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Tuesday, July 28, 2020

"These are the Times that Try Men's (And Women's) Souls" ~Thomas Paine

July 2020 is one of the warmest I recall in the Shire, as I call our idyllic valley, and it's dry with hit or miss (mostly miss) thunderstorms. Covid remains a threat, seemingly forever. I almost expect reports of zombies, considering how this year is going. But the mega challenge in our family is my dear daughter Alison undergoing chemotherapy for colon cancer at 38. She's also on oral chemo, but the IV infusion is the bad boy, administered over a period of hours with a calcium magnesium drip before and after and mega anti nausea meds. It still hits her hard. A bigger worry than the nausea and exhaustion is the effect this med is having on her nervous system, which is why the timing of the dosage is being tweaked.

I spend much of my time at Alison's house (only a short distance from mine) helping out with her, my three grandchildren, and the house--mostly the kitchen, under frequent assault. The kids, already heavily curtailed by Covid, are more so with an unwell mom who really doesn't need it. Keeping boredom at bay is a daily thing, but they are creative children. Yesterday, nine year-old, soon to be ten-year-old, Chloe fashioned herself a bow and arrow from sticks, tape, and twine. She and her cousin, my ten-year-old grandson Owen, who also made one, strode off with their bows and arrows like young contenders in the Hunger Games. They were proud.

I often bring Chloe and her older brother, Colin, to the farm in the afternoons. Their other braver grandmother keeps two-year-old Charlie on Alison's bad days, and for her medical battery stuff. He's as cute as he can be but tantrum prone, depending on how he's feeling, and an exceedingly busy boy. He 'gets on my nervous' as big brother, Colin, used to say, climbing on the tops of things and leaping off. Plus plus. Colin did the same. Have you hung out with a moody super active two year old lately? It's not for the faint of heart. They don't have the sense God gave a goose and I envision accidents at every turn. Then Charlie smiles endearingly and gives me a hug and I wonder why I have a problem?

About Covid, I've been hiding from this monster for months and see no end in sight. My hair is more silver than brown now and longer than it's been in years. I may never see my hairdresser again. But that doesn't really matter. The main thing is that Alison gets to the other side of this cancer journey, victorious, and we escape Covid. My daughter-in-law, Charity, an ER nurse, had it this spring and thought she might die. Noooo thank you.

We're all just doing our best to get through a rotten time. Alison's treatments should end by Christmas--we hope. Guess that all depends. Meanwhile, the enthusiastic support of friends, family, and the community is very heartening. People regularly bring meals to Alison and her family, do the laundry, bring flowers and little gifts, send cards, run errands, boost morale and uplift her (and us all) in prayer. It's kind of like when Winnie the Pooh was stuck in Rabbit's hole after eating too much honey and his friends rallied round and sang sustaining songs. That's the only way to manage in these challenging days. I don't know how anyone gets through anything without support. I call it circling the wagons. Country people do that very well. And of  course, I've got my furbabies.

As ever, the garden uplifts me and many others, despite the heat and bugs. After the beetles pass, the roses will bloom again in a flush of glory before frost. Zinnias are coming on strong, as are salvia and dahlias are setting buds. The sunflowers are a golden forest. And I've ordered more tulip, crocus, and hyacinth bulbs to plant this fall, as I'm of the opinion you can never have too many. I don't recall a spring where I failed to be cheered by crocus shining in the sun, or daffodils bending in the breeze.

Beauty is never wasted. Remember that. "A thing of beauty is a joy forever..." John Keats

I should mention that I actually managed to do a little writing this past week, but my opportunities are limited these days and I'm often too tired to be creative. But it will come.

Friday, July 24, 2020


by Judy Ann Davis

Did you ever wonder why you became a storyteller? And how many times has someone asked you: How do you write a story? They don’t mean the rather dry, formula rules of language and publisher requirements, but rather, how do you dream up your ideas?

Erskine Caldwell, author of Tobacco Road and God’s Little Acre, once said, “The reason I am a successful writer is that I consider creative writing to be motivated by a certain state of mind; and I believe that only those who are born with the gift or who acquire the indefinable urge to express themselves in print can accomplish it.”

He goes on to say that this state of mind is an almost uncontrollable desire that seeks fulfillment at any cost. It’s a craving that will not be denied, similar to the overpowering physical necessity for food and drink. The intensity of this state of mind forces a person onward to whatever extend he is willing to go in order to achieve his conscious, or subconscious, goal in life. Caldwell also indicates the degree of intensity of this state of mind is the measure of success or failure.

So, what is his definition of a novel or short story? “It’s an imaginary tale with a meaning, interesting enough to hold the reader’s attention and profound enough to leave a lasting impression in his mind.” And, he goes on to maintain there are natural-born storytellers, but he believes the greater number of fiction writers acquire, either by diligent practice of by intelligent instruction, the ability to create a story with completeness that will interest persons other than the author.

What do I believe? I believe that as fiction writers we all are dreamers, and we all like to ask, what if? Yes, we are creative and probably have some instinctive or natural ability, but we also have learned the meaning and use of words and how to construct sentences to convey our thoughts. For each story we write, we probably have (in our imagination or on paper) conjured up a plot or mission statement, possible characters with motivation and goals, and maybe a loose story outline or synopsis. We believe we truly do have something worthwhile to say that will entertain and will leave some type of impression, if not a lasting one, upon the minds of our readers.  

Do you agree? What propels you to sit at your computer, pound the keyboard hour after hour—and day after day—without becoming impatient and giving up?

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

When the times they be changing

by Rain Trueax

Writers write books that come to them. Usually, they are plotted out long before the writing actually begins. The outside world is busy doing whatever it does. Once in a while, it impacts whether it's a good time for that book to come out.

A few weeks ago I saw where a writer was concerned because her hero was a police officer. Should she change it, she asked, as right now the police are under attack as not being the good guys, which they were thought of when she began the book. Things can change fast.

I ran into this in 2015, when I had written a book where the hero fought for the South in the Civil War.  He had been living in Oregon where he was establishing a ranch but was called back to Georgia by his mother who feared her health was failing and was worried about two of his brothers, who had already joined the Confederacy. 

In March of 2015, protests erupted over a death in police custody. Violence followed as the anger spread from the police to the South and the Civil War where people saw them as fighting to defend slavery. Not an uncommon belief but not that simple about the South in the 1860s.

That wasn't my problem as I'd already heavily researched my hero's situation. My problem was my hero was a Rebel in a modern time where that was seen as being a traitor. 

It was impossible to change the hero and his background.  I had written good reasons why he fought for the South, which did not include defending slavery. Although his family owned a plantation, they had freed the slaves that came with it when they arrived, after all that they'd gone through in Scotland. Oppression to people had no appeal to them. But he did fight for the South and that would make him not a hero but a bad guy in the eyes of some. How much would that impact the sales of the book, I asked myself a little selfishly. Should I delay its publication? Would it matter if I even did?

It's ironic when you write a book and suddenly the outside world impacts how people will see it. I've seen that a lot with older romances that are judged by today's standards. Sometimes it leads to condemnation of the authors and sometimes not so much.

When we hold people today to standards of the past nobody is safe from condemnation, which recently has included George Washington because he owned slaves back then. 

Anyway, I kept my book as it was, brought it out in September and don't know if it impacted sales for him to have been a confederate soldier. The book begins when he returns to Oregon to see if the woman he left might still love him. 

In the plot, I had plenty of opportunities to bring out how Oregon saw the South and any Southerner. Not to mention, my hero's surviving brother was half black. When the baby's mother had died at birth, he'd been raised with the hero and his brothers as an equal because of the nature of the hero's mother. I had a lot in that book about prejudice and felt it painted a fair picture of the times-- which were different than ours.

One point many did not know is that Oregon had a law that lasted into the early 20th Century that blacks could not own property. So while the people felt proudly anti-slavery, they also were racists to keep such a law. Some don't know that there are still property deeds, which ban the owner from selling to a minority-- ignored today, of course. 

I think sometimes having something negative in a story can be positive for what it can teach. That though may not help sales. :)

Although the link is to Amazon, this book is wide and has a paperback.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Exploring An Abandoned House--Was it haunted?--Laurean Brooks

Summer on the farm wasn’t all hard work for my siblings and me. We found time for fun between hoeing the gardens, picking, shelling, or shucking the produce. And after a gully-washer rain, we played in the gushing creek at the bottom of the hill in the woods. By this week in July, we were eating ripened watermelons from our patch in the bottom field. And some nights we’d play outside and catch lightning bugs in a jar then let them go.

Even with the above-mentioned pleasures, none compared to what our brother deemed “Exploring”. Exploring meant following our older brother Ralph, through the woods, jumping across ditches, fighting thorn trees and briers, wading shallow streams, and climbing over fences, just to see what lay on the other side of the woods beyond our farm.

One summer day when the work was caught up, Ralph announced, “Let’s go exploring.” After a three-mile hike through the woods, we came to a clearing and upon an abandoned two-story clapboard house. Although the paint was faded, judging by its fancy trim, the old house once had her heyday. But why was it in the middle of nowhere?

Ralph pointed out a grassy trail that had once been the road leading to the house. We followed it some distance and found a wide chasm where a bridge had once spanned. After Ralph had studied it, he said, “Let’s go back and explore the house.”

I was afraid to enter the abandoned house. It looked...well, haunted. But we all trusted our big brother to protect us. As we approached, I gazed up at the second story and broken window panes. A few window panes were missing on the lower-story, also.

We reached the back door and found it unlocked. With the twist of the doorknob, it creaked open. The room we stepped into was the kitchen. It boasted an old-time wood stove like our grandmothers cooked on, cupboards, and a small table covered in a faded, checkered oilcloth with white, four painted chairs around it.

My siblings and I went in different directions to explore the house. I found what appeared to be the living room. An old footlocker sat in one corner. I imagined it filled to overflowing with rubies, diamonds, pearls, and gold coins. I couldn’t wait to open it We would be rich! And I could indulge in all the candy I wanted at Workman’s Grocery.

When I lifted the lid and found hundreds of loose photos inside, my dream was deflated. Many of them were of a blond boy around age six, sitting proudly astride a paint pony and decked out in cowboy attire. By the number of pictures and the way the boy was dressed, he was bound to be the apple of someone’s eye.

When we’d seen all we wanted of the downstairs, Ralph called us into the foyer and pointed up the once elaborate staircase. “Let’s see what’s up there.”

I cringed. All I saw was darkness. If anything sinister was in the house, it would be hiding up there. “Don’t worry,” Ralph assured us. "Nothing to be afraid of."

Single-file, we climbed the steps with Ralph leading the way. I was the last one to follow. A minute later a loud screech came from the attic. Ralph yelled, “Bats! Run!” He almost tripped over us as we ran down the stairs and out to the woods.

As we screamed and scrambled to catch up with Ralph, a string of bats streamed past us, over our heads, and out the open door. My heart pounded against my ribs and my breath came in gasps as I raced to keep up with my siblings. 

We found a safe spot in the surrounding woods and stopped to catch our breath. On the trek home, we discussed the old house and its eerie occupants and agreed it was haunted like the ones we’d seen in scary movies.

When we reached home, we were famished. Dad pulled a watermelon from the freezer where he’d placed it just after lunch. We sank our teeth into plump, juicy slices between relating our horrific experience.

Of course, Dad warned us not to return to the abandoned house. It belonged to someone, and we had no business exploring it.

I had no problem with that. You couldn't drag me back. 

Exploring the deserted house was an adventure I won't forget. The people who once lived there still remains a mystery. Younger family members enjoy hearing us re-tell the story, but nothing could persuade me to go back again. 

I think Ralph and the others feel the same.
When mail-order bride Emily, finds her mule-faced groom at the altar with another woman, she's fresh out of options. Until a handsome cowboy offers her a job taking care of his mother. Trouble is, Clint doesn't know she's a mail-order bride, and when he voices his low opinion of them, Emily keeps it a secret that she came in response to the mule-faced dentist's ad. 

What will happen when Clint uncovers her secret?

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Vacation at Last Chance Beach by @JoanReeves #SmartGirlsReadRomance


I've spent the last two months enduring a Learning Experience! The end result is shown above. Yes, my friends and I who are part of the blog group, Romance Gems, have our first Romance Collection up for pre-release.

We're proud of this box set of Short Story Romances because the 14 of us in the gorup have worked tirelessly to bring this vision into reality.

This is a Limited Time Edition. You can have Last Chance Beach: Summer's End, 14 all-new, never-before-published Romance Short Stories from a group of authors inlcuding NYTimes and USA Today bestsellers—for only 99¢.

That's right! Just 99 pennies (before tax). Check it out now. I think you'll love these stories.

Here's Your Ticket to Last Chance Beach

LAST CHANCE BEACH is the island paradise where Dreams go to live again, and Wishes may come true.

It's Summer's End on the island, and the cottages, condos, hotels, and bungalows are filled to capacity.

There's plenty of time left to find summer fun and summer love, new romances and second chances, hot alpha males and heartwarming heroes, love at first sight and romantic delight, enemies to lovers and opposites attract.

Throw a log on the beach bonfire tonight and celebrate LAST CHANCE BEACH: Summer's End, a special romance collection of 14 all-new short stories from bestselling and award-winning authors.

These summer stories—created especially for this collection—will thrill the hopeful romantic in you.

Some are humorous; some are serious. All the stories will make you sigh! Some are sweet: some are sizzling!

Want to escape from our current reality? Book a vacation to LAST CHANCE BEACH: Summer's End.

The island of legend and love, the place where soul mates find each other, love is given second chances,  and love at first sight happens all the time!

Hot August Night by Joan Reeves, NY Times and USA Today Bestselling Author
When they met, it was hate at first sight. Now they're stuck in the same overbooked beach cottage—and horrified to discover they have the hots for each other!

Something New by Liz Flaherty, USA Today Bestselling Author
Their lives are planned out...until they're not! Are they in love or just stuck in a habit?

I Do...Again by Nancy Fraser, Top 100 Bestselling Author
At a high school reunion; old flames meet again. Can they re-ignite what they once had and take a last chance on love?

The Man in Gull Cottage by Caroline Clemmons, Top 100 Bestselling Author
She faces a hard decision; he encourages her to choose with her heart.

Will the solution drive them apart or into one another's arms?

That One Summer by Maddie James, Top 100 Bestselling Author
It's the typical annual week on the beach with the girls—until her summer fling from 20 years back shows up. He's the one who got away. She's the one who couldn't commit.

Romancing the Spouse by Jan Scarbrough, National Bestselling Author
The kids are grown; her husband has an important career, and she wonders if she still loves him, and if he loves her. Can she turn back the clock to save her marriage?

Blue Sky Summer by Kathleen Lawless, National Bestselling Author
Of all the beaches on the coast, who shows up on her beach? Him! A former competitive surfer runs into her former lover, and revisits all the reasons things didn't work out for them before.

Hangover Husband by Bonnie Edwards, National Bestselling Author
She wants divorce—he doesn't. What happens in Vegas doesn't always stay in Vegas!

One Last Shot by Marcia King-Gamble, National Bestselling Author
She's hiding from the paparazzi after a scandal. He's the guy next door, an amateur photographer. Will he accept tabloid money for pictures of her? Or will he choose love over jumpstarting his career?

Secondhand Hearts by Kathryn Hills, Award Winning Author
Kat must convince her Gran to move to the mainland, but Gran—and hunky neighbor Ben—want Kat to take over the B&B and antique shop. What will it take for Kat to stay? Some of Gran’s special island magic?

Paradise Perfume by Connie Vines, Award Winning Author
She returns to Last Chance Beach to begin a new life. He's a single dad on vacation with his pre-teen daughter. He's worried his daughter may become too attached to her, but maybe he's the one whose heart is at risk.

Dreams of the Past by Laura Hunsaker, Award Winning Author
Can dreams of the future erase her nightmares of the past?

She's looking for a fresh start, but he’s rented the same beach cottage. One bed, two people? Whatever will they do?

Beach Kisses & Sunset Wishes by Nora LeDuc, Popular Author
He's handsome and in town for only 2 weeks. She wants someone interested in a fling. He wants someone interested in a ring.

Can't Buy Me Love by Hannah RowanPopular Author
She won the big lottery, but doesn't want anyone to know.

He's a fixer-upper specialist, but things aren't always what they seem.

Love and Romance await. Book your ticket now.

Only 99¢ for a vacation from dreary reality.


Monday, July 13, 2020

Connections by Bea Tifton

During the course of the Covid pandemic, many people have felt disconnected. I’ve been thinking about the concept of feeling connected, and of the many connections people make. Obviously, romantic chemistry can spark an instant connection, but I’m talking about platonic friendships we form. 

 I have always felt a bit out of step with the rest of the world. When I was growing up, I was painfully shy. Painfully. I did always have friends, but just a few, and I’m told I can be a difficult person to get to know. When I became a teacher, I discovered that I needed to be able to string a few intelligent sentences together when I met someone, a parent for instance, and I learned to, well, fake it. Not that I’m a fake person. I merely learned to make conversation with people I
just met. I also volunteer for a homeless program and I can chat with our homeless guests easily now.

As for friends, I still only have a few I consider close friends, and I'm very private. I appear to be more comfortable around people, but I am still very shy and I feel out of step in a world to which I dance to my own tune. 

Every now and then, I meet someone with whom I just click. Some believe that these are people we knew in past lives or even in Heaven before we came to live on Earth, and it's just a case of one soul recognizing the other one. I have a friend who is a therapist, and she maintains that it just means the person reminds us of someone we already know and like or with whom we've had some positive experience. 

Whatever it is, it’s funny how we feel that connection. I met someone who advertised on Nextdoor that her husband was thinning plants and that anyone who came by could have some. I’d admired this yard since I moved into the neighborhood , so I showed up. I discovered they are both delightful, generous people. And the woman, my friend now, loves mysteries as much as I do, so I’ve been invited to join her mystery book club as soon as they start meeting again. We discovered we had a lot in common. Funny how we connected. 

Some of my best friendships have started out that way. Some random meeting. I met a woman who is now a  dear friend of mine when she came to speak to my Sunday school class. We started chatting via email and went out to lunch a couple of times before Covid shut us down. We text regularly and she’s been a source of laughter and support to me these past few months.

I’ll always be shy, I think. I just can’t help it. But I hope I continue these friendships I’ve formed for many years to come. Even during the stay at home I’ve felt our connection and it’s kept me from feeling isolated.

Have you ever made a friend easily and quickly from some random circumstances? Leave an answer in the comments below.