Mea Maxima Culpa. To borrow another cliché, what you don't know will kill you--or another, the devil is in the details. But you have to know the details. At least I now have a clue what they are. My book, Richard Berkeley's Bride, isn't up for pre-order yet. I'll have to let you know when it is. But the book will be up for sale on June 15th. That much I do know. This is my fault. Sorry. It's those darned pesky details, you know.
It's true! It will be available on Amazon.com in the Kindle bookstore, or, you can visit my page on Amazon Author Central to pre-order it now.
My bio says it all...no, not the one to your right. That's all about me, here...on Tuesday's Child. (I'm serious. This page should really have been called Thursday's Child. Just sayin'. Bummer.) No, you'll have to do some searching to find the next bio. That is, the bio attached to this book.
Do you know what authors think about in the middle of the night? They think about questions, such as "how would a poor little rich girl feel, who'd spent her years from eight to nineteen growing up in a ducal household in England and Scotland . . . only be to be told she was returning to her father's home in Charlestowne of the South Carolina colony to be married to the man her father had chosen. And, on the day she returned, she discovered her marriage would take place in twelve days! Disaster? Yes . . . it certainly might be. It might also be a chance for a happily ever after.
You know what? Alexandra must have been a Thursday's Child. She had far to go . . . just like me.
Ps-s-t. Guess what? Dreams Within Dreams will appear on Amazon Kindle on August 15th. I hope you'll like it, too.
Okay...so this isn't a picture of a woman. But (you won't be amazed by this piece of information) I couldn't find one. Nope. Not a one. Anyway, there was once this crazy woman who wrote historical romance. (The writing of historical romance wasn't what made her crazy. Her husband contends she was always that way.) She also worked as a registered nurse--but that wasn't what made her crazy, either, at least not too much. Well, one day, while downloading e-mail (a usually innocuous task) she managed to download malware onto her computer. Like a living thing, the monster took over every document on her computer. And there was no way to retrieve anything...unless she wanted to go onto the Dark Web (yeah, RIGHT!) and pay the people who'd committed the crime an unstated amount of money to get everything back. Say again? How was she to pay for it? With her credit card? (FAT chance.) The alternative was to wipe her computer clean, reload the operating system and pray that everything was on her external hard drive. But guess what? Her external hard drive had been plugged into her computer at the time, and it was infected, too. Had she saved anything on a thumb drive? Oh-h, no. Had she backed up anything on The Cloud? No to that question, too.
Did despair overwhelm her? Heck, no! (Well, I should say, it threatened, but she overcame the dark emotion.)
Instead, her two absolutely MARVELOUS critique partners, Cathy MacRae and Dawn Marie Hamilton, came through with copies of all the chapters of her latest book they'd critiqued (which was all of them). So the author put them side-by-side and compiled their critiques, then put the compiled version side-by-side with a blank document and rewrote the story.
She'd had this wonderful former publisher, too. The publisher had saved the first three books she'd written and published through Turquoise Morning Press, along with all the art work and the document reverting all rights, including art work, back to the author. Such a relief.
Everything the woman lost had been recovered--at least, everything of importance.
You'll never guess who that woman was. (Or maybe you already have....) It's true. That crazy woman was me. (See the Picture at the top right of this blog. It wasn't what I looked like on that awful day.) The dirty deed happened last July, and the books are now almost ready to begin uploading them once again. So, if you loved the original series, check back with me in a few weeks and I'll have some good news for you. Ditto, for those of you who want to read them for the first time!
Aren't these little wildflowers pretty? This picture was taken up at Cades Cove, not far from here. Well, to be honest, we haven't seen snow for several weeks. What you can't hear is my sigh of relief. Daylight Savings Time arrived and everyone I know survived it--whether we thought we would or not. Easter past us by last Sunday--and it was a lovely day for the holiday. I didn't fix a ham--or even Cornish hens. I made Pork Chops Lombardy and they were fabulous. (Even if I do say so myself....)
Now I'm looking forward to May Day. Do you know anything about it? We celebrated it when I was a child. Everybody had at least one nice neighbor who actually liked little kids. So they got our May baskets. I always made two of them and pounded on my own front door so my mother could act surprised when I ripped her from what ever task she'd been at when the door knocking occurred. She probably heard me giggling and tried hard not to ignore it. She probably also recognized her roses that were stuffed inside the little cone-shaped basket. Anyway, we had a nice next door neighbor lady, too. Mrs. Boydston liked all of us, too--at least she acted as if she did. Poor women, Others liked them as much as I did. So they spent their morning answering the door and acting surprised. (Like neither of them could hear us giggling.)
By the way, this was the very same mother who made my brother and me watch while she cut a switch off the elm tree to whack us with when we misbehaved. She was lucky none of these episodes ever occurred around either Mother's Day or May Day. I wonder if there was some significance to that???
So, back to May baskets. Ours weren't professionally done. We used construction paper and blunt-tipped scissors to fashion them. I liked pink construction paper--which worked out well since a lot of the flowers were the first roses that bloomed in the spring. And they were invariably pink. You've seen pictures of this same May basket here in the past, but I think it's pretty so it's unlikely the last time. Needless to say, none of our baskets had pretty pink ribbons for handles. I would shudder to think how grubby those would have been after having been dragged home on the school bus by a bunch of little children. It was a nice little project, though. Except for my mother's denuded rose bushes that supplied all the roses.
This isn’t really a Christmas story, but since Christmas is a time of miracles, I thought you might enjoy hearing of just one of them—or hearing it again, if you’ve heard it before.
You may know that I grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico. My family moved there when I was eight years old. I have a distinct memory of my dear father telling us that we would see cowboys and Indians when we arrived there. We had television back then. (I’m not that old, thank you very much!) Ahem.... I watched Saturday afternoon westerns like every other little kid in America. The Cisco Kid, Roy Rogers, Hopalong Cassidy and the Lone Ranger and Tonto were weekly fare. And, if that weren’t sufficient, Princess Summerfall Winterspring appeared on Howdy Doody. So I knew all about my cowboys and Indians.
In those days, there was no interstate leading through the city. You drove into town on U.S. Route 66 and went right through the middle of downtown. We made it clear to the other side of town and I hadn’t seen even one Indian, much less a single hitching post to indicate the presence of a cowboy—much less, his horse. WTF??? So of course I asked the Font of All Wisdom in my family. Dad always had the answers. But Dad’s answer was NOT cool. Dad had failed me. It seemed that, by 1956, cowboys and Indians drove pickups into town
What does all this have to do with the Miraculous Staircase? Almost nothing except to tell you how gullible I was as a child. (It's my dear husband's contention that I still am.) So, what of it? I’m a fiction writer. I can be gullible and it looks like part of the persona.
A long time ago, in 1610 to be exact, La Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francisco de Asís (the Royal Town of the Holy Faith of St. Francis of Assisi) was founded and designated the capital of the province of Nuevo México by Don Juan de Oñate. As you may assume—you should if you haven’t already done so—a lot of history occurred between 1610 and 1851. That was the year Jean Baptiste Lamy arrived. In 1853 he became the bishop of New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado. He built Saint Francis Cathedral and brought the Catholic Faith to the people of the Southwest territories. Bishop Lamy sought to bring an educational system to this new territory and began a letter-writing plea for priests, brothers and nuns to come to the territory to preach and teach. The first acceptance of his general plea was from the Sisters of Loretto.
In 1852, the sisters arrived in Santa Fe, and opened the Academy of Our Lady of Light (Loretto) in 1853. Despite smallpox, tuberculosis, leaky mud roofs and even a brush with rowdy Confederate Texans during the Civil War, their school flourished. Through tuition for the girls’ schooling, donations and from the sisters’ own inheritances from their families, they built their school and chapel. Bishop Lamy brought architect Antoine Mouly and his son from Paris to Santa Fe to design and build, not only St. Francis Cathedral, but also to build the Loretto School and chapel. Monsieur Mouly set his exquisite chapel, resembling King Louis IX’s Sainte-Chappelle in Paris, at the end of the Santa Fe Trail.
The small chapel, only 25 feet by 75 feet, and reaching a height of 85 feet, was completed in 1878—that is, all except for a staircase to reach the choir loft, twenty-two feet above the chapel floor. An error had been made in the chapel’s design. After consulting with territorial carpenters, the sisters learned that there was no solution to the problem of providing one without interfering with the seating space inside the small chapel. The carpenters suggested using a ladder.
Instead, to find a different solution, the nuns decided that their only recourse was to pray. They made a Novena to St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters. On the ninth and final day of prayer, a scruffy, gray-headed stranger appeared at the door looking for work. With him he brought a donkey and a toolbox full of tools. The man offered to build the necessary staircase, but he required two things in return. Mother Magdalene, the superior, was never to reveal the name of the carpenter and he wanted to be left in seclusion while he worked. (It’s an interesting fact that, even upon her deathbed, the mother superior refused to divulge the carpenter’s identity.)
His work was completed quickly, according to the sisters’ reports. Several of them cracked the chapel door open and watched him, but nobody ever spoke with the man and nobody ever disturbed his work. He used a saw, a T-square and a hammer, but no other tools. He worked continuously and, when he was finished, he sought out Mother Magdalene to approve his work. During the sisters’ excitement of viewing their new marvel, the carpenter disappeared—and never sent them a bill.
Architects, carpenters and disbelievers all wondered exactly who the craftsman was and where he’d purchased his materials. Every lumber yard in New Mexico was approached and questioned, but to this day, nobody has ever come up with an invoice. Nobody ever learned the name of the genius who designed and built the stairs to the loft, and they never identified the type of wood used to build the staircase. All they know is that it is foreign to the United States. The staircase is twenty-two feet high and has thirty-three steps forming two complete circular turns of 360 degrees each—all without a center support. There were absolutely no nails used in its construction. The entire construction is held together by wooden pegs. The hardwood is spliced in seven places on the inside and in nine on the outside. Each piece forms a perfect curve.
The Sisters of Loretto must have beamed with pride when they recalled that Saint Joseph answered their prayers and lovingly came himself to build their precious jewel.
No matter where he’d been in the world—or where he went directly afterward—my wonderful Navy husband was always home for Christmas. The first year after we were married, we spent Christmas in Vallejo, California. I didn’t do a lot of Christmas baking in those days. I confess I really didn’t know much about cooking. I know—it's shocking. I could keep us alive with the food I prepared, but I won’t rave about my marvelous culinary skills.
We lived in a place called Roosevelt Terrace—I’m thinking Teddy Roosevelt named it after himself—and the best thing you could say about it was that it had black asphalt tile floors that shone like polished mirrors after we bit the military housing bullet and actually polished the floors. (EEK!) Military housing had a regulation, at least in those days, that any resident will strip any wax off the floors before vacating the premises. The little place came with furniture for transient residents (we were only there for seven months) and our dining table and chairs were painted haze gray. (That’s the same color they use on a surface ship’s hull.) Lovely! So we “antiqued” it a cheerful green. (EEK!) Not allowed—(due to those pesky rules and regs, don’t you know). For some reason, though, the lady at the transient housing office liked us. She came for a “surprise” inspection one lovely day and gushed that the place hadn’t looked that good in years. Lucky us—since it meant we didn’t have to strip floors and repaint furniture before we left. But the place was cleaner than it had ever been since it had been built, possibly as early as sometime not long after the Civil War. In the Navy of that day, Roosevelt Terrace was not so lovingly known by the nasty little moniker of Roach Terrace. (YUCK!)
I digress. Well, back to Christmas. About ten days before Christmas we drove to the base Christmas Tree lot to pick out our tree. I’ll give you three guesses about what the trees looked like by that time. You’ll only need one. The tree was so crappy they gave us 75% off just to rid themselves of the pathetic shrub. Before we left base, we discovered a couple of large evergreen limbs that had somehow escaped from somebody’s nicer looking tree. We stopped and salvaged them and my husband—the monarch of improvisation—wired them in place on the two or three barest spots on ours. Those were the days when people started EARLY to decorate their houses and The Family Tree. They were also the days when stores tried to actually run out of ornaments before the Big Day. The pickings were slim by ten days before Christmas, needless to say. We decorated our tree with monstrously large Christmas lights, green glass balls, and icicles. It wasn’t memorable.
We spent our second Christmas in Idaho. Snow abounded. Many feet of it. Along with a couple of friends we knew, we drove up into the Teton Mountains in an ancient VW van to cut our Christmas tree. Once we arrived, my husband and our friend hopped out of the van and trudged up the slope of a hill where they’d seen a perfect tree. Do you recall Chevy Chase in Christmas Vacation? After reaching it, they realized that what they’d found was just the top of a tree—a seventy-foot-tall tree, to be precise. What do any two intrepid sailors do? They cut the thing. Happily, they left but the last ten feet. Whew. So we hauled down the mountain. What I failed to mention on the trip to find the trees was that the van had no heater. It also had a couple of holes in the floorboards. It must’ve been near zero degrees or lower outside and inside you could have flash-frozen meat. Which we just about did!
Our third Christmas was spent in New Mexico with parents. Our daughter was only seven weeks old and my husband was about to leave on his first deployment. The apartment had been packed, cleaned, and vacated in Newport News, Virginia. We left Albuquerque in April and moved to Summerville, South Carolina where we spent our fourth Christmas.
We spent our fifth Christmas in Massachusetts the following year. The snow flew just two weeks after we arrived, which was just two days after Thanksgiving. We had quarters that backed up to the flight line of a closed air force base outside of Chicopee. I unloaded boxes and put everything in its place inside of a week and began shopping and baking Christmas cookies. Dozens and dozens of them. You name it, I made it. Nürnburger, Berlinerkranzer, Springerle, Lebkuchen, Sandbakelser, shortbread, gingerbread boys, iced sugar cookies in Christmas shapes, Moravian ginger cookies, oatmeal raisin cookies, Mexican wedding cakes (though I’ve never been sure what’s Mexican about them), and my husband’s favorite chocolate chip cookies. I loved doing it. There’s something very cheery about a warm kitchen and the odor of cookies baking on a cold, snowy day. That year we brought home a Colorado blue spruce tree we’d cut at a tree farm in the countryside not far away. It was maybe the prettiest tree we’d ever had.
This year will mark our forty-fourth Christmas together. The eight-foot tree will stand in front of our floor to ceiling windows and be loaded with Christmas ornaments from every place we’ve ever lived or visited. Our daughter thinks we have too many and that I’ve taken Christmas-ornament-fanaticism to new and dizzying heights. But everything will be on the tree in just the right place and the kitchen will, once again, be warm with the sweet, spicy odor of yummy cookies wafting through the house.
And I'm joyful....
That’s how St. Patrick was known in his native Cymru (that’s Wales, in case you wondered). St. Patrick was born, in Banwen, near Castell Nedd (Neath). He was the son of a prosperous merchant who is claimed to have been a Roman citizen. But wait! The Romans left Britain in the year 410. There weren’t any left by the year of Patrick’s birth. Interesting, isn’t it. So-o, what happened next? Who provided protection against marauders after the Romans left the sceptered isle? How did Patrick suddenly get to be a saint in Ireland? Well, as it happens, it didn’t happen suddenly.
When he was around 16 years old, Patrick and his sister were captured by Irish pirates who made them slaves. A lot of Irishmen and others made a prosperous living by being pirates in those days, and they made the people they stole into slaves. As for those men who protected the shores of Britain? Well, ahem, there weren't any. St. Patrick (but of course, he wasn’t a saint at that stage) spent many years as a shepherd. Eventually he escaped and returned to Wales—which was known as Britain in those long ago days—and, after a while, made his way to Brittany where he studied and was ordained as a monk. He traveled to Rome and was ordained as a bishop after some time had passed. Afterward, Patrick returned to Ireland where he toiled on his personal mission of feeding and sheltering the hungry and poor.
Just in case you wondered about those snakes he chased out of Ireland, it’s most likely that Ireland never had any to begin with. But just in case it was you, St. Patrick, I want to offer a fervent thank you!
Isn’t this an interesting bit of history? Now aren’t you sorry you didn’t listen closer in those classes you once thought were so dull? But I almost forgot…although St. Patick had nothing to do with this, I wanted to leave you with a little Celtic blessing.
Out of the mystery and uncertainty, rose a festival of light in the midst of the darkness. Yule is the festival they celebrated and it was the time of year upon which the rest of the year pivoted.
Draw close! I will tell you a story of Yule and the Holly King. Long centuries ago, the winter’s solstice frightened people living in far northern climes. They called the winter’s solstice Bruma. The sun never rose, but if it did, it hung low above the horizon and seemed to stand still in the southern sky without moving for days on end without casting even a moment of heat. Snow covered the frozen land. Spring was far away. The abundance of summer might never come again! Oh, fearsome thought. Would the sun ever return to warm the land and bring life and plenty?
Although they invaded Scotland and Ireland, and England, and brought with them untold despair and destruction, those pirates, the Norsemen, also brought their festival of Jul and it is them we must thank for this celebration. In their language, Jul means “wheel”. It is this word that describes the wheel of the year. It is the source of our word, Yule. Because of them, we bring green trees into our homes and light the Yeel Carline, the Yule log, to burn during the entire season. Because of the Norse, we celebrate the Yule festival with the light of many candles. The Scots light bonfires and sing songs to encourage the return of the Oak King. Once burned, the ashes of their Yeel Carline are collected and scattered upon the greening fields of spring to carry it forth into the following year.
In the midst of the darkest hours we bring holly and mistletoe into our homes that was once believed to afford magical protection against all evil spirits and to shelter those tiny beings, the faeries, who inhabit them.
Now, isn’t that nice? So I’ll wish God’s blessings on each of you and all your loved ones. May He gift you with prosperity and good health. Happy Yule, to one and all! And Merry Christmas, Nollaig Chridheil, Joyeaux Noël, ¡Feliz Navidad! Frohe Weihnachten! God Jul, and Nadolig Llawen!
We have a really glorious hickory tree in front of our house. In autumn it looks like the flame from a candle. A really, really tall candle. It's about 120 feet tall. I know, I know. You've never ever heard of a hickory tree that tall, but I swear, I'm telling the truth. About eight or ten years ago we cut a lot of the oldest, tallest trees on our property--about 250 of them--and the hickory tree decided to achieve true greatness because of it! It was only a meager 100 feet (or so) tall at that time. I have to tell you that I look forward to this sight all year long. What do you think? Isn't it magnificent?
Well, I changed the picture at the top of my blog--and decided to share a few pictures of the Smoky Mountains in northeast Tennessee. There are a few from the Scottish Highlands, too. Can you really tell the difference. . .except for the ones with the castles in them, that is? The pictures from the Smoky Mountains are really quite something. There are two or three about Samhain and Halloween, too, and I couldn't leave out Thanksgiving either. Absolutely no way. So I hope you'll spend a moment or two enjoying them while you pass a bit of time with me.
Stay tuned for a scary Halloween story--or two. Thanks for visiting me. Oh, and HAPPY AUTUMN!