Wednesday, November 26, 2014

My Foray into Fan Fiction

I have to admit writing fan fiction wasn’t even on my writer’s radar, I’ve never even read a fan fiction book, but when opportunity knocks sometimes you have to open the door to see what’s on the other side. For me the opportunity came after I attended the 2014 Romance Writers of America conference in San Antonio. There I had the chance to hear about a program at Amazon Publishing called Kindle Worlds.  This is not an endorsement one way or the other for this program, this is just my experience venturing into the realm of fandom, as it’s known. I never knew the scope of this phenomenon. I popped on over to the website and found hundreds, if not thousands of subjects where people have added to the worlds created by the original authors. And that was just under the book tab! There are authors who cut their teeth writing fiction this way. Perhaps the most famous is E.L. James the author of the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy reportedly written as fan fiction based on the Twilight series created by Stephenie Meyer.

So fan fiction is written by writers who loved a certain story so much they couldn't let the characters go. Popular are the Sweet Valley Series, Catcher in The Rye, Star Trek and many more. Authors of the original work are never paid by the writers who write in their worlds. In Kindle Worlds all of the “Worlds” in this program are licensed works; meaning the original authors share in all the revenue of all the subsequent works created by other writers in their series. For more information you can check out Kindle Worlds at Amazon.

For me the experience so far has been writing one book, in one world. And that would be the world created by Lucy Kevin, aka the mega bestselling author Bella Andre. I decided on The Four Weddings and A Fiasco series. Lucy Kevin wrote four original stories for the series and set them at a wedding venue called The Rose Chalet. My challenge was to continue to use her setting and some of her characters infusing them into my story. The setting is one of my all-time favorite places, the San Francisco area.  So I started my story in wine country, adding my hero and heroine, Scott and Heather, to ones already created! And they get to enjoy the Rose Chalet while mixing business with pleasure. 

The fan fiction experience has been a positive one. I got to debut my first contemporary novella, The Wedding Toast. Writing short after doing full length novels for the bulk of my career was fun! Working with the Kindle Worlds team has been a pleasure. If you are an author looking to add to you writing portfolio you may want to consider exploring the world of fan fiction. If you are a reader wanting to try new authors and new stories, you should definitely look at fan fiction works.

And I would be remiss if I did not recognize one of the best holidays we get to share here in the United States, Thanksgiving. Today I am thankful for my family, particularly my husband, sons, daughter-in-laws and my trio of grandsons! I am also thankful for my friends and family who have supported me throughout my life and my career. And, as always, I’m thankful for new opportunities, those that I’ve found and those yet to come. Happy Thanksgiving!

Tracey sold her first book on 9/9/99! She is the best selling author of the Women of Surprise Historical romance series, Montlake/Avalon Books and writes the contemporary Wine Country Vixen series. You can learn more about Tracey and her books by visiting her website, Four Weddings and A Fiasco,  The Wedding Toast is available now at  

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Traditions to Pass Along

Autumnal photo
For nearly 300 years, Americans have celebrated a family event called Thanksgiving. In countries around the world, some form of ‘thanksgiving’ is celebrated at this time of year - the Fall - in gratitude for a good harvest and a hope for continuing good fortune in the coming darker days of winter. Most of these are linked to religious festivals.

Autumnal photo
The American version of Thanksgiving is unique because the celebration crosses all ethnic, religious and cultural groups as a family celebration. For many of us, it is a major family get-together, celebrating the creation of this country. Thanksgiving Day became a recognized national holiday in the later part of the 19th Century. During the Amerian Civil War, Abraham Lincoln encouraged Americans to gather together to give thanks for the bounty of our freedoms.

In my family, my mother began her efforts days before the fourth Thursday of the month, making fudge, stuffing dates, decorating the house, ironing table cloths and napkins. We were (and still are) a large family. Until late in her life, my mother was the sole cook, hostess and bottle-washer. We young ones eventually stuffed the dates, mixed the fruit salad, prepared the stuffing (always made from scratch). But Mom was the only one of us who made the Parker House Rolls.
Autumnal Photo
I have never been able to match my mother's rolls, though I have mastered the stuffing and my basted turkeys are well-received. My husband is the king of the stuffed dates and one of my daughters-in-law has conquered the pumpkin pie.

This year, our celebrations will be very different because my husband and I are living far from our family. I know that many of my fellow writers on the Classic and Cozy Books blog are amazing gourmet cooks and have treasured family recipes they may be sharing but I wanted to share one that is always a big hit with adults and children alike.

This is also simple and great for children to participate in the preparations of this wonderful family event.


1 package (or more) of dates (pitted is easier but not necessary: the pits separate from the fruit without much effort)

Cream Cheese, Peanut Butter, Hazelnut Chocolate Butter and/or other favorite creamy spread (Cookie Butter Cream, anyone?)

Open each date and drop a ½ teaspoon or so (personal taste is the final determinant!) of any of the above spreads into the center of the date.

Arrange decoratively on a pretty plate and try to get them to the family before they disappear.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all and best wishes for a joyful Christmas season too.

© 2014 Photographs, Leigh Verrill-Rhys, taken in Wales

Monday, November 24, 2014

To Turkey or Not

by Fran McNabb

With Thanksgiving this week, most of us turn our attention to getting together with family and friends and remembering Thanksgiving gatherings from years past.

Most families will celebrate with a traditional meal of turkey and dressing and pumpkin pie, but many families have started their own traditions over the years. Usually I bake a turkey and serve a rice dish called “dirty rice” instead of traditional dressing. “Dirty Rice” is made with lots of seasonings (onions, bell pepper, celery) and several ground meats (pork, beef, chicken gizzards). My family loves it and it doesn’t seem like the holidays without it.

Having said that, this year we aren’t having turkey, dressing or “dirty rice.” Since our boys and their families live away, we got together this past weekend and with only two days together, I didn’t want to give up an entire day in the kitchen. Instead on Saturday we ate grilled shrimp, cooked and eaten downstairs in an area overlooking the bayou. Along with the shrimp we also had grilled alligator wrapped in bacon (caught by my oldest son). On Sunday we had a sit-down dinner of “dobe macaroni” that I had prepared ahead of time, then in the afternoon we finished eating the shrimp by boiling them – not your typical Thanksgiving fare, but foods my boys loved while they were growing up.

After everyone leaves and my husband and I are alone on Thanksgiving Day, we’re not sure what we’ll do for lunch. Maybe we’ll share a traditional turkey meal with other family members in town or maybe we’ll simply spend a quiet day remembering the wonderful two days together with our boys, their wives and our grandsons.

Traditional holiday meals are wonderful, but any holiday spent with family is a good one no matter what is served.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you.

Fran McNabb lives on the Gulf Coast with her husband. Her two sons and two grandsons live elsewhere, but getting together with family is important to her. Several of her books include children and their role in the family. Visit her website at

Friday, November 21, 2014

A Time for Thanks

by Sandy Cody

It's that time of year again - a little less than a week until Thanksgiving - perhaps our noblest holiday. Why the noblest? Because, for one day at least, we take time to be thankful for the things we have instead of longing for the things we lack.

There's no reason for this holiday except to be thankful. We don't expect anyone to give us a gift. We don't have to shop for a special dress and the perfect shoes to compliment it. All we have to do to honor the day is count our blessings ... oh ... and cook. But even that is pretty easy compared to most special days. There's no agonizing over what to serve. The menu is dictated by tradition. In our house that means turkey with the usual accompaniments, including both pumpkin and pecan pies. It may be something different for your family, but whatever appears on your table is probably consistent from one Thanksgiving to the next. If your family is anything like mine, the mere suggestion of something different is enough to prompt lifted eyebrows and silent, disbelieving stares - certainly not gratitude for trying to add a little originality to the holiday. At best, the response would be: "Thanks, but no thanks."

I guess this wouldn't be a Thanksgiving post if I didn't list at least some of the things for which I am most thankful: my family; my health and the health of the people I love; plenty of food; a warm, comfortable home; freedom to worship, think and speak according to my conscience. I started to write that I know these are the same things for which we are all thankful, but it occurs to me that would not be true. Far too many people lack some or even all of these blessings. If I'm honest, I have to admit that I have these things, at least in part, because of an accident of birth, not because of any special merit on my part. And for that accident, I am most thankful.

This has turned out to be more serious than I intended. Sometimes that just happens. The words take over and spill out serious thoughts.

I hope all of you have a seriously Happy Thanksgiving. May you spend the day surrounded by people you love and may the day be the perfect mixture of serious gratitude and silly laughter.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

When Did I Start Smelling Like Starbucks?

by Gina Ardito

The other day, as I stepped into the shower for my morning ablutions, I looked at the shelf where all my personal products sat lined up, waiting for their very important role. Something I never noticed before struck me this particular morning.

My shampoo and conditioner are made with green tea extracts. Body wash is "Chai Latte Scent." Face scrub? Orange and grapefruit with honey. Shave cream, vanilla almond.

I'm a walking cornucopia of smells that can be found in your local coffee shop! Even the cream I use to reduce the dark circles under my eyes contains...wait for it...caffeine.

How did this happen? Is it just me? Or are we all walking around in an aromatic cloud of "Essence of Barista"? 

I think back to when my mother was my age and try to recall the items on her bathroom shelf. Now, admittedly, I'm a lot more vain than my mother ever was. I insist that when I die, regardless of my age at the time, my hair will *still* be this color. I generally don't go to the end of my driveway to get the mail unless my hair is styled and my makeup is done. (The hair and makeup mandate does get lifted for writing deadlines, but the mail gets stopped then, too!) Still, I picture that shelf in my mind and I see:

Cream deodorant (Secret, I think. I remember the jar because when I was about ten, I was goofing around with her stuff and dropped it. The glass shattered and I wound up with a nice-sized shard in my foot.)

Hair spray (Aqua Net--the lacquer of hair sprays. The stuff that single-handedly shredded the ozone layer.)

Shampoo (Breck. Or sometimes, Prell. No scent.)

Conditioner? No one used conditioner in those days. Detangler, maybe. And that had no discernible scent. Except maybe...chemical. Like science lab in junior high school.

In fact, when I think about how my mother smelled, you know what comes to mind? Bleach. Seriously. To this day, many decades after my childhood ended, I still remember my mother whenever I smell bleach, particularly on skin. It's a unique scent.  

Of course, to trigger that memory, these days, I have to visit a laundromat. Not exactly the ideal spot to honor those we loved and lost. 

Does this mean that one day, many years hence I hope, whenever my kids want to remember me, they'll have to head to Starbucks? I guess I can live with that. 

"Hoist those cups up high and slug one back for your old ma. And while you're at it, order me a cinnamon dolce latte, will ya?"

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Faster Than You Think

In a perfect world, the phrase "faster than you think" would mean the speed at which I can write a novel. Unfortunately, this is not the case. My writing speed might best be compared to the speed of a turtle. The passage of years is what happens "faster than you think." In late summer 2013 I learned that my first Bad Luck Cat mystery would be published in September 2015. I couldn't believe I'd have to wait over two years to see BLACK CAT CROSSING in print, but a writer friend told me not to worry, that it would be here before I knew it. She was right. The pub date is already less than a year away. Now I'm more concerned about writing book two in the series because it's set to be published nine months after the first.

On an evening when my husband was out of town several years ago I decided to pull out my photo albums. I was alone (except for my cat) in a quiet house and enjoying a trip down memory lane when Kenny Chesney's song "Don't Blink" came on the radio. It was a rather new song at the time, and I'm a Chesney fan so I paid attention to the words. While viewing pictures of my parents in their younger days and my nieces and nephews as babies, "Don't Blink" set off a stream of tears.

I had a similar feeling this morning when looking at pictures from my niece's wedding this past weekend. The song "Don't Blink" has been running an endless loop in my head all day. I compared the wedding day picture of my two nieces to their pictures as small children. I must have blinked because they are now beautiful young women, one new bride and one soon to become a new mom.

Today the children in my life are grandchildren, and I know they will grow up just as rapidly. I try to take advantage of time with them and to soak up their joy, especially as the holiday season approaches. I often have opportunities to babysit and almost always say "yes" even if it means that I won't get any chapters written that weekend. Because, in the end, what's most important? If you run into me, you may wonder about my wide-eyed stare. No, I didn't have Botox. I'm just trying not to blink.

Best start putting first things first. Cause when your hourglass runs out of sand you can't flip it over and start again. Take every breath God gives you for what it's worth. Don't blink...

Mystery author Kay Finch is currently writing her new Bad Luck Cat Mystery series set in the Texas Hill Country to be published by Berkley beginning in 2015. Her Klutter Killer mystery, Relative Chaos, features a professional organizer who finds a dead body in a hoarder's garage. Kay lives in a Houston, Texas suburb with her husband, two rescue dogs and a cat. Visit her web site at


Friday, November 14, 2014

Getting to Know Interview with Sierra Donovan

Interviewed by Jayne Ormerod

Yes, we all have bios on this website, but there is so much MORE to know about our Classic and Cozy bloggers.  So the 2nd Friday of each month is dedicated to getting to know us better.  This month I'd like to introduce you to Sierra Donovan, a sweet romance writer. And what's exciting for me is that I walked into my local Barnes and Noble a week or so ago and saw her latest release right there on the end cap!  Titled, "No Christmas Like the Present" you'll want to rush out and get it for your holiday reading pleasure...but wait, read the interview first!    

1. Okay, inquiring minds want to know…why a writer? Certainly not for the fame and fortune…or maybe it is?
Heh heh! Well, I'm still hoping for fame and fortune … but mostly, I just love words, and I love using them to make characters exist. And in the romance genre, there's the pleasure of making their dreams come true.

2. When did you first put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) to create your classic and cozy characters?
In fourth grade, I was writing my own “script” for the old gothic soap opera, Dark Shadows. I had people screaming and fainting and falling in love on every page. Wish I could see it now!

3. Do you have a set writing schedule?
I still have a part-time job and a family, so it's A) when I can and B) when I can motivate myself. My self-discipline is … inconsistent.

4. Is there a certain routine, food/drink, or location that summons forth the muses for you?
Starbucks is my “office” away from home. It doesn't have the distractions of home, and although I know I could go online there, I pretend I can't, so I don't. (I'm considering claiming my iced tea receipts on my next tax return. But I know better than to claim Starbucks as a dependent.)

5. What do you do when not writing?
Watch movies with my husband and son. Drink tea and listen to music with my daughter. Pet and scold our two dogs. And read as much as I can!

6. I imagine you’ve been reading all of your life (all great writers have.)  What was your favorite book as a child?
Just one? I read Heidi repeatedly, as well as a little-known sequel, Heidi's Children. Later on, there were the gothic romances based on that soap I mentioned before, Dark Shadows. And there was another gothic author, Virginia Coffman, who I totally fell in love with. She wrote engaging stories with a nice smattering of humor – she may have introduced me to the idea of a writer having a “voice.”

7. Do you re-read books? If so, which one have you re-read the most?
Not much these days, because I don't have time to read as many books as I'd like to the first time! But as a teen, I read Virginia Coffman's “Lucifer Cove” series repeatedly. It involved an exclusive resort just outside of San Francisco, run by this unassuming-but-handsome man who was … uh … the devil. I did have a bent for dark-ish fantasy, didn't I?

8. But there is more to life than reading, writing (and arithmetic)…what is your most memorable adventure in your life?
<<I think this is the point where Barbara Walters would ask you if you were a tree, what kind would you be, but I’ll skip that and throw a softball…>>
My 21-year (and counting) marriage to my husband.

9. If you were on American Idol, what song would you sing to WOW! the judges?
Nothing showy. Either a '70s ballad like Elton John's “Your Song” … or if I got brave, maybe a Frank Sinatra-type standard – but done very simply!

10. Last question…movie rights…who will play your two main characters when Hollywood comes knocking on your door?

My hero is Fred, Scrooge's nephew from “A Christmas Carol,” brought to life, so Hugh Jackman would be great! My heroine? I'm thinking Jenna Fischer from “The Office.” 

You can read more about Sierra on her website:

And be sure and look for this the next time you visit Barnes and Noble:

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Horoscopes Can Help Your Characters

I'm not a horoscope fanatic, but during my birthday month I tend to check it more often. I don't seek out complicated astrology charts, a certified astrologer, or gaze at the stars. I'm more than satisfied reading my daily horoscope in the newspaper. The sun sign forecasts in the newspaper are only the tip of the complicated process. To come up with a daily forecast astrologers look at the relationship of the planets and their cycles to your sun sign.

Astrology and Your Characters

Astrology is a way to discover more about your characters. Are they direct or do they avoid love and romance? A horoscope for your characters can help you determine their strengths and weaknesses, it can give you an idea of how their day will go, or who might cross their path.

A Water Sign and a Fire Sign 

In Chocolate Secrets, my heroine is a horoscope junkie. The hero, a practical NYC firefighter doesn't believe the stars and planets determine his life. He's a self proclaimed asparagus. Her quirky habit and his logic put them on opposite ends of the universe. To complicate things she's a water sign and he's a fire sign. Can complete opposites overcome their differences?

Endless Resources

Finding the answers to your characters personality dilemmas is easy. Most of my info comes from an assortment of little books I buy at the supermarket checkout counter. Sometimes I'll create a complex personality who crosses over between signs. The possibilities are endless.


Once you create horoscopes for your characters, you'll have an ongoing sketch of their relationship potential, their job and health, and what they need to learn and experience.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Inquiring (Author) Minds Want To Know

by Jean C. Gordon

I doing something a little different this month ─ a reader survey. While the other Classic and Cozy authors and I love to share our stories with readers, we also like to sell our books. And that means we have to promote them. So, I'd like you to tell us what might entice you to buy a book.

What's in it for you? Anyone who answers in the comments and includes an email address will receive a Smashword coupon for a free Kindle, Nook, or Kobo copy of the first book I wrote, Bachelor Father.

Let's get started. Have you ever bought a book because of:

1. A bookmark promoting the book?
2. Bling from the author ─ a pen, sticky notes, candy, refrigerator magnet, coffee cup, trip to the  Bahamas?
3. A book signing?
4. A launch party on Facebook.
5. A Goodreads giveaway?
6. Another online author giveaway?
7. A book excerpt at the back of another book?
8. An excerpt online?
9. Reviews?
10. An author newsletter or postcard?
11. A Tweet?
12. A Facebook post?
13. An author interview?
14. A character interview?
15. A mention in a blog?

Speaking of which, my sweet romance Candy Kisses is a $1.99 Kindle deal through Friday, November 14.

In the appealing, adorable Candy Kisses by Jean C. Gordon,
Candy Price is burdened with a community of brothers who all think they know what's best for her--and she'd love to prove them wrong, but first she needs to figure out what the right choice is. Stuck in Albany for the summer with only her landlord, the very handsome and cheerful Mike Wheeler, she decides to take on a challenge: She's going to find Mike a new girlfriend and, in the meantime, they can share pointers on the dating scene. Candy is about to find out what love is all about, but first she has to learn how to stand up to the boss who takes advantage of her all the time and learn to let other people help her. Candy Kisses is an upbeat romance about two good people who need to make that love connection. ─ BookPage

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Man Without Mirth

Sandra Wilkins

 I’ve been thinking about a quote from Henry Ward Beecher, “A man without mirth is like a wagon without springs.  He is jolted disagreeably by every pebble in the road.”  Isn’t that the truth?  Do you have those kinds of people in your life?  I certainly do.  Nothing is good enough for them.  It’s either too hot or too cold, too soft or too hard.  Nothing can be just right.  Happiness seems to elude them. 

            To me, a life of mirth is more than cracking jokes or poking fun of yourself or others all the time.  After all, who wants to be around a person that can’t be taken seriously?  Life isn’t a laugh-fest.  People have to work, bills need to be paid and tragedies occur. 

            Personally, I don’t think either extreme of humanity is healthy or fun to be around.  But, seeing the bright side of things, giving others the benefit of the doubt, not assuming everyone else is out to get you and helping those who are less fortunate make the road of life more comfortable for everyone involved. 

            So, who’s with me?  Who wants to travel life’s bumpy byways with a smile on your face and a song in your heart?  To get us started, let me tell you a joke about two cannibals and a clown—naw, never mind, that one is liable to make you groan instead…I hope you can find some merriment in today.

 Sandra Wilkins is busy writing another series while home educating her two daughters.  Ada’s Heart, Rose’s Hope and Gwen’s Honor are her first three published wholesome historical romances.  Go to to find out more about her and her books.  

Monday, November 10, 2014

Things I Wish my Momma had Taught Me, Thanksgiving Edition

by Jayne Ormerod

Ohio Thanksgiving circa 1970
     There comes a time when a woman must start hosting her own Thanksgiving celebrations. For a woman who marries a military man and moves 3,000 miles away from family, these days come at a tender age of 22. Had I had any inkling that I would have to prepare Thanksgiving feasts entirely on my own, my childhood holidays would have been better spent hanging out in the kitchen learning the tricks of preparing a flawless holiday meal instead of curling up in an over-sized arm chair with my nose buried in the latest Nancy Drew mystery.  As a result, I’ve had to learn a lot of Turkey Day lessons the hard way.
          So in the spirit of the season, today I’m offering to a Top Five List of Things I Wish My Mother had Taught Me about Preparing (and Enjoying) a Thanksgiving Feast:

5)           Don’t rely on Aunt Alma’s vague directions for turkey preparation.  Find out the basic ingredients then Google a recipe that has exact measurements.  For instance, should that dear aunt tell you to “rub a little sage” on the turkey before roasting, a quick Internet Search would help translate “a little” to a teaspoon, and not an entire half-ounce jar.  Speaking from experience, rubbing said half-ounce jar gives the white meat of the turkey an off-putting green tinge and results in gravy that looks like pea soup.  And the taste is rather off-putting, too!  No calling for pizza back-up on Thanksgiving, either…

4)    Think carefully before organizing (or participating in) a potluck feast.  Most military spouses I’ve met wage a subtle (yet vicious) culinary competition at all potlucks, especially holiday ones.  They’ll want to bring their most favorite family side dish, and often bring it in their Great-Great-Granny’s casserole dish that predates The Great War.  Yes, it makes for great presentation, and also great conversation, not to mention a tie to Thanksgivings past.  However, many people will be handling said dish, some of whom had more than their share of Lower Cape Codders (our holiday libation of cranberry juice and rum), which invariably results in the dish—and the memories—slipping out of fumbling hands and smashing to smithereens on the tile floor.  Proper etiquette requires the hostess offer to pay to replace it, which can put a huge dent in (or entirely wipe out) the Christmas budget that year. 

3)    Be certain that the turkey preparations are done away from curious eyes, especially those of boys in the stage when they are particularly aware of bodily functions (ages 3 and up).  Experience has shown that when a young lad sees the stuffing going into--and them coming out of--the part of the turkey that goes over the fence last, it can cause lasting emotional scars that preclude him from ever eating stuffing again (and he’s 27 years old now.) 

2)    Pre-Thanksgiving check lists should not only include food items, but also essential culinary tools  There is nothing worse than preparing to baste the turkey, only to find that your husband has purloined the baster for his automobile oil-siphoning needs in the garage--a fact he may not fess up to for years.  And any good cook knows that when you need a turkey baster, you need it right that second—no time to run to the nearest grocery store—if it’s even opened. 

1)    If there is a dog (especially a big one) loose in the house, don’t leave the steaming turkey unattended while the family is gathered, heads bowed and eyes closed, for the blessing. The same may be said for a cat. Although the consequences aren’t quite as dour, as rarely can a 7-pound cat drag a 20-pound turkey through the doggie door and out into the backyard.

Gobble ‘til you Wobble! 
Happy Thanksgiving

Saturday, November 8, 2014

A Walk on the Cliff

I recently made a trip to Massachusetts to visit family. Both of my sisters and two of my three brothers live in the greater Boston area. Until her death two years ago, my mother lived there as well. For years now I’ve made an annual trek to Massachusetts. It used to be mainly to visit my mother, but it was always an occasion to see most of the rest of my siblings as well.

Part of the cliff walk
 While I was there my sister and I took a trip to visit Newport, Rhode Island, one-time playground of the very rich who fled New York’s summer heat for cool breezes, lush beaches, and glorious estates. On a previous visit we’d toured The Breakers, summer home of the Vanderbilts. It’s a gawk-worthy place, a virtual palace for the wealthiest of the wealthy of late nineteenth century New York.

Rear view of The Breakers
On this trip, though, we decided to walk the cliff-walk, which winds along the cliff just above Easton Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. On the shore side the path cuts through the back yards of many of the most extravagant mansions of the Gilded Age, including The Breakers, Rosecliff, commissioned by Nevada silver heiress Theresa Fair Oelrichs in 1899, The Elms, summer home of coal baron Julius Edward Berwind, and Marble House, a sumptuous home built by another scion of the Vanderbilts.

A rougher part of the cliff walk
But just as impressive as the astonishing mansions that back onto the cliff is the natural beauty of the setting. We were fortunate to have a glorious September day for our walk, and the view out over the water was marvelous. We didn’t make it the whole two and a half mile distance since we knew we’d have to hike back and the day was getting warmer, but we got well over halfway.

Other Newport mansions
It’s not all easy walking. The first three quarters of a mile or so is relatively level and easy going. Beyond that, though, there are sections of stairs, some uneven ground, and even a section where you have to pick your way across rocks. Parts of the cliff were damaged by Hurricane Sandy a couple of years ago and had to be rebuilt.

And then there was an unexpected and interesting discovery: Love Locks. Maybe you’ve heard of them, but neither my sister nor I had. So we were completely mystified when we came to a section of fence decorated with at least a hundred padlocks in various shapes, sizes, and colors. Most had initials painted on them.

I had to look it up when I got him to find out about Love Locks (, which has apparently been a European phenomenon for some time.  According to the Wikipedia article, “Typically the sweethearts' names or initials are inscribed on the padlock, and its key is thrown away to symbolise unbreakable love.” In some places the locks have become a nuisance, but Newport doesn’t seem to be discouraging it.

I admit that I find the symbolism of the gesture pretty captivating!

Note: I have to add that I’ve just had my first new novel release in a couple of years this past week. The Detective’s Dilemma is a short romantic suspense novel published in paperback and ebook by Kensington’s Lyrical Press imprint.
If you’re willing to do an honest review of the book in exchange for a free copy, email me at
The Detective’s Dilemma is a short romantic suspense novel published in paperback and ebook by Kensington’s Lyrical Press imprint.

Blurb: Although Sarah Anne Martin admits to pulling the trigger, she swears someone forced her to kill her lover. Homicide detective Jay Christianson is skeptical, but enough ambiguous evidence exists to make her story plausible. If he gives her enough freedom, she’ll either incriminate herself or draw out the real killers. But, having been burned before, Jay doesn’t trust his own protective instincts…and his growing attraction to Sarah only complicates matters. With desire burning between them, their relationship could ultimately be doomed since Sarah will be arrested for murder if they can’t find the real killer.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Even MORE Shredding Books with Sofie Couch

by Sofie Couch

Bibliophile - a lover of books. That's me. Yeh, I have a tendency to mutilate, shred, and mulch books, but just the ones that have led full happy lives. And this month is no exception.

This month, I went to my pictorial friend, Pinterest. Don't ya just love Pinterest? What!? You've never heard of Pinterest? Get thee over to Pinterest and sign-up, then follow me. Sofie Couch. It's a whole great big community of visual/spatial people all pinning wonderful pictures of things that inspire them. (You might recognize a couple of the book crafts that I've featured on the C&C blog this year.) You can "pin" pictures of things that make your heart sing too, then other like-minded visual/spatial folks can follow you. Okay, that's me getting off my Pinterest soap box. Back to the craft at hand, Bloomin' Books.

I spent an hour of my life making this wonderful hydrangea head. (They call it a book ball on Pinterest, but I think it looks just like a dried hydrangea flower.) And here's how you can create the same book ball/ hydrangea flower head:

First, cut out these cute little medallion circle thingies. They kinda look like a "seal of approval" made out of the pages of a book. You're gonna want to invest in this little gizmo that cuts out those circles, found at your local craft store. (I got mine on sale for 40% off.) If you're not into fancy frilly edges, you can just stick to some little circles cut to a uniform size, but be forewarned, you're gonna need a LOT of those little circles.

Next, with a pencil, place the eraser in the center of a paper circle, then push the circle up around the pencil. Break out your hot glue gun for this next bit. Glue the eraser flattened bit of the circle to a styrofoam ball.

Rinse and repeat.

About a bazillion hours later...

Then a googolplex hours later...

Voila! A book ball is born. I thought, (back when I was young and naive - a googolplex hours ago), that these would make great ornaments for the Christmas tree this year. Then on second thought, my time might be better spent writing another book. :)