It’s Book Release Month!

I can hardly believe that my second book releases in mere days!

It seems like yesterday that I was jumping up and down with excitement about the December 1 release of my debut novel, “Ruth’s Ginger Snap Surprise”, and now I’m just days away from the release date for my second book!

Mary’s Calico Hope” comes out in e-edition on May 15, and in print on June 1.

This all seems a bit surreal, to be honest. In the blink of an eye, I’ve transitioned from a writer sending out optimistic queries to literary agents, looking for representation, hoping and praying for my first book deal, to a published author looking at my second and third books being published this year, with a fourth under contract.

How did this happen?

Okay, the fair answer is that it happened through a lot of effort and a stubborn refusal to give up.

But it feels like my fairy godmother waved her wand and transported me to some dazzling world where my dreams are coming true.

I’m here to tell you dreams can and do come true, but it takes work and perseverance. Fairy godmothers are a little thin on the ground, so you have to make your own magic.

And the prize just may be the realization of a dream!

Here’s a little peek into “Mary’s Calico Hope”, to get you thinking about stoking my dream machine by buying my book. It’s available for pre-order now at, and online at Books-a-Million, Barnes & Noble, Target, Walmart, and many Christian bookstores. Happy reading!

Mary’s Calico Hope

Chapter One

“Careful, Hope, I’ll squish you if you don’t watch out.” Mary Yoder was careful not to set one of her crutches down on the half-grown calico kitten presently making a nuisance of itself by winding around her legs. 

Ach! That cat is going to make you fall, Mary!” 

Maem, don’t worry. I’m fine.” The petite blond woman smiled fondly at her mother as she did her best to avoid the adolescent feline. 

“You know I can’t help worrying about you, Mary. I’m sure Hope is a very gut cat, but a fall could really hurt you.”

Mary kissed her mudder on the cheek. “Ja, I know. Which is why I’m very careful. I like having Hope around. She’s gut company.”

Mary reached down and stroked the pretty cat, a gift from her old friend Lydia Coblentz, who had given a kitten from her cat’s final litter to several unmarried Amish women in Mary’s community. Lydia’s only stipulation was that the cats must be indoor pets. 

“If you need more company, you could move back into the main house, Mary. I worry about you living by yourself in the Dawdi Haus. How would I know if you fell and needed help?” Edie’s well-meant nagging brought Mary back to the present, and she hid a smile as she leaned one crutch against the wall by the table, pulled out a chair, sat down, and laid the second crutch next to the first. It was true she wasn’t light on her feet, nor could she change direction quickly to avoid an unexpected obstacle. But all things considered, she thought she did pretty well. 

“I guess I could be like that television commercial Englischers talk about, and yell, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”

“Mary Yoder, this is not a joking matter.”

“Come on, Maem. I have to joke about some things because laughter is better than tears, ja? And I love knowing you miss me, but I’m not moving back. It’s nice and quiet in my little house, unlike the main house when my brieder are here. And honestly, Maem, I’m more likely to be knocked down by them than tripped by Hope. ”

“Ach, I can’t argue with you there,” Edie laughed. “They are very energetic.”

“Ja, that’s one way of putting it.”

Mary had four younger brothers – much younger, as they were the children of her mother and her step-father. The boys were six, eight, ten and twelve. Mary’s mother had been widowed at a young age when her husband was killed in the same buggy accident that injured Mary’s legs and back. Mary had been fortunate to have been thrown clear of the vehicle when it was rear-ended by a big pick-up truck being driven by a drunk Englischer. She was only three-years-old at the time of the accident, and had no memory of the trauma or the pain she’d endured during several surgeries to save her life, and her legs. 

To her regret, she could barely remember her father, either. She only had vague recollections of a large, strong man with a soft, brown beard and laughing eyes. 

Edie Yoder set two steaming mugs of kaffi down on the table, then filled a plate with half a dozen cookies from the cookie jar on the counter, and placed them on the table. She sat down and sighed, then patted Mary’s hand and smiled wryly. “I’m sorry, liebchen. I don’t mean to mother you to death.”

“I am nearly 30, Maem,” Mary reminded her mother with a small grin. “You’re going to have to cut the apron strings at some point, you know.”

Hope jumped lightly to Mary’s lap and settled down, purring as Mary stroked her soft fur. 

“Ja, ja, I know you’re a woman grown, daughter. But you’ll always be my boppli.

Mary rolled her eyes, but leaned over to give her mother a kiss on the cheek, causing the cat to let out an indigent squawk. Both women chuckled at the tiny animal’s ire, and Mary petted her in apology. “Fortunately for me, you have four young ones to lavish your attention on. Otherwise, I doubt you’d let me out of the house.”

Edie chuckled. “You’re probably right. But Mary, I don’t want you to think I don’t trust you, or understand that you’re a capable adult. I’m sorry if I made you feel that way.”

“Aw, Maem, I understand. You worry. It’s what a mudder does.”

“Ja! But I’ll try harder not to.” The women smiled at each other in understanding, and sipped their hot coffee. 

“So, did you hear about Ruth Helmuth and Jonas Hershberger?” Mary wiggled her eyebrows at her mother.

“I know they’ve been courting,” Edie responded, raising her own eyebrows questioningly.

“What? I actually know something before you do? You’re slipping, Maem.” Mary grinned and took another sip of coffee just to draw out the pleasure of being the bearer of gut news.

  “Mary Yoder! Tell me what you know before I burst!”

Mary laughed, but relented. “All right! Ruth stopped in to see us at work today, and she told me she and Jonas are getting married this fall! But you can’t tell anyone, as it’s a secret. She told me I could tell you.”

Edie clapped her hands together and grinned at her daughter. “Oh, wunderbar! I can’t think of a better matched couple, for I know she’s always wanted kinner, and he has that adorable little daughter who needs a mudder! Speaking of which, I doubt this will remain a secret for long, what with that chatty little girl doubtless in on the secret.”

“Probably so. I know Abigail is happy about the situation. She and Ruth already love each other. They’re very sweet together. And they both got kittens from Lydia Coblentz, from the same litter as my Hope!” At the sound of her name, the cat let out a contented chirp, and Mary scratched her under the chin. 

“I heard Lydia is moving into Ruth’s Dawdi Haus. Is that true?” Edie asked as she broke a cookie in half, nibbling around the edges until both halves disappeared and she picked up another and repeated the process.

“Ja, and Ruth couldn’t be happier. She’s been lonely, I expect, since she lost Levi a couple years ago, and her grossmammi before that. Having Lydia in the house will be like having her grossmammi back again.” Mary picked up a cookie and bit into the soft, gingery goodness. “Mmmmm. I love your ginger snaps, Maem.”

Edie glowed with pleasure, but gestured for Mary to continue with her story. “And Jonas doesn’t mind?”

“Ach, no! He’s a gut man, Maem. He encouraged Ruth to ask Lydia to move in after Lydia’s house burned down during the blizzard this winter.”

Edie opened her mouth to reply, but a firm knock on the kitchen door interrupted her, and caused Hope to leap to the floor to investigate. 

Edie set her cup down on the table and pushed to her feet. “Now who could that be? I’m not expecting anyone, are you?”

Mary shook her head, and Hope wound around Edie’s ankles and then strolled over to the door and stood looking up at it expectantly.

“Would you look at that? She wants to see who’s here!” Edie exclaimed. 

“So do I, Maem,” Mary said with a smile. “Why don’t you open the door?” She could make out the shape of a broad-shouldered man through the cream curtains hanging over the window in the door, but that was all. 

“I will, I will. It’s probably Germaine Stoltzfus come to talk about the pies we’re going to bake for the fundraiser next weekend.” 

“I don’t think it’s Mrs. Stoltzfus,” Mary said as Edie wiped her hands on her apron and opened the kitchen door. Instead of her mother’s stout and matronly friend, a strange man stood at the door. As soon as he saw Edie, he smiled reassuringly. 

“Good morning, Ma’am. I’m sorry to intrude, but I seem to have gotten turned around, and I’m lost. Can you please tell me where the Hostetler farm is?”

Mary peered around her mother. The stranger was tall and slim, with the broad shoulders hinted at through the window curtains on the kitchen doorway. He was dressed like a working man in denim jeans rather than homemade pants – so probably not Amish, though possibly Mennonite – and a blue chambray work shirt. His lack of a beard told her he wasn’t married, though that wasn’t a reliable indicator if he wasn’t Amish, and the thought caused a warmth to spread throughout her body. Confused, she stared at the floor. How could a stranger have this effect on her? Especially one who probably didn’t share her faith?

“Sure, you’re not far,” Edie said, stepping outside to join the man on the stoop, and pulling the screen door closed behind her to keep the curious kitten inside. She pointed down the road to the south. 

“See, you go about half-a-mile and turn at the big, white barn with the huge oak. The Hostetler place is just a ways along on the left. It won’t take you five minutes in your truck.”

Mary felt a surge of disappointment. If he was driving a truck, he definitely wasn’t Amish. So no beard didn’t necessarily mean no wife. Although how that should affect her, she couldn’t imagine, she scolded herself silently.

“Thanks. Oh, and my name is Reuben King. Please excuse me for not mentioning it before.”

Edie looked closely at the clean-cut young man. “King, you say? You wouldn’t be the new dokder, would you? Took over from old Doc Smith over in Willow Creek?”

“Yep, that’s me, Mrs . . . ?”

“Ach! My manners. I’m Edie Yoder, and this is my daughter, Mary,” she said, standing aside and gesturing into the kitchen. 

Mary felt the stranger’s keen gaze on her, and slowly lifted her eyes to meet his. Her breath caught in her chest, and she felt light-headed. “How do you do?” she murmured.

He grinned at her, his teeth flashing white in his tanned face. Little crinkles were revealed at the corners of his eyes, which Mary saw were an unusual shade of brown; almost amber. He wasn’t a very young man, she mused, nor was he much older than her own 29 years. He looked fit and healthy, and must spend a good deal of time outdoors to have that natural tanned look to his face.

“It’s nice to meet you, Mary, Mrs. Yoder,” he said. His voice was smooth and somehow reassuring. You just felt like trusting the guy, Mary reflected. Handy thing in a doctor.

“Well, you may as well come in and have a glass of lemonade,” Edie invited, snapping Mary out of her reverie. She stood back to let him enter. “Mary made it a little while ago. It should be gut and cold by now.”

“I wouldn’t want to interrupt your work,” he protested.

“No problem, we just finished putting the laundry up, and we haven’t started supper yet. As you can see, we are enjoying a short break. We have time to be neighborly to a new member of the community. Sit yourself down!”

She shooed him in like a mother hen with an errant chick, and he smiled again before taking a seat at the table next to Mary. She saw his glance at her crutches, and thought his eyes widened slightly, he didn’t intrude with questions.

Edie showed no such compunction.

“What takes you out to the Hostetler’s place this afternoon, Dokder?”

“Maem!” Mary said. “That’s not our concern.”

“Ach! I know you’re right, Mary. I just want to make sure our neighbors are all right.”

“I don’t imagine Dr. King would be sitting here drinking lemonade if they weren’t, though, ain’t so?” Mary pointed out.

“True, true, I don’t suppose he would,” Edie laughed. “Would you rather have some hot tea?”

“Um, no, lemonade actually sounds perfect.”

“Gut, gut, and as I thought, it’s just right!” She pulled the pitcher from the fridge, and poured a generous glass of sweet, icy lemonade. “There you go! Drink your mouth empty!”

Denki!” he said, savoring a sip of lemonade. A look of surprised pleasure passed over his face. He looked at Mary. “This is truly excellent lemonade.” 

She felt herself blushing again. “Denki. It’s probably the mint. It adds a nice zip.” Hope, who had disappeared from the room when the doctor entered, chose that moment to zoom back in, clattering down the back stairs and whipping around the corner to disappear again into the living room.

Reuben looked surprised. “Was that a tiny tornado?”

Mary snorted, much to her dismay, but felt better when Reuben turned and grinned appreciatively at her. “Nee, it was my kitten, Hope.”

“She behaves like a tornado sometimes, though, so it’s not a bad description, you have to admit,” Edie said. She ignored Mary’s eye roll, and continued. “So, Dokder,” she twinkled at the younger man as she pushed the plate of ginger snaps in his direction. “Did your wife come to Willow Creek with you, or are you giving us a try before you decide to move your family here?”

Mary cringed. Her mother was a wonderful woman, but subtle she was not. 

“Please, call me Reuben,” he said, obligingly selecting a fragrant cookie from the plate. “And I’m not married, Mrs. Yoder.” He bit into the cookie, and made a low hum of pleasure before devouring the rest. Then he tipped up his glass to get the last drops of lemonade, making Edie beam with pleasure at his obvious enjoyment.

“I’m Edie. Would you like another glass?”

“No, but thank you very much! I’ve never tasted its equal.” He stood and held out his hand first to Edie, and then to Mary. “I’d better be getting on over to the Hostetler’s. They invited me to supper tonight as a welcome to the community. Denki for the hospitality!”

“You’re welcome,” Mary said softly. 

Her mother accompanied the doctor to the door, opening it for him. “You’re welcome to stop in any time you’re in the neighborhood, Reuben,” she invited. “Mary also bakes excellent cookies to go with her wunderbar lemonade!”

He looked over at Mary and smiled. “I might just do that.” He nodded at them both, then trotted down the steps and over to his truck. He fired up the engine, glanced back at the house and, seeing Edie still standing there, saluted her before heading down the driveway and turning toward the Hostetler farm. 

“Maem! Come inside, what are you doing?”

“I’m just waving the nice young man on his way, Mary. What’s wrong with that?”

Mary sighed. “Nothing, Maem. But there’s little point in informing our new town doctor of my talent as a baker. He’d hardly be interested in me. Also, you baked these cookies. It wasn’t quite honest leading him to believe they’re mine.”

Edie waved away that small detail. “Pfft. Yours are even better.”

“Still . . . “

“Still what? There’s no harm done. Next time we’ll be sure to give him your cookies. In fact we should invite him to dinner here, to welcome him to the community! He could see what a gut cook you are! I wish I’d thought of it before he left for the Hostetlers.”

“Oh, Maem the poor man was just here to ask directions, and we bushwhacked him. Besides, he’s not Amish. And as I said, if he were, he wouldn’t be looking at me for his fraa.

Edie turned sharply toward her oldest child. “Now, Mary, don’t you talk like that! You’re a lovely woman with a lot to offer any man smart enough to look past your slight disadvantage. My goodness, child, being able to walk quickly isn’t the be all and end all of human existence, you know! And as for his faith, well, I hear he’s Mennonite, and that’s not so different. He might even convert!” With that, she picked up the basket of folded laundry and marched up the back stairs, muttering under her breath about her silly daughter. Mary sighed and shook her head. She’d been called worse, though not often by her mother, who had always been very supportive of her eldest child’s challenges. At the same time, she’d refused to allow Mary to grow up thinking of herself as helpless or as less than other people. Consequently, Mary held down a good job making functional, yet beautiful baskets for Jonas Hershberger. And she held her own when it came to household chores as well. She couldn’t do everything, but then, who could?

“I don’t suppose there’s really any reason I couldn’t marry and make some man a gut fraa, if I wanted to,” she mused. The new doctor’s odd amber eyes popped into her head, which she shook impatiently. “Enough. Maem! I’m going to start supper!”

Pushing up from the table, Mary grabbed her crutches and made her determined way toward the propane-powered fridge to get out the ingredients for that night’s meal. 

Later that evening, Reuben steered his old black

Chevy pickup out of the Hostetler’s driveway and toward town and the combination house and office he was renting from Doc Smith. He’d enjoyed his supper, and had found the Hostetlers, a Mennonite family, to be quite hospitable and welcoming. Of course, the fact that they had four unmarried daughters in their late teens and early 20s may have had something to do with their welcome of the young, single doctor.

“Careful, Reuben, you’re becoming a cynic”,

he told himself. “They were a perfectly nice family, even if their conversation did tend toward cattle.” He smiled as he recalled the heated debate between Mr. Hostetler – Paul – and his widowed brother, George Hostetler, about the relative merits of Angus versus Hereford beef cattle. It seemed Paul’s family grew Angus beef cattle, while George’s cattle were Herefords. 

“I like them both, as far as a good steak goes,” Reuben mused. “And that’s about all I know about either breed!”

Still, the dinner and the company had been very nice. And only the most recent such invitation he’d received since moving to town. He was slowly getting to know the various members of his new community. He’d only been in town about a month, but many people, English, Amish and Mennonite, had gone out of their way to stop in and say hello, drop off some fresh butter or eggs, and invite him to dinner, church services, even a barn raising. He felt welcomed here.

As he passed the Yoder place he smiled, remembering the shameless questioning of Mrs. Yoder, and her pretty daughter’s obvious discomfort, especially when the older woman dropped a couple hints about Mary’s suitability as a potential wife for him. He shook his head. Mothers were all the same, he supposed. His own mother, back in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, had tossed up her hands and given up hope of ever having grandchildren. “My son, the dokder!” she’d said. “You know I’m sinfully proud of you, but I still want to cuddle some babies before I die!”

Now that all the years of college, medical school and residency were behind him, he felt ready to take a deep breath and slow down a little, maybe start to think about establishing his own home and family. Plenty of people got married during medical training, but he’d felt the need to concentrate all his efforts on becoming a physician, and didn’t think it would be fair to a woman to place her second in his priorities. 

His thoughts drifted to Mary Yoder, who apparently needed two crutches to get around. But when Reuben thought of her, it was her gentle smile and lovely eyes that came to mind, not her physical challenges. 

“She’s a lot like Lucy,” he mused, thinking of his younger sister with a smile. Ever the doctor, he couldn’t help being curious about Mary. “I wonder what’s been done to rehab her injuries,” he murmured as he pulled into Willow Creek, driving down Main Street and parking in front of his new digs. 

Carrying the bag of fresh sweet corn he’d been given by the Hostetlers, he climbed his porch steps and unlocked the glass front door of what had once been a gracious, single family home, but now held his clinic on the first floor, and his living quarters on the second. The place was owned by the previous doctor, Dr. Smith, who had retired and moved with his wife of 45 years to Florida. 

“Don’t worry, Son,” he’d told Reuben when he handed over the keys to the building. “You’ll do fine. And when you decide to stay, I’ll sell you the place for a fair price, like old Doc Schwartz did me back in 1980.”

“If I decide to stay,” Reuben had reminded the older man, who had chuckled and said something about the Hotel California as he climbed into his car, making his wife laugh as they pulled away.

Along with the office space and two-bedroom apartment came a long list of patients, many of whom were none-too-keen on trusting their health to some young upstart from out-of-state.

“You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave,” he murmured the lyrics to the old song to himself as he checked the first floor before heading upstairs. “Doesn’t seem like a month has passed already,” he mused, putting the corn into the refrigerator and pouring himself a glass of iced tea to take into the living room. He plopped down onto the couch, which, like all the furniture, had come with the place, and turned on the television to see what sports he could find. 

As it was early May, he was hoping for a baseball game, but he seemed to be out of luck there. He found harness racing, and settled back with his feet up on the sagging leather ottoman. He reflected that many Standardbreds, once retired from racing, ended up being purchased by Amish folk to pull their buggies. And that led his thoughts back to Mary Yoder. “I wonder when she last got checked out? Maybe there’s still something that could be done.”

The Hostetlers had filled him in on the terrible buggy accident that had claimed Mary’s father’s life and taken much of the use of her legs from her. She’d been, what? Three? Four?

“A lot of time has passed. Could be too late.”

He grabbed his laptop and began researching developments in the treatment of spine, leg and hip injuries over the last 25 years or so. Soon he was deeply engrossed, the television forgotten. Suddenly, a thought occurred to him and he sat up straight. Had Mary been one of old Doc Smith’s patients? If so, her records were very likely right downstairs, and he could find out exactly what was wrong with her legs. Jumping up, he hurried downstairs. He’d worry about the question of whether it was ethical to poke into the old medical records of a grown woman who wasn’t currently his patient later, he decided. Right now, he was seized with an urgent need to see if he could help her. He didn’t question these occasional obsessions that grabbed him by the throat from time to time. This was part of the personality that had led him to become a doctor against tall odds, so that he could help people like Mary live better lives.

With that shaky justification in his mind, he began to search through old files lining the walls of his office. He’d see what he’d see, and worry about how to approach the Yoders with it later.

(Did you love it? Then please go pre-order it in e-edition or print. Happy reading!)