Chasing Rainbows

I had the good fortune of being able to walk through Central Park this morning, on the way from 59th Street back to our apartment. No sooner had I entered the park than I was intrigued to see this very localized shower in front of me.


Of course, it wasn’t an actual rain shower. It was a sprinkler watering the grass. But, real shower or not, when you combine it with sunshine, you get a rainbow! So, I went around to the other side of the sprinkler, with the sun was at my back, and, lo and behold, there she was,  changing by the second with the sweep of the sprinkler, flitting in and out of view, but a rainbow all the same.


One of my friends among the tree faces enjoyed it as much as I did.


Anyway, I walked on. The early morning light was very beautiful, casting shadows and giving the grass and leaves a deep, dark green.


And making more rainbows along the pathway past the Hecksher playing fields.


I kept walking north. The Dairy looked particularly nice this morning among the trees, almost like a country church, with a modest steeple, my favorite.


The elms along the mall stood out crisp and clear.


As always, a few were dancing.


Not to be outdone, the flowers were showing off at Bethesda Fountain as well.


Everything seemed special.


I figured it was time I started for home. How many rainbows can one person handle in a day?



Valentine’s Manuals of the Corporation of the City of New York

David T. Valentine was born in East Chester,  Westchester County, New York, on September 15, 1801. He came to New York City at the age of 16 years and, like many of us, never left. From 1830 until 1868, a period of over thirty-seven years, he was Deputy Clerk and Clerk of the Corporation of the City of New York. Most importantly, perhaps, beginning in 1841-42  until he was forced to retire in 1868, he was responsible for the issuance of what initially  was called “The Manual of the Corporation of the City of New York,” and which, as time passed, became known to lovers of New York City history as “Valentine’s Manuals.”

As clerk, he had access to the records of the city that had been maintained (sometimes haphazardly) since the time that New York was a Dutch metropolis. The first Valentine’s manual had a folding map of New York City in 1841.  The second contained a fold-out view of the new Croton Dam and another showing the shore line of the city from the time it was called Nieuw Amsterdam.

NY Scene 1

[Copyright Kenneth Hicks, added colors only, 2014]

Over the course of his 37 years working for the City and producing the manual, over 800 illustrations and maps were published as well as random documents snatched from the archives such as, for example, the proceedings of courts from the earliest times.

Many of the illustrations were intended to preserve the views of the land and the buildings that were even then quickly disappearing, to the dismay of many.

Bwy 17th 1823

[Copyright Kenneth Hicks, added colors only, 2014]

Needless today, we owe a debt of gratitude to Mr. Valentine and to all of those who helped him put together these volumes.

I have scanned certain of the lithographs from copies of the Valentine’s Manuals in my possession and have added color to some. I will publish more in the future on this site.




Embarrassing Truths Revealed (or Things Are Not What They Seem)

Things Are Not What They Seem is the name of a Tween fantasy adventure of ours that is centered around a talking pigeon in Central Park, New York City, and the kids who make him into a man again. It also describes the way life is. Much is done to create a visual for the world to see, and rarely do we get to go behind the scenes and see what people are really like.

Today we hope to change that by running an interview that Anne and I did in which the walls separating us from our readers were torn down and the embarrassing truth was revealed. Here we go!


About the Book:

  Since Ken and Anne are co-authors of Things Are Not What They Seem, they have asked for permission to answer individually.  Here goes:

  1. As succinctly as possible, tell us why someone should read your book.

Ken: Because otherwise we’ll burn your house down and make you cry!

Anne:  I think that may be the wrong approach.

Ken: It works for the Mafia.

Anne:  Let’s tell them about the great characters they are going to meet—the surprising things that the reader will learn about the characters and that the characters will learn about each other and about themselves and about friendship and love and loyalty.

Ken: They may still cry.  I cry when I read about Mr. Bags.

Anne:  I’m going to try not to cry at the next question.

  1. What is YOUR favorite part of the book?

 Ken: Can I do this one?  My favorite part is when Whitehair leads the other pigeons on a bombing mission and—

Anne.  Wait! First you have to tell them that Whitehair is actually a man who was turned into a pigeon 160 years ago when he recited a magic spell incorrectly.

Ken: I like that part too.  But I really like when they dive-bomb those nasty bullies and —

Anne:  Couldn’t we talk about something that is a little less infantile than pigeons doing their business on a few bullies?

Ken:  We could.  But it wouldn’t be my favorite part.

Anne:  (Sighing).

3.  What is the main message you want to convey to your readers in your books?

Ken: Pigeons are God’s creatures too.  Feed them once in a while!

Anne: That would be Whitehair’s message, Ken.  He’s the one who’s always hungry.  The message we are trying to convey is about friendship and love and the effects of those uplifting emotions on the lives of the characters.

Ken:    But people should still feed the pigeons, right.  One of them might be Whitehair.

Anne:  Right…  I think I’ll handle the next question.


  1. Can we expect more books from you in the future?

Anne:  (Looks at Ken and makes a face).  Sure….I guess …

Ken:    Are you kidding.  We have one in our brains right now and it’s kind of annoying because this plot involves an actual battle with cannon and muskets and so the scenes are very loud inside my head—  Ouch!  Why did you kick me?

Anne:  We are indeed working on a sequel involving Jenny and James, Sleepy and Katylyn, and of course, Whitehair the person turned into a pigeon.  They will be traveling back to the Revolutionary War, trying not to do something that will change the course of history in unforeseen ways.

Ken:  That’s very deep, Anne.  Wow.  Change the course of history….

Anne:  Your turn, Ken.

 About Being an Author:

  1. What has been the best compliment you received as an author?

 Ken:  Easy peasy.  My fourth grade teacher said, “Really, Ken you actually wrote a book?”

Anne:  Ken, I don’t think that was meant as a compliment.

Ken:    From her it was a compliment.

Anne:  What about when people say that our characters seem like real people, or that they cried or laughed when certain things happened, or that they are looking forward to reading the sequel, or that the book stayed with them well after they were done reading.

Ken:  I’ve got to remember all that stuff when I see my fourth grade teacher again.

  1. How do you react to a bad review?

Ken:    Another easy one.  When we get a bad review, we look up the person on the internet and burn their house down.

Anne:  We do not!  Why are you saying these things.

Ken:    (Whispering) Just in case.  You never know who might be reading this.

Anne:  But that is not what we do.  We are upset, of course, because it is as bad as someone criticizing our children.  However, in the end we say, “It doesn’t matter.”

Ken:    We do?

Anne:  Yes, because if the reviewer is right and our book really is bad, then we deserve the negative comments and, anyway, we’ll be getting a lot more bad reviews.  But, if the book is good, one bad review won’t make a difference.  You see, in the end it doesn’t matter.

Ken:    You are so wise, Anne.  Were you this wise when I married you?

Anne:  Apparently not.

 7.  What is the best advice you received as an author?

Ken: This is another one that I’ll ace.  Again, it was my fourth grade teacher.  She said, “What in the world makes you think you can write a book?”  And then she started laughing.

Anne: How was that good advice?

Ken:    Because, just to prove her wrong, I sat down with my wonderful wife and wrote a book.  And then we wrote another one and another and…. How many have we written now?

Anne:  A lot , Ken.  And that is a very sweet thing for you to say.  But don’t you think the best advice was not to give up?  To keep working?  To rewrite and rewrite again until you can read it aloud and feel as though someone else wrote it?

Ken:    True.  But it is a little creepy when the book is so polished that it seems someone else wrote it.  I mean, what if someone else really did write it?

Anne:  (Sighing again). Are there many more questions?.

  1. What advice would you give someone aspiring to write a children’s book?

Ken:    Don’t do it!

Anne:  Why would you say that?

Ken:    (Whispering again) Because there’s enough competition already.

Anne:  But do you want to deprive anyone of the pleasure of writing a book for children.  Do you remember how much fun it was when our own daughter read the chapters as we were writing them.

Ken:    It was the best, Anne.

Anne:  So I think we should tell people to find a child of the appropriate age and write it for that person as if he or she is listening.

Ken:    And if they walk away in the middle, give it up!

Anne:  No!  Keep writing and rewriting until you get it right!

Ken:    You give the best advice, Anne.  Will you marry me?

Anne:  We are married, Ken.

Ken:    I know.  But if we get divorced, will you marry me?

Anne:  That really doesn’t make sense.

Ken:    It sounded kind of romantic in my head.  But, you know, with all that musket and cannon fire, it’s hard to always tell.

Anne:  Say goodbye to the listeners. Ken

Ken: Goodbye listeners, and don’t forget to pay the fire insurance.

Anne:  Ken!

Ken:    Only kidding.


Welcome Back Susan Royal!

We welcome author Susan Royal back to our blog today. We previously gave a five star review to her novel, In My Own Shadow, an adult fantasy/adventure/romance which we enjoyed very much. Today, we will be exploring a new book of hers, a young adult fantasy called Xander’s Tangled Web. Susan will be interviewing her main character, Xander, and has given us an excerpt as well. Based upon the interview and the excerpt, it looks like this is a very enjoyable book as well.

Bio photo

But before we get to the interview, lets learn a little more about Susan.

Author Bio

Born in west Texas and raised in south Texas, Susan shares a 100-year-old farmhouse in a small east Texas town with a ghost who likes to harmonize with her son when he plays guitar.

Mother to three children and their spouses, she enjoys 5 unique and special grandchildren. Her family is rich with characters, both past and present. Her grandmother shared stories of living on a farm in Oklahoma Territory and working as a telephone operator in the early 20th century.  She learned about growing up during the depression from her father and experienced being a teenager in WWII through her mother’s eyes.

Susan loves taking her readers through all kinds of exciting adventures. So far, she’s written two books in her It’s About Time series, Not Long Ago and From Now On. They are time travel adventures about two people who fall in love despite the fact they come from very different worlds. In My Own Shadow is a Fantasy adventure/romance. Xander’s Tangled Web is a YA fantasy with romance. Look for her books at MuseItUp/Amazon/B&N.

Want to know more? Visit or for a peek inside this writer’s mind and see what she’s up to. You never know what new world she’s going to visit next.

And now, on to the interview!

xanders tangled web-Small

Character interview

I am interviewing Xander, my main character from Xander’s Tangled Web. He reminds me of Peter Falk’s character in the series Columbo, because while he seems a little simple, he’s really a deep thinker.

Character: Xander

Book: Xander’s tangled web

Genre: Fantasy, mystery


Tell us a bit about yourself, Xander. Where do you come from?

     My wife, Suse, and I are both descended from a race of little people called Mipins. She’s a pretty little thing, but I’m not much to look at, that’s for sure. Honestly, I don’t know what she sees in me. I tend to squint a lot when I’m pondering over things and my eyebrows come together. She says it makes me look like there’s a woolly caterpillar crossing my forehead.

I grew up in a sleepy little township by the name of Battington. Located in Seren Valley in the Kingdom of Regal, it’s bordered on three sides by the Heliotrope Mountains and to the south by the Azure Sea. It boasts fine buildings of red or blue brick and streets paved with smooth stones and large old willow trees grace the walkways on either side.

As pretty as it is, it’s best known for its marketplace. People came from far and wide to shop for the merchandise offered. Sellers of exotic spices and exquisite cloth do business in booths next to apothecaries and goldsmiths. Food courts offer tasty delights like funnel cakes or hot sausage on a stick while actors’ troupes entertain with impromptu performances.

I’m a people person, and the people there are warm and friendly. Most of them, anyway. They tend to poke their noses into other people’s business and gossip, but that’s the way of small towns. Not much goes on here, so they have to have something to talk about.

What do you do for a living?

For the past year I’ve been trying my hand at farming. Without much success I might add. Before that I was constable for the township of Battington, a job I dearly loved. That is until Cymon, the mayor, and I had some differences which led to a parting of the ways. That’s how I got into farming…and found out it wasn’t for me.

A few days ago I rode into town for supplies, and along came Cymon with an offer I couldn’t refuse. It’s only temporary, but he wants me to investigate Princess Mena’s disappearance. At double my former wages. With any luck I should be able to locate her, collect my wages along with the reward, and be home before harvest. Easy peasy…

Favourite food and drink?

I’m fond of ale, particularly the ale at Ardley’s tavern. And it’s a good thing, because the food he offers is enough to turn even the strongest man’s stomach. Then again I’m biased. When it comes to cooking, no one can hold a candle to my Suse. She could boil shoe leather and it would taste like roast. A good thing too. She hasn’t had much to work with lately.

I gather you are currently seeking a member of royalty.

Aye, I’ve been hired to investigate Princess Mena’s disappearance. She vanished without a trace from the Marketplace a few nights ago. The whole town is in an uproar. King Leander has called for an early curfew and there is talk about postponing the Spring Festival.

 Battington’s marketplace seems an unlikely place for a princess to be hanging about. What was she doing there?

My thoughts exactly.  According to everyone I’ve spoken to, she went to see Mercury, the apothecary. And not just for some ordinary, run of the mill spell, either. I’ve been told she wanted a love potion. That complicates things. And if that isn’t enough, the gypsies are back in town.

 Do you think they have anything to do with her disappearance?

When Emil’s bunch is in the vicinity, they tend to get the blame for any sign of trouble. While they’re no doubt responsible for things like freshly baked pies vanishing from the windowsill, a missing chicken or clothing off the line, they’re generally harmless. They are a secretive bunch, though.

When you’re not out investigating, what do you like to do to relax?

I’ve always loved making rounds, seeing Battington’s streets are safe and secure for its inhabitants. It’s especially nice on a crisp night with the moon shining down out of a clear sky, its light bright enough to cast shadows. Either that or spending time with Suse. That’s when I’m happiest.

Like I said, Battington is my home. And I love it here. Guess it’s obvious.

Excerpt from Xander’s Tangled Web 

“Out of my face, you mangy beastie!”

The rumbling bass voice came out of nowhere. Xander jumped like he’d been scalded. Up at first light and on the road soon after, he’d dozed off and allowed Quep’s reins to go slack. The shaggy little pony wandered over to the side of the road for tender shoots of grass growing there.

“Look at you, riding along with your nose stuck up in the air like royalty.”

Xander squinted in the direction of the voice and spied a man dressed in

raggedy brown homespun who blended with the landscape like a toad on moss.

Arms crossed and lips pinched together tightly together, the man stared back at him.

“Sorry, Frawl.” Xander yanked on Quep’s reins. “You’re out bright and early. Are you on your way to Battington?”

“Aye, I have pressing business.”

“Is that so?” Xander couldn’t begin to imagine what kind. It was a well-known fact that his second cousin once removed avoided anything remotely connected

with work.

The other man fished in his pocket and brought out copper coins. “Where d’ye think? I’m on me way to Battington to spend an afternoon at Ardley’s tavern. What about you?”

“I’m going to town as well, to pick up supplies and catch up on all the latest.”

Frawl flashed a grin. “Since we’re both headed in the same direction, how

about you let me ride along? I can fill you in on all the tittle-tattle.”

Xander ground his teeth. So much for a nice, quiet trip. “Sure. Come on.”

As big around as he was tall, Frawl grunted and strained a bit before he

managed to climb astride the pony. “You heard the latest?”

Xander shook his head. “Reckon not. I haven’t been to market in a fortnight. Suse and I live so far out we never get any news, unless a bird happens to fly by and share.”

“Unless a bird…?” It took a moment or two, but Frawl finally realized Xander was joking. After he stopped laughing, he pulled out a checkered rag, wiped his eyes and blew his nose. “You do have a quick wit.”

“Well, are you going to tell me or not?” Xander was less inclined to believe hearsay than most, but he did have a weakness for listening.

“Aye, I’ll begin at the beginning.” Frawl chuckled and rubbed his hands

together. “Of late, some of the royalty has been frequenting the market more often than normal. Not, as you might believe, for fresh blue milk or a rare piece of fairy silk, though I have been told the merchant in the big corner stall with all the fancy notions has some in his possession so fine he swears the cloth will float…”

“Get to the point, will you?”

“Pardon, I digress.” Frawl cleared his throat. “Now, where was I? Oh yes. It turns out it wasn’t just any royalty, but one of old King Leander’s daughters. Princess Mena herself. Anyways, word went round she was after a good apothecary. Reason being, she wanted to purchase a spell.”

Susan Royal’s Links

Xander’s Tangled Web (fantasy, mystery)


In My Own Shadow (fantasy, adventure, romance)
Not Long Ago (time travel, adventure, romance)

Not Long Ago book trailer

All books available at MuseItUp, Amazon, B&N, Goodreads

Review of THE BROTHERS’ KEEPERS by Matthew Peters

Today Anne and I are very happy to welcome author Matthew Peters to our blog. 14159103_1944404719119993_1827823521_n

Matthew is a very interesting guy who writes very interesting books. This is from his bio.

Dual diagnosed* from an early age, Matthew Peters dropped out of high school at sixteen. He went on to obtain an A.A., a B.A. from Vassar College, and an M.A. and Ph.D. from Duke University. He has taught various courses in a variety of disciplines throughout North Carolina. He is committed to increasing the awareness and understanding of the dual diagnosed. (The term ‘dual diagnosed’ refers to someone suffering from a mood disorder, e.g., depression, and chemical dependency).

His first novel was Conversations Among Ruins (All Things That Matter Press, 2014)  in which he wrote powerfully about the very difficult topic of the dual diagnosed individual. I read Conversations well over a year ago and still think about it from time to time.

But this is a column about THE BROTHERS’ KEEPERS, his new release through Melange Books.  THE BROTHERS’ KEEPERS is a political-religious thriller that capitalizes on Matthew’s love for history and research.

Here is The Brothers’ Keepers blurb.

Most of us are familiar with Jesus’ parents, Mary and Joseph, and Jesus’ purported spouse, Mary Magdalene. But what about Jesus’ siblings? What role did they play in early Christianity?

Contemporary Jesuit and renowned religious historian Nicholas Branson is about to find out…and the answer will shake the foundations of the Judeo-Christian world.

It all starts with the murder of a United States Senator in a confessional, and the discovery of a strange religious document among his possessions. At the urging of his FBI friend, Branson joins the investigation. His effort to uncover the truth behind the murder draws him into the search for an eight-hundred-year-old treasure and into a web of ecclesiastical and political intrigue.

Accompanied by a beautiful, sharp-tongued research librarian, Jessica Jones, Branson follows a trail of clues, from the peaks of the awe inspiring French Pyrenees to the caves of war-torn Afghanistan. Along the way, shadowy powerful forces trail the pair, determined to keep safe a secret buried for centuries.

Here is our review.

THE BROTHERS’ KEEPERS — This conspiracy thriller by Matthew Peters opens with a grisly murder that is intended as much to silence a person who knew too much as to send a message to others. Nicholas Branson, a Biblical scholar, almost-Jesuit and master of many languages, is soon being torn between two competing organizations that want him to use his extensive knowledge to solve that murder and discover the motive for it. But this is one conspiracy that has connections to the very top of very powerful organizations, and before many pages are turned, Nick’s life is also in extreme danger and he is forced to become involved in order to save his own skin and that of the pretty and quick-witted librarian who assists him on his trek. At the core of the mystery is an object that has the power to bring down the Roman Catholic Church and shake Christianity to its roots. The author weaves in verses from the Bible with tidbits from other ancient sources that may have you re-reading some Biblical passages yourself. The action covers many colorful parts of the world and is non-stop toward a conclusion that will have you hoping there will be a sequel for Mr. Branson. And, last but certainly not least, there is some beautiful writing along the way. You are in good hands with Matthew Peters.

Matthew’s says that he is working on a sequel. We will be among the first to read it.


The buy links for a digital or paper copy:



Buy your copy today!

Welcome to Author Penny Estelle and The Bearded Dude in the Puzzle!

Welcome to Penny Estelle and her wild and very funny imagination. Penny is here today to give us all a window into her latest middle reader book: The Bearded Dude in the Puzzle.


First, let’s have a short synopsis of The Bearded Dude in the Puzzle:

Many years ago, in the land of kings and knights, Dozer, a powerful wizard, casts a spell over Scartin, and changes him into a tiny toy wizard and puts him inside the box of a puzzle.

Centuries later, Shelly Taylor, and her two kids, Bobby and Andrea, find their lives in turmoil. They are uprooted from their home and friends and moved to a small town in Idaho. Their parents’ marriage falls apart, and to make matters worse, for some reason the kids at their schools are shunning them.

Shelly, once an advertising executive, starts cleaning houses to make ends meet. It is in one of these old homes where the ancient puzzle is found.

As the family works on the puzzle, strange things start to happen. An evil presence is making its way to the Taylor house, intent on making sure that puzzle never gets put together, no matter the cost, and it’s up to Bobby and Andrea to make sure that it does!

This is the very intriguing cover.

The Bearded Dude in the Puzzle

And here is an excerpt from The Bearded Dude in the Puzzle:

“Bobby,” Shelly knocked as she opened his bedroom door, “it’s raining. I have to leave early today, so I’ll drop you off at school.”

“Okay, Mom.” Bobby rolled over on his side covering his head with his blankets.

“I believe your mother wants you to arise.” Scartin’s muffled voice came to Bobby.

Throwing his covers off Bobby sat up in bed, scratching his head, yawning.

“You look weary, young Bobby.”

The boy jumped up and locked his bedroom door. “Ya think?” he asked trying to use his best sarcasm. More than once, during the night, thunder had crashed, rattling the windows. “A few times the thunder had woke me up and I find Rip Van Winkle staring down at me scaring know what out of me.”

Scartin sat down on the chair, eyes wide with wonder. “I think you might have been dreaming. I didn’t see Rip here last night.”

“Ugh,” Bobby groaned. He pushed himself off the bed and got clothes out of his drawers. “I was talking about you.”

After a few minutes a smile lit up the wizard’s face and then a deep belly laugh escaped from deep inside. “You are jesting. Now I understand!”

“SHHHHH!” Bobby whispered urgently waving his hands.

Andi pounded on the bedroom door. “Who are you talking to?”

“Uhm…nobody. I’m singing!” Bobby pushed Scartin toward the closet door. “Joey and I will be here after school to work on the puzzle. Stay hidden.”

Scartin was still smiling as he put up a hand to stop the closet door from shutting

“What?” Bobby asked.

“Rip and I don’t resemble each other very much. He’s much shorter than I am.”

Stunned with the realization there really was a Rip Van Winkle, Bobby stuttered, “O..okay. Dude, just stay out of sight.”

Can’t wait to get a copy? Here is the link to Amazon:


And now for a little about Penny:

I write for all ages, from the early reader to adults. My books range from pictures books for the little ones, to fantasy, time-travel adventures for ages 9 to 13. I also write adult stories, including a family drama and contemporary, paranormal and historical westerns romances, under P. A. Estelle.

I was a school secretary for 21 years. My husband and I moved to our retirement home in Kingman, AZ, on very rural 54 acres, living on solar and wind only.

More about my books can be found in the following links: – Goodreads

Thanks for coming for a visit, Penny!


The Cloisters

The Cloisters is a part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but it is located on the north end of Manhattan between Inwood and Washington Heights. From its terrace, you can see the Hudson and the George Washington Bridge.

GW bridge

The Cloisters advertises itself as a museum of medieval art, architecture and gardens. It is that. First of all, it is designed to resemble a monastery or castle.


The museum incorporates three entire cloisters from monasteries that were located in various parts of Europe, as well as original stone for parts of its walls.

WindowIn the various individual cloisters, you can see the same sculptures worked into the tops of the pillars that the monks saw. Portrayals of hell, for one thing, were common themes. Flames, chains and gleeful demons abound.

Hell 2Hell 3

Stained glass windows are also worked into the design. This one has survived from the 12th Century.

Stained glass 3Some of the stained glass pieces are displayed as you might display a painting, and with good reason. The one following is meant to show the Israelites gathering manna in the wilderness.

Stained glass 2This is another particularly nice one.

Stained glass 4In every cloister, a garden is planted in medieval style, with plants that might have been seen in those gardens.


I am guessing the monks would have enjoyed the butterflies also,

FullSizeRenderThey certainly had a sense of humor; witness this drooling monster, used as a fountain.

Drooling Monster

The Cloisters is also home to the Unicorn Tapestries. They are beautiful, but certainly not joyous.

Unicorn 2

Most museums are quiet places. This one is especially a place for peaceful contemplation of art and life and religion. it is difficult to come away without encountering something that makes one think.

thomasThe piece of art above is a carving that represents the death of Mary, the mother of Christ. You will notice that there are ten men attending her, and you would be right if you guessed they were disciples of Jesus. Who was missing, other than Judas, who had hung himself long before this event? Thomas was not able to make it. But here is the interesting part, at least to me. When he was told by the others that Mary had risen into heaven (the Assumption), he doubted their story. In other words, the same fellow who didn’t believe that Christ rose from the dead until he could touch the wounds himself also doubted that Mary was lifted into heaven. Once a doubter, always a doubter, is the moral of that story, I guess.  And by the way, according to legend, the belt on Mary’s robe fell to earth, convincing Thomas that she had indeed been lifted up. Do you think his face turned red?


One Thing Leads To Another

Anne and I have loved visiting the beach  for as long as we have known each other (which is kind of a long time). One of the reasons we enjoy it is the unexpected nature of the beach. Twice a day the tide comes in and the tide goes out, depositing and rearranging shells, driftwood, beach glass, stones and any number of other things. We  walk the edges of the water for miles and find all sorts of things to admire. A walk after a powerful storm is especially fun.


For the last fifteen years or so, we have visited the beaches of Cape Cod, which have a wonderful selection of stones of an amazing variety of shapes, colors and textures.


At one point, we even made some jewelry and sculpture with the stones and sold those items at various shops on Cape Cod.

4 stonesSculptures 4

Christmas decorations sold particularly well.


We also began to look more closely at the stones themselves and saw pictures in the stones. Sometimes the images suggested faces of people or animals.

27 Singing Man06 Cat face

Sometimes they were seascapes or landscapes.

30 Peaceful Sunset


One day we saw a stone that was in the shape of man laughing.

HAPPY HAPPYThe name “Mr. Happy Man” came immediately to mind. Soon afterward, a story began to take shape in our minds of a young girl who finds such a stone on the beach and learns that the stone can talk (as can his stone friends). Together, they help her learn about herself and survive a difficult time in her life when her parents are getting a divorce. The name of the book is Stone Faces and it is has been published by MuseItUp Publishing.

cover Stone Faces 333x500

It is available as an e-book through the Muse web site, on Amazon and many other book-selling sites.

Amazon ebook
Amazon paperback
MuseItUp ebook
MuseItUp paperback

Funny how one thing can lead to another.

Welcome to Author Kay LaLone

Today, we welcome Kay LaLone on our blog. After a few very illuminating questions and answers, we will have an excerpt from Kay’s new Young Adult mystery, Family Secret.

First, Kay, tell us about yourself and your writing.

I’m Kay LaLone author of Ghostly Clues, my first MG novel. Family Secret is my first YA novel. Both published by MuseItUp. I live in Michigan with my husband and teenage son (two older sons and a daughter-in-law and my first grandbaby live nearby) and two dogs. I love to get up every morning and write about ghosts, the paranormal, and things that go bump in the night. I write PB, MG and YA novels. No matter the books I write, I want my readers to feel like they have met a new friend. I’m an avid reader of just about any type of book (mystery, paranormal, and ghost stories are my favorites). I do reviews and post them on my website and blog. I love to collect old books, antiques, and collectibles. You can find many of my antiques and collectibles selling on ebay and at fleamarkets.

Whenever we invite someone to our site, we always ask for a picture that will tell the reader what the author likes to do in his or her spare time. Kaye sent us a picture of her family. NICE!

family christmas 1 2014

Now, let’s move on to our questions!

Please share with us a memory of visiting the library or of reading, preferably as a young child.

I have a lot of memories of visiting the school library and taking books home. I would get so excited to see so many books on the shelves. It was always hard to decide which books to read. I wanted to read them all. I still have that problem.

Which book have you inherited from the generation above; that is, which book have you read and has stayed with you and made you reread it in whole or in part? What about the book created this attraction?

Now that I have a granddaughter, the books I love to read to her are Dr. Seuss books. Those books were one of my favorite books to bring home from the library for my mother to read to me. I have read them to my sons. Now I love to read them to my granddaughter.

Which book would you like to leave to future generations with the hope that they will read it? Why? (NOT one of the books you’ve written).

R. L. Stine’s Goosebump books. My son collected them when he was a kid and read every one of them. I still have the collection and plan on passing them down to my granddaughter when she gets old enough to read them. I think R. L. Stine has a way of scaring kids in a fun sort of way.

Take a photograph of one of your bookshelves. If a stranger were to enter your room and see it, what would it tell that person about you?

She loves to collect old mystery books like Nancy Drew and Judy Bolton.

Please tell us about your next book.

I have a lot of writing projects in the works. One of them is book 2 of Family Secret titled Family Legacy. Tom learns more about witchcraft and how to protect himself from demons. Rob and Sarah help Tom solve a mystery and kill more demons.

Are there any genres that you have never written in that you would like to try? Why or why not?

Not at the moment. I write the stories that my characters tell me to write.

Thank you, Kay, for those great answers.

Now we come to the excerpt, a deliciously scary piece of writing from Family Secret.

“Ow.” Tom yanked the chain and dragged the burning amulet from under his shirt. Even the chain was warm, but there was no way he was going to take the stupid thing off. He let it drop to his chest and rest warmly on the top of his shirt as he stared at the demon.

“It’s not your grandfather,” Tom whispered. Anger rolled around inside him because of what this thing did to Sarah.

The dark figure stepped out of the shadows causing the boys to take two steps back. The demon looked like a man dressed in thunderous storm-like clouds from head to toe. Even his face was black and the eyes a dimly puke-yellow that churned Tom’s stomach. He felt Rob’s heavy breathing just inches behind him, but it didn’t stop a chill from shimmering up his spine like fingernails on a chalkboard.

“I know who you are.” Tom tried to sound confident even though his voice shook with fear. He swallowed hard. “What do you want?”

The demon raised a shadowy arm and then his stormy cloud-like body started to swirl like a mini tornado. In a gust of black smoke, the demon shot up into the air and zipped right over Tom and Rob’s heads. The boys ducked and laid flat on the wet grass, afraid the demon would consume them.

Tom turned his head to see the black smoke head toward Mr. Watson’s house. Tom got to his feet while Rob remained on the ground. The black smoke swarmed over the house and then drifted back down. It slithered around the house like a snake looking for a place to sneak in, circling several times before seeping through the crack in the window and disappearing inside.

Rob scrambled to his feet. “That thing is inside my grandfather’s house.” His voice was high-pitched in fear. “My…” He glanced toward the empty driveway. Then he sighed. “Mom must still be at the hospital.”

Tom touched Rob’s arm to prevent him from doing something crazy. He didn’t want another one of his friends to get hurt by this thing.

“We need to do something, but I don’t know what.” Tom glanced over to the tents in Granddad’s backyard, hoping Matt or Granddad would come running to save the day. But there was no movement over there.

Inside the house, Jake growled and then started to bark wildly. Before Tom could stop him, Rob dashed upon the back porch and flung the backdoor open. Jake continued his wild barking as if protecting Rob and the house. If only the dog could save the day, but Tom feared nothing would save them.

A cracking noise caught Tom’s attention, and he turned his head toward what he assumed was Mr. Watson’s bedroom window. The glass appeared pitch black at first, and then a face appeared. The same puke-yellow eyes stared at Tom and gave him an evil grin.

And here is the cover.

Family Secret 200x300



Barnes & Noble





good reads

Welcome Barbara Ehrentreu!

Today we welcome Barbara Ehrentreu to our blog. She looks very relaxed in her picture because it is not much of a trip for her to come to New York City from Stamford, Connecticut.  We’re guessing she took the train.

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Barbara grew up in Brooklyn (home of Bernie Sanders and a few other notables) and moved to Queens. She has lived and taught in Long Island, Buffalo, NY and Westchester, NY as well as a year in Los Angeles, CA. She has a Masters Degree in Reading and Writing K-12. Currently she is retired from teaching and living in Stamford, CT with her family. If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor won second prize in Preditors & Editors as Best Young Adult Book for 2011. (More about this book below). Her second book, After, considers what can happen to a teen when her father becomes ill with a heart attack. It is based on her own experiences when her husband had a heart attack and the aftermath of what she and her family experienced. She is preparing the sequel to If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor. Barbara also writes poetry and several of her poems are published in the anthologies, World Poetry Open Mic, Prompted: An International Collection of Poetry, Beyond the Dark Room, Storm Cycle and Backlit Barbell. (Some of her poems are also included below). She has a blog, Barbara’s Meanderings, and she hosts a radio show on Blog Talk Radio, Red River Radio Tales from the Pages, once a month. She is a member of Pen Women Letters and SCBWI.

So, we can conclude that Barbara is a very busy woman! Let’s get to our questions!

Please share with us a memory of visiting the library or of reading, preferably as a young child.

We had a library about two blocks away from us on Eastern Parkway where I grew up in Brooklyn, NY. You had to cross a very big boulevard to get to it, but at a fairly early age, maybe nine or ten, I was allowed to go to the library myself. I would browse through the stacks when I was old enough to read anything and look for books that would catch my eye. I read mostly novels and sometimes I would find one that would engross me so much I would just sit and read in the stacks. I was in awe of these authors who could write so much. But at that age I was just a reader and never thought I might be joining them.

[Ed. We love the image of a little girl crossing Eastern Parkway, a very big street, with a pile of books in her arms. Talk about adventure!]

Which book have you inherited from the generation above; that is, which book have you read and has stayed with you and made you reread it in whole or in part? What about the book created this attraction?

I think the book that I have read and reread is Alice in Wonderland. When I was very sick one year with a whole array of illnesses and confined to bed for weeks, my parents bought me a copy of Alice in Wonderland and I consumed it and reread it until I needed to read the sequel Through the Looking Glass. I loved both books and may have conflated the two after all these years, but I do feel this book attracted me because of the absurd situations and the way Alice handled them. I also think the writing is brilliant and sometimes it applies to modern life very well. We can think of our present situation right now as a collection of Alice in Wonderland characters if you know what I mean.

[Ed. We can think of a Humpty-Dumpty character right off the top of our heads, and maybe a Cheshire Cat. Further affiant saith not!]

Which book would you like to leave to future generations? Why? (NOT one of the books you’ve written).

I think I would like to leave more than one: 1984 and Brave New World. Each of these was written as a warning to its generation and a lot of what they predicted has come true. If every person read both of these books they would have an understanding of how little power an individual has in these kinds of situations. Plus the writing is excellent.

[Ed. Interesting that both books retain their message.]

What inspired you to write If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor? (By the way, we think that’s a great title.)

Thank you, I appreciate your telling me! I have told this story many times before, but in case anyone hasn’t learned about this I will tell you. I was going for my Masters degree at Manhattanville College in Purchase, NY. Manhattanville runs a Creative Writing Week every summer. They invite famous authors and writing professors to head up their workshops. The workshops run in the morning and then the afternoons are free for writing or other endeavors. The second year I participated a workshop with Paula Danziger was offered to learn children’s writing. I was lucky enough to be admitted into this workshop. To be admitted you had to write three pages of a children’s story. At the time my daughter was a senior in high school and acting out with signs of bulimia. At the same time she had issues about her body. So I created Carolyn Samuels, who felt bad about her body. She was being bullied by a girl, Jennifer Taylor, who was as perfect as a girl could be. Except she had a big problem and a big secret because of this problem. Carolyn hyperventilated when she was nervous and Jennifer was bullying because of it. I took the three pages into my workshop and when my turn came to have Paula Danziger on an individual basis she wrote Cut, Cut, Cut on almost every sentence. She said to me that it had a good idea and she was going to help me to get it where it should go. She wrote almost the entire first chapter again and aside from a few changes here and there and of course, rewriting it in my own voice, the chapter is as she wrote it. She showed me how to write small but effective sentences and when I was able to look at it again I decided to write an entire novel. Because of all of her help I dedicated this book to Paula.

[Ed. Barbara, we never get tired of hearing this story. Good for you and good for Paula Danziger.]

 Tell us about your latest project or projects. What was the inspiration for those projects?

I have finished the sequel to If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor, Who Is Jennifer Taylor? which focuses on Jennifer’s story and is told in her point of view. What makes her the girl she is? How does she cope with her life, which in this book is falling apart? I had not thought I needed a sequel until my line editor’s daughter, who had been given my book, asked him was there another book in this series. It was then that I realized I did have a series after all and so this set of books is being renamed: The Mill Valley High series. I am also in the middle of writing a third book, which will be about a boy who just moved to Mill Valley and became a big part of the second book, Danny Ryan. I am calling it Danny’s Story. I started it at NaNoWriMo and it still has a ways to go. I am waiting to submit Who Is Jennifer Taylor? until after I have gotten feedback from my beta readers.

Are there any genres that you have never written in that you would like to try? Why or why not?

Yes. Actually, I would love to try writing a mystery story or a sci fi story, but that would require my finding a reason to write one. You never know, because I have written a story that is definitely not YA. It is a mystery/adventure/love story, but it needs more research and I haven’t done it.

We understand that you are working on a poetry project. Are there things that you feel can be better said in a poem than in prose? Please explain.

Yes, I am working on a poetry book as a memorial to my late husband. It will be called Losing the Love of My Life. I have gathered many of the poems I have written these past two years and I am adding a few from when he was alive too. So far this is in the very early stages, but I am hoping to have it ready soon.

Actually, I do believe that there are some things that are better said in poetry than in prose. Since I write in both, I can say that emotions are better expressed in poetry and because of that I feel writing poetry can help your prose. Images are a big part of poetry and for me the words flow more easily when I am writing poetry. I have learned that people really like my poetry and I have become part of a poetry community. Poetry digs deep into the core of a person and it’s like putting your soul on the paper or the screen.

Let’s show some poems right now.

Aura of Possibilities

The flower buds rise in front of me

from long thin green fronds

poised to open

about to burst forth with yellow

flowers seen poking from

a precocious one in the crowd

I stand to check it out

moving closer to see it

I have been sipping

my iced vanilla nonfat latte

in the time between appointments

on a bench near Starbucks

alone and alone in my heart


My thoughts ramble in the soft

breeze as I ponder living without you

A separation so painful it is

as if a limb were severed

The bleeding has stopped and

a scar formed over the cut

Yet I imagine you here

sitting beside me on the bench

probably doing the crossword

from the NY Times

on the page you tore


and folded to carry with you

or on your phone as you later did

my imaginary limb there once more

making the world full for me

like the time you were still here

when I felt complete and not

as if I were dangling in the air


But wait the garden speaks to me

“You are a bud waiting to open

and though some of mine have

withered and dried the strong live on”

and I knew I was in

the aura of possibilities.

copyright 2015 by Barbara Ehrentreu


Your Words


Feed me your words

for they expand and

fill the cracks so

empty and yearning

for the lilting phrases

gliding gracefully over

the page and lifting

my spirit as I view

the luscious images

you portray in your

tender and truthful


and my heart sings

with the joy of finding

such beauty in

phrases dripping

with desire and pain

love and sweet ecstasy

of learning, questioning,

wondering and prayer

And they rush in like

a torrential overflowing river

dislodging the mundane

and the unquestioned and

rest in a precious place

refreshing my soul

creating peace.

copyright 2015 by Barbara Ehrentreu


Poem for Karen King’s Poetry Contest based on a photo of a white bird maybe an egret

White Bird in the Water

Curved white neck graceful

as the sweep of a woman’s hair

standing straight as a statue

long black pointed beak protruding


It guards the space around it

searching, always searching

though still as a stone

feet planted in the loose sand


Poised to strike it holds its stance

a study in paused action

its eyes able only to see to the side

unaware of the vista in front of it


Aqua waves wash over its caged feet

yet it can rise in a second to grab

the escaping prey found finally

erupting with a splash as it goes


What could this white beauty

be thinking if it does think?

Or is it only trained on the prize

waiting beneath the surface of the water?


Would I had the patience of this

magnificent bird to wait for the prize

to come to me and not race around

like a gobbling turkey or a scurrying mouse


In our attempt to find our prizes

could we not take our cue from this

patient bird who takes a stance

and does not budge until the prize is in sight.

copyright 2016 by Barbara Ehrentreu

Here are excerpts from both of Barbara’s books:


If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor:

I spot him walking toward my locker with a small box in one hand and a plastic fork in the other. My Crush! He hands me the box, and I open it. Inside is a piece of luscious chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. I look up into his blue eyes and give him the box so I can touch his cheek as I smooth his dark hair. “You always know just what I like.” He smiles and feeds me a forkful of cake. I don’t have to worry about eating it because I can eat anything I want and not gain weight. He places the cake box in my locker so he can put his arms around me. The first bell rings in my ears. I ignore it because I’m thin and blonde and floating in the arms of my dark- haired crush. The other cheerleaders run up to us laughing and kidding around, and I’m about to speak. The ringing gets louder.

The dream evaporates, and I realize it’s the darn alarm piercing my sleep. Slamming my fist onto the snooze button, I get this nagging feeling. Then I remember. I have something to do. Worse luck, I have to do it, not as the slender blonde beauty in my dream, but as the real Carolyn Samuels with my brown curly hair hanging like shriveled spaghetti, mud brown eyes, and a body too large for fashion.

I see my new book bag is packed and ready by the door with the initials C. S. in blue, my favorite color. Suddenly it hits me, and I get this dizzy let-me-plop-on-the-pillow feeling. Freshman year of high school—first day. My brain is ready, but my body isn’t. Jennifer will be there. Math class and Jennifer; gym class with Jennifer. My body curls into a fetal position, and I throw the covers over my head. Don’t faint Carolyn, I tell myself, panting.



The phone rang as the ball left the pitcher’s glove and I glanced toward the sound. Mom’s tears made me forget all about the game. My life changed while the TV blurred and turned into a nightmare kaleidoscope. That moment has been indelibly pressed into my thoughts.

My sister, Diane, was upstairs hunched over her computer as usual. She’s not a baseball fan at all. But I lived and breathed for the Mets that fall. They had such a great chance of getting the pennant and maybe even winning the World Series. I obsessed about the Mets, and of course, Joey.

Joey, my best friend from kindergarten, was always there for me. It’s hard to imagine a recess without him by my side. He’s bigger than I am and always looked a little older than he was. Mom liked Joey because he reassured her he would obey her rules. Maybe it was his easy smile or his clear, gray eyes.

Lately, though, Joey and I haven’t been so close. It happened during the summer when he was a counselor at this camp and he hooked up with this girl, Amber, who goes to our school. So now he spends a lot of his time with her and we barely see each other. We used to watch the Mets together all the time, too. So I missed him being there with me, and his comments about the players. But all that was before the phone call. Pre-phone call my deepest thoughts centered on the Mets and finding the sweet spot for the ball in my new baseball glove. Pre-phone call, my world was worrying about homework getting done and wondering what lunch would be like on Monday. Oh, and of course, thinking about how to beat the next team we were up against in softball. I’m a starting pitcher this year and I want to show my coach she can believe in me. I’m only a sophomore, but I hope

someday to play college softball. I need to get a scholarship in order to go. My parents have already told me they can’t swing it without one.

After the phone call my life was a ball of twisted emotions and all I could think about was Dad, and how Mom, Diane, and I would get through this night.

And here are the buy links.


MuseItUp Publishing:


For Nook on Barnes and Noble:

If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor: (print and ebook)

MuseItUp Publishing:


For Nook on Barnes and Noble:

And here are all of Barbara’s links to find out more about her.

Blog: Barbara’s Meanderings:

Facebook Author Page:





Thank you for being on our blog. It was great having you!