When Mary Ricksen mentioned soul cakes in a Hallowe’en blog this month, I couldn’t resist finding out more about these treats that, in the olden days, were given out in exchange for prayers for the dead.

There are about a gazillion recipes on line. It seems that any kind of cookie or bun, preferably with some kind of dried fruit involved, can be called a soul cake. Many are unleavened. I’m not used to baking without some kind of leavening agent; generally, I do fine with baking powder and baking soda, but haven’t had much success with yeast. Still, since I found so many recipes for unleavened soul cakes, I went ahead and tried one, following the recipe fairly closely (an accomplishment for me). They tasted all right, but were dense and quite hard. I gave them a C and won’t bother posting the recipe. (But I’m not picky. I ate them all.)

Next, I decided to try one of the recipes that called for yeast, because I figured (given my past experience) that it was less likely to work for me, which made it more fun.

Back up for a second. Actually, the recipe called for ale barm as a leavening agent. Whoa! Ale barm?? Turns out barm is the frothy stuff on beer or ale (for more info, try Wikipedia) and is the source of the word “barmy,” which I’d always taken to mean “crazy.” Which it does, but since it derives from a word for air-filled froth, I wonder if originally it meant something more like air-headed or empty-headed… or if there are nuances to the word that I never knew about…and I adore nuances…but I digress.) The recipe also used sack as a liquid ingredient. Since I didn’t have the ale barm (or ale, for that matter) or sack, but since I do like the flavor of beer, I used non-alcoholic beer as my liquid.

The recipe had been adapted from an olden day recipe of the kind I like best, where the quantities are vague and the instructions brief. Recipes that tell you exactly how much of what to use, followed by detailed instructions, are far more likely to produce a predictable result, but age has drastically lessened my ability to be obedient. You can find the original barmy version and the adaptation using yeast at godecookery.com. (This is a very cool site if you’re into old-fashioned cookery. I fully intend to explore it more.)

I had bought some packets of yeast but couldn’t find them, so I had to use some old and possibly inactive yeast that had been sitting in the fridge for a couple of years. (Needless to say, the new packets were later found to be hiding in plain sight.)

¼ cup lukewarm water
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. yeast
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (white flour might make the result a little lighter, although I must say that generally whole wheat pastry flour works fine for biscuits and cakes)
1/3 cup brown sugar, or more if you want them to be sweeter
A mixture of ground spices. I used ¼ tsp. cloves, ¼ tsp. nutmeg, and ¼ tsp. allspice. The original called for mace (which I’m out of) and I’m a little tired of cinnamon. On the other hand, I have tons of 10-year-old allspice which needs to be used up. (Or thrown away, but I didn’t throw away the C-grade soul cakes, and I’m not throwing the allspice away, either.)
½ cup currants
2 tablespoons soft butter
Non-alcoholic beer

Mix the sugar and yeast into the lukewarm water and let it sit until it froths up a bit. I have no idea how much it should froth, because I’m such an amateur when it comes to yeast. It has to froth some, though, or it’s inactive. Which I’ve always assumed, where yeast is concerned, to be a euphemism for “dead.” Now, on Hallowe’en it would be perfectly proper for dead yeast to rise…but again, I digress.

Combine the dry ingredients. Add the butter, yeast mixture, and enough beer to make a ball of dough – not too sticky, not too dry. Leave the dough in the bowl, cover it, and let it rise in a warm place for a while. Then roll it on a floured surface to about ½” thick and cut into rounds. Set on a greased baking sheet for a few minutes while you preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Bake for about fifteen minutes.

These soul cakes were both pretty and pretty good. They might have been lighter and better if I’d used new yeast. (Or maybe just more yeast. Note to self: do research on proportion of yeast to flour). I gave them a B and ate them all up with butter, honey, jam… Yum.

Wanna Hang Out With Me This Halloween?

Wanna Hang Out With Me This Halloween?

Discussions about Cabbage Night...

The best and coolest word used to describe the night before Halloween. Cabbage Night began in the middle ages. People would wrap each others horses with papyrus and throw rooster eggs at their neighbors. It remains today the primary word to describe the night before halloween. Recently, there has been an uprising of anti-cabbage night protesters aka the "Cabbage Deniers." The protesters will soon back down after they experience the force of Cabbage Night for themselveSome of my best memories from Halloween do not come from Halloween itself, rather they are from the night before. Mischief night, witch's night, or as we used to call it, Cabbage Night.

I know in different areas of the country, there are different names for Halloween eve or cabbage night as I call it. I also know that in some parts of the U.S. cabbage night is not celebrated. I wish I knew the facts behind the start of mischief night, I think it had something to do with the witches coming out the night before Halloween to try and cause some mischief. But since I do not have the facts there I will just leave it that.

When I was a kid, we lived on a dead-end street that was just filled with kids. Kids ages ranged from newborn up to 16 years old. When I was 5,6,& 7 years old, I would just watch from the window as all the kids were out front on cabbage night. They had shaving cream, eggs, tomatoes, ketchup, floured socks and toilet paper. I would beg and beg for my mom to let me go out, and each year she said no. Then one year she decided I was old enough to participate in the cabbage night activities.

When I was a kid, the object of cabbage night was just to make a mess but not to destroy people's property or hurt each other. We would bomb each other with shaving cream, throw toilet paper all around the trees, bang our socks that were filled with flour onto the street, leaving a big white powder mark, we sometimes would egg each other and then top it off with ketchup.

My first night out, my mom sent me out there with some old clothes on and a hat. I guess she figured the hat would protect my hair so that it wouldn't be that hard to wash. Yeah right, Mom! She sent me out there with a sock filled with flour, a roll of toilet paper, and 1 can of shaving cream. Well all the kids already out there knew this was my first cabbage night. So they made sure they let me have everything I had missed in the past years. On their count, I had missed getting covered with about 10 cans of shaving cream, 3 bottles of ketchup, 8 tomatoes, 3 rolls of toilet paper, 12 eggs, and 1 flour sock opened and dumped on me.

Some may be reading this and thinking this is down right cruel. But it's not. These were my friends that I had played with every day. It's not as if I walked outside and they all ganged up on me. All that I mentioned had happened in about a 2 hour time span. And of course I would never go down with out a fight. For each person that bombed me, I made sure that I got a good one in. Whether it was an egg down their back, some shaving cream in their hat, or some ketchup in their shoes, I made sure they got theirs too.

Most of the parents would watch us kids from the window. If there was any sign that we were hurting each other or hurting someone's property, then we were punished. I knew better than to do that. I guess because my mom had drilled into me about my punishments if I were to be destructive to someone's belongings. It also could be that she let me participate at such an early age. Instead of keeping me in until I was 13 years old and then when I get out I go and spray paint people's cars out of bitterness for not letting me do all the cabbage night's before. In other words, she didn't restrain me. She let me experience it and taught me right from wrong.

Cabbage night is still celebrated in that town that I just moved away from. Of course now their are some changes. There is a 9:00 curfew for cabbage night. Some of the kids back then and today insisted on being trouble makers. For instance, when I was a kid, there were older kids (15 yrs old or so) that would hide in the park on cabbage night. If you went walking over there, they would throw some Nair on you. There were also kids who would have their flour socks filled with quarters. So there is always a few bad apples, no matter where you are.

For the past 2 years, I have taken my older son outside on cabbage night with some shaving cream. I would let him play in front of the house and cream me. I would also cream him. He wasn't allowed to go out into the street and play with the big kids. This year I will do the same with both of my boy's as long as where I live now celebrates cabbage night.

My article is not about what is right or wrong. If cabbage night is bad or not. It's supposed to be about my memories o Halloween as a child. And that is what I wrote about.

"Has anyone heard of “Cabbage Night”??? Apparently its the night before Halloween and Adam told me they celebrate it in his hometown in Vermont. I don’t know too much about it except that you throw cabbages and vegetables at people’s cars???? Anyone?? This sounds very peculiar so I was wondering if anyone had heard of it."

celebration where little kids dress up and get candy, teens dress up, get drunk, and go get candy, and adults dress up, get drunk, and give out candy, funny how things all work out.

So how do you look at Cabbage Night, Mischief Night. Did you go out and cause trouble that night or just wait for the candy on Halloween. Depends on your age and gender I suppose. But I will admit to throwing a few eggs at trees. Damn Mrs. Williams I am so sorry. I would have stopped my brother from putting the bag of dog poo on your porch and lighting it afire.

Shoot it was funny as hell at the time. But today, I am sorry.....Ssnnniiickkker. Really.

Halloween Witch

Halloween Witch

Every year, the Maryland Romance Writers hold their annual "Reveal Your Inner Vixen" Awards. Last year, my novel Earthman's Bride ( published by Lyrical Press this year) placed first in the Futuristic/Alternate category. This year, Tony-Paul de Vissage decided to try his luck. Entering an excerpt from his horror novel, The Shadow Lord, I think he was more surprised than anyone else when it placed third in the Erotic Romance category.

His response? "I placed third in the erotic romance category! How about that? Pretty good for someone with only two short stories and a soon-to-be-released novel under his belt, Non?"

Sorry I can't post the excerpt here. (It's pretty steamy.) And apparently the judges thought so, too.

Everyone strives to reach the lofty goal of grabbing an editor and agent’s attention from the first sentence. But what’s the right way to do that? Is it better to open with an action scene or with a more introspective point-of-view? I’ve seen both ways done extremely well before, though I’ve heard that it’s harder to showcase your voice by opening with an action scene.

So which is a better opening for a paranormal story?


Sometimes in the dark of night, when the earth trembled under her feet, when the wind howled through the valley of skyscrapers, when the fog rolled along the deserted San Francisco streets, Eva could feel them.

Even now, as the city slept behind its closed doors and locked windows, she sat in her car and waited, praying for just one glimpse of them. What she hoped to encounter wasn’t human. Yet it walked among them, for she had seen these strange beings with her own two eyes. They could be the waitress who’d poured coffee at the diner this morning, or the man that had stopped to help change a flat tire last week, or the diva-licious woman that sidled up against some lonely man at the nightclub on Friday night. Not in the least discriminatory, these beings come in all ages, sizes, and colors.

Oh, everyone’s wondering what they are by now, but Eva has no time to dive into such information, for at the moment her police scanners are buzzing like a swarm of bees.

(Then the scene becomes more active , more action orientated)


With her breath caught in her throat, Eva exited her tweaked out Eclipse racer loaded with police scanners instead of nitrous oxide. Ether steamed up from vents on the sidewalk and mixed with the fog as she made my way down the service alley behind the now empty shopping complex. Voices reached her. She tried to calm herself with the thought that maybe it was just homeless people but knew that wasn’t true, because the radio strapped to her belt buckle zapped airwaves of static out into the night.

With her back pressed against the uneven brick wall, she edged deeper into the vat of blackness lit only by the silhouette of the moon. When two men emerged from the shadows, she plastered herself against the wall while her fight or flight reflex shot to flight.

Share your thoughts...

What’s your take on the opening paragraphs above? Personally, I like the first one, but wonder if the pacing is too slow, or that it’s too much of an information dump. There are just too many shades of gray in the writing process for me.

Until next time, happy writing.

The Top Ten Most Evil Individuals in History

Thinking about this blog blew my mind.

Unfortunately there are so many horrifying choices. I tried that exercise - you know the one where you hear a word and blurt out the first things that come to mind.

Evil Person

Hitler, Idi Amin Dada, Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden, Stalin, Pol Pot, Ted Bundy,

That’s my short list. I decided to consult the media and various list serves to get other opinions. One site ranked the evil ones by the number of people they’ve reputedly killed. Here’s that list:

Idi Amin Dada 300,000
Ante Pavelic (Croatia) 300,000
Saddam Hussein 2,000,000
Theonista Bagosara (Rwanda) 1,000,000
Pol Pot 1,400,000
Mohamed Suharto (Indonesia) 2,000,000
Kim II Sung (North Korea) 3,000,000
Adolph Hitler 11,000,000
Joseph Stalin 20,000,000
Mao Tse Tung 35,000,000

A few other lists included historical figures that I hadn’t:

Attila the Hun
Maximilien Robespierre (leader of the French Revolution)
Rulloah Khomeini (leader of the Iranian Revolution against the Shah)
Leopold II of Belgium
Vlad Tepes III of Romania
Ivan IV of Russia (Ivan the Terrible the first Tsar)
Tomas de Torquemada (the first Grand Inquisitor)
Adolph Eichmann
Genghis Khan
H.H. Holmes (First Word’s Fair killer)
Gilles de Rais (killer and sodomizer of over 140 boys)
Heinrich Himmler

Whew! That’s quite a couple of lists and Ted Bundy never even made one. Yeech!

How many did I miss?

Chime in,

Jianne Carlo

Over the stunning weekend, my husband, art major daughter, and I drove through the valley and mountains on a photography tour. My mother was also out with her camera. Seeing the breath-taking ridges in their autumn glory reminded me of my historical/light paranormal romance, Daughter of the Wind, the season and setting for this story. I've included some of these fabulous pics to illustrate my post.

Autumn, 1784: A tragic secret from Karin McNeal’s past haunts the young Scots-Irish woman who longs to know more of her mother’s death and the mysterious father no one will name. The elusive voices she hears in the wind hint at the dramatic changes soon to unfold in her life among the Scot’s settled in the mist-shrouded Alleghenies. Jack McCray, a wounded stranger who staggers through the door on the eve of her twentieth birthday and anniversary of her mother’s death, holds the key to unlocking the past. Will she let this handsome frontiersman lead her to the truth and into his arms, or seek the shelter of her fiercely possessive grandfather? Is it only her imagination or does something, or someone, wait beyond the brooding ridges—for her?


The strange awareness inside Karin grew, like a summons urging her to an untamed place.

Jack ran fading eyes over Karin. “Paca tamseh,” he said, and sagged more heavily against Grandpa.

“Indian words,” someone hissed. “I heard ‘em.”

Karin shrank back from the man, but Sarah grabbed her arm, pulling her forward with a steely grip. “Can you blame him for knowing their speech after all these years?” She jerked Karin onto her knees and they knelt by the newcomer. Loosening her grip, Sarah wrapped her arms around his neck. “My poor boy.”

Heart racing, Karin hugged the crock. She looked to her grandfather. “I never knew she had an older son.”

“Jack was eight when Shawnee captured him twenty years ago. Any son of Sarah’s is welcome in my house and the settlement,” Grandpa said with a look, daring any to object.

None did. At least, not aloud, although Karin expected there’d be plenty of talk behind their hands.

“You told me Jack was dead, Mama,” Joseph said.

“I thought he was. Praise God he’s back.”

“How did he know where to find you?” Uncle Thomas asked. “You weren’t a McNeal when he was taken.”

Neeley clucked. “Never mind that now. We’ve a wounded man who’s been welcomed home with lead shot.”

Jack fluttered his eyes and looked to Karin. His gaze drew her almost against her will. She leaned toward him. “Someone seeks you, Shequenor’s dahnaithah.”

The message rippled through her. And she knew—his was the inviting summons in the wind.


"Jack McCray, as he’d been known before his capture and still was in some parts of the frontier, had a vague awareness of the astonished folk gathered around him. He caught himself fading in and out of consciousness and fought to remain alert...he slid his eyes over the people hovered about him in search of the angel he’d sighted earlier and spoken to briefly, but she seemed to be keeping her distance. Some females took time to grow on him before he found them pleasing. Not this fresh beauty. Her face and slender figure grabbed him the instant he’d spotted her."

"Stomach fluttering, Karin picked her way across the muddy yard beyond their sprawling homestead. A chill darted through her despite the extra flannel petticoat she’d donned beneath her warmest cloak.
Jack—the name alone sent shivers down to her toes. She almost lost her footing on the red and yellow leaves slicking the ground beneath her leather shoes. Easy, she told herself, breathing in the tang of wood smoke from the chimney."

A bearwalking Shawnee warrior, secrets from the past, a rugged frontiersman, gifted heroine, magical moonstone, love at first sight…DAUGHTER OF THE WIND

For more on my work please visit: www.bethtrissel.com

NJRW Conference

Posted by Patrice Wilton | 6:54 AM | 21 comments »

Good-morning PFS readers and authors! This is my first blog and I hope it works!
This weekend I attended the NJRW's conference in the beautifully renovated Renaissance hotel in Woodbridge, NJ.
The 2 day event hosted an A list of editors and agents, plus a pre-conference workshop with Jennifer Crusie to kick it off. The first evening the attendees were invited to a cocktail party with pasta stations and plentiful hordoerves, followed by the Golden Leaf and PYHB ceremony. Both days were busy with entertaining and informative workshops, and I personally enjoyed Madeline Hunter speak about using good conflict in a romance novel. Even after years of writing I picked up some important tips.
Karen Rose was the breakfast keynote speaker and Allison Brennan inspired the luncheon crowd. The hotel supplied bottles of wine for the table and plenty of chocolate to make amends for the alarms and evacuation in the middle of the night due to a faulty electrical problem that brought out the fire department. So much for getting a good sleep that night!
After our delicious lunch I attended the editor panal represented by Harlequin, Grand Central, Avalon, Ellora's Cave, and Samhain. The buzz was the pub houses are still acquiring and looking for fresh new voices, and sexy is still in. GC has a line 5 Spot that wants older heroines with real life experiences.
All in all, it was a lively well attended conference that was well represented by the major publishing houses.

More Halloween Facts

Posted by Mary Ricksen | 12:00 AM | , , | 9 comments »

Is Halloween Candy Tampering a Myth?


By and large, yes. Despite a very few well-publicized cases of alleged Halloween candy tampering during the 1960s and 1970s -- nearly all of which were found to be false or unverifiable upon further investigation -- no child has ever been injured or killed as a result of ingesting adulterated candy, apples, or other treats collected on Halloween.

Nevertheless, what sociologist Joel Best dubbed "the myth of the Halloween sadist" became so firmly entrenched in the American psyche from the 1970s on that aspects of the holiday were fundamentally changed. Most crucially, it became everyone's urgent priority to protect young trick-or-treaters from the malicious acts of strangers. Parents were warned by law enforcement officials to thoroughly inspect Halloween treats for tampering before allowing children to consume them. Hospitals offered the free use of x-ray facilities to detect foreign objects such as razor blades, pins, and needles. And though the moral panic that gave rise to these measures began to subside during the 1990s, parental accompaniment and supervision had already became a widely adopted addition to the trick-or-treat ritual.

This is not to say that parents needn't watch out for their children's safety on Halloween, or that inspecting Halloween treats is never warranted. The point to be gleaned from the research of Best and others is that these dangers were considerably overblown when they first came to light and created an atmosphere of fear and paranoia which, for a time, tainted everyone's enjoyment of the holiday. More recently we have seen an easing of this regime and a welcome change of emphasis in the direction of reasonable concern and due caution.

Happy Halloween to all of you!

Sara Amos gripped the steering wheel tighter. She was nervous because she was starting a new job and had already pissed her new boss off.

Pretty bad, uh? What's mising?

The paragraph is bare bones. We learn about our world through our five senses. Knowing this, it would make sense that we learn about our character’s world through their senses. Writing vivid, sensory details will engage your readers. Great writing integrates all the senses in a way that they blend and harmonious with the rest of the prose. So how do you that?

First we need to reach into ourselves and embrace our senses. Here is an exercise my professor suggested. Grab a pen and pad. Go sit outside on this autumn day and immediately close your eyes. The sense of sight is the easiest of all the senses to write, using only it is lazy.

Now without opening your eyes concrete on your four other senses, one at a time. Again, without opening you eyes, scribble on you pad. Reach deep. Don’t just write the first element you recognize.

What do you hear? If you hear a sound you don’t recognize, what does it remind you of? Is it a sharp or clanky or soft sound? Think out of the box.

What do you feel/touch? Not just through your fingers tips. Does the ground under feet feel spongy because of the downpour last night? Etc.

Smack your lips together. Stick your tongue out. What do you taste? Be Emil or Rachael Ray of words.

What do you smell? Smell is the most powerful of senses to bring back memories. You don’t want to forget it. If you have a memory write it down.
Finally, open your eyes. Now what do you see? Really look at the world surrounding you. Look for the details. Details that will make your reader say, “Hmmm..I never looked at the old house down the street that way. It reminds me of a tired old boot, sort of sagging. It’s chimney leaning like the tongue away from the boot.”
Okay, we’ve got our senses sharp. Now let’s put them to the page.

Take the bare bone paragraph above and make it your own. Please post it in your comments and let’s learn from each other.

Come on one little paragraph. There is no right or wrong.
I will guarantee once you try this, you will grab your current wip and start editing.

Let’s have fun.

Yes, I did. For a full 30 seconds, I spoke with her:

"I think, out of all the times I've seen Young Frankenstein, I enjoyed it the most tonight," I said as I handed her my DVD insert and program. "Yes, it's one that seems to last," she agreed, picking up a silver Sharpie and slanting a left-handed signature across the sheets. She handed them back to me. "Thank you." I turned away to join my son and his lady friend.

Our tete-a-tete was over.

On Friday, October 16, the 35th anniversary showing of Mel Brooks' homage to Mary Shelley's many-times-films horror classic was shown at the Joslyn Art Museum's Witherspoon Hall in Omaha. It is the 25th film event celebrating a classic cinematic comedy, presented by Bruce Crawford. To date, there have 116 incarnations of the famous story (the first Frankenstein movie was made by Thomas Edison), both as straight horror films, pastiches, satires, or comedies, as well as "guest appearances" by the Frankenstein Monster in various animated and live-action films. Even cereal boxes. The musical Young Frankenstein opened on Broadway this year.

Besides having a stellar cast of Gene Wilder (who also co-wrote the screenplay), Marty Feldman, Madeleine Kahn, Cloris Leachman, Gene Hackman, and Teri Garr in her first starring role, the movie was filmed in black and white, using some of the old movie techniques, such as the iris effect. Several actors who were in the Original Universal "Frankenstein" series were used in the film as was the laboratory set from the original James Whale movie of 1931. Sadly, besides Ms. Leachman, only Gene Hackman, Teri Garr and Gene Wilder remain of the original cast. In the film, Ms Leach plays Frau Blucher, the "girlfriend" of the hero's grandfather, an austere character whose very name sends any horse-onscreen or off-into a frenzy. (In German, "blucher" means "glue.") It's through Frau Blucher's machinations that Federick Frankenstein decides to carry on the monster-making tradition with unexpected, somewhat hilarious results.

Most television viewers may be familiar with Ms. Leachman through her portrayal of the landlady on The Mary Tyler Moore Show in the 1970's. This role won her two Emmys and her own sitcom. She also won an Oscar for her performance in 1971's The Last Picture Show, and appeared in three Mel Brooks comedies. To date, she has been awarded eight Emmys and a Daytime Emmy for her television work. Last year, at age 82, she was a contestant on Dancing with the Stars, for which she received some harsh criticism by the judges-in spite of some fanstastic choreographic maneuvers-but kept the audience's favor as well as making them laugh. This lady has come a long way from the young woman who headed to the Actors' Studio after competing in the 1946 Miss America pageant!

Last Friday night, having flown in from Pennsylvania where she's just finished a movie, she appeared alone onstage, answering questions and speaking individually with members of the audience who walked up to the stage to shake her hand. She kept the audience laughing with her quick retorts and risqué anecdotes. Loud guffaws were the mode of the evening, both then and during the movie. When the remastered movie was shown, the audience applauded loudly as her name appeared in the credits and when she made her first appearance onscreen. Afterward, she signed autographs while her son (a very handsome chap, by the way) sat nearby, fretting that his 83-year-old mother might be exhausted after both the entire showing, which lasted around two and a half hours, and then writing her name for 90 minutes. The mother, however, appeared to be going strong.

I was one of the last in line. I hope she got a good rest after it was all over. She deserved it.

Thank you, Ms. Leachman, for a wonderful and memorable bit of movie entertainment!

Some of this might seem familiar to many of you for a reason, but please bear with me.

From an older post.
As I grow older, time seems to move by at warp speed. It seems as though January was only weeks ago. I had goals and plans and, of course, I modified many of them. While I seldom make detailed goals lists, I do have goals. I need them as much as I need flexibility.

I should have two books completed by the end of the year. The second one will probably need editing, but then I’ll have something to work on into 2007. (Not a misprint. I'm making a point, I hope.)

In 2006 I started a new book and completed it. I’m working on another one. Several false starts resulted in partials that remain partials , for now. (I finished two of those and created more partials.)

With Thanksgiving a recent memory, I’m ready to start decorating for Christmas. This year I’ll have a head start because I never took the tree apart to put it back into its box.

It is now 2009 and Halloween is around the corner, barely. I still have leftover goals, though not the goals above. I have completed books and acquired rejections since 2007, but I still have some projects hanging over my head, different ones, of course.

What can you do when you can’t make yourself write?

1.Form a group based on goal setting. Set a regular time to report accomplishments . This isn’t about critiquing. It’s a time to be accountable. You don’t need to beat yourself up if you fall short of your goals, but reporting to others can motivate you to keep working, even if you don’t love what you’ve written.

2. That brings me to activities like the Book in a Month that motivates writers once a year. You might do your own version within your chapter or with a group you organize or join.

You can start an online group at Yahoo or somewhere else that works for you. Such an activity can let you get the story down if you don’t worry about editing, and if you give yourself permission to write crap. You might have a lot of telling now that you can go back and refine later. There might be scenes represented by a few sentences to be fleshed out later. If you could average as much as fifty pages a week, you’d have a good portion of a book done. Maybe you can average twenty -five pages a week. Set a goal you can reasonably meet and adjust as you need to. If you’re a good typist or very motivated and disciplined you could do more, even complete a short contemporary novel.

3. You might have one writer who exchanges emails or calls with you to report to each other. Accountability helps some of us.

4. If you have no partner you’ll need to depend on yourself. Only you know how much time you can make or steal to write. If you can’t set aside large blocks of time, set short ones. If you really want to finish a book you might not have time to edit it as you go along. Keep in mind that a first draft/rough draft means rough. Even if you write tight and clean, you can go back and add details.

5. Keep in mind that if you want to write for a living, treat it like a job. If it’s a hobby, you can treat it like one. People spend lots of time with their hobbies. Some of us even spend less time writing than we do on our hobbies. Guilty? What do you plan to do about that?

6. While I’m so not good with things like time sheets, even I can count pages or words. If you write five pages a week, that’s five you didn’t have before.

7. Consider that if you edit as you go along, you might end up cutting pages you worked hard to perfect.

Organized people plot and organize and might have no scenes to cut. Those people probably don’t need suggestions from those of us who aren’t..

I do recommend learning something about your characters before you move into a serious draft. There are many methods for a writer to get inside the heads of characters.

Read about writing. There almost as many websites with articles as there are published writers. Some of them don’t write articles on writing and some of the unpublished in our midst do.

As many of you know, I recently got a Mac Mini to replace my PC. The PC had Windows Movie Maker; the Mini has i-Movie. Recently, I made a trailer for Tony-Paul de Vissage's novel Dark God Descending, using both programs because they both have features I like. I can't decide which trailer I like best, so I'm appealing to the Fuzzies and their readers for help. I've posted both here. Please view each and give me your opinions. Which is better? Which should Tony-Paul use to promote his book? (Believe me, your opinion counts!)

(With a Merci from Tony-Paul, too)

PC Version:

Mac Mini version:

What Is the Origin of Bobbing for Apples?


Some say the custom of bobbing for apples dates all the way back to pre-Christian Ireland and the festival of Samhain, though there seems to be little documentary evidence to support this. It has also been associated with Pomona, the ancient Roman goddess of fruits, trees, and gardens, in whose honor a festival was supposedly held each year on November first. That, too, appears to stand on shaky historical ground, as some question whether such a festival even existed.

We can say with more certainty that the practice of bobbing for apples goes back at least a few hundred years, that it originated in the British Isles (Ireland and Scotland in particular), and that it originally had something to do with fortune telling. British author W. H. Davenport Adams, who attributed belief in the prognosticative power of apples to "old Celtic fairy lore," described the game as follows in his 1902 book, Curiosities of Superstition:

[The apples] are thrown into a tub of water, and you endeavour to catch one in your mouth as they bob round and round in provoking fashion. When you have caught one, you peel it carefully, and pass the long strip of peel thrice, sunwise, round your head; after which you throw it over your shoulder, and it falls to the ground in the shape of the initial letter of your true love's name.
Other divination games traditionally played on Halloween included "snap apple" -- similar to bobbing for apples except the fruit is hung from the ceiling on strings -- and naming nutshells after prospective love interests and placing them near a fire to see which would burn steadily -- indicating true love -- and which would crack or pop and fly off the hearth -- revealing a passing fancy. Accordingly, in some parts of Great Britain Halloween used to be known as "Snap-Apple Night" or "Nutcrack Night."

Why Do We Wear Costumes and Go Trick-or-Treating on Halloween?

Some historians link the present-day Halloween custom of wearing costumes and going trick-or-treating with the medieval practices of "mumming" and "going a-souling" on the eves of All Saints and All Souls Days (November 1 and 2). Mumming took the form of wearing costumes, singing, play-acting, and mischief making, while souling entailed going door to door and offering prayers for the dead in exchange for treats, particularly "soul cakes."

Another likely progenitor was the British custom, dating from the 1600s, of youths wearing masks and carrying effigies while begging for pennies on Bonfire Night (also known as Guy Fawkes Night), the November 5 commemoration of the so-called Gunpowder Plot to blow up Parliament in 1605.

Despite the obvious similarities, however, there is little to no evidence of a direct line of succession or process of evolution from those earlier practices to the Halloween customs we know today. By the mid-1800s, when Irish immigrants brought the holiday to North America, mumming and souling were all but forgotten. Most Americans had no idea who Guy Fawkes was, let alone why anyone should go begging for "pennies for the Guy." And although Halloween had earned a permanent spot on the American calendar by the turn of the 20th century, one finds no mention of trick-or-treating or anything like it in published sources earlier than 1939.

One does find mention -- many mentions, in fact -- of unrestrained pranksterism and vandalism in connection with Halloween festivities from the late 1800s on, thus one current theory holds that trick-or-treating was contrived by adults to provide an orderly alternative to juvenile mischief.

Whatever its precise origin, trick-or-treating was an established Halloween tradition by the 1940s and remains so to this day.

Let's all bob for apples! Halloween can be so cool!

“A heart well worth winning, and well won. A heart that, once won, goes through fire and water for the winner, and never changes, and is never daunted.” ~ Charles Dickens

Through the Fire
~ Finalist 2008 Golden Heart ® Contest

When I wrote my historical romance novel Through the Fire I felt as though I’d been through the flames. My hero and heroine certainly had. This adventure romance with a strong The Last of the Mohicans flavor and a mystical weave was born in the fertile ground of my imagination, fed by years of research and a powerful draw to my colonial roots.

My fascination with stirring tales of the colonial frontier and Eastern Woodland Indians is an early and abiding one. My English/Scot-Irish ancestors were among the first settlers of the Shenandoah Valley and had family members killed and captured by the Indians. Some individuals returned and left intriguing accounts of their captivity, while others disappeared without a trace. On the Houston/Rowland side of the family, I have ties to Governor Sam Houston, President James Madison and Malcolm 1st of Scotland (that last one’s a stretch).

Family annals list early names like Beale, Jordan, Madison, and Hite (a German connection I discovered). A brief account of my grandmother (six times removed) Elizabeth Hite, says her sister Eleanor was taken captive and sister Susan killed, though not by which tribe. Their brother Jacob was killed by the Cherokee.

Another ancestor, Mary Moore, is the subject of a book entitled The Captives of Abb’s Valley. A Moffett forebear captured as a child became a boyhood companion of the revered Shawnee Chief Tecumseh. When young Moffett grew up, he married into the tribe and had a son, but that’s the subject of a different novel. A Pennsylvanian ancestor on the Churchman side of the family was invited by the Shawnee/Delaware to help negotiate a treaty with the English because he was Quaker and they were more sympathetic to the plight of the Indians.

Many accounts are left unrecorded, though. Historian Joseph Waddell says we know only a fraction of the drama that occurred during the Indian Wars. I invite you back to a time long forgotten by most.


Hear the primal howl of a wolf, the liquid spill of a mountain stream. Welcome to the colonial frontier where the men fire muskets and wield tomahawks and the women are wildcats when threatened. The year is 1758, the height of the French and Indian War. Passions run deep in the raging battle to possess a continent, its wealth and furs. Both the French and English count powerful Indian tribes as their allies. The Iroquois League, Shawnee, and others bring age-old rivalries to the conflict—above all the ardent desire to hold onto what is theirs. Who will live, and who will fall?

For more on my work please visit: www.bethtrissel.com

The French and Indian War, a Shawnee warrior, an English lady, blood vengeance, deadly pursuit, primal, powerful, passionate…THROUGH THE FIRE.

As many of you know, Through the Fire was the grand winner in the Grab A Reader Contest, thanks to my faithful friends and fans, and consequently is the subject of discussion at Writers and Readers of Distinctive Fiction’s Book club, Lost In A Good…Book from 10/20/09–10/30/09.
At: http://blog.elceepublishing.com/

Also featured are the two other winners, Margaret Tanner with Devil’s Ridge and Susan Macatee with Erin’s Rebel. I am delighted to be in such fine company. So, get your books and get on board!

Discussion Leader - Author Annette Snyder says:

“As I sip my Chamomile brew wearing my favorite fall sweater, I’m reading our October, Lost in a Good Book Selections. Margaret Tanner takes us to another era with Devils Ridge. Reading Through the Fire, Beth Trissel transports us to the French and Indian War and Susan Macatee sends us on a journey in time with Erin’s Rebel. So, join Lynda Coker, me and three talented authors while we discuss their work here during the October session of Lost in a Good Book, WRDF’s online book club.”

A bit more on all three novels:

Erins Rebel
Philadelphia newspaper reporter, Erin Branigan, is engaged to marry and up-and-coming lawyer, but dreams of a man from the past change those plans and start her on a journey beyond time. After a car accident, Erin wakes to find herself living in the 1860s in a Confederate army camp. Captain Will Montgomery, the man of her dreams, is now a flesh and blood Rebel soldier who sets her soul aflame. But the Irish beauty holds a secret he needs to unravel before he can place his trust in her. Can she correct a mistake made long ago that caused his death and denied her the love she was meant to have? Or is she doomed to live out her life with nothing but regret?

Devils Ridge:

Set during the 1st World War.

By the time Ross Calvert discovers Harry Martin is in fact Harriet Martin she has fallen in love with him. Realizing she has failed in her final effort to protect her shell-shocked brother, she puts a desperate proposition to Ross. Marry her and she will give him an heir. Ross accepts. However, he is tormented by the betrayal of his former fiancée Virginia. On his honeymoon he meets her again and is still infatuated. With the army recalling him to the Western Front, he faces a terrible dilemma, taste Virginia’s passion before he heads to the trenches of France, or keep his marriage vows to Harry. With the spectre of war hanging over them, there are even bigger obstacles for Ross and Harry. Ross returns to the trenches, and a man seeking wealth at any cost, endangers Harry’s life in a way she had never imagined possible.


At the height of the French and Indian War, a young English widow ventures into the colonial frontier in search of a fresh start. She never expects to find it in the arms of the half-Shawnee, half-French warrior who makes her his prisoner in the raging battle to possess a continent––or to be aided by a mysterious white wolf and a holy man.

~The French and Indian War, a Shawnee warrior, an English lady, blood vengeance, deadly pursuit, primal, powerful, passionate…THROUGH THE FIRE~

For more on my work please visit: www.bethtrissel.com

Through the Fire
is available in both digital download and print at The Wild Rose Press, Amazon, Barnes&Noble, (online) and other major online booksellers.


We are gathered here today to welcome Patrice Wilton to our blog. Dedicated and sincere we right wrongs, we inform, we support, we know a good sale, have the best recipes and are a group of dedicated writers. We write because we have to, we can't stop ourselves. We are authors!!
We are The Pink Fuzzy Slipper Writers!!!

Dressed in these cloaks, (Linda's idea, kind of Gothic really), the pile of coupons we carry, (Joanne's idea), the ceremonial Indian masks, (Beth of course), the organization of the whole ceremony (MM, naturally), the men that carry Patrice in, (Toni), even the night creatures, (Dayana), well you get the idea we each have contributed to your special initiation. All of us have joined in happiness to greet a new member. So the secret ceremony over, the festivities begin.

We throw off our cloaks and head to the beach, where Patrice likes to hang. Some of us are following her to the tennis courts, some of us are hiding inside her air conditioned home, drinking Pina Colada's or lemonade. No matter, we are all here to celebrate you.


Patrice moved to sunny Florida and she enjoys the beautiful beaches . Relaxing in her lovely Florida homw.
Thanks for joining us Patrice, we look forward to your blogs and comments and we are so happy you decided to participate. I hope you have fun with it. Welcome my friend!
Blog well.


Patrice would like to share some quotes with you.

You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you. - Ray Bradbury
Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia - E.L. Doctorow
Proofread carefully to see if you any words out - author unknown
I try to leave out the parts that people skip. -Elmore Leonard
Writing became such a process of discovery that I couldn't wait to get to work in the morning. I wanted to know what I was going to say. - Sharon O'Brien
Substitute "damn" every time you're inclined to write "very", your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. - Mark Twain.

So let's leave a comment to support Patrice. She is what my grandma would call a good soul.

Play by FoxSaver®

Joanne--Deal of the Day

Posted by Josie | 9:21 AM | 7 comments »

Hi Everyone,
I have two great deals today, and they're both free!

First, check out http://www.freenightoftheater.net

The site lists the free nights of theater available in your area by state. These tickets are absolutely free. In some states, they issue new tickets every Monday, so keep checking.

Second deal is for a free 8x8 20 page custom hardcover photo book from Shutterfly, (a $29.99 value) although you have to pay for shipping and tax. We are writers--so become a travel writer and write a review for www.tripadvisor.com for any of the categories listed. I wrote a review for a small southern town close to where I live--York, SC.

Note, you do have to make a free account with them to post a review.

Happy writing!

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

Joanne--Deal of the Day

Posted by Josie | 2:07 PM | 5 comments »

More good deals for the beginning of the work week, borrowed from other forums.

I love my wireless computer mouse, and Staples has a great deal on the following:
Item: 797229
Model: KY620AA#ABA
It's $9.99 (regularly $24.99) with free shipping to your store.

If you are thinking ahead to the holidays, Buy.com is offering a great deal on a digital photo frame, which I admit I have a weakness for. This is a 9" and comes with a calendar, clock, alarm, MP3 music playback (OK, I'm not sure what that is--but I'm sure my techie sons can show me) and a remote. Regularly $199.99, the frame is on sale for $59.97 with free shipping.
Type in America Action Digital Photo Frame - AXN-9905

Happy Shopping!
Favorite quote: "I can't afford to save any more money."

Joanne--Deal of the Day

Posted by Josie | 8:38 AM | 11 comments »

Hi Everyone,
Barbara posted 2 delicious recipes yesterday, so I'll share a couple of deals with you today, borrowed from another forum.

First, check out Sears online for the Craftsman 7.5 amp Electric Blower
Item# 07174820000 Regularly $39.99, it's on sale for $19.99. Shipping is expensive at $7.50, but if you choose in-store pickup, you will save on shipping.

If you are looking for gifts for yourself or someone else, Yankee Candle is having a sale this Columbus Day weekend sale online.
Small jar candles, room sprays, and electric home fragrancers are 3 for $15.

Here are some coupon codes for an even greater discount:

For $10 off of $25, use code H4XFOP
For $15 off of $45, use code CAT9H1L

Happy Shopping!

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

The heroine of one of my historical novels is from Lancashire, England, and despite her mother’s prohibitions, she loves to bake and learned in secret from their cook whenever her mother wasn’t around. The obvious choice was the delectable Lancashire specialty, Eccles Cakes. My heroine only bakes in one scene of the book, but still, I decided to try making them myself, because I wanted to get it right.

I didn’t. In fact, I made a major flub. (Fortunately, no one has bought the story yet, so whew! I have plenty of time to fix it.) Eccles Cakes are made with puff pastry, which is not quick or simple to make; in fact, it’s quite a lengthy process. My heroine can’t merrily roll out the dough and bake Eccles Cakes in an hour or so. But I still wanted to make them – hadn’t had any for years and years – so when I found an old package of puff pastry in my freezer, I thought, woo-hoo! Eccles Cakes today!

Here’s a recipe for the filling:

6 tablespoons butter

7/8 cup brown sugar

1 cup currants, raisins, or a mixture of the two

1 tsp. cinnamon

½ tsp. nutmeg

Rind of 1 orange, grated. Theoretically, this is optional, but I think the orange rind is what makes the filling absolutely superb. I used one of those big, juicy navel oranges with thick, tasty rind. Yum!

Melt the butter and mix in the rest of the ingredients. The filling is so delicious that I kept sneaking spoonfuls.

To make Eccles Cakes, you’re supposed to cut rounds from the pastry, put a dollop of filling in the middle of each round, moisten half the edge with milk or water, bring the sides to the middle (i.e., enclosing the filling), and press together to seal; then turn the cake over and roll it ever-so-gently and pat into a round shape. I put in too much filling, and then, when the edges kept coming apart, gave up and just dumped the pastries on the pan (greased, by the way). You’re supposed to brush them with egg and a little sugar (I'm pretty sure I remember the sugar from my childhood) and cut a few slits in the top of each cake. Which I did, but my cakes had so many holes they didn’t really need the slits. Bake them at 425 degrees for about fifteen minutes.

They tasted great, but they looked awful. The picture (above) makes them look much better than in real life. (Kind of like professional author photos, but that’s another story.) I don’t know if the puff pastry was too old, or whether it was just my laziness in not following the directions carefully. I’ll try again some other day. If I screw up again... Well, they taste wonderful, which is all that really matters.

Back to my heroine, stuck in a scene that didn’t work. I decided to have her make Chorley Cakes instead. They’re another Lancashire specialty, and they’re a lot like Eccles Cakes except that they’re made with regular pastry instead. Easy!

Well, not really. My pastry turned out all right, but again I probably put in too much filling, and I didn’t even try rolling the dang things ever-so-carefully into a roundish shape. (My heroine will do everything perfectly. She’s a screw-up in many other ways, but not in the kitchen.) I just cut the pastry into squares and, using the same filling, made turnovers. I baked them at 350 degrees for longer than the Eccles Cakes. I didn't write down how long they took, but it was probably closer to half an hour. If the pastry looks done, that's good enough.

Bingo! Checcles Cakes or Chorcles Turnovers, scrumptious by whatever name.

They were delicious, but I think they’d be even better with more thinly-rolled pastry. Laziness is again to blame, but it gives me an excuse to try again (because needless to say, all the Checcles Turnovers - or maybe Chorcles Cakes - are long gone).

Origins and History of Halloween


The ancient Celts of Ireland and Scotland observed an annual harvest festival on November 1 known as Samhain (pronounced sow'-en or sow'-een), which marked the end of summer and was thought to be the time when the souls of those who had perished during the year journeyed to the "otherworld." During Samhain, it was believed, the dead were able to mingle with the living; ghosts, demons, fairies, and other supernatural beings literally walked the earth. Bonfires were lit and ritual sacrifices were made to honor and appease them.

When the peoples of the British Isles became Christianized during the early Middle Ages these customs and beliefs were transformed, though not abandoned. The Church designated the first and second of November All Saints Day (or All Hallows Day) and All Souls Day respectively -- some say in an effort to eradicate the holiday's pagan trappings -- and October 31 came to be known as All Hallows Even, or Hallowe'en for short.

Among the pre-Christian traditions that survived was the belief that spirits of the dead commingle with the living on the Eve of All Hallows. Related customs arose, or perhaps evolved from existing ones, such as "mumming" and "souling," which entailed the wearing of masks and costumes -- often in imitation of the dead and otherworldly beings -- general mischief making, and knocking on doors to offer prayers in exchange for treats called "soul cakes."

We know little of how these traditions evolved in the intervening centuries, but by the mid-1800s Irish immigrants were bringing the observance of All Hallows Eve to North America, where, combined with homegrown customs, it eventually morphed into the secular, intensely commercialized holiday we celebrate today.

I do think I will skip some of the customs, but I wouldn't mind a soul cake. So now we know why.

The small Southern city of Staunton Virginia, my birthplace and prominent in the latest novel I’m writing, is very historic and the site of a ghost tour.

To quote The Shenandoah Vally Paranormal Society website:


“Staunton, Virginia known as “The Queen City” of the Shenandoah Valley was founded in 1747 and named after Lady Rebecca Staunton, wife of the colonial governor of Virginia, William Gooch. Staunton is located in the heart of the beautiful Shenandoah Valley and is rich in history, some prosperous and some tragic. Often times with history, left behind are many ghost stories and hauntings that still exist to this day. From civil war haunts, a train wreck disaster of 1890, to unsolved murders, Staunton has had its share of traumatic events that continue to haunt us.”

For more about the ghost tour visit:


“The first stop on the tour is the train station where (Myrtle) Knox was fatally wounded after the sleeper car where her opera troupe was napping derailed. One of Knox’s legs was cut off below the knee, her left arm broken, her right shoulder dislocated and a piece of wood was buried in her thigh, severing the femoral artery and causing her to bleed to death. Knox’s spirit reputedly haunts the tracks and many eyewitnesses have reported seeing her peer in through the windows at the now-closed Pullman Restaurant, which also is an alleged paranormal hot spot.”

For more pics and info on the haunted train station:

The Staunton Train Station

I’ve dined with my husband in the Pullman Restaurant and didn’t see any ghosts, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t overlook someone. Haven’t noticed anything unusual on the train tracks either, but there is an odd feel to the place, difficult to put my finger on it. Let’s just say Staunton came naturally to mind when looking around me for the ideal Virginia town to set my next light paranormal in.

The historic train station is picturesque and home to quaint businesses and The Depot Grille. Several movies have been filmed there, among them the HallMark Hall of Fame production, The Love Letter. I appeared as an extra, wearing a poke bonnet and waving, while standing behind the hero and heroine as they kiss goodbye .

The Depot Grille’s outstanding attraction is a 40 foot Victorian bar from a turn-of-the century luxury hotel.

The present Trinity Episcopal Church, built during the mid-1850s, has an extraordinary collection of stained glass windows; many created by Tiffany Studios.

“Staunton has one architectural advantage over most of other small towns in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia: it escaped the Civil War unscathed. Many of its 18th and early 19th century homes and buildings still stand and are wonderfully preserved. Scottish-Irish immigrant John Lewis and his family built the area’s first homestead in 1732, and most of Staunton’s early settlers were Scots-Irish.”

“The area of Staunton surrounding the railroad station is known as The Wharf, a curious name for a neighborhood that is nowhere near a wharf! In fact, the name is an historical one dating to the 19th century. The warehouses in this neighborhood reminded people of buildings that you might see along a wharf. In Staunton’s case, the railroad acts in same manner as a wharf, and in fact, the neighborhood’s old warehouses really do look like those that one might see along the waterfront of a port city…since 1972 the Wharf Historic District has been on the National Register of Historic Places.”

Another little known tidbit about Staunton: "For 17 days in June of 1781, the Virginia State legislature met in Staunton, after being forced by British troops led by Major Tarleton to flee Richmond. The building that served as Virginia's capitol stood on the present site of Trinity Episcopal Church in downtown Staunton. While meeting on this site, the legislature elected a new governor to replace Governor Thomas Jefferson. Members of the state legislature who were present included Patrick Henry and Daniel Boone."

From: http://www.visitstaunton.com/history.htm

*Staunton is the site of the Woodrow Wilson Birthplace.