Thursday, December 27, 2018

Looking Back at 2018

I'm praying for a peaceful 2019 for everyone. For me, 2018 was a vast improvement over 2017. While our oldest daughter's wedding was celebrated in 2017 and that was a joyous occasion, I had radiation treatments in the beginning of that year, which seemed to drain every ounce of energy I possessed. This year I added an app to my phone to prod me into making an effort to improve my physical stamina. I think it helped. However, this year hubby and I spent a lot of time in the hospital with my mother-in-law. I am ever grateful for the ability to crochet because I did a lot of it while waiting in the ER beside my mother-in-law's gurney or while visiting her in her hospital room or in rehab. At ninety-seven years old, my mother-in-law must be made of strong stuff.

Hubby and I didn't go on any grand vacations, but we did visit my northern sister and that was fun. We also went on a wide variety of day trips suggested by Daughter #2 as well. As far as writing goes, I reissued Sea of Hope and the publisher at Pelican Book Group gave Daddy Wanted a new cover. Patriot's Courage is still in the process of being published. It has gone through one edit, but there will be more. I have been working on a contemporary romance in the meantime.

I put together photos from my journey through 2018. It's seven minutes long even though I left some photos out. πŸ˜† So if you've got seven minutes you can browse through the exciting life of an author.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Christmas Magic

"Christmas Magic" was a winner in the 1992 holiday story contest sponsored by the Asbury Park Press. There are no cellphones in this story because at the time I wrote it few people owned cellphones. The story is actually based on an a real incident--but that happened during the summertime, not at Christmas. Still, if the little white-haired woman wasn't Mrs. Claus, she was certainly an angel in disguise. πŸ’•πŸ’•

Beverly kneaded the satiny dough. With its pungent bits of candied citrus, this bread was destined to grace some elderly person's table for tomorrow's Christmas dinner.

Lucy, Beverly's 7-year-old, patted her own little mound of dough. "Why couldn't we go to a party like Daddy and Mark?"

"Daddy's office always has a party every Christmas Eve and Mark wanted to get together with his friends. They'll be home all day tomorrow." Beverly nestled each loaf tenderly inside the bread pans. "And I promised to make this bread."

A pout formed on Lucy's lips as she pummeled her dough. "I want to go someplace! This is boring!"
Beverly frowned as the phone rang. But Lucy scrambled off into the family room. She came back several minutes later smiling proudly.

"Mrs. Roper is sick. I told her it would be easy for us to carry a hundred loaves of bread with our minivan."

Beverly groaned. It would take 45 minutes to drive to the distribution center. One way. She glanced around. The tree, centered in the front window, twinkled merrily. All the presents had been wrapped and placed under the tree.

"Next time, ask me first." Beverly sighed.

Lucy's mood did not improve despite the heavenly aroma of 100 loaves of fresh baked bread in the car. She didn't even want to listen to her favorite tape of Christmas carols.

"Robert told everyone in the class yesterday that there is no Santa Claus."

A pang squeezed Beverly's heart as she drove. The nerve of that rotten Robert.

"Miss Jensen took Robert out of the room and talked to him. She was very angry."

"Did he apologize after that?"

"Oh sure. But then when we went outside on the playground he told us we were all a bunch of babies."

Beverly thought of the cookies and milk beside the fireplace. Did they have to lose the magic?

"What did you say to that?" Beverly's throat felt tight.

"I told him to stop." Lucy tilted up her chin. "I told him he should be ashamed of himself. He made Sara and Jessica cry. And anyway, he believes in Dracula."

But Beverly was afraid to ask Lucy if she still believed in Santa. So she didn't.

The car seemed to have a black cloud in it on the way home. Even the comforting smell of bread hadn't lingered on when all those loaves left. The country road had few streetlights, too. When the car's engine suddenly stopped, Beverly had a moment of panic before she saw a liquor store just ahead.

The minivan had just enough power to coast into the parking lot.

Beverly tried starting it again but it refused to kick over.

"Hey, lady. Sounds like you forgot to put gas in it." One of the liquor store's customers commented as Beverly got out of the car. Another fellow snickered in agreement.

"I have a half a tank of gas." Beverly informed them through her clenched teeth. She would let her husband know that male chauvinism was alive and well.

Beverly called home and left a message on the machine. She left a message on her husband's answering machine at work. She left another message on her neighbor's answering machine.
She decided to try starting up the car again. Maybe she had flooded it.

"I'm cold," Lucy whined.

"At least it isn't snowing--yet." Beverly glanced up at the black sky.

A battered Toyota pulled up beside them and a white-haired woman got out.

"Having trouble?" she inquired as she tapped on the glass.

Beverly rolled down her window. The woman had to be less than 5 feet tall.

"It just died in the middle of the road and it won't start up again. And I have plenty of gas in the tank."

"Try starting it up again." The woman ducked under the hood as Beverly ground on the starter again.

"Keep going!" The woman called out.

Maybe Beverly would ruin the starter or the battery or some other vital organ, but right now she wanted to get home. So she turned the key and held her breath.

The engine caught.

Beverly's thanks seemed so inadequate.

The white-haired woman wiped her hands on an old cloth hanky. "Carburetor. Better get it checked."

For a long time as Beverly and Lucy continued homeward, they both listened attentively to the sound of the engine.

Finally Lucy said, "That was Mrs. Santa Claus."

Beverly smiled. The magic was still there. "I think you're right."

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Cape Cod Cranberry Pie

This is a quick, easy treat. I bake it every Christmas (except for the one year when we did not have a working oven). It's delicious! While I enjoy it plain, ice cream or whipped cream on top is nice, too.

I originally discovered the recipe in my New York Times Heritage Cook Book, but the recipe can now be found easily online.

2 cups cranberries
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup chopped nuts
2 eggs
1 cup flour
1/2 cup melted butter
1/4 cup canola oil

1. Preheat oven to 325F.
2. Spread the cranberries in the bottom of a well-greased ten inch pie plate.
3. Sprinkle with one half cup of the sugar and the nuts.
4. Add the remaining sugar to the eggs, beating well. Beat in the flour, butter, and shortening. Pour over the cranberries.
5. Bake about 1 hour, or until crust is golden brown.

The pie goes fast--so you better make two of them. :^)

Thursday, December 06, 2018

The Perfect Christmas or How to Deal With Holiday Stress

Doesn't that look like a perfect Christmas? I took that photo the Christmas after my mother died, which was a sad time. Unhappy and tragic things happen all year long, but during the holidays when we are all supposed to be jolly, grief can be especially painful.

I know part of the problem is stress. There's just too much to do this time of year and everyone feels compelled to jump in and get it all done. In addition to the usual tasks, there's decorating, purchasing gifts, extra parties to attend, and family gatherings that often create tension. Everyone strives to keep up but trying to do too much at one time is not healthy.

Over the years, I've learned to cut back. We really don't have to use the fancy dishes. We don't need to serve three desserts and five side dishes. We don't have to throw a grand party for all our friends.

Then there's the worrying. Hey folks, you are not supposed to worry. It won't change a thing. Jesus said so.
He said to [his] disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life and what you will eat, or about your body and what you will wear. For life is more than food and the body more than clothing. Notice the ravens: they do not sow or reap; they have neither storehouse nor barn, yet God feeds them. How much more important are you than birds! Can any of you by worrying add a moment to your life-span? If even the smallest things are beyond your control, why are you anxious about the rest?" (Luke 12:22-26 NAB)
So stop worrying. Or at least, make a conscious attempt to do so.

This year on the day before Thanksgiving a wave of anxiety swept over me. I expected it. One very tragic memory often throws me off at some point during this season. My brother was in the Air Force when his plane crashed in 1973 right before Christmas. Each year since then, there will be a time when a pall settles on my heart. But I've learned how to get over it. Distraction can be a good thing. That day, I got out an old cookbook and baked two lovely loaves of bread. Simply the aroma of that bread rising in the oven was enough to lift my mood.

The next day, after I put the turkey in the oven, I got a call that my mother-in-law was being shipped off to the hospital with a suspected case of shingles. Hubby picked up our daughter at the train station and then they both went off to check in on his mother in the ER.

I stayed home, basted the turkey, sliced my beautiful bread (also ate some), and prepared the feast. My mother-in-law was settled into a hospital room and received excellent care. Hubby and our daughter came home in time to eat the dinner. Our other daughters and their spouses joined us and we had a pleasant time chatting. Everything worked out just fine.

If you're having a difficult time dealing with holiday stress, even the Mayo Clinic has advice for you. Read it at

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

A Mystery for Christmas

My guest today is Anita Klumpers. Her latest book is part of Pelican Book Group's Christmas Extravaganza. You won't want to miss this holiday mystery. It will be on sale on Saturday, December 1, 2018. 

Dinah loves Christmas. She loves history, the old Wagner House, and the elderly women working to preserve its heritage. She loves almost everything except Mick Wagner, her childhood nemesis. 

But if they want to save the Wagner House and solve a mystery that's been hiding in the attic for almost eighty years, they'll have to join forces. And they have to do it quickly, before one of them dies trying.

Anita Klumpers is Midwest born and bred, except for a brief and exhilarating few years in Denver when she was small. She received a teaching degree sometime in the previous millennium and used it mostly to homeschool her three sons. These days Anita chases her grandchildren around, waving books at them and suggesting everyone cuddle up for a good story. 
            Good stories are her passion, especially if they are well-written, have a dose of humor, just a tickle of romance, and a decidedly non-gory mystery. On the other hand, she lists “Frankenstein” and “Fahrenheit 451” as two of her favorite books. Go figure.
            Creating skits was Anita’s first foray into writing. Always up for a challenge and a reason to postpone defrosting the freezer, she tried her hand at a full-length novel. It only took five years, but she did it!
            Daily (honestly) she marvels at how much she loves coffee and her husband; her family, friends and church. Even more, she is astonished at how much she is loved by her Lord and Savior. 
            Her blog is “The Tuesday Prude” ( and she’s had two books published by Pelican/Prism Books (“Winter Watch” and “Hounded.”)
“Christmas Passed” is due December 2018 and “Buttonholed” is contracted with Pelican/Prism Books.

Link to Christmas Passed


Barnes and Noble:

Thursday, November 15, 2018

What Happened to Calm Political Discussions?

I called my uncle the other day--my last remaining uncle. In the photo above, he's the baby. My father is holding him on the back of the bicycle. My uncle misses my father--as do I. My uncle was bemoaning the fact that there are no calm political discussions anymore. My father was a Democrat. My uncle used to be a Democrat but is now a Republican. Nevertheless, he and my father could have a discussion when it came to politics. Since they were both brought up in Jersey City, politics was an important part of any conversation. Yet, even though they were on opposing sides, they never got mad at each other. They never yelled. They listened to each other and presented their views. There was no acrimony.

It is sad that our country has become so divided. With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I thought I'd pass around an article I found that might help some families deal with their differences. A political discussion can be calm if both parties abide by the rules of civility. Please read for more information.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Defending the First Amendment

We live in a free country. The First Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees Americans freedoms that many other countries do not have. Here, people can worship as they choose. They can speak freely. The government does not run the news sources. Americans are allowed to protest unjust laws.

We are very, very fortunate. However, it is important never to allow our freedoms to be cast off or to take them for granted. I learned early about the freedom of the press, because my father was a journalist. Dad spent his entire career in journalism except for a stint in the Air Force during World War II. By the time I learned to read I was aware of the dangers of liable and slander. I heard stories first hand of the drama of stopping the presses. I was aware of deadlines and the importance of punctuation. I visited the newspaper offices where my father worked and learned a great deal about putting a newspaper together. I had respect for the work my father and his colleagues did every day in getting the news out into the world.

The world has changed considerably since my father retired. Newspapers have lost circulation and many have gone under. Yet, we get the news faster than ever before. The news is available from many sources now--from the internet, from television, from Twitter, from self-proclaimed "experts" on blogs.

Often, the news is slanted toward one view or another. It is difficult to know who to trust. A graph is available online indicating the bias of the various news media outlets HERE. 

I am grateful that there is a free flow of information. Coaches cannot get away with mistreating the members of their teams. Policemen cannot get away with undue brutality. Priests cannot abuse young children.

New windows are open to the truth.

Below are some photos taken of my father in action back in the heyday of his journalism career. You can see him wielding his soft-leaded pencil while juggling a paper pad during interviews. Years later, tiny tape recorders replaced the pencil and pad, outdating the axiom: the pen is mightier than the sword.

Ray and a colleague from a rival paper at work in a room with bars on the window. It probably was in a police station.
Newsmen and a woman scribe from several metropolitan papers, including Ray on the left, take notes as the center of attention responds to questions on a now long forgotten subject.
Chief of detectives and uniformed officers protect back of unidentified man in crowd of unlookers and reporters. With the cops there, the gathering probably had something to do with unrest on the Hoboken waterfront.
Ray outside a police stable while researching a feature on mounted policemen.

In the Fifties, no respectful white collar worker would show up for work without a tie, ironed shirt, and a jacket. Ray was no different, as shown here.

Ray waiting on the deck of an ocean liner to interview some celebrity or newsmaker. Since the Holland-America Line docked in Hoboken, part of his job was to board the ships from overseas and talk to passengers chosen by the news editor.

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Into the Zone

The moon slips out of the clouds as easily as I get into the zone, or as some people call it, the flow state. I credit my mother with showing me how it's done by her example. As an artist, she was able to ignore distractions, focus on her work, and had confidence in her ability.

I paint and draw as well. I'm not afraid to put a pencil to the paper. I can study an image and work until I'm happy with my own depiction of a scene. If it's not to my liking, I can fix it. Or start over. But while I'm busy with my task, I am completely absorbed in it. It's a nice way to forget all the other clutter in my brain.

The same process occurs when I'm writing. I sit in my favorite chair, tune out the rest of the world, and type out the story in my head. I know it won't be perfect the first time around, but I have faith that eventually the plot will unfold and my characters will succeed in their happy ever after. Of course, it helps that I've done this a number of times. But way back in the summer of 1987 when I was determined to write the book that kept whirling around in my brain, I sat down at the dining room table with my old manual typewriter and zoned out until I had a stack of papers and a finished story.

Nowadays, typing is a lot quieter with the computer, but my process for writing is basically the same. Although, I sit in a comfy chair and not at the dining room table.

If I'm working on a more challenging crochet pattern, I find I slip into the zone, too. Keeping track of where I am and counting my stitches takes concentration!

I feel sorry for people who can't slip into the flow state, because it's a nice place to be. I know many folks get into the zone when they're involved in athletic pursuits such as running. Hubby gets into his zone with music. I found a blog with a whole list of possible activities that may contribute to this rewarding mental state. You can find that blog at

I suggest you give it a try. It's worth it. πŸ˜€

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Putting Our Hearts Into Our Books

That’s Carol Lee Mahler on the left. This was her first booksigning at the NJ Romance Writers’ Conference. She’s been a member of NJRW for many years, so this was an especially sweet conference for her because she was selling copies of her first published book. I bought one. πŸ˜€

I’m on the right, looking like a general with several pins from past conferences decorating my badge. I attended excellent workshops and listened to inspiring speeches by Virginia Kantra and Jane Porter. But I also had the opportunity to chat with several writing friends.

Writing is a very solitary task, but a writer doesn't have to suffer a lonely existence. Being part of a group of writers helps--a lot. As authors, we put our hearts into every book we write. We care about the characters we put in our books. We want them to have their happy ever after and we just can't be satisfied until they do.

And then we send our book children out into the world! 😘

At lunch, I won one of the raffle baskets. This one was put together by Judy Kentrus. In addition to her book, Tea in Time, the basket contained a lovely little teapot, a few varieties of tea, biscuits, shortbread, and Ghirardelli chocolate. Delicious!

I can't wait until the next conference!

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Another good place to sketch...

I found the Social Security office to be a great place to sketch. Once, many years ago, I sat there with one of my daughters for three hours. I had brought a book along, but I doubted I would get a chance to read it--and I didn't. There were too many other distractions in the waiting room. It was fortunate I brought along my sketch book. The Social Security waiting room was just as good as the beach for sketching--nobody moved much at all.

My daughter and I chatted with a veteran who was trying to get disability payments so he could go to school. He needed a pen to fill out a form and he could not find a pen in the waiting room--so I gave him one I had gotten from one of my writer friends and I told him to keep it, but he didn't. So I really did not get the chance to advertise another romance writer. Still, it was interesting to hear someone else's life story. I can always use another character in one of my books.

Perhaps the Social Security office isn't as slow as it once was. Nowadays, people have the opportunity to complete many transactions online. Still, that day I had good company, interesting conversation, and some practice in quick sketches. It was a good day. 😊

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Ocean Waves

I've always lived near the ocean. I love the smell of briny air--whether it's winter, spring, summer, or fall. I believe a walk on the beach is the antidote for many ills. "The vast majority of water on the Earth's surface, over 96 percent, is saline water in the oceans." ( Of course, humans cannot drink ocean water, but the ocean provides fish, lobsters, clams, shrimp, mussels, and other delicacies humans enjoy.

I feel like I'm standing at the edge of the world when I'm at the beach. However, I would never want to live on the beach. I know the power of an angry ocean and the damage it can do. It is far, far better to live on high ground.

Since I'm a Jersey girl, water figures prominently in many of my books. I got the idea for Sea of Hope while walking on the beach one day. Heaven's Blue came about when my sister's job inspired me to write about a mosquito researcher. Irons in the Fire resulted from frequent rides in hubby's motorboat.  In Daddy Wanted, the heroine's hobby is surfing. I never tried surfing, but I've spend hours watching surfers catch waves--and when there's a storm coming I always go to the beach to watch the daredevil surfers brave the awesome power of the ocean.

Humans are supposed to care for the earth and the environment. It's a job given to us by God. We haven't done very well in obeying that command. The beaches in New Jersey are being swallowed up by the ocean. The storms are becoming more violent. The earth is warming, the ice caps are melting, and I worry that I might soon be living on oceanfront property. As much as I love a walk on the beach, I don't want the ocean at my door.

But I still find the beach a wonderful place to spend an afternoon. I can watch the gulls and the fishermen. I can pick up shells and marvel at their beauty. I can make up more stories to write. It's a great place to relax and simply be.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Old Editions, Inflated Prices

 There are book dealers on Amazon selling my books for outrageous prices. The paper edition of PATRIOT'S HEART is available--brand new--from the publisher for only $13.99. Why pay more for an older edition?

While THE KEEPER'S PROMISE is currently out of print, I plan to reissue it. Even so $60.49 is an awful lot for a paperback. Maybe a hundred years from now, someone might be intrigued and think it's a rare thing, but I doubt it.

I do appreciate book dealers. I've bought some rare out-of-print editions on Amazon, mostly reference books. I often visit used book stores. But I really wonder about these inflated prices.

Still, it's nice to think that someone believes my books are worth so much. However, I'm not the one who will benefit from the sale. 😟

Thursday, September 20, 2018

My Instagram Presentation

I belong to the Art Society of Monmouth County. I joined in order to have some place to display my paintings other than on my own walls. It's a great group. Yesterday, I gave a presentation about using Instagram to promote art. Our meeting place does not have a projector, but I used the television connected to my iPad. 

Many artists are very successful in using Instagram to promote their work. Of course, authors use Instagram, too, and just about everybody else. 😁 Marketing is very important and can be exhausting, but social media is a useful tool in this endeavor. While it's fun to have a show in a gallery and enjoy the reception, an artist can only reach a small group of people. Instagram has 700,000,000 users every month. It's worth signing up and following some like-minded folks. 

Check out what has to say about using Instagram as a promotional tool and remember that their advice can also be used for writers.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

My Big Summer Plans

I had big plans for the summer. After teaching for twenty-five years, I got into the habit of packing everything possible into a few short months. I'm retired now, but I still want to do as much as possible while I don't have to wear a coat and gloves.  I wanted to go on exciting day trips plus visit both of my sisters. I was going to get back to sketching at least once a week. I intended to lay on a blanket on the beach. I planned to read twenty books. My garden needed a makeover and I was determined to make it beautiful. I was going to crochet several prayer shawls.

Oh, and I was going to finish the book I'm writing.

Then the heat and humidity invaded New Jersey. It was unbearable. New Jersey felt like Florida. I can't stand heat or humidity. The mosquitoes love heat and humidity. They turned out to be more vicious than usual. If I stepped outside for five minutes without insect repellent, a horde of mosquitoes feasted on me.

While it is true I may have overplanned, I did accomplish a few of my goals but not all. I visited one sister. I read a couple books. We went on several jolly day trips with Daughter #2. I crocheted several shawls, but I made very little progress on the garden. I went to the beach once but it was like an oven so I didn't stay long.

I realized I was killing too many people in my novel and went to a brainstorming session to decide what to do. I got plenty of suggestions and now I am still fixing that book. That's progress of a sort. Besides, it was cool inside the house with the air conditioning running.

I think I put too much pressure on myself and on the season. Summer is simply too short and my expectations are unrealistic, but the cooler days of autumn have arrived and the mosquitoes will soon depart. Maybe I'll get to do a little gardening before it snows. πŸ˜†

Thursday, September 06, 2018

An Explosion of Crochet

If you’ve read this blog, you know I like to crochet. I started when I was seven years old. I made afghans, scarves, hats, baby sweaters, baby blankets, and crocheted ornaments. Every now and then I’d pick up my crochet hook at various times and start a project. However, it wasn’t until my dear friend came to me one day and asked me to teach her how to make baby hats that I really started to crochet with a purpose. I realized I had a skill that could offer comfort to the suffering.

What followed was an explosion of crochet projects. I haven’t stopped yet. I started a prayer shawl ministry at our church. If you’re interested in using your skills to offer comfort to others go to for more information.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Moon Songs

I was trying to write a few days ago and the moon kept peering down on me from outside my window. It was a beautiful evening with clear skies for a change. I grabbed my camera with the 50x zoom, went outside, leaned up against a tree, held my breath, and pressed the shutter. The moon didn't look so far away anymore. It didn't look cold either. It looked rather lovely.

Happy with my lucky shot, I went back inside and wrote about three hundred more words on my manuscript. But now I'm thinking that somewhere in the book I should have a moonlit scene--and perhaps have one of the characters grab a camera, lean up against a tree, zoom in on the moon, hold his or her breath, and press on the shutter. Art imitating life--sort of.

Just seeing that moon brought back a bunch of wonderful memories of times when our daughters were young and the moon was full. We would travel along in the car (usually on the way home from Grandma and Granddad's house) and sing several old songs about the moon--ancient hits like "My Sweetheart's the Man In The Moon," "Oh Mister Moon," and "I See the Moon." What fun we had! Such simple things in life bring so much joy and provide lasting memories.

So now I think I should have the characters in my book sing a few moon songs, too. 😁

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The Point of View

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

Blooming in the Ruins

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

Excerpt from PATRIOT'S HEART

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
Then, above the sounds of struggle, the sweet lilt of Colleen’s voice singing RΓ³isΓ­n 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. 
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.”

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