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Friday Features’

Guest talks about

Theme garden

by

Emma Lane

Theme gardens can be fun for adventurous gardeners who want to shake things up.

Photo by Emma Gossett on Unsplash

Colorful annuals. Their raison d’etra, reason for living, is to bloom and make seeds. To keep them full of their bright and beautiful blossoms frequent culling of the old blooms is the secret. Paying attention to color combinations will enhance bedding petunias such as blue and yellow; red, white and blue; primary colors-red, yellow and blue; all pastels.

 

Perennials are friends forever. The trick here is to plant staggered bloomers. Daffodils and tulips for spring give way to lupine and peonies in April and May. June is for roses (and brides) and July owns lilies. Hibiscus and other members of the family (Rose of Sharon) for late summer, and we all appreciate summer’s wind up with splashes of intensely colored mums and sunflowers. There are many beautiful perennials to be planted in between. Careful attention to foliage varieties is also important for a successful perennial bed: spiky Crocosmia, spreading Dianthus, and pretty round-leafed Baptismia australis which has an herbal gray cast to its foliage.

Photo by Matthew T Rader on Unsplash

Butterfly and humming bird gardens are always fun. Certainly the tiny hummers appreciate blooms where they can dip in and steal a drop of nectar, but I’ve seen them take a tiny taste of flat but colorful yarrow. My son gifts me a huge fuchsia for Mother’s Day which is the very day I usually spot the first humming bird. They love this plant! Hummers prefer trumpet shaped blooms they can dip their long bills to drink the nectar, but I have observed them sipping from a daisy.

 

Shade gardens are wonderful underneath shaded walkways. Besides the enormous varieties of hosta, spring bulbs can be followed with blue bells and other shade loving perennials. Brunneria is a precious substitute for hosta. Deer treat it with disdain. Begonias have a large variety for annual shade; my favorite is non-stop begonia in their vivid colors. Spring blooming shrubs are glorious such as rhododendrons, azaleas, dogwood and many others that liven up the woods before the trees leaf out.

Cutting gardens are wonderful for those who appreciate fresh cut bouquets for inside. Reserve a bed especially for: gladiola, tall zinnias, phlox, sunflowers, snapdragons, lisianthus, lilies, just a few of the varieties that are splendid cut flowers.

 

… which leads me to call attention to my latest Cozy Adventure/ Mystery, Whispers of Danger and Love.

The heroine is a landscape architect who speaks gardening. She struggles with a client who demands a cutting garden mid summer, (and a hunky detective who seems bound to destroy her plants.) I enjoyed relaxing in her garden even as I created it from my own imaginings. It was also fun to watch the sparks fly between a couple who knew each other as children but must readjust their thinking as adults.

Emma Lane is a gifted author who writes cozy mysteries as Janis Lane, Regency as Emma Lane, and spice as Sunny Lane.

She lives in Western New York where winter is snowy, spring arrives with rave reviews, summer days are long and velvet, and fall leaves are riotous in color. At long last she enjoys the perfect bow window for her desk where she is treated to a year-round panoramic view of nature. Her computer opens up a fourth fascinating window to the world. Her patient husband is always available to help with a plot twist and encourage Emma to never quit. Her day job is working with flowers at Herbtique and Plant Nursery, the nursery she and her son own.

Look for information about writing and plants on Emma’s new website. Leave a comment or a gardening question and put a smile on Emma’s face.

Stay connected to Emma on Facebook and Twitter. Be sure to check out the things that make Emma smile on Pinterest.

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Friday Features

We talk about

Pacing

Six Ways to Keep a Train from Rolling Through Your Scenes

By C.D. Hersh©2012

We’re not talking about stories about locomotives or the walking back and forth you do when waiting for someone. Pacing in writing is determined by the length of the scenes, how fast the action moves, and how quickly the reader is provided with information.

Have you seen the movie “The Descendants” starring Nick Clooney? If you like panoramic views of Hawaii and lots of close-ups of Clooney, then hunt it up on your favorite streaming service. If, however, you prefer a faster paced story, this movie is not the one for you.

When we belonged to a drama group our director was always talking about pacing. She hated pauses that were longer than it took for a ping pong ball to drop from a coffee table. In “The Descendants” you could have driven trains through some of the pauses in the scenes. Can you say sloooooow?

Try as we might, we couldn’t figure out why so many sluggish scenes were needed. Some of the unnecessary scenes included close ups of an angst-ridden Clooney staring out into space, for way too long; pedantic scenes of him buried behind piles of paper at his office desk; more than one silent, plodding hospital scene with Clooney and his family, while the camera panned the room; long camera shots of Hawaii you could have fit four commercials into; and a closing movie scene where the characters spent minutes staring wordlessly at the television. The only thing in the last scene that made a point was the quilt they all snuggled under. Come on, already. Pick up the pace. Even sad stories need to move along at a clip that keeps the viewer, or reader, engaged.

Pacing is such an important part of any story. Too slow and you lose the reader’s attention. Too fast and you leave them wondering what just happened. Here are a six tips to help you keep your story’s pacing moving along.

  • Use more dialogue for faster pacing. We’re not talking about dull “How’s the weather” conversation, unless the story’s about a tornado. Make every word count and tell the reader something new.
  • Don’t repeat information. There’s no need to beat the reader over the head with information. Telling them once that Aunt Millie is dying is sufficient. They’ll remember it. They’re smart.
  • Use action instead of tags in dialogue. You’ll not only speed up the pace, but you’ll show the reader what’s happening.
  • Keep two or more characters on the scene. Think Tom Hanks in Castaway, versus The Transformers.
  • Use narrative or description sparingly. Nothing stops a story like a side trip down memory lane or descriptions of setting and characters. Drop that kind of information into the story in short bites. The reader will still get it.
  • Create tension in the scene. Donald Maas says every scene should have tension, even every page. If you don’t have tension there’s no reason for your reader to turn the page.

Check your work in progress. Are your scenes tight and exciting, or can you drive a train or a semi-truck through them? Scenes don’t have to be action packed, just tension packed. Keep those ping pong balls bouncing around to stir up the pace.

Here’s a scene from book four, The Mercenary and the Shifters of our series, The Turning Stone Chronicles, to give you an idea of fast pace.

My home is perfectly safe. It’s my business I’m concerned about.”

Fiona crossed her arms over her chest, her body language closing off to further suggestions. Mike followed her motions. As he did, he spotted a red dot on her chest. The dot wiggled.

“Get down!” Mike shouted as he dove for Fiona.

They hit the floor as the pottery on the raised fireplace hearth exploded, sending shards across the room. Mike shoved Fiona behind the nearest chair then scrambled across the rug to the blown-out window. Removing his gun from his back-of-the-waist holster, he peered over the windowsill. Seeing no one in the driveway, he swiveled around to check on Fiona. The red laser point danced around the room, searching for a target.

Mike followed the trajectory of the beam. The shot came from across the street in something high. He remembered seeing a tree house in the yard across the road from the mansion.

“Who lives across from you?” he asked.

“No one right now. The house is for sale.”

“I didn’t see a ‘For Sale’ sign.”

“We’re in an exclusive neighborhood. The HOA forbids sale signs.” Another shot rang out.

Mike whirled around in time to see Fiona’s head sticking out from behind the chair. The image of her head reflected in the fireplace mirror. “He’s using the mirror to target us. Do these curtains close?”

“Yes. The cord’s on the other side of the window.”

“I’m going to crawl under the window and close them. He’ll probably see my reflection in the mirror and start shooting, so stay hidden. As soon as the curtains close, crawl to the window as fast as you can and follow the wall to the entryway. Then get the hell out of the front of the house. Got it?”

“Got it.” Fiona’s voice quavered up the scale.

“You okay?”

“Scared, but okay.”

As Mike crawled along the floor, a volley of shots rang out. The remainder of the pottery displayed on the hearth shattered. When he reached the other side of the window, he yanked the drapery cord. The curtains billowed closed.

“Now, Fiona!” he shouted.

As she belly crawled across the floor, Mike held his breath. Bullets sprayed the room, punching through the heavy draperies, the shots veering from floor to ceiling.

Don’t ricochet! he commanded.

Fiona reached the cover of the exterior wall, and he let his breath out in a whoosh.

“Hurry!”

When she came within arm’s reach, he grabbed her hand and yanked her the rest of the way across the room and into the entry.

“Do you have a panic room?”

She nodded, her eyes filled with fear. “In the basement, behind the trophy wall.”

“Get in it, and don’t come out until I tell you to.”

“Where are you going?”

“To get the SOB who’s trying to kill you.”

Now when your heart rate slows down how about checking out our books?
Links for our books are on our book page or under the menu at the top of the page.

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Friday Features’

Guest shares a recipe for

Pork Fried Rice

by

Sloane Taylor

This dish becomes a complete meal when you add egg rolls, pot stickers, and a glass or two of sake. The following recipe serves two.

Courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography

PORK FRIED RICE
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
½ cup frozen peas, thawed
⅔ cup cooked pork, chopped fine
3 cups 1- 3 day old cooked rice
Pinch dried ginger
2 tbsp. butter
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tbsp. soy sauce
4 green onions, sliced fine, include 1-inch of green

Warm a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add oil and swirl to coat the pan evenly. Stir in peas, pork, and rice. Sprinkle on ginger. Heat through for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat while you prepare the egg.

Add butter to a small frying pan set over medium heat. Pour in egg and swirl to spread it around until almost done, about one minute. Flip with a spatula. Remove from the heat. Break into small pieces and then stir into rice mixture.

Carefully mix in soy sauce and green onion. Heat through for about 3 minutes.

Replace pork with chicken or shrimp for another tasty meal. Just be sure to use cooked alternatives.

May you spend all the days of your life filled with friends, laughter, and seated around a well laden table!

Sloane

Sloane Taylor is an Award-Winning author with a second passion in her life. She is an avid cook and posts new recipes on her blog every Wednesday. The recipes are user friendly, meaning easy.

Taylor’s cookbooks, Date Night Dinners, Romantic Meals to Dine al Fresco, and Recipes to Create Holidays Extraordinaire are released by Toque & Dagger Publishing and available at all book vendors.

Excerpts from her books and free reads can be found on her website, blog, and her Amazon Author Page. Connect with Taylor on Facebook and Twitter.

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Friday Features’

Guest talks about

Pet Love

by

Alicia Joseph

Last July my dog, Phil, suffered from liver failure. The situation was touch and go for a horrible two weeks. But, against the vet’s grave prognosis, my baby survived. He’s twelve, and though I know he won’t live forever, I was completely unprepared for losing my dog. My baby. My sidekick. The face that makes me smile even when I want to cry. The eyes that watch my every move, because his world revolves around me as much as my world revolves around him, maybe even more so.

During that miserable time of not knowing whether or not Phil would turn that miraculous corner to recovery, I was consumed with the idea of losing him. I didn’t eat. I cried when I held him and buried my tears in his fur. He seemed to know his precarious situation, but never gave up. I love him so much for that.

But all through that time and after, I only considered my loss of losing him. What I would have done. What my life would be like, while never considering his loss should something happen to me. I know he waits for me when I leave the house, as all dogs do, but how would they feel, how would they react, if we never make it back home to them?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot since last month, when a neighbor passed away suddenly. She had a dog, Ricky. We used to walk our dogs together, along with another neighbor and her little dog. The woman’s parents could not take Ricky, he didn’t get along with their own dog. This woman had no brothers or sisters. They didn’t know a lot of people who could, or would, take Ricky in. He went with a family friend, but that didn’t work out.

I volunteer at a shelter. I’ve seen many dogs come to the shelter in the way of Ricky’s predicament. Through no fault of their own, they lose their owners to death, and there is no one to take them in. So these dogs, used to living in a home filled with stability, love, security, now come to a shelter filled with loud chaos and uncertainty. Even the best shelters are a scary place to a dog who has only known a house as a home.

Luckily, Ricky didn’t have to meet that fate. My neighbor with the small dog took him in. She had the intention of keeping him, but two dogs were a bit too much for her. But she was determined to keep him until she could find a home for him, which wasn’t hard at all because Ricky is adorable.

Last week, Ricky went to his third home in less than a month. This was a friend of a friend, so my neighbor passed Ricky off confident he would be well-taken care of. I often wondered for those weeks that my neighbor had him what he was thinking. Did he think his mommy would come for him soon? Was he waiting for her? Did he miss his home and wonder why he was moving to different places? We avoided walking Ricky down the street he used to live. We didn’t want to confuse him.

But then on the day he was leaving, I took Ricky for a walk and thought maybe it was the right time for him to say goodbye to his old home. We walked down his street. He definitely knew where he was. He led me straight to the familiar place, sat down in the driveway, and stared at the house. He didn’t try to pull me to the door, which I was glad for.

Ricky’s mom’s name was Tracy. She didn’t die at home, but if spirits find their way back home no matter where we pass, maybe she was there to see him one last time.

I hope so.

 

I thought about Phil, remembering what I went through when I thought I was losing him, but we need to consider what our fur-babies go through when they lose us. Luckily, I don’t have to worry about Phil going to a shelter or being shuffled to three different houses. He has an uncle and aunties who love him, and who he loves, especially his uncle.

Uncle is his favorite.

 
Here is a glimpse into one of my books. I hope you enjoy it.

“When a train runs over a penny, the penny changes form, but it can still be a penny if I want it to be. Or, I can make it be something else.”

Lyssa and her best friend Abbey discover a hideout near the train tracks and spend the summer before sixth grade hanging out and finding freedom from issues at home. Their childhood innocence shatters when the hideout becomes the scene of a tragic death.

As they’re about to graduate from high school, Abbey’s family life spirals out of control while Lyssa is feeling guilty for deceiving Abbey about her sexuality.

After another tragic loss, Lyssa finds out that a penny on the track is sometimes a huge price to pay for the truth.

AMAZON BUY LINKS

 

Alicia Joseph grew up in Westchester, Illinois. She has many works-in-progress that she hopes to finish soon. Life permitting.

When she is not writing, Alicia enjoys volunteering with animals, rooting for her favorite sports teams, and playing “awesome aunt” to her nine nieces and nephews.

Learn more about Alicia Joseph on her blog. Stay connected on Facebook and Twitter.

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Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

Susan Varno who brings us her latest captivating book and a quick and easy desert.

Frozen Yogurt Recipe
This makes up to 36 popsicles

This makes frozen fruit yogurt soft enough to bite in to. It’s not quite ice cream texture, but it’s close enough. This is not low calorie, but the healthy ingredients are lower in carbs and sugar.

A pint whipping cream
2 cups Greek yogurt (whole milk if you can find it)
About a cup of fruit (best choices are banana, pineapple, blueberry and strawberry). Don’t use fruits that are mostly liquid like melons or grapes.
Flavorings (not all of these, and any other flavors you want such as:

    unsweetened coconut
    cinnamon
    stevia
    turbanado
    unsweetened cocoa
    lemon zest (no sugar)
    nutmeg

large bowl
hand mixer with whisk
blender
popsicle forms
small spatula
soup spoon
Large measuring cup

    Cut up the fruit and dump into the blender. Move up through speeds to liquefy.
    Pour the whipping cream into the large bowl. With the hand mixer whisk, gradually move up to highest speed. Keep mixing until the foam isn’t getting any higher.
    Dump in the yogurt. Add flavorings. Whip this together thoroughly.
    Dump in the fruit. Keep whipping until all is blended and fluffy.
    If you’ve used whole milk yogurt, the mixture will be so thick, it doesn’t pour. Spoon the mixture into each form. When you get each form full, use the other end of the spoon to push the mixture into the open spaces and then fill from the top.
    Freeze for at least two hours.

A REBEL AND HER ROGUE (A Regency Romance Novel from Soul Mate Publishing)

Excerpt
Sherwood Forest, 1815

Through the trees, Blake heard the wild rumbling of carriage wheels. Wood splintering. A horse shrieking. A man shouting.

Giving Valor his head, Blake raced through an opening in the trees. He burst onto the road and pulled sharply to a halt. Half in the ditch, a small carriage canted against a tree. The vehicle teetered. One wheel turned slowly in the air. While the coachman struggled to release the harness, the wild-eyed horse pawed the ground ready to bolt.

Blake leapt down from his horse Valor. The carriage door flew open. A head of lush black hair appeared followed by the most enchanting face he ever beheld. Dark brows, dark lashes. As he surveyed her freckled nose and cheeks, his gaze came upon the damsel’s plump red lips. They arched in a vicious frown.

He slid his hand around her waist and lifted her into his arms. She was lithe but endowed with graceful curves. She laced her arm around his shoulder. Her body pressed against his made sweat prickle in his most intimate places.

“Cassiopeia Valient?” he asked.

“Mister Durgan,” she snapped. “Is this any way to conduct a kidnapping?”

Durgan? The name pulled him up smartly. Did his potential bride-to-be mistake him for Dangerous Dan Durgan, the Gentleman Bandit? Beneath his leather jacket, Blake’s shirt collar stood open. His breeches were tucked into rough boots, and he wore his light blond hair tied back with a buckskin thong. Those details might explain her confusion.

What confusion? She expected him to kidnap her! Ransom must be her motive.

Amazon buy link

Susan Varno Bio:

Like many readers and writers, I watch stories inside my head. When I read a Regency romance, I imagine myself dancing at a London ball or racing through Sherwood Forest. When I write, I imagine an intriguing scene, always one with action and attraction. I watch how my hero and heroine act. That’s how I discover who they are and what they care about. I love researching their time and place in history almost as much as I love inviting these “strangers” inside my head.

For twenty-five years, I wrote columns and reviews for Video Views Magazine. I’ve seen almost every new movie release, especially the romances and anything with an historical setting. Though I was born and raised in Chicago and its suburbs, I married a country boy from rural Ohio. Richard insisted we retire to the hinterlands of the Arkansas Ozarks. Our post office was so remote you couldn’t find it on most maps. While we lived there, I interviewed more than a hundred people for articles in magazines and newspapers.

My husband died three years ago. I miss my hero every day. We have two grown sons and one grandson. I now live in a Chicago suburb. I volunteer in the local schools and help at my church. I’ve visited the western Caribbean and the western Mediterranean. Someday, England here I come.

Find Susan at:

WebsiteFacebook

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Friday Features’

Guest talks about

her character Jude Mooney

by

Viola Russell

I sometimes begin talking about my novel From Ice Wagon to Club House: The Life of Jude Mooney by saying that my dad was Jude Mooney, the main character. Well, that statement isn’t totally accurate, but it’s close. I definitely embellished Jude’s story, but he and my father share many similar stories and traits. My father, Samuel Weaver, was a maverick, a handsome rogue. He died when I was twelve, but I can still see him. At the time of his death, he was a horse trainer. I can still see him with the thoroughbreds, putting them through their paces. Sam, however, had worn many hats during his lifetime.

Like Jude Mooney, my father grew up poor in New Orleans. Like Jude, his first job was driving a horse-drawn ice wagon for Pelican Ice. Like Jude, Sam, along with his best friend, bootlegged during Prohibition. Like Jude, his family was poor but respectable. His mother had crossed herself and said, “Your father would roll over in his grave if he knew you were doing something illegal.” My father, young and newly widowed, replied, “My father would roll over in his grave if he knew we were starving.” Only a few months earlier, his young wife had succumbed to tuberculosis. Sam always attributed her death to the deprivation of the Depression. I recounted this scene in Jude Mooney when Jude responds to his mother’s anxiety over his bootlegging. Like my grandmother Leah, Jude’s mother Nora simply crossed herself and accepted the food the bootlegging bought.

Sam eventually ventured into other moneymaking endeavors when Prohibition ended. He trained prize fighters and promoted boxing matches with his friend Emile. They eventually opened a restaurant together—as do Jude and his friend Pete. My father also ventured into the world of illegal gambling when he opened his own book in the basement of his house. This was a profession he would abandon when I was born. He told my mother, his fourth wife, “I have a little girl now. I can’t disgrace her by going to jail.”

I continued the Mooney saga with The Progeny. The story follows Jude and his sons—as well as his niece and nephews—during the trauma of WWII. As Jude did in Ice Wagon, Jude’s sons would fight for Ireland and then fight against Germany. The characters in the sequel are not actively based on any of my family members, but they share many qualities with us. They are my family and I in our weak moments and our most heroic. In The Progeny, a new generation faces tyranny and despotism. Like Jude, they also rise to the occasion and face seemingly insurmountable challenges.

Blurb for Ice Wagon:

At fifteen years old, Jude Mooney is driving an ice wagon to help his struggling Irish immigrant family. An obedient son and devoted brother, he willingly works in the sweltering New Orleans heat along with his friend, Pete Saluto, to help his pious and respectable parents. When his older brother’s suicide leaves the family nearly destitute and shame-ridden, Jude seeks employment in the infamous Storyville of old New Orleans, becoming the confidante of the many characters who populated Emma Johnson’s establishment.

When his parents learn of his activities, Jude leaves the family nest, becoming even more embroiled in the seedy lifestyle until a disastrous encounter forces him to leave town and join his relatives in Ireland. It is in his ancestral birthplace that he meets the fiery Maeve and joins the fight for Irish independence and then, paradoxically, the British army when his love turns sour. Upon his return from the front, he seeks Maeve, who has had his twin sons.

Together, they return to New Orleans. A series of losses then force Jude into an uneasy alliance with the powerful mob family, the Matrangas. He rises in the ranks of the Matranga “family,” becoming a valuable cog in the wheel of their bootlegging and horse-racing empire. However, any links to the mob brings risks. How much more will Jude lose as the Feds pursue the men who supply the country with the illicit nectar?

Excerpt from Ice Wagon:

It was at that moment the pub door swung open, and Jude saw Maeve. She wore the typical high-necked blouse and long skirt of the time, but the black skirt swung around delicate ankles in a way that sent Jude’s pulse racing. She curiously looked at the people hovering around the bar, and her eyes met his, frankly appraising him. They were the loveliest eyes he’d ever seen — blue with flecks of gray. Her black hair was in a knot at the top of her head, and her skin was as creamy as her mother’s but held no trace of freckles.

“My sister, Maeve.” Sean moved toward her. They embraced and Sean took her hand, drawing her toward Jude. He then turned to his sister. “Jude and I met on board.”

“I figured as much.” The slightest smile crossed her lips, and her gaze took him in from head to toe. The bewitching eyes danced.

Jude wondered if she was mocking him somehow and was acutely aware of how he must look. When he’d left New Orleans, he’d had only the clothes on his back, and he’d worn the cast off clothing of the other sailors. Now he stood before her in a woolen fisherman’s cap, tattered plaid jacket, and dungarees that had a long tear in one knee. He drew in a breath and swallowed. “Pleased to meet you.” She was so lovely his breath caught in his throat. Could he breathe around her?

Maeve smiled as if sensing his discomfort. “I heard some of the conversation. So you’ll be the new bartender these weekday afternoons?”

Jude felt the heat rise to his face. “It seems your uncle and ma have offered me a job.”

“Remember your manners, girl.” Kathleen gave her daughter a pointed glance.

Maeve offered him her hand. It was a hand like her mother’s, like his own mother’s, in fact. She withdrew it quickly, hiding both arms behind her. A slight blush rose to her cheeks. “Any friend of Sean’s is welcome here.”

Amazon buy link for Ice Wagon.

Blurb for The Progeny:

The sins of the father . . .

Prohibition has ended, and Jude Mooney is trying to establish himself as an honest businessman. However, his sons are exiles, having fled New Orleans for Ireland after becoming entangled in their father’s illegal activities. Daniel finds burning passion in the arms of the fiery Grace, and Paul learns the joys of the flesh with yet another Irish beauty. Inspired by these fiercely nationalist women, the Mooney brothers join the fight for a united Ireland, acting as snipers and embarking upon clandestine bombing operations.

A series of catastrophic blunders then send Daniel and Paul to England where they join with the enemy they once fought against, hoping to defeat Hitler as he marches throughout Europe. Both Mooney sons eventually infiltrate the Nazi machine at the highest level when they enter the clandestine world of espionage. In New Orleans, Jude faces his own personal battle as he and his young wife drift apart when she betrays him. And, as much as Jude wants to escape the criminal life that lured him in, he and his brother-in-law Pete cannot completely break free of the powerful Matranga family.

As America enters the war, not one member of Jude’s family will remain untouched as his brave niece Julia joins the military as a nurse. Nephews Wally and Peppy Saluto also enter the fray in Asia and Europe. Each family member encounters danger and romance as they face the war machine. This sweeping saga follows the Mooney clan from New Orleans to Europe and then to Asia. Not all will live. All will be scarred as they do what they must to save themselves.

Excerpt from The Progeny:

Daniel strolled leisurely along the Liffey until he came to the small flat he shared in Grafton Street with Paul and Grace Cleary. His heart was pounding, but he whistled as he strode up the stairs, tipping his cap to an elderly woman who gazed suspiciously from her doorway as he passed. Once inside, Daniel lit the cigarette for which he’d pined, removing it from his shirt pocket with shaking hands.

“Dan!” He heard Grace’s voice before he saw her in the bedroom doorway. Her blue eyes flashed in the darkened room. He loved the way her soft dark curls fell to one side around her shoulder. She wrapped her arms around her midsection but then broke, running to him with arms outstretched.

Daniel threw down the cigarette, crushing it under his boot before clasping her tightly, lifting Grace off her feet. As he buried his face in her hair, Daniel caught the scent of lavender. He drank in the softness of her flesh against his face before letting his lips linger on hers.

“Did you do it? Did you follow Sean’s orders?” Grace looked expectantly at him.

“I did. The bastard’s been dispatched.” Daniel searched her face, seeing no signs of womanly sympathy or remorse. Her eyes glistened with excitement and a perverse joy.

Amazon buy link for Progeny.

Bio


Viola Russell is the pseudonym for Susan Weaver Eble. A homegrown New Orleanian, she holds a doctorate in English literature from Texas A & M University. She has traveled far and wide and relishes the memories she has made in places as distant as England, Ireland, Canada, and Jamaica and as near as Mississippi, Texas, Oklahoma, California, and Massachusetts. She lives with her husband Ben, the love of her life, in a New Orleans cottage and is most comfortable at her computer creating the worlds that drift into her imagination.

Visit Viola at her website or her Amazon Author Page.

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Friday Features’

Guest talks about

Gardening in the Ozarks

by

Susan Varno

When my husband and I retired, we moved to the Arkansas Ozarks. We built our house in a forest meadow. I knew the land wouldn’t have the black loamy soil we’d enjoyed in northern Illinois. A neighbor recommended we put in raised flower beds.

I said, “Over the winter, I’ll cover them with black plastic so weeds and seedlings won’t grow up.”

He gave me that “you aren’t from around here” look and said, “That won’t be necessary. The beds will be fine until spring.”

He was right. After we had what passes for dirt delivered, mostly sand, some gravel, and crumbled clay, not a thing grew, not a weed, not a blade of grass. One brave acorn sprouted, looked around, and promptly died.

Spring came. I visited the garden department at Walmart. I didn’t care what the flowers looked like, only that they grew in partial shade and didn’t require much watering.

I bought bags of black top soil, some organic fertilizer, and compost. I mixed it into the sandy soil and planted marigolds, wildflowers, gladiola bulbs and some unidentified clearance flowers. They all drooped. I scattered pine bark mulch around them. The flowers still looked forlorn. Every time I watered, that night it rained. Then one night some critter ate my pansies, vinca, and moss roses. Just nibbled off the buds and left the leaves.

Back to Walmart for something to discourage the all night critter buffet. The ingredients included putrefied egg shells, cayenne pepper, dried blood, and cat urine. It smelled awful but seemed to work.

I planted hostas (too much shade), marigolds (weather too hot), gladiolas, (magnificent but kept falling over). The sole zinnia did well, though it seemed lonely for its own kind.

Then I made friends with Juanita Stowers. She told me to use manure for fertilizer but wear gloves. She gave me heirloom petunia plants she’d rescued 30 earlier from her mother’s garden. They not only bloomed but moved from one bed to another every year. Each spring I had to search for them. I told her I watered the yucca bulbs she’d gave me, but they didn’t bloom. She reminded me they are a succulent. I stopped watering. They grew four feet tall and shot forth with giant white flowers. Covered with an ice glaze, my violas gallantly bloomed. Coneflower seeds grew into a bush. English ivy engulfed a flower bed and headed up the outside of the house.

One day Juanita and I were driving in the woods. She suddenly stopped her SUV.

“I’ve got to have that fern,” she said. From her trunk, she lifted out a pot and small shovel.

“Watch for sheriff’s patrol cars,” she warned. “Digging up these heirloom plants is illegal, but I’m only taking one.”

I stood lookout while she explained that in the forest, many homesteads had been abandoned. When a family moved away, the cabin caved in or was taken apart to use the logs elsewhere. But the flowers the farm women had planted continued to come up every spring. For decades, even a century, they marked the places where a family, had farmed, survived, but been forced to move.

A REBEL AND HER ROGUE (A Regency Romance Novel from Soul Mate Publishing)

Excerpt
Sherwood Forest, 1815

Through the trees, Blake heard the wild rumbling of carriage wheels. Wood splintering. A horse shrieking. A man shouting.

Giving Valor his head, Blake raced through an opening in the trees. He burst onto the road and pulled sharply to a halt. Half in the ditch, a small carriage canted against a tree. The vehicle teetered. One wheel turned slowly in the air. While the coachman struggled to release the harness, the wild-eyed horse pawed the ground ready to bolt.

Blake leapt down from his horse Valor. The carriage door flew open. A head of lush black hair appeared followed by the most enchanting face he ever beheld. Dark brows, dark lashes. As he surveyed her freckled nose and cheeks, his gaze came upon the damsel’s plump red lips. They arched in a vicious frown.

He slid his hand around her waist and lifted her into his arms. She was lithe but endowed with graceful curves. She laced her arm around his shoulder. Her body pressed against his made sweat prickle in his most intimate places.

“Cassiopeia Valient?” he asked.

“Mister Durgan,” she snapped. “Is this any way to conduct a kidnapping?”

Durgan? The name pulled him up smartly. Did his potential bride-to-be mistake him for Dangerous Dan Durgan, the Gentleman Bandit? Beneath his leather jacket, Blake’s shirt collar stood open. His breeches were tucked into rough boots, and he wore his light blond hair tied back with a buckskin thong. Those details might explain her confusion.

What confusion? She expected him to kidnap her! Ransom must be her motive.

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Susan Varno Bio:

Like many readers and writers, I watch stories inside my head. When I read a Regency romance, I imagine myself dancing at a London ball or racing through Sherwood Forest. When I write, I imagine an intriguing scene, always one with action and attraction. I watch how my hero and heroine act. That’s how I discover who they are and what they care about. I love researching their time and place in history almost as much as I love inviting these “strangers” inside my head.

For twenty-five years, I wrote columns and reviews for Video Views Magazine. I’ve seen almost every new movie release, especially the romances and anything with an historical setting. Though I was born and raised in Chicago and its suburbs, I married a country boy from rural Ohio. Richard insisted we retire to the hinterlands of the Arkansas Ozarks. Our post office was so remote you couldn’t find it on most maps. While we lived there, I interviewed more than a hundred people for articles in magazines and newspapers.

My husband died three years ago. I miss my hero every day. We have two grown sons and one grandson. I now live in a Chicago suburb. I volunteer in the local schools and help at my church. I’ve visited the western Caribbean and the western Mediterranean. Someday, England here I come.

Find Susan at:

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Friday Features’

Guest talks about

Seasonal Flowers

by

Emma Lane

It is possible to gather flowers for your vases without deliberately planting a cutting garden. Possible, but much more fun to set up a section of the garden for bringing the blossoms inside. Harvesting these blooms will not denude your carefully planned perennial landscape.

In Spring, Tulips, Daffodils, and Peonies are perennial friends who return year after year. One of the best cut flowers is Gladiola. Staggered planting of the bulbs (which are fairly inexpensive.) will prolong the harvest. In temperate climates, gladiola bulbs will renew, but pulling them up and storing will guarantee next year’s bloom.

Other bulbs are simple and, again, fairly inexpensive. Asiatic and Oriental Lilies and other in the same family are excellent mid summer. Day lilies may be used if you understand the stem must contain more than one bud as they open and close in one day.

Sunflowers, Dahlias and members of the Rudbecia family are primo for late summer.

In the greenhouse we grow an exquisite plant, Lisianthus, for our commercial bouquets. Super valued for their longevity once harvested, they are not an easy plant to germinate. Grab a few if you find them at your florist or farmers’ market. They come in several colors: pink, rose, pastel yellow and deep blue. I love the two-colored ones that are white trimmed with blue. Last but certainly not least, Zinnias are an all-time favorite. Carefully choose the tall variety for your vases.

Enjoy your flowers out and inside!

In Whispers of Danger and Love, the heroine, a landscaper, meets a challenge to create an instant cutting garden for a lady whose knowledge of gardening is next to nil. Cheryl chooses gladiolas and stakes them upright. The ruse works and her client is happily able to harvest her own bouquets. I admit I enjoyed working on this novel as it allowed the gardener in me to “play in the dirt” while I wrote the story.

… which leads me to call attention to my latest Cozy Adventure/ Mystery, Whispers of Danger and Love.

The heroine is a landscape architect who speaks gardening. She struggles with a client who demands a cutting garden mid summer, (and a hunky detective who seems bound to destroy her plants.) I enjoyed relaxing in her garden even as I created it from my own imaginings. It was also fun to watch the sparks fly between a couple who knew each other as children but must readjust their thinking as adults.

 

Emma Lane is a gifted author who writes cozy mysteries as Janis Lane, Regency as Emma Lane, and spice as Sunny Lane.

She lives in Western New York where winter is snowy, spring arrives with rave reviews, summer days are long and velvet, and fall leaves are riotous in color. At long last she enjoys the perfect bow window for her desk where she is treated to a year-round panoramic view of nature. Her computer opens up a fourth fascinating window to the world. Her patient husband is always available to help with a plot twist and encourage Emma to never quit. Her day job is working with flowers at Herbtique and Plant Nursery, the nursery she and her son own.

Look for information about writing and plants on Emma’s new website. Leave a comment or a gardening question and put a smile on Emma’s face.

Stay connected to Emma on Facebook and Twitter. Be sure to check out the things that make Emma smile on Pinterest.

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Friday Features’

Guest tells about

Rescuing animals

by

Anne Montgomery

“Ms. Montgomery, there’s a cat outside.”

Two of my students stared at me.

“Go and get it,” I said, immediately rethinking that idea after they’d left the room. I hoped the cat wasn’t mean or scared and left the kids with bloody gashes. I tried to stop them, but they were gone.

A short time later they returned, sans cat. “We couldn’t catch it,” they said in unison.

“OK.” I was relieved, but just momentarily.

“It’s so hot out there and the cat is panting.”

I looked at the sweet girl who tried to rescue the animal. “Is it hurt?”

“I don’t know.”

Crap! I’ve had more kitties than I can count over the years. Strays and cats who’d wound up in shelters. But I didn’t want another one. I still had three furry felines – down from seven – most of whom died after long, pleasant lives. And a big cattle dog, as well.

The problem is, I’m getting older, and whenever I’m faced with a new pet I start doing the math. If said animal lives 15 years, how old will I be? What if I die? Who will take care of them. While I know my sweetie pie is as devoted to our four-legged friends as I am, what if we both died?

“So, you think the cat might be injured?” I said again.

She shrugged.

“Let’s go.” I led my students outside and found a sleek, black, kitty with big gold eyes. The creature meowed and ran right to me. I picked him up and prepared to be speared with curved, pointy claws, but he just laid his head on my shoulder, clearly no feral beast.

As it was lunchtime, I put the young cat in my office and, as I ate, he jumped into my chair, curled into a ball and slept at my side. “Well, aren’t you a sweet boy.” I patted his head and he purred loudly. I squinted as he closed his eyes. “But I don’t want another cat.” He ignored me.

Later, the girl who found him appeared and said she wanted to take the cat home. “My mom said it would be OK.”

I looked at the kitty and he stared back at me. “Great!” I said, not feeling great at all. “Let’s find a box.”

After we placed the cat in the container, I waved and watched her walk away. I admit, I was a bit sad. Still, I’d done the right thing.

“We found a cat at school today.”

My sweetie pie peered at me over his glasses, then glanced around the room.

“You’ll be proud of me. I found him a nice home.”

He raised both eyebrows, and didn’t have to say, How unlike you to not bring it home.

Later, I thought about the cat and decided to call the girl’s home to make sure he was settling in. Her father answered the phone.

“I don’t want a cat!” he said, an edge to his voice. “I don’t like cats. I don’t want it in my house. If she keeps it, we’ll put it in a cage in the backyard.”

I sat up. It was close to 110 degrees in the Arizona desert that day. “A cage?” I jotted down the address. “I’ll be right there.”

An hour later, I released the kitty in my living room, and he quickly made friends with Westin, my deaf Bombay cat. And then I noticed the similarity. They were almost identical. They nuzzled one another and again I realized this cat was no stray. He belonged to someone. He blinked at me and meowed. “No, my friend. I can’t get attached to you.”

A few days later, the vet waved a hand-held machine over the cat’s shiny fur. My heart beat quickly. A chip would be good,” I told myself. I’ll take him back to his owners, who are surely missing him.

“No chip.” The vet said.

I exhaled, then stared at my new kitty, who the vet informed me was just a baby at ten months old. I started to do the math, then stopped. I realized it didn’t matter that I’d be pushing eighty when he reached 15. As much as I tried to deny it, this cat was mine.

He head butted my hand and stared at me with those huge gold eyes.

We call him Morgan.

 
Here’s a little from my suspense novel based on a true incident. I hope it intrigues you.

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon.

When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers.

And then the girl vanishes.

While the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born deep in the wilderness.

BUY LINKS

 

Anne Montgomery has worked as a television sportscaster, newspaper and magazine writer, teacher, amateur baseball umpire, and high school football referee. She worked at WRBL‐TV in Columbus, Georgia, WROC‐TV in Rochester, New York, KTSP‐TV in Phoenix, Arizona, ESPN in Bristol, Connecticut, where she anchored the Emmy and ACE award‐winning SportsCenter, and ASPN-TV as the studio host for the NBA’s Phoenix Suns. Montgomery has been a freelance and staff writer for six publications, writing sports, features, movie reviews, and archeological pieces.

When she can, Anne indulges in her passions: rock collecting, scuba diving, football refereeing, and playing her guitar.

Learn more about Anne Montgomery on her website and Wikipedia. Stay connected on Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter.

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Friday Features’

Guest talks about

beautiful memories or great things to come

by

Emma Lane

That’s exactly what I need as I look out at the dreary weather and hear the improved, but still sad news, on the pandemic. It all makes me want to indulge in either beautiful memories or fantasies of great things to come. How about you?

Gardening catalogs spark the dreams of the future. You can google the addresses for online shopping. OR order one catalog and the rest will find you. I like Johnny’s especially for cut flowers and veggies. Park Seed is another favorite. Totally Tomatoes is great for, you guessed it, tomatoes. I receive stacks of catalogs after years of ordering my seeds. I wouldn’t toss a single one of them. It’s great fun to “read” them. Almost like taking a trip to some new place. I love the one that is totally wild flowers.

Yellow…is a primary color that can perk up the dullest day or month. It can be seen from the back of the yard or calling attention to your beautiful front steps.

Rudbeckia is the fancy name for black eyed Susie’s. I have a wild volunteer that grows by the old chicken coop. I have to constantly remind workers to not pull it up as a weed. As summer wanes, it will become filled with many little ‘Susie’s.’ Problem is it decides where it will grow. Not me. I pick a few; I can’t resist. But I leave most to reseed. I am then am surprised where it will pop up next. I feel so favored to have this perennial wildflower. There are lots of choices of cultivated Rudbeckias. They grow readily from seed.

Red zinnias are a winner. I love Benary Giants for cut flowers.

My choice for short ones is called ‘Profusion.’ Delightful plant. It’s draught resistant and doesn’t need deadheading. Terrific bloomer. Use liberally to perk up your perennial bed.

Crocosmia is a lovely perennial. I’m located in agricultural zone 5 so I stick with the one called ‘Lucifer.’ Hardy, it produces lovely arching fiery red blooms that last a long time. Order small bulbs and you’ll have it forever. Its foliage is tall so plant accordingly.

Blue is a color best planted close. It disappears if you plant it far away. Tuck it close to where you’ll sit in the garden. One of my favorites for long term blooms is ‘Nepeta’ or cat mint. Not a spreader except for seeding and cats don’t really like it. They love catnip not catmint.

Delphinium is great but needs a but of fuss. Gorgeous against any fence. Holly hocks are great for that too.

Reading your spring catalogs is a great way to learn all about plants. I’ve also learned I can ‘google’ a plant for research. I’m impressed with the amount of information available online.

Here is a little about the first of the Abby and Adam Adventures. It was my love affair with nature that encouraged me. I only sort of wrote a story to go with it. There I have confessed. Actually, I created a nature photographer and a park ranger who allowed me to follow them around as they lived out their lives in Middle Florida. Who knew we could all have so much fun? It is a romance and a mystery as well. If I have tickled your curiosity regarding the environment, I am pleased. If you enjoy the story as well, I am ecstatic.

SANDPIPER AFFAIR, the first of the Abby and Adam Adventures, was my love affair with nature. I only sort of wrote a story to go with it. There I have confessed. Actually, I created a nature photographer and a park ranger who allowed me to follow them around as they lived out their lives in Middle Florida. Who knew we could all have so much fun? It is a romance and a mystery as well. If I have tickled your curiosity regarding the environment, I am pleased. If you enjoy the story as well, I am ecstatic.



Abby Naycomb, wildlife photographer, found more than scintillating images of the birds of Central Florida. A handsome park ranger turns her world upside down even as a criminal stalker seeks to threaten her life.

Who knew trespassing in the restrictive area of a Florida State Park to get the perfect shot of the sand hill crane family would wind up with Abby Naycomb, wildlife photographer extraordinaire, meeting the most handsome park ranger in the world? Mating/nesting birds were the subject of her quest but finding those intense blue eyes in the lens of her camera was distracting and hormone inciting.

Adam Rawlings, millionaire park ranger, was as shocked as Abby when she accidentally discovered a murdered man buried in a shallow grave in the sand.

Face to face with an exciting relationship with Adam, the perfect man, leaves her no excuse for backing away from a growing intimacy. Vagabond Abby must consider relocating if she wants to continue an invaluable relationship with Adam, the original home town hero.

Abby struggles as she continues to work deep in the breathtaking wilds of Central Florida while trying to ignore the menace of a serious and threatening stalker. Her task was to reexamine long held premises and prejudices while admiring the southern flora and fauna through the lens of her camera. Bird and nature lovers alert.

SHORT TEASER
Busted in Bird land. Still…what a calendar he would make with that uniform, that smile, those shoulders. She stifled a sigh of pure visual pleasure.

You had better stop it, Miss Smarty. He has the authority to fine and kick you out of the park permanently if he so chooses. Holy Moly– love a uniformed hunk!

Stoppit!

She stifled a giggle which was riotously rolling around deep inside her, threatening to break out. He continued to loom, gazing thoughtfully while she fidgeted in her warm nest sheltered by the dune. Surrounding them, the sporadic wind blew the smell of something baking in the sun. With her face turned upward and her eyes half-closed against the glare, she awaited her fate. She offered a weak smile while trying to bring into focus his face which was back lit by the bright sunlight. It couldn’t hurt, she thought, and tried for puppy dog eyes pleading for mercy.

“Leave this area, and I’ll forget your lapse of good manners–this time. Don’t let me catch you trespassing on restricted lands again. This is a nature preserve. Visitors may not wander about– especially during nesting season,” he added giving her a stern look. “And that goes for well-meaning, good-looking, lady photographers as well.”

Janis Lane is the pen-name for gifted author Emma Lane who writes cozy mysteries as Janis, Regency as Emma, and spice as Sunny Lane.

She lives in Western New York where winter is snowy, spring arrives with rave reviews, summer days are long and velvet, and fall leaves are riotous in color. At long last she enjoys the perfect bow window for her desk where she is treated to a year-round panoramic view of nature. Her computer opens up a fourth fascinating window to the world. Her patient husband is always available to help with a plot twist and encourage Emma to never quit. Her day job is working with flowers at Herbtique and Plant Nursery, the nursery she and her son own.

Look for information about writing and plants on Emma’s new website. Leave a comment or a gardening question and put a smile on Emma’s face.

Stay connected to Emma on Facebook and Twitter. Be sure to check out the things that make Emma smile on Pinterest.

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