Do You Play Favourites?

My Favourite Book

by Carol Browne

I keep few books in my house. I prefer to pass them on to my friends. However, there is one special book I will never part with and that is my 1945 hardback edition of Precious Bane by Mary Webb.

The book features an introduction by Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, written at 10 Downing Street in 1928, in which he says of the author, “Her sensibility is so acute and her power over words so sure and swift that one who reads some passage in Whitehall has almost the physical sense of being in Shropshire cornfields.”

First published in 1924, Precious Bane tells the story of flawed heroine, Prudence Sarn, whose ‘hare-shotten lip’ means that as far as her neighbours are concerned she is cursed with ‘the devil’s mark’. It is only weaver Kester Woodseaves who can see beyond this disfigurement to the true beauty of Prue’s soul.

Prue’s goodness and gentle nature are in sharp contrast to her brother Gideon’s ruthless striving for worldly success, and descriptions of the landscape that sustains them are woven into the dramas of their lives to create a rich tapestry. Thanks to the author’s skill with words, it is safe to say that Nature is not merely a background to the story but also seems to be a character in it too. The narrative is, says Prue, “the story of us all at Sarn, of Mother and Gideon and me, and Jancis (that was so beautiful) and Wizard Beguildy, and the two or three other folk that lived in those parts…”

How to describe the style of the book? It depicts a rural England around the time of Waterloo (1815), a place of meres, country lore, dragonflies, looms and spinning-wheels. There is a fair scattering of dialect words (fascinating rather than baffling!) and curious customs such as ‘sin-eating’ and ‘telling the bees’. It is reminiscent of Larkrise to Candleford, had it been penned by a committee of authors that included Thomas Hardy, Dickens and Emily Bronte. It is a book to relax with and savour. The pace was slower in 1924 and they liked their paragraphs LONG! But the story is well paced, the heroine immensely likeable, and there’s plenty of dramatic conflict and jeopardy to keep you hooked throughout.

I have read this book many times and, having just opened it and looked at the first line of Chapter One – “It was at a love-spinning that I saw Kester first”, – I know I am going to read it again very soon! (If you want to try this book, please don’t spoil it for yourself and look at the last page. The ending is perfect!)

Mary Webb née Meredith was born in the village of Leighton on 25th March, 1881. She and her husband worked as market gardeners for a time and had their own stall on Shrewsbury market. She wrote five novels and a volume of essays on nature. Mary died on 8th October, 1927 and was buried in Shrewsbury.

Authors die but they are never forgotten. They live on in the work they leave behind. As Mary Webb said herself in her Foreward to Precious Bane:

“We are to-morrow’s past. Even now we slip away like those pictures painted on the moving dials of antique clocks – a ship, a cottage, sun and moon, a nosegay. The dial turns, the ship rides up and sinks again, the yellow painted sun has set, and we, that were the new thing, gather magic as we go. The whirr of the spinning-wheels has ceased in our parlours, and we hear no more the treadle of the loom, the swift, silken noise of the flung shuttle, the intermittent thud of the batten. But imagination hears them, and theirs is the melody of romance.”

~Carol

Carole Browne writes speculative fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. She is also a ghost blog writer, proofreader, copy editor, and copywriter. Along with a passion for gardening, Carol is an avid animal lover. Stay connected with Carol on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AuthorCarolBrowne?ref=stream&hc_location=timeline

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I Don’t Feel Like Fishing Anymore…

Recently I perused a couple online dating sites (since I’ve already written in a previous blog about my experience in jumping on a plane at nineteen years old to meet a woman I met online, I won’t pretend that I haven’t been on a dating site before) and I came upon a profile that I first thought had to be fake, only because it read like it was written by a man in 1955.

But I am afraid it’s real…very real.

A 42 year-old woman, (three years older than me) is looking for a woman and this is what she writes:

(I will paraphrase because I’m not sure if I can legally quote her profile word for word.)

– I’m a good woman who treats my lovers good. In return, I only want my lovers to treat me good too. You take care of me, feed me, clean our house, and we can go places together. I need a good old-fashioned woman. I’m a hard-working and deep-loving woman and I need to be taken care of like a man. I want to be respected, obeyed, and generally have things done my way…and you will be happy and loved and respected back. I’m looking for my little woman to move in with me. Unless you are stable and want to pay bills and support my children, I will do it, and you’ll come to be my lil ol’ woman. –

I’m not sure how I resisted the temptation to hit the reply button because she sounds amazing, but I did, and I may need to thank my daily yoga and meditation practice in giving me such self-restraint and willpower. Maybe one day I will regret keeping this fish in the sea for some other lucky “lil ol’ woman” to catch.

Only time will tell if the loss is mine, but I’m pretty certain I won’t lose any sleep over it…Here’s to being single for a little while longer…and that’s quite all right.

Life Gets Better…Thanks Sandy.

Two years ago this month I started volunteering at an animal shelter. The first dog I bonded with was a Collie mix named Sandy. Sandy was an owner-surrender. I don’t remember the exact circumstances of the surrender, but Sandy was very depressed. Her sadness showed in the way she moved – slow and heavy. Her body weighted, not from the extra pounds she carried, but from the confusion I suspect she felt when the shelter became her new home.

I’ve been told that for a dog to go from a home to a shelter is as much of a shock as a free-living human-being waking up suddenly in a prison cell. Although the animals at my shelter are loved and well-taken care of, it doesn’t compare to a home once an animal’s lived in one. The confinement of a kennel, even one attached to a dog run, is jail to an animal accustomed to having free-range of a home.

Animal shelters, no matter how well-tended to, are loud. Dogs who are nervous bark. Dogs who are scared bark. Dogs who are anxious bark. And dogs who are just tired of being somewhere (we’ve had animals who’ve waited a year or longer for homes) bark. So when a dog like Sandy comes to the shelter, and is greeted with chaos she is not used, depression often sets in. Adjustments need to be made and these are abrupt for animals who knew a better life.

My fellow volunteers at the shelters love the animals they care for, and talk sweetly to them, but we are strangers to the dogs. And the ones who had an owner, and faithfully loved that owner and lived in a stable home (for at least a little while), being in a place with so many different hands touching you, no matter how gentle, can fill a dog with stress it never knew before.

Sandy wouldn’t eat, and as weeks went by her weight gradually dropped, but she still moved slowly and wasn’t enthusiastic about anything. There were special notes on her cage and on the dog’s track sheets that Sandy was only to be taken out in the grassy yard, and not the cement and pebbled ones, because all Sandy wanted to do was lay down. I’d lay with her in the grass, pet her, and take her head in my arms, and promise her that things would get better. She’d look at me with sadness in her eyes so deep and profound that I’d challenge anyone who dare say animals don’t have a soul.

I felt close to Sandy and bonded quickly with her because she resembled on the outside exactly the way I was feeling on the inside. I had been laid-off from my job a few months before and battling an illness that was threatening to flare-up again, and I was scared and lost in such profound hopelessness that I desperately searched for any sign that promised better days ahead.

“You’re gonna be okay,” I’d promise while kneeling in front of her and holding her head in my hands. “We both are.”

I kissed her a lot, comforted and reassured her, the way I needed someone to reassure me.

Soon, Sandy was adopted. Her life was going to get better and I was so happy for her. She gave me hope that my life would get better, too.

Last summer I took my dog to a fundraising event for animal shelters. There were all kinds of doggie-themed tents there and as I made my way toward one of them, I stopped near a spectacle of people surrounding a closed-off area. I found a spot and watched as dogs performed tricks and ran through obstacle courses with their trainers, or owners, by their side. The happy dogs circled cones, ran through large cylinder-like tubes, slid down little slides, jumped over rope, and maneuvered across small teeter-totters.

One of the dogs looked a lot like Sandy, but i knew the dog now running excitedly through an obstacle course couldn’t be the same sad dog who ignored the toys scattered in the shelter yards and only wanted to lay down, or the over-weight, depressed dog who moved so slowly I often had to take half-steps when walking beside her. It couldn’t be that dog, and I was ready to walk away believing it wasn’t her, when a man holding a mic said, “Let’s give a big hand to Sandy!”

It was Sandy! My Sandy. And I was stunned. I couldn’t even move. The transformation was incredible. She was a completely different dog.

I couldn’t get to her. The crowd was too big. But I wanted to reach her and pet her again and look into the eyes I was sure showed no more signs of sadness.

I wanted to tell her that I was happy her life was better, and let her know that mine was too.

Sadness doesn’t have to last forever. Life can, and will, get better.

Thanks a Lot, Kurt

I’m currently working on a piece I wrote in college called The Hideout. I may keep the title, but most of the story will get tossed in the garbage soon, but it’s given me enough to work with, and though I’m sure I am barely a decent writer now, seventeen years ago, I sucked.

A horrible writer, but showed flashes of possibilities, ever so slightly, and today I’m trying to right my wrongs. It’s a big task, and only when my mind is saturated with enough alcohol do I believe I can succeed. It is late. I am drinking – writing – while watching a documentary on Kurt Cobain, and though I didn’t embrace Grunge when the music first hit the scene (because it knocked the #uck out of the long-haired, hard-rock bands I loved so dearly and I was bitter), it brings me back to my teenage years. I may not have connected instantly with the angry and depressing sound that was Grunge, I did love the fashion trend that came along with it. Flannels. Baggy jeans. Jesus sandals with socks. It was suddenly cool to dress like a lesbian…or the grumpy old man three doors down.

Plus, the ozone layer needed a break from all that Aqua Net. Goodbye high-hair!

And now, in the solitude of the late hour and the fog in my head, with Kurt’s tragic life playing in the background – I’m sure I can write this story – fix my mistakes as though they were never made because no one will ever know. No one needs to know how bad I was. The beauty of words written down that have never been read is that they are easy to erase.

And like magic, tonight, I will make my mistakes disappear. The mistakes I’ve made on paper. The mistakes not already revealed. The mistakes I don’t have to drink to forget because I can make them go away… and no one will ever know.

Usually I eat a bag of Doritos when my head is this heavy, but tonight I write. A half-filled glass sits next to me that was filled four glasses ago, and I want to sleep, but tonight I write.

I erase.

All of my old stories, finished or not, have death in them. I hadn’t noticed this reoccurring theme in my writing while I was writing them so many years ago, but there it is. Every damn story has a character who dies.

I reread a piece that I had submitted to a publisher fifteen years ago when I was twenty-four years old. This was before submissions were sent electronically and everything was sent through the mail. The response time was slow, about six months. Writers spent a lot of time waiting. I had sent a query letter, a precis, and the first couple chapters of my story. Some time later, a woman from the publishing company called me, talked about the process, and requested the entire manuscript. I was heart-pounding ecstatic.

Shortly after I sent my complete story to her, I received a thin envelope regretfully informing me that my book was rejected. After a phone call and talk about book tours, I was denied a chance at my dream.

A few months ago I reread that story. The piece needed heavy edits, but I didn’t think it was too terrible, until I got to the end. The book was about two women who, after a lot of push, pull, and resistance, fall in love and then in the end one of them dies in a plane crash.

In my precis I didn’t divulge the ending, but I did set the tale up as a love story because that’s what I believed it was, and this was the last line of my lovely love-story:

“Loneliness never killed anyone, though sometimes she wished it would.”

That was my romance novel – my version of a love story. It was depressing as $hit and I was only twenty-two when I wrote it.

I don’t know how I became so jaded about love and life. Maybe it was all that Grunge music I learned to love so much.

Thanks a lot, Kurt.

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Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

A Creative Treat by Author Leigh Goff

Please welcome Leigh Goff, a talented Young Adult author who blends fantasy and romance into her remarkable stories. Her latest book Disenchanted releases through Mirror World Publishing in print and eBook on June 1. The kitchen is all yours, Leigh!

These cookies are just what a white witch like sixteen-year-old Sophie Greensmith from my debut YA fantasy, Disenchanted, would bake after a long day of concocting potions with exotic flowers from her aunt’s enchanted garden.

Disenchanted takes place in Wethersfield, Connecticut, the home of the first American witch trials (not Salem!). As descendants of the original witches, Sophie and her aunt practice white magic and work in a little shop called Scents and Scentsabilities. Their organic bath and body products like Tulips to Kiss Stick to lushify lips and Forever First Love Lip Balm to lock in that true love are crafted to benefit the ordinaries in town. However, not all of the ordinaries approve and when danger catches up to Sophie, she’s left with an impossible choice—turning to black magic, a forever choice, to save the life of her forbidden first love. Will her true love still want her when her heart is touched by darkness?

This yummy recipe from the Foothill House B&B in California includes ginger to soothe the stomach, cinnamon to reduce puffiness, and walnuts to help you deal with stress.

Foothill House Sweet Dreams Cookies

1 cup unsalted butter

1½ cups light brown sugar, firmly packed

1 egg, room temperature

1 tsp. vanilla

2 cups unbleached flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. ground ginger

½ tsp. salt

12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 cup chopped walnuts

1 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 375ºF.

Cream butter and mix in brown sugar, egg, and vanilla in a medium-sized bowl.

Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and salt and blend into butter mixture.

Fold in chocolate chips and walnuts (Sometimes I leave these out or substitute pecans.).

Refrigerate until dough is firm.

Lightly grease baking sheets.

Break off small pieces of dough and roll into 1″ rounds. Dredge in powdered sugar.

Arrange on prepared baking sheets at least 2″ apart.

Bake 10 minutes.

Cool 5 minutes on the sheets before transferring to racks to cool completely.

Store in airtight container.

Yields 6 dozen cookies

Here is a brief intro to my novel that appeals to people of all ages. I hope you like it, too.

Disenchanted

A forbidden love. A dark curse. An impossible choice…

Descended from a powerful Wethersfield witch, sixteen-year-old Sophie is struggling to hide her awkwardly emerging magic, but that’s the least of her worries. When a dangerous thief tries to steal her mysterious heirloom necklace, she is rescued by the one person she’s forbidden to fall for, a descendant of the man who condemned her ancestor to hang. He carries a dark secret that could destroy them both unless Sophie learns how to tap into the mysterious power of her diamond bloodcharm. She will have to uncover dark secrets from both of their families’ wicked pasts and risk everything, including her soul to save them from a witch’s true love curse, but it will take much more than that.

Leigh Goff-150 RET

Leigh Goff loves writing young adult fiction with elements of magic and romance because it’s also what she liked to read. Born and raised on the East Coast, she now lives in Maryland where she enjoys the area’s great history and culture.

Leigh is a graduate of the University of Maryland, University College and a member of the Maryland Writers’ Association and Romance Writers of America. She is also an approved artist with the Maryland State Arts Council. Her debut novel, Disenchanted, was inspired by the Wethersfield witches of Connecticut and was released by Musa Publishing in December 2014. Leigh is currently working on her next novel, The Witch’s Ring which is set in Annapolis.

Learn more about Leigh Goff on her website and blog Stay connected on  FacebookInstagramPinterest, and  Goodreads.

The Bar is Open – Guest Blog by Author Viki Lyn

Redemption is my latest book written with Vina Grey, a m/m fantasy featuring angels and demons. In our world, angels have a difficult time handling human alcohol. They have their own liquor of choice = ambrosia which gives them a slight buzz. So when we wrote a scene where Uriel visits a gay bar in San Francisco, we had to come up with an appropriate drink – one that a besotted bartender would make for the beautiful angel.

To my surprise, we found the perfect cocktail – Angel Face! (Although jealous Izar muttered that Hot Devilish daiquiri would have been more appropriate!)

Angel Face Cocktail

1/3 Dry Gin

1/3 Apricot Brandy

1/3 Calvados

Combine all ingredients into a cocktail shaker. Add ice. Stir well and strain into cocktail glass.

Enjoy!

Viki and Vina

An introvert and artist with a healthy dose of skepticism about life and love =Viki. An extrovert and academic and a die-hard romantic = Vina. It was so not a match made in heaven. But Viki and Vina discovered a mutual love of traveling around the world, the paranormal, good coffee, and a healthy admiration for their respective creativity. Sitting in a coffee shop one day, they started brainstorming about story plots and Vince and John and the car crash in the bakery. A story was born. Vina writes the sappy romance and Viki tempers it. Between them, they managed to find their boys a ‘happily ever after’.

Thou shall not kill.

An angel who sins may never find love again.

Archangel Raziel had no choice. He would break the Infinite’s commandment again to save his lover, Uriel, from a demon’s talons. Yet even the Infinite’s most trusted archangel cannot avoid punishment. Forced to go through the Cleansing, Raziel loses his memories and is renamed Izar, a Protector sworn to kill for the angels.

Years later, Izar is summoned to work alongside Uriel to capture a killer. Izar is shocked when his bloodlust spikes hot for the archangel. But a relationship between Protectors and angels is forbidden. As they rush to find the killer, their passion plays into the demon’s plan. Izar will have to choose between life and death if he is to save Uriel again.

BUY LINK

Multi-published and award winner, Viki Lyn is a successful writer of gay paranormal and contemporary romance. After reading and collecting whatever she could get her hands on, she wrote her first male/male romance. And that was ‘it’ for her. She never looked back. Viki travels the world in search of inspiration. She considers herself blessed to have traveled to many of the mystical sites she had dreamed about as a child. Her travel experiences have been influential in creating her paranormal worlds. When she needs to relax, she calls a friend to meet at their favorite coffee house. When the chattering in her head goes off the charts, she plays one of her favorite RPGs on her PS4 and immerses herself in the world of dragons and magic.

Learn more about Viki Lyn on her website and blog. Stay connected on Facebook and Twitter.
Vina Grey has lived in eight different states and if her family hadn’t grounded her, she’d be on the move again. So, instead she writes, living out her adventure-lust in her books. She made up stories in her head from the time she could register thoughts, so yes, there are many more books to come. Coffee, chocolate, Scotch, Kindle books, and traveling to far away lands are among her…ahem…very few vices. Actually they can be lands close by, too. But at the end of the day, to write a love story that makes a reader sigh with satisfaction–that’s what it’s all about. Vina Grey loves writing about romance. Two people finding each other, the two-step before they get together and the happily ever after — really is the best story ever. Throw in some paranormal elements and she’s in heaven. Vampires and cops, anyone? Her other love is traveling. From the deserts of the Middle East to the temples in Japan to the rice fields in Bali, she finds inspiration for her stories in every country she visits.

Vina loves to jabber away with anyone about books, so drop her a line. Stay connected on Facebookand Twitter.

Learn more about Viki Lyn and Vina Grey on their Author Facebook Page.

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Hemingway

I love reading Hemingway. He never strays. He never babbles. Every word is relevant – precise and concise writing. His prose is eloquent with a natural progression that makes the reader feel the story inside the book they hold could have been their own journey in a different lifetime. He lures his reader this/close to his stories.

I can’t write everything I feel about Hemingway in one blog. I can zero in on one or two aspects of his writing, or his life, that inspires me, but not all at once.

I just finished reading At First Light, a fictional memoir based on Hemingway’s time spent in Africa in a safari camp, with his fourth, and last wife, Mary. She is obsessed with hunting a very elusive and intelligent lion. Everyone in camp is aware how badly she wants to kill this lion. She tells her husband she loves the lion and that’s why she has to kill him.

Hemingway and his wife talk about never wanting to leave Africa because they have both fallen in love with the culture and the hunting. Being one of the greatest writers that ever lived had afforded Hemingway the luxury of living whatever lifestyle he chose. Hemingway refers to himself as a rich man and he was. He could travel anywhere he wanted.

At one part of the story, towards the end, Mary talks about all the places she still wants to see, despite having already seen all of Tanganyika and the Bohoro flats and the Great Ruaha. She’d been to Mbeya and the Souhthern Highland. She lived everywhere from the hills, to the foot of a mountain, and in the bottom of the Rift Valley.

Yet, Mary asks her husband if he knows what she wants for Christmas.

“I wish I did.”

“I don’t know whether I should tell you. Maybe it’s too expensive.”

“Not if we have the money.”

“I want to go and really see something of Africa. We’ll be going home and we haven’t seen anything. I want to see the Belgian Congo.”

“I don’t.”

“You have no ambition. You’d just as soon stay in one place.”

“Have you ever been to a better place?”

“No. But there’s everything we haven’t seen.”

“I’d rather live in a place and have an actual part in the life of it than just see new strange things.”

The last line stopped me and I reflected on its simple truth. In a quest to see everything, sometimes we see nothing. I do want to travel, but my traveling doesn’t include beaches, resorts, selfies in front historical landmarks, or the rush to visit eighteen countries in thirty days.

I was about twenty-three years old and on a first date when I was asked, “What is the one thing you really want to do?”

I told my date, with some reservation, that I want to go to all the small, run-down, dinky towns in the middle of nowhere, and stay there for a while and get to know the people, and their lives, because I was (and still am) sure there are big stories in those little towns, and probably a lot of secrets, too.

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Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net