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That Farm in Africa

Linda Lou Burton posting from Little Rock, Arkansas – The second thing that has me longing to go Africa is due to a woman named Karen, who “had a farm in Africa.” It was Karen Blixen, pen name Isak Dinesen, who wrote “Out of Africa.” It was Meryl Streep’s lovely sing-song recitation of the first line of that book that stuck with me from the 1980’s, when she and Robert Redford made the movie of the same name.

It was not until I actually read the book however, that I began to get a real sense of the magic of east Africa. Sydney Pollack turned Karen’s “love story” into a relationship with a good-looking English hunk. Yes, there were magnificent scenes of Kenyan scenery, and episodes of bravery, and tenderness, and the awful tragedy of losing both her lover and her farm. But that’s not the full story of the Karen Blixen to be found as penned by her own hand; though she was born in Denmark, Africa was the home of her heart. Her book, written in 1937 a few years after she was forced to leave, begins like this:

I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills. The Equator runs across these highlands, a hundred miles to the North, and the farm lay at an altitude of over six thousand feet. In the day-time you felt that you had got high up, near to the sun, but the early mornings and evenings were limpid and restful, and the nights were cold…The geographical position, and the height of the land combined to create a landscape that had not its like in all the world. There was no fat on it, and no luxuriance anywhere; it was Africa distilled up through six thousand feet, like the strong and refined essence of a continent. The views were immensely wide. Everything you saw made for greatness and freedom, and unequalled nobility…Up in this high air you breathed easily, drawing in a vital assurance and lightness of heart. In the highlands you woke up in the morning and thought: Here I am, where I ought to be.

Dinesen, Isak. Out of Africa and Shadows on the Grass. New York: Vintage International, 1988, pp 3-4.

Why do I want to go to Africa? I want to see THAT place. I want to sit on Karen’s front porch, looking across that broad lawn where her people, the Kikuyu squatters and the Somali servants who helped to run the farm; who picked the coffee and cared for the house, but most of all, who were a central part of her daily life – gathered every day. Her connection with the people of Africa is the real story.

When Karen lost her farm and returned to Denmark in 1931, her property was sold as large parcels for homes; the suburb that emerged is now called “Karen.” The original farmhouse changed hands several times, for a time housing a college; it was turned into a museum after the movie came out. Many of Karen’s original furnishings have been restored, and tours are offered continuously every day between 9:30 – 6.

I’ll be there soon.

Karen Blixen Museum, Nairobi, Kenya



Patchwork Love: The Buzz

Good news, readers and planning-to-be readers — Patchwork Love is now being read in 47 states (that we know of) and in Japan and the UK! If you’ve already got your copy, and have already read it — please go to Amazon.com and post a glowing review. Yes, it’s okay to tell everyone how much you enjoyed it, and how intriguing the characters are. (Just don’t give away the surprise ending.) And after THAT, tell at least three people about the book, and where they can get it. Or order one sent directly to someone else. They’ll thank you.

If you’ve got your copy but haven’t read it yet, my goodness, what are you waiting for? It’s a mystery wrapped around a love story with plenty of “I can’t believe they really did that” thrown in. What it isn’t is one of those one-two slam-bam quickies that slide to an end even before you’ve finished your first nibblies. No, as one reader said, you need to “snuggle in and get absorbed.” Connect. Make friends with the wonderful characters who live in Wake Robin. Get to know Merit, and Lovely. And  those kids. Reading this book will enrich your life and boost you up for spring.

And if you haven’t got your copy YET, don’t let the buzz pass you by. Order Patchwork Love. Do it today.


Making the List

Getting High

It’s a thrill to “make the list,” and to be able to proudly proclaim across the top of your book cover “New York Times Best Seller.” It is wonderful when your book pops up as a “top seller” with Amazon’s powerful marketing clout.

Sales rankings can change on a dime – just like the ups and downs of the stock market, not entirely predictable, though the tried and true reliables always seem to do well. A check of today’s best sellers has some newbies at the top – Andy Weir and Celeste Ng have a second book on the lists, helped no doubt by the resounding success of their first book not so very long ago.

Andy Weir is a hero to all “first novelists” – The Martian (2011) was a hit as a book, and then a movie, with Matt Damon, no less. Congrats, Andy, good job! The list is well populated with the tried and true as well – Dan Brown, John Grisham, James Patterson, E L James, Nora Roberts. Seven men, six women, ages 60 to 25, writing about murder and mayhem, love and romance, and who knows what all. How does an author get to the top? And a better question – and stay there?

“Develop a following,” is good advice; create a series, perfect a style. That’s the way to sell books. And keep writing.

That’s the plan.

Top Authors on the New York Times Best Selling List and/or  Amazon’s Most Sold List December 29, 2017



  1. ORIGIN by Dan Brown. A symbology professor goes on a perilous quest with a beautiful museum director.
  2. THE ROOSTER BAR by John Grisham. Three students at a sleazy for-profit law school hope to expose the student-loan banker who runs it.
  3. THE SUN AND HER FLOWERS by Rupi Kaur.  A new collection of poetry from the author of “Milk and Honey.”
  4. THE PEOPLE VS. ALEX CROSS by James Patterson. Detective Cross takes on a case even though he has been suspended from the department and taken to federal court to stand trial on murder charges.
  5. MILK AND HONEY by Rupi Kaur. Poetic approaches to surviving adversity and loss.
  6. DARKER by E.L. James. Christian Grey’s tormented and difficult pursuit of Anastasia Steele is told from his perspective.
  7. THE MIDNIGHT LINE by Lee Child. Jack Reacher tracks down the owner of a pawned West Point class ring and stumbles upon a large criminal enterprise.
  8. ARTEMIS by Andy Weir. A small-time smuggler living in a lunar colony schemes to pay off an old debt by pulling off a challenging heist.
  9. YEAR ONE by Nora Roberts. When a pandemic strikes and the world spins into chaos, several travelers head west to find a new life.
  10. READY PLAYER ONE by Ernest Cline. It’s 2044, life on a resource-depleted Earth has grown increasingly grim, and the key to a vast fortune is hidden in a virtual-reality world.



  1. Origin by Dan Brown.
  2. Artemis by Andy Weir.
  3. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.
  4. The Rooster Bar by John Grisham.
  5. Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur.
  6. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng.
  7. The Midnight Line by Lee Child.
  8. Wonder by R J Palacio.
  9. Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate.
  10. Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan.



Lemon Ice Box Pie

Author Linda Lou Burton Recalls Christmas Past

What is your favorite Christmas Day Dessert? Something that fondly reminds you of other times, and other people? In Chapter 46 of Patchwork Love, Clayton begins reminiscing about the lemon pie his mother made at Christmas time. He recalled the “egg white goo” on the top, which he pushed to the side to get at the creamy lemon filling. Just what was in that lemon pie that Clayton enjoyed so much in his childhood?

His mother was born in 1934, we learn from her grave marker, and likely used recipes handed down from her mother and grandmother. The Lemon Ice Box Pie made by my own grandmother at Christmas time was a simple mix, with trusty Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk as a key ingredient. Here is my grandmother’s handwritten recipe, which I find verified in an old Borden ad:

  • 15 oz can Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • ½ cup lemon juice
  • 1 tsp grated lemon rind
  • 2 egg yolks

Combine ingredients. Stir until mixture thickens. Pour into 8-inch crumb crust. Top with 2-egg-white meringue. Bake at 325 15 minutes until lightly browned. Cool.

My grandmother called it Lemon Ice Box Pie. I never heard her refer to any type of “refrigeration” as anything other than “the ice box.” A little research shows that “ice boxes” served households well into the 1930s. Freon and Frigidaire gradually came into homes, as electric lines were strung from town to countryside.

My research further revealed that Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk goes back to the 1850s! It was introduced to fight food poisoning and other illnesses brought on by lack of refrigeration, and became a household name during the Civil War. Later it was credited with lowering the infant mortality rate – a milk that was safe and nourishing.

In 1931, Borden Kitchens sent out a call for recipes “in which Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk makes cooking quicker, easier, and surer.” They got 80,000 responses! Elsie the smiling Borden Cow was there to help cooks everywhere – she even starred at the New York World’s Fair in 1939.

So now I understand why I grew up on lemon ice box pie. Of course, that means my children, and grandchildren, and the characters I wrote about in Patchwork Love, get the same privilege.

Read more of the history of Eagle Brand at https://www.eaglebrand.com/history and check out new recipes at https://www.eaglebrand.com/recipes/pies. Keep in mind that the can today is 14 oz, not 15, as of old, and the Lemon Ice Box Pie they feature today has none of that pesky meringue Clayton pushed aside. But now there is also Lemon Cloud, Lemon Cream, Lemon Raspberry, Lemon Sponge, Strawberry Lemon, and if you don’t want lemon for your Christmas treat – Sweet Potato Pecan and Deep Dish Pumpkin. It’s so much more than pie, it’s memories!


The Cat’s Meow

A Post From Author Linda Lou Burton

Can you believe this waif was a terrorist? She looks all innocence, don’t you think? Don’t you want to cuddle her up, listen to her contented purr?

But this baby didn’t know how to cuddle, instead she struck out with teeth and claws. She growled at inanimate toys, biting them and slinging them away. She refused to wear her pretty pink collar with the jingly silver bell. She was a terrorist!

When I brought this abandoned kitten home, I expected her to snuggle against me like the other cats who have been a part of my life. Instead my arms and legs were in various stages of bleeding and scarring from scratches and bites. I was perplexed, and to be honest, disappointed.

And then I remembered Harry Harlow and the monkeys. Harlow, a developmental psychologist, deprived infant rhesus monkeys access to a mother in his experiments, and determined that when given a choice, the monkeys chose “touch” over food. Other researchers using rats found that when infants were licked and groomed by their mothers, they grew up fairly well adjusted, but those who were deprived became anxious and fearful.

When Katy was left alone under that bush she was fed – the people in the office nearby saw to that. But she was not touched; no mother to groom her, no siblings to toss and tumble with. No socialization of any kind.

As I tended my wounds and observed Katy’s reaction to the world around her, I began thinking about how abandonment and abuse affect PEOPLE too. Characters came into my mind – I’d awake in the morning and there would be Susie wounded and hurt, and Merit tenderly caring for her, a bonding. And all the others – Lovely, so lonely that she succumbed to attention from a stranger; the two motherless children who wound up on the cover of the book. How would they deal with their world? And Patchwork Love began to come together. I stopped my non-fiction work about capital cities and wrote my first novel.

Katy may have been an abandoned kitten, but she was destined for great things. She inspired a book!

The Dedication

Patchwork Love is dedicated to Katy, the blue-eyed part-Siamese all-white kitten I found under a bush. Her mother took her siblings and left her there when she was only four weeks old, observers told.

Katy struggled with the aftermath of abandonment, acted out in growling, biting, scratching, clinging, sucking her tail, eating holes in everything – I never had a cat behave that way before and frankly I resented the fact that she didn’t appreciate my good intentions as I thought she should.

Today Katy is a happy cat, still somewhat wary, but able to enjoy a nap with me on a sunny afternoon, snuggled together on the couch, listening to the birds outside. Sometimes she’ll stretch out long, reach her paw to touch my face, and purr. We may have had some knocks, she seems to say, but this is good.

Katy inspired me to write Patchwork Love. Our experience underscored what I’ve always believed – we can’t choose what happens in the world around us, but we can choose how we respond.

I could have chosen to leave her there. She could have chosen to continue biting the fire out of me.

Every moment is a choice.


Message From Another Trish

The nonfiction section of Patchwork Love begins (p 327) with A Message from Trish, the 10-year-old girl you first glimpse on the cover, as she explains her role in this story, and the empowering reality of choice.

Hi Reader, my name is Trish, the girl you’ve been reading about. I’m just a work of fiction, you know that. Not real, but yet I am. I’m bits and pieces of people that the author knew, or read about, or saw their story on the evening news. I’m a statistic, based on truth, fluffed up a bit with thoughts, pink shirts and pony tails, because the author hopes you will connect with the human side of my story, and Jonathan’s story. And Merit’s, and Lovely’s, and Carrie Ann’s. Every character in this book comes packaged with a set of experiences unique only to them, making choices from the frame they know. The same is true for each of you. Every next moment is a choice you make.

Patchwork Love tackles many issues overall – kidnapping, rape, adoption, illegal immigration, poverty, wealth – good grief, you’re thinking, too much! But the story is really about the aftermath. As Lovely points out – it’s not what happens, it’s what you do. How do we deal with abandonment, and loss, with abuse and sadness? Do we flail out with destructive behaviors, or mull over our misfortune in silence, letting it eat away from the inside out? Do we get our jollies in the victim role, feeding on a steady diet of pity pie? Or do we “get off the pot” and take positive steps to move forward, as Clayton finally did? Every moment is a choice.

How are readers responding to Trish’s message? Author Linda Lou Burton shares a letter she received from a reader December 14, 2017.

Thank you for writing Patchwork Love. I, too, have been one of your statistics, and over time made necessary adjustments to live with results of evil intent others had in regard to me and my wellbeing. I have always believed we become the person of our life experiences and how we respond to them. We don’t make “mistakes,” we make choices, and for every choice there are consequences. Your book brought this out loud and clear.

Good does overcome evil. This is something we would do well to remember each and every day we live.

In appreciation for your book.


Books and Peanut Butter

Did you know:

  • that it takes about 540 peanuts to make a 12-ounce jar of peanut butter?
  • that the favorite bread for a PBJ sandwich is white, and the favorite spread is strawberry jam? (Grape jelly second.)
  • that Bill Clinton and Elvis Presley favored sliced banana on their peanut butter sandwich?
  • that creamy peanut butter is more popular on the east coast, chunky on the west?
  • that peanuts are called “ground peas” because they grow underground?
  • that goober – a nickname for peanuts – comes from “nguba,” the Congo language name for peanut?
  • that two of our presidents – Thomas Jefferson and Jimmy Carter – were peanut farmers?

Which brings us to President James A Garfield (1831-1881). Mr Garfield was the 20th president of the United States, unfortunately serving only 200 days due to an assassin’s bullet. But he left behind a number of interesting quotations, such as “The chief duty of government is to keep the peace and stand out of the sunshine of the people.”

It is also claimed that he said “Man cannot live by bread alone, he must have peanut butter.” Did he really say that? Did he begin with the Biblical quote found in Matthew, and again in Luke, “Man shall not live by bread alone” and amend it a bit? Was he trying to create a humorous image?

There are those who say he couldn’t have said it – that peanut butter “hadn’t been invented” by the time he died in 1881. They point to US Patent 306,727 issued to Marcellus Gilmore Edson in 1884 for the manufacture of peanut butter. And then there were the Kellogg brothers, who patented the process of preparing peanut butter with steamed nuts in 1895.

Hold on, others say. The Incas developed a paste of ground peanuts way back in 950 BC! And the Aztecs were making peanut butter as early as the 15th century. These are claims one can “dig up” with a Google Goober search. George Washington Carver, who began teaching and researching at Tuskegee Institute in 1896, is considered by some to be the “father” of the peanut butter industry – he came up with more than 300 uses for peanuts.

But it doesn’t really matter who did what first, we’re just glad for peanut butter today — Jif, Peter Pan, Skippy, all the brands. And, being a publishing house, naturally we’re glad for BOOKS, thank goodness for the printed word, for the opportunity to exchange ideas with millions of people, how great is that? Nourishment for the mind, body and spirit, and so we say:

We cannot live by bread alone, we must have books and peanut butter!


The Captivating Dogs in Patchwork Love

Author Comments on Susie & Molasses & Family

“I would purchase this book based on the title and tag line alone – dogs and kids, you can’t go wrong.”

That comment by reader Brenda took me back to the early planning stages of writing Patchwork Love. No doubt in my mind about Susie – she was a “Lassie” dog, sidekick of Timmy, always there to ease the crisis, to find the problem and then to make sure it was resolved. I loved that dog through all the 50’s, and 60’s, and even into the 70’s, as my own “Timmy’s” were born and had pets.

But as I begin to write Patchwork Love, I realized I didn’t know much about the breed. So I researched “collie” and learned that the Lassie dog of memory was a “Rough Collie” – meaning it has a long coat, as opposed to the short-haired “Smooth Collie.” The character of Susie began to take shape – a Rough Collie by breed, sweet natured and loyal, polite with strangers and peaceful with other animals. Of course she would rescue two lost children. Of course she would companion a lonely man. The photo is exactly how I imagine Susie looks, walking alongside the creek, although with a patch over her left eye.

Of course Susie would be a good mother, but I won’t get ahead of the story. I will make you privy to the playfulness of collie pups, because, yes, there are pups and I needed to imagine them jumping around under their mother’s watchful eye. I found a You Tube Video at aldredeliecollies, published Sep 28, 2014, entitled Peggy’s Rough Collies Playing Tag. Those last two are Lucy and Archie in the flesh! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uUrtg8wVnZg

And then there was Molasses. I had a very clear picture in mind of Molasses, always by Buddy’s side, Lassie and Timmy by nature, but DIFFERENT. Big brown soulful eyes. Short hair. I searched dog pictures online for several days before finding JUST the dog. A Fox Red Lab. Perfect!

On The Labrador Site I read an article by Pippa Mattinson (Dec 14, 2016) describing the Fox Red Labrador Retriever as a friendly dog, with an exuberant personality and a sense of fun. They love human companionship, she writes, and stay close to their master at all times, until required to retrieve. Highly co-operative and intelligent, they are the most popular family pet in the world.

No wonder Marybeth was so delighted when Cinnamon joined her family. And when you get to the part of the story that takes place at the edge of the ravine, you will know exactly what Molasses is going to do. Here is one of Pippa’s photos, in case you’re not familiar with the Fox Red Lab. A dead ringer for Molasses in Patchwork Love, at least in his younger days.


Now who is going to ask Santa for a dog for Christmas?


Favorite Characters in Patchwork Love

The author asked readers to identify their favorite character in Patchwork Love. She received a mixed bag of answers!

I can’t choose a favorite character. They are all so well-developed. I do love the children: vulnerable but resilient and brave, innocent but wise, and so caring of other people and animals, too. So I guess Tag, Trish, Buddy, and Jonathan are my favorites. Next would be Merit and then Lovely.

I enjoyed the book, especially the characters. I loved the title and the picture on the cover, the children against the moon. I would purchase this book based on the title and tag line alone – dogs and kids, you can’t go wrong.

I keep raving to all in my household how good this book is. With all the wonderful characters you have created there is so much potential for so many more novels.

I most connected with Ginny. She was always trying to look after others in her own way. She was truly interested in people. She went out of her way to do something nice for her friends. Her personality reminded me a little of me.

I was particularly moved by the short life of Carrie Ann. Too many women, even today, are left in circumstances they aren’t prepared for. Then they make the wrong choices.

My favorite character was Dr Will. He reminded me of my father, always welcoming, and drawing people in. Making things. Merit and Auntie Love reminded me of myself – caring enough to help others but “hiding in plain sight” within themselves.

The book captured me from the beginning pages and kept my interest as all the characters were woven into the story line.

The character I most identified with was Marybeth. She was the one who took a matter of fact approach to the crisis and methodically went through her options and what her next steps should be.

While I did like Merit, I also would have to say Lovely was a favorite. She MADE THE CHOICE to overcome all the adversities of her youth and make a difference in other’s lives.

You created a town, slowly developing each of the characters. How awesome is that! Please write a novel on each one.


Readers Are Responding to Patchwork Love

Personal Notes Addressed to Author Linda Lou Burton

Your book profoundly portrays the importance of acting and speaking with kindness in our daily lives and, as you point out, it’s our choice. I’m reminded of Emily Dickinson’s little poem: A word is dead when it is said, some say. I say it just begins to live that day. Thanks for writing this book. I pray many, many people will read it and take it to heart.

Your book is a must read. I’m telling others to go sit by the fire wrapped in a throw and radiate from within while they read this empowering novel.

Well I finished your book last night! And I love what you did with the book, addressing these issues that are so prevalent today. I didn’t sneak to the back to see how the story ends like I’ve done a couple times in my life, so you really surprised me with what you did with the book.

This is possibly the best book I have ever read, reminiscent of To Kill A Mockingbird. Your skill in weaving together the pieces of the mystery, answering questions at just the right time, are impeccable.

This book would make a great screen play, I’d like to see it as a movie. I think it’s great for book clubs too, with all the questions at the back of the book for discussion.

The minute I finished reading this book, I went straight to the basket of unpaid bills I hadn’t touched in months, and opened them up. Then I went to my closet and pulled out all the rumpled clothes. I sorted through and pressed my shirts. I feel that I am in charge of my life again, ready to face the world.

Thanks for notifying me of your novel. Of course I bought it and read it right away. Very enjoyable. I had no idea that you were such a good writer. Was also good to know (from the Author’s Bio) that your state capital’s project continues. Please let me know when your next book is published.

Reading the book makes me hungry for good food – good eats in there for sure! Also it points out the goodness of southern folk.

My husband was recently diagnosed with Alzheimers. Reading this book helped me realize that though I am feeling “abandoned” right now, there are many that understand. I feel much less alone.

It is apparent a great deal of work went into this endeavor.

I’ve dealt with a young woman who was victim of rape at around sixteen and her family “swept it under the rug.” I’ll have to share that with you sometime.

I liked Patchwork Love for the way it carried me through the lives of the characters and how they deal with what life throws their way – from mystery and intrigue to heart-wrenching abandonment to undeniable love.

I finished Patchwork Love last night. This is a wonderful book! Thanks for writing it. The way you move the plot along by devoting each chapter to a character is very effective, and I love your sentence structures. Your very interesting style of writing– your word choices and sentence cadences–reminds me of poetry. In some places I think you ARE writing pure poetry!

I am half way through the book. It reads easily and I like the style. The subject is very timely and on the forefront of the media. It needs to be addressed.

Everyone’s life could just turn on a dime. Each choice we make moves us down a different path. Everything we do matters, this is so clear in the book.

Brilliant book on life itself. What a wonderful grasp you have on life and its conditions and perplexities.