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.
.

Monday, October 27, 2014

American Historical Romance!

I have eight American historicals published and just completed my ninth, Traitor's Curse, book 3 in the Traitor's Legacy Series. Book 1, Enemy of the King, set during the drama of the American Revolution, opens in an elegant plantation home outside of Charleston, SC, in 1780, and swiftly moves into Carolina Backcountry. The antagonist in Enemy of the King, British Dragoon Captain Jacob Vaughan, captured my imagination and is the hero of Book 2, Traitor's LegacyFilled with intrigue, spies, and romance, Traitor's Legacy, is largely set in Halifax, NC in 1781, toward the end of the revolution. The story concludes at Williamsburg and Yorktown.
Traitor's Curse, Book 3 in the Traitor's Legacy series, has a mysterious ghostly flavor. This historical is set in and around the town of Halifax, North Carolina at the conclusion of the American Revolution. And I'm slowly inching forward in time. Book four in the Traitor's Legacy series will take place in the latter 1780's. I'm laying the groundwork for that novel, Traitor's Revenge

My colonial American Christmas romance novella, A Warrior for Christmas, is set in affluent colonial society, but the hero, a former Shawnee captive, recently returned from the frontier. This story is also available in audio.
Red Birds SongThrough the FireKira, Daughter of the Moon, and The Bear Walker's Daughter are part of my Native American Warrior series and set in the colonial American frontier. The French and Indian War and Pontiac's War are the backdrop for several stories. Some follow on the heels of war, including the American Revolution. My short story, The Lady and the Warrior, takes place in the frontier after the revolution.
Whether it's Scots-Irish settlers clashing with Native Americans in the colonial frontier, Rebels and Redcoats battling in the revolution, or a more genteel colonial world, apart from the ghosts and furtive assassins,  my work encompasses a wide range of settings. All my stories are carefully researched, but they're called fiction for a reason. They take place in Virginia, (also what is now West Virginia), North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.
***Amazon has all my titles, some in paperback. Many are also available from other online booksellers.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

‘God is good, but never dance in a small boat,’ and Other Wisdom


fairytale“Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” ~Roald Dahl

“To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.” ~ Joseph Chilton Pearce

“Be patient. The best things happen unexpectedly.”

“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.” ~Dr. Seuss

“It’s a slow process, but quitting won’t speed it up.” 
This can apply to most any undertaking

“Give it to God and go to sleep.”

“Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck.”

misty autumn mountain road“All glory comes from daring to begin.”
“Nothing can dim the light that shines from within.” ~Maya Angelou

“Follow your heart but take your brain with you.”

“If you can’t say something nice, say it in French.” ~BabeWalker.com

“If you still care about it, you still care about it.”

“The flower doesn’t dream of the bee. It blossoms and the bee comes.” ~mark nepo

“It doesn’t matter what others are doing. It matters what YOU are doing.” ~ss

“Allow yourself to be a beginner. No one starts off being excellent.” ~BeHappy.me

old tree with roots“Do something today that your future self will thank you for.”

“Even the nicest people have their limits.”

“God has a plan even when you don’t.”

“Surround yourself with the things you love. Discard the rest.”

“Let what you love be what you do.” ~Rumi

“All it takes is one song to bring back a thousand memories.”

“See everything; overlook a great deal; correct a little.” ~Pope John XXIII

“The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra.” ~Jimmy Johnson

“Don’t look where you fall, but where you slipped.” ~African Proverb

magical night tree“Do not fall before you are pushed.” ~English Proverb

“When you throw dirt, you lose ground.” ~Texan Proverb

“God is good, but never dance in a small boat.” ~Irish Saying

“Let go or be dragged.” ~Author Unknown

“Spread joy. Chase your wildest dreams.” ~Patch Adams

“Whatever you are be a good one.” ~Abraham Lincoln

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Writing Or Not

 I'm having challenges.

As if ragweed season isn't enough to battle with major allergies and being a 'lifer' on the shots, I got sick on top of this infamous time of year. Came down with sinus, bronchitis, and bronchial spasms, so I'm back on the inhaler and an antibiotic. Herbal remedies failed me. Sigh. Unless I would have been that much worse without them. Like dead.

It's hard to write when you're blowing and coughing your head off. Inspiration fades and there's no snap, crackle, and pop (except in my chest). This is when I long for the writing elves to come and work on my novel while I doze in between bouts of hacking. An insightful dream would be most welcome, but mine are weird, cold med induced hallucinations. Nothing useful. I'll just have to make something up, I tell myself. Which probably sounds odd because that's what most people assume authors do. Actually, I don't. I have this deep sense of the story and of being led in its creation. Just making stuff up doesn't happen with me. The characters speak, if I can hear them over the honking.


Meanwhile, I have good news to share. My latest historical romance novel, Traitor's Legacy, is out this month. Published by the Wild Rose Press. A big book signing event is in the works for Historic Halifax, NC in October. The bulk of the story is set in that area. The event coordinator tells me the interview I had with the editor of North Carolina's Eastern Living Magazine is out, and he did a fabulous job with it. I'm waiting for my copies to come in the mail. The story I'm struggling with is the sequel to Traitor's Legacy, entitled Traitor's Curse

I was sailing along. Then my grandbabies found two abandoned kittens for me to care for, which I undertook with exhausting devotion. Resulting in a lack of sleep, which may have led to my hack, sniffle, honk derailment. But the kittens are doing well. I've named the buddy brothers 'Peaches and Cream'. Perhaps they will inspire me. Possibly show up in the novel. I don't know when readers will pick up on this, but I have an orange tabby cat in nearly everyone of my stories, unless the characters are on the run in the frontier and can't take care of a cat. The orange tabby makes an appearance in Traitor's Legacy, in the wonderful old home featured in the story called Thornton Hall.

“A kitten is the delight of a household. All day long a comedy is played out by an incomparable actor.”
― ChampfleuryThe Cat Past and Present

Two kittens, double the delight. And the work.

“A kitten is, in the animal world, what a rosebud is in the garden.”
― Robert Sowthey

Yep, you're getting kitten quotes. Because this is a random post.

“The only thing a cat worries about is what’s happening right now. As we tell the kittens, you can only wash one paw at a time.”― Lloyd AlexanderTime Cat

And that might be good advice for me, as well.