Saturday, September 29, 2012

If You Like Historical Romance with a The Last of the Mohican's Flavor

June 1758, the Colonial Frontier, the Allegheny Mountains of Western Virginia, the Shawnee Warrior Camp. 
Mild breezes caressed Rebecca’s face, wafting the tang of wood smoke and the meaty aroma of roasting venison, nudging her from a place of no dreams. Water gurgled over stones. She must lie  near a stream. Earthy humus cushioned her beneath, and a woolen blanket covered her. She traced the cloth with her fingertips.
The ache in her head made it hard to think. Groaning softly, she opened her eyes to the branches of a great oak silhouetted against the saffron sky.  Sunset. How had she come to be lying sore and bruised on the forest floor? Was Kate here?
Men’s voices drew her. She strained to understand their words. Bewildered and frightened, she shifted gingerly onto her side, peering through smoky shadows at a series of campfires.
Dear God. Warriors, not soldiers, encircled each blaze—dozens of them. Memories of the ambush rushed back as she covered her mouth in a futile effort to stifle a cry.
All heads turned, and a host of dark eyes glinted at her.
She went rigid with dread, her heart pounding. She was as good as dead. Why did she yet live?
After an agonizing moment, the men resumed their banter, some smoking pipes. One tall warrior rose from the cluster seated around the nearest campfire. His muscular body was clad only in an elk skin breechclout, blue cloth leggings, and buckskin moccasins that reached well up his calves; the same skins fashionable men wore with a far more primitive use. A sheathed knife hung from the woven belt at his waist. He’d slung a tomahawk at his side. The blade protruded above his belt and the carved handle below, ready to grasp in an instant.
She watched him intently. Her life hung on his every move. But he didn’t reach for either weapon.Rather, he bent to dip a cupful of steaming liquid from the kettle near the fire then walked to her.
Icy fingers clenched, every muscle taut, she stared up at him. Even without dry-mouthed fear, her eyes would have been fastened on this formidable male, like some New World god sprung from this wild land. A shudder coursed through her rigid body as he knelt beside her.
“I’ll not harm you.”
His assurance in clear English took her by surprise. Not only that, but there was a familiar quality about his face, his voice. Striving to remember, she searched every contour: eyes as black as a night without stars, high cheekbones, sculpted nose, strong chin. His lightly tanned skin was unstreaked by red and black paint. No silver cones hung from his ears. No ornament pierced his nose. Instead of the scalp lock worn by most braves, his black hair hung loose around his shoulders.
She shifted her gaze to the muscled planes of his bare chest, an eye-opening sight for a woman accustomed to long-sleeved shirts, waistcoats, and cravats.
She let her eyes drop lower. His narrow breechclout revealed a great deal of masculine thighs. She hurriedly returned her widened stare to his dark scrutiny. Gaping at a man, even a potentially deadly warrior, wasn’t her nature.
For a moment, he simply looked at her. What lay behind those penetrating eyes?
Through the Fire  is available in print and ebook at Amazon KindleThe Wild Rose Press, Barnes & Noble and other online booksellers.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Lest We Forget--the Wisdom of John Adams

'Liberty, once lost, is lost forever.'
~JOHN ADAMS, letter to Abigail Adams, Jul. 17, 1775

In these troubled times in America, it’s wise to remember where we came from  and what our founders envisioned for this great nation. Being an American is a sacred privilege, our hard-won freedoms, fast eroding, should never be taken for granted, and preserving these inalienable rights, a call to arms for all who cherish liberty. With that in mind, I highly recommend watching the excellent HBO production that came out several years ago featuring the indomitable John Adams–appropriately entitled John Adams. Not to be confused (as I’ve done) with an earlier production, The Adam’s Chronicles (not that this isn't also a worthy series). 
What John Adams and his remarkable wife, Abigail, and their entire family suffered and sacrificed in the forging of America is unbelievable. Not only them, but countless others as well.  I wonder if I’d last a day in that turbulent era, and yet, my forebears did.  So did many of yours.  If your ancestors were not yet in this country at its birth, no doubt they played an important role in making America what it is, or is intended to be, at its finest. Let us not forget, or our children and grandchildren will pay the price. Theirs already is a vastly different America than the nation envisioned by its outstanding founders with their mind-boggling perseverance.
As an author with several stories set in early America, and currently at work on the sequel to my Revolutionary War romance novel Enemy of the King, I’m particularly mindful of our roots.  Join me in the quest to remember.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

If You Would Be Wise--Quotes and Images

“He who knows others is learned; he who knows himself is wise.”- Lao Tze
“It is unwise to be too sure of one’s own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err.”- Mohandas K. Gandhi
“Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it”-Albert Einstein
***Mount Mansfield, image by my brother, photographer and artist John Churchman. For more on his work visit:
“Wisdom is the supreme part of happiness.”-Sophocles
“It is a thousand times better to have common sense without education than to have education without common sense.”- Robert Green Ingersoll
“It requires wisdom to understand wisdom: the music is nothing if the audience is deaf.”-Walter Lippman
“Wisdom is a sacred communion.”-Victor Hugo
“Wisdom begins in wonder.”-Socrates
“Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.”- Lin Yutang
“Does wisdom perhaps appear on the earth as a raven which is inspired by the smell of carrion?”-Friedrich Nietzsche
“If I have been of service, if I have glimpsed more of the nature and essence of ultimate good, if I am inspired to reach wider horizons of thought and action, if I am at peace with myself, it has been a successful day.”- Alex Noble
“Without courage, wisdom bears no fruit.”- Baltasar Gracian
“Honesty is the first chapter of the book of wisdom.”-Thomas Jefferson
“The truest greatness lies in being kind, the truest wisdom in a happy mind.”-Ella Wheeler Wilcox
“My experience has shown me that the people who are exceptionally good in business aren’t so because of what they know but because of their insatiable need to know more.”-Michael Gerber
“Too bad that all the people who really know how to run the country are busy driving taxi cabs and cutting hair.”- George Burns
“Never mistake knowledge for wisdom. One helps you make a living; the other helps you make a life.”-Sandara Carey
“We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future.”- George Bernard Shaw
“Learning without thought is labor lost; thought without learning is perilous.”- Confucius
“Great beginnings are not as important as the way one finishes.” -Dr. James Dobson
“Happiness is a butterfly, which, when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.”-Nathaniel Hawthorne
“The well bred contradict other people. The wise contradict themselves.” -Oscar Wilde
***Apart from the image by my brother, John Churchman, the remainder of the images are royalty free.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Herbal Lore and the Wonder of Old Time Plants

“Much Virtue in Herbs, little in Men.”
Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) Poor Richard’s Almanac

Simple wayside flowers, even weeds, have a far greater heritage than most people realize. We modern folk cannot begin to grasp the enormous part that herbs, any plant with leaves, seeds, or flowers used for flavoring food, creating medicine, or scents, played in every aspect of life in times past; the not so distant past. There were no Walmarts or drugstores to run to for health and beauty aids, no cures to be had at every corner. Well, maybe every corner if you were in the town market with vendors hawking their wares. I shudder to think what they put into some of that stuff. And physicians favored purges and blood-letting. Happy days, but back to the wonders of herbs. Remedies for everything from colds to the bubonic plague were brewed, made into tinctures, salves, the early form of pills…whatever means thought best for conveying the desired concoction into or onto the body.

A Modern Herbal by Mrs. M. Grieve, (not all that modern) first published in 1931 and my favorite herbal, allots six pages to dandelions alone. The yellow flowers of this much maligned weed, so loved by children, supply rich nectar for the bees and wine for man. The tender spring leaves are vitamin rich and eaten fresh, or dried for digestive drinks and herbal beer. The roots are roasted for dandelion coffee, said to be indistinguishable from real coffee, though I suspect I would detect the difference. The entire plant is esteemed as a tonic, especially good for the liver and kidneys. This just scratches the surface of the wonders of dandelion, the root of which I’ve noted included in my super antioxidant green tea blend from Yogi, as is burdock, a marvel in its own right. Burdock leaves and seeds are infused to treat many skin disorders, including eczema, and are taken as a remedy for nervous hysteria. An interesting combination and certainly useful.

Lovesick? Pansies, also known as heartsease, were highly valued for their potency in love-charms and played an important part in Midsummer Night’s Dream.

“There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance…and there is pansies, that’s for thoughts.” ~ William Shakespeare

***Royalty free images

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Vital Storytellers--Beth Trissel

“I come from a family of great readers and storytellers.” Katherine Dunn
So do I, and I’ve given much thought to the inestimable value of the storytellers, both in the family and those with a far broader reach. In each generation, the storytellers remind us who we are, where we’re going, and most importantly to me, where we came from. The keepers of the story pass on that knowledge, those family accounts, the history. Someone must keep the stories alive, lest we forget. I am blessed to come from a family with a rich wealth of genealogy and lines traced back as far as Geoffrey Chaucer, and farther. I know who I am and where I came from and hold it as a sacred trust to pass that on. In this crazy world, it’s more important than ever to remember. So I tell my children, my grandchildren, my nieces…and reach out to the world through my writing. I am one of the storytellers.
“If a nation loses its storytellers, it loses its childhood.”
Peter Handke

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Poltergeist In Our Old Farm House

Years ago, my son moved into the big white Victorian house on our other farm. We have two farms quite near each other in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, and both homes are well over one hundred years old. Some of his guy friends moved in and everything was fine, then he and his fiancée (now wife) began remodeling the house. At first, no one thought much about the noises. Neither of them mentioned a thing to me. Then one night my son called, alone and uneasy. He was hunkered downstairs with the cat. His opening question was, had I said cats ward off ghosts?

No, I'd said they have a heightened awareness of them.

Oh. He informed me about the footsteps he couldn’t account for and an upstairs bedroom with a door that wouldn’t stay shut. No matter how many times he closed it, come morning it was always open. Earlier that week, his fiancé had been distressed when the bathroom doorknob turned and the door opened on her. No one was there. It freaked the cat out. Didn’t do her much good either. She was promptly converted from a disbeliever in ghosts to one strongly considering their reality.
Now, she’d gone away on a trip with her church and none of my son’s other friends were around. The last of his roomies had moved out. I suspected all the remodeling they’d done to the house had stirred something up. So, I went over.
Here, I’ll digress to say I’d dreamed earlier of a small grave plot way back in the fields behind the house and of a restless spirit associated with both. As it turned out there is just such a cemetery, an antiquated one. After I arrived that evening, my son and I went upstairs to the suspect bedroom and shut the door. I wanted to scream, and not just because I’m claustrophobic.
We held hands and I repeated the Exorcism prayer sent to my mother from an Episcopalian woman in England. She’d written my mother about visiting her church manse at the invitation of the new priest who was plagued by a poltergeist–one so violent, it had flung portraits down from the hall and hurled a saucepan lid across the kitchen. But the congregants, along with the priest, had prayed it out. As this was a Christian prayer, my son and I did the same. Never again did he or his fiancé hear footsteps or have any more trouble with doorknobs turning. That bedroom door remained as they left it and the chill feeling I had in the room dissipated.
Now, what do you think of that?
Here’s the Anglican prayer. Do not try this alone if the presence you sense is evil, only with a strong group of Christians, the more, the better. And join hands. Even if you think I’m nuts.

“In the name of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost, may this distressed soul be relieved of his obsession with this world and sent to where he belongs.”
I added, ‘go to the light,’ although a truly evil presence won’t, but a troubled, restless one may. Seems only right to offer that as an option.
This is one of the experiences that influenced the writing of my ghostly time travel romance novel Somewhere My Love.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Where The Past Meets the Present--Scottish Time Travel Romance Somewhere My Lass

Excerpt From Chapter Three:
Mora…Neil’s thoughts flew back to her. The medical technicians wouldn’t allow him to ride in the back of the vehicle with her. Poor girl. Her pale face remained fixed in his mind, those frightened eyes and trembling hands clutching at him as the EMT’s lifted her onto the gurney. Then they’d carried her out of the house and whisked her away in the ambulance. If Mora thought she lived in 1602, what in the world would she think of her ride to the emergency room? Apart from her mental confusion, she must come from quite a provincial part of Scotland. Her naiveté struck him as much as her highland dress. Who in God’s name were her family, apart from poor Mrs. Dannon?
Why had she been raised so old-fashioned? Her speech and manners singled her out to be someone well-born and not from a backwoods family. Could she possibly have attended some archaic girl’s boarding school with strict rules, classical studies, and long-held medieval traditions? Did they even have schools like that in Scotland these days?
Neil had little time to conjecture. Lights flashing, the ambulance braked to a stop outside the hospital. He maneuvered his car into a spot at the back of the crowded parking lot.
He shot out of the car, slammed the door, and ran to the entrance. Two EMTs rolled Mora through the emergency room doors as he sprinted up only a few yards behind them. Those early morning runs had paid off.
Dashing inside the ER, he scanned the jumble of people hunched in chairs or milling about the waiting room. His gaze fastened on the young woman who stood out like a visitor from another world. Mora lay on the gurney, her vivid eyes staring up at him with pleading in their depths.
A powerful urge welled up inside him—an urge to protect her. He nearly staggered under the surge. Where had that flood of emotion come from? The deluge seemed to swirl him back to some distant place, but it was more instinct than something he could define. There was no rational explanation. He’d ponder this disturbing development later.
For now, he bent his will on helping Mora. He stepped toward her. “Hang in there. You’ll be all right.”
Clearly unconvinced, she reached out her hand. It trembled and she shook beneath the white blanket. “Have I tumbled into purgatory?”
He wondered if they both had, but summoned an encouraging smile. Giving her chilled fingers a squeeze, he said, “No. Don’t be afraid.”
Lips quivering, she nodded, rather like one being asked to trust in deliverance while being led to the gallows.
Her dazed state might buy him some time, assuming he kept his own wits about him. He sensed hysteria brewing just beneath the surface of her numb demeanor that might erupt at any moment. Not an eruption he cared for the entire Emergency Room to witness.
A thoughtful EMT tucked another blanket around Mora. “I’ll handle this,” Neil said to the waiting man. Striding to the admittance counter, he gripped the white Formica counter and spoke to the expressionless woman behind the desk. “Mora  Campbell, my out-of-town guest.” Way out.~
“Ms. Trissel masterfully blended the past and the present in order to create a lovely romance that spans centuries.” ~Poinsettia, Long and Short Reviews
**Somewhere My Lass is available from The Wild Rose PressAmazon KindleBarnes & Noble’s Nookbook, and other online booksellers.
BLURB: Neil MacKenzie’s well-ordered life turns to chaos when Mora Campbell shows up claiming he’s her fiancé from 1602 Scotland. Her avowal that she was chased to the future by clan chieftain, Red MacDonald, is utter nonsense, and Neil must convince her that she is just addled from a blow to her head–or so he believes until the MacDonald himself shows up wanting blood.
Mora knows the Neil of the future is truly her beloved Niall who disappeared from the past. Although her kinsmen believe he’s dead, and she is now destined to marry Niall’s brother, she’s convinced that if she and Neil return to the past, all will be right. The only problem is how to get back to 1602 before it’s too late.
The balance of the present and future are in peril if she marries another, and the Neil of the present will cease to exist. An ancient relic and a few good friends in the future help pave the way back to the past, but will Mora and Neil be too late to save a love that began centuries before?~

Saturday, September 15, 2012

"Autumn, the year’s last, loveliest smile." ~Fall Quotes and Images

Fall blew into theShenandoah Valley last night with a big temperature drop and welcome relief from the heat. For most of the summer the wind is silent, but it’s really talking now, whistling around the old red barn and rattling the house. The swifts still swoop over our pond in vigorous pursuit of insects and we’ll have many summery days yet before autumn settles in for good, but the season is a changing which inspires me to post some lovely autumnal pics with some of my favorite quotes.
Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.
~George Eliot
No Spring nor Summer Beauty hath such grace
As I have seen in one Autumnal face.
~John Donne
Elegy IX–The Autumnal.
Autumn, the year’s last, loveliest smile.
~William Cullen Bryant
“Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.”
~John Keats Ode to Autumn.
(***Pic of the Alleghenies taken by my mother)
Winter is an etching, spring a watercolor, summer an oil painting and autumn a mosaic of them all.
~Stanley Horowitz
Autumn’s the mellow time.
~William Allingham
Autumn is a second spring where every leaf is a flower.~Albert Camus
I cannot endure to waste anything as precious as autumn sunshine by staying in the house. So I spend almost all the daylight hours in the open air.
~Nathaniel Hawthorne
Autumn burned brightly, a running flame through the mountains, a torch flung to the trees.
~Faith Baldwin
The morns are meeker than they were,
The nuts are getting brown;
The berry’s cheek is plumper,
The rose is out of town.
The maple wears a gayer scarf,
The field a scarlet gown.
Lest I should be old-fashioned,
I’ll put a trinket on.
~Emily Dickinson
Nature XXVII, Autumn.
Every leaf speaks bliss to me,
Fluttering from the autumn tree.
~Emily Bronte
And from one of my favorite authors:
“It was one of those autumn days, crisp and clear, when the sky has a pellucid quality which is rarely seen in other seasons.  The hedge maple had turned a brilliant yellow and the beech trees above the hedges were a deeper gold. A few hardy summer wild flowers such as knapweed, yarrow, and cranesbill still starred the verges and banks, brave survivors of summer heat and the ferocity of the recent storms.”  ~Miss Read,Changes at Fairacre
A mix of royalty free images and some taken by my talented family.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Inspiration and History Behind Native American Historical Romance Novel Red Bird's Song


Two years ago in September Red Bird’s Songwas released. As a tribute to my favorite novel, I am revisiting the first book I ever wrote, and rewrote, and learned how to write in the process of all those endless revisions. It’s also the story I’ve cared most deeply about and connected with on various levels. Part of me is still seated around the circle at the fire with my Native American brothers and sisters.

“This is a beautifully written story filled with adventure and suspense…This book touched my soul even as it provided a thrilling fictional escape into a period of history I have always found fascinating. “
--Night Owl Book Review by Laurie-J

The initial encounter between Charity and Wicomechee at the beginning of the story was inspired by a dream I had on New Year’s Eve–a highly propitious time for dreams–about a young warrior taking an equally young woman captive at a river and the unexpected attraction between them. That dream had such a profound impact on me that I took the leap from writing non-fiction essays to historical novels and embarked on the most amazing journey of my life. That was years ago and the saga continues.
I also met the prophetic warrior, Eyes of the Wolf, in another dream at the advent of this adventure, so when I describe him in the book I’m envisioning a character I know. He became a spirit guide and spoke to me throughout the writing of this book, and several others. He is there still, though not as vocal as earlier in my life. Perhaps my journey with him is complete. Perhaps not… I am working on the sequels to historical romance novel Enemy of the King and Scottish time travel romance novelSomewhere My Lass, but after that, I hear the faint call of Indian drums in the distance. Meanwhile, stay tuned for the release of the sequel to Through the Fire, and the third in my colonial Frontier trilogy, historical romance novel Kira, Daughter of the Moon, out Nov. 2nd. And, my colonial American historical Christmas romance novella, A Warrior for Christmas, is out in early Dec. So lots happening.
Back to Red Bird’s Song. The setting for much of the story is the same as my other strongly Native American novel, Through the Fire, the spectacularAlleghenies. Much of the history depicted in the story was inspired by accounts I came across while researching my early American English/Scots-Irish roots and the Border Wars. The French and Indian War is the most well-known, but there were others. Pontiac’s War followed on its heels, and is the war taking place inRed Bird’s SongDunmore’s War came after that one and so on it goes. Life in the frontier was unsettled even after The American Revolution had ended and warfare a reality. The boundaries of the frontier just keep shifting farther west.

The ruggedly beautiful Alleghenies are also the setting for my historical-paranormal romance novel, The Bearwalker’s Daughter and my short historical romance, The Lady and the Warrior. I see the ridges of these mountains from our farm in theShenandoah Valley. The foothills are only a hop, skip and a jump away from us. The ever-changing panorama of the seasons never fails to inspire and console me–the mountains are constant. 
 (*Images of the Alleghenies taken by my mother, Pat Churchman)

In the early mid 18th century, the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and surrounding mountains was the colonial frontier and only hardy souls dared to settle here. The bulk of these were the tough Scots-Irish.  If the Indians had only had to fight regular British troops they might ultimately have won because they scared the crap out of men trained for conventional warfare, but the long knives were another matter.  They weren’t easily intimidated and soon learned from their cunning enemy.

Although Hawk Eye in The Last of the Mohicans is an adopted Mohican, his lifestyle and behavior is that of a colonial frontiersman.  The more rugged of these men dressed as he did, much in the Indian way.  They hunted and fought with muskets, tomahawks, and their famous knives.  Indians acquired these knives as well. They blended traditional weapons and ways of living with newfound tools and weapons of Western man.  A highly adaptable people.
The attack at the opening of Red Bird’s Song in the Shenandoah Valley is based on one that occurred to my ancestors and is recorded by Historian Joseph A. Waddell in The Annals of Augusta CountyA renegade Englishman by the last name of Dickson led the war party that attacked them.  Initially I’d intended to make the Colin Dickson in Red Bird’s Song a villain but as soon as he galloped onto the scene I knew differently.
Wicomechee, the hero in Red Bird’s Song, is based on the Shawnee warrior by that name who lived early in the nineteenth century and to whom I have ties. The Moffett’s, an early Valley family I’m related to, include a reference to him in their genealogy. Wicomechee’s father, John Moffett, was captured in Kentucky by the Shawnee at the age of eight and adopted into the tribe. It’s said he was a boyhood companion to the great war Chief Tecumseh, a chief for whom I have enormous admiration. The accounts of John Moffett and Wicomechee are recorded by Waddell. It’s also noted that during the Black Hawk Wars Wicomechee recovered the captive daughters of a Dr. Hull and brought them safely into camp, which reminds me of Hawkeye in The Last of the Mohicans. I’ve included more on this amazing warrior at the end of the novel as a bonus for those who read it.
“With “Red Bird’s Song”, Beth Trissel has painted an unforgettable portrait of a daring and defiant love brought to life in the wild and vivid era of Colonial America. Highly recommended for lovers of American history and romance lovers alike!” Amazon Reviewer Virginia Campbell
Red Bird’s Song is available in print and eBook at the Wild Rose Press,AmazonBarnes&Noble and other online booksellers.