Tracey Devlyn was our guest on October 9th, and she’s offering EITHER a signed print copy of one of her Nexus historical romantic spy thrillers, or an e-copy of NIGHT STORM, Book 1 of her Bones and Gemstones historical romantic mystery series.
And the winner is….Catslady!
And the BONUS Prize from me–the LAST HERO STANDING ebook box set to benefit author Pamela Clare (which also includes one of Tracey’s novels) goes to….
Catslady and Quantum, please contact me at Cassondrawrites AT gmail DOT com to give me the email address associated with your e-reader. (FYI, I’ll try to gift this as a preorder, but if I can’t. I’ll gift it as soon as the book goes live in November.)
I love it when a package–or a person–looks like one thing on the outside, but turns out to be something entirely different on the inside.
Tracey Devlyn is a smart, beautiful blonde with a sweet face. I was intrigued when I saw her at an author event last month and she said, “You won’t find a lot of ballrooms in my Regency novels.”
A LADY’S REVENGE, book one in her Nexus series of historical romantic thrillers, starts out with British heroine Cora in a really bad situation. In a dungeon. In France.
I was holding my breath.
Never fear though. Because Cora is a tough chick. A risk taker. Tracey is too. Her new Bones and Gemstones series takes readers for a walk on the dark side of Regency. For me, that makes Tracey one of the cool girls.
A fun surprise is that Tracey has been a long-time lurker here in the Lair. But today she’s in the spotlight.
Sven is behind the bar and all the guys are serving drinks and snacks, so pull up a chair, put in your order, and help me give a famous Bandit welcome to Tracey Devlyn.
Cassondra: Tracey, before we get started, tell me what Sven can bring you from the bar. He can make anything.
Tracey: To calm my nerves, I’d love a Fuzzy Navel—light on the Fuzzy, Sven–I don’t want my face to go numb during my debut on the Bandits. First impressions and all that, you know.
Cassondra: Are you kidding me? *glances around the room until she gets a thumbs-up from one of the gladiators* Seriously, we’re the ones who have to worry. We have to keep the rooster from causing some kind of embarrassing mayhem for the duration of your visit.
Cassondra: I like hearing about the early reading that influenced an author. Will you tell us about your earliest memory of books.
Tracey: As a kid, I loved looking through the Scholastic catalog at all the cool books. I could never afford to place an order, but I loved to mark the ones I wanted.
Cassondra: *bounces in chair* Me too, me too!
Tracey: I never enjoyed the books we were forced to read in school, so I rarely visited the fiction section when at the library. Pictures—l loved flipping through big books with pictures of animals and castles and such.
Cassondra: When did you first discover romance?
Tracey: It wasn’t until my mid-20s, when I took a mental health day from work, that I found romance. Talk show host Jenny Jones brought several romance authors on her show. A few days later I was reading my first romance—and I’ve never stopped.
Cassondra: What was that book?
Tracey: THE RAVEN AND THE ROSE by Virginia Henley. Back then, I knew nothing of happy-ever-afters and I expended a whole lot of energy blubbering my way through TRTR.
Cassondra: Tell us about your two series and your unusual approach to the era.
Tracey: Although I LOVE reading about dukes and ballrooms and Almack’s, I don’t think I’m wired right to tell Regency-set stories with the glitz and glamour of the ton as a backdrop. My Nexus series includes a group of aristocratic spies, though readers will find only one ballroom scene in the entire 4-book series. My new Bones and Gemstones series is rooted firmly in London’s underworld where nary a duke can be found.
Cassondra: In NIGHT STORM, Bones and Gemstones book one, your hero, Cam, is a thief taker, and your heroine, Charlotte (Charley for short) is an apothecary surgeon. What draws you to these characters and professions that are more unusual–more “underworld?”
Tracey: Without scaring readers, the best way I can answer your question is to say…I’m most comfortable in the darkness. *Tracey raises eyebrow and smiles*
Cassondra: Ah, soul sister! My coffin-sleeping ways are vindicated! Ahem…
The research for historicals has always seemed daunting to me. Charley relies on Chelsea Physic Garden–a London spot dedicated to medicinal plants–yet she could lose access to that place because she’s a woman working in a man’s field.
Tracey: I had a wonderful time researching the Chelsea Physic Garden. Sir Hans Sloane had tremendous vision for his time. If not for him, the garden and the British Museum wouldn’t be what they are today.
Cassondra: It’s my favorite London garden. I love that you included it. But women weren’t allowed to be members back then, right?
Tracey: *nods* Charley’s vocation will either endear her to readers or they’ll throw her against a wall in disgust.
Cassondra: *frowns* Why?
Tracey: There is no record of female apothecaries or apothecary-surgeons in the early 1800s. But as I mentioned in my Author’s Note of NIGHT STORM, I believe much of our true history never reaches the written page. Women tend to be caretakers by nature. To say with absolute conviction that no female apothecaries existed in the Regency stretches my belief system because history is full of women and men who stepped out of society’s confining box to make a difference. Fist pump to those trailblazers!
Cassondra: *lifts glass of wine in tribute* Yes. And women’s roles in particular were so often left out of history. What exactly was an apothecary in the early 1800s?
Tracey: I’ll do quick “equal to” list …
PHYSICIANS = Considered “gentlemen”; diagnosed internal problems; they did not get their hands dirty; might have a degree from Oxford or Cambridge, but from what I’ve read there wasn’t a set curriculum. They would take whatever classes interested them.
BARBERS = Generally apprenticed; minor surgery—pulling teeth, bloodletting, treating wounds and skin diseases.
SURGEONS = Generally apprenticed; major surgery—amputations, removing bullets.
APOTHECARY-SURGEONS = Generally apprenticed; an apothecary who will also perform surgeries.
APOTHECARIES = Generally apprenticed; filled prescriptions for physicians and sold herbs, tonics, etc. to patrons; treated minor ailments.
Cassondra: Okay tell us about Cam. What’s a thief taker?
Tracey: Thief takers were similar to bounty hunters and were generally hired to capture criminals. They were usually hired by the crime victim though. Most of their crime-solving revolved around stolen goods, rather than murders. In contrast, Bow Street Runners would have been the police force for the Regency period and paid by the magistrate via governmental funds
Cassondra: Would you share a brief excerpt from NIGHT STORM?
In the distance, Charlotte Fielding spotted the simple, white-lettered sign that marked her destination. Apothecary. The tension she’d been carrying in her shoulders since entering the Whitley residence loosened its biting grip. The strain between husband and wife had not lifted in her two-day absence. If anything, it had grown worse, now that Mr. Whitley felt well enough to defend himself.
Charlotte’s brisk pace slowed. A man was slumped on the pavement between her shop and the boarded-up bakery next door. He sat with one leg stretched out across the walkway, the other bent at an angle. The rim of his hat protected his face from identification. So, too, did the long black woolen coat and matching muffler around his neck.
The tension in Charlotte’s shoulders returned full force. Even though she could not identify him, she knew what he wasn’t—a beggar. Everything about him was too fine for him to be living in the streets. She glanced around, checking the evening shadows as best she could with only lamplight to aid her. Anderson’s lending library, Patterson’s coffee shop, Gertrude’s lace boutique, Tilly’s former bakery—they all stood silent and free of loitering troublemakers and customers. If she cried out for help, would the shopkeepers hear her from their snug, upstairs apartments?
She considered entering through the back of her building, an area normally reserved for deliveries, but she couldn’t bring herself to venture down the dank, narrow alleyway at this time of night. Drawing in a calming breath, she reached into her reticule and pulled out her pouch of pepper. A poor defense, she knew, but she always kept it, thinking it would give her a small chance of escape if thrown in an assailant’s face.
Increasing her pace, she stopped in front of her shop’s weathered door, the color of a cloud-streaked blue sky. The man remained motionless, silent. Eerily so. She experienced a moment of indecision. Should she nudge him? Could he be hurt and in need of assistance? Or should she continue on inside her own shop and mind her own business?
“Hello, Charley.” The voice was unmistakable.
A chill started at the base of her neck and swept through her body. Bone deep and breath stealing. With slow, precise movements, her gaze lowered to the source of the too-familiar voice. A voice that belonged to the only man who had ever called her Charley.
The man’s uplifted face revealed itself. Thick, bold eyebrows stood out on a pale, pain-filled face. A once-beloved face. Cameron Adair. What little air she had left disappeared at the sight of Cam—Cameron. Other than a brief glimpse of him a few months ago, she hadn’t seen him for years. But she would have known him anywhere. The shock of seeing him held her immobile, terrified in a way she hadn’t been since the early days of their falling out.
“Charley, I need your help.”
His words, laced with a strain born of hard-fought control, snapped her out of the past and plunged her back into the present. Cameron Adair was sprawled at her door, hurt, needing her help.
She slid her key into the lock. Metal scratched against metal until she heard a familiar click. Setting her bag inside the door, she returned outside. “Are you able to get to your feet?” She managed to keep her voice calm, unaffected. But inside, a violent tremor began and a maelstrom of questions flooded her mind. Why come to her? Where was he hurt? Why show up on her doorstep after complete and utter silence for five miserable years?
Carefully, she folded her hands at her waist and locked her knees before she could humiliate herself with senseless emotion. She had decided long ago to waste no more of it on Cameron Adair.
Something like disappointment flared in his blue, ice-chipped eyes. “Yes, with assistance.”
“Where are you hurt?”
“Left leg, right shoulder.”
“Let’s get you inside out of the cold, and I’ll hail a hansom cab to take you to Dr. Hollingsworth.”
He shook his head and mumbled, “I’ve been shot. Lost too much blood.”
“Cameron, I can’t—”
“You must,” he interrupted. “I haven’t the strength to go elsewhere.”
She knew what it had cost him to admit to such weakness. And because she knew this about him, an unrivaled fear forced her to his side.
Positioning herself in a crouch, Charlotte took a steadying breath before sliding her arm around his broad back. Blood, sweat, and a masculine scent uniquely Cameron’s filled her nose. She gritted her teeth against an overwhelming desire to inhale deeply.
“Ready?” she asked.
He nodded once, his full lips pressed into a thin, determined line. Bending forward, he wrapped an arm around her shoulder to brace himself. The new position put them face-to-face, breath-to-breath.
Cassondra: What’s next for this series? I know Cam and Charley will be featured in future Bones & Gemstones books, but NIGHT STORM is full of fascinating secondary characters. Will they get their own love stories?
Tracey: Cam and Charley’s adventures continue in NIGHT RAIN (2015). In Book 2, I’ll include a secondary love story, featuring a character from NIGHT STORM.
Cassondra: I want to take just a moment to mention two projects you’re involved in at the moment. Both you and Dianna Love—my guest later this month– have donated stories to benefit a fellow author. Tell us about that?
Tracey: LAST HERO STANDING Boxed Set – 11 authors (5 NYT and 4 USA Today bestsellers and 2 Award-winning) are donating every cent earned to fellow author PAMELA CLARE for the medical expenses she’s incurred during her breast cancer treatments.
Cassondra: Right now it’s only 99 cents. As October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, the timing is perfect. The set comes out in November, but you can preorder now. It’s a great gift, and it’ll help an author win her own fight.
But Tracey, you’re in another bundle this fall, right?
Tracey: Yes. HEATING IT UP, One Hero at a Time Boxed Set – 7 bestselling and award-winning authors bring readers historical romantic adventures set in Medieval Scotland, Regency England, Civil War America, the Wild West, and Gilded Age America. Heating it up with seductive Highlanders, scoundrels, spies, smugglers, mountain men, and more!
Cassondra: Tracey has a question for you, and she’s giving away a book to one commenter!
Tracey: You can choose a print copy of one of my Nexus series novels, or an e-book of the new Bones and Gemstones release, NIGHT STORM. To be included in the drawing, answer this question…
Have you ever thrown a book against the wall after finding an historical inaccuracy? Or a location inaccuracy? Or a weapon inaccuracy?
Cassondra: In honor of October, since this month is dedicated to saving the Ta-Tas, I’ll add to that by gifting a Kindle or Nook e-book set of the LAST HERO STANDING box set to a second commenter. (Kindle or Nook account required)
Tracey will be here to chat today and answer your questions, so get commenting y’all!
The day I turned sixteen, I got my driver’s license in the morning. That afternoon I loaded my suitcase and my guitar into my mom’s car and I drove almost all the way across the state to play music at an event up near the Ohio River. I drove home after the event, and that drive is the subject of another blog post–one about big strapping angels pulling a little girl’s car out of a ditch in the middle of the night (someday maybe I’ll tell that story)-—but bottom line?…I should have stayed in a hotel that night, because I was too exhausted to drive two and a half hours home. But at that time, I’d had very little experience with hotels. It just didn’t seem like a good option.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking I had a bad mom. (She’s 86, still sharp as ever, and I am grateful that I still have her). She was the best kind of mom because she understood what I was about. She knew I was not up to shenanigans, she knew I’d been driving since I was thirteen (that’s a whole nuther blog) and she knew I could take care of myself. And she knew that playing music was all I cared about. I could not wish for a better mom because she encouraged me to pursue my passion, which was music.
Still…there are some things one can learn only by experience.
I’d booked the event near the Ohio River a few months before. I always took an overnight bag in case of some emergency, and though I’d planned to go home that night, I should have stayed rather than drive. It was just too late. That’s a lesson you learn the hard way—that you are mortal and have limits. Another lesson is that you are not necessarily safe in a hotel, no matter how they tout their security.
I learned my lesson that night about my limits when I’m tired, and in subsequent years I learned a lot of other things from other musicians, salesmen (they were almost all men at that time), and other business people living out of suitcases as they moved from place to place. I also learned a lot about how to survive as a young woman traveling alone, about fixing my own car, and about how to tell an honest offer of help from one that came with strings attached.
Over the years I learned to survive in hotels. I learned that to actually sleep, I had to wear earplugs. I learned how to shove a chair under the door handle. This was the days before electronic key cards, so I learned how to be patient and play the desk clerks one at a time, pretending I was locked out so I ended up with every extra key to my room. That way a stranger couldn’t find out my room number and con the desk clerk out of a key to get in, because I had all of them.
Things have changed. Now the keys are electronic, the security is much better, and in good hotels there are actually enough plugs, there’s an iron and a hair dryer in every room, and the lamps have simple switches you can reach by swatting at them in the dark.
Still…they have their security risks.
When I stay in a hotel, if it’s just for a couple of days, I ask for extra towels and I don’t get maid service. That way nobody but me comes into my room. I figure the housekeeping staff is one of the biggest security risks. That housekeeper has a key to every room on her floor.
If there’s a balcony with a sliding door, I leave it locked, with the security device in place. I leave the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door at all times, so it appears I’m in there, even when I’m not.
In the book I’m writing, my heroine, Del (short for Adelaide because she hates that name) is staying in a hotel. She has something significant stolen out of her room. Something that will decide the fate of her career and her future. This item won’t fit in the room’s safe, so that’s not an option.
So, Bandits and Buddies, I’m trying to stage a hotel room theft, and I need your help. Tell me your hotel stories…
Have you spent a lot of time in hotels?
Will you share your hotel experiences?—What are your favorite hotels–or your least favorites? What’s the most awesome hotel experience you’ve had–and what’s the worst?
What do you think of hotel security?
What do you think are the weak points?
Do you trust the cleaning staff to leave your things alone? Do you take measures to prevent theft when you stay?
If you wanted to stage a theft from a hotel room, how would you get access?
Do you sleep well in hotels?
Do you have any tips or tricks to offer for hotel stays?
When I was a little girl, I was not allowed to cuss.
No bad words in our house.
The question is…what’s a bad word?
Like most kids growing up, if I heard a bad word said by a little boy on the playground—bear in mind this was usually the student who’d flunked a grade or two, or who came from the kind of home where he had to fight to survive—anyway when a “bad” word flew out of his mouth, there was a mass collective sucking in of breath. I sucked in my breath right along with everyone else, and waited for the sky to fall.
And fall it did, usually in the form of a trip to the principal’s office.
But even as a little girl I was a good thinker, and when I thought about it, I found I had a fundamental philosophical problem with the idea of picking out random words and making them ‘bad.”
Now that I’m writing small-town contemporary romance, I’m dealing with the whole question of who uses those words and who doesn’t.
So anyway back to my childhood and the whole cussing thing.
See, when I was a little girl, even on the list of bad words, some words were WAY more “bad” than others.
Hmmm…how to explain….
They fell on a sort of scale, I guess.
For the sake of our discussion, Let’s make it a scale of 1-10. One (1) is just a little troublesome. But a word that was a 10? Yeah. That would send you straight to the darkest corner of hell.
Lessee….since we try hard to keep our blog PG-13, I’ll fudge the spellings of some of these. My childhood list looked something like this—
*Damn—10 Absolutely not allowed. Because that had something fuzzy and abstract to do with cursing God (as in G-D-it, I suppose), even if the Lord’s name was not brought into it at all. I try not to do this with the Lord’s name even now, and I feel bad when I slip.
*Dang—9 Absolutely not allowed. Because it was a derivation of damn. Just not quite as world-ending bad.
*Darn—8 Yes, that’s right. Darn was an 8 in our house. Because darn was considered a derivation of damn, and damn was…you know…a 10. It was troublesome to me though, because when my cousins came down from Ohio, they said darn all the time. That was not a bad word in their house.
Little Cassondra became confused.
How come God would get mad at ME for saying darn, but He didn’t get mad at my cousins? Were their thoughts somehow more pure when they said darn? They were older than I was, but they were boys, so I was guessing that no, their thoughts were not, in fact, more pure.
*Sh*t—7-8, depending on the day. And looky there. I still am not typing the “I” in the middle of that word.
*Shoot—0 this one, though I was told it was, indeed, a derivation of sh*t, for some asinine reason was totally okay. It didn’t even make a ranking of 1. So you were allowed to say “Oh, shoot!” But you’d go to hell for “Oh, sh*t!”
*Crap—5 This was a 5 until my brothers and sister—all college age when I was very small– came home and were using it all the time. It somehow became more acceptable then, even to my mom. Crap dropped to a 2. Maybe a 3 if my mom was in the wrong mood when she heard it said. Using it was a bit of a….well…a crap shoot.
But see…my cousins from Ohio? They weren’t allowed to say crap at all. In their house, that was a high-level BAD word.
I remember the first time I said “crap” in front of them. Yep, you got it. There was the collective sucking in of breath.
I was embarrassed, but not sure why. A tough place for a little girl to be, for certain.
*Hell—9 Yeah, this was a bad one, but it was rife with difficult subtleties.
It was a 9, you see, unless you were the preacher and were threatening everyone with the possibility of going there for all eternity. Or unless you were speaking (reverently of course) about someone you knew, because you were worried that he or she was headed that direction.
Otherwise? You’d go to hell for saying hell.
*Ass—6 This was a really confusing one. I was allowed to say butt, hind-end, behind, bottom, and hiney, but my cousins from Ohio were not. They had to use “bucket,” which I thought was silly. None of us, of course, were allowed to say “ass.”
Once again, the preacher could use this one, because of course he was reading it out of scripture. Samson slew a thousand Philistines with the jawbone of an ass.
Those Philistines must’ve pissed Samson off something awful.
Oh, looky there! I just used another one!
*piss—5 I could say pee, but not piss. And absolutely not pissed.
*f*ck—14 Yes, it scores 14 on a scale of 1-10. F*ck was the mother of all cuss words, and if you even thought it, you would go straight to hell. It’s so bad that I would never type the u in the middle of the word here on our blog.
Shortly after I’d written my first novel, I was working on the next books in the series and I had plans to try to sell them to Harlequin. But I was told that I could not use the f-bomb if I wrote for that line. I said to a friend, “I’m writing New York undercovers who don’t use the word f*ck.”
He said, “Now THAT is fiction.”
*fart—2 Yup, fart barely made the list of cuss words.
*b*tch—6 Even if we were talking about a female dog, this was a no-no.
*Son of a b*tch—8 Yes, adding an offspring to the b*tch bumped it up to an 8.
*Bastard—7 Yes, this one was worse than b*tch.
*Any slang term for the male or female body parts was an automatic 10. Some of them I didn’t even learn until I’d left home. They were just never said, even at school.
I knew people who were not allowed to say poop, but that was okay in my house, and surprisingly enough, even the Ohio cousins, though they had to say bucket, could sometimes say poop. It might’ve been out of earshot of their mother, though.
Of course one did not EVER take the Lord’s name in vain. You did not use “God” unless you were speaking of Him with respect and reverence.
When I left for college and got to know people from other countries, I found out that the word “bloody” is a sort of curse word in England, or so I understand. As is “buggar” but across the pond, they don’t mind the “f” word much at all.
Over the years, I’ve come to realize that what’s a bad word to one person, may be completely benign to another. I’ve gotten a little amused at the collective sucking in of breath, and I think it’s funny when folks squirm over words just because they don’t like them.
I’ve gotten jaded, I guess.
And yet, I still don’t like some of the slang words for anatomy, and if they’re used in a demeaning way, I really hate it. I tend to cringe when I see them in books, and often won’t choose to read that series again. I figure I miss some really good books that way, and I probably need to get over it.
My cousins from Ohio don’t let their kids use the word “stupid,” and that’s one rule I totally agree with. Bandita Jeanne told me that the rule in her house is, “you can have a stupid moment, or a situation can be stupid, but another person is never referred to as stupid, because that can be so hurtful.” I gave her a high-five for that.
The only “bad” words to me, now, are the ones that hurt or demean other people on purpose.
So back to my small-town contemporary romance. I did a word search in the manuscript so far, and found it liberally sprinkled with my favorite cuss words, all the way from level 1 to level 10. There was even a 14 or two in there.
So now I’ve started to worry. So tell me what you think, Bandits and Buddies.
Please try to keep it PG-13 if you would, by fudging the spelling of the words in the upper level toward the “10” range. *grin*
Did you have a list of bad words when you were growing up?
Did your list look anything like mine?
What happened if you said those words?
If you have kids now, are the bad words the same?
Or have they relaxed some?
Do you use words now that you didn’t when you were younger? Or do you still hold to the same standards?
If you’re outside the US, are your “bad” words a lot different from mine?
Have you ever read a novel where the language was too rough for you?
Even if you don’t use certain words, does it bother you if characters in a novel use them?
When I was a little girl, as soon as I got up in the morning I was out the door, most often with my dad, or sometimes with my mom in the garden, and I spent the whole day out there. I didn’t come inside to stay until my mom called me in when it got dark.
I grew up this way, playing outside, in the barns, in the fields, in the yard, and climbing trees. I made interstate “overpasses” for my Matchbox cars out of maple roots, and I used scissors to cut grass short enough to make “pastures” for the tiny animals from my farm sets.
If the weather was fit, and sometimes even if it wasn’t fit, I wanted to be outside.
Then I started school and made a wider circle of friends, and I discovered that not everybody liked to be outside as much as I did.
“Hey, let’s go outside!” I’d say. Some of them would go “Yeah, let’s go outside!”
But others would frown. “It’s too hot,” they’d say. Or the worst of all… “Let’s just stay in,” with no reason given for why they preferred this choice.
Little Cassondra could not fathom this.
Outside, after all, there was this enormous, glorious world to explore.
Soon enough I realized that people tended to be either “inside people” or “outside people.” I was born an outside person.
Of course there are people who like both, but in my observation, true “outside people” tend to look for any opportunity to get outside, and we will still be out there when the “inside people” have gotten too hot, too cold, too bothered by bugs, or just plain too bored. Inside people generally do not like to sweat, I think, and can I just say, I totally get that. The ugly parts of sweat could someday make me switch sides.
I’m married to an inside person.
Right now, as I type this, I’m sitting on my deck, under the umbrella, watching the sun play peekaboo with the clouds as it sinks toward the horizon way across the fence toward the west. That’s a photo, on the left, of the view i had as I typed this.
I’m surrounded by an army of citronella candles, and the Deep Woods Off is on the patio table beside me, just in case the candles are not enough. I’ve got my glass of wine, my bottle of water, and four bars of wifi from the internet router in the house.
Steve is inside, in the air conditioning, on facebook.
He comes out for short bits of time when I’m out here in the evenings, but once the mosquitos come around, he waves the white flag.
Mosquitoes love Steve the way dogs love ice cream, and honestly, they can take all the fun out of anything.
Lately I’ve been having to wage war with the nasty bloodsuckers too.
But I’m willing, because, you see, I’ve figured out that if I’m outside, I’ll write.
If I’m inside, I tend to get distracted by laundry, dishes, and the internet. Inside does not feed my muse. I’ll have to figure out what to do different when the weather turns cold, but for now, I’m loving the return to my outside self.
For the past few weeks, any time I get a chance, as soon as I get up and moving around, I bring my pot of coffee out onto the deck.
I also bring my laptop, and sometimes I bring writing assistants. This past week, TK (short for Tiger Katt) has been lying in the shade of the umbrella, helping me with research and providing encouraging purrs and toe licks as needed. He has a bowl of water on the upper deck, but day before yesterday, he decided he wanted to taste the water in the birdbath.
The wrens who were waiting their turn for a bath were not amused. I put TK back inside when I realized he was in their way, but still, they cussed loudly in wrenish for a solid hour, telling me off.
But see….I made a note about being cussed out by a wren, and since I’m writing small-town contemporary romance, I’ll use that in a future story. :0)
When I come out here in the mornings I open the story I’m working on, and when my eyes need a rest, I stare off into the distance, at the neighboring farms, the wildlife on the pond behind the house, and the rabbits running around the yard.
I stay out here all day. Other than bathroom trips and drink refills, I don’t go back inside until the evening. I’m out here through the light breezes, through the heat of the 90-degree, mosquito-infested, Southern Kentucky August afternoons (not too bad for this time of year, honestly—it could be over a hundred degrees right now) and then I go in to fix supper. But I come right back out and these days I type late into the night on my trusty laptop, surrounded by citronella candles and tiki torches.
It’s full-on dark as I finish this blog. with a half-moon peeking through the trees above me.
For the past two weeks, I’ve waked up in the morning and my first thought has been, “I get to sit on the deck and work on my story!” And it’s coming along nicely.
Del is the heroine of book 1 in this series, and she’s an outside girl like me. But her best friend is completely different. Let’s just say that all of Rainey’s friends have set Material Girl as her ringtone on their phones because it aggravates her. Her friends might know she’s not really like that, but a lot of people see her that way, and she hates it.
Which has nothing to do with her love or hate of sweat…..
That all depends on whose sweat she’s looking at.
So I’m interested in your take on the outside vs the inside.
Are you an outside person?
Or an inside person?
Or are you a combination? Can you relate to both?
When you were a kid, did you like to play outside? Did you like to get dirty?
Or did you prefer to stay inside and stay clean?
Is your idea of a perfect vacation a resort hotel where they pamper you all day and you never have to set foot outside? (Okay that sounds good even to me!)
Or is it a hike in the woods, camping on the New England coast, or going with Bandita Nancy on a boat trip through her beloved Okefenokee swamp to see the wildlife up close and personal?
Are your evenings spent out on the deck until long after the sun has set? Or inside, watching movies in the blessedly cool air conditioning?
What’s your best cure for mosquito bites? Any tried and true advice for beating the heat or the bugs outside?
Last week I drove to another town to meet a friend I’d never seen in person.
I made this friend online.
Now let me explain that there’s a little deeper connection than it would seem at first.
April has been on the fringes of my world for a long while through our mutual friend, Dianna Love. She’s a fan of Dianna’s books, and I “met” her through correspondence on Dianna’s behalf a few years ago.
And that brings up a whole question of its own, doesn’t it? Have you truly “met” someone, if you’ve only met them online? I still feel the need to put the quote marks around “met” if I have not actually been face-to-human-face with a person.
Maybe we need a whole new word for “meeting” someone online.
So anyway, I knew April’s name, and I could probably have picked out her photo from the avatar on her emails, but I didn’t really know her. Understand?
But as online relationships tend to progress, we ended up as each others’ friends on the twenty-first century’s great social experiment.
Yes, that’s right, I mean facebook.
A couple of months ago she commented on one of my facebook posts and we ended up in a conversation. A “comment” conversation, which we then moved to the more personal conversational level of the facebook Instant Messaging. The IM of “I’ll IM you.”
How do you even write that? I’ll I-M you? I’ll I.M. you?
We chatted for a bit, and there was wine involved—at least on my end.
See there? I can’t say I’ve actually had a glass of wine with April, but from my point of view, I’ve absolutely had a glass of wine with April. I was drinking wine while we “talked.”
And at some point I decided I’d like to meet this girl in person.
We set a date, and last Thursday, I headed west down Kentucky Highway 79, an arrow-straight stretch of asphalt that slices through corn, soybeans, and Amish produce stands on the way to Clarksville Tennessee, the bedroom community of Fort Campbell, Kentucky, home of the 101st Airborne division of the US Army, the Screaming Eagles.
We’d figured out that we both like consignment shopping and flea markets, so that was the plan for the day.
April met me in the parking lot of the Cracker Barrel. She climbed into my van and we hugged. It seemed only right, since we’d had so much back and forth online, laughing and getting to know one another.
I’ve gotta tell ya though, the hug at the end of the day was completely different from this one. At least for me.
I’ve been thinking about this “online relationship” thing since I met April.
My husband, Steve, and I both know a number of people who’ve met their spouses or significant others online.
For at least two of these friends, the online dating thing has been an unmitigated disaster. It is easy enough, after all, to pretend you are something you’re not when you are not actually face to face with a person.
But setting those instances aside, for more and more people, it seems to really work.
I had proof that things were changing about two years ago.
Okay, if I’m stuck in my writing, I often take my laptop to a little café or a bar where there’s wifi. There are a few of those around here now.
I’ll have a meal and maybe a glass of wine and work there, surrounded by the energy of other people, most of whom see me focused on the laptop screen and pass by without interrupting. It works for me.
One day I was camped out at a tiny, high-top table in a small town just south of my home. I was in the bar area, up a flight of stairs from the main restaurant, and I was there when the schools let out for the day. Since this restaurant was a designated “safe spot” where kids could wait for parents, a bunch of middle school and high school kids flooded the restaurant area of the place. From my table in the upper-level bar area I could look down at the main floor and I noticed that the boys were all on one side of the restaurant. The girls were on the other side. I mentioned this to the owner, who happened to be behind the bar at the time.
“Yeah,” he said. “They split off by gender, then they sit there and text each other from fifteen feet away.”
If I were guessing, they probably share the same glances and blushes that kids shared when I was their age, only they do it from a little further away, and they can pass notes with no paper involved at all.
I sat there wondering if I was watching small town romance blossom between kids who might date through high school and then go on to get married and have families of their own, making a new generation to buy ice cream at the walk-up window of the Frosty Freeze down the street.
Between the two of us, Steve and I know probably twenty people who met their spouses, one way or another, online.
I know a boy from Illinois and a girl from Texas who met on an internet forum and fell in love.
I know a highly-skilled nurse who met her husband online.
In our group of close friends, one couple met through an online dating service. They’d just started dating when we met them. Now they’ve been together for six or seven years and own a house together.
And yet, when people ask my friends how they met, they glance down at the floor or look away as they quietly say, “I met him…online.”
There’s a stigma about it I think.
But I sit here, all day long, at a computer. I might take my laptop to a restaurant to work. More often I go out to sit on the deck and use the wifi. But regardless, my butt is glued to a chair in front of a computer for many hours each day.
I hate clubs. If I were single and wanted to meet somebody with my present job, what would I do?
I might be tempted to sign up for some kind of online service.
But I think I might be embarrassed to do it.
And that would be a shame, wouldn’t it?
There are plenty of people who put all of their energy into creating an online image that is totally different from the real-life version. There are guys (and probably girls) who live in their parents’ basements, spend all day and night playing World Of Warcraft, and never actually see daylight.
Brad Paisley did a song about that.
But times, they are a changin’.
In my lifetime thus far, the world has gone from passing notes the old fashioned way, to most people owning a computer, even if it’s just a phone. And it seems to me that if I look around me and I’m honest, most of us spend a fair bit of time “knowing” people through the internet or the phone, or some other electronic media.
Next month a group of good friends from other states will converge on my house to camp in my back yard for a night or two. They’ve done this for three years now.
And I met every one of them on an internet forum dedicated to a subject we all enjoy—a hobby we have in common.
So last Thursday I spent the day with April. I roamed through some of the best consignment warehouses I’ve ever seen. We ate lunch and we talked, and I got to know the amazing, beautiful person she is.
And when I dropped her off at her car and we hugged goodbye, I was hugging a true friend. A sister in the real sense of the word, which has nothing to do with blood, but everything to do with love, support, and liking each other for who we are. I hugged a friend and a sister I hope I’ll spend many, many more days with.
And none of it would have happened if I hadn’t met her…online.
So tell me, Bandits and Buddies…what do you think of online relationships?
You know us Bandits, and we know you, because we’re all online, and when I think of never having met you, it breaks my heart a little.
I think of all of you as my real-life friends.
But some of you could be nonexistent!
Do you ever wonder about the people you meet online—about what their lives are really like? If they are really who they say they are?
Have you ever met someone online who turned out to be a fake?
How many online friends have you gone on to actually meet in person?
In this internet age, why do you think there is still a stigma around meeting a husband, wife, or lover online?
Will it ever become the norm?
Do you know anybody who’s met a life mate online?
Have you ever made a trip—a drive across town, across country, or even taken a flight—to meet a friend you met online?
We are all word lovers here in the lair. What do you think the new word should be for “meeting” somebody online? Maybe I “netmet” her?
I’ve never been all that much of a phone talker. Even as a child, I called, I got the information I was after, and I hung up. No sitting on the phone for hours. I’m still that way.
When I was a little girl, we had one phone in the house. It looked like this phone on the left.
Our phone was on a party line.
For you who don’t know, that means several homes in the community would share one line.
I remember waiting for hours to call my grandmother. Waiting for the teenagers to get tired of “talking” which wasn’t really talking at all. It basically meant sitting on the line, saying a word or two, then breathing fo r the next ten minutes, all the while tying up the line so nobody could call.
I didn’t have the nerve to ask them to give up the line.
And of course, the most interesting thing about a party line was that anybody could listen in. Most of the time you could hear the obvious clicking and clunking when someone picked up. But not always.
The polite thing to do was to pick up, and if you heard people on the line, hang right back up again. But not everyone did that.
Usually, you knew when someone was eavesdropping. Other times, there was no telltale. So if you didn’t want it known, you didn’t talk about it on the phone.
Fast Forward to private lines. I was a teenager by the time my family got one, and it was a big deal. I could talk without being overheard, and I could call any time I wanted, unless the phone was in use.
Then came call waiting. I’d moved away from home by then, but I had trouble with call waiting. I didn’t want to be informed that somebody else was trying to call me while I was talking. I still don’t.
Fast forward again to the 1990s. Now the phone could be taken in a car, or carried in a purse. A few incarnations later you could walk down the street while you talked to someone half way around the world.
And even then, nobody dreamed of texting.
Flash forward to now.
I can read a book on my phone. I can listen to music. I can play games, check email, or post to facebook. Duchess Jeanne or Bandita Nancy can send me pictures of their trip to the Okefenokee Swamp. (As an aside, they did this, and I was overcome with jealousy instantaneously, instead of having to wait to be jealous once I got home to my email.)
I was talking with Dianna Love yesterday evening, and she told me this is “National Cell Phone Courtesy Month.”
What, exactly, is “courteous” when it comes to cell phone usage?
Since I hate talking on the phone as a rule, I happen to love texting. It took me a while to warm up to the idea, but then I figured out that I could get finished typing a paragraph in my story, then I could answer. I could look at the incoming text and think, “are you crazy?” and I could think about my answer before I type it in.
Yeah. I love texting.
Of course, where the waters seem safest, there’s always a sea monster. Recently I got the following text:
Hey beautiful I’m at work! Be extra careful on ur way in this morning!! I hope u have a great day today! I love you with all my heart and cant wait to see you! Muahhhhhh!
Unfortunately, that was not from my husband. It was from our neighbor down the street.
A few seconds later I got the following:
Sorry I meant to send that to my wife.
Yeah, smart phones are not always so smart.
Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!
I try hard to NOT be on the phone when I get to the cashier at the grocery checkout lane. If I am, I ask the caller to hold on. I figure the least I can do is smile and actually interact with the person who’s checking me out. That’s a person, after all, not a machine (thank God), and to ignore him/her is rude.
At least that’s what I think.
I also think it’s rude to go to lunch with a friend and spend the entire time checking my phone for texts. I understand if there’s a real emergency, but that could be covered in advance. “I’m so sorry, my mother is in surgery and I may get a text to let me know how she’s doing.” Totally understandable.
But otherwise, can you not wait for half an hour to find out that your buddy from Waco just hit the jackpot in the lottery and won $25 worth of tortilla chips?
The idea of cell phone courtesy is an interesting one to me.
Because I’ve gotta tell ya, I think it’s too late.
I think it’s a bit like trying to signal the boat that there’s danger after it’s already gone over the dam.
Houston, we have a problem.
Technology is no longer a thing that is off in the distance somewhere, sending men to the moon. And etiquette is no longer a fixed set of standards.
Back then, you either knew, or did not know, which fork to use at dinner. You knew, or did not know, the protocols for sending thank you notes.
Now, the idea of etiquette–or courtesy–is in constant flux as the ways we communicate change right before our eyes. Seems to me that the rules would need to change almost daily, or they won’t keep up with advancements in technology.
Maybe we should give up rules entirely?
Incidentally, that book on the right, Amy Vanderbilt’s Complete Book of Etiquette, is where I learned which fork to use. I checked that out of the library when I was fifteen, and then re-checked it for nearly an entire year. I figured a girl needs to know about forks, yaknow?
So I’m updating an old manuscript—a book I wrote a long time ago—as part of a series that will release in a few months. The romance is still the same, but updates mean that everybody in the book now has a cell phone, because in modern life, almost everybody does.
And even then, I have a friend who has no cell phone and has no plans to get one. She is embracing simplicity, and doesn’t want to be available to anybody, anywhere, any time.
I think I’ll put a person like that in this series.
So tell me, Bandits and Buddies, what is courteous behavior for cell phone use?
Do you have any pet peeves about cell phones, whether in public or in private?
Ever gotten a text meant for someone else?
If you could write a section in the “Bandit Book of Modern Cell Phone Etiquette” what would you put in there?
When I was a little girl, the evening meal wasn’t dinner. It was supper.
When time came to eat that meal, there was just no telling where I’d be. I might be working somewhere with my dad outside, or I might be playing by myself in the barn loft, or down across the field at the pond, or I might be way at the back of our small farm, in the woods on the hill. But even at the edges of the farm, if I was paying attention, I could barely hear my mom’s voice.
Across the fields I’d run, back to the house. Over to the sink to wash my hands and into my chair at the table I’d slide. And every now and then, there’s be a special treat for supper.
Mom would make salmon patties.
For y’all who don’t know, salmon patties are a peasant version of salmon croquettes. They’re flatter, like in this picture on the right, and they don’t have nearly as many ingredients. It’s basically a can of salmon, a bit of flour and meal, an egg to hold it together, and a little pepper. Spoon it into a skillet with a little oil and press it out flat so it fries into a crispy outside with a soft, salmon-y center.
It’s simple, country food.
Yes, I see some of y’all scrunching up your noses, but stay with me for just a bit. There’s a point to this.
My mom’s shopping list back then was very basic compared to my grocery list now. The entire Houchens grocery in our tiny town would fit into the frozen foods section of the Kroger where I now shop. There was no fresh seafood back then. It was canned fish or no fish.
The produce aisle in that grocery store was about ten feet long. “Lettuce” from the store meant iceberg lettuce, and trust me, they’d never heard of flat leaf Italian parsley or arugula. If we didn’t grow it in the garden, raise it on the hoof or hunt it, we had to take what was there.
I grew up eating peasant food, you see.
There’s an odd bit that you won’t understand unless you grew up eating peasant food the way I did. The nights that we had salmon patties were “treat” nights.
My mom was born two years before the onset of the Great Depression, and even all those years later, opening a can of anything was an extravagance. Just the opposite of the way I cook today.
I’ve come to understand that salmon patties are a regional peasant food, and that there’s every good chance you’ve never tasted them.
What fascinates me most about food is this exact kind of dish. Anywhere you go there are dishes like this—recipes that people have adapted so they can be made from cheap, available ingredients. And over the decades, those regional recipes have turned into some of the best food you can get anywhere.
Here in Southern Kentucky if you go to a country diner and you ask for cornbread, you’ll have to choose. “You want corn muffins or fried cornbread?” they’ll ask.
Chicken and Dumplins are a “meat” at any meat & three, and macaroni & cheese is a vegetable.
Another favorite regional “vegetable” is macaroni & tomatoes. It’s exactly what it sounds like. Macaroni cooked in canned tomatoes, tomato juice and a little water. Sometimes nothing else will do.
Friday nights at any diner means one of the “meats” is catfish (battered and fried) with hush puppies, and the traditional sides are white beans and “slaw.”
Pinto beans come with a slice of raw onion and a scoop of relish on the side.
I was in a diner last year and actually saw pig’s feet on the menu. I ate those when I was a kid, but now….can’t quite go there.
Dry Land Fish is a delicacy and turnip greens are an art form.
Y’all already heard about Green Tomato Ketchup in a blog last year.
Two nights ago we had fresh grilled salmon. That’s it cooking in the photo on the right. It was marinated in olive oil, fresh, chopped garlic and chopped parsley. We eat that usually twice a week. So you see, I don’t cook the way my mom did much.
But I still appreciate it, and just every now and then I miss it.
I’ve had fabulous crab cakes and wonderful salmon croquettes at eateries on the coast. I love fresh fish. I’ll raise my hand and admit that I’m a sushi fanatic.
But tonight I didn’t have any fresh meat or seafood in the fridge, so I reached in the pantry for a can of salmon and didn’t feel one bit deprived. I mixed it up and five minutes later I had salmon patties fryin’ in the skillet. That was them up there on the right with the mashed potatoes and green beans.
If I could take any kind of “round the world” tour, it would be a tour where I learn about the local wines and the peasant food.
So, Bandits and Buddies, tell me about the food where you live, or where you grew up.
Did you eat dinner in the evenings? Or supper?
Are any of you interested in peasant food the way I am? What is the peasant food from your area? Are there regional dishes from those locales that you can’t get anywhere else–maybe dishes from your area that are simplifications of “fancier” food, like my salmon patties are, I figure, the peasant food based on croquettes?
Have you ever traveled to a different place and been surprised by the food there?
Have you ever eaten salmon patties?
I’ve got a hero in my latest book who was born in New England and comes to stay a while in Kentucky, where he meets the heroine. Are any of y’all from that part of the country? If so, tell me–if he moved to landlocked Kentucky, what foods would he miss most?
What foods do you think would surprise him?
Would he think it was strange if the heroine said, “supper’s ready?”
Hey gang! You thought you were rid of me, right? Snork!
Cassondra had technical difficulties with power outages in her area, so her blog didn’t get posted for today. Instead, you get MEEEEEE!!! Bwahahahah!
So, let’s talk chocolate.
I just read an article that said that people from other parts of the world think we here in America have terrible chocolate. Having been in Hershey PA for a baseball tournament recently, and going through the neat-o presentation they do on making chocolate, I’m thinking we use waaaaaay too much sugar for most people’s taste. Grins. (This from a woman who loves sweet tea more than anything…)
Europeans, the article said, want their chocolate dark and with a slighlty bitter edge.
Asian countries prefer a milk chocolate, but not nearly as sweet as we like it.
And yet, somehow, M&Ms are universally loved. Go figure.
I’ve tasted some very high-end chocolate from Switzerland, and I know Caren has had that too, having visited the Swiss. It ISN’T that sweet. It’s very chocolate-y but, to our sugar-jaded American tastebuds, its bland. I’ve also had some very dear chocolates from a famed New York chocolatier who was called upon to provide chocolate to the Queen last time she was in the US. (One of their claims to fame!) It too was not sweet, but it didn’t have that slightly bitter aftertone that some of the Swiss chocolates did.
What about you, Bandits and Buddies?
Have you had Chocolate from other parts of the world?
How did it compare to our Sees, Whitmans, and dime store chocolates? Too bitter? Too sweet?
Do you love M&Ms? I believe the green ones assist in the laborious editing process. (They are far better for editing than the yellow ones, let me tell you!)
What’s YOUR favorite color of M&M?
What’s your favorite chocolate brand, and DO tell us the good brands from outside the US!?
Wherever we want to go, we go.That’s what a ship is, you know. It’s not just a keel and a hull and sails. That’s what a ship needs. Not what a ship is.
What the Black Pearl really is…is freedom.
~~ Jack Sparrow
I’ve wanted to sail since the day I was born.
Maybe I was a sailor in a past life.
I only remember being a little girl and seeing all those films with huge ships, their masts reaching high into the air and what looked like a gazillion sails, all full, driving the bow of the boat through the pounding sea.
Using nothing but the wind.
I also remember squinting at the tv, wondering, how in the world do they make that ship do that?
Then there were the news reports of refugees sailing all the way to Florida on a few boards nailed together with a box of food and water and a bed sheet on a stick. I saw that and thought, how in the world could anybody do that?
You’ll be noticin’ a pattern to my questions.
In 2003, Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley brought the romance of tall ships back to the screen in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.
It’s one of the best soundtracks ever.
Flash forward to now.
Apparently, modern sailors are a friendly lot. Around here, a bunch of them volunteer their boats each year, they spend their time, and they furnish the hospitality (sailors like to eat and drink, I’m observing) to offer a community education class in the town near me. For $50 and the gas to drive up to the lake, I can have four weekends of sailing lessons.
So I’m learning to sail.
I know y’all can’t see the big grin on my face, but this is damn near the most fun thing I have ever done in my whole life.
I know. Y’all who live on the coast are thinkin’ “what’s the big deal?”
Well…I have to drive about ten hours to get to an ocean. The “Kentucky Better Boating” class I took in 8th grade really only talked about motor boats, cuz they assumed anybody who knew what sailcloth was would not be livin’ in a landlocked state. Just sayin’.
For the past two weeks I’ve sailed in an O’Day 25. It’s an awesome little, 40-year-old, 25-foot cruising boat, with a cabin I can stand up in (I’m short.)
On Saturday I was part of a crew for a sailboat race.
Okay that sounds WAY more advanced than it really was. It was a baby race for beginners, and basically I did what I was told, learned a whole bunch, and understood I have a whole bunch MORE to learn.
Yeah, I’ve got a character in a book who sails. He walked on stage ten years ago in the middle of another book and announced that he would be my favorite hero ever. That’s how I found this group of sailors who run the class–trying to figure out who this guy was. But you know what? I think maybe that character is just an offshoot of me. He sails because I want to sail.
That’s me up there on the left at the bow of the boat, helping to rig the drifter–the beautiful blue and orange sail you see in the photo
There wasn’t much wind. We might have gone 1.5 miles per hour. But it was exciting the whole way.
And I’m learning the same skills that Juan Sebastian Del Cano used in the first recorded circumnavigation of Earth.
Yes, you’re right. I have no idea how those tall ships manage all those sails, or how they manage to survive in stormy seas. I’m still scared to death of the ocean, and don’t know how I’ll manage to overcome that if I get the chance to sail offshore.
But I’ve at least learned windward and leeward, the points of sail, and how to (theoretically) make a sailboat go the way I want. Sort of. Sometimes. If the wind cooperates.
One step at a time.
I’ve got a fun gift for one commenter. It’s a dream journal. The quote on the front is by Eleanor Roosevelt and it says, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.“
So what about you, Bandits and Buddies? Have you ever been fascinated by the sea?
What movies have you seen that involved tall ships?
What’s your favorite Pirates of the Caribbean movie?
Is there something you’ve always wanted to do? Is it ice skating or steeplechase, rock climbing or cliff diving, swimming with dolphins or digging for ruins? And…have you tried it yet?
What’s on your bucket list?
Have you ever been sailing?
Original photos in this blog copyright May 17, 2014 by Steve Allen Doyle, All rights reserved. No use without permission.Tall ship photos–Wikipedia.
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