Category Archives: Gayle Mills

A Very Austen Christmas

Book Launch Tomorrow!

A Very Austen Christmas - 3DIn early June, Laura and I broached the idea of an anthology to include all the authors of Jane Started It, along with our lovely friend, JAFF author Wendi Sotis. Susan Kaye, Pamela Aiden, and Gayle Mills originally intended to be a part of the project, but real life threw several hitches in their plans. Laura Hile, Barbara Cornthwaite, Wendi Sotis, and I kept the dream alive.

Tomorrow, that dream will be realized with the book launch of A Very Austen Christmas, hosted by Claudine Pepe at JustJane1813.  We are very much looking forward to reading Claudine’s review (our first one!), as well as chatting with our readers.

The kindle version is already available for pre-order (to be delivered tomorrow) on Amazon, and the print copy is live, though they are not yet linked together.

Does this sound tempting, lovely readers?

Four favorite authors, four heartwarming stories set in Jane Austen’s Regency world.

Robin Helm, Laura Hile, Wendi Sotis, and Barbara Cornthwaite revisit Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Mansfield Park to deliver the uplifting holiday storytelling you’re looking for.

Her Christmas Gift by Robin Helm
Elizabeth Bennet finds herself snowbound at Rosings with two rejected, but highly eligible, suitors. Does either man have a chance? Will her childhood friend, Meryton’s golden boy, win her affection, or will she accept the master of Pemberley? Perhaps she will refuse them both a second time. Her Christmas Gift deftly combines tension and emotion with humor and romance.

The Christmas Matchmaker by Laura Hile
It’s raining; it’s pouring – and what could be better than a little Christmas matchmaking? So says Emma Woodhouse who is unexpectedly stranded at Netherfield Park. Mr. Darcy disagrees, for she has someone else in mind for adorable Elizabeth Bennet. Amid meddling, misunderstanding, and an unwelcome proposal or two, will True Love find a way?

No Better Gift by Wendi Sotis
On his way to Derbyshire to spend Christmas with his family, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy plans to retrieve an item he left behind during his rushed escape from Netherfield—and the country miss who touched his heart. Finding Meryton practically deserted, he fears the worst. What fate could have fallen upon this once-thriving village in only three weeks? More importantly, was Miss Elizabeth Bennet in danger?

Mistletoe at Thornton Lacey by Barbara Cornthwaite
When Edmund Bertram realizes that Fanny is the perfect wife for him, he wants to propose without delay. What better time than at Christmas? Ah, but the course of true love never does run smooth …

A Very Austen Christmas - jpeg

The stories are arranged according to length. Mine is really a novella of 30K words, and Laura’s is 24K words. We have decided that we can’t write short stories (insert laugh). Wendi’s is 17K words and Barbara’s is 7K words. Curl up in your PJs with a mug of hot cocoa and enjoy the writing of four friends with quite different styles and story lines.

We hope that Sue, Pamela, and Gayle will be able to join us in our next anthology. (Yes, I just said next anthology!)


Death, where is your victory?

The Resurrection of Christ by Rembrandt (Matthew 28:2)

“He is risen.”
“He is risen indeed.”

This ancient greeting, passed from one follower of Jesus to another on Easter morning, says it all. Death is a defeated foe. God’s word is trustworthy. His promises are true. And as believers in Jesus, we have a future and a hope.

Here at Jane Started It, this Easter brings a personal reminder of victory over death.

Since July, it has been our privilege to pray for our own Gayle Mills, as she underwent treatment for colon cancer.

The prognosis was chilling, truly. And yet God was with Gayle every step of the way. Along with her family, friends, and coworkers, we prayed, and our Gayle bravely walked through the dark days of chemo and radiation.

Bit by bit, the cancer was beaten back. In March, Gayle felt well enough to return to teaching, retreating to her cot during prep periods. And at the beginning of this month,  Gayle makes this announcement:

I am officially in remission and cancer free. God has been so good to me. Thanks for every prayer you’ve offered on my behalf. Thanks for your encouragement and support.

Needless to say, we are rejoicing over what God has done for Gayle and her family.

Thank you, sincerely, for your prayers on her behalf. May your Easter be a blessed one.

Giving Thanks

thanksgivingIn 1621, the Pilgrims, Puritans, and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the American colonies. After that initial celebration, for more than two hundred years, thanksgiving days were celebrated separately by individual colonies and states. Thanksgiving was first celebrated on the same date by all states in 1863 by Abraham Lincoln’s presidential proclamation.

Lincoln’s aim appears to have been to reunify the Northern and Southern states in the wake of the Civil War. I feel that our country has been through another civil war of sorts in the past couple of decades.

Perhaps we need to reflect on all the ways in which we have been blessed.

I have been virtually absent for many weeks on this blog, Beyond Austen, and social media. My sister, Gayle, was diagnosed with cancer in early summer. She has had three months of treatments, sickness, and pain. Last week, she underwent a scan to see whether or not the treatment was working. Frankly, her doctors didn’t give her much hope. Had the scan revealed the cancer had spread, or had not been significantly reduced in her lymph system and colon, they were ready to advise her to discontinue treatment and enjoy the time she had left on this earth. She is strong. I am not. I was not in any way ready to face a world which my sister had left. Selfish, I know.

However, God is good, and He answers prayer. Thousands of prayers were offered on her behalf. Her students and fellow teachers supported her. Our church loved her through the process. Our family prayed continuously.


I’m in the middle. To the left is my sister Layne, a breast cancer survivor, and to the right is Gayle. I’m holding my younger granddaughter, and Gayle is cuddling the elder. This picture was made while my daughter was home from overseas a couple of weeks ago.

A few days ago, she received good news for a change. The results of the scan showed not the cancer had spread, but that it was all gone. All of it. None in her colon, lymph system, or liver. She is the first survivor of this type of cancer in stage 4. Only ten cases of it have been reported since the 1920’s. There was no treatment protocol, so her team of doctors established one.

Gayle will likely have another chemo treatment and radiation to be on the safe side, but she will bear it with grace, beauty, and dignity, just as she has borne everything else in her sixty-six years.

Gayle is a person who makes the world a better place by living in it. We are very blessed to have her with us for however many more years the Lord sees fit to leave her here.

We all have much for which to be thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Jane Started It.




Sisters’ Summer at the Sea

Last Sunday afternoon, my sisters and I left for our first (and what we hope will be annual) beach trip. We stayed in my former brother-in-law’s condo just across the street from the ocean, close enough to walk on the sand and wade through the estuaries in the warm breeze.


Layne, Gayle, and me

It was a trip of inaugural events. I hadn’t worn a swimsuit in at least twenty years, but Gayle brought two along with the intent to change that, and she did. We have both lost quite a bit of weight, thirty-three pounds for her and thirty-two for me, and she was ready for us to celebrate. Layne has never been heavy, but we love her anyway.

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Our view at dinner on Tuesday evening


We ate out, shopped, and went to a movie. We talked of childhood memories and updated each other on our children and grandchildren. We did what we wanted to do without worrying about whether or not husbands, children, or grandchildren were entertained.

As Mrs. Bennet would say, “A little sea bathing set me up forever.”

There’s nothing any of us love more than being with our families, but it’s nice to have no one to answer to occasionally. 20160801_112435 (2)

Who knew being in our sixties would be so much fun? It’s liberating to accept yourself for who you are and how you look. If others cannot love you without changing you into their image of what you should be, they aren’t very good friend material.

It reminds me of a poem  by T. S. Eliot.

“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

I grow old… I grow old…

I shall wear the bottom of my trousers rolled.

Do I dare to eat a peach?

Walk barefoot upon the beach?

Well, yes. I do.


Southern Fried Austen will return next week.

White Lace and Promises

Photo Credit: JD Hancock  (Creative Commons Flickr)

Photo Credit: JD Hancock (Creative Commons Flickr)

My first album as a teen, and I almost wore it out.

Remember this? My first “real” LP album (I was twelve), and I almost wore it out. In 1970, We’ve Only Just Begun was every 7th grade girl’s favorite song.

“White lace and promises
A kiss for luck and we’re on our way
We’ve only just begun…”

Robin’s daughter (who is also Gayle’s niece) is getting married today, and we’re celebrating. Even from a distance I’ve come to love Melanie and Dylan, and it’s exciting to see them begin a new life together. We have spent the week praying not only for Robin’s stamina, but also for the weather. Scattered thunderstorms are a problem for a lovely garden reception. From what I can see on’s hourly report, the rain should hold off just long enough.

We also love weddings because we’re authors. Hey, a wedding marks the ending of the Romance novel, right? Courtship drama is resolved, separate residences are done away with, and dependence on parents is over, well…or so the couple thinks. With a happy sigh and promises of Happily Ever After ringing in our ears, we devour the final page. (I probably should have ended my third Mercy’s Embrace book with the wedding. Ah well. Someday, another book?)

Melanie's beautiful dress

Just posted by Robin, Melanie’s beautiful wedding gown

“So much of life ahead
We’ll find a place where there’s room to grow
And yes, we’ve just begun…”

Where the Romance novel ends, Women’s Lit begins. That after-the-honeymoon stuff. The struggle between expectations and how real life plays out. Adjusting to jobs (long hours and stress) and a new residence (which might be less than ideal) and in-laws and family dynamics. Learning that oh-so-delicate dance of compromise and selflessness. In other words, the stuff of life and growth.

Melanie and Dylan Thompson

Melanie and Dylan Thompson. “So much of life ahead…”

Here’s an article about Dylan and what the future holds for the new Mr and Mrs Thompson. A new job and a new life in the San Francisco Bay area. Exciting times, exciting challenges. They’ve only just begun.

Article: For Dylan Thompson, wedding and honeymoon come first, then 49ers training camp

The wedding party, wow!  Ten bridesmaids and groomsmen. A smiling happy day for all.

The wedding party, wow! Ten bridesmaids and groomsmen, and those sweet junior bridesmaids and ring bearer. A smiling, happy day for all.

Having a Coke with you . . .

Laura's Coke

Here you see Laura’s Diet Coke. I consider it to be either the seed of a great idea or an epic fail.

I saw this Coke on a recent trip to Target, and I looked for the names of the other JSI ladies because I thought it would be wonderful to have Cokes with our names having fun over the summer. We live a continent apart, and Gayle and I have never met Laura, Sue, or Barbara. We met Pamela at the Decatur Book Festival a couple of years ago. Our Cokes could sit on the porch, chatting and exchanging ideas. They could go to the beach and bask in the sun. They could ride in my daughter’s Corvette, scarves blowing in the wind, carefree and howling with laughter.

But the only one I saw was Laura, so she sits in my kitchen, watching the frenetic activities of my household and waiting for her compadres.

Hold on, Laura. I haven’t given up yet. Somewhere out there are Cokes with Gayle, Robin, Sue, Pamela, and Barbara on them, and I will keep trying to find them.

Friends are like that. We don’t give up on each other. Amigas stick together.

My Hair Raising Life

Laura and Sue have been posting pictures of their hairstyles in their younger days, so I decided to join the party. It was too diffcult to choose just one ridiculous picture, so I decided to entertain you with my life history in hair.
baby I was born in 1954. By the time I was eighteen months old, mother was putting my hair in pincurls for church. That hurt!







The late ’60s and early ’70s were much kinder. Long, straight hair was “in,” and I had – you guessed it – long, straight hair. That’s my high school graduation picture.

For my wedding in 1976, I didn’t do anything special. I had cut my hair to lose a bad perm, and I just let it grow straight to my shoulders. I did have the “Farrah Fawcett wings” for bangs.
Marriage and college graduation called for a haircut. I was just too busy to mess with it.
Robin Mandy

By the time Mandy was born in 1981, I had adopted a pageboy for my twenties.


Curly hair was required for my thirties, so I went back to perms.








Happy days! Perms were out by the time I hit my forties. I gladly went back to straight hair.  For my fifties, I cut my hair very short. Those are my daughters. We were dressed up for a dinner cruise.



And just because I can, I’m posting Gayle’s college graduation picture. What a beauty! I never had the patience to do my hair in the Mary Tyler Moore Flip. My hair was so fine, it just fell out anyway.