December, as my readers will know, I always like to have as guests some fellow authors to share their thoughts on the holiday season. This year I had the pleasure of working with some of the best authors in western romance on Come Love a Cowboy, and the experience was so enjoyable that I asked them back for a Christmas reunion. Just to remind you, Continue reading
Posted in Western Romance Literature, Women writers
Tagged A Mistletoe Christmas, Andrea Downing, Angel for Christmas, Caroline Clemmons, Christmas, Come Love a Cowboy, Comes An Outlaw, Hebby Roman, Julie A. D'Arcy, Keta Diablo, One Winter Knight, Patti Sherry-Crews, Silverdawn
We hear an awful lot about ghost towns in the West, but maybe not so much about ghosts themselves. Have you ever seen a ghost? My own, personal encounter with a ghost was actually in Hampton Court, King Henry VIII’s favored residence outside of London. I was walking down the long corridor (known as the Haunted Gallery) and, just at the very moment a tour guide was saying it was haunted and some folks might feel a chill, I got such a chill I nearly jumped out of my skin. Let me make it clear: this was not a chill like one might get on a cold day; this was a true spine-tingler! Even my daughter, who was with me, looked at me and asked what was wrong. Continue reading
I want to make this clear straightaway: I don’t believe, by any stretch of my imagination, that visiting a guest ranch gives me any idea whatsoever of the real life of a rancher. Imagine that a curtain is hung across a window and that curtain is worn a bit thin, or perhaps even has a small tear in it— Continue reading
Hebby Roman is the multi-published, Amazon best-selling author of both historical and contemporary romances. Her first contemporary romance, SUMMER DREAMS, was the launch title for Encanto, a print line featuring Latino romances. And her re-published e-book, SUMMER DREAMS, was #1 in Amazon fiction and romance. Her medieval historical romance, THE PRINCESS AND THE TEMPLAR, was selected for the Amazon Encore program and was #1 in medieval fiction. Continue reading
Over two thousand years ago, when three kings—wise men all—crossed the desert bearing gold, frankincense and myrrh to The Babe in the manger, little did they know what sort of tradition they were starting. Had they had foresight, telepathy or any kind of ability to see into the future, they might have thought better of bringing gifts to the Child as an expression of adoration. Nowadays, the expectations that Christmas brings, the commercialism, and the downright need for some sort of reciprocity amongst the gift-givers, has caused us all to lose sight of what is the real meaning behind exchanging gifts. Continue reading
Posted in Women writers
Tagged A Husband for Christmas, Andrea Downing, Angel of Salvation Valley, Angela Raines, Carmen Peone, Chantilly Lace, Christmas Cowboy, Christmas gifts, Doris McCraw, Heart of Passion, Paty Jager, Shanna Hatfield, Susan Horsnell
The judges have decided—the votes are in! Having traveled more than 8,000 miles and scoured the country for the very best, here are the 2015 DOWNING ROADTRIP AWARDS…in order of encounter. Continue reading
Springwood, Hyde Park
The sitting room at Springwood
My daughter’s take on visiting ‘Springwood,’ the Hyde Park home of Franklin Roosevelt, was that visiting the homes of famous people was like reading People magazine; her point was that the way people lived is no reflection of the impact they had on the world. Good point, but I dragged her along anyway.
For anyone who has seen the recent Ken Burns
series on the Roosevelts, actually visiting the house is an insightful supplement. Here is the story of the financial hold his mother had on him and Eleanor, and here is the story of his tremendous fight to hide his incapacity to walk while showing a great capacity to think and live normally.
One of numerous letters sent to FDR as President–it just says, “Attaboy.”
The Presidential Library—the nation’s first, and started while he was still in office—is a comprehensive showcase of the Depression, a sad chronicle of the nation at its lowest point. In addition, the estate also includes Top House, FDR’s getaway, and Val-Kill, the cottage Eleanor designed and furnished independently of her mother-in-law’s influence and her husband’s harried life.
Eleanor’s sitting room at Val-Kill
The visit was a splendid last day of sightseeing for us before we head home tomorrow. And how did Cristal feel at the end of it? She said she was glad she went because now she would like to know more about the Roosevelts and what they accomplished.
The view from Springwood
FDR’s grave in the rose garden
In the last days of travel as lengthy as this has been, the mind slowly turns toward what awaits at home. For Cristal, who had only been back from three years living in Colombia (less some visits home) for one week before departure, there are applications for a new full-time job to get out, a renovated apartment to move into, and the arrival of her boyfriend to look forward to. My own mind is swimming around two months of mail and bills to deal with, bathrooms that will be modernized, doctor appointments and the start of a new book. As Cristal deals with numerous deliveries and unpacking belongings sent from Bogota, I’ll be considering the cheapest way to update my house, and making plans to escape once again in October—to a conference and on to Wyoming. It’ll be a busy August, no doubt.
For today, we made a start on sorting what needs to be dropped in the city and what will be taken on to my house, and how to place everything in the car for the speediest evacuation of luggage on city streets without parking spaces. We wonder why we have so many breakable goods in tow and why the suitcases don’t close. We’re thinking ahead to lunch in the car and fighting traffic on the Thruway.
The Beekman Arms, oldest inn in America
But today also offered us a small glimpse into old America. Settled by the Dutch, in 1686, as much of the Hudson Valley was, Rhinebeck also played a part in the Revolutionary War. The oldest inn in America is here and, even today, there is a local chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution. But it is to the old Dutch families that the area mostly owes its character. On our last stay, a couple of years ago, we visited one of the Vanderbilt mansions. Tomorrow we’re off to see the Roosevelt homes.
There we were, taking the long way—the scenic route—down from Canandaigua to Rhinebeck, tooling along pleasantly through the glorious Catskill Mountains, when a speeding car whizzed past us practically slamming into another vehicle, who just managed to slip into the right hand lane directly in front of us. Had the speeding vehicle hit the other car, it would surely have spun around in front of us including us in the crash. Cristal and I were both shaken by the incident, but remain in fine fettle. What the occupants of the nearly-missed car were like, I dread to think.
The Catskills, after the Rockies and the Tetons, are mere hills, but green ones at that, thick with trees, bisected with rivers, dotted with old towns. We took a detour to visit an old hotel at which I had had several vacations as a child. It has just undergone a name change along with its twenty million dollar makeover, but looked pretty much the same. It strikes me now as something from another time, another era, and it wouldn’t appeal to me to stay there now. Its sister hotel, on the other hand, right next door, is in gloomy decadence, rather like an old southern mansion that has been left to decay.
So here we are in our last home away from home, a small chalet-type house in Rhinebeck, in the Hudson Valley. Compared to other houses we’ve rented over the past weeks, and homes we’ve stayed in as B and Bs, it somewhat misses the mark. We found the beds unmade, a single toilet roll at 2/3 use, which we’ll have to replace, air con only in the bedrooms—insufficient at 85 degrees—and, worst of all, Cristal’s ‘room’ was the chalet attic, boiling hot with no shades on the windows. We have duly moved her mattress and bedding down to my room. I’m not sure if we’re ‘spoiled’ travellers; we discussed this earlier today, wondering about our expectations. As Cristal is currently unable to find mugs for our evening tea, I don’t really think our expectations are too high.
Some years back there was a campaign for good food and healthy eating with the slogan, “You Are What You Eat.” In fact, it started as a television series in the UK and spread from there. It’s an adage I’ve tried to follow, but obviously, when traveling, it’s far more difficult than at other times.
Here in the Finger Lakes, as I’ve been saying, life pretty much revolves around food production and wineries. There’s a good-sized Amish and Mennonite community whose pristine farms line the roads with cabbages, corn and other vegetables. We started our outings today with one of the markets they attend, and ogled the variety. After that, we went on to a “Garlic Festival’ at one of the wineries, an event brimming with oils and vinegars to buy in flavors you’d never think of, honeys of every variety, and, needless to say, real garlic—not the store-bought stuff that’s virtually tasteless, but garlic that sings and zings in your mouth. No “EEEE-uwwwws” here, please; this was delicious stuff. And finally, we ended the day with a ‘wine walk’ in the town of Canandaigua, going from shop to shop, tasting wines and cheeses, cookies and dips.
But one man’s meat is another man’s poison, as the saying goes. Here at our B and B the day starts with what the innkeeper obviously views as a gourmet breakfast. This morning this consisted of tea, mango juice and pure grape juice shots (nothing like Welch’s). There was a gigantic blueberry muffin waiting on our plates as we sat down, swiftly followed by peaches on whipped feta atop bruschetta with a balsamic reduction. Before the last bite was down, blueberry pancakes were staring us in the eye with two rashers of bacon, baked with a sprinkle of sugar and walnuts. Finally, with hardly a second to spare, a mound of sliced strawberries sitting on a split scone sat in front of us, pretty as a picture. I won’t describe yesterday’s breakfast in such detail, but I will tell you it ended with wine ice cream on chocolate cookies.
If I am what I eat, I dread to think exactly what I am.