Christmas in Bannoch


Christmas is next week, so today we are checking in on our friends in Bannoch, Oregon to see how they are planning to spend this Christmas. It should be interesting because for Bunny and her friends in the First Ladies Club Christmas is a highlight of the year.

Bunny (Bunny Elder Adventures series) is packing today for her trip to Boise, Idaho, where she will spend a white Christmas with her sister, Linda and family.  She smiles as she tucks a small nativity set made of seashells and driftwood into  her bag to add to Linda’s collection. It is sure to bring back memories, fond, not-so-fond and hilarious, from the sisters’ trip to Italy to acquire a special Neapolitan crèche.  (You can read about their adventures in Vain Pursuits.)

Across town, in the Bannoch Community Fellowship parsonage, Bunny’s good friend Naidenne Davidson (The First Ladies Club) is happily baking gingerbread men with her small daughter, Talitha Joy, while husband and father,  Scott, with the help of his brother-in-law, Len Spurgeon, wrestles the family Christmas tree into place in the high-ceilinged, old-fashioned dining room .

“We’ll miss you and Rosie this Christmas, Len,” Scott says, standing back to check the tree. “I think it could be just a hair straighter, but it’s a real beauty!”

“It should be, after lugging it half a mile down the hillside,” Len replies. “but you’re right. When it’s decorated, it will be a stunner. Rosie says you absolutely must take dozens of photos of the tree, the Christmas Eve service, Christmas morning and all…and she wants you to post them on Facebook, so we can see them right away.”

“Are you sure you two want to travel all the way to Southern California for Christmas?” Scott asks. “My sister has never had a Christmas away from home, you know.”

“Oh, I know, but this is Rosie’s idea. Ever since she was a youngster she’s dreamed of Christmas at Disneyland. My brother’s family live in the area, too, so we will get to fulfill her dream and catch up with my family at the same time.”

“Oh, Mommy! Come look at the tree! It’s so big…it didn’t look so big when we picked it out,” Talitha cries, running into the room and flinging her flour-covered arms around her father’s legs.

Scott sweeps his daughter into his arms with a laugh.

“As soon as we are through with the baking…and get washed up…we can decorate the tree,” Naidenne says, walking into the room wiping her hands on her apron. “Will you need help bringing the decorations down from the attic, Scott?”

“Can I help, Daddy?” Talitha asks, patting him on the cheek.

“I thought you wanted to finish the cookies, first,” Scott says.

“It takes too long. Mommy can do it. Right, Mommy?”

“Sure. You have been a big help with the baking, but now it’s Daddy’s turn to have a helper,” Naidenne grins at her husband as she speaks.

The happy family continues with their holiday preparations just as many of their Bannoch neighbors are doing.

Few of the town’s ministers and their families will be traveling during this special Holy season. Their lives will center around their church, congregation and the special services of celebration. There is no need to remind any of them of the true reason for the season.

Rev. Merrill Bishop (A Body in the Belfry) and her nephew, Ryan, are in the grand First Baptist Church sanctuary where Merrill is helping the ladies decorate the pews and altar rail, while Ryan and his friend and church musician, Peri, practice the special music for the Christmas Eve communion service.

In the midst of this happy work, a woman staggers in from the foyer, backwards. She’s pulling something. Dressed like a gypsy with a many-layered full skirt and flowing shawls, she tugs a large wicker basket up the aisle.

“Judy! What have you got there?” Merrill cries to her friend, Judy Falls, wife of the Presbyterian church pastor (read Judy’s story in A Corpse in the Chapel coming in 2016).

“Do you need help?” Merrill asks.

Giving a last mighty tug and losing her grip, Judy plops down on her backside with a laugh before responding.

“I’ve been trimming the wild holly bushes for the hanging of the greens and seem to have gotten carried away. We have all we can use at my church, so I’m toting the bounty around to see who else can use it. It would be criminal to snatch these beautiful branches from their home in the woods and then just throw them away.”

“You’ve come at just the right time. Look ladies! More greenery, just what we needed,” Merrill calls to the other women.

Joyful scenes like these are taking place in all the churches and parsonages in town as these friends from the First Ladies Club share the special happiness each experiences in her own way while celebrating the birth of their common Savior.

May I join them in wishing you all a Blessed Christmas and a spirit-filled New Year!

If you want to keep up-to-date on all the happenings in the lives of these women and their friends, please sign-up for my periodic email newsletter.


VAIN-PURSUITScover medallionI am happy and proud to announce that Book Two in the Bunny Elder series, Vain Pursuits, has been awarded the B.R.A.G. Medallion by the Book Readers Appreciation Group.

indieBRAG exists to recognize worthy creations of independent authors and to highlight them for readers seeking quality independent books.

Clicking on the photo of my book will take you to the BRAGMedallion website.

As an independent author,  this recognition validates my efforts and encourages me to keep writing, publishing and improving my craft. Winning this award for my first book, Hollow, gave me the courage to go on to write the rest of the series.

A huge “Thank you!” to indieBRAG and to all of my wonderful readers.

Returning to the scene of the crime

When this blog is posted, I will be visiting my family in northern Italy.

As well as enjoying being with them, I will have the opportunity to revisit many of the locations featured in “Vain Pursuits.”

When I stay in a monastery hotel in Rome, or throw coins into the Trevi Fountain, I will be remembering Bunny’s experiences, as well.

I’m looking forward to tucking into some authentic Italian pizza, but you may be assured, if I visit the roof gardens of the Grand Palace while in Napoli, I will stay well away from the edge.

I spent so many hours creating and editing Bunny’s Italian adventure, sometimes I mistake her memories with my own. It will be enlightening to see just how well we remember these exciting places.

Vain Pursuits included in summer Italian-themed Kindle Bundle

Beginning this weekend, an amazing bundle of five full-length novels is being offered on Amazon for only 99 cents.UTISbannerHOR



Along with my Bunny Elder novel, four Italian-themed works by successful authors Candida Martinelli, Maria Grazia Swan, Beate Boeker, and Julie Sarff are included for your summer reading enjoyment.

If you love romantic Italy or if a visit is still on your bucket list, reading through these delightful romantic mysteries will let you take a virtual Italian vacation without the hassle of airplane travel.

This bundle is only available this summer.


Vain Pursuits reviewed on Italophile Book Reviews

ItalyIt was such an encouraging surprise when my book, Vain Pursuits (Bunny Elder Adventures Book 2) was reviewed by C. Martinelli on her wonderful Italophile website,

The book came to her attention because it takes place in Italy and, after reading it, she was kind enough to post a very flattering review on

In Vain Pursuits Bunny and her sister, Linda, travel to Italy to purchase an authentic Neapolitan presepio, or Christmas creche, for Linda’s collection of nativity sets.

The two sisters travel from Venice down through Italy to Naples, inadvertently attracting the sinister attentions of the Italian Mafia on their way.

My oldest son married an Italian girl and has lived in the Veneto region of northern Italy for more than twenty years. I visit them whenever I can. Writing this book was an opportunity for me to relive and share many of my impressions of this beautiful and gracious country and its people.

Of course, my own experiences were nothing like those of Bunny and her sister. I’ve never knowingly encountered any mafiosi, for one thing. However, their flight to Italy which opens the story was inspired by one memorably unpleasant real-life thirteen-hour ordeal over the Atlantic.

While one reader felt the book put too much emphasis on the Italian countryside and its attractions, many readers seemed to appreciate the local color.

It is always a balancing act when trying to give the reader a feel for a particular place. Too much detail bogs the story down while too little leaves your characters floundering in a featureless space.

I tried in this book to share the atmospheric items that struck me the most powerfully on my first visit to Italy, without turning the book into a tourist brochure. I hope, for the most part, I succeeded.

Vain Pursuits, Book Two in the Bunny Elder Adventure Series

When we last saw Bunny at the end of Book 1, she was picking up the pieces of her life.  In Book 2 we discover what happens when she accepts her sister’s invitation to come and stay on her Idaho potato ranch.

I served with my pastor husband in a small church in south-central Idaho, not too far from Bunny’s sister’s place. As I wrote about the women’s time on the ranch I was able to look out across the arid fields in my imagination and picture antelope skidding under the fences .

Vain Pursuits opens with the sisters flying across the Atlantic headed for Italy.

Much of this scene came from my own first trip overseas to visit my oldest son in Italy. Many of my impressions of the various locations in the book are reflected in Bunny’s and her sister’s reactions.

Although I never got involved with smugglers or mafiosi in my visits to Italy, I believe my time there added a bit of color to Bunny’s adventures.

Many of my reviewers appreciated seeing a bit of the real Italy through Bunny’s eyes.

When I decided to make a series from the original book which takes place around Halloween, I thought I might highlight a different holiday in each book.

In Vain Pursuits the holiday was Christmas, as the sisters were shopping for an authentic Italian nativity set.