Jeanne: Taking the Bees out of Baseball

Recently, a Cincinnati Reds ballgame was delayed for over a half hour due to swarming bees. I don’t own the picture, so I can’t post it, but you can see one here.

bee-705412_640This could have had a very bad outcome in the form of a quick-acting pesticide. Or a neutral outcome in the form of a strong mint spray, which doesn’t kill bees, but which they dislike heartily enough to fly away. (That’s what I use on carpenter bees at my house to keep them from chewing up my porch railing.)

With the world’s honeybee population currently undergoing severe population declines, though, even breaking up a community would be an unfortunate thing. The fact is, whether or not you personally like bees (I do, but I have a granddaughter who is phobic about them), we need them.

So what happened was pretty cool. Continue reading

Jeanne: Spring Fever

Front Porch Flowers 2019
I meant to do my work today—
But a brown bird sang in the apple tree,
And a butterfly flitted across the field,
And all the leaves were calling me.And the wind went sighing over the land,
Tossing the grasses to and fro,
And a rainbow held out its shining hand—
So what could I do but laugh and go?                                                 Richard Le Gallienne

I usually write my blog posts on Sunday afternoon, but this Sunday, after a week of rain and cold, the weather turned beautiful. So, instead of hunkering down at my desk, I bopped up to the garden center around the corner and bought geraniums and begonias to fill my front porch planters. And then I spent a happy afternoon playing in the dirt.
We’ll categorize this post as “Work Life Balance.”

Justine: What to Give Your Book-Loving Mom on Mother’s Day

happy mothers dayDon’t worry! You haven’t missed Mother’s Day…it will be celebrated in the US and 84 other countries on Sunday, May 12th (so you still have time to get a gift or send a card!). Almost every country in the world celebrates Mother’s Day; however, not all on the same day.

Mother’s Day was first celebrated in 1908 by West Virginian Anna Jarvis, in memory of her mother, who had died a year earlier. Although Jarvis pushed for a national holiday, it was until 1914 that US President Woodrow Wilson declared the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.

However, Jarvis would come to resent the holiday… Continue reading

Jeanne: Telling Parallel Stories

Like Jilly, I have been spending time judging contest entries lately. Unlike Jilly, some of rails-3309912_640mine have been pretty good. One, in particular, interested me because the story paralleled the romances of three different couples, which is what I’m trying to do with my third demon book, The Demon Wore Stilettos.

I was especially interested because every time I tell other authors what I’m working on, they say, “That’s way too complicated. You need to get rid of some of that.”

And it may come to that, but I really want to keep all three stories, so I was happy to see someone else had tried the same thing with, I thought, some success. Her stories were all set in the same small town and used the marriage-of-convenience trope for all three.

Mine are all set in Minneapolis-St. Paul and all revolve around the second-chance-at-love trope.

Where I thought the contest entry could have been stronger was in cohesion. The stories run along side-by-side like train tracks, never crossing, never even approaching each other. In mine, the three couples are, respectively, demons, humans and angels. All three couples have had past romantic encounters and all are now, for various reasons, no longer in those relationships. Continue reading

Nancy: In Praise of Rest

Last week at this time, I was on day five of a virus from hell. A little less than three weeks ago, I was in a doctor’s office learning that, according to some X-rays of my hip, I have an issue that requires a change to my workout regimen for the foreseeable future. And a few weeks before that, I’d had a stiff neck/pinch nerved – possibly related to having my alignment thrown off by the bum hip – that made it difficult to climb out of bed. What all of these ailments have in common, other than making me feel like I’m approximately one hundred years old, is they were, to some extent, preventable.

Given these circumstances, a normal person might think, “What am I doing that’s making me so physically vulnerable?” I, on the other hand, thought, “When will all this be over so I can get back to my normal, totally unrealistic, and probably unsustainable schedule?” At some point, maybe it was around day three of the virus, I knew it was time to abandon my mind-over-matter mindset and listen to what my body, my orthopedist, and the universe were trying to tell me. Assuming you’re less obtuse than I, you can probably see where this is going.

It’s time to slow down a bit. Not forever. But for a while. And probably time to come up with a more sustainable long-term approach that builds downtime into my plans.

So today I present myself as a cautionary tale. Behold what happens when you set up unmanageable expectations. I’ve spent the past nine months riding hellbound for leather to reach a multitude of goals in 2018. And I’ve met most of them, so yay! But follow my lead at your own peril, because you could break something. Quite literally. Continue reading

Jeanne: When Art Imitates Art

So this is the cover of my book that was released in September:

snake winding its way around a practical female hand holding an apple

The Demon Always Wins (image via Amazon)

And this is a statue on display at the Illinois State Capitol, courtesy of the Satanic Temple-Chicago Chapter.

Satanic-statue-exlarge-169

In case you can’t make it out, it’s a sculpture of a woman’s arm, wrapped in a snake, leading up to her hand, which is holding an apple. The inscription on the base reads, “Knowledge is the Greatest Gift.”

Not sure exactly what to make of that…

 

Jilly: Remembrance

Today is Remembrance Sunday in the UK, and Veterans’ Day in the US.

It’s also the centenary of Armistice Day. 100 years ago today, on the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918, the armistice was signed between the Allied Forces and Germany at Compiègne in France, formalizing the cessation of hostilities of World War I.

On a personal note, I’ll be taking time to think about William Dalby of Shirebrook in Derbyshire, a man I’d never heard of this time last year. As you can see from the copy of his service record card at the top of this post, he enlisted in the Sherwood Foresters Regiment on January 7, 1915, aged 27 years and 220 days, and was first posted as part of the Expeditionary Force on 23 October 2015.

William went to war and left behind Annie, his common-law-wife, and six children: Eliza, 13; Minnie, 12; Ruth, 10; Albert, 9; Arthur, 5; and Ada, 2. By my reckoning, he first became a father at the age of 13. His oldest child grew up to become my grandmother.

I remember my grandma as plain-speaking, practical, competent, a tough cookie. Maybe even hard, though she was crazy in love with my granddad. She never talked about her family—I never even knew she had siblings—but I believe she was indentured into domestic service as a maid at a very young age. Looking at the six kids Annie Dalby was left to support, I suppose I can guess what happened.

Grandma made it plain she thought my brother and I were soft and spoiled, and with the benefit of hindsight it’s hard to argue. I generally think of myself as a pretty ordinary person, lucky in life but not especially wealthy or privileged. Today I’m feeling very grateful to be standing on the shoulders of people like William and Annie.