Thursday, March 31, 2016

Mantraps for Trespassers

A few months ago I read an old Catherine Cookson novel, The Girl, and I am currently rereading Victoria Holt's The Legend of the Seventh Virgin. Both are set in the 1800s and both have scenes in which a mantrap disables one of the characters. The scenes in the books are rather gruesome. 

Mantraps are mechanical devices used to catch trespassers and prevent poaching. The poachers were the poor who did not have enough to eat and the mantraps were set on the estates of the wealthy. The use of such an instrument is another sad example of man's inhumanity to man since the victim of such a trap was often maimed for life afterwards--if he lived. 

You can read more about mantraps and see photos at or at

Monday, March 28, 2016

Surgery in the Old Days

Surgery in the old days had a very poor success rate. This is a doctor's amputation kit from 1822, it isn't much different from the tools used by the hero in my historical, PATRIOT'S PRIDE. My story is set in 1784, and the hero, Derrick Fortune, is very familiar with the use of the saw. He attended lectures at the School of Medicine in Philadelphia. However, when the Revolutionary War broke out, he and most of his fellow students along with the faculty  were pressed into service to tend to the wounded.

Derrick was quick with the saw, but despite his best efforts many of his patients died. In fact, only a third of those who went through an amputation lived. They died of infection. No one knew about bacteria in those days. (You can read a brief overview here:

After the war, Derrick decides to go to England to study with John Hunter, a renowned surgeon. (You can read a brief summary of John Hunter's life here: Derrick hopes to find a way to prevent sepsis and he believes science holds the key.

It is on the ship that Derrick meets Margaret. The two clash immediately since she, like many of her female counterparts during that time, used herbs and various concoctions to aid in healing family members. She abhorred bloodletting. He believed in its efficacy in many diseases.

I have a board at Pinterest with more examples of Antique Medical equipment. You can find it here:
Follow Penelope's board Antique Medical Apparatus on Pinterest.

You can read more about PATRIOT'S PRIDE at


Check out the wonderful reviews at Amazon, too!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Talking Love With Lisa J. Lickel

My guest blogger today is Lisa J. Lickel, another Prism Book Group author with her own true life story about love. 

Lisa J. Lickel
From the time boys became more than “tag” targets I was never without someone of the opposite sex to hang out with, call on the phone, escort me to dances or movies, even when Mom was the chauffeur. I was a drama queen flirt, histrionic friend, and disingenuous church group groupie. I’d love to say it changed in an instant when as a middle teen the Holy Spirit provided the answer to that infinite question of whether Christ was for real. Decades later, I am still working out who I am on many levels. That story won’t get the final edit until it’s over.

In between, I went to college and joined not one, but two Christian groups, fell in love with the music, studying anything and everything, and the boy with the wispy blond mustache and highwater pants from one of the faith groups who prayed with me for John Denver’s soul. Seriously. We won’t know for a while if poor John received the benefit of our intervention. When the mustached boy didn’t run screaming after meeting my family for the first time when we got snowed in and ate turkey three days in a row, and his dad laughed in good humor when I dropped and broke dishes on the way from the table to the sink the first time I met his folks, I knew things would work out fine.

Two grown up children and an odd assortment of grands—girls, boys, and kitties—later, life is full circle as our oldest son heeded the call to seminary and now serves as area director for the many branches of the campus faith organization his dad and I attended. Son number two followed in his father’s footsteps, attempting to encourage a better world through public education. “Love is not proud” is not an easy description to avoid when it comes to introducing family.

Love has shown me all the attention I need has always surrounded me, filled me, poured out of me in ways I don’t have to control or manipulate, or understand. The Lord of life is in charge. My job is to leave behind a story that boasts only of God’s great mercy and grace exemplified in what He has done for me.

Check out Lisa’s contribution to Prism Book Group’s new Love Is series…

Everything About You
“Love is not proud…” 1 Corinthians: 13:4

She needs a movie set miracle, he needs cash...can a farmer morph into a movie star in five days? 

If Shelly has her way, Danny will become America’s next heartthrob and she’ll get her own promotions company. He’s already gorgeous, a little naive, and needs to work on that accent. To Danny, Shelly is on the pompous side, but holds the key to his real dreams...if he can figure out all the rules, say the right things for the daily vlog session, keep his heart strings in place, dodge Shelly’s vicious former boyfriend and the movie star diva. 

Shelly’s about to lose a lot more than her heart if she can’t get a handle on her wounded pride and learn who to trust.

Monday, March 21, 2016

The Cover Model

At the Liberty States Fiction Writers conference this past weekend I met the young woman who modeled for the cover of Irons In The Fire. Angelina Cavanaugh sat with me at the book fair and chatted about her life. Her lovely image now graces far more than two hundred book covers at this point. She has delightfully curly hair, which she said took her three hours to straighten when it came time to model for the cover of my book.

It was a real pleasure to meet her. I'll have to write about a heroine with curly brown hair in another book. :-)

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Man of Her Dreams . . . and Her Biggest Nightmare

Deborah M. Piccirelli is another Prism Book Group author. Her book Love Comes Calling has received wonderful reviews. Read some of them below.

Deborah M. Piccurelli’s book, Love Comes Calling, is a delightful read! I loved reading every line and plot twist of this story. The characters are endearing, the plot captivating and the story not only well-written but unique! By writer@heart

I love it when a story captures me right from the start, and Love Comes Calling by Deborah Piccurelli did just that. . . . Deborah Piccurelli has created a lovely story that is so much more than just a Christian romance. It’s a story of how a person can change and be transformed by God’s forgiveness and love. It’s also a story of hope, grace, forgiveness, and overcoming fears and obstacles. The author has masterfully woven together all of these elements resulting is an absolutely beautifully love story that is a joy to read. By Dali

What an awesome story! Honestly, I didn’t want to put this story down — it held my interest from beginning to end. By Donna's BookShelf

Deborah M. Piccurelli writes with just enough prayer and God to make it real without 
overdoing. Love Comes Calling has a perfect combination of romance and Christianity 
with likeable characters and a good plot. It was easy to become a part of the book and 
cheer on both Derek and Charlie. Love Comes Calling is a great book for both young and 
old and would make a fabulous Lifetime movie. Love Comes Calling is a winner that will 
leave you smiling and feeling warm and fuzzy. 
Reviewed by Trudi LoPreto for Readers' Favorite

Visit Deborah's website at www.deborahmpiccurelli 
Read more about her book at PRISM BOOK GROUP or buy it now at AMAZON.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Chapter One from KISS OF BLARNEY

It's almost St. Patrick's Day! Below is the beginning of KISS OF BLARNEY, my story about Ula, an Irish princess hidden in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. Shay, the hero of the tale, is burdened by geise, a set of personal rules which must be obeyed. Otherwise misfortune or even death could result.

Chapter One 
Shay could swear someone was watching his every move. A prickly sensation lingered along his shoulders, and he rubbed the back of his neck while standing at the bar in Paddy’s Pub in Green Creek, New Jersey--a half a world away from his birthplace in Ireland.
He now called Green Creek home, but he often felt as though his Irish heritage had followed him there. No doubt, the blame lay with his geise. His da had insisted that as a descendent of the Irish kings, Shay must be given geise--even though he happened to be living in the twenty-first century. All the legendary Irish kings had been given geise, a set of rules tailored for the individual, which must be obeyed. 
If a man did not conform to the geise, it was said that misfortune or even death could result. 
Most of the time, Shay considered his situation absurd. Being related to a bunch of illustrious, long gone--as well as bloodthirsty--Irish kings did not put bread on the table. Becoming a mason had been a far more lucrative career for him. Nevertheless, his father had ingrained the geise into his mind and Shay could not rid his thoughts of them. Since there was a blizzard outside, and he was in a pub, one commandment in particular came to mind. 
Thou shalt not drink strong liquor when snow blankets the sod. Shay wiped the cold sweat from his brow as the echo of his father’s warning kept him on edge despite the fact that he opted to drink beer. 
However, he decided his unease could also be due to the current situation at the pub. Tonight, stranded parade marchers jammed the largest Irish pub on the Jersey Shore. Green Creek’s famous St. Patrick’s Day Parade had been cancelled at the last minute due to the major snowstorm. As the white stuff continued to pile up, the marchers bided their time drinking whatever Paddy had to offer while his supply dwindled with each passing moment. The town’s electricity had gone off at one in the afternoon and everything had come to a standstill. Shay noted that several of the patrons were completely plastered, and he knew drink could bring out the worst in people.
...misfortune or even death could result. 
Taking a small sip from his beer, he narrowed his eyes and glanced around at the tables now illuminated only by candles. 
“What are you dreaming about, man?” Shay’s buddies, Trevor and Liam, slapped him on the back--none too lightly, but Shay’s muscles had been fused into steel by his years as a mason so it did not hurt. 
“I’m dreaming of my one hundred twenty chimneys,” Shay lied. “Aye. I’d be out there now laying the footings if it wasn’t for this rotten weather.” 
“You’ve a guaranteed fortune.” Trevor brightened. “It’s only fair you’ll be remembering your old friends with another round of beers--we who knew you when all’s you had was a shabby suitcase and a cockamamie story about being a descendent of kings.” 
Shay glared at his friend and hardened his tone. “You’ll not be making fun of my father’s tale.” 
From his stricken look, it appeared Trevor realized he had ruined his chances for a free beer. “It’s not everyday we have someone walking into this pub, getting drunk and telling us he’s related to royalty.” 
“I was down on my luck that day and a wee bit homesick as well,” Shay admitted. “I’m thinking now you didn’t mean to get me drunk that day, but I hadn’t had a bite to eat.”

Liam shoved a bowl of pretzels right under Shay’s nose. “We were only helping out a newcomer to our fair town.”

Shay reached for the pretzels. His father had been an honest, hard-working man--and if he liked to tell fairytales he wasn’t much different from the rest of the Devlins. They all liked to think there was magic hidden beneath every blade of grass in Ireland. There were those in his clan who even claimed to be descendants of the Tuatha De Danaan. Funny thing was, most of the old Irish families believed the same nonsense. 
Still, some nights here in New Jersey, so far from Ireland, when the moon was full and the air was soft with mist, even Shay longed for a bit of that old enchantment. However, there was no mist outside tonight--just snow--tons of it. The nerves bunched up in his shoulders. 
“Too much time in the pub and we’ll all be seeing leprechauns.” Trevor gave a hearty laugh. 
“Shay’s worked hard these past two years and a hard working man deserves to get drunk now and then. Especially, when he’s got his fortune made.” Liam grinned. 
“You’re right.” Shay raised his glass toward his friends. “We’ll be forgetting the tough times today. Paddy, another round.”
Paddy, the owner of the pub, shoved a mug toward him. Shay glared at the green liquid inside. Squinting, he held his drink closer to the pale light coming from the battery lantern on the bar. “And what are you doing giving me this evil-colored potion?” 
“That, me boy, is in honor of the day,” Paddy announced. “It’s green beer.” 
Shay detected a stony look in Paddy’s eyes. However, with the feeble lantern light, the flickering candles and the two beers Shay had already consumed, his eyesight could be suffering from more than simple strain. 
“I’ll be asking for a hearty pint of Guinness, if you want to be celebrating good St. Patrick.” 
“In America, green is the color for everything reminding us of the old sod.” A note of annoyance came across in the pub owner’s words. To be sure, his reserves must be getting low.
“They’ll not be knocking back such a putrid looking beverage in Ireland today.” 
“Then you can be going back there if you’re not liking the customs here.” Paddy’s jowls vibrated with an ominous tremor from his frayed nerves. The storm continued to rage while all the candles on the tables melted into small stubs that would soon burn out. Still, none of the patrons took the opportunity to leave. 
“It tastes the same as any cheap lager,” Trevor licked his lips after downing a bit of the brew. “Close your eyes and you won’t be noticing any difference.” 
“I’ve got some green bagels to stave off your hunger before you’ll be heading home.” Paddy’s meaning couldn’t be missed. “I’m having a sale on the bagels. Three for a dollar.” 
“Must be getting stale,” Liam muttered low. 
Shay shrugged his shoulders. His dog, Bran, would be wanting some company on this bitter evening and a hearty blaze in the fireplace would provide a great deal more warmth than the vile beer in Paddy’s Pub. At any rate, he’d be keeping himself out of harm’s way. 
He turned, intending to bid his buddies goodnight when the door to the pub opened, letting in a blast of wind that blew out some of the candles and sent many of the others wavering. A cry of protest went up from some tartan-clad customers nearest the door when they were left in darkness. 
Shay let out a laugh. “Maybe we have a banshee coming to haunt us for drinking such a foul brew.”

Clad in a long cloak, a petite figure moved toward the bar. The face of the stranger lay in shadow under a capacious hood, and at her side she carried a large, old-fashioned tapestry bag. Upon nearing the bar, her pale hand reached up and swept off the hood, unleashing a mass of rich red, curly hair that glinted in the candlelight. Dazzled by the sight, Shay blinked. 
“I don’t think she’s a banshee,” Liam whispered with a note of awe in his voice.

Read more of this tale at Amazon, Smashwords, or Barnes & Noble!

Friday, March 11, 2016

What I Learned From Woodblock Printing

I took a course in woodblock printing once. Above is a woodblock I made depicting the lifesaving station at Sandy Hook, N.J. During the semester, I carved out two other woodblocks. I took the course at night in Jersey City, forty-five minutes from my family home via the Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway. I worked teaching first-graders during the day. 

As I was happily carving away at my pine board one night, the professor announced the time for class was almost over. I was working on one section and I wanted to finish it before I had to leave. I dug out slices of wood more quickly and less carefully. My hand slipped. I was using so much force, my hand--with the knife in it--hit the stone table, bounced, and hit my thigh. 

Yipes! One of the other students gave me some BandAids. I quickly cleaned up and drove home. However, the wound continued to ooze. On the way home, I decided a trip to the ER was in order. So I stopped in at the local hospital near home and got a few stitches. 

The wound healed, but I had a hole in my favorite jeans. I embroidered a purple heart on the spot where the knife dug into my thigh. 

I learned two lessons from the incident. The first is that I should never rush to finish anything with a knife in my hand. Second, I decided that woodblock printing was not where my passion lies. I enjoy painting and sketching so much more. But most of all, I love writing. :-)