Blog: Ponderings of a BBQ Ph.D.

Special Feature: Mary Davis Guest Post

In honor of the release of my debut novella, I have invited each of the other authors in the collection to write a post about the inspiration for their story.  Today, I’m pleased to share a post from Mary Davisauthor of Holly and Ivy.

A BOUQUET’S SWEET SCENT

“Holly & Ivy,” my #HistoricalRomance novella in A #BouquetOfBrides, takes place in 1890, in Washington State. A young woman accompanies her impetuous younger sister on her trip across the country to be a Christmas mail-order bride and is helped by a gallant stranger.

My initial idea for this collection popped into my head years before I started pulling the proposal together. The inspiration title that came to me was A Bouquet of Brides for the Bakersfield Bachelors. But coordinating so many stories by so many different authors can be quite challenging, time consuming, and confusing. So instead of having all the brides end up in the same location, I held fast to the flower theme. The collection bloomed and grew from there.

Flowers have been depicted for centuries in paintings, sculptures, music, books, tapestries, china, needlepoint, almost anywhere you can think of. Flowers have been used to honor important ceremonies and traditions, enhance environments, and of course to express feelings, especially love. Flowers mean many things to people.

My favorite flower is the carnation. I love its sweet, sweet smell and how it’s ruffly, almost lacey like. What’s your favorite flower?

Photo by Rowena Kong on Unsplash

 

In celebration of the release of “Holly & Ivy”, I’m giving away (US only) a print copy of A BOUQUET OF BRIDES Collection. To enter, subscribe to my newsletter and receive a free short story. I’ll be drawing for the book at the end of January.

Follow my blog at Mary’s Blog.

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#ChristianRomance #HistoricalRomance #Romance

MARY DAVIS is an award-winning novelist of over two dozen titles in both historical and contemporary themes. She has four more titles releasing in 2018; Courting Her Amish Heart in March 2018, The Widow’s Plight in July 2018, Courting Her Secret Heart (Working Title) September 2018, & “Zola’s Cross-Country Adventure” in MISSAdventure Brides Collection in December 2018. She is a member of ACFW and active in critique groups.

Mary lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband of over thirty-three years and two cats. She has three adult children and one incredibly adorable grandchild. Find her online at:

MaryDavisBooks.com

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When did bathrooms become art galleries?

I’m fascinated by the artwork I find in bathrooms. I’ve always considered bathrooms to be unimportant when it came to interior design. Perhaps it’s because I grew up in the day when pastel colored seashell soaps graced every sink, and no one was allowed to actually use them. They would remain forever encased in glistening plastic. And, of course, fancy guest towels were completely off limits.

Some people go overboard with bathroom decoration nowadays. I’m not sure I want any of these woodland creatures watching me do my business.

Without straying too far from the seashells of my childhood, I decided to decorate with a simple waterfront theme in my own bathroom. The rest of the house is a woodsy theme. Kind of a mismatch.

 

Some businesses understand the captive audience a restroom provides. They hang advertising posters inside stall doors or near the sink. Why not turn it into a money-maker? I’ve even seen fliers about upcoming events in church bathrooms.

Other businesses extend the theme of the main floor into the washroom. But, who decided to hang a toilet paper holder so far from a toilet?

The ladies’ room in an upscale mall boasts marble (or fake marble—I can’t tell the difference) counter tops and stall dividers. Fancy stall doors reach the floor. No little kids are going to crawl under those.

I’ve seen displays of decorating prowess in individual homes as well. Makes me a little jealous. While using the washroom at a friend’s house, I noticed a framed picture of a marriage license on the wall. A marriage license? So, I looked further. Framed historic photos filled the walls. I asked her about them, because that’s a question begging to be asked.

It was her grandparents’ marriage license. Normally their wedding picture hung on the opposite wall, but she had taken it down to re-frame it. She is holding it in the picture below because I asked her to bring it down for this blog. How could she refuse? Thank you, Kim for putting up with your eccentric, blogging friend.

Other pictures of relatives hung on the walls too. I wish I could remember which relative was in the photograph below. Now that I think about it, I was sharing that bathroom with a lot of people. Maybe I should stick to woodland creatures.

I suppose it’s a nice way to show the pictures. So many people pass through that room. No one would see them in her bedroom or office. Not even in the hallway near all the bedrooms. But, lots of people see the bathroom, even if it is just to check their make-up.

I may have to re-think the way I decorate my bathrooms. Meanwhile, don’t be surprised if I write a future blog about the hidden treasure of bathroom art. So much to see in the bathroom.

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Special Feature: Kathleen Kovach Guest Post

In honor of the release of my debut novella, I have invited each of the other authors in the collection to write a post about the inspiration for their story.  Today, I’m pleased to share a post from Kathleen E. Kovachauthor of Periwinkle in the Park.

When I was first approached to write a story about a girl named after a flower, I had no idea that simple idea would spark into the book it became. I thought first of one of my favorite flower, the daisy. However, when I ran that idea by family members, they turned their noses up at it. And not to smell the flower! I then went with another choice, Periwinkle. Why I didn’t think of it in the first place, I don’t know. Periwinkle is not only a flower, but also my favorite color.

I ended up with a protagonist who is a naturalist from reading The Magnificent Mountain Women: Adventures in the Colorado Rockies. My heroine, Periwinkle and her sister, Sunnie (named after the sunflower,) are very loosely based on Elizabeth and Esther Burnell, sisters who came on the scene after the establishment of the park. Esther would eventually marry Enos Mills, known as “the Father of Rocky Mountain National Park.” But Elizabeth went on to become a nature tour guide once the park had been established.

I knew I wanted to write a story located in Colorado, and the aforementioned book helped me to isolate the area, the protagonist, and her occupation—a nature tour guide in the mountains.

Why Colorado? Why Estes Park? Why Rocky Mountain National Park? The answer lies in the photograph above. My grandparents were snowbirds. They worked in Estes Park in the summer and lived in Mesa, Arizona in the winter. When they were in Colorado, my parents took my sister and me to visit them every chance they could. Estes Park became my second home and the national park was my playground. Grandpa and Grandma, Milo (Mike) and Gwen Wiles, started out working at Tiny Town Cottages, sweet little cabins along the Big Thompson river. They went on to work at several other establishments over the years before they retired to Arizona permanently. I have such fond memories of my grandparents and the mountains—the two are synonymous in my mind. Gathering near the fireplace while Grandpa played his juice harp, sans his teeth. The hummingbirds at my grandmother’s feeder, every single one named. And playing on the Tiny Town grounds with the children who came through on vacation. One such family had me confused. They seemed to be talking my language, but I couldn’t get a handle on the words. Come to find out they were from Australia!

Yes, my inspiration came from as far back as when I was a little girl, falling in love with the Rocky Mountains. Who knew I would someday become a writer and create a character who also loves the mountains and gives tours with her trusty mule by her side. A mule named Daisy. I was determined to get that flower in there one way or another!

 

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Kathleen E. Kovach is a Christian romance author published traditionally through Barbour Publishing, Inc. as well as indie. Having grown up in Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park was her playground. She lives in northeast Colorado with her husband of over four decades and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. An award-winning author, she presents spiritual truths with a giggle, proving herself as one of God’s peculiar people. Please visit her at www.kathleenekovach.com.

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Morning Time Warp

When my daughter was a teenager, she would say, “I’m on time when I’m in my bedroom, but when I come upstairs, I’m running late.” She suspected a time warp. I blamed her clocks.

But lately, I experience a time warp in the mornings. I have a very structured routine. Shower, dress, brush my teeth, etc. Why, on some mornings, does the routine take fifteen minutes longer than on other mornings?

Is it possible that on tired days, each movement is slower? On a good day I spend two seconds reaching for the toothbrush, and on a slow day it takes four? Or perhaps I stare into space between each activity. But I don’t think that takes an extra fifteen minutes.

When I’m running late, I try to move faster. Pump the shampoo faster. Put in earrings faster. Pull my socks on faster.

I can’t cut any activities. If I don’t wash my hair, it lays flat, like I slept on it—because I did. Without a certain amount of make-up, people think I’m sick. And, I can’t cut ‘get dressed’ from the morning routine. Although some modern fashions look like pajamas, I’m too old to pull it off.

I’m easily distracted. Perhaps that creates the warp. I need to check the weather before I dress. And, the soap container is empty. Refilling it will only take a second. Might as well change the sheets while I’m here.

A surprising number of people text or message me before I’m ready to start the day. Of course, I have to respond immediately. Mascara can wait. It only takes a minute. Right?

Does social media on my phone contribute to the rift in time? I check e-mail and Facebook while I brush my teeth and if I find something good, I finish the article before moving to the next task. I need to watch the rest of that video about puppies learning to climb the stairs.

The bathroom seems to warp time during the day as well. Ummm. Not for me. I’m . . . speaking about other people. We can shop, check our bank account, or call an Uber. All from the privacy of the toilet.

On a side note, shouldn’t all bathrooms provide special wipes to clean cell phones? We wash our hands and then pick up the phone we had in our hands before we washed them. Then we put the phone next to our face, (although actually talking on the phone has become an archaic notion). The government must have done a study on that by now.

Phones can’t be blamed for creating the time warp, but for those of us who are easily distracted, they contribute. If I’m running late, I guess I could turn off my phone and see if that closes the rift in time.

Nah. I’ll just brush my teeth and pump the shampoo double-time.

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Special Feature: Pegg Thomas Guest Post

In honor of the release of my debut novella, I have invited each of the other authors in the collection to write a post about the inspiration for their story.  Today, I’m pleased to share a post from Pegg Thomas, author of In Sheep’s Clothing.

When I was invited to write for this collection, it took me a bit to come up with a story because the connection between the stories was so loose. The brides all needed a first name that was also a flower. That was it. After that, the sky was the limit … which inspired me to write about something that is near and dear to my heart.

I learned to knit at the age of nine in 4-H. That was my introduction to what we now call the fiber arts. At age sixteen I was raising and showing rabbits in 4-H when I saw my first angora rabbit. Even better, the lady holding the rabbit was spinning the fluffy rabbit’s hair on a spinning wheel. I knew I had to try this. I took lessons, learning to spin on an antique great wheel. I was hooked. I saved my money and bought my first spinning wheel later that year and my first pair of angora rabbits.

Fast forward a bunch of years when my son started 4-H. He showed rabbits and then moved up to sheep. We spent a lot of years together raising sheep, sitting in the barn freezing while awaiting the births of lambs, doctoring sick sheep, shearing sheep, showing sheep … doing all things sheep. Those were wonderful years, but like kids tend to do, he grew up and moved on. To horses. But that’s another story.

Yarrow Fenn, the heroine in In Sheep’s Clothing, is a spinner and weaver. The hero, Peter Maltby, is a journeyman at the fulling mill. Don’t know what a fulling mill was? Well … there’s a good reason to read the book! And then there is Meadowsweet, an orphan lamb who does her best to steal the story.

To celebrate the release of A Bouquet of Brides collection and my story, In Sheep’s Clothing, I’m giving away one of my signature shawls. To enter, subscribe to my newsletter. I’ll be drawing for The Meadowsweet Shawl at the end of January.

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Pegg Thomas lives on a hobby farm in Northern Michigan with Michael, her husband of *mumble* years. A life-long history geek, she writes “History with a Touch of Humor.” When not working or writing, Pegg can be found in her barn, her garden, her kitchen, or sitting at her spinning wheel creating yarn to turn into her signature wool shawls.

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Noooo. Not the Dentist.

I only want to have my picture taken. Where’s the photographer?

Imagine being dressed in your best finery. You open the door to the photography studio and hear an evil dentist say, “Bwaaa haaa. Sit in my chair and have some gas.”

Worse yet, imagine it is 1884 in the new state of Colorado and the dentist has a four-foot-tall drill mechanism which is powered by a foot petal.

I was perusing the January 4, 1884 Leadville Daily Herald . . . because I write historical fiction and that’s how I spend my free time. I call it research.

I noticed advertisements for two businesses both located above the post office. A photography studio and a dentist office. Whose brilliant idea was that?

The ads weren’t next to each other, as I have placed them here, but they were in the same newspaper. So, they had to be very near each other. How big could the space Over the Postoffice be?

I imagine a lot of screaming and noise from the dentist’s office. Not a civilized affair like in modern times. The dentist’s ad offers gas for painless extracting, and artificial teeth are guaranteed to fit. Doesn’t say what kind of gas. This is a time when ads for children’s cough syrup explicitly state that morphine is not an ingredient. Because it could be the active ingredient.

Perhaps the gas calmed the patient enough to ignore the giant dental drill. It could keep everything quiet.

Even without a dentist next door, a photography session could be a frightening ordeal.

No one ever smiles in old-time photos. A museum guide told me that’s because it is hard to hold a smile during the long exposure time. The person could end up with a blurry mouth or face. People were told not to smile and to hold as still as possible. Some photographers even had wire stands to hold the subject’s head still.

And who knew what a camera pointed in your direction would actually do? That camera looks like a mini-canon. Maybe I’d be better off with the dentist and his gas.

And, how much noise and commotion carried to the post office below? It could be enough to keep patrons from visiting either establishment.

In fairness, I’ll note that by 1884, Kodak cameras were available, and photography had become more common. So, the dentist might be the more frightening of the two.

I researched the dentist and photographer in the advertisements further to look for other interesting tidbits.

In 1888, the photographer was in a legal dispute with Laura LeClair. The Leadville Evening Chronical says, “he had an agreement with Laura to take pictures of her girls ‘with’ and ‘without tights,’ whatever that may mean.” And, “Miss LeClair claims that the photographs were ‘improperly taken’ and were not meritorious.”

In modern times, Judge Judy would have heard this lawsuit.  Mrs. LeClair promised it would be “spicy.”

I wonder if the dentist office was still next door during this photography session.

All of this speculation gives me an idea for a novel. Plenty of potential for conflict.

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Special Feature: Donna Schlachter Guest Post

In honor of the release of my debut novella, I have invited each of the other authors in the collection to write a post about the inspiration for their story.  Today, I’m pleased to share a post from Donna Schlachter, author of A Prickly Affair.

When I was writing my Bouquet of Brides story, “A Prickly Affair”, I found myself wanting to add in several different subplots—I guess that’s the suspense/mystery writer in me. But with the limited word count, there just wasn’t the room to do that. So I kept going back to the synopsis I wrote for the proposal, which kept me on track. This was a love story I was deeply invested in for several reasons, so I wanted it to be the best it could be. It’s not your typical romance story, but then again, I’m not your typical romance writer.

To celebrate the release of A Bouquet of Brides collection and my story, A Prickly Affair, I’m giving away a free print copy (US only) of the book. To enter, subscribe to my newsletter. I’ll be drawing for the book at the end of January. If you’re already subscribed, follow my blog . And if you’ve already done both of those, feel free to follow me on Twitter or Facebook (see the links below)

Donna lives in Denver with husband Patrick, her first-line editor and biggest fan. She writes historical suspense under her own name, and contemporary suspense under her alter ego of Leeann Betts. She is a hybrid author who has published a number of books under her pen name and under her own name. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Sisters In Crime; facilitates a local critique group, and teaches writing classes and courses. Donna is also a ghostwriter and editor of fiction and non-fiction, and judges in a number of writing contests. She loves history and research, and travels extensively for both. Donna is proud to be represented by Terrie Wolf of AKA Literary Management.

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www.HiStoryThruTheAges.com Receive a free ebook simply for signing up for our free newsletter!

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Offseason: Abandoned, Like a Zombie Apocalypse

Who hasn’t dreamed of having an amusement park or tourist town all to themselves? Why fight the crowds? Just go when no one else is around.

I recently had the opportunity to visit one of my favorite little mountain towns in the winter with my husband. I had imagined poking through the shops and eating funnel cakes without crowds or lines. Instead, I found this. Closed for the season.

Most of the town shuts down when the train stops bringing shoppers. One die-hard tourist shop remains open. All of the others are locked up tight. And forget funnel cakes. Pictures of the delicious desserts cover the windows, making my stomach growl, but, alas, no funnel cakes today.

Only one restaurant stays open for lunch on any given day. The clerk at the one open tourist shop showed me a schedule that is distributed to locals. It tells what restaurants are open each day, but is subject to changes at the cook’s whim.

We lunched at the open restaurant. The choice was hamburgers or hamburgers. Plain hamburgers, hamburgers with chilis, or hamburgers with other fixin’s. Tasty and filling, but not a funnel cake.

Worse yet, we found the public restrooms locked up tight. I counted on those restrooms. . . although, maybe if the town is empty, I can pretend I’m in the woods and go behind a tree. Nah. The locals wouldn’t like that.

I should have known better. I’ve made a regular grocery run to Walmart at two-o’clock in the morning. That’s the joy of having a twenty-four-hour store.

The perfect time. Right?

No “People of Walmart” to shock me with exposed muffin-tops or undergarments on the outside of their clothes. No dodging other carts. No long lines at checkout.

Instead, I have to dodge oversized plastic-wrapped pallets of merchandise waiting to be shelved. And forget sale items. Those supplies have long since been depleted.

After I fill my basket to overflowing, I head to the twenty checkout stands, anticipating a speedy exit. But, the only line open is self-check-out. First, I look at my bulging basket. Then I look at the little shelf that is supposed to hold my groceries. If I’m lucky, someone takes pity on me and opens a stand.

Unlike Clark Griswold in National Lampoon’s Vacation, I’m not able to force someone to open up for me. Although, that is my dream—I hate crowds.

On the plus side, I haven’t been chased through the amusement park by zombies like what happened in the movie Zombieland. (Sorry if that’s a spoiler for you). The abandoned tourist town hasn’t been hit by a zombie apocalypse, but it sure could be used to stage a zombie movie.

I guess if I want the full experience, I’ll have to join the crowds, when the shops and restaurants are prepared to serve the masses . . . unless I want hamburgers or hamburgers instead of funnel cakes.

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Special Feature: Author Interview with myself

My debut novella comes out in January.  So exciting.  I’m honored to be included in a collection with six other authors.  To introduce you to the story and the other authors, we are doing a blog tour.  I’ll be posting about my heroine, hero, setting, and etc. on their sites.

I have asked each of the authors to send me a post about the inspiration for their story. Here is the first installment, my inspiration.

As a new author, I didn’t have to reach far for inspiration.  I used ideas that were close to home. I’m not sure what my next story will be about, because I may have used all my good inspiration in this one.

The story takes place in a fictional Colorado mining town in the 1880s.  I love historic mining towns and spend time poking around them every summer.  I visit museums and historic sites and try to imagine life in the town.  Every year, I buy a biography or novel about the historic town and read it while I am there, bringing the history to life.

My daughter claims to have visited enough pioneer and mining museums to last a lifetime.  Good thing for her, she married and moved away.  I can never have visit enough museums.

When I learned the heroines would all be named after flowers, I picked Rose—my daughter’s middle name.  Why not?  I liked the name enough to saddle a child with it for life.

And, as long as I’m using my daughter’s name, why not use her interests.  She studied opera in college, so I got to see lots of operas and share videos of arias with family and friends.  I enjoy music, but don’t know anything about it.  Don’t even read music.  I’m still not sure how she ended up majoring in opera.

Watching her college performances and her journey fueled my imagination.  I could put the opera theme into a historic mining town. And voila, A Song for Rose was born.

Read about Rose’s adventure at the Rockledge opera house in A Song for Rose in a Bouquet of Brides Collection.


Kickboxing vs Piano

Learning to play the piano is a lot like kickboxing. They don’t seem like they would have anything in common. Kickboxing is a whole body, cardio workout. And, playing the piano is a quiet, refined activity . . . unless, you’re playing Eye of the Tiger. I’m not that good.

I started kickboxing fitness classes the week that I took my youngest child to college. I work out for fitness. Don’t know what I would do if someone punched back. Yikes. But, I won’t deny daydreaming that the bag is an attacker who I take by surprise.

A couple of months ago I started piano lessons. My daughter is teaching me over Skype. An interesting experience for sure.

So many things to keep track of. Sit up straight. Round my fingers. Play the right note. Keep time. Hit some notes harder and others softer. Slur some notes together. Overwhelming.

I feel like I’m playing well and then I have my lesson. My daughter gives corrections and pointers. Apparently, I often let a couple of beats go by between measures because I am not prepared for the next measure. I don’t even hear those extra beats, probably because I am trying to remember what to do. She says to look ahead and anticipate the next measure. I’m working on it.

Then I go to the kickboxing gym. First, I jab (the punch with my left hand). Extend the arm all the way, but not quite. Punch with the fist (palm side down) at face level. Keep the other hand at my face for protection. Pull back quickly.

Then I cross. This is the power punch with my right hand. Extend the arm, face level. But, now I bend my knee and twist my body for the power. Raise my foot to stand on the toe and twist like I am squishing a bug. That’s how the instructors explain it.

Kicks have even more things to keep track of. Foot placement and hand movement all at the same time. And don’t fall over.

For each three-minute round, the instructor gives a series of moves. I try to remember all the things. I feel pretty good until the instructor checks my progress. I’m like a kid in school again. But, I’ve got the moves down. Until the instructor says, “A little higher. You don’t want to punch their neck.”

In learning piano and kickboxing, I have to concentrate to remember all of the nuances of the art. Sometimes I focus on one aspect at the expense of the others, in hopes that after some practice, it will come naturally and I won’t have to think about it. Then I focus on another. In kickboxing, I try to anticipate the next move. Don’t want to let too many beats go by between measures.

As I kick the bag and try to remember everything, I think, “This is just like the piano.” Then I start to count beats with the punches and kicks.

The two activities are exactly the same . . . except for the whole boxing thing.