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Christmas

Our Perfectly Imperfect Tree

For the first time in 13 years, we have a Christmas tree standing inside our living room. When we lived in New Mexico, we never got one. It somehow didn’t fit the place where we were living, and besides the guy selling trees had a real shady past. Last year, we were renting an apartment while we renovated the home where we now live. But this year? It’s time to get out the ornaments that have been stored inIMG_6458 boxes all these years.

But first the tree. I really didn’t want to spend an arm and a leg for one. Our son, Zack, told us about Pieropan Christmas Tree Farm that grows its trees from stumps instead of replanting them — it is billed as one of the oldest farms that grows this way. It’s located only one town over. And any tree is $30. Sold.

So, on Saturday, after paying our money to co-owner Emmet Van Driesche, we hiked around the sloping hill looking for a tree worth cutting. First, I haIMG_6451d to get over the fact that these trees are on the funky side. But what did I expect? They grow out of the stumps of previously cut trees. Fortunately for us, the tree would back against a wall in our living room, so really we could get a tree that was indeed a bit funky. It took a while, given my spouse’s tendency toward perfection — although I did say for a guy who didn’t want a tree in the first place, he was being awfully fussy.

But we found the tree. The sharp saw the farm provides did the job and it fit easily in our car.

Sunday it took a while for me to get the tree to stand upright in its stand. The trunk’s wood was so tight, it wouldn’t sink into the metal points inside the stand. Brilliant me, I chopped at it with a hammer’s claw until it could.

Then I hung the lights, the wooden beads and dug into the ornaments, many ofwhich date back forty years when we didn’t have a pot to you know what. These are the ones I made from cloth and clay, plus ones I picked up over the years. ThereIMG_6460 are the ones the kids made in school or bought when they grew older.

In anticipation of a visit by our toddler granddaughter, I arranged the tree so the fragile stuff is up high. She can freely touch whatever is low. And Hank wired the tree to the woodwork, so, kid, it ain’t going anywhere.

I like our tree. It fits nicely against the wall. It holds a lot of memories. And I like that it came from a place that makes Christmas trees sustainable.

Want to learn more about Pieropan Christmas Tree Farm? Here’s a link to a news story in the Greenfield Recorder: Recorder story

And happy holidays to family and friends near and very far away.

 

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hippies, Peace Love and You Know What

Now for Some Cheap Laughs

Peace, Love, & You Know What is a comedy inspired by an exciting period — the early seventies — when I was a young adult and finding my way in the world. And in keeping with the holiday spirit, I am making it dang cheap to buy. For three days, Dec. 14-16 (Friday-Sunday), the novel is on sale for 99c/99p for those who want the Kindle version. I’ll tell you more below.

The novel starts in 1972 on graduation weekend for Westbridge State College. What better excuse for a three-day bash at one of the local hippie pads?

There’s Tim, who is actually faking his graduation, and his roommates Mack, Manny, and the poetry-spouting Joey. Then, there’s Lenora, their queen, who has her act together, so she is PeaceLoveYouKnow What_cover_200graduating and splitting for Europe. Tim and Lenora have been tight friends for four years, and he figures this might be his last chance with her.

The three-day bash is a big hit for every hippie freak and dirty professor at Westbridge State College. You name it, they do it — from a softball game between rival tribes to a dinner prepared from government surplus food to so-called free love. Oh, yeah, there are plenty of drugs and music.

Here’s an excerpt.

Tim held the joint aloft, making Lenora reach for it. She grabbed his side, tickling him so hard he fell back, and then she was lying on top of him, laughing with him. He stuck the joint between her lips. She held the smoke in her mouth and blew it into his.

“Take a hit.”

Tim did as he was told. He would have done anything Lenora said. She took the joint and brought it to her lips.

“You’re such a crazy girl.”

Smoke streamed through her mouth as she laughed. She held the roach.

“Uh-oh, all gone.”

Somebody changed the record. Sly and the Family Stone played “I Want to Take You Higher.” Lenora rolled off Tim, and he said, “Hey, come back,” but she sat against the wall to get out of the way of the stampeding dancers. The volume was up so loud, the funky guitar riffs buzzed through the speakers. Sly wailed like a tomcat. It was a miracle the cops hadn’t showed up.

This graduation bash is the start of an adventure called adulthood, whether it’s a commune for Lenora and her baby, or Tim finding purpose in his life.

Upfront I will say Peace, Love, & You Know What is a work of fiction and not a memoir. None of it happened. Like many writers, I took what I know and had my way with it.

Perhaps the book will be a bit nostalgic for those who lived through this period and a curiosity for those who didn’t. There’s enough sex in it that I embarrassed my kids but not my 94-year-old mother, who says she’s read a lot worse in her romance novels. Really, Mom?

ON SALE: So back to that holiday gift. For three days, Dec. 14-16, get thee to Amazon for a bargain. Here’s the link: mybook.to/PeaceLoveYouKnowWhat. Have yourself a good laugh.

 

 

 

 

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The Sweet Spot

Let me tell you about The Sweet Spot

I published The Sweet Spot 18 months ago. I did it on my own — a long story there. And for three days, Dec. 7-9, you can buy the Kindle version for 99c/99p because I want more people to read it. (More below.) If I say so myself, it’s a damn good book about what can happen in a small town when somebody makes a big mistake.

It’s the first book I published that’s set in the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts where I now live. scan TSSAnd its characters, starting with Edie St. Claire and her rough-sawn family, have stayed with me like old friends, even the ones that are not so nice.

Let me share a post I wrote about Edie. Here goes.

Real people have real feelings. And since the characters of my new novel The Sweet Spot are real to me, I believe it applies to them.

Actually, the novel is filled with emotion. Love. Joy. Humor. Grief. And then there’s the ugly stuff. Jealousy. Anger. Hate. Oh, there’s more than that certainly.

But let me focus on Edie St. Claire, the novel’s main character. She’s a young widow who still grieves for her husband, Gil, who was killed in Vietnam eight years earlier. (The novel is set in 1978.) I don’t blame her. He was a sweetheart of a guy. I should know. I created him.

They were high school sweethearts who married young. Gil was taken by Edie’s fun-loving spirit. She adored his tenderness. They would have had a wonderful future together, except he pulled a low number during the 1969 lottery and had to go to war.

I’ve never been a widow. But the blessed part about being a writer and a person with a creative mind is that I can imagine it.

When The Sweet Spot starts, Edie raises their young daughter by herself. She does her best, whether it’s helping her crusty old father who runs the town dump or her fiery aunt who live next door. Still, she knows how to have a good time, whether its playing softball — the camaraderie and banter among her teammates are a lot of fun — or hanging out at the local watering hole, the Do-Si-Do Bar. These are simply ways for her to escape her grief.

Then, there is her affair with her married brother-in-law, Walker. The man could never replace his brother although he sure keeps trying.

I can’t give away the rest of the book, but things turn out badly for Edie and Walker.

Now Edie must deal with different emotions like shame, hatred, and pride. How does she handle them? Let’s say I’m rooting for her.

BUY MY BOOK: Well, unless you know somebody who has a copy, you need to buy my book to be able to read it. Those who read Kindle have an advantage for three days. The Sweet Spot is also available in paperback. Here’s the link to Amazon: The_Sweet_Spot

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Isabel Long Mystery Series

Writing about Strong Women

When I decided to write a mystery series, I wanted strong women characters. They wouldn’t be damsels in distress but women who knew what they wanted and went after it. Topping the list, of course, is Isabel Long, the protagonist of the series, which began with Chasing the Case. The sequels are Redneck’s Revenge, plus Checking the Traps, which will be out early next year.

Isabel is a former journalist turned amateur sleuth when she lost her job as managing editor of a newspaper. Isabel is not a sweet, young thing. She’s got some miles on her. She’s smart, sassy and doesn’t doesn’t take crap from anyone. She’s also a good listener with a big heart, which makes it easy to connect with people, especially since she encounters a rather rough crowd in Redneck’s Revenge and Checking the Traps.

A recent widow, Isabel is also done grieving and ready for a relationship with a man.

Then there’s her 92-year-old mother, Maria Ferreira, who lives with her. Ma is a big reader. Mysteries and spicy romance novels are her big thing. She’s also a great ‘Watson’ for Isabel, giving her ideas to ponder and even going on interviews.

Redneck’s Revenge has two other characters who don’t take crap from anybody. Isabel hits it off with them despite their different backgrounds.

Marsha, who Isabel and her mother nicknamed the Floozy, is a character in the first book. She was an alibi for one of the suspects. In the second book, she introduces Isabel to her cousin, Annette, who hires her.

Annette, aka the Tough Cookie, runs a garage and junkyard that used to belong to her SOB of a father. She wants Isabel to find out how her father died. The cops say he was passed-out drunk when his house burned down. Annette says he was murdered.

By the way, I so enjoyed writing about Marsha and Annette, they appear in Checking the Traps.

Other women in Redneck’s Revenge: a woman police chief and the co-owner of a gas station, who eventually finds her inner strength.

Here’s an excerpt. Isabel goes to Baxter’s, a biker bar with the cousins for her case. By the way, the Rooster is the bar in Isabel’s town where the band played the previous night.

As we head toward the front entrance, I hear music, something by the group Alabama, bouncing through the walls. Beer signs flash through the windows. Ahead of me, Marsha marches inside as if she owns the damn place. She stops short of the dance floor, nods, and then points toward the far end. Annette already has a table. Some guy is talking in her ear while he stares at the cleavage rising about her low-cut sweater. She paws at him as she laughs.

Marsha turns toward me.

“My cousin’s a slut, what can I tell ya?”

“She looks like she’s just having a good time.”

“Same difference.” Marsha slaps my arm and points at the band. “Well, well, look who’s playin’. It’s the Country Plowboys. You didn’t miss ’em after all.”

When the song ends, Marsha and I make our way across the thinning dance floor. Annette, aka the Tough Cookie, gives the guy she’s with a friendly push and says, “You gotta get lost now. Maybe later.”

The guy, in the usual country attire of flannel, canvas, and denim, checks us out, but he clearly isn’t interested. We take our seats. Marsha whistles sharply through her teeth to get the waitress’s attention.

I lean forward.

“I’ll get this round,” I say.

“All right,” the Floozy says.

I glance around the barroom. It’s three times the size of the Rooster, with a long bar on one side and an actual stage. Tables border the dance floor on three sides. It’s dark inside except for the wide-screen TVs lit over the three shelves of booze behind the bar. The clientele is on the rustic side, which I expect and enjoy. Frankly, as a reporter and a denizen of the hilltowns, I found the natives often more interesting than the white-collar folks who commuted to the city.

That’s when I notice the beer cans. Everybody who doesn’t have a mixed drink has a can of Bud or whatever. The woman who took our order is carrying a tray of them.

“No beer in bottles here?” I ask my companions.

“Nah, it’s safer with cans,” the Floozy says. “Even the glasses are plastic. I’d say that was being real smart with this crowd.”

I hand the bills to the waitress.

“Keep the change,” I say, remembering the buck-a-round-rule at the Rooster.

The cousins are gabbing about the men, which ones are decent looking and who’s available for a roll in the sack. They appear to like men with hair and a steady job, which is a sound idea, or as Annette puts it, “I don’t want some guy spongin’ off of me. Did that. Won’t do it again.” They also don’t like guys with big beer bellies or steady girlfriends and wives. No sloppy seconds, the Tough Cookie says.

“What about you?” Annette asks with a grin. “See anybody here you might be interested in?”

MORE: This piece appeared in author Susan Barnard’s blog earlier this fall, but I believe it was worth a spot here. Here is a link to her blog.

WHERE TO GET MY BOOKS IN KINDLE AND PAPERBACK ON AMAZON: Chasing the Case and Redneck’s Revenge

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: On the bridge over the Deerfield River in Shelburne Falls village in Western Mass., where I live. Yes, winter will be sticking around for a while.

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Author Interview, Opening scene

Opening Scene: Agricola’s Bane

Nancy Jardine is the next author to be featured in the Opening Scene series. Agricola’s Bane, the fourth in her Celtic Fervour Series, takes place in A.D. 84 Northern Roman Britain. How does she start this novel? I’m going to let Nancy tell you herself.

Agricola’s Bane, the fourth book of my Celtic Fervour Series, opens in the 625x1000aftermath of a disastrous battle fought at Beinn na Ciche (end of Book 3) between the Celtic warriors of Northern Britannia and the legions of the Ancient Roman Empire. The Roman aggressors, under the command of General Agricola, have set up temporary encampments and Roman patrols are scouring the countryside in search of survivors of the battle. In turn, my Garrigill clan have taken refuge after the battle in the roundhouse village of a Caledon chief, Lulach of Ceann Druimin, but Lulach’s territory has to be patrolled to ensure the Romans don’t attack them unawares.

Enya of Garrigill is doing surveillance duty in nearby Glenlaff Woods. At only fourteen summers, Enya has already bloodied her long knife at the Battle of Beinn na Ciche and itches to dispatch more Roman soldiers to the otherworld. She’s on patrol with Feargus of Monymusk, a warrior only a little older, and someone she has recently been introduced to. Nith of Tarras is twenty and has been like a foster brother to Enya for many months during a long trek they made northwards which ended up at the battle site – though her feelings for Nith have become less-sisterly and more of a mature love, as time progresses. Chief Lulach’s son Colm is the fourth patrol member and the one who is attacked by Roman auxiliaries making Enya’s blade flash yet again!

My reasons for beginning Book 4 in this way were to introduce members of the next generation of the Garrigill warrior clan as main characters. Since Book 1 is set in A.D. 71, when Enya is a baby, and Book 3 has moved on to the end of A.D 84, I needed to give some of the second generation a chance in the limelight. Enya’s uncles, who are the main characters of Books 1-3 are still in the new story, as are her parents, but they now take on minor roles. My Celtic Fervour Series is not quite a family saga but, I believe, some readers might read it that way. And though Book 4 has General Agricola as one of my main characters, my series is essentially about what happens to the members of my Celtic clan when they become refugees, their only recourse from being oppressed and Romanised by the dominance of the Roman Empire.

AN EXCERPT:

Arddhu? I fear you are not a happy god.”

Enya’s disgruntled whisper might be unworthy thinking, but the local forest god seemed to favour no one.

A deep chill, accompanied by a squally wind, had descended after dawn causing a last cascade of colourful leaf-drop to glide down from the birches. The burnished butterfly-flutters might have been appealing had the day been a fair one but Arddhu demonstrated his anger at the bloody deeds of the warriors in his precious territory.

“Ouu…ouu…ouu…ouu…”

Down the slope from where she took cover, the thundering of capercaillie alarm in the undergrowth of the forest was followed by the strident tapping of a woodpecker.

“Tchik…tchik…”

The double woodpecker call repeated itself.

Two of them!

Her insides fluttered as she pressed her back closer to the damp tree trunk, her teeth clenched tight together to suppress the urge to rant. Her eyes pressed so wide she feared they might pop out of their sockets. After pulling the edges of her bratt tighter across her freezing cheeks for more protection, she sneaked her head round to peer down the hill.

They had not been the truest of capercaillie or woodpecker calls. Colm of Ceann Druimin and Nith of Tarras, members of her scouting patrol, had issued their warnings. Two Roman soldiers were in the vicinity. She had not encountered any of the Roman invaders since the disastrous battle fought at Beinn na Ciche, but she sincerely hoped the otherworld was ready and waiting for the ones she aimed to dispatch there.

ABOUT THE BOOK:  

Nith of Tarras helps Enya of Garrigill in the search for her kin, missing after the disastrous battle at Beinn na Ciche fought between the Caledon warriors and the mighty Legions of the Rome. Enya soon has a heartrending choice to make. Should she tread Vacomagi territory that’s swarming with Roman auxiliaries to find her brother? Or should she head south in search of her cousin who has probably been taken captive by the soldiers of General Agricola?

General Gnaeus Iulius Agricola – Commander of the Britannic Legions and Governor of Britannia – is determined to claim more barbarian territory for the Roman Empire, indeed plans to invade the whole island but finds not all decisions are his to make. It increasingly seems that the goddess, Fortuna, does not favour him.

The adventures of the Garrigill clan continue…

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Nancy Jardine writes contemporary mysteries; historical fiction and time-travel historical adventure. Her current historical focus is Roman Scotland, an engrossing pre-history era because her research depends highly on keeping abreast of recent archaeological findings.

A member of the Romantic Novelists Association, the Scottish Association of Writers, the Federation of Writers Scotland and the Historical Novel Society, her work has achieved finalist status in UK competitions.

She lives in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, with her husband but life is never quiet or boring since her young grandchildren are her next-door neighbours. She regularly child minds them, those days being cherished and laughter filled.

NANCY JARDINE ON SOCIAL MEDIA:

Blog: http://nancyjardine.blogspot.co.uk

Website:www.nancyjardineauthor.com

Facebook: http://on.fb.me/XeQdkG and http://on.fb.me/1Kaeh5G

email: nan_jar@btinternet.com 

Twitter https://twitter.com/nansjar

Amazon Author page http://viewauthor.at/mybooksandnewspagehere

Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5139590.Nancy_Jardine

 ORDER AGRICOLA’S BANE HERE: mybook.to/ABsherenow

 

 

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