Stagecoach Mary

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Stagecoach Mary (Mary Fields of Cascade, Montana)
Public Domain

Stagecoach Mary was a mail carrier on a star route between Cascade, Montana to St. Peter’s Mission. She held two four year contracts with the United States Postal Service beginning in 1895, and received her stagecoach that she drove to deliver the mail from her friend, the Mother Superior of an  Ursuline Convent, originally in Ohio, but now missioning in Montana.

I should also mention that she was the first African American woman to carry the mail (only the second woman to do so) and in her time she became a Wild West legend.

Sounds intriguing, doesn’t it?

Mary Fields was born in 1832, most likely in Tennessee, into slavery.


As times change, so does language. Since I’ve been in school and up until recently, we’ve referred to the “slaves” in the South (or elsewhere in the world). This denies the people their humanity. It tells the reader/listener that their only value was as a slave; that they are slaves at the heart of their being. But of course, that’s not true. They are people first. Men, women, and children who were kidnapped and enslaved and their children born into slavery and enslaved. These two links should help with the explanation:

Writing About Slavery: This Might Help

This column from the Chicago Tribune: Language Matters: The Shift from ‘slave’ to ‘enslaved person’ may be difficult, but it’s important.


She was freed with other enslaved people after the Civil War. From that time, she worked as a servant and laundrywoman on riverboats up and down the Mississippi River. She worked for the Dunne family until the wife died. John Dunne sent her to live with his sister, a nun and Mother Superior of a convent, where Mary lived and worked. She became very close with Mother Mary Amadeus Dunne and after Mother moved to Montana to mission with the Jesuits, Mary eventually followed her and helped nurse her back to health.

As if that wasn’t enough, Mary Fields wore men’s clothing, drank, smoked cigars, shot guns. She was tough and intimidating, two traits needed to be an independent contractor working alone on the frontier.

At some point, the bishop barred her from the convent after an altercation with a co-worker/colleague involving guns. To be fair, I can’t imagine that it would have been palatable for a man to be answering to a woman, an African-American woman and that may have played into some of the friction between them. Of course, it can be hard for any two headstrong people to work together.

It was then that she contracted with the Postal Service to become a star route carrier. She drove her stagecoach on the route with horses and a mule named Moses.


Star Routes were named such after their motto/mission of Celerity, Certainty, and Security in delivering the mail. They were denoted on paper with three asterisks: * * *, thereby becoming “star” routes. This name was renamed Highway Contract Routes in 1970.


She retired from her role as a mail carrier when she was 71 and lived on in town becoming one of the more popular figures of Cascade. She was praised for her generosity and kindness, especially to children. When she died in 1914 at 82, her funeral was one of the largest ever seen in the town.

She was very popular – schools closed on her birthday. When an ordinance was passed disallowing women from enjoying the saloons, the mayor exempted her. When her house burned down, volunteers rebuilt it.

Born a slave somewhere in Tennessee, Mary lived to become one of the freest souls ever to draw a breath, or a .38.

Gary Cooper, Montana native, writing for Ebony in 1959

March. Inspire?

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The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.

Coco Chanel

One thing about dates on the calendar is that the days change. I’ve been thinking that today is the National Day of Unplugging, but it turns out that it was this past Friday. Rather than being set on March 6th, it seems to be actually on the first Friday in March. It doesn’t really change the topic for today for me since my whole point in bringing up this National Day of Unplugging is to disavow it and suggest that perhaps unplugging isn’t right for everyone.

There is no firm one thing that works for everyone. We are all different and we handle our stresses differently. We use different tools to work through the stresses of our days and go about our work and play. Sometimes, that means unplugging for an extended period of time, but being plugged in isn’t necessarily a bad thing for everyone.

I do certainly agree that screen time should be limited for children, but I also think that if older kids and adults of any age get their entertainment from being plugged in, then don’t shame them for it.

During the pandemic, we were told to stay offline since we were spending so much time online with our work and school being on screens constantly. For me, this was not tenable to my contentment or mental health. I use an e-reader for about 90% of my reading. I get my news from Twitter (and now from Spoutible). How is checking Twitter news different from turning on the television and watching the news on that screen? I would rather play Solitaire on my Kindle than with the cards on my table (which by the way has no room for the cards to be laid out). How are podcasts worse than listening to an audiobook? Music videos vs. music audio?

The rule of thumb should definitely be everything in moderation, but guilting someone for enjoying themselves is not okay in my book.

Some of us are also neurodivergent and need the stimulation that comes from the online world and the very real friendships we’ve forged and fostered there.

Today alone, I’ve used either my Kindle of my laptop for the following, and it’s not even noon yet:

  • Checked and answered email – both personal and professional
  • Zoom meeting for Cursillo grouping
  • Rechecked my church website for the date of the Lenten Penance Service to add to my calendar
  • Set up tomorrow’s Zoom for the Scripture Study for the Month of March
  • Balanced my checkbook
  • Read a chapter in Lady Justice by Dahlia Lithwick
  • Posted to Instagram for Bring Your Action Figure To Work Day – go check it out – link’s on the sidebar
  • Did a bit of the research for Friday Food which will publish at the end of this week

I couldn’t have done half of these things without plugging in. No guilt trips welcome here.


Purple chair and ottoman by window, in hotel room, striped throw pillow on seat, side table on the right, dresser with lamp on the left.
My plans to be once I publish this piece.
(c)2023

Inspire. February 2023.

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Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.

– Theodore Roosevelt

This is a picture I took in the hotel my daughter and I stayed at right before Covid. Her brother and father were visiting friends in Florida and we stayed in New York, so I took her for one night to a hotel for her to go swimming. It was a fun time. Little did we know how much would change in the next couple of weeks. I’m sharing this photo now because I came across it and it’s been in my phone as a photo that I want to draw and sketch, so I’m including it now to give them the push to try and get it done before the next inspiring post. Wish me luck. (c)2023

January almost always starts off with a bang. I’m organized, I’ve got my calendar, I’ve planned my blog and my classes up to a point, and then around now, not quite halfway through February, it flounders.

But…

It hasn’t floundered. Not really.

I think I may have found a routine, sort of, some motivation, kind of, and even though it’s not perfect, well, nothing is, it seems to be working (for the most part).

I’m still trying to find the perfect storm of organizing while not being overly fastidious and ridiculously detailed.

I’m sitting at my desk (read: dining room table that was actually cleaned last night for dinner, but is currently not even remotely close), surrounded by folders, papers, planner, notebooks, car keys (which actually have a home, but are not there at the moment), and my cell phone.

I have a meeting in ten minutes, and I’m still trying to get this post halfway done so I can put it up tomorrow (Wednesday). It would only be two days late (in my mind) so that’s okay, and that’s what I wanted to talk about.

Since the beginning of the new year, I’ve been on top of things. Not only on top of my website writing, but the site housekeeping is coming up this week (ch-ch-ch-changes), and I’ve been getting ready for my two new classes in March, and working on organizing my two books on Scrivener, my storyboard program.

And, the list goes on and on. Not sure if that’s such a good thing.

Since my success in November with NaNoWriMo, I’ve been really excited about writing. I’ve tried to keep track of my writing time, word counts, ideas for future items, and writing every day. Almost every day. This has been coupled with moving all of my computer folders onto an external hard drive to better organize my writing and be able to see what I have and what I can do with those old workshop pieces. Next up is transcribing those workshop notebooks that go back about a decade.

Things seem to be coming together, and I’m hoping that by writing about it, I won’t jinx it.

I had my final therapy appointment (until I find another therapist) last week. I’ve decided to take a month off and see how I’m feeling. It’s been ten years and therapy has been a lifeline as well as a mental comfort. I’m not sure how I’ll be, but I’m hyperaware of how I feel, and I have my coping. There have been so many changes recently and a lot of the positives began about ten years ago when I found therapy; my faith; my writing. It’s been a lot in ten years and the changes take some getting used to. Including deciding on a new therapist.

I had a funeral last week for a wonderful woman in my writing group. At her funeral (and unrelated to my friend), I believe that I was given inspiration for a short story.

Inspiration is everywhere.

I’ve been on a new social media site, Spoutible. It opens to the public on Thursday and despite its glitches and slowness, it’s amazing. The atmosphere is truly the anti-Twitter. Everyone is so nice and friendly and we’re all following each other. We’re helping each other figure things out and having conversations, and I think I’m going to really like it there.

It’s still in beta (and will continue to be on Thursday) but it’s a million times better than a week-old site should be. I feel safe, I feel lighter, something I didn’t feel on Twitter. I can feel my blood pressure remaining steady. And when I open it, I don’t see Jim Jordan, Ted Cruz, or Lauren Boebert like I do on Twitter at the top of my feed even though I don’t follow any of them. It’s kind of annoying. I mean, I can’t mute everyone, can I?

I will have a Spoutible account attached to this site, something I did not do with Twitter. I’m not sure how I’ll use it but come along for the ride.

That’s it for now. I have an exciting Friday Food coming up at the end of the week. Come back for that!

Intentions 2023

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This post was a lot to write. And rewrite. I hope you will be able to draw out something for yourselves as I call myself out and set my intentions for the next few weeks. If you are inclined to add anything or offer any suggestions, please do so in the comments. they would be most welcome.

I offered a preview last week of goals, resolutions, whatever they’re to be called this year. That can be found here if you need a reminder of my first thoughts. At the end of that post, I said that I was going to take a break, read a chapter, play a game, and get dinner ready. I did almost none of those things. I’m sure we had dinner, but I can’t think of what it was. Even Saturday night’s dinner was in flux since no one took out the meat from the freezer despite multiple requests. Last night also. (Note that these requests were not always towards others in the house; I told myself to take them out and then forgot to, so it was a multi-person failure.) Pasta until the meat defrosts, I guess.

It’s probably not a bad thing that our (my) new year is off to a less than stellar start since the years that I’m all gung-ho and organized for will often fizzle out by February.

I plan to use my Instagram more, and that was one thing I did do last week: a post on intentions there. You can view it and click to visit there from my sidebar on the left. I will share the picture below since I’m going to try and use it as a guide for my intention setting.

Intentions. (c)2023

The words I used were:

  • Focus
  • Change
  • Intentionality
  • Faith
  • Gratitude
  • Opportunity
  • Kindness
  • Accept
  • Surrender
  • Reflect
  • Begin

Each one has a different thought process behind it, some from years past, others from spiritual direction, some that simply always come up again and again (like focus and intentionality). I may add some as the weeks go by and I settle into my new year.

None of these words are easy to implement in my day-to-day life. I plan to keep a small copy of the list, perhaps with the picture and reflect on it through January, as a mantra, a guide, an accountability checklist. By accountability, I simply mean is this something that I keep in my head. Is it something that I’m aware that I’m doing or am I ignoring it because it’s hard? It’s not a grading system – no A’s or B’s, no failing or unsatisfactory. Am I doing (it, whatever it is) with intentionality or am I sleep-walking through another day?

One thing that I can take a bow on is the following: About a year or two ago, I made the decision that I did not need the last word in online discussions. I also did not need to engage with everyone there. I will still call out lies and misinformation, but at some point, it’s time to walk away. Before I made this decision, I was anxiety-riddled constantly, needing to convince people of the truth, of the facts. This decision needs to be recommitted to every day. I need to know when to walk away, when to push. I’ve been proud of myself, and while this isn’t a new year focus it is something that continues to be encouraged. Every day is a new day.

I will still speak out.

In between birthday fun for my daughter, trying out new Christmas gifts, and just relaxing with the family, I spent Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday watching the vote for Speaker of the House. I have never seen such a shitshow on the floor of Congress, and it was a despicable showing on the second anniversary of January 6th. Two Republicans nearly came to blows, and one had to be dragged away. I was proud of my party; of their commitment to the people, to the advancement of new leadership without in-fighting and acrimony. Over the weekend, I posted part of the speech given by Minority Leader, NY Representative Hakeem Jeffries, where he took us to church so to speak. It was exhilarating, it was motivating, it was inspirational. I look forward to the day when he is Speaker. The Republicans can say they’re behavior was a lesson in democracy, but in reality, it was a lesson in dysfunction and chaos.

As I told my class last semester, everything is political. Everything. From the water that flows through our pipes to the roads we drive on, from the schools to the garbage pick-ups. We all need to be involved, every year, every election, every race. I guess that’s one of my goals. Civics 101.

Apart from politics, I need to see what priorities I need to keep and pull to the forefront. I’ve come up with three in particular, although there is always room for more. They are:

Therapy.

Writing.

Faith.

I need it all, and I need to learn how to blend them, how to connect them, how to live them, and how to balance them. I should add that word to the photo and list above: balance.

It’s all a balancing act. I’m a mom. I was a teacher. I can multi-task. I can also drop all the spinning plates. It happens. I need to accept that and move on – No. Not on; forward.

As I look at each of those words on the list and the three main places I want to focus on, how do I make it happen? How do I use all the tools available to me without constantly running around in circles, thinking I’m succeeding, but really only standing in the same place?

The first thing I’m going to do is to put a note on my calendar, about a week after Ash Wednesday. Lent is a good time for reevaluation, and I can see how and if I’ve moved forward between now and then.

I’m also going to list one specific, tangible goal here related to the three subjects of therapy (which includes talk, writing, art, etc.), writing, and faith. As I’ve said, and as I believe, they are all interconnected in my life. I rely on my faith in my writing, I write about my faith, talking through things (even if only with myself) – it’s all related and yet still separate enterprises that need their own nurturing and development.

The words sound easy, but we all know that it is also hard. Hard to change, hard to grow, hard to become something different, hard to change. With the internet and social media, we can all be so self-aware and easy to be swayed towards something, even simple, non-hazardous things: a glass or water or Diet Coke?

I know that I’m more outgoing in certain ways since becoming a regular online. I wonder how I managed without the online community that sustains me as much as my family does. I speak my mind more, sometimes to my detriment. I say yes more without saying no first. I realized that I protect myself by declining, and then “changing my mind.” It lets me have the time to think, but I’m getting more comfortable with saying yes (and no when appropriate).

How do I set goals and keep myself on a trajectory of moving forward?

NaNoWriMo really motivated me to write every day, and while I haven’t been writing every day, I have been writing a lot more. I don’t mind the writing without the external validation despite really loving (and needing) the validation. Writing a book won’t work that way, however. I can’t publish every little piece online, can I?

Where do I go from here?

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Inspire. November.

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I have three inspirationals to share with you this month:

The first is, of course, VOTE. Election Day is tomorrow in the US and it is the most consequential of our lifetimes, especially if those lives are female. VOTE BLUE for DEMOCRACY. I will have a post tomorrow of some races to watch, and will try to update at the end of the night or early the next morning. Despite not being able to drive yet [see my personal update on the home page], I will be going to the polls with my son, who is a first time voter. He understands the responsibility of voting, but I still think we’re more excited than he is. My offer to drive locals to the polls still stands; I will just need to find a substitute driver if the need arises.


The trick is not becoming a writer. The trick is staying a writer.

Harlan Ellison

The second is Nanowrimo! Even if you’re not officially participating, take some moments today and write something. Write for ten minutes without stopping and then write for ten minutes more. I have been meeting my writing goals of Nano [1667/day to meet the thirty day deadline] so far. Some days are better than others, but I’m surprising myself with how much useful writing is coming out for my book. In fact, I was just inspired by a book I’m reading [rec below] to look again at one of the places I will be writing about, and describe it in more detail. I may share that excerpt later in the week.


Third, I’m only halfway through this book, but I highly recommend it. I feel that he’s in my head with his side comments and irreverance, and then doubling back and doubling down on the incredible faithful journey he’s experiencing in the Holy Land. As I said before, reading his very detailed description of his visit one Sunday afternoon has made me want to revisit one of my wanderings and see what I can come up with this eveniing for today’s Nano writing session.

Inspire. June.

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“A day’s work is a day’s work, neither more nor less, and the man [person] who does it needs a day’s sustenance, a night’s repose and due leisure, whether he be painter or ploughman.”

George Bernard Shaw

I’ve been on and off my computer quite a lot and it’s only just come to my attention that my last publication was back in May. While my bout of covid was mild by all standard metrics, it has still taken me some time to return to what my normal is. As our family closes out the school year with a graduation and my formal writing classes finish, I’ve taken on a few new things, both personal and professional. My third child is also joining the summer workforce and planning her junior year. My (draft) presentation for the Cursillo community went very well, and I have a focus for my book’s introduction. I have also been asked to teach a writing class for our local continuing ed program at our school district,

Prior to this and during my covid days I had trouble finding the inspiration to do more than what was essentially required of me. I had commitments that needed to be rescheduled, phone calls to make (and that list is still significant), but during all this busy time, where did I find inspiration?

Inspiration Illustrated:

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Inspire. April.

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To many people holidays are not voyages of discovery, but a ritual of reassurance.”

Phillip Andrew Adams

Palms from Palm Sunday.
(c)2022

This week marks my massaversary. Two years before I received my sacraments, I began attending church services. It was during Holy Week that this started and it marked a profound change in my life. Attending mass, sitting alone in a pew reading Scripture didn’t make all my problems go away; they didn’t suddenly create a magical turnaround in my mental health issues, my personal issues, my crisis, but it did create light in the darkness, both metaphorically and literally in a bright light vision. I met new people who influenced me in all the positive ways you want friends to influence you. I discovered a group of people who were glad to know me, and provided material help despite not knowing me from Adam. I saw what a calling was through their actions, and I saw what it means to walk with Christ.

I was welcomed with great joy, and I continue to be.

My massaversary is more than simply a date on a calendar or a memory of long ago. It is present, it is here, it is now, and I am welcomed with great joy whenever I enter the church and cross my self with the holy water from the font in the gathering space.

Even in an empty building, I am welcomed because Christ is always present.

I will try to put words on my feelings in small ways as the week continues on, and as the Lenten Journey ends and Easter begins.

Election Connection – Buckle Up, 2022!

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NOTE: After writing this and scheduling it for publication for this morning, late last night I read this article from Rolling Stone about Sen. Joe Manchin’s constant reversal on voting rights, some of which I witnessed in real time through news reports and interviews. In addition to what I’ve written below, we need to ensure that ONE Senator, even one from our side doesn’t have so much control over somethng as fundamental as voting rights.

I also want to note that Joe Manchin (along with Sen. Sinema) torpedoed the Build Back Better bill that they had continuously supported with the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill (that passed and was signed into law by President Biden.) Build Back Better was the main bill that would help more working class Americans. Manchin needs to be made irrelevant by adding to our Senate majority.

How Joe Manchin Knifed the Democrats…

It looks like I chose an appropriate quote to begin my original subject.



Politics don’t corrupt people; people corrupt politics.

Judge Amy Berman Jackson

I’m not sure people realize the gravity of the upcoming election situation. It may seem as thought everything is standing still it’s important to recognize that in the first year of the Biden Administration an enormous amount of work has been done, and is continuing to be done. (* See graphics below.*) We need to call out the Republican hypocrisy and fascism (and yes, that’s exactly what it is) whenever and wherever we see and hear it. We need to call out the lies and misinformation whenever and wherever we see and hear it. It doesn’t matter whose feelings it hurts. Lies are lies and their lies are killing us.

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Friday Food. The Last Soup Delivery.

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Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good,

and delight yourselves in rich food.

Isaiah 55:2b (NRSV)

I had a quick Friday Food, and then I went on retreat yesterday. Let me explain about the retreat first and give you some interesting background as we enter into the last days before Holy Week (on the Christian calendar). It was a look at The Last Supper and the day began with Mass where we ate of the Eucharistic bread. Then a look at The Last Supper in each of the four Gospels, how they were similar and not.

We ended with a beautiful lunch of open-faced turkey sandwiches. I only mention this because of the base of bread that held the rest. The songs chosen for the mass were perfect, the homily was perfect, and everything reflected the entire day’s subject. We were fortified in so many ways: intellectually, spiritually, emotionally, and nutritionally. We were a week ahead of Jesus as we shared in the meal with our friends, some of whom we hadn’t seen in the past two pandemic years save for Zoom. In fact, one of the women I encountered I didn’t recognize with her mask on since I’d almost only seen her on the computer!

One of the other huge joys of yesterday was the amount of familiar faces that I did see. Every time I turned in a new direction, I was met with a wave from someone new, and someone I knew, and who I’d known for years, but hadn’t seen in several, again due to the pandemic.

There was also a hug, unexpected but welcome and it lifted me. Such joy shared. When it ended we prolonged it with another deep embrace, and coming so soon after mass, it just set my day in the right direction.
I was open to possibility, to upcoming knowledge and history, and continuing my faith journey, and doing it especially among friends.

All of this occurred one day after my weekly sustenance from our parish soup delivery. Every week during Lent (during the pandemic since before covid we shared a soup meal in the parish hall), my parish has prepared soup and bread and delivered them to parishioners. My son, who recently began to work, looked forward to Wednesday when he came home to a delicious bowl of soup for snack prior to dinner. This week was the last week, and it is what I call a legacy soup.

The woman who created the recipe was a friend of mine and she died last year. At the very beginning of the pandemic, she left a voice mail for me, expressing that Father Jerry asked her to call and to check on our family and see if we needed anything. It was so typical of this woman and my priest, and the entire parish that I belong to. (Our school district did the same thing regarding school lunches and internet access. We are well and truly blessed.)

The soup is similar to chicken noodle but no noodles. It’s been called Mary Lou’s Famous Chicken Pot Pie Soup and it was brought with homemade pie crust crackers. It is the most unexpected taste in a cracker, and eaten with the pot pie soup it is a perfect blend of joy and faith in the mouth. I love that this is the last soup of the season, and as I ate it, I thought of Mary Lou and her always positive greetings and cheer. She was one of the first people I saw in church in that long ago March of 2020, both of us wearing homemade masks (I in my folded bandana) and nodding at each other. It was one of the things that kept me going and kept my faith from deserting me. In fact, it was also my parish that kept my faith from deserting me.

Food is foundational. Before the pandemic, my church had a community Holy Thursday dinner before the Mass. At the Thanksgiving mass, we are given a small loaf of bread to bring our church into our family meal. During the pandemic, we held online cooking classes from a parishioner who is a professional chef. Food is central to our being, and as I’ve found, to the church family.

Food nourishes, and replenishes, and gives us a banquet of sharing with our families, and as the presenter expressed it yesterday, a table of fellowship, spreading our personal news and sharing the Good News.

What also connected it for me, was two of the links she provided as resources that I am excited to share with you:
1. Food and Drink in Luke’s Gospel (website)
2. Eating Your Way Through Luke’s Gospel (book)

As this Holy Week begins, I hope you’ll find friends and family around your table, breaking bread together and remembering the first Eucharist demonstrated by Jesus at The Last Supper.

Inspire. February.

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Well done is better than well said.

Benjamin Franklin

To be honest, I’m not sure if that holds for writers.


One of my office spaces.
(c)2022

I’ve recently read two book series, both fiction, both taking place during the same hundred years or so, period pieces, both murder mysteries and romance, and while there are things that I like and dislike about each of them, I am finding that I learn more about myself and my own writing as I pass my critical eye over them.

The second one is intriguing and interesting although full of (sometimes unnecessary) exposition and descriptions, as well as changing perspectives (not indiscriminately, but by chapters) with colloquial language and appropriate proprieties between gender and servant class relationships.

The same could be said of the first series in the cases of colloquialism, proprieties, and gender/servant class relationships. There is also a feeling of overabundance (in both series) of feminism that I find anachronistic for the time periods, but I could be relying on stereotypes myself to feel that way.

Similar things can be said about the first one, although the historical perspective is a bit more specific. I am more attached to the characters of the first series and I have not come to terms with the ending of the series. That’s not to say that the books’ conclusion was not satisfactory – it truly was, but I’m not ready for the series to be over and I am not competent myself in the time and geographical period to try my hand at fan fiction. And while I very much enjoy the second series, it has not captured my heart as much.

What does this have to do with writing?

Well, it has to do with the specific writing (or planning) of my book on my journey to and through Wales.

Some things I have added to my outline are:

  • Maps. It may be easier to describe my adventures if readers can see where I was geographically.
  • Historical perspective. Much of my relationship to Wales is counterbalanced by my research into the history of medieval Wales, which fostered a deeper understanding and connection.
  • History. Including some of the history of the places I traveled, especially how they related to my journey.
  • Multiple genres are okay.
  • Quotations at the beginnings of each chapter to sort of set the stage. I also like recipes and photographs (which these two series do not have) and I’m trying to decide if these would be appropriate for my book in any way. Perhaps in the case of recipes as an appendix.
  • My faith journey being a main part of the relationship, both secular faith and religious faith.

I’m sure that I will find more things to include as I hone in on the path my writing of this book should take.



*I’m interested in suggestions for a new title for this series going forward rather than Inspire and the month. Comment below, and don’t forget the links (found on the home page) for the Spotify comments and the Writing Challenge.*