Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Pictures Are Worth Many Words

We have just flown back from Wales, from pleasantly mild weather to a very unusual San Francisco heatwave. So, rather than write a lengthy essay about the "joys" of world travel, I have selected some of my favorite photos of my second homeland.

The 13 year old Sooty, who was having his back
scratched, hence the attitude of bliss. My first riding
experience with a hornless saddle!

A view of Llansteffan Castle from a popular
walking trail along the Twyi Estuary, with
picture-perfect dead oak.

The stream conduit beneath a stone bridge, just outside the village
of Llansteffan, below the castle.

The woodlands below Llansteffan Castle.

The graceful and curious Marv, at the Knightsford Stables at the
junction between the tiny village of Merthyr and the crossing
of Llysonnen Road.

Young Goldie who is awaiting judgment on his suitability
as a riding companion to his soon-to-be stable-mate, Sooty.

This Fushia is common throughout Wales, but this
particular plant is located in the garden of
Hafod y Coed in Aberystwyth.
One antique chair next to an oak chest built in 1731, the proud
family heirlooms of the inhabitants of Hafod y Coed, Aberystwyth.
Good day to you all. Time for we weary travelers to work on correcting our internal clock mechanisms.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Falling for Fall

Every season has its joy and something lovely to share with us, but I have always been a spring person. Warming temperatures mean I can turn down the heat or stop wearing sweaters inside. Trees and shrubs respond to the warmth with new leaves, coating the branches recently dormant and barren in new green. Soon the budding flowers follow. By April, our home here in northern California is surrounded in beauty, everything budding, blossoming, and burgeoning with new life. The city is a kaleidoscope of color.

Animals get into the act, renewing their species with a new, young generation. The pastures around our city fill with new calves, frolicking lambs, and adorable kids. (In this case, I really mean baby goats.) I love everything about spring.

A friend recently rhapsodized in a similar way about the beauties of autumn: the color in the changing leaves, the cooling of scorching summer days (we get them here), the reopening of schools that get the kids off the streets in the middle of the day. Although I could see her points, I still felt that, for me, the autumn season can never compete with spring.


Still, as the cooling temperatures signal the change of seasons, I am learning to fall for fall. All the many fruit trees and crop fields that blossomed in the spring are now filled with ripening fruits and vegetables and the markets with gorgeous produce. Trees here are not yet turning, but when they do, they become a riot of blazing color. There's also the benefit of cutting off the air conditioner and expecting lower energy bills. And I have to admit it's nice to run an errand without worrying about running down school kids.

Autumn brings anticipation: of the approaching holidays, of snow in the Sierra foothills, of crackling logs and snuggling up with a good book in front of the fire or sharing the same space with my sweetheart or a cuddly grandchild. It heralds the arrival of the rainy season and water our state needs badly.It brings the joy of discovering new, delicious recipes for salsa, jams, and jellies and the first mug of spiced cider this year.

I expect I will always be a fan of spring and consider it my favorite season, but I'm learning to love the autumn. It comes in at a close second.

Susan Aylworth is the author of 14 novels, all available as e-books. She loves her northern California home which she shares with her husband of 46 years and the two spoiled cats they serve. When she can't be with her seven children, seven great kids-in-law, and 25 grandbabies, she loves hanging with her fictional offspring, the children of her mind. She also loves hearing from readers. Visit her website at www.susanaylworth.com or find her @SusanAylworth, at .facebook.com/Susan.Aylworth.Author, or on Pinterest.








Saturday, September 10, 2016

Please Don’t Leave Me Hanging

By Karen McCullough

Warning: Rant Alert!

Like many people with ebook readers, I subscribe to a couple of those newsletters that offer lists of free and low-cost ebooks. Many of their listings aren’t my thing – wrong genres or types of stories that don’t appeal to me. But sometimes there are books that sound interesting, and I’m always on the lookout for good new reads.

I’ve learned to be cautious. If I don’t know the author, I read the free sample. If there’s no sample, I move onto the next offering. I’ve been burned a couple of times by books that sounded interesting, had an intriguing premise, but turned out to be poorly written or badly plotted. To be fair, I’ve also found a couple of new-to-me authors whose books I’ve really enjoyed.

Recently, though, I had a reading experience that left me just purely furious. It was a novella and it was pretty good. I was into it, enjoying the adventure with the characters. And then it stopped. I can’t say it ended because it had no ending. It just quit, with no resolution to the story. In fact, it left our protagonists in an uncomfortable position.

Did I immediately go and buy the next one in the series? No way. The story was pretty compelling, but not enough to overcome my distrust of the author. How could I know whether the next one would wrap up the story? How many books would it take? Does the author even know how it’s going to end?

I can handle a background story that may not be complete in this book as long as the main plot gets some sort of satisfying resolution. Let our heroes win this battle even though they haven’t won the war. I’m find if the author lets the characters accomplish something and take a breather before facing the next challenge.

I don’t mind reading a sample from a book—as long as I know it’s a sample, or part one of the story. I do rather mind paying for it, since essentially it’s just an advertisement to hook me into buying the next one. But, still, I’m okay with it as long as I know going into it that the story ends on a cliffhanger or isn’t complete in this book.

So authors, please!  If you’re going to end your book in the middle of the story, at least make sure it has a big, fat warning label.  Otherwise I’m going to feel betrayed when I get to the end and there is no resolution. And I’m never going to buy a book from you again.

Amended to add:

Because I’m going to be on vacation for the last part of August, I’ve written this well ahead of time and this morning I discovered a similar rant posted here:

http://allaboutromance.com/the-new-age-of-the-series-a-reader-rant/

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Labor Day Weekend and the End of Summer

Kayaking yesterday on a near by lake, I saw a man loosening the bolts on his dock to take it in for the season.  My son, visiting for the weekend, stayed up late Saturday night to watch Notre Dame football.  The leaves on the sugar maple are starting to turn.  This morning when I went outside, there was a chill in the air:  all signs that summer is over—at least in the northeast.
A lot of people make New Years’ resolutions, but how many of us still think of September as the real beginning of the year and a time for fresh starts? It also means the end of the summer.  Although summer isn’t officially over until the 21st, for all practical purposes Labor Day is when summer ends.  That could be the reason I greet September and the Fall with a certain amount of melancholy. I even start counting down the days in early August, anticipating summer’s end. 
I’m not sure of the reason although I’m sure it has to do with the fact that September for me still means the beginning of the school year in spite of having graduated from college over 40 years ago. Although I’m a lawyer and was in school for a number of years, I never liked the rigidness.  I’m not very good at following rules—at least when it comes to the ones made by other people.  Maybe that’s why I’m a writer.
But besides school starting, September also means that official “fun” is done with until next summer.  This is not to say that there is no fun to be had during the rest of the year, but it has always seemed, except for maybe Christmas, summer is the time when the fun is scheduled in, be it trips to the beach, picnics, outdoor concerts, hikes and best of all, anything involving water. 
Living all my life in the northeast, summer is the only time we can go boating, water skiing and swimming.  Once September comes, you’re pushing it.  This past weekend I wasn’t the only one who sniffed the air and said, “Dammit, it’s starting to feel like fall.”  This sentence, mind you, is always accompanied by a sorrowful shake of the head.

There is, of course, the positive side to the arrival of Fall.  It’s a time of the fresh starts I mentioned earlier and the do-overs.  Just as in high school when I would harbor hope that the new school year would be different than the old with new teachers and new opportunities to succeed, there is still that optimism in the air every September.  Whether it’s something simple, like a resolution to go to yoga class more often—and I’m not the only one, September classes are almost as crowded as January’s—or to finally take a painting class, most of us view September as a kind of reboot or renew.  We are starting with a clean slate, with a chance to do what we’ve put off for months or even years.

Deborah Nolan has two romances with Montlake, SUDDENLY LILY and CONFLICT OF INTEREST and one with Desert Breeze Publishing, SECOND ACT FOR CARRIE ARMSTRONG.  Her second romance, STARTING OVER, is coming out in January 2017 with Desert Breeze.
When she is not writing, she is usually taking yoga classes in NYC or Hudson, NY or art classes in the city. 

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Value of Time

by Janis Susan May/Janis Patterson

Sometimes we continue to love our friends not for what they are, but in spite of what they are. I have a dear friend, one who I’ve known for a dozen years or more, one who has always been there for me, one who is just a good person in general. She is kind, funny and unfailingly generous, and I am blessed to have her in my life and want to keep her as a friend for as long as I live. Best of all, our husbands even like each other!

Except...

She has absoutely no concept of time. None. She has several beautiful watches, but I’m not quite sure she knows how to use any of them. She has never made any appointment on time. Any. Her late mother once confided in me that she was even born ten days late. After the first year or two - after I realized her tardyness was totally incurable - I stopped trying to change her, as she refused to accept that she had any kind of problem, saying that time didn’t matter that much. Well, maybe not to her, but I live on such a tight schedule that it was very important to me. I didn’t want to lose her friendship, and we had several arguments about the problem. So… I just lied. If we were to meet at lunch at 12 noon, I told her that we would meet at 11:30, and thus she nearly always manages to show up no later than 12:10 or 12:15. It’s a system that works well for both of us,... as long as she doesn’t know I’ve jiggered the time.

This is just about the only point on which we disagree; she feels that time is an artificial construct to which one should not be enslaved. I feel that to ignore time - especially when it wastes another’s time - is to show disrespect for the other person, in effect saying that their time is unimportant. Of course, I was trained by my father, who was a martinet about time and manners.

Most of my life my parents owed a well-respected advertising agency. I started working for them when I was nine. Deadlines are an important part of any media-based business (actually of any business) and I was raised that to miss a deadline was a sin, if not just about the worst sin one could commit. That training served me well in my subsequent careers in journalism and writing novels, and drove me crazy the decade I worked with actors. (It is amazing that some of  the flakier ones of them survived!) I would sooner commit a felony than miss a deadline.

Of course, as I live in a very large city where the bad traffic is legendary, sometimes even if you build in time for travel something happens and you’re stuck for X amount of time. That’s part of life in the big city and you accept it. It just doesn’t happen every time you meet someone for lunch, though! (And that’s where cell phones are a blessing.)

If my friend were this consistently tardy just with me, I wouldn’t call her a friend, no matter how sweet or funny she was. She is this way with everyone and everything. Her husband says she was even late for their wedding, and quite honestly I don’t know if he’s kidding or not!

So, being a believer that you play with what you’re dealt, I go on lying about our meeting times and, since I bought a tablet that fits cozily in my purse, have managed to get a good deal of writing done while waiting. So much so, in fact, that I might start considering telling her the actual lunch times!

(You might have noticed that I'm blogging on a different day. A re-scheduling of our Classic and Cozy blog roster has moved me from first Wednesday to first Thursday. So - look for me here every month at this same time.)


Monday, August 29, 2016

Time Flies


by Fran McNabb

The dog days of summer are upon us. No, let me rephrase that. The dog days of summer have been with us for a couple of months. This has been a very hot summer. My husband and I sit out in the afternoon and evenings to enjoy the harbor activity or to enjoy the company of neighbors. This summer we’ve spent more and more afternoon inside in air conditioning.

Maybe the weather is hotter this year, or maybe we’re just getting older and the heat affects us more. The second explanation is probably the correct one. We are getting older and as we go from one year to the next, it seems the summers are hotter and the days are flying faster than they did in the years past.

My mom used to say that as we age, the years go faster. I never paid much attention to that—until now.

We had the privilege of having our five-year-old grandson at the beginning of the summer. His birthday is the last day of August which makes all the others in his class older than he is. One day out of the blue he looked at me with a sad-sack face. “McMama, I’ll never be six.” I started to tell him he was being silly, but then, I realized that for him time isn’t passing as fast as it is for me. Getting to be six is the biggest worry his little mind has right now, and to him, the three months ahead were endless.

Yes, time flies as we get older. We clutter our minds with family matters, financial worries, career problems and on and on and on. As I look back at a simpler time in our lives—when our greatest worry was as simple as a birthday—I realize that youth and simplicity was a state of bliss.

That six-year-old birthday party was celebrated early this year, and at the party I heard the little
fellow tell a friend, “I’m not six yet.” I didn’t say anything though I wanted to say that his real birthday would be here before he knew it, and before he could blink an eye he’d be an adult celebrating graduations, births, and anniversaries with his own family. I hope these future celebrations will be as anticipated and as wonderful as his “real six-year-old birthday.”

Yes, time does seem to fly, but I hope as adults we can still feel the innocent excitement we once felt in childhood.
 

FRAN MCNABB and her husband have two sons and two grandsons and have enjoyed watching these young men experience life as they mature. She writes sweet romances and loves including children in her books. Visit her at www.FranMcNabb.com or at mcnabbf@bellsouth.net.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

My Mother's Many Teaching Moments

Although my mother left school at the age of 16, without a high school diploma, she never stopped teaching the many lessons that life had taught her from losing her father when she was two years old, losing her mother when she was 13 and being a young mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and great-great-grandmother.

She was an enthusiastic reader of any and all books, from Shakespearean plays to the novels of Elswyth Thane (of which I have recently acquired four that she loaned to me when I was 14). She also read the Readers' Digest and especially "Laughter is the Best Medicine." 

Despite the loss of one of her seven children in a sad accident during World War II and outliving her beloved husband by forty years, she considered her life blessed. In the final ten years of her life, she succumbed to dementia but absolutely never lost her sense of humor and cheerful attitude. 

Although during the short period of transition, when she realized that something was going wrong, she had moments of fear and uncertainty, she came through as the happy, blessed and loving woman she had always strived to be. 



Virginia Verge Verrill was fearless. During the Second World War, she followed my father around the country, with sometimes five children in the car, to be with him at his many postings as a training officer. She recounted those adventures to me throughout my childhood and for her 90th birthday, I published them privately for my family and all her grandchildren. They are now available in an ebook, Following the Troops: Life for an Army Wife, 1941-1945. 

My mother was dyslectic and often had trouble pronouncing words such a "Pacific Ocean" (Specific to her) and "Oahu" (Wahaho to Mom). She could read anything but she couldn't write words such as okra (orke). But that didn't stop her from becoming the President of the Parent-Teachers Association for all the years that my younger sister and I were in elementary school. Neither did that stop her from being a leader in her church and helping to establish the Hamilton Church homeless center.

She also had a mild case of ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) - a condition that affects me and my youngest son as well. Although we laughed about her "I planted tomatoes" moments, I finally understood the condition when my son was diagnosed with the more serious ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). I'm inclined to veer from one topic to another as this illustrates: 
   
And then.... You see how easy it is to wander!


Back on track now: my mother was a great one for repeating the tried and true adages that turn your life around when it needs it most. For instance, one that I hold dear and remind myself often: "To thine own self be true." 


But then...


Enjoy the final days of summer. I'll get back to work once I've finished laughing...at myself!