Monday, April 30, 2012

A Romantic Interlude by Claire Ashgrove

Hi all! Here we are, a few hours away from the turn of a new month. I'm back, touting my hometown today, and jazz music, in honor of the last day of Jazz Appreciation Month.

I was going to talk about how jazz has changed through the years, how it's been modernized, but unfortunately that would turn into a disertation. So we're going to tie this back to romance.

Top Ten Romantic Jazz Songs

(How many of these do you recognize?)

10. Michael Buble -- "You and I"
9. Harry Connick Jr -- "We are in Love" (This man makes me swoon, I swear!)

8. Tony Bennet -- "Blue Velvet"
7. Sarah Vaughan - "Body and Soul"
6. Nora Jones -- "Come Away With Me"
5. Nat King Cole -- "Unforgettable"
4. Billie Holiday -- "Crazy He Calls Me"
3. Frank Sinatra -- "As Time Goes By"

2. Louis Armstrong -- "Dream A Little Dream of Me"

And the number one romantic Jazz Song...

Ella Fitzgerald -- "All the Things You Are"

Memories, ladies... I tell you. Makes my heart flutter at the romaticism of the era, the style, everything about it.

Before I go, I want to share with you my personal favorite, even if it didn't make the list.

Enjoy, and happy Mayday, everyone!


Saturday, April 28, 2012

Guest Rachel Brimble Talks Victorian Romance

Rachel Brimble
The inspiration behind my Victorian romances pretty much comes from my love of UK period dramas and the fact I am lucky enough to live near one of the most historical cities in the world –Bath, England.

My first full-length Victorian romance, The Arrival Of Lily Curtis was inspired by a house – a house steeped in English beauty and history. Today, Lucknam Park is a five star hotel and spa, boasting Michelin Star chefs and luxurious indulgence and I was thrilled when a friend treated me to afternoon tea there.
As soon as I sat in the astoundingly beautiful conservatory, I knew I had found my hero’s home. Writers and readers of Victorian romance have the uncanny knack of seeing beyond the modern changes, the dress of today’s visitors and nonchalant acceptance that these buildings exist all over the UK. They effortlessly travel back to a time when real people lived in these huge homes and rode their horses across their vast estates.

By the mid 1800s, the house had passed hands several times but it was during this time that the magnificent columned portico and bow wings were added to the house as well as acres and acres of country land. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any pictures of the exterior of the house which weren’t under copyright but I strongly urge you to visit the house website to see just how romantic a house Lucknam Park is, and how easily it became my mission to make it come alive with my characters and plot.

As for my upcoming release, Love’s Debt (out September 5th), the inspiration for that came from the UK city where I grew up – Bristol. Bristol is famous for its Maritime history. While walking around the city last summer, I was drawn to the docks and knew I wanted to create a story about a hero who worked there. The rest as they say, was history!

With Bath in one direction, Blenheim Palace and the glorious Cotswolds in the other, I will continue to write Victorian romance as well as my contemporary novels. How could I not? J

Here’s the blurb and excerpt from The Arrival of Lily Curtis – enjoy!

At the mention of an arranged marriage, Elizabeth Caughley feels her life is over at the age of three and twenty….so she hatches an escape plan. She will reinvent herself as a housemaid. Overnight, Elizabeth becomes Lily.

Viscount Westrop wants nothing more than his legacy to be passed to his own son one day. Even though he feels insurmountable pity for the unborn child already, he knows how much pain a broken promise can cause and will do what is right. But with the arrival of his new housemaid, his plans are thrown into disarray. Lily is funny, feisty and the most beautiful creature on earth – Andrew is thunderstruck.

But if anyone suspects how much he wants to ravish her and endlessly love her, Andrew’s lineage will be in peril. And he cannot let that happen…


Lily lifted her head and met eyes as blue as a crisp winter sky. He said nothing as he continued to study her. His eyes hungrily brushed over her hair, her neck, her breasts. She flicked a glance left and right as her body traitorously heated beneath his gaze.

The other gentlemen were carefully watching the exchange. Their curious eyes darted back and forth between the two, undeniable amusement twitching their lips.

“Are you ready to be seated in the dining room, my lord?” Lily said, standing a little straighter.

“I’m sorry?”

“Your meal, sir?”

He blinked and the tension broke. He hastily threw a look at his friends before turning to meet her eyes once more. He straightened his spine and regally lifted his chin. Lily held his gaze, noticed that his eyes now burned with something she couldn’t quite decipher but whatever it was triggered her natural defenses to high alert.

The curiosity when he had looked at her not a moment before had vanished, only to be replaced with mischief.

His smile turned wolverine. “Oh, I’m more than ready to eat, Lily. I’m positively salivating.”

Lily smarted as his friends burst into a flurry of mocking laughter. She gritted her teeth but kept her eyes locked on his. The tone of his voice had disguised neither the implication nor his obvious enjoyment at her expense. A flame of indignation ignited inside of her.

Her smile was slow and intentionally provocative. “I am so pleased, sir. For I would hate for you to have to endure cold soup.” Her gaze lingered down to his crotch. “After all, you and your guests are quite obviously still chilled from an afternoon of riding.”

The gentlemen’s sniggers instantly halted and the lord’s smile dissolved. He looked from her face to his crotch and back again. His eyes widened.

“Why, you….”

The Arrival of Lily Curtis is available now from The Wild Rose Press

Buy Link:

Find Rachel here:

Twitter: @rachelbrimble 

Friday, April 27, 2012

Passing History onto Your Children and Grandchildren

By Vonnie Davis

My thirteen-year-old grandson called me as I was cooking supper tonight to tell me about his eighth grade field trip to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Although he lives in Frederick, Maryland, he's been to the battlefield several times before. His dad, my youngest, still enjoys hiking over the area and crawling across the boulders of Devil's Den.

He's introduced Ryan to what he considers a special part of his childhood. You see, as a single Mom, taking my kids to Gettysburg, about twenty miles from where we lived, was a great way to spend Sunday afternoons. Oh, the teachable moments we had!

Now my son is doing the same with Ryan. He's had custody of Ryan since he was eighteen months old (Think bodybuilder doing pottie training!)


"I knew more about the battlefield than anyone else, Grandma. Well, except for the teacher."

I smiled at my over-achieving grandson. A straight "A" advanced placement student, he's taking intro to calculus as an eighth grader, plays first chair trumpet, plays football, soccer and wrestles on the Maryland Terp Elite team. He wants to be an actuary when he grows up.

"Oh? Did you?" 

"Yeah. Some of the kids got a little rowdy, and I told them they were being disrespectful of the soldiers who bled and died there."

I stopped stirring the cornbread I was making and silently cheered his "hootspa". "What did they say?"

"Some listened. A couple jerks wanted to act immature." He sighed as only a teenager can. "Some people have no clue." 

So true.

The Battle of Gettysburg was fought July 1-3, 1863 in and around this sleepy little town in Southern Pennsylvania, just a few miles North of the Mason-Dixon line. Historians cite it as the turning point of the Civil War. Between 46,000 and 51,000 soldiers from both sides were casualties of the battle.

I've always felt an important part of our jobs as parents and grandparents is passing along the history of our ancestors, our communities and our country. Many societies have a strong oral-history tradition. We've lost that along the way--too much technology perhaps. I fear our pasts will lessen in importance and dim in the historical horizon. Soon, hallowed places like battlefields will be plowed under and turned into parking lots of shopping malls or another apartment complex.

Some may not see the connection between my concerns and a poem written by John Donne. I hope you do.

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend's were.
Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

America, the Beautiful ... right?

(apologies ahead of time. I'm traveling and probably can't reply to comments. It seems like I'm always traveling when I blog here. Maybe someday I won't be going to and fro so much).

Return with me, to those ?thrilling? days of yesteryear ... the date is 1972 and I'm riding in a wee tiny Triumph convertible with my current beau. The sun is shining, the cool breezes are passing over our head, we're meandering down a country road in Corn Country on a summer day. I take a sip from the Coke can in my hand, find it is empty and toss it out of the car.

SCREECH to a halt.

Current beau gets out of the car, retrieves the can, and proceeds to give me a lecture on littering. Remember, this was just a few years after the first Earth Day -- a day which was not heavily celebrated for at least a decade. He explained how long it took trash to decompose, how much litter is already floating around the ocean, how toxic such things are to the environment, etc.

I was amazed. Truly. Not that he knew these kinds of things: he was an eclectic kind of guy, a recently returned Vietnam vet (with PTSD, but that's a long story best told in a book, which I did: Nowhere To Run. Yes, it's based on truth), he was a 'returning student' at college (going on the G.I. bill) and he was interested in Ecology, Engineering, and extreme martial arts and street fighting (not necessarily in that order).

No, what amazed me was that I listened and suddenly I Got It. I understood that it is up to each of us, each individual, to make a choice to recycle, to not litter, to do a part in keeping America beautiful, in keeping Spaceship Earth spinning happily. We must be conscious of the effect we have on the world -- not just our little world right here, but the bigger world as well.

That moment was an epiphany for me because suddenly the Environment wasn't just "stuff out there" it was real: it was a tossed can on a country road, it was papers blowing in the ditch, it was turtles being choked by contamination, it was pesticides and DDT and our food chain.

I appreciate that wake-up call. The Beau and I had problems later (nothing as extreme as I portrayed in the book, but scary nonetheless). He disappeared into the vastness of jungles of Thailand, turning his back on the world. I was left to live here and consider just what the hell humans are doing to all the creatures who share this planet with us. Since that time, I've been an avid environmentalist, doing everything I can in my own meager way to toe the line.

It's up to each of us, each individual one of us, to make the difference -- whether it's by adopting a shelter pet, by refusing to discard that 'trash', by considering what chemicals we put on our land and in our bodies. We need to live our lives consciously, every day.

Let's keep America (and the world) beautiful.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Guest Linda Engman Says You Can Never Have Too Much Romance

Linda Engman
 * Flowers, Moonlight, Hearts, Roses, Champagne, Paris, Candlelight, Diamonds...Romance.

You can never have too much romance.

That’s the tag line for my website. But on a daily basis do we actually receive flowers, go to Paris, open velvet boxes containing diamonds, or drink Champagne? I think it’s safe to say most of us do not. Maybe that’s why romance books are the leading seller of fiction today; instant romance. And we ladies don’t have to wait for a special occasion or a holiday or for our guy to remember an anniversary date—to be romanced.

I can’t think of anything more fun to write about than falling in love. Taking two characters and having them fall for each other through the course of a story is the ultimate for me. I also love to have my hero and heroine travel a very romantic path together in order to find true love with each other. This leads to lots of fun twists and turns. In I’ve Got You, auto mechanic Josh Craig seemingly doesn’t have a chance with attorney Amber Bradley—until they find common interests and grow together as a couple. In Falling For You, attorney Heather Grant and hockey star Cooper Gerhardt definitely are not looking for love—but somehow they manage to fall for each other in a unlikely romantic way and at the same time find what has been missing in their lives. In Manhattan Holiday the romance between legal assistant April Sutton and developer Roman Vasquez is all believing in love at first sight—and trusting yourself, and the one you fall in love with. Pretty romantic if you ask me.

So if you need a daily dose of romance in between those special occasions or anniversary’s...pick up a romance novel, snuggle in a comfy chair, and enjoy.

Manhattan Holiday Blurb:

Recently jilted, legal assistant April Sutton is ready to find a way to forget her ex-fiancé and the heartache she’s been carrying around snowy Manhattan. With the New Year holiday approaching she’s determined to restart her life. Never in her wildest dreams does she expect a last minute marriage to dynamic Roman Vasquez, along with a sultry weekend trip and a romantic dream wedding, to do the trick.

In order to meet the New Year’s Eve deadline of his grandfather’s will, successful developer Roman Vasquez will do whatever it takes. Even if it means giving up his bachelor status and convincing an unwilling April Sutton to tie the knot. Although he finds all it takes to persuade her is—one kiss, a contract, and the wedding of her dreams.

Will Roman and April keep it all business...or let the magic of the holiday season, along with meddling friends, family, and hidden feelings turn their temporary whirlwind marriage into everlasting love?


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Rambling by Brenda Whiteside

Okay, I'm reaching here. I wanted to stay within the theme guidelines for this month, but after writing about pets and frogs on the ninth, nothing much inspired me. I'm going to ramble and see where I end up.
Blackberries - before
Blackberries now
Diversity - I live in quite a diverse household. Does that count? And we're still adjusting to each other so there's acceptance and understanding going on. I won't name names, but one of us is retired and thinks that means something different than what I think it means. There's no retiring from laundry and yard work. Am I right? I'm the organized, keep it clean and aren't-you-going-to-get-it-done one. I guess there might be some adjusting for all of us, even me. One of us is the youngest and actually has an out of the house job. This person is the last to bed and the last to get up. So we're adjusting to being quiet in the mornings. Another is the brains behind our family farm. If we can all get used to the energy, high passion and driven attitude then we've embraced the diversity of this household.

Keep America Beautiful - I think we're doing our part. Our house was empty for over a year. The grass was dead in most spots and non-existent in others. The fruit trees were stunted and the blackberry bushes looked dead. But what a difference a couple of months make - along with a little water and backbreaking work. And what else? We don't litter. I can remember growing up in Phoenix and tossing whatever we didn't want in the car out the window. It bothered me even then. Now that I think back, it's so hard to imagine doing that. Why oh why would you throw your trash out the car window to litter the roads and scenery?
Sad tree - before

Happy pear tree now
I'm not big on jazz, know nothing about confederate history beyond a few worthless facts I learned in school, can't think of anything funny to say and nothing new on Easter. I'll end with a couple of pet pictures. Always good for a couple of ah's!

Rusty thinking about dinner
Rusty when it thunders

Brenda and her husband are gypsies at heart having lived in six states and two countries. Recently, they moved to prairie country in Arizona and are enjoying the wide-open spaces while tending fruit trees and veggie gardens. They share their space with their dog, Rusty. When Brenda isn’t at her laptop writing, she enjoys hiking, motorcycle riding and the company of good friends.
Visit Brenda at
She blogs on the 9th and 24th of every month at
She blogs about prairie life on her personal blog

Monday, April 23, 2012




In colonial Australia the families of ex-convicts and poor Irish immigrants were often on the receiving end of an unfair English justice system, which favoured the rich and powerful.

Against this background, Ned Kelly, his brother Dan and their friends Steve Hart and Joe Byrne formed a gang and became bushrangers (outlaws). They were hated by the authorities but revered and aided by many ordinary folk who thought Ned Kelly had been persecuted and forced into crime.

On the 26th October 1878 at Stringybark Creek, the Kelly gang shot and killed three police troopers and wounded a fourth after the police set a trap for them. After this incident there was a price on Ned Kelly’s head.

Desperate to catch the bushrangers the government of the time revived a medieval law that had been obsolete in England for centuries.  They called it the Felon’s Apprehension Act of 1878.

This Act enabled the Kelly gang to be proclaimed as outlaws.  It was one of the most serious laws parliament could evoke.  It authorized any person to shoot the proclaimed dead like wild beasts, without demand for surrender, or any process of arrest or trial.

On the ninth of December 1878, the Kelly gang came out of hiding in the ranges to hold up the bank in Euroa, their first public appearance since the Stringybark Creek murders.  They made their way to a sheep station on the Faithful Creek to spend the night, having first locked up the manager and his men in the storeroom.  The next day after a hearty meal they rode away.

On the day of the tenth, at the exact time the
Licensing Court
was in session and the town's only policeman otherwise occupied, the Kelly gang robbed the bank. They got away with more than nineteen hundred pounds as well as thirty or so ounces of gold.  After a siege at the Glenrowan hotel, Ned was finally captured. Dan Kelly, Steve Hart and Joe Byrne were killed when the hotel was set alight.

Ned Kelly was subsequently put on trial, found guilty and hanged in what is now known as the Old Melbourne Jail.

The Old Melbourne Jail is now a tourist attraction and is open to the public and what a spooky place it is even in daylight.  Ned Kelly’s death mask is out on display and the scaffold still stands with the rope swinging over the trapdoor.

I visited there one day when I was researching one of my books.  The stone cells are small and icy cold, and there is an aura there that chilled me to the bone. At night time not a skerrick of light would come in through the tiny barred window up near the roof. Once the door of the cell was shut, I swear, you would have felt as if you had been entombed.

A few years ago, remains that were suspected to be those of Ned Kelly were discovered in an un-marked prison grave. Using DNA from one of his descendants, the authorities have established that these bones are indeed those of Ned Kelly, and it is now hoped that they will be handed over to his descendants so that he can be buried in consecrated ground.

SAVAGE UTOPIA /STOLEN BIRTHRIGHT – a 2 for the price of 1 e-book from Whiskey Creek Press
A dark secret and an act of treachery lead to a terrible injustice. And how can an English aristocrat marry a convict’s daughter?


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Bottoms Up! by Claire Ashgrove

Bottoms up, everyone -- this is the national Jazz Appreciation Month!  And as a Kansas City gal, I couldn't miss the opportunity to share some of our history.  Afterall, the old saying goes, "Jazz was born in New Orleans , but America's music grew up in Kansas City."

So step back in time with me to the 18th and Vine district of Kansas City...

Would you believe that 1940s little corner was the hubub of night life?  You see, KC, in the '40s was a unique place.  Missouri rejected prohibition three times, before signing the 18th Amendment only after enough votes had been obtained for it to pass anyway.  But we went a step further, or rather our politica boss, Tom Pendergast did.  He insured that the prohibition laws wouldn't affect KC's liquor industry or saloons.  Which meant Kansas City's nightlife was on fire.  And that's where our jazz began.

Late night (and all night) clubs inspired jam sessions that went on and on.  Solos were introduced to help facilitate what was rather a competition, of who could recreate the same song, as long as possible, throughout the night.

Sit back and take a listen to the master.

Doesn't it put you in the mood? Picture the men in their pinstriped zoot suits, fedora hats, shirts, ties, suspenders, watch chains, and wingtip shoes. Women in knee-length dresses that highlighted narrow waists, black kid gloves, elaborate hairstyles, stylish hats, and bright red lipstick. Dancing the night away. Lounging in red velvet chairs at dark wood tables, a cigarette in one hand, a cocktail in the other. Laughing intimately before leaning in and touching foreheads... before stealing a kiss beneath the low lit lamps.

Driving home in their deep burgundy Packards, or perhaps walking down a crowded sidewalk as music drifts from the doorways of the open, crowded clubs. What awesome imagery for a story setting!

18th and Vine still exists today and has been revived through community efforts. Jazz is, very much, at the heart of everything there, and several of the original buildings still exist. Come back on the 30th and I'll share a little more of where we've grown, and where Jazz grew, in the years after. It'll be fun. At the very least you'll have some music to listen to!

Meanwhile, Bottoms Up!  Kick back, have a toast in honor of the festive month, and turn on Count Basie.  I'll drink with you.  Pass me a Bacardi Limon and Coke, please.

And by the way, since it's brand new on the shelves! I have a new book out this week -- Ensnared by Blood. Check it out if you want a dark, paranormal read! It's the fourth book in my Inherited Damnation series.


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Niagara Falls, an American Icon by Barbara Edwards

Visiting Niagara Falls wasn’t at the top of my list of places to visit. I felt that it was kind of old-fashioned. 

A place people used to think romantic for a honeymoon. Like many Americans  I’d seen those pictures. Yawn. 

So it was a side-trip.  Let’s go there since we’re in the area.

Niagara Falls is the most impressive view I’ve seen on the East Coast. It ranks up there with the Rockie Mountains and the Grand Canyon. 

We chose to do the local tour since my husband likes the convenience of someone else finding parking, getting tickets and generally explaining the features.

Birds waiting to feed, Bottom of Falls
Niagara Falls carries one fifth of the world’s fresh water supply. Of that, fifty percent of the water goes through the electric turbines not over the Falls. I can’t imagine what a full flow would look like and neither can anyone alive since the last time one hundred percent went over the Falls was in the 1880s. Electricity is supplied to the entire East coast of the United States from this place.

We stopped at the whirlpool where water is forced through a narrow gorge before reaching the river. We descended to the Cave of the Winds and looked up at Bridal Veil. 

We didn’t see the rainbows since it was cloudy but the birds were too numerous to count. It seems that any fish caught in the current gets ground up by the turbines and the birds gather to feast.

The Maid of the Mist isn’t in the water during the winter, but my husband vowed to return to take the voyage under the Falls.

I walked out on the Three Sisters, a set of three small islands extending into the river above the Falls.

Barbara Edwards on Three Sisters
Because of the location, it feels like the water will wash over your head at any second, a wonderful and scary place to take a picture with your feet at the edge of the rolling water.

Niagara Falls is one of the places every American should visit. It is an example of how American ingenuity and Nature's power can partner to fill a basic need. 

I'll certainly be going back.

Ancient Blood available from the Wild Rose Press


Friday, April 20, 2012

Do You Love to Read? - Beta Read!

Laura Breck
If you love to read, you should consider becoming a beta reader. All you need is a good sense of what makes a book plot work (and what doesn't) and/or a basic understanding of grammar and spelling. (I'll explain the 'and/or' in each section below.)

There are at least three kinds of beta readers (that I know of):
1) Publisher's Acquisitions Reader
2) Publisher's Final Edits Reader
3) Author's Beta Reader

A publisher's acquisitions reader helps an acquisitions editor (AE) decide if they should contract the book for publication. The AE will send an e-mail to their group of beta readers asking which of them would like to read a 'fantasy werewolf romance' or a 'pirate historical' or a 'small town cowboy.'

Those who are interested read the book and complete a short questionnaire. The AE uses this feedback to decide if the manuscript is a good fit for their publishing house. For this job, a good sense of plot continuity and character development is essential. I'm a beta reader for a small publisher, and I love it. One week I'm reading a regency historical, the next, I'm deep into a shifter vampire story. For each manuscript I read, I am able to choose one free e-book from the publisher's website. It's a good deal!

A publisher's final edits reader performs the last check before a book is released by the publisher. The beta reader reviews the edited manuscript for grammar, spelling, and sentence structure. Usually, the beta is encouraged to point out any plot flaws that may still exist in the book. This is usually a paid position, and you may have to be tested on your grammar skills before being hired.

An author's beta reader is a trusted friend, family member, or acquaintance of an author who reads the final manuscript before it's submitted to a publisher or is self-published. By the time the beta reader sees the manuscript, it has usually been checked by the author's critique partner, and/or an independent editor. The beta reader checks for plot flaws, character issues, grammar, spelling…the whole thing.

An author relies on the beta reader to point out things they, their critique partner, and their editor missed. I have a wonderfully amazing critique partner, and we work together very well. When I send her a manuscript, she reads the entire book in a short period of time in order to keep the plot fresh in her mind. As she goes through, she makes any suggestions, such as, 'I don't think he would respond this way' or 'you brought up this point earlier but never resolved it' or 'I don't think that's physically possible.'

Then, she reads it again for grammar, spelling, typos, sentence structure, etc. and notes any errors she finds. If, when you read books, you roll your eyes at inconsistencies, or groan at typos, or hate that a plot point you'd been worried about for two hundred pages was never resolved, you would make a great author's beta reader.

How do you find these jobs? On Facebook, friend editors, publishers, and authors. Follow them on Twitter, check their websites, and watch writing news sources (such as blogs and forums.) There are online beta reading referral sites, too. They'll match you up with the perfect publisher or author. You can also contact your favorite author and offer to beta read for them. List your qualifications, your assurance of confidentiality, and your guarantee of integrity.

If this interests you, give it a try. It could be a first step into a career in editing, or a just a different spin on your everyday reading.

Happy reading,
Secret Vegas Lives
Scandalous L.A. Desires
both available from Red Rose Publishing

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Pet Extravaganza by Jannine Gallant

April is Pet Appreciation Month. I tried to resist and write about one of our other fine topics, honestly. Okay, I didn’t try very hard. LOL By now you probably all know I’m a dog lover. Ginger is a rescue puppy, some combination of shepherd, rottweiler, and who knows what all. She brings joy to our lives, and a touch of comedy.

Surprisingly, though, I grew up with cats. We had a giant black and white long haired cat named Taco when I was young. Taco would lay on the couch with me, get a little leverage against the back, and push me onto the floor. Or so my mom tells me. Probably he was getting even for all the times I dressed him up in doll clothes. My girls have carried on the cat torturing tradition. The cat strapped into the doll stroller is my mom’s current baby, Bo.

I am not a rodent person. But several years ago I caved in and agreed to keep my daughter’s first grade classroom rats, Nibbles and Tahoe, over a week long school break. Tara let them crawl up her dress and cuddle against her bare stomach. (Shudder) They were kind of cute, but there was something about those bare tails…

Who would think moving into a college dorm would be a lesson in exotic pets? My roommate had a goldfish, God bless her unimaginative heart. One of the guys living upstairs had a boa constrictor. Let’s just say their room smelled less than fragrant and leave it at that! Another friend had an angora rabbit named Zack. It was adorable. He used to hold the rabbit while I trimmed its nails. You wouldn’t think a cute little bunny could kick like a prize winning bull, but you’d be wrong. I had the scratches to prove it.

So, have you ever had an unusual pet? Do tell.

Buy links for all my books can be found on my website. And if you enjoy reading about pets, you’re in luck. Each and every one of my books features my favorite kind, dogs!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


I love coming home. I know for certain and without fail, Colbie will be sitting in the window waiting. Immediately, her tail starts wagging and she leaps down and greets me at the door. There's nothing like the feeling knowing she'll be there faithfully. That's what a dog does for you. Loves you unconditionally.

Colbie is a Australian Shepherd mix dog. She weighs almost sixty pounds now. When we first got her, she weighed 15 pounds. She's a shelter dog. We got her as a puppy from Tennessee. She was found in a paper bag in a dumpster with her litter mates.

This blog is about Adopt-a-pet. I could go on about the virtues of owning a dog for a pet. They are loyal; you would never be alone; they would protect you. But the virtues of adopting a pet means you are giving back. You are reaching out and making a difference in their lives. Kinda like paying it forward. And I can attest that they give you far more than you give them.

Colbie is part of our family. My son has a lab, Dexter, that's only a couple of months older than Colbie. They are inseperable and so adorable. Quite opposites. Colbie is fearless and protective; Dexter is the one needing protecting- a big teddy bear. You don't see one without the other. The yard is Colbie's domain. Bird, chipmunk, or squirrel enters at their own risk. Well, at least without the birds Dexter can enjoy the outdoors. He's got a phobia about birds. It developed when a wild turkey scared him...although a lot of things scare Dexter, but not with Colbie by his side. Dexter gets into his own fair share of trouble with Colbie playing lookout. Watching the two together puts a smile on my face.

If you're looking for a pet, look first at a shelter. We got our cat from a shelter too. Wouldn't trade them for the world!

Whispers of a Legend, Volume I
Over on Castles in the Air Blog (Carrie James Haynes) I'm in the midst of celebrating Whispers of a Legend, Volume I's release. All three installments of the Whispers of a Legend Sage under on cover. Drop by for a chance to win a copy of Whisper of a Legend, Volume I and a $50 gift certificate to either Barnes and Noble or Amazon.

Have a good one!

Monday, April 16, 2012

How About a Cookie? by Jena Galifany

In celebration of Pet Month, I want to share a short piece I wrote after watching my dear pet, Puppy Dog, watching the neighbor kids at a birthday party. I could only imagine what was in her mind. She's a Golden Retriever/Terrier mix with a wonderful disposition, even at the age of nearly 13 years old.


How about a cookie?

I was outside on my rope, enjoying one of the first warm days after the long cold days. The trees were budding and the grass was just long enough to make a comfy lay-down spot, which I took advantage of. There was a loud ruckus from the next yard. I couldn’t believe my doggy eyes. They were pulling a person from the house and had a rope on him. He didn’t fight them as they pulled him to the tree. They threw the rope over a branch and hauled the poor guy up. He still didn’t struggle. I got excited, wondering why they were doing this to the guy.

The people all clapped, even the smaller people in the fancy clothes. Just when I thought it was over, a big person came out with a long stick. It was too big to make a good fetching stick but the guy seemed to be happy to have it. I stood up from my lay-down spot and watched. To my horror, they wrapped a cloth around a small person’s face and turned him around a couple of times. They gave him the stick and he started swinging at the man in the tree.

YIKES! I couldn’t stand it any more. I had to call for help. I had to do something. I was on my own rope so I knew the person on the rope in the tree couldn’t go anywhere either. We were both stuck. I sounded the alarm. I barked… and barked… and barked. I knew my person would be out quickly to see what I needed. When she came out the door, I showed her with my eyes what the problem was. I barked again, telling her to go help the guy in the tree.

She laughed at me. Was she as crazy as the people hanging the guy in the tree and hitting with a stick? I’d have never thought so. She sat on the ground beside me so I sat, too, to watch the horrible happening next door. After several of the smaller people took turns hitting the man in the tree, he split into pieces. I held my breath, watching with eyes wide. His insides spilled out on the ground and the small people laughed and dived to grab handfuls. It was awful. I turned toward the open door to my house. I couldn’t watch any more.

As I walked slowly in to the house, my person followed me.

“Don’t worry, Puppy. It’s only a piñata. You must think they were killing someone.”

Then she said the words that made my world right again.

“How about a cookie?”

(c) 2009 Jena Galifany
For other Free Reads, visit my web site HERE
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I hope you've enjoyed Puppy's story as seen through her eyes...well, her eye. She was blinded on her left side by a car many years ago while playing in the street. No matter what happens in her life, it can be corrected by a cookie. Cookies make her world all better. She's stood by me for the writing of each of my seven published books and was the first to celebrate every contract with me. (A cookie party, of course!) I can't imagine living or writing without her and pray it is a long time before I have to try.


Sunday, April 15, 2012

You Want Me to Kiss What? by Alison Henderson

It’s Frog Month! You didn’t think I could pass that up, did you? If you remember my squirrel post from last fall, you know I enjoy wacky animals. Squirrels, monkeys, chickens – even frogs; they all make me laugh.

So what could be more appropriate than examining the role of frogs in romance fiction? We’re all familiar with The Frog Prince by the Brothers Grimm—the story of the beautiful princess who must kiss the frog to release the enchanted prince. It has become a familiar cultural reference in everything from television advertising to popular movies. But did you know a kiss was never a part of the original story?
Like so many fairy tales, The Frog Prince has been re-translated, re-told, and re-imagined many times over the years. Each author tweaked the details until several versions emerged. In the original Grimm story, the frog offered to retrieve the princess’s golden ball from the pond if she agreed to cherish him, feed him from her plate, and allow him to sleep beside her. Willing to say anything to get her ball back, she agreed but denied him when he showed up at the palace the next day. The king insisted that the princess honor her promise, so she allowed the frog to eat from her golden plate. However, when he followed her to bed, she was so repulsed she threw him against the wall. When the frog bounced off onto the bed, he transformed into a handsome prince and they lived happily ever after.

Doesn’t sound much like the version you know, does it?

Apparently, a stout blow, such as throwing the frog into the wall, was a critical element of shape-shifting in early German folklore, but later authors chose to eliminate it in favor of having the princess allow the frog to sleep in her bed for three nights until she awoke the third morning to find a handsome prince sharing her covers. What a nice surprise!

Fairy tales are particularly popular right now as the inspiration for television programs from Grimm to Once Upon a Time. And what about the multiple versions of Snow White coming out later this year? Fairy tales form the basis of many wonderful romance plots, and as authors, we are free to twist them however we choose. Think about the stories you’ve read based loosely on classics like The Ugly Duckling, Beauty and the Beast, or the ultimate fantasy—Cinderella. Eloisa James’s latest book is take on The Princess and the Pea.

What are some of your favorite romances that owe their souls to fairy tales?

Alison Henderson

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Movie Group

I'm all for date nights with the husband, but often there are movies I want to see that I wouldn't dream of making my man sit through. The Twilight Saga, for example. Now, I read all the books like in a span of two weeks. Devoured them. I know I'm not a teen, but shucks, Meyers reeled me with her vampires and werewolves, and I was powerless to stop it. Team Jacob, btw. All the way.

The notion that my husband, or any man I know for that matter, would actually sit for multiple hours in a theater predominately surrounded by teenagers is just preposterous. Not going to happen. Wouldn't dream of asking.

So what's a gal to do?

Form a movie group! I found that there were other women in the same boat as me. They wanted to see movies that they just knew their husbands or boyfriends would roll their eyes through from start to finish. Assuming they could even get their men into the theater that is. We could go by ourselves, but what fun is going to the movies if you're alone? None.

So we formed a group. Whenever a movie comes out that doesn't appear to be manly enough for our significant others, we go as a group of ladies. So far we've seen quite a few films together, the latest being The Hunger Games, which was absolutely fabulous. In just watching the previews before this movie, we've already made plans to see Dark Shadows (love us some Johnny Depp even if he looks kind of Edward Scissorhands as a vampire), and of course, the final Twilight movie comes out in November so that's on the agenda. Have to see how Bella fares as a vamp. (Yeah, we are a bit obsessed with vampires. Many of us watch Vampire Diaries and True Blood faithfully as well, and many of us do so while the husbands are doing something else to again avoid the eye-rolling and snarky comments.)

I think we ought to have T-shirts made for our movie group. Something that says, "Cut the Men a Break. Leave 'Em at Home." They do so much for us. Dragging them to a movie they will want to have scrubbed from their memories with steel wool is just cruel. Besides, better to save the naggy requests for something really important, right?  ;)


Friday, April 13, 2012

Pet month: what, only a month?

If you've had a pet, you know darn well that they don't get just one month of appreciation, they get (and expect) many months of appreciation!

I've had a variety of pets throughout my life -- cats, dogs, hamsters, chameleons, canaries, turtles -- most came from a shelter and most were surprisingly long-lived. I think that's something that people don't consider when they adopt. A lot of the time, these critters will be with us for a decade or more. All of my books (20+ and counting) feature a pet. Even Lie to Me, my cross-country adventure that started with the Blind Date from Hell, has a homeless kitten as a major character. Candy, Corpses, and Classified Ads has a pet pig that digs up a body -- thus kicking off the story. Even my futuristic series featured a woman who could speak telepathically with animals.

I know I've learned a lot from my pets. I think, as I get older, the one thing I appreciate about pets is what they teach me about aging. They accept it -- they slow down but they still show interest in the things they love to do (bird watching or chasing that ball. Who cares if the bird gets away or the ball gets away? It's the interest that matters, right?) They don't complain (okay, maybe a little whine now and again) and they don't moan about aching joints, etc. They rest when they need to, they eat when they're hungry, and they play when they feel like it.

I think that's a good prescription for life, don't you? Rest as needed, eat when hungry, and play the rest of the time.

I might just put that advice to good use!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Past stars who made me what I am....

By Vonnie Davis

We got our first TV in 1954, and I grew up with comedians who, with a look, a scream, a prat-fall or an over-the-edge comedy routine, could have you in stitches. And they did this with no foul language, no defaming minorities and no obscene gestures.

Each of them were classic comedic acts--memorable, unique gems. An expert in their field of vaudeville, movies or television. With their talent, they influenced a nation of young starry-eyed kids.

I can't begin to name them all. My favorites were two red heads--Lucille Ball and Red Skelton. If they were on, I was watching and smiling and wiping tears of mirth. They had a way of poking fun at themselves in such a way we could see ourselves in similar situations. That takes a special talent. And they had it by the barrels-full. Yet they were humble.
I wonder if they knew how many children they were infusing with the love of comedy? Their influence still tends to flow over into my writing. Take a writing prompt our writers' group had one week. "Write about someone taking their driver's license test." Here's what I wrote...

Ethel Feaster wore her best wig and her lucky bingo sweatshirt to take her driver’s test. She even wore her dentures—uppers and lowers—just in case the tester was a man. After all, it never hurt for a woman to make a good impression, even if she was a young sixty-six.          

She arrived early at the DMV testing center to wait at the double glass entrance doors. As soon as the attendant unlocked the doors, Ethel barreled in, grabbed him by the arm and yelled, “Quick! Where’s the bathroom? Taking this driver’s test has me off schedule.”
Ten minutes later, Ethel, barely five feet tall and marching with military bearing, exited the men’s restroom, grumbling to the startled, blushing man she’d found in there. “I’m glad we women get to sit down,” she stated. “Standing up to do…well, what you were doing back there… is animalistic.” She shook her head in disgust and took a number to wait her turn.
Within minutes, her number was called. Ethel walked to the eye testing station only to find it was manned by the same gentleman with whom she’d shared the bathroom experience. He rolled his eyes at her approach and then grumbled an oath under his breath. “Place your face against the viewer, please. A little closer. That’s it. Now, you’ll see four road signs. Tell me what each one means, starting with the one at the top and working down.”
“OK. No U-turns. Left lane ends ahead. School crossing. And…ah…road slippery when wet. Kinda like the bathroom floor after you got done.”
“Next screen,” the man growled through clenched teeth. “Read the bottom two lines.”
Squinting, the myopic woman, wearing glasses thick as Coke bottles, slowly read the bottom two lines, “M, Z, O, P, L, D and Made in China.”
Ethel watched with great satisfaction as the eye tester did a double take to check if “Made in China” was truly at the bottom of the screen. She had no clue, but she figured that since most everything was made in China these days, she just might get away with it. As for the letters she’d correctly recited, she’d memorized them from her previous nine attempts at taking the test.
The tester stamped her testing card with more gusto than was needed and jotted his initials in the appropriate box. He pointed to another set of chairs and barked, “Wait there.”
Ethel was extremely pleased with herself. One hurtle down, two more to go. Next was the question part of the exam. A pimply-faced young man sat behind the counter. “Ma’am, usually the driving candidate answers the questions on our touch screen, but it’s out of order today.”
“My, aren’t you the cutest thing.” She cut her eyes to the tester, noting that a red flush was traveling up his neck.
He cleared his throat. “Can you tell me what the different colors in a traffic light mean?”
She squared her shoulders. “Well, red means stop. Green, go,” She glanced at his bobbing head indicating her answers were correct. “And yellow means go like hell to beat the red light.” Ethel flashed him her most innocent smile.
“How far behind the vehicle in front of you should you be?”
Ethel slid her dentures around in her mouth. “Close enough to read the bumper stickers, but far enough away to avoid a lawsuit.” At his shocked expression, she said, “I don’t mean to be impertinent, young man, but I’ve already passed this portion of the test—several times, in fact. When they drug me out of here the last time, kicking and screaming, my lawyer and the Civil Liberties Union said I was being treated unfairly because of my age. That’s why I was so surprised to see that they assigned you to me. Have you been giving management trouble? You know—attitude. You haven’t been coming to work late, have you? Or been texting when you should have been testing?” She leaned closer and whispered conspiratorially, “I hear management around here is kinda sneaky. They might have stuck you with me, so they could fire you when I throw another hellacious senior citizen’s hissy fit.”
His eyes widened for a couple beats. Then he stamped her testing card and initialed it. “Next!”
Finally, Ethel faced the driving portion of the test. The bored police officer led her through the door leading to the driving course area. “Which vehicle is yours, ma’am.”
Ethel pointed. “The red Corvette sitting right over there.”
The officer’s jaw dropped. The front fender was dented sixty ways from Sunday. The hood buckled. The passenger-side mirror hung by a cord. And the rear bumper was held on by silver electrical tape.

Ethel buckled her seatbelt and rummaged through her purse. “Won’t be but a minute, hon. Just need to find my driving glasses.” Like Fred Sandford in the old sit-com “Sandford and Son”, she pulled out pair after pair and laid them on the dash. Red framed glasses, gold frames, lime frames, purple plaid frames, pink polka-dotted frames.
“Ma’am, which pair are you looking for?”
“My lucky turquoise pair with the rhinestone dice in the corners.”
“You’re wearing them.”
“Oh?” She touched the glasses perched on her nose and giggled. “Mercy, I’m just so nervous.” She pulled a .357 magnum out of her bag and laid it across her lap. “It’s just for luck, you understand.” She patted it with affection. “Would you mind if I pray before I turn on the engine?” Before the officer responded, she started, “Oh Lord, please guide my car. You know how it has a mind of its own. Don’t let it jump the curb again. And tamper down the car’s urge to run through shrubbery and hedge. Help me to remember which is the clutch and which is the brake, so I get stopped in time. And be with Horace Jenson, help his broken leg to heal. Why my triple-injected engine car chose to run him down, I’ll never know. And bless my driving instructor, Edna Mae. You know I didn’t mean for her to have a coronary the last time I drove. Now, you know how this demon beast loves to go from zero to eighty in point six seconds. Please, God, control this powerful, speed-crazed engine. Finally, Lord, bless this man beside me.” She opened one eye just a crack to see if he was paying attention.”Please help him to live long enough to collect his retirement…”

Ten minutes later, a smiling Ethel Feaster strode out of the DMV, drivers license in hand.