Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Why I Get My Flu Shot

      
     Enjoy listening to some madrigals. Whenever I think of madrigals, I think of my first year in college and the reason I always get my flu shot. I'm old and I'm supposed to get a flu shot, but having had the flu once, I never want to suffer through it again. The flu is a nasty virus--even for young people. I got the flu in my freshman year. I was in the prime of my life. But I got sick.
     The day I realized I was getting sick was the day I sang at the Jersey City Woman's Club with our college madrigal choir. I had signed up for the choir because I needed one more credit and I figured it would be fun to sing. We sang songs from the 1500s--all a cappella--in parts. There were lots of fa la la la la's. Our choir sounded great. 
     However, it was very, very hot in the Jersey City Woman's Club and I nearly fainted. The choir director led me to a chair and I sat through the rest of the performance. But I still had to get home, which meant taking a bus to Journal Square, then taking another bus to my hometown, and then walking a mile to the house. It wasn't difficult usually, but there was snow on the ground and it was cold. I was freezing. 
     By the next day, my entire body ached and eating wasn't particularly appealing. The one bright spot was that it was semester break, so I wouldn't miss any classes. 
     My mother mixed up a hot toddy for me, which consisted of some sort of alcohol, hot tea, lemon, and honey. She handed me her concoction every few hours. There wasn't much more she could do for me. I spent my entire semester break in bed and read Hawaii by James Michener whenever I felt like I could keep my eyes open.
     I recovered in time to begin the next semester and was fortunate that I didn't have any complications from the flu. 
    Vaccines are terrific. Doctors can't cure everything, but scientists are figuring out ways to prevent diseases. Get vaccinated!

Thursday, November 10, 2022

A Foggy Day at the Beach

     I took this photo at the North Beach on Sandy Hook last week. I like foggy days at the beach. I could hear the foghorns warning the ships. I like the sound of foghorns. As a child growing up close to the bay, I could hear foghorns on a regular basis. Now I live too far inland. 
     There is an ocean out there but the fog is hiding it in this photo. It reminds me of the future. We can't see it, but it's there. Plenty of people make predictions about what will happen, but no one really knows. They are simply guessing and they are often wrong. 
     The future is out there, but we have today. Make today count. 💗
     
     
 

Thursday, November 03, 2022

Traveling A Cappella

     This is a very old photo of my siblings and I. I am the tall one with the striped shirt. My brother made a very awesome buggy out of scrap lumber, a discarded Christmas display, rope, and old wheels. The engine was environmentally friendly, but it had limits. It worked best going downhill. 😊
     The buggy was just for fun. For genuine transportation, my family used a Rambler station wagon, which is on the right in the photo. My father used that car to get to work and back everyday. We also went to the grocery store, the doctor, and into town. For us in those days, the town was Keyport, which wasn't a big town but it had a bakery, a Chinese restaurant, and a 5 & 10 cent store, Newberry's, which was our favorite store. 
     When Dad took a vacation, we piled into the Rambler and took a long trip out to visit my grandparents in western Pennsylvania and then went into Ohio to see my aunt and cousins. 
     The station wagon did not have air conditioning. My hair became impossibly tangled in the wind whipping through the windows. While the car had a radio, it was difficult to pull in signals when driving through the mountains. Most often we sang our way to my grandparents' house. My mother led the singing. She liked to sing. Since she was in Marines during World War II, we always started off with the Marine's Hymn. They we sang the rest of the military songs, The Army Goes Rolling Along, as so forth. I always get teary-eyed when I hear those songs now. 
     Mom sang popular songs from her youth in the 1920s and the 1930s, too. I grew up knowing a lot of old songs. 
     One summer, I took accordion lessons. My parents rented a small twelve bass accordion and for ten weeks, they paid for me to learn music. When we went out to Pennsylvania that summer, the accordion went with us. I sat all the way in the back of the car with the luggage and played the accordion. That year, we all had accompaniment for our singing.
     The accordion lessons didn't last past the ten weeks. After that, the accordion school insisted my parents had to buy a huge 120 bass accordion for me. It was very expensive and also very heavy. My parents could not afford it. Also, my father took one look at the accordion and did not believe skinny little me could ever manage it. 
     So the next trip out to Pennsylvania was again a cappella, which was fine. We sang all of Mom's favorites and learned them by heart. 
💗💗💗💗💗
     
     

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

The Big Duck


      I visited Long Island last weekend. I've been to Long Island in the past. However, I never saw the Big Duck until this visit. It was a rainy afternoon and not a good day for the beach or for sightseeing. But it was a good day to check out the duck. There's a little gift shop inside. My sister went inside with me. She bought a mug. I bought a duck whistle. I'll have to see if I can attract any ducks with it. 

     Evidently, Long Island was a good place to raise ducks at one point but there's only one duck farm left there now. Instead, Long Island has many wineries. I guess it's easier to grow grapes than it is to raise ducks. I did not go to any of the wineries but my sister pointed them out as we drove past them. She had some of the wine at her house and I got to taste it there.

    Long Island used to have lots of potato farms, too. Now there are very few. 

    Times change. The use of the land changes, too. 

    But I wish I could have seen a bunch of baby ducks. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Guest Post: A DREAM OF CHRISTMAS by Erin Stevenson

My guest today is Erin Stevenson, a former elementary, secondary, and collegiate educator. Writing for the past decade, her longtime faith and experiences of living across America come alive in her books. Erin is recently retired, traveling the country with her dog in a camper, looking for inspiration for her next novels.

Erin's latest release is A DREAM OF CHRISTMAS. 

     The book begins when Finn Donovan answers a late-night knock at the door, there stands Charity Sullivan, the only woman he’s ever loved. He hasn’t seen her since the night nearly seventeen years ago when they shared a magical kiss after a months-long friendship.
     But Charity isn’t alone, and her last name is no longer Sullivan. Her four children are with her, and she’s looking for a place to hide. Her marriage just ended, and her former father-in-law, a powerful, dangerous underworld boss, will stop at nothing to keep her from leaving with his grandchildren.
      As Finn and Charity’s friendship rekindles, Finn’s protective instincts go on high alert. He’s never stopped loving her, but as an upright, God-fearing man, doesn’t want to take advantage of her vulnerability. Charity is drawn to Finn. She dreams of a future for them, but unanswered questions from the past stand between them.
     When Charity receives a phone call telling her that her former father-in-law has discovered her whereabouts, she decides to go on the run again. But Finn isn’t having any of it. He has a Christmas dream of his own, and it won’t come true without Charity and her children.

Now sit back and enjoy an excerpt!

Finn Donovan flipped the sign to Closed, locked the door, and rested his head on the cold glass. He was so exhausted he could barely move. 

He’d made it. He’d survived Thanksgiving. 

Donovan’s restaurant was an institution on Boston’s North End and had been in Finn’s family for four generations. Robbie and Michael Donovan, Finn’s father and uncle, had taken it over from their parents nearly fifty years ago but were now retired. Between them, they had six daughters—Finn’s sister Mia and their five girl cousins—all of whom still lived in the area but were busy wives and mothers with little inclination or time for the restaurant. Finn was the sole proprietor now. 

He pulled away from the door and shuffled to the back, turning off lights as he went. When he entered the saloon doors into the kitchen, a wave of exhaustion slammed into him. 

The kitchen looked like a war zone. 

It was his own fault. Donovan’s had always closed for Thanksgiving until Finn had taken over last year, and his decision to open on the holiday was just one more bone of contention between himself and his dad and uncle, who couldn’t believe he was giving away all that food. Finn insisted that the neighborhood meeting place would give people with no place to go a warm meal and community fellowship. It wasn’t always about the bottom line. 

He’d had help from some of the family today, but once they closed, he shooed them and his crew out. Finn needed to be alone and cleaning the kitchen would be therapeutic for him. 

It would also keep him from having to go upstairs to his dark, lonely apartment with nothing but thoughts of the anniversary of this day to keep him company. 

Finn took a breath and ran a hand through his hair. The kitchen wouldn’t clean itself. He walked out to the soda fountain and grabbed a plastic tumbler. After filling it with ice, he put the cup under the clear soda spigot but then changed his mind. Tonight, he needed caffeine. 

The front door rattled as someone pounded on it. 

Soda splashed out of the cup onto his hand. Finn tipped his head back and closed his eyes. No. He couldn’t serve one more meal. But if someone was in need, he wouldn’t—couldn’t—turn them away.

“Hello! Is anyone there?” A female voice. 

Finn strode to the door, and his heart stopped. A woman stood on the other side of the door, surrounded by four children, all bundled in winter clothing. Two of them were tall, boys. The younger two looked like a boy and a girl. 

“Finn, is that you?”

It couldn’t be. Even in the dim light, in the swirling snow, he’d know those eyes anywhere. 

He wrenched open the door. “Come in, come in.” The little group trooped in, bringing a blast of cold air and flurries with them, and Finn closed it behind them. He switched on the light. 

Charity Sullivan stared back at him, the only girl who’d ever owned his heart. What in the world was she doing here?

Finn was instantly transported back to exactly seventeen years ago when two souls connected in a way that Finn hadn’t experienced since. Over a period of a few months, they’d talked for hours, held hands, and one night, under a gently falling snow, shared a kiss that shimmered with hope and promise. 

One sweet, perfect, magical kiss. 

Finn hadn’t seen her since that night. 

He stood rooted the spot, drinking her in, and she seemed to be doing the same. 


💕💕💕💕💕


You can purchase the book at most ebook distributors:

Barnes & Noble

Amazon

Kobo 

Pelican Book Group

Google Play Books


 

Thursday, October 06, 2022

FREE SHORT STORY: A Shade of Difference


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.

Once, 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.

The End

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Thursday, September 29, 2022

For Halloween, THE COMPANY YOU KEEP on Sale for $0.99

I've reduced the price of THE COMPANY YOU KEEP to $0.99 for the month of October. This book has a ghost, a billionaire, plenty of evil entities, and a terrible secret. 
😱
Here are snippets of reviews from the past:

A reader on Goodreads said, "This book surprised me. I though it was just a romantic novel, but I was wrong. Besides romance, includes other genres like suspense , paranormal and crime. I couldn't put it down until I finished it. I really enjoyed the story!"


Diane Tugman of The Romance Studio said, "With each chapter you'll be drawn into a tangled web of the supernatural."


Anastasia Castella-Young of Mind Fog Reviews said, "I highly recommend this paranormal romance to those interested in demons, spirits, adventure and love. Penelope Marzec hits the mark dead on!"


This is the story of Jennifer Brant. Her existence has centered on protecting the world from a cursed spirit who guards a deadly portal located on her farm. When a billionaire developer, haunted by the sins of his past, wants to buy her farm, she refuses, knowing the spirit will be released on those she loves. When someone intent on controlling the demon kidnaps her brother in order to use the farm for his own evil deeds, Jennifer and the billionaire must unite to save her brother and destroy the portal. Can their union grow into a loving and safe lifetime for them and their future generations?

The following scene is in Nathan's point of view--he's the billionaire. While Jennifer sleeps after being involved in an accident, Michael, her brother, offers Nathan the land he wants. This comes as quite a surprise to the billionaire...

Nathan placed another log on the cheery blaze in the fireplace. Jennifer lay on the couch, bundled in a wealth of quilts. Her chest rose and fell softly in a steady rhythm. He sat in the chair and took a calming breath. Despite a variety of bruises and a mild concussion, she should be fine, especially since he had volunteered to watch her for the rest of the night.

Michael walked into the room with two brandy glasses. “Here, McDugan. It’s been a long night.”

“Thanks.” He accepted the glass.

Michael paced around the room with his brow deeply furrowed. The younger man was still revved up and running on adrenaline.

 “I want to thank you. I really panicked when I saw Jen’s truck up against that tree,” he admitted. “I’m usually cool on a call but it’s different when it’s one of your own...” After a pause, Michael continued in a raspy tone. “You see, our parents died in a car accident.”

He nodded. He’d felt the twist in his gut when he had heard the metal crumple in the crash, but when he saw Jennifer in that wreck it was as if his heart slipped out of gear. He sipped some of the brandy. The warmth of peaches tingled on his tongue and his control nearly crumbled. Wiping the sweat from his brow, he dared another taste. The sample reminded him so vividly of the flavor of Jennifer’s lips that he felt nearly possessed.

He drew in a great breath. For a moment tonight, he thought he had lost her. In that brief flash, raw grief sliced into him. Thinking about it later, he was stunned at his violent reaction. He told himself that simply visiting a wreck stirred up the old horror.

“The police said someone tampered with the brake hoses,” Michael blurted out. “But that’s ridiculous. I know it’s an old truck. But George—” He stopped his restless pacing and paled. “George always fixed it.”

“She said the brakes didn’t work.” He kept his voice low. He did not want to disturb her. She needed to rest.

“Yeah. Yeah. I know.” Michael downed a good portion of the brandy in one gulp. “How much land do you really need?”

He narrowed his eyes, wondering if he had heard correctly.

“Your absolute minimum,” Michael reiterated.

Momentarily speechless with surprise, he nearly dropped the glass in his hand. Did he see desperation in the hard lines around Michael’s mouth? “Your sister has led the fight and worked the hardest to keep me out of Marlpit. Won’t she consider you a traitor?”

“Everything has changed in the last few months. Everything.” Michael swore softly. “My wife is ill. We had another dry summer so we didn’t grow much produce.” He gave a small snort. “Except for peaches. We had plenty of peaches. Now with Jennifer’s truck destroyed, I don’t think there’s any way—” He didn’t finish the thought. A deep scowl creased his forehead and he balled up his fists.

Nathan cleared his throat. Warning gongs sounded in his brain but he ignored them. He had no reason to trust Michael Brant. However, after tonight, it seemed worth the gamble. “Forty acres.”

Michael sniffed. “Why didn’t you tell us that in the first place?”

“I padded my original proposal figuring it would get whittled down to nothing anyway.” Despite the heady liquor, his nerves seemed ready to snap. He’d wanted this for so long.

Michael set his glass on the mantle and stared into the fire, his back to Nathan. “What price?”

He realized he was about ready to crush the glass in his hand. He forced himself to relax. Leaning back in the chair, he tried to look casual. He didn’t want to get roped into a ridiculous deal.

“This is an unusual liqueur,” he said, taking another sip from his glass. “Do you make your own brew?”

Michael’s shoulders sagged. “Nah. That stuff is something Jen mixes up. Peach juice and vodka, I think.”

He glanced at her, still sound asleep on the couch. Wispy tendrils framed her serene face. She looked fragile—and enchanting. A pang of something like loneliness stabbed at his heart. Clearing his throat, he added. “Your sister is quite talented.”

“Yeah. Well, you have to do something with all those peaches before they rot,” Michael commented. He plopped down in the wingback chair and hung his head. He looked beaten.

Despite the smell of victory, a hollow space seemed to widen in Nathan’s heart. This had all become more than a simple business deal. While he had spent months arguing with Jennifer and the people of Marlpit, he would win only because fate and some crazed maniac had lent him a hand.

“Which forty acres are you willing to part with?” He stared into the sweet but potent liquor in his glass.

Silence hung in the air for several tense minutes before Michael answered. “You can have a portion of Abigail’s woods.”

He lifted his head and frowned. “It would take extra labor to clear it.”

Michael stood again as he spoke louder than before. “It’s well up on the ridge so you won’t have any drainage problems. In addition, it’s out of the DEP’s designated area.”

Then something sparked in Michael’s eyes as his voice reached a new crescendo. “Aside from that, the visitors to your fancy theater will have a sweeping view of feudal serfs living as they did in the dark ages! You should be able to raise the price of the tickets for that privilege!”

Jennifer moaned and stirred on the couch. Without conscious thought, Nathan sprang to her side. He touched her forehead. His hand shook. He wasn’t sure if she felt warm or hot. Dammit. She looked too pale.

“Should I wake her like the doctor said and ask her some questions? Do you think she’s all right? How does her forehead feel to you?” His heart hammered in his chest.

Michael rubbed the back of his callused hand on his sister’s cheek. “She’s okay. I should just keep my big mouth shut.”

Relief flowed through him. “She always tries to act so tough but she isn’t,” he mumbled, almost to himself. Then he glanced back at Michael, catching an odd puzzled look as it flitted across the younger man’s features.

“Yeah. Well. She’s flesh and blood, McDugan. Two hundred year old maple trees are a lot tougher,” he whispered hoarsely. “Come on into the kitchen. I’ll get a calculator. Let’s talk numbers.”


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You can find the book at many ebook distributors. 


Thursday, September 22, 2022

Guest Post: A DIM HOPE by Katie Clark

My guest today is Katie Clark. She started reading fantastical stories in grade school and her love for books never died. Today she reads in all genres; her only requirement is an awesome story! She writes young adult speculative fiction, including her romantic fantasy novel, The Rejected Princess, her Beguiled Series, and her dystopian Enslaved Series. You can connect with her at her website, or on social media @KatieClarkBooks.

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     Katie's latest release is A DIM HOPE. It's the story of Amber and she is in trouble. Her sister is dying—and so is her homeland. The Lifeforce stones that power their world are waning, and no one knows why. When the rulers of the land prepare a scientific expedition to study the place where the veins of the Lifeforce run deep, Amber is forced to travel as a servant with the expedition. Though Amber has longed for adventure, her dream always included her sister. Now her only wish is to return home with a cure before it's too late.
     Crops are wilting, food is scarce, and sandstorms, avalanches, and earthquakes threaten to doom the expedition. Besides this, there are more sinister forces at work. Quiet arguments and missing supplies lead Amber to believe their efforts are being sabotaged. She uncovers clues, but the real source of their trouble—and hope—lies in places she never expected.


Read an excerpt!

Amber gripped the rocky cliff wall that rose at the edge of the governor’s pasture. Two horses grazed in the tall, pale grasses nearby. She had crept into the pasture undetected, and now she would do her best to scale the wall without disturbing the horses.

“What are you doing back there?”

Amber gasped and lost her grip. Skin met hard stone as she tumbled from her low place on the cliff and landed on her back on the ground with a thud. Her long brown skirts tangled around her ankles and her brown scarf slipped from its place around her head and into her eyes. Without the scarf, her unruly brown curls spilled around her shoulders.

Her sister stood above her, laughing. Apparently, Amethyst was better at sneaking than she.

“If you must know, I was perfecting my adventuring skills in case I have to take your place on the expedition tomorrow.” She glanced at the horses, who had skittered away several feet. She frowned. “Thanks for the interruption.”

Amethyst laughed and reached down. Amber clasped her hand to haul herself from the ground. “Madame Governor is calling for you. She needs you to go to the village for her. The flowers and milk were not right.” Her pale purple headwrap draped loosely over her left shoulder, concealing her own brown hair. Her long purple robes flitted in the breeze.

Amber sighed at her free time being cut short as they moved toward the house. She tucked her curls back into place and wrapped her scarf around them. The cooler temperatures of midyear gave way to the heat of summer. Soon, the well would run low and the water conservation would begin. The drought would last until next spring, nine long months away. Then the waters would again flow from the mountaintops, replenishing TerraQuadro.

She wanted to enjoy the nice weather as long as she could, but such was the life of a bond slave—her time was not her own. At least, not until she turned twenty-one, two years from now.

They reached the end of the pasture. “The flowers and milk? Why isn’t Mayville taking care of it?”

Amethyst shrugged. “Madame sent Mayville home early to prepare for the festival tonight, and I have to practice with the players, so I can’t go.”

Amber frowned as they reached the two-story wood house—the second largest in the township, bested only by the K’Luren’s. White walls rose toward the sky with dark beams crisscrossing the front, sides, and back. Sand and reeds serving as decoration adorned the perimeter.

“Flowers and milk.” She sighed. “I don’t suppose we could make do with the flowers the miller sent and add our own honey to the milk?”

Amethyst held up her hands in an uncertain gesture. “Madame likes things to be perfect as we all know. She is proud of the Servants’ Festival each year. Don’t blame the messenger.”

“Amber, is that you?” Madame’s voice reached them through the open doorway of the house.

“Yes, ma’am. I’m coming.” She gave her sister one last glance and glided through the doorway. “What can I do, Madame?”

Madame held out a huge basket of flowers. The blossoms were purple—most of the blossoms in Nullaboro were purple—and they overflowed the basket to the brim. Their sweet scent filled the room. “These were supposed to be the larger flowers, not the smaller. I want them exchanged. And the milk.” She grabbed a woven sling from the table. Two jars rested inside, and they clanged together with the sudden movement. “The milk isn’t sweet enough. Have the milkman add more honey.”

“Of course, Madame.” Amber took the milk. Making it to the village without spilling the flowers or the milk would be no easy feat. Still, she wouldn’t question Madame. No one often did as they all loved her so. Besides that, Amber and Amethyst had no choice in the matter. They had worked for Madame Governor for three years, since their mother had died. Madame had taken them in to give them shelter and food—and so they could finish paying off their mother’s debt. Madame was a generous master, one who had allowed the sisters much freedom, even paying them small earnings that they could save for the future.

Amber arranged the milk in the sling across her back to be sure she would not drop anything.

“I’ll return soon.”

Madame returned making marks in her ledger.

Amber headed out of the house and down the lane toward the main village thoroughfare. A moment later, her sister caught up with her. “I can walk with you. The players and I will practice at the sanctuary.”

Amber frowned. “The priest allows that? The sanctuary is holy.”

“Let me amend my words, dear sister.” Amethyst, tall and thin, bested Amber’s shorter, curvier frame by at least three inches. “We are practicing in the yard of the sanctuary. In the back, enclosed by the fence, so as not to spoil the surprise for the servants and villagers tonight at the festival.”

“Ah. I see.” The milk seemed to be gaining weight as they moved. “Care to take these flowers, as we’ll be going the same way?”

Amethyst took the basket from her. “I should have offered. I’m sorry, Amber.” She sighed.

Amber studied her sister. Her best friend. Separated by only a year, they loved almost all the same things. Had almost all the same dreams. The difference between them was that Amethyst was disciplined enough to contain herself and her excitement, waiting patiently for the right opportunities to present themselves. She worked hard, gave generously, and gained love from everyone she met.

Amber, on the other hand, busied herself with making sure no one took advantage of her sister’s kindness. She stood up for her sister, and herself, and she did not keep her desires for travel and adventure to herself, much to the dismay of everyone in the village. Though they often indulged her with chuckles and good-natured compliance. It didn’t hurt that she made the best festival cakes in the whole township, and she shared them freely.

Now Amber looked to her sister. She hadn’t noticed before, but Amethyst did seem preoccupied. “Are you nervous for the expedition?”

Amethyst would be leaving in the morning to travel on a scientific expedition to the Basiin. Madame had allowed it as Amethyst’s service to the scientists would pay off one of Madame’s old debts. Amber longed to travel with the expedition herself, but Madame wouldn’t hear of both girls leaving. Since Amethyst was the oldest—and most likely because she was more disciplined—she was chosen to go instead of Amber.

Amethyst glanced at her. For a brief moment, Amber saw something there—something like fear, or maybe sorrow—but it was gone just as quickly. “I suppose I could be nervous.”


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Buy A DIM HOPE at these ebook distributors: 


Pelican Book Group

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Kobo


 







Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Guest Post: LISTENING TO THE RAIN by Miriam Thor

My guest today is Miriam Thor. She grew up in Louisiana. After high school, she attended Gardner-Webb University, where she earned a degree in American Sign Language and elementary education. Currently, she lives in Alabama with her husband and six cats. She is employed as a sign language interpreter at an elementary school.

Miriam discovered her love of writing in second grade and has been doing it ever since. She has had two novellas published: Her First Noel, a contemporary Christian romance, and Wish Granted, a young adult fantasy story. Her first novel, Listening to the Rain, will be published in September 2022.

To learn more about Miriam, visit her website: https://miriamthor17.wixsite.com/author.

  

What is it about? 

During her freshman year of high school, Ally Griffin is determined to find her thing, a talent that will let her gain praise and recognition. Her cousins, Billy and James, have found theirs in sports and music, but Ally has yet to discover something that will make people cheer just for her.

At her best friend's suggestion, Ally tries ballet. When that doesn't turn out the way she hopes, she signs up to sing in the school talent show. Thanks to support from James, Ally's performance goes well, and she thinks she has found her thing at last.

But when James gets into an accident, Ally's whole world is turned upside down. As she tries to be there for her cousin, Ally wrestles with why God allows bad things to happen and whether she should keep doing her thing at all.

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Excerpt:

Unfortunately, it started raining a few minutes before the bus reached our stop. By unspoken consent, the two of us walked home as quickly as we could so that we could get warm and dry as soon as possible.

I wanted to talk to James as soon as I’d changed into dry clothes, but I knew better than to try. Grandpa insisted that we start on our homework as soon as we got home, and while I was willing to bend that rule from time to time, James definitely was not. Resigned to wait, I solved a page of equations and read the short story Mrs. Chamberlain had assigned.

When I was finished, I went in search of my cousin to see if he had completed his homework, too. I found him sitting in a rocking chair on the porch with his eyes closed.

“What are you doing?” I asked, puzzled.

He opened his eyes and looked at me. “Listening to the rain. God plays beautiful music, don’t you think?”

I wasn’t sure how to respond. James said stuff like that sometimes. Random, weird stuff. And I was never sure what to make of it.

“It’s not music, James,” I said. “It’s just water hitting the roof.”

He shrugged, unperturbed, and studied my face. “What’s wrong, Ally?”

“What makes you think something’s wrong?” I demanded.

“You’ve got that ‘I really want to ask you something, but I don’t know how you’ll take it’ look on your face.”

I smiled. He always could read me like an open book.

“Well…” I said slowly. “You heard about the talent show at school today, right?”

He nodded. “Yeah, Mr. Jenkins announced it in homeroom.”

I bit my lip and stared at my lap. I wanted to sing in the talent show so badly. What if James did, too?

“What about it?” James prompted when I didn’t continue.

“Do you want to enter?” I asked and held my breath.

“No,” he said. “Performing in front of all the kids at school and a panel of judges doesn’t sound like much fun to me.”

I heaved a sigh of relief and grinned at him.

“Good.”

“Does that smile mean you plan on entering?” he asked.

“Yep,” I said. “I didn’t want to compete against you, though.”

He smiled. “So, what will you sing?”

I didn’t even ask how he knew I planned to sing. We both knew my talents. Unless I wanted to bring our hens to roost on the stage and gather their eggs, singing was my only real option.

“I don’t know yet,” I said, “but I’ll figure it out.” I started to turn around. “You can go back to your…rain listening now.”

He rolled his eyes as I headed back inside.

 

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Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Listening-Rain-Miriam-Thor-ebook/dp/B09VS27PHW

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/listening-to-the-rain-miriam-thor/1141235963

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=cupkEAAAQBAJ&gl=us

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/listening-to-the-rain-1

Apple Books: https://books.apple.com/us/book/listening-to-the-rain/id1615814817