Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas is Here! Hallelujah!

Christmas is here! Christmas is here! Once it started, I haven't stopped moving. I can't believe its been a week since I posted, and I don't have time to post again today...my son is home from school, and I have too much going on. We had a wonderful, blessed Christmas, and good things just keep happening. Now I can send my cards out, so that's on the menu for today. I did want to post this on Christmas Day, but time got away from me, so here goes!



Sunday, December 12, 2010

Advent Reflection Continues

Advent is concerned with that very connection between memory and hope which is so necessary to man. Advent's intention is to awaken the most profound and basic emotional memory within us, namely, the memory of the God who became a child. This is a healing memory; it brings hope. The purpose of the Church's year is continually to rehearse her great history of memories, to awaken the heart's memory so that it can discern the star of hope.

It is the beautiful task of Advent to awaken in all of us memories of goodness and thus to open doors of hope. ~Pope Benedict XVI, written when he was still a Cardinal, in Seek That Which is Above, 1986

Taking the day to read and reflect. Advent blessings to you all.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Guest Author, Stephanie Burkhart


Today's guest is Stephanie Burkhart, multi-talented and prolific author of too many genres to count! She also blogs like the wind, and is everywhere. But to catch her at home, stop by her blog, Romance Under the Moonlight, where she writes about whatever strikes her fancy. I myself was fascinated by her informational series of blogs on The Tudor Dynasty.
Last, but not least, Steph reviews books for EzineArticles.com. How she finds time to read and review books, in addition to writing so many--she has six coming out next year--just boggles my mind. She also has an adorable family that keeps her quite busy when she's not at work.
Steph has been here before, as a romance author and children's book author. Today she'd like to tell us a little about her Christmas novella from Victory Tales Press. Welcome back, Steph!
I'd like to thank Liana for having me on the blog and allowing me to visit today. Just a little about me: I was born and raised in Manchester, NH. When I was 18, this New England Patriot fan joined the US Army for a great adventure and spent 7 years overseas in Germany. I met a fair-haired California boy and we were married in Denmark in 1991. Little odd fact: I was stationed in Muenster, Germany in 1987 when Pope John Paul II visited that city.. Now, the adventure over, I work for LAPD as a 911 Operator.

My short story, "Christmas in Bayeux," is included in A Christmas Collection, Stimulating by Victory Tales Press. I'd heard only good things about VTP and they were looking for stories for their Christmas anthologies. I sent Becky an email – can you have me? Becky said 'sure,' and I was on board to write a story.

Now I had to decide what type of story I wanted to write. I hadn't written a contemporary for quite some time. I'm a big fan of Mona Risk's international contemporaries so I said to myself, I'd like to write international contemporaries and with my experiences I felt confident enough to do so.

Manchester, NH is the second largest French speaking city in the US and I took 3 years high school French. I love the language and in my studies, I grew to love the nation. France was the perfect setting for my story. I've been to Paris several times. I also visited Lembach, France in 1988 and that experience has been with me throughout the years. My experiences in Lembach made their way into the story.

Lembach is a small town in the Alsace-Lorraine region of France just over the German/French border. I was dispatched along with a fellow soldier, Private East to pick up a squad of soldiers in Pirmasens, Germany. East and I took a detour and ended up in Lembach.

Needless to say, we were an odd sight, walking around the town in our US Army military uniforms. The locals stared at us – hard. As we walked around the small town square an older man approached us. He spoke no English. I had my "French for Travelers" guide and my pronunciation was decent so I engaged him. He enthusiastically shook our hands. "Américains?" "Oui," I answered. He proceeded to thank East and I not only for our service, but also for the service of our grandfathers who liberated France from Germany.

It was a moving experience that humbled both of us.

It was lunchtime and East and I went to the local café for lunch. With my trusty "French for Travelers," I ordered our food – salad and sandwiches. We were quite the attraction in the café. Patrons stared at us. In fact, several of them approached us while we ate and thanked us. Before we left, the manager came to us. He told us our meal was free.

East and I wouldn't have it. We had francs for the occasion. Between the manager's English and my French, I learned the residents of the town loved Americans. In World War II, we had indeed liberated them from Germany's occupation. We were still heroes to them – 40 years later.

East and I were truly humbled by how the town embraced us. As we made our way back to our military van, we thanked God for this rare opportunity to visit France.

This experience found it's way into my story. Enjoy the excerpt:

She pushed two wooden double doors open and they walked into a wide open-spaced entrance hall. "Is this a museum?"
"Oui. It houses our best known prize – the Bayeux Tapestry."
"What is that?" His voice was laced in curiosity.
"Dix Euros," said the clerk. He was in his mid-thirties and wore a blue uniform.
Aiden put his hand over Noel's hand as she reached for her purse. "I'll get it."
"Vous êtes Américain?"
"Oui," said Aiden.
The clerk held out his hand. Aiden slowly took it, surprised by the gesture. What was he doing?
"Américains we like. World War II, yes? Merci – thank you," the clerk said in halting English.
Aiden was stunned. Noel said this occurred, but he didn't think it would happen to him.
"De Rein. Thank you, sir."
"Non, Monsieur, merci. Keep your money."
"Oh, I insist."
"Oui, thank you, merci."
Noel smiled at the clerk, thread her arm through Aiden's, and they walked into the museum. There were a few people milling about in the halls, but it wasn't as busy as he thought it would be. Maybe everyone was at the Christmas markets.
He paused before they got far. "You said—"
She gave him an easy smile. "You handled that well."
BLURB: Aiden Seward is an Iraq war vet who has gone to the Beaches of Normandy to heal his wounded heart. Noel Rousseau was the girl he knew as an exchange student years ago. Can Noel help heal the ache in Aiden's heart?

Buy Links:

Amazon: (print) http://www.amazon.com/Christmas-Collection-Anthology-Stimulating/dp/1456304410/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1289273692&sr=8-1

Ebook, Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/29148

Create Space, Print book: https://www.createspace.com/3494425

Victory Tales Press: http://victorytalespress.yolasite.com/online-store.php

Check out the Story Teaser on You Tube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-muZ0dhOvSE

Goodie Time: Leave me a post and I'll pick out two winners to receive an autographed postcard of the cover. Tell me your favorite Christmas story and I'll pick a winner to receive a print copy of the Anthology. I'll come back on 02 DEC to pick the winners.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

I Am Thankful For...

A friend's granddaughter's preschool class shares what they are thankful for this year...

"I am thankful for..."

"...family and hot dogs." -Nicholas
"...my sister Gracie and candy." - Tucker
"...my family" - Wesley
"...friends." - Jed
"...family and Thanksgiving." - Isaac
"...food." -Veronica
"...butterflies, animals and family." -Lilliana
"...my mom, my dad, my sister, my brother, and food." - Daniel
"...horses and flowers." -Adrianna
"...ice cream, mommy, daddy, and my doggie." - Trevor
"...playing outside." -Michael
"...fruit." - Rory
"...for my family." - Liam

Still limping along with the crud, here, but thankful to be getting better :).

Happy Thanksgiving, all!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

On Hiatus

Still sick with the crud, but a friend sent me a wonderful quote to share. Thank you, Angela!

"Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think." ~ Christopher Robin to Pooh

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Confessions of a Multi-Genre Author


Today's guest is Cindy K. Greene, fellow Bookspa friend and Wild Rose Press author. With a talent for writing that can't be contained by any one publisher, Cindy has books, novellas, and short stories available from four publishing houses, and across at least as many genres, with more planned. Please welcome Cindy today as she tells us how she keeps it all straight!

Confessions of a Multi-Genre Author

I spent a good deal of time contemplating what I should say to Liana’s readers ever since we scheduled my blog date. And it never fails that my greatest inspirations hit me in the shower. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to invent something for writers to record those bits of inspiration before the steam settles? Hopefully I’ll remember everything that went through my mind.

This of course leads me to my topic at hand—my role as a multi-genre author. When you start in this life we call the writing game, one of the first things you learn (after how to utilize proper POV, of course) is that as a published author you must brand yourself. No not like cattle—more like Frito Lay, Nestle, or Ford. That means you sell your name more than any particular book. When you pick up a Stephen King or Nora Roberts novel, you know what you’re getting before even reading the blurb. Readers need to get to know you—how you write and what you write. In the large New York publishing houses, their authors typically have to BRAND themselves and only write in but one genre. But…what about those of us who love to skip around and experiment in the genres?

EXCEPTIONS TO THE RULE

There are some big names who jump around in the genres. James Patterson is known for his mystery/suspense/thrillers. But wait a minute, he’s also penned some award-winning young adult titles and even a series of romances. Hmm. Meg Cabot also comes to mind. She writes for the young adult, the middle grade kids and contemporary romance for adults. She even has a couple historicals under her belt. And let’s not forget her new vampire novel; although, I hear some people would like to forget it.

When I’m asked: ‘What do you write? What’s your genre?’ I seriously have to make out a list. And I make no excuses for it. I love skipping from genre to genre, stretching my writer’s legs or fingers—or to be more precise my imagination and my writer’s niche. It keeps the writing fresh and exciting. I finally branded myself in a general sense with ‘Bringing Sweet Romance to the Heart.’ My subgenres include: Inspirational, Young Adult, American Victorian Historical, Western Historical, Mainstream Contemporary, and Romantic Suspense. I’ve even written a high fantasy. I told you it was a lot.

So, I’ve been asked, ‘how do you write in all those genres? I feel like I’d get confused.’ Well, here’s my confession—it’s very easy to get confused. If you write in several genres you have to go through steps to bring it all together. Let me take you through an example.

I recently started working on my latest YA story, Sold My Soul to a Frog. In doing so, I had to purge from my mind the voice and tone of my just finished mystery. I was now an almost eighteen-year-old girl full of insecurities while watching my life spin upside down. So, first step, I have to read some YA books. Meg Cabot is my favorite (yes, I know I already mentioned her). I also enjoy Polly Shulman although she’s only written two books for the YA. I listen to music that’s for the young or young at heart. And then I watch lots of teen movies. Basically, I get into the mindset of the American teen. I do the same thing for whatever genre I’m writing. It’s like I am priming myself to write. You see there is a tone, a set a verbiage that is necessary to each sub-genre. I have to get myself into that place before I start writing. Now if you only write one genre that isn’t really a problem. No matter what you are reading or watching it won’t affect your writing. You’ve trained yourself how to write your genre. But when you write several genres, you have to equip yourself to write many different ways and your muse needs a reminder as to what hat to put on today.

Okay, now I’ve confessed. Now let me offer you readers a prize. First I’m running a great Christmas contest on my blog. All you have to do is watch the book trailer for my holiday romance, All I Want for Christmas, and send me an email. And if anyone is interested in getting a free read today, send me an email at cindy@cindykgreen.com. Put FREE READ in the subject and let me know if you want the humorous contemporary, My Grand Epiphany or the historical western, Second Chances.

Here is a little piece from my best friend’s romance, All I Want for Christmas. Read another excerpt on my website.

Blurb: Best Friends or True Love? Only Santa Knows.

Kathryn Graham hates Christmas. She hates the snow, the decorations, the whole nine yards. Nick Pringle on the other hand can’t get enough of the season. He may be her best friend and fellow writer at Redburn Weekly Magazine, but sometimes his exuberance gets on her very last nerve. Now they’ve been assigned to cover the orphan toy drive story. It’s just a puff piece not the serious journalism Kathryn hopes for, but maybe—as Nick says—there are no old stories just new angles. Nick Pringle has been in love with Kathryn practically since the day they met. When he realizes that she’s lost her Christmas spirit, he figures he’s just the guy to help her find it again. He enacts a plan to send her anonymous gifts from Secret Santa, but will any of this really make a difference in her? Will she ever see him as anything more than her smart-aleck partner even after their passionate kisses? Then again maybe he’ll get what he wants for Christmas after all.

Excerpt: (Kat and Nick having a platonic afternoon at the movies.)

Halfway through the film, Nick’s fingers brushed over Kathryn’s wrist and a surge whipped through her like an electrical charge. His hand ended up on her knee, and he leaned over close to her ear. “You have any more of those Milkduds?”

“Huh?” Oh, candy. He just wanted more snacks. Well, of course, what other reason would he have for touching her like that?

“Here,” she whispered and held out the container to him. His face remained close to hers, his warm hand still molded to the shape of her knee. She accidentally moved in too close and her forehead bumped his cheek. Looking up at him, Kathryn saw he wasn’t smiling. His eyes had grown serious and all thoughts of candy dissipated. His attention dropped to her mouth and suddenly Kathryn couldn’t swallow. Could he possibly be considering kissing her? Just then, he turned his attention back to the movie and lifted his hand from her knee.

An unexplainable inclination took over as Kathryn pushed his hand back to her knee. His face whipped back to her. Questions filled his features. His chest moved up and then down. He smoothed his hand over her pants from her knee to her thigh and back again. Her skin pebbled under the material at his touch. This was soon followed by heat tingling from her stomach to the tips of her toes.

She leaned in towards him and he met her halfway. And just like that their lips met. Giddiness spun through Kathryn’s head with sparks tingling her skin. The kiss was light and sweet yet searing all at once. Lucidity began to return to her the next moment. What was she doing? Oh, right, she was kissing Nick Pringle. She was kissing a co-worker. Worse yet, she was making out with her best friend. What was she thinking? She had to stop and yet it was the last thing she wanted to do. The whole idea was ludicrous. An outrageous act and yet somehow her body’s sole response was that it wanted more. Whoa! Had it been that long since she’d had a date? Time to reign in those annoying hormones which threatened to take over her sanity.

She broke off the kiss and rested her hand against his chest. She could feel his heart speeding at the rate of a train. A train wreck is more like it. Ay-yi-yi! How was she going to get herself out of this one?

Available at Champagne Books, All Romance e-books and Amazon.

****
Cindy K. Green is a multi-published author with degrees in History and Education. Previously a middle school English & History teacher, she now homeschools her own children and writes in several genres: Inspirational, Contemporary, YA, Suspense and Historical romance. Find out more about Cindy and her books at http://www.cindykgreen.com/.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Maggie Toussaint Talks About Muddy Waters





Today's guest is mystery and romance author Maggie Toussaint, inveterate kayaker and author of the recently released romantic suspense novel, Muddy Waters. I had the pleasure of meeting Maggie on the Cruise with Your Muse conference cruise last year, and we had a delightful visit at a conference cocktail party in a dark, dungeon-like bar, one of many themed bars on the ship, with lots of black lights and gothic sculptures lurking in the corners. I apologize in advance for not being tech savvy enough to post all the wonderful pictures Maggie provided, so I'll post them over on the sidebar for today--complete with captions :). But here in the post proper, we have the book cover for Muddy Waters, and the photo that inspired the story, and then Maggie herself. Welcome, Maggie!

Predators lurk in the moss-edged shadows of the deep South. Hungry gator eyes rise above the muddy water’s surface, biding their time, watching for hapless prey. Water moccasins and rattlesnakes favor the wooded shoreline, lush with thick vegetation and hiding places.

And yet the natural beauty of the same setting fairly takes your breath away. Centuries old cypress trees guard the shore, wildflowers grow in unfettered abundance, exotic birds call out, sometimes mournfully, sometimes in a shrill cry like a wounded person. In the pregnant stillness will suddenly break forth the sharp rat-a-tat-tat of a woodpecker pounding into a tree for bugs.

Threaded through the plants and animals is life-giving water, from the mighty Altamaha which flows ever eastward to the Atlantic Ocean to the salty seawater which pushes inland twice a day in the diurnal tide cycle. With such changeable currents, the water bottom stirs, adding silt and sand to the water column. This opaque mirror of this water perfectly reflects the sky, the light, and the shadows, but it also conceals everything below the water’s surface.

In such a beautiful and yet dangerous place, a writer with an overactive imagination might easily embrace the “what if” line of thinking. What if a two-legged predator lurked in those dark places? What if that person had a gun? What if their target was approaching in a slow boat?
This precise what-if moment lent itself to a turning point in my latest romantic suspense release, MUDDY WATERS. In the book, the wetland setting adds to the suspense by providing that brooding sense of danger in the thick shadows, adding to that sense of someone watching you.
My heroine Roxie Whitaker traveled the world with her missionary parents but put down roots in her grandmother’s coastal town of Mossy Bog. Her passion for preserving the town’s history ignites simmering resentment. Helping out an absentee neighbor leads to an awkward situation when he finds out. Putting her stamp on the real estate business she inherits upsets Gran’s friends. And that’s where the story starts.

Sloan Harding left Mossy Bog as soon as he was able. He never wanted to return to the town where his father had been the town drunk, where he’d been one quick step ahead of the law in his bad boy days. If not for a kindly neighbor who’d encouraged him to join the Army, he would most likely be spending the rest of his life behind bars.

But a hole in the roof of his ancestral home draws him back to Mossy Bog. Awash in memories, he decides to put to rest the ghosts of his past by searching for his alleged lost inheritance. What he hadn’t counted on was a strong physical attraction to the girl next door. What he hadn’t counted on was the townspeople still seeing him through the same accusing eyes all these years later.

Here’s an abridged excerpt from MUDDY WATERS:
Sloan dipped the paddle into the shallow water of the man-made canal. The kayak glided across the smooth surface like a dream. The vaulted tree branches lent the historic canal a cathedral-like feeling.

Though the water they traversed was less than three feet deep, the ever present mud obscured the water’s clarity. Roxie rested her paddle across her lap and glanced at him over her shoulder. “When I traveled with my parents, I felt so off-balance. I would start to feel the rhythms of a place, and we’d be off to a new town. Living with Gran in Mossy Bog saved me. I missed my parents, but I found myself.”

He considered her words, testing them, trying them on for size. “Sounds like Lavinia was home, not the town.”

“That could be. But it’s more than that. Not having to move every six to twelve months gave me the chance to be me. Gran provided the stability I craved, but this place by the sea, it healed my heart. Gran’s gone now, and I could pick up stakes and move anywhere in the world, but why would I? This is my home.”

Her truth resonated deep within him.

Muddy waters. He wasn’t just crossing them, he lived in them. Gators trolled beneath the murky surface, waiting for him to display weakness.

His everyday life was far from this place, this woman. But he could adapt. A glance at his watch confirmed what he knew. As much as he wanted this idyllic moment to never end, both of them had places to be. “I hate to mention this, because I would be happy to stay here all day, but we need to head back.”

Roxie sighed. “I wish it was Monday already.”

They paddled the tandem kayak steadily through the lush setting, a gentle breeze stirring the tree leaves and airy swags of Spanish moss overhead.

Suddenly Roxie stopped paddling, glancing around.

“What?” he asked.

“Do you feel it?” she whispered. “I’m sure someone’s out here watching us.”

Adrenaline shot through him. He hurled forward in his seat, giving her a hard shove. “Get down!”

A split second later, a gunshot rang out. A bullet thwacked into the trees about head high. “Stay down,” Sloan ordered, reaching for the pistol strapped to his ankle.

“Hey! There are people over here!” Roxie yelled. “Stop shooting.”

“Roxie,” he hissed. “Stay down!”

Sloan cursed himself for letting his guard down. He quickly appraised the wooded canal. No shooter visible on the banks, but they didn’t have to be close with a rifle. His mission crystallized.
Protect Roxie.

Neutralize the shooter.

She glanced over her shoulder at his handgun, disbelief marring her face. “You’ve brought a gun? Here? Are you nuts?”

Heart hammering, he beached the craft on the soft bank and tugged her out, tucking her behind a cypress tree. “Don’t move.”

Review from Mary Gramlich, The Reading Reviewer: Great book, wonderful mystery and a red hot love story underlying it. Roxie and Sloan really mix it up in and out of the bedroom and that is what makes for a great romance. You can’t ask for more than that now can you?
Buy Muddy Waters in digital format: Kindle and Wild Rose Press
Buy Muddy waters in print: Wild Rose Press and Amazon

Maggie Toussaint
http://www.maggietoussaint.com/

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Women Died for the Right to Vote -- Exercise Yours!


Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity. ~Quoted by a male doctor who examined Alice Paul when the government wanted her to be seen as suicidal for her hunger strike in an effort to gain women the right to vote.

This comes from an article by Jone Johnson Lewis, at About.com. If you don't do anything else today, make sure you GET OUT AND VOTE!


There's an email circulating that tells of the brutal treatment in 1917 at Occoquan, Virginia, prison, of women who had picketed the White House as part of the campaign to win the vote for women. The point of the email: it took a lot of sacrifice to win the vote for women, and so women today should honor their sacrifice by taking our right to vote seriously, and actually getting to the polls. The author of the article in the email, though the emails usually omit the credit, is Connie Schultz of The Plain Dealer, Cleveland.

Is the email true? a reader asks -- or is it an urban legend? It sure sounds exaggerated -- but it's not.

Alice Paul led the more radical wing of those who were working for women's suffrage in 1917. Paul had taken part in more militant suffrage activity in England, including hunger strikes that were met with imprisonment and brutal force-feeding methods. She believed that by bringing such militant tactics to America, the public's sympathy would be turned towards those who protested for woman suffrage, and the vote for women would be won, finally, after seven decades of activism.

And so, Alice Paul, Lucy Burns, and others separated in America from the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), headed by Carrie Chapman Catt, and formed the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage (CU) which in 1917 transformed itself into the National Woman's Party (NWP).

While many of the activists in the NAWSA turned during World War I either to pacifism or to support of America's war effort, the National Woman's Party continued to focus on winning the vote for women. During wartime, they planned and carried out a campaign to picket the White House in Washington, DC. The reaction was, as in Britain, strong and swift: arrest of the picketers and their imprisonment. Some were transferred to an abandoned workhouse located at Occoquan, Virginia. There, the women staged hunger strikes, and, as in Britain, were force-fed brutally and otherwise treated violently.

I've referred to this part of woman suffrage history in other articles, notably when describing the history of the suffragist split over strategy in the last decade of activism before the vote was finally won.

Feminist Sonia Pressman Fuentes documents this history in her article on Alice Paul. She includes this re-telling of the story of Occoquan Workhouse's "Night of Terror," November 15, 1917:Under orders from W. H. Whittaker, superintendent of the Occoquan Workhouse, as many as forty guards with clubs went on a rampage, brutalizing thirty-three jailed suffragists. They beat Lucy Burns, chained her hands to the cell bars above her head, and left her there for the night. They hurled Dora Lewis into a dark cell, smashed her head against an iron bed, and knocked her out cold. Her cellmate Alice Cosu, who believed Mrs. Lewis to be dead, suffered a heart attack. According to affidavits, other women were grabbed, dragged, beaten, choked, slammed, pinched, twisted, and kicked. (source: Barbara Leaming, Katherine Hepburn (New York: Crown Publishers, 1995), 182.)

Related Resources:A firsthand account of this is in Doris Stevens' Jailed for Freedom (New York: Liveright Publishing, 1920. (Gutenberg text)

William and Mary Lavender told the story of the treatment of the pickets in American History magazine in 2003.

The movie Iron Jawed Angels focuses on this period of the woman suffrage movement.

An image of Emmeline Pankhurst, who led the militant British woman suffragists, including hunger strike tactics, which inspired Alice Paul and the National Woman's Party.

Sewall-Belmont House, home of the National Woman's Party, is now a museum which includes many archives of these events.

The Library of Congress presents some photos of women suffrage prisoners: Suffrage Prisoners
Suggested Reading




Suggested Reading




For more information on women's history, go to Jone Johnson Lewis, at About.com.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Browsing Old Cemeteries

Got this from a friend, and I though it perfect for today. Happy Halloween everyone!

Browsing Old Cemeteries

Harry Edsel Smith of Albany , New York :
Born 1903--Died 1942.
Looked up the elevator shaft to see if the
car was on the way down.
It was.
=============================
In a Thurmont, Maryland , cemetery:
Here lies an Atheist, all dressed up and no
Place to go.
=============================
On the grave of Ezekial Aikle in
East Dalhousie Cemetery, Nova Scotia :
Here lies Ezekial Aikle, Age 102. Only The
Good Die Young.
=============================
In a London , England cemetery:
Here lies Ann Mann, Who lived an old maid
But died an old Mann. Dec. 8, 1767
=============================
In a Ribbesford, England , cemetery:
Anna Wallace
The children of Israel wanted bread, And
The Lord sent them manna. Clark Wallace
Wanted a wife, And the Devil sent him Anna.
===============================
In a Ruidoso, New Mexico , cemetery:
Here lies Johnny Yeast... Pardon him
For not rising.
===============================
In a Uniontown, Pennsylvania , cemetery:
Here lies the body of Jonathan Blake.
Stepped on the gas instead of the brake.
==============================
In a Silver City , Nevada , cemetery:
Here lays The Kid.
We planted him raw.
He was quick on the trigger
But slow on the draw.
================================
A lawyer's epitaph in England :
Sir John Strange.
Here lies an honest lawyer,
And that is Strange.
=================================
John Penny's epitaph in the Wimborne,
England , cemetery:
Reader, if cash thou art in want of any,
Dig 6 feet deep and thou wilt find a Penny.
==================================
In a cemetery in Hartscombe , England :
On the 22nd of June, Jonathan Fiddle went
Out of tune.
==================================
Anna Hopewell's grave in Enosburg Falls ,
Vermont :
Here lies the body of our Anna,
Done to death by a banana.
It wasn't the fruit that laid her low,
But the skin of the thing that made her go.
==================================
On a grave from the 1880s in Nantucket ,
Massachusetts :
Under the sod and under the trees,
Lies the body of Jonathan Pease.
He is not here, there's only the pod.
Pease shelled out and went to God.
==================================
In a cemetery in England :
Remember man, as you walk by,
As you are now, so once was I
As I am now, so shall you be.
Remember this and follow me.
To which someone replied by writing on the tombstone:
To follow you I'll not consent.
Until I know which way you went.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Have Mercy on Kids Who Stutter


Did you know that Friday was International Stuttering Awareness Day? Three million other Americans, or approximately 1% of the population, stutters. That said, my guest today is Ms. Pamela Mertz, who also has a brilliant and heartfelt blog...Make Room For The Stuttering. Right now she's posting a series on women who stutter. I encourage all of you to check it out.


Have Mercy on Kids Who Stutter

Imagine being an 11-year-old, in sixth grade. There are 30 kids in the class. The teacher takes attendance at the beginning of the period, and does it in a fairly traditional way. She calls each student's last name alphabetically, and each kid has to say "here" or "present."

No big deal, right? This is played out in classrooms all across the country.

The 11-year-old's last name begins with "S", so he has to wait while the other kids' names are called. It's always done the same way too, starting with the "A"s, never with "Z."

Waiting, this kid does what he always does. He focuses on what he is going to say and what will happen when he says it. His palms start to get sweaty and his heart starts to pound. He can feel his face grow really hot and realizes he is squirming in his seat.

He is thinking, "Please, not today, please not today, please let it be OK today." But he knows that the same thing is going to happen.

He wishes he was sick and could go to the nurse's office.

Then he hears the teacher say "Stasick." He decides to say "here," which might go easier than it did yesterday. He opens his mouth, says "hu-hu-hu-hhhhh- here" and his eyes squeeze shut. He hears the teacher call the next kid's name.

Maybe it won't happen today. Nah, he hears it, the snickers from the kids sitting behind him. Then the skinny kid with big ears whispers loudly, "Spastic Stasick, he can't t-t-t-t-talk."
The kid tries to shrink down in his seat as he hears the kids laughing at him, just quietly enough so that the teacher doesn't hear it. She never does. He has thought about telling her, but knows that will just make things worse.

It's bad enough that he is pulled out of his classroom twice a week to go to speech. When he is pulled out, (and it's always during math or science, the classes he likes) he hears the kids whisper, "There goes spastic Stasick with the b-b-b-b-babies learning how to talk".
He can't talk to his speech teacher about the teasing either; he only gets 20 minutes with her and there is usually another speech kid in the room.

There is no way the kid can tell his mom, because she always tells him to slow down and think about what he is trying to say before he talks. The kid keeps thinking, "No one understands me."
Lunch time is the worst. No one sits with him, and when kids walk by, they snicker and laugh. A couple of times, the skinny kid with big ears bumped into him on purpose, knocking him into the wall and making him drop his stuff. The kid and his friends start yelling, "Spastic can't walk either." That gets other kids laughing, including girls.

This kid stutters. He dreads being called on in class. He never raises his hand, even when he knows an answer, and is teased a lot. He is called names, left out socially and sometimes pushed. He does not know anyone else who talks like him and is really starting to hate school.
Kids who stutter get teased and bullied. Kids can be cruel, especially in middle school. Most people do not understand stuttering, because they have never met someone who stutters. Only about 1 percent of the population stutters and it's usually boys.

If you know a kid who stutters, know this: It's not his fault. Stuttering is an involuntary stoppage of normal speech flow. It can be hereditary and some research suggests that it is a neurological disorder. There is no known cure yet for stuttering, but therapy with someone who understands stuttering can help, especially with feelings of shame, embarrassment and isolation.

Kids who stutter are just like anyone else, they just talk differently. It is not OK to tease or bully a kid who stutters. We have heard enough in the news lately about what happens when bullying is left unchecked.

Friday was International Stuttering Awareness Day. The only way to raise awareness about stuttering is to talk about it. It will sure make it easier for the kids.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Feeding the Homeless -- A Shift in the Warehouse

A hungry stomach can not hear. ~Jean de la Fontaine, French Poet, 1621-1695

Last Saturday I went with my church to volunteer at the local food bank. It was an eye-opening experience, and one I hope to repeat regularly. You know me, I’m all about food and feeding people, so this kind of thing is right up my alley. A couple dozen of us—singles, couples, and families with kids--showed up for a three-hour stint in the warehouse, inspecting and repacking food for distribution to those in need. Ahead of us, just on their way out the door, was a group of about the same size from Gannon University.

I was startled when, after our group arrived, one of the young men in the Gannon group gave up his chair and rolled it over for me to sit in. Chivalry does still exist in some parts of the world. Unfortunately, instead of taking a moment to appreciate that fact, after I thanked him and he left, I turned to the friend I had arrived with and asked, “Do I look that old?”

I didn’t sit in the chair. I spend most of my time sitting. I had come for a workout…and a workout I got.

Our first assignment was to watch a 13-minute video on how to recognize foods that the Food Bank can not accept. For instance, any food that has been packed in the same box or container with any open cleaning products must be considered contaminated and thrown out. There’s no way the food bank can risk food contamination.

So if you make donations to your local food bank, or supervise collections for food drives and such at your church or school, please, please, please separate the stuff with chemicals in it from the stuff for people to eat, just to be safe, or all of your hard work and good intentions may go for nothing.

Also, as much as they would like to, the Food Bank can not accept any home-canned goods. We all know they taste the best, because they’re made with love, but unless they are commercially sealed, they are a no-go at the Food Bank.

So make sure you give your excess home-canned goods to your family and friends. If you don’t have enough friends, you can send some to me…I love home-canned anything :). I would also be able to use it in my soup (and now baking) ministry for the homeless shelter.

I’m serious. If you have home-canned stuff you want to get rid of, email me at Liana (at) lianalaverentz.com and we’ll work something out…a win-win for everyone.

But back to the Food Bank. Any packages that were open and therefore might have been touched by bugs or rodents (face it, where there’s food, there’s bugs and rodents) had to be thrown out as well. But the good news is, at the Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwestern Pennsylvania, none of that food goes to waste. It’s all collected in a separate place, and picked up by an Amish farmer, who converts it into slop for his pigs.

On this day, we contributed opened boxes of Fruit Loops, Rice Krispies, and many other brands of breakfast cereal to the (future slop) bin, as well as some fresh bread that was in wrappers that had gotten ripped somewhere along the way.

A lot of things like the cereal comes from stores, still in the manufacturer’s original case lot cartons, which have been damaged in shipping somehow. Either crushed or torn or poked through with the equipment used to move the case lots around. So these damaged case lots are sent to the food bank, where volunteers like us open the case lot cartons, separate the damaged individual boxes of cereal from the ones that are not damaged, inspect the food, repackage what we can—(if only the outer packaging is damaged we can tape it back up—but if there are any holes in the bag that would expose any food, out it goes)—and recombine it into new case lots for the Food Bank to distribute. The extras are then sent to the Food Bank’s internal “grocery store” where individuals can go up and down the aisles and pick up small amounts of different donated foods.

As for the bread, it came from a local commercial bakery, and was still fresh. All we had to do was take it off the racks, inspect the bread for mold and the bags for holes, then repack the inspected bread—buns and loaves of every shape, size, and color—into cartons provided by the Food Bank. Taped shut, and labeled BREAD, they went onto nearby pallets and created fresh case lots for the Food Bank to shrink wrap and distribute.

Before we knew it, our time was up, and our work was done. As the English dramatist John Heywood said, “Many hands make light work.” But the Second Harvest Food Bank has many opportunities for group and family volunteering to help those in need. The Food Bank welcomes children age six and up, and even has child-friendly projects for them to work on. The Food Bank also sponsors specific Family Days, with shifts available between 9:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. and Family Nights, with help needed from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. It’s a fun way to involve the whole family—be it your individual family or your community family. Get a group together and go. All you need to do is call and make your reservation.

Who are those in need? Well, here are some Fast Facts from the Second Harvest Food Bank, the largest non-profit food distribution organization in Northwestern Pennsylvania. Second Harvest solicits, inventories, and distributes donated products to 254 member agencies that directly serve people facing hard times. During fiscal year 2009-2010, Second Harvest distributed 7.7 million pounds of food to 72,600 people in NWPA.

They can’t serve this many people without help from people like you. Three ways you can help are to donate money (for every $1 donation, Second Harvest can obtain $17 worth of food), donate time (hours are available Monday through Saturday…check their website for more information), or you can donate food directly. Second Harvest accepts non-perishable food donations Monday through Saturday.

They then distribute these foods to the people who need it through various member agencies, like churches, food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, kids cafes, child care centers, backpack programs, and senior citizens food programs. The people who benefit from the Second Harvest Food Bank include the homeless, single parents, senior citizens, children, the working poor, the unemployed and underemployed, the disabled, and families in crisis situations.

That’s a lot of people needing food. Is there someone you can help feed today?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Taking Time Out To Say Thank You


If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough. ~Eckhardt von Hochheim, German theologian, philosopher, and mystic

I’ve often mentioned in this blog the many blessings in my life, and how thankful I am to be so abundantly blessed. So today I want to share with you a little thing I do to remind me to say thank you throughout the day. It’s really quite simple. If you walk into my house, you’ll see Thank You notes of all kinds and colors discreetly propped up in different places. If you look closely you’ll see that they’re not all notes written to me by others. Some of them are, to be sure, but others are blank. The ones sent to me remind me of people I have helped in one way or another. The blank ones I use to remind myself to say Thank You to God for all His help, and the many blessings I have been given.

So if you’re looking for a way to increase your prayer life, here’s something you can try. Just get yourself a box of Thank You notes, and prop or tape them up in the places where you’re most likely to see them. In your house it might be your bathroom mirror, your bedroom nightstand, or even on the ceiling above where you nap or sleep, so you see it when you open your eyes :).

Your entertainment center might be a nice place to put one, or somewhere over the kitchen sink. Maybe even your laundry room, or somewhere you can see it when you fold clothes. You can put one near your computer, both at home and/or at work, or tape it to the top of your laptop. If you don’t work with a computer, I’m sure you can find a place to put one in your workspace, wherever it is. If you’re shy about people seeing it, a simple post it note with the letters TY will do. You’ll know what it means, and chances are no one else will even notice it there.

In your car, there’s the visor or dashboard, or even the trunk. Maybe you can find a place for one in your purse, or gym bag. If you have an exercise bike or treadmill, that’s a great place to put one.

Be creative. I’m sure you can come up with something special. And when you see them, just take a moment to stop, smile, and say Thank You.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Taking a Break

No post today. My shoulder is acting up again, so I'm taking a break from the keyboard. I'll be spending the day cleaning my office, which is long overdue!

Be blessed,

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Guest Author, Keena Kincaid


Just a quick bit of housekeeping before we start our interview...the winner of my special birthday drawing of an autographed copy of one of my books, winner's choice, is...Jennifer Mathis! Congratulations, Jennifer!

For a chance to win the same in my regular monthly drawing, just leave a comment here today or on any post in September. Good luck and Happy Fall!

And now...Drum Roll.......Finally, it's the day we've all been looking forward to! Today's guest speaker is historical romance author Keena Kincaid, fellow Rose and Bookspa friend, who graciously shares a bit of her life and her writing philosophies with us, as well as the blurb and an excerpt from Enthralled, her exciting new sequel to Ties That Bind. If you're wondering where my questions came from, most come from the Bio page on Keena's beautiful website, and others from her funny, insightful, and always interesting blog, Typos and All. Welcome, Keena!

Tell us about your Dirty Little Secrets (Workshop).

This workshop focuses on helping authors build three-dimensional characters through the use of their secrets, and then how to use these secrets to propel the plot. My inspiration for the workshop isn't just my own characters, who all seem to have secrets, but also soap operas. I love the twisted, crazy secrets that soap opera heroines and heroes keep--and all the crazy things they do to keep those secrets! I'm giving it right now (September 6 - 30) for Elements RWA. Anyone interested in hosting this workshop, please go to my website for more information.

Give us an example of a mathmatically challenged knight.

Well, from the time my nephews and nieces were toddlers, story time has been one of our favorite activities. They'd gather around, and I'd tell them another installment in the ongoing adventures of the half-faery siblings Alden, Master of the Green Realm, and Freyda, Mistress of the Mirror, and their dragon-lord cousin, Joel (my niece and nephews, of course). Alden can never keep track of the magical arrows in his quiver, and he can't defeat the red wizard until he figures out a basic math problem. It was a way to help my nephew master math.

Tell us more about life to the left of nowhere, and how you incorporate the experience in your books.

I grew up in a small, small farm town and lived all the hallmarks of small town life, i.e. I graduated with most of the kids with whom I went to kindergarten, everyone knew everyone else's business, and whenever I got in trouble at school, at least three people called Mom before I got home that afternoon. There's a type of forced intimacies in small towns that I find very applicable to my 12th-century setting because most of my books take place in crowded castles where everyone knows everyone else's business.

I see you grew up with pigs, cows, brothers, and a half-broke pony named Star. Care to share any sibling stories?

Interesting how you slipped those brothers in there, like they were just another aspect of living on a farm :). Nothing in particular sticks out. Like most brothers and sisters, we argued, but I think we covered for each other more often than we tattled on each other. My mother, in particular, wanted us to be close, and she never encouraged tattling. In fact, we usually got in more trouble for tattling than the one tattled on.

What do you like the best about medieval history?

I'm not sure I can narrow it to one thing or even one sentence. It's a period of change that served as the nursery for much of how we think and what we believe. Most of the our present rituals have roots in this era, yet we know so little of day-to-day life. As a writer, the time period provides a lot of story fodder.

What do you find the most confining when writing about that time period, and how do you overcome that?

The cliches are most confining. Everyone thinks Knights in Shining Armor and Damsels in Distress. But not only was the code of chivalry more like a guideline, it also only applied to noblewomen (if them). If you were a peasant in the field, a knight was the last thing you wanted to see. Additionally, what little we know of medieval women hardly fits the"damsel" motif. There are numerous accounts of women defending castles against siege that defy the stereotype. However, this is what readers know, so it's a balancing act.

Ties that Bind was a finalist for best Paranormal Romance in the 2010 RomCon Reader's Crown Choice Contest. Congratulations! What can you tell us about RomCon?

RomCon was fabulous. I had a great time and met hundreds of readers. And the sessions were fun. The paranormal tea, speed date an author and the murder-mystery game were my favorites.

I see you're an inveterate traveler. Do you travel light or heavy? What tips can you offer to the uninitiated?

I travel light. I did a lot of backpacking in college. When you carry everything you have on your back, you learn how little you really need. I apply the same when traveling. So I only bring essentials--a few changes of clothes and my computer. My best tips: Layers, wear most pieces of clothes more than once, and decide whether your base color is going to black or brown. That way, you only need to take one pair of shoes.

Let's do some word association: I give you four words and you tell me what comes to mind when you read them:

Intrepid--This makes me think of Liza, my heroine from ANAM CARA. She's definitely a woman who keeps moving in her chosen direction regardless ofwhat happens (until she meets the hero, of course).

Spontaneous--My writing process. Yes, I'm a pantser. LOL!

Wanderlust--An incurable affliction that expensive to treat.

Mystical--This would be the druids in my stories. The hero and his family are descended from druids, but as you know, by the 12th century that society was long past. So they have--as Aedan (hero from TIES THAT BIND) assumes--all the fun without any of the responsibility.

What's up next for Keena?

My next book, Enthralled, sequel to Ties that Bind, comes out October 22. The two share an external conflict and villain, but have different lead couples.

Blurb:

To claim her, he must abandon home, duty, and honor-or reveal the secret of her Sidhe heritage and risk losing her forever to dark magic. William of Ravenglas wants only one woman-his foster sister, Ami-but she is promised to another, a fate sealed by his father's recklessness. Resolved to her forfeiture, he forges a dangerous path to bring stability to the house of Ravenglas, balancing the secret demands of the queen against loyalty to the king.

Ami, true sister to Aedan ap Owen the minstrel, refuses her fate. She wants William. But when his kiss awakens her dormant magic, it triggers cascading events that sweep her into the queen's fiendish web and threatens William's life.

Now Ami must learn to control her fey powers or watch William die. But with a mystery lover in his past, even if she succeeds will he truly be hers?

Excerpt:

“You would not dance with me earlier.” Ami stilled, surprised by her own blurting.
“You know why.”
William’s vague acknowledgement of what stood between them shivered and stretched through her, sparking hope and dread. He stared at the flames until the light must have blinded him.
“You kissed me,” she whispered, “on the steps, not a month ago. You…”
“I have kissed you many times.”
“Not like that. Not with…” The memory alone nearly erased her ability to think. He’d not kissed her, but practically claimed her. His mouth firm and confident, her body pressed between his and the wall, no inch of him left to her imagination. The kiss had changed her, and if Aedan and Tess hadn’t interrupted them, he could’ve taken her maidenhead on Carlisle’s steps. She would’ve welcomed the loss. “I would not say no,” she whispered.
“You are not free to give me your consent.” William lowered his hands, his fingers fisting at his side. “Nor I am free to accept it. I cannot give you what you wish, Ami,” he said, the pain his in voice as sharp as a shearing blade. “Ever.”
“But you wish it, too.”
“My wishes are as irrelevant as yours.”
“Irrelevant?” She stepped away from the bittersweet warmth of his presence. The heavy pain in her chest was not irrelevant. Nor was the bitter anger boiling in her stomach.
“You are promised to Hugh of Braose.”
“I do not want to wed him, William,” she whispered. “Please do not make me.”
He turned away from her. “I cannot change that or the terms of the marriage contract. Even if I could, I would not. ’Tis for our elevation.”
“Your elevation.”
“The entire family will benefit. That is the whole point of marriage.”
She looked at the spoon in her hand, tempted to rake it across his face, tried to imagine a lifetime without him and failed. “We grew up in a cold home. Do not put me in another one.”
He stepped closer, captured her in the pool of heat that was as much a part of him as the stick up his ass that made turning him midcourse next to impossible. “’Twill be your home. You can make it as bright and warm as you want.”
The spoon bent in her hand. “Not without…”
You. She swallowed the word, tossed away the mangled utensil and set her hand against his chest. The agitated pace of his heart pulsed against her fingers as the tug-of-war between desire and duty held him motionless.
“Please do not do this to me.”
She let her fear rise to her eyes, pushed it through her body, from her skin to his.
“Stop, Ami. I know your tricks.” He lifted her hand from his chest. “And I will not be swayed by them as I was as a boy. I have already sent a note to Papa. I told him you would be brought home, soon.”
“What?” For a moment, she was frozen by disbelief, then fury swept through her like a forest fire. Wood popped in the hearth, and the kitchen brightened. “Brought home?”
Grabbing his chin, she forced his gaze to hers.
“I will not be dismissed, shuffled off like a cow to market. I will not go. Do you hear me? I will not.”
“Ami, you must go back. I leave with the queen.”
“Then I will ask the queen to invite me to court,” Ami said. “She liked me well enough.”
“No,” he whispered in a dagger-sharp voice. “I would leave you at the steps to hell before I would allow you at court.”

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

What I'm Reading...


Short and sweet today. If you only read one book this year, let it be this one! You won’t regret it. Once you do, you’ll realize how normal you are. That alone makes it worth its weight in gold.

Until next time…happy reading!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Be Kinder than Necessary...

Today's quote is Be kinder than necessary, because everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.
And now, since it's Sunday, a quick refresher course on Proverbs and something to make us laugh:
A 1st grade school teacher had twenty-six students in her class. She presented each child in her classroom the 1st half of a well-known proverb and asked them to come up with the remainder of the proverb. It's hard to believe these were actually done by first graders. Their insight may surprise you.
1. Don't change horses Until they stop running.
2. Strike while the Bug is close.
3. It's always darkest before Daylight Saving Time.
4. Never underestimate the power of Termites.
5. You can lead a horse to water but How?
6. Don't bite the hand that Looks dirty.
7. No news is Impossible
8. A miss is as good as a Mr.
9. You can't teach an old dog new Math
10. If you lie down with dogs, you'll Stink in the morning.
11. Love all, trust Me.
12. The pen is mightier than the Pigs.
13. An idle mind is The best way to relax.
14. Where there's smoke there's Pollution.
15. Happy the bride who Gets all the presents.
16. A penny saved is Not much.
17. Two's company, three's The Musketeers.
18. Don't put off till tomorrow what You put on to go to bed.
19. Laugh and the whole world laughs with you, cry and You have to blow your nose.
20. There are none so blind as Stevie Wonder.
21. Children should be seen and not Spanked or grounded.
22. If at first you don't succeed Get new batteries.
23. You get out of something only what you See in the picture on the box
24. When the blind lead the blind Get out of the way.
25. A bird in the hand Is going to poop on you.
26. Better late than Pregnant

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Summer of Reading...and Renewal

All summer long, I’ve been reading about women’s hormones, in an effort to solve my own perplexing health issues and help other women to understand how hormones affect every aspect of our lives. Namely, when our hormones are out of balance, we are out of balance. (For more detailed information on this, see my PMDD blog.) The information I provide in my blogs is not new, but unless you go looking for it, it’s not at the forefront of your awareness. Lots of shows, articles, and advertisements talk about balance these days, but what do they really know or tell you about it? Other than that their product will help you find your balance.

Not. If your hormones aren’t balanced from within, no external product is going to do it for you. No food, no drink, no cream, no supplement, no drug, no weekend away, no meditation, seminar, book, class, exercise program, or visit to your local energy healer is going to put you back in balance. That’s not to say any or all of these things can’t be beneficial in and of themselves, and for other health reasons. But they will not put you back into balance.

Just ask me. I’ve tried them all. I should be the most balanced person on the planet by now. I am not.

Do not take this to mean I am unbalanced :). That is also something I am not :).

Anyway, I’ve been spending the week getting my files and shelves organized with all my health and wellness information. It’s all starting to come together in a really good and positive way, and I am pleased with my progress of late.

But to do that, I pretty much had to give up everything else. In the month since we returned from South Dakota, I haven’t been socializing, either on the loops or in person. I’ve been going to church and that’s about it. In and out. My main source of conversation is my son, which is fine with me, since he will be returning to school in two weeks and then those days of long, lazy conversations will be over until next summer, maybe forever, if he suddenly finds a girlfriend or best friend to confide in.

I’ve also started taking Qigong classes, something I’ve wanted to do for well over 15 years. That, however, takes a big chunk out of my week, as the class is not nearby. I still walk at the Y, but not as much as I did during my 200 miles in 100 days walking challenge. My diet has changed so much over the summer I have no desire to go out to eat any more. The food is way too sweet, salty, and greasy for me. Even the supposedly healthy dishes. I’ll take home half a portion, and the next day see all that hardened fat….

Anyway, I appear to be going through a period of rebirth and renewal, growth and change, and it’s not done yet. But it’s keeping me busy and healthy, and curious to see what treasures each new day will bring.

Back to my cave, now. Much reading to do today….

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Make a Blue Rose Smile Today...


“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”~ Maya Angelou

I received the story below in an email from a friend, and so am sharing this here today. May you be blessed enough to encounter many blue roses in your life...

Having four visiting family members, the wife was very busy, so I offered to go to the store for her to get some needed items, which included light bulbs, paper towels, trash bags, detergent, and Clorox. So off I went.

I scurried around the store, gathered up my goodies, and headed for the checkout counter, only to be blocked in the narrow aisle by a young man who appeared to be about sixteen-years-old. I wasn't in a hurry, so I patiently waited for the boy to realize that I was there. This was when he waved his hands excitedly in the air and declared in a loud voice, "Mommy, I'm over here."

It was obvious now, he was mentally challenged, and also startled as he turned and saw me standing so close to him, waiting to squeeze by. His eyes widened and surprise exploded on his face as I said, "Hey Buddy, what's your name?"

"My name is Denny and I'm shopping with my mother," he responded proudly.

"Wow," I said, "that's a cool name; I wish my name was Denny, but my name is Steve."

"Steve, like Stevarino?" he asked.

"Yes," I answered. "How old are you Denny?"

"How old am I now, Mommy?" he asked his mother as she slowly came over from the next aisle.

"You're fifteen-years-old Denny; now be a good boy and let the man pass by."

I acknowledged her and continued to talk to Denny for several more minutes about summer, bicycles, and school. I watched his brown eyes dance with excitement because he was the center of someone's attention. He then abruptly turned and headed toward the toy section.

Denny's mom had a puzzled look on her face and thanked me for taking the time to talk with her son. She told me that most people wouldn't even look at him, much less talk to him. I told her that it was my pleasure and then I said something I have no idea where it came from, other than by the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

I told her that there are plenty of red, yellow, and pink roses in God's Garden; however, "Blue Roses" are very rare and should be appreciated for their beauty and distinctiveness. You see, Denny is a Blue Rose and if someone doesn't stop and smell that rose with their heart and touch that rose with their kindness, then they've missed a blessing from God.

She was silent for a second, then with a tear in her eye she asked, "Who are you?"

Without thinking I said, "Oh, I'm probably just a dandelion but I sure love living in God's garden."

She reached out, squeezed my hand, and said, "God bless you!" and then I had tears in my eyes.

May I suggest that the next time you see a BLUE ROSE, don't turn your head and walk off. Take the time to smile and say Hello. Why? Because, by the grace of GOD, this mother or father could be you. This could be your child, grandchild, niece, or nephew. What a difference a moment can mean to that person or their family.

From an old dandelion!

Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply Speak kindly. Leave the rest to God.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Guest Author, Stephanie Burkhart


Today I'd like to welcome fellow Bookspa member and friend Stephanie Burkhart. Stephanie is a prolific writer, with books written in several genres, (check out her website for all the wonderful titles!) but today we're featuring her children's book The Giving Meadow, the story of a very special caterpillar. Stephanie is also participating with me and countless other authors in the Long and Short Reviews Third Anniversary Celebration that gives you a chance to win a Nook and a $50 gift certificate to Barnes and Noble. For more information on that, go here. Good luck and Happy Reading!
I just want to thank Liana for having me today on my blog tour for my children's book, "The Giving Meadow."

Just a little about me: I was born in Manchester, NH but live in Castaic, California with my husband, Brent, and two sons, Andrew and Joseph. I have fond memories of Manchester, but have made California my home. I earned a BS in political science from California Baptist University in 1995.

I have been writing since I was 5, first making homemade comic books. Now, I work on creating short stories and novels. I spent 11 years in the US Army and over 7 years in Germany. Writing is a passion that still challenges me. The Giving Meadow is my first children's book and my first book with 4RV Publishing.

THE BLURB:

The Giving Meadow is about a caterpillar who hatches from his egg in the middle of a meadow. As he travels through the meadow, he meets new friends who learn the value of sharing.

THE INSPIRATION

I go to Blessed Kateri Catholic Church (in Santa Clarita, CA) and I'm involved in our Sunday Preschool program. We call it Little Church. The program works with 3, 4, and 5-year-olds. I help to teach the 3's along with 3 other talented ladies, Shirley Chang, Maureen Dunahoo, and Mary Tesselaar. Every year I help to write the Easter play for the children. In 2009, "The Giving Meadow" was our Easter play.

After I wrote it, I showed Vivian at 4RV. She's also a moderator at Writing.com and I wanted her feedback on the story. She offered it a contract! I was tickled pink. It was a nice, unexpected surprise. I can't thank Vivian (Gilbert Zabel, publisher, 4RV Publishing) for believing in the story and wanting to bring it to life.

"The Giving Meadow" is wonderfully illustrated by Stephen Macquignon. Stephen primarily works in the medium of pen and ink and color digitally. He has had the privilege to work with Director Michael Sporn of Michael Sporn Animation Inc. He is also a monthly contributor for Stories for Children's magazine.

Stephen's children's books with 4RV Publishing include Angeline Jellybean by Crystalee Calderwood and Colors by Dana Warren.

"The First Flag of New Hampshire," by Stephanie, will be released by 4RV Publishing next year. It is a TW/Young Adult story.

GOODIE TIME:
Leave a post here on the blog. I'll pick two lucky winners to receive an autographed postcard of the cover. I'll also be giving out an autographed copy of the book. Winners will be drawn out of a hat, and I'll return on 13 AUG to announce them.

BUY LINKS:

BARNES & NOBLE:

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"Romance Under the Moonlight."
THE GIVING MEADOW - JUNE 2010
4RV Publishing
THE HUNGARIAN - MAY 2010
Desert Breeze Publishing.


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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Wrapping up Our Summer Vacation


So let me finish up with our vacation :). We spent another fun day visiting a quartzite quarry and then a cheesy ghost town. First, the quarry. We took a bus down deep into the quarry, where they were preparing to dynamite that afternoon. The quarry is full of Sioux quartzite, which is what Sioux Falls is built on, so it's plentiful and it's cheap. It’s so cheap there you can get it for around $10 a ton. An hour away, you might pay $20 a ton, and more the farther away you go, but locally this beautiful pink rock is incredibly cheap, so it is used in many building projects, which leaves you with pink buildings, sidewalks, and roads. Some are overtly pink, others simply tinged with pink. But everywhere you look, you see shades of pink.

After we went down into the quarry, we toured the place where all that rock is ground up into smaller and smaller sizes, from 6 inch rocks to 4 inch rocks, to 2-inch rocks and gravel. (They even make pink sand there.) The quarry also does a lot of recycling. We saw huge piles of used concrete and asphalt, along with freshly ground mountains of pink, gray, tan, and black stones. Some people on our bus were locals, who had attended an elementary school nearby, and told of how the children would cover their heads when the quarry dynamited, as the building would shake and dust would filter down from the ceiling. A roller skating rink also used to be in the vicinity, and each time after they dynamited, the quarry would have to send workers over to help put the roller skates back on the shelf, as they would roll off from the vibrations.

The ghost town we saw was just that. A ghost town. At one time it was someone’s great passion, and you could see that he put his heart and soul into it, but that was twenty years ago, and my guess is he grew older and couldn’t keep the place up, and his family doesn't share his passion for western history. So what was designed to be a replica of an old ghost town has indeed become one. It’s sad, as the information there was fascinating, but the displays and mannequins had been exposed to the elements way too long, and things were either rusted, rotting, or falling apart. Clothes were shredded on the mannequins, leaving them looking like zombies. In all, it had a creepy Halloween feel to it, and I was glad we were there during broad daylight :).

After the quarry and before the ghost town, though, my son and I took a trolley ride around town, got off at Sioux Falls park, and had a relaxing cup of coffee at an outdoor cafe overlooking Sioux Falls. (if you click on the link, scroll past the three maps to see the photos of the Falls.)
Afterward we went up into the observation tower overlooking the town and the falls, and could have bought our own piece of Sioux quartzite at the gift shop for a dollar, but we passed. Didn't seem right to pay $1 for one rock, when we knew we could get a ton of them for $10 :).

On a different day we attempted to visit the South Dakota Art Museum, on the campus of South Dakota State University, but when we got there, we discovered only one of the seven galleries was open, due to renovations. One gallery didn’t take long to get through, but they did have a nice gift shop, and I did end up buying some art created by local homeless women as Christmas presents for friends. We then wandered down the street to the nearby SDSU Agricultural Heritage Museum, which once again I found fascinating. Not so much the tractors and farm implements, but they'd apparently commissioned a local artist to draw cartoons about what life was like on the farm, which made reading about it much more interesting than reading a simple plaque.

The highlight of the day, however, was visiting the SDSU Dairy Sales Bar, an ice cream shop in the Dairy Micro building of the SDSU campus. There, students made their own ice cream from cows in the Dairy program on campus. It was, I swear, the best ice cream I have ever tasted. (And I have managed to pass up any and all ice cream since, because it made even my die-hard favorite all-natural brand taste like nothing but sugar.)

This ice cream tasted like the ice cream of my youth. I haven’t had a butter pecan that tasted like that in years. They gave us huge servings, and for very little money. I told my son they have all a college student needs to survive here—lots of calories for cheap, and cheap coffee.

After that, we walked through McCrory Gardens (the horticulture part of the campus) to let our ice cream settle. In all, it was another fine day in South Dakota. We were blessed. Because while everyone was frying back home and out on the east coast, we had the best weather you could imagine for our trips and tours.

Until we tried to come home, and storms in Detroit and mechanical difficulties caused us first to be diverted, then delayed, then cancelled and rescheduled by Delta Air Lines, and in all spend 30 hours getting home for a trip that took us only four hours on the way out there. I was NOT planning on sleeping in my clothes in some strange hotel in Minneapolis, no sir, but that is what happened.

But even that was a learning experience, for my son if not for me. I've been stranded before, a few times. Now he'll know what it feels like, and know there's not a whole lot you can do about it when you're at the mercy of an airline. What I want to know, however, is why when they give you a meal voucher, it never covers the cost of even the simplest meal at the airport. Surely they know what things cost in those terminal shops.

But I'll save my sour grapes for another day. In all, we had a wonderful time in South Dakota, and would go back again in a heartbeat. It's a very beautiful and creative place. I left with a whole new appreciation for life on the prairie, then and now.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Fireworks, Underwear, Corn, and Car Hops

Okay, time to talk about the trip. It was wonderful, actually, a nice break from the hustle and bustle of my everyday life. A good chance for my son to get to know his grandparents better as well, spend some time with them in their environment. They live in a retirement community, and the first night we were there, the community had a small fireworks display in the parking lot. I’m not sure that was such a good idea, but they’d done it before and I hadn’t seen any fireworks yet this year, so off we went to join the line up of lawn chairs outside the main building. The fireworks were the kind that come in a can, and were pretty and not too loud, but it was windy out and two of them turned over, shooting fireworks into the crowd. Whoops! A little extra bang for your buck.

Fortunately, no one was hurt, but they might want to re-think that activity in the future. Afterward, as we walked back to the house on the street that circles the main building, I felt like I was walking amid in the Indy 500 of seated scooters. There must have been seven of them sedately rolling down the road, everyone talking and laughing in friendly camaraderie after our narrow escape from renegade fireworks up on the hill.

Our first sightseeing adventure was to the Old Courthouse Museum in Sioux Falls, where they have exhibits that change every so often. (For a link to previous exhibits that might be of interest, go here.) This trip they had one on medical instruments of the past, corn and its many uses, underwear through the ages, hot air balloons in the area, man’s best friend, Indian beadwork, and a particularly fun exhibit on Sioux Falls area drive in restaurants.

That one was my favorite, and inspired several ideas for the inspirational romantic suspense I am currently pulling together in my head. They had a booth with a table jukebox music selector, and you could play all the tunes you wanted from that era. There was a full size soda fountain counter, and every now and then, some machine puffed the smell of chocolate sundaes into the air. It’s too bad those burger joints with car hops on roller skates went the way of the dinosaur. I love to learn about people and their lives, and reading the memory book of people who worked and hung out there gave me all kinds of ideas for stories.

I also enjoyed learning all about underwear through the ages—and the beginnings of the various underwear companies in business today. Warner’s, Hanes, Bali, Maidenform, Joe Boxer, Fruit of the Loom, Jockey, and Victoria’s Secret. Some of the exhibits from the 70s and 80s I remember wearing, myself. Whoda thunk my unmentionables back then could some day end up in an historical exhibit?

I liked the one about corn, South Dakota’s largest cash crop, next. Never knew corn was in so many things, or that corn could be used for so much. Planting and harvesting techniques sure have changed over the years. In some cases, I’m not sure it’s for the better. Modern agribusiness companies seem to be driven to edge small family farmers right out of the American picture.

Sioux Falls also offers hot air balloon rides, and every evening we would notice a few floating in the sky, a sky with some of the prettiest sunsets to be seen. The flat landscape also provided a unique perspective on storms--one that came our way one evening I could see approaching from miles away. I simply stood there, fascinated, watching evening descend and lightning light up the sky both above and below the clouds--until individual bolts began to snake out of the sky and my son took my by the shoulders and moved me away from the window.

Sigh. It’s nice to be loved :).

Sioux Falls is known for two main service industries, and those are financial companies (you, know, where all those credit card applications in your mail come from), and hospitals. I think there are six in the area. I can’t believe how much of the local landscape has turned into housing developments in the three years since we were there. If you’re going to get sick, Sioux Falls is apparently a good place to do so. One of the first exhibits we went to see was the Sioux Empire Medical Museum, housed at Sanford Hospital. It included displays relating to medical history from the early 1900's through today. Nursing uniforms through the years, medical equipment, and photographs showed the changes in medicine over the years, and retired nurses who actually went through the Sioux Valley Hospital School of Nursing volunteered an abundance of information about each display. Personally, I winced at the display of glass catheters.

But I found the daily lives, life, personal accounts, and diaries of various nursing students who had gone through the program fascinating. Do you see a pattern here? I just love personal accounts of experiencing just about anything. I wish I could pick out one favorite fact to share with you, but there are too many to choose from.

I do know, however, that my next heroine will probably be a museum curator, and I’ll find a way to share my facts in her story.

In the meantime, have a blessed weekend.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The National Music Museum, A National Treasure Indeed


It’s hard to believe that three weeks ago today was our first full day in South Dakota. It seems so long ago. Last week was a blur of constant motion, getting back into the swing of things, unpacking and doing laundry and grocery shopping and catching up on emails and blogs and friends here locally. Now I have to think back to all we saw and did…

I usually do a day-by-day accounting of my trips, but today I just want to write about the National Music Museum in Vermillion, SD, on the campus of the University of South Dakota.

We visited two college campuses while on the trip, which reminded me that I love the whole college campus atmosphere. The buildings, the houses, the green lawns and sidewalks and sculptures and flowers and benches and overall look and feel of the place. They took me right back to the memories of my own.

They also reminded me that my son will be going off to school in the next few years, and for the first time, I was actually comfortable with the idea. I can picture him living in that kind of setting and atmosphere, and I think with his love of learning, he will thrive.

My son, in fact, was the reason we went to the National Music Museum. For our itinerary, I chose only places I thought would interest him, because I don’t care…I’ll go to museums of any kind.

We arrived just before noon and had a picnic of peanut butter sandwiches, assorted fruits and vegetables, and grandma’s home made chocolate chip and oatmeal cookies in the shade under a tree just outside the building before going inside. The building itself is not overly large or imposing, not like the national museums in Washington DC, just your basic stone museum-type building--so I didn’t expect much from the inside. Figured we’d be through it in an hour or two, ho hum, been there, done that.

Three hours later I still hadn’t seen everything, but was dead on my feet and hungry, in need of both a place to sit and something to boost my blood sugar.

That is one place I am going back to, first chance I get. And one place I would love to endow, should I be blessed enough to become anyone’s benefactor.

Call me cloistered, but they had the most amazing setup I have come across in a museum. They had nine galleries, full of instruments spanning five centuries from the Renaissance to Rock and Roll. Stradivarius violins, mandolins, and cellos, harpsichords, lutes, lyres, Civil War and slave instruments, banjos, fiddles, brass instruments, wind and reed instruments, guitars, organs of every shape and size, player pianos, a Nickelodeon.

They had instruments that were invented, but never took off, or fell into disuse when something better came along, and instruments owned by famous people or used in movies. There was a room of non-western music, with instruments and drums from places like India, Thailand, Korea, Japan, Africa, Iraq, the Pacific islands, and so forth. That room alone took ages to get through…

Why? Because in most galleries I’ve been in, you look at the object on display, read the accompanying plaque, and move on. But here, upon paying the $7 admission fee, ($3 for students) each of us was given an iPhone type device with headphones. It had a pointer, but your finger worked just as well. You tapped on what gallery you were in, and a screen opened with pictures of the numbered exhibits. You tapped on the picture of, say, a harpsichord, and a voice told you the story of that harpsichord.

Your next option was to tap on the word music, which allowed you to hear what the instrument sounded like. A full song. So walking between exhibits, you could listen to music. And you could play it over and over again, as many times as you liked.

Each person in there was on their own personal tour, at some different point in the tour or room, listening to what interested them. It was quiet, peaceful and totally full of music. (They even have virtual tours. Check it out!) If you need to research anything musical, this is one place you want to contact.

Like I said, three hours later I still hadn’t listened to everything. The one thing I would recommend—but where would they find the space?—are benches like you find in art galleries in ALL the galleries, so that visitors can sit and rest their feet as they listen to all the different instruments. Walking for three hours is hard enough—standing for that length of time when you’re not used to it gets wearing. We had to leave the museum long before any of us were finished experiencing all the exhibits.

And where did we go? To a restored drug store soda fountain a few miles down the road, where each of us ordered something different, made the old-fashioned way. I had a chocolate ice cream soda, my son a cream soda float, grandma a miniature banana split, and grandpa a sundae. A nice way to cap off an afternoon of pure musical enjoyment.