Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Reviewer Carol Upton shares MADETHAT WAY

Welcome to Carol Upton, who wants to share a review of a YA book, MADE THAT WAY, with readers. MADE THAT WAY discusses a rare genetic problem, but the information on living with any health or family problem beyond one's control is helpful to everyone. This is the second in the series, following BORN THAT WAY. Here is Carol’s review:

Susan Ketchen
Oolichan Books
Soft Cover, 2010, $12.95
ISBN: 978-0-88982-270-2
Available from Amazon or local bookseller

Reviewed by Carol M. Upton

Usually it makes me feel better to wear my riding clothes. But today nothing helps, even when I buckle on my riding helmet and hop on my bike. Somehow I know I'm doomed. ~ Susan Ketchen

In this family fiction sequel to BORN THAT WAY, Susan Ketchen reunites readers with the intrepid young Sylvia, who is challenged by a genetic disorder, wild about horses, and determined to find solutions to the obstacles presented by her life in general. Sylvia wants to be a real horsewoman and she’s excited about getting her own horse, even if the horse is arriving at a less-than-perfect time. Brooklyn is, well, not quite a regular horse. He has big ears, makes strange sounds, and he’s already bitten the transport driver.

Ketchen captures, with humour and pathos, the developing personality and growing pains of a not quite fifteen-year-old girl who would just like to be normal. Sylvia also wants to be treated as an adult, but sometimes, no one seems to listen very closely, and she must puzzle things out on her own.

Susan Katchen and her laughing horse
 The strength of this book lies in Ketchen’s examination of some topics that parents and children may find difficult to discuss. What does it mean to be normal or disordered anyhow? Where does a young person turn when her parents don’t listen, when she is tormented at school, and is now faced, not with her dream horse, but one who appears to be complicating her life even further.

Ketchen’s writing is fast-paced, compelling and full of surprises. MADE THAT WAY can be read in one sitting, but Sylvia’s persistence and creativity in overcoming her life’s challenges will inspire the reader for a lifetime.

Susan Ketchen was born in Nanaimo, B.C. and had a successful Family Counseling practice for many years. She now resides on a small Vancouver Island hobby farm with her husband, two horses, two cats and a flock of chickens. GROWS THAT WAY, the third book in this series will be published in fall 2011. Visit Susan at:

Thanks, Carol, for sharing your review of Susan Ketchen's book.

Monday, June 27, 2011


Whenever I watch "Antiques Roadshow" or any other show in which family treaures are displayed, I cringe. Our family has very few things handed down through the years, and none of it is monetarily valuable. We do have one momento I treasure, though.

Those who know me are aware that I have been researching my family almost from the time our eighth grade American History class was asked to do a short pedigree chart. Unfortunately, I did not learn to keep good records and ask pertinent questions until after those who were well informed in our family’s history had passed on. Luckily for me, a kind third cousin once removed (see, doesn’t that sound like a dedicated family historian?) passed me a family heirloom. Not our direct line, but from an ancestor’s first wife. 

Sallie circa 1869
Her name was Sarah Margaret Bailey, and she was called Sallie. She was a cousin to our ancestor, but I can't remember offhand how many times removed. Anyway, the heirloom is an autograph book about six by eight with a dark blue cover decorated with painted flowers and leaves of abalone shell. After all this time, the handwriting is fading until it’s barely legible. Some inks retained color better than others. Most legible are the pencil inscriptions. I love reading the remembrances for their odd spellings, strange punctuation, and saccharine sentiments. I’m positively fascinated by this book! Sallie was dearly loved by her family, and by mine. I see her as a carefree young miss at school, then opening her home to friends and soldiers during the Civil War. Some of the entries thank her for time spent in her home, which may mean an hour or a day or longer.

Southern Belle
This little book lets us see into the life of a lovely Southern belle in northwest Georgia, at school before the Civil War began, a young woman whose callers were soldiers, who became a bride, a mother, and a young woman on her deathbed. The inscriptions change in tone. Please let me share some of them with you:

The flowery words of a dashing suitor:

Ah would the hands that write these lines
Were fondly clasped in thine
Ah would the lips that read these words
Were once more pressed to mine

Those happy hours with thee I spent
Those like I nere shall see.
If fortune smiles or darkly frowns
Still Ill forget thee not
Farewell the word I scarce can write
Farewell to love and thee
On by-gone days then think of me
Farewell remember me
Your friend

Silly words from a discouraged would-be beau:

Miss Sallie wont believe me when my love to her I swear
She teases me so very much I believe I’ll pull my hair
I’ll tell you what the fact, if she keeps on treating me bad
I believe I will go crazy. I know I will go mad.
Yours in a hurry

From a female school friend:

Miss Sallie               Jan the 27 1860

In memory’s tears
O, May I share
One lonely vacant spot
Of all the names recorded there
Let mine not be forgot
Your Sincere friend

Then, the Civil War began, and the ancestor she later married wrote:

Confederate soldier
To Miss Sallie
A place in thy memory dearest
Is all that I claim
To pause and look back when thou hearest
The sound of my name.

Others tried to sway her heart:

To Miss Sallie
But once I dared to lift my eyes,
To lift my eyes to thee
And since that day beneath the skies
No other sight they see

In vain sleep shuts them in the night
The night grows day to me
Presenting idly to my sight
What still a dream must be

A fatal dream – for many a bar
Divides thy fate from mine
And still my passions make war
But peace be still with thee.

And another:

To Sallie dear,
Oh may each flower that greets the spring
And glistens in the sunny light
And every bird with sportive wing
Whose song is measured by its flight
Bloom brighter when thy form is near
Sing sweeter when thy face they see
A life of joy without a tear
Is what I wish and pray for thee

As the war progressed, our ancestor sounds war weary and fearful of death. Definitely not an eloquent, flowery suitor, is he?

Remember me when I am gone,
think of me sometimes,
pray for me often
& I’ll remember thee

But he’s the one who won her hand in marriage. Family lore is that she didn’t recover from a second pregnancy. The last entry is when her first child, a boy, was almost two. Childbirth carried so many serious complications in 1870, especially for the “proper” ladies who wore tightly laced corsets. We are only speculating, of course. Would the following cheer you if you were gravely ill? I think not!

What shall I wish for thee?
What helping invoke? I might wish that thy barque would glide sweetly o’er the bosom of Life’s
Troubled ocean, without a ripple to disturb its easy course. And that thy fair and beautiful brow
Would never receive the fingerprints that time always writes to mar the beauty of loved ones –
Again I might wish that your life might always be one bright dream of pleasure – But how vain
Would be that wish – There never was a bright eye but it was dimmed by tears – not a true and
Happy heart -- but it had its share of sorrow – for we are all mortals and we are doomed to some
Trouble at least. So I will not make vain or silly wishes. But let my heart dictate my wish – You
Have suffered long and painfully – none know what agony you have endured. But now I hope
your sickness is at an end – and that you may soon rise from your bed with the same good health
you enjoyed in the days of long ago – and that you may realize what it is to be a devoted wife &
Mother – for little Ossie needs a Mothers love. But should it so please God that my wish may not
Come to pass, may you submit humbly as becomes a christian – knowing that “He doeth all
Things well – and in ______ resignation acknowledging His supreme power say “Thy will not
mine be done” – Then at last when He sees fit –for you to linger no more in this “vale of tears” –
may your soul wing its way back to the “God who gave” – There to await the loved ones in the

Very truly your friend

Thank you for reading. Please stop back again soon!

Friday, June 24, 2011


Readers, please help me welcome my friend, Goldie Browning.
Author Goldie Browning
Caroline: Readers love to get to know authors. Please tell us about growing up. Share anything that lets readers get to know the real you.

Goldie: I’m the youngest of a family of four and I grew up on a working farm in rural Parker County, near Springtown, Texas. We had cows and chickens and we raised our own vegetables. Very different from the way we all live today. We didn’t have a telephone at all until I was about nine years old and when we did get it, we had a 10-family party line. For all you youngsters out there who don’t know what that is, it means that we shared the same line with nine other neighbors. So we didn’t tell any secrets over the phone, and we didn’t talk long. When I started dating my husband Alan, I was a junior in high school and he was a senior. His family also had a 10-family party line, so if you put it together, that was 18 neighbors we were competing with. We did most of our talking at school or on dates. We’ve been happily (and I mean it) married for 38 years, one daughter who is 35. No grandkids. A grand-cat and a grand-dog. We also have two mini schnauzers, two cats, two bearded dragons, and a turtle. I’ll feed anything that opens its mouth.

Caroline: Who are your favorite authors and favorite genres?

Goldie: This is a tough question because I love so many types of books. I love the classics like the Bronte’s, Hawthorne, Jane Austen, and Poe. But my all time favorite author is Norah Lofts, who is famous for her historical romances and tales that hint at ghostly happenings. I own everything she wrote. I also love to read Rebecca Paisley and Laurie Moore, with their witty romantic comedies. Steven King for his spine-tingling horror; Dan Brown for his fascinating adventures; Victoria Holt for her gothic romances. Too many to list. I read a lot of non-fiction and biographies, too. But if I had to choose my favorite genre, it would be historical, with a little romance and a little mystery sprinkled in.

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

Goldie: It varies so much, depending on whether or not I have time. Sometimes I’ll read a couple of books a week. The one I’m trying to find time to read now is called THE COUNTESS, by Rebecca Johns. It’s about Elizabeth Bathory, the famous blood countess who was one of the inspirations for Dracula, along with Vlad the Impaler. Research for a future book. The last book I finished was MAHKO'S PRICE by John O’Dowd. It’s great. Look it up.

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

Goldie: When I’m not writing I enjoy spending time with my family, watching movies, and playing with my critters. Reading and critter spoiling are my hobbies. I’m also crazy about reality TV shows. Just loved “Billy the Exterminator”.

Caroline: Describe yourself in three or four words.

Goldie: Type-A personality procrastinator

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

Goldie: I love to go to places that are supposed to be haunted. This really gets my imagination going.

Caroline: I knew that about you. How long have you been writing?

Goldie: I wrote a few short stories in high school and dreamed about becoming a journalist, but the closest I got was as editor for my college magazine and reporter for the Springtown Epigraph. In the late 1980’s I wrote two sweet romances. One, I sent to Harlequin, and it was rejected with a very encouraging personal letter. The second one I almost got published, but the company went bankrupt before I got the contract, but I didn’t know that until 20 years later. Instead of notifying me of the state of affairs, the editor-in-chief sent me a rejection letter from hell, which made me stop writing for years. After retiring from my day job, however, I started again and NIGHT JOURNEY is what I produced. The book I’m working on now is a romantic comedy called JAIL-ORDER BRIDE. I started it a few years ago and then I got sick, so I’m trying to pick it back up. While writing it, I entered it for critique at the UK critique site and won first place for the month of February in 2008. I won a critique by an editor in England, then I got sick. I’ll finish it now.

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

Goldie: I’ve moved my laptop to the kitchen table because the office is too loud, with all the roaring and shooting from Dear Husband playing World of Warcraft. I’m thinking about moving out to the patio room with the bearded dragons and the turtle. I prefer quiet and solitude, but that’s not a reality in my house. I’m now using a laptop, since my desktop crashed.

Caroline: Yes, that’s why Hero and I have separate offices. Well, that and the fact he says I left my papers all over his stuff. Sadly, that's true. He doesn’t play games, but he watches TV on his PC monitor. Are you a plotter or a panzer?

Goldie: Both. NIGHT JOURNEY was plotted, mostly because the basic plot came to me in a dream. My current WIP is kind of in between. It’s all in my head, not written down.

Caroline: I’m asking this even though I know the answer. Do you use real events or persons in your stories or as an inspiration for stories?

Actual ad for the setting for part of
treatment killed countless people. It
consisted mostly of water. Dr. Baker
later died of cancer....Karma or
 Goldie: Absolutely! NIGHT JOURNEY is set at a real-life haunted hotel and the villain was a real-life bad guy. The plot came to me on the second night of a stay at the Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. That night I saw a “blue fluorescent floating mist” that hovered in our room late at night—my husband says I dreamed it. The next night I went on the ghost tour, learned about Dr. Baker, and that night I dreamed the basic plot. I was hooked on the place and spent months doing research. I even found Dr. Baker’s trial court records at the national archives in Fort Worth, Texas that were supposedly lost, according to the Clerk’s Office in Little Rock.

Caroline: I remember how much research you did, but do you do all your research before you begin a new project, or some as you go along?

Goldie: For NIGHT JOURNEY, I did the research first. But, of course, you always do some as you go.

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

Goldie: I’m embarrassed. Ever since NIGHT JOURNEY came out I’ve spent all my spare time trying to promote. But I do intend to set a schedule. Starting tomorrow. I will write daily, at least two hours. I swear.

Caroline: Hmm, I do remember you said you’re a procrastinator. LOL Do you write full time or do you have a day job. If you have a day job, what is it?

Goldie: I am gloriously retired from a career as a courtroom deputy clerk for a federal judge. So, writing is now my day job.

Caroline: What do you hope your writing brings to readers?

Goldie: I hope that my writing will bring my readers the wonder I felt the first time I went to the Crescent Hotel. The place absolutely reeks with history and I’m hoping that my descriptions will give them the same enjoyment and curiosity that I felt there. A friend of mine told me that my book was “very visual.” I think that is a great compliment.

Caroline: What advice would you give to unpublished authors?

Goldie: Get involved with critique groups and take all the advice you can get from those more experienced than you. Listen to what they tell you, but follow your own gut feeling. Just because somebody tells you something should be one way, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true. Accept what makes sense and ignore what doesn’t. Develop your own style. It’ll come.

Caroline: Tell us about your release.

Available Now! That's the
Crescent Hotel on the cover

Goldie: NIGHT JOURNEY is published by GenerationNext Publications. It was released as an e-book on April 30, 2011 and as a trade paperback on May 24, 2011. It is a ghostly tale of past lives that intertwine with the present.


A stay at America’s most haunted hotel, a spooky ghost tour with a visit to a former morgue, and a family wedding—all the ingredients for a fun-filled weekend. Emma and Zan Fuller have never been to the Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas—at least not in this lifetime. But the ghosts that haunt the former cancer hospital remember Emma, and they won’t rest until she’s joined them once again. When a bizarre accident almost claims her life, her soul is catapulted backward in time to 1938. Things get even worse while she lies comatose, however, because she is now a target for an organ transplant scheme.


It’s Depression Era 1938 when Ivy Turner meets Harry Fuller. Love happens quickly, but they’ll never live happily ever after if her parents have their way. Despite their objections, the couple elopes. Wedded bliss soon turns to despair, however, when Harry is arrested and Ivy is sent to the Baker Cancer Hospital in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. But Ivy doesn’t have cancer. She’s pregnant with Harry’s child—the child who will someday become Zan Fuller’s father.


Emma wakes up, but not the way she’d expected. Her soul has entered the cancer-riddled body of a woman who had died only moments before. And to make matters worse, she’s trapped in time—it’s 1938. She’s back at the Crescent Hotel, which is now the Baker Cancer Hospital. The people who had once been simply characters in a ghost story are now living, breathing human beings. But Emma’s biggest worry is Zan’s grandmother, Ivy. If anything happens to her or her baby, Zan will never exist. Can Emma, imprisoned in a sick and dying body, rescue Ivy and Harry? Can Zan, in 2011, prevent the hospital from ending her life support and harvesting her heart?



The red numbers on the digital clock seemed to waver as Emma blinked to focus her eyes in the darkness. A blustering wind wailed mournfully outside and rain pelted the windowpanes. She sat up in bed and scanned the dark and misty chamber. Instantly alert, her heart shifted gears.

Something was in the room—something evil. She wrinkled her nose at the smell; the cloying odor of camphor and alcohol permeated the air.

She gasped when she saw the shadowy wraith hovering just inside the bathroom door. Intermittent flashes of lightning illuminated the sky like a strobe light and sifted through the shuttered window just enough to reveal the outline of the apparition.

Emma clutched the blanket to her chin and stared, too horrified to move or speak. She felt icy cold, yet sweat beaded on her forehead. She turned toward Zan lying beside her. He snored peacefully, oblivious to the terror lurking so near.

Emma heard the creak of footsteps moving across the floor. Whoever—or whatever—was in the room passed from the bathroom and headed toward the door, leaving a bitter chill in its wake. She watched in horror at the murky ectoplasm’s metamorphosis. Even in the darkness Emma could make out the shadowy form of a woman wearing a mid-calf length dress and a handkerchief-shaped cap.

The rasp as the deadbolt disengaged and the groan of ancient hinges fractured the silence; the door began to open.

Light flowed in from the hallway, casting uneven shadows on the parlor walls. The apparition became more distinct. Emma trembled at the intense hatred that emanated from the mad, cold stare of the spectral woman.

Emma summoned all her strength just to move her hand enough to touch her sleeping husband. The warmth of his skin reassured her and she shook him harder, but he didn’t wake up. She tried to call his name, but her vocal cords refused to respond.

Terror gripped her heart like a vise and squeezed until she thought she might faint. She closed her eyes and prayed to wake up from this hideous nightmare. It had to be a dream—a terrible, horrible hallucination.

She opened her eyes and looked toward the door. The phantom was still there. It watched Emma for several more seconds, and then passed through the open door and into the hallway. The door hung halfway open as if to remind her she wasn’t imagining things.

An overpowering compulsion swept over her. She climbed out of bed, slipped a nightgown over her head and crept toward the door. The coldness of the doorknob surprised her. She glanced back toward the bed. The back of Zan’s head was all she could see with his body beneath the mound of covers. She pulled the door all the way open and stepped into the hallway.

The ghost was clearly visible now. Emma stared in horrified fascination at the figure standing near the stairwell. Could it be one of the phantom nurses Cheryl had talked about on the tour? Or was it the pursuer in her reoccurring nightmare? Perhaps they were one and the same?

The woman was dressed in an old-fashioned nurse’s uniform, with starched cap and apron. Her dishwater blond hair was pulled back in a severe knot at the nape of her neck. She looked young, no more than thirty. But the expression of madness in her eyes, combined with the grotesquely scarred cheek, lips, and forehead made Emma flinch with revulsion.

As if she were hypnotized, Emma followed the woman down the stairs. The black cat on the bench arched its back and hissed as the specter passed it on the stairwell landing. Emma stumbled, almost tripping on the hem of her long nightgown. When she looked up, the ghost had vanished.

Emma scanned the third-floor hallway, searching for the nurse. She didn’t know why she followed her. She only knew that some irresistible urge pushed her. When she saw a movement at the farthest end she gathered her nightgown in her left hand and hurried toward it.

Whatever she had seen turned left. She came to a glass door leading onto one of the observation decks. The wind formed a vacuum and she had to tug with all her strength to open it. She gasped when she felt the full force of the storm. The battering rain pelted down on her, immediately soaking the thin material of her gown.

Emma flinched when she saw a girl standing there. From her profile she looked young and beautiful. She wore an ankle-length white dress; her long, pale hair was plastered to her head from the driving rain. She turned her back to Emma and slung one foot over the balcony railing. A scream rose in Emma’s throat. “No!”

The girl turned and looked at Emma, her face a mask of utter despair. She gazed sadly, then pulled her other leg over the balustrade and jumped. Emma ran frantically to the edge of the veranda and searched the ground. The storm lashed violently around her, making it difficult for her to see. A bright lightning flash momentarily lit up the night sky. She could see no body on the ground below.

Emma turned and stumbled back inside the hotel. Her teeth chattered; her hair and nightgown were completely soaked. She stood shivering in the hallway, trying to calm her spinning nerves. The clattering screech of unstable wheels approaching from the end of the hallway arrested her attention.

The ghostly nurse advanced, pushing a long cart on wheels. A white sheet covered the object on the gurney.

Emma stood paralyzed as it drew closer; the shrill noise grew louder.

She couldn’t move—she couldn’t think—she couldn’t breathe.

The nurse stopped and smiled at Emma. Her scarred lips twisted into a leer as she pulled the sheet forward. A woman’s corpse lay on the gurney, its face contorted in the final throes of agony. She hadn’t been told who the dead woman was, but somehow Emma intuitively knew. She’d seen that face before—somewhere—sometime.

Overcome with grief, Emma collapsed in the hallway. She pounded on the door of the room where she sat, crumpled and sobbing. She heard voices from inside the chamber; someone fumbled with the deadbolt. The door opened and Emma cried with relief when she saw Moonbeam and Chief Whitefeather.

“Emma, what’s wrong?” Moonbeam clutched her wrap with one hand and helped Emma with the other. “You’re soaking wet.”

“She’s dead,” Emma babbled, shivering and sniffling. “Anna’s dead….”

“Who’s Anna?”

Eyes wild, confusion painted on her face, Emma scanned the hallway. “I don’t know…I know Anna’s dead…but I don’t know who she is.”

Caroline: That’s a great excerpt. I’ve read the story, and I love it. Where can readers find your books?


Caroline: Anything else you’d like readers to know?

Goldie: One of the subplots in NIGHT JOURNEY deals with the heroine having an accident with a closed-head injury. She’s in a coma and the evil hospital administrator schemes to push her husband to “pull the plug” and allow them to harvest her heart for a senator’s daughter in need of a transplant. The conflict is that she had just signed paperwork for an upcoming outpatient procedure and she’d signed a “form” Living Will, so they were pushing the legal boundaries by trying to rush it before they were absolutely sure she wouldn’t come back. The ironic thing is that soon after finishing NIGHT JOURNEY I became very ill and learned I had cardiomyopathy, also known as congestive heart failure. I received an implanted cardio-defibrillator and was told I might need a heart transplant! But luckily, the transplant cardiologist changed my medication drastically and by the time I had completed the extensive testing for transplant evaluation, my heart had remodeled itself and was back working in the normal range. My personal cardiologist called it a miracle. I’ve often thought it strange that I had chosen this plot element and then it almost came true for me.

Caroline: Your close call had all your friends praying for you. How can readers learn more about you?

Goldie: My website is and I’m also active on Facebook.

Thanks for sharing personal details and information on your new release, NIGHT JOURNEY. Best of luck with sales.

Monday, June 20, 2011


Available Now
CHIQUE SECRETS OF DOLCE VITA, by Barbara Conelli, is a fascinating tour of Milan, Italy with vignettes of the city and its inhabitants. This book is 141 pages from Flagrans Press illustrated by Nela Vadlejchova. Ms Conelli gives the reader twenty-two vignettes of her favorite city, which may also be used as a travel guide, a brief history lesson, or a reader’s pleasant escape.

Ms Conelli says, “Living a dolce vita means living with an open heart and soul, indulging in life with all your senses. . . Let’s simply uncover all the sweet, passionate, and dark Milanese secrets that have up to now remained unrevealed. The chique secrets will teach you to live your own dolce vita no matter where you are in the world. Because la vita e bella, life is beautiful, and the most amazing wonders of this world often hide in the simplest things.”

Milan's La Scala Opera House
 Later, she writes, “Most of us keep pursuing the image of a perfect life, perfect job, perfect relationship, and a perfect bank account balance. We look around ourselves, watch others, compare ourselves to them, and we always want something more, something better. Ambitions and desire for a better life are definitely a healthy part of us, and engine that keeps pushing us forward and prevents us from stagnating. But sometimes we should just stop for a while and learn to enjoy the little, ordinary things. A beautiful summer morning, a good meal in nice company, or a trip to the mountains. All those small details that make us so happy. So while chasing the perfect life, we don’t forget the present one, which might not be so bad at all.”

Galleria Vittorio Emanuelle, Milan
 In addition to colorful Milanese residents, Ms Conelli reveals historic details. Since I love history, I was pleased to learn about Vittorio Emanuelle II, Padre della Patria (Father of the Land). Embarrassing to admit, but I had never read about this democratic king who unified Italy into a republic against the Habsburgs’ Austria. He turned Italian cities into urban centers that rivaled Paris and London.

I also enjoyed learning about Italian silk production started in the 12th century and which still continues on a small scale today. Who knew? Ms Conelli says that “When you buy a piece of silk here, it is not just a common fashion accessory that you can get anywhere in the world. It holds a piece of history, a piece of honest, patient work, and most of all, lots of love that local manufacturers have been giving to their beloved silk for hundreds of years.

CHIQUE SECRETS OF DOLCE VITA contained many more tidbits, but if I related them that would spoil the book for readers. This book will be of interest to readers who like traveling vicariously through a book or those who plan a trip to Milan.

Purchase this book in print or for Kindle at Amazon:

Please join me Wednesday for Barbara Conelli’s post on writing. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, June 19, 2011


Please welcome Barbara Conelli, author of CHIQUE SECRETS OF DOLCE VITA. Barb lives between New York and Milan, and as a real globetrotter, she's always on the move, accompanied by her adorable and very spoiled beagle. To her, writing is like breathing, and she's currently working on her new book.

Barbara Conelli, Author
What To Do When Your Muse Goes On A Vacation

As an author, you know that creeping, uncomfortable feeling. Every now and then, it comes uninvited and becomes your unwelcome yet very persistent guest. It haunts you. It confuses you. And then it hits you: Your muse has decided to take a few days off without your permission, leaving you stuck in the middle of your future masterpiece.

You don't get new writing ideas, or you do but you seem unable to turn your ideas into sentences, paragraphs, chapters. You feel that your writing is going nowhere, you are going nowhere, and you start questioning your own talent and skills.
Before you throw the computer out of the window and renounce writing forever, try these simple steps. Believe me, they work. Guaranteed! (Actually, you may find out that you don't really need your spoiled, capricious muse after all.)

1. Don't obsess about it.

Okay, so maybe you've planned to write a certain number of pages or words every day and now you're falling behind the schedule. So what? Relax. When things get better, you will soon and easily make up for the lost time. Writing is a creative process that should be allowed to flow naturally. You cannot (and you mustn't) force yourself to write at all costs when you don't feel like it. Writing is fun and you should find pleasure in it. Let's face it, if you don't write with passion, the result will be flat anyway. So stop worrying about it; a short break will do you good.

2. Get out of your comfort zone.

Look for new experiences. It doesn't matter what you do, and it doesn't need to be related to your book. Just get out of the house and have fun. Go away for the weekend, try a new exciting activity, go to a concert, meet new people. New experiences bring new waves of energy into your life and wake up your tired brain. Forget about your writing for a couple of days and focus on new, fun stuff instead. You will see that new ideas will start popping up in your head in no time and you will find joy in writing again.

3. Create a writing ritual.

Barbar's book, available at
Create your personal writing ritual. Some writers have their own "writing corner" where they don't do anything else but write. Others have "writing clothes" that they wear only when they work on their book. You can have your personal "writing tea", "writing food" or "writing scent". Such rituals get you in the mood for writing and send a clear signal to your brain telling it that now it's time to be creative. If possible, set a specific time for writing every day. Switch off the cell phone and tell your family and friends not to disturb you, unless it's a question of life and death. Stick to your writing rituals and indulge in your writing routine. You will grow to love it.

When your muse leaves, it is your chance to experience new things, come up with fresh ideas and eventually become a better writer. So don't fear your muse's vacation time: You know you can write another great chapter of your masterpiece without her.

Thank you, Barbara. You can learn more about Barbara from the following sites. She hosts her Chique Show blogtalk radio at:
or barb@barbaraconelli.comTwitter:


Please join me Friday when I host an interview with my friend Goldie Browning. She'll share her life and an excerpt of her new paranormal romantic suspense, NIGHT JOURNEY.

Friday, June 17, 2011


In my March release, SAVE YOUR HEART FOR ME, the heroine's mother--named after my own mom--makes scrumptious apple dumplings. Coincidentally (or not), this is my mom's recipe for the apple dumplings she used to make for my dad. She also made them for Hero on his birthday. This year, that's the day after Father's Day, but some years his birthday falls on Father's Day; for instance, the day he was born. And needless to say, my skinny little mom had a real sweet tooth and wanted a sweet dessert after lunch or dinner. If she made do with an apple, she felt she was doing exactly that--making do.

     Lena Mae’s Apple Dumplings

2 cups sugar
3 cups water
1 Tablespoon butter or margarine
½ teaspoon cinnamon

Make this first and set aside. Mix sugar and water and bring to a boil. When sugar dissolves, take off heat and add butter and cinnamon.

Make pie crust. Roll out and cut into six 6-inch squares. Peel and slice apples (about ½ an apple for each dumpling). Put slices on a square of pie crust. Add ½ cup sugar, a sprinkle of cinnamon, and a pat of butter. Fold pie crust to center and pinch to seal. Put dumplings in long Pyrex dish (9x13). Pour syrup over dumplings. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes. As dumplings start to brown, spoon some of the syrup up on them to help glaze over tops.

Serve warm with cream or vanilla ice cream. Pop in the microwave to reheat.

As I may have told you before (probably ad nauseum), I wrote this novella for my mom, but she died before I could surprise her with the published work. I know she and my dad are smiling down from heaven, though. They were very good parents and exceptional people. I had planned to make the hero's name the same as my dad's, but it didn't seem right, having him make out with someone the same name as my aunt. Euwww!  And I couldn't write a love scene for a character with my mom's name.

Here's an excerpt from SAVE YOUR HEART FOR ME: The set up is that our hero, Matt, has been shot capturing two criminals. Our heroine, Beth, is feeling guilty because at first she thought Matt was drunk when he returned to the boarding house she and her mother operate in Central Texas.

Sweet heaven, he’d never known a more satisfying kiss. He tugged her until she stretched along his body.

When she broke the kiss, she moved her legs back to the mattress but laid her head on his chest. “Why’d you do that?”

“Needed to. For six years. Can’t say I’m proud of wanting you when you belonged to another man, but I won’t deny I thought about you.”

He felt her shudder with sobs, her tears ran wet on his chest. Caressing her back, he cursed himself for as big a fool as Jeffers. “Beth? Aw, honey, I didn’t aim to make you cry. Forgive me. I’d never willingly do anything to hurt you.”

“You didn’t. Matt, I’m ashamed. I hated the person I was when I knew you before. You saw me weak and abused. Heard Lionel yell awful things at me. When you came here, I was mean to you because you’d known me then. I didn’t want to be reminded of those times.”

She sobbed again. “As if I could ever forget them. Then, when you told me about him being dead, I—I felt relief. I’m sorry, but only what you’d be if you read there’d been a train wreck and people you never knew died. I must be a terrible person not to mourn him.”

“No, you’re a wonderful person and it’s not like you lived with him long or had seen him recently.” What a hell of a position to be in. How could he tell her how Jeffers died? He stroked her silky hair. “I’m sorry you’re upset, but I’m glad I found you. You’re a different person in a way but you were a sweet woman then and you are now. And a good mother and daughter.”

He thanked God he’d given Jeffers the money for her ticket home, but he’d never let her know about that. She’d hate him for sure if she learned her no-good former husband had borrowed the money from Matt to send her away in disgrace. It’d done her a world of good, though, and had probably saved her life.

She sniffed and rubbed her sleeve at her face. “I’m glad you came, too. I-I’d wondered what happened to you and where you were and if-if you’d met someone.”

He couldn’t tell her where he’d been, at least, not right now. “I didn’t meet anyone.”

“I’m glad. I, um, I mean, I’m sorry you’ve been alone all this time, but I’m glad you don’t have a woman waiting for you to come home.”

“Don’t have a home.” He didn’t add that he didn’t deserve one, that he’d had one once and lost it.

“Where will you go when you leave here?” She trailed her hand across his skin to rest it at the base of his ribs. He wondered if she knew how that touch affected him and if his erection showed in the moonlight. He bent a knee to conceal it.

“Don’t know yet. Guess it depends on how this thing with Ivan plays out.” He hoped Ivan was alive and pain free. Dang, maybe it was the sweetened tea, or maybe it was her being next to him. His own pain receded a little and life surged in him.

“I hope he’s all right. He’s a nice man.”

“Beth, I’m not a nice man.” No point in her thinking different or him trying to pretend. “I might have been once, long ago, but no longer.”

“You’re kind to Davey, and Mama, and all the other people here. You’re trying to help Ivan. Sounds pretty nice to me.” She sniffled again, and he wanted to comfort her, but she had to understand.

He pulled her up, so he could see her face in the light from the window. “No. I’m here because I have a job to do, not because of any higher intentions. And I’ll do whatever it takes to get the job done.”

“A job? You mean helping Ivan is like a job?”

She didn’t get it. “No. Beth, listen to me. I’ve been assigned to help Ivan. Paid. It’s not something I chose to do because I have a kind or generous nature.”

“Assigned?” She pulled away and sat up. “You mean it really is your job? Who are you working for?”

“Never mind. I shouldn’t have said that.”

Instead of any reaction he could have imagined, she laughed. “Whatever it is, at least you have a job.” She settled back beside him, her body touching his from her head at his shoulder to her toes at his ankle. “I thought you were up to no good.”

Dang, she made him feel like a man-and-a-half. He laughed in spite of himself. “Guess I am up to no good, but I’m being paid for it. Not much, but enough to get by.” He turned to face her. “You know that kiss?”

“What about it?”

He raised himself on his right elbow and leaned over her. “Let’s try that again.”

SAVE YOUR HEART FOR ME is available from DigiBooks, The Wild Rose Press at, and at Amazon and other online stores.

Hope the man in your life enjoys Father's Day even if he's not a dad. Pets count, you know.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


One of my persistent vices/pleasures is reading. I am prone to curl up with a book and not notice laundry or dirty dishes piling up. Each member of my family is a voracious reader and each of us always has a stack of books waiting to be read--except Hero, who reads so fast that he can’t keep reading material. Father’s Day is coming up, and the Darling Daughters and I will replenish Hero’s book supply. We are all such habitual readers that we read ads, cereal labels, etc. if we don’t have a book handy.
And don’t you just love a bargain? I just downloaded a lot of 99 cent books for my Kindle. I mentioned previously that ALL of Alice Duncan’s cozy mysteries and romance novels are at that bargain price for the month of June. Terry Odell’s WHEN DANGER CALLS (A Blackthorne, Inc. novel) is on sale now. For slightly more at $2.99, I bought DEAD AS A SCONE, book one of the Royal Tunbridge Wells mysteries set in Tunbridge Wells, England near where a friend lives. The friend took us to Tunbridge Wells when we stayed with her, so I look forward to reading this series.

Coughing up full price for a hardback is onerous for me, but I forked over the cash for Amanda Quick’s latest, QUICKSILVER, and can hardly wait to dig in. Her books are keepers for me. Even though I cringe at the price, I buy hardback. I love her quirky, eccentric heroines.

But here’s what I’ve been reading:

I’VE HEARD THAT SONG BEFORE, by Mary Higgins Clark, is a well-paced mystery set in New England. I enjoy Ms Clark’s books because they’re well written and she doesn’t sprinkle them with curse words. This one had only one slightly off-color word spoken by the villain. I’VE HEARD THAT SONG BEFORE is written in first person for the main character, and third person for other points of view. Changing back and forth didn’t bother me at all and was done seamlessly by a master storyteller. In the book, Kay Lansing meets and falls instantly in love with Peter Carrington. Events lead Peter to be accused and jailed in three murders and Kay must prove he is innocent. I did suspect the killer early on, but Ms Clark threw up enough red herrings to keep me in doubt.

A much older book (2003) I enjoyed is MAGGIE BY THE BOOK, the sequel to MAGGIE NEEDS AN ALIBI, by Kasey Michaels. These books are fun, but you need to read the first one to get the most from the second. In the first, mystery writer Maggie’s two fictional Regency sleuths appear in her apartment in the flesh. Ms Michaels adds a lot of humor to these books, especially the second, when she parodies Romance Writers of America’s national convention and the Romantic Times conference with her combination WAR conference and Rose Knows Romance cover model competition and costume ball.

A LESSON IN SECRETS, Jacqueline Winspear's latest, is set in the early 1930’s England. I can’t get enough English mysteries, and also adore the 1920-1930 era. Maisie Dobbs is the sleuth who gets a lesson in national secrets. If you haven’t read this series, start with the first and go forward. They are stand alone, but are so much more interesting if you follow Maisie through her career development.

THE SWEETHEARTS’ KNITTING CLUB, by Lori Wilde, is another book several years old (2008). I loved this book so much I reread it to study Lori’s writing. It is a perfect example of hero, villain, and heroine. The pacing is good, and I loved the story. Lori is a master storyteller, and also a very nice person.

THE COLD LIGHT OF MORNING and A BRUSH WITH DEATH, by Elizabeth J. Duncan, are contemporary cozies set in England. I enjoyed both the culture and the plots. I have to admit I knew who the killer was in the first book early on, but couldn’t figure out how he managed the murder. I thought I had it figured out. Hero came to the same conclusion as I had and we were wrong. I love when a writer is able to honestly misdirect and surprise me.

Now, please tell me what you’ve been reading.

Monday, June 13, 2011


Queen Elizabeth I
I love family history. No, I don’t mean endless pedigree charts of names with birth and death dates. Who cares if we’re related to Queen Elizabeth or Lizzie Borden? I mean that I love the real history part.

I am the historian for my extended family. I collect all the anecdotes I can find--the interesting stories of who did what when and why, no matter how scandalous. Actually, I have to admit the scandalous tales are more interesting. LOL I’ve published two family books: one on my mom and her family and one for my mother-in-law. Now my brother and I are at work on a more industrious tome for our dad’s family.

In addition to locking those tales in for perpetuity, I’ve been amazed at some of interesting things I’ve discovered. Remember how boring it was to learn dates in history classes? But if you learn, for instance, that your ancestors fought in the American Revolution and the details of their involvement, that part of our country’s history becomes real to you. Reading about it goes from chore to family story.

I have an autograph book from 1860-1871 that covers the time a woman in my family was at a Gerogia academy for young ladies, through the Civil War, to just before her death from childbed fever eleven years later. That and learning that her husband fought in the Civil War and was at Gettysburg brought that time in focus for me.

I’m NOT saying your history changes who YOU are! Not at all. Nowadays most people don’t care if your ancestors came on the Mayflower, were here to greet them, or came on an Irish coffin ship. We’re valued by the kind of person we’ve become. Sure, being born wealthy is nice--not that I’d know--but we value people for how they manage whatever talents they’ve been born with.

Here’s a challenge for each of you. Set up a PC folder for Family History. Start with the names of those ancestors you know and write them down. Nothing formal, just start telling the stories your family passed down or those you remember. Then ask older relatives to tell you what they remember about growing up and stories their parents told. You can even record them if they you have trouble getting it all down while they're talking. I have a wonderful story of an relative's move from Hill County, Texas to Greer County, Oklahoma in 1899 as recorded by her granddaughter in the 1970's.

You too have stories: funny ones and sad ones and some barely believable. In fact, the other night at dinner, friends and I were talking about some things that had happened to us that sounded incredible--too incredible to use in a fiction novel because no one would believe the story. But who’s going to know these wonderful stories from your family’s past if you don’t record them?

Thanks for stopping by. Y'all come back now, ya hear?

Friday, June 10, 2011


Come take an imaginary trip to Ireland with me. Hero and I are still in our “staycation” mode, so I’m sharing photos and comments from a couple of past vacations to Ireland. If I could only visit one country outside the U.S., it would be Ireland, one of the friendliest countries Americans can visit. So many Irish emigrated to the U.S., that we’re treated as cousins coming back home. In fact, if Hero and I are able to travel there again, we want to rent a cottage, get a rail pass, and stay for a month.

Ireland from the plane's window
Arriving in Ireland, we looked from the plane’s window to the most verdant landscape we’d ever seen. The unique soil and climate make Ireland’s landscape varying shades of dark green. They still cut turf for peat fires in some areas, although the peat is being depleted.

Cliffs of Moher
One of our first trips was to see the Cliffs of Moher in County Galway. In fact, this was the site of the imaginary village mentioned in my time travel, OUT OF THE BLUE.

Connemara cottage
Nearby, the famous Connemara marble quarries are still in business, although some colors of the marble no longer exist. We saw a lot of stone fences, and wondered if the stone was unpolished marble.

Adare Village home

Adare village in County Limerick is regarded as Ireland’s most picturesque village. The original village was destroyed repeatedly by conquests, wars, and revolutions. The Gaelic name is Ath Dara, meaning ford of the oak for its location in woodlands and on the Maigue, a tributary of River Shannon. Most of the village was laid out in 1820 and rebuilt to the then Earl of Dunraven’s design. He rented the houses to tenants working his estate.
Hero and me in a jaunty cart,
that's us at the back.

In Killarney park, we rode in a jaunting car, or jaunty cart. It was fun to view the beautiful park slowly from the horse drawn cart. It reminded me of the courting cart in the movie “The Quiet Man.” Hero and I have watched that movie so often we know the dialogue.
Which brings me to one of our stops. In the village of Sneem, we ate lunch at the bed and breakfast where Maureen O’Hara stayed during the filming of “The Quiet Man.” The owner turned a small closet into a private toilet and shower for Ms O’Hara. The bathroom was so small a person could barely fit inside. Great food and excellent service made us want to linger.

                   Irish Castles

Blarney Castle

Famous for its gift of gab, the Blarney Stone is at the top of Blarney Castle--120 steep, steep steps up a very narrow, winding stairway. You can see the battlements, which is where the stone is located. The castle now standing is the third on this site, built in 1446 by Dermot McCarthy, King of Munster. Allegedly, an earlier King of Munster, Cormac McCarthy, supplied 4,000 soldiers to aid Robert The Bruce at the battle of Bannockburn in 1314. Legend has it that The Bruce gave half of the Stone of Scone to McCarthy in gratitude. This portion of the famous Stone of Scone, the seat for the coronation of kings, is now known as the Blarney Stone and was incorporated in the battlements where it can now be kissed. Of course, there are shops and a cafeteria beside the castle now to cater to tourists. (Guess which I chose.) Hero made the trek up to kiss the Blarney Stone.
Dunguarie Castle
 Supposedly the most photographed castle in Ireland is Dunguarie Castle in County Galway. The tower house was built in the 16th century.

Ross Castle

Ross Castle is a typical example of an Irish chieftan’s stronghold in the Middle Ages. Probably built in the late 15th century by one of the O’Donoghue Ross chieftans, the furnishings are 16th and 17th century oak.

Dublin Castle in Dublin City
Dublin Castle looks more like a seat of government, which is what it is, than a castle. It was built in the 13th century on a site previously settled by Vikings. It was they who named the city of Dublin, meaning Dark Pool. Now Dublin Castle is used for state functions and presidential inaugurations. Parts of the castle are open for visitors unless a government function is scheduled.

Rock of Cashel
The Rock of Cashel looks like a castle. It’s a group of medieval buildings set on a limestone outcrop and the various buildings date from the 12th through the 15th century. The tall tower is the group's oldest structure. These towers are seen throughout Ireland, and were used as both watchtowers and shelters during invasion.

Waterford Crystal Factory,
a stop on all tours

Some fun movies about Ireland are “Leap Year,” “The Quiet Man” (which is nothing like the book, by the way), and “The Matchmaker.” Also of interest because of its relation to Blarney Castle is the movie "Stone of Scone."

Stone Fences minus the sheep
 Hero and I feel drawn to Ireland for clean air, stone walls, picturesque cottages, historic stone circles, friendly people, and all the many other enticements the country has to offer. When the sunlight hits that rich green grass, we become one with the land. Why is that? Perhaps it’s racial or ethnic memory that draws us to Ireland. Many of our ancestors came from/through Ireland to immigrate to the United States. Whatever the reason, we hope to return one day and enjoy the warmth of Irish sun on our faces as we tread on green, green grass and shamrocks.