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Saturday, March 28, 2020

The Time of Daffodils

I love spring anywhere, but if I could choose I would always greet it in a garden. ~Ruth Stout

Daffodils are such happy flowers. I can't imagine anyone not liking them. They're easy to grow and mix in beautifully with crocus, hyacinths, and other early blooms. Daffodils have always been on the farm. My mother-in-law had them, and the families who lived here before her. I've divided old clumps, spread them around, and planted new varieties over the years. The waving yellow and white blooms are a spirit lifting sight. When I'm outside working among the flowers, I feel more peaceful and not as freaked out about the pandemic. Like countless others, I'm at home for the duration and especially grateful for the garden. Having an early spring in the valley is a boon. I wish I could share the beauty with everyone. This is the best I can do.

Spring forever appears
      the soothing music part
      of lyrics unspoken.
It thaws the frozen fears,
      mends the wounded heart
      that Winter has broken.
~Aarno Davidson

The first day of spring is one thing, and the first spring day is another. The difference between them is sometimes as great as a month. ~Henry Van Dyke

The sun has come out... and the air is vivid with spring light. ~Byron Caldwell Smith, letter to Kate Stephens

A little madness in the Spring
Is wholesome even for the King.
~Emily Dickinson

Winter sprouts springtime wings and flies off into the budding year. ~Terri Guillemets

Daffodils, so bright and yellow,
      Hyacinths of varied hues,
      As they nod their heads, in gladness,
      Telling us they bring good news...
~Gertrude Tooley Buckingham, "Springtime" (1940s)

I sure hope spring brings good news to us all

Tuesday, March 24, 2020


I have just finished writing a short novella for a summer release where ice cream must be used somewhere in the story line. Although Huckleberry Happiness will stand alone, it will be part of the One Scoop or Two collection published by the Wild Rose Press. 

Huckleberry Happiness was fun to write because I wandered back to 1885 when refrigeration consisted of ice boxes, sometimes called ice closets. I also used huckleberries as the flavor, because in Pennsylvania, these little dark berries were picked and used in recipes like cultivated blueberries. The heroine, Emelia Stone, makes huckleberry pie for her bakery, but also plans to make a special ice cream dessert for a contest the Pennsylvania Railroad is having.

I’ve always been interested in ice caves since one exists in Coudersport, Sweden Township, Pennsylvania. Originally the ice caves were used to store meat and for ice harvesting. So naturally, Joe Sawicki, my hero, has to own an ice company with his brother. He stores some of his ice in an ice cave and regularly delivers ice to Emelia Stone’s bakery to keep her perishable goods fresh.

How do ice caves work? Heavy cold air from outside cascades into the cave and warmer air inside the cave rise up and escapes, lowering the temperatures. The ice that forms inside makes it harder to warm the space and acts as a buffer that stabilizes the temperatures to freezing.

Although Huckleberry Happiness is still in the production stage, here is the blurb:

In 1885, Emelia Stone and her sister must learn to operate their deceased parents’ bakery in the small town of Pennsylvania. A large mortgage looms on their family home. When her sister leaves town, Emelia is forced to handle the bakery and burden alone.

The Pennsylvania Railroad is searching for the perfect dessert for its passengers. Joe Sawicki, owner of Sawicki Brothers Ice Company, is certain Emelia can win the contest and the hundred- dollar bonus if she creates a special ice cream to accompany her popular huckleberry pies. He has loved her since they played hooky in grade school to explore the company’s ice cave.

Can Emelia find courage to stand up to the town’s bully to win the competition? And will Joe have the mettle to express his undying love and win first place in Emelia’s heart?

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Music Sets the Mood

by Rain Trueax

Don't you love how music comes to you when you need it-- but didn't know you did! 

I was sitting at my desk trying to decide what to write for this blog. And then along came a desire to hear the song Garryowen, which I have a copy of on my hard drive. I had used it in a book where the hero was a cavalry officer, who had served in the American West but also during the Civil War. It's a kind of star-crossed lover story

The music that came to my mind was connected with George and Libby Custer and what I can't help but think of, along with my own book, where the cavalry life was a key part of their story. 

After that desire to hear the song, I went looking for it on YouTube and what a great version I found. It has the original lyrics along with paintings of the cavalry in action during what would have been my hero's time in it.


Using music in a book can be tricky-- especially when it's modern. I wanted to use some lyrics once for a contemporary book and found that the permission, for only a couple of lines, would cost me more than the book could ever have hoped to make-- change of plans. It's too bad, as music is a big part of our lives. Songs tend to take us back to a particular moment in our lives. But it is what it is.

It's different though when it's an old song, one in public domain. I didn't need the lyrics to Garryowen. I hoped readers would know the melody.  When I think about it, that scene comes back, to me and i can hear the music playing as it would have been at their ball.

He had nearly forgotten the dance would end and Belle would return but then there she was. “This song was requested for you specifically, Captain Phillips,” she said with a smile as she put her hand out for him.

When he heard it start up, he understood why, Garryowen, the fighting song of many a soldier. Some regarded it as an ending song as well. He swept her into his arms and began the quickstep that was best danced to it. They spun around the dance floor, this time with no chance to talk. He realized as they danced that others had stepped aside. They were in the center of the floor and then they were the only dancers. When the music ended, the others applauded and Belle laughed.

“You look at little stunned, Captain,” she said as they left the floor.
“Custer has claimed that for his Seventh Cavalry.”
“Does that mean no one else may claim it?”
“No, but do you know it’s a drinking song?”
“Actually no... but I did know about Custer. Miles Koegh actually claimed it first.”
“How did you know that?”
She smiled. “Well, don’t tell anyone but I did happen to have met General Custer once.”
“You know him too, then and it’s why you said ahhh.”
He smiled. “Only on an acquaintance level. He is known as a lady’s man.”
“Really? I thought his wife was delightful.”
“Did you know them through your husband?”
“Please, I’d rather not talk about that.” 

When I reread the scene, I wished I had made the dance last longer as it does in my imagination. I can see them twirling around the floor, her in that long, beautiful gown, him booted and in uniform. Sometimes scenes can be stretched too far but where it comes to Garryowen, I don't think it can. 
There is another story about the song. It came from Libby's book. She described watching the 7th ride out for that last time, and how, as was Custer's way, he had the song being played by the regimental musicians. She said she watched as they disappeared into a swirl of dust. 
Real life often doesn't end as happily as romances always do. It's why I like romances. A great love story is however always a great love story.

Love Waits is the fourth of the Stevens family as they came to Oregon and settled into their new land-- three sisters and their mother.


Friday, March 20, 2020

Take A Deep Breath: This Too Shall Pass -- Laurean Brooks

In this season of anxiety and fear of the unknown, let's all take a deep breath and make the most of it. Families are encouraged to stay home. “Time is of the essence,” Let's embrace this temporary change in our schedules and use it for good.

When was the last time your schedule slowed down enough to have a heart-to-heart talk with your spouse, daughter, or son? When did you last call a sibling, friend, neighbor, cousin, or older relative to check on them?

Our neighbors who have lived down the road for over a year, called yesterday to see if we needed anything. I'm ashamed to admit that I didn't even know their names. But I do now. The call was a sweet gesture that touched my heart.

This would be a great time for mothers to teach their daughters to cook and sew. And a great time for a father to teach his son to change the oil in the car or how to service the lawnmower.

We long for the “good old days” when times were simpler and life moved at a slower pace. There is no time like the present to relive those days and bring back memories. Even if you weren't around in the 50s or 60s, you can get a feel for life back then.

Gather around the table. Play board games such as Sorry or Chinese Checkers with family. Or get them involved in a game of Charades. Tell silly jokes and laugh.

Enjoy the camaraderie with loved ones. Invite siblings or close friends over for a simple meal--chili and hotdogs, hamburgers, or pizza. Take a nature walk with your kids or grandkids. Enjoy reconnecting and fellowshipping before life speeds up again.

In 2018 and 2019 I lost two family members plus several Facebook friends I'd bonded with. This made me realize how quickly life passes. James 4:14 states it well: Whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.”

We can't bring our loved ones back, but we can spend quality time with the ones who are still part of our lives.

This too shall pass” is a good saying to live by. Relax, reconnect with family and friends. But most of all laugh, love, and enjoy your family time. Instead of working ourselves into a frenzy, let's put our fears and anxiety in God's hands and relax. He's got this.
When Amanda's CEO husband is found dead in his mangled Porsche alongside his young secretary, she is devastated. Then she learns Greg has gambled away the savings, including a lien against her house. Amanda hides from reporters who are bent on destroying her. What will she do?

To Trust Her Heart by [Brooks, Laurean]

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Happy Pi Day by Bea Tifton


Oh, Lordy. We’ve made it. Do you know what day it is? Do you? Do you?  Durned if it isn’t an international holiday that I can fully support, despite my inherent distrust of anything math related. It's Pi Day, founded in 1988 by a physicist named Larry Shaw.

Yes, it’s that wonderful day when the date spells out, 3.14, March 14. And 3.14 is the numerical term for pi. What is pi, my little English major friends? “Pi (often represented by the lower-case Greek letter π), one of the most well-known mathematical constants, is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter.  For any circle, the distance around the edge is a little more than three times the distance across.”
Now, if you’re like me all you heard when you read that was the static of an old fashioned TV set between channels. Don’t worry, my friends. There will be no math involved today. Because Pi Day has cleverly morphed into Pie Day, and I can get right behind that.  

Ahhhh, pie. I love pie. And, as a patriotic human, of course I’m going to give this day my all. Pizza pie for lunch, dessert pie to top it off. And all over the country, places who serve one or the other will have sales and specials. 

There are so many ways to celebrate.  

       1.  Eat as much pie as possible.
       2. Have pie for dessert.  
       3. Have pie with friends. (Warning, this may involve having to share the pie.) 

      Or, if you’re on some obscure pie free diet (shudder), why not sing about pie? Here is just a sampling of some great pie song. 
       1. American Pie sung by Don McClean
       2. Sweet Potato Pie sung by James Taylor 
       3. Where’s My Apple Pie? sung by Joan Baez.  
       Or, since we are readers and writers, you can simply wax poetic about pie. Here are some friendly pie quotes to memorize and amaze your friends.
  1. “Cut my pie into four pieces. I don’t think I could eat eight.” Yogi Berra
  2. “We must have a pie. Stress cannot exist in the presence of pie.” David Mamet
  3. “The future… seems to me no unified dream but a mince pie, long in the baking, never                quite done.” Edward Young

 Whatever you choose to do, have a wonderful Pi Day. What’s your favorite type of pie?