Tuesday, December 31, 2013

For Auld Lang Syne



I'm wishing you health, happiness, and economic stability in the year ahead. For me, 2013 had some major good moments because two of my books were published. In 2014, Patriot's Heart is slated to be released in February. I'm a happy writer. :-)

In case you were busy this year and missed reading some of my blog posts, I thought you might be interested in seeing the ones that received the most hits. I thank all who stopped in for a look around. 
I appreciate the comments, too. 

1. With over 3,400 views My Thumb and the Synovial Cyst must have struck a chord with many readers. Or maybe a lot of people have the same problem. Check it out at the link:

2. Celebrating the Release of DADDY WANTED with a Contest received over 1800 views. I think that was due to the fact that it was a contest. It's nice to win something. However, that contest is over. If you want to enter another contest go here:

3. Sunday Scenes: KISS OF BLARNEY received more than 750 hits. You should read it if you haven't already done so.

4. I put up a fantastic guest post in July. Whatever Happened to Courtship? attracted a lot of attention.  If you missed it, you ought to read it now.

5. Mom's Secret Rice Pudding Recipe is great for those who love creamy rice pudding. Add this one to your recipe file.

6. My DIY Book Promo can help you get your marketing plan off the ground. 

7. Sunday Scenes: A RUSH OF LIGHT was another popular post. Must have been great for the lunchtime readers. :-) 

I hope you enjoy my most popular blog posts of 2013. Stop by in 2014. I'm sure I'll have something interesting to say. 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

My Favorite Dinner Rolls


These are my favorite dinner rolls! I found the recipe a long time ago in the Better Homes and Gardens magazine. My precious clipping is encased in a plastic sleeve, but I found the recipe online when I went looking for it.

Try these. They are delicious and not much work at all. Besides, there is nothing like a yeast bread baking in the oven. It makes the whole house smell wonderful. :-)

Dinner Rolls Italiano

3-1/2 to 4 cups all-purpose flour
2 packages active dry yeast
1-1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1 cup milk
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter or margarine, plus 2 tablespoons melted butter
1 teaspoon garlic salt
2 eggs
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Combine 1-1/2 cups flour with yeast and Italian seasoning. Heat milk, water, sugar, 2 tablespoons butter, and garlic salt just until warm (115 to 120 degrees F.); add to flour mixture. Add eggs. Beat at low speed of electric mixer 1/2 minute. Beat 3 minutes at high speed. Stir in 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese. Add in as much of the remaining flour as you can stir in. Turn out onto a floured surface. Knead in enough of the remaining flour to make a moderately stiff dough. Shape into ball. Place in greased bowl. Cover; let rise in warm place until double in volume (about 45 minutes). Punch down; let rest 10 minutes. Shape into 16 balls. Dip tops into 2 tablespoons melted butter, then in remaining grated Parmesan cheese. Place rolls in two greased 8- or 9-inch round baking pans. Cover; let rise until nearly double in size (about 15 minutes). Bake at 375 degrees F. for 20 to 25 minutes.--Carol M. Gilley, Cookeville, Tenn.

Makes 16 rolls.




Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Blessing

May the peace and joy of Christmas live in your heart all year long.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Sharing


This is a photo from Christmas 1953. That's me sitting on my mother's lap in the center of the photo. My brother is on the floor on the right. My paternal grandparents are on the left and I think the legs must belong to my uncle because I am sure my father took the picture.

I don't really remember the dollhouse or the baby carriage in the picture, but I'm sure I loved the doll my mother helped me unwrap. I enjoyed pretending to be just like Mommy.

Back in the fifties, gifts for children were always specific to gender. Fortunately for me, I happened to like "girl" toys. However, I was lucky because I had a brother close in age and I played with his toys, too. I got to run his trains, fill up his dump trucks with dirt, and shoot him with his own cap guns. :-)

Sharing is a good thing.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Christmas Magic

"Christmas Magic" was a winner in the 1992 holiday story contest sponsored by the Asbury Park Press. There are no cellphones in this story because at the time I wrote it few people owned cellphones. The story is actually based on an a real incident--but that happened during the summertime, not at Christmas. Still, if the little white-haired woman wasn't Mrs. Claus, she was certainly an angel in disguise. :^)

Beverly kneaded the satiny dough. With its pungent bits of candied citrus, this bread was destined to grace some elderly person's table for tomorrow's Christmas dinner.

Lucy, Beverly's 7-year-old, patted her own little mound of dough. "Why couldn't we go to a party like Daddy and Mark?"

"Daddy's office always has a party every Christmas Eve and Mark wanted to get together with his friends. They'll be home all day tomorrow." Beverly nestled each loaf tenderly inside the bread pans. "And I promised to make this bread."

A pout formed on Lucy's lips as she pummeled her dough. "I want to go someplace! This is boring!"
Beverly frowned as the phone rang. But Lucy scrambled off into the family room. She came back several minutes later smiling proudly.

"Mrs. Roper is sick. I told her it would be easy for us to carry a hundred loaves of bread with our minivan."

Beverly groaned. It would take 45 minutes to drive to the distribution center. One way. She glanced around. The tree, centered in the front window, twinkled merrily. All the presents had been wrapped and placed under the tree.

"Next time, ask me first." Beverly sighed.

Lucy's mood did not improve despite the heavenly aroma of 100 loaves of fresh baked bread in the car. She didn't even want to listen to her favorite tape of Christmas carols.

"Robert told everyone in the class yesterday that there is no Santa Claus."

A pang squeezed Beverly's heart as she drove. The nerve of that rotten Robert.

"Miss Jensen took Robert out of the room and talked to him. She was very angry."

"Did he apologize after that?"

"Oh sure. But then when we went outside on the playground he told us we were all a bunch of babies."

Beverly thought of the cookies and milk beside the fireplace. Did they have to lose the magic?

"What did you say to that?" Beverly's throat felt tight.

"I told him to stop." Lucy tilted up her chin. "I told him he should be ashamed of himself. He made Sara and Jessica cry. And anyway, he believes in Dracula."

But Beverly was afraid to ask Lucy if she still believed in Santa. So she didn't.

The car seemed to have a black cloud in it on the way home. Even the comforting smell of bread hadn't lingered on when all those loaves left. The country road had few streetlights, too. When the car's engine suddenly stopped, Beverly had a moment of panic before she saw a liquor store just ahead.

The minivan had just enough power to coast into the parking lot.

Beverly tried starting it again but it refused to kick over.

"Hey, lady. Sounds like you forgot to put gas in it." One of the liquor store's customers commented as Beverly got out of the car. Another fellow snickered in agreement.

"I have a half a tank of gas." Beverly informed them through her clenched teeth. She would let her husband know that male chauvinism was alive and well.

Beverly called home and left a message on the machine. She left a message on her husband's answering machine at work. She left another message on her neighbor's answering machine.
She decided to try starting up the car again. Maybe she had flooded it.

"I'm cold," Lucy whined.

"At least it isn't snowing--yet." Beverly glanced up at the black sky.

A battered Toyota pulled up beside them and a white-haired woman got out.

"Having trouble?" she inquired as she tapped on the glass.

Beverly rolled down her window. The woman had to be less than 5 feet tall.

"It just died in the middle of the road and it won't start up again. And I have plenty of gas in the tank."

"Try starting it up again." The woman ducked under the hood as Beverly ground on the starter again.

"Keep going!" The woman called out.

Maybe Beverly would ruin the starter or the battery or some other vital organ, but right now she wanted to get home. So she turned the key and held her breath.

The engine caught.

Beverly's thanks seemed so inadequate.

The white-haired woman wiped her hands on an old cloth hanky. "Carburetor. Better get it checked."

For a long time as Beverly and Lucy continued homeward, they both listened attentively to the sound of the engine.

Finally Lucy said, "That was Mrs. Santa Claus."

Beverly smiled. The magic was still there. "I think you're right."




Thursday, December 12, 2013

Christmas Past


This photo was taken many years ago when my daughters were young. They were acting out the Christmas story. Daughter #3 was Mary, Daughter #2 was a lamb, and Daughter #1 was one of the Wise Men. Our daughters used to put on a small play or puppet show every Christmas. Sometimes, when their cousins were visiting, the cast became larger.

Now that out daughters are all grown up, they no longer put together a play to entertain us, but since they did it every year when they were children I know the Christmas story is engraved on their hearts and that they will always remember that Christmas is not really about the presents we give to each other, but the gift that God gave to us.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

My Paternal Grandmother

Styles have changed and I am so grateful for that fact. The gigantic bow on my grandmother's head is really wild. Then there's the long gloves and the dropped waist with a gigantic flower arrangement attached.

I have no idea what the occasion is for this formal portrait. My grandmother was not Catholic. Dad says she was Protestant. Since her family was German, I have assumed she might have been Lutheran, but I don't know. I was told that when my grandfather married her, the ceremony was conducted in the vestibule of the Catholic church. They were not allowed at the altar.

She was a quiet woman. Her parents had a chicken farm in Pennington and when my father was young, he spent his summers there on the farm. I've never seen the farm--only photos of it.

My grandmother died at the age of sixty-three. I did not get to attend the funeral because I was babysitting my younger sisters and my cousins. My brother did not attend the funeral either. He was overseeing the construction work being done on our house as two more rooms were added.

I wish I knew more about her. I know she made dumplings, which my father loved. I know her cousin, Pearl, lived upstairs in the two-family house in Jersey City. But that's about it. I wish she hadn't been so quiet.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Advertising Is Important

Pictured in the photo above are my three daughters along with a table full of unique and beautiful handmade items. My mother, Daughter #2, and I decided to go into business one beautiful autumn day. We gathered all our wares and set up a table at the flea market in Keyport.

Yes, once upon a time, in the dark ages before the internet, I thought I could make extra money by selling crocheted ornaments I had made. It took me at least forty-five minutes to make each ornament and then I had to stiffen each one. However, crochet thread was inexpensive. Though I knew I would not be making a decent hourly wage I was sure I would sell enough of my ornaments to make up the price of the materials. I believed my low, low prices would have everyone snatching them up.

My mother was a terrific artist. She always hoped to get extra cash selling her paintings. She hit upon a popular idea of decorating old saws with lovely scenes. She went to garage sales, bought old saws for next to nothing and turned them into beautiful pieces of decorative art.

Daughter #2 sewed doll clothes for the popular American Girl dolls. For a youngster, she had talent.

We did not advertise. At all. :-( Still, we expected hordes of delighted customers to show up at our table and purchase our exquisite handiwork.

A few people walked by. I sold two ornaments. It was very disappointing. If we had rent to pay, we would have been bankrupt on day one. :-(

I gave up crocheting ornaments. Now I'm trying to sell books. LOL! In 2011 there were three million books published. That's a lot of competition, but now we have the internet and social media marketing. I am doing my best to get the word out about my books, but it isn't easy. It does take time, but if I don't toot my own horn, nobody will know I exist.

I found a great link, SMALL BUSINESS MARKETING. It offers plenty of sensible suggestions for marketing your wares. I know now how important advertising is!

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Send a Real Card

Last night, hubby and I worked for a few hours signing our Christmas cards, stuffing the cards in the envelopes, and putting on the stamps. Years ago, I made the process simpler by printing out address labels. I also put together The Marzec Times, our annual newsletter, which briefly covers the highlights of our year. We slip the newsletter inside the card.

Sending out Christmas cards is one of the traditions of the season I love. I haven’t seen Marie since college, but I send her a card every year--and she sends one back. Our neighbors moved away twenty-seven years ago, but we still keep in touch at Christmas time. It gives me a warm feeling to think about them and to know how they are doing. We probably won’t get together and visit each other, but it doesn’t matter. We remember each other and wish each other well and hope that next year another card will come.

To me, the emotional connection is the most important part of the tradition.

Fewer and fewer people send out cards these days. Yes, the price of stamps keeps going up, but spending 46 cents once a year on an old friend is a far cheaper than buying them a drink.

Posting “Merry Christmas” or "Happy Holidays" on Facebook is nice, but it will soon be forgotten in a cascade of hastily posted greetings. A card in the mailbox is a special surprise, one that can be held and remembered for a long, long time after its delivery. A card is a gift, real symbol of your presence to someone else.

Over the years, I have removed people from my card list. I usually give them a few years, and then I reluctantly cross them off. However, I will often email the pdf file of our Christmas newsletter to them. I figure it is something they can print if they like—or send it to their ereader. It is my attempt to reach out and keep in touch. I find it very sad that in our modern society with all our amazing communication devices, all I ever get from many people are a bunch of forwarded messages that contain nothing about their personal lives and many of those forwarded messages are filled with hate, which is even more distressing.

Please touch somebody in a special way this holiday season. Send them a real paper card in the mail. Give them a memory.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Sunday Scenes: THE BEAST OF BLACKBIRCH MANOR


The Beast of Blackbirch Manor has two covers, the one on the left is the original version designed for the digital edition and is still in use at Barnes & Noble's online site. The cover on the right is the one you will see at Amazon for both the print and digital editions. 

The story is my take on a classic Gothic as well as a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. The heroine, Victoria, was married by proxy to a cursed man, covered in fur and destined to become a wolf.  


The scene below is a dream sequence in which Victoria relives a horrifying moment in her life...

She heard the wail. It sounded more like the cry of a beast than a human. Searching though the long corridor in the basement beneath the manor, she shivered with only her thin nightgown to protect her from the chill. She loathed the basement where the dampness set mold to growing on the walls no matter how often the servants scrubbed it away and she feared the creatures that inhabited the darker corners. But she could not think about that now. Her bare feet made no sound as she hurried softly along the passage.

She cursed Paul’s stubbornness for refusing to have her mother put away. If he would only listen to reason! She wanted to be free--like other young women her age. She was seventeen! She wanted to go to parties and dances. She wanted to fall in love. But there could be no peace in Blackbirch Manor due to her mother. It was as if the old house had become a prison for them all.

Another animalistic howl sent ice tingling along her spine. An echo bounced off the solid stone walls. Stopping for a moment, she listened intently but heard nothing save the creaks and groans of the massive timbers as they bore up under the weight of the old dwelling. Her hands shook as she felt her way along the walls. She paused at the door to each storage room and barely breathed, waiting to hear the rasp of her mother’s labored gasps for air.

The darkness was complete. She could see nothing, but when she heard the singular creak of the heavy door that led from the basement to the kitchen stairs, she scrambled in that direction. The sound of her mother’s laugh, a wild cackle that seemed almost demonic, froze her heart. The hinge of the door that led outside squealed and she felt the draught of the wind rushing into the basement. Her heart quailed, for there could be no telling in which direction her mother would go once she escaped. If she ran all the way down the hill into Taylor’s Grove, everyone would learn the truth. That must not happen--no matter how much she resented caring for her mother. She did not want anyone to know of her mother’s madness.

Stumbling up the steps and out into the chilly night, she saw she had only a pale sliver of moon to guide her. She ran into the kitchen garden, but her mother was not there. From the corner of her eye, she caught a movement at the corner of the house. Taking a deep breath, she sprang in that direction for all she was worth.

More hysterical laughter echoed in the icy air as she rounded the corner in chase. An ache in her side slowed her, but she did not stop. Her mother must be headed for the gate! In despair, she wondered why no one else had come to help her. She tried to call for Paul and Ipsy and William--anyone--but though she formed the words with her lips, no sound came out.

Off to her right, she heard the crush of leaves in the underbrush and the snap of branches in the woods. Someone--or something--was nearby. Fearfully, she looked this way and that, but all she saw were the swinging their branches of the black birches in the nighttime breeze--shadowing the pallid moon to leave her in darkness so deep that the gloom became as dense as a thick velvet curtain. 
Again, she heard the sound and the smell of terror filled her nostrils.

Without any other warning, she was grabbed from behind. And then she heard the scream, the hideous screams that echoed on and on.

She woke and realized that the screams had come from her own lips. Her heart thundered as she stared up into the face of the Beast. He loomed over her, his powerful hands pressed against her shoulders, pinning her upon the mattress. 




Monday, November 25, 2013

Thanksgivings Past

That's me on Thanksgiving 2010 with the two turkeys I roasted in the oven for the usual crowd. The oven died afterwards. It roasted those two turkeys with its last gasp.

I have a twenty pound turkey in the refrigerator at the moment. I hope all goes well on Thanksgiving.

When I was growing up in Cliffwood Beach, my mother went all out for Thanksgiving. She missed her family out in western Pennsylvania on holidays. There was one Thanksgiving when Dad drove us all out in a snowstorm to see my grandparents in Canonsburg, PA. On our arrival, my grandfather told us we were crazy. :-)

Most of the time, Mom cooked the special feast just for six--my father, my sisters, my brother, me and herself. However, there was one memorable Thanksgiving when my brother invited four of his classmates from college to join us. They came from India. One of them was a Muslim, so turkey was fine with him. However, three of them were Hindus and vegetarian. They wound up eating a lot of biscuits.

My mother's preparations for Thanksgiving started off a day ahead when she made three kinds of pies. She made only one mince meat pie for my father, which no one else would eat because nobody else liked mince pie. She also made apple pies and pumpkin pies--all from scratch with her own pie dough. (Rolled pie crusts had not been invented yet.)

My brother, my sisters and I were all Mom's apprentices. Each of us had specific jobs to do. I usually got the job of making the cream sauce for the cauliflower. My brother usually chopped up celery and onions for the stuffing.

Our feast consisted of mashed rutabaga, cauliflower with cream sauce, and onions with cream sauce, too. Having grown up in a house with five brothers, Mom always cooked enough for an army. There was not just the stuffing that went into the turkey, but another pan of stuffing as well. We had corn, sweet potatoes, and mashed potatoes. And biscuits, of course.

It was a lot of work.

I've cut down on the work by cooking fewer vegetables. We will have sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, and broccoli with cheese sauce. If someone brings something else--and they usually do--we'll put that on the table, too. Daughter #3 is bringing pies because I asked her.:-) Someone else is bringing bread.

I bought a bottle of Pinot Grigio today. If someone brings another bottle of wine, so much the better.

What are you cooking for Thanksgiving this year?


Friday, November 22, 2013

Old World Solution for Thin Hair


Yes, that's me--the pathetic, little bald-headed toddler. I look like a refugee. My brother is in the background with his thick head of hair.

My mother had glorious hair. All her siblings had the same amazing hair--and her parents, my grandparents, did, too. Because my grandparents did things as they would have back in the "old country," when my mother worried about my thin, fine hair my grandparents told her to shave my head. They believed that would solve the problem. They insisted it would grow in full and lush afterward.

My head was shaved. My hair grew in--and it was okay, but it was never as thick as my mother's hair--or anyone else's hair on that side of the family. Evidently, I took after Dad's side of the family. Such is life. The genetic toss of the dice.

Fortunately, that was the last time my head was shaved. However, mom never gave up trying to make my hair look abundant and luxurious. She permed it when I was six (somewhere I have a photo of that, too). She tried setting it in pin curls, rags, or on rollers. If my hair wasn't permed, the set would not last long--even using various hair setting products.

Then hair spray was invented. It solved my limp hair problem!

Even better, I married a man with a thick head of hair. My daughters have lovely hair. They got lucky in that genetic toss of the dice.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

DADDY WANTED--$.99--LIMITED TIME ONLY!


Tomorrow at Ereader News Today, DADDY WANTED will be on sale for $.99! It's an amazing bargain. This cute, sweet romance has received some wonderful reviews.

There's a long review at Romance Junkies, a Five-Star Review at PRG, and there's at least ten reviews at Amazon. Hey, it's worth your time and it's certainly worth $.99. (It's $.99 at Amazon, too.)

If you own an ereader, you should definitely go to Ereader News Today's Facebook page and LIKE it.  There are incredible bargains everyday--and some free books, too. Discover new authors! 

Just remember, this is a limited time offer. So don't wait! 


Friday, November 08, 2013

A Story My Mother Told Me

My mother with her friends from art school. Mom is the second from the left in the photo.
Tomorrow would have been my mother's 92nd birthday. She was the best mom ever--and everyone in the family still misses her. She was quite a storyteller--just like the rest of her siblings. They didn't make up stories so much as they embellished them.

There were some stories about her young life my mother repeated over and over--many of them because they contained object lessons for me and my sisters. Eventually, my sisters and I called them "The Little Irene Stories." At one point, I made up a website and posted some of those tales, but I later took it down at Mom's request--though I printed out all the stories. :-)

So, in honor of my beautiful mother, I will share one of those stories, told just as Mom told it to me.

My First Job

In high school, I followed my sister, who probably was the smartest kid in school which meant that I was supposed to be a genius, too.

However, my brain was better at other things. Still, people expected too much from me. I was shocked when a teacher suggested that I run for class president.

I liked high school, particularly getting to act in plays. That was fun! But I was upset when they wouldn't let me play on the basketball team. Being chosen as the artist for the newspaper and as a teacher's aide helped ease the hurt, as did playing the violin in the orchestra.

The school was in a neighboring town and I had to walk three or four miles each way in all kinds of weather. My father didn't have a horse or buggy then or even a tractor.

The day after I graduated, I went to the coal mine company's general store in town, seeking a job. For the interview, I wore a little light blue plaid dress. Since I couldn't find a belt, I had to make-do with a piece of store string. I wore shoes without stockings.

The manager, who knew me and the rest of my family, hired me on the spot. I worked very hard in the store and was constantly busy. I knew everyone in town and their comings and goings.

My mother always wanted to know the latest gossip. In a little town, everyone knew instantly if someone stepped out of line. No secrets there.

Men swooned over me, probably because of my red hair, but there were bigger fish in the pond. I had places to go and things to see and do.

When I thought I had enough money, I  enrolled in art school in Pittsburgh. My sister Grace had gotten a job as a copy writer in the city, so we rented a room with kitchen privileges. We soon discovered that carfare and food plus rent was too much to handle on just one salary.

I found a job as an usher in a movie theater, even though I was underage. All went well until the day the manager told me I had lost a customer's umbrella in the hat check and had to pay for it. He said it cost $5, a huge amount at that time. I denied losing the umbrella and refused to pay for it.

He started to chase me around the room like a crazy man. His face seemed like it was on fire. I managed to get to the door and ran out of the theater.

My next job was babysitting two little boys in exchange for room and board. Unfortunately, the lady of the house thought her husband liked me too much. Somehow he learned that it was my birthday and presented me with beautiful black lacy sexy lingerie, which I refused.

I was surprised, but his wife was much more surprised. When she came  home, she wanted to know why I had not bathed one of the sons. I told her the boy was coughing and didn't feel well so I kept him warm and put him to bed.

She kept complaining, so I finally told her, "I'm leaving in the morning."

I didn't have any money for carfare home, but as I was leaving, the well-to-do husband gave me FIFTY CENTS for carfare. When I got to the art school, the other students heard of my plight and managed to collect enogh change so I could take the train home.

After that experience, I decided to live at home, commuting the 20 or so miles to Pittsburgh by bus, train, and shoe leather.

Happy Birthday in heaven, Mom.
 

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Where Did That Idea Come From?

When hubby's parents first retired they left Brooklyn and moved to a home in Greenville, NY--upstate as New Yorkers say. Compared to Brooklyn, it was rather quiet. However, there were things to do. Next to them was a small resort complete with a small lake where we would go boating. Not far away, was the Catskill Game Farm where our daughters enjoyed feeding and petting the animals. (The Catskill Game Farm closed in 2006.)

Most interesting to me was the town of East Durham, an Irish enclave. In the evenings, hubby and I would drive to East Durham and enjoy the entertainment at the Shamrock House. During the daytime, we browsed through the small Irish shops where I found books on Irish legends.

That's where the idea came to me for PRINCE OF THE MIST, which is set in the Catskills of upstate NY. In Ireland, the Sidhe are the human-sized fairies of legend, but there are other countries in the world with similar legends. Why couldn't human-sized fairies live in upstate NY?

The misty Catskill mountains made the perfect setting for my story and Wildon became THE PRINCE OF THE MIST.  I had a great time writing this story. It makes me long to go back to the Catskills! :-)



Sunday, November 03, 2013

Sunday Scenes: PRINCE OF THE MIST


PRINCE OF THE MIST  is the story of Tia. Escaping a carjacker,  she tumbles into the Sifrahome of the fairies--and wakes to find herself wedded to a Sidhe prince. While insisting their marriage is not valid, she cannot deny the passion she finds in his arms. 

Wildon, son of the Sidhe king, must stop Tia’s mother, a state senator, from voting for a nuclear plant that would be built above the Sifra. In marrying the senator’s daughter, he can get close enough to prevent the senator from voting. However, falling in love with Tia is not part of the plan.

In the following scene, Wildon brings Tia home and meets Tia's mother, Angela Glenmore...


“You are, to use another human expression, light as a feather, dear wife.” He leaned closer to her lips. He watched her lashes flutter down against her cheeks. His senses, drunk with desire could hear nothing but the pounding of his heart.

Then someone grabbed his arm.

“Didn’t you hear me! Put my daughter down, you big oaf!”

Wildon turned to see Angela Glenmore. He had seen many glamorous photographs of her with a bright smile, but she was not smiling now. She reminded him of a volcano ready to blow its top.

“How do you do, Mother Glenmore.” He smiled as wide as he could but his misgivings concerning the imperious senator increased as he saw the orchid on her lapel vibrating.

“Don’t you dare call me Mother! Put my daughter down this instant or I will call the police!”

She shouted in such a stentorian voice that Wildon winced. He gently placed Tia on her feet, but she swayed a bit so he held onto her.

“It’s okay, Mom. He saved me from a carjacker.”

“A carjacker! When? Why didn’t you call me? I spent all night worrying about you. You didn’t call last night and I knew something was wrong.”

Angela Glenmore tried to snatch her daughter away from Wildon’s supportive embrace, but he refused to let Tia go, especially since her legs continued to wobble.

“I couldn’t call because my cell phone was in the car.”

Wildon felt Tia take in a deep breath before she went on.

“And I--I passed out. Wildon revived me and brought me back here.”

When Tia glanced up into his eyes, Wildon felt the delicate thread of desire binding them ever closer together.

He also caught the way Angela Glenmore narrowed her eyes and glared at him, measuring him from head to toe.

“Well, I suppose we owe him our thanks.”

Wildon noticed the way she pursed her lips. He knew of a charm that would make her lips stay in that pose forever, but he restrained himself from casting the spell on her. He had--as humans liked to say--more important fish to fry. However, the thought occurred to him that if she did not look so appealing in photographs maybe some people would not vote for her.

“It has been my pleasure to care for your daughter. I’ve never met such an attractive woman. That’s why I married Tia. I’m sure you’ll want to be the first to wish us much happiness.”

At that point, it sounded like Angela Glenmore was choking.


Friday, November 01, 2013

Forever Love



Our elderly friends are suffering. Failing health and faulty memories are draining all their joy, but drawn into the concrete sidewalk some fifty-five years ago, a symbol of their forever love remains.

It makes me sad. :-( 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

My Lucky Day

There's me looking hopeful. All set to autograph books. All set to go home with--at the very least--money to put gas in the car.

Did I sell any books? Nope. Not one. Zero. Nada. Zaden.

Am I going to quit writing? No. I've gone through this scenario many times, though when I was younger, disappointment hit me harder. I needed extra money when the kids were younger, but writing didn't provide it. So I got a job. Still, I could not quit writing. I had stories to tell. In the quiet of the evening, when the house settled down, I wrote.

Some people live to play golf, some live to sing, some live to shop. I live to write.

And though I did not sell any books at the book fair, my books do sell online.

As far as the gas for the car, I had money in my wallet to buy it on the way home. (I always remember to be prepared.) There was a gas station on Route 1 selling regular for $3.05 a gallon. What a bargain! Plus the proprietor actually cleaned the front AND back windows for me.

It was my lucky day. :-)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Huge Book Fair!

Do you like autographed romance books? Do you like meeting famous authors?

On Saturday, October 19, 2013, at the Renaissance Woodbridge Hotel, 515 U.S. Route 1 Iselin, NJ, the New Jersey Romance Writers will be hosting a Literacy Book Fair and Author Signing at the conclusion of their Put Your Heart in a Book Conference. The book fair is open to the public from 4:00-5:30 pm.

A portion of all proceeds from the Book Fair will be donated to Literacy Volunteers of America, New Jersey.

I will be there with my glass of wine, my books, and a pen. Come and chat with me for a while. :-)

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Sunday Scenes: THE KEEPER'S PROMISE


THE KEEPER'S PROMISE was an EPPIE Finalist in 2009. The story is set in Shucker’s Point, New Jersey, where Jack St. Marie, a well-known research scientist, is missing. Trooper Bryce Johnson believes the worst of Jack’s wife, Evie. In high school, Bryce loved Evie--enough to want to marry her. But that was before he witnessed her phone in a bogus bomb scare. And only two months before Jack disappeared, Bryce saw Evie aiming a gun at her husband.

In the following scene Bryce sees Tommy walking alongside the road. Bryce had arranged for Tommy to work out his community service at the lighthouse where Evie is the park ranger.


With an effort, he went back to his patrol car and headed off to the festival grounds where he would be redirecting traffic. On his way, he saw Tommy walking alongside the road. The kid looked neat for a change and Bryce wondered why. He stopped the car and opened the window.

"I heard you were walking along 553 last night with a lawnmower that looked a lot like the one at the lighthouse."

"It needed new wheels."

Bryce lowered his brows. "Where can you get lawnmower wheels on 553?"

The kid glared back at Bryce without flinching. "From a friend."

"You stole them." He kept his voice firm, but low.

Tommy swore. "I ain't a crook!"

Bryce tightened his mouth into a threat. Obviously, there was something shady going on. "So you 'found' the right-sized wheels?"

"Yeah."

"Why didn't you just ask Mrs. St. Marie for new wheels?"

"She ain't got extra cash."

At that moment, staring into the face of the wiry young man, Bryce sensed the kid's inherent loyalty. Tommy liked Evie and trusted her. Most likely, he would not rob her, or hurt her--and Bryce felt himself relax--though only marginally, for Tommy could never be considered entirely trustworthy. He did break another kid's nose. However, Bryce had a hunch that Tommy wouldn't hurt Evie--though he might enjoy taking at swing at Bryce, given the opportunity. He could feel the animosity directed toward him in Tommy's scowl.

"Why didn't you show up yesterday at the lighthouse?"

"I did, but there was an ambulance and a lot of confusion. I knew what I was supposed to do--mow some more grass in that area behind the shed--but one of the wheels kept falling off the lawnmower. It drove me crazy."

"If you got there when the ambulance was there, you were very late."

Tommy nodded as his shoulders drooped. "Yeah."

"You are supposed to be on time."

"Pastor Strauss asked me to help with the church's festival booth."

"You were only there for an hour."

Tommy's eyes narrowed. "You got somebody spying on me? I had to walk from there to the lighthouse."

"You could have taken a shuttle bus."

Tommy's face clouded. "The people on the bus would have looked at me like I was some kind of lowlife."

Bryce set his mouth in annoyance. The kid would always have an excuse. "Where's the lawnmower now?"

Tommy kicked at a stone near his foot and sent it skidding along the road. "I-I cut the grass for my mom this morning, and I replaced the gas I used."

"Oh?"

"I siphoned it out of my stepdad's car. Mom said I could."

Bryce knew the stepdad had lost his license. "If you walk the lawnmower back to the lighthouse, you'll probably be late again."

"Yeah."

Bryce looked at his watch. "I can pick you and the lawnmower up and take you both to the lighthouse today."

"I dunno."

"You'd rather walk?"

"You put Mrs. St. Marie in jail."

It was an accusation and Bryce felt the sharp edge of Tommy's words like a deep cut to the flesh as he remembered Evie's words from only a few minutes ago.

You paint everyone with a broad brush. I was reckless and wild for a while when I was seventeen and that's the way you'll always see me. Tommy hasn't got a chance. Has he?

Bryce felt himself bristle. He had to be tough. On the other hand, he reminded himself that he should not be stereotyping people. He needed to be fair. Carefully weighing his words, he told Tommy, "I want you to make something of your life and you need to start by showing the judge how responsible you are. Things will go easier for you that way."

Tommy's laugh had a harsh note of cynicism in it. "It ain't never been easy for me."

Bryce's grip on the wheel tightened. "I have been willing to help you out. I've already stuck my neck out for you by getting you the job at the lighthouse in the first place."

Tommy kicked at another rock. "Yeah. So I owe you."

Bryce took that as thanks of a sort. He relaxed a little. "You look good today. Clean and neat."

"I was gonna meet someone."

"Is that someone a girl?"

"Ah...yeah." Tommy colored with obvious embarrassment.

"Dana Neville?"

"No way!"

"You used to date her."

"Yeah. When I was too dumb to know better."

"When did you break up with her?"

"When Greg Howland told her she ought to stop hanging around with me."

"Shellpicker's son?"

"Yeah. So I busted his nose, but I got the last laugh anyway."

"How's that?"

"She started dating Jack St. Marie."

"I guess she likes older men."

"Or at least their money."

Bryce nodded. The kid had learned a lot in his seventeen years. Most of it the hard way, no doubt.

Tommy pointed at the white building down the block. "Do you...ah...do you know when everyone gets out of that church?"

"It varies--depending on how long Pastor Strauss talks. You still have time to join them."

Tommy shook his head. "I wouldn't know what to do."

"You could start by just listening," Bryce suggested.

Tommy pulled a small Bible out of his pocket. "I thought I'd start by reading this."

A shadow fell across Bryce's heart. The sight of the Bible seemed to convict him. He hadn't been acting much like a Christian lately. True, he hardly felt like one anymore, but he knew his attitude this past week had been unyielding toward Tommy while others had seen the potential in the kid--most notably Pastor Strauss.

"Mrs. St. Marie told me she read one like this in a month."

Bryce sighed. That was just like Evie. Impulsive. When she embraced something she did it in a rush. "I think it's better to take each small part of it and think about it--go through it slowly." When was the last time I picked up the Bible? Six months ago? When did I stop feeding my soul?

Tommy fingered the gold letters on the cover of the small volume. "Maybe I'll sit down in the park over there and start reading. I could still see when the doors to the church open up and everyone comes out."

"There's doughnuts and coffee in the basement afterwards."

"For free?"

"Yep."

"Why do they give away so much free stuff?"

"Maybe you'll find the answer in that little book."

Tommy frowned at the Bible as if he couldn't quite believe what Bryce had told him.

"I'll stop at your house to pick you up at two," Bryce said.

"Yeah." Tommy walked away heading toward the town's small park.

Bryce slid the window back up and turned on the air full blast. He only had a few more minutes to enjoy it before he would be standing outside in the heat directing traffic. He would use his lunchtime to get Tommy to the lighthouse.

I know I am not seeing the goodness in people anymore. Tommy's had a hard life. I should cut him some slack. Evie, too. Why can't I ever get it right when I talk to her?

Bryce wanted an end to the misery. He wanted to wake up with a heart that didn't feel as if it had lead weights attached to it. Being married to Jack St. Marie must have been a nightmare for Evie. The thought of the man brutalizing her had Bryce squeezing the wheel in his hands in a crushing grip.

If she didn't kill her husband who did? And who had tried to kill her?

You can read more of THE KEEPER'S PROMISE at Amazon.




Friday, October 11, 2013

Once Upon a Time in Tin Pan Alley


Hubby first learned how to play ragtime a long time ago--way before I met him. He searched out collections of Scott Joplin's music in the New York Library, but discovered some songs were not included in the collections because the music publisher, Jerry Vogel, held the copyrights.

In his searching for more ragtime music, hubby discovered another publisher printing the songs only Jerry Vogel was entitled to publish.

Hubby took it upon himself to report this to Jerry Vogel who had a store in NYC.

Mr. Vogel appreciated hubby's report and informed hubby that he would sue the other publisher and give hubby 10% of the proceeds. Hubby declined the offer. So instead, Mr. Vogel said he would give him the money as a wedding gift when he got married. As I said, hubby didn't even know me at that point.

However, when hubby and I were married many years later, we received a check from Mr. Vogel and for years afterward, until Mr. Vogel passed away, we received a gift box of paper products at Christmas. (We figured Mr. Vogel had stock in that company.)

The moral of the story--report pirates, not because you'll get a reward but because it's the right thing to do. Also, don't be a pirate. Pay for the music and books you enjoy. Somebody worked hard to produce it.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Sit Around the Fire

In our family, whenever we sit around a fire we sing old songs. The old songs are the best songs! This past weekend we were happy to have a our friends and relatives join us around the firepit. There is something about sitting around a fire in the dark that makes for special times. I think it is because everyone has to provide their own entertainment. :-)

I strummed the guitar and played a few songs, but one of our friends clamored for hubby to play "Charlie on the MTA." Hubby obliged. Those who knew it sang the words.

Our nephew's new bride was amazed. She had never heard the song. She hails from Pittsburgh but now lives in Boston. She wondered why the transit card there is called a "Charlie Card." Now she knows. Our nephew knew because he had heard the song at some of our other campfires.

We had a lot of laughs. My sister told a funny story. She had a problem with ants and decided to try an all-natural and safe deterrent for the ants--cornmeal. She made a barrier of it around the house. The next day she found the local turkey population enjoying her cornmeal!

I'm thinking that would be a good anecdote in a book somewhere.

For those of you with a bad case of writer's block, invite some friends to a campfire and see what develops. You are bound to get a few story ideas--and certainly some laughs. :-)

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Scene from A RUSH OF LIGHT


A RUSH OF LIGHT is the story of Callie Turner. When she was sixteen her father was murdered but the crime was never solved. Callie became a cop with a mistrust of lawyers. Due to an accident, she is on a disability leave from her job, and trying to start a new career at her father's old inn. Nick Messina saved Callie's life the day her father was murdered. A devout Christian, but a burned out lawyer, Nick has plenty of reasons not to trust cops. Filling in at his uncle's service station, he is surprised to discover Callie opening up the old inn across the street.

In the scene below, Callie and Nick meet in the old inn...



Her customer regarded her with a measure of surprise that
made her feel as though he could look right through her.
Putting one hand up to touch the buttons of her white shirt,
she reassured herself that none had come undone. Her gaze
wandered to his lips and lingered there. Few men had a
mouth so generous.

What am I thinking? The room grew warm. To her, it felt
as if she stood in the middle of a street during a July heat
wave directing traffic. She grabbed an icy bottle of water and
went in search of the broom. Everything about him puzzled
her. Why did she have a nagging sense that she had met him
before this?

She had been back in town for two months. Very little had
changed in the area in the eight years she had been gone.
Her customer may have grown up here just as she had,
though she judged him to be slightly older. It could be
possible that he had known her sister.

She cooled down, located the broom and the dustpan, and
heard the front door open again. Another customer joined Mr.
Dirty Fingernails. The two obviously knew each other and
moved to a booth in the corner. Leaning the broom up
against the bar, Callie stepped on plenty of peanuts as she
made her way to the table.

Her newest customer wore a vested suit. Judging from his
leather attaché, she guessed that he was probably either a
lawyer or a securities broker, but since he was talking to Mr.
Dirty Fingernails, the lawyer idea seemed more plausible.

"Can I get you something?" she asked.

"Dewars on the rocks." He hurled the order at her with
words clipped, cold and exact.

When she announced the price, he slid a credit card onto
the table. He didn't even give her a glance—as if she were
less than human. A spark of anger ignited deep down inside
her.

Definitely a lawyer. She hated them all.

"Cash only," she said, unable to eliminate the contempt
from her voice.

The man turned, narrowed his eyes and gave her a sharp
look. "I don't carry cash."

Mr. Dirty Fingernails hurriedly reached for his wallet again.
"I'll get it." He handed her the money.

Deliberately stomping the peanuts under her feet, Callie
went back behind the bar, finding it nearly impossible to stifle
her hostility. She should have taken the lawyer's credit card
and shredded it into slivers.

She chose a glass, scooped up the ice, poured the Scotch,
snatched up a cocktail napkin, and started back at the table.

She discovered that crushed peanuts are far more slippery
than whole peanuts. As she rounded the end of the bar, her
feet slid out from under her. The drink went flying and
crashed against the gleaming brass bar rail. She snatched at
the broom, hoping to break her fall. The long handle landed
on a chair and prevented her from breaking the same arm
she had mangled last year. Her bottom landed with a
resounding thud on the floor, miraculously missing the busted
glass by inches.

Mortified, she winced as the heat blazed in her cheeks.
This whole entrepreneurial experiment could turn out to be a
disaster if she made pratfalls the regularly scheduled
entertainment.

The two men rushed over to her.

"I know a great workers' comp lawyer..."

"Cut it out, John." Mr. Dirty Fingernails reached out to her
with one of his contaminated paws. "Can you get up?"

She glanced up into his face and found concern gentling
his rugged jaw. The crazy flutter tingled around her heart
again. She held out her hand, completely ignoring his
unwashed state, and that's when he gave her a genuine
smile—one that deepened a dimple in his cheek. Once again,
an odd sense of déjà vu came over her.

She had seen him before. Yet, for some reason, she could
not recall where or when, which for her seemed very strange.

The calluses on his warm hand rubbed against her skin.
That summertime heat wave-on-the-asphalt feeling came
over her once more and she could barely breathe as the man
who remained an enigma in her memory helped her to her
feet.

"Nick, I've told you a million times. Don't be so ready to
lend a hand. One of these days, you're going to get sued,"
the vested lawyer grumbled.

"Have you forgotten the good Samaritan?" Nick—or Mr.
Dirty Fingernails—asked the lawyer.

Callie could have sworn something magnetic kept her hand
in his. She had to force herself to draw away from him, to
edge away from his potent attraction, one millimeter at a
time. Once she broke away, she leaned against the bar with
her mind racing, searching for some scrap of recollection. The
lawyer had called him Nick, and though that did not help her
memory, she could easily envision meeting him in some dark
alley in the city where she used to work. She wondered which
crime he had committed. She wondered if he recognized her.

"A good Samaritan would be taking a deposition," the
lawyer insisted.

"Please tell me that someday you are going to turn into a
human." Nick sighed.

The lawyer aimed a look at Nick that could slice flesh.

Unfazed, Nick threw a glare right back at John. "The courts
cannot solve everything, as you well know."

Callie tried to surreptitiously dust off her derriere. Men like
Nick and his friend could smile at you as they pointed a gun
at your heart. She did not trust either of them.

The animosity between the two men charged the room
with tension and Callie's anxiety increased. She had thought
she could leave all the dark alleys behind her, but here in her
father's old inn she sensed danger.

"Are you feeling okay now?" Nick laid his hand on her good
arm and the impression of menace diminished while soothing
warmth shimmered up from his touch. If someone had
zapped her with a Taser, she would not have been more
surprised.

"I landed where there's plenty of padding. No problem."
She wanted to sound flippant and tough—like the hard-bitten
cop she had been. However, her voice came out a little
wavery—which was his fault, not hers.

"What padding? You could use some of my Aunt Bella's
pasta." He gave her hand a tender squeeze before letting it
go. Callie found ice quickly creeping back into her soul.

The lawyer glanced at his ostentatious watch and ground
out a nasty word. "Speaking of pasta, I've got to run. There's
a political dinner tonight." He shook his finger at Nick.
"Remember what I said. Forget your uncle's advice. What
does he know? He's an old man! You've got far more
education than he does."

Nick's features hardened into granite. "Tell Alice and the
kids I said hello."

"Mind if I drink your wine?"

Nick's eyes narrowed. "Go ahead. I didn't touch it."

The lawyer guzzled down the wine in one long swallow
before he rushed out the door, letting in a blast of wind and
rain from the storm. Callie shivered and moved further away
from her lone customer.

"You'll have to excuse him. I think the job has gone to his
head." His mouth turned down in disgust.

Without thinking, Callie muttered, "I hate lawyers."

His expression darkened. "They're part of the food chain."

She made the mistake of getting lost in his startling eyes
again, but she caught herself after a moment. She decided he
could pass a lie detector test hands down.

"Now cops—those are the guys you have to watch out for,"
he mused as disdain hardened the classic line of his lips.
"They're the carnivores."

That remark cinched it for her and she gave him a
penetrating stare. Of course he didn't trust cops. He probably
had more than his share of run-ins with them. She could have
been his arresting officer—though she felt certain she would
have remembered that and so would he. She wondered how
much time he had already served.

You can read more about Callie and Nick at Amazon!

Friday, October 04, 2013

Composting

I am making dirt. I am being environmentally conscious and putting my cucumber peels, potato peels, and apple peels into a composting bin. I toss in coffee grounds and all those annoying brown leaves that fall from the trees onto my patio. The leaves are brown and very dry, so I add water.

I found a worm one day and I placed him in the bin, too. Had some deer poop on the lawn so I added that as well. Every now and then I stir up my compost. It takes a while for all that stuff to disintegrate into dirt, but I'm hopeful that by spring I'll have humus rich in nutrients to place around my flowers.

I can't help but compare the process of composting with the process of writing. It's similar to cooking, too, but it takes much longer. A little of this, a little of that, time, stirring, adding water, and voila--a book.

If you want to know more about composting, there are many sites on the web devoted to the topic--and quite a few excellent videos, as well.

If you want to write a book, get busy. Add a little of this, a little of that, give it time, stir, and drink some water (or coffee, or tea). It's slower than cooking--and you should use a thesaurus--but you could wind up with a book if you keep at it. :-)

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Party Like It's the Eighteenth Century

Yesterday was Dad's 92nd birthday. We celebrated. I made lasagna because it's soft and he likes cheese. Lasagna is a lot of work, but I like it, too. I bought a little ice cream cake. ("Why didn't you get straight candles?" he asked.)

When it was all said and done I asked if he thought we had feted him enough.

Everyone gave me a strange look.

"Fete," I said. "It's a real word. F-E-T-E."

Daughter #1 said I wasn't pronouncing it right.

I turned on the iPad, hurried to Dictionary.com, and discovered that I was indeed pronouncing it incorrectly.

Fete is pronounced just like the word fate, but fete and fate have entirely different meanings.

Fete is of French origin and it comes from the eighteenth century. It is a day of celebration. :-)

While I didn't pronounce it properly, I had the correct meaning.

That's one of the problems with being an avid reader. I am familiar with plenty of words, but I have never heard anyone speak them. Most people get by using very few words. Party is a far more popular word than fete.

But I've been mired in the history of the eighteenth century for a while. I wrote The Pirate's Wraith, which is set in 1711. I wrote Patriot's Heart, which is set in 1778. At the moment, I'm writing Patriot's Pride, which is set in 1784.

So I say we should all prepare a fete instead of a party. Let's party like it's the eighteenth century.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Sunday Scenes: HEAVEN'S BLUE


HEAVEN'S BLUE won the EPPIE Award in 2005 for Best Inspirational Fiction. It is the story of Samantha Lyons who works as a research scientist in Clam Creek, a sleepy little town on the marsh in New Jersey. She needs an assistant to complete her mosquito research if she wants to continue living at Field Station Number 37, the first real home she has ever had. When David Halpern drives into town, she is sure he is the answer to her prayers. David is out of options when he and his son find sustenance in the basement of Holy Redeemer and a job offer from Samantha. David assumes he'll be safe from discovery in the backwater town and accepts the position.

In this scene, David has made up his mind to leave the field station and move on. Samantha knows she won't be able to finish her research without him. When they pull up to the field station, Fish, Samantha's neighbor is waiting with a bucket of crabs.


James climbed out of the back of the car and stared down into the bucket with an air of resignation, an odd emotion in one so young. Samantha's heart ached.

“Do they bite?” he asked in a dull tone.

“Oh, they snap at your fingers something terrible with those claws.” Fish pulled out a can opener from his overalls and dangled it in front of the crabs. One crab lurched at it and hung on, even as Fish lifted the creature out of the bucket. “Make a grown man cry if one of those held on to his finger.”

James’ eyes widened in interest for a moment. Then David came around from the other side of the car and the youngster's shoulders sagged. Samantha wanted to hug James and never let go.

“Um, this is David Halpern, Fish.” Her heart felt wooden as she twisted a stray lock of hair around her finger. “James’father.”

Fish dropped the can opener with the crab still attached. He stuck out his hand to David. “Pleased to meet you.”

A few seconds passed by before David reached out to grasp Fish's hand. The reluctance on David's part seemed awkward and obvious to Samantha, like a social snub, but apparently it didn't bother Fish.

“You got a nice boy there,” Fish noted, grinning at James.

David cleared his throat. “Thanks.”

“Neptune stopped swimming in the can,” James stated quietly.

“That can happen,” Fish rumbled sympathetically. “But I found you some new friends. A whole bunch of ‘em. They're as lively as any of God's marvelous creations.”

James lifted his face, and Samantha saw the light of hope spark ever so faintly.

Fish lumbered back to his truck.

“We aren't taking any souvenirs with us,” David warned in a low voice.

“Miss Samantha will keep them for me,” James responded with confidence.

“Yes, I will,” Samantha said firmly. “Forever.”

They followed Fish to the truck. He slid another big bucket out of the back, and then lowered it below the level of James’chest.

“Hermit crabs,” Fish said. “Crazy little things. They don't have a home of their own. They go creeping around looking for empty shells that some other animal left behind. Then they crawl inside and make it their own.”

“Squatters,” David commented, giving a sardonic twist to his mouth.

“Nah.” Fish shook his head. “They're just using shells that are already empty. Doing what the good Lord wants ‘em to do. Nothing goes to waste in His creation.” He stuck one hand down deep into the bucket and picked up one of the small creatures.

“Here ya go, son. They don't bite. Open up your hand and let this little guy tickle you.”

Samantha saw eagerness shining in James’ eyes as he reached out for the hermit crab.

“What's his name?” James asked as the animal sat in the middle of his palm with all of its spindly legs drawn up inside the shell.

“Why, that one there you can name yourself, son,” Fish decreed.

James’ smile spread slowly. “He's gonna be Kyle, like my friend.”

“Any man with a true friend is a king,” Fish said.

Samantha saw the old man's eyes water a bit, and found a lump welling in her own throat. Fish had the tender heart of a poet, and Samantha wished she knew what had hurt him so badly that the pain still plagued him. Undoubtedly, any probing questions would upset him further and she would never do that.

The little animal in James’ hand gingerly stretched its tiny legs out from under the shell and started to scurry across James’ palm.

James giggled. “He's tickling me.”

“Now don't let him fall down.” Samantha cupped her hands beneath the young child's.

“Hey, Kyle,” James laughed. “You're so funny.”

Fish pulled a red bandanna out from his pocket and blew his nose. “Well, I better get moving,” the old man said in a gravelly rumble. “I was up at three this morning.”

“Why don't you join us for supper?” Samantha offered.

“No, thank you. But it's mighty kind of you to ask.”

“Oh, Fish,” Samantha sighed. “You've given me so much, it would be nice if you would help me eat some of it once in a while.”

Fish gave her a shy smile. “Those are from God's bounty. You best be thanking Him and not me.”

“Miss Samantha always thanks God,” James piped up.

“She's a good woman.” Fish nodded. “A special gift for some lucky man.”

Slowly, Fish's gaze turned to David. He stared long and hard, without saying a word for several moments. Samantha watched as David shifted uneasily from one foot to the other.

Then Fish, obviously finished with his assessment, scratched the beard on his chin and turned to push up the tailgate on his pickup.

Samantha stole a quick glance at David. His eyes had a stony resignation in them that chilled her. Tension crackled in the air as she watched David's jaw stiffen.

The old fisherman shuffled around to the front of the vehicle and pulled himself up into the driver's seat. “Won't be any rain now for a good long time. Gonna dry up the marsh, keep an eye out for smoke.”

You can read the beginning of the book at Amazon!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Look It Up


Do you know what this is? Do you know what it looks like before it turns into that big puffy ball of fluff?

I'm not going to tell you. If you know the answer, good for you. I've met a lot of people who don't have any clue where that thing comes from. If you do not know the name of it, please look it up.


Do you know what those little bell-like flowers turn into? Blueberries--wild blueberries. These low shrubs grow all over New Jersey. In fact, blueberries are New Jersey's official state fruit. I photographed this little blueberry bush in Turkey Swamp Park.

What is this amazing plant? Daughter #1 took this photo on a hike. The people hiking with her did not know the name of this unusual plant although it grows in woodlands all over New Jersey in the spring. It is called a jack-in-the-pulpit.

Why should you care about the names of plants?

Because they are part of the world around you. If you are a writer, you just might get a story out of it. :-)

While walking around the block one day, I noticed a large plant with small, white flowers. I looked it up and discovered it was boneset. Native Americans used it for fevers. (Though you should not try this at home.) You can read an article about it HERE.

Boneset plays a big part in Patriot's Heart, my Revolutionary War historical which will be released in February. If I had not been intrigued by the plant and had not looked into the background of boneset, I suppose I could have come up with something else for my story--but boneset was perfect considering the historical time period and the availability of the plant in this area.

So look around you. If you see something and you don't know what it is, find out. You'll be amazed at what is in your own backyard.

You might get a story out of it.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

My First Memories

Once upon a time, I was little. Yes, that pudgy, round face belongs to me. It's hard to believe but my mother labeled the photograph in her lovely flowing script so I know it's true.

I've changed considerably since I posed for that photograph. With another birthday looming ahead, I can look back and be grateful for all I've had--loving parents who made sure I had a good education, great siblings, a terrific husband, wonderful daughters, interesting work experiences, and fun friends. I had some tough times, but life has been rather interesting--and any of the bad parts I can always use in a book. :-)

Yes, that's the beauty of being a writer. Nothing goes to waste. All sorts of experiences can be recycled.

My first memories are not happy ones. I went into the hospital at the age of three and the doctors did not know what had caused my illness, but since polio was rampant back then they suspected it and put me in an isolation ward. I was there for along time. I remember sitting in a crib in a huge dark room, all alone. I remember the irritable nurse. I remember my father coming to visit me wearing a suit. (He always wore a suit to work.) He read me a story and gave me ice cream. He also lifted me up so I could look down and see my mother and brother far below on the pavement. Only--I could not see them. It was a long way down, and I was not sure where to look. My mother was not well and could not visit me. :-(

The doctors gave me antibiotics and I recovered. I did not have polio.

I remember leaving the hospital. Stepping out of the elevator in a beautiful party dress. (Yes, I knew it was a special dress even then.)

What's your first memory? Is it a good one or a bad one?