Get outside, now!

When I was little, I was outside as much as humanly possible in the spring, summer and fall. Though it might not always have been my idea (I recall my slightly exasperated mother commanding my hyperactive brother and me to “take it outside” on a frequent basis), I’m so grateful for the experience.

A tree on Railway Ave. in my little hometown Smithers, BC was my first introduction to the extreme joy of playing outdoors. Close investigation revealed it was a series of trunks that grew up close together in a tight circle. A barely discernible gap let me slip into the cozy, hollowed out centre.

From inside my tree, I could see everything going on around me, and no one knew I was even there! A perfect climbing tree with nicely spaced, sturdy branches, it was playhouse, fort, jail, ranch, and office.

On office days, I climbed to a special spot where I had fashioned loose wire loops around a branch. I could work for hours, sitting on the lower “bench” branch and sliding the loops back and forth on the “typewriter” branch. The wire made a great sound too, kind of jingly and clackety all at once. It broke my heart (no, seriously) when we moved to Vancouver and deserted my tree.

But there were consolations. Taxi summer, for example. One year my dad towed the chassis of some old car into our backyard. The fact that it had no body was irrelevant. It had a steering column and steering wheel—the critical parts! I conjured images of a bright yellow taxi for my friends and siblings, and we took turns being the taxi driver stopping for a customer.

We all enjoyed being the cabbie (screeching around corners, slamming on brakes, honking)—but we adored making up people who were waiting for the taxi. Pregnant woman (played most hilariously by my brother). Snobby person. Dangerous criminal. Mean teacher. Person who thinks he’s really a dog. You name it. We were imaginative.

I also visited my grandparents’ massive farm in Hazelton often. If there was anyone who enjoyed playing outside as much as I did, it was my aunt/best friend.

She and I would filch paper lunch bags from the pantry and fill one with smoked Oolichans (Mmmm, so smoky and salty and chewy!), and one with crunchy pink and yellow crab apples.

Barefooted, we’d disappear for hours. Life was complex as Elven princesses. There were ongoing epic battles to be fought, evil rulers to flee, magic to be mastered. My little leather pouch of elf stones proved helpful, and we carried jackknives, of course, for when we needed to make spears or arrows or walking sticks.

When our stomachs sounded a dinner alarm, we headed for the castle or tavern to feast with assorted trolls and miscreants—then moved out again as soon as we could.

When the sky turned purple (and in the North, that’s delightfully late!), we knew it was time to retreat to the inn, filthy-footed and exhausted.

To this day, I don’t know if there’s anything better than having your bedtime snack when you can hardly keep your eyes open, then crawling into bed smelling like tree sap and fresh air and dirt, your limbs so tired they almost ache—and the soft, all is right in the world feeling of clean sheets and blankets wrapping you in a sleepy cloud. . . .

A lot of people hit adulthood and yard time suddenly becomes chore time. As I explained to one of my young nieces, however, though it’s kind of weird, some stuff you call work as a kid becomes fun, almost like playing, once you’re an adult (except for dishes. Dishes are always horrible).

So yes, you’ll find me weeding and watering. But you’ll also find me meandering about, staring into the sky daydreaming, and playing in the lake. My feet still need to be scrubbed before bed in the summer.

I hope you have your own fond memories of playing outside—and that you keep making them. Let me send you off with words from my mother that I could never hear enough: “Get outside and play. Now!”

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

This essay was originally published April 2012 in the Terrace Standard newspaper as part of my regular column “Just a Thought,” but since some things never change—like my love of playing hooky outdoors and my immense delight and relief when spring finally arrives after a long winter—I wanted to share it with you. I hope you’re yelling, hear, hear!

P.S. If you, like me, adore listening to audio books when you’re driving or gardening, I’m ecstatic to share that my novel WEDDING BANDS is coming out across all vendors in just two weeks! Yay! I hope you’ll give it a listen, and until then, I have a sample for your listening pleasure! Enjoy. 🙂 WEDDING BANDS by Ev Bishop, read by Sarah Grant. 

Ev Bishop lives and writes in a remote small town in wildly beautiful British Columbia, Canada—a place that inspires the setting for her cozy sweet romance series, RIVER’S SIGH B & B.

Book 1 in the series, WEDDING BANDS, is FREE right now, so go to your favorite eBook vendor and grab your copy today!

Ev also writes and publishes under the pen name Toni Sheridan.

In addition to writing novels—her favorite form of storytelling!—Ev is a long-time columnist with the Terrace Standard and a prolific scribbler of articles, essays, short stories and poems. To see her ever growing body of work, please visit her website.

When Ev’s nose isn’t in a book or her fingers aren’t on her keyboard, you’ll find her hanging out with her family and dogs, or playing outside with friends, usually at the lake or in some garden somewhere.

I Can’t Believe It’s Already May! #mgtab

Hi Everyone!

Currently I am writing two new wedding stories which will be published in Authors’ Billboard boxed sets, so rather than expanding on that, I thought I’d share my review for my friend Mimi Barbour’s latest series (which of course would be a great gift for MOM!!)

Happy Reading and for those of you who are moms, Happy Mother’s Day!! 

Sweet Retaliation is Book #1 in the fabulous

Mob Tracker Series.

My Review Of Sweet Retaliation: 

A Gripping Series About A Sister’s Quest For Justice

When Cassidy’s twin brother is shot and killed by a gang member, she’s devastated, and becomes obsessed to identify the murderer and seek justice.

But to do this, she needs to be stronger, transforming from the good girl next door into a fearless fighter who puts herself in danger time and time again. Trace McGuire is the detective who’s assigned to solve her brother’s murder. Although the last thing he wants are complications in his life, he finds himself drawn to Cassie, but deeply concerned when she continuously risks her life to seek the truth.

Sparks fly when they decide to work together, and Trace finds himself wanting to protect Cass while falling for her hard. But they each have trust issues, and there are times when they withhold information from each other.

If you crave action, thrills, mystery, amazing characters—and of course captivating, sizzling romance—you’re going to love this series!

From The Author:

This book has been a revelation to me. In fact, the whole series has worked its spell.  It’s been bursts of magic mixed in with a hell of a lot of hard work.

Every once in a while, an author begins a new story, and as soon as it starts, the character takes over. This happened to me. I could picture this girl in my mind, a librarian whose personality had to be that of a shy, scared, insecure miss who did nothing when she watches some mob members kill her twin.

After that incident, she needs to change into a person who feels such revulsion for her behavior that nothing matters except that she seeks revenge for the death of her brother. How can she live with herself if she doesn’t?

Right?

But how can she – a weak woman who’s never stood up for herself – make it happen?

That’s when the magic starts…

From $3.99 to $0.99:

AMAZON

Sweet Retaliation

Book #1

The Mob Tracker Series

By NYT Bestselling Author

Mimi Barbour

Chapter One

What the hell was she doing following her brother, especially at night? Cassidy Santino didn’t do darkness. Not in the slums of a city like Las Vegas when, molasses thick, it threatened and terrified.

Gagging, sweating, she’d reached the end of her backbone. Thoughts of giving up and retreating gobbled up the small amount of bravery still hanging on by a thread, making her hesitate. Then worry for her twin, Raoul, kicked in.

Biting her lip, she eased forward so she could see around the rickety fence into the semi-lit alley behind a big warehouse. A group of men milled about in a circle. Two of them were head-to-head in a heated discussion. Adrenalin kicked in when she saw her brother step out of the circle.

Raoul’s shoulders were hunched in the same way he’d hold himself when their father had intimidated him as a boy. She watched him flinch and start to turn away. Then the man he’d been arguing with let out a bellow, backhanded him across the face and shoved hard. Before she could get her bewildered brain to accept the incident, Raoul went down and the other men crowded in and began kicking him.

No! Stop!

Her mind screamed the words, but her voice didn’t connect. It froze. When she opened her mouth fear struck her mute. Though she tried to release her rage, to force sound past the blockage in her throat, not even a peep escaped. She’d never felt so useless in all her sad, ineffectual years. Forcing her limbs to move, she fell forward onto her knees but couldn’t get her leg muscles to function.

Infuriating seconds ticked by as she watched the men work her brother over like he was a soccer ball, rather than a human being.

God! Please…

Movement, shuffling, a voice called out from another direction. “Police. Stop what you’re doing and back away. Get your hands up. Do it now!”

Thank you, Lord! Confidence arrived with the authorities, and Cassi felt a flood of energy. Springing to her feet, she started forward. Before she went two steps, one of the assailants stepped over to Raoul, extended his arm and a gunshot changed the rest of her life. She heard her twin grunt and saw his body jerk.

“No!”

Fear vanished under her instinctive urgency to get to Raoul. She ran. To help him, save him, give up her life for him. He was all she had in the world, the only one who mattered.

Blinded by grief, unaware of the loud gunplay going on around her, she fell to her knees next to his lifeless form. Before she had a chance to understand the danger, a man dashed out, swept her to the side and covered her with his own body.

“Keep down.” Rough, his hands hurting, he pushed her head under his chest while she wiggled to get back to Raoul. “Stop it. You’ll get us both killed.” His voice, hard and angry drew her attention. She shook away from his hand and looked at him, trying to explain that the injured man was her brother and he needed help. When their eyes met, the bit of light from the building’s illumination revealed his face.

Deep blue eyes, encircled with a dark outer ring of pure determination, penetrated for an instant, an order clear and visible that only a man in command could produce. Compelled to obey, but overridden by her need to get to Raoul, she kept pushing at him, until she felt him jerk and heard his grunt of pain.

One of those monsters had shot her rescuer. Disbelief overwhelmed and in seconds the relentless fear returned. Imprisoned and helpless, the horror of the moment clawed at her sanity. Surrendering to its magnetic lure, darkness claimed her and she knew no more.

READ THE REVIEWS

For the outstanding Mob Tracker series!

Cassidy is bereft when her twin brother is shot and killed by a gang member. She vows to find the murderer and wreak justice. So she remakes herself from the quiet librarian she is into a hip gangsta chick. She’s something else as well — an elite boxer and this gets her out of tough spots time and time again. Detective Trace McGuire is assigned to solve her brother’s murder and, in short order, he’s completely smitten by Cass. But he’s terribly protective and, while he is in awe of her fighting ability, he can’t help but be beside himself with worry as she throws herself into the line of fire time after time.

Ms. Barbour has written a gripping story about one woman’s quest for justice. She has deftly created marvelous characters that pull you into their story. This is a suspense-filled, full-bore non-stop action ride that you will absolutely love.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I just finished Sweet Retaliation by Mimi Barbour (Book 1 in The Mob Tracker Series).
Sweet retaliation is a book that you do not want to miss!
Cassidy witnesses something that no one should ever have to witness.
Her brother’s murder.
I loved Cassidy from the very beginning. She has it all – sweetness, kindness, sass and class.
Her character is written beautifully, she has such depth in her character.
We see her whole range of emotions and how she deals with them and we also see her transform from what you think is a sheltered, naive woman to a woman that is a force of nature!
Trace McGuire is a man who has seen it all and you feel fairly certain that nothing could ever surprise him as a cop. But he hadn’t met anyone like Cass.
He is completely unprepared for the woman that is as stubborn as he is.
I loved their chemistry and how their characters fit together.
I also giggled multiple times at their banter and especially at his reactions to Cass’s witty comebacks or remarks.
I am in love with this book and I’ll be following the series for more!
~~~~~~~~~~~~

Absolutely brilliant read!
From the very first page I was hooked in to this story. The action begins straight away for Cass and doesn’t really stop throughout. This is the first book that I have read by this author and I was really impressed with her writing style. She created characters that I connected with straight away and a plot that flowed seamlessly. This book really was a joy to read! I love mob/crime/mystery stories so I knew this one would be right up my street and it was! There were some fabulous twists and turns and my attention never wavered once! A brilliant introduction to a new author.
Cass was a fantastic character! After the first chapter I wasn’t suite sure whether she would do what she intended to do but as the story went on she showed her strength and was determined to bring her brothers killer to justice. I loved the connection between her and Trace! There was just something about them that I loved. She is probably one of the best female leads that I have read about in a while.
Trace – oh Trace how I love you! As soon as he appeared in the story I knew I would fall in love with him and I did! He was a really great character, independent, focused and not afraid to push the limits when needed. Together he and Cass were amazing!
I really cannot wait to read more from this author in the future and highly recommend this story! You will have a hard time putting it down once you have started!
Mimi Barbour did an awesome job!

Tamara Ferguson

A member of the Romance Writers of America, Tamara Ferguson is the multi-award winning, #1 international bestselling author of the Tales of the Dragonfly Romance Suspense Series, the Kissed By Fate Series, and the Two Hearts Wounded Warrior Romance Series.

Her latest wounded warrior romance novella, Two Hearts Unspoken, is included in the top-ten bestselling Holiday Anthology, Mother’s Day Magic…With Love, which was also #1 in Wounded Warrior Fiction. Since being released independently, Two Hearts Unspoken has become a #1 International Best Seller at Amazon as well as a #1 International Hot New Release, and is the 2016 SILVER MEDAL WINNER at Readers’ Favorite International Book Awards for Military Fiction.

Presently, Tamara’s working on Two Hearts’ Christmas Wish, the fourth story in her multi-award winning Two Hearts Wounded Warrior series, Emergence, the third book in the multi-award winning Tales of the Dragonfly Novels, and a novella for the next installment of the bestselling Wedding Pets and Kisses anthologies, featuring stories by multi-award winning, bestselling and USA Today authors.

Since she remains a full-time caregiver for an autistic son, you can usually find Tammy working at home, where she spends a lot of time not completing her numerous home improvement projects, because she’s writing or helping author friends promote their books on twitter.

Birthing Relationships & Bigger Things

 

 

 

 

Hello and happy March 8th! In honor of International Women’s Day, I decided to share an essay I wrote a few years back. It touches on the only thing all women (all people) are guaranteed to have in common: we all had a mother at some point.

I hope you enjoy BIRTHING RELATIONSHIPS and that you take time out of your busy day and give yourself a little treat to celebrate and honor yourself–the woman you are, the ways that you’ve grown, the work that you do, and the dreams that you have.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – –

The dining room at my grandma’s, a huge three-floor farmhouse in Hazelton, British Columbia, held three six-foot tables end to end. For years, upward of twenty people had dinner there every day when she was feeding her whole family, plus whatever friends, miscellaneous mill workers, farmhands, or other relations happened to be around. I was always delegated to the kids’ table. This separation wasn’t any form of  “children should be seen and not heard.” It was just practical: seat people where they’d have the most enjoyment.

Eventually though, kids grew up and moved away, paid helpers decreased until there were none, and those of us who remained were old enough for adult conversation, so the ages merged. I loved to listen to the seemingly endless stories my mom, aunts, and grandma told as they cleared dishes, downed tea, or rattled dice playing Yahtzee.

By the time I began having my own children, I’d already heard a lot of family dirt, yet the fact that my generation was now at childbearing age opened the door to a whole new host of tales.

“Great Grandma—Grandma Peggy—had fourteen children. Three sets of twins!” The story always started the same way, even though we all knew how many kids she’d had. “When she had the last set of twins, one was born too small. Well, they were both small, but Shirley? You could fit a teacup over her head. Peggy was told her newest daughter would never leave the hospital with her brother. But she did—against medical advice.

“The doctor told her she was taking the baby home to die, but Grandma Peggy was stubborn and she had decided that her little one would not die, at least not without a fight. She bundled Shirley up in layers of flannel and put her in a loaf pan, and you know how old cook stoves had a shelf for rising bread? Well, that’s where she put Shirley. And every three hours or so, she’d take her down, feed her, unwrap her and move her arms and feet, change her . . . then wrap her up again and put her back on the shelf, just like she was punching down dough.” Here we all laugh and wait in anticipation for the last phrase. “And just like a loaf of bread, that little girl rose. She was the healthiest little thing you ever saw. And that doctor? Well, he just didn’t know what to say.”

My grandma’s stories about herself are shorter, inserted into other stories when they fit. She specializes in tales of obsolete medical “wisdom”—like discouraging women from breastfeeding—and marvels at how open and knowledgeable women of today are about their inner workings and body parts.

My mom often retold the story of how, when pregnant with my first brother, she endured intense pelvic pain, not continually, but at intervals. “It feels like the baby is purposefully slamming his head into the bones down there,” she complained to her physician. “Don’t be silly,” he replied. “Newborns and babies in utero aren’t strong enough to intentionally lift their heads.” Finally labour day arrived. A day later, when she could first walk to the nursery alone, my mom paused at the door and witnessed two nurses talking animatedly over a bassinet. “I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s impossible!” said one. “Look, look—he’s doing it again,” said the other. Wondering what all the fuss was about, my mom made her way over. There was my ten-pound-plus baby brother raising his head, turning it side to side, and setting it heavily down—almost slamming it—as he shuffled to get comfortable.

Up until motherhood, I had been an enthralled listener. Now I was able to share my own stories. The group favourite is one about the birth of my son. About my hard, fast labour and how I knew my baby was coming soon, but how my doctor disagreed and argued about the nurse’s estimation of how far I was dilated. “She [the nurse] must have small fingers. There’s no way you’re eight centimetres. It’ll be five or six hours yet,” he said, then left. I panicked, thinking I couldn’t possibly endure another six hours.

The minute the doctor was out of the room, I needed to push. “Are you sure?” the nurse asked. “Can’t you hold it?” No, I couldn’t hold it. I was having a baby!

She paged the doctor a bit frantically. He got the call on his cell phone just as he was pulling out of the hospital’s lot. He circled back in, found a new parking spot, and got upstairs and into his scrubs just in time to see the arrival. Christopher burst forth so quickly that he landed on the tray; the doctor couldn’t even catch him. It was only my fourth push and I’d done a sort of crunch thing and got to see my child come out. It was amazing. Seeing him all pink and wet on the stainless steel tray, I announced, “I had a baby. It’s a boy!” The doctor said, “You did. It is.”

Thinking back on these stories and others shared between us women, I realize many had a common theme, childbirth and childrearing, and I have to wonder why.

I think, the fun and laughter of it all aside, we told our stories because they fostered a feeling of connection to each other, despite our many differences.

Even in a family of two or three children contrasts can be dramatic enough, but my grandma had eleven offspring. In her daughters, daughters-in-laws and granddaughters, almost every type of woman imaginable is represented. Widely varying educations, assorted religions, and completely divergent political views abound. Birthing and childrearing are our only guaranteed common ground, particularly the birthing because parenting is more open to dissenting opinions and partings of ways. But in the act of giving birth, no one can argue the other’s experience; they can only identify with its similarities or learn through its differences. Even my aunt and sister who don’t have children bond through these discussions.

“Well, you all completely affirm my conviction to never have children,” one aunt says, laughing. “Besides, I’ve been born and I could give birth . . . I still have the uterus connection.” She makes jests about too-much-information and shares crazily hilarious (and sometimes horrifying) comments she has received from people who range from sceptical to downright affronted that she doesn’t have any “maternal urges.”

Talking of differing adventures and resting in obvious similarities gives us a foundation for conversation about other things. Not all of us are revel-in-the-pure-bliss-of-motherhood types. Definitely not. Our stories are celebratory, but they are also reflective, sometimes negative. They lead into conversations about what we were led to believe as compared to what we found reality to be . . . and trust me, women through the generations (I’ve had five generations to observe) have been taught widely divergent things.

Through our personal situations, we explored and gave body to an idea that we continue to hope stays true—that our pain was not for nothing. We put our life events into story and the listeners gave credence to (and thus soothed) our frustrations and fears, while applauding that which usually goes by unrecognized. It was obvious and permissible to say that being a mother was (is!) important to us. It doesn’t define us, but it is an integral part of who we are and we have pride associated with it.

Years passed, as they do. My grandma finally moved off the farm. The great majority of my relations scattered across North America like dandelion fluff and put down roots elsewhere. Some family members passed on; new ones joined. But we still get together when we can and when we do, we still tell tales. As I relay my own stories and laugh, rage indignantly or get misty-eyed at the ones others tell, deep joy and a feeling akin to immortality surges through me. My daughter and son are adults now, as quick to speak and share as anyone else. I’m almost irrationally happy when my son says, “Tell the one about Uncle Wilf again—but first, did I really wave to you during the ultrasound?”

Today, my mother has been gone for twenty-three years—she died when she was just 42, three years younger than I am now—my grandmother is 88, and my firstborn has two babies of her own. I’m filled with gratitude and awe and something that’s part hope and part responsibility: that our family stories will live on through me and birth the same connection and pride I feel in coming from a long line of tough, resourceful, funny women.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Thanks so much for reading and have a lovely day!

P.S. In other Happy International Women’s Day related news, I was thrilled to have my novel BIGGER THINGS selected by Kobo for their huge International Women’s Day sale. It’s regular price is $7.99, but it’s 60% off for the next four days–and my team and I managed to get it price-matched across all vendors. I hope you enjoy it and that you experience new birth and bigger things of your own in coming months.

ENJOY BIGGER THINGS TODAY:

AMAZON ~ KOBO ~ iBOOKS ~ NOOK

Lifelong friends, dangerous secrets . . .

Jen should be celebrating her 121-pound weight loss, but instead feels lost. Chelsea appears to have it all, but dangerous secrets threaten everything. Kyra is struggling to discover who she is after years of putting up facades. Then crisis hits. Can the friends battle their personal dragons and accept change in order to save their friendship, or do they need to go their separate ways?

Ev Bishop lives and writes in a remote small town in wildly beautiful British Columbia, Canada—a place that inspires the setting for her cozy sweet romance series, RIVER’S SIGH B & B.

Book 1 in the series, WEDDING BANDS, is FREE right now, so go to your favorite eBook vendor and grab your copy today!

Ev also writes and publishes under the pen name Toni Sheridan.

In addition to writing novels—her favorite form of storytelling!—Ev is a long-time columnist with the Terrace Standard and a prolific scribbler of articles, essays, short stories and poems. To see her ever growing body of work, please visit her website.

When Ev’s nose isn’t in a book or her fingers aren’t on her keyboard, you’ll find her hanging out with her family and dogs, or playing outside with friends, usually at the lake or in some garden somewhere.

Taking My Cues From Nature For Spring Romance Suspense #mgtab

I Have Two New Releases In Romance Suspense!!

Plus Authors’ Billboard Will Be Publishing Several Romance Suspense Boxsets Very Soon.

I’m excited to say I’ll be a part of at least two of them this year.

Crystal Rock, Wisconsin…

Is a purely fictional resort town where my stories take place. The Dragonfly Pointe Inn has been restored, and in the process, it’s discovered that a human trafficking ring has been operating in the area during the years when the inn was abandoned.

Or has the trafficking been going on for much longer?

I do weave a slight element of fantasy through my stories.

Once two lovers kiss at Dragonfly Pointe? Their love is meant to last forever.

Continue Reading →

Tamara Ferguson

A member of the Romance Writers of America, Tamara Ferguson is the multi-award winning, #1 international bestselling author of the Tales of the Dragonfly Romance Suspense Series, the Kissed By Fate Series, and the Two Hearts Wounded Warrior Romance Series.

Her latest wounded warrior romance novella, Two Hearts Unspoken, is included in the top-ten bestselling Holiday Anthology, Mother’s Day Magic…With Love, which was also #1 in Wounded Warrior Fiction. Since being released independently, Two Hearts Unspoken has become a #1 International Best Seller at Amazon as well as a #1 International Hot New Release, and is the 2016 SILVER MEDAL WINNER at Readers’ Favorite International Book Awards for Military Fiction.

Presently, Tamara’s working on Two Hearts’ Christmas Wish, the fourth story in her multi-award winning Two Hearts Wounded Warrior series, Emergence, the third book in the multi-award winning Tales of the Dragonfly Novels, and a novella for the next installment of the bestselling Wedding Pets and Kisses anthologies, featuring stories by multi-award winning, bestselling and USA Today authors.

Since she remains a full-time caregiver for an autistic son, you can usually find Tammy working at home, where she spends a lot of time not completing her numerous home improvement projects, because she’s writing or helping author friends promote their books on twitter.

President’s Day Beards or Not? by @AyalaRachelle #mgtab

I’m old enough to remember TWO holidays in February. Lincoln’s Birthday, February 12, and Washington’s Birthday, February 22. Back when I was in elementary school, it meant two activities where we would trace the profile of Abraham Lincoln, with the hawk nose, pompadour hair and beard, on black colored paper and another one with George Washington’s profile, with the sloped forehead and braid at the back of his head. In between, we’d cut out red paper hearts for Valentine’s Day.

In 1971, they changed it all. Conglomerated both Lincoln and Washington’s birthdays into a single holiday called President’s Day. Gradually, through the years, this holiday has become less about two of our greatest presidents, and more about sales and a three-day weekend. Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I miss the stories we told of Washington at Valley Forge, the reports we did on Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, and yes, even the cherry tree cutting, or how a little girl wrote a letter to Lincoln that changed history.

Hon A B Lincoln…

Dear Sir

My father has just home from the fair and brought home your picture and Mr. Hamlin’s. I am a little girl only 11 years old, but want you should be President of the United States very much so I hope you wont think me very bold to write to such a great man as you are. Have you any little girls about as large as I am if so give them my love and tell her to write to me if you cannot answer this letter. I have got 4 brother’s and part of them will vote for you any way and if you let your whiskers grow I will try and get the rest of them to vote for you you would look a great deal better for your face is so thin. All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husband’s to vote for you and then you would be President. My father is going to vote for you and if I was a man I would vote for you to but I will try to get every one to vote for you that I can I think that rail fence around your picture makes it look very pretty I have got a little baby sister she is nine weeks old and is just as cunning as can be. When you direct your letter direct to Grace Bedell Westfield Chatauque County New York

I must not write any more answer this letter right off Good bye

Grace Bedell

Lincoln apparently wrote back to her. Click here to find out how he responded.

For a more up-to-date transformation, check out this Article of an insurance salesman transforming into a cover model.

So, now that we’ve digressed. Which is it, ladies? Beard or no beard? And would you vote for a man on the basis of his beard?

My work in progress is a romantic suspense about a single mother who has to hide her baby from her crazy ex. She turns to her childhood best buddy and asks him to claim the baby as his own while she is being hunted by the baby’s father who wants to kill the baby. Both men are bearded and it takes place in the backwoods of Idaho in the dead of winter. It will be available in one of the new Author’s Billboard Boxed Sets!

In the meantime, please check out my FREE books, a Romantic Suspense, Broken Build, where a woman falls in love with the man whose life she ruined years ago.

Jen Jones falls in love with the man whose life she ruined.

And Playing Without Rules, a gritty story about second chances and overcoming domestic violence.

The specter of domestic violence hangs over Marcia and Brock. She’s keeping secrets. He’s keeping her heart. There are no rules when it comes to love.

Enjoy Your President’s Day! Let’s honor the Office of the President and the leadership and commitment it represents, whether bearded or not! List of Presidents with facial hair.

Check out my website, http://www.rachelleayala.net for more free books.

Rachelle Ayala

Rachelle Ayala is a USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romance and romantic suspense. Her foremost goal is to take readers on a shared emotional journey with her characters as they grow and become more true to themselves. Rachelle believes in the power of love to overcome obstacles and feels that everyone should find love as often as possible, especially if it’s within the pages of a book.

Her book, Knowing Vera, won the 2015 Angie Ovation Award, A Father for Christmas garnered a 2015 Readers’ Favorite Gold Award, Christmas Stray received a 2016 Readers’ Favorite Gold Award, and Playing for the Save got the 2017 Readers’ Favorite Gold Award in Realistic Fiction.

She is also a writing teacher and founder of the Romance In A Month writing community. She lives in California with her husband and has three children and two birds.

Winter Blues and a Little Romance by @NatalieAnn121 #mgtab

I know those that are reading this could be from all over the world, but here in Upstate New York, winter is in full force.

And mid February is the worst for me. This is the time of year I start to feel the winter blues! I’m watching the calendar and counting down the days, just waiting for March 1st. Even though it can snow in March, it’s still almost spring in my eyes and that’s good enough.

In order to pass the time, I try to curl up with a good book. Anything to take my mind off the blustery snow outside the window in my sunroom. It’s not really a sunroom this time of year though. The first view is what I’m waiting for again! All the lush green out of my window with birds chirping everywhere. The second is some of the deer in my backyard trying to get cozy too.

If you’re like me and trying to wish some of the days in the calendar away and are looking for a good book to curl up with, go no further than three of the newest Valentine Day boxed sets just released by the authors of Authors’ Billboard.

There is a little bit of everything here and each set is only 99 cents! That’s 26 stories for $2.98!! Now where could you get a deal like that?

And if you haven’t read any of my books, Take A Chance is free until this Friday.

So grab a set or two…or three and snuggle in with some wonderful stories of love and romance.

Don’t let Blahuary and Blechruary get you down!

Wow, February 8th already. Where does time go? I hope your plans for the new year are rolling along nicely—and if they’re not, it’s not too late to get back on track. It’s never too late, in fact!

A picture of a very snowy yard.I’ve spent much of the month snowed in, literally and figuratively (Check out the picture of my view from my front door—and we’ve had more snow since then!), which always gives me lots of extra thinking time.

In the middle of January last year, someone close to me shared that it was Blue Monday. The term was unfamiliar to me at first. Apparently it’s a name given to a day in January (often, but not always, the third Monday of the month) that’s widely considered the most depressing day of the year because of a combination of “weather conditions, debt level (the difference between debt accumulated and our ability to pay), time since Christmas, time since failing our new year’s resolutions, low motivational levels and feeling of a need to take action.” (Thanks, Wikopedia. What would I do without you?)

The term resonated with me because the long dark months after Christmas can be tough for me too. It’s funny though, how knowing something is a “thing”—that others are affected similarly—can make it easier to bear. I’m not a wimp or an ungrateful jerk . . . it’s just a seasonal glitch.

Being kinder to myself makes low emotions easier to manage, but another good boost (and reminder) came from an unexpected place, a back issue (May/Jun/Jul 2016, to be exact) of my favorite magazine, Where Women Create

In her wonderful editorial column, From My Kitchen Table, Editor-in-Chief Jo Packham reflects on the passage of time, contemplates her life, and describes herself thus:

“I am 65 this year, and I am having an identity crisis—please do not try to talk me out of it or off the ledge that I seem to be looking over. It is my reality and I am not the only one facing it, who has faced it, or will someday face it. Being 65 is humbling, terrifying, something worth celebrating, nostalgic, lonely . . . a list of adjectives that goes on ad infinitum. But think about it: you can use those same adjectives regardless of what age you turn this year.”

Those adjectives really do apply to every age, and although I’m twenty years younger than Jo, the whole article resonated with me deeply. Her insight and descriptions of the ages and stages of life—“mid-20s, 30-somethings, 40-and-counting, 50-and-wishing, 60-and-panicked, 70-and-reflective, 80-and-byond”—struck me as so . . . accurate.

What I took with me from the read (now these are my thoughts, not hers exactly) is that we are all dying. We should feel a sense of urgency to live better, to love truer, to forgive more generously . . . to say what we need and express how we honestly feel, to live how we want to live, to conquer our fears (or push on in the face of them!), to embrace new challenges and pursue our dreams.

And conversely:

We are all living. We should feel a sense of urgency to live better, to love truer, to forgive more generously . . . to say what we need and express how we honestly feel, to live how we want to live, to conquer our fears (or push on in the face of them!), to embrace new challenges and pursue our dreams.

(See what I did there? No matter what our perspective on mortality is, how far it seems or close it looms, we should be living fully now.)

To heck with “blue” Monday. Each day is new. Each day. We will all (I’m so sorry to say) go through bitterly hard times, but hopefully we’ll find the strength to persevere when perseverance is needed and the bravery to start anew when quitting or ending something is needed or inevitable.

We will have regrets, even in the future, regardless of how much we decide here and now to live without them. The trick is to not let them hold us back or keep us down. Make amends and apologize when needed (and it will be needed), but remember: Each day is new. We are dying. We are alive!

I wish you so much joy and energy this year—and fun, too. May you embrace life at whatever stage you find yourself and regardless of our ages, may it be true for all us: the best years are still to come.

Find activities that bring you pleasure or contentment and do them. Cherish the people you love and who bring you happiness and spend your time with them.

Warmest regards always,

Ev

P.S. Just like years have seasons, I tend to have personal themes and ideas that I revisit in my thinking and my writing. A variation on my thoughts today was originally published in the Terrace Standard, January 25, 2017 as my monthly column “Just a Thought.” Thanks for reading!

Photo of Wedding Bands novel by Ev Bishop, a mug of tea, and a cozy fire

Don’t let Blechruary get you down! Bundle up and stay cozy . . . ahhhhhhh. 🙂

Ev Bishop lives and writes in a remote small town in wildly beautiful British Columbia, Canada—a place that inspires the setting for her cozy sweet romance series, RIVER’S SIGH B & B.

Book 1 in the series, WEDDING BANDS, is FREE right now, so go to your favorite eBook vendor and grab your copy today!

Ev also writes and publishes under the pen name Toni Sheridan.

In addition to writing novels—her favorite form of storytelling!—Ev is a long-time columnist with the Terrace Standard and a prolific scribbler of articles, essays, short stories and poems. To see her ever growing body of work, please visit her website.

When Ev’s nose isn’t in a book or her fingers aren’t on her keyboard, you’ll find her hanging out with her family and dogs, or playing outside with friends, usually at the lake or in some garden somewhere.

FEBRUARY BRINGS VALENTINE ROMANCE #mgtab

This year, I can’t wait until Spring. It’s been soooooooooooo cold in Illinois. But meanwhile, February’s here and I have two new releases coming out this month, as well as stories in two new anthologies now available for Valentine’s Day with The Authors’ Billboard!!

First Is A Valentine She’ll Remember. Two Hearts Unbroken (Two Hearts Wounded Warrior Romance Book 6) is my latest wounded warrior story, and this story is slightly different from the others in that my wounded warrior is a woman, who’s been through unimaginable horror when she’s captured in Iraq.

But despite her injuries as well as deep personal issues to resolve, Sarah Benton is finally ready to move forward two years later, and Lieutenant Brand Reardon is there to pick up the slack when Sarah’s life is once again endangered.

As my wounded warrior series continues, one element that’s changed is the twist of intrigue I began weaving into the stories beginning with Two Hearts Find Christmas. But despite the serious undertones, I still enjoy adding humor wherever possible.

Here’s an excerpt:

“Sarah. Sarah, are you okay?” Mel was asking with obvious concern. “Oh, I’m so sorry. What did I say?”

But Sarah didn’t seem to have the energy to open her eyes and respond as her whole body began shaking.

Suddenly, she found herself lifted to her feet and pulled into a warm masculine embrace.

“It’s okay, Sarah,” he whispered. “Everything’s alright. You’re alright.”

Opening her eyes, she blinked. “Brand? Uh…I mean, Captain Reardon?”

“Yeah, it’s me. And I’m even a Lieutenant now. I wasn’t sure it was you, though, when I first saw you come in. You look, uh…wow, like gorgeous. Not that I didn’t think you weren’t beautiful before.”

Sarah’s mind immediately snapped back to the present as she muttered, “You thought I was beautiful?”

He wore a wry grin. “Oh, yeah. Especially after seeing those legs.”

Wrinkling her nose, Sarah backed up and punched him in the shoulder.

Although Mel still wore a look of concern on her face, she began laughing.

“Um,” Sarah began. “What are you doing here in Crystal Rock?”

He gave her a huge smile, and Sarah remembered the reason she’d tried to stay away from him, even when she was part of his team.

She’d been attracted to him, this big giant hunk of a man, and it’d made her uncomfortable thinking of Jim, who’d been waiting for her back home.

“I’m here for the same reason you are,” he answered. “Retraining wounded warriors who want to remain in active service. I’ll be the Air Force liaison.”

She shook her head in amazement. How crazy was this? She’d never thought she’d ever see Brand again.

 

 

A VALENTINE SHE’LL REMEMBER

Memorable Valentine romances to sweeten the season of love.

There is no better way to celebrate the season of love than with each of these eight heroines and that one special Valentine they’ll remember forever.

And so will you…

SWEET AND SASSY VALENTINE

If you’ve ever been struck by Cupid’s Arrow, you know Love has the power to change you and your world. If you’ve ever been in love, then you know there is no feeling more exquisite than being held by the one you love. We, the twelve authors of SWEET AND SASSY ROMANCE, dedicate this Valentine Collection to you, the Hopeful Romantic!

Happy Valentine’s Day!!

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Tamara Ferguson

A member of the Romance Writers of America, Tamara Ferguson is the multi-award winning, #1 international bestselling author of the Tales of the Dragonfly Romance Suspense Series, the Kissed By Fate Series, and the Two Hearts Wounded Warrior Romance Series.

Her latest wounded warrior romance novella, Two Hearts Unspoken, is included in the top-ten bestselling Holiday Anthology, Mother’s Day Magic…With Love, which was also #1 in Wounded Warrior Fiction. Since being released independently, Two Hearts Unspoken has become a #1 International Best Seller at Amazon as well as a #1 International Hot New Release, and is the 2016 SILVER MEDAL WINNER at Readers’ Favorite International Book Awards for Military Fiction.

Presently, Tamara’s working on Two Hearts’ Christmas Wish, the fourth story in her multi-award winning Two Hearts Wounded Warrior series, Emergence, the third book in the multi-award winning Tales of the Dragonfly Novels, and a novella for the next installment of the bestselling Wedding Pets and Kisses anthologies, featuring stories by multi-award winning, bestselling and USA Today authors.

Since she remains a full-time caregiver for an autistic son, you can usually find Tammy working at home, where she spends a lot of time not completing her numerous home improvement projects, because she’s writing or helping author friends promote their books on twitter.