Friday, February 28, 2014


Please welcome Alana to the Roses today for a fun post about one of my favorite cities - New Orleans.

Back in 1998, I decided to brave the tradition of Mardi Gras as a single mother with two daughters. My former co-worker and journalist friend Hank Henley lived in NOLA with his lovely wife, who was a college professor, and they’d invited us to experience the carnival from their home, assuring me it could be a family affair.

We went ten days before the actual day of Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, because visitors don’t usually wait till then for the fun—Fat Tuesday is actually the end of the event. Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, when all repent their sins and perhaps fast and pray is the day after Mardi Gras proper. So we wanted to experience all those days adding up to that last Tuesday, those days when all the fun takes place!

By going early, we were able to tour the other sights of the city, the Aquarium of the Americas, and the French Quarter before the real crush of people arrived. We found many beautiful buildings, wrought iron art, and the sounds of jazz playing everywhere, even out in the streets, as we walked by.

New Orleans begins gearing up long before Fat Tuesday, the Krewes building their floats and decorating them with flowers and art, huge papier mache heads and more. This is a tradition that goes back 200 years, when the secret charitable societies paraded, masked, through the streets, even at night, as flambeaux lit their way. The societies adopted three colors as their symbols—purple, for justice, gold for power, and green for faith. Even today, when you travel a parade route, you’ll see those colors everywhere, and many of the souvenirs will be decorated with them as well.

The societies, or Krewes, are these days made up of local social and business persons, who mask and ride in the floats, tossing “throws” of all sorts to those along the parade routes.  Some throws are simple plastic beads, some are “geaux” cups marked with that year’s theme of the Krewe, others are more expensive and elaborate beads, perhaps with embedded LED lights.  It’s considered lucky to catch these special throws, the Zulu coconut perhaps the most valuable of all. (And no, you don’t have to take off your shirt to get any of these at all, as I found on my visit to the Crescent City several years ago. On the other hand, some people take the opportunity as a chance to exercise their inner stripper. What happens in New Orleans….often ends up on someone’s Twitter feed. What can I say?)

In the Garden District, where we stayed, it was definitely family oriented. Families camp out for the day on the “neutral ground,” the grassy area between the streetcar tracks along St. Charles, and bring coolers and picnics ranging from PB&J to fancy wine and cheese trays. The kids are specially treated, sitting high atop ladders so they get a great view, stay corralled and their parents don’t have to worry about them being trampled. My daughter got some of her best beads this way!

Krewes bear such exotic names as Proteus, Bacchus, Endymion, Le Krewe D’Etat and the Knights of Babylon. But the premier parade is that of Rex, or King, and the King of Carnival rides at the head of Rex. His identity is kept secret until the final night, when he leads the dances at the Rex ball. He is a local businessman, who is selected by the community for his charitable and philanthropic work.

Unlike the police officer who thought it was fine to stop and give my teenaged daughter wrapped edible underwear. Still haven’t figured that one out.)

Parades aren’t the only thing to do at Mardi Gras, of course. It is de rigeur to stop by CafĂ© Du Monde for some powdered sugar-covered beignets and the New Orleans coffee laced with chicory. The Aquarium of the Americas, right on the river, has a wonderful display of local fish and history as well as the more exotic. Museums like Mardi Gras World, across the Mississippi in Algiers, where so many of the floats are constructed, and the Voodoo Museum in the French Quarter, where another side of the dark history of New Orleans can be explored.

Whenever you’re in New Orleans, one of the best activities is experiencing their wonderful food. With oysters and seafood fresh from the Gulf, you can expect many delicious dishes to be served, whether you choose Cajun (more countrified) or Creole (definitely citified). Red beans and rice are standard fare, rib-sticking food before your nights of carousing. Most dishes are made with the basics of the Holy Trinity of staples-- chopped celery, bell peppers and onion. Whether it’s jambalaya, beans or shrimp creole, you’re likely to find them.

And you can’t finish your meal without digging into a king cake. Decorated with the three Mardi Gras colors, the cake can be plain grocery-store bakery fare, or filled and iced at an upper-class bakery, but the important detail is always the small plastic baby inside. When the cake is served, whoever finds the baby will have good luck for the coming year. The lucky recipient may also be expected to bake the King Cake or throw the Mardi Gras party for the next year.

We ate well, experienced the exotic settings well outside our usual small-town comfort zone, and had a lovely time. The experience is reflected in my latest novel, VOODOO DREAMS: 

When her big trial goes bad, corporate attorney Brianna Ward can't wait to get out of Pittsburgh. The Big Easy seems like the perfect place to rest, relax, and forget about the legal business. Too bad an obnoxious--but handsome--lawyer from a rival firm is checking into the same bed and breakfast.

Attorney Evan Farrell has Mardi Gras vacation plans too. When he encounters fiery and attractive Brianna, however, he puts the Bourbon Street party on hold. He'd much rather devote himself to her--especially when a mysterious riddle appears in her bag, seeming to threaten danger.

Strangely compelled to follow the riddle's clues, Brianna is pulled deeper into the twisted schemes of a voodoo priest bent on revenge. To escape his poisonous web, she must work with Evan to solve the curse. But is the growing love they feel for each other real? Or just a voodoo dream?

If you’re ready to visit this magical and dangerous land, check out VOODOO DREAMS on Amazon and at the Wild Rose Press site. For updates and special offers, visit my website. And laissez les bon temps roulez!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Don'tcha Just Hate It? by Betsy Ashton

Since I was a child, I was taught that hating people was wrong. I learned that lesson well. I try not to hate anyone. When I feel the negative vibes creeping in, I go to my special place and face the hatred demon. Then I banish it.

That said, I hate many things. I hate not being a kid again. My first childhood was about what most of us experience. I had no control over what happened, so it was schizophrenic. Some parts were good; some

not. My second childhood, on the other hand, is all mine. I can do with it as I wish. I can have great conversations with my imaginary friends. I'm a writer, after all. I must have imaginary friends. I can let them take over and do things I dream of doing. I can wait for a snow storm to make snow angels, only to miss out on the snow and have to make an asphalt angel.

I can listen to one of my favorite imaginary friends, Mad Max, who just happens to be the protagonist of Mad Max Unintended Consequences. She likes being the goofy mad, not the angry mad, so I let her. As if I had any control over what she does. In the second Mad Max book, she hula-hoops in Walmart, wears clown makeup at dinner one night and dons blinking red pompoms on her head when she goes to an airport. I think I'll wear a red clown nose to one of the Navy games next year.

I hate people telling me I can't do something. True, I don't think I'll skydive, not because of age or infirmity, but because I am piss-scared of heights. I did ride a mule to the bottom of the Grand Canyon when I was 11, but I didn't look down. I'd kinda like to do that again.

I hate carrots. Truly, down deep inside, hate carrots. I will eat them in stews and soups, but eat a Bugs Bunny carrot? Not touching my lips. Uh huh. No way, no how. My vegetarian friends criticize me for eating meat, chicken and fish. They can't counter my argument that carrots may have souls. Far be it from me to deny a carrot its soul.

I hate the doubters who rolled their eyes when I said I was going to be a published writer. "Yeah, sure," was what I heard whispered behind my back. "Good luck," to my face. Well, I am a published writer. I did find an agent at Blue Ridge Literary Agency, who sold Max 1 to an smaller, up-and-coming publisher, Koehler Books. Together, we produced a good novel with a wonderful cover, top quality paper and a ready fan base
who wanted to buy the book as soon as it came out.

And now for my snow angel. We finally got enough to make an angel. I can't tell you how much fun it was to be six again, even for a minute or two, even with a snow-wet butt afterwards.

Don'tcha just hate missing out on these moments?


Betsy Ashton's novel, Mad Max Unintended Consequences, is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Betsy is available to talk with book clubs near and far. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Time does not dull all wounds

My first published books came out in 2007. I adored the cover of my first book.

I was appalled by the cover of my second book (no, I won't put it here. Read on).

I did everything in my power to get that cover changed but I was told that "covers aren't really all that important when you're in a digital world" and "nobody browses on the internet and buys a book based on a cover" (this is a publisher whose primary sales outlet was its own web site and not bookstores).

I argued for a better cover but was pretty much told to be quiet and take what I got. I waited out the length of contract to get that book back and when it was finally mine again, the first thing I did was get a new cover for it, rename it to something I liked (instead of the name I had to use) and I edited out all the things my editor had me change in the first place.

Yep, it took me five years, but that book will finally be released the way I think it should be. It had reasonably good sales in its first incarnation. I'm curious to see if a new cover changes the sales figures at all.

I'll post images here when the book goes live, later this year. But for now, let me say, it feels very good to know that the book will finally have a cover it deserves.

Hate/Love: they never grow old, and they never grow cold ....

(30 books and counting)

Monday, February 24, 2014

Say it with Love by Brenda Whiteside

Love vs Hate. Love is by far the more sought after emotion. Not to say, there aren't some really hateful people in this world who will definitely spoil your day if you let them. But most of us gravitate toward love, seek love, enjoy love and share love. Facebook is my proof. I have a friend who complains that when he posts something of monumental importance, although negative in nature, he gets next to no comments. But when he posts a picture of his beautiful family or a positive reflection on how lucky or loved he is, he gets tons of comments. See?

And as Paul McCartney sang, "you'd think the world would've had enough of silly love songs, but I look around me and see it isn't so, oh no."

Movies and books about love are my favorites - feel goods. There is enough hate in the world. Maybe if we bombard our world with love, we'll drive all that hate away. Here are a few love quotes from movies (some of which came from books) that are bound to make you feel good.

"Dirty Dancing" (1987)
“Me? I’m scared of everything. I’m scared of what I saw, I’m scared of what I did, of who I am, and most of all I’m scared of walking out of this room and never feeling the rest of my whole life the way I feel when I’m with you.”
—Baby (Jennifer Grey) to Johnny (Patrick Swayze).
"Romeo and Juliet" (1968)
“But soft; what light through yonder window breaks? It is my lady! O, it is my love. O that she knew she were.”
—Romeo (Leonard Whiting)
"On Golden Pond" (1981)
“Listen to me, mister. You’re my knight in shining armor. Don’t forget it.”
—Ethel (Katharine Hepburn) to Norman (Henry Fonda)
"Gone with the Wind" (1939)
“No, I don’t think I will kiss you, although you need kissing, badly. That’s what’s wrong with you. You should be kissed and often, and by someone who knows how.”
—Rhett (Clark Gable) to Scarlett (Vivien Leigh)
"Annie Hall" (1977)
 “Love is too weak a word for what I feel — I luuurve you, you know, I loave you, I luff you, two F’s, yes I have to invent, of course I do, don’t you think I do?”
—Alvy (Woody Allen) to Annie (Diane Keaton)

Visit Brenda at
She blogs on the 9th and 24th of every month at
She blogs about prairie life and writing at