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News Leader columnist writes first book

Special thanks to reporter Jacki Wood and Kay Wilson, my first newspaper editor, for writing and publishing this news article about the release of our book.

By Jacki Wood
Nodaway News Leader

A random conversation on a mission trip several years ago sparked an idea. And that idea eventually blossomed into Susan Mires’ recently published novel, “To Seek and Save.”

Mires, a Maryville High School and Northwest Missouri State University graduate, was working as the business editor at the St. Joseph News-Press at the time.

“We were on a mission trip with my church group and we were sitting around chatting one evening,” she said. “I had mentioned how the newspaper is only good for one day til the next one comes out, then the paper – and all my hard work – gets thrown out in the trash.”

Her associate pastor, Gary Mathes, suggested that she write a book.

“He added he’d often thought of writing a story about a small town pastor,” she said. “We started trading ideas. I don’t think anyone else thought we were serious, but we were.”

After four years, with Mathes working mainly on the plot and Mires doing the writing and dialogue, the two published the fictional murder mystery this past June. Set in a small Ozark town near Springfield, the book follows a pastor’s search for a murderer.

“When we started out, it was just to write a book to see if we could,” she said. “Now, after hearing from readers, I believe this book has an uplifting message.”

And even though it took a lot of time, labor, writing and rewriting – and learning – Mires said she is pleased with the outcome and the process.

“It has been a blessing to work with Gary and his family on the project and to have so many of my friends and family help out, too,” she said. “I hope they enjoy reading it and can be entertained and enriched because of our efforts.”

Mires is a freelance writer and lives in St. Joseph. Her column, “Reflections on the River,” appears in the Nodaway News Leader, where she previously worked during college.

Prior to the book, she published a short story in “Chicken Soup for the Soul: What I learned from the dog.” She is also currently working on a historical novel set in St. Joseph. Mathes has served as a minister for 23 years and is currently the associate pastor of Green Valley Baptist Church in St. Joseph. He has also previously produced three music albums.

“To Seek and Save” is available at the Nodaway News Leader for $14 or a copy can be mailed for $16.50 by contacting Mires at susan@susanmires.com.

Taking it easy this awesome August

August used to be my absolute most hated month of the whole year.

 July was all popsicles, water slides and fireworks, but the moment the calendar turned over, a sense a dread settled in my stomach. A big old circle around a certain date gave full notice that my wild and carefree days were numbered. Literally.

Whatever fun could have been wrung out of the fading days of summer were overshadowed by the looming deadline. We still slept late, rode bikes and tried to be as lazy as humanly possible, but it all had a sense of desperation. It wasn’t summer any more, it was August. Hot, stifling and lifeless. In other words – school.

            Even the word sounded like coughing up a hairball. August.

The magic moment of August at the top of the swing

            After I graduated from college and started working at a small newspaper, I reveled in the fact that for the first time in 18 years (I took a little extra time to get through college) I would not have to go back to school. The dusty taste of August still lingered in my mouth, though, as I covered the start of school for those poor, innocent children.

            The next year I turned the calendar over to August and marveled that there was no drop-dead date circled in red. Then I looked closer. There really wasn’t much of anything on the calendar for August.

            And I made the most delightful discovery: August is awesome!

         Continue reading Taking it easy this awesome August

Book Review: Seeds of Summer

Deborah Vogts’ first release Snow Melts in Spring was one of my favorite books, so I was excited to read the second in the Seasons of the Tall Grass Series.

Seeds of Summer opens with Natalie Adams facing a daunting task: Her father died in a tractor accident and the former rodeo queen must manage the ranch and care for her teenage brother and sister. Like any good Kansas girl, she’s stubborn and independent, but grudgingly accepts help from Jared Logan, who happens to be the new pastor in town. Jared is kind and persistent. He’s also attracted to Natalie, but shows his true character in fighting his feelings because he knows it would be inappropriate to have a relationship with her. This is a refreshing plot line for Christian fiction.

Click here to purchase Seeds Of Summer

Just as Natalie seems to be getting on her feet, her step-mother, long presumed dead, shows up at the ranch. Natalie has so much to grieve and overcome, including giving up college and her rodeo career, that it was easy to empathize with her and understand the hardness in her heart. Jared was my favorite character, as the uncertain young minister gamely tried his hand at roping and discovered his own love for the land.
What I enjoy most about this series is that it relates so closely to life. It portrays the not-so-glamorous parts of ranch life, but also baling hay and fixing windmills.
Natalie and Jared both struggle and grow in their faith as they discover love in this book.

The first book in the series is Snow Melts in Spring. Deborah is working hard on the third book!

Click here to purchase Snow Melts in Spring

Journey to the Seasons of the Tallgrass by Deborah Vogts

Reflections on the River has a special guest blogger, my friend and author Deborah Vogts, who tells her experiences researching for her contemporary Christian fiction series set in the Flint Hills of Kansas. 

In April 2008, I received “the phone call” from my agent, Rachelle Gardner, that Zondervan had made an offer on the Seasons of the Tallgrass, a contemporary romance series set in the Flint Hills of Kansas—a place I dearly love. My long-held dream had finally arrived—my prayers had been answered.

Deborah Vogts

 But the story didn’t begin there…it began many years ago when I attended Emporia State University and took a summer course called Flint Hills Folklore. Along with classroom study, we took field trips into the heart of the Flint Hills and visited with old-time ranchers, schoolmarms and post-mistresses. It was such a delightful experience, especially our drives into the pastures. We would get on these back roads and drive over pasture guards into the open range. We would travel for miles without seeing another car or even an electric line—just pure, native prairie.. That summer, I fell in love with the Flint Hills and it has stayed with me all this time, finally culminating in the contemporary romance series, the Seasons of the Tallgrass.

My first book, Snow Melts in Spring, begins when a horse is terribly injured. Right off, I had to know technical terminology and had to create a scene that was accurate and believable. To get it right, I contacted a handful of veterinarians, asked them a bunch of detailed questions all the way down to possible accident scenarios, which would create the type of injuries required for the story. I even shadowed one small animal vet for a day in order to get a feel for what a “day in the life” might look like for my character who was also a vet.

Continue reading Journey to the Seasons of the Tallgrass by Deborah Vogts

Everyone’s a winner at a county fair

Among my proudest accomplishments rank a two-year reign as a Nodaway County Fair Champion. From 1981-82, I was the winner of the freckle contest. For clarification, I do believe the fair was known as the Nodaway County Expo in those
early days.

Hanging out at the fair last weekend, it was easy to forget that the event has not always been around. Now, it’s hard to imagine July evenings without a carnival and concerts on the courthouse square. Congratulations to the fair board and all those involved for making it a great success.

If you took all the best things about farms, small towns, America, human nature, God’s creation, fried foods, fresh air, being young and being old, mixed them all up together and poured them out, I’m pretty sure the result would be a county fair. The summer festivals are a celebration of excellence, the best of livestock, fresh cut flowers, vegetables, cake decorating, knitting, jams and jellies, woodworking and photography.

Any time you can slide on a burlap sack and listen to a group called Cori Jo and the Outlaw Junkies, you can guarantee a good time will be had by all. Factor in the perfectly reasonable price of free, and it gets even better. Add the cotton candy and it just went over the top. Continue reading Everyone’s a winner at a county fair

N-P-K: Formula for gardening and praying

Crabgrass has been making itself an uninvited and unwelcome visitor in my garden. It’s been so wet lately, the ground will not get dry, giving the weeds a healthy growth spurt and frustrating my efforts to hoe them out.

Strawberries from the garden earlier this year

Trying to beat the heat, and not altogether succeeding, I went out to the garden about 7:30 this morning and attacked crabgrass with my hoe. It’s not enough just to scrape the little invaders out of the ground. The plants can take up root somewhere else if they survive. I hoed the plants out, then turned them upside down to wither in the sun.

Killing the roots is the only way to destroy a weed, I observed, which reminded me of this devotional. Looking at the uprooted crabgrass, I realized that was a bit how I felt in a spiritual sense. As if  my roots, instead of being nurtured, were drying out. Battles which once didn’t seem so hard were getting the best of me.

Experience has taught me that God’s Word is the only source of nutrients for our roots. I reflected that it has been a busy summer and I’ve been disconnected from consistent Bible study.

After washing off the garden dirt, I pulled out a study guide for Philippians that I’d bought months ago with good intentions. In the introduction, author Elizabeth George wrote about a woman after God’s own heart:

One crucial way this desire can become reality is by nurturing a heart that abides in God’s Word. To do so means that you and I must develop a root system…

This must be just what I need! Today’s  study of Philippians didn’t start in that book, but in Acts, describing how the church there was started. Paul and Silas answered the “Macedonian call” to go to the region. They were led by the Holy Spirit to Philippi. On Sunday morning, they went to the riverbank, where a group of women were praying.

I was shocked to discover that the Philippian church, which was such a blessing in Paul’s life and led to a book of the Bible which has guided and inspired millions of Christians, was born because God moved in response to a women’s prayer meeting. The church grew because a businesswoman named Lydia used her skills to God’s glory.

It does matter what you and I do in those private moments. Time in prayer may change the future, and probably when you least expect it.

Farmers know that the essential nutrients for fertile soil are nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium, identified by the chemical symbols N-P-K.

It’s the same formula for believers: Need Praying Knees.

“Everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him.” Philippians 3:3-9

Reflections: When you’re a redhead, you’re gonna get burned

Ignore my advice about everything else, but there are two things you really should take my word on: hemming pants and treating a sunburn.

Looking at this little black-and-white picture of me, that might not make sense. But if you saw me in person, the wisdom of experience would be evident. I am five feet tall with red hair and freckles. Or, as my dad calls it, a tan through a screen wire.

As much as I love summer, it can be a dangerous time for someone with a delicate redhead complexion. As a child, I was outside from sununp to sundown and

This is a real aloe vera plant, which may help sunburn. The stuff in the bottle, though, is a waste of money

thought pink skin was perfectly normal. It was considered a badge of glory to have a burn so bad the skin peeled and we made it a game to see who could peel off the largest piece.

Carefree childhood doesn’t last forever. Now, I’m paranoid about protecting my skin. One study said the risk of skin cancer is largely determined by how much sun damage you had as a child. With such a head start toward skin cancer, I won’t even drive by a tanning bed. I wear sunscreen pretty much year round. My bottom line is SPF 30. There’s sunscreen in my moisturizer, chap stick, makeup and UV protection in my sunglasses.

Even so, sunburns still manage to sneak up on me. On a trip to Florida a few years ago, the rays were more intense than I was used to and inflicted a nasty burn – even on the tops of my feet. Vacation was then accompanied by nausea, headache, tender skin and the conclusion that if life is a beach, I should watch from an air conditioned hotel room.

Since then, even the slightest sunburn is very painful. Through trial and error, I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t to bring relief. This may contradict other advice you’ve heard. Feel free to follow that other advice if you want to impress the kids with lizard-like molting skin. Continue reading Reflections: When you’re a redhead, you’re gonna get burned

A Flood of Reflections from 1993

As we watch the rain fall and rivers rise this summer, most of us have one thought: Hope this year doesn’t turn into 1993. As I recall, the rains started falling around July 4 that year and just didn’t quit. It’s hard to believe it was 17 years ago, as fresh as many of those memories are.

My recent work on hazard mitigation planning for the county has brought home how devastating floods can be. The Flood of 1993, in particular, brought heartache and pain to many people.

But through the blessings of youth and geography, that summer was something of an idyllic time in my life. Personally, I’ll always remember of the Flood of 1993 as the grand finale of a carefree existence. Continue reading A Flood of Reflections from 1993

Reflections: Farmers could fix that broken pipe

I can’t wait to hear the next bright idea from the folks at BP on how to stop the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico.

That one was a real prize winner – throw mud at it. Seriously? The brightest minds in the business and that’s the best they can come up with. Meanwhile, the entire Gulf Coast – and eventually all of us – are left to pay the price.

The trouble is, these petroleum engineers are not used to working under stressful conditions with limited resources. But I know some folks who are great under these circumstances.

Turn a couple of Missouri farmers lose on that bad boy and they’ll show the world how you fix an oil leak, using nothing but an adjustable wrench, some baling wire and a junk combine for miscellaneous parts.

They wouldn’t quit until the job was done, either. BP is saying that it might be August before they can figure out how to outwit a broken pipe.

Can you imagine a farmer being told that it would be August before he could take his hay baler out to the field? That answer simply wouldn’t be acceptable. He’d work day and night, skin a few knuckles, mutter a few choice words, and get it up and running. And though perhaps he may be tempted, he’d never throw mud at the baler expecting to achieve anything. Continue reading Reflections: Farmers could fix that broken pipe