Wednesday, August 15, 2018
In every romance, there’s a happy ending. That’s what readers expect. The best romances are ones with emotional impact. Currently, in the majority of romances the third person point of view is preferred and limited to the hero and the heroine. This works well for romances. The reader gets to know the internal thoughts of both characters and that helps to build the emotional impact in the story.
This is not to say that all romances have been written in the same way. I have a fondness for the old gothics written by Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt, Phyllis Whitney, Dorothy Eden, and Barbara Michaels. Those stories were written in first person from only the heroine’s point of view. I loved those books and I still do. I’ve reread several of them.
Some readers hate first person point of view, but there are many writers who have been cleverly adept with it. It pulls the reader into immediately identifying with the protagonist. Chick Lit uses the same technique. Young adult novels are sometimes written using first person, or a limited third person point of view.
As an author, I prefer to write in the third person point of view--giving both the hero and heroine their own voices. I think it is the most natural way to present the story and to built the emotional impact.
Once I tried adding the villain's point of view in a story, but I changed my mind. I don't like villains. They're evil. I don't want to know what's in their heads. So while the villain remained in the story, his point of view did not.
What are your thoughts on point of view? Which do you prefer?
Wednesday, August 08, 2018
In May, the Lincroft Inn was demolished. The inn stood on this site in continuous operation since 1697 and remained the center of the local community. Countless families dined there. Weddings were celebrated at the restaurant. Religious groups marked holiday occasions and civic groups held award ceremonies.
I used the location in the setting of PATRIOT'S HEART. 😊 Lincroft had a different name back in 1778, but the inn--even then--was an important location for both north-south and east-west travel.
Another restaurant is supposed to be erected on the site. Many of the original chestnut timbers from the original inn were saved and are supposed to be used in the new building.
In the meantime, there is a big empty hole in the dirt. However, sunflowers have been blooming in the ruins, much to the delight of area residents.
Friday, August 03, 2018
PATRIOT'S HEART is set in New Jersey in 1778 during the American Revolution where 296 engagements with British troops occurred, more than in any other colony in the Revolutionary War.
Read an excerpt from the beginning of PATRIOT'S HEART!
Leedsville, New Jersey
Monday, June 29, 1778
Agnes’s heart pounded as she stood in the midst of the battle. With the thick smoke clouding the air, she could barely see anything except for the soldiers grappling on the ground at her feet. The men twisted and thrashed about in their fight to the death, but none of them were Father or Uncle Fitz and she wanted to find them. She needed them at home.
Stepping over the combatants groveling in the dirt appeared impossible and dangerous. Instead, she turned. Behind her a man stood with a bayonet in his hands. He lunged toward her. She tried to scream, but no sound came from her lips.
Then, above the sounds of struggle, the sweet lilt of Colleen’s voice singing Róisín Dubh floated on the air. Agnes woke with a start and drew in a ragged breath. A cold sweat covered her and tears moistened her cheeks.
She had been dreaming. Shaky, she pushed herself to sit in the big bed and rubbed her eyes. It was not surprising that her mind had conjured up images of battle. Only yesterday the sound of cannons, though a dozen miles distant, shook the ground as the British and Patriots clashed near Monmouth Courthouse. She and her sister, Margaret, had prayed for their father and uncle in the Continental army. Colleen spent the day singing merry songs of war. This morning’s melancholy tune could only mean one thing: the Patriots had lost the battle and the British had won.
Dawn tinged the horizon and though Colleen continued her somber performance, the unmistakable rumble of heavy wagons sounded on the road.
Agnes’s heart constricted with panic. Had the war come to their door?
Fearing the worst, she dressed and hurried into the kitchen. Her young sister Margaret stood at the table with flour up to her elbows as she rolled out sweet buns while Colleen trilled her doleful air as she stirred porridge over the fire. Margaret’s thick blonde braids swung back and forth as she flattened the dough. She nodded at Agnes, but did not speak. They had learned long ago that when Colleen sang Roisin Dubh, it was best not to interrupt.
Colleen’s recital did not prevent her from handling her chores. She lifted the kettle without missing a note and poured tea into a mug. The aroma of raspberry leaves and mint seemed to restore Agnes’s senses.
“Thank you.” She mouthed the words. After Father joined the army and marched off to fight, Colleen treated Agnes as the head of the household, which unsettled her. Until that point, Colleen had been like a mother to her.
Colleen set a steaming bowl of porridge on the table and Agnes ate slowly, with her body tensed, as she waited for the end of the song. She must know the news.
By the final cadence, Agnes’s bowl sat empty and the smell of Margaret’s sweet rolls baking in the oven wafted through the house.
“Hobart said three chickens are missing and Jonas is gone,” Margaret blurted out the moment Colleen took a deep breath.
Agnes gasped in horror. Stolen livestock had become a regular occurrence with the Tories’ raids, but Jonas was a special pig. The unfortunate animal had been shot a few months past in a surprise attack by a group of Tories. Agnes had dug out the bullet and healed the young hog with Colleen’s help, for the Irish woman possessed a fine knowledge of the uses of herbs for healing.
Agnes swallowed her sense of loss. More important issues lay at stake beyond a missing, though dear, pig. “Who has won the battle?”
“The guns of the British are tramping past.” Colleen put a hand to her heart and shook her head. “Does the king not rule these colonies with an iron fist?”
“The British left Philadelphia to retreat to New York,” Agnes pointed out. “Did they defeat the Continental army? Why are they not fighting?”
“Yesterday was far too hot for a battle.” Margaret wiped her brow with her apron. “Today is not much better.”
Agnes rose from the table, and tucked the errant strands of her brown hair neatly into her cap. “Aye, I labored to breathe in the shade in the afternoon. Surely, someone will pass by the forge with an account of the fray.”
“I’ll bring you one of the sweet buns on my way to the inn,” Margaret promised. “No doubt someone will carry tidings of the army’s clash. Travelers are always thirsty and drink loosens their tongues.”
“Ach, and it’s dangerous to be talking with strangers,” Colleen warned in her soft brogue. “What if you happen upon Tories? Why, any of them would stab their own mother in the heart.”
“We cannot trust some of our disaffected neighbors either.” Agnes sighed and stepped out of the house into the new day. The rolling wheels of the heavy wagons came faintly to her ears as they drew further away, but the pungent smell of smoke lingered in the morning air. The sun ascended above the horizon and turned the sky to rose. She hoped the rain would come soon and clear the skies of the insufferable heat.
Walking to the barn, she pondered Jonas’s capture. The pig had become a rather clever creature. She believed he understood English and would never have allowed a stranger to put a rope around his neck. Surely, whoever seized him must have killed him first. Her eyes grew misty at the thought.
When she drew nearer, she noticed one of the wide stable doors already open. Had the British stolen the cow and calf, too? Her heart quickened in fear.
Stepping inside with caution, she saw no one in the shady interior. The cow mooed, the calf echoed his mother’s call, and Agnes quelled her panic. She picked up the bucket and stool, sat next to the cow, and set to the familiar task of milking.
With the steady rhythm of her hands, the bucket filled near to the brim. When a low moan echoed from the back of the barn, her breath hitched in her throat. She told herself the sound came from an owl, a mourning dove, or some other unfortunate creature calling for its mate.
Done with the milking, she led the cow and the calf outside to the fenced pasture. She returned for the milk and heard the groan again. Louder and more distinct, it emanated from the last stall.
She grabbed the rake hanging on the wall. Danger lay in moving an injured animal and she needed to protect herself from sharp teeth and claws. With her heart pounding and perspiration dripping from her brow, she tiptoed to the back of the barn.
She did not find a wild, suffering animal. Stunned, she blinked her eyes several times to be sure she had not fallen into a dream or a nightmare. On the hay lay a British soldier, her enemy, with a musket at his side. Blood and mud stained his red wool coat and white breeches.
Her pulse raced, and her initial reaction was to turn and run. She swallowed instead as she studied him. His eyes were closed and he had not shaven in days. He had fine features and a headful of coal black hair tied neatly at the nape of his neck with a strip of leather.
Though one of the king’s minions, she thought him a handsome young man. She used the rake to drag the musket away from him. Muscular and tall, he would have no trouble overpowering her if he woke from his stupor.
She picked up the weapon, aimed the muzzle at him, and shouted. “Who are you?”
He whispered through cracked lips as he clutched his blood-soaked britches. “Water.”
“How did you get in here?”
“W…water.” His fever-glazed eyes rolled back in a distressing manner. She judged him to be little older than her own eighteen years.
“Did you fight in the battle yesterday?”
“Where is the rest of your company?” Uncertainty crept through her. In his current condition, he did not present a threat. She lowered the musket.
Though not a single breeze stirred in the morning air, he shivered violently in his thick red wool jacket.
She glanced toward the open door and listened. Hearing no one else approach, she turned to set the weapon against the wall in the adjoining empty stall. Behind her, the soldier’s groaning increased. She whirled to find him clawing at the ground, dragging himself toward her.
Fear knotted in her chest as he reached out to grab her foot. She stepped back. The width of his shoulders bore testament to his strength. If he caught her, he might not let go.
“My…horse.” His demand came out as a tortured whisper.
Agnes fought to keep herself from trembling. She would not allow this enemy to see her alarm. “You have no horse.”
He made a strangled sound in his throat, closed his eyes, and went still. Panic curled up her spine. Though he remained a foe, she did not want him to pass away in her barn.
Swallowing her dread, she knelt beside him and found the pulse in his neck. The slow but steady beat reassured her. She studied his chiseled features while smoothing the errant tendrils of his midnight hair from his face. His ragged beard tickled her fingertips.
He radiated vitality despite his infirm state. She found soft pleasure in simply gazing upon him, an odd reaction for her since she had little time for any such indulgence.
Agnes forced herself to tear her attention from his handsome face. She noticed the elbow of his red wool jacket had torn and the cuff had fallen away. A few ragged threads marked the places where fine brass buttons had been.
Until now, she believed herself immune to a man’s appearance, but when she pressed her hand against her breast, the pounding of her heart surprised her. It must be because he had caused such a fright for her at first.
“’Tis a pity you fight on the side of the British.” She gave a mighty shove and rolled him over onto his back. A small, folded sheet of paper slipped out of his jacket. Frowning, she picked it up and opened it, but she did not understand the message. Was it written in a foreign language? She tucked the note into her pocket.
Aware of her duty to call for the local militia to remove the soldier, she hesitated. He would be taken prisoner in a rough manner, be tortured for information, and receive little or no care for his injuries. If he lived, he would be traded for one of the Patriot prisoners held by the British.
If he lived…
She clamped her lips together. She wanted him to survive, but the militia had little regard for the wellbeing of their prisoners. If he was a general or some other high-ranking officer, he would be worth more in a trade and receive better treatment.
Despite the thickness of his fine wool jacket, he had no rank.
A dangerous thought bloomed and she ignored the cautionary voice in the back of her mind. She examined the grisly wound on his thigh just above his knee. A lead musket ball had cut a deep gasp through the flesh, but had not embedded itself within, which made it more likely that the soldier might recover. Still, he had lost a great deal of blood and filth lay in the lesion.
She thought of her pig, Jonas, again. Had her efforts to save the animal been fruitless? No doubt one of this soldier’s compatriots had stolen her beloved pet. Yet, she did not harbor ill will toward this unfortunate man. He fought on the orders of his superiors and punishment would be severe if he refused. Had he been tricked into joining the army by taking the king’s shilling? Her father had told her of the cruel manner in which men were seized into service.
“Agnes?” her sister called. “Where are you?”
“Back here.” She wiped her bloodied fingers on the jacket of her foe and stood, but she found it nearly impossible to tear her gaze away from the young soldier. She did not think she had ever seen a man with such a noble appearance. She had never traveled far from Leedsville, so her opinion hardly mattered. Still, the lurch of excitement the sight of him stirred in her breast was most remarkable.
Margaret ran toward her, but stopped and gasped when she saw the silent soldier in the hay. “Is he dead?”
“Not yet, and I’ve a mind to keep him in this world.” If she could save a pig, she could heal a Redcoat with any luck.
“You must call the militia.”
“I will not.” Agnes frowned at her twelve-year old sister. “He is already severely wounded. He has family somewhere praying for his safety. What if someone found Father or Uncle Fitz in their barn? We would hope someone would treat their wounds and feed them.”
“He should be a prisoner.”
“He will die if his injury does not receive adequate attention.”
“Aye, but…” Margaret did not look convinced. “The British do the same to the Patriots. There are men rotting in prison ships in New York harbor.”
“I’ll be pleased if you would take care of the milk while I get Colleen. She can guide me in gathering the things I’ll need to clean out his wound and treat it.”
“He’s our enemy,” Margaret reminded. “And Colleen hates the British.”
“We are going to be Good Samaritans and I’m sure Colleen will understand that this young man was forced into service for the king as many of her own Irishmen have been.” At least, Agnes hoped Colleen would give him the benefit of the doubt.
“If it was Father in some Tory’s barn, he’d be shot.”
“We must do what the Lord asks us to do.” Agnes insisted. “Here’s the milk. Pour it through the cheesecloth and set half aside for Aunt Sally.”
Margaret set her mouth in a stubborn line. “What about the sweet buns? Mr. Newton at the inn will expect me to deliver them.”
“Mr. Newton must wait today.” Agnes hurried toward the house as Margaret trudged along behind her. The day showed signs of being almost as hot as the preceding ones had been. By the time she reached her door, she struggled for breath. Colleen was not inside. She found her tending to the lavender in her herb garden.
“What herbs do I need for a gash in the flesh?” Agnes asked.
“And who has been cut?” Colleen questioned with a note of suspicion in her voice.
“An unfortunate traveler.” Agnes thought it best to start with small amounts of information. She loved the Irish woman, but harboring a British soldier was dangerous and Colleen thoroughly embraced the Patriots’ cause.
Colleen stood and pressed her lips into a thin line. She hurried to the house and directed Agnes in filling her basket with all she needed to tend to the wound.
“Is he feverish?” Colleen asked. “Insensible? In great pain?”
“He’s handsome,” Margaret announced as she divided the milk evenly.
Agnes froze as all the blood in her body swept downward.
“Is there more I should know about this young man?” Colleen put her hands on her hips and stared at Agnes.
She cast her gaze to the floor. “He comes from far away.”
Colleen paused in lifting another basket from a peg on the wall. “The Lord commands us to help the alien in a foreign land. There were many who were kind to me when I first arrived in this land, even though I was Irish.”
“We are so very glad you came to us.” Agnes’s voice tightened, for she remembered Colleen’s arrival as if it were yesterday.
“I will gather boneset for his fever and brew it, but you hurry along and tend to his wound. You learned much in caring for Jonas.” Colleen sighed. “I am grieved that he has been taken.”
Agnes’s eyes misted. “I am, too.”
“He was my best friend, next to Francis.” Margaret’s lips trembled.
Colleen left the house and headed toward the woods to find the blossoming boneset, which grew wild in many places.
Agnes handed Margaret the kettle to carry. They walked to the barn once more.
“I think it will be best if we take off his jacket and remove anything else that would mark him a British soldier,” Agnes whispered, though there was no one about to hear her.
“We must tell Colleen who he is.” Fear flashed in Margaret’s eyes.
“It is not necessary. We will burn the jacket.” Agnes had always sought to set a good example for her sister and in her heart she knew what she intended to do would be morally correct if not politically wise. “It’s a terrible thing when men kill their own brothers because an already rich king is greedy for more wealth.”
“Then the Redcoat should join our cause,” Margaret insisted.
“He was probably tricked into taking the King’s shilling.”
“Aye, that is cruel,” Margaret agreed.
They hurried to the barn together, but before they reached it, they saw the miller driving his wagon along the lane toward them.
“Good day to you.” He pulled at the reins when he came abreast of them and doffed his hat. “Why is the blacksmith shop not open?”
Agnes’s heart hammered against her ribs. She usually opened the forge early in the day. “Is there something you need?”
“Yes, four more hooks.” The miller pulled at the brake and jumped down from the wagon. He reached for a sack of flour from the back.
“Please bring the flour when you come for the hooks later,” Agnes suggested.
He shot her a quizzical look before he shoved the sack into place again. He stared at the folded linen, the kettle, and her basket.
Agnes clutched at Margaret’s sleeve and prayed her sister would say nothing. “As you can see, a sick animal needs my attention right now, sir. I bid you good day.”
His usually genial face darkened for but a moment before he shrugged and climbed back into his wagon. “This afternoon then.”
Agnes nodded as he urged his horses to move onward. As soon as he was out of earshot, she spoke to Margaret.
“Bar the barn door. No one must be allowed in. You helped me with Jonas, so you know what to do.”
“A man is far different than a pig.”
“This should be easier, for the man is senseless. If you recall, Jonas squirmed a great deal.”
Thursday, August 02, 2018
There are obscure places to visit in New Jersey. Those who don't live in this state often think of either the shore or the Turnpike when they envision New Jersey. They think of oil refineries, jug handles, and Jersey barriers. They don't think of the Pine Barrens or any of our wonderful wetlands. There are empty places in our state and they are fascinating.
I often use scenes from New Jersey in my books. In Heaven's Blue, the heroine is a mosquito researcher in a swamp in southern New Jersey.
Daughter #2 led us on an excursion yesterday to a delightful swamp in Ocean Gate. It was a perfect day for taking photographs, sunny and a bit windy. There were lots of wildflowers and birds. The tide was high and only inches from the road. If I was a plein air painter, I would have set up my easel and captured the scenes on canvas. I think the scene above would be perfect for that activity. Instead, I'll save the photo and work on a painting of the scene during the winter.
We saw a variety of birds and several osprey nests, but I thought this one was the most interesting. The osprey had decided to use an old concrete bridge abutment for their home. Looks cozy. 😊
New Jersey has many huge swamps. In addition to being great places to visit, wetlands are important to our ecosystem. Check out https://www.epa.gov/wetlands/why-are-wetlands-important for more information about our useful swamps.
Thursday, July 26, 2018
A long, long time ago I wrote short stories for a small romance magazine. It was fun--until the magazine folded. Eventually, I put the stories together into a book, FALLING IN LOVE, which is available in both print and ebook editions.
This week, hubby and I visited Insectropolis, a bug museum in Toms River, New Jersey. It's a fascinating place. Inside was a display with Blue Morpho butterflies shown above, which reminded me of one of my short stories, A Shade of Difference, which I've pasted in below. It's short enough to read in one sitting.
A Shade of Difference
A Paranormal Historical Romance
Sadie lifted the brown betty from the oven and set it on the windowsill to cool. She rarely had time to think with all the things that needed doing in the old house but today, with the spicy smell of the apples and cinnamon, old memories of happy times at the harvest dance flooded her mind.
Tonight all of Schuster Falls would be dancing and eating at the celebration, but Sadie wouldn’t be there. Of course, she would have Aunt Grace for company as usual. A sad little pain stabbed at her heart. Her aunt’s companionship had proved a great comfort but Aunt Grace had also been the cause of the most distressing gossip.
Sadie breathed in a great whiff of the brown betty’s aroma and stared out at the autumn landscape. She ventured out less and less nowadays rather than meet the fear in her neighbors’ eyes. When a persistent knock startled her from her reverie, she wiped her hands on her apron and hurried to the front door. Through the oval glass she saw Dr. Arnold Huber and sighed. She should have known it would be Arnold. Lately, he was the only person who came to call. Nobody else dared. Either he didn’t believe the rumors or he didn’t believe in ghosts.
“Hello, Miss Sadie.” He smiled down at her and she found it impossible not to smile back. He had the widest grin in Schuster Falls, ears that stuck out like wings, and hair which defied any pomade. He also had the biggest feet. He would have made a great clown.
“Are you feeling well?” he asked.
A shiver of fear went up her spine. What had the townspeople said about her this time? Lifting her chin bravely, she beamed at Arnold.
“Quite well, thank you,” she said.
“Are you coming to the dance at the Metners’ place this evening?” he asked.
Her smile faded. “I’m afraid not.”
“I’d be happy to escort you.” He held his hat in his hands and as Sadie watched his long fingers toy with the brim, she remembered how competent his hands were. He had cared for Aunt Grace with such painstaking dedication that the memory brought tears to Sadie’s eyes.
“No, thank you,” she answered with a tight voice. She closed the door quickly before he could press further.
An hour later as Sadie tided up Aunt Grace’s room, she paused in front of the chifforobe with the feather duster in her hand. Warned by the sweet smell of lilies of the valley wafting through the air, she glanced upward to see Aunt Grace materialize, high button boots first. Though Aunt Grace died one year ago, her spirit remained in the house.
“I’ve missed dancing!” Aunt Grace swung her dainty feet and flounced her skirts as she sat atop the tall piece of mahogany furniture. “The Metners always host the most delightful harvest dance.”
“I’m not going.” Sadie frowned at her aunt.
“You’ve got to go,” Aunt Grace insisted. “I’m most distressed that you refused Arnold’s kind offer. After all he did for me.”
“I’m sorry, Auntie.” Sadie sheathed the feather duster in the waistband of her apron and picked up the watering can to give the potted fern a drink. “But the last time I danced with Arnold I feared he would break every one of my toes.”
“My, my,” Aunt Grace clucked as she floated down from the chifforobe. “But I’m sure that musician, Luke, will be there. The one who came to court you with his accordion. It was so romantic.”
“He tried to squeeze me in the same manner he hugs his instrument.” Sadie’s cheeks grew hot. “If you hadn’t clobbered him with that fern I don’t know what I would have done.”
“He may have mended his ways by now. You are so lovely, and I’m sure he was so smitten with you that he lost his head.”
Sadie sighed and sat down on the rosewood chair. “I’m sorry, Auntie, but the truth is that the men are simply not interested in me. There are a number of rumors—”
Aunt Grace’s eyes narrowed. “Who started them? How could they dare? Why you have an absolutely stainless reputation—”
“I’ve hired five housekeepers in the last six months.” Sadie interrupted. “They’ve all been telling tales. Now everyone in town thinks I’m crazy as a loon and this house is haunted.”
“Balderdash!” Aunt Grace huffed indignantly. “I’m not an evil spirit. That last housekeeper dosed herself with such large gulps of your dandelion wine she couldn’t see straight. I was only trying to help her when I handed her that pot.”
“She’s told everyone the pot flew through the air.”
“Outrageous!” Aunt Grace paced the room.
“Then there’s Mrs. Dillerman who’s been telling people that our silverware is bewitched.” Sadie cover her eyes with a trembling hand. “She says it marched back into the sideboard all by itself.”
Aunt Grace slapped the windowsill with her fan. “If I hadn’t stopped her she would have walked off with every last piece. That woman is nothing but a common thief.”
Sadie took a steadying breath and got to her feet. “The whole town thinks I’m dancing like all possessed.”
“My precious niece in league with the devil? What has become of Schuster Falls?” Aunt Grace swept open her fan and proceeded to wave it with a measure of agitation.
“So you see, I really can’t go tonight.” Sadie shrugged.
“But Tilly and Harry Metner are my very best friends.” Aunt Grace opened the chifforobe. “You should wear the pretty green taffeta. I’m quite tired of seeing you in mourning.”
“No.” Sadie slammed the chifforobe shut.
“Tilly and Harry’s son, William, is a handsome fellow, big and strong.” Aunt Grace clasped her hands and fluttered her eyelids. “He’s a judge, too.”
“And drunk much of the time,” Sadie added. “That man spilled punch down the front of my dress at your funeral.” Sadie glared at her aunt and then spun around to stalk off. Aunt Grace had always been a power to be reckoned with, but Sadie had never expected that as a spirit her aunt’s strength of will would increase.
When Sadie reached the kitchen, she groaned. The scent of lilies hung in the air while Aunt Grace stood there, arrayed in her finest satin gown.
“If you won’t go, I’ll go all by myself.” Aunt Grace drew on her gloves. “Your Uncle Ned and I used to have such fun at the Metners’ frolics.” A wistful smile lit up her face. “I loved gliding across the floor in Ned’s arms. He gave me these gloves for my thirtieth birthday. See the blue butterflies embroidered at the wrist?”
Sadie felt tears pricking at the back of her eyes. Uncle Ned spent years amassing a butterfly collection. He had always called Aunt Grace his morpho butterfly, a blue insect from the tropical jungles that he had not been able to acquire. He had died a month before Aunt Grace.
“Why didn’t you go to heaven with Uncle Ned?” Sadie sniffed.
“What? And leave you all alone? I wouldn’t dream of it. I promised your mother I would take care of you.”
“I’m twenty-two, an old maid, and perfectly capable of taking care of myself.”
“No, no, no. You’ve got to get a husband.” Aunt Grace tapped her tiny feet impatiently.
“I really don’t need a husband,” Sadie insisted. “Uncle Ned made some fine investments that should keep me quite secure.”
“Balderdash! I will find a husband for you myself.”
Sadie paled as shivers ran up and down her spine. The ghost of her aunt would wreak havoc at the Metners’ dance.
Aunt Grace wrapped a shawl about her shoulders and pouted. “Besides, I haven’t seen anyone in ages. You know how I enjoy gatherings.”
Sadie put her hands on her hips. “You’ll cause a panic if you show up.”
Aunt Grace laughed merrily. “Nobody can see me except you—I think.”
“You’ll lift something up or touch somebody. Then everyone in town will get spooked.”
“I’m going anyway.” She huffed. “I’ll give your regards to Arnold, Luke, and William.”
Sadie lunged at her but Aunt Grace vaporized quickly and left her clutching at empty air.
She paced around the kitchen. Nobody in all of Schuster Falls would ever be as stubborn as Aunt Grace. Throwing up her hands, Sadie realized she had better get to the Metners’ barn quickly before total chaos took over.
She ran out of the house, rushed to the stable, and hitched the horse up to the old Phaeton. When she arrived at the Metners’ barn, she eased the horse up to the hitching post, jumped down from the Phaeton, and whipped the reins around the post. The strains of a lively reel carried out of the barn on the evening air as Sadie raced to the huge doors.
Arnold stood just inside the entrance, talking to old Mrs. Morehouse.
“Arnold, have—” she began breathlessly, until she realized she couldn’t ask him if he had seen Aunt Grace. “H-how is the dance?”
“Fine, Miss Sadie. What a pleasure to see that you’ve changed your mind and come after all.” He smiled.
The warmth in his greeting confused her. By now, as the town doctor, he should have heard every rumor whispered behind her back. In fact, old Mrs. Morehouse cleared her throat prodigiously and hobbled off in considerable haste.
“Thanks for saving me from her rheumatism.” He winked. Sadie felt the corners of her mouth lift. Arnold’s tender nature flowed out and wrapped her in a gentle spell. But then he asked her for a dance.
She winced in remembrance and curled up her toes inside her high button boots. “I-I think I could use a cup of punch—” Suddenly, someone pushed her so hard she slammed into Arnold’s chest. He caught her in a tight embrace.
“I’m very sorry,” she mumbled against his waistcoat. Arnold smelled nice, like brown soap and leather. She held onto him a little longer than she really should as she righted herself with his assistance. “Did you see who pushed me?”
“There isn’t anyone behind you.” Arnold peered down at her with a worried expression on his face.
The haunting fragrance of lilies tickled Sadie’s nose. She whipped her head around and drew her mouth into a grim line. Aunt Grace, plain as day and with a devilish twinkle in her eye, stood by the ladder to the hayloft.
“Teach him how to dance properly so he won’t mangle your feet,” she suggested.
“No!” Sadie retorted.
“No indeed.” Arnold took the liberty to assist in rearranging Sadie’s skirts. “Your heel must have slipped in the crevice between the planks.”
Sadie glowered at Aunt Grace. But Aunt Grace glanced off to her left and waved happily.
“Oh my. There’s Luke, that amorous young fellow. He’s going to join the fiddler. I bet they’ll play a polka. I wonder how he’s been?” She vanished in an instant and Sadie felt the blood drain from her face.
Arnold grasped her hand. “You’re looking pale, my dear. Can I get you that punch now?”
Sadie nodded numbly and Arnold went off to fetch the punch. The moment he turned his back, she dashed off toward the musicians. Luke was taking a draught from a large mug of cider. His eyes widened when he saw Sadie run up to him. He sputtered and then began choking on the cider. The fiddler whacked him on the back. The mug started to float out of Luke’s hand.
“Oh no.” Sadie grabbed for the mug. Aunt Grace remained invisible but she wouldn’t release the mug. Sadie yanked it harder.
Aunt Grace cried out, “You’ve ripped my glove. Whatever will I do?”
Suddenly, all the resistance on the mug vanished. Sadie crashed to the floor while the mug flew out of her hand and clobbered Luke in the head. He stopped choking and howled. Dripping cider, he bolted for the door.
A deadly hush fell over the entire barn as everyone stared at Sadie who lay tangled in her petticoats exposing an indecent expanse of legs. Aunt Grace sat on a keg nearby, sobbing so hard that Sadie expected to hear the seams of her fine satin gown rip at any moment.
“These gloves were Ned’s last present to me.” Huge tears splashed from Aunt Grace’s eyes. “I’m a terrible seamstress. I’ll never be able to mend it.”
“I’ll fix them,” Sadie muttered as she hastily tried to cover up her legs. Then she gasped as a sharp pain shot through her ankle. She realized she could not stand up.
Immediately, Aunt Grace knelt beside her. “You’ve turned your ankle. Dear, dear me. Whatever are we to do? Don’t faint child. I’ll get my smelling salts. Wherever did I leave my reticule?” she fussed.
William Metner broke through the crowd, weaving slightly before he drew up to Sadie. “You’ve made quite a spectacle of yourself.” His words slurred and Sadie knew he’d dipped into the punch bowl far too many times.
“The poor girl is hurt—not that you’d be able to tell with that brick in your hat.” Aunt Grace had fire in her eyes.
William took a deep breath and swayed. “I’ve had enough of your indecent behavior,” he huffed. “And so have my guests. It’s time you left.”
Sadie moved her leg again but the pain took her breath away.
“You pompous devil!” Aunt Grace drew back her hand and slapped William hard enough to send him staggering back a step. The crowd gasped. William blinked, narrowed his eyes, and swung his head back and forth trying to figure out who or what had hit him. The guests scurried backward.
“Witch.” William’s face purpled with rage and Sadie’s innards twisted. Though the populace of Schuster Falls hadn’t burned anyone at the stake in nearly two hundred years, they had strung up a number of thieves and murderers with William as the judge.
At that moment, a path opened up in the circle of spectators and Arnold sauntered up to Sadie.
Aunt Grace burst into tears again. “Oh thank heavens you’re here. I’ve made such a mess of things I’ll never forgive myself.”
“I’m all right but I can’t seem to move my ankle,” Sadie said as Arnold bent down.
“Hmmm.” Arnold prodded her ankle and she gritted her teeth at the torment his inquiring hands caused. “This needs immediate attention. Hang on. I’m going to pick you up.”
Despite the ache in her ankle, Sadie had to admit that she enjoyed every minute of being in Arnold’s arms. The dear man could not have been more attentive to her injury. When he finally had her safely ensconced on the sofa in her own parlor with her foot tenderly propped up, she hated to see him leave. But Aunt Grace couldn’t bear the thought at all. Her wails echoed through the house like winter gales.
“I can’t even make a decent cup of tea. Whatever am I going to do? My dear sister begged me to take care of her little darling and look at what I’ve done.”
Sadie sighed. “It’s all right. Really.” She patted Aunt Grace’s hand.
Arnold sniffed. “I believe I smell lilies. Wasn’t that your aunt’s favorite scent?”
Icy fear swept through Sadie. “Yes.”
Arnold’s Adam’s apple bobbed up and down several times. “With her last breath, she asked me to watch over you.” He ran his finger around the inside of his collar. “But after tonight, I hardly feel I’m doing a thorough job of it.”
When Arnold bent down on one knee and took Sadie’s hand in his own, a thrill tingled up her arm and into her heart.
“You’ve been very kind. You’re the only one in town who knocks on my door anymore.” She touched the springy hairs on the back of his hand and a tremor of excitement ran through her.
“I know.” He lowered his head to kiss her knuckles lightly. His breath fanned her wrist where the pulse raced. Sadie thought she would swoon with happiness.
Aunt Grace stopped wailing. She hiccupped and dabbed away her tears with her lace-edged handkerchief.
“I know I’m a poor dancer,” Arnold began.
“A dreadful dancer,” Aunt Grace agreed.
He cleared his throat. “I’ll try to improve myself—”
“I don’t think I’ll be dancing for a while.” Sadie interjected shyly.
He took a deep breath. “Sadie, would you—” His voice cracked.
“Please go on!” Aunt Grace held up her fan as if she intended to knock the words out of his head.
“—marry me?” He finished in a husky whisper.
Stunned for a moment, Sadie could only nod before she found her voice and answered. “Yes.”
Arnold bent over and kissed her on the lips. She forgot about her ankle completely.
Aunt Grace started wailing again. “Oh that was so beautiful. Much better than Ned’s proposal.”
Arnold glanced up and sniffed the air quite deliberately. “She’s here, isn’t she?”
Sadie started. “You-you know?”
Arnold beamed down his wondrous smile and all her fears vanished. “She fought for her life with more bravery than anyone I’ve ever seen. You’ve always been her most precious possession. It’s not surprising that she decided to remain on this plane with you.”
Aunt Grace dabbed at her eyes again. “I love her dearly.”
“Is she like a shadow, or the shade one experiences from a passing cloud?” he asked.
Sadie shook her head. “No. She’s quite like herself, not at all pale.” She smiled at her aunt. “I suppose she’s different sort of shade.”
Arnold squeezed Sadie’s hand. She decided he had the most marvelous grip, strong and yet gentle.
Aunt Grace lowered her head and covered her eyes. “Ned used to call me his special butterfly. One of a kind, he said.”
Sadie’s throat tightened with emotion. “Why don’t you join him now, Auntie? Arnold will take care of me.”
Aunt Grace gave a ragged sigh. “But you see, I’m not sure how to find him.”
“Why don’t we call for him?” Sadie suggested. “Arnold, help me call for Uncle Ned.”
They all lifted their voices, but it was Arnold who had enough sense to open the front door and holler off into the night. Then the most amazing thing happened. A hoard of butterflies fluttered through the door and hovered around Aunt Grace.
“Oh Ned, you old rascal,” Aunt Grace giggled.
“I can’t see him.” Sadie frowned. “Uncle Ned, where are you?”
“He’s a butterfly, dear—or rather all of these butterflies,” Aunt Grace explained. Then she kissed Sadie on the cheek. “Goodbye, my precious.”
Sadie sobbed. “I’ll miss you terribly.”
In an instant, Aunt Grace changed into a blue butterfly and joined the rest of the beautiful insects as they glided back outside through the open door.
“Most amazing,” Arnold rumbled hoarsely.
“Will you always love me as Uncle Ned loved Aunt Grace?” Tears streamed down Sadie’s cheeks.
Arnold bent down and kissed away her tears as he whispered, “Yes, my sweet.”
Sadie smiled through her tears because she knew Arnold meant exactly what he said.
Thursday, July 19, 2018
A long time ago, my sister worked at the Twin Lights in Highlands, New Jersey. The lighthouse had a nice, little gift section. One of the books for sale was The Williamsburg Cookbook. My sister gave me that cookbook for my birthday. The recipe for Cinnamon Squares turned out to be my favorite. If you like cinnamon, you'll love these sweet treats.
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg, separated
2 cups flour
1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 1/2 cups nuts, chopped
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Grease a large 9 x13 pan.
Cream the butter and sugar. Add the egg yolk and then the dry ingredients.
Press the batter into the pan.
Beat the egg white until foamy and spread it over the batter.
Press on the nuts.
Bake at 325 degrees for 30 minutes. Cut into squares.
Thursday, July 12, 2018
If you're suffering from the heat, take a break to read OUTSIDE BLESSINGS!
Raven Hill Reviews said, "I gave this book 5 stars and would recommend it to anyone who likes Historical Paranormal Romance, especially stories of Halflings and Selkies. Outside Blessings is a must read for those long winter days!"
Maybe for insufferably hot days, too. 😃
Blessings, New Jersey
Selkies snubbed her. Though humans did not know her origins, they often stared at her and whispered behind her back. She never fit in anywhere.
Her sister, Lila, did not care what others thought of her. She had made the decision to embrace everything human. Now she was dead. The authorities in the town of Blessings claimed she committed suicide. The officials glared at Neema with eyes as cold as the frost on the windowpanes while offering their meaningless condolences. They reminded her that such unfortunate events happened regularly at the seaside.
Neema told them Lila was murdered. Though she had been jilted at the altar, she had promised to travel with Neema to visit her aunts and give herself time to sort things out. Lila always kept her promises.
The town’s officials refused to listen to Neema. According to the town’s doctor, the official cause of Lila’s death was drowning. He decided she had been suffering from melancholia since she was supposed to be married on Christmas Eve, but the groom never showed up for the ceremony.
Neema vowed to find Lila’s murderer herself.
The moment the edge of morning appeared as a gray line on the horizon, she dressed as fast as possible. While she dreaded going out into the bitter winter weather, she intended to clear her sister’s name no matter what it took. In what seemed like the ultimate injustice, her sister had been buried outside the graveyard—in fact, outside of Blessings—because suicide was considered murder. In the opinion of most of the people in the town, her sister went straight to hell.
Neema’s eyes grew misty, but she had no time to wallow in grief. When she yawned, her breath made a cloud in her cold, third floor room. Still, she considered herself fortunate to have
shelter—even a third-floor icebox in the Courts’ resplendent, fifteen room cottage on a dune overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Her sister’s rented garret had already been leased to new owners.
Neema tread the stairs as lightly as possible, praying no one would hear her as she hurried outside. This was the only time she had to herself during the course of the day and she used it to search the crevices in the rocks along the jetty. Despite the freezing temperature, she left the cottage and braved the wind-swept dunes.
As she struggled against the strong gusts, she recalled her sister’s tear-ravaged face while they waited at the altar for hours for the groom to arrive.
“You are beautiful and talented and he is a fool.” Neema reassured her. Still, Gustave’s sudden reluctance to marry seemed unbelievable given the circumstances.
As the eldest son of a railroad magnate, he had inherited a fortune as well as his family’s summer home in Blessings. Injured in a private boating accident, he stayed in the New Jersey seaside town to recuperate long after the summer season ended. He did not know Lila was the one who had saved him from drowning. She had fallen in love with him from that moment and he was besotted with her as well.
Gustave made Lila laugh with his foolishness. He painted their initials in red hearts all along the boardwalk—for which he was fined a large amount of money, but he merely shrugged and hired laborers to remove the paint.
He was not under any suspicion, but the officials were supposedly looking for him. Rumors circulated about town claiming he was now engaged to a wealthy man’s daughter. Some said he had traveled to England and married a princess. Some said he was in a home for the insane.
Neema faced the howling wind as waves lashed against the rock jetty, sending icy spray high into the air. Because the surfmen from the lifesaving station had found her sister’s ice-covered body wedged between the huge granite boulders, she had decided to search for clues there.
Over the past two weeks, she had painstakingly hunted in all the crevices in the massive stones, bit by bit, day by day. She refused to give up. If she did not find anything in the jetty to bolster her case, she would sift through every grain of sand around it.
Taking great care, she walked along the slippery, ice-covered rocks. The tide had gone out so there was less chance she would be drenched with a cascade of salt water. If she returned soaked to the skin, Mrs. Kelleher, the housekeeper at the Courts’ cottage, would have a conniption. Worse, Mr. Court might fire her—despite her skill with a needle.
As soon as she came to the point where she had stopped the day before, she knelt down. She had placed a sturdy piece of driftwood into a crevice to mark the spot. She pulled out the wood and slid her thinly gloved hand into the space. Searching all around the huge gray stone, she found nothing of importance other than bits of shells, splinters of wood, and seaweed. She crept to the next stone and repeated the process.
From out in the water, she heard a sharp bark.
“Go away, Seamus!” she called back. Seamus annoyed her. He had wanted to mate with her the past two seasons, but she refused him—as had all the Selkie females. He was obnoxious to every one of them. Since he failed to attract a mate, he had been banished to the bachelors’ island. She avoided him much as she would a shark.
He barked again in a more strident manner. This time he sounded much closer.
She pulled her hand out of the crevice and glared at him. His nearness unsettled her. He sat on a low, flat rock not ten feet from her, bobbing his head up and down. She turned away, refusing to communicate with him. His unwelcome distraction hampered her progress.
She glanced toward the east where the sun rose above the horizon. Soon the whole household would be up and she would be missed. Clamping her teeth together, she plunged her hand into another frigid crevice. She had only a quarter of an hour at best and she must not waste it even though her fingers were numb with the cold and she shivered uncontrollably.
Seamus continued barking, but she kept at her task. As she finished sliding her fingers around one boulder, she went on to the next. This would have to be the last one for today, and she would be forced to run all the way back to the cottage to make it in time.
The bell in the church tower tolled the hour. She wanted to cry, for she must leave and she had gained nothing toward finding an answer for Lila’s death. Gathering up her courage, she set her chin defiantly. She would not be defeated. She stood, turned, and cautiously stepped along the boulders to make her way back to the beach.
In the golden beams of the morning, she caught the glint of something inside a crevice only three feet from Seamus. Had he seen it, too? Is that why he had been so insistent? Or was it a trick?
She grabbed her sturdy piece of driftwood, intending to shove him away if he came close to her. Keeping one eye on Seamus, she bent down. He barked, growled, and lowered his head.
“If you bite me, I will clobber you with this stick,” she threatened. Then in one swift
movement, she scooped up the bright bauble.
Her heart thundered as she opened her hand and stared at it. It was Lila’s silver heart
locket—the one Gustave had given to her on her birthday. Lila’s initials were engraved on the surface, so there could be no doubt.
She trembled as emotion swamped her like a giant wave. With knees too weak to hold her, she sank upon the hard, cold granite. Her chest tightened as she realized she sat in perhaps the very spot where her sister had met her doom.
She tried to open the tiny clasp with her frozen fingers, but she could not. A small sob escaped her lips.
Seamus inched closer, but she was too distraught to care.
“What are you doing there? Can’t you see the sign? Don’t climb on the rocks.” A deep voice shouted at her. “Seals bite! Move away so I can get rid of that creature!”
Neema’s heart quailed when she saw the man holding a pistol not twenty feet from her. Beside him stood a giant, hairy dog, the lifesaving station’s St. Bernard.
Panic gripped her. “Don’t shoot!”
“Move away from the seal.” The man aimed the gun at Seamus. “Those beasts can crush shells with their teeth.”
“Put that gun away!” she shouted.
Seamus wriggled away and slid into the water.
The man and the dog clambered up onto the rock wall.
“Are you crazy?” he shouted at her.
“What if you missed him and shot me?” Neema fired back.
“You should have listened to me.” The insignia on his uniform marked him as one of the
surfmen of the lifesaving station.
“That seal didn’t hurt me.” She gave him her fiercest glare and managed to get to her feet
though her knees still quaked. The surfman’s rugged face would have been pleasing but for the livid scar across his cheek which went all the way to his chin. She stared at it and wondered if it went further down along his neck, but she could not tell for a thick scarf lay wrapped around his throat.
“Seals attack without warning.”
“Only when they feel threatened,” she retorted. Her hands clenched into tight fists.
“What if he dragged you into the water? You weigh less than half as much as that creature.
You’d make a good breakfast.” The young man stood a head taller than her. She looked up into eyes the same color as the aqua sea—unusual and fascinating. A tingle crept up her spine.
He’s human, she reminded herself. Humans were unreliable at best and often dangerous. They had no regard for animals of any kind. She ground her teeth together. Yes, she was half human but she couldn’t help that. Look what happened to Lila. She trusted humans too much.
“Seals are interested in fish, clams, octopus, and other ocean fare,” she stated. She was well aware Seamus had another agenda in mind, which had nothing to do with food. She hoped he returned to the seal’s bachelor island and stayed there.
She slid the small, silver heart into the deepest recesses of her pocket.
“Those creatures appear harmless with their big eyes, but they are sly, wicked, and never to be trusted.” The deep rumble of his voice seemed to vibrate right through her.
“I know that seal.” That much was true, though Seamus wasn’t a friend. In fact, she had no friends in the pod. Although, she did have her two caring aunts.
“Seals are wild animals.” The young man growled as fiercely as Seamus and she bristled with indignation. “For your own safely, stay away from them and do not climb on these rocks. The sign is there for a reason. If you ignore the warning, you will be fined.”
“It says nothing about a fine on the sign.”
“Article 587 clearly states...”
She rolled her eyes. He was the most annoying kind of human, all wrapped up in rules and
regulations. Arguing with him would be pointless. Whirling about she intended to leave but the huge dog blocked her path. The animal sat on his haunches and studied her. She feared most dogs, especially large ones who easily detected her anxiety, but this one had often visited Lila, who always gave him a treat of some sort. He displayed a measure of patience she rarely saw in canines. With his sad, dark eyes, she sensed his condolences for her sister’s death. However, she couldn’t be sure for she had never learned to communicate with dogs. Most of them wanted to bite her.
“Come,” the man ordered.
The dog heaved a sigh and, despite his massive size, he deftly moved around Neema to stand at the man’s side.
Relieved, she picked her way carefully over the ice-encrusted boulders until the church bell rang again and her heart quailed. She was very late now and could expect a reprimand the moment she stepped in the door. If Mr. or Mrs. Court saw her, she might be dismissed on the spot.
She hoisted her skirts and ran. Jumping down to a wide, flat slab of granite, her foot slid. She screamed as she fell, but then...all went black and she knew nothing.
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