Friday, September 28, 2007


I just noticed my last post was my 300th. Three hundred times, I've posted on my blog, Christian Love Stories. Yeah!

Christian love stories? One love story I'm living out right now is with my grandchildren in Puerto Rico. That's where I am right now, feasting on their sweet sugar on the side of their neck!

Yesterday, we went to old San Juan and did the shop thing, window shopping mostly. We ate at Rosa de Triana, which features flamenco dancers on Friday and Saturday nights. I wanted Spanish food and ordered arroz y habichuelas negras and brocoli y amarillo (rice and black beans and broccoli and sauteed sweet plantains). Delish!

Pictures will follow...

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


"We're offf to see the daughter, the wonderful daughter afar."
I'm singing this to the tune of "We're off to see the wizard, the wonderful wizard of Oz."
"We're off to see the daughter, the wonderful daughter afar."
In sunny San Juan!
And we get to see little Claudia and Lorenzo. That's icing on the cake!

Monday, September 24, 2007


In honor of Fall Fashion Week, I wanted to write about fashion today. I'm an animal print aficionado (devotee), both in decor and fashion. Every room needs a touch of animal print, according to a famous decorator, and I agree. Just a touch is very nice, and as I look about my home, I see touches in different rooms.
Not only do I like it in my home, I like to wear it occasionally. I have a zebra striped jacket and a couple of leopard print items.
This summer, I started craving a zebra striped purse. Don't know why. It just jumped on me. In early August, I was in Dillards and spotted one--a Liz Claiborne. But the price tag made me gulp. $138!! I'd never paid that much for a purse in my entire life and don't intend to, so of course I resisted the urge.
A couple of days later, I was in the thrift store and spotted a zebra striped purse on the huge purse wall. It looked brand new, but it didn't have a shoulder strap like the Claiborne version. Rats. Still, I bought it. For three bucks, I couldn't lose, I reasoned. Still, I pined for that Claiborne with the shoulder strap.
Well, this week I was in Dillards again and spotted the Claiborne on the sale table. Yippee. I ran to it. Half price, it was $69.99, and that birthday money I'd saved since August was burning a hole in my wallet. I picked it up, put it on my shoulder, told the clerk I'd wanted it since August. But then I thought of all I could do with $69.99 (I could buy a lot of toys for the nursery shower we're having at church), and then my thoughts grew fonder of my thrift store version, so fond, I couldn't wait to get home and put my stuff in it and carry it out in public.
So I handed the Claiborne back to the clerk and said I'd decided against buying it. As I walked toward the exit, I spotted a huge glass case with lots of zebra striped purses. I leaned down, saw the tag, Dooney & Bourke, and knew not to even find the clerk and ask how much. Two, three, and four hundred dollars, and upwards.
So now I'm carrying my zebra striped purse with pride. It's pictured here, on my leopard print slipper chair in the master bathroom.
How do I end this? Let's see. Reminds me of marriage. Sometimes single women want the Claiborne version in a man. The looks. The charm. The looks. The fit body. The looks. The big moneymaker. The looks. Did I say looks?
But sometimes (most times?) those men aren't all they're cracked up to be. On close examination, I noticed the zebra striped Claiborne was...molting? Was it really zebra skin? If so, it was molting. If not, it was pilling. Looked a little shoddy, anyway. What would it look like in a few months?
But my thrift store version? I just love it. The fabric will never show any wear. It's thick and lush. And it holds all of my stuff (important to a woman since we have so much stuff), and it has an inside zippered compartment, and it's so classy looking.
Why, it's the darlingest purse I've ever seen.
You draw your own conclusions.

Sunday, September 23, 2007


More lovingkindness...
See last post...

Saturday, September 22, 2007


Today and a recent Saturday found our church people ministering for the Lord in various ways. We 1) painted a house; 2) built a wooden playset for a family to celebrate their adoption of a little boy; and 3) put on a free yard sale where we gave away nice items to a community, thus sharing the love of Christ.

Our church people have a heart to work. How thrilling. An old poem says,

Only one life,
Twill soon be past,
Only what's done
For Christ will last.

How true that is. Sometimes we get so caught up in our work and hobbies, we lose sight of this principle. Today, I saw people ministering for Christ, and it warmed my heart. And if it warmed my heart, how much more did it warm the Father's?

Jesus taught us in Matthew that if we give even a cup of cold water to someone, we will be rewarded. He was teaching us about kindness and extending love to others. In these three activities I mentioned above, people were not only being kind, they were displaying lovingkindness.

You ask what's the difference? Kindness? Lovingkindness?

It's like this: One day, a Sunday school teacher asked her young students what was the difference between kindness and lovingkindness? Johnny threw his hand up in the air. "When I'm hungry," he said, "I ask my mommy for a snack. If she gives me an apple, that's kindness. But when she gives me a Little Debby cake, now that's lovingkindness."

Lovingkindness, spoken of in the Bible, means doing more than is expected; it means going the proverbial second mile, also talked about in the Bible; it means putting yourself out for others.

Okay, I'll start preaching here if I keep on.

I'll end with another verse: "Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus…" (Colossians 3:17).

Now, I need to go scrape the paint off myself so I'll be presentable for church tomorrow.
More pictures in the next post...

1800s SHOWER

The Russian baths in the Alcazar Hotel in St. Augustine, built in 1888 by Henry Flager. It's now the Lightner Museum, which we toured last Saturday (see post, below). This shower has 12 shower heads. Count 'em.
Very interesting!
This hotel also had an indoor swimming pool that was the world's largest at the time it was built.
We had lunch in it. The swimming pool is now a restaurant.

Friday, September 21, 2007


Dear Kristy,

We're not apart enough to write you a letter, but I thought this would be a good time to send a note.

I miss you but am glad you could attend this conference. You have always been a blessing to our ministry. You are the consummate minister's wife.

You mean more to me than I can express. Your pretty red hair, pure heart, and pleasant ways are so attractive to me.

Have a great time! I love you with all my heart.

Love, Milton


Milton and I spend very few nights apart, and it's always been this way. He just never wanted me to leave him. He wrote the note, above, a few years ago when I was attending a Focus on the Family ministers' wives conference.


The Tale of the T-Bone

We'd only been married a few years. My parents were going to visit my brother and his wife in New Orleans, and they called and asked if I wanted to go with them. They would pick me up, they said, since the town we were living in was enroute. I hadn't seen my brother and his wife since they'd moved to New Orleans; I really wanted to go.

Milton gave his okay, and being the good wife that I am, I made sure his clothes were washed and ironed and there was food in the fridge.

"There are a couple of T-bones in the fridge," I said, knowing he loved steak and feeling good that I'd seen to my husband's needs, for Genesis 2:18 says, "And the Lord God said, 'It is not good that the man should be alone. I will make a helpmeet for him.'" The ML says, "'I will make a suitable helper, completing him.'"Proverbs 31:15 says, "...she provides food for her family." Proverbs 31:27 says, "She watches over the ways of her household." Proverbs 31: 11 says, "The heart of her husband safetly trusts her."

Off I went and had a great time. When I returned home, I was cooking supper that first night and pulled out my cookie sheet to bake some crescent rolls. I was surprised to find that it had a big black circle burned into the center of it.

"What's this?" I asked as he came into the kitchen. It was my brand new cookie sheet. Money was tight, and it was ruined.

He took the cookie sheet from my hand and placed it atop a burner. "I cooked my steak on it."


That's one reason he doesn't like my leaving him. The poor man can't cook a lick. There are other reasons, too...

Thursday, September 20, 2007


My bananas are about to bloom! The large purple hull in the closeup will soon be a big bunch of bananas.

This summer, we had a bunch, and now, they're about to bloom again. Our banana trees make miniature bananas, and when I picked the huge bunch this summer, I didn't realize how much they cost in the grocery store. The miniature ones are very expensive.

Soon, I'll be eating the bananas I grew in my own yard!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Saturday, we beebopped in St. Augustine, going to several places including the Lightner Museum . From Victrolas to Victorian purses, from mummies (real!) to menorahs, we saw it all. Stuffed alligators, nickelodeon music machines, odd items, pretty things--you name it, the Lightner had it. Mr. Lightner purchased the former Alcazar Hotel, built in 1888 by Henry Flagler, and it now houses Lightner's unique collections of decorative arts and material culture on three floors.
My author's mind had a field day! Lots of idea starters!
Henry Flagler also built the Ponce De Leon Hotel across the street. Florida was a mecca for tourists at the turn of the century. The Ponce De Leon is now Flagler College.
After touring the Lightner, we drove over the Bridge of Lions from the mainland to Anastasia Island and ate at the stand-in-line-an-hour-or-more landmark cafe, O'Steens. Talk about shrimp-lovers' heaven? Oh, my. Golden fried butterflied shrimp with O'Steens' special sauce, served up with your choice of country casseroles including squash casserole, sweet potato casserole, and lots more. Not the normal side dishes for fried shrimp, but absolutely delectable. Worth the wait!
And while waiting, you browse in the mammoth next-door antiques shop. I nearly always buy something while waiting: a necklace, a book. Saturday, I bought a beautiful silver brooch. It was in a 50 percent off basket, and I snagged it for only three bucks!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Dear Mrs. Dykes,
Wow! You are an amazing author. You gave everyone good advice. Would you ever write a book about a talking dog?
Dear Mrs. Dykes,
You really inspired me about writing, and maybe I could be a writer when I grow up. It is just something about you that inspired me. Maybe it was the writing process. Or maybe it was when you said people don't fail, they quit.
Dear Mrs. Dykes,
I really enjoyed you talking about how you got all of your books published. It was amazing how you actually got 10 books published, and how you actually had two newspaper columns in separate newspapers.
Dear Mrs. Dykes,
I liked your saying, "People don't fail, they quit." It gave me courage to pursue the thing I want to do, but I have not thought of the job I will do when I grow up. I'm not supposed to yet.
Dear Mrs. Dykes,
I like how you said to ask yourself "What if?" when you can't think of what to write. I gave up once but now I am going to achieve and get better.

Monday, September 17, 2007


By Milton Dykes

I haven’t taken daily vitamins for years. I know some people take them religiously every day, and I suppose that is a good thing to do. When I was a boy, my mother made sure we took vitamins. Mom and Dad still take them, and they are in their eighties. It must work.

This past Tuesday evening, I spoke at an event and told the people I had some free medicine for all who were present. I didn’t have any prescriptions or vitamins, or for that matter any health foods. What I did offer were a few laughs that were guaranteed to cheer the heart and strengthen the spirit. “A merry heart does good like a medicine,” according to Proverbs 17:22.

Spurgeon, the prince of preachers, encouraged laughter and laughed as often as possible. He laughed at the ironies of life. He laughed at comical incidents. He laughed at amusing elements of nature. He even laughed at his critics. He loved to share wholesome jokes with his friends and colleagues in ministry. Humor permeates his sermons and writings. He saw the value spiritually and practically for having merry heart.

"Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face." —Hugo.
Henry Beecher put it this way: "A man without mirth is like a wagon without springs. He is jolted disagreeably by every pebble in the road."

Families are like fudge…mostly sweet, with a few nuts. Now, lighten up and laugh. You will live longer and enjoy the journey better. Take your laughter vitamin daily.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


I'm in Tampa right now teaching fourth grade students about "The Writing Process," something they study in fourth grade so they can pass the state achievement test in February. I also spoke to fourth graders in The Villages, Florida, this week on the same subject.

"The Writing Process" involves:

I took these five points and told the students how they relate to my writing. Then I told them my writing/publishing journey. Then, in each session, I had a Q&A. It was amazing, the questions they asked. Intelligent kids!

I challenged them to read and write more. I also challenged them to achieve their dreams, whatever they are.

Regarding writing, I told them, "Good writing is rewriting." It's important for authors (and students) to not be protective of their work but to take help and advice from those more knowledgeable. I told the students we can't be thin skinned, but have to be teachable and willing to receive input so our writing will be better. James Michner said, "I'm not a good writer but I'm an excellent rewriter."

I'll post some pics soon.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


Saturday, I spoke about writing to First Coast Romance Writers, a writers' organization which is very education-oriented.
My topic was the "20-Point Self-Editing Checklist."
I covered 20 things writers need to know.
In the days of Eugenia Price and even farther back than that, all the way to F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Faulkner, etc. (and even farther back), it wasn't uncommon for publishing companies to "develop" authors. They recognized good talent and then took a writer under their wing and honed their skills. In Eugenia Price's book, St. Simons Memoirs, she credits her editor Tae Hohoff for making her novels a success.
And of course editors do help published authors. Every published book goes through an editing process, and changes are requested and made. I've gone through this with all of my titles, and it's a wonderful, learning experience. But, that happens after they are contracted and right before they're published. When a writer is "prepubbed"and wanting to get published, s/he must learn the craft of fiction and strive for excellence since s/he doesn't have the benefit of having an editor look over her shoulder and say, "This isn't working, so change it," or (hopefully) "Great writing! This sings."
That's why I enjoy teaching writers. I like to help writers because writers helped me. I've taught in a variety of venues, including Florida Christian Writers Conference , Southern Lights Writers Conference, and Polk Community College. And I always add humor when I speak.
On Saturday, I was teaching on "creative paragraphing," which means a writer paragraphs more than is necessary in a certain section in order to give it some punch and pizzazz. It's also to heighten the tension and create a hook (beefed-up interest).
I read the following humorous story, saying "Paragraph" each time there's a paragraph indention. The writers were howling by the time I got to the punchline. Enjoy, below: (If there isn't a doublespace between the paragraphs, it's Blogspot's fault. Just pretend they're there.)
A plane passes through a severe storm, and one wing is struck by lightning. A woman is panic-stricken. "I'm too young to die," she wails. "But if I'm going to die, I want my last minutes on earth to be memorable! Is there anyone on this plane who can make me feel like a woman?"
There is stunned silence.
Then a man stands up. He's gorgeous. Tall. Well built. Sun-streaked hair. Hazel eyes. He walks up the aisle.
Never taking his eyes from hers, he unbuttons his shirt.
One button at a time.
No one moves.
He removes his shirt.
No one speaks.
Muscles ripple across his chest.
No one breathes.
He reaches out for her, gently caresses her hair, and whispers, "Here. Iron this."

Monday, September 10, 2007


More pictures of our trip to Jekyll Island (see last post).
The black and white millionaire's "cottage" is in the Italianate architectural style. Built in 1904, today, it has 10 guest rooms available plus unique meeting rooms, for a total of 157 rooms in the Jekyll Island Club Hotel.
The plain brown and beige building was the dormitory for servants employed by the club, and also for the millionaires' servants, nannies, etc.
While visiting there on Labor Day, my author's mind went cavorting through a plethora of ideas. What about a story about one of those nannies? What about a story about a rich guest of say, the Rockefellers, or the Vanderbilts? What if the nanny fell in love with a rich young playboy?
Think of all the things they could do, all the scenes that could be set in such unique places. The beach. The riverfront. The tennis courts. The hunting grounds. There were lawn parties and dinner "sociables" and dances and boating trips and "shelling" on the shore.
It was as if I could see these people and hear their conversations.
This happened to me when I visited Manatee Park Historical Village in Bradenton, Florida, where I saw the Stephens House, an old "cracker gothic" cottage a settler built in the late 1800s.
When I toured the Stephens House, Sebbie was "born!" Sebbie is the heroine in my novel, The Tender Heart (published in 2002; now out of print), which is set in old Florida, and features a family living in an old "cracker gothic" cottage. I "saw" a young woman standing on the porch in a tattered dress. I "felt" a fit of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, as well as Catherine Marshall and Janette Oke, coming on me. The young woman became Sebbie!
An author humorously said: "Many people hear voices when no one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stare at the walls all day. Others are called writers, and they do pretty much the same thing."
Oh, the picture of the plate of boiled shrimp shells? Monday evening, we found our way to the wharf and ate at SeaJay's. I ordered SeaJay's Original "Low Country Boil," a tempting medley of fresh coastal shrimp, mild smoked sausage, corn on the cob, and bitesize potatoes, prepared in a mildly seasoned pot and served with crisp slaw, fresh rolls and butter, sauces, and banana pudding. "All you can eat." All I cared about was the boiled shrimp, a dab of slaw, and a bottomless glass of sweet iced tea. Now that's good eating!

Saturday, September 08, 2007


We spent Labor Day at Jekyll Island, having fun at the historical Jekyll Island Club Hotel on Jekyll Island, a beautiful coastal barrier island called "Georgia's Jewel." The club was founded in the late 1800s by millionaires J.P. Morgan, Rockefeller, Pulitzer, and Vanderbilt, who built it as a winter playground/hunting club/retreat for themselves, their families, and other invited members.
The grounds are beautiful, and you can rent bicycles and ride through the resort to the various gift shops, restaurants, and the beach. We had lunch at Cafe Solterra then took the tram tour where our guide explained things about the club. Even though the Victorian clubhouse had dozens and dozens of guest rooms, the millionaries built their own "cottages" on the grounds, some as big as 8,000 and 10,000 square feet with Italianate architecture! The "cottage" with the yellow trim was the Rockefellers.
What did this excursion do for me, as a fiction author?
To be continued...

Friday, September 07, 2007


Pictured are two book signings I did at my denomination's national convention in Indianapolis a few weeks ago.

I know. I wore turquoise at both signings. It's my favorite color.

Thirty thousand attended the convention. The denomination asked me to place my books in the bookstore, and they sold really well and fast!

We've been in this denomination all of our lives, and my husband served as an official at the state level and also a national position, so we know tons of ministers and wives and church people across the nation.

Monday, September 03, 2007


It happened again this weekend. Saturday, we celebrated a parishioner's 70th birthday, complete with clowns and a cookout, and Sunday, we comforted the bereaved at yet another funeral (see last post). Fun times. Sad times. Happy times. Grieving times. Up and down we go, my husband and me.

I experienced a totally new level of emotion at Sunday's funeral when I learned this: when the grave diggers dug the grave for the elderly woman, they found an infant's casket! No marker. No records. No way to know who this baby was.

A wave of sadness gushed over me as I thought about a set of young parents burying their baby in this country church cemetery in the "boonies," miles from anything and anybody. Curiosity washed over me, then. Did they do it illegally? Legally? Why did the baby die? Was it sick? What kind of sickness? Born dead? Sheer sorrow surfaced when I thought, Was it a young girl--or her family--who secretly buried her baby as she tried to hide the evidence of her "sin"?

Friday, I blogged about novelists needing to learn to emote as they write fiction. Webster's says emote means "to give expression to emotion," and emotion is defined as "feeling," "excitement," "disturbance." Emotional means "arousing emotion."

If that's one thing I have down pat, it's to emote.

My first work of fiction is "I Take Thee, A Stranger," a novella (short novel) in American Dream (sold out and out of print). Read my first chapter here. It's about an arranged marriage in 1885.

As I wrote it, I asked myself, "How would I feel if I had to marry a man I'd never met, because it was the only thing I could do after my lad of a husband died, mere months after we came to America from Scotland? If I didn't, I would wind up in a house of ill repute. What would it be like when I saw this strange man for the first time? How would I feel when I exchanged wedding vows with him? What would I do or say when I walked into his house? Saw his bedroom? Our bedroom now?"

Just thinking about it made doodads run up and down my back. Of nervousness. Fear. Squeamishness.

I was sure my character, Corinn, experienced all of that, too. (To a novelist, our characters are living and breathing; that's how I knew how she felt. :) ).

As I wrote, I transferred the emotions I was feeling to her.

She was relieved when he gave her a separate bedroom.

She was hurt when he ignored her week after week.

She was angry when he was stern with his little girls.

She was happy when she came to love his delightful children.

She was unhappy when she came to love him...because he rebuffed her.

You get the picture.

For some authors, this comes naturally. For others, they struggle. Sometimes, I have to tone down my characters' emotions. For example, they are too down, or too thrilled, or too... whatever.

Readers have been enthusiastic about my writing.

After reading "I Take Thee, A Stranger" in American Dream, a reader said, "This isn't the kind of fiction that you just read. You feel it, and you want to read it over and over."

A great compliment!

Another: "You have a Stephen King flair. You drink me into your story in the first few pages."

Another: "Are you black? Or do you just have empathy?" (My heroine was a slave.)


Reading these letters helped me develop my brand as a fiction author:

"Fiction you can feel...lights, camera, heart!"