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Monday, December 31, 2012

Monday Musings

So now that we've survived December 21, 2012, experts tell us that we are entering a new age - an Age of Enlightenment. Some say that we will have peace for a thousand years.

What do you think must happen in order to ensure peace around the globe?

Consider the reasons people go to war - or inflict harm on another. Religious beliefs conflicting with others' beliefs is one of the major causes for war. Another is the quest to control land, water, food, or resources - gold, silver or uranium as examples. Some wars are fought simply because one man wants power - and has the backing of powerful people behind him to enable military might.

Then you have people who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Or people who suffer from mental disorders who may or may not have been diagnosed. In the history of the world, some of these people have risen to great heights and seized power not only from their own countrymen but have marched across the globe to conquer others.

If you were part of a task force to form global peace, what would you do to ensure this happens?

Friday, December 28, 2012

Freaky Friday

Scientists' quest for life on other planets centers around the existence of water because it's widely accepted that life cannot exist without it. Consider the fact that the earth's population is growing astronomically. And thanks in large part to breakthroughs in medical technology, humans are living longer. Combined, this means it is only a matter of time before we will outgrow this planet.

Barring a major catastrophy that destroys life on our planet (and if you're reading this, it means we survived December 21, 2012) the quest for another life-sustaining planet will take on even more significance in future generations.

So scientists and astrophysicists are understandably very interested in Europa, one of Jupiter's moons and our best chance at finding another place in our solar system capable of sustaining life. At first glance, it may seem inhospitable to life. But a closer look reveals the possible existence of water - possibly 60 miles deep - just under the surface.

Consider our own oceans and the vast number of creatures and life forms inhabiting them from the surface to their deepest points and you know the discovery of water on Europa could lead to a great deal of excitement.

Unlike the earth, which rotates as it circles the sun, Europa remains locked with only one side facing Jupiter at all times. This could mean that one side is ice under the surface while the other side is liquid. Its atmosphere consists of molecular oxygen and it contains iron in its crust.

The next mission is set to launch in 2022. Called JUICE, or Jupiter Icy Moon Explorer, it will be launched by the European Space Agency. It is expected to reach Europa in 2030.

Perhaps what it finds will be the stuff once associated with science fiction...

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Thursday Thoughts

Have you ever wondered how the copyright of your material is handled in a global market? Consider, for example, an American author who copyrights their work through the United States Government. If the book is for sale in Europe, Asia, or across the globe, is it still protected?

Fortunately, the Berne Convention has addressed this issue. Unfortunately, not all countries are included in it.

The Berne Convention was first accepted in 1886 and has received a number of modifications over the years. The United States, however, only joined in 1988. The intent of this agreement is to honor the copyright of works copyrighted in other countries as if they had been copyrighted in your own. For example, France would honor the United States copyright of a book as if it had been copyrighted in France.

Things can get sticky when a book is simultaneously copyrighted in several countries. The country with the shortest copyright duration has precedence so if one country copyrights the work for seven years and another for five years, the copyright will lapse after five years. The standard, however, is fifty years after the author's death - but if a shorter duration applies, the law can not extend the copyright in one area and allow it to lapse in another, which means the shorter duration will always take precedence.

Books originally uploaded to the Internet (eBooks that are in no other format) are still in a gray zone; there are several court cases being decided now regarding if and how copyrights are protected in these cases.

There are currently 165 countries who honor the Berne Convention. There are roughly 196 countries in the world today - "roughly" because some countries are accepted by some on the international stage and not by others. Though China is one of the countries who have agreed to abide by it, I've found it interesting in recent years to find my books available throughout China - even though they are not legally for sale there.

With the proliferation of small publishers and global accessibility, it makes sense to research your rights wherever your book is sold.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

WIP Wednesday

As the end of each year approaches, I enjoy looking back over the previous twelve months and comparing my goals and resolutions to what I've actually been able to accomplish.

I began 2012 with two books on my schedule and by spring, a third was added. It was the first time in my career that I had to write three books - around 1,000 pages and roughly 300,000 words - in one twelve month period.

And I made it.

I completed Secrets of a Dangerous Woman, the third book in the Black Swamp Mysteries series, in the spring. It was released in September 2012.

I then wrote The Tempest Murders over the summer. This book is being marketed by my agent and I hope to have some good news concerning its publication in 2013.

I just completed the third book, Dylan's Song, the fourth book in the Black Swamp Mysteries series. It is due for release by Drake Valley Press in the spring of 2013 - the official release date is St Patrick's Day, which is appropriate for a book that takes place in Ireland.

I have two books to write in 2013 (so far):

After the Tempest is the sequel to The Tempest Murders. It is due by the summer of 2013.

And The Pendulum Files, the fifth book in the Black Swamp Mysteries series, is due on the editor's desk by December 2013. It will be released in 2014.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Monday Musings - End of the World?

If you're reading this post on December 24, 2012, then you have obviously lived beyond the End of the World as seen by the I Ching, the Mayan Calendar, and some scientists and astrophysicists.

What is your favorite book about the end of the world?

Or your favorite movie?

I love Edgar Rice Burroughs. Best known for his Tarzan books, he also wrote about the discovery of life on other planets - sometimes because our own planet was facing extinction.

And my favorite movie about the end of the world (which also didn't happen, thanks to some terrific heros) is Independence Day. I especially love the line Will Smith shouts when he flies the alien spacecraft for the first time: "I have GOT to get me one of these!"

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Truth About Zombies

We've all read books or seen movies that featured zombies - those "undead" who still roam the earth, looking like dead relatives or friends but who appear to be merely shells of their former selves. Have you ever wondered how the concept of zombies got started and whether it was rooted in fact?

One theory centers in Haiti, one of the zombie capitals of the world.

The story goes that plantation owners needed servants to work their fields. Slaves, of course, cost them no wages but they were in short supply. The discovery that a mere drop from poisonous fish (such as the puffer) could reduce a heartbeat so it was undetectable was seen as an answer to their problem.

They selected their victims and slipped the poison into their drink or food. Within minutes, they appeared to have had a stroke or a heart attack and shortly after, there were no signs of life. Before the age of embalming, the deceased would have been wrapped in material and buried within a day of their death. So the funeral was held, the bodies buried...

And after dark, the plantation owner would send men to dig up the body and bring it to him.

The person would be drugged (creating a zombie-like appearance and personality) and would be told they were dead and had moved into the netherworld. They were told throughout eternity, they would serve the plantation owner.

A young woman who had been poisoned, buried, dug up and drugged eventually escaped and made her way back to her village. The residents there did not believe she was actually still alive; being a suspicious people, they determined that she was "undead." Other victims suffered similar fates. They could not go home because their people were spooked by their appearance. So they lived out their days in a drug-induced stupor serving at the pleasure of the plantation owner.

Have you heard any similar stories? Can you think of any books or movies that carried this premise into fictional accounts?

It is often a true story that stimulates the imagination of authors, immortalizing something that might have otherwise been lost to history...

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Thursday Thoughts - Dialogue

One of the best pieces of advice I've received as an author is how to write believable dialogue.

When I lived in Virginia, there was a fabulous grocery chain called "Ukrops" that had cafes that were quite popular - either as a coffee shop or for a full meal or anything in between. The advice I received was to get a cup of coffee, sit in the Ukrops cafe and simply listen.

I chose to go there at lunchtime, when many of the government employees who worked at the police department or court house (just a few blocks away) would converge on Ukrops. I'd get my lunch, select a spot near the middle, and listen to snippets of conversation.

From those experiences, I learned how to write what I heard: the inflections, the accents, and the use of informal language. In my earliest books, I read the dialogue out loud and often changed the structure of the sentences to make them more believable. As I continued to write (my 15th book will be released in 2013) developing dialogue became second nature and I rarely need to read it out loud now.

It is also important not to have each character speak exactly the same. It is important that the reader can identify a character by their speech pattern, especially when moving back and forth in a rapid-fire conversation.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

WIP Wednesday in Ireland

I am wrapping up the next book in the Black Swamp Mysteries series. Dylan's Song is scheduled for release in the spring of 2013. In this book, Dylan Maguire is called to Ireland to find and extract a missing CIA operative. Vicki accompanies him as both a front and to assist in locating the operative through her psychic abilities.

Below is an excerpt:

The wall gave way beneath Vicki's hand and as she jerked it backward in surprise, her knuckle raked across a piece of metal. She gasped and then reached for the metal, this time with intent. Yes, she thought. It was a bar from the cell doors.

She moved closer to it, clutching it while peering beside it into the darkness. Then she grasped at another bar and then another, making her way along the wall while still attempting to see inside.

The bars were rusted and they tore at her hands, embedding pieces inside her palm. She recoiled, shaking off the bits of metal, and then more cautiously reached for them again.

It was useless, she thought. Everything was enveloped in pitch blackness.

She sighed heavily and leaned her head toward the bars when a man’s face appeared inches from hers.

He was imprisoned on the other side. It was so dark that she thought her eyes were deceiving her. But then he moved slightly and she saw his chiseled face streaked with grime. Light brown strands of matted and greasy hair fell unchecked across his forehead and an unkempt beard was knotty with the same grime that smeared his cheekbones.

His eyes were light colored, wide and unblinking as he stared at her.

“Can you see me?” Her voice was barely more than a croak.

“You’re an American.” His voice was deep and dry and the words came slowly, as if he’d grown unaccustomed to speech.

“CIA,” she heard herself saying.

He sucked in his breath and then his eyes raked over her body. She felt very small and very useless; if he could not get out of this cell himself, how could she possibly think she could save him?

“Are there others?” he asked, as if thinking the same thing.

“Two. Maybe more.”

He looked beyond her, his eyes skirting the perimeter. “Where—?”

“I don’t know how I got here,” she said.

The sound of voices reached their ears and he hissed, “Quiet.”

As the voices drew nearer, she realized if this wasn’t one of her dreams—if this was real and she had somehow fallen into this other realm, she could be attacked, raped or imprisoned. And Dylan and Brenda didn’t know where she was. She didn’t know.

“Bolt cutters,” he said.

She looked back at him.

“These bars are iron. But the locks can be broken with bolt cutters. There’s only one way in and one way out.”

“The stairs.”

“The way you got here,” he said.

Men were speaking, their voices drawing closer. Her heart began to pound wildly and her temples hurt. She had to run—but where?

“Over there,” he said. “In the cell. Pull the door closed and go to the back. They’ll pass right by you.”

The hall wound tightly and as she took a quick step backward, she stopped abruptly and lifted her camera. The shot came fast and bright, capturing his astonished, stained face and disheveled appearance.

“What the devil was that?”

She realized too late it had been a mistake. The flash had alerted them to her presence and now their footsteps were coming swiftly toward her. She turned to look at Stephen Anders but he was escaping into the far inky depths of his cell.

As she started to turn toward the opposite cell, the temporary safe haven seemed beyond her reach. And as she started to move toward it, she felt the heavy grip of a man’s hand on her shoulder, pulling her toward him.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Tuesday Teaser

I've been asked numerous times about Vicki Boyd's front as an angelfish breeder.

I have started a new blog called Vicki's Angelfish, in which I've been posting information about the real angelfish I breed.

I currently have four batches of angel fry from the same parents - Lindsay Buckingfish and Stevie Fishnick. Lindsay is a black marble male who is ten inches tall. Stevie is a platinum angel who is about 7 inches tall.

Four of their babies will be sold to the local pet shop within the next week. Three other batches are currently with their parents but I will be transferring them to an infant tank where they can grow to the size in which they can be sold.

So the information that you read about in the Black Swamp Mysteries series is taken from my real hobby as a freshwater angelfish breeder.

I hope you'll visit my angelfish blog!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Monday Musing - Judging a Book by Its Cover

We've all done it - we've been drawn to a particular book in the store due to its cover. It might have been the colors used, the artwork or something else that caught our attention. But caught it, it did.

But have you ever stopped to consider that the larger publishers use focus groups to determine which covers work and which ones don't?

And did you know that with each printing, the cover is likely to change?

Our tastes change over time. We wear different styles of clothing, drive different cars, listen to various types of music. We watch different television shows, different movies. We change our hairstyles, our furniture, our decor, even our landscaping.

So it's within reason that a cover that might have grabbed our attention one year ago won't today. The mid-size and smaller publishers might or might not give this any thought; especially with POD and eBooks, they might consider once a cover is done, it's done.

But it never truly should be.

Consider all of the covers below. They are all for one book: Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier. It was reportedly Alfred Hitchcock's favorite book and his favorite movie (that he directed.)

If you saw each of these book covers today, would one grab your attention while you'd quickly pass by another?

Friday, December 14, 2012

Freaky Friday - Do You Believe?

I was asked recently if I believed everything I posted on Freaky Fridays.

The short answer is: of course not.

Those who thought I was losing my grip can rest assured: I still have my grip.

But I do enjoy thinking outside the box. That's what writing is all about, isn't it? Dreaming up the next big plot, the next formidable protagonist, the next hero. It's all about taking an idea and stretching it as far as you can.

For those who write suspense/thrillers like I do, it's about taking it to the limit and making it totally believable.

For those who write fantasy or science fiction, it's about taking us into the future or into the past and showing a world we will never know in our lifetimes on Earth.

This is considered the Golden Age for scientists. So on future Freaky Fridays, I'll continue to push the envelope. Let me know what your opinions are regarding the variety of documented discoveries and possible discoveries - and whether you believe them.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Thursday Thoughts

I am often asked by readers how I can write in more than one genre. In some literary circles, authors have informed audiences that it isn't "possible" for an author to be successful in more than one genre. I write in four: non-fiction (computer), historical adventure/suspense, contemporary suspense (some of which contain more romance and paranormal elements) and how-to books for authors.

But consider this: Isaac Asimov, considered brilliant by nearly everyone who knows of him, wrote in all ten major categories of the Dewey Decimal System:

Computer Science/ Information Science
Philosophy and Psychology
Social Sciences
History, Geography & Biology

He may be known as the Father of Science Fiction but in more than 500 books, he clearly showed the world that he could write on any subject - and he was fluent in them all.

In the area of fiction, he not only wrote science fiction but he also wrote mysteries and suspense. Much of what he wrote as fiction was based on solid scientific principles, many of them in their infancy at the time of his writings.

If you are a writer, do you write in more than one genre or have you selected one in which to make your mark? As a reader, do you enjoy reading various genres from the same author or do you find it confusing?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

WIP Wednesday and The Next Big Thing

Special thanks to Sandra Balzo for including me in The Next Big Thing blog hop! The rules for her accepting me in this great event are to answer the interview questions below and pass the torch on to other deserving authors. So here goes:

What is the working title of your Work in Progress?

Dylan's Song. It's the fourth book in the Black Swamp Mysteries series.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

There are two plots in the book which come together at the end. One plot involves finding and extracting a missing CIA operative. I got the idea from combing through declassified information about real operatives who were rescued. The second plot is more personal and involves Dylan's past, which he thought he left behind in Ireland. I love that country and knew I had to write at least one book that takes place there. So this was the perfect opportunity to intertwine two stories into one adventure.

What genre does your book fall under?

It is a suspense/thriller with a touch of the paranormal, thanks to psychic spy Vicki Boyd and her propensity for seeing ghosts.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie?

Do you think Eduardo Verastegui (shown at right) could do an Irish accent?

I can definitely see Amy Adams as Vicki Boyd.

And Lindsay Lohan would be a shoe-in for bad girl Brenda Carnegie!

Sam was modeled after Robert DeNiro so there is no one else who could come close. :)

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Dylan Maguire returns to Ireland with Vicki Boyd to find and rescue a missing CIA operative, and while there he must confront a past he thought he'd left behind forever.

Will your book be self-published or be represented by an agency?

Drake Valley Press, who published the previous books in the Black Swamp Mysteries series, is scheduled to release the book in the spring of 2013.

How long did it take for you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

About three months. I was under contract to write three books in 2012 so there was no time to waste!

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I really can't think of any with a similar plot though there are some great ones that take place in Ireland.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I wanted to write a book set in Ireland and I wanted to show the readers the past that Dylan Maguire thought he'd left behind. Since he made his first appearance in Vicki's Key, there have been bits and pieces of his life before he came to America - but this book will pull it all together. Readers will see a part of him they've never seen before.

What else about your book might pique the readers interest?

If you like ghost stories and stories set in the moors of England, you'll enjoy Dylan's Song. It also has international intrigue, suspense and adventure so it would be of interest to those who enjoy reading about the CIA and their missions. It also sets up the next book in the series, which deals with American politics.

Now to pass on the torch so others can tell of their Work In Progress:

Pamela June Kimmell

Ginger King

Bonnie Watson

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Tuesday Teaser

It's Tuesday Teaser time again, and I've selected the very first page in the very first suspense thriller that I ever had published. Kickback launched my writing career and within two years of its release, I was able to focus full-time on my writing career, thanks to its success and the success of my second book, The China Conspiracy, which achieved worldwide publicity.

I'll let the prologue speak for itself:

I was hanging upside down in my Toyota Tercel, held in place by my seatbelt and shoulder harness, my neck bent against the roof of the car and the steering wheel jammed against my chest. I must have been at the foot of an embankment; I could see headlights passing along I-95 through the jagged glass that was once my windshield. I vaguely remember the tractor-trailer slamming on his brakes, and the Toyota clipping the edge of the truck, my arm instinctively covering my eyes as glass sprayed me.

When the car came to a stop, I’d been flipped over too many times to count. I wiped the blood out of my eyes and tried to focus on where I was. I could see a tangled mass of metal, twisted and jagged pieces still moving, still being pushed toward me. The back of the seat was caving in on me. My purse was hanging in midair, and then it was gone. I heard the constant sound of something dripping, and the unmistakable smell of gasoline.

Terrified the gasoline would ignite and I’d be burned alive, I gasped unevenly, trying to fill my lungs with air, but they were packed with a gurgling fluid and incredible pain shot through me. There was blood everywhere. My hair was soaked with it, but I couldn’t tell whether my head was bleeding, or my face, or which part of my body. It was all covered in blood.

I don’t know what terrified me the most—thinking I would die alone, just yards from the interstate but out of sight, or thinking that I would live through this and they would return and torture me before I died. I didn’t want Aunt Jo or Margaret or Matt to think I’d died in a traffic accident, when I knew too well it wasn’t an accident at all.

I could hear the tractor-trailers moving away in the distance, and then I heard one coming back and stopping near the car. I knew I had to get out; I had to find the strength. I tried pushing against the steering wheel, trying to move it off my chest, but it wouldn’t budge. I knew I was suffocating in my own blood.

My ears were filled with the constant drone of the tractor-trailer. Then I heard the truck door open and slam shut, and heard the sound of feet running toward me.

I tried pushing with all my strength against anything I could reach; I tried to stay calm, to figure out how to get out of the seat belt, to get out of this ridiculous upside-down posture, but I couldn’t budge. Darkness was creeping in around the edges.

I saw the legs standing beside the car, and then they knelt down beside me. Blue jeans, cowboy boots. And then there was a crack, like thunder.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Monday Musings - 10 Days to Live?

It always interests me when I hear rumors of the earth's imminent demise. It usually conjures up images of cults like Heaven's Gate, whose members thought they could ride the comet's tail into the new dimension. Or Y2K, when reports that the world as we know it would end forever.

But there have been cataclysmic events in the earth's history that wiped out nearly all life on this planet. It seems to be part of a larger process in which the earth begins anew, sometimes with new species and new evolutions.

Consider, for example, that millions of years before the dinosaurs roamed the earth, a giant volcano in Siberia erupted. The end result was it wiped out most life forms on this planet.

How could a simple volcano do this? The eruption was the size of the United States. If you've ever been to The Big Island of Hawaii and stood on the hardened ground formed by lava, imagine if that covered the entire United States.

The Siberian volcano not only wiped out plants and animals in its path but produced methane gas, which, thanks to air currents, helped it travel around the earth until most life forms were wiped out.

The earth regenerated eventually. Dinosaurs evolved and then the Ice Age wiped them out, along with countless other species.

Are you planning anything for December 21st?

Friday, December 7, 2012

Freaky Friday

Today is the 71st anniversary of Pearl Harbor. You'll no doubt see shows about possible conspiracies and our own government's possible knowledge of the attack before it happened.

But here's some food for thought:

In 1999, diplomatic papers located and disclosed for the first time show a very different story.

A draft memorandum had been prepared by Japanese leaders in accordance with the Hague Convention, which stated that countries must notify other countries of war before an initial attack. But debates within Japan's own government prevented it from being sent to United States officials. A wartime diary substantiates the debate; while government officials wanted to send the warning, the country's Navy and Army rejected it, opting for a surprise attack.

The result is what the Japanese referred to as "our deception diplomacy" - and they successfully kept their ambassadors in the dark about their plans to attack Pearl Harbor. The diplomats thought they were continuing talks with Washington, but the powers in control in Japan knew the talks would lead nowhere.

Will you observe Pearl Harbor Day? If so, how? What version of events do you believe?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Thursday Thoughts

Today I will be appearing on Angels and Warriors Radio! I hope you'll tune in and listen to my interview.

I've been asked at various appearances which authors I enjoy reading. I must admit, I love an escapist read. I want something to take me out of my life and my day-to-day obligations and transport me to another place and another time.

So here are some books I recommend this holiday season. Some are new and some are old, but all are great:

Erin Quinn's Haunting series: Haunting Beauty, Haunting Warrior, Haunting Embrace and Haunting Desire. They are set in Ireland and involve time travel. Fabulously written, you'll fall in love with each of the Irishmen. There's is so much suspense and nonstop action, you won't be able to put them down. Here's a link to the first book in the series.

Anne Rice's The Mummy. This is unlike any other mummy-rises-from-the-dead story you'll ever read. Picture a young Russell Crowe (in his Gladiator days) as Ramses the Great and you'll see what I mean! Here's a link to the book in paperback.

Daphne du Maurier is an author I've been reading and re-reading since childhood. Though Rebecca is one of her most well-known novels (she also wrote The Birds and was Alfred Hitchock's favorite author), my personal favorite is Jamaica Inn. Here's a link to this book in paperback.

I also enjoy true stories in which average people are placed in extraordinary circumstances:

In May of 1996, Jon Krakauer accompanied a team of climbers scaling Mount Everest. The original intent was to show the types of people who climbed to our world's highest peaks. But when a sudden storm strands them in the death zone, his story became one of life and death: Into Thin Air is a riveting read!

You always hear the book is better than the movie, and here's one that proves it: The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger is filled with so much suspense, you won't want to put it down. It is the true story of a superstorm that caught many ships out at sea - and the fight for survival by the crews that wanted to get home but became a part of history.

What are your favorite books this holiday season?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

WIP Wednesday - New Book Cover!

I'm thrilled to reveal the book cover for my 15th release, Dylan's Song!

The official release date for this fourth book in the Black Swamp Mysteries series is St Patrick's Day 2013. That's very appropriate because the book takes place in Ireland.

The cover is taken from a photograph made by fellow mystery author Pamela June Kimmell, who also writes children's books and is a fabulous painter and photographer. Her photographs, paintings and sketches adorn gorgeous note cards that I have proudly used for several years.

This particular photograph was taken when Pam and her husband Dave traveled to Ireland. Her blogspot features different photographs every Tuesday in which visitors try to guess where they were taken. Pam and Dave are real globetrotters so you never know what she's likely to post.

In Dylan's Song, Dylan Maguire gets word that his grandmother is on her deathbed. At the same time, Vicki is working a psychic mission involving a CIA operative who went missing in Ireland while tailing a known terrorist. Sam decides it's the perfect time for Dylan to go to Ireland and combine his personal business with finding and extracting the CIA operative. Vicki goes along as his cover so when they appear to be sightseeing, they are really performing reconnaissance work. Along the way, Vicki finds out the real reason Dylan left his native Ireland for a new start in America - while harboring a secret of her own.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Tuesday Teaser in the UK

Today I am visiting the United Kingdom - an appropriate place for me to be since my Tuesday Teaser includes Irishman Dylan Maguire.

I hope you'll drop by and read today's post at the Bookalicious Travel Addict. Leave a comment and you could win a basket of goodies from the real town of Lumberton, North Carolina!

In Secrets of a Dangerous Woman, Dylan is returning home after a CIA mission when the fog moves into Lumberton - and reminds him of his home in Ireland:

It reminded him of Ireland, of the mists that rolled in during the wee hours of the morning, settling into the valleys and obscuring all in its path. He thought of the times when he stood on the small stoop of a porch, drinking his coffee or tea and watching the mists rise above the pond at the edge of the lawn. The mists of Ireland were something alive, something that could soothe a man’s soul or destroy it, something that cloaked a man when he wanted to be hidden or obscured that which he needed to see.

It reminded him of the precipitation that always seemed to hover over the land. One was always looking at the sky commenting on the rains that were coming or the rains that had just left, gauging the difficulty of the day’s activities by which way the wind was blowing the mist. It was the kind of precipitation that could soak into the bones in the coldest hours and sweeten the skin on the warmest of days.

And he missed it. He missed the feel of it on his brow, the ghostly way it surrounded and hugged him. He missed the way it could soften her features. No, he thought, involuntarily shaking his head as he rose. He wouldn’t think of her. Not now. Not ever.

He’d left those memories behind forever when he left Ireland, and he wouldn’t be going back.

Of course, Dylan does go back - in the next book of the series, Dylan's Song. Tune in tomorrow for more on that book!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Monday Musings

This Thanksgiving, we were bombarded with ads from retailers heralding the start of the Christmas season. In fact, many shoppers observed Christmas decorations even before Halloween.

If you are one of those shoppers who camp out in front of your favorite store on Black Friday, more power to you!

I observed Black Friday with my regular tradition.

Years ago, I began making calendars for my family. My father had done quite a bit of detailed research into our family history and I placed as many geneology facts as I could on the appropriate dates.

I also added birthdays, anniversaries, graduations and other special events on the calendar.

Above each month, I placed photographs taken through the generations. (Shown at right: my brother David in front of my mother; me in front of my father who is holding my sister Nancy; my sister Susan; my brother John. This was taken in Columbia, Tennessee.)

The calendar was such a big hit the first year that it has become a tradition for me to do them each year.

It takes hours of my time - hours I suppose I could have spent in a tent outside a store.

It takes very little money.

But the result is something my family and extended family keeps for years. And it's a record of our past and our tiny footsteps on this earth.

Do you have any special Christmas giving traditions?