Yella’s Prayers: Meet the Model!


A new edition of my coming of age novel, Yella’s Prayers, would naturally mean a new book cover. Sure, my book covers include stock photo models, as countless covers do. But for the rerelease of the first book I ever wrote, I knew precisely which model I wanted to represent the novel’s heroine.


I’m privileged to know the multitalented Shanelle Nicole Leonard—my favorite stage actress. We’ve sung and danced on a couple of the same teams (we’ve even been in a music video before!), but she’s a far better singer and dancer than I’ll ever be. 😀


Shanelle has performed on a number of stages and has worked with the Seattle Shakespeare Company, Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre, and more. She recently played the leading role in The Noise Made by People, an award-winning short film at the Northwest Film Forum’s Local Sightings Film Festival. And my favorite role of hers was that of Luna C in Oo-Bla-Dee, performed at Cornish College of the Arts, where she graduated in 2012.

Shanelle is currently in the Professional Actor Training Program in the Department of Dramatic Art at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her latest production is at the Playmakers Repertory Company at UNC-CH.

Keep it up, Shanelle! 🙂

The Canadian West Series by Janette Oke

when-calls-the-heart When Comes the Spring When Breaks the Dawn When Hope Springs New

As a longtime fan of author Janette Oke, I just felt it necessary to chronicle that I finally finished the original four novels of the Canadian West series, the story of Elizabeth and the Canadian Mountie she marries, Wynn. I was determined to finish these books before I started watching the connected television series from Hallmark, When Calls the Heart. The CW series closes out with When Hope Springs New, which I gave three stars and said in my Goodreads review:

“The way Elizabeth really comes into her own in this novel makes for a nice enough ending to the original four-book series. Yet, it doesn’t exactly seem to end so much as it just finds a place to stop, eventually. There isn’t much of a climax, and after a significant change about three quarters into the novel, I couldn’t really connect with a whole different setting and a new bunch of characters when the book was almost over, bringing a new set of problems that would have to be rushed through. An ending like this one would need more added to it, sometime, to make something more of it.”

The first four novels were published in the 80s, and the series continued much later with Elizabeth and Wynn’s grown children in Books Five and Six. I actually read and enjoyed those two books first, when they released in 2000 and 2001.

Beyond the Gathering Storm When Tomorrow Comes

Time will tell if I’ll read the newer Return to the Canadian West books that Janette has co-authored with her daughter, Laurel Oke Logan. Despite taking its name and some elements from Janette’s first CW novel, I think the television series is more heavily based on the Return to the Canadian West books from 2014-2016.

Where Courage Calls (Return to the Canadian West #1) Where Trust Lies (Return to the Canadian West, #2) Where Hope Prevails (Return to the Canadian West #3)

Still, I chose not to wait any longer before starting the show. I’m about halfway through Season One, and I’m getting quite a kick out of it so far. It’s sweet and uplifting and somewhat corny, which I expected, but it also packs a little more punch and, um, “swoon-worthiness” than I imagined it’d have. I’ve posted the trailer from the show’s premiere before, and, hey, I feel like posting it again. 🙂

It’s a Wonderful Life: I Met Zuzu Bailey!


Karolyn Grimes, actress and author

Karolyn Grimes, actress and author

That’s right! Zuzu, one of the daughters of George and Mary Bailey from my all-time favorite Christmas movie, It’s a Wonderful Life–classic, iconic, superb, and such a holiday staple.

Zuzu is actually actress and author Karolyn Grimes. I had the pleasure and honor of meeting her at this year’s Tacoma Holiday Food and Gift Festival in Washington. And I came away with two of Karolyn’s books!

I picked up Celebrating It’s a Wonderful Life: How the Movie’s Message of Hope Lives On, since, yes, I’m all about hope and inspiration in life. Karolyn was also super-kind to share a copy of her brand new children’s book, Zuzu’s Petals: A Dream of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ with beautiful illustrations by author and illustrator Karen Deming.

An autograph from "Zuzu"!

An autograph from “Zuzu”!

And, yes, I’m still reeling over this, folks. Never in my life would I have imagined meeting someone from the film I’ve watched and enjoyed every year for as long as I can remember. In a sense, I’m still growing into the 1946 film as an adult, as its powerful message unfolds for me on new levels, the more times I watch it.

You can learn about Karolyn, her books, and more at her website, and also check out Karen Deming’s books and artwork here.

Now, then. I suppose I can consider this my unofficial and early kick off of Christmas this year. 😀 The official kick off will be next week, when I announce my annual Christmas Book Picks!


“Look, Daddy! Teacher says, every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.” ~Zuzu Bailey

Celebrating It's A Wonderful Life: How the Movie’s Message of Hope Lives On Zuzu's Petals, A Dream of 'It's a Wonderful Life'

When Calls the Heart Season 3: I Must Catch Up!

when-calls-the-heart When Comes the Spring When Breaks the Dawn When Hope Springs New

It’s no secret that I’m a big, longtime fan of author Janette Oke. After planning on it for years, I’ve finally begun reading her Canadian West series, starting with When Calls the Heart.
That is…well, I did start the series years ago, reading the last two novels that were added to the series much later.

Beyond the Gathering Storm When Tomorrow Comes

But I’ve gone back to the beginning! And ever since I heard that Hallmark was coming out with a television show, When Calls the Heart, which is based on the Return to the Canadian West novels, I’ve told myself that I will not watch the show until I’ve read all the Canadian West books. Even as a lifelong bibliophile, the cinephile in me is okay with the reality that filmmakers must make changes to a story to take it from the pages of a novel and portray it for a viewing audience. Even so, when it comes to one of my all-time favorite authors, I’d first like to know what she originally wrote at the beginning before I see any screen adaptations.

The show isn’t waiting around for me, though, so I’ve got some catching up to do in my reading. 😀 Season 3 of the television series is due to release in a collector’s edition on DVD this fall, and is giving a free DVD set of the Season 1 episodes to everyone who preorders the new Season 3 collection before its release on October 11th.
They’re also holding a drawing for a $100 gift card on September 1st. Everyone who reviews Season 3 on FishFlix and sends an email to to verify their reviewer nickname will be entered into the drawing.

Feel free to take a look at the When Calls the Heart Season 3 DVD Set.
You can also check out FishFlix for more Christian movies.


Here’s a trailer for the premiere of the television series.