The Love of Cotton Candy

Isn’t it amazing how a simple smell or taste can take you back to your childhood? Of course, some of those reminders might be bad, like the flavor of nasty-tasting medicine, or the odor that lingered when you accidentally stepped in a pile of doggy doo while out trick-or-treating. Yep, that happened to me!

However, I want to talk about a good memory!

When I was a child, my parents would take me to one of those home-town carnivals that came through town every year around the Fourth of July. The carnival was part of a community festival called Frontier Days. In addition to the carnival rides and games, there was also a parade. I’ve seen photos of me and my siblings dressed up as pioneers in a make-shift covered wagon. I was very young then, but it was memorable enough that I recall thinking we were pretty awesome.

Now, back to the whole smell and taste thing. The simple thought of that particular event immediately sparks memories of an assortment of smells: Popcorn, the sawdust spread on the ground beneath some of the stomach-churning rides, mud from the rain that always seemed to dampen the celebration every year, beer, and cotton candy.

Cotton candy.

My first memory of popping some of that fluffy confection into my mouth comes from one of those Frontier Day’s celebrations. I clearly remember my aunt, Judy, telling me the proper way to eat cotton candy. She said that in order to avoid getting completely sticky, you needed to pull off a small amount and literally pop it into your mouth, doing all you could to avoid touching your fingers to your lips and getting them wet. Putting your mouth directly on the spool of fluff was a no-no. Especially if you planned to share your treat!

I didn’t do such a good job instructing my grandson.

The photo is a little blurry, but you get the idea! I tried to teach him to ‘pop,’ but he dove right in!

Now that I’m older, I like getting sticky even less, but I still love cotton candy. Recently, I discovered a new kind of ice cream that has rocked my world! Kroger brand has cotton candy flavored ice cream called Mermaid Sparkle. It’s to die for. Best of all, you can eat it with a spoon and you won’t get sticky.

Sure, there are many foods I enjoy, but I can’t think of any others that produce so many wonderful memories. Our lives are a patchwork of memories, and I feel it’s important to cherish all of them. I’ve learned a lot from my past. Not only how to properly eat cotton candy, but after my other experience, I know to watch where I walk on Halloween.

Life is a journey, and I want to thank you for sharing these memories with me!

God bless!

Becoming Our Parents

I’m sure you’ve seen the great commercials on TV about people who are becoming their parents. I laugh at the ads because I can completely relate to them.

I don’t know when the transition takes place, but it definitely happens. Not only in the things we do, but for me, I see the transformation in the mirror. So often, my mom smiles back at me. I have many of her mannerisms, and when we talk on the phone, we frequently sound alike. We have the same vocal tones, and we oftentimes sigh or laugh at the same time and sound identical.

So, there’s the physical transformation, but what about the mental transformation? When do we start behaving like “old fogies.” Even that dated term validates what I’m saying. When I was young, I felt so up-to-date and “in-the-now.” When my parents did something silly or forgetful, I’d just chalk it up to their age. Now I’m the one doing ridiculous things and forgetting what day of the week it is.

I suppose it has everything to do with the brain. As we age, we process things differently. And, we considerably slow down. We wake with aches in our bodies that we can’t explain and groan with that first step we take out of bed.

I guess what surprises me the most is my change in attitude. Things I used to think were funny or entertaining on TV, I see now as dumb. I get frustrated when I drive down the road and have to listen to the loud thumping of the music coming from the car next to me. As a youth, I likely would’ve thought it was cool. So, yes, I’m becoming an old person. Sigh . . .

On the bright side, I have so many stories to tell. With all the years I’ve lived, (boy, I’m really sounding ancient!), I’ve accumulated massive amounts of life experiences. I feel I’m capable of giving my children and grand-children advice from all that life-lived knowledge. The same kind of advice my parents gave me. I may have thought some of the things they told me were foolish, but I’ve come to realize that they were usually right. (And if you’re reading this now, Mom and Dad, don’t gloat!)

I’m blessed that my parents are still living. I can go to them when I need to talk, and I continue to listen to their advice. They’ve inspired me time and again! I pray that I can do the same for my children, and that they’ll always turn to this “old person” whenever they need me. Besides, I count on them to help me manage all the difficulties I face with every new-fangled gadget that’s released. I’m still learning new ways to fully use my phone. It took me until about three years ago to part with my flip-phone. (Should I be hiding my head in embarrassment?)

The photo above is me and my dad at the zoo in 2019, and the one to the right is my Mom at her 80th birthday celebration in 2018. Unfortunately, they live a great distance from me, but in that respect, I’m grateful for my new-fangled phone. We can talk as long as we want and we don’t have to incur hefty long-distance charges! If you’re as old as I am, you’ll remember the days when it was cheaper to call after 7:00 p.m. It’s nice not to have to worry about the time of day when making a call.

Going back even farther in time, do you recall the days of party lines? No, they had nothing to do with politics! Households had shared telephone lines, and you could pick up your phone and hear your neighbor talking to someone. Of course, if they knew you were on the line interrupting their call, you’d get fussed at. Rightfully so!

I appreciate the advancement in technology, but I often miss the good ol’ days. The new phones have great benefits, but it makes me sad to see so many people with their faces glued to their phones. They’re missing out on the real world before them. So, please, take it from this old fogey. Put your phone down and look at what’s around you, and if you’re in a restaurant, talk to the person you’re there with, not the one on your screen.

From someone who loves to write historical fiction, take the time to enjoy the simplicities in life. A walk in the woods, a picnic by a lake, watching the sun set (or rise), or enjoying a board game with your family. (The old-fashioned, non-electronic type).

We’ve seen our share of frustrating times this past year, but never lose hope! Life is good!

God bless you all!

To Review or Not to Review

I don’t ever like to say something bad about anyone or anything, but on occasion, it’s good to let people know if you’re disappointed with something. For example, there have been two times in my life that a manufacturer has changed a particular food product that I enjoy. Supposedly, they’ve made it “new and improved” and “better-tasting.” In the two instances I’m referring to, I completely disagreed with the manufacturer. So much so that I wrote a letter to one stating my disappointment in the change, and the other, I made a phone call and left voicemail. I suppose you could say I’m passionate about food, and when a beloved recipe is altered, I find it disappointing.

Of course, my grievances did little good. They didn’t say, “Oh, my goodness, Jeanne Hardt doesn’t like this new recipe, so we’d better go back to the old one!” I don’t have that kind of pull. Although, I did get a coupon from the manufacturer I wrote to for future products. Still, I would have rather had the original item before the recipe changed.

So, where am I going with all this? Well . . . as an author, I can say without a doubt that positive reviews are always welcome and appreciated on my “product.” Hopefully, none of my books will leave a bad taste in your mouth or the desire for a change in my recipe. It would be wrong of me to say, “Don’t write a review if you didn’t like my book,” regardless of the fact that I prefer reading the positive comments! Not everyone has the same taste in literature, and I’ve gotten my share of negative reviews. Honestly, even they can be helpful. I never respond to any review, because that’s not my place to do so, or the purpose of a review. Still, I put my mind to what was said and ask myself if there’s something I need to improve. Most of the time, I simply accept that my style isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay.

The main purpose of a review is to help a potential new reader decide if they want to give the book a try. So, with that being said, reviews are important to those potential readers. They might base their decision solely on the rating of that book or a particular comment that a reader has made. Because of that, I encourage you to post reviews. I believe that many venues will also allow you to post a rating alone, without a written review, which is also good.

If you’re unsure what to write, simplicity is best. It’s as easy as saying, “Great story.” “Captivating.” or “A page-turner.” Those kinds of comments are always appreciated, and hopefully, you’ll feel that way about what you read. Most importantly, honesty is best.

There are a few things I’d caution you NOT to do:

1. Don’t give away secrets. Nobody likes spoilers, and if you tell the big ‘aha’ moment in the book, you’ll be spoiling it for the potential reader. So choose your remarks carefully. If you like or don’t like a particular character, it’s fine to say, but don’t give away what that particular character does. We all like to be surprised, don’t we?

2. As an author, I’m so blessed to have friends that read my books. And, of course, I hope that never changes! If you know an author and post a review for their books, it’s a good idea not to say, “this author is my friend,” in the context of the review. It can affect the validity of your review, because the reader might think you’re simply being kind to your friend by saying something nice about their book.

Authors wouldn’t have careers without readers, and we appreciate each and every one of you! We strive to write stories you’ll treasure, and we thank you for taking the time to let us know your thoughts.

Who is Vern Harpole?

It was a fun and exciting new experience to write a fiction book based on an actual person. I was blessed to have a good friend who gave me the freedom to expand her grandfather’s story and ‘fill in the blanks’ so to speak in areas of his life that the family is unsure of exact details.

In “His Heart’s Long Journey,” you’ll travel with Vern as he seeks out answers to his past and also strives to move forward with his love interest, Margaret Jordan. Margaret is a strong-willed woman with her own troubled past, and the last thing she wants is the attention of a man.

When my friend, Ann, told me her family’s heart-wrenching story, I was compelled to write it. It was hard for me to believe that someone could experience all that Vern went through in his young life. As I wrote, I felt I really knew him. He became alive to me, and I hope that when you read this series, you’ll feel the same.

I also became fond of schnecken while writing this story. The trade of being a baker was passed on to Vern from the family who took him in at a very young age. Mr. Hinze was a German baker who taught Vern all he knew. Schnecken is a German sweet roll, similar to a cinnamon roll. I found a wonderful recipe online while researching German pastries. You can find it on the food.com website.

This is an actual photo of Vern in his baker’s garb. I didn’t see this photo until after I wrote the series, but I was surprised to find how much he looked the way I’d imagined him.

If you haven’t read “His Heart’s Long Journey,” I hope you will. It’s so much fun to travel in the footsteps of the past and share in the lives of others. Book one, “Forsaken by Love,” can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B082QWKM56

Free Download!

I’m happy to say that today thru Tuesday, November 10th, you can download “Forsaken by Love” for FREE from Amazon! I hope you’ll enjoy Vern’s journey. The book is based on a true story that one of my friends graciously shared with me. When she told it, I knew I had to write it! I’m thrilled she allowed me to tell it.

Free Download! Forsaken by Love

During this ‘stay-at-home’ time, it’s nice to be able to virtually travel to another time and place.

I’m happy to say that today thru Wednesday, you can download “Forsaken by Love” for FREE from Amazon! I hope you’ll enjoy Vern’s journey. The book is based on a true story that one of my friends graciously shared with me. When she told it, I knew I had to write it! I’m thrilled she allowed me to tell it.

 

Appreciating the ‘Simple’ Things

I’ve lost count of how often I’ve said, “We’re living in crazy times.”

For anyone who has lost a loved one from this virus or is currently ill with Covid-19, I’m sure the words to describe it would be much harsher than ‘crazy.’

We’ve all experienced loss. As it is with this new virus, sometimes it’s unexpected and tragic, other times, it comes from a lengthy illness or simply because we’ve reached the age that our bodies shut down. But even when we have the chance to prepare ourselves emotionally for the moment we’ll have to let go of the person we love, we’re never ready. We don’t want to lose anyone we cherish.

Life never guarantees another day. That’s something else I’ve heard and said for as long as I can remember. The older I get, the more I appreciate the wisdom in being told to appreciate the simple things and enjoy every moment with the people I love.

Since there’s more than enough gloom and doom in the media, I don’t want this post to be about the negative aspects of what we’re facing. I want to express the good I see in being alive every day. In addition, I’d love to hear from you and know what you enjoy the most in your day-to-day living.

I love that first sip of coffee that’s waiting for me the instant I walk into my kitchen. I’m grateful for the electricity that continues to flow through my home, even when I’m sleeping, so that my automatic coffee maker comes on at the right time. And speaking of electricity–that alone is something to cheer from the rooftops!

I have hot water for my shower and to readily wash my hands umpteen times each day. Electricity powers my laptop, so I can continue to write, and it recharges my phone, so I can stay in touch with family and friends. It keeps my refrigerator cold, so my food doesn’t spoil, and it keeps the food in my freezer frozen for the long haul.

I have a sweet husband who’s happy to go out and do the grocery shopping and other necessary tasks like picking up the mail. As for me, I stay comfortably at home, writing. And what a blessing that is! I still get to escape with my characters to other times and places, and I’m graced with wonderful emails and messages from readers who thank me for taking their minds off the current issues. If that’s not a good reason to smile, I don’t know what is. Thank you, readers!

I have a loyal dog who gets me moving when I’ve been sitting too long. We may only go out into the yard, but at least I’m getting out of the house for a few minutes. He’s been overly happy lately, because I never leave him.

I bought the ‘Stay at Home Dog’ shirt months before this virus came to be. At the time, I thought it was simply cute, but now, it’s fitting. He loves being at home, and I’m thankful he’s here.

I have word games on my phone to entertain me when my brain needs a rest from writing, and jigsaw puzzles that I love to put together. The bigger the better. I even dug out some puzzles that I’ve had since I was a little girl. The photo at the bottom of this post is one of them. I try to challenge myself by not looking at the picture while I’m working them, but I still like to start by putting the border together. My son says I shouldn’t do that. He’s trying to get me to work them from the middle out, but I have yet to try that. With one exception… I found a border-less puzzle that not only didn’t have a border, it also had five additional pieces, just to throw me off! It was called an “Impossible” puzzle, but I’m happy to say that I mastered it. Such fun!

I’ve been taking the time to experiment with new recipes, and I’ve also cooked things that I hadn’t made in years. Like old-fashioned tapioca pudding. It’s so good when it’s hot off the stove! And if you want a wonderful treat, cook up some stove-top chocolate pudding and put it over vanilla ice cream. It’s delicious. Even better than hot fudge.

I’m grateful that I’ve not lost touch with my church friends. I sing in the church choir, and we’d been practicing for an Easter cantata, but of course, that didn’t happen. Still, we meet once a week on Zoom. We don’t sing, but we lift each other up in prayer and share how our lives are going. Eventually, when we can get back together again, we’ll sing the cantata. Easter should be lived every day of our lives, so even though the date might not be the ‘right’ one, the message always is. God is gracious and still in control, and though we might not understand why we’re going through these troubled times, He knows. His love never leaves us.

Maybe we all needed the opportunity to take a deep breath and slow down. Even so, I hate to see anyone suffer. I’d like everyone to be able to get back to work and doing what they love.

So, tell me what makes you smile, and what you love the most! We’ll get through this together and be stronger for it.

Free Download – Island in the Forest!

Today thru Monday, in celebration of the soon-to-be-released book 5 in the Shrouded Thrones series, book 1, Island in the Forest, is being offered as a free Kindle download from Amazon!

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07BJ2P283

Island in the Forest

Olivia has lived her entire life behind the walls of Padrida, a kingdom unknown to the rest of the world. As the king and queen’s only heir, she is destined to rule. Though given all that she needs, she wants only one thing.

Freedom.

Boredom plagues Prince Sebastian of Basilia. The realms have been at peace for more than a century, and he has little to occupy his time. He journeys to Black Wood, seeking adventure. The dense forest has a dark reputation, and Sebastian intends to uncover the truth of the many horrific tales that have troubled him since childhood.

He finds something else entirely.

For the Love of a Chihuahua

I got my first furry pet when I was in elementary school. Second grade, I think. She was a solid black cat named Midnight, who I found on the school grounds and brought home. Originally, Mom insisted she stay outside, but when the first rainstorm rolled in and Midnight pawed at the back door, Mom’s heart melted and she brought her inside.

From that day on, we had cats. Lots of cats. We did what we could to come up with the most unusual names for them. After Midnight, we had Precious, (not so odd), Googey, Silmarillion, (my sister is a Tolkien fan!), Sarazar, Lithwaite, and Smokey. There were a few others, too, but these stood out the strongest in my memory.

Even after I left home, I continued to have cats. Luna was a big favorite. She was a beautiful Himalayan who went to live with my mom when I moved across the country. Upon arriving in the south, I had a cat adopt me. Spooky (another black cat) showed up on my doorstep on Halloween. Coincidental? Probably.

Spooky was a very cool cat, but three years after my arrival in Tennessee, I met my current husband. A man who is severely allergic to cats! Dog gone it! When we got married, Spooky went to live with a friend of mine. Sandy, my friend, had a pet hedgehog, and soon, Spooky and the hedgehog became best buddies.

Many years have passed since then, and for a long time, I was utterly petless. Then, my son left for college, and my husband and I became empty nesters. I never thought I would be affected by the quietness of our home with just the two of us in it, but it hit me hard. Because of my blues, my husband brought home Sophie, a sweet black Labrador. Eventually, Sophie had a litter of puppies, and we added Misty and Dusty to our home. They are the yellow Labs in this photo. Cute, huh?

I discovered I was a dog person, and I finally felt content giving up my love of having a cat in the house. My new big babies eventually weighed over 90 lbs. each, but that didn’t stop me from cuddling them. Labradors are incredibly lovable. They enriched our lives for over thirteen years, and when they died–all within a year of each other–my heart broke.

I decided I wasn’t going to go through that pain again.

BUT . . .

Odd how things change. A friend told me she was looking for a home for her Chihuahua. I never thought I’d like a little dog, after becoming so fond of the big ones, but Jax changed my mind and my heart. He has wormed his way in deep! This little guy has brought abundant joy and love into our home. He’s my companion when I write, and he does a great job of getting me off my rump every hour to take him outside. It’s easy to get caught up in my stories and lose track of time, and I used to set an alarm. Otherwise, I’d sit for so long, my legs would fall asleep!

Because of Jax, I’m moving a whole lot more, and I have no need for the alarm. He has his daily routine, which includes getting up at 5:30am. I don’t mind. He starts my day with joy, and in the evenings, when I’m relaxing and watching TV, he curls up on my lap and keeps me warm. His disposition is generally good, but he hates my telephone and gets jealous if I’m talking on it or playing games. (I love playing word games!) He wants the attention and whines when I give it to anyone or anything else. Maybe I’m spoiling him, but one thing’s for sure. I’m feeding off his unconditional love.

I still like cats, but since I can’t own one any longer, I’m grateful to have discovered the love of a Chihuahua. He’s about the size of cat, so maybe in that way, he’s a better substitution than the Labradors. He’s definitely easier to cuddle.

I heard that petting an animal can lower your blood pressure and reduce stress. I totally agree!

 

Write the Right Thing

When I began my writing journey, I confess, I was basically clueless on the industry and the methods of writing in general. Thanks to the guidance of my writer friends, Romance Writers of America, and the Nashville, Tennessee Chapter, Music City Romance Writers, I was given direction as well as an abundance of encouragement.

I discovered that my stories aren’t true romances, and what I write is often categorized as women’s fiction. However, a lot of women’s fiction ends sadly, and I do promise a happy ending. It sometimes takes a while to get there, and maybe not until the end of a series, but there will be a happily ever after.

I’ve always had a passion for history, and that love led me to write historical fiction. It’s so much fun to imagine myself walking into the past and what it might have been like to live in a different time. I enjoy the research and love to intertwine real history with my fictitious characters.

I appreciate every reader who picks up one of my books and shares my journeys. I think many of you wondered why I deviated from historical fiction this past year and ventured into medieval fantasy. I guess I can chalk that up to another learning experience! I followed my heart and wrote what moved me. Plus, I had it in my head that the medieval time period was in essence ‘historical,’ however, since I didn’t base my stories on anyone or anything ‘real,’ I definitely took a sharp turn away from my usual stories.

That being said, I hope you’ll give the Shrouded Thrones series a read and shoot me a message with some feedback. I like to think of this series as a grown-up fairy tale. In book one, “Island in the Forest,” the kingdoms are at peace. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07BJ2P283However, by book two, the story gets a bit dark when power-hungry evil rulers seek total domination. The final book in the series, “Queen of Prophecy,” will soon be released, and I’m excited to share how everything comes together. I’m going to miss the characters in this series, as well as the time period. Though set in fictitious realms, the story embraces the feel of historic England, with maybe a bit of a King Arthur flair.

I will soon be returning to United States historical fiction, and I’m excited to start on my next project. “His Heart’s Long Journey” will be based on the true story of one of my friend’s relatives. It will be set in the old west and end up in the small mining town of Murray, Idaho.

So, how do I know that I’m writing the right book? Every one I start is a new adventure, and I simply follow my heart. It guides my mind and fingers, and I just sit down and type. The funny thing is, sometimes in the morning, when I read what I wrote the day before, I don’t remember writing some of it. I guess I ‘get in the zone’ and just go. My characters frequently tell me what they want to say and do, and I just record it. Is that strange?

Unusual or not, I’m thankful for the freedom I have to write what I want. What a blessing to be able to do so!

If you are a writer, keep at it! Follow your heart and write what moves you. And if you’re a reader, thank you for every book you pick up and read. You keep us writers motivated and give us the ability to do what we love.