By Pamela Roller

For a lovely homemade gift, consider giving a liqueur or cordial. Below is the promised schnapps recipe as well as recipes for various cordials. At the end I’ve listed hints for packaging ideas. Next month I’ll post recipes for liqueurs—just in time for Christmas gift-giving.

The basics:
Glass bottles with lids are available at craft stores. The bottle must have a tight lid or cork as air can spoil the cordial.
Cheesecloth makes for a good filter. Be sure that no pulp from the fruit is left after straining as this will cloud the cordial.

Peppermint Schnapps (makes 24 ounces)
1 C clear Karo Syrup
1 C sugar
1 pt vodka
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp peppermint extract

Mix all. Ready to serve.



Smooth Orange Cordial (Make this six weeks before giving it)
12 Tbs. orange peel
2 C vodka or brandy
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp each allspice and nutmeg
2 whole cloves
2 C each sugar and water

Place peel, spices, and vodka or brandy in a quart-sized jar. Cover and let cure in a cool, dark place for two weeks. Shake the bottle twice a week to mix contents. Strain and discard the orange peel. Make a syrup of the sugar and water (boil, then simmer on low heat till syrupy). Cool. Stir the syrup into the liqueur, pour into a glass bottle and cover. Cure for four weeks.

Blueberry Cordial (Make this six weeks before giving it)
4 C blueberries
3 C vodka or gin
¼ C lemon juice
1½ C water
4 whole cloves
½ tsp coriander seeds
3 C sugar

Wash and drain berries. Crush them in a blender and add lemon juice, water, cloves and coriander. Heat (do not boil) the mixture, then scrape all into a two-quart jar. Add the vodka or gin and stir gently. Cover and store in a dark place for ten days, shaking every other day. Strain twice through cheesecloth, discarding the pulp. Add the sugar to the juice, stir, and pour into a glass bottle. Cap and cure for four weeks in a dark place. When ready, cordial should be a clear blue. Use within one year.


Plum Cordial (Make this about six months before giving it)

3 pounds ripe plums
2 C sugar
1 quart vodka divided into two equal parts

Pit plums and slice them. Place in a pan with the sugar and half the vodka. Place the pan on low heat, stirring, until the plums are bruised. Transfer to a quart jar, stir again to bruise plums, add the rest of the vodka and cover. Let cure for two weeks. Strain; discard plums. If taste is not sweet enough, add ¾ cup sugar syrup. Pour juice into a bottle, cap, and store for six months or until mixture is clear. The longer it is stored, the richer the flavor. Use within 1 year after opening. Makes 43 ounces.



Pear Cordial (Make this three months before giving it)
½ C water
1 C sugar
4 firm, ripe pears
4 whole cloves
1 tsp each allspice and nutmeg
4 C vodka

Bring the sugar and water to a boil, then reduce heat and cook until the sugar is dissolved. Slice unpeeled pears and place them into a 2-quart glass jar. Add cloves and spices and stir in the sugar-water and vodka. Cover and store in a dark place for ten weeks, turning the jar upside-down once a week to mix. Strain and discard pulp. Pour liquid into a glass bottle, cap, and cure for two more weeks in a cool, dark place. Makes 36 ounces.


Packaging ideas:
· Include cordial glasses in the gift package
· Packaging depends on the color and type of cordial. Carefully arrange glasses with the bottle in a basket or flat box surrounded by fresh fruit and color-coordinated tissue or other filler. Tie with ribbon. Blue and silver packaging works well with blueberry cordial, as does gold with orange cordial. Tiny flowers such as dried baby’s breath complete the ensemble.

©Pamela Roller
www.pamelaroller.com

Here is another excerpt from my American Title finalist story The Magic Knot.


After setting the computer in Niall’s room to standby, Rose tucked the notebook beneath her arm, then picked up his small wooden box to return it to the windowsill. Tingles ran across her skin from the box. She blinked, trying to clear her mind as drowsiness tugged down her eyelids. A dreamy sensation fluttered through her mind, whispering of secrets and dark delights.

She must put the box down. And she would in a minute, when she could summon the strength to place it back on… A wave of heat shimmered up through her body. Oh, God. She dropped back onto the seat. What on earth did Niall keep in the box? With trembling fingers, she eased up the lid.

Rose’s breath caught. Three small linked circles of pale stone nestled in black velvet. The strange jewelry was similar to the piece her mother gave her when she was a child. She touched her chest and felt the earthy brown stones she always wore underneath her blouse. Her mother told her never to take the stone pendent off. Obviously, nobody gave Niall the same advice.

“Niall.” Her voice quivered on his name. The urge to touch his stones filled her with sharp, achy longing. “Get a grip, woman.” Rose tried to drag her gaze away.

She blinked and shook her head. How long had she been in the room?

All she had to do was close the lid and place the box back on the windowsill. Her fingertip slipped into the box, grazed across the top stone. Everything smoothed out inside her, worries drifted away. Between her breasts, the stone pendent she’d worn against her heart all her life resonated with the elemental beat of the stones beneath her fingers. Her eyelids lowered, and she toppled down, down into a place of dark, hazy pleasure.

For more information on my paranormal stories visit http://www.helenscotttaylor.com/

Gardening My Way

Posted by Scarlet Pumpernickel | 11:21 PM | 3 comments »

My grandmother loved gardening. She’d work in the yard from daylight until dark. She loved flowers and could root the most delicate rose in a pot of red Georgia clay simply by sticking a stem into wet mud. Then, hoe in hand, as she chopped away at weed in her garden she was a snake’s worst nightmare. Born in 1896, Ma Ma was at once both a genteel Southern belle and a hearty farmer’s wife. She once shot a chicken hawk off her favorite bantam hen with a single shot. She cooked for field hands on the dairy and she tended her flowers.
I inherited Ma Ma’s love of flowers. I love admiring them, picking them for bouquets and choosing them for my garden. That’s where our similarities end. I hate getting hot and sweaty and my hands have never fit the handle of a hoe. I just can’t make myself get up and go outside at the crack of dawn to work in the yard.
If you thought you were going to get really great gardening advice, take heart. I do have some to give you. Hire someone to do the grunt work. That’s what I do. I reserve the fun part for myself. I shop for the annuals and choose the perennials for my flower garden, and then I hire someone to plant them for me. Although sometimes not very successfully.
Once three teenage boys came by my house and offered to do yard work for spending money. It was a Saturday morning and they wanted to go the movies. I agreed to pay them to weed the small flowerbed at the edge of the driveway and they set to work pulling out the over-grown weeds. The next thing I knew, they’d disturbed a yellow-jacket nest and were running for their lives. I retreated to the kitchen to avoid the angry bees while the boys left by way of the back fence, jumping rather than climbing it. They never returned to finish the job; I guess they found another way to earn their spending money for the weekend.
I hired my brother-in-law to do the shrubs and flowerbeds. His solution was to chop everything down saying, “don’t to worry, it’ll grow back.” He was right. The messy, invasive stuff grew back in profusion, while the more delicate and valuable bushes gave up the ghost.
Recently, while admiring a friend’s newly landscaped yard, I remarked that I wish I had someone to keep up my yard and she graciously gave me the name of the man who did her work. I called and made an appointment for him to come by. We walked the yard together, and I showed him exactly what I wanted done. He gave me a very fair price, and I gave him the go ahead to clean the flowerbeds. Apparently he knows my brother-in-law because when I got home from school, the entire front flowerbed had been leveled. Gone were the dogwoods and azaleas. The only thing remaining was invasive ivy, the plant that created the problem in the first place. I’m considering concrete and plastic flowers.

"What are we doing tonight, then, Brain?"

"Same thing we do every night, Pinky. Try to take over the world."

Pinky and the Brain(one is a genius, the other's insane!)

Save a Life

Posted by Sandra Cox | 1:29 AM | | 2 comments »


I’d like to chat with you today about shelter-rescue animals. If you are thinking of adding a cat or dog or even a bunny or guinea pig to your family please consider a rescue animal. They come in all shapes, sizes, and colors; purebreds and mutts. These wonderful creatures are some of the most devoted and loving animals you’ll ever have the pleasure to meet. Many of these creatures have suffered from abuse or neglect. Many sense how close they are to death. Most of them just want a home and a person to shower their love and loyalty on. If you aren’t familiar with the local shelters or rescues in your area the easiest way to find them is petfinder.com. Petfinder will ask you what animal you want, what breed, age, size, gender, your zip or city and state. You plug in the information and petfinder does a search on what animals, that meet your specifications, are available in your area. So if you are thinking about extending your family to include a pet, please save a life and adopt.

Promo-Joanne-Fatal Fortune

Posted by Josie | 8:42 AM | 1 comments »

Hello readers,
Today I continue with my excerpt of Fatal Fortune, my historical romance set in England, 1508.

Hope you enjoy it!

The man released Yolanda and she fell to the ground. He reversed his strides and bolted toward Valentina.
“We need to ask you some questions,” he said.
“Nay, I shall not answer.” Undeterred, she lunged for the nameless attacker, and threw the hot water at him before backing away.
“Halt! We are not here to harm you.” He stumbled, hot water dripping down his ruddy cheeks and scruffy white beard. Steam rose from the red welts on his face.
His startled expression bolstered Valentina’s courage. “You monster!” Her lips tightened. She swung the pot and beat his helmet, clanging the metals together.
Yolanda scrabbled up off the dirt. Ever conscious of her appearance, she smoothed her skirt over her bare legs before kicking him in the shins.

“Good God!” the unsuspecting attacker bellowed. He tried to protect his legs and his face at the same time. His wool cloak fell back revealing grimy plate armor and a long sword at his side. Valentina blinked several times, unable to believe what she saw. She could not be seeing an apparition at this dark hour, but the intruder was a . . . knight. Here. In the caravan.
Another brawny man in plate armor appeared from the shadows. “Sir Geoffrey, are you all right? Which woman shall I take?” His cold brown eyes followed Sir Geoffrey’s gaze to Valentina.
“She may be the one. Finally, the woman Lord Norwich has been searching for,” Sir Geoffrey said.
Valentina froze. Sir Roland reached her in two giant strides and clamped his gnarled hand over her mouth. She dropped the pot and kicked at him.
“Nay! Do not touch me!” she screamed and sunk her teeth into his hand. He yelped and let her go. The respite gave her enough time to grab Yolanda. Gasping, Valentina tugged her sister toward the group of saucer-eyed mourners hiding in the forest’s undergrowth, not stopping until they were safely alongside them.
Everyone belonging to the tribe hid. Everyone except Luca.
He launched himself up into the heavy branches of a tree. The brittle limbs cracked under his weight as he braced his bare feet on either side of the trunk and balanced with ease. Raw-boned and dark, he coiled, rage dripping off his skin. He gazed down from his elevated stance, and raised his forearm, preparing to strike.
Valentina tried not to glance at him, afraid she might ruin his ambush, hoping the knights underestimated how fast he was.
“The women look the right age,” Sir Roland shouted. “I shall take them both.”
“Nay.” Luca’s black eyes glittered. He vaulted to the ground behind Sir Roland, yanked a short knife from his belt, and wound his arm around Sir Roland’s neck. “No one takes our women without my permission.”
“We have searched for months, under orders,” Sir Geoffrey said, approaching Luca and Sir Roland warily. “We are searching for Valentina.”
These men were searching for . . . her? Why? Because she had stolen? Aye, she had coins and jewels to trade for food, but the English would not let her. They hoarded everything for themselves. Her tribe needed to eat. She had to steal.
Certainly her desperate crime was not bad enough to warrant knights coming for them, or to risk Luca’s life. In any case, she would not be answering any questions a despicable English man might ask. A cruel noble could punish her by a loss of a hand.

UNDERDEAD - Excerpt: Chapter 1, Page 2

Posted by Liz Jasper | 10:49 AM | 2 comments »

Hi all,

I posted page 1 of UNDERDEAD last week. If you missed it, you can click on the page one excerpt link to the right on the Pink Fuzzy Slipper Blog or go to my website at http://www.lizjasper.com/ or buy the book. : )

Here's Chapter One, page two:


Becky was staring over my shoulder and had started fanning herselfvigorously with a dessert menu. "I mean really, really good-looking."

"Pass," I said from my slumped position. I seemed to have lost thewill to sit up straight. Becky tore her eyes away from the "hot man" long enough to look atme as if I were crazy."I'm off really good-looking men," I said.

"Oh please. That's such total crap."

"I'm not kidding." And I wasn't, not really. "Extremely good-looking men are always horribly deficient in other areas—you know, like kindness, consideration… It's like they get by on their looks and don't develop a personality."

I threw my balled-up napkin on the table. "Either that or God put all their eggs in one basket—they're hot but they're stupid."

The last thing I needed after an evening of Roger, our pompous gasbag of a department chair, was to deal withanother overblown ego.

"Ouch. Sounds like someone has some old boyfriend issues to workout."

"Already have. Lesson learned—don't date extremely hot men."

Carol had stopped trying to make her sliver of chocolate cake last longer than Moses was lost in the desert, and was following our discussion interestedly from her position between us at the foot of the table. Unlike Becky, Carol looked like a high school science teacher. She was in her mid-thirties with long dark brown hair and the weight of a few too many faculty meeting doughnuts pooling abouther waist. Carol leaned forward.

"You know, Jo has a point." Her brown eyes glittered behind her sensible gold-rimmed glasses as she warmed to her topic. "They've done studies that show very good-looking people actually do not tend to be as well developed in other areas—uh…"

Her words shriveled and died under the heat of Becky's glare. "Live a little, Jo! We didn't pick this place for the food, you know."

Ah.That explained why we were eating at this unexpectedly trendy club a few blocks outside the gentrified section of downtown Long Beach.

"I still can't believe you talked him into this," Becky said.

Carol gave her a stern look over the top of her glasses. "I told him it was rated one of the best restaurants in Long Beach, and it is. I just didn't tell him what for."

Her pursed lips twitched and then widened into an evil grin that was the duplicate of Becky's. It looked strange on her sweet face.

"In another hour, the Jungle Cranks will be playing, and this place will look like any other club," Becky said with a dreamy smile. "Roger is going to pitch a fit when he sees it."

That just tells you how clueless Roger is. He probably didn't evenknow there were restaurants outside of Denny's.

"I'd like to see Roger pitch a fit," I said, beginning to look forward to the evening for the first time. I glanced at my watch and stifled a yawn; it was getting close to my normal bedtime. "I guess I could stay for another hour or so."

"I'm beginning to think you may be beyond help," Becky said.

Carol shook her head in silent agreement.

"Hey, what are you ganging up on me for?" I said.

Becky scowled. "Well, look at you. Tonight's outfit's not so bad—that skirt shows off your long legs and your sweater's actually in fashion this year and not two sizes too big for you for once—butwhat's with all the Dockers and Oxford shirts and little matching sweaters you wear to work? I mean you're what, twenty-four?"

I hesitated and then corrected her. "Twenty-two."

I didn't like to talk about my age. The last thing I needed was for my eighth-grade students to learn I had only nine years on them. My lips curved up in a sudden smile as I recalled that I was about to have two whole weeks away from them. Becky's scowl deepened.

"You're twenty-two," she said. "You dress like a thirty-five-year-old soccer mom."

"I do not! I just dress more conservatively than you do."


* * *

That's the end of page two. Page three will be posted in a couple of weeks. Keep tuned...

And have a great Tuesday!

Cheers,

Liz Jasper


This is an excerpt from one of my short contemporary stories:

The following Monday, Melanie was sitting at one of the tables in the dining room with a sales rep examining new wedding table-decorations when one of the waitresses brought her a business card.

Melanie turned the square of velum into the light and read, ‘Ms. Stephanie Curtis: Solicitor.’ She held it out to the waitress with a smile. ‘I think this is meant for Jack. He’s out to lunch. Why don’t you suggest she rings him later.’

The waitress shook her head, blond curls bouncing. ‘The lady asked for you.’

Melanie frowned. ‘Are you sure?’ When the young woman nodded, Melanie apologized to the sales rep and told him she’d consider his products and be in touch. With a hint of trepidation, she walked out to the reception area. She couldn’t imagine what Stephanie Curtis wanted with her. She’d only met the woman a few times. Mostly, she saw her from a distance as she came and went from Jack’s house. The last thing she wanted was to get caught up in the middle of their lovers’ squabble.

Stephanie Curtis rose elegantly from a floral settee by the huge stone fireplace in the entrance hall and offered her hand as Melanie approached. ‘May we talk?’

Melanie could hardly say no, so she led her visitor into the manager’s office and closed the door. ‘Please take a seat.’ Not sure if this call should be classed as business or personal, Melanie opted to take the second guest chair rather than sit on the other side of the desk. As soon as she sat and noticed Stephanie’s chilly expression, she wished she’d put the barrier of the desk between them. ‘How can I help you?’

Stephanie glanced around the room, her glossy, pink lips taut, her eyes narrowed. ‘Did you do it in here?’ She gave Melanie a derisive glance and laughed coldly. ‘No, you don’t look the sort to be risqué. I bet you’re an “in bed with the lights out” type of gal, aren’t you. What the hell did Jack see in you?’

For long moments Melanie couldn’t think. The quiet tick of the clock marked off the seconds as she stared at Stephanie, her mouth open and her brain frozen in shock. ‘I don’t—’

‘Please spare me the pointless denials.’ Stephanie jumped up and paced around the room, examining the furnishings as if she were picturing Melanie and Jack together in various places.

‘You really have got this wrong.’ Melanie stood and followed Stephanie. ‘There’s nothing between Jack and me. Nothing. Heavens…’ Melanie put her hand to her throat and flushed at the thought of Jack getting close to her, touching her…. ‘Whoever told you this is just causing trouble, I promise. There’s no truth in it. None. I’ve never touched Jack. He’s never touched me. How can you even imagine he’d be interested in me?’ She stopped, realizing she was babbling and needed to calm down.

Stephanie stared at her through narrowed eyes, her expression dangerous. ‘Don’t lie to me. Jack told me he’s in love with you himself.’

‘Jack? In love with me?’ Melanie stumbled back and caught hold of the edge of the desk. ‘Why would Jack say…?’

Stephanie stared at her. ‘Don’t think you’re going to get away with this you two-faced little bitch. Everyone thinks you’re such a nice person. And isn’t Jack lucky to have found someone he can trust to take care of his precious hotel. Looks like Jack got lucky in more ways than one. I’m going to make sure everyone knows exactly what sort of woman you really are.’

‘But I’m not…’ Melanie started, but one look at Stephanie’s face told her she was wasting her breath.

Stephanie paced toward the door. ‘Tell Jack I said hi when you see him.’ Then she slammed the door behind her.

Melanie stared blankly at the fireplace for a long time trying to absorb what had just happened. Gradually her shock turned to anger. Nothing had happened between her and Jack, which meant for some reason he’d lied and used her as an excuse to break off his engagement with Stephanie. When he got back from his lunch appointment, he was damn well going to explain why.

For information on my stories visit http://www.helenscotttaylor.com/

Hello-

Posted by Misc. Muse | 12:47 AM | 2 comments »


I've been Journaling since high school, I graduated 1971. In 1972 I enlisted in the Air Force, I went in as an Administration Specialist. I was in for 4yrs. That is where I met my dh whom I've been married to for 32 yrs. We have had 5 children, 2 we lost as premature infants. Our other children are ds 28, dd 23, ds 17. I've been a homeschool mom for 23yrs. My youngest graduates in Jan. wants to enlist in the Marines. I also homeschool a friend's daughter in English, Lit, and Science. In recent months I've joined Wabash Wordsmith- picking up some of my old interest. With my season of life changing- I will have time for other things. We have lived in Indiana for the last 20yrs. I am orginally from Bayard, NE but grew up in N. California, I've also lived several other places. Right now most of the writing I have done is few prose, mostly short stories based on different things in my life or humorous things my children have done. Here is picture of me with 2 of my children- I need to get a better pic made. My blog is ebelcousin.blogspot.com

Hi There, Everybody!

Posted by Toni V.S. | 11:36 PM | 3 comments »

Well, here I am! Old writer, new blogger--wide-eyed and awe-struck. I'll make this short and sweet since I'm in the midst of writing a new book: Thanks for inviting me!--TVS

By Beth Trissel

CHAPTER ONE
June 1758, the Colonial Frontier, the Allegheny Mountains of Western Virginia

Even the scent was different here, an earthy musk of living plants and crumbling leaves as ancient as the giant chestnuts. High above the forest canopy, a shrill cry sounded. Rebecca Elliot glanced up and saw a red-tailed hawk plummet through the blue, snatching a dove on the wing. Buff-colored feathers exploded in a cloud, then, nothing. Limp dove in its talons, the hawk flew out of sight.

A chill prickled down Rebecca’s spine. What other predators lurked in this ocean of trees? The stout walls of the log cabin she’d passed by earlier seemed a haven; a sturdy fort would be safer still. Urging her mare on, she caught up with her younger sister, Kate, riding just ahead of her.
Branches snagged Rebecca’s blue linen skirts. She freed her hem, only to have a limb grab her wide-brimmed straw hat. Halting the mare, she tugged at the satin ties under her chin, arching in the sidesaddle to disentangle herself.

“Easy, Mrs. Elliot,” Lieutenant McClure cautioned in low tones from behind. He guided his roan horse alongside hers.

She studied the young officer in his homespun shirt, breeches, and worn riding boots. The angle of his firm jaw, roughened with brown whiskers, reminded Rebecca of her late husband, John. But no man could be as handsome as her English captain, she thought, with the familiar ache.

Lieutenant McClure freed her hat and handed it to her. “Best keep it in your lap and your skirts well tucked up.”

“Thank you,” she said, smoothing back strands of blond hair that slipped loose from the knot at the nape of her neck. “Tell me, does this mountain have a name?” To know it would make this strange land seem somewhat tamed.

His watchful gray eyes met hers. “Shenandoah, Ma’am.”

“Like the valley? I’m told Shenandoah means Daughter of the Stars. Such a lovely name.”

His mouth tightened. “I suppose so. It’s Indian.”

Kate glanced back over her shoulder, the green bonnet framing her delicate features, warm brown eyes alight with curiosity. “Do you think we’ll see any Indians, Lieutenant?”

“God, I hope not,” he muttered.

Rebecca gazed at the blue-green ridges looming above her like the storm swells of an uncharted sea. “How much further to the fort? My sister and I are eager to join our uncle.”

Lieutenant McClure shrugged. “You’ll be united with him soon enough. Lord willing,” he added, and waved them both on.

In contrast to the men’s guarded silence, a gold warbler chattered among the leaves. Shafts of late-day sunlight streamed through breaks in the thickly clustered trees to touch the nodding heads of columbine and bright daisies. The woods were like a garden long ago abandoned.

She jerked up her head. A big black bear ran across the path just ahead of the lead militiaman and sent a flock of wild turkeys flapping from the thicket. The soldier slowed suddenly. Rebecca steadied her nervous mare. Any comparisons to an idyllic garden took flight with the scattering birds. Nor could lush fern and flowers relieve her growing fatigue. Legs and back aching, she shifted uncomfortably in the saddle.

Kate turned again, furrows creasing her smooth brow. “Are you dreadfully weary?”

“A bit. I’m not the horsewoman you are.”

“Perhaps we’ll make camp early,” Kate offered.

“Not if yesterday’s journey is the standard.” Rebecca summoned a reassuring smile. “Don’t fret for me, dearest. I’ll manage.” Somehow, she always had.

She looked beyond Kate to the soldiers guiding their mounts over the rocky trail. What did this rugged militia, sent to reinforce Fort Warden, think of the two young English ladies traveling under their protection? No one had said anything, but the women’s presence had to be unusual, to say the least. How far away Philadelphia seemed now; London was unspeakably distant. Was she mad bringing her sweet sister into this remote place?

Whatever lay ahead couldn’t be worse than the life she and Kate had left behind. Even so, doubt plagued Rebecca as the company rode into a grassy clearing among the trees. Deer lifted their heads in the muted evening light while a thrush trilled from high up in the boughs. This seemed a fair spot to make camp, and yet, something felt amiss.

Lieutenant McClure reined in his mount and held up a silencing hand as if he sensed it too. Men warily turned their heads from side to side. Rebecca joined her eyes with several dozen others searching fern-filled shadows––but only for an instant. Then the shadows came violently to life and an explosion of musket fire tore through her every nerve.

Soldiers struck by the hail of lead shot screamed out. Some slumped over their horses. Others tumbled to the ground. Wounded men writhed in the crushed grass, their piteous cries in her ears, while the dead lay where they’d fallen. Crimson stains pooled beneath them.
“Dear God!” Heart in her throat, Rebecca wheeled her frightened mare toward Lieutenant McClure.

He snatched the musket from his shoulder. “Stay low!” he yelled, leaping from his horse.

Soldiers scrambled to the ground to meet the unseen foe, but Rebecca and Kate crouched in their saddles, fighting to control their skittish mounts. Abandoning the horses would leave them with no means of escape. It crossed her desperate mind that neither she nor Kate knew how to reach the fort.
Another volley of shots flung more men to the grass.

Nothing could have prepared Rebecca for such an enemy. Elusive as ghosts one minute, a second later, bloodcurdling war cries rent the air as half-naked warriors swept from the trees––so many more than the fast-falling soldiers. Bare arms swung lethal tomahawks with hellish fury.

Those men still able to stand fired into the surging tide, bloodying one brave’s shoulder, grazing another’s leg. Faces contorted, wounded men heaved themselves up from the grass and raised long knives to strike at their attackers.

She gaped in horror through the acrid haze of gun smoke––the taste of burnt powder in her mouth––as more soldiers fell screaming under brutal tomahawks. Sightless eyes stared up. The stench of battle filled her nose. She wanted to retch.

From the corner of her eye, Rebecca saw a warrior tearing right toward her and Kate. “Lieutenant!” she cried, battling the reins to twist her frantic mare away.

He planted himself before the two women, musket leveled. He fired, hurling the warrior back, but had no time to reload. “There are too many! Get out of here, Mrs. Elliot!” Throwing down his musket, he grasped his own tomahawk and disappeared into the smoky chaos of clashing men and bolting horses.

Rebecca fought numbing panic and turned to her sister.
Kate sat wide-eyed atop her mount, her gaze riveted on the warriors as they wielded bloody scalping knives, stripping hunting shirts and powder horns from the fallen men.

Rebecca’s mare reared, tossing its head, eyes rolling in fear. She wrestled the reins for control. Kate’s big gelding was also frantic, but she checked him with instinctive expertise. “Kate! Give him his head! Go!” Rebecca shouted, slicing through the paralysis that gripped her sister.

Kate’s gelding sprang away and galloped past several riderless horses and warriors lunging at the reins. Bent low over the horse’s straining neck, she flew across the hazy clearing into the woods beyond. Rebecca hauled on the reins with clammy palms, turning her mare’s head to follow Kate.

A sinewy brave rushed at her, his mouth gaping in a fierce cry, bare arms outstretched.
She shrieked, lashing him across the face with her crop.
He tore it from her hand and twisted a quick bunch of her skirts to rip her off the horse. Jerked down by the force, she clung to the saddle with one hand and smashed her fist up under his chin. His head snapped back.

She raked his painted cheek with her fingernails. “Get away!” Kicking out hard, she drove her foot into his chest.

He stumbled back with a grunt, surprise on his bleeding face. But he’d be at her again in a tick. She thrust trembling fingers into the saddlebag, closing her hand around the loaded pistol that had belonged to her late husband. With deadly will, she drew it out and pointed the gleaming barrel. She cocked the hammer just as Captain Elliot had taught her.

The brave jumped aside as she fired and the shot exploded uselessly. The mare whinnied, dancing sideways, pitching like a ship. Rebecca clung shrieking to the sidesaddle. If she fell, she’d be trampled––or worse.

“Hold on!” a man yelled, his voice deep, arresting.

Black hair flying, dark eyes riveted, a powerful warrior sprinted toward her, his long legs vaulting over downed soldiers, muscular arms shoving other warriors out of his path. “Naga! Ambelot!” Shouting strange words, he seized her assailant and flung him reeling over the grass. The lesser man lifted conciliatory hands and spun away.

Rebecca met the newcomer’s black eyes in astonishment. Did he truly think to help her? If not, she might get off a clout to his jaw with the pistol butt before he grabbed her.

He extended one hand to her frenzied mare. “Easy, steady.” His calm manner and commanding presence soothed the alarmed animal. He stepped nearer, reaching for the bridle.
Triumphant whoops of victory rose around them. The horse whinnied and reared again, hooves pawing the air.

With a despairing cry, Rebecca flew from the saddle and tumbled to the unforgiving ground. She cracked the back of her head and lay in a fog. The riotous jubilation reached her as if from a distance. Vaguely, she sensed someone near.

“So fair you are,” a low voice said near her ear.

Strong arms lifted her and she had the unreal sensation of being safe before blackness claimed her.

###
Note: Through the Fire was inspired by my early American ancestors, some of whom were taken captive by the Shawnee Indians. One of whom married into the tribe. 'Fire' has finaled in multiple contests. For more on this and my other works please visit my website http://www.bethtrissel.com/

I finaled in the Where the Magic Begins Contest with THROUGH THE FIRE, my colonial frontier romance with a Last of the Mohicans flavor!

Thought For The Day

Posted by Sandra Cox | 9:31 AM | | 2 comments »

It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.
William Shakespeare

Boji Stones

Posted by Sandra Cox | 9:11 AM | | 2 comments »


Monitors beeped and clear liquid dripped through an IV into her arm. Her entire body throbbed in pain. She looked around, confused and afraid, nauseated by the smell of alcohol and antiseptic. Where am I? What happened?

The last thing she remembered was a man with the face of an angel and what must be the heart of a demon, swerving his car against hers, his expression determined, fanatical.

He was after the amulet! She looked down at her bare left arm. Oh my God, where was it?

The door opened and a stout black nurse sailed in, much like a majestic ship breasting the water, her white uniform so crisp it rustled as she walked. “And how are we feeling, Miss Sinclair?”

Like every bone in my body is broken, that’s how WE are feeling. “Like I’ve been in a car wreck. Can you tell where my amulet’s at?”

The nurse stopped. “Say what?”

“My bracelet. Please where is it?”

The nurse checked the monitor. “Probably in your bedside table.”

The table sat on the left side of the bed. Maureen Kelly Sinclair looked at her bandaged left arm, her left leg in a sling and then at the table. Pushing back the hysteria welling in her throat, she asked as calmly as she could. “Would you check please?”

“Just as soon as I change your IV.”

“Screw…”

The nurse looked up, her eyes narrowing.

Maureen snapped her teeth shut, her jaws working. She took a deep breath and concentrated on relaxing one vertebra at a time.

As the nurse puttered with the IV, Maureen’s mind raced. Who besides herself knew about the amulet?

“The police were here while you were sleeping. They’ll be back later to get your statement.”

Maureen rubbed her aching temple. “I thought I already gave them a statement.”

“You were pretty hysterical at the time. Understandable.” The nurse clucked and shook her head. “What’s this world coming to when a madman runs you off the road? Lucky for you there was an unmarked car directly behind you.”

“My amulet, please.” Her chest tightened and her nerves screamed.

“Sure, hon, I’m almost done.” She straightened the bag, walked around to the table and opened the drawer.

“It’s not here.”


I’m delighted to announce my paranormal romance THE MAGIC KNOT is a finalist in the Romantic Times Book Review Magazine’s forth American Title contest. (For any of you not familiar with the contest, it’s like American Idol, only for books!)

The first round of voting starts on October 15th and closes on October 28th. Voting takes place on the Romantic Times website at www.romantictimes.com. There are ten finalists, and first round voting is for the best first sentence. Please take a look when the time comes, and if you like my first line, I’d love your vote.
As today’s blog is supposed to be about history, I thought you’d be interested to hear a little about the place that inspired my vision of the Irish fairy queen’s mansion that features in The Magic Knot.

The beautiful Palladian mansion Powerscourt (pictured above) is found within the Wicklow Mountains near Enniskerry, a few miles from Dublin. When you stand on the elevated terrace behind the building, forty-seven acres of lush gardens roll out before you. The jewel-bright colors of beautifully manicured flowerbeds are set against the backdrop of waves of multicolored shrubs and acres of mixed woodland. The gardens surrounding the mansion, contrast with the stark beauty of the mountains in the distance.

A castle has stood on the site since 1300. The current structure was refurbished in 1974 in preparation for opening to the public. Tragically, on completion of the work, the house was gutted by fire before it could open. The owners didn’t have the heart to start again, and the structure now houses a mixture of quality boutiques and shops for tourists. There is a display documenting the refurbishment and fire. Luckily, some of the original internal building survived, and is open to be viewed.

If you would like more information on my story The Magic Knot, please visit my website at http://www.helenscotttaylor.com/

An except of The Magic Knot is posted on this blog here: http://pinkfuzzyslipperwriters.blogspot.com/2007/09/magic-knot.html



"... the Spanish horse is the noblest horse in the world ... and the most beautiful, for he is not so thin and ladylike as the barb, not so gross as the Neapolitan. He is of great spirit and great courage and docile, hath the proudest trot and the best action in his trot; the loftiest gallop, and is the lovingest and gentlest horse and fittingest of all for a king in a day of triumph ... much more intelligent than even the best Italian horses and for that reason the easiest dressed."

So wrote the Duke of Newcastle in his 1667 manuscript, "New Method and Extraordinary Invention to Dress (train) Horses."

Imagine a fairy-tale horse prancing across the mountains and plains of ancient times, his unshod hooves lifted high in a dramatic trot.


A white stallion, his thick mane unfurled like a flag, canters boldly toward an angry bull and the cheers of the crowd rise into a blue-hot Spanish sky.


The Andalusian is an ancient pure breed that has been carefully preserved over the centuries. In Northern Spain, cave paintings depict men leading Mesolitic horses with convex heads, solid muscular bodies, elegant necks and luxurious manes. Circa 1,100 B.C., Homer refers to the Iberian horse in his Iliad. Xenophon, the 'father' of modern equitation, praises the gifted Iberian horses and horseman who fought in the Peloponneisian Wars in 431 B.C. Julius Caesar wrote of the noble steeds of Hispania in "Del Bollo Gallico." The Iberian horse carried Hannibal across the Alps in his invasion of Italy (though the elephants got all the credit!). History records Richard I, and many of his knights, mounted on "airy Spanish Destriers".


In an era when the mounted soldier trusted his life to his horse, the Andalusian's strength and natural gift for collection made him the premier warhorse of Europe. It is easy to see why a horse, so bold and quick, that he can dart near enough for a mounted bullfighter to place a rose between the horns of a maddened bull then whisk away before being gored, is a definite advantage in battle. When mortal conflict waged hand-to-hand, the Andalusian was the soldier's best friend or worst nightmare, depending on which side of the battle you faced him.
Dressage, today's fastest growing sport, was developed as a means to school the superior warhorse. The Andalusian is particularly gifted for training in the Airs Above the Ground:

Capriole - The stallion leaps into the air, drawing his forelegs under his chest at the height of elevation, and kicks out violently with his hind legs. The capriole may take years of training.

Levade - The horse must maintain a haunched position at a 45-degree angle to the ground, requiring muscle control and perfect balance.

Mezair - A series of successive Levades in which the horse lowers its forefeet to the ground before rising again on hindquarters, moving forward.

Courbette - The horse balances on the hind legs and then jumps, keeping the hind legs together and the forelegs off the ground.

You can see videos of these movements by visiting this link: http://www.lipizzaner.com/lipizzaner_frameset.asp

These spectacular movements are now practiced in only a few of the world's classical riding halls. The Spanish Court Riding School in Vienna is the most famous of the establishments which teach the art of horsemanship, but there is also the Escuela de Arte Equestre in Jerez de la Frontera, and its counterpart in Portugal, as well as the Ecole Militaire at Saumur, France. The Spanish Riding School is named for the Spanish horses used to create the Lipizzaner breed. In 1562, Maximilian of Austria imported Spanish horses to Kladrub (in what is now known as Czechoslovakia). The six main stallion lines and the nine main mare lines of today's Lipizzaner breed trace heavy Spanish ancestry.


Throughout history, the Spanish horse has remained remarkably pure. The Andalusian is very sturdy, with a long sloping shoulder that gives him a lofty and pleasant trot. His wide chest, deep heart, strong, short back and well-rounded hind quarters give him the ability to sit down on his haunches and balance on his hind legs. The well-crested neck with its curtain of silky mane and the thick, long tail add elegance and a storybook beauty. Though most people imagine the Andalusian as the dancing white horse, the Spanish Registry recognizes blacks and bays as well. The Andalusian ranges in size from 15 hands to 17 hands, with the average being 15.3-16.0.


Long ago, when King Ferdinand of Spain decreed that all gentlemen must ride stallions, and the breeders of Spanish horses began to select bloodstock, which would produce a stallion with good enough temperament to be a pleasurable saddle horse (in an effort, no doubt, to preserve the Spanish nobility). The King's severe edict must have resulted in a few Spanish Grandees being dumped on their noble heads! So, the Andalusian was selectively bred to retain its fiery presence and proud bearing, yet be gentle and tractable, a trait which persists today.


In the heyday of European monarchies, the Iberian horse's flair, style and formidable carriage made him the mount of choice for the aristocracy. Not only did the Andalusian excel in battle, he was a fancy parade horse and an elegant fine-harness animal. This popularity earned him a grandiose title, "Horse of Kings" or "Royal Horse of Europe." Indeed, there was a time when no crowned head would consider having a portrait painted on any horse other than an Andalusian.
It is not surprising that the 17th-century Flemish painter, Peter Paul Rubens, chose the Spanish horse, with its robust body and flowing mane and tail, for his paintings. The artist is noted for his voluptuous, full-bodied nudes, and the Andalusian horse epitomizes the term "Rubenesque." The Spanish horse and Rubens' passionate style were the quintessence of the opulent Baroque era. As a popular painter and a pro-Spanish diplomat, Rubens' work and his pro-Spanish politics accompanied him on his diplomatic missions. Thus, via canvas, the Spanish horse was introduced to the high courts of Europe.


Rubens painted portraits of such famous personages as the governors of the Spanish Netherlands, King Charles I of England, King Philip IV of Spain, the Spanish Duke of Lerma, Kings Henri IV and Henri XIII of France, the Polish Princes Ladislas Sigismund and the Duke of Lerma. In "Capture at Juliers", Rubens allegorically depicts Marie de Medici mounted on a Spanish horse. Many of his works, including "St. George and the Dragon" (c. 1606-1610), feature the Spanish horse in powerful and fierce battle poses, which seemed to satisfy his taste for depicting violent action and lovely women.


Van Dyke, Rubens' most celebrated pupil, depicted Charles I on an Andalusian, and the Spanish painter Velazquez painted Philip III and Queen Isabel of Bourbon riding Andalusians.
But in the late 18th and 19th centuries, the trend to greater size and scope in horses began to adversely affect the breed's popularity. Then a tragic plague followed by a devastating famine nearly swept the breed into oblivion, but, fortunately, in a few mountainous areas of the country, the Carthusian monks carefully preserved the depleted bloodstock and began the long journey to re-establishing the breed. In order to conserve these rare horses for breeding, the Spanish government placed an embargo on their export and, for over 100 years, the Andalusian was virtually unseen by the rest of the world. Only a scattered one or two Andalusians came to this country prior to the 1960's, and it was virtually impossible to see one outside art or film.

Like the economy following a stock market surge, the breed's popularity is on the rise. Sales prices have remained stable through the recession encouraging many investors to consider the Andalusian the blue chip stock of the equine world. The glamour and presence of the breed attract many celebrities. At their Santa Ynez Valley Ranch, John and Bo Derek are Andalusian breeders. Designer Bijan's fragrance is being promoted with photographs of his wife and daughter and their Andalusian horses. Burt Reynolds and Loni Anderson owned Spanish horses as did Dean Martin, film producers Greg Garrison and Bud Boetticher. Novelist Ainslee Sheridan spotlighted the breed in "Trophies" about international show jumping.
The unicorn in Stardust was an Andalusian. The breed's film appearances are too numerous to list here.


I speak as a former breeder of these wondrous animals. My stallion Bonito was twice National Champion Stallion and the best friend I ever had. Sometimes I wonder if he was my soul mate! The Andalusian is a masterpiece of living art, carefully preserved by the Cria Caballar, who inspect and grade the quality of the Spanish horse. Horses who do not meet the rigorous standards are not licensed to breed. To own an Andalusian horse is both an honor and a commitment to preserve history. The return on investment is uncommonly high -- Pride, Companionship and lots of unadulterated Fun.

Mascara

Posted by Liz Jasper | 2:15 PM | , , | 3 comments »

Today's health and beauty topic is: mascara. Or, as I like to call it, smudge on a wand.

Actually, I don't really call it that. Having a special name for mascara implies a familiarity I don't have. I don’t wear the stuff more than a few times a year. And lest anyone mistakenly credit me with high-minded reasons for eschewing makeup -- animal testing, gender equality, etc. -- my reasons are purely technical. (That not wearing mascara indulges my laziness and cheapness is just a bonus.)

The problem isn't that I can’t get it on straight. I have plenty enough eye-hand coordination for that. If I do find myself with three lashes and a black blob over one eye? Well, that's what the makeup toothbrush is for. (That's not a term of art. I really mean a toothbrush. I keep one in the makeup drawer. I've had one for years, yes, the same one. It's not as if it wears out from use.)

I might get a good solid lash blob three, maybe four times a year. For those math-obsessed readers out there, that makes my blob/application ratio about 66%. Easily handled. So what, you may ask, is the real problem?

Smudges. And not the sexy, smoky eye kind you can pretend you did on purpose. I'm talking thick black rings under my eyes. And these aren't any simple wash-off rings. I wear contacts, so I use contact-wearer-approved waterproof mascara. Those rings are on for the duration.
Why? Why me? No one else seems to have this problem. It's not as if I live in Florida. And anyway, waterproof. As far as I can see, there's no explanation. It's just mean.

Wait. Maybe this is about animal testing, after all. I mean, on me. (Humans are animals, for those who slept through the classification lectures in seventh grade science. Killing Poor Charles Our Fingers Got Sticky, anyone? Kings Play Chess on Fine-Grained Sand?) Raccoons have taken over Maybelline and are secretly testing their product on me. I'm probably on the cover of Glamour Raccoon. In raccoon homes everywhere, on little raccoon girl’s walls, there are photos of me coming home after a night out with huge black rings under my eyes.

Don't hate me because I'm beautiful. I—

(Liz Jasper’s blog had to end early today due to technical difficulties. The author has poked herself in the eye with her mascara wand.)


www.lizjasper.com

Today I am submitting the first few pages of my historical romance, Fatal Fortune. This award-winning story is about Valentina, a Roma (Gypsy) woman in 1508 England, and the nobleman she meets.

Hope you enjoy it! Stay tuned for more.

Joanne




“Si khohaimo may patshivalo sar o tshatshim.”
“There are lies more believable than the truth.”
-Old Romany saying





Chapter One

England 1508

“Bury me standing, for I have been on my knees all my life.”
Valentina Rupa bowed her head lower to hear her beloved mother’s last words. She searched the depths of her mother’s tired eyes and saw only the grief from her own heart.
Her mother’s breath faded, already settling into the night air, already gone.
“Daj, Mother . . . do not stop speaking,” Valentina cried. What good did it do to be a drabardi, a powerful fortuneteller and healer, if she could not save her own mother? Valentina focused on her mother’s lips, willing her to speak once more, and massaged her thin hands, growing cold, growing limp, refusing to let them go.

Her younger sister, Yolanda, stood beside her and gazed into their mother’s peaceful face. “Please, daj, ’tis not your time.” Her voice dropped to a whisper, “Her lips, she is breathing . . .”
“Nay, ’tis the wind.” Valentina peered up and stared straight ahead at the supple pine branches bending against a biting gust of air, threatening to collapse on top of their makeshift canopy. Wagon wheels creaked, groaning into the dirt, familiar sounds, yet so distant. Her mother had lived her entire life in the caravan, traveling from village to village. There was no other way for her. Only the way of the Roma.

The air reeked thick and heavy, warning of a hailstorm, stinging Valentina’s damp cheeks. She did not care, did not even bother to wipe them. Dear spirits, she hated the weakness of crying.
With shaking fingers, she tucked the threadbare blankets around her mother’s limp body, smoothed the wrinkled fabric and folded the ends back. Neatly, the way her mother liked it done.

Tucked, smoothed, folded. Tucked, smoothed, folded. Her hands moved deliberately. The continuous rhythm soothed her innate restlessness.
“Daj, you did not have to refuse to eat because of Yolanda and I,” she whispered. “We are young and strong. We would have found the food we needed somehow.”

Yolanda grabbed her arm. “Cease. We could not convince mother of doing otherwise.”
“She has suffered all these weeks—because of the English. Why do they treat us as if we are animals?” Valentina choked on her words and jostled the gleaming silver bracelets on her wrists, then brushed Yolanda’s hand away. “I am tired of this life, I am tired of their cruelty. Te lel len o beng. May the devil take them.”

“We shall be able to eat, at least for a while longer,” Yolanda said. “This is the land of the English. They own everything. Even the devil is afraid of them.”

“Then the sweating sickness shall curse all of England. All their precious food shall be of little use unless a Roma finds a cure . . . and we just shall not bother.” In a single, deliberate breath, Valentina blew out the long shivers that rippled through her body.
The friends who had been discreetly staying out of the way melted in now, coming from their wagons to gather close around the deathbed. The sad cries of the caravan penetrated the twilight and the last light of day faded. Purple lipped, the elderly, ragged tribe huddled together, stamping their feet to keep away the chill.

With the hem of her scarlet gown, Valentina wiped her eyes. Salt stung the corners, tiny crystals from the sea lashing the Ipswich coast. She had used the water to bathe her mother earlier, an ironic Roma custom that relied on her mother’s willingness to go to her death. It mixed with the tears she licked off her lips.

Yolanda helped her gather their mother’s personal belongings and carried them to the campfire.

Without moving, Valentina watched the flames rise against the night sky and consume the bits and pieces of her mother’s life. It was hard to follow these endless traditions, but her people burned most of the possessions of the dead, believing they were unclean and defiled the living.
She skimmed her index finger across the razor-sharp tip of her mother’s small dagger and accidentally drew blood. She did not have the heart to destroy the weapon, so she thrust the dagger into her gown’s deep folds.
Then Valentina glided her fingers across the last treasure, her mother’s yellow scarf, her diklo. Bringing it up to her face, she closed her eyes and inhaled. A whiff of oak and jasmine, green and mysterious, flooded her thoughts. She remembered her mother jauntily tying the diklo around her hair each morning. She was only supposed to take one small token, but she would take two.
Glancing at her faded gown, she folded the scarf into a perfect triangle and tied it loosely
around her throat. It did not match, and it did not matter.

Yolanda’s pretty, round face contorted in grief as she placed small, multi-colored stones around their mother’s body.

As the eldest daughter, almost twenty, Valentina assumed the responsibility of inserting pearls in her mother’s nose to keep out all wickedness. Her hands trembled, and she avoided touching her mother’s body for fear of contamination, another Roma superstition. Inhaling a drop of frankincense, she smoothed the spicy, golden oil along her arms to protect herself against the evil spirits.

Mayhap spirits did not exist at all. They certainly demanded endless rituals, and in return granted . . . nothing. A shadow of doubt, and her hands stopped. Glancing around at the silhouettes dancing in the firelight, she dabbed an extra ounce of oil on her wrists, just in case.
The men of their tribe sat in the grassy clearing on the forest’s edge, the scent of sweet brandy filling the brisk autumn air. Several grizzled dogs lay listless at their feet. Luca Boldor, the caravan’s tall, sinewy leader, mourned in a deep and plaintive voice and guided the old men in solemn chants. When all the other young men had gone off in search of food, Luca had not deserted the tribe.

“We need more hot water for tea, Yolanda, before we prepare for mother’s burial. This shan’t be enough.” Valentina’s voice quavered with fatigue. She picked up the pot to make her way past the wailing lamenters to the small tent the women shared, stepping carefully. A recent rain had washed soggy leaves over the ground.
One of the dogs sniffed, its furred neck bristled. A sharp crackle—somewhere a tree branch snapped.

Tonight, her senses sharpened. The last few nights she had dozed while nursing her mother and had dreamt about a man. A rich man. A powerful man.
Scanning the dense woods, she sensed that someone was watching. She had the gift of second sight, her mother always said. But Valentina shook it away. Her tribe was far too secluded to be found.

“Shall I retrieve your cloak?” She turned and called out to Yolanda, who had gone to tend the fire. With her free hand, Valentina brushed a strand of oily hair behind her ear, longing for a warm bath. But strict custom prevented her from washing until after her mother’s burial.
As Yolanda opened her mouth to reply, a man sprang through the trees and wrapped his large hand around her slender throat. Terror filled Valentina and for a moment she stood still. Stifling Yolanda’s shriek, the bulky man dragged her clear of the startled group. The aged mourners scurried in different directions, their faces etched in terror, while several hid in the undergrowth of the ancient forest surrounding the camp.

“Stop! Leave her!” Valentina clutched the teapot using the edge of her long gown and chased the invader into the dense brush. Panic welled in her stomach. For a brief beat her steps faltered, her feet numbed with terror.

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF YORK, South Carolina-
BEST OF THE SMALL SOUTHERN TOWNS

Have you ever bought a hammer while enjoying a slice of cheese or a bagged lunch to go? Where can you get the best take-out rotisserie chicken in the southeast- while you are filling your car with gas at the local filling station?

If you have never been to York, SC, you are denying yourself a blast from the past. Just a short 45-minute drive from Charlotte, NC, this small southern town has been called "The Charleston of the Up-Country” for good reason.

With family and friends, begin your journey on historic N. Congress Street, York’s main business thoroughfare. The morning may be the perfect opportunity to undertake the free walking tour. This tour lists the historic homes and sites on York’s tree-lined streets. York has one of the largest historic districts in the Southeast, and is the county seat of York county. The tour begins at the Railroad Department/Chamber of Commerce office on E. Liberty Street.

York is called the “White Rose” city. Many of the elegant homes represented on this tour resemble southern plantation homes. They feature large windows and doors opening onto piazzas to enjoy the cool night air. Some of the homes originated in the 1700’s, and all are currently lived in.

When you stop for lunch, check out O’Shea’s Pub serving 50 different kinds of beer and wine, or the Cotton Gin Tavern, featuring steaks, ribs, and burgers.

After a hearty lunch, it’s time to shop. A walk directly across the street is a step back in time at Miss Coleman’s Trading Post. The store sells frying pans, overalls, blue jeans, and corn bread pans for over 50 years. In the market for an old-fashioned washtub? This would be the place to find one. Need a washboard or a
new pair of overalls? You guessed it- they’re waiting for you here.

Our stroll along tree-lined N. Congress Street continues at the quaint Ivy Hill Antique Shop. An assortment of lovely and unusual gifts, cards, and scented candles for the discerning buyer are represented here.

Worth a peek a few doors down is the Sylvia Theater. If you’re in town for the afternoon or evening, this theater, billed as a “singer/songwriter showcase and performance venue,” features live local and nationally known entertainment, while serving beer and wine in
the lobby. Check sylviatheater.com for show times.

Also, have the gentlemen in your party check out the Men’s Shop, featuring fine clothing for men since 1948. And no trip to York is complete without a visit to Ferguson & Youngblood. This landmark hardware store supplies all your hardware needs, as well as bagged lunches to go.

The savory aromas from the gourmet restaurant, The Garden Café, beckon us for dinner. This outstanding French country restaurant is a top choice. Meals are served on local pottery, and feature low-country cuisine at their finest. Leave room for dessert- Buttermilk Pie is a favorite.

Visiting in the summertime? Take the short drive to the Peach Tree Orchards. Patrons are encouraged to slice and savor the large assortment of peaches sold here before they buy. After you make your selections, stop next door for a peach ice cream cone.

Just down the road from the Peach Tree is Stacy’s, the largest grower of perennials in the Southeast. All colors and varieties of pansies are available, and these colorful blooms can also be shipped. Inside is a full service restaurant and garden center.

A visit to John Leake’s remarkable furniture showroom always draws gasps of surprise from first-time visitors. John describes himself as a one-man band. He is a
furniture craftsman specializing in 18th century, Queen Anne style reproductions. He crafts all of his furniture special order, and works with solid woods of walnut, cherry, and maple. As he lives directly across the street, he casually mentions that he also uses his showroom as his living room. “I simply have a street that runs across my living room,” he explains.

Before you leave this charming town, there is one more coveted secret from the locals. Stop back to N. Congress Street at Woodland’s grocery for a take-out rotisserie chicken to go. You can also fill your car with gas for the trip home at their filling station. But be warned, the smell of the chicken will have you devouring it before you ever leave the city limits.

Staying the weekend? Enjoy Historic Brattonsville, an easy ride from York. Besides Living History days, the historical programs include the Christmas candlelight tours, Battle of Huck’s defeat, African-American history, and the Heritage Breed farm program.

SIDEBAR:

SUMMERFEST is held annually in downtown York on the fourth Saturday in August.

This event has been designated by the Southeast Tourism Society as one of the top 20 events in the entire southeast. Events include an exceptional craft fair, children’s activities, fireworks, a car show, golf tournament, and a large assortment of food vendors. A parade starts off the festival.
The Duke and Duchess of York are announced, and get the added privilege of riding around in a golf cart while enjoying the festivities of the day.

For further information visit:
www.yorksc.com
www.yorkcitysc.com


*Author’s note: Please check these businesses mentioned to be sure they are open and operating when you plan to visit.

This is the first page of UNDERDEAD, my cozy mystery about science teacher Jo Gartner who thinks her students are monsters… until an inept vampire leaves her UNDERDEAD and bodies start piling up—the traditional way!

UNDERDEAD

Chapter One

I would have shot him then and there if I thought it would do any good, but Roger was such a troll the bullet would have bounced off his thick, ugly hide. Maybe poison…

Becky interrupted my pleasant daydream with a whack on my arm. “Okay, don’t turn around and look,” she said, “but a guy is staring at you. And he is hot!”

“How nice for him.”

All I needed to cap off this fabulous evening was Becky’s matchmaking. I knew her taste. He probably wore chains and had a Mohawk. Becky herself was dressed in what was best described as slightly toned-down punk, not exactly your typical high school chemistry teacher garb. It went with her spiky hair, which she wore bleached and dyed silver, though a red fringe had been added in honor of the holidays. I should mention that she is Korean, so the dye job isn’t exactly subtle. The headmaster turns a blind eye to this display of “personal expression” because she’s a first-rate teacher and, at twenty-seven, cheap.

Around us, hip twenty-somethings in denim and black sipped cappuccinos and talked knowledgeably about the band that was setting up in the bar area. But we weren’t sitting with them. We were at a long rectangular table in the back of the restaurant, where a small balding man in a hideous sweater was lecturing passionately about the insidious evil that was grade inflation. If I’d ever imagined a fate worse than death, this was it—the science department Christmas party.

****

Short page, but the first always is. All that space taken up by...printing conventions (Who wants opening words to start way at the top of a page?). I'll be posting page two on Tuesday, Sept. 25th. For more information about UNDERDEAD or to purchase the ebook from Cerridwen Press, visit my website at http://www.lizjasper.com/.

Happy Sunday,

Liz, who is at work on the sequel.

Galliano Wine Cake

A festive cake for any time of the year! Yields: One bundt or angel food cake


Ingredients:

1 box Yellow Cake Mix- any brand

1 package instant vanilla pudding (You may use sugar free)

¼ cup Galliano wine

4 eggs

¼ cup Vodka

¾ cup orange juice

½ cup vegetable oil


Mix all ingredients for several minutes with electric mixer. Grease cake pan. (I use Pam

or other spray.) Bake in a bundt pan or angel food tube pan at 325 degrees for 40-50

minutes. After cooling, remove to serving plate. Dust with powdered sugar. Enjoy!


Novel excerpt.
Rosenwyn Tremain stared through her BMW’s windshield at the towering gray struts of the road bridge spanning the River Tamar. The gateway to Cornwall. She swallowed anxiously as the line of traffic edged closer to the bridge. In a few minutes, she’d be over, on Cornish soil—or more precisely Cornish asphalt.

A slash of lightning cut across the leaden sky, briefly relieving the dull afternoon. She shuddered then nervously fluffed her short hair.

Never set foot in Cornwall. Her mother’s plea whispered in her memory as her car crawled forward.

Rose passed beneath the Cornish coat of arms marking the center point of the Tamar Bridge. Tension clenched her belly. She snatched a breath, held it, half expecting to be smote down by a thunderbolt.

“Oh, for goodness sake.” She slapped her palms against the steering wheel. “Pull yourself together, woman, and get over it.” What was the worst that could happen? She’d get a hostile reception from the business she was due to investigate. That wouldn’t be a first. No one liked being told they were insolvent.

Just over an hour later, Rose maneuvered her car along a narrow Cornish lane. She glanced at her satellite navigation system and gnawed her lip. Either the satellite was faulty, or the Elephant’s Nest Public House was in the middle of nowhere. She had a nasty suspicion it was the latter.

She crawled until the road opened out at the head of an estuary. Stopping on a small humpback bridge, she stared at the pretty scatter of lighted cottage windows glowing in the curve of the valley. Living in London, it was easy to forget places like this existed.

The satellite system directed her along a narrow track beside the estuary for another half a mile. Finally, an ancient building with white-washed walls intersected by black beams shone in her headlights. She swung her car around and parked near the front door. Her watch read five thirty, nearly opening time.

The plan had been to make a start on the financial assessment this afternoon, but the drive had taken longer than expected. As she was late, the best she could do was get the preliminaries out of the way so she could make a quick start in the morning. A small review job like this should only take two days. Then she could spend the rest of the week tracing her father.

Climbing out, she slung her purse strap over her shoulder and grabbed her briefcase. A cool breeze flowed up the estuary with the incoming tide. Salty air tingled in her lungs. So, this was Cornwall—the county of her birth.

Checking out the parking lot, she noticed a red Porsche Boxster, spotless and gleaming beneath a street light. The license plate read MICK. She grimaced. Maybe the problem with the business’s finances was an owner who spent the working capital. She’d met a few of those in her years as an accountant. Mr. Michael O’Connor’s private spending would be her first target—and he wouldn’t like that. Those she investigated never did.

As she walked toward the front door, she paused and stared at the incongruous sight of a fat pink elephant with a wicked grin perched on a nest of plastic twigs. Lucky the guy who owned this place clearly had a sense of humor. He would probably need it when he received her report.

When she reached the entrance porch, the low drone of a powerful motorcycle engine rolled through the darkness behind her. Its headlight flickered between the trees on the riverbank as it approached. Rose suppressed a strange compulsion to go inside before it arrived. The air vibrated with the thud of the engine as the machine slowed and, with a crunch of gravel, swung into the parking lot.

The man halted beside the Porsche, dropped a brown booted foot to the ground and turned his head toward her. The lamplight gleamed off the visor of his helmet like an insect’s eye. When he looked at her, the three linked stones on her necklace tingled warmly against her skin. She clasped them through her shirt to stop the weird sensation.

He twisted his hand on the throttle, and the roar of the engine snapped her out of her trance. Rose shivered as she took in his green combat pants and battered leather flight jacket. Hopefully he wasn’t the owner of the pub.

Dragging her attention back to the pub, she cleared her throat, then strode through the door into the lounge bar. The gentle lilt of traditional Irish music and the smell of wood smoke welcomed her in. After the plastic elephant out front, she was pleasantly surprised by the old fashioned interior with a beamed ceiling, brass ornaments and a polished oak bar.

A middle-aged woman, with a mass of fair hair secured atop her head with an orange flower, looked up from where she restocked the shelves behind the bar.

“We’re not open till six, m’ lover.” She poked her thumb behind her. “Boss is still out back working his magic.”

Rose suspected the magic had something to do with the delicious smell of food emanating from the back. So Michael O’Connor cooked. He probably couldn’t afford to pay a chef.

Rose slipped a business card from the leather case in her pocket and held it out. “Sorry to call so late. Mr. O’Connor is expecting me. I just want to introduce myself tonight and get the lay of the land. I’ll be back to start work in the morning.”

The woman took the card and read out loud. “Rose Tremain. Francis Marchant Partnership. You got yourself an impressive list of letters after your name, but it don’t tell me what you’re here for.”

Rose kept her face blank. Keeping the reason for her presence secret from the staff while investigating a business facing bankruptcy was always difficult.

She gave the woman a reassuring smile. “Mr. O’Connor is expecting me. If you’d just give him my card, I’m sure he can spare me a few minutes tonight.”

The woman flicked the card between her fingers thoughtfully. “Now which Mr. O’Connor would you be wanting?”

There were two?
Find out more about Helen Scott Taylor's paranormal romance at http://www.helenscotttaylor.com/

"No better friend, no worse enemy." --Ancient Roman Epitath

One hundred and ninety three days ago yesterday, Francis Scott Key wrote the Star Spangled Banner to the tune of an English drinking song. Do you know all the verses?

O say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hail'd at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thro' the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watch'd, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof thro' the night that our flag was still there.
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen thro' the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected, now shines on the stream:
'Tis the star-spangled banner: O, long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion,
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash'd out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O thus be it ever when free-men shall stand
Between their lov'd home and the war's desolation;
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land
Praise the Pow'r that hath made and preserv'd us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust!”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!



Smolder

by Sammie Jo Moresca (Sherry Morris)

“Have a tall drink of water handy to put out the fire when you read Smolder, Sammie Jo Moresca’s poignant story of the after effects of September 11th.

Johnny Newman is one of New York City’s finest; the Fire Department’s most eligible bachelor. He’s been in love with his best friend’s widow for years. In fact, Johnny was the one to introduce them. When September 11th made her a widow, who was it she turned to for strength? Johnny was always there, fixing things in her home, helping her through her grief, finishing all the projects in the house that Susan and Brandon had planned to finish. Now, after two years, it’s time to let her know how much she means to him. Johnny feels he has given her enough time to get over Brandon, but will his playboy reputation ruin his chances?

Susan Cervini is caught up in trying to locate a missing cousin through a website for an aging pop star. When Susan begins to have irrational feelings for her best friend, Johnny, she is afraid she will ruin their friendship, but she can’t seem to stop feeling an overpowering need for his touch. Can they have a smoldering affair and go back to being friends, or will the feelings they have for each other change Susan’s mind about love and marriage again?

Johnny Newman is a real American hero; strong in his beliefs, dedicated to helping others, and loyal to the woman he loves above all others. He is sexy but unaware of his appeal, chivalrous without being conscious of it, and a wonderful friend; the way he unselfishly dedicates himself to Susan’s needs, even the times she took him for granted, brought tears to this reader’s eyes a time or two. Susan was a little tougher for this reader to warm up to, but once her secret misgivings came to light it was a pleasant turn-around. She is a very caring woman who is afraid of losing again. Her restoration of faith was a long and hard journey but was well worth the wait. Her love for Johnny is a beautiful thing to behold, culminating in a climactic coming together. For fans of a sultry and emotional love story, Smolder is a good choice. Bravo, Sammie Jo Moresca, a brilliant way to tell a poignant story of the day that changed many of our lives. Smolder is another keeper to add to my ever growing library.”

–Fallen Angel Reviews

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Excerpt from Smolder

By Sammie Jo Moresca:

Brooklyn New York, The Day After Thanksgiving, 2003

"I brought you a turkey with Swiss on white. From Vinnie's." Johnny Newman placed the sandwich and a half pint of skim milk on the rough granite tombstone. Squatting, he ran his soot-stained hand over the lettering.

BRANDON ARTHUR CERVINI
MARCH 21, 1970--SEPTEMBER 11, 2001
IN THE LINE OF DUTY

His eyes halted on the Maltese cross. He bowed his head and crossed himself.

"Two years ago today, Brandon. We found you ... your hand." He cleared his throat as he fought the saline escaping from both eyes. "Susan's okay now. Man, it was bad on her. She wanted to join you. We had to do an intervention. She spent a couple weeks in the hospital. Your mom and I, we took turns staying with her when she got back home.

"Anyhow, I just wanted to bring you the sandwich. I haven't eaten at Vinnie's anymore since..." He exhaled.

"And I wanted to let you know not to worry about Susan. She's gonna make it all right. And, um, I'm gonna keep lookin' out for her. What I'm tryin' to say is, I love Susan. Well, of course you already knew that. But I mean ... I'm in love with her. It's not the September Eleventh widow syndrome thing either. I didn't move in on her a couple weeks after..."

An ambulance wailed by. Johnny sat back on his heels. He picked a thick blade of grass and entwined it in his fingers, pulling it so tight the tips turned red. "Did ya know eight guys left their wives and kids for the widows? Jesus. Shunned one family in favor of another. The psychologists they sent around tried to explain the phenomenon. They warned us there would be affairs. I swear I haven't touched her. And I've kept the wolves away. Johnson and Caruthers. Friggin' bastards. Can you believe it?" Johnny yanked a handkerchief from his pocket and blew his nose. "She's a beautiful woman and all, but they should've had more respect for you ... and Susan, than that." He stood up and unwrapped the sandwich, straightening it on top of the headstone. The white paper flapped under it.

"Anyhow, I just wanted to have a talk with you first. I wanted to let you know my intentions. I've got no idea how Susan feels toward me. But I'll tell you one thing, buddy. I plan on standing in Times Square, watching the ball drop and kissing my fiancée to ring in the New Year." Johnny opened the milk container and placed it next to the sandwich. He crossed himself and walked down the path.

A nun called out, "You can't leave trash here. Remove it."

Johnny smiled and closed the gate behind him.

©2007 Sammie Jo Moresca

For Adults Only!

Complete novel contains graphic love scenes.

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Thought for the Day

Posted by Sandra Cox | 7:24 AM | | 1 comments »

It's never too late to be who you might have been-George Eliot

Boji Stones

Posted by Sandra Cox | 7:21 AM | | 3 comments »


I'm pleased to announce Boji Stones, a story about a modern day woman with a centuries-old secret, is released today. Here is an excerpt, hope you enjoy:His trembling fingers rested on the keyboard as he leaned toward the monitor, an uncontrollable twitch running through his misshapen body as he devoured the article with the greedy need of a child offered chocolate.'Legend has it that out of all the mortals on earth five women found favor with the gods—Sophia whose face was pitted and ravaged by pox,Zoe a young queen whose village was razed and plundered and she herself taken as slave,Pelagia who had the body of a woman and the mind of a child,Olympia a poor widow with children to feed,andHelen, who’d lost four children to the plague and begged the gods to spare her remaining child.Moved, the gods created five special amulets.To Sophia they gave an amulet forged with beauty and creativity.To Zoe an amulet forged with power.To Pelagia an amulet forged with knowledge.To Olympia an amulet forged with wealth.And for Helen they forged a copper amulet with a beautiful amethyst at its center. Two plain stones the size of small coins flanked the amethyst. The female stone smooth, the male stone’s texture rough. Then they fused the amulet with healing.Or so legend has it…'

Today's topic on health and beauty is... snorkeling. What? It fits. Paddling around in turquoise, bathtub-warm water is healthy (at least until you get out, hungry, and down a couple handfuls of deliciously melty chocolate covered macadamia nuts). And if you haven't seen yellow tangs and Moorish idols (think Willem Dafoe’s scarred, ocean lusting Gill in Finding Nemo) swimming amid the coral under a Hawaiian sun, you don't know what beauty is. Even the unique to Hawaii humuhumu-nukunuku-apua’as (pronounced, at least by my family, hoomoo hoomoo nookoo nookoo apoo ahpah) are beautiful too, in a What was that? Picasso cubism sort of way.

But to understand what beauty is, it's also important to understand what it's not. And so I, valiant reporter, took it upon myself to travel to Hawaii and push the boundaries of beauty, attractiveness and good taste, all for the good of the Pink Fuzzy Slipper Writers. By which I mean I joined the beautiful people laying out on the postcard perfect beaches in designer swimsuits and a deep, golden tan you just can't get out of a bottle. Only I was wearing SPF 45 (hey, I burn), rubber-ducky-yellow flippers, and a snorkel and mask.

One can identify the latest beauty ideals by watching the trends. And given the number of people bobbing face down in the water with me vs. those napping beachside on loungers, I can only conclude that snorkel-wear is HOT.

A backside several shades darker than your front and quite possibly sun burnt? Gorgeous. And oddly-lispy voice from holding a snorkel between your teeth for an hour? Sexy. Deeply imprinted mask marks in a wide circle encompassing your forehead, eyes and nose? Stunning. Coming out of the water with liquid snot pouring out your nose from the saltwater? Beauty.

Part of the Grandmama Stories.

Posted by Mary Marvella | 2:16 AM | 2 comments »

You might want to back up and read The Picnic, Part one of the Grandmama stories
Grandmama had told us a story about a time when she did something foolish that hurt a young man who cared a lot for her.


@@@@

We were as quiet as though we, too, had lost our best friend.

"And what about Mack, did he forgive you?" my sister asked.

"Well, that's another story." she said, while her gnarled hands stopped wrapping florist wire around bunches of leaves, attaching them to short, green, spiked sticks. Watching her delicate touch I wondered how they could move with such precision. They created such beauty that the brown age spots on her gnarled hands were barely noticeable.

"That was a month later. By that time I had learned that the handsome man with the automobile was not as special as the two men I had wronged. I saw Alex for what he was. Or at least I thought I did when I got the mumps. It was embarrassing to get a childhood illness when I was pretty much grown!

"Alex had given me a lovely friendship ring. I had proudly shown it off and enjoyed seeing the envy of the unmarried girls I knew. I was lonely, but I just knew Alex would visit me and make me feel better. Well, he didn’t and I was disappointed. Edward made it a point to visit me, though. He felt so sorry for me he forgot to be angry. He even brought a bouquet of wildflowers and a box of chocolates for me to save until I could enjoy them."

"What about Mack?" a cousin asked.

"She’s getting to it," I answered. "Now, hush."

"Well, I was so annoyed with Mack that I offered to let Edward wear the ring Alex had given me. Edward knew I just wanted to make Alex jealous, but he wore it on his little finger for a week, anyway. I think he enjoyed making the handsome, ladies-man jealous. I finally sent the ring back to him, before I learned that he had never had the mumps and was doing the right thing to stay away. He could have sent more than a short note, though.

"Mack was always in and out of the house with my brothers, but he just glared at me or treated me like the immature child he must have thought I was to do such a thoughtless thing. Anyway, one afternoon after the mumps had gone, I was helping with the laundry. I was bringing in a basket of dry clothes I had taken from the clothesline in our back yard when I heard hammering down the street.

Mack’s parents owned a store and he worked for them. This afternoon he was hammering on something. I looked in the direction of his yard and he was practically naked. He was not wearing a shirt and I couldn’t help but watch him. He some nice-looking muscles. I had never even seen my father without his shirt or my brother, even.

"I waited for him to look my way but he didn’t. I finally gave up and went inside, though I wanted him to notice me. When I went back outside with the same basket of dry clothes, I started hanging them out on the line again. He still wouldn’t turn around, so I began to sing, loudly. I remembered hearing a song about a girl who wanted her fellow to snuggle up to her because ‘her feet was as cold as ice cream.’ I knew Papa would not approve of my knowing such a song, it was kind of bawdy or naughty by his standards. But I sashayed around and sang it as loudly as I could. I thought the woman in the song was ‘bundling’ with the young man who was staying the night at her house but I started to wonder. Mack must have known all the words."

"And did he like the song?" I asked, knowing the answer.

"Well, I was so embarrassed when I thought about what the words meant that I stopped singing and slipped inside our screened porch. I heard Mack sing the last line and was glad I hadn’t known the last few lines."

As though one of us had asked, she explained, "‘Bundling’ is a respectable way of sharing a bed, with a board between two people. The girl in the song wasn’t talking about a board between her and her fellow. The next time Mack came to our house he threatened to throttle me if he heard me singing such trash again."

I got his attention, though.

Once again Mama entered the room quietly. She smiled at us and gave the look that meant there would be no more stories that night.

We put away the "ball gowns" and placed slippers in their places for the next time.

And then there was the story about Grandmama's first baseball players.