Monday, May 30, 2011

MEMORIAL DAY 2011


We often observe this day with a fun activity, grateful for the extra day off from our job and a long weekend to relax. Memorial Day was intended to honor those who've died serving their country.











On May 5, 1868, General John Logan proclaimed this day a holiday through his General Order No. 11. The day was entitled Decoration Day and was first observed on May 30, 1868. The northern states celebrated this day every year. Silly as it seems now, the southern states celebrated a day similar to this on a different day until sometime after World War I.


In 1882, the name Decoration Day was changed to Memorial Day, and in 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday to be held on the last Monday of May every year. Over the years it has come to serve as a day to remember all who've died in the past year as well as those U.S. men and women killed or missing in action in all wars.

No man left behind - this
soldier carries his own 40
pounds of gear plus his
wounded buddy

"It is, in a way, an odd thing to honor those who died in defense of our country in wars far away. The imagination plays a trick. We see these soldiers in our mind as old and wise. We see them as something like the Founding Fathers, grave and gray-haired. But most of them were boys when they died, they gave up two lives -- the one they were living and the one they would have lived. When they died, they gave up their chance to be husbands and fathers and grandfathers. They gave up their chance to be revered old men. They gave up everything for their county, for us. All we can do is remember." -- Ronald Wilson Reagan, Remarks at Veteran's Day ceremony, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia, November 11, 1985


It's young men and women
sacrifice for us.
President Reagan was correct. It is easy to think of these who've passed as venerable old soldiers--grandfathers and great grandfathers who've had a chance to tell their wartime adventure stories to countless family members. In fact, most who die are young men and women who will never have a chance to grow old with families. Some are still in their teens. Please take a moment today and offer a prayer for their souls and give thanks for their sacrifice.


Never, never, never forget!

Friday, May 27, 2011

BOOK REVIEW - SAVING CEE CEE HONEYCUTT BY BETH HOFFMAN

I have wanted to read this book since its release, but wouldn’t spring for the hard cover price. Cheap, yes, but we avid readers have to be a little practical. I lucked out, and Darling 2 gave me SAVING CEE CEE HONEYCUTT with other gifts for Mother’s Day.
AVAILABLE AT ALL BOOK DEALERS NOW!


When the book opens, Cee Cee is a child in charge of her mentally ill mom while her father travels. Even when he is home, his visits are brief and unsympathetic. Cee Cee’s mom, aptly named Camille, is a Southern belle and former beauty queen who has slipped away from the bonds of reality. She never, though, forgets that she loves Cee Cee very much. What she does is dress up in formals purchased from Goodwill and parade around town in her tiara, believing that she is still the 1951 Vidalia Onion Queen queen and the contest and parades are ongoing. Life for Cee Cee is difficult. Classmates shun or tease her, which drives her to excel scholastically and escape into books.

Cee Cee’s one respite is her neighbor, Mrs. Odell, who prepares weekend breakfast for Cee Cee and also buys her books. Lots of books. But tragedy strikes at the end of the school year when Cee Cee is twelve, and she’s sent to live with her mother’s great aunt, Tootie Caldwell. Cee Cee hates her father even more for sending her away and can’t imagine living anywhere but Ohio. The city of Savanah soon weaves its spell on her, and so do Aunt Tootie and the other amazing women who save Cee Cee from her former life. Watching Cee Cee blossom from an adult before her time to become the girl she was meant to be is a wonderful journey. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Once I started it, I couldn’t put it down until I’d finished.


















Almost impossible to believe, SAVING CEE CEE HONEYCUTT is Beth Hoffman’s first professional novel. Before writing it, she was co-owner of an interior design studio. After a bout with the same virus and toxic shock that killed puppeteer Jim Henson, Beth Hoffman eventually decided to sell her business and devote her time to writing.  She lives in Newport, Kentucky with her husband and three cats. You can learn more about this fascinating author at http://www.bethhoffman.net/


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR LINDA K. HUBALEK



AUTHOR LINDA K. HUBALEK

Caroline: Readers love to get to know authors. Share anything that lets readers get to know the real you.

Linda: I grew up on a wheat farm in central Kansas. This farm was featured in my Butter in the Well series, and my parents still live there. I was a shy tomboy who preferred being outdoors, and working with animals, farming or gardening—rather than being inside doing housework and cooking. (And my husband would say I’m still that way.)


I have two older brothers and a younger sister and we were all involved in 4-H, church and community projects growing up. One brother now farms the family land and the other two live out of state. My husband and I have lived in three other states due to job careers, but then moved back to Kansas in the 1990s to be close to family.

Caroline: Who are your favorite authors and favorite genres?

Linda: When I read books, it’s right before bedtime so I want something fun, romantic, and not something that will give me nightmares. Right now I’m into contemporary western romances.

Caroline: How many books do you read a month? What are you reading now?

Linda: Depending on the time of year, I read from two to eight books a month. I seem to have a “Linda” theme at the moment…as I’ve been reading Linda Lael Miller’s and Linda Warren’s books.

Caroline: Can’t go wrong there. When you’re not writing, what’s your favorite way to relax and recharge?

Linda: Reading in a quiet room with a nice stash of chocolates…or out walking….off those chocolates…

Caroline: Can I stay behind with the book and chocolates? :D Would you like to share any guilty pleasures that feed your muse?

Linda: Chocolates and chocolate ice cream is my guilty pleasure…for any reason!

Caroline: Me, too. How long have you been writing?

Linda: I started writing books in 1992 when my husband was transferred to California for a two-year engineering project. I was homesick for the Midwest and started writing about the Swedish immigrant woman that homesteaded our family farm.

Caroline: Where do you prefer to write? Do you need quiet, music, solitude? PC or laptop?

Linda: I write in my office with my big computer monitor and curved keyboard attached to my laptop. It’s got to be absolute quiet for me to concentrate so nobody can be in the room with me.

Caroline: Are you a plotter or a panzer?


Linda: Do I plan ahead or charge my way through life or writing? Depends on the day and the situation!

Caroline: I always ask here if you use real events or persons in your stories, but I know that you do.

Linda: All my series have been based on real people, places and the events that went on during their lifetime. It’s a good way to get the research and story started.

Caroline: I was impressed with evidence of your research for TRAIL OF THREAD. Do you research before you begin a new project, or as you go along?

Linda: I start out with lists of ideas first, then research, then outline, then start expanding the chapters—combining everything I’ve absorbed in the process.

Caroline: Tell us about your writing schedule. Do you set goals? Do you write daily?

Linda: My day depends on life…and aging parents’ doctor’s appointments right now. I don’t set goals like I used to as something unforeseen can change and then just makes life stressful. I write something every day and sometimes at night in my dreams too.

Caroline: Yes, family comes first. Do you write full time or do you have a day job. If you have a day job, what is it?

Linda: I’m just getting back to full-time writing. We started raising bison in the 1990s and we ended up opening a Visitor Center on our farm because we had so many people coming in for tours. But both us— and the buffalo herd—were getting tired of tourists and being open seven days a week, so we closed it last year to get our lives back to a more normal pace.

Caroline: I love that you use your ancestors as souces. What do you hope your writing brings to readers?

Linda: I hope my writing gives readers a sense of their ancestors’ lives, and to maybe search out their own ancestors’ stories.

Caroline: What advice would you give to unpublished authors?

Linda: Now you can publish your work by yourself on the internet if you don’t want to look for a publisher, but please be sure to protect your book as best you can with an ISBN, copyright date, etc. You can learn how to do all of this through the internet.

Caroline: Tell us about TRAIL OF THREAD.

Blurb: Taste the dust of the road and feel the wind in your face as you travel with a Kentucky family by wagon trail to the new territory of Kansas in 1854. Find out what it was like for thousands of families who made the cross-country journey into the unknown.


In this first book of the TRAIL OF THREAD series, in the form of letters, Deborah Pieratt describes the scenery, the everyday events on the trail, and the task of taking care of her family. Stories of humor and despair, along with her ongoing remarks about camping, cooking and quilting make you feel as if you pulled up stakes and are traveling with the Pieratts too.

Excerpt: January 24, 1854 . . .


I don’t usually pay attention when the men talk about politics, but I automatically listened while I laid the dishes of food in front of them. They were discussing the new government bill that proposes to open up prairie Indian land, west of Missouri, to white settlement. A bill called the Territory of Platte failed last spring due to Southern opposition. Now an amended bill, breaking up the land into two sections, the Territory of Nebraska and the Territory of Kansas, is being discussed. Problems of slavery being legal in the new territories are being hotly debated between the Northern and Southern states. It sounds like the government has determined that the people who settle the territories can decide whether they want to allow slavery in their new states.


The traveler carefully pulled a folded newspaper clipping out of his front jacket and handed it to John. Holding it up to the candlelight, John read out loud that when the bill passes in the spring, as they predict it will, a man can claim whatever land he wants in these new territories for about a dollar an acre.


Kentucky was a wilderness in the early 1800’s, when John’s grandfather, Valentine Pieratt, moved his family from Maryland. He sailed across the sea in 1780 from France to fight in the Revolutionary War, decided to stay in the New World, and moved westward to a new wilderness whenever the area he lived in became populated.


Because land is getting scarce here for new generations, the idea of plenty of cheap land immediately stirred our men’s interest. I believe the adventure of their grandfather haunts their thinking, too.


When John finished reading that article and looked up into my eyes, I knew his mind was set to move as soon as possible. He wanted to blaze his own trail to the new territory and be ready to stake his claim when the land opened up. We are partners in life, but I knew I had no say in this move.


Today is my thirty-third birthday. Where will I be on the next? Will my children survive the trip and be around me to help celebrate it?”

Caroline: I love that--"partners but no say in this." Where can readers find your books?


Linda: Go through my website to find all the links for book ebooks and print books.
Amazon.


Books are also available wholesale for stores, libraries and schools through http://www.butterfieldbooks.com/.

Caroline: How can readers learn more about you?

Website: http://www.lindahubalek.com/


Blog: www.LindaHubalek.com/feed/rss


Facebook: www.Facebook.com/lindahubalekbooks


Thanks so much for joining us today, Linda. Continued success with your books!


Sunday, May 22, 2011

BOOK REVIEW - TRAIL OF THREAD: A WOMAN'S WESTWARD JOURNEY

Do you like history? Do you like stories of pioneers? Wagon trains? Genealogy? Quilting? If you answer yes to any of these, this book and its companion series will interest you.

Linda K. Hubalek has written TRAIL OF THREAD as if it were a series of letters written by her great-great-great grandmother, Deborah Goodpaster Pieratt. Deborah and John Pieratt left Kentucky to find better land in the newly opened Kansas Territory. Ms Hubalek has researched this history so well the letters engage the reader immediately. I have often studied this era in both family history and in writing historical fiction. I thought I was well versed on what went into a covered wagon, but I learned a great deal from this book.

The letters are  filled with Deborah's emotions at leaving her home and family. Along the way, she exchanges quilt patterns and recipes with other travelers she meets. The reader joins Deborah in facing the dangers and hardships of her trip.

The author includes small details most would not consider. She writes of incidents that must have meant surprising hardship for pioneers--such as yoke sores on oxen, moist flour, mosquito coated bread, storms, river crossing accidents, lost supplies, walking in mud, sleeping on damp bedding, sleeping in winter clothing to keep warm, not having clean water for laundry or bathing.

I found the descriptions of building the covered wagons and stocking them very helpful for my personal research.

As the Pieratt family travel to their new home, they are aware of the trouble brewing over slavery. Not wishing to become embroiled in the controversy and endanger themselves, they answer the inevitable question of where they stand on the issue in nomcommital ways to Southerners. In fact, they were not slave holders and were against slavery. Even in 1854-55, the time period covered in this book, abolitionists and slaveholders were drawing lines in the sand. The readers sees the Civil War building.

I can highly recommend this book to anyone who answered yes to any of the initial questions. Even though my historical novels are set in Texas, I'll keep my copy of TRAIL OF THREAD in my research library.


TRAIL OF THREAD is followed by THIMBLE OF SOIL and STITCH OF COURAGE and is one of three series Linda K. Hubalek has released from http://www.butterfieldbooks.com/ The books are available individually or in a set.

Please return on Wednesday, May 25th, when author Linda K. Hubalek will be my guest here. She will answer questions regarding her writing, research, and any comments from readers.

Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, May 20, 2011

INSPIRATION COMES IN MANY FORMS

What inspires you? What fills you with awe?



Here are a few of the things that inspire me:

Family - I’m fortunate in that my immediate family encourage me in whatever I do.

Friends - Good friends who get my weird sense of humor (most of the time) are a blessing.


Chocolate - Perfect food, except for the calories.



Spring - I love the new green growth, baby animals, flowers. Yeah, I could live without the weeds, but then some of the plants I enjoy are considered weeds in other parts of the world.


Estate and garage sales - I’m such a sucker for these. Then I think I need to go home and clean out my closets and cupboards. No, I rarely actually get around to decluttering, but I think about it.

Birds - Hero and I love watching the birds at our feeders outside the breakfast room window. We love the blue birds who live in the house Hero built as well as the swallows who swoop across out meadow. What fun watching our feathered guests drink and splash in the birdbath.


Reading - Losing myself in an author’s words inspires me to write better myself. Thank goodness my family members are avid readers and understand my craving/need to read every day.

Travel - Getting away from home broadens one’s outlook. And Dorothy was right, “There’s no place like home” when you return.

What inspires you?


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

AUTHOR AMBER SCOTT TALKS WITH READERS

Please help me welcome author Amber Scott as our guest..



Amber Scott


Caroline: Amber, readers love to get to know authors. Please tell us about growing up.
A: I’m the middle girl of five girls and while we started out in Winnemucca, NV, we moved to Sparks, NV and mostly I was raised there. I moved to Arizona after college at UNR and fell in love with Monsoon season and the huge, blue sky here. I have two kidlets, age 6 and 3 and am married to their daddy. As a kid, I was painfully shy. In high school, I hung out with a crew of rough and tumble guys but took all honors classes. According to my sisters, I live in “romance novel zone” and I love it here.


Caroline: Oh, yes, the romance novel zone is a wonderful place to dwell. Who are your favorite authors and favorite genres?


Amber: I’m a huge Gini Koch, Carolyn Crane, Julia Quinn, Ann Charles, Carolyn McCray and Rachel Gibson fan. Anything they write, I’m reading. Maggie Steifvater, too. I prefer romance but any sub-genre will do.


Caroline: How many books do you read a month? What are you reading now?


Amber: I read about four a month, depending on how many projects I have going on. Every summer I give myself a mental vacation and just read all I can. Then it gets up to be more like fifteen books in a month. Right now, I’m reading “Fated” by Carolyn McCray and “Stolen Dreams” by Stacey Kennedy. Loving both!


Caroline: When you’re not writing, what’s your favorite way to relax and recharge? Hobbies?


Amber: Besides reading? I love a good movie. I really enjoy getting crafty with the kids, too. Making goodies for the HOT Club, my fan group that’s on Facebook is a lot of fun, too. It allows me to follow my inner geek.


Caroline: Describe yourself in three or four words.


Amber: Determined, comedic, optimistic, considerate.


Caroline: Would you like to share any guilty pleasures that feed your muse?


Amber: Right now my guilty pleasure is new Britney Spears music. I used to detest her bubble gum pop music. I guess it’s the anti-establishment too cool for mainstream rebel in me from high school who didn’t like her back in the day. Now, though, I adore her. Does that make me a sell out?


Caroline: Whatever you enjoy is perfect for you, not a sell out. How long have you been writing?


Amber: With the intention to publish, for six years. I wrote all my life but didn’t really do it consistently or with any idea of how I’d make a career out of it. Once my son was born and I found myself with a couple hours of free time during naps, it came down to laundry and dishes or try this dream out for real. I got addicted and have been writing every day since.


Caroline: Writing is addictive, isn't it? Where do you prefer to write? Do you need quiet, music, solitude? PC or laptop?


Amber: I thrive in quiet with my iPod tuned to whatever playlist I created for each WIP but I long ago had to give up needing it to write. My little girl came along and like many other things, her naptime isn’t up to me. She sleeps when she wants to. So I learned to daydream a lot and sneak in a little here and a little there in order to keep sane.


Caroline: I admire anyone with small children who squeezes in time to write. Are you a plotter or a pantzer?


Amber: I’m both. I plot a few chapters ahead and create plot arcs and character interviews but do need a sense of being able to change course if need be. If I plot too much my muse, Milla, gets a bit stifled and miffed that I don’t trust her. I’ve learned to not piss her off.


Caroline: Hmmm, I wonder if my muse has a name? Do you use real events or persons in your stories or as an inspiration for stories?


Amber: I sometimes see similarities in characters to people I know and making that connection will help me understand the character better but when I’ve tried to base a character on someone real, the character always took over.


Caroline: Do you do your research before you begin a new project, or as you go along?


Amber: Both. I research what I need to in order to get a strong sense of setting and rules. Then as I write, things pop up that need verifying. Or I think of a detail I need to flesh out and research more.


Caroline: Tell us about your writing schedule. Do you set goals? Do you write daily?


Amber: I’m a huge goal person. I write at least 1000 words a day, preferably fiction, but any format will do. I also try to edit daily. Both are part of deep, daily practice that even though it can be really challenging, I know my brain thrives on and learns faster from. I have so many stories itching to get out that I tend to write pretty fast.


Caroline: Setting goals helps me, too. Do you write full time or do you have a day job. If you have a day job, what is it?


Amber: I’m a stay home mom so I just fit it in where I can between laundry, kid activities, grocery shopping. I also run programs with the Indie Book Collective and am on two Blog Talk Radio shows which I absolutely love doing.


Caroline: You're a busy, busy lady. What do you hope your writing brings to readers?


Amber: You know when you see an amazing movie and you tell a friend and then they see and tell you how much they loved it? Or when you hear a really good joke, laugh you butt off then tell it? And they laugh their butt off? That feeling. I want that for my readers. I want readers to experience the thrill of each story as I did and then get to connect with another person through sharing it again.


Caroline: Perfect. What advice would you give to unpublished authors?


Amber: Write every day no matter what. Try to get to that place where you surrender to the story. Then surround yourself with positive driven authors who will help lift you up and dust you off when the business knocks you around. It will, no matter how successful you become. Such is the case with any career. Don’t let the knocks keep you down.


Caroline: Positive, driven authors to critique and encourage are a terrific aid to all authors. Tell us about your latest release.


Available now from CreateSpace!
Amber: FIERCE DAWN is a paranormal romance where blood is a drug and vampires are the immortals addicted to it. We see shifters, elementals, seekers, and more in a realm that exists in parallel to the mortal world. But realm lines are at risk and humankind is evolving. Some humans are becoming changelings, no longer human but not truly immortal either. This evolution will put humankind and immortals at risk plus there is a secret immortal sect who wants the mortal realm destroyed.

X-MEN action meets True Blood heat.” -Ann Charles
NEARLY DEPARTED IN DEADWOOD, 2010 Daphne Winner

Intensely satisfying!” -Carolyn McCray
Kindle Bestselling author, 30 PIECES OF SILVER

Blurb: Snarling teeth, glowing eyes. Someone--something--is after Sadie Graves.

Elijah Stokes, the man who haunts her dreams, enters her reality claiming she’s transforming into a changeling--not quite immortal but no longer human.

Battle lines are drawn and blood spills as the two fight not only for Sadie’s life, but for all of mankind's as well.

Excerpt


He stepped closer, so close he could see thin gold flecks in her sky blue eyes. “Do you remember the night something chased you past the park?”


Her eyes widened. She perceptibly swallowed. “A werewolf?”


“No,” Elijah said, not wanting to correct the mortal term and create even more confusion. “I thought she was a shapeshifter, but she claimed to be a changeling. And that you are, too.”


“It doesn’t sound like you’re sure I am.”


“I wasn’t. Until now. The changeling has been following you. I can’t get a strong enough trace to hunt her again.”


“She wants me dead?”


“I don’t think so, but she wants something. She’s waiting, watching.”


Her hand went to her throat but her gaze hardened. “That’s why you want me to come with you?”


“Yes,” Elijah said. “There are immortals who would kill you just to keep the realms pure. Half-breeds aren’t tolerated in the immortal realm. They’re seen as inferior, tainted perfection by many. A changeling would be far worse. Right or wrong, your existence threatens both realms. The fact that I’m not the only one who knows you are transforming puts you in higher danger.”


She threw her hands up and started yanking drawers open, tossing clothes aside. Impatient but not angry.


He took in her every move, listened to the even keel of her vibration. She sounded resolved. Elijah’s worries subsided. She was far sturdier than he’d first assumed.


She paused but didn’t face him. “And?”


“And there is a faction—The Illeautians—who consider humankind parasitic. They want the human realm destroyed. If humans start evolving….”


She pulled off her tee. The smooth bare skin on her back, two crescent shaped scars at her shoulders, filled his vision. Elijah couldn’t look away as she strapped a bra around her slender ribcage and put her arms through the straps. His gaze caressed the slope of her back. Two hollows above her ass peaked out from her bottoms. His imagination filled in what he could not see.


His body tightened against his will. He had no business wanting a mortal.


Even a changeling one. Because a part of her might always be human.


Humans died. Immortals lived.


“If you’re right and I’m not going to be human anymore, why would anyone care what I am?” She brought a snug blue shirt over her head then glanced meaningfully over her shoulder.


He should turn around, give her privacy. “Because, what are realm lines for if humans are evolving? Mortals live, they die, they do not become immortal. In human terms, it could be seen as the first stages of Armageddon. Only this wouldn’t be a war between Heaven and Hell.”

Caroline: Powerful excerpt. Where can readers find your books?


Amber: Pretty much anywhere online for ebook and paperback. I’ve found them in a few bricks and mortar stores but with the way the industry is going, I’d count on online if you want a copy.


Caroline: How can readers learn more about you? 


Amber: http://amberscottbooks.com/ is my weblog. There, I stalk my fave authors, talk music and news about my releases. I’m hooked on Twitter and my handle is @amberscottbooks and I’m on Facebook under that same name, too. For fans, I also have the not so secret, secret Facebook group, The HOT Club, where I give first dibs on swag and extras and news. I sneak over to http://www.darkmediacity.com/ a lot, too because I’m a paranormal junkie.


Caroline: Thanks for visiting with us today, Amber. Continued success with your writing career.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

MYTH OR FACT? ARMADILLOS CARRY LEPROSY

Several years ago friends moved to Texas from Germany and embraced everything western. They found a dead armadillo beside the road and had him stuffed for their fireplace mantle. When I mentioned that armadillos carry leprosy, our friends pooh-poohed my comments.

When my multi-published author friend, Dee Stuart, wrote her book targeted at elementary aged children, THE ASTONISHING ARMADILLO, she investigated rumors about leprosy to no avail. Her book is excellent, and is found in many school and public libraries. Click on the title to buy the book from Amazon.

Back in the stone age, I worked for a dermatologist in Dallas. I remember the horror facing a successful young businessman when he learned he had advanced leprosy and would be forced to move to the leper colony in Louisiana. Fortunately, since the 1980's, multi-drug therapies eliminated confinement to leper colonies in the United States. Still the disease exists and causes major health problems, especially when caught late. There are over 1,000 leper colonies still operating in India, and other countries with colonies include China, Romania, Nepal, Somalia, Liberia, Vietnam, and Japan. Those who are Jewish or Christian remember mention of leprosy in the Bible. Leprosy has been around for at least four thousand years and is also documented in ancient Chinese texts.

Please don't go out gunnin' for armadillos. I'm sure God put the little critters on earth for a reason. In fact, I'm sure there's a reason for everything, even mice, rats, and fire ants...although I detest those three groups of pests. But I digress. 

Now that gardening season has us out enjoying our flowers and lawns, I wanted to issue a warning. Better safe than sorry! Here's the column regarding armadillos and leprosy from the "Information Central Blog:"

Pesky little armadillo looks very prehistoric

Armadillos Carry Leprosy


by Stephanie Suesan Smith, PhD 

There was a time when a major beer manufacturer ran a series of commercials where a giant armadillo hijacked a truck carrying the beer and then laid on its back cradling the bottle while guzzling the contents. Those commercials spawned a cottage industry in killing and stuffing armadillos, then putting an empty beer bottle in their little paws and selling them as souvenir. A new study in the NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE suggests that handling armadillos is a mistake.

Leprosy is a rare disease in the United States. It is caused by a bateria and armadillos are the only creatures besides humans known to carry the bacteria. It doesn’t seem to bother the armadillos, but it will cause major problems for the human who gets it. Usually, the first sign is a skin rash that is often dismissed by both the victim and their doctor as an unspecified allergic reaction to something. If treated aggressively at this stage, however, leprosy, also known as Hansen’s Disease, is curable.

Once the bateria sets up housekeeping in the nervous system, it is a chronic disease causing some pretty terrible symptoms. In medieval times, victims of leprosy were outcasts, herded together in remote colonies to await death as the bacteria ate away at the extremities and face from within. Medication can now control the worst of the symptoms, but it is not something you want to get.

Sadly, up to 15 percent of armidillos are infected in some places, such as Texas, where I live. Worse, since they dig in gardens to reach insects, you run some risk of getting infected from digging in the same spot. How many of us have replaced plants and moved earth back where it belongs after an armadillo attack without thought? Next time, I will use a trowel and wear gloves that can be washed in bleach after use to handle that situation.

It is illegal in Texas to have a live armadillo, or to trap them and let them go on someone else’s land. About all you can do is avoid them. If you are in the country, trapping and shooting them is an option. In town, a pest control person can humanely dispose of them for you. You can put a four foot barrier of welded wire fencing around your flower beds to keep them out, too.

For more help gardening, buy my book, “PREPARING A VEGETABLE GARDEN FROM THE GROUND UP.” Available in print or ebook, this book walks you from choosing the site of your garden all the way through what to do after the harvest. Buy a copy for yourself or a friend today!


Thanks to Stephanie for letting me post her May 10 blog today. Remember, wear those gloves when you're working in the dirt, and don't scratch your skin with them.

Please return on May 18th/19th for and interview with author, Amber Scott. In the meantime, enjoy spring at your place.

Friday, May 13, 2011

My Favorite Blogs and Bloggers!

Wow, Blogger has been having a meltdown, but I'm finally able to post my tribute to some of my fellow bloggers. I try to read the blogs of all my friends but, let's face it, it would take all day to visit each blog. So, I rotate visits to my faves. Here are some of my top picks.

Beth Trissel has one of the most beautiful blogs around. She generously uses photos taken by her and her family to illustrate her posts. She lives in picturesque Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, and I always love the information she shares. See "One Writer's Way" at http://bethtrissel.wordpress.com If you haven't read her books, do yourself a favor and read one today. Here's an excerpt from her blog:

Goldfinch from the garden of
Beth Trissel's mom
“A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.” Lou Holtz


Some of the cheeriest, downright euphoric, birds in this world are gold finches. And I don’t know how they’ve managed it, or if they’re responsible, but sunflowers have taken over my entire garden except for the plot where I’ve pulled them out and planted vegetables. This gradually expanding patch is absolutely hedged in by sunflowers. I don’t know if the birds flung extra seeds all over the ground, or how all these sunflowers came to be, but I’ve never known a garden to be overrun like this. (*Mom took this pic of a gold finch at her house.)


Kristen Lamb's social media blog is tops for learning your way around promotion and building an online presence via her "Warrior Writers" blog, http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/ She also gives great writing tips and is a dynamo of energy. She also has written WE ARE NOT ALONE to guide non-technical writers like me. Here's an excerpt:

Almost any of us who decided one day to get serious about our writing, read Stephen King’s On Writing. Great book, if you haven’t read it. But one thing King tells us we writers must be willing to do, is that we must be willing to, “Kill the little darlings.” Now, King was not the first to give this advice. He actually got the idea from Faulkner, but I guess we just took it more seriously when King said it…because now the darlings would die by a hatchet, be buried in a cursed Indian filing cabinet where they would come back as really bad novels. …oops, I digress.


Little darlings are those favorite bits of prose, description, dialogue or even characters that really add nothing to the forward momentum or development of the plot. To be great writers, we must learn to look honestly at all little darlings. Why? Because they are usually masking critical flaws in the overall plot.


Today we will address two especially nefarious writing hazards that like to lurk below the wittiest dialogue and most breathtaking description:


Sandra Crowley has her "Driven2Danger" blog at http://Driven2Danger.blogspot.com and I'm the featured guest today. See how cool she is? Seriously, she has some unusual and interesting guests on her blog and I've been impressed at her diversity and ingenuity as well as her writing ability.

Going Fast!



This week I'm thrilled to introduce D2D's readers to my friend and long-time critique partner, Caroline Clemmons. This multi-published, award winning author and fun loving woman is a delight to know as you'll soon discover for yourselves. Have a great time talking with Caroline...



"Sweethearts of the West" is a team blog (of which Sandra and I are members) of writers whose contemporary and historical books are set west of the Mississippi. Some of the blogs just amaze me! The authors are so resourceful and generous in sharing their research. Stop by http://sweetheartsofthewest.blogspot.com/ and see for yourself.

Of course I love this blog and devour each post. I've learned some fascinating things. Do you like ghost towns? Here's an excerpt from Sweethearts of the West blog co-owner Celia Yeary's post on the coal mining ghost town of Thurber TX, which is about an hour west of Fort Worth:

Thurber miners
When my husband and I travel from Central Texas to North Texas on Highway 281, we pass under Interstate 20, which runs East-West. At that point there is a sign pointing west: Thurber-11 miles. After seeing this sign for several years, I wondered about Thurber, Texas, a small town I'd never heard of even though my place of birth was nearby. By researching Thurber, I found an amazing story of a thriving coal-mining town in the Nineteenth Century, now a ghost town with little remaining of the once-thriving populated area. Almost all signs of life are gone, including all the buildings.
"5 Texas Writers" are friends from my local RWA chapter. I've known four of them for many years and am I'm delighted to have recently met the fifth. Catch them at http://5texaswriters.blogspot.com/ If you check them out, please follow them. Their blog is new and needs more readers an followers. Here's an excerpt of nurse practitioner and YA author Avery Michael's latest post:

Avery's avatar
Nourishing the Soul



I've heard this phrase often, but never knew exactly what it meant. We feed our bodies with all types of substances but what does a soul need?


A special kind of Chocolate? Italian? Mexican? Sushi? Cheesecake?

I don't mean to make light of the spiritual aspect of our bodies, but how does one go about feeding a system that is vitally important yet not actually a tangible thing.


After going through an illness lately, I came across the phrase again and there's nothing like your body showing you in a huge, big time way no one is immortal. So I decided to do a little research and lots of thinking. And I think I came up with what I believe is necessary to sustain a soul.


1. Know who you are. I don't mean as a wife, a mother, or whatever your day job is, or how others perceive you, but who you really are deep inside. How do you do this? Start by being still. Very, very still. Let all those labels fade away like a summer storm. In the calm aftermath, think about how you are feeling, think about what you know to be true about yourself. Embrace the bad as well as the good. Work on the bad and enhance the good.


That's probably enough for today. On the sidebar, you can see these and several other favorites listed. Of course, it's impossible to list all those I like. There are too many.
Allow me to remind you my backlist of books is available now at Smashwords and Amazon. Those books are the contemporary BE MY GUEST and SNOWFIRES, and the historical Kincaid duo, THE MOST UNSUITABLE WIFE (Book one) and THE MOST UNSUITABLE HUSBAND  (Book two).

Smashwords buy link: http://www.smashwords.com/books/search?query=Caroline+Clemmons

Amazon buy link: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Caroline+Clemmons+Kindle&x=9&y=17

 Thanks for stopping by today!


 











Tuesday, May 10, 2011

FIGHTING DOUBTS

One of my friends who is a terrific author is feeling unsure of herself and I've been giving her a pep talk via email. She doesn't realize what a treasure she is and is plagued by "should I this?" and "shouldn't I that?" until she has paralyzed her writing.

Degas, Two Dancers



















Writers--and others who work alone--are prey to self doubts. Day after day we toil away, and are our own taskmasters. That's why critique partners and writers groups are important for writers, just as feedback groups are important for any profession. The constructive comments of others help ground us in reality and keep us on our course.
Monet, Water Lilies


Doubts don't just paralyze us as authors, but as humans. In our family we joke that we're blessed with 20/20 hindsight. Sad, but true. We think we know what we should have done in any situation, but do we?


Van Gogh, Sunflowers

The saddest case I know of was a woman who feared she had ovarian cancer. She worried until she became so distressed that she took her own life. She left a note telling her husband and daughters that she couldn't put them through the trial of watching her die slowly. An autopsy revealed that her ovarian tumor was benign and all she needed was a simple operation to remove the growth.

Second guessing ourselves and letting doubt overcome us is not fair to those who live with and love us. We owe them our best. We can't always smile and be cheerful, but we can believe in our dreams enough to keep hammering away at them. 

Grimshaw, Spirit of the Night

And who can say what any change to the past would have caused over the course of our lives? We assume it would have been beneficial, but it might have created the opposite effect. Plus, all our life experiences have created the persons we are today. Different experiences = different person.  

No one can go back and make a brand new start. Anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending. - Jeanne Bice

Monday, May 09, 2011

SERIES ARE J. L.WILSON FAVORITES

J. L. Wilson
Our guest today is J. L. Wilson, author of a new series of  cozy/romantic suspense novels called the Deadly Landscaping Romances. Welcome, J. L.! Readers love to get to know authors. Please tell us about growing up.


J.L.: First off, thanks for letting me blog here -- I always enjoy bopping around the web, blogging at various spots. It gives me a chance to 'meet' new folks.

I'm from the Midwest and have traveled to (and lived in) a lot of different places. My husband and I are moving in a month or two to a new home, not far from my hometown. So I've come full circle, I guess. I work full-time as a technical writer for a multi-national corporation and I can telecommute. I really enjoy my Day Job, so it's all worked out very well for us to move at this time. And, luckily, we sold our current home without having to put it on the market -- it's a long story and one that will probably show up in a book someday. Suffice it to say, I'm relieved we didn't have to maintain a pristine house for showings, since 'pristine' is a condition with which I am not acquainted!

Caroline: Um, what was that word again? When you’re not writing, what’s your favorite way to relax and recharge? Hobbies?


J.L.: I like to work in the garden and my current house has extensive flowerbeds. I'll spend this summer enjoying it, since we're moving to a new place later in the season. Then I'll get out my garden books and start planning a new garden for the new house. Looking forward to it!

Caroline: I love roses myself. Without much water, we have to rely on xeroscape plants. Would you like to share any guilty pleasures that feed your muse?


J.L.: I confess to loving electronic games, especially on my iTouch. I like Angry Birds, Gemmed, Tiny Wings, and Cows vs. Aliens. I find that when I'm blocked on a plot point, I can haul out my iTouch and play a game or two, and when I turn back to writing, I've found a way around the problem.

Caroline: No games for me; don't need any more distractions here. How long have you been writing?


J. L.: I wrote my first novel in 3rd grade, but I didn't get serious about trying to be published until 2004. That's when I joined my local RWA group and started learning about writing. I finished several novels, discovered they were terrible, rewrote them, submitted, and signed my first contract in 2006 -- after receiving a LOT of rejections. Now it's 20 books later, and here we are.


Caroline: You've certainly racked up an impressive list of publications. Are you a plotter or a panzer?


J. L.: I don't plot much. I usually have a good sense of a character's arc for the book, and a sense of the arc of the book. I write in individual chapters, so I have an arc for each chapter as well. I've found that writing in chapters keeps me on target in the book. Each chapter has around 13-17 pages. Each book has around 17-20 chapters. So I know that by the middle of chapter 1, I want to introduce the central conflict. By the middle of chapter 5, I want the hero and heroine to have met and figured out their conflict, and so on. I write every day, usually for at least an hour or more, and I often jot notes while at work. I try to keep my current work in progress always fresh in the front of my mind.

Most of my books have a 'theme,' too. For example, in CANDY, CORPSES, and CLASSIFIED ADS, Molly has to learn to trust again after JT broke her heart. In HUMAN TOUCH (the first book in my paranormal series), Isbel and Cyrus overcome societal bias about human clones.


Caroline: I especially love your cozy titles and beautiful covers. Do you do your research before you begin a new project, or as you go along?


J. L.: For my time travel series (the History Patrol), I do the research ahead of time because that's crucial to the story. My characters travel back in time to resolve reincarnation issues, and they're usually sent to a particular historical event to observe. So it's essential that I get that history right.

For my contemporary mysteries, I do a smidgen of research ahead of time, but I find as I write that I usually need to do some more, so I do that when I need to.


Caroline: What advice would you give to pre-published authors?


J.L.: I think there's 2 bits of advice I'd give:


1. Define success for yourself and set realistic goals. Do you want to be published with a major New York house? That will require a certain kind of writing and a certain kind of discipline. Or do you just want to finish that book and see it out there in the hands of readers? What publishing house can help you with that? Or should you self-publish? Once you define what your 'success' will be, you can determine your path. And ...


2. Keep learning. There is always more to learn, always more to try. Each author can keep learning, changing, and challenging him/herself. If you keep learning, you keep the writing fresh and fun, and that's why we should be doing this: because we love it.


Caroline: Great advice. Please tell us about your latest release.

J. L.: My latest 'release' is 3 releases, back to back in April, May, and June. It's the "Deadly Landscaping Romances" series, books that feature Cassie Whittington, a 50-something woman who was laid off from her job and decided to pursue a new career, one in the horticultural industry.

When she stumbles on a body in the greenhouse, life gets VERY interesting, especially when her new boss, Sam Barlow, is initially suspected in the crime. Then her life takes on more complications when she finds out her ex-husband, Charlie, is still in love with her. Cassie and Charlie have a complex past relationship -- Cassie's father killed Charlie's mother when Cassie and Charlie were children, and that murder has brought them together and ultimately tore them apart. Cassie isn't sure how she feels about Charlie or Sam or which man would be right for her. And it takes her 3 books to figure it out -- while stumbling over a few bodies along the way!

Adding to the mayhem is the fact that Cassie inherits a boatload of money from Charlie's grandmother, which sets her at odds with other members of the Whittington family. It also affects Sam's feelings for her, because he doesn't want to be accused of being a gold-digger.

This series really let me examine a lot of issues: how we all relate to money, our ideas of status and self-esteem, and the dynamics of family--whether they're blood relatives or not.

The three books are LILACS, LITIGATION, AND LETHAL LOVE AFFAIRS; FOXGLOVES, FANCY FUNGUS, AND FATAL FAMILY FEUDS; and DAISIES, DEADLY FORCE, AND DISASTROUS DIVORCE DISPUTES. See my web site (http://www.jayellwilson.com/) for more details about the books, as well as purchase information for the digital and the print versions. My web site also contains links to my various blogs and the places where I guest blog, and excerpts for all the books.

Caroline: Give us just one excerpt to let readers know your style.

J. L.: Sure, I'll include one here from the first book.

Blurb refresher:

Cassie Whittington, a 50-something ex-IT professional, is finishing a college degree in horticulture when she finds a body in the greenhouse, her new boss is suspected of the crime, her ex-husband Charlie wants back in her life, and she inherits a few million dollars. Her life is taking twists and turns she never could have imagined!

Excerpt:

I looked up, belatedly realizing some words were being spoken. The lawyer droned through a series of bequests to friends then she came to the family, her eyes darting from Livvie to John to Becky. When her gaze came to Charlie, it lingered slightly and I hid a smile. Many women had that reaction to Charlie.


“To my granddaughter, Olivia Whittington Carlyle, I leave my collections of china and crystal so she might have a suitable means to entertain her friends.”


Livvie smiled and raised her martini glass. “Thank you, Grandy. I appreciate it.” I think she was even sincere.

“To my granddaughter, Rebecca Whittington Stark, I leave my diaries and scrapbooks which chronicle several of the disappointments I’ve endured in my life. I hope she will learn from them.”

Becky appeared faintly amused but her husband looked put out, as though he’d expected something more substantial from the old lady. I suppose whenever a rich person died, the vultures all started circling.

“...grandson, John, I leave my shares in his design company, which I purchased years ago to assist him in getting his start in business.”


I hid a smile. The shares were next to useless because John owned the majority of the stock in the company. I suppose it was nice he would have 99.9% of the stock, though. A look at his face told me he, like Becky’s husband, expected far more from this day and from the old lady who died.

The lawyer cleared her throat. “To my beloved grandson, Charles, I leave two of my prized collections: the one of Hummel figurines and the other, my collection of software stock.” She raised her eyes from the paper and looked at Charlie, two bright spots of pink color standing out on her pale cheeks.


There was a silence in the room then the import of the words soaked in. “Stock?” John demanded.


The lawyer looked at him, her eyes cool and distant behind her businesslike dark-rimmed glasses. “Mrs. Penningford had an impressive portfolio.” Then she smiled at Charlie, giving him a look of conspiratorial mischief that made me grin. The look vanished almost instantly behind a brisk fa├žade.

Charlie squeezed my shoulder. “I always told her the future was in technology. I guess she listened to me.”


The lawyer looked at his hand on my shoulder and her face seemed to flatten, her faintly Asian features stiffening. She nodded briskly, her eyes going back to the papers she held. “Your grandmother had a nice portfolio with Microsoft, Intel, Oracle, and Nintendo, some of which have had stock splits over the years.”

John looked like he was struggling not to scream. I peered up at Charlie. “Nice to know she took your advice.”

“And to my granddaughter-by-proxy, Cassandra Roberta Wheelock Whittington, I leave the balance of my estate, including my homes in Shorewood, Minnesota and Naples, Florida as well as the cabin on Lake Vermillion in Northern Minnesota. Cassie’s friendship has been a constant joy in my life for almost fifty years, since she came to live with us as a small child. I always enjoyed our Saturday afternoon tea, which she never missed regardless of how busy she was. I’ve valued her love and her friendship deeply. As a provision of this bequest, I ask that Cassie allow Betty Burke to remain in the home in Shorewood as long as Betty so desires and if Betty chooses to leave, that Cassie sees to it Betty is provided with a proper home and retirement income.”


I turned my head slowly to stare at the lawyer, my jaw sagging open. “What?”

“What?” John’s shout was certainly louder than my whisper.

Livvie started to laugh, the giggle soon turning into a guffaw. After a second Becky joined in. Charlie was grinning and I knew he wished he could join his sisters.


I looked around the room, my eyes huge. Betty smiled and Charlie's father looked bemused. “That’s not right,” I said weakly. “There must be a lot of money there. I mean, it’s not right. I’m not her family or—”


“The estate was probated at approximately fifteen million dollars.” The lawyer smiled briefly at me then looked at Charlie. Some message passed between them then she looked at me again. “Of course, we’ll need to deduct the items she left to other family members. And the real estate isn’t included in the estimation because of market fluctuations and...”

I didn’t hear the rest. Grandy Theo left me fifteen million dollars? My ears were buzzing and I was dizzy, the room spinning around me.

Charlie leaned over. “I think you can afford to buy that Jaguar now.”



Caroline: I can't wait to read this series. Two of the new Deadly Landscaping Romances are available from The Wild Rose Press now and the third will be available in June at http://tinyurl.com/3csywb3


J. L.: Thanks again, Caroline, for letting me hang out. I enjoyed answering your questions!