Between the Lines: The Cumberland Plateau #amwriting #research #geography #conservancy

Why did I choose the Cumberland Plateau as the location for Raven Hollow, my fictional remote valley in The Touchstone of Raven Hollow? Because it’s close to my fictionalized town of Roseville, Tennessee, and has some really interesting features associated with it.

 

IMG_2411
Closeup of a topographic map of the Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee. Franklin-Marion State Forest is right-center on the photo. Russell Cave is off the bottom right in Alabama.

 

A few weeks ago I talked about my recent trip to the Russell Cave National Monument and our hike in the real Franklin-Marion State Forest. Both the cave and the forest are located within the Cumberland Plateau which is part of the Appalachian mountain range. The Nature Conservancy is taking steps to protect this American treasure.

 

Cumberland Plateau-prd_016644-Nature Conservancy
Photo courtesy of the Nature Conservancy

The area has been home to humans for tens of thousands of years. Imagine what it must have been like to be among the earliest of humans who lived in this region. All the towering mountains cover with thick hardwood forest. What a spectacle the fall colors across the Appalachians must have been. They still are, but the forests are not as extensive as they were before we started clearing for homes and businesses and roads.

 

IMG_2374Still we can visit the many state and national parks dotted across the area to get a glimpse into what the wilderness might have looked like way back when mankind walked among the towering trees and crossed the many rivers and waterfalls.

Today the more remote areas of the forests are being developed or used for recreational purposes, most damaging the use of ATVs among the fragile plants and waterways. As they say when entering a park of any kind, leave on footprints, take only memories.

My hubby and I enjoyed our time in the Franklin-Marion State Forest, and we made sure to leave it as we found it for the next people who visit.

What’s your favorite park, state or national or even local? Where would you like to go that you haven’t been before?

Betty

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.

The_Touchstone_of_Raven_Hollow_600x900He dug for the truth and found her magic…

Tara Golden has hidden her healing power all her life. But occasionally, she uses her abilities on people passing through town, sure they’d never figure out what saved them. Now a tall, sexy geologist is asking questions she doesn’t want to face, and he isn’t going to take no for an answer. There’s no way she would reveal her abilities and her gifted sisters for a fling.

The latest medical tests divulge geologist Grant Markel’s fatal condition is cured, but the scientist within him won’t accept it’s a miracle. When he meets the sexy, mystical witch who may hold the answer to his quest, he’s determined to prove she’s full of smoke and mirrors despite their mutual attraction.

When they are trapped in an enchanted valley, Tara must choose between her magical truth or his scientific beliefs. Can she step from the shadows to claim her true powers before it’s too late?

Amazon: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-kindle

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

Kobo: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-Kobo

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

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

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

iBooks: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-iBooks

Google: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-GoogleBks

Between the Lines: Ravens and Their Antics #birds #behavior #research #newrelease

 

A_Common_Raven
Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Did you know that ravens have some very unique traits and characteristics? While working on my latest release, The Touchstone of Raven Hollow, I had to dig into this species of bird. I started with the obvious things: their color and beak, the wing span, their claws. I knew they were black, with iridescent coloring around their head and neck. I didn’t realize they had such a strong beak. For a general overview, you can go here.

 

Some of the more curious facts I found out is how intelligent they are. Not only do they hide food by burying it so others don’t find it, but they also have been known to call wolves to tear open a carcass so they can eat it. I used this trait in my story because it mirrored the Thanksgiving meal Tara and her sisters planned to share with their family. A coming together to eat the same foods and spend time with each other.

It’s also interesting that they are a very playful species, and engage in aerobatic displays, make their own toys to play with, and even slide down snowbanks for fun. I think that’s pretty awesome!

One characteristic of ravens that I tried to reflect in the “touchstone” or test that Tara and Grant face in my story came from this observation: the ravens’ “aptitudes for solving problems individually and learning from each other reflect a flexible capacity for intelligent insight unusual among non-human animals.” Tara and Grant have to learn to trust each other in order to resolve their situation.

I want to go hiking on the Cumberland Plateau like I talked about in an earlier post. I’d like to see if I can find an unkindness and experience the sound of their croak and their yell as well as their wings for myself. Have you ever heard or seen ravens in their natural environment?

Betty

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.

Now available!

The_Touchstone_of_Raven_Hollow_600x900He dug for the truth and found her magic.

Tara Golden has hidden her healing power all her life. But occasionally, she uses her abilities on people passing through town, sure they’d never figure out what saved them. Now a tall, sexy geologist is asking questions she doesn’t want to face, and he isn’t going to take no for an answer. There’s no way she would reveal her abilities and her gifted sisters for a fling.

The latest medical tests divulge geologist Grant Markel’s fatal condition is cured, but the scientist within him won’t accept it’s a miracle. When he meets the sexy, mystical witch who may hold the answer to his quest, he’s determined to prove she’s full of smoke and mirrors despite their mutual attraction.

When they are trapped in an enchanted valley, Tara must choose between her magical truth or his scientific beliefs. Can she step from the shadows to claim her true powers before it’s too late?

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

Kobo: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-Kobo

Amazon: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-kindle

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

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

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

iBooks: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-iBooks

Serendipity related to writing The Touchstone of Raven Hollow #writerslife #newrelease #paranormal #romance

Do you believe in serendipity or coincidence? Do we have a brand new idea, or have we just picked up on a subtle repetition of a word or image that then wiggles into our conscious thought? I’m always intrigued how once you focus on a new topic or area of interest, you start seeing it everywhere. Was it there already surrounding me, or did the new word or image start appearing after the fact?

It’s also true of new places, I have found. As in, if I, out of the blue, need to go to a town or take a different route to go to a familiar place, suddenly I need to go back that same way or to that new place two or three more times in quick succession. I don’t know why, or how that happens, but it’s been true for me all of my life.

For example, when my daughter joined the local Pony Club, the leaders suggested a site for a new competition they wanted to start hosting. I was invited along to visit and assess the suitability the place, a new-to-me part of the area we lived in that was far out in the country northwest of the nearest town. Within a week or two, I had to go back through that same area on an errand. And then I made a friend who happened to live in the same vicinity. I discovered new roads and ways to get from one place to another. After a while, though, I rarely go through there as I have few reasons to do so any longer. Things just seem to come in clusters for me.

The same kind of thing happened while writing my latest release, The Touchstone of Raven Hollow. Once I chose to use ravens in the title, and then in the story as a symbol and allusion to Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Raven,” suddenly ravens were everywhere!

One day, while writing Touchstone, an email popped into my inbox from the Audubon Society. Now, I’m not a member and did not subscribe to their mailings, so this was rather surprising to me. Even more so was the fact that the lead article included how to tell the difference between crows and ravens! Naturally, I had to go find out what they had to say, and they even had the sound of the raven’s croak. If you’re curious, you can listen to the difference yourself here. Useful details for my story!

When I settled on the title of The Touchstone of Raven Hollow I didn’t think about whether the state park where the story is set on the Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee would have a population of ravens. I figured I’d have to make one up as part of the enchantment of the hollow. But then when I was researching the wildlife and birds of the state, I came across the fact that ravens do live there. And in the area of the plateau where Grant takes Tara hiking. How cool, right? I thought I’d have to invent an “unkindness” or flock of ravens living up there. But nope! Hubby and I will go hiking up there this summer when the weather is nicer. I wonder how closely my descriptions match the real hills and vales, based on my memory of hiking in other forests and the online pictures and descriptions. Should be interesting to find out! I’ll probably blog about that trip, so stay tuned.

I know a lot of people do not believe in coincidence. I do to an extent. We open ourselves to a new possibility and then we see/hear the themes and symbols around us through a new filter. How about you? Have you experienced this phenomenon I’m talking about? Do you believe in coincidence?

Betty

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 historical romance series, with my subscribers. Thanks and happy reading!

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

The Touchstone of Raven Hollow (Secrets of Roseville Book 3) is available now! Grab your copy today!

The_Touchstone_of_Raven_Hollow_600x900He dug for the truth and found her magic.

Tara Golden has hidden her healing power all her life. But occasionally, she uses her abilities on people passing through town, sure they’d never figure out what saved them. Now a tall, sexy geologist is asking questions she doesn’t want to face, and he isn’t going to take no for an answer. There’s no way she would reveal her abilities and her gifted sisters for a fling.

The latest medical tests divulge geologist Grant Markel’s fatal condition is cured, but the scientist within him won’t accept it’s a miracle. When he meets the sexy, mystical witch who may hold the answer to his quest, he’s determined to prove she’s full of smoke and mirrors despite their mutual attraction.

When they are trapped in an enchanted valley, Tara must choose between her magical truth or his scientific beliefs. Can she step from the shadows to claim her true powers before it’s too late?

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

Kobo: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-Kobo

Amazon: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-kindle

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

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

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

iBooks: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-iBooks

On Birthing a Book #writerslife #newrelease #paranormal #romance

Releasing a new book for sale, which is often likened to a book birthday, involves quite a few moving pieces and many more decisions. When I decided to indie publish my paranormal romance series, Secrets of Roseville, I did so knowing this fact. I’d researched the process, the options, and then discussed the overall concepts and the associated costs involved with my loving hubby.

What I didn’t know was that the choices and decisions never end! <grin> I thought I’d share a bit about how I work through the entire cycle from writing to release. And a few ah-ha moments of my own. Here goes!

The first step for me when beginning a new story project is to create the premise, the characters’ GMC (goal, motivation, and conflict) statements for both internal and external GMC. At this point, I also contemplate the title as a focus for the writing. For The Touchstone of Raven Hollow, it took a working lunch with an author friend to nail down the keywords and then the title. I also decided to retell an Irish myth as part of the core to the story, which helped focus the telling of Tara and Grant’s romance and the situations they would face and have to conquer.

With the premise and GMC and title nailed down, then it was on to drafting what I call scene beats, but actually is much more than that. I create a Word document that is an extensive table with columns for Chapter/Scene, Action, Characters & Setting, Relationship & Emotions, and Timeline. The first entry, including the Inciting Incident, for Touchstone looks like this:

Touchstone Scene Beats ImageI drafted the scenes I knew had to be included in the story, and then moved them around to make sense, adding others as I slowly built the story logic. This is not set in stone, however. As I write, the action changes, other scenes are added, some combined. Once I’m satisfied with the overall story, then I ask my critique partner for her opinion and suggestions on upping the tension, the motivation, the action, etc. Then I start writing, one scene each morning until the first draft is completed. Then I start again at the beginning, fleshing out the motivation, the emotional connections, and setting details to weave in the back story and its impact on the characters as they face their challenges.

Then it’s off to beta readers, those handful of readers I ask to be guinea pigs as far as what they like and don’t about the story, the characters, whatever feedback they care to give me. I pick my betas based on whether they are readers only or writers also, choosing some of each. I make sure the people I ask to read enjoy the genre in general, so they have a feel for what is expected in the story. Once I have all their comments, then I do another revision pass before sending it off to my editor.

While the story is being edited, I focus on the business side of the story. For The Touchstone of Raven Hollow, I actually failed to do my normal routine because of the interfering household move from Tennessee to Alabama. A fact I realized while writing this blog, actually. So now that it’s launching this week, I better get busy! So I pulled out a blank Book Launch Checklist and quickly started figuring out what I have done and what I need to do. I’ve done some of it, from memory, but here’s the complete list. The generic checklist is one I created based on a class I took on how to do a book launch, and also from other tips and hints I’ve learned from reading and talking to other indie pubbed authors over the last year. Here’s my list, and if it helps another author prepare for a launch, then that’s cool with me. You’ll note that I’m behind on this schedule, but I’m getting there. I still have a few days, right?

When to Complete Task Completed Notes
6 months prior Establish goals for this book launch 1/5/17
6 months prior Brainstorm what makes this book unique in the marketplace 1/5/17
6 months prior Create the budget (money and time) for this launch 3/19/17
6 months prior Research and schedule advertising opps 1/5/17
3-6 mths before release Create book cover – hired out to cover artist 3/20/17
4 months prior Review and update as necessary online profiles 4/1/17; 5/9/17
4 months prior Query book reviewers 1/5/17 Part of book tour with BPIC Promotions
4 months prior Schedule online book blog tour 1/5/17
4 months prior Schedule a launch party or online event 4/1/17
4 months prior Assign ISBN to digital and print editions 1/5/17
4 months prior Create media kit 1/5/17; updated as info available Include book cover, blurb, description, pre-order/buy links; author pic, author bio, social media links; excerpt
2 months prior Order swag for prizes and giveaways 4/10/17
2 months prior Upload file to IngramSpark and Amazon 5/4/17
2 months prior Format digital and print editions of book 5/4/17 Include teaser scene at end for next/another book at end; also link to newsletter and/or website
1 month prior Create a list of tweets and posts
1 month prior Send out newsletter to announce cover and preorder link 5/10/17
When preorder live Pin cover and buy links on Pinterest 5/11/17
1 month prior Plan a contest or giveaway 4/10/17
3 weeks prior Promote your launch party, blog tour, and/or contests/giveaways 4/6/17
1 week prior By launch day, review and update online profiles again
Release day Send out newsletter to announce release
Release day Celebrate release day!
After release As book goes live on retailer sites, add link to master list, verify book page information accuracy
1 month after Continue launch efforts for up to 30 days
6 months after Monitor book sales or ranking
After release File copyright with LOC

This release is coming quicker than previous ones due to several factors. The primary one is that I had not anticipated moving when I decided to release the book, originally in June. See, hubby and I had thought to put the farm on the market in May, not February, so I had made my plans based on having time between January and May to do all the book launch tasks as laid out. Then we listed the farm February 1, and it sold in 6 weeks, and we moved 6 weeks later. So much for my carefully laid plans, right?

Additionally, my intent to release the first week of June moved back to May 20 so I could make sure to have print copies of Touchstone for the Heart of Dixie Romance Readers’ Luncheon which had originally been slated for June 10 had to move to June 3 due to hotel luncheon room availability. I’m in the process of ordering my table gifts for the readers who join me for this annual event in Huntsville, Alabama. It’s always a great time and I hope my table is filled by my readers, so I hope to see some of there!

I managed to finish writing The Touchstone of Raven Hollow before we sold the farm, so at least the creative part was done. The business and marketing tasks fell before and during the move. We sold the farm on April 28, and then on May 5 we took a week’s vacation in Maryland. A working vacation, since I had to continue with the release day promo and planning for the Facebook party on May 20. I hope you’ll come join the virtual party and help me celebrate my book’s birthday! The other authors and I are doing 12 Days of Giveaways leading up to the event, and you have time to like and comment and share the posts for a chance to win some pretty cool swag and books in addition to the games and giveaways on the event day itself this coming Saturday afternoon.

Keep in mind that the release tasks are only part of my writerly life. I also have some fiction editing to do this week, and contest entries to judge, as well as my other writing projects and research to get back to. Oh, and I have to organize my new office, which currently is a mess of boxes and piles of swag and miscellaneous other items. (I plan to share more in a future blog on what it looks like after the redecorating and settling is done.) Then there’s the house to clean, and more boxes to unpack, and books to read. <grin> One day at a time. One priority at a time. No matter what else, Touchstone will release on Saturday, and for that I’m very grateful and excited!

Do you have any tips for me on how to juggle multiple priorities? How do you balance work and personal chores and goals? How do you set your priorities?

Betty

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 historical romance series, with my subscribers. Thanks and happy reading!

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

The Touchstone of Raven Hollow (Secrets of Roseville Book 3) is available now for pre-order! Grab your copy today!

The_Touchstone_of_Raven_Hollow_600x900He dug for the truth and found her magic.

Tara Golden has hidden her healing power all her life. But occasionally, she uses her abilities on people passing through town, sure they’d never figure out what saved them. Now a tall, sexy geologist is asking questions she doesn’t want to face, and he isn’t going to take no for an answer. There’s no way she would reveal her abilities and her gifted sisters for a fling.

The latest medical tests divulge geologist Grant Markel’s fatal condition is cured, but the scientist within him won’t accept it’s a miracle. When he meets the sexy, mystical witch who may hold the answer to his quest, he’s determined to prove she’s full of smoke and mirrors despite their mutual attraction.

When they are trapped in an enchanted valley, Tara must choose between her magical truth or his scientific beliefs. Can she step from the shadows to claim her true powers before it’s too late?

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

Kobo: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-Kobo

Amazon: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-kindle

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

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

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

iBooks: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-iBooks

Tasty Tuesday: Steak Marinade #recipe by #contemporary #romance #author Lesia Flynn #whatsfordinner #grilling

Tasty Tuesday time! How about a delicious marinade for some grilled ribeye steaks by the fabulous romance author Lesia Flynn! You’ll love her recipe almost as much as her light-hearted romances. This lady can really cook. Help me welcome my dear friend, Lesia!


Thank you, Betty, for allowing me to visit your Tasty Tuesday Blog again. What a treat to be with y’all!

Due to a series of unexpected events, I recently discovered several stories that I thought were long gone, out the door, lost inside a computer no longer in my possession. Imagine my surprise when I stumbled across them! WooHoo! (Yes, I danced like a little girl!)

I’m super excited to announce that Cash & Lila, the first of these lost short romances, is scheduled to release in June. Here’s a little bit about their predicament . . .

Cash and Lila Coverart for KDPThey say a picture is worth a thousand words. Lila Joone should have taken that to heart when she watched the love of her life drive away with his hand waving high above his sporty convertible, headed to his new post-graduate job in Atlanta. Nope. Gullible, naive Lila didn’t pay one mind to that gesture. That was five years ago. With her own career now secure, all she wants is a happily ever after. But how can she, when the only man she ever wanted was Cash Bonner?

Fast living under the big city lights of Atlanta wasn’t Cash Bonner’s plan and living large damned sure wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. He had a front row seat to witness that fact and a few hard-earned scars to boot. It was high time he made a U-turn and got back to where he took a wrong turn, leaving Lila in the rearview mirror. He’s confident he can find her, but will she have anything to do with him after all this time?

Can life offer Cash and Lila a unique encounter, a second chance, the possibility of…

A happily-ever-after?

Why do I love this sexy short story? Maybe I’m a weirdo, but there’s nothing sexier than a man willing to admit when he’s wrong and make it right!

grilled meatThe backdrop of the story is set around cooking dinner for two on the back porch grill. What better to cook than a juicy steak? Yum! And while my easiest recipe is for wine (Frontera Cabernet Sauvignon. Find it. Buy it. Drink it. Tehehe…), I give to you a recipe for the steak marinade I’ve used most of my adult life. I was told it originated at a restaurant in my hometown. My husband taught me their trick and we’ve used it ever since. It’s fool-proof and easy-peasy, too!

Marinade for the Perfect Ribeye

Ribeye Steaks (with beautiful marble)

Adolf’s No MSG tenderizer (Indo Tenderizer [by the same people that make Spike] is my favorite, but I have difficulty finding these days.)

Freshly Minced Garlic

Fresh Cracked Black Pepper

Kitchen Bouquet (a browning sauce, usually found near the steak sauce at the grocery store)

Place steaks in a large Ziploc bag. Sprinkle with tenderizer and cracked pepper. (Note of caution: tenderizers are usually pretty salty.)  Add as much minced garlic as you like and cover ingredients with enough Kitchen Bouquet to coat the steaks. Seal the bag, removing any extra air. Massage the bag to cover every side of the steaks with your marinade. Set aside for at least 20 minutes; overnight is fine, too.

Grill to your liking or broil in the oven. If you’re throwing it on the grill, I’m not the grill master of this family, so you’ll have to take it from here. If broiling? I have an electric stove. I usually broil on high for about 2-4 minutes per side (depending on the thickness of the cut) for a medium cooked steak. An iron skillet steak is probably delicious, too!

Remove the steaks from the fire and let them rest for a few minutes to render their perfect drippings. Drizzle the steak drippings onto a loaded baked potato for a little extra yum! Toss a salad and your meal is complete!

Lagniappe

There’s nothing more frustrating than shopping for steaks only to find that Ribeyes are a gazillion dollars per pound. My response? Improvise! So, if you find yourself in a pickle, New York Strip and Pork Tenderloin Steaks are great substitutes.

Also, if you want to take it south of the border, squeeze a wedge of lime over your Ribeye. That, my friends, is delicioso!

Happy grilling, y’all!

Lesia Flynn first fell for romance when her mother gave her a paperback novel. One book later and she was hooked on love. It wasn’t until she had children that she realized she wanted to write stories of love, romance, and happily ever afters.

Lesia Flynn BioLesia was born and raised in Louisiana. She studied Graphic Design at Louisiana Tech University. She currently lives in Alabama with her husband, children, and a rescue cat who believes his mission in life is to keep Lesia safe and out of harm’s way. She loves libraries, gardening, travel, art of all kinds, and playing some really bad guitar for her neighbor’s cows.

Lesia is an active member of the Heart of Dixie Chapter of Romance Writers of America. She writes fun, contemporary romance. Connect with Lesia Flynn at www.LesiaFlynn.com, Facebook, Pinterest, and @LesiaFlynn.


See, what did I tell you? If you’ve haven’t read any of Lesia’s stories, take a moment and pop over here and pick one up. You won’t regret it! It’s grilling season around here, so I hope you enjoy this marinade recipe frequently!

Thanks for visiting with us today, and I hope you have a tasty day ahead!

Betty

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.

Tasty Tuesday & Haunted Melody! Oatmeal #cookie #recipe #newrelease #paranormal #romance #mustread #fiction

It’s here! The release of Haunted Melody! I feel like celebrating! So I am happy to share Paulette and Zak’s story with you along with a favorite recipe I got from my mother.

I love to bake, therefore it’s only natural that one of the characters in my story also bakes. The housekeeper, Meg, is a county fair award-winning baker, no less. She makes chocolate chip cookies to die for and cinnamon rolls that melt in your mouth in addition to fixing scrumptious meals.

In honor of Meg’s accomplishments, I thought I’d share my oatmeal cookie recipe with you. My mother loved to bake as well, and taught me most everything I know on the subject. It’s very possible she inherited it from her mother, but I don’t for sure. Grandmother Reed’s sugar cookie recipe is an annual favorite at Christmastime, but only after I cut it down to one-third the original recipe which made a LOT of cookies!

These little gems are chockfull of oats. If desired, you could add your favorite dried fruit, such as raisins or cranberries. My hubby loves these and hoards them for himself rather than sharing with others. I hope you enjoy them as well. Cheers!

Betty’s Oatmeal Cookies

Ingredients

1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons soft butter

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup sugar

1 egg

2 Tablespoons water

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup sifted flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

2 cups Quaker Oats

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 deg. F.

  2. Beat butter, sugars, egg, water, and vanilla together until creamy.

  3. Sift together flour, salt, and baking soda.

  4. Add to creamed mixture; blend well.

  5. Stir in oats (and any additional fruit desired).

  6. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto greased cookie sheets. Bake 12-15 minutes.

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.)

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

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

Amazon: 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

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

Thanks for helping me celebrate the release of Haunted Melody! In a couple more months, I’ll be releasing the third book in the Secrets of Roseville series, The Touchstone of Raven Hollow. I so cannot wait to share Tara and Grant’s story with you! I had fun writing their story, let me tell you. Happy reading!

Betty

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.

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!

Betty

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

Between the Lines: Pursuit of the Elixir of Life in Haunted Melody #PNR #romance #research

I’ve talked before about how alchemy is woven into the background in my upcoming release, Haunted Melody. You can read about that in this earlier post. What I haven’t addressed yet is what alchemy actually entails. I think others will feel as I do that there is a sense of the mysterious, the mystical or sinister, surrounding the romantic notions of alchemists and their art. Even after doing research into the topic, I still come away with a fairly romanticized view of these early scientists.

First, let’s look at how alchemy is defined. Most historians agree that alchemy created products, through the act of producing changes which yielded new items, or specifically for monetary gain by selling new products. Historians have shown that some alchemists employed religious or spiritual allegories and allusions in their writings, which reflected their spiritual beliefs as much as their desire to obscure the secret techniques they used. For more on the techniques, read my earlier post here.

Alchemy breaks down into various subgenres, what I call separate spheres of practice:

  • medical (iatrochemical) along with pharmaceuticals known collectively as chymiatri;
  • household alchemy, comprising home remedies and even cooking skills;
  • cosmetics;
  • artisanal alchemy that encompassed efforts related to paints, dyes, gilding, etc.; and
  • natural and diabolical magic.

Note that housewives could be seen as a kind of alchemist given their recipes for foods and simples (home remedies). So anyone who whips up a stew or soup is carrying on the tradition in some sense.

We must be careful about how we perceive magic as it related to alchemists. Although it’s tempting to adopt the romanticized view of alchemists brewing up trouble like the three witches of MacBeth, the reality is far different. Depending on the alchemist’s role in society, knowledge of magic could be valuable. Indeed, in America, Puritan leaders and educated people clearly differentiated between what Walter Woodward calls natural magic as the “manipulation through natural means of the occult or unseen forces at work in the world” and diabolical magic which is the “manipulation of those same forces with the aid of the devil.” Thus, while studying natural magic was encouraged, delving into diabolical magic was not.

Sometime way back in the 3rd century AD someone decided to try to make real gold and silver, an idea believed possible at that time. Given that artisans knew how to tinge silver to look like gold, why couldn’t they take it farther, perhaps “give silver not only the color of gold but all the properties of gold?” Making gold in this way is referred to as chrysopoeia, from the Greek words chryson poiein (to make gold), while making silver using a similar process is referred to as argyropoeia. The general process of transforming one metal into another is called transmutation. Once this idea emerged and became popular, alchemists had a common goal in their application of alchemical principles to the “noble art.”

Most of all, alchemy is typically associated with the pursuit of the Philosopher’s Stone, a substance that enabled transmutation, and efforts to effect chryosopoeia and argyropoeia. However, more often alchemists engaged in a variety of practical, daily uses for the chemical manipulation of natural elements that they conducted. Principe argues that “There must also exist some body of theory that provides an intellectual framework, that undergirds and explains practical work, and that guides pathways for the discovery of new knowledge.”

So Zak, as a present day chemist in Haunted Melody, works to understand the ancient alchemical recipe so he can apply it to his brother’s medical condition, to attempt to heal his brother. Only Zak doesn’t possess that foundation to help him attain the new knowledge he seeks. But he’s also aware of his weakness and strives to learn what he needs to accomplish his ultimate aim. Does he succeed, you may ask? You’ll have to wait for March 28 when the book releases, but you can pre-order it now so you have the story as soon as possible.

Source: Principe, Lawrence M. The Secrets of Alchemy.

What are your thoughts on alchemists? Were they secretive sorcerers? Or mystical medicine men? The castle cook? Something in between?

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts and opinions!

Betty

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 is now available for pre-order and will release on March 28, 2017. Here’s more about the story…

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?

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

Between the Lines: Getting to Know George Starkey, #American #Alchemist in #Haunted #Melody #paranormal #romance #history #alchemy

I do a lot of research for my stories, whether historical or contemporary, to ensure I’ve got my facts right. Much of what I find never finds its way onto the story’s pages, but it plays in my mind as background information that resonates with my characters. In Haunted Melody (Secrets of Roseville Book 2), Zak Markel is following the steps within an ancient alchemist’s journal but doesn’t understand what he should be doing. What’s not on the page is the name of the real-life alchemist that the fictional alchemist is based upon. So I’d like to introduce you to George Starkey, a 17th-century American alchemist educated at Harvard University.

George Starkey was born in Bermuda, where he exhibited strong curiosity about how nature works, in particular insects. He eventually moved to America, where he graduated from Harvard College in 1646. While at Harvard, he seriously practiced alchemy, working with John Alcock and John Winthrop, Jr., who would later become the first governor of Connecticut. Winthrop had a keen interest in alchemy and represents the elite alchemical circle within which Starkey moved. However, after struggling for several years to obtain the furnaces and the other apparatus necessary to conduct his experiments, Starkey moved to London in 1650 where he had access to better equipment.

While in London, Starkey became involved with the Hartlib group, otherwise known as the Office of Address, led by Samuel Hartlib. This group emphasized “intellectual communication” and used the practical science of Francis Bacon and the didactic agenda of the Czech reformer Jan Amos Comenius to merge “productive natural philosophy” (useful science) with “pansophia, the Comenian ideal of universal learning.” This group was central to Starkey’s reputation and influence in England.

Starkey contributed many influential medical works while in England, but more interesting is the fact that he lived two lives. Writing under the pseudonym of Eirenaeus Philalethes, “A Peaceful Lover of Truth,” Starkey took on the role of an adept, that is, one who is capable of transmuting base metals into gold or silver. As Starkey, he became the student of Philalethes and told fabulous tales of his alter ego living in New England. Starkey refused to reveal the true name of Philalethes, claiming he’d been sworn to secrecy to protect the life of his friend. So cleverly did he lead this dual life, even after he died in London from the plague in 1665, people reported seeing Philalethes in other countries. That’s some serious effort he took to make sure people did not know of his pen name!

His most popular work under his pseudonym was the Introitus apertus ad occlusum regis palatium (An open entrance to the closed palace of the king). Indeed, Starkey, as Philalethes, was “likely” the “most widely read American scientist before Benjamin Franklin.” However, the early 18th century tensions that led to a newly defined separation between “alchemy” and “chemistry” as well as between alchemists and other “scientists” put a division between Starkey and his contemporary friend and alchemy student, Robert Boyle (1627–91). Starkey/Philalethes slipped into the “shadows beyond the fringe of scientific respectability” despite being “the last great philosophical alchemist” of his time, while Boyle became the “vanguard of the ‘New Chemistry.’”

Here’s what I find most fascinating about him. He kept laboratory notebooks and wrote frequent correspondence, both often using Latin and symbols, which have been translated into English, and have proven key to decoding the allegorical and secretive language he employed across a variety of his writings. The notebooks and letters also provide “an unprecedented glimpse” into the “mind and labors” of Starkey, who was acclaimed for his alchemical efforts as well as his potentially money-making inventions. His laboratory notebooks reflect the scholastic training he received as a student at Harvard, despite his railing against wasting time learning classical argumentation skills. His notebooks also show a blending of the two distinct “intellectual traditions” of “the experimentalism of the ‘New Philosophy’ and the formal Scholasticism of ‘the Schools.’” Thus, Starkey merged two unique yet complementary aspects into one combined entity, much like he and Philalethes. Starkey, as himself and his alter ego, also routinely spoke in his correspondence and treatises in allegory and riddles, for reasons I shared in an earlier post here.

By the way, if you’re curious to know more about George Starkey, here are a few references to get you started. Also, there’s a biography of him here and an interesting analysis of his influences and interactions here.

  • Newman, William R. Gehennical Fire: The Lives of George Starkey, an American Alchemist in the Scientific Revolution. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ Press. 1994.
  • Newman, William R. and Lawrence M. Principe. Alchemy Tried in the Fire: Starkey, Boyle, and the Fate of Helmontian Chymistry. Chicago: The Univ of Chicago Press. 2002.
  • Woodward, Walter W. Prospero’s America: John Winthrop, Jr., Alchemy, and the Creation of New England Culture, 1606-1676. Chapel Hill, NC: Univ of NC Press. 2010.

For Zak, it takes quite some time for him to find a book at the Golden Owl Books and Brews store that helps him figure out how to solve the puzzle that is the alchemist’s journal. The book I’m alluding to is none other than Geheniccal Fire along with several articles by Newman. You’ll notice that none of this is spelled out in my story, for two reasons. First, I figure most readers probably won’t care about George Starkey; they’re likely more interested in Zak and Paulette. Second, I didn’t want to distract my readers from the actual story by including too much of the historical references and allusions.

I don’t know about you, but I was not aware that America had any alchemists. I had thought they were all in Europe, so that was a cool surprise to me. Thus I wanted to share with my readers but only in an entertaining way. At least, that was my intent. Did I succeed? Only you, my readers, can answer that question after you read the story! See below for how you can pre-order your copy.

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts and opinions!

Betty

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_600x900Haunted Melody is now available for pre-order and will release on March 28, 2017. Here’s more about the story…

Paulette 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

Between the Lines: Moonshine and Moontinis in Undying Love #PNR #romance #research #moonshine #history

Max and Meredith enjoy some adult beverages while they work out their relationship challenges. For Meredith, she’s a fan of wine. But Max is a bit more hard core. His go-to drink is a Moontini, a martini made with moonshine. Straight up white lightning with a dash of dry vermouth and a large green olive as a garnish. It’s his favorite drink for a very precise reason.

Why is this important? To Max, he’s continuing a tradition although in a legal capacity (he is a lawyer, after all) rather than in bootlegger fashion. He’s not only giving a nod to the centuries-old occupation but supporting his state’s and country’s heritage. Those two ideas are very important to him. See, he is a preservation lawyer based in Roseville, Tennessee, and he’s all about carrying on the historical and heritage aspects of the area.

So when Meredith contemplates tearing down the Twin Oaks plantation buildings you can well imagine how many Moontinis Max is tempted to reach for. Thankfully, he gets a grip on himself and makes a plan.

Researching the history of making moonshine, I discovered the impact and influences this once legal, and then illegal and violent, and now legal again occupation has had on America and its citizens. NASCAR is a direct result of the need to drive fast and, well, creatively to avoid the feds trying to catch up to the tax-evading bootleggers. You can find out more about the interesting history of moonshine at Cool Material.

osm_original8Moonshine is now sold by liquor stores. We even found a distillery in Gatlinburg, TN, when we went there a year or two ago on vacation. One of my favorite cocktails is a classic gin martini, so I bought some ’shine to try Max’s fave drink. I found the original non-flavored kind from Ole Smoky  Tennessee Moonshine has more bite than regular gin but tastes pretty much the same when substituted. It’s a little higher proof, too, so I didn’t use as much quantity. Maybe Max can handle that difference, but I didn’t want to take the chance.

What is your favorite adult beverage? Are you tempted to try some white lightning? Or have you enjoyed some in the past?

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts and opinions!

Betty

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_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?

Only 99 cents for Kindle and iTunes!

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

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

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