House Hunting for Imaginary People

Authors have a variety of methods to do research.

Yes — fiction requires research. Few things stop a reader in the middle of a page, or a chapter, quicker than a bit of background presented as fact which is not in agreement with the real world. (Okay, paranormal and fantasy writers have a different set of parameters to research — but they need to be consistent with the rules they create for their book world.)

The internet is a wonderful tool. And the library has materials which fill in many gaps.

Yesterday I choose to use a different method. My characters need homes. So I went for a drive in my extended neighborhood. Several places did not suit. Many of the homes were too large for what I wanted for my characters. But a turn off the busy street at the right place brings nice surprises.

Rich Taylor's neighborhood

Can you imagine a widower downsizing to this neighborhood of small ranch houses?

(Please ignore the author’s dirty windshield.)

Book Birthday

My how time flies.

Ok. Ok. Ok. Authors are told to avoid cliche when possible. And the one above, my goodness, I hate to think how many generations have used it.

Should we say the days sprint past and soon add up to a year? It would convey the idea. Appears a little wordy to me. However, the phenomenon remains the same. We go about out daily life, enjoy some of the highs, attempt to forget some of the lows, and suddenly we’re made aware that a great bunch of time has passed.

Take my book Stare Down, for example. I’ve been busy with life — and writing the next book — and when I check the calendar I’m reminded that my sweet romantic suspense set in St. Louis has been on the market an entire year.

Where’s the birthday cake? Shaped like a book? I think I have a birthday candle up in the cupboard — behind something I seldom use.

If the time has spun past for you — take a breath, pause a moment, and check it out.



Versatility from the Vine

Delicious as a snack.  Healthful for dessert.  Foundation for a drink.

Today’s fall fruit can be enjoyed in many ways. In addition it adds a splash of color to the table.

This particular cluster went from the supermarket to my shopping cart to my home. Where, after the photo session, they were bathed and clipped into smaller portions for the pleasure of my taste buds.

What’s your favorite way to enjoy grapes? Do you have a special variety you seek out?




More than Pie

Autumn Harvest. It’s more than pumpkins.

Today we’ll focus on that versatile fruit — Apple.

You can eat them raw — for a healthy part of a brown bag lunch or snack. Have a knife at hand? You may want to slice them to share or dip in a caramel or sweet fruit dip.

A clever person could write an entire book on cooking them. Pie. Cobbler. Tart. Sauce. Butter. Baked. Fried. Cake.       Yum. Yum. Yum.

Don’t like your food crunchy? Try juice. Let it ferment to cider.

Whether you visit an orchard and pluck it from the tree or make your selection for a supermarket bin — enjoy the fruits of the season.



Oh, My! I See Pie

One of the fruits we see in abundance this month is — PUMPKINS.

Consider one for a moment. What do you notice first? Color? Shape? Size?


After a short feast for the eyes, my thoughts turn to pie. Yes, pumpkin is my favorite. (Don’t get me wrong, I seldom turn down any of the others.) I’ve made many and eaten more through the years. I’ve even started with one of these, cooked it down, used some and froze the rest in two cup portions.

In honor of my mother’s memory — I’d like to share her recipe.

Grace’s Pumpkin Pie:

1 can pumpkin (or 2 cups fresh)           2 Tblsp flour (rounded)

1 cup sugar                                                   a little salt

2 eggs                                                             1 teasp cinnamon

1/2 teasp nutmeg                                        1/2 teasp ginger

1/2 teasp lemon extract                     1 cup milk (reduce by 2 Tblsp when using fresh pumpkin

Combine all ingredients and blend well. Pour into unbaked pie crust and bake for 1 hour at 400 degrees. Knife in center will come out clean when done.




Splash and Babble

Sunny days become precious at this time of year. The afternoon warmth after a morning chill tends to attract a person to take advantage of the day.

Do you walk every day? This is a good time to abandon the treadmill and lift your spirits in a mild day. Whether you walk on a sidewalk or quiet street, a paved trail, or a rugged path, fill your lung with fresh air.

Listen to the noise of the trail. Is it street traffic? Geese collecting friends for a journey? Or the softer, alluring sound of moving water.


Fall Flit

Our warm, sunny days are limited now. Each day the sun rises a little later and sets a little sooner. But between those two markers is enough time to warm some air and raise a few spirits.

Today I’m featuring a tiny, helpful animal who takes advantage of warmth, sunshine, and late blooming plants. You’ll find them flitting from one colorful blossom to another. They’re searching for drops of nectar, a last burst of energy, before they need to pass the cycle of life to the next generation. Or, in the case of some species, migrate to a warmer climate.

If you can find a sunny patch of blooms I advise you to stand (or sit) very still and wait for them to appear. They may bring friends – bees and dragonflies. But the star of the show is the colorful, always-in-motion butterfly.


What a Beauty!

The first time I noticed the fruit on this shrub — it was a WOW moment and I looked for a name plate at the botanical garden. Beautyberry. How appropriate.

If you want to find it in the wild look in the forests of the Southeastern US. You may find them as far west as Texas and north into Missouri. In the spring and summer you may miss them. The leaves arrive rather late and the flower — while attractive to butterflies and bees — is often missed by humans.

You won’t miss them from mid-September to early November. The violet to magenta berries are a real attention grabber.

Hungry? Your competition for the berries will be a variety of birds. Deer prefer the leaves or to bed down among a clump of the bushes. While you may not enjoy the taste of a raw berry, it makes a mild jelly. Or — you could take a hint from the Native Americans and use crushed leaves to repel mosquitoes and a tea from root or leaf to comfort a variety of ailments.

Me? I’ll admire. Want to join me?


Beautyberry living up to it’s name.

Social Star

Imagine yourself in the 1861 or 1862 social season in Washington DC.

Blue Union Army uniforms would abound at every evening gathering. The ladies would wear their finest. And as women have from the dawn of time — create their own social scene and information network.

I think fine carriages and strong horses carrying the important ladies of the time through muddy streets and past the newest army encampments. They called on each other. It almost became a ritual. Included in this group of elegant ladies was the wife of an army general.

Mary Ellen McClellan (wife of Gen. George B. McClellan) socialized with the wives and hostesses of the cabinet officers.

Can you imagine greeting your guests in this fine gown?


Gown re-created from a photograph is on display at Lincoln Museum, Springfield, IL

Young Hostess

Washington City, today better known as Washington DC, has had a social scene since Abigail Adams moved into the President’s House.

There have been many notable Washington hostesses since that time. Today I want to feature a young woman who set the standard for her time without living in the White House.

Kate Chase was the daughter of Salmon P. Chase. Her mother died when she was young. She attended boarding schools and developed a close relationship with her father. At the tender age of seventeen she assumed hostess duties for him, the newly elected governor of Ohio.

After a failed run for the presidential nomination in 1860, Mr. Chase accepted the position of Secretary of the Treasury from Abraham Lincoln. Kate performed the duties of his hostess well and set the standard for Washington in those years. After she married Senator William Sprague, late in 1863, she arranged for the couple to share the house and she continued hostess duties for both of the men in her life.


This charming dress has been re-created from photographs of Kate Chase. I think it would be charming to wear to a luncheon or afternoon tea.