Acceptance

This is a poem from my college days.

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Call me not rose.

Although my heart cries to hear
Such a compliment,
Although ancient bards
Declared that flower noble
And deemed their lovely ladies
Worthy of that name,

Call me not rose.

Other women—beautiful women—
May be compared to the rose,
But I, I am not one
Men would so honor.
I am more likely compared to
The lowly dandelion—

Who sees its worth?

Not a romantic, love-inspiring flower
Like the capricious rose,
The dandelion is a symbol
Of strength, resilience,
A will too strong to surrender.

Uproot a rose bush and see,
It is gone forever.
Petrarch, can you brag so
About your noble rose?

Your lady’s cheek may wear
The damasked red-and-white
Of that gentle bloom,
But the ever-bold glow of the dandelion flower
Needs no woman’s cheek
To survive, but in its own existence
Represents eternity—
A more appropriate symbol of ever-lasting love
Than the fragile rose,
Whose beauty does not linger.

No, call me not rose,
For though I envy
The beauty and romance of that flower,
To give me that name
Would be false flattery—

What love is built on that?

I would rather be remembered
For a spirit of strength and constancy,
One who wields a stubborn will to survive.

No, see not in this lady
The qualities of the fickle rose;
See in her the qualities
Of the noble—yes I said
Noble—
Golden dandelion.

Acceptance

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Excerpt from “An Uneasy Inheritance”

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So, here we are, buried under more than a foot of snow. The weather is fortuitous for my writing, since the scenes I’m working on take place on a very snowy couple of days. This scene takes place in the mountains outside of Renovo, PA, where Kyr has inherited a house from a great- aunt she has very little memory of. She and Jamison Hufnagle, her great-aunt’s handsome young attorney, head up to the property so that Kyr can get an idea what shape the place is in before she lists it for sale. The following scene takes place inside the house:

*****

Each of the  first-floor rooms had its own charm and personality. I marveled at the simple but elegant wainscoting on the walls and the beautiful stained glass transoms. Perhaps the most fascinating discovery was an upright piano and a lone church pew, which stood by themselves in the sitting room. As I plinked out a few notes on the out-of-tune instrument, I sensed there was a story surrounding both the piano and the pew, but I doubted I’d ever hear them.

Still, for all the house’s beauty and the details put into its construction, something about the place left me unsettled, something that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.  It wasn’t until I heard my boots echoing on the hardwood floor as I crossed to the sitting room window that I realized what it was. Each of the rooms held only a chair or two, a small coffee table, and a single lamp; the dearth of furniture made the already-big house seem even bigger. With the exception of the library, which was full to overflowing with books, all the coffee tables, shelves, and windowsills were completely devoid of knick-knacks or other personal items, and I hadn’t even noticed any pictures hanging on the walls. I shook my head, wondering again why a woman who lived alone would need such a large house, especially when she had so few possessions to fill it. It’s a good thing I have furniture of my own to fill up the space. No sooner had the thought formed than I had to firmly remind myself that I was selling the house. Filling the space was someone else’s problem.

Jamison’s phone chirped, and he stepped out into the hallway, leaving me alone in the nearly-empty room. As I stood contemplating my great-aunt’s odd living habits, it suddenly occurred to me that furniture and knick-knacks weren’t the only things lacking in the house. One of the reasons I’d been somewhat hesitant to visit Great-Aunt Corinne’s home in the first place was my reluctance to embrace my newly-surfaced empathic abilities. After the intense dreams and visions I’d had recently, I’d been afraid that coming here would overwhelm my senses and would bring on an onslaught of psychic experiences. But that hadn’t happened at all. In fact, I felt nothing at all of her presence, a fact that both surprised and saddened me.

“Kyrie?” Pulled from my musings, I turned from the window to see Jamison standing in the doorway. “I’m sorry, but we’ll need to wrap up our tour sooner than expected. Something came up, and I need to head back to the office.”

“Oh, okay. I’ll just be a minute.” Surprisingly, I wasn’t disappointed at having to leave; in fact, I was ready to go. The absence of Great-Aunt Corinne’s imprint made the house feel like an empty shell rather than the beloved home I’d hoped it might be. The internal debate I’d been having since we set foot in the house suddenly made sense to me: Deep down inside, I’d been telling myself that if I’d felt Great-Aunt Corinne’s presence, sensed some connection with her here, I might be inclined to keep the house; without that sense of connection, this was just a house, a property that I had no reason to keep. Then why did the thought of putting the place up for sale still fill me with such sadness?

Jamison gave me a nod and retreated into the hallway again. I took one last look around the sitting room and closed my eyes. Concentrating on the image of Great-Aunt Corinne that I’d seen in my mind, I tried to project a silent invitation. This is your last chance. If you’re here, if you called me here, give me a sign. Otherwise, I’m going to leave, and the house is going up for sale.

Silence. Emptiness. I let out a sigh and swallowed hard to dislodge the unexpected lump in my throat before walking purposefully out of the room. As we made our way back towards the foyer, I was again acutely aware of my footsteps in the silence. Suddenly, at the foot of the stairs, a faint whisper caught my attention. A quick glance at Jamison told me he hadn’t heard anything. I stopped, listening hard. The whisper came again, wordless yet compelling, and I turned to peer up the stairs. My pulse quickened as I felt the same subtle tug in my spirit that I’d felt on the way to Renovo.

“Jamison?” He stopped and looked at me. I babbled uncertainly. “Is it all right if I take a quick peek upstairs? I’d just like a few pictures of the bedrooms, and I don’t know when I’ll get back here again. I’ll only be a minute…”

He froze with his hand on the doorknob; only his eyes moved to peer apprehensively towards the second floor. His Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed, and he couldn’t hide the quaver in his voice as he said, “Of course, we can…” He released the doorknob and took two steps towards me before halting suddenly, almost as though he’d walked into a brick wall. “Tell you what, why don’t you go ahead? I’ll wait for you out on the porch.”

He fumbled the doorknob before yanking the door open and making a hasty exit, leaving me alone in the foyer. I stared after him, perplexed. There was no question about it; something on the second floor frightened him, and he refused to accompany me upstairs. His reaction briefly made me second guess my desire to investigate the whisper, and I sincerely hoped he wasn’t so unnerved that he’d take off for Renovo and leave me there alone.

I cocked my head to stare up into the darkness, wondering if I should put off checking out the rest of the house until Spook could accompany me. Just as I took a step toward the front door, I sensed rather than heard the whisper a third time. Shoving my apprehension aside, I turned back to the stairs, determined to face whoever or whatever was there. Just standing at the foot of the stairs, I could feel that unlike the first floor, the second floor felt…alive somehow. Looking around, I found a light switch. Thankfully, the hall light upstairs came on when I flipped the switch, bathing the upstairs landing with light.

Swallowing hard, I started up the stairs. I stepped lightly, trying to make as little noise as possible, but each step betrayed my ascent with the creak or pop that only century-old wood could make. Shaking my head, I told myself, Whoever or whatever is upstairs already knows you’re here anyway.

About halfway up, I passed through a patch of staticky air that made my skin tingle as though a thousand spiders were crawling over me. I paused until the sensation passed and then continued up a few more steps. I studied that step for a moment, trying to determine if there was something out of the ordinary, but everything seemed normal. Curious, I went back down to see if the anomaly was still there, but it had disappeared.

Tucking the odd event into the back of my mind, I continued up to the landing. I tensed; the atmosphere up here was definitely different, and I sensed that was why Jamison wouldn’t come upstairs. Stepping cautiously into the hallway to look around, I couldn’t see anything unusual, but the energy here was definitely much different than it was downstairs. Glancing down the stairs to make sure Jamison hadn’t come back in, I asked aloud, “Great-Aunt Corinne? Are you here? It’s me, Kyrie.”

Getting no response, I walked further into the hallway. There were two bedrooms in the front of the house, a bathroom in the middle of the hall, and then two more in the back. All the doors were shut, except for the bathroom door,  so I was unable to see into any of the bedrooms. Knowing I didn’t have time to investigate all four bedrooms, I tried once more to contact my relative. “Great-Aunt Corinne? If you’re here, please give me a sign.” Still getting nothing, I was about to give up and head back downstairs when I recalled something Jamison told me. It’s worth a try. “Great-Aunt Celeste? It’s Kyrie. Are you here?”

Silence, still. My gaze scanned the hallway once more, focusing on each of the closed doors, waiting for a sign, any sign. I gasped aloud as a thin sliver of light suddenly appeared beneath the door in the back corner of the hallway. The old floorboards creaked as I made my way toward what I guessed was Great-Aunt Corinne’s—no, Celeste’s room. I grasped the doorknob, took a deep breath, and opened the door. Before I even stepped through the doorway, a strong, loving, female presence enveloped me, bringing tears to my eyes. Celeste. I stood for a moment just feeling her, remembering her. No specific memories came to mind, only the sense of being deeply loved. “Why, Celeste? All this time, why didn’t you ever contact me?”

The presence retreated, again giving me no answers, and I walked into the room. As I took in the midnight blue walls with its moon-and-stars border, I was struck by how familiar the space felt, as though I’d spent a lot of time here. A moon-and-star-patterned quilt of dark blues, soft yellows, and white covered the double bed. The corners of my mouth twitched. I sense a theme here. A dresser and a bookshelf framed the window that looked out over the back of the lot, and a small desk sat facing the side window. An assortment of books and notebooks littered the desk, as well as a palm-sized iridescent white crystal ball on a stand. Drawn by the beautiful stone, I approached the desk and unconsciously reached out to touch it.

An unexpected gust of wind shook the house, bringing with it a high-pitched cry that brought my hands to my ears. Despite my apprehension over what might have made the unearthly sound, I hurried to the back window and peered out. For a second, I saw nothing but whirling, wind-driven snow scouring the window. A second screech sounded, right up against the house making me momentarily shrink back.

Suddenly, I saw it—the branch of a large tree growing close to the house scraped against the siding in the wind, making a loud scratching sound. That wasn’t what I’d heard, was it? I couldn’t be certain; the wail I’d heard had a definite voice-like quality to it, although I wasn’t sure if it was animal or human. The branch scraping against the house sounded like…a branch scraping against the house. My pulse pounding in my ears threatened to drown out the sound of the wind, and I spoke out loud to calm my nerves. “I’ll have to add that to the list of things for Spook to check out. It can’t be good having a tree so close to the house that the branches scratch the siding.”

As I stood considering the tree and its proximity to the house, something beyond the tree caught my eye. Leaning this way and that, I cupped my hands around my eyes and pressed against the glass, trying to make out what it was through the falling snow. It looked as though it were made of stone. Was it a building, maybe a shed? I wondered if it might be a newer addition; I had no recollection of a second building being on the property. Letting out a huff that fogged up the window, I shook my head. Doofus, it’s not as though you have a clear recognition of the place anyway.

Quickly wiping the fog from the glass, I peered out the window once more, scanning the rest of the lot. In the opposite corner from the stone structure, I saw a fenced-in area that I supposed was the strangely-beautiful monochromatic garden I’d seen in my vision. Of course, it was winter, so nothing was blooming. Even so, the little area had the appearance of neglect, as though it had been left to return to the wild. My heart sank regretfully, thinking the white garden should be restored. I mentally added another task to Spook’s to-do list.

My eyes continued to roam along the property’s rear perimeter. I spied the little white footbridge that crossed the creek. Seeing something strange near the creek, I squinted and cupped my hands around my eyes again for a closer look. Something resembling mist seemed to rise from the creek. Isn’t it too windy for snow fog? Even as the thought formed in my mind, the mist seemed to change. The rising tendrils writhed and morphed until they took the form of cloaked figures that followed the creek and disappeared into the trees. My eyes widened in disbelief as I watched them marching against the driving, snow-laden wind…

“Kyrie?” A voice from downstairs startled me, breaking my concentration. I blinked once, twice, and the figures and the snow fog were gone. However, the wind-driven snow continued. “Ms. Carter? We really should be going.”

Jamison! I’d forgotten he was waiting out on the porch. He was probably chilled to the bone from standing outside in the cold. I hurried to the doorway and called, “Coming.” Turning, I pulled out my phone and took a few quick shots of the strange, yet familiar room, then whispered, “I’ll be back, Celeste.” And I knew that I would be. “I’ll be back to stay.”

As I knew he would be, Jamison was standing in the foyer, huddled down in his coat and blowing into his hands to warm them. He glanced up as I came down the stairs, and he wasn’t quick enough to hide a reproachful expression. “Oh, there you are. I thought you’d gotten lost in a secret passage or something.”

I stopped short at the bottom of the stairs, my hand on the odd-shaped finial. “Secret passage? There aren’t secret passages in this house, are there?” Somehow, it wouldn’t have surprised me.

He chuckled. “None that I know of, but who knows with Ms. Beistel?”He grasped the doorknob. “Well, the snow is getting heavier, and even with four-wheel drive, I don’t want to hang around here much longer. You’ve got quite a drive ahead of you, too.”

“Right.”

Jamison held the door for me, and I headed out onto the porch. “The vehicle is unlocked. Why don’t you go get in while I lock up?”

“Sounds good.” I pulled my hood up and stepped off the porch into the snow. The footprints we’d left when we first arrived had all but vanished, completely buried in new snow. I picked my way along the front walk, trying to avoid the spot where I’d stumbled on the tree root.

As I turned the corner of the house, I ducked my head against an icy blast of wind. Reaching the vehicle, I looked up to grab the door handle and came face to face with a cloaked figure. I cried out in surprise and jumped back as I locked eyes with a short, heavyset Native American woman with long, gray-streaked hair done up in a single plait. Her charcoal-hued eyes glistened with recognition as she regarded me.

“Helen, what are you doing here?” Jamison had appeared next to me and was glaring at the unexpected visitor.

Helen’s face turned to stone as she fixed her smoldering gaze on him. “I’ve more right to be here than you do.” She held his gaze a moment longer and then met my gaze again. She smiled broadly, making her face appear to crack with a network of lines. “Celeste told me the daughter would come when she passed. And here she is.”

My brow wrinkled as I processed her words. What on earth was she talking about? I looked questioningly at Jamison, who answered me with an apologetic shrug. When I turned to face Helen again to ask her what she meant, I let out a gasp—she had simply vanished. “What? Jamison, what…who was that?”

He stood glaring in the direction Helen had presumably gone. “That was your nearest neighbor, Helen Northwood.” Fixing his stern gaze on me, he advised, “I’m pretty sure she’s harmless, but I strongly suggest you get the locks changed before you think about listing the house.”

I mentally added the task to my list, but something told me that neither door locks nor deadbolts would keep out the strange woman who seemed able to appear and disappear at will.

Another Trip to Millersburg

Yesterday, I had to take a jaunt back up to my hometown, Millersburg, PA. My aunt and uncle are getting on in years, and due to health challenges, they’re downsizing and moving into an assisted living facility in town. My aunt wanted me to come and pick up the Japanese dolls my mother had made during the time my father was stationed in Tokyo in the 1960s.

I arrived in “the ‘Burg” about an hour earlier than expected, so I decided to make my usual rounds before going out to my aunt’s house.

The first place I stopped was along the river. Even when I still lived here, this was one of my favorite places to hang out. During the summer, there are swings out along the riverfront, and I’d often sit in one and read, draw, think, or just enjoy the beauty of the river. Of course, it being the beginning of March, yesterday was a bit too chilly to spend much time there, but I still enjoyed a brisk walk and got a few photos.

Aside from the geese, and the very occasional other person strolling the river front, there wasn’t much activity, and everything seemed to be waiting for Spring to come.

There was one scene that part of me found a bit humorous, yet at the same time seemed a bit creepy and piqued my writer’s mind, so I snapped a picture of it:

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From the river, I drove up to Oak Hill Cemetery. Yes, an odd choice of venue to most people, but I spent a good deal of time there during my teen years. I was bullied in middle and high school, and sometimes I just needed to get away from other people, and the cemetery seemed a good place to do it.

Back then, there was an older part of the cemetery, located between the main cemetery and the mausoleums that sat just off Race Street. I always assumed this part of the cemetery was where some of the original settlers might have been buried, because the graves were old and difficult to read even then. When I visited recently, however, I didn’t see these old plots in the place I remembered them. This time as I drove through, I saw a bunch of headstones gathered in an odd location.

Not sure what the story is, but I’m wondering if the ground may have settled, making it necessary to move the old graves. Again, it’s a scene that made my writer’s mind begin percolating.

From there I made my way to my aunt’s house, where she took me to her doll room (I should have gotten a few pictures of that). My aunt was, at one time, an avid doll and teddy bear collector. She belonged to the local Doll Club, and she enjoyed showing her dolls and doll houses, some of which she made herself.

As I stated at the beginning of this piece, the dolls she was passing along to me were Japanese dolls that my mom made in classes over in Tokyo when my dad was stationed there. In all honesty, I’ve never been a huge fan of these dolls. They made me uneasy when I was little, and two of them downright terrified me, as I thought they seemed to watch my every move. My aunt couldn’t remember all the names of these dolls, if they all even had names.

The doll in the red kimono is one that my mom made and had sent over to my aunt. The others belonged to my mom, but at some point she gave them to my aunt for her Doll Club shows, and that’s where they’ve been until now. In the 24 hours I’ve had the dolls in my possession I’ve actually grown quite fond of the one that is kneeling. She seems almost alive to me, and she feels like a kind soul.

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These dolls portray Kabuki actors. These are the dolls I feared as a child, and I’m still not overly fond of them. Even my son says the eyes follow him.

And so my house is now graced by a piece of my parents’ history. At least one of the dolls will find its way to another relative, so that we can all appreciate and remember Mom’s creative side, but for now I have a doll-filled living room.

Update From Write Van Winkle

Most people are at least familiar with the story of Rip Van Winkle, the man who fell asleep for twenty years. Can you just imagine what it would be like to wake up and find that so much time has passed? What have I missed? How much has changed since I’ve last been in the world?

 

Well, I’m feeling a bit like old Rip myself these days, except that I haven’t been sleeping; I’ve been writing. I’m currently hard at work on An Uneasy Inheritance, the fourth book in the Kyrie Carter: Supernatural Sleuth series. At the moment, I’m writing chapter 11, and I’ve got about 120 pages. While that’s all good, I realized that I haven’t blogged at all in over a month.

So, here’s a little glimpse at what I’ve been working on.

A lot is happening to Kyr in this book, and she’s really going to find out what she’s made of as the story progresses. In the first few chapters, she has lost her job, lost the house she was renting due to the death of her landlady, and found out that she’s the sole beneficiary of her great-aunt’s estate–a relative she didn’t even know existed. I’m at the point right now where she’s in Renovo, PA meeting with Jamison Hufnagle, the (young, very handsome) attorney handling the estate. Spook decides to show up unannounced to “lend his assistance,” much to Kyr’s chagrin, and some sparks fly between Spook and Jamison.

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The three make the trek, in a snowstorm, to the house Kyr now owns. Kyr’s ultimate plan is to fix up the house and list it for sale, but the moment she sets foot inside, something calls to her and sets the idea in her head to keep the house.

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That’s about as far as I’ve gotten, but here’s a teaser for things to come:

A spooky neighbor who seems to appear out of nowhere to give Kyr advice.

A hermit living on the mountain who seems to know Kyr and tells her to stay away.

A dire warning from both the neighbor and the hermit not to go into the woods at night.

Clues hidden in strange places throughout the house that suggest a treasure somewhere on the property.

Someone trying to get rid of Kyr and find the treasure.

And of course…

Ghosts, ghosts, ghosts!

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Stay tuned for more news and excerpts from An Uneasy Inheritance!

Ten Albums That Influenced Me As a Teen

I’m seeing a lot of posts from friends, family, and fellow authors listing ten albums that in some way influenced you in your teenage years. I decided to hop on the bandwagon and create my own list, and for this post I’m going a step further and explaining a bit about why I chose each particular album.

 

Barry Manilow — Manilow Magic. This was the first LP I ever bought. This one comes in right on the lower edge of my teenage years. I’ve loved Barry’s music since I first heard “I Write the Songs” somewhere around third or fourth grade, and this was my first foray into fandom.
Favorite Song: All the Time
Culture Club — Kissing to Be Clever. Oh, how naive I was when I bought this one! Boy George fascinated me. I had no knowledge of homosexuality, cross-dressing, or anything like that, so I thought he was just a weird dresser with a powerful voice. I took a lot of flak from my parents and from quite a few friends for enjoying Culture Club’s music.
Favorite Song: You Know I’m Not Crazy
Duran Duran — Rio. I bought myself this album with my birthday money when I was 14 or 15. In all honesty, MTV really fueled my love for these guys. I loved the sometimes-weird and off-the-wall videos the band made, and I fell hard for John Taylor. My dad actually bought me the VHS of their music videos, something I’m sure he wouldn’t have done if he (or I) had known what was in some of the videos.
Favorite Song: My Own Way
Rick Wakeman — The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. I heard this one for the first time when I was maybe 8 or 9. My brother came home from college with this one, and he let my other brother and me listen to it. I’d never heard of King Arthur at that point, but this collection sparked an early interest in the Arthurian legends that came to life in high school and college.
Favorite Song: Guinevere

Joan Baez — Baptism. One of my college friends had this among his collection. It was far different from anything I’d ever heard before. A lot of it was downright creepy, which always appealed to me, and some of the poems gave me nightmares.
Favorite Track: The Magic Wood
Stryper — To Hell With the Devil. Before MTV began playing Stryper’s videos, all Christian music in my eyes was made up of hymns and Southern gospel. It fascinated me that these songs could be taken in either a Christian or a secular context.
Favorite Song: Calling on You
Guns n Roses — Appetite for Destruction. This album was very popular during my freshman year of college. Hearing any of the songs from AfD transports me back to walking into Smith Hall on a Friday afternoon and hearing “Sweet Child of Mine” blasting from the Lambda Chi Alpha house.
Favorite Song: Sweet Child o’ Mine
Pseudo Echo — Love an Adventure. I kind of stumbled on this band when they remade “Funkytown.” It kind of bummed me out that they didn’t become bigger than they did, because I really liked their sound.
Favorite Song: Living in a Dream
Big Bam Boo — Fun, Faith, and Fairplay. This is another group that I wish had been more popular, because I thought they had a unique sound. One of their songs was featured in a local radio station’s new song competition, and as I recall, it blew the other song away.
Favorite Song: Fell Off a Mountain
Enya — Shepherd Moons. This one might actually be beyond my teens, but it still had a huge influence on me. I was in a period of spiritual questioning and was dabbling a bit in Wicca at the time. I was also very steeped in King Arthur and all kinds of other romantic poetry and fiction, and Enya’s music just fit right in.
Favorite Song: Marble Halls

 

Some Writing Goals for 2017

2017

Yes, it’s January 9th.

Yes, New Year’s Day was just over a week ago.

Yes, I’m behind in setting my goals for the year. When have I ever done anything on time?

My family and I were away over Christmas and New Year’s (we travel to Florida over the holidays, since that’s when my husband can get off work and the kids are off school), so I’m still getting back into the swing of things with housework, kids back to school, and the half-dozen activities I’m involved with. I think I’m finally at a point where I can start thinking about my writing, specifically a few goals and upcoming events I’m focusing on for 2017.

An Uneasy Inheritance

Naturally, I want to continue my Kyrie Carter: Supernatural Sleuth series. At the moment, I’m about seven chapters in to Book 4. I have some basic ideas of the adventures Kyr and Spook will have in this book, but for the most part, I’m waiting for inspiration to strike about what paranormal encounters they will have. Poor Kyr is already likely to go from being a ginger to being gray-haired with all the life changes she’ll have; I’m not sure how much paranormal she’ll be able to handle.
And in keeping with being behind on things, I am just now writing the part where she’s helping Spook decorate for Christmas. Here’s a little excerpt of that:

After grabbing a quick lunch, we returned to Spook’s house and spent the next couple hours laying his old tree to rest and assembling the new one. After snapping the last piece into place, Spook rested his arm across my shoulders, and we stood back to admire his new tree. Smiling down at me, he said, “That’s a definite improvement over the old tree. In fact, it looks so good that I don’t even think it needs any decorations.”

I laughed and elbowed him in the ribs. “Oh no, you don’t. You’re not going to weasel your way out of a properly-decorated tree, Mr. Humbug.” Ducking away from his embrace, I went to the stereo and turned on the Christmas music. “Now where are those lights?”

My heart swelled with happiness as we trimmed the tree with strings of blue-white lights and blue, white, and silver balls; I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed decorating a Christmas tree. I usually helped Aunt Julia with hers, but this was somehow different, more special. Before long, I was singing along with Mariah Carey and dancing around the tree as I hung the shiny ornaments from the branches. A sudden chuckle from Spook made me stop abruptly, a silver ball on a hook pinched between my thumb and forefinger. “What?”

“Oh, nothing.” As Spook sat on the couch, holding up his phone and smirking at me, I realized that not only had I been doing the lion’s share of the decorating, but had also become the star of a video. “Just enjoying the show.”

Letting out an exasperated huff, I snatched his Bah Humbug hat from the floor and tossed it at him. “Really, Spook? Just because you’re a YouTube sensation doesn’t mean I need to be one too.”

He laughed as he tucked his phone away, then pulled me onto his lap. “No worries, Kyr m’dear. This video is solely for my own viewing pleasure.” I felt my face flushing as I narrowed my eyes at him. He drew me closer to nuzzle my neck and growled, “Call it a Christmas present to myself.”

Other Projects

At some point, I want to branch out from writing paranormal mystery. I’ve already got bits and pieces of a YA fantasy/romance (The Knight and the Not-Quite Lady) and another story set in the fictional town of Millers Ferry, PA (based on my hometown of Millersburg, PA); I haven’t worked out if it will be inspirational, women’s fiction, or cozy mystery, but this one will be set between Halloween and Christmas Eve.
I’d also like to try my hand at writing short stories. There are so many contests and anthologies looking for short stories, but it’s just not something I’ve ever really attempted. I do have an idea for one, tentatively titled “Chasing Skylab.” I won’t give any more on that for now, at least until I put a bit more thought into it.

Events

In an effort to do more in the way of marketing, I want to look into more author events this year. I had a pretty good run of vendor events last year, including Millersburg’s Cherry Blossom Festival and Dillsburg’s Farmer’s Fair, as well as two events in Lock Haven. In March of this year, I will attend my first paranormal conference in Gettysburg. At this point I’m just a vendor, but I hope that at some point I will be able to talk about my books and my writing process at one of these conferences. I’ve also got one library event scheduled for March, and I hope to add a few more over the summer.
One thing I have not done yet, but hope to do, if not this year, then next, is to attend a writers’ conference of some kind. I’d like to go to an event where I can talk with other writers and share experiences, as well as getting my books out on a wider scale.

All in all, I’ve got a pretty good idea of where I’d like to be at the end of the year. God willing, and notwithstanding all the life events that always manage to shove their way into the best-laid plans, I believe this is a good start.

Happy New Year!

Happy Reading!

Happy Writing!

Hedge Riding

Just doing a bit of research.

 

One of the many practices that are popular among hedge witchcraft is riding the hedge between the physical and ethereal planes. Hedge witches work closely with the spiritual plane to guide them and aid in their magickal works. There are many ways to ride the hedge, or so to speak, and many different cultures and forms of magick utilize the many ways of riding the hedge. 

One way is to go on a vision quest. A vision quest is a rite of passage in some Native American cultures. The ceremony of the Vision Quest is one of the most universal and ancient means to find spiritual guidance and purpose. A Vision Quest can provide deep understanding of one’s life purpose. A traditional Native American Vision Quest consists of a person spending one to four days and nights secluded in nature. This provides time for deep communion with the fundamental forces and spiritual energies…

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The Wholesome Truth

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The Wholesome Truth:

“Do you solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God?”

The waters get murky when people suggest a definition for truth. While that can’t always be agreed upon in a society where standards are becoming increasingly flexible (from morals to education standards) – we can all look toward what is not true: Fake News.

Fake News comes from dubious sources… so does our self-image.

We’re the normal people we grew up with, we know all our own secrets, mistakes and the general mess that we, as human beings are.

Nobody’s perfect. Even our plastic filled celebrities.

Here’s the good thing: we can monitor our fake news intake – just like we can with our ideas and self-talk.

If it bugs you – do something about it.

If its not true – don’t lie to yourself about it…

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Wynifrog Goes Fishing

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Lady Magdalen clapped her hands to get everyone’s attention. “You have done well this morning, ladies,” she said, although her sour expression suggested otherwise. “You may all be excused until midday when we will resume your lessons. I strongly advise you to use your time wisely, perhaps practicing your needlework or some other quiet pursuit.” She spoke to all the ladies, but her cold eyes fixed on Wynne.

Wynne sighed and watched as the other young ladies walked demurely off to collect their needlework, or to practice singing or some other proper pursuit. She had had quite enough of being a proper lady for the time being, so she quickly ducked outside into the bright sunshine.

Out in the courtyard, she threw back her head and breathed deeply, filling her lungs with the fresh spring air and enjoying the warm sunshine on her face. Even in the winter, Wynne hated being confined to the castle, instead preferring to be out in the village seeing what everyone was doing or out in the woods watching the animals. Opening her eyes, she looked around her, trying to decide where to go to forget about her lessons for awhile. She finally decided to go walking just outside the city gates. Maybe she could pick some of the wildflowers that grew close to the moat; even Lady Magdalen couldn’t find fault with that.

She walked slowly through the gates, looking around her as though she expected to see someone. Finally sighing heavily, she picked up her pace. Although many people were coming and going, she didn’t see the person she had been hoping to see. She had hoped to “accidentally” run into Gwaine. Even though she had heard Queen Guinevere and a number of other ladies say that Gwaine was a shameless flirt, she couldn’t help feeling giddy whenever he smiled at her or spoke to her. He was, at least in her eyes, the handsomest of the knights of Camelot. He didn’t treat her as a child the way some of the other knights did, nor did he raise his eyebrows in disapproval when he caught her engaging in swordplay with one of the boys. Wynne smiled to herself as she recalled the first time Gwaine had come upon her practicing sword fighting with her cousin Boris.

Boris had been unable to find another boy to practice with, and since he knew Wynne quickly tired of her lessons in being a lady, he had sought her out and persuaded her to join him in the practice fields. As they danced around each other, their swords clashing loudly, all of a sudden a shadow had fallen across them and Gwaine stepped in to snatch Wynne’s sword from her. “Wynne, I’m surprised at you,” he said sternly. Thinking he was about to chastise her for behavior that was inappropriate for a lady, she had lowered her head and waited for him to continue. “As often as you have watched the squires practicing with swords, you should know better than to hold your sword like that. Hold it up in front of you like so.” He showed Wynne how to hold the sword properly and then handed it back to her.

            Wynne took the sword from him, gazing up into his brown eyes a moment longer than she needed to. Her hands shook as she raised her sword again to face Boris. Gwaine stepped in and put his hands over Wynne’s and adjusted her stance to show her how to attack more effectively. When he stepped back to let them spar, Wynne had gone after Boris more zealously than before. They danced around each other, swinging and striking. Boris was bigger, stronger, and far more experienced with the sword, but Wynne was determined to best him to impress Gwaine.

Wynne could hear Gwaine shouting instructions both to her and to Boris as each tried to best the other. Wynne’s arms began to ache, and with every hit of Boris’ sword they became weaker, and her sword became heavier and harder to wield. Finally, Boris struck so hard that Wynne’s sword flew from her hands and she fell backwards, hard, landing on her back in the grass. Suddenly, Boris loomed over her, his face contorted with bloodlust. He raised his sword high above her as though he’d run her through. She raised her hands to cover her face and screamed tearfully. Suddenly Gwaine came between them, shouting, “Hold!”

            Wynne lowered her arms and stared up at them. The malicious look was gone from her cousin’s face, and he laughed down at her, “Some knight you are, cousin, screaming and crying like a girl.”

            Feeling her face flame at Boris’ observation, Wynne lowered her eyes. So much for impressing Gwaine, she thought to herself. She heard Gwaine laugh kindly and looked up to see him offering her his hand to help her up. “Boris, in case you haven’t noticed, your cousin is a girl.” He kissed her hand jauntily and said with a wide grin, “And a very pretty girl, too.”

            Boris made a face of disgust at Gwaine’s comment, and Wynne stuck her tongue out at him. Gwaine looked at Wynne with admiration. “Wynne, I am impressed. You held him off much longer than I would have expected you to. You have the makings of a fine knight of Camelot.”

            Wynne gazed up at him hopefully, almost more flattered by that statement than by his saying she was pretty. “Truly, Gwaine? You think so?” She felt her cheeks flaming again, this time with pleasure.

            With an expression of mock fear, Gwaine ducked down and said, low, “Shh, lass, don’t let Lady Magdalen know I said that. She’ll thrust me through with my own sword if she finds I’ve been putting ideas in your head.” Then he laughed at his own joke. Wynne giggled too, as much at his comment as at the expression on his face. It was obvious that Gwaine thought as little of Lady Magdalen as Wynne did.

            “She could never be a knight anyway; she’s training to be a laaaadyyyy,” Boris sneered, taunting his cousin again. “Although she isn’t much of a lady either.”

            Enraged, Wynne snatched the sword from Boris’ unsuspecting hand and smacked him upside the head with the flat of the blade. “You won’t make much of a knight either if I cut your ugly head off,” she spat.

            “See what I mean?” Boris laughed, rubbing his head. “She’s not a proper lady. She’s not a lady at all.”

            Wynne dropped the sword and rushed at Boris, tackling him and pummeling him with her fists. Boris refused to fight back because Wynne was a girl, but only held his hands up to protect himself from her blows. Gwaine, laughing, stepped in to pull Wynne off of him. As he grabbed both her arms and hauled her up, she yelled, “Boris, you are nothing but a clotpole.”

            “Wynifred,” Lady Magdalen’s voice called out. “Whatever do you think you’re doing?” Wynne stopped struggling, and Gwaine released her arms so she could stand up. She cowered against Gwaine as Lady Magdalen came storming across the courtyard. She cringed, wondering how much Lady Magdalen had seen of what just occurred.

            Boris took off running at her approach, but Gwaine stepped in and bowed apologetically. “Lady Magdalen, I implore you, don’t be harsh with young Lady Wynifred. I accept full responsibility; I was teaching her how to wield a sword. And quite a fine swordswoman she is.”

            “I am well aware of who is at fault here, Sir Gwaine,” Lady Magdalen hissed in an icy voice that would have stolen the fire from a dragon. “Lady Wynifred is headstrong and needs no help in finding ways to behave that are unbefitting a lady. I would appreciate it if you would refrain from encouraging her.”

Wynne rubbed her arm at the memory of Lady Magdalen grabbing her roughly and practically dragging her back to the castle in disgrace. She had cast one forlorn glance over her shoulder at Gwaine, who was standing there shaking his head in disgust. Wynne had felt terrible for getting Gwaine chastised by Lady Magdalen, but he had only laughed when she apologized to him later.

As she picked daisies, cornflowers and chicory, Wynne let her mind wander where it would. She smiled to herself as she plucked a daisy and tucked it in her hair, thinking about the day she had first laid eyes on Gwaine, when he had first come to Camelot. He had snatched a daisy from one of the girls selling flowers in the marketplace and presented it to Gwen as she walked by. He bowed and flirted with her, telling her she was the most beautiful princess he had ever seen; she had giggled and blushed and told him she was nothing but a servant. Wynne closed her eyes for a moment, remembering how she had wished—still wished—for Gwaine to look at her that way, to flirt with her that way. She sighed contentedly and resumed picking flowers, vowing to herself to concentrate more fully on becoming a proper lady. Maybe then Gwaine might ask to court her.

Wynne glanced down at the large bouquet she had gathered, breathing in their sweet scent, and was about to carry them inside for Berte the cook when a small, urgent voice caught her attention. “Wynnie! Wynnie, down here! Help us!”

She stepped closer to the edge of the moat and looked down. There, ankle deep in moat water, were Rhys and Madoc, two of the newest pages at Camelot. Rhys held a small basket that was dripping water from its bottom, and Madoc held a burlap sack that trailed down into the muddy water. Wynne stifled a giggle and called down, “What are you two doing?”

“We’re trying to catch the bullfrog, the big one,” Madoc answered, tugging his britches up in the back. “Will you help us?”

Wynne looked back at them doubtfully. She had actually managed two whole days without earning more than a disapproving sigh from Lady Magdalen; for her that was an accomplishment, and she didn’t want to ruin it. She also recalled the vow she had made not ten minutes past to try to act like a proper lady. She was sure that a proper lady wouldn’t go chasing bullfrogs in the moat. Still, she couldn’t bear to see their pouting faces, so she agreed reluctantly to help them.

She laid her flowers carefully on the bank and glanced quickly around to make sure no one was watching. Seeing no one, she climbed carefully down the bank, trying not to rumple her dress too much. Rhys and Madoc chortled, delighted that their friend was willing to help them complete their quest. “Where is the bullfrog?” Wynne whispered close to the boys’ ears.

Rhys pointed to a greenish-brown lump half submerged in the moat among the bulrushes. Wynne took the basket from Rhys and leaned close to whisper to Madoc. “I’m going to try to scoop him into the basket. You be ready with the sack when I bring him out of the water.”

Madoc nodded solemnly and wrung out his sack while Wynne removed her shoes and tied up the hem of her dress as high as she thought was proper, hoping she didn’t get too wet.

Picking up the basket, Wynne whispered, “Ready?” When Madoc nodded again, she began stealthily walking along the bank towards the bulrushes. As she got closer, the bullfrog fidgeted. She froze and motioned for Madoc to freeze too. The frog settled in again, and Wynne crept to the water’s edge. She had to move slowly so she wouldn’t disturb the water too much and alert the frog to her presence. Ever so carefully, she waded out towards the frog, pausing several times when the frog seemed to sense her presence. She was almost close enough now; she got the basket ready and prepared to pounce. She felt her hem come loose and tumble into the water. Bother! Well, she couldn’t worry about that now. She turned to Madoc and mouthed, “Ready?”

Eyes aglow with excitement, Madoc nodded, grinning from ear to ear. Wynne slowly and carefully raised the basket, extending it out in front of her. Suddenly, she pounced, bringing the basket down over the frog with a splash. She knew she had the frog because she could feel it hopping against the overturned basket. “Madoc!” she cried. “Bring the sack now!”

Madoc rushed to her side, knocking her off balance in his haste. Wynne toppled sideways into the moat, squealing as she hit the cold moat water. Losing hold on one side of the basket, Wynne snatched the sack from Madoc and tried to prevent the frog from escaping. She made a frantic grasp as she saw the frog leap from the basket. “Wynnie, he’s getting away!” Madoc wailed.

“Not if I can help it,” Wynne exclaimed, diving after the frog. She plunged both hands into the moat in pursuit of the disappearing amphibian. She felt something large moving inside the sack, and she closed her hands around it. She lost her footing and slipped completely underwater. Refusing to let go of her quarry, she hugged the thrashing frog close to her body as she tried to stand up without using her arms. From the shore she could hear shouts—Rhys’ and someone else’s.

Suddenly, she was being hauled from the moat by the back of her dress. As her head came above water, she sputtered and took a gasp of air. Her eyes were covered with something dank-smelling and slimy; she was still clutching the frog to her chest, so she couldn’t wipe it away. She felt herself being dropped on the bank, and then a male voice asked, “Wynne, what the blazes were you doing?”

Oh no! Gwaine! He began plucking algae from her face and hair while she uselessly wiped her face against her wet shoulder and answered, still sputtering, “I was helping the boys catch a frog.” Feeling the frog still struggling against her, she added proudly, “And I got him! Look!”

She dropped the wriggling sack on the ground. Rhys and Madoc both wailed, “Oh, Wynnie, no!”

Gwaine doubled over with laughter and said, “I think you’d better look again, lass.”

Wynne raised herself onto one elbow and stared down at her catch. It wasn’t the bullfrog after all. She had caught, almost with her bare hands, a large fish. Her face fell as she realized she had failed. She watched dejectedly as the fish flopped its way back into the moat and disappeared with a splash. She sat up and looked down at herself. She was soaked from head to toe, muddy, and covered with algae. At least my shoes are still dry, she thought ruefully.

“Here, Wynnie,” Rhys said apologetically. She looked over to see Rhys holding her sopping wet shoes. “I’m sorry. I knocked them into the moat by accident.”

Taking them from him with a sad sigh, she responded, “It’s all right, Rhys. I’m sure they wouldn’t have stayed dry for long.” She looked down again at her ruined dress and then glanced up at Gwaine, wondering what he must be thinking of her.

There was no condemnation in his eyes, only amusement at her predicament. He joked, “Maybe you should have kept the fish to take to Berte. Your cousin spent the whole morning fishing and caught nothing.” Wynne turned her eyes away and said nothing. So much for acting like a proper lady, she thought miserably. Gwaine will never see me as a lady. She felt his hand on her arm, and she looked up at him again. “Come on, then,” he said softly. “Let’s get you back to the castle for some dry clothes.”

Gwaine helped her climb the bank, and they started towards the castle. As they passed the spot where she had only a little while earlier been picking wildflowers, she caught sight of her colorful bouquet. Her intentions had been so good, but once again she had failed. The realization of the trouble her impulsiveness was going to get her into—again—hit her hard, and silent tears began to course down her cheeks, mixing with the dank moat water.

As they neared the castle, she noticed to her chagrin that Boris and several other squires were gathered beneath a tree with Sir Leon and Sir Perceval, taking a break from their own lessons. Boris spotted them and cried out, “Beware! Gwaine has captured a moat monster!”

Looking over and catching her eye, Ulrich, a tall, dark-haired squire laughed derisively and said, “That’s no moat monster. That’s your cousin, Wynne.”

“What’s the difference?” Boris retorted, laughing. Then he sang out, “She’s not a lady, and she can’t be a knight. She’s just Wynifred, and she looks like a fright.”

Sir Percival reached over and cuffed Boris while Sir Leon turned and chastised him. That should have made Wynne feel better, but the damage was already done. Her silent tears turned to ashamed whimpers and sniveling as sobs racked her body. Gwaine put his arm protectively around her shoulders and called sternly over to Boris and Ulrich, “You lads will never be knights either if you treat a young lady so. You should turn your attention back to your lessons.”

Thinking to avoid any other confrontations, Gwaine decided to sneak Wynne in through the kitchens. Treading carefully through the muddy spots where the servants had dumped their wash waters earlier, Gwaine and Wynne entered through the rear door. No sooner had they stepped into the kitchen than Berte caught sight of Wynne’s tear-stained, swollen face and her drenched, ruined dress. She bustled across the room and gathered Wynne into her ample chest. “Oh, my precious lass, what mischief have you gotten into this day?” She glanced gratefully at Gwaine and said, “Thank you for rescuing her again; you always seem to appear at the right time.”

Gwaine smiled sheepishly at Berte, then winked at Wynne and grabbed an apple, hoping to make a discreet exit before Lady Magdalen could appear and give him another what-for. Honestly, he had battled armies and fire-breathing dragons and even come face to face with dorocha, and none of those frightened him more than did Lady Magdalen.

Unfortunately for him, just as he reached for the door, Lady Magdalen came storming in. “Berte, the Queen requests…” She caught sight of Gwaine. “Oh, beg pardon, Sir Gwaine. I didn’t know you were here.” Her eyes found Berte and then caught sight of Wynne. “OH! Wynifred!” She whirled around to face Gwaine and blazed, “What is the meaning of this? What trouble have you brought to her this time?”

Despite the fear that Lady Magdalen inspired in him, Gwaine threw out his arms and sputtered indignantly through a mouthful of apple, “I got her in no trouble, Lady. I pulled her out of the bloody moat!”

Lady Magdalen’s eyes widened in horror, and Gwaine realized he had said too much. He tried to speak, but Lady Magdalen swung around to face Wynne again. “The moat? What business could a proper lady have in the moat?”

“Lady, if you please, she was…” Gwaine began, stepping towards her.

Lady Magdalen rounded on him again, pointing directly between his eyes. Gwaine had the sudden thought that if Lady Magdalen had had magic, he would either be dead or turned into some filthy creature at that moment. “You have done quite enough, Sir Gwaine! Every time you come near Wynifred, you cause her to come to some mischief. Begone, you miscreant! You keep yourself away from my young ladies, especially young Wynifred!”

Wynne saw the fury in his eyes, but she knew that Gwaine was too much of a gentleman to say what he thought of her because she was a lady. His eyes met Wynne’s, and they softened slightly as he gave her a look of encouragement. He took another large bite of his apple as he stormed out the door.

Lady Magdalen looked sharply at Wynne, and her eyes narrowed. She noticed the girl’s wistful expression as she gazed after the retreating knight. So that was it, she thought. Wynifred was smitten with Sir Gwaine. That was why she always got into such scrapes when he was nearby; she wanted to gain his attention. Well, this had to be nipped in the bud. No young lady in her care was going to seek the attention of a shameless flirt like Sir Gwaine, especially when she acted inappropriately to do so. “Wynifred,” she said sternly. “Get yourself to your chamber and change your clothes. Then fill a tub with hot water and wash your dress. When you’ve hung your dress to dry, come see me, and we will discuss your punishment.”

Wynne’s eyes widened in fear. Lady Magdalen usually doled out punishment right away. What did it mean that this time she was sending Wynne to complete a task first? She replied meekly, “Yes, Lady.” After a final hug from Berte, she quickly exited the kitchen.

Just as she walked through the doorway, she turned and caught a sympathetic glance from Berte. As she squished down the corridor, still trailing moat water, she overheard Lady Magdalen chastising Berte, “I do wish you wouldn’t coddle Wynifred. You do that child no favors by giving her sympathy when she brings shame to herself with her antics.” Wynne sighed miserably, realizing that she had gotten both Gwaine and Berte, her two favorite people in Camelot, into trouble by her impulsive, unladylike behavior. Would she never learn how to behave, she wondered.

Fishing