Hey gang… let’s play kickball

Mike Staton

I’m Mike Staton and I wrote this post.

Kids today are pretty much the same as they were back in the days when I wandered the halls and playground of Meyers Elementary School in Rialto, California. Or are they?

Back in the late 1950s and early 1960s, I couldn’t wait to head to the school library. I loved reading books on sports legends and space exploration. You’d find me at our house on St. Elmo Drive reading the biographies of baseball greats Mel Ott, Christy Matheson, Cy Young, Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. In the days when NASA was young, I devoured stories of moon and Mars exploration, mighty rockets roaring away from their launchpads, brave astronauts guiding their spacecraft through asteroid storms.


Kids of a bygone era play a game of marbles.

Today’s kids… I’m not sure they do much reading. I do concede they read text messages and social media posts on websites like Twitter and Facebook. Back about 2012 when I was reporting for a weekly newspaper in Southeastern North Carolina, I did a story on a middle school book club. A teacher was volunteering his time to turn on kids to novels, trying to open their imagination to stories captured in words. I hope this gentleman and other teachers across America succeed. Otherwise, authors will lose the next generation of adult readers.

Koufax card

When I was in elementary school, this 1963 card was one of my favorites. I lost playing baseball toss-up.

When I was ten, I spent recess on my knees playing marbles with buddies. That’s why my jeans invariably had patches. And if it wasn’t marbles, I played four square or tetherball. Remember those games? Recess time always passed too quickly.

I want to mention one fad – baseball card tossing. Boys collected Topps baseball cards back then. We’d take them to school and play a game where we tossed cards against a stucco wall. You’d keep tossing until you or your opponent landed a card on top of one already resting on the concrete. Then you’d win back your cards as well as claim your opponent’s. Once I accidentally tossed a Sandy Koufax and lost it. Bummed me out for days.

The closest we got to a pickup game of softball was playing kickball. Two teams faced off on a Little League sized baseball field. Instead of a pitcher tossing a softball, he’d roll a kickball to home plate and the batter would kick the ball and run the bases. The fielders would try to get him out by hitting him with the ball. At least that’s the way I remember it.

kickball game

Another recess game I played in elementary school — kickball.

In the spring before the temperature got too hot, we played Little League baseball at San Ri Field just a couple of blocks from my house, on the other side of famed Route 66. Uniforms and rubber cleats – and games under the lights. A few years back, I covered similar games – Dixie, not Little League – for that weekly newspaper. I will say that kids today still love playing baseball. That’s one thing that hasn’t changed.

# # #

I’m an author with three published fantasy novels – The Emperor’s Mistress, Thief’s Coin and Assassins’ Lair. The books make up a trilogy titled Larenia’s Shadow. A fourth novel, this one a historical romance set during the Civil War, is scheduled for publication in October. It’s called Blessed Shadows Dark and Deep. I’ve begun writing my second Civil War novel – Deepening Homefront Shadows. All my novels can be purchased via the website of my publisher, Wings ePress, as well as the websites of Amazon and Barnes and Noble

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Enjoying the little things

IMGP6507 By S. J. Brown

Many wildlife photographers strive to photograph large critters. I admit Buffalo, bears, and moose are always on my wish list when I am visiting their homes.

SJ Brown Bear But the little critters that also live in those areas are often more of a challenge, that makes getting the shot even more enjoyable.. Their size allows them to hide more easily; it also makes them harder to find in the lens.

Dragonflies seem to zoom from one location to another stopping only for a brief second or two to pose.

SJ Brown DragonflyPreying Manaus don’t move quite as fast, however their coloring helps them blend in with their surroundings.

SJ Brown Preying Manaus

Ladybugs are a bit easier to spot due to their bright coloring. But their tiny size makes a macro lens necessary. With a macro lens I need to get very close to my subject.

SJ Brown LadybugSome critters that are a little larger are not easy to photograph, like snakes. Most of the time when I find a snake it is either on the ground or in the water. That means to get a decent image I need to either get on the ground or in the water with the snake.

SJ Brown Timber Rattlesnake

Birds are also challenging. Smaller birds tend to spook more easily. More often than not once they know I am close by they fly off. Since I can’t fly once they take flight I have lost the opportunity to get the image, even with a telephoto lens. However every now and then I get lucky and find a co operative one.

SJ Brown Red Winged BlackbirdThe little things in life can often be enjoyable. Every now and then when I am having a bad week I will treat myself to some chocolate. I also enjoy sitting on the porch and watching the fireflies in the yard.

What little things do you enjoy?



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Posted in Animals, Authors, Bear, birds, books, children's books, Close Ups & Close Encounters, dragonfly, photographer, photographs, photography, photos, pictures, preying manaus, S J Brown, s. j. brown, unique, visual arts, Wildlife, wildlife photographer, wildlife photographs, Writing, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Mulling a marketing strategy

Mike Staton

These meandering thoughts by Mike Staton.

I’m not a graphic artist, but I’m not afraid to dabble in the skillset. In this case, I’m creating some graphics to market my Civil War novel, Blessed Shadows Dark And Deep.

So far I’ve created three pre-release illustrations for Facebook. I plan to do a few more. Once my publisher, Wings ePress, releases the novel on October 1, I’ll be doing a set of brand new illustrations that I’ll post on my author’s page. I’ll pay a little money and use Facebook’s Boost Post option to get more people to see at least one of the ads.

I don’t use Illustrator or similar fancy graphics software. Just Microsoft Word. It has some nice graphics features that I’ve been using for nearly twenty years. When I’m done with an illustration, I copy and paste it into Paint, which came free with my HP computer. Abracadabra… somewhat professionally looking artwork.

Pre-Release Idea 1

My first effort at an illustration for my Civil War novel.

Take a look at the three I’ve done so far and let me know what you think. I admit I like them, but I can handle criticism.

Portions of the novel take place in Southeastern North Carolina, specifically Duplin and New Hanover counties. The novel reconstructs the Duplin county seat of Kenansville, hometown of Bill Stamford, my main character. I’ve taken painstaking care to be historically accurate in my depiction of Kenansville. Late in the book, Bill takes the train to Wilmington for a recruiting trip, so I’ve tried to make my descriptions of the downtown and waterfront accurate as well. So where am I taking this? I plan to investigate placing small ads in the Duplin Times and the Wilmington Star-News. It all depends on how much it will cost me… I’m retired and not awash in cash.

Marketing Poster 2

Here’s my second one. It’s whimsical, with made-up quotes from imaginary newspapers.

I may also pay for a small ad in Civil War Times – if it’s not too costly. That has a national circulation, so it may turn out to be beyond my price horizon. We’ll see. Also, I just joined ten Civil War groups on Facebook. I’m going to be checking them out and seeing if I can post information about Blessed Shadows Dark And Deep.

It will be intriguing to see the sale numbers for the fourth quarter 2017. I have high hopes. The plot has elements that should be popular for readers of three genres – historical fiction, romance and fantasy. I tailored the story to get the widest possible readership. So far I’ve gotten some positive feedback on Facebook with friends saying they intend to buy the book.

Marketing Poster 3

And here’s my latest.

These next few months should be a fun ride. Yea for Blessed Shadows Dark And Deep.

# # #

I’m an author with three fantasy novels to my credit – The Emperor’s Mistress, Thief’s Coin and Assassins’ Lair. The books make up a trilogy titled Larenia’s Shadow. A fourth novel, this one a historical romance set during the Civil War, is scheduled for publication in October. It’s called Blessed Shadows Dark And Deep. I’ve begun writing my second Civil War novel – Deepening Homefront Shadows. All my novels can be purchased via the website of my publisher, Wings ePress, as well as the websites of Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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Thanksgiving – in July

Vietnam veterans_booksigning_Billy and Gayle

Gayle and Billy Montgomery, one of Wyoming’s “Vietnam veterans whose story she shared in “They Served with Honor: Vietnam

This post by Gayle M. Irwin

No, it’s not November, which is when American Thanksgiving is celebrated (however, the holiday is only about four months away!). I’ve been reflecting lately on blessings, on reasons to be thankful. In a world filled with negativity, trauma, drama, and tragedy, I’ve decided to spend more time in gratitude. For, I have much to be thankful for.

Here are just a few of my most recent blessings:

  • Having more than 20 stories published in the book They Served with Honor: Vietnam, a collection of the articles about Wyoming’s Vietnam veterans published by the Casper Star Tribune/Casper Journal during the past two years. A booksigning was held in Casper on Saturday, July 15 in which veterans and their families gathered in the morning to sign each other’s books (the veterans and the writers were each given a complimentary copy) and to meet the story writers. Afterwards, a public reception/signing took place. I feel blessed and honored to have taken part in this important and special project!They Served with Honor book
  • Expansion of my writing endeavors. Not only did I take part in the Wyoming Vietnam veterans project, but, with a new editor at WREN (Wyoming Rural Electric News) this year, I’ve had additional assignments in 2017, helping her fill the magazine when other writers had to step away. Additionally, I’ve been asked to fill in for the editor during the month of August while she is away, serving as guest editor. That means added responsibility and added income – I’m truly grateful and humbled to have been asked to fill her shoes for the upcoming month! Additionally, the Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dog Really Did That? comes out in a few weeks, and I’ve arranged some readings for August. Also,I’ve garnered more writing activities in my day-job, including press releases to the media, stories for the newsletter, and blog for the non-profit’s donors/supporters. I’m grateful for a boss who recognizes my gifts – and desire – for writing and provides me with opportunities to share that gift through specific endeavors.Chicken Soup book_Dog Really Did That_2017
  • Visiting my parents … and still having them in my life. The trip to Alaska with dad and my husband was AWESOME, and this weekend I’ll be in Montana helping celebrate my dad’s 81st I enjoyed a delightful childhood, and though my parents weren’t perfect, they loved and encouraged me. I know I’m blessed as many don’t experience a good childhood and some adults have a fractured relationship with parents to this day. I also have a lovely mother-in-law, whom, though I don’t see her often because she lives on the East Coast, I’m thankful for her.
    greg george barb_car

    Greg and his older brother George and their mother, Barb. Taken July 2016.


  • Spending time in nature. Whether it’s at the cabin, traveling through Alaska, visiting family in Montana or friends at the Kaycee ranch, or spending a weekend in the Bighorn Mountains covering Becoming an Outdoors Woman for an upcoming WREN story, I’ve had many opportunities this spring and summer to bask in the tranquility of nature. Zipping hummingbirds, dancing sandhill cranes, honking Canada geese, brown-coated moose, gigantic whales, and splashing sea otters … all bring me joy and provide relaxation. Even sitting in my backyard while the pond trickles and the squirrels chatter help me smile and unwind.pine squirrel
  • Being with my pets and husband. Whether in the back yard under the apple tree, on the mountain in the cabin or under a towering pine tree, traveling in the car, or sitting at home reading or watching a baseball game, Longmire, or NCIS on TV – quality time with my immediate family (including my four-footed critters) also delights my heart and fills my soul.Gayle and Greg_after dinner

My thanksgiving in July (and truly, in all times) boils down to one word: LOVE. Love of family, pets, friends, nature, and writing, and they are all blessings from God (“Every good and perfect gift comes from the Father above” – James 1:17). Love — a powerful little word. And, the best ways to combat negativity and anger are through positivity (gratitude) and love. Just as the old song says, “What the World Needs Now is Love, Sweet Love.” I hope you find many opportunities to love and be thankful in the coming days and weeks.

Gayle_Cheyenne bookstore



Gayle M. Irwin is an award-winning Wyoming author and freelance writer. Her Gayle & Mary outsideinspirational pet books for children and adults teach valuable life lessons, such as courage, perseverance, friendship, and nature appreciation. Her sixth children’s book, A Town Dog Named Mary Visits a Ranch, is scheduled for release soon. She is also a contributing writer to magazines and newspapers, as well as Chicken Soup for the Soul. Her short story about a rescue dog, titled Jasmine’s Journey, will appear in the August 8th Chicken Soup release called The Dog Really Did That? This will be her seventh contribution to the Chicken Soup series. Learn more about Gayle and her work at www.gaylemirwin.com.


Posted in blessings, gratitude, Love, Thanksgiving, unique, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Color my World by Cher’ley

 This Blog  by Cher’ley Grogg

Maybe we should develop a Crayola bomb as our next secret weapon.  A happiness weapon.  A beauty bomb.  And every time a crisis developed, we would launch one.  It would explode high in the air – explode softly – and send thousands, millions, of little parachutes into the air.  Floating down to earth – boxes of Crayolas.  And we wouldn’t go cheap, either – not little boxes of eight.  Boxes of sixty-four, with the sharpener built right in.  With silver and gold and copper, magenta and peach and lime, amber and umber and all the rest.  And people would smile and get a little funny look on their faces and cover the world with imagination.  ~Robert Fulghum

Adult Coloring Books who knew they’d catch on like they have.


Do you have an Adult Coloring Book? Have you seen them? I did one year before last for the family. It turned out even better than I expected. So I did another one this year. It is selling pretty well.  What’s your thought on Adult Coloring Books?

I have always loved to color. I had fun with my kids, grandkids, and now great grands. There’s an art in coloring. Today people have discovered that it gives stress release I reckon it always has been, sometimes the youngin’s would sit for a long time as they colored page after page. It was a cheap, and creative way to entertain them.

CB Pelican Snack


What’s the difference between Adult Coloring Books and children’s coloring books? When I did mine, I looked for images that were a little more intricate. The massive amounts of pelicans feeding against the backdrop of the boat and the foreground of the water intrigued me.


This photo of Del fascinated me because of the reflections in the sunglasses. I thought of them like a puzzle, as the person colored the glasses the reflections would pop out.  CB Reflections of the Beach.jpg

I put a lot of thought into each image,  would it look good in black and white, would it be challenging and relaxing at the same time?

Wonders of Water      Advanced Coloring Book

***Have you thought of trying your hand at this? I know Sue has and here’s a link to her Adult Coloring Book. If you have one, you are welcome to put a link in the comments.***

Cher’ley’s Books are listed below and on sale at Amazon and local bookstores. Her newest book is an Advanced Coloring Book and she has one that is freshly published with 11 other authors.

Stamp Out Murder”.
 The Secret in Grandma’s Trunk” This is an especially good book for your Tween Children and Grandchildren
The JourneyBack 3The Journey Back-One Joy at a Time and the B&W Edition of The Journey Back
Boys Will Be Boys   The Joys and Terrors of Raising Boys-An Anthology
 Cowboys, Creatures, and Calico 

All About the Girls 5(3)

Four Moons and Fair Ladies Four Moons and Fair Maidens

Memories from Maple Street U.S.A: Pawprints on My Heartlink coming soon

Wonders of Water      Advanced Coloring Book

And please join me on my Facebook Fanpage, that’s managed by one of my most faithful fans: Cindy Ferrell
Here’s a link to Cher’ley’s WEBSITE


Posted in 10% Happier, Coloring Book, Coloring Pages, unique | Tagged , , , , , | 13 Comments

Why Are They Here?

IMG_1659aby Neva Bodin

Last blog I shared some critters’ stories of the awful invaders of their animal kingdom—our camp of vehicles, campers, and people settling into what had been a vacant farmyard for a long time. I am going to share some more of the critter’s stories from our month long stay in another state preparing for and holding my family estate auction…DSCN4457

What was all this stuff? This was my second trip to my usual hunting grounds for the night. Several nights ago, I was sniffing along the edge of a large building and jumped when a short distance away, a human in a red nightgown stepped out of a building that hadn’t been there before! The human was closing the door and disappeared inside again. But not before my fright caused me to, ahem, lose a little scent. I wonder if she smelled it?


courtesy pixabay

Now, several days later, I was cautiously edging closer to a lot of things spread out where I usually walk. Still pretty light, but I didn’t think they would see me. All of a sudden a couple humans came running and I turned and ran too. I could hear clapping noises and voices shouting. I didn’t understand the meaning, but the words sounded like “Run Skunk Run. Run fast and don’t come back!” Whatever. I ran to the edge of the yard and turned left and scrambled as fast as I could. I didn’t go back as long as those creatures were there. At least not so they saw me.


What is all this? There are funny looking houses and things all around. Usually I can walk through here and I only see the raccoon or the skunk. I smell humans. Are they dangerous? I’ll walk very slowly and keep my eyes wide open. There are lots of strange smells in the air.

But it’s quiet. Maybe I should wait a little while when it’s really dark. Then all the fireflies will show up too.

Let’s see, each foot carefully placed in the tall grass… Oh! I hear a noise. I’ll freeze. It’s coming from that small building that hasn’t been there before.

DSCN3186Silence. I’ll go closer. OK. Close enough. I better turn around. I hope no one is watching. I’ll walk, then jog, then walk. I don’t want to break into a gallop and draw too much attention. I’ll come back another time. Back to the trees!


I don’t understand how to get some peace around here. I know this is the city, but this hanging basket is a perfect nest. The flowers help me hide, and smell good as I sit here. These kids better be grateful when they hatch—if they hatch. There is so much activity now….

The people who lived here when I laid the eggs are gone and many people keep running by carrying boxes and furniture. Makes me nervous. Especially the short ones who are noisy and try to reach my nest. At least no one took my nest. But I’m nervous about leaving it to go eat.DSCN4491

Oh, how I hope my babies don’t make too much noise and get too much attention from these beings in this big house. If they leave me alone, they can watch my babies grow and fly away. I’ll coo them to sleep at night.


wood tick1503083__340Wow, isn’t this grand? So many legs going by to cling to. Even when some make a trip through the grass to that old building no one usually uses.DSCN4504

Have to admit, it’s not as easy hitching a ride after the grass is mowed, but it’s still possible! These beings seemed to be picking at themselves all the time. But, there are so many of us, we’ll torment them day and night!

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The Many Names of Helen Hunt Jackson

Post (c) Doris McCraw


Helen Hunt Jackson is not a well-known name to many. This of course is partially due to the fact she died in 1885. Additionally, she had many names during her lifetime, one of which was not Helen Hunt Jackson.

She was born Helen Maria Fiske in 1830. She carried this name until her marriage to Edward Bissell Hunt on October 28, 1852. At that time, as was the custom, she assumed her husband’s surname. It was not until after Edward’s death and Helen started writing for publication that we begin to see use of the many names now associated with Helen Hunt Jackson.

One of the first pseudonyms she used was the name Marah. In the Hebrew tradition the name Marah means ‘bitter’, which fits Helen’s life at that time. She had already lost her first son at eleven months in 1854, and then her husband, Edward in 1863. The final blow was the death of her remaining child, her second son, in 1865. According to the biography “Helen Hunt Jackson” by Ruth Odell, the name Marah appeared in 1865, the year of Rennie’s death, with the first poems published by Helen and continued throughout that year. 1865 was also the year H.H. appeared.

Of all the pen names used by Helen, H.H. was probably the one most frequently used by Helen. Of all her works H. H. is the one most commonly seen. Still as an author who was writing to be published at a time women were not using their ‘real’ names, Helen made use of additional pen names to increase her options for publication.

In 1867 and again in 1868 Helen made use of the name Rip Van Winkle for at least two of her prose works.

Helen briefly used Helen Hunt and Mrs. Helen Hunt in 1868 and Marah showed up again in 1870. There is also one instance where she used the name ‘Justice’.

After her marriage to William S. Jackson in 1875, Helen then used the name Helen Jackson in her correspondence but continued using H. H. in her writings. Helen had said she did not use the name ‘ Hunt’ because there was no reason to constantly remind William of Edward. Also, in that time, women used the last name of the man they were married to.

11-13-11 book signing 123

Gravesite- Helen – Wife of William S. Jackson, 1885 ‘Emgravit’ (As per her instructions)

For her novels Helen used H. H., No Name, and Saxe Holm. If you were to read her ‘romance’ stories they would probably have the name Saxe Holm. For many years there was a question as to who the author really was, for Helen had made her publisher swear to tell no one.

In her autobiography Francis Wolcott (Mrs. Francis Bass when Helen knew her) states that ‘she figured out who Saxe Holm was from the various things Helen had said, and Helen did not deny the assumption’.

After 1879, when Helen heard Standing Bear of the Ponca tribe speak, her focus became the plight of the Ponca Indians and from there the plight of all Native people. She was still using H.H., when her non-fiction work a “Century of Dishonor”, was published. There is some discussion that she may have used her real name Helen Jackson on “Century of Dishonor”, but instead it was used for her “Reports on the Conditions of the Mission Indians”. This was a report for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and also may have been published for the public.

The only work other than the above mentioned report that was published under her real name, Helen Jackson is “Ramona”.

It seems that the use of Helen Hunt Jackson for Helen’s works occurred after her husband William married her niece, also named Helen. This change may have been to avoid confusion between Helen Jackson the author, who died three years prior to William’s second marriage, and Helen Jackson the niece.

During Helen’s lifetime, it was normal for female authors to use pseudonyms which Helen did. Still with the use of H.H. it was obvious to those who followed her work, who this really was. According to the same biography by Ruth Odell, Helen wanted people to know who she was. If you look at the work with all the ‘names’ used by Helen you will find a substantial body of work. Helen excelled not only at poetry, but also essays, novels and short stories. She wrote for children and adults, both with equal skill.

If you get the chance, check out the works of Helen by any of her names. You will not be disappointed. Many of her works are in the public domain, but the one most might enjoy is “Nelly’s Silver Mine” Google Books, Nelly’s Silver Mine, one of the first children’s book to make use of place as almost another character.

Doris Gardner-McCraw -also writing as Angela Raines
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women’s History

For a list of Angela Raines BooksHere 
Photo and Poem: Click Here
Angela Raines FaceBookClick Here
Posted in Creative writing, Helen Hunt Jackson, pen names, poets, unique, women poets, women writers, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 18 Comments



This post is by Nancy Jardine.

I’m quite amazed when some authors tell me they hate doing research for their manuscript writing because it’s a task I absolutely adore in all its forms and those forms can be quite varied. One of my favourite research tasks is seeking out appropriate images to use in publicity materials. The following ones are depictions of the god Mercury but read on to find out why.

Mercury by Bellini

Mercury- Bellini  (Wikimedia Commons)

In my current manuscript set in A.D. 84 northern Britannia (my part of Scotland) my Ancient Roman General Gnaeus Julius Agricola isn’t exactly happy with his barren situation. He’s not finding the kind of local resources that would be easily taxable – something that was essential to the well-oiled running of the Roman Empire.

Typically, the Roman Army conquered a new territory; they subdued the natives; and then made the local ruler (king or high chief) collect ‘taxes’ from their people to send on regularly to the Roman Empire coffers.

The ‘taxes’ weren’t money as in current day government taxing but were more like contributions of grain which was desperately needed to feed the more than a million inhabitants of the city of Rome which could not grow enough for its own needs. Taxes were often other food supplies, leather, metal ores, horses, slaves etc. Unfortunately, in my novel, Agricola isn’t finding it easy to set up the normal system of Ancient ‘Roman-friendly’ government in the barbarian wilds of northern Britannia to provide him with lucrative revenue. The sneaky local Celtic tribes aren’t playing the game properly so he’s resorting to a bit of cursing!

The Bellini painting above is of a relaxed and indulgent scene of the god Mercury where abundance and success are portrayed. This painting amuses me (Philistine that I am!) in that the ‘winged helmet’ of mercury is to me a bit like a chamber pot, and I can’t help thinking the slave behind with bowl on his head is somehow mocking the god. What do you think of this image? 

Back to my novel writing…Generally speaking, when not happy with a situation a lot of people tend to resort to some kind of cursing.  But what would my General Agricola have considered really bad swear words? Experts don’t always agree but it’s likely that the swear words used today wouldn’t have made the same kind of impact in A.D. 84.

Öèôðîâàÿ ðåïðîäóêöèÿ íàõîäèòñÿ â èíòåðíåò-ìóçåå Gallerix.ru

Dosso Dossi Wikimedia Commons

There was a much more relaxed attitude to sex in Ancient Rome so those kind of curse words (found in the ruins of Pompeii as graffiti) would have been used in a different context. The ‘toilet’ talk cursing of today is a possibility (again found at Pompeii) but natural bodily functions were also not thought to be as taboo a subject as they  can be today.

This painting by Dosso Dossi of Jupiter painting butterflies, Mercury and Virtue is definitely relaxed so I’m not sure any kind of swearing is happening here!  But bear with me as I continue… Jupiter, relaxed and comfy, is quite disinterested about the shushing going on behind him as he gives life to his butterflies before they fly off the canvas to new adventures. But what is going on between Mercury and Virtue? Virtue looks to me to be somewhat desperate. What is she begging to Mercury do? Art historians might say that the painting tells us that creativity is more important than virtue but… What do you think?  

The most powerful kind of cursing I’m likely to use for my General Agricola will be ‘god’ curses. The Ancient Romans and Celts were known to be highly superstitious. They revered a pantheon of gods and goddesses and it’s likely that they used them in both a positive way (praying for good outcomes from their favoured gods) and a negative way when things weren’t going well. (as documented in ancient writing)


Artus Quellinus  -Wikimedia Commons

Finding out what Agricola would use in a negative way has been interesting.

Like most Romans he would have in some way worshipped the 12 most important gods and goddesses – the Dii Consentes.(JupiterJunoMinerva, Vesta, Ceres, Diana, VenusMars, Mercurius, Neptunus, Volcanus, and Apollo) Fortuna was also a popular goddess, and then there was Epona the ‘horse’ goddess who was popular with mounted Roman soldiers.  I now have a lovely long list of deities for my Agricola to pray to or curse – but the most appropriate one for my present writing is the god Mercurius /Mercury.

Mercury is truly a multi-taking god whose remit covers:

  • being the patron god of financial gain and commerce (the name Mercury possibly connected to the Latin derivation merx as in merchant);
  • trade, particularly the grain trade which made him popular in places like Gaul and Britannia where he was also teamed up with commercial success and abundance;
  • eloquence- he is linked to the art of poetry and in music the invention of the lyre  is attributed to him (from being the original Greek god Hermes who was adopted by the Romans);
  • fastest of the gods, he is god of messages, communication (including divination), travellers and boundaries;
  • being a trickster, he is also the god of luck, trickery and thieves.
  • A darker aspect to Mercury is that he is the guide of souls to the underworld, though he does this in the role only as a guide rather than with any judgmental input. It was through this role that he was asked to guide Larunda to the underworld but he fell in love with her and the result was that she gave birth to twins named the Lares.

Hendrick Goltzius – Wikimedia Commons

This painting I like for its realistic portrayal of a young Mercury. I can see this god being a lot more capricious and mischievous than the statue above . Note the cockerel at bottom left looking quite chirpy here as herald of the new day. The winged helmet is a great shape but the lack of winged shoes just might mean this Mercury doesn’t fly so swiftly as the messenger of the gods.

If that’s the case, I’m thinking that my Agricola will be cursing Mercury a lot because right now in my writing Agricola’s messenger systems are not working as fast as he would like them to.

Last Question: What on earth is the woman behind Mercury doing in the Goltzius painting? 

Nancy Jardine writes historical adventure; contemporary mystery and time travel adventure. She’s a member of the Romantic Novelists Association, the Scottish Association of Writers and the Federation of Writers Scotland. She’s published by Crooked Cat Books and has delved into self publishing.

You can find her at these places:

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

email: nan_jar@btinternet.com  Twitter https://twitter.com/nansjar

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

Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5139590.Nancy_Jardine

multiple new TE

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Writing as Business: An Epiphany

Posted by M. K. Waller


Writing is a business.

That’s what experienced writers tell the wannabes.

For a long time, I thought business applied to action alone: Write every day, attend classes, network, become familiar with various routes to publication, learn the market, read submission guidelines, stay in good physical shape, and on and on… Items on a list, they could be checked off at the end of each day.

Recently, I discovered another aspect of writing as business that I can’t quite fit onto a list.

Last winter, Kaye George put out a call for submissions of stories for DAY OF THE DARK, an anthology to celebrate the total solar eclipse that will be visible from parts of the United States this summer. Each story would contain an element of mystery and would be related to an eclipse. Kaye would edit, and Wildside Press would have the book out before the August 21 eclipse.

I’ve known Kaye for a number of years, ever since I joined Austin Mystery Writers, which she was facilitating. I watched as her career took off–a contract for one mystery series soon turned into contracts for three more series. At the same time, she wrote and published short stories and articles, and appeared on panels, and made it look easy.

Periodically, I said, “I don’t know how she gets it all done.”

And someone would respond, “Now, you mustn’t compare yourself to Kaye.”

And I would say, “I’m not comparing myself to her. I just don’t know how she gets it all done.”

I knew, of course, that she did it by checking tasks off that list. What I wanted to know was–where did she get the energy? (I still want to know.)

When I read her call for submissions, I didn’t consider sending a story. As usual, my mind was blank. My mind is always blank–what could I write about an eclipse?–until the last minute. As usual, at the last minute, I came up with an idea for a story.


I don’t like to work for friends. I don’t mix the personal and the professional. If I sent Kaye a story and she rejected it, I wouldn’t be hurt, I wouldn’t be angry, I wouldn’t be devastated–but I would be embarrassed, not by rejection, but by the knowledge that I’d had the audacity to submit an inferior product, a story I should have known wasn’t worthy–

Here’s where the epiphany comes in:

It dawned on me that–what a concept!–Kaye is a businesswoman. She intended to put out the best book possible. She would choose only stories that fit her purpose.

And epiphany, part 2:

I was a businesswoman. I would submit a story. It it was accepted, I would be pleased. If it was rejected, I would accept that as part of doing business, set the story aside, tweak it, submit it elsewhere. Or, if I discovered it wasn’t tweakable, I would set it aside and leave it there.

Write, submit, be accepted/rejected, get on with life.

So I wrote a story titled “I’ll Be a Sunbeam,” submitted, was accepted, and, after dancing around the room for a while–dancing is also part of the writing business–I saw another call for submissions, wrote, submitted…

In three days, DAY OF THE DARK will be released. It will be available in print and for Kindle, and can be pre-ordered now.

I’m thrilled my story was accepted for DAY OF THE DARK. I’m thrilled to be in the company of the twenty-three other writers whose stories appear there.

And I’m thrilled to finally understand that the writing business is really a state of mind.



To read more about stories in DAY OF THE DARK, see Debra Goldstein’s Day of the Dark Anthology!!!! – Part I . Part II will appear on July 31.

M. K. Waller, aka Kathy,
has published stories
in Austin Mystery Writers’
and in Mysterical-E.

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Rain… rain, come again

Mike Staton

My name’s Michael Staton and I wrote this post.

I’m on a record-keeping binge.

I’ve been keeping rain records for my little area of the Vegas Valley since July of last year. Raindrops haven’t spotted the driveway since Tuesday, May 9. Not even sprinkles for 66 days. Time for a prayer: Lord, drop a sprinkle or two on my head… please.

Hopefully, he’ll answer my prayer sometime over the next few days. Vegas TV weather forecasters are saying the valley might get thunderstorms this week. Today (Monday) is the best chance with a 40 percent chance. I’ll be stepping out every hour and looking up at the sky, hoping to see those dark, ominous clouds that portend rain. Maybe I’ll hear a peal or two of thunder.

Las Vegas rain

This is what I’m keen to see… some Las Vegas rain. As the Beatles sang, Let It Be.

I’ll even risk Sharon’s ire. She lives on a different timeclock than the other 7 billion people on Earth. When I step outside during the afternoon via the front door, she’s trying to sleep. The valley gets quite windy even on calm days. The swirling breeze sneaks into the house when I open the door and rattles the bedroom door. Be rest assured I’ll hear about it.

I love to walk the neighborhood at night when storm clouds gather in the south sky above the Boulder City area. Lightning crackles inside the clouds, lighting them up. Sometimes I can even hear the low rumble of thunder rolling across the landscape. It’s like I’m experiencing my own symphony.

Desert rain comes to desert

Nothing like a wild desert rain. Over the last couple of days it has rained in the mountains near Las Vegas, but has mostly shied away from the valley.

Sometimes on lightning-and-thunder nights, the wind will pick up as I walk the streets. The hot wind threatens to blow off my baseball cap. I have to tug the cap against my ears every few seconds. And then I feel a raindrop smack my face, and soon even more raindrops find my skin. The wind becomes noticeably cooler. I wonder: Can I get back to the house before it rains harder?

Sometimes the neighborhood gets no more than sprinkles and I get back to the house without getting a drenching. Other times the heavens open up and I do get a soaking. Either way is fine with me. That’s not entirely true. It’s awfully nice to feel a steady rain on my face, especially after months of no rain.

I hope the local weatherman’s forecast doesn’t change. I’d love to feel raindrops on my face.

Blessed Shadows Dark and Deep Front Cover-Final

Well, this is it… the cover art for my Civil War novel, Blessed Shadows Dark and Deep. What do you think?

Update: As of Sunday night, I see a new online forecast on Weather.com. Monday, 20 percent chance for thunderstorms; Tuesday, 20 percent: Wednesday, 30 percent, and Thursday, 40 percent. Looks like the rain will take a little longer getting here.

By the way, did you see the front cover artwork for my Civil War novel? Just in case you missed, here it is. What do you think? Better than the one I rejected after revealing it on Writing Wranglers and warriors a while back?

# # #

I’m an author with three fantasy novels to my credit – The Emperor’s Mistress, Thief’s Coin and Assassins’ Lair. The books make up a trilogy titled Larenia’s Shadow. A fourth novel, this one a historical romance set during the Civil War, is scheduled for publication in October. It’s called Blessed Shadows Dark and Deep. I’ve begun writing my second Civil War novel – Deepening Homefront Shadows. All my novels can be purchased via the website of my publisher, Wings ePress, as well as the websites of Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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