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Betwixt and Between by Elizabeth Hardinger

 

I grew up in the 1950s and 1960s about halfway between Hutchinson and Nickerson, Kansas, in a half Cape Cod house built by two brothers in 1929 for their country home. The brothers, lifelong bachelors, had carved out five acres of farmland to go with the house. We – Mother, Daddy, two older sisters, me, and our younger brother – were surrounded on all sides by fields, mostly grain crops, dotted with the occasional barn, outbuilding, livestock operation, and prairie gothic farmhouse. Our neighbors – farmers on tractors – in turn plowed, disced, springtoothed, planted, fertilized, harvested, and burned stubble, season after season, year after year.

A dirt road went by our house, and our address was RFD 3, just like the families living around us for miles and miles. Mail was delivered according to the name painted on your mailbox.

Daddy had a white-collar job in town, and Mother worked at home. She wanted our house to look like a house in a magazine about beautiful houses, and it did.

When I was in my late twenties I told a social worker that my childhood had been pure bliss, and in a way that was true. For one thing, as a child I loved dirt. I would lie on my back in a plowed field, dust billowing all around me, and I would gaze at the sky and be moved to tears, it was so beautiful and everything smelled so good, and the dirt on the backs of my arms and legs felt pillowy and real in a way that made me believe I would live forever. We kids raised fat lambs and chickens for 4-H projects. Mother always planted a big garden, and in the July and August heat we canned green beans and made sweet bread-and-butter pickles and spicy-sweet lime pickles. Mother had strawberry and asparagus beds. I remember the year she made ketchup, which none of us would eat, and apple butter, which I used to sneak out of the jar using my index finger. (The same with unsweetened Kool-Aid powder. It seemed as if my pointer finger was always purple.) Continue reading “Betwixt and Between by Elizabeth Hardinger”

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Cover Reveal!

The Society for Single Ladies is a crime-solving club founded by the wealthiest woman in London. Yet even Miss Angela Childers’ charming detectives are not immune to the forces of love . . .

Dorothea Rowland attends a country house party to investigate a long-lost heir—not to find a husband. But when the dashing American claimant discovers her prowling for clues, she is startled—and then seduced—by his provocative kiss. It’s all Dorothea can do to remember her mission. Especially when a series of accidents adds up to something far more dangerous…

Benedict only meant to silence lovely Dorothea—not find himself enamored. What’s a gentleman to do but join forces—and propose to the clever beauty? Yet as Ben and Dorothea pursue the truth about his inheritance, their faux betrothal threatens to become the real thing. Soon Ben’s plan to return to his life in America is upended—not only by his deepening bond with his bride, but by someone who wants his fortune badly enough to jeopardize his future—even end it. And Dorothea can’t let that happen. Not for the title, but for Ben…

“Lynne Connolly writes Georgian romances with a deft touch. Her characters amuse, entertain and reach into your heart.” —USA Today bestselling author Desiree Holt

“With plots, deviousness and passion galore, Temptation Has Green Eyes by Lynne Connolly is a truly enjoyable read.” –Fresh Fiction

 

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Sometimes Pets Choose Us by Tara Sheets

Everyone knows there’s a special kind of companionship that comes with having a pet, so when my daughter was three years old, my husband and I decided to get a cat.  We knew we weren’t having any more children, so we wanted a sweet, furry friend to add to our small family.  After a lot of searching, we found the perfect rescue cat named Luna.  Before we brought her home, we prepared the house with everything we would need—the cat supplies, the food, the toys, etc.  We had long conversations with our daughter about how special it was going to be, and we were all very excited to bring Luna into our lives.  Boosted by the absolute certainty that we had all our bases covered, we piled into the car to go get her.  It was a day for rejoicing . . . Except it wasn’t.

Five minutes after picking up our cat, I looked over at my husband and he’d broken out in hives.  He was red in the face, wheezing, and having trouble breathing.  Shocked, we pulled the car over and soon realized the problem.  He’d developed a severe allergy to cats! We had no way of knowing this, because he’d grown up with cats his whole life.  Apparently, as you age, you can become allergic to things you never had a problem with before.  It was a heartbreaking revelation.  We ended up having to take Luna back to her foster family, and it was a long time before we got over it.

About a year later, we decided to look for a dog.  (This time, we got allergy tests to make sure we were in the clear.)  The day we went looking, a small white puppy ran up to my husband and started tugging on his shoelace.  Smiling, my husband looked down and said, “Okay, then.”

And that was how our dog Merlin came into our lives.  He chose us, and he’s been with us ever since. He is now over thirteen years old, almost completely deaf, and blind in one eye, but he still has the same playful personality he had when he was a puppy.  Over the years Merlin has been my favorite writing companion and a wonderful source of inspiration.  This is a photo of Merlin “flying” in my car. The cat is a sweetie who lives and “works” at our local veterinary clinic. In my Holloway Girls series, you’ll find lots of animal friends including a labradoodle puppy just like Merlin, and a cat named Luna.  I truly believe that, in addition to providing unconditional support and a sense of well-being, animals enhance our overall happiness and creativity, and I’ll be forever grateful to my dog Merlin for choosing us.      Continue reading “Sometimes Pets Choose Us by Tara Sheets”

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Tips For Changing Up Your Living Space by Nita Brooks

 

Ever since I was a kid I loved to change up my space. Whether it was spending a weekend moving the furniture around, adding new posters to the wall, or asking my parents to paint the walls pink (which they did) I always felt a sense of satisfaction with having some control over my room.

Every time I made a change, it turned my room into a new space with new possibilities. I still do this today. Get me in a home decorating store and I’m thinking of ways to re-work a room in my home. Each time I make a change it still makes me smile. Sometimes I’ll just sit in the room and stare at whatever the change is and get that same satisfaction I used to have as a kid.

That’s why I made the protagonist, Yvonne Cable in my debut novel Redesigning Happiness, an interior designer. She designs her client’s spaces in a way that makes them feel comfortable, happy, and safe in their home or workplace. Sometimes it takes a rework of the things around you to get a little bit of happiness. If you’re like me and like to make changes, but aren’t into hiring an interior designer to the stars like Yvonne, I’ve got a few tips of ways you can spruce up a room. Continue reading “Tips For Changing Up Your Living Space by Nita Brooks”

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When A Knights Templar Wakes You Demanding You Write His Story, You Do. by Diana Cosby

 

While attending a writing retreat several years ago, Sir Stephan MacQuistan woke me up, told me that he was a Knights Templar, and demanded that I write his story.  I wasn’t surprised to be awoken by a strong character, Alexander MacGruder, the hero of, “His Captive,” book #1 in the bestselling MacGruder brothers, woke me up ordering that I write his story as well.

 

Continue reading “When A Knights Templar Wakes You Demanding You Write His Story, You Do. by Diana Cosby”

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Of Magic And Multiple Lives by Claire O’Dell

 

When anyone asks me to describe the world of the MAGE AND EMPIRE books, I immediately say “It’s all about magic and multiple lives.”

The lovely thing about magic is that authors can freely reimagine how it works for their books. Add twists. Change the so-called rules. Decide where and how magic operates. And who is allowed to use it. For this series, I wanted the magic to be other than a set of spells to be memorized, or a magical amulet, or a finite gift that only a few have. Here, magic is an infinite current that exists outside and alongside the ordinary realm. This current is a potent element—a hurricane and not a biddable thing. Using magic is like diverting a wind from a larger storm.

That said, over the centuries, magic users came to rely on the trappings of spells and amulets, a sort of a mechanical means to harness the mystical. With these “spells”—and lots of practice—nearly anyone can light a flame, or seal a letter against prying eyes. Much more experienced mages discovered how to store bits of the current’s power in an object, such as a wax seal, an amulet, or even a jewel. Very handy if you want to make a living selling pre-packaged magic. Continue reading “Of Magic And Multiple Lives by Claire O’Dell”

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Caring For The Dead By Amanda Skenandore

Writing a story about a nineteenth-century embalmer, as I did in The Undertaker’s Assistant, may seem strange and even morbid. But it was the broader social interactions surrounding death and mourning that interested me. In this era, sanitation and disease were little understood, and the death rate was significantly higher than today. Illness, death, and mourning, therefore, were a more common thread in people’s lives. Unlike today, where 80% of people die in hospitals or nursing homes, most nineteenth-century Americans died in their homes. They were nursed in the home before death. Afterward, their bodies were washed and prepared for burial there. Depending on their religious traditions, they were laid out in the front room or parlor for viewing and funeral services. They were interred at home in the family plot. So death was not only a common occurrence but also a more intimate one.

 

Embalming, in the broad sense of artificially preserving the dead, has been practiced for millennia. Ancient Egyptians embalmed their dead. So too did the Guanches, the Incas, and other early South American cultures. Their specific practices varied, but often entailed the removal of the internal organs and covering of the body in salt, resin, or bitumen.

 

In 1838, a new technique for embalming, injecting preservative into the arteries, was developed in France.  Knowledge of this practice spread to the United States just in time for the Civil War when families wanted a way to bring loved ones who died on the battlefield home for burial. It helped that President Lincoln embraced this new practice. When his eleven-year-old son Willie died in 1862 from typhoid fever, Lincoln had him embalmed.  Three years later, the same man who had embalmed Willie preserved Lincoln’s body after his assassination.

 

These early embalmers were pioneers in the field and often experimental. They used poisonous chemicals like arsenic and mercury in their preserving fluid. Before the invention of handheld injection pumps, embalmers relied on gravity to infuse the circulatory system, a process that took hours. Embalmers trailed behind the Union and Confederate armies, setting up makeshift embalming facilities in tents near the battlefield. They charged as much as $100 for their services, which was more than seven and half times an army private’s monthly salary.

Continue reading “Caring For The Dead By Amanda Skenandore”

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Interview with Lara Caphart by the editor of the Whisker Gazette

Q      Hi, Lara. Thanks for chatting with me today. As a townie, I already know a few things about the High Cliff Shelter for Cats. For our readers, can you tell us how it got started?

A       Thanks, Chris. A few years ago, I drove up here from Boston to visit my Aunt Fran. I hadn’t seen her in almost sixteen years, but a longtime pal here in Whisker Jog got in touch to let me know that my aunt wasn’t faring well. Debilitating arthritis in both knees, and a house full of mostly rescue cats she couldn’t turn away. It sounded like she needed help, and fast.

Q      What were you doing before that?

A       By profession I’m a watercolor artist. I’d been living in a studio apartment above a Boston bakery, struggling to make ends meet.

Q      So, how did a quaint Folk Victorian home like your aunt’s morph into a thriving cat shelter? What was the trigger? Continue reading “Interview with Lara Caphart by the editor of the Whisker Gazette”

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Quotes About Girl Power by Alana Wulff

    1. Quotes About Girl Power by Alana Wulff

       

      “You should smile more,” he said.

      “You should talk less,” she replied.

      And then she ate him, and everyone clapped

      • Clementine Ford, author

       

      “A girl should be two things: who and what she wants”

      • Coco Chanel

       

      “Abandon the cultural myth that all female friendships must be bitchy, toxic, or competitive. This myth is like heels and purses―pretty but designed to slow women down.”

      • Roxane Gay

       

      “I am deliberate and afraid of nothing”

      • Audre Lorde

       

      “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.”

      • Angela Davis

      “Scared is what you’re feeling. Brave is what you’re doing.” – Emma Donaghue

      “Women are interesting and important in real life. They are not an afterthought of nature, they are not secondary players in human destiny, and every society has always known that.”

      • Margaret Atwood

       

      “It took me quite a long time to develop a voice, and now that I have it, I am not going to be silent.”

      • Madeline Albright

       

      “Feminism is the radical notion that women are human beings.”

      • Cheris Kramarae

       

      “What is feminism? Simply the belief that women should be as free as men, however nuts, dim, deluded, badly dressed, fat, receding, lazy and smug they might be. Are you a feminist? Hahaha. Of course, you are.”

      • Caitlin Moran, author

     

Continue reading “Quotes About Girl Power by Alana Wulff”

Posted in Creativity, Home

The Care And Feeding Of An Author By Alexandra Ivy

I’m not sure how it happened, but this year marks my twentieth anniversary as a published author. Sometimes it feels as if I got ‘the call’ yesterday, and other times I feel very, very old. Not because my enthusiasm for writing has dimmed. There is nothing that will ever mar my joy in creating stories and sharing them with others. It’s pure magic. But as I age (not always gracefully) I’ve suddenly realized just how quickly the days pass us by. It’s amazing. One moment I was getting married and having children, and the next my sons had moved out and my husband is discussing the R word…retirement. Yikes.

So this year I’ve promised myself that I would stop and smell the roses. Not slow down, I have way too many stories rattling around my head to do that, but I’m giving myself permission to enjoy the moment.

As wives, mothers, workers, and care-givers to our families, we are constantly pulled in a hundred directions. It’s far too easy to let our own needs slide, and to push ourselves until we have nothing left to give. Now I’m make a conscious effort to take off an afternoon and bake bread, or work in my garden, or just snuggle on the couch with my dog. I read books and take long walks. And the one thing I’ve discovered, is that my self-care has improved everything about my life, including my writing. When I’m sitting in front of a computer too long, I start to feel as if I’m grinding out the words. It’s much easier to work through plot problems or sharpen a witty exchange between characters when I’m pulling weeds or soaking in a bubble bath. And if I don’t get as many words written in a day as I wanted, I no longer beat myself up. Instead, I remind myself of all the wonderful things I accomplished and pour a glass of wine. Continue reading “The Care And Feeding Of An Author By Alexandra Ivy”