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We're taking a break from themes for a while. It'll be a smorgasbord of posts this spring. Your comments can help us determine what type of posts you'd like to see more frequently. We hope to hear from our readers often!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

THE SEASON AS A SETTING by Peggy Jaeger



Please join me in welcoming guest blogger, Peggy Jaeger to The Roses of Prose.

I was thumbing through a few of my older manuscripts today and found something most of them had in common – despite my never realizing it before: they all take place in Autumn.

Hmmmm. Interesting.

I didn’t take me long to discover why I’d unconsciously set them in that time of year.
I live in New Hampshire, one of the prettiest states in the contiguous 48. Especially in – you got it! – Autumn. The changing colors of September through November are amazing to watch. We have a tourist cottage industry here in New England called Leaf Peeping season and the tourists themselves are referred to as Leaf Peepers.
If you’ve ever taken a car tour up around these parts in the Fall, you know why it’s such a popular time of year.

If you haven’t, well, what are you waiting for??

My very first New England autumn was memorable for so many things, but most of all my introduction to the natural beauty of this region. I watched the leaves on the trees turn form vibrant verdant to crisp apple red and then on to golden yellow and burnt umber/orange. I could have filled a Crayola 64 pack with all the different shades and hues I saw blossoming and changing everyday in my backyard.

I live in the woods, so I have a front row seat for all this splendor every day. And I am so thankful for it.

The trees lining my property form an enclosure of beauty all year round. But in the Fall, that beauty changes to a patchwork and chaos of stimulating colors that just tickle the ol’ eyes and heart.

Since I love autumn so much, it stands to reason that I have my characters fall in love during that season. And since I set so many of my stories in New England, with so much natural beauty surrounding them, the characters are influenced by that beauty, helping them fall into love.

Kind of a cute euphemism, no? Falling into love in the fall?
(I know, but I can’t help being this way, so deal!)

Anyway…the setting of any story actually becomes a character in many ways, especially if the setting is integral to the story line. My third book in the MacQuire Women Series, First Impressions, takes place in the Fall and there are many references to the season that help make up the core of the book , a baseball game at Fenway Park and apple picking in a local orchard just two serious plot points. They wouldn’t have been as effective if they hadn’t taken place in the season they did.

For the writers out there, what season is your favorite to write about? Or are you an equal opportunity season author? If you have a favorite, why is it your fave? Winter is a huge season to write about , brought home by all the romance books written with Christmas love stories. June and Summer bride stories are popular as well. Really, any season could be made to promote love. Which is your favorite?

So, what season do you like to read and/or write about? Drop me a line and share your thoughts.


Blurb:
Symphony pianist Moira Cleary comes home after four years of touring, exhausted, sick, and spiritually broken. Emotional and psychological abuse at the hands of someone she trusted has left her gaunt, anxious, and at a crossroads both professionally and personally.

Moira’s best friend, veterinarian Quentin Stapleton, wants nothing more than to help Moira get well. Can his natural healing skills make it possible for her to open her heart again? And can he convince her she’s meant to stay home now with the family that loves her - and with him - forever?

Excerpt:
“Remember when your cousin Tiffany got married in the backyard here?”
Confused, Moira nodded.
Quentin rubbed her bottom lip with the pad of his thumb. “When the Reverend told Cole ‘you can kiss your bride,’ and he swooped her off the ground, spun her around and kissed her silly? Remember what you said?”
 “I think I said it was the most romantic thing I’d ever seen.”
He nodded. “The exact quote was, ‘I hope someone kisses me like that some day.’”
Her grin was quick at the memory. “Pat snorted and said I’d better be satisfied with licks from the horses and Rob Roy because no guy was ever gonna kiss me.”
“He wasn’t known for tact back then.” He rubbed a hand down her back as he held her. “Remember what happened later on behind the barn?”
Because she did, she couldn’t stop the heat from spreading up her face like wildfire. When she nodded again, he said, “You wanted to know what it felt like to be kissed like that and since I was your best friend, you thought I should be the one to do it, because you – quote - felt safe with me – unquote.”
“What was I? Eleven?”
“Thirteen. And I was more than willing. Almost broke my heart in two when you said afterward, ‘I don’t see what all the fuss is about.’”
 “Q—”
“Hush.” He kissed her forehead. “Ever since that day, all I’ve wanted is a second chance. Now,” he pulled her body closer, wrapped both arms around her small waist, his hands resting just above the dent in her spine. “We’re both a little older, a little more mature. Some of us are much more experienced—”
“And conceited.”
“Experienced,” he said, the laugh in his voice quiet and seductive, “and things can be so much better.”

Author bio:

Peggy Jaeger’s love of writing began in the third grade when she won her first writing contest with a short story titled THE CLOWN. After that, there was no stopping her. Throughout college and after she became a Registered Nurse, she had several Nursing Journal articles published, in addition to many mystery short stories in Literary Magazines. When her daughter was born, Peggy had an article titled THE VOICES OF ANGELS published and reprinted in several parenting magazines, detailing the birth and the accident that almost turned this wonderful event into a tragedy. She had two children’s books published in 1995 titled THE KINDNESS TALES and EMILY AND THE EASTER EGGS, which were illustrated by her artist mother-in-law. While her daughter grew, Peggy would write age appropriate stories for her to read along with, and finally, to read on her own. Her YA stories are mysteries involving smart and funny 12-13 year old girls and an unusual collection of friends and relatives. They all take place in the 1980’s.

She has a Master’s Degree in Nursing Administration and had several articles published on Alzheimer’s Disease when she ran an Alzheimer’s In Patient care unit during the 1990’s

In 2005 she was thrilled to have an article on motherhood placed in the CHICKEN SOUP FOR EVERY MOTHER’S SOUL edition. She has won several awards in various Writer’s Digest short story and personal article categories over the years. Recently, she has placed first in the Dixie Kane 2013 Memorial Contest in the Short/Long Contemporary romance Category, and in the Single Title Contemporary Category, and third place in the ICO Romance Contest for 2013, and in 2014 she was a finalist in the Put Your heart in a Book contest.

A life-long and avid romance reader and writer, she is a member of RWA and her local New Hampshire RWA Chapter.

Peggy has embraced the techno age and writes for three blogs, all detailing events in her life. One titled, 50 pounds for 50 years is a personal blog about weight loss, one about her life as an EMPTY NESTER and her most recent one MOMENTS FROM MENOPAUSE, a humorous and informative guide through this time in a woman’s life.
She also has her own website http://peggyjaeger.com where she writes about everyday life and how it relates to writing. Twitter is her current obsession, but she is never far from her Facebook pages.

In 2015 she will have her first three contemporary romance novels published by The Wild Rose Press: Skater’s Waltz, book 1 in the MaQuire Women Series, and There’s No Place Like Home, book 2. Book 3 is titled First Impression. Three more are in the works for this series, in addition to her Cooking with Kandy series.

Social Media Links:
Facebook:

Buy Links for THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME

The Wild Rose Press:  http://bit.ly/1GmM1Je
Barnes and Noble Nook :  http://bit.ly/1JjMUG7







Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Boredom

"The freedom of boredom...fosters creativity" -- Mollie Cox Bryan

I can honestly say I have never been bored for longer than fifteen minutes in my entire life. From the time I was a wee thing, I was curious about the world as I knew it, that is, in about a three-foot-wide circle I could reach by crawling. Grass and pebbles outside, table legs and my grandmother's shoes inside. Everything was fascinating.

As I grew older, I stopped putting everything in my mouth and began listening to people's voices, to music, to birdsong. I could sit quietly for hours listening to my grandmother or mother read to me. I eavesdropped on grownups' conversation without understanding much of it.

I learned to talk. I learned I could have my own opinions, although wanting a snack before dinner wasn't an encouraged opinion. I grew up strong-willed, stubborn, obstinate even. I met my first imaginary friend who didn't mind my strong opinions. She loved me for who I was; I loved her because she was fun to play with. No, she didn't exist but that didn't matter. She did in my head.

Those traits help now that I'm a full-time writer. I still have imaginary friends, many of whom live much more interesting lives than I do. I have voices in my head telling me stories, some of which I write in my books. I can still sit and play with these imaginary friends for hours on end, fingers flying over the keyboard, making the stories come to life on the page.

Boredom? Not in my vocabulary. Not in my life.

###


Betsy Ashton is the author of Mad Max, Unintended Consequences, and Uncharted Territory, A Mad Max Mystery, which is now available in e-book at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Settling in ... for a week or two

Finished up my latest round of travel (Iowa-Kansas City-Charleston, round trip). I had a great time and am glad I made the effort to visit Charleston, which is a charming city. It has a small town feel, and is very welcoming and friendly. It was fun to play tourist and go on bus tours and carriage tours and walking tours. We even took in a minor league baseball game.

Then home to 300 email messages awaiting me at the Day Job. That's about right, I average about 100 a day or so. It took a few days to fight my way through that, and now I'm back on an even keel again, getting ready to settle in for the summer -- for 3 weeks, until I travel again, that is.

While traveling, I did something I seldom do: I flew without any entertainment -- no Kindle, no tablet, no magazine. I threw caution to the winds and grabbed a book from the airport bookstore, one by my favorite author (Martha Grimes). I spent several enjoyable hours revisiting old friends (her detective stories have been my favorite for years). I forgot how much I enjoy reading a good book -- if I got nothing else out of traveling, it was great to rediscover reading....

Monday, May 25, 2015

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in Veterans by Velda Brotherton



Roses and Readers, join me in welcoming Velda Brotherton as guest author today.

We think of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, as something fairly new. A disorder that affects veterans of war, but wasn’t recognized as such as popularly as following the Vietnam War.  In writing the Victorian Series, I wrote Lord Blair Prescott as being controlling, withdrawn, and prone to riding the prairie all night. When I began work on Rowena's Hellion, the second in the series which would deal with him as the hero, I remembered what a fan had written regarding Blair Prescott, She said, "Velda if you can pull off why anyone would love a man like this, then I'll be surprised."

So my work was laid out for me. Why did Blair Prescott behave the way he did toward the woman he was supposed to marry? So much so that she talked an outlaw into kidnapping her to prevent the marriage. Why did he often get drunk before he could sleep?
 
An old friend said he had been a gentle, quiet boy growing up. Could something terrible have happened to cause this behavior? Being familiar with PTSD because of research for my earlier book, Beyond the Moon, I began to research wars in which he might have fought and found the Franco Prussian War of 1870-71 and the elite forces known as Zuoaves who fought under Napoleon III. So I sent the poor young man, a second son in a titled English family, off to war.

Since that decision and the first draft of Rowena's Hellion, I've learned a lot about the history of PTSD. For thousands of years diaries have been found that were written by soldiers and others suffering from this malady that had no name.

During the Civil War military physicians, at a loss to treat the problems, simply mustered the extreme cases out during the first three years of the war. “They were put on trains with no supervision, the name of their home town or state pinned to their tunics, others were left to wander about the countryside until they died from exposure or starvation,” wrote Richard A. Gabriel, a consultant to the Senate and House Armed Services Committees and one of the foremost chroniclers of PTSD.

Gabriel’s research tells us that in 1863 the number of insane soldiers simply wandering around was so great, there was a public outcry. Because of this, and at the urging of surgeons, the first military hospital for the insane was established in 1863. The most common diagnosis was nostalgia.

In earlier times French doctors termed the symptoms maladie du pays, and the Spanish, confronted with the same reactions among their soldiers, called it estar roto (literally, “to be broken”).

As late as World War II and the Korean War, men were not treated for the symptoms of this disorder. It was by then called battle fatigue or shell shock. Today doctors are working on treatments to help men returning from war deal with this debilitating disorder that include drugs and counseling that teaches these wounded warriors to handle their problems with the horrific memories and flashbacks.

Excerpt: “I decided I was meant to be a spinster. Even thought of going into the convent, but the sisters were so mean spirited at St. Ann’s that I did not think I would enjoy that.”
“Oh, love, I cannot imagine you as a nun. Never.”
“What, you think I’m not worthy?”
“Not that at all. I think you are too full of mischief. And you enjoy the sort of loving that isn’t allowed in a convent. Truth be known, I can see where Tyra gets her—what is it the westerners call it?—orneriness.”
She punched his shoulder gently. “Is that right? I will have you know I am the picture of decorum.”
“Oh, you are?” He laughed again. “I just realized something.”
“What’s that?”
“I am actually enjoying myself. I cannot remember the last time I felt this good.”
Tears filled her eyes and she cupped his face.
“Rowena, don’t cry. What is it?”
“I want you to be happy, so much it hurts me here.” She clenched a fist over her heart, sucked in a sob. “I guess that’s what love is.”
Silence covered him like a cloak, and he stared at her. He was so frightened for her, yet so sure he needed her more than he needed to take his next breath. Took her fist in his hand, pulled it to his lips and kissed the fingers tenderly. He could not speak. Sat there gazing down at her and hanging on to her hand. She was his connection to reality.

Blurb: Loving a man damaged by war is a challenge, but Blair’s haunted eyes capture Rowena’s nurturing heart. She struggles to bring peace to this man who rides the Kansas prairie in the moonlight, wild to escape the demons who follow him from the battlefields.The woman haunts him as well, but he dare not follow his desires for fear he will hurt her.

Twitter: @veldabrotherton
Buy Link: buff.ly/12rMMBI


Saturday, May 23, 2015

Truth Can Be Stranger Than Fiction by Margo Hoornstra

Me again, with another short story to share. One I wrote quite a while ago. Although fiction like all the others, this one is based on a true story. A police file, really.

Back in the day, as they say, my father wrote scripts for a radio show out of Detroit titled Manhunt, which was a forerunner of the television show Dragnet. True stories pulled from actual police files, as they also say.

This story is based on one of those scripts.

Hearts and Flowers
 
 

Homicide detectives Jake Martin and Sean Crawford pulled up to the posh Galleria Restaurant. The officer who took the original call had followed protocol. The crime scene was cordoned off with the bright yellow tape the public had come to recognize, and usually respect. Only a few curious bystanders stood outside its boundary.

“Suspicious death of a Mr. Charles Bentley. That’s all we have?” Martin shut off the engine and put the gear shift in park.

“That’s it.” Crawford scanned a document on the onboard computer. “The EMTs who responded to the scene called it suspicious. Said it was a choking. The uniforms got a driver’s license off the victim. Dispatch is running the name and prints.”

“What’s was so suspicious about someone choking at a restaurant?”

“One of the EMTs happened to be a flower buff. She recognized Hemlock petals—lethal amount—on the table. Remnants are at the lab now. She said the stuff grows wild if you know what to look for.”

“Apparently somebody made an effort to do just that.”

“I actually came here once.” Crawford made the remark as they got out and crossed the sidewalk. “My wife dragged me. Not being married, you wouldn’t know about that.”

“Probably not.”

“Very fancy.”

Martin ducked under the crime tape. “How so?”

Crawford was right behind him. “Menu in French, lemon slices in the water, little flowers in the salad.”

“Sounds yummy.”

“Apparently the clientele likes it.”

“Not all of them.” Martin deadpanned the comment before he pushed through the big double doors to the restaurant.

“You must do something!”  A tuxedo clad man with a Charlie Chaplin mustache rushed up and grabbed Martin’s sleeve. “My reputation! I will be ruined!”

Martin pulled his arm free to reach for the notebook he always carried in his breast pocket. “What happened?”

“Monsieur Bentley was one of my better customers.” He continued in an accent that wasn’t quite authentic. “Not a week went by that he didn’t join us for dinner at least once, maybe twice.”

Martin had his pen poised. The man still hadn’t answered his question. He shuffled a couple of pages. Victim a regular.

“Your name, Sir?” He flipped back to page one.

“I am Henri DuBois.” His accent in full swing, he gave a short bow. “I own La Galleria.”

Crawford coughed slightly. Martin ignored him. “Again, what happened?”

“Our guest had ordered the specialty of the house—Steak Merlot Du Bois, an excellent choice!”

“And?”

“A few moments into his meal, he grabbed at his throat and . . . gone!” He indicated the demise with an elaborate flick of his hand, then lowered his voice. “My enemies did this!”

“You have enemies, Mr. DuBois?”

Warming to his own theatrics, he spread his arms with a flourish. “Every great artist has enemies!”

“Artist?” Martin didn’t look up.

“A culinary artist.” His tone suggested he didn’t appreciate having to explain himself. “My competitors are jealous. They will do anything to ruin me!”

Crawford stepped forward. “Can you provide the names of these . . . uh, competitors of yours?”

“One needs to look no further than the phonebook. Pick any one.” Again the arms flourished in a huge circle.

“I see.” Martin nodded.

Though he doubted that kind of ‘competition’ could lead to murder, he had enough years in the business to know people had been done in for less. That didn’t mean he was going to check out every restaurant in the city. Not yet, anyway.

Besides a few employees, only two people who had been identified as the victim’s dining companions remained in the restaurant. They were huddled together at a far table. Martin recognized local socialite Rita Barnes.  The man, he couldn’t identify. Probably her boyfriend judging by the way his arms were wrapped around her as she sobbed into his shoulder.

“Let’s see what they have to say.” Leaving his partner to the over the top restaurant owner, Martin walked toward them.

“Your name, sir?” He posed the question after introducing himself.

“Harvey Nelson. I’m Ms. Barnes’s financial advisor.”

Martin was careful to keep the surprised look from his face. Awfully cozy for business associates.

“You knew the victim?”

“I did.” The reply was terse.

Rita Barnes raised her head. “Charles and I were going to be married.”

Martin noticed the other man’s jaw tighten.

She pushed upright. Her chin quivered uncontrollably and she took a breath. “Next month.”

“Ms. Barnes is too distraught to talk with you right now.” Nelson lowered his head to bring his face even with hers. “Rita, I’m going to speak with the Detective for a moment.” He handed her a handkerchief he’d pulled from his pants pocket then patted her hand. “Please.” He stood to lead Martin across the room, out of earshot.  “I recently made a complaint to your Department.” He spoke in a hushed voice. “I suspected Bentley was up to no good. He was just a little too smooth, if you know what I mean.”

Martin nodded. “What did they tell you?”

The man stiffened. “That nothing could be done without more evidence. That my just thinking he was after her money wasn’t breaking any laws. The whole thing was a total waste of my time.”

“Have you told Ms. Barnes about your suspicions?”

“Of course not! Her personal affairs are none of my business.” He seemed to choke before he went on. “I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t say anything either. If she found out . . .”

“You’d stand to lose a very lucrative client.”

Her business associate’s lips pursed in obvious distaste. “I was going to say it would hurt her deeply. I only have her best interests at heart.” He cast a quick look the woman’s way. “She wanted Bentley put on her bank accounts.  I had managed to talk her out of doing that—until today. The necessary papers are in my brief case. That was why I met them here tonight.”

“How long had they . . . uh, dated?”

“About six months. Their goings on made all the society columns.” He stopped speaking and considered Martin for a moment. “You don’t read those, do you?”

Martin shook his head. “Must’ve missed it.”

“Well, she certainly wined and dined him in style. It bordered on disgraceful.” Unmistakable bitterness tinged his voice.

“I take it you didn’t care for Mr. Bentley?”

“I couldn’t stand the man!”

“You have any interest in flowers?”

Brows raised, Nelson’s head reared back. “Why would you ask that?”

“Just wondered.”

Telling Nelson not to leave the premises just yet, he moved on to talk to the staff and noticed with more than a little irritation that they all sat together at a back table. That should make for some valuable recollections. Interrogation 101—keep any possible witnesses separate. He shrugged again. Nothing he could do about it now. Flipping to a clean page in his notebook, he approached their table. Those who had been in the dining room at the time of the incident gave much the same account of events as the restaurant owner, though not as dramatic. Then Martin got to the next witness.

“I was taking out the trash.” Eddie, the dishwasher lounged in a chair by the wall. “They were arguing in the back hall. One guy—not the dead guy, the other one—he said ‘I’ll see you dead first!’ Guess he meant it.” Eyes wide, the kid smiled.

Martin didn’t smile back. “What exactly do you mean by ‘the other one’?”

“The guy that was at the table with them.” He spoke slowly as if the cop should have figured that one out for himself. “I had just brought a load of glasses out front when he croaked. He was struggling pretty hard, trying to breathe and all. The lady started to scream, but, the other guy; he just kinda stood there, watching him.”

Martin just nodded. To think this was their only real witness. “Is anyone else here?”

“Just Sally.” He pointed toward the back of the kitchen. “She works set up.”

Sally Wells turned out to be a small blond in a chef’s hat that didn’t seem to fit right.

“I just started working here today.” She looked like she’d been crying.

Understandable. Must be tough to lose a customer—literally—your first night on the job.

“Did you know the victim?” Martin’s cop gut prompted that one.

She lowered her gaze. “No…of course not.” She managed to answer between sniffles then brought a tissue to her nose with the long, painted nails of a professional manicure. “I just heard the commotion.” She dabbed at her eyes. “Do they know what . . . how it happened? Eddie said he choked on a piece of meat. Is that right?”

“Something like that.”

Her attention was focused on the floor. “What will they do with the body?”

“Depends if next of kin can be found.” Martin decided to play a hunch. “Sometimes families don’t want anything to do with it. In cases like that, the body ends up being disposed of by the state.”

Head still lowered, she seemed to cringe at that bleak scenario.

“That’s sad.” Face lifted, she croaked out the whisper as new tears welled.

“It happens.”

“It’s just so sad.” That was all she got out before tears got the better of her and she launched into a pitiful crying jag. Her shoulders heaved as she buried her face in her hands.

Well, crap. He so hated the crying. Arms at his sides, he stood there like an idiot. A helpless idiot. In need of a diversion, he glanced through his notes so far. Two hysterical women, a jealous—wanna be—lover and some imaginary enemies. Quite a suspect list. It sure was going to be a long night.

Not only that, the woman still hadn’t stopped crying.

“Take it easy.” He made his voice sound gentle and wished now he’d stayed with ‘Henri’. Let Crawford deal with the rest of it. Notebook in one hand, he took an awkward grip on her arm and led Sally out to the dining room where Crawford questioned a now more composed Rita Barnes. Nelson was a tolerable distance away taking it all in.

Martin had Sally Wells almost to a nearby table, when he sensed a sudden shift in her body language. Just like that she went from pliant to tense.  Women. He’d never understand them.

Oddly grateful when a newly arrived female officer took over for him, temporarily, he returned to talk with Harvey Nelson. “You and Mr. Bentley had a disagreement tonight?”

“We did.” Back straight, his chin lifted in defiance. “I’m not proud my temper got the better of me. He was so arrogant.”

Just then a uniform called Martin over to the entrance. “The ID the victim had on him was phony. Turns out there is a real Charles Bentley. This one’s alive and owns a real estate company. But, we lucked out. The picture of our Mr. Bentley did produce a match and some aka information.” He glanced at the paper in his hand. “His real name was Carl Bendix. He had quite a record. Bank account cons. Credit card scams.  The grab and go kind of stuff.”

Martin had to admit, Harvey Nelson was a pretty good judge of character. Too late, he realized, the man was also right behind him.

“I told you!” Chin still elevated, he sniffed. “The man was bad news! You people never listen!”

“That still doesn’t tell us who killed him. All we have now is a possible motive.” Martin stared at Harvey Nelson as the color drained from his face. For the first time, the man seemed to grasp the severity of the situation and his possible role in it.

“Who’s going to tell Rita. . .Ms. Barnes?” He didn’t wait for an answer. “I think it’s best if she hears it from me.”

Martin nodded. “Go ahead.” At least they could give him that.

The patrol officer continued with his report after Nelson stalked away. “He worked with an accomplice until about six months ago. Then he seemed to strike out on his own. Seems odd to change an MO after so long. Anyway, they’re sending over a picture of the accomplice.”

Martin stuffed the notebook back in his pocket as he headed over toward Sally Wells. “I bet I know just what she looks like.”

Turned out it wasn’t going to be such a long night after all.
 
My days to blog here are the 11th and 23rd. For more about me and my stories, please visit my WEBSITE