Friday, October 19, 2012

Home for the Holidays

Home for the Holidays now available as an ebook on Smashwords, soon to be available on Amazon and at Barnes & Noble.

By Ohio Valley Romance Writers of America
Rating: Not yet rated. 
Published: Oct. 19, 2012 
Words: 31201 (approximate)
Language: English
ISBN: 9781301581375

Short description

This collection of romantic holiday stories from the Ohio Valley Romance Writers of America runs from sweet to poignant, darkness-tinged to comedic, but in all, people find the hope of love, and joy in the holidays. Stories feature married couples and those newly-met, some whose lessons lie in the past, and even vampires… all of whom find happiness and peace when they come Home for the Holidays. 

Extended description

This collection of romantic holiday stories from the Ohio Valley Romance Writers of America runs from sweet to poignant, darkness-tinged to comedic, but in all, people find the hope of love, and joy in the holidays. Stories feature married couples and those newly-met, some whose lessons lie in the past, and even vampires… all of whom find happiness and peace when they come Home for the Holidays.

“Coventry Arcade” by Becke Martin. Ben Whitaker is determined to get his beloved Lily the best gift very little money can buy in this homage to O. Henry’s classic story “The Gift of the Magi.”

In “The Holly and the Ivey” by Sandy Pennington, Jon thought bells would be ringing a merry tune when he did a surprise Christmas visit but it turned out to be a Ho! Ho! Oh, no! instead.

Aileen is frustrated when she has difficulties communicating with her mentally challenged brother. But Dr. Lew Bard shows her it’s really just a matter of “Speaking the Language,” by Ann Gregory.

There’s magic in threes in “Triple Trouble for Christmas Eve” by Becke Martin. With her dying breath, the triplets’ mother predicted they’d all find true love by midnight on Christmas Eve. Too bad Mom didn’t specify which Christmas Eve.

In “Merry and Bright” by Ann Gregory, Alex and D’Vee discover that a cup of spicy tea and a pair of fine brown eyes can both be inspiring. The Christmas season is the perfect time to kindle friendships and create possibilities.

Aiden Flynn is no Superman, but he does have a secret identity. And he just might be able to save Christmas for one young boy and his hardworking mom in “Silver and Gold” by Becke Martin.

Vampire Katarina thought she was drawn to the mortal who refused her gift of immortality 45 years ago, but on her “Last Christmas Visit” by Stacy McKitrick, she discovers the truth.

Christmas can be murder when a trip back in time pits Taylor Gressman against a murderous street gang, but through a new friendship, she learns the greatest gift is in the giving in “Time’s Holiday” by Jennette Marie Powell.

In “No More Resolutions” by Dakota James, Stella despises holidays. Now she has to find a husband for bosszilla, deal with a stripper pole in her house and work with Simon, the guy she loves to hate. Or does she?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Interview with author Macy Beckett

Today I'm excited to share an interview with my friend MACY BECKETT, whose first book came out just a few days ago. I'm so excited for her!!

Becke: Hi Macy! How long have you been writing?

Macy: Hey there, Becke! Thanks for hosting me on the blog today. J I have an English degree, so I’ve been writing for decades, but I didn’t start crafting fiction until NaNoWriMo 2009.

Becke: You’ve recently made your first sale...and your second. Or is it third? Would you share your “call” story with us? (Even if it was an email rather than a phone call.) Give your books a plug, too!

Macy: Sure thing! The Sultry Springs series (3 books) was my first sale. The Alienated Series (2 books) was my second. Readers can find out about all of my books—for adults and teens—on my website. Today I’ll “plug” my debut romance, Sultry with a Twist. Basically, it’s about an Austin bar owner who’s forced to return to her tiny hometown for a month of community service…under the supervision of her first love and ex-best friend. It’s a hot and humorous story of reunited lovers. ::dreamy sigh::

“The call” for the Sultry series came when I was folding laundry one night. I jumped around and squealed, and my daughter came running into my bedroom to check on me. The second call (a sale to Disney Hyperion) came when I was in the New Orleans airport. I jumped around and squealed then, too. I’m pretty sure everyone in the terminal heard me.

Becke: Tell us about your interests and activities in your “real” life.

Macy: Juggling two series leaves very little time for a life. I spend most of my days and nights writing, blogging, promoting, etc. Oh, and parenting my three kids. Let’s not forget them. Sad but true.

Becke: Who are some of your favorite authors, and what are some of your favorite books?

Macy: I love light, funny contemporary romances, so my standby authors are Lori Foster, Carly Phillips, and Rachel Gibson. My favorite book of all time is Jane Eyre, which is unusual for me because I typically don’t like dark, angsty plots.

Becke: Do you have a blog or a website?

Macy: Lordy, yes. I’m a blogging fool. But instead of listing all the places where I blog, I’ll just send you to my website. J 

Becke: Like me, you are also a member of the Ohio Valley chapter of RWA (woot!). Are you originally from Ohio?

Macy: My dad was in the Air Force, so I like to say I’m from everywhere. I didn’t settle in Ohio until 2005. This is the longest I’ve ever lived in one place!

Becke: Who are your hotties (in real life, fiction or TV/movies)?

Macy: Right now I’m crushing on JoeManganiello. I can’t pronounce his name, though, so I call him Joe McSexyPants. It fits.

Becke: What have been some of the highlights of your writing career?

Macy: Nothing beats getting the call, because it’s all excitement, hope, and pure potential. Holding my ARC was amazing, too. It was so cool to kick back in my chair and read my own book in BOOK FORM.

Becke: Thanks very much for visiting with us today!

Macy: My pleasure! Thanks for having me. J

Macy Beckett writes hot and humorous romances set in Sultry Springs, Texas: where first loves find second chances. Her debut novel, SULTRY WITH A TWIST, is now available in stores, and two more Sultry Springs romances will follow in 2013. Macy loves to hear from readers, so feel free to say hello on Facebook or via her website.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Puzzle Me...

When I get stressed, puzzles soothe me. I'm not sure why this is - any more than I can explain why reading thrillers and suspenseful mysteries makes me relax when I'm tense. The more stressed I am, the more likely I am to pick up a dark, fast-paced book - hopefully one full of puzzling mysteries crowned with my favorite, a twist at the end. 

This has been an unusual year - we've packed up the house we've lived in for almost 20 years, renovating it at no small expense and, in the process, clearing out a lot of our "stuff." I'll be thankful we did this after we move into our much smaller condo in the city, but it hasn't been without stress.

I'm not a person who thrives on stress and I was surprised how often I found myself reaching for crossword puzzles and Sudokus to help me relax. I have a theory with Sudokus that I have to be in a particular zone in order to complete those successfully. When I'm in the zone, I can take one look at the puzzle and instantly see where the numbers have to go. Other nights (and I almost always do these puzzles at night) I can't complete one for love or money. Completing a puzzle correctly in ten minutes or less leaves me feeling accomplished and kind of smart. When I mess up a puzzle I feel like a dunce.

Writing is the hardest puzzle of all. Reading as much as I do - about a book a day - I feel like I should have absorbed enough knowledge to successfully write books myself. It's not as if I haven't tried - if practice makes perfect, I should be a best seller by now. Instead, I'm in a writing slump. Apparently multi-tasking is not one of my strong points - this move has sucked all my writing mojo right down the drain. And, damn it, I miss it! It's tough - and I don't think it ever becomes easy - but I enjoy the challenge. Like doing Sudokus, when I'm in the zone it's a feeling beyond compare. When I don't pull off a writing task with the skill I know it demands, I can feel that dunce cap settling on my head again, and I never have been one for hats.

I'm brave enough to do Sudoku puzzles in pen these days, but I'm glad I have a delete key when I'm writing. The puzzle I'm facing right now is how to get back in the zone after a summer spent packing more books than writing them. I hope the enforced time off will sharpen my skill with the pen (or, more accurately, keyboard). I never was much good at jigsaw puzzles, but I've always fancied the life of a detective. Now all I have to do is create one who has more skill with puzzles than I do!

And for stress-relief, I'll stick to rereading my Agatha Christie collection. There are worse ways to spend an evening, and unlike my limited supply of sudoku puzzles, I'm unlikely to run out of mysteries to read.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

We Like to Move It, Move It...NOT!

When Dante described the Nine Levels of Hell, he somehow missed Level Ten: Preparing to Move.

In the six weeks since I last posted I've been caught in the Moving Two-Step. Here's how it works.

Step One - Move everything out of a room, including emptying the closet, so the painters can reach all the walls and ceilings.

Step Two - Move everything back into the room, only this time add everything from the next room they're going to paint. Then move everything back the next day. Repeat until every room of the house has been emptied, painted and put back to (semi) normal.

So far, so good. smiley: Butbutbut - keystrokes: :but...

smiley: 1261 - keystrokes: :crazyResult? The walls and ceilings look fabulous. But - oh, wait! Now the doors, which seemed passable before, now look dingy. Have the painters come back and paint all the doors and window trim.

smiley: 1261 - keystrokes: :crazyResult? Fabulous - bright, clean paint everywhere really brightens up the place. But now the carpets look bad against the fresh paint. Call the carpet cleaners, and move the furniture back and forth so they can access the maximum floor space when they steam clean the whole house.

smiley: 1261 - keystrokes: :crazyResult? The newish carpet came up great. The carpet we never got around to replacing still looks like crap. Only now the clean spots make the bad spots look even worse. And where the heck did that rust stain come from?

And sooo - We bite the bullet and arrange to replace all the original carpeting that's left in the house - four bedrooms and the family room. Two of the rooms are empty - hurray! - and one is nearly empty. Except - oh, wait! We forgot one thing. We've been packing the closets with things we are bringing with us. And now the closets have to be emptied.


Step One: Empty all the closets, stuffing everything into the guest (formerly the kids') bathroom and in our bedroom, which will be the last one to be recarpeted.

Step Two: After the new carpet has been installed in the other rooms, put everything back (again), only this time put everything from our bedroom and our closet in those rooms, too. And after our room is done, move it all back again.

By the way - Did I mention we have a couple bookcases in our bedroom? And in the family room? And all of our furniture is solid, which means HEAVY. If I have to haul another piece of furniture from one room to the next, it will be too soon.

I feel like we've just rebuilt this house from scratch. I'd post pictures but somehow in the packing process I managed to lose the photo card for my camera.

To sum up, I have only one word for this:

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Moving Blues: What Fresh Hell is This?

What was I thinking?? When I bought all these books, did I think I'd be in this house forever? Well, yeah. Maybe I did.

This is only one bookcase out of the 21+ in our house. We have bookshelves in every room, including the bathrooms. And see those knick-knacks? I have more of them. A LOT more of them. Now I tend to do my collecting on Pinterest, but the books? Well, despite having a fully loaded Nook, the to-be-read pile keeps growing. Not that I'm complaining - a house full of books is my idea of heaven. With one minor exception:  when we're getting ready to move.

I'll be packing book boxes for the foreseeable future. Before long, our house is going to look like a bookstore warehouse.

cyber monday deals

Okay, perhaps I exaggerate, but not all THAT much! I've already donated about a dozen big bins of garden books to a local arboretum, and my husband has donated an equal number of his religious books to a variety of local churches and church scholars. We've brought so many books to Half Price Books, pretty soon they'll bar us from the door.

My husband and I are taking this one day at a time. (At least I am. I think he's pretending it's all a bad dream.) The house is in chaos, and several days after having our kitchen cabinets refinished, it still reeks of varnish. Our son came down and, on a brief visit interrupted only by a baby shower for our grandbaby-to-be, he cleared out half the basement. Unfortunately, it's a freaking big basement.

Today I decided to tackle the corner of the basement devoted to Christmas decorations. I'll refer to this in the future as Christmas Crap, or CC. I started collecting ornaments the year we got married, 1971. This grew to a family tradition - everyone got at least one new ornament as part of their Christmas present. The collection doubled in the years we lived in England. Who could resist the fabulous ornaments from Harrods and Liberty of London?

We have ornaments commemorating most vacations we've taken, not to mention ornaments the kids made in school, ornaments with pictures of our many pets, the famous "poop" ornaments (cinnamon and dough - my kids named them, not me), and every cute ornament Hallmark ever made. If I haven't said it before, thank God for Pinterest. From now on I'll pin the damn decorations instead of buying them.

What I'm saying is, we have a lot of Christmas decorations, not just ornaments but all kinds of Christmas Crap. And did I mention the trees? We have the humongous tree that takes half a day to put together. We have the tall skinny tree, the rustic-looking tree, the pre-lit tree in an elegant pot, the holographic silver tree, the hot pink tree, the frosted tree (it's only  foot tall) and more small trees than I can list here. And wreaths. Lots of wreaths.

Which brings me to the reason I'm writing this blog. I've spent the last couple hours hauling up bags full of Christmas stuff that somehow got wet and mildewed. (We've never had a flood, so it's a mystery to me. Super Soaker fights in the basement, maybe?) My kitchen is full of bins I'm sorting - one bin for the Salvation Army, one for my son (whether he wants the ornaments or not), one for my daughter (start cleaning out the closet now, chica), one bin of decorations friends might want and, finally, a keeper bin. Maybe two.

It's not as easy as I thought. I'm also progressing much slower than I expected. And I'm feeling a little ill at the thought of the bins and bags and tree boxes that are still in the basement - 15? 20? Please tell me there aren't more than twenty bins down there.

This is how bad it is: I started this I'll-sort-out-the-Christmas Crap project when I got frustrated with the story I'm revising. (For some reason, the more I write, the slower I get.) So how bad is it? So bad that I'm blogging instead of sorting pretty little ornaments.

a success!

So bad that I'm going to let those bins sit there awhile and go back to revising my story. That's right, I've found something that makes writing seem like the less stressful alternative. Now I think of it, there's a reason we've lived in this house almost twenty years. It's taken this long to recover from our last move.

Moving - at least, the getting ready to move part - sucks. Only one thing makes it bearable, and that's the thought that in a few months we'll be living a whole lot closer to our granddaughter. For that, I'll even plumb the depths of the basement again.

But not today!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Memorial Day

Over Memorial Day weekend, I remembered my ancestors who served in the military in the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, WWI and WWII and others. Several ancestors on both sides of my family fought for the North in the Civil War. 

Isaiah Villars, my great-great-grandfather on my dad's side, shared his diaries and memories with his son Ulysses, who transcribed everything in a massive handwritten journal dated 1906. This excerpt is from that journal, which Ulysses wrote in third person. 

Reverend Isaiah Villars

Isaiah Villars of Vernontown, Clinton County, Ohio, and Miss Mary Helen Thompson of Catlin, Vermillion County, Illinois, were joined in holy matrimony , Rev. George W. Pate officiating, on October 5, 1858.
      A wedding tour was determined on, and it was made in the two-horse waggon and by the same team, 350 miles to the Ohio home of the groom and 350 miles back again to their Illinois home two miles south of the village of Catlin.
      Winter was soon on. It was given to making posts and slats for the first field. The first table off which they ate the first meal was a broad board that rested on their knees while their chairs were two wooden boxes. Their first outfit was quite limited. The family altar was erected before they closed their eyes the first night for sleep, and it was never permitted to go down.
      Miss Thompson, though young, had taught the district school of her native neighborhood. Her father’s name was John; he was of stirling Scotch descent. Her mother’s maiden name was Esther Payne. Father Payne lived to a great age, and the daughter Esther died in her ninety-third year. The Payne family was large and identified with the early history of Danville, Illinois.
      There were born to John and Esther Thompson, Lewis M., Malissa, Martha A., Silvester, Mary Helen, Harriet, and John Thompson. John, the youngest, died when nineteen years of age. All the others married and reared families of worthy and highly esteemed sons and daughters, none of whom brought any reproach upon the family name.
      John Thompson died September 12, 1861, aged 65 years, 4 months and 22 days. Esther Payne Thompson died June 21st, 1899, aged 92 years, 3 months and 9 days. Mary Helen Villars, wife of Rev. I. Villars, died August 24th, 1888, aged 47 years, 8 months, and 27 days. An account of it appears elsewhere.
      After making their home on the open prairie, in due time their first born came. His name was Rosswell Chase, the first for a very special friend of the Thompson family and the second for Hon. Salmon P. Chase of Ohio, the ideal statesman of the young father Villars. (The making of the farm is the old story of labor.)
      The war for the union came on. Both husband and wife were patriotic, and it was concluded that sufficient provider (provender?) had been accumulated to keep mother and child. A cavalry company had been partly enlisted at Catlin, sufficient to venture on electing officers. In his absence Isaiah was elected Orderly Sergeant, and mounting “Old Tom”, his favorite horse, went to Catlin to assist in completing the organization, when, lo, most of the already enrolled showed the “white feather” and backed out before they had smelt powder. Company D of the 35th Illinois Volunteer Infantry in camp at Catlin, was to go to the Capital (Springfield) next morning and report to the Governor for service.
      Isaiah put spurs to his horse and rode in haste home and said to his wife that if he went at all he must go with the Infantry next morning. They talked it over and the result was his enlistment on the train after the train was on the way.
      He always felt that while the father-in-law Thompson was ardently patriotic, the blow of Isaiah’s enlistment was great, and when taken with a serious sickness, the thought of the loneliness of his daughter Mary in a community not too friendly to loyal people, proved too much for his failing health, and Mr. Thompson passed away in September of 1861.
      On the forced march (under Gen. John C. Freemont) of Springfield, Missouri to drive General Price of the Confederacy from that part of the state, Comrade Villars was taken with the bloody flux, a fearful disease having many victims among the exposed and weary soldiers. Then he knew real homesickness. He wrote to his wife, if possible, to come to him. His bed was the bare floor of a deserted house. He was alone in a small room,. Under him was but a simple blanket, and a handful of coarse buckwheat straw -- not a bundle, but what one hand could hold -- placed under the hipbone so as to prevent it wearing through the skin.
      His fever increased rapidly , and in forty-eight hours delirium set in. In his dreams he thought of the letter he had written, and that his good wife had made the venture for his side, the nearest point to Springfield, by rail, being 125 miles over mountains, hills and valleys. She had arrived, in his dream, and took the tenderest care of him, cooling his brow, and allaying the fever until he would “come to himself” refreshed, and then just as he would open his eyes to see her, she would pass out of the door and he would just see the skirt of her dress as the door closed after her. Then he would cry to know what she meant, and ask why she would not remain till he could speak to her. It was all a dream, delirium.
      But after a week, the fever was broken and the patient was himself again. But he was an infant in weakness. Orders came to take all the sick to Beulah, Missouri, 125 miles away, that they could be sent by rail to St. Louis. He was placed in a stagecoach with a delirious soldier of the same regiment, who died that night and was buried next morning. His name was Isaiah Pillars of Company 1. This excitement he could not stand, both compelled to sit erect, and cried to be put in a two-horse farm waggon (sic) of a refugee, on its bare floor, and that was his conveyance until the railroad was reached.
      A new distress came to him. He remembered he had written to his wife to come, but fortunately the authorities did not send it. But he knew it not, and now he is about to be removed and while he is to be taken one route to the railroad, his wife will be coming another, and through an enemy’s country with “bushwhackers” everywhere, and what could a woman do in such a country. The painful anxiety was beyond description, but need not have been, had he but known that the letter had never been sent.
      From one to three graves were filled every night. George Worley, a family friend some miles north of the Thompson homestead, had received a letter giving an account of this caravan of the sick, and a list of the names of the dead and buried. Isaiah Villars was among the number. The wife was at her father’s house when word came. A messenger was sent to see the letter. It confirmed the report.
      In getting things ready to secure if possible the removal of the body home, she found in the post office at Catlin a letter in her husband’s own hand, not knowing but it was his last message on earth. But on opening it, found that he had survived the trip, was then in Chesnut Street Hospital, St. Louis, and if she could send him just a little money he would get a furlough and come home. It was soon forthcoming and nearer dead than alive, on a midnight train at Catlin, a neighbor by name of Olmstead took him on horseback the two mile ride home, fearing to stop short of it lest he should die.
      He rallied quickly but not completely. During the thirty days alloted him, his darling boy, the picture of health and flesh, took lung fever and in spite of all, after ten days passed away. He died March 9th, 1862. Two days afterward, he was taken across the fields, the roads being impassible, two wagons holding coffin and procession, to a little grave in the “Butler’s Burying Ground” just outside of Catlin, west, on the south side of the Wabash railroad.
      A soldier’s metal (sic, s/b "mettle") was tried by the side of the newmade grave. One day more and the furlough expires. It was a trial to say the first “goodby” but when, with scalding tears, he must say this second goodby at the newmade grave of their firstborn, just there the fountain was broken up and a torrent of sorrow simply drowned all utterances.
      He returned to St. Louis, thence to Beulah, and in the early spring marched to Forsyth, Arkansas on White River. Here he came near losing his life by drowning.

     Isaiah Villars survived the war and lived to a ripe old age. He only had one other child - Ulysses, who transcribed this.
    Isaiah (he pronounced it "Eye-SIGH-ah") was a Methodist minister for 48 years; also a soldier, author, college president, chaplain at the Illinois State Penitentiary at Joliet, and pioneer. 
    An obituary notes that he was: “Born on a farm, converted at the age of sixteen, pupil in the public schools, student at a Quaker college, married in 1858, corporal in Company D, 35th Illinois Infantry (almost four years in the Civil War), a minister in the Methodist Episcopal Church for practically 50 years, president of McKendree College, chaplain in the Grand Army of Illinois, chaplain of the state penitentiary at Joliet, author of several books, constant contributor to the press, one of the organizers of the Prohibition Party, temperance lecturer, Doctor of Divinity by grave of DePauw University.”

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Antiques, Weapons and Geeks

I've always considered myself a pacifist, despite my predilection for mysteries and thrillers. Guns, swords and other weapons have never really been on my radar, except in fiction and action films. Two things have conspired to change that.

First, romantic suspense author Shannon McKenna wrote a guest blog for Barnes & Noble's Mystery Forum, which I moderate, talking about a weapons expert named Adam Firestone who helped choreograph her action scenes. I was intrigued. Since then, I've met Adam in person when he gave a weapons workshop for my writing group, and he's done two Q&A's for Romance University.

My knowledge of weapons has increased exponentially, but it's still pretty much at preschool level. As you can see, I don't have the faintest idea how to hold a weapon - this was unloaded, but the way I wielded it during the hands-on part of the workshop still made Adam very nervous!

Anyway, the other night I had dinner with my friend Keri Stevens and her husband. Keri missed Adam Firestone's workshop because it was the same weekend as the Romantic Times conference, so we ended up talking about that a bit. Her husband was interested, too, since it turns out he's very knowledgeable on the subject of weaponry. 

Gun talk led to talk about other weapons, and I mentioned my dad passed on some swords to my son - swords that I assumed belonged to my grandfather, who served in WWI and WWII. I've always been curious about the origins of those weapons, and Keri's husband gave me some good ideas where to start digging for information.

After a couple of hours doing Google searches, I now have a much better idea where these items came from. Only one is a sword, as it turns out. Another is a bayonet. And the third, which I knew wasn't a sword but didn't know what to call it, appears to be a parade stick of some sort. The long one is the sword - as you can see, it's really long:

As far as I can tell - there are no manufacturer's marks - it appears to be made by Ames, and it is similar to their 1840, 1850 and 1860 Staff and Field officer's swords. But even though my great-great-grandfather did fight in the Civil War, he wasn't an officer. 

He was, however, active in the Grand Army of the Republic, and it turns out Ames made similar models for the GAR. I now believe that sword belonged to my great-great-grandfather, Rev. Isaiah Villars, who also wrote a number of books:

Illinois Civil War Muster and Descriptive Rolls Database:     Villars, Isaiah - CPL - Co D - 35 IL US INF
      Residence, Catlin, Vermilion Co, IL; Join, 3Jul1861-Catlin,IL; Age, 23; Born, Clinton Co, OH
      Mustered out, 27Sep1864 
From:  Honor Roll of State of Illinois, Illinois Veteran's Commission, Oct.1,1956      Villars, Isaiah,  Date of Death, June 15, 1915

       Buried Elmhust Cemetery, G.A.R. Section, Joliet, IL
Will County Illinois USGenWeb Necrologist Reports (© 2002 The ILGenWeb Project All Rights Reserved):
    June 12, 1915 - Rev. I. J. Villars, former chaplain Joliet Penitentiary and prominent as anti-saloon worker, at New Lenox, aged 76 years. He was a veteran of the civil war. 

I haven't been able to find the exact sword online - this one has the clam shell handguard as well as some decorations in a thistle motif, both next to the grip and etched on the (very worn) blade.There is also a tiny "W" under the clamshell, which I believe is an inspector's mark.

I'm less sure about the bayonet and haven't got a clue about the origins of the parade stick/staff. My grandfather, Col. Horace S. Villars, served in the U.S. Army Medical Corps in WWI and WWII (Legion of Merit, Army Commendation Medal Oak Leaf Cluster). He served in England, France, Germany and Panama, that I know of. 

I'm assuming the parade staff is his, but I have had zero luck identifying it. It's made of row upon row of individual slices of bone? glass? ivory? - I can't tell.

The bayonet looks similar to a French Lebel bayonet:

The first Berthiers approved for service were the Carabine de Cavallerie Modele 1890, Carabine de Cuirassiers Modele 1890, and the Carabine de Gendarmerie Modele 1890. The Gendarme carbine could be fitted with an epee bayonet similar that that used on the Lebel. which the French Poilu affectionately referred to as "Rosalie." 1

Until I started fiddling with it, I didn't even realize there WAS a bayonet inside the case - I thought it was all one piece!

It appears these bayonets were made long before WWI, so maybe my grandfather purchased this as a souvenir when he was in France. I wish I knew more about these, but at least I can pass this information onto my son so he has a better idea where his inheritance comes from.

If any of you reading this can add information about these pieces, please let me know! Also, if I've identified them incorrectly, please correct me. I'd love to know more. I've become a weapons geek!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Picking Up the Gauntlet

Therese Walsh, author of The Last Will of Moira Leahy and co-founder of Writer Unboxed, recently threw down a gauntlet. It was picked up by Jan O'Hara of Tartitude fame, who passed it on to me (and six others). 

Here are the details of the challenge:

1. Go to the 77th page of your work-in-progress or latest book.
2. Count down 7 lines.
3. Copy the 7 sentences that follow, and post them.
4. Tag 7 other writers.

Here are my seven sentences from THE GODDESS OF MICHIGAN AVENUE

Mini set-up: 

Willa, the heroine, isn't completely over Sloan, her ex-husband. 

Dante, her long-time best friend, aims to change that...

           “You smell so good,” Dante murmured. “Like Christmas trees and cocoa.”
             “That’s not cocoa, it’s Tino’s tiramisu.” As if it mattered.
            “I love tiramisu,” he whispered, his mouth closing over hers.
            She was lost. Someone groaned softly, and then the world narrowed to the place their lips met. Willa remembered the first time Sloan had kissed her. His lips had been gentle, his tongue hesitant, his fumbling caresses awkward and sweet.
            Dante’s kisses devoured her. 

Here are my seven choices to play the game: 

You’re all welcome to post your own lines below OR on your own blog, where you can link and tag your seven next victims. (If you're too busy writing to play, no worries!)

If I haven’t tagged you and you'd like to play, please DO post your entry in the comment field below.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Time Machine in My Garage

Today, my husband and I took a trip through the Wayback Machine. All we had to do was step into our garage - it was a wild ride!

First, a disclaimer: If you walk into my house, you don't have to squeeze through the door and navigate through stacks of things. I don't have wall-to-wall collections, unless you count books, and those are neatly shelved on bookcases. Those that wouldn't fit in bookcases are in organized bins. I'm not a hoarder.

Doth I protest too much? Probably. Because while I'm not a hoarder, I AM a collector. Okay, with certain things I'll admit it, I'm a pack rat. (Have you seen my Pinterest page? That's after only two months. Imagine what I can collect in twenty years.) To some extent, so is my husband.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing. We've saved some really cool stuff, like every issue of the Beatles books my husband received during his years in the Beatles' fan club back in England. We have a LOT of Beatle albums, 45s, books, magazines, newspapers - pretty much anything related to the Beatles, we saved.

We also saved a lot of crap. Treasured crap, but still...

I saved pretty much every sheet of paper my kids ever drew or painted on, every school assignment, every Sunday School paper, programs from every play they were in, Student of the Month awards, sports awards, and so on and so forth.

I'm a letter-writer, card-sender and postcard-mailer, always have been. In return, a lot of people have sent me letters, cards and postcards over the years. I've probably saved 90 percent of them. Okay, maybe only 80 percent. It's still a lot of paper.

If only that were all I saved, it would be relatively normal. But no, the pack rat in me didn't draw the line at pretty cards, treasured letters or my kids' memorabilia. I saved everything.

Today, I decided to tackle the bins of papers we've stored in neat, organized, non-hoarder type stacks in the garage. Spring cleaning for pack rats is never a simple project. In this case, it was less a cleaning project than a trip back through a time machine.

Among the things I found:

*A canvas sailor hat my friends autographed back in 1966, between 8th grade and freshman year.

* I tried not to stop and read all the Christmas and birthday cards in the bins, but I did find a 21st birthday card to me from my husband.

*Business cards and pay slips from every place I've worked in the past 35 years or so.

*Cancelled checks and bank statements from the year my daughter was born (1983). I paid some bills the day I went into the hospital!

*An old wallet insert filled with pictures of my husband from the mid-1970s.

*My union card from when I was in NATSOPA in England in the late 1970s.

*Mortgage papers, plus receipts for carpeting, furniture and repairs on the two houses we owned in England, back in the 1970s and early 1980s.

*My pocket calendar with the list of farewell parties we attended right before we moved back to the U.S.

*Newspapers with just about every major event in the last 40 years.

*Wallpaper swatches my husband and I both recognize but can't for the life of us remember which houses they were from.

*Countless cards and letters from relatives who haven't been with us for years.

*Half a bin filled with letters, cards and postcards written by me when we lived in England and mailed to my grandmother and mother, who saved them. My mom passed hers on to me when they moved to a smaller house. I'm sure they tell an interesting story of our life over the pond, but will I ever read them? Will anybody? Probably not. The only people they're likely to interest are me and my husband, and I can't see us going through them all. Life goes on.

*Although, we did find a huge stack of journals my husband wrote while we lived in England. He flipped one open to the day I fell down some wet marble steps, sprained and fractured my ankle and tore some ligaments in my knee. It took a long time to heal (because it happened while I was working - we were madly busy and I didn't take the time to go to the doctor for two or three days). When I hit my fifties, that dang knee started acting up occasionally. I'd forgotten when it happened - now I can pin it down to the exact day in 1977.

*The journals are incredibly detailed, and we've had some laughs at the descriptions of a few of our arguments back then. I was touched that my husband mentioned my new hair style (he liked it), and that he'd listed every little thing I gave him for Christmas.

*There were a lot of things I have no clue why I saved - book club catalogues, magazine clippings, brochures from hotels we stayed at, even airline luggage tags from every trip we've ever taken. There were also lots of cool things, like playbills from all the shows we saw in London. Good times!

We probably transferred fifty pounds of paper from the storage bins to the trash bins, and there are a lot of bins left. Both Marty and I are feeling nostalgic, but with no desire to actually return to those days. Our little jaunt back through time has been fun, as well as dusty and a bit tiring. When it comes right down to it, though, even though we're older and grayer now, I really wouldn't want to go back through time.

I like it fine just where I am.

Sunday, March 4, 2012


I'm a bookaholic - no secret there. You can find my recent reading list on Shelfari and more favorites at Barnes & Noble. Recently my friend Kelsey Browning blogged at Wordplay about the benefits of reading deprivation as a sort of cleansing process. The thought of going even a day without reading gave me chills, and not in a good way.

As a kid, I often got in trouble at school for having an open book in my lap, hidden by my desk. At home, I drove my mom nuts by sneaking a flashlight into bed and reading under the covers. If there wasn't a book handy, I'd read cereal boxes. 

Since I was the oldest child, our house wasn't full of kids' books when I was little. That happened gradually, as my brother and I were allowed to get books from Scholastic and Weekly Reader Book Clubs. My allowance went to Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden books. Later, I used babysitting money to subscribe to Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. My first "real" paychecks in high school supported my book club habit: Literary Guild, Mystery Book Club, Doubleday Book Club, the History Book Club and the Paperback Book Club. Even later, I subscribed to Harlequin, Silhouette Special Edition and Candlelight Ecstasy Romance book clubs - and more.

I also went to libraries a lot, and never left a used book sale without at least a bag of books. My husband shares my love of books, even if he's not quite the reading addict I am, so our date nights frequently take us to bookstores - and cafe's IN bookstores. Not a week goes by that I don't buy at least a few books. Hell, on average, I might even buy a book a day. (My husband is nodding vigorously.) And I'm lucky enough to get books from publishers and authors, too. I have a huge to-be-read pile (we're talking hundreds of books) in paper, and a whole lot waiting to be read on my Nook, too.

But it never struck me how much I need to read until yesterday. My husband and I were out running errands when our car battery died. Luckily we belong to triple-A, so all it took was a phone call to arrange for help. We were told a serviceman would be with us in twenty minutes or so.

Since we'd only planned on being out a short time, I had left the house without Nook or book. Well. Twenty minutes. Easy peasey, right?

Two minutes later I started to get antsy. My husband, playing with his iPod, was cool and calm. I fidgeted, watching another minute tick away on the clock. Fidget, fidget. My husband didn't say anything, but I think I saw his eyebrows raise. Apparently, I have the attention span of a five-year-old.

I eyed my purse. When was the last time I cleaned it out? Went through the surprisingly clean make-up bag. (Yes, I travel with a make-up bag at all times, because you never know when you'll need mascara. And a roller-ball perfume or three.) Dug a few old receipts out of the bottom and stuck them in a side-pocket for disposal later. Found a relatively new pack of gum - opening that took another ten seconds or so.

The zip pockets - rats - must have been cleaned out the last time I switched purses. Nothing to occupy me there. Then I pulled out my wallet and struck gold. Amazingly, there were five insurance cards in there, all seemingly identical. 

"I don't suppose I really need all of these, do I?"

My husband took them from me, squinting at the small print. "Some of these are bound to be old."

"Don't worry about it," I said, as he put on his reading glasses. "No biggie."

"No, now I'm curious," he said. "You've hooked me on the mystery."

A few seconds later he muttered, "Aha!" and pointed to the printing dates in tiny numbers on the back. 

Huh. A couple of those cards went back 2009 - who knew?

After that I dug out three expired Garden Writers Association membership cards, a Lancome discount coupon that expired two years ago, and business cards for every hairdresser I've ever visited. I stuck a bunch of those in the discard pile (the side pocket of the purse). Another five minutes had passed.

I pulled out the credit cards. I was squinting at the small print on the back, when my husband laughed.

"What?" says I.

"Look at you - you're reading credit cards!" He shook his head. "I knew you were addicted to reading, but I never knew you were this addicted."

Assuming an air of nonchalance, I put the credit cards away, dropping my wallet back into the dark depths of my purse. 

That's when the triple-A guy pulled up.

Now, honestly, I don't see a problem here. I made constructive use of my time and now have a much more organized purse.

But I'll tell you one thing. I'm not leaving this house in future unless either the Nook or a book is in the bottom of my purse. And I never go anywhere without my purse.

I think Kelsey's idea of the no-reading cleanse probably has merit. I'm pretty sure I'll never find out.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Hair Again...Hopefully, Gone Tomorrow

Or if not tomorrow, SOON! My hair has reached a length that is really starting to bug me. Since I've had some unhappy experiences with haircuts in the past (looks great for a day or even a week or two, then it looks like a shaggy dog), I'm trying to hold off getting it cut until I can get up to my favorite stylist in Chicago.

I never know what to do with my hair--even learning how to blow dry it was a major ordeal. I've had some bad hair days throughout my life:

Almost as bad as these fake hairstyles:

So in the meantime, I've been trying a variety of hair products to control it. Headbands are easy, as long as I control my urge to go crazy with bling. For instance, isn't this pretty? Um, yeah--if I was 19 and getting married all over again.

There are some pretty barrettes and combs available, too:

The problem is, I don't need these for a wedding, a ball or a Royal tea party. I just want to keep my darn hair out of my face so I can type without going cross-eyed. Also, my hair is very thick, so it takes either a very large comb or several hair pins to hold it back.

And, let's face it, I'm a little old for scrunchies. (Although some are pretty cute...)

If I could braid, it would be one thing. Unfortunately, hand coordination is not a strong point. Instead of braids that look like this:

Or even something simple *snort*, like this:

Mine look more like this:

Or even this:

You get the idea. I was born without the hair styling gene. You think I'm kidding? Okay, time to share a deep dark secret. You know all those little clippy things in the hair aisle? I don't know what the heck you're supposed to do with them! But desperate times call for desperate measures, so I've picked up a few of those gizmos lately.

I think these are called hair claws:

I put them in my hair and they promptly fall right out. Luckily, I bought the plain and cheap version, instead of the pretty ones I posted here. (Can't resist bling--what can I say?)

I thought about trying this, but I'm not good at tying scarves artistically, either:

I actually do remember how to do a ponytail pull-through, like the one shown below, and it doesn't look bad even on someone my age. But, damn, after awhile it gives me a headache:

I saw one of these doohickeys, and it looked kind of cool:

But it also looked as hard to install as a kitchen sink. I looked for one of these, which appeared moderately easier to use:

But I couldn't find that particular one. So then I picked up a stretchy comb-thingy by Goody. It's black elastic with a sort of Celtic knot design and two black combs attached. It looks similar to this:

There are no directions with it, and the illustration on the packaging shows a black stretchy thingy on a woman with black hair. Seriously??? But it looks sort of like this:

(Okay, I know this looks nothing like me, but use your imagination, for Pete's sake!)

Sorry, I'm a tad irritable, after wrestling with this damn thing for half an hour. Then my husband got into the act, analyzing the hair product as if it contained the mysteries of the universe. (For all I know, it does.) He couldn't figure it out either so, like a guy, he went online and looked up some tutorials, like this one:

All I can say is, don't be surprised if you see me with really short hair in the not-too-distant future. This is already one of the longest blog posts in recorded history, but now that I'm into this rant, it's hard to wind down. Maybe a couple quotes?

If truth is beauty, how come no one has their hair done in the library?
Lily Tomlin

And more:

“Red hair, sir, in my opinion, is dangerous.”
― P.G. Wodehouse, Very Good, Jeeves!

“Some of the worst mistakes in my life were haircuts”
― Jim Morrison

“Interviewer: 'So Frank, you have long hair. Does that make you a woman?'
Frank Zappa: 'You have a wooden leg. Does that make you a table?”
― Frank Zappa

“My hair had grown out long and shaggy—not in that sexy-young-rock-star kind of way but in that time-to-take-Rover-to-the-groomer kind of way.”
― Jim Butcher, White Night

“People always ask me how long it takes to do my hair. I don’t know, I’m never there.”
― Dolly Parton

“Beware of her fair hair, for she excels All women in the magic of her locks; And when she winds them round a young man's neck, She will not ever set him free again. ”
― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“She was the most beautiful creature on Earth - her hair said so in that language only hair can speak.”
― Gabriel Bá, Daytripper

“Symbolic of life, hair bolts from our head[s]. Like the earth, it can be harvested, but it will rise again. We can change its color and texture when the mood strikes us, but in time it will return to its original form, just as Nature will in time turn our precisely laid-out cities into a weed-way.”
― Diane Ackerman, A Natural History of the Senses

In the time it's taken me to write this post, my hair has probably grown another quarter inch. I guess I'll finish with a song that's been running through my head all day, from the musical HAIR.

Bye for now. May the, uh, brush be with you!