July 16, 2017

New Hampshire and Margaret Porter

I’m not a native of this state in which I live. By moving here, I returned to the place my English ancestors settled in the mid-1630s. Unlike most immigrants, who stopped first in the Massachusetts colony, my forbears sailed directly to the New Hampshire coast. For me, this fact is a point of pride. My husband and I spent our honeymoon here one blazingly colourful autumn, and for many years we were seasonal residents—at our vintage cottage on Lake Winnipesaukee—before making a permanent move. I suspect those early settlers would be pleased by our decision to re-locate. Here are some of the reasons:

Seasonal variety. New Hampshire boasts four distinct major seasons, and even a few lesser ones. Winter feels long and can be extremely cold, but when the snow isn’t falling the sun gleams down upon the white landscape from a brilliant blue sky. With the thaw comes maple sugaring time, closely followed by mud season. Spring delivers pastels, and beautiful aromas when the lilac (our state flower) blooms in May. Summer means strawberries and kaleidoscope colours in gardens and wildflower meadows, and blueberries—wild or cultivated. Autumn harvest provides a abundance of apples and pumpkins, and the vivid oranges and reds of the trees—our state is 85 per cent forested—for which New England is rightly renowned.

Geography. It’s no exaggeration to say we have it all here. Mountains, lakes, rivers, streams, waterfalls, and a seacoast with rocky sections and vast sandy beaches. Our tiny state is divided into seven regions named for distinguishing features: Great North Woods (forests), White Mountains (peaks), Lakes, Dartmouth/Lake Sunapee Region, Monadnock (mountain), Merrimack Valley (river), Seacoast. Our border with Canada makes for an easy international trip!

Recreation. Whatever the season, there’s something interesting to do. Ice castles, ice fishing, and international sled dog races in the winter. Agricultural fairs and festivals in summer and autumn. One of the most popular events is the https://nhscot.org/ New Hampshire Highland Games where folk of Scottish descent and notable visitors from Scotland dance, perform feats of strength, listen to traditional music, shop, and compare kilt patterns.

Culture. For centuries artists, sculptors, musicians, novelists, and poets have been drawn to New Hampshire for inspiration and relaxation. It features in Henry David Thoreau’s travelogue A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers. Louisa May Alcott spent summers here. The http://robertfrostfarm.org/ Robert Frost Farm in Derry is open to visitors, and many of his best-loved poems originated in that locale. Poet e.e. cummings was a summertime lakeside resident. Thornton Wilder wrote the play Our Town, set in New Hampshire, during a stay at the http://www.macdowellcolony.org/ Macdowell Colony, where numerous writers have been granted a productive residency, resulting in award-winning and bestselling works. Present-day local authors include such household names as Jodi Picoult, Dan Brown, PJ O’Rourke, Janet Evanovich, Sy Montgomery, and Tomie di Paola. The http://currier.org/ Currier Museum in Manchester, the largest city, houses a world-class art collection and sponsors tours of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Zimmerman House, and the http://www.manchesterhistoric.org/millyard-museum Millyard Museum highlights the era when Amoskeag Manufacturing was the world’s largest textile factory. The twenty-six colleges and university offer an array of public programs and exhibitions to entertain and inform, as does the https://www.nhhistory.org/ New Hampshire Historical Society and similar societies in most towns, no matter how large or small. Our Native American, colonial, and Revolutionary War history are celebrated at numerous sites. I love taking our visitors on a Covered Bridges Tour—we have so many, each one unique!

Politics. New Hampshire’s State House, the capital building located in downtown Concord, has the nation’s oldest legislative chamber still being used. During my two terms as a State Representative, every time I entered the historic building—two years shy of its bicentennial—I experienced a thrill. But in the warmer months, I melted from the lack of air conditioning! With 424 members, counting the House of Representatives and the Senate, ours is the third largest legislative body in the entire English-speaking world, after the British Houses of Parliament and the U.S. Congress. It is very much a legislature made up of ordinary citizens rather than political professionals, and close to and responsive to the needs of the people in cities, towns, villages, farms, factories, and schools. Our First in the Nation Primary in Presidential election years is mixed blessing. There’s really no year at all when presidential hopefuls aren’t trying to gain traction among New Hampshire voters! It’s unusual for a resident of this state not to have met one—and usually many more—of the top tier candidates before entering the voting booth on Election Day!

Quality of life. All the above adds up to the quality for me, but New Hampshire is nationally recognised as the Most Livable State, one of the Healthiest States, and one of the Safest States. And for the tax-averse, we have no income tax and no sales taxes.

Admittedly not one of my twelve published novels is set in New Hampshire, but I’ve got plenty of story ideas—so it’s only a matter of time. If you haven’t visited the Granite State, I do hope you will, and I can assure you of a very warm welcome!

MARGARET PORTER is the author of A Pledge of Better Times and eleven more British-set historical novels for various publishers, including several bestsellers and award-winners. Many foreign language editions have been published. She studied British history in the U.K. and afterwards worked in theatre, film and television. Margaret returns annually to Great Britain to research her books. She and her husband live in New Hampshire with their two dogs, dividing their time between a book-filled house in a small city and a waterfront cottage located on one of the region’s largest lakes. More information is available at her website, www.margaretporter.com . 

Leave a comment for your chance to win these prizes: an autographed copy of A Pledge of Better Times with bookmark, and a selection of handmade maple sugar candies from a New Hampshire maple sugaring operation. Please be sure to provide link to contact so you can because, if you win, I'll need to be able to find you for your mailing address!

July 9, 2017

A Rare Side of Nevada and Las Vegas with Author, Kay Phoenix

Tony Bennett serenaded me as a child.  I saw Siegfried and Roy before they were mega-famous, and now I see them at the gas station because they live nearby.  I know people that dance in and work on Cirque Du Soliel shows.  And, if I happen to see someone dressed like an Avenger cross the street in front of me, I don’t even blink an eye.  The first time I went to California on vacation, I remember asking the nice lady at the check-in desk what show their hotel featured (we were probably at a Travelodge or something).  
That’s Vegas for ya.  And, it’s my hometown.  Nevada is my home state, and although I admit to hating the summers when it’s 115 degrees outside, I kinda like it here.  Where else could I live that has so many world class restaurants and entertainment nearby, and such gorgeous National parks and recreation areas just as close? Plus, the only harsh weather we have to worry about is the sun. 

When I grew up I ended up working in the gaming industry.  I was a graphic designer and I worked for a casino supply company designing signage, slot machine graphics, and anything else that was flashy and would make the tourists want to drop their hard earned money on the slight chance they might walk away rich. 

Honestly though, Vegas is so much more than the Strip of casinos that line the center of the valley.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been on planes coming home from vacation to hear someone talk about all the “inside information” they have on how to win the slots (hint: there aren’t any magic formulas).  Or, where the best buffets are (arguable).  I usually prefer to keep my mouth shut because if I mention I’m from here, inevitably they will talk my leg off the rest of the flight.  

If you’ve been here, I hope that you’ve spent some time away from the Strip, and have taken in some of the beauty the Nevada desert has to offer.  Red Rock Canyon is a favorite, and it’s the closest spot to the city, and the one that most of the tourists visit. Then, there’s Lake Mead Conservation Area, which, interestingly enough, is actually patrolled by the coast guard because of Hoover Dam.  Valley of Fire is near, as well as Death Valley national Park.  Further north is Great Basin National Park.  There’s also a little place called Area 51 nearby, if you’ve heard of it (or even if you haven’t- hehe).  Side note on Area 51:  if you’ve lived in Vegas for any amount of time you will undoubtedly come across at least one and maybe a bunch of people that have worked there.  Funny for a place that doesn’t exist. 

Northern Nevada is full of wide open spaces, many ranches and the beauty of the true west.  Lake Tahoe, Reno and Carson City are vastly different than Las Vegas not only in climate but also in population and culture.  

Last year, some local writers formed a group called The Sin City Romance Writers.  We have published an anthology “Decades of Love” basing each novella on a different decade in Vegas’ history.  We plan on having several more anthologies out soon, each one providing Vegas as a backdrop to the tales.  

I mostly write contemporary and paranormal romances.  I enjoy keeping things real as I’ve found that reality is often stranger than fiction (and especially true if you live in Vegas!).  My book, “Steele and Stone”, from The Wild Rose Press was recently a finalist in the Holt Medallion contest.  By the time this blog comes out, I’ll know whether or not I was a winner.  

I hope that if you ever venture to Vegas for the first or fiftieth time, you’ll plan to take a few days to visit everything else you can find outside of the strip and toward the state lines in all directions.  You’ll fall in love with my home state, just as I have.  It’s rugged, solid and beautiful, just like the wild mustangs that still run free in its lonely mountains.  

Ms. Phoenix is a rare bird herself...a lifelong resident of Las Vegas, Nevada. She belongs to Las Vegas Romance Writers and has served on the board for several years. She is also a member of Romance Writers of America with PAN status.

Prior to writing, Kay was a Graphic Artist for fifteen years in the casino industry and holds degrees in both Graphic Arts and Psychology. In her spare time she enjoys hiking, traveling and photography. She is also involved in several Las Vegas non-profits, and is the current Chairman of a popular, long-running, local art show.

Kay has been blessed to be able to travel many places, which inspired her to host a weekly author spotlight called “Midweek Escapes” on her blog. It features guest author’s favorite vacation destinations, their travel tips, and, of course, information about their book releases and occasional giveaways.

Please visit her website at www.KayPhoenix.com.

Comment and I’ll pick TWO winners.  Yes, TWO.  I’ll send you a book and some Vegas swag. Good Luck! 
(all info provided by author)

July 2, 2017

Here’s What’s Happening in Nebraska: An Author Trio: Annette Snyder, Toni Sweeney and Loree Peery

                                                   Annette Snyder Shares:  _______________________

Garage sale season is on!  It’s a great time of the year to score something I never knew I needed for a price I never thought I’d get for that which I didn’t need!  Or so my husband says.  He forgets about my awesome plant holder I scored,  our fantastic basement furniture I picked up, never mind the cast iron towel rods I now use as curtain tie-backs or the 1959 dining room set I got for $400. Ever since my son-in-law and co-conspirator, Danny, scored Italian Marble we pulled out of a soon-to-be-demolished house and put it in my backyard which we will eventually use to build fire pits, my husband hasn’t been on board.  I have faith that once we get those fire pits finished, he’ll be right back to sharing my enthusiasm for the used. 

Here’s a little piece I penned about one of my favorite pastimes here in Nebraska:
I am a Queen of Garage Sales, a self-bestowed title awarded while fitting a used tiara from a long table of second hand items.  The crown, fashioned of high quality, gold tone plastic, studded with genuine artificial pink jewels priced at pennies was purchased only until bartering the abdicating queen down.  I wore it faithfully one hot Saturday through my multi-family kingdom while knighting passersby with my long stemmed daisy scepter plucked from the yard of a peasant.  When my companion, the Duchess of Second-hand, informed me in language un-befitting monarchs,  how I reminded her of the village idiot, I relinquished my crown to a five-year-old future princess at the next processional stop.  

Jumping in my coach, its giant cargo area fitting of a king sized bed, Duchess of Second-Hand and I preceded a brigade of carriages touring the kingdom searching for royal treasures.
I bestowed my prescience among one Lady’s lane. Genuine silver plated platters lined buffet tables as I approached and asked, “How much for this?”  I held up a shiny engraved platter that would serve well at the next royal ball.  

“One hundred pence.” Lady of the fortress replied. 

I examined the genuine silver plated piece and knew one hundred pence was far too high a price to pay.  “I offer ten.” I searched my satchel and paid in gold coins. 

I found some fine antique bottles.  They were glass, two feet tall, the undamaged label on each bottle read, Windsor Canadian, and they were marked one pence each.  I knew those bottles were worth far more than the asking price.  I considered my royal standing.  Should I pay the meager price for the antique glass whiskey bottles I knew came from long ago pub advertisement and walk away with the usury of the day or tell the merchant she was dramatically under pricing?  Because I felt overly noble, I inquired, “My Lady-Do you know what these are?”

“My Lord acquired those bottles during a charge to the west.”

“Dear Lady, I am aware of these fine artifacts and, I will be happy to purchase them for three rubles each, however, they’re worth much more.  I’ve seen them sold in a prior kingdom.  I will purchase them for the price you ask but I’d rather see them sold for their worth.”  

Lady of Lane immediately moved the bottles beneath a tapestry and I immediately kicked myself with the point of my button up boot.  

The Duchess and I continued on to the next stronghold which led to a desirable wooden throne, two cathedrae and a side table with an authentic faux wood top.  Constructed from original wine barrels and rich Corinthian vinyl in bright diamond shapes, I knew the furniture would look delightful in the dungeon.   I’d been searching the empire for just such furnishings since we remodeled the castle.  It would coordinate with my velvet portrait of the Spanish Queen sporting a bright red costume with massive cleavage and the lovely pictures of tropical parrots made from antique feathers, gifted from a visiting dignitary.  

As I examined the trove, the merchant greeted me with a smile fitting of a peasant wanting gold. “Are you interested in this collection?”

“Well, sir, I do take a particular liking to this except the wood clashes with the royal architecture.”  

“I’m asking two hundred and twenty five schillings.”

With the purchase of the priceless silver tray, the procurement of the coronet I bestowed upon the new princess and the pence I would need to refuel my carriage, I did not have the required price.  “I offer you 180-that’s all I have.”

The merchant accepted my offer and my gold. 

Just then, the Lord and Lady from across the way arrived.  “How much for the furniture, Sir?”

The merchant seemed to frown at the thought he could have haggled a higher price. 

 “Take your leave sir, I’ve already purchased.  But I could use some help loading the throne into my carriage.”  It felt bizarre asking for help with my seized prize when I usurped Sir of Neighborhood from the purchase but the King was at the castle, the Royal Children were enjoying the sun of the royal water park, the merchant was far too into his years.   I knew there was no way in kingdom come that Duchess and I were lifting it on the carriage without a wench. The weight was upwards of three horses, two sows and fifteen chickens.  

Under great regret, Lady and Sir of Neighborhood, helped. I did feel a bit of guilty as I whipped away in my metal horse. My  redemption?   I made a new ally in the Lady of Antique Pub Bottles.
Upon return to the castle, the King said, “You purchased bowling alley furniture?” 

“No Sire!  This will look lovely gracing our new dungeon.  With that Billboard we pillaged from the Royal Grandmother, the picture of the Spanish Bride and those dramatic feather Parrots, this cask furniture will match our antiquities.”

“My Queen, you are a hoarder.”   The King walked away from the carriage shaking his head. 

“Wait Sire!  You have to help me unload this.  Its weight is that of three horses, two sows and fifteen chickens.”

“It always is,” the king grumbled. 

I summoned Queen Mother to view my treasures while the King, still grumbling, looked on.  Queen Mother said, “What price did you pay?”

I relayed the terms of conquest.

Queen Mother said, “What vexes you King?  I saw this very throne in another kingdom in the empire of Iowa.  It wasn’t in nearly this fine a condition and the main throne alone was 300 florins.  You got the throne, the two side chairs and the table for a fine price.” 

Her statement failed to stop the King’s harsh growl.  However, as the Queen, I’ve given myself amnesty to empire sales without objection of the King. If the royal urge strikes, I scour domain publications for such opportunities and, if I'm not taking audience, I hop in the carriage to conquer another block. 

Learn all about me and my work on this blog or visit my website for more information. http://annettesnyder.atspace.com/  

I’m offering a prize to someone who leaves a comment.  One lucky winner will get a signed copy of a novel of their choice from my book list, a Keep Nebraska Beautiful Tote and a Spa Bath Basket.  Leave a form of contact in your comment to win!   You can find all my books right here, visit my website with the link above or use the easy click tabs up top! 

 _______________Tony V. Sweeney Says:___________________

In the winter, it’s best to stay inside, warm and dry, away from snow and below zero temp.  That’s

when I do a good portion of my writing. It’s a great deal quieter then, also. Then I transport myself to the planet Felida and indulge in some deep space hi-jinks with my favorite space opera hero, Sinbad sh’en Singh. I’ve just completed the last novel in the series The Adventures of Sinbad, which was released on June 15 by Class Act Books.
Sinbad’s world is a far cry from Lincoln, Nebraska, but occasionally he has the same problems as mere Earthpeople do.

With the onset of warm weather, the city of Lincoln gets busy…road-work, renovations, landscaping…all has to be done before the weather turns back to winter and temperature extremes prevent outside work. At present, there are 24 road projects going on in Lincoln, a good many of them around the capitol, a block from where I live.  This occasionally makes it difficult to get anywhere. Our apartment building is being re-painted and trees are being cut down and replaced with decorative boulders and ornamental native grasses and shrubbery.

No garage sales here, or people tending their gardens or flower beds, but the hum of riding mowers from landscaping companies fill the air as does the buzz of power tools, with an occasional yap of a dog as he and his master go for a walk around the capitol.
A few blocks away, one of Lincoln’s beauty sites, the Sunken Gardens, is now in full-bloom with hundreds of plants and flowers, as well as a swimming pool-sized koi pond complete with cattails and waterlilies. Across the road from it, a 12-foot memorial fountain flows with water into an even larger pool. This and the capitol building itself will be filled with both townies and visitors once the weather stabilizes.

That’s when it’s time to abandon the keyboard for a while and get outside into the sunshine!

Tony writes sci-fi, horror, fantasy, and western adventures with romance thrown in. So far, she has around 72 novels published as well as numerous short stories. She also writes romances under the pseudonym Icy Snow Blackstone. Check out her video trailers to learn more about her books on  Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tvsweeney

Follow her on Twitter: @ToniVSweeney to stay in the loop.

All entries in The Adventures of Sinbad are available in paperback from the publisher’s website, www.classactbooks.com As well as on amazon.com.

                                   Loree Peery Offers:                                    
From my acreage front porch I see a rock and flower garden to the left with a field in the background. Out front are more flowers and rocks. To the right are trees. Beyond our driveway is a short jaunt to Lincoln. P.S.  The “garden” picture is a few years old. This year’s corn is higher than my waist. My dad used to say it’d be a good crop “if corn was knee-high by the fourth of July.”

Can you say that word ten times fast? You’ll know it after hearing it four times: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eVVHs3aTjP0
As of March 1, 2017, the state of Nebraska is now 150 years old. Since we live just outside the city limits to the state’s capital, access to Lincoln’s festivities is a short drive for us.

One afternoon we toured the Nebraska History Museum.
The highlight for us was perusing the work of artist Todd Williams. I wanted to stay on that floor and view each painting a second time. I grew up on a farm in Antelope County, so alphabetically, we found the painting of the Neligh Mills right away. My husband is from Grand Island, which is in Hall County. He exhibited patience. If his home county was York, he would have wanted to start the tour at the bottom of the alphabetical display.
The scheduled tour for the paintings is listed at https://ne150.org/events-programs/painting-the-legacy
Statewide events and programs for Nebraska’ sesquicentennial can be found here: https://ne150.org/programs-events

Lincoln is rich in its offerings of entertainment, no matter what your interests. The arts, family fun, history, sports, entertainment, the vital Haymarket area, and we even have the National Museum of Rollerskating. 

In June, Annette mentioned the writers in Mississippi. Nebraska has a wealth of writers as well. I just discovered Nicholas Sparks was born in Omaha.

A lifelong Nebraskan, Christian author, I have lived most of my life in the country, where I feel grounded in my sense of place. I learned to read when I was four and have devoured books since. I value one-on-one time with my grandchildren and love time spent with other writers. I cling to the word over-comer and the knowledge I have victory in Jesus. When I consider being set apart as a child of God, I am humbled. My Frivolities Series and other publications are available at Pelican Book Group http://tinyurl.com/kwz9enk  


I'm offering one lucky winner a print copy of Touches of Time.  Make sure to leave a form of contact so I can reach you if you're the winner!