Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Hallowe'en and the Saga

When I was a kid, we didn't go trick or treating more than two or three times in my childhood. Perhaps is was the connotations that went with Hallowe'en or perhaps it was simply that it wasn't a big holiday in the places I lived. I don't know--and there's no one left in my family to ask.

But one year my brother Jack and I went trick or treating. My mother was an accomplished crocheter. She crocheted me an elaborate cap like Dutch girls wear in the old pictures. I had a pair of wooden shoes a missionary had brought me. I had waist length hair that I wore in braids. Add a skirt and blouse and apron and voila! I was a Dutch girl. My brother wasn't so easy.

Eventually, we dressed him as my little sister.

It was misting and dark. We had a flashlight and knew exactly which houses we were permitted to stop at. There couldn't have been more than ten because there weren't that many houses to begin with in our area. No sidewalks. No paved road. Lots of cactus.

We were about halfway through our list of houses when a lady commented on the beautiful eye lashes my little sister had. That was it. Jack headed for home. And he had the flashlight. Truth to tell, the wooden shoes were killing my feet so I wasn't all that unhappy to go home. And it was dark.

By the time I had children, it was a free-for-all night with most children competing to see who could get the most candy (which their parents then threw out because some maniac had poisoned candy and killed some little kid!) Now with so many dangers, many parents have private parties and trick or treaters in this area are rare.

If this is a big holiday for you and yours, I wish you a Happy Hallowe'en.

And now, for Hallowe'en on the Blogga Saga...

The Mary just smiled. “You deserved it. You were a very naughty boy when you touched me like that.”

And mine...

“What are you up to, Mary?” Lawrence flapped his wings nervously in the small cage. “I know you. When you smile, bad things happen to me.”

“Why, Lawrence! How dare you say that? I didn’t have to turn you into a parakeet. I could have turned you into a hamster…”

“No, no. Anything but a hamster!” Lawrence exclaimed.

“Well, get over here. We’ve wasted enough time already.”

Lawrence peered at her with his beady little eyes. “I don’t know. You’re definitely up to something.” He pecked at the mirror hanging in his cage while he tried to think. “You need the peeler before you can handle the Golden Carrot. Who has the peeler? Zoltan! So first—”


Lawrence sneezed and shook. Yellow feathers were everywhere—everywhere except on him! He turned his head, trying to see what Mary had done to him. “What did you do now?” he demanded ominously.

“I turned you into a rabbit,” she said calmly. “Zoltan needs a rabbit for his act. You’ll be perfect. By the way, you have a harness and leash, just in case you decide to make a run for it.” She smiled again. “Now we’ll go see Zoltan.”
“What? We can’t do that! What about Oz and Sparky? They have the map!”

“Uh-hmm. When they find the Golden Carrot, they’ll have to come to me. In the meantime, I thought we might go trick or treating at Zoltan’s casino. What better way to get close enough to trick ‘em out of the peeler?”


Don't forget to stop by Amarinda's blog to find out what some of your favorite authors' greatest fears are...and to also get a sneak peek at Maid for Death, Amarinda's Hallowe'en release. Then pop over to Kelly's blog at for her bit of Hallowe'en wisdom. Blessings on your day.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Midnight Ride on Superstition Mountain

I posted this story on my blog when I first started blogging. But it seems vaguely appropriate to this time of year, so I'm reposting this one. It's a story from my childhood--a story that my kids loved to hear. I hope you enjoy it. It was certainly a different world then.

The first ten years of my life, I mostly lived in Arizona. The last year we lived there, we lived in Globe, Arizona. Our grandparents lived down in the 'valley' in Chandler. Once when we went there for a visit, Mom and Dad decided to take the scenic route back home. They planned to stop for a picnic and then travel on home.

In 1959, the summer we traveled along the back side of Superstition Mountain, the road wasn't paved. Actually, there were few paved back roads at that time in Arizona, with most of them being graded dirt. Our route was graded gravel, which was considered a step up in the hierarchy of roads.

We had an old pick-up with a mattress in the back. My older two brothers, Jack and Tommie, sat back there with me. Amazing isn't it? No seat belts, no cover, just the three of us crouched up against the back of the truck cab to buffer us against the wind. Jack was seven and Tommie was five. Our baby brother, Danny was three so he sat in the cab with Mommy and Daddy.

We started for home in late afternoon. The first part of the trip, of course, was paved until we reached Apache Junction where we stopped for gas. It was the last gas station for a long way. Back then, the gas stations handed out premiums when you bought gas. The Apache Junction station handed out glassware with different kinds of cactus on them. Mommy collected the glassware, putting together different sets… ice tea glasses, juice glasses, etc. I still have one set that she saved for my hope chest.

After Daddy filled up our gas tank, we left the main road and started down the route around the back of Superstition Mountain. In fairly rapid succession, it went from narrow blacktop to gravel.

Perhaps a couple of hours later, Daddy spotted a nice little clearing at the side of the road and pulled off. There was a sparkling little brook there, several cottonwood trees and a bit of grass. Mommy spread out a quilt and set out the food. I don't have any idea what we ate. It doesn't even seem important, but I vividly remember Jack and Tommie racing up and down the side of the brook with me as we floated leaves and tossed small stones in the water, enjoying the splashing.

After we ate, Mommy let us take off our shoes and wade in the water. Danny meandered down to the brook and sat down in the water and that was the end of the playtime! Mommy dried him off and changed his clothes. Daddy packed up the quilt and food and we all piled back into the truck.

Just as darkness fell, there was a loud popping sound and Daddy stopped the truck. He got out and raised the hood while we leaned over the side of the truck, trying to 'see'. Mommy told us to sit down, but you know kids--we bounced around back there, sort of impatient to get moving. At last, Daddy slammed the hood down and climbed back in the truck. The fan belt was gone, we were in the middle of nowhere, and it was a long, long way home.

To conserve the power in the battery, Daddy alternately turned on the truck to drive up the hills and turned it off so we could coast down the hills. This was not only wearing, but time consuming. And when we coasted down with no headlights, it was dark.

Time passed and the moon came up, lighting the mountain with a soft golden glow. When I was just a kid, there were already ghost stories abounding about Superstition Mountain. There were stories about Indians and lost gold mines and disappearing prospectors. As a child, all of the stories sort of jumble together and reality isn't any part of them.

With the sun down, the temperatures dropped and Mommy gave us the quilt to cover up with. Huddled under the quilt, we just prayed for the truck to go faster. First Tommie and then Jack fell asleep, leaving me alone in my wary wakefulness.

Then the coyotes began to howl. Long mournful yodeling ululations floated down the dark mountain. I shivered and burrowed further down between my brothers. The truck went around a curve and a long finger of the mountain loomed above us.

Beginning high on the peak, rank upon rank of saguaro men marched down the mountainside, pursuing our truck. More eerie yips and barks poured over us. Ocotillo tepees spiked up through the moonlight. Ghostly aspen and cottonwood leaves whispered in the shadows.
I tightly closed my eyes and then slowly nudged the quilt until it over our heads, covering us completely. Somewhere, in my fervent prayers for safety, I slipped into sleep.

I remember briefly waking when we reached a dam with a small general store. And I remember listening to my father talk of this trip much later when I was older. Apparently, the owners of the store lived above it. Daddy woke them up and they came up with a suitable fan belt. We finally arrived home in the wee hours of the morning.

As an adult, of course, we simply view the terrible inconveniences of such an ordeal. But even now, forty-five years later, I haven't forgotten the delicious terror of that ride along Superstition Mountain.


Don't forget to stop by Kelly's blog at where she's blogging about storytellers. And then hop over to Amarinda's blog at where she's talking about liars and of course, she has the Blog Saga today. Blessings on your day!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Finding Sarah by Terry Odell

Good morning! It's Monday that means it's time for my guest author--Terry Odell-- and book review--Finding Sarah from Cerridwen Press. First of all, we'll leap right into the questions so y'all can get to know Terry. Right?

1) If you could start over with your writing career, what if anything would you change? LOL! I'm probably the exception to the rule here, in that I never pursued writing as a career. I did some technical-type stuff, writing handbooks for volunteer organizations and wrote long travelogues for family members when we went on trips, but the idea of actually sitting down and committing one of those fantasies playing out in my head never got beyond a two page attempt. All the mechanics completely turned me off. You know, typing all that punctuation for dialogue. What a pain.

But I fell into the world of Highlander fanfiction (another long story) and writing became a challenge. Besides, I had no more wall space for my other creative outlet, needlepoint. And it's hot in Florida—holding all that wool wasn't a good hobby. I accepted the gauntlet thrown by one of the writers I was beta reading for and decided I really enjoyed writing. I had a LOT to learn.

So, I suppose if I'd started sooner, I'd have more years of the fun I get from the creative process. It's still mind-boggling to think of this as a "career", though. I was working my way DOWN the corporate ladder, trying to get out of working at all. If I think of writing as a career, it kind of spoils the fun. I think of it as something I have to do every day because I love doing it, and if people buy my books and enjoy them, so much the better.

2) What was the best piece of advice you received regarding the life of a writer?
Don't take rejection personally
And, if you're a writer, you'll write, no matter what.

*Butt in Chair, Fingers on Keyboard

3) If you could meet anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
Hard one. I was fascinated with Benjamin Franklin in my grade school days, so maybe it would be interesting to sit and chat for a while. (That's my "intellectual" answer. My down-to-earth answer would be Adrian Paul, who, unbeknownst to him, got me into this writing gig.)

4) If you could meet any fictional character, who would it be?
Tough to narrow this down to just one. Probably Mr. Spock. He's fascinated me for decades. But then I should change the answer to the previous question to Leonard Nimoy, I suppose. Or maybe this answer should be Duncan MacLeod instead of Mr. Spock. Can you tell making decisions is tough for me!

5) What do you want to be when you grow up?
Do I have to grow up? I've made it this far without having to. As I continue to get older, though, I'd like to keep reading and writing. Give more time to my literacy volunteering

6) In the next century, what do you hope people will remember you for?
In the next century, I'd be glad simply to be remembered! If I could choose the legacy I'd leave behind, I guess it would be to have made the world a happier place for some, giving them a few moments of escape with my characters. And for my future family to look through a photo album (digital, I'm sure) and say, "That was my great-great-great grandmother who wrote those books and helped teach lots of people to learn to read them." Or maybe just thinking of me when they make Pflaumkuchen or Nanaimo Bars from the family recipe collection.

Finding Sarah by Terry Odell

Finding Sarah opens with Sarah the heroine struggling through a bad day, which gets worse when she is robbed at gunpoint at her store. The robbery is the culminations of a series of unfortunated events that seemed to begin with the death of her husband in an auto accident. Sarah is struggling to keep body and soul together and the robbery could be the proverbial last straw.

Enter Randy, the police officer who arrives to take the police report. As she answers his questions, he sees not just a pattern of bad luck, but possibly a pattern of interference in Sarah's life. The more he investigates, the more he is positive that Sarah's problems are being deliberately generated by someone who wants her to fail in business.

Complicating matters is the attraction that Sarah and Randy feel for each other. Sarah is not sure that she's ready for a new man in her life. Randy is still dealing with the loss of his grandmother and is not ready to commit to another person in his life. When events inexorably draw them together, they choose to take that next step.

Though the book started out almost too leisurely for me, it rapidly picked up pace until the story was racing along at full tilt. Events escalated until the perpetrator was revealed--almost too late! If you want an exciting woman-in -jeopardy read, then skip on over to Cerridwen Press and pick up your own copy of Finding Sarah by Terry Odell.


Tomorrow is Kelly's turn at the Saga so make sure you check what she's up to with Grasshopper and Lawrence at and then pop over to Amarinda's Place at to read whatever obscure thoughts Amarinda's come up with by then. They're always entertaining and informative. Blessings on your day!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Learning Tree--Part Four

There have been several questions about The Learning Tree... I wrote it about fifteen years ago. It was the first short story I wrote. Where did the idea come from? I don't know. Like most of my best writing, I sat down and it just appeared. Thank you to all of you who have commented on the story. Your pleasure from my words means a great deal to me.

And now Part Four...

Aunt Jimaileen closed her eyes, rocking slowly.

"What happened then? How did we get the learning tree?" I asked. It seemed to me that the story wasn't quite complete.

Her eyes popped open. "You are the end of the story, Benjalynne. I am old now. You are the last of the sea captain's descendents. When I die, you must take care of the learning tree."


She smiled sadly. "Oh, Benjalynne, I wish I could be around when you have children. I wish I could be there to watch you with them. You will be a good mother. You must choose wisely when you pass the learning tree to the next generation."

Slowly, she left the room, and for the first time, I realized that she was very old. Age was such a nebulous thing. How old was old? I sat on the sofa long after she left, contemplating all that she had told me. The learning tree was a terrible responsibility that I instinctively rejected, knowing all the while that I had no choice, knowing that it was my heritage.


"What did Aunt Jimaileen see when she held the learning tree?" asked my son, Jacob, as he rocked beside my bed.

"She never told me. She died the following week from a heart attack. I think she knew that it was coming." I rested for a while. "Perhaps she thought I was too young to tell."

"Will you tell me what you saw, Mum?"

"No… I don't think so. But I will tell you that the learning tree approves of you. You must take it now and care for it. Guard it well. There are evil people, power seekers that would take it from you."

"Remember, my son, choose wisely when you pass on the legend of the learning tree."


Today is Sunday so there is a rest from the Saga. But there is still some good stuff on the blogs! Kelly has her Sunday Quote at and Amarinda will possibly discuss her Sunday chores this week--she's been tearing up her driveway. There is nothing Amarinda can't do so pop over to and read all about it! Blessings on your Sunday.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Learning Tree--Part Three

But first! It's my turn for the Saga...

Amarinda left us with a threat:

“We shrink Rafe to the size of a peanut unless Rinalda reveals the secret of the golden carrot.”

“Whoa! Do you think she will do it?” Sparky was in awe that Oz would demand something so audacious. The secret of the golden carrot was the stuff of legends.

“I guess that would depend on how much she likes peanuts.” Lawrence squawked in shock. “I said ‘peanuts’ Lawrence.”

And my solution?

The trio heard an ominous humming. “Oz, I know what you’re up to,” The Mary warned. “It won’t work.”

Oz peered at the casino security screen as Rinalda and Rafe were hustled into The Mary’s presence by security guards. “Well, Rinalda? What do you have to say for yourself?”

Rinalda waved a crumpled stained piece of paper in Mary’s face. “Did you see what they sent me? They’re threatening me! Me!” she declared in outrage.

The Mary snatched the paper from her hands and scanned it quickly. “To Rinalda: You will tell us the secret of the golden carrot. Else we will shrink Rafe to peanut size.
Oz, Sparky and Lawrence--The Triad”

Rafe frowned at the tiny woman in front of him. “What’s the big deal? As long as they have a peeler, they’re in business.”

Rinalda hissed as her quills stood erect. Slowly, Emmeline stood with her quills clacking like castanets. They closed in on Rafe with frightening menace on their faces.

“Stop!” A terrible roar blasted through the casino as The Mary bellowed. Silence fell on the great room. “Oz?” she called. “Did you hear that? Find that blasted peeler!”

“No worries, mate. I’m on the job! Come Sparky, we have work to do.”

“What about Lawrence?” Sparky asked in a small voice.

“Never fear, Grasshopper will be here shortly to take care of Lawrence!”

What will Kelly do on Monday? Stay tuned!

And now--Part Three of The Learning Tree

Seeking Wisdom tramped along the north road until he reached the last house. It was a tumbledown shack, set on a barren plot of land. This could not be the place! In his experience, village elders lived in the biggest houses in the village.

An old man came out of the hut and gestured for him to approach. "A monk! Come in, come in! Tell me the news from your travels."

Seeking Wisdom moved slowly. "I will gladly tell you my news, but first--can you tell me where I can find Jade Carver?"

Cocking his head to one side, the old man replied, "I am Jade Carver. How can I be of assistance to you?"

Cradling the scarlet silk bundle in his hands, Seeking Wisdom held it out so that Jade Carver could see it clearly. "I found this--and an old man's bones--in a hut at the other end of the village. This object is too precious to be left in the hut and the old man's remains should be laid to rest with more respect than that."

Jade Carver recoiled, horrified by the object Seeking Wisdom held; abruptly, he seemed to shrivel and grow smaller. "Come in, my son, and I will tell you about that terrible object you hold--and about the old man, Wise One. But whatever you do, do not unwrap the tree and do not touch it with your bare hands. That is a learning tree and it's cursed."

He led the way into his hut, and when they were seated, he told Seeking Wisdom the entire history of the learning tree. "After Wise One died, I sought out Exalted One, but he would tell me nothing, except that the tree shows the far future. It was terrible! I am glad that I am an old man and will never see it!" He paused to gather his thoughts. "Of course, that is not the curse; when you touch the tree, you can see the far future. Later, when you are feeling blessed because you were saved from the terror, nightmares destroy your sleep like gleeful demons. During the day, if you contemplate doing an evil deed, even a small one, you see the final consequences."

"Is that not a good thing?"

Jade Carver pointed a shaking finger at the young monk. "Imagine knowing the end result of every action you might take. Soon, it becomes impossible to do anything without fearing that you might bring harm on someone." He nodded slowly to himself. "My wife left me. My children laugh at me. I wait to die and know that it will be soon."

"Why not destroy the tree?" Seeking Wisdom asked sensibly.

"I begged for Exalted One to do so. He said that it had protections so that it cannot be destroyed. It must be hidden away to protect others." Jade Carver stared at his visitor thoughtfully. "Your monastery would be the best solution. Surely, there is someplace the tree would be safe."

Seeking Wisdom considered the consequences of taking responsibility for the statue, then said, "I will take it and hide it well. You must take care of Wise One's bones and show him the respect he deserves. And you must never tell anyone of the existence of the tree."

"No, never!" Jade Carver hastily agreed. "Never in my life!" The men parted amicably, each satisfied with the outcome of their visit.

For a very long time, the jade tree stayed safely hidden in the monastery. Seeking Wisdom moved up through the ranks until finally, he held the position of Master, earning great respect; other monks came to him for advice. When he knew his time to die was near, he passed the secret and history of the learning tree on to the next Master.

Several generations passed this way. Then a time of great unrest swept the country, with rumors of terrible bandit bands roving and robbing even the monasteries and the poor.
The Master remembered the statue and worried. If the monastery was pillaged, what might happen to it? He decided it would be safer in the underground vault. When he picked up the learning tree, the scarlet silk wrap slid from his grasp. For the first time in more than a thousand years, the learning tree was cradled in human hands.

Images of a foreign sea captain flashed across his mind. He saw the captain holding the carefully wrapped learning tree; the captain sailed his ship away; a small girl, a foreigner also, hid the tree in a little trunk. So he knew, at last. His country would no longer provide haven for the learning tree. Sighing, he found the scarlet silk and rewrapped the tree.

The next day he journeyed to the nearest seaport and searched out the captain he had seen in the images. At first, the captain was most reluctant to undertake responsibility for the learning tree, but the Master finally persuaded him. The captain sailed away to his home with the learning tree.

When he arrived there, he sold his ship, moved away from the sea, and married. Time moved by. When he was old and near his death, he passed on the legend and the learning tree to one of his sons, charging him with the responsibility of protecting it.

Tomorrow...Part Four.


Well! Kelly has Dinosaurs and Dragons on her blog. Very interesting. I must go look up the references she brought up. Check it out at and then pop over to Amarinda's blog at for her weekly take on Saturday in OZ! Blessings on your day.

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Learning Tree--Part Two

Yesterday we left off with Jade Carver accepting a commision to carve a jade tree in exchange for a spell that told the future. And so...

Over the next year, Wise One read many scrolls, searching for the best incantations for the spell. He walked the roads of all the surrounding area, listening to the tales of the storytellers and the local gossips. Dismayed, he realized that the number of disquieting things he was hearing about Jade Carver was increasing.

He sought out an old magician, older even than himself, and asked for his advice. "Exalted One, what shall I do? This man is evil. I feel his evil intent for the use of this spell."

Exalted One considered the things that Wise One told him about the jade carver. He thought about the ways the spell could be used, both good and evil. Then, he said, "Wise One, we cannot judge the heart of another man; we cannot know what his intentions are. However, we can guard against the spell being used for evil. This is what you must do…" He taught Wise One how to hedge the spell with guards; patiently, he taught him the ancient words and gestures.

Wise One went back to his hut and practiced all that Exalted One had taught him every day so that he would be ready when Jade Carver returned. Finally, the day came when the carver brought him the jade tree. Wise One marveled that the evil carver could produce something so exquisite. "You must leave now," he said to Jade Carver. "I must have complete concentration and peace to cast the spell. Return tomorrow." The carver, displeased with Wise One's command, left reluctantly.

The next day, when Jade Carver returned, he was astonished at the change in Wise One's appearance. Overnight, he had aged many years; his face had the waxy pallor of impending death and the frantic palsied movements of his hands left him unable to hold his teacup.
Wise One gestured toward the tiny jade tree, wrapped in a scarlet silk cloth. "Take it!" he commanded in a quavery voice. "Take it and leave!"

Snatching the silk-wrapped statue from the low table, Jade Carver slowly backed away. "How does the spell work, old man?"

"When you wish to see the future, remove the silk wrap, hold the tree in both hands, and you will know."

Shoving the hut door open, Jade Carver left, letting the door slam behind him. Hurrying down the path, he unwrapped the scarlet silk, letting it flutter to the ground. Grasping it with both hands, he stumbled to a halt as terrible images flashed through his mind. Gigantic blossoms of flame consumed entire villages and towns; enormous silver birds roared through the air; terrible rockets, taller than the highest hill, shot into a burning blue sky.

He dropped to his knees, fumbling blindly for the scarlet silk. The images continued to bombard him; vast firestorms blew through forests, leveling everything in their path. He found the silk, roughly bundled the tree into it, and sat back on his heels with a sigh of relief when the images stopped.

When he had regained his composure, he decided to go back and berate Wise One. On arriving at the hut, he shoved the door open without knocking, so consumed by his anger that he had no thought for the courtesies. Wise One was stretched out on his pallet in the corner, giving every appearance of peace.

That fueled Jade Carver's anger further; he rushed across the hut, seized Wise One, and shook him roughly until he realized that Wise One was already dead. Horrified, he cast Wise One's body back on the pallet and rushed from the hut, leaving the jade tree behind. Later, he told the villagers that Wise One had gone on a journey seeking enlightenment so on one went near the hut, fearing a curse if they should disturb anything.

One rainy afternoon, many years later, a young monk entered the hut, looking for shelter from the wet and cold. Seeking Wisdom was quite dismayed when he discovered Wise One's remains carelessly dumped on the pallet. Backing away, he stumbled over the scarlet silk bundle. With a wary eye on Wise One, although he was surely beyond the ability to harm him, Seeking Wisdom carried the silk bundle over to the open doorway and carefully unwrapped it enough to see what it was.

A precious object, such as this tree, should never be left in this hut, he thought. What should he do? While he waited for the rain to stop, he meditated on that. Finally, when the storm was over, he decided to go to the village elder. The tree and Wise One's remains needed to be cared for. The village elder should be the one to make the arrangements. Having settled that in his mind, he entered the village and sought out the elder. The shopkeeper told him, "The elder? He lives in the last house on the north road. Just ask for Jade Carver. He will be glad to visit with a monk."


What are Kelly and Amarinda up to? Check Kelly's blog at for an interview with author Jaqueline Roth and then pop over to Amarinda's blog at to read the latest installment of the Blogga Saga. Blessings on your day.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Learning Tree--Part one.

This is a short story I wrote a while back. Each day I'll put another part on the blog until it's complete. I hope you enjoy the story... Anny Cook

The learning tree was old. The sea captain who brought it to America from China in 1837 told his young daughter that it was over a thousand years old. Carved of pale lavender jade with minuscule birds perched on its twisty limbs, it stood exactly six inches from the base to the very top tiny leaves. Its value was beyond price. And the very first time I ever saw it, it was sitting on Aunt Jimaileen's front hall table.

As a small girl, I wasn't allowed to touch the learning tree; naturally, that made it twice as fascinating. For hours I would sit on the hall bench staring at it, dreaming all of the dreams younglings dream.

"Why is it called the learning tree?" I asked Aunt Jimaileen one day.

She shot a stern look at me over the top of her bifocals. "Because that is it's name. Something that old should always have a name."

"But why is it called that?" I persisted.

"Aunt Jimaileen sighed. "You are the most curious child, Benjalynne. Where do all of your questions come from?"

I shrugged. Who knew where questions came from? They just popped into my mind sometimes--usually when I was supposed to be paying attention to something else. Abruptly, another thought occurred to me. "Don't you know why it's called the learning tree?"

Well! Aunt Jimaileen reared back and stared at me as though I had suddenly grown two horns. "What do you mean, having the audacity to say something like that to me!" she demanded with outrage.

Feeling very small, I hung my head, and worried the floral pattern of the hall rug with the toe of my scuffed Buster Browns. "Sorry, Aunt Jimaileen," I muttered very, very softly, thinking that now I would never find out about the learning tree.

Evidently, my genuine sorrow touched a chord in her tough old scrawny chest. She inhaled deeply, wrapped the learning tree in the scarlet silk scarf it rested on, lifted it with trembling fingers and carried it into the parlor. "Come along, now," she commanded firmly. Seating herself in the old bentwood rocker, she nodded toward the hard horsehair sofa. "Sit."

Tucking my red plaid skirt beneath my shaking legs, I perched on the edge of the sofa carefully crossing my ankles to give my best impression of a young lady. Aunt Jimaileen set great store on being lady-like.

Patiently, I watched her rock silently, cradling the learning tree in her bony lap. She leaned her head against the high rocker back, pushing her fluffy white bun askew. Having never seen her hair worn any other way, I idly wondered how long it really was. Her eyes were closed. I considered the possibility that she might have fallen asleep, but rejected it when slow tears trickled down her face. I jumped up, alarm sweeping through me. Aunt Jimaileen never cried except at funerals. "What's wrong?" Even to my ears, my voice sounded quavery.

Her dark eyes popped open and she sighed, but she made no attempt to wipe the tears away. "Benjalynne, sit down. I'll tell you the legend of the learning tree now. I was waiting for you to grow up more… You'll just have to grow up faster than I planned."

"This is the legend of the learning tree."

Far away, in old China, Jade Carver sought out a poor magician. "Wise One," he said, "I wish to know my future. I must plan for the well-being of my family and ancestors."

Wise One studied the jade carver kneeling before him. Jade Carver sat in a humble pose, but something in his posture disturbed the magician. There was a hint of assurance or even arrogance that negated the humble image. Wise One puttered around his small fire, brewing tea, setting out the teacups, while he considered the possible reasons for Jade Carver's visit. "Why is it so important to know the future?" he asked curiously. "Every man must plan for the well-being of his family, and none know the future."

Wise One felt the wave of impatience radiating from the carver as he replied shortly, "Yes, yes--but I have a thriving business and so must plan more carefully than a poor man."

While drinking his tea, Wise One thought about the various options open to him. Finally, he said, "Telling the future is very hard. It will require a great effort and much work for me to cast the appropriate spell…"

"I will pay! What do you wish?"

"Hmm." Wise One stroked his long white beard. "I must have something precious to cast the spell with. You are a carver of jade; find a perfect piece of jade, pale in color, and carve a tree from it. When you are finished, bring it to me."

"But that will take many months!" Jade Carver cried.

Wise One shrugged. "Even so, I must have it for the spell. Perhaps knowing the future isn't as important as you have suggested…"

Jade Carver cringed. "No, no. I must have the spell. I will do as you have asked and bring you the jade tree when it is complete."

Nodding slowly, Wise One agreed, "When it is finished, come to see me again."

Please return tomorrow for Part Two. In the meantime, Kelly has the Saga today at and Amarinda has guest author Barbara at Blessings on your day.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

In the midst of the flames...

I believe I've mentioned before that I don't watch television. That doesn't mean that I don't keep up on current events. I read the news from several sources on the Internet. And occasionally I watch the short news videos.

This afternoon I spent time watching several videos regarding the fires in California. I'm familiar with the concept of evacuations. Some of my family used to live in Arizona in an area that seemed to be evacuated every year. My personal experience with evacuations always had to do with potential flooding and hurricanes. The basic premise is the same. You're fleeing from a life threatening situation.

Time after time, I see clips where the individual escaped with the clothes on their back. Period. And I'm always puzzled by this. How did it reach that point? Why were they not prepared? I'm not talking about a last minute preparation that the fire roared through a canyon or jumped an interstate. I'm not talking about preparation that you hastily throw together as the water is rising or the winds are blowing. I'm talking about a permanent emergency kit.

We have a plastic waterproof folder with our important papers in it. Birth certificates, social security cards, insurance papers, and all those other things we would need in an emergency (such as pets immunization records and immunization records for kids--if we had any). In the basket I keep my medicines in, there's a large plastic zipper bag big enough that I could actually put the entire basket in the bag. Important computer documents are on flash drives that reside in my purse.

The instant that I hear of a threatening situation, I immediately pack a bag with several changes of clothing, emergency toiletries, and put everything together by the door. If things look worse, I pack the car. When the authorities say evacuate, I go.

Does that mean that I willingly leave my accumulated life behind? No. But with life, a restart is possible. Nothing I own is worth my life or my family's lives. I grieve for the families that have lost their homes. Starting over is difficult. But it shouldn't be made more difficult by a lack of planning and forethought. Planning time is now when no emergency exists. Then when the disaster strikes, preparation for the unthinkable eases the way.

To my way of thinking, disaster preparedness is the ultimate proof that you care for your family.


When last we saw the Saga, Amarinda left Emmeline lost in Vegas...

Emmeline looked down at the ring and swore. “Dumb ring. I wanted real riches not possible riches” She looked around her. A gaudy sign caught her eye. Her mouth dropped open in shock.

“Holy snapping ducks!” Rafe and Rinalda’s smiling faces beamed out at her. “What the hell are they doing here?

Well, what could I possibly do?

“They’re the latest sensation in Vegas,” another chubby Elvis impersonator intoned before stopping to take a second look at Emmeline. “Say, baby, where do you work? Way out costume!”

Emmeline stared down at him haughtily. “I am a warrior woman from Zenon 5.” With the purple buzzing vibrator she pointed at the sign with Rafe and Rinalda. “How do I find them?”

“See the building with the sign? Just go inside the casino and ask one of the security people there. They’ll be able to help you.” The rotund fake Elvis shot her another disbelieving look. “So where can I find Zenon 5? Are there anymore there like you?”

She poked him with the vibrator. “There is no one anywhere like me. I am Emmeline, warrior woman!”

“Riiiiight. Okay, I’ll just be going now.” The little man sidled away, before turning to run down the street.

Emmeline stalked the other way to the building with the flashing sign, her quills clacking in outrage. So this is where Rinalda was hiding with Rafe! Trust that witch to pick someplace like Vegas. Emmeline shuddered at the memories of her time here with Zoltan. Never again.

People moved hastily out of her way as stomped determinedly into the casino. Vaguely, she heard whispers, “Xena, there’s Xena!” “That’s not Xena, you idiot. That woman has quills.”

Emmeline accosted a tiny white haired senior citizen wresting her cane from her so that the woman fell back again the slot machine she was standing next to. Abruptly lights and bells and whistles went off as quarters pour from the machine. Wielding the cane like a sword, Emmeline started fending off the people that surged toward them to get a better look.

“Well, well, Emmeline. I might have known you would be creating a ruckus.”

Who recognized Emmeline? What will happen next? Stay tuned tomorrow at Kelly's blog. In the meantime, check out her blog today where she discusses time travel and UFOs. and then drop by Amarinda's blog where her fabulous author this week is Anita Birt. Blessings on your day.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

In memorium

My aunt died today. She was in her early eighties. I first met her when I was about eleven. My mother had died and we moved across the country so that we lived very close by. She has one daughter who just happens to be four days younger than me (a fact that she never lets me forget).

This aunt was the one in the family that opened her house for the holidays for dinners, picnics, and whatever else came up. The holidays--Christmas and New Years--were stuctured so that one year was the family Christmas and in-laws Thanksgiving and the next year it was reversed. This was no small thing. I have seventeen cousins. Once we all started procreating, there was a population explosion. One of the last Christmases I attended, we had seventy people for a sit down dinner in the basement--at one big crazy put together table.

In the summer time, the kids would go out there and hang out on the giant sand dune across the street. In the winter we used the hill for sledding. It wasn't too far from the beach at Lake Michigan so we went swimming.

I have little vignettes in my mind from the different times I was visiting there. The first time I took my brand spanking new husband there for Christmas--we'd been married nine days. The first time I took my first baby there...he was three months old.

We moved two thousand miles away and weren't able to attend as often, but whenever we arrived we were always greeted with warm smiles.

Today my aunt died and the world is a little less for her passing.


Amarinda has the Saga today. Please stop by and check it out. Then pop on over to Kelly's blog for her words of wisdom at . Blessings on your day.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Access Denied by Jacquéline Roth

It's Monday again! Boy time sure did fly this last week. Today's guest author is Jacquéline Roth and the book I'll be reviewing is her new release, Access Denied. But before we get to the book, let's meet her and find out a little bit about her.

1) If you could start over with your writing career, what if anything would you change?
I'd start much sooner. I had a less than ideal childhood and the idea that I could actually be a writer was sort of smothered out of me early on. I can remember making up stories and even illustrating them as a child. My grandfather partitioned a place behind his recliner in the living room for me and my stories and pictures were taped to the walls. He always said I could be anything I wanted to be. Unfortunately after a while, his wasn't the voice I heard in my head. I heard the one that laughed at the idea that I could ever really be a writer. So if I could go back, I'd listen harder and longer to my grandfather and never let anyone silence that dream.

2) What was the best piece of advice you received regarding the life of a writer?
The best advice I've ever received came from a friend of mine who is part of my critique and workshop group. Britannia has this way of cutting through the...nonsense...and laying out on the line in a way that makes you go, "Well duh! Why didn't I see that before?" I was recently agonizing over the direction to take a story I was writing. After listening to me dither she said "Go with your muse, if the muse says [option A], go [option A]. If the muse says [option B] then go with [option B], if the muse says both [option A and B] and everything in between then that's the way to go. If you start second guessing yourself out of guilt you'll compromise your story."

Then of course there is the advice my editor, Helen Woodall keeps giving me. Have fun.

I guess in a way they are both saying the same thing. I think as writers we want to be liked and accepted. Our stories and characters are our children and we want them to liked and accepted. But if we lose sight of who we--or our stories--are, then we will lose something much more important than the approval of others. Not everyone is going to like what you write so you had damned well better be satisfying your muse and pleasing yourself.

3) If you could meet anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
This is a hard one. I’ve really had to think. There have been so many people who have changed history and so many who have touched my life in some way though I have never met them. Either something they wrote reached out to me through the pages of their books or something they did made the world a different place. People like Robert Kennedy for his integrity and courage, Thomas Jefferson for his eloquence and foresight, Jane Austen for her ability to capture people and make us want to be or know them and Eleanor Roosevelt for being a woman far ahead of her--time all inspire me.

But if I had to choose one person it would be Queen Elizabeth I. She altered women’s roles in the world forever. Following in the footsteps of her step-Grandmother, Queen Isabella of Spain, she was a woman who ruled and who did so with no apology for being a woman. I’d love to ask her how she managed such a male dominated society so completely. Was it that she was wise enough to surround herself with the right people? How much of what was attributed to her did she really accomplish on her own volition and how much was orchestrated for her and done in her name?

4) If you could meet any fictional character, who would it be?
Jane Austen’s Mr. Darcy. But only if he agrees to fall madly in love with me and sweep me off my feet to a life of wealth and privilege in a lovely English manor house surrounded by servants. Oh, and only if he really does look like Colin Firth.

Darcy isn’t my favorite Austen hero, but Colonel Brandon belongs to Marianne so completely that I could never dream of coming between them. But then again…

5) What do you want to be when you grow up?
You mean I actually have to grow up? *sigh* In that case I want to be Sherrilyn Kenyon when I grow up. I want to create a fresh and original story concept and thrill and fascinate a world of readers. I want to “birth” amazing characters that thrill and astonish people. I want to have a book that I’ve created become someone’s “comfort book” the way Night Play has become mine. I could go back and read the story of Vane, the werewolf who is so overcome with passion and love for the plus size heroine that he can’t help himself.

Yep, I wanna be Sherrilyn Kenyon when I grow up. I’m not sure how that works, though, since I think technically she is younger than I am.

6) In the next century, what do you hope people will remember you for?
If anyone remembers me in the next decade, let alone the next century, I want it to be for one reason. I want someone to say, “You know, she really showed me that reading could be fun.”
I don’t care if it’s a former student of mine for whom I found that book which opened up a whole world of possibilities in the written word or a reader who had a good time reading one of my stories and decided to pick up another book and keep going. It is really a thrill when I see people lined up at bookstores to buy the latest installment in any series, be it Rowling’s Harry Potter or Stephenie Meyer’s teen vampire series. That is what reading should be. Exciting, thrilling, provoking and fun.

Access Denied by Jacquéline Roth from Cerridwen Press

"That is what reading should be. Exciting, thrilling, provoking, and fun." Well, this week's author certainly delivered. Each week I'm struck by what a very talented group of writers our editor has gathered together in her "Frog's Pond" and this week is no exception.

Access Denied is a creative look at "what if". "What if" a meteor struck Earth and we had enough time to prepare for it? What would the response be? What would life be like afterwards? How would our culture change?

In Access Denied, we are presented with a couple who are matched by the ruling body of Sanctuary, the Committee for a three month assignment. During their assignment time, they will get to know each other and decide ultimately if they are suited for permanent status. There are a few problems. Leah, a school teacher is less than attractive. James, a nurse is recovering from the aftermath of the loss of his first wife followed swiftly by a bad divorce from his second wife. He's in no mood to take on a third wife.

Slowly but surely the two misfits fall in love. And of course, there should be a Happily Ever After. But not so fast... There are forces at work here behind the scenes that lead to a shocking ending I never saw coming. Jacquéline very skillfully led me right down the access tunnel by my nose. Bam!

The story is filled with wonderful memorable characters that tug at your heart. The world building is creative and very well thought out. When I reached the end I wanted the story to go on. I hope that Ms. Roth writes another story for the Sanctuary world. If you want a very entertaining read, then go immediately to Cerridwen Press and buy a copy of Access Denied by Jacquéline Roth.


Today Kelly has the Saga and it's a doozy. Go to to check it out. The head on over to Amarinda's blog at to find out how she triumphs over the lowly management at work. I'm sure it will demonstrate true creative flare.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Good Deed

While looking for stories about kids, I came across the following site: with a story of incredible unselfishness. In a "me-first" world it is heartening to read about kids with generosity of spirit.

Have you ever been the recipient of an anonymous good deed? Ever had someone spontaneously pay your toll at a bridge, pay your bill at McDonalds, shovel the snow from your walks, clean the snow from your car, mow your lawn?

I have.

And the impulse is to do something for someone in return. But if you don't know who did the good deed, then you just have to find someone else to do a good deed for. I've been the recipient of bags of groceries in the midst of the poorest time in my life. Someone once paid my heating bill when I had no money to pay it. I never found out who that person was. Whoever you were, if you're reading this, I paid it forward. Thank you so much for a warm house.

My friends, there are so many people in need. So many who suffer in loneliness and silence. You say you don't know what to do? You say there's no money? Hmmm. Well, it costs about thirty dollars for my husband and I to go out to eat. So what could we do with thirty dollars instead?

Take a friend to lunch.
Buy a needy neighbor groceries.
Pay a child's school lunch ticket.
Pick up a prescription for someone with no medical coverage.
Pay for someone's oil change and maintenance.

If you have a bit more...
Pay for books for a college student.
More groceries for that needy neighbor.
Fill their gas tank while your at it.
Buy several nice plants and then drop them off at a nursing home to be distributed to residents that never receive company.

There are opportunities everywhere. All you have to do is listen and look. Almost all of us know the signs of distress. Anonymity eases the humiliation and embarrassment of the recipient. The best thing is to attach a nice little note that says something like: "This has been a service of the Good Neighbor Committee."

No money?

Mow a lawn. Shovel a walk. Rake leaves. Wash a car. Offer to vacuum and dust for someone who can't do those things for themselves. Put together a meal in disposable containers and deliver it anonymously. Share your blessings. Service from the heart does the soul good and puts a smile on the face. Trust me on this.


Please drop by Kelly's blog for the quote of the week at and then trot right over to Amarinda's blog to see what she's up to today at and then? Blessings on your day.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Playing Dress-Up

Am I the only one in the world who remembers the days when you played dress-up? Or the times when you spent weeks planning your Hallowe'en costume? You know the one that your folks helped you put together with safety pins and wire and tape. Maybe a little paint. Maybe a pair of Mom's earrings or an eyepatch and you were good to go.

Clowns, pirates, gypsies, ballerinas, cowboys, Indians, and princesses were all popular costumes. Households had a bunch of props that circulated to the neighbors and back. Big sister's costume was updated and used three years later by little sister. That's the way it was. Everybody knew everybody. There weren't any mask. The candy bag was a brown paper lunch bag you decorated with crayons and Mom or Dad helped you staple a handle on it.

Now like every other holiday in the world, Hallowe'en is a commercial enterprise. Costumes, cards, candy,, money, money. This year my grandchildren are discovering the fun in making their own costumes. They're going to be gypsies. I gathered up all my scarves--you know the ones that have been sitting in my drawer for five years--and sent them off to the kids along with the Mardi Gras beads someone thoughtfully brought back from their vacation and bestowed on me. Oh yes! Those dangling earrings I haven't worn in five or six years. The girls are very excited about dressing up.

But I've noticed a disturbing trend. Hallowe'en is more and more becoming an adult holiday with risque costumes, partying, and treating. Am I the only one that wonders when it moved from a children's trick or treating to another excuse to play dress up and drink? Some will say that I'm a fuddy-duddy. Perhaps so. Or perhaps I'm just past the stage where I feel comfortable playing dress-up because I left my childhood behind a while ago.

When last we saw Emmeline, Amarinda left us here:

“I’m Faeryland? That bastard!” Zoltan knew she had been abducted by faeries as a child. The scars caused by the faeries ran deep. Not all faeries were good. “How do I get out of here?” She ground her booted heel into his chest.

“Oh Emmeline, you should know by now you cannot escape a faery.”

Emmeline opened her mouth wide in shock as she had the familiar voice. “Oh no, it can’t be you.”

“Welcome back Emmie.” Mephisto smiled at her. “Let’s play.”

And my offering...

“Leave the chick alone, Phisto,” the dragon growled in a bored tone. “You know what Percy threatened to do if you don’t behave.”

“No one ever lets me have any fun.” Mephisto poked his lower lip out in a pout. “Here’s Emmie back after being away so long. I just wanted to play a little.”

While listening to the whiney Mephisto, Emmeline had rediscovered her backbone. She straitened up to her full six foot two and towered over Mephisto’s roly-poly body. Poking Mephisto in the chest with the purple vibrator, she yelled, “If you touch me just one time, I will personally shove this weapon where the sun doesn’t shine! Do you understand? Keep your creepy hands to yourself!”

Mephisto quivered, torn between fear and anticipation. This was not the same Emmeline that spent time in Faeryland long ago. This Emmeline was a magnificent creature. Just the clack of her quills excited him. One hand stole out to touch her soft skin.

Emmeline shrieked loud enough to make the dragon’s ears stand up in alarm. “Silence!” he roared. “Do you want the trolls to show up? Are you insane? And quit waving that vibrator around unless you plan to use it.”

Mephisto perked up at once. “Oh yes! Me, please! Do me!”

Emmeline snorted in disgust. “Not even if you were the last man standing,” she declared. Twirling the vibrator in her hand like a gunslinger in the old west she slipped it in her peeler holster and walked away.

Where will Kelly take the Saga on Monday? What will Amarinda find to write about? Check it all out on their blogs at and and then have a wonderful weekend.


Friday, October 19, 2007

What's In a Title?

I spent some time yesterday offering title options to a friend. Actually, I know several different fellow authors who profess to suck at titles. I on the other hand find it difficult to write a book without first settling on the title. Strange, that.

Most authors I know start with the story and decide on a title as they go along--or even when they're finished. For me the title defines the action in the book (at least in my mind) so I need the title first. I won't say that I've never changed a title. Cherished Destinies was a title that I settled on halfway through that book as I saw that the book was changing shape mid-stream.

Recently a friend of mine was pilloried in a blog because of the title of her book. It was a cutesy/frank take off on a popular phrase and quite appropriate for the target audience. What amazed me was the sheer intolerance of the comments. Why are we still not past that point? And why are we still dealing with the title/cover/content police?

How much can you really tell from a title? I like titles that tell me something about the story or at least allude to something in the story. And since I'm a straight-arrow kind of person, I would prefer not to have to puzzle it out because it's an obscure reference to a dead poet. If you're gonna use a poet reference at least put that reference on the dedication page so I know what we're talking about.

One of my friends believes that my books Chrysanthemum, Honeysuckle, and Daffodil would sell better if they were named something like Tie Me Down, Two Men for Honey, and Spanking Daffodil. Maybe. But I was thinking this is a trilogy about three sisters named Chrysanthemum, Honeysuckle and Daffodil. So that's what I named the books. After all when Melville wrote his whale book, he didn't call it Killing a Whale--he called it Moby Dick. I was going for classy--Oliver Twist, Jude the Obscure (believe me, he was), and Tom Sawyer. Sigh.

Maybe classy was too much to expect. Maybe the titles just weren't up front enough. Maybe. I'm still kicking around a title for Bishop's book. I think it's going to be something like Finally, Love or something like that. I haven't quite found the right words, but when I do, then that will settle the book for me. That's how I work.

A title should intrigue the reader, capture their interest and make them want to find out what the book is about. If it makes a promise--My Dragon Lover--by golly, there better be a dragon in the book and he better be the main hero. I once read a book about a the entire book, waiting for the dragon to appear...only to discover that the title was one of those weird dead poet references. There was no dragon! The manager at the bookstore tried to argue with me when I asked for my money back, but seven bucks for a story with no dragon in it--nope, I wasn't going for it. Eventually, she reluctantly forked over my money. I probably would have kept the book, crummy though it was, if the author had at least conjured up one measly dragon to cover the title.

I think I read somewhere that some publishers don't let the author choose the title. I don't think I could do that. Covers I can deal with the publisher deciding on. But a title? No, I think I would have a difficult time coping with that. A title is kind of personal. It says something about the person that wrote the book. While doing research, I once worked with a set of books titled "The History of the Descendents of Edward Bosworth who came to America in 1632". Well. At least you know what that book is about. And I can hazard a guess or two about the author. Can't you?


Drop by Amarinda's blog to check out the latest on the Blogga Saga at and then pop over to Kelly's blog at for her latest entry.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Guest Reviewer--Tammie King from Night Owl Romance

Today my guest is Tammie King from Night Owl Romance. She's here to talk to us about the review process on her site. Tammie, thank you so much for taking time from your busy schedule to answer my questions!

1)New authors are frequently very confused about the reviewing process. Could you briefly tell us how a book is chosen for review?

At Night Owl Romance reviewers choose their own books. Lists of available books are provided for them to browse and they can also choose books from different ebook sites and watch coming soon lists. We also take requests direct from authors and those requests are sent to the reviewers. If one of them wants to review the book they let me know and I get the book from the author.

2)All right, the book is reviewed. What does the rating system really mean? And how can I tell the difference between a 2 and a 4?

We at Night Owl Romance have a 1-5 scale. A 5 is a keeper that will be read over and over again. A 2 is a book that just seems to be lacking something.

3)Now what happens? Is the author notified personally or is the review just posted on your website?

If an author requests the review then they are notified. Most of the books we review are direct from the publisher, so we notify the publisher when the review has been completed. Because the review process is time consuming we are not able to notify every author and publisher for every review. All of the reviewers donate their time.

4)How does one apply to be a reviewer? What are the reviewer's qualifications for your site?

We have an on-line sign-up form that I provide when reviewer positions are open. I just hired four new reviewers, so we are closed for now. We require new reviewers to provide a sample review and for them to do at least 3-5 reviews per month. Most of the reviewers do more than 5 per month.

5)When I visited Night Owl Romances, I noticed there were various book covers, book flicks and featured authors. How does one get to be a featured author? And how can I get my cover posted on your site?

To pay for the postage and other up keep on the site we charge for advertising. To get a book cover listed it's $12 a month, while Book Flicks are $30-$50 a month and featured author boxes are around $30 a month. We also have some free advertising opportunities. Authors can be interviewed for free and also post on our message board. Our author directory is also a free service.

6)If a new author came to you for advice about promoting her book on your site, what advice would you give her?

I normally offer new authors the chance to chat on our debut chat day and the opportunity to advertise their book via a book cover ad or specialty ad box. Both are great ways to get their book known by readers. We used to do a debut author package, but because of time we have had to cut that advertising opportunity.

7)Is there anything else you would like to tell us about your site?

Our goal at Night Owl Romance is to have readers and authors find each other. We love to hear that a reader has found a new author to love. NOR is a work of love that we give to authors and readers and we hope that readers and authors can find a way to hook up. We also have a monthly magazine that displays some of our reviews and has a hunk of the month interview. You can get the magazine by registering for our message board.

Tammie King
Night Owl Romance

Again, Thank You, Tammie!

You can make a new friend but you can't make an old one.--Tom Bodett

Need a lift? Stop by Amarinda's blog at for the latest in life or pop over to Kelly's blog at for the newest episode of the Blogga Saga.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

World Building in the Modern Age

Isn't this a handsome fellow or lady frog? It's an Australian red crowned frog and it's just been put on the endangered species list. Not much water over there at the moment. Seems that frogs need water to live in. Unless we get our collective act together, this froggie will join a whole host of other species that are dying out through loss of habitat.

I'm about a third of the way through my new work in progress. It's set on the planet Elyria. And the setting is more or less contemporary. By that I mean that is isn't high-tech futuristic sci-fi. Nor is it a medieval peasant state or a primitive culture. Having said all of that, how do you make it different without making it a copy of Earth?

If we colonized an Earth-like planet with humans, what would we change? And what would remain the same? How long would it take for there to be a distinctive Elyrian culture? How much would we use what we've learned about caring for the planet? Those are the questions I'm struggling with...not because I am trying to make a point about how our planet is dying--but because surely we would want to change a few things if we were starting over? So what would we change and how would that affect societal norms?

For instance, would there be wholesale recycling? Water restrictions like our country is facing in the south east? Would we have learned anything about a sustainable existence or within fifty years would we be back to the same-old, same-old?

Ah well. That's to deal with another day. Today, it's my turn at the Saga. Here's where Amarinda left off...

One of the sheathed men approached them. “Your majesty, the prophets said you would return. We are overwhelmed and wish to share our riches with you.”

Emmeline smiled. “Well, here I am.” This was more like it.

“I think they’re looking at me, Em.” Zoltan smiled at the little man.

“I am way more majestic then you, magic man.” She pushed Zoltan aside.

The crowd of naked villages gasped in horror. “Do you want her dead, your Majesty?”

“Hmmm...” Zoltan murmured thoughtfully as he looked at his estranged wife.

And I will now take up the story...

“Zoltan, who are these people?” Emmeline demanded impatiently.

“Em, dear, these are the Ee-Seas, my loyal subjects.” Zoltan smiled down at the short villagers. “Let me get back to you about that. It will all depend on whether Emmeline and I can come to an agreement about her unwomanly behavior.”

The head villager nodded his head solemnly. “Yes, sire. I can see that you have much work to do. Her clothes are the wrong time period and a woman should never have access to a peeler. The next thing you know, she’ll be insisting on having babies. You must do something at once or we’ll be forced to banish her to the valley of blue people. There will be no other course of action…or we could just kill her off. The unconventional people are very hard to manage,” he pointed out wisely. “Sometimes they are even beyond the powers of the Frog Queen.”

Zoltan motioned for Emmeline to hand the peeler to him. “Give me the peeler, Em. The headman is correct. I should have taken you in hand a long time ago.”

She stared at him incredulously. “Are you insane? Have you lost your tiny mind? A warrior never gives up her peeler!”

“So that’s you’re final word, Emmeline?”

“That’s my final word.” She stared haughtily down her beaky nose at him.
With a deep sigh, he whipped the purple box from beneath his robes and shouted, “Chrysanthemum” as he jerked the lid off. In a poof of purple smoke Emmeline disappeared as the smoke filtered back into the box.


Don't forget to check in with the Kelly blog at and the Amarinda blog at and then have a nice day!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Last Man Standing by Janet Davies from Cerridwen Press

I seldom get too excited by the men on our covers. They're attractive, but -- they're men. Young and cookie cutter pretty. The young man that posed for the cover for Last Man Standing isn't pretty. He's attractive, masculine, and perfect for the character of Alex, the hero of Last Man Standing.

The book is the sequel to Swift of Heart which I reviewed a while back. While strictly speaking you could read this book as a stand alone because Janet did such an excellent job of providing backstory for the book, I'm one of those people who insist on reading books in sequence. And that's my personal recommendation.

Swift of Heart is the story of Mackinley Swift, a warrior from another dimension, and Stephanie Hart, regular girl about town from Brisbane. Alex Navarro is Mac's best friend. And the heroine of Last Man Standing is Stephanie's sister, Amy Hart. Cozy arrangement there. No problems with the inlaws this way, right?

Alex arrives from his home dimension to warn Amy that she's in danger. She doesn't take the news very well. She handles the sudden attraction between them with even less enthusiasm. But Alex is not put off by her prickly attitude. Inevitably, they become lovers, fall in love and Alex panics because....there is a prophecy.

It's been my experience that if at all possible, men will choose the worst interpretation of the future. I believe it's in their genes. Alex automatically decides that he will endanger Amy if he stays with her so after repudiating her, he returns home.

Fast forward a few months..."I am not the father." Surprise!

Does Alex ever acknowledge parentage? Do they catch the bad guys? Do Amy and Alex get together in the end? Or does she keep insisting that she won't have him even if he's the Last Man Standing? Quick, go directly to Cerridwen Press and grab your copy of the delightful story Last Man Standing by Janet Davies.


Check out Amarinda's blog tomorrow to catch the new twist on the Saga at and then drop by and leave an encouraging word at Kelly's blog at because there are always days that will be made better by an encouraging word.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Two Guest Authors! Ruby Duvall and Marianne Stephens!

Some times you have an embarrassment of riches. Today I have not one author and review, but two. And thanks to Kelly and Amarinda's assistance, I even have covers from their books on the blog! Since there is so much to cover, I think I'll leap right into the interviews so that you can get to know my two guests. They are fascinating women.

Ruby Duvall

1. If you could start over with your writing career, what if anythingwould you change? My writing career only started about a year ago, but I do wish that Ihad more practice under my belt, such as that which comes with a degree in English, for example. So far, I think it's going prettywell, considering how new I am to writing and publishing.

2. What was the best piece of advice you received regarding the lifeof a writer? It's a strange answer, but when I was younger and first getting apenchant for writing, I saw a scene from Sister Act 2 that reallyinspired me. Whoopi Goldberg was talking to one of her students and basically said this, "If, when you wake up in the morning, the first thing you think about is writing, then you're a writer." I really took that to heart and found that when I decided to sit down and complete my first story, I would constantly think about the plot, the characters, and things that worked or didn't work, even if I wasn't sitting at the keyboard.They say that the best job is one you feel passionate about. A writer takes a lot of inspiration from the things around her and never really stops thinking about the stories she wants to tell. That kind of motivation (AKA obsession) is what makes being a writer easier. Ifyou've got that motivation, you've won half the battle.

3. If you could meet anyone, living or dead, who would it be? I'd love to meet J.R. Ward. I have a strange mix of feelings about her, such as jealousy for how well she writes and fan girlish glee when I think of reading her next book. All in all, I get butterflies in my tummy thinking about talking to her someday and getting an autograph. Hopefully, my dream will come true when I attend RT 2008.

4. If you could meet any fictional character, who would it be? I found this question most difficult to answer. Like any other reader of romance, I could name any number of heroes with whom I've had infatuations, and like other readers, the infatuation fades (somewhat) once the book is over and another one opens. Like an old crush, you remember these characters fondly but would rather leave them to their happily-ever-after. However, there are a few charismatic characters I would love to meet that are not (yet) attached. #1 on that list would be Sherrilyn Kenyon's Acheron from her Dark-Hunter series. Who wouldn't want tomeet a sexy Atlantean god? I'd only hope that he wouldn't curse me forbeing a fangirl.

5. What do you want to be when you grow up? Probably like any other budding author who has to work a day job to pay the bills, I'd like to be full-time author of fiction someday. Iwant to write down all the stories crammed in my head and leave behind something memorable and enjoyable.

6. In the next century, what do you hope people will remember you for? I'd like people to remember the characters I've created. I would like these characters to be like real people in the minds of readers, with rounded, fully fleshed out personalities that leave a lasting impression.

Caught in the Devil's Hand by Ruby Duvall from Ellora's Cave

Have you ever read something someone recommended and discovered an unexpected treasure? Ruby as written just such a treasure. With a culture based on sixteenth century Japan and a fascinating mythology, Caught in the Devil's Hand captured me from the first pages and kept me glued to my seat through lunch and the rest of the afternoon.

It's an age where personal status is based on hair color...blonds at the top strata and those with black hair at the bottom. Shumei, a blackie is one of the poorest of the poor. In the midst of a strange plague, she journeys to the medicine fields to gather more herbs to save her young brother. While there, she is captured by the sex demon, Vallen. In return for her surrender, he promises to release her so that she can return to her village with the precious herbs.

The spiraling relationship between Vallen and Shumei is both dangerous and ensnaring, but eventually leads to redemption and their destinies. This was a sensual love story with a well-thought out, interesting cast of characters. I look forward to the next in this series...surely Ruby won't leave me in suspense! If you want a wonderful read, then go at once to Ellora's Cave and get your own copy of Caught in the Devil's Hand by Ruby Duvall.

Marianne Stephens

1) If you could start over with your writing career, what if anything would you change?I'd start earlier! I waited until my kids were teenagers and driving me nuts (all four were teenagers at the same time for a three-year period!) before I started writing as a sanity escape. I should have started when they were younger...who needed sleep then, anyway? As it was, I got less sleep the older they got!

2) What was the best piece of advice you received regarding the life of a writer?Don't change your voice to suit anyone. You'll find a publisher/editor who likes your voice. An editor at one of the "big" NY publishing companies wrote that there were "issues with my voice". I now realize that this particular house will never take anything of mine. Why should I change something that characterizes who I am?

3) If you could meet anyone, living or dead, who would it be?I know this will sound weird, but I'd like to meet Nostradamus. His predictions have been argued over many times, and I'd like to understand what was behind his statements. Of course, he'd have to speak English so we could communicate!

4) If you could meet any fictional character, who would it be?Jessica Fletcher from "Murder, She Wrote". Her uncanny knack of being in the middle of murders and solving them interests me.

5) What do you want to be when you grow up?I always said I wanted to teach, and did so. Then I decided I wanted to write romance books, and am doing so. Now I want to be a world traveler and visit places I've never been to.

6) In the next century, what do you hope people will remember you for?Joining the inspired force behind bringing new technology to everyone's attention...namely the onset on e-books. I want future generation to look back and say, "She was insightful enough to realize e-books would be the wave of the future." Of course, I'd like them to LOVE my books, too!

Second Sight Dating by Marianne Stephens from Cerridwen Press

This weekly review process has been a most interesting voyage of discovery for me. Marianne's book was a delightful surprise. In this comedy of errors, Serena the owner of Second Sight Dating and Dan, an undercover copy investigating her dating agency, work at cross purposes with quite humorous results.

Every action can be viewed from more than one viewpoint. Toss in a highly protective cop brother, a screwball cast of clients, and an insistent police captain and you have a recipe for laughter and disaster.

Fighting their attraction all the way, Dan and Serena find love in the most unlikely places. When all the secrets are revealed and they finally surrender to the inevitable, both of them discover that truth and trust are possible with love. If you want a love story that will make you grin while satisfying your craving for a happily ever after, then trot on out to Cerridwen Press and buy a copy of Second Sight Dating by Marianne Stephens.
Kelly has the Blogga Saga today. Check it out at and then trot over to Amarinda's blog at to see what she's up to. Tomorrow I review Amarinda's Last Man Standing from Cerridwen Press.

The Research Road

Any writer worth her or his salt will do research. You might think that there really isn't much to research in a world we're all familiar with, but you might also be wrong. What would you do in the name of research? How far would you go?

I've done all sorts of things from the Great Acorn Hunt to a brief exhilerating ride in a two-seater ultralight plane. Wheeee! Now that was a rush. I've researched planes--kicked a few tires and watched them fuel them, helped to roof a house (and replace the siding on the same house) in the winter, changed a toilet, replaced a muffler in an ice storm, and rode along with a student driver for a tractor-trailer lesson. I've played a hammered dulcimer and a bowed psaltery and a lap harp and a harmonica. Did I say I played well? No, but the experience of holding the odd hammers in my hands and striking the vibrating strings while they hummed under my hands is one I won't forget.

Some facts can be easily checked over the internet. Others can really only be experienced by doing. Actually changing a tire in the rain is very different from reading about it. Only by doing it "for real" do you find out how slippery the rubber tire and jack get when wet. Until you've tried to loosen lug nuts while dressed in heels and stockings, you don't really have a decent perspective on the difficulties.

Actual experience cannot be beat for that ring of authenticity in your writing. I lived through the turbulent sixties. I have a video tape with the "highlights" of the sixties. When I sat down to watch it with my kids it was hard to articulate just how paltry the tape was compared to the real deal. There was little comprehension when we talked about the events on the tape. It was as remote to them as if I was talking about the Medieval Ages.

Walking through the wilderness is different from reading about it. Living survival is a much more terrifying experience than most people can imagine. Standing on a mountain top you've climbed with that first rush of accomplishment zinging through you is exhilerating in ways that are difficult to explain. Encountering your first rattlesnake or scorpion or gila monster releases all those childhood memories of the boogy man in the dark. Tumbling out of control down a raging river marks you forever with the respect for out of control flash floods.

Some of my research was involuntary--to say the least--but if I refuse to share my past experiences then I have failed. Do I need to go to the moon to write about it? No, but I can use my experiences with unexpected accomplishments to convey how I would feel it I reached the moon.

I embarked on a time-travel novel set in 500 BC America. It has been a worthy experiment for me. Almost every page has required me to step back and look at the story line. Nothing is simple. How to purify water? How to build a shelter? How to harvest food in the wild? How to defend against hostile animals and people?

Even a contemporary setting has a stage set. Where does the action take place? What kind of building? What kind of car? In a shopping mall? All of those require fact checking. I once critiqued a story for a friend several years ago. She set the story in a city in the south. And in one sequence she had her characters shopping at a grocery story that is popular in the northeast. That chain has no stores in the south. When I pointed out this error she declared that I was too picky... that no one would notice. Well, I suspect that readers from the south would notice pretty quickly!

The next time you read a book, notice the details. Because none of them were free.


Don't forget to stop by Amarinda's blog at to check out the covers and excerpts she has posted. And thn pop over to Kelly's blog at for her Sunday Quote.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Pansy the Tooth Faery

Amarinda, Kelly, and I have had such fun with our Blogga Saga. I hope you as the readers have enjoyed it too. Here is where Amarinda left us yesterday:

“None of you are…phut…leaving.” PJ drew out her machete.

Zoltan laughed. “Such a crude weapon will not stop me. Stand in my way and I will kill you.”

“No you won’t.” PJ smiled knowingly. “Don’t you recognize me Zoltan?” She lifted her shirt and exposed her stomach.

“Oh my…phut… god! It can’t be true!” Zoltan’s eyes widened in shock.

You see? What's poor Anny to do? Well...

Dragging Emmeline with him, Zoltan staggered away from PJ while he feverishly searched his brain for a plan—any plan—to escape her wicked machete. As he was male, he couldn’t use Emmeline’s peeler and anyway, Em wouldn’t be inclined to us the peeler on another woman unless… yes! If she thought PJ was a former lover of his that would surely do it.

If anyone found out the truth, he would be exiled on that crazy planet Avalon with all the weirdoes. No, he didn’t think he could handle the dragons and faeries and those bizarre Knights of the Round Dungeon. No one must ever know who PJ really was. No one.

“Pansy, darling. What are you doing here? I thought you were on that quaint little planet Avalon.”

“Pansy? Darling?” Emmeline straightened up to her full seven foot height and stared down at Zoltan. “Who is that woman?”

“Nobody, sweetheart. We had a brief affair while you were away playing footsie with Rafe and Shade, but it’s over now.” He paused for effect. “Really.”

“What’s on her stomach?” Emmeline scowled as she considered the merits of using her peeler.

Zoltan frowned. “Nothing important. It’s just a tattoo.”

“A tattoo.” Emmeline repeated the words thoughtfully. “A tattoo that’s scary enough for you to drag me physically across the room.” She yanked her arm free and stalked toward PJ. “I think I want to see this unimportant tattoo.”

“NO!” Zoltan shouted. “Don’t do it!”

“Emmeline ripped the shirt up to reveal a giant white tooth, glittering with fairy dust. She staggered back in dismay. What had she done?

Must I confess? Well, we do have fun slipping references to our homes, books, and even friends into the Saga. I thought perhaps you would like to meet Pansy. She's a character in my third Flowers of Camelot book, Daffodil. I'm so excited because I just received a contract offer for Daffodil from Ellora's Cave. So here's a little snippet of Daffodil wherein we meet Pansy for the first time.

Bright moonlight poured through the high narrow window, illuminating the small room where a little golden haired child soundly slept. A dull thunk heralded the less than graceful arrival of Pansy, the tooth faery as she landed on the window sill by the skin of her toes. Teetering wildly, she grabbed for the rotting window frame which promptly disintegrated, leaving her with a handful of rotten wood splinters.

Plunging two stories down, she landed in a large lilac bush. Muttered curses filled the air as she extricated herself from the prickly bush and stomped across the weedy yard. When she was far enough from the building to have a clear vantage point, she turned and sourly surveyed the high window above the lilac bush. She brushed straggles of pale pink hair back from her dark purple eyes and frowned in deep thought. No doubt about it. She was going to have to land just right. Or…

She could just blink in. Blinking was forbidden. She knew that, but some rules were made to be broken! And this seemed to be the perfect time to break the commandment against blinking into strange rooms. Surely there couldn’t be that many obstacles in the small space she’d glimpsed before falling from the ledge. With a faint shrug, she closed her eyes and blinked into the small bedroom.

And promptly fell over a doll cradle, landing with a resounding thud.

Holding her breath, she froze while she waited to see who would rush through the door in response to the noise. After long endless moments, when no one appeared, she slowly climbed to her feet and straightened her tattered pink dress before planting her hands on her hips and staring around the tiny room. What a dump! It was barely bigger than a closet. The child’s belongings were arranged with painful neatness with everything in its place, but that still left minimal free space in the room.

She slowly shook her head. For such a big house, it was a rotten shame that the little girl should be stuck in this broom closet of a room. Moving with cautious care on silent dusty bare feet, Pansy approached the bed. If the kid put her tooth where she was supposed to, Pansy could swap it for a coin and be out of here in seconds.

She slipped her hand beneath the lumpy pillow and felt around. Nothing. Pansy withdrew her hand and straightened up, pondering for a moment before tiptoeing around the narrow bed. She knelt down and slithered her hand beneath the pillow from this side. Nothing. She slid her hand back out and tapped her chin with impatient fingers. Where the heck did the kid put her tooth?

“Who are you?” a little piping voice inquired softly.

Pansy realized that the kid was watching her with a curiously calm gaze. The faery thought if she had awakened with some stranger feeling around under her pillow she would have been screaming blue gummy murder. What kind of kid just asked you who you were? “I’m the tooth faery,” she explained quietly. “Where’s your tooth, kid?”

“I’m not a baby goat,” the little one pointed out precisely. “My name is Daffodil and I’m a girl.”

“Good enough. Daffodil. So where’s your tooth, Daffodil?”

“Mama gave it to the witch woman.” Daffodil’s expression was too old and wise for her age, thought Pansy. Far too old.

“What witch woman?” Pansy asked calmly though her stomach was suddenly leaping about with trepidation. “Do you know her name?”

“Of, course.” Daffodil sat up in the bed and scowled at Pansy. “Her name’s Morgana. She’s the most famous witch in Avalon.”

The faery, intrigued against her will, perched on the side of the rumpled bed and pursed her lips in thought. “Did your mama say why she gave your tooth to Morgana?”

Daffodil’s springy curls bounced wildly when she shook her head. “No. But my sister, Chrysanthemum said that it was a very bad thing that Mama did. And Honeysuckle, my other sister said that she will get it back from Morgana.”

“Oh, yeah? How’s she gonna do that?” Pansy asked curiously while she absently pleated the soft filmy fabric of her skirt.

“Honeysuckle said she’s going to sneak into Morgana’s house and steal it back. She said that Mama would have to buy her love charm some other way. Anyway, a love charm won’t bring Papa back.” Daffodil’s grave explanation told Pansy more than she really wanted to know about the little girl’s mother. In effect, Daffodil’s mama had sold her to the witch for a love charm. As long as Morgana had the child’s tooth, she could control her actions.

Pansy pondered for a few moments. “Well, your sister is correct. We need to retrieve your tooth from Morgana, but I don’t think Honeysuckle’s quite old enough to battle a witch.”

“But she’s a very good spy,” Daffodil offered soberly. “She never gets caught and she knows everything that’s going on in the manor. She even saw Michael the blacksmith’s thing.”

“His thing?” The faery stared at her in confusion. “What thing?”

“You know. His thing. He sticks it inside of Mildred the cook.”

Pansy’s eyes widened abruptly and she sat straight up. “All righty, then. Moving right along now… I’ll go to Morgana’s place and see if I can find your tooth. You go back to sleep.”

“What about Honeysuckle?”

“Don’t you worry about your sister. I have a notion that she can take care of herself. I’ll try to find a way to let her know that I’m on the job.” Pansy climbed down from the bed and straightened the covers up over Daffodil’s shoulder. “Go to sleep.”

“May I ask you something?”

“Sure. Whatcha wanna know?”

“Where’s your wings? Don’t faeries have wings?” Daffodil demanded with a yawn.

“Some do, some don’t. I don’t. Now go to sleep, Daffy.”

“Don’t call me Daffy. My name is Daffodil.” Even on the verge of sleep, her high little voice was firm.

Pansy gently patted her shoulder. “All right. Daffodil. Go to sleep now. I’ll take care of your tooth. Don’t you worry.”

“Okay.” Obediently, Daffodil closed her eyes. “Don’t fall out the window this time.”


Don't forget to drop by Amarinda's and Kelly's blogs at and and if you'd like more interesting reading, stop by some of the blogs on my friends list.