Sunday, December 22, 2013

First Sneak Peek at Hearts to Heal

Gwynn here, having to brag a little about a long out of print tale of mine that will soon be available again!. You got a peek at the cover a couple of posts back but here it is again and now I'll offer a short excerpt, too.

A bit of background, when I lived in southern Arizona some years ago, my late husband and I were avid outdoor folks and did a lot of hiking, 4-wheeling and exploring. In April of 1999, we went hiking in the Huachuca Mountains up at the top of Carr Canyon Road with another couple. We were trying to find an old  mine where we'd picked up crystals years before on the debris dumped down the hill from driving the adit or mine tunnel into the mountain. I had an kind of freaky accident that day and broke both bones in my right leg, just above the ankle. I kept calm through the adventure by telling myself I had to remember everything I could about the affair so I could put it into a book! Later that summer I did exactly that and Healing Hearts came to be written. I even borrowed a bit of inspiration for the hero from the orthopedic surgeon who put me back together and told me I would be hiking again in a few months, as indeed I was. He was a very good looking man and I am sure garnered a bit of feminine admiration from patients and medical staff with whom he worked! But Dr. Jerry is not him in a thousand key ways. I never make a real person a character but gather bits and pieces from many real people!

Bonnie, the heroine, is not me at all, probably less of me in her character than in most of my heroines, but I enjoyed her a great deal and she became very real to me during the writing. Secondary characters came along and became real as well, each one with a key role to play in the story as Jerry and Bonnie took turns related the epic of their rocky road to building a relationship. I'm so happy that this special book will soon be available to readers again. I know it was not widely distributed before so it will be new to most who encounter it!

Here is a tidbit, the first confrontation that appears in the book. Bonnie and Jerry are not strangers and have clashed a bit before! You can bet there will be a lot more fireworks here before the HEA ending!

Dr. Jerry Bertini shuffled out of the operating room, shedding his mask and gloves. Five major surgeries in nine hours, starting at eight this morning. Two legs, one hip, one elbow and one arm smashed into splinters. Why couldn’t people learn to keep their bones in one piece? If they ever did, he’d be out of work, but there was little danger of that. Between the crazy scrapes the college kids and GIs got into, the auto crashes, and the normal childhood mishaps, he could clone himself twice and still be busy.
In the doctor’s lounge, he shoved quarters into the soda machine, grabbed the cold can that clattered down, and sank onto the closest of the sagging chairs. He dozed off before he finished the cola, only to be startled awake by the intercom. Hearing his name, he had a hunch it wasn’t the first time he’d been paged. Oh shit, another one.
By the time he reached the ER, he was wide awake again. He finished the lukewarm soda and chucked the can. Ann Flannigan had the x-rays ready for him, already clipped on the light box. She was a good nurse, not like many of the giddy young girls, too immature and irresponsible for their profession.
He studied the film for a few seconds. Nasty break. Tibia and femur both, almost in a line, angling upward from the outside, just above the ankle. The ends of both bones were pushed down, distorting the muscle and over-stretching the ligaments and tendons. Surgical reduction. No other option, really. He crossed the hall to the cubicle where this as-yet-nameless patient waited.
He recognized her at once—Bonnie Verdugo, the prickly, opinionated little Latina EMT. She looked up as he swept through the curtained door, chocolate-flecked hazel eyes sparking defiance. Beneath her dusky tan, she was pale, stress and tension visible in the tightness of her lips, the pinched look to her nostrils. All considered, though, she was dealing well with the shock and pain. They had her on an IV already. Good.
Enjoying the unusual chance to have this particular woman at a disadvantage, he folded his arms and observed her for a silent moment. Of all the female EMTs and student nurses he worked with, she was the only one he could not reduce to tears or simpering giggles with a few choice words. Now, he couldn’t resist a jibe.
“Well, if it isn’t Ms. Super-EMT herself. How does it feel to be the victim?”
“Like a bad day at work. I wouldn’t be here if I had a choice.”
Her husky voice held the same go-to-hell independence that blazed in her eyes. Fidgeting in the wheelchair, she twisted the end of her long braid. Only the slight tremor of her hand revealed her anxiety.
He snorted. “Just like jail, ninety percent of the people end up here due to their own stupidity. Unless some old lady ran you down with her wheelchair, I’d bet you’re in the same boat.”
“Hiking accident,” she ground out. “I slid about eight feet and lit on my bent ankle. A nasty break, isn’t it?”
He nodded. “Nasty, but fixable. I’ve got to do an open reduction—put some hardware in there to hold everything in place while the bones heal.”
She huffed out a breath, looking everywhere but directly at him. “My insurance ought to cover that. They don’t make exclusions for stupidity, last I heard, or clumsiness. I just want to be back on both my feet as soon as I can.”
“Be a walk in the park. You’ll be hiking again in no time.” He glanced at his watch. “When did you last eat?”
She looked up at the clock on the wall and mentally counted. “About 2:30, two granola bars up on Platina Ridge. Almost five hours now.”
“Okay. I’ll go set up so we can get that surgery done this evening.”
Jerry turned from the room, feeling her gaze boring holes in his back all the way down the corridor. That’s one tough little lady. Got a chip on her shoulder bigger than New Jersey, but a lot of gumption in a small package. Make that a small, easy-to-look-at package.
Dirty and hurt, bundled in one of those ridiculous floppy gowns, she was still all woman. Hardly bigger than a half-grown kid, but there was nothing childlike about her. He’d heard she had to fight for everything she had, too. Well, there were worse ways to get there, and it certainly made a person value what he achieved.
His own progress hadn’t always been easy, but he wouldn’t trade his M.D. for the top post in Grandpa Bertini’s Boston law firm. And he could never have reached the pinnacle until the old man, Dad and brother Joe were all gone, even if he had chosen a legal career. Medicine was better, anyway.
Here, every case was a special challenge—to undo the damage and make someone whole again. He was never too tired to feel a thrill when he accomplished it. No, he’d made the right choice, maybe for the wrong reasons, but still the right choice.

Bonnie was already under anesthesia by the time he prepped and went into the OR to do his job. On the table she hardly raised a ridge under the blankets, folded back from her leg to bare it from the knee down.
His weariness fell away as he took the scalpel and made the first cut. With the oxygen mask hiding most of her face, with her tough mouth silent and her busy form still, he could forget who he worked on. There were only flesh and bone to be repaired, tasks his hands knew with total, intimate familiarity. He bent to the work, tiredness, sassy women and all else forgotten.

The surgery took just over an hour. This time, when he left the OR, he left the hospital. He prayed he wouldn’t get called back tonight. Exhaustion had caught up with him again. He drove home slowly, grateful the car almost knew the way by itself. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

A Holiday Treat from "The Old Country"

This is a different fruitcake and based on an old Irish recipe. I am not a fancy cook but this one is so easy you can hardly mess it up--even me! So give it a try and enjoy. I am sure it would be most suitable for Midwinter Solstice or a Yule supper or just about anytime. I swear Brighid has Her hand on my back every time I make it and ensures it comes out good!

As among other things, a  goddess of hearth and home, it isn't unfitting that She be there to assist a lady who says with a mixture of defiance and pride that, "Martha Stweart does not live here!"

Tea Brack
 Source: Winfred Abbe, County Offaly (C: 1900)
A simplified version of the traditional yeasted Barm Brack.
The following recipe makes three loaves for 8x4x3 pans.

*1 cup sultanas (blond raisins)
*3 cups raisins
2 1/2 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
3 cups black tea   (or 1 1/2 cups tea and 1 1/2 cups Irish Whiskey)

Soak fruit and sugar in tea overnight. (use large mixing bowl, cover with a tea towel.)
The next day add alternately: (Mix dry ingredients and add alternately with beaten eggs)

4 cups flour
3 beaten eggs
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tbsp assorted spices to taste

Pour into greased bread pans and bake for 1 1/2 hours at 300o.
When cool, brush with honey to give it a fine glaze

Some variations I’ve made use of over the years: 
At times I’ve replaced half of the brown sugar with an equal amount of Sugar Twin artificial sweetener or Stevia to reduce calorie/sugar content. Also, the equivalent of 4 eggs in a product like Egg Beaters can be used in place of the whole eggs to reduce cholesterol. There is no regular fat, which makes this a healthy recipe!  You can also use whole grain flours.
*I generally use no citron (like traditional fruit cake) but do add 1 medium package of dried fruit bits (1 cup or so), about 1 cup of chopped dates, and reduce the regular raisins to 1 cup. Dried cranberries, strawberries, blueberries or cherries can be used, too. You can be as creative here as you like with generally good results. Just dry fruit, not fresh or canned.
You can also use a liqueur like Amaretto or Kalua, or a good rum in place of the whiskey or use 1 tbsp of rum or almond extract/flavoring to impart a similar taste. Best when wrapped and "seasoned" in a refrigerator for 1-2 weeks and will freeze well for later use.

Note! This is not to be confused with the legendary "Miss Fogarty's Christmas Cake" referred to by Robbie O’Connell in a hilarious song with the same title! One passage refers to a "crust that was nailed on with glue." The list of ingredients would gag a hungry coyote and the song says it "would kill a man twice after eating a slice.” The song is a real howl. Get it if you can find it. O’Connell is kin to the famous Clancy Brothers, BTW.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Midwinter and Ancient roots of Christmas

I've loved Christmas since I was a small child. This past several months I have been scanning in to digitize a lot of old family photos and found some to celebrate Christmases over the years as I went for a baby to a teenager and my brothers came along and grew with me. Our family was far from well-to-do but when I was little Mom and Dad always managed to make Christmas special and as my brothers came along and the parents were older and more careworn, I took over a good part of trying to make the holiday memorable for the boys. Then when I had kids at home, I did the same for them. After they were grown and gone, I did not quite become a Scrooge or Grinch but a lot of the fun went out of it.

In the past ten years since my hubby has been gone, I've varied from doing quite a bit in terms of decorating, baking etc. to almost nothing. In 2003, he'd just been gone a few weeks, having passed away on November 10, so that year the holiday was barely noted. Now that I live with my middle brother after we both ended up single--our youngest brother died of an aneurysm in 2005--we're both kind of jaded about it.  So we do not do a whole lot to mark the season but agree Midwinter Solstice is just as significant as Christmas. Below is that middle brother and me; I was eight and a half and he was six weeks old! I had to look twice to be sure it wasn't a baby doll I held. And yes, we always had fresh cut trees we got in the forest for our Christmas tree! They were usually juniper or pinyon pine, both plentiful in the high desert area of Arizona where we lived. This holiday would have been in Jerome, AZ by the way.

Even when I was in my teens, I also felt that the midwinter solstice was a very special time too. I've been a sun-centered being all my life. I say jokingly that I operate on solar batteries and they run down in gray bleak weather and lose some power when the hours of darkness exceed those of daylight. So that day when the sun stands still at its farthest point is critical to me.  And solstice means just that--the sun standing still! I often feel like that is the real New Year's instead of the arbitrary day of January 1. Well, actually the day after the solstice would be New Year's Day and the day itself New Year's Eve. My internal calendar kicks over on that night between anyway. Again I go back to my ancient Celtic ancestors who marked the night more than the day in terms of festivals.

These days I celebrate midwinter about as much as Christmas and now know why I always climbed a few old Cottonwood trees as a kid to collect mistletoe--my Druid ancestors got it from oaks but they held it sacred too, not just for kissing under! The evergreens, the candles, the gifts, and the special feast-style dinner all have roots many thousands of years old so I cherish all the time-honored customs. I still observe some of them in reality and others in memory.

I found a neat link if anyone is interested in some special music and such to mark the solstice date--which will be December 21st this year. Aine Mineague is the artist featured here. I hope the link will work for you and you can enjoy this!

Then I came across another neat thing, a suggested Midwinter Solstice Rite. While it differs somewhat from some that a group of Druid friends have devised and performed it is simple ans clean and I like it! The author is in Australia so her midwinter is our midsummer but that is not critical! Here you are:

Copyright Stella Woods (June 2009): 
Decorate a room with winter greenery. Place a large bowl of water and a
lighted candle in the centre of the room. Have some golden glitter and
scented oil nearby and a candle for each person. Sit in a circle with a
lighted candle in front of you and talk about what you wish to release at
this dark time of the year, blowing out your candle once you have
finished speaking. Once everyone has had their turn, blow out the
central candle and sit in the darkness reflecting on what you are leaving
behind. After a long silence, relight the central candle, which represents
the sun, and sprinkle golden glitter on the water. Then each of you light
a candle from the central candle and place it by the water so you can
watch the glitter sparkling. Pass around a glass of wine and offer a toast
to the sun, the bringer of new light. Then go round the circle again, each
of you talking about a dream for the future or a new attitude you wish to
embrace. Finally sprinkle scented oil on the water and choose someone
to anoint each person with sunshine by dipping their hand into the
sparkling, scented water and sprinkling it over each person’s hair. Hold
hands and offer thanks

As I wrote in my post over at the Amber PAX blog:  the Norse god Odin is featured as a gift bringer driving a sleigh with an eight-legged beast drawing it! I will style myself Odin's handmaiden here and offer a gift for a selected commenter on my posts either there or here. You can have your choice of the three PAX tales I had released this year: A Different Drummer, Dark and Stormy or Last Train to Clarkdale. There's info on all three in earlier posts here this year if you want to look them up or you can go to to find them on my backlist.

I wish all of you a wonderful midwinter season and whichever of its special days and festivals you observe! It is a magical time of year and one we can all enjoy, whatever our persuasion in terms of religious practice or simply our preference. Go in peace and harmony into the new year and may it treat you well!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

I'm still here--and have some news!

Yes, I have been way too quiet lately. I can only plead a bit of the down cycle of my mild bi-polar and the SAD impact that hits me even here in the southwest desert. I miss the sun as its hours of shining shorten and when the cooler temps and some storms come, it is hard not to hibernate. Maybe I was a bear in a previous incarnation!

Anyway, Last Train to Clarkdale has been out for several weeks now and seems to be doing well. My next PAX story has been submitted but I am not sure yet when its release date will be. I do not have a cover for it yet either but my readers here will be the first to learn about it, I promise. The title is Wrenching and it will be part of a PAX group which all take place or at least begin with something that happens in a garage! It was a kind of off-the-wall idea but I think we've come up with some neat and unusual tales. Hey, with the great writers that participate in these packages of themed stories, you can count on that!

And one more bit of news, this for Gwynn Morgan. I'm not sure the exact date yet but I'm going to have a novel out in January! This one was briefly published by the now closed Treble Heart Books about ten years ago but has been out of print for a long time. The old title was Healing Hearts and it is now called Hearts to Heal. Yes, it is a medical romance of sorts since the hero is an orthopedic surgeon and the heroine an EMT who aspires to be a doctor but a lot of the story takes place in other than hospital or doctor's office venues! I do have a cover and it is perfect! Here is a sneak peek at it. I'll be posting some excerpts and offering a giveaway or two as the release date nears. Stay tuned!