Juggling Personal and Professional Obligations #WritersLife #moving #familyfirst

I know I’m fortunate to be able to work from home. It’s a comfortable place where I can relax and focus on what I need to do without having to dress up and drive to an office. Only when we’re moving, it becomes difficult to concentrate on my writing and the business side of publishing books. See, we sold our farm last week and so started the paperwork to buy the new house we hope to move to the middle of April. We had not planned to move so soon, though. After we put the farm on the market, I pushed through finishing writing The Touchstone of Raven Hollow (Secrets of Roseville Book 3) by the first week in March so that I can stay on track to release it in May. I will send it off on Tuesday to my editor to help me polish it.

Then my focus almost entirely will shift to sorting and discarding, donating, or packing. In addition to our upcoming move from a farm into a neighborhood near my father-in-law’s retirement community, we also have to clear out his assisted living apartment. He’s needing more care now, so will move into skilled care. Thus his other apartment needs to be vacated for another resident. So two moves over the next one month. And all the decisions and disruptions that comes with making such moves.

I’m grateful to have my book nearly done so I’ll keep on track, but I also rather long for the escape of slipping into the story world for a few hours. Ignoring all of those decisions for a little while.

IMG_2173Another task that has taken priority is putting together the raffle baskets and my author basket for the upcoming Heart of Dixie Romance Readers Luncheon on June 3. I’ll hand them over to the ladies in charge of the baskets so they don’t get damaged or worse lost during this transition. Which means gathering the goodies to put in them. I’m waiting for a few more things to fill them out and then can check off that task from my to-do list.

Easter Sunday falls between when we expect to close on the new house and when we close on selling our farm, so I’m not sure if we’ll gather for the holiday, or if we do which house it will be in. Another decision looming!

I may or may not have time during the month of April to write my weekly Monday post, but I will try. I enjoy touching base with my readers. Tasty Tuesday posts will continue as those are provided by some of my authors friends for your enjoyment. Starting in May, I’ll be sharing some historical recipes adapted to modern tastes, cooking techniques, and healthy eating options. More on that to come later.

For now, it’s only one more week until Haunted Melody releases on March 28. Have you ordered your copy yet? Links are below for your convenience.

Now I’m off to figure out what to do with all the stuff in my china hutch. Talk to you later!


P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I only send out when there is news to share. News like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers. Also, I’ll be sharing one chapter each month in 2017 of a new historical romance novella, Elizabeth’s Hope, the prequel to my A More Perfect Union series, with my subscribers. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit my Website for more on my books and upcoming events.

haunted_melody_600x900Paulette O’Connell needs to build her home decorating business in order to give her unborn child a stable home. While exploring the mysterious attic of the antebellum plantation where she lives, she accidentally summons her grandfather’s ghost. But he won’t leave until she figures out why she needed him in the first place, putting her plans in serious jeopardy.

Zak Markel has been searching for the last ingredient to create the Elixir of Life he hopes will save his brother’s eyesight. But he discovers the woman of his dreams in the smart and beautiful Paulette, distracting him from his focus at the worst possible time, even though she staunchly refuses to allow him past her defenses.

Can he convince Paulette to open her mind to possibilities and follow her heart to true happiness before it’s too late?

(Updated and revised edition; originally published in 2014 as Remnants.)

Amazon USA: http://bit.ly/HauntedMelody

Amazon AU: http://bit.ly/HauntedMelody-AU

Amazon CA: http://bit.ly/HauntedMelody-CA

Amazon UK: http://bit.ly/HauntedMelody-UK

B&N: http://bit.ly/HauntedMelody-BN

Kobo: http://bit.ly/HauntedMelody-K

iTunes: http://bit.ly/HauntedMelody-iTunes

Tasty Tuesday: Regency Ratafia #cocktail #recipe from #romance #author Alicia Rasley #beverage #research

We’re in for an historic treat today on Tasty Tuesday! Romance author Alicia Rasley is sharing the recipe for a Regency-era cocktail that sounds quite potent indeed. Introducing Ratafia, the Regency lady’s indulgence. Indeed! Welcome, Alicia!

Thanks, Betty, for inviting me to participate in your blog! Remind me next time not to read your posts when I am hungry. Now I’m famished. Just as well I decided to write about drink rather than food.

Those of us who read and write Regency-set historical novels (set in the early 19th Century Britain) are often presented with food riddles. What is jugged hare? And how about scotch collops? Not to mention spotted dick!

We also notice that the Regency era offered a variety of different drink options, from the innocuous (tea and coffee) to the potent (Napoleon brandy and “blue ruin” gin).  You never read about people drinking water, probably because it wasn’t safe. Boiling and fermenting would do a lot of decontamination… so you can see how the Regency characters could talk themselves into thinking of brandy as an aid to good health.

A photo by Roberta Sorge. unsplash.com/photos/kp9UVn-PUacOne drink that seemed particularly popular with the ladies was “ratafia” (pronounced rah-tuh-fee-uh, all syllables equally accented). In Regency novels, ladies of quality sip this drink all day long, while the gentlemen are downing brandy and whisky. I once assumed ratafia was some kind of mild cordial, sweet and only slightly alcoholic, as befitted a pious lady of a good family.

Then a friend of mine, another Regency novelist, embarked on an experiment. Lynn Kerstan decided to make ratafia as Christmas gift for her writer friends. When the little bottle arrived in the mail, I promptly took a swig. That’s when I realized that the proper Regency ladies were quite deceptive when they pretended this was some innocent sweet cordial.

It was probably 90 proof. Seriously.

When I pointed this out, Lynn sent me the recipe she’d used:

Regency Ratafia

1 quart of brandy

½ bottle champagne

1/2 cup of gin

¼ cup of sugar

2 oranges

2 cups of cherries, pitted and squashed

2 cups of blackberries

Dash of cinnamon

Dash of nutmeg

1 teaspoon powdered rosemary

Three cloves (bruised)

¼ cup crushed almonds

Mix in a gallon glass jar. Cap jar and shake. Store in dark cupboard for three weeks, removing once a week to shake jar. After three weeks, strain liquid through a cheesecloth, pressing down on solids to release their liquid. Distribute and store in several pint jars or tightly corked wine bottles.

Notice that the recipe starts with brandy, and then adds champagne and gin! The orange and cherry provides the cordial-ish taste, while the herbs and spices add a depth of flavor.  And the sugar, well, that doesn’t just make it sweeter. I think the purpose of storing this concoction for weeks and stirring it occasionally is to ferment it even further.  (I found another recipe that primly suggested an addition to stop fermentation—vodka. Yep, that’ll take care of that intoxication problem.)

With the brandy base, Lynn’s version was most similar to those created in the Regency. I’ve found less potent variations, some which are basically a long-refrigerated sangria (red wine, fruit, sugar, and three weeks in the fridge). Italian ratafia starts with Montepulciano red wine and adds only cherries as the fruit. A French variation uses a variety of berries, including gooseberries. The Catalan version has unripe (green) walnuts soaked in the liquor before the fruit is added. I even found one that deepened the flavor with peach and cherry pits (which are poisonous if opened).  Each of these adds both a spice like cinnamon and a savory herb (usually rosemary).

Ever after, I imagined those Regency ladies primly sipping their ratafia at the afternoon al fresco musicales, and then as an after-supper liqueur, and finally as a nightcap, then stumbling off to bed in a stupor, and waking up with a hangover. Ratafia is not for sissies!

Here’s a less potent variation that we can enjoy this summer without too much guilt. I devised it myself after testing a few recipes. (The extreme measures I take for research!) I decided to follow Lynn’s example and stir it once a week. I didn’t have any cheesecloth, so I just strained it through a wire mesh colander.

Alicia’s Less Potent but Still Classy Ratafia

Into a large capped glass jar, like the kind you use for sun tea, mix:

1 bottle of dry but fruity red wine (Italian and Spanish wines are best, I think)

1 pound of mixed and then crushed berries—your choice, but make half cherries for deepest flavor, and you can leave in the pits in for that dangerous thrill

½ pound of peach slices

2 oranges peeled and sectioned (I once tried tossing in the peels too, but that was a bit bitter. Next time I might just try the zest of the oranges)

I/4 cup of white sugar

A vanilla bean, sliced, or a half-teaspoon of vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon each of cinnamon, ground rosemary

¼ teaspoon of ginger and anise

A few crushed almonds

Close the jar and shake to distribute. Then put it away in a dark cupboard or the refrigerator (my choice) for three weeks. Once a week, shake the jar to re-distribute.

After three weeks, strain it through cheesecloth or a fine mesh. Then pour it into bottles or smaller jars.

Now try it out.  I’m a wimp and add water at this point, but if you’re made of stronger stuff, you can drink it straight. Keep it tightly capped and refrigerated. It goes great with barbecued meats on a summer night.

And don’t forget to wear your lacy gloves and sip primly from tiny cordial glasses!

Tryst at Brighton-coverIt’s a decade after Napoleon’s defeat, but the war still haunts even the victors. Linked by family and by grief, divided by social class, Russian émigré Natasha and ship’s doctor Matthew have lived for years in mutual distrust. But when she’s suspected of killing a man from her past, she reaches out to Sir Matthew for help. It takes both his medical training and her intuition to solve the mystery of the murder at the Brighton Inn—and the secret of her own troubled past.





alicia by dmac croppedAlicia Rasley lives in Regency England… well, only in her imagination. She is the RITA-award winning author of eight Regency romances, along with a best-selling family saga and a contemporary mystery novel. She lives in the Midwest until she can invent a time-travel machine! She teaches writing at a state university and in workshops around the country and online. Sign up for the email newsletter and get a free novella!

If you’re interested in writing as well as reading stories, sign up for my writing newsletter and get a free plotting article!

So now I need to mix up a batch of this to try. Should be quite an experiment. Anyone else interested in trying it?

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts and opinions!


P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I only send out when there is news to share. News like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers. Also, I’ll be sharing one chapter each month in 2017 of a new historical romance novella, Elizabeth’s Hope, the prequel to my A More Perfect Union series, with my subscribers. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit my Website for more on my books and upcoming events.

Between the Lines: Fay Fuller, 1st Woman to Climb Mt. Rainier #research #women #history


Fay Peak-Visit Rainier
Image courtesy  VisitRainier.com

Have you heard of Fay Peak in the Mount Rainier National Park in Washington state? I had not, until I started researching the girls in my award-winning Hometown Heroines: True Stories of Bravery, Daring, and Adventure. Edwina Fay Fuller embodies all three of those qualities: brave, daring, and adventurous.


Fay Fuller lived during a time in American history when women tended to be relegated to certain pigeon holes for appropriate behavior and activities. Only, Fay didn’t adhere to the restrictions. In fact, she decided to buck the system by not only riding her horse astride, but also by wearing men’s clothing for her most daring and adventurous escapade. See, Fay was 17 years old when she first climbed partway up Mt. Rainier. Three years later, she reached the summit. The first woman ever.

She climbed despite swelling she suffered from a charcoal mixture she wore on her face to attempt to prevent sunburn. She endured the pain on her face and on her wrist where the skin literally peeled off as a result of the failed mix. When they camped overnight in a steam cave on their way back down, she became sick from the smell of sulfur combined with the extreme cold and her exhaustion. Yet she had achieved her goal and would always carry that sweet feeling of accomplishment inside.

Fay inspires me through her commitment, determination, and sheer grit. When offered a hand by one of the men in the climbing party, she declined, preferring to reach the summit under her own power. The following day, though, the perilous nature of the trail made it necessary for her to permit a rope be tied to her waist in case of a slip or fall. A concession she reluctantly agreed to.

Her can-do spirit and belief in her own abilities humble me. She stood on her own two feet, literally and figuratively, and worked through obstacles to achieve her dream. If I ever get out to Washington state, I would love to climb up Fay Peak. I’d feel as though I’d followed in her footsteps, if only to a lower peak. I have no delusions of possessing the strength to climb to the summit of Mt. Rainier. Believe me!

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts and opinions!


P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I only send out when there is news to share. News like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers. Also, I’ll be sharing one chapter each month in 2017 of a new historical romance novella, Elizabeth’s Hope, the prequel to my A More Perfect Union series, with my subscribers. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit my Website for more on my books and upcoming events.

Literary Classics International Book Awards - Youth Award Winning Book
Literary Classics International Book Awards – Youth Award Winning Book

During the 1800s, daring and courageous girls across America left their unique mark on history.

Milly Cooper galloped 9 miles through hostile Indian Territory to summon help when Fort Cooper was under attack.

Belle Boyd risked her life spying for the Rebels during the Civil War.

Kate Shelly, when she was 15, crawled across a nearly washed-out railroad bridge during a ferocious thunderstorm to warn the next train.

Lucille Mulhall, age 14, outperformed cowboys to become the World’s First Famous Cowgirl.

These are just a few of the inspiring true stories inside Hometown Heroines—American Girls who faced danger and adversity and made a difference in their world.


B&N: http://bit.ly/2em4lh9

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2eNm5Ap

Amazon ebook: http://amzn.to/1nY0qXH

iBooks: http://apple.co/2em5Iw5

Google: http://bit.ly/2fFEQ6w

Tasty Tuesday: Cou-Cou #sidedish #recipe from #romance #author Sandra Masters

Tasty Tuesday has arrived along with a savory side dish recipe from Barbados by author Sandra Masters. Take it away, Sandra!

This recipe is mentioned by Thorn Wick, bastard son of the Duke of Althorn, where he and his mother lived on the island of Barbados. THORN, SON OF A DUKE, by SANDRA MASTERS is a 15,000-word prequel to Book Four, THE DUKE’S MAGNIFICENT BASTARD.

cou-cou-dishThorn’s mother used to make this dish for him when he arrived home from working on the Scotsman Plantation owned by Sir Donegal. Unfortunately, Thorn’s mother dies under mysterious circumstances and it’s not until he comes back after three years in England, on a mission for his father, that he discovers she was murdered with poison! He is faced with seeking justice for his mother.

Cou cou, served with flying fish is the national dish of Barbados. Somewhat similar to polenta or grits, Cou-cou is made with corn meal and okra.



8oz corn meal

3oz okras

1 medium onion (chopped)

3 tbsp butter


salt to taste


In a bowl, combine the cornmeal with sufficient water to cover the meal. Set aside.
Cut the tops and bottoms off the okras and slice into rings. Place the sliced okras in a saucepan with water, chopped onion and salt. Bring to a medium boil for a few minutes until the okras soften.

Strain the okras into a bowl, setting aside the liquid.

Add about a quarter of the okra liquid back into the saucepan and add the soaked meal.

You’ll need a whisk or wooden stick to stir the cou cou as it cooks. In Barbados we use a flat wooden spoon known as a ‘cou cou stick’. Stir constantly to avoid lumping.

Add more of the okra liquid gradually. You can tell you’re nearly finished when the cou cou starts to bubble gently at the surface. At this point add in the cooked okra slices and continue stirring for another 2-3 minutes.

Remove from the heat and stir in the butter.

thorn-cover-ok-use-thisAt the age of seventeen, Thorn Wick made a promise to his dying mother that sends him sailing from Barbados to England to meet the man who sired him, the aristocratic Duke of Althorn, who never knew of his son’s existence.

Alicia Montgomery, ward of the Duke, develops a deep affection for the Anglo Indian who protects her from advances by other men. She wants him to acknowledge his feelings for her, but he insists on ignoring the chemistry between them.

Despite the intrigue, revelations, and revenge, will their passion and love for each other conquer all?


sandra-masters-author-picFall in love with Romance all over again with author Sandra Masters

From a humble beginning in Newark, New Jersey, a short stay at a convent in Morristown, N.J. at the age of fourteen, Sandra Masters retired from a fantastic career for a play broadcasting company in Carlsbad, California, and settled in the rural foothills of the Sierras of Yosemite National Park with her husband, Ron, and two dogs, Silky and Sophie. She traded in the Board Rooms for the Ballrooms of the Regency Era and never looked back.

She wrote her first book at the age of thirteen and since then she’s always traveled with pen and notebook for her writing experiences. It’s been the journey of ten thousand miles with a few steps left to go. She deemed it a pleasure to leave the corporate world behind decades later.

Nothing she expected, but everything she desired. Her business card lists her occupation as Living The Dream.

Get to know her and her stories at www.authorsandramasters.com

Sounds good to me! Did you find that recipe as tempting as I do? Thanks again, Sandra, for sharing your amazing recipe with us!


P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I only send out when there is news to share. News like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit my Website for more on my books and upcoming events.

Between the Lines: My Fantasy #Bookstore in Undying Love #excerpt #research #daydreams #secretfantasy

my-books-2017Daydreams and fantasies fuel my creative side. One of my dearest fantasies has been to have my own bookstore one day. A dream I once thought possible, but as I get older, the idea has lost some of its allure. I’ve grown accustomed to being at home working on my books, rather than out among a lot of people on a daily basis. Still, I sometimes ponder what my bookstore would look like, how I’d decorate it, what books and other merchandise I’d include in it, and so forth. Of course, my own books would be on the local authors shelf. <grin> I doubt I’ll open one, though.

bw-clear-owlAs a result, I established my fantasy bookstore in Undying Love. The name of the store, Golden Owl Books and Brews, hints at how I would run such a store. Owls are one of my favorite birds of prey. Not only that, they symbolize knowledge, wisdom. More importantly for the purpose of my story, in the Celtic tradition owls symbolize guardians of the underworld and a protection of the dead. You can find out more about the symbolism of owls here. Given that Undying Love includes a ghostly lady who teaches Meredith a lesson about love and trust, the owl seemed a perfect fit. Thus, the sign hanging out front of the store features a Great Horned Owl.

Here’s an excerpt from Undying Love, describing the store in more detail. The bookstore actually is featured in every story of the Secrets of Roseville series. Meredith and Paulette, estranged sisters who are rebuilding their friendship, have many questions so they’ve journeyed into the small town of Roseville, Tennessee, to find some answers:

They crossed the square, heading for Golden Owl Books and Brews. The bookstore had occupied the 1860s-era brick building as long as Meredith could remember. The three sisters who ran the thriving business had diversified over the years, adding in a variety of attractions and merchandise to keep the townsfolk flocking through the doors. Flyers on the windows announced open mic nights featuring local artists to share their talents. A yellow kiosk in one corner enabled people to buy and download books from a variety of publishers.

“What are you looking for again?” Meredith asked. “I thought we had enough books at home.”

“A book on the county history, one published fairly recently, might provide some new clues.” Paulette tucked her clutch purse under her arm. “Grandma’s are so old they’re practically worthless.”

“I’m sure they have some useful history in them,” Meredith said, pushing open the door. A bell jangled above her head. “But a newer one may be worth the investment. New facts may have come to light, with any luck.”

“Hmmm, it smells wonderful in here.” Paulette paused inside the door and scanned the crowded bookshop.

“It’s the bakery. All the cinnamon and cloves and apples.” Meredith drew in a deep breath, savoring the aromas of fresh bread and spices. “What a brilliant idea these ladies had to include fresh cinnamon rolls.”

“I’ll be in the local history section.” Paulette pointed to the sign indicating the area and strode toward the back of the store.

Meredith considered her next move as she surveyed the bookstore. She wanted to discover what kinds of books existed that could shed light on the census and how to interpret them. But first, she needed to stand there and merely experience the atmosphere. She inhaled, cataloging the mingling scents, detecting paper and ink as backdrop to hot coffee and cinnamon. In one corner, a small stage waited for the next open mic participant. The sisters opened the Golden Owl two nights a week to let people read from their writing or perform a musical number. Those evenings only, they also featured a wine-and-cheese party as extra incentive for the locals to attend. The bell over the front door rang every few moments, announcing customers coming and going.

Tables sat scattered throughout the shop, laden with books or calendars and other related products. Handmade jewelry crafted by local artisans hung on tall stands dotting the floor space. An open balcony featuring tables and comfortable chairs ran around the upstairs walls, leaving an airy feel in the center. A rack of greeting cards, advertised as designed by locals, hugged the wall under the stairs, a postage stamp kiosk beside it. Beyond, a small table and chair waited for the correspondent to fill out the card, put a stamp on it, and then slip it into the mailbox outside the front door of the shop.

Oh, how I’d love to run such an inviting little shop in a quaint town in an historic building! Not that I foresee it happening, mind you. But it’s tempting.

For the upcoming Heart of Dixie Romance Readers’ Luncheon, featuring author Brenda Novak as keynote speaker, I’m putting together a Golden Owls Books and Brews gift basket for the fundraising raffle. I’ll include items such as notecards and jewelry by local artisans who live near the small town I used as a model for the fictional town of Roseville. I’ll also include some other goodies and books for the winner of the raffle. Also, I’ll be hosting a table, and looking forward to chatting with you over lunch, followed by a public book signing in the hotel lobby. If you’re interested in this June 3 reader event in Huntsville, Alabama, you can find out more and register to attend at the Heart of Dixie website.

I suppose my love of bookstores is why I return to the store and its owners, the three Golden sisters, in the series. In fact, The Touchstone of Raven Hollow, book 3, is the first book featuring the Golden sisters and their love stories. I am planning to release the story of Tara Golden and Grant Markel in May, just in time to have copies on hand at the Heart of Dixie luncheon and signing. I invite you to subscribe to my newsletter in order to stay informed regarding its cover and release date.

What would you want to see in a bookstore? Or not see, for that matter? Do you have a dream, a fantasy you hold close even though it may never come to pass?

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts and opinions!


P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I only send out when there is news to share. News like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers. Also, I’ll be sharing one chapter each month in 2017 of a new historical romance novella, Elizabeth’s Hope, the prequel to my A More Perfect Union series, with my subscribers. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit my Website for more on my books and upcoming events.

Undying Love is available now! Book 2, Haunted Melody, is up for pre-order and will release on March 28. Happy reading!

undying_love_600x900When architect Meredith Reed inherits her family’s plantation after the devastating loss of her own family, she must choose how to move on with her life. Keep the plantation? Not a good idea. Sell it? Better. Turn it into a memorial park? Better yet. But can she go against her family traditions and the hunky but irate lawyer?

Max Chandler needs two things to complete his life plan: become a senior partner and find his soul mate. He’s due a promotion once his legislation to protect the county’s historic properties is approved. The wife part he finds more challenging, having never met the right woman. If only the talented, attractive, aloof Meredith didn’t want to destroy the very property he cherishes.

While Meredith struggles to reconcile her past and future, will she learn a lesson from the spectral Lady in Blue in time to save both her family and home from destruction?

B&N: http://bit.ly/2fF4QTf

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2fnRyHK

Amazon CA: http://amzn.to/2fOyEdQ

Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/2eYDp5w

Amazon AU: http://amzn.to/2eYzWUS

iTunes: http://apple.co/2fF4mfT

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2fSnDL6