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Friday, February 28, 2020

'And now before the eye can focus - Crocus.' ~Lilja Rogers

Early crocus are out, but the flowers stay tightly closed in today's cold wind. March blew in a tad early. I'm also admiring snowdrops, miniature iris, and pussy willow. If you've never grown pussy willow, give it a try. The catkins are a joy, but the shrub must be pruned back. We've had a milder winter overall in the Shenandoah Valley and spring is heading in early. No objection from me.
'First a howling blizzard woke us,
Then the rain came down to soak us,
And now before the eye can focus -
Crocus.' ~Lilja Rogers
'Oh, Spring is surely coming
Her couriers fill the air;
Each morn are new arrivals,
Each night her ways prepare;
I scent her fragrant garments,
Her foot is on the stair.'
~John Burroughs, "A March Glee"
Minatare iris in a sheltered nook.
Meadow larks again trill on our farm and the barnyard geese fuss over nesting sites. The sweet bird calls and irate squawks are among our earliest signs of spring. I've pottered in the garden every day while the weather's mild. These unseasonable balmy spells spoil me, and I wonder what's up with the weather when the cold blusters back. What do you call this, then? I demand. February. Oh, right. Thought it was late March. Or April. Grumble.
'In the spring I have counted one hundred and thirty-six different kinds of weather inside of four and twenty hours.' ~Mark Twain
If there comes a little thaw,
Still the air is chill and raw,
Here and there a patch of snow,
Dirtier than the ground below,
Dribbles down a marshy flood;
Ankle-deep you stick in mud
In the meadows while you sing,
"This is Spring."
Christopher Pearce Cranch
A Spring Growl.
Scant snow fell this winter, but ample rain, thank heavens. If I went for a walk in our meadow, I'd squelch through mud, seeking rocks and clumps of grass to leapfrog and escape the mire. As I never venture there alone, it's a joint effort, and gives me a sturdy daughter or grandchild to cling to when I step out of my boots. In neighboring fields, the greening winter rye glows like an Emerald Isle and is harvested in April or May.  
'In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.' ~Margaret Atwood, "Unearthing Suite," 1983
Snowdrops below.
I've smelled of earthy things lately after clearing flower beds and sowing more annual and wildflowers seeds here and there. I count my wealth in seeds. Doesn't everybody?
I've also tidied the garden and worked wormy composted manure into my pea row and where I planted chard and pak choi, but not for the radish's. If the soil is too rich, they will make all tops. The spinach I planted last fall and protected over winter with a floating row cover is ready to pick. I'll uncover it permanently soon, along with my roses that look like tent city.
The plants were lured into leaf too early during a mild period and I rushed out before the last freeze to throw sheets, blankets, old curtains, and beach towels over them. I even considered adding my bathrobe and winter coat to the coverings. I've left these in place until the weather moderates without this crazy waffling, and it looks awful, but I'm not having my roses knocked back. I've looking forward to their blooms for months. To that end, I've ordered two more climbing roses from David Austin's wonderful selection, and a floribunda and hybrid tea from Jackson & Perkins. These are destined for my much loved Memorial Garden that I put in last year and am continuing in memory of my dear brother, Chad, my beloved father, and my mother-in-law whose garden this first was. The garden means more to me in a spiritual, as well as physical, sense than I can describe. A sacred place. And this year it shall be glorious.
I say that every spring, and I mean it. Part of the wonder and magic of spring.
'The day the Lord created hope was probably the same day he created Spring.' ~Bern Williams
Image of geese from several years ago. 
My books include an emphasis on nature. For more on me and my writing, please visit my Amazon Author Page: 

Monday, February 24, 2020

IT'S MARDI GRAS TIME! ~ by Judy Ann Davis

 Music, parades, glitter covered masks, food, beads, and festive garbs of purples, greens, and golds—it Mardi Gras on Tuesday, February 25th.  It’s the day before Ash Wednesday and marks the final feasting before the Christian tradition of Lent, beginning the next day and called Ash Wednesday.

Mardi Gras is a French term, which literally translates into “Fat Tuesday.” It is also known as Shrove Tuesday which is derived from the word shrive, meaning "to administer the sacrament of confession to and to absolve”.  Cities around our nation and the world celebrate Mardi Gras each year with festivals and parades. And the star of the event is the fatty and rich foods, not the beads. To celebrate, people eat pancakes, cakes, and stuffed donuts, along with crawfish, chowder, and shrimp and corn boils if you are in the South. 
The most famous Mardi Gras celebration occurs in New Orleans and the Rio Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where thousands of people descend on the cities to eat, drink, and partake of the revelries.  In New Orleans, the majority of Mardi Gras celebrations are held in the two weeks leading up to Fat Tuesday itself. There are around 80 parades scheduled in New Orleans for the Mardi Gras festival this year.

The celebration of Mardi Gras also involves the use of masks and costumes by participants. In New Orleans, the costumes reflect the shape of clowns, fairies, animals, people from myths, or various Medieval costumes. Many of the costumes are also created with colored feathers and capes.

In the last decades of the 20th century, the rise in producing commercial videotapes, catering to voyeurs, helped encourage a tradition of women baring their breasts in exchange for beads and trinkets. This particular celebration is not one you’d take your children to.

However, in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, where my husband and I spend some of our winter months, a Mardi Gras parade is held each year for adults and families. Participants, aware that children are present, toss candy, trinkets, and strings of beads into the crowds instead.

Do you celebrate Mardi Gras? If so, jot down a few things you and your family do on Fat Tuesday—including those tasty Fat Tuesday treats.

Before I forget, "Four White Roses" is on sale for only $0.99  until the end of the month for Kindle/eBook!  It was a finalist in the American Fiction Awards, Book Excellence Awards, and the Georgia Romance Writers' Maggie Awards.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Magical Realism

by Rain Trueax

Writers generally, I believe, start with a genre where they feel more natural writing. If they are fortunate, it's one that resonates with readers. If they continue to love writing in it, they can do it for their entire careers. I know writers like that and have enjoyed books by some of them. I actually envy them.

It didn't work that way for me. From the first book I wrote, back in my mid-20s, I would vary between historical and contemporary. I'd write what caught my interest. Since I wasn't trying to publish, sales didn't matter. I could and did follow the muse, wherever it took me. When I began to publish, that changed and I did think whether something would appeal to my readers. I can't say I wrote for getting readers, but I did think about that end of writing. Historicals definitely were more liked than my contemporaries. I might not meet the genre expectation where it comes to contemporary romances-- or I haven't found the right place to get them seen.

What I was not expecting was another change-- that my inspiration would turn to the realm of fantasy for those contemporary romances. The idea for books about witches came from driving around Barrio Viejo in Tucson. It's an old, historic neighborhood and has a strong feeling of mysticism about it. How could it not with El Tiradito, a wishing shrine dedicated to a sinner, in its heart? 

That year, as we drove its streets, I thought what if there were witches here, women who were dedicated to protecting their community and using their powers, women who were very human in all ways other than their ability to apparate, throw plasma bolts, communicate with other beings, etc. In front of one of the homes, I saw a motorcycle parked and it brought it to the physical world.

What if it was four sisters, their widowed mother, and their grandmothers? Committed to their family, these women would work together on all the dangerous things they faced. Although they had powers, they would be perfectly normal in all other ways with needing a job, wanting a purpose, finding a mate, and having a normal lifespan where they could be killed. I kept their powers to the ones I've heard mystics and others have when they are open to receiving earth energies-- things like communicating with the other side-- seeing what others cannot. Now, I have not heard of mystics throwing power bolts but why not if they needed them, since the plasma is from the earth.

Two of the books came pretty fast-- Dangerous Match and Vislogus. I put them out. The inspiration slowed down as I waited for the next ones. The romance of the youngest sister was Complicated Bargain. It took longer to find the last sister her mate, Unfinished Business.  

All along, I knew the mother had to have a romance, but who would be the man at her side? That took another year. Ever as Before went in a direction I had not expected, always fun. It came out end of January, right before Imbolc, when it is set. (I hadn't expected that there would be more in that family's story but there are going to be-- novellas though as these were all full-length novels).

When you are a writer and change genres, which although these are romances, they are also different from the historicals for the plots-- especially the magick, you hope to bring your readers with you. It doesn't always happen. I brought a few but for many, who prefer historicals, a witch is a bridge too far. 

What I've thought about recently is what drew me to write fantasy romances-- especially since I know that historicals are what my readers have wanted. It has to take a strong motivation, and I had it with my desire to tell a story of a mystical family's dedication to community. I saw that they wanted to protect humans, who did not have their powers from enemies they could not see.

I was attracted to the idea of 'spiritual/magical' powers due to the times in which we live. We see so much random violence. We have times we see things going on that we wish we could change. What if we had the power to do just that? How would we use it? Sometimes short-term bad can lead to a higher good..maybe. It would take a family dedicated to teaching a wise use of those powers.

When writing a fantasy, which I also call paranormal but it doesn't really fit the genre's requirements today, it's fun to be able to control the world, to determine which fantasy creatures make the cut. In my books, it's often gnomes, but also elementals, ghosts, and monsters. Not all fantasy creatures are on the side of humans, but some ghosts can be,as they repay a karmic debt. My information on mysticism and especially monsters came from researching prehistoric peoples and the beings they saw and believed were out there. How did their shamans deal with them?

I've written now 7 books in Mystic Shadows. They are not all connected to the Hemstreet witches. The first, Sky Daughter, was written in the '90s where I first explored the idea of a world beyond our normal senses and what witches might actually be. As I wrote that one, I debated whether there would be something 'out there' or was it all the heroine's imagination. The second, Diablo Canyon, in 2014 came as a result of a spiritual dream that led to a desire to share it in a romance. Then came the Hemstreets finally concluding (I thought) with the mother's story-- which went a direction I had not expected.

Little by little, I came to better see the world I had created, where I am currently writing a sixth about the witch family (eighth in the Mystic Shadows series)-- It is more though about being 'different' while it explores family dynamics. What happens when one doesn't fit with the others? 

My books come because of the muse/Muse. And what is the muse? I don't know, but it comes through to me with dreams, coincidences, and being open in my own life to new influences. I follow it to keep it coming.

Following inspiration where it takes me may not make me a lot of money. It does satisfy my creative desire to share what comes to me. I also believe that fantasy will be what readers will come to want as the zeitgeist changes (and it always changes). My stories are more whimsical than violent. These stories of magical realism are set in a world that I'd like to think is out there even if I don't see it. 

Fantasy writing can be exploring imaginary worlds or our own. I don't plan a long ways in the future for my writing (only two stories are lined up). I could go back to historical (I had some in mind for that) but for now, I like setting myself into romantic fantasy with what might be...

For now, these books are exclusive to Amazon for purchase or to borrow in Kindle Unlimited. That will change at an uncertain date, later this year, when they go wide. If you are in KU, you might want to give them a try now.

Ever as Before 

Blurb for Ever as Before:

Widowed for 16 years, Maria has devoted herself to fighting evil, using her powers under the authority of the Light, and raising her daughters. Now, she has an empty nest, with the last one married, and soon to have her first grandchild. For many women, that would be more than enough, but something new is threatening Tucson, created by a ranking demon with the intent of destroying Maria's family. She uses her degree on psychology to start a talk radio program in order to draw the new risk to her and keep her daughters safe. It won't be enough. She will need help, and it is coming from the other side-- She won't welcome it.
Looking for a new read for Imbolc with a vibrant older woman. How about throwing in a few of the living dead as a threat? A particularly determined demon, and a 'surprise encounter' as the seasonal veil is drawn thin before the new light?

Natural born witches, of course as this is 7th in the Mystic Shadows series stories that move beyond what we consider physical reality to something else— something that might be possible says quantum science. With gnomes, warlocks, shamans, and an alchemical aspect to how evil can be fought and contained? A mix of physical reality and what might be?

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Spring Is On The Way: Curl Up With a Book and Enjoy The Journey--Laurean Brooks

February is the last month before spring shows her pretty face. And while winter refuses to give up its hold on nature, we get enough glimpses of what will soon appear, to lift our spirits. Jonquils burst forth, hanging their dainty heads until a biting wind stirs them to defiance.

Groundhog's Day appears on February 2nd when poor little Punxsutawney Phil is prodded from his cozy winter's sleep to crawl out of his warm hole to predict the coming of spring. I say, let him sleep. I'll bet no one would disturb a sleeping Grizzly Bear.

Red-breasted robins hop on the dead grass, adding a splash of color on an overcast day. Other migratory birds are returning. The days have become noticeably longer, allowing more time to walk in the evenings.

 Today, while I walked behind my dogs down our country road, tree frogs croaked in the marshy bogs on either side of the culverts. These critters were just happy to be alive, singing their hearts out.

In Tennessee, we are blessed with the occasional mild day during winter, even in February. We've enjoyed a couple of days this past week with temps reaching the 60s. These are good days to get out and load up on groceries. You never know when a blizzard might hit. Overall—so far—it's been a mild winter for our area.

February is also a celebration of Valentine's Day, which means flowers and/or candy. This day arrived last Friday, and regardless of my decision to restrain myself, I'm down to the last six pieces in a 20-piece box of Russell Stover chocolates.

Oh, dear! I could have gone all day without confessing that. Truth is, my husband helped dwindle the count. We had decided not to buy candy this year, but...well...I was in the Dollar General two days after Valentine's Day, and lo and behold, ALL Valentine candy was marked 25% off! Tell me--and be honest--could you pass up a deal like that?

I had stuck to a fairly healthy diet from Thanksgiving until after Christmas. And I was proud of myself for it. Sh-h-h! Don't tell anyone, but a long bout of flu lasting from New Year's Eve until the third week in January, assisted me in my calorie reduction. Believe me when I say, loss of appetite was the only good thing that came from that virus.

But, never fear; spring is on the way. I can get outdoors and enjoy the milder weather, and daily walks my dogs (weather permitting.) I can hardly wait for sunny days--the mocking birds chirping in the trees, and the lonely call of the whippoorwill in the woods behind our house. And the blasts from hunters' rifles fall silent in the woods surrounding our cozy house on the hill. Just the sounds of God's nature prevail.

Don't let overcast skies and snow--depending on where you live, dampen your spirits. Pick up a good book by one of your favorite authors, curl up on the couch with a steamy mug of coffee or hot chocolate, and get lost in an intriguing adventure or a heart-palpitating romance that also incorporates humor and an exciting plot.

Folks, spring is on its way. Be patient, relax, read a great book, and enjoy the journey.

My short read, JONQUILS IN THE SNOW is perfect for curling up with. Miranda's fiance skips town two days before their wedding. She's been hurting too long. When handsome tree-topper, Brady Watson shows up in her yard after an ice storm, she falls hard. But Brady is dealing with a loss. Can a cluster of Jonquils bursting through the snow, spell love and new beginnings for Miranda and Brady?

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Best Lemon Harvest Ever by @JoanReeves

Photo by Anderson Guerra from Pexels
I'm going to brag about our lemon harvest because it was the best we've had since the tree started producing.

Recipe Alert: Fake Lemon Souffle at the end of the post.

Before I had a lemon tree, I thought I'd be picking lemons on sunny summer days.

To my surprise, I learned that the lemons from the trees many of us have in Houston are harvested around Thanksgiving.

The week before Thanksgiving, Darling Hubby put on his suit of armor and marched forth to harvest the lemons.

Just kidding about the armor, but lemon trees have wicked 2-inch thorns that can stab and rip the unwary. It's planted in the corner of our backyard next to a brick wall. I pity anyone who tries to scale that wall from the other side!

But Lemons Are Yellow

Yes, the ones you buy in the supermarket are, but, like oranges, supermarket lemons are given a beauty treatment.

Besides, these are Meyer Lemons. They grow much larger than the common variety sold in grocery stores, have about 4 times as much juice, and very few seeds.

The lemons begin to turn yellow after harvest. You can see one has started to turn.

If we'd left them on the tree until December, they would be mostly yellow. Since the weather forecast was for another freeze, we picked them all. They'd survived one freeze already—see the dark speckled spots on the exterior? That's freeze damage. We didn't want to lose them with another freeze.

What To Do With 3 Dozen Lemons?

That was my dilemma after we'd washed each lemon. Where to store more than 3 dozen lemons? Small fridge in the garage where we store soft drinks and beer. Produce drawer in the kitchen fridge. Fruit basket on the counter.

The largest are the size of softballs!
I used the juice from 1 to make 2 lemon meringue pies for Thanksgiving dinner. I made lemon cake, lemon chicken,  and my lazy lemon souffle.

I didn't want to waste the bounty, but there was no way I could make a lemon something every day.

So Darling Hubby grabbed a strainer and a big bowl. He cut each lemon in half and squeezed the juice into a strainer to remove any seeds. I zested the prettier ones. 

I poured the juice—organic and homegrown—into freezer bags and placed the zest in a smaller freezer bag. The now juiceless lemon halves went to our compost pile.

Fake Lemon Souffle

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons plain white flour
  • 3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons of the lemon zest
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Select an ovenproof baking dish that will make a lovely presentation since you'll be serving directly from the baking dish. Also put on some water to boil for step 6.

2. Grate the rind of the lemon until you have 2 teaspoons of rind. Squeeze the lemon to yield at least 3 tablespoons of lemon juice. In a bowl, mix sugar, salt, flour, rind, and juice. (I actually use 4 tablespoons of lemon juice because the homegrown lemons don't taste as acidic.

3. Separate the eggs, putting the whites in a glass or metal bowl, not plastic. (Egg whites won't beat well in plastic.) In a large measuring cup or small bowl, beat the yolks, milk, and butter. Add this to the flour mixture. Then beat the egg whites until stiff. Fold this into the flour mixture.

4. Pour the mixture into the ovenproof bowl. Set the dish in a larger ovenproof pan. Pour hot water in the outer pan.

(This technique is called a water bath, and it keeps soufflés and puddings from burning or getting hard on the bottom and sides.) The water should come up to at least 1 inch on the side of the baking dish but not so high that it may slosh into the dish.

5. Bake at 325 for about 50 minutes. You know it's done when you insert a knife around the sides and there's no liquid left because it's all been absorbed.

6. Serves 4-6. This delicate lemon dessert isn't really a soufflé, but it's as light and delicious as any soufflé you've ever had, and it's delicious served hot or cold.

Something lemony makes the gray winter day so much better. Try it!


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Friday, February 14, 2020

Will You Be My Valentine? by Bea Tifton

So, I faced quite a dilemma with my blog topic today. I could ramble like I usually do, or acknowledge that my post fell on a holiday and write a post about Valentine’s Day. Hmmm. On a blog devoted to romance, it’s down to the single girl. I decided to ramble about Valentine’s Day and combine the two options.

First, many people think that Valentine’s Day is just a random day created to generate income for a major card manufacturer. They ask disgustedly, (and, I should point out, that this is generally people who are trying to get OUT of celebrating V Day), “Was there even a St. Valentine?” Well, yup and nope. There was, but then again, some historians think the idea was the combination of three people. One of the most common stories is that when that great romantic Claudius II ruled, he decided that men who weren’t allowed to fall in love and get married made better soldiers. Despite the law that soldiers couldn’t marry, St. Valentine secretly performed marriages for love-struck couples. He was imprisoned, during which time he fell in love with the jailer’s daughter and regularly corresponded with her, signing his amorous letters, “From your Valentine.” Thaaaattt’ssss right. See what he did there?

Written valentines began appearing in the 1400s, and by the 1700s, people were exchanging hand written cards. In the 1900s, with the advent of printing technologies, factory produced valentines were more the norm. “In the 1840s, Esther A. Howland began selling the first mass-produced valentines in America. Howland, known as the “Mother of the Valentine,” made elaborate creations with real lace, ribbons and colorful pictures known as ‘scrap.’” (  Now, each year, millions of people send valentines through the mail or electronically. 

I’m single and I have a case of the flu, so I’m definitely giving V Day a miss. Does that bother me? Well, no. I love being single. I’ve always been one of those women who just plugged along without a significant other unless I met someone amazing enough for whom to rearrange my life, which I have at different points in my past. Otherwise, I’m a very independent person, even somewhat of a loner (aren’t many writers?), so I’m happy. I have great friends, I’m close to my parents, and I do meaningful volunteer work and write for a living. I’m not  
anti-marriage, but I’ve long been comfortable with the fact that I’m single. I heard Emma Watson say she was, “Self-partnered,” explaining that she loved being so. I giggled to myself. I love Emma Watson’s acting work, but the fact that she had to come up with another word did, to me, seem that being single wasn’t yet quite okay. Getting older has made me so much more comfortable in my own skin. I’m (mumbles unintelligibly) years old, I live alone, and I have too many rescue pets, but I don’t dress them up in their own little outfits or barricade myself in a house with teetering stacks of newspapers and empty pizza boxes, so I’m okay every day, including on Valentine’s Day.

Besides, everyone knows the real day of celebration is the day AFTER Valentine’s Day, when all the chocolate is 50% off.

I hope that everyone who wants to celebrate does so, that you have an enjoyable day however you love spending your time, that you get good stuff and realize people are showing they love you (or that you are showing yourself that you do), and that you dress your pets in their own little tutus if it makes you happy.  No judgement here, dear Reader. What are your plans?