Have you ever rode the rails?

0Barb 028

Have you ever rode a long journey on a train? It’s a blast.


My love for the train goes way back to my grandpa who had been an engineer for the Milwaukee Road and drove the Hiawatha from Minneapolis to Chicago and points beyond. My dad loved the train. He brought me twice to Chicago over the Thanksgiving long weekend when I was fifteen and sixteen years old.

Dad with my boys. 1978

Looking out across the plains and watching the world go by will always be in my memory. I remember riding in the dome car and eating in the dining car as well as having a soda in the lounge.  Both trips, we spent two nights in Chicago. Dad knew his way around Chicago. We traveled all over the city via the L-train. It was so much fun to be alone with my dad.


The old depot in Duluth, MN, also has train rides. One year for our anniversary, we rode the pizza train! It brought us to and from Two Harbors, traveling along the coast of Lake Superior. It came so close to the water, that I swear I saw fish swim.

When my husband and I went to Norway and Sweden, we took the train to northern Norway, transferred to a ferry and then enjoyed the fjords. The trip was marvelous.

Currently, my husband and I are planning a train trip across the Canadian Rockies in 2018 onboard a train. I’m excited.


My next book is an historical mystery which is set on a Zephyr train during the fall of 1943.  A body is found in the Chicago rail yard. Come and ride along with the passengers and enjoy the dining car and lounge while my two characters, Brita and Ron, search for the killer.  It is titled, BODY ON THE TRACKS. It’s scheduled for publication by the end of the year. Please sign up for my newsletter on my website.



Barb’s Books 







I’m saying ‘thank you’ to all who post images online.




DUMFOONERT…just a bit!

Nancy Jardine

This post is by Nancy Jardine.

Some readers may already know that I take my stock of novels and do signing/ selling sessions at local Craft Fair Venues. I really enjoy these events but have to say I never quite know what questions might be asked of me.

Last Saturday was a really good one. The event was one of the large pre-Christmas Fairs in the city of Aberdeen, Scotland, with over a hundred quality crafters displaying their wares. I say quality because anyone trying to sell goods that are outsourced ready-made, and not home crafted, are not given table space.

So there I was answering all sorts of easy things before making sales of my books. What made me become an author? What inspired a particular story? Which was my first novel? …. I had some return customers who stopped to buy another book which, I can wholeheartedly say, really boosts this particular author’s spirits. But I also had some humdingers of questions!

Photo-Nancy Jardine

One very well-turned-out lady lingered over a read of my ‘information’ boards describing the settings of my novels. She briefly responded to my initial greetings but said “it was fine” when I offered to explain the books- meaning no thank you. Then she proceeded to lift and lay the inspection copies I have available at the front of the table, slowly absorbing the blurbs, flicking through the first pages.

(n.b. photo is from the previous venue. I used a less crushed tablecloth last week!)

Other customers came and went and she was still there. Silently reading and quite absorbed. A spy of some sort came to mind but that was the fanciful author in me rearing its ugly head! Mmm… It was a new experience for me. I can’t quite bring myself to be an aggressive salesperson, so I waited. Then came the DUMFOONERT bit.

Eventually, she said, “Why don’t you just write in one genre? It has to be much easier to sell books that way.”

Ah! As a salesperson I never want to offend a potential customer, especially one who seems a little unreceptive to my wares. However, I’m always as honest as I can be, so I told her that any kind of marketing of novels is difficult and that it definitely would be an easier task to be ‘branded’ as a particular genre author—but I said that I don’t always take the easy way out. I told her that as a reader I enjoy books written across many different genres and that as a writer, I like the variety of creating stories across different genres. I went on to say that although I feel I’m primarily an author of historical adventures, I’ve loved the freedom of writing contemporary mysteries because I don’t have to think so much about the conventions of the historical era.

Nancy Jardine-Celtic Fervour Series

She mostly listened to my spiel though asked the occasional easy question. Then, having picked up the 3 pack version of my Celtic Fervour Series she asked, “Why did you choose to write about a historical period so long ago?”

“That’s a great question!” I said grinning like a Cheshire Cat. I wasn’t dumbfounded at all. My list was quite long.

  • Because it’s a hard era to write about
  • Because it’s a pre-historic period that has very few written sources to research so I have to work all the harder to interpret the archaeological records
  • Because I didn’t want to write about an era that lots of other authors have covered already
  • Because I love to learn about Roman Scotland history and archaeology
  • “In fact,” I said, “I’m doing the FutureLearn  Hadrian’s Wall Course with Newcastle University right now because I want to know even more. (By the way I’m glad I’m squeezing the course into my already busy schedule because it’s proving useful already!)

I had a lot of positive becauses.

I was again DUMFOONERT when she smiled and said, handing over the money for the books, “You’ve convinced me! I want all three books. I wanted to be sure you know what you’re writing about and it’s not just crappy romantic drivel that’s half-hearted history.”

Did I have an answer for that? I’ll let you decide…

I do hope she’s a happy reader, except I’m not even sure if she was buying the gift pack for herself or for someone else.

Whatever you’re doing this November, have a lovely time!

Nancy Jardine writes in 3 different genres (smiley face here) – historical romantic adventure; contemporary romantic mystery; time travel historical adventure for early teens.


Nancy is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and the Scottish Association of Writers. You can find her at these places:

Blog: http://nancyjardine.blogspot.co.uk  Website: http://nancyjardineauthor.com/   Facebook: http://on.fb.me/XeQdkG & http://on.fb.me/1Kaeh5G

email: nan_jar@btinternet.com  Twitter @nansjar

Amazon Author page http://viewauthor.at/mybooksandnewspagehere





Time for fall! by Barbara Schlichting


Now that our children are grown and have children of their own, my memories come forward and lead me down memory lane.  The fun fall days come to mind of raking leaves and hearing them crunch underfoot and now our grandchildren enjoy the same activity.

When our two boys were young, we’d rake leaves and pile them high, then run and jump into them. Did you see the word, we? Yes, I’d run and jump into the high dried leaf piles with them, and do it all over again.


With our children, we’d gather fresh fallen leaves and press between wax paper and then tape on the windows.  They’d look just like stain glass windows and so pretty.  I would also place the leaves between sheets of paper and color.  The many varied shaded patterns made great placemats for Thanksgiving.


We also had neighbors who enjoyed getting together in the evening. We’d all gather at the Olson’s, and have hot chocolate and a bonfire. What a treat! Everyone loved it. We’d roast marshmallows and this is where I learned about smores.


Returning home last weekend after babysitting the young grandchildren, we took a side road. The beautiful oranges, reds, and gold fall colors always made me smile.


All those wonderful memories. This is my favorite time of the year. What is yours?


Author of A FIRST LADY MYSTERY SERIES. Visit me at http://www.barbaraschlichting.com

and at A FIRST LADY BLOGSPOT. https://barbaraschlichting.blogspot.com



History of Dolls by Barbara Schlichting

IMG_3075(1)Since my A First Ladies Mystery series is set in a dollhouse, 
I thought it’d be interesting to learn the history of dolls.


Doll origins date to the beginning of time. Women passed their dolls 
down to their daughters as toys. In ancient times, they were considered 
part of religious rites and ceremonies. Greek literature supports this theory.

Nurenburg, Germany, records show dollmakers in the early fifteenth century. 
Dolls have been handmade for centuries, using clay, fur, wood, wax, clothespins,
rags, cornhusks, and let’s not forget the Russian stacking dolls. 
This names a few of the types of dolls.
Fashion dolls were popular in the 1300’s. With the settling of North America, 
women made dolls for their daughters. Porcelain and bisque dolls became 
popular in the 1800’s. After WWII, doll makers began manufacturing them 
with plastic, rubber, and other durable materials. Vinyl changed the doll 
makeup, allowing the head to have hair. Mass-marketing has taken 
over the market. Traditional dollmakers are now using materials from the 
past, which I like the concept since it connects the past with the present.



Writerly Optimism Big Time

nancyjardineThis post is by Nancy Jardine

Castle Fraser side
Castle Fraser

I love visiting Castle Fraser…usually!
Castle Fraser, around 4 miles from my house, is the nearest property that’s owned and managed by the National Trust for Scotland (NTS). It’s reputed to be one of the grandest of the Castles of Mar and has a very elaborate Z -plan structure. Its building was started in 1575,  it was completed in 1636, and was the ancestral home of the Fraser clan. However, there have also been changes and additions to the original building during later centuries.

The Castles of Mar are so named since they are sited on the very large province of MAR, a huge tract of north-east Scotland which was one of the 7 divisions of ‘Celtic’ Scotland during ancient Pictish eras – those formerly and loosely named the Dark Ages (approx. 5th/10th centuries). The province of Mar, it’s believed, was named after Mormaer. A mormaor is the Scottish Gaelic name for the stewards of land who were the next level down from the Pictish king. (N.B. there are different spellings of the word) These 7 areas, later named ‘earldoms’, were found north of the Central belt  – i.e. north of the line between Edinburgh and Glasgow.

When we moved to Aberdeenshire 27 years ago, we took out NTS family membership and visited many of its sites (members pay no entry fee). However, the NTS doesn’t only maintain castles. It has loads of different types of properties in its portfolio. There’s a palace, smaller houses and cottages, fabulous gardens, small museums, historic monuments, country parks, a water mill, nature reserves…some 129 venues and too many to mention here individually, though you can see them listed here: http://www.nts.org.uk/Buildings/Properties/

image courtesy of NTS/Graham McKean
image courtesy of NTS/Graham McKean

Some of these places require visitor entry fees to see interiors, though many don’t if you’re only visiting gardens or outdoor venues. Having the totally free option of wandering the outside of a castle appeals to many tourists who either aren’t interested in seeing the historical interiors, or more likely have limited time to appreciate the amazing collections of artefacts each site may contain.

Over the intervening years since 1988, we’ve renewed our annual membership (currently approx. $112) and have continued to visit more ‘new to us’ properties across the length and breadth of Scotland. We’ve revisited many favourites and enjoy reading the NTS member magazines three times a year, the latest being the one shown here. (image courtesy of NTS/ Graham McKean)

Inside the magazine are details of what’s happening regarding conservation in some properties; updates on newly opened venues; and very importantly for me – the events which are organised on some of the properties.

I’ve attended outdoor theatre performances on NTS lawns and music recitals in the Great Halls of NTS castles. I’ve walked nature trails and visited Steam Fairs and special exhibitions– my membership card getting me reduced entry price to some of these extra events. I’ve even taken a Hot Air Balloon trip, leaving at dawn, from Castle Fraser. (photo is a bit dark I’m afraid)

Castle Fraser from the hot air balloon basket at dawn

…& this brings me to my Writerly Optimism Big Time!

The extra events at NTS properties across Scotland are incredibly well organised and some can accommodate a few thousand people at specific venues, but what Scotland isn’t known for is its reliable weather when it comes to those outdoor displays and demonstrations.

This time last year, I signed myself up to take a stall at the Roman Chariot Event at Castle Fraser to sell my books. It was a completely drenching wash-out, hardly anyone turned up, and it came with authentic thunder and lightning as an added ‘free’ extra. I didn’t see the ghost of the Castle Fraser green room floating past my stall, but the thunder peals were certainly loud enough to disturb her!

So will I ever learn about chancing Scottish weather in order to sell some of my books and get some local exposure as a novelist? Probably not, because if The Devil’s Horsemen can attend straight from filming The Game of Thrones to come to this year’s Rumbling Romans and Wicked Warriors’ event – then so can I. I’ve been avidly watching the weather reports this past week and willing it not to rain. Is that likely? Nope. Not according to recent updates. In addition to rain, it might also be pretty windy and I’m not sure my gazebo will withstand that either. I guess, optimistically speaking if the gazebo remains pegged down, I’ll be getting my first chance to see if the waterproofing done to it on a sunny day in June 2015 has worked.

Am I mad? Would you have another go if there were potentially 3000 visitors to the event even though the turnout last year was maybe around 400? 

As an author wearing my promotions hat, I’m also hoping to be able to take some great photographs that I can use in future internet promotion– though if I’m busy selling my books ( fingers crossed) I’ll be too busy to do that. Since my last blog post here on Writing Wranglers and Warriors, I’ve been to my publisher’s seminar and learned that I’m – apparently – already using many of the recommended techniques for promoting my work. The pity is that I can’t manage to do them consistently.

a) I’m blogging (sometimes)

b) having guests on my blog and doing some guest posting myself (recently there’s been a slow down on that one)

c) using related images to enhance my blog, Facebook, & Twitter posts  is highly recommended (so I need those lovely photos, rain or not!)

I’ll be making sure to have lots of plastic sheeting available to cover my precious stock of Celtic/Roman Britain adventure books.

NOW– where’s my rainjacket, and the largest umbrella in the house? Wish me luck? (wink, wink, insert smiley face here)

Have a lovely weekend, everyone.

Nancy Jardine writes: 

New covers x 3historical romantic adventures (Celtic Fervour Series set in Roman Britain)

mysteries x 3contemporary romantic mysteries;

Final Nancy Jardine x 488

time travel historical adventure for Middle Grade/ YA readers and older (Rubidium Time Travel Series)

Available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and other ebook stores.

Nancy can be contacted at: BlogWebsite  Facebook  and loads of other places as Nancy Jardine.