Saturday, May 16, 2015

Before the Magic Box by Roseanne Dowell

I was nine years old when our magic box arrived. We all gathered around and watched the deliverymen bring it in.  I’m not sure who was more excited, my parents or us kids. Never one to sit still for very long, it was difficult to remain patient while  they lugged it in and hooked up some odd looking things they called rabbit ears, and set them on top of the box.
“Everyone ready?" The men turned a knob and the little box lit up. Wavy lines flashed across the screen. They moved the rabbit ears this way and that way and suddenly a person appeared. They turned another knob and sound came out, just like in the movie theater only smaller. Way smaller.  "Enjoy," the men said and left.
My brothers, sisters, and I sat on the floor in front of it and watched as the voices we’d heard on the radio now had faces. It was the greatest thing since applesauce.  We all sat there mesmerized while the characters moved across the nine inch square.

Before the magic box, we always gathered in front of the radio and listened to stories played out by actors.  Life before the magic box was more imaginative. On cold winter evenings, we listened to our favorite radio programs, The Lone Ranger, Fibber McGee and Molly, and Jack Benny.

Our summer days, we spent our time bike riding, playing hopscotch, tag, kick the can, and oh yes, at twilight hide and seek and catching lightening bugs. We went on picnics in the park almost every night, weather permitting. Back then we didn't own a grill, let alone a gas grill. No one we knew did. Families went to parks to cook out. When my dad came home from work, Mom already had the picnic basket packed. While he washed up, we kids loaded the car and before you knew it, we were on our way to the park.

While Mom and Dad unloaded the cooler and picnic basket, we kids gathered twigs for kindling and larger dead branches for firewood. No, we didn't use charcoal back then either. My dad crumpled up newspaper and layered twigs on top for kindling. Once it caught, he added the larger firewood and we waited until it burned down and was glowing just right to cook.

Occasionally my aunt, uncle, and cousins joined us. Then a baseball game ensued. With eleven kids and four adults, it was quite a game. I can still hear us on that dusty field screaming if we hit the ball, or cheering someone on to run home, and yelling at someone in the outfield to catch the ball.              
Sometimes we took a walk with my brothers up a long hill, to a place we called the witches house. The house is still vivid in my mind, covered in thickets of ivy, the yard overgrown with weeds and trees. It was probably abandoned, but as kids that thought never entered our minds. Besides, my brothers told us it was the witches house and our brothers never lied. 
Did they? 
We certainly didn't think so back then.
 We walked up the hill closer and closer to the house until someone’s imagination spooked us.
“Look there she is!” someone yelled. We raced down that hill, like the devil himself chased us.

It was a simpler time of life filled with memories of family togetherness. We managed to live without all the new electronics. I’m sure modern day children with their wide screen televisions, surround sound, cable or satellite dish, VCRs, DVDs, computers and nintendos can’t imagine life without them.

What have they missed I wonder? Where are their imaginations? Can they even imagine television with only three channels and signed off at midnight. Can they comprehend life without MTV, twenty-four hour programming and hundreds of channels. Has progress squashed the minds of our young people?

Probably not, now they have to figure out how to combat the evil doer on their x -box.  They are a different breed of children. Their lives, unlike ours, are involved in technical things.

I think back to memories of days before the magic box came along like a thief in the night and stole family life, and progress created individuals instead of unity.  I think back to a time when we gathered on the floor in front of the radio and played games. While we listened to our favorite programs, our imaginations played out the scenes in our minds. I remember many evenings spent in front of that radio listening to the Cleveland Indians in the 1954 World Series.

Ah, yes, I enjoy the memories of a simpler time. Before the magic box, when fun, love, and imagination abounded.

Strange, realistic visions and dreams invade Rebecca Brennan’s mind. When she experiences someone’s pain, she’s determined to find out who shares her mind. Her search leads to a small town filled with 
Victorian homes and interesting people and puts her life in danger.

To learn more about Roseanne's and all of her Books We Love books visit her Books We Love page

Friday, May 15, 2015

Black and White and Shifters all over ... by Michelle Lee

Hello all!  Michelle Lee - back again with some advice for authors who are writing outside of their knowledge set.

What is it you might ask?  It's really very simple ...

And it will make your life so much easier in the end run ...

And keep those 'troll' reviewers from having something to tear you apart about ...

Ready for it?  Here I go ... it's a wonderful things called FACT CHECK.

That's right!  Check facts before you use them.  Simple right?

If you are writing a historical - you fact check.

If you are not in law enforcement, and you want to write a suspense story - you fact check.

Right?  Right - I know you do your due diligence and the absolute best you can.

Yet sometimes common misconceptions still slip in anyways. Right?  Come one, we know they do. I think part of the reasons why so many slip by us, to grind on other people's nerves, is that we have so very many misconceptions in our common culture.  Especially when it comes to certain topics.

Now what got me going on my pet peeve tangent here?  Well - despite the whole knowing you need to fact check when it comes to historicals, and suspense, and all the other various genres - a lot of writers seem to miss the concept when it comes to the basics of biology and, gee, science.  Why? Probably because of an honest belief they have a handle on it.

As a biologist however - they jump out at me and can truly ruin a good story.  Today I am going to focus on the big cats.  Why?  Because of some of the shifter stories I have read recently (which is what resulted in this post).

Here's the first one ...

Black Panthers

There is no such thing as a species called a black panther.  It is instead a collective term for a big cat with a genetic caused melanistic (or pigment coloration of black) cat.  (This is not however what causes black household cats - I am talking only of the big cats).

So what is the correct term?  Well there are two ...

A Black Leopard and a Black Jaguar - depending upon which species of cat you are referring to.

Let's start with a black leopard.

Now for the black jaguar.

So how to tell them apart?

Well in their normal coloration, it is easiest by comparing their size, facial structure and their spot patterns.  Jaguars are a little stockier than leopards,  Their faces are fuller, but have a more streamlined jaw.

A common misconception with the black leopards and jaguars is that they lacks spots.  But it you look closely, you can still see them.    Just like their normal colored counterparts, their spots are also different - even though both have rosettes.  With a jaguar, there is an additional black spot in the middle of the rosette that is lacking in the leopard spots.

Here are a couple of info-graphics for comparison.

Here's a chart with a Cheetah's spots for comparison.

So if you are going to write about one of the big cats that has a black coat - pick one!  Jaguar or Leopard. 

Now for my second big cat misconceptions ... 

White v Albino

A white tiger is not the same as an albino tiger.

There is a normal pigmentation to tiger, resulting in a orange-brown color or cinnamon with a black strip pattern.  Then there is a mutation that results in the lack of the orange-brown-cinnamon pigment, while the stripes of black are still present.  This results in a white tiger or in some cases a snow-white tiger, and it is only found in the Bengal species of tiger.

An albino tiger is one who lacks all melanin, resulting in a lack of pigmentation. Quick way to tell?  Presence of black stripes and those gorgeous blue eyes.  Albino tigers have no pigment at all - so they lack stripes and their eyes are red or pink.

This is a goo side-by-side composite image.  First is the normal pigmentation, then the white tiger, and finally an albino tiger.

The same is true for lions.  They can have a normal coloration, a 'blond' coloration, or be albino.  The blond-white does not mean albino.

Pictured here is a normal colored lioness and a white/blond lioness.  Notice the eye color and hints of pigmentation, especially in the ears - not an albino.

What about a black tiger or lion?

So far, there have been no reputable reports of black lions.  There is one photoshopped image that keep floating around.  But when you consider the habitat of the lion, it makes sense that if there was a gene for melanism, it would quickly be selected against.  So while at this time it is considered to be possible, it has not been documented by a reputable source.

As for black tigers ... that is the results of a pseudo-melanistism, where the black stripes are so close together, they appear to be melanistic, but are in fact, not.  They have the normal orange-brown or cinnamon pigments, it is just expressed in small bands.

Well that conclused today's pet peeve and science lesson. So what is the take home?  Simply put - just because it is part out our common culture does not mean it is correct. So due your due diligence and fact check - even if you think you understand it.

~  Michelle

If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy this Bio. Fun Fact filled post ...

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Something has been missing from my life…by Sheila Claydon

Something has been missing from my life for a long time but I haven’t been able to figure out what it is. Now I know. I’d lost my writing companion.

Anyone who has visited my website at will know that I lost my beloved dog Newton nearly 3 years ago. It was very sudden and he was far too young, and after the heartbreak was over we agreed no more dogs. Why? Well we have friends and family who we visit in Australia, Canada and America, and we also like to travel abroad with our friends, so having a dog is impractical. Obviously. We are also getting older which means that having a puppy is impractical. Obviously. So if we ever think about getting another dog (which we are not going to do) it will have to be an adult who is already house-trained and well away from its teenage years. Obviously.

That was last month’s conversation. This month we welcomed Elfie to our home. She’s eight weeks old, cries when we put her to bed, and has to be taken outside a dozen times a day. Totally impractical. Obviously.

After only 4 days, however, the gap in my life has closed. Elfie is already a constant companion who likes nothing better than to lie on a blanket at my feet while I’m writing just as long as I give her some attention when I take a break. Soon we’ll be able to go walking together too, to explore all the places Newton loved so much. Places that have featured in some of my books. 

In wind and rain, as well as in sunshine, the wild beach, the woods and the sand hills will become part of my daily life again. I’ll no longer be the fair weather walker I’ve become in recent years. Walking with Elfie will inspire new books too. I have my writing companion again.

The books inspired by my walks with Newton can be found at  and Mending Jodie’s Heart (Book I of the When Hearts Meet trilogy) is set amongst the sand hills and woods that we walked together.
When musician Marcus Lewis buys the derelict farmhouse next to Jodie’ Eriksson's riding school he doesn’t know whether to be amused or irritated by her angry reaction to his plans. Then her sister Izzie visits him and makes things a whole lot worse…or is it better…because now he has an excuse to see Jodie again. Although, when he sees her, it’s not exactly a meeting of minds, they do discover they have one thing in common; they both believe they know what’s best for Izzie, and for Marcus' son Luke.

It turns out they’re wrong. The children they thought they were protecting need to be set free. It’s Jodie and Marcus who have the problem; but can two broken hearts make one whole one? The battle lines that were set when they first met have long since been breached but the war won’t be over until Jodie learns how to trust again, and until Marcus allows himself to believe in his son.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Things My Mother Never Taught Me by Roseanne Dowell

Dedicated to my mother who passed away Nov. 22, 1996  

My mother never taught me about the thrill of a first kiss or the hurt of that first breakup. She never told me about the love between a man and a woman and the joy of standing at the altar vowing before God, family and friends to love him forever.

My mother never taught me about the emotions of holding my newborn child in my arms for the first time, or the feeling of responsibility for their lives. She never told me about the overwhelming sense of awe I'd feel knowing that this child came from within me. That I created the life, nourished it for nine long months, and now had to nourish and care for it in the real world. She never taught me I'd feel this amazing sense of awe with each child.

My mother never taught me the feeling of swelled pride at watching my children take their first steps or hearing her first words.

She never taught me about the combination of pain and pride I would feel as I watched my children waltz off to school looking so grown up and yet so young. So independent. She never told me how I’d feel when they came home and said “But Miss so and so said it was better to do it this way.” and the realization that I was no longer the sole influence in their life.

My mother never taught me about the fear of having a child in the hospital undergoing tests by a neurologist after a normal eye exam discovered a problem or sitting in an emergency room while your child undergoes an emergency appendectomy. She never told me how difficult it would be to watch your child suffer through typical childhood illnesses, stitches or broken bones.

She never taught me about the fear of letting your child go down the street to play or crossing the street for the first time by themselves.

My mother never taught me about dealing with my daughter’s first crush and heartbreak and lost love. She never told me how hard it would be to watch my children struggle to get good grades or make the team or try to fit in.

She never taught me about the pride of watching my child march down the auditorium to receive their diploma or hearing about their first job. My mother never told me of the deep fear I’d experience when they learned to drive or getting that phone call that told you they had an accident.

My mother never taught me of the excitement of their engagement and the trials of planning a wedding. She never told me of the happiness and pride I’d feel watching them walk down the aisle to stand beside the one they would vow to spend their life with or the worry that this child was now totally independent of you.

She never taught me of the sense of wonder I’d feel holding my newborn grandchildren for the first time.

She never explained that these feelings of worry and concern never go away when my children grew up. My mother didn't tell me the worries would only strengthen as my children married and had children of their own. That I’d have more to love and worry about.

She never told me was how it feels to be a mother.  She never told me about the joy, pain, and overwhelming awe of being a mother and grandmother. I now know why my mother never taught me these things.  Because these thing have to be experienced to understand the wonderful sense of being a mother.  

But the biggest thing my mother never taught me was how I’d feel when she was no longer here to talk with, to share my feelings with after she passed from this world. She never taught me how to deal with the sense of loss at losing a loved one or the pain deep within that I would carry through the rest of my days. She never told me how much I’d miss her.

Roseanne's books can be found at  Amazon

Forced to stay in a nursing home while undergoing therapy, seventy-two year old, Mike Powell refuses to get out of bed, won't cooperate with the nurses, and won’t take his medicine. At least not until he meets Elsa. The tiny, spunky little Elsa sparks new life into him. 

Seventy year old, Elsa -left in the home while her son takes a family vacation - joins forces with Mike, setting the home on its heels, and later discovers deception and fraud. Can they find happiness together? 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Magical Birthday Wishes by Cheryl Wright

I recently discovered a new technique for colouring backgrounds. It's very quick and easy, and is done using shaving brushes!

To try this technique, I went to my local $2 shop and bought a couple of brushes. The above card was my first attempt, and as you can see, the pink came out a little streaky. I have since come to discover you need a very light hand when doing this technique. Subsequent cards were much better.

This was an extremely quick and simple card to make, and after this one, I ended up making four more. All five will be going to Combat Cards in the very near future.

This card uses the following stamps:

Greeting:  Gina K Designs (from a very old set)
Stars:  Star Cluster by Lavinia Stamps
Main image: Mushrooms from Stamp-It Australia

I hope you've enjoyed this card. Thanks for reading, and I'll see you next time!


My website: 
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Titillating preview by J.C. Kavanagh

WINNER Best Young Adult Book 2016, The Twisted Climb I've been prepping for Autumn book signings and excited to meet new and...