Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Melrose Abbey and the Scottish Borders #Scotland #History #OurAuthorGang

Melrose Abbey
(St Mary's Abbey, Melrose)
by Mary Anne Yarde

I have a bucket list of historical buildings that I want to visit ~ No jumping out of aeroplanes for me ~ I would much rather explore the remains of ancient castles, battlefields, and abbeys. At the very top of my list was Melrose Abbey in Scotland.

Why Melrose Abbey? To be fair, I have no idea. I do have a bit of a thing for ruined Abbeys, always have. Maybe, in this case, it has something to do with Robert the Bruce ~ his heart is buried at Melrose. Or perhaps, it is because when asked to name an Abbey in Scotland, Melrose is the first one I think of. Whatever the reason, it was on my must see list.

We spent two nights in the Scottish Borders and boy did we pack a lot in. But I was determined that one of those days was going to be reserved for Melrose.

We woke up bright and early on the day we had planned to visit Melrose. The weather was fine, a little bit on the chilly side, but at least it wasn’t raining. We packed the kids in the car, put Melrose in the Sat-Nav and off we went. But the thing is with Scotland, you can't drive 100m up the road without a sign pointing to yet another historical site, and I am afraid, we did get rather distracted. But it was so worth it for views such as this...

Our first stop of the day turned out to be an unplanned visit to Hermitage Castle. Hermitage Castle has a rather sinister feel to it ~ it certainly has a rather gruesome history...there was that whole witchcraft incident in the 14th Century, which saw the Lord of Hermitage, William De Soulis, boiled in lead by the locals ( or so the legend goes).

  Hermitage Castle
(Photo courtesy of Wikipedia ~ My photos were a little blurry!)

Once we had explored Hermitage Castle we were back on the road heading for Melrose ~ but then we saw a sign to Jedburgh Abbey ~ so of course, we had to visit that as well.

 Jedburgh Abbey

And then while we were there we visited Mary Queen of Scots House ~ it would have been rude not to. When I say Mary’s House, it wasn’t actually hers. She just so happened to visit a sick friend there once.

So much for taking the day to explore Melrose!

We finally arrived in Melrose in the middle of the afternoon. Melrose is a small town but the amount of traffic was staggering, and there didn’t seem to be an awful amount of parking, but as luck would have it, we finally managed to find a parking spot. For a moment I didn’t think we were going to.

Melrose Abbey was stunning. As soon as I entered the property I had a stupid grin on my face ~ I had finally made it here! My husband, bless him, knew how much I was looking forward to visiting Melrose, told me he would take care of the children while I took the audio tour. So while he and the kids went on a hunt for the bagpipe-playing Pig and other such notes of interest as pointed out by the children’s quiz, I took my time and explored the Abbey.  The audio tour brought the Abbey back to life for me, and I learnt a lot about the Cistercian monks and lay brothers that once lived there. I am sure this new knowledge will make its way into a book one day! 

We spent just over 3 hours at Melrose and I enjoyed every single minute of it. I could have spent longer there, but the road was calling us as our next stop over was in Ayr and that was a good three hours away.

First published on Myths Legends Books & Coffee Pots 03/10/2016

The Du Lac Princess
 (Book 3 of The Du Lac Chronicles)

Readers' Favorite 5 Stars
Chill with a Book Readers' Award 2018
Chill with a Book Cover of the Month 2018

The ink has dried on a Amandine's death warrant. Her crime? She is a du Lac.

All that stands in the way of a grisly death on a pyre is the King of Brittany. However, King Philippe is a fickle friend, and if her death is profitable to him, then she has no doubt that he would light the pyre himself.

Alan, the only man Amandine trusts, has a secret and must make an impossible choice, which could have far-reaching consequences — not only for Amandine, but for the whole of Briton.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Crystal Healing #OurAuthorGang

Crystal Healing
By Erika M Szabo

Did you have a rock or crystal collection when you were a kid? I had, and I was especially fascinated by sapphire. My aunt gave me sapphire earrings for my 6th birthday, hoping that being a tomboy, I would wear it and start to be interested in "girlish" things.

Well, it didn't turn me into a "girlish" girl, but I managed to free the stones from the gold setting and I held them often, rolling the smooth, oval-shaped gemstones between my fingers.
Perhaps I knew it by instinct that I'm prone to develop thyroid problems, asthma, and upper digestive tract problems? I may never know.

I believe there is a primal connection and we know it by instinct that holding certain color crystals make us feel better. Maybe that's why as grown-ups, we’re so enamored by crystals and gemstones.

Red and black 
Healing crystals: hematite, black obsidian, red zincite, garnet, and smoky quartz. 
Health problems: constipation, diarrhea, piles, colitis, Crohn's disease, cold fingers and toes, urinary frequency, hypertension (high blood pressure), kidney stones, impotence, hip and leg problems.

Healing crystals: orange calcite, vanadinite, and carnelian.
Health problems: pre-menstrual syndrome, problems with menstrual flow, uterine fibroids, ovarian cysts, irritable bowel syndrome, endometriosis, testicular and prostate problems.

Healing crystals: citrine, yellow jasper, and golden calcite.
Health problems: diabetes, pancreatitis, liver disease, peptic ulcer, Celiac disease, and gallstones.

Pink & green
Healing crystals: rose quartz, tourmaline, aventurine, malachite, and jade.
Health problems: heart diseases, immune system related problems, possibly fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, allergies, and breast cancer.

Healing crystals: sodalite, blue calcite, blue kyanite, sapphire, and blue turquoise.
Health problems: Thyroid problems, anorexia, asthma, bronchitis, hearing problems, tinnitus, upper digestive tract problems, mouth ulcers, sore throats, and tonsillitis. 
Healing crystals: lapis lazuli, azurite, and suqilite.
Health problems: tension headache, migraine, visual defects, short-sightedness, glaucoma, cataracts, sinus problems, and ear problems.

Violet, golden-white
Healing crystals: amethyst, white calcite, and white topaz. 
Health problems: depression, Parkinson's disease, Schizophrenia, Epilepsy, senile dementia, Alzheimer's, many mental disorders, confusion, and dizziness.

Are you fascinated by any specific color crystal or gemstone?
Besides being fascinated by Natural Healing, I write fantasy and children's books.  
Click to read my portfolio:

Monday, February 26, 2018

Unconditional Love #OurAuthorGang

photo courtesy of pexels

By Grace Augustine

     Ben and Hildy sat at the park from mid-morning until the sun went down. It wasn’t uncommon to see the couple every Saturday, choosing just the right spot to spread out the blanket. There was always a book, always laughter, always a picnic basket filled to the brim with snacks to share. 
     Theirs was a unique relationship. Ben, twenty years Hildy's senior, had lived a hard life, a life of prejudice at work, at church, and many other societal situations. He'd worked in the coal mines until age got the better of him. Retirement sent him into a deep depression, for which he was hospitalized. That's where he met Hildy.
       Hildy, a sassy thirty-year-old, loved her work as a therapist on the psych floor of Trinity Hospital. She’d seen many come and go, and smiled when she remembered her part in their healing. She’d stopped by Ben’s room the day he was admitted.  Her heart sank when she saw the uncommunicative, handsome older man sitting near the window.
     “Hi, Ben. I’m Hildy. It’s nice meeting you,” she greeted, taking the older man’s hand in hers and smiling brightly.
     Her greeting met with no response.
     “I can see we’re going to have to do something to cheer you up.”
     Ben turned toward Hildy and looked at her compassionate blue eyes. He shrugged his shoulders.
     “What’s the use?” The deep voice questioned. “I ain’t goin’ nowhere.”
     “Oh, now, that is just a lie, sir, and you know it. Before I snap my fingers, you’ll be waltzing out of here. I promise.”
     Hildy continued meeting with Ben daily for the next two weeks. Each day she read excerpts to him from her favorite books. By the end of the second week, she noticed Ben smiling and engaging in conversation with her.
     “I have a surprise for you, Ben. Get your sweater and come with me.”
Ben followed Hildy from the room. Soon they were walking hand in hand to the gardens at the hospital where they sat on a bench in the noon-day sun.
     Hildy opened her book and read several poems from Edna St. Vincent Milay. Her voice was sweet and positive and soothing. She glanced at Ben and smiled when she saw him smiling, eyes closed, as he took in every word she read.
     Each Saturday, Hildy led them to the same bench. Each Saturday, Ben held one side of the book and Hildy the other. Each took turns reading. Then, one day, it was time for Ben to be released from the hospital.
     “You’re going home today, Ben.”
     Ben sat with his elbows on his knees, hands folded, and head lowered. He wasn’t sure he should say what he was thinking, but went ahead anyway.
     “Why did you do what you did, Hildy? Why did you read to me? Why were you kind to me? Not once did the color of my skin matter. Not once did my former profession matter. Not once did you judge me.”
     Hildy patted Ben’s arm then grasped one of his hands in both of hers.
     “Ben, I only see your heart. I see a loving, kind man who needed to be shown his worth.”
     A tear fell down Ben’s cheek.
     “Hildy, I don’t want to say goodbye to you.”
     “Who says we have to say goodbye?”
     Every Saturday, for the past five years, Hildy and Ben met at the park at 10 am. They sat on a blanket, they laughed and read books, they shared a meal and their souls with each other. And, when the sun went down, Ben walked Hildy to her car and hugged her tightly.
     “I love you Hildy.”
     “I love you, too, Ben.”

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Our Guest Today is author Michele Shriver #OurAuthorGang

Welcome, Michele! We're so glad you could join us.

Michele Shriver is a National and International best-selling author of women's fiction and contemporary romance. Her books feature flawed-but-likable characters in real life settings. She's not afraid to break the rules, but never stops believing in happily ever after.

Michele counts among her favorite things: a good glass of wine, a hockey game, and a sweet and sexy book boyfriend...not necessarily in that order.

Michele's books are for mature readers 18 years of age and older. She loves hearing from her readers and can be contacted at:

Street Team/Reader' Club:

Excerpt from STRIKE ZONE

     “They call him ‘The Killer.’”
     Lorna blinked at Reece. “Excuse me?”
     Reece’s face held an amused grin. “It’s his nickname. Killian ‘The Killer’ Moss.”
     “And that’s a good thing?” Lorna didn’t quite get it, but then again, she didn’t get baseball, either.
     Reece laughed, tiny lines forming around his green eyes. “I guess that depends on your perspective. If you’re a fan of the Riverhawks, then yes, it’s a very good thing that your star pitcher has earned such a nefarious nickname. For the opposing teams’ batters, not so much.”
     “So, he earned the nickname because he strikes out batters?” Lorna surmised.
     “Yes,” Reece said. “What’d you think? That he actually killed people or something?”
     Before Lorna could answer, six-year-old Sierra tugged at the bottom of her shirt. “Mom? What does nefarious mean?”
     “Bad, like evil or criminal,” she answered.
     “Oh. But he’s not really a criminal, right, Uncle Reece?”
     “Right. He’s a good guy. One of the best pitchers in the league,” Reece said.           “Plus, he does a lot of work for local charities, and he loves kids.”
     The way Reece talked about this guy, he might as well be president of the pitcher’s fan club. “And that’s why you wanted Sierra along?” Lorna would have picked a different way to spend a hot June afternoon than outside, watching a baseball game, but once Reece mentioned the game, Sierra wanted to go.
     “Yes,” Reece said. “I’m not proud. I need an autographed ball from Moss to add to my collection, and I figured the best way to get one is to use a cute kid to get it. He always signs stuff for the kids.” He gave a shrug. “Since I don’t have one of my own, I’m borrowing yours.”
     “Fair enough.” It was difficult to argue with Reece’s logic, or find fault with an athlete who was always generous with young fans. Okay, so Sierra wasn’t technically a fan, at least not yet. Lorna had a hunch her daughter would be by the end of what would be her first baseball game. Would her mother? That might be the harder sell. Still, she vowed to keep an open mind and try to enjoy herself.
     The large crowd that had gathered outside the stadium suddenly erupted in loud shrieks, which could only mean one thing—the players were arriving.
Reece confirmed it when he passed Sierra a baseball. 
     “Okay, he’ll be the first one walking in. Remember what I told you?”
     She nodded. “Yep. Get it signed to you. I’m not dumb.”
     Lorna stifled a laugh at her precocious daughter’s comment. She was her mother’s daughter, all right. And thankfully, thus far she exhibited few, if any, traits inherited from the asshole who sired her.
     “Great. Thanks, kiddo,” Reece said. “I owe you a hot fudge sundae for this.”
Lorna watched as her daughter scurried forward, in a throng of other kids, to try to meet the Riverhawks star. 
     “Does your fiancé know how much you’re crushing on this guy?” she teased.
     “Yeah, he does, and he doesn’t mind,” Reece said. “Besides, Court has his own celebrity crush.”
     “Oh, really?” Lorna raised an eyebrow. “Wh—” She couldn’t get the word out, because the sight of the man approaching rendered her momentarily speechless.
     He was tall, with light brown hair and few days’ growth of beard, and he wore black dress pants paired with a blue shirt that fit him so snugly she could make out the definition of his muscles underneath it.
     And speaking of making out... Lorna tried to stop her mind from heading straight into the nearest gutter, but it wasn’t easy. It’d been too long since she’d had a man in her bed. Way too long.
     “That’s him?” she asked Reece when she found her voice again.
     “Yes, that’s him. Killian Moss.”

     Where has he been hiding all my life? “I just became a baseball fan.”

Friday, February 23, 2018

The Greatest Cast Never Assembled!  #OurAuthorGang

A “What If?” Scenario by Joe Bonadonna
All photos copied from Google Images and Alamay Stock Photos 

By now, most of you have read The Lord of the Rings and/or seen the Peter Jackson films. Well, the other night I watched three old Cecil B. DeMille “pictures,” as we used to call ‘em back in the day: The Sign of the Cross (1932), Cleopatra (1934), and The Crusades (1935). So I got to daydreaming . . . what if Lord of the Rings had been published sometime in the early 1930s, and Paramount Pictures gave the project to Cecil B. DeMille to direct? That would have been most interesting, to say the least! Well, I’ve assembled my cast, using many of DeMille’s “stock company” of actors and actresses, and a number of other, big name stars of that era.

For those of you who may know these names and faces, you might enjoy this on many levels. For those of you who are unfamiliar with most of these actors and actresses, and/or have never seen them in any films, I’m going to provide a number of their photos, so you can get some kind of idea of what the heck is going on inside my head!  If you love old films the way I do, then you might enjoy this little imaginary all-star cast. So let’s get silly and have some fun, shall we?

Paramount Pictures proudly presents Cecil B. DeMille’s Lord of the Rings.

Henry Wilcoxin as Aragorn
Claudette Colbert as Arwen

C. Aubrey Smith as Gandalf

Peter Lorre as Gollum/Smeagol

Charles Laughton as Bilbo

Robert Preston as Frodo

Loretta Young as Galadriel

Alan Hale, Sr as Sam Gamgee

Errol Flynn as Legolas

Thomas Mitchell as Gimli

Mischa Auer as Pippin

Leo Carillo as Merry

Claude Rains as Elrond

H.B. Warner as Denethor
Elissa Landi as Eowyn

Joseph Schildkraut as Grima Wormtongue

Ernest Thesiger as Treebeard

Dwight Frye as Chief Orc of the White Hand

Rondo Hatton as the Cave Troll

Anthony Quinn as Boromir

Caeser Romero as Faramir

Basil Rathbone as Saruman

Douglas Fairbanks, Jr as Eomer

Victor Mature as Celeborn

John Carradine as King Theoden

Special Guest Appearances By:

Boris Karloff as the Lord of the Nazgul

Lon Chaney, Jr as the King of the Dead

Bela Lugosi as the Mouth of Sauron

Screenplay by Harold Lamb.
Produced and Directed by Cecil B. DeMille.

To paraphrase the wonderful Gene Wilder in Young Frankenstein: “It. Could. Have. Worked!!!!!”

So who would you have cast in these roles in an imaginary 1930s film of Lord of the Rings?

#heroicfantasy  #swordandsorcery   #spaceopera  #horror  #swordandplanet  #children’sbooks

Thursday, February 22, 2018

A Small Gang of Authors: "Bloody. Brutal. Bannockburn." #History #Scotland...

A Small Gang of Authors: "Bloody. Brutal. Bannockburn." #History #Scotland...: Scotland by Mary Anne Yarde Even if it is just my fanciful imagination, I like to think that Scotlan...

"Bloody. Brutal. Bannockburn." #History #Scotland #OurAuthorGang

by Mary Anne Yarde

Even if it is just my fanciful imagination, I like to think that Scotland is, shall we say, in the blood. My ancestors certainly came from there. They were an integral part of Scottish History, just as my ancestors were to English History. But as I stood at the monument at Bannockburn, I felt an almost overwhelming sense of the past got through me. Voices, shadows, hopes, fears, kind eyes, cruel ones, exhaustion and relief - no joy, just relief that it was over. A writer's paradise if you like. I can close my eyes and hear the music, and I am not the only one. The past is alive, if only you will take the time to listen, Scotland will tell you her story.

Today, our obsession with Scotland can be blamed on films like Braveheart or the majestic story telling of Diana Gabaldon, Outlander series. Scotland is in vogue, so to speak. And although the Scots call Braveheart "that comedy," it has romanticised their country for them. Everyone knows who William Wallace is - thanks to Braveheart. 

I have been to Scotland several times, but I just can't seem to get enough. Today, I wanted to share an experience I had back in 2016...

"O Flower of Scotland,
When will we see
Your like again,
That fought and died for,
Your wee bit Hill and Glen..."

There is one word that sums up The Scottish War Of Independence
 and that word is ... 


It has been over 16 years since I last visited Bannockburn and I was looking forward to showing my children the statue of Robert The Bruce on his horse, but as we pulled up in the car park, I realised that 16 years was a long time. They had built a new visitor center and I couldn't wait to get inside!

When we bought our tickets, we were asked if we would like to go on the museum tour and of course, we said yes. She then produced some 3D glasses. "You'll need these." Interesting, I thought.

It was twenty minutes until the next tour, so we decided to head outside and go and see that famous monument.

The Battle of Bannockburn Visitor Centre isn't quite on the battlefield, but is built in what was the Scottish Camp. There really isn't a better place for a monument for those Scottish hero's who fell. Bannockburn was the ultimate Scottish victory against King Edward II. They did, after all stand…

"...against him,
Proud Edward's Army,
And sent him homeward,
Tae think again."

The monument was beautiful and peaceful ~ peaceful, yes, I think that is the word I am looking for. It was a place to reflect and to remember all those who died that day.

We wondered back inside in time for the tour.

When I woke up in the morning, I wasn't expecting to find myself in the middle of The Battle of Bannockburn, with arrows whizzing over my head, horses charging right at me and people dying to my left and my right. I mean nobody expects that? Right? But this is what you get at Bannockburn. Bannockburn has invested in state of the art, 3D technology so you experience, safely, what the battle was like. Wow! It was amazing. A little gruesome, but not so scary that it is unsuitable for children. It was truly incredible. I have been to some of the best visitor centers in Britain, but this one...this is something else. Oh, my days! It was ~ I'm sorry, I am running out of adjectives to describe it! And that wasn't all....

The tour continued...we got to - in their own words

"Walk the battleground, guide your own army of medieval soldiers through the 3D simulation and visit the all important Bannockburn; a stretch of water that proved the turning point in the battle."

If you have ever played Rome Total War, it was the same principle, but on a bigger scale. How awesome is that?

The wonderful guide split us into teams, and we stood around this huge map of the terrain while he showed us how the battle of Bannockburn played out and then it was our turn. We were going to make the decisions. We were going to fight. We were going to watch the battle unfold on the map in front of us. My youngest, who was 6 at the time, was crowned King Robert of Scotland, and it was a role he took very seriously, although he seemed to be slightly more concerned with killing his brother who was an English knight than victory over the English army - talk about family loyalty! It went out the window.

There were a lot of nervous faces when the guide asked for instructions.

"Where do you want your knights? Speak up, I can't hear you."

"You want to put them against the schiltron? Did you wake up suicidal?"
and so it went on!

It wasn't the most predictable of battles, but it was certainly entertaining. The Black Douglas turned tail and ran back to Stirling ~ I'm not sure what he would have made of that if he were still alive! But King Robert - my son - was much more decisive and he led his troops to victory over the English Queen ~ yes I did say Queen ~ it is pretend ~ Robert the Bruce wasn't really 6 when he fought the English at Bannockburn! The Scots were victorious although victory wasn’t actually decided at Bannockburn but Stirling. History was rewritten! The result was the same, and that is the main thing! I think…

 My youngest, ready for battle ~ although he couldn't see where he was going!!

Talk about bringing history to life.  You couldn't get any better than this.

First published on Myths, Legends, Books & Coffee Pots 6/10/2016

The Du Lac Devil 
 (Book 2 of The Du Lac Chronicles)

Readers' Favorite Finalist 2017
IAN Book Of The Year Award Finalist 2017
Golden Quill Award Winner 2017
Chill with a Book Readers' Award 2017
BooksGoSocial Readers Choice Award Shortlisted 2017 
The Grunter Award Winner 2017
Discovered Diamond Award 2018
Discovered Diamond Cover of the Month ~ January 2018

War is coming to Saxon Briton.

As one kingdom after another falls to the savage might of the High King, Cerdic of Wessex, only one family dares to stand up to him — The Du Lacs.

Budic and Alden Du Lac are barely speaking to each other, and Merton is a mercenary, fighting for the highest bidder. If Wessex hears of the brothers’ discord, then all is lost.

Fate brings Merton du Lac back to the ancestral lands of his forefathers, and he finds his country on the brink of civil war. But there is worse to come, for his father’s old enemy has infiltrated the court of Benwick. Now, more than ever, the Du Lac must come together to save the kingdom and themselves.

Can old rivalries and resentments be overcome in time to stop a war?