There is a lot to hate about Houston. It is big, sprawling—not a beautiful city. It was the last place I'd thought ever to return. In 2003, when I left for South Carolina, as the country music song says, I tore off the rearview mirror in my truck (Miata) so that I couldn't look back.

There is a lot to love about the city as well. Last night, a friend and I attended a Faculty Recital at the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University (a hop skip and jump from where I work). I like violin. I LOVE PIANO. This was a recital for violin and piano.

Last year, I heard the famous violinist Joshua Bell when he played with the Houston Symphony on his 300-year-old Stradivarius called the Gibson ex Huberman, which was made in 1713 during what is known as Antonio Stradivari's "Golden Era." Bell played the solos in the movie Ladies in Lavender and The Red Violin. (Sidebar: The Red Violin follows the life of a violin built in Italy in 1681, known for its rich red color, to a present-day auction in Canada where its secret is revealed). It has been said of Bell, "He plays like a god." I could write more about Bell. He is 40'ish and boyishly handsome but…

Sergiu Luca, Professor of Violin at Shepherd, is a phenomenal, riveting master of his instrument. A native of Rumania, Mr. Luca made his debut at age nine with Israel's Haifa Symphony. In 1965, he made his U.S. debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra and was chosen by Leonard Bernstein to play with the New York Philharmonic for a special tribute to Finnish composer Jean Sibelius.

Another breathtaking aspect of the evening was the instruments played. The Mozart Sonatas were played on a Sanctus Seraphin violin, made in Venice in 1733, believed to be the only example from the great Italian violin-making era to have survived in an original, unaltered state. The 1810 piano was made in Vienna by Michael Rosenberger of The Netherlands, and is an early six-octave piano, belonging to the first group of pianos fitted with pedals (six) instead of the knee levers previously used. It was an exquisite burled walnut and had three delicate legs.

The French repertoire by Ravel, Debussy and Saint-Saens was played on a 1829 violin made in Vienna by Nicolaus Sawicki and is believed to have been made for and owned by Paganini, who'd entrusted his 1741 Del Gesu (known as "the Canon) to the great virtuoso for repair and restoration. The 1829 violin is identical to, and probably the first copy of the Del Gesu.

Some enchanted evening…I don't think I breathed for 2 hours and that hasn't happened since I say Phantom of the Opera. I wish you could have been there.


The cop got out of his car and the kid who was stopped for speeding rolled down his window. 'I've been waiting for you all day,' the cop said. The kid replied, 'Yeah, well I got here as fast as I could.' When the cop finally stopped laughing, he sent the kid on his way without a ticket.


Bah-da-boom!
A truck driver was driving along on the freeway. A sign comes up that reads, 'Low Bridge overhead.' Before he knows it,the bridge is right ahead of him and he gets stuck under the bridge. Cars are backed up for miles. Finally, a police car comes up. The cop gets out of his car and walks to the truck driver, puts his hands on his hips and says, 'Got stuck, huh?' The truck driver says, 'No, I was delivering this bridge and ran out of gas.'


"You're alive. Do something.
The directive in life, the moral imperative was so uncomplicated. It could be expressed in single words, not complete sentences. It sounded like this: Look. Listen. Choose. Act."

Barbara Hall



Contributed by Beth Trissel

Fifteen Cerridwen Press Authors have banded together to fight the winter doldrums by having a giant spring ebook giveaway.

Ebooks are becoming more popular for many reasons, and it's not just because the quality of e-books are, according to reviewers, excellent.

Some readers like the fact that e-books allow authors to push the boundaries of prescribed genres. You like romance with your mystery, or mystery with your romance? Maybe you like ghosts or shape shifter's but you'd love to see them in a hard-boiled mystery. It may be hard to find such novels in a traditional bookstore because, since they don't fit neatly into a specific section of a bookstore, traditional publishers aren't willing to take the risk that an audience will find them.
Publishers who support e-books don't have those barriers-- getting e-book readers access to a wealth of exciting, new books. It's a little like how cable television has been a fertile ground for new types of television shows.

Other readers like that they can feel good about supporting a paperless medium. Some readers like the fact that they don't have to wait for a bookstore or library to open before they can get something to read. How many times have you been stuck in an airport with nothing to read but the same ten bestsellers you saw at the last airport? These days, all you have to do is click a button for access to thousands of wonderful books.

I understand that part of what some people love about reading is the book itself. The smell of paper, the feel of holding it. Personally, I love paper books and never want to give them up. I would never give someone what my mother calls "the hairy eyeball" for reading paperback or hardback book.

However, I also enjoy reading e-books, for all the reasons I've described. I’ve had lots of e-mails from people who purchased their first e-book just so they could read Underdead -- and thanked me for turning them on to a whole new way of getting their sticky fingers on good books.

That's nice, you say. But maybe you don't want to risk it. Maybe you spend too much time on the computer already, you don't have a handheld book reader, you're still not buying that e-books are any good, certainly not risking your hard earned money on.

Well, here's your chance to win some e-books-- e-books that have won awards, garnered rave reviews, straddled genres and/or stayed in beloved ones publishers have left behind. And, the grand prize winner gets not just seven e-books, but a gently used Rocket 1200 Ebook reader (go green—reduce, reuse, recycle!) to read them on. To participate in the contest, channel your inner Easter egg Hunter and look on the author’s websites and blogs for trees (go green! Yes, that is the theme) and words to a phrase. It's not that hard -- my website, for one isn't complicated enough to really bury anything-- and it's a nice way to learn about new books. Aren't we all looking for a new good book to read?

For details, please visit the contest page on my website:

http://www.lizjasper.com/contest.html

Happy reading!

--Liz Jasper, whose 2008 EPPIE Award nominated cozy vampire caper, UNDERDEAD, is now available as an e-book or in paperback at major booksellers (Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Borders, Target (hey, they sell books!), www.cerridwenpress.com) and look for it at your local independent bookstore.

www.lizjasper.com
www.myspace.com/underdeadauthor

I actually have 3 deals to post today, 2 of the 3 relating to food. :)

Deal #1: Dunkin Donuts: Small latte or cappuccino for 99 cents, Today only from 1:00-10:00 P.M.

Deal #2: Free McSkillet at McDonald's on February 28th and 29th with the purchase of a medium or large beverage.

* Deal #3: Bestdealmagazines.com CBS watch magazine---1 year, 6 issue subscription for $3.02 (use coupon code 16OFF for 16 % off.)

*Borrowed from another forum.

Enjoy!


...the isolation and uniqueness of other human beings--each one was traveling a private voyage across time, approaching or departing from the terminals of birth, marriage, sex, death, from the cities of happiness and sorrow; and each, whether he knew it or not carried in his coat a crumpled letter telling him to come home.

Somewhere Between the Two, Frank Yerby.

They say the first paragraph of any story is the most important. In that case, the first sentence is even more important. Does it hook the reader? Make him want to read more? Following are the beginnings of some of my novels, both published and unpublished, which I hope prove this point. You be the judge.

If the electronic sensors hadn’t opened the doors as Katie rushed toward them, she would've crashed head-first into the plated plexiglass, probably fracturing her skull, possibly killing herself, and thereby saving the two gunmen behind her the trouble.

--Three Moon Station (Icy Snow Blackstone novel) Unpublished.

As Eli Nighthorse carried his mother's delicately-made floral wreaths into the choir room, he realized he should be heartbroken. After all, today the woman he loved was marrying another man. Not just heartbroken, but the object of pity by everyone attending the ceremony, for not only was she marrying someone else, but Eli had been asked to be the best man! And, like a fool, he'd agreed!

--Sinbad's Wife (The Adventures of Sinbad, Book Two) Due for Publication April/May, 2008 by Double Dragon Publications.

And last (but, as they say, not least):

Marek Strigoi, ex-assassin, restauranteur, vampire, walked among his human clientele.

--Shadow Passion (Second Species, book Two) Unpublished.

When the red raw mists cleared, he was alone. That was how the Mortuaries found him--face down in the bloody slush where his body-heat had melted the snow--the black war-horse standing guard above him. They had to blindfold the animal to lead it away, for it bared its teeth and struck at them, determined to protect its master, even at the cost of his life rather than let the men touch him.

--Bloodseek (The Chronicles of Riven the Heretic, Book One) Published by Double Dragon Publications.

The night Kit Landless chose to rob Honoria Neville was a momentous one, for it marked the ending of his life--as well as its beginning. Forever afterward, when looking back through the corridor of centuries, he would call it the worse mistake he ever made, as well as the best, since it lost him his soul while gaining him Immortality. At the time however, he had no idea what was going to happen and so was totally unprepared when it did.

--Murder in Old Blood. Published by Double Dragon Publications.

They felt safer when night fell. It was only as morning came, and the sunlight cast barred shadows upon the dungeon floor, that they cringed into the safety of what little darkness remained, huddling against the stone walls far away from the bright and deadly light. Fear kept them from succumbing to sleep. Clinging to the damp granite, they watched the image of the crossed metal rods as it moved across the stone floor, becoming fainter until it faded away as the sun set. Only then were they safe from harm.

--Shadow Lord.(Second Species, Book One) Unpublished.

About two o’clock that afternoon, Melissa realized she was being followed.

--Serpent's Tooth. Unpublished.

Time...something a vampire has in abundance...time to enjoy the pleasures of Immortality...time to contemplate his sins...and his mistakes. I learned that the hard way....

--Night Man. Unpublished.

"Tell me, Miss Wilson," said Dominic Andrus, looking at the young woman sitting across from him, "why do you wish to work for me? Do you crave excitement, adventure, danger?"

--The Rose and the Dragon. Published by PublishAmerica.

Hell had come to Nikte-Uaxac. For two days and two nights, Hum Uitzal Chac--the gods’ favored mountain-- belched forth smoke and ashes, filling the air with its noxious breath. Birds fell from the sky, animals fled the jungles, the Black River boiled scarlet, and the ground trembled, felling trees, crumbling buildings, and making pottery fall from shelves and statues creep across the floor of the temple.

--Dark God Descending. Unpublished.

And last (but certainly, not least):

Marek Strigoi, ex-assassin, restauranteur, vampire, walked among his human clientele.

Shadow Passion (Second Species, Book Two) Unpublished.

Well, how'd I do? Tell me truthfully--and I may regret that!--would you want to read more of any of these? (I hope the answer is yes!)


With us today is our very own Helen Scott Taylor still going strong in the American Title Contest. Helen, tell us about your story:

This year the American Title contest featured paranormal romance. I entered my story The Magic Knot about fairies set in Ireland and Cornwall.

Do you have a short blurb for your finaling manuscript?

When Rose discovers she is the Cornish fairy queen and her father is a dark druid who has imprisoned her people in portraits, the race is on to discover the fairy lore needed to release her people before her father destroys them forever.

She seeks help from the sinfully sexy Irish fairy twins, the O’Connor brothers. Niall’s faint air of menace flutters dark thrills of anticipation through her, but does he want to kiss her or kill her when she accidentally touches his Magic Knot and forges a mystical lovers’ bond with him?

You have been through four rounds of voting are now in the middle of the fifth and final round. What has the contest been like?

Stressful! Although all my wonderful friends and family have been very supportive. I cope by keeping busy and doing all I can to drum up support. If I’m sure I’ve done my best to win, then I’ll be happy with the outcome. I’m also delighted to have met the other nine finalists and made a new group of friends. We have set up an American Title IV finalists' blog together at www.titlemagic.blogspot.com.

If you win, what happens then?

The winner of American Title is announced during the awards lunch at the Romantic Times conference in April. I’ve been told it is exciting as they have the cover for the winning book designed and it is unveiled when the winner is announced. I think the winning book is then published about a year later. Sleeping with Ward Cleaver, the American Title III winner by Jenny Gardiner, has just been published.

If you don’t win, where does that leave you?

Whatever the final result, it was a tremendous boost to have The Magic Knot selected by the Dorchester editors as one of the ten finalists. It has only been seen by one other publisher, so if I don’t win, I’ll start sending it out. I’m also hard at work on a YA paranormal mystery. It’s a lot of fun writing in the POV of a fifteen-year-old boy!

How did you feel about being front and center in the Romantic Times magazine?

I thought I’d hate seeing my picture in print, as I’m not especially photogenic. To my surprise, I don’t mind at all. In fact, it’s exciting to have my entries in hard copy to keep, and know they’ve been read by many RT readers.

If you win what’s the first thing you are going to do to celebrate?

Eat something containing a lot of calories—probably chocolate. Come to think of it, that’s probably the first thing I’ll do if I lose as well. I’ll phone my family and email all my writing friends to tell them. Then I’ll go for a celebratory dinner with my family. Then I’ll book myself a ticket to the Romantic Times conference!

Tell us about the final round?

The final round of American Title IV is best love/romantic scene. I’d love everyone to take a look at the two final entries when voting starts on the Romantic Times website. Although I want to win, of course, I would never ask anyone to vote for my scene unless they liked it. So, if you have time, please read both scenes, and vote for the one you enjoy the most. And fingers and toes crossed it’s mine. J

Voting in the fifth and final round of American Title IV runs from February 18th until March 2nd at www.romantictimes/news_amtitle3.php

For more information on Helen Scott Taylor please visit www.helenscotttaylor.com

Wishing you all the luck, Helen. Not that you need it. I've read Magic Knot and loved it.






Hi all,

Today we're delighted to have with us Ashlyn Chase, author of seven steamy books that have garnered wonderful reviews, in part because of her ability to give readers a good dose of humor with the romance. Something I, for one, look for in a book, so I'm going to head off and browse Ash's bookshelf for something good to read this weekend because I .... Oh--you don't care what Liz Jasper is doing this weekend and want to hear what Ash has to say? Okay then...


What I’ve Learned As A Reader Vs. A Writer

I’ve learned many things recently simply by reading tons of books in my favorite genre. How? I don’t recommend the way I did it—spinal surgery, followed by bed rest and a neck brace for several weeks, but everything has its uses, if you look for them. Sometimes, it’s an eye opener to take a step back (or several) and witness the life you lead.

First of all, as a writer, I rarely get the chance to just read. I mean, to read as much as I want, anything I want, every single day for as long as I want. Over that awful recovery time, I read print books, ebooks on a PDA and audio books. I purchased some and borrowed some from the library. I even had some that came from God knows where but they found themselves on my ‘to be read’ pile and I was extremely grateful to have them. Every media has its uses and for readers to have a choice is so valuable that everyone wins.

Observations:
It really is all about the story. Yes, good writing is essential but I learned even more beyond that. I read some New York Times bestsellers that put me to sleep. I’m sorry, but it’s true. I also read an author’s debut ebook that had me so awed and fascinated that I couldn’t put it down.

Editing counts too. Errors are such a jarring disappointment.

I learned what I like. I thought I knew this before, but I was able to fine-tune my taste and learn how much this subjective factor has to do with the enjoyment of reading. Seriously. It’s so subjective that reviews might as well be taken with a grain of salt. I’d been told that before, but I never believed it. Now I do.

It may take months to write something and get it just so. The reader will show their appreciation by devouring your book in a day.

I knew I wanted to write because of what books meant to me, personally. How they saved my sanity in periods of extreme and unfair challenges. How I needed a great escape. I think the confinement confirmed the awesome responsibility we have as writers. I hope I remember to give my best effort every single time. So far, I haven’t put anything out there that I’m not proud of. I may not please everyone, but I can’t control that. What I can be sure of is that as long as I please myself, I’ll keep writing and loving it.


You can learn more about Ash and her books at her website:
http://www.ashlynchase.com/.

Where there's fire, there's Ash

by Pamela Roller

Last month, I wrote about animal cruelty and included some disturbing photos, information and statistics. This month, I’d like to turn about and give you several heartwarming stories from people who simply adore their pets. Be sure to leave a comment with your own loving pet story. I'd love to read them!


The photo above is of our beagle and his boy.

Our family went to the SPCA one afternoon. Amidst the howling, barking, pacing, and pawing, there, crouched trembling in his cage, was a beagle. The card read, "Elvis. Male. Brought by owner."

He stared at us with soulful brown eyes. "Let's look at him," I said impulsively.

As soon as Elvis was brought into the inspection room, he made a beeline to me, then to our son. He steered clear of my husband. A jagged black scar ran up his back leg, and he had tiny black circular scars on his nose--the size of the end of a cigarette. He sniffed us, wagged his tail, and when we rose to look at a couple of other dogs, he must have decided to take us home because he ran straight to the door and looked back, eyes shining.

Four years later, Elvis is comfortable around men again. He doesn't crouch as often when we reach down to pet him or hug him, and he no longer hides when I flick the lighter to light the dinner candles. He's brought joy into our lives, loving us the way dogs do: just right.

Dan's story:
The hardest part of having dogs is saying goodbye. You know when you bring home a bouncing puppy that the dog will almost certainly pass away before you do, but you know that the years of joy are worth the inevitable sorrow. Kayla was our first purebred Belgian Tervuren and came into our home when she was almost three years old. She was bartered by the breeder to an Oregon cattle-rancher. She was destined to be a stock dog, but the rancher went bankrupt and Kayla went back to the breeder.

Kayla's next stop was a large show-dog kennel in Homestead, Florida. The owner had spaniels and Rottweilers and wanted a new breed. Not long after settling in to her second home, Hurricane Andrew blew most of Homestead into the Gulf of Mexico. Kayla was evacuated in time, along with the other dogs, but the kennel was destroyed and she was given up to a foster home.

Kayla was passed among a handful of Belgian Tervuren fanciers, each showing her a little bit, but none taking such a liking to her that they wanted to keep her. Her travels took her from Florida to Texas and back, and then eventually to Virginia. She was never abused or neglected, and nobody ever considered dumping her in a shelter, but nobody wanted to make her their own, either.

I was looking for my next dog for competition training when I met the owner of Kayla's sister. She casually mentioned that she knew of a Terv that needed a home. When I met Kayla something immediately clicked for both of us and I made the decision in an instant. Of course, a dog that has been passed around so much doesn't make close friends so quickly. It took many months for the two of us to truly bond. But when we did, great things started happening.

After finishing her breed championship we launched into a ten-year career of training competition. Obedience, tracking, agility, rally, lure coursing...we did it all. We traveled up and down the east coast together, celebrated success often and cried together occasionally. Kayla accumulated over thirty training titles in our decade of showing.

All of those titles were unimportant as I slumped against the wall of the examination room. I held Kayla in my lap, murmuring into her ear while the veterinarian prepared the syringe. I didn't think about the blue ribbons and the disqualifications, of the hotel bills and fast food breakfasts. What I thought about was our the bond we shared, the same bond that our two species have shared since the dawn of history. Two beings, working harmoniously together in a relationship like no other. As the vet kneeled on the floor, I told Kayla "Thank you" and said goodbye.


Alisa's story:
The farm around the corner from us had a sign that said, 'Golden Retriever Puppies for Sale'. The girls and Tim begged to go see them, just to 'look.' I gave in but said there was no way we were getting a puppy since Carly was still only 2.

Well, of course, they were the most adorable things I had ever seen. The one in the back with the green collar got my attention. He (or she, I wasn't sure) was very quiet and didn't jump and bark like the others did. The puppy looked right into my eyes and I just fell in love. We left and talked about it constantly. Finally, I agreed and said, 'OK, if we get that puppy, I get to name it since I will be doing all the work. If it's a boy, let's name him Cody and if it's a girl, Molly.'

The next morning, Tim went running. When he came home from his run, he had a very strange look on his face. He told me that he didn't really go running. He went back to the farm to look at that puppy in the green collar. He said, 'Alisa, we have got to get that puppy. It's meant for us.' He told me that the breeder had already named all the puppies and guess what, they named him Cody. Then the mother dog came over and Tim found out that her name was Molly. That afternoon, we brought Cody home.He is the most sweetest and calmest dog that we could have ever asked for. We love him!


Alleyne's story:
Years ago I had four Belgian Tervuren in my home. One neutered male was dominant aggressive. We'd been working for more than two years to get Deacon to accept that we were the alphas and that he could not discipline us with his teeth. Our other young male, Paladin, was easy going and good natured, never challenged anyone.

One night I was home alone, lying on the sofa. Paladin was across the room, on his back playing with our new puppy. Deacon was lying next to me on the floor. I reached down to pet him and he growled. He had a toy and I knew I couldn't let him get away with growling or all our work would have been undone, so I reached down to pick it up. Deacon bit down on my hand and sat up, carrying my hand with him.

I frantically tried to decide how to stop him from hurting me more seriously, but before I could do more than take a deep breath, Paladin leapt from his place across the room, cleared the coffee table, knocked Deacon off me and pinned him to the wall. Clasping my injured hand in my good one, I cheerfully called the dogs to go outside, which they did before I collapsed in shock. My husband arrived a few minutes later from work and rushed me to the hospital. The bites were deep but not my hand was not torn up.

We realized that night that I was pregnant with our daughter. I will always believe that Paladin saved me from being mauled. He watched over Tierney every day from the day she was born until he died two years ago at almost 16. He was a champion in dog shows, but more importantly he was my champion, which of course is what "paladin" means. Alleyne Dickens http://www.alleynedickens.com/ http://www.bonheurbelgians.com/

From my mom:
Our five-pound, two-year-old papillon, Corwin, gave us a surprise a few days ago. We were noticing the fur by a leg that had a knot in it. Joe was trying to straighten it out when Corwin used his tongue to water the area and then proceeded with his teeth to pull back and forth until the knot was straightened out. It amazed us both, but happily so.

From fellow ace blog writer Beth Trissel:
I’ve always had cats. Cats are an integral part of my world and our farm. Three reside indoors; Gabby, a lavender Oriental Shorthair, closely related to the Siamese and just as vocal, and her chestnut-colored son, Pookah, so named for the invisible creatures that steal things, and he does. We used to call him “the paw” because of the way he opens drawers or cabinets and pilfers whatever he likes, usually hair thingies. He and Gabby are mad over scrunchies, and colorful bands that hold hair in pony tails.

Pookah is a gorgeous cat and an excellent thief, but he sucks his tail. Not very manly. A kind woman living in Florida sent us Gabby years ago to comfort the children after the tragic death of their young cousin Matthew. Gabby came to us on a plane, an odd infant highly unlike the barn cats we were accustomed to.

At first we didn’t know what to think of this little gray monkey forever disappearing into the highest cabinets or crouching on the tops of doors and wardrobes. Nor did we understand her peculiar cry, but once we learned to know her, we were hooked. That’s how we came by Pookah, the big-eared kitten we kept from a litter of three after we had Gabby bred to a fancy Siamese, Cappuccino. He wasn’t manly either.

Then there’s Minnie Mae, the tabby kitten-cat my daughter Elise and I raised from early infancy after her stray, airhead mother inadvertently left Minnie Mae and her brother Cedric in our care. Minnie Mae was so tiny she barely spanned my palm and is still small for a grown cat. Cedric is a big boy and resides with son Cory on the other farm, but he’s a sissy too, and has a favorite blanket which he kneads obsessively, probably due to the trauma of being abandoned shortly after birth. He also sucks on it. His father is a tough old barn cat named Chester. Nothing sissy about Chester.

All three of our cats must content themselves with gazing out the window, tails twitching whenever they spy a bird. It’s touching how devoted they are to birds, and have often asked for a bird of their very own, “To hug it and squeeze it and call it George,” but I am not so gullible. I don’t know how common it is to have arguments with cats but Gabby and I argue all the time--Pookah, only when he is particularly put out with the accommodations here, and then he really howls.

Minnie Mae is a whimsical creature, with a funny series of purrs. Elise calls the chirrupy purr when she scampers across the room, her bouncing purr. Then there’s her inquiring purr, when she has a question, which is fairly often being a thoughtful, observant cat. Her excited purr hums forth when she greets us after a long absence, say overnight. She sleeps outside Dennis’ and my bedroom door and eagerly awaits the dawn.

When I was a child I listened repeatedly to a favorite record that I still have about the adventures of Dick Whittington and his cat. Dick would exclaim: “Here comes Ripple Dee Dee! Oh, cat, I love you very much.” And I do. All of them.

I went down to the dairy this morning and played with Zippy, the bouncy black kitten that has come into our lives. He’s about five or six weeks old and scampers around fearlessly like a streaking bullet. But also tolerates snuggling and is very sweet. His mother, Kate, a small calico barn cat, is affectionate though not overly. Until two days ago, Zippy and his shy as yet unnamed orange brother lived up in the loafing shed. That’s the building where dairy cows hang out and shoot pool, play cards or snack in the dining hall until they feel like ambling out to the meadow to soak up some rays and chew the cud.

The loafing shed is also like a hotel or all girl dorm with sleeping accommodations, wooden stalls filled with shavings, which they haggle over. The stalls all look pretty much the same to me, but apparently cows can discern the difference in quality. Maybe some command a better view of the barn or have plusher shavings. Only they know. It’s a great place for kittens as long as they don’t get stepped on.

The milking parlor is where the real action is, and the milk. Cats and kittens get free samples and snitch dog food and whatever else is tossed their way, in addition to the very important work of mousing. And now Zippy has graduated to the big league. What’s next? The old red barn.

Elise and I found a bedraggled black kitten in a shadowed corner of the old barn huddled beside an ancient water trough. Hay was stuck to its fur and its head slick in places from a calf’s sympathetic tongue. We carried the mewing puff ball down to the house and gave it a bath. Being mostly fur, it shrank considerably in the water and nearly disappeared.

After drying this soggy specimen of catdom, we bundled it up in an old towel and fed it the formula concocted by a local vet for orphan kittens: one cup whole milk, one teaspoon of vegetable oil, one egg yolk, whisk well and warm. This baby is old enough to lap and downed the lot I had poured into a shallow lid. We filled a canning jar with hot water, screwed the lid on tightly and tucked our swaddled charge beside the improvised water bottle back in the small closet in the laundry room. Assorted farm coats, jeans and shirts hang on hooks up above and brush our heads as we kneel to peer into this den-like place. There’s nothing dogs like better for a bed than a worn coat with that farm smell still clinging to it, cozily tucked back into this closet.

Cats prefer sunbeams but will make do. I’ve spent many hours on my knees helping to birth puppies, fuss over their care and tend kittens. Countless kittens and puppies, tiny terriers that could fit in a shoe box, medium size dogs and dogs that have grown too big but are still attached, have called this comforting space home. The narrow walls are gnawed and deeply grooved from the many inhabitants over the years. Every household should have such a place.

Fortunately, our dog, Mia (an animal shelter rescue) also likes her bed in the dining room because she can't be trusted to kitten-sit. The formula rapidly dwindles. Not only that, she’s afraid of kittens. Silly, silly Mia. The kitten does not yet have a name because if you name a creature that implies that it’s staying, which this one very well may be. Sometimes you just need a kitten.

Oddly, it would seem that Mia always wanted a kitten of her own after all. She follows the minute puff ball around the kitchen and hovers over it with a worried look. Actually, Mia generally looks worried. I suppose from earlier traumas before we took her in. She has never had a small furry friend though and even tries to play with the kitten as it bounds around the kitchen in great excitement over everything and anything.
My mother made the observation that kittens and other babies can utterly give themselves to play in a way that the rest of us can’t because we’ve had the “play” smacked out of us by life. Now and then, I think we should all play as unreservedly as possible.
Beth Trissel
http://www.bethtrissel.com/

So there you have it. Wonderful stories from people who love their pets. How about you? Have stories to share? Write back with your wonderful pet story in the comments section.

Thanks for reading!
Pam


Pamela Roller is the author of On Silent Wings, a sexy gothic historical romance set in Restoration England. Visit her website at http://www.pamelaroller.com/.©Pamela Roller


I'm delighted to announce my story THE MAGIC KNOT has reached the fifth and final round of the American Title contest.


Please check out the final two entries and vote at:




I'd love your vote!


Many thanks for the support of all the wonderful people who have voted for me to get me into the final round.

Joanne---Deal/Bargain of the Day

Posted by Josie | 11:54 PM | 1 comments »

Sign up with Sears.com for emails. You wil receive a $5.00 gift card.

Enjoy!

"I can't afford to save any more money."

Contributed by Beth Trissel

Shirley Plantation is home to a famous ghost called “Aunt Pratt.” To quote their website: “Aunt Pratt” was Martha Hill Pratt, the daughter of early Shirley ancestor Edward Hill III. Her portrait in the bed chamber of Shirley’s Great House is the subject of intriguing stories which have been retold by noted author L.B.Taylor, Jr. in his book, Ghosts of Virginia, Volume I. Mr. Taylor is also author of Haunted Houses, published by Simon and Schuster, as well as five regional Virginia ghost books, including Civil War Ghosts of Virginia.
The story of “Aunt Pratt” is included in Lori Haskin’s Book - Spooky America: Four Real Ghost Stories http://www.epinions.com/content_176077442692

A reviewer of the book describes the tale:
Picky Aunt Pratt Shirley Plantation, Charles City, Virginia January 2002 Martha Hill Pratt must have been an extremely strong woman when she was alive, that’s the only way she could have a ghost that could command so much attention. Martha Pratt was born at the plantation but married and moved to England, the portrait of her hung in the first floor gallery for years, overlooking the family cemetery. In the mid 1800’s the family decided to redecorate and moved the painting to the attic.

Night after night, family members could hear a tapping noise coming from the attic, puzzled they realized the only thing that was moved to the attic was the painting so they decided to move it to the third floor. The tapping continued so they tried the second floor.
That didn’t seem to work either so they returned the painting to the first floor where it originally hung.

After that, everything was quiet again. That is until 1974 when family members shipped the painting to New York City for a display of haunted goods. Martha didn’t like it, not at all; the painting rumbled and rattled until they decided to put it in a closet for the night. The family decided that Aunt Pratt had enough, they had the frame fixed [it was damaged when it was in the closet] and hung it back in it’s original location where it still hangs a little crooked to this very day. The last line sums it up perfectly, “It’s just a friendly reminder from Aunt Pratt...leave me alone!”
###

The history and stories of Shirley were part of the inspiration behind my paranormal romance, Somewhere My Love, coming soon to the Wild Rose Press!

For more on Shirley Plantation and Aunt Pratt visit: http://www.shirleyplantation.com/aunt_pratt.html
To explore other historic ‘haunts’ in Virginia check out:
http://www.virginia.org/site/features.asp?FeatureID=52
http://www.hauntedtraveler.com/haunted%20virginia.htm
To purchase Pamela Kinney’s non-fiction book, Haunted Richmond, Virginia visit http://www.schifferghosts.com/

Just wait 'til I'm grown up!

Posted by Mary Marvella | 8:26 PM | 3 comments »

Just wait 'til I'm grown up!

How many times have you heard a kid say that? I know you never said it. It usually follows a time when an adult gives an order, sets rules, or lays down punishment. Many youngsters believe they'll have control of their lives when they're adults. (Little do they know .) They won't need to follow instructions they don't like. Of course young people believe they're grown well before they want to take responsibilities. They want the privileges though.

How many times have you tried to tell a child he'll have more rules to follow as grownup than he can imagine? "School is a picnic compared to the world of work." I said that often. "Yeah, just wait. You'll see."

We all know we'll be able to do anything we want to do when we find success.

Most of us on this loop have said the same thing about writing. Wait 'til I'm published. Wait 'til I'm rich and famous. You know you thought it, even if you didn't say it.

No synopses writing for me.
No more rejections
I'll be able to write what I want to write.
No editors will tell me how to write my story.

I'm thinking about those things as I revise a manuscript to submit.

Will I always have to please an editor? I've heard the answer is yes.
Do multi-published writers have to submit proposals? (Synopses) Yes?
Will I get rejections on those proposals? I've heard that was a yes, too.
Will editors tell me to make changes? Please tell me that one is a no.

Let's hear your comments about the freedom of being an adult. No rules, right? You can be your own boss, can't you? No one tells you what to do or how to do it.

TIME, as Seen by Four Authors Separated by Centuries but Extremely Close in Thought

Pedro Calderon de la Barca lived from 1600-1681. His play La Vida es Sueno investigates the themes of destiny and free will. It was most recently performed in 2007.

Following is Sigismundo's speech in which he compares life to a dream from which one never awakens:

Que es la vida? Un frenesi.

Que es la vida? Una ilusion, una sombra, una ficcion,

Y el major es pequeno

Que todo la vida es sueno

Y los suenos, suenos son.

What is life? A madness.

What is life? An illusion, a shadow, a story,

And the greatest good can be insignificant,

In that all of life is a dream,

And the dreams are dreams.

Andrew Marvell (1621-1678) was a little more practical in his view of the subject of Time:

Had we but world enough, and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime.
We would sit down and think which way
To walk, and pass our long love's day;
Thou by the Indian Ganges' side
Shouldst rubies find; I by the tide
Of Humber would complain. I would
Love you ten years before the Flood;
And you should, if you please, refuse
Till the conversion of the Jews.
My vegetable love should grow
Vaster than empires, and more slow.
An hundred years should go to praise
Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze;
Two hundred to adore each breast,
But thirty thousand to the rest;
An age at least to every part,
And the last age should show your heart.
For, lady, you deserve this state,
Nor would I love at lower rate.

But at my back I always hear
Time's winged chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found,
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
My echoing song; then worms shall try
That long preserv'd virginity,
And your quaint honour turn to dust,
And into ashes all my lust.
The grave's a fine and private place,
But none I think do there embrace.

Now therefore, while the youthful hue
Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
And while thy willing soul transpires
At every pore with instant fires,
Now let us sport us while we may;
And now, like am'rous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour,
Than languish in his slow-chapp'd power.
Let us roll all our strength, and all
Our sweetness, up into one ball;
And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Thorough the iron gates of life.
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.

Writer Jeffrey Deaver, author of the Lincoln Rhyme mysteries, looked at it another way, though the idea is disturbingly similar to Calderon's:

Life is an Illusion.

The past is Memory...the Future is Imagination...

The only thing real is this one Instant of the Present...and that is

Constantly changing from Imagination to Memory....

And then there's the view of a nameless contemporary writer, as reflected in this poem circa 1990....


Here I sit, seeing nothing

with my bottle and my glass,

wondering where it all went,

where did Time go so fast?

Where was I as you grew older,

exchanging your bike for a cane,

hiding your eyes behind Coke bottles,

finding you can't dance without pain?

If I look now in the mirror

whose face would I see?

A wrinkled, false-toothed old geezer

staring back at me?

Whoever he is, he isn't me, so I'll

neither look nor pry.

I'll just sit and finish my drink,

and let Time once more pass me by.

Think about it--Old Tempus will always fugit, no matter how much we fidget!

Michael: I don't want someone sucking up to me because they think I can help their career. I want them sucking up to me because they genuinely love me.

Another great Michael quote: I love inside jokes. I'd like to be a part of one some day.



Michael Scott played by Steve Carell


Contributed by Beth Trissel, big fan of the show

IPink and Red, Stay in Bed!

Posted by Liz Jasper | 11:31 AM | 10 comments »


No, I don't mean THAT--get your mind out of the gutter! I'm saying Valentine's day is a menace and all sane people should avoid it like the plague.

Am I the only one who feels the day should be banned?

I've never liked it. When I was single, I whined and moaned about the cards I didn't receive, felt like a failure because I didn't have anyone to send me overpriced flowers, and consoled myself with the proactive step of buying my own darn chocolates and gaining ten pounds in...victory. When I was dating, my thrill lasted until I bent my head to smell the bouquet and discovered, upon closer examination, the roses were invariably brown and bit crusted on the edges and smelled like...nothing. And now that I'm married and know how much those stupid flowers cost, I resent the purchase...and yet if my husband actually listens to my pre-V-day whining and doesn't get me anything, I'm crushed. Crushed! How stupid is that?

Some would call this clear evidence of the fickleness of women. I think the Valentine's day promotion is to blame--nothing can be as good as the hallmark commercial. And if something seems too good to be true, maybe it is.

If only Jo Gartner of UNDERDEAD had stuck to her guns the first time she sees Will...


Flickering lights from the dance floor slid over his chiseled features, briefly illuminating strong cheekbones before getting lost in the dark hollows below. He had one of those long, lean bodies, with just the right amount of muscle, and dark, slightly wavy hair that hung to his shoulders in a way that made my stomach lurch.

As if sensing my regard, he suddenly turned his head from the shadows and looked directly at me. I did an embarrassing deer-in-the-headlights thing and our eyes locked. His eyes were the most gorgeous blue I’d ever seen. I mean piercingly blue. Meltingly blue. A sharp desire to be closer to him slammed me like a wave.

He was gorgeous. Too gorgeous. Sanity returned. I turned my back to him.

"No way,” I said. “There’s something wrong with him.”

“What? What is wrong with him?” Carol demanded.

“He’s boring, he’s vain, he has six wives in various countries, he lives in a yurt with fifteen Chihuahuas, he sells deodorant for a living—I don’t know, but no one can be that good-looking and have a personality.”

“Oh, for goodness sake!” Carol said. “What a load of crap! Stop inventing reasons to avoid talking to him. If you want to forgo meeting fabulous men to sit here with the likes of us for the rest of your life, be my guest.” Her glasses had slid down her nose and she glared over the top of them at me.

“What she said,” Becky added. “Though I don’t know why you’d even care if he has thirty wives and eats deodorant for a living. You don’t need to have him around for scintillating conversation—look at him! He’s so hot he doesn’t need a personality. What do you want to talk to him for anyway?”

“Gotta love liberated women,” I muttered. “Equal opportunity chauvinism.”




2008 EPPIE Award nominated UNDERDEAD is hot off the press in paperback!
http://www.jasminejade.com/p-3894-underdead.aspx?skinid=13

"Light-hearted mystery with a touch of the paranormal nad a hint of romance is a recipe for a just about perfect read." ~~Huntress Reviews


I say take control of Valentine's day--buy yourself a good book and a box of chocolates and you'll know you'll have fun!

For reviews and all of chapter one, visit my website: www.lizjasper.com

Hi everyone,
Today I am continuing with another excerpt from my historical romance, Fatal Fortune. Happy Valentine's Day. Hope you enjoy!

She crept toward Yolanda’s voice, reaching the corridor before a heavy pair of fists struck her down. Valentina fell in a crumpled heap by the open door.
Pain, anger, and fear twisted its way down her spine.
They were in the house of the devil.
“Good God, Sir Roland, there is no need to be so rough,” Sir Geoffrey’s robust voice boomed.
“She is a disgusting gypsy woman. They have no feelings.”

Valentina risked a glimpse, ever so slight, across the corridor. Relieved that Sir Geoffrey said something kind, she furtively peeked through the door to the courtyard, spying her sister. Yolanda’s panic-stricken expression turned to one of dread as Sir Geoffrey lifted her from his horse and carried her to the entryway. Sir Roland slammed the door in Valentina’s face when they passed. Yolanda’s muted shrieks rang through the hollow room.
Valentina’s heart plummeted to her knees. Her legs refused to lift her.
“Yolanda!”

The screams died.

“Yolanda!” Valentina cried out again. Nothing. The dead silence frightened her more than the screams. Panic strangled her voice, threatened to break her resolve.
Fear festered in her chest, making it ache. She crawled to the heavy oaken door and wrapped her hands around the iron latch. She pulled and pulled until her wrists felt like they would shatter. The wood had to give, it had to.
She stumbled to her feet, desperate to get out of the castle. Desperate to find Yolanda. Desperate to help them both escape before they were killed by these devils.

Or . . . Worse.

Officer of Election

Posted by Sherry Morris | 3:35 PM | 3 comments »

I've always wanted to work at the polls on election day. My dream finally came true yesterday, when my state held dual presidential primaries. I was to report before 5 a.m. So of course, at 8:30 p.m. the night before, my daughter vomited. I was up all night, holding back hair and scrubbing carpet, hoping beyond anything that I wouldn't soon join her.

I arrived on time at my precinct and after wandering around outside in the spooky darkness, loaded down with muffins, fruit salad, paper goods, a cooler and purse, I found the unlocked door.

We had been warned that changes in the election laws would equal angry voters. Only one woman was upset about showing I.D. The big problem was holding two primaries on the same day, and only allowing the voters to vote in one. This meant we had to ask and they had to state which primary they wished to vote in, Republican or Democratic.

It seemed to vehemently anger men who carried guns in the course of their employment. One refused and left. Those women who were bothered by this took it very emotionally, with tears welling up. They complied like it was just one more humiliation.

We gave the option of voting electronically by touch screen or by paper ballot. Men generally chose the gadget and women generally chose paper. Paper was quicker, by the way.

We election officials cheered for every first time voter. They took it well, without embarrassment and seemed to be proud.

I noticed a very odd phenomenon. My eyes started to burn and water, then get better. At one point, when crowds were heaviest, I had to run from my post and wipe my eyes, I felt nearly blinded. When I returned, and new people were in line, I was fine. There were a variety of strong aromas coming from the public. Smoke, cologne and who knows. I realized I must have had an allergic reaction to some of the scents.

The polls closed, we were able to agree on the results and pack up by 9:00 p.m. To slide out in an ice storm and thaw our cars.

At our precinct, Obama won the democratic votes, but Huckabee won the republican, even though he didn't win our state.

By Beth Trissel

I’ve read that Virginia has more ghost stories than any other state in the Union, not necessarily because we have a more fertile imagination, but sadly because the Old Dominion has seen more bloody battles over the centuries than any other. Think back, Jamestown (1607) was the site of the oldest successful English settlement and its history is a violent one. And on we go to the many heart-rending wars fought with the usurped Indians, a number of them waged on Virginia soil. March on to the Revolution; anyone heard of Yorktown, to name just one famous battle? And let’s not forget that horrific most uncivil of wars, much of it fought in, you guessed it, Virginia.

And yet, this multitude of hauntings doesn’t only feature soldiers caught in an endless fray who haven’t gotten word the war’s over, although there are legions of tales that do and entire companies of ghosts said to battle on. Many tales feature the myriad of people, great and small, who dwelt in our richly historic state. The old Virginia homes and plantations have accumulated a wealth of such stories.

Thus, it was while touring some of these English styled manor homes that I conceived the idea for my paranormal romance, Somewhere My Love. Not from the movie, Somewhere in Time, which I only vaguely remember and then only after prompting. Nay, lay that notion to rest. Added to this meld of vintage Virginia is my own heritage, a vast source of inspiration from my childhood. On my father’s side, I descend from old Southern gentry, now impoverished after the Civil War, Great Depression, and various other misfortunes, including the untimely death of my brilliant grandfather. But the gracious Georgian home his ancestor built, called Chapel Hill (circa 1816) still stands outside the historic town of Staunton.

I was ever determined the family home place was haunted and wove stories through my fevered mind, along with my continual search for Narnia which entailed frequent treks into the old wardrobe. But I digress. The magnificent ancestral portraits in my family and on display in Virginia homes held me transfixed, wondering. And it was just such a portrait of a striking dark-haired gentleman who embedded himself in my thoughts. Who was he? Why did he die so young? That other painting of the fair young lady...did she love him?

Often, the guides at these old homes are brimming with tales. But other times we are left to wonder...and ask ourselves are these folk who’ve gone before us truly gone, or do some still have unfinished business in this realm? And what of the young lovers whose time was tragically cut short, do they somehow find a way? Love conquers all, so I answer ‘yes.’


Somewhere My Love is coming soon to the Wild Rose Press! For more on this and my other works, please visit me at http://www.bethtrissel.com/

If you love New York City, and you love Broadway shows, sign up for broadwaybox.com

This website will deliver an email to your inbox every Monday listing Broadway and off/Broadway musicals and shows for a substantial discount. I believe that they list London shows, also, but check to be sure.

The seats are outstanding, and the discount is significant.

Break a leg!

"I can't afford to save any more money." (Borrowed from another website.)

Sir Roland dismounted, tethered his horse, and dragged Valentina through the entryway of the castle and down a short corridor. He dumped her at the far corner of an enormous room. With a perilous flick of his sword, he cut the rope from her wrists.

“Stay here and keep quiet until his lordship wishes to see you,” Sir Roland said.

Half in awe, half in fear, she pivoted and tilted her head back. The ceiling in the huge room connected with mammoth timber arches on three sides.
She gaped, disbelieving of the rich surroundings.
Yolanda must be near. Valentina shook her wrists. She could not feel, could not move, but she had to find her sister.
Her gaze slid downward. Weighty tapestries in pale green covered the massive stone walls. Fine tiles lined the entrance to an endless spiral staircase. Moonlight winked through the panes of the leaded windows giving an eerie golden glow, but her sister was not in the room.
Yolanda’s cries pierced the deserted corridor. Valentina felt as if her heart would burst.

Joanne---recipe Banana Bread

Posted by Josie | 8:57 AM | 4 comments »

We all have our share of favorite banana bread recipes. This is mine. It's easy, low fat, and delicious.

2-3 mashed bananas
1/2 cup apple sauce (no sugar)
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 2/3 cups flour

Preheat over to 350 F. Mix applesauce and brown sugar together. Mix in egg, then all ingredients. Spray loaf pan. Pour in mixture. Bake 30-40 minutes.

Enjoy!

Being associated with a Native American Trader, I've become fascinated by fetishes. In my free time, I hang around the display cases, staring at the little figures. I have my favorites among them, and I'd like to share some of that knowledge today. Now get those images of whip-wielding ladies clad in black leather, and girls in parochial school uniforms out of your minds-- I'm talking about fetishes in the original sense of the word, before Freud and Jung got hold of them!

Fetishes are figures carried by Native Americans to give them guidance, advice, and peace of mind. Legend has it that the Twin Sons of Sun Father poured a magic shield over the Earth which charmed all predators and turned them to stone. Inside, however, their hearts were still alive and they were charged to help Mankind. When a stone is found which resembles an animal, it is considered one of these stone beasts and will bring good fortune, power, and protection. Stones looking naturally like animals or deities are called concretion fetishes. Later, stones were carved to look like those creatures. These must be blessed by a priest to become a true fetish. They are decorated with thalla, bits of shell or turquoise or beads or a lightning bolt, representing the heart of the fetish and its inherent energy. The fetish is kept in a special jar or wrapped in buckskin or silk and placed in its own area in a home. It can be carried or worn around the neck on a leather thong. Traditionally, it must be fed a meal consisting of food ( usually cornmeal mixed with crushed turquoise or shells) which is served to it on a piece of pottery. After the spirit of the fetish has consumed the spirit of the food, the remains are disposed of by throwing into the river. It cannot be buried because to do so would offend the spirits of the departed. Fetishes are prayed to daily, asking guidance before any undertaking. To do so, one must hold the fetish's nose to the lips and breathe over it. Since Breath is the Living Spirit, one then breathes in the fetish's spirit, and through prayer, the proper guidance is obtained.

Each winter solstice, We-ma-a-wa U-pu-k'ia (the Day of the Council of Fetishes) is held by the Zuni. All fetishes are brought to a symbolic altar on the floor of the council chamber.

It is believed that the Great Father is protected on six sides by the Great Hunters of Prey. These Six are the most important fetishes, each representing a special color and direction. The Mountain Lion is (Ha'k-ti ta-sh-a-na thiup-tsi-na, Long Tail) is the Hunter God of the North (the Barren Place),yellow; Black Bear (An she, Clumsy Foot) represents the West, the Home of Waters, and is blue; Badger (Black Mark Face) is South, the Place of Beautiful Red and is red; White Wolf (Iu-na-wi-ko we-ma-we, Hang Tail) is God of the East, the Home of the Day. His color is white; Eagle (K'ia-k'ia-li we-ma-we, White Cap) is God of the Upper Regions, Home of the High, and is variegated in color. The last Great Hunter is Mole (K'ia-tu-tsi we-ma-we, Mound Digger) ruling the Nether Regions, Home of the Low. His color is black.

Other traditional animals are Snakes, Ravens, Falcons, Owls, Rabbits, and Foxes, but nowadays, more and more untraditional creatures--such as swans, penguins, giraffes and even semi trucks--are being carved.

Although all Southwestern Native Americans carve fetishes, the Zuni (A-shi-wi) are the best carvers, dating from AD 700. At present, there are 19 families who produce detailed carvings. Some specialize in specific animals. All have their own recognizable styles. Some united with other carving families through marriage. The price for a fetish from a name-recognized artist can range from $25 to $10,000, depending on the size, detail, and type of material used!

Many gem stones are used in fetish carving. Jasper, Carnelian, Chalcedony, Lapis, and Agate will be familiar to anyone who has read the Bible. Amber, coral, malachite, and spiny oyster are imported for use. Turquoise (copper aluminum phosphate) is the mineral most used. It has been mined since Prehistoric times and was first used by the Anasazo. Obsidian, quartz, and pipestone--indigenious to the area--are also used. Jet, which is fossilized wood that looks like coal has been used since the Stone Age. It fractures easily and is difficult to polish. Pipestone (catlinite) is hardened clay tinted red by iron. It was used by Plains Indians to make the bowl of their pipes.

My own fetish collection is small--at present, consisting 3 bats and a raven. Raven (Kotolloah) is the teacher of Magic and Sorcery, and magical playfulness. He is made of black marble, wing slightly spread as if preparing to fly. Of my three bats (Jaa-Abani, (buckskin ears), the Night Guardian of the East), one is only an inch and a half wide by half an inch high, of Mother of Pearl with turquoise eyes, carved by an artist who specializes in this little animal; the second is a 3-inch section of deer antler, cut to form swooping wings and a wrapped-around tail, tiny obsidian eyes and coral nostrils and mouth; the last is 5 inches tall, carved from a single piece of red pipestone, a big-eared Guardian of the Night, wheeling through the air, a snake in his mouth. The detail on each is astounding and lifelike, delicate and precise, considering the materials each artist was working with. No one seeing any of the pieces would have any doubt what they represent.

For now, my fetishes reside in gift boxes in my jewelry chest. I hope some day they'll have their own place on the shelf of an etagere which they will reign to shed their magic over my home.


Stepping into the conservatory was like stepping into a damp lush rainforest. Tropical plants abounded. Two bright colored parrots sat in a banana tree and a macaw sat on a rubber plant.

As they walked along the pathway, wide green leaves brushed them. Gabby pointed toward an exotic, spotted flower. “What is that?”

“Spider orchid,” Tamara said, grazing it with her fingertips. “Do you like it?”

“No.”

Tamara laughed, unoffended.

In the center of the conservatory was a shrine-like structure made of smooth gray stones.

Gabby’s pace quickened. She didn’t need to be told what she would find at its center. She could feel it. It drew her, like the smell of baking bread would draw a starving child.

“I’ll leave you alone,” Tamara said quietly.

It’s almost as if she understands the hold the globe has over me. Then all coherent thought fled as Gabby approached the globe, the pull growing stronger, more demanding.

Tamara turned and went back in the house.

Gabby walked as if in a trance. The globe, beginning to glow, beckoned her like a lover. She leaned toward it and reached out her hands. It was warm to the touch, comforting.

Gabby closed her eyes, her thoughts centered inward, as she immersed herself in the feel of it. She threw back her head and arched her neck as warmth crept over her like ocean waves lapping at her feet.

Time had no meaning.

In a dreamlike state, Gabby turned as hands on her arms moved her, strong, gentle hands that pressed her against a hard body, a body that molded to hers as if it were made for her. She could smell the clean scent of shampoo and freshly laundered clothes, mingled with the expensive fragrance of a man’s cologne.

“My love,” she breathed, just before cool thin lips closed over hers, causing her awareness of everything else to sift to the back of her mind like smoke. Conscious only of the mindless pleasure filling her as his mouth moved across her own.

She heard his breath catch, before he murmured, “My darling, I could spend eternity wrapped in your arms, watching the sun come up over the ocean,” against her lips, her closed eyelids, her arched neck.



Eternally Yours:
What could you spend an eternity doing? What is your passion? Your hunger? Your deepest desire? Each day beginning February 5 and running through February 14 one of the ten authors will complete the line, "My darling I could spend eternity…" on either their blog or website.

Collect all ten answers and e-mail them to anny@annycook.com with Eternally Yours in the subject line to win some hot, romantic books.There will be three lucky Valentine winners.

The prizes

1st prize--5 books
2nd prize--3 books
3rd prize--2 books

Entries must be in by February 16 at midnight EST. All books and prize winners will be drawn randomly.List of Authors….Brynn Paulin, Bronwyn Green, Cindy Spencer Pape, Kelly Kirch, Amarinda Jones, Anny Cook, Mona Risk, Sandra Cox, N.J. Walters, and Elyssa Edwards.

A VALENTINE CONTEST

Posted by Mona Risk | 11:11 PM | 1 comments »

What could you spend an eternity doing?
What is your passion? Your hunger? Your deepest desire?
Each day beginning February 5 and running through February 14 one of the ten authors will complete the line, "My darling I could spend eternity…" on either their blog or website.

Collect all ten answers and e-mail them to anny@annycook.com with Eternally Yours in the subject line to win some hot, romantic books.There will be three lucky Valentine winners.

The prizes
1st prize--5 books
2nd prize--3 books
3rd prize--2 books


Entries must be in by February 16 at midnight EST. All books and prize winners will be drawn randomly.

List of Authors and the books you may win.

Anny Cook---->Honeysuckle

Brynn Paulin----->Tribute For The Goddess

Bronwyn Green-----> Mystic Circle

Cindy Spencer Pape-----> Stone And Earth

Kelly Kirch-----> Time For Love

Amarinda Jones ------> Shades Of Grey

Mona Risk -----> To Love A Hero

Sandra Cox------> Silverhills

N.J. Walters-------> Seduction of Shamus O'Rourke

Elyssa Edwards ------> Mating Stone



My darling, I could spend an eternity walking on the beach, hand in hand, with you.

Rejections suck whether in our daily life or in our writing life.

I was eight-years old when I experienced a rejection that hurt enough at the time for me to remember it. The school announced a play. I auditioned and was chosen. I was ecstatic. But I got sick and missed two rehearsals. When I came back I was told I’d been replaced. God, did I cry.

I am much, much older now, but still hurt badly when I meet with rejection. On February 17, my debut book, To Love A Hero, was released by Cerridwen Press. A wonderful time for celebration, and yet the next day, my joy was smothered by the worst rejection I ever had. For a few days, I curled in my corner and pondered the letter I received from the editor who worked with me for a whole year, advised and encouraged me, but suddenly left the company and sent me a blunt rejection on her last day. Boy, did it hurt. It hurt enough to make me forget my new book, my first book.

When you meet with rejection, allow yourself a day or two to mourn and whine. Chocolate and crying on a friend’s shoulder may help soothe the pain. You need the time to absorb the disappointment and come to terms with the situation. And then, analyze it rationally. Is it a definite situation? Can you reverse it? Can you work around it? Would it be better to forget it, turn the page and start a new project?

In the case of my last rejection, that’s exactly what I decided to do. This editor is gone. If I use her advice to write something new and submit a fresh manuscript to another editor, maybe I would have a better chance than trying to hang on a work that has been rejected. The rejected work will not be discarded, just set aside for a later visit and more editing.

When was the last time you had to face a bad rejection, one that really hurt? How did you cope with the disappointment? Did something good come out of it?

Mona Risk www.monarisk.com




QUOTE OF THE DAY

ENERGY and PERSISTENCE CONQUER ALL THINGS.

--Benjamin Franklin--

Excerpt from Dying to Love Him

Posted by Sherry Morris | 10:00 AM | 1 comments »

Image Dying to Love Him by Sherry Morris Hot Blonde Chick

Excerpt From Dying to Love Him

By Sherry Morris

A dark comedy paranormal romance mystery novel

Novel Available for Download at New Concepts Publishing

Tammy pounded on the front door of her sister Donna’s Virginia townhouse. Her pink manicure reflected back from the clean etched glass. A hulking monster of a dog placed two paws on the other side of the door. Tammy stumbled backwards and grabbed the wrought iron railing. The canine emitted only a pitiful whimper.

Maybe Oh-Donna’s in the shower. The sky began to spit on Tammy. She descended the twelve brown brick steps and marched around the matching path to the rear of her sister’s end unit townhouse. She opened the gate on the six foot tall privacy fence. The first five feet of it was board on board, the top foot was lattice. After latching the gate, she dashed under the deck.

Tammy tried the French doors in the basement. They were unlocked. She stomped in and slammed the door behind her. Immediately turning her nose up at the overdone red walls and carpet, she hurried across a room filled with guitars, a piano, harmonicas, violins and recording equipment. Tammy took the stairs two at a time. Reaching the top, she flung open a white steel door and was greeted by Scooby Doo-ette. “Hi girl, remember me? How are you, Sugar?”

Something wasn’t right.

The dog was nearly emaciated. Her ribs were showing and she wasn’t her boisterous self.

“Eew! What’s that smell?” The kitchen reeked of urine and there were three piles of poop on the hardwood floor.

“You poor thing! Oh-Donna went away and forgot about you.” Tammy unlocked the French Doors in the kitchen. The dog bolted out onto the deck. She filled her water bowl and then scooped three cups of kibbles into the chrome food dish. The whimpering dog slumped on the pressure treated wood deck, surrounded by terra cotta pots of wilted flowers. Tammy let her back in. The Great Dane immediately chomped down the food and lapped up the water.

The stench in the kitchen gagged her. Tammy opened the cabinet under the kitchen sink and dug out a trash bag, disinfectant and yellow rubber gloves. Yanking seven paper towels off the roll on the pistol-gray granite counter, Tammy went to work cleaning the mess, all the while mumbling, “Oh-Donna you good for nothing bitch. How could you do this to a poor defenseless doggie?” Tammy breathed through her mouth, trying desperately not to inhale. “And how could you be so cruel as to cut me off from Daddy’s money?” A tear rolled down her cheek. “How could you? You’ll pay for this little sister of mine.”

Tammy placed the smelly bag out on the deck and then shoved the cleaning supplies back under the sink.

The air conditioning kicked on. A cold shiver raced up her spine. “Where is the thermostat Scooby Doo-ette? Hunh girl?” The dog brushed up against her silk-stockinged leg and licked her throat. She petted the Great Dane. The pair headed down the hallway, in search of the thermostat.

Tammy stopped in front of the living room, where she glimpsed her sister lying on the sofa.

Lifeless.

Tammy screamed.

The dog cried and licked Tammy’s hand.

“Ohmagod, she’s dead!” Hey, wait a minute, if Oh-Donna is dead, then that means she can’t be executrix of Daddy’s will and so I can get put back on the dole and hey, wait a minute—she’s an old spinster, so I logically will inherit her estate as well...

Tammy sighed. Oh, I’ll probably have to split it with Perry. But at least I’ll get a nice chunk of change.

She looked the corpse over. Her sister lay in the fetal position, with a smile curling the corner of her pale lips. What an angelic porcelain face. Even now, a twinge of jealousy swirled. Oh-Donna was blessed with naturally wavy blonde hair and flawless Caucasian skin. Tammy never did feel like they were real sisters. Even though the Payne’s adopted Tammy as a baby, she never warmed up to their natural daughter, Oh-Donna. But Tammy did feel an allegiance to their son Perry. They were more alike.

Tammy stepped closer, stumbling over the clumsy dog. Oh for the love of Prada, her tummy is moving up and down with her breathing. There goes my plan. “Wake up Oh-Donna.”

She didn’t move. Tammy shook her arm. “Wake up! Now! Get up Oh-Donna.”

No reaction.

Tammy remembered Farts (their late father’s proctologist friend) telling her and Perry that Oh-Donna had a brain disorder which caused her to fall asleep at weird times. She recollected discovering her sleeping in the walk-in closet under the stairs at their parents’ house and then she’d fainted in front of her moments later.

Tammy hugged her chilled arms, wishing the damned air conditioner would shut off. “Wake up Oh-Donna. Wake the frick up, you brain damaged witch. Wake up sissy-girl.”

Her sister didn’t respond. It was as though she was in a coma...

“Ohmagod. Oh-Donna is in a coma! I’m so sorry sweetie! You poor thing. That’s why the dog was starved and crapped in the house. How long have you been like this?”

Tammy snatched the cordless phone from the end table and punched in her brother’s cell phone number.

“Judge Payne here.”

“Perry! Oh-Donna’s in a coma! And the dog pooped all over the house and she’s gonna die and that bitch cut me off, I’ve been evicted—.”

“What? Slow down. Oh-Donna’s in a coma? Where are you?”

“I’m at her house. I can’t wake her up.”

“Hang up and call nine-one-one.”

Tammy breathlessly squealed, “I don’t have time to look up the number for nine-one-one. What if she dies?” Sweet Jesus forgive me for my earlier thoughts. I didn’t mean them. Honest I didn’t. Her stomach churned. I’m gonna go to Hell for my thoughts. Tears deposited mascara in her eyes. She closed them tightly.

Perry barked, “Call an ambulance. The number for nine-one-one is nine-one-one Goddamit! I’ll be over as soon as I can. Call me and tell me what hospital they’re taking her to.” He hung up.

Tammy conjured up the last time her sister fainted, she’d thrown a glass of water in her face and she woke up. “Water!” She sprinted to the kitchen and picked up the dog’s water bowl. She filled it and jogged down the hallway, sloshing a trail behind her. The Great Dane lapped it off the hardwood floor. In the foyer, Tammy tripped on the edge of a sisal area rug and emptied the bowl onto her designer suit. “Darn you Oh-Donna!” Her scream pierced so loudly the dog skedaddled upstairs.

“Ohhh...” Her sister groaned.

Tammy dropped the chrome bowl and scrambled to her side. She picked up her arm, pumping it up and down, slapping her hand. “Oh-Donna, wake up Oh-Donna!”

Her sister murmured, “No...! No...! Not the Donna song...” Her smile morphed into a scowl.

Tammy slapped her sister’s face with both hands. “Wake up Oh-Donna. Now!”

“No. No. Go back. Ash...ley...”

©2007 Sherry Morris

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