Small Town Genealogy by Pepper Phillips

Our small town library has a genealogy room and quite a few years ago, I started doing my husband’s family tree.  Amazingly I traced his lineage back to 1595.  Mine swam over during the Irish potato famine in the 1850’s.

The most amazing thing that I learned during this process, is that most everyone in this small town is related.  It might go back generations and generations, but somewhere the lines are intertwined, either by blood or marriage.

As I grew up all over the United States as a Navy ‘brat’ this was a new thought process for me.  Even though when I was fifteen and my mother and I drove from southern California up to Washington state, I was napping in the back of the station wagon, woke up, looked at the two street town we were passing through, and said, “I’ve been here before.”

Mother said, “No.”  I looked at the map and memorized the name of the small town.  When we got to my grandmother’s house, I asked her about it.  I lived with her one summer, and sure enough, we’d stayed in that little town for a week.  Of course all of the townspeople knew I was a stranger, and I learned to say that I was visiting Aunt Dot, and that Irma was my grandmother.  They would nod, and they knew I was ‘family’.  I was free to roam the town on my own, as there were only two streets, no way I could get lost.  I discovered Uncle Wally, who had a burro that he would lead into the plains with a sack and had a hidden gold mine.  When he needed money, he’d pan the dirt and I watched as gold would magically appear.  He gave me a gold nugget, and I’d pull a carrot out of his garden, wash it, and feed it to the burro.

What a memory!


How far back can you trace your roots?

My book, The Devil Has Dimples, has the premise of my heroine trying to find out the name of her birth father so that she can feel connected.  When I first moved to this small town, the first question everyone would ask me was, “Who’s your daddy?”  I really thought that was odd, but my husband clued me in that they wanted to ‘place’ me by my parentage.  He always told them that I was from California, and their interest in me stopped.  LOL



I Have Retro Tendencies…(could it be my age?) By Stephanie Queen

My childhood hero Batman in his cool car

My childhood hero Batman in his cool car

I love TV Land, The Beatles, and bell flare bottom pants. If I had a million dollars I would have bid at the recent auction of the Bat Mobile from the 60’s TV show starring Adam West.  Shag carpeting is my flooring of choice and the last movie I saw was James Bond—in a small main street theater.

Speaking of Main Street – I adore towns with thriving main streets made for strolling on a Saturday afternoon (like this one where The Authors of Main Street hang). I moved to a place where I could walk everywhere—like I did as a kid.main-street3

So does this make me a throwback?  Let’s put it this way, if they had a club for those who appreciate the good old days, I would be the queen president.  My second favorite TV channel is American Movie Classics where I tune in regularly for Doris Day-Rock Hudson romantic comedies.  Did you ever see Pillow Talk?  I think this is where I say something like, ‘They don’t make ‘em like they used to,’ and then heave a big sigh.

SQ_Cover 4dInstead of joining a club to indulge my tendency, I wrote a book.  The Throwbacks.  The characters unabashedly adore old-fashioned pop-culture while living in this current new-fangled age of high tech gadgetry.  The heroine, Grace Rogers is a decorator who loves the movie Pillow Talk and refers to the dashing detective hero, David Young (irony) as Batman. I’m not even embarrassed by the retro character quirks.  After all, who among us doesn’t know and love a quirky character in real life?

But in real life all this nostalgia retro-love has been associated with old middle age rather than quirkiness—but should it be?  After all, lots of young people are wearing bell-BellBottomsbottoms flare leg pants—or over the knee boots. The last time I wore those I was –it was 1971. Plenty of twenty year olds love The Rolling Stones and The Who.

Of course, every time I see and hear those old groups I break out into reminiscences about…the good old days… when we were all not middle-aged young. What are your favorite retro things?

Tennis and Writing

How many of you regularly watch the tennis tournaments?

My husband doesn’t take his eyes off the TV for the two weeks of each of the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and US open. I glance from time to the TV screen to applaud a good point.

 Roger FedererAt the Wimbledon, we cheered Roger Federer, my all–time favorite tennis player. The papers describe him as the most elegant champion and a true gentleman. With his sixth Wimbledon win, he became tennis’s greatest men’s champion, watched by a legion of champions. He also set a record with his 15th Grand Slam title, overhauling the total of Pete Sampras who was in the Royal Box along with fellow legends Bjorn Borg and Rod Laver.

Was Federer really unbeatable?


The 2010 US Open presented an incredible match that lasted more than four hours. Federer almost won but his opponent Argentinean Juan Martin Del Potro managed to come back and win the unbeatable Federer. The women’s final followed a similar path as Kim Clijsters defeated the famous Serena Williams.

As I watch the 2013 Australian Open, I find myself establishing a parallel between tennis and writing.

Federer and Serena Williams compare to the New York Bestselling authors, well-established, basking in fame for years and unbeatable.

And yet, there are a lot of Del Potro and Kim Clijsters in Romance Writing. New authors with charming voices and fabulous imagination. With perseverance and hard work, they perpromance09[1]CAN reach the unreachable goal, they can be the new champions, the new bestselling authors.

Remember that the biggest champions and the most famous authors were once beginners too.

  • Dream your dream
  • Set your goal
  • Work hard
  • Listen to your coach
  • Go for it
  • Develop a tough skin

You are almost there. One more hit is all it takes sometimes.


VALENTINE BABIES is a heartwarming story that will take you from the heart of Kentucky to South Florida and Atlanta, and then to Iraq and Germany.

Fearless reporter, Roxanne Ramsay, doesn’t think twice before traveling for important assignments, even in a war zone—until her last trip leads her to a life-altering mistake.

At his best friends’ wedding, Dr. Greg Hayes, who has a serious phobia of planes, can’t take his eyes off the lovely maid of honor. But why is Roxanne blinking away tears? Getting involved with the strong-headed and too generous reporter involves more complications than the bright doctor had ever faced in the OR. Yet what wouldn’t he do to save the love of his life and her baby?

New at Amazon for 99cents.

What does a Novel and a Cactus have in common?

What Does a Novel and a Cactus Have in Common?

While thumbing through photos on my computer the other day, I ran across this gorgeous shot my son captured. He’d stopped the van he was driving on a hillside in Hawaii, grabbed his camera and jumped out. I remember the awesome landscape and the fence that surrounded parts of the view we took in. We could see forever.

Before I clicked on the next photo, I zeroed in on the cactus, the buds, then the blooms.

What jumped out at me in this particular cactus photo, was a prickly map. A novel writing map. A plan, an outline. A beginning, a middle and an end.

So what does a cactus and a novel have in common? Nothing, you say?

100_0548  I take a closer look. From the bottom up, are the blank lines strewn with a stretch of prickly needles. Those needles are my roadmap to form the beautiful full blooms on the right side. Now all I needed to do was fill in the blank pages.

What should I ignore while writing? Pluck out most of the prickly needles? Wait! Prickly needles make for an exciting story. Yes, I’d write around the needles and include them in my plot.

My heroine introduced herself and away we went. Every time the story began to slow down, the heroine would snag one of the needles and remind me, she wasn’t so easy to put together. She had issues that needed solving. Okay. So be it. I could deal with a few problems. After all, the story doesn’t belong entirely to me anymore.

Now to work that hero in place and grow my garden of a prickly story and the perfect blooming ending.  🙂

Is there a cactus in your novel? How do you and your characters bring the story together?

Carol DeVaney, author of A Smoky Mountain Christmas and Perfect Match.

True Confession – My First Love

When we met, I was 13 and he was 26. OK, so we didn’t exactly meet. From the cover of Tiger Beat magazine his smoldering gaze met mine and I was hooked. It was 1984 and Simon-Le-Bon-Duran-DuranDuran Duran was at the top of the charts, plastered over girls’ lockers and bedroom walls everywhere. The band’s singer, Simon Le Bon—with his spiked, frosted hair, bedroom eyes and poet’s soul—would soon be firmly woven into my adolescent fantasies.

I was a loyal girlfriend. Even after Duran Duran became uncool, seen as bubble-gum pretty boys when harder-edged music took over the airwaves, I stuck by Simon and the band well into my teens. I collected rare 12-inch singles and studied the song lyrics like they were Shakespearean sonnets. When Simon married a model in 1987, I died a little inside.

Eventually, though, I discovered that guys I could actually talk to face-to-face made better companions. Gradually Simon faded from my life.tumblr_m7nt6puDC61rn8jjo

He’s now middle-aged and paunchy with grown children. I’m (mph)-aged and married with three kids. Still … once in a while, when I see a clip of the band performing (they still do), or stumble upon one of their old music videos on YouTube, I feel that same thrill, like I’m 13 again.

Time for your true confession – who was your first teen-idol crush?

Wednesday’s Blog that Wasn’t: Living your Bliss: Haggis at RT in 2013!

“My mama told me there’d be days like this…” What she didn’t say was that following your bliss was going to be filled with chaotic days and restless nights fraught with emotion, not all of it good.

So what does that have to do with forgetting Wednesday’s blog?

Everything. (In the chaos of the week, I sincerely thought my Wednesday to blog was this coming week.) Let me explain.

My last name is MacDonald. I am very Scottish; by heritage and more importantly, by inclination. I’ve been immersed in Scottish culture, lore and traditions since birth with the passionate ferocity reserved for American transplants generations removed from the Highlands. I am a generational Highlander, if you will :). Trust me, the most Scottish Scots reside right here in the good ole’ USA.

Image Just ask a native Scot. (I’ve heard this so many times on my trips to Scotland. They think we’re bloody-hilarious with our avid kilt-wearing and caber-tossing).

Right here, in Milwaukee, we have the world’s largest Celtic Festival. We celebrate Highland Games, Highland Flings, have a diverse and energetic St. Andrew’s Society, and this month all across the globe, people of Scottish descent or inclination will be celebrating the life of Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns.

Robert Burns is most famous for his song: Auld Lang Syne, which we sing on New Year’s Eve to welcome the New Year. But it’s his ‘Address to a Haggis’ that ties to my BLISS.

My husband and I are HAGGIS makers – Macski’s Highland Foods.


Our HAGGIS will be featured at RT this year ~ more to come in another blog about that.

So, did Haggis make me misjudge my blog date???  YES!

On Thursday the 10th, my husband and I were interviewed by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel food editor, Nancy Stohs; who is a wonderful, funny and engaging person. Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday we met with new potential vendors. Tuesday the online article came out and Wednesday the paper version hit the stands.

Image Image

Hence the blown blog…sigh followed by happy dance…HAGGIS ROCKS!

Following my passions, my bliss, at this stage, is a life choice. It’s like nose-diving from the cliff of relative comfort; exhilarating, frightening, and while you’re taking that leap, you don’t know how you’re going to land.

As for me, I’m adjusting for wind shear, turning so I land on my feet poised to take off writing romance ~ mostly with a tie to Scotland ~ and bringing Scottish culture to life, with a distinctly American flair. I plan on spending as many days a year as I can in a kilt right along side my kilted family. Here’s to the romance of tilting cabers in the wind and following your Bliss. Live Well and Eat HAGGIS.

So what are your passions? How do you incorporate your Bliss into your daily life, especially when your bliss isn’t being so blissful? I’d love to hear from you!

Rainy Days and Snow

I love a rainy day, a rainy morning, or even a rainy night. I love to watch a thunderstorm. The beauty of lightning is amazing. But file0001490316433smwhen winter comes and it snows, I’m ecstatic. It’s rather simple. I’m a Yankee. And for those who aren’t familiar with our regions – that means I was born and raised above the Mason Dixon Line or up north where it’s colder.

Living up north means you always had a snow shovel in your car, an extra blanket or two, a bucket of sand, maybe a plank of wood, and cars had snow tires. But my husband loved Virginia and wanted to move down here. So I came.

It’s a beautiful state with a rich history. It’s green, and lush, with very fertile land. It’s also hazy, hot, and humid in the summer to the point of wondering if you need gills to breath when the humidity hits 100%. Our winters tend to be cold, damp, and rainy. It chills to the bone. The humidity is often 100%. Gills would be good.

The SE corner of Virginia doesn’t get much snow and when it does come, it never lasts. Maybe that a good thing because it is such a rare occurrence that no one knows how to drive in it. When white flakes fall, it’s like the whole area comes to a complete halt. For a Yankee, it’s hysterical. We are used to not seeing blacktop on the roads sometimes for months.

So many years ago, being young and inexperienced with the area, I bundled my kindergartner up, and sent her to wait for the bus. It didn’t come. I later found out I’m supposed to watch the TV for school closings. What? Why? We had school closings when the snowplows got stuck in the blizzard. We had school closings when the school’s furnace died. We had school closings when there was no electric. But they never closed school over flurries. I finally found someone to answer the phone at the school board office. Yes, they had closed school. I’m laughing. Tears are rolling down my cheeks. They closed school over a dusting? Apparently, the bus drivers don’t like driving in snow when they aren’t used to it.

There wasn’t enough snow to make a snowman. Maybe if I scooped the entire yard I might have been able to make a snowball. But I let the girls play until they were covered in mud. Yes, mud. Up north the ground freezes until spring. Here we have a soggy sponge with white flakes on top of grass.

I cleaned the girls up and took them with me to the grocery store. There were a few tire tracks through the snow. I had the road to myself. There are two cars in the parking lot and the store is closed. In fact, everything is closed. The whole area grinds to a halt when white stuff falls from the sky.

After living here for years, I’ve discovered there are men with pickup trucks, the kind that is jacked up so it looks as if the owner is ready to drive through four feet of snow. For these guys, snow is a reason to play. It’s why they have these trucks. They roam the countryside looking for a pretty young girl whose car has slipped into a ditch because she doesn’t know how to drive in the snow. You don’t have to call for help. They will find you and pull you out. They wear orange hunting gear, John Deere hats, and they don’t want money. It’s a macho thing.

Young men will ring your doorbell and ask if you want your walkway shoveled. They have a pointed garden shovel in their file000287715630smhand. They are insistent. No thanks. This is Virginia. It will melt tomorrow. Worst-case scenario, the day after tomorrow, it will melt.

People stock up as if a hurricane were coming. Grocery stores run out of milk, bottled water, bread, peanut butter, ravioli in cans, beer, and toilet paper. Yankees race to the meat department to stock up on manager specials.

A few days ago, it was sixty degrees Fahrenheit. That’s sweater weather, except it was drizzling. The problem is it has rained for days. The ground is soggy. It can only absorb so much water. If you walk through the yard, it makes squishy sounds.

I’m tired of the rain. The dogs don’t want to go out in the rain. I must force them. I’ve had to push my Boxer out the door and drag her into the grass. It never rains hard enough to wash away what the dogs leave behind so the backyard becomes a minefield of poop. I swear that wet poop grows in size, and lasts for months. I’ve thought about buying her boots because she doesn’t want to get her feet wet. I’ve held the umbrella over her while I got soaked. She’s not spoiled or anything.

A few hours ago, the world looked white, there was three inches of snow on my car, the big trash bin, the bird bath, etc. A half hour later, everything looked like slush. The three inches of snow has been reduced to the thickness of your finger. It’s supposed to get colder, very cold for here. That slush will turn to ice. That will be dangerous.

My daughter called me tonight. She was trying to get home in the snow. She’s a highly specialized registered nurse, and she had to get from a patient’s house to the hospital before she could quit for the night. Except the car in front of her was going 23 mph in a 60 mph zone, and she couldn’t pass because the car was hogging both lanes. She was whining.

I sit in front of my computer working on the next book while I listen to the sounds outside or rather lack of them. Snow muffles sound, and only those who must be out will brave the streets. When it’s very quiet, I know we’ve reverted back to snowflakes because the dripping sounds stop. I’ll sleep in because the world around me will be extra quiet.

SUN MH900188507 I want twelve inches of snow or twelve days of sunshine, but please, no more rain. All things in moderation, we’ve had enough.

Joan Reeves will be back with us next month.