Have you ever lost $10,000?

Hello Sweet Readers! 

I hope everyone has been having a wonderful week. : ) 

Goodness, I feel like I’m years behind, but I finally feel like I’m getting a little used to my new routine, so I wanted to do a some catching up in this newsletter, although I do have a story way down below. 

First, I’ve been working on my own YouTube channel and you can check it out HERE. I made playlists of my audios and organized them into series on my Home tab so they’ll be easy for you all to find. They are still Jay’s videos and he gets credit for the watch time. They are also all still totally FREE to watch and listen to.  

I put my newest release, Heartland Mistletoe, at the top. : ) Please check it out and let me know what you think or if I can improve it in any way. I’d love your advice and thoughts! 

Secondly, I have been neglecting our cookbook and haven’t asked for many recipes for the March section. So, today, I wanted to remind everyone that I’m collecting anything-with-potatoes-as-an-ingredient recipes for March. Tater tots, hash browns, French fries and anything else potato totally counts. So, please click HERE and share a RECIPE that has potatoes (in any form) as an ingredient. 

Also, since it’s April, I’m also collecting April recipes. : ) For April, our theme is Lunch! I’m asking for recipes for anything you’d make for lunch. : ) You can click HERE and give me your recipe. (Julia Gussman you need to submit your Avocado Stuffed Shrimp recipe. PLEASE!!) 

Everyone who submits a recipe for the month is entered into my monthly Amazon gift card drawing. (I’ll draw March’s winners at the end of April since I dropped the ball on it.) Also, be sure to include your name and location because we’ll include that in the recipe book as we’re putting it together.  

I’m excited about this and can’t wait to see the finished recipe book at the end of this year! 🙂 

Okay, a little more housekeeping.  I’ve had to delay a couple of preorders and haven’t really been saying much about them, so I wanted to be sure that I let you all know what my new release schedule is looking like. 

On May 1st, I’ll be releasing The Cowboy Finds Love in the Show Me State. I’m writing this book this week and I’m having so much fun with it. I think you all are going to love it. I’ll paste the cover and blurb below. You can preorder it HERE if you want to make sure it hits your inbox on release day! 

Because of the way Amazon handles preorder delays, I had to push Cowboy Finding Love back to the middle of May. I’ve not been doing things the way I want to this year, but I know God has not been surprised or upset at the turns my life has taken, so I’ve been trying to roll with them, and enjoy the ride.  

Anyway, I’ll have the cover and a blurb for that below as well, and you can preorder it HERE if you’d like to be sure you have that one as well. 

And, can I just say that Julia’s covers for that series – Coming Home to North Dakota – are the absolute BEST covers she’s done? Although she was sharing some covers with me this week and they are…breathtaking! Some for me and some she’s going to offer as premades, I think. I want to share them, but she sent them to me in an email that had “TOP SECRET” in the subject line, so I don’t think I’m allowed. (I WAS allowed to talk about them, though. : ) 

So, Julia is in PA and the other day when I was talking with her she told me that someone had asked her to do something with them that evening and she said yes, just because she wasn’t doing anything else. 

Then, just an hour after she’d told that person she’d do something with them, someone else asked her to go somewhere with them, and this was something she really wanted to do. 

She told me, “I SO wanted to cancel on the first person, and tell this second person I’d go! What they were doing sounded like so much fun and I always enjoy being with them, but I always hate it when people do that to me. So I told the second person I couldn’t.” 

Oh, goodness. What she said made my mother’s heart so happy.  

I remembered so many times as she lay across my bed, crying, when people had ditched her for someone else more fun or more popular or whatever. And I remember saying to her over and over, “The lesson is that you don’t want to treat other people the way these kids are treating you.” We talked about loyalty and commitment and keeping your word and having integrity and not shoving aside people who have been faithful to you for the new, shiny thing.  


So much pain, right? 

I guess I was always big on learning from our pain, not wasting a trial, becoming stronger and more gracious, more compassionate. When people hurt us, we can get bitter or we can learn – so many things we can learn, right? 

Julia caught those lessons.  

Sometimes parenting is thankless and hard and you wonder if you’re getting through at all, and sometimes your heart just wants to burst because your kids really do get it. 

I guess thinking of that, I have one more thing I’d like to share – although I still have a story down at the bottom.  

I’m in Pittsburgh, and I’m getting to spend a lot of time with my granddaughter, so I’m loving that. But, it’s been two months since my grandson was born (2/20) and I know we’re all sick of being in the city and away from family.  

My daughter-in-law is so amazing – she gets up before dawn every day and spends fourteen hours at the hospital, helping to care for her son. I could go on about the hospital, but I don’t want to complain, because people do the best they can for the most part, but she’s basically caring for an infant who is tethered to a PIC line and other equipment, with very little break. It’s hard to tell whether his crying is coming from pain from his issues or normal newborn things. He’s not been allowed to eat, ever. 

She comes home at night and still spends time with her daughter. She’s patient and sweet and is such an incredible mother.  

But I know she’s as sick of the city as I am. I know she misses her own home and having her family together. It’s spring and she loves to garden and grow things. She loves animals and misses them, too.  

My son – her husband – drives out to Pittsburgh late Saturday nights. He’s responsible for all truck maintenance and supervising everything at the garage and Saturdays are their big day. It’s a hard day for him and this past Saturday the lady who’s been doing all the office work and billing for my daughter-in-law (it all gets done on Saturdays) wasn’t there, so my son had that to do as well. 

That made his day extra hard, but still, early Sunday morning when I came into the kitchen, they had already left for the hospital. But sitting on the kitchen table was a glass jar and in that jar were a handful of my daughter-in-law’s daffodils that are in full bloom back home.  

I’m not a big fan of cut flowers, but they almost made me cry, because I just thought about how sweet and kind and thoughtful it was for him to bring them. After the hard day he’d had, he still considered how rough it’s been for her here and how much she longs to go home and how much she misses the things she’s planted and loved, and since she couldn’t be home, he brought a little of the beauty she loves to her. Such a beautiful, romantic thing.  

And my granddaughter and I enjoyed them as well. : ) Alright, there’s a bunch of stuff below, so scroll on down and check it all out and at the very bottom, I have a story about losing $10,000. : )

Subscribe to Britney M. Mills’s YouTube channel and listen to this book for FREE!!

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A matchmaker who can’t commit, a jaded divorce lawyer, and a mutually beneficial business agreement.
 Matchmaker Meg Austen is focused on one thing—finding the financial backing to create the app for her company, Love, Austen. When the investment firm tells her she needs a boyfriend to prove her faith in her matchmaking process, she fears her dreams might never become a reality. Sure, she can match up other people, but love for herself. She’s not interested.
 Parker Matthews is determined to get the partnership left vacant by his father’s death. But when a colleague suggests having a girlfriend will increase his chances to get the partnership, he panics–he’s cut women out of his life completely after his last relationship and wouldn’t even know who to ask.
 As they spend real time together, their fake feelings change. But when their fears about commitment resurface, can they find a way to work past them? Or will Meg and Parker have to find another way to get what they want while mending their broken hearts?

Check out this new, romantic suspense release from a friend of mine and fellow Heroes of Freedom Ridge author!

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Can this bad-boy bodyguard protect America’s sweetheart without losing his heart?

Fiona Raven is famous for her homestyle cooking with a hint of Italian flair. Everyone knows her face and has her pre-packaged food in their freezer. So why is she receiving threatening notes? Fiona’s brother insists on sending a bodyguard, news that only gets worse when she realizes it is his friend Ryder – the one man she could never let herself love.Ryder McClain has played the villain enough times to appreciate being the hero working for Black Tower Security. Along with his new client comes a stern warning from her brother – his boss and best friend – to keep his hands off. It doesn’t matter anyway, Fiona is the perfect woman, and exactly the kind he doesn’t deserve.Ryder will do whatever it takes to protect Fiona. Threatening notes turn into suspicious break-ins and destructive corporate espionage, and this bodyguard assignment gets even more serious. Can Ryder get to the bottom of the threat before his heart gets too involved?

Dive into the intrigue and romance of Potential Threat, Book 1 of the Black Tower Security Series. Compelling characters, clean romance and heart-racing action.

First, because I know I’m going to get a ton of emails with questions about this, and, I’m sorry, but I have been terrible at answering emails lately, (please don’t stop emailing – I LOVE to hear from you all, and I’m working on getting caught up!) I wanted to say two things:  

First, Jay Dyess does have one of my Cowboy Crossing audios up on his Say with Jay YouTube channel. I wanted to be sure to say something because he never announced it, even though it’s was totally new when it went up on his channel. So if you’re watching his Facebook page for announcements like I told you you should, or thinking he might announce it in my Reader Chat, you wouldn’t have seen it. But that’s okay, because it wasn’t that good anyway. 

Also, I am (mostly) patiently waiting as Jay Dyess slooowly releases one of my backlist books every two weeks. It will be years before my audios are up, and Jay Dyess has no plans at the present to release any backlist Jessie Gussman Cowboy Crossing audios on his channel as far as I know, probably for the rest of this year at least. 

BUT good news!! Jay Dyess is so proud to have partnered with who he says is one of the best sweet romance writers out there, the incredibly talented Alexa Verde, to narrate her amazing Cowboy Crossing world, and he feels this audio he created with Alexa is so inspiring, the story so engrossing and Alexa so awesome that it will be a huge asset to his channel, so he jumped it to the head of the line. He’s had this video ready to go up on his channel for a long time now! 

He has just been so extremely excited and eager, and so very grateful for Alexa’s amazing and overwhelming generosity, that he wanted to get it out on his channel as fast as he possibly could. He’s so appreciative to have a shiny, new, high-quality, special offering amidst all those tedious Jessie audios! 

Now, at long last, here is the fabulous Alexa Verde audio that he just couldn’t stand to have sit at the back of the line and just can’t wait to share with all of you! Check out this special treat from Alexa Verde and Jay Dyess. 

A few more words about audios: I owe you all an apology. I had told you that you could follow Jay Dyess on his Facebook page to hear all about my new audio releases, but I realized, as I said above, that not all my brand-new audios have been announced there. I hadn’t noticed as I had been swamped with personal things that I hadn’t expected and needed to deal with in addition to my intense writing and release schedule – the last of which was Heartland Faith (which released directly to audio and which my ARC team knows I pretty much crawled to a finish and slumped to a heap when I was done, lol. I am going to dedicate the ebook version to them because they were totally AWESOME at a time when I really needed the help), and I’m sorry about that. 

Heartland Stars is another one of the three Jessie audios that were brand-new-never-before-heard releases on Jay Dyess’s channel that he didn’t announce on his page or in the Chat. Actually, he hasn’t announced any audio in the Chat until he posted about Alexa’s and his last week, I think, so you didn’t miss much there.  

Anyway, I’ve tried to give Stars a little extra love, just because it’s also buried so deeply on his channel that it’s extremely hard to find. It’s a marriage of convenience story in the Heartland Series – my favorite trope. You can click HERE to go directly to it. 

If you’d like to see all the FREE Jessie audios all in one place, you can check them out HERE.

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Five divorces, three boys, one snowstorm and two people who want to be anywhere other than where they are. Only God could use it all to make a beautiful love story.

Bellamy Levine is the highest paid actress in Hollywood, but she just inked her name on her fifth divorce settlement and her personal life is in shambles. Again.

She vows it’s for the last time.

That’s why she’s rented the entire vacation spot in rural North Dakota and intends to spend the holidays alone, figuring out what she’s going to do with her life.

Calhaun Powers was blindsided when an old classmate rolls into Sweet Water claiming the oldest of her three boys is his. He knows for a fact the kid isn’t his son, but he finds himself watching all three kids while he renovates vacation houses for his neighbor.

God seems to be testing him in a strange way when he ends up snowed in with Hollywood’s biggest movie star – five times divorced – and three boys who aren’t his, but who need a dad…and a mom.

Can two people who come from completely different worlds find common ground and build a family together?

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After his uncle and ranching partner is sidelined by a stroke, Bowman Langston is up to his eyeballs in work. He needs a caregiver for his young teenaged sister who can also double as a housekeeper. He thinks he’s found the perfect person – a nice, older lady with excellent references – except…

When her grandmother unexpectedly elopes with a man half her age, Terra Franklin jumps on the opportunity to move to Cowboy Crossing and be a chef.

Yes, it’s going to be a bit of a surprise to the farmer for whom she’s cooking, especially when he finds out she can’t cook and no, she’d never even spent one night out of the city, and, yes, she will also easily be able to take her grandmother’s place as the Youth Program poultry instructor even if she’s never actually seen a live chicken and no, her cow phobia won’t affect her job performance at all, yes, she’s going to get her driver’s license, although her grandmother did leave her green tractor behind – how hard can it be to learn to drive it – and really, what could possibly go wrong?

Turns out, a lot.

When Bowman and Terra have to team up to help her son and his sister, will they find love in the most unlikely of matches?

Jessie again!!

Okay, I have a story, but it’s not funny. I also have to warn you right now: there is a CLIFFHANGER. When I wrote it, it was just TOO long to put in one newsletter. So, I figured out half, and I put that in this week. I’ll put the rest in next. You might want to wait until next week to read them both, if you, like me, ABHORE cliffhangers. : )

I’ve been thinking about this for a while but have been hesitant to tell it.

More than a dozen or so years ago, before we had chicken barns and before the blueberries, when the kids were little and before our youngest was born, we only had a few trucks and we were still working to build that business.

We were short on work, and we hired one of our trucks on with a company in Altoona. They hauled all over the United States, which was unusual for us, since we’ve always been kind of specialized and typically only hauled locally and regionally.

Because of that, our guys were always home for the weekend and often home during the week. We also paid for all our fuel with cash. I don’t remember exactly what the price of fuel was then, but we typically sent a couple thousand dollars in cash out with each of our drivers every Sunday night when the trucks left. (Back then, fuel was cheaper if you paid cash.)

That’s a lot of trust, isn’t it? LOL. But, you know, our drivers were mostly good ol’ boys, not great readers and not great at higher math skills, many of them had never graduated from high school, but most of those guys kept track of that cash down to the last penny.

We never had one steal a cent from us when we gave them cash. Maybe it was because of the trust we showed them by handing them an envelope with fifteen or twenty hundred-dollar bills in it every Sunday night. I don’t know.

Well, this new company that we hired on with had fuel cards, and that seemed like a good idea, since our truck might be out more than a week and we didn’t want the driver to run out of money.

We hired a guy—someone we didn’t know—specifically for this over-the-road hauling. I’ll call him Ron.

Like every other driver we’ve ever hired, Ron went and took a preemployment drug test before he turned a wheel.

The company’s pay schedule was three weeks behind, so Ron worked for three weeks before we got a check.

The first week’s check was for $56. (If we’re spending $1500 on fuel and need to pay the driver on top of that, plus a ton of other expenses…well, it’s pretty obvious, either the check was wrong, or there was a problem somewhere.)

That was a lot less than we were expecting. : )

We got the check on Friday, the company’s offices were closed for the weekend, our truck was back on the road Sunday, with a load that had been scheduled the week before, and it was Monday before we were able to talk to anyone to try to get a detailed printout.
It took some sleuthing, because the fuel was taken out in a lump sum, so we needed a breakdown of the fuel our driver had gotten over the week.

By the middle of that week, we’d figured out what had happened.

Before Watson and I had kids, we drove a lot together.

We didn’t stop at truck stops much. There is a lot of junk that goes on at truck stops that we’re all better off staying away from.

Once, we were out on the Ohio turnpike—on the turnpike, you don’t have much choice about stopping at a truck stop—and we were waiting in line for fuel. We had a driver from a company we didn’t recognize approach us, asking us if we wanted to buy fuel for $.25 less per gallon than what the truck stop was charging.

Basically, that driver had fueled his truck on his company’s card and was looking to make cash by selling it (he had a siphoning hose where he could run the fuel from his tank into ours). Then he’d use the company card to refuel, pocketing all the money from the fuel he sold. (Nowadays, cards have daily limits and other safety precautions, which help. But back then, it was new tech, I guess, and not as sophisticated.) Watson turned him down, of course, but didn’t turn him in.

I had no idea people did stuff like that.

I believe Ron was in Florida, bringing a load up to PA, when the company we worked for gave us the printout of the loads he’d hauled that first week and the fuel he’d used. Several times, he fueled up at the same stop just an hour or so apart.

He was selling fuel.

And we were paying for it. LOL.

When Ron got home, my husband sent him for a drug test, then he had a chat with him.
Watson was angry.

Honestly, I know I should have been, and Ron wasn’t my favorite person at the time, honestly, but it made me sad.

I knew where Ron lived. He rented a one-bedroom apartment in the worst section of our little town. He didn’t have much of anything, no furniture, no car, no family. His life, to me, was sad.

Now, I know everyone makes their own decisions, but I’ve been blessed.

I didn’t choose my family. I didn’t decide to have parents who cared about me, beat my butt when I needed it [I don’t mean to stir up a controversy about spanking, but if I hadn’t been spanked as a child, I’d be in prison now—I was a goody-goody, but I was also pretty stubborn and headstrong…maybe I shouldn’t say that in past tense? : ) ], made sure I did my homework, and didn’t accept poor grades or excuses for wrong behavior.

They dragged me to Sunday school and made sure I had a healthy respect for the Master of the Universe and His laws.

I didn’t always appreciate it.

But for the grace of God, I could have been what Ron was. I could see it easily.

How could I be mad at him when, if I had had his life, I might have been in the exact same spot?

Anyway, Watson was angry, but we needed a driver.

Ron was very apologetic and begged for his job. He honestly didn’t have any material possessions, and although we could see clearly that he’d made bad choices, he promised he’d not do it again if we’d just give him another chance.

My husband decided to do that, but despite the thousands of dollars Ron had stolen, he’d spent it all somewhere and didn’t have a cent. (He told us he owed someone thousands of dollars and had to pay them back.) He’d gone home over the weekend and come back—no groceries or lunch—and was flat broke.

They were getting the truck ready to go when my husband told me this.

I said, “You’re sending him to Florida with no money? How’s he going to eat? It’s summer and hot. What about drinks?”

I honestly don’t think my husband had thought about that.

Can I stop here for a second and remind you all about the hard time I had with my covers over the winter? Someone had taken something from me, and I struggled to let it go. I struggled with someone who lied to me not long ago. I don’t want anyone thinking I’m not just as rotten as I am, because I have serious hang-ups.

I’ve wondered at times what made this different. At the time, I knew he’d stolen so much money from us that we weren’t going to be able to pay our bills for the month. We were just a small company, and this was going to be a huge blow. We had four kids to support, I was pregnant with our fifth child and I was already working my butt off doing several extra jobs (I’ll talk about later).

I didn’t know what Watson and I were going to do. How we were going to pay everything that needed to be paid. Or how we’d ever catch up.

I just wasn’t angry. I felt a lot of pity for him. He had a mom somewhere who was really disappointed in her kid. I’m sure that wasn’t the way he wanted his life to turn out, either. Maybe if he’d had the life I had, he would have turned out like me (not that I was anything to write home about, but I’ve never stolen money from anyone, anyway).

And I couldn’t shake the feeling that I could have been right where he was if my circumstances would have been different. Maybe he just needed someone to be nice to him. It might not turn him around (or free him from the bondage he was tied up in), but maybe it would plant a seed that someone else might water at some point.

So yeah.

I took some of our eggs and boiled them, making egg salad sandwiches, filled some mason jars up with water, I had apples (my uncle has an orchard, and when we picked apples for him, he always sent some apples home with us) and some garden vegetables around. We were too poor to afford junk food, but there were a few Pepsis, and I threw those into the bag, too.

Normally, I would give that all to the kids and have them run it over to Ron, but I remember clearly walking over and standing outside the door of his truck while he sat above me in the seat with the door open looking down at me.

I don’t know if he felt bad for what he’d done or not, but I do know I shocked him good and hard when I handed up the bag of drinks and the bag of food and said, “I hope I put in enough for you to last the week.” (Our truck had a refrigerator.)

He had tears in his eyes when he thanked me, over and over.

He was such a nice guy. He had just made some seriously bad decisions.

Anyway, I’m sure you all have figured out by now that he wasn’t even on the road two days when he sold another three hundred gallons of diesel fuel (the truck had dual one-hundred-fifty-gallon tanks).

We brought him home and parked the truck.

After four weeks of Ron stealing money from us—it ended up he took us for about ten grand—we weren’t going to be able to pay our bills for the month, and it really set our business back.

Thankfully, it was summer, and I had plenty of garden produce, so I didn’t have to worry about buying groceries. We had about twenty hens and plenty of eggs, plus meat in the freezer from our last steer. We weren’t going to starve, but it was a real financial blow.

We never filed a police report or anything. There was no point. We didn’t have much, but he had even less than we did. I believe people should be punished when they do wrong, but I also believe in grace.

Ron couldn’t get a driving job, he had no money for food, and he begged my husband to let him work around the shop.

We figured he might have sticky fingers, but we’d watch him, because, again, it could have been us making bad decisions, and I’d want someone to give me another chance. Of course, no good deed goes unpunished, right? LOL. I see this as a good thing now, but it created a terrible heartache.

The next week, my husband taught Ron how to run the buffer and put Ron to work buffing wheels.

Now, it’s kind of necessary for the story for you to understand how a buffer works.

It has a wheel, which is a flat, round piece of metal, maybe four inches in diameter, that rotates very fast and is quite powerful. It takes two hands and a stout back to hold it, but it really makes aluminum shine when you put a buffing pad on the wheel.

Now, I think I might have mentioned it was summer, so no school, and my boys were always at the garage. Buffing was pretty fascinating to them because none of them were strong enough to hold that buffer yet.

On this day, my second son stood on the bank behind Ron—a good ten feet away from him. Our kids learned how to do things because they were at the garage all the time, but they were also taught to stay out of the way.

Anyway, Ron was buffing a wheel. I’m not sure exactly what happened, but the buffer caught on something. It ripped the pad off the wheel, exposing the metal and yanking the buffer out of Ron’s hands, still spinning at a very high RPM.

The buffer hit the trailer, bounced off, and sliced down through Ron’s knee, laying the skin back to the bone in a rectangle four inches wide and six inches long.

The buffer hit the ground, where the force of the blade rotation ricocheted it back to my son.

Sometimes when you’re writing, it’s hard to describe time. Even the fastest reader is taking longer to read this than what it took to happen. A second. Maybe two.

My kid didn’t even have time to move, let alone duck.

And…I told you it was a cliffhanger. I’ll finish it next week.

Thanks so much for spending time with me today!

Hugs and love,

~Jessie ❤️

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