I have one more short story I'd written a while back called Heart Supplement. I thought I would send it to you for fun! Also, if you're near Vicksburg, Mississippi, tomorrow, I'll be signing my novels at Lorelei Books. The address is 1103 Washington Street.
Rachel never expected to be a widow at fifty. Now her friends had talked her into selling health supplements and attending this convention in Atlanta. The new business gave her activities to fill the empty evening hours, but spending the night in a fancy hotel room alone seemed strange. In the past, she’d only stayed in hotels with her husband and family. She sucked in a breath and pressed the elevator button to head down to the lobby. She could do this. The products were good, and she’d learn more about them this week, maybe get motivated to make more sales.
A ding brought her attention up to the lighted numbers. The doors slid open, and a man in a designer suit smiled. “Going down?”
“Yes. Thank you.” She took a step inside, but stopped. The man’s blue eyes looked familiar. It couldn’t be. “Are you—“
“Rachel?” The voice was warm and deep. The same voice she’d spent hours listening to on the phone in high school.
“Steve?” Rachel couldn’t stop a smile. Or the warmth filling her chest. How long had it been since she’d seen her first real boyfriend? She really needed to stop staring, but the years had been kind to him. A nice set of smile lines crinkled his eyes, and his dark blond hair held a few strands of gray, but they only made him more attractive somehow.
“I can’t believe it. I was thinking of you not long ago. Actually…I think of you often.”
Heat crept up Rachel’s cheeks, and she struggled with how to answer.
Steve cleared his throat and continued, “I heard you married, so I don’t want to get in trouble with your husband or anything.” His brows drew together above his arched nose. “Do you stay in touch with anyone from school?”
The elevator jerked to a stop at the bottom floor. She hadn’t even noticed it moving. When the doors opened, she took a few steps into the lobby, then paused. Should she tell him she was single? She hadn’t thought of dating yet. Of course, her friends had tried to set her up with a widower from the grief support group. “I’m on their social media page, but otherwise, I haven’t stayed in touch.”
She hadn’t seen Steve in the group and had been curious what had happened with him after his family moved two states away his last semester of school. They’d both been heartbroken, and neither of them could afford out-of-state tuition. Their long distance romance had finally dwindled during college. Though she’d been happily married, she had to admit, she’d wondered what happened to Steve. Was he healthy and content wherever he’d landed?
“I’ve avoided social media, but maybe I should join the rest of the world so I’ll know what’s going on.” His phone rang in his pocket. He pulled it out and pressed a button to end the call. “Seeing you is a bit of a shock. I haven’t even given you a hug or asked how you are.” He held open his arms.
Rachel took a cautious step closer and allowed him to wrap his arms around her. Somehow his embrace still felt warm and familiar after three decades, and she let herself melt into his shoulder. Tears burned behind her eyes. “I’m widowed.” The words blurted right out of her mouth. What an idiot he’d think she was.
His hold tightened, pulling her closer. “I’m sorry. When? How are you?”
“A year. I’m making it.” Sighing, she took a step back out of his arms. She smoothed imaginary wrinkles from her dress. “I don’t know why I said that. I’m sure you’re in a hurry. Are you in town for business?”
“I have a conference here this week. Software development. Totally boring unless you’re a computer geek like me.” Those blue eyes twinkled as he gave her a tender look. “I never married.” He shrugged and winked. “Never found a girl as sweet as my high school girlfriend.”
Rachel’s heart skittered at the compliment. “I’m here for a conference this week, too. Not software, but health supplement sales. It’s my new hobby since…”
“I understand.” Steve nodded toward the café in the lobby. “Can I buy you breakfast and catch up on the past thirty-plus years?”
“I think I’d like that.” She smiled. “It might take more than one breakfast to cover all that time.”
He returned a huge grin. “This week just became much more interesting than software or supplements. We may have to have breakfast every day…lunch and dinner, too.”
I hope that was fun!! How would you continue the story in your imagination? Email if you have some fun ideas! Also, let me know if I can pray for you, too.
By the way, my friend Jennifer has a free book I wanted to let you know about below. She's a great author, and super sweet person!
A few weeks ago, I forced my husband to go along on a research trip with me to Dauphin Island. (For some reason, my girlfriends enjoy these trips more, LOL!)
I scheduled to go on a excursion to go on the Dauphin Island Sea Lab Research Vessel! They have these excursions open for the public for about $30 a piece.
That morning we met at the Estuarium (their public aquarium). We boarded the ship nearby, and they took us out. As we traveled to waters the captain chose that were sheltered from the wind, not terribly far off the island, our marine educator talked to us about the history of the island and Mobile Bay. (You might read a bit of this when the novel comes out.)
One of the other helpers on the trip let out trawl nets as we sailed, then once we reached a good spot, they stopped and showed us the catch. The educator explained the various sea creatures allowing us to touch them. I'm a bit like a kid, so I had a blast!
If you're ever down this way, I recommend this trip. I'm enjoying learning about marine science! I sure hope I can do it justice in the novel I'm working on called Healing Skye :)
I hope you all have a blessed Easter weekend!
I've included a contest below if you're interested in entering.
Blessings in Him!
Y'all! It got so cold here in Mississippi and icy! We aren't used to it and could hardly stand it. Though we couldn't leave our house, we were blessed to have power, and we prayed for those who didn't. We did get a bit of cabin fever, I think :)
My granddog thought it was all a giant slushy and enjoyed eating it. I tried to sled down the hill a couple of times on a plastic box lid. I survived!!
How about where you are? I hope all is well and you're ready for some spring reading! I joined some authors to create a group giveaway with Grand Prize: $500 Amazon gift card
1st place prize: 40+ books
If you're interested check it out here: https://promosimple.com/ps/10736/2nd-annual-hop-into-spring
Let me know how you're doing and if I can pray for you.
New Year-New Book Club Choices
If you’ve read my blog for long, you know I’ve been in a Christian fiction book club for a couple of decades! See last year’s novel picks here.
Although Covid messed up our ability to meet in person, we were able to Zoom or Skype with several authors which was really fun! We met virtually with Tosca Lee, Amanda Dykes, Linda Thompson, Mesu Andrews. Each of these ladies were delightful!
This year’s list is as follows:
Smoke Screen by Terri Blackstock
Rooms by James Rubart
Sensible Shoes by Sharon Garlough Brown
The Book of Lost Friends by Lisa Wingate
Lu by Beth Troy
Submerged by Dani Pettrey
The Feathered Bone by Julie Cantrell
If I Were You by Lynn Austin
The Baggage Handler by David Rawlings
Missing Isaac by Valerie Fraser Luesse
All Manner of Things by Suzie Finkbeiner
A Single Light by Tosca Lee
What were your favorite books in 2020? What books are you looking forward to reading in 2021?
Can't wait to hear from you,
By the way! Here are a couple of fun promotions, one with book prizes to get you on the way to new reads!
I admit 2021 is starting out a bit stressful, but again I keep reminding myself (pretty much every day) that God isn’t taken by surprise, and He is still on the throne. I pray we can still remember to praise Him in the storm and find blessings to be thankful for!
My husband and I decided to write out some simple goals together, which isn’t something we’ve done together before. With all the 2020 cancellations, we have ended up watching way too much TV!
Here’s a little of what we came up with:
Read a short Devotional together in the morning and pray. The devotional we chose is only one page long, so we're less likely to skip.
Walk together and try to add other exercises with weights since we aren't going back to the gym yet.
Eat healthy and meal plan. (So hard sometimes!)
Find interesting day trips in Mississippi where we can hike or pick up a meal.
Yard project of the month. (I hate yard work, ha!)
Date night once a week (even if it's at home)
Play more games instead of just watching TV. So far we've played Croquet, Scrabble, and Blokus.
Practice a new song each month (He plays guitar and I sing along. We're not great, but we try, ha!)
Do you have any goals for 2021 or a special verse or prayer? Anything encouraging?
I’ve made my award-winning novel, The Art of Rivers, free for a few days if you haven’t read it. If you have, maybe share the news with a friend :) Order here https://www.amazon.com/Art-Riv...
There’s also a giveaway below with a $500 gift card and 40+ eBooks as a prize!
Blessings in Him,
I hope you are staying well! So far, so good, here at the Ferguson house. Since For the Love of Joy is finished and about to release January 1, that means it's time to start the next book. I'm really excited to introduce a new setting in this story--Dauphin Island, Alabama. It's located just below Mobile, and you cross a three-mile bridge to get there or take a ferry from Fort Morgan. The island itself is only about thirteen-or-so miles wide. It's a quaint little Southern town---not a fancy place, but a sweet community. The island is also the location of the Dauphin Island Sea Lab. They do fascinating marine biology research there. I had the opportunity to interview two of the marine biologist. I hope to include the work they are doing to save manatees and other marine mammals in the area. I've included a few of my hundreds of pics!
The rays were my favorite at the estuarian! It looked ) y y like they were smiling and waving :) The sunsets and sunrises are amazing! Because the island is small, you can see both from the beach! I'm not a fisherman, but apparently there's great fishing. There aren't fancy resorts, but a variety of rentals and small hotels. Only a few restaurants are set up for business, but all I tried were great! The bakery in the picture is delicious! I had to break my diet to sample a few things!:) I definitely look forward to going back for more "research!"
Star Rising is now on Audio here!! Another great narration by Connie Shabshab! They've probably given me a few codes to share.
I'd love to hear from you! What are your2021 plans? Prayer requests? Story setting ideas? Keep in touch!
Blessings in Him, Janet
We're already at the holiday season of 2020, and I hope you and your family are doing well. Reply to this email if you would like to catch me up on things, or if you have a prayer request.
Here's the sneak peek of my new romantic comedy For the Love of Joy.
Weddings--the best of times, the worst of times, depending on one’s vantage point. In his own case, marriage had been a few sandwiches short of a picnic.
Davis Donnelly tugged at the stiff collar of his white button-down. Why on earth did people have outdoor receptions in Florida, anyway? He needed another glass of punch. Or a gallon. Condensation dripped from the crystal bowl on the table in front of him. He knew the feeling. Officiating his first wedding had been an honor, but he felt like he was standing in soup out here in his friends’ yard.
He’d spent the last few years studying to work in ministry, so he might as well get used to these shindigs. At least this small, hot gathering was almost over. The aroma of boiled shrimp still hung in the salty air, but most of the twenty or so guests seemed to have had their fill.
“Hey, you.” A woman’s voice turned Davis around. His friend Star made a beautiful bride. Except right now, her face scrunched up like that time she’d accidentally eaten a scoop of wasabi thinking the green lump was an avocado.
Still in her wedding dress, she marched toward Davis with Pastor Bruce on her heels. She stopped only inches away, all up in his personal space. “I just heard you aren’t on staff at the church yet? I thought you were starting a week ago.”
“I have a few things to work out first.” A trickle of perspiration beaded on Davis’s lip. Star’s wedding reception didn’t seem like the time or place to plunge into his more-messed-up-than-she-knew life history.
“Like what?” Star’s gaze bounced between Davis and the poor senior pastor from their home church back in St. Simons, Georgia. No doubt Bruce had been put on the spot.
Davis swiped at a pesky horsefly buzzing around his head. Speaking of pesky, he might as well get this explanation over with. Star had a thing for sniffing around like a blind dog in a meat market until she found her answers.
For real, why outside in this bog of humidity? He pressed the back of his hand to his forehead. “I might be married. I’m not sure.” He blurted the blunt truth, and then pulled at the stupid collar again.
“What?” Star shrieked, then popped her hand over her mouth.
The news went over like a flock of fat chickens. Exactly as he’d expected.
A few of the guests glanced their way. Waving, she smiled at them, then leaned closer, the edge of her white veil fluttering in the breeze. “How could you not know? Either you’re married or you’re not. And why didn’t you tell me?”
Pastor Bruce lifted his palms. “Davis wants to take care of the…issue. Once things are settled, he can take the position as the outreach pastor.” The sturdy preacher turned toward Davis. “If he so chooses. He wants to start ministry with a clean slate.”
Thank the good Lord for backup. Because the sharp furrow of Star’s brows said she wasn’t letting go.
Yep, she pushed a fist to her hip. “Explain. Please.” At least she kept her voice low this time.
Maybe humor would work. “Don’t you need to go chew the fat with your guests, Bridezilla? You just said I do. Your groom might be looking for you.”
If his friend’s gaze had been a nail gun, he’d be full of holes right about now.
Fine. “Here’s the short version.” Davis blew out a puff of air. “Married young, went into the army, got a Dear John letter with divorce papers, waived my active-duty service-members rights to delay the proceedings and signed them. Not long after, I was in an IED explosion and came home. There’s no actual paperwork that says the divorce went through. I want to set it straight before I start as a minister.” As soon as he’d filled out the official application for the position, he’d realized his marital status could become an issue, especially at a church.
“Ooooh.” Star’s lips rounded, and her expression softened. “Sorry. When I heard someone say you hadn’t started the position, I thought maybe they were giving you the run-around.”
Davis shrugged. “I’ve been avoiding the problem. Burying my head in the sand for ages. If I were an ostrich, I’d have been smothered a long time ago.”
Bruce clapped a big hand on Davis’s shoulder and squeezed. “You’ve been fighting many battles and conquering. With the Lord’s help, you’ll manage this one too.”
“Everything okay over here?” Paul Kelly stepped into their little group and wrapped an arm around his bride. The tall pilot gazed at Star, totally gooey-eyed.
“All good.” Star brushed a kiss on his cheek. “You about ready to head out on our honeymoon?”
Grinning like a possum eating a sweet potato, Paul bobbed his head, gaze fixed on Star.
“I’ll make the announcement.” Davis strode toward the front of the crowd. This couple had fought hard to get here, but they were a good match. His own wedding to Joy Lynn Jennings hadn’t been under such joyful circumstances. Thinking about facing his former bride again twisted his insides. Too much heartache in those memories. Too much loss.
His marital status with Joy needed to be cleared up so he could move forward in his life. He was excited to start the new outreach ministry, and he didn’t want anything to cast a shadow on it. After a ton of internet searching, he’d found what he believed to be Joy’s address--in Atlanta, of all places. He’d never expected the country girl to land in such a big city, and only a few hours away from where he’d settled in St. Simons, Georgia. First thing in the morning, he’d man up and hit the road.
No more head in the sand. But with Joy Lynn Jennings, his head might end up someplace worse.
“For the love of all that’s good. If I get assigned another patient with lice, I might shave my head.” Joy Donnelly stripped off the layers of medical attire and pushed them into the receptacle in the hall of the ICU. She’d learned to double gown and double glove after she and Hankie ended up with the wretched vermin for the second time.
“I hear ya.” Her friend and coworker, Amber Ross, waited several feet away, and Joy couldn’t blame her. “You do seem to be the chosen one for the hard cases. That means management has confidence in your abilities.” Amber pushed a loose strand of wavy ginger hair behind her ear. “Speaking of, you ready to turn my patient?”
“Mr. Walters? My lands.” Had it been two hours already? Joy checked her watch. Yep, only five minutes away. The kind man had a perforated bowel that had become septic. Not even that old--maybe forty--he’d been a popular pro baseball player. Everyone loved him. Yet, he was also a large man for two petite women to roll over. Every two hours.
Amber’s lips quirked up. “Time flies when you’re having fun.”
“You’re not hilarious.” Nothing was flying in here other than the guy who’d rolled by on the pain pump. Only halfway through her shift, and Joy couldn’t stop a huge yawn.
Chuckling, Amber waved her on. They headed down the hall toward the sliding glass door where the mostly unconscious patient waited. “Are you going to make it between work, studying, and Hankie? Have you considered putting off school until the little guy is…older?”
What Amber meant was until Hankie became less of a handful. Would that ever happen? Apparently, she wasn’t only getting the tough cases at work. She’d been doled out a tough case in the toddler department too. Her precious cherub was a Houdini forty ways to Sunday, penetrating every child lock known to man. No matter. Joy could take care of herself and her son and do her job, even while taking classes to become a nurse practitioner.
She had to.
There was no one else to help them. And she needed the better income and schedule the clinic job offered in the NP position. Hankie could go to private school, and she could work week-day office hours.
“Don’t you worry about me, Amber. I’m hanging in there like a hair in a biscuit.” Never mind that she dropped onto the couch plum tuckered out by the end of every day.
“Oh, Joy. That’s just gross.” Sticking out her tongue, Amber pretended to gag.
“You know you’ve seen worse.” Joy shot her friend a quick smile, then pointed at the computer monitor on the cabinet between the patient rooms. “Let me stop and log in my documentation. I don’t want to end up staying as late charting as I did last night.”
Once she’d readied herself, she and Amber set to work pulling and pushing the draw sheet for the man. They settled him on his side and placed pillows behind him to keep him in place.
A moan slipped from his lips.
“I’m so sorry you’re hurting.” Joy caressed his shoulder. “We’ll get you something for the pain.” She and Amber exchanged glances. They’d hoped he would have improved by now.
When they were finished, Joy cleaned up and she moved on to her other heart-rending patient-- a young mother who’d been a victim of a hit-and-run while jogging, which caused massive internal injuries.
Near the entrance of the room, the doctor on the case met Joy. “She’s dying. The family is down the hall. They’ll be in to be with her.”
“Oh no.” A burn started in her eyes. “Did I miss anything? I’ve done my best to care for her.”
The doctor shook his head. “The damage was too extensive. We all did what we could.”
She couldn’t let herself cry, but this hit so close to home. There was a toddler--not much older than Hankie--losing his mother.
Within moments, the young husband entered the hall, tears streaming down his face. His crumpled button-down shirt hung out of his khakis. His steps dragged.
Joy met him and walked at his side. “I’m sorry. I’ll be with you however you need me to be.”
“Thank you.” His voice was barely audible. “You’ve been so kind. If you could sit with us…”
“Of course.” Her two words tasted bitter, felt useless in this situation. Each death was difficult, but some seemed particularly poignant. The man obviously loved his wife.
When he reached the bed, he fell to his knees, took his wife’s hand, and sobbed.
What would it be like to be treasured that way? Her own husband had taken off faster than a jackrabbit as soon as they’d said I do. Joined the army without asking her opinion. Obviously, he’d been an eager-beaver to get away from her.
Pushing away the painful thoughts of Davis Donnelly, Joy quietly waited while the man grieved.
Two hours later, the husband and other family members had said good-bye, and the young mother had passed away. Joy stood alone in the room. Another patient would be arriving soon. Another difficult story. Despite the fact that she tried not to get too attached to her ICU patients or their families, this one hurt. If she allowed herself to get close to all of them, she’d go home and fall apart every night. But this one gutted her.
She couldn’t help but wonder what would happen to her own toddler if something happened to her. At least this patient’s child had a loving father. Her Hankie would be all alone in the world.
“Hey. Sorry to bother you.” Amber poked her head in the room, interrupting Joy’s somber deliberations. “You’ve got a phone call at the station.”
Joy’s stomach dropped quicker than a deer on opening day. “Oh, please, don’t let it be about Hankie.”
“Maybe it’s something else?”
Her friend was sweet, but there wasn’t anyone or anything in her life other than Hankie, the hospital, or her apartment complex.
Maybe someone had hit her car in the parking lot or their apartment had burned down.
One could hope.
Of all the days for Hankie to get “released” from daycare. Again. Joy exhaled slowly, trying to think. Now that she’d picked him up, she needed to figure out who could keep him for the rest of the day. And quickly. Her coworkers could only cover for a little while.
“Here ya go, sugar booger.” She placed sliced bananas, a sippy cup of juice, and his favorite interactive book on the coffee table. “Momma’s gonna change and make a phone call. Or a dozen.” She mumbled the last part.
“Okie dokie.” He trained his attention on the book.
Thank heavens. She’d love to give Brainy Tots a piece of her mind for dumping them like an old hunting dog. Finding another good sitter or daycare on short notice would take some finagling. They didn’t come cheap either. Especially the ones near the hospital. And only the best was good enough for her boy. She’d not leave him with just anyone.
Why did toddlers even get kicked out? After all, they were just learning the ropes of life. So Hankie wanted to go outside even when it wasn’t playtime. And kids put things in their mouth to see how they tasted, to discover the world. Hankie couldn’t help it if he bit every now and then. That’s what she’d read, anyway. But there appeared to be a limit to the number of times a kid could bite and do that escaping-the-building thing.
Once she’d checked the deadbolt on the apartment door, Joy headed to the small bedroom she and Hankie shared in their third-floor flat. She stripped out of her scrubs and put on clean yoga pants and a T-shirt. The last thing she needed was to bring home germs from the hospital and get either of them sick.
Sitting on the edge of her bed, she scrolled through texting and calling. Her lunch hour would be over any minute. Between her shifts as a nurse, her online NP courses, and Hankie, she’d made a conscious effort to help her friends and neighbors when they needed something if she could, but it seemed no one wanted to return the favor. Especially when it came to Hankie.
There had to be someone, though.
A dozen texts and phone calls later, still nothing.
Joy raised her head, and the quiet in the apartment registered. Too quiet. Gasping, she jumped to her feet. “Hankie!”
Things could never be this silent with her boy around. Sprinting, she rounded the corner into the den. A chair sat next to the open door, and a pile of toddler clothes lay on the landing outside at the top of the third-story staircase.
“Oh, for the love. Help! Hankie!”
Blessings in Him who can do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine!
First, I'm so thankful for you! Writing would be less fun without readers!
And can you believe it? 2020 is almost over. Well, I never do this, but I went ahead and put up my Christmas tree early. A lot of other people seemed to be doing the same, and I really needed to clean out my attic. Of course, now I wish I hadn’t started that project, but I know I’ll be glad when it’s finished!
Speaking of holidays, there are several holiday author extravaganzas I decided to join which will give you opportunities to stock up on holiday reading, and some even have prizes! Stay tuned!
The first one is Thankful for Romance which includes some of my very dear friends’ novels that are either free or 99 cents.
Check it out here
Also, my friend Heidi has a new release coming up that you may enjoy!
Preorder on Amazon
When I’m not cleaning my attic or writing, I’m taking care of my grand-dog since my daughter had ACL surgery. Isn’t he the cutest?
Don’t forget that you can preorder For the Love of Joy for only $1.99 before it releases on January 1.
Available Amazon, Nook, iBooks, and KOBO.
Praying you are doing well!
Keep in touch!
When I started writing in January, I had no idea it was going to be such a weird year with floods, diseases, hurricanes, and politics.
Yet, God’s still in control, and maybe some of us need a good laugh. I know I did! They were fun characters to write, so I hope you will enjoy this romantic comedy! It's only $1.99 to preorder for January 1!
Here's the blurb:
Is he married or isn’t he?
Years ago, a Dear John letter and then an IED explosion overseas rocked Davis Donnelly’s world and left him unclear about his marital status. He’d signed divorce papers, but broken mentally and physically, he’d never bothered to find out if his marriage actually ended. Now that he’s about to start a new position as an outreach minister, it’s time to settle things once and for all. At the moment he tracks down his wife—or former wife?—she takes a tumble while chasing a little boy. Her son. And that’s when life flips upside down.
Joy Jennings Donnelly made her share of mistakes. But one thing she never considered a mistake was her child, and she’ll do anything to protect him. Even keep his paternity a secret.
When she’s suddenly injured with not a soul to help her or her son, Joy is forced to rely on the man who has the most reasons to hate her.
The preorder is available on Amazon iBooks
Coming to Kobo and B&N soon!
I have a new audio book! Magnolia Storms! I have a few codes left for this and I received a few more for some of my other audios. Just comment on this post if you're interested.
If you don't do audio and you missed this book, the ebook is only 99 cents right now on Amazon!
As always, let me know if I can pray for you!
Exodus 2:1-10, 15:20-21, Numbers 12:1-15
A woman of many talents, Mariam was brave even as a girl when she followed her baby brother Moses’s basket, then dared approach the Pharaoh’s daughter. Did she care that much for the infant or was she an obedient daughter, doing as her mother commanded? Either way, she had courage.
In the text, she’s called a prophet. She led the women in singing her poetic praise song and even in dancing for joy after they passed through the sea on dry ground.
But then pride or prejudice struck. She turned against her dear brother, possibly looking down on him because of the race of his wife. Not nice! Or maybe it was jealousy over his position or a recent decision she didn’t agree with.
Surprising turn—she and Aaron grumbled, Has the Lord spoken only through Moses, hasn’t he spoken through us? Struck with leprosy, she was sent to solitary confinement outside the camp for seven days. Probably they were lonely, scary days, waiting and wondering, pondering her guilt, feeling shame. And the dark, lonely nights were likely sleepless. Her skin must have looked and smelled terrible too, and as a woman, I would be devastated by that. I mean, we hate getting a big pimple, but leprosy….yikes.
But then God healed her, as He heals us from our ugly sins. Praise Him!
What are your thoughts on Miriam?
Hope you have a good week, and let me know if I can pray for you!
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Under the Southern Sun
Janet W. Ferguson