A Texas Hill Country Thanksgiving

I thank my parents for raising me as a horse loving Texas Hill Country girl.   Nine Thanksgiving ago my sisters and I lost my mother. We lost our father nineteen years ago. They loved family and every holiday, plus some we were making the rounds to visit loved ones. We were shown through example that family matters.

A few years ago my sisters and I started a new tradition for Thanksgiving. We rented a cabin by the Frio River in Leakey, Texas. (our parents married in Leakey) A cousin from my family and a cousin from my brother-in-law’s joined in and we stay for four days.

The rest of my mother’s family, including her mother, join us. We bounce between 30 to 50 people on Thursday.  In a world that moves fast and people spend more time looking down at a screen than into the face of real people, personal connections with extended family gives  us roots and a healthier life. As humans, the need for relationships with others and nature is built into our DNA. To me Thanksgiving is not  about the food…it’s the people and getting away from the rush of daily life.

Old Giant Oak tree in Texas Hill Country. Leakey Texas.

These old trees make me think of how time moves and the world changes, but God is constant. We come and go but the world keeps turning. I love to take time and enjoy the peace these trees give me.

Roads through the Texas Hill Country
Taking time to walk off some of our Thanksgiving feast in the Texas Hill Country. Leakey Texas

Enjoying the Frio River even in the rain. Two aunts and uncle and one of my sisters. Leakey Texas
It helps if you have someone that plays the guitar and maracas.

Play some games! How to have fun at a Texas Hill Country Thanksgiving.

My Grandmother and seven (of ten)of her great-grandchildren from her oldest child, my mother, Cindy French Guinther. She has a total of thirty great-grandchildren.

Longhorn on a  Texas Hill Country Ranch Country
Longhorn on a Texas Hill Country Ranch Country

Since we are on a Texas Hill Country ranch we have to include a Longhorn.

Even thought we had rain we had fun. You have to set your mind to it sometimes but it can always be found. Play in the Rain!

Play in the Texas Rain with Jolene Navarro!
Play in the Texas Rain with Jolene Navarro!

Play in the Rain! Life is too short to wait around for the right time. Give thanks for the rain and the sun, the wind and the opportunity to experience it all.

What do you do to connect with people or nature?



New Clear Water story about family, love, and Christmas.

So excited to show you the cover for the third book in my Clear Water stories with Love Inspired. A story of family, faith and finding a place to belong all in time for Christmas.

A Texas Christmas Wish.

Pre-order book so you can have it September 15. Ebook can be downloaded October 1, 2015

Two of my favorite secondary characters are horses, Quarter horse, Jet set Lena and Rescued Appaloosa, Tank.

And yes, as the cover indicates there is some snow and a Christmas Eve foal. Along with a hero that’s a pilot. I loved writing  Karly & Tyler’s story. Their book will be in most Walmarts September 15 and available for pre-order at Barns & Noble and Amazon. The E-books will download October 1, 2015

Links below.

Karly Kalakona’s new nursing job is the perfect Christmas gift she and her son needed for their future. The single mom just never counted on dealing with not only a stubborn patient, but also with his prodigal son. After years away, pilot Tyler Childress is only a temporary traveler to the Texas ranch he’s spent his life escaping. But the chemistry he shares with his father’s nurse is undeniable—and has him thinking of sticking around past the holiday season. Can Tyler learn to trust the woman whose caring ways are bringing his father back to life…and who might just be the partner his wandering heart can find a home with?

Click here to pre-order on Amazon A Texas Christmas Wish

Click here to pre-order for Nook or Barns & Noble – A Texas Christmas Wish

Opening Scene:

    Karly turned the wipers to the highest setting, but they didn’t help much. She knew the ranchers in Clear Water, Texas, were celebrating after the long drought, but she just wanted to get to her new home without drowning.
New home. If everything worked out the way she planned, her young son, Bryce would be celebrating Christmas in a real home for the first time ever. Last Christmas they had been living in her car. At church deacon Dub Childress had always made her feel welcomed. Now he was recovering from a stroke and broken arm—and it was her turn to help him.
On the huge plus side, if she could pull this off, no shelter or cheap hotel for them this year. But would she be able to care for Dub and his house? She didn’t even finish high school. Doing some research on stroke patients online might not be enough.
Deep breath in…out. She made herself relax. This last year had brought so many changes, with the help of her new church family, she was free of bad relationships. Hopefully no one expected her to cook. She could clean. She was very good at cleaning.
The rain pounded the roof, making it hard to hear anything else. In the backseat, Bryce finally calmed down. Her five-year-old son hated storms—or any loud noise. She leaned forward, her knuckles white around the steering wheel. God had gotten them through worse storms.
Glancing in the rearview mirror at her son, she continued the game. “Let me see. Is it your baby picture on my visor?”
Kicking his feet against the passenger seat, Bryce grinned at her. His smile shone through the dark, dreary day. “Yes! Now it’s your turn.”
“Okay…let me see….I spy something…blue and white.”
Bryce gasped. Karly turned back to see what startled him. He pointed to the road in front of her.
Squinting to see through the heavy rain she saw it, too. “No…” She blinked to clear the image, but it was still there. A small aircraft hovered over the road. The spinning blades on the nose of the plane headed straight for them. The wings tilted from one side to the other as if trying to balance on the air.
Instinctively, she hit the brake and jerked to the right, taking them through a muddy ditch. The car bounced over the rocky terrain. Their seat belts were the only thing that kept them in place. The boxes and bags weren’t so lucky.
After a hard stop, just short of a barbed-wire fence, she looked back at Bryce, reaching for him, needing to touch him. “Are you okay?”
He twisted in his booster seat, pulling himself around as far as the seat belt would let him go. “It’s an airplane.” He looked at her for a second before pointing around the overturned boxes in the back. “An airplane on the road.”
Through the back window, in the gray, water-blurred scene, Karly saw a figure run toward them. She slowly filled her lungs, making every effort to breathe and stop the shaking of her hands. Eyes closed, she counted and relaxed each muscle.
A tap on the window caused her to jump. A drenched man stood outside her car. Rolling the window down, she was hit with rain. She cupped a hand over her face and found Tyler Childress staring at her.
Tyler pulled his leather jacket over his head to block her from the onslaught of rain. Leaning closer to her, he looked into the car. “Is everyone all right? I’m so sorry. Cattle were on the airstrip and I thought I could make it to the field, but the pressure came in low.”
“We’re fine. A little shaken up, but fine. Tyler Childress, right?”
“Oh, no.” He smiled—the smile she heard the women of Clear Water sigh over whenever they gossiped about the good-looking son of Dub Childress. Wild and impulsive, but good-looking as all get out. This phrase was repeated often.                                                                                                                                                                       “We didn’t go to school together did we? I’m horrible with names.” The rain started dripping off the sides of his jacket.
“No, we’ve never met. Why don’t you get in the car and out of the rain?
He gave a quick nod and ran in front of her car as she rolled up her window.
Reaching across the seat. She pulled the lock up, then started stuffing bags and containers in the seat behind her. The off-road adventure had scattered their worldly possessions throughout the car. They would have to repack everything. Tyler slid into her `97 wagon. The space got a lot smaller with his tall, well-built body. He looked like a pirate just rescued from a shipwreck.
She focused on her hands. He was dangerous, the kind of man that could bring trouble to her new safe world.

Garner State Park with the Frio River

Busting sterotypes of Texas with the Hill Country

Generations of my family have been born and raised in the Texas Hill Country and now I write about fictional characters that live in the same beautiful county.

Some people have an image of Texas as a giant state of flat lands with tumble weeds and golden grass. There are parts of Texas that would resemble that stereotype there are more places that bust it.

Texas Hill Country heading to Utopia at sundown..
Texas Hill Country heading to Utopia at sundown.
Texas Hill Country Frio River at ConCan
Texas Hill Country Frio River at ConCan
Texas Hill Country
Texas Hill Country

In my books the sun is often raising or setting over the hills of Texas. I love the area of Frio Canyon, where the head waters of the Frio River can be found. Garner State park is nestled in this area between Kerrville Texas and Uvalde, north of San Antonio and south of Austin. It’s my favorite piece of earth.

This Thanksgiving some extended family along with my husband and kids with be renting a cabin in in the woods by the river to celebrate our blessings. We won’t be the only ones.

Texas Hill Country Frio River at ConCan
Texas Hill Country Frio River at ConCan

You can’t talk Texas Hill Country without at least one picture of cowboys. Not everyone owns a hat or rides a horse, but the ones that do are fun to watch.

Texas Hill Country Rodeo Cowboys
You can’t talk about the Texas Hill Country and ignore the rodeo cowboy.
Garner State Park with the Frio River
Garner State Park with the Frio River

Do you have a favorite place on earth and do you have the pleasure of living there or just dream about living there?

Cover reveal for Lone Star Hero, release date August 1

So excited to share the beautiful cover for book two – Lone Star Hero.  I will be announcing more details and book signings in the next few weeks.  Maybe even a deleted chapter, for now here is a small snippet.

Vickie rested her head on the horse’s forelock and rubbed her jaw. “God, I know I’m struggling with following Your will. I need Your strength. What should I do?” She wrapped her arm around Charm’s neck and cried. – From Lone Star Hero. Official release date is August 1 (I might be able to get it to you sooner, but shhhh don’t tell) – Jolene Navarro


Lone Star Hero by Jolene Navarro. August 1 2014
Lone Star Hero by Jolene Navarro. August 1 2014


Small business, big heart and my debut book signing.

I love life in a small town. People know people. They know your grandmother, your cousin and your children. You belong. You have a history. You’re part of a story.
The draw back? People remember you as a teenager, and they really know your family members.

The hills between Boerne and Leakey Texas
The hills between Boerne and Leakey Texas

There are different levels of small towns. Places like Leakey, Texas with less than 400 people is what I consider small. It is also the kind of town I love writing about, generations of ranchers and business owners. Kindergarteners to twelfth graders are on the same school campus. Community is strong. Not a great deal has changed there over the years.

My first Clear Water Book.
My first Clear Water Book.

Then you have small towns like Boerne, Texas. When I started school here in 1979, there was one high school, one middle school and two elementaries. No chain restaurant or fast food. The grocery store and pharmacy were owned by local families. About 4,000 people called it home, and you could still hear people speaking German. Boerne is going through growing pains. North of San Antonio, people love the Main street feel of small town with the convenience of the big city.
You don’t see as many family owned businesses, for the sake of convenience the big box stores have staked a claim forcing the mom and pop shops to close or redefine themselves.
I write small town stories. Lone Star Holiday takes place in a small town on the Frio River. Rumor has it the population is 400 if you count the horses.
In honor of Texas small towns and family I’m proud to announce my first book signing for Lone Star Holiday. It will be on Main Street in Boerne at Bergmann Lumber on October 19th. Yes, I’m having a book signing at a hardware store. They are one of the few family owned businesses that have found a way to survive the shift in Boerne’s population and demographics.

Main Street Boerne Texas, Bergmann Lumber
Main Street Boerne Texas, Bergmann Lumber
Family owned lumber and home décor for three generations. Bergmann Lumber on Boerne Main Street.
Family owned lumber and home décor for three generations. Bergmann Lumber on Boerne Main Street.

The two story limestone building is a historical site and owned by the same family for three generations. Randy Bergmann and his daughters have managed to reinvent their store front and focus on customer service.

So if you want to buy a story about small town, family and faith come by Bergmann Lumber on Main Street in Boerne, Texas. You can also support small businesses. Do some early Christmas shopping.http://www.bergmannlumber.com/
Book Signing Saturday October 19th from 1:00 to 3:00 pm.

Small towns across Texas gather on Friday night for The Flags and some football.
Small towns across Texas gather on Friday night for The Flags and some football.

Favorite Fair Foods?

In April, I started with The Highlands Games, moved to King Williams Art and Craft Fair during Fiesta in San Antonio and visited the July Jubilee in Leakey Texas during well, July. Watching parades, walking through the booths of arts and craft, listening to local musicians all happens around the food. Smells of grilled burgers, fried bread and cotton candy. Since the beginning of humanity celebrations and festivals have always includes food venders.St. Raymond Catholic Church


 Food on a stick is believed to be one of the first tools used by humans! No matter how far we evolve some things never change. For hundreds of years we have put candied fruit on a stick. Credit for the fall favorite, candied apple on a stick goes to New Jersey.

Candied Apple
Candied Apple

The Texas State fair claims credit for the invention of the corn dog in the early 1940s, but The Minnesota State Fair says it is theirs.

Corn Dogs
Texas State fair Corn Dogs – fried bread wrapped around wiener

Either way it opened the flood gates to food on a stick.

Chicken on a stick
Chicken on a stick
Wrapped in bacon
Anything wrapped in bacon

Teddy Roosevelt’s quote, “Speak softly and carry a big stick…” comes to mind but I’m pretty sure he didn’t foresee the power of the stick when it came to carnival food. The stick became a perfect design for food vendors at every county and state fair. All the better if dipped in a fry bucket deep with hot grease.
Some of my favorites are served on greasy paper plates.

Funnel Cake!
Funnel Cake!

Wrapping your food of choice in a tortilla might be a Texas thing but it does the trick when it comes to walking and eating. German taco anyone? The strangest tortilla wrapped treat might be the crawsaugaes I saw at the July Jubilee in Leakey.

CrawLinks, Crawfish, Sausage wrapped in a tortilla.
CrawLinks, Crawfish, Sausage wrapped in a tortilla.

My all time favorite is green apple snow cones.

Green Apple Snow Cone. Perfect for a hot day.
Green Apple Snow Cone. Perfect for a hot day.

What about you? I’m sure I missed some great foods

Inheriting Memories

There are so many things we inherit from our parents, grandparents and ancestors we’ve never even met. Names and stories we don’t  know flow through us. They are the scattered pieces that make us whole. Our passions, temperaments and talents that make up  our DNA.

We also inherit kingdoms, priorities, minerals rights, recipes and debt. 

But the most precious inheritances are memories. As a writer, the stories of the past fascinate me and often work their way in to my characters’ narratives.  I have a story I want to write based a WW 2 diary that was passed down from one of my grandfathers, Forrest French. I never got to meet him. Maybe he also gave me  my love of journaling?

What brought this musing to mind? My daughters inherited a Hamilton mint green and chrome drugstore milkshake maker from my grandmother.  

Me-Maw's Drug Store Milkshake Maker
Me-Maw’s Drug Store Milkshake Maker

Me-Maw had this wondrous appliance sitting on her counter for as all long as I can remember. She had worked at her brother’s Main Street Drug Store in Leakey, Texas and somehow got to keep this one. 

Norris Fisher, owner of local drug store in Leakey Tx. Photo by Marc St Gil November 1973
Norris Fisher, owner of local drug store in Leakey Tx. Photo by Marc St Gil November 1973

(I found this photo of  Uncle Norris on Tom Clark’s blog) http://tomclarkblog.blogspot.com/2013/01/marc-st-gil-wading-in-water-leakey-texas.html

Every trip to Me-Maw’s (and we visited a great deal) would get us an orange plastic cup of a chocolate milkshake.  And as time has a way of marching on, I soon found myself as a mother of four.  Me-Maw was serving them the special treat.

My oldest daughter, also the oldest granddaughter and great-granddaughter, got a promise from Me-Maw that she would inherit the appliance. I find it amazing what people will fight over after a death of a loved one. As humans, we get very emotional over the strangest things. I have seen families torn apart over the smallest properties.  Of course at times, a mix of greed, grief and regret can become an ugly cocktail of emotions that boils over to hurt others.

So standing in the spacious country kitchen sorting through the property and family heirlooms can be emotional. My father had passed before his parents so my sisters stood with my uncles. One of my uncles made a point that Me-Maw wanted Katrina and Storm to have her milkshake maker. Despite everyone wanting it, and Katrina being a great-granddaughter, they all agreed.  That in itself brought Katrina to tears.

Now whenever we have guests, Katrina loves making milkshakes for everyone. She might have inherited more than just the mint green appliance from Me-Maw. Like a desire to show her love by serving?

I do know we inherited more than a milkshake maker, because warm memories of family and love are wrapped tightly around the little machine.

 Do you have an item you love because of the memories and places tied to it, or regrets of a lost  family heirloom?