Saturday, May 2, 2015

The Darling Buds of May

A soft spring day in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia is scented with the sweetest blossoms. Many of our best loved flowers bloom in spring. Perhaps because they come after a long, cold winter, and are nature's reward. Or God's. Either way, I thought you might enjoy seeing some images my talented daughter Elise took of our garden(s) recently. I say gardens, plural, because we have many beds. Beyond the yard and gardens, we gaze down to the green meadow surrounding the pond like a gem from the Emerald Isles. And up above the glistening grass and green rye fields, are the wooded hills. Tender new leaves flushed with rose blend in with the many shades of green coloring the trees. Beyond the hills are the Allegheny Mountains. On a clear day, we can see the ridges tinged in green rising in the distance. Spring comes later in the mountains, but it comes in all its wealth and beauty. But back to the farm.

Below are some lovely quotes to accompany these images, with insightful commentary.


"I love spring anywhere, but if I could choose I would always greet it in a garden." ~Ruth Stout


I totally agree with Ruth Stout, and have her gardening book. A real treasure.




"If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome." ~Anne Bradstreet


Amen, Anne Bradstreet. 


"Our spring has come at last with the soft laughter of April suns and shadow of April showers." ~Byron Caldwell Smith, letter to Kate Stephens


What a beautiful romantic thing to write.




"The year’s at the spring
And day’s at the morn;
Morning’s at seven;
The hillside’s dew-pearled;
The lark’s on the wing;
The snail’s on the thorn;
God’s in His heaven -
All’s right with the world!"

~Robert Browning

Robert Browning is quite the optimist, which one can better aspire to be if one spends a great deal of time in a garden. The world has run mad, but love still shines brightly. And he was deeply in love with the talented poet who became his wife, Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

"And Spring arose on the garden fair,
Like the Spirit of Love felt everywhere;
And each flower and herb on Earth’s dark breast
rose from the dreams of its wintry rest."
~Percy Bysshe Shelley, "The Sensitive Plant"


I do love the English Romantic Poets. Now, we must have some Keats.


"A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing." ~John Keats


Why did Keats value quiet breathing? Because he died young of consumption. But he knew love, and was in love with a wonderful woman. He also deeply loved nature and flowers.




"Every spring is the only spring — a perpetual astonishment." ~Ellis Peters


This is so true. I never weary of the delights of spring.


"The naked earth is warm with Spring,
And with green grass and bursting trees
Leans to the sun’s kiss glorying,
And quivers in the sunny breeze."
~Julian Grenfell


I can't say it any better than this.




Flowers in order are bleeding heart, tulips in front of the old red barn, Virginia bluebells, violets arranged in an old bottle we found on the farm that turned lavender in the kitchen window, cherry blossoms, and a bouquet of lilac beside the large potted geraniums on our sunspace. Elise made the arrangements and took all of the images herself.




For more on me, please visit my blog at:  https://bethtrissel.wordpress.com/

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Easter's Past

I've always loved Easter, a joyous season when the earth is reborn in a swell of new life washed with vibrant color, a time of spiritual and physical renewal. I can't imagine Christ's resurrection taking place at any other time of year. This is most fitting. As a six year old recently returned from an early childhood spent in Taiwan, I delighted in my first egg hunt in a neighbor's yard filled with blooming crocus and daffodils. Tucked in the green grass and among those shining blossoms were the many-colored eggs, like hidden jewels. Magical. And chocolate rabbits. I was in awe of an American Easter.
Of course, in those days little girls wore hats and gloves and crinolines under their Easter dresses. Yes, I was born in the 1800's. I also received my first white Bible on Easter, which is still my favorite one. It had this new book smell and books were quite special back then because my father was an underpaid English professor and we were poor. I just liked smelling my new Bible, but did eventually read much of it. The names of my favorite Sunday School teachers are inked in the front under the section entitled Friends at Church. I must have been a real nerd not to have any children listed. Actually, I know I was.
Another early Easter memory is our family returning home from church and me climbing from the car to bury my face in a golden clump of daffodils by the back doorstep, beaded with rain. Their sweet scent said spring to me. And new life. I always imagined the tomb where Christ was buried and rose again surrounded by daffodils and crocus.
"For I remember it is Easter morn,
And life and love and peace are all new born."  ~Alice Freeman Palmer
"Let the resurrection joy lift us from loneliness and weakness and despair to strength and beauty and happiness."  ~Floyd W. Tomkins
"It is the hour to rend thy chains,
The blossom time of souls."  ~Katherine Lee Bates





Friday, February 20, 2015

Ghostly, Gothic, Historical Romance ‘Traitor’s Curse’

I’m excited to announce my upcoming release, spine-tingling historical romance novel Traitor’s Curse, book three in my Traitor’s Legacy Series, and the sequel to historical romance novel Traitor’s Legacy.
TraitorsCurse_w9629_med (1)
The series opens with award-winning historical romance novel, Enemy of the King, Unlike the first two novels, Traitor’s Curse is set shortly after the American Revolution, and has a ghostly, Gothic flavor. Although, come to think of it, a ghost also figures in Enemy of King. I can’t seem to keep away from them. But Traitor’s Curse has a darker paranormal bent. Mystery and carefully researched history are strong elements in both Traitor’s Legacy andTraitor’s Curse. Enemy of the King abounds with adventure. And all three books pulse with the unpredictable and exhilarating scintillations of the heart. And humor, I always incorporate touches of humor.
Blurb for Traitor’s Curse:
Halifax, North Carolina, 1783. Captain Stuart Monroe returns home from the Revolutionary War to find Thornton Hall threatened by a peacetime foe: debt. He knows the location of a treasure amassed to pay for the capture of Benedict Arnold that would restore his manor to its former glory. The catch, it’s hidden in the graveyard, and coveted by old enemies. Hettie Fairfax inherited the Sight from her Cherokee ancestors, and her otherworldly visitors warn her, and Stuart, away from the buried treasure. Half-dead from fever, she delivers a message: the treasure is cursed. But will he believe a girl half out of her mind with illness? Even when a very real enemy attempts to poison her? Stuart soon wants to marry Hettie, but she fears her “odd ways” will blemish his reputation. The spirits have their own agenda, however, and the battle against darkness tests everything the couple holds dear, including their love for each other.
Colonial American historical romance novel
Colonial American historical romance novel Traitor's Legacy

Blurb for Traitor’s Legacy:
1781. On opposite sides of the War of Independence, British Captain Jacob Vaughan and Claire Monroe find themselves thrust together by chance and expediency.
Captain Vaughan comes to a stately North Carolina manor to catch a spy. Instead, he finds himself in bedlam: the head of the household is an old man ravaged by madness, the one sane male of the family is the very man he is hunting, and the household is overseen by his beguiling sister Claire.
Torn between duty, love, and allegiances, yearning desperately for peace, will Captain Vaughan and Claire Monroe forge a peace of their own against the vagaries of war and the betrayal of false friends?
Enemyoftheking resizedBlurb for Enemy of the King:
1780, South Carolina: While Loyalist Meriwether Steele recovers from illness in the stately home of her beloved guardian, Jeremiah Jordan, she senses the haunting presence of his late wife. When she learns that Jeremiah is a Patriot spy and shoots Captain Vaughan, the British officer sent to arrest him, she is caught up on a wild ride into Carolina back country, pursued both by the impassioned captain and the vindictive ghost. Will she remain loyal to her king and Tory twin brother or risk a traitor’s death fighting for Jeremiah? If Captain Vaughan snatches her away, he won’t give her a choice.
All novels in the Traitor’s Legacy Series are published by The Wild Rose Press and available in print and eBook from their online bookstore, in kindle and print at Amazon, in Nook Book at Barnes & Noble and in eBook from all major online booksellers. Local bookstores can order the paperback in as can libraries. Release date for Traitor’s Curse TBD, but probably late summer.
Graphic Artist Debbie Taylor did the covers for Traitor’s Legacy and Traitor’s Curse. Rae Monet designed the cover for Enemy of the King.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

When the Wind Goes Out of Your Sails

Flying birdsFind a new jump off place. Launching from the same spot and crashing 'is no even working,' to quote from my then 3-year-old grandson, Colin. Fresh wind will give you lift and the perspective to explore new ground. Inspiration can come from the most unlikely places. If you never deter from the path, you don't know what wonders may be hidden in the trees. Hold fast to your faith. If you don't have any, reach deep inside and find some. You're gonna need every last bit.
misty trees (2)An author once told me I'd need a second and third skin to be a writer. I was still working on the first one. I'm tougher now, but that doesn't mean the barbs don't hurt. Just less. Every venture in life is a challenge. Some more than others. Writing has to rank way up there. I write because it's what I do, and put my heart into each story. The labor required to craft these creations is indescribable. The gratification must come from the journey, though. Nothing else is a given. Readers may or may not appreciate my efforts. Ultimately, I must write for myself, and I'm exploring new ground. The path's a little hazy, but I'll find my way.
Bird, Flying, Crow, Raven, Sky, Sun“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”
~ Maya Angelou
"Out of difficulties grow miracles." ~Jean de la Bruyere
"We know what we are, but know not what we may be." ~William Shakespeare

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Consider Catnip--Cats Do

Catnip is native to Eurasia, but is naturalized over much of North America and the world, including my garden(s). During the Middle Ages, catnip was used in the treatment of nervous complaints, for colds, to sooth upset stomachs, and as a sleep aid. Catnip was rubbed on meats before cooking (possibly to disguise the flavor if it had gone off) and the leaves were added to salad. Early colonists took catnip to the New World, and it spread from there. (Image of catnip in our garden)


In The Family Herbal,  English botanist John Hill says, “Catmint (another name for catnip) is common about our hedges, but of very great virtues.” He recommends it, “Be gathered just when the flowers are opening, and dried. It is an excellent woman’s medicine; an infusion of it is good against hysteric complaints, vapours, and fits, and it moderately promotes the menses.”

In Colonial America: A tea brewed from the leaves was used to treat stomach ache and head colds. Catnip was also steeped in wine and imbibed that way. If a woman wanted to increase her fertility she might soak in a catnip sitz bath. Catnip will take over the garden if you let it, but I like the scent, and the plant, though kind of weedy, is appealing in full flower. Very cheery.

Pavel: Siamese tabby mixOur cats, particularly our Siamese Tabby Mix, Pavel, love catnip. He rolls in it and chews on the leaves when I sprinkle some on the climbing perch. Even if Pavel is upstairs, he appears in seconds when I get out the catnip. I'm not sure why cats are so besotted by it, just that many are. Though not all. Percy doesn't care one way or the other. Our kittens, Peaches and Cream, are fans. This summer, daughter Elise and I gathered seeds of various plants to save, including catnip. We put them in an envelope and left it on the counter, only to discover the contents scattered and Pavel's mouth suspiciously covered with the leaves of catnip that had accompanied the seed gathering. He claimed to know nothing about it, with that innocence felines can conjure. 
 worried kitten

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Wonder of Sassafras


sassafras leaf in autumnIn need of a tonic? Sassafras comes to mind and figures prominently in my colonial American historical romances set in the Alleghenies among the Native Americans. Think the colonial frontier–The Last of the Mohicans–and you’re there.
Back to sassafras. I love the tree’s varied mitten shaped leaves and its distinctive, aromatic scent. My parents have a sassafras tree growing in their yard, but I’d have to head into the mountains to get my fix, or buy sassafras from the small local grocery store.
*Note to self, plant sassafras trees. Maybe if I put in an entire grove some would survive. Our challenge is the cows which occupy much of our land and eat anything not protected behind secure fencing. Saplings are among their favorite delicacies.
You might be interested to learn, as was I, that Christopher Columbus is said to have quelled mutinous seamen by the sudden sweet smell of sassafras which indicated the nearness of land. Not only did it aid in the discovery of the New World, but was an important export to Europe in the early days of colonial American, even exceeding shipments of tobacco.
Wine made from the darkly blue berries has been imbibed for colds. During the spring-flowering period, the blossoms were simmered to make a tea for reducing fevers. A blood purifying spring tonic was and still is imbibed from a tea made by brewing the roots. A tea distilled from the bark was believed to aid in the treatment of bronchitis, respiratory ailments and tummy upset. Chewing the bark was thought to help break the tobacco habit, a problem even in the early days of this country. The roots were distilled and the oil from them used to flavor many products including ginger ale, sarsaparilla, cream soda, root beer, toothpaste…
Sassafras leaves in autumn
A poultice made from the leaves and laid on wounds was used to stop bleeding and aid in healing. Native Americans steeped in the many uses of sassafras passed their knowledge along to European settlers in the colonial frontier. A tea from the bark was also thought to be beneficial in the treatment of venereal disease, needed by both Indians and colonists alike. If you wonder what ailments afflicted folk in the early days of this country, you need only read what they were most interested in finding treatments for and cancer doesn’t make the top ten.
How to make sassafras tea: One method is to vigorously scrub several roots, a couple of inches long, and use the whole root, or cut them in into pieces, and bring to a boil in three pints of water. Reduce heat and simmer for fifteen minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and steep for another ten minutes before straining and serving. Yet another method is to drop several roots into a quart of boiling water, remove from heat and steep then serve. A pound of roots will make 4 quarts of tea and can be used several times before they lose their strength.
For the bark, especially used as a spring tonic, cut or grind a teaspoon of bark and steep in a cup of boiling water for ten minutes, strain and sip. The tea from either root or bark should have a yellowish red hue, rich smell and pleasing taste. It can be thinned with milk or cream and sweetened. I would add some honey, but those of you who like it plain, enjoy.
And good health to us all.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Traitor's Legacy Series and the American Revolution

Mystery, adventure, spies, turncoats, traitors, Patriots, Tories, and above all, romance, are interwoven in The Traitor's Legacy Series. Book One is award-winning historical romance novel, Enemy of the King, my version of The Patriot with ghostly flavors of Daphne Dumaurier's Rebecca.  
Pleasant Grove, the home featured in Enemy of the King, was drawn from Drayton Hall, the oldest preserved plantation in America that's open to the public, located outside the city of Charleston, SC. I also depicted parts of the old family homeplace in Virginia.
Part of the inspiration behind Enemy of the King came from research into my early American Scots-Irish and British ancestors who fought on both sides of the American Revolution. One direct forebear five generations removed from me, Sam Houston, uncle of the famous Sam, fought in the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, NC and kept a diary used by historians today. I was also inspired by the Battle of Kings Mountain, in North Carolina, that helped turn the tide of the revolution in favor of the Patriots and is featured in Enemy of the King. These accounts turned my focus to the Southern face of the war. 
Another tie to the past is my grandfather, seven greats back, Sir George Augustus Elliott, a British general and Governor of Gibraltar during the American Revolution. He was awarded the title Lord Heathfield, Baron of Gibraltar, in honor of his bravery in its defense during the attack by the Spanish and French. While Sir George was giving his all for king and country, his grandson was fighting under George Washington as a commissary officer. There must have been quite a rift in that family. While I'm on the subject of ancestors and the past, I should add that the research for this series is staggering, and seemingly endless. I've had help from historians, including the former head historian with colonial Williamsburg, Taylor Stoemer, and assistance from reenactors. I've visited the sites featured in the books, and read a lot. Watched every series on the American Revolution in general, plus specific battles and characters. But I digress. Frequently.
The Wild Rose Press published Enemy of the King in 2009. A sequel featuring the fascinating antagonist, British dragoon Captain Jacob Vaughan, tugged at my mind. I even had a plot and title, Traitor’s Legacy. But, I couldn't settle on the right setting for the story, so left it to simmer and went on with other works.
In late spring, 2012, North Carolinian, Ann See, a big fan of Enemy of the King and fellow colonial American enthusiast, contacted me about writing a sequel set in the oft overlooked, but historically significant town of Halifax, NC. As Enemy of the King takes place in North and South Carolina, and I have strong ties to the Carolinas, this suggestion was appealing.
 the Owens House
the Owens House
At Ann's invitation, my husband Dennis and I made a trip to Halifax, and were given a royal tour of this carefully preserved glimpse into our nation’s dynamic past. The quaint town is like a mini colonial Williamsburg. Most impressive among Halifax’s claims to fame, in the spring of 1776, North Carolina’s Fourth Provincial Congress met there, and on April 12, unanimously adopted a document later called the ‘Halifax Resolves,’ the first official action by a colony proclaiming their independence from England. This made Halifax a nest of rebels and thorn in the side of the British––what I needed for my plot.
Photo of Person's Ordinary #2JPGMuch of Traitor's Legacy takes place in and around Historic Halifax. Person’s Ordinary, featured in the novel, was an important stage-coach stop and is the oldest landmark in Halifax County. Located in Littleton, Person’s Ordinary is the oldest preserved structure of its kind in the East, and once served as a tavern owned by Thomas Person. The British occupied the Ordinary in May 1781 when they made their way through Halifax en route to Virginia.
The British Legion, also known as Tarleton’s Legion, headed by the infamous Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton, were on horseback and out in front of the rest of the army under command of General Lord Cornwallis. Tarleton underestimated the harassment inflicted by the local militia, whose stubborn resistance resulted in an extended stay by the British and reprisals against the town. In fact, there was so much looting that when Lord Cornwallis arrived, he had to court-martial and execute one sergeant and a dragoon. Apparently, his lordship didn’t want to leave a trail of animosity everywhere his army went. .
174389418Thornton Hall, the plantation home featured in Traitor’s Legacy, is drawn from a run down but once outstanding old house, known as Little Manor, located a mile or two from Person’s Ordinary. The original home was also built by Thomas Person. He wouldn’t recognize it now. Dusk was falling when we drove to the overgrown site to see the derelict house. I knew at once I’d found the perfect home for the novel. Ann supplied me with descriptions of the old house in its glory days and I resurrected it, like restoring the Titanic, with some poetic license, of course. I’d love to move into Thornton Hall. The gardens are also lovely.
Mystery, intrigue, spies, a coded letter, and stirring romance fill the pages of Traitor’s Legacy, while bringing history to life. The story concludes in Williamsburg and Yorktown.
Bay Stallion
Story Description: 1781. On opposite sides of the War of Independence, British Captain Jacob Vaughan and Claire Monroe find themselves thrust together by chance and expediency.
Captain Vaughan comes to a stately North Carolina manor to catch a spy. Instead, he finds himself in bedlam: the head of the household is an old man ravaged by madness, the one sane male of the family is the very man he is hunting, and the household is overseen by his beguiling sister Claire.
Torn between duty, love, and allegiances, yearning desperately for peace, will Captain Vaughan and Claire Monroe forge a peace of their own against the vagaries of war and the betrayal of false friends?~
colonial militia preparing to fireBack to the novel that started it all, Enemy of the King made the top ten Publisher’s Weekly BHB Reader’s Choice Best Books of 2009  and is on the 2010 Best Romance Novel List at Buzzle. The story received a five cup review from Coffee Time Romance & More and was voted book of the week at Long and Short Reviews.
I recently completed the third novel in the Traitor's Legacy Series, entitled Traitor's Curse, and submitted it to my historical editor at the Wild Rose Press. While also carefully researched historically, Traitor's Curse has a ghostly element and a mysterious Gothic flavor. This novel will come out in 2015. I don't know when yet. Release date to be determined.
Stay tuned. Meanwhile, catch up by reading the two books already released in the series, Enemy of the King and Traitor's Legacy are available in print and kindle at Amazon, and in eBook from all major online booksellers.
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