Musings from a Writer’s Brain–With Guest Author Susan Lodge


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Today’s guest is Susan Lodge, international, bestselling author of sweet, historical romance. While I was recuperating from my busted shoulder surgery, I read my first Susan Lodge romance, Captain Rockford’s Reckoning which is highlighted below. All that recovery time wasn’t wasted, because I found a new author to read.  I hope you’ll enjoy Susan’s take on modern day travel.

Stop the Plane and Order Me a Carriage

by Susan Lodge

Wedged in the middle seat of the middle row of a 747 for upwards of twelve hours, my mind dwelt on the fact that bobbing along in a post chaise, or swinging in a hammock below decks, could not be much more agonizing then traveling economy on a long haul flight. I used to enjoy airplanes. I could happily gaze from the window seat marveling at anything that appeared through a chink in the clouds. But one flight to Australia was a test of both mind and body.

It all starts go wrong at check in. I cannot secure a window seat, the flight is delayed and when we finally get to board…

Gripe 1. The trek through business class to get to economy.

I openly salivate over the spacious seating in business class as we are herded down the isle to steerage. The occupants of those designer cubicles tantalizingly stretch their limbs and flex their toes as we pass. I avoid their apologetic eyes and pitying smiles.

Gripe 2. Hand baggage

This appears to have evolved in the last few years from modest shoulder bag to sturdy case complete with wheels. As they are being hoisted, with a great deal of grunting and thrusting into overhead lockers that are clearly not built to accommodate them, the boarding process reduces to snail pace. Why do they need that much hand baggage ? There’s not room to swing a cat let alone unpack and utilize a case full of gear.

Gripe 3. Invasion of space.

The passengers sitting either side of me have claimed the hand rests rendering me straitjacketed in seat. Even worse a rogue foot is gradually edging its way into my allotted leg space. I try to stem the steam from my ears and reflect how lucky I was on my last flight when I sat next to the perfect passenger. He was totally besotted with his female companion and they seemed to merge together in one seat- thereby leaving me a nice lot of space. Not sure what he was trying to achieve in such a restricted area. But if they were fidgeting (so to speak) they were at least being quiet about it.

Gripe 3. Reclining seats

I have the desire to lop something heavy into the seat in front when it falls back into my already limited personal space. Batman Returns is now being viewed two inches from my face. I can’t focus on the screen so switch it off, put my head back and try to relax.

Gripe 4. Touch screens attached to back of seats .

I don’t begrudge the small person behind using their touch screen even though they have not quite mastered the art. The incessant tattooing vibrates on the back of my head. After fifteen minutes it is clear they can find nothing to amuse them on the TV or film menus. The assault stops and I hold my breath willing them to go to sleep – but alas they have become bored and proceed to drum their feet on back of my seat. My unscheduled full body massage is now complete.

Gripe Five. Food.

I manipulate the multiple contents of tray carefully, arranging the most promising item in secure position. However as I unpack the plastic cutlery I decide to take Food off gripe list. Its arrival has caused the person in front to get their seat out of my face and the tattooing on the back of my head to stop.

There is, of course, an upside to this journey.

As the plane transports me to the other side of the world, my fellow passengers doze off. Ah bliss – I can now switch on my Kindle and in my forced confinement escape to my own private library.

Now, let’s get back to the travel in Regency times. There was a particular coach journey that Esmie Elstone has nightmares about, whilst she endeavoured to escape the repercussions of an unfortunate wager.

Indulge in a bit of romantic intrigue with my latest release.


Esmie Elstone is thrown into panic when she hears of Captain Rockford’s return. But she is determined that the days of him interfering with her life are over. His ruthless meddling during his last visit had resulted in her being foisted on her aunt for a third pointless season in London.

To alleviate the boredom of society life, Esmie helps run a discreet betting enterprise under the guise of a sewing club. But there are some things you just shouldn’t wager on, and Esmie’s integrity is soon put to a dangerous test.

Richard Rockford had known Esmie almost all her life. As neighbours, her father, Admiral Elstone, had depended on Richard to keep an eye on his daughter when he was away at sea – a responsibility he had always taken on willingly. But her cruel and thoughtless actions, from the day he had left four years earlier, had shaken him. Now, he was back, and he wanted answers.

But when Esmie tumbles into a treacherous conspiracy, can he really turn his back on her?

Susan Lodge’s first publishing success was a story purchased by a major UK magazine followed by a drawer full of rejections. Finally a breakthrough gave her the confidence to seek and secure a publisher for her historical romance novels Only a Hero Will Do and Rebellious Cargo.

After working in several cities including London and Bristol, she and her husband moved down to the Hampshire coast to raise their family.

Learn more about Susan and her books on her website and blog.


A Writer’s Garden–In the Garden with HL Carpenter and the Sycamore Tree


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Poetry in the garden

by HL Carpenter

Image source: HL Carpenter

Years ago, a line from The Village Blacksmith sparked thoughts of creating a garden retreat. What does a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow about a village smithy have to do with a garden? The first words—”Under a spreading chestnut-tree“— created an image we found hard to resist.

Our garden had shrubs and flowers. Benches to sit on. A gurgling fountain. Yet none of those was a favorite spot.

We wanted a chestnut tree.

Unfortunately, almost all chestnuts were killed by a blight in the early 1900s—and even if any were alive, they would have a difficult time growing in our part of the sunshine state.

Was there an alternative? Yes. Photos from an earlier era showed a similarity between chestnut trees and sycamore trees.

A fully-grown sycamore, crowned with a fifty-foot canopy, would provide a leafy retreat from the heat of summer. Comfortable chairs would offer a place to sit and sip frosty lemonade. When fall faded to winter and leaves drifted to the lawn, sunshine filtering through bare branches would warm the coldest day. The tree’s broad trunk could block the north wind and shield us from the buzz and roar of a busy highway.

We bought a tall sapling after being assured it would soon grow into a huge tree. As you can see by the picture, that assurance came true—and so did our vision for the garden.

Our sycamore serves as an open-air porch. The canopy offers dappled shade in the summer. Bluebirds, cardinals, and wrens chirp and twitter among the branches. A crow visits and caws for a cracker. Squirrels scamper up and down the solid trunk. In autumn, crispy gold leaves carpet the lawn and crackle underfoot. Our tree-porch is a wonderful place to sit and read.

And write.

The other day a relative stopped by and remarked about our beautiful shade tree. We told him of the poem that sparked our imagination.

“Have you read all the stanzas of The Village Blacksmith?” he asked. ” ‘The smith, a mighty man is he, with large and sinewy hands‘ describes one of our ancestors.”

Who knew?

Now, while sitting under the shade of our sycamore tree in our favorite garden spot, we have another story to write.

About the Writers/Gardeners

Mother/daughter author duo HL Carpenter write family-friendly fiction from their studios in Carpenter Country, a magical place that, like their stories, is unreal but not untrue. When they’re not writing, they enjoy exploring the Land of What-If and practicing the fine art of Curiosity. Visit to enjoy gift reads and excerpts and to find out what’s happening in Carpenter Country.

Stay connected on Pinterest, Twitter, Amazon.


Murder by the Books

By HL Carpenter

A letter from beyond the grave brings accountant Fae Childers face to face with murder, embezzlement, romance, and a hidden family legacy.

Certified public accountant Fae Childers is not an embezzler, despite the belief of the accounting firm that fires her for stealing.
But proving her innocence is harder than convincing an IRS agent to allow a deduction. She’s lost her mother, her job, her fiancé, and her self-respect. She’s running out of money and the lease is about to expire on her apartment.

Then the fortune-telling grandmother Fae never knew existed, whose name and psychic abilities she now learns are also hers, issues a challenge from beyond the grave—a challenge that brings Fae face to face with murder, embezzlement, romance, and a hidden family legacy.

When the mystery of Fae’s past collides with the troubles of her present, the situation veers out of control. Her very life is threatened. Who can she trust? The man she’s falling in love with? The former fiancé who has already betrayed her once? Or only herself?

With justice, romance, and her future at stake, Fae must overcome personal and professional obstacles to save herself and those she loves. And she’s going to have to do it fast, before someone else dies.

 You can pick up HL Carpenter’s Cozy Mystery Murder by the Books to read in your garden retreat at Amazon.



Wednesday Writers–Stars in the Grass by Ann Marie Stewart


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Today’s Wednesday Writer’s guest is Ann Marie Stewart. Ann will be telling us about the story behind the story of her Womens’ Literary Fiction novel Stars in the Grass. Welcome, Ann!




Thanks, Catherine,

Sometimes not getting what we want can more fully prepare us for eventual success. After teaching for five years, I longed to have someone critique my writing instead of me critiquing my seventh graders’. Though I applied to the University of Michigan MA in Creative Writing, I was not accepted. However, I was accepted into Film and Television which also gave me the job teaching Public Speaking to undergraduates. Learning more about public speaking was an additional positive and took care of my tuition plus expenses. I called the two years at UM, “my all-expense paid vacation.”

Ironically, during that time, I took a variety of courses from the same UM writing teachers I would have if I had been accepted into the MA program. One of my favorites was Charlie Baxter who encouraged me to get my short story “Seeing from the Balcony” published.

Ten years later, I did just that, but as my first novel Stars in the Grass. With some background in film and television, I couldn’t wait to do a book trailer. I was thankful for the film and television experience. I could see the images and the motifs and hear the voiceover.

A filmmaker friend who had read the novel suggested I look at “The Tree of Life” movie trailer for ideas. We planned on making a book trailer, but thankfully, Barbour Publishing said they handle the book trailers. But did I want to send them my ideas? Gladly!

I sent selected text from the novel as voiceover and a collection of images to Barbour who turned it over to the filmmaker. I was STUNNED with the results. In 61 seconds, the book trailer captures the novel. The trailer now has 12,681 hits on YouTube. Do you have a minute to be #12,682?

Or you can find it on my website as well!


Stars in the Grass

By Ann Marie Stewart


Nine-year-old Abby McAndrews has just experienced her greatest loss, and in its wake, her family is unraveling with guilt, grief, and anger. Her father, Reverend McAndrews, cannot return to the pulpit because he has more questions than answers. Her older brother Matt’s actions speak louder than the words he needs to confess, as he acts out in dangerous ways. Her mother tries to hold her grieving family together, but when Abby’s dad refuses to move on, the family is at a crossroads.

Stars in the Grass, set in a small Midwestern town in 1970, is an uplifting novel that explores a family’s relationships and resiliency. Abby’s heartbreaking remembrances are balanced by humor and nostalgia as her family struggles with—and ultimately celebrates—life after loss.


EXCERPT: Prologue


I spent the better part of my childhood sitting on a pew in the balcony of Bethel Springs First Presbyterian Church, listening to my dad’s long vowels as he preached on predestination. Sandwiched between my older brother, Matt, and my little brother, Joel, I counted bald heads, doodled on church bulletins, and studied the stained-glass Jesus.

Reverend McAndrews was godlike and mysterious. Definitely not the same man who read to us from Dr. Seuss, ran through the sprinkler on steamy Ohio summer afternoons, or smiled as we played hide-and-go-seek in his Father’s House.

Though I can’t remember many of his three-point sermons, I have other good memories. One Sunday during a hymn, Matt and I sang loudly, changing the words to our liking, “Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear,” and crossing our eyes for added effect. When we sat back down, I rested the hymnal on the railing and fanned myself by riffling through the pages. Then it happened. Onto one of the fifty-one shining bald heads below, I dropped the hymnal.

It clapped to the floor, and then in the congregational hush, Mr. Ludema winced in surprised pain. I only looked down long enough to see necks craning up toward the balcony and then turning toward my father and then back to the balcony. Dad squinted to see Mrs. Ludema as she nursed her husband’s head and then looked up at the cause of the disruption. Me.

Dad stared at me for fifteen seconds. I know because I counted every one of them. I did not look away; instead I memorized his sandy thick hair fringed with gray streaks. I couldn’t see his eyes because the sun was reflecting on the lenses of his glasses. His mouth was closed, his thick jaw tense. The congregation waited for the Reverend McAndrews, and so did I. At last he said, with a nod to the balcony and a sigh, “And the Word has come down from on high.”

During responsive reading, his voice rose and fell so predictably, I was nearly lulled to sleep unless I pulled out a pencil to sketch the hills and valleys. “‘O give thanks to the Lord, for he is gooood,’” Reverend McAndrews read from Psalm 136. His voice grew louder and the pitch higher until the word Lord, where he paused and let it fall off to a low, soft, long, concluding gooood. We echoed, “‘For his steadfast love endures for ever.’” After repeating it twenty-six times, what I thought everlasting was the psalm itself.

Want to read more? You can find Stars in the Grass at Amazon


About the Author:

Ann Stewart, Christy Award Winner for Debut Novel 2017, and her husband Will raise two daughters and a flock of sheep on their Virginia farm where fireflies light up the sky on warm summer nights. Ann originated three of AMG’s Preparing My Heart books (including Preparing My Heart for Advent) and writes a column “Ann’s Lovin’ Ewe” for the Country Register, contributes to Mentoring Moments and has written for Proverbs 31. Her background in drama and film bring her characters to life. When she’s not directing music or writing, she loves Madame Secretary, This is Us, and UVA Basketball.


Social media links:

Website: see book trailer!









Tasty Tuesdays–Grandma Em’s Sauerbraten by Sally Brandle


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Romantic suspense author Sally Brandle is back in the kitchen today with her grandma’s recipe for Sauerbraten. Enjoy!

Grandma Em’s Sauerbraten Recipe

converted to an Insta Pot Pressure Cooker

2 medium onions, sliced thin

½ lemon, sliced thin

2 1/2 cups water

½ cup each Red Wine Vinegar and Red Wine

12 whole cloves

6 bay leaves

6 whole peppercorns

1 TBL each salt and sugar

1 tsp. ground ginger

4# Beef rump roast, fat trimmed from outside edges

Mix everything but the beef in a large pot. Add the beef and turn to coat. Refrigerate 24 to 36 hours (depending on how flavorful you want the meat) and turn meat every 12 hours. Remove meat and pat dry. Brown meat on all sides in:

2 TBL oil

Strain the marinade and only add back in the onion slices. Put the meat, marinade/onions in your pressure cooker (I used a Ninja Foodie) and pressure cook on HIGH for 20 minutes. I released the pressure, and added:

6 each potatoes, carrots, and small onions or shallots

Pressure cook on HIGH for another 10 minutes. Remove meat and vegetables.

Add 2 cups finely crushed Ginger Snap cookies to the liquid and put pot to SIMMER until it thickens. Serves 6 hearty appetites.

If you don’t have a pressure cooker, throw the meat and marinade in a crock pot for 6 hours on HIGH and then add the veggies and cook another 2-3 hours.


Emma Springs is the fictional setting for my Montana town series with old-fashioned values. Grandma Em taught me to crochet when I was eight and cook when I’d sleep over at her home. An image of her cutting homemade egg noodles on her kitchen table is one of my favorite memories. I adapted her version of Sauerbraten to the new resident cooking toy, my Ninja cooker. I wrote the sweet/sour beef recipe into an upcoming book, The Targeted Pawn. The hero loved it, hope you do too.


Happy trails,




Torn By Vengeance    

Love Thrives in Emma Springs Book 2

By Sally Brandle


Look over your shoulder. He’s watching.

Corrin Patten is solidly on a path to make partner in a prestigious Seattle law firm when an ominous threat from her past turns deadly. She can handle circumstances necessitating a temporary move to the backwater town of Emma Springs, but its charming physician is another matter, as she’s issued a permanent moratorium on men.

Dr. Kyle Werner revels in trust from patients he regularly treats in a community he’s never wished to leave. Yet, Emma Springs lacks one thing, a woman to share his perfectly bucolic life. He’s read about pheromone attraction, but never experienced desire until meeting Corrin. They make an unbeatable team, but convincing her that his interest is sincere while they dissect layers of deceit requires the precision of a surgeon’s scalpel. Can they defeat the wealthy stalker bent on mistaken revenge against Corrin and destruction of the peaceful Montana setting?

If you thrive on tenacious heroines, sizzling attraction, and a shadowy villain with a grudge, you’ll love this prescription for thrills.


About the Author:

Multi-award winning author Sally Brandle weaves slow-burning romance into edgy suspense stories. Sally left a career as an industrial baking instructor to bring to life stories motivating readers to trust their inner gifts. Her rescue Aussie is her companion during long spells of writing, bouts of tormenting weeds in her garden, or afternoons spent riding on the wind with her twenty-nine year old Quarter Horse. Sign up for her newsletter at for freebies. The second book (without intimate scenes) in her Love Thrives in Emma Springs series, Torn By Vengeance, releases May 22nd, 2019.

Torn by Vengeance:

Amazon USA:

Goodreads Review:




Musings from a Writer’s Brain–Be a Millionaire Day by Catherine Castle


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image from

Today is Be a Millionaire Day. Wouldn’t we all like that? I know I would.

Now, I’m not a millionaire, and I don’t really ever expect to be one. I have no rich relatives to leave me an inheritance. I rarely play the lottery, so I probably won’t ever hit that jackpot. In all my years of playing the Publisher’s House Clearing Contest—and believe me it’s been a long time—I’ve never won a thing. Besides, a woman living in a trailer in my hometown won a few years back, so I figure that bolt of lightning won’t strike here again.

However, I do dream about winning big money every time the lottery gets into the millions and I drop a ten on some tickets. Likewise, when the television ads for Publisher’s Clearing House contest say, “We could be knocking on your door this coming Friday!” my what-would-I-do-with-all-that-money scenarios start kicking in.

I won’t bore you with all the details of my dream, other than to say I’d hire a full-time gardener to care for my garden and someone to clean the house on a regular basis—mostly because those are jobs I’m having trouble doing. The hubby and I would probably fulfill the two things on our bucket list we haven’t been able to afford: an RV and/or a modest lake house—no gold gilded ceilings or fancy marble floors, just a cozy cottage with a great lake view. We’d probably pay off the mortgage and put money in a trust for our daughter. And I’d work very hard to see that we didn’t go bankrupt.

Go bankrupt with a million dollars? you ask. Don’t laugh. It happens. In one study of Florida winners, 70% had spent every last dime of their jackpot within 5 years of winning. Additionally, 1% of lottery winners in the Florida study went bankrupt annually. Whether you win a lot or a little money, you risk losing it very quickly. In the Florida study, winners who took home between $50,000 and $150,000 were half as likely to file bankruptcy in the first two years, but once they got to the 3-5-year mark, the frequency was the same.

How can they lose all that money so quickly? Buying expensive cars and new homes, paying off the mortgages of family and friends, gifting money and things to people who line up to get a piece of your winnings, hopping on a jet and taking luxury vacations that cost an average of $11,000 each. But the biggest way to lose the money is not getting financial advice. When you suddenly have a huge influx of cash it can be overwhelming. You need someone helping you who knows how to handle money and make wise investments.

So when I get that mega million windfall, how will I take it? Lump sum or payout spread over my life? Investors go both ways on that. Some say take it as a lump sum and let the value of the cash work for you. Others suggest you should take the annuity, put in the bank, and live comfortably, forever. Additionally, this way if you blow the first installment you won’t go broke.

Personally, I’m leaning toward the Jed Clampett method, made famous in the television show The Beverly Hillbillies. Put it in the bank and live as simply as I always have, with the few modifications I mentioned above. After all, money isn’t everything, and I can’t take it with me. So, I might as well leave some for the family when I’m gone.


What about you? How would you spend a million dollars? Could you keep from going bankrupt?


Money’s no object for novice Sister Margaret, but she does have a big decision to make—follow her heart or follow her planned vocation. Check out Catherine Castle’s multi-award-winning Inspirational Romantic Suspense The Nun and the Narc. You can read a sample here.


The Nun and the Narc

By Catherine Castle

Where novice Sister Margaret Mary goes, trouble follows. When she barges into a drug deal the local Mexican drug lord captures her. To escape she must depend on undercover DEA agent Jed Bond. Jed’s attitude toward her is exasperating, but when she finds herself inexplicable attracted to him he becomes more dangerous than the men who have captured them, because he is making her doubt her decision to take her final vows. Escape back to the nunnery is imperative, but life at the convent, if she can still take her final vows, will never be the same.

Nuns shouldn’t look, talk, act, or kiss like Sister Margaret Mary O’Connor—at least that’s what Jed Bond thinks. She hampers his escape plans with her compulsiveness and compassion and in the process makes Jed question his own beliefs. After years of walling up his emotions in an attempt to become the best agent possible, Sister Margaret is crumbling Jed’s defenses and opening his heart. To lure her away from the church would be unforgivable—to lose her unbearable.


About the Author:

Multi-award winning author Catherine Castle loves writing, reading, traveling, singing, theatre, quilting and gardening. She’s a passionate gardener whose garden won a “Best Hillside Garden” award from the local gardening club. She writes sweet and inspirational romances. You can find her award-winning Soul Mate books The Nun and the Narc and A Groom for Mama, on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Follow her on Twitter @AuthorCCastle, FB or her blog.




Free Book Friday–The Hitman’s Mistake by Sally Brandle


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One of the frequent visitors to several of my blog series, Sally Brandle, has a free book offer.

Her Contemporary Romantic Suspense The Hitman’s Mistake   (Love Thrives in Emma Springs Book 1) is

Free May 15-19 on Amazon!

Check out the blurb and her reviews below.

The Hitman’s Mistake

By Sally Brandle

Now it’s her life or his.

After Miranda Whitley stops crooked cops from assassinating a prominent Seattle judge, she’s next on the hit list, and her survival depends on the buff FBI Agent she’s had one awkward encounter with. But can she find him in time?

The last person Grant Morley expects to discover on his annual supply run to a Montana mountain hermit is alluring Miranda Whitley, nearly dead from a bullet wound in her side. An accidental witness or the cold-blooded accomplice to would-be assassins?

Miranda must convince Grant of her innocence, evade the killers intent on preventing her testimony, and fight her unwanted attraction for the agent…an attraction which seems to be mutual. If you love sizzling chemistry, Montana’s mountain landscape, and fast-paced action, then you’ll love Sally Brandle’s galloping thriller, The Hitman’s Mistake.

Get your free copy of The Hitman’s Mistake May 15-19, 2019

Check out these reviews!

USA Today Interview:

Haynet (horse enthusiast) Review:

Night Owl Review:

5 Star Review from Tome Tender:

A Writer’s Garden–in the Garden with Claire Gem


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Welcome to A Writer’s Garden where writers who are gardeners or just love gardens will be sharing their garden and flower stories, as well as a bit about their writing.

Today’s guest is author Claire Gem. Welcome, Claire!


A Writer’s Garden—Tiny Roses

I can’t believe it’s been a year since my then five-year-old grandson proudly presented me with a Mother’s Day gift that he’d picked out himself: a miniature rose bush in a sparkly pink pot. The roses, all no bigger than a quarter, were sunshine yellow. I waited until Memorial Day (the safe time to plant in Massachusetts!) and transferred Eddie’s tiny rosebush into a planter on the front steps.

Oh, how that plant has flourished! It stayed covered with blooms all summer. Whenever life got too busy or the August sun burned a bit too hot on the little plant, Eddie would find me wherever I was and tug on my sleeve.

“Grandma, our rose looks like it needs water. We don’t want it to die.”

Indeed, we did not.

By summer’s end, the rose had doubled in size. Brown fall leaves formed a nest around the pot and nestled within its branches. Then life got even crazier, my son’s wedding was upon us, and time sped up. The first frost hit early and without warning. I stepped out the front door one morning and thought, “Oh no. I’ve killed Eddie’s rosebush.”

That afternoon, with the help of my very strong and newly married son, we carried the pot through the house to our sunroom. But the leaves were all gone. The stems were brown and brittle. I sadly studied the dead-looking branches and thought, “I goofed up. I was too late.”

But I continued to water and feed the twiggy thing and gave it a good haircut. When the first green shoots began peeking up from its base, a spark of hope stirred. That was in November of 2018, just six months ago. Around the end of January, a bud appeared reaching toward the rays of the cold winter sun.

Just look at Eddie’s rose bush now.

I had beautiful blooms in the dead of winter. I can’t believe how much the plant has grown, trying desperately to keep pace with the little boy who so lovingly adopted it.

And this year, on Mother’s Day, I was presented by another rose bush from my future-gardener grandson. This one is pink J


About the Writer/Gardener

My first foray into the world of gardening happened when I was about eight years old. I found a discarded vegetable bin from our old refrigerator and thought, “I can plant something in this!” What possessed me to choose a packet of radish seeds, I’ll never know.

I didn’t even like radishes.

But I planted them, and watered them, and thrilled to see the tiny green shoots emerge. In only a month, I was harvesting shiny, red globes, and my mom was using them in salads, leafy tops and all. My father raved that they were the most delicious radishes he’d ever tasted. I even learned to like them. I still do.

My writing is like that sometimes. It all starts with a tiny seed of an idea, and often I have to wait awhile. Sometimes a long while. Nurture the idea, allow it to take root and grow. My most recent Haunted Voices novel was like that. The antebellum home featured in the book was one I visited over ten years ago. Then one night I had a dream about that very house, and there was the ghost of a Confederate soldier pounding on the door.

Civil Hearts was born. You can buy it here on Amazon and in all other digital formats here. It’s coming soon in audiobook on Audible!


Visit me at my website, on Facebook, and Twitter.


Civil Hearts

By Claire Gem

Civil Hearts (Haunted Voices) by [Gem, Claire]

A widow with no family, web designer Liv Larson yearns for big change. After all, she can work from anywhere, right? Why not throw a dart at the map? She heads out of the big city for the rural South and falls in love as soon as she arrives—with the Belle Bride, an abandoned antebellum mansion.

Heath Barrow loves his country life, managing his antiques store in sleepy Camellia. But he’s lonely, and his condition—epilepsy—makes life uncertain. It’s already cost him a marriage. A new medication and the new girl in town have his heart hopeful again.

Sparks fly between Heath and Liv. But his first seizure sends Liv into a tailspin. Its mimics those her husband suffered before he died . . .

To make matters worse, Liv discovers she’s not living alone. Her challenge? Dealing with a Confederate soldier, one who clearly resents his Yankee roommate—even though he’s been dead for over a hundred and fifty years.

Disclaimer to readers of sweet romance: This book contains open door love scenes. It also has a give-you-chills super ghost story for those who love a good haunting. (I know, because I read it. Catherine Castle)





Wednesday Writers–Lord of Her Heart by Sherrinda Ketchersid


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Today’s Wednesday Writers guest is Sherrinda Ketchersid. Sherrinda will talking about how research led her to the story plot of Lord of Her Heart. She also has an excerpt, so be sure to read the whole post for a peek at her historical romance. Welcome, Sherrinda!





Thanks, Catherine.

I often get asked how I came up with the story for Lord of Her Heart. When researching convents in the middle ages, I learned they were places of education for women. Girls from wealthy, noble families were sent to convents to be educated before getting married or taking their vows. These girls, as young as 7 years of age, went for a basic education that included Latin reading and writing, embroidery, weaving, spinning, morals, manners, and music. Women during these times were sometimes married off as young as 14 years old, and the skills learned at the convent enabled a woman to run a castle or manor house.

The question came to me while researching: What if a girl was sent to a convent for an education, but was forced to remain and take her vows? Or what if her family ceased all communication with her, and the abbess pressured her into taking her vows? This questioning led me to flesh out the story for Lord of Her Heart.

While Jocelyn Ashburne, the heroine in my story, wasn’t sent to a convent as a young girl, she was sent later for an education by Helen, her step-mother, and her father. The story begins when Jocelyn overhears a plot to either keep her at the convent or marry her off to any man willing to pay a price. Thus, the adventure starts, and Jocelyn flees, finding danger, deception, and romance along the way.


Lord of Her Heart

By Sherrinda Ketchersid

He’s fighting for his future—she’s running for her life.

Lady Jocelyn Ashburne suspects something is amiss at her family’s castle
because her father ceases to write to her. When she overhears a plot to
force her into vows—either to the church or a husband—she disguises
herself and flees the convent in desperation to discover the truth.

Malcolm Castillon of Berkham is determined to win the next tournament
and be granted a manor of his own. After years of proving his worth on
the jousting field, he yearns for a life of peace. Rescuing a scrawny
lad who turns out to be a beautiful woman is not what he bargained for.
Still, he cannot deny that she stirs his heart like no other, in spite
of her conniving ways.

Chaos, deception, and treachery threaten their goals, but both are
determined to succeed. Learning to trust each other might be the only
way either of them survives.



Chapter 2, Scene 1 – When Jocelyn, dressed as a boy, has been rescued by Malcolm, a knight on his way to a tournament at Ramslea.

Malcolm laid the lad on the ground near his horse. Blood ran from a cut above the lad’s eye, and his swollen cheek promised a colorful bruise. Sitting back on his heels, Malcolm cursed his chivalrous self. What was he to do with this dirty, bruised pile of skin and bones lying before him?

By the saints, he had neither the time nor the energy to care for a scrawny boy. He had a se’ennight before the tournament, and he was not about to miss it on account of a malodorous halfling. This journey proved one ache in the head after another.

The boy stirred, groaning.

Malcolm gathered water from his supply and poured some into the boy’s mouth. Being chivalrous was not always convenient, but ’twas an oath he would not shirk.

The lad vaulted upright, sputtering as he whimpered. “Cease, please!” He rubbed his face, smearing dirt and blood across pale cheeks. As he looked up at his rescuer, his blue eyes grew wide.

Malcolm had to smile. Time spent in the lists honing his swordplay had made his shoulders broad and his arms well muscled. Boys stood in awe of him, men stood in fear of him, and women … well, women wanted him. He had long since been unaffected by the reactions his visage wrought.

“Little man, you are indeed fortunate I came when I did. Can you stand?”

Malcolm held out a hand, but the boy continued to gape. Malcolm grabbed the front of the boy’s tunic and hauled him upright.

The boy gasped, pushing his hand away. “I do not need your aid.” He teetered and fell on his backside. His bottom lip quivered, and his eyes glistened with tears.

“By the saints, I do not have time for this foolishness.” Malcolm’s shadow fell over the boy. “I have no need to be hindered by a filthy, ungrateful boy on this journey. I will gladly leave you be.”

Malcolm turned and walked toward his horse, wrestling between his sense of honor and his desire to be free of the trouble he knew the boy would undoubtedly be. He clearly needed help, regardless of his protestations. Nay, Malcolm had to get to Ramslea and gain another win. Mounting his steed, he turned his horse to leave, glancing back as he did. The boy struggled to his feet, wobbling like a newborn colt.

Malcolm cursed under his breath. Whatever had possessed him to take an oath of chivalry? While noble, at times chivalry interfered with well-laid plans. It was turning out to be a nuisance, to be sure. Steering his horse around, he pulled up in front of the lad.

“You may come with me or stay for the next pair of ruffians to accost you.” Malcolm held out his hand. ’Twas a pity he’d sold John’s horse earlier that morning, though he wondered if the lad before him could even ride. The boy clutched the neck of his tunic, eyes wide and jaw slack. By the saints, was the lad going to refuse him yet again? “Or perhaps you would prefer the company of a pack of wolves?”

The boy sucked in a deep breath, but he took Malcolm’s hand. Grunting as he was lifted up, the boy settled behind Malcolm and grabbed hold of the back of his tunic.

“Put your arms around me, boy, lest you fall off and knock yourself senseless again.” When the boy hesitated, Malcolm rolled his eyes. “You are a timid lad, for all your boasting.”

The boy sighed as he slid his arms around Malcolm’s middle, gripping tighter as Malcolm urged his horse to a gallop.

Most likely the child had not been trained in manly ways. Maybe he had only sisters, or maybe his sire was a weakling himself. Not everyone had the privilege of being raised among four brothers by a sire more fierce than a wild boar. At times too fierce, especially in the treatment of Malcolm’s mother.

Memories haunted him as Malcolm tightened his grip on the reins. He would rather petition the king for a title and serve him than serve his heavy-handed father. Malcolm could serve another lord or even join the church, but he wanted his own land to rule as he saw fit. Peace to do as he wanted.

First, he must see the weakling behind him to the next village. A small hiccup and a sniffle affirmed his resolve.

By the saints, being a man of honor would be the death of him if he continued aiding poor souls like the one snotting the back of his tunic.

Want to read more? You can find Lord of Her Heart at Amazon.

About the Author:

Sherrinda Ketchersid is a lover of stories with happily-ever-after endings. Whether set in the past or present, romance is what she writes and where her dreams reside. Sherrinda lives in north-central Texas with her preacher husband. With four grown children, three guys and a gal, she has more time and energy to spin tales of faith, fun, and forever love.

Connect with Sherrinda: Facebook: Twitter: Goodreads:


Tasty Tuesdays–A Sweet Refreshing Drink for Summer from Sweet Romance author Catherine Castle


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Citrus Mint Drink

Photo Courtesy of


Summer isn’t far away now. A cooling iced summer drink, sipped under a patio umbrella, is always refreshing in summer’s heat.

Here’s a recipe I got from a girlfriend when we had a writer’s retreat at a lake house. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.

Citrus Mint Drink

2 ½ cups water

2 cups sugar

Rind of 1 orange

Juice of 2 oranges

Juice of 6 lemons

2 handfuls of mint leaves, rinsed clean

Make a syrup of sugar and water by boiling 10 minutes. While cooking, place the orange rind, the orange and lemon juice (seeds and all) and the mint leaves in a large bowl or pot. Pour the boiling syrup over the juice and mint and cover. Let stand for one hour. Strain and place syrup in a jar. Keep refrigerated. (May also be frozen) Use approximately ¼ cup syrup per large glass. Good added to iced tea, lemonade or ginger ale. Add a sprig of mint and slice of lemon or orange to the glass for some extra flair.

Cook’s Notes:

Since there’s quite a bit of sugar in this recipe, I chose diet ginger ale as my drink and added the mint syrup to the diet drink. Less calories, but still all the taste and fun.

We didn’t do much writing at our retreat. We just relaxed, ate, and had a good time. This drink would also be good for a party. You could make it ahead, freeze it in ice cube form and add the appropriate number of ice cubes to equal ¼ cup to your tea, lemonade, or ginger ale.

This drink would be great for a summer wedding shower. Speaking of weddings, here’s a peek at Catherine’s sweet romantic comedy, with a touch of drama, A Groom for Mama.


A Groom for Mama

by Catherine Castle

Beverly Walters is dying, and before she goes she has one wish—to find a groom for her daughter. To get the deed done, Mama enlists the dating service of Jack Somerset, Allison’s former boyfriend.

The last thing corporate-climbing Allison wants is a husband. Furious with Mama’s meddling, and a bit more interested in Jack than she wants to admit, Allison agrees to the scheme as long as Mama promises to search for a cure for her terminal illness.

A cross-country trip from Nevada to Ohio ensues, with a string of disastrous dates along the way, as the trio hunts for treatment and A Groom For Mama.

Buy links

Amazon  Barnes & Noble


About the Author

Multi-award winning author Catherine Castle loves writing, reading, traveling, singing, theatre, quilting and gardening. She’s a passionate gardener whose garden won a “Best Hillside Garden” award from the local gardening club. She writes sweet and inspirational romances. You can find her award-winning Soul Mate books The Nun and the Narc and A Groom for Mama, on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Follow her on Twitter @AuthorCCastle, FB or her blog


Musings from a Writer’s Brain–The Editing Process by Carol Browne


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by Carol Browne

I met with a new proofreading client recently and looked at his manuscript. It needed a lot of work. In fact, he needed an editor not a proofreader. He had no idea what the difference was any more than he knew what an editor does. As I tried to explain it all to him, it took me back to my own beginnings as a newbie author and I remembered what a shock the editing process had been. I had no idea what was involved; writing the book turned out to have been the easy part! So, aspiring writers, here is a brief description of what lies in store for you.

Let’s assume that you were able to construct a fairly presentable manuscript and submit it to a publisher with strict adherence to their submission requirements and that said publisher has agreed to publish the work. Let’s also assume that you have thrown your hat in the air, danced on the table, bought a round of drinks for everyone in the pub, day dreamed about fame, fortune and winning the Booker Prize and now await the next step. Once the excitement has worn off, the real work begins.








This is what happened to me: I was told who my editor was, that they were editing my manuscript and it would then be emailed to me so I could address the editor’s changes and suggestions. I had done a fair bit of proofreading by then but proofreading is to editing what a string quartet is to the London Symphony Orchestra. Straightaway, I was shocked when I saw that most of Chapter One had been removed (“You can condense it into a small paragraph somewhere if you really must.”) and great chunks of the narrative had been torn out. Thousands of words were scattered to the four winds, never to be seen again. Thousands! The book I had given years of my life to was purged and purified. And this is what you call a structural edit.

And guess what … I ended up with a much better book. Did I manage to condense the pruned pages into one small paragraph? You bet I did! It was the sort of exercise that tones up the writing muscle. I learnt how to write more succinctly and move the narrative along without unnecessary clutter. Editors I’ve had since have not been so ruthless, but it’s probably because I have become a more competent writer.

Once the structural editing is done, it’s time for line editing. This is exactly what it sounds like: going through the narrative line by line, addressing punctuation, spelling, typos, syntax and word choice. The editor will often suggest the author uses a better word or adds some description or makes the dialogue more natural. There will be all kinds of errors or inconsistencies in continuity. Have you used the same word three times in quick succession? Perhaps a character does something incongruous and you never noticed? Did you just mention someone, having forgotten you killed them two chapters ago?

You can imagine how long and involved a process this can be, particularly if you have a book as long as mine was. (‘Was’ being the operative word!) But your editor is trying to make your book the best it can be. You may have to lose your favourite metaphor, pluck out padding you enjoyed reading, delete swathes of dialogue that made you laugh but did nothing to further the plot or develop the characters. In the end it is all worth it.

Hopefully it is at this point that your publisher will give their blessing to the final edits of the manuscript.

But that’s not the end of the process, because it‘s then that a proofreader takes over and that proofreader is very often YOU. Having worked your way through your manuscript umpteen times already until you could happily throw it at the wall and walk away forever, it is up to you to read through ALL of it carefully and look for any errors that have been missed.

Yes, the editing of a manuscript is a lot of work: Weeks of daily toil; long hours at the keyboard; chewed finger nails; bloodshot eyes; gallons of coffee. And finally, if you are lucky, your book emerges, all sparkly and beautiful, like a polished jewel!

One more thing – and this is extremely important advice for aspiring writers – you need to familiarise yourselves with the Track Changes function of Word, because you are gonna need that knowledge! I was lucky in that I had a proofreading course under my belt before I started, so Track Changes didn’t come as a complete surprise to me. This is a function that allows many people to edit and proofread a document without the changes they make to that document being lost – hence the changes are tracked, very much like sending a parcel – but Word also remembers the original document so nothing is lost (we can’t always say the same about the mail service!). Delete a paragraph, say, and it will be held in the margin in a sort of bubble. Only when the author accepts that deletion will that paragraph be completely removed from the document.

Well, this isn’t an article about Track Changes! Suffice it to say, as with many things, there are tutorials on You Tube if you really feel this is beyond you. Trust me, it isn’t. If I can manage to use this function, anyone with a modicum of computer skills will have no problem.

So, budding authors, prepare yourselves for the editing process; but don’t worry about it because it’s not all hard work and learning the craft, it can also be a lot of fun.

Gateway to Elvedom

by Carol Browne

Godwin’s adventures in Elvendom left him a changed man, and now bereavement has darkened his world.

In another dimension, a new Elvendom is threatened by the ambitions of a monstrous enemy. Who—or what—is the Dark Lady of Bletchberm?

And what has become of Elgiva?

Reeling from the loss of their Elwardain, the elves ask Godwin for help.
Transported into a strange world of time travel and outlandish creatures, will he succeed in his quest against impossible odds, or will the Dark Lady destroy everything the Elwardain fought to preserve?


Born in Stafford in the UK, Carol Browne was raised in Crewe, Cheshire, which she thinks of as her home town. Interested in reading and writing at an early age, Carol pursued her passions at Nottingham University and was awarded an honours degree in English Language and Literature. Now living and working in the Cambridgeshire countryside, Carol usually writes fiction and is a contracted author at Burning Willow Press. Being Krystyna, published by Dilliebooks on 11th November, 2016, is her first non-fiction book.

Stay connected with Carol on her website and blog, Facebook, and Twitter.