies


Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash   

I’m finally on a roll with my writing. I’m drafting an average of 2,000 usable words a week, keeping up with my critique group, plotting a three-book series, and taking online classes to improve my craft. The result? My house is in dire need of cleaning.  I keep waiting for the industrious elves, or Hawaiian menehune, to surprise me with a deep clean while I sleep. So far, no go.

At some point, I figure the dust bunnies will claim title to the house. “Just hand it over," they'll say. "We have squatter’s rights.”

And they’ll be right.

It could be worse.   Dust bunnies might be the easiest house pets around. They don’t carry fleas, need fed, watered, or taken to the vet. They’re quiet and don’t demand attention or wake you up at night. They’re quite happy to be left alone under the couches, beds, and corners of closets.

I did not spring clean this year and was perfectly content thinking I could delay spring cleaning for sometime closer to Christmas—you know, after I have the great American novel drafted—when I read that accumulated dust harbors mites. Mites? 

I know about bird mites, but dust mites? In the springtime, I deal with mites in the chicken coop. As soon as I start noticing itchy skin and crawly things on my face, I do the ultimate test to confirm their presence. A wet paper towel run across my cheeks will collect the little buggers and confirm the bird mites are back. 

Photo by Emiel Maters on Unsplash

So down to the coop I go, with long sleeves, rubber boots, and gloves to clean out all the nesting boxes, scrub the concrete floor with Pine Sol, sprinkle the boxes with mite deterrent, and provide fresh, clean, grass for the chickens who choose to lay eggs in the intended place. 

Satisfied our birds will be bug-free, I wander back to the house. Wait. What am I thinking? The chicken coop gets a thorough cleaning and I’m not doing that for we humans? Both places harbor biting mites. 

I start cleaning from the top down—light fixtures, wainscoting rails, and shelves.  I pick up the throw rugs, toss them into the washing machine, and send my robot vacuum to collect small sized debris while I return to my desk to do my writer thing. 

Photo by Kwon Vn on Unsplash

And all the while, the dust bunnies hunker down under the furniture where the robot can’t fit. I’m sure I can hear their guffaws as the vacuum retreats at the edge of the couch. It’s a game of “You can’t get me.”

Totally distracted at this point by the beeps and flashing colors of the vacuum, I leave my writing to move the couch out so the vacuum can reach all the dirt. 

And there they are. The dust bunnies are huddling. They look like a football team making their plan, and then I realize they’re shaking.  I turn off the suction machine, push the couch back, and let the critters live for a while longer under my couch.

 I’ll think about removing them when I do my next deep clean, sometime next spring. Maybe.

The Eyes Have It ~ by Author Katie Mettner

You always hear people say that, right? "The eyes are the windows to the soul." But what does that really mean? In our day-to-day life, do we even notice other people's eyes? As a romance writer, I try to take notice more often than not. I'm easily distracted, though, so sometimes, I miss those visual cues people give me because I'm focused on something else.

 Photo by Solen Feyissa on Unsplash

Then this summer happened. I had to make several trips to The Mayo Clinic for the treatment of my gastroparesis (paralyzed stomach). When I walked into Mayo, I was greeted with their always present, "Hey, it's good to see you. We're glad you're here. How can we help you?" "Midwestern manners," as I call them, or "Minnesota Nice," are never more prevalent than in a place that welcomes patients from all over the world. It had been a few years since I'd been there, and this time, everyone was wearing masks. I answered their questions, got my sticker badge, and strolled through the lower level of the Gonda Building on my way to my appointment. I used to smile at everyone as we passed in the walkways, but I couldn't this time, so I made sure to make eye contact. When I got on the elevator, I saw my chance. Now was the perfect time to test out the theory that the eyes indeed are the windows to the soul.

As I went through my appointments, I didn't have a choice but to focus on my providers' eyes: blue ones, brown ones, green ones, hazel ones (yes, hazel!). There was even one person with heterochromia iridium, a rare condition where the individual has two different colored eyes. Would I have noticed all of those different colors if I could see their whole face? Would I have been as engaged with them, and listened as closely, if I could see their entire face? I know I wouldn't have been because that was how it had always been. It's funny what we don't think about until our perspective changes.

When I sat in the waiting rooms, walked through the hallways, or
Photo by Ani Kolleshi on Unsplash 
rode in the elevators, I saw sad eyes, glad eyes, sick eyes, tired eyes, and mad eyes. Each new day I was there added to the research for my experiment. I went into the cafeteria to Starbucks one morning and made sure to hold eye contact with the barista. She held it back. She engaged me with her eyes when I asked her if venti was the biggest size they had or if gallon jug size was an option. The din of the large cafeteria made it challenging to hear her, but when her eyes crinkled at the corners, I knew she was laughing. I smiled, hoping she'd see the laughter in my eyes, too, paid her, and sat down at the table with my husband. His eyes told me he was tired. He was stressed. He was ready to go home. I handed him his coffee, held his eyes, and reminded him that I loved him and that I was grateful for his presence with me there.

Then came time for surgery. I was having a feeding tube placed, so life was a little intense that day. We got up early at the hotel since we had to be at the hospital at 8. We put on our masks and headed out the door. We were surprised to be greeted in the hallway by our housekeeper, who was preparing her cart already. Maria smiled at us. I could tell because her eyes crinkled up and brightened with excitement to see another soul so early in the day. She wished me good luck, and her eyes told me it wasn't "lip service." I knew when we returned later in the afternoon that our room would be freshened up, even though we told her it was fine. (She had stopped in with new towels, cleaned the bathroom, and left extra pillows, which I ended up needing!)

The hospital was bustling, and again, we were greeted at the door. They directed us to our floor and got us an elevator with helpful hands and bright eyes. They might just be getting started with their day, but they were happy to be there. Their eyes told me they were doing something that was second nature to them, but they were there to help because we are all in this together.

When they called me back to surgical prep, I was taken back by a bubbly nurse who didn't stop moving long enough for me to see her eyes! Once I was in bed, a new nurse came in. He was one of the nurses who does nothing but feeding tube placements with the docs. His eyes were bluish green. We talked. We laughed. He told me terrible dad jokes. He noticed my tattoos when he was placing the I.V., and he asked me why I got them. He held my eyes and listened to my story. Then he showed me his tattoos and told me the funny story behind the one he got for his dad. He was another check mark in the column that the eyes are the windows to the soul. 

He rolled me down to the OR, and everyone there was seriously
Photo by Piron Guillaume on Unsplash 
bustling about the room. There were several teams of providers spread around, preparing the equipment and getting 'geared' up. The two anesthesiologists were working around me, and one was making constant eye contact with me as they progressed through their checklist. He was telling me everything they were doing (that was my 19th surgery, I probably could have told them what they were doing LOL!), but I appreciated that he was focused on me. His big brown eyes were bright, but they were assessing. They weren't bored or distracted. They were present in the moment that we were all in. He assured me they were going to take great care of me (like I had any doubt). The room quieted, and they did their patient identification rounds, then one of them asked what side I was supposed to be lying on for the surgeon. They didn't know, so while they waited for someone to tell them, that same anesthesiologist leaned over and said, "So, what do you like to do for fun?"

My eyes glanced around the room at everyone who was forced to stand around in neutral while they waited. Their eyes all said the same thing. FRUSTRATION. I've never been one not to work a room, so I said, "I kill people for fun."

Silence. Eyes widen. 

"Usually, I force two people to fall in love first, but sometimes, yeah, I kill people. If it matters, though, they're always the bad guys! Why? Well, I'm a writer."

The anesthesiologist leaned over me. "I walked right into that one, didn't I?"

I laugh. He laughs. The room erupts with laughter and questions about what I've written and where to find the books. I answer their questions, but I watch their eyes. Relief. Amusement. Joy. Distraction from the stress of the day. Camaraderie. 

When I woke up from surgery, and they brought my husband back to see me after an extended recovery time, I was pretty out of it. I knew I had a million messages from people wondering what was going on (the surgery ran late, and then took longer than expected), and as a communicator, I wanted someone to answer them. My husband sat down beside me. I could only see his eyes, and his were worried but relieved. 

In my drugged haze, I told him he should let his mom and my mom know that I was okay. “Post on Facebook,” I said, “that will save time.” (LOL). He grabbed my hand and said, "Just take a minute. It's okay to take a minute and wake up before you worry about anyone else." 

I paused and worked hard to focus my crossing eyeballs on him. I know those eyes well. I've stared into them for twenty years. It wasn't hard to see the relief and the fatigue in them, but more than anything, I saw his love. 

I walked away from that experiment better for it. The theory that the eyes are the windows to the soul had been, in my opinion, proven to be true. When you look closely enough, you'll see a lot of different things in peoples' eyes. What I saw the most this summer in the eyes of every shape and color, was love. Love for humanity. Love for each other. Love to hope and love to heal.

Love wins, and as a romance writer, I'll always take love.

Author Katie Mettner
Katie Mettner writes small-town romantic tales filled with epic love stories and happily-ever-afters. She proudly wears the title of, 'the only person to lose her leg after falling down the bunny hill,' and loves decorating her prosthetic with the latest fashion trends. She lives in Northern Wisconsin with her own happily-ever-after and three mini-me's. Katie has a massive addiction to coffee and Twitter, and a lessening aversion to Pinterest -- now that she's quit trying to make the things she pins,

You can connect with Katie by clicking on the following:

Whatcha Reading? ~ by Grace Augustine

As a child, I was more of a color book and paper doll girl than a book reader. In fact, as a child, I don't remember reading, nor being read to. Then I hit junior high. 

Afraid of my own shadow, the thought of giving an oral book report made my stomach churn. To this day, I cannot remember the books I read to do the reports because I was so nervous.

During high school study halls, I began reading Grace Livingston Hill books, while my best friend always had an Anne Mather novel in her hands. 

I became obsessed with the written word (I was still pretty gun shy about doing anything that required me being in front of the class) and took every grammar and composition class offered. I also took Modern Literature and Mythology.

Gone With the Wind did nothing for me, but Thor Heyerdahl's adventures on the Kon Tiki, well, that was the best. And anything by Chaucer or Shakespeare swelled my heart. 

My study hall reading had graduated to the tamest of the Harlequin romances but continued reading all of Grace Livingston Hill books. I'd read Janet Dailey's entire Americana series by 1980. And somehow in a move, the books by both authors were lost, which broke my heart. 

Today, I still gravitate to a beautiful romance over any other genre. Part of why I write romance is because of Janet Dailey and Debbie Macomber, to me, the true queens of all matters of the heart.

What's on my shelves? Well, let me show you. I have a copy of each of my books as well as many favorite authors, one is my co-administrator, Joanne Jaytanie. You will see names like Debbie Macomber, Kim Law, Karen Hawkins, and Kathleen McGowan among those on my shelves.

So, I ask you, what are you reading? What is on your shelf? Who is your favorite author?  And, if you haven't already done so, take a moment to let that author know, even if it means finding an address through an agent and writing a note. Authors love hearing from their fans. I do, too!

Meet our Members

Author Grace Augustine
Grace writes romance in women’s fiction, life issues for the over 50 group, contemporary, Christian suspense, and dragon fantasy…as well as poetry/prose, and self-help.

To view her other blog posts and interviews, please click HERE.

Where Am I Looking? ~ by Author Marj Ivancic

I recently attended a friend’s yoga class in her wooded backyard. It was wonderful to be outside, listening to the birds singing in the trees, the breeze drifting through the branches overhead. It felt so very natural when she had us move into Vrikshasana, or Tree Pose.

Anyone who’s tried to stand on one leg knows that the trick to maintaining your balance is to keep your eyes locked on a steady point either straight ahead or on the ground in front of you. I started out that way, but I found myself distracted by the gal ahead of me, and it was dominos from there. She wavered, caught herself, then over compensated and lost the pose. And try as I might to ignore her wobbling, to root my toes into the ground and “become” the tree, I too teetered one side to the other, finally dropping my foot down to steady myself.

As I admonished myself for not focusing, it brought to mind a Facebook thread I read the other day. In one of the many author groups, a writer posted a question/topic something along the lines of—“I just published my first book. It took me a year to write it. But I see that many authors put out 3 or 4 books in that time. I’m so slow…”

The worry and unhappiness in her words as she questioned her abilities and her right to play in the indie author arena stayed with me long after the reading was done. Probably because they resonated with many of my own fears.
Then, in my moment of “yoga failure,” it hit me. I realized that the  author had done what I had just done. She took her eyes off the focal point that kept her steady—herself. She shifted her attention from herself, from her own hard work and success to someone else’s. And as a result, her mental and emotional equilibrium began to wobble.

It is no easy feat keeping Pride, Humility, and Confidence from seesawing, not just in the indie author world, but in life in general. Comparing and judging come too easy.

Look up to someone, and your confidence is at risk of lowering.

Look down on someone, and you’ll notice your pride skyrocketing and your humility plummeting.

That’s not to say you can’t admire someone or seek to improve yourself. Role models are an important part of evolution and growth. But they are meant to be educational, not destructive. And ensuring they stay so is up to you.

When we keep focused on ourselves, on our own improvements and accomplishments, we can stay balanced. And when we are balanced, we are content and comfortable with who we are and where we’re going. We don’t need to worry about what others think.

So, we should be vigilant and ask ourselves often—where am I looking?

Research Makes for Great Stories ~ by Author Stacy Hawks

After graduating from Brevard College in 2008, Stacy Hawks  returned to her hometown to teach and work on completing her MEd. Some years before, in 2005, her grandmother had passed leaving Stacy her scrapbook filled with notes, newspaper clippings, and photos. 

It wasn’t until Stacy opened the scrapbook that the story from Terry Martin of the Winston-Salem Journal dated 1981 caught her attention. At that moment, the historian in her knew how important this story was. Not only had the case of Elva Brannock, whom everyone described as a 17-year-old brunette beauty, gone cold for over 70 years by this time, but the stories of those who had worked tirelessly to solve it had also gone untold.

There were a lot of late nights, weekends, and spare moments during lunch breaks to tackle the research. None of which would have been possible without the amazing individuals who work for the local Newspaper, The Alleghany News (formerly The Alleghany Times), and the Register of Deeds Office. 

Stacy's editor, Lynn Worth, who passed a couple of years ago, was also instrumental. Without her insight and edits, Stacy wouldn't have been able to take the next step in publishing the book. However, despite it being finished and the edits mostly complete, Dividing Ridge remained on her hard drive for 8 more years.

Stacy wrote to publishing houses, printed off and mailed her manuscript to countless presses, and with no success finally decided to take a step back and do some research into self-publishing. She says this was perhaps the best decision she made when it came to her writing. Thankfully, her local community is also home to Star Route Books and Imaging Specialists, Inc.

Owner Jeff Halsey, who works alongside his daughter Claire Halsey Brooks, has been involved in her local community’s historical society for years. Their efforts to preserve, educate, and provide a sense of pride in Alleghany heritage drew Stacy to ask if they would publish her debut novel, Dividing Ridge: The Unsolved Murder of Elva Brannock.

Imaging Specialists, Inc. and Star Route Books offered guidance in everything from mark-up pricing to the cost of marketing and author copies. Jeff Halsey also used his own image from Devils Garden, an overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Stacy's book title was inspired by that photo. In case you’re wondering, yes the book’s title is significant, it is the name of the local school Elva attended.

A portion of the proceeds from her book is going to the efforts of the Alleghany Historical-Genealogical Society museum located on our beautifully and recently revitalized Main Street. 

It was through the Historical society that Stacy was able to host her first book signing in September 2019. It was also the first place she met her main character's granddaughter, Brenda Irwin Frizzell. Brenda’s grandfather, Sheriff Walter Irwin, tirelessly searched for Elva’s murderer longing to bring the perpetrator of such a crime to justice. The ability to have these moments was well worth all those tireless nights researching and the pain of being turned away from publishing houses.

Her advice to anyone looking to publish would be to write about something you love, find a great editor, and really do your research on traditional versus self-publishing before you commit. It pays to have a great support system, too. If you cannot find it in family or friends, look for a writing group. There are online groups available now that were not available before. Publishing is certainly something Stacy never thought she would do, but now that it has happened she cannot wait to do it again.

Author Stacy Hawks
Stacy Hawks is a resident of Alleghany County, North Carolina located in the Blue Ridge mountains. After graduating from Alleghany High School as an NC Scholar, Stacy received her Associate of Arts Degree from Wilkes Community College, NC, a Bachelor of Arts in History Cum Laude from Brevard College, NC, and a Masters of Education degree from Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA.

Stacy is the author of a research paper completed during her time at Brevard College titled "The Success of the New Deal in Cherry Lane Township." The research helped to focus her interest on the Blue Ridge Parkway and how the project shaped Alleghany County.

She is also an Author in Residence for Appalachian Memory Keepers and her articles have been featured on the site discussing the history of places, events, and people of the rural mountain community she is proud to call home. 

Currently, Stacy is the author of three books, two being poetry. She is working on her third and final poetry book, and second novel, which is also a historical-fiction/true crime story that happened in her community.

When Stacy isn't working or writing, she is reading one of her favorite authors:  Jan Morris, Horace Kephart, Harley Jolley, Margaret Brown, Steve Berry, Vince Flynn (Kyle Mills). You can reach out to Stacy at the links below.

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