Tag Archives: summer

Mourning the End of Summer

Could someone please tell me where this summer has gone?  For that matter, could someone explain where this year has gone?

Those lumps there are cars.  To be more accurate, one is a Jeep and the other is a full-size pick-up truck.  There was a LOT of snow.

Those lumps there are cars. To be more accurate, one is a Jeep and the other is a full-size pick-up truck. There was a LOT of snow.

It seems like just yesterday Western South Dakota was digging out from Winter Storm Atlas, which dumped more than two feet of snow.  Heavy, wet, way too early in the season snow.  The wind knocked the official sensors out, so there is no official record of how strong the gusts were.  At least 50 and 60 miles per hour.  Those speeds were recorded before the sensor was put out of commission.  People were without power for days—some for weeks.

It started a long, cold winter.

That led into a short, cold spring; which then gave us a cold, wet summer.

And that has me pretty bummed out.

I love summer.  And not just because my birthday is in August.  (Hey, who doesn’t love presents?)

Therefore, I will be spending this Labor Day weekend, mourning the summer that never was and hoping against hope (or at least against the Farmer’s Almanac) that this upcoming winter is more hospitable than last!

Nichole

Nichole R. Bennett has been an avid mystery reader from a young age.  Her novels, Ghost Mountain and Sleeping Bear, are available from Second Wind Publishing. When she’s not writing, Nichole can be found doing a plethora of crafty things, drinking coffee, eating chocolate, or spending too much time online.  Oh, and reading.

But not hanging out in the cold.

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Wildflowers in Winter by Sherrie Hansen

Christmas - peacock 

I woke up this morning filled with sweet memories of a Merry Christmas spent with my family, prepared to do a “Twas the day after Christmas” blog, but then I looked outside.

Blu Belle winter tiny

Here in North Iowa and Southern Minnesota, we’ve had a lot of snow and below zero temperatures already this winter. The forecast HIGH for Tuesday is -2 below zero. Don’t even get me going on wind chills – they were – 25 and -30 a few days ago and forecast to dip as low or even lower next week.

Zion 2013 snow view

Can you blame me for wanting to take a little trip to summertime?

Flowers - strawberry  Duluth - close

I’m deep into Shy Violet, the third of my Wildflowers of Scotland novels, and almost ready to do edits on Blue Belle, the second, and relishing summertime on the Isles of Skye and Mull.  When I can’t remember the sights and smells of summer, I look at my photos and dream of warm days and starry, summertime nights and write on. It’s fun to escape to a landscape filled with wildflowers and green grass. Some people take a vacation to the south of France or Florida or the California coast. I get lost in a book set in the summertime.

Sporing - bluebells

My favorite wildflowers are those that I find growing in front of a picturesque sight like a castle or an old church, a lake or ocean, a stunning mountain, or even those that grow in the front yard of my B&B, the Blue Belle Inn. If I were a wildflower, that’s where I would plant myself.  Life is short. It’s good to get outside and enjoy the views as often as you can.

203 Scotland St. Andrews  Duluth - lupine

Wildflowers take root wherever they can find a toehold.  They’re persistent and determined and slightly stubborn, just like me. Many of them survived the last ice age. That’s tenacity!

197 Scotland - Flowers in Stone  201 Scotland -- Fence

Wildflowers grow in a wild tangle of disarray. Although I try to make myself tidy up my house on a regular basis so it looks like a photo shoot from Beautiful Home magazine (in case my mother should drop by unexpectedly), it more often looks like a tornado just touched down. The truth is, I’m just not into neat, regimented gardens planted in straight rows a specific number of inches apart. I’m more of a wildflower and always have been.

Ely - Thistle   WI2 - Thistle

The heroines of my Wildflowers of Scotland novels – Wild Rose (Rose),  Blue Belle (Isabelle), and Shy Violet (Violet) – are all prone to living their lives in unconventional ways. They don’t like to be fenced in. They know how to make the best of a bad situation – to bloom where they’re planted despite that fact that the weather and soil and growing conditions are less than ideal. They get trampled on and they bounce back.  They’re true glories of nature. 

Grace Corner - Bleeding hearts 2

Thanks for taking a brief trip to summertime with me.  I hope you’ve enjoyed the green scenery, warm breezes, and raindrops on roses.

175 Scotland - Cambo gardensraindrops  Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00023]  Love Notes Cover - Final

NOTE:  If you refuse to get in the summertime mode, you can go read Love Notes – it starts as autumn is changing to winter and ends on Christmas Eve. It takes place in Embarrass, MN, the coldest place in America.  If you’re in the mood for a good winter read, this is it. Google Embarrass, MN on Tuesday and see how warm it is up north! It’ll make you thankful for whatever temperature it is where you are. As for me, I’ll be cozied up, dreaming of roses and bluebells and violets, waiting for summer to return.  Merry Christmas!

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Summer!! by John E. Stack

Oh the joy. Oh the bliss. If one might borrow a few words from Alice Cooper:

School’s out for summer
School’s out forever…
No more pencils
No more books
No more teacher’s dirty looks
Out for summer
Out till fall
We might not go back at all

Students believe that they have a monopoly on summer because they are out of school and no longer do they have teachers to answer to.

But, they just don’t understand. As excited as the kids were on the last day of school, it was nothing compared to the excitement of the teachers when the last yellow bus pulled out of the parking lot. Everyone knew that after a couple of days of paperwork and getting our rooms organized our break would begin.

Teachers know how precious summer break really is. There is time to rest. Time to reflect. Time to spend with family. Time for a movie, outside of your living room. Time to sit down and read a good long book. Vacation. And, time to relax.

Some teachers will not get that luxury. Since we are ten-month employees many will start summer jobs to insure they can make ends meet. Most of us have our pay spread over twelve months so we won’t have to work unless we really want to.

I teach middle school and I just went from 110 kids down to two, whom I can put in their rooms if I get tired of them. Personally, I have a honey-do list about a mile long that I will work on some, but mostly I will spend time with my family. I will spend some time relaxing on the beach and maybe writing when my muse allows. I will spend a week in Arizona on a mission trip, which I hope to do a different type of work.

It’s all about recharging and getting ready for the new school year. Where kids usually try to avoid learning during the summer, teachers take the time to learn new ways to inspire and reach the new students that are different from the kids that we just taught. If you are tired and stressed, it is difficult to learn new things. If you are not inspired then it is difficult to inspire.

Out of all the things I have on my honey-do list I believe the first thing on my agenda will be a nap. Then, I plan to wake up and go to bed. I will write when inspired and play with my little girl every day.

I hope all are blessed with a great summer filled with joy and blessings.

***John is the author of Cody’s Almost Trip to the Zoo

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The Importance of Locations by Deborah J Ledford

Crescendo F. Cover -w blurb 7 HR-FinalOkay, so keeping with the “Importance of” theme, let’s discuss locations. How important are they to you as a reader? How about as a writer? For me, the main location for my Steven Hawk/Inola Walela has definitely become a main character.

I grew up spending my summers in a small town nestled in the Great Smoky Mountains of western North Carolina. This is a place that remains close to my heart and senses. There are times when I awake in the middle of the night, replaying events long passed, the scent of “green” still nestled in my brain.

The summertime nights were humid during those cherished weeks every year, but that never bothered me as I chased fireflies, capturing them in the Mason jar my grandmother would provide from her stash under the sink.

fireflies-two

The drives with my grandfather are gems I unfortunately only remember snippets of—sitting in the back seat of his huge Buick as he backed up the long drive to the two-lane, twisting highway that would lead us to the gas station/country store where he would buy me a paper sack full of Atomic FireBall jawbreakers. Even decades ago Kudzu vines hugged the trees and power poles, massive hulking monsters, disturbing yet fascinating.

kudzu

The fog that would rarely completely lift hovered over the expanse and deep in the valleys when we reached a rise high enough to look down at the most enchanting, wondrous Great Smokies I will never release from my memories.

smoky-mountains-sunrise

I go back from time to time to the real city of Bryson City, where Inola Walela, Steven Hawk and his family live in my books. My imaginary characters visit locations I still remember; essentially playing out the life I could only dream of. I suppose that’s one of the best parts about being a novelist…the “what if” and “why not” of every story one can create.

Deborah J Ledford’s latest novel of suspense, CRESCENDO, is book three of the Steven Hawk/Inola Walela series. Other novels include, STACCATO, and SNARE, Finalist for The Hillerman Sky Award and the NM-AZ Book Awards. Deborah is a three-time nominee for the Pushcart Prize and her award-winning short stories appear in numerous print publications as well as literary and mystery anthologies. Part Eastern Band Cherokee, she spent her summers growing up in western North Carolina where her novels are set. Deborah invites you to visit her website.

Photograph Credits: Smoky Mountains Sunrise ©Dave Allen. Kudzu ©Felicity Green.

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Nighttime Intruder

DSCN0730

The other night I’d left my elderly, portly cat Lizzie outside to fend for herself.  I shouldn’t, even though the neighborhood is mostly quiet. My experience of living here is that when you least expect it—expect it! I was relaxed during the summer a few years back when the folks across the street let their pit-bull escape. When he body-slammed our screen door, barking and snarling—we realized he wanted to get inside and eat our cats. Fortunately, back then, all the fuzzy butts were hale and fast on their feet. The second time this lethal weapon got loose, his owners spent over an hour attempting to catch him, apparently because they were more afraid of him than he was of them. Anyway—that’s another story—but it should explain why I couldn’t go to sleep, knowing Lizzie was waddling around the nighttime yard. After a couple of hours, I gave up the attempt to lose consciousness and went downstairs to collect her.

Another neighbor has one of those parking lot lights blazing away in his backyard, which actually makes it harder to see because of the high contrast it creates. Behind our tall fence, under the old silver maple, we remain in a small slice of darkness. Close to my feet, out tiger Bob muttered something like “Wowie Mrrrrrrp” deep down in his throat. I had an intuition he was cautioning me about something. My eyes were slow to adjust, and, as I stood on the patio in my nightgown I heard the distinct sound of something brushing through the flowerbed about ten feet away. My gaze pried into shadow. That was when I saw of a blaze of white and then the pacing movement, a distinct side to side motion, whisking away from me, across the porch. An oily smell, traveling more slowly, was the final clue to who this intruder was, visiting my nighttime yard.

The better part of valor was to retreat, so I did, back inside to turn on the porch light. By the time I did that, nothing was visible, just my cats. Bob sat by the door.  Lizzie was a little further out by a small spruce, lying there in the classic meatloaf posture, front paws neatly tucked under her chest. Clearly, neither of them was alarmed, simply keeping a respectful distance, while the skunk came to drink out of the water pots/bird baths that litter my yard. We’d moved into drought , so I wasn’t surprised some of the local outlaws were availing themselves of the detente of the nighttime suburban water hole.

Juliet Waldron

Hand-me-Down Bride & Roan Rose @ Second Wind Publishing  & Smashwords

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A Time for Every Season… by Sherrie Hansen Decker

One of the parts I like best about starting a new book is choosing the location where my story will be set. Local traditions, distinctive scenery, and quirky bits of historical lore can all be used to enhance the plot and bring life to your characters. Layering and interweaving them together or using symbolism to enhance the plot is pure fun for me.  Choosing the right season for your story is another fun exercise. My latest book, Love Notes, starts just about this time of year, when late summer / autumn is turning to winter.  The conclusion of Hope Anderson and Tommy Love’s story falls on Christmas Eve with a tender carol about hope, joy, peace and love. Maybe that’s why I’ve been thinking about autumn and the images it brings to mind.

But first, I’m going to backtrack a bit. I have to admit that autumn is my second favorite season. My bed and breakfast, The Blue Belle Inn,  is named after a spring flower, and painted in springtime colors, so you can probably guess what my favorite season is.

To me, spring is a season of hope, and new beginnings. Maybe that’s why I couldn’t start Love Notes in the spring. Because for Hope and Tommy, certain things had to come to an end  – die – before any new growth could occur. Dreams, self, old business.

I love spring, when the first blossoms start to poke out of the brown, colorless, still-half-frozen ground.

Spring has humble beginnings, and finishes with a truly glorious display.

Fall, on the other hand, is slow and mellow. It sneaks up on you. Why is it that we think summer will never end? I mean, we know colder weather is coming. Fall is about denial.

Fall is the season of being finished, pleased with yourself, satisfied and content. Fall is the time of year when the fruits of your labors are seen to completion.

Now I sound like a farmer’s daughter, which I am.

Fall is nature’s last hurrah.

Fall is frisky squirrels scurrying frantically about, getting ready for winter.

Are your characters driven – under a tight deadline? If so, maybe fall is their time.

Fall is yellow, orange and red… exactly what we expect, most of the time. But fall is also every color of the rainbow.

Fall is full of surprises.

Fall is hazy nights, full of dust and chaff, and beautiful sunsets.

If fall is hazy, summer is lazy. The time when we go on vacation, take siestas, and stop to smell the roses.

Summer can bring stormy weather.

Summer is unsettling, volatile. Things can blow up in a hurry.

Summer can be crazy.

Summer can be relaxed. Sweet. Wet. Wild.

Summer is a blaze of glory. Hot and humid. A time when things grow and burst into color. Everything is at it’s best in the summertime.

Summer is the perfect time to lean back and enjoy a day of basking in the sun or relaxing on a porch swing.

Summer is sentimental.

Summer is a time when I take nothing for granted, because I know it won’t be long before…

Fall. And fall is fleeting. The inevitable frost kills things, makes things colorless and grey.

And fall, after all, leads to winter. Winter…  it’s icy cold. If you’re not careful, it will freeze your little tush off. The tip of my nose is always chilly in the winter.

Winter is a time of desolation. Isolation. Winter is beautiful, even majestic, in it’s own way, but so frigid and unyielding.

Crisp, clear. Blustery, blue.

Merry, dear. Winter has its own set of wishes, its own brittle warmth.

Which season is your favorite? What time of year were you born in? Have one or more seasons impacted your life? After all, we’re all characters living out a story line. Wild Rose of Scotland, the book I’m working on now, starts in the spring when the rhododendrons are in bloom. But there’s a long, hot, oppressive summer in store for Rose before she finally feels the graceful acceptance of fall.

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For a perfect Summer, just add books

Summer is my favorite season.  And I’m not just saying that because my birthday happens to fall during the summer.  (A mere three weeks from now for those who may be interested.)

Let’s be honest, it couldn’t be the birthday thing because, as a kid, having a birthday right before school started meant one thing—school clothes and school supplies as birthday presents.  Plus you never had the teachers announcing your birthday in school, either.  It was a bit of an elementary-school let down.

No, Summer has always been my favorite season for another reason—being outside.  There’s something about 20 degree temperatures and a wind chill that brings the numbers below zero that makes me want to stay inside.  Warm.

As a kid, my grandparents had a cabin on a lake.  On that side of the family there are 18 years between the oldest (me) and the youngest (who was born the day I graduated high school).  No other kids my age, unless you count my sister, who is three years younger than I am.  And we spent a lot of summer at the lake.  Just family, sand, and water.  We spent a lot of time fishing and swimming.  Even now I could probably tell you where the “drop off” was in that lake.   

Given all that, I got a lot of reading done as a kid.  A. Lot.

Don’t misunderstand.  I still read a lot.  And I read all year long, but there’s something about Summer that makes me want to re-read some of my favorite books from when I was a kid.  So, without further ado, here’s “Nichole’s Five Favorite Classics.”

  1.  Raggedy Ann Stories and Raggedy Andy Stories both by Johnny Gruelle.  This set of books follows those beloved toys on adventures galore.  And what kid doesn’t wonder exactly what the toys do when no one is looking?  
  2. Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell.  Stranded on an island, a young girl has to survive alone with only her wits, a wild dog, and her little brother.  This was one of the first “girl power” books I remember reading.
  3. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.  I’m a little bit of a nerd and I really do love just about anything by Dickens.  Hey, I love Shakespeare, too.  
  4. Bunnicula by Deborah and James Howe.  Who wouldn’t love a vegetarian vampire bunny?  
  5. Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  Here’s another story about some strong women.  And in the history of the United States, women didn’t get much stronger than living on the prairie.  As an adult, I even drug my kids to see “the homestead” in DeSmet, South Dakota.  (It was awesome!)

These are just five books I thought of off the top of my head.  There are other books I loved as a kid and still love.  Anything by Agatha Christie.  Anything.  Really.  The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe.  Animal Farm by George Orwell.

With whatever’s left of the summer, I think you should grab a book and head toward your favorite relaxation spot.  And if you aren’t the type who likes to re-read a story, or if none of the ones I mentioned sound appealing to you, I do have one other suggestion.  Head toward http://secondwindpublishing.com/  You’re guaranteed to find something you’ll like there.

Happy reading!
Nichole

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Westward Ho! by J J Dare

Tomorrow, I start my journey west. Hurricane Lee delayed my exit today, but on Monday that dastardly General will be in my backdoor as I travel.

Well, actually, I’ll be headed north first to visit my daughter who is living in Siberia, I mean, Shreveport, Louisiana. After a day or two, I’ll head west to Texas. From there, I’ll be RV’ing to Colorado.

My favorite coffee cup, pictured above, will accompany me. I’m packing light, with only what I can fit in a backpack and sports bag. I’ll be roughing it: wearing the same jeans a few days in a row, fighting spotty internet connections, no fast food places within driving distance, and no cigarettes or booze. Oy.

It all came about rather quickly. I was asked if I wanted to go on a two-week escape and even before I made up my mind to go, I’d made up my mind. All I had to do was work out the particulars.

Particulars like, will my adult child remember to feed the cats, who will cut the grass, what should I bring, when will I get back . . . will I come back . . .

I need this, I’ve been told. Escape the ordinary, break away from the past, take a step or two into the future. It’s free, it’s two weeks in the Rockies, and it will be fun.

At any other point in my life, I would have had to decline. I have always been tied to someone who needed me around – now, for the first time in my life, I have no ties, no responsibilities. It’s an empty, strange feeling to be responsible only to myself.

Myself. What an odd experience this will be. Though I’m embarking on a vacation journey, it’s really the start of discovering who I am. There is a stranger staring at me in the mirror that I need to get to know

Creativity is awakening in my mind for the first time in two years. I’m excited to write, excited to unveil new characters and anxious to bring them to life. I’m anxious to bring me to life.

The adventure begins.

{ As an interesting side note, we stole the expression “Westward Ho!” from the Brits. It originated as the name of a satirical 1604 stage play by Thomas Dekker and John Webster, and has been the title of movies, books, songs, hotels, and even a small village in England }

J J Dare is the author of two published books, several short stories and about thirty works-in-progress.

Current enthusiasm is co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch

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Starts, Stops and Goodbyes by J J Dare

Today, I bring my oldest daughter and youngest granddaughter to the airport. After a three week visit, I’m not ready for silence to envelope my house. I’m not ready to say goodbye. Life is fickle and I don’t know when I’ll see them again.

Sunday was the first time in a long time I was able to see all of my girls on the same day. The constant noise was loud and wonderful. A kaleidoscope of people flowed in and out of the house all day.

Last week, my mother went into a “skilled nursing facility,” a fancier term for a nursing home. After breaking a bone in her leg four weeks ago and after a stint in a rehabilitation hospital, she is still unable to manage. The hope is she will rally enough to begin walking again and, in her words, “break out” of that place and move back in with me.

My childhood home is gone. The closing was only thirty minutes long. Thirty minutes and a multitude of papers to sign and that was it. It’s no longer the central hub of our family. The shift is slowly turning to my own house as it becomes the hive of the queen bee.

In addition to the goodbye we said to my mother’s home, I saw some faces in my family unmasked. The actions and reactions from the loss of the home surprised and saddened me. The start of naked greed over a tangible thing contributed to the fracture of intangible relationships.

The days in July are starts, stops and goodbyes. They contain the birthday of my partner and later in the month, his deathday. Although it’s another month among the past eleven months of my mourning, the sixty-second anniversary of his birth and first anniversary of his death loom large. I grieve for him daily, yet, this coming month will be the hardest to live through.

My writing has come to a stop. I blame it on the lack of time during the day because of the care I  have to give to so many. The true reason is my muse has left me for greener pastures until I’m ready for her to return. Will she come back next month, the month I could really use her to distract me from my sorrow? Or, will my grief keep the door shut on my writing helper? As with fickle life, muses do not always come when called.

Yesterday, I was visited by a grandfather dragonfly. As the three-inch long insect kept me company outside, I thought about how the smallest things are as important as the largest. Life is fleeting and fickle. Reality is how you make it. Muses come and go, as do the people in your life. The best you can hope for is to walk the path fate has laid out for you without stumbling too often.

J J Dare is the author of two published books, several short stories and about thirty works-in-progress.

Current enthusiasm is co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch

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Sissy Says, Blah, Blah, Blah by J J Dare

My life has become a bit more interesting with a twenty-two month old in it. I’m remembering how new and unencumbered the world looks through a toddler’s eyes.

She’s not worried about the high price of gasoline or news about ongoing terrorist threats or which politician is in trouble now. Her main concern is, well, no concerns. Her biggest problem is the problem of the moment. Hunger, dirty diaper, fatigue – the big three in a toddler’s life (and at the end of life, too, when you think about it).

My granddaughter is a parrot. She will repeat anything she hears. Her mother tries desperately to convince me that she’s saying, “Oh, sit,” or “Sit, sit, sit.” Uh-huh, I tell my daughter, and do you have a bridge to sell me, too?

She’s a sharp little talker and she connects the dots with the people in her life. What does Daddy say? Grrr, grrr, grrr. What does Mommy say? No, no, no. What does Sissy say? Blah, blah, blah.

We’re all like Sissy at times. Writers are the best at saying blah, blah, blah. It’s our calling, our lover, our curse, our life. Writers are the Masters of Blah, and, as a member of the club, I’m pretty darn proud of my ability to Blah.

As adults, we have the weight of a thousand cares laid on our shoulders. It’s easy to let the gravity of life keep our feet rooted to the ground. It’s much harder to let loose of the world’s pull and soar away through our imagination and through a toddler’s eyes.

J J Dare is the author of two published books, several short stories and about thirty works-in-progress.

Current enthusiasm is co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch

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