photos of my trip

Posted by Patrice Wilton | 10:42 AM | 7 comments »







Vienna-Budapest trip

Posted by Patrice Wilton | 10:18 AM | 11 comments »

Hi everyone,
As some of you know I have just returned from a week in Vienna, with a three day Avalon riverboat cruise to Budapest. We traveled with some very good friends who live in Sydney, BC, which is on Vancouver Island, a very beautiful part of the world, but far from us in West Palm, Florida. So it was doubly nice to meet up and share this wonderful vacation.
Vienna, the city of music, is everything that one expects it to be. Gorgeous architecture, clean, classy, one of the nicest cities I've ever visited. We enjoyed the operar one night, and although we didn't go to the main Opera House, we enjoyed the Golden Hall which you may have seen on PBS every New Years Eve. We dined on a fabulous and famous Vienna special--boiled beef, which is actually a very tasty stew. We walked and shopped, and toured the Palace, and our two days flew by too quickly.
Next we boarded our "ship" and were delighted with our spacious room, and the relaxed atmosphere and entertainment on board as we cruised the Danube, sipping on wine from the upper outside deck while viewing castles and breathtaking scenery on our short trip to Melk, then Slovakia, ending our journey in Budapest.
Melk was an unexpected treat. The Abby was worth the visit, and the small town was extremely charming. I would have preferred more time there and less in Slovakia but the cruise packed in a lot in the short time.
Budapest, with their castle, their stunning parliament buildings and elaborate monuments was an exciting city to see. I hope to share some photos with you, if I can figure out how to download them!!
 I will most certainly try.

Don’t sweat the small stuff.

I am not sure who first penned those words. The slogan has been around for years. I only wish I had heard it when I was in my teens and early twenties. Back then, I fretted over almost everything: am I tall enough, thin enough, pretty enough, smart enough, rich enough, popular . . . the list was endless. However, while my childhood was challenging, my yearnings were no different from most young females. I wanted to be happy, loved, and respected. I wanted to know that I was worthy, that I mattered.
So, like most humans, I searched for a way to stand out in the crowd. My claim to fame was running. My passion for the sport started in middle school. While my five sisters learned how to care for a home or shop for the latest fashions, I spent my free time practicing sprints and ten mile runs. I found nothing more exhilarating than crossing the finish line in first place. This dedication lead to a spot on both my high school’s cross-country and track team. I was even awarded a college scholarship, which I couldn’t accept because of family drama (I’d leave that story for another blog posting). Instead, my life veered in another direction. 

I joined the military when I was eighteen. This surprised everyone who knew me because I was rather quiet. But about a week into Basic Training at Fort Gordon, I realized I’d made the right decision.  My quest for boldness had paid off. I saw myself succeeding in this orderly environment. It gave me a sense of control, something my life lacked. After I finished training to become a Telecommunications Specialist, I went to my first duty station. The Army’s philosophy, Be All That You Can Be, really inspired me, so I didn’t waste any time joining the post track team. I even set a post record in the two hundred meter hurdles. My love for the sport led me to mentoring a local youth track team. This was an experience I still cherish today. The teen girls were considered underprivileged, but boy, did they have heart and spirit. 

Little did I know, sharing my gift changed me forever.  At the time I wasn’t aware of anything grand happening. I was just living by instinct. Going about my day, day after day, hoping for the best like the rest of mankind. But I learned what it felt like to help and inspire other people. And I can honestly tell you it’s as wonderful as crossing a marathon finish line in first place.
Today, thirty years later, my race still continues. Only now that I’m older and much wiser, I look inward for approval. I no longer chase pettiness or doubt my decisions. I trust my instincts and allow a higher power to help and guide me. Even better, I live with an awareness that has taught me how silly it is to worry about life’s challenges. When things get tough, I stop, take a breath, and remember the shy young woman who boldly left home and entered a world filled with nothing but unknowns. Then, I smile because I’m fine. No, not just fine. I’m thriving, happy, successful, and proud. I’m a mom, a wife, an author, a divine soul doing what she loves.

Every path I’ve taken in life has led me to where I am at this moment. There were twists and turns and I had to backtrack and start over a few times, but it was the right path for me to learn and grow.
Every path you have taken or will take is the right path for you.

What revelations have you experienced along your journey?


Please help me welcome Beth Cornelison, multi-published author. I have known her for years, and she always has something interesting to say. She is a prize winning author with more books due out SOON! 

Good morning Beth 

Setting the Scene for TRUST IN ME 

Thank you, Pink Fuzzy Slippers ladies, for the opportunity to set the scene of my small town contemporary romance, TRUST IN ME. First a story, then I'll tell you how you can get TRUST IN ME for FREE!
The summer after I finished sixth grade, my family moved from Missouri to Augusta, Georgia. One of the benefits of this move was that we were now four hours away from my grandmother, who lived in Asheville, North Carolina, instead of sixteen hours. My mom took advantage of the chance to visit her aging mother as often as possible, meaning my sisters and I also made the trip. I loved the opportunity to visit with my grandmother, but just as I have cherished memories of the time at my grandmother's house, I remember well the drive through rural South Carolina to reach Asheville.
In particular, I remember driving through Clinton, South Carolina, a picturesque small town and home of Presbyterian College. Clinton became my model of small town life and beauty when story ideas and characters for TRUST IN ME started whispering in my mind.
The tall ancient oaks lined the streets with branches that ached over the road to create a shady tunnel of greenery. The old homes, both large and small, harkened to a bygone age. The railroad tracks we bumped over at the center of town and small businesses that lined the main street barber shops, hardware stores and drug stores were reminders of the days before superstores and malls ruled the retail landscape. Home owners' well-tended lawns blossomed in summertime with a rainbow of flowers and blooming shrubs. I can remember rolling down my window just to catch a whiff of the floral scents that perfumed the air.
In a residential area of Clinton, we'd pass the lovely campus of Presbyterian College with its stately Georgian style brick buildings and shady quads, and I began forming ideas of the sort of college campus I wanted to call home when I graduated high school.
Not far from town, along the country highways that cris-crossed the state, peach orchards and vegetable gardens yielded crops that were sold in the numerous roadside stands. I have never eaten a sweeter, more delicious peach than the ones grown in western South Carolina.  Large pastures with cows idly grazing, farm houses and mobile homes with dogs sleeping in the sun added to the slow-paced, nostalgic feeling of this beautiful small town.
Time passed, and I married and moved away from Georgia. My grandmother grew ill and needed to be placed in a nursing home closer to my mom, and I was no longer making that trip from Georgia to North Carolina via Clinton, South Carolina. Yet when I started writing TRUST IN ME, Clinton was burned in my brain as the idyllic setting for my small town romance.
My hero, Kevin, worked in a family owned hardware store like the ones that lined Clinton's main street. Heroine Claire dreamed of attending Harrison University, based on Presbyterian College, and she rented a room from an elderly lady who lived in one of the old homes with a bounty of sweet smelling flowers and dogwood trees blooming in the yard. Kevin lived in one of the mobile homes outside the town limits and even had a stray mutt who adopted him. I also had the owner of one of those roadside peach stands came to shop at Lowery's Hardware.
Although I changed the name of the town so that I could take some creative license, the inspiration for my small town of Grayson came from those summertime trips up and down the highways between Georgia and North Carolina, and my fond memories of Clinton, South Carolina.


Would you like to visit Grayson? Now is the perfect time, because for a limited time TRUST IN ME is available for $.99!
BARNES AND NOBLE -- http://bit.ly/vTCqv7



Beth Cornelison   bcornelison@comcast.net
TRUST IN ME- Amazon Kindle- http://amzn.to/t2XHkr
CHASING A DREAM- Now on Kindle! http://tinyurl.com/6snewon
SOLDIER’S PREGNANCY PROTOCOL- Black Ops Rescues Bk 1- June 2012
THE REUNION MISSION- Black Ops Rescues Bk 2- August 2012
COLTON’S RANCH REFUGE-  October 2012

Ladies, Please ask Beth plenty of questions!  

Thanks, and happy reading, Beth C

 

In elementary school, we had to memorize poems.  We’d write them (to practice our penmanship) then memorize them and stand before the class and recite them.  This was supposed to aid in teaching elocution, poise, and presence when speaking in public.  In Flanders Fields was one of those poems.  Who has seen the Wind? was another.  There was a third whose title I can’t remember though I remember some of the lines,  “…The goldenrod is yellow, the leaves are turning brown; The trees in apple orchards with fruit are hanging…”

In Flanders Fields stuck with me and I’ve often thought about those lines, on Memorial Day, if and when I watched a movie about war.  I'm not certain of the date it was written but I always thought of it as being composed just after the First World War, the one called the Great War and the War to End All Wars, though that, sadly, has become a misnomer/  Nevertheless, it’s appropriate to bring it out today and let it sit alongside my blog about the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

 
“HERE RESTS IN HONORED GLORY AN AMERICAN SOLDIER KNOWN BUT TO GOD”

On a recent re-run of Jeopardy, the question was asked: ‘How many steps does the guard take during his walk across the Tomb of the Unknowns

I certainly didn’t know the answer, didn’t even know there was a specific number, and it made me think back to when I was privileged to watch the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and it’s a very solemn and stirring sight.  A uniformed officer explained the meaning to the gathered crowd and exactly what is going to happen.  He explains that everyone is expected to remain silent and not speak during the exchange which takes a very short time considering what an important event it is.  Filming was allowed and I captured the event with my Kodak 8 mm.  The film still exists, old as it is.

On March 25, 1926 orders were sent down directing the formation of an armed military guard at the Tomb, during daylight hours because visitors to the cemetery were using the original crypt as a picnic table.

On July 2, 1937, the guard was increased in size, and ordered to begin 24 hour shifts.

Here are some facts I’m certain hardly anyone knows and after learning them, you may have more than a little respect for the men chosen for this patriotic task.

The guard takes 21 steps during his walk in front of the tomb.  This alludes to the 21-gun salute, the highest honor given any military or foreign dignitary.  Before his about face to begin his return walk, he hesitates 21 seconds, for the same reason.

His gloves are wet, moistened to prevent his losing his grip on his rifle.  He carries the rifle on the shoulder away from the tomb except when he executes the about-face. Then he moves it to the outside shoulder.

Guards are changed every 2 hours, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, since 1930.

REQUIREMENTS FOR BEING A GUARD (called the Sentinel)

He must be at least 22 and have the rank of Private First Class through Specialist


He must be between 5’10” and 6’2”; his waist size must not exceed 30”.  There are three Reliefs (divided into heights) and one can tell the time by which the height of the Relief is working:

1st Relief              6'2" to 6'4"
2nd Relief             6' to 6'2"
3rd Relief             5'11" to 6'

For 2 years, he will live in a barracks under the tomb and cannot drink any alcohol on or off duty for the rest of his life. For the first six months, a guard isn’t allowed to speak to anyone or watch TV. In off-duty hours, the guard spends his time memorizing the 175 notable people buried in Arlington Cemetery.

He cannot swear in public for the rest of his life and cannot disgrace the uniform or tomb by any word or action.

After 2 years, he is given a wreath lapel pen.  A guard must obey the above rules for the rest of his life or give up his pin.

UNIFORM


The uniform must have no wrinkled, folds, or link.  Shoes are specially-made with thick soles to keep heat in and cold out. They have metal heel plates extending to the top of the shoe to make the loud click as they come to a halt.  Guards dress in front of a full-length mirror.  Every guard spends 5 hours a day getting ready for guard duty.

DEVOTION TO DUTY


Even during Hurricane Isabelle in 2002, when guards were permission to leave the tomb, they respectfully refused and continued to perform the highest honor given to service personnel.

ETERNAL REST GRANT THEM O LORD, AND LET PERPETUAL LIGHT SHINE UPON THEM.

A Poppy for Remembering

Posted by Scarlet Pumpernickel | 1:24 AM | 9 comments »


When I was a little girl, my grandmother always made a big deal out of observing Memorial Day. She'd wear one of those little red poppies on her dress. When I'd ask her about it, she'd say "A Poppy for Remembering."



Being a child, I was satisfied with that answer. It wasn't until much later that I learned the significance of Memorial Day. I think it might have been during or maybe shortly after the Vietnam War that I felt the intense emotion that rises in American Hearts when the flags are placed and parades held.



Still, I had forgotten all about Grandmother's little red poppy. Years passed and I grew into a teenager and then an adult. The little poppy was a long forgotten memory. As a teenager I learned that my grandmother had been a widow, her first husband was killed in France during World War I. The only way I learned of this was by finding his picture in his uniform and a picture of a grave site. When I asked, she told me of his death, took the scrapbook away and never mentioned it again.



Years later, when my grandmother was hospitalized near death, I sat by her bedside night and day. I awoke in the middle of the night to hear my eighty-six year old grandmother speaking French. When I asked her about it, she said she just happened to remember those phrases. In my entire life, I'd never heard her speak a word of French. When I asked her about it that morning she told me her first husband taught her the phrases when he was home on leave.


My grandmother passed away a couple days later and when we went through her things I found the old scrapbook with the pictures of her first husband and his grave site. Tucked between the pages was the little red poppy.http://www.cal-mum.com/poppy.html

 

What do you do when you’re guilty of a crime but not the one for which you’re convicted?  If you’re Aric kan Ingan, you keep silent, and try to find a way to discover the evidence to prove your innocence…even if it takes the rest of your life.

In Sinner, the first story featuring Aric kan Ingan, then Crown-Prince of Arcanis, the moral of the story was:  Don’t fall in love with your uncle’s wife, especially if she’s a power-mad schemer who’ll toss you aside if she has to make a choice.  In Exile, in which Aric is now a Non-Person, light-years from home and never expecting to return, the lesson is:  If you find love, don’t question it, just enjoy it and try to keep it as long as you can, even if you'd rather be out trying to find the ones who framed you.

It’s now been ten years since the former Prince Tannist was found guilty of treason in a trial held in absentia, and given the choice of execution or exile from the planet.  Aric chose exile and sometimes, as now, he wonders if he made the right choice.  Having taken Exile’s Vows, which involve embracing poverty, chastity, and personal deprivation, he is now designated a Non-Person, which means he has absolutely no Rights at all and is lower than the lowest form of life on any planet.   He takes jobs no one else will touch, works in places not even beggars will frequent.  For his troubles, he gets beaten, injured, and several times almost killed, with no recourse to justice through the Law because of his lack of status.  To ease the pain of those injuries, he’s become addicted to the two most powerful substances in the galaxy, Numbers One and Two on the Federation Surgeon General’s List of Prosocribes:  Caffeine and Nicotine.  Yep, that's right...in this future universe, coffee and tobacco are completely illegal, and therefore, are a very sought-after item on the interplanetary Black Market.

Currently, Aric is so low he has to reach up to touch bottom.


In a desperate attempt to earn some money legally, he enlists as a guard for a Terran mining company which has been given permission to work the diamontium on a small planet called Pyras, and immediately the former noble finds himself smack-dab in the middle of a bunch of Milkies—the citizens of the Milky Way—who just happen to be the people he hates most in all the galaxy.  At this point, it’s a case of if you can’t keep away from ’em, you join ’em, so Aric sets out to learn about Terrans and some of their confusing customs and habits, from Terran holidays, such as GivingThanks and Christomas, and characters such as Sant’ Niclas, and Rudolf Crimson Nose, and of celebrating one's natal day.  He suffers the near-lethal effects of aspirin and chocolate on his species, and discovers that, for certain females, it’s always open-season on a man with a vow of chastity.  His meeting with Miles Sheffield, younger brother of the fickle and power-hungry Elizabeth doesn’t start well.  Within minutes of their introduction, they’re battering each other unconscious in a dormitory corridor, but occasionally, hate-at-first-sight will make the best of friends.  And then there’s Susan Moran, doctor for the mining colony…a beautiful woman with a secret, and the one person on Pyras Aric could learn to love, if he was allowed.

Life is continuing to change for Aric, and his stay on Pyras is only part of that change.  It won’t be an easy one, but it’s definitely going to happen, and it all takes him one step closer to his goal of returning Home.



Exile, Book 2 of the kan Ingan Archives is available from Double Dragon Publishing: http://www.double-dragon-ebooks.com/single.php?ISBN=1-55404-947-4

Alexei SultanovThe New York Times Obituaries 2005:


SULTANOV -- Alexei. The House of Steinway & Sons notes with sadness the passing of the pianist Alexei Sultanov on June 30 in Fort Worth, Texas, at the age of 35.

I first heard this Russian-American classical pianist on KUHF, Houston's PBS station, playing Beethoven's Appassionata. At the end of the breathtaking piece, the DJ related Sultanov's tragic story. Captivated by his music and intrigued by the artist, I researched him on the internet.


Alexai Sultanov was born August 7, 1969. His father, Faizul Sultanov, was a cellist, his mother, Natalia Pogorelova was a violinist, and his grandmother was a well-known Uzbek actress. At the age of six, he began piano lessons in Tashkent with Tamara Popovich. Alexai made his formal debut at age seven.

In 1989, he competed in the Eighth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. At the age of nineteen, he was the youngest in a field of thirty-eight. The prestigious Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, created by Fort Worth teachers in honor of Texan Van Cliburn, was first held in 1962 in Fort Worth. Four years earlier, during the height of the Cold War, Van Cliburn had won the International Tchaikovsky Competition held in Russia.

During the performance, a piano string snapped but Alexai finished his volcanic performance of selections from Liszt, Prokofiev and Chopin. But his critics were divided. In a newspaper interview, Denise Mullins, the Cliburn Foundation's artistic administrator, said, "He took things to the absolute edge of the cliff, and it was very exciting to hear. He wasn't afraid to take a chance on stage, and there aren't a lot of pianists who do that."

Sultanov was awarded First Prize--$15,000 in cash, a recital at Carnegie Hall, a recording contract, and sponsored tours in the U.S. and Europe—in one of the wealthiest competitions in the world. His career was launched.

However, his originality and daring expression worked both for him and against him.

A video of Alexei playing the Appassionata is available on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xI4qFLfVmR8

In 1995, Alexei competed in the Chopin International Piano Competition. He was the audience favorite and Polish critic Piotr Wirzbicki labeled him "a great interpreter of the composer's work." The judges did not share Wirzbicki's or the popular view. The Jury declined to award a first prize.

Pianist and Jury Chairman, Jan Ekier stated, "The Chopin tradition has certain standards which must be upheld."

Sultanov retorted, "Give me a great review or a horrible one. If people agree with you too much, that means there's not much personality. The Polish jurists, on the other hand, wanted waltzes played in a slightly lovesick way for all the grandmothers who probably danced them in Chopin's own time."

Decrescendo - a gradual decrease in volume of a musical passage.

Later that fall, he suffered a minor stroke, later discovered by CAT scan when he had a severe stroke one tragic day in February 2001. Dizzy from the flu, he fell and struck his head. A week later, he walked into his neurologist's office, barely able to speak. He was suffering from a subdural hematoma and severe internal bleeding. The doctors were uncertain how the tumor-like clot (outside a blood vessel) had formed. The young pianist slipped into a coma, and a few days later when he awakened, he'd lost the use of his left arm and leg. In his last years, Alexei Sultanov continued to play with his wife Darce taking the left-hand parts. They performed at nursing homes, hospitals, schools and churches.

Wayne Lee Gay at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram wrote this epitaph: "Alexei Sultanov soared to musical heights that other musicians only dream of, and crashed to earth with personal tragedy that few have to bear."

His wife, Darce, said of him, "He was always at the center of attention, always fiery, brilliant. People loved him or hated him, but more people loved him."

I wouldn't mind being remembered that way.

Discography: http://alexeisultanov.free.fr/discography.htm




  
There are three material things, not only useful, but essential to life.  No one “knows how to live” till he has got them. 

These are pure air, water, and earth. 

There are three immaterial things, not only useful, but essential to life.  No one knows how to live till he has got them also. 

These are admiration, hope and love. 


Admiration—the power of discerning and taking delight in what is beautiful in visible form and lovely in human character; and, necessarily, striving to produce what is beautiful in form and to become what is lovely in character.  

Hope—the recognition, by true foresight, of better things to be reached hereafter, whether by ourselves or others; necessarily issuing in the straightforward and undisappointable effort to advance, according to our proper power, the gaining of them. 




Love—both of family and neighbour, faithful and satisfied.


—John Ruskin.

Oh, my God. I don’t want to do ____. I want to just____. You fill in the blanks.

How many times have you said this to yourself? Once in a great while? Once a month? Once a week? Every day?

I admit I've said I don’t want to at least once a month, and no, it's not concerning cleaning the bathroom. Something pressing (we’ll call something IT)... IT always comes up and for some unknown reason I’m the only one in the universe that can handle IT. IT pulls me away from what I really long to do, like write, read or spend time with my family. IT can and will ruin your day, if you let it.

I don’t like days that are unproductive. I’m not talking about lazy days. They’re productive in their own way—recharging your body and soul. I’m talking about those days where it seems you get nothing done because if IT, including IT. So how do I make sure IT doesn't ruin my day?

I’m a big list person. Not the biggest. There are days I get wild and wing it. But most days, I will sit down and write a list of things I want to accomplish. I’m realistic in making the list. I know my limits. Most days there is maybe five or six wants-to-get-done. And if IT shows up, guess where IT goes? Right. At the top of the list.

I face IT head on, even though IT might be huge and ugly, and in bold letters IT is the first item of the day. I rolled up my sleeves and tackle IT first. When IT is done and out of the way, my energy level always seems to skyrocket and I whiz through the rest of the items on my list.

(WARNING LABEL) If IT is so big and can’t be accomplished one day, that’s okay. You know it up-front. IT might be the only thing on your list for a day or several. BUT, when IT is finally done, it’s done, and you then can focus on what you really want to do. It’s all about attitude.


Anyone?  I do, almost as if I lived back then.  My early American ancestors did.

When I wrote 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.

*A blog visitor recently asked who lost the French and Indian war–the French and the Indians who sided with them.  Mother England won that round.

Excerpt

Shoka held out the cup. “Drink this.”

Did he mean to help her? Rebecca had heard hideous stories of warriors’ brutality, but also occasionally of their mercy. She tried to sit, moaning at the effect this movement had on her aching body. She sank back down.

He slid a corded arm beneath her shoulders and gently raised her head. Encouraged by his unexpected aid, she sipped, grimacing at the bitterness. The vile taste permeated her mouth. Weren’t deadly herbs acrid?

Dear Lord. Had he tricked her into downing a fatal brew? She eyed him accusingly. “’Tis poison.”

He arched one black brow. “No. It’s good medicine. Will make your pain less.”
Unconvinced, she clamped her mouth together.
“I will drink. See?” he said, and took a swallow.

She parted her lips just wide enough to argue. “It may take more than a mouthful to kill.”

He regarded her through narrowing eyes. “You dare much.”
Though she knew he felt her tremble, she met his piercing gaze. If he were testing her, she wouldn’t waver.

His sharp expression softened. “Yet you have courage.”

****
Ms. Trissel has captured the time period wonderfully. As Rebecca and Kate travel in the wilderness, though beautiful, many dangers lurk for the unsuspecting sisters. Away from the gentility they grew up around, the people they meet as they travel to their uncle in the wilderness are rougher and more focused on survival regardless of which side they belong. I love historical novels because they take me to times and places that I cannot visit and Through the Fire is no different. 
As I read, I’m transported back to the mid-1700’s on the American frontier as Britain and France maneuver to control the American continent. I can see how each side feels they are right and the other side the aggressor. I watch how the natives take sides based on promises made but not kept. I felt I was there through Ms. Trissel’s descriptions and settings…
Rebecca and Shoka are so believable as lovers. Shoka is calm but can be roused by Rebecca’s stubbornness. They are well matched as they challenge each other, teach each other, and learn from each other. This is not a boring relationship by any means! I enjoyed the secondary characters from the French Captain Renault to Shoka’s cousin Meshewa. The Shawnee fight on the French side of the war. It’s refreshing not to have the novel from the English point of view but to see the conflict from the eyes of the eventual losers of this war and to see the villains as those who we’ve been brought up to see as the “good guys”.

This is an excellent story where there is so much happening with Rebecca in the center of it all. I’m glad I read it and look forward to reading more of Beth Trissel.” Reviewer: Sheila from Two Lips 
Pertinent info for Beth Trissel:

2008 Golden Heart® Finalist
2008 Winner Preditor's & Editor's Readers Poll
Publisher’s Weekly BHB Reader’s Choice Best Books of 2009 
2010 Best Romance Novel List at Buzzle!
Won Book of the Week Five Times At LASR

The great Agatha Christie favored poison as her preferred means of dispatching unfortunate characters in many of her murder mysteries. One of the deadliest herbs, Monkshood, also called Aconite and Wolfsbane, certainly played a part.   
 
Torre Abbey in Torquay has a garden devoted to the plants that rear their heads in her work. Torre Abbey, built in 1196, is the largest surviving medieval monastery in Devon and Cornwall.
 
Agatha Christie’s Potent Plants is the creation of Torre Abbey Head Gardener Ali Marshall, who in true crime writing style researched around 80 of Agatha Christie’s novels and short stories in just six months to come up with the Abbey’s own unique commemoration. The new feature links the author’s interest in poisonous plants, her wartime work as a pharmacy dispenser and the medicinal plants that Torre Abbey’s medieval canons might have used.
 
With Poirot-esque determination and attention to detail Ali Marshall, with the help of experts at Torquay’s Agatha Christie Shop, has designed a garden with a central display of potent plants surrounded by plants that serve as Agatha Christie clues, solved only with a knowledge of the plots of some of the author’s short stories. What better way could there be for Agatha Christie fans to exercise their ‘little grey cells’?”
 
“Do not touch is the warning for all visitors to the new garden and a skull-rating denotes the level of toxicity of each of the plants. 
Ali Marshall explains: “While this might sound extremely dangerous for staff and public alike we have been very careful in our choice of plants, substituting less potent garden cultivars where possible.
This is a garden designed to entertain – not provide murderous opportunities!
 
The fruit stones of the Prunus family, for example, once processed, produce cyanide, used to lethal effect in “The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side” and “A Pocketful of Rye” amongst others.  Monkshood and Foxglovesalso play a big part, as do Poppies and Yellow Jasmine. Other plants however have a more positive purpose. A Kilmarnock Willow (aspirin) takes centre stage while Valerian and Fennel owe their inclusion to their reputed therapeutic benefits.”
For more on Torre Abbey~


I probably should have given Shakespeare top billing, but he didn't have as much to say in this particular piece. :)
First, a heads up that my award-winning nonfiction book, Shenandoah Watercolors, is free at Amazon Monday May 14th–Wednesday May 16th.  
Written in a month by month journal style, Shenandoah Watercolors follows a year in my life on our farm in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

Excerpt from May: (And this is where William S. comes into my post)
“The quality of mercy is not strained,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven,
Upon the place beneath; it is twice blessed;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes…”
~William Shakespeare
                                               
The heavy rain has given way to a misting drizzle, but streams of water pour down from the hills and make new ponds and creeks. It’s chilly with that raw wet feel. This spring is awash in moisture and amazing after last summer’s searing drought. I’m struck by the intense beauty around me, and I thought I was already seeing it, but it’s so much more somehow. The grass seems to shimmer, yet there’s no sun out today, and the meadow is so richly green it’s like seeing heaven.

Our barnyard geese are enraptured, as much as geese can be, with all the grass. If there’s a lovelier place to revel in spring than the Shenandoah Valley and the mountains, I don’t know it. Narnia, maybe.
I’ve been thinking about my favorite places. The pool I like best lies in the woods near a place called Rip Rap Hollow in the Blue Ridge Mountains. A splendid falls cascades up above, but I like the pool far more. We always meant to go back, but never have. The cold water ripped through me like liquid ice and is as clear as melted crystal.

I could see the rocks on the bottom, some slick with moss, others brown-gold in the light where the sun broke through the leafy canopy overhead. Trout hid beneath big rounded stones or ones that formed a cleft, but the men tickled them out to flash over the flat rocks strewn across the bottom like a path. Drifts of hay-scented fern rose around the edges of the pool, warming the air with the fragrance of new-mown hay, and made the shady places a rich green.
Now, that’s a good place to go in my mind when I’m troubled. The problem with cities is that people don’t learn what really matters. Don’t really feel or know the rhythms of the earth. When we are separated from that vital center place, we grow lost. Sadly, most people will never know what they are lost from, or where they can be found.~
***FREE kindle at Amazon. Also available in print with lovely photographs taken by my talented family.
"This is perhaps the most beautifully written memoir I've ever read. Its lovely and languid descriptions of the picturesque valley, the farm and gardens are equaled only by the charming and funny descriptions of the antics (and conversations!) of the farm animals. What a joy this is to read..." Amazon Reviewer C. G. King

Which Color Rose Do You Wear Today?

Posted by Toni V.S. | 11:27 PM | 7 comments »



I suppose I was nearly seven before I realized that Southerners were different, that they had customs and ceremonies which might seem unusual to the rest of the nation...such as the Mother's Day roses....

    In the town I where I lived, we celebrated Mother's Day the way everyone else in town did:  getting up on Sunday morning and having a big breakfast, then presenting Mama with her cards and gifts--some asked for, some unexpected, but all greeted with enthusiasm and appreciation. 

    Afterward, we would dress for church, in still-new Easter clothes, so lovingly sewn by hand and worn only a few Sundays previously.  Soon we were all ready to go, Mama looking beautiful in a dress of her own making and my father--handsome in his navy suit with the thin white pinstripes and a burgundy tie.  At that point, Mama would  say, "Just a moment, we have to have our roses!" and she would take her shears from the kitchen drawer and  disappear down the back steps into her garden.

    Mama had an authentic Green Thumb.  Flowers of every conceivable type and color flourished in her garden, camellias, azaleas, vines of wisteria dangling their purple flowers grape-like from the fence, golden forsythia, pink oxalis, and silver dusty miller--and roses--bushes, runners, florabundas, hybrid teas--everywhere.  As I watched, she selected two red blossoms, half-opened and still damp with Easter-morning dew, clipped them, and stood there a moment, looking around hurriedly, before returning to where we waited.
 

     One rose became a boutonniere, while the other was pinned to the left breast of my dress.  Then, she said, almost forlornly, "The white roses haven't bloomed yet.  What will I do?"

    "Surely there's some other white flower," my father suggested.  After all, there was no law that said she had to wear a white rose, and as she returned to the garden, searching among the plants and shrubs, I wondered aloud the thought I had always accepted until now:
    "What's so special about wearing roses on Mother's Day?"

  




 My  father smiled, as if he'd been expecting this and wondered why it had taken me so long. 

    "They're to honor our mothers," he explained.  "If you wear a red rose, it means your mother is still alive, if you wear a white one, then--she's not."  

    I thought about that a moment.  It made sense.   My father's mother was still living--we saw her all the time, but I knew my mother's mother only from old photographs. She’d died the day after Christmas, in 1933.  Most of the people at church who wore white roses were older people.  Of course, their mothers wouldn't be alive, but I had seen one or two children wearing white flowers. 

    In a few moment, Mama was back, all smiles, returning the scissors to the drawer and pinning a spray of white English dogwood, with its sweet, sweet fragrance, like a corsage on her shoulder.  Taking my hand and my father's arm, she went down the steps toward the car.

    Many Mother's Days have passed since then.  I became a mother myself and we moved to Nebraska, and when my son was small, I kept the traditions I had grown up with alive--a die-hard Southerner in the midst of the Great Plains.  Each Easter, we had a frantic search for a red flower for him to wear, while I--well, I looked for a white one.





    My son doesn’t follow that custom now.  He doesn’t search frantically for a red rose and I doubt if he’ll worry much about finding a white one...whenever.

    Nevertheless, every year, I remember...the day I learned the symbol of the Mother's Day roses and what having a mother really means.  I wonder if he ever will?

    Too bad I won’t be around to tell him.



 Welcome, Allison Brennan. I hear you have been working hard.  Please tell us what we can expect soon. 

I’m developing a workshop about writing thrillers and romantic suspense, and presented it once on line and once in person. I’ll be presenting it again at the RWA conference in Anaheim, and need to work through some bugs – namely, I needed more time!

So as I was going through my notes to figure out how to condense the workshop into a simple ten-point outline, I found this tidbit:

Years ago, I interviewed Linda McFall, former senior editor with MIRA, for something (I honestly can’t remember what!) and she told me once that what makes her want to acquire a book is 1) a great character she can root for and 2) perfect pacing. Likewise, she said, she can fix anything except character and pacing.

“Perfect pacing” doesn’t really say anything, does it? Fast, slow, it doesn’t matter—what matters is that the pacing is perfect for that story.

There are other editors who probably have other deal breakers and can fix pacing with their magic wand, but to me Linda nailed it about what makes me love a book – or a television show.

According to the Tennessee Screenwriting Association [LINK: http://www.tennscreen.com/thriller.htm], one of the pillars of a great thriller is tension:

“Tension must be maintained throughout the story through the conflicts (keeping it difficult for the hero to get what he/she wants) and through the writer's style and story pacing.”

Tension is, essentially, perfect pacing. It’s giving the reader enough conflict and information to keep them turning pages but not so much that they go into overload and hyperventilate!

If the hero gets what they want at the beginning of the book, there is no book – unless getting what they want sets up a chain of events where getting what they want makes their ULTIMATE goal unattainable (i.e. Monkey’s Paw syndrome, as well as subtext in dystopian literature, Star Trek storylines—perfect society with dark undertones, etc.) So then there really are two levels of goals and attaining one creates deeper, richer conflict.

What the hero wants can change over the course of the story. In THE PREY, my debut novel, the hero was a hired bodyguard. His goal was to keep the heroine safe while the police hunted down her stalker. When the killer goes after someone close to the hero, his goal changes to revenge—he now has a personal stake in finding the killer.

Tension means the reader does not know what will happen, or they think they know and it’s all bad for the characters they care about! Tension is largely psychological--something may or may not happen, depending on both things we know and things we don’t. Sort of like in 1980s horror movies, where you KNOW the teenagers are all going to be killed (or most of them) but you don’t know WHEN. So every time they walk on scene, you feel tense. Then when they survive three times, you feel relieved, then WHAM! They get beheaded and you scream. J … Tension is not necessarily action. When Donald Maass says “tension on every page” this doesn’t mean a constant state of action and reaction, just that the reader needs to be tense for the survival (real or emotional) of the characters they root for.

Have you seen THE AVENGERS yet? If not, what are you waiting for? One of the best movies of the decade, pitch perfect in every way from character to pacing to dialogue. Obviously, I’m not surprised – it’s Joss Whedon plus superheroes.

What I loved about this movie from a creative view was not just the special effects or the clear but complex plot, but how each scene built on the previous scenes, so that there was a constant state of tension without being overloaded in every scene. It was fluid and flawless and I can’t wait to go back so I can dissect it rather than simply enjoy it. You can learn a lot about pacing and tension from the movies!

But pacing isn’t just important in thrillers. It’s equally important in romantic comedies, for example. One of my favorite romantic comedies is WORKING GIRL with Harrison Ford and Melanie Griffith. Like THE AVENGERS, each scene builds on the previous scenes, so that you have a layered, textured, and flawless storyline. It doesn’t have superheroes or chases or explosions, but it has constant tension – is Melanie Griffith going to achieve her dreams, retain her integrity, and keep her man in the cutthroat business world?

In the world of television, crime shows usually focus on pacing because it’s critical to the genre. But comedies like NEW GIRL need pitch perfect pacing—it’s harder often because comedy is subjective, and you need to set up and tell the joke and immediately move on. No explanation to the audience. Great learning tools!

What movie or show have you seen recently where you were wowed by the way the story was told? I guarantee, it’s all in the pacing.


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