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Sunday, April 30, 2017

Memories by Suzanne Rossi

Hello everyone.

As I grow older, I find certain childhood memories tend to pop into my mind. Sometimes they center around holidays or vacations, but recently I've been thinking about homes--where I grew up, where I am now, and all those in between. I've also noticed a common thread that seems to link many of them together--trains.

I grew up in Carmel, Indiana. The Monon Railroad (now defunct) tracks were a half mile away from my house. On nice spring and autumn nights, I would lay in bed and listen for the train. If it was really still, I could hear its whistle blowing for the small town of Nora just south of us, then 91st Street, then 96th, and finally, the one closest to our house at 106th. It would rumble and roll, so I often didn't hear the lowing call to beware, a train was approaching for those crossings further north. This usually occurred sometime around midnight. As soon as it  was once again quiet, I could go to sleep.

As the years passed, I entered high school, college, and then got married. The train didn't seem so important anymore.

Then my husband and I moved to Germantown, Tennessee, in 1985. We bought a house perfect for our two boys. The Norfolk & Southern Railroad tracks were three blocks to the north. Our bedroom windows faced that direction. The sound of the locomotive and its whistle brought back those childhood memories. Now, the Norfolk & Southern was a much busier rail line than the Monon, but somehow the blaring warning never bothered me. It felt like home.

We relocated several times, but no railroad tracks played into our house selections until we moved to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. The CSX tracks were six blocks away. Trust me when I say that this was a more well-traveled line than any before. Trains ran all day and night. In fact, I could usually time the train whistles beginning around two in the morning. They rolled on by about every sixty to ninety minutes. And of course, during the daytime it was mandatory that I'd get hung up at a crossing. Yet, at night, I loved hearing them.

As fate would have it, when we moved back to Germantown last summer, we bought a house about a mile south of the good, old Norfolk & Southern. I often am awake in the middle of the night--all those plot twists and that scintillating dialogue running through my head--when a train or two rumbles by.

I don't know if I did this consciously or not, but in my latest release, The Murder of Grace Bryant, I used a train whistle as the catalyst for my heroine to return to her childhood home and find her mother's killer. The train whistle is one of her good memories. It has a running thread throughout the book that lends comfort to a woman tortured with partial amnesia about a horrible tragedy.

But then, I guess many childhood memories are based in comfort.

That's all for this month. I hope you enjoy reading this and that it brings back a few good memories for you, too.

See you next month.

Suzanne Rossi

Friday, April 28, 2017

Herbs for Romance and Love Charms

Through the ages, herbs have furthered affairs of the heart. I've provided snippets of historical lore on some of the most significant.
Calendula: One favorite bit of lore is that calendula flowers were used to keep a lover faithful. All one had to do was to dig up some soil where their lover had walked, and use that soil for planting calendulas. From that day forward the lover would forever by faithful. Calendulas are the original English/Scottish Marigold. Though not native, they are widely naturalized from Europe and have been grown in the UK for centuries.
Rosemary: English folklore says if a girl places a plate of flour beneath a rosemary bush on midsummer's eve, she will find her future husband's initials written in it. Another bit of lore to discover your true love is to place a sprig of rosemary under your pillow. A dream will reveal their identity. Dried rosemary was laid in bed linen to ensure faithfulness and a bride who gave her groom a sprig of rosemary to hold on their wedding night would ensure his faithfulness.
Another belief regarding dreams: On Saint Agnes’ Eve (January 20), a woman seeking romance would mix thyme with rosemary and pray: “Saint Agnes, that’s to lovers kind, Come, ease the trouble of my mind.” The virgin martyred saint would then send a dream about her true love.
Rosemary came to Britain with the Romans and has centuries old use.
Violets: Gaelic advice: “Anoint thy face with goat’s milk in which violets have been infused, and there is not a young prince on earth who would not be charmed with thy beauty.”
Violets are used in love spells and may be carried as an amulet to increase one’s luck in love. Combine them with lavender for enhanced effect.
Violets grow throughout the UK. But Lavender wasn’t cultivated there until the mid-sixteenth century. No herb smells more wonderful than lavender. I just planted more in the garden.
Wild Pansy (violas): Violas, heartsease, V. tricolor…have a great reputation as a love charm. Its three colors of purple, white, and yellow, each marked with a petal, have given it associations with the Holy Trinity, and the name Herb Trinitas, which figures in old books. The name pansy comes from the French pensée (thought). 'Love in Idleness' is another of this beloved flower’s names. In ancient days the plant was much used for its potency in love charms, hence perhaps its name of Heartsease. It is this flower that plays such an important part as a love charm in Midsummer Night's Dream.
The pansy Shakespeare refers to are probably V. tricolor, the wild pansy or viola. ‘In A Midsummer Night's Dream. Oberon sends Puck to gather "a little western flower" that maidens call "love-in-idleness". Oberon's account is that he diverted an arrow from Cupid's bow aimed at "a fair vestal, throned by the west" (supposedly Queen Elizabeth I) to fall upon the plant "before milk-white, now purple with love's wound". The "imperial vot'ress" passes on "fancy-free", destined never to fall in love. The juice of the heartsease now, claims Oberon, "on sleeping eyelids laid, Will make or man or woman madly dote upon the next live creature that it sees." Equipped with such powers, Oberon and Puck control the fates of various characters in the play to provide Shakespeare's essential dramatic and comic structure for the play.’
The wild violas, heartsease, grow abundantly throughout Britain.
Vervain: An ancient cure-all, sacred to the Druids, vervain was also thought to be a love charm. According to the Druids, the plant should be collected when neither the sun nor the moon is in the sky. And in exchange for removing such a valuable plant from the earth, honey combs should be left on the ground. It grows wild in England, sparsely in Scotland. However, vervain was grown in herb gardens in the Middle Ages (and later).
The Hawthorne Tree:
“The fair maid who, the first of May
Goes to the fields at break of day
And washes in dew from the Hawthorne tree,
Will ever after handsome be.”
There is also an old belief that cowslip (primrose) flowers hold magic value for the complexion and making one beautiful. Seeking beauty is an age-old pursuit in love.
The wild white yarrow pictured below is the variety referred to here and elsewhere in my herbal posts. Yarrow, an ancient widespread herb, is used for medicinal purposes, but also in love charms, and in divining who the lover might be. I'm not certain exactly how, but the rhyme below was thought to be useful.
“Good morrow, good Yarrow, good morrow to thee. Send me this night my true love to see, The clothes that he’ll wear, the colour of his hair. And if he’ll wed me…”  ~Danaher, 1756(But the saying may be much older.)
Herbs might be worn as amulets or love charms alone, or inside jewelry, like a locket, or in small cloth bags hidden in clothing, woven into a woman’s hair, rubbed over her in an enticing oil… They were brewed into decoctions for her/him to imbibe, or to anoint the object of one’s love in his/her sleep. Herbs were hung overhead, tucked under pillows and in bedding. Women bathed in their essence… I say him or her but this sounds more like something a woman might do. There are many ways people thought herbs furthered romance and kept a lover true. I hope you find these suggestions interesting. 
For more on herbs, I refer you to my herbal--Plants For A Medieval Herb Garden in the British Isles in kindle and Print at: 

An illustrated collection of plants that could have been grown in a Medieval Herb or Physic Garden in the British Isles. The major focus of this work is England and Scotland, but also touches on Ireland and Wales. 

Information is given as to the historic medicinal uses of these plants and the rich lore surrounding them. Journey back to the days when herbs figured into every facet of life, offering relief from the ills of this realm and protection from evil in all its guises.

For more on me please visit:

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Once More, With Feeling by Vonnie Davis

Yesterday, I released a self-published book that had been published six years ago by The Wild Rose Press. I don't know if it was the title I'd chosen or that I was still a new author, but the series didn't sell well at all. I got the rights back and changed some characters' names, updated technology, added roughly 15,000 words, gave it a new title and a different series name.

What was originally Mona Lisa's Room, book one of The Red Hand Conspiracy became NIKO: Licensed to Kill, Paris Intrigue--Book One.

To protect buyers, I listed on Amazon's description the book was previously published under another title and what it was.

Why give a book with lack-luster sales another try? Because the series is set in Paris and is full of my memories of places we'd visited and things we saw on our trips over there. The series was a labor of love. Every time I work on one of the books, it's like being back in the city I so adore.

In two months, JEAN-LUC: Once is Never Enough releases and finally BASTIAN: The Spy Who Loves Me.

Will the books sell any better this time around? I hope so. If not, I've had such fun getting them ready to market again, the process was worth it.

If you enjoy romantic suspense in an exotic place with page turning action as my characters try to keep ahead of the terrorists, give them a try. Oh, and if you enjoy humorous, sexy banter and situations that will make you laugh out loud, you will definitely want to fly on my magic carpet ride of words to Paris...the Normandy coast...and Budapest...and Berlin.

Monday, April 24, 2017

FOUR WHITE ROSES - May 17th Release Date

by Judy Ann Davis
"Can a wily old ghost help two fractured hearts find love?"
FOUR WHITE ROSES  is now available for Amazon Kindle Pre-Order for $4.99

     When widower Rich Redman returns to Pennsylvania with his young daughter to sell his deceased grandmother’s house, he discovers Grandmother Gertie’s final request was for him to find a missing relative and a stash of WWI jewels.
     Torrie Larson, single mom, is trying to make her landscape center and flower arranging business succeed while attempting to save the lineage of a rare white rose brought from Austria in the 1900s.
     Together, the rich Texas lawyer and poor landscape owner team up to rescue the last rose and fulfill a dead woman’s wishes. But in their search to discover answers to the mysteries plaguing them, will Rich and Torrie also discover love in each other’s arms? Or will a meddling ghost, a pompous banker, and an elusive stray cat get in their way?

"Four White Roses" was a fun book to write since it's a sweet romantic mystery with lots of comedy. It's the story of two people, Torrie Larson, a widow landscape owner,  and Rich Redman, a widower Texas lawyer, who reunite in their small hometown. They each have a small daughter, but Rich's daughter, Estella, is an eight-year-old who can give anyone around her a run for their money.  

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The West

by Rain Trueax

Suffering with a miserable cold, one that has left more than one family in our area coughing for two weeks, watching television was one of the few things I felt like doing. Many evenings were spent watching on Netflix the 1996 PBS series, Ken Burns: The West

Because I've written 12 historical romances, based in Oregon and Arizona, I had done a lot of historic research. I thought I knew much of what I would see. It taught me a few new things, while film clips gave the history a surprising reality.

It's very well done, great music, many stories personalized; but by the time we got the Episode 7, I felt disillusioned with the ways some had brutalized others. Again and again, there were stories of Euro-Americans taking from Mexicans, Chinese, Native Americans, African Americans, and even Mormons. This was often done using a sizeable military after the Civil War and the weight of laws made-- supposedly for the good of all... Watching it was depressing, yet I stayed with it hoping to find a brighter day ahead.
As a program to educate Americans as to what the West was like for many, it does the job. I just believe it was one side. There was more to it than the sad stories of violence, theft, and battles against nature. The photos were amazing, but the stories were as often of disappointment as of glory-- especially for the Native Americans.

Where I found it especially interesting, on a personal level, involved the Dakotas. My great-grandfather, with a growing family, arrived in the Black Hills to become a hard-rock miner. 
My grandfather, born in 1880, was their third child. The story goes that he was the first white baby born illegally in the Black Hills after the gold had been discovered. 

Their children, of which there would be ten to survive to adulthood, were born in what would be South Dakota as well as Nebraska (already a state). Great grandfather was still working at 65 when he died in Deadwood in 1921. My great grandmother, Martha, died in 1942 living out her life in the homes of her children. Both are buried in Hill City, where many of my ancestors are.

Life wasn't easy for the ones who came west without money, carrying with them a dream of a better life. They moved where the jobs were. They were as often forced out as had been the Native Americans. Still, they had fun and enjoyed their times together. 

My family stories were much on my mind while watching the documentary-- as they had been when I wrote the last four of the Arizona historicals knowing that I had begun writing a time not that distant from my family's stories.  

In terms of the romance, there was really only one in the documentary, a personal story of love, hard work, and loyalty.

That story of the Love family went through the last two episodes. Despite all they endured, it was the bright lining I had wanted. My family, despite the tough times, had those stories. Although when my father was a boy, they left South Dakota for Oregon, South Dakota stayed in their hearts. When I was a girl, the annual South Dakota picnic at a nearby amusement park was a regular part of family life. I didn't understand then what that meant. I do now.

Photos are from my family and in South Dakota.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Wandering Body Parts and Other Pet Peeves

By Sandra Nachlinger

I’ve been critiquing a few manuscripts recently and have enjoyed reading the opening pages of a variety of stories. It’s amazing and delightful to discover the many clever, original ideas that emerge from the minds of writers. The diversity is always surprising. However, in putting together my comments for each story, I’ve noticed several issues that occur again and again. For example:

Long, Intrusive Narrative:
Depending on the genre and situation, there’s nothing wrong with narrative. Even lengthy descriptions can be acceptable in some stories. However, when a character clings to a cliff over a chasm, he probably won’t be thinking about the Latin name for the plant he’s holding onto or contemplating the back story of the man who pushed him. Many readers will scan those sections of beautifully written description to find out if the character survived or fell to the rocks below.

Passive Verbs:
No one is suggesting that was, were, is, or are be stricken from the English language, but their usage (over and over and over, especially combined with “ing” words) can slow down a story’s action.
Example:  When the gunman was running into the room, Ann was standing at the blackboard, writing out the day’s assignments.
Simple past tense: When the gunman ran into the room, Ann stood at the blackboard, writing out the day’s assignments.
With more dramatic verbs: When the gunman charged into the room, Ann froze at the blackboard, her hand poised over the list of assignments.

It’s and Its:
It’s is a contraction, formed by a combination of the words it and is. The apostrophe indicates the missing letter. Example:  Give me that pencil. It’s [it is] mine.
Its is a possessive. Example: The house needs a makeover. Its style could be described as early ghetto.

Wandering Body Parts:
In a book labeled as women’s fiction, this sci-fi action stopped me: “He twirled his head slowly in a full circle….” A scene from The Exorcist immediately came to mind. In other stories, eyes have dropped, clung, and skewered other people.

Thanks for listening to my rant. Now that I’ve listed a few of my (many) pet peeves, I must confess. My writing is far from perfect. One of my (many) bad habits is overuse of the word that. I just don’t notice it! Luckily, the members of my writing groups aren’t shy about pointing out my overzealous that usage.

Do you have pet peeves when it comes to writing or reading? Do bad habits crop up again and again in stories you've written or read?

Source: Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. "Man hanging from a breaking tree limb." 
The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1889.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

When Was Your First Kiss?

The other day, I saw a movie. Whoa, you say, this is not earth shattering news here. I watch movies all the time. So much so that, in the older movies especially, I can spout a lot of trivia. But, I digress. In this movie, there was a scene where the heroine practiced for a date. She watched her movements in the mirror, talked to herself, checked out how she looked during conversation, smiled, flirted and kissed the back of her hand. All to practice.

This got me to thinking - a scary proposition on a good day. Plus, I was probably sleep deprived much as I am right now. Have I lost you? Are you still with Me? Oh, good, because you'll be asked to participate later on. So, anyways, that movie brought back a flood of old memories for me.

All of us receive our first kiss from our mother and, a wild guess here, our second kiss we get from our father. Nice. We rock along through the years being kissed by our grandparents, aunts, uncles and siblings. In this last case, the sibling kiss is dreaded and only given/received under duress by direct orders from the mother or parental unit. We've all heard at one time or another, "Kiss your brother/sister right now and tell him/her you're sorry. You know you love each other." I can't tell you how many times in those formative years, I would've rather taken a beating than to have kissed that chubby cheek. Love him now, back then it depended on the day. <G>

What I'm really talking about is that first boy/girl kiss. My first one came from the boy who lived next door to my grandmother. His name was Mike (first names only given here). We became fast friends the summer I was eight and he was a much older ten. We always played Gunsmoke in his front yard. He was the very handsome, Matt Dillon, I, of course was, Miss Kitty, and my brother was either Chester or the villain depending on which part was needed at the time. Mike played the roll of the sheriff very well and saved me multiple times, so naturally I received many kisses from my first hero. We became so close he wrote me a letter after his family moved away. That letter had smoochy lips, professed I love yous and a Dime Store diamond. Yes, Matt Dillon asked me to marry him. My mother nearly hyperventilated.

My second kiss came during a multi-family get-together. My parents bowled on several leagues back in the early sixties and on weekends they would have parties at the various houses. While the parents played cards, dominoes or listened to party records, us kids were relegated to the back rooms. The one evening that stands out in my mind was in winter and school was in full swing. A couple of girls and myself were thirteen, a couple girls were freshmen in high school and Rusty was also a freshman. He was tall, cute and we were giggly and we were playing spin the bottle. My knees turned to jelly when he kissed me. I made gagging noises as was expected, but  being kissed by a freshman football player - yowza!

For a few years after that, I did a lot of practicing. Unfortunately, I didn't kiss anyone else until I met my future husband. Was he the brave one? The stupid one? He says he'll never again pick up a girl at the A&P. Well, duh. There's simply no need, is there?

Okay, that's my story. Here's where your participation is needed. Tell us about your first kiss. We're all dying to hear your tale.

Thanks for stopping by today and hope you got a chuckle or two,
 Amazon Author Page 

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Happy Easter

Today is a day for families to pray together, to feast together, and to have fun together--especially with their little ones.

Coloring Easter eggs is always a fun way to spend the day before Easter.

I never found a way to make that pursuit anything but messy. It was always fun nevertheless.

So I'm not posting about books and writing and the challenges authors face. Today should be allowed to unfold gracefully and be about faith, family, and friendship.

Instead, I just want to wish you peace, love, and happiness.

Enjoy the day with family and friends, and may peace, love, and happiness follow you through the rest of the year!

Friday, April 14, 2017

Finding (or Losing) Your Muse.....

By Anna Jeffrey

In Greek mythology, there were 9 muses, the daughters of Zeus and Mnymosyne. Wikipedia defines them as "the inspirational goddesses of literature, science, and the arts. They were considered the source of the knowledge embodied in the poetry, lyric songs, and myths that were related orally for centuries in ancient cultures. They were later adopted by the Romans as a part of their pantheon."

In modern usage, the word has several definitions. As a noun, it can be a spirit or source that inspires an artist, i.e., an influential teacher, a mentor. 

 As a verb, it can be defined as someone having deep thoughts about life. To ponder or consider, to think over or about, to chew on, etc., etc. Example: "He mused on the problems he faced." Or "I mused on Mary's problems." Or "I think I've seen her before," Mary mused.

Muse is often associated with writers. If you happen to be one, your muse can be a nightmare, the thing that deserts you when you need and want it most, the fickle goddess that can bring on writer's block. 

That's where I've been for the past few months--wading through the flypaper of writer's block. I didn't recognize it at first. In the 20 years I've been writing, I've never been stumped for a plot or dialogue  or character development. I've always known, basically, where I was headed. 

Often, writers are  solitary, sensitive creatures . The slings and arrows of life can knock their muse into the middle of next week and for it to come crawling back can sometimes take months. Sometimes that's personal; sometimes it's something else.

The slings and arrows of late are the writing and publishing business itself. I've had a hard time coming to terms with the new norm. I'm still having a hard time with it. Being the maverick that I am, I don't want to be owned by the company store. However, my desire to at least finish the two books I've started is strong. I've got too much invested in writing to abandon it. I've walked away from 2 careers to do it. Finally, and hopefully, after being bitch-slapped flat, my muse is picking herself up off the floor and slowly tip-toeing back. I don't have hardheaded Irishmen genes coursing through my blood for nothing.